“Now Carter, I give you half an hour for dressing the wound, fastening the bandages, and getting the patient away.” Mr. Rochester is hasty in his actions and as you step aside, he helps Mason upright.
You draw back the thick curtain and let in all the daylight you can. The surgeon is handling his patient quickly and efficiently while Mason droops and moans.
“She bit me,” Mason murmurs. “She worried me like a tigress.”
“Come, be silent, Richard; you will forget this night when you are out of the country. When you get back to Spanish Town you may think of her as dead and buried - or rather you need not think of her at all.”
Carter finishes tending to his patient’s wounds and takes one arm while Mr. Rochester takes the other. You lead the trio by quietly opening doors and checking for any guests or servants wandering about. It is now half-past five and all is quiet and dark.
The chaise is ready for Mason and Carter who are soon whisked away. You feel you may slip off yourself, but Mr. Rochester’s commanding voice calls to you.
“Come where there is some freshness for a few moments. That house is a mere dungeon; don’t you feel it so?”
It seems to you a splendid mansion. “No, sir,” you reply.
“The glamour of inexperience is over your eyes and you cannot see through its charmed medium. No here (he points to the leafy enclosure you are entering) all is real, sweet, and pure. Jane, will you have a flower?”
He offers you half-blown rose, the first on the bush, and you take it gratefully.
“You have passed a strange night, Miss Governess.”
“And it has made you look pale - were you afraid when I left you alone with Mason?”
“I was afraid of someone coming out of the inner room. I fancied I heard some noise behind it.”
“I had fastened the door; you were in no danger.”
“Will Grace Poole live here still?”
“Oh yes, don’t trouble your head about her - put her out of your thoughts.”
“It seems to me your life is hardly secure while she stays.”
“Do not fear her, if there is any danger to me, it lies elsewhere. With some people, one word from them may forever deprive me of happiness.” His eyes on you are keen yet wary.
“I am sure if someone knows how to assure your happiness they would.”
“Are you? You are my little friend, are you not?”
“I like to serve you, and to obey you in all that is right.”
“Precisely; I see that you do. Then let me say that you too have power over me, yet I dare not show you where I am vulnerable, lest, faithful and friendly as you are, you would transfix me at once. But let me put a case to you which you must endeavor to suppose your own. Suppose you were a wild boy indulged from childhood and imagine yourself in a remote foreign land where you commit a capital error - not a crime or guilty act - but an error in judgment that must follow you your whole life.
“Heart-weary and soul-withered you return home after years of voluntary banishment and make a new acquaintance. You find in this stranger much of the good and bright qualities you have sought for twenty years. Such society revives and regenerates you, and you feel a desire to recommence your life in a way more worthy of an immortal being. To attain this end are you justified in overleaping an obstacle of custom - a mere conventional impediment, which your conscience sanctifies?”
Such a strange question! No judicious or satisfactory response comes to mind. With difficulty, you do your best to frame a reply.
“One should not look to a fellow-creature for reformation. Men and women often falter in goodness - if anyone has suffered and erred let them look higher than his equals for strength.”
“Little friend,” says he, in a tone suddenly full of harsh gravity, “you have noticed my tender penchant for Miss Ingram? Don’t you think if I married her, she would regenerate me with a vengeance?”
Rochester stands instantly and goes quite to the other end of the walk. Your own feelings are in sudden conflict at his words and you take the time to calm your mind. He returns humming a tune and reaches to take your hand.
“You are quite pale with your vigils. You don’t curse me for disturbing your rest?”
“What cold fingers! You must return to your room now, quietly. I think I see some of my guests at the stables. I have enjoyed your company, little friend. I hope you will bear me company again when I need someone to confide in.”
Go to THIRTY-ONE