while [gathering up] the discourse


Senior Member
The context comes from Jane Eyre Chapter 7

Hitherto, while gathering up the discourse of Mr. Brocklehurst and Miss Temple, I had not, at the same time, neglected precautions to secure my personal safety; which I thought would be effected, if I could only elude observation. To this end, I had sat well back on the form, and while seeming to be busy with my sum, had held my slate in such a manner as to conceal my face: I might have escaped notice, had not my treacherous slate somehow happened to slip from my hand, and falling with an obtrusive crash, directly drawn every eye upon me; I knew it was all over now, and, as I stooped to pick up the two fragments of slate, I rallied my forces for the worst. It came.
Hi everyone! I'm not sure about the meaning of "gathering up" here. Does it mean "trying to understand" as the WR dictionary tells me?
7. to learn or conclude from observation; infer;
  • The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I would understand it as meaning simply "listening to," but with a slightly more active connotation. "Trying to understand" is probably not that far off.


    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    "gathering up the discourse" means Jane was trying to make sense of what was being said because she has been expecting it:

    "...the promised pledge by Mr Brocklehurst to apprise Miss Temple and the teachers of my vicious nature. All along I had been dreading the fulfillment of this promise ...to brand me as a bad child for ever"

    It does mean trying listen to the words, but he was "speaking low" in Miss temple's ear, so she is also observing the body language and looking for facial expressions which she is anticipating. She is gathering clues about the tone of the conversation.
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