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简爱-11(1)

2006-07-29 14:47

   Chapter 11

  A NEW chapter in a novel is something like a new scene in a play; and when I draw up the curtain this time, reader — you must fancy you see a room in the George Inn at Millcote, with such large-figured papering on the walls as inn rooms have; such a carpet, such furniture, such ornaments on the mantelpiece, such prints — including a portrait of George the Third and another of the Prince of Wales, and a representation of the death of Wolfe. All this is visible to you by the light of an oil lamp hanging from the ceiling, and by that of an excellent fire, near which I sit in my cloak and bonnet; my muff and umbrella lie on the table, and I am warming away the numbness and chill contracted by sixteen hours' exposure to the rawness of an October day: I left Lowton at four o'clock a.m. and the Millcote town clock is now just striking eight.

  Reader, though I look comfortably accommodated, I am not very tranquil in my mind. I thought when the coach stopped here there would be some one to meet me; I looked anxiously round as I descended the wooden steps the 'boots' placed for my convenience, expecting to hear my name pronounced and to see some description of carriage waiting to convey me to Thornfield. Nothing of the sort was visible; and when I asked a waiter if anyone had been to inquire after a Miss Eyre, I was answered in the negative; so l had no resource but to request to be shown into a private room: and here I am waiting, while all sorts of doubts and fears are troubling my thoughts.

  It is a very strange sensation to inexperienced youth to feel itself quite alone in the world, cut adrift from every connexion, uncertain whether the port to which it is bound can be reached, and prevented by many impediments from returning to that it has quitted. The charm of adventure sweetens that sensation, the glow of pride warms it: but then the throb of fear disturbs it, and fear with me became predominant when half an hour elapsed and still I was alone. I bethought myself to ring the bell.

  'Is there a place in this neighbourhood called Thornfield?' I asked of the waiter who answered the summons.

  'Thornfield? I don't know, ma'am: I'll inquire at the bar.' He vanished, but reappeared instantly.

  'Is your name Eyre, miss?'

  'Yes.'

  'Person here waiting for you.'

  I jumped up, took my muff and umbrella, and hastened into the inn passage: a man was standing by the open door, and in the lamp-lit street I dimly saw a one-horse conveyance.

  'This will be your luggage, I suppose?' said the man rather abruptly when he saw me, pointing to my trunk in the passage.

  'Yes.' He hoisted it on to the vehicle, which was a sort of car, and then I got in: before he shut me up, I asked him how far it was to Thornfield.

  'A matter of six miles.'

  'How long shall we be before we get there?'

  'Happen an hour and a half.'

  He fastened the car door, and climbed to his own seat outside, and we set off. Our progress was leisurely, and gave me ample time to reflect: I was content to be at length so near the end of my journey; and as I leaned back in the comfortable though not elegant conveyance, I meditated much at my ease.

  'I suppose, ' thought I, 'judging from the plainness of the servant and the carriage, Mrs Fairfax is not a very dashing person: so much the better; I have never lived amongst fine people but once, and I was very miserable with them. I wonder if she lives alone except this little girl; if so, and she is in any degree amiable, I shall surely be able to get on with her; I will do my best: it is a pity that doing one's best does not always answer. At Lowood, indeed, I took that resolution, kept it, and succeeded in pleasing; but with Mrs Reed, I remember my best was always spurned with scorn. I pray God Mrs Fairfax may not turn out a second Mrs Reed: but if she does, I am not bound to stay with her: let the worst come to the worst I can advertise again. How far are we on our road now, I wonder?'

  I let down the window and looked out; Millcote was behind us; judging by the number of its lights, it seemed a place of considerable magnitude, much larger than Lowton. We were now, as far as I could see, on a sort of common; but there were houses scattered all over the district; I felt we were in a different region to Lowood, more populous, less picturesque: more stirring, less romantic.

