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  外语解密学习法 逆读法(Reverse Reading Method) 和  解读法(Decode-Reading Method)训练范文 ——                 

解密目标语言:英语                                解密辅助语言:汉语
              Language to be decoded:  English             Auxiliary Language :  Chinese  

  
       
解密文本:     《简爱》   [英] 夏洛蒂·勃朗特  著         
 

Jane Eyre
by   Charlotte Bronte


   序  |  第1-10章 | 第11-20章  | 第21-30 章 | 第31-38章

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CHAPTER I          

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—

“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 arm-chair, 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 dependent, 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, &c.  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.

CHAPTER II

I resisted all the way: a new thing for me, and a circumstance which greatly strengthened the bad opinion Bessie and Miss Abbot were disposed to entertain of me.  The fact is, I was a trifle beside myself; or rather out of myself, as the French would say: I was conscious that a moment’s mutiny had already rendered me liable to strange penalties, and, like any other rebel slave, I felt resolved, in my desperation, to go all lengths.

“Hold her arms, Miss Abbot: she’s like a mad cat.”

“For shame! for shame!” cried the lady’s-maid.  “What shocking conduct, Miss Eyre, to strike a young gentleman, your benefactress’s son!  Your young master.”

“Master!  How is he my master?  Am I a servant?”

“No; you are less than a servant, for you do nothing for your keep.  There, sit down, and think over your wickedness.”

They had got me by this time into the apartment indicated by Mrs. Reed, and had thrust me upon a stool: my impulse was to rise from it like a spring; their two pair of hands arrested me instantly.

“If you don’t sit still, you must be tied down,” said Bessie.  “Miss Abbot, lend me your garters; she would break mine directly.”

Miss Abbot turned to divest a stout leg of the necessary ligature.  This preparation for bonds, and the additional ignominy it inferred, took a little of the excitement out of me.

“Don’t take them off,” I cried; “I will not stir.”

In guarantee whereof, I attached myself to my seat by my hands.

“Mind you don’t,” said Bessie; and when she had ascertained that I was really subsiding, she loosened her hold of me; then she and Miss Abbot stood with folded arms, looking darkly and doubtfully on my face, as incredulous of my sanity.

“She never did so before,” at last said Bessie, turning to the Abigail.

“But it was always in her,” was the reply.  “I’ve told Missis often my opinion about the child, and Missis agreed with me.  She’s an underhand little thing: I never saw a girl of her age with so much cover.”

Bessie answered not; but ere long, addressing me, she said—“You ought to be aware, Miss, that you are under obligations to Mrs. Reed: she keeps you: if she were to turn you off, you would have to go to the poorhouse.”

I had nothing to say to these words: they were not new to me: my very first recollections of existence included hints of the same kind.  This reproach of my dependence had become a vague sing-song in my ear: very painful and crushing, but only half intelligible.  Miss Abbot joined in—

“And you ought not to think yourself on an equality with the Misses Reed and Master Reed, because Missis kindly allows you to be brought up with them.  They will have a great deal of money, and you will have none: it is your place to be humble, and to try to make yourself agreeable to them.”

“What we tell you is for your good,” added Bessie, in no harsh voice, “you should try to be useful and pleasant, then, perhaps, you would have a home here; but if you become passionate and rude, Missis will send you away, I am sure.”

“Besides,” said Miss Abbot, “God will punish her: He might strike her dead in the midst of her tantrums, and then where would she go?  Come, Bessie, we will leave her: I wouldn’t have her heart for anything.  Say your prayers, Miss Eyre, when you are by yourself; for if you don’t repent, something bad might be permitted to come down the chimney and fetch you away.”

They went, shutting the door, and locking it behind them.

The red-room was a square chamber, very seldom slept in, I might say never, indeed, unless when a chance influx of visitors at Gateshead Hall rendered it necessary to turn to account all the accommodation it contained: yet it was one of the largest and stateliest chambers in the mansion.  A bed supported on massive pillars of mahogany, hung with curtains of deep red damask, stood out like a tabernacle in the centre; the two large windows, with their blinds always drawn down, were half shrouded in festoons and falls of similar drapery; the carpet was red; the table at the foot of the bed was covered with a crimson cloth; the walls were a soft fawn colour with a blush of pink in it; the wardrobe, the toilet-table, the chairs were of darkly polished old mahogany.  Out of these deep surrounding shades rose high, and glared white, the piled-up mattresses and pillows of the bed, spread with a snowy Marseilles counterpane.  Scarcely less prominent was an ample cushioned easy-chair near the head of the bed, also white, with a footstool before it; and looking, as I thought, like a pale throne.

This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire; it was silent, because remote from the nursery and kitchen; solemn, because it was known to be so seldom entered.  The house-maid alone came here on Saturdays, to wipe from the mirrors and the furniture a week’s quiet dust: and Mrs. Reed herself, at far intervals, visited it to review the contents of a certain secret drawer in the wardrobe, where were stored divers parchments, her jewel-casket, and a miniature of her deceased husband; and in those last words lies the secret of the red-room—the spell which kept it so lonely in spite of its grandeur.

Mr. Reed had been dead nine years: it was in this chamber he breathed his last; here he lay in state; hence his coffin was borne by the undertaker’s men; and, since that day, a sense of dreary consecration had guarded it from frequent intrusion.

My seat, to which Bessie and the bitter Miss Abbot had left me riveted, was a low ottoman near the marble chimney-piece; the bed rose before me; to my right hand there was the high, dark wardrobe, with subdued, broken reflections varying the gloss of its panels; to my left were the muffled windows; a great looking-glass between them repeated the vacant majesty of the bed and room.  I was not quite sure whether they had locked the door; and when I dared move, I got up and went to see.  Alas! yes: no jail was ever more secure.  Returning, I had to cross before the looking-glass; my fascinated glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed.  All looked colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality: and the strange little figure there gazing at me, with a white face and arms specking the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all else was still, had the effect of a real spirit: I thought it like one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp, Bessie’s evening stories represented as coming out of lone, ferny dells in moors, and appearing before the eyes of belated travellers.  I returned to my stool.

Superstition was with me at that moment; but it was not yet her hour for complete victory: my blood was still warm; the mood of the revolted slave was still bracing me with its bitter vigour; I had to stem a rapid rush of retrospective thought before I quailed to the dismal present.

All John Reed’s violent tyrannies, all his sisters’ proud indifference, all his mother’s aversion, all the servants’ partiality, turned up in my disturbed mind like a dark deposit in a turbid well.  Why was I always suffering, always browbeaten, always accused, for ever condemned?  Why could I never please?  Why was it useless to try to win any one’s favour?  Eliza, who was headstrong and selfish, was respected.  Georgiana, who had a spoiled temper, a very acrid spite, a captious and insolent carriage, was universally indulged.  Her beauty, her pink cheeks and golden curls, seemed to give delight to all who looked at her, and to purchase indemnity for every fault.  John no one thwarted, much less punished; though he twisted the necks of the pigeons, killed the little pea-chicks, set the dogs at the sheep, stripped the hothouse vines of their fruit, and broke the buds off the choicest plants in the conservatory: he called his mother “old girl,” too; sometimes reviled her for her dark skin, similar to his own; bluntly disregarded her wishes; not unfrequently tore and spoiled her silk attire; and he was still “her own darling.”  I dared commit no fault: I strove to fulfil every duty; and I was termed naughty and tiresome, sullen and sneaking, from morning to noon, and from noon to night.

My head still ached and bled with the blow and fall I had received: no one had reproved John for wantonly striking me; and because I had turned against him to avert farther irrational violence, I was loaded with general opprobrium.

“Unjust!—unjust!” said my reason, forced by the agonising stimulus into precocious though transitory power: and Resolve, equally wrought up, instigated some strange expedient to achieve escape from insupportable oppression—as running away, or, if that could not be effected, never eating or drinking more, and letting myself die.

What a consternation of soul was mine that dreary afternoon!  How all my brain was in tumult, and all my heart in insurrection!  Yet in what darkness, what dense ignorance, was the mental battle fought!  I could not answer the ceaseless inward question—why I thus suffered; now, at the distance of—I will not say how many years, I see it clearly.

I was a discord in Gateshead Hall: I was like nobody there; I had nothing in harmony with Mrs. Reed or her children, or her chosen vassalage.  If they did not love me, in fact, as little did I love them.  They were not bound to regard with affection a thing that could not sympathise with one amongst them; a heterogeneous thing, opposed to them in temperament, in capacity, in propensities; a useless thing, incapable of serving their interest, or adding to their pleasure; a noxious thing, cherishing the germs of indignation at their treatment, of contempt of their judgment.  I know that had I been a sanguine, brilliant, careless, exacting, handsome, romping child—though equally dependent and friendless—Mrs. Reed would have endured my presence more complacently; her children would have entertained for me more of the cordiality of fellow-feeling; the servants would have been less prone to make me the scapegoat of the nursery.

Daylight began to forsake the red-room; it was past four o’clock, and the beclouded afternoon was tending to drear twilight.  I heard the rain still beating continuously on the staircase window, and the wind howling in the grove behind the hall; I grew by degrees cold as a stone, and then my courage sank.  My habitual mood of humiliation, self-doubt, forlorn depression, fell damp on the embers of my decaying ire.  All said I was wicked, and perhaps I might be so; what thought had I been but just conceiving of starving myself to death?  That certainly was a crime: and was I fit to die?  Or was the vault under the chancel of Gateshead Church an inviting bourne?  In such vault I had been told did Mr. Reed lie buried; and led by this thought to recall his idea, I dwelt on it with gathering dread.  I could not remember him; but I knew that he was my own uncle—my mother’s brother—that he had taken me when a parentless infant to his house; and that in his last moments he had required a promise of Mrs. Reed that she would rear and maintain me as one of her own children.  Mrs. Reed probably considered she had kept this promise; and so she had, I dare say, as well as her nature would permit her; but how could she really like an interloper not of her race, and unconnected with her, after her husband’s death, by any tie?  It must have been most irksome to find herself bound by a hard-wrung pledge to stand in the stead of a parent to a strange child she could not love, and to see an uncongenial alien permanently intruded on her own family group.

A singular notion dawned upon me.  I doubted not—never doubted—that if Mr. Reed had been alive he would have treated me kindly; and now, as I sat looking at the white bed and overshadowed walls—occasionally also turning a fascinated eye towards the dimly gleaning mirror—I began to recall what I had heard of dead men, troubled in their graves by the violation of their last wishes, revisiting the earth to punish the perjured and avenge the oppressed; and I thought Mr. Reed’s spirit, harassed by the wrongs of his sister’s child, might quit its abode—whether in the church vault or in the unknown world of the departed—and rise before me in this chamber.  I wiped my tears and hushed my sobs, fearful lest any sign of violent grief might waken a preternatural voice to comfort me, or elicit from the gloom some haloed face, bending over me with strange pity.  This idea, consolatory in theory, I felt would be terrible if realised: with all my might I endeavoured to stifle it—I endeavoured to be firm.  Shaking my hair from my eyes, I lifted my head and tried to look boldly round the dark room; at this moment a light gleamed on the wall.  Was it, I asked myself, a ray from the moon penetrating some aperture in the blind?  No; moonlight was still, and this stirred; while I gazed, it glided up to the ceiling and quivered over my head.  I can now conjecture readily that this streak of light was, in all likelihood, a gleam from a lantern carried by some one across the lawn: but then, prepared as my mind was for horror, shaken as my nerves were by agitation, I thought the swift darting beam was a herald of some coming vision from another world.  My heart beat thick, my head grew hot; a sound filled my ears, which I deemed the rushing of wings; something seemed near me; I was oppressed, suffocated: endurance broke down; I rushed to the door and shook the lock in desperate effort.  Steps came running along the outer passage; the key turned, Bessie and Abbot entered.

“Miss Eyre, are you ill?” said Bessie.

“What a dreadful noise! it went quite through me!” exclaimed Abbot.

“Take me out!  Let me go into the nursery!” was my cry.

“What for?  Are you hurt?  Have you seen something?” again demanded Bessie.

“Oh!  I saw a light, and I thought a ghost would come.”  I had now got hold of Bessie’s hand, and she did not snatch it from me.

“She has screamed out on purpose,” declared Abbot, in some disgust.  “And what a scream!  If she had been in great pain one would have excused it, but she only wanted to bring us all here: I know her naughty tricks.”

“What is all this?” demanded another voice peremptorily; and Mrs. Reed came along the corridor, her cap flying wide, her gown rustling stormily.  “Abbot and Bessie, I believe I gave orders that Jane Eyre should be left in the red-room till I came to her myself.”

“Miss Jane screamed so loud, ma’am,” pleaded Bessie.

“Let her go,” was the only answer.  “Loose Bessie’s hand, child: you cannot succeed in getting out by these means, be assured.  I abhor artifice, particularly in children; it is my duty to show you that tricks will not answer: you will now stay here an hour longer, and it is only on condition of perfect submission and stillness that I shall liberate you then.”

“O aunt! have pity!  Forgive me!  I cannot endure it—let me be punished some other way!  I shall be killed if—”

“Silence!  This violence is all most repulsive:” and so, no doubt, she felt it.  I was a precocious actress in her eyes; she sincerely looked on me as a compound of virulent passions, mean spirit, and dangerous duplicity.

Bessie and Abbot having retreated, Mrs. Reed, impatient of my now frantic anguish and wild sobs, abruptly thrust me back and locked me in, without farther parley.  I heard her sweeping away; and soon after she was gone, I suppose I had a species of fit: unconsciousness closed the scene.

CHAPTER III

The next thing I remember is, waking up with a feeling as if I had had a frightful nightmare, and seeing before me a terrible red glare, crossed with thick black bars.  I heard voices, too, speaking with a hollow sound, and as if muffled by a rush of wind or water: agitation, uncertainty, and an all-predominating sense of terror confused my faculties.  Ere long, I became aware that some one was handling me; lifting me up and supporting me in a sitting posture, and that more tenderly than I had ever been raised or upheld before.  I rested my head against a pillow or an arm, and felt easy.

In five minutes more the cloud of bewilderment dissolved: I knew quite well that I was in my own bed, and that the red glare was the nursery fire.  It was night: a candle burnt on the table; Bessie stood at the bed-foot with a basin in her hand, and a gentleman sat in a chair near my pillow, leaning over me.

I felt an inexpressible relief, a soothing conviction of protection and security, when I knew that there was a stranger in the room, an individual not belonging to Gateshead, and not related to Mrs. Reed.  Turning from Bessie (though her presence was far less obnoxious to me than that of Abbot, for instance, would have been), I scrutinised the face of the gentleman: I knew him; it was Mr. Lloyd, an apothecary, sometimes called in by Mrs. Reed when the servants were ailing: for herself and the children she employed a physician.

“Well, who am I?” he asked.

I pronounced his name, offering him at the same time my hand: he took it, smiling and saying, “We shall do very well by-and-by.”  Then he laid me down, and addressing Bessie, charged her to be very careful that I was not disturbed during the night.  Having given some further directions, and intimates that he should call again the next day, he departed; to my grief: I felt so sheltered and befriended while he sat in the chair near my pillow; and as he closed the door after him, all the room darkened and my heart again sank: inexpressible sadness weighed it down.

“Do you feel as if you should sleep, Miss?” asked Bessie, rather softly.

Scarcely dared I answer her; for I feared the next sentence might be rough.  “I will try.”

“Would you like to drink, or could you eat anything?”

“No, thank you, Bessie.”

“Then I think I shall go to bed, for it is past twelve o’clock; but you may call me if you want anything in the night.”

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.

Bessie had been down into the kitchen, and she brought up with her a tart on a certain brightly painted china plate, whose bird of paradise, nestling in a wreath of convolvuli and rosebuds, had been wont to stir in me a most enthusiastic sense of admiration; and which plate I had often petitioned to be allowed to take in my hand in order to examine it more closely, but had always hitherto been deemed unworthy of such a privilege.  This precious vessel was now placed on my knee, and I was cordially invited to eat the circlet of delicate pastry upon it.  Vain favour! coming, like most other favours long deferred and often wished for, too late!  I could not eat the tart; and the plumage of the bird, the tints of the flowers, seemed strangely faded: I put both plate and tart away.  Bessie asked if I would have a book: the word book acted as a transient stimulus, and I begged her to fetch Gulliver’s Travels from the library.  This book I had again and again perused with delight.  I considered it a narrative of facts, and discovered in it a vein of interest deeper than what I found in fairy tales: for as to the elves, having sought them in vain among foxglove leaves and bells, under mushrooms and beneath the ground-ivy mantling old wall-nooks, I had at length made up my mind to the sad truth, that they were all gone out of England to some savage country where the woods were wilder and thicker, and the population more scant; whereas, Lilliput and Brobdignag being, in my creed, solid parts of the earth’s surface, I doubted not that I might one day, by taking a long voyage, see with my own eyes the little fields, houses, and trees, the diminutive people, the tiny cows, sheep, and birds of the one realm; and the corn-fields forest-high, the mighty mastiffs, the monster cats, the tower-like men and women, of the other.  Yet, when this cherished volume was now placed in my hand—when I turned over its leaves, and sought in its marvellous pictures the charm I had, till now, never failed to find—all was eerie and dreary; the giants were gaunt goblins, the pigmies malevolent and fearful imps, Gulliver a most desolate wanderer in most dread and dangerous regions.  I closed the book, which I dared no longer peruse, and put it on the table, beside the untasted tart.

Bessie had now finished dusting and tidying the room, and having washed her hands, she opened a certain little drawer, full of splendid shreds of silk and satin, and began making a new bonnet for Georgiana’s doll.  Meantime she sang: her song was—

“In the days when we went gipsying,
   A long time ago.”

I had often heard the song before, and always with lively delight; for Bessie had a sweet voice,—at least, I thought so.  But now, though her voice was still sweet, I found in its melody an indescribable sadness.  Sometimes, preoccupied with her work, she sang the refrain very low, very lingeringly; “A long time ago” came out like the saddest cadence of a funeral hymn.  She passed into another ballad, this time a really doleful one.

“My feet they are sore, and my limbs they are weary;
   Long is the way, and the mountains are wild;
Soon will the twilight close moonless and dreary
   Over the path of the poor orphan child.

Why did they send me so far and so lonely,
   Up where the moors spread and grey rocks are piled?
Men are hard-hearted, and kind angels only
   Watch o’er the steps of a poor orphan child.

Yet distant and soft the night breeze is blowing,
   Clouds there are none, and clear stars beam mild,
God, in His mercy, protection is showing,
   Comfort and hope to the poor orphan child.

Ev’n should I fall o’er the broken bridge passing,
   Or stray in the marshes, by false lights beguiled,
Still will my Father, with promise and blessing,
   Take to His bosom the poor orphan child.

There is a thought that for strength should avail me,
   Though both of shelter and kindred despoiled;
Heaven is a home, and a rest will not fail me;
   God is a friend to the poor orphan child.”

“Come, Miss Jane, don’t cry,” said Bessie as she finished.  She might as well have said to the fire, “don’t burn!” but how could she divine the morbid suffering to which I was a prey?  In the course of the morning Mr. Lloyd came again.

“What, already up!” said he, as he entered the nursery.  “Well, nurse, how is she?”

Bessie answered that I was doing very well.

“Then she ought to look more cheerful.  Come here, Miss Jane: your name is Jane, is it not?”

“Yes, sir, Jane Eyre.”

“Well, you have been crying, Miss Jane Eyre; can you tell me what about?  Have you any pain?”

“No, sir.”

“Oh!  I daresay she is crying because she could not go out with Missis in the carriage,” interposed Bessie.

“Surely not! why, she is too old for such pettishness.”

I thought so too; and my self-esteem being wounded by the false charge, I answered promptly, “I never cried for such a thing in my life: I hate going out in the carriage.  I cry because I am miserable.”

“Oh fie, Miss!” said Bessie.

The good apothecary appeared a little puzzled.  I was standing before him; he fixed his eyes on me very steadily: his eyes were small and grey; not very bright, but I dare say I should think them shrewd now: he had a hard-featured yet good-natured looking face.  Having considered me at leisure, he said—

“What made you ill yesterday?”

“She had a fall,” said Bessie, again putting in her word.

“Fall! why, that is like a baby again!  Can’t she manage to walk at her age?  She must be eight or nine years old.”

“I was knocked down,” was the blunt explanation, jerked out of me by another pang of mortified pride; “but that did not make me ill,” I added; while Mr. Lloyd helped himself to a pinch of snuff.

As he was returning the box to his waistcoat pocket, a loud bell rang for the servants’ dinner; he knew what it was.  “That’s for you, nurse,” said he; “you can go down; I’ll give Miss Jane a lecture till you come back.”

Bessie would rather have stayed, but she was obliged to go, because punctuality at meals was rigidly enforced at Gateshead Hall.

“The fall did not make you ill; what did, then?” pursued Mr. Lloyd when Bessie was gone.

“I was shut up in a room where there is a ghost till after dark.”

I saw Mr. Lloyd smile and frown at the same time.

“Ghost!  What, you are a baby after all!  You are afraid of ghosts?”

“Of Mr. Reed’s ghost I am: he died in that room, and was laid out there.  Neither Bessie nor any one else will go into it at night, if they can help it; and it was cruel to shut me up alone without a candle,—so cruel that I think I shall never forget it.”

“Nonsense!  And is it that makes you so miserable?  Are you afraid now in daylight?”

“No: but night will come again before long: and besides,—I am unhappy,—very unhappy, for other things.”

“What other things?  Can you tell me some of them?”

How much I wished to reply fully to this question!  How difficult it was to frame any answer!  Children can feel, but they cannot analyse their feelings; and if the analysis is partially effected in thought, they know not how to express the result of the process in words.  Fearful, however, of losing this first and only opportunity of relieving my grief by imparting it, I, after a disturbed pause, contrived to frame a meagre, though, as far as it went, true response.

“For one thing, I have no father or mother, brothers or sisters.”

“You have a kind aunt and cousins.”

Again I paused; then bunglingly enounced—

“But John Reed knocked me down, and my aunt shut me up in the red-room.”

Mr. Lloyd a second time produced his snuff-box.

“Don’t you think Gateshead Hall a very beautiful house?” asked he.  “Are you not very thankful to have such a fine place to live at?”

“It is not my house, sir; and Abbot says I have less right to be here than a servant.”

“Pooh! you can’t be silly enough to wish to leave such a splendid place?”

“If I had anywhere else to go, I should be glad to leave it; but I can never get away from Gateshead till I am a woman.”

“Perhaps you may—who knows?  Have you any relations besides Mrs. Reed?”

“I think not, sir.”

“None belonging to your father?”

“I don’t know.  I asked Aunt Reed once, and she said possibly I might have some poor, low relations called Eyre, but she knew nothing about them.”

“If you had such, would you like to go to them?”

I reflected.  Poverty looks grim to grown people; still more so to children: they have not much idea of industrious, working, respectable poverty; they think of the word only as connected with ragged clothes, scanty food, fireless grates, rude manners, and debasing vices: poverty for me was synonymous with degradation.

“No; I should not like to belong to poor people,” was my reply.

“Not even if they were kind to you?”

I shook my head: I could not see how poor people had the means of being kind; and then to learn to speak like them, to adopt their manners, to be uneducated, to grow up like one of the poor women I saw sometimes nursing their children or washing their clothes at the cottage doors of the village of Gateshead: no, I was not heroic enough to purchase liberty at the price of caste.

“But are your relatives so very poor?  Are they working people?”

“I cannot tell; Aunt Reed says if I have any, they must be a beggarly set: I should not like to go a begging.”

“Would you like to go to school?”

Again I reflected: I scarcely knew what school was: Bessie sometimes spoke of it as a place where young ladies sat in the stocks, wore backboards, and were expected to be exceedingly genteel and precise: John Reed hated his school, and abused his master; but John Reed’s tastes were no rule for mine, and if Bessie’s accounts of school-discipline (gathered from the young ladies of a family where she had lived before coming to Gateshead) were somewhat appalling, her details of certain accomplishments attained by these same young ladies were, I thought, equally attractive.  She boasted of beautiful paintings of landscapes and flowers by them executed; of songs they could sing and pieces they could play, of purses they could net, of French books they could translate; till my spirit was moved to emulation as I listened.  Besides, school would be a complete change: it implied a long journey, an entire separation from Gateshead, an entrance into a new life.

“I should indeed like to go to school,” was the audible conclusion of my musings.

“Well, well! who knows what may happen?” said Mr. Lloyd, as he got up.  “The child ought to have change of air and scene,” he added, speaking to himself; “nerves not in a good state.”

Bessie now returned; at the same moment the carriage was heard rolling up the gravel-walk.

“Is that your mistress, nurse?” asked Mr. Lloyd.  “I should like to speak to her before I go.”

Bessie invited him to walk into the breakfast-room, and led the way out.  In the interview which followed between him and Mrs. Reed, I presume, from after-occurrences, that the apothecary ventured to recommend my being sent to school; and the recommendation was no doubt readily enough adopted; for as Abbot said, in discussing the subject with Bessie when both sat sewing in the nursery one night, after I was in bed, and, as they thought, asleep, “Missis was, she dared say, glad enough to get rid of such a tiresome, ill-conditioned child, who always looked as if she were watching everybody, and scheming plots underhand.”  Abbot, I think, gave me credit for being a sort of infantine Guy Fawkes.

On that same occasion I learned, for the first time, from Miss Abbot’s communications to Bessie, that my father had been a poor clergyman; that my mother had married him against the wishes of her friends, who considered the match beneath her; that my grandfather Reed was so irritated at her disobedience, he cut her off without a shilling; that after my mother and father had been married a year, the latter caught the typhus fever while visiting among the poor of a large manufacturing town where his curacy was situated, and where that disease was then prevalent: that my mother took the infection from him, and both died within a month of each other.

Bessie, when she heard this narrative, sighed and said, “Poor Miss Jane is to be pitied, too, Abbot.”

“Yes,” responded Abbot; “if she were a nice, pretty child, one might compassionate her forlornness; but one really cannot care for such a little toad as that.”

“Not a great deal, to be sure,” agreed Bessie: “at any rate, a beauty like Miss Georgiana would be more moving in the same condition.”

“Yes, I doat on Miss Georgiana!” cried the fervent Abbot.  “Little darling!—with her long curls and her blue eyes, and such a sweet colour as she has; just as if she were painted!—Bessie, I could fancy a Welsh rabbit for supper.”

“So could I—with a roast onion.  Come, we’ll go down.”  They went.

CHAPTER IV

From my discourse with Mr. Lloyd, and from the above reported conference between Bessie and Abbot, I gathered enough of hope to suffice as a motive for wishing to get well: a change seemed near,—I desired and waited it in silence.  It tarried, however: days and weeks passed: I had regained my normal state of health, but no new allusion was made to the subject over which I brooded.  Mrs. Reed surveyed me at times with a severe eye, but seldom addressed me: since my illness, she had drawn a more marked line of separation than ever between me and her own children; appointing me a small closet to sleep in by myself, condemning me to take my meals alone, and pass all my time in the nursery, while my cousins were constantly in the drawing-room.  Not a hint, however, did she drop about sending me to school: still I felt an instinctive certainty that she would not long endure me under the same roof with her; for her glance, now more than ever, when turned on me, expressed an insuperable and rooted aversion.

Eliza and Georgiana, evidently acting according to orders, spoke to me as little as possible: John thrust his tongue in his cheek whenever he saw me, and once attempted chastisement; but as I instantly turned against him, roused by the same sentiment of deep ire and desperate revolt which had stirred my corruption before, he thought it better to desist, and ran from me tittering execrations, and vowing I had burst his nose.  I had indeed levelled at that prominent feature as hard a blow as my knuckles could inflict; and when I saw that either that or my look daunted him, I had the greatest inclination to follow up my advantage to purpose; but he was already with his mama.  I heard him in a blubbering tone commence the tale of how “that nasty Jane Eyre” had flown at him like a mad cat: he was stopped rather harshly—

“Don’t talk to me about her, John: I told you not to go near her; she is not worthy of notice; I do not choose that either you or your sisters should associate with her.”

Here, leaning over the banister, I cried out suddenly, and without at all deliberating on my words—

“They are not fit to associate with me.”

Mrs. Reed was rather a stout woman; but, on hearing this strange and audacious declaration, she ran nimbly up the stair, swept me like a whirlwind into the nursery, and crushing me down on the edge of my crib, dared me in an emphatic voice to rise from that place, or utter one syllable during the remainder of the day.

“What would Uncle Reed say to you, if he were alive?” was my scarcely voluntary demand.  I say scarcely voluntary, for it seemed as if my tongue pronounced words without my will consenting to their utterance: something spoke out of me over which I had no control.

“What?” said Mrs. Reed under her breath: her usually cold composed grey eye became troubled with a look like fear; she took her hand from my arm, and gazed at me as if she really did not know whether I were child or fiend.  I was now in for it.

“My Uncle Reed is in heaven, and can see all you do and think; and so can papa and mama: they know how you shut me up all day long, and how you wish me dead.”

Mrs. Reed soon rallied her spirits: she shook me most soundly, she boxed both my ears, and then left me without a word.  Bessie supplied the hiatus by a homily of an hour’s length, in which she proved beyond a doubt that I was the most wicked and abandoned child ever reared under a roof.  I half believed her; for I felt indeed only bad feelings surging in my breast.

November, December, and half of January passed away.  Christmas and the New Year had been celebrated at Gateshead with the usual festive cheer; presents had been interchanged, dinners and evening parties given.  From every enjoyment I was, of course, excluded: my share of the gaiety consisted in witnessing the daily apparelling of Eliza and Georgiana, and seeing them descend to the drawing-room, dressed out in thin muslin frocks and scarlet sashes, with hair elaborately ringletted; and afterwards, in listening to the sound of the piano or the harp played below, to the passing to and fro of the butler and footman, to the jingling of glass and china as refreshments were handed, to the broken hum of conversation as the drawing-room door opened and closed.  When tired of this occupation, I would retire from the stairhead to the solitary and silent nursery: there, though somewhat sad, I was not miserable.  To speak truth, I had not the least wish to go into company, for in company I was very rarely noticed; and if Bessie had but been kind and companionable, I should have deemed it a treat to spend the evenings quietly with her, instead of passing them under the formidable eye of Mrs. Reed, in a room full of ladies and gentlemen.  But Bessie, as soon as she had dressed her young ladies, used to take herself off to the lively regions of the kitchen and housekeeper’s room, generally bearing the candle along with her.  I then sat with my doll on my knee till the fire got low, glancing round occasionally to make sure that nothing worse than myself haunted the shadowy room; and when the embers sank to a dull red, I undressed hastily, tugging at knots and strings as I best might, and sought shelter from cold and darkness in my crib.  To this crib I always took my doll; human beings must love something, and, in the dearth of worthier objects of affection, I contrived to find a pleasure in loving and cherishing a faded graven image, shabby as a miniature scarecrow.  It puzzles me now to remember with what absurd sincerity I doated on this little toy, half fancying it alive and capable of sensation.  I could not sleep unless it was folded in my night-gown; and when it lay there safe and warm, I was comparatively happy, believing it to be happy likewise.

Long did the hours seem while I waited the departure of the company, and listened for the sound of Bessie’s step on the stairs: sometimes she would come up in the interval to seek her thimble or her scissors, or perhaps to bring me something by way of supper—a bun or a cheese-cake—then she would sit on the bed while I ate it, and when I had finished, she would tuck the clothes round me, and twice she kissed me, and said, “Good night, Miss Jane.”  When thus gentle, Bessie seemed to me the best, prettiest, kindest being in the world; and I wished most intensely that she would always be so pleasant and amiable, and never push me about, or scold, or task me unreasonably, as she was too often wont to do.  Bessie Lee must, I think, have been a girl of good natural capacity, for she was smart in all she did, and had a remarkable knack of narrative; so, at least, I judge from the impression made on me by her nursery tales.  She was pretty too, if my recollections of her face and person are correct.  I remember her as a slim young woman, with black hair, dark eyes, very nice features, and good, clear complexion; but she had a capricious and hasty temper, and indifferent ideas of principle or justice: still, such as she was, I preferred her to any one else at Gateshead Hall.

It was the fifteenth of January, about nine o’clock in the morning: Bessie was gone down to breakfast; my cousins had not yet been summoned to their mama; Eliza was putting on her bonnet and warm garden-coat to go and feed her poultry, an occupation of which she was fond: and not less so of selling the eggs to the housekeeper and hoarding up the money she thus obtained.  She had a turn for traffic, and a marked propensity for saving; shown not only in the vending of eggs and chickens, but also in driving hard bargains with the gardener about flower-roots, seeds, and slips of plants; that functionary having orders from Mrs. Reed to buy of his young lady all the products of her parterre she wished to sell: and Eliza would have sold the hair off her head if she could have made a handsome profit thereby.  As to her money, she first secreted it in odd corners, wrapped in a rag or an old curl-paper; but some of these hoards having been discovered by the housemaid, Eliza, fearful of one day losing her valued treasure, consented to intrust it to her mother, at a usurious rate of interest—fifty or sixty per cent.; which interest she exacted every quarter, keeping her accounts in a little book with anxious accuracy.

Georgiana sat on a high stool, dressing her hair at the glass, and interweaving her curls with artificial flowers and faded feathers, of which she had found a store in a drawer in the attic.  I was making my bed, having received strict orders from Bessie to get it arranged before she returned (for Bessie now frequently employed me as a sort of under-nurserymaid, to tidy the room, dust the chairs, &c.).  Having spread the quilt and folded my night-dress, I went to the window-seat to put in order some picture-books and doll’s house furniture scattered there; an abrupt command from Georgiana to let her playthings alone (for the tiny chairs and mirrors, the fairy plates and cups, were her property) stopped my proceedings; and then, for lack of other occupation, I fell to breathing on the frost-flowers with which the window was fretted, and thus clearing a space in the glass through which I might look out on the grounds, where all was still and petrified under the influence of a hard frost.

From this window were visible the porter’s lodge and the carriage-road, and just as I had dissolved so much of the silver-white foliage veiling the panes as left room to look out, I saw the gates thrown open and a carriage roll through.  I watched it ascending the drive with indifference; carriages often came to Gateshead, but none ever brought visitors in whom I was interested; it stopped in front of the house, the door-bell rang loudly, the new-comer was admitted.  All this being nothing to me, my vacant attention soon found livelier attraction in the spectacle of a little hungry robin, which came and chirruped on the twigs of the leafless cherry-tree nailed against the wall near the casement.  The remains of my breakfast of bread and milk stood on the table, and having crumbled a morsel of roll, I was tugging at the sash to put out the crumbs on the window-sill, when Bessie came running upstairs into the nursery.

“Miss Jane, take off your pinafore; what are you doing there?  Have you washed your hands and face this morning?”  I gave another tug before I answered, for I wanted the bird to be secure of its bread: the sash yielded; I scattered the crumbs, some on the stone sill, some on the cherry-tree bough, then, closing the window, I replied—

“No, Bessie; I have only just finished dusting.”

“Troublesome, careless child! and what are you doing now?  You look quite red, as if you had been about some mischief: what were you opening the window for?”

I was spared the trouble of answering, for Bessie seemed in too great a hurry to listen to explanations; she hauled me to the washstand, inflicted a merciless, but happily brief scrub on my face and hands with soap, water, and a coarse towel; disciplined my head with a bristly brush, denuded me of my pinafore, and then hurrying me to the top of the stairs, bid me go down directly, as I was wanted in the breakfast-room.

I would have asked who wanted me: I would have demanded if Mrs. Reed was there; but Bessie was already gone, and had closed the nursery-door upon me.  I slowly descended.  For nearly three months, I had never been called to Mrs. Reed’s presence; restricted so long to the nursery, the breakfast, dining, and drawing-rooms were become for me awful regions, on which it dismayed me to intrude.

I now stood in the empty hall; before me was the breakfast-room door, and I stopped, intimidated and trembling.  What a miserable little poltroon had fear, engendered of unjust punishment, made of me in those days!  I feared to return to the nursery, and feared to go forward to the parlour; ten minutes I stood in agitated hesitation; the vehement ringing of the breakfast-room bell decided me; I must enter.

“Who could want me?” I asked inwardly, as with both hands I turned the stiff door-handle, which, for a second or two, resisted my efforts.  “What should I see besides Aunt Reed in the apartment?—a man or a woman?”  The handle turned, the door unclosed, and passing through and curtseying low, I looked up at—a black pillar!—such, at least, appeared to me, at first sight, the straight, narrow, sable-clad shape standing erect on the rug: the grim face at the top was like a carved mask, placed above the shaft by way of capital.

Mrs. Reed occupied her usual seat by the fireside; she made a signal to me to approach; I did so, and she introduced me to the stony stranger with the words: “This is the little girl respecting whom I applied to you.”

He, for it was a man, turned his head slowly towards where I stood, and having examined me with the two inquisitive-looking grey eyes which twinkled under a pair of bushy brows, said solemnly, and in a bass voice, “Her size is small: what is her age?”

“Ten years.”

“So much?” was the doubtful answer; and he prolonged his scrutiny for some minutes.  Presently he addressed me—“Your name, little girl?”

“Jane Eyre, sir.”

In uttering these words I looked up: he seemed to me a tall gentleman; but then I was very little; his features were large, and they and all the lines of his frame were equally harsh and prim.

“Well, Jane Eyre, and are you a good child?”

Impossible to reply to this in the affirmative: my little world held a contrary opinion: I was silent.  Mrs. Reed answered for me by an expressive shake of the head, adding soon, “Perhaps the less said on that subject the better, Mr. Brocklehurst.”

“Sorry indeed to hear it! she and I must have some talk;” and bending from the perpendicular, he installed his person in the arm-chair opposite Mrs. Reed’s.  “Come here,” he said.

I stepped across the rug; he placed me square and straight before him.  What a face he had, now that it was almost on a level with mine! what a great nose! and what a mouth! and what large prominent teeth!

“No sight so sad as that of a naughty child,” he began, “especially a naughty little girl.  Do you know where the wicked go after death?”

“They go to hell,” was my ready and orthodox answer.

“And what is hell?  Can you tell me that?”

“A pit full of fire.”

“And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?”

“No, sir.”

“What must you do to avoid it?”

I deliberated a moment; my answer, when it did come, was objectionable: “I must keep in good health, and not die.”

“How can you keep in good health?  Children younger than you die daily.  I buried a little child of five years old only a day or two since,—a good little child, whose soul is now in heaven.  It is to be feared the same could not be said of you were you to be called hence.”

Not being in a condition to remove his doubt, I only cast my eyes down on the two large feet planted on the rug, and sighed, wishing myself far enough away.

“I hope that sigh is from the heart, and that you repent of ever having been the occasion of discomfort to your excellent benefactress.”

“Benefactress! benefactress!” said I inwardly: “they all call Mrs. Reed my benefactress; if so, a benefactress is a disagreeable thing.”

“Do you say your prayers night and morning?” continued my interrogator.

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you read your Bible?”

“Sometimes.”

“With pleasure?  Are you fond of it?”

“I like Revelations, and the book of Daniel, and Genesis and Samuel, and a little bit of Exodus, and some parts of Kings and Chronicles, and Job and Jonah.”

“And the Psalms?  I hope you like them?”

“No, sir.”

“No? oh, shocking!  I have a little boy, younger than you, who knows six Psalms by heart: and when you ask him which he would rather have, a gingerbread-nut to eat or a verse of a Psalm to learn, he says: ‘Oh! the verse of a Psalm! angels sing Psalms;’ says he, ‘I wish to be a little angel here below;’ he then gets two nuts in recompense for his infant piety.”

“Psalms are not interesting,” I remarked.

“That proves you have a wicked heart; and you must pray to God to change it: to give you a new and clean one: to take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

I was about to propound a question, touching the manner in which that operation of changing my heart was to be performed, when Mrs. Reed interposed, telling me to sit down; she then proceeded to carry on the conversation herself.

“Mr. Brocklehurst, I believe I intimated in the letter which I wrote to you three weeks ago, that this little girl has not quite the character and disposition I could wish: should you admit her into Lowood school, I should be glad if the superintendent and teachers were requested to keep a strict eye on her, and, above all, to guard against her worst fault, a tendency to deceit.  I mention this in your hearing, Jane, that you may not attempt to impose on Mr. Brocklehurst.”

