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


as if my tongue pronounced words, without my will consenting to
their utterance: something spoke out of me over which I had no

‘What?’ said Mrs. Reed under her breath: her usually cold
composed grey eye became troubled with a look like fear; she took
her hand from my arm, and gazed at me as if she really did not
know whether I were child or fiend. I was now in for it.

‘My Uncle Reed is in heaven, and can see all you do and think; and
so can papa and mama: they know how you shut me up all day
long, and how you wish me dead.’ Mrs. Reed soon rallied her
spirits: she shook me most soundly, she boxed both my ears, and
then left me without a word. Bessie supplied the hiatus by a
homily of an hour’s length, in which she proved beyond a doubt
that I was the most wicked and abandoned child ever reared under
a roof. I half believed her; for I felt indeed only bad feelings
surging in my breast.

November, December, and half of January passed away. Christmas
and the New Year had been celebrated at Gateshead with the usual
festive cheer; presents had been interchanged, dinners and evening
parties given. From every enjoyment I was, of course, excluded:
my share of the gaiety consisted in witnessing the daily apparelling
of Eliza and Georgiana, and seeing them descend to the
drawingroom, dressed out in thin muslin frocks and scarlet sashes,
with hair elaborately ringleted; and afterwards, in listening to the
sound of the piano or the harp played below, to the passing to and
fro of the butler and footman, to the jingling of glass and china as
refreshments were handed, to the broken hum of conversation as
the drawing-room door opened and closed. When tired of this
occupation, I would retire from the stair-head to the solitary and
silent nursery: there, though somewhat sad, I was not miserable.
To speak truth, I had not the least wish to go into company, for in
company I was very rarely noticed; and if Bessie had but been kind
and companionable, I should have deemed it a treat to spend the
evenings quietly with her, instead of passing them under the
formidable eye of Mrs. Reed, in a room full of ladies and
gentlemen. But Bessie, as soon as she had dressed her young
ladies, used to take herself off to the lively regions of the kitchen
and housekeeper’s room, generally bearing the candle along with
her. I then sat with my doll on my knee till the fire got low,
glancing round occasionally to make sure that nothing worse than
myself haunted the shadowy room; and when the embers sank to a
dull red, I undressed hastily, tugging at knots and strings as I best
might, and sought shelter from cold and darkness in my crib. To
this crib I always took my doll; human beings must love
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