Jane Eyre

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Chapter1

I There was no possibility of takin g a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it cl ouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question . I was glad of it: I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciou sness of my physical infe riority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed. The said Eliza, John, and Georgiana were now clustered round their mama in the drawing-room: she lay reclined on a sofa by the fireside, and with her darlings about her (for the time neither quarrelling nor crying) looked perf ectly happy. Me, she had dispensed from joining the group; saying, ?She regretted to be under the necessity of keeping me at a di stance; but that until she heard from Bessie, and could di scover by her own 7 of 868 Jane Eyre observation, that I was endeavouring in good earnest to acquire a more sociable and childlike disposition, a more attractive a nd sprightl y manner? somethi ng lighter, franker, more natural, as it were?she really must exclude me from privileges intended only for contente d, happy, little children.? ?What does Bessie say I have done?? I asked. ?Jane, I don?t like cavillers or questioners; besides, there is something truly forbidding in a child taking up her elders in that manner. Be seated somewhere; and until you can speak pleasantly, remain silent.? A breakfast-room adjoined the drawing-room, I slipped in there. It contained a book case: I soon possessed myself of a vol ume, taking care that it shoul d be one stored with pictures. I mounted into the wind ow-seat: gathering up my feet, I sa t cross-legged, like a Turk; and, having drawn the red mo reen curtain nearly close, I was shrined in double retirement. Folds of scarlet drapery shut in my view to the right hand; to the left were the clear panes of glass, protecting, but not sepa rating me from the drear November day. At intervals, while turning over the leaves of my book, I studied the aspect of that winter afternoon. Afar, it offered a pale blank of mi st and clou d; near a scene of wet lawn 8 of 868 Jane Eyre and storm-b eat shrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast. I returned t o my book?Bewick?s History of British Birds: the letterpress thereof I cared little for, generally speaking; and yet there were certain introductory pages that, child as I was, I could not pass quite as a blank. They were those which treat of th e haunts of sea-fowl; of ?the solitary rock s and promontorie s? by them only inhabited; of the coast of Norway, studded with isles from its southern extremity, the Lindeness, or Naze, to t he North Cape - ?Where th e Northern Ocean, in vast whirls, Boils round the naked, melancholy isles Of farthest Th ule; and the Atlantic surge Pours in among the stormy Hebrides .? Nor could I pass unnoti ced the sugg estion of the bleak shores of Lapland, Siberia, Spitzbergen, Nova Zembla, Iceland, Greenland, with ?the vast sweep of t he Arctic Zone, and those forlor n regions of dreary space,?that reservoir of frost and snow, where firm fields of ice, the accumulation of centuries of winters, glazed in Alpine heights above heights, surr ound the pole, and concentre the multiplied rigours o f extreme cold.? Of these death- white realms I formed an idea of my own: shadowy, like 9 of 868 Jane Eyre all the half-comprehended notions that float di m through children?s brains, but str angely impressive. The words in these introd uctory page s co nnected themselves with the succeeding vignettes, and gave significan ce to the rock standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray; to the broken boat stranded on a deso late coast; to the cold and ghastly moon glancing through bars of cloud at a wreck just sinking. I cannot tell what senti ment haunted the quite solitary churchyard, with its inscribed headstone; its gate , its two trees, its low horizon, girdled by a broken wall, and its newly-risen crescent, atte sting the hour of event ide. The two shi ps becalmed on a torpid sea, I believed to be marine phantoms. The fiend pinning down the thief?s pack behind him, I passed over quickly: it was an object of terror. So was the black horned thing seated aloof on a rock, surveying a distant crowd surrounding a gallows. Each pictur e told a story; mysterious o ften to my undeveloped understanding and imperfect feeli ngs, yet ever p rofoundly interesting: as interesting as the tales Bessie some times n arrated on winte r evenings, when she chanced to be in good humour; and whe n, having brought her ironing-table to the nursery hearth, she 10 of 868 Jane Eyre allowed us to sit about it, and wh ile she got up Mrs. Reed?s lace frills, and crim ped her nightcap borders, fed our eager attention wi th pass ages of love and adventure taken from old fairy tale s and ot her ballads; or (as at a later period I discovered) fro m the pages of Pamela, and Henry, Earl of Moreland. With Bewick on my knee, I was then happy: happy at least in my way. I feared nothing but interruption, and that came too soon. The breakfast-room door opened. ?Boh! Madam Mope!? cried the voice of John Reed; then he paused: he found the room apparently empty. ?Where the dickens is she!? he continued. ?Lizzy! Georgy! (calling to his sisters) Joan is not here: tell mama she is run out into the rain?bad animal!? ?It is well I drew the curtai n,? thoug ht I; and I wished fervently he might not discover my hiding-place: nor would John Reed have found i t out himself; he was not quick either of vision or conception; but Eliza just put her head in at the door, and said at once - ?She is in the window-seat, to be sure, Jack.? And I came out i mmedia tely, for I tr embled at the idea of being dra gged forth by the said Jack. ?What do you want?? I asked, with awkward diffidence. 