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 especial 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 mama 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 mama’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, square-shouldered 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 eye 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 still lay 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 I?  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!”

How dare I, Mrs. Ried?  How dare I?  Because it is the 
truth

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 voce; 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 meet 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; as 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 sequestrated; 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 grey day; a most opaque sky, “onding on snaw,” canopied all; thence flakes felt it 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 I 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 naughty 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 trunk.  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’m 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.

CHAPTER V

Five o’clock had hardly struck on the morning of the 19th of January, when Bessie brought a candle into my closet and found me already up and nearly dressed.  I had risen half-an-hour before her entrance, and had washed my face, and put on my clothes by the light of a half-moon just setting, whose rays streamed through the narrow window near my crib.  I was to leave Gateshead that day by a coach which passed the lodge gates at six a.m.  Bessie was the only person yet risen; she had lit a fire in the nursery, where she now proceeded to make my breakfast.  Few children can eat when excited with the thoughts of a journey; nor could I.  Bessie, having pressed me in vain to take a few spoonfuls of the boiled milk and bread she had prepared for me, wrapped up some biscuits in a paper and put them into my bag; then she helped me on with my pelisse and bonnet, and wrapping herself in a shawl, she and I left the nursery.  As we passed Mrs. Reed’s bedroom, she said, “Will you go in and bid Missis good-bye?”

“No, Bessie: she came to my crib last night when you were gone down to supper, and said I need not disturb her in the morning, or my cousins either; and she told me to remember that she had always been my best friend, and to speak of her and be grateful to her accordingly.”

“What did you say, Miss?”

“Nothing: I covered my face with the bedclothes, and turned from her to the wall.”

“That was wrong, Miss Jane.”

“It was quite right, Bessie.  Your Missis has not been my friend: she has been my foe.”

“O Miss Jane! don’t say so!”

“Good-bye to Gateshead!” cried I, as we passed through the hall and went out at the front door.

The moon was set, and it was very dark; Bessie carried a lantern, whose light glanced on wet steps and gravel road sodden by a recent thaw.  Raw and chill was the winter morning: my teeth chattered as I hastened down the drive.  There was a light in the porter’s lodge: when we reached it, we found the porter’s wife just kindling her fire: my trunk, which had been carried down the evening before, stood corded at the door.  It wanted but a few minutes of six, and shortly after that hour had struck, the distant roll of wheels announced the coming coach; I went to the door and watched its lamps approach rapidly through the gloom.

“Is she going by herself?” asked the porter’s wife.

“Yes.”

“And how far is it?”

“Fifty miles.”

“What a long way!  I wonder Mrs. Reed is not afraid to trust her so far alone.”

The coach drew up; there it was at the gates with its four horses and its top laden with passengers: the guard and coachman loudly urged haste; my trunk was hoisted up; I was taken from Bessie’s neck, to which I clung with kisses.

“Be sure and take good care of her,” cried she to the guard, as he lifted me into the inside.

“Ay, ay!” was the answer: the door was slapped to, a voice exclaimed “All right,” and on we drove.  Thus was I severed from Bessie and Gateshead; thus whirled away to unknown, and, as I then deemed, remote and mysterious regions.

I remember but little of the journey; I only know that the day seemed to me of a preternatural length, and that we appeared to travel over hundreds of miles of road.  We passed through several towns, and in one, a very large one, the coach stopped; the horses were taken out, and the passengers alighted to dine.  I was carried into an inn, where the guard wanted me to have some dinner; but, as I had no appetite, he left me in an immense room with a fireplace at each end, a chandelier pendent from the ceiling, and a little red gallery high up against the wall filled with musical instruments.  Here I walked about for a long time, feeling very strange, and mortally apprehensive of some one coming in and kidnapping me; for I believed in kidnappers, their exploits having frequently figured in Bessie’s fireside chronicles.  At last the guard returned; once more I was stowed away in the coach, my protector mounted his own seat, sounded his hollow horn, and away we rattled over the “stony street” of L-.

The afternoon came on wet and somewhat misty: as it waned into dusk, I began to feel that we were getting very far indeed from Gateshead: we ceased to pass through towns; the country changed; great grey hills heaved up round the horizon: as twilight deepened, we descended a valley, dark with wood, and long after night had overclouded the prospect, I heard a wild wind rushing amongst trees.

Lulled by the sound, I at last dropped asleep; I had not long slumbered when the sudden cessation of motion awoke me; the coach-door was open, and a person like a servant was standing at it: I saw her face and dress by the light of the lamps.

“Is there a little girl called Jane Eyre here?” she asked.  I answered “Yes,” and was then lifted out; my trunk was handed down, and the coach instantly drove away.

I was stiff with long sitting, and bewildered with the noise and motion of the coach: Gathering my faculties, I looked about me.  Rain, wind, and darkness filled the air; nevertheless, I dimly discerned a wall before me and a door open in it; through this door I passed with my new guide: she shut and locked it behind her.  There was now visible a house or houses—for the building spread far—with many windows, and lights burning in some; we went up a broad pebbly path, splashing wet, and were admitted at a door; then the servant led me through a passage into a room with a fire, where she left me alone.

I stood and warmed my numbed fingers over the blaze, then I looked round; there was no candle, but the uncertain light from the hearth showed, by intervals, papered walls, carpet, curtains, shining mahogany furniture: it was a parlour, not so spacious or splendid as the drawing-room at Gateshead, but comfortable enough.  I was puzzling to make out the subject of a picture on the wall, when the door opened, and an individual carrying a light entered; another followed close behind.

The first was a tall lady with dark hair, dark eyes, and a pale and large forehead; her figure was partly enveloped in a shawl, her countenance was grave, her bearing erect.

“The child is very young to be sent alone,” said she, putting her candle down on the table.  She considered me attentively for a minute or two, then further added—

“She had better be put to bed soon; she looks tired: are you tired?” she asked, placing her hand on my shoulder.

“A little, ma’am.”

“And hungry too, no doubt: let her have some supper before she goes to bed, Miss Miller.  Is this the first time you have left your parents to come to school, my little girl?”

I explained to her that I had no parents.  She inquired how long they had been dead: then how old I was, what was my name, whether I could read, write, and sew a little: then she touched my cheek gently with her forefinger, and saying, “She hoped I should be a good child,” dismissed me along with Miss Miller.

The lady I had left might be about twenty-nine; the one who went with me appeared some years younger: the first impressed me by her voice, look, and air.  Miss Miller was more ordinary; ruddy in complexion, though of a careworn countenance; hurried in gait and action, like one who had always a multiplicity of tasks on hand: she looked, indeed, what I afterwards found she really was, an under-teacher.  Led by her, I passed from compartment to compartment, from passage to passage, of a large and irregular building; till, emerging from the total and somewhat dreary silence pervading that portion of the house we had traversed, we came upon the hum of many voices, and presently entered a wide, long room, with great deal tables, two at each end, on each of which burnt a pair of candles, and seated all round on benches, a congregation of girls of every age, from nine or ten to twenty.  Seen by the dim light of the dips, their number to me appeared countless, though not in reality exceeding eighty; they were uniformly dressed in brown stuff frocks of quaint fashion, and long holland pinafores.  It was the hour of study; they were engaged in conning over their to-morrow’s task, and the hum I had heard was the combined result of their whispered repetitions.

Miss Miller signed to me to sit on a bench near the door, then walking up to the top of the long room she cried out—

“Monitors, collect the lesson-books and put them away!”

Four tall girls arose from different tables, and going round, gathered the books and removed them.  Miss Miller again gave the word of command—

“Monitors, fetch the supper-trays!”

The tall girls went out and returned presently, each bearing a tray, with portions of something, I knew not what, arranged thereon, and a pitcher of water and mug in the middle of each tray.  The portions were handed round; those who liked took a draught of the water, the mug being common to all.  When it came to my turn, I drank, for I was thirsty, but did not touch the food, excitement and fatigue rendering me incapable of eating: I now saw, however, that it was a thin oaten cake shared into fragments.

The meal over, prayers were read by Miss Miller, and the classes filed off, two and two, upstairs.  Overpowered by this time with weariness, I scarcely noticed what sort of a place the bedroom was, except that, like the schoolroom, I saw it was very long.  To-night I was to be Miss Miller’s bed-fellow; she helped me to undress: when laid down I glanced at the long rows of beds, each of which was quickly filled with two occupants; in ten minutes the single light was extinguished, and amidst silence and complete darkness I fell asleep.

The night passed rapidly.  I was too tired even to dream; I only once awoke to hear the wind rave in furious gusts, and the rain fall in torrents, and to be sensible that Miss Miller had taken her place by my side.  When I again unclosed my eyes, a loud bell was ringing; the girls were up and dressing; day had not yet begun to dawn, and a rushlight or two burned in the room.  I too rose reluctantly; it was bitter cold, and I dressed as well as I could for shivering, and washed when there was a basin at liberty, which did not occur soon, as there was but one basin to six girls, on the stands down the middle of the room.  Again the bell rang: all formed in file, two and two, and in that order descended the stairs and entered the cold and dimly lit schoolroom: here prayers were read by Miss Miller; afterwards she called out—

“Form classes!”

A great tumult succeeded for some minutes, during which Miss Miller repeatedly exclaimed, “Silence!” and “Order!”  When it subsided, I saw them all drawn up in four semicircles, before four chairs, placed at the four tables; all held books in their hands, and a great book, like a Bible, lay on each table, before the vacant seat.  A pause of some seconds succeeded, filled up by the low, vague hum of numbers; Miss Miller walked from class to class, hushing this indefinite sound.

A distant bell tinkled: immediately three ladies entered the room, each walked to a table and took her seat.  Miss Miller assumed the fourth vacant chair, which was that nearest the door, and around which the smallest of the children were assembled: to this inferior class I was called, and placed at the bottom of it.

Business now began, the day’s Collect was repeated, then certain texts of Scripture were said, and to these succeeded a protracted reading of chapters in the Bible, which lasted an hour.  By the time that exercise was terminated, day had fully dawned.  The indefatigable bell now sounded for the fourth time: the classes were marshalled and marched into another room to breakfast: how glad I was to behold a prospect of getting something to eat!  I was now nearly sick from inanition, having taken so little the day before.

The refectory was a great, low-ceiled, gloomy room; on two long tables smoked basins of something hot, which, however, to my dismay, sent forth an odour far from inviting.  I saw a universal manifestation of discontent when the fumes of the repast met the nostrils of those destined to swallow it; from the van of the procession, the tall girls of the first class, rose the whispered words—

“Disgusting!  The porridge is burnt again!”

“Silence!” ejaculated a voice; not that of Miss Miller, but one of the upper teachers, a little and dark personage, smartly dressed, but of somewhat morose aspect, who installed herself at the top of one table, while a more buxom lady presided at the other.  I looked in vain for her I had first seen the night before; she was not visible: Miss Miller occupied the foot of the table where I sat, and a strange, foreign-looking, elderly lady, the French teacher, as I afterwards found, took the corresponding seat at the other board.  A long grace was said and a hymn sung; then a servant brought in some tea for the teachers, and the meal began.

Ravenous, and now very faint, I devoured a spoonful or two of my portion without thinking of its taste; but the first edge of hunger blunted, I perceived I had got in hand a nauseous mess; burnt porridge is almost as bad as rotten potatoes; famine itself soon sickens over it.  The spoons were moved slowly: I saw each girl taste her food and try to swallow it; but in most cases the effort was soon relinquished.  Breakfast was over, and none had breakfasted.  Thanks being returned for what we had not got, and a second hymn chanted, the refectory was evacuated for the schoolroom.  I was one of the last to go out, and in passing the tables, I saw one teacher take a basin of the porridge and taste it; she looked at the others; all their countenances expressed displeasure, and one of them, the stout one, whispered—

“Abominable stuff!  How shameful!”

A quarter of an hour passed before lessons again began, during which the schoolroom was in a glorious tumult; for that space of time it seemed to be permitted to talk loud and more freely, and they used their privilege.  The whole conversation ran on the breakfast, which one and all abused roundly.  Poor things! it was the sole consolation they had.  Miss Miller was now the only teacher in the room: a group of great girls standing about her spoke with serious and sullen gestures.  I heard the name of Mr. Brocklehurst pronounced by some lips; at which Miss Miller shook her head disapprovingly; but she made no great effort to check the general wrath; doubtless she shared in it.

A clock in the schoolroom struck nine; Miss Miller left her circle, and standing in the middle of the room, cried—

“Silence!  To your seats!”

Discipline prevailed: in five minutes the confused throng was resolved into order, and comparative silence quelled the Babel clamour of tongues.  The upper teachers now punctually resumed their posts: but still, all seemed to wait.  Ranged on benches down the sides of the room, the eighty girls sat motionless and erect; a quaint assemblage they appeared, all with plain locks combed from their faces, not a curl visible; in brown dresses, made high and surrounded by a narrow tucker about the throat, with little pockets of holland (shaped something like a Highlander’s purse) tied in front of their frocks, and destined to serve the purpose of a work-bag: all, too, wearing woollen stockings and country-made shoes, fastened with brass buckles.  Above twenty of those clad in this costume were full-grown girls, or rather young women; it suited them ill, and gave an air of oddity even to the prettiest.

I was still looking at them, and also at intervals examining the teachers—none of whom precisely pleased me; for the stout one was a little coarse, the dark one not a little fierce, the foreigner harsh and grotesque, and Miss Miller, poor thing! looked purple, weather-beaten, and over-worked—when, as my eye wandered from face to face, the whole school rose simultaneously, as if moved by a common spring.

What was the matter?  I had heard no order given: I was puzzled.  Ere I had gathered my wits, the classes were again seated: but as all eyes were now turned to one point, mine followed the general direction, and encountered the personage who had received me last night.  She stood at the bottom of the long room, on the hearth; for there was a fire at each end; she surveyed the two rows of girls silently and gravely.  Miss Miller approaching, seemed to ask her a question, and having received her answer, went back to her place, and said aloud—

“Monitor of the first class, fetch the globes!”

While the direction was being executed, the lady consulted moved slowly up the room.  I suppose I have a considerable organ of veneration, for I retain yet the sense of admiring awe with which my eyes traced her steps.  Seen now, in broad daylight, she looked tall, fair, and shapely; brown eyes with a benignant light in their irids, and a fine pencilling of long lashes round, relieved the whiteness of her large front; on each of her temples her hair, of a very dark brown, was clustered in round curls, according to the fashion of those times, when neither smooth bands nor long ringlets were in vogue; her dress, also in the mode of the day, was of purple cloth, relieved by a sort of Spanish trimming of black velvet; a gold watch (watches were not so common then as now) shone at her girdle.  Let the reader add, to complete the picture, refined features; a complexion, if pale, clear; and a stately air and carriage, and he will have, at least, as clearly as words can give it, a correct idea of the exterior of Miss Temple—Maria Temple, as I afterwards saw the name written in a prayer-book intrusted to me to carry to church.

The superintendent of Lowood (for such was this lady) having taken her seat before a pair of globes placed on one of the tables, summoned the first class round her, and commenced giving a lesson on geography; the lower classes were called by the teachers: repetitions in history, grammar, &c., went on for an hour; writing and arithmetic succeeded, and music lessons were given by Miss Temple to some of the elder girls.  The duration of each lesson was measured by the clock, which at last struck twelve.  The superintendent rose—

“I have a word to address to the pupils,” said she.

The tumult of cessation from lessons was already breaking forth, but it sank at her voice.  She went on—

“You had this morning a breakfast which you could not eat; you must be hungry:—I have ordered that a lunch of bread and cheese shall be served to all.”

The teachers looked at her with a sort of surprise.

“It is to be done on my responsibility,” she added, in an explanatory tone to them, and immediately afterwards left the room.

The bread and cheese was presently brought in and distributed, to the high delight and refreshment of the whole school.  The order was now given “To the garden!”  Each put on a coarse straw bonnet, with strings of coloured calico, and a cloak of grey frieze.  I was similarly equipped, and, following the stream, I made my way into the open air.

The garden was a wide inclosure, surrounded with walls so high as to exclude every glimpse of prospect; a covered verandah ran down one side, and broad walks bordered a middle space divided into scores of little beds: these beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils to cultivate, and each bed had an owner.  When full of flowers they would doubtless look pretty; but now, at the latter end of January, all was wintry blight and brown decay.  I shuddered as I stood and looked round me: it was an inclement day for outdoor exercise; not positively rainy, but darkened by a drizzling yellow fog; all under foot was still soaking wet with the floods of yesterday.  The stronger among the girls ran about and engaged in active games, but sundry pale and thin ones herded together for shelter and warmth in the verandah; and amongst these, as the dense mist penetrated to their shivering frames, I heard frequently the sound of a hollow cough.

As yet I had spoken to no one, nor did anybody seem to take notice of me; I stood lonely enough: but to that feeling of isolation I was accustomed; it did not oppress me much.  I leant against a pillar of the verandah, drew my grey mantle close about me, and, trying to forget the cold which nipped me without, and the unsatisfied hunger which gnawed me within, delivered myself up to the employment of watching and thinking.  My reflections were too undefined and fragmentary to merit record: I hardly yet knew where I was; Gateshead and my past life seemed floated away to an immeasurable distance; the present was vague and strange, and of the future I could form no conjecture.  I looked round the convent-like garden, and then up at the house—a large building, half of which seemed grey and old, the other half quite new.  The new part, containing the schoolroom and dormitory, was lit by mullioned and latticed windows, which gave it a church-like aspect; a stone tablet over the door bore this inscription:—

“Lowood Institution.—This portion was rebuilt A.D. ---, by Naomi Brocklehurst, of Brocklehurst Hall, in this county.”  “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”—St. Matt. v. 16.

I read these words over and over again: I felt that an explanation belonged to them, and was unable fully to penetrate their import.  I was still pondering the signification of “Institution,” and endeavouring to make out a connection between the first words and the verse of Scripture, when the sound of a cough close behind me made me turn my head.  I saw a girl sitting on a stone bench near; she was bent over a book, on the perusal of which she seemed intent: from where I stood I could see the title—it was “Rasselas;” a name that struck me as strange, and consequently attractive.  In turning a leaf she happened to look up, and I said to her directly—

“Is your book interesting?”  I had already formed the intention of asking her to lend it to me some day.

“I like it,” she answered, after a pause of a second or two, during which she examined me.

“What is it about?” I continued.  I hardly know where I found the hardihood thus to open a conversation with a stranger; the step was contrary to my nature and habits: but I think her occupation touched a chord of sympathy somewhere; for I too liked reading, though of a frivolous and childish kind; I could not digest or comprehend the serious or substantial.

“You may look at it,” replied the girl, offering me the book.

I did so; a brief examination convinced me that the contents were less taking than the title: “Rasselas” looked dull to my trifling taste; I saw nothing about fairies, nothing about genii; no bright variety seemed spread over the closely-printed pages.  I returned it to her; she received it quietly, and without saying anything she was about to relapse into her former studious mood: again I ventured to disturb her—

“Can you tell me what the writing on that stone over the door means?  What is Lowood Institution?”

“This house where you are come to live.”

“And why do they call it Institution?  Is it in any way different from other schools?”

“It is partly a charity-school: you and I, and all the rest of us, are charity-children.  I suppose you are an orphan: are not either your father or your mother dead?”

“Both died before I can remember.”

“Well, all the girls here have lost either one or both parents, and this is called an institution for educating orphans.”

“Do we pay no money?  Do they keep us for nothing?”

“We pay, or our friends pay, fifteen pounds a year for each.”

“Then why do they call us charity-children?”

“Because fifteen pounds is not enough for board and teaching, and the deficiency is supplied by subscription.”

“Who subscribes?”

“Different benevolent-minded ladies and gentlemen in this neighbourhood and in London.”

“Who was Naomi Brocklehurst?”

“The lady who built the new part of this house as that tablet records, and whose son overlooks and directs everything here.”

“Why?”

“Because he is treasurer and manager of the establishment.”

“Then this house does not belong to that tall lady who wears a watch, and who said we were to have some bread and cheese?”

“To Miss Temple?  Oh, no!  I wish it did: she has to answer to Mr. Brocklehurst for all she does.  Mr. Brocklehurst buys all our food and all our clothes.”

“Does he live here?”

“No—two miles off, at a large hall.”

“Is he a good man?”

“He is a clergyman, and is said to do a great deal of good.”

“Did you say that tall lady was called Miss Temple?”

“Yes.”

“And what are the other teachers called?”

“The one with red cheeks is called Miss Smith; she attends to the work, and cuts out—for we make our own clothes, our frocks, and pelisses, and everything; the little one with black hair is Miss Scatcherd; she teaches history and grammar, and hears the second class repetitions; and the one who wears a shawl, and has a pocket-handkerchief tied to her side with a yellow ribband, is Madame Pierrot: she comes from Lisle, in France, and teaches French.”

“Do you like the teachers?”

“Well enough.”

“Do you like the little black one, and the Madame ---?—I cannot pronounce her name as you do.”

“Miss Scatcherd is hasty—you must take care not to offend her; Madame Pierrot is not a bad sort of person.”

“But Miss Temple is the best—isn’t she?”

“Miss Temple is very good and very clever; she is above the rest, because she knows far more than they do.”

“Have you been long here?”

“Two years.”

“Are you an orphan?”

“My mother is dead.”

“Are you happy here?”

“You ask rather too many questions.  I have given you answers enough for the present: now I want to read.”

But at that moment the summons sounded for dinner; all re-entered the house.  The odour which now filled the refectory was scarcely more appetising than that which had regaled our nostrils at breakfast: the dinner was served in two huge tin-plated vessels, whence rose a strong steam redolent of rancid fat.  I found the mess to consist of indifferent potatoes and strange shreds of rusty meat, mixed and cooked together.  Of this preparation a tolerably abundant plateful was apportioned to each pupil.  I ate what I could, and wondered within myself whether every day’s fare would be like this.

After dinner, we immediately adjourned to the schoolroom: lessons recommenced, and were continued till five o’clock.

The only marked event of the afternoon was, that I saw the girl with whom I had conversed in the verandah dismissed in disgrace by Miss Scatcherd from a history class, and sent to stand in the middle of the large schoolroom.  The punishment seemed to me in a high degree ignominious, especially for so great a girl—she looked thirteen or upwards.  I expected she would show signs of great distress and shame; but to my surprise she neither wept nor blushed: composed, though grave, she stood, the central mark of all eyes.  “How can she bear it so quietly—so firmly?” I asked of myself.  “Were I in her place, it seems to me I should wish the earth to open and swallow me up.  She looks as if she were thinking of something beyond her punishment—beyond her situation: of something not round her nor before her.  I have heard of day-dreams—is she in a day-dream now?  Her eyes are fixed on the floor, but I am sure they do not see it—her sight seems turned in, gone down into her heart: she is looking at what she can remember, I believe; not at what is really present.  I wonder what sort of a girl she is—whether good or naughty.”

Soon after five p.m. we had another meal, consisting of a small mug of coffee, and half-a-slice of brown bread.  I devoured my bread and drank my coffee with relish; but I should have been glad of as much more—I was still hungry.  Half-an-hour’s recreation succeeded, then study; then the glass of water and the piece of oat-cake, prayers, and bed.  Such was my first day at Lowood.

CHAPTER VI

The next day commenced as before, getting up and dressing by rushlight; but this morning we were obliged to dispense with the ceremony of washing; the water in the pitchers was frozen.  A change had taken place in the weather the preceding evening, and a keen north-east wind, whistling through the crevices of our bedroom windows all night long, had made us shiver in our beds, and turned the contents of the ewers to ice.

Before the long hour and a half of prayers and Bible-reading was over, I felt ready to perish with cold.  Breakfast-time came at last, and this morning the porridge was not burnt; the quality was eatable, the quantity small.  How small my portion seemed!  I wished it had been doubled.

In the course of the day I was enrolled a member of the fourth class, and regular tasks and occupations were assigned me: hitherto, I had only been a spectator of the proceedings at Lowood; I was now to become an actor therein.  At first, being little accustomed to learn by heart, the lessons appeared to me both long and difficult; the frequent change from task to task, too, bewildered me; and I was glad when, about three o’clock in the afternoon, Miss Smith put into my hands a border of muslin two yards long, together with needle, thimble, &c., and sent me to sit in a quiet corner of the schoolroom, with directions to hem the same.  At that hour most of the others were sewing likewise; but one class still stood round Miss Scatcherd’s chair reading, and as all was quiet, the subject of their lessons could be heard, together with the manner in which each girl acquitted herself, and the animadversions or commendations of Miss Scatcherd on the performance.  It was English history: among the readers I observed my acquaintance of the verandah: at the commencement of the lesson, her place had been at the top of the class, but for some error of pronunciation, or some inattention to stops, she was suddenly sent to the very bottom.  Even in that obscure position, Miss Scatcherd continued to make her an object of constant notice: she was continually addressing to her such phrases as the following:—

“Burns” (such it seems was her name: the girls here were all called by their surnames, as boys are elsewhere), “Burns, you are standing on the side of your shoe; turn your toes out immediately.”  “Burns, you poke your chin most unpleasantly; draw it in.”  “Burns, I insist on your holding your head up; I will not have you before me in that attitude,” &c. &c.

A chapter having been read through twice, the books were closed and the girls examined.  The lesson had comprised part of the reign of Charles I., and there were sundry questions about tonnage and poundage and ship-money, which most of them appeared unable to answer; still, every little difficulty was solved instantly when it reached Burns: her memory seemed to have retained the substance of the whole lesson, and she was ready with answers on every point.  I kept expecting that Miss Scatcherd would praise her attention; but, instead of that, she suddenly cried out—

“You dirty, disagreeable girl! you have never cleaned your nails this morning!”

Burns made no answer: I wondered at her silence.  “Why,” thought I, “does she not explain that she could neither clean her nails nor wash her face, as the water was frozen?”

My attention was now called off by Miss Smith desiring me to hold a skein of thread: while she was winding it, she talked to me from time to time, asking whether I had ever been at school before, whether I could mark, stitch, knit, &c.; till she dismissed me, I could not pursue my observations on Miss Scatcherd’s movements.  When I returned to my seat, that lady was just delivering an order of which I did not catch the import; but Burns immediately left the class, and going into the small inner room where the books were kept, returned in half a minute, carrying in her hand a bundle of twigs tied together at one end.  This ominous tool she presented to Miss Scatcherd with a respectful curtesy; then she quietly, and without being told, unloosed her pinafore, and the teacher instantly and sharply inflicted on her neck a dozen strokes with the bunch of twigs.  Not a tear rose to Burns’ eye; and, while I paused from my sewing, because my fingers quivered at this spectacle with a sentiment of unavailing and impotent anger, not a feature of her pensive face altered its ordinary expression.

“Hardened girl!” exclaimed Miss Scatcherd; “nothing can correct you of your slatternly habits: carry the rod away.”

Burns obeyed: I looked at her narrowly as she emerged from the book-closet; she was just putting back her handkerchief into her pocket, and the trace of a tear glistened on her thin cheek.

The play-hour in the evening I thought the pleasantest fraction of the day at Lowood: the bit of bread, the draught of coffee swallowed at five o’clock had revived vitality, if it had not satisfied hunger: the long restraint of the day was slackened; the schoolroom felt warmer than in the morning—its fires being allowed to burn a little more brightly, to supply, in some measure, the place of candles, not yet introduced: the ruddy gloaming, the licensed uproar, the confusion of many voices gave one a welcome sense of liberty.

On the evening of the day on which I had seen Miss Scatcherd flog her pupil, Burns, I wandered as usual among the forms and tables and laughing groups without a companion, yet not feeling lonely: when I passed the windows, I now and then lifted a blind, and looked out; it snowed fast, a drift was already forming against the lower panes; putting my ear close to the window, I could distinguish from the gleeful tumult within, the disconsolate moan of the wind outside.

Probably, if I had lately left a good home and kind parents, this would have been the hour when I should most keenly have regretted the separation; that wind would then have saddened my heart; this obscure chaos would have disturbed my peace! as it was, I derived from both a strange excitement, and reckless and feverish, I wished the wind to howl more wildly, the gloom to deepen to darkness, and the confusion to rise to clamour.

Jumping over forms, and creeping under tables, I made my way to one of the fire-places; there, kneeling by the high wire fender, I found Burns, absorbed, silent, abstracted from all round her by the companionship of a book, which she read by the dim glare of the embers.

“Is it still ‘Rasselas’?” I asked, coming behind her.

“Yes,” she said, “and I have just finished it.”

And in five minutes more she shut it up.  I was glad of this.  “Now,” thought I, “I can perhaps get her to talk.”  I sat down by her on the floor.

“What is your name besides Burns?”

“Helen.”

“Do you come a long way from here?”

“I come from a place farther north, quite on the borders of Scotland.”

“Will you ever go back?”

“I hope so; but nobody can be sure of the future.”

“You must wish to leave Lowood?”

“No! why should I?  I was sent to Lowood to get an education; and it would be of no use going away until I have attained that object.”

“But that teacher, Miss Scatcherd, is so cruel to you?”

“Cruel?  Not at all!  She is severe: she dislikes my faults.”

“And if I were in your place I should dislike her; I should resist her.  If she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her hand; I should break it under her nose.”

“Probably you would do nothing of the sort: but if you did, Mr. Brocklehurst would expel you from the school; that would be a great grief to your relations.  It is far better to endure patiently a smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you; and besides, the Bible bids us return good for evil.”

“But then it seems disgraceful to be flogged, and to be sent to stand in the middle of a room full of people; and you are such a great girl: I am far younger than you, and I could not bear it.”

“Yet it would be your duty to bear it, if you could not avoid it: it is weak and silly to say you cannot bear what it is your fate to be required to bear.”

I heard her with wonder: I could not comprehend this doctrine of endurance; and still less could I understand or sympathise with the forbearance she expressed for her chastiser.  Still I felt that Helen Burns considered things by a light invisible to my eyes.  I suspected she might be right and I wrong; but I would not ponder the matter deeply; like Felix, I put it off to a more convenient season.

“You say you have faults, Helen: what are they?  To me you seem very good.”

“Then learn from me, not to judge by appearances: I am, as Miss Scatcherd said, slatternly; I seldom put, and never keep, things, in order; I am careless; I forget rules; I read when I should learn my lessons; I have no method; and sometimes I say, like you, I cannot bear to be subjected to systematic arrangements.  This is all very provoking to Miss Scatcherd, who is naturally neat, punctual, and particular.”

“And cross and cruel,” I added; but Helen Burns would not admit my addition: she kept silence.

“Is Miss Temple as severe to you as Miss Scatcherd?”

At the utterance of Miss Temple’s name, a soft smile flitted over her grave face.

“Miss Temple is full of goodness; it pains her to be severe to any one, even the worst in the school: she sees my errors, and tells me of them gently; and, if I do anything worthy of praise, she gives me my meed liberally.  One strong proof of my wretchedly defective nature is, that even her expostulations, so mild, so rational, have not influence to cure me of my faults; and even her praise, though I value it most highly, cannot stimulate me to continued care and foresight.”

“That is curious,” said I, “it is so easy to be careful.”

“For you I have no doubt it is.  I observed you in your class this morning, and saw you were closely attentive: your thoughts never seemed to wander while Miss Miller explained the lesson and questioned you.  Now, mine continually rove away; when I should be listening to Miss Scatcherd, and collecting all she says with assiduity, often I lose the very sound of her voice; I fall into a sort of dream.  Sometimes I think I am in Northumberland, and that the noises I hear round me are the bubbling of a little brook which runs through Deepden, near our house;—then, when it comes to my turn to reply, I have to be awakened; and having heard nothing of what was read for listening to the visionary brook, I have no answer ready.”

“Yet how well you replied this afternoon.”

“It was mere chance; the subject on which we had been reading had interested me.  This afternoon, instead of dreaming of Deepden, I was wondering how a man who wished to do right could act so unjustly and unwisely as Charles the First sometimes did; and I thought what a pity it was that, with his integrity and conscientiousness, he could see no farther than the prerogatives of the crown.  If he had but been able to look to a distance, and see how what they call the spirit of the age was tending!  Still, I like Charles—I respect him—I pity him, poor murdered king!  Yes, his enemies were the worst: they shed blood they had no right to shed.  How dared they kill him!”

Helen was talking to herself now: she had forgotten I could not very well understand her—that I was ignorant, or nearly so, of the subject she discussed.  I recalled her to my level.

“And when Miss Temple teaches you, do your thoughts wander then?”

“No, certainly, not often; because Miss Temple has generally something to say which is newer than my own reflections; her language is singularly agreeable to me, and the information she communicates is often just what I wished to gain.”

“Well, then, with Miss Temple you are good?”

“Yes, in a passive way: I make no effort; I follow as inclination guides me.  There is no merit in such goodness.”

“A great deal: you are good to those who are good to you.  It is all I ever desire to be.  If people were always kind and obedient to those who are cruel and unjust, the wicked people would have it all their own way: they would never feel afraid, and so they would never alter, but would grow worse and worse.  When we are struck at without a reason, we should strike back again very hard; I am sure we should—so hard as to teach the person who struck us never to do it again.”

“You will change your mind, I hope, when you grow older: as yet you are but a little untaught girl.”

“But I feel this, Helen; I must dislike those who, whatever I do to please them, persist in disliking me; I must resist those who punish me unjustly.  It is as natural as that I should love those who show me affection, or submit to punishment when I feel it is deserved.”

“Heathens and savage tribes hold that doctrine, but Christians and civilised nations disown it.”

“How?  I don’t understand.”

“It is not violence that best overcomes hate—nor vengeance that most certainly heals injury.”

“What then?”

“Read the New Testament, and observe what Christ says, and how He acts; make His word your rule, and His conduct your example.”

“What does He say?”

“Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you.”

“Then I should love Mrs. Reed, which I cannot do; I should bless her son John, which is impossible.”

In her turn, Helen Burns asked me to explain, and I proceeded forthwith to pour out, in my own way, the tale of my sufferings and resentments.  Bitter and truculent when excited, I spoke as I felt, without reserve or softening.

Helen heard me patiently to the end: I expected she would then make a remark, but she said nothing.

“Well,” I asked impatiently, “is not Mrs. Reed a hard-hearted, bad woman?”

“She has been unkind to you, no doubt; because you see, she dislikes your cast of character, as Miss Scatcherd does mine; but how minutely you remember all she has done and said to you!  What a singularly deep impression her injustice seems to have made on your heart!  No ill-usage so brands its record on my feelings.  Would you not be happier if you tried to forget her severity, together with the passionate emotions it excited?  Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.  We are, and must be, one and all, burdened with faults in this world: but the time will soon come when, I trust, we shall put them off in putting off our corruptible bodies; when debasement and sin will fall from us with this cumbrous frame of flesh, and only the spark of the spirit will remain,—the impalpable principle of light and thought, pure as when it left the Creator to inspire the creature: whence it came it will return; perhaps again to be communicated to some being higher than man—perhaps to pass through gradations of glory, from the pale human soul to brighten to the seraph!  Surely it will never, on the contrary, be suffered to degenerate from man to fiend?  No; I cannot believe that: I hold another creed: which no one ever taught me, and which I seldom mention; but in which I delight, and to which I cling: for it extends hope to all: it makes Eternity a rest—a mighty home, not a terror and an abyss.  Besides, with this creed, I can so clearly distinguish between the criminal and his crime; I can so sincerely forgive the first while I abhor the last: with this creed revenge never worries my heart, degradation never too deeply disgusts me, injustice never crushes me too low: I live in calm, looking to the end.”

Helen’s head, always drooping, sank a little lower as she finished this sentence.  I saw by her look she wished no longer to talk to me, but rather to converse with her own thoughts.  She was not allowed much time for meditation: a monitor, a great rough girl, presently came up, exclaiming in a strong Cumberland accent—

“Helen Burns, if you don’t go and put your drawer in order, and fold up your work this minute, I’ll tell Miss Scatcherd to come and look at it!”

Helen sighed as her reverie fled, and getting up, obeyed the monitor without reply as without delay.

CHAPTER VII

My first quarter at Lowood seemed an age; and not the golden age either; it comprised an irksome struggle with difficulties in habituating myself to new rules and unwonted tasks.  The fear of failure in these points harassed me worse than the physical hardships of my lot; though these were no trifles.

During January, February, and part of March, the deep snows, and, after their melting, the almost impassable roads, prevented our stirring beyond the garden walls, except to go to church; but within these limits we had to pass an hour every day in the open air.  Our clothing was insufficient to protect us from the severe cold: we had no boots, the snow got into our shoes and melted there: our ungloved hands became numbed and covered with chilblains, as were our feet: I remember well the distracting irritation I endured from this cause every evening, when my feet inflamed; and the torture of thrusting the swelled, raw, and stiff toes into my shoes in the morning.  Then the scanty supply of food was distressing: with the keen appetites of growing children, we had scarcely sufficient to keep alive a delicate invalid.  From this deficiency of nourishment resulted an abuse, which pressed hardly on the younger pupils: whenever the famished great girls had an opportunity, they would coax or menace the little ones out of their portion.  Many a time I have shared between two claimants the precious morsel of brown bread distributed at tea-time; and after relinquishing to a third half the contents of my mug of coffee, I have swallowed the remainder with an accompaniment of secret tears, forced from me by the exigency of hunger.

Sundays were dreary days in that wintry season.  We had to walk two miles to Brocklebridge Church, where our patron officiated.  We set out cold, we arrived at church colder: during the morning service we became almost paralysed.  It was too far to return to dinner, and an allowance of cold meat and bread, in the same penurious proportion observed in our ordinary meals, was served round between the services.

At the close of the afternoon service we returned by an exposed and hilly road, where the bitter winter wind, blowing over a range of snowy summits to the north, almost flayed the skin from our faces.

I can remember Miss Temple walking lightly and rapidly along our drooping line, her plaid cloak, which the frosty wind fluttered, gathered close about her, and encouraging us, by precept and example, to keep up our spirits, and march forward, as she said, “like stalwart soldiers.”  The other teachers, poor things, were generally themselves too much dejected to attempt the task of cheering others.

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.

I had my own reasons for being dismayed at this apparition; too well I remembered the perfidious hints given by Mrs. Reed about my disposition, &c.; the promise pledged by Mr. Brocklehurst to apprise Miss Temple and the teachers of my vicious nature.  All along I had been dreading the fulfilment of this promise,—I had been looking out daily for the “Coming Man,” whose information respecting my past life and conversation was to brand me as a bad child for ever: now there he was.

He stood at Miss Temple’s side; he was speaking low in her ear: I did not doubt he was making disclosures of my villainy; and I watched her eye with painful anxiety, expecting every moment to see its dark orb turn on me a glance of repugnance and contempt.  I listened too; and as I happened to be seated quite at the top of the room, I caught most of what he said: its import relieved me from immediate apprehension.

“I suppose, Miss Temple, the thread I bought at Lowton will do; it struck me that it would be just of the quality for the calico chemises, and I sorted the needles to match.  You may tell Miss Smith that I forgot to make a memorandum of the darning needles, but she shall have some papers sent in next week; and she is not, on any account, to give out more than one at a time to each pupil: if they have more, they are apt to be careless and lose them.  And, O ma’am!  I wish the woollen stockings were better looked to!—when I was here last, I went into the kitchen-garden and examined the clothes drying on the line; there was a quantity of black hose in a very bad state of repair: from the size of the holes in them I was sure they had not been well mended from time to time.”

He paused.

“Your directions shall be attended to, sir,” said Miss Temple.

“And, ma’am,” he continued, “the laundress tells me some of the girls have two clean tuckers in the week: it is too much; the rules limit them to one.”

“I think I can explain that circumstance, sir.  Agnes and Catherine Johnstone were invited to take tea with some friends at Lowton last Thursday, and I gave them leave to put on clean tuckers for the occasion.”

Mr. Brocklehurst nodded.

“Well, for once it may pass; but please not to let the circumstance occur too often.  And there is another thing which surprised me; I find, in settling accounts with the housekeeper, that a lunch, consisting of bread and cheese, has twice been served out to the girls during the past fortnight.  How is this?  I looked over the regulations, and I find no such meal as lunch mentioned.  Who introduced this innovation? and by what authority?”

