The next thing you remember is waking up with the feeling that you have had a frightful nightmare. Ere long, you become aware that someone is lifting you up into a sitting posture, and that more tenderly than you have ever been raised or upheld before. You relax for a few minutes more before you realize who is around you.
It is night, with a fire burning in the grate. Bessie is at the foot of your bed with a water basin, while a gentleman, seated on a chair near your bedside, is leaning over you. The gentleman you recognize as Mr. Lloyd - the apothecary Mrs. Reed sends for when the servants are ailing. For her and her children, she employed a physician.
“Well, who am I?” he asks, smiling.
You pronounce his name and offer your hand. He takes it and says “We shall do very well by-and-by.” Patting your hand, he turns to address Bessie and impart some further directions as well as intimating that he will be returning the next day. You feel a strange grief at his departure since his presence gives you a feeling of shelter and friendship.
Bessie turns to you once he leaves and asks “Do you feel as if you could sleep, Miss?”
“I will try,” you answer softly.
“Would you like to drink, or could you eat anything?”
“No, thank you, Bessie.”
“Then I think I shall go to bed, for it is past twelve o’clock; but you may call me if you want anything in the night.”
Wonderful civility this!
The next day you are up and dressed by noon and wrapped in a shawl by the nursery hearth. Mrs. Reed and her children have all gone in the carriage, and so you should feel happy away from them, but your nerves are so racked that no sense of calm can pervade your senses. Bessie has been kind enough to put a book by you, and a little pastry on a pretty dish, but you pick up neither in favor of looking into the fire.
Soon Bessie comes bustling in, announcing the arrival of Mr. Lloyd. He twinkles at you reassuringly and asks “Well, you have been crying, Miss, what about? Do you feel pain anywhere?”
“No sir, I cry because I am miserable.”
“Oh fie, child!” Bessie admonishes.
The good apothecary appears a little puzzled. His bright, gray eyes take you in steadily. “What made you take ill yesterday?”
“I was knocked down, but that did not make me ill.”
A loud bell rings for the servants’ dinner; Mr. Lloyd knows what it’s for. “That’s for you, nurse,” said he; “you can go down; I’ll give the child a lecture till you come back.”
Once the door shuts behind Bessie, Mr. Lloyd turns to you with a smile.
“No lecture. Why are you miserable?”
You consider his question for a long moment. Ere long you reply, “I am miserable because I have no father and mother, and my Aunt does not like me.”
Mr. Lloyd nods and then asks “Don’t you think Gateshead is a very beautiful house? Are you not thankful to have such a fine place to live?”
“It is not my house, sir; and Abbot says I have less right to be here than a servant.”
“Oh, you can’t be silly enough to wish to leave such a splendid place?”
“If I had anywhere else to go, I should be glad to leave it; but I can never get away from Gateshead till I am a woman.”
“Perhaps. Would you like to go to school?”
You consider this. Bessie spoke of school as a place where young ladies sat in the stocks and wore backboards and John Reed hated his school, but John’s tastes were no rule for yours. If Bessie’s accounts of school accomplishments were correct - it did sound appealing. Young ladies who went to school could paint beautiful pictures and sing and play. Your heart swells with the chance to emulate then.
But then you consider the journey and the prospect of leaving Gateshead for a new and entirely unknown life. As eager as you are to leave behind your Aunt’s cruelty, you are just as unsure of how other people might treat you. This is a difficult decision for you.
To agree to go to school, go to FIVE
To stay with the familiar at Gateshead, go to SIX