"Over hill, over dale,
Thorough brush, thorough briar,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moon's sphere,
And I serve the Fairy Queen."
-"A Midsummer Night's Dream", Act II, Scene I
Mr. Rochester felt that he should soon go mad. The presence of guests at Thornfield required him to be present and sociable at all times, even at such moments as this, when he longed to retreat from the utter noise of the group and experience peace and solitude.
Unable to escape, Mr. Rochester found himself at the window, looking upon the gardens. It was there that he saw her. He smiled and unconsciously lifted a hand as if to touch the small being that he saw walking below him.
"Mr. Rochester, what do you find so engrossing? I declare, you look as if you might fall out the window, you are so intent! Pray enlighten us."
He recovered himself, momentarily tore his gaze away from the small figure on the moors, and smiled as he gave a reply that he hoped would silence Lady Ingram.
"Indeed, Lady Ingram, it is nothing that might interest a lady such as yourself. A fairy has appeared in the garden and, as fairies are quite unusual in England, I am observing her."
Miss Ingram laughed loudly, fanning herself. "Indeed, sir, how droll you are! Pray, what does this fairy look like?"
He glanced out the window and quickly decided that continuing the discussion could possibly prove to be interesting, and so he said, "She is very small, almost childlike in size. Her fingers, I can easily see from this distance, are very small and gentle that she may caress a flower or stroke the wings of a lady-clock* without harming or disturbing it. She wears a gray frock, the same colour as an unassuming stone or a quiet pebble. Her hair is dark and pulled back modestly; she does not wish to attract attention, and knows that dressing herself in the robes of beauty will make her more ostentatious, more noticeable. She wishes nothing more than to blend in with the shadows and enjoy nature in peace, undisturbed by us mortals. Despite her assuming the appearance of a very plain girl, I can see the natural beauty hidden in her features – it is in her eyes, primarily, where it rests. They speak to the lucky observer and say, 'Leave me; I am content with my company, and desire solitude. In solitude, I need not pretend to be mortal, I need not give myself the appearance of something that I am not; I need only endeavour to please myself, and myself alone'. I declare her to be Titania* herself, though her appearance may be unassuming. "
Silence met him for a moment before Miss Ingram spoke.
"How very fascinating! May we too gaze upon this creature?"
"Indeed not," he replied, "for I am afraid that you ladies will find yourselves in raptures at the circumstance of seeing a true fairy and will frighten her away, and the gentlemen will frighten her. Even now, I sense her unease at my watching her – were there suddenly to be many eyes upon her, she would vanish. I find myself growing fond of this little creature that traverses my gardens and would rather not hasten her departure."
"I should not frighten her away!" several ladies cried at once. A few gentlemen also declared that they would not disturb the creature.
"Unfortunately, it seems you just have. She has vanished into the trees after sensing mortal eyes upon her. Having nothing to entertain me now and being quite unnecessary for your conversation, I shall take my leave."
Ignoring the rather loud protests, he quit the room and made his way down to the gardens, where he found his Titania, hidden from the view of his window by a large tree.
"Jane," he said, coming upon her.
She seemed to have been lost in thought; she lifted her head abruptly and looked at him with a slight semblance of panic before composing herself.
"Mr. Rochester," she said in greeting.
"Why do you sit out here alone?" he enquired. "Nay, do not answer, for I know it: you find solitude more peaceful, more pleasant than the company of any other human. I shall leave you, then, to your peace."
"Your company is not unpleasant to me, sir," she said quietly as he stood to depart. He smiled and returned to his seat.
"I often wonder, Jane, why the tales of fairies always describe the creatures as being startlingly beautiful and clad in the green of the Earth when there is a fairy residing at Thornfield who clothes herself in grey and black and could not be called lovely any more than I might be called handsome."
"I am no fairy," she said firmly. "Have we not established this already? Fairies and men in green have fled England, sir – you had best search elsewhere for these creatures."
A knowing smile lifted his lips; he could see it vexed her, as the smile in question implied that he possessed knowledge that she lacked.
"Men in green may have vacated England," said he, "but the proof of fairies' continued residence in England is sitting before me."
She looked very cross indeed, but seemed to think that his statement did not deserve an answer, as she determinedly kept silent.
"Do not be angry with me; I shall not reveal your secret."
"There is no secret to be revealed."
"Indeed? How fortunate for you, Jane – to have no secrets that one must fear may be revealed, to be free from all anxiety on that subject. You must be a fairy indeed, if you possess such a gift, for such freedom is truly rare."
"You twist my words, sir, until they fit the meaning that you wish to give them. I shall not speak to you if you insist upon speaking nonsense."
Silence filled the air for a quarter of an hour before he spoke again.
"Forgive me, Jane, for my words. I shall not trouble you again with such speech about fairies and men in green if you will consent to forgive me."
"You hardly require my forgiveness," she said. "Indeed, why should you? I am merely your governess."
"Governess!" he exclaimed. "Are we not friends, Janet?"
She seemed to hesitate before replying. "That is your decision, sir."
"Then I declare that we are friends, and let all who may try to tear us asunder! You, Janet, are my friend more truly than any of the vultures – guests, I believe, is the proper term – currently residing at Thornfield. Indeed, there is perhaps but one of the party whose presence may be considered welcome to me. Can you guess whom it is, Jane?"
"Must I, sir?"
"Of course, Janet!"
"Then is it Miss Ingram?"
"Precisely! You intuition, Jane, is truly like that of a fairy, though I shall say no more on that subject, lest I inspire your wrath. Miss Ingram is indeed the sole person among my guests whose company is welcome to me."
"Then why did you invite such a large party?"
"I could hardly invite only Miss Ingram! Besides, when their company is not irksome to me, it amuses me to see their follies and faults and know that they think they impress me when they are in fact doing the opposite."
"That is uncharitable, sir. They cannot, perhaps, mend their faults; they may not even be aware of them."
"That may be so, but it is not my duty to try to mend their faults. As I can do nothing about them, I may very well derive amusement from them."
She did not reply. He quickly turned the subject, seeing that the current topic of conversation displeased her.
"By-the-by, Jane, you must continue sitting in the drawing room during the evenings. I would not have you excluded from the company."
"I should rather not, sir. The ladies dislike me and the gentlemen look upon me with scorn. I contribute nothing to their conversation or merriment. I am sure they would be quite happier in my absence."
"Nonsense, Janet! And if that is the case, you may know that there is one person at least who enjoys your presence. For, though I may not seem to notice you when I am conversing with my guests, the presence of my little friend helps me to endure their trite conversation."
She nodded her head in acknowledgement of his reply. They sat in silence for a moment longer before he stood to depart.
"As pleasing as it may be to sit in peaceful silence with you, Jane, I must depart; I am surely wanted by my guests."
"Of course. Good-bye, sir."
"For the present," he said as he stood and departed. Even the sound of his boots upon the path could not mask the sound of a heavy sigh from the small fairy from whom he had departed.
*Lady-clock - ladybug
*Titania - Queen of the Fairies in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."