I woke up to find the doctor lifting me very carefully into my own bed. It was good to be back in my familiar bedroom, with a warm fire and candle-light. It was also a great relief to recognize Dr Lloyd, who Mrs. Reed called in for her servants (she always called a specialist for herself and the children). He was looking after me so kindly. I felt he would protect me from Mrs. Reed. He talked to me a little, then gave Bessie orders to take good care of me. When he left, I felt very lonely again.
But I was surprised to find that Bessie did not scold me at all. In fact she was so kind to me that I became brave enough to ask a question.
‘Bessie, what’s happened? Am I ill?’
‘Yes, you became ill in the red room, but you’ll get better, don’t worry, Miss Jane,’ she answered. Then she went next door to fetch another servant. I could hear her whispers.
‘Sarah, come in here and sleep with me and that poor child tonight. I daren’t stay alone with her, she might die. She was so ill last night! Do you think she saw a ghost? Mrs. Reed was too hard on her, I think.’ So the two servants slept in my room, while I lay awake all night, trembling with fear, and eyes wide open in horror, imagining ghosts in every corner.
Fortunately I suffered no serious illness as a result of my terrible experience in the red room, although I shall never forget that night. But the shock left me nervous and depressed for the next few days. I cried all day long and although Bessie tried hard to tempt me with nice things to eat or my favourite books, I took no pleasure in eating or even in reading. I knew I had no one to love me and nothing to look forward to.
When the doctor came again, he seemed a little surprised to find me looking so miserable.
‘Perhaps she’s crying because she couldn’t go out with Mrs Reed in the carriage this morning,’ suggested Bessie.
‘Surely she’s more sensible than that,’ said the doctor, smiling at me. ‘She’s a big girl now.’
‘I’m not crying about that. I hate going out in the carriage,’ I said quickly. ‘I’m crying because I’m miserable.’
‘Oh really, Miss!’ said Bessie.
The doctor looked at me thoughtfully. He had small, grey, intelligent eyes. Just then a bell rang for the servants’ dinner.
‘You can go, Bessie,’ he said. ‘I’ll stay here talking to Miss Jane till you come back.’
After Bessie had left, he asked, ‘What really made you ill?’
‘I was locked up in a room with a ghost, in the dark.’
‘Afraid of ghosts, are you?’ he smiled.
‘Of Mr. Reed’s ghost, yes. He died in that room, you know. Nobody even goes in there any more. It was cruel to lock me in there alone without a candle. I shall never forget it!’
‘But you aren’t afraid now. There must be another reason why you are so sad,’ he said, looking kindly at me.
How could I tell him all the reasons for my unhappiness!
‘I have no father or mother, brothers or sisters,’ I began.
‘But you have a kind aunt and cousins.’
‘But John Reed knocked me down and my aunt locked me in the red room,’ I cried. There was a pause.
‘Don’t you like living at Gateshead, in such a beautiful house?’ he asked.
‘I would be glad to leave it, but I have nowhere else to go.’
‘You have no relations apart from Mrs. Reed?’
‘I think I may have some, who are very poor, but I know nothing about them,’ I answered.
‘Would you like to go to school?’ he asked finally. I thought for a moment. I knew very little about school, but at least it would be a change, the start of a new life.
‘Yes, I would like to go,’ I replied in the end.
‘Well, well,’ said the doctor to himself as he got up, ‘we’ll see. The child is delicate, she ought to have a change of air.’
I heard later from the servants that he had spoken to Mrs. Reed about me, and that she had agreed immediately to send me to school. Abbott said Mrs. Reed would be glad to get rid of me. In this conversation I also learned for the first time that my father had been a poor vicar. When he married my mother, Miss Jane Reed of Gateshead, the Reed family were so angry that they disinherited her. I also heard that my parents both died of an illness only a year after their wedding.
But days and weeks passed, and Mrs. Reed still said nothing about sending me to school. One day, as she was scolding me, I suddenly threw a question at her. The words just came out without my planning to say them.
‘What would uncle Reed say to you if he were alive?’ I asked.
‘What?’ cried Mrs. Reed, her cold grey eyes full of fear, staring at me as if I were a ghost. I had to continue.
‘My uncle Reed is now in heaven, and can see all you think and do, and so can my parents. They know how you hate me, and are cruel to me.’
Mrs. Reed smacked my face and left me without a word. I was scolded for an hour by Bessie as the most ungrateful child in the world, and indeed with so much hate in my heart I did feel wicked.
Christmas passed by, with no presents or new clothes for me. Every evening I watched Eliza and Georgiana putting on their new dresses and going out to parties. Sometimes Bessie would come up to me in my lonely bedroom, bringing a piece of cake, sometimes she would tell me a story, and sometimes she would kiss me good night. When she was kind to me I thought she was the best person in the world, but she did not always have time for me.