- THERE was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been
wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning;
but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early)
the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a
rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of
- I was glad of it: I never liked long walks, especially on chilly
afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight,
with nipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings
of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my
physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed.
- The said Eliza, John, and Georgiana were now clustered round their
mama in the drawing-room: she lay reclined on a sofa by the
fireside, and with her darlings about her (for the time neither
quarrelling nor crying) looked perfectly happy. Me, she had
dispensed from joining the group; saying, "She regretted to be under
the necessity of keeping me at a distance; but that until she heard
from Bessie, and could discover by her own observation, that I was
endeavouring in good earnest to acquire a more sociable and
childlike disposition, a more attractive and sprightly manner --
something lighter, franker, more natural, as it were -- she really
must exclude me from privileges intended only for contented, happy,
- "What does Bessie say I have done?" I asked.
- "Jane, I don't like cavillers or questioners; besides, there is
something truly forbidding in a child taking up her elders in that
manner. Be seated somewhere; and until you can speak pleasantly,
- A small breakfast-room adjoined the drawing-room, I slipped in there. It
contained a bookcase: I soon possessed myself of a volume, taking
care that it should be one stored with pictures. I mounted into the
window-seat: gathering up my feet, I sat cross-legged, like a Turk;
and, having drawn the red moreen curtain nearly close, I was shrined
in double retirement.
- Folds of scarlet drapery shut in my view to the right hand; to the
left were the clear panes of glass, protecting, but not separating
me from the drear November day. At intervals, while turning over
the leaves of my book, I studied the aspect of that winter
afternoon. Afar, it offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; near a
scene of wet lawn and storm-beat shrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping
away wildly before a long and lamentable blast.
- I returned to my book -- Bewick's History of British Birds: the
letterpress thereof I cared little for, generally speaking; and yet
there were certain introductory pages that, child as I was, I could
not pass quite as a blank. They were those which treat of the
haunts of sea-fowl; of "the solitary rocks and promontories" by them
only inhabited; of the coast of Norway, studded with isles from its
southern extremity, the Lindeness, or Naze, to the North Cape --
- 'Where the Northern Ocean, in vast whirls,
- Boils round the naked, melancholy isles
- Of farthest Thule; and the Atlantic surge
- Pours in among the stormy Hebrides.'
Nor could I pass unnoticed the suggestion of the bleak shores of
Lapland, Siberia, Spitzbergen, Nova Zembla, Iceland, Greenland, with
"the vast sweep of the Arctic Zone, and those forlorn regions of
dreary space, -- that reservoir of frost and snow, where firm fields
of ice, the accumulation of centuries of winters, glazed in Alpine
heights above heights, surround the pole, and concentre the
multiplied rigours of extreme cold." Of these death-white realms I
formed an idea of my own: shadowy, like all the half-comprehended
notions that float dim through children's brains, but strangely
impressive. The words in these introductory pages connected
themselves with the succeeding vignettes, and gave significance to
the rock standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray; to the
broken boat stranded on a desolate coast; to the cold and ghastly
moon glancing through bars of cloud at a wreck just sinking.
- I cannot tell what sentiment haunted the quite solitary churchyard,
with its inscribed headstone; its gate, its two trees, its low
horizon, girdled by a broken wall, and its newly-risen crescent,
attesting the hour of eventide.
- The two ships becalmed on a torpid sea, I believed to be marine
- The fiend pinning down the thief's pack behind him, I passed over
quickly: it was an object of terror.
- So was the black horned thing seated aloof on a rock, surveying a
distant crowd surrounding a gallows.
- Each picture told a story; mysterious often to my undeveloped
understanding and imperfect feelings, yet ever profoundly
interesting: as interesting as the tales Bessie sometimes narrated
on winter evenings, when she chanced to be in good humour; and when,
having brought her ironing-table to the nursery hearth, she allowed
us to sit about it, and while she got up Mrs. Reed's lace frills,
and crimped her nightcap borders, fed our eager attention with
passages of love and adventure taken from old fairy tales and other
ballads; or (as at a later period I discovered) from the pages of
Pamela, and Henry, Earl of Moreland.
- With Bewick on my knee, I was then happy: happy at least in my way.
I feared nothing but interruption, and that came too soon. The
breakfast-room door opened.
- "Boh! Madam Mope!" cried the voice of John Reed; then he paused:
he found the room apparently empty.
- "Where the dickens is she!" he continued. "Lizzy! Georgy! (calling
to his sisters) Joan is not here: tell mama she is run out into the
rain -- bad animal!"
- "It is well I drew the curtain," thought I; and I wished fervently
he might not discover my hiding-place: nor would John Reed have
found it out himself; he was not quick either of vision or
conception; but Eliza just put her head in at the door, and said at
- "She is in the window-seat, to be sure, Jack."
- And I came out immediately, for I trembled at the idea of being
dragged forth by the said Jack.
- "What do you want?" I asked, with awkward diffidence.
- "Say, 'What do you want, Master Reed?'" was the answer. "I want you
to come here;" and seating himself in an arm-chair, he intimated by
a gesture that I was to approach and stand before him.
- John Reed was a schoolboy of fourteen years old; four years older
than I, for I was but ten: large and stout for his age, with a
dingy and unwholesome skin; thick lineaments in a spacious visage,
heavy limbs and large extremities. He gorged himself habitually at
table, which made him bilious, and gave him a dim and bleared eye
and flabby cheeks. He ought now to have been at school; but his
mama had taken him home for a month or two, "on account of his
delicate health." Mr. Miles, the master, affirmed that he would do
very well if he had fewer cakes and sweetmeats sent him from home;
but the mother's heart turned from an opinion so harsh, and inclined
rather to the more refined idea that John's sallowness was owing to
over-application and, perhaps, to pining after home.
- John had not much affection for his mother and sisters, and an
antipathy to me. He bullied and punished me; not two or three times
in the week, nor once or twice in the day, but continually: every
nerve I had feared him, and every morsel of flesh in my bones shrank
when he came near. There were moments when I was bewildered by the
terror he inspired, because I had no appeal whatever against either
his menaces or his inflictions; the servants did not like to offend
their young master by taking my part against him, and Mrs. Reed was
blind and deaf on the subject: she never saw him strike or heard
him abuse me, though he did both now and then in her very presence,
more frequently, however, behind her back.
- Habitually obedient to John, I came up to his chair: he spent some
three minutes in thrusting out his tongue at me as far as he could
without damaging the roots: I knew he would soon strike, and while
dreading the blow, I mused on the disgusting and ugly appearance of
him who would presently deal it. I wonder if he read that notion in
my face; for, all at once, without speaking, he struck suddenly and
strongly. I tottered, and on regaining my equilibrium retired back
a step or two from his chair.
- "That is for your impudence in answering mama awhile since," said
he, "and for your sneaking way of getting behind curtains, and for
the look you had in your eyes two minutes since, you rat!"
- Accustomed to John Reed's abuse, I never had an idea of replying to
it; my care was how to endure the blow which would certainly follow
- "What were you doing behind the curtain?" he asked.
- "I was reading."
- "Show the book."
- I returned to the window and fetched it thence.
- "You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent, mama
says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to
beg, and not to live here with gentlemen's children like us, and eat
the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mama's expense. Now,
I'll teach you to rummage my bookshelves: for they aremine; all
the house belongs to me, or will do in a few years. Go and stand by
the door, out of the way of the mirror and the windows."
- I did so, not at first aware what was his intention; but when I saw
him lift and poise the book and stand in act to hurl it, I
instinctively started aside with a cry of alarm: not soon enough,
however; the volume was flung, it hit me, and I fell, striking my
head against the door and cutting it. The cut bled, the pain was
sharp: my terror had passed its climax; other feelings succeeded.
- "Wicked and cruel boy!" I said. "You are like a murderer -- you are
like a slave-driver -- you are like the Roman emperors!"
- I had read Goldsmith's History of Rome, and had formed my opinion of
Nero, Caligula, etc. Also I had drawn parallels in silence, which I
never thought thus to have declared aloud.
- "What! what!" he cried. "Did she say that to me? Did you hear her,
Eliza and Georgiana? Won't I tell mama? but first" --
- He ran headlong at me: I felt him grasp my hair and my shoulder:
he had closed with a desperate thing. I really saw in him a tyrant,
a murderer. I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle down
my neck, and was sensible of somewhat pungent suffering: these
sensations for the time predominated over fear, and I received him
in frantic sort. I don't very well know what I did with my hands,
but he called me "Rat! Rat!" and bellowed out aloud. Aid was near
him: Eliza and Georgiana had run for Mrs. Reed, who was gone
upstairs: she now came upon the scene, followed by Bessie and her
maid Abbot. We were parted: I heard the words: --
- "Dear! dear! What a fury to fly at Master John!"
- "Did ever anybody see such a picture of passion!"
- Then Mrs. Reed subjoined: --
- "Take her away to the red-room, and lock her in there." Four hands
were immediately laid upon me, and I was borne upstairs.
- I RESISTED all the way: a new thing for me, and a circumstance
which greatly strengthened the bad opinion Bessie and Miss Abbot
were disposed to entertain of me. The fact is, I was a trifle
beside myself; or rather out of myself, as the French would say: I
was conscious that a moment's mutiny had already rendered me liable
to strange penalties, and, like any other rebel slave, I felt
resolved, in my desperation, to go all lengths.
- "Hold her arms, Miss Abbot: she's like a mad cat."
- "For shame! for shame!" cried the lady's-maid. "What shocking
conduct, Miss Eyre, to strike a young gentleman, your benefactress's
son! Your young master."
- "Master! How is he my master? Am I a servant?"
- "No; you are less than a servant, for you do nothing for your keep.
There, sit down, and think over your wickedness."
- They had got me by this time into the apartment indicated by Mrs.
Reed, and had thrust me upon a stool: my impulse was to rise from
it like a spring; their two pair of hands arrested me instantly.
- "If you don't sit still, you must be tied down," said Bessie. "Miss
Abbot, lend me your garters; she would break mine directly."
- Miss Abbot turned to divest a stout leg of the necessary ligature.
This preparation for bonds, and the additional ignominy it inferred,
took a little of the excitement out of me.
- "Don't take them off," I cried; "I will not stir."
- In guarantee whereof, I attached myself to my seat by my hands.
- "Mind you don't," said Bessie; and when she had ascertained that I
was really subsiding, she loosened her hold of me; then she and Miss
Abbot stood with folded arms, looking darkly and doubtfully on my
face, as incredulous of my sanity.
- "She never did so before," at last said Bessie, turning to the
- "But it was always in her," was the reply. "I've told Missis often
my opinion about the child, and Missis agreed with me. She's an
underhand little thing: I never saw a girl of her age with so much
- Bessie answered not; but ere long, addressing me, she said, --
ought to be aware, Miss, that you are under obligations to Mrs.
Reed: she keeps you: if she were to turn you off, you would have
to go to the poorhouse."
- I had nothing to say to these words: they were not new to me: my
very first recollections of existence included hints of the same
kind. This reproach of my dependence had become a vague sing-song
in my ear: very painful and crushing, but only half intelligible.
Miss Abbot joined in: --
- "And you ought not to think yourself on an equality with the Misses
Reed and Master Reed, because Missis kindly allows you to be brought
up with them. They will have a great deal of money, and you will
have none: it is your place to be humble, and to try to make
yourself agreeable to them."
- "What we tell you is for your good," added Bessie, in no harsh
voice, "you should try to be useful and pleasant, then, perhaps, you
would have a home here; but if you become passionate and rude,
Missis will send you away, I am sure."
- "Besides," said Miss Abbot, "God will punish her: He might strike
her dead in the midst of her tantrums, and then where would she go?
Come, Bessie, we will leave her: I wouldn't have her heart for
anything. Say your prayers, Miss Eyre, when you are by yourself;
for if you don't repent, something bad might be permitted to come
down the chimney and fetch you away."
- They went, shutting the door, and locking it behind them.
- The red-room was a square chamber, very seldom slept in, I might say
never, indeed, unless when a chance influx of visitors at Gateshead
Hall rendered it necessary to turn to account all the accommodation
it contained: yet it was one of the largest and stateliest chambers
in the mansion. A bed supported on massive pillars of mahogany,
hung with curtains of deep red damask, stood out like a tabernacle
in the centre; the two large windows, with their blinds always drawn
down, were half shrouded in festoons and falls of similar drapery;
the carpet was red; the table at the foot of the bed was covered
with a crimson cloth; the walls were a soft fawn colour with a blush
of pink in it; the wardrobe, the toilet-table, the chairs were of
darkly polished old mahogany. Out of these deep surrounding shades
rose high, and glared white, the piled-up mattresses and pillows of
the bed, spread with a snowy Marseilles counterpane. Scarcely less
prominent was an ample cushioned easy-chair near the head of the
bed, also white, with a footstool before it; and looking, as I
thought, like a pale throne.
- This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire; it was silent,
because remote from the nursery and kitchen; solemn, because it was
known to be so seldom entered. The house-maid alone came here on
Saturdays, to wipe from the mirrors and the furniture a week's quiet
dust: and Mrs. Reed herself, at far intervals, visited it to review
the contents of a certain secret drawer in the wardrobe, where were
stored divers parchments, her jewel-casket, and a miniature of her
deceased husband; and in those last words lies the secret of the
red-room -- the spell which kept it so lonely in spite of its
- Mr. Reed had been dead nine years: it was in this chamber he
breathed his last; here he lay in state; hence his coffin was borne
by the undertaker's men; and, since that day, a sense of dreary
consecration had guarded it from frequent intrusion.
- My seat, to which Bessie and the bitter Miss Abbot had left me
riveted, was a low ottoman near the marble chimney-piece; the bed
rose before me; to my right hand there was the high, dark wardrobe,
with subdued, broken reflections varying the gloss of its panels; to
my left were the muffled windows; a great looking-glass between them
repeated the vacant majesty of the bed and room. I was not quite
sure whether they had locked the door; and when I dared move, I got
up and went to see. Alas! yes: no jail was ever more secure.
Returning, I had to cross before the looking-glass; my fascinated
glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed. All looked
colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality: and the
strange little figure there gazing at me, with a white face and arms
specking the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all
else was still, had the effect of a real spirit: I thought it like
one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp, Bessie's evening
stories represented as coming out of lone, ferny dells in moors, and
appearing before the eyes of belated travellers. I returned to my
- Superstition was with me at that moment; but it was not yet her hour
for complete victory: my blood was still warm; the mood of the
revolted slave was still bracing me with its bitter vigour; I had to
stem a rapid rush of retrospective thought before I quailed to the
- All John Reed's violent tyrannies, all his sisters' proud
indifference, all his mother's aversion, all the servants'
partiality, turned up in my disturbed mind like a dark deposit in a
turbid well. Why was I always suffering, always browbeaten, always
accused, for ever condemned? Why could I never please? Why was it
useless to try to win any one's favour? Eliza, who was headstrong
and selfish, was respected. Georgiana, who had a spoiled temper, a
very acrid spite, a captious and insolent carriage, was universally
indulged. Her beauty, her pink cheeks and golden curls, seemed to
give delight to all who looked at her, and to purchase indemnity for
every fault. John no one thwarted, much less punished; though he
twisted the necks of the pigeons, killed the little pea-chicks, set
the dogs at the sheep, stripped the hothouse vines of their fruit,
and broke the buds off the choicest plants in the conservatory: he
called his mother "old girl," too; sometimes reviled her for her
dark skin, similar to his own; bluntly disregarded her wishes; not
unfrequently tore and spoiled her silk attire; and he was still "her
own darling." I dared commit no fault: I strove to fulfil every
duty; and I was termed naughty and tiresome, sullen and sneaking,
from morning to noon, and from noon to night.
- My head still ached and bled with the blow and fall I had received:
no one had reproved John for wantonly striking me; and because I had
turned against him to avert farther irrational violence, I was
loaded with general opprobrium.
- "Unjust! -- unjust!" said my reason, forced by the agonising stimulus
into precocious though transitory power: and Resolve, equally
wrought up, instigated some strange expedient to achieve escape from
insupportable oppression -- as running away, or, if that could not be
effected, never eating or drinking more, and letting myself die.
- What a consternation of soul was mine that dreary afternoon! How
all my brain was in tumult, and all my heart in insurrection! Yet
in what darkness, what dense ignorance, was the mental battle
fought! I could not answer the ceaseless inward question -- why I
thus suffered; now, at the distance of -- I will not say how many
years, I see it clearly.
- I was a discord in Gateshead Hall: I was like nobody there; I had
nothing in harmony with Mrs. Reed or her children, or her chosen
vassalage. If they did not love me, in fact, as little did I love
them. They were not bound to regard with affection a thing that
could not sympathise with one amongst them; a heterogeneous thing,
opposed to them in temperament, in capacity, in propensities; a
useless thing, incapable of serving their interest, or adding to
their pleasure; a noxious thing, cherishing the germs of indignation
at their treatment, of contempt of their judgment. I know that had
I been a sanguine, brilliant, careless, exacting, handsome, romping
child -- though equally dependent and friendless -- Mrs. Reed would have
endured my presence more complacently; her children would have
entertained for me more of the cordiality of fellow-feeling; the
servants would have been less prone to make me the scapegoat of the
- Daylight began to forsake the red-room; it was past four o'clock,
and the beclouded afternoon was tending to drear twilight. I heard
the rain still beating continuously on the staircase window, and the
wind howling in the grove behind the hall; I grew by degrees cold as
a stone, and then my courage sank. My habitual mood of humiliation,
self-doubt, forlorn depression, fell damp on the embers of my
decaying ire. All said I was wicked, and perhaps I might be so;
what thought had I been but just conceiving of starving myself to
death? That certainly was a crime: and was I fit to die? Or was
the vault under the chancel of Gateshead Church an inviting bourne?
In such vault I had been told did Mr. Reed lie buried; and led by
this thought to recall his idea, I dwelt on it with gathering dread.
I could not remember him; but I knew that he was my own uncle -- my
mother's brother -- that he had taken me when a parentless infant to
his house; and that in his last moments he had required a promise of
Mrs. Reed that she would rear and maintain me as one of her own
children. Mrs. Reed probably considered she had kept this promise;
and so she had, I dare say, as well as her nature would permit her;
but how could she really like an interloper not of her race, and
unconnected with her, after her husband's death, by any tie? It
must have been most irksome to find herself bound by a hard-wrung
pledge to stand in the stead of a parent to a strange child she
could not love, and to see an uncongenial alien permanently intruded
on her own family group.
- A singular notion dawned upon me. I doubted not -- never doubted --
that if Mr. Reed had been alive he would have treated me kindly; and
now, as I sat looking at the white bed and overshadowed walls --
occasionally also turning a fascinated eye towards the dimly
gleaning mirror -- I began to recall what I had heard of dead men,
troubled in their graves by the violation of their last wishes,
revisiting the earth to punish the perjured and avenge the
oppressed; and I thought Mr. Reed's spirit, harassed by the wrongs
of his sister's child, might quit its abode -- whether in the church
vault or in the unknown world of the departed -- and rise before me in
this chamber. I wiped my tears and hushed my sobs, fearful lest any
sign of violent grief might waken a preternatural voice to comfort
me, or elicit from the gloom some haloed face, bending over me with
strange pity. This idea, consolatory in theory, I felt would be
terrible if realised: with all my might I endeavoured to stifle it -- I endeavoured to be firm. Shaking my hair from my eyes, I lifted
my head and tried to look boldly round the dark room; at this moment
a light gleamed on the wall. Was it, I asked myself, a ray from the
moon penetrating some aperture in the blind? No; moonlight was
still, and this stirred; while I gazed, it glided up to the ceiling
and quivered over my head. I can now conjecture readily that this
streak of light was, in all likelihood, a gleam from a lantern
carried by some one across the lawn: but then, prepared as my mind
was for horror, shaken as my nerves were by agitation, I thought the
swift darting beam was a herald of some coming vision from another
world. My heart beat thick, my head grew hot; a sound filled my
ears, which I deemed the rushing of wings; something seemed near me;
I was oppressed, suffocated: endurance broke down; I rushed to the
door and shook the lock in desperate effort. Steps came running
along the outer passage; the key turned, Bessie and Abbot entered.