“I must be responsible for the circumstance, sir,” replied Miss Temple: “the breakfast was so ill prepared that the pupils could not possibly eat it; and I dared not allow them to remain fasting till dinner-time.”

“Madam, allow me an instant.  You are aware that my plan in bringing up these girls is, not to accustom them to habits of luxury and indulgence, but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying.  Should any little accidental disappointment of the appetite occur, such as the spoiling of a meal, the under or the over dressing of a dish, the incident ought not to be neutralised by replacing with something more delicate the comfort lost, thus pampering the body and obviating the aim of this institution; it ought to be improved to the spiritual edification of the pupils, by encouraging them to evince fortitude under temporary privation.  A brief address on those occasions would not be mistimed, wherein a judicious instructor would take the opportunity of referring to the sufferings of the primitive Christians; to the torments of martyrs; to the exhortations of our blessed Lord Himself, calling upon His disciples to take up their cross and follow Him; to His warnings that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God; to His divine consolations, “If ye suffer hunger or thirst for My sake, happy are ye.”  Oh, madam, when you put bread and cheese, instead of burnt porridge, into these children’s mouths, you may indeed feed their vile bodies, but you little think how you starve their immortal souls!”

Mr. Brocklehurst again paused—perhaps overcome by his feelings.  Miss Temple had looked down when he first began to speak to her; but she now gazed straight before her, and her face, naturally pale as marble, appeared to be assuming also the coldness and fixity of that material; especially her mouth, closed as if it would have required a sculptor’s chisel to open it, and her brow settled gradually into petrified severity.

Meantime, Mr. Brocklehurst, standing on the hearth with his hands behind his back, majestically surveyed the whole school.  Suddenly his eye gave a blink, as if it had met something that either dazzled or shocked its pupil; turning, he said in more rapid accents than he had hitherto used—

“Miss Temple, Miss Temple, what—what is that girl with curled hair?  Red hair, ma’am, curled—curled all over?”  And extending his cane he pointed to the awful object, his hand shaking as he did so.

“It is Julia Severn,” replied Miss Temple, very quietly.

“Julia Severn, ma’am!  And why has she, or any other, curled hair?  Why, in defiance of every precept and principle of this house, does she conform to the world so openly—here in an evangelical, charitable establishment—as to wear her hair one mass of curls?”

“Julia’s hair curls naturally,” returned Miss Temple, still more quietly.

“Naturally!  Yes, but we are not to conform to nature; I wish these girls to be the children of Grace: and why that abundance?  I have again and again intimated that I desire the hair to be arranged closely, modestly, plainly.  Miss Temple, that girl’s hair must be cut off entirely; I will send a barber to-morrow: and I see others who have far too much of the excrescence—that tall girl, tell her to turn round.  Tell all the first form to rise up and direct their faces to the wall.”

Miss Temple passed her handkerchief over her lips, as if to smooth away the involuntary smile that curled them; she gave the order, however, and when the first class could take in what was required of them, they obeyed.  Leaning a little back on my bench, I could see the looks and grimaces with which they commented on this manoeuvre: it was a pity Mr. Brocklehurst could not see them too; he would perhaps have felt that, whatever he might do with the outside of the cup and platter, the inside was further beyond his interference than he imagined.

He scrutinised the reverse of these living medals some five minutes, then pronounced sentence.  These words fell like the knell of doom—

“All those top-knots must be cut off.”

Miss Temple seemed to remonstrate.

“Madam,” he pursued, “I have a Master to serve whose kingdom is not of this world: my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts of the flesh; to teach them to clothe themselves with shame-facedness and sobriety, not with braided hair and costly apparel; and each of the young persons before us has a string of hair twisted in plaits which vanity itself might have woven; these, I repeat, must be cut off; think of the time wasted, of—”

Mr. Brocklehurst was here interrupted: three other visitors, ladies, now entered the room.  They ought to have come a little sooner to have heard his lecture on dress, for they were splendidly attired in velvet, silk, and furs.  The two younger of the trio (fine girls of sixteen and seventeen) had grey beaver hats, then in fashion, shaded with ostrich plumes, and from under the brim of this graceful head-dress fell a profusion of light tresses, elaborately curled; the elder lady was enveloped in a costly velvet shawl, trimmed with ermine, and she wore a false front of French curls.

These ladies were deferentially received by Miss Temple, as Mrs. and the Misses Brocklehurst, and conducted to seats of honour at the top of the room.  It seems they had come in the carriage with their reverend relative, and had been conducting a rummaging scrutiny of the room upstairs, while he transacted business with the housekeeper, questioned the laundress, and lectured the superintendent.  They now proceeded to address divers remarks and reproofs to Miss Smith, who was charged with the care of the linen and the inspection of the dormitories: but I had no time to listen to what they said; other matters called off and enchanted my attention.

Hitherto, while gathering up the discourse of Mr. Brocklehurst and Miss Temple, I had not, at the same time, neglected precautions to secure my personal safety; which I thought would be effected, if I could only elude observation.  To this end, I had sat well back on the form, and while seeming to be busy with my sum, had held my slate in such a manner as to conceal my face: I might have escaped notice, had not my treacherous slate somehow happened to slip from my hand, and falling with an obtrusive crash, directly drawn every eye upon me; I knew it was all over now, and, as I stooped to pick up the two fragments of slate, I rallied my forces for the worst.  It came.

“A careless girl!” said Mr. Brocklehurst, and immediately after—“It is the new pupil, I perceive.”  And before I could draw breath, “I must not forget I have a word to say respecting her.”  Then aloud: how loud it seemed to me!  “Let the child who broke her slate come forward!”

Of my own accord I could not have stirred; I was paralysed: but the two great girls who sit on each side of me, set me on my legs and pushed me towards the dread judge, and then Miss Temple gently assisted me to his very feet, and I caught her whispered counsel—

“Don’t be afraid, Jane, I saw it was an accident; you shall not be punished.”

The kind whisper went to my heart like a dagger.

“Another minute, and she will despise me for a hypocrite,” thought I; and an impulse of fury against Reed, Brocklehurst, and Co. bounded in my pulses at the conviction.  I was no Helen Burns.

“Fetch that stool,” said Mr. Brocklehurst, pointing to a very high one from which a monitor had just risen: it was brought.

“Place the child upon it.”

And I was placed there, by whom I don’t know: I was in no condition to note particulars; I was only aware that they had hoisted me up to the height of Mr. Brocklehurst’s nose, that he was within a yard of me, and that a spread of shot orange and purple silk pelisses and a cloud of silvery plumage extended and waved below me.

Mr. Brocklehurst hemmed.

“Ladies,” said he, turning to his family, “Miss Temple, teachers, and children, you all see this girl?”

Of course they did; for I felt their eyes directed like burning-glasses against my scorched skin.

“You see she is yet young; you observe she possesses the ordinary form of childhood; God has graciously given her the shape that He has given to all of us; no signal deformity points her out as a marked character.  Who would think that the Evil One had already found a servant and agent in her?  Yet such, I grieve to say, is the case.”

A pause—in which I began to steady the palsy of my nerves, and to feel that the Rubicon was passed; and that the trial, no longer to be shirked, must be firmly sustained.

“My dear children,” pursued the black marble clergyman, with pathos, “this is a sad, a melancholy occasion; for it becomes my duty to warn you, that this girl, who might be one of God’s own lambs, is a little castaway: not a member of the true flock, but evidently an interloper and an alien.  You must be on your guard against her; you must shun her example; if necessary, avoid her company, exclude her from your sports, and shut her out from your converse.  Teachers, you must watch her: keep your eyes on her movements, weigh well her words, scrutinise her actions, punish her body to save her soul: if, indeed, such salvation be possible, for (my tongue falters while I tell it) this girl, this child, the native of a Christian land, worse than many a little heathen who says its prayers to Brahma and kneels before Juggernaut—this girl is—a liar!”

Now came a pause of ten minutes, during which I, by this time in perfect possession of my wits, observed all the female Brocklehursts produce their pocket-handkerchiefs and apply them to their optics, while the elderly lady swayed herself to and fro, and the two younger ones whispered, “How shocking!”  Mr. Brocklehurst resumed.

“This I learned from her benefactress; from the pious and charitable lady who adopted her in her orphan state, reared her as her own daughter, and whose kindness, whose generosity the unhappy girl repaid by an ingratitude so bad, so dreadful, that at last her excellent patroness was obliged to separate her from her own young ones, fearful lest her vicious example should contaminate their purity: she has sent her here to be healed, even as the Jews of old sent their diseased to the troubled pool of Bethesda; and, teachers, superintendent, I beg of you not to allow the waters to stagnate round her.”

With this sublime conclusion, Mr. Brocklehurst adjusted the top button of his surtout, muttered something to his family, who rose, bowed to Miss Temple, and then all the great people sailed in state from the room.  Turning at the door, my judge said—

“Let her stand half-an-hour longer on that stool, and let no one speak to her during the remainder of the day.”

There was I, then, mounted aloft; I, who had said I could not bear the shame of standing on my natural feet in the middle of the room, was now exposed to general view on a pedestal of infamy.  What my sensations were no language can describe; but just as they all rose, stifling my breath and constricting my throat, a girl came up and passed me: in passing, she lifted her eyes.  What a strange light inspired them!  What an extraordinary sensation that ray sent through me!  How the new feeling bore me up!  It was as if a martyr, a hero, had passed a slave or victim, and imparted strength in the transit.  I mastered the rising hysteria, lifted up my head, and took a firm stand on the stool.  Helen Burns asked some slight question about her work of Miss Smith, was chidden for the triviality of the inquiry, returned to her place, and smiled at me as she again went by.  What a smile!  I remember it now, and I know that it was the effluence of fine intellect, of true courage; it lit up her marked lineaments, her thin face, her sunken grey eye, like a reflection from the aspect of an angel.  Yet at that moment Helen Burns wore on her arm “the untidy badge;” scarcely an hour ago I had heard her condemned by Miss Scatcherd to a dinner of bread and water on the morrow because she had blotted an exercise in copying it out.  Such is the imperfect nature of man! such spots are there on the disc of the clearest planet; and eyes like Miss Scatcherd’s can only see those minute defects, and are blind to the full brightness of the orb.

CHAPTER VIII

Ere the half-hour ended, five o’clock struck; school was dismissed, and all were gone into the refectory to tea.  I now ventured to descend: it was deep dusk; I retired into a corner and sat down on the floor.  The spell by which I had been so far supported began to dissolve; reaction took place, and soon, so overwhelming was the grief that seized me, I sank prostrate with my face to the ground.  Now I wept: Helen Burns was not here; nothing sustained me; left to myself I abandoned myself, and my tears watered the boards.  I had meant to be so good, and to do so much at Lowood: to make so many friends, to earn respect and win affection.  Already I had made visible progress: that very morning I had reached the head of my class; Miss Miller had praised me warmly; Miss Temple had smiled approbation; she had promised to teach me drawing, and to let me learn French, if I continued to make similar improvement two months longer: and then I was well received by my fellow-pupils; treated as an equal by those of my own age, and not molested by any; now, here I lay again crushed and trodden on; and could I ever rise more?

“Never,” I thought; and ardently I wished to die.  While sobbing out this wish in broken accents, some one approached: I started up—again Helen Burns was near me; the fading fires just showed her coming up the long, vacant room; she brought my coffee and bread.

“Come, eat something,” she said; but I put both away from me, feeling as if a drop or a crumb would have choked me in my present condition.  Helen regarded me, probably with surprise: I could not now abate my agitation, though I tried hard; I continued to weep aloud.  She sat down on the ground near me, embraced her knees with her arms, and rested her head upon them; in that attitude she remained silent as an Indian.  I was the first who spoke—

“Helen, why do you stay with a girl whom everybody believes to be a liar?”

“Everybody, Jane?  Why, there are only eighty people who have heard you called so, and the world contains hundreds of millions.”

“But what have I to do with millions?  The eighty, I know, despise me.”

“Jane, you are mistaken: probably not one in the school either despises or dislikes you: many, I am sure, pity you much.”

“How can they pity me after what Mr. Brocklehurst has said?”

“Mr. Brocklehurst is not a god: nor is he even a great and admired man: he is little liked here; he never took steps to make himself liked.  Had he treated you as an especial favourite, you would have found enemies, declared or covert, all around you; as it is, the greater number would offer you sympathy if they dared.  Teachers and pupils may look coldly on you for a day or two, but friendly feelings are concealed in their hearts; and if you persevere in doing well, these feelings will ere long appear so much the more evidently for their temporary suppression.  Besides, Jane”—she paused.

“Well, Helen?” said I, putting my hand into hers: she chafed my fingers gently to warm them, and went on—

“If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.”

“No; I know I should think well of myself; but that is not enough: if others don’t love me I would rather die than live—I cannot bear to be solitary and hated, Helen.  Look here; to gain some real affection from you, or Miss Temple, or any other whom I truly love, I would willingly submit to have the bone of my arm broken, or to let a bull toss me, or to stand behind a kicking horse, and let it dash its hoof at my chest—”

“Hush, Jane! you think too much of the love of human beings; you are too impulsive, too vehement; the sovereign hand that created your frame, and put life into it, has provided you with other resources than your feeble self, or than creatures feeble as you.  Besides this earth, and besides the race of men, there is an invisible world and a kingdom of spirits: that world is round us, for it is everywhere; and those spirits watch us, for they are commissioned to guard us; and if we were dying in pain and shame, if scorn smote us on all sides, and hatred crushed us, angels see our tortures, recognise our innocence (if innocent we be: as I know you are of this charge which Mr. Brocklehurst has weakly and pompously repeated at second-hand from Mrs. Reed; for I read a sincere nature in your ardent eyes and on your clear front), and God waits only the separation of spirit from flesh to crown us with a full reward.  Why, then, should we ever sink overwhelmed with distress, when life is so soon over, and death is so certain an entrance to happiness—to glory?”

I was silent; Helen had calmed me; but in the tranquillity she imparted there was an alloy of inexpressible sadness.  I felt the impression of woe as she spoke, but I could not tell whence it came; and when, having done speaking, she breathed a little fast and coughed a short cough, I momentarily forgot my own sorrows to yield to a vague concern for her.

Resting my head on Helen’s shoulder, I put my arms round her waist; she drew me to her, and we reposed in silence.  We had not sat long thus, when another person came in.  Some heavy clouds, swept from the sky by a rising wind, had left the moon bare; and her light, streaming in through a window near, shone full both on us and on the approaching figure, which we at once recognised as Miss Temple.

“I came on purpose to find you, Jane Eyre,” said she; “I want you in my room; and as Helen Burns is with you, she may come too.”

We went; following the superintendent’s guidance, we had to thread some intricate passages, and mount a staircase before we reached her apartment; it contained a good fire, and looked cheerful.  Miss Temple told Helen Burns to be seated in a low arm-chair on one side of the hearth, and herself taking another, she called me to her side.

“Is it all over?” she asked, looking down at my face.  “Have you cried your grief away?”

“I am afraid I never shall do that.”

“Why?”

“Because I have been wrongly accused; and you, ma’am, and everybody else, will now think me wicked.”

“We shall think you what you prove yourself to be, my child.  Continue to act as a good girl, and you will satisfy us.”

“Shall I, Miss Temple?”

“You will,” said she, passing her arm round me.  “And now tell me who is the lady whom Mr. Brocklehurst called your benefactress?”

“Mrs. Reed, my uncle’s wife.  My uncle is dead, and he left me to her care.”

“Did she not, then, adopt you of her own accord?”

“No, ma’am; she was sorry to have to do it: but my uncle, as I have often heard the servants say, got her to promise before he died that she would always keep me.”

“Well now, Jane, you know, or at least I will tell you, that when a criminal is accused, he is always allowed to speak in his own defence.  You have been charged with falsehood; defend yourself to me as well as you can.  Say whatever your memory suggests is true; but add nothing and exaggerate nothing.”

I resolved, in the depth of my heart, that I would be most moderate—most correct; and, having reflected a few minutes in order to arrange coherently what I had to say, I told her all the story of my sad childhood.  Exhausted by emotion, my language was more subdued than it generally was when it developed that sad theme; and mindful of Helen’s warnings against the indulgence of resentment, I infused into the narrative far less of gall and wormwood than ordinary.  Thus restrained and simplified, it sounded more credible: I felt as I went on that Miss Temple fully believed me.

In the course of the tale I had mentioned Mr. Lloyd as having come to see me after the fit: for I never forgot the, to me, frightful episode of the red-room: in detailing which, my excitement was sure, in some degree, to break bounds; for nothing could soften in my recollection the spasm of agony which clutched my heart when Mrs. Reed spurned my wild supplication for pardon, and locked me a second time in the dark and haunted chamber.

I had finished: Miss Temple regarded me a few minutes in silence; she then said—

“I know something of Mr. Lloyd; I shall write to him; if his reply agrees with your statement, you shall be publicly cleared from every imputation; to me, Jane, you are clear now.”

She kissed me, and still keeping me at her side (where I was well contented to stand, for I derived a child’s pleasure from the contemplation of her face, her dress, her one or two ornaments, her white forehead, her clustered and shining curls, and beaming dark eyes), she proceeded to address Helen Burns.

“How are you to-night, Helen?  Have you coughed much to-day?”

“Not quite so much, I think, ma’am.”

“And the pain in your chest?”

“It is a little better.”

Miss Temple got up, took her hand and examined her pulse; then she returned to her own seat: as she resumed it, I heard her sigh low.  She was pensive a few minutes, then rousing herself, she said cheerfully—

“But you two are my visitors to-night; I must treat you as such.”  She rang her bell.

“Barbara,” she said to the servant who answered it, “I have not yet had tea; bring the tray and place cups for these two young ladies.”

And a tray was soon brought.  How pretty, to my eyes, did the china cups and bright teapot look, placed on the little round table near the fire!  How fragrant was the steam of the beverage, and the scent of the toast! of which, however, I, to my dismay (for I was beginning to be hungry) discerned only a very small portion: Miss Temple discerned it too.

“Barbara,” said she, “can you not bring a little more bread and butter?  There is not enough for three.”

Barbara went out: she returned soon—

“Madam, Mrs. Harden says she has sent up the usual quantity.”

Mrs. Harden, be it observed, was the housekeeper: a woman after Mr. Brocklehurst’s own heart, made up of equal parts of whalebone and iron.

“Oh, very well!” returned Miss Temple; “we must make it do, Barbara, I suppose.”  And as the girl withdrew she added, smiling, “Fortunately, I have it in my power to supply deficiencies for this once.”

Having invited Helen and me to approach the table, and placed before each of us a cup of tea with one delicious but thin morsel of toast, she got up, unlocked a drawer, and taking from it a parcel wrapped in paper, disclosed presently to our eyes a good-sized seed-cake.

“I meant to give each of you some of this to take with you,” said she, “but as there is so little toast, you must have it now,” and she proceeded to cut slices with a generous hand.

We feasted that evening as on nectar and ambrosia; and not the least delight of the entertainment was the smile of gratification with which our hostess regarded us, as we satisfied our famished appetites on the delicate fare she liberally supplied.

Tea over and the tray removed, she again summoned us to the fire; we sat one on each side of her, and now a conversation followed between her and Helen, which it was indeed a privilege to be admitted to hear.

Miss Temple had always something of serenity in her air, of state in her mien, of refined propriety in her language, which precluded deviation into the ardent, the excited, the eager: something which chastened the pleasure of those who looked on her and listened to her, by a controlling sense of awe; and such was my feeling now: but as to Helen Burns, I was struck with wonder.

The refreshing meal, the brilliant fire, the presence and kindness of her beloved instructress, or, perhaps, more than all these, something in her own unique mind, had roused her powers within her.  They woke, they kindled: first, they glowed in the bright tint of her cheek, which till this hour I had never seen but pale and bloodless; then they shone in the liquid lustre of her eyes, which had suddenly acquired a beauty more singular than that of Miss Temple’s—a beauty neither of fine colour nor long eyelash, nor pencilled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance.  Then her soul sat on her lips, and language flowed, from what source I cannot tell.  Has a girl of fourteen a heart large enough, vigorous enough, to hold the swelling spring of pure, full, fervid eloquence?  Such was the characteristic of Helen’s discourse on that, to me, memorable evening; her spirit seemed hastening to live within a very brief span as much as many live during a protracted existence.

They conversed of things I had never heard of; of nations and times past; of countries far away; of secrets of nature discovered or guessed at: they spoke of books: how many they had read!  What stores of knowledge they possessed!  Then they seemed so familiar with French names and French authors: but my amazement reached its climax when Miss Temple asked Helen if she sometimes snatched a moment to recall the Latin her father had taught her, and taking a book from a shelf, bade her read and construe a page of Virgil; and Helen obeyed, my organ of veneration expanding at every sounding line.  She had scarcely finished ere the bell announced bedtime! no delay could be admitted; Miss Temple embraced us both, saying, as she drew us to her heart—

“God bless you, my children!”

Helen she held a little longer than me: she let her go more reluctantly; it was Helen her eye followed to the door; it was for her she a second time breathed a sad sigh; for her she wiped a tear from her cheek.

On reaching the bedroom, we heard the voice of Miss Scatcherd: she was examining drawers; she had just pulled out Helen Burns’s, and when we entered Helen was greeted with a sharp reprimand, and told that to-morrow she should have half-a-dozen of untidily folded articles pinned to her shoulder.

“My things were indeed in shameful disorder,” murmured Helen to me, in a low voice: “I intended to have arranged them, but I forgot.”

Next morning, Miss Scatcherd wrote in conspicuous characters on a piece of pasteboard the word “Slattern,” and bound it like a phylactery round Helen’s large, mild, intelligent, and benign-looking forehead.  She wore it till evening, patient, unresentful, regarding it as a deserved punishment.  The moment Miss Scatcherd withdrew after afternoon school, I ran to Helen, tore it off, and thrust it into the fire: the fury of which she was incapable had been burning in my soul all day, and tears, hot and large, had continually been scalding my cheek; for the spectacle of her sad resignation gave me an intolerable pain at the heart.

About a week subsequently to the incidents above narrated, Miss Temple, who had written to Mr. Lloyd, received his answer: it appeared that what he said went to corroborate my account.  Miss Temple, having assembled the whole school, announced that inquiry had been made into the charges alleged against Jane Eyre, and that she was most happy to be able to pronounce her completely cleared from every imputation.  The teachers then shook hands with me and kissed me, and a murmur of pleasure ran through the ranks of my companions.

Thus relieved of a grievous load, I from that hour set to work afresh, resolved to pioneer my way through every difficulty: I toiled hard, and my success was proportionate to my efforts; my memory, not naturally tenacious, improved with practice; exercise sharpened my wits; in a few weeks I was promoted to a higher class; in less than two months I was allowed to commence French and drawing.  I learned the first two tenses of the verb Etre, and sketched my first cottage (whose walls, by-the-bye, outrivalled in slope those of the leaning tower of Pisa), on the same day.  That night, on going to bed, I forgot to prepare in imagination the Barmecide supper of hot roast potatoes, or white bread and new milk, with which I was wont to amuse my inward cravings: I feasted instead on the spectacle of ideal drawings, which I saw in the dark; all the work of my own hands: freely pencilled houses and trees, picturesque rocks and ruins, Cuyp-like groups of cattle, sweet paintings of butterflies hovering over unblown roses, of birds picking at ripe cherries, of wren’s nests enclosing pearl-like eggs, wreathed about with young ivy sprays.  I examined, too, in thought, the possibility of my ever being able to translate currently a certain little French story which Madame Pierrot had that day shown me; nor was that problem solved to my satisfaction ere I fell sweetly asleep.

Well has Solomon said—“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”

I would not now have exchanged Lowood with all its privations for Gateshead and its daily luxuries.

CHAPTER IX

But the privations, or rather the hardships, of Lowood lessened.  Spring drew on: she was indeed already come; the frosts of winter had ceased; its snows were melted, its cutting winds ameliorated.  My wretched feet, flayed and swollen to lameness by the sharp air of January, began to heal and subside under the gentler breathings of April; the nights and mornings no longer by their Canadian temperature froze the very blood in our veins; we could now endure the play-hour passed in the garden: sometimes on a sunny day it began even to be pleasant and genial, and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.  Flowers peeped out amongst the leaves; snow-drops, crocuses, purple auriculas, and golden-eyed pansies.  On Thursday afternoons (half-holidays) we now took walks, and found still sweeter flowers opening by the wayside, under the hedges.

I discovered, too, that a great pleasure, an enjoyment which the horizon only bounded, lay all outside the high and spike-guarded walls of our garden: this pleasure consisted in prospect of noble summits girdling a great hill-hollow, rich in verdure and shadow; in a bright beck, full of dark stones and sparkling eddies.  How different had this scene looked when I viewed it laid out beneath the iron sky of winter, stiffened in frost, shrouded with snow!—when mists as chill as death wandered to the impulse of east winds along those purple peaks, and rolled down “ing” and holm till they blended with the frozen fog of the beck!  That beck itself was then a torrent, turbid and curbless: it tore asunder the wood, and sent a raving sound through the air, often thickened with wild rain or whirling sleet; and for the forest on its banks, that showed only ranks of skeletons.

April advanced to May: a bright serene May it was; days of blue sky, placid sunshine, and soft western or southern gales filled up its duration.  And now vegetation matured with vigour; Lowood shook loose its tresses; it became all green, all flowery; its great elm, ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic life; woodland plants sprang up profusely in its recesses; unnumbered varieties of moss filled its hollows, and it made a strange ground-sunshine out of the wealth of its wild primrose plants: I have seen their pale gold gleam in overshadowed spots like scatterings of the sweetest lustre.  All this I enjoyed often and fully, free, unwatched, and almost alone: for this unwonted liberty and pleasure there was a cause, to which it now becomes my task to advert.

Have I not described a pleasant site for a dwelling, when I speak of it as bosomed in hill and wood, and rising from the verge of a stream?  Assuredly, pleasant enough: but whether healthy or not is another question.

That forest-dell, where Lowood lay, was the cradle of fog and fog-bred pestilence; which, quickening with the quickening spring, crept into the Orphan Asylum, breathed typhus through its crowded schoolroom and dormitory, and, ere May arrived, transformed the seminary into an hospital.

Semi-starvation and neglected colds had predisposed most of the pupils to receive infection: forty-five out of the eighty girls lay ill at one time.  Classes were broken up, rules relaxed.  The few who continued well were allowed almost unlimited license; because the medical attendant insisted on the necessity of frequent exercise to keep them in health: and had it been otherwise, no one had leisure to watch or restrain them.  Miss Temple’s whole attention was absorbed by the patients: she lived in the sick-room, never quitting it except to snatch a few hours’ rest at night.  The teachers were fully occupied with packing up and making other necessary preparations for the departure of those girls who were fortunate enough to have friends and relations able and willing to remove them from the seat of contagion.  Many, already smitten, went home only to die: some died at the school, and were buried quietly and quickly, the nature of the malady forbidding delay.

While disease had thus become an inhabitant of Lowood, and death its frequent visitor; while there was gloom and fear within its walls; while its rooms and passages steamed with hospital smells, the drug and the pastille striving vainly to overcome the effluvia of mortality, that bright May shone unclouded over the bold hills and beautiful woodland out of doors.  Its garden, too, glowed with flowers: hollyhocks had sprung up tall as trees, lilies had opened, tulips and roses were in bloom; the borders of the little beds were gay with pink thrift and crimson double daisies; the sweetbriars gave out, morning and evening, their scent of spice and apples; and these fragrant treasures were all useless for most of the inmates of Lowood, except to furnish now and then a handful of herbs and blossoms to put in a coffin.

But I, and the rest who continued well, enjoyed fully the beauties of the scene and season; they let us ramble in the wood, like gipsies, from morning till night; we did what we liked, went where we liked: we lived better too.  Mr. Brocklehurst and his family never came near Lowood now: household matters were not scrutinised into; the cross housekeeper was gone, driven away by the fear of infection; her successor, who had been matron at the Lowton Dispensary, unused to the ways of her new abode, provided with comparative liberality.  Besides, there were fewer to feed; the sick could eat little; our breakfast-basins were better filled; when there was no time to prepare a regular dinner, which often happened, she would give us a large piece of cold pie, or a thick slice of bread and cheese, and this we carried away with us to the wood, where we each chose the spot we liked best, and dined sumptuously.

My favourite seat was a smooth and broad stone, rising white and dry from the very middle of the beck, and only to be got at by wading through the water; a feat I accomplished barefoot.  The stone was just broad enough to accommodate, comfortably, another girl and me, at that time my chosen comrade—one Mary Ann Wilson; a shrewd, observant personage, whose society I took pleasure in, partly because she was witty and original, and partly because she had a manner which set me at my ease.  Some years older than I, she knew more of the world, and could tell me many things I liked to hear: with her my curiosity found gratification: to my faults also she gave ample indulgence, never imposing curb or rein on anything I said.  She had a turn for narrative, I for analysis; she liked to inform, I to question; so we got on swimmingly together, deriving much entertainment, if not much improvement, from our mutual intercourse.

And where, meantime, was Helen Burns?  Why did I not spend these sweet days of liberty with her?  Had I forgotten her? or was I so worthless as to have grown tired of her pure society?  Surely the Mary Ann Wilson I have mentioned was inferior to my first acquaintance: she could only tell me amusing stories, and reciprocate any racy and pungent gossip I chose to indulge in; while, if I have spoken truth of Helen, she was qualified to give those who enjoyed the privilege of her converse a taste of far higher things.

True, reader; and I knew and felt this: and though I am a defective being, with many faults and few redeeming points, yet I never tired of Helen Burns; nor ever ceased to cherish for her a sentiment of attachment, as strong, tender, and respectful as any that ever animated my heart.  How could it be otherwise, when Helen, at all times and under all circumstances, evinced for me a quiet and faithful friendship, which ill-humour never soured, nor irritation never troubled?  But Helen was ill at present: for some weeks she had been removed from my sight to I knew not what room upstairs.  She was not, I was told, in the hospital portion of the house with the fever patients; for her complaint was consumption, not typhus: and by consumption I, in my ignorance, understood something mild, which time and care would be sure to alleviate.

I was confirmed in this idea by the fact of her once or twice coming downstairs on very warm sunny afternoons, and being taken by Miss Temple into the garden; but, on these occasions, I was not allowed to go and speak to her; I only saw her from the schoolroom window, and then not distinctly; for she was much wrapped up, and sat at a distance under the verandah.

One evening, in the beginning of June, I had stayed out very late with Mary Ann in the wood; we had, as usual, separated ourselves from the others, and had wandered far; so far that we lost our way, and had to ask it at a lonely cottage, where a man and woman lived, who looked after a herd of half-wild swine that fed on the mast in the wood.  When we got back, it was after moonrise: a pony, which we knew to be the surgeon’s, was standing at the garden door.  Mary Ann remarked that she supposed some one must be very ill, as Mr. Bates had been sent for at that time of the evening.  She went into the house; I stayed behind a few minutes to plant in my garden a handful of roots I had dug up in the forest, and which I feared would wither if I left them till the morning.  This done, I lingered yet a little longer: the flowers smelt so sweet as the dew fell; it was such a pleasant evening, so serene, so warm; the still glowing west promised so fairly another fine day on the morrow; the moon rose with such majesty in the grave east.  I was noting these things and enjoying them as a child might, when it entered my mind as it had never done before:—

“How sad to be lying now on a sick bed, and to be in danger of dying!  This world is pleasant—it would be dreary to be called from it, and to have to go who knows where?”

And then my mind made its first earnest effort to comprehend what had been infused into it concerning heaven and hell; and for the first time it recoiled, baffled; and for the first time glancing behind, on each side, and before it, it saw all round an unfathomed gulf: it felt the one point where it stood—the present; all the rest was formless cloud and vacant depth; and it shuddered at the thought of tottering, and plunging amid that chaos.  While pondering this new idea, I heard the front door open; Mr. Bates came out, and with him was a nurse.  After she had seen him mount his horse and depart, she was about to close the door, but I ran up to her.

“How is Helen Burns?”

“Very poorly,” was the answer.

“Is it her Mr. Bates has been to see?”

“Yes.”

“And what does he say about her?”

“He says she’ll not be here long.”

This phrase, uttered in my hearing yesterday, would have only conveyed the notion that she was about to be removed to Northumberland, to her own home.  I should not have suspected that it meant she was dying; but I knew instantly now!  It opened clear on my comprehension that Helen Burns was numbering her last days in this world, and that she was going to be taken to the region of spirits, if such region there were.  I experienced a shock of horror, then a strong thrill of grief, then a desire—a necessity to see her; and I asked in what room she lay.

“She is in Miss Temple’s room,” said the nurse.

“May I go up and speak to her?”

“Oh no, child!  It is not likely; and now it is time for you to come in; you’ll catch the fever if you stop out when the dew is falling.”

The nurse closed the front door; I went in by the side entrance which led to the schoolroom: I was just in time; it was nine o’clock, and Miss Miller was calling the pupils to go to bed.

It might be two hours later, probably near eleven, when I—not having been able to fall asleep, and deeming, from the perfect silence of the dormitory, that my companions were all wrapt in profound repose—rose softly, put on my frock over my night-dress, and, without shoes, crept from the apartment, and set off in quest of Miss Temple’s room.  It was quite at the other end of the house; but I knew my way; and the light of the unclouded summer moon, entering here and there at passage windows, enabled me to find it without difficulty.  An odour of camphor and burnt vinegar warned me when I came near the fever room: and I passed its door quickly, fearful lest the nurse who sat up all night should hear me.  I dreaded being discovered and sent back; for I must see Helen,—I must embrace her before she died,—I must give her one last kiss, exchange with her one last word.

Having descended a staircase, traversed a portion of the house below, and succeeded in opening and shutting, without noise, two doors, I reached another flight of steps; these I mounted, and then just opposite to me was Miss Temple’s room.  A light shone through the keyhole and from under the door; a profound stillness pervaded the vicinity.  Coming near, I found the door slightly ajar; probably to admit some fresh air into the close abode of sickness.  Indisposed to hesitate, and full of impatient impulses—soul and senses quivering with keen throes—I put it back and looked in.  My eye sought Helen, and feared to find death.

Close by Miss Temple’s bed, and half covered with its white curtains, there stood a little crib.  I saw the outline of a form under the clothes, but the face was hid by the hangings: the nurse I had spoken to in the garden sat in an easy-chair asleep; an unsnuffed candle burnt dimly on the table.  Miss Temple was not to be seen: I knew afterwards that she had been called to a delirious patient in the fever-room.  I advanced; then paused by the crib side: my hand was on the curtain, but I preferred speaking before I withdrew it.  I still recoiled at the dread of seeing a corpse.

“Helen!” I whispered softly, “are you awake?”

She stirred herself, put back the curtain, and I saw her face, pale, wasted, but quite composed: she looked so little changed that my fear was instantly dissipated.

“Can it be you, Jane?” she asked, in her own gentle voice.

“Oh!” I thought, “she is not going to die; they are mistaken: she could not speak and look so calmly if she were.”

I got on to her crib and kissed her: her forehead was cold, and her cheek both cold and thin, and so were her hand and wrist; but she smiled as of old.

“Why are you come here, Jane?  It is past eleven o’clock: I heard it strike some minutes since.”

“I came to see you, Helen: I heard you were very ill, and I could not sleep till I had spoken to you.”

“You came to bid me good-bye, then: you are just in time probably.”

“Are you going somewhere, Helen?  Are you going home?”

“Yes; to my long home—my last home.”

“No, no, Helen!”  I stopped, distressed.  While I tried to devour my tears, a fit of coughing seized Helen; it did not, however, wake the nurse; when it was over, she lay some minutes exhausted; then she whispered—

“Jane, your little feet are bare; lie down and cover yourself with my quilt.”

I did so: she put her arm over me, and I nestled close to her.  After a long silence, she resumed, still whispering—

“I am very happy, Jane; and when you hear that I am dead, you must be sure and not grieve: there is nothing to grieve about.  We all must die one day, and the illness which is removing me is not painful; it is gentle and gradual: my mind is at rest.  I leave no one to regret me much: I have only a father; and he is lately married, and will not miss me.  By dying young, I shall escape great sufferings.  I had not qualities or talents to make my way very well in the world: I should have been continually at fault.”

“But where are you going to, Helen?  Can you see?  Do you know?”

“I believe; I have faith: I am going to God.”

“Where is God?  What is God?”

“My Maker and yours, who will never destroy what He created.  I rely implicitly on His power, and confide wholly in His goodness: I count the hours till that eventful one arrives which shall restore me to Him, reveal Him to me.”

“You are sure, then, Helen, that there is such a place as heaven, and that our souls can get to it when we die?”

“I am sure there is a future state; I believe God is good; I can resign my immortal part to Him without any misgiving.  God is my father; God is my friend: I love Him; I believe He loves me.”

“And shall I see you again, Helen, when I die?”

“You will come to the same region of happiness: be received by the same mighty, universal Parent, no doubt, dear Jane.”

Again I questioned, but this time only in thought.  “Where is that region?  Does it exist?”  And I clasped my arms closer round Helen; she seemed dearer to me than ever; I felt as if I could not let her go; I lay with my face hidden on her neck.  Presently she said, in the sweetest tone—

“How comfortable I am!  That last fit of coughing has tired me a little; I feel as if I could sleep: but don’t leave me, Jane; I like to have you near me.”

“I’ll stay with you, dear Helen: no one shall take me away.”

“Are you warm, darling?”

“Yes.”

“Good-night, Jane.”

“Good-night, Helen.”

She kissed me, and I her, and we both soon slumbered.

When I awoke it was day: an unusual movement roused me; I looked up; I was in somebody’s arms; the nurse held me; she was carrying me through the passage back to the dormitory.  I was not reprimanded for leaving my bed; people had something else to think about; no explanation was afforded then to my many questions; but a day or two afterwards I learned that Miss Temple, on returning to her own room at dawn, had found me laid in the little crib; my face against Helen Burns’s shoulder, my arms round her neck.  I was asleep, and Helen was—dead.

Her grave is in Brocklebridge churchyard: for fifteen years after her death it was only covered by a grassy mound; but now a grey marble tablet marks the spot, inscribed with her name, and the word “Resurgam.”

CHAPTER X

Hitherto I have recorded in detail the events of my insignificant existence: to the first ten years of my life I have given almost as many chapters.  But this is not to be a regular autobiography.  I am only bound to invoke Memory where I know her responses will possess some degree of interest; therefore I now pass a space of eight years almost in silence: a few lines only are necessary to keep up the links of connection.

When the typhus fever had fulfilled its mission of devastation at Lowood, it gradually disappeared from thence; but not till its virulence and the number of its victims had drawn public attention on the school.  Inquiry was made into the origin of the scourge, and by degrees various facts came out which excited public indignation in a high degree.  The unhealthy nature of the site; the quantity and quality of the children’s food; the brackish, fetid water used in its preparation; the pupils’ wretched clothing and accommodations—all these things were discovered, and the discovery produced a result mortifying to Mr. Brocklehurst, but beneficial to the institution.

Several wealthy and benevolent individuals in the county subscribed largely for the erection of a more convenient building in a better situation; new regulations were made; improvements in diet and clothing introduced; the funds of the school were intrusted to the management of a committee.  Mr. Brocklehurst, who, from his wealth and family connections, could not be overlooked, still retained the post of treasurer; but he was aided in the discharge of his duties by gentlemen of rather more enlarged and sympathising minds: his office of inspector, too, was shared by those who knew how to combine reason with strictness, comfort with economy, compassion with uprightness.  The school, thus improved, became in time a truly useful and noble institution.  I remained an inmate of its walls, after its regeneration, for eight years: six as pupil, and two as teacher; and in both capacities I bear my testimony to its value and importance.

During these eight years my life was uniform: but not unhappy, because it was not inactive.  I had the means of an excellent education placed within my reach; a fondness for some of my studies, and a desire to excel in all, together with a great delight in pleasing my teachers, especially such as I loved, urged me on: I availed myself fully of the advantages offered me.  In time I rose to be the first girl of the first class; then I was invested with the office of teacher; which I discharged with zeal for two years: but at the end of that time I altered.

