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Jane Eyre- CHAPTER I

[日期:2012-08-09]   [字体: ]

   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 outdoor 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 small 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-
 
 

           'Where the Northern Ocean, in vast whirls,

            Boils round the naked, melancholy isles

            Of farthest Thule; and the Atlantic surge

            Pours in among the stormy Hebrides.'
 
 

Nor could I pass unnoticed the suggestion of the bleak shores of

Lapland, Siberia, Spitzbergen, Nova Zembla, Iceland, GREenland, with

'the vast sweep of the Arctic Zone, and those forlorn 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, surround the pole and concentre the

multiplied rigours of extreme cold.' Of these death-white realms I

formed an idea of my own: shadowy, like all the half-comprehended

notions that float dim through children's brains, but strangely

impressive. The words in these introductory pages connected themselves

with the succeeding vignettes, and gave significance to the rock

standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray; to the broken boat

stranded on a desolate coast; to the cold and ghastly moon glancing

through bars of cloud at a wreck just sinking.

   I cannot tell what sentiment 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,

attesting the hour of eventide.

   The two ships 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 picture told a story; mysterious often to my undeveloped

understanding and imperfect feelings, yet ever profoundly interesting:

as interesting as the tales Bessie sometimes narrated on winter

evenings, when she chanced to be in good humour; and when, having

brought her ironing-table to the nursery hearth, she allowed us to sit

about it, and while she got up Mrs. Reed's lace frills, and crimped

her nightcap borders, fed our eager attention with passages of love

and adventure taken from old fairy tales and other ballads; or (as

at a later period I discovered) from 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 curtain,' thought I; and I wished

fervently he might not discover my hiding-place: nor would John Reed

have found it 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 immediately, for I trembled at the idea of being

dragged forth by the said Jack.

   'What do you want?' I asked, with awkward diffidence.

   'Say, "What do you want, Master Reed?"' was the answer. 'I want you

to come here;' and seating himself in an armchair, he intimated by a

gesture that I was to approach and stand before him.

   John Reed was a schoolboy of fourteen years old; four years older

than I, for I was but ten: large and stout for his age, with a dingy

and unwholesome skin; thick lineaments in a spacious visage, heavy

limbs and large extremities. He gorged himself 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 his mama had

taken him home for a month or two, 'on account of his delicate

health.' Mr. Miles, the master, affirmed that he would do very well if

he had fewer cakes and sweetmeats sent him from home; but the mother's

heart turned from an opinion so harsh, and inclined rather to the more

refined idea that John's sallowness was 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 and punished me; not two or three times in

the week, 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 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 strike or heard him

abuse me, though he did both now and then in her very presence, more

frequently, however, behind 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 without damaging 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 in

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 in your eyes two minutes since, you rat!'

   Accustomed 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.

   'I was reading.'

   'Show the book.'

   I returned to the window and fetched it thence.

   'You have no business to take our books; you are a dependant,

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 belongs to me, or will do in a few years. Go and stand by the

door, out of the way of the mirror and the windows.'

   I did so, not at first aware what was his intention; but when I saw

him lift and poise the book and stand in act to hurl it, I

instinctively started aside with a cry of alarm: not soon enough,

however; the volume was flung, it hit me, and I fell, striking my head

against the door and cutting it. The cut bled, the pain was sharp:

my terror had passed its climax; other feelings succeeded.

   'Wicked and cruel boy!' I said. 'You are like a murderer- you are

like a slave-driver- you are like the Roman emperors!'

   I had read Goldsmith's History of Rome, and had formed my opinion

of Nero, Caligula, etc. Also I had 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 desperate thing. I really saw in him a tyrant, a

murderer. I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle down my

neck, and was sensible of somewhat pungent suffering: 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

Georgiana had run for Mrs. Reed, who was gone 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 anybody see such 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.

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