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Chapter 4


CHAPTER IV


From my discourse with Mr. Lloyd, and from the above reported
conference between Bessie and Abbot, I gathered enough of hope to
suffice as a motive for wishing to get well:  a change seemed near,-
-I desired and waited it in silence.  It tarried, however:  days and
weeks passed:  I had regained my normal state of health, but no new
allusion was made to the subject over which I brooded.  Mrs. Reed
surveyed me at times with a severe eye, but seldom addressed me:
since my illness, she had drawn a more marked line of separation
than ever between me and her own children; appointing me a small
closet to sleep in by myself, condemning me to take my meals alone,
and pass all my time in the nursery, while my cousins were
constantly in the drawing-room.  Not a hint, however, did she drop
about sending me to school:  still I felt an instinctive certainty
that she would not long endure me under the same roof with her; for
her glance, now more than ever, when turned on me, expressed an
insuperable and rooted aversion.

Eliza and Georgiana, evidently acting according to orders, spoke to
me as little as possible:  John thrust his tongue in his cheek
whenever he saw me, and once attempted chastisement; but as I
instantly turned against him, roused by the same sentiment of deep
ire and desperate revolt which had stirred my corruption before, he
thought it better to desist, and ran from me tittering execrations,
and vowing I had burst his nose.  I had indeed levelled at that
prominent feature as hard a blow as my knuckles could inflict; and
when I saw that either that or my look daunted him, I had the
greatest inclination to follow up my advantage to purpose; but he
was already with his mama.  I heard him in a blubbering tone
commence the tale of how "that nasty Jane Eyre" had flown at him
like a mad cat:  he was stopped rather harshly -

"Don't talk to me about her, John:  I told you not to go near her;
she is not worthy of notice; I do not choose that either you or your
sisters should associate with her."

Here, leaning over the banister, I cried out suddenly, and without
at all deliberating on my words -

"They are not fit to associate with me."

Mrs. Reed was rather a stout woman; but, on hearing this strange and
audacious declaration, she ran nimbly up the stair, swept me like a
whirlwind into the nursery, and crushing me down on the edge of my
crib, dared me in an emphatic voice to rise from that place, or
utter one syllable during the remainder of the day.

"What would Uncle Reed say to you, if he were alive?" was my
scarcely voluntary demand.  I say scarcely voluntary, for it seemed
as if my tongue pronounced words without my will consenting to their
utterance:  something spoke out of me over which I had no control.

"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 drawing-room, dressed
out in thin muslin frocks and scarlet sashes, with hair elaborately
ringletted; 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 stairhead 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
something, and, in the dearth of worthier objects of affection, I
contrived to find a pleasure in loving and cherishing a faded graven
image, shabby as a miniature scarecrow.  It puzzles me now to
remember with what absurd sincerity I doated on this little toy,
half fancying it alive and capable of sensation.  I could not sleep
unless it was folded in my night-gown; and when it lay there safe
and warm, I was comparatively happy, believing it to be happy
likewise.

Long did the hours seem while I waited the departure of the company,
and listened for the sound of Bessie's step on the stairs:
sometimes she would come up in the interval to seek her thimble or
her scissors, or perhaps to bring me something by way of supper--a
bun or a cheese-cake--then she would sit on the bed while I ate it,
and when I had finished, she would tuck the clothes round me, and
twice she kissed me, and said, "Good night, Miss Jane."  When thus
gentle, Bessie seemed to me the best, prettiest, kindest being in
the world; and I wished most intensely that she would always be so
pleasant and amiable, and never push me about, or scold, or task me
unreasonably, as she was too often wont to do.  Bessie Lee must, I
think, have been a girl of good natural capacity, for she was smart
in all she did, and had a remarkable knack of narrative; so, at
least, I judge from the impression made on me by her nursery tales.
She was pretty too, if my recollections of her face and person are
correct.  I remember her as a slim young woman, with black hair,
dark eyes, very nice features, and good, clear complexion; but she
had a capricious and hasty temper, and indifferent ideas of
principle or justice:  still, such as she was, I preferred her to
any one else at Gateshead Hall.