Miss Temple, through all changes, had thus far continued superintendent of the seminary: to her instruction I owed the best part of my acquirements; her friendship and society had been my continual solace; she had stood me in the stead of mother, governess, and, latterly, companion.  At this period she married, removed with her husband (a clergyman, an excellent man, almost worthy of such a wife) to a distant county, and consequently was lost to me.

From the day she left I was no longer the same: with her was gone every settled feeling, every association that had made Lowood in some degree a home to me.  I had imbibed from her something of her nature and much of her habits: more harmonious thoughts: what seemed better regulated feelings had become the inmates of my mind.  I had given in allegiance to duty and order; I was quiet; I believed I was content: to the eyes of others, usually even to my own, I appeared a disciplined and subdued character.

But destiny, in the shape of the Rev. Mr. Nasmyth, came between me and Miss Temple: I saw her in her travelling dress step into a post-chaise, shortly after the marriage ceremony; I watched the chaise mount the hill and disappear beyond its brow; and then retired to my own room, and there spent in solitude the greatest part of the half-holiday granted in honour of the occasion.

I walked about the chamber most of the time.  I imagined myself only to be regretting my loss, and thinking how to repair it; but when my reflections were concluded, and I looked up and found that the afternoon was gone, and evening far advanced, another discovery dawned on me, namely, that in the interval I had undergone a transforming process; that my mind had put off all it had borrowed of Miss Temple—or rather that she had taken with her the serene atmosphere I had been breathing in her vicinity—and that now I was left in my natural element, and beginning to feel the stirring of old emotions.  It did not seem as if a prop were withdrawn, but rather as if a motive were gone: it was not the power to be tranquil which had failed me, but the reason for tranquillity was no more.  My world had for some years been in Lowood: my experience had been of its rules and systems; now I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils.

I went to my window, opened it, and looked out.  There were the two wings of the building; there was the garden; there were the skirts of Lowood; there was the hilly horizon.  My eye passed all other objects to rest on those most remote, the blue peaks; it was those I longed to surmount; all within their boundary of rock and heath seemed prison-ground, exile limits.  I traced the white road winding round the base of one mountain, and vanishing in a gorge between two; how I longed to follow it farther!  I recalled the time when I had travelled that very road in a coach; I remembered descending that hill at twilight; an age seemed to have elapsed since the day which brought me first to Lowood, and I had never quitted it since.  My vacations had all been spent at school: Mrs. Reed had never sent for me to Gateshead; neither she nor any of her family had ever been to visit me.  I had had no communication by letter or message with the outer world: school-rules, school-duties, school-habits and notions, and voices, and faces, and phrases, and costumes, and preferences, and antipathies—such was what I knew of existence.  And now I felt that it was not enough; I tired of the routine of eight years in one afternoon.  I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the wind then faintly blowing.  I abandoned it and framed a humbler supplication; for change, stimulus: that petition, too, seemed swept off into vague space: “Then,” I cried, half desperate, “grant me at least a new servitude!”

Here a bell, ringing the hour of supper, called me downstairs.

I was not free to resume the interrupted chain of my reflections till bedtime: even then a teacher who occupied the same room with me kept me from the subject to which I longed to recur, by a prolonged effusion of small talk.  How I wished sleep would silence her.  It seemed as if, could I but go back to the idea which had last entered my mind as I stood at the window, some inventive suggestion would rise for my relief.

Miss Gryce snored at last; she was a heavy Welshwoman, and till now her habitual nasal strains had never been regarded by me in any other light than as a nuisance; to-night I hailed the first deep notes with satisfaction; I was debarrassed of interruption; my half-effaced thought instantly revived.

“A new servitude!  There is something in that,” I soliloquised (mentally, be it understood; I did not talk aloud), “I know there is, because it does not sound too sweet; it is not like such words as Liberty, Excitement, Enjoyment: delightful sounds truly; but no more than sounds for me; and so hollow and fleeting that it is mere waste of time to listen to them.  But Servitude!  That must be matter of fact.  Any one may serve: I have served here eight years; now all I want is to serve elsewhere.  Can I not get so much of my own will?  Is not the thing feasible?  Yes—yes—the end is not so difficult; if I had only a brain active enough to ferret out the means of attaining it.”

I sat up in bed by way of arousing this said brain: it was a chilly night; I covered my shoulders with a shawl, and then I proceeded to think again with all my might.

“What do I want?  A new place, in a new house, amongst new faces, under new circumstances: I want this because it is of no use wanting anything better.  How do people do to get a new place?  They apply to friends, I suppose: I have no friends.  There are many others who have no friends, who must look about for themselves and be their own helpers; and what is their resource?”

I could not tell: nothing answered me; I then ordered my brain to find a response, and quickly.  It worked and worked faster: I felt the pulses throb in my head and temples; but for nearly an hour it worked in chaos; and no result came of its efforts.  Feverish with vain labour, I got up and took a turn in the room; undrew the curtain, noted a star or two, shivered with cold, and again crept to bed.

A kind fairy, in my absence, had surely dropped the required suggestion on my pillow; for as I lay down, it came quietly and naturally to my mind.—“Those who want situations advertise; you must advertise in the ---shire Herald.”

“How?  I know nothing about advertising.”

Replies rose smooth and prompt now:—

“You must enclose the advertisement and the money to pay for it under a cover directed to the editor of the Herald; you must put it, the first opportunity you have, into the post at Lowton; answers must be addressed to J.E., at the post-office there; you can go and inquire in about a week after you send your letter, if any are come, and act accordingly.”

This scheme I went over twice, thrice; it was then digested in my mind; I had it in a clear practical form: I felt satisfied, and fell asleep.

With earliest day, I was up: I had my advertisement written, enclosed, and directed before the bell rang to rouse the school; it ran thus:—

“A young lady accustomed to tuition” (had I not been a teacher two years?) “is desirous of meeting with a situation in a private family where the children are under fourteen (I thought that as I was barely eighteen, it would not do to undertake the guidance of pupils nearer my own age).  She is qualified to teach the usual branches of a good English education, together with French, Drawing, and Music” (in those days, reader, this now narrow catalogue of accomplishments, would have been held tolerably comprehensive).  “Address, J.E., Post-office, Lowton, ---shire.”

This document remained locked in my drawer all day: after tea, I asked leave of the new superintendent to go to Lowton, in order to perform some small commissions for myself and one or two of my fellow-teachers; permission was readily granted; I went.  It was a walk of two miles, and the evening was wet, but the days were still long; I visited a shop or two, slipped the letter into the post-office, and came back through heavy rain, with streaming garments, but with a relieved heart.

The succeeding week seemed long: it came to an end at last, however, like all sublunary things, and once more, towards the close of a pleasant autumn day, I found myself afoot on the road to Lowton.  A picturesque track it was, by the way; lying along the side of the beck and through the sweetest curves of the dale: but that day I thought more of the letters, that might or might not be awaiting me at the little burgh whither I was bound, than of the charms of lea and water.

My ostensible errand on this occasion was to get measured for a pair of shoes; so I discharged that business first, and when it was done, I stepped across the clean and quiet little street from the shoemaker’s to the post-office: it was kept by an old dame, who wore horn spectacles on her nose, and black mittens on her hands.

“Are there any letters for J.E.?” I asked.

She peered at me over her spectacles, and then she opened a drawer and fumbled among its contents for a long time, so long that my hopes began to falter.  At last, having held a document before her glasses for nearly five minutes, she presented it across the counter, accompanying the act by another inquisitive and mistrustful glance—it was for J.E.

“Is there only one?” I demanded.

“There are no more,” said she; and I put it in my pocket and turned my face homeward: I could not open it then; rules obliged me to be back by eight, and it was already half-past seven.

Various duties awaited me on my arrival.  I had to sit with the girls during their hour of study; then it was my turn to read prayers; to see them to bed: afterwards I supped with the other teachers.  Even when we finally retired for the night, the inevitable Miss Gryce was still my companion: we had only a short end of candle in our candlestick, and I dreaded lest she should talk till it was all burnt out; fortunately, however, the heavy supper she had eaten produced a soporific effect: she was already snoring before I had finished undressing.  There still remained an inch of candle: I now took out my letter; the seal was an initial F.; I broke it; the contents were brief.

“If J.E., who advertised in the ---shire Herald of last Thursday, possesses the acquirements mentioned, and if she is in a position to give satisfactory references as to character and competency, a situation can be offered her where there is but one pupil, a little girl, under ten years of age; and where the salary is thirty pounds per annum.  J.E. is requested to send references, name, address, and all particulars to the direction:—

“Mrs. Fairfax, Thornfield, near Millcote, ---shire.”

I examined the document long: the writing was old-fashioned and rather uncertain, like that of an elderly lady.  This circumstance was satisfactory: a private fear had haunted me, that in thus acting for myself, and by my own guidance, I ran the risk of getting into some scrape; and, above all things, I wished the result of my endeavours to be respectable, proper, en règle.  I now felt that an elderly lady was no bad ingredient in the business I had on hand.  Mrs. Fairfax!  I saw her in a black gown and widow’s cap; frigid, perhaps, but not uncivil: a model of elderly English respectability.  Thornfield! that, doubtless, was the name of her house: a neat orderly spot, I was sure; though I failed in my efforts to conceive a correct plan of the premises.  Millcote, ---shire; I brushed up my recollections of the map of England, yes, I saw it; both the shire and the town.  ---shire was seventy miles nearer London than the remote county where I now resided: that was a recommendation to me.  I longed to go where there was life and movement: Millcote was a large manufacturing town on the banks of the A-; a busy place enough, doubtless: so much the better; it would be a complete change at least.  Not that my fancy was much captivated by the idea of long chimneys and clouds of smoke—“but,” I argued, “Thornfield will, probably, be a good way from the town.”

Here the socket of the candle dropped, and the wick went out.

Next day new steps were to be taken; my plans could no longer be confined to my own breast; I must impart them in order to achieve their success.  Having sought and obtained an audience of the superintendent during the noontide recreation, I told her I had a prospect of getting a new situation where the salary would be double what I now received (for at Lowood I only got £15 per annum); and requested she would break the matter for me to Mr. Brocklehurst, or some of the committee, and ascertain whether they would permit me to mention them as references.  She obligingly consented to act as mediatrix in the matter.  The next day she laid the affair before Mr. Brocklehurst, who said that Mrs. Reed must be written to, as she was my natural guardian.  A note was accordingly addressed to that lady, who returned for answer, that “I might do as I pleased: she had long relinquished all interference in my affairs.”  This note went the round of the committee, and at last, after what appeared to me most tedious delay, formal leave was given me to better my condition if I could; and an assurance added, that as I had always conducted myself well, both as teacher and pupil, at Lowood, a testimonial of character and capacity, signed by the inspectors of that institution, should forthwith be furnished me.

This testimonial I accordingly received in about a month, forwarded a copy of it to Mrs. Fairfax, and got that lady’s reply, stating that she was satisfied, and fixing that day fortnight as the period for my assuming the post of governess in her house.

I now busied myself in preparations: the fortnight passed rapidly.  I had not a very large wardrobe, though it was adequate to my wants; and the last day sufficed to pack my trunk,—the same I had brought with me eight years ago from Gateshead.

The box was corded, the card nailed on.  In half-an-hour the carrier was to call for it to take it to Lowton, whither I myself was to repair at an early hour the next morning to meet the coach.  I had brushed my black stuff travelling-dress, prepared my bonnet, gloves, and muff; sought in all my drawers to see that no article was left behind; and now having nothing more to do, I sat down and tried to rest.  I could not; though I had been on foot all day, I could not now repose an instant; I was too much excited.  A phase of my life was closing to-night, a new one opening to-morrow: impossible to slumber in the interval; I must watch feverishly while the change was being accomplished.

“Miss,” said a servant who met me in the lobby, where I was wandering like a troubled spirit, “a person below wishes to see you.”

“The carrier, no doubt,” I thought, and ran downstairs without inquiry.  I was passing the back-parlour or teachers’ sitting-room, the door of which was half open, to go to the kitchen, when some one ran out—

“It’s her, I am sure!—I could have told her anywhere!” cried the individual who stopped my progress and took my hand.

I looked: I saw a woman attired like a well-dressed servant, matronly, yet still young; very good-looking, with black hair and eyes, and lively complexion.

“Well, who is it?” she asked, in a voice and with a smile I half recognised; “you’ve not quite forgotten me, I think, Miss Jane?”

In another second I was embracing and kissing her rapturously: “Bessie!  Bessie!  Bessie!” that was all I said; whereat she half laughed, half cried, and we both went into the parlour.  By the fire stood a little fellow of three years old, in plaid frock and trousers.

“That is my little boy,” said Bessie directly.

“Then you are married, Bessie?”

“Yes; nearly five years since to Robert Leaven, the coachman; and I’ve a little girl besides Bobby there, that I’ve christened Jane.”

“And you don’t live at Gateshead?”

“I live at the lodge: the old porter has left.”

“Well, and how do they all get on?  Tell me everything about them, Bessie: but sit down first; and, Bobby, come and sit on my knee, will you?” but Bobby preferred sidling over to his mother.

“You’re not grown so very tall, Miss Jane, nor so very stout,” continued Mrs. Leaven.  “I dare say they’ve not kept you too well at school: Miss Reed is the head and shoulders taller than you are; and Miss Georgiana would make two of you in breadth.”

“Georgiana is handsome, I suppose, Bessie?”

“Very.  She went up to London last winter with her mama, and there everybody admired her, and a young lord fell in love with her: but his relations were against the match; and—what do you think?—he and Miss Georgiana made it up to run away; but they were found out and stopped.  It was Miss Reed that found them out: I believe she was envious; and now she and her sister lead a cat and dog life together; they are always quarrelling—”

“Well, and what of John Reed?”

“Oh, he is not doing so well as his mama could wish.  He went to college, and he got—plucked, I think they call it: and then his uncles wanted him to be a barrister, and study the law: but he is such a dissipated young man, they will never make much of him, I think.”

“What does he look like?”

“He is very tall: some people call him a fine-looking young man; but he has such thick lips.”

“And Mrs. Reed?”

“Missis looks stout and well enough in the face, but I think she’s not quite easy in her mind: Mr. John’s conduct does not please her—he spends a deal of money.”

“Did she send you here, Bessie?”

“No, indeed: but I have long wanted to see you, and when I heard that there had been a letter from you, and that you were going to another part of the country, I thought I’d just set off, and get a look at you before you were quite out of my reach.”

“I am afraid you are disappointed in me, Bessie.”  I said this laughing: I perceived that Bessie’s glance, though it expressed regard, did in no shape denote admiration.

“No, Miss Jane, not exactly: you are genteel enough; you look like a lady, and it is as much as ever I expected of you: you were no beauty as a child.”

I smiled at Bessie’s frank answer: I felt that it was correct, but I confess I was not quite indifferent to its import: at eighteen most people wish to please, and the conviction that they have not an exterior likely to second that desire brings anything but gratification.

“I dare say you are clever, though,” continued Bessie, by way of solace.  “What can you do?  Can you play on the piano?”

“A little.”

There was one in the room; Bessie went and opened it, and then asked me to sit down and give her a tune: I played a waltz or two, and she was charmed.

“The Miss Reeds could not play as well!” said she exultingly.  “I always said you would surpass them in learning: and can you draw?”

“That is one of my paintings over the chimney-piece.”  It was a landscape in water colours, of which I had made a present to the superintendent, in acknowledgment of her obliging mediation with the committee on my behalf, and which she had framed and glazed.

“Well, that is beautiful, Miss Jane!  It is as fine a picture as any Miss Reed’s drawing-master could paint, let alone the young ladies themselves, who could not come near it: and have you learnt French?”

“Yes, Bessie, I can both read it and speak it.”

“And you can work on muslin and canvas?”

“I can.”

“Oh, you are quite a lady, Miss Jane!  I knew you would be: you will get on whether your relations notice you or not.  There was something I wanted to ask you.  Have you ever heard anything from your father’s kinsfolk, the Eyres?”

“Never in my life.”

“Well, you know Missis always said they were poor and quite despicable: and they may be poor; but I believe they are as much gentry as the Reeds are; for one day, nearly seven years ago, a Mr. Eyre came to Gateshead and wanted to see you; Missis said you were at school fifty miles off; he seemed so much disappointed, for he could not stay: he was going on a voyage to a foreign country, and the ship was to sail from London in a day or two.  He looked quite a gentleman, and I believe he was your father’s brother.”

“What foreign country was he going to, Bessie?”

“An island thousands of miles off, where they make wine—the butler did tell me—”

“Madeira?” I suggested.

“Yes, that is it—that is the very word.”

“So he went?”

“Yes; he did not stay many minutes in the house: Missis was very high with him; she called him afterwards a ‘sneaking tradesman.’  My Robert believes he was a wine-merchant.”

“Very likely,” I returned; “or perhaps clerk or agent to a wine-merchant.”

Bessie and I conversed about old times an hour longer, and then she was obliged to leave me: I saw her again for a few minutes the next morning at Lowton, while I was waiting for the coach.  We parted finally at the door of the Brocklehurst Arms there: each went her separate way; she set off for the brow of Lowood Fell to meet the conveyance which was to take her back to Gateshead, I mounted the vehicle which was to bear me to new duties and a new life in the unknown environs of Millcote.

 

  

第一章    

     那天,出去散步是不可能了。其实,早上我们还在光秃秃的灌木林中溜达了一个小时,但从午饭时起(无客造访时,里德太太很早就用午饭)便刮起了冬日凛冽的寒风,随后阴云密布,大雨滂沱,室外的活动也就只能作罢了。

    我倒是求之不得。我向来不喜欢远距离散步,尤其在冷飕飕的下午。试想,阴冷的薄暮时分回得家来,手脚都冻僵了,还要受到保姆贝茵的数落,又自觉体格不如伊丽莎、约翰和乔治亚娜,心里既难过又惭愧,那情形委实可怕。

    此时此刻,刚才提到的伊丽莎、约翰和乔治亚娜都在客厅里,簇拥着他们的妈妈。她则斜倚在炉边的沙发上,身旁坐着自己的小宝贝们(眼下既未争吵也未哭叫),一副安享天伦之乐的神态。而我呢,她恩准我不必同他们坐在一起了,说是她很遗憾,不得不让我独个儿在一旁呆着。要是没有亲耳从贝茜那儿听到,并且亲眼看到,我确实在尽力养成一种比较单纯随和的习性,活泼可爱的举止,也就是更开朗、更率直、更自然些,那她当真不让我享受那些只配给予快乐知足的孩子们的特权了。

    “贝茵说我干了什么啦?”我问。

    “简,我不喜欢吹毛求疵或者刨根究底的人,更何况小孩子家这么跟大人顶嘴实在让人讨厌。找个地方去坐着,不会和气说话就别张嘴。”

    客厅的隔壁是一间小小的餐室,我溜了进去。里面有一个书架。不一会儿,我从上面拿下一本书来,特意挑插图多的,爬上窗台,缩起双脚,像土耳其人那样盘腿坐下,将红色的波纹窗帘几乎完全拉拢,把自己加倍隐蔽了起来。

    在我右侧,绯红色窗幔的皱褶档住了我的视线;左侧,明亮的玻璃窗庇护着我,使我既免受十一月阴沉天气的侵害,又不与外面的世界隔绝,在翻书的间隙,我抬头细看冬日下午的景色。只见远方白茫茫一片云雾,近处湿漉漉一块草地和受风雨袭击的灌木。一阵持久而凄厉的狂风,驱赶着如注的暴雨,横空归过。

    我重又低头看书,那是本比尤伊克的《英国鸟类史》。文字部份我一般不感兴趣,但有几页导言,虽说我是孩子,却不愿当作空页随手翻过。内中写到了海鸟生息之地;写到了只有海鸟栖居的“孤零零的岩石和海岬”;写到了自南端林纳斯尼斯,或纳斯,至北角都遍布小岛的挪威海岸:那里,北冰洋掀起的巨大漩涡,咆哮在极地光秃凄凉约小岛四周。而大西洋的汹涌波涛,泻入了狂暴的赫布里底群岛。

    还有些地方我也不能看都不看,一翻而过,那就是书中提到的拉普兰、西伯利亚、斯匹次卑尔根群岛、新地岛、冰岛和格陵兰荒凉的海岸。“广袤无垠的北极地带和那些阴凄凄的不毛之地,宛若冰雪的储存库。千万个寒冬所积聚成的坚冰,像阿尔卑斯山的层层高峰,光滑晶莹,包围着地极,把与日俱增的严寒汇集于一处。”我对这些死白色的地域,已有一定之见,但一时难以捉摸,仿佛孩子们某些似懂非懂的念头,朦朦胧胧浮现在脑际,却出奇地生动,导言中的这几页文字,与后面的插图相配,使兀立于大海波涛中的孤岩,搁浅在荒凉海岸上的破船,以及透过云带俯视着沉船的幽幽月光,更加含义隽永了。

    我说不清一种什么样的情调弥漫在孤寂的墓地:刻有铭文的墓碑、一扇大门、两棵树、低低的地平线、破败的围墙。一弯初升的新月,表明时候正是黄昏。

    两艘轮船停泊在水波不兴的海面上,我以为它们是海上的鬼怪。

    魔鬼从身后按住窃贼的背包,那模样实在可怕,我赶紧翻了过去。

    一样可怕的是,那个头上长角的黑色怪物,独踞于岩石之上,远眺着一大群人围着绞架。

    每幅画都是一个故事、由于我理解力不足,欣赏水平有限,它们往往显得神秘莫测,但无不趣味盎然,就像某些冬夜,贝茜碰巧心情不错时讲述的故事一样。遇到这种时候,贝茵会把烫衣桌搬到保育室的壁炉旁边,让我们围着它坐好。她一面熨里德太太的网眼饰边,把睡帽的边沿烫出褶裥来,一面让我们迫不及待地倾听她一段段爱情和冒险故事,这些片段取自于古老的神话传说和更古老的歌谣,或者如我后来所发现,来自《帕美拉》和《莫兰伯爵亨利》。

    当时,我膝头摊着比尤伊克的书,心里乐滋滋的,至少是自得其乐,就怕别人来打扰。

    但打扰来得很快,餐室的门开了。

    “嘘!苦恼小姐!”约翰?里德叫唤着,随后又打住了,显然发觉房间里空无一人。

    “见鬼,上哪儿去了呀?”他接着说。“丽茜!乔琪!”(喊着他的姐妹)“琼不在这儿呐,告诉妈妈她窜到雨地里去了,这个坏畜牲!”

    “幸亏我拉好了窗帘,”我想。我真希望他发现不了我的藏身之地。约翰?里德自己是发现不了的,他眼睛不尖,头脑不灵。可惜伊丽莎从门外一探进头来,就说:“她在窗台上,准没错,杰克。”

    我立即走了出来,因为一想到要被这个杰克硬拖出去,身子便直打哆嗦。

    什么事呀?”我问,既尴尬又不安。

    “该说,什么事呀,里德‘少爷?’”便是我得到的回答。“我要你到这里来,”他在扶手椅上坐下,打了个手势,示意我走过去站到他面前。

    约翰?里德是个十四岁的小学生,比我大四岁,因为我才十岁。论年龄,他长得又大又胖,但肤色灰暗,一付病态。脸盘阔,五官粗,四肢肥,手膨大。还喜欢暴饮暴食,落得个肝火很旺,目光迟钝,两颊松弛。这阵子,他本该呆在学校里,可是他妈把他领了回来,住上—、两个月,说是因为“身体虚弱”。但他老师迈尔斯先生却断言,要是家里少送些糕点糖果去,他会什么都很好的,做母亲的心里却讨厌这么刻薄的话,而倾向于一种更随和的想法,认为约翰是过于用功,或许还因为想家,才弄得那么面色蜡黄的。

    约翰对母亲和姐妹们没有多少感情,而对我则很厌恶。他欺侮我,虐待我,不是一周三两次,也不是一天一两回,而是经常如此。弄得我每根神经都怕他,他一走运,我身子骨上的每块肌肉都会收缩起来。有时我会被他吓得手足无措,因为面对他的恐吓和欺侮,我无处哭诉。佣人们不愿站在我一边去得罪他们的少爷,而里德太太则装聋作哑,儿子打我骂我,她熟视无睹,尽管他动不动当着她的面这样做,而背着她的时候不用说就更多了。

    我对约翰已惯于逆来顺受,因此便走到他椅子跟前。他费了大约三分钟,拼命向我伸出舌头,就差没有绷断舌根。我明白他会马上下手,一面担心挨打,一面凝视着这个就要动手的人那付令人厌恶的丑态。我不知道他看出了我的心思没有,反正他二话没说,猛然间狠命揍我。我一个踉跄,从他椅子前倒退了一两步才站稳身子。

    “这是对你的教训,谁叫你刚才那么无礼跟妈妈顶嘴,”他说,“谁叫你鬼鬼祟祟躲到窗帘后面,谁叫你两分钟之前眼光里露出那付鬼样子,你这耗子!”

    我已经习惯于约翰?里德的谩骂,从来不愿去理睬,一心只想着加何去忍受辱骂以后必然接踪而来的殴打。

    “你躲在窗帘后面干什么?”他问。

    “在看书。”

    “把书拿来。”

    我走回窗前把书取来。

    “你没有资格动我们的书。妈妈说的,你靠别人养活你,你没有钱,你爸爸什么也没留给你,你应当去讨饭,而不该同像我们这样体面人家的孩子一起过日子,不该同我们吃一样的饭,穿妈妈掏钱给买的衣服。现在我要教训你,让你知道翻我们书架的好处。这些书都是我的,连整座房子都是,要不过几年就归我了。滚,站到门边去,离镜子和窗子远些。”

    我照他的话做了,起初并不知道他的用意。但是他把书举起,拿稳当了,立起身来摆出要扔过来的架势时,我一声惊叫,本能地往旁边一闪,可是晚了、那本书己经扔过来,正好打中了我,我应声倒下,脑袋撞在门上,碰出了血来,疼痛难忍。我的恐惧心理已经越过了极限,被其他情感所代替。

    “你是个恶毒残暴的孩子!”我说。“你像个杀人犯——你是个奴隶监工——你像罗马皇帝!”

    我读过哥尔斯密的《罗马史》,时尼禄、卡利古拉等人物已有自己的看法,并暗暗作过类比,但决没有想到会如此大声地说出口来。

    “什么!什么!”他大叫大嚷。“那是她说的吗?伊丽莎、乔治亚娜,你们可听见她说了?我会不去告诉妈妈吗?不过我得先——”他向我直冲过来,我只觉得他抓住了我的头发和肩膀,他跟一个拼老命的家伙扭打在一起了。我发现他真是个暴君,是个杀人犯。我觉得一两滴血从头上顺着脖子淌下来,感到一阵热辣辣的剧痛。这些感觉一时占了上风,我不再畏惧,而发疯似地同他对打起来。我不太清楚自己的双手到底干了什么,只听得他骂我“耗子!耗子!”一面杀猪似地嚎叫着。他的帮手近在咫尺,伊丽莎和乔治亚娜早已跑出去讨救兵,里德太太上了楼梯,来到现场,后面跟随着贝茜和女佣艾博特。她们我们拉开了,我只听见她们说:“哎呀!哎呀!这么大的气出在约翰少爷身上:”“谁见过那么火冒三丈的!”

    随后里德太太补充说:

    “带她到红房子里去,关起来。”于是马上就有两双手按住了我,把我推上楼去。

   

    

    第二章

    我一路反抗,在我,这还是破天荒第一次。于是大大加深了贝茜和艾博特小姐对我的恶感。我确实有点儿难以自制,或者如法国人所说,失常了。我意识到,因为一时的反抗,会不得不遭受古怪离奇的惩罚。于是,像其他造反的奴隶一样,我横下一条心,决计不顾一切了。

    “抓住她的胳膊,艾博特小姐,她像一只发了疯的猫。”

    “真丢脸!真丢脸!”这位女主人的侍女叫道,“多可怕的举动,爱小姐,居然打起小少爷来了,他是你恩人的儿子:你的小主人!”

    “主人,他怎么会是我主人,难道我是仆人不成?”

    “不,你连仆人都不如。你不干事,吃白食。喂,坐下来,好好想一想你有多坏。”

    这时候她们已把我拖进了里德太太所指的房间,推操到一条矮凳上,我不由自主地像弹簧一样跳起来,但立刻被两双手按住了。

    “要是你不安安稳稳坐着,我们可得绑住你了,”贝茜说,“艾博特小姐,把你的袜带借给我,我那付会被她一下子绷断的。”

    艾博特小姐转而从她粗壮的腿上,解下那条必不可少的带子。捆绑前的准备工作以及由此而额外蒙受的耻辱,略微消解了我的激动情绪。

    “别解啦,”我叫道,“我不动就是了。”

    作为保证,我让双手紧挨着凳子。

    “记住别动,”贝茜说,知道我确实已经平静下去,便松了手。随后她和艾博特小姐抱臂而立,沉着脸,满腹狐疑地瞪着我,不相信我的神经还是正常似的。

    “她以前从来没有这样过,”末了,贝茜转身对那位艾比盖尔说。

    “不过她生性如此,”对方回答,“我经常跟太太说起我对这孩子的看法,太太也同意。这小东西真狡猾,从来没见过像她这样年纪的小姑娘,有那么多鬼心眼的。”

    贝茜没有搭腔,但不一会便对我说:

    “小姐,你该明白,你受了里德太太的恩惠,是她养着你的。要是她把你赶走,你就得进贫民院了。”

    对她们这番活,我无话可说,因为听起来并不新鲜。我生活的最早记忆中就包含着类似的暗示,这些责备我赖别人过活的话,己成了意义含糊的老调,叫人痛苦,让人难受,但又不太好懂。艾博特小姐答话了:“你不能因为太太好心把你同里德小姐和少爷一块抚养大,就以为自己与他们平等了。

    他们将来会有很多很多钱,而你却一个子儿也不会有。你得学谦恭些,尽量顺着他们,这才是你的本份。”

    “我们同你说的全是为了你好,”贝茜补充道,口气倒并不严厉,“你做事要巴结些,学得乖一点,那样也许可以把这当个家住下去,要是你意气用事,粗暴无礼,我敢肯定,太太会把你撵走。”

    “另外,”艾博特小姐说,“上帝会惩罚她,也许会在她耍啤气时,把她处死,死后她能上哪儿呢,来,贝茜,咱们走吧,随她去。反正我是无论如何打动不了她啦。爱小姐,你独个儿呆着的时候,祈祷吧。要是你不忏悔,说不定有个坏家伙会从烟囱进来,把你带走。”

    她们走了,关了门,随手上了锁。

    红房子是间空余的卧房,难得有人在里面过夜。其实也许可以说,从来没有。除非盖茨黑德府上偶而拥进一大群客人时,才有必要动用全部房间。但府里的卧室,数它最宽敞、最堂皇了。—张红木床赫然立于房间正中,粗大的床柱上,罩着深红色锦缎帐幔,活像一个帐篷。两扇终日窗帘紧闭的大窗,半掩在清一色织物制成的流苏之中。地毯是红的,床脚边的桌子上铺着深红色的台布,墙呈柔和的黄褐色,略带粉红。大橱、梳妆台和椅子都是乌黑发亮的红木做的。床上高高地叠着褥垫和枕头,上面铺着雪白的马赛布床罩,在周围深色调陈设的映衬下,白得眩目。几乎同样显眼的是床头边一把铺着坐垫的大安乐椅,一样的白色,前面还放着一只脚凳,在我看来,它像一个苍白的宝座。

    房子里难得生火,所以很冷;因为远离保育室和厨房,所以很静;又因为谁都知道很少有人进去,所以显得庄严肃穆。只有女佣每逢星期六上这里来,把一周内静悄悄落在镜子上和家具上的灰尘抹去。还有里德太太本人,隔好久才来一次,查看大橱里某个秘密抽屉里的东西。这里存放着各类羊皮文件,她的首饰盒,以及她已故丈夫的肖像。上面提到的最后几句话,给红房子带来了一种神秘感,一种魔力,因而它虽然富丽堂皇,却显得分外凄清。

    里德先生死去已经九年了,他就是在这间房子里咽气的,他的遗体在这里让人瞻仰,他的棺材由殡葬工人从这里抬走。从此之后,这里便始终弥漫着一种阴森森的祭奠氛围,所以不常有人闯进来。

    里德先生死去已经九年了,他就是在这间房子里咽气的,他的遗体在这里让人瞻仰,他的棺材由殡葬工人从这里抬走。从此之后,这里便始终弥漫着一种阴森森的祭奠氛围,所以不常有人闯进来。

    贝茜和刻薄的艾博特小姐让我一动不动坐着的,是一条软垫矮凳,摆在靠近大理石壁炉的地方。我面前是高耸的床,我右面是黑漆漆的大橱,橱上柔和、斑驳的反光,使镶板的光泽摇曳变幻。我左面是关得严严实实的窗子,两扇窗子中间有一面大镜子,映照出床和房间的空旷和肃穆。我吃不准他们锁了门没有,等到敢于走动时,便起来看个究竟。哎呀,不错,比牢房锁得还紧呐。返回原地时,我必须经过大镜子跟前。我的目光被吸引住了,禁不住探究起镜中的世界来。在虚幻的映像中,一切都显得比现实中更冷落、更阴沉。那个陌生的小家伙瞅着我,白白的脸上和胳膊上都蒙上了斑驳的阴影,在—切都凝滞时,唯有那双明亮恐惧的眼睛在闪动,看上去真像是一个幽灵。我觉得她像那种半仙半人的小精灵,恰如贝茵在夜晚的故事中所描绘的那样,从沼泽地带山蕨丛生的荒谷中冒出来,现身于迟归的旅行者眼前。我回到丁我的矮凳上。

    这时候我相信起迷信来了,但并没有到了完全听凭摆布的程度,我依然热血沸腾,反叛的奴隶那种苦涩情绪依然激励着我。往事如潮、在我脑海中奔涌,如果我不加以遏制,我就不会对阴暗的现实屈服。

    约翰?里德的专横霸道、他姐妹的高傲冷漠、他母亲的厌恶、仆人们的偏心,像一口混沌的水井中黑色的沉淀物,一古脑儿泛起在我烦恼不安的心头。

    为什么我总是受苦,总是遭人白眼,总是让人告状,永远受到责备呢?为什么我永远不能讨人喜欢?为什么我尽力博取欢心,却依然无济于事呢?伊丽莎自私任性,却受到尊敬;乔治亚娜好使性子,心肠又毒,而且强词夺理目空一切,偏偏得到所有人的纵容。她的美貌,她红润的面颊,金色的卷发,使得她人见人爱,一俊便可遮百丑。至于约翰,没有人同他顶撞,更不用说教训他了,虽然他什么坏事都干:捻断鸽子的头颈,弄死小孔雀,放狗去咬羊,采摘温室中的葡萄,掐断暖房上等花木的嫩芽。有时还叫他母亲“老姑娘”,又因为她皮肤黝黑像他自己而破口大骂。他蛮横地与母亲作对,经常撕毁她的丝绸服装,而他却依然是“她的宝贝蛋”。而我不敢有丝毫闪失,干什么都全力以赴,人家还是骂我淘气鬼,讨厌坯,骂我阴丝丝,贼溜溜,从早上骂到下午,从下午骂到晚上。

    我因为挨了打、跌了交,头依然疼痛,依然流着血。约翰肆无忌惮地打我,却不受责备,而我不过为了免遭进一步无理殴打,反抗了一下,便成了众矢之的。

    “不公呵,不公!”我的理智呼喊着。在痛苦的刺激下我的理智变得早熟,化作了一种短暂的力量。决心也同样鼓动起来,激发我去采取某种奇怪的手段,来摆脱难以忍受的压迫,譬如逃跑,要是不能奏效,那就不吃不喝,活活饿死。

    那个阴沉的下午,我心里多么惶恐不安!我的整个脑袋如一团乱麻,我的整颗心在反抗:然而那场内心斗争又显得多么茫然,多么无知啊!我无法回答心底那永无休止的问题——为什么我要如此受苦。此刻,在相隔——我不说多少年以后,我看清楚了。

    我在盖茨黑德府上格格不入。在那里我跟谁都不像。同里德太太、她的孩子、她看中的家仆,都不融洽。他们不爱我,说实在我也一样不爱他们。他们没有必要热情对待一个与自已合不来的家伙,一个无论是个性、地位,还是嗜好都同他们泾渭分明的异己;一个既不能为他们效劳,也不能给他们增添欢乐的废物;一个对自己的境界心存不满而又蔑视他们想法的讨厌家伙。我明白,如果我是一个聪明开朗、漂亮顽皮、不好侍候的孩子,即使同样是寄人篱下,同样是无亲无故,里德太太也会对我的处境更加宽容忍让;她的孩子们也会对我亲切热情些;佣人们也不会一再把我当作保育室的替罪羊了。

    红房子里白昼将荆时候已是四点过后,暗沉沉的下午正转为凄凉的黄昏。我听见雨点仍不停地敲打着楼梯的窗户,狂风在门厅后面的树丛中怒号。我渐渐地冷得像块石头,勇气也烟消云散。往常那种屈辱感,那种缺乏自信、孤独沮丧的情绪,浇灭了我将消未消的怒火,谁都说我坏,也许我确实如此吧。我不是一心谋划着让自己饿死吗?这当然是一种罪过。而且我该不该死呢?或者,盖茨黑德教堂圣坛底下的墓穴是个令人向往的归宿吗?听说里德先生就长眠在这样的墓穴里。这一念头重又勾起了我对他的回忆,而越往下细想,就越害怕起来。我已经不记得他了,只知道他是我舅父——我母亲的哥哥——他收养了我这个襁褓中的孤儿,而且在弥留之际,要里德太太答应,把我当作她自己的孩子来抚养。里德太太也许认为自己是信守诺言的。而我想就她本性而论,也确是实践了当初的许诺。可是她怎么能真心喜欢一个不属于她家的外姓、一个在丈夫死后同她已了却一切干系的人呢?她发现自己受这勉为其难的保证的约束,充当一个自己所无法喜爱的陌生孩子的母亲,眼睁睁看着一位不相投合的外人永远硬挤在自己的家人中间。对她来说,这想必是件最恼人的事情了。

    红房子里白昼将荆时候已是四点过后,暗沉沉的下午正转为凄凉的黄昏。我听见雨点仍不停地敲打着楼梯的窗户,狂风在门厅后面的树丛中怒号。我渐渐地冷得像块石头,勇气也烟消云散。往常那种屈辱感,那种缺乏自信、孤独沮丧的情绪,浇灭了我将消未消的怒火,谁都说我坏,也许我确实如此吧。我不是一心谋划着让自己饿死吗?这当然是一种罪过。而且我该不该死呢?或者,盖茨黑德教堂圣坛底下的墓穴是个令人向往的归宿吗?听说里德先生就长眠在这样的墓穴里。这一念头重又勾起了我对他的回忆,而越往下细想,就越害怕起来。我已经不记得他了,只知道他是我舅父——我母亲的哥哥——他收养了我这个襁褓中的孤儿,而且在弥留之际,要里德太太答应,把我当作她自己的孩子来抚养。里德太太也许认为自己是信守诺言的。而我想就她本性而论,也确是实践了当初的许诺。可是她怎么能真心喜欢一个不属于她家的外姓、一个在丈夫死后同她已了却一切干系的人呢?她发现自己受这勉为其难的保证的约束,充当一个自己所无法喜爱的陌生孩子的母亲,眼睁睁看着一位不相投合的外人永远硬挤在自己的家人中间。对她来说,这想必是件最恼人的事情了。

    我忽然闪过一个古怪的念头。我不怀疑—一也从来没有怀疑过——里德先生要是在世,一定会待我很好。此刻,我坐着,一面打量着白白的床和影影绰绰的墙,不时还用经不住诱惑的目光,瞟一眼泛着微光的镜子,不由得忆起了关于死人的种种传闻。据说由于人们违背了他们临终的嘱托,他们在坟墓里非常不安,于是便重访人间,严惩发假誓的人,并为受压者报仇。我思忖,里德先生的幽灵为外甥女的冤屈所动,会走出居所,不管那是教堂的墓穴,还是死者无人知晓的世界,来到这间房子,站在我面前。我抹去眼泪,忍住哭泣,担心嚎啕大哭会惊动什么不可知的声音来抚慰我,或者在昏暗中召来某些带光环的面孔,露出奇异怜悯的神色,俯身对着我。这念头听起来很令人欣慰,不过要是真的做起来,想必会非常可怕。我使劲不去想它,抬起头来,大着胆子环顾了一下暗洞洞的房间。就在这时,墙上闪过一道亮光。我问自己,会不会是一缕月光,透过百叶窗的缝隙照了进来?不,月光是静止的,而这透光却是流动的。停晴一看,这光线滑到了天花板上,在我头顶上抖动起来。现在我会很自然地联想到,那很可能是有人提着灯笼穿过草地时射进来的光。但那会儿,我脑子里尽往恐怖处去想,我的神经也由于激动而非常紧张,我认为那道飞快掠过的光,是某个幽灵从另一个世界到来的先兆。我的心怦怦乱跳,头脑又热又胀,耳朵里呼呼作响,以为那是翅膀拍击声,好像什么东西已经逼近我了。我感到压抑,感到窒息,我的忍耐力崩溃了,禁不住发疯似地大叫了一声,冲向大门,拼命摇着门锁。外面们廊上响起了飞跑而来的脚步声,钥匙转动了,贝茜和艾博特走进房间。

    “啊!我看到了一道光,想必是鬼来了。”这时,我拉住了贝茜的手,而她并没有抽回去。

    “她是故意乱叫乱嚷的,”艾博特厌烦地当着我的面说,“而且叫得那么凶!要是真痛得厉害,倒还可以原谅,可她只不过要把我们骗到这里来,我知道她的诡计。”

    “到底是怎么回事?”一个咄咄逼人的声音问道。随后,里德太太从走廊里走过来,帽子飘忽着被风鼓得大大的,睡袍悉悉簌簌响个不停。“艾博特,贝茜,我想我吩咐过,让简?爱呆在红房子里,由我亲自来过问。”

    “简小姐叫得那么响,夫人,”贝茵恳求着。

    “放开她,”这是唯一的回答。“松开贝茵的手,孩子。你尽可放心,靠这些办法,是出不去的,我讨厌耍花招,尤其是小孩子,我有责任让你知道,鬼把戏不管用。现在你要在这里多呆一个小时,而且只有服服贴贴,一动不动,才放你出来。”

    “啊,舅妈,可怜可怜我吧:饶恕我吧!我实在受不了啦,用别的办法惩罚我吧!我会憋死的,要是——”“住嘴!这么闹闹嚷嚷讨厌透了。”她无疑就是这么感觉的。在她眼里我是个早熟的演员,她打心底里认为,我是个本性恶毒、灵魂卑劣、为人阴险的货色。

    贝茜和艾博特退了出去。里德太太对我疯也似的痛苦嚎叫很不耐烦,无意再往下谈了,蓦地把我往后一推,锁上了门。我听见她堂而皇之地走了。她走后不久,我猜想我便一阵痉挛,昏了过去,结束了这场吵闹。

   

   

    

    第三章

    我随后记得,醒过来时仿佛做了一场可怕的恶梦,看到眼前闪烁着骇人的红光,被一根根又粗又黑的条子所隔断。我还听到了沉闷的说话声,仿佛被一阵风声或水声盖住了似的。

    激动不安以及压倒一切的恐怖感,使我神智模糊了。不久,我明白有人在摆弄我,把我扶起来,让我靠着他坐着。我觉得以前从来没有被人这么轻乎轻脚地抱起过,我把头倚在一个枕头上或是一条胳膊上,感到很舒服。

    五分钟后,心头的疑云消散了。我完全明白我在自己的床上,那红光是保育室的炉火。

    时候是夜间,桌上燃着蜡烛。贝茵端着脸盆站在床脚边,一位老先生坐在我枕边的椅子上,俯身向着我。

    我知道房间里有一个生人,一个不属于盖茨黑德府、也不与里德太太拈亲带故的人。这时,我感到了一种难以言表的宽慰,一种确信受到庇护而觉得安全的欣慰之情。我的目光离开贝茜(尽管她在身边远没有艾博特那么讨厌),细细端详这位先生的面容。我认识他,他是芳埃德先生,是个药剂师,有时里德太太请他来给佣人们看玻但她自己和孩子们不舒服时,请的是位内科医生。

    “瞧,我是谁?”他问。

    我说出了他的名字,同时把手伸给他,他握住了我的手、微微一笑说:“慢慢会好起来的。”随后他扶我躺下,并吩咐贝茜千万小心,在夜里别让我受到打扰。他又叮嘱了一番,说了声第二天再来后,便走了。我非常难过。有他坐在我枕边的椅子上,我感到既温暖又亲近,而他一走,门一关上,整个房间便暗了下来,我的心再次沉重起来,一种无可名状的哀伤威压着我。

    “你觉得该睡了吗,小姐?”贝茜问,口气相当温存。

    我几乎不敢回答她,害怕接着的话粗鲁不中听。“我试试。”

    “你想喝什么,或者能吃点什么吗?”

