The Governess of Thornfield

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TWO

Four hands are immediately laid upon you, and you are borne upstairs. You resist Bessie and Abbot however, which strengthens their bad opinion of you. But this is the first time you have ever rebelled against the Reeds’ treatment of you. As Bessie and Abbot set you down on a stool in the red room, you spring up immediately, but their hands arrest your movement.

“If you don’t sit still, you must be tied down,” says Bessie. “Miss Abbot, lend me your garters; she would break mine directly.”

The preparation for bonds, and the additional ignominy it infers, takes a little of the excitement out of you.

“Don’t take them off,” you cry; “I will not stir.”

“Mind you don’t,” says Bessie; but when you keep still, she loosens her hold of you. Then she and Miss Abbot stand with folded arms, looking darkly and doubtfully on your face.

“She never did so before,” Bessie says, turning to Miss Abbot.

“But it was always in her,” is the reply. “I’ve told Missis often my opinion about the child, and Missis agreed with me. She’s an underhand little thing: I never saw a girl of her age with so much cover.”

“What we tell you is for your good,” adds Bessie, in no harsh voice, “you should try to be useful and pleasant, then, perhaps, you would have a home here; but if you become passionate and rude, Missis will send you away, I am sure.”

Miss Abbot adds, “Say your prayers when you are by yourself; for if you don’t repent, something bad might be permitted to come down the chimney and fetch you away.”

They go soon after, locking the door behind them.

The red room is a stately but lonely chamber, red damask curtains hang from the massive mahogany pillars that support the bed; the carpet is red, and the table at the foot of the bed is covered in a crimson cloth. This room is generally disused for this was Uncle Reed’s room and in here he had breathed his last. No servant would go into this room alone to clean, for fear of seeing Uncle Reed’s ghost. You have never doubted that if your uncle had been alive, he would have treated you with much kindness. But now as you gaze on the deeply shadowed furniture and walls of the room, you recall what you have heard of dead men, troubled in their graves by the violation of their last wishes and you think that perhaps Mr. Reed’s spirit, harassed by the wrongs of his sister’s child, might suddenly rise before you in the chamber.

This idea causes you to fearfully stifle your anguish and anger. But a ray of light quivers and glides over your head and your heart races in panic. You rush to the door and shake the look in desperation. Steps come running along the outer passage and Bessie and Abbot enter.

“Child, are you ill?” asks Bessie.

“Take me out! Let me go into the nursery!” you cry.

“What for? Are you hurt? Have you seen something?” again demands Bessie.

“Oh! I saw a light, and I thought a ghost would come.”

“What is all this?” demands another voice peremptorily; and Mrs. Reed comes along the corridor, her cap flying wide, her gown rustling stormily. “Abbot and Bessie, I believe I gave orders that Jane Eyre should be left in the red room till I came to her myself.”

“Miss Jane screamed so loud, ma’am,” pleaded Bessie.

“Let her go,” is the only answer. “You cannot succeed in getting out by these means, be assured. I abhor artifice, particularly in children; you will now stay here an hour longer, and it is only on condition of perfect submission and stillness that I shall liberate you.”

“O aunt! have pity! Forgive me! I cannot endure it—let me be punished some other way! I shall be killed if—”

“Silence! This violence is most repulsive.”

Bessie and Abbot retreat, and Mrs. Reed, impatient of your frantic anguish and wild sobs, abruptly thrusts you back and locks you in. You hear her sweeping away; and soon after she has gone, you sink into unconsciousness.


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