Jane Eyre (Chapter 1, page 1 of 5)


 
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Chapter 1

There was no possibility of taking 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 clouds 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 consciousness of my
physical inferiority 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 perfectly happy. Me, she had
dispensed from joining the group; saying, "She regretted to be under
the necessity of keeping me at a distance; but that until she heard
from Bessie, and could discover by her own observation, that I was
endeavouring in good earnest to acquire a more sociable and
childlike disposition, a more attractive and sprightly manner--
something lighter, franker, more natural, as it were--she really
must exclude me from privileges intended only for contented, 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 bookcase: I soon possessed myself of a volume, taking
care that it should be one stored with pictures. I mounted into the
window-seat: gathering up my feet, I sat cross-legged, like a Turk;
and, having drawn the red moreen 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 separating
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 mist and cloud; near a
scene of wet lawn and storm-beat shrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping
away wildly before a long and lamentable blast.

I returned to 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 the
haunts of sea-fowl; of "the solitary rocks and promontories" by them
only inhabited; of the coast of Norway, studded with isles from its
southern extremity, the Lindeness, or Naze, to the North Cape -

 
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