B1 Intermediate UK 5117 Folder Collection
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CHAPTER VII
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 cheering others.
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 apprehension.
"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." He paused.
"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 the occasion."
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 till dinner-time."
"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 did
so. "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 quietly.
"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.
It came.
"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 punished."
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 the case."
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--a liar!"
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.
>
CHAPTER VIII
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 rise more?
"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 bread.
"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 a liar?"
"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 me."
"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 paused.
"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 her side.
"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."
"Why?"
"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 her
care."
"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 and iron.
"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 once."
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 seed-cake.
"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 to hear.
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 companions.
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.
>
CHAPTER IX
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 sumptuously.
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 intercourse.
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?" "Yes."
"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 my quilt."
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?" "Yes."
"Good-night, Jane."
"Good-night, Helen." 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 "Resurgam."
>
CHAPTER X
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 institution.
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
and importance.
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 perils. 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 to bed.
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 fell asleep.
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 was all burnt
out; fortunately, however, the heavy supper she had eaten produced a soporific effect:
she was already snoring before I had finished undressing.
There still remained an inch of candle: I now took out my letter; the seal was an
initial F.; I broke it; the contents were brief.
"If J.E., who advertised in the ---shire Herald of last Thursday, possesses the
acquirements mentioned, and if she is in a position to give satisfactory references as
to character and competency, a situation
can be offered her where there is but one pupil, a little girl, under ten years of
age; and where the salary is thirty pounds per annum.
J.E. is requested to send references, name, address, and all particulars to the
direction:-- "Mrs. Fairfax, Thornfield, near Millcote,
--shire."
I examined the document long: the writing was old-fashioned and rather uncertain,
like that of an elderly lady.
This circumstance was satisfactory: a private fear had haunted me, that in thus
acting for myself, and by my own guidance, I ran the risk of getting into some scrape;
and, above all things, I wished the result
of my endeavours to be respectable, proper, en regle.
I now felt that an elderly lady was no bad ingredient in the business I had on hand.
Mrs. Fairfax!
I saw her in a black gown and widow's cap; frigid, perhaps, but not uncivil: a model
of elderly English respectability.
Thornfield! that, doubtless, was the name of her house: a neat orderly spot, I was
sure; though I failed in my efforts to conceive a correct plan of the premises.
Millcote, ---shire; I brushed up my recollections of the map of England, yes, I
saw it; both the shire and the town.
---shire was seventy miles nearer London than the remote county where I now resided:
that was a recommendation to me.
I longed to go where there was life and movement: Millcote was a large
manufacturing town on the banks of the A-; a busy place enough, doubtless: so much the
better; it would be a complete change at least.
Not that my fancy was much captivated by the idea of long chimneys and clouds of
smoke--"but," I argued, "Thornfield will, probably, be a good way from the town."
Here the socket of the candle dropped, and the wick went out.
Next day new steps were to be taken; my plans could no longer be confined to my own
breast; I must impart them in order to achieve their success.
Having sought and obtained an audience of the superintendent during the noontide
recreation, I told her I had a prospect of getting a new situation where the salary
would be double what I now received (for at
Lowood I only got 15 pounds per annum); and requested she would break the matter for me
to Mr. Brocklehurst, or some of the committee, and ascertain whether they would
permit me to mention them as references.
She obligingly consented to act as mediatrix in the matter.
The next day she laid the affair before Mr. Brocklehurst, who said that Mrs. Reed must
be written to, as she was my natural guardian.
A note was accordingly addressed to that lady, who returned for answer, that "I
might do as I pleased: she had long relinquished all interference in my
affairs."
This note went the round of the committee, and at last, after what appeared to me most
tedious delay, formal leave was given me to better my condition if I could; and an
assurance added, that as I had always
conducted myself well, both as teacher and pupil, at Lowood, a testimonial of
character and capacity, signed by the inspectors of that institution, should
forthwith be furnished me.
This testimonial I accordingly received in about a month, forwarded a copy of it to
Mrs. Fairfax, and got that lady's reply, stating that she was satisfied, and fixing
that day fortnight as the period for my
assuming the post of governess in her house.
I now busied myself in preparations: the fortnight passed rapidly.
I had not a very large wardrobe, though it was adequate to my wants; and the last day
sufficed to pack my trunk,--the same I had brought with me eight years ago from
Gateshead.
The box was corded, the card nailed on. In half-an-hour the carrier was to call for
it to take it to Lowton, whither I myself was to repair at an early hour the next
morning to meet the coach.
I had brushed my black stuff travelling- dress, prepared my bonnet, gloves, and
muff; sought in all my drawers to see that no article was left behind; and now having
nothing more to do, I sat down and tried to rest.
I could not; though I had been on foot all day, I could not now repose an instant; I
was too much excited.
A phase of my life was closing to-night, a new one opening to-morrow: impossible to
slumber in the interval; I must watch feverishly while the change was being
accomplished.
"Miss," said a servant who met me in the lobby, where I was wandering like a
troubled spirit, "a person below wishes to see you."
"The carrier, no doubt," I thought, and ran downstairs without inquiry.