- "Miss Eyre, are you ill?" said Bessie.
- "What a dreadful noise! it went quite through me!" exclaimed Abbot.
- "Take me out! Let me go into the nursery!" was my cry.
- "What for? Are you hurt? Have you seen something?" again demanded
- "Oh! I saw a light, and I thought a ghost would come." I had now
got hold of Bessie's hand, and she did not snatch it from me.
- "She has screamed out on purpose," declared Abbot, in some disgust.
"And what a scream! If she had been in great pain one would have
excused it, but she only wanted to bring us all here: I know her
- "What is all this?" demanded another voice peremptorily; and Mrs.
Reed came along the corridor, her cap flying wide, her gown rustling
stormily. "Abbot and Bessie, I believe I gave orders that Jane Eyre
should be left in the red-room till I came to her myself."
- "Miss Jane screamed so loud, ma'am," pleaded Bessie.
- "Let her go," was the only answer. "Loose Bessie's hand, child:
you cannot succeed in getting out by these means, be assured. I
abhor artifice, particularly in children; it is my duty to show you
that tricks will not answer: you will now stay here an hour longer,
and it is only on condition of perfect submission and stillness that
I shall liberate you then."
- "O aunt! have pity! Forgive me! I cannot endure it -- let me be
punished some other way! I shall be killed if" ----
- "Silence! This violence is all most repulsive:" and so, no doubt,
she felt it. I was a precocious actress in her eyes; she sincerely
looked on me as a compound of virulent passions, mean spirit, and
- Bessie and Abbot having retreated, Mrs. Reed, impatient of my now
frantic anguish and wild sobs, abruptly thrust me back and locked me
in, without farther parley. I heard her sweeping away; and soon
after she was gone, I suppose I had a species of fit:
unconsciousness closed the scene.
- THE next thing I remember is, waking up with a feeling as if I had
had a frightful nightmare, and seeing before me a terrible red
glare, crossed with thick black bars. I heard voices, too, speaking
with a hollow sound, and as if muffled by a rush of wind or water:
agitation, uncertainty, and an all-predominating sense of terror
confused my faculties. Ere long, I became aware that some one was
handling me; lifting me up and supporting me in a sitting posture,
and that more tenderly than I had ever been raised or upheld before.
I rested my head against a pillow or an arm, and felt easy.
- In five minutes more the cloud of bewilderment dissolved: I knew
quite well that I was in my own bed, and that the red glare was the
nursery fire. It was night: a candle burnt on the table; Bessie
stood at the bed-foot with a basin in her hand, and a gentleman sat
in a chair near my pillow, leaning over me.
- I felt an inexpressible relief, a soothing conviction of protection
and security, when I knew that there was a stranger in the room, an
individual not belonging to Gateshead., and not related to Mrs.
Reed. Turning from Bessie (though her presence was far less
obnoxious to me than that of Abbot, for instance, would have been),
I scrutinised the face of the gentleman: I knew him; it was Mr.
Lloyd, an apothecary, sometimes called in by Mrs. Reed when the
servants were ailing: for herself and the children she employed a
- "Well, who am I?" he asked.
- I pronounced his name, offering him at the same time my hand: he
took it, smiling and saying, "We shall do very well by-and-by."
Then he laid me down, and addressing Bessie, charged her to be very
careful that I was not disturbed during the night. Having given
some further directions, and intimates that he should call again the
next day, he departed; to my grief: I felt so sheltered and
befriended while he sat in the chair near my pillow; and as he
closed the door after him, all the room darkened and my heart again
sank: inexpressible sadness weighed it down.
- "Do you feel as if you should sleep, Miss?" asked Bessie, rather
- Scarcely dared I answer her; for I feared the next sentence might be
rough. "I will try."
- "Would you like to drink, or could you eat anything?"
- "No, thank you, Bessie."
- "Then I think I shall go to bed, for it is past twelve o'clock; but
you may call me if you want anything in the night."
- Wonderful civility this! It emboldened me to ask a question.
- "Bessie, what is the matter with me? Am I ill?"
- "You fell sick, I suppose, in the red-room with crying; you'll be
better soon, no doubt."
- Bessie went into the housemaid's apartment, which was near. I heard
her say --
- "Sarah, come and sleep with me in the nursery; I daren't for my life
be alone with that poor child to-night: she might die; it's such a
strange thing she should have that fit: I wonder if she saw
anything. Missis was rather too hard."
- Sarah came back with her; they both went to bed; they were
whispering together for half-an-hour before they fell asleep. I
caught scraps of their conversation, from which I was able only too
distinctly to infer the main subject discussed.
- "Something passed her, all dressed in white, and vanished" -- "A great
black dog behind him" -- "Three loud raps on the chamber door" -- "A
light in the churchyard just over his grave," etc. etc.
- At last both slept: the fire and the candle went out. For me, the
watches of that long night passed in ghastly wakefulness; strained
by dread: such dread as children only can feel.
- No severe or prolonged bodily illness followed this incident of the
red-room; it only gave my nerves a shock of which I feel the
reverberation to this day. Yes, Mrs. Reed, to you I owe some
fearful pangs of mental suffering, but I ought to forgive you, for
you knew not what you did: while rending my heart-strings, you
thought you were only uprooting my bad propensities.
- Next day, by noon, I was up and dressed, and sat wrapped in a shawl
by the nursery hearth. I felt physically weak and broken down: but
my worse ailment was an unutterable wretchedness of mind: a
wretchedness which kept drawing from me silent tears; no sooner had
I wiped one salt drop from my cheek than another followed. Yet, I
thought, I ought to have been happy, for none of the Reeds were
there, they were all gone out in the carriage with their mama.
Abbot, too, was sewing in another room, and Bessie, as she moved
hither and thither, putting away toys and arranging drawers,
addressed to me every now and then a word of unwonted kindness.
This state of things should have been to me a paradise of peace,
accustomed as I was to a life of ceaseless reprimand and thankless
fagging; but, in fact, my racked nerves were now in such a state
that no calm could soothe, and no pleasure excite them agreeably.
- Bessie had been down into the kitchen, and she brought up with her a
tart on a certain brightly painted china plate, whose bird of
paradise, nestling in a wreath of convolvuli and rosebuds, had been
wont to stir in me a most enthusiastic sense of admiration; and
which plate I had often petitioned to be allowed to take in my hand
in order to examine it more closely, but had always hitherto been
deemed unworthy of such a privilege. This precious vessel was now
placed on my knee, and I was cordially invited to eat the circlet of
delicate pastry upon it. Vain favour! coming, like most other
favours long deferred and often wished for, too late! I could not
eat the tart; and the plumage of the bird, the tints of the flowers,
seemed strangely faded: I put both plate and tart away. Bessie
asked if I would have a book: the word book acted as a transient
stimulus, and I begged her to fetch Gulliver's Travels from the
library. This book I had again and again perused with delight. I
considered it a narrative of facts, and discovered in it a vein of
interest deeper than what I found in fairy tales: for as to the
elves, having sought them in vain among foxglove leaves and bells,
under mushrooms and beneath the ground-ivy mantling old wall-nooks,
I had at length made up my mind to the sad truth, that they were all
gone out of England to some savage country where the woods were
wilder and thicker, and the population more scant; whereas, Lilliput
and Brobdignag being, in my creed, solid parts of the earth's
surface, I doubted not that I might one day, by taking a long
voyage, see with my own eyes the little fields, houses, and trees,
the diminutive people, the tiny cows, sheep, and birds of the one
realm; and the corn-fields forest-high, the mighty mastiffs, the
monster cats, the tower-like men and women, of the other. Yet, when
this cherished volume was now placed in my hand -- when I turned over
its leaves, and sought in its marvellous pictures the charm I had,
till now, never failed to find -- all was eerie and dreary; the giants
were gaunt goblins, the pigmies malevolent and fearful imps,
Gulliver a most desolate wanderer in most dread and dangerous
regions. I closed the book, which I dared no longer peruse, and put
it on the table, beside the untasted tart.
- Bessie had now finished dusting and tidying the room, and having
washed her hands, she opened a certain little drawer, full of
splendid shreds of silk and satin, and began making a new bonnet for
Georgiana's doll. Meantime she sang: her song was --
- 'In the days when we were gipsying,
- A long time ago.'
- I had often heard the song before, and always with lively delight;
for Bessie had a sweet voice, -- at least, I thought so. But now,
though her voice was still sweet, I found in its melody an
indescribable sadness. Sometimes, preoccupied with her work, she
sang the refrain very low, very lingeringly; "A long time ago" came
out like the saddest cadence of a funeral hymn. She passed into
another ballad, this time a really doleful one.
- 'My feet they are sore, and my limbs they are weary;
- Long is the way, and the mountains are wild;
- Soon will the twilight close moonless and dreary
- Over the path of the poor orphan child.
- Why did they send me so far and so lonely,
- Up where the moors spread and grey rocks are piled?
- Men are hard-hearted, and kind angels only
- Watch o'er the steps of a poor orphan child.
- Yet distant and soft the night breeze is blowing,
- Clouds there are none, and clear stars beam mild,
- God, in His mercy, protection is showing,
- Comfort and hope to the poor orphan child.
- Ev'n should I fall o'er the broken bridge passing,
- Or stray in the marshes, by false lights beguiled,
- Still will my Father, with promise and blessing,
- Take to His bosom the poor orphan child.
- There is a thought that for strength should avail me,
- Though both of shelter and kindred despoiled;
- Heaven is a home, and a rest will not fail me;
- God is a friend to the poor orphan child.'
- "Come, Miss Jane, don't cry," said Bessie as she finished. She
might as well have said to the fire, "don't burn!" but how could she
divine the morbid suffering to which I was a prey? In the course of
the morning Mr. Lloyd came again.
- "What, already up!" said he, as he entered the nursery. "Well,
nurse, how is she?"
- Bessie answered that I was doing very well.
- "Then she ought to look more cheerful. Come here, Miss Jane: your
name is Jane, is it not?"
- "Yes, sir, Jane Eyre."
- "Well, you have been crying, Miss Jane Eyre; can you tell me what
about? Have you any pain?"
- "No, sir."
- "Oh! I daresay she is crying because she could not go out with
Missis in the carriage," interposed Bessie.
- "Surely not! why, she is too old for such pettishness."
- I thought so too; and my self-esteem being wounded by the false
charge, I answered promptly, "I never cried for such a thing in my
life: I hate going out in the carriage. I cry because I am
- "Oh fie, Miss!" said Bessie.
- The good apothecary appeared a little puzzled. I was standing
before him; he fixed his eyes on me very steadily: his eyes were
small and grey; not very bright, but I dare say I should think them
shrewd now: he had a hard-featured yet good-natured looking face.
Having considered me at leisure, he said --
- "What made you ill yesterday?"
- "She had a fall," said Bessie, again putting in her word.
- "Fall! why, that is like a baby again! Can't she manage to walk at
her age? She must be eight or nine years old."
- "I was knocked down," was the blunt explanation, jerked out of me by
another pang of mortified pride; "but that did not make me ill," I
added; while Mr. Lloyd helped himself to a pinch of snuff.
- As he was returning the box to his waistcoat pocket, a loud bell
rang for the servants' dinner; he knew what it was. "That's for
you, nurse," said he; "you can go down; I'll give Miss Jane a
lecture till you come back."
- Bessie would rather have stayed, but she was obliged to go, because
punctuality at meals was rigidly enforced at Gateshead Hall.
- "The fall did not make you ill; what did, then?" pursued Mr. Lloyd
when Bessie was gone.
- "I was shut up in a room where there is a ghost till after dark."
- I saw Mr. Lloyd smile and frown at the same time. "Ghost! What, you are a baby after all! You are afraid of ghosts?"
- "Of Mr. Reed's ghost I am: he died in that room, and was laid out
there. Neither Bessie nor any one else will go into it at night, if
they can help it; and it was cruel to shut me up alone without a
candle, -- so cruel that I think I shall never forget it."
- "Nonsense! And is it that makes you so miserable? Are you afraid
now in daylight?"
- "No: but night will come again before long: and besides, -- I am
unhappy, -- very unhappy, for other things."
- "What other things? Can you tell me some of them?"
- How much I wished to reply fully to this question! How difficult it
was to frame any answer! Children can feel, but they cannot analyse
their feelings; and if the analysis is partially effected in
thought, they know not how to express the result of the process in
words. Fearful, however, of losing this first and only opportunity
of relieving my grief by imparting it, I, after a disturbed pause,
contrived to frame a meagre, though, as far as it went, true
- "For one thing, I have no father or mother, brothers or sisters."
- "You have a kind aunt and cousins."
- Again I paused; then bunglingly enounced --
- "But John Reed knocked me down, and my aunt shut me up in the red-room."
- Mr. Lloyd a second time produced his snuff-box.
- "Don't you think Gateshead Hall a very beautiful house?" asked he.
"Are you not very thankful to have such a fine place to live at?"
- "It is not my house, sir; and Abbot says I have less right to be
here than a servant."
- "Pooh! you can't be silly enough to wish to leave such a splendid
- "If I had anywhere else to go, I should be glad to leave it; but I
can never get away from Gateshead till I am a woman."
- "Perhaps you may -- who knows? Have you any relations besides Mrs.
- "I think not, sir."
- "None belonging to your father?"
- "I don't know. I asked Aunt Reed once, and she said possibly I
might have some poor, low relations called Eyre, but she knew
nothing about them."
- "If you had such, would you like to go to them?"
- I reflected. Poverty looks grim to grown people; still more so to
children: they have not much idea of industrious, working,
respectable poverty; they think of the word only as connected with
ragged clothes, scanty food, fireless grates, rude manners, and
debasing vices: poverty for me was synonymous with degradation.
- "No; I should not like to belong to poor people," was my reply.
- "Not even if they were kind to you?"
- I shook my head: I could not see how poor people had the means of
being kind; and then to learn to speak like them, to adopt their
manners, to be uneducated, to grow up like one of the poor women I
saw sometimes nursing their children or washing their clothes at the
cottage doors of the village of Gateshead: no, I was not heroic
enough to purchase liberty at the price of caste.
- "But are your relatives so very poor? Are they working people?"
- "I cannot tell; Aunt. Reed says if I have any, they must be a
beggarly set: I should not like to go a begging."
- "Would you like to go to school?"
- Again I reflected: I scarcely knew what school was: Bessie
sometimes spoke of it as a place where young ladies sat in the
stocks, wore backboards, and were expected to be exceedingly genteel
and precise: John Reed hated his school, and abused his master; but
John Reed's tastes were no rule for mine, and if Bessie's accounts
of school-discipline (gathered from the young ladies of a family
where she had lived before coming to Gateshead) were somewhat
appalling, her details of certain accomplishments attained by these
same young ladies were, I thought, equally attractive. She boasted
of beautiful paintings of landscapes and flowers by them executed;
of songs they could sing and pieces they could play, of purses they
could net, of French books they could translate; till my spirit was
moved to emulation as I listened. Besides, school would be a
complete change: it implied a long journey, an entire separation
from Gateshead, an entrance into a new life.
- "I should indeed like to go to school," was the audible conclusion
of my musings.
- "Well, well! who knows what may happen?" said Mr. Lloyd, as he got
up. "The child ought to have change of air and scene," he added,
speaking to himself; "nerves not in a good state."
- Bessie now returned; at the same moment the carriage was heard
rolling up the gravel-walk.
- "Is that your mistress, nurse?" asked Mr. Lloyd. "I should like to
speak to her before I go."
- Bessie invited him to walk into the breakfast-room, and led the way
out. In the interview which followed between him and Mrs. Reed, I
presume, from after-occurrences, that the apothecary ventured to
recommend my being sent to school; and the recommendation was no
doubt readily enough adopted; for as Abbot said, in discussing the
subject with Bessie when both sat sewing in the nursery one night,
after I was in bed, and, as they thought, asleep, "Missis was, she
dared say, glad enough to get rid of such a tiresome, ill-conditioned child, who always looked as if she were watching
everybody, and scheming plots underhand." Abbot, I think, gave me
credit for being a sort of infantine Guy Fawkes.
- On that same occasion I learned, for the first time, from Miss
Abbot's communications to Bessie, that my father had been a poor
clergyman; that my mother had married him against the wishes of her
friends, who considered the match beneath her; that my grandfather
Reed was so irritated at her disobedience, he cut her off without a
shilling; that after my mother and father had been married a year,
the latter caught the typhus fever while visiting among the poor of
a large manufacturing town where his curacy was situated, and where
that disease was then prevalent: that my mother took the infection
from him, and both died within a month of each other.
- Bessie, when she heard this narrative, sighed and said, "Poor Miss
Jane is to be pitied, too, Abbot."
- "Yes," responded Abbot; "if she were a nice, pretty child, one might
compassionate her forlornness; but one really cannot care for such a
little toad as that."
- "Not a great deal, to be sure," agreed Bessie: "at any rate, a
beauty like Miss Georgiana would be more moving in the same
- "Yes, I doat on Miss Georgiana!" cried the fervent Abbot. "Little
darling! -- with her long curls and her blue eyes, and such a sweet
colour as she has; just as if she were painted! -- Bessie, I could
fancy a Welsh rabbit for supper."
- "So could I -- with a roast onion. Come, we'll go down." They went.
- FROM my discourse with Mr. Lloyd, and from the above reported
conference between Bessie and Abbot, I gathered enough of hope to
suffice as a motive for wishing to get well: a change seemed near, -- I desired and waited it in silence. It tarried, however: days and
weeks passed: I had regained my normal state of health, but no new
allusion was made to the subject over which I brooded. Mrs. Reed
surveyed me at times with a severe eye, but seldom addressed me:
since my illness, she had drawn a more marked line of separation
than ever between me and her own children; appointing me a small
closet to sleep in by myself, condemning me to take my meals alone,
and pass all my time in the nursery, while my cousins were
constantly in the drawing-room. Not a hint, however, did she drop
about sending me to school: still I felt an instinctive certainty
that she would not long endure me under the same roof with her; for
her glance, now more than ever, when turned on me, expressed an
insuperable and rooted aversion.
- Eliza and Georgiana, evidently acting according to orders, spoke to
me as little as possible: John thrust his tongue in his cheek
whenever he saw me, and once attempted chastisement; but as I
instantly turned against him, roused by the same sentiment of deep
ire and desperate revolt which had stirred my corruption before, he
thought it better to desist, and ran from me tittering execrations,
and vowing I had burst his nose. I had indeed levelled at that
prominent feature as hard a blow as my knuckles could inflict; and
when I saw that either that or my look daunted him, I had the
greatest inclination to follow up my advantage to purpose; but he
was already with his mama. I heard him in a blubbering tone
commence the tale of how "that nasty Jane Eyre" had flown at him
like a mad cat: he was stopped rather harshly --
- "Don't talk to me about her, John: I told you not to go near her;
she is not worthy of notice; I do not choose that either you or your
sisters should associate with her."
- Here, leaning over the banister, I cried out suddenly, and without
at all deliberating on my words, --
- "They are not fit to associate with me."
- Mrs. Reed was rather a stout woman; but, on hearing this strange and
audacious declaration, she ran nimbly up the stair, swept me like a
whirlwind into the nursery, and crushing me down on the edge of my
crib, dared me in an emphatic voice to rise from that place, or
utter one syllable during the remainder of the day.
