Jane Eyre (Chapter 4 – IX – X)

Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte

Chương 7

HELEN

Nhưng Lowood đã thay đổi theo mùa. Cuối cùng rồi mùa xuân cũng đến, muôn hoa đua nở vào thángTư. Nào là huệ rừng, hoa tai mèo màu tím, hoa tử la-lan hình mắt màu vàng. Vào những chiều thứ năm (nghỉ nửa ngày), chúng tôi còn tìm ra những hoa màu nhã hơn ở hai bên đường và dưới các bụi cây.

Tháng Tư nhường chỗ cho tháng năm trong lành, bầu trời trong xanh, ánh mặt trời ấm áp an bình. Thiên nhiên xanh tươi đầy hoa, những cây du, cây trần bì và cây sồi trổi dậy uy nghi sau một mùa đông im lìm. ánh mặt trời đã tăng sức cho những cây hoa ngọc trâm đâm chồi nảy lộc trên mặt đất.
Nhưng Lowood lại được xây dựng trên một vùng rừng đầm lầy ẩm thấp: một cái nôi của sương mù, ẩm ướt và bệnh tật. Khi mùa xuân làm cho cuộc sống muôn loài phát triển nhanh thì mầm mống bệnh đậu lào cũng thế, nó lan tràn gây cảnh chết chóc cho lớp học và khu nội trú đông đúc, khiến cho Lowood có vẻ giống như một bệnh viện hơn là lớp học.

Ăn uống thiếu thốn, lạnh lẽo chẳng ai quan tâm, đã làm học sinh xuống sức rất nhiều. Bệnh sốt lan tràn và trong một lúc có bốn mươi lăm trong số tám mươi học sinh bị mắc bệnh đậu lào. Lớp học tạm nghỉ, kỷ luật lỏng lẻo, nhiều em phải cho về nhà để tránh lây lan. Nhiều em chết ngay tại trường và không khí buồn bã lo âu tỏa khắp các phòng, các lối đi hoà lẫn mùi bệnh hoạn ở khắp nơi.

Nhưng ánh mặt trời tháng năm vẫn dễ chịu, và số không mắc bệnh chúng tôi lại vui thích hết sức cảnh mùa xuân và mùa hè ấy. Chúng tôi được sục xạo vui chơi trong rừng, làm cái gì chúng tôi thích và đi đâu chúng tôi muốn. Chúng tôi cũng sống thoải mái hơn vì ông Brocklehurst và gia đình ông bây giờ không bao giờ đến gần trường, và bà quản gia khó tính, bà hardens, đã được một người khác thay. Bà này phóng khoáng hơn. Ngoài ra, đã bớt miệng ăn và bệnh nhân ăn lại ít.

Nhưng Helen vẫn bệnh. Cô đã được cho nằm riêng ở trên lầu mấy tuần nay, và người ta cho chúng tôi biết Helen bị bệnh lao. Vì ít hiểu biết, tôi cứ tưởng đó chỉ là một thứ bệnh gì nhẹ mà với thời gian và nếu được chăm sóc, bệnh tình Helen sẽ khỏi. Tôi cũng luôn luôn dành cho Helen một tình thương dịu dàng sâu sắc, mặc dù tôi không lo lắng gì về bệnh tình của bạn.

Một buổi tối tháng sáu, tôi đi chơi xa trong rừng với một cô bạn là Mary Ann, mãi đến lúc trăng mọc chúng tôi mới trở về. Khi về đến trường thì chúng tôi nghe nói có bác sĩ đến, vì có ai đó bệnh nặng.
Tôi ở ngoài vườn để trồng mấy cây tôi đã đào lấy trong rừng, tôi sợ để đến mai thì nó chết mất.Làm xong, tôi còn nán lại một chút ngoài vườn, hoa toả mùi hương trong sương của đêm tháng sáu thật dịu dàng. Phương tây lóe sáng báo hiệu ngày đẹp trời khác vào hôm sau, thật là một buổi tối đẹp đẽ, thanh khiết và ấm áp. Thật là đáng tiếc khi phải rời không khhí ngoài vườn để vào trong nhà.

