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 -