It was the fifteenth of January, about nine o'clock in the morning:
Bessie was gone down to breakfast; my cousins had not yet been
summoned to their mama; Eliza was putting on her bonnet and warm
garden-coat to go and feed her poultry, an occupation of which she
was fond:  and not less so of selling the eggs to the housekeeper
and hoarding up the money she thus obtained.  She had a turn for
traffic, and a marked propensity for saving; shown not only in the
vending of eggs and chickens, but also in driving hard bargains with
the gardener about flower-roots, seeds, and slips of plants; that
functionary having orders from Mrs. Reed to buy of his young lady
all the products of her parterre she wished to sell:  and Eliza
would have sold the hair off her head if she could have made a
handsome profit thereby.  As to her money, she first secreted it in
odd corners, wrapped in a rag or an old curl-paper; but some of
these hoards having been discovered by the housemaid, Eliza, fearful
of one day losing her valued treasure, consented to intrust it to
her mother, at a usurious rate of interest--fifty or sixty per
cent.; which interest she exacted every quarter, keeping her
accounts in a little book with anxious accuracy.

Georgiana sat on a high stool, dressing her hair at the glass, and
interweaving her curls with artificial flowers and faded feathers,
of which she had found a store in a drawer in the attic.  I was
making my bed, having received strict orders from Bessie to get it
arranged before she returned (for Bessie now frequently employed me
as a sort of under-nurserymaid, to tidy the room, dust the chairs,
&c.).  Having spread the quilt and folded my night-dress, I went to
the window-seat to put in order some picture-books and doll's house
furniture scattered there; an abrupt command from Georgiana to let
her playthings alone (for the tiny chairs and mirrors, the fairy
plates and cups, were her property) stopped my proceedings; and
then, for lack of other occupation, I fell to breathing on the
frost-flowers with which the window was fretted, and thus clearing a
space in the glass through which I might look out on the grounds,
where all was still and petrified under the influence of a hard
frost.

From this window were visible the porter's lodge and the carriage-
road, and just as I had dissolved so much of the silver-white
foliage veiling the panes as left room to look out, I saw the gates
thrown open and a carriage roll through.  I watched it ascending the
drive with indifference; carriages often came to Gateshead, but none
ever brought visitors in whom I was interested; it stopped in front
of the house, the door-bell rang loudly, the new-comer was admitted.
All this being nothing to me, my vacant attention soon found
livelier attraction in the spectacle of a little hungry robin, which
came and chirruped on the twigs of the leafless cherry-tree nailed
against the wall near the casement.  The remains of my breakfast of
bread and milk stood on the table, and having crumbled a morsel of
roll, I was tugging at the sash to put out the crumbs on the window-
sill, when Bessie came running upstairs into the nursery.

"Miss Jane, take off your pinafore; what are you doing there?  Have
you washed your hands and face this morning?"  I gave another tug
before I answered, for I wanted the bird to be secure of its bread:
the sash yielded; I scattered the crumbs, some on the stone sill,
some on the cherry-tree bough, then, closing the window, I replied -

"No, Bessie; I have only just finished dusting."

"Troublesome, careless child! and what are you doing now?  You look
quite red, as if you had been about some mischief:  what were you
opening the window for?"

I was spared the trouble of answering, for Bessie seemed in too
great a hurry to listen to explanations; she hauled me to the
washstand, inflicted a merciless, but happily brief scrub on my face
and hands with soap, water, and a coarse towel; disciplined my head
with a bristly brush, denuded me of my pinafore, and then hurrying
me to the top of the stairs, bid me go down directly, as I was
wanted in the breakfast-room.

I would have asked who wanted me:  I would have demanded if Mrs.
Reed was there; but Bessie was already gone, and had closed the
nursery-door upon me.  I slowly descended.  For nearly three months,
I had never been called to Mrs. Reed's presence; restricted so long
to the nursery, the breakfast, dining, and drawing-rooms were become
for me awful regions, on which it dismayed me to intrude.

I now stood in the empty hall; before me was the breakfast-room
door, and I stopped, intimidated and trembling.  What a miserable
little poltroon had fear, engendered of unjust punishment, made of
me in those days!  I feared to return to the nursery, and feared to
go forward to the parlour; ten minutes I stood in agitated
hesitation; the vehement ringing of the breakfast-room bell decided
me; I MUST enter.

"Who could want me?" I asked inwardly, as with both hands I turned
the stiff door-handle, which, for a second or two, resisted my
efforts.  "What should I see besides Aunt Reed in the apartment?--a
man or a woman?"  The handle turned, the door unclosed, and passing
through and curtseying low, I looked up at--a black pillar!--such,
at least, appeared to me, at first sight, the straight, narrow,
sable-clad shape standing erect on the rug:  the grim face at the
top was like a carved mask, placed above the shaft by way of
capital.