I was passing the back-parlour or teachers' sitting-room, the door of which was half
open, to go to the kitchen, when some one ran out--
"It's her, I am sure!--I could have told her anywhere!" cried the individual who
stopped my progress and took my hand.
I looked: I saw a woman attired like a well-dressed servant, matronly, yet still
young; very good-looking, with black hair and eyes, and lively complexion.
"Well, who is it?" she asked, in a voice and with a smile I half recognised; "you've
not quite forgotten me, I think, Miss Jane?"
In another second I was embracing and kissing her rapturously: "Bessie!
Bessie!
Bessie!" that was all I said; whereat she half laughed, half cried, and we both went
into the parlour. By the fire stood a little fellow of three
years old, in plaid frock and trousers.
"That is my little boy," said Bessie directly.
"Then you are married, Bessie?"
"Yes; nearly five years since to Robert Leaven, the coachman; and I've a little
girl besides Bobby there, that I've christened Jane."
"And you don't live at Gateshead?"
"I live at the lodge: the old porter has left."
"Well, and how do they all get on?
Tell me everything about them, Bessie: but sit down first; and, Bobby, come and sit on
my knee, will you?" but Bobby preferred sidling over to his mother.
"You're not grown so very tall, Miss Jane, nor so very stout," continued Mrs. Leaven.
"I dare say they've not kept you too well at school: Miss Reed is the head and
shoulders taller than you are; and Miss Georgiana would make two of you in
breadth."
"Georgiana is handsome, I suppose, Bessie?" "Very.
She went up to London last winter with her mama, and there everybody admired her, and
a young lord fell in love with her: but his relations were against the match; and--what
do you think?--he and Miss Georgiana made
it up to run away; but they were found out and stopped.
It was Miss Reed that found them out: I believe she was envious; and now she and
her sister lead a cat and dog life together; they are always quarrelling--"
"Well, and what of John Reed?"
"Oh, he is not doing so well as his mama could wish.
He went to college, and he got--plucked, I think they call it: and then his uncles
wanted him to be a barrister, and study the law: but he is such a dissipated young man,
they will never make much of him, I think."
"What does he look like?" "He is very tall: some people call him a
fine-looking young man; but he has such thick lips."
"And Mrs. Reed?"
"Missis looks stout and well enough in the face, but I think she's not quite easy in
her mind: Mr. John's conduct does not please her--he spends a deal of money."
"Did she send you here, Bessie?"
"No, indeed: but I have long wanted to see you, and when I heard that there had been a
letter from you, and that you were going to another part of the country, I thought I'd
just set off, and get a look at you before you were quite out of my reach."
"I am afraid you are disappointed in me, Bessie."
I said this laughing: I perceived that Bessie's glance, though it expressed
regard, did in no shape denote admiration.
"No, Miss Jane, not exactly: you are genteel enough; you look like a lady, and
it is as much as ever I expected of you: you were no beauty as a child."
I smiled at Bessie's frank answer: I felt that it was correct, but I confess I was
not quite indifferent to its import: at eighteen most people wish to please, and
the conviction that they have not an
exterior likely to second that desire brings anything but gratification.
"I dare say you are clever, though," continued Bessie, by way of solace.
"What can you do?
Can you play on the piano?" "A little."
There was one in the room; Bessie went and opened it, and then asked me to sit down
and give her a tune: I played a waltz or two, and she was charmed.
"The Miss Reeds could not play as well!" said she exultingly.
"I always said you would surpass them in learning: and can you draw?"
"That is one of my paintings over the chimney-piece."
It was a landscape in water colours, of which I had made a present to the
superintendent, in acknowledgment of her obliging mediation with the committee on my
behalf, and which she had framed and glazed.
"Well, that is beautiful, Miss Jane!
It is as fine a picture as any Miss Reed's drawing-master could paint, let alone the
young ladies themselves, who could not come near it: and have you learnt French?"
"Yes, Bessie, I can both read it and speak it."
"And you can work on muslin and canvas?" "I can."
"Oh, you are quite a lady, Miss Jane!
I knew you would be: you will get on whether your relations notice you or not.
There was something I wanted to ask you. Have you ever heard anything from your
father's kinsfolk, the Eyres?"
"Never in my life."
"Well, you know Missis always said they were poor and quite despicable: and they
may be poor; but I believe they are as much gentry as the Reeds are; for one day,
nearly seven years ago, a Mr. Eyre came to
Gateshead and wanted to see you; Missis said you were at school fifty miles off; he
seemed so much disappointed, for he could not stay: he was going on a voyage to a
foreign country, and the ship was to sail from London in a day or two.
He looked quite a gentleman, and I believe he was your father's brother."
"What foreign country was he going to, Bessie?"
"An island thousands of miles off, where they make wine--the butler did tell me--"
"Madeira?"
I suggested. "Yes, that is it--that is the very word."
"So he went?"
"Yes; he did not stay many minutes in the house: Missis was very high with him; she
called him afterwards a 'sneaking tradesman.'
My Robert believes he was a wine-merchant."
"Very likely," I returned; "or perhaps clerk or agent to a wine-merchant."
Bessie and I conversed about old times an hour longer, and then she was obliged to
leave me: I saw her again for a few minutes the next morning at Lowton, while I was
waiting for the coach.