- "What would Uncle Reed say to you, if he were alive?" was my
scarcely voluntary demand. I say scarcely voluntary, for it seemed
as if my tongue pronounced words without my will consenting to their
utterance: something spoke out of me over which I had no control.
- "What?" said Mrs. Reed under her breath: her usually cold composed
grey eye became troubled with a look like fear; she took her hand
from my arm, and gazed at me as if she really did not know whether I
were child or fiend. I was now in for it.
- "My Uncle Reed is in heaven, and can see all you do and think; and
so can papa and mama: they know how you shut me up all day long,
and how you wish me dead."
- Mrs. Reed soon rallied her spirits: she shook me most soundly, she
boxed both my ears, and then left me without a word. Bessie
supplied the hiatus by a homily of an hour's length, in which she
proved beyond a doubt that I was the most wicked and abandoned child
ever reared under a roof. I half believed her; for I felt indeed
only bad feelings surging in my breast.
- November, December, and half of January passed away. Christmas and
the New Year had been celebrated at Gateshead with the usual festive
cheer; presents had been interchanged, dinners and evening parties
given. From every enjoyment I was, of course, excluded: my share
of the gaiety consisted in witnessing the daily apparelling of Eliza
and Georgiana, and seeing them descend to the drawing-room, dressed
out in thin muslin frocks and scarlet sashes, with hair elaborately
ringletted; and afterwards, in listening to the sound of the piano
or the harp played below, to the passing to and fro of the butler
and footman, to the jingling of glass and china as refreshments were
handed, to the broken hum of conversation as the drawing-room door
opened and closed. When tired of this occupation, I would retire
from the stairhead to the solitary and silent nursery: there,
though somewhat sad, I was not miserable. To speak truth, I had not
the least wish to go into company, for in company I was very rarely
noticed; and if Bessie had but been kind and companionable, I should
have deemed it a treat to spend the evenings quietly with her,
instead of passing them under the formidable eye of Mrs. Reed, in a
room full of ladies and gentlemen. But Bessie, as soon as she had
dressed her young ladies, used to take herself off to the lively
regions of the kitchen and housekeeper's room, generally bearing the
candle along with her. I then sat with my doll on my knee till the
fire got low, glancing round occasionally to make sure that nothing
worse than myself haunted the shadowy room; and when the embers sank
to a dull red, I undressed hastily, tugging at knots and strings as
I best might, and sought shelter from cold and darkness in my crib.
To this crib I always took my doll; human beings must love
something, and, in the dearth of worthier objects of affection, I
contrived to find a pleasure in loving and cherishing a faded graven
image, shabby as a miniature scarecrow. It puzzles me now to
remember with what absurd sincerity I doated on this little toy,
half fancying it alive and capable of sensation. I could not sleep
unless it was folded in my night-gown; and when it lay there safe
and warm, I was comparatively happy, believing it to be happy
- Long did the hours seem while I waited the departure of the company,
and listened for the sound of Bessie's step on the stairs:
sometimes she would come up in the interval to seek her thimble or
her scissors, or perhaps to bring me something by way of supper -- a
bun or a cheese-cake -- then she would sit on the bed while I ate it,
and when I had finished, she would tuck the clothes round me, and
twice she kissed me, and said, "Good night, Miss Jane." When thus
gentle, Bessie seemed to me the best, prettiest, kindest being in
the world; and I wished most intensely that she would always be so
pleasant and amiable, and never push me about, or scold, or task me
unreasonably, as she was too often wont to do. Bessie Lee must, I
think, have been a girl of good natural capacity, for she was smart
in all she did, and had a remarkable knack of narrative; so, at
least, I judge from the impression made on me by her nursery tales.
She was pretty too, if my recollections of her face and person are
correct. I remember her as a slim young woman, with black hair,
dark eyes, very nice features, and good, clear complexion; but she
had a capricious and hasty temper, and indifferent ideas of
principle or justice: still, such as she was, I preferred her to
any one else at Gateshead Hall.
- It was the fifteenth of January, about nine o'clock in the morning:
Bessie was gone down to breakfast; my cousins had not yet been
summoned to their mama; Eliza was putting on her bonnet and warm
garden-coat to go and feed her poultry, an occupation of which she
was fond: and not less so of selling the eggs to the housekeeper
and hoarding up the money she thus obtained. She had a turn for
traffic, and a marked propensity for saving; shown not only in the
vending of eggs and chickens, but also in driving hard bargains with
the gardener about flower-roots, seeds, and slips of plants; that
functionary having orders from Mrs. Reed to buy of his young lady
all the products of her parterre she wished to sell: and Eliza
would have sold the hair off her head if she could have made a
handsome profit thereby. As to her money, she first secreted it in
odd corners, wrapped in a rag or an old curl-paper; but some of
these hoards having been discovered by the housemaid, Eliza, fearful
of one day losing her valued treasure, consented to intrust it to
her mother, at a usurious rate of interest -- fifty or sixty per
cent.; which interest she exacted every quarter, keeping her
accounts in a little book with anxious accuracy.
- Georgiana sat on a high stool, dressing her hair at the glass, and
interweaving her curls with artificial flowers and faded feathers,
of which she had found a store in a drawer in the attic. I was
making my bed, having received strict orders from Bessie to get it
arranged before she returned (for Bessie now frequently employed me
as a sort of under-nurserymaid, to tidy the room, dust the chairs,
etc.). Having spread the quilt and folded my night-dress, I went to
the window-seat to put in order some picture-books and doll's house
furniture scattered there; an abrupt command from Georgiana to let
her playthings alone (for the tiny chairs and mirrors, the fairy
plates and cups, were her property) stopped my proceedings; and
then, for lack of other occupation, I fell to breathing on the
frost-flowers with which the window was fretted, and thus clearing a
space in the glass through which I might look out on the grounds,
where all was still and petrified under the influence of a hard
- From this window were visible the porter's lodge and the carriage-road, and just as I had dissolved so much of the silver-white
foliage veiling the panes as left room to look out, I saw the gates
thrown open and a carriage roll through. I watched it ascending the
drive with indifference; carriages often came to Gateshead, but none
ever brought visitors in whom I was interested; it stopped in front
of the house, the door-bell rang loudly, the new-comer was admitted.
All this being nothing to me, my vacant attention soon found
livelier attraction in the spectacle of a little hungry robin, which
came and chirruped on the twigs of the leafless cherry-tree nailed
against the wall near the casement. The remains of my breakfast of
bread and milk stood on the table, and having crumbled a morsel of
roll, I was tugging at the sash to put out the crumbs on the window-sill, when Bessie came running upstairs into the nursery.
- "Miss Jane, take off your pinafore; what are you doing there? Have
you washed your hands and face this morning?" I gave another tug
before I answered, for I wanted the bird to be secure of its bread:
the sash yielded; I scattered the crumbs, some on the stone sill,
some on the cherry-tree bough, then, closing the window, I replied: --
- "No, Bessie; I have only just finished dusting."
- "Troublesome, careless child! and what are you doing now? You look
quite red, as if you had been about some mischief: what were you
opening the window for?"
- I was spared the trouble of answering, for Bessie seemed in too
great a hurry to listen to explanations; she hauled me to the
washstand, inflicted a merciless, but happily brief scrub on my face
and hands with soap, water, and a coarse towel; disciplined my head
with a bristly brush, denuded me of my pinafore, and then hurrying
me to the top of the stairs, bid me go down directly, as I was
wanted in the breakfast-room.
- I would have asked who wanted me: I would have demanded if Mrs.
Reed was there; but Bessie was already gone, and had closed the
nursery-door upon me. I slowly descended. For nearly three months,
I had never been called to Mrs. Reed's presence; restricted so long
to the nursery, the breakfast, dining, and drawing-rooms were become
for me awful regions, on which it dismayed me to intrude.
- I now stood in the empty hall; before me was the breakfast-room
door, and I stopped, intimidated and trembling. What a miserable
little poltroon had fear, engendered of unjust punishment, made of
me in those days! I feared to return to the nursery, and feared to
go forward to the parlour; ten minutes I stood in agitated
hesitation; the vehement ringing of the breakfast-room bell decided
me; I must enter.
- "Who could want me?" I asked inwardly, as with both hands I turned
the stiff door-handle, which, for a second or two, resisted my
efforts. "What should I see besides Aunt Reed in the apartment? -- a
man or a woman?" The handle turned, the door unclosed, and passing
through and curtseying low, I looked up at -- a black pillar! -- such,
at least, appeared to me, at first sight, the straight, narrow,
sable-clad shape standing erect on the rug: the grim face at the
top was like a carved mask, placed above the shaft by way of
- Mrs. Reed occupied her usual seat by the fireside; she made a signal
to me to approach; I did so, and she introduced me to the stony
stranger with the words: "This is the little girl respecting whom I
applied to you."
- He, for it was a man, turned his head slowly towards where I stood,
and having examined me with the two inquisitive-looking grey eyes
which twinkled under a pair of bushy brows, said solemnly, and in a
bass voice, "Her size is small: what is her age?"
- "Ten years."
- "So much?" was the doubtful answer; and he prolonged his scrutiny
for some minutes. Presently he addressed me: -- "Your name, little
- "Jane Eyre, sir."
- In uttering these words I looked up: he seemed to me a tall
gentleman; but then I was very little; his features were large, and
they and all the lines of his frame were equally harsh and prim.
- "Well, Jane Eyre, and are you a good child?"
- Impossible to reply to this in the affirmative: my little world
held a contrary opinion: I was silent. Mrs. Reed answered for me
by an expressive shake of the head, adding soon, "Perhaps the less
said on that subject the better, Mr. Brocklehurst."
- "Sorry indeed to hear it! she and I must have some talk;" and
bending from the perpendicular, he installed his person in the arm-chair opposite Mrs. Reed's. "Come here," he said.
- I stepped across the rug; he placed me square and straight before
him. What a face he had, now that it was almost on a level with
mine! what a great nose! and what a mouth! and what large prominent
- "No sight so sad as that of a naughty child," he began, "especially
a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after
- "They go to hell," was my ready and orthodox answer.
- "And what is hell? Can you tell me that?"
- "A pit full of fire."
- "And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there
- "No, sir."
- "What must you do to avoid it?"
- I deliberated a moment; my answer, when it did come, was
objectionable: "I must keep in good health, and not die."
- "How can you keep in good health? Children younger than you die
daily. I buried a little child of five years old only a day or two
since, -- a good little child, whose soul is now in heaven. It is to
be feared the same could not be said of you were you to be called
- Not being in a condition to remove his doubt, I only cast my eyes
down on the two large feet planted on the rug, and sighed, wishing
myself far enough away.
- "I hope that sigh is from the heart, and that you repent of ever
having been the occasion of discomfort to your excellent
- "Benefactress! benefactress!" said I inwardly: "they all call Mrs.
Reed my benefactress; if so, a benefactress is a disagreeable
- "Do you say your prayers night and morning?" continued my
- "Yes, sir."
- "Do you read your Bible?"
- "With pleasure? Are you fond of it?"
- "I like Revelations, and the book of Daniel, and Genesis and Samuel,
and a little bit of Exodus, and some parts of Kings and Chronicles,
and Job and Jonah."
- "And the Psalms? I hope you like them?"
- "No, sir."
- "No? oh, shocking! I have a little boy, younger than you, who knows
six Psalms by heart: and when you ask him which he would rather
have, a gingerbread-nut to eat or a verse of a Psalm to learn, he
says: 'Oh! the verse of a Psalm! angels sing Psalms;' says he, 'I
wish to be a little angel here below;' he then gets two nuts in
recompense for his infant piety."
- "Psalms are not interesting," I remarked.
- "That proves you have a wicked heart; and you must pray to God to
change it: to give you a new and clean one: to take away your
heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."
- I was about to propound a question, touching the manner in which
that operation of changing my heart was to be performed, when Mrs.
Reed interposed, telling me to sit down; she then proceeded to carry
on the conversation herself.
- "Mr. Brocklehurst, I believe I intimated in the letter which I wrote
to you three weeks ago, that this little girl has not quite the
character and disposition I could wish: should you admit her into
Lowood school, I should be glad if the superintendent and teachers
were requested to keep a strict eye on her, and, above all, to guard
against her worst fault, a tendency to deceit. I mention this in
your hearing, Jane, that you may not attempt to impose on Mr.
- Well might I dread, well might I dislike Mrs. Reed; for it was her
nature to wound me cruelly; never was I happy in her presence;
however carefully I obeyed, however strenuously I strove to please
her, my efforts were still repulsed and repaid by such sentences as
the above. Now, uttered before a stranger, the accusation cut me to
the heart; I dimly perceived that she was already obliterating hope
from the new phase of existence which she destined me to enter; I
felt, though I could not have expressed the feeling, that she was
sowing aversion and unkindness along my future path; I saw myself
transformed under Mr. Brocklehurst's eye into an artful, noxious
child, and what could I do to remedy the injury?
- "Nothing, indeed," thought I, as I struggled to repress a sob, and
hastily wiped away some tears, the impotent evidences of my anguish.
- "Deceit is, indeed, a sad fault in a child," said Mr. Brocklehurst;
"it is akin to falsehood, and all liars will have their portion in
the lake burning with fire and brimstone; she shall, however, be
watched, Mrs. Reed. I will speak to Miss Temple and the teachers."
- "I should wish her to be brought up in a manner suiting her
prospects," continued my benefactress; "to be made useful, to be
kept humble: as for the vacations, she will, with your permission,
spend them always at Lowood."
- "Your decisions are perfectly judicious, madam," returned Mr.
Brocklehurst. "Humility is a Christian grace, and one peculiarly
appropriate to the pupils of Lowood; I, therefore, direct that
especial care shall be bestowed on its cultivation amongst them. I
have studied how best to mortify in them the worldly sentiment of
pride; and, only the other day, I had a pleasing proof of my
success. My second daughter, Augusta, went with her mama to visit
the school, and on her return she exclaimed: 'Oh, dear papa, how
quiet and plain all the girls at Lowood look, with their hair combed
behind their ears, and their long pinafores, and those little
holland pockets outside their frocks -- they are almost like poor
people's children! and,' said she, 'they looked at my dress and
mama's, as if they had never seen a silk gown before.'"
- "This is the state of things I quite approve," returned Mrs. Reed;
"had I sought all England over, I could scarcely have found a system
more exactly fitting a child like Jane Eyre. Consistency, my dear
Mr. Brocklehurst; I advocate consistency in all things."
- "Consistency, madam, is the first of Christian duties; and it has
been observed in every arrangement connected with the establishment
of Lowood: plain fare, simple attire, unsophisticated
accommodations, hardy and active habits; such is the order of the
day in the house and its inhabitants."
- "Quite right, sir. I may then depend upon this child being received
as a pupil at Lowood, and there being trained in conformity to her
position and prospects?"
- "Madam, you may: she shall be placed in that nursery of chosen
plants, and I trust she will show herself grateful for the
inestimable privilege of her election."
- "I will send her, then, as soon as possible, Mr. Brocklehurst; for,
I assure you, I feel anxious to be relieved of a responsibility that
was becoming too irksome."
- "No doubt, no doubt, madam; and now I wish you good morning. I
shall return to Brocklehurst Hall in the course of a week or two:
my good friend, the Archdeacon, will not permit me to leave him
sooner. I shall send Miss Temple notice that she is to expect a new
girl, so that there will he no difficulty about receiving her.
- "Good-bye, Mr. Brocklehurst; remember me to Mrs. and Miss
Brocklehurst, and to Augusta and Theodore, and Master Broughton
- "I will, madam. Little girl, here is a book entitled the 'Child's
Guide,' read it with prayer, especially that part containing 'An
account of the awfully sudden death of Martha G----, a naughty child
addicted to falsehood and deceit.'"
- With these words Mr. Brocklehurst put into my hand a thin pamphlet
sewn in a cover, and having rung for his carriage, he departed.
- Mrs. Reed and I were left alone: some minutes passed in silence;
she was sewing, I was watching her. Mrs. Reed might be at that time
some six or seven and thirty; she was a woman of robust frame,
square-shouldered and strong-limbed, not tall, and, though stout,
not obese: she had a somewhat large face, the under jaw being much
developed and very solid; her brow was low, her chin large and
prominent, mouth and nose sufficiently regular; under her light
eyebrows glimmered an eye devoid of ruth; her skin was dark and
opaque, her hair nearly flaxen; her constitution was sound as a
bell -- illness never came near her; she was an exact, clever manager;
her household and tenantry were thoroughly under her control; her
children only at times defied her authority and laughed it to scorn;
she dressed well, and had a presence and port calculated to set off
- Sitting on a low stool, a few yards from her arm-chair, I examined
her figure; I perused her features. In my hand I held the tract
containing the sudden death of the Liar, to which narrative my
attention had been pointed as to an appropriate warning. What had
just passed; what Mrs. Reed had said concerning me to Mr.
Brocklehurst; the whole tenor of their conversation, was recent,
raw, and stinging in my mind; I had felt every word as acutely as I
had heard it plainly, and a passion of resentment fomented now
- Mrs. Reed looked up from her work; her eye settled on mine, her
fingers at the same time suspended their nimble movements.
- "Go out of the room; return to the nursery," was her mandate. My
look or something else must have struck her as offensive, for she
spoke with extreme though suppressed irritation. I got up, I went
to the door; I came back again; I walked to the window, across the
room, then close up to her.
- Speak I must: I had been trodden on severely, and must turn: but
how? What strength had I to dart retaliation at my antagonist? I
gathered my energies and launched them in this blunt sentence: --
- "I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I
declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in
the world except John Reed; and this book about the liar, you may
give to your girl, Georgiana, for it is she who tells lies, and not
- Mrs. Reed's hands still lay on her work inactive: her eye of ice
continued to dwell freezingly on mine.
- "What more have you to say?" she asked, rather in the tone in which
a person might address an opponent of adult age than such as is
ordinarily used to a child.
- That eye of hers, that voice stirred every antipathy I had. Shaking
from head to foot, thrilled with ungovernable excitement, I
- "I am glad you are no relation of mine: I will never call you aunt
again as long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am
grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you
treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and
that you treated me with miserable cruelty."
- "How dare you affirm that, Jane Eyre?"
- "How dare I, Mrs. Reed? How dare I? Because it is the truth. You
think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love
or kindness; but I cannot live so: and you have no pity. I shall
remember how you thrust me back -- roughly and violently thrust me
back -- into the red-room, and locked me up there, to my dying day;
though I was in agony; though I cried out, while suffocating with
distress, 'Have mercy! Have mercy, Aunt Reed!' And that punishment
you made me suffer because your wicked boy struck me -- knocked me
down for nothing. I will tell anybody who asks me questions, this
exact tale. People think you a good woman, but you are bad, hard-hearted. You are deceitful!"
- Ere I had finished this reply, my soul began to expand, to exult,
with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt. It
seemed as if an invisible bond had burst, and that I had struggled
out into unhoped-for liberty. Not without cause was this sentiment:
Mrs. Reed looked frightened; her work had slipped from her knee; she
was lifting up her hands, rocking herself to and fro, and even
twisting her face as if she would cry.
- "Jane, you are under a mistake: what is the matter with you? Why
do you tremble so violently? Would you like to drink some water?"
- "No, Mrs. Reed."
- "Is there anything else you wish for, Jane? I assure you, I desire
to be your friend."
- "Not you. You told Mr. Brocklehurst I had a bad character, a
deceitful disposition; and I'll let everybody at Lowood know what
you are, and what you have done."
- "Jane, you don't understand these things: children must be
corrected for their faults."
- "Deceit is not my fault!" I cried out in a savage, high voice.
- "But you are passionate, Jane, that you must allow: and now return
to the nursery -- there's a dear -- and lie down a little."
- "I am not your dear; I cannot lie down: send me to school soon,
Mrs. Reed, for I hate to live here."