Mrs. Reed occupied her usual seat by the fireside; she made a signal
to me to approach; I did so, and she introduced me to the stony
stranger with the words:  "This is the little girl respecting whom I
applied to you."

HE, for it was a man, turned his head slowly towards where I stood,
and having examined me with the two inquisitive-looking grey eyes
which twinkled under a pair of bushy brows, said solemnly, and in a
bass voice, "Her size is small:  what is her age?"

"Ten years."

"So much?" was the doubtful answer; and he prolonged his scrutiny
for some minutes.  Presently he addressed me--"Your name, little
girl?"

"Jane Eyre, sir."

In uttering these words I looked up:  he seemed to me a tall
gentleman; but then I was very little; his features were large, and
they and all the lines of his frame were equally harsh and prim.

"Well, Jane Eyre, and are you a good child?"

Impossible to reply to this in the affirmative:  my little world
held a contrary opinion:  I was silent.  Mrs. Reed answered for me
by an expressive shake of the head, adding soon, "Perhaps the less
said on that subject the better, Mr. Brocklehurst."

"Sorry indeed to hear it! she and I must have some talk;" and
bending from the perpendicular, he installed his person in the arm-
chair opposite Mrs. Reed's.  "Come here," he said.

I stepped across the rug; he placed me square and straight before
him.  What a face he had, now that it was almost on a level with
mine! what a great nose! and what a mouth! and what large prominent
teeth!

"No sight so sad as that of a naughty child," he began, "especially
a naughty little girl.  Do you know where the wicked go after
death?"

"They go to hell," was my ready and orthodox answer.

"And what is hell?  Can you tell me that?"

"A pit full of fire."

"And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there
for ever?"

"No, sir."

"What must you do to avoid it?"

I deliberated a moment; my answer, when it did come, was
objectionable:  "I must keep in good health, and not die."

"How can you keep in good health?  Children younger than you die
daily.  I buried a little child of five years old only a day or two
since,--a good little child, whose soul is now in heaven.  It is to
be feared the same could not be said of you were you to be called
hence."

Not being in a condition to remove his doubt, I only cast my eyes
down on the two large feet planted on the rug, and sighed, wishing
myself far enough away.

"I hope that sigh is from the heart, and that you repent of ever
having been the occasion of discomfort to your excellent
benefactress."

"Benefactress! benefactress!" said I inwardly:  "they all call Mrs.
Reed my benefactress; if so, a benefactress is a disagreeable
thing."

"Do you say your prayers night and morning?" continued my
interrogator.

"Yes, sir."

"Do you read your Bible?"

"Sometimes."

"With pleasure?  Are you fond of it?"

"I like Revelations, and the book of Daniel, and Genesis and Samuel,
and a little bit of Exodus, and some parts of Kings and Chronicles,
and Job and Jonah."

"And the Psalms?  I hope you like them?"

"No, sir."

"No? oh, shocking!  I have a little boy, younger than you, who knows
six Psalms by heart:  and when you ask him which he would rather
have, a gingerbread-nut to eat or a verse of a Psalm to learn, he
says:  'Oh! the verse of a Psalm! angels sing Psalms;' says he, 'I
wish to be a little angel here below;' he then gets two nuts in
recompense for his infant piety."

"Psalms are not interesting," I remarked.

"That proves you have a wicked heart; and you must pray to God to
change it:  to give you a new and clean one:  to take away your
heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."

I was about to propound a question, touching the manner in which
that operation of changing my heart was to be performed, when Mrs.
Reed interposed, telling me to sit down; she then proceeded to carry
on the conversation herself.

"Mr. Brocklehurst, I believe I intimated in the letter which I wrote
to you three weeks ago, that this little girl has not quite the
character and disposition I could wish:  should you admit her into
Lowood school, I should be glad if the superintendent and teachers
were requested to keep a strict eye on her, and, above all, to guard
against her worst fault, a tendency to deceit.  I mention this in
your hearing, Jane, that you may not attempt to impose on Mr.
Brocklehurst."

Well might I dread, well might I dislike Mrs. Reed; for it was her
nature to wound me cruelly; never was I happy in her presence;
however carefully I obeyed, however strenuously I strove to please
her, my efforts were still repulsed and repaid by such sentences as
the above.  Now, uttered before a stranger, the accusation cut me to
the heart; I dimly perceived that she was already obliterating hope
from the new phase of existence which she destined me to enter; I
felt, though I could not have expressed the feeling, that she was
sowing aversion and unkindness along my future path; I saw myself
transformed under Mr. Brocklehurst's eye into an artful, noxious
child, and what could I do to remedy the injury?

