In your haste to answer Mr. Rochester in a way that does not show how discomfited you are by his question, your clumsy attempt to flatter his ego does not seem to satisfy him.
“Hmph. Do you really? I suppose I may compare favorably to the eminent Mr. Brocklehurst.”
It is true, Mr. Brocklehurst and a few members of Lowood’s committee are the only adult men of your acquaintance, but you don’t believe anyone would say that Mr. Rochester was the epitome of male beauty. He is altogether too dark, grim and ill-formed.
“You look very much puzzled, and though you are not pretty any more than I am handsome, yet a puzzled air becomes you. Well, I am disposed to be gregarious and communicative tonight.”
“Sir, I am afraid I am not up to your standard of conversation. I am sure nothing I can say will be of interest.”
“The quaint, quiet and grave governess, eh? There are no hidden layers to your mind, young lady? Nothing you keep hidden from the world because you are afraid to open yourself up?”
“I daresay, that if I did, I would not reveal them to a man of a few hours acquaintance,” you think in astonishment.
“You are dumb, Miss Governess.”
You are dumb still. He bends his head a little towards you, and with a single hasty glance seems to dive into your eyes.
“Confused?” he said, “and annoyed. Ah, I beg your pardon. I speak in an insolent manner and that shocks your immaculate sensibilities. Do you wonder that I speak in this way to you? I am not in the habit of regarding my paid subordinates’ thoughts and feelings, but I will be sure to remain most correct with you. I see your sense of virtue cannot handle anything less.”
A small part of you is piqued at his dismissive manner, but he is your employer and you are certain you must maintain a proper composure in front of him. It would not do for him to think you have ideas above your station.
“Well, what are you about, young lady, it is nine o’clock; you should take Adèle to bed.”
Adèle kisses him before quitting the room: he endures the caress, but scarcely seems to relish it.
“I wish you all good-night, now,” says he, making a movement of his hand towards the door, in token that he was tired of our company, and wished to dismiss us.
After putting Adèle to bed, you rejoin Mrs. Fairfax in her room. “Mr. Rochester is exceedingly peculiar.”
“Is he, my dear? I never notice it. In what way?”
“He is very changeful and abrupt. I almost feel that I have disappointed him in some way.”
“Oh well, if he has some peculiarities in temperament, allowances must be made. You cannot always be sure whether he is in jest or earnest, whether he is pleased or the contrary; I don’t thoroughly understand him but it is in his nature, and none of us can help our nature. Do not worry, it is of no consequence. He is a very good master.”
Mrs. Fairfax has had more experience with his temper than you and you trust her judgment. You think little of it that night, and the next day you find the master has removed himself to the Continent once more.
“He often makes these sudden trips,” Mrs. Fairfax reassures you. “I never pay them mind. He might be gone a month or a year, you never know.”
In fact, he is gone many years - Adèle advances from precocious youth to a young lady of decorum and intellect before Mr. Rochester visits Thornfield Hall again. Your visit with him is brief and he congratulates you on your work with Adèle; who must now finish her education at a school for young ladies while you find a position elsewhere. Such is the life of a dependent governess; there is no rest or security for genteel, impoverished women in this world. You find another position with a young girl and boy and the cycle continues. Nothing of note occurs in your well-regulated and uneventful life, so your story closes here.