- "I will indeed send her to school soon," murmured Mrs. Reed sotto
voce; and gathering up her work, she abruptly quitted the apartment.
- I was left there alone -- winner of the field. It was the hardest
battle I had fought, and the first victory I had gained: I stood
awhile on the rug, where Mr. Brocklehurst had stood, and I enjoyed
my conqueror's solitude. First, I smiled to myself and felt elate;
but this fierce pleasure subsided in me as fast as did the
accelerated throb of my pulses. A child cannot quarrel with its
elders, as I had done; cannot give its furious feelings uncontrolled
play, as I had given mine, without experiencing afterwards the pang
of remorse and the chill of reaction. A ridge of lighted heath,
alive, glancing, devouring, would have been a meet emblem of my mind
when I accused and menaced Mrs. Reed: the same ridge, black and
blasted after the flames are dead, would have represented as meetly
my subsequent condition, when half-an-hour's silence and reflection
had shown me the madness of my conduct, and the dreariness of my
hated and hating position.
- Something of vengeance I had tasted for the first time; as aromatic
wine it seemed, on swallowing, warm and racy: its after-flavour,
metallic and corroding, gave me a sensation as if I had been
poisoned. Willingly would I now have gone and asked Mrs. Reed's
pardon; but I knew, partly from experience and partly from instinct,
that was the way to make her repulse me with double scorn, thereby
re-exciting every turbulent impulse of my nature.
- I would fain exercise some better faculty than that of fierce
speaking; fain find nourishment for some less fiendish feeling than
that of sombre indignation. I took a book -- some Arabian tales; I
sat down and endeavoured to read. I could make no sense of the
subject; my own thoughts swam always between me and the page I had
usually found fascinating. I opened the glass-door in the
breakfast-room: the shrubbery was quite still: the black frost
reigned, unbroken by sun or breeze, through the grounds. I covered
my head and arms with the skirt of my frock, and went out to walk in
a part of the plantation which was quite sequestrated; but I found
no pleasure in the silent trees, the falling fir-cones, the
congealed relics of autumn, russet leaves, swept by past winds in
heaps, and now stiffened together. I leaned against a gate, and
looked into an empty field where no sheep were feeding, where the
short grass was nipped and blanched. It was a very grey day; a most
opaque sky, "onding on snaw," canopied all; thence flakes felt it
intervals, which settled on the hard path and on the hoary lea
without melting. I stood, a wretched child enough, whispering to
myself over and over again, "What shall I do? -- what shall I do?"
- All at once I heard a clear voice call, "Miss Jane! where are you?
Come to lunch!"
- It was Bessie, I knew well enough; but I did not stir; her light
step came tripping down the path.
- "You naughty little thing!" she said. "Why don't you come when you
- Bessie's presence, compared with the thoughts over which I had been
brooding, seemed cheerful; even though, as usual, she was somewhat
cross. The fact is, after my conflict with and victory over Mrs.
Reed, I was not disposed to care much for the nursemaid's transitory
anger; and I was disposed to bask in her youthful lightness of
heart. I just put my two arms round her and said, "Come, Bessie!
- The action was more frank and fearless than any I was habituated to
indulge in: somehow it pleased her.
- "You are a strange child, Miss Jane," she said, as she looked down
at me; "a little roving, solitary thing: and you are going to
school, I suppose?"
- I nodded.
- "And won't you be sorry to leave poor Bessie?"
- "What does Bessie care for me? She is always scolding me."
- "Because you're such a queer, frightened, shy little thing. You
should be bolder."
- "What! to get more knocks?"
- "Nonsense! But you are rather put upon, that's certain. My mother
said, when she came to see me last week, that she would not like a
little one of her own to be in your place. -- Now, come in, and I've
some good news for you."
- "I don't think you have, Bessie."
- "Child! what do you mean? What sorrowful eyes you fix on me! Well,
but Missis and the young ladies and Master John are going out to tea
this afternoon, and you shall have tea with me. I'll ask cook to
bake you a little cake, and then you shall help me to look over your
drawers; for I am soon to pack your trunk. Missis intends you to
leave Gateshead in a day or two, and you shall choose what toys you
like to take with you."
- "Bessie, you must promise not to scold me any more till I go."
- "Well, I will; but mind you are a very good girl, and don't be
afraid of me. Don't start when I chance to speak rather sharply;
it's so provoking."
- "I don't think I shall ever be afraid of you again, Bessie, because
I have got used to you, and I shall soon have another set of people
- "If you dread them they'll dislike you."
- "As you do, Bessie?"
- "I don't dislike you, Miss; I believe I am fonder of you than of all
- "You don't show it."
- "You little sharp thing! you've got quite a new way of talking.
What makes you so venturesome and hardy?"
- "Why, I shall soon be away from you, and besides----" I was going to
say something about what had passed between me and Mrs. Reed, but on
second thoughts I considered it better to remain silent on that
- "And so you're glad to leave me?"
- "Not at all, Bessie; indeed, just now I'm rather sorry."
- "Just now! and rather! How coolly my little lady says it! I dare
say now if I were to ask you for a kiss you wouldn't give it me:
you'd say you'd RATHER not."
- "I'll kiss you and welcome: bend your head down." Bessie stooped;
we mutually embraced, and I followed her into the house quite
comforted. That afternoon lapsed in peace and harmony; and in the
evening Bessie told me some of her most enchaining stories, and sang
me some of her sweetest songs. Even for me life had its gleams of
- FIVE o'clock had hardly struck on the morning of the 19th of
January, when Bessie brought a candle into my closet and found me
already up and nearly dressed. I had risen half-an-hour before her
entrance, and had washed my face, and put on my clothes by the light
of a half-moon just setting, whose rays streamed through the narrow
window near my crib. I was to leave Gateshead that day by a coach
which passed the lodge gates at 6 A.M. Bessie was the only person
yet risen; she had lit a fire in the nursery, where she now
proceeded to make my breakfast. Few children can eat when excited
with the thoughts of a journey; nor could I. Bessie, having pressed
me in vain to take a few spoonfuls of the boiled milk and bread she
had prepared for me, wrapped up some biscuits in a paper and put
them into my bag; then she helped me on with my pelisse and bonnet,
and wrapping herself in a shawl, she and I left the nursery. As we
passed Mrs. Reed's bedroom, she said, "Will you go in and bid Missis
- "No, Bessie: she came to my crib last night when you were gone down
to supper, and said I need not disturb her in the morning, or my
cousins either; and she told me to remember that she had always been
my best friend, and to speak of her and be grateful to her
- "What did you say, Miss?"
- "Nothing: I covered my face with the bedclothes, and turned from
her to the wall."
- "That was wrong, Miss Jane."
- "It was quite right, Bessie. Your Missis has not been my friend:
she has been my foe."
- "Oh, Miss Jane! don't say so!"
- "Good-bye to Gateshead!" cried I, as we passed through the hall and
went out at the front door.
- The moon was set, and it was very dark; Bessie carried a lantern,
whose light glanced on wet steps and gravel road sodden by a recent
thaw. Raw and chill was the winter morning: my teeth chattered as
I hastened down the drive. There was a light in the porter's lodge:
when we reached it, we found the porter's wife just kindling her
fire: my trunk, which had been carried down the evening before,
stood corded at the door. It wanted but a few minutes of six, and
shortly after that hour had struck, the distant roll of wheels
announced the coming coach; I went to the door and watched its lamps
approach rapidly through the gloom.
- "Is she going by herself?" asked the porter's wife.
- "And how far is it?"
- "Fifty miles."
- "What a long way! I wonder Mrs. Reed is not afraid to trust her so
- The coach drew up; there it was at the gates with its four horses
and its top laden with passengers: the guard and coachman loudly
urged haste; my trunk was hoisted up; I was taken from Bessie's
neck, to which I clung with kisses.
- "Be sure and take good care of her," cried she to the guard, as he
lifted me into the inside.
- "Ay, ay!" was the answer: the door was slapped to, a voice
exclaimed "All right," and on we drove. Thus was I severed from
Bessie and Gateshead; thus whirled away to unknown, and, as I then
deemed, remote and mysterious regions.
- I remember but little of the journey; I only know that the day
seemed to me of a preternatural length, and that we appeared to
travel over hundreds of miles of road. We passed through several
towns, and in one, a very large one, the coach stopped; the horses
were taken out, and the passengers alighted to dine. I was carried
into an inn, where the guard wanted me to have some dinner; but, as
I had no appetite, he left me in an immense room with a fireplace at
each end, a chandelier pendent from the ceiling, and a little red
gallery high up against the wall filled with musical instruments.
Here I walked about for a long time, feeling very strange, and
mortally apprehensive of some one coming in and kidnapping me; for I
believed in kidnappers, their exploits having frequently figured in
Bessie's fireside chronicles. At last the guard returned; once more
I was stowed away in the coach, my protector mounted his own seat,
sounded his hollow horn, and away we rattled over the "stony street"
- The afternoon came on wet and somewhat misty: as it waned into
dusk, I began to feel that we were getting very far indeed from
Gateshead: we ceased to pass through towns; the country changed;
great grey hills heaved up round the horizon: as twilight deepened,
we descended a valley, dark with wood, and long after night had
overclouded the prospect, I heard a wild wind rushing amongst trees.
- Lulled by the sound, I at last dropped asleep; I had not long
slumbered when the sudden cessation of motion awoke me; the coach-door was open, and a person like a servant was standing at it: I
saw her face and dress by the light of the lamps.
- "Is there a little girl called Jane Eyre here?" she asked. I
answered "Yes," and was then lifted out; my trunk was handed down,
and the coach instantly drove away.
- I was stiff with long sitting, and bewildered with the noise and
motion of the coach: Gathering my faculties, I looked about me.
Rain, wind, and darkness filled the air; nevertheless, I dimly
discerned a wall before me and a door open in it; through this door
I passed with my new guide: she shut and locked it behind her.
There was now visible a house or houses -- for the building spread
far -- with many windows, and lights burning in some; we went up a
broad pebbly path, splashing wet, and were admitted at a door; then
the servant led me through a passage into a room with a fire, where
she left me alone.
- I stood and warmed my numbed fingers over the blaze, then I looked
round; there was no candle, but the uncertain light from the hearth
showed, by intervals, papered walls, carpet, curtains, shining
mahogany furniture: it was a parlour, not so spacious or splendid
as the drawing-room at Gateshead, but comfortable enough. I was
puzzling to make out the subject of a picture on the wall, when the
door opened, and an individual carrying a light entered; another
followed close behind.
- The first was a tall lady with dark hair, dark eyes, and a pale and
large forehead; her figure was partly enveloped in a shawl, her
countenance was grave, her bearing erect.
- "The child is very young to be sent alone," said she, putting her
candle down on the table. She considered me attentively for a
minute or two, then further added, --
- "She had better be put to bed soon; she looks tired: are you
tired?" she asked, placing her hand on my shoulder.
- "A little, ma'am."
- "And hungry too, no doubt: let her have some supper before she goes
to bed, Miss Miller. Is this the first time you have left your
parents to come to school, my little girl?"
- I explained to her that I had no parents. She inquired how long
they had been dead: then how old I was, what was my name, whether I
could read, write, and sew a little: then she touched my cheek
gently with her forefinger, and saying, "She hoped I should be a
good child," dismissed me along with Miss Miller.
- The lady I had left might be about twenty-nine; the one who went
with me appeared some years younger: the first impressed me by her
voice, look, and air. Miss Miller was more ordinary; ruddy in
complexion, though of a careworn countenance; hurried in gait and
action, like one who had always a multiplicity of tasks on hand:
she looked, indeed, what I afterwards found she really was, an
under-teacher. Led by her, I passed from compartment to
compartment, from passage to passage, of a large and irregular
building; till, emerging from the total and somewhat dreary silence
pervading that portion of the house we had traversed, we came upon
the hum of many voices, and presently entered a wide, long room,
with great deal tables, two at each end, on each of which burnt a
pair of candles, and seated all round on benches, a congregation of
girls of every age, from nine or ten to twenty. Seen by the dim
light of the dips, their number to me appeared countless, though not
in reality exceeding eighty; they were uniformly dressed in brown
stuff frocks of quaint fashion, and long holland pinafores. It was
the hour of study; they were engaged in conning over their to-morrow's task, and the hum I had heard was the combined result of
their whispered repetitions.
- Miss Miller signed to me to sit on a bench near the door, then
walking up to the top of the long room she cried out, --
- "Monitors, collect the lesson-books and put them away!
- Four tall girls arose from different tables, and going round, gathered the
books and removed them. Miss Miller again gave the word of command, --
- "Monitors, fetch the supper-trays!"
- The tall girls went out and returned presently, each bearing a tray,
with portions of something, I knew not what, arranged thereon, and a
pitcher of water and mug in the middle of each tray. The portions
were handed round; those who liked took a draught of the water, the
mug being common to all. When it came to my turn, I drank, for I
was thirsty, but did not touch the food, excitement and fatigue
rendering me incapable of eating: I now saw, however, that it was a
thin oaten cake shared into fragments.
- The meal over, prayers were read by Miss Miller, and the classes
filed off, two and two, upstairs. Overpowered by this time with
weariness, I scarcely noticed what sort of a place the bedroom was,
except that, like the schoolroom, I saw it was very long. To-night
I was to be Miss Miller's bed-fellow; she helped me to undress:
when laid down I glanced at the long rows of beds, each of which was
quickly filled with two occupants; in ten minutes the single light
was extinguished, and amidst silence and complete darkness I fell
- The night passed rapidly. I was too tired even to dream; I only
once awoke to hear the wind rave in furious gusts, and the rain fall
in torrents, and to be sensible that Miss Miller had taken her place
by my side. When I again unclosed my eyes, a loud bell was ringing;
the girls were up and dressing; day had not yet begun to dawn, and a
rushlight or two burned in the room. I too rose reluctantly; it was
bitter cold, and I dressed as well as I could for shivering, and
washed when there was a basin at liberty, which did not occur soon,
as there was but one basin to six girls, on the stands down the
middle of the room. Again the bell rang: all formed in file, two
and two, and in that order descended the stairs and entered the cold
and dimly lit schoolroom: here prayers were read by Miss Miller;
afterwards she called out: --
- "Form classes!"
- A great tumult succeeded for some minutes, during which Miss Miller
repeatedly exclaimed, "Silence!" and "Order!" When it subsided, I
saw them all drawn up in four semicircles, before four chairs,
placed at the four tables; all held books in their hands, and a
great book, like a Bible, lay on each table, before the vacant seat.
A pause of some seconds succeeded, filled up by the low, vague hum
of numbers; Miss Miller walked from class to class, hushing this
- A distant bell tinkled: immediately three ladies entered the room,
each walked to a table and took her seat. Miss Miller assumed the
fourth vacant chair, which was that nearest the door, and around
which the smallest of the children were assembled: to this inferior
class I was called, and placed at the bottom of it.
- Business now began, the day's Collect was repeated, then certain
texts of Scripture were said, and to these succeeded a protracted
reading of chapters in the Bible, which lasted an hour. By the time
that exercise was terminated, day had fully dawned. The
indefatigable bell now sounded for the fourth time: the classes
were marshalled and marched into another room to breakfast: how
glad I was to behold a prospect of getting something to eat! I was
now nearly sick from inanition, having taken so little the day
- The refectory was a great, low-ceiled, gloomy room; on two long
tables smoked basins of something hot, which, however, to my dismay,
sent forth an odour far from inviting. I saw a universal
manifestation of discontent when the fumes of the repast met the
nostrils of those destined to swallow it; from the van of the
procession, the tall girls of the first class, rose the whispered
- "Disgusting! The porridge is burnt again!"
- "Silence!" ejaculated a voice; not that of Miss Miller, but one of
the upper teachers, a little and dark personage, smartly dressed,
but of somewhat morose aspect, who installed herself at the top of
one table, while a more buxom lady presided at the other. I looked
in vain for her I had first seen the night before; she was not
visible: Miss Miller occupied the foot of the table where I sat,
and a strange, foreign-looking, elderly lady, the French teacher, as
I afterwards found, took the corresponding seat at the other board.
A long grace was said and a hymn sung; then a servant brought in
some tea for the teachers, and the meal began.
- Ravenous, and now very faint, I devoured a spoonful or two of my
portion without thinking of its taste; but the first edge of hunger
blunted, I perceived I had got in hand a nauseous mess; burnt
porridge is almost as bad as rotten potatoes; famine itself soon
sickens over it. The spoons were moved slowly: I saw each girl
taste her food and try to swallow it; but in most cases the effort
was soon relinquished. Breakfast was over, and none had
breakfasted. Thanks being returned for what we had not got, and a
second hymn chanted, the refectory was evacuated for the schoolroom.
I was one of the last to go out, and in passing the tables, I saw
one teacher take a basin of the porridge and taste it; she looked at
the others; all their countenances expressed displeasure, and one of
them, the stout one, whispered: --
- "Abominable stuff! How shameful!"
- A quarter of an hour passed before lessons again began, during which
the schoolroom was in a glorious tumult; for that space of time it
seemed to be permitted to talk loud and more freely, and they used
their privilege. The whole conversation ran on the breakfast, which
one and all abused roundly. Poor things! it was the sole
consolation they had. Miss Miller was now the only teacher in the
room: a group of great girls standing about her spoke with serious
and sullen gestures. I heard the name of Mr. Brocklehurst
pronounced by some lips; at which Miss Miller shook her head
disapprovingly; but she made no great effort to cheek the general
wrath; doubtless she shared in it.
- A clock in the schoolroom struck nine; Miss Miller left her circle,
and standing in the middle of the room, cried: --
- "Silence! To your seats!"
- Discipline prevailed: in five minutes the confused throng was
resolved into order, and comparative silence quelled the Babel
clamour of tongues. The upper teachers now punctually resumed their
posts: but still, all seemed to wait. Ranged on benches down the
sides of the room, the eighty girls sat motionless and erect; a
quaint assemblage they appeared, all with plain locks combed from
their faces, not a curl visible; in brown dresses, made high and
surrounded by a narrow tucker about the throat, with little pockets
of holland (shaped something like a Highlander's purse) tied in
front of their frocks, and destined to serve the purpose of a work-bag: all, too, wearing woollen stockings and country-made shoes,
fastened with brass buckles. Above twenty of those clad in this
costume were full-grown girls, or rather young women; it suited them
ill, and gave an air of oddity even to the prettiest.
- I was still looking at them, and also at intervals examining the
teachers -- none of whom precisely pleased me; for the stout one was a
little coarse, the dark one not a little fierce, the foreigner harsh
and grotesque, and Miss Miller, poor thing! looked purple, weather-beaten, and over-worked -- when, as my eye wandered from face to face,
the whole school rose simultaneously, as if moved by a common
- What was the matter? I had heard no order given: I was puzzled.
Ere I had gathered my wits, the classes were again seated: but as
all eyes were now turned to one point, mine followed the general
direction, and encountered the personage who had received me last
night. She stood at the bottom of the long room, on the hearth; for
there was a fire at each end; she surveyed the two rows of girls
silently and gravely. Miss Miller approaching, seemed to ask her a
question, and having received her answer, went back to her place,
and said aloud, --
- "Monitor of the first class, fetch the globes!"
- While the direction was being executed, the lady consulted moved
slowly up the room. I suppose I have a considerable organ of
veneration, for I retain yet the sense of admiring awe with which my
eyes traced her steps. Seen now, in broad daylight, she looked
tall, fair, and shapely; brown eyes with a benignant light in their
irids, and a fine pencilling of long lashes round, relieved the
whiteness of her large front; on each of her temples her hair, of a
very dark brown, was clustered in round curls, according to the
fashion of those times, when neither smooth bands nor long ringlets
were in vogue; her dress, also in the mode of the day, was of purple
cloth, relieved by a sort of Spanish trimming of black velvet; a
gold watch (watches were not so common then as now) shone at her
girdle. Let the reader add, to complete the picture, refined
features; a complexion, if pale, clear; and a stately air and
carriage, and he will have, at least, as clearly as words can give
it, a correct idea of the exterior of Miss Temple -- Maria Temple, as
I afterwards saw the name written in a prayer-book intrusted to me
to carry to church.