  The roads were heavy, the night misty: my conductor let his horse walk all the way, and the hour and a half extended, I verily believe, to two hours; at last he turned in his seat and said —

  'You're noan so far fro' Thornfield now.'

  Again I looked out: we were passing a church: I saw its low, broad tower against the sky, and its bell was tolling a quarter; I saw a narrow galaxy of lights too, on a hillside, marking a village or hamlet. About ten minutes after, the driver got down and opened a pair of gates; we passed through, and they clashed to behind us. We now slowly ascended a drive, and came upon the long front of a house; candlelight gleamed from one curtained bow-window; all the rest were dark. The cab stopped at the- front door; it was opened by a maidservant; I alighted and went in.

  'Will you walk this way, ma'am?' said the girl, and I followed her across a square hall with high doors all round: she ushered me into a room whose double illumination of fire and candle at first dazzled me, contrasting as it did with the darkness to which my eyes had been for two hours inured; when I could see, however, a cosy and agreeable picture presented itself to my view.

  A snug, small room; a round table by a cheerful fire; an arm-chair, high- backed and old-fashioned, wherein sat the neatest imaginable little elderly lady, in widow's cap, black silk gown, and snowy muslin apron; exactly like what I had fancied Mrs Fairfax, only less stately and milder looking. She was occupied in knitting; a large cat sat demurely at her feet; nothing, in short, was wanting to complete the beau-ideal of domestic comfort. A more reassuring introduction for a new governess could scarcely be conceived: there was no grandeur to overwhelm, no stateliness to embarrass; and then, as I entered, the old lady got up and promptly and kindly came forward to meet me.

  'How do you do, my dear? I am afraid you have had a tedious ride; John drives so slowly; you must be cold; come to the fire.'

  'Mrs Fairfax, I suppose?' said I.

  'Yes, you are right: do sit down.'

  She conducted me to her own chair, and then began to remove my shawl and untie my bonnet strings: I begged she would not give herself so much trouble.

  'Oh, it is no trouble: I dare say your own hands are almost numbed with cold. Leah, make a little hot negus and cut a sandwich or two: here are the keys of the storeroom.'

  And she produced from her pocket a most housewifely bunch of keys, and delivered them to the servant.

  'Now, then, draw nearer to the fire, ' she continued. 'You've brought your luggage with you. haven't you, my dear?'

  'Yes. ma'am.'

  'I'll see it carried into your room, ' she said, and bustled out.

  'She treats me like a visitor, ' thought I. 'I little expected such a reception; I anticipated only coldness and stiffness: this is not like what I have heard of the treatment of governesses; but I must not exult too soon.'

  She returned; with her own hands cleared her knitting apparatus and a book or two from the table, to make room for the tray which Leah now brought, and then herself handed me the refreshments. I felt rather confused at being the object of more attention than I had ever before received, and that, too, shown by my employer and superior; but as she did not herself seem to consider she was doing anything out of her place, I thought it better to take her civilities quietly.

  'Shall I have the pleasure of seeing Miss Fairfax to-night?' I asked when I had partaken of what she offered me.

  'What did you say, my dear? I am a little deaf, ' returned the good lady, approaching her ear to my mouth.

  I repeated the question more distinctly.

  'Miss Fairfax? Oh, you mean Miss Varens! Varens is the name of your future pupil.'

  'Indeed! Then she is not your daughter?'

  'No — I have no family.'

  I should have followed up my first inquiry, by asking in what way Miss Varens was connected with her; but I recollected it was not polite to ask too many questions: besides, I was sure to hear in time.

