Volume II, Chapter 1 Summary:
The day after the fire in Mr. Rochester's bedroom, Jane is shocked to find Grace, who had presumably tried to murder Mr. Rochester, mending the curtains. Grace tells Jane that Rochester fell asleep while his candle was lit, but he awoke before the fire spread too far. Both Jane and Grace seem to know more than each lets on, and they test the other's story; Jane accordingly changes part of her account. Jane is flummoxed by Grace's version of the event, especially because she shows no sign of guilt for what has occurred. Jane is also confused by Mr. Rochester's desire for her not to tell her side of what happened.
When Jane looks for Mr. Rochester to answer her questions about Grace Poole, she discovers that he has left for a social engagement at someone's estate and will be gone for a week or more. Jane already feels his absence from Thornfield and is distressed when she learns that Mr. Rochester is quite a favorite of the ladies he is visiting, particularly the young and beautiful Blanche Ingram. Jane feels foolish for having thought that a plain, poor governess such as herself could ever be of interest to Mr. Rochester. In order to suppress any further romantic inclinations and remind herself of her position in life, she sketches an ugly portrait of herself and then compares it to a gorgeous picture of what she imagines Miss Ingram looks like.
The chapter is split into two sections: the plot developments surrounding the fire, and Jane's preoccupation with Mr. Rochester. After her odd conversation with Grace, Jane realizes that Grace is probably not the culprit of the fire. Not only does she demonstrate little guilt or remorse for her behavior, Mr. Rochester did not even have her removed from Thornfield. Yet, Jane is still not able to figure out the mystery of Grace Poole’s presence on the estate. Her only conclusion is that Grace is somehow involved with the fire but is also under direct orders from Mr. Rochester not to reveal her role.
Jane’s attempts to find Mr. Rochester and clear up the mystery about Grace lead to the introduction of Blanche Ingram as a character. Jane's sense of inadequacy compared to Blanche Ingram pivots around appearance but also has to do with class. Though Mr. Rochester is not handsome, his high position in society and noble manners determine that his wife must be of an equally high station. Jane’s personality, for all its sparkle, cannot make up for her relative poverty and plainness, especially when compared to the beautiful Miss Ingram.
Volume II, Chapter 2 Summary:
Jane is concerned that Mr. Rochester will leave for Europe without returning to Thornfield, something that Mrs. Fairfax acknowledges that he frequently does. However, Jane’s fears are allayed when Mr. Rochester sends word that he will be returning to Thornfield in a few days with guests. The servants busily prepare the house for his arrival, and Jane takes the opportunity to observe Grace Poole. She notices that Grace spends nearly all her time on the third-floor and also overhears the servants discussing Grace's high salary and difficult job
Mr. Rochester finally arrives in the company of Miss Ingram and several other men and women. Jane and Adèle keep out of their way as they socialize and dine, and Jane feels particularly out of place among the elegance and sophistication of the visitors. She also notices with increasing dismay that Mr. Rochester appears to prefer the company of Miss Ingram to that of the other ladies. That night, Mr. Rochester invites Jane and Adèle to socialize with the guests after dinner. Jane observes the scene from a distance, paying special attention to Miss Ingram, as Adèle charms the crowd. Miss Ingram and the others speak dismissively of Jane and governesses in general. Miss Ingram goes on to criticize male vanity; beauty should be the domain solely of women, and her future husband will not be her aesthetic equal. She then plays piano, commanding Mr. Rochester to sing. He does, beautifully, and Jane leaves inconspicuously. Rochester meets her outside and beseeches her to return, as she seems "depressed," but Jane declines and turns away before he can see the tears in her eyes. Although he finally allows her to leave, Mr. Rochester informs her that she must come into the drawing room to socialize with the guests every night. He then bids her goodnight, nearly using a term of endearment before stopping himself.
Although Miss Ingram's beauty and confident manner take center stage in the drawing room, the attraction between Mr. Rochester and Jane is evident, especially in his parting words to her. Mr. Rochester cannot help but notice Jane’s distress, but he perhaps does not realize that it is because of his attention to Miss Ingram. Similarly, Jane seems to be unwilling to accept the fact that Mr. Rochester nearly said “Good-night, my love.” Jane’s biggest obstacle to Mr. Rochester remains her own insecurity about her social position and class. Mr. Rochester seems to have feelings for Jane, it is still unclear if he will ever be able to act on them.
Miss Ingram demonstrates the snobbery and classism that strikes at the heart of Jane's curious position that she holds both at Thornfield and previously at Gateshead: poverty in the midst of great wealth. The flip comments of the society ladies about their governesses - and their casual ignorance of Jane in the room - make Jane a virtual prisoner of her social standing. Miss Ingram’s lack of intelligence and personal cruelty are particularly upsetting to Jane because she believes that Mr. Rochester deserves better.