- The superintendent of Lowood (for such was this lady) having taken
her seat before a pair of globes placed on one of the tables,
summoned the first class round her, and commenced giving a lesson on
geography; the lower classes were called by the teachers:
repetitions in history, grammar, etc., went on for an hour; writing
and arithmetic succeeded, and music lessons were given by Miss
Temple to some of the elder girls. The duration of each lesson was
measured by the clock, which at last struck twelve. The
superintendent rose: --
- "I have a word to address to the pupils," said she.
- The tumult of cessation from lessons was already breaking forth, but
it sank at her voice. She went on: --
- "You had this morning a breakfast which you could not eat; you must
be hungry: -- I have ordered that a lunch of bread and cheese shall be
served to all."
- The teachers looked at her with a sort of surprise.
- "It is to be done on my responsibility," she added, in an
explanatory tone to them, and immediately afterwards left the room.
- The bread and cheese was presently brought in and distributed, to
the high delight and refreshment of the whole school. The order was
now given "To the garden!" Each put on a coarse straw bonnet, with
strings of coloured calico, and a cloak of grey frieze. I was
similarly equipped, and, following the stream, I made my way into
the open air.
- The garden was a wide inclosure, surrounded with walls so high as to
exclude every glimpse of prospect; a covered verandah ran down one
side, and broad walks bordered a middle space divided into scores of
little beds: these beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils to
cultivate, and each bed had an owner. When full of flowers they
would doubtless look pretty; but now, at the latter end of January,
all was wintry blight and brown decay. I shuddered as I stood and
looked round me: it was an inclement day for outdoor exercise; not
positively rainy, but darkened by a drizzling yellow fog; all under
foot was still soaking wet with the floods of yesterday. The
stronger among the girls ran about and engaged in active games, but
sundry pale and thin ones herded together for shelter and warmth in
the verandah; and amongst these, as the dense mist penetrated to
their shivering frames, I heard frequently the sound of a hollow
- As yet I had spoken to no one, nor did anybody seem to take notice
of me; I stood lonely enough: but to that feeling of isolation I
was accustomed; it did not oppress me much. I leant against a
pillar of the verandah, drew my grey mantle close about me, and,
trying to forget the cold which nipped me without, and the
unsatisfied hunger which gnawed me within, delivered myself up to
the employment of watching and thinking. My reflections were too
undefined and fragmentary to merit record: I hardly yet knew where
I was; Gateshead and my past life seemed floated away to an
immeasurable distance; the present was vague and strange, and of the
future I could form no conjecture. I looked round the convent-like
garden, and then up at the house -- a large building, half of which
seemed grey and old, the other half quite new. The new part,
containing the schoolroom and dormitory, was lit by mullioned and
latticed windows, which gave it a church-like aspect; a stone tablet
over the door bore this inscription: --
- "Lowood Institution. -- This portion was rebuilt A.D.---- , by Naomi
Brocklehurst, of Brocklehurst Hall, in this county." "Let your
light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and
glorify your Father which is in heaven." -- St. Matt. v. 16.
- I read these words over and over again: I felt that an explanation
belonged to them, and was unable fully to penetrate their import. I
was still pondering the signification of "Institution," and
endeavouring to make out a connection between the first words and
the verse of Scripture, when the sound of a cough close behind me
made me turn my head. I saw a girl sitting on a stone bench near;
she was bent over a book, on the perusal of which she seemed intent:
from where I stood I could see the title -- it was "Rasselas;" a name
that struck me as strange, and consequently attractive. In turning
a leaf she happened to look up, and I said to her directly: --
- "Is your book interesting?" I had already formed the intention of
asking her to lend it to me some day.
- "I like it," she answered, after a pause of a second or two, during
which she examined me.
- "What is it about?" I continued. I hardly know where I found the
hardihood thus to open a conversation with a stranger; the step was
contrary to my nature and habits: but I think her occupation
touched a chord of sympathy somewhere; for I too liked reading,
though of a frivolous and childish kind; I could not digest or
comprehend the serious or substantial.
- "You may look at it," replied the girl, offering me the book.
- I did so; a brief examination convinced me that the contents were
less taking than the title: "Rasselas" looked dull to my trifling
taste; I saw nothing about fairies, nothing about genii; no bright
variety seemed spread over the closely-printed pages. I returned it
to her; she received it quietly, and without saying anything she was
about to relapse into her former studious mood: again I ventured to
disturb her: --
- "Can you tell me what the writing on that stone over the door means?
What is Lowood Institution?"
- "This house where you are come to live."
- "And why do they call it Institution? Is it in any way different
from other schools?"
- "It is partly a charity-school: you and I, and all the rest of us,
are charity-children. I suppose you are an orphan: are not either
your father or your mother dead?"
- "Both died before I can remember."
- "Well, all the girls here have lost either one or both parents, and
this is called an institution for educating orphans."
- "Do we pay no money? Do they keep us for nothing?"
- "We pay, or our friends pay, fifteen pounds a year for each."
- "Then why do they call us charity-children?"
- "Because fifteen pounds is not enough for board and teaching, and
the deficiency is supplied by subscription."
- "Who subscribes?"
- "Different benevolent-minded ladies and gentlemen in this
neighbourhood and in London."
- "Who was Naomi Brocklehurst?"
- "The lady who built the new part of this house as that tablet
records, and whose son overlooks and directs everything here."
- "Because he is treasurer and manager of the establishment."
- "Then this house does not belong to that tall lady who wears a
watch, and who said we were to have some bread and cheese?"
- "To Miss Temple? Oh, no! I wish it did: she has to answer to Mr.
Brocklehurst for all she does. Mr. Brocklehurst buys all our food
and all our clothes."
- "Does he live here?"
- "No -- two miles off, at a large hall."
- "Is he a good man?"
- "He is a clergyman, and is said to do a great deal of good."
- "Did you say that tall lady was called Miss Temple?"
- "And what are the other teachers called?"
- "The one with red cheeks is called Miss Smith; she attends to the
work, and cuts out -- for we make our own clothes, our frocks, and
pelisses, and everything; the little one with black hair is Miss
Scatcherd; she teaches history and grammar, and hears the second
class repetitions; and the one who wears a shawl, and has a pocket-handkerchief tied to her side with a yellow ribband, is Madame
Pierrot: she comes from Lisle, in France, and teaches French."
- "Do you like the teachers?"
- "Well enough."
- "Do you like the little black one, and the Madame---- ? -- I cannot
pronounce her name as you do."
- "Miss Scatcherd is hasty -- you must take care not to offend her;
Madame Pierrot is not a bad sort of person."
- "But Miss Temple is the best -- isn't she?"
- "Miss Temple is very good and very clever; she is above the rest,
because she knows far more than they do."
- "Have you been long here?"
- "Two years."
- "Are you an orphan?"
- "My mother is dead."
- "Are you happy here?"
- "You ask rather too many questions. I have given you answers enough
for the present: now I want to read."
- But at that moment the summons sounded for dinner; all re-entered
the house. The odour which now filled the refectory was scarcely
more appetising than that which had regaled our nostrils at
breakfast: the dinner was served in two huge tin-plated vessels,
whence rose a strong steam redolent of rancid fat. I found the mess
to consist of indifferent potatoes and strange shreds of rusty meat,
mixed and cooked together. Of this preparation a tolerably abundant
plateful was apportioned to each pupil. I ate what I could, and
wondered within myself whether every day's fare would be like this.
- After dinner, we immediately adjourned to the schoolroom: lessons
recommenced, and were continued till five o'clock.
- The only marked event of the afternoon was, that I saw the girl with
whom I had conversed in the verandah dismissed in disgrace by Miss
Scatcherd from a history class, and sent to stand in the middle of
the large schoolroom. The punishment seemed to me in a high degree
ignominious, especially for so great a girl -- she looked thirteen or
upwards. I expected she would show signs of great distress and
shame; but to my surprise she neither wept nor blushed: composed,
though grave, she stood, the central mark of all eyes. "How can she
bear it so quietly -- so firmly?" I asked of myself. "Were I in her
place, it seems to me I should wish the earth to open and swallow me
up. She looks as if she were thinking of something beyond her
punishment -- beyond her situation: of something not round her nor
before her. I have heard of day-dreams -- is she in a day-dream now?
Her eyes are fixed on the floor, but I am sure they do not see it --
her sight seems turned in, gone down into her heart: she is looking
at what she can remember, I believe; not at what is really present.
I wonder what sort of a girl she is -- whether good or naughty."
- Soon after five p.m. we had another meal, consisting of a small mug
of coffee, and half-a-slice of brown bread. I devoured my bread and
drank my coffee with relish; but I should have been glad of as much
more -- I was still hungry. Half-an-hour's recreation succeeded, then
study; then the glass of water and the piece of oat-cake, prayers,
and bed. Such was my first day at Lowood.
- THE next day commenced as before, getting up and dressing by
rushlight; but this morning we were obliged to dispense with the
ceremony of washing; the water in the pitchers was frozen. A change
had taken place in the weather the preceding evening, and a keen
north-east wind, whistling through the crevices of our bedroom
windows all night long, had made us shiver in our beds, and turned
the contents of the ewers to ice.
- Before the long hour and a half of prayers and Bible-reading was
over, I felt ready to perish with cold. Breakfast-time came at
last, and this morning the porridge was not burnt; the quality was
eatable, the quantity small. How small my portion seemed! I wished
it had been doubled.
- In the course of the day I was enrolled a member of the fourth
class, and regular tasks and occupations were assigned me:
hitherto, I had only been a spectator of the proceedings at Lowood;
I was now to become an actor therein. At first, being little
accustomed to learn by heart, the lessons appeared to me both long
and difficult; the frequent change from task to task, too,
bewildered me; and I was glad when, about three o'clock in the
afternoon, Miss Smith put into my hands a border of muslin two yards
long, together with needle, thimble, etc., and sent me to sit in a
quiet corner of the schoolroom, with directions to hem the same. At
that hour most of the others were sewing likewise; but one class
still stood round Miss Scatcherd's chair reading, and as all was
quiet, the subject of their lessons could be heard, together with
the manner in which each girl acquitted herself, and the
animadversions or commendations of Miss Scatcherd on the
performance. It was English history: among the readers I observed
my acquaintance of the verandah: at the commencement of the lesson,
her place had been at the top of the class, but for some error of
pronunciation, or some inattention to stops, she was suddenly sent
to the very bottom. Even in that obscure position, Miss Scatcherd
continued to make her an object of constant notice: she was
continually addressing to her such phrases as the following: --
- "Burns" (such it seems was her name: the girls here were all called
by their surnames, as boys are elsewhere), "Burns, you are standing
on the side of your shoe; turn your toes out immediately." "Burns,
you poke your chin most unpleasantly; draw it in." "Burns, I insist
on your holding your head up; I will not have you before me in that
attitude," etc. etc.
- A chapter having been read through twice, the books were closed and
the girls examined. The lesson had comprised part of the reign of
Charles I., and there were sundry questions about tonnage and
poundage and ship-money, which most of them appeared unable to
answer; still, every little difficulty was solved instantly when it
reached Burns: her memory seemed to have retained the substance of
the whole lesson, and she was ready with answers on every point. I
kept expecting that Miss Scatcherd would praise her attention; but,
instead of that, she suddenly cried out: --
- "You dirty, disagreeable girl! you have never cleaned your nails
- Burns made no answer: I wondered at her silence.
- "Why," thought I,
"does she not explain that she could neither clean her nails nor
wash her face, as the water was frozen?"
- My attention was now called off by Miss Smith desiring me to hold a
skein of thread: while she was winding it, she talked to me from
time to time, asking whether I had ever been at school before,
whether I could mark, stitch, knit, etc.; till she dismissed me, I
could not pursue my observations on Miss Scatcherd's movements.
When I returned to my seat, that lady was just delivering an order
of which I did not catch the import; but Burns immediately left the
class, and going into the small inner room where the books were
kept, returned in half a minute, carrying in her hand a bundle of
twigs tied together at one end. This ominous tool she presented to
Miss Scatcherd with a respectful curtesy; then she quietly, and
without being told, unloosed her pinafore, and the teacher instantly
and sharply inflicted on her neck a dozen strokes with the bunch of
twigs. Not a tear rose to Burns' eye; and, while I paused from my
sewing, because my fingers quivered at this spectacle with a
sentiment of unavailing and impotent anger, not a feature of her
pensive face altered its ordinary expression.
- "Hardened girl!" exclaimed Miss Scatcherd; "nothing can correct you
of your slatternly habits: carry the rod away."
- Burns obeyed: I looked at her narrowly as she emerged from the
book-closet; she was just putting back her handkerchief into her
pocket, and the trace of a tear glistened on her thin cheek.
- The play-hour in the evening I thought the pleasantest fraction of
the day at Lowood: the bit of bread, the draught of coffee
swallowed at five o'clock had revived vitality, if it had not
satisfied hunger: the long restraint of the day was slackened; the
schoolroom felt warmer than in the morning -- its fires being allowed
to burn a little more brightly, to supply, in some measure, the
place of candles, not yet introduced: the ruddy gloaming, the
licensed uproar, the confusion of many voices gave one a welcome
sense of liberty.
- On the evening of the day on which I had seen Miss Scatcherd flog
her pupil, Burns, I wandered as usual among the forms and tables and
laughing groups without a companion, yet not feeling lonely: when I
passed the windows, I now and then lifted a blind, and looked out;
it snowed fast, a drift was already forming against the lower panes;
putting my ear close to the window, I could distinguish from the
gleeful tumult within, the disconsolate moan of the wind outside.
- Probably, if I had lately left a good home and kind parents, this
would have been the hour when I should most keenly have regretted
the separation; that wind would then have saddened my heart; this
obscure chaos would have disturbed my peace! as it was, I derived
from both a strange excitement, and reckless and feverish, I wished
the wind to howl more wildly, the gloom to deepen to darkness, and
the confusion to rise to clamour.
- Jumping over forms, and creeping under tables, I made my way to one
of the fire-places; there, kneeling by the high wire fender, I found
Burns, absorbed, silent, abstracted from all round her by the
companionship of a book, which she read by the dim glare of the
- "Is it still 'Rasselas'?" I asked, coming behind her.
- "Yes," she said, "and I have just finished it."
- And in five minutes more she shut it up. I was glad of this.
- "Now," thought I, "I can perhaps get her to talk."
- I sat down by
her on the floor.
- "What is your name besides Burns?"
- "Do you come a long way from here?"
- "I come from a place farther north, quite on the borders of
- "Will you ever go back?"
- "I hope so; but nobody can be sure of the future."
- "You must wish to leave Lowood?"
- "No! why should I? I was sent to Lowood to get an education; and it
would be of no use going away until I have attained that object."
- "But that teacher, Miss Scatcherd, is so cruel to you?"
- "Cruel? Not at all! She is severe: she dislikes my faults."
- "And if I were in your place I should dislike her; I should resist
her. If she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her hand;
I should break it under her nose."
- "Probably you would do nothing of the sort: but if you did, Mr.
Brocklehurst would expel you from the school; that would be a great
grief to your relations. It is far better to endure patiently a
smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action
whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you; and
besides, the Bible bids us return good for evil."
- "But then it seems disgraceful to be flogged, and to be sent to
stand in the middle of a room full of people; and you are such a
great girl: I am far younger than you, and I could not bear it."
- "Yet it would be your duty to bear it, if you could not avoid it:
it is weak and silly to say you cannot bear what it is your fate to
be required to bear."
- I heard her with wonder: I could not comprehend this doctrine of
endurance; and still less could I understand or sympathise with the
forbearance she expressed for her chastiser. Still I felt that
Helen Burns considered things by a light invisible to my eyes. I
suspected she might be right and I wrong; but I would not ponder the
matter deeply; like Felix, I put it off to a more convenient season.
- "You say you have faults, Helen: what are they? To me you seem
- "Then learn from me, not to judge by appearances: I am, as Miss
Scatcherd said, slatternly; I seldom put, and never keep, things, in
order; I am careless; I forget rules; I read when I should learn my
lessons; I have no method; and sometimes I say, like you, I cannot
bear to be subjected to systematic arrangements. This is all very
provoking to Miss Scatcherd, who is naturally neat, punctual, and
- "And cross and cruel," I added; but Helen Burns would not admit my
addition: she kept silence.
- "Is Miss Temple as severe to you as Miss Scatcherd?"
- At the utterance of Miss Temple's name, a soft smile flitted over
her grave face.
- "Miss Temple is full of goodness; it pains her to be severe to any
one, even the worst in the school: she sees my errors, and tells me
of them gently; and, if I do anything worthy of praise, she gives me
my meed liberally. One strong proof of my wretchedly defective
nature is, that even her expostulations, so mild, so rational, have
not influence to cure me of my faults; and even her praise, though I
value it most highly, cannot stimulate me to continued care and
- "That is curious," said I, "it is so easy to be careful."
- "For you I have no doubt it is. I observed you in your class this
morning, and saw you were closely attentive: your thoughts never
seemed to wander while Miss Miller explained the lesson and
questioned you. Now, mine continually rove away; when I should be
listening to Miss Scatcherd, and collecting all she says with
assiduity, often I lose the very sound of her voice; I fall into a
sort of dream. Sometimes I think I am in Northumberland, and that
the noises I hear round me are the bubbling of a little brook which
runs through Deepden, near our house; -- then, when it comes to my
turn to reply, I have to be awakened; and having heard nothing of
what was read for listening to the visionary brook, I have no answer
- "Yet how well you replied this afternoon."
- "It was mere chance; the subject on which we had been reading had
interested me. This afternoon, instead of dreaming of Deepden, I
was wondering how a man who wished to do right could act so unjustly
and unwisely as Charles the First sometimes did; and I thought what
a pity it was that, with his integrity and conscientiousness, he
could see no farther than the prerogatives of the crown. If he had
but been able to look to a distance, and see how what they call the
spirit of the age was tending! Still, I like Charles -- I respect
him -- I pity him, poor murdered king! Yes, his enemies were the
worst: they shed blood they had no right to shed. How dared they
- Helen was talking to herself now: she had forgotten I could not
very well understand her -- that I was ignorant, or nearly so, of the
subject she discussed. I recalled her to my level.
- "And when Miss Temple teaches you, do your thoughts wander then?"
- "No, certainly, not often; because Miss Temple has generally
something to say which is newer than my own reflections; her
language is singularly agreeable to me, and the information she
communicates is often just what I wished to gain."
- "Well, then, with Miss Temple you are good?"
- "Yes, in a passive way: I make no effort; I follow as inclination
guides me. There is no merit in such goodness."
- "A great deal: you are good to those who are good to you. It is
all I ever desire to be. If people were always kind and obedient to
those who are cruel and unjust, the wicked people would have it all
their own way: they would never feel afraid, and so they would
never alter, but would grow worse and worse. When we are struck at
without a reason, we should strike back again very hard; I am sure
we should -- so hard as to teach the person who struck us never to do
- "You will change your mind, I hope, when you grow older: as yet you
are but a little untaught girl."
- "But I feel this, Helen; I must dislike those who, whatever I do to
please them, persist in disliking me; I must resist those who punish
me unjustly. It is as natural as that I should love those who show
me affection, or submit to punishment when I feel it is deserved."
- "Heathens and savage tribes hold that doctrine, but Christians and
civilised nations disown it."
- "How? I don't understand."
- "It is not violence that best overcomes hate -- nor vengeance that
most certainly heals injury."
