With some alarm you see the lady is tied to the rough-hewn bed on which she lays, with the man apparently murmuring words of comfort to her. You conjecture that she may be ill. She certainly seems to be in a disheveled shape, although her face is turned away from you.
An inner door in the room discloses another person - a woman with a square-made figure and a hard, plain face. She immediately notices you.
“Miss! You’re noan supposed to be here!”
The man whirls around. “What the deuce? Who are you?”
Instant fire comes to your cheeks. “Please, forgive me, I am the new governess. I only wanted a peek at the third story. Mrs. Fairfax gave me a tour earlier.”
The man steps in front of the woman on the bed. “Mrs. Fairfax did not include the third story in her tour. Did you consider it might have been for a reason?”
The man’s irate features cause any words in your head to flee. Numbly you shake your head.
The other woman moves to the bed and begins to fuss with the restraints on the poor lady. The man heads towards you and ushers you back out the door.
With an air of trying to calm himself, he gives you a smile. A rather fierce and vexed smile. “I’m sorry if I seem upset, I was not expecting anyone. You see that poor lady needs rest and quiet.”
“Of course. I am sure I do not want to interfere in Mr. Rochester’s personal matters. Again, please forgive me.”
The man looks at you with a modicum of amusement. “Perhaps, governess, you do not know? I am Mr. Rochester.”
A deep desire for the floor to open up and swallow you whole makes you glance at your feet in the barest hope that it might happen. It does not. “Oh, Mr. Rochester, I am truly mortified. I assure you I am not normally prone to such silly impulses as the one that overtook me now. I’m afraid Mrs. Fairfax has been so kind to me and has shared so much of the house, that I felt it would be no matter if I peeked at the rooms up here. You have such a beautiful home. I promise I will be more circumspect.”
Words may have continued to flood from you if Mr. Rochester had not raised a hand. “I understand. Please resume my ward’s scholarship. I’m sure she is missing your firm hand.”
“Of course, sir. Thank you.” You speed down to the schoolroom with alacrity.
Go to TWENTY-ONE