Rochester is gone for a week when Jane is upset to learn from Mrs. Fairfax that he may go to Europe for a year. But a week later, Mrs. Fairfax reports a new plan—Rochester will be returning to Thornfield in three days with a group of guests.
The prospect of Rochester's absence forces Jane to confront her feelings for him more fully.
Meanwhile, Jane keeps an eye on Grace Poole, who spends most of her time alone upstairs. Jane is amazed that Grace interacts normally with the other servants. She becomes convinced that there's something odd going on when she overhears one servant gossiping that Grace gets paid more than the other servants.
Jane begins to piece together the mystery of the "supernatural" events that have been blamed on Grace Poole.
When Rochester's party arrives, they go into the parlor. Adèle, starry eyed, wanders through an adoring crowd in a French dress while Jane, wearing a Quakerish frock, retreats to a corner to observe.
Jane's "Quakerish" dress contrasts the more flashy dress of the aristocrats. It represents her modesty and moral purity.
Blanche Ingram is the belle of the ball and looks as beautiful as Jane imagined. The flirty Blanche hones in on Rochester and, taking a crack at Jane, loudly discusses all of the dreadful governesses that she's had. She then makes Rochester sing a duet with her.
Blanche's class-based crack about governesses indicates that she senses that Jane is a potential competitor for Rochester.
Watching Rochester with Blanche, Jane realizes that she's helplessly in love with him. She sneaks away, about to cry, but Rochester catches her in the hallway. He lets her leave when he sees that she's about to cry, but demands that she come to the nightly parties for as long as his guests remain at Thornfield. He finishes with the words, "Good-night, my—" before cutting himself off.
Jane's emotion comes from her belief that her social position will make it impossible for Rochester to love her. Rochester almost reveals his own feelings for Jane. Yet, by commanding her to attend the parties, he still doesn't treat her as an equal.