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


number to me appeared countless, though not in reality exceeding
eighty; they were uniformly dressed in brown stuff frocks of quaint
fashion, and long holland pinafores. It was the hour of study; they
were engaged in conning over their to-morrow’s task, and the hum
I had heard was the combined result of their whispered repetitions.
Miss Miller signed to me to sit on a bench near the door, then
walking up to the top of the long room she cried out‘Monitors,
collect the lesson-books and put them away!’ Four tall girls arose
from different tables, and going round, gathered the books and
removed them. Miss Miller again gave the word of
command‘Monitors, fetch the supper-trays!’

The tall girls went out and returned presently, each bearing a tray,
with portions of something, I knew not what, arranged thereon,
and a pitcher of water and mug in the middle of each tray. The
portions were handed round; those who liked took a draught of the
water, the mug being common to all. When it came to my turn, I
drank, for I was thirsty, but did not touch the food, excitement and
fatigue rendering me incapable of eating; I now saw, however, that
it was a thin oaten cake shared into fragments.

The meal over, prayers were read by Miss Miller, and the classes
filed off, two and two, upstairs. Overpowered by this time with
weariness, I scarcely noticed what sort of a place the bedroom was,
except that, like the schoolroom, I saw it was very long. To-night I
was to be Miss Miller’s bed-fellow; she helped me to undress:
when laid down I glanced at the long rows of beds, each of which
was quickly filled with two occupants; in ten minutes the single
light was extinguished, and amidst silence and complete darkness I
fell asleep.

The night passed rapidly: I was too tired even to dream; I only
once awoke to hear the wind rave in furious gusts, and the rain fall
in torrents, and to be sensible that Miss Miller had taken her place
by my side. When I again unclosed my eyes, a loud bell was
ringing; the girls were up and dressing; day had not yet begun to
dawn, and a rushlight or two burned in the room. I too rose
reluctantly; it was bitter cold, and I dressed as well as I could for
shivering, and washed when there was a basin at liberty, which
did not occur soon, as there was but one basin to six girls, on the
stands down the middle of the room. Again the bell rang; all
formed in file, two and two, and in that order descended the stairs
and entered the cold and dimly lit schoolroom: here prayers were
read by Miss Miller; afterwards she called out‘Form classes!’ A
great tumult succeeded for some minutes, during which Miss
Miller repeatedly exclaimed, ‘Silence!’ and ‘Order!’ When it
subsided, I saw them all drawn up in four semicircles, before four
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