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<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - Digital Library-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte


With Bewick on my knee, I was then happy: happy at least in my
way. I feared nothing but interruption, and that came too soon. The
breakfast-room door opened.

‘Boh! Madam Mope!’ cried the voice of John Reed; then he paused:
he found the room apparently empty.

‘Where the dickens is she!’ he continued. ‘Lizzy! Georgy! (calling to
his sisters) Joan is not here: tell mama she is run out into the rain-
bad animal!’ ‘It is well I drew the curtain,’ thought I; and I wished
fervently he might not discover my hiding-place: nor would John
Reed have found it out himself; he was not quick either of vision or
conception; but Eliza just put her head in at the door, and said at
once-‘She is in the window-seat, to be sure, Jack.’ And I came out
immediately, for I trembled at the idea of being dragged forth by
the said Jack.

‘What do you want?’ I asked, with awkward diffidence.
‘Say, “What do you want, Master Reed?”’ was the answer. ‘I want
you to come here;’ and seating himself in an armchair, he intimated
by a gesture that I was to approach and stand before him.

John Reed was a schoolboy of fourteen years old; four years older
than I, for I was but ten: large and stout for his age, with a dingy
and unwholesome skin; thick lineaments in a spacious visage,
heavy limbs and large extremities. He gorged himself habitually at
table, which made him bilious, and gave him a dim and bleared
eye and flabby cheeks. He ought now to have been at school; but
his mama had taken him home for a month or two, ‘on account of
his delicate health.’ Mr. Miles, the master, affirmed that he would
do very well if he had fewer cakes and sweetmeats sent him from
home; but the mother’s heart turned from an opinion so harsh, and
inclined rather to the more refined idea that John’s sallowness was
owing to over-application and, perhaps, to pining after home.

John had not much affection for his mother and sisters, and an
antipathy to me. He bullied and punished me; not two or three
times in the week, nor once or twice in the day, but continually:
every nerve I had feared him, and every morsel of flesh in my
bones shrank when he came near. There were moments when I was
bewildered by the terror he inspired, because I had no appeal
whatever against either his menaces or inflictions; the servants did
not like to offend their young master by taking my part against
him, and Mrs. Reed was blind and deaf on the subject: she never
saw him strike or heard him abuse me, though he did both now
and then in her very presence, more frequently, however, behind
her back.

Habitually obedient to John, I came up to his chair: he spent some
three minutes in thrusting out his tongue at me as far as he could
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