Chapter 17 picks up with surprising news: Mr. Rodchetser may be departing for Europe without saying goodbye and worst of all, he might be gone for a whole year! Jane is horrified when she learns this news from Mrs. Fairfax. However, contrary to what Jane believes, a week later a letter arrives stating that Rodchester will be returning to Thornfield in a few days time…with guests. During her time waiting for Rodchester to return, Jane decides to explore the mystery of Grace Poole in Thornfield hall. She discovers that Grace shares a normal relationship with the rest of the staff at Thornfield and overhears them discussing Grace’s high pay. After hearing this, Jane decides that she must not know the entirety of the role that Grace plays at Thornfield. Late that night, Rodchester arrives with a large number of wealthy and snooty guests. One of Rodchester’s guests happens to be the lovely Blanche Ingram. Jane tries to socialize with the guests, but Blanche and her mother, who is accompanying her, treat Jane with disgust. This causes Jane to attempt to flee, but she is stopped by Rodchester, who states that she may avoid the guests, but she still has to come to the drawing room every night. At that point, as they part ways, Mr. Rodchester lets slip: “Goodnight, my…”. MY WHAT?!?!? This is yet another subtle hint that Bronte inserts about the growing feelings that Jane and Rodchester are developing for each other.
The days at Thornfield pass slowly. The guests stay for quite a while, including Blanche. While Blanche and Rodchester seem to do everything together, Jane decides that they are to be married soon, although there is no sign of love between the two. She decides that Rodchester must be marrying Blanche for her status in society and Blanche is marrying Rodchester for his money. Like many marriages at the time, this exemplifies the idea of marriage during the early 19th century: marriages were a joining of social status, not that of two people in love. Late one night, a mysterious man named Mr. Mason appears at the doors of Thornfield. Jane is suspicious of Mr. Mason, but learns that he is an acquaintance of Mr. Rodchester’s from when the two lived in the West Indies. Then, yet another strange guest arrives: a gypsy woman come to tell the guests fortunes.