We parted finally at the door of the Brocklehurst Arms there: each went her
separate way; she set off for the brow of Lowood Fell to meet the conveyance which
was to take her back to Gateshead, I
mounted the vehicle which was to bear me to new duties and a new life in the unknown
environs of Millcote.
>
CHAPTER XI
A new chapter in a novel is something like a new scene in a play; and when I draw up
the curtain this time, reader, you must fancy you see a room in the George Inn at
Millcote, with such large figured papering
on the walls as inn rooms have; such a carpet, such furniture, such ornaments on
the mantelpiece, such prints, including a portrait of George the Third, and another
of the Prince of Wales, and a representation of the death of Wolfe.
All this is visible to you by the light of an oil lamp hanging from the ceiling, and
by that of an excellent fire, near which I sit in my cloak and bonnet; my muff and
umbrella lie on the table, and I am warming
away the numbness and chill contracted by sixteen hours' exposure to the rawness of
an October day: I left Lowton at four o'clock a.m., and the Millcote town clock
is now just striking eight.
Reader, though I look comfortably accommodated, I am not very tranquil in my
mind.
I thought when the coach stopped here there would be some one to meet me; I looked
anxiously round as I descended the wooden steps the "boots" placed for my
convenience, expecting to hear my name
pronounced, and to see some description of carriage waiting to convey me to
Thornfield.
Nothing of the sort was visible; and when I asked a waiter if any one had been to
inquire after a Miss Eyre, I was answered in the negative: so I had no resource but
to request to be shown into a private room:
and here I am waiting, while all sorts of doubts and fears are troubling my thoughts.
It is a very strange sensation to inexperienced youth to feel itself quite
alone in the world, cut adrift from every connection, uncertain whether the port to
which it is bound can be reached, and
prevented by many impediments from returning to that it has quitted.
The charm of adventure sweetens that sensation, the glow of pride warms it; but
then the throb of fear disturbs it; and fear with me became predominant when half-
an-hour elapsed and still I was alone.
I bethought myself to ring the bell. "Is there a place in this neighbourhood
called Thornfield?" I asked of the waiter who answered the
summons.
"Thornfield? I don't know, ma'am; I'll inquire at the
bar." He vanished, but reappeared instantly--
"Is your name Eyre, Miss?"
"Yes." "Person here waiting for you."
I jumped up, took my muff and umbrella, and hastened into the inn-passage: a man was
standing by the open door, and in the lamp- lit street I dimly saw a one-horse
conveyance.
"This will be your luggage, I suppose?" said the man rather abruptly when he saw
me, pointing to my trunk in the passage. "Yes."
He hoisted it on to the vehicle, which was a sort of car, and then I got in; before he
shut me up, I asked him how far it was to Thornfield.
"A matter of six miles."
"How long shall we be before we get there?" "Happen an hour and a half."
He fastened the car door, climbed to his own seat outside, and we set off.
Our progress was leisurely, and gave me ample time to reflect; I was content to be
at length so near the end of my journey; and as I leaned back in the comfortable
though not elegant conveyance, I meditated much at my ease.
"I suppose," thought I, "judging from the plainness of the servant and carriage, Mrs.
Fairfax is not a very dashing person: so much the better; I never lived amongst fine
people but once, and I was very miserable with them.
I wonder if she lives alone except this little girl; if so, and if she is in any
degree amiable, I shall surely be able to get on with her; I will do my best; it is a
pity that doing one's best does not always answer.
At Lowood, indeed, I took that resolution, kept it, and succeeded in pleasing; but
with Mrs. Reed, I remember my best was always spurned with scorn.
I pray God Mrs. Fairfax may not turn out a second Mrs. Reed; but if she does, I am not
bound to stay with her! let the worst come to the worst, I can advertise again.
How far are we on our road now, I wonder?"
I let down the window and looked out; Millcote was behind us; judging by the
number of its lights, it seemed a place of considerable magnitude, much larger than
Lowton.
We were now, as far as I could see, on a sort of common; but there were houses
scattered all over the district; I felt we were in a different region to Lowood, more
populous, less picturesque; more stirring, less romantic.
The roads were heavy, the night misty; my conductor let his horse walk all the way,
and the hour and a half extended, I verily believe, to two hours; at last he turned in
his seat and said--
"You're noan so far fro' Thornfield now."
Again I looked out: we were passing a church; I saw its low broad tower against
the sky, and its bell was tolling a quarter; I saw a narrow galaxy of lights
too, on a hillside, marking a village or hamlet.
About ten minutes after, the driver got down and opened a pair of gates: we passed
through, and they clashed to behind us.
We now slowly ascended a drive, and came upon the long front of a house: candlelight
gleamed from one curtained bow-window; all the rest were dark.
The car stopped at the front door; it was opened by a maid-servant; I alighted and
went in.
"Will you walk this way, ma'am?" said the girl; and I followed her across a square
hall with high doors all round: she ushered me into a room whose double illumination of
fire and candle at first dazzled me,
contrasting as it did with the darkness to which my eyes had been for two hours
inured; when I could see, however, a cosy and agreeable picture presented itself to
my view.
