Jane Eyre (Chapter 3, page 2 of 8)


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Chapter 3

Wonderful civility this! It emboldened me to ask a question.

"Bessie, what is the matter with me? Am I ill?"

"You fell sick, I suppose, in the red-room with crying; you'll be
better soon, no doubt."

Bessie went into the housemaid's apartment, which was near. I heard
her say "Sarah, come and sleep with me in the nursery; I daren't for my life
be alone with that poor child to-night: she might die; it's such a
strange thing she should have that fit: I wonder if she saw
anything. Missis was rather too hard."

Sarah came back with her; they both went to bed; they were
whispering together for half-an-hour before they fell asleep. I
caught scraps of their conversation, from which I was able only too
distinctly to infer the main subject discussed.

"Something passed her, all dressed in white, and vanished"--"A great
black dog behind him"--"Three loud raps on the chamber door"--"A
light in the churchyard just over his grave," &c. &c.

At last both slept: the fire and the candle went out. For me, the
watches of that long night passed in ghastly wakefulness; strained
by dread: such dread as children only can feel.

No severe or prolonged bodily illness followed this incident of the
red-room; it only gave my nerves a shock of which I feel the
reverberation to this day. Yes, Mrs. Reed, to you I owe some
fearful pangs of mental suffering, but I ought to forgive you, for
you knew not what you did: while rending my heart-strings, you
thought you were only uprooting my bad propensities.

Next day, by noon, I was up and dressed, and sat wrapped in a shawl
by the nursery hearth. I felt physically weak and broken down: but
my worse ailment was an unutterable wretchedness of mind: a
wretchedness which kept drawing from me silent tears; no sooner had
I wiped one salt drop from my cheek than another followed. Yet, I
thought, I ought to have been happy, for none of the Reeds were
there, they were all gone out in the carriage with their mama.
Abbot, too, was sewing in another room, and Bessie, as she moved
hither and thither, putting away toys and arranging drawers,
addressed to me every now and then a word of unwonted kindness.
This state of things should have been to me a paradise of peace,
accustomed as I was to a life of ceaseless reprimand and thankless
fagging; but, in fact, my racked nerves were now in such a state
that no calm could soothe, and no pleasure excite them agreeably.

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