Jane Eyre HTML version

Chapter 18
Merry days were these at Thornfield Hall; and busy days too: how different from
the first three months of stillness, monotony, and solitude I had passed beneath
its roof! All sad feelings seemed now driven from the house, all gloomy
associations forgotten: there was life everywhere, movement all day long. You
could not now traverse the gallery, once so hushed, nor enter the front
chambers, once so tenantless, without encountering a smart lady's-maid or a
dandy valet.
The kitchen, the butler's pantry, the servants' hall, the entrance hall, were equally
alive; and the saloons were only left void and still when the blue sky and halcyon
sunshine of the genial spring weather called their occupants out into the grounds.
Even when that weather was broken, and continuous rain set in for some days,
no damp seemed cast over enjoyment: indoor amusements only became more
lively and varied, in consequence of the stop put to outdoor gaiety.
I wondered what they were going to do the first evening a change of
entertainment was proposed: they spoke of "playing charades," but in my
ignorance I did not understand the term. The servants were called in, the dining-
room tables wheeled away, the lights otherwise disposed, the chairs placed in a
semicircle opposite the arch. While Mr. Rochester and the other gentlemen
directed these alterations, the ladies were running up and down stairs ringing for
their maids. Mrs. Fairfax was summoned to give information respecting the
resources of the house in shawls, dresses, draperies of any kind; and certain
wardrobes of the third storey were ransacked, and their contents, in the shape of
brocaded and hooped petticoats, satin sacques, black modes, lace lappets, &c.,
were brought down in armfuls by the Abigails; then a selection was made, and
such things as were chosen were carried to the boudoir within the drawing-room.
Meantime, Mr. Rochester had again summoned the ladies round him, and was
selecting certain of their number to be of his party. "Miss Ingram is mine, of
course," said he: afterwards he named the two Misses Eshton, and Mrs. Dent.
He looked at me: I happened to be near him, as I had been fastening the clasp of
Mrs. Dent's bracelet, which had got loose.
"Will you play?" he asked. I shook my head. He did not insist, which I rather
feared he would have done; he allowed me to return quietly to my usual seat.
He and his aids now withdrew behind the curtain: the other party, which was
headed by Colonel Dent, sat down on the crescent of chairs. One of the
gentlemen, Mr. Eshton, observing me, seemed to propose that I should be asked
to join them; but Lady Ingram instantly negatived the notion.
"No," I heard her say: "she looks too stupid for any game of the sort."
Ere long a bell tinkled, and the curtain drew up. Within the arch, the bulky figure
of Sir George Lynn, whom Mr. Rochester had likewise chosen, was seen
enveloped in a white sheet: before him, on a table, lay open a large book; and at
his side stood Amy Eshton, draped in Mr. Rochester's cloak, and holding a book
in her hand. Somebody, unseen, rang the bell merrily; then Adele (who had
insisted on being one of her guardian's party), bounded forward, scattering round