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


‘Bessie, what is the matter with me? Am I ill?’ ‘You fell sick, I
suppose, in the red-room with crying; you’ll be better soon, no
doubt.’ Bessie went into the housemaid’s apartment, which was
near. I heard her say-‘Sarah, come and sleep with me in the
nursery; I daren’t for my life be alone with that poor child tonight:
she might die; it’s such a strange thing she should have that fit: I
wonder if she saw anything. Missis was rather too hard.’ Sarah
came back with her; they both went to bed; they were whispering
together for half an hour before they fell asleep. I caught scraps of
their conversation, from which I was able only too distinctly to
infer the main subject discussed.

‘Something passed her, all dressed in white, and vanished’- ‘A
great black dog behind him’- ‘Three loud raps on the chamber
door’- ‘A light in the churchyard just over his grave,’ etc., etc.

At last both slept: the fire and the candle went out. For me, the
watches of that long night passed in ghastly wakefulness; ear, eye,
and mind were alike strained by dread: such dread as children
only can feel.

No severe or prolonged bodily illness followed this incident of the
red-room; it only gave my nerves a shock of which I feel the
reverberation to this day. Yes, Mrs. Reed, to you I owe some fearful
pangs of mental suffering, but I ought to forgive you, for you knew
not what you did: while rending my heart-strings, you thought
you were only uprooting my bad propensities.

Next day, by noon, I was up and dressed, and sat wrapped in a
shawl by the nursery hearth. I felt physically weak and broken
down: but my worse ailment was an unutterable wretchedness of
mind: a wretchedness which kept drawing from me silent tears; no
sooner had I wiped one salt drop from my cheek than another
followed. Yet, I thought, I ought to have been happy, for none of
the Reeds were there, they were all gone out in the carriage with
their mama. Abbot, too, was sewing in another room, and Bessie,
as she moved hither and thither, putting away toys and arranging
drawers, addressed to me every now and then a word of unwonted
kindness. This state of things should have been to me a paradise of
peace, accustomed as I was to a life of ceaseless reprimand and
thankless fagging; but, in fact, my racked nerves were now in such
a state that no calm could soothe, and no pleasure excite them

Bessie had been down into the kitchen, and she brought up with
her a tart on a certain brightly painted china plate, whose bird of
paradise, nestling in a wreath of convolvuli and rosebuds, had
been wont to stir in me a most enthusiastic sense of admiration;
and which plate I had often petitioned to be allowed to take in my
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