A snug small room; a round table by a cheerful fire; an arm-chair high- backed
and old-fashioned, wherein sat the neatest imaginable little elderly lady, in widow's
cap, black silk gown, and snowy muslin
apron; exactly like what I had fancied Mrs. Fairfax, only less stately and milder
looking.
She was occupied in knitting; a large cat sat demurely at her feet; nothing in short
was wanting to complete the beau-ideal of domestic comfort.
A more reassuring introduction for a new governess could scarcely be conceived;
there was no grandeur to overwhelm, no stateliness to embarrass; and then, as I
entered, the old lady got up and promptly and kindly came forward to meet me.
"How do you do, my dear?
I am afraid you have had a tedious ride; John drives so slowly; you must be cold,
come to the fire." "Mrs. Fairfax, I suppose?" said I.
"Yes, you are right: do sit down."
She conducted me to her own chair, and then began to remove my shawl and untie my
bonnet-strings; I begged she would not give herself so much trouble.
"Oh, it is no trouble; I dare say your own hands are almost numbed with cold.
Leah, make a little hot negus and cut a sandwich or two: here are the keys of the
storeroom."
And she produced from her pocket a most housewifely bunch of keys, and delivered
them to the servant. "Now, then, draw nearer to the fire," she
continued.
"You've brought your luggage with you, haven't you, my dear?"
"Yes, ma'am." "I'll see it carried into your room," she
said, and bustled out.
"She treats me like a visitor," thought I.
"I little expected such a reception; I anticipated only coldness and stiffness:
this is not like what I have heard of the treatment of governesses; but I must not
exult too soon."
She returned; with her own hands cleared her knitting apparatus and a book or two
from the table, to make room for the tray which Leah now brought, and then herself
handed me the refreshments.
I felt rather confused at being the object of more attention than I had ever before
received, and, that too, shown by my employer and superior; but as she did not
herself seem to consider she was doing
anything out of her place, I thought it better to take her civilities quietly.
"Shall I have the pleasure of seeing Miss Fairfax to-night?"
I asked, when I had partaken of what she offered me.
"What did you say, my dear? I am a little deaf," returned the good
lady, approaching her ear to my mouth.
I repeated the question more distinctly. "Miss Fairfax?
Oh, you mean Miss Varens! Varens is the name of your future pupil."
"Indeed!
Then she is not your daughter?" "No,--I have no family."
I should have followed up my first inquiry, by asking in what way Miss Varens was
connected with her; but I recollected it was not polite to ask too many questions:
besides, I was sure to hear in time.
"I am so glad," she continued, as she sat down opposite to me, and took the cat on
her knee; "I am so glad you are come; it will be quite pleasant living here now with
a companion.
To be sure it is pleasant at any time; for Thornfield is a fine old hall, rather
neglected of late years perhaps, but still it is a respectable place; yet you know in
winter-time one feels dreary quite alone in the best quarters.
I say alone--Leah is a nice girl to be sure, and John and his wife are very decent
people; but then you see they are only servants, and one can't converse with them
on terms of equality: one must keep them at
due distance, for fear of losing one's authority.
I'm sure last winter (it was a very severe one, if you recollect, and when it did not
snow, it rained and blew), not a creature but the butcher and postman came to the
house, from November till February; and I
really got quite melancholy with sitting night after night alone; I had Leah in to
read to me sometimes; but I don't think the poor girl liked the task much: she felt it
confining.
In spring and summer one got on better: sunshine and long days make such a
difference; and then, just at the commencement of this autumn, little Adela
Varens came and her nurse: a child makes a
house alive all at once; and now you are here I shall be quite gay."
My heart really warmed to the worthy lady as I heard her talk; and I drew my chair a
little nearer to her, and expressed my sincere wish that she might find my company
as agreeable as she anticipated.
"But I'll not keep you sitting up late to- night," said she; "it is on the stroke of
twelve now, and you have been travelling all day: you must feel tired.
If you have got your feet well warmed, I'll show you your bedroom.
I've had the room next to mine prepared for you; it is only a small apartment, but I
thought you would like it better than one of the large front chambers: to be sure
they have finer furniture, but they are so
dreary and solitary, I never sleep in them myself."
I thanked her for her considerate choice, and as I really felt fatigued with my long
journey, expressed my readiness to retire.
She took her candle, and I followed her from the room.
First she went to see if the hall-door was fastened; having taken the key from the
lock, she led the way upstairs.
The steps and banisters were of oak; the staircase window was high and latticed;
both it and the long gallery into which the bedroom doors opened looked as if they
belonged to a church rather than a house.
A very chill and vault-like air pervaded the stairs and gallery, suggesting
cheerless ideas of space and solitude; and I was glad, when finally ushered into my
chamber, to find it of small dimensions, and furnished in ordinary, modern style.
When Mrs. Fairfax had bidden me a kind good-night, and I had fastened my door,
gazed leisurely round, and in some measure effaced the eerie impression made by that
wide hall, that dark and spacious
staircase, and that long, cold gallery, by the livelier aspect of my little room, I
remembered that, after a day of bodily fatigue and mental anxiety, I was now at
last in safe haven.
The impulse of gratitude swelled my heart, and I knelt down at the bedside, and
offered up thanks where thanks were due; not forgetting, ere I rose, to implore aid
on my further path, and the power of
meriting the kindness which seemed so frankly offered me before it was earned.
