Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers
my hearing yesterday, would have only conveyed the notion that
she was about to be removed to Northumberland, to her own
home. I should not have suspected that it meant she was dying; but
I knew instantly now! It opened clear on my comprehension that
Helen Burns was numbering her last days in this world, and that
she was going to be taken to the region of spirits, ifsuch region
there were. I experienced a shock of horror, then a strong thrill of
grief, then a desire-a necessity to see her; and I asked in what
room she lay.
‘She is in Miss Temple’s room,’ said the nurse.
‘May I go up and speak to her?’ ‘Oh no, child! It is not likely; and
now it is time for you to come in; you’ll catch the fever if you stop
out when the dew is falling.’ The nurse closed the front door; I
went in by the side entrance which led to the schoolroom: I was
just in time; it was nine o’clock, and Miss Miller was calling the
pupils to go to bed.
It might be two hours later, probably near eleven, when I-not
having been able to fall asleep, and deeming, from the perfect
silence of the dormitory, that my companions were all wrapt in
profound repose-rose softly, put on my frock over my night-dress,
and, without shoes, crept from the apartment, and set off in quest
of Miss Temple’s room. It was quite at the other end of the house;
but I knew my way; and the light of the unclouded summer moon,
entering here and there at passage windows, enabled me to find it
without difficulty. An odour of camphor and burnt vinegar
warned me when I came near the fever room: and I passed its door
quickly, fearful lest the nurse who sat up all night should hear me.
I dreaded being discovered and sent back; for I must see Helen,- I
must embrace her before she died,- I must give her one last kiss,
exchange with her one last word.
Having descended a staircase, traversed a portion of the house
below, and succeeded in opening and shutting, without noise, two
doors, I reached another flight of steps; these I mounted, and then
just opposite to me was Miss Temple’s room.
A light shone through the keyhole and from under the door; a
profound stillness pervaded the vicinity. Coming near, I found the
door slightly ajar; probably to admit some fresh air into the close
abode of sickness. Indisposed to hesitate, and full of impatient
impulses-soul and senses quivering with keen throes-I put it back
and looked in. My eye sought Helen, and feared to find death.
Close by Miss Temple’s bed, and half covered with its white
curtains, there stood a little crib. I saw the outline of a form under
the clothes, but the face was hid by the hangings: the nurse I had
spoken to in the garden sat in an easy-chair asleep; an unsnuffed