Part 2 out of 11
A quarter of an hour passed before lessons again began, during which
the schoolroom was in a glorious tumult; for that space of time it
seemed to be permitted to talk loud and more freely, and they used
their privilege. The whole conversation ran on the breakfast,
which one and all abused roundly. Poor things! it was the sole
consolation they had. Miss Miller was now the only teacher in the
room: a group of great girls standing about her spoke with serious
and sullen gestures. I heard the name of Mr. Brocklehurst pronounced
by some lips; at which Miss Miller shook her head disapprovingly;
but she made no great effort to cheek the general wrath; doubtless
she shared in it.
A clock in the schoolroom struck nine; Miss Miller left
her circle, and standing in the middle of the room, cried -
"Silence! To your seats!"
Discipline prevailed: in five minutes the confused throng was
resolved into order, and comparative silence quelled the Babel
clamour of tongues. The upper teachers now punctually resumed their
posts: but still, all seemed to wait. Ranged on benches down the
sides of the room, the eighty girls sat motionless and erect; a
quaint assemblage they appeared, all with plain locks combed from
their faces, not a curl visible; in brown dresses, made high and
surrounded by a narrow tucker about the throat, with little pockets
of holland (shaped something like a Highlander's purse) tied in front
of their frocks, and destined to serve the purpose of a work-bag:
all, too, wearing woollen stockings and country-made shoes, fastened
with brass buckles. Above twenty of those clad in this costume
were full-grown girls, or rather young women; it suited them ill,
and gave an air of oddity even to the prettiest.
I was still looking at them, and also at intervals examining the
teachers -- none of whom precisely pleased me; for the stout one
was a little coarse, the dark one not a little fierce, the foreigner
harsh and grotesque, and Miss Miller, poor thing! looked purple,
weather- beaten, and over-worked -- when, as my eye wandered from
face to face, the whole school rose simultaneously, as if moved by
a common spring.
What was the matter? I had heard no order given: I was puzzled.
Ere I had gathered my wits, the classes were again seated: but as
all eyes were now turned to one point, mine followed the general
direction, and encountered the personage who had received me last
night. She stood at the bottom of the long room, on the hearth;
for there was a fire at each end; she surveyed the two rows of girls
silently and gravely. Miss Miller approaching, seemed to ask her
a question, and having received her answer, went back to
her place, and said aloud -
"Monitor of the first class, fetch the globes!"
While the direction was being executed, the lady consulted moved
slowly up the room. I suppose I have a considerable organ of
veneration, for I retain yet the sense of admiring awe with which
my eyes traced her steps. Seen now, in broad daylight, she looked
tall, fair, and shapely; brown eyes with a benignant light in their
iris, and a fine pencilling of long lashes round, relieved the
whiteness of her large front; on each of her temples her hair, of
a very dark brown, was clustered in round curls, according to the
fashion of those times, when neither smooth bands nor long ringlets
were in vogue; her dress, also in the mode of the day, was of purple
cloth, relieved by a sort of Spanish trimming of black velvet;
a gold watch (watches were not so common then as now) shone at
her girdle. Let the reader add, to complete the picture, refined
features; a complexion, if pale, clear; and a stately air and
carriage, and he will have, at least, as clearly as words can give
it, a correct idea of the exterior of Miss Temple -- Maria Temple,
as I afterwards saw the name written in a prayer-book intrusted to
me to carry to church.
The superintendent of Lowood (for such was this lady) having taken
her seat before a pair of globes placed on one of the tables,
summoned the first class round her, and commenced giving a lesson
on geography; the lower classes were called by the teachers:
repetitions in history, grammar, &c., went on for an hour; writing
and arithmetic succeeded, and music lessons were given by Miss
Temple to some of the elder girls. The duration of each lesson
was measured by the clock, which at last struck twelve. The
superintendent rose -
"I have a word to address to the pupils," said she.
The tumult of cessation from lessons was already breaking
forth, but it sank at her voice. She went on -
"You had this morning a breakfast which you could not eat; you
must be hungry: -- I have ordered that a lunch of bread and cheese
shall be served to all."
The teachers looked at her with a sort of surprise.
"It is to be done on my responsibility," she added, in an explanatory
tone to them, and immediately afterwards left the room.
The bread and cheese was presently brought in and distributed, to
the high delight and refreshment of the whole school. The order
was now given "To the garden!" Each put on a coarse straw bonnet,
with strings of coloured calico, and a cloak of grey frieze. I was
similarly equipped, and, following the stream, I made my way into
the open air.
The garden was a wide inclosure, surrounded with walls so high as
to exclude every glimpse of prospect; a covered verandah ran down
one side, and broad walks bordered a middle space divided into
scores of little beds: these beds were assigned as gardens for
the pupils to cultivate, and each bed had an owner. When full of
flowers they would doubtless look pretty; but now, at the latter
end of January, all was wintry blight and brown decay. I shuddered
as I stood and looked round me: it was an inclement day for outdoor
exercise; not positively rainy, but darkened by a drizzling yellow
fog; all under foot was still soaking wet with the floods of
yesterday. The stronger among the girls ran about and engaged in
active games, but sundry pale and thin ones herded together for
shelter and warmth in the verandah; and amongst these, as the dense
mist penetrated to their shivering frames, I heard frequently the
sound of a hollow cough.
As yet I had spoken to no one, nor did anybody seem to take notice
of me; I stood lonely enough: but to that feeling of isolation
I was accustomed; it did not oppress me much. I leant against a
pillar of the verandah, drew my grey mantle close about me, and,
trying to forget the cold which nipped me without, and the unsatisfied
hunger which gnawed me within, delivered myself up to the employment
of watching and thinking. My reflections were too undefined
and fragmentary to merit record: I hardly yet knew where I was;
Gateshead and my past life seemed floated away to an immeasurable
distance; the present was vague and strange, and of the future I
could form no conjecture. I looked round the convent-like garden,
and then up at the house -- a large building, half of which seemed
grey and old, the other half quite new. The new part, containing
the schoolroom and dormitory, was lit by mullioned and latticed
windows, which gave it a church-like aspect; a stone tablet over
the door bore this inscription:-
"Lowood Institution. -- This portion was rebuilt A.D. -- , by Naomi
Brocklehurst, of Brocklehurst Hall, in this county."
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good
works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." -- St. Matt.
I read these words over and over again: I felt that an explanation
belonged to them, and was unable fully to penetrate their import.
I was still pondering the signification of "Institution," and
endeavouring to make out a connection between the first words and
the verse of Scripture, when the sound of a cough close behind me
made me turn my head. I saw a girl sitting on a stone bench near;
she was bent over a book, on the perusal of which she seemed intent:
from where I stood I could see the title -- it was "Rasselas;" a
name that struck me as strange, and consequently attractive. In
turning a leaf she happened to look up, and I said to her directly -
"Is your book interesting?" I had already formed the intention of
asking her to lend it to me some day.
"I like it," she answered, after a pause of a second or two, during
which she examined me.
"What is it about?" I continued. I hardly know where I found the
hardihood thus to open a conversation with a stranger; the step
was contrary to my nature and habits: but I think her occupation
touched a chord of sympathy somewhere; for I too liked reading,
though of a frivolous and childish kind; I could not digest or
comprehend the serious or substantial.
"You may look at it," replied the girl, offering me the book.
I did so; a brief examination convinced me that the contents were
less taking than the title: "Rasselas" looked dull to my trifling
taste; I saw nothing about fairies, nothing about genii; no bright
variety seemed spread over the closely-printed pages. I returned
it to her; she received it quietly, and without saying anything
she was about to relapse into her former studious mood: again
I ventured to disturb her -
"Can you tell me what the writing on that stone over the door means?
What is Lowood Institution?"
"This house where you are come to live."
"And why do they call it Institution? Is it in any way different
from other schools?"
"It is partly a charity-school: you and I, and all the rest of
us, are charity-children. I suppose you are an orphan: are not
either your father or your mother dead?"
"Both died before I can remember."
"Well, all the girls here have lost either one or both parents,
and this is called an institution for educating orphans."
"Do we pay no money? Do they keep us for nothing?"
"We pay, or our friends pay, fifteen pounds a year for each."
"Then why do they call us charity-children?"
"Because fifteen pounds is not enough for board and teaching, and
the deficiency is supplied by subscription."
"Different benevolent-minded ladies and gentlemen in this neighbourhood
and in London."
"Who was Naomi Brocklehurst?"
"The lady who built the new part of this house as that tablet
records, and whose son overlooks and directs everything here."
"Because he is treasurer and manager of the establishment."
"Then this house does not belong to that tall lady who wears a
watch, and who said we were to have some bread and cheese?"
"To Miss Temple? Oh, no! I wish it did: she has to answer to
Mr. Brocklehurst for all she does. Mr. Brocklehurst buys all our
food and all our clothes."
"Does he live here?"
"No -- two miles off, at a large hall."
"Is he a good man?"
"He is a clergyman, and is said to do a great deal of good."
"Did you say that tall lady was called Miss Temple?"
"And what are the other teachers called?"
"The one with red cheeks is called Miss Smith; she attends to the
work, and cuts out -- for we make our own clothes, our frocks, and
pelisses, and everything; the little one with black hair is Miss
Scatcherd; she teaches history and grammar, and hears the second
class repetitions; and the one who wears a shawl, and has a
pocket-handkerchief tied to her side with a yellow ribband, is Madame
Pierrot: she comes from Lisle, in France, and teaches French."
"Do you like the teachers?"
"Do you like the little black one, and the Madame -? -- I cannot
pronounce her name as you do."
"Miss Scatcherd is hasty -- you must take care not to offend her;
Madame Pierrot is not a bad sort of person."
"But Miss Temple is the best -- isn't she?"
"Miss Temple is very good and very clever; she is above the rest,
because she knows far more than they do."
"Have you been long here?"
"Are you an orphan?"
"My mother is dead."
"Are you happy here?"
"You ask rather too many questions. I have given you answers enough
for the present: now I want to read."