My couch had no thorns in it that night; my solitary room no fears.
At once weary and content, I slept soon and soundly: when I awoke it was broad day.
The chamber looked such a bright little place to me as the sun shone in between the
gay blue chintz window curtains, showing papered walls and a carpeted floor, so
unlike the bare planks and stained plaster
of Lowood, that my spirits rose at the view.
Externals have a great effect on the young: I thought that a fairer era of life was
beginning for me, one that was to have its flowers and pleasures, as well as its
thorns and toils.
My faculties, roused by the change of scene, the new field offered to hope,
seemed all astir.
I cannot precisely define what they expected, but it was something pleasant:
not perhaps that day or that month, but at an indefinite future period.
I rose; I dressed myself with care: obliged to be plain--for I had no article of attire
that was not made with extreme simplicity-- I was still by nature solicitous to be
neat.
It was not my habit to be disregardful of appearance or careless of the impression I
made: on the contrary, I ever wished to look as well as I could, and to please as
much as my want of beauty would permit.
I sometimes regretted that I was not handsomer; I sometimes wished to have rosy
cheeks, a straight nose, and small cherry mouth; I desired to be tall, stately, and
finely developed in figure; I felt it a
misfortune that I was so little, so pale, and had features so irregular and so
marked. And why had I these aspirations and these
regrets?
It would be difficult to say: I could not then distinctly say it to myself; yet I had
a reason, and a logical, natural reason too.
However, when I had brushed my hair very smooth, and put on my black frock--which,
Quakerlike as it was, at least had the merit of fitting to a nicety--and adjusted
my clean white tucker, I thought I should
do respectably enough to appear before Mrs. Fairfax, and that my new pupil would not at
least recoil from me with antipathy.
Having opened my chamber window, and seen that I left all things straight and neat on
the toilet table, I ventured forth.
Traversing the long and matted gallery, I descended the slippery steps of oak; then I
gained the hall: I halted there a minute; I looked at some pictures on the walls (one,
I remember, represented a grim man in a
cuirass, and one a lady with powdered hair and a pearl necklace), at a bronze lamp
pendent from the ceiling, at a great clock whose case was of oak curiously carved, and
ebon black with time and rubbing.
Everything appeared very stately and imposing to me; but then I was so little
accustomed to grandeur. The hall-door, which was half of glass,
stood open; I stepped over the threshold.
It was a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and
still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I looked up and surveyed the front of
the mansion.
It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a
gentleman's manor-house, not a nobleman's seat: battlements round the top gave it a
picturesque look.
Its grey front stood out well from the background of a rookery, whose cawing
tenants were now on the wing: they flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a
great meadow, from which these were
separated by a sunk fence, and where an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong,
knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion's
designation.
Farther off were hills: not so lofty as those round Lowood, nor so craggy, nor so
like barriers of separation from the living world; but yet quiet and lonely hills
enough, and seeming to embrace Thornfield
with a seclusion I had not expected to find existent so near the stirring locality of
Millcote.
A little hamlet, whose roofs were blent with trees, straggled up the side of one of
these hills; the church of the district stood nearer Thornfield: its old tower-top
looked over a knoll between the house and gates.
I was yet enjoying the calm prospect and pleasant fresh air, yet listening with
delight to the cawing of the rooks, yet surveying the wide, hoary front of the
hall, and thinking what a great place it
was for one lonely little dame like Mrs. Fairfax to inhabit, when that lady appeared
at the door. "What! out already?" said she.
"I see you are an early riser."
I went up to her, and was received with an affable kiss and shake of the hand.
"How do you like Thornfield?" she asked. I told her I liked it very much.
"Yes," she said, "it is a pretty place; but I fear it will be getting out of order,
unless Mr. Rochester should take it into his head to come and reside here
permanently; or, at least, visit it rather
oftener: great houses and fine grounds require the presence of the proprietor."
"Mr. Rochester!" I exclaimed.
"Who is he?"
"The owner of Thornfield," she responded quietly.
"Did you not know he was called Rochester?"
Of course I did not--I had never heard of him before; but the old lady seemed to
regard his existence as a universally understood fact, with which everybody must
be acquainted by instinct.
"I thought," I continued, "Thornfield belonged to you."
"To me? Bless you, child; what an idea!
To me!
I am only the housekeeper--the manager.
To be sure I am distantly related to the Rochesters by the mother's side, or at
least my husband was; he was a clergyman, incumbent of Hay--that little village
yonder on the hill--and that church near the gates was his.
The present Mr. Rochester's mother was a Fairfax, and second cousin to my husband:
but I never presume on the connection--in fact, it is nothing to me; I consider
myself quite in the light of an ordinary
housekeeper: my employer is always civil, and I expect nothing more."
"And the little girl--my pupil!"
"She is Mr. Rochester's ward; he commissioned me to find a governess for
her. He intended to have her brought up in ---
shire, I believe.
Here she comes, with her 'bonne,' as she calls her nurse."
The enigma then was explained: this affable and kind little widow was no great dame;
but a dependant like myself.
I did not like her the worse for that; on the contrary, I felt better pleased than
ever.
