Jane Eyre HTML version

Chapter 6
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!"