    “不啦,谢谢,贝茜。”

    “那我去睡了,已经过了十二点啦,不过要是夜里需要什么,你尽管叫我。”

    多么彬彬有礼啊!于是我大着胆子问了个问题。

    “贝茜,我怎啦?病了吗?”

    “你是病了,猜想是在红房子里哭出病来的,肯定很快就会好的。”

    贝茵走进了附近佣人的卧房。我听见她说:“萨拉,过来同我一起睡在保育室吧,今儿晚上,就是要我命,我也不敢同那个可怜孩子单独过夜了。她说不定会死的。真奇怪她竟会昏过去。不知道她看见了什么没有。里德太太也太狠心了。”

    萨拉跟着她回来了,两人都上了床,嘁嘁喳喳讲了半个小时才睡着。我只听到了片言只语,但我可以清楚地推断出她们讨论的主题。

    “有个东西从她身边经过,一身素装,转眼就不见了”——“一条大黑狗跟在后面”——“在房门上砰砰砰”敲了三下——“墓地里一道白光正好掠过他坟墓”等等等等。

    最后,两人都睡着了,炉火和烛光也都熄灭。我就这么可怕地醒着挨过了漫漫长夜,害怕得耳朵、眼睛和头脑都紧张起来,这种恐俱是只有儿童才能感受到的,红房子事件并没有给我身体留下严重或慢性的后遗症,它不过使我的神经受了惊吓,对此我至今记忆犹新。是的,里德太太,你让我领受了可怕的精神创伤,但我应当原谅你、因为你并不明白自己干了些什么,明明是在割断我的心弦,却自以为无非是要根除我的恶习。

    第二天中午,我起来穿好衣服,裹了块浴巾,坐在保育室壁炉旁边。我身体虚弱,几乎要垮下来。但最大的痛楚却是内心难以言传的苦恼,弄得我不断地暗暗落泪。才从脸颊上抹去一滴带咸味的泪水,另一滴又滚落下来。不过,我想我应当高兴,因为里德一家人都不在,他们都坐了车随妈妈出去了。艾博特也在另一间屋里做针线活。而贝茵呢,来回忙碌着,一面把玩具收拾起来,将抽屉整理好,一面还不时地同我说两句少有的体贴话。对我来说,过惯了那种成天挨骂、辛辛苦苦吃力不讨好的日子后,这光景该好比是平静的乐园。然而,我的神经己被折磨得痛苦不堪,终于连平静也抚慰不了我,欢乐也难以使我兴奋了。

    贝茜下楼去了一趟厨房,端上来一个小烘饼,放在一个图案鲜艳的瓷盘里,图案上画的是一只极乐鸟,偎依在一圈旋花和玫瑰花苞上。这幅画曾激起我热切的羡慕之情。我常常恳求让我端一端这只盘子,好仔细看个究竟,但总是被认为不配享受这样的特权。此刻,这只珍贵的器皿就搁在我膝头上,我还受到热诚邀请,品尝器皿里一小圈精美的糕点。徒有虚名的垂爱啊!跟其他久拖不予而又始终期待着的宠爱一样,来得太晚了!我已无意光顾这烘饼,而且那鸟的羽毛和花卉的色泽也奇怪地黯然无光了。我把盘子和烘饼挪开。贝茜问我是否想要一本书。“书”字产生了瞬间的刺激,我求她去图书室取来一本《格列佛游记》。我曾兴致勃动地反复细读过这本书,认为书中叙述的都实有其事,因而觉得比童话中写的有趣。至于那些小精灵们,我在毛地黄叶子与花冠之间,在蘑菇底下和爬满老墙角落的长春藤下遍寻无着之后,终于承认这悲哀的事实:他们都己逃离英国到某个原始的乡间去了,那儿树林更荒凉茂密,人口更为稀少。而我虔信,小人国和大人国都是地球表面实实在在的一部份。我毫不怀疑有朝一日我会去远航,亲眼看一看一个王国里小小的田野、小小的房子、小小的树木;看一看那里的小人、小牛、小羊和小鸟们;目睹一下另一个王国里如森林一般高耸的玉米地、硕大的猛犬、巨大无比的猫以及高塔一般的男男女女。然而,此刻当我手里捧着这本珍爱的书,一页页翻过去,从精妙的插图中寻觅以前每试必爽的魅力时,我找到的只是怪异和凄凉。巨人成了憔悴的妖怪,矮子沦为恶毒可怖的小鬼,而格列佛则已是陷身于险境的孤独的流浪者了。我不敢往下看了,合上书,把它放在桌上一口未尝的小烘饼旁边。

    我以前常听这首歌,而且总觉得它欢快悦耳,因为贝茜的嗓子很甜,至少我认为如此。

    而此刻,虽然她甜蜜的嗓子依旧,但歌里透出了一种难以言喻的悲哀。有时,她干活出了神,把迭句唱得很低沉,拖得很长。一句“很久很久以前”唱出来,如同挽歌中最哀伤的调子。她接着又唱起一首民谣来,这回可是真的哀怨凄恻了。

    我的双脚酸痛啊四肢乏力,前路漫漫啊大山荒芜。没有月光啊天色阴凄,暮霭沉沉啊笼罩着可怜孤儿的旅途。

    为什么要让我孤苦伶丁远走他乡,流落在荒野连绵峭岩重叠的异地。人心狠毒啊,唯有天使善良,关注着可怜孤儿的足迹。

    从远处吹来了柔和的夜风,晴空中繁星闪烁着温煦的光芒。仁慈的上帝啊,你赐福于万众,可怜的孤儿得到了保护、安慰和希望。

    哪怕我走过断桥失足坠落,或是在迷茫恍惚中误入泥淖。天父啊,你带着祝福与许诺,把可怜的孤儿搂入你怀抱。

    哪怕我无家可归无亲无故,一个给人力量的信念在我心头。天堂啊,永远是归宿和安息之所,上帝是可怜孤儿的朋友。

    “来吧,简小姐,别哭了,”贝茜唱完了说。其实,她无异于对火说“你别燃烧!”不过,她怎么能揣度出我被极度的痛苦所折磨?早上劳埃德先生又来了。

    “怎么,己经起来了!”他一进保育室就说,“嗨,保姆、她怎么样了?”

    贝茜回答说我情况很好。

    “那她应该高兴才是。过来、简小姐,你的名字叫简,是不是?”

    “是,先生,叫简?爱。”

    “瞧,你一直在哭,简?爱小姐,你能告诉我为什么吗?哪儿疼吗?”

    “不疼,先生。”

    “啊,我想是因为不能跟小姐们一起坐马车出去才哭的,”贝茜插嘴说。

    “当然不是罗!她那么大了,不会为这点小事闹别扭的。”

    这恰恰也是我的想法。而她这么冤枉我伤了我的自尊,所以我当即回答,“我长得这么大从来没有为这种事哭过,而且我又讨厌乘马车出去。我是因为心里难受才哭的。”

    “嘿,去去,小姐!”贝茜说。

    好心的药剂师似乎有些莫明其妙。我站在他面前,他目不转睛地看着我。他灰色的小眼睛并不明亮,但现在想来也许应当说是非常锐利的。他的面相既严厉而又温厚,他从从容容地打量了我一番后说:“昨天你怎么得病的呢?”

    “她跌了一跤。”贝茜又插嘴了。

    “跌交:又耍娃娃脾气了!她这样年纪还不会走路?八九岁总有了吧。”

    “我是被人给打倒的,”我脱口而出。由于自尊心再次受到伤害,引起了一阵痛楚,我冒昧地作了这样的辩解。“但光那样也不会生玻”我趁劳埃德先生取了一撮鼻烟吸起来时说。

    他把烟盒放入背心口袋。这时,铃声大作,叫佣人们去吃饭。他明白是怎么回事。“那是叫你的,保姆,”他说,“你可以下去啦,我来开导开导简小姐,等着你回来,”贝茜本想留着,但又不得不走,准时吃饭是盖茨黑德府的一条成规。

    “你不是以为跌了跤才生病吧?那么因为什么呢?”贝茜一走,劳埃德先生便追问道。

    “他们把我关在一间闹鬼的房子里,直到天黑。”

    我看到劳埃德先生微微一笑,同时又皱起眉头来,“鬼?瞧,你毕竟还是个娃娃!你怕鬼吗?”

    里德先生的鬼魂我是怕的,他就死在那同房子里,还在那里停过棂。无论贝茜,还是别人,能不进去,是不在夜里进那房间的。多狠心呀,把我一个人关在里面,连支蜡烛也不点。心肠那么狠,我一辈子都忘不了。”

    “瞎说!就因为这个使你心里难受,现在大白天你还怕吗?”

    “现在不怕,不过马上又要到夜里了。另外,我不愉快,很不愉快,为的是其他事情。”

    “其他什么事?能说些给我听听吗?”

    我多么希望能原原本本回答这个问题!要作出回答又何其困难:孩子们能够感觉,但无法分析自己的情感,即使部分分折能够意会,分析的过程也难以言传。但是我又担心失去这第一次也是唯一一次吐苦水的机会。所以局促不安地停了一停之后,便琢磨出一个虽不详尽却相当真实的回答。

    “一方面是因为我没有父母,没有兄弟姐妹的缘故。”

    “可是你有一位和蔼可亲的舅母,还有表兄妹们。”

    我又顿了顿,随后便笨嘴笨舌地说:

    “可是约翰?里德把我打倒了,而舅妈又把我关在红房子里。”

    劳埃德先生再次掏出了鼻烟盒。

    “你不觉得盖茨黑德府是座漂亮的房子吗?”他问,“让你住那么好一个地方,你难道不感激?”

    “这又不是我的房子,先生。艾博特还说我比这儿的佣人还不如呢。”

    “去!你总不至于傻得想离开这个好地方吧。”

    “要是我有地方去,我是乐意走的。可是不等到长大成人我休想摆脱盖茨黑德。”

    “也许可以——谁知道?除了里德太太,你还有别的亲戚吗?”

    “我想没有了,先生。”

    “你父亲那头也没有了吗?”

    “我不知道,有一回我问过舅妈,她说可能有些姓爱的亲戚,人又穷,地位又低,她对他们的情况一无所知。”

    “要是有这样的亲戚,你愿意去吗?”

    我陷入了沉思,在成年人看来贫困显得冷酷无情,孩子则尤其如此。至于勤劳刻苦、令人钦敬的贫困,孩子们不甚了了。在他们心目中,这个字眼始终与衣衫槛褴褛、食品匿乏、壁炉无火、行为粗鲁以及低贱的恶习联系在一起。对我来说,贫困就是堕落的别名。

    “不,我不愿与穷人为伍,”这就是我的回答。

    “即使他们待你很好也不愿意?”

    我摇了摇头,不明白穷人怎么会有条件对人仁慈,更不说我还得学他们的言谈举止,同他们一样没有文化,长大了像有时见到的那种贫苦女人一样,坐在盖茨黑德府茅屋门口,奶孩子或者搓洗衣服。不,我可没有那样英雄气概,宁愿抛却身份来换取自由。

    “但是你的亲戚就那么穷,都是靠干活过日子的么?”

    “我说不上来。里德舅妈说,要是我有亲戚,也准是一群要饭的,我可不愿去要饭。”

    “你想上学吗?”

    我再次沉思起来。我几乎不知道学校是什么样子。光听贝茜有时说起过,那个地方,年轻女子带足枷坐着,戴着脊骨矫正板,还非得要十分文雅和规矩才行。约翰?里德对学校恨之入骨,还大骂教师。不过他的感受不足为凭。如果贝茜关于校纪的说法(她来盖茨黑德之前,从她主人家一些年轻小姐那儿收集来的)有些骇人听闻,那么她细说的关于那些小姐所学得的才艺,我想也同样令人神往。她绘声绘色地谈起了她们制作的风景画和花卉画;谈起了她们能唱的歌,能弹的曲,能编织的钱包,能翻译的法文书,一直谈得我听着听着就为之心动,跃跃欲试。更何况上学也是彻底变换环境,意味着一次远行,意味着同盖茨黑德完全决裂,意味着踏上新的生活旅程。

    “我真的愿意去上学,”这是我三思之后轻声说出的结论。

    “唉,唉,谁知道会发生什么呢?”劳埃德先生立起身来说。“这孩子应当换换空气,换换地方,”他自言自语地补充说,“神经不很好。”

    这时,贝茜回来了,同时听得见砂石路上响起了滚滚而来的马车声。

    “是你们太太吗,保姆?”劳埃德先生问道。“走之前我得跟她谈一谈。”

    贝茜请他进早餐室,并且领了路。从以后发生的情况推测,药剂师在随后与里德太太的会见中,大胆建议送我进学校。无疑,这个建议被欣然采纳了。一天夜里,艾博特和贝茜坐在保育室里,做着针钱活儿,谈起了这件事。那时,我已经上床,她们以为我睡着了。艾博特说:“我想太太一定巴不得摆脱这样一个既讨厌、品质又不好的孩子,她那样子就好像眼睛老盯着每个人,暗地里在搞什么阴谋似的。”我想艾博特准相信我是幼年的盖伊?福克斯式人物了。

    就是这一回,我从艾博特与贝茜的文谈中第一次获悉,我父亲生前是个牧师,我母亲违背了朋友们的意愿嫁给了他,他们认为这桩婚事有失她的身份。我的外祖父里德,因为我母亲不听话而勃然大怒,一气之下同她断绝了关系,没留给她一个子儿。我父母亲结婚才一年,父亲染上了斑疹伤寒,因为他奔走于副牧师供职地区、一个大工业城镇的穷人中间,而当时该地流行着斑疹伤寒。我母亲从父亲那儿染上了同一疾病,结果父母双双故去,前后相距下到一个月。

    贝茜听了这番话便长叹一声说:“可怜的简小姐也是值得同情呐,艾博特。”

    “是呀,”艾博特回答,“她若是漂亮可爱,人家倒也会可怜她那么孤苦伶仃的,可是像她那样的小东西,实在不讨人喜欢。”

    “确实不大讨人喜欢,”贝茜表示同意,“至少在同样处境下,乔治亚娜这样的美人儿会更惹人喜爱。”

    “是呀,我就是喜欢乔治亚娜小姐!”狂热的艾博特嚷道,“真是个小宝贝——长长的卷发,蓝蓝的眼睛,还有那么可爱的肤色,简直像画出来的一般!——贝茜,晚餐我真想吃威尔士兔子。”

    “我也一样——外加烤洋葱。来吧,我们下楼去。”她们走了。

   

   

    

    第四章

    我同劳埃德先生的一番交谈,以及上回所述贝茜和艾博特之间的议论,使我信心倍增,动力十足,盼着自己快些好起来。看来,某种变动已近在眼前,我默默地期待着。然而,它迟迟未来。一天天、一周周过去了、我已体健如旧,但我朝思暮想的那件事,却并没有重新提起。里德太太有时恶狠狠地打量我,但很少理睬我。自我生病以来,她已把我同她的孩子截然分开,指定我独自睡一个小房间,罚我单独用餐,整天呆在保育室里,而我的表兄妹们却经常在客厅玩耍。她没有丝毫暗示要送我上学,但我有一种很有把握的直觉,她不会长期容忍我与她同在一个屋檐下生活。因为她把目光投向我时,眼神里越来越表露出一种无法摆脱、根深蒂固的厌恶。

    伊丽莎和乔治亚娜分明是按吩咐行事,尽量少同我搭讪。而约翰一见我就装鬼脸,有—回竟还想对我动武。像上次一样,我怒不可遏、忍无可忍,激起了一种犯罪的本性,顿时扑了上去。他一想还是住手的好,便逃离了我,一边破口大骂,诬赖我撕裂了他的鼻子。我的拳头确实瞄准了那个隆起的器官,出足力气狠狠一击。当我看到这一招或是我的目光使他吓破了胆时,我真想乘胜追击,达到目的,可是他已经逃到他妈妈那里了。我听他哭哭啼啼,开始讲述“那个讨厌的简?爱”如何像疯猫一样扑向他的故事。但他的哭诉立即被厉声喝住了。

    别跟我提起她了,约翰。我同你说过不要与她接近,她不值得理睬。我不愿意你或者你妹妹同她来往,”这时,我扑出栏杆,突然不假思索地大叫了一声:“他们还不配同我交往呢。”

    尽管里德太太的体态有些臃肿,但—听见我这不可思议的大胆宣告,便利索地登登登跑上楼梯,一阵风似地把我拖进保育室,按倒在小床的床沿上,气势汹汹地说,谅我那天再也不敢从那里爬起来,或是再吭一声了。

    “要是里德先生还活着,他会同你说什么?”我几乎无意中问了这个问题。我说几乎无意,是因为我的舌头仿佛不由自主地吐出了这句话,完全是随意倾泻,不受控制。

    “什么,”里德太太咕哝着说。她平日冷漠平静的灰色眸子显得惶惶不安,露出了近乎恐惧的神色。她从我的胳膊中抽回手,死死盯着我,仿佛真的弄不明白我究竟是个孩童还是魔鬼。这时,我骑虎难下了。

    “里德舅舅在天堂里,你做的和想的,他都看得清清楚楚。我爸爸妈妈也看得清清楚楚。他们知道你把我关了一整天,还巴不得我死掉。”

    里德太太很快便定下神来,狠命推搡我,扇我耳光,随后二话没说扔下我就走。在留下的空隙里,贝茜喋喋不休进行了长达一个小时的说教,证实我无疑是家里养大的最坏、最放任的孩子,弄得我也有些半信半疑。因为我确实觉得,在我胸膛里翻腾的只有恶感。

    十一月、十二月和一月的上半月转眼已逝去。在盖茨黑德,圣诞节和元旦照例喜气洋洋地庆祝一番,相互交换礼物,举行圣诞晚餐和晚会,当然,这些享受一概与我无缘,我的那份乐趣是每天眼睁睁瞧着伊丽莎和乔治亚娜的装束,看她们着薄纱上衣,系大红腰带,披着精心制作的卷发下楼到客厅去。随后倾听楼下弹奏钢琴和竖琴的声音,管家和仆人来来往往的脚步声,上点心时杯盘磕碰的叮咚声,随着客厅门启闭时断时续传来的谈话声,听腻了。

    我会离开楼梯口,走进孤寂的保育室。那里尽管也有些许悲哀,但心里并不难受,说实话,我绝对无意去凑热闹,因为就是去了,也很少有人理我,要是贝茜肯好好陪我,我觉得与她相守,安静地度过多夜晚倒也一种享受,强似在满屋少爷小姐、太太先生中间、里德太太令人生畏的目光下,挨过那些时刻,但是,贝茜往往把小姐们一打扮停当,便抽身上厨房、女管家室等热闹场所去了,还总把蜡烛也带走。随后,我把玩偶放在膝头枯坐着,直至炉火渐渐暗淡,还不时东张西望,弄清楚除了我没有更可怕的东西光顾这昏暗的房间,待到余烬褪为暗红色,我便急急忙忙、拿出吃奶的劲来,宽衣解带,钻进小床,躲避寒冷与黑暗,我常把玩偶随身带到床上,人总得爱点什么,在缺乏更值得爱的东西的时候,我便设想以珍爱一个褪了色的布偶来获得愉快,尽管这个玩偶已经破烂不堪,活像个小小的稻草人,此刻忆起这件往事,也令我迷惑不解,当时,我是带着何等荒谬的虔诚来溺爱这小玩具的呀!我还有点相信它有血有肉有感觉,只有把它裹进了睡袍我才能入睡,一旦它暖融融安然无恙地躺在那里,我便觉得愉快多了,而且这玩偶也有同感。

    我似乎要等很久很久客人们才散去,才候着贝茜上楼的脚步声,有时她会在中间上楼来,找顶针或剪刀,或者端上一个小面包、奶酪饼什么的当作我的晚餐。她会坐在床上看我吃。我一吃完,她会替我把被子塞好,亲了我两下,说:“晚安,简小姐。”贝茜和颜悦色的时候,我就觉得她是人世间最好、最漂亮、最善良的人,我热切希望她会总是那么讨人喜欢,那么和蔼可亲,不要老是支使我,骂我,无理责备我,我现在想来,贝茜?李一定是位很有天赋的姑娘,因为她干什么都在行,还有善讲故事的惊人诀窍,至少保育室故事留给我的印象,让我可以作出这样的判断。如果我对她的脸蛋和身材没有记错,那她还长得很漂亮。在我的记忆中,她是个身材苗条的少妇,有着墨色的头发,乌黑的眸子,端正的五官和光洁的皮肤,但她任性急躁,缺乏原则性和正义感。尽管加此,在盖茨黑德府的人中、我最喜欢她。

    那是一月十五日早上九点。贝茜已下楼去用早餐,我的表兄妹们还没有被叫唤到他们妈妈身边。伊丽莎正戴上宽边帽,穿上暖和的园艺服,出喂她的家禽。这活儿她百做不厌,并不逊于把鸡鱼类给女管家,把所得钱藏匿起来,她有做买卖的才干,有突出的聚财癖,不仅表现在兜售鸡蛋和鸡方面,而且也在跟园艺工就花茎、花籽和插枝而拼命讨价还价上显露出来,里德太太曾吩咐园艺工,凡是伊丽莎想卖掉的花圃产品,他都得统统买下。而要是能赚大钱,伊丽莎连出售自己的头发也心甘情愿。至于所得的钱,起初她用破布或陈旧的卷发纸包好,藏在偏僻的角落里。但后来其中一些秘藏物被女佣所发现,她深怕有一天丢失她值钱的宝藏,同意由她母亲托管,收取近乎高利贷的利息——百分之五十或六十,一个季度索讨一次。她还把帐记在一个小本子上,算得分毫不差。

    乔治亚娜坐在一条高脚凳上,对镜梳理着自己的头发。她把一朵朵人造花和一根根褪色的羽毛插到卷发上,这些东西是她在阁楼上的一个抽屉里找到的。我正在铺床,因为根据贝茜的严格指令,我得在她回来之前把一切都收拾停当(贝茜现在常常把我当作保育室女佣下手来使唤,吩咐我整理房间、擦掉椅子上的灰尘等等),我摊开被子,叠好睡衣后,便走向窗台,正把散乱的图画书和玩偶家具放好,却突然传来了乔治亚娜指手划脚的吆喝不许我动她的玩具(因为这些椅子、镜子、小盘子和小杯子都是她的财产),于是只好歇手。一时无所事事,便开始往凝结在窗上的霜花哈气,在玻璃上化开了一小块地方,透过它可以眺望外面的院落,那里的一切在严霜的威力之下,仿佛凝固了似的寂然不动。

    从这扇窗子后得清门房和马车道。我在蒙着—簇簇银白色霜花的窗玻璃上,正哈出—块可以往外窥视的地方时,只见大门开了,一辆马车驶了进来,我毫不在意地看着它爬上小道,因为尽管马车经常光临盖茨黑德府,却从未进来一位我所感兴趣的客人。这辆车在房子前面停下,门铃大作,来客被请进了门,既然这种事情与我无关,百无聊赖之中,我便被一种更有生气的景象所吸引了。那是一只小小的、饿坏了的知更鸟,从什么地方飞来,落在紧贴靠窗的墙上一棵光秃秃的樱桃树枝头,叽叽喳喳叫个不停。这时,桌上放着我早饭吃剩的牛奶和面包,我把一小块面包弄碎,并正推窗把它放到窗沿上时,贝茜奔上楼梯,走进了保育室。

    “简小姐、把围涎脱掉。你在那儿干什么呀?今天早上抹了脸,洗了手了吗?”

    我先没有回答,顾自又推了一下窗子,因为我要让这鸟儿万无一失地吃到面包。窗子终于松动了,我撒出了面包屑,有的落在石头窗沿上,有的落在樱桃树枝上。随后我关好窗,一面回答说:“没有呢,贝茜,我才掸好灰尘。”

    “你这个粗心大意的淘气鬼!这会儿在干什么呀?你的脸通红通红,好像干了什么坏事似的,你开窗干啥?”

    贝茜似乎很匆忙,已等不及听我解释,省却了我回答的麻烦。她将我一把拖到洗脸架前,不由分说往我脸上、手上擦了肥皂,抹上水,用一块粗糙的毛巾一揩,虽然重手重脚,倒也干脆爽快。她又用一把粗毛刷子,把我的头清理了一番,脱下我的围涎,急急忙忙把我带到楼梯口,嘱我径直下楼去,说是早餐室有人找我。

    我本想问她是谁在找我,打听一下里德太太是不是在那里。可是贝茜己经走了,还在我身后关上了保育室的门,我慢吞吞地走下楼梯。近三个月来,我从未被叫到里德太太跟前。

    由于在保育室里禁锢了那么久,早餐室、餐室和客厅都成了令我心寒的地方,一跨进去便惶惶不安。

    此刻,我站在空空荡荡的大厅里,面前就是餐室的门。我停住了脚步,吓得直打哆嗦,可怜的胆小鬼,那时候不公的惩罚竟使她怕成了这付样子!我既不敢退后返回保育室,又怕往前走向客厅。我焦虑不安、犹犹豫豫地站了十来分钟,直到早餐室一阵喧闹的铃声使我横下了心来:我非进去不可了。

    “谁会找我呢?”我心里有些纳闷,一面用两只手去转动僵硬的门把手,足有一两秒钟,那把手纹丝不动,“除了里德舅妈之外,我还会在客厅里见到谁呢?——男人还是女人?”把手转动了一下,门开了。我进去行了一个低低的屈膝礼,抬起来头竟看见了一根黑色的柱子!至少猛一看来是这样。那笔直、狭小裹着貂皮的东西直挺挺立在地毯上,那张凶神恶煞般的脸,像是雕刻成的假面,置于柱子顶端当作柱顶似的。

    里德太太坐在壁炉旁往常所坐的位置上,她示意我走近她。我照着做了。她用这样的话把我介绍给那个毫无表情的陌生人:“这就是我跟你谈起过的小女孩。”

    他——因为是个男人——缓缓地把头转向我站立的地方,用他那双浓眉下闪着好奇的目光的灰色眼睛审视着我,随后响起了他严肃的男低音:“她个子很小,几岁了?”

    “十岁。”

    “这么大了,”他满腹狐疑地问道。随后又细细打量了我几分钟,马上跟我说起话来。

    “你叫什么名字,小姑娘?”

    “简?爱,先生。”

    说完,我抬起头来,我觉得他是位身材高大的斗士,不过,那时我自己是个小不点。他的五官粗大、每个部位以及骨架上的每根线条,都是同样的粗糙和刻板。

    “瞧,简?爱,你是个好孩子吗?”

    我不可能回答说“是的”,我那个小天地里的人都持有相反的意见,于是我沉默不语。

    里德太太使劲摇了一下头,等于是替我作了回答,并立即补充说:“这个话题也许还是少谈为炒。布罗克赫斯特先生。”

    “很遗憾听你这么说:我同她必须谈一谈。”他俯下原本垂直的身子,一屁股坐进里德太太对面的扶手椅里。“过来,”他说。

    我走过地毯,他让我面对面笔直站在他面前,这时他的脸与我的几乎处在同一个水平面上,那是一张多怪的脸呀!多大的鼻子,多难看的嘴巴!还有那一口的大板牙?

    “一个淘气孩子的模样最让人痛心,”他开始说,“尤其是不听话的小姑娘。你知道坏人死后到哪里去吗?”

    “他们下地狱,”我的回答既现成又正统。

    “地狱是什么地方?能告诉我吗?”

    “是个火坑。”

    “你愿意落到那个火坑里,永远被火烤吗?”

    “不,先生。”

    “那你必须怎样才能避免呢?”

    我细细思忖了一会,终于作出了令人讨厌的回答:“我得保持健康,不要死掉。”

    “你怎么可能保持健康呢?比你年纪小的孩子,每天都有死掉的。一两天前我才埋葬过一个只有五岁的孩子,一个好孩子,现在他的灵魂已经上了天,要是你被召唤去的话,恐怕很难说能同他一样了。”

    我无法消除他的疑虑,便只好低下头去看他那双站立在地毯上的大脚,还叹了一口气,巴不得自己离得远一些。

    “但愿你的叹息是发自内心的,但愿你已后悔不该给你的大恩人带来烦恼。”

    “恩人!恩人!”我心里嘀咕着,“他们都说里德太太是我的恩人,要真是这样,那么恩人倒是个讨厌的家伙。”

    “你早晚都祷告吗?”我的询问者继续说。

    “是的,先生。”

    “你读《圣经》吗?”

    “有时候读。”

    “高兴读吗?喜欢不喜欢?”

    “我喜欢《启示录》、《但以理书》、《创世纪》和《撒母耳记》,《出埃及记》的一小部分,《列王记》和《历代志》的几个部分,还有《约伯》和《约拿书》。”

    “还有《诗篇》呢?我想你也喜欢吧。”

    “不喜欢,先生。”

    “不喜欢?哎呀,真让人吃惊!有个小男孩,比你年纪还小,却能背六首赞美诗。你要是问他,愿意吃姜饼呢,不是背一首赞美诗,他会就‘啊,背赞美诗!因为天使也唱。’还说‘我真希望当一个人间的小天使,’随后他得到了两块姜饼,作为他小小年纪就那么虔诚的报偿。”

    “赞美诗很乏味,”我说。

    “这说明你心很坏,你应当祈求上帝给你换一颗新的纯洁的心,把那颗石头般的心取走,赐给你一颗血肉之心。”

    我正要问他换心的手术怎样做时,里德太太插嘴了,吩咐我坐下来,随后她接着话题谈了下去。

    “布罗克赫斯特先生,我相信三个星期以前我给你的信中曾经提到,这个小姑娘缺乏我所期望的人品与气质。如果你准许她进罗沃德学校,我乐意恭请校长和教师们对她严加看管,尤其要提防她身上最大的毛病,一种爱说谎的习性。我当着你的面说这件事,简,目的是让你不好再瞒骗布罗克赫斯特先生。”

    我满有理由害怕里德太太,讨厌她,因为她生性就爱刻毒地伤害我,在她面前我从来不会愉快。不管我怎样陪着小心顺从好,千方百计讨她喜心,我的努力仍然受到鄙夷,并被报之以上述这类言词。她当着陌生人的面,竟如此指控我,实在伤透了我的心。我依稀感到,她抹去了我对新生活所怀的希望,这种生活是她特意为我安排的。尽管我不能表露自己的感情,但我感到,她在通向我未来的道路上,播下了反感和无情的种子。我看到自己在布罗克赫斯特先生的眼睛里,已变成了一个工于心计、令人讨厌的孩子,我还能有什么办法来弥合这种伤痕呢?

    “说实在,没有,”我思忖道。一面竭力忍住哭泣,急忙擦掉几滴泪水,我无可奈何的痛苦的见证。

    “在孩子身上,欺骗是一种可悲的缺点,”布罗克赫斯特先生说,“它近乎于说谎,而所有的说谎者,都有份儿落到燃烧着硫磺烈火的湖里。不过,我们会对她严加看管的,我要告诉坦普尔小姐和教师们。”

    “我希望根据她的前程来培育她,”我的恩人继续说,“使她成为有用之材,永远保持谦卑。至于假期嘛,要是你许可,就让她一直在罗沃德过吧。”

    “你的决断无比英明,太太,”布罗克赫斯特先生回答。谦恭是基督教徒的美德,对罗沃德的学生尤其适用。为此我下了指令,要特别注重在学生中培养这种品质。我己经探究过如何最有效地抑制他们世俗的骄情。前不久,我还得到了可喜的依据,证明我获得了成功。

    我的第二个女儿奥古斯塔随同她妈妈访问了学校,一回来她就嚷嚷着说:‘啊,亲爱的爸爸,罗沃德学校的姑娘都显得好文静,好朴实呀!头发都梳到了耳后,都戴着长长的围涎,上衣外面都有一个用亚麻细布做的小口袋,他们几乎就同穷人家的孩子一样!还有’,她说,‘她们都瞧着我和妈妈的装束,好像从来没有看到过一件丝裙似的。”

    “这种状况我十分赞赏,”里德太太回答道,“就是找遍整个英国,也很难找到一个更适合像简?爱这样孩子呆的机构了。韧性,我亲爱的布罗克赫斯特先生,我主张干什么都要有韧性。”

    “夫人,韧性是基督徒的首要职责。它贯串于罗沃德学校的一切安排之中:吃得简单,穿得朴实,住得随便,养成吃苦耐劳、做事巴结的习惯。在学校里,在寄宿者中间,这一切都已蔚然成风。”

    “说得很对,先生。那我可以相信这孩子已被罗沃德学校收为学生,并根据她的地位和前途加以训导了,是吗?”

    “太太、你可以这么说。她将被放在培植精选花草的苗圃里,我相信她会因为无比荣幸地被选中而感激涕零的。”

    “既然这样,我会尽快送她来的,布罗克赫斯特先生,因为说实在,我急于开卸掉这付令人厌烦的担子呢。”

    “的确,的确是这样,太太。现在我就向你告辞了。一两周之后我才回到布罗克赫斯特府去,我的好朋友一位副主教不让我早走。我会通知坦普尔小姐,一位新来的姑娘要到。这样,接待她也不会有什么困难了。再见。”

    “再见,布罗克赫斯特先生。请向布罗克赫斯特太太和小姐,向奥古斯塔、西奥多和布劳顿?布罗克赫斯特少爷问好。”

    “一定,太太。小姑娘,这里有本书,题目叫《儿童指南》,祷告后再读,尤其要注意那个部分,说的是‘一个满口谎言、欺骗成性的淘气鬼,玛莎?格××暴死的经过’。"说完,布罗克赫斯特先生把一本装有封皮的薄薄小册子塞进我手里,打铃让人备好马车,便离去了。

    房间里只剩下了里德太太和我,在沉默中过了几分钟。她在做针钱活,我在打量着她,当时里德太太也许才三十六七岁光景,是个体魄强健的女人,肩膀宽阔,四肢结实,个子不高,身体粗壮但并不肥胖,她的下鄂很发达也很壮实,所以她的脸也就有些大了。她的眉毛很低,下巴又大又突出,嘴巴和鼻子倒是十分匀称的。在她浅色的眉毛下,闪动着一双没有同情心的眼睛。她的皮肤黝黑而灰暗,头发近乎亚麻色。她的体格很好,疾病从不染身。她是一位精明干练的总管,家庭和租赁的产业都由她一手控制。只有她的孩子间或蔑视她的权威,嗤之以鼻。她穿着讲究,她的风度和举止有助于衬托出她漂亮的服饰。

    我坐在一条矮凳上,离她的扶手椅有几码远、打量着她的身材。仔细端详着她的五宫。

    我手里拿着那本记述说谎者暴死经过的小册子,他们曾把这个故事作为一种恰当的警告引起我注意。刚才发生的一幕,里德太太跟布罗克赫斯特先生所说的关于我的话,他们谈话的内容,仍在耳边回响,刺痛劳我的心扉。每句话都听得明明白白,每句话都那么刺耳。此刻,我的内心正燃起一腔不满之情。

    里德太太放下手头的活儿,抬起头来,眼神与我的目光相遇,她的手指也同时停止了飞针走线的活动。

    “出去,回到保育室去,”她命令道。我的神情或者别的什么想必使她感到讨厌,因为她说话时尽管克制着,却仍然极其恼怒。我立起身来,走到门边,却又返回,穿过房间到了窗前,一直走到她面前。

    我非讲不可,我被践踏得够了,我必须反抗。可是怎么反抗呢,我有什么力量来回击对手呢?我鼓足勇气,直截了当地发动了进攻:“我不骗人,要是我骗,我会说我爱你。但我声明,我不爱你,除了约翰?里德,你是世上我最不喜欢的人,这本写说谎者的书,你尽可以送给你的女儿乔治亚娜,因为说谎的是她,不是我。”

    里德太太的手仍一动不动地放在她的活儿上,冷冰冰的目光,继续阴丝丝地凝视着我。

    “你还有什么要说?”她问,那种口气仿佛是对着一个成年对手在讲话,对付孩子通常是不会使用的。

    她的眸子和嗓音,激起了我极大的反感,我激动得难以抑制,直打哆嗦,继续说了下去:“我很庆幸你不是我亲戚,今生今世我再也不会叫你舅妈了。长大了我也永远不会来看你,要是有人问起我喜欢不喜欢你,你怎样待我,我会说,一想起你就使我讨厌,我会说,你对我冷酷得到了可耻的地步。”

    “你怎么敢说这话,简?爱?”

