Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre: Ch. 32

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Chapter XXXII

I continued the labours of the village-school as actively and faithfully as I could.  It was truly hard work at first.  Some time elapsed before, with all my efforts, I could comprehend my scholars and their nature.  Wholly untaught, with faculties quite torpid,w they seemed to me hopelessly dull; and, at first sight, all dull alike: but I soon found I was mistaken.  There was a difference amongst them as amongst the educated; and when I got to know them, and they me, this difference rapidly developed itself.  Their amazement at me, my language, my rules, and ways, once subsided, I found some of these heavy-looking, gaping rustics wake up into sharp-witted girls enough.  Many showed themselves obliging, and amiable too; and I discovered amongst them not a few examples of natural politeness, and innate self-respect, as well as of excellent capacity, that won both my goodwill and my admiration.  These soon took a pleasure in doing their work well, in keeping their persons neat, in learning their tasks regularly, in acquiring quiet and orderly manners.  The rapidity of their progress, in some instances, was even surprising; and an honest and happy pride I took in it: besides, I began personally to like some of the best girls; and they liked me.  I had amongst my scholars several farmers’ daughters: young women grown, almost.  These could already read, write, and sew; and to them I taught the elements of grammar, geography, history, and the finer kinds of needlework.  I found estimable characters amongst them—characters desirous of information and disposed for improvement—with whom I passed many a pleasant evening hour in their own homes.  Their parents then (the farmer and his wife) loaded me with attentions.  There was an enjoyment in accepting their simple kindness, and in repaying it by a consideration—a scrupulous regard to their feelings—to which they were not, perhaps, at all times accustomed, and which both charmed and benefited them; because, while it elevated them in their own eyes, it made them emulousw to merit the deferential treatment they received.

I felt I became a favourite in the neighbourhood.  Whenever I went out, I heard on all sides cordial salutations, and was welcomed with friendly smiles.  To live amidst general regard, though it be but the regard of working people, is like “sitting in sunshine, calm and sweet;”h serene inward feelings bud and bloom under the ray.  At this period of my life, my heart far oftener swelled with thankfulness than sank with dejection: and yet, reader, to tell you all, in the midst of this calm, this useful existence—after a day passed in honourable exertion amongst my scholars, an evening spent in drawing or reading contentedly alone—I used to rush into strange dreams at night: dreams many-coloured, agitated, full of the ideal, the stirring, the stormy—dreams where, amidst unusual scenes, charged with adventure, with agitating risk and romantic chance, I still again and again met Mr. Rochester, always at some exciting crisis; and then the sense of being in his arms, hearing his voice, meeting his eye, touching his hand and cheek, loving him, being loved by him—the hope of passing a lifetime at his side, would be renewed, with all its first force and fire.  Then I awoke.  Then I recalled where I was, and how situated.  Then I rose up on my curtainless bed, trembling and quivering; and then the still, dark night witnessed the convulsion of despair, and heard the burst of passion.  By nine o’clock the next morning I was punctually opening the school; tranquil, settled, prepared for the steady duties of the day.

Rosamond Oliver kept her word in coming to visit me.  Her call at the school was generally made in the course of her morning ride.  She would canter up to the door on her pony, followed by a mounted livery servant.  Anything more exquisite than her appearance, in her purple habit, with her Amazon’s caph of black velvet placed gracefully above the long curls that kissed her cheek and floated to her shoulders, can scarcely be imagined: and it was thus she would enter the rustic building, and glide through the dazzled ranks of the village children.  She generally came at the hour when Mr. Rivers was engaged in giving his daily catechising lesson.  Keenly, I fear, did the eye of the visitress pierce the young pastor’s heart.  A sort of instinct seemed to warn him of her entrance, even when he did not see it; and when he was looking quite away from the door, if she appeared at it, his cheek would glow, and his marble-seeming features, though they refused to relax, changed indescribably, and in their very quiescence became expressive of a repressed fervour, stronger than working muscle or darting glance could indicate.

X [w] torpid,

"Benumbed; deprived or devoid of the power of motion or feeling; in which activity, animation, or development is suspended; dormant" (OED). 

X [w] emulous

Giving to emulating or imitating.

X [h] “sitting in sunshine, calm and sweet;”

Writing & Reading

From Part VII, "The Fire-Worshipers," of Thomas Moore's Lallah Rookh (1817), an "oriental romance" in the vein Byron so successfully developed. (Moore was a friend of Shelley and Byron). The epic-length poem in couplets tells of Princess Lalla Rookh's journey from Delhi to Kashmir, where she is to marry a king she's not met. The poem's use of fantasy and romance fits well with Jane Eyre.

X [h] Amazon’s cap

Things

Apparently a distinct fashion of the day but not one I can trace.