But at that moment the summons sounded for dinner; all re-entered
the house. The odour which now filled the refectory was scarcely
more appetising than that which had regaled our nostrils at breakfast:
the dinner was served in two huge tin-plated vessels, whence rose
a strong steam redolent of rancid fat. I found the mess to consist
of indifferent potatoes and strange shreds of rusty meat, mixed and
cooked together. Of this preparation a tolerably abundant plateful
was apportioned to each pupil. I ate what I could, and wondered
within myself whether every day's fare would be like this.
After dinner, we immediately adjourned to the schoolroom: lessons
recommenced, and were continued till five o'clock.
The only marked event of the afternoon was, that I saw the girl
with whom I had conversed in the verandah dismissed in disgrace
by Miss Scatcherd from a history class, and sent to stand in the
middle of the large schoolroom. The punishment seemed to me in
a high degree ignominious, especially for so great a girl -- she
looked thirteen or upwards. I expected she would show signs of
great distress and shame; but to my surprise she neither wept nor
blushed: composed, though grave, she stood, the central mark of
all eyes. "How can she bear it so quietly -- so firmly?" I asked
of myself. "Were I in her place, it seems to me I should wish the
earth to open and swallow me up. She looks as if she were thinking
of something beyond her punishment -- beyond her situation: of
something not round her nor before her. I have heard of day-dreams
-- is she in a day-dream now? Her eyes are fixed on the floor,
but I am sure they do not see it -- her sight seems turned in, gone
down into her heart: she is looking at what she can remember, I
believe; not at what is really present. I wonder what sort of a
girl she is -- whether good or naughty."
Soon after five p.m. we had another meal, consisting of a small
mug of coffee, and half-a-slice of brown bread. I devoured my
bread and drank my coffee with relish; but I should have been glad
of as much more -- I was still hungry. Half-an-hour's recreation
succeeded, then study; then the glass of water and the piece of
oat-cake, prayers, and bed. Such was my first day at Lowood.
The next day commenced as before, getting up and dressing by
rushlight; but this morning we were obliged to dispense with the
ceremony of washing; the water in the pitchers was frozen. A change
had taken place in the weather the preceding evening, and a keen
north-east wind, whistling through the crevices of our bedroom
windows all night long, had made us shiver in our beds, and turned
the contents of the ewers to ice.
Before the long hour and a half of prayers and Bible-reading
was over, I felt ready to perish with cold. Breakfast-time came
at last, and this morning the porridge was not burnt; the quality
was eatable, the quantity small. How small my portion seemed! I
wished it had been doubled.
In the course of the day I was enrolled a member of the fourth class,
and regular tasks and occupations were assigned me: hitherto, I
had only been a spectator of the proceedings at Lowood; I was now
to become an actor therein. At first, being little accustomed to
learn by heart, the lessons appeared to me both long and difficult;
the frequent change from task to task, too, bewildered me; and
I was glad when, about three o'clock in the afternoon, Miss Smith
put into my hands a border of muslin two yards long, together with
needle, thimble, &c., and sent me to sit in a quiet corner of the
schoolroom, with directions to hem the same. At that hour most of
the others were sewing likewise; but one class still stood round
Miss Scatcherd's chair reading, and as all was quiet, the subject
of their lessons could be heard, together with the manner in which
each girl acquitted herself, and the animadversions or commendations
of Miss Scatcherd on the performance. It was English history:
among the readers I observed my acquaintance of the verandah: at
the commencement of the lesson, her place had been at the top of
the class, but for some error of pronunciation, or some inattention
to stops, she was suddenly sent to the very bottom. Even in that
obscure position, Miss Scatcherd continued to make her an object
of constant notice: she was continually addressing to her such
phrases as the following:-
"Burns" (such it seems was her name: the girls here were all
called by their surnames, as boys are elsewhere), "Burns, you are
standing on the side of your shoe; turn your toes out immediately."
"Burns, you poke your chin most unpleasantly; draw it in." "Burns,
I insist on your holding your head up; I will not have you before
me in that attitude," &c. &c.
A chapter having been read through twice, the books were closed
and the girls examined. The lesson had comprised part of the reign
of Charles I., and there were sundry questions about tonnage and
poundage and ship-money, which most of them appeared unable to
answer; still, every little difficulty was solved instantly when
it reached Burns: her memory seemed to have retained the substance
of the whole lesson, and she was ready with answers on every point.
I kept expecting that Miss Scatcherd would praise her attention;
but, instead of that, she suddenly cried out -
"You dirty, disagreeable girl! you have never cleaned your nails
Burns made no answer: I wondered at her silence. "Why," thought
I, "does she not explain that she could neither clean her nails
nor wash her face, as the water was frozen?"
My attention was now called off by Miss Smith desiring me to hold a
skein of thread: while she was winding it, she talked to me from
time to time, asking whether I had ever been at school before,
whether I could mark, stitch, knit, &c.; till she dismissed me,
I could not pursue my observations on Miss Scatcherd's movements.
When I returned to my seat, that lady was just delivering an order
of which I did not catch the import; but Burns immediately left
the class, and going into the small inner room where the books were
kept, returned in half a minute, carrying in her hand a bundle of
twigs tied together at one end. This ominous tool she presented
to Miss Scatcherd with a respectful curtesy; then she quietly, and
without being told, unloosed her pinafore, and the teacher instantly
and sharply inflicted on her neck a dozen strokes with the bunch
of twigs. Not a tear rose to Burns' eye; and, while I paused from
my sewing, because my fingers quivered at this spectacle with a
sentiment of unavailing and impotent anger, not a feature of her
pensive face altered its ordinary expression.
"Hardened girl!" exclaimed Miss Scatcherd; "nothing can correct
you of your slatternly habits: carry the rod away."
Burns obeyed: I looked at her narrowly as she emerged from the
book-closet; she was just putting back her handkerchief into her
pocket, and the trace of a tear glistened on her thin cheek.
The play-hour in the evening I thought the pleasantest fraction
of the day at Lowood: the bit of bread, the draught of coffee
swallowed at five o'clock had revived vitality, if it had not
satisfied hunger: the long restraint of the day was slackened;
the schoolroom felt warmer than in the morning -- its fires being
allowed to burn a little more brightly, to supply, in some measure,
the place of candles, not yet introduced: the ruddy gloaming, the
licensed uproar, the confusion of many voices gave one a welcome
sense of liberty.
On the evening of the day on which I had seen Miss Scatcherd flog
her pupil, Burns, I wandered as usual among the forms and tables
and laughing groups without a companion, yet not feeling lonely:
when I passed the windows, I now and then lifted a blind, and looked
out; it snowed fast, a drift was already forming against the lower
panes; putting my ear close to the window, I could distinguish from
the gleeful tumult within, the disconsolate moan of the wind outside.
Probably, if I had lately left a good home and kind parents, this
would have been the hour when I should most keenly have regretted
the separation; that wind would then have saddened my heart; this
obscure chaos would have disturbed my peace! as it was, I derived
from both a strange excitement, and reckless and feverish, I wished
the wind to howl more wildly, the gloom to deepen to darkness, and
the confusion to rise to clamour.
Jumping over forms, and creeping under tables, I made my way to
one of the fire-places; there, kneeling by the high wire fender,
I found Burns, absorbed, silent, abstracted from all round her by
the companionship of a book, which she read by the dim glare of
"Is it still 'Rasselas'?" I asked, coming behind her.
"Yes," she said, "and I have just finished it."
And in five minutes more she shut it up. I was glad of this.
"Now," thought I, "I can perhaps get her to talk." I sat down by
her on the floor.
"What is your name besides Burns?"
"Do you come a long way from here?"
"I come from a place farther north, quite on the borders of Scotland."
"Will you ever go back?"
"I hope so; but nobody can be sure of the future."
"You must wish to leave Lowood?"
"No! why should I? I was sent to Lowood to get an education; and
it would be of no use going away until I have attained that object."
"But that teacher, Miss Scatcherd, is so cruel to you?"
"Cruel? Not at all! She is severe: she dislikes my faults."
"And if I were in your place I should dislike her; I should resist
her. If she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her
hand; I should break it under her nose."
"Probably you would do nothing of the sort: but if you did, Mr.
Brocklehurst would expel you from the school; that would be a great
grief to your relations. It is far better to endure patiently a
smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action
whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you; and
besides, the Bible bids us return good for evil."
"But then it seems disgraceful to be flogged, and to be sent to
stand in the middle of a room full of people; and you are such a
great girl: I am far younger than you, and I could not bear it."
"Yet it would be your duty to bear it, if you could not avoid it:
it is weak and silly to say you CANNOT BEAR what it is your fate
to be required to bear."
I heard her with wonder: I could not comprehend this doctrine of
endurance; and still less could I understand or sympathise with
the forbearance she expressed for her chastiser. Still I felt that
Helen Burns considered things by a light invisible to my eyes. I
suspected she might be right and I wrong; but I would not ponder
the matter deeply; like Felix, I put it off to a more convenient
"You say you have faults, Helen: what are they? To me you seem
"Then learn from me, not to judge by appearances: I am, as Miss
Scatcherd said, slatternly; I seldom put, and never keep, things,
in order; I am careless; I forget rules; I read when I should
learn my lessons; I have no method; and sometimes I say, like you,
I cannot BEAR to be subjected to systematic arrangements. This
is all very provoking to Miss Scatcherd, who is naturally neat,
punctual, and particular."
"And cross and cruel," I added; but Helen Burns would not admit my
addition: she kept silence.
"Is Miss Temple as severe to you as Miss Scatcherd?"
At the utterance of Miss Temple's name, a soft smile flitted over
her grave face.
"Miss Temple is full of goodness; it pains her to be severe to any
one, even the worst in the school: she sees my errors, and tells
me of them gently; and, if I do anything worthy of praise, she gives
me my meed liberally. One strong proof of my wretchedly defective
nature is, that even her expostulations, so mild, so rational, have
not influence to cure me of my faults; and even her praise, though
I value it most highly, cannot stimulate me to continued care and
"That is curious," said I, "it is so easy to be careful."
"For YOU I have no doubt it is. I observed you in your class this
morning, and saw you were closely attentive: your thoughts never
seemed to wander while Miss Miller explained the lesson and questioned
you. Now, mine continually rove away; when I should be listening
to Miss Scatcherd, and collecting all she says with assiduity, often
I lose the very sound of her voice; I fall into a sort of dream.