    “我怎么敢,里德太太,我怎么敢,因为这是事实,你以为我没有情感,以为我不需要一点抚爱或亲情就可以打发日子,可是我不能这么生活。还有,你没有怜悯之心,我会记住你怎么推搡我,粗暴地把我弄进红房子,锁在里面,我到死都不会忘记,尽管我很痛苦,尽管我一面泣不成声,一面叫喊,‘可怜可怜吧!可怜可怜我吧,里德舅妈!’还有你强加于我的惩罚。完全是因为你那可恶的孩子打了我,无缘无故把我打倒在地,我要把事情的经过,原原本本告诉每个问我的人。人们满以为你是个好女人,其实你很坏,你心肠很狠。你自己才骗人呢!”

    我还没有回答完,内心便已开始感到舒畅和喜悦了,那是一种前所未有的奇怪的自由感和胜利感,无形的束缚似乎己被冲破,我争得了始料未及的自由,这种情感不是无故泛起的,因为里德太太看来慌了神,活儿从她的膝头滑落,她举起双手,身子前后摇晃着,甚至连脸也扭曲了,她仿佛要哭出来了。

    “简,你搞错了,你怎么了?怎么抖得那么厉害?想喝水吗?”

    “不,里德太太。”

    “你想要什么别的吗,简,说实在的,我希望成为你的朋友。”

    “你才不会呢。你对布罗克赫斯待先生说我品质恶劣,欺骗成性,那我就要让罗沃德的每个人都知道你的为人和你干的好事。”

    “简,这些事儿你不理解,孩子们有缺点应该得到纠正。”

    “欺骗不是我的缺点!”我发疯似的大叫一声。

    “但是你好意气用事,简,这你必须承认。现在回到保育室去吧,乖乖,躺一会儿。”

    “我不是你乖乖,我不能躺下,快些送我到学校去吧,里德太太,因为我讨厌住在这儿。”

    “我真的要快送她去上学了,”里德太太轻声嘀咕着,收拾好针线活,蓦地走出出了房间。

    我孤零零地站那里,成了战场上的胜利者。这是我所经历的最艰难的—场战斗,也是我第一次获得胜利。我在布罗克赫斯特先生站站过的地毯上站了一会,沉缅于征服者的孤独。

    我先是暗自发笑,感到十分得意。但是这种狂喜犹如一时加快的脉膊会迅速递减一样,很快就消退了。一个孩子像我这样跟长辈斗嘴,像我这样毫无顾忌地发泄自己的怒气,事后必定要感到悔恨和寒心。我在控诉和恐吓里德太太时,内心恰如一片点燃了的荒野,火光闪烁,来势凶猛,但经过半小时的沉默和反思,深感自己行为的疯狂和自己恨人又被人嫉恨的处境的悲凉时,我内心的这片荒地,便已灰飞烟灭,留下的只有黑色的焦土了。

    我第一次尝到了复仇的滋味。犹如芬芳的美酒,喝下时热辣辣好受,但回味起来却又苦又涩,给人有中了毒的感觉。此刻,我很乐意去求得里德太太的宽恕,但经验和直觉告诉我,那只会使她以加倍的蔑视讨厌我,因而会重又激起我天性中不安份的冲动。

    我愿意发挥比说话刻薄更高明的才能,也愿意培养比郁愤更好的情感。我取了一本阿拉伯故事书,坐下来很想看看,却全然不知所云,我的思绪飘忽在我自己与平日感到引人入胜的书页之间。我打开早餐室的玻璃门,只见灌木丛中一片—沉寂,虽然风和日丽,严霜却依然覆盖着大地。我撩起衣裙裹住脑袋和胳膊,走出门去,漫步在一片僻静的树林里。但是沉寂的树木、掉下的杉果,以及那凝固了的秋天的遗物,被风吹成一堆如今又冻结了的行褐色树叶,都没有给我带来愉快。我倚在一扇大门上,凝望着空空的田野,那里没有觅食的羊群,只有冻坏了的苍白的浅草。这是一个灰蒙蒙的日子,降雪前的天空一片混沌,间或飘下一些雪片。落在坚硬的小径上,从在灰白的草地上,没有融化。我站立着,一付可怜巴巴的样子,一遍又一遍悄悄对自己说:“我怎么办呢?我怎么办呢?”

    我愿意发挥比说话刻薄更高明的才能,也愿意培养比郁愤更好的情感。我取了一本阿拉伯故事书,坐下来很想看看,却全然不知所云,我的思绪飘忽在我自己与平日感到引人入胜的书页之间。我打开早餐室的玻璃门,只见灌木丛中一片—沉寂,虽然风和日丽,严霜却依然覆盖着大地。我撩起衣裙裹住脑袋和胳膊,走出门去,漫步在一片僻静的树林里。但是沉寂的树木、掉下的杉果,以及那凝固了的秋天的遗物,被风吹成一堆如今又冻结了的行褐色树叶,都没有给我带来愉快。我倚在一扇大门上,凝望着空空的田野,那里没有觅食的羊群,只有冻坏了的苍白的浅草。这是一个灰蒙蒙的日子,降雪前的天空一片混沌,间或飘下一些雪片。落在坚硬的小径上,从在灰白的草地上,没有融化。我站立着,一付可怜巴巴的样子,一遍又一遍悄悄对自己说:“我怎么办呢?我怎么办呢?”

    突然我听一个清晰的嗓音在叫唤,“简小姐,你在哪儿?快来吃中饭!”

    是贝茜在叫,我心里很明白,不过我没有动弹。她步履轻盈地沿小径走来。

    “你这个小淘气!”她说,“叫你为什么不来?”

    比之刚才萦回脑际的念头,贝茜的到来似乎是令人愉快的,尽管她照例又有些生气。其实,同里德太太发生冲突。并占了上风之后,我并不太在乎保姆一时的火气,倒是希望分享她那充满活力、轻松愉快的心情。我只是用胳膊抱住了她,说:“得啦,贝茜别骂我了。”

    这个动作比我往常所纵情的任何举动都要直率大胆,不知怎地,倒使贝茜高兴了。

    “你是个怪孩子,简小姐,”她说,低头看着我:“一个喜欢独来独往的小东西。你要去上学了,我想是不是?”

    我点了点头。

    “离开可怜的贝茜你不难过吗?”

    “贝茜在乎我什么呢?她老是骂我。”

    “谁叫你是那么个古怪、胆孝怕难为情的小东西,你应该胆大一点。”

    “什么!好多挨几顿打?”

    “瞎说!不过你常受欺侮,那倒是事实。上星期我母亲来看我的时候说,她希望自己哪一个小家伙也不要像你一样。好吧,进去吧,我有个好消息告诉你,”“我想你没有,贝茜。”

    “孩子!你这是什么意思?你盯着我的那双眼睛多么忧郁!瞧!太太、小姐和约翰少爷今天下午都出去用茶点了,你可以跟我一起吃茶点。我会叫厨师给你烘一个小饼,随后你要帮我检查一下你抽屉,因为我马上就要为你整理箱子了。太太想让你一两天内离开盖茨黑德,你可以拣你喜欢的玩具随身带走。”

    “贝茜,你得答应我在走之前不再骂我了。”

    “好吧,我答应你,不过别忘了做个好孩子,而且也别怕我。要是我偶然说话尖刻了些,你别吓一大跳,因为那很使人恼火。”

    “我想我再也不怕你了,贝茜,因为我已经习惯了,很快我又有另外一批人要怕了。”

    “如果你怕他们,他们会不喜欢你的。”

    “像你一样吗,贝茜?”

    “我并不是不喜欢你,小姐,我相信,我比其他人都要喜欢你。”

    “你没有表现出来。”

    “你这狡猾的小东西:你说话的口气不一样了,怎么会变得那么大胆和鲁莽呢?”

    “呵,我不久就要离开你了,再说——”我正想谈谈我与里德太太之间发生的事,但转念一想,还是不说为好。

    “那么你是乐意离开我了?”

    “没有那回事,贝茜,说真的,现在我心里有些难过。”

    “‘现在’,‘有些’,我的小姐说得多冷静!我想要是我现在要求吻你一下,你是不会答应的,你会说,还是不要吧。”

    “我来吻你,而且我很乐意,把你的头低下来。”贝茜弯下了腰,我们相互拥抱着,我跟着她进了屋子,得到了莫大安慰。下午在和谐平静中过去了。晚上,贝茜给我讲了一些最动人的故事,给我唱了几支她最动听的歌,即便是对我这样的人来说,生活中也毕竟还有几缕阳光呢。

   

   

    

    第五章

    一月十九日早晨,还没到五点钟贝茜就端了蜡烛来到我房间,看见我己经起身,并差不多梳理完毕。她进来之前半小时,我就已起床。一轮半月正在下沉、月光从床边狭窄的窗户泻进房间,我借着月光洗了脸,穿好了衣服,那天我就要离开盖茨黑德,乘坐早晨六点钟经过院子门口的马车,只有贝茜己经起来了。她在保育室里生了火,这会儿正动手给我做早饭。孩子们想到出门而兴奋不已,是很少能吃得下饭的,我也是如此,贝茜硬劝我吃几口为我准备的热牛奶和面包,但白费工夫,只得用纸包了些饼干,塞进了我兜里。随后她帮我穿上长外衣,戴上宽边帽,又用披巾把她自己包裹好,两人便离开了保育室,经过里德太太卧房时,她说:“想进去同太太说声再见吗。”

    “算啦,贝茜,昨天晚上你下楼去吃晚饭的时候,她走到我床边,说是早晨我不必打搅她或表妹们了,她让我记住,她永远是我最好的朋友,让我以后这么谈起她,对她感激万分。”

    “你怎么回答她呢,小姐?”

    “我什么也没说,只是用床单蒙住脸,转过身去对着墙壁,”“那就是你的不是了,简小姐。”

    “我做得很对,贝茜。你的太太向来不是我的朋友,她是我的敌人。”

    “简小姐!别这样说!”

    “再见了盖茨黑德!”我路过大厅走出前门时说。

    月亮已经下沉,天空一片漆黑。贝茜打着灯,灯光闪烁在刚刚解冻而湿漉漉的台阶和砂石路上。冬天的清晨阴湿寒冷。我匆匆沿着车道走去,牙齿直打哆棘,看门人的卧室亮着灯光。到了那里,只见他妻子正在生火。前一天晚上我的箱子就已经拿下楼,捆好绳子放在门边。这时离六点还差几分。不一会钟响了,远处传来辚辚的车声,宣告马车已经到来。我走到门边,凝望着车灯迅速冲破黑暗,渐渐靠近。

    “她一个人走吗?”门房的妻子问。

    “是呀。”

    “离这儿多远?”

    “五十英里。”

    “多远啊!真奇怪,里德太太竟让她一个人走得那么远,却一点也不担心。”

    马车停了下来,就在大门口,由四匹马拖着,车顶上坐满了乘客。车夫和护车的大声催促我快些上车,我的箱子给递了上去,我自己则从贝茜的脖子上被拖下来带走,因为我正贴着她脖子亲吻呢。

    “千万好好照应她呀,”护车人把我提起来放进车里时,贝茜对他说。

    “行啊,行啊!”那人回答。车门关上了,“好啦,”一声大叫,我们便上路了。就这样我告别了贝茜和盖茨黑德,一阵风似地被卷往陌生的、当时看来遥远和神秘的地方。

    一路行程,我已记得不多。只知道那天长得出奇,而且似乎赶了几百里路。我们经过几个城镇,在其中很大的一个停了下来。车夫卸了马,让乘客们下车吃饭。我被带进一家客找,护车人要我吃些中饭,我却没有胃口,他便扔下我走了,让我留在—个巨大无比的房间里,房间的两头都有一个火炉,天花板上悬挂着一盏枝形吊灯,高高的墙上有一个小小的红色陈列窗,里面放满了乐器。我在房间里来回走了很久,心里很不自在,害怕有人会进来把我拐走。我相信确有拐子,他们所干的勾当常常出现在贝茜火炉旁所讲的故事中。护车人终于回来了,我再次被塞进马车,我的保护人登上座位,吹起了闷声闷气的号角,车子一阵丁当,驶过了L镇的“石子街”。

    下午,天气潮湿,雾气迷蒙。白昼溶入黄昏时,我开始感到离开盖茨黑德真的很远了。

    我们再也没有路过城镇,乡村的景色也起了变化,一座座灰色的大山耸立在地平线上。暮色渐浓,车子驶进一个山谷,那里长着黑乎乎一片森林。夜幕遮盖了一切景物之后很久,我听见狂风在林中呼啸。

    那声音仿佛像催眠曲,我终于倒头睡着了。没过多久,车子突然停了下来,我被惊醒了。马车的门开着,一个仆人模样的人站在门边。藉着灯光,我看得清她的面容和衣装。

    “有个叫简?爱的小姑娘吗?”她问。我回答了,声“有”之后便被抱了出去,箱子也卸了下来,随后马车立即驶走了。

    因为久坐,我身子都发僵了,马车的喧声和震动弄得我迷迷糊糊,我定下神来,环顾左右。只见雨在下,风在刮,周围一片黑暗。不过我隐约看到面前有一堵墙,墙上有一扇门,新来的向导领我进去,把门关上,随手上了锁。这时看得见一间,也许是几间房子,因为那建筑物铺展得很开,上面有很多窗子,其中几扇里亮着灯。我们踏上一条水沫飞溅的宽阔石子路,后来又进了一扇门。接着仆人带我穿过一条过道,进了一个生着火的房间,撇下我走了。

    我站着,在火上烘着冻僵了的手指。我举目四顾,房间里没有蜡烛,壁炉中摇曳的火光,间或照出了糊过壁纸的墙、地毯、窗帘、闪光的红木家具。这是一间客厅,虽不及盖茨黑德客厅宽敞堂皇,却十分舒服。我正迷惑不解地猜测着墙上一幅画的画意时,门开了,进来了一个人,手里提着一盏灯,后面紧跟着另一个人。

    先进门的是个高个子女人、黑头发,黑眼睛,白皙宽大的额角。她半个身子裹在披巾里,神情严肃,体态挺直。

    “这孩子年纪这么小,真不该让她独个儿来,”她说着,把蜡烛放在桌子上,细细端详了我一两分钟,随后补充道。

    “还是快点送她上床吧,她看来累了,你累吗?”她把手放在我肩上问道。

    “有点累,太太。”

    “肯定也饿了。米勒小姐,让她睡前吃些晚饭。你是第一次离开父母来上学吗,我的小姑娘?”

    我向她解释说我没有父母。她问我他们去世多久了,还问我自已几岁,叫什么名字,会不会一点读、写和缝纫,随后用食指轻轻碰了碰我脸颊说,但愿我是一个好孩子,说完便打发我与米勒小姐走了。

    那位刚离开的小姐约摸二十九岁,跟我一起走的那位比她略小几岁,前者的腔调、目光和神态给我印象很深,而米勒小姐比较平淡无奇,显得身心交瘁,但面色却还红润。她的步态和动作十分匆忙,仿佛手头总有忙不完的事情。说真的好看上去像个助理教师,后来我发现果真如此,我被她领着在一个形状不规则的大楼里,走过一个又一个房间,穿过一条又一条过道,这些地方都是那么悄无声息,甚至还有几分凄切。后来我们突然听到嗡嗡的嘈杂的人声,顷刻之间便走进了一个又阔又长的房间,两头各摆着两张大木板桌。每张桌子上点着两支蜡烛,一群年龄在九岁、十岁到二十岁之间的姑娘,围着桌子坐在长凳上。在昏暗的烛光下,我感到她们似乎多得难以计数,尽管实际上不会超过八十人。她们清一色地穿着式样古怪的毛料上衣,系着长长的亚麻细布围涎。那正是学习时间,他们正忙于默记第二天的功课,我所听的的嗡嗡之声,正是集体小声读书所发出来的。

    米勒小姐示意我坐在门边的长凳上,随后走到这个长房间的头上,大声嚷道:“班长们,收好书本,放到一边!”

    四位个子很高的姑娘从各张桌子旁站起来,兜了一圈,把书收集起来放好。米勒小姐再次发布命令。

    “班长们,去端晚饭盘子!”

    高个子姑娘们走了出去,很快又回来了,每人端了个大盘子,盘子里放着一份份不知什么东西,中间是一大罐水和一只大杯子。那一份份东西都分发了出去,高兴喝水的人还喝了口水,那大杯子是公用的。轮到我的时候,因为口渴,我喝了点水、但没有去碰食品,激动和疲倦已使我胃口全无。不过我倒是看清楚了,那是一个薄薄的燕麦饼,平均分成了几小块。

    吃完饭,米勒小姐念了祷告,各班鱼贯而出,成双成对走上楼梯。这时我己经疲惫不堪,几乎没有注意到寝室的模样,只看清了它像教室一样很长。今晚我同米勒小姐同睡一张床,她帮我脱掉衣服,并让我躺下。这时我瞥了一眼一长排一长排床,每张床很快睡好了两个人,十分钟后那仅有的灯光也熄灭了,在寂静无声与一片漆黑中,我沉沉睡去。

    夜很快逝去了,我累得连梦也没有做,只醒来过一次,听见狂风阵阵,大雨倾盆,还知道米勒小姐睡在我身边。我再次睁开眼睛时,只听见铃声喧嚷,姑娘们已穿衣起身。天色未明,房间里燃着一两支灯心草蜡烛。我也无可奈何地起床了。天气冷得刺骨,我颤抖着尽力把衣服穿好,等脸盆空着时洗了脸。但我并没有马上等到,因为六个姑娘才合一个脸盆,摆在楼下房间正中的架子上。铃声再次响起,大家排好队,成双成对地走下搂梯,进了冷飕飕暗洞洞的教室。米勒小姐读了祷告,随后便大声唱:“按班级集中!”

    接着引起了一阵几分钟的大骚动,米勒小姐反复叫喊着:“不要作声!”“遵守秩序!”喧闹声平息下来之后,我看到她们排成了四个半园形,站在四把椅子前面,这四把椅子分别放在四张桌子旁边。每人手里都拿着书,有一本《圣经》模样的大书,搁在空椅子跟前的每张桌子上。几秒钟肃静之后,响起了低沉而含糊的嗡嗡声,米勒小姐从—个班兜到另一个班,把这种模糊的喧声压下去。

    远处传来了叮咚的铃声,立刻有三位小姐进了房间,分别走向一张桌子,并在椅子上就座。米勒小姐坐了靠门最近的第四把空椅子,椅子周围是一群年龄最小的孩子,我被叫到了这个低级班,安排在末位。

    这时,功课开始了。先是反复念诵那天的短祷告、接着读了几篇经文,最后是慢声朗读《圣经》的章节,用了一个小时。这项议程结束时,天色已经大亮,不知疲倦的钟声第四次响起,各个班级整好队伍,大步走进另一个房间去吃早饭。想到马上有东西可以裹腹,我是何等高兴啊!由于前一天吃得大少,这时我简直饿坏了。

    饭厅是个又低又暗的大房间,两张长桌上放着两大盆热气腾腾的东西。但令人失望的是,散发出来的气味却并不诱人,它一钻进那些非吃不可的人的鼻孔、我便发现她们都露出不满的表情。站在排头第一班的高个子姑娘们开始窃窃私语。

    “真讨厌,粥又烧焦了!”

    “安静!”一个嗓音叫道。说这话的不是米勒小姐。却是一个高级教师。她小个子,黑皮肤,打扮入时,脸色有些阴沉。她站在桌子上首,另一位更为丰满的女人主持着另一张桌子。我想找第一天晚上见到过的那个女人,但没有找着,连她影子也没有见到,米勒小姐在我坐着的那张桌子占了个下首位置。而一位看上去很怪,颇像外国人的年长妇女——后来才发现她是法语教师——在另外一张餐桌的相对位置就座。大家做了一个长长的感恩祷告,还唱了一支圣歌,随后一个仆人给教师们送来了茶点,早餐就这样开始了。

    我饿慌了,这会儿已经头昏眼花,便把自己那份粥吞下了一两调羹,也顾不上是什么滋味。但最初的饥饿感一消失,我便发觉手里拿着的东西令人作呕,烧焦的粥同烂马铃薯一样糟糕,连饥饿本身也很快厌恶起它来。勺匙在各人手里缓慢地移动着,我看见每个姑娘尝了尝自己的食物,竭力想把它吞下去,但大多立刻放弃了努力。早餐结束了,可是谁也没有吃。我们作了感恩祷告,对我们没有得到的东西表示感谢,同时还唱了第二首赞美诗,接着便离开餐厅到教室去。我是最后一批走的,经过餐桌时,看见一位教师舀了一碗粥,尝了一尝,又看了看其他人,她们脸上都露出了不快的神色,其中一个胖胖的教师说:“讨厌的东西!真丢脸?”

    一刻钟以后才又开始上课。这一刻钟,教室里沸沸扬扬,乱成了一团。在这段时间里,似乎允许自由自在地大声说话,大家便利用了这种特殊待遇,整个谈话的内容都围绕着早餐,个个都狠狠骂了一通。可怜的人儿啊!这就是她们仅有的安慰。此刻米勒小姐是教室里唯一的一位教师,一群大姑娘围着她,悻悻然做着手势同她在说话。我听见有人提到了布罗克赫斯特先生的名字,米勒小姐一听便不以为然地摇了摇头,但她无意去遏制这种普遍的愤怒,无疑她也有同感。

    教室里的钟敲到了九点,米勒小姐离开了她的圈子,站到房间正中叫道:“安静下来,回到你们自己的位置上去!”

    纪律起了作用。五分钟工夫,混乱的人群便秩序井然了。相对的安静镇住了嘈杂的人声。高级教师们都准时就位,不过似乎所有的人都仍在等待着。八十个姑娘坐在屋子两边的长凳上,身子笔直,一动不动。她们似是一群聚集在一起的怪人,头发都平平淡淡地从脸上梳到后头,看不见一绺卷发。穿的是褐色衣服,领子很高,脖子上围着一个窄窄的拆卸领,罩衣前胸都系着一个亚麻布做的口袋,形状如同苏格兰高地人的钱包,用作工作口袋,所有的人都穿着羊毛长袜和乡下人做的鞋子,鞋上装着铜扣。二十多位这身打扮的人已完全是大姑娘了,或者颇像少女。这套装束对她们极不相称,因此即使是最漂亮的样子也很怪。

    我仍旧打量着她们,间或也仔细审视了一下教师——确切地说没有一个使人赏心悦目。

    胖胖的一位有些粗俗;黑黑的那个很凶;那位外国人苛刻而怪僻;而米勒小姐呢,真可怜,脸色发紫,一付饱经风霜、劳累过度的样子,我的目光正从一张张脸上飘过时,全校学生仿佛被同一个弹簧带动起来似的,都同时起立了。

    这是怎回事,并没有听到谁下过命令,真把人搞糊涂了。我还没有定下神来,各个班级又再次坐下。不过所有的眼睛都转向了一点,我的目光也跟踪大伙所注意的方向,看到了第一天晚上接待我的人,她站在长房子顶端的壁炉边上,房子的两头都生了火,她一声不吭神情严肃地审视着两排姑娘。米勒小姐走近她,好像问了个问题,得到了回答后,又回到原来的地方,人声说道:“第一班班长,去把地球仪拿来!”

    这个指示正在执行的时候,那位被请示过的小姐馒慢地从房间的一头走过来。我猜想自己专司敬重的器言特别发达,因为我至今仍保持着一种敬畏之情,当时带着这种心情我的目光尾随着她的脚步。这会儿大白天,她看上去高挑个子,皮肤白皙,身材匀称,棕色的眸子透出慈祥的目光、细长似画的睫毛,衬托出了她又白又大的前额,两鬓的头发呈暗棕色,按一流行式洋、束成圆圆的卷发,当时光滑的发辫和长长的卷发,并没有成为时尚。她的服装,也很时髦,紫颜色布料,用一种黑丝绒西班牙饰边加以烘托。一只金表(当时手表不像如今这么普通)在她腰带上闪光。要使这幅画像更加完整,读者们还尽可补充:她面容清丽,肤色苍白却明澈,仪态端庄。这样至少有文字所能清楚表达的范围内,可以得出了坦普尔小姐外貌的正确印象了。也就是玛丽亚?坦普尔,这个名字,后来我是在让我送到教党去的祈祷书上看到的。

    这位罗沃德学校的校长(这就是这个女士的职务)在放在一张桌上的两个地球仪前面坐了下来,把第一班的人叫到她周围,开始上起地理课来。低班学生被其他教师叫走,反复上历史呀,语法呀等课程,上了一个小时。接着是写作和数学,坦普尔小姐还给大一点的姑娘教了音乐,每堂课是以钟点来计算的,那钟终于敲了十二下,校长站了起来。

    “我有话要跟学生们讲,”她说。

    课一结束,骚动便随之而来,但她的话音刚落,全校又复归平静,她继续说:“今天早晨的早饭,你们都吃不下去,大家一定饿坏了,我己经吩咐给大家准备了面包和乳酪当点心,”教师们带着某种惊异的目光看着她。

    “这事由我负责,”她带着解释的口气向她们补充道。随后马上走了出去。

    面包和乳酪立刻端了进来,分发给大家,全校都欢欣鼓舞,精神振奋。这时来了命令,“到花园里去!”每个人都戴上一个粗糙的草帽,帽子上拴着用染色白布做成的带子,同时还披上了黑粗绒料子的斗篷。我也是一付同样的装束,跟着人流,迈步走向户外。

    这花园是一大片圈起来的场地,四周围墙高耸,看不到外面的景色。一边有—条带顶的回廓,还有些宽阔的走道,与中间的一块地相接,这块地被分割成几十个小小的苗圃,算是花园,分配给学生们培植花草,每个苗圃都有一个主人,鲜花怒放时节,这些苗圃一定十分标致,但眼下一月将尽,一片冬日枯黄凋零的景象。我站在那里,环顾四周,不觉打了个寒噤,这天的户外活动,天气恶劣,其实并没有下雨,但浙浙沥沥的黄色雾霭,使天色变得灰暗;脚下因为昨天的洪水依然水湿,身体比较健壮的几位姑娘窜来奔去,异常活跃;但所有苍白瘦弱的姑娘都挤在走廊上躲雨和取暖。浓雾渗透进了她们颤抖着的躯体,我不时听见一声声空咳。

    我没有同人说过话,也似乎没有人注意到我。我孤零零地站着,但己经习惯于那种孤独感,并不觉得十分压抑,我倚在游廊的柱子上,将灰色的斗篷拉得紧紧地裹着自己,竭力忘却身外刺骨的严寒,忘却肚子里折磨着我的饥馑,全身心去观察和思考。我的思索含含糊糊,零零碎碎,不值得落笔。我几乎不知道自己身居何处。盖茨黑德和往昔的生活似乎已经流逝,与现时现地已有天壤之隔。现实既模糊又离奇,而未来又不是我所能想象。我朝四周看了看修道院一般的花园,又抬头看了看建筑。这是幢大楼,一半似乎灰暗古旧,另一半却很新。新的一半里安排了教室和寝室,直棂格子窗里灯火通明,颇有教堂气派。门上有一块石头牌子,上面刻着这样的文字:“罗沃德学校——这部份由本郡布罗克赫斯特府的内奥米?布罗克赫斯特重建于公元××××年。”“你们的光也当这样照在人前,叫他们看见你们的好行为,便将荣耀归给你们在天上的父。”——《马太福音》第五章第十六节。

    我一遍遍读着这些字,觉得它们应该有自己的解释,却无法充分理解其内涵。我正在思索“学校”一字的含义,竭力要找出开首几个字与经文之间的联系,却听得身后一声咳嗽,便回过头去,看到一位姑娘坐在近处的石凳上,正低头聚精会神地细读着一本书。从我站着的地方可以看到,这本书的书名是《拉塞拉斯》。这名字听来有些陌生,因而也就吸引了我。她翻书的时候,碰巧抬起头来,于是我直截了当地说:“你这本书有趣吗?”我己经起了某一天向她借书的念头。

    “我是喜欢的,”她顿了一两秒钟,打量了我一下后回答道。

    “它说些什么?”我继续问。我自己也不知道哪里来的胆子,居然同一个陌生人说起话来。这回我的性格与积习相悖,不过她的专注兴许打动了我,因为我也喜欢读书,尽管是浅薄幼稚的一类。对那些主题严肃内存充实的书,我是无法消化或理解的。

    “你可以看一下,”这姑娘回答说,一面把书递给我。

    我看了看。粗粗—翻,我便确信书的内容不像书名那么吸引人。以我那种琐细的口味来说,“拉塞拉斯”显得很枯燥。我看不到仙女,也看不到妖怪,密密麻麻印着字的书页中,没有鲜艳夺目丰富多彩的东西。我把书递还给她,她默默地收下了,二话没说又要回到刚才苦用功的心境中去,我却再次冒昧打扰了她:“能告诉我们门上那块石匾上的字是什么意思吗?罗沃德学校是什么?”

    “就是你来住宿的这所房子。”

    “他们为什么叫它‘学校’呢?与别的学校有什么不同吗?”

    “这是个半慈善性质的学校,你我以及所有其他人都是慈善学校的孩子。我猜想你也是个孤儿,你父亲或者母亲去世了吗?”

    “我能记事之前就都去世了。”

    “是呀,这里的姑娘们不是夫去了爹或妈,便是父母都没有了,这儿叫作教育孤儿的学校。”

    “我们不付钱吗?他们免费护养我们吗?”

    “我们自己,或者我们的朋友付十五英镑一年。”

    “那他们为什么管我们叫慈善学校的孩子?”

    “因为十五英镑不够付住宿货和学费,缺额由捐款来补足。”

    “谁捐呢?”

    “这里附近或者伦敦心肠慈善的太太们和绅士们。”

    “内奥米?布罗克赫斯特是谁?”

    “就像匾上写着的那样,是建造大楼新区部份的太太,她的儿子监督和指挥这里的一切。”

    “为什么?”

    “因为他是这个学校的司库和管事。”

    “那这幢大楼不属于那位戴着手表、告诉我们可以吃面包和乳酪的高个子女人了?”

    “属于坦普尔小姐?啊,不是!但愿是属于她的。她所做的一切要对布罗克赫斯特先生负责,我们吃的和穿的都是布罗克赫斯特先生买的。”

    “他住在这儿吗?”

    “不——住在两路外,一个大庄园里。”

    “他是个好人吗?”

    “他是个牧师,据说做了很多好事。”

    “你说那个高个子女人叫坦普尔小姐?”

    “不错。”

    “其他教师的名字叫什么?”

    “脸颊红红的那个叫史密斯小姐,她管劳作,负责裁剪——因为我们自己做衣服、罩衣、外衣,什么都做。那个头发黑黑的小个子叫做斯卡查德小姐,她教历史、语法,听第二班的朗诵。那位戴披巾用黄缎带把一块手帕拴在腰上的人叫皮埃罗夫人,她来自法国里尔,教法语。”

    你喜欢这些教师吗?”

    “够喜欢的。”

    “你喜欢那个黑乎乎的小个子和××太太吗?——我没法把她的名字读成像你读的那样。”

    “斯卡查德小姐性子很急,你可得小心,别惹她生气;皮埃罗太太倒是不坏的。”

    “不过坦普尔小姐最好,是不是?”

    “坦普尔小姐很好,很聪明,她在其余的人之上,因为懂得比她们多得多。”

    “你来这儿很久了吗?”

    “两年了。”

    “你是孤儿吗?”

    “我母亲死了。”

    “你在这儿愉快吗?”

    “你问得太多了。我给你的回答已经足够,现在我可要看书了。”

    但这时候吃饭铃响了,大家再次进屋去,弥漫在餐厅里的气味并行比早餐时扑鼻而来的味儿更诱人。午餐盛放在两十大白铁桶里,热腾腾冒出一股臭肥肉的气味。我发现这乱糟糟的东西,是烂土豆和几小块不可思议的臭肉搅在一起煮成的,每个学生都分到了相当满的一盘。我尽力而吃。心里暗自纳闷,是否每天的饭食都是这付样子。

    吃罢午饭,我们立则去教室,又开始上课,一直到五点钟。

    下午只有一件事引人注目,我看到了在游廊上跟我交谈过的姑娘丢了脸,被斯卡查德小姐逐出历史课,责令站在那个大教室当中,在我看来,这种惩罚实在是奇耻大辱,特别是对像她这样一个大姑娘来说——她看上去有十三岁了,或许还更大,我猜想她会露出伤心和害臊的表情。但使我诧异的是,她既没哭泣,也没脸红,她在众目睽睽之下,站在那里,虽然神情严肃,却非常镇定。“她怎么能那么默默地而又坚定地忍受呢?”我暗自思忖。“要是我,巴不得地球会裂开,把我吞下去。而她看上去仿佛在想惩罚之外的什么事,与她处境无关的事情,某种既不在她周围也不在她眼的的东西,我听说过白日梦、难道她在做白日梦,她的眼晴盯着地板,但可以肯定她视而不见,她的目光似乎是向内的,直视自己的心扉。我想她注视着记忆中的东西,而不是眼前确实存在的事物、我不明白她属于哪一类姑娘,好姑娘,还是淘气鬼。”

    五分钟刚过,我们又用了另一顿饭,吃的是一小杯咖啡和半片黑面包。我狼吞虎咽地吃了面包,喝了咖啡,吃得津津有味,不过要是能再来一份,我会非常高兴,因为我仍然很饿,吃完饭后是半小时的娱乐活动,然后是学习,再后是一杯水,一个燕麦饼,祷告,上床,这就是我在罗沃德第一天的生活。

   

   

    

    第六章 

    第二天开始了,同以前一样,穿衣起身还是借着灯草芯蜡烛的微光,不过今天早晨不得不放弃洗脸仪式了,因为罐里的水都结了冰。头一天夜里、天气变了,刺骨的东北风,透过寝室窗门的缝隙,彻夜呼呼吹着,弄得我们在床上直打哆嗦,罐子里的水也结起了冰。

    一个半小时的祷告和圣经诵读还没结束,我已觉得快要冻死了。早餐时间终于到来,而且今天的粥没有烧焦,能够下咽,可惜量少。我的那份看上去多少呀!我真希望能增加一倍。

    那天我被编入第四班,给布置了正规任务和作业。在此之前,我在罗沃德不过是静观一切进程的旁观者,而现在己成了其中的一名演员。起先,由于我不习惯背诵,觉得课文似乎又长又难,功课一门门不断变换,弄得我头昏脑胀。下午三点光景,史密斯小姐把一根两码长的平纹细布滚边塞到我手里,连同针和顶针之类的东西,让我坐在教室僻静的角落,根据指令依样画葫芦缝上滚边,我一时喜出望外。在那时刻,其他人也大多一样在缝,只有一个班仍围着斯卡查德小姐的椅子,站着读书。四周鸦雀无声,所以听得见她们功课的内容,也听得见每个姑娘读得怎样,听得见斯卡查德小姐对她们表现的责备和赞扬。这是一堂英国历史课,我注意到在读书的人中,有一位是我在游廊上相识的。开始上课时,她被安排在全班首位,可是由于某些发音错误及对句号的忽视,她突然被降到末尾去了。即使在这种不起眼的位置上,斯卡查德小姐也继续使她成为始终引人注目的对象,不断用这样的措词同她说话:“彭斯,(这似乎就是她的名字,这儿的女孩像其他地方的男孩一样,都按姓来叫的)彭斯,你鞋子踩偏了,快把脚趾伸直。”“彭斯,你伸着下巴,多难看,把它收回去。”

    “彭斯,我要你抬起头来,我不允许你在我面前做出这付样子来”等等。

    一章书从头到尾读了两遍,课本便合了起来,姑娘们受到了考问。这堂课讲的是查理一世王朝的一个时期,问的问题形形式式,船舶吨位税呀,按镑收税呀,造船税呀,大多数人似乎都无法回答,但是一到彭斯那里,每一道难题都迎刃而解。她像已经把整堂课的内容都记在脑子里了,任何问题都能应对自如。我一直以为斯卡查德小姐要称赞她专心致志了,谁知她突然大叫起来:“你这讨厌的邋遢姑娘?你早上根本没有洗过指甲?”

    彭斯没有回答,我对她的沉默感到纳闷。

    “为什么,”我想,“她不解释一下,水结冻了,脸和指甲都没法洗?”

    此刻,史密斯小姐转移了我的注意力,她让我替她撑住一束线,一面绕,一面不时跟我说话。问我以前是否进过学校,能否绣花、缝纫、编织等,直到她打发我走,我才有可能进一步观察斯卡查德小姐的行动。我回到自己的座位上时,那女人正在发布一道命令,命令的内容我没有听清楚。但是彭斯立刻离开了班级,走进里面一个放书的小间,过了半分钟又返回来,手里拿着一束一头扎好的木条。她毕恭毕敬地行了个屈膝礼,把这个不祥的刑具递交给了斯卡查德小姐。随后,她不用吩咐,便默默地解开了罩衣,这位教师立刻用这束木条狠狠地在她脖子上揍了十几下,彭斯没有掉一滴眼泪。见了这种情景,我心头涌起了一种徒劳无益、无能为力的愤怒,气得手指都颤抖起来,而不得不停下手头的针线活。她那忧郁的面容毫不改色,依然保持着平日的表情。

    “顽固不化的姑娘!”斯卡查德小姐嚷道,“什么都改不掉你邋遢的习性,把木条拿走。”

    彭斯听从吩咐。她从藏书室里出来时,我细细打量了她,她正把手帕放回自己的口袋,瘦瘦的脸颊闪着泪痕。

    晚间的玩耍时光,我想是罗沃德一天中最愉快的一丁点儿时间。五点钟吞下的一小块面包和几口咖啡,虽然没有消除饥饿感,却恢复了活力。一整天的清规戒律放松了;教室里比早上要暖和;炉火允许燃得比平时旺,多少代替了尚未点燃的蜡烛。红通通的火光,放肆的喧闹,嘈杂的人声,给人以一种值得欢迎的自由感。

    在我看见斯卡查德小姐鞭打她的学生彭斯的那天晚上,我照例在长凳、桌子和笑声不绝的人群中间穿来穿去,虽然无人作伴,倒也并不寂寞。经过窗户时,我不时拉起百叶窗,向外眺望。雪下得很紧,下端的窗玻璃上已经积起了一层,我把耳朵贴在窗上,分辩得出里面轻快的喧哗和外面寒风凄厉的呻吟。

    如果我刚离开了一个温暖的家和慈祥的双亲,这一时刻也许会非常后悔当初的离别;那风会使我伤心不已:这种模糊的混沌会打破我的平静,但实际上两者激起了我一莫名的兴奋,在不安和狂热之中,我盼望风会咆哮得更猛烈;天色会更加昏暗变得一团漆黑,嗡嗡的人声会进而成为喧嚣。

    我跨过凳子钻过桌子,寻路来到一个壁炉跟前,跪在高高的铁丝防护板旁边,我发现彭斯有一本书作伴,全神贯注,沉默不语,忘掉了周围的一切,借着余火灰暗的闪光读着书。

    “还是那本《拉塞拉斯》吗?”我来到她背后说。

    “是的,”她说,“我刚读完它。”

    过了五分钟她掩上了书。这正合我心意。

    “现在,”我想,“我也许能使她开口了吧。”我—屁股坐在她旁边的地板上。

    “除了彭斯,你还叫什么?”

