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Were We Not Four?

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"That house is a mere dungeon: don't you feel it so?"

 

Grace has not been to Spanish Town. Grace is not beautiful like Bertha is beautiful. Grace snores when she falls asleep by the fire. When she speaks, it is to tell stories Bertha cannot follow about people Bertha doesn't know. But mostly she does not speak, as Bertha does not speak.

The wind speaks: it howls over the roof and into the cracks between the stones, in this country where it is always cold.

Perhaps tonight Grace will be careless with the key again. Or perhaps he will come to her, Bertha thinks, and laughs and laughs and laughs.

"You would not laugh so," Grace says darkly, "if you knew what was afoot."

Bertha laughs until Grace orders her to be still. She hates Grace as she hates her husband, for they are the same. When they speak to her it is always a command: "Do not do this." When they speak to her it is never a question: "But why have you done it?"


~~~

"A deal of people, Miss, are for trusting all to Providence; but I say Providence will not dispense with the means, though He often blesses them when they are used discreetly."

 

Everyone knows that the master is to be married. But only Grace knows that the master is to be married again.

Miss Ingram is cast in the same mould as the original--dark, tall, and formidable. Her riding costume is very fine. It is not Grace's place to like or dislike the young lady, though she needn't look so pleased with her own face and figure. They will fade.

Grace will own that she herself was never a beauty, but neither had Thomas had any complaints about her. She was something that had served them both better: she was practical. But Thomas has been dead fifteen years, so now it serves her alone.

If the master takes a new wife, it may mean another ten pounds a year for Grace. The master's secret will fester, but she is not paid to interfere. She is paid to keep order and she is paid to keep silence. She is paid to keep company with a lunatic. For this she earns twice her previous wages, and if her task is not always simple, at least it is straightforward.

Quite likely there will be a reckoning. Quite likely Miss Ingram is being led into ill fortune, but Grace keeps her own counsel. For to whom is life gentle? Young ladies must come to learn about the world in one way or another.

So when Miss Ingram passes her near the servants' hall, chittering in a group with the other young ladies, Grace only curtsies and lets her by.

"He would make a proper Bothwell, to be sure," Miss Ingram whispers to the one on her left.

For a moment Grace watches them and wonders: could Miss Ingram be aware? Might she be practical, too?

No, Grace thinks, the truth she guards is too strange for guessing. But Blanche Ingram seems as capable as any of a rough bargain.


~~~

"Hunt, shoot, and fight: the rest is not worth a fillip. Such should be my device, were I a man."

 

The governess is always creeping around corners. She is always sneaking into a window seat, observing one with those overlarge eyes in that pallid face. Above all she is always watching.

The worst is that she is far from the only servant with disagreeable ways. When Blanche is mistress there will be a different order.

Even now the governess is lurking at the doorway of the billiards room. "Mr. Rochester," she says low, and straightaway he drops his cue, follows her out of the room.

Blanche will have to learn how best to rule him. He is a hard man, unpredictable, but Blanche has been accustomed to achieving her own ends.

It is a pity about his manners and his grim visage, and a pity that the name "Blanche Rochester" lacks a fluid cadence--but to gain much one always must lose something.

The grounds at Thornfield are expansive, and the stables are very fine. The grooms, at least, know their business. The Eshtons live within an easy distance; she may send for Amy and Louisa whenever she wishes.

Well-tended horses and space enough to ride to the end of the county, and freedom at least until the evening.


~~~

"The restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes. Then my sole relief was to walk along the corridor of the third storey, backwards and forwards, safe in the silence and solitude of the spot, and allow my mind's eye to dwell on whatever bright visions rose before it."

 

When Jane is not required in the drawing room, when she is not teaching Adèle, when she is not needed elsewhere, she has taken up her old practice again. No one from the grand party would think to look for her here. To and fro she paces along the hallway, as she did before Mr. Rochester came to Thornfield.

Since the night he brought her behind the tapestry to tend Mr. Mason's wounds, the house has been calm. There have been no fires; there have been no cries in the night. Thornfield has begun to resemble an ordinary gentleman's manor house.

There is a part of her that wishes it treacherous again, for new hazards to navigate, an untamed place fierce enough to be a home for her. When she stops moving and the corridors are peaceful she remembers: the hall is being made ready to receive a bridegroom and a bride.

It is not that she expects life to treat her gently--she has proved that she does not turn sick at the sight of blood. But is it wrong for her to want more than she has been granted, to ask for a happiness she believes she has earned?

From the depths of the passage she receives an answer: it starts low and ghostly and builds to a bitter clamour, a coarse, mocking laughter, a goblin ha! ha!