Sometimes I think I am in Northumberland, and that the noises I
hear round me are the bubbling of a little brook which runs through
Deepden, near our house; -- then, when it comes to my turn to reply,
I have to be awakened; and having heard nothing of what was read
for listening to the visionary brook, I have no answer ready."
"Yet how well you replied this afternoon."
"It was mere chance; the subject on which we had been reading had
interested me. This afternoon, instead of dreaming of Deepden, I
was wondering how a man who wished to do right could act so unjustly
and unwisely as Charles the First sometimes did; and I thought what
a pity it was that, with his integrity and conscientiousness, he
could see no farther than the prerogatives of the crown. If he had
but been able to look to a distance, and see how what they call the
spirit of the age was tending! Still, I like Charles -- I respect
him -- I pity him, poor murdered king! Yes, his enemies were the
worst: they shed blood they had no right to shed. How dared they
Helen was talking to herself now: she had forgotten I could not
very well understand her -- that I was ignorant, or nearly so, of
the subject she discussed. I recalled her to my level.
"And when Miss Temple teaches you, do your thoughts wander then?"
"No, certainly, not often; because Miss Temple has generally something
to say which is newer than my own reflections; her language is
singularly agreeable to me, and the information she communicates
is often just what I wished to gain."
"Well, then, with Miss Temple you are good?"
"Yes, in a passive way: I make no effort; I follow as inclination
guides me. There is no merit in such goodness."
"A great deal: you are good to those who are good to you. It is
all I ever desire to be. If people were always kind and obedient
to those who are cruel and unjust, the wicked people would have
it all their own way: they would never feel afraid, and so they
would never alter, but would grow worse and worse. When we are
struck at without a reason, we should strike back again very hard;
I am sure we should -- so hard as to teach the person who struck
us never to do it again."
"You will change your mind, I hope, when you grow older: as yet
you are but a little untaught girl."
"But I feel this, Helen; I must dislike those who, whatever I do
to please them, persist in disliking me; I must resist those who
punish me unjustly. It is as natural as that I should love those
who show me affection, or submit to punishment when I feel it is
"Heathens and savage tribes hold that doctrine, but Christians and
civilised nations disown it."
"How? I don't understand."
"It is not violence that best overcomes hate -- nor vengeance that
most certainly heals injury."
"Read the New Testament, and observe what Christ says, and how He
acts; make His word your rule, and His conduct your example."
"What does He say?"
"Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that
hate you and despitefully use you."
"Then I should love Mrs. Reed, which I cannot do; I should bless
her son John, which is impossible."
In her turn, Helen Burns asked me to explain, and I proceeded
forthwith to pour out, in my own way, the tale of my sufferings
and resentments. Bitter and truculent when excited, I spoke as I
felt, without reserve or softening.
Helen heard me patiently to the end: I expected she would then
make a remark, but she said nothing.
"Well," I asked impatiently, "is not Mrs. Reed a hard-hearted, bad
"She has been unkind to you, no doubt; because you see, she
dislikes your cast of character, as Miss Scatcherd does mine; but
how minutely you remember all she has done and said to you! What
a singularly deep impression her injustice seems to have made
on your heart! No ill-usage so brands its record on my feelings.
Would you not be happier if you tried to forget her severity,
together with the passionate emotions it excited? Life appears
to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering
wrongs. We are, and must be, one and all, burdened with faults in
this world: but the time will soon come when, I trust, we shall
put them off in putting off our corruptible bodies; when debasement
and sin will fall from us with this cumbrous frame of flesh, and
only the spark of the spirit will remain, -- the impalpable principle
of light and thought, pure as when it left the Creator to inspire
the creature: whence it came it will return; perhaps again to
be communicated to some being higher than man -- perhaps to pass
through gradations of glory, from the pale human soul to brighten
to the seraph! Surely it will never, on the contrary, be suffered
to degenerate from man to fiend? No; I cannot believe that: I
hold another creed: which no one ever taught me, and which I seldom
mention; but in which I delight, and to which I cling: for it
extends hope to all: it makes Eternity a rest -- a mighty home, not
a terror and an abyss. Besides, with this creed, I can so clearly
distinguish between the criminal and his crime; I can so sincerely
forgive the first while I abhor the last: with this creed revenge
never worries my heart, degradation never too deeply disgusts me,
injustice never crushes me too low: I live in calm, looking to
Helen's head, always drooping, sank a little lower as she finished
this sentence. I saw by her look she wished no longer to talk
to me, but rather to converse with her own thoughts. She was not
allowed much time for meditation: a monitor, a great rough girl,
presently came up, exclaiming in a strong Cumberland accent -
"Helen Burns, if you don't go and put your drawer in order, and
fold up your work this minute, I'll tell Miss Scatcherd to come
and look at it!"
Helen sighed as her reverie fled, and getting up, obeyed the monitor
without reply as without delay.
My first quarter at Lowood seemed an age; and not the golden
age either; it comprised an irksome struggle with difficulties in
habituating myself to new rules and unwonted tasks. The fear of
failure in these points harassed me worse than the physical hardships
of my lot; though these were no trifles.
During January, February, and part of March, the deep snows,
and, after their melting, the almost impassable roads, prevented
our stirring beyond the garden walls, except to go to church; but
within these limits we had to pass an hour every day in the open
air. Our clothing was insufficient to protect us from the severe
cold: we had no boots, the snow got into our shoes and melted
there: our ungloved hands became numbed and covered with chilblains,
as were our feet: I remember well the distracting irritation I
endured from this cause every evening, when my feet inflamed; and
the torture of thrusting the swelled, raw, and stiff toes into my shoes
in the morning. Then the scanty supply of food was distressing:
with the keen appetites of growing children, we had scarcely
sufficient to keep alive a delicate invalid. From this deficiency
of nourishment resulted an abuse, which pressed hardly on the younger
pupils: whenever the famished great girls had an opportunity, they
would coax or menace the little ones out of their portion. Many
a time I have shared between two claimants the precious morsel of
brown bread distributed at tea-time; and after relinquishing to a
third half the contents of my mug of coffee, I have swallowed the
remainder with an accompaniment of secret tears, forced from me by
the exigency of hunger.
Sundays were dreary days in that wintry season. We had to walk
two miles to Brocklebridge Church, where our patron officiated.
We set out cold, we arrived at church colder: during the morning
service we became almost paralysed. It was too far to return
to dinner, and an allowance of cold meat and bread, in the same
penurious proportion observed in our ordinary meals, was served
round between the services.
At the close of the afternoon service we returned by an exposed and
hilly road, where the bitter winter wind, blowing over a range of
snowy summits to the north, almost flayed the skin from our faces.
I can remember Miss Temple walking lightly and rapidly along our
drooping line, her plaid cloak, which the frosty wind fluttered,
gathered close about her, and encouraging us, by precept and
example, to keep up our spirits, and march forward, as she said,
"like stalwart soldiers." The other teachers, poor things, were
generally themselves too much dejected to attempt the task of
How we longed for the light and heat of a blazing fire when we got
back! But, to the little ones at least, this was denied: each
hearth in the schoolroom was immediately surrounded by a double
row of great girls, and behind them the younger children crouched
in groups, wrapping their starved arms in their pinafores.
A little solace came at tea-time, in the shape of a double ration
of bread -- a whole, instead of a half, slice -- with the delicious
addition of a thin scrape of butter: it was the hebdomadal treat
to which we all looked forward from Sabbath to Sabbath. I generally
contrived to reserve a moiety of this bounteous repast for myself;
but the remainder I was invariably obliged to part with.
The Sunday evening was spent in repeating, by heart, the Church
Catechism, and the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of St.
Matthew; and in listening to a long sermon, read by Miss Miller,
whose irrepressible yawns attested her weariness. A frequent
interlude of these performances was the enactment of the part of
Eutychus by some half-dozen of little girls, who, overpowered with
sleep, would fall down, if not out of the third loft, yet off the
fourth form, and be taken up half dead. The remedy was, to thrust
them forward into the centre of the schoolroom, and oblige them
to stand there till the sermon was finished. Sometimes their
feet failed them, and they sank together in a heap; they were then
propped up with the monitors' high stools.
I have not yet alluded to the visits of Mr. Brocklehurst; and indeed
that gentleman was from home during the greater part of the first
month after my arrival; perhaps prolonging his stay with his friend
the archdeacon: his absence was a relief to me. I need not say
that I had my own reasons for dreading his coming: but come he
did at last.
One afternoon (I had then been three weeks at Lowood), as I was sitting
with a slate in my hand, puzzling over a sum in long division, my
eyes, raised in abstraction to the window, caught sight of a figure
just passing: I recognised almost instinctively that gaunt outline;
and when, two minutes after, all the school, teachers included,
rose en masse, it was not necessary for me to look up in order to
ascertain whose entrance they thus greeted. A long stride measured
the schoolroom, and presently beside Miss Temple, who herself
had risen, stood the same black column which had frowned on me so
ominously from the hearthrug of Gateshead. I now glanced sideways
at this piece of architecture. Yes, I was right: it was Mr.
Brocklehurst, buttoned up in a surtout, and looking longer, narrower,
and more rigid than ever.
I had my own reasons for being dismayed at this apparition; too
well I remembered the perfidious hints given by Mrs. Reed about my
disposition, &c.; the promise pledged by Mr. Brocklehurst to apprise
Miss Temple and the teachers of my vicious nature. All along
I had been dreading the fulfilment of this promise, -- I had been
looking out daily for the "Coming Man," whose information respecting
my past life and conversation was to brand me as a bad child for
ever: now there he was.