    “海伦。”

    “你从很远的地方来吗?”

    “我来自很靠北的一个地方,靠近苏格兰边界了。”

    “你还回去吗?”

    “我希望能这样,可是对未来谁也没有把握。”

    “你想必很希望离开罗沃德,是吗?”

    “不,干嘛要这样呢?送我到罗沃德来是接受教育的,没有达到这个目的就走才没有意思呢。”

    “可是那位教师,就是斯卡查德小姐,对你那么凶狠。”

    “凶狠?一点也没有!她很严格。她不喜欢我的缺点。”

    “如果我是你,我会讨厌她的,我会抵制。要是她用那束木条打我,我会从她手里夺过来,当着她的面把它折断。”

    “兴许你根本不会干那类事。但要是你干了,布罗克赫斯特先生会把你撵出学校的,那会使你的亲戚感到难过。耐心忍受只有自己感到的痛苦,远比草率行动,产生连累亲朋的恶果要好,更何况《圣经》上嘱咐我们要以德报怨。”

    “可是挨鞭子,罚站在满屋子是人的房间当中,毕竟是丢脸的呀!而且你己经是那么个大姑娘了。我比你小得多还受不了呢。”

    “不过,要是你无法避免,那你的职责就是忍受。如果你命里注定需要忍受,那么说自己不能忍受就是软弱,就是犯傻。”

    我听了感到不胜惊讶。我不能理解这“忍受”信条,更无法明白或同情她对惩罚者所表现出的宽容。不过我仍觉得海伦?彭斯是根据一种我所看不见的眼光来考虑事情的。我怀疑可能她对,我不对。但是我对这事不想再去深究,像费利克斯一样,我将它推迟到以后方便的时候去考虑。

    “你说你有缺陷,海伦,什么缺陷?我看你很好嘛。”

    “那你就听我说吧,别以貌取人,像斯卡查德小姐说的那样,我很邋遢。我难得把东西整理好,永远那么乱糟糟。我很粗心,总把规则忘掉,应当学习功课时却看闲书。我做事没有条理。有时像你一样会说,我受不了那种井井有条的管束。这一桩桩都使斯卡查德小姐很恼火,她天生讲究整洁,遵守时刻,一丝不苟。”

    “而且脾气急躁,强横霸道,”我补充说,但海论并没有附和,却依然沉默不语。

    “坦普尔小姐跟斯卡查德小姐对你一样严厉吗?”

    一提到坦普尔小姐的名字,她阴沉的脸上便掠过了一丝温柔的微笑。

    “坦普尔小姐非常善良,不忍心对任何人严厉,即使是校里最差的学生。她看到我的错误,便和颜悦色地向我指出。要是我做了值得称赞的事情,她就慷慨地赞扬我。我的本性有严重缺陷,一个有力的证据是,尽管她的规劝那么恰到好处,那么合情合理,却依旧治不了我那些毛玻甚至她的赞扬,虽然我非常看重,却无法激励我始终小心谨慎,高瞻远瞩。”

    “那倒是奇怪的,”我说,“要做到小心还不容易。”

    “对你说来无疑是这样。早上我仔细观察了你上课时的情形,发现你非常专心。米勒小姐讲解功课,问你问题时,你思想从不开小差。而我的思绪却总是飘忽不定,当我应该听斯卡查德小姐讲课,应该用心把她讲的记住时,我常常连她说话的声音都听不见了。我进入了一种梦境,有时我以为自己到了诺森伯兰郡,以为周围的耳语声,是我家附近流过深谷那条小溪源源的水声,于是轮到我回答时,我得从梦境中被唤醒。而因为倾听着想象中的溪流声,现实中便什么也没有听到,我也就回答不上来了。”

    “可是你今天,下午回答得多好!”

    “那只是碰巧,因为我对我们读的内容很感兴趣,今天下午我没有梦游深谷,我在纳闷,一个像查理一世那样希望做好事的人,怎么有时会干出那么不义的蠢事来,我想这多可惜,那么正直真诚的人竟看不到皇权以外的东西。要是他能看得远些,看清了所谓时代精神的走向该多好!虽然这样,我还是喜欢查理一世,我尊敬他,我怜惜他,这位可怜的被谋杀的皇帝。不错,他的仇敌最坏,他们让自己没有权利伤害的人流了血,竟敢杀害了他!”

    此刻海伦在自言自语了,她忘了我无法很好理解她的话,忘了我对她谈论的话题一无所知,或者差不多如此。我把她拉回到我的水准上来。

    “那么坦普尔小姐上课的时候,你也走神吗?”

    “当然不是,不常这样。因为坦普尔小姐总是有比我的想法更富有新意的东西要说。她的语言也特别让我喜欢,她所传授的知识常常是我所希望获得的。”

    “这么看来,你在坦普尔小姐面前表现很好罗。”

    “是的,出于被动。我没有费力气,只是随心所欲而己,这种表现好没有什么了不起。”

    “很了不起,别人待你好,你待别人也好。我就一直希望这样做。要是你对那些强横霸道的人,总是客客气气,说啥听啥,那坏人就会为所欲为,就会天不怕地不怕,非但永远不会改,而且会愈变愈坏。要是无缘无故挨打,那我们就要狠狠地回击,肯定得这样,狠到可以教训那个打我们的人,让他再也洗手不干了。”

    “我想,等你长大了你的想法会改变的,现在你不过是个没有受过教育的小姑娘。”

    “可我是这么感觉的,海伦,那些不管我怎样讨他们欢心,硬是讨厌我的人,我必定会厌恶的。我必须反抗那些无理惩罚我的人。同样自然的是,我会爱那些爱抚我的人,或者当我认为自己该受罚的时候,我会心甘情愿去承受。”

    “那是异教徒和野蛮宗族的信条,基督教徒和开化的民族不信这一套。”

    “怎么会呢?我不懂。”

    “暴力不是消除仇恨的最好办法——同样,报复也绝对医治不了伤害。”

    “那么是什么呢?”

    “读一读《新约全书》,注意一下基督的言行,把他的话当作你的准绳,把他的行为当你的榜样吧。”

    “他怎么说?”

    “你们的仇敌要爱他,咒诅你们的要为他祝福,恨你们、凌辱你们的要待他好。”

    “那我应当爱里德太太了,这我可做不到;我应当祝福他儿子约翰了,但那根本不可能。”

    这回轮到海伦?彭斯要求我解释明白了。我便以自己特有的方式,一五一十地向她诉说了自己的痛苦和愤懑。心里一激动,说话便尖酸刻薄,但我怎么感觉就怎么说,毫不保留,语气也不婉转。

    海伦耐心地听完了我的话,我以为她会发表点感想,但她什么也没说。

    “好吧,”我耐不住终于问,“难道里德太太不是一个冷酷无情的坏女人吗?”

    “毫无疑问,她对你不客气。因为你瞧,她不喜欢你的性格,就像斯卡查德小姐不喜欢我的脾性一样,可是她的言行你却那么耿耿于怀!她的不公好像已经在你心坎里留下了特别深刻的印象!无论什么虐待都不会在我的情感上烙下这样的印记。要是你忘掉她对你的严厉,忘掉由此而引起的愤慨,你不就会更愉快吗?对我来说,生命似乎太短暂了,不应用来结仇和记恨。人生在世,谁都会有一身罪过,而且必定如此,但我相信,很快就会有这么一天,我们在摆脱腐坏躯体的同时,也会摆脱这些罪过。到那时,堕落与罪过将会随同累赘的肉体离开我们,只留下精神的火花——生命和思想的本源,它像当初离开上帝使万物具有生命时那么纯洁,它从哪里来就回到哪里去,也许又会被传递给比人类更高级的东西一—也许会经过各个荣耀的阶段,从照亮人类的苍白灵魂,到照亮最高级的六翼天使。相反它决不会允许从人类坠落到魔鬼,是吧?是的,我不相信会这样。我持有另一种信条,这种信条没有人教过我,我也很少提起,但我为此感到愉快,我对它坚信不渝,因为它给所有的人都带来了希望。它使永恒成为一种安息,一个宏大的家,而并非恐惧和深渊。此外,有了这个信条,我能够清楚地分辨罪犯和他的罪孽,我可以真诚地宽恕前者,而对后者无比憎恶,有了这个信条,复仇永不会使我操心,坠落不会让我感到过份深恶痛绝,不公平不会把我完全压倒,我平静地生活,期待着末日。”

    海伦向来耷拉着脑袋,而讲完这句话时她把头垂得更低了。从她的神态上我知道她不想跟我再谈下去了,而情愿同自己的思想交流。她也没有很多时间可以沉思默想了,马上就来了一位班长,一个又大又粗的姑娘,带着很重的昆布兰口音叫道:“海伦?彭斯,要是这会儿你不去整理抽屉,收拾你的针线活儿,我要告诉斯卡查德小姐,请她来看看了。”

    海伦的幻想烟消云散,她长叹一声,站了起来,没有回答,也没有耽搁,便服从了这位班长。

   

   

    

    第七章 

    在罗沃德度过的一个季度,仿佛是一个时代,而且并不是黄金时代。我得经历一场恼人的搏斗,来克服困难,适应新的规矩和不熟悉的工作。我担心这方面出错。为此所受的折磨,甚过于我命里注定肉体上要承受的艰苦,虽说艰苦也并不是小事。

    在一月、二月和三月的部分日子里,由于厚厚的积雪,以及化雪后道路几乎不通,我们的活动除了去教堂,便被困在花园的围墙之内了。但就在这个牢笼内,每天仍得在户外度过一小时。我们的衣服不足以御寒。大家没有靴子,雪灌进了鞋子,并在里面融化。我们没有手套,手都冻僵了,像脚上一样,长满了冻疮。每晚我的双脚红肿,早上又得把肿胀、疼痛和僵硬的脚趾伸进鞋子,一时痛痒难熬,至今记忆犹新。食品供应不足也令人沮丧,这些孩子都正是长身体的年纪,胃口很好,而吃的东西却难以养活一个虚弱的病人。营养缺乏带来了不良习气,这可苦了年纪较小的学生。饥肠辘辘的大龄女生一有机会,便连哄带吓,从幼小学生的份里弄到点吃的。有很多回,我在吃茶点时把那一口宝贵的黑面包分给两位讨食者,而把半杯咖啡给了第三位,自己便狼吞虎唱地把剩下的吃掉,一面因为饿得发慌而暗暗落泪。

    冬季的星期日沉闷乏味。我们得走上两里路,到保护人所主持的布罗克布里奇教堂去。

    出发的时候很冷,到达的时刻就更冷了。早祷时我们几乎都已冻僵,这儿离校太远,不能回去用饭,两次祷告之间便吃一份冷肉和面包,份量也跟平时的饭食一样,少得可怜。

    下午的祷告结束以后,我们沿着一条无遮无拦的山路回校。刺骨的寒风,吹过大雪覆盖的山峰,刮向北边来,几乎要从我们的脸上刮去一层皮。

    我至今仍然记得,坦普尔小姐轻快地走在我们萎靡不振的队伍旁边,寒风吹得她的花呢斗篷紧贴在身上。她一面训导,一面以身作则,鼓励我们振作精神,照她所说的,“像不屈不挠的战士”那样奋勇前进。可怜的其他教师,大都自己也十分颓丧,更不想为别人鼓劲了。

    回校以后,我们多么渴望熊熊炉火发出的光和热!但至少对年幼学生来说,并没有这福份。教室里的每个壁炉立刻被两排大姑娘围住,小一点的孩子只好成群蹲在她们身后,用围涎裹着冻僵了的胳膊。

    吃茶点时,我们才得到些许安慰,发给了双份面包——一整片而不是半片——附加薄薄一层可口的黄油,这是一周一次的享受,一个安息日复一个安息日,大家都翘首企盼着。通常我只能把这美餐的一部分留给自己,其余的便总是不得不分给别人。

    星期天晚上我们要背诵教堂的教义问答和《马太福音》的第五、六、七章,还要听米勒小姐冗长的讲道,她禁不住哈欠连天,证明她也倦了。在这些表演中间,经常有一个插曲,六、七个小姑娘总要扮演犹推古的角色,她们因为困倦不堪,虽然不是从三楼上而是从第四排长凳上摔下来,扶起来时也已经半死了。补救办法是把她们硬塞到教室的中间,迫使她们一直站着,直至讲道结束。有时她们的双脚不听使唤,瘫下来缩作一团,于是便不得不用班长的高凳把她们支撑起来。

    我还没有提到布罗克赫斯特先生的造访,其实这位先生在我抵达后第一个月的大部分日子里,都不在家,也许他在朋友副主教那里多逗留了些时间。他不在倒使我松了口气,不必说我自有怕他来的理由,但他终究还是来了。

    一天下午(那时我到罗沃德已经三星期了),我手里拿了块写字板坐着,正为长除法中的一个总数发窘,眼睛呆呆地望着窗外,看到有一个人影闪过。我几乎本能地认出了这瘦瘦的轮廓。因此两分钟后,整个学校的人,包括教师在内都全体起立时,我没有必要抬起头来后过究竟,便知道他们在迎接谁进屋了。这人大步流星走进教室。眨眼之间,在早已起立的坦普尔小姐身边,便竖起了同一根黑色大柱,就是这根柱子曾在盖茨黑德的壁炉地毯上不祥地对我皱过眉。这时我侧目瞟了一眼这个建筑物。对,我没有看错,就是那个布罗克赫斯特先生,穿着紧身长外衣,扣紧了钮扣,看上去越发修长、狭窄和刻板了。

    见到这个幽灵,我有理由感到丧气。我记得清清楚楚,里德太太曾恶意地暗示过我的品行等等,布罗克赫斯特先生曾答应把我的恶劣本性告诉坦普尔小姐和教师们。我一直害怕这一诺言会得到实现——每天都提防着这个“行将到来的人”。他的谈话和对我往事的透露,会使我一辈子落下个坏孩子的恶名,而现在他终于来了。他站在坦普尔小姐身旁,跟她在小声耳语。毫无疑问他在说我坏话,我急切而痛苦地注视着她的目光,无时无刻不期待着她乌黑的眸子转向我,投来厌恶与蔑视的一瞥。我也细听着,因为碰巧坐在最靠房子头上的地方,所以他说的话,一大半都听得见。谈话的内容消除了我眼前的忧虑。

    “坦普尔小姐,我想在洛顿买的线是管用的,质地正适合做白布衬衣用,我还挑选了同它相配的针。请你告诉史密斯小姐,我忘掉了买织补针的事。不过下星期我会派人送些纸来,给每个学生的一次不得超过一张,给多了,她们容易粗枝大叶,把它们弄丢了。啊,小姐!但愿你们的羊毛袜子能照看得好些!上次我来这里的时候到菜园子里转了一下,仔细瞧了瞧晾在绳子上的衣服,看见有不少黑色长袜都该补了,从破洞的大小来看,肯定一次次都没有好好修补。”

    他顿了一下。

    “你的指示一定执行,先生,”坦普尔小姐说。

    “还有,小姐,”他继续说下去,“洗衣女工告诉我,有些姑娘一周用两块清洁的领布。这太多了,按规定,限制在一块。”

    “我想这件事我可以解释一下,先生。上星期四,艾格妮丝和凯瑟琳?约翰斯通应朋友邀请,上洛顿去用茶点,我允许她们在这种场合戴上干净的领布。”

    布罗克赫斯特先生点了点头。

    “好吧,这一次就算了,但是请不要让这种情况经常发生。还有另一件事也叫我吃惊,我跟管家结帐,发现上两个星期,两次给姑娘们供应了点心,吃了面包奶酪,这是怎么回事?我查了一下规定,没有发现里面提到过点心之类的饭食。是谁搞的改革?又得到了谁的批准?”

    “我必须对这一情况负责,先生,”坦普尔小姐回答说。“早饭烧得很糟糕,学生们都咽不下去。我不敢让她们一直饿看肚子到吃中饭。”

    “小姐,请允许我说上片刻——你该清楚,我培养这些姑娘,不是打算让她们养成娇奢纵欲的习惯,而是使她们刻苦耐劳,善于忍耐,严于克己,要是偶尔有不合胃口的小事发生,譬如一顿饭烧坏了,一个菜作料加少了或者加多了,不应当用更可口的东西代替失去的享乐,来加以补救。那样只会娇纵肉体,偏离这所学校的办学目的。这件事应当用来在精神上开导学生,鼓励她们在暂时困难情况下,发扬坚韧不拔的精神。在这种场合,该不失时宜地发表一个简短的讲话。一位有识见的导师会抓住机会,说一下早期基督徒所受的苦难;说一下殉道者经受的折磨;说一下我们神圣的基督本人的规劝,召唤使徒们背起十字架跟他走;说一下他给予的警告:人活着不是单靠食物,乃是靠上帝口里所说出的一切话;说一下他神圣的安慰‘饥渴慕义的人有福了。’啊,小姐,当你不是把烧焦的粥,而是把面包和奶酪放进孩子们嘴里的时候,你也许是在喂她们邪恶的肉体,而你却没有想到,你在使她们不朽的灵魂挨饿!”

    布罗克赫斯特先生又顿了一下,也许是感情太冲动的缘故。他开始讲话时,坦普尔小姐一直低着头,但这会儿眼睛却直视前方。她生来白得像大理石的脸,似乎透出了大理石所特有的冷漠与坚定,尤其是她的嘴巴紧闭着,仿佛只有用雕刻家的凿子才能把它打开,眉宇间渐渐地蒙上了一种凝固了似的严厉神色。

    与此同时,布罗克赫斯特先生倒背着双手站在炉子跟前,威风凛凛地审视着全校。突然他眼睛眨了一下,好像碰上了什么耀眼刺目的东西,转过身来,用比刚才更急促的语调说:“坦普尔小姐,坦普尔小姐,那个,那个卷发姑娘是怎么回事?红头发,小姐,怎么卷过了,满头都是卷发?”他用鞭子指着那可怕的东西,他的手抖动着。

    “那是朱莉娅?塞弗恩,”坦普尔小姐平静地回答。

    “朱利娅?塞弗恩,小姐!为什么她,或是别人,烫起卷发来了?她竟然在我们这个福音派慈善机构里,无视学校的训戒和原则,公开媚俗,烫了一头卷发,这是为什么?”

    “朱莉娅的头发天生就是卷的,”坦普尔小姐更加平静地回答。

    “天生!不错,但我们不能迁就天性。我希望这些姑娘是受上帝恩惠的孩子,再说何必要留那么多头发?我一再表示我希望头发要剪短,要朴实,要简单。坦普尔小姐,那个姑娘的头发必须统统剪掉,明天我会派个理发匠来。我看见其他人头上的那个累赘物也太多了——那个高个子姑娘,叫她转过身来。叫第一班全体起立,转过脸去朝墙站着。”

    坦普尔小姐用手帕揩了一下嘴唇,仿佛要抹去嘴角上情不自禁的笑容。不过她还是下了命令。第一班学生弄明白对她们的要求之后,也都服从了。我坐在长凳上,身子微微后仰,可以看得见大家挤眉弄眼,做出各种表情,对这种调遣表示了不满。可惜布罗克赫斯特先生没有能看到,要不然他也许会感受到,他纵然可以摆布杯盘的外表,但其内部,却远非他所想的那样可以随意干涉了。

    他把这些活奖章的背面细细打量了大约五分钟,随后宣布了判决,他的话如丧钟般响了起来:“头上的顶髻都得剪掉。”

    坦普尔小姐似乎在抗辩。

    “小姐”他进而说,“我要为主效劳,他的王国并不是这个世界。我的使命是节制这些姑娘的肉欲,教导她们衣着要谦卑克制,不梳辫子,不穿贵重衣服。而我们面前的每个年轻人,出于虚荣都把一束束头发编成了辫子。我再说一遍,这些头发必须剪掉,想一想为此而浪费的时间,想……”布罗克赫斯特先生说到这儿被打断了。另外三位来访者,都是女的,此刻进了房间。他们来得再早一点就好了,赶得上聆听他关于服饰的高论。她们穿着华丽,一身丝绒、绸缎和毛皮。二位中的两位年轻的(十六、七岁的漂亮姑娘)戴着当时十分时髦的灰色水獭皮帽,上面插着驼鸟毛,在雅致的头饰边沿下,是一团浓密的卷发,烫得十分精致。那位年长一些的女人,裹着一条装饰着貂皮的贵重丝绒披巾,额前披着法国式的假卷发。

    这几位太太小姐,一位是布罗克赫斯特太太,还有两位是布罗克赫斯特小姐。她们受到了坦普尔小姐恭敬的接待,被领到了房间一头的上座。她们看来是与担任圣职的亲属乘同一辆马车到达的,在他与管家办理公务,饲问洗衣女,教训校长时,她们已经在楼上的房间仔细看过究竟。这时她们对负责照管衣被、检查寝室的史密斯小姐,提出了种种看法和责难。

    不过我没有工夫去听她们说些什么,其他事情来打岔,并吸引了我的注意力。

    到现在为止,我一面领会着布罗克赫斯特先生和坦普尔小姐的讲话,一面并没有放松戒备,确保自己的安全,而只要不被看到,安全是没有问题的。为了达到这个目的,我坐在长凳上,身子往后靠,看上去似乎在忙于计算,把写字板端得刚好遮住了脸。我本可以逃避别人的注意,却不料我那块捣蛋的写字板,不知怎地恰巧从我手里滑落,砰地一声冒然落地。

    顷刻之间人人都朝我投来了目光。我知道这下全完了,我弯下腰捡起了碎为两半的写字板,鼓足勇气准备面对最坏的结局,它终于来了。

    “好粗心的姑娘!”布罗克赫斯特先生说,随后立刻又说,“是个新来的学生,我看出来了,”我还没喘过气来,他又说下去,“我可别忘了,有句关于她的话要说,”随后大着嗓门说。在我听来,那声音有多响啊!叭媚歉龃蚱菩醋职宓暮⒆拥角懊胬矗 ?

    我自己已经无法动弹了,我瘫了下来。可是坐在我两边的两个大姑娘,扶我站了起来,把我推向那位可怖的法官。随后坦普尔小姐轻轻地搀着我来到他的脚跟前,我听见她小声地劝导我:“别怕,简,我知道这不是故意的,你不会受罚。”

    这善意的耳语像匕首一样直刺我心扉。

    “再过一分钟,她就会把我当作伪君子而瞧不起我了,”我想。一想到这点,心中便激起了一腔怒火,冲着里德太太和布罗克赫斯特一伙们,我可不是海伦?彭斯。

    “把那条凳子拿来,”布罗克赫斯特先生指着一条很高的凳子说一位班长刚从那儿站起来。凳子给端来了。

    “把这孩子放上去。”

    我被抱到了凳子上,是谁抱的,我并不知道,我已经不可能去注意细枝末节了。我只知道他们把我摆到了跟布罗克赫斯特先生鼻子一般高的地方;知道他离我只有一码远;知道在我下面,一片桔黄色和紫色的闪缎饰皮外衣和浓雾般银色的羽毛在扩展,在飘拂。

    布罗克赫斯特先生清了清嗓子。

    “女士们,”他说着转向他的家人,“坦普尔小姐,教师们和孩子们,你们都看到了这个女孩子了吧?”

    她们当然是看到了。我觉到她们的眼睛像凸透镜那样对准了我烧灼的皮肤。

    “你们瞧,她还很校你们看到了,她的外貌与一般孩子没有什么两样,上帝仁慈地把赐与我们大家的外形,一样赐给了她,没有什么明显的残疾表明她是个特殊人物。谁能想到魔鬼已经在她身上找到了一个奴仆和代理人呢?而我痛心地说,这就是事实。”

    他又停顿了一下。在这间隙,我开始让自己紧张的神经稳定下来,并觉得鲁比孔河已经渡过,既然审判已无法回避,那就只得硬着头去忍受了。

    “我的可爱的孩子们,”这位黑大理石般的牧师悲切地继续说下去,“这是一个悲哀而令人忧伤的场合,因为我有责任告诫大家,这个本可以成为上帝自己羔羊的女孩子,是个小小的被遗弃者,不属于真正的羊群中的一员,而显然是一个闯入者,一个异己。你们必须提防她,不要学她样子。必要的话避免与她作伴,不要同她一起游戏,不要与她交谈。教师们,你们必须看住她,注意她的行踪,掂量她的话语,监视她的行动,惩罚她的肉体以拯救她的灵魂,如果有可能挽救的话,因为(我实在说不出口),这个姑娘,这个孩子,基督国土上的本地子民,比很多向梵天祈祷,向讫里什那神像跪拜的小异教徒还坏,这个女孩子是一个——说谎者!”

    这时开始了十分钟的停顿。而此时我己经镇定自若,看到布罗克赫斯特家的三个女人都拿出了手帕,揩了揩眼镜,年长的一位身子前后摇晃着,年轻的两位耳语着说:“多可怕!”

    布罗克赫斯特先生继续说。

    “我是从她的恩人,一位廉诚慈善的太太那儿知道的。她成了孤儿的时候,是这位太太收养了她,把她作为亲生女儿来养育。这位不幸的姑娘竟以忘恩负义来报答她的善良和慷慨。这种行为那么恶劣,那么可怕,那位出色的恩主终于不得不把她同自己幼小的孩子们分开,生怕她的坏样子会沾污他们的纯洁。她被送到这里来治疗,就像古时的犹太人把病人送往毕士大搅动着的池水中一样。教师们,校长们,我请求你们不要让她周围成为一潭死水。”

    说了这样精彩的结语以后,布罗克赫斯特先生整了一下长大衣最上头的一个钮扣,同他的家属嘀咕了几句,后者站起来,向坦普尔小姐鞠了一躬。随后所有的大人物都堂而皇之地走出了房间。在门边拐弯时,我的这位法官说:“让她在那条凳子上再站半个小时,在今天的其余时间里,不要同她说话。”

    于是我就这么高高地站着。而我曾说过,我不能忍受双脚站立于房间正中的耻辱,但此刻我却站在耻辱台上示众。我的感触非语言所能形容。但是正当全体起立,使我呼吸困难,喉头紧缩的时候,一位姑娘走上前来,从我身边经过。她在走过时抬起了眼睛。那双眼睛闪着多么奇怪的光芒!那道光芒使我浑身充满了一种多么异乎寻常的感觉!这种新感觉给予我多大的支持!仿佛一位殉道者、一个英雄走过一个奴隶或者牺牲者的身边,刹那之间把力量也传给了他。我控制住了正待发作的歇斯底里,抬起头来,坚定地站在凳子上。海伦?彭斯问了史密斯小姐某个关于她作业的小问题,因为问题琐碎而被申斥了一通。她回到自己的位置上去时,再次走过我,对我微微一笑。多好的微笑!我至今还记得,而且知道,这是睿智和真正的勇气的流露,它像天使脸上的反光一样,照亮了她富有特征的面容、瘦削的脸庞和深陷的灰眼睛。然而就在那一刻,海伦?彭斯的胳膊上还佩戴着“不整洁标记”;不到一小时之前我听见斯卡查德小姐罚她明天中饭只吃面包和清水,就因为她在抄写习题时弄脏了练习簿。人的天性就是这样的不完美!即使是最明亮的行星也有这类黑斑,而斯卡查德小姐这样的眼睛只能看到细微的缺陷,却对星球的万丈光芒视而不见。

   

   

    

    第八章 

    半个小时不到,钟就敲响了五点。散课了,大家都进饭厅去吃茶点,我这才大着胆走下凳子。这时暮色正浓,我躲进一个角落,在地板上坐了下来。一直支撑着我的魔力消失了,被不良反应所取代。我伤心不已,脸朝下扑倒在地,嚎啕大哭起来。海伦?彭斯不在,没有东西支撑我。孤身独处,我难以自制,眼泪洒到了地板上。我曾打算在罗沃德表现那么出色,做那么多事情,交那么多朋友,博得别人的尊敬,赢得大家的爱护,而且已经取得了明显的进步。就在那天早上,我在班上己经名列前矛,米勒小姐热情夸奖我,坦普尔小姐微笑着表示赞许,还答应教我绘画,让我学法文、只要我在两个月之内继续取得同样的进步,此外,我也深受同学们的欢迎,同我年龄相仿的人也对我平等相待,我已不再受人欺悔。然而此刻,我又被打倒在地,遭人践踏。我还有翻身之日吗?

    “永远没有了,”我想,满心希望自己死掉。正当我泣不成声地吐出了这个心愿时,有人走近了我,我惊跳了起来,又是海伦?彭斯靠近了我,渐暗的炉火恰好照亮她走过空空荡荡的长房间她给我端来了咖啡和面包。

    “来,吃点东西,”她说,可是我们把咖啡和面包都从我面前推开了,只觉得仿佛眼下一滴咖啡或一口面包就会把我噎住似的。海伦凝视着我,也许很惊奇,这时我虽已竭尽全力,却仍无法抑制内心的激动,仍然一个劲儿号啕着,她在我身旁的地上坐下,胳膊抱着双膝,把头靠在膝头上,她就那么坐着,不言不语,像一个印度人。倒是我第一个开了腔:“海伦,你怎么会跟一个人人都相信她会说谎的人呆在一起呢?”

    “是人人吗,简?瞧,只有八十个人听见叫你撒谎者,而世界上有千千万万的人呢。”

    “可是我跟那千千万万的人有什么关系呢?我认识的八十个人瞧不起我。”

    “简,你错啦,也许学校里没有一个人会瞧不起你,或者讨厌你,我敢肯定,很多人都那么同情你。”

    “布罗克赫斯特先生说了话以后,她们怎么可能同情我呢。”

    “布罗克赫斯特先生不是神,也不是一个值得钦佩的伟人。这里人不喜欢他。他也不想法让人喜欢他。要是他把你看成他的宠儿,你倒会处处树敌,公开的,或者暗地里的都会有。而现在这样,大多数胆子大一点的人是会同情你的。而要是你继续努力,好好表现,这些感情正因为暂时的压抑,不久就会更加明显地表露出来。此外,简”她刹住了话头。

    “怎样。海伦?”我说着把自己手塞到了她手里,她轻轻地揉着我的手指,使它们暖和过来,随后又说下去:“即使整个世界恨你,并且相信你很坏,只要你自己问心无愧,知道你是清白的,你就不会没有朋友。”

    “不,我明白我觉得自己不错,但这还不够,要是别人不爱我,那么与其活着还不如死去——我受不了孤独和别人的厌恶,海伦。瞧,为了从你那儿,或者坦普尔小姐,或是任何一个我确实所爱的人那儿,得到真正的爱,我会心甘情愿忍受胳膊骨被折断,或者愿让一头公牛把我悬空抛起,或者站在一匹蹶腿的马后面,任马蹄踢向我胸膛——”“嘘,简!你太看重人的爱了,你的感情太冲动你的情绪太激烈了。一只至高无上的手创造了你的躯体,又往里面注入了生命,这只手除了造就了你脆弱的自身,或者同你一样脆弱的创造物之外,还给你提供了别的财富。在地球和人类之外,还有一个看不见的世界,一个精灵王国。这个世界包围着我们,无所不在。那些精灵们注视着我们,奉命守护我们。要是我们在痛苦和耻辱中死去;要是来自四面八方的鄙视刺伤了我们;要是仇恨压垮了我们,天使们会看到我们遭受折磨,会承认我们清白无辜(如果我们确实清白无辜,我知道你受到了布罗克赫斯特先生指控,但这种指控软弱无力,夸大其词,不过是从里德太太那儿转手得来的,因为我从你热情的眼睛里,从你明净的前额上,看到了诚实的本性),上帝只不过等待灵魂与肉体分离,以赐予我们充分酬报。当生命很快结束,死亡必定成为幸福与荣耀的入口时,我们为什么还要因为忧伤而沉沦呢?”

    我默不作声。海伦已经使我平静下来了,但在她所传递的宁静里,混杂着一种难以言传的悲哀。她说话时我感受到了这种悲哀,但不知道它从何而来。话一讲完,她开始有点气急,短短地咳了几声,我立刻忘掉了自己的苦恼,隐隐约约地为她担起心来。

    我把头靠在海伦的肩上,双手抱住了她的腰,她紧紧搂住我,两人默默地偎依着。我们没坐多久,另外一个人进来了。这时,一阵刚起的风,吹开了沉重的云块,露出了月亮,月光泻进近旁的窗户,清晰地照亮了我们两人和那个走近的身影,我们立刻认出来,那是坦普尔小姐。

    “我是特地来找你的,简?爱,”她说,“我要你到我房间里去,既然海伦?彭斯也在,那她也一起来吧。”

    我们去了。在这位校长的带领下,我们穿过了一条条复杂的过道,登上一座楼梯,才到她的寓所。房间里炉火正旺,显得很惬意。坦普尔小姐叫海伦?彭斯坐在火炉一边的低靠手椅里,她自己在另一条靠手椅上坐下,把我叫到她身边。

    “全都过去了吗?”她俯身瞧着我的脸问。“把伤心都哭光了?”

    “恐怕我永远做不到。”

    “为什么?”

    “因为我被冤枉了,小姐,你,还有所有其他人,都会认为我很坏。”

    “孩子,我们会根据你的表现来看待你的。继续做个好姑娘,你会使我满意的。”

    “我会吗,坦普尔小姐?”

    “你会的,”她说着用胳膊搂住我。“现在你告诉我,被布罗克赫斯特称为你的恩人的那位太太是谁?”

    “里德太太,我舅舅的妻子。我舅舅去世了,他把我交给她照顾。”

    “那他不是自己主动要抚养你了?”

    “不是,小姐。她感到很遗憾,不得不抚养我。但我常听仆人们说,我舅舅临终前要她答应,永远抚养我。”

    “好吧,简,你知道,或者至少我要让你知道,罪犯在被起诉时,往往允许为自己辩护。你被指责为说谎,那你就在我面前尽力为自己辩护吧,凡是你记得的事实你都说,可别加油添醋,夸大其词。”

    我暗下决心,要把话说得恰如其分,准确无误。我思考了几分钟,把该说的话理出了个头绪,便一五一十地向她诉说了我悲苦的童年。我己激动得精疲力尽,所以谈到这个伤心的话题时,说话比平时要克制。我还记住了海伦的告诫,不一味沉溺于怨词,叙述时所掺杂的刻薄与恼恨比往日少得多,而且态度收敛,内容简明,听来更加可信。我觉得,我往下说时,坦普尔小姐完全相信我的话。

    我在叙述自己的经历时,还提到了劳埃德先生,说他在我昏厥后来看过我。我永远忘不了可怕的红房子事件,有详细诉说时,我的情绪有点失态,因为当里德太太断然拒绝我发疯似的求饶,把我第二次关进黑洞洞闹鬼的房子时,那种阵阵揪心的痛苦,在记忆中是什么也抚慰不了的。

    我讲完了。坦普尔小姐默默地看了我几分钟,随后说:“劳埃德先生我有些认识,我会写信给他的。要是他的答复同你说的相符,我们会公开澄清对你的诋毁。对我来说,简,现在你说的相符,我们会公开澄清对你的诋毁。对我来说,简,现在你已经清白了。”

    她吻了吻我,仍旧让我呆在她身边(我很乐意站在那里,因为我端详着她的面容、她的装束、她的一、二件饰品、她那白皙的额头、她那一团团闪光的卷发和乌黑发亮的眼睛时,得到了一种孩子般的喜悦)。她开始同海伦?彭斯说话了。

    “今晚你感觉怎么样,海伦?你今天咳得厉害吗?”

    “我想不太厉害,小姐。”

    “胸部的疼痛呢?”

    “好一点了。”

    坦普尔小姐站起来,拉过她的手,按了按脉搏,随后回到了自己的座位上。坐定以后,我听她轻声叹了口气。她沉思了一会,随后回过神来,高兴地说:“不过今晚你们俩是我的客人,我必须按客人相待,”她按了下铃。

    “巴巴拉,”她对应召而来的佣人说,“我还没有用茶呢,你把盘子端来,给两位小姐也放上杯子。”

    盘子很快就端来了,在我的目光中,这些放在火炉旁小园桌上的瓷杯和亮晃晃的茶壶多么漂亮!那饮料的热气和烤面包的味儿多香!但使我失望的是(因为我已开始觉得饿了),我发现那份儿很小,坦普尔小姐也同样注意到了,“巴巴拉,”她说,“不能再拿点面包和黄油来吗?这不够三个人吃呀。”

    巴巴拉走了出去,但很快又回来了。

    “小姐,哈登太太说已经按平时的份量送来了。”

    得说明一下,哈登太太是个管家,这个女人很合布罗克赫斯特先生的心意,两人的心一样都是铁铸的。

    “啊,好吧,”坦普尔小姐回答,“我想我们只好将就了,巴巴拉。”等这位姑娘一走,她便笑着补充说:“幸好我自己还能够弥补这次的欠缺。”

    她邀海伦与我凑近桌子,在我们俩面前各放了一杯茶和一小片可口却很薄的烤面包,随后打开抽屉,从里面抽出一个纸包,我们眼前立刻出现了一个大果子饼。

    “我本想让你们各自带一点儿回去,”她说,“但是因为烤面包这么少,你们现在就得吃掉了。”她很大方地把饼切成了厚片。

    那天夜晚,我们吃了香甜的饮料和食品,享受了一次盛宴。当她慷慨提供的美食,满足了我们的辘辘饥肠时,我们的女主人面带满意的微笑,望着我们,那笑容也一样令人愉快。

    吃完茶点,端走了托盘后,她又招呼我们到火炉边去。我们两人一边一个坐在她身旁。这时,她与海伦开始了谈话,而我能被允许旁听,实在也是有幸。

    坦普尔小姐向来神态安详,风度庄重,谈吐文雅得体,这使她不至于陷入狂热、激奋和浮躁,同样也使看着她和倾听她的人,出于一种敬畏心情,不会露出过份的喜悦,这就是我此刻的情感。但海伦的情况却使我十分吃惊。

    因为茶点振奋了精神,炉火在熊熊燃烧,因为亲爱的导师在场并待她很好,也许不止这一切,而是她独一无二的头脑中的某种东西,激发了她内在的种种力量。这些力量被唤醒了,被点燃了,起初闪烁在一向苍白而没有血色现在却容光焕发的脸上,随后显露在她水灵灵炯炯有神的眼睛里,这双眼睛突然之间获得了一种比坦普尔小姐的眼睛更为独特的美,它没有好看的色彩,没有长长的睫毛,没有用眉笔描过的眉毛,却那么意味深长,那么流动不息,那么光芒四射。随后她似乎心口交融,说话流畅。这些话从什么源头流出来,我无从判断。一个十四岁的女孩有这样活跃、这样宽大的胸怀,装得下这纯洁、充盈、炽热的雄辩之泉么?这就是那个使我难以忘怀的夜晚海伦谈话的特色。她的心灵仿佛急于要在短暂的片刻中,过得与众多长期苟活的人一样充实。

    她们谈论着我从未听说过的事情,谈到了逝去的民族和时代,谈到了遥远的国度;谈到了被发现或臆测到的自然界的奥秘,还谈到了书籍。她们看过的书真多啊!她们掌握的知识真丰富!随后她们似乎对法国人名和法国作者了如指掌。但最使我惊讶的是,这时坦普尔小姐问海伦是不是抽空在复习她爸爸教她的拉丁文,还从书架上取了一本书,吩咐她朗读和解释维吉尔①的一页著作,海伦照着做了。我每听一行朗朗的诗句,对她也就愈加肃然起敬。

    她几乎还没有读完,上床铃就响了,已不允许任何拖延。坦普尔小姐拥抱了我们俩,她把我们搂到怀里时说:“上帝保佑你们,我的孩子们!”

