The Governess of Thornfield

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TEN

Though your misgivings are numerous, Helen’s distress at causing a disturbance gives you pause. Perhaps she just needs time to rest.

April advances to May, and days of placid, serene sunshine descend on Lowood. It becomes all green, all flowery; its great elm, ash, and oak skeletons are restored to majestic life.

Helen, however, has not improved and has been moved to a room off of Miss Temple’s private chambers. Often Helen’s coughing wracks her slight frame - grown even slighter in the intervening weeks - and you notice, how concerned Miss Temple is about Helen. The doctor, Mr. Bates, is just talking to Helen now, as you sit on a smooth and broad stone in the middle of the beck, waiting for the doctor to depart so you can speak to her. Absorbing the beauty of your surroundings a somber thought enters your mind:

“How sad to be lying now on a sickbed, and to be in danger of dying! This world is pleasant—it would be dreary to be called from it, and to have to go who knows where?”

While pondering these ideas, you see the doctor giving some advice to Miss Temple and then mounting his horse to leave. Quickly you make your way 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’ll not be here long.”

That night, while in bed, you are unable to fall asleep. In the perfect silence of the dormitory, you rise, put your frock over your night-dress creep from the apartment. You must see Helen and embrace her one more time; exchange with her one last word.

Reaching the door of her room, 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.”

“Are you going somewhere, Helen? Are you going home?”

“Yes; to my long home—my last home.”

“No, no, Helen!” You stop, distressed, and endeavor to hold back your tears. A fit of coughing seizes Helen; when it is over, she lays some minutes exhausted; then she whispers—

“Oh, your little feet are bare; lie down and cover yourself with my quilt.”

I do so: she puts her arm over you, and you nestle close. After a long silence, she resumes, still whispering—

“I am very happy; and when you hear that I am dead, you must be sure and not grieve there is nothing to grieve about. We all must die one day, and the illness which is removing me is not painful; it is gentle and gradual: my mind is at rest.”

“But where are you going to, Helen? Do you know?”

“I believe; I have faith: I am going to God and to heaven.”

“You are sure, then, Helen, that there is such a place as heaven, and that our souls can get to it when we die?”

“I am sure there is a future state; I believe God is good; I can resign my immortal part to Him without any misgiving. God is my father; God is my friend: I love Him; I believe He loves me.”

“And shall I see you again, Helen, when I die?”

“You will come to the same region of happiness, no doubt, dear Jane.”

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

“How comfortable I am! That last fit of coughing has tired me a little; 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: an unusual movement has awakened you; you find you are in someone’s arms. The nurse is carrying you through the passage back to the dormitory. You are not reprimanded for leaving your bed as a day afterward you learn that Miss Temple, on checking upon Helen at dawn found you laid in the little crib with your face against Helen’s shoulder. You were asleep, and Helen was -- dead.


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