Just then I heard Blanche Ingram say to him,
‘Mr. Rochester, you should have sent that little girl — Adele, is that her name? — to school, but I see you have a governess for her. I saw a strange little person with her just now. Has she gone? Oh no, there she is on the window-seat. It’s very foolish of you, you know. Governesses aren’t worth their salary, are they, Mamma?’
‘My dear, don’t mention governesses to me!’ cried Lady Ingram, holding a white hand to her forehead. ‘How I have suffered with them!’ One of the older ladies whispered to her, pointing in my direction.
‘Oh, I don’t care if she hears me!’ said Lady Ingram. ‘All governesses are useless. They never teach children anything.’
‘What fun we used to have, playing tricks on them, didn’t we, Mary?’ laughed Blanche. ‘But governesses are boring. Let’s change the subject. Mr. Rochester, will you sing with me?’
‘With pleasure,’ he answered, bowing, and the group moved towards the piano. This was the moment for me to escape, but I had only just left the sitting-room and reached the hall, when Mr. Rochester appeared through another door.
‘Come back, you’re leaving too early,’ he said to me.
‘I’m tired, sir.’ He looked at me for a minute.
‘And a little depressed. Why? Tell me.’
‘Nothing — it’s nothing, sir. I’m not depressed.’
‘But I think you are. You’re almost crying. But I haven’t got time now to discover the reason. Well, tonight you may leave early, but I want to see you with my guests every evening. Good night, my-‘ He stopped, bit his lip, and turned quickly away.
Those were cheerful, busy days at Thornfield. The old house had never seen so much life and activity. When it was fine the host and his guests went riding, visited places of interest, and walked in the gardens, and when it was wet they played games indoors. Mr. Rochester and Blanche Ingram were always together. Observing them closely, I felt very sure that he would soon marry this fine lady. But I did not feel jealous, because I knew he did not love her. She had made every effort to attract him, but he had not given her his heart. I saw her faults very clearly. She was intelligent but had no opinions of her own. She was beautiful but not good. She spoke of feelings but she knew nothing of sympathy or pity. And above all she had her mother’s pride and hardness. Other eyes apart from mine saw all these faults. Mr. Rochester himself knew she was not perfect, but he was clearly preparing to marry her, perhaps because she was of good family, perhaps for some other reason.
One day when Mr. Rochester was out alone on business, a stranger arrived in a carriage, and introduced himself as an old friend of the master’s. His name was Mason, and he had just returned from the West Indies, where Mr. Rochester had once lived.