The Governess of Thornfield

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NINE

Helen seems truly distressed at the idea of causing a disturbance, but you cannot forget how debilitating her coughing spells are, and lately, she has mentioned a slight pain in her chest.

That night you seek Miss Temple and tell her of your concerns for your friend. Miss Temple calls for the doctor - a Mr. Bates - immediately and he examines Helen in a room off of Miss Temple’s own private chamber

Covertly you wait outside the door, eager to hear news of Helen’s health. Through the door you see the doctor giving some advice to Miss Temple and then preparing to leave. Once he is away, you come up to Miss Temple and ask, “What does Mr. Bates say about her?”

Miss Temple’s eyes, always so expressive, are pensive and sad. “He says she should leave Lowood for now. It is not a safe environment for a child with her symptoms. I’m planning to write a letter to Helen’s father immediately and have her removed to a warmer environment tomorrow.”

The forest-dell in which Lowood lies is a cradle of fog and fog-bred pestilence. Despite the quickening spring, the crowded schoolroom and dormitory can not escape the icy touch of departing winter.

A few hours later, you are in bed and unable to fall asleep. The cold and your worried thoughts gnaw at your mind. You must see Helen; embrace her one more time and exchange with her one last word.

Reaching the door of the room next to Miss Temple, you see the white-curtained crib that contains your friend.

“Helen,” you whisper softly, “are you awake?”

“Can it be you my friend?” she asks in her own gentle voice.

“I came to see you, Helen: I heard you were very ill, and I could not sleep till I had spoken to you.”

“You came to bid me good-bye, then: you are just in time probably.”

“Where are you going Helen?”

“Miss Temple says I will go to my father. He is lately married, so doubtless I will be a burden to him. But I hope I will not be too much of an intrusion.”

“But you must be happy to get away from here? At least you won’t have to march in the snow and fight for space by the fire anymore. Or guard a morsel of bread against the other girls.”

“Sometimes I think I am in Northumberland, and that the noises I hear round me are the bubbling of a little brook which runs through Deepden, near our house… but I then I think I would not like to be a grief to my relations, and I am at Lowood to get an education. I have my faults and they have not yet been eradicated.” Helen seems to snap from her reverie. “Oh, your little feet are bare; lie down and cover yourself with my quilt.”

I do so: she puts her arm over me, and I nestle close to her. “Dear Helen, I will miss you when you leave. You have been my only true friend.”

“You must not miss me too much. I will write to you while I am away and perhaps, I will return ere long. Trust in God and His goodness; His will has brought us together; I am sure we will not be too long apart.”

You clasp your arms closer round Helen; she seems dearer to you than ever; you feel as if you could not let her go so you lay with your face hidden on her neck. Presently she says, in the sweetest tone—

“I feel as if I could sleep but don’t leave me; I like to have you near me.”

“I’ll stay with you, dear Helen: no one shall take me away.”

“Are you warm, darling?”

“Yes.”

“Good-night, my dear.”

“Good-night, Helen.”

When you awake it is day. Helen has roused you from sleep as she must start preparations for her departure. Mournfully you watch as she gathers her meager belongings. When Miss Temple enters the room half an hour later, Helen is ready to meet the coach that will take her to her family and a place far from you. Tearfully you and Helen embrace for what may be the last time.

“Remember, I will write to you,” Helen murmurs into your ear.

You sincerely hope you two will meet again someday.


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