England in the mid-19th century . Jane Eyre, a ten-year old poor orphan, is raised by her aunt, Mrs Reed, who treats her very badly. One day, she is interrupted in her reading by John, Mrs Reed’s14-year-old son.
“What were you doing behind the curtain?” he asked.
“I was reading.”
“Show the book”
I returned to the window and fetched it.
“You have no business to take our books. You are adependent, mama says. You have no money. Your father left you none. You ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen’s children like us, and eat the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mama’sexpense. Now, I’ll teach you to rummage my bookshelves: for they are mine. The whole house belongs to me, or will do in a few years. Go and stand by the door, out of the way of the mirror and thewindows.”
I did so, not at first aware of his intention. But when I saw him lift the book, I instinctively started aside with a cry of alarm. Not soon enough, however. The volume was flung, hit me,and I fell, striking my head against the door and cutting it. The cut bled, the pain was sharp: my terror had passed its climax; other feelings succeeded.
“Wicked and cruel boy! ” I said. “You arelike a murderer – you are like a slave driver – you are like the Roman emperors!”
I had read Goldsmith’s History of Rome, and had formed my opinion of Nero, Caligula etc. “What! What!” he cried.“ Didshe say that to me? Did you hear her, Eliza and Georgiana? I’ll tell mama. But first-“
He ran wildly at me. I felt him grasp my hair and my shoulder but he had attacked a desperate thing. I reallysaw in him a tyrant, a murderer. I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle down my neck: this sensation predominated over fear, and I fought frantically. I don’t know what I did with my hands,but he called me “Rat! Rat! “and bellowed out aloud. Aid was near him: Eliza and Georgiana had run for Mrs. Reed, who was upstairs. She now came upon the scene, followed by Bessie and her maid...
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