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my own uncle-my mother’s brother-that he had taken me when a
parentless infant to his house; and that in his last moments he had
required a promise of Mrs. Reed that she would rear and maintain
me as one of her own children. Mrs. Reed probably considered she
had kept this promise; and so she had, I dare say, as well as her
nature would permit her; but how could she really like an
interloper not of her race, and unconnected with her, after her
husband’s death, by any tie? It must have been most irksome to
find herself bound by a hard-wrung pledge to stand in the stead of
a parent to a strange child she could not love, and to see an
uncongenial alien permanently intruded on her own family group.
A singular notion dawned upon me. I doubted not-never doubted-
that if Mr. Reed had been alive he would have treated me kindly;
and now, as I sat looking at the white bed and overshadowed
walls-occasionally also turning a fascinated eye towards the dimly
gleaming mirror-I began to recall what I had heard of dead men,
troubled in their graves by the violation of their last wishes,
revisiting the earth to punish the perjured and avenge the
oppressed; and I thought Mr. Reed’s spirit, harassed by the wrongs
of his sister’s child, might quit its abode-whether in the church
vault or in the unknown world of the departed-and rise before me
in this chamber. I wiped my tears and hushed my sobs, fearful lest
any sign of violent grief might waken a preternatural voice to
comfort me, or elicit from the gloom some haloed face, bending
over me with strange pity. This idea, consolatory in theory, I felt
would be terrible if realised: with all my might I endeavoured to
stifle it-I endeavoured to be firm. Shaking my hair from my eyes, I
lifted my head and tried to look boldly round the dark room; at
this moment a light gleamed on the wall. Was it, I asked myself, a
ray from the moon penetrating some aperture in the blind? No;
moonlight was still, and this stirred; while I gazed, it glided up to
the ceiling and quivered over my head. I can now conjecture
readily that this streak of light was, in all likelihood, a gleam from
a lantern carried by some one across the lawn: but then, prepared
as my mind was for horror, shaken as my nerves were by agitation,
I thought the swift darting beam was a herald of some coming
vision from another world. My heart beat thick, my head grew hot;
a sound filled my ears, which I deemed the rushing of wings;
something seemed near me; I was oppressed, suffocated:
endurance broke down; I rushed to the door and shook the lock in
desperate effort. Steps came running along the outer passage; the
key turned, Bessie and Abbot entered.

‘Miss Eyre, are you ill?’ said Bessie.
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