The audience that Charlotte was writing for in the nineteenth century would have been fluent in French so she saw no reason not to include passages in the language. These days, most readers will have little or no knowledge of French so I have gathered translations on this page. The French is in blue, the translations in red.
The translations are from the excellent Barnes and Noble version of the novel.
"C'est là ma gouvernante?" said she, pointing to me, and addressing her nurse, who answered:
"Mais oui, certainement."
"Is that my governess?" … "Why, yes, of course."
Assuming an attitude, she began La Ligue des Rats; fable de La Fontaine.
The League of Rats; a fable by La Fontaine.
"Yes, and she just used to say it in this way; 'Qu'avez vous done? lui dit un de ces rats; parlez!' She made me lift my hand – so – to remind me to raise my voice at the question. Now, shall I dance for you?"
"What's the matter then?" says one of the mice to her; "Speak!"
"Mesdames, vous êtes servies!" adding, "J'ai bien faim, moi!"
"Ladies, dinner is served!" … "I am very hungry."
Having seen Adèle comfortably seated in her little chair by Mrs Fairfax's parlour fireside, and given her her best wax doll (which I usually kept enveloped in silver paper in a drawer) to play with, and a story-book for change of amusement; and having replied to her "Revenez bientôt, ma bonne amie, ma chère Mademoiselle Jeannette," with a kiss, I set out.
"Come back soon, my good friend, my dear Miss Janie."
Adèle was not easy to teach that day; she could not apply; she kept running to the door and looking over the banisters to see if she could get a glimpse of Mr Rochester; then she coined pretexts to go down stairs, in order, as I shrewdly suspected, to visit the library, where I knew she was not wanted; then, when I got a little angry, and made her sit still, she continued to talk incessantly of her "ami, Monsieur Édouard Fairfax de Rochester," as she dubbed him (I had not before heard his prenomens), and to conjecture what presents he had brought her; for it appears he had intimated the night before that, when his luggage came from Millcote, there would be found among it a little box in whose contents she had an interest.
"Friend, Mr Edward Fairfax Rochester,"
"Et cela doit signifier," said she, "qu'il y aura là dedans un cadeau pour moi, et peut-être pour vous aussi, mademoiselle. Monsieur a parlé de vous: il m'a demandé le nom de ma gouvernante, et si elle n'était pas une petite personne, assez mince et un peu pale. J'ai dit qu'oui: car c'est vrai, n'est-ce pas, mademoiselle?"
"And that must mean … that there will be a gift inside for me, and perhaps for you too, Miss. Mr Rochester has talked about you: he asked me the name of my governess, and if she wasn't a small person, rather thin and a little pale. I said yes; because it's true, isn't it, Miss?"
"N'est-ce-pas, Monsieur, qu'il y a un cadeau pour Mademoiselle Eyre dans votre petit coffre?"
"Isn't it so, sir, that there is a gift for Miss Eyre in your little chest?"
One day he had had company to dinner, and had sent for my portfolio, in order, doubtless, to exhibit its contents; the gentlemen went away early, to attend a public meeting at Millcote, as Mrs Fairfax informed me; but the night being wet and inclement, Mr Rochester did not accompany them. Soon after they were gone, he rung the bell: a message came that I and Adèle were to go down stairs. I brushed Adèle's hair and made her neat, and having ascertained that I was myself in my usual Quaker trim, where there was nothing to retouch – all being too close and plain, braided locks included, to admit of disarrangement – we descended, Adèle wondering whether the petit coffre was at length come; for, owing to some mistake, its arrival had hitherto been delayed. She was gratified; there it stood, a little carton, on the table when we entered the dining-room. She appeared to know it by instinct.
"Ma boîte! ma boîte!" exclaimed she, running towards it.
"My box! My box!"
"Yes – there is your 'boîte' at last; take it into a corner, you genuine daughter of Paris, and amuse yourself with disembowelling it," said the deep and rather sarcastic voice of Mr Rochester, proceeding from the depths of an immense easy-chair at the fireside. "And mind," he continued, "don't bother me with any details of the anatomical process, or any notice of the condition of the entrails; let your operation be conducted in silence – tiens-toi tranquille, enfant; comprends-tu?"
"Keep quiet child; do you understand?"
"Oh, Ciel! Que c'est beau!" and then remained absorbed in ecstatic contemplation.