"Nothing, indeed," thought I, as I struggled to repress a sob, and
hastily wiped away some tears, the impotent evidences of my anguish.

"Deceit is, indeed, a sad fault in a child," said Mr. Brocklehurst;
"it is akin to falsehood, and all liars will have their portion in
the lake burning with fire and brimstone; she shall, however, be
watched, Mrs. Reed.  I will speak to Miss Temple and the teachers."

"I should wish her to be brought up in a manner suiting her
prospects," continued my benefactress; "to be made useful, to be
kept humble:  as for the vacations, she will, with your permission,
spend them always at Lowood."

"Your decisions are perfectly judicious, madam," returned Mr.
Brocklehurst.  "Humility is a Christian grace, and one peculiarly
appropriate to the pupils of Lowood; I, therefore, direct that
especial care shall be bestowed on its cultivation amongst them.  I
have studied how best to mortify in them the worldly sentiment of
pride; and, only the other day, I had a pleasing proof of my
success.  My second daughter, Augusta, went with her mama to visit
the school, and on her return she exclaimed:  'Oh, dear papa, how
quiet and plain all the girls at Lowood look, with their hair combed
behind their ears, and their long pinafores, and those little
holland pockets outside their frocks--they are almost like poor
people's children! and,' said she, 'they looked at my dress and
mama's, as if they had never seen a silk gown before.'"

"This is the state of things I quite approve," returned Mrs. Reed;
"had I sought all England over, I could scarcely have found a system
more exactly fitting a child like Jane Eyre.  Consistency, my dear
Mr. Brocklehurst; I advocate consistency in all things."

"Consistency, madam, is the first of Christian duties; and it has
been observed in every arrangement connected with the establishment
of Lowood:  plain fare, simple attire, unsophisticated
accommodations, hardy and active habits; such is the order of the
day in the house and its inhabitants."

"Quite right, sir.  I may then depend upon this child being received
as a pupil at Lowood, and there being trained in conformity to her
position and prospects?"

"Madam, you may:  she shall be placed in that nursery of chosen
plants, and I trust she will show herself grateful for the
inestimable privilege of her election."

"I will send her, then, as soon as possible, Mr. Brocklehurst; for,
I assure you, I feel anxious to be relieved of a responsibility that
was becoming too irksome."

"No doubt, no doubt, madam; and now I wish you good morning.  I
shall return to Brocklehurst Hall in the course of a week or two:
my good friend, the Archdeacon, will not permit me to leave him
sooner.  I shall send Miss Temple notice that she is to expect a new
girl, so that there will he no difficulty about receiving her.
Good-bye."

"Good-bye, Mr. Brocklehurst; remember me to Mrs. and Miss
Brocklehurst, and to Augusta and Theodore, and Master Broughton
Brocklehurst."

"I will, madam.  Little girl, here is a book entitled the 'Child's
Guide,' read it with prayer, especially that part containing 'An
account of the awfully sudden death of Martha G -, a naughty child
addicted to falsehood and deceit.'"

With these words Mr. Brocklehurst put into my hand a thin pamphlet
sewn in a cover, and having rung for his carriage, he departed.

Mrs. Reed and I were left alone:  some minutes passed in silence;
she was sewing, I was watching her.  Mrs. Reed might be at that time
some six or seven and thirty; she was a woman of robust frame,
square-shouldered and strong-limbed, not tall, and, though stout,
not obese:  she had a somewhat large face, the under jaw being much
developed and very solid; her brow was low, her chin large and
prominent, mouth and nose sufficiently regular; under her light
eyebrows glimmered an eye devoid of ruth; her skin was dark and
opaque, her hair nearly flaxen; her constitution was sound as a
bell--illness never came near her; she was an exact, clever manager;
her household and tenantry were thoroughly under her control; her
children only at times defied her authority and laughed it to scorn;
she dressed well, and had a presence and port calculated to set off
handsome attire.

Sitting on a low stool, a few yards from her arm-chair, I examined
her figure; I perused her features.  In my hand I held the tract
containing the sudden death of the Liar, to which narrative my
attention had been pointed as to an appropriate warning.  What had
just passed; what Mrs. Reed had said concerning me to Mr.
Brocklehurst; the whole tenor of their conversation, was recent,
raw, and stinging in my mind; I had felt every word as acutely as I
had heard it plainly, and a passion of resentment fomented now
within me.

