If rereading Jane Eyre has taught me anything, it’s that the cat is mad and will have to be shut in the attic. The only problem is we don’t have an attic.
I went to Richard and explained to him that we would need to:
a) move to a house with either an attic or a second storey; and
b) find a discreet local woman to tend to Fina and arrange a modest annuity for her.
Initially, Richard was not convinced that either of these measures was necessary. Then I reminded him of Fina’s behaviour as of late and showed him a passage I’d marked in Jane Eyre:
‘The lunatic sprang and grappled his throat viciously, and laid her teeth to his cheek. They struggled.’
‘Are you not struck, Sir, by the verisimilitude?’ I demanded. ‘Are you not most forcibly struck?’ He was not, so I produced yet more evidence:
“She bit me,’ he murmured. ‘She worried me like a tigress…(I had underlined this last word three times.)‘Oh , it was frightful,’ he added shuddering. ‘And I did not expect it: she looked so quiet at first.’
I displayed the wounds on my own neck and arms, still fresh. Then I motioned towards Fina, sitting placidly in her basket in front of the heater. He started to see what I was getting at.
Richard had never read Jane Eyre so I filled him in on the finer – or should I say ‘Fina’ – details of the plot: Rochester’s demented bride attempting to burn him in his bedchamber at night, attacking her own brother with a knife, sneaking into Jane Eyre’s bedroom on the eve of her wedding and savagely rending her bridal veil in two – a chilling incident of transferred violence. I reminded him of all the sharp knives we had lying around in the kitchen, of the numerous boxes of matches kept at cat level below the sink. I also drew his attention to my own vast collection of scarves, shawls and pashminas, most of them filmy, silken things which could be easily torn apart by a malignant paw. These are dangerous times we live in, I exhorted. We must take steps to guarantee the safety of ourselves and our accessories.
Richard still did not see the necessity of incarceration, however. He admitted that she was dangerous, yet thought we could just persist with squirting her with a water pistol when she was naughty (if only Rochester had had recourse to such technology!) Besides, he pointed out, taking away a creature’s liberty like that was barbaric – it simply wasn’t done today. There were other alternatives.
Of course he was right – I grasped what he was saying immediately. Psychiatry had made tremendous advances since Charlotte Bronte’s day. Modern medicine takes a far less benighted view of the treatment of lunacy: Fina clearly needed deep sleep therapy. Or perhaps electric shock therapy. Or a lobotomy.
No, Richard protested, strenuously vetoing all of these ideas – that was not what he meant at all. Thinking that perhaps he was reluctant for our dark secret to be known outside the walls of our house, I suggested that we ourselves try drilling a small hole in Fina’s skull to let the demons out. This suggestion was not acceptable to him either.
Until he comes up with a better suggestion then, the attic it must be. If you happen to drop by at our new place in the future and notice any tapestries on the wall that were not there before, kindly don’t touch them or attempt to move them aside. If you hear frantic scratching, macabre laughter or tormented yowling sounds emerge from unseen rooms, pretend not to notice. It’s probably best that you lock your bedroom door at night too, and keep a basin of water by your bedside, just in case any fires should break out. And if you chance to remember that we once had a cat called Fina, please don’t ask about her: we’ll pretend not to know what you’re talking about. It’s better that way.