Tôi đang nghĩ ngợi lung tung thì một ý nghĩ chợt đến trong đầu tôi mà trước đây chưa bao giờ tôi nghĩ tới:” Manh bệnh nằm một chỗ thật buồn biết bao, và lại sắp chết nữa! Thế giới này thú vị lắm chứ, rời nó để đi đến một nơi mình chưa biết gì hết, thì qủa thật là buồn biết bao!”. Rồi tôi cố gắng hết mình để hiểu sự sống và sự chết, chỉ ngỡ ngàng khi trở lại đối diện với thực tại, mọi vật quanh mình.
Tôi thấy ông bác sĩ ở trong nhà đi ra và chị điều dưỡng đứng trên cửa nhìn ông đi. tôi vội chạy đến bên chị:
– Có phải ông bác sĩ đến thăm cho helen Burns không?
– ừ , đúng thế.
– Ông ta nói sao?
– Ông bảo cô ấy sẽ không còn ở đây lâu nữa.
Hôm qua mà nói như vậy có nghĩa là Helen sẽ về nhà. Hôm nay tôi chợt hiểu cô ta sẽ chết. Tôi cảm thấy khiếp sợ và hết sức lo lắng. Tôi phải lên thăm Helen ngay.
Tôi hỏi Helen nằm phòng nào
chị điều dưỡng đáp :
– Cô ấy nằm ở phòng cô Temple.
– Em xin phép nói chuyện với cô âý một chút nhé?
– ồ không được đâu em. Không thể được. Vào nhanh đi, em sẽ bị sốt đấy, nếu cứ ở ngoài trời khi sương xuống.

E cũng phải hai giờ sau, khoảng mười một giờ, khi tất cả đã đi ngủ và khu nội trú đều yên lặng, tội mới nhẹ nhàng trỗi dậy, mặc áo choàng ngoài áo ngủ, và lặng lẽ đi chân trần đến phòng của cô Temple. Đêm mùa hè không gợn mây, ánh trăng lác đác chiếu qua cửa sổ các hành lang giúp tôi tìm ra lối đi.

Tôi đi nhanh qua các cửa phòng bệnh nhân sốt, sợ chị điều dưỡng canh suốt đêm ở đó nghe thấy. Tôi sợ nếu bị phát hiện , tôi sẽ bị đuổi về, bởi vì tôi cảm thấy mình phải gặp Helen bằng mọi giá. Tôi phải hôn giã biệt cô ấy, phải trao đổi đôi lời cùng cô ấy lần cuối.