Mrs. Reed looked up from her work; her eye settled on mine, her
fingers at the same time suspended their nimble movements.

"Go out of the room; return to the nursery," was her mandate.  My
look or something else must have struck her as offensive, for she
spoke with extreme though suppressed irritation.  I got up, I went
to the door; I came back again; I walked to the window, across the
room, then close up to her.

SPEAK I must:  I had been trodden on severely, and MUST turn:  but
how?  What strength had I to dart retaliation at my antagonist?  I
gathered my energies and launched them in this blunt sentence -

"I am not deceitful:  if I were, I should say I loved you; but I
declare I do not love you:  I dislike you the worst of anybody in
the world except John Reed; and this book about the liar, you may
give to your girl, Georgiana, for it is she who tells lies, and not
I."

Mrs. Reed's hands still lay on her work inactive:  her eye of ice
continued to dwell freezingly on mine.

"What more have you to say?" she asked, rather in the tone in which
a person might address an opponent of adult age than such as is
ordinarily used to a child.

That eye of hers, that voice stirred every antipathy I had.  Shaking
from head to foot, thrilled with ungovernable excitement, I
continued -

"I am glad you are no relation of mine:  I will never call you aunt
again as long as I live.  I will never come to see you when I am
grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you
treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and
that you treated me with miserable cruelty."

"How dare you affirm that, Jane Eyre?"

"How dare I, Mrs. Reed?  How dare I?  Because it is the TRUTH.  You
think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love
or kindness; but I cannot live so:  and you have no pity.  I shall
remember how you thrust me back--roughly and violently thrust me
back--into the red-room, and locked me up there, to my dying day;
though I was in agony; though I cried out, while suffocating with
distress, 'Have mercy!  Have mercy, Aunt Reed!'  And that punishment
you made me suffer because your wicked boy struck me--knocked me
down for nothing.  I will tell anybody who asks me questions, this
exact tale.  People think you a good woman, but you are bad, hard-
hearted.  YOU are deceitful!"

Ere I had finished this reply, my soul began to expand, to exult,
with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt.  It
seemed as if an invisible bond had burst, and that I had struggled
out into unhoped-for liberty.  Not without cause was this sentiment:
Mrs. Reed looked frightened; her work had slipped from her knee; she
was lifting up her hands, rocking herself to and fro, and even
twisting her face as if she would cry.

"Jane, you are under a mistake:  what is the matter with you?  Why
do you tremble so violently?  Would you like to drink some water?"

"No, Mrs. Reed."

"Is there anything else you wish for, Jane?  I assure you, I desire
to be your friend."

"Not you.  You told Mr. Brocklehurst I had a bad character, a
deceitful disposition; and I'll let everybody at Lowood know what
you are, and what you have done."

"Jane, you don't understand these things:  children must be
corrected for their faults."

"Deceit is not my fault!" I cried out in a savage, high voice.

"But you are passionate, Jane, that you must allow:  and now return
to the nursery--there's a dear--and lie down a little."

"I am not your dear; I cannot lie down:  send me to school soon,
Mrs. Reed, for I hate to live here."

"I will indeed send her to school soon," murmured Mrs. Reed sotto
voce; and gathering up her work, she abruptly quitted the apartment.

I was left there alone--winner of the field.  It was the hardest
battle I had fought, and the first victory I had gained:  I stood
awhile on the rug, where Mr. Brocklehurst had stood, and I enjoyed
my conqueror's solitude.  First, I smiled to myself and felt elate;
but this fierce pleasure subsided in me as fast as did the
accelerated throb of my pulses.  A child cannot quarrel with its
elders, as I had done; cannot give its furious feelings uncontrolled
play, as I had given mine, without experiencing afterwards the pang
of remorse and the chill of reaction.  A ridge of lighted heath,
alive, glancing, devouring, would have been a meet emblem of my mind
when I accused and menaced Mrs. Reed:  the same ridge, black and
blasted after the flames are dead, would have represented as meetly
my subsequent condition, when half-an-hour's silence and reflection
had shown me the madness of my conduct, and the dreariness of my
hated and hating position.