"Oh, heavens! It's so beautiful!"
"Stubborn?" he said, "and annoyed. Ah, it is consistent. I put my request in an absurd, almost insolent form. Miss Eyre, I beg your pardon. The fact is, once for all, I don't wish to treat you like an inferior; that is (correcting himself) I claim only such superiority as must result from twenty years' difference in age, and a century's advance in experience. This is legitimate, et j'y tiens, as Adèle would say; and it is by virtue of this superiority, and this alone, that I desire you to have the goodness to talk to me a little now, and divert my thoughts, which are galled with dwelling on one point – cankering as a rusty nail."
And I insist on it.
"Never mind; wait a minute; Adèle is not ready to go to bed yet. My position, Miss Eyre, with my back to the fire, and my face to the room, favours observation. While talking to you, I have also occasionally watched Adèle (I have my own reasons for thinking her a curious study – reasons that I may, nay that I shall, impart to you some day); she pulled out of her box, about ten minutes ago, a little pink silk frock; rapture lit her face as she unfolded it; coquetry runs in her blood, blends with her brains, and seasons the marrow of her bones. 'Il faut que je l'essaie!' cried she; 'et à l'instant même!' and she rushed out of the room. She is now with Sophie, undergoing a robing process; in a few minutes she will re-enter; and I know what I shall see, a miniature of Céline Varens, as she used to appear on the boards at the rising of—; but never mind that. However, my tenderest feelings are about to receive a shock; such is my presentiment; stay, now, to see whether it will be realised."
"I must try it on! … and right away!"
"Est-ce que ma robe va bien?" cried she, bounding forward: "et mes souliers? et mes bas? Tenez-je crois que je vais danser!"
"Is my dress all right? And my shoes? And my stockings? Wait, I believe I am going to dance!"
"Monsieur, je vous remercie mille fois de votre bonté"; then rising, she added, "C'est comme cela que maman faisait, n'est-ce-pas, monsieur?"
"Thank you so very much, sir, for your kindness … Mama used to do it just like that, didn't she?"
"Pre-cise-ly!" was the answer; "and 'comme cela,' she charmed my English gold out of my British breeches' pocket. I have been green, too, Miss Eyre – ay, grass-green; not a more vernal tint freshens you now than once freshened me. My spring is gone, however; but it has left me that French floweret on my hands; which, in some moods, I would fain be rid of. Not valuing now the root whence it sprung, having found that it was of a sort which nothing but gold dust could manure, I have but half a liking to the blossom; especially when it looks so artificial as just now. I keep it and rear it rather on the Roman Catholic principle of expiating numerous sins, great or small, by one good work. I'll explain all this some day. Good-night."
He then said that she was the daughter of a French opera dancer, Céline Varens, towards whom he once cherished what he called a "grande passion" This passion Céline had professed to return with even superior ardour. He thought himself her idol, ugly as he was; he believed, as he said, that she preferred his "taille d'athlète" to the elegance of the Apollo Belvidere.
"I liked bonbons, too, in those days, Miss Eyre, and I was croquant – (overlook the barbarism) croquant chocolate comfits, and smoking alternately, watching, meantime, the equipages that rolled along the fashionable street towards the neighbouring opera-house, when, in an elegant close carriage, drawn by a beautiful pair of English horses, and distinctly seen in the brilliant city-night, I recognised the 'voiture' I had had given Céline. She was returning; of course my heart thumped with impatience against the iron rails I leaned upon. The carriage stopped, as I had expected, at the hotel door; my flame (that is the very word for an opera inamorata) alighted; though muffled in a cloak – an unnecessary incumbrance, by-the-by, on so warm a June evening – I knew her instantly, by her little foot, seen peeping from the skirt of her dress, as she skipped from the carriage-step. Bending over the balcony, I was about to murmur 'Mon ange' – in a tone, of course, which should be audible to the ear of love alone – when a figure jumped from the carriage after her, cloaked also; but that was a spurred heel which had rung on the pavement, and that was a hatted head which now passed under the arched porte cochère of the hotel.
"Qu'avez-vous, mademoiselle?" said she; "Vos doigts tremblent comme la feuille, et vos joues sont rouges: mais, rouges comme des cerises!"
"What's the matter? Your hands tremble like a leaf, and your cheeks are red: as red as cherries!"