The equality between her and me was real; not the mere result of condescension on her
part: so much the better--my position was all the freer.
As I was meditating on this discovery, a little girl, followed by her attendant,
came running up the lawn.
I looked at my pupil, who did not at first appear to notice me: she was quite a child,
perhaps seven or eight years old, slightly built, with a pale, small-featured face,
and a redundancy of hair falling in curls to her waist.
"Good morning, Miss Adela," said Mrs. Fairfax.
"Come and speak to the lady who is to teach you, and to make you a clever woman some
day." She approached.
"C'est la ma gouverante!" said she, pointing to me, and addressing her nurse;
who answered-- "Mais oui, certainement."
"Are they foreigners?"
I inquired, amazed at hearing the French language.
"The nurse is a foreigner, and Adela was born on the Continent; and, I believe,
never left it till within six months ago.
When she first came here she could speak no English; now she can make shift to talk it
a little: I don't understand her, she mixes it so with French; but you will make out
her meaning very well, I dare say."
Fortunately I had had the advantage of being taught French by a French lady; and
as I had always made a point of conversing with Madame Pierrot as often as I could,
and had besides, during the last seven
years, learnt a portion of French by heart daily--applying myself to take pains with
my accent, and imitating as closely as possible the pronunciation of my teacher, I
had acquired a certain degree of readiness
and correctness in the language, and was not likely to be much at a loss with
Mademoiselle Adela.
She came and shook hand with me when she heard that I was her governess; and as I
led her in to breakfast, I addressed some phrases to her in her own tongue: she
replied briefly at first, but after we were
seated at the table, and she had examined me some ten minutes with her large hazel
eyes, she suddenly commenced chattering fluently.
"Ah!" cried she, in French, "you speak my language as well as Mr. Rochester does: I
can talk to you as I can to him, and so can Sophie.
She will be glad: nobody here understands her: Madame Fairfax is all English.
Sophie is my nurse; she came with me over the sea in a great ship with a chimney that
smoked--how it did smoke!--and I was sick, and so was Sophie, and so was Mr.
Rochester.
Mr. Rochester lay down on a sofa in a pretty room called the salon, and Sophie
and I had little beds in another place. I nearly fell out of mine; it was like a
shelf.
And Mademoiselle--what is your name?" "Eyre--Jane Eyre."
"Aire? Bah! I cannot say it.
Well, our ship stopped in the morning, before it was quite daylight, at a great
city--a huge city, with very dark houses and all smoky; not at all like the pretty
clean town I came from; and Mr. Rochester
carried me in his arms over a plank to the land, and Sophie came after, and we all got
into a coach, which took us to a beautiful large house, larger than this and finer,
called an hotel.
We stayed there nearly a week: I and Sophie used to walk every day in a great green
place full of trees, called the Park; and there were many children there besides me,
and a pond with beautiful birds in it, that I fed with crumbs."
"Can you understand her when she runs on so fast?" asked Mrs. Fairfax.
I understood her very well, for I had been accustomed to the fluent tongue of Madame
Pierrot.
"I wish," continued the good lady, "you would ask her a question or two about her
parents: I wonder if she remembers them?"
"Adele," I inquired, "with whom did you live when you were in that pretty clean
town you spoke of?" "I lived long ago with mama; but she is
gone to the Holy Virgin.
Mama used to teach me to dance and sing, and to say verses.
A great many gentlemen and ladies came to see mama, and I used to dance before them,
or to sit on their knees and sing to them: I liked it.
Shall I let you hear me sing now?"
She had finished her breakfast, so I permitted her to give a specimen of her
accomplishments.
Descending from her chair, she came and placed herself on my knee; then, folding
her little hands demurely before her, shaking back her curls and lifting her eyes
to the ceiling, she commenced singing a song from some opera.
It was the strain of a forsaken lady, who, after bewailing the perfidy of her lover,
calls pride to her aid; desires her attendant to deck her in her brightest
jewels and richest robes, and resolves to
meet the false one that night at a ball, and prove to him, by the gaiety of her
demeanour, how little his desertion has affected her.
The subject seemed strangely chosen for an infant singer; but I suppose the point of
the exhibition lay in hearing the notes of love and jealousy warbled with the lisp of
childhood; and in very bad taste that point was: at least I thought so.
Adele sang the canzonette tunefully enough, and with the naivete of her age.
This achieved, she jumped from my knee and said, "Now, Mademoiselle, I will repeat you
some poetry." Assuming an attitude, she began, "La Ligue
des Rats: fable de La Fontaine."
She then declaimed the little piece with an attention to punctuation and emphasis, a
flexibility of voice and an appropriateness of gesture, very unusual indeed at her age,
and which proved she had been carefully trained.
"Was it your mama who taught you that piece?"
I asked.
"Yes, and she just used to say it in this way: 'Qu' avez vous donc? lui dit un de ces
rats; parlez!' She made me lift my hand--so--to remind me
to raise my voice at the question.
Now shall I dance for you?" "No, that will do: but after your mama went
to the Holy Virgin, as you say, with whom did you live then?"
"With Madame Frederic and her husband: she took care of me, but she is nothing related
to me. I think she is poor, for she had not so
fine a house as mama.