ánh sáng trong phòng cô Temple lờ mờ, và cửa thì hé mở. Chị điều dưỡng khi nãy đang ở ngoài vườn,chị ngồi ngủ trong một ghế bành . Sát bên giường cô Temple , có một chiếc giường khác nhỏ hơn, một nửa khuất sau màn trắng. Cô Temple không có ở đấy. Sau này tôi mới biết người ta mời cô đến phòng sốt và cô ở đấy.
Tôi đi nhẹ nhàng đến giường Helen, tay vén màn , tôi thì thào gọi bạn:
– Helen, bạn thức đấy không?
Helen động đậy, rồi đưa tay ra. Tôi thấy mặt cô ta xanh xao nhưng bình tĩnh. Trông cô ít thay đổi nên tôi cũng bớt sợ. Giọng Helen nhẹ nhàng:
– Bạn đấy ư , Jane?
Ôi , bạn không chết đâu, tôi nghĩ như vậy. Họ lầm rồi. Nếu sắp chết , thì bạn không thể nói năng bình tĩnh như thế này.
Tôi hôn bạn, Helen lạnh và trông yếu quá, lại gầy nữa, nhưng nụ cười vẫn như cũ. Cô nói:
– Sao lại đến giờ này, Jane?Đã qúa mười một giờ khuya rồi!
– Mình phải đến thăm bạn, Helen à! Mình nghe bạn bệnh nặng lắm, mình không thể ngủ được nếu chưa nói chuyện được với bạn.
– Bạn đến để từ biệt đấy. Có lẽ bạn đến đúng giờ.
– Bạn sẽ đi đâu, Helen? Bạn về nhà sao?
– Vâng, về nhà, nhà vĩnh cửu.
– Không , không đâu , Helen!
Tôi ngăn cô lại không cho nói, lòng rối bời, cố gắng đừng khóc.
Chợt Helen ho lên, nhưng không đánh thức chị điều dưỡng. Khi ho xong, cô nằm xuống lại, mệt nhoài. Rồi Helen thì thào:
-Jane, bạn đi chân trần. Nằm đây và lấy chăn của mình đắp lên kẻo lạnh.
Tôi làm theo.Helen ôm quàng lấy tôi và tôi nằm sát vào bạn. Sau một hồi lâu, cô lại nói, vẫn bằng giọng thì thào:
– Jane, mình rất hạnh phúc.Khi được tin mình chết, bạn đừng buồn. Không có gì để buồn vì việc này hết. Tất cả chúng ta đều chết vào một ngày nào đó, và bệnh của mình lại không đau đớn. Nó chỉ phát triển nhẹ nhàng và từ từ, tâm trí của mình thì yên ổn. Mình không có ai còn lại để thương nhớ mình. Mình chỉ còn cha mà ông lại vừa tục huyền. Chết trẻ, mình sẽ tránh được nhiều đau khổ. Mình không có chút tài năng nào để có thể thi thố với đời. Mình chắc rồi cũng phải mắc sai lầm mà thôi.
– Nhưng rồi bạn sẽ đi đâu , Helen? Bạn biết không?
– Mình biết chứ. Mình có niềm tin. Mình sẽ đến với Chúa.
– Nhưng Chúa ở đâu? Chúa là gì?
– Đấng đã tạo ra mình, ra bạn, và không bao giờ hủy hoại linh hồn mà Ngài đã tạo nên. Mình tin tưởng vào quyền năng của Ngài và tin tưởng lòng nhân ái của Ngài.
– Helen, bạn tin chắc có một chỗ như thế ở trên trời hay sao?
Helen đáp:
– Mình chắc Chúa nhân từ. Mình phó thác mình cho Chúa chăm sóc mà không sợ gì hết. Chúa là cha và là bạn của mình.
– Thế khi mình chết, mình có gặp lại bạn không?
– Đấng Cha chung sẽ nhận tất cả chúng ta đến với nhau, chúng ta chưa hiểu ra đấy thôi , Jane à. Mình không sợ.
Tôi thầm hỏi trong đầu:” Chỗ ấy ở đâu? Có thực không?”
Tôi ôm chặt Helen hơn. Helen tỏ ra thân ái với tôi hơn bao giờ hết và tôi cảm thấy không bao giờ chịu để cho cô ta đi.Tôi nằm úp mặt vào cổ Helen.
Bỗng Helen nói bằng một giọng ngọt ngào nhất:
– Mình bằng an qúa! Mình thấy như mình đang buồn ngủ. Đừng bỏ mình nghe Jane. Mình thích có bạn ở gần mình.
– Helen thân mến! Mình sẽ ở với bạn. Không ai xua đuổi mình được.
– Bạn ấm không cưng?
– ấm rồi.
– Chúc ngủ ngon, Jane.
– Chúc ngủ ngon , Helen.
Chúng tôi hôn nhau và phút chốc chúng tôi đều ngủ say.
Khi tôi thức dậy thì trời đã sáng tỏ. Một cử động lạ lùng đã đánh thức tôi dậy. Tôi thấy chị điều dưỡng ẵm lấy tôi và mang tôi đi qua những hành lang để về lại khu nội trú.
Tôi không bị quở trách vì đã bỏ giường ngủ để đi và không có lời giải thích nào cho các câu hỏi của tôi hết. Chỉ biết sau này người ta nói cho tôi biết là cô Temple trở về phòng cô lúc rạng đông. Cô thấy tôi nằm trong giường với Helen, ôm lấy cô ấy. Tôi thì ngủ mà Helen thì chết.

Chương 8

MỘT CHƯƠNG MỚI CỦA ĐỜI TÔI

Mãi cho đến bây giờ, tôi mới kể lại chi tiết thời thơ ấu của tôi. Nhưng đây không phải là một tiểu sử đầy đủ. Vì vậy, bây giờ tôi sẽ điểm qua tám năm tiếp theo với vài dòng để thấy được sự đổi thay đã xảy ra.

Khi cơn sốt bệnh đậu lào đến cái mức tệ hại nhất, thì mọi người mới nhận ra thực tế là Lowood đã được xây dựng vào một nơi thiếu vệ sinh, tất cả đã được đưa ra ánh sáng, và hậu qủa là không may cho ông Brocklehurst nhưng lại rất có lợi cho chúng tôi.

Không lâu sau đó, nhiều người giàu có trong vùng đã đóng góp để xây một tóa nhà rộng hơn trên một nơi có vệ sinh hơn. Rồi thực phẩm , áo quần , lề lối làm việc được cải tiến, và quyền quản lý do một hội đồng điều khiển. Nhà trường đã trở thành một nơi thực sự hữu ích và quan trọng để giáo dục những kẻ không nhà, không nơi nương tựa. Trong suốt tám năm tiếp theo, tôi ở đấy, góp công vào lợi ích của trường trong việc giáo dục- học sáu năm và dạy hai năm.

