“I do not have a bad disposition,” you begin heatedly, “I was a passionate child but not vindictive. I bore your severity and judgment as quietly as I could but could not be a stone forever. I wanted to love you, but your unjust treatment of me was shameful, Mrs. Reed. My Uncle Reed would have never treated me as you did because he had compassion and Christian goodness. I know he did because he took me in as an orphan and enjoined you to care for me when he could not. I only wish I could thank him for his care and let him know that I don’t blame him for your actions. I hope you receive more mercy from God then you have shown me.”
Mrs. Reed recoils from your outburst just as she did when you were a child. But instead of repenting her behavior, she closes her eyes tightly. “Leave me!” she rasps.
It is too late for Mrs. Reed to change her habitual frame of mind; living she had ever hated you and dying she must hate you too. If only you could change your frame of mind.
Feelings of rancor overwhelm you as you pass from her room to head out of the house. You must get air to breathe and calm yourself. It is curious. You keenly remember the feeling of triumph and freedom when you had your first outburst against Mrs. Reed after Mr. Brocklehurst’s visit. At the time, your feelings quickly turned to acidic and corroding as that first taste of vengeance did not agree with you. Your feelings now skipped the euphoria in expressing your thoughts and is now dreary and chill. Remorse fills you as you consider Mrs. Reed’s plight. It was wrong to not forgive someone so close to death. Perhaps you should return to let her know that you will forgive her.
Your steps are erratic as you make this decision quickly, and you don’t notice the dip between the garden path and the hedge. Your foot slips and you turn your ankle, hitting your head on a stone lining the path. Your vision grows dark.
You awaken feverish and in bed, as Bessie bathes your face in a cool cloth. A strange man is beside you fussing. Bessie exclaims when she notices you are awake.
“Oh Miss! I was afraid you would never open your eyes! You’ve had a terrible fall! You must have been lying out on the path for an hour or more.”
The strange man appears to be the surgeon and he takes note of your conscious state. He asks you a few questions, but your thoughts are muddled and unclear. You remember you are at Gateshead, but you feel you need to do something you’ve forgotten.
The surgeon takes Bessie aside and gives her some instructions that you catch hold of intermittently. “Keep her quiet…. infection…. warmth … takes time… head needs to heal…”
His words feel insignificant in your mind though. You remember Helen’s words from so many years ago:
“Why should we ever sink overwhelmed with distress, when life is so soon over, and death is so certain an entrance to happiness?”
It takes a few days for the infection to finally beat the surgeon’s art, but as you slip away your final thought is of Mr. Rochester and how he will fare when you are gone.