Chapter 9 – True colours
I was cooling my heels for more than a quarter of an hour when the drawing door opened to let
Blanche Ingram and Edwina Blackthorn in. I had barely the time to look at the slender, dark-haired young woman with the remarkable green eyes when Miss Ingram exclaimed, “You? What are you doing here? Where’s Edward? We were expecting Edward, not you!””
Her companion turned to her in something of a panic.
“Blanche, we can’t … we mustn’t …”
“Hold your tongue, Edwina! I will do the talking as I am in charge of this!”
In a few strides she was upon me and savagely took my arm, her long nails digging into my flesh.
“You paltry little mouse of an upstart governess, why have you come here? Had I known you would turn up, I would have asked the footmen to throw you out at once! Where’s Edward, answer me!”
She shook my arm and a stab of pain shot through my shoulder, still not recovered from Mason’s manhandling. By now I was furious and I wrestled free of Blanche’s hold.
“You will have to do with me, Miss Ingram! Edward is indisposed and …”
“Indisposed?”, she said in a threatening voice, “How so? What has happened to him?”
“I’m sure that is none of …”
With a shrill cry she slapped me across the face and shoved me so hard that I fell onto one of the settees and violently hit my head against the wooden back.
“Tell me!”, she shouted and as she did so, she didn’t resemble the least of the sophisticated young lady she was supposed to be.
“Edward is in bed with a fever,” I replied, unwilling to give her more information than was necessary.
Miss Blackthorn seemed to have regained some kind of composure by now and laid an imploring hand on Blanche’s arm.
“Please, dear Blanche, recollect yourself. Mrs. Rochester was kind enough to come here and inform us of Mr. Rochester’s illness. We should be thankful for that. Let’s reconsider what is to be done.”
Blanche Ingram looked at her and then, after a few moments, nodded.
“Mrs. Rochester, allow me to present my humblest apologies. I don’t know what came over me. Please find it in your heart to forgive me and accept a restoring cup of tea before you leave.”
While she went to the wall and pulled the bell cord to summon a footman, I studied her covertly. What a turn of mood. Had I not felt my stinging jaw where she had hit me, I would not have believed it had actually happened.
The next half hour passed like in a dream. I drank tea with the pair of them and I was glad to take off afterwards and climb into my waiting curricle. Keithley drove off and we had soon left the premises of Ingram Park to ride homeward through the moors. My head swam with everything that had transpired in that drawing room. I felt strangely dazed as if I was very tired. The usual warm rays of the spring sunshine were like balm to the skin of my upturned face. Lulled by the gentle rocking of the curricle, I dozed off.
Almighty God, have mercy on me …
I must still be on the Moors for it was very cold. It was night … oh, sweet Lord, I’m begging you, let Death come quickly so that I suffer no more…
Edward … I had fled from Edward because I had no right to be his wife … the memory shot through me like the stab of a spear! Edward was forbidden to me, we would never be together …
Please, Lord, give me rest … let me die now …
A splash of freezing cold water startled me right back into life, and I gasped and spluttered to get my breath.
Blanche Ingram’s bored voice drawled somewhere above my head, “Come on, you lazy bitch, wake up! You there, man, drag her upright. I want her to see me when I talk to her.”
A ruthless hand hauled me onto my feet and propped me against the wall in a not so gentle manner. My already sore shoulders suffered a fresh stab of pain, and I winced. Then I opened my eyes.
I was in some kind of wooden shed or outhouse with an earthen floor and a straw roof. All kinds of rubbish lay across the room, and the smell of rotten hay indicated that it had been used as a stable at some point. My arms were bound behind my back and before me, all elegance and beauty, stood Blanche, a handkerchief pressed against her nose and mouth. My body ached, and I was cold to the bone but I straightened my back and looked her in the eye.
“You troublesome, interfering, lowborn busybody, have you any inkling of how much I loathe and hate you? First you thwart my prospects in marrying Rochester and now you prevent me of taking revenge on him, it is too outrageous! It is insufferable and you will pay for this, you miserable nobody of a governess! You will pay the highest price possible, your life! You will die here today, Jane Eyre, I must have my revenge, I demand it!”
Only now I saw the lithe figure of Miss Edwina Blackthorn in the background. She laid her hand on Blanche’s arm in a gesture of supplication.
“Blanche, please, we cannot do this! We must set Mrs. Rochester free and make our apologies to her and Mr. Rochester. There’s already done too much damage and …”
“Shut up, you little coward! I am in charge here and I will have what I want! She dies this instant!”