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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com Digital Library-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte


71

scrutinised into; the cross housekeeper was gone, driven away by
the fear of infection; her successor, who had been matron at the
Lowton Dispensary, unused to the ways of her new abode,
provided with comparative liberality. Besides, there were fewer to
feed; the sick could eat little; our breakfast-basins were better
filled; when there was no time to prepare a regular dinner, which
often happened, she would give us a large piece of cold pie, or a
thick slice of bread and cheese, and this we carried away with us to
the wood, where we each chose the spot we liked best, and dined
sumptuously.

My favourite seat was a smooth and broad stone, rising white and
dry from the very middle of the beck, and only to be got at by
wading through the water; a feat I accomplished barefoot. The
stone was just broad enough to accommodate, comfortably,
another girl and me, at that time my chosen comrade-one Mary
Ann Wilson; a shrewd, observant personage, whose society I took
pleasure in, partly because she was witty and original, and partly
because she had a manner which set me at my ease. Some years
older than I, she knew more of the world, and could tell me many
things I liked to hear: with her my curiosity found gratification: to
my faults also she gave ample indulgence, never imposing curb or
rein on anything I said. She had a turn for narrative, I for analysis;
she liked to inform, I to question; so we got on swimmingly
together, deriving much entertainment, if not much improvement,
from our mutual intercourse.

And where, meantime, was Helen Burns? Why did I not spend
these sweet days of liberty with her? Had I forgotten her? or was I
so worthless as to have grown tired of her pure society? Surely the
Mary Ann Wilson I have mentioned was inferior to my first
acquaintance: she could only tell me amusing stories, and
reciprocate any racy and pungent gossip I chose to indulge in;
while, if I have spoken truth of Helen, she was qualified to give
those who enjoyed the privilege of her converse a taste of far
higher things.

True, reader; and I knew and felt this: and though I am a defective
being, with many faults and few redeeming points, yet I never
tired of Helen Burns; nor ever ceased to cherish for her a sentiment
of attachment, as strong, tender, and respectful as any that ever
animated my heart. How could it be otherwise, when Helen, at all
times and under all circumstances, evinced for me a quiet and
faithful friendship, which ill-humour never soured, nor irritation
never troubled? But Helen was ill at present: for some weeks she
had been removed from my sight to I knew not what room
upstairs. She was not, I was told, in the hospital portion of the
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