- "What then?"
- "Read the New Testament, and observe what Christ says, and how He
acts; make His word your rule, and His conduct your example."
- "What does He say?"
- "Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that
hate you and despitefully use you."
- "Then I should love Mrs. Reed, which I cannot do; I should bless her
son John, which is impossible."
- In her turn, Helen Burns asked me to explain, and I proceeded
forthwith to pour out, in my own way, the tale of my sufferings and
resentments. Bitter and truculent when excited, I spoke as I felt,
without reserve or softening.
- Helen heard me patiently to the end: I expected she would then make
a remark, but she said nothing.
- "Well," I asked impatiently, "is not Mrs. Reed a hard-hearted, bad
- "She has been unkind to you, no doubt; because you see, she dislikes
your cast of character, as Miss Scatcherd does mine; but how
minutely you remember all she has done and said to you! What a
singularly deep impression her injustice seems to have made on your
heart! No ill-usage so brands its record on my feelings. Would you
not be happier if you tried to forget her severity, together with
the passionate emotions it excited? Life appears to me too short to
be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs. We are, and
must be, one and all, burdened with faults in this world: but the
time will soon come when, I trust, we shall put them off in putting
off our corruptible bodies; when debasement and sin will fall from
us with this cumbrous frame of flesh, and only the spark of the
spirit will remain, -- the impalpable principle of light and thought,
pure as when it left the Creator to inspire the creature: whence it
came it will return; perhaps again to be communicated to some being
higher than man -- perhaps to pass through gradations of glory, from
the pale human soul to brighten to the seraph! Surely it will
never, on the contrary, be suffered to degenerate from man to fiend?
No; I cannot believe that: I hold another creed: which no one ever
taught me, and which I seldom mention; but in which I delight, and
to which I cling: for it extends hope to all: it makes Eternity a
rest -- a mighty home, not a terror and an abyss. Besides, with this
creed, I can so clearly distinguish between the criminal and his
crime; I can so sincerely forgive the first while I abhor the last:
with this creed revenge never worries my heart, degradation never
too deeply disgusts me, injustice never crushes me too low: I live
in calm, looking to the end."
- Helen's head, always drooping, sank a little lower as she finished
this sentence. I saw by her look she wished no longer to talk to
me, but rather to converse with her own thoughts. She was not
allowed much time for meditation: a monitor, a great rough girl,
presently came up, exclaiming in a strong Cumberland accent, --
- "Helen Burns, if you don't go and put your drawer in order, and fold
up your work this minute, I'll tell Miss Scatcherd to come and look
- Helen sighed as her reverie fled, and getting up, obeyed the monitor
without reply as without delay.
- MY first quarter at Lowood seemed an age; and not the golden age
either; it comprised an irksome struggle with difficulties in
habituating myself to new rules and unwonted tasks. The fear of
failure in these points harassed me worse than the physical
hardships of my lot; though these were no trifles.
- During January, February, and part of March, the deep snows, and,
after their melting, the almost impassable roads, prevented our
stirring beyond the garden walls, except to go to church; but within
these limits we had to pass an hour every day in the open air. Our
clothing was insufficient to protect us from the severe cold: we
had no boots, the snow got into our shoes and melted there: our
ungloved hands became numbed and covered with chilblains, as were
our feet: I remember well the distracting irritation I endured from
this cause every evening, when my feet inflamed; and the torture of
thrusting the swelled, raw, and stiff toes into my shoes in the
morning. Then the scanty supply of food was distressing: with the
keen appetites of growing children, we had scarcely sufficient to
keep alive a delicate invalid. From this deficiency of nourishment
resulted an abuse, which pressed hardly on the younger pupils:
whenever the famished great girls had an opportunity, they would
coax or menace the little ones out of their portion. Many a time I
have shared between two claimants the precious morsel of brown bread
distributed at tea-time; and after relinquishing to a third half the
contents of my mug of coffee, I have swallowed the remainder with an
accompaniment of secret tears, forced from me by the exigency of
- 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
- At the close of the afternoon service we returned by an exposed and
hilly road, where the bitter winter wind, blowing over a range of
snowy summits to the north, almost flayed the skin from our faces.
- I can remember Miss Temple walking lightly and rapidly along our
drooping line, her plaid cloak, which the frosty wind fluttered,
gathered close about her, and encouraging us, by precept and
example, to keep up our spirits, and march forward, as she said,
"like stalwart soldiers." The other teachers, poor things, were
generally themselves too much dejected to attempt the task of
- How we longed for the light and heat of a blazing fire when we got
back! But, to the little ones at least, this was denied: each
hearth in the schoolroom was immediately surrounded by a double row
of great girls, and behind them the younger children crouched in
groups, wrapping their starved arms in their pinafores.
- A little solace came at tea-time, in the shape of a double ration of
bread -- a whole, instead of a half, slice -- with the delicious
addition of a thin scrape of butter: it was the hebdomadal treat to
which we all looked forward from Sabbath to Sabbath. I generally
contrived to reserve a moiety of this bounteous repast for myself;
but the remainder I was invariably obliged to part with.
- The Sunday evening was spent in repeating, by heart, the Church
Catechism, and the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of St.
Matthew; and in listening to a long sermon, read by Miss Miller,
whose irrepressible yawns attested her weariness. A frequent
interlude of these performances was the enactment of the part of
Eutychus by some half-dozen of little girls, who, overpowered with
sleep, would fall down, if not out of the third loft, yet off the
fourth form, and be taken up half dead. The remedy was, to thrust
them forward into the centre of the schoolroom, and oblige them to
stand there till the sermon was finished. Sometimes their feet
failed them, and they sank together in a heap; they were then
propped up with the monitors' high stools.
- I have not yet alluded to the visits of Mr. Brocklehurst; and indeed
that gentleman was from home during the greater part of the first
month after my arrival; perhaps prolonging his stay with his friend
the archdeacon: his absence was a relief to me. I need not say
that I had my own reasons for dreading his coming: but come he did
- 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, etc.; 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
- "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
- Mr. Brocklehurst nodded.
- "Well, for once it may pass; but please not to let the circumstance
occur too often. And there is another thing which surprised me; I
find, in settling accounts with the housekeeper, that a lunch,
consisting of bread and cheese, has twice been served out to the
girls during the past fortnight. How is this? I looked over the
regulations, and I find no such meal as lunch mentioned. Who
introduced this innovation? and by what authority?"
- "I must be responsible for the circumstance, sir," replied Miss
Temple: "the breakfast was so ill prepared that the pupils could
not possibly eat it; and I dared not allow them to remain fasting
- "Madam, allow me an instant. You are aware that my plan in bringing
up these girls is, not to accustom them to habits of luxury and
indulgence, but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying. Should
any little accidental disappointment of the appetite occur, such as
the spoiling of a meal, the under or the over dressing of a dish,
the incident ought not to be neutralised by replacing with something
more delicate the comfort lost, thus pampering the body and
obviating the aim of this institution; it ought to be improved to
the spiritual edification of the pupils, by encouraging them to
evince fortitude under temporary privation. A brief address on
those occasions would not be mistimed, wherein a judicious
instructor would take the opportunity of referring to the sufferings
of the primitive Christians; to the torments of martyrs; to the
exhortations of our blessed Lord Himself, calling upon His disciples
to take up their cross and follow Him; to His warnings that man
shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out
of the mouth of God; to His divine consolations, "If ye suffer
hunger or thirst for My sake, happy are ye." Oh, madam, when you
put bread and cheese, instead of burnt porridge, into these
children's mouths, you may indeed feed their vile bodies, but you
little think how you starve their immortal souls!"
- Mr. Brocklehurst again paused -- perhaps overcome by his feelings.
Miss Temple had looked down when he first began to speak to her; but
she now gazed straight before her, and her face, naturally pale as
marble, appeared to be assuming also the coldness and fixity of that
material; especially her mouth, closed as if it would have required
a sculptor's chisel to open it, and her brow settled gradually into
- 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
- "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 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
- Hitherto, while gathering up the discourse of Mr. Brocklehurst and
Miss Temple, I had not, at the same time, neglected precautions to
secure my personal safety; which I thought would be effected, if I
could only elude observation. To this end, I had sat well back on
the form, and while seeming to be busy with my sum, had held my
slate in such a manner as to conceal my face: I might have escaped
notice, had not my treacherous slate somehow happened to slip from
my hand, and falling with an obtrusive crash, directly drawn every
eye upon me; I knew it was all over now, and, as I stooped to pick
up the two fragments of slate, I rallied my forces for the worst.
- "A careless girl!" said Mr. Brocklehurst, and immediately after -- "It
is the new pupil, I perceive." And before I could draw breath, "I
must not forget I have a word to say respecting her." Then aloud:
how loud it seemed to me! "Let the child who broke her slate come
- Of my own accord I could not have stirred; I was paralysed: but the
two great girls who sit on each side of me, set me on my legs and
pushed me towards the dread judge, and then Miss Temple gently
assisted me to his very feet, and I caught her whispered counsel, --
- "Don't be afraid, Jane, I saw it was an accident; you shall not be
- The kind whisper went to my heart like a dagger.
- "Another minute, and she will despise me for a hypocrite," thought
I; and an impulse of fury against Reed, Brocklehurst, and Co.
bounded in my pulses at the conviction. I was no Helen Burns.
- "Fetch that stool," said Mr. Brocklehurst, pointing to a very high
one from which a monitor had just risen: it was brought.
- "Place the child upon it."
- And I was placed there, by whom I don't know: I was in no condition
to note particulars; I was only aware that they had hoisted me up to
the height of Mr. Brocklehurst's nose, that he was within a yard of
me, and that a spread of shot orange and purple silk pelisses and a
cloud of silvery plumage extended and waved below me.
- Mr. Brocklehurst hemmed.
- "Ladies," said he, turning to his family, "Miss Temple, teachers,
and children, you all see this girl?"
- Of course they did; for I felt their eyes directed like burning-glasses against my scorched skin.
- "You see she is yet young; you observe she possesses the ordinary
form of childhood; God has graciously given her the shape that He
has given to all of us; no signal deformity points her out as a
marked character. Who would think that the Evil One had already
found a servant and agent in her? Yet such, I grieve to say, is the
- 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
- 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
- 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
- "Everybody, Jane? Why, there are only eighty people who have heard
you called so, and the world contains hundreds of millions."
- "But what have I to do with millions? The eighty, I know, despise
- "Jane, you are mistaken: probably not one in the school either
despises or dislikes you: many, I am sure, pity you much."
- "How can they pity me after what Mr. Brocklehurst has said?"
- "Mr. Brocklehurst is not a god: nor is he even a great and admired
man: he is little liked here; he never took steps to make himself
liked. Had he treated you as an especial favourite, you would have
found enemies, declared or covert, all around you; as it is, the
greater number would offer you sympathy if they dared. Teachers and
pupils may look coldly on you for a day or two, but friendly
feelings are concealed in their hearts; and if you persevere in
doing well, these feelings will ere long appear so much the more
evidently for their temporary suppression. Besides, Jane" -- she
- "Well, Helen?" said I, putting my hand into hers: she chafed my
fingers gently to warm them, and went on: --
- "If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own
conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not
be without friends."
- "No; I know I should think well of myself; but that is not enough:
if others don't love me I would rather die than live -- I cannot bear
to be solitary and hated, Helen. Look here; to gain some real
affection from you, or Miss Temple, or any other whom I truly love,
I would willingly submit to have the bone of my arm broken, or to
let a bull toss me, or to stand behind a kicking horse, and let it
dash its hoof at my chest," ----
- "Hush, Jane! you think too much of the love of human beings; you are
too impulsive, too vehement; the sovereign hand that created your
frame, and put life into it, has provided you with other resources
than your feeble self, or than creatures feeble as you. Besides
this earth, and besides the race of men, there is an invisible world
and a kingdom of spirits: that world is round us, for it is
everywhere; and those spirits watch us, for they are commissioned to
guard us; and if we were dying in pain and shame, if scorn smote us
on all sides, and hatred crushed us, angels see our tortures,
recognise our innocence (if innocent we be: as I know you are of
this charge which Mr. Brocklehurst has weakly and pompously repeated
at second-hand from Mrs. Reed; for I read a sincere nature in your
ardent eyes and on your clear front), and God waits only the
separation of spirit from flesh to crown us with a full reward.
Why, then, should we ever sink overwhelmed with distress, when life
is so soon over, and death is so certain an entrance to happiness --
- 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
- "Is it all over?" she asked, looking down at my face. "Have you
cried your grief away?"
- "I am afraid I never shall do that."
- "Because I have been wrongly accused; and you, ma'am, and everybody
else, will now think me wicked."
- "We shall think you what you prove yourself to be, my child.
Continue to act as a good girl, and you will satisfy us."
- "Shall I, Miss Temple?"
- "You will," said she, passing her arm round me. "And now tell me
who is the lady whom Mr. Brocklehurst called your benefactress?"
- "Mrs. Reed, my uncle's wife. My uncle is dead, and he left me to
- "Did she not, then, adopt you of her own accord?"
- "No, ma'am; she was sorry to have to do it: but my uncle, as I have
often heard the servants say, got her to promise before he died that
she would always keep me."
- "Well now, Jane, you know, or at least I will tell you, that when a
criminal is accused, he is always allowed to speak in his own
defence. You have been charged with falsehood; defend yourself to
me as well as you can. Say whatever your memory suggests is true;
but add nothing and exaggerate nothing."
- I resolved, in the depth of my heart, that I would be most moderate -- most correct; and, having reflected a few minutes in order to
arrange coherently what I had to say, I told her all the story of my
sad childhood. Exhausted by emotion, my language was more subdued
than it generally was when it developed that sad theme; and mindful
of Helen's warnings against the indulgence of resentment, I infused
into the narrative far less of gall and wormwood than ordinary.
Thus restrained and simplified, it sounded more credible: I felt as
I went on that Miss Temple fully believed me.
- In the course of the tale I had mentioned Mr. Lloyd as having come
to see me after the fit: for I never forgot the, to me, frightful
episode of the red-room: in detailing which, my excitement was
sure, in some degree, to break bounds; for nothing could soften in
my recollection the spasm of agony which clutched my heart when Mrs.
Reed spurned my wild supplication for pardon, and locked me a second
time in the dark and haunted chamber.
- I had finished: Miss Temple regarded me a few minutes in silence;
she then said --
- "I know something of Mr. Lloyd; I shall write to him; if his reply
agrees with your statement, you shall be publicly cleared from every
imputation; to me, Jane, you are clear now."
- She kissed me, and still keeping me at her side (where I was well
contented to stand, for I derived a child's pleasure from the
contemplation of her face, her dress, her one or two ornaments, her
white forehead, her clustered and shining curls, and beaming dark
eyes), she proceeded to address Helen Burns.
- "How are you to-night, Helen? Have you coughed much to-day?"
- "Not quite so much, I think, ma'am."
- "And the pain in your chest?"
- "It is a little better."
- Miss Temple got up, took her hand and examined her pulse; then she
returned to her own seat: as she resumed it, I heard her sigh low.
She was pensive a few minutes, then rousing herself, she said
- "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
- "Oh, very well!" returned Miss Temple; "we must make it do, Barbara,
I suppose." And as the girl withdrew she added, smiling,
"Fortunately, I have it in my power to supply deficiencies for this
- Having invited Helen and me to approach the table, and placed before
each of us a cup of tea with one delicious but thin morsel of toast,
she got up, unlocked a drawer, and taking from it a parcel wrapped
in paper, disclosed presently to our eyes a good-sized 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
- Miss Temple had always something of serenity in her air, of state in
her mien, of refined propriety in her language, which precluded
deviation into the ardent, the excited, the eager: something which
chastened the pleasure of those who looked on her and listened to
her, by a controlling sense of awe; and such was my feeling now:
but as to Helen Burns, I was struck with wonder.
- The refreshing meal, the brilliant fire, the presence and kindness
of her beloved instructress, or, perhaps, more than all these,
something in her own unique mind, had roused her powers within her.
They woke, they kindled: first, they glowed in the bright tint of
her cheek, which till this hour I had never seen but pale and
bloodless; then they shone in the liquid lustre of her eyes, which
had suddenly acquired a beauty more singular than that of Miss
Temple's -- a beauty neither of fine colour nor long eyelash, nor
pencilled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance. Then her
soul sat on her lips, and language flowed, from what source I cannot
tell. Has a girl of fourteen a heart large enough, vigorous enough,
to hold the swelling spring of pure, full, fervid eloquence? Such
was the characteristic of Helen's discourse on that, to me,
memorable evening; her spirit seemed hastening to live within a very
brief span as much as many live during a protracted existence.
- They conversed of things I had never heard of; of nations and times
past; of countries far away; of secrets of nature discovered or
guessed at: they spoke of books: how many they had read! What
stores of knowledge they possessed! Then they seemed so familiar
with French names and French authors: but my amazement reached its
climax when Miss Temple asked Helen if she sometimes snatched a
moment to recall the Latin her father had taught her, and taking a
book from a shelf, bade her read and construe a page of Virgil; and
Helen obeyed, my organ of veneration expanding at every sounding
line. She had scarcely finished ere the bell announced bedtime! no
delay could be admitted; Miss Temple embraced us both, saying, as
she drew us to her heart: --
- "God bless you, my children!"
- Helen she held a little longer than me: she let her go more
reluctantly; it was Helen her eye followed to the door; it was for
her she a second time breathed a sad sigh; for her she wiped a tear
from her cheek.
- On reaching the bedroom, we heard the voice of Miss Scatcherd: she
was examining drawers; she had just pulled out Helen Burns's, and
when we entered Helen was greeted with a sharp reprimand, and told
that to-morrow she should have half-a-dozen of untidily folded
articles pinned to her shoulder.
- "My things were indeed in shameful disorder," murmured Helen to me,
in a low voice: "I intended to have arranged them, but I forgot."
- Next morning, Miss Scatcherd wrote in conspicuous characters on a
piece of pasteboard the word "Slattern," and bound it like a
phylactery round Helen's large, mild, intelligent, and benign-looking forehead. She wore it till evening, patient, unresentful,
regarding it as a deserved punishment. The moment Miss Scatcherd
withdrew after afternoon school, I ran to Helen, tore it off, and
thrust it into the fire: the fury of which she was incapable had
been burning in my soul all day, and tears, hot and large, had
continually been scalding my cheek; for the spectacle of her sad
resignation gave me an intolerable pain at the heart.
- About a week subsequently to the incidents above narrated, Miss
Temple, who had written to Mr. Lloyd, received his answer: it
appeared that what he said went to corroborate my account. Miss
Temple, having assembled the whole school, announced that inquiry
had been made into the charges alleged against Jane Eyre, and that
she was most happy to be able to pronounce her completely cleared
from every imputation. The teachers then shook hands with me and
kissed me, and a murmur of pleasure ran through the ranks of my
- Thus relieved of a grievous load, I from that hour set to work
afresh, resolved to pioneer my way through every difficulty: I
toiled hard, and my success was proportionate to my efforts; my
memory, not naturally tenacious, improved with practice; exercise
sharpened my wits; in a few weeks I was promoted to a higher class;
in less than two months I was allowed to commence French and
drawing. I learned the first two tenses of the verb Etre, and
sketched my first cottage (whose walls, by-the-bye, outrivalled in
slope those of the leaning tower of Pisa), on the same day. That
night, on going to bed, I forgot to prepare in imagination the
Barmecide supper of hot roast potatoes, or white bread and new milk,
with which I was wont to amuse my inward cravings: I feasted
instead on the spectacle of ideal drawings, which I saw in the dark;
all the work of my own hands: freely pencilled houses and trees,
picturesque rocks and ruins, Cuyp-like groups of cattle, sweet
paintings of butterflies hovering over unblown roses, of birds
picking at ripe cherries, of wren's nests enclosing pearl-like eggs,
wreathed about with young ivy sprays. I examined, too, in thought,
the possibility of my ever being able to translate currently a
certain little French story which Madame Pierrot had that day shown
me; nor was that problem solved to my satisfaction ere I fell
- Well has Solomon said -- "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,
than a stalled ox and hatred therewith."
