‘How can he be my master? I am not a servant!’ I cried.
‘No, Miss Eyre, you are less than a servant, because you do not work,’ replied Miss Abbott. They both looked at me as if they strongly disapproved of me.
‘You should remember, miss,’ said Bessie, ‘that your aunt pays for your food and clothes, and you should be grateful. You have no other relations or friends.’
All my short life I had been told this, and I had no answer to it. I stayed silent, listening to these painful reminders.
‘And if you are angry and rude, Mrs. Reed may send you away,’ added Bessie.
‘Anyway,’ said Miss Abbott, ‘God will punish you, Jane Eyre, for your wicked heart. Pray to God, and say you’re sorry.’ They left the room, locking the door carefully behind them.
The red room was a cold, silent room, hardly ever used, although it was one of the largest bedrooms in the house. Nine years ago my uncle, Mr. Reed, had died in this room, and since then nobody had wanted to sleep in it.
Now that I was alone I thought bitterly of the people I lived with. John Reed, his sisters, his mother, the servants — they all accused me, scolded me, hated me. Why could I never please them? Eliza was selfish, but was respected. Georgiana had a bad temper, but she was popular with everybody because she was beautiful. John was rude, cruel and violent, but nobody punished him. I tried to make no mistakes, but they called me naughty every moment of the day. Now that I had turned against John to protect myself, everybody blamed me.
And so I spent that whole long afternoon in the red room asking myself why I had to suffer and why life was so unfair. Perhaps I would run away, or starve myself to death.
Gradually it became dark outside. The rain was still beating on the windows, and I could hear the wind in the trees. Now I was no longer angry, and I began to think the Reeds might be right. Perhaps I was wicked. Did I deserve to die, and be buried in the churchyard like my uncle Reed? I could not remember him, but knew he was my mother’s brother, who had taken me to his house when my parents both died. On his death bed he had made his wife, Aunt Reed, promise to look after me like her own children. I supposed she now regretted her promise.
A strange idea came to me. I felt sure that if Mr. Reed had lived he would have treated me kindly, and now, as I looked round at the dark furniture and the walls in shadow, I began to fear that his ghost might come back to punish his wife for not keeping her promise. He might rise from the grave in the churchyard and appear in this room! I was so frightened by this thought that I hardly dared to breathe. Suddenly in the darkness I saw a light moving on the ceiling. It may have been from a lamp outside, but in my nervous state I did not think of that. I felt sure it must be a ghost, a visitor from another world. My head was hot, my heart beat fast. Was that the sound of wings in my ears? Was that something moving near me? Screaming wildly, I rushed to the door and shook it. Miss Abbott and Bessie came running to open it.
‘Miss Eyre, are you ill?’ asked Bessie.
‘Take me out of here!’ I screamed.
‘Why? What’s the matter?’ she asked.
‘I saw a light, and I thought it was a ghost,’ I cried, holding tightly on to Bessie’s hand.
‘She’s not even hurt,’ said Miss Abbott in disgust. ‘She screamed just to bring us here. I know all her little tricks.’
‘What is all this?’ demanded an angry voice. Mrs. Reed appeared at the door of the room. ‘Abbott and Bessie, I think I told you to leave Jane Eyre in this room till I came.’
‘She screamed so loudly, ma’am,’ said Bessie softly.
‘Let go of her hands, Bessie,’ was Mrs. Reed’s only answer. ‘Jane Eyre, you need not think you can succeed in getting out of the room like this. Your naughty tricks will not work with me. You will stay here an hour longer as a punishment for trying to deceive us.’
‘Oh aunt, please forgive me! I can’t bear it! I shall die if you keep me here…’ I screamed and kicked as she held me.
‘Silence! Control yourself!’ She pushed me, resisting wildly, back into the red room and locked me in. There I was in the darkness again, with the silence and the ghosts. I must have fainted. I cannot remember anything more.