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lesson had comprised part of the reign of Charles I, and there were
sundry questions about tonnage and poundage and ship-money,
which most of them appeared unable to answer; still, every little
difficulty was solved instantly when it reached Burns: her memory
seemed to have retained the substance of the whole lesson, and she
was ready with answers on every point. I kept expecting that Miss
Scatcherd would praise her attention; but, instead of that, she
suddenly cried out‘You dirty, disagreeable girl! you have never
cleaned your nails this morning!’

Burns made no answer: I wondered at her silence.
‘Why,’ thought I, ‘does she not explain that she could neither clean
her nails nor wash her face, as the water was frozen?’ My attention
was now called off by Miss Smith desiring me to hold a skein of
thread: while she was winding it, she talked to me from time to
time, asking whether I had ever been at school before, whether I
could mark, stitch, knit, etc.; till she dismissed me, I could not
pursue my observations on Miss Scatcherd’s movements. When I
returned to my seat, that lady was just delivering an order of
which I did not catch the import; but Burns immediately left the
class, and going into the small inner room where the books were
kept, returned in half a minute, carrying in her hand a bundle of
twigs tied together at one end. This ominous tool she presented to
Miss Scatcherd with a respectful curtsey; then she quietly, and
without being told, unloosed her pinafore, and the teacher
instantly and sharply inflicted on her neck a dozen strokes with the
bunch of twigs. Not a tear rose to Burns’s eye; and, while I paused
from my sewing, because my fingers quivered at this spectacle
with a sentiment of unavailing and impotent anger, not a feature of
her pensive face altered its ordinary expression.

‘Hardened girl!’ exclaimed Miss Scatcherd; ‘nothing can correct
you of your slatternly habits: carry the rod away.’ Burns obeyed: I
looked at her narrowly as she emerged from the book-closet; she
was just putting back her handkerchief into her pocket, and the
trace of a tear glistened on her thin cheek.

The play-hour in the evening I thought the pleasantest fraction of
the day at Lowood: the bit of bread, the draught of coffee
swallowed at five o’clock had revived vitality, if it had not satisfied
hunger: the long restraint of the day was slackened; the
schoolroom felt warmer than in the morning-its fires being
allowed to burn a little more brightly, to supply, in some measure,
the place of candles, not yet introduced: the ruddy gloaming, the
licensed uproar, the confusion of many voices gave one a welcome
sense of liberty.
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