- I would not now have exchanged Lowood with all its privations for
Gateshead and its daily luxuries.
- BUT the privations, or rather the hardships, of Lowood lessened.
Spring drew on: she was indeed already come; the frosts of winter
had ceased; its snows were melted, its cutting winds ameliorated.
My wretched feet, flayed and swollen to lameness by the sharp air of
January, began to heal and subside under the gentler breathings of
April; the nights and mornings no longer by their Canadian
temperature froze the very blood in our veins; we could now endure
the play-hour passed in the garden: sometimes on a sunny day it
began even to be pleasant and genial, and a greenness grew over
those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought
that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter
traces of her steps. Flowers peeped out amongst the leaves; snow-drops, crocuses, purple auriculas, and golden-eyed pansies. On
Thursday afternoons (half-holidays) we now took walks, and found
still sweeter flowers opening by the wayside, under the hedges.
- I discovered, too, that a great pleasure, an enjoyment which the
horizon only bounded, lay all outside the high and spike-guarded
walls of our garden: this pleasure consisted in prospect of noble
summits girdling a great hill-hollow, rich in verdure and shadow; in
a bright beck, full of dark stones and sparkling eddies. How
different had this scene looked when I viewed it laid out beneath
the iron sky of winter, stiffened in frost, shrouded with snow! --
when mists as chill as death wandered to the impulse of east winds
along those purple peaks, and rolled down "ing" and holm till they
blended with the frozen fog of the beck! That beck itself was then
a torrent, turbid and curbless: it tore asunder the wood, and sent
a raving sound through the air, often thickened with wild rain or
whirling sleet; and for the forest on its banks, that showed only
ranks of skeletons.
- April advanced to May: a bright serene May it was; days of blue
sky, placid sunshine, and soft western or southern gales filled up
its duration. And now vegetation matured with vigour; Lowood shook
loose its tresses; it became all green, all flowery; its great elm,
ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic life; woodland
plants sprang up profusely in its recesses; unnumbered varieties of
moss filled its hollows, and it made a strange ground-sunshine out
of the wealth of its wild primrose plants: I have seen their pale
gold gleam in overshadowed spots like scatterings of the sweetest
lustre. All this I enjoyed often and fully, free, unwatched, and
almost alone: for this unwonted liberty and pleasure there was a
cause, to which it now becomes my task to advert.
- Have I not described a pleasant site for a dwelling, when I speak of
it as bosomed in hill and wood, and rising from the verge of a
stream? Assuredly, pleasant enough: but whether healthy or not is
- 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
- 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 pare society? Surely the
Mary Arm 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
- True, reader; and I knew and felt this: and though I am a defective
being, with many faults and few redeeming points, yet I never tired
of Helen Burns; nor ever ceased to cherish for her a sentiment of
attachment, as strong, tender, and respectful as any that ever
animated my heart. How could it be otherwise, when Helen, at all
times and under all circumstances, evinced for me a quiet and
faithful friendship, which ill-humour never soured, nor irritation
never troubled? But Helen was ill at present: for some weeks she
had been removed from my sight to I knew not what room upstairs.
She was not, I was told, in the hospital portion of the house with
the fever patients; for her complaint was consumption, not typhus:
and by consumption I, in my ignorance, understood something mild,
which time and care would be sure to alleviate.
- I was confirmed in this idea by the fact of her once or twice coming
downstairs on very warm sunny afternoons, and being taken by Miss
Temple into the garden; but, on these occasions, I was not allowed
to go and speak to her; I only saw her from the schoolroom window,
and then not distinctly; for she was much wrapped up, and sat at a
distance under the verandah.
- One evening, in the beginning of June, I had stayed out very late
with Mary Ann in the wood; we had, as usual, separated ourselves
from the others, and had wandered far; so far that we lost our way,
and had to ask it at a lonely cottage, where a man and woman lived,
who looked after a herd of half-wild swine that fed on the mast in
the wood. When we got back, it was after moonrise: a pony, which
we knew to be the surgeon's, was standing at the garden door. Mary
Ann remarked that she supposed some one must be very ill, as Mr.
Bates had been sent for at that time of the evening. She went into
the house; I stayed behind a few minutes to plant in my garden a
handful of roots I had dug up in the forest, and which I feared
would wither if I left them till the morning. This done, I lingered
yet a little longer: the flowers smelt so sweet as the dew fell; it
was such a pleasant evening, so serene, so warm; the still glowing
west promised so fairly another fine day on the morrow; the moon
rose with such majesty in the grave east. I was noting these things
and enjoying them as a child might, when it entered my mind as it
had never done before: --
- "How sad to be lying now on a sick bed, and to be in danger of
dying! This world is pleasant -- it would be dreary to be called from
it, and to have to go who knows where?"
- And then my mind made its first earnest effort to comprehend what
had been infused into it concerning heaven and hell; and for the
first time it recoiled, baffled; and for the first time glancing
behind, on each side, and before it, it saw all round an unfathomed
gulf: it felt the one point where it stood -- the present; all the
rest was formless cloud and vacant depth; and it shuddered at the
thought of tottering, and plunging amid that chaos. While pondering
this new idea, I heard the front door open; Mr. Bates came out, and
with him was a nurse. After she had seen him mount his horse and
depart, she was about to close the door, but I ran up to her.
- "How is Helen Burns?"
- "Very poorly," was the answer.
- "Is it her Mr. Bates has been to see?"
- "And what does he say about her?"
- "He says she'll not be here long."
- This phrase, uttered in my hearing yesterday, would have only
conveyed the notion that she was about to be removed to
Northumberland, to her own home. I should not have suspected that
it meant she was dying; but I knew instantly now! It opened clear
on my comprehension that Helen Burns was numbering her last days in
this world, and that she was going to be taken to the region of
spirits, if such region there were. I experienced a shock of
horror, then a strong thrill of grief, then a desire -- a necessity to
see her; and I asked in what room she lay.
- "She is in Miss Temple's room," said the nurse.
- "May I go up and speak to her?"
- "Oh, no, child! It is not likely; and now it is time for you to come
in; you'll catch the fever if you stop out when the dew is falling."
- The nurse closed the front door; I went in by the side entrance
which led to the schoolroom: I was just in time; it was nine
o'clock, and Miss Miller was calling the pupils to go to bed.
- It might be two hours later, probably near eleven, when I -- not
having been able to fall asleep, and deeming, from the perfect
silence of the dormitory, that my companions were all wrapt in
profound repose -- rose softly, put on my frock over my night-dress,
and, without shoes, crept from the apartment, and set off in quest
of Miss Temple's room. It was quite at the other end of the house;
but I knew my way; and the light of the unclouded summer moon,
entering here and there at passage windows, enabled me to find it
without difficulty. An odour of camphor and burnt vinegar warned me
when I came near the fever room: and I passed its door quickly,
fearful lest the nurse who sat up all night should hear me. I
dreaded being discovered and sent back; for I must see Helen, -- I
must embrace her before she died, -- I must give her one last kiss,
exchange with her one last word.
- Having descended a staircase, traversed a portion of the house
below, and succeeded in opening and shutting, without noise, two
doors, I reached another flight of steps; these I mounted, and then
just opposite to me was Miss Temple's room. A light shone through
the keyhole and from under the door; a profound stillness pervaded
the vicinity. Coming near, I found the door slightly ajar; probably
to admit some fresh air into the close abode of sickness.
Indisposed to hesitate, and full of impatient impulses -- soul and
senses quivering with keen throes -- I put it back and looked in. My
eye sought Helen, and feared to find death.
- Close by Miss Temple's bed, and half covered with its white
curtains, there stood a little crib. I saw the outline of a form
under the clothes, but the face was hid by the hangings: the nurse
I had spoken to in the garden sat in an easy-chair asleep; an
unsnuffed candle burnt dimly on the table. Miss Temple was not to
be seen: I knew afterwards that she had been called to a delirious
patient in the fever-room. I advanced; then paused by the crib
side: my hand was on the curtain, but I preferred speaking before I
withdrew it. I still recoiled at the dread of seeing a corpse.
- "Helen!" I whispered softly, "are you awake?"
- She stirred herself, put back the curtain, and I saw her face, pale,
wasted, but quite composed: she looked so little changed that my
fear was instantly dissipated.
- "Can it be you, Jane?" she asked, in her own gentle voice.
- "Oh!" I thought, "she is not going to die; they are mistaken: she
could not speak and look so calmly if she were."
- I got on to her crib and kissed her: her forehead was cold, and her
cheek both cold and thin, and so were her hand and wrist; but she
smiled as of old.
- "Why are you come here, Jane? It is past eleven o'clock: I heard
it strike some minutes since."
- "I came to see you, Helen: I heard you were very ill, and I could
not sleep till I had spoken to you."
- "You came to bid me good-bye, then: you are just in time probably."
- "Are you going somewhere, Helen? Are you going home?"
- "Yes; to my long home -- my last home."
- "No, no, Helen!" I stopped, distressed. While I tried to devour my
tears, a fit of coughing seized Helen; it did not, however, wake the
nurse; when it was over, she lay some minutes exhausted; then she
- "Jane, your little feet are bare; lie down and cover yourself with
- I did so: she put her arm over me, and I nestled close to her.
After a long silence, she resumed, still whispering --
- "I am very happy, Jane; and when you hear that I am dead, you must
be sure and not grieve: there is nothing to grieve about. We all
must die one day, and the illness which is removing me is not
painful; it is gentle and gradual: my mind is at rest. I leave no
one to regret me much: I have only a father; and he is lately
married, and will not miss me. By dying young, I shall escape great
sufferings. I had not qualities or talents to make my way very well
in the world: I should have been continually at fault."
- "But where are you going to, Helen? Can you see? Do you know?"
- "I believe; I have faith: I am going to God."
- "Where is God? What is God?"
- "My Maker and yours, who will never destroy what He created. I rely
implicitly on His power, and confide wholly in His goodness: I
count the hours till that eventful one arrives which shall restore
me to Him, reveal Him to me."
- "You are sure, then, Helen, that there is such a place as heaven,
and that our souls can get to it when we die?"
- "I am sure there is a future state; I believe God is good; I can
resign my immortal part to Him without any misgiving. God is my
father; God is my friend: I love Him; I believe He loves me."
- "And shall I see you again, Helen, when I die?"
- "You will come to the same region of happiness: be received by the
same mighty, universal Parent, no doubt, dear Jane."
- Again I questioned, but this time only in thought. "Where is that
region? Does it exist?" And I clasped my arms closer round Helen;
she seemed dearer to me than ever; I felt as if I could not let her
go; I lay with my face hidden on her neck. Presently she said, in
the sweetest tone, --
- "How comfortable I am! That last fit of coughing has tired me a
little; I feel as if I could sleep: but don't leave me, Jane; I
like to have you near me."
- "I'll stay with you, dear Helen: no one shall take me way."
- "Are you warm, darling?"
- "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
- 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
- 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
- During these eight years my life was uniform: but not unhappy,
because it was not inactive. I had the means of an excellent
education placed within my reach; a fondness for some of my studies,
and a desire to excel in all, together with a great delight in
pleasing my teachers, especially such as I loved, urged me on: I
availed myself fully of the advantages offered me. In time I rose
to be the first girl of the first class; then I was invested with
the office of teacher; which I discharged with zeal for two years:
but at the end of that time I altered.
- Miss Temple, through all changes, had thus far continued
superintendent of the seminary: to her instruction I owed the best
part of my acquirements; her friendship and society had been my
continual solace; she had stood me in the stead of mother,
governess, and, latterly, companion. At this period she married,
removed with her husband (a clergyman, an excellent man, almost
worthy of such a wife) to a distant county, and consequently was
lost to me.
- From the day she left I was no longer the same: with her was gone
every settled feeling, every association that had made Lowood in
some degree a home to me. I had imbibed from her something of her
nature and much of her habits: more harmonious thoughts: what
seemed better regulated feelings had become the inmates of my mind.
I had given in allegiance to duty and order; I was quiet; I believed
I was content: to the eyes of others, usually even to my own, I
appeared a disciplined and subdued character.
- But destiny, in the shape of the Rev. Mr. Nasmyth, came between me
and Miss Temple: I saw her in her travelling dress step into a
post-chaise, shortly after the marriage ceremony; I watched the
chaise mount the hill and disappear beyond its brow; and then
retired to my own room, and there spent in solitude the greatest
part of the half-holiday granted in honour of the occasion.
- I walked about the chamber most of the time. I imagined myself only
to be regretting my loss, and thinking how to repair it; but when my
reflections were concluded, and I looked up and found that the
afternoon was gone, and evening far advanced, another discovery
dawned on me, namely, that in the interval I had undergone a
transforming process; that my mind had put off all it had borrowed
of Miss Temple -- or rather that she had taken with her the serene
atmosphere I had been breathing in her vicinity -- and that now I was
left in my natural element, and beginning to feel the stirring of
old emotions. It did not seem as if a prop were withdrawn, but
rather as if a motive were gone: it was not the power to be
tranquil which had failed me, but the reason for tranquillity was no
more. My world had for some years been in Lowood: my experience
had been of its rules and systems; now I remembered that the real
world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of
sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go
forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its
- I went to my window, opened it, and looked out. There were the two
wings of the building; there was the garden; there were the skirts
of Lowood; there was the hilly horizon. My eye passed all other
objects to rest on those most remote, the blue peaks; it was those I
longed to surmount; all within their boundary of rock and heath
seemed prison-ground, exile limits. I traced the white road winding
round the base of one mountain, and vanishing in a gorge between
two; how I longed to follow it farther! I recalled the time when I
had travelled that very road in a coach; I remembered descending
that hill at twilight; an age seemed to have elapsed since the day
which brought me first to Lowood, and I had never quitted it since.
My vacations had all been spent at school: Mrs. Reed had never sent
for me to Gateshead; neither she nor any of her family had ever been
to visit me. I had had no communication by letter or message with
the outer world: school-rules, school-duties, school-habits and
notions, and voices, and faces, and phrases, and costumes, and
preferences, and antipathies -- such was what I knew of existence.
And now I felt that it was not enough; I tired of the routine of
eight years in one afternoon. I desired liberty; for liberty I
gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the
wind then faintly blowing. I abandoned it and framed a humbler
supplication; for change, stimulus: that petition, too, seemed
swept off into vague space: "Then," I cried, half desperate, "grant
me at least a new servitude!"
- Here a bell, ringing the hour of supper, called me downstairs.
- I was not free to resume the interrupted chain of my reflections
till bedtime: even then a teacher who occupied the same room with
me kept me from the subject to which I longed to recur, by a
prolonged effusion of small talk. How I wished sleep would silence
her. It seemed as if, could I but go back to the idea which had
last entered my mind as I stood at the window, some inventive
suggestion would rise for my relief.
- Miss Gryce snored at last; she was a heavy Welshwoman, and till now
her habitual nasal strains had never been regarded by me in any
other light than as a nuisance; to-night I hailed the first deep
notes with satisfaction; I was debarrassed of interruption; my half-effaced thought instantly revived.
- "A new servitude! There is something in that," I soliloquised
(mentally, be it understood; I did not talk aloud), "I know there
is, because it does not sound too sweet; it is not like such words
as Liberty, Excitement, Enjoyment: delightful sounds truly; but no
more than sounds for me; and so hollow and fleeting that it is mere
waste of time to listen to them. But Servitude! That must be
matter of fact. Any one may serve: I have served here eight years;
now all I want is to serve elsewhere. Can I not get so much of my
own will? Is not the thing feasible? Yes -- yes -- the end is not so
difficult; if I had only a brain active enough to ferret out the
means of attaining it."
- I sat up in bed by way of arousing this said brain: it was a chilly
night; I covered my shoulders with a shawl, and then I proceeded to think again with all my might.
- "What do I want? A new place, in a new house, amongst new faces,
under new circumstances: I want this because it is of no use
wanting anything better. How do people do to get a new place? They
apply to friends, I suppose: I have no friends. There are many
others who have no friends, who must look about for themselves and
be their own helpers; and what is their resource?"
- I could not tell: nothing answered me; I then ordered my brain to
find a response, and quickly. It worked and worked faster: I felt
the pulses throb in my head and temples; but for nearly an hour it
worked in chaos; and no result came of its efforts. Feverish with
vain labour, I got up and took a turn in the room; undrew the
curtain, noted a star or two, shivered with cold, and again crept to
- A kind fairy, in my absence, had surely dropped the required
suggestion on my pillow; for as I lay down, it came quietly and
naturally to my mind: -- "Those who want situations advertise; you
must advertise in the ----shire Herald."
- "How? I know nothing about advertising."
- Replies rose smooth and prompt now: --
- "You must enclose the advertisement and the money to pay for it
under a cover directed to the editor of the Herald; you must put it,
the first opportunity you have, into the post at Lowton; answers
must be addressed to J.E., at the post-office there; you can go and
inquire in about a week after you send your letter, if any are come,
and act accordingly."
- This scheme I went over twice, thrice; it was then digested in my
mind; I had it in a clear practical form: I felt satisfied, and
- With earliest day, I was up: I had my advertisement written,
enclosed, and directed before the bell rang to rouse the school; it
ran thus: --
- "A young lady accustomed to tuition" (had I not been a teacher two
years?) "is desirous of meeting with a situation in a private family
where the children are under fourteen (I thought that as I was
barely eighteen, it would not do to undertake the guidance of pupils
nearer my own age). She is qualified to teach the usual branches of
a good English education, together with French, Drawing, and Music"
(in those days, reader, this now narrow catalogue of
accomplishments, would have been held tolerably comprehensive).
"Address, J.E., Post-office, Lowton, ----shire."
- This document remained locked in my drawer all day: after tea, I
asked leave of the new superintendent to go to Lowton, in order to
perform some small commissions for myself and one or two of my
fellow-teachers; permission was readily granted; I went. It was a
walk of two miles, and the evening was wet, but the days were still
long; I visited a shop or two, slipped the letter into the post-office, and came back through heavy rain, with streaming garments,
but with a relieved heart.
- The succeeding week seemed long: it came to an end at last,
however, like all sublunary things, and once more, towards the close
of a pleasant autumn day, I found myself afoot on the road to
Lowton. A picturesque track it was, by the way; lying along the
side of the beck and through the sweetest curves of the dale: but
that day I thought more of the letters, that might or might not be
awaiting me at the little burgh whither I was bound, than of the
charms of lea and water.
- My ostensible errand on this occasion was to get measured for a pair
of shoes; so I discharged that business first, and when it was done,
I stepped across the clean and quiet little street from the
shoemaker's to the post-office: it was kept by an old dame, who
wore horn spectacles on her nose, and black mittens on her hands.
- "Are there any letters for J.E.?" I asked.
- She peered at me over her spectacles, and then she opened a drawer
and fumbled among its contents for a long time, so long that my
hopes began to falter. At last, having held a document before her
glasses for nearly five minutes, she presented it across the
counter, accompanying the act by another inquisitive and mistrustful
glance -- it was for J.E.
- "Is there only one?" I demanded.
- "There are no more," said she; and I put it in my pocket and turned
my face homeward: I could not open it then; rules obliged me to be
back by eight, and it was already half-past seven.
- Various duties awaited me on my arrival. I had to sit with the
girls during their hour of study; then it was my turn to read
prayers; to see them to bed: afterwards I supped with the other
teachers. Even when we finally retired for the night, the
inevitable Miss Gryce was still my companion: we had only a short
end of candle in our candlestick, and I dreaded lest she should talk
till it 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 in 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 règle. 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 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, whether 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
- "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
- "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
- "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 of, 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
- "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
- "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
it 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.