  'I am so glad, ' she continued, as she sat down opposite to me, and took the cat on her knee; 'I am so glad you are come; it will be quite pleasant living here now with a companion. To be sure it is pleasant at any time; for Thornfield is a fine old hall, rather neglected of late years, perhaps, but still it is a respectable place; yet you know in winter time one feels dreary quite alone, in the best quarters. I say alone — Leah is a nice girl to be sure, and John and his wife are very decent people; but then you see they are only servants, and one can't converse with them on terms of equality; one must keep them at due distance for fear of losing one's authority. I'm sure last winter (it was a very severe one if you recollect, and when it did not snow, it rained and blew), not a creature but the butcher and postman came to the house, from November till February; and I really got quite melancholy with sitting night after night alone; I had Leah in to read to me sometimes, but I don't think the poor girl liked the task much: she felt it confining. In spring and summer one got on better; sunshine and long days make such a difference; and then, just at the commencement of this autumn, little Adela Varens came and her nurse: a child makes a house alive all at once; and, now you are here, I shall be quite gay.'

  My heart really warmed to the worthy lady, as I heard her talk; and I drew my chair a little nearer to her, and expressed my sincere wish that she might find my company as agreeable as she anticipated.

  'But I'll not keep you sitting up late to-night, ' said she; 'it is on the stroke of twelve now, and you have been travelling all day: you must feel tired. If you have got your feet well warmed, I'll show you your bedroom. I've had the room next to mine prepared for you; it is only a small apartment, but I thought you would like it better than one of the large front chambers: to be sure they have finer furniture, but they are so dreary and solitary, I never sleep in them myself.'

  I thanked her for her considerate choice, and as I really felt fatigued with my long journey, expressed my readiness to retire. She took her candle, and I followed her from the room. First she went to see if the hall- door was fastened; having taken the key from the lock, she led the way upstairs. The steps and banisters were of oak; the staircase window was high and latticed; both it and the long gallery into which the bedroom doors opened looked as if they belonged to a church rather than a house. A very chill and vault-like air pervaded the stairs and the gallery, suggesting cheerless ideas of space and solitude; and I was glad when finally ushered into my chamber, to find it of small dimensions, and furnished in ordinary modern style.

  When Mrs Fairfax had bidden me a kind good-night, and I had fastened my door, gazed leisurely round, and in some measure effaced the eerie impression made by that wide hall, that dark and spacious staircase, and that long, cold gallery, by the livelier aspect of my little room, I remembered that after a day of bodily fatigue and mental anxiety, I was now at last in safe haven. The impulse of gratitude swelled my heart, and I knelt down at the bedside, and offered up thanks where thanks were due; not forgetting, ere I rose, to implore aid on my farther path, and the power of meriting the kindness which seemed so frankly offered me before it was earned. My couch had no thorns in it that night; my solitary room no fears. At once weary and content, I slept soon and soundly: when I awoke it was broad day.

  The chamber looked such a bright little place to me as the sun shone in between the gay blue chintz window curtains, showing papered walls and a carpeted floor, so unlike the bare planks and stained plaster of Lowood, that my spirits rose at the view. Externals have a great effect on the young. I thought that a fairer era of life was beginning for me, one that was to have its flowers and pleasures, as well as its thorns and toils. My faculties, roused by the change of scene, the new field offered to hope, seemed all astir. I cannot precisely define what they expected, but it was something pleasant: not perhaps that day or that day month, but at an indefinite future period.

  I rose; I dressed myself with care: obliged to be plain — for I had no article of attire that was not made with extreme simplicity — I was still by nature solicitous to be neat. It was not my habit to be disregardful of appearance, or careless of the impression I made; on the contrary, I ever wished to look as well as I could, and to please as much as my want of beauty would permit. I sometimes regretted that I was not handsomer: I sometimes wished to have rosy cheeks, a straight nose, and small cherry mouth: I desired to be tall, stately, and finely developed in figure; I felt it a misfortune that I was so little, so pale, and had features so irregular and so marked. And why had I these aspirations and these regrets? It would be difficult to say: I could not then distinctly say it to myself; yet I had a reason, and a logical, natural reason too. However, when I had brushed my hair very smooth, and put on my black frock — which, Quaker- like as it was, at least had the merit of fitting to a nicety — and adjusted my clean white tucker, I thought I should do respectably enough to appear before Mrs Fairfax; and that my new pupil would not at least recoil from me with antipathy. Having opened my chamber window, and seen that I had left all things straight and neat on the toilet-table, I ventured forth.