Nhưng kể từ ngày cô Temple đi lấy chồng, cảm giác của tôi đối với Lowood có thay đổi. Nó không còn là một tổ ấm cho tôi nữa. Cô Temple là một bà mẹ, một cô giáo và một bạn đồng hành trong một thời gian dài, cho đến nỗi khi cô bỏ đi thì tình cảm có trong tôi bấy lâu đều tiêu tan hết.

Để mừng đám cưới của cô Temple, chúng tôi được phép nghỉ thêm nửa buổi. Khi tôi thấy cô ra đi với chồng, tôi chạy lên phòng, mở cửa sổ và nhìn ra mọi vật chung quanh. Những tòa nhà của trường, vườn tược, nhà cửa trong làng, và xa hơn là những ngọn đồi chạy đến tận chân trời. Tôi mơ ước được leo lên những ngọn đồi ấy.

Thế giới trong nhiều năm qua của tôi bị giới hạn ở trường Lowood, những kinh nghiệm của tôi cũng bị hạn chế ở luật lệ và hệ thống. Bây giờ thì tôi biết rằng thế giới rộng lớn lắm, rằng hạnh phúc và lo sợ cũng đổi thay. Cảm xúc và sở thích đang chờ đón những kẻ nào đủ can đảm để xông vào cuộc đời bao la, sẵn sàng để tìm kiếm khôn ngoan và kiến thức trong vô số hiểm nguy của cuộc sống.

Tôi muốn tự do. Vào một buổi chiều, chán nản với lề thói tám năm ở đây, tôi thấy mình cần thay đổi cuộc sống , cần phải sống sinh động hơn. Nếu phải kiếm sống , ít ra tôi cũng phải tìm kiếm ở những vùng mới mẻ hơn quanh đây. Đêm đó tâm trí tôi cứ bận bịu với vấn đề ấy , và trước khi đi ngủ, tôi đã quyết định- Tôi sẽ gởi thơ đăng báo địa phương để tìm việc làm.

Hôm sau tôi dậy thật sớm. Tôi viết quảng cáo và đã sẵn sàng để gởi báo thì chuông reo báo giờ học. Bài tôi viết như sau:
“Một thiếu nữ quen nghề dạy học (tôi đã dạy hai năm chứ sao) tìm chỗ dạy ở tư gia có trẻ dưới 14 tuổi (vì tôi 18, tôi nghĩ là chúng phải đừng gần bằng tuổi tôi qúa). Có khả năng dạy những môn phổ thông của một nền giáo dục Anh tốt, cũng có khả năng dạy tiếng Pháp, dạy Vẽ và dạy Âm nhạc. Địc chỉ: J.E. C/o Bưu điện, Lowton.”

Sau khi gửi đến báo địa phương, tuần lễ trôi qua rất lâu. Tôi định chờ một tuần rồi sẽ đến bưu điện. Lowton để hỏi có thư trả lời cho mục quảng cáo của tôi không. Cuối cùng tôi đi bộ hai dặm đường vào một buổi chiều nghỉ dạy , để hỏi văn phòng bưu điện thử có thư nào gửi cho J.E không.

Có, một cái. Tôi nhét vào túi và vội vã quay về trường.Luật lệ buộc tôi phải quay về trường đúng giờ cũng như những nhiệm vụ khác đang đợi tôi. Hôm ấy đến phiên tôi : ngồi với học sinh suốt giờ học, đọc kinh và cho học sinh ngủ trước khi ăn tối với đồng nghiệp. Có rất ít thì giờ để làm việc riệng trong ngày trực lắm.
Nhưng cuối cùng , khi giờ ngủ của mình đến, tôi mở thư ra đọc. Nội dung vắn tắt như sau:
“Nếu cô J.E đủ điều kiện về tư cách và năng lực thì có việc dành cho cô là dạy một cháu gái dưới mười tuổi .Llương là 30 bảng một năm, khỏi trả tiền ăn ở. Yêu cầu cô J.E gởi lý lịch tên, địa chỉ và đầy đủ chi tiết đến bà Fairfax, Thornfield Hall, gần Millcote.”