This chapter also continues with the mystery of Grace Poole and the third-story attic. Although Jane accumulates some additional clues about Grace’s presence at Thornfield, she is still largely ignorant of the role that Grace plays. Yet, she begins to think of Grace with some pity because of her constant presence on the third floor: she is “as companionless as a prisoner in his dungeon.” "Prisoner" is a loaded word, suggesting imprisonment far beyond physical confines. However, the mysterious events and hints surrounding Grace suggest that she may not be companionless, after all.
Volume II, Chapter 3 Summary:
The guests stay for several stays, and Thornfield becomes a fun and vibrant place. One night the group plays charades; Mr. Rochester pairs off with Miss Ingram, while Miss Ingram's mother says that Jane "looks too stupid" to play. Mr. Rochester and Miss Ingram pantomime a marriage ceremony, among other scenes, until one of the gentlemen solves the charade: Bridewell (a London prison). Jane watches the two of them flirt after their mutual success and is unable to still her growing love for Rochester. However, she realizes that she is not jealous of Miss Ingram, whom she views as disingenuous, dim, and rude, and she hopes that Mr. Rochester will resist Miss Ingram’s attempts to woo him. Rochester's desire to marry for social connections surprises Jane, though she does not hold it against him.
One day while Mr. Rochester is out on business, a handsome man named Richard Mason arrives looking for Mr. Rochester, whom he knows from the West Indies. While he waits for Mr. Rochester’s return, Mason joins the party. That night a gypsy fortune-teller comes to Thornfield; after much debate, the visitors allow her to tell the fortunes of the young ladies in private. Miss Ingram is first and promptly dismisses the teller as a charlatan after returning to the room. Jane notices that she seems upset and suspects that Miss Ingram is disturbed by whatever her fortune was. The three other young ladies have their fortunes told, and report, with glee, that the woman seemed to know everything about them. The fortune-teller insists that she will not leave until she has read Jane's fortune.
The marriage pantomime has obvious parallels to Jane's romantic anxieties. While she cannot believe that Mr. Rochester could prefer the vapid Miss Ingram to her, she does believe that he must marry someone of Miss Ingram's elevated social position. After careful observation of the pair, Jane concludes that the pair will never love each other, but is uncertain that a marriage will not take place nonetheless. Jane is no bride, but a "Bridewell," imprisoned by her social class and confined to limited romantic possibilities.
The arrival of Richard Mason is significant for the plot as another clue to the mystery of the demonic laugh in the third-story attic. Bronte also gives Jane an opportunity to demonstrate her good sense and morality with Mason’s introduction: although Mason is technically a very handsome man, Jane automatically dislikes him, a sentiment that foreshadows his later role in the novel. Bronte also perpetuates the Gothic theme of the novel by introducing the gypsy fortune-teller. She creates suspense both by ending the chapter on a cliffhanger - what will Jane's fortune reveal? - and by not revealing the nature of Miss Ingram's disturbing fortune.
Volume II, Chapter 4 Summary:
Jane joins the fortune-teller in the library. Although she is initially skeptical of the old woman, Jane becomes entranced by the gypsy’s words. The fortune-teller, who admits she has an inside source in Grace Poole, tells Jane several truths, focusing on her feelings toward Mr. Rochester. The fortune-teller predicts that Mr. Rochester will marry Miss Ingram; her previous implication to Miss Ingram that she wants Mr. Rochester only for his money is what disturbed the young lady. She then gives Jane her own fortune, which revolves around Jane's power of reasoning over her emotions.
Suddenly, the old woman reveals her disguise: it is none other than Mr. Rochester. Jane, who had suspected something was amiss from the start, that perhaps the woman was Grace in disguise, is not too upset. When she tells him that Mason has come to Thornfield, Mr. Rochester is shocked and nearly faints. He asks Jane to go into the dining-room and find out what Mason is doing. She reports that the party, Mason included, is socializing. Mr. Rochester, after assuring himself of Jane's loyalty, asks her to whisper an invitation to Mason to see him. She does so, and goes up to bed; late at night she hears Mr. Rochester cheerfully show Mason to his room.
The Gothic element of fortune-teller mingles with the novel's Gothic romance once Mr. Rochester reveals his disguise; mysticism and the supernatural give way to Mr. Rochester's burgeoning love for Jane. The reader is also delighted to see that he is well aware of Miss Ingram's mercenary designs on his estate. Rochester's ability to disguise himself also speaks of his hidden, secretive identity. The disguise of the gypsy is also significant in the way that it plays with inequalities of social class. Not only is Mr. Rochester no longer superior to Jane when he is disguised as the gypsy, he becomes her inferior in class and social position and is barely able to gain access to Thornfield Manor.