Something of vengeance I had tasted for the first time; as aromatic
wine it seemed, on swallowing, warm and racy:  its after-flavour,
metallic and corroding, gave me a sensation as if I had been
poisoned.  Willingly would I now have gone and asked Mrs. Reed's
pardon; but I knew, partly from experience and partly from instinct,
that was the way to make her repulse me with double scorn, thereby
re-exciting every turbulent impulse of my nature.

I would fain exercise some better faculty than that of fierce
speaking; fain find nourishment for some less fiendish feeling than
that of sombre indignation.  I took a book--some Arabian tales; I
sat down and endeavoured to read.  I could make no sense of the
subject; my own thoughts swam always between me and the page I had
usually found fascinating.  I opened the glass-door in the
breakfast-room:  the shrubbery was quite still:  the black frost
reigned, unbroken by sun or breeze, through the grounds.  I covered
my head and arms with the skirt of my frock, and went out to walk in
a part of the plantation which was quite sequestrated; but I found
no pleasure in the silent trees, the falling fir-cones, the
congealed relics of autumn, russet leaves, swept by past winds in
heaps, and now stiffened together.  I leaned against a gate, and
looked into an empty field where no sheep were feeding, where the
short grass was nipped and blanched.  It was a very grey day; a most
opaque sky, "onding on snaw," canopied all; thence flakes felt it
intervals, which settled on the hard path and on the hoary lea
without melting.  I stood, a wretched child enough, whispering to
myself over and over again, "What shall I do?--what shall I do?"

All at once I heard a clear voice call, "Miss Jane! where are you?
Come to lunch!"

It was Bessie, I knew well enough; but I did not stir; her light
step came tripping down the path.

"You naughty little thing!" she said.  "Why don't you come when you
are called?"

Bessie's presence, compared with the thoughts over which I had been
brooding, seemed cheerful; even though, as usual, she was somewhat
cross.  The fact is, after my conflict with and victory over Mrs.
Reed, I was not disposed to care much for the nursemaid's transitory
anger; and I WAS disposed to bask in her youthful lightness of
heart.  I just put my two arms round her and said, "Come, Bessie!
don't scold."

The action was more frank and fearless than any I was habituated to
indulge in:  somehow it pleased her.

"You are a strange child, Miss Jane," she said, as she looked down
at me; "a little roving, solitary thing:  and you are going to
school, I suppose?"

I nodded.

"And won't you be sorry to leave poor Bessie?"

"What does Bessie care for me?  She is always scolding me."

"Because you're such a queer, frightened, shy little thing.  You
should be bolder."

"What! to get more knocks?"

"Nonsense!  But you are rather put upon, that's certain.  My mother
said, when she came to see me last week, that she would not like a
little one of her own to be in your place.--Now, come in, and I've
some good news for you."

"I don't think you have, Bessie."

"Child! what do you mean?  What sorrowful eyes you fix on me!  Well,
but Missis and the young ladies and Master John are going out to tea
this afternoon, and you shall have tea with me.  I'll ask cook to
bake you a little cake, and then you shall help me to look over your
drawers; for I am soon to pack your trunk.  Missis intends you to
leave Gateshead in a day or two, and you shall choose what toys you
like to take with you."

"Bessie, you must promise not to scold me any more till I go."

"Well, I will; but mind you are a very good girl, and don't be
afraid of me.  Don't start when I chance to speak rather sharply;
it's so provoking."

"I don't think I shall ever be afraid of you again, Bessie, because
I have got used to you, and I shall soon have another set of people
to dread."

"If you dread them they'll dislike you."

"As you do, Bessie?"

"I don't dislike you, Miss; I believe I am fonder of you than of all
the others."

"You don't show it."

"You little sharp thing! you've got quite a new way of talking.
What makes you so venturesome and hardy?"

"Why, I shall soon be away from you, and besides"--I was going to
say something about what had passed between me and Mrs. Reed, but on
second thoughts I considered it better to remain silent on that
head.

"And so you're glad to leave me?"

"Not at all, Bessie; indeed, just now I'm rather sorry."

"Just now! and rather!  How coolly my little lady says it!  I dare
say now if I were to ask you for a kiss you wouldn't give it me:
you'd say you'd RATHER not."

"I'll kiss you and welcome:  bend your head down."  Bessie stooped;
we mutually embraced, and I followed her into the house quite
comforted.  That afternoon lapsed in peace and harmony; and in the
evening Bessie told me some of her most enchaining stories, and sang
me some of her sweetest songs.  Even for me life had its gleams of
sunshine.


Charlotte Bronte