Tôi đọc lui đọc tới cái thư nhiều lần thật kỹ. Thư viết tay, nét chữ xưa, cứng cáp, ra vẻ do một người lớn tuổi viết. Bà Fairfax! Tôi tưởng tượng ra một góa phụ đội nón, mặc áo dài đen, có lẽ vụng về một chút, nhưng không quê kệch -một mẫu người Anh đáng kính! E cũng phải gần Luân Đôn hơn chỗ tôi đang ở đến 70 dặm. Tôi biết đây là một thành phố kỹ nghệ trên bờ một dòng sông, rõ ràng đây là một nơi nhộn nhịp, và đây là một dịp để thay đổi cuộc sống. Thornfield có lẽ ở ngoại ô thành phố.

Ngày hôm sau, tôi vạch ngay kế hoạch. Tôi phải gửi đơn lên Hội đồng quản trị để xin nghỉ việc, và yêu cầu họ cấp giấy xác nhận công tác. Khi cô Hiệu Trưởng mới nghe tôi nói tôi có khả năng có lương gấp đôi lương hiện tại , thì cô bằng lòng giúp đỡ tôi mọi cách, theo khả năng của cô hiện có. Có giấy phép thay đổi nhiệm sở cũng cần có ý kiến của Bà Reed, vì bà vẫn còn là người bảo trợ tôi cho đến lúc tôi được 21 tuổi. Bà trả lời ngắn gọn. Bà viết như sau:”… tôi cứ làm theo sở thích. Đã từ lâu bà không muốn xen vào công việc của tôi nữa”.

Cuối cùng , sau gần một tháng, Hội đồng quản trị nhà trường cấp giấy phép hợp pháp để tôi đi.Tôi gửi cho bà Fairfax một bảng nhận xét công tác(bảng nhận xét đánh giá cao công tác của tôi cả hai mặt giáo viên và học sinh), và không lâu sau, tôi nhận được phúc đáp của bà Fairfax báo rằng, bà rất hài lòng thấy tôi thích hợp với công việc bà mong muốn. Bà hẹn cho tôi hai tuần để tôi bắt đầu công việc của một nữ gia sư tại nhà bà.

Hai tuần trôi qua rất nhanh, và cái ngày cuối cùng tôi ở Lowood đã đến chóng vánh. Tôi gói ghém đồ đạc của tôi vào chính cái rương mà tôi đã mang đến tám năm về trước. Tôi phải đáp chuyến xe ở Lowton từ sáng sớm. Aó quần đã sẵn sàng, tôi cởi nón trùm đầu, cởi găng đeo tay, tôi nhìn vào các ngăn tủ để xem có quên gì không. Rồi tôi ngồi lại và cố nghỉ ngơi đôi chút.

Nhưng tôi vẫn nôn nao qúa. Một chương của cuộc đời đã đóng lại đêm nay, ngày mai , một chương mới sẽ mở ra. Tôi thơ thẩn trong hành lang như một bóng ma bất định, rồi có tiếng một gia nhân gọi:
– Cô Eyre! Có người ở dưới muốn gặp cô.

Vừa chạy xuống cầu thang tôi vừa nghĩ:”Chắc là người đến mang rương cho mình”.Trong phòng giáo viên, tôi thấy một người đàn bà dễ coi, tóc và mắt đều đen. Chị vội đứng dậy và hỏi tôi:

– Chào cô Jane, cô chưa quên tôi chứ?

Thoáng cái, tôi nhận ra, tôi ôm chầm lấy chị và nói lớn:
– Chị Beesie! Ôi, Chị Bessie!

Cả hai chúng tôi bước đến bên lò sưởi của phòng khách, ở đây có một đứa bé khoảng 3 tuổi đang đứng. Chị Bessie hãnh diện nói:

– Cháu Bobby của tôi đấy. Tôi lấy anh lái xe ở Gateshead. Anh là Robert Leaven, tôi cũng có một cháu gái nữa. Tôi đặt tên cho cháu là Jane.