He stood at Miss Temple's side; he was speaking low in her ear: I did
not doubt he was making disclosures of my villainy; and I watched
her eye with painful anxiety, expecting every moment to see its
dark orb turn on me a glance of repugnance and contempt. I listened
too; and as I happened to be seated quite at the top of the room,
I caught most of what he said: its import relieved me from immediate
"I suppose, Miss Temple, the thread I bought at Lowton will do;
it struck me that it would be just of the quality for the calico
chemises, and I sorted the needles to match. You may tell Miss
Smith that I forgot to make a memorandum of the darning needles,
but she shall have some papers sent in next week; and she is not,
on any account, to give out more than one at a time to each pupil:
if they have more, they are apt to be careless and lose them. And,
O ma'am! I wish the woollen stockings were better looked to! --
when I was here last, I went into the kitchen-garden and examined
the clothes drying on the line; there was a quantity of black hose
in a very bad state of repair: from the size of the holes in them
I was sure they had not been well mended from time to time."
"Your directions shall be attended to, sir," said Miss Temple.
"And, ma'am," he continued, "the laundress tells me some of the
girls have two clean tuckers in the week: it is too much; the
rules limit them to one."
"I think I can explain that circumstance, sir. Agnes and Catherine
Johnstone were invited to take tea with some friends at Lowton
last Thursday, and I gave them leave to put on clean tuckers for
Mr. Brocklehurst nodded.
"Well, for once it may pass; but please not to let the circumstance
occur too often. And there is another thing which surprised me;
I find, in settling accounts with the housekeeper, that a lunch,
consisting of bread and cheese, has twice been served out to
the girls during the past fortnight. How is this? I looked over
the regulations, and I find no such meal as lunch mentioned. Who
introduced this innovation? and by what authority?"
"I must be responsible for the circumstance, sir," replied Miss
Temple: "the breakfast was so ill prepared that the pupils could
not possibly eat it; and I dared not allow them to remain fasting
"Madam, allow me an instant. You are aware that my plan in bringing
up these girls is, not to accustom them to habits of luxury and
indulgence, but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying. Should
any little accidental disappointment of the appetite occur, such
as the spoiling of a meal, the under or the over dressing of a
dish, the incident ought not to be neutralised by replacing with
something more delicate the comfort lost, thus pampering the body
and obviating the aim of this institution; it ought to be improved
to the spiritual edification of the pupils, by encouraging them
to evince fortitude under temporary privation. A brief address on
those occasions would not be mistimed, wherein a judicious instructor
would take the opportunity of referring to the sufferings of the
primitive Christians; to the torments of martyrs; to the exhortations
of our blessed Lord Himself, calling upon His disciples to take
up their cross and follow Him; to His warnings that man shall not
live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the
mouth of God; to His divine consolations, "If ye suffer hunger or
thirst for My sake, happy are ye." Oh, madam, when you put bread
and cheese, instead of burnt porridge, into these children's mouths,
you may indeed feed their vile bodies, but you little think how
you starve their immortal souls!"
Mr. Brocklehurst again paused -- perhaps overcome by his feelings.
Miss Temple had looked down when he first began to speak to her;
but she now gazed straight before her, and her face, naturally pale
as marble, appeared to be assuming also the coldness and fixity of
that material; especially her mouth, closed as if it would have
required a sculptor's chisel to open it, and her brow settled
gradually into petrified severity.
Meantime, Mr. Brocklehurst, standing on the hearth with his hands
behind his back, majestically surveyed the whole school. Suddenly
his eye gave a blink, as if it had met something that either dazzled
or shocked its pupil; turning, he said in more rapid accents
than he had hitherto used -
"Miss Temple, Miss Temple, what -- WHAT is that girl with curled
hair? Red hair, ma'am, curled -- curled all over?" And extending
his cane he pointed to the awful object, his hand shaking as he
"It is Julia Severn," replied Miss Temple, very quietly.
"Julia Severn, ma'am! And why has she, or any other, curled hair?
Why, in defiance of every precept and principle of this house,
does she conform to the world so openly -- here in an evangelical,
charitable establishment -- as to wear her hair one mass of curls?"
"Julia's hair curls naturally," returned Miss Temple, still more
"Naturally! Yes, but we are not to conform to nature; I wish
these girls to be the children of Grace: and why that abundance?
I have again and again intimated that I desire the hair to be
arranged closely, modestly, plainly. Miss Temple, that girl's hair
must be cut off entirely; I will send a barber to-morrow: and I
see others who have far too much of the excrescence -- that tall
girl, tell her to turn round. Tell all the first form to rise up
and direct their faces to the wall."
Miss Temple passed her handkerchief over her lips, as if to smooth
away the involuntary smile that curled them; she gave the order,
however, and when the first class could take in what was required
of them, they obeyed. Leaning a little back on my bench, I could
see the looks and grimaces with which they commented on this
manoeuvre: it was a pity Mr. Brocklehurst could not see them too;
he would perhaps have felt that, whatever he might do with the
outside of the cup and platter, the inside was further beyond his
interference than he imagined.
He scrutinised the reverse of these living medals some five minutes,
then pronounced sentence. These words fell like the knell of doom -
"All those top-knots must be cut off."
Miss Temple seemed to remonstrate.
"Madam," he pursued, "I have a Master to serve whose kingdom is not
of this world: my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts
of the flesh; to teach them to clothe themselves with shame-facedness
and sobriety, not with braided hair and costly apparel; and each
of the young persons before us has a string of hair twisted in
plaits which vanity itself might have woven; these, I repeat,
must be cut off; think of the time wasted, of -- "
Mr. Brocklehurst was here interrupted: three other visitors, ladies,
now entered the room. They ought to have come a little sooner to
have heard his lecture on dress, for they were splendidly attired
in velvet, silk, and furs. The two younger of the trio (fine girls
of sixteen and seventeen) had grey beaver hats, then in fashion,
shaded with ostrich plumes, and from under the brim of this graceful
head-dress fell a profusion of light tresses, elaborately curled;
the elder lady was enveloped in a costly velvet shawl, trimmed with
ermine, and she wore a false front of French curls.
These ladies were deferentially received by Miss Temple, as Mrs.
and the Misses Brocklehurst, and conducted to seats of honour at the
top of the room. It seems they had come in the carriage with their
reverend relative, and had been conducting a rummaging scrutiny of
the room upstairs, while he transacted business with the housekeeper,
questioned the laundress, and lectured the superintendent. They
now proceeded to address divers remarks and reproofs to Miss Smith,
who was charged with the care of the linen and the inspection of
the dormitories: but I had no time to listen to what they said;
other matters called off and enchanted my attention.
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.
"A careless girl!" said Mr. Brocklehurst, and immediately after
-- "It is the new pupil, I perceive." And before I could draw
breath, "I must not forget I have a word to say respecting her."
Then aloud: how loud it seemed to me! "Let the child who broke
her slate come forward!"
Of my own accord I could not have stirred; I was paralysed: but
the two great girls who sit on each side of me, set me on my legs
and pushed me towards the dread judge, and then Miss Temple gently
assisted me to his very feet, and I caught her whispered counsel -
"Don't be afraid, Jane, I saw it was an accident; you shall not be
The kind whisper went to my heart like a dagger.
"Another minute, and she will despise me for a hypocrite," thought
I; and an impulse of fury against Reed, Brocklehurst, and Co.
bounded in my pulses at the conviction. I was no Helen Burns.
"Fetch that stool," said Mr. Brocklehurst, pointing to a very high
one from which a monitor had just risen: it was brought.
"Place the child upon it."
And I was placed there, by whom I don't know: I was in no condition
to note particulars; I was only aware that they had hoisted me up
to the height of Mr. Brocklehurst's nose, that he was within a yard
of me, and that a spread of shot orange and purple silk pelisses
and a cloud of silvery plumage extended and waved below me.
Mr. Brocklehurst hemmed.
"Ladies," said he, turning to his family, "Miss Temple, teachers,
and children, you all see this girl?"
Of course they did; for I felt their eyes directed like burning-glasses
against my scorched skin.
"You see she is yet young; you observe she possesses the ordinary
form of childhood; God has graciously given her the shape that He
has given to all of us; no signal deformity points her out as a
marked character. Who would think that the Evil One had already
found a servant and agent in her? Yet such, I grieve to say, is
A pause -- in which I began to steady the palsy of my nerves, and
to feel that the Rubicon was passed; and that the trial, no longer
to be shirked, must be firmly sustained.
"My dear children," pursued the black marble clergyman, with pathos,
"this is a sad, a melancholy occasion; for it becomes my duty to
warn you, that this girl, who might be one of God's own lambs, is
a little castaway: not a member of the true flock, but evidently
an interloper and an alien. You must be on your guard against
her; you must shun her example; if necessary, avoid her company,
exclude her from your sports, and shut her out from your converse.
Teachers, you must watch her: keep your eyes on her movements,
weigh well her words, scrutinise her actions, punish her body to
save her soul: if, indeed, such salvation be possible, for (my
tongue falters while I tell it) this girl, this child, the native
of a Christian land, worse than many a little heathen who says its
prayers to Brahma and kneels before Juggernaut -- this girl is --
Now came a pause of ten minutes, during which I, by this time in
perfect possession of my wits, observed all the female Brocklehursts
produce their pocket-handkerchiefs and apply them to their optics,
while the elderly lady swayed herself to and fro, and the two
younger ones whispered, "How shocking!" Mr. Brocklehurst resumed.
"This I learned from her benefactress; from the pious and charitable
lady who adopted her in her orphan state, reared her as her own
daughter, and whose kindness, whose generosity the unhappy girl
repaid by an ingratitude so bad, so dreadful, that at last her
excellent patroness was obliged to separate her from her own young
ones, fearful lest her vicious example should contaminate their
purity: she has sent her here to be healed, even as the Jews
of old sent their diseased to the troubled pool of Bethesda; and,
teachers, superintendent, I beg of you not to allow the waters to
stagnate round her."
With this sublime conclusion, Mr. Brocklehurst adjusted the top button
of his surtout, muttered something to his family, who rose, bowed
to Miss Temple, and then all the great people sailed in
state from the room. Turning at the door, my judge said -
"Let her stand half-an-hour longer on that stool, and let no one
speak to her during the remainder of the day."