I was not long there.
Mr. Rochester asked me if I would like to go and live with him in England, and I said
yes; for I knew Mr. Rochester before I knew Madame Frederic, and he was always kind to
me and gave me pretty dresses and toys: but
you see he has not kept his word, for he has brought me to England, and now he is
gone back again himself, and I never see him."
After breakfast, Adele and I withdrew to the library, which room, it appears, Mr.
Rochester had directed should be used as the schoolroom.
Most of the books were locked up behind glass doors; but there was one bookcase
left open containing everything that could be needed in the way of elementary works,
and several volumes of light literature,
poetry, biography, travels, a few romances, &c.
I suppose he had considered that these were all the governess would require for her
private perusal; and, indeed, they contented me amply for the present;
compared with the scanty pickings I had now
and then been able to glean at Lowood, they seemed to offer an abundant harvest of
entertainment and information.
In this room, too, there was a cabinet piano, quite new and of superior tone; also
an easel for painting and a pair of globes.
I found my pupil sufficiently docile, though disinclined to apply: she had not
been used to regular occupation of any kind.
I felt it would be injudicious to confine her too much at first; so, when I had
talked to her a great deal, and got her to learn a little, and when the morning had
advanced to noon, I allowed her to return to her nurse.
I then proposed to occupy myself till dinner-time in drawing some little sketches
for her use.
As I was going upstairs to fetch my portfolio and pencils, Mrs. Fairfax called
to me: "Your morning school-hours are over now, I suppose," said she.
She was in a room the folding-doors of which stood open: I went in when she
addressed me.
It was a large, stately apartment, with purple chairs and curtains, a Turkey
carpet, walnut-panelled walls, one vast window rich in slanted glass, and a lofty
ceiling, nobly moulded.
Mrs. Fairfax was dusting some vases of fine purple spar, which stood on a sideboard.
"What a beautiful room!" I exclaimed, as I looked round; for I had
never before seen any half so imposing.
"Yes; this is the dining-room.
I have just opened the window, to let in a little air and sunshine; for everything
gets so damp in apartments that are seldom inhabited; the drawing-room yonder feels
like a vault."
She pointed to a wide arch corresponding to the window, and hung like it with a Tyrian-
dyed curtain, now looped up.
Mounting to it by two broad steps, and looking through, I thought I caught a
glimpse of a fairy place, so bright to my novice-eyes appeared the view beyond.
Yet it was merely a very pretty drawing- room, and within it a boudoir, both spread
with white carpets, on which seemed laid brilliant garlands of flowers; both ceiled
with snowy mouldings of white grapes and
vine-leaves, beneath which glowed in rich contrast crimson couches and ottomans;
while the ornaments on the pale Parian mantelpiece were of sparkling Bohemian
glass, ruby red; and between the windows
large mirrors repeated the general blending of snow and fire.
"In what order you keep these rooms, Mrs. Fairfax!" said I.
"No dust, no canvas coverings: except that the air feels chilly, one would think they
were inhabited daily."
"Why, Miss Eyre, though Mr. Rochester's visits here are rare, they are always
sudden and unexpected; and as I observed that it put him out to find everything
swathed up, and to have a bustle of
arrangement on his arrival, I thought it best to keep the rooms in readiness."
"Is Mr. Rochester an exacting, fastidious sort of man?"
"Not particularly so; but he has a gentleman's tastes and habits, and he
expects to have things managed in conformity to them."
"Do you like him?
Is he generally liked?" "Oh, yes; the family have always been
respected here.
Almost all the land in this neighbourhood, as far as you can see, has belonged to the
Rochesters time out of mind." "Well, but, leaving his land out of the
question, do you like him?
Is he liked for himself?" "I have no cause to do otherwise than like
him; and I believe he is considered a just and liberal landlord by his tenants: but he
has never lived much amongst them."
"But has he no peculiarities? What, in short, is his character?"
"Oh! his character is unimpeachable, I suppose.
He is rather peculiar, perhaps: he has travelled a great deal, and seen a great
deal of the world, I should think. I dare say he is clever, but I never had
much conversation with him."
"In what way is he peculiar?"
"I don't know--it is not easy to describe-- nothing striking, but you feel it when he
speaks to you; you cannot be always sure whether he is in jest or earnest, whether
he is pleased or the contrary; you don't
thoroughly understand him, in short--at least, I don't: but it is of no
consequence, he is a very good master." This was all the account I got from Mrs.
Fairfax of her employer and mine.
There are people who seem to have no notion of sketching a character, or observing and
describing salient points, either in persons or things: the good lady evidently
belonged to this class; my queries puzzled, but did not draw her out.
Mr. Rochester was Mr. Rochester in her eyes; a gentleman, a landed proprietor--
nothing more: she inquired and searched no further, and evidently wondered at my wish
to gain a more definite notion of his identity.
When we left the dining-room, she proposed to show me over the rest of the house; and
I followed her upstairs and downstairs, admiring as I went; for all was well
arranged and handsome.
The large front chambers I thought especially grand: and some of the third-
storey rooms, though dark and low, were interesting from their air of antiquity.
