She Never Liked Jane Eyre

“Al” Geebler Interviews Grace Poole


AG: I’m sorry, but this has to be the weirdest, creepiest story I ever heard. But anyway, let’s get started! Now you, Grace Poole, were the nurse, or, more like the “jailer,” of Mr. Rochester’s lunatic wife. Right? GP: . . .

AG: In other words, in this case you’d be what’s called the “backstairs witness”— practically sub-human, yet saw everything, am I right? Day after day, the gorgeous millionaire ape-woman, the embarrassed husband, the governess, the fire, everything! You haven’t opened your mouth yet, but I’ve got to tell you, Miss Poole, the story is so wild I can’t believe it happened, and ever since I started researching it I can’t get it out of my mind! . . . Okay, okay, don’t worry. Listen, I’m famous in this business for absolutely going nuts over stuff like this—you’d never guess I’m a Virgo, right? I get a lot of abuse for it, but it’s good to be childlike, and I think they probably just envy me. They’re afraid to let go and they’ve got the ulcers to show for it, so I’m not complaining. Who’s to worry, right, Grace? Okay, so, you were, like, a jailer to Mrs. Rochester, up in the attic, the whole bit, am I right? GP: . . .

AG: Am I right or am I wrong?

GP: I cared for Mr. Rochester’s wife,

aye, for many years.

AG: Phew! Thank you, Your Majesty

Now, let’s hear what she was like. What

type of woman was she?

GP: My mistress was very ill, sir.

AG: Well, that’s only the understatement

of the year, but—no, it’s okay, Grace.

Now, what did she look like? Was she


GP: . . .

AG: Oh, Jeez, there she goes. Planet Earth calling Grace Poole!

GP: My mistress was very ill, sir, and had been for a very long time, and I believe she had given up any thought of how she looked.

AG: But she was gorgeous, right, before it all happened? GP: I wouldn’t know, sir. AG: Because she sounds really wild— long black hair, tall, buxom—running around in torn formals . . . GP: You’re mistaken there, sir. She never wore formals.

AG: Okay, okay. Did the two of you really stay upstairs all the time? GP: Yes, sir.

AG: Why? Was Rochester afraid she’d ruin the furniture?

GP: Mrs. Rochester was too ill to be moved.

AG: Okay. Now, were you acquainted with Miss Eyre, the governess? GP: Don’t recollect a Miss Eyre. AG: Forget it, Grace. I’ve been researching this for two weeks. GP: . . . AG: Come on.

GP: All right, yes, I knew her. We all knew her.

AG: Did you see a lot of her?

GP: I did not. I kept to my part of the house, always taking care of my mistress . . .

AG: Tell me about it.

GP: Miss Eyre, sir, used to amuse herself

poking around upstairs where we were,

and I’d see her as I was coming out of my

rooms, and my, how she would change

color and curtsy . . . Her dresses, sir,

were not decent!

AG: What are you talking about?

GP: Cut low, sir. Oh, they were gray, all

right. But she doesn’t mention they

went practically down to her navel! We

believed Miss Eyre was from Paris, sir.

The feeling was, she had heard about Mr.

Rochester, sir, and had come over on

purpose to snare him.

AG: I must be hallucinating!

GP: Of course it was hard, very hard, on

Mrs. Rochester. Mr. Rochester was still

a young and healthy man, even though

he was almost certainly, it now appears to me, a chronic brooder. And it was only natural he would eventually want another wife, one who could be as a wife to him, sir.

AG: Keep going, Grace! Too much! GP: Then, on top of all this illness and worry comes her, Janie Eyre! AG: Calls her Janie!

GP: Ordering the staff about till the house was almost upside down, and when she got tired of that, coming up to the attics, looking out for old odds and ends she would sell the minute she got out of the house. One of our men was always having to go around and buy it back ... Up she’d come, throwing open the door and peering in at us. And if she caught sight of Mrs. Rochester, she might give a sort of leer . . . AG: A what?

GP: A leer, sir. AG: Jeez. The plot thickens. GP: And then my mistress would just lie back and cry for days ... The master never even visited my mistress anymore, after the Parisian came. Then, sometimes, it would get so bad I’d start screaming— AG: You what?

GP: Screaming so’s I couldn’t stop. And then I’d get behind on the sewing . . . Oh, it was an evil time.

AG: Don’t tell me you were the one who ran back and forth all day and made all that racket, and drove everybody nuts?

GP: On all fours, sir, aye, and sob. Believe this, sir, Mrs. Rochester never meant to stand in the way of her husband’s remarriage. But not to a Frenchy, sir! No! She well remembered what those Froggies had done to us, sir, not so very many years before. But, oh, no one remembers them things, sir. We’re a nation of shopkeepers! AG: This is way over my head, Grace. But keep going, I’ll figure it out later.

GP: Well, sir, Mrs. Rochester had always hoped he might marry little Prudence Watts, her ward. She had been found, sir, wandering round Tunbridge Wells, all alone, and no bigger than a minute! Mrs. Rochester had fed and clothed her all those years. Of course. Prudence was engaged to that ploughboy, the bigger one, but the mistress felt she would give him up, for the chance to marry the master. But when the time came, Prudence wouldn’t do it, and now she’s married to the ploughboy. Then, my mistress even considered getting a special brain operation in London, but it fell through. Then the Parisian came, and we all knew the master was too much the hot-blooded male to resist! Then there was the fire, and my mistress perished. I blame myself ... I do blame myself. AG: For what? You really lost me. GP: For the fire, sir, and my mistress’s death.

AG: Well, we all have to go sometime. And in fact, we have to go pretty soon, so anything else you can think of? We might as well finish the tape . . . Any more amazing facts?

GP: When I think of that dear mistress dead, and that dyed Parisian married to my poor master—making him sit inside all day and sew her dresses—an’ him all blind as he is. Sometimes I just begin to scream, and I get dowrn and run around again . . . And I cry for the old days, when it was just the two of us, way back in the attics, and the dear master would be outside in the shrubbery, whistling to his huge dog . . . Maybe we weren’t fashion plates, Mrs. Rochester and I, and perhaps we hadn’t been to “France,” but we had a good, quiet life just the same . . . Quiet in the good old English way. But it’s all gone now. AG: Well, never mind. Okay, thanks a lot for coming. GP: . . .

AG: Thanks for fitting us into your crowded schedule . . . Bye, Grace! Oh, wait a second! Have you got any old photos of her around? GP: Of who, sir?

AG: Never mind. Oh, watch it, sweetheart, you droped your gloves. Okay, so long.