Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre: Ch. 16

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“I did,” said I, dropping my voice, so that Leah, who was still polishing the panes, could not hear me, “and at first I thought it was Pilot: but Pilot cannot laugh; and I am certain I heard a laugh, and a strange one.”

She took a new needleful of thread, waxed it carefully, threaded her needle with a steady hand, and then observed, with perfect composure—

“It is hardly likely master would laugh, I should think, Miss, when he was in such danger: You must have been dreaming.”

“I was not dreaming,” I said, with some warmth, for her brazen coolness provoked me.  Again she looked at me; and with the same scrutinising and conscious eye.

“Have you told master that you heard a laugh?” she inquired.

“I have not had the opportunity of speaking to him this morning.”

“You did not think of opening your door and looking out into the gallery?” she further asked.

She appeared to be cross-questioning me, attempting to draw from me information unawares.  The idea struck me that if she discovered I knew or suspected her guilt, she would be playing of some of her malignant pranks on me; I thought it advisable to be on my guard.

“On the contrary,” said I, “I bolted my door.”

“Then you are not in the habit of bolting your door every night before you get into bed?”

“Fiend! she wants to know my habits, that she may lay her plans accordingly!”  Indignation again prevailed over prudence: I replied sharply, “Hitherto I have often omitted to fasten the bolt: I did not think it necessary.  I was not aware any danger or annoyance was to be dreaded at Thornfield Hall: but in future” (and I laid marked stress on the words) “I shall take good care to make all secure before I venture to lie down.”

“It will be wise so to do,” was her answer: “this neighbourhood is as quiet as any I know, and I never heard of the hall being attempted by robbers since it was a house; though there are hundreds of pounds’ worth of platew in the plate-closet, as is well known.  And you see, for such a large house, there are very few servants, because master has never lived here much; and when he does come, being a bachelor, he needs little waiting on: but I always think it best to err on the safe side; a door is soon fastened, and it is as well to have a drawn bolt between one and any mischief that may be about.  A deal of people, Miss, are for trusting all to Providence; but I say Providence will not dispense with the means, though He often blesses them when they are used discreetly.”  And here she closed her harangue: a long one for her, and uttered with the demureness of a Quakeress.

I still stood absolutely dumfoundered at what appeared to me her miraculous self-possession and most inscrutablew hypocrisy, when the cook entered.

“Mrs. Poole,” said she, addressing Grace, “the servants’ dinner will soon be ready: will you come down?”

“No; just put my pint of porter and bit of pudding on a tray, and I’ll carry it upstairs.”

“You’ll have some meat?”

“Just a morsel, and a taste of cheese, that’s all.”

X [w] plate

Things

Refers to vessels, trays, and utensils that are plated with silver or gold, though the word can also denote those made from solid silver and gold.

X [w] inscrutable

Impenetrable; unreadable.