There was I, then, mounted aloft; I, who had said I could not bear
the shame of standing on my natural feet in the middle of the room,
was now exposed to general view on a pedestal of infamy. What
my sensations were no language can describe; but just as they all
rose, stifling my breath and constricting my throat, a girl came
up and passed me: in passing, she lifted her eyes. What a strange
light inspired them! What an extraordinary sensation that ray
sent through me! How the new feeling bore me up! It was as if a
martyr, a hero, had passed a slave or victim, and imparted strength
in the transit. I mastered the rising hysteria, lifted up my head,
and took a firm stand on the stool. Helen Burns asked some slight
question about her work of Miss Smith, was chidden for the triviality
of the inquiry, returned to her place, and smiled at me as she
again went by. What a smile! I remember it now, and I know that
it was the effluence of fine intellect, of true courage; it lit up
her marked lineaments, her thin face, her sunken grey eye, like a
reflection from the aspect of an angel. Yet at that moment Helen
Burns wore on her arm "the untidy badge;" scarcely an hour ago I
had heard her condemned by Miss Scatcherd to a dinner of bread and
water on the morrow because she had blotted an exercise in copying
it out. Such is the imperfect nature of man! such spots are there
on the disc of the clearest planet; and eyes like Miss Scatcherd's
can only see those minute defects, and are blind to the full
brightness of the orb.
Ere the half-hour ended, five o'clock struck; school was dismissed,
and all were gone into the refectory to tea. I now ventured to
descend: it was deep dusk; I retired into a corner and sat down on
the floor. The spell by which I had been so far supported began
to dissolve; reaction took place, and soon, so overwhelming was the
grief that seized me, I sank prostrate with my face to the ground.
Now I wept: Helen Burns was not here; nothing sustained me; left
to myself I abandoned myself, and my tears watered the boards. I
had meant to be so good, and to do so much at Lowood: to make so
many friends, to earn respect and win affection. Already I had
made visible progress: that very morning I had reached the head
of my class; Miss Miller had praised me warmly; Miss Temple had
smiled approbation; she had promised to teach me drawing, and to
let me learn French, if I continued to make similar improvement two
months longer: and then I was well received by my fellow-pupils;
treated as an equal by those of my own age, and not molested by
any; now, here I lay again crushed and trodden on; and could I ever
"Never," I thought; and ardently I wished to die. While sobbing
out this wish in broken accents, some one approached: I started
up -- again Helen Burns was near me; the fading fires just showed
her coming up the long, vacant room; she brought my coffee and
"Come, eat something," she said; but I put both away from me,
feeling as if a drop or a crumb would have choked me in my present
condition. Helen regarded me, probably with surprise: I could not
now abate my agitation, though I tried hard; I continued to weep
aloud. She sat down on the ground near me, embraced her knees
with her arms, and rested her head upon them; in that attitude
she remained silent as an Indian. I was the first who spoke -
"Helen, why do you stay with a girl whom everybody believes to be
"Everybody, Jane? Why, there are only eighty people who have heard
you called so, and the world contains hundreds of millions."
"But what have I to do with millions? The eighty, I know, despise
"Jane, you are mistaken: probably not one in the school either
despises or dislikes you: many, I am sure, pity you much."
"How can they pity me after what Mr. Brocklehurst has said?"
"Mr. Brocklehurst is not a god: nor is he even a great and admired
man: he is little liked here; he never took steps to make himself
liked. Had he treated you as an especial favourite, you would
have found enemies, declared or covert, all around you; as it is,
the greater number would offer you sympathy if they dared. Teachers
and pupils may look coldly on you for a day or two, but friendly
feelings are concealed in their hearts; and if you persevere in
doing well, these feelings will ere long appear so much the more
evidently for their temporary suppression. Besides, Jane" -- she
"Well, Helen?" said I, putting my hand into hers: she
chafed my fingers gently to warm them, and went on -
"If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your
own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would
not be without friends."
"No; I know I should think well of myself; but that is not enough:
if others don't love me I would rather die than live -- I cannot
bear to be solitary and hated, Helen. Look here; to gain some
real affection from you, or Miss Temple, or any other whom I truly
love, I would willingly submit to have the bone of my arm broken, or
to let a bull toss me, or to stand behind a kicking horse,
and let it dash its hoof at my chest -- "
"Hush, Jane! you think too much of the love of human beings; you
are too impulsive, too vehement; the sovereign hand that created
your frame, and put life into it, has provided you with other
resources than your feeble self, or than creatures feeble as you.
Besides this earth, and besides the race of men, there is an invisible
world and a kingdom of spirits: that world is round us, for it is
everywhere; and those spirits watch us, for they are commissioned
to guard us; and if we were dying in pain and shame, if scorn smote
us on all sides, and hatred crushed us, angels see our tortures,
recognise our innocence (if innocent we be: as I know you are of
this charge which Mr. Brocklehurst has weakly and pompously repeated
at second-hand from Mrs. Reed; for I read a sincere nature in
your ardent eyes and on your clear front), and God waits only the
separation of spirit from flesh to crown us with a full reward.
Why, then, should we ever sink overwhelmed with distress, when life
is so soon over, and death is so certain an entrance to happiness
-- to glory?"
I was silent; Helen had calmed me; but in the tranquillity she
imparted there was an alloy of inexpressible sadness. I felt the
impression of woe as she spoke, but I could not tell whence it
came; and when, having done speaking, she breathed a little fast
and coughed a short cough, I momentarily forgot my own sorrows to
yield to a vague concern for her.
Resting my head on Helen's shoulder, I put my arms round her waist;
she drew me to her, and we reposed in silence. We had not sat long
thus, when another person came in. Some heavy clouds, swept from
the sky by a rising wind, had left the moon bare; and her light,
streaming in through a window near, shone full both on us and on
the approaching figure, which we at once recognised as Miss Temple.
"I came on purpose to find you, Jane Eyre," said she; "I want you
in my room; and as Helen Burns is with you, she may come too."
We went; following the superintendent's guidance, we had to thread
some intricate passages, and mount a staircase before we reached
her apartment; it contained a good fire, and looked cheerful. Miss
Temple told Helen Burns to be seated in a low arm-chair on one
side of the hearth, and herself taking another, she called me to
"Is it all over?" she asked, looking down at my face. "Have you
cried your grief away?"
"I am afraid I never shall do that."
"Because I have been wrongly accused; and you, ma'am, and everybody
else, will now think me wicked."
"We shall think you what you prove yourself to be, my child.
Continue to act as a good girl, and you will satisfy us."
"Shall I, Miss Temple?"
"You will," said she, passing her arm round me. "And now tell me
who is the lady whom Mr. Brocklehurst called your benefactress?"
"Mrs. Reed, my uncle's wife. My uncle is dead, and he left me to
"Did she not, then, adopt you of her own accord?"
"No, ma'am; she was sorry to have to do it: but my uncle, as
I have often heard the servants say, got her to promise before he
died that she would always keep me."
"Well now, Jane, you know, or at least I will tell you, that when
a criminal is accused, he is always allowed to speak in his own
defence. You have been charged with falsehood; defend yourself to
me as well as you can. Say whatever your memory suggests is true;
but add nothing and exaggerate nothing."
I resolved, in the depth of my heart, that I would be most moderate
-- most correct; and, having reflected a few minutes in order
to arrange coherently what I had to say, I told her all the story
of my sad childhood. Exhausted by emotion, my language was more
subdued than it generally was when it developed that sad theme; and
mindful of Helen's warnings against the indulgence of resentment,
I infused into the narrative far less of gall and wormwood than
ordinary. Thus restrained and simplified, it sounded more credible:
I felt as I went on that Miss Temple fully believed me.
In the course of the tale I had mentioned Mr. Lloyd as having come
to see me after the fit: for I never forgot the, to me, frightful
episode of the red-room: in detailing which, my excitement was
sure, in some degree, to break bounds; for nothing could soften
in my recollection the spasm of agony which clutched my heart when
Mrs. Reed spurned my wild supplication for pardon, and locked me
a second time in the dark and haunted chamber.
I had finished: Miss Temple regarded me a few minutes
in silence; she then said -
"I know something of Mr. Lloyd; I shall write to him; if his reply
agrees with your statement, you shall be publicly cleared from
every imputation; to me, Jane, you are clear now."
She kissed me, and still keeping me at her side (where I was well
contented to stand, for I derived a child's pleasure from the
contemplation of her face, her dress, her one or two ornaments, her
white forehead, her clustered and shining curls, and beaming dark
eyes), she proceeded to address Helen Burns.
"How are you to-night, Helen? Have you coughed much to-day?"
"Not quite so much, I think, ma'am."
"And the pain in your chest?"
"It is a little better."
Miss Temple got up, took her hand and examined her pulse; then
she returned to her own seat: as she resumed it, I heard her sigh
low. She was pensive a few minutes, then rousing herself,
she said cheerfully -
"But you two are my visitors to-night; I must treat you as such."
She rang her bell.
"Barbara," she said to the servant who answered it, "I have not yet
had tea; bring the tray and place cups for these two young ladies."
And a tray was soon brought. How pretty, to my eyes, did the china
cups and bright teapot look, placed on the little round table near
the fire! How fragrant was the steam of the beverage, and the
scent of the toast! of which, however, I, to my dismay (for I was
beginning to be hungry) discerned only a very small portion: Miss
Temple discerned it too.
"Barbara," said she, "can you not bring a little more bread and
butter? There is not enough for three."
Barbara went out: she returned soon -
"Madam, Mrs. Harden says she has sent up the usual quantity."
Mrs. Harden, be it observed, was the housekeeper: a woman after
Mr. Brocklehurst's own heart, made up of equal parts of whalebone
"Oh, very well!" returned Miss Temple; "we must make it do,
Barbara, I suppose." And as the girl withdrew she added, smiling,
"Fortunately, I have it in my power to supply deficiencies for this
Having invited Helen and me to approach the table, and placed
before each of us a cup of tea with one delicious but thin morsel
of toast, she got up, unlocked a drawer, and taking from it a parcel
wrapped in paper, disclosed presently to our eyes a good-sized
"I meant to give each of you some of this to take with you," said
she, "but as there is so little toast, you must have it now," and
she proceeded to cut slices with a generous hand.
