The Governess of Thornfield

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Your new home, then, is a cottage; a little room with white-washed walls and a sanded floor, containing four painted chairs and a table, a clock, a cupboard, and a chamber of the same dimensions as the kitchen, with a deal-bedstead and a chest of drawers.

The kindness of the Rivers family fills your heart. In the month-long interval of your recovery, you received reviving pleasure in the company of Diana and Mary. For the three of you, there was perfect congeniality in your tastes, sentiments, and principles. They are both more accomplished and better read than you, and with eagerness, you followed in their path of knowledge.

But the intimacy that had arisen so naturally with his sisters did not extend to St. John. One reason was that comparatively he was little at home; a large proportion of his time appeared devoted to visiting the sick and poor among his parish. But another barrier was his abstracted, reserved, and even brooding nature. Zealous in his ministerial labors, he did not appear to enjoy mental serenity in his effort. Often of an evening, he would sit at the window and deliver himself to a perturbed and restless course of thought. Clearly, it is not easy to understand St. John Rivers.

When your recovery was almost complete you learned that Diana and Mary were at home only in concession to the fact that an uncle of theirs had passed. They had not known him well, and though he was possessed of a large fortune, for some reason, he had left them only enough to purchase mourning rings. He instead bequeathed every penny to another relation. Diana and Mary were not distraught, although it meant they must soon leave their beloved Moor House and return to their duties as governesses in a distant town.

Now that they have gone and you are installed as mistress of a school, you exert your mind and your powers to teach your twenty scholars. Only three can read and none can cipher. But surely there will be happiness in discharging this duty of education. Much enjoyment you do not expect, but you feel far from desolate. Seeing the progress of your pupils will substitute sorrow.

One evening, as you stand outside your cottage door musing, you see St. John approaching. He sometimes visited you to check on your progress or to deliver a letter from his sisters.

“Please come in Mr. Rivers.”

“I cannot stay; I have only brought you a little parcel my sisters left for you. A color-box, pencils, and some paper I think.”

You take the welcome gift from him, yet before you can thank him, you notice someone else coming up the walk to your gate. It is Miss Oliver. She is the daughter of the sole rich man in the parish - Mr. Oliver, the proprietor of the needle factory and iron foundry in the valley. Miss Oliver paid for the education and clothing of an orphan from the workhouse and often came to visit the children.

Bemused, you watch St. John’s reaction to her arrival. It is true that St. John can be cold and stern, but you recognize from the way his mouth compresses and the even sterner expression on his face, that he is repressing some strong feelings for Miss Rosamund Oliver. She is indeed a vision; the young girl has regular and delicate lineaments, large, dark, and lovely eyes and an ornament of rich, plenteous tresses - the ideal of beauty is hers. Anyone who looked on this fair creature must admire her.

Miss Oliver addresses St. John in surprise, but he only nods in her direction while looking out across the valley. She turns to you.

“I wanted to tell you that I shall come up and teach sometimes. It will be a change for me to help you, and I do like a change.”

“I would appreciate that very much, Miss Oliver.”

“How are you liking Morton?”

“I am liking it very well. The kindness of the people here is a testament to the town.”

Turning to St. John, her voice takes on a more playful tone. “Mr. Rivers, you are quite a stranger at Vale Hall. My papa says you never come to see us now. Will you return with me and visit him?”

“It is not a seasonable hour to intrude on Mr. Oliver,” answers St. John.

“Not a seasonable hour! Oh!” she then exclaims, shaking her beautiful curled head. “I am so giddy and thoughtless! It has slipped my memory that Diana and Mary have left you and Moor House is shut up. I am sure I pity you. Do come and see papa.”

“Not tonight, Miss Rosamond.”

“Well, if you are so obstinate, I will leave you; for I dare not stay any longer; the dew begins to fall. Good evening!”

St. John takes his leave soon after, and you return to your home.

That display of human drama brings you memories of a time you are trying to forget. Of the possibility of love between two people, if only one would declare themselves. It has put a strange thought in your head. Should you try to bring St. John together with Miss Oliver? Would it not do him good to have a wife at home to care for him? But is it your place to meddle in the affairs of your friends?

To play matchmaker for St. John, go to FORTY-FOUR

To not meddle, go to FORTY-FIVE

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