Jane Eyre HTML version

Chapter 31
My home, then, when I at last find a home,--is a cottage; a little room with
whitewashed walls and a sanded floor, containing four painted chairs and a table,
a clock, a cupboard, with two or three plates and dishes, and a set of tea-things
in delf. Above, a chamber of the same dimensions as the kitchen, with a deal
bedstead and chest of drawers; small, yet too large to be filled with my scanty
wardrobe: though the kindness of my gentle and generous friends has increased
that, by a modest stock of such things as are necessary.
It is evening. I have dismissed, with the fee of an orange, the little orphan who
serves me as a handmaid. I am sitting alone on the hearth. This morning, the
village school opened. I had twenty scholars. But three of the number can read:
none write or cipher. Several knit, and a few sew a little. They speak with the
broadest accent of the district. At present, they and I have a difficulty in
understanding each other's language. Some of them are unmannered, rough,
intractable, as well as ignorant; but others are docile, have a wish to learn, and
evince a disposition that pleases me. I must not forget that these coarsely-clad
little peasants are of flesh and blood as good as the scions of gentlest
genealogy; and that the germs of native excellence, refinement, intelligence, kind
feeling, are as likely to exist in their hearts as in those of the best-born. My duty
will be to develop these germs: surely I shall find some happiness in discharging
that office. Much enjoyment I do not expect in the life opening before me: yet it
will, doubtless, if I regulate my mind, and exert my powers as I ought, yield me
enough to live on from day to day.
Was I very gleeful, settled, content, during the hours I passed in yonder bare,
humble schoolroom this morning and afternoon? Not to deceive myself, I must
reply--No: I felt desolate to a degree. I felt--yes, idiot that I am--I felt degraded. I
doubted I had taken a step which sank instead of raising me in the scale of social
existence. I was weakly dismayed at the ignorance, the poverty, the coarseness
of all I heard and saw round me. But let me not hate and despise myself too
much for these feelings; I know them to be wrong- -that is a great step gained; I
shall strive to overcome them. To- morrow, I trust, I shall get the better of them
partially; and in a few weeks, perhaps, they will be quite subdued. In a few
months, it is possible, the happiness of seeing progress, and a change for the
better in my scholars may substitute gratification for disgust.
Meantime, let me ask myself one question--Which is better?--To have
surrendered to temptation; listened to passion; made no painful effort--no
struggle;--but to have sunk down in the silken snare; fallen asleep on the flowers
covering it; wakened in a southern clime, amongst the luxuries of a pleasure villa:
to have been now living in France, Mr. Rochester's mistress; delirious with his
love half my time--for he would--oh, yes, he would have loved me well for a while.
He did love me--no one will ever love me so again. I shall never more know the
sweet homage given to beauty, youth, and grace--for never to any one else shall
I seem to possess these charms. He was fond and proud of me--it is what no