We feasted that evening as on nectar and ambrosia; and not the
least delight of the entertainment was the smile of gratification
with which our hostess regarded us, as we satisfied our famished
appetites on the delicate fare she liberally supplied.
Tea over and the tray removed, she again summoned us to the fire;
we sat one on each side of her, and now a conversation followed
between her and Helen, which it was indeed a privilege to be admitted
Miss Temple had always something of serenity in her air, of state
in her mien, of refined propriety in her language, which precluded
deviation into the ardent, the excited, the eager: something which
chastened the pleasure of those who looked on her and listened to
her, by a controlling sense of awe; and such was my feeling now:
but as to Helen Burns, I was struck with wonder.
The refreshing meal, the brilliant fire, the presence and kindness
of her beloved instructress, or, perhaps, more than all these,
something in her own unique mind, had roused her powers within
her. They woke, they kindled: first, they glowed in the bright
tint of her cheek, which till this hour I had never seen but pale
and bloodless; then they shone in the liquid lustre of her eyes,
which had suddenly acquired a beauty more singular than that of
Miss Temple's -- a beauty neither of fine colour nor long eyelash,
nor pencilled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance. Then
her soul sat on her lips, and language flowed, from what source I
cannot tell. Has a girl of fourteen a heart large enough, vigorous
enough, to hold the swelling spring of pure, full, fervid eloquence?
Such was the characteristic of Helen's discourse on that, to me,
memorable evening; her spirit seemed hastening to live within a
very brief span as much as many live during a protracted existence.
They conversed of things I had never heard of; of nations and times
past; of countries far away; of secrets of nature discovered or
guessed at: they spoke of books: how many they had read! What
stores of knowledge they possessed! Then they seemed so familiar
with French names and French authors: but my amazement reached
its climax when Miss Temple asked Helen if she sometimes snatched
a moment to recall the Latin her father had taught her, and taking
a book from a shelf, bade her read and construe a page of Virgil;
and Helen obeyed, my organ of veneration expanding at every sounding
line. She had scarcely finished ere the bell announced bedtime!
no delay could be admitted; Miss Temple embraced us both,
saying, as she drew us to her heart -
"God bless you, my children!"
Helen she held a little longer than me: she let her go more
reluctantly; it was Helen her eye followed to the door; it was for
her she a second time breathed a sad sigh; for her she wiped a tear
from her cheek.
On reaching the bedroom, we heard the voice of Miss Scatcherd: she
was examining drawers; she had just pulled out Helen Burns's, and
when we entered Helen was greeted with a sharp reprimand, and told
that to-morrow she should have half-a-dozen of untidily folded
articles pinned to her shoulder.
"My things were indeed in shameful disorder," murmured Helen to me,
in a low voice: "I intended to have arranged them, but I forgot."
Next morning, Miss Scatcherd wrote in conspicuous characters on a piece
of pasteboard the word "Slattern," and bound it like a phylactery
round Helen's large, mild, intelligent, and benign- looking forehead.
She wore it till evening, patient, unresentful, regarding it as
a deserved punishment. The moment Miss Scatcherd withdrew after
afternoon school, I ran to Helen, tore it off, and thrust it into
the fire: the fury of which she was incapable had been burning
in my soul all day, and tears, hot and large, had continually been
scalding my cheek; for the spectacle of her sad resignation gave
me an intolerable pain at the heart.
About a week subsequently to the incidents above narrated, Miss
Temple, who had written to Mr. Lloyd, received his answer: it
appeared that what he said went to corroborate my account. Miss
Temple, having assembled the whole school, announced that inquiry
had been made into the charges alleged against Jane Eyre, and that
she was most happy to be able to pronounce her completely cleared
from every imputation. The teachers then shook hands with me and
kissed me, and a murmur of pleasure ran through the ranks of my
Thus relieved of a grievous load, I from that hour set to work
afresh, resolved to pioneer my way through every difficulty: I
toiled hard, and my success was proportionate to my efforts; my
memory, not naturally tenacious, improved with practice; exercise
sharpened my wits; in a few weeks I was promoted to a higher class;
in less than two months I was allowed to commence French and drawing.
I learned the first two tenses of the verb ETRE, and sketched my
first cottage (whose walls, by-the-bye, outrivalled in slope those of
the leaning tower of Pisa), on the same day. That night, on going
to bed, I forgot to prepare in imagination the Barmecide supper of
hot roast potatoes, or white bread and new milk, with which I was
wont to amuse my inward cravings: I feasted instead on the spectacle
of ideal drawings, which I saw in the dark; all the work of my own
hands: freely pencilled houses and trees, picturesque rocks and
ruins, Cuyp-like groups of cattle, sweet paintings of butterflies
hovering over unblown roses, of birds picking at ripe cherries, of
wren's nests enclosing pearl-like eggs, wreathed about with young
ivy sprays. I examined, too, in thought, the possibility of
my ever being able to translate currently a certain little French
story which Madame Pierrot had that day shown me; nor was that
problem solved to my satisfaction ere I fell sweetly asleep.
Well has Solomon said -- "Better is a dinner of herbs where love
is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith."
I would not now have exchanged Lowood with all its privations for
Gateshead and its daily luxuries.
But the privations, or rather the hardships, of Lowood lessened.
Spring drew on: she was indeed already come; the frosts of winter
had ceased; its snows were melted, its cutting winds ameliorated.
My wretched feet, flayed and swollen to lameness by the sharp air
of January, began to heal and subside under the gentler breathings
of April; the nights and mornings no longer by their Canadian
temperature froze the very blood in our veins; we could now endure
the play-hour passed in the garden: sometimes on a sunny day it
began even to be pleasant and genial, and a greenness grew over
those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought
that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter
traces of her steps. Flowers peeped out amongst the leaves; snow-
drops, crocuses, purple auriculas, and golden-eyed pansies. On
Thursday afternoons (half-holidays) we now took walks, and found
still sweeter flowers opening by the wayside, under the hedges.
I discovered, too, that a great pleasure, an enjoyment which the
horizon only bounded, lay all outside the high and spike-guarded
walls of our garden: this pleasure consisted in prospect of noble
summits girdling a great hill-hollow, rich in verdure and shadow;
in a bright beck, full of dark stones and sparkling eddies. How
different had this scene looked when I viewed it laid out beneath
the iron sky of winter, stiffened in frost, shrouded with snow! --
when mists as chill as death wandered to the impulse of east winds
along those purple peaks, and rolled down "ing" and holm till they
blended with the frozen fog of the beck! That beck itself was then
a torrent, turbid and curbless: it tore asunder the wood, and sent
a raving sound through the air, often thickened with wild rain or
whirling sleet; and for the forest on its banks, THAT showed only
ranks of skeletons.
April advanced to May: a bright serene May it was; days of blue
sky, placid sunshine, and soft western or southern gales filled
up its duration. And now vegetation matured with vigour; Lowood
shook loose its tresses; it became all green, all flowery; its
great elm, ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic life;
woodland plants sprang up profusely in its recesses; unnumbered
varieties of moss filled its hollows, and it made a strange
ground-sunshine out of the wealth of its wild primrose plants: I
have seen their pale gold gleam in overshadowed spots like scatterings
of the sweetest lustre. All this I enjoyed often and fully, free,
unwatched, and almost alone: for this unwonted liberty and pleasure
there was a cause, to which it now becomes my task to advert.
Have I not described a pleasant site for a dwelling, when I speak
of it as bosomed in hill and wood, and rising from the verge of a
stream? Assuredly, pleasant enough: but whether healthy or not
is another question.
That forest-dell, where Lowood lay, was the cradle of fog and
fog-bred pestilence; which, quickening with the quickening spring,
crept into the Orphan Asylum, breathed typhus through its crowded
schoolroom and dormitory, and, ere May arrived, transformed the
seminary into an hospital.
Semi-starvation and neglected colds had predisposed most of the
pupils to receive infection: forty-five out of the eighty girls
lay ill at one time. Classes were broken up, rules relaxed. The
few who continued well were allowed almost unlimited license;
because the medical attendant insisted on the necessity of frequent
exercise to keep them in health: and had it been otherwise, no
one had leisure to watch or restrain them. Miss Temple's whole
attention was absorbed by the patients: she lived in the sick-room,
never quitting it except to snatch a few hours' rest at night.
The teachers were fully occupied with packing up and making other
necessary preparations for the departure of those girls who were
fortunate enough to have friends and relations able and willing
to remove them from the seat of contagion. Many, already smitten,
went home only to die: some died at the school, and were buried
quietly and quickly, the nature of the malady forbidding delay.
While disease had thus become an inhabitant of Lowood, and death
its frequent visitor; while there was gloom and fear within its
walls; while its rooms and passages steamed with hospital smells,
the drug and the pastille striving vainly to overcome the effluvia
of mortality, that bright May shone unclouded over the bold hills
and beautiful woodland out of doors. Its garden, too, glowed
with flowers: hollyhocks had sprung up tall as trees, lilies had
opened, tulips and roses were in bloom; the borders of the little
beds were gay with pink thrift and crimson double daisies; the
sweetbriars gave out, morning and evening, their scent of spice and
apples; and these fragrant treasures were all useless for most of
the inmates of Lowood, except to furnish now and then a handful of
herbs and blossoms to put in a coffin.