  Traversing the long and matted gallery, I descended the slippery steps of oak; then I gained the hall: I halted there a minute; I looked at some pictures on the walls (one, I remember, represented a grim man in a cuirass, and one a lady with powdered hair and a pearl necklace), at a bronze lamp pendant from the ceiling, at a great clock whose case was of oak curiously carved, and ebon black with time and rubbing. Everything appeared very stately and imposing to me: but then I was so little accustomed to grandeur The hall- door, which was half of glass, stood open; I stepped over the threshold. it was a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three stories high, of proportions not vast, though considerable; a gentleman's manor-house, not a nobleman's seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. Its gray front stood out well from the background of a rookery, whose cawing tenants were now on the wing. They flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a great meadow, from which these were separated by a sunk fence, and where an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion's designation. Farther off were hills: not so lofty as those round Lowood, nor so craggy, nor so like barriers of separation from the living world; but yet quiet and lonely hills enough, and seeming to embrace Thornfield with a seclusion I had not expected to find existent so near the stirring locality of Millcote. A little hamlet, whose roofs were blent with trees, straggled up the side of one of these hills: the church of the district stood nearer Thornfield; its old tower-top looked over a knoll between the house and gates.

  I was yet enjoying the calm prospect and pleasant fresh air, yet listening with delight to the cawing of the rooks, yet surveying the wide, hoary front of the hall, and thinking what a great place it was for one lonely little dame like Mrs Fairfax to inhabit, when that lady appeared at the door.

  'What! out already?' said she. 'I see you are an early riser.' I went up to her, and was received with an affable kiss and shake of the hand.

  'How do you like Thornfield?' she asked. I told her I liked it very much.

  'Yes, ' she said, 'it is a pretty place; but I fear it will be getting out of order, unless Mr Rochester should take it into his head to come and reside here permanently — or, at least, visit it rather oftener. Great houses and fine grounds require the presence of the proprietor.'

  'Mr Rochester!' I exclaimed. 'Who is he?'

  'The owner of Thornfield, ' she responded quietly. 'Did you not know he was called Rochester?'

  Of course I did not: I had never heard of him before, but the old lady seemed to regard his existence as a universally understood fact, with which everybody must be acquainted by instinct.

  'I thought, ' I continued, 'Thornfield belonged to you.'

  'To me? Bless you, child; what an idea! To me? I am only the housekeeper — the manager. To be sure, I am distantly related to the Rochesters by the mother's side — or, at least, my husband was. He was a clergyman, incumbent of Hay — that little village yonder on the hill — and that church near the gate was his. The present Mr Rochester's mother was a Fairfax, and second cousin to my husband; but I never presume on the connexion — in fact, it is nothing to me. I consider myself quite in the light of an ordinary housekeeper. My employer is always civil, and I expect nothing more.'

  'And the little girl — my pupil?'

  'She is Mr Rochester's ward. He commissioned me to find a governess for her. He intends to have her brought up in — shire, I believe. Here she comes, with her "bonne", as she calls her nurse.' The enigma then explained: this affable and kind little widow was no great dame, but a dependant like myself. I did not like her the worse for that; on the contrary, I felt better pleased than ever. The equality between her and me was real: not the mere result of condescension on her part. So much the better; my position was all the freer.

  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 special 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 mamma 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 mamma'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 be 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, squareshouldered 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 eyes 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 lay still 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 l? 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 voice; 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 great 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. An 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 sequestered; 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 gray day; a most opaque sky, 'onding on snaw', canopied all; thence flakes fell at 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 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 naught 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 trunks. 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 am 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 enchanting stories, and sang me some of her sweetest songs. Even for me life had its gleams of sunshine.

[1][2]
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