The furniture once appropriated to the lower apartments had from time to time been
removed here, as fashions changed: and the imperfect light entering by their narrow
casement showed bedsteads of a hundred
years old; chests in oak or walnut, looking, with their strange carvings of
palm branches and cherubs' heads, like types of the Hebrew ark; rows of venerable
chairs, high-backed and narrow; stools
still more antiquated, on whose cushioned tops were yet apparent traces of half-
effaced embroideries, wrought by fingers that for two generations had been coffin-
dust.
All these relics gave to the third storey of Thornfield Hall the aspect of a home of
the past: a shrine of memory.
I liked the hush, the gloom, the quaintness of these retreats in the day; but I by no
means coveted a night's repose on one of those wide and heavy beds: shut in, some of
them, with doors of oak; shaded, others,
with wrought old English hangings crusted with thick work, portraying effigies of
strange flowers, and stranger birds, and strangest human beings,--all which would
have looked strange, indeed, by the pallid gleam of moonlight.
"Do the servants sleep in these rooms?" I asked.
"No; they occupy a range of smaller apartments to the back; no one ever sleeps
here: one would almost say that, if there were a ghost at Thornfield Hall, this would
be its haunt."
"So I think: you have no ghost, then?" "None that I ever heard of," returned Mrs.
Fairfax, smiling. "Nor any traditions of one? no legends or
ghost stories?"
"I believe not. And yet it is said the Rochesters have been
rather a violent than a quiet race in their time: perhaps, though, that is the reason
they rest tranquilly in their graves now."
"Yes--'after life's fitful fever they sleep well,'" I muttered.
"Where are you going now, Mrs. Fairfax?" for she was moving away.
"On to the leads; will you come and see the view from thence?"
I followed still, up a very narrow staircase to the attics, and thence by a
ladder and through a trap-door to the roof of the hall.
I was now on a level with the crow colony, and could see into their nests.
Leaning over the battlements and looking far down, I surveyed the grounds laid out
like a map: the bright and velvet lawn closely girdling the grey base of the
mansion; the field, wide as a park, dotted
with its ancient timber; the wood, dun and sere, divided by a path visibly overgrown,
greener with moss than the trees were with foliage; the church at the gates, the road,
the tranquil hills, all reposing in the
autumn day's sun; the horizon bounded by a propitious sky, azure, marbled with pearly
white. No feature in the scene was extraordinary,
but all was pleasing.
When I turned from it and repassed the trap-door, I could scarcely see my way down
the ladder; the attic seemed black as a vault compared with that arch of blue air
to which I had been looking up, and to that
sunlit scene of grove, pasture, and green hill, of which the hall was the centre, and
over which I had been gazing with delight.
Mrs. Fairfax stayed behind a moment to fasten the trap-door; I, by drift of
groping, found the outlet from the attic, and proceeded to descend the narrow garret
staircase.
I lingered in the long passage to which this led, separating the front and back
rooms of the third storey: narrow, low, and dim, with only one little window at the far
end, and looking, with its two rows of
small black doors all shut, like a corridor in some Bluebeard's castle.
While I paced softly on, the last sound I expected to hear in so still a region, a
laugh, struck my ear.
It was a curious laugh; distinct, formal, mirthless.
I stopped: the sound ceased, only for an instant; it began again, louder: for at
first, though distinct, it was very low.
It passed off in a clamorous peal that seemed to wake an echo in every lonely
chamber; though it originated but in one, and I could have pointed out the door
whence the accents issued.
"Mrs. Fairfax!" I called out: for I now heard her
descending the great stairs. "Did you hear that loud laugh?
Who is it?"
"Some of the servants, very likely," she answered: "perhaps Grace Poole."
"Did you hear it?" I again inquired.
"Yes, plainly: I often hear her: she sews in one of these rooms.
Sometimes Leah is with her; they are frequently noisy together."
The laugh was repeated in its low, syllabic tone, and terminated in an odd murmur.
"Grace!" exclaimed Mrs. Fairfax.
I really did not expect any Grace to answer; for the laugh was as tragic, as
preternatural a laugh as any I ever heard; and, but that it was high noon, and that no
circumstance of ghostliness accompanied the
curious cachinnation; but that neither scene nor season favoured fear, I should
have been superstitiously afraid. However, the event showed me I was a fool
for entertaining a sense even of surprise.
The door nearest me opened, and a servant came out,--a woman of between thirty and
forty; a set, square-made figure, red- haired, and with a hard, plain face: any
apparition less romantic or less ghostly could scarcely be conceived.
"Too much noise, Grace," said Mrs. Fairfax. "Remember directions!"
Grace curtseyed silently and went in.
"She is a person we have to sew and assist Leah in her housemaid's work," continued
the widow; "not altogether unobjectionable in some points, but she does well enough.
By-the-bye, how have you got on with your new pupil this morning?"
The conversation, thus turned on Adele, continued till we reached the light and
cheerful region below.
Adele came running to meet us in the hall, exclaiming--
"Mesdames, vous etes servies!" adding, "J'ai bien faim, moi!"
We found dinner ready, and waiting for us in Mrs. Fairfax's room.
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Part 2 - Jane Eyre Audiobook by Charlotte Bronte (Chs 07-11)

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nannan published on May 6, 2016
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