But I, and the rest who continued well, enjoyed fully the beauties
of the scene and season; they let us ramble in the wood, like
gipsies, from morning till night; we did what we liked, went where
we liked: we lived better too. Mr. Brocklehurst and his family
never came near Lowood now: household matters were not scrutinised
into; the cross housekeeper was gone, driven away by the fear
of infection; her successor, who had been matron at the Lowton
Dispensary, unused to the ways of her new abode, provided with
comparative liberality. Besides, there were fewer to feed; the
sick could eat little; our breakfast-basins were better filled;
when there was no time to prepare a regular dinner, which often
happened, she would give us a large piece of cold pie, or a thick
slice of bread and cheese, and this we carried away with us to
the wood, where we each chose the spot we liked best, and dined
My favourite seat was a smooth and broad stone, rising white and dry
from the very middle of the beck, and only to be got at by wading
through the water; a feat I accomplished barefoot. The stone was
just broad enough to accommodate, comfortably, another girl and me,
at that time my chosen comrade -- one Mary Ann Wilson; a shrewd,
observant personage, whose society I took pleasure in, partly
because she was witty and original, and partly because she had a
manner which set me at my ease. Some years older than I, she knew
more of the world, and could tell me many things I liked to hear:
with her my curiosity found gratification: to my faults also she
gave ample indulgence, never imposing curb or rein on anything I
said. She had a turn for narrative, I for analysis; she liked to
inform, I to question; so we got on swimmingly together, deriving
much entertainment, if not much improvement, from our mutual
And where, meantime, was Helen Burns? Why did I not spend these
sweet days of liberty with her? Had I forgotten her? or was I so
worthless as to have grown tired of her pure society? Surely the
Mary Ann Wilson I have mentioned was inferior to my first acquaintance:
she could only tell me amusing stories, and reciprocate any racy
and pungent gossip I chose to indulge in; while, if I have spoken
truth of Helen, she was qualified to give those who enjoyed the
privilege of her converse a taste of far higher things.
True, reader; and I knew and felt this: and though I am a defective
being, with many faults and few redeeming points, yet I never tired
of Helen Burns; nor ever ceased to cherish for her a sentiment
of attachment, as strong, tender, and respectful as any that ever
animated my heart. How could it be otherwise, when Helen, at
all times and under all circumstances, evinced for me a quiet and
faithful friendship, which ill-humour never soured, nor irritation
never troubled? But Helen was ill at present: for some weeks she
had been removed from my sight to I knew not what room upstairs.
She was not, I was told, in the hospital portion of the house with
the fever patients; for her complaint was consumption, not typhus:
and by consumption I, in my ignorance, understood something mild,
which time and care would be sure to alleviate.
I was confirmed in this idea by the fact of her once or twice coming
downstairs on very warm sunny afternoons, and being taken by Miss
Temple into the garden; but, on these occasions, I was not allowed
to go and speak to her; I only saw her from the schoolroom window,
and then not distinctly; for she was much wrapped up, and sat at
a distance under the verandah.
One evening, in the beginning of June, I had stayed out very late
with Mary Ann in the wood; we had, as usual, separated ourselves
from the others, and had wandered far; so far that we lost our
way, and had to ask it at a lonely cottage, where a man and woman
lived, who looked after a herd of half-wild swine that fed on the
mast in the wood. When we got back, it was after moonrise: a
pony, which we knew to be the surgeon's, was standing at the garden
door. Mary Ann remarked that she supposed some one must be very
ill, as Mr. Bates had been sent for at that time of the evening.
She went into the house; I stayed behind a few minutes to plant in
my garden a handful of roots I had dug up in the forest, and which
I feared would wither if I left them till the morning. This done,
I lingered yet a little longer: the flowers smelt so sweet as
the dew fell; it was such a pleasant evening, so serene, so warm;
the still glowing west promised so fairly another fine day on the
morrow; the moon rose with such majesty in the grave east. I was
noting these things and enjoying them as a child might, when it
entered my mind as it had never done before:-
"How sad to be lying now on a sick bed, and to be in danger of
dying! This world is pleasant -- it would be dreary to be called
from it, and to have to go who knows where?"
And then my mind made its first earnest effort to comprehend what
had been infused into it concerning heaven and hell; and for the
first time it recoiled, baffled; and for the first time glancing
behind, on each side, and before it, it saw all round an unfathomed
gulf: it felt the one point where it stood -- the present; all the
rest was formless cloud and vacant depth; and it shuddered at the
thought of tottering, and plunging amid that chaos. While pondering
this new idea, I heard the front door open; Mr. Bates came out,
and with him was a nurse. After she had seen him mount his horse
and depart, she was about to close the door, but I ran up to her.
"How is Helen Burns?"
"Very poorly," was the answer.
"Is it her Mr. Bates has been to see?"
"And what does he say about her?"
"He says she'll not be here long."
This phrase, uttered in my hearing yesterday, would have only conveyed
the notion that she was about to be removed to Northumberland, to
her own home. I should not have suspected that it meant she was
dying; but I knew instantly now! It opened clear on my comprehension
that Helen Burns was numbering her last days in this world, and
that she was going to be taken to the region of spirits, if such
region there were. I experienced a shock of horror, then a strong
thrill of grief, then a desire -- a necessity to see her; and I
asked in what room she lay.
"She is in Miss Temple's room," said the nurse.
"May I go up and speak to her?"
"Oh no, child! It is not likely; and now it is time for you to come
in; you'll catch the fever if you stop out when the dew is falling."
The nurse closed the front door; I went in by the side entrance which
led to the schoolroom: I was just in time; it was nine o'clock,
and Miss Miller was calling the pupils to go to bed.
It might be two hours later, probably near eleven, when I -- not
having been able to fall asleep, and deeming, from the perfect
silence of the dormitory, that my companions were all wrapt in
profound repose -- rose softly, put on my frock over my night-dress,
and, without shoes, crept from the apartment, and set off in quest
of Miss Temple's room. It was quite at the other end of the house;
but I knew my way; and the light of the unclouded summer moon,
entering here and there at passage windows, enabled me to find it
without difficulty. An odour of camphor and burnt vinegar warned
me when I came near the fever room: and I passed its door quickly,
fearful lest the nurse who sat up all night should hear me. I
dreaded being discovered and sent back; for I MUST see Helen, --
I must embrace her before she died, -- I must give her one last
kiss, exchange with her one last word.
Having descended a staircase, traversed a portion of the house
below, and succeeded in opening and shutting, without noise, two
doors, I reached another flight of steps; these I mounted, and then
just opposite to me was Miss Temple's room. A light shone through
the keyhole and from under the door; a profound stillness pervaded
the vicinity. Coming near, I found the door slightly ajar;
probably to admit some fresh air into the close abode of sickness.
Indisposed to hesitate, and full of impatient impulses -- soul and
senses quivering with keen throes -- I put it back and looked in.
My eye sought Helen, and feared to find death.
Close by Miss Temple's bed, and half covered with its white curtains,
there stood a little crib. I saw the outline of a form under the
clothes, but the face was hid by the hangings: the nurse I had
spoken to in the garden sat in an easy-chair asleep; an unsnuffed
candle burnt dimly on the table. Miss Temple was not to be seen:
I knew afterwards that she had been called to a delirious patient
in the fever-room. I advanced; then paused by the crib side: my
hand was on the curtain, but I preferred speaking before I withdrew
it. I still recoiled at the dread of seeing a corpse.
"Helen!" I whispered softly, "are you awake?"
She stirred herself, put back the curtain, and I saw her face, pale,
wasted, but quite composed: she looked so little changed that my
fear was instantly dissipated.
"Can it be you, Jane?" she asked, in her own gentle voice.
"Oh!" I thought, "she is not going to die; they are mistaken: she
could not speak and look so calmly if she were."
I got on to her crib and kissed her: her forehead was cold, and
her cheek both cold and thin, and so were her hand and wrist; but
she smiled as of old.
"Why are you come here, Jane? It is past eleven o'clock: I heard
it strike some minutes since."
"I came to see you, Helen: I heard you were very ill, and I could
not sleep till I had spoken to you."
"You came to bid me good-bye, then: you are just in time probably."
"Are you going somewhere, Helen? Are you going home?"
"Yes; to my long home -- my last home."
"No, no, Helen!" I stopped, distressed. While I tried to devour
my tears, a fit of coughing seized Helen; it did not, however, wake
the nurse; when it was over, she lay some minutes exhausted;
then she whispered -
"Jane, your little feet are bare; lie down and cover yourself with
I did so: she put her arm over me, and I nestled close
to her. After a long silence, she resumed, still whispering -
"I am very happy, Jane; and when you hear that I am dead, you must
be sure and not grieve: there is nothing to grieve about. We
all must die one day, and the illness which is removing me is not
painful; it is gentle and gradual: my mind is at rest. I leave
no one to regret me much: I have only a father; and he is lately
married, and will not miss me. By dying young, I shall escape
great sufferings. I had not qualities or talents to make my way
very well in the world: I should have been continually at fault."
"But where are you going to, Helen? Can you see? Do you know?"
"I believe; I have faith: I am going to God."
"Where is God? What is God?"
"My Maker and yours, who will never destroy what He created. I
rely implicitly on His power, and confide wholly in His goodness:
I count the hours till that eventful one arrives which shall restore
me to Him, reveal Him to me."
"You are sure, then, Helen, that there is such a place as heaven,
and that our souls can get to it when we die?"
"I am sure there is a future state; I believe God is good; I can
resign my immortal part to Him without any misgiving. God is my
father; God is my friend: I love Him; I believe He loves me."
"And shall I see you again, Helen, when I die?"
"You will come to the same region of happiness: be received by
the same mighty, universal Parent, no doubt, dear Jane."
Again I questioned, but this time only in thought. "Where is
that region? Does it exist?" And I clasped my arms closer round
Helen; she seemed dearer to me than ever; I felt as if I could
not let her go; I lay with my face hidden on her neck. Presently
she said, in the sweetest tone -
"How comfortable I am! That last fit of coughing has tired me a
little; I feel as if I could sleep: but don't leave me, Jane; I
like to have you near me."
"I'll stay with you, DEAR Helen: no one shall take me away."
"Are you warm, darling?"
She kissed me, and I her, and we both soon slumbered.
When I awoke it was day: an unusual movement roused me; I looked
up; I was in somebody's arms; the nurse held me; she was carrying
me through the passage back to the dormitory. I was not reprimanded
for leaving my bed; people had something else to think about; no
explanation was afforded then to my many questions; but a day or
two afterwards I learned that Miss Temple, on returning to her own
room at dawn, had found me laid in the little crib; my face against
Helen Burns's shoulder, my arms round her neck. I was asleep, and
Helen was -- dead.
Her grave is in Brocklebridge churchyard: for fifteen years after
her death it was only covered by a grassy mound; but now a grey
marble tablet marks the spot, inscribed with her name, and the word
Hitherto I have recorded in detail the events of my insignificant
existence: to the first ten years of my life I have given almost
as many chapters. But this is not to be a regular autobiography.