In a novel that otherwise focuses on Jane's internal world, Brontë keeps the action moving by constantly introducing new pieces of the mystery of Mr. Rochester's past. Mason’s arrival seems innocent, but Jane is unable to shake ominous feelings about him. Moreover, he admits that he is a friend from Mr. Rochester’s past, something that even Jane still knows very little about. As if paralleling Jane’s uncertainty about the unexpected visitor, Mr. Rochester's feelings concerning Mason change from anxiety to happiness without any explanation. Still, Mr. Rochester’s insistence of Jane’s loyalty suggests that his seeming ease around Mason later in the evening is only another disguise.
Volume II, Chapter 5 Summary:
During the night, Jane hears a shrill cry from the third story, then someone shouting for Mr. Rochester's help. Jane hears the sounds of someone opening a door and running upstairs. Jane leaves her room, as has everyone else. Mr. Rochester descends from the third story and reassures everyone that a servant has merely had a nightmare. Everyone retires to bed, but Jane goes back and dresses. She thinks she is the only one who heard the words after the scream and is certain that Mr. Rochester's story is false.
After Jane waits for an hour in her room for another sound, Mr. Rochester knocks on her door and asks her to come quietly with him upstairs. He has her bring a sponge and some smelling salts, and then shows her the tapestry-room Mrs. Fairfax had once shown her. He opens a door hidden behind the tapestry, from which again emanates the curious laughter Jane sometimes hears, speaks with whomever is inside, and then emerges and closes the door. Rochester then shows Jane what he has brought her up for: a dazed Mason lies on a chair in the tapestry-room, soaked in blood. Mr. Rochester promises him that Jane will care for him while he fetches the surgeon. He then orders Jane to tend to Mason without any conversation between the two.
Jane is frightened by the baffling circumstances, especially by the thought of Grace in the next room. After two hours, Mr. Rochester returns with a surgeon, Carter, and begins a confusing conversation with Mason. Mason says that "she" bit him when "Rochester got the knife from her," while Mr. Rochester blames Mason for going to see "her" without him; had he waited until tomorrow, Mr. Rochester would have accompanied him. After Carter completes his work, Jane and Mr. Rochester help Mason into a carriage waiting outside. Mr. Rochester instructs Carter to take him home; he will visit in a day or two.
After Mason and Carter leave, Mr. Rochester takes Jane on a walk around the garden. He assures her that neither he nor she is in any danger; the only thing that he has to fear is Mason's saying a certain thing. He asks her to consider the following "hypothetical" situation: a young man made an error - not a crime or an illegal act - that has haunted him forever. No measures he took to deal with it alleviated his misery. He traveled copiously, hoping that would help him, but not until he returned home and met someone new did he feel comforted. He wants to marry this woman, but feels that convention is against him. Is this man, who seeks repentance and salvation in this woman, justified in overturning custom, he asks Jane? Mr. Rochester then admits he is the man and says the woman is - after a long pause - Miss Ingram.
At this point in the novel, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Mr. Rochester to maintain the secret of the third-story attic. Mr. Rochester needs Jane’s help after the sudden attack on Mason and, though he is able to take her into his confidence to care for Mason, Mr. Rochester still cannot reveal the truth of what has happened. It is only a matter of time before the truth comes out, but Mr. Rochester exhibits a certain desperation to hide his mystery from Jane for as long as possible.
Significantly, the source of the attack on Mason is female. Although Jane does not know who the woman is (other than possibly Grace Poole), she is both terrified and intrigued by the idea of a female that is uncontrollable by normal social conventions. With her bestial and even carnivorous nature, the mysterious woman in the room seems to have thrown off all of the oppressive ties of the male dominated society.
While Bronte continues to complicate the mystery of Mr. Rochester’s past, she also clarifies some of his feelings toward Jane. During his hypothetical story, he is obviously discussing Jane before he changes his position and reveals that Miss Ingram is the object of his desire. Jane describes Mr. Rochester's face as "losing all its softness and gravity, and becoming harsh and sarcastic" when he names Miss Ingram. There is little doubt now that Rochester prefers Jane to Miss Ingram, but there is still an obstacle to the romantic plot. Whoever is in the third-story room - and how it relates to the "error" Rochester committed in his youth - is preventing Rochester's marrying Jane, much more so than the presence of Miss Ingram.