"Elles changent de toilettes," said Adèle, who, listening attentively, had followed every movement; and she sighed.
"They are changing."
"Chez maman," said she, "quand il y avait du monde, je les suivais partout, au salon et à leurs chambres; souvent je regardais les femmes de chambre coiffer et habiller les dames, et c' était si amusant; comme cela on apprend."
"At mama's, when there were a lot of people, I would follow them everywhere, in the drawing room and to their rooms; often I would watch the maids dress the ladies and do their hair, and it was so much fun; that's how you learn."
"Mais oui, mademoiselle; voilà cinq or six heures que nous n'avons pas mange."
"Yes, of course; it's been five or six hours since we've eaten."
She was really hungry, so the chicken and tarts served to divert her attention for a time. It was well I secured this forage; or both she, I, and Sophie, to whom I conveyed a share of our repast, would have run a chance of getting no dinner at all; every one down stairs was too much engaged to think of us. The dessert was not carried out till after nine, and at ten, footmen were still running to and fro with trays and coffee-cups. I allowed Adèle to sit up much later than usual; for she declared she could not possibly go to sleep while the doors kept opening and shutting below, and people bustling about. Besides, she added, a message might possibly come from Mr Rochester when she was undressed; "et alors quel dommage!"
"And then what a shame!"
"Est-ce que je ne puis pas prendre une seule de ces fleurs magnifiques, mademoiselle? Seulement pour completer ma toilette."
"May I take just one of these magnificent flowers? Just to add the finishing touch to my outfit."
"Bon jour, mesdames."
"Tant pis!" said her ladyship, "I hope it may do her good!" Then, in a lower tone, but still loud enough for me to hear, "I noticed her; I am a judge of physiognomy, and in hers I see all the faults of her class."
"Gardez-vous en bien! If you err wilfully, I shall devise a proportionate punishment."
"Be very careful!"
"Voilà Monsieur Rochester, qui revient!"
"Mr Rochester has returned!"
I walked on so fast that even he could hardly have overtaken me had he tried. Little Adèle was half wild with delight when she saw me. Mrs Fairfax received me with her usual plain friendliness. Leah smiled, and even Sophie bid me "bon soir" with glee. This was very pleasant; there is no happiness like that of being loved by our fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.
I that evening shut my eyes resolutely against the future; I stopped my ears against the voice that kept warning me of near separation and coming grief. When tea was over, and Mrs Fairfax had taken her knitting, and I had assumed a low seat near her, and Adèle, kneeling on the carpet, had nestled close up to me, and a sense of mutual affection seemed to surround us with a ring of golden peace, I uttered a silent prayer that we might not be parted far or soon; but when, as we thus sat, Mr Rochester entered, unannounced, and looking at us, seemed to take pleasure in the spectacle of a group so amicable – when he said he supposed the old lady was all right now that she had got her adopted daughter back again, and added that he saw Adèle was "prête à croquer sa petite maman Anglaise" – I half ventured to hope that he would, even after his marriage, keep us together somewhere under the shelter of his protection, and not quite exiled from the sunshine of his presence.
"Ready to devour her little English mama."
Adèle heard him, and asked if she was to go to school "sans mademoiselle?"
"Oh, qu'elle y sera mal – peu comfortable! And her clothes, they will wear out; how can she get new ones?"
"Oh, she'll be uncomfortable there!"
"Mademoiselle is a fairy," he said, whispering mysteriously. Whereupon I told her not to mind his badinage; and she, on her part, evinced a fund of genuine French scepticism; denominating Mr Rochester "un vrai menteur," and assuring him that she made no account whatever of his "Contes de fée," and that "du reste, il n'y avait pas de fées et quand même il y en avait;" she was sure they would never appear to him, nor ever give him rings, or offer to live with him in the moon.
A real liar.
"Furthermore, there were no fairies, and even if there were some…."
"I want a smoke, Jane, or a pinch of snuff, to comfort me under all this, 'pour me donner une contenance,' as Adèle would say; and unfortunately, I have neither my cigar-case nor my snuff-box. But listen – whisper – it is your time, now, little tyrant, but it will be mine presently; and when once I have fairly seized you, to have and to hold, I'll just – figuratively speaking – attach you to a chain like this" (touching his watch-guard). "Yes, bonny wee thing, I'll wear you in my bosom, lest my jewel I should tyne."