The next thing I remember is, waking up with a feeling as if I had had a frightful
nightmare, and seeing before me a terrible red glare, crossed with thick black
bars. I heard voices, too, speaking with a hollow sound, and as if muffled by a
rush of wind or water: agitation, uncertainty, and an all-predominating sense of
terror confused my faculties. Ere long, I became aware that some one was
handling me; lifting me up and supporting me in a sitting posture, and that more
tenderly than I had ever been raised or upheld before. I rested my head against a
pillow or an arm, and felt easy.
In five minutes more the cloud of bewilderment dissolved: I knew quite well that I
was in my own bed, and that the red glare was the nursery fire. It was night: a
candle burnt on the table; Bessie stood at the bed-foot with a basin in her hand,
and a gentleman sat in a chair near my pillow, leaning over me.
I felt an inexpressible relief, a soothing conviction of protection and security,
when I knew that there was a stranger in the room, an individual not belonging to
Gateshead., and not related to Mrs. Reed. Turning from Bessie (though her
presence was far less obnoxious to me than that of Abbot, for instance, would
have been), I scrutinised the face of the gentleman: I knew him; it was Mr. Lloyd,
an apothecary, sometimes called in by Mrs. Reed when the servants were ailing:
for herself and the children she employed a physician.
"Well, who am I?" he asked.
I pronounced his name, offering him at the same time my hand: he took it,
smiling and saying, "We shall do very well by-and-by." Then he laid me down,
and addressing Bessie, charged her to be very careful that I was not disturbed
during the night. Having given some further directions, and intimates that he
should call again the next day, he departed; to my grief: I felt so sheltered and
befriended while he sat in the chair near my pillow; and as he closed the door
after him, all the room darkened and my heart again sank: inexpressible sadness
weighed it down.
"Do you feel as if you should sleep, Miss?" asked Bessie, rather softly.
Scarcely dared I answer her; for I feared the next sentence might be rough. "I will
"Would you like to drink, or could you eat anything?"
"No, thank you, Bessie."
"Then I think I shall go to bed, for it is past twelve o'clock; but you may call me if
you want anything in the night."
Wonderful civility this! It emboldened me to ask a question.
"Bessie, what is the matter with me? Am I ill?"
"You fell sick, I suppose, in the red-room with crying; you'll be better soon, no
Bessie went into the housemaid's apartment, which was near. I heard her say -
"Sarah, come and sleep with me in the nursery; I daren't for my life be alone with
that poor child to-night: she might die; it's such a strange thing she should have
that fit: I wonder if she saw anything. Missis was rather too hard."