- 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
- 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?"
- "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
- "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
- 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,
- The roads were heavy, the night misty; my conductor let his horse
walk all the way, and the hour and a half extended, I verify
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
- "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
- "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
- "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,
- 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
- "How do you like Thornfield?" she asked. I told her I liked it very
- "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
- 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
- "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 là 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
- "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
- "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.
- 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?"
- "Adèle," 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.
- Adèle sang the canzonette tunefully enough, and with the naïveté 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
- "No, that will do: but after your mama went to the Holy Virgin, as
you say, with whom did you live then?"
- "With Madame Frédéric 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 Frédéric, 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, Adèle 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, etc.
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 Pariain 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
- "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
- "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
- "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
- "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 Adèle, continued till we reached
the light and cheerful region below. Adèle 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.
- THE promise of a smooth career, which my first calm introduction to
Thornfield Hall seemed to pledge, was not belied on a longer
acquaintance with the place and its inmates. Mrs. Fairfax turned
out to be what she appeared, a placid-tempered, kind-natured woman,
of competent education and average intelligence. My pupil was a
lively child, who had been spoilt and indulged, and therefore was
sometimes wayward; but as she was committed entirely to my care, and
no injudicious interference from any quarter ever thwarted my plans
for her improvement, she soon forgot her little freaks, and became
obedient and teachable. She had no great talents, no marked traits
of character, no peculiar development of feeling or taste which
raised her one inch above the ordinary level of childhood; but
neither had she any deficiency or vice which sunk her below it. She
made reasonable progress, entertained for me a vivacious, though
perhaps not very profound, affection; and by her simplicity, gay
prattle, and efforts to please, inspired me, in return, with a
degree of attachment sufficient to make us both content in each
- This, par parenthèse, will be thought cool language by persons who
entertain solemn doctrines about the angelic nature of children, and
the duty of those charged with their education to conceive for them
an idolatrous devotion: but I am not writing to flatter parental
egotism, to echo cant, or prop up humbug; I am merely telling the
truth. I felt a conscientious solicitude for Adèle's welfare and
progress, and a quiet liking for her little self: just as I
cherished towards Mrs. Fairfax a thankfulness for her kindness, and
a pleasure in her society proportionate to the tranquil regard she
had for me, and the moderation of her mind and character.
- Anybody may blame me who likes, when I add further, that, now and
then, when I took a walk by myself in the grounds; when I went down
to the gates and looked through them along the road; or when, while
Adèle played with her nurse, and Mrs. Fairfax made jellies in the
storeroom, I climbed the three staircases, raised the trap-door of
the attic, and having reached the leads, looked out afar over
sequestered field and hill, and along dim sky-line -- that then I
longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit; which
might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard
of but never seen -- that then I desired more of practical experience
than I possessed; more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance
with variety of character, than was here within my reach. I valued
what was good in Mrs. Fairfax, and what was good in Adèle; but I
believed in the existence of other and more vivid kinds of goodness,
and what I believed in I wished to behold.
- Who blames me? Many, no doubt; and I shall be called discontented.
I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated
me to pain sometimes. Then my sole relief was to walk along the
corridor of the third storey, backwards and forwards, safe in the
silence and solitude of the spot, and allow my mind's eye to dwell
on whatever bright visions rose before it -- and, certainly, they were
many and glowing; to let my heart be heaved by the exultant
movement, which, while it swelled it in trouble, expanded it with
life; and, best of all, to open my inward ear to a tale that was
never ended -- a tale my imagination created, and narrated
continuously; quickened with all of incident, life, fire, feeling,
that I desired and had not in my actual existence.
- It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with
tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they
cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine,
and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows
how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the
masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very
calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise
for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their
brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a
stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded
in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to
confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to
playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to
condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn
more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.
- When thus alone, I not unfrequently heard Grace Poole's laugh: the
same peal, the same low, slow ha! ha! which, when first heard, had
thrilled me: I heard, too, her eccentric murmurs; stranger than her
laugh. There were days when she was quite silent; but there were
others when I could not account for the sounds she made. Sometimes
I saw her: she would come out of her room with a basin, or a plate,
or a tray in her hand, go down to the kitchen and shortly return,
generally (oh, romantic reader, forgive me for telling the plain
truth!) bearing a pot of porter. Her appearance always acted as a
damper to the curiosity raised by her oral oddities: hard-featured
and staid, she had no point to which interest could attach. I made
some attempts to draw her into conversation, but she seemed a person
of few words: a monosyllabic reply usually cut short every effort
of that sort.
- The other members of the household, viz., John and his wife, Leah
the housemaid, and Sophie the French nurse, were decent people; but
in no respect remarkable; with Sophie I used to talk French, and
sometimes I asked her questions about her native country; but she
was not of a descriptive or narrative turn, and generally gave such
vapid and confused answers as were calculated rather to check than
- October, November, December passed away. One afternoon in January,
Mrs. Fairfax had begged a holiday for Adèle, because she had a cold;
and, as Adèle seconded the request with an ardour that reminded me
how precious occasional holidays had been to me in my own childhood,
I accorded it, deeming that I did well in showing pliability on the
point. It was a fine, calm day, though very cold; I was tired of
sitting still in the library through a whole long morning: Mrs.
Fairfax had just written a letter which was waiting to be posted, so
I put on my bonnet and cloak and volunteered to carry it to Hay; the
distance, two miles, would be a pleasant winter afternoon walk.
Having seen Adèle comfortably seated in her little chair by Mrs.
Fairfax's parlour fireside, and given her her best wax doll (which I
usually kept enveloped in silver paper in a drawer) to play with,
and a story-book for change of amusement; and having replied to her
"Revenez bientôt, ma bonne amie, ma chère Mdlle. Jeannette," with a
kiss I set out.
- The ground was hard, the air was still, my road was lonely; I walked
fast till I got warm, and then I walked slowly to enjoy and analyse
the species of pleasure brooding for me in the hour and situation.
It was three o'clock; the church bell tolled as I passed under the
belfry: the charm of the hour lay in its approaching dimness, in
the low-gliding and pale-beaming sun. I was a mile from Thornfield,
in a lane noted for wild roses in summer, for nuts and blackberries
in autumn, and even now possessing a few coral treasures in hips and
haws, but whose best winter delight lay in its utter solitude and
leafless repose. If a breath of air stirred, it made no sound here;
for there was not a holly, not an evergreen to rustle, and the
stripped hawthorn and hazel bushes were as still as the white, worn
stones which causewayed the middle of the path. Far and wide, on
each side, there were only fields, where no cattle now browsed; and
the little brown birds, which stirred occasionally in the hedge,
looked like single russet leaves that had forgotten to drop.
- This lane inclined up-hill all the way to Hay; having reached the
middle, I sat down on a stile which led thence into a field.
Gathering my mantle about me, and sheltering my hands in my muff, I
did not feel the cold, though it froze keenly; as was attested by a
sheet of ice covering the causeway, where a little brooklet, now
congealed, had overflowed after a rapid thaw some days since. From
my seat I could look down on Thornfield: the grey and battlemented
hall was the principal object in the vale below me; its woods and
dark rookery rose against the west. I lingered till the sun went
down amongst the trees, and sank crimson and clear behind them. I
then turned eastward.
- On the hill-top above me sat the rising moon; pale yet as a cloud,
but brightening momentarily, she looked over Hay, which, half lost
in trees, sent up a blue smoke from its few chimneys: it was yet a
mile distant, but in the absolute hush I could hear plainly its thin
murmurs of life. My ear, too, felt the flow of currents; in what
dales and depths I could not tell: but there were many hills beyond
Hay, and doubtless many becks threading their passes. That evening
calm betrayed alike the tinkle of the nearest streams, the sough of
the most remote.
- A rude noise broke on these fine ripplings and whisperings, at once
so far away and so clear: a positive tramp, tramp, a metallic
clatter, which effaced the soft wave-wanderings; as, in a picture,
the solid mass of a crag, or the rough boles of a great oak, drawn
in dark and strong on the foreground, efface the aërial distance of
azure hill, sunny horizon, and blended clouds where tint melts into
- The din was on the causeway: a horse was coming; the windings of
the lane yet hid it, but it approached. I was just leaving the
stile; yet, as the path was narrow, I sat still to let it go by. In
those days I was young, and all sorts of fancies bright and dark
tenanted my mind: the memories of nursery stories were there
amongst other rubbish; and when they recurred, maturing youth added
to them a vigour and vividness beyond what childhood could give. As
this horse approached, and as I watched for it to appear through the
dusk, I remembered certain of Bessie's tales, wherein figured a
North-of-England spirit called a "Gytrash," which, in the form of
horse, mule, or large dog, haunted solitary ways, and sometimes came
upon belated travellers, as this horse was now coming upon me.
- It was very near, but not yet in sight; when, in addition to the
tramp, tramp, I heard a rush under the hedge, and close down by the
hazel stems glided a great dog, whose black and white colour made
him a distinct object against the trees. It was exactly one form of
Bessie's Gytrash -- a lion-like creature with long hair and a huge
head: it passed me, however, quietly enough; not staying to look
up, with strange pretercanine eyes, in my face, as I half expected
it would. The horse followed, -- a tall steed, and on its back a
rider. The man, the human being, broke the spell at once. Nothing
ever rode the Gytrash: it was always alone; and goblins, to my
notions, though they might tenant the dumb carcasses of beasts,
could scarce covet shelter in the commonplace human form. No
Gytrash was this, -- only a traveller taking the short cut to
Millcote. He passed, and I went on; a few steps, and I turned: a
sliding sound and an exclamation of "What the deuce is to do now?"
and a clattering tumble, arrested my attention. Man and horse were
down; they had slipped on the sheet of ice which glazed the
causeway. The dog came bounding back, and seeing his master in a
predicament, and hearing the horse groan, barked till the evening
hills echoed the sound, which was deep in proportion to his
magnitude. He snuffed round the prostrate group, and then he ran up
to me; it was all he could do, -- there was no other help at hand to
summon. I obeyed him, and walked down to the traveller, by this
time struggling himself free of his steed. His efforts were so
vigorous, I thought he could not be much hurt; but I asked him the
- "Are you injured, sir?"
- I think he was swearing, but am not certain; however, he was
pronouncing some formula which prevented him from replying to me
- "Can I do anything?" I asked again.
- "You must just stand on one side," he answered as he rose, first to
his knees, and then to his feet. I did; whereupon began a heaving,
stamping, clattering process, accompanied by a barking and baying
which removed me effectually some yards' distance; but I would not
be driven quite away till I saw the event. This was finally
fortunate; the horse was re-established, and the dog was silenced
with a "Down, Pilot!" The traveller now, stooping, felt his foot
and leg, as if trying whether they were sound; apparently something
ailed them, for he halted to the stile whence I had just risen, and
- I was in the mood for being useful, or at least officious, I think,
for I now drew near him again.
- "If you are hurt, and want help, sir, I can fetch some one either
from Thornfield Hall or from Hay."
- "Thank you: I shall do: I have no broken bones, -- only a sprain;"
and again he stood up and tried his foot, but the result extorted an
- Something of daylight still lingered, and the moon was waxing
bright: I could see him plainly. His figure was enveloped in a
riding cloak, fur collared and steel clasped; its details were not
apparent, but I traced the general points of middle height and
considerable breadth of chest. He had a dark face, with stern
features and a heavy brow; his eyes and gathered eyebrows looked
ireful and thwarted just now; he was past youth, but had not reached
middle-age; perhaps he might be thirty-five. I felt no fear of him,
and but little shyness. Had he been a handsome, heroic-looking
young gentleman, I should not have dared to stand thus questioning
him against his will, and offering my services unasked. I had
hardly ever seen a handsome youth; never in my life spoken to one.
I had a theoretical reverence and homage for beauty, elegance,
gallantry, fascination; but had I met those qualities incarnate in
masculine shape, I should have known instinctively that they neither
had nor could have sympathy with anything in me, and should have
shunned them as one would fire, lightning, or anything else that is
bright but antipathetic.
- If even this stranger had smiled and been good-humoured to me when I
addressed him; if he had put off my offer of assistance gaily and
with thanks, I should have gone on my way and not felt any vocation
to renew inquiries: but the frown, the roughness of the traveller,
set me at my ease: I retained my station when he waved to me to go,
and announced: --
- "I cannot think of leaving you, sir, at so late an hour, in this
solitary lane, till I see you are fit to mount your horse."
- He looked at me when I said this; he had hardly turned his eyes in
my direction before.
- "I should think you ought to be at home yourself," said he, "if you
have a home in this neighbourhood: where do you come from?"
- "From just below; and I am not at all afraid of being out late when
it is moonlight: I will run over to Hay for you with pleasure, if
you wish it: indeed, I am going there to post a letter."
- "You live just below -- do you mean at that house with the
battlements?" pointing to Thornfield Hall, on which the moon cast a
hoary gleam, bringing it out distinct and pale from the woods that,
by contrast with the western sky, now seemed one mass of shadow.
- "Yes, sir."
- "Whose house is it?"
- "Mr. Rochester's."
- "Do you know Mr. Rochester?"
- "No, I have never seen him."
- "He is not resident, then?"
- "Can you tell me where he is?"
- "I cannot."
- "You are not a servant at the hall, of course. You are" ---- He
stopped, ran his eye over my dress, which, as usual, was quite
simple: a black merino cloak, a black beaver bonnet; neither of
them half fine enough for a lady's-maid. He seemed puzzled to
decide what I was; I helped him.
- "I am the governess."
- "Ah, the governess!" he repeated; "deuce take me, if I had not
forgotten! The governess!" and again my raiment underwent scrutiny.
In two minutes he rose from the stile: his face expressed pain when
he tried to move.
- "I cannot commission you to fetch help," he said; "but you may help
me a little yourself, if you will be so kind."
- "Yes, sir."
- "You have not an umbrella that I can use as a stick?"
- "Try to get hold of my horse's bridle and lead him to me: you are
- I should have been afraid to touch a horse when alone, but when told
to do it, I was disposed to obey. I put down my muff on the stile,
and went up to the tall steed; I endeavoured to catch the bridle,
but it was a spirited thing, and would not let me come near its
head; I made effort on effort, though in vain: meantime, I was
mortally afraid of its trampling fore-feet. The traveller waited
and watched for some time, and at last he laughed.
- "I see," he said, "the mountain will never be brought to Mahomet, so
all you can do is to aid Mahomet to go to the mountain; I must beg
of you to come here."
- I came. "Excuse me," he continued: "necessity compels me to make
you useful." He laid a heavy hand on my shoulder, and leaning on me
with some stress, limped to his horse. Having once caught the
bridle, he mastered it directly and sprang to his saddle; grimacing
grimly as he made the effort, for it wrenched his sprain.
- "Now," said he, releasing his under lip from a hard bite, "just hand
me my whip; it lies there under the hedge."
- I sought it and found it.
- "Thank you; now make haste with the letter to Hay, and return as
fast as you can."
- A touch of a spurred heel made his horse first start and rear, and
then bound away; the dog rushed in his traces; all three vanished,
- "Like heath that, in the wilderness,
- The wild wind whirls away."
I took up my muff and walked on. The incident had occurred and was
gone for me: it was an incident of no moment, no romance, no
interest in a sense; yet it marked with change one single hour of a
monotonous life. My help had been needed and claimed; I had given
it: I was pleased to have done something; trivial, transitory
though the deed was, it was yet an active thing, and I was weary of
an existence all passive. The new face, too, was like a new picture
introduced to the gallery of memory; and it was dissimilar to all
the others hanging there: firstly, because it was masculine; and,
secondly, because it was dark, strong, and stern. I had it still
before me when I entered Hay, and slipped the letter into the post-office; I saw it as I walked fast down-hill all the way home. When
I came to the stile, I stopped a minute, looked round and listened,
with an idea that a horse's hoofs might ring on the causeway again,
and that a rider in a cloak, and a Gytrash-like Newfoundland dog,
might be again apparent: I saw only the hedge and a pollard willow
before me, rising up still and straight to meet the moonbeams; I
heard only the faintest waft of wind roaming fitful among the trees
round Thornfield, a mile distant; and when I glanced down in the
direction of the murmur, my eye, traversing the hall-front, caught a
light kindling in a window: it reminded me that I was late, and I
- I did not like re-entering Thornfield. To pass its threshold was to
return to stagnation; to cross the silent hall, to ascend the
darksome staircase, to seek my own lonely little room, and then to
meet tranquil Mrs. Fairfax, and spend the long winter evening with
her, and her only, was to quell wholly the faint excitement wakened
by my walk, -- to slip again over my faculties the viewless fetters of
an uniform and too still existence; of an existence whose very
privileges of security and ease I was becoming incapable of
appreciating. What good it would have done me at that time to have
been tossed in the storms of an uncertain struggling life, and to
have been taught by rough and bitter experience to long for the calm
amidst which I now repined! Yes, just as much good as it would do a
man tired of sitting still in a "too easy chair" to take a long
walk: and just as natural was the wish to stir, under my
circumstances, as it would be under his.
- I lingered at the gates; I lingered on the lawn; I paced backwards
and forwards on the pavement; the shutters of the glass door were
closed; I could not see into the interior; and both my eyes and
spirit seemed drawn from the gloomy house -- from the grey-hollow
filled with rayless cells, as it appeared to me -- to that sky
expanded before me, -- a blue sea absolved from taint of cloud; the
moon ascending it in solemn march; her orb seeming to look up as she
left the hill-tops, from behind which she had come, far and farther
below her, and aspired to the zenith, midnight dark in its
fathomless depth and measureless distance; and for those trembling
stars that followed her course; they made my heart tremble, my veins
glow when I viewed them. Little things recall us to earth; the
clock struck in the hall; that sufficed; I turned from moon and
stars, opened a side-door, and went in.
- The hall was not dark, nor yet was it lit, only by the high-hung
bronze lamp; a warm glow suffused both it and the lower steps of the
oak staircase. This ruddy shine issued from the great dining-room,
whose two-leaved door stood open, and showed a genial fire in the
grate, glancing on marble hearth and brass fire-irons, and revealing
purple draperies and polished furniture, in the most pleasant
radiance. It revealed, too, a group near the mantelpiece: I had
scarcely caught it, and scarcely become aware of a cheerful mingling
of voices, amongst which I seemed to distinguish the tones of Adèle,
when the door closed.
- I hastened to Mrs. Fairfax's room; there was a fire there too, but
no candle, and no Mrs. Fairfax. Instead, all alone, sitting upright
on the rug, and gazing with gravity at the blaze, I beheld a great
black and white long-haired dog, just like the Gytrash of the lane.
It was so like it that I went forward and said, --
- "Pilot" and the
thing got up and came to me and snuffed me. I caressed him, and he
wagged his great tail; but he looked an eerie creature to be alone
with, and I could not tell whence he had come. I rang the bell, for
I wanted a candle; and I wanted, too, to get an account of this
visitant. Leah entered.
- "What dog is this?"
- "He came with master."
- "With whom?"
- "With master -- Mr. Rochester -- he is just arrived."
- "Indeed! and is Mrs. Fairfax with him?"
- "Yes, and Miss Adèle; they are in the dining-room, and John is gone
for a surgeon; for master has had an accident; his horse fell and
his ankle is sprained."
- "Did the horse fall in Hay Lane?"
- "Yes, coming down-hill; it slipped on some ice."
- "Ah! Bring me a candle will you Leah?"
- Leah brought it; she entered, followed by Mrs. Fairfax, who repeated
the news; adding that Mr. Carter the surgeon was come, and was now
with Mr. Rochester: then she hurried out to give orders about tea,
and I went upstairs to take off my things.
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