The Governess of Thornfield

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THREE

The red room is a stately, but lonely chamber on the upper floor of Gateshead Hall. It is lonely because it was formerly your Uncle Reed’s room and in here, he had breathed his last, or so you have heard from the servants. No servant would go into this room alone to clean, for fear of seeing Uncle Reed’s ghost. The prospect of spending time in such a desolate room fills you with dread, and in anguish you cry out --

“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,” rejoins Mrs. Reed harshly. “Bessie, Abbot, take her to the red-room now.”

In a moment, your years of pliant, acquiescent behavior is overcome by desperation and consciousness that you have already rebelled. Slipping from Bessie and Abbot’s easy grasp, you run out of the library, vaguely planning on hiding until everyone grows weary of searching for you. You hear Mrs. Reed angrily raise her voice, as Bessie and Abbot follow you.

“I will not tolerate these tricks! Come back here at once!”

Still you make your way through the house - past the drawing room, the dining room and into the kitchens, where the servants are quietly preparing the evening meal. Bessie and Abbot are calling for you to stop, but in your newly awakened mutinous state, you ignore their cries.

It’s astonishing to think that John could twist the necks of the pigeons, kill the little pea-chicks, set the dogs at the sheep, strip the hothouse vines of their fruit, call his mother “old girl,” disregard her wishes and not unfrequently tear and spoil her silk attire, and he was never thwarted, much less punished. It is terribly unjust.

Your vision blurs with tears as you consider how unreasonably Mrs. Reed treats you. Daily you strive to fulfil every duty, but you are ever called naughty, tiresome, sullen and sneaky. In your distress, you lose awareness of Bessie and Abbot and they catch you, grabbing your arms and stopping your flight.

“For shame! for shame!” cries Miss Abbot. “What shocking conduct, what wickedness!”

Abbot always treats you as an underhand little thing. Now she feels justified in her beliefs. The impulse to resist Abbot and Bessie’s restraining grip is strong and despite the futility, you still struggle against them.

“Please,” you cry, “John struck me first! He is wicked!”

But the servants ignore you and force you ever closer to the red room. As you near the staircase to the upper floor, you make one more violent, frantic heave, pulling your arms from the grips of your captors. Stumbling, your foot catches on the rug, and the staircase banister rushes to meet your forehead. Unconsciousness closes the scene.


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