    她拥抱海伦比拥抱我要长些,更不情愿放她走。她一直目送海伦到门边,为了海伦,她再次伤心地叹了口气;为了海伦,她从脸上抹去了一滴眼泪,到了寝室,我们听见了斯卡查德小姐的嗓音,她正在检查抽屉,而且刚好已把海伦的抽屉拉出来。我们一走进房间,海伦便当头挨了一顿痛骂。她告诉海伦,明天要把五六件叠得乱七八糟的东西别在她的肩上。

    “我的东西乱糟糟的真丢脸,”海伦喃喃地同我说,“我是想把它们放整齐的,可总是忘了。”

    第二早上,斯卡查德小姐在一块纸牌上写下了十分醒目的两个字“邋遢”,像经文护符匣一样,把它系在海伦那宽大、温顺、聪颖、一付善相的额头上。她那么耐心而毫无怨言地佩戴着它,视之为应得的惩罚,一直戴到晚上。下午放学以后,斯卡查德小姐一走,我便跑到海伦那儿,一把撕下这块牌子,把它扔进火里。她所不会有的火气,整天在我心中燃烧着,大滴大滴热泪,一直烧灼着我的脸颊,她那付悲哀的、听天由命的样子,使我心里痛苦得难以忍受。

    上述事件发生后大约一周,坦普尔小姐写给劳埃德先生的信有了回音。他在信中所说的,进一步证实了我的自述。坦普尔小姐把全校师生召集起来,当众宣布,对简?爱所受的指责己经作了调查,而且很高兴地声明对简?爱的诋毁己彻底澄清。教师们随后同我握了手,吻了我,一阵欢悦的低语,迥荡在我同伴的队伍之中。

    这样我便卸下了一个沉重的包袱。我打算从头努力,决心排除万难披荆斩棘地前进。我拼命苦干,付出几分努力,便获得几分成功。我的记忆力虽然不是生来很强,但经过实干有了改进,而反复练习使我的头脑更为机敏。几周之后,我被升到了高班,不到两个月我被允许学习法文和绘画。我学了动词Etre的最基本的两个时态;同一天我作了第一幅茅屋素描(顺便说一句,屋子墙壁的倾斜度可与比萨斜塔相媲美)。那天夜里上床时,我忘了在遐想中准备有热的烤土豆或白面包与新鲜牛奶的巴米赛德晚餐了,往常我是以此来解馋的。而现在,我在黑暗中所见到的理想画面成了我的盛宴。所有的画作都是出自我的手笔,潇洒自如的房屋、树木铅笔画,别致的岩石和废墟,克伊普式的牛群,以及各种可爱的画:有蝴蝶在含苞的玫瑰上翩翩起舞;有鸟儿啄着成熟的樱桃;有藏着珍珠般鸟蛋的鹪鹩巢穴,四周还绕着一圈嫩绿的长春藤。我还在脑子里掂量了一下,有没有可能把那天皮埃罗太太给我看的薄薄的法文故事书,流利地翻译出来。这个问题还没有满意解决,我便甜甜地睡着了。

    所罗门说得好:“吃素菜,彼此相爱,强如吃肥牛,彼此相恨。”

    现在,我决不会拿贫困的罗沃德去换取终日奢华的盖茨黑德。

   

   

    

    第九章 

    然而,罗沃德的贫困,或者不如说艰辛,有所好转。春天即将来临,实际上已经到来,冬季的严寒过去了。积雪已融化,刺骨的寒风不再那般肆虐,在四月和风的吹拂下,我那双曾被一月的寒气剥去了一层皮,红肿得一拐一拐的可怜的脚,已开始消肿和痊愈。夜晚和清晨不再出现加拿大式的低气温,险些把我们血管里的血冻祝现在我们己受得了花园中度过的游戏的时刻。有时逢上好日子,天气甚至变得温暖舒适。枯黄的苗圃长出了一片新绿,一天比一天鲜嫩,使人仿佛觉得希望之神曾在夜间走过,每天清晨留下她愈来愈明亮的足迹。

    花朵从树叶丛中探出头来,有雪花莲呀、藏红花呀、紫色的报春花和金眼三色紫罗兰。每逢星期四下午(半假日)、我们都出去散步,看到不少更加可爱的花朵,盛开在路边的篱笆下。

    我还发现,就在顶端用尖铁防范着的花园高墙之外,有着一种莫大的愉快和享受,它广阔无垠,直达天际,那种愉快来自宏伟的山峰环抱着的一个树木葱笼绿荫盖地的大山谷;也来自满是黑色石子和闪光漩涡的明净溪流。这景色与我在冬日铁灰色的苍穹下,冰霜封冻、积雪覆盖时看到的情景多么不同呀!那时候,死一般冷的雾气被东风驱赶着,飘过紫色的山峰,滚下草地与河滩,直至与溪流上凝结的水气融为一体。那时,这条小溪是一股混浊不堪、势不可挡的急流,它冲决了树林,在空中发出咆哮,那声音在夹杂着暴雨和旋转的冻雨时,听来常常更加沉闷。至于两岸的树木,都己成了一排排死人的骨骼。

    四月己逝,五月来临。这是一个明媚宁静的五月,日复一日,都是蔚蓝的天空,和煦的阳光,轻柔的西风和南风。现在,草木茁壮成长起来。罗沃德抖散了它的秀发,处处叶绿,遍地开花。榆树、岑树和橡树光秃秃的高大树干,恢复了生气勃勃的雄姿,林间植物在幽深处茂密生长,无数种类的苔鲜填补了林中的空谷。众多的野樱草花,就像奇妙地从地上升起的阳光。我在林荫深处曾见过它们淡谈的金色光芒,犹如点点散开的可爱光斑。这一切我常常尽情享受着,无拘无束,无人看管,而且几乎总是独自一人。这种自由与乐趣所以这么不同寻常,是有其原因的、而说清楚这个原委,就成了我现在的任务。

    我在说这个地方掩映在山林之中,坐落在溪流之畔时,不是把它描绘成一个舒适的住处吗?的确,舒适倒是够舒适的,但有益于健康与否,却是另一回事了。

    罗沃德所在的林间山谷,是大雾的摇篮,是雾气诱发的病疫的滋生地。时疫随着春天急速的步伐,加速潜入孤儿院,把斑疹伤寒传进了它拥挤的教室和寝室,五月未到,就己把整所学校变成了医院。

    学生们素来半饥半饱,得了感冒也无人过问,所以大多容易受到感染。八十五个女生中四十五人一下子病倒了。班级停课,纪律松懈。少数没有得病的,几乎已完全放任自流,因为医生认为他们必须经常参加活动,保持身体健康。就是不这样,也无人顾得上去看管她们了。坦普尔小姐的全部注意力已被病人所吸引,她住在病房里,除了夜间抓紧几小时休息外,寸步不离病人,教师们全力以赴,为那些幸而有亲戚朋友,能够并愿意把她们从传染地带走的人,打铺盖和作好动身前的必要准备。很多已经染病的回家去等死;有些人死在学校里,悄悄地草草埋掉算数,这种病的特性决定了容不得半点拖延。

    就这样,疾病在罗沃德安了家,死亡成了这里的常客;围墙之内笼罩着阴郁和恐怖;房间里和过道上散发着医院的气味,香锭徒劳地挣扎着要镇住死亡的恶臭。与此同时,五月的明媚阳光从万里无云的天空,洒向陡峭的小山和美丽的林地。罗沃德的花园花儿盛开,灿烂夺目。一丈红拔地而起,高大如林,百合花已开,郁金香和玫瑰争妍斗艳,粉红色的海石竹和深红的双瓣雏菊,把小小花坛的边缘装扮得十分鲜艳。香甜的欧石南,在清晨和夜间散发着香料和苹果的气味。但这些香气扑鼻的宝贝,除了时时提供一捧香草和鲜花放进棺材里,对罗沃德的人来说已毫无用处。

    不过我与其余仍然健康的人,充分享受着这景色和季节的美妙动人之处。他们让我们像吉卜赛人一样,从早到晚在林中游荡,爱干什么就干什么,爱上哪里就上哪里。我们的生活也有所改善。布罗克赫斯特先生和他的家人现在已从不靠近罗沃德,家常事也无人来有问,啤气急躁的管家己逃之夭夭,生怕受到传染。她的后任原本是洛顿诊所的护士长,并未习惯于新地方的规矩,因此给得比较大方。此外,用饭的人少了,病人又吃得不多,于是我们早饭碗里的东西也就多了一些。新管家常常没有时间准备正餐,干脆就给我们一个大冷饼,或者一厚片面包和乳酪,我们会把这些东西随身带到树林里,各人找个喜欢的地方,来享受一顿盛宴。

    我最喜欢坐在一块光滑的大石头上。这块石头儿立在小溪正中,又白又干燥,要淌水过河才到得那里,我每每赤了脚来完成这一壮举。这块石头正好够舒舒服服地坐上两个人,我和另一位姑娘。她是我当时选中的伙伴,名叫玛丽??威尔逊,这个人聪明伶俐,目光敏锐。我喜欢同她相处,一半是因为她机灵而有头脑,一半是因为她的神态使人感到无拘无束。她比我大几岁,更了解世情,能告诉我很多我乐意听的东西,满足我的好奇心。对我的缺陷她也能宽容姑息,从不对我说的什么加以干涉。她擅长叙述,我善于分析;她喜欢讲,我喜欢问,我们两个处得很融洽,就是得不到很大长进,也有不少乐趣。

    与此同时,海伦?彭斯哪儿去了呢?为什么我没有同她共度这些自由自在的舒心日子?

    是我把她忘了,还是我本人不足取,居然对她纯洁的交往感到了厌倦?当然我所提及的玛丽??威尔逊要逊于我的第一位相识。她只不过能给我讲些有趣的故事,回对一些我所津津乐道的辛辣活泼的闲聊。而海伦呢,要是我没有说错,她足以使有幸听她谈话的人品味到高级得多的东西。

    确实如此,读者,我明白,并感觉到了这一点。尽管我是一个很有缺陷的人,毛病很多,长处很少,但我决不会嫌弃海伦,也不会不珍惜对她的亲情。这种亲情同激发我心灵的任何感情一样强烈,一样温柔,一样令人珍重。不论何时何地,海伦都向我证实了一种平静而忠实的友情,闹别扭或者发脾气都不会带来丝毫损害。可是海伦现在病倒了。她从我面前消失,搬到楼上的某一间房子,已经有好几周了。听说她不在学校的医院部同发烧病人在一起,因为她患的是肺病,不是斑疹伤寒。在我幼稚无知的心灵中,认为肺病比较和缓,待以时日并悉心照料,肯定是可以好转的。

    我的想法得到了证实,因为她偶尔在风和日丽的下午下楼来,由坦普尔小姐带着步入花园。但在这种场合,她们不允许我上去同她说话。我只不过从教室的窗户中看到了她,而且又看不清楚,因为她裹得严严实实,远远地坐在回廊上。

    六月初的一个晚上,我与玛丽?安在林子里逗留得很晚。像往常一样,我们又与别人分道扬镳,闲逛到了很远的地方,远得终于使我们迷了路,而不得不去一间孤零零的茅舍回路。那里住着一男一女,养了一群以林间山毛榉为食的半野的猪。回校时,己经是明月高挂。一匹我们知道是外科医生骑的小马,呆在花园门口。玛丽?安说她猜想一定是有人病得很重,所以才在晚间这个时候请贝茨先生来。她先进了屋,我在外面呆了几分钟,把才从森林里挖来的一把树根栽在花园里,怕留到第二天早晨会枯死。栽好以后,我又多耽搁了一会儿,沾上露水的花异香扑鼻。这是一个可爱的夜晚,那么宁静,又那么温煦。西边的天际依旧一片红光,预示着明天又是个好天。月亮从黯淡的东方庄严地升起。我注意着这一切,尽一个孩子所能欣赏着。这时我脑子里出现了一个从未有过的想法:“这会儿躺在病床上,面临着死亡的威胁是多么悲哀呀!这个世界是美好的,把人从这里唤走,到一个谁都不知道的地方去,会是一件十分悲惨的事。”

    随后我的脑袋第一次潜心来理解已被灌输进去的天堂和地狱的内涵,而且也第一次退缩了,迷惑不解了,也是第一次左右前后扫视着。它在自己的周围看到了无底的深渊,感到除了现在这一立足点之外,其余一切都是无形的浮云和空虚的深渊。想到自己摇摇晃晃要落入一片混乱之中,便不禁颤抖起来。我正细细咀嚼着这个新想法,却听得前门开了,贝茨先生走了出来,由一个护士陪同着。她目送贝茨先生上马离去后,正要关门,我一个箭步到了她跟前。

    “海伦?彭斯怎么样了?”

    “很不好,”回答说。

    “贝茨先生是去看她的吗?”

    “是的。”

    “对她的病,他说了些什么呀?”

    “他说她不会在这儿呆很久了。”

    这句话要是昨天让我听到,它所表达的含义只能是,她将要搬到诺森伯兰郡自己家去了,我不会去怀疑它包含着“她要死了”的意思。但此刻我立即明白了。在我理解起来,这句话一清二楚,海伦在世的日子已屈指可数,她将被带往精灵的地域,要是这样的地域确实存在的话。我感到一阵恐怖,一种今人震颤的悲哀,随后是一种愿望,一种要见她的需要。

    我问她躺在哪一个房间。

    “她在坦普尔小姐的屋里,”护士说。

    “我可以上去同她说话吗?”

    “啊,孩子!那不行。现在你该进来了,要是降了露水还呆在外面,你也会得热病的。”

    护士关了前门,我从通往教室的边门溜了进去。我恰好准时,九点刚敲,米勒小姐正吩咐学生上床。

    也许过了两小时,可能是将近十一点了,我难以入睡,而且从宿舍里一片沉寂推断,我的同伴们都已蒙头大睡。于是我便轻手轻脚地爬起来,在睡衣外面穿了件外衣,赤着脚从屋里溜了出来,去寻找坦普尔小姐的房间。它远靠房子的另外一头,不过我认得路。夏夜的皎洁月光,零零落落地洒进过道的窗户,使我毫不费力地找到了她的房间。一股樟脑味和烧焦的醋味,提醒我己走近了热病病房。我快步走过门前,深怕通宵值班的护士会听到我。我担心被人发现被赶回房去。我必须看到海伦——在她死去之前必须拥抱她一下——我必须最后亲吻她一下,同她交换最后一句话。

    我下了楼梯,走过了楼底下的一段路,终于毫无声响地开了和关了两道门,到了另一排楼梯,拾级而上,正对面便是坦普尔小姐的房间,一星灯光从锁孔里和门底下透出来,四周万籁俱寂。我走近一看,只见门虚掩着,也许是要让闷人的病室进去一点新鲜空气。我生性讨厌犹犹豫豫,而且当时急不可耐,十分冲动——我全身心都因极度痛苦而震颤起来,我推开门,探进头去,目光搜索着海伦,担心遇见死亡。

    紧靠坦普尔小姐的床铺,被白色的帷帐遮去了一半的是一只小床。我看到了被子底下身子的轮廓,但脸部被帷幔遮住了。那位在花园里同我讲过话的护士坐在一把安乐椅上,睡着了。一支灯芯未剪的蜡烛幽幽地在桌子上燃着。没有看到坦普尔小姐。我后来知道,她已被叫到热病病室,看望一个昏迷不醒的病人。我往前走去,随后在小床旁边停了下来,我的手伸向帷幔,但我宁愿在拉动之前开口说一下,我们人仍然畏缩不前,唯恐看到一具尸体。

    “海伦!”我轻声耳语道,“你醒着吗?”

    她动弹了一下,自己拉开帷幔,我后到了她的脸,苍白、憔悴,却十分镇静,她看上去没有什么变化,于是我的恐惧心理顿时消失了。

    “真是你吗,简?”她以独特的柔和语调问。

    “啊!”我想,“她不会死,她们搞错了,要是她活不了啦,她的言语和神色不会那么镇定自若。”

    我上了她的小床,吻了她一下。她的额头冰冷,两颊也冰冷,而且还很消瘦,她的手和手腕也都冰冷,只有她那微笑依旧。

    “你为什么到这儿来,简?已经过了十一点啦,几分钟前我听见敲的。”

    “我来看你,海伦。我听说你病得很重,我不同你说句话就睡不着。”

    “那你是来同我告别的了,也许许来得正是时候。”

    “你上哪儿去吗,海伦?你要回家是不是?”

    “是的,回到我永久的——我最后的家。”

    “不,不,海伦,”我顿住了,心里很难过。我竭力咽下眼泪,这时海伦一阵咳嗽,不过没有吵醒护士。咳完以后,她精疲力尽地躺了几分钟,随后轻声说:“简,你都光着你的小脚呢,躺下来吧,盖上我的被子。”

    我照她的话做了。她用胳膊楼住我,我紧偎着她,在沉默了很久之后,她继续低声耳语着说:“我很愉快,简,你听到我已经死了的时候,你可千万别悲伤。没有什么可以感到悲伤的。总有一天我们大家都得死去。现在正夺去我生命的疾病并不痛苦。既温和而又缓慢,我的心灵已经安息。我不会让任何人感到太悲痛,我只有一个父亲,他新近刚结婚,不会思念我。我那么年纪轻轻就死去,可以逃脱大苦大难。我没有会使自己在世上发迹的气质和才能。要是我活着,我会一直错下去的。”

    “可是你到哪儿去呢,海伦?你能看得见吗?你知道吗?”

    “我相信,我有信仰,我去上帝那儿。”

    “上帝在哪儿?上帝是什么?”

    “我的创造者,也是你的。他不会永远毁坏他所创造的东西。我毫无保留地依赖他的力量,完全信任他的仁慈,我数着钟点,直至那个重要时刻到来,那时我又被送还给他,他又再次显现在我面前。”

    “海伦,那你肯定认为有天堂这个地方,而且我们死后灵魂都到那儿去吗?”

    “我敢肯定有一个未来的国度。我相信上帝是慈悲的。我可以毫无忧虑地把我不朽的部分托付给他,上帝是我的父亲,上帝是我的朋友,我爱他,我相信他也爱我。”

    “海伦,我死掉后,还能再见到你吗?”

    “你会来到同一个幸福的地域,被同一个伟大的、普天下共有的父亲所接纳,毫无疑问,亲爱的简。”

    我又再次发问,不过这回只是想想而已。“这个地域在哪儿?它存在不存在?”我用胳膊把海伦楼得更紧了。她对我似乎比以往任何时候都要宝贵了,我仿佛觉得我不能让她走,我躺着把脸埋在她的颈窝里。她立刻用最甜蜜的嗓音说:“我多么舒服啊!刚才那一阵子咳嗽弄得我有点儿累了,我好像是能睡着了,可是别离开我,简,我喜欢你在我身边。”

    “我会同你呆在一起的,亲爱的海伦。谁也不能把我撵走。”

    “你暖和吗,亲爱的?”

    “是的。”

    “晚安,简。”

    “晚安,海伦。”

    她吻了我,我吻了她,两人很快就睡熟了。

    我醒来的时候已经是白天了,一阵异样的抖动把我弄醒了。我抬起头来,发现自己正躺在别人的怀抱里,那位护士抱着我,正穿过过道把我送回宿舍,我没有因为离开床位而受到责备,人们还有别的事儿要考虑,我提出的很多问题也没有得到解释。但一两天后我知道,坦普尔小姐在拂晓回房时,发现我躺在小床上,我的脸蛋紧贴着海伦?彭斯的肩膀,我的胳膊搂着她的脖子,我睡着了,而海伦——死了。

    我醒来的时候已经是白天了,一阵异样的抖动把我弄醒了。我抬起头来,发现自己正躺在别人的怀抱里,那位护士抱着我,正穿过过道把我送回宿舍,我没有因为离开床位而受到责备,人们还有别的事儿要考虑,我提出的很多问题也没有得到解释。但一两天后我知道,坦普尔小姐在拂晓回房时,发现我躺在小床上,我的脸蛋紧贴着海伦?彭斯的肩膀,我的胳膊搂着她的脖子,我睡着了,而海伦——死了。她的坟墓在布罗克布里奇墓地,她去世后十五年中,墓上仅有一个杂草丛生的土墩,但现在一块灰色的大理石墓碑标出了这个地点,上面刻着她的名字及“Resurgam”这个字。

   

   

    

    第十章 

    到目前为止,我已细述了自己微不足道的身世。我一生的最初十年,差不多花了十章来描写。但这不是一部正正规规的自传。我不过是要勾起自知会使读者感兴趣的记忆,因此我现在要几乎只字不提跳过八年的生活,只需用几行笔墨来保持连贯性。

    斑疹伤寒热在罗沃德完成了它摧毁件的使命以后,便渐渐地从那里销声匿迹了。但是其病毒和牺牲者的数字,引起了公众对学校的注意,于是人们对这场灾祸的根源作了调查,而逐步披露的事实大大激怒了公众。学校的地点不利于健康,孩子们的伙食量少质差,做饭用的水臭得使人恶心;学生们的衣着和居住条件很糟,一切都暴露无遗,曝光的结果使布罗克赫斯特大夫失脸面,使学校大受得益。

    那里的一些富家善人慷慨解囊,在一个更好的地点建造了一座更合适的大楼。校规重新作了制订,伙食和衣着有所改善。学校的经费委托给一个委员会管理。布罗克赫斯特先生,有钱又有势,自然不能忽视,所以仍担任司库一职。但在履行职务时得到了更为慷慨和富有同情心的绅士们的协助。他作为督导的职能,也由他人一起来承担,他们知道该怎样把理智与严格、舒适与经济、怜悯与正直结合起来。学校因此大有改进,到时候成了一个真正有用的高尚学府。学校获得新生之后,我在它的围墙之内生活了八年,当了六年的学生,二年的教师,在双重身份上成了它价值和重要性的见证人。

    在这八年中,我的生活十分单一,但并无不快,因为日子没有成为一潭死水。这里具备接受良好教育的条件。我喜爱某些课程;我希望超过所有人;我很乐意使教师尤其是我所爱的教师高兴,这一切都激励我奋进。我充分利用所提供的有利条件,终于一跃而成为第一班的第一名,后来又被授予教师职务,满腔热情地干了两年,但两年之后我改变了主意。

    坦普尔小姐历经种种变迁,一直担任着校长的职位,我所取得的最好成绩归功于她的教诲。同她的友谊和交往始终是对我的慰藉。她担当了我的母亲和家庭教师的角色,后来成了我的伙伴。这时候,她结了婚,随她的丈夫(一位牧师、一个出色的男人,几乎与这样一位妻子相般配)迁往一个遥远的郡,结果同我失去了联系。

    打从她离开的那天起,我已不再同原来一样了。她一走,那种己经确立了的使罗沃德有几分像家的感情和联系,都随之消失。我从她那儿吸收了某些个性和很多习惯。比较和谐的思想,比较有节制的感情,已经在我的头脑里生根。我决意忠于职守,服从命令。我很文静,相信自己十分满足。在别人的眼中,甚至在我自己看来,我似乎是一位懂规矩守本份的人。

    但是命运化作牧师内史密斯把我和坦普尔小组分开了。我见她身着行装在婚礼后不久跨进一辆驿站马车,我凝视着马车爬上小山,消失在陡坡后面。随后我回到了自己的房间,在孤寂中度过了为庆祝这一时刻而放的半假日的绝大部分时间。

    大部分时候我在房间里踯躅。我本以为自己只对损失感到遗憾,并考虑如何加以补救,但当我结束了思考,抬头看到下午已经逝去,夜色正浓时,蓦地我有了新的发现。那就是在这一间隙,我经历了一个变化的过程,我的心灵丢弃了我从坦普尔小姐那儿学来的东西,或者不如说她带走了我在她身边所感受到的宁静气息,现在我又恢复了自己的天性,感到原有的情绪开始萌动了,我并不是失去了支柱,而是失去了动机;并不是无力保持平静、而是需要保持平静的理由己不复存在。几年来,我的世界就在罗沃德,我的经历就是学校的规章制度,而现在我记起来了,真正的世界无限广阔,一个变满着希望与忧烦,刺激与兴奋的天地等待着那些有胆识的人,去冒各种风险,追求人生的真谛。

    我走向窗子,把它打开,往外眺望。我看见了大楼的两翼,看见了花园,看见了罗沃德的边缘,看见了山峦起伏的地平线。我的目光越过了其他东西,落在那些最遥远的蓝色山峰上。正是那些山峰,我渴望去攀登。荒凉不堪岩石嶙峋的边界之内,仿佛是囚禁地,是放逐的极限。我跟踪那条白色的路蜿蜒着绕过一座山的山脚,消失在两山之间的峡谷之中。我多么希望继续跟着它往前走啊!我忆起了我乘着马车沿着那条路走的日子,我记得在薄暮中驶下了山,自从我被第一次带到罗沃德时起,仿佛一个世纪己经过去,但我从来没有离开过这里。假期都是在学校里度过的,里德太太从来没有把我接到盖茨黑德去过,不管是她本人,还是家里的其他人,从未来看过我。我与外部世界既没有书信往来,也不通消息。学校的规定、任务、习惯、观念、音容、语言、服饰、好恶,就是我所知道的生活内容。而如今我觉得这很不够。一个下午之间,我对八年的常规生活突然感到厌倦了,我憧憬自由,我渴望自由,我为自由作了一个祷告,这祈祷似乎被驱散,融入了微风之中。我放弃了祈祷,设想了一个更谦卑的祈求,祈求变化,祈求刺激。而这恳求似乎也被吹进了浩茫的宇宙。“那么”,我近乎绝望地叫道,“至少赐予我一种新的苦役吧!”

    这时,晚饭铃响了,把我召唤到了楼下。

    直到睡觉的时候,我才有空继续那被打断了的沉思。即便在那时,同房间的一位教师还絮絮叨叨闲聊了好久,使我没法回到我所渴望的问题上。我多么希望瞌睡会使她闭上嘴巴!

    仿佛只要我重新思考伫立窗前时闪过脑际的念头,某个独特的想法便会自己冒出来,使我得以解脱似的。

    格丽丝小姐终于打瞌了。她是一位笨重的威尔士女人,在此之前我对她惯常的鼻音曲除了认为讨厌,没有别的看法。而今晚我满意地迎来了它最初的深沉曲调,我免除了打扰,心中那抹去了一半的想法又立刻复活了。

    “一种新的苦役!这有一定道理,”我自言自语(要知道,只是心里想想,没有说出口来)。“我知道是有道理,因为它并不十分动听,不像自由、兴奋、享受这些词,它们的声音确实很悦耳,徒然浪费时间。但是这苦役却全然不同!它毕竟是实实在在的,任何个人都可以服苦役。我在这儿已经服了八年,现在我所期求的不过是到别处去服役。难道我连这点愿望也达不到?难道这事不可行?是呀,是呀,要达到目的并非难事,只要我肯动脑筋,找到达到目的之手段。”

    我从床上坐起来,以便开动脑筋。这是一个寒冷的夜晚,我在肩上围了块披巾,随后便全力以赴地进一步思考起来。

    “我需要什么呢?在新的环境、新的面孔、新的房子中一个新的工作。我只要这个,因为好高鹜远是徒劳无益的。人们怎样才能找到一个新工作呢?我猜想他们求助于朋友。但我没有朋友。很多没有朋友的人只好自己动手去找工作,自己救自己,他们采用什么办法呢?”

    我说不上来,找不到答案。随后我责令自己的头脑找到一个回答,而且要快。我动着脑筋,越动越快。我感到我的脑袋和太阳穴在搏动着。但将近一个小时,我的脑子乱七八糟,一切努力毫无结果。我因为徒劳无功而心乱加麻,便立起身来,在房间里转了转,拉开窗帘,望见一两颗星星,在寒夜中颤抖,我再次爬到床上。

    准是有一位善良的仙女,趁我不在时把我需要的主意放到了我枕头上,因为我躺下时,这主意悄悄地、自然而然地闪入我脑际。“凡是谋职的人都登广告,你必须在《××郡先驱报》上登广告。”

    “怎么登呢?我对广告一无所知。”

    回答来得自然而又及时:

    “你必须把广告和广告费放在同一个信封里,寄给《先驱报》的编辑,你必须立即抓住第一个机会把信投到洛顿邮局,回信务必寄往那里邮局的J..。信寄出后一个星期,你可以去查询。要是来了回音,那就随之行动。”

    我把这个计划琢磨了二三回,接着便消化在脑子里,我非常清晰地把它具体化了,我很满意,不久便酣然入睡。

    第二天我一大早就起来了,没等起床铃把全校吵醒就写好了广告,封入信封,写上了地址。信上说:“现有一位年轻女士,熟悉教学(我不是做了两年的教师吗?)愿谋一家庭教师职位,儿童年龄须幼于十四岁(我想自己才十八岁,要指导一个跟我年龄相仿的人是断然不行的)。该女士能胜任良好的英国教育所含的普通课科,以及法文、绘画和音乐的教学(读者呀,现在这张狭窄的技能表,在那个时代还算是比较广博的)。回信请寄××郡洛顿邮局,J..收。”

    这份文件在我抽屉里整整锁了一天。用完茶点以后,我向新来的校长请假去洛顿,为自己也为一两位共事的老师办些小事。她欣然允诺,于是我便去了。一共有两英里步行路程,傍晚还下着雨,好在白昼依然很长。我逛了一两家商店,把信塞进邮局,冒着大雨回来,外衣都淌着水,但心里如释重负。

    接着的那个星期似乎很长,然而,它像世间的万物一样,终于到了尽头。一个秋高气爽的傍晚,我再次踏上了去洛顿的路途。顺便提一句,小路风景如画,沿着小溪向前延伸,穿过弯弯曲曲秀色诱人的山谷。不过那天我想得更多的是那封可能在,可能不在小城等着我的信,而不是草地和溪水的魅力。

    这时我冠冕堂皇的差使是度量脚码做一双鞋。所以我先去干这件事。了却以后,从鞋匠那儿出来,穿过洁净安宁的小街,来到邮局。管理员是位老妇人,鼻梁上架着角质眼镜,手上戴着黑色露指手套。

    “有写给J..的信吗?”我问。

    她从眼镜上方盯着我,随后打开一个抽屉,在里面放着的东西中间翻了好久好久。时间那么长,我简直开始有些泄气了。最后,她终于把一份文件放到眼镜底上,过了将近五分钟,才越过柜台,递给我,同时投过来刨根究底,疑虑重重的一瞥——这封信是写给J..的。

    “就只有这么一封?”我问。

    “没有了,”她说,我把信放进口袋,回头就走。当时我不能拆开,按照规定我得八点前返回,而这时已经七点半了。

    一到家便有种种事务等着我去做。姑娘们做功课时我得陪坐着,随后是轮到我读祷告,照应她们上床。在此之后,我与其他教师吃了晚饭。甚至最后到了夜间安寝时,那位始终少不了的格丽丝小姐仍与我作伴。烛台上只剩下一短截蜡烛了,我担心她会喋喋不休,直至烛灭。幸好那一顿饭产生了催眠的效果。我还没有脱好衣服,她已酣声大作。蜡烛只剩一英寸,我取出了信,封口上署着缩写F.,我拆开信封,发现内容十分简单。

    “如上周四在郡《先驱报》上登了广告的J..具备她所提及的修养,如她能为自己的品格与能力提供满意的证明人,即可获得一份工作,仅需教一名学生,一个不满十岁的小女孩,年薪为三十英镑。务请将证明人及其姓名、地址和详情寄往下列姓名和地址:“××郡,米尔科特附近,桑菲尔德,费尔法克斯太太收。”

    我把文件细看了很久。字体很老式,笔迹不大稳,像是一位老年妇女写的。这一情况倒是让人满意的。我曾暗自担心,我自作主张,独自行动,会有陷入某种困境的危险。尤其是我希望自己努力得来的成果是体面的、正当的、en regle。我现在觉得手头的这件事涉及一位老年妇女倒是好事。费尔法克斯太太!我想象她穿着黑色的长袍,戴着寡妇帽,也许索然无味,但井不失为一位典型的英国老派体面人物。桑菲尔德!毫无疑问,那是她住宅的名称,肯定是个整洁而井井有条的地方,尽管我无力设想这幢房子的确切结构。××郡的米尔科特,我重温了记忆中的英国地图。不错,郡和镇都看到了。××郡比我现在居住的最偏远的郡,离伦敦要近七十英里。这对我来说是十分可取的。我向往活跃热闹的地方。禾尔科特是个大工业城市,坐落在埃×河岸上,无疑是够热闹的。这样岂不更好,至少也是个彻底的改变。倒不是我的想象被那些高高的烟囱和团团烟雾所吸引,“不过,”我争辩着,“或许桑菲尔德离镇很远呢。”

    这时残烛落入了烛台孔中,烛芯熄灭了。

    第二天我得采取一些新的措施,这个计划不能再闷在自己心里了。为了获得成功我必须说出口。下午娱乐活动时间,我去拜见了校长,告诉她我有可能找到一个新的职位,薪金是我目前所得的两倍(在罗沃德我的年薪为十五镑),请她替我把这事透露给布罗克赫斯特先生或委员会里的某些人,并问明白他们是否允许我把他们作为证明人提出来。她一口答应充当这件事情的协调人。第二天,她向布罗克赫斯特先生提出了这件事,而他说必须写信通知里德太太,因为她是我的当然监护人。结果便向那位太太发了封简函。她回信说,一切悉听尊便,她已久不干预我的事务了。这封信函在委员会里传阅,并经过了在我看来是极其今人厌烦的拖延后,我终于得到了正式许可,在可能情况下改善自己的处境。附带还保证,由于我在罗沃德当教师和当学生时,一向表现很好,为此即将为我提供一份由学校督导签字的品格和能力证明书。

    大约一周以后,我收到了这份证明,抄寄了一份给费尔法克斯太太,并得到了那位太太的回复,说是对我感到满意,并定于两周后我去那位太太家担任家庭教师。

    现在我忙于作准备了。两周时间一晃而过。我的衣装不多,只是够穿罢了。最后一天也完全够我整理箱子——还是八年前从盖茨黑德带来的那一只.箱子已用绳子捆好,贴上了标签。半小时之后有脚夫来把它取走,送往洛顿,我自己则第二天一早要赶到那里去等公共马车。我刷好了我的黑呢旅行装,备好帽子、手套和皮手筒,把所有的抽屉翻了一遍,免得丢下什么东西。此刻,我已无事可做,便想坐下来休息一下。但我做不到,尽管我已奔忙了一整天,却一刻也无法休息,我太兴奋了。我生活的一个阶段今晚就要结束,明天将开始一个新的阶段。在两者的间隙,我难以入睡,我必须满腔热情地观看这变化的完成。

    “小姐,”一个在门厅碰到我的仆人说。这会儿我正像一个不安的幽灵似地在那里徘徊,“楼下有个人要见你。”

    “准是脚夫,”我想,问也没问一声就奔下了楼去。我正经过半开着的后客厅,也就是教师休息室,向厨房走去,有人却从里面跑了出来。“准是她!——在哪儿我都认得出她来!”那人拦住我,一把抓过我的手叫道。

    我定睛一看,见是一个少妇,穿戴得像一个衣着讲究的仆人,一付已婚妇女模样,却不失年轻漂亮,头发和眸子乌黑,脸色红润。

    “瞧,是谁来了?”她回话的嗓音和笑容我似曾相识,“我想你没有把我完全忘记吧,简小姐?”

    顷刻之间我便喜不自禁地拥抱她,吻她了。“贝茜!贝茜!贝茜!”我光这么叫着,而她听了又是笑又是哭,两人都进了后客厅。壁炉旁边站着一个三岁左右的小家伙,穿着花格呢外衣和裤子。

    “那是我的儿子,”贝茜立刻说。

    “这么说,你结婚了,贝茜?”

    “是呀,己经快五年了,嫁给了马车夫罗伯特?利文,除了站在那儿的鲍比,我还有一个小女孩,我把她的教名取作简。”

    “你不住在盖茨黑德了?”

    “我住在门房里,原来那个看门的走了。”

    “噢,他们都过得怎么样?把他们的事情统统都告诉我,贝茜。不过先坐下来,还有鲍比,过来坐在我的膝头上好吗?”但鲍比还是喜欢侧着身子挨近他妈妈。

    “你长得那么高了,简小姐,而又没有发胖,”利文太太继续说。“我猜想学校里没有把你照看得太好吧,里德小姐要比你高得多呢。而乔治亚娜小姐有你两个人那么阔。”

    “乔治亚娜想来很漂亮吧,贝茜?”

    “很漂亮。去年冬天她同妈妈上了伦敦,在那儿人见人爱,一个年轻勋爵爱上了她,但勋爵的亲戚反对这门亲事,而——你认为怎么样——他和乔治亚娜小姐决定私奔,于是让人发现了,受到了阻止。发现他们的正是里德小姐,我想她是出于妒嫉,如今她们姐妹俩像猫和狗一样不合,老是吵架。”

    “那么,约翰?里德怎么样了?”

    “啊,他辜负了他妈妈的希望,表现并不好。他上了大学,而考试不及格,我想他们是这么说的。后来他的叔叔们要他将来当律师,去学习法律,但他是个年轻浪荡子,我想他们甭想使他有出息。”

    “他长成什么模样了?”

    “他很高,有人叫他俊小伙子,不过他的嘴唇很厚。”

    “里德太太怎么样?”

    “太太显得有些发胖,外表看看倒不错,但我想她心里很不安。约翰先生的行为使她不高兴—一约翰用掉了很多钱。”

    “是她派你到这里来的吗,贝茜?”

    “说真的,不是。我倒早就想见你了。我听说你写了信来,说是要去远地方,我想我还是乘你还没有远走高飞的时候,动身来见你一面。”

    “恐怕你对我失望了吧,贝茜。”说完我笑了起来。我发觉贝茜的目光虽然流露出关切,却丝毫没有赞赏之意。

    “不,简小姐,不完全这样。你够文雅的了,你看上去像个贵妇人。当然你还是我所预料的那样,还是孩子的时候你就长得不漂亮。”

    我对贝茵坦率的回答报之以微笑。我想她说得对,不过我承认,我对这话的含义并没有无动于衷。在十八岁的年纪上,大多数人都希望能讨人喜欢,而她们相信,自己并不具备有助于实现这种愿望的外表时,心里是绝不会高兴的。

    “不过我想你很聪明,”贝茜继续说,以表示安慰。“你会什么?能弹钢琴吗?”

    “会一点儿。”

    房内有一架钢琴。贝茜走过去把它打开,随后要我坐下来给她弹个曲子。我弹了一两曲华尔兹,她听得着了迷。

    “两位里德小姐弹不了这么好!”她欣喜地说,“我总是说你在学问上一定会超过她们的,你能画吗?”

    “壁炉架上的那幅画就是我画的。”这是一幅水彩风景画,我把它作为礼物送给了校长,以感谢她代表我在委员会中所作的善意斡旋。她把这幅画加了框,还上了光。

    “嗬,好漂亮,简小姐!它同里德小姐的绘画老师作的画一样好,更不要说年轻小姐她们自己了,她们同你天差地远。你学法语了吗?”

    “学了,贝茵,我能读还能讲。”

    “你会做细布和粗布上的刺绣活吗?”

    “我会。”

    “啊,你是个大家闺秀啦,简小姐!我早知道你会的。不管你的亲戚理不理你,照样会有长进。我有件事儿要问你,你父亲的亲属,有没有写过信给你,就是那些姓爱的人?”

    “这辈子还没有。”

    “啊,你知道太太常说,他们又穷又让人瞧不起。穷倒是可能的,但我相信他们像里德家的人一样有绅士派头。大约七年前的一天,一位爱先生来到盖茨黑德,而且要见见你。太太说你在五十英里外的学校里,他好像很失望,因为他不能多呆。他要乘船到外国去,一两天后从伦敦开航。他看上去完全像个绅士,我想他是你父亲的兄弟。”

    “他上国外哪个国家,贝茜?”

    “几千英里外的一个岛,那儿出产酒——管家告诉我的。”

    “马德拉岛?”我提醒了一下。

    “对,就是这地方——就是这几个字。”

    “那他走了?”

    “是的,他在屋里没有呆上几分钟。太太对他很傲慢,后来她把他叫作一个‘狡猾的生意人’,我那位罗伯特估计他是个酒商。”

    “很可能,”我回答,“或者酒商的职员或代理人。”

    贝茜和我又谈了一个钟头的往事,后来,她不得不告辞了。第二天在洛顿侯车时又见了她五分钟。最后我们在布洛克赫斯特纹章旅店的门边分手,各走各的路,她动身去罗沃德山岗搭车回盖茨黑德;而我登上了车子,让它把我带往米尔科特那个陌生的郊区,从事新的使命,开始新的生活。

 

 

   

   

       



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