The Governess of Thornfield

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TWENTY-ONE

In the schoolroom with Adele, you feel the first terror of your awkward meeting with Mr. Rochester dissipate as you focus on giving your art lesson. Adele is an indifferent student; willing to listen but disinclined to apply. It is apparent she has not been used to any kind of regular occupation. After your thoughtlessness in visiting the third story rooms, you must make up for it by grooming Adele to be the proper ward of a gentleman.

The sense of mortification lingers however, as you endeavor to concentrate. Mr. Rochester was not at all what you thought he would be. Mrs. Fairfax had given you only the barest details in describing him, but in your mind’s eye, you had imagined a man much older - a genial confirmed bachelor or a melancholic widower who undertook the upbringing of Adele in a moment of wistful introspection. Instead, Mr. Rochester is perhaps not quite forty, with stern features and a heavy brow. His eyes were ireful when you beheld them, but they were great, dark eyes - with a certain change in their depths, which, if it was not softness, reminding you, at least, of that feeling.

The afternoon wanes away and it is soon time for Adele to dress for dinner. Mrs. Fairfax has just been in to remind you to dress for the evening because “Mr. Rochester has returned.” If only she had brought that intelligence earlier.

Replacing your serviceable black stuff dress with your finer black silk, you make your way slowly to the drawing-room, to meet with Mr. Rochester after his meal. The master of Thornfield is half-reclined on an immense easy-chair by the fireside.

You are momentarily surprised to find him alone, as you expected Mrs. Fairfax and Adele to have been here before you, but you remember Adele did like to linger over her meals. With as much confidence as you can muster, you approach Mr. Rochester’s chair and curtsey in greeting.

“Be seated,” he says curtly, indicating the chair almost opposite to him.

“Well, Miss Governess, you look very much puzzled. Do you have any questions for me?”

“Of course not, sir. I am quite content.”

“You have been resident in my house for a week?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you came from --?”

“From Lowood School.”

“Ah! A charitable concern. You have lived the life of a nun; no doubt, you are well drilled in religious form. Tell me, are you aware of the healing an act of penance can bring?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Hmph.” Mr. Rochester stops momentarily and looks off, seeming to consider some inner matter. You feel it is not your place to disturb his thoughts and you sit quietly, inwardly hoping for Mrs. Fairfax’s company to break the tension in the room.

As if in answer to an unasked question, Mr. Rochester suddenly says, “My act of penance is to care for that person in the third story.”

“I see, sir.”

“She is not well and has not been for a long time. No doctor can help her I’m afraid. I will have the care of her for a long time. I hope you’re not the gossiping sort?”

Surprised and mildly affronted, you shake your head. “No, sir.”

“You will not be tempted to talk of this place if someone asks you about its Master?”

“I will think it is none of their business or mine, sir. I know how to keep my tongue.”

Rochester regards you keenly now, his mouth grim and his eyes a little sad. “I think you do, in fact, I am sure you do. I am sorry to say that I must, however, relieve you of your position here. I will instruct Mrs. Fairfax in finding you another suitable position elsewhere. I value discretion and I hope you understand why I am letting you go?”

In distress, you nod your head, crestfallen but determined not to shed any tears. “I am sorry for my indiscretion Mr. Rochester. You have my assurance that you will not hear anything from or about me again. Thank you for this opportunity.” You rise hastily and take your leave.

True to his word, Mr. Rochester has Mrs. Fairfax arrange a position for you. You become a companion to an elderly but kind lady who owns a great deal of land in the north of England. Unfortunately, she does not like to leave her property and requires your attention in her home most constantly.

This is not to be a regular narrative as you are not obliged to impart anything that might not generate interest. Your story, at first, was bright with potential and excitement. But the prospects awaiting you now are only menial labor and idle contemplation. You may as well close up your story now.

THE END

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