Jane Eyre (Chapter 7, page 2 of 8)


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Chapter 7

How we longed for the light and heat of a blazing fire when we got
back! But, to the little ones at least, this was denied: each
hearth in the schoolroom was immediately surrounded by a double row
of great girls, and behind them the younger children crouched in
groups, wrapping their starved arms in their pinafores.

A little solace came at tea-time, in the shape of a double ration of
bread--a whole, instead of a half, slice--with the delicious
addition of a thin scrape of butter: it was the hebdomadal treat to
which we all looked forward from Sabbath to Sabbath. I generally
contrived to reserve a moiety of this bounteous repast for myself;
but the remainder I was invariably obliged to part with.

The Sunday evening was spent in repeating, by heart, the Church
Catechism, and the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of St.
Matthew; and in listening to a long sermon, read by Miss Miller,
whose irrepressible yawns attested her weariness. A frequent
interlude of these performances was the enactment of the part of
Eutychus by some half-dozen of little girls, who, overpowered with
sleep, would fall down, if not out of the third loft, yet off the
fourth form, and be taken up half dead. The remedy was, to thrust
them forward into the centre of the schoolroom, and oblige them to
stand there till the sermon was finished. Sometimes their feet
failed them, and they sank together in a heap; they were then
propped up with the monitors' high stools.

I have not yet alluded to the visits of Mr. Brocklehurst; and indeed
that gentleman was from home during the greater part of the first
month after my arrival; perhaps prolonging his stay with his friend
the archdeacon: his absence was a relief to me. I need not say
that I had my own reasons for dreading his coming: but come he did
at last.

One afternoon (I had then been three weeks at Lowood), as I was
sitting with a slate in my hand, puzzling over a sum in long
division, my eyes, raised in abstraction to the window, caught sight
of a figure just passing: I recognised almost instinctively that
gaunt outline; and when, two minutes after, all the school, teachers
included, rose en masse, it was not necessary for me to look up in
order to ascertain whose entrance they thus greeted. A long stride
measured the schoolroom, and presently beside Miss Temple, who
herself had risen, stood the same black column which had frowned on
me so ominously from the hearthrug of Gateshead. I now glanced
sideways at this piece of architecture. Yes, I was right: it was
Mr. Brocklehurst, buttoned up in a surtout, and looking longer,
narrower, and more rigid than ever.

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