11 of 868 Jane Eyre ?Say, ?What do you want , Master Reed??? was the answer. ?I want you to come here;? and seating himself in an arm-chai r, he intimated by a g esture that I was to approach and stand before him. John Reed was a school boy of fourteen years old; four years older t han I, for I was but ten: large and stout for hi s age, with a dingy and unwholesome skin; thick l ineaments in a spacious visage, heavy lim bs and large extremities. He gorged him self habitually at table, which made him bilious, and gave him a dim and bleared eye and flabby cheeks. He ought now to have been at school; but hi s mama had taken him home for a month or two, ?on accou nt of his delicate health.? Mr. Miles, the master, affirmed that he would do very well if he had fewer cakes and sweetmeats sent hi m from ho me; but the mother?s heart turned from an opinion so harsh, and inclined rather to the more refined idea that John? s sallowness w as owing to over-application and, perhaps, to pining after home. John had not much affection for his mother and sisters, and an antipathy to me. He bullied a nd punished me; not two or thre e times in the w eek, nor once or twice in the day, but continually: every nerve I had feared him, and every morsel of flesh in my bones shrank when he came near. There were moments when I was bewildered by the 12 of 868 Jane Eyre terror he inspired, because I had no appeal whatever against either his menaces or his inflictions; the servants did not like to offend their young master by taking my part against him, and Mrs. Reed was blind and deaf on the subject: she never saw him str ike or heard him abuse me, though he did both now and then in her very presence, more frequently, however, b ehind her back. Habitually obedient to John, I came up to his chair: he spent some three minutes in thrusting out his tongue at me as far as he could wi thout damag ing the roots: I knew he would soon strike, and while dreading the blow, I mused on the disgusting and ugly appearance of him who would presently deal it. I wonder if he read that notion i n my face; for, all at once , without speaking, he struck suddenly and strongly. I tottered, and on regaining my equilibrium retired back a step or two from his chair. ?That is for your impudence in answering mama awhile since,? said he, ?and for your sneaking way of getting behind curtains, and for the look you had i n your eyes two minutes since, you rat!? Accu sto med to John Reed?s abuse, I never had an idea of replying to it; my care was how to endure the blow which would certainly follow the insult. ?What were you doing behind the curtain?? he asked. 13 of 868 Jane Eyre ?I was readin g.? ?Show the book.? I returned to the window and fetched it thence. ?You have no business to ta ke our books; you are a dependent, mama says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen?s children like us, and eat the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mama?s expense. Now, I?ll teach you to rummage my bookshelves: for they ARE mine; all the house bel ongs to me, or will do in a few years. Go and stand by the door, out of the way of the mirror and t he windows.? I did so, not at first aware what was his intention; but when I saw him lift and poise th e book and stand in act to hurl it, I instinctively started aside with a cry of alarm: not soon enoug h, however; the volume was fl ung, it hit me, and I fell, striking my he ad against the door and cutting it. The cut bled, the pain was s harp: my terror had passed its climax; othe r feelings succeeded. ?Wicked and cruel boy!? I said. ?You are like a murderer? you are lik e a slave-dri ver?you are like the Roman emperors!? I had read Goldsmith?s History of Rome, and had formed my opinion of Nero, Caligula, &c. Also I had 14 of 868 Jane Eyre drawn parallels in silence, which I never thought thus to have declared aloud. ?What! what!? he cried. ?Did she say that to me ? Did you hear her, Eliza and Georgiana? Won?t I tell mama? but first?? He ran headlong at me: I felt him grasp my hair and my shoulder: he had closed with a despe rate thing. I really saw in him a tyr ant, a murd erer. I felt a drop or tw o of blood from my head trickle down my neck, and was sensible of somewhat p ungent suffe ring: these sensations for the time predominated over fear, and I received him in frantic sort. I don?t very well know what I did with my hands, but he called me ?Rat! Rat!? and bellowed out aloud. Aid was near him: Eliza and Ge orgiana had run for Mrs. Reed, who was g one upstairs: she now came upon the scene, followed by Bessie and her maid Abbot. We were parted: I heard the words - ?Dear! dear! What a fury to fly at Master John!? ?Did ever an ybody see su ch a picture of passion!? Then Mrs. Reed subjoined - ?Take her away to the red-room, and lock her in there.? Four hands were immediately laid upon me, and I was borne upstairs. 15 of 868 Jane Eyre
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