Chapter 10 – Poor, plain, obscure and little
It dawned on me that Blanche Ingram, this pretty little doll, this daughter of the aristocracy must be deranged, possibly even mad. The glint in her eyes made run shivers down my spine and, I knew that if I wanted to survive this, I had to be clever. Nobody had any inkling as to my whereabouts because they thought me on an errand. I had not even told Alice Fairfax. Therefore she would not begin to have concerns before dinner time. Edward was still lying prostrated with fever, he would not miss me for several hours. And where was Keithley, the groom? Had he be part of the conspiracy or had he been captured like me? If I wanted answers, my only hope would be to get them from Blanche and she would not tell me willingly. So I opted for a little subterfuge.
With a moan I let myself drop onto my knees which was not difficult since my legs were shaky enough.
“Please, Miss Ingram, I beg of you, please forgive me if I have insulted you in my ignorance. I know I have gone far above my station in marrying Mr. Rochester. I was arrogant where I ought to have been modest. I wanted to become rich because I could no longer bear to be poor. I was a nobody, as you said, and I resented that, so I accepted Mr. Rochester’s proposal.”
I dared to glance at her face after had kept my eyes low during my supplication.
She was glowing with smug satisfaction, and I knew I was doing well. It was vital to keep her occupied.
“Miss Ingram, I know it is too late for me but what of Mr. Rochester’s groom? Is he injured? It is Mr. Rochester’s favourite man, he will not want to lose him.”
Blanche Ingram scoffed in a very unladylike manner.
“Ha, I am afraid he has lost him for good, governess! Beaver, my helper, had to shoot him after he put up such a vicious struggle. He seems to be rather attached to you, he did not want anybody to touch you. Unfortunately for him, Beaver had his firearm with him and used it, too.”
Only now I noticed the big heavy figure in the back, a real scarecrow of a man, with long, apelike arms, a chest like a beer barrel and muscles like steel cords. His big, shorn head and blunt, mean features did nothing to ease my mind, especially when he started to sneer at me. His teeth were yellow and crooked, his grin positively evil. He must have entered just now because I had not seen him before.
Blanche did not look at him when she asked in a very level voice, “Well? Have you buried the groom and disposed of the curricle, as I ordered?”
The henchman took off his greasy cap and stammered, “No, milady, I haven’t. He’s gone, nowhere to be seen!”
“What? What did you say, you stupid sod?” Blanche barked and again she had nothing ladylike in the least.
Beaver became more nervous by the second, and I wondered what hold Blanche had over this giant of a man to install such fear in him. His stammering increased significantly, and the look in his eyes became almost terrified.
“I … I said … well, milady, … the man has gone … and so has the curricle. There was nothing I could do, milady, please …”
From the now distorted lips of Blanche now escaped a howl of rage, so full of sheer madness that she looked like a wild animal instead of a fine-bred lady. Everyone present, Miss Blackthorn, Beaver and I, we all shivered with genuine fear at the sight of that usually lovely face now contorted by insanity.
“You idiot! You pathetic lunatic! I’ll have you pay for this! Come with me, this instant! We must cover our tracks immediately!”
She turned one last time to me and spat, “Do not think yourself off the hook, governess! When I shall send Beaver back to you, he can do what he likes with you, as long as he kills you in the end.”
Then, a cruel smile curled her mouth and she said dangerously softly, “He has taken a fancy to you, you know? I think I am going to permit him some liberties before he kills you. I might even stay and watch, I have always been curious as to how the lower classes satisfy their needs!”
My stomach heaved and bile rose into my mouth which I barely managed to swallow!
“Make sure she is tied onto the wall, Beaver!” Blanche ordered.
The stinking breath of the man wafted over me when he grabbed me and shackled my left foot onto the wall by means of a chain I had failed to notice before. After that they all left the shed and I was alone.
What now? What was there to be done? My brain seemed paralyzed, numbed, and my body was in an even worse state. I was cold, wet, dirty and extremely hungry. My limbs were trembling from exhaustion. I tried the bonds at my hands but they would not yield.
One small flame of hope was burning in my heart; Keithley had escaped with the curricle. He would surely raise the alarm but would the search party manage to find me? Where was I, for that matter?
Another thought added to my growing despair. How did Edward fare? Had his fever abated? Or not?
I was weeping now, not able to retain my tears of dejection. Would I ever see him again?