The Governess of Thornfield

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FIVE

Slowly you nod your head. “I would indeed like to go to school.”

“Well, well! Who knows what may happen?” Mr. Lloyd rises as he speaks to himself. “The child ought to have a change of air and scene, her nerves are not in a good state.”

After your talk with Mr. Lloyd, you expect some outcome from your decision, but you hear nothing for a time. You spend your days tidying up the nursery and avoiding your cousins as best as you can.

One morning, Bessie interrupts you as you are putting away Georgiana’s picture books and dollhouse furniture to tell you to take off your pinafore and wash your hands and face.

“Miss, you are wanted downstairs immediately.”

You would have asked who wanted you, but Bessie was in a rush, and the moment you finished your ablutions, she was gone. Slowly you descend the staircase, aware of the fact that you have rarely been called into Mrs. Reed’s presence, and in those cases, you were never happy to be there.

Opening the drawing-room door, you pass through, curtsey low and look up to see - a black pillar! Or such, at least the tall, grim and sable-clad man appears to you. His dour face is like a carved mask and he considers you very gravely.

Mrs. Reed is in her usual seat by the fireside and signals you to approach. As you do, she introduces you to the stranger as “The little girl respecting whom I applied to you.”

The tall pillar of a man examines you with two inquisitive-looking grey eyes and intones solemnly, “Her size is small: what is her age?”

“Ten years.”

“So much? Well, are you a good child?”

Impossible to reply in the affirmative to this question - you have always been told that you were sneaking and underhanded. You remain silent.

“Perhaps the less said on the subject the better, Mr. Brocklehurst,” Mrs. Reed says with a little shake of her head.

“Sorry indeed to hear it! She and I must have some talk.” Installing himself in an arm-chair opposite to Mrs. Reed he beckons for you to come closer.

“No sight so sad as that of a naughty child,” he begins, “especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?”

“They go to hell,” is your ready and orthodox answer.

“And what is hell? Can you tell me that?”

“A pit full of fire.”

And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there forever?”

“No, sir.”

“What must you do to avoid it?”

Your answer is perhaps less than satisfactory. “I must keep in good health and not die.”

“How can you keep in good health? Children younger than you die daily.”

Sighing heavily and casting your eyes downward, you wish you were far away from this imposing gentleman.

“I hope that sigh is from the heart and that you repent of ever having been the occasion of discomfort to your excellent benefactress.”

“Benefactress!” you cry inwardly. If Mrs. Reed is your benefactress than a benefactress is a disagreeable thing.

Your benefactress interjects. “Mr. Brocklehurst, I believe I intimated in the letter I wrote to you that this little girl has not quite the character and disposition I could wish: should you admit her into Lowood school I should be glad if the teachers were requested to keep a strict eye on her, and above all, to guard against her worst fault, a tendency to deceit.”

Well might you dislike Mrs. Reed for it was her nature to wound you cruelly. However carefully you obeyed or tried to please her, your efforts were repulsed and repaid by such sentences as the above. Her accusation cuts you to the heart as you see her obliterating hope in your new phase of existence.

“Deceit is a sad fault in a child,” says Mr. Brocklehurst. I will make sure that she is brought up in a manner befitting her prospects and that she will be made useful and kept humble. She will benefit from her stay at Lowood.”

With that, Mr. Brocklehurst departs in his carriage.

Left alone with Mrs. Reed, you examine her features as the whole tenor of the conversation that has just passed comes to your mind. A passion of resentment foments within you.

Mrs. Reed looks up. “Go out of the room and return to the nursery.”

Speak you must, and gathering your energies you launch at her with this sentence -

“I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you worst of anybody in the world except John Reed; it is your children who tell lies, not I.”

Mrs. Reed freezes and looks at you with eyes of ice. “What more have you to say?”

“I am glad that you are no relation of mine: I will never call you aunt when I am grown up; and if anyone asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty.”

Mrs. Reed stares at you for some moments, her features darkening. Then, without a word, she stands up, gathers her work, and leaves the apartment.

Something of vengeance you have tasted for the first time, and after the fierce pleasure of expressing your feelings subsides, you feel a pang of remorse. Perhaps you should not have given your furious feelings uncontrolled play. Wretchedly, you return to the nursery.


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