I am only bound to invoke Memory where I know her responses will
possess some degree of interest; therefore I now pass a space of
eight years almost in silence: a few lines only are necessary to
keep up the links of connection.
When the typhus fever had fulfilled its mission of devastation
at Lowood, it gradually disappeared from thence; but not till its
virulence and the number of its victims had drawn public attention
on the school. Inquiry was made into the origin of the scourge, and
by degrees various facts came out which excited public indignation
in a high degree. The unhealthy nature of the site; the quantity
and quality of the children's food; the brackish, fetid water used
in its preparation; the pupils' wretched clothing and accommodations
-- all these things were discovered, and the discovery produced
a result mortifying to Mr. Brocklehurst, but beneficial to the
Several wealthy and benevolent individuals in the county subscribed
largely for the erection of a more convenient building in a better
situation; new regulations were made; improvements in diet and
clothing introduced; the funds of the school were intrusted to the
management of a committee. Mr. Brocklehurst, who, from his wealth
and family connections, could not be overlooked, still retained the
post of treasurer; but he was aided in the discharge of his duties
by gentlemen of rather more enlarged and sympathising minds: his
office of inspector, too, was shared by those who knew how to
combine reason with strictness, comfort with economy, compassion
with uprightness. The school, thus improved, became in time a truly
useful and noble institution. I remained an inmate of its walls,
after its regeneration, for eight years: six as pupil, and two as
teacher; and in both capacities I bear my testimony to its value
During these eight years my life was uniform: but not unhappy,
because it was not inactive. I had the means of an excellent
education placed within my reach; a fondness for some of my studies,
and a desire to excel in all, together with a great delight in
pleasing my teachers, especially such as I loved, urged me on: I
availed myself fully of the advantages offered me. In time I rose
to be the first girl of the first class; then I was invested with
the office of teacher; which I discharged with zeal for two years:
but at the end of that time I altered.
Miss Temple, through all changes, had thus far continued superintendent
of the seminary: to her instruction I owed the best part of
my acquirements; her friendship and society had been my continual
solace; she had stood me in the stead of mother, governess, and,
latterly, companion. At this period she married, removed with
her husband (a clergyman, an excellent man, almost worthy of such
a wife) to a distant county, and consequently was lost to me.
From the day she left I was no longer the same: with her was gone
every settled feeling, every association that had made Lowood in
some degree a home to me. I had imbibed from her something of her
nature and much of her habits: more harmonious thoughts: what
seemed better regulated feelings had become the inmates of my
mind. I had given in allegiance to duty and order; I was quiet;
I believed I was content: to the eyes of others, usually even to
my own, I appeared a disciplined and subdued character.
But destiny, in the shape of the Rev. Mr. Nasmyth, came between
me and Miss Temple: I saw her in her travelling dress step into
a post-chaise, shortly after the marriage ceremony; I watched
the chaise mount the hill and disappear beyond its brow; and then
retired to my own room, and there spent in solitude the greatest
part of the half-holiday granted in honour of the occasion.
I walked about the chamber most of the time. I imagined myself
only to be regretting my loss, and thinking how to repair it; but
when my reflections were concluded, and I looked up and found that
the afternoon was gone, and evening far advanced, another discovery
dawned on me, namely, that in the interval I had undergone a
transforming process; that my mind had put off all it had borrowed
of Miss Temple -- or rather that she had taken with her the serene
atmosphere I had been breathing in her vicinity -- and that now I
was left in my natural element, and beginning to feel the stirring
of old emotions. It did not seem as if a prop were withdrawn,
but rather as if a motive were gone: it was not the power to be
tranquil which had failed me, but the reason for tranquillity was
no more. My world had for some years been in Lowood: my experience
had been of its rules and systems; now I remembered that the real
world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of
sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go
forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its
I went to my window, opened it, and looked out. There were the two
wings of the building; there was the garden; there were the skirts
of Lowood; there was the hilly horizon. My eye passed all other
objects to rest on those most remote, the blue peaks; it was those
I longed to surmount; all within their boundary of rock and heath
seemed prison-ground, exile limits. I traced the white road winding
round the base of one mountain, and vanishing in a gorge between
two; how I longed to follow it farther! I recalled the time when
I had travelled that very road in a coach; I remembered descending
that hill at twilight; an age seemed to have elapsed since the day
which brought me first to Lowood, and I had never quitted it since.
My vacations had all been spent at school: Mrs. Reed had never
sent for me to Gateshead; neither she nor any of her family had ever
been to visit me. I had had no communication by letter or message
with the outer world: school-rules, school-duties, school-habits
and notions, and voices, and faces, and phrases, and costumes, and
preferences, and antipathies -- such was what I knew of existence.
And now I felt that it was not enough; I tired of the routine of
eight years in one afternoon. I desired liberty; for liberty I
gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the
wind then faintly blowing. I abandoned it and framed a humbler
supplication; for change, stimulus: that petition, too, seemed swept
off into vague space: "Then," I cried, half desperate, "grant me
at least a new servitude!"
Here a bell, ringing the hour of supper, called me downstairs.
I was not free to resume the interrupted chain of my reflections
till bedtime: even then a teacher who occupied the same room
with me kept me from the subject to which I longed to recur, by a
prolonged effusion of small talk. How I wished sleep would silence
her. It seemed as if, could I but go back to the idea which
had last entered my mind as I stood at the window, some inventive
suggestion would rise for my relief.
Miss Gryce snored at last; she was a heavy Welshwoman, and till
now her habitual nasal strains had never been regarded by me in any
other light than as a nuisance; to-night I hailed the first deep
notes with satisfaction; I was debarrassed of interruption; my
half-effaced thought instantly revived.
"A new servitude! There is something in that," I soliloquised
(mentally, be it understood; I did not talk aloud), "I know there
is, because it does not sound too sweet; it is not like such words
as Liberty, Excitement, Enjoyment: delightful sounds truly; but
no more than sounds for me; and so hollow and fleeting that it is
mere waste of time to listen to them. But Servitude! That must
be matter of fact. Any one may serve: I have served here eight
years; now all I want is to serve elsewhere. Can I not get so much
of my own will? Is not the thing feasible? Yes -- yes -- the end
is not so difficult; if I had only a brain active enough to ferret
out the means of attaining it."
I sat up in bed by way of arousing this said brain: it was a chilly
night; I covered my shoulders with a shawl, and then I proceeded
TO THINK again with all my might.
"What do I want? A new place, in a new house, amongst new faces,
under new circumstances: I want this because it is of no use wanting
anything better. How do people do to get a new place? They apply
to friends, I suppose: I have no friends. There are many others
who have no friends, who must look about for themselves and be
their own helpers; and what is their resource?"
I could not tell: nothing answered me; I then ordered my brain to
find a response, and quickly. It worked and worked faster: I felt
the pulses throb in my head and temples; but for nearly an hour
it worked in chaos; and no result came of its efforts. Feverish
with vain labour, I got up and took a turn in the room; undrew the
curtain, noted a star or two, shivered with cold, and again crept
A kind fairy, in my absence, had surely dropped the required suggestion
on my pillow; for as I lay down, it came quietly and naturally to
my mind. -- "Those who want situations advertise; you must advertise
in the -shire Herald."
"How? I know nothing about advertising."
Replies rose smooth and prompt now:-
"You must enclose the advertisement and the money to pay for it
under a cover directed to the editor of the Herald; you must put
it, the first opportunity you have, into the post at Lowton; answers
must be addressed to J.E., at the post-office there; you can go
and inquire in about a week after you send your letter, if any are
come, and act accordingly."
This scheme I went over twice, thrice; it was then digested in my
mind; I had it in a clear practical form: I felt satisfied, and
With earliest day, I was up: I had my advertisement written,
enclosed, and directed before the bell rang to rouse the school;
it ran thus:-
"A young lady accustomed to tuition" (had I not been a teacher
two years?) "is desirous of meeting with a situation in a private
family where the children are under fourteen (I thought that as I
was barely eighteen, it would not do to undertake the guidance of
pupils nearer my own age). She is qualified to teach the usual
branches of a good English education, together with French, Drawing,
and Music" (in those days, reader, this now narrow catalogue of
accomplishments, would have been held tolerably comprehensive).
"Address, J.E., Post-office, Lowton, -shire."
This document remained locked in my drawer all day: after tea,
I asked leave of the new superintendent to go to Lowton, in order
to perform some small commissions for myself and one or two of my
fellow-teachers; permission was readily granted; I went. It was a
walk of two miles, and the evening was wet, but the days were still
long; I visited a shop or two, slipped the letter into the post-office,
and came back through heavy rain, with streaming garments, but with
a relieved heart.
The succeeding week seemed long: it came to an end at last, however,
like all sublunary things, and once more, towards the close of a
pleasant autumn day, I found myself afoot on the road to Lowton. A
picturesque track it was, by the way; lying along the side of the
beck and through the sweetest curves of the dale: but that day I
thought more of the letters, that might or might not be awaiting
me at the little burgh whither I was bound, than of the charms of
lea and water.
My ostensible errand on this occasion was to get measured for
a pair of shoes; so I discharged that business first, and when it
was done, I stepped across the clean and quiet little street from
the shoemaker's to the post-office: it was kept by an old dame, who
wore horn spectacles on her nose, and black mittens on her hands.
"Are there any letters for J.E.?" I asked.
She peered at me over her spectacles, and then she opened a drawer and
fumbled among its contents for a long time, so long that my hopes
began to falter. At last, having held a document before her glasses
for nearly five minutes, she presented it across the counter,
accompanying the act by another inquisitive and mistrustful glance
-- it was for J.E.
"Is there only one?" I demanded.
"There are no more," said she; and I put it in my pocket and turned
my face homeward: I could not open it then; rules obliged me to
be back by eight, and it was already half-past seven.
Various duties awaited me on my arrival. I had to sit with the girls
during their hour of study; then it was my turn to read prayers;
to see them to bed: afterwards I supped with the other teachers.
Even when we finally retired for the night, the inevitable Miss
Gryce was still my companion: we had only a short end of candle
in our candlestick, and I dreaded lest she should talk till it