Khi chúng tôi ngồi xuống, có rất nhiều chuyện để nói và để nghe về gia đình Reed.
– Cô nhỏ con qúa , cô Jane à! Cô Eliza cao hơn cô, còn cô Giorgiana thì gần gấp hai cô. Hai cô đều đẹp nhưng lại thường hay gây gổ nhau. John Reed là một thanh niên vô tích sự. Các ông cậu của cậu ta muốn cậu ta học luật, nhưng chẳng có gì hết!
– Còn Bà Reed?
– Bà ấy cũng khỏe mạnh, nhưng tôi cho là bà lo lắng lắm.Tư cách của John khiến bà lo ghê gớm- cậu ta phung phí tiền bạc.
– Bà ấy cho chị đến tìm tôi à, chị Bessie?
– Không đâu. Từ lâu tôi đã muốn đến thăm cô. Rồi khi nghe cô có gửi thư và biết cô sắp đi chỗ khác, tôi quyết định phải đến thăm cô trước khi cô đi.
– Tôi e chị thất vọng về tôi , chị Bessie à.
– Không đúng đâu, cô Jane ạ! Cô trưởng thành rồi, nhưng tôi chắc trường này không cho cô ăn uống đầy đủ. Tôi nhớ ra, hồi còn bé, cô cũng không được đẹp lắm!
Tôi mỉm cười không đáp. Tôi biết đó là lòng chân thật, nhưng ở tuổi mười tám, người ta thường muốn được vuốt ve, cho nên tôi cảm thấy hơi thất vọng.
Bessie nói:
– Tuy nhiên, tôi tin chắc cô rất khéo léo, cô chơi dương cầm được chứ?
Có một chiếc ở trong phòng. Bessie bước tới mở nắp ra, yêu cầu tôi ngồi chơi một bản.Tôi đàn cho chị nghe một hay hai bản valse gì đấy. Chị vui sướng lắm. Chị bảo:
– Các cô Reed không đàn được như vậy đâu, thật đấy! Tôi luôn nói rằng cô sẽ giỏi nhất mà. Cô vẽ được chứ?
Tôi đáp:
Bức trên tường là tranh của tôi vẽ đấy.Đó là một bức phong cảnh vẽ bằng màu nước, tôi đã tặng cho cô Hiệu trưởng.
– Sao, đẹp qúa cô Jane à! Bức tranh đẹp như những bức do các nhà danh họa đã vẽ treo ở nhà bà Reed vậy. Thế cô có học tiếng Pháp không?
– Có, chị Beesie ạ! Tôi đọc được, nói được.
– Cô cũng thêu may được chứ?
– Được.
– Thế là cô đảm đang lắm rồi.Cô Jane à! tôi đã nghĩ cô sẽ thế mà. Cô sẽ giỏi cho dù bà con có quan tâm đến cô hay không.Có việc này tôi muốn hỏi cô. Có khi nào cô nghe nói đến gia đình của ba cô không?giòng họ Eyre ấy mà?
– Không, chẳng bao giờ.
– Vậy tôi phải nói cho cô biết. Cô còn nhớ bà Reed thường nói bà con cô nghèo và bị khinh khi không? Có thể là họ nghèo đấy, nhưng tôi tin là họ đã sinh sống hẳn hòi như những người trong họ Reed vậy.Một hôm cách đây bảy năm, có một ông tên Eyre đến Gateshead và muốn gặp cô.
– Một ông tên Eyre đến tìm tôi à, chị Bessie? Ông ấy ra sao?
– Rõ ràng ông ta là một người qúy phái. Tôi tin chắc ông ta là chú ruột của cô. Bà Reed bảo cô đi trọ học xa mười lăm dặm, và ông ta tỏ ra thất vọng. Ông sợ trễ tàu, vì tàu sẽ nhổ neo trong một hai ngày tới.
– Ông ấy đi đâu , chị biết không?
– Đến một hải đảo xa hàng nghìn dặm, ông làm rượu nho ở đấy, tôi nghe…
Tôi gợi ý:
– Madeira phải không?
– Vâng , đúng đấy, đúng cái tên ấy đấy.
– Rồi ông ấy đi mất?
– Vâng, ông ấy không ở lại lâu trong nhà. Bà Reed rất ngạo mạn với ông. Sao này bà gọi ông là ” đồ thương gia trộm cướp”. Tôi chắc ông là người buôn rượu nho.
Tôi đáp:
– Đúng đấy, hoặc có thể ông là nhân viên đại diện cho một thương gia.

Beesie và tôi nhắc lại chuyện cũ cho đến khi chị ấy phải về. Sáng hôm sau, tôi gặp lại chị mấy phút, khi chúng tôi chia tay nhau. Mỗi người đi một ngả. Chị đi về Gateshead, tôi đáp xe đi Thornfield để nhận nhiệm vụ mới.

(English Version)

Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Bronte

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, thatshowed 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 pare society? Surely the Mary Arm 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 way.”
“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.”

Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Bronte

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 in 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 regle. 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 pounds 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, whether 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 of, 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 it 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.

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