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_​The Illustrations​_
_​in this Volume are the copyright of​_
SERVICE & PATON, _​London​_
This Work
A preface to the first edition of "Jane Eyre" being unnecessary, I gave
none: this second edition demands a few words both of acknowledgment and
miscellaneous remark.
My thanks are due in three quarters.
To the Public, for the indulgent ear it has inclined to a plain tale with
few pretensions.
To the Press, for the fair field its honest suffrage has opened to an
obscure aspirant.
To my Publishers, for the aid their tact, their energy, their practical
sense and frank liberality have afforded an unknown and unrecommended
The Press and the Public are but vague personifications for me, and I
must thank them in vague terms; but my Publishers are definite: so are
certain generous critics who have encouraged me as only large-hearted and
high-minded men know how to encourage a struggling stranger; to them,
_​i.e.​_​, to my Publishers and the select Reviewers, I say cordially,
Gentlemen, I thank you from my heart.
Having thus acknowledged what I owe those who have aided and approved me,
I turn to another class; a small one, so far as I know, but not,
therefore, to be overlooked.  I mean the timorous or carping few who
doubt the tendency of such books as "Jane Eyre:" in whose eyes whatever
is unusual is wrong; whose ears detect in each protest against
bigotry--that parent of crime--an insult to piety, that regent of God on
earth.  I would suggest to such doubters certain obvious distinctions; I
would remind them of certain simple truths.
Conventionality is not morality.  Self-righteousness is not religion.  To
attack the first is not to assail the last.  To pluck the mask from the
face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of
These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as distinct as
is vice from virtue.  Men too often confound them: they should not be
confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for truth; narrow human
doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a few, should not be
substituted for the world-redeeming creed of Christ.  There is--I repeat
it--a difference; and it is a good, and not a bad action to mark broadly
and clearly the line of separation between them.
The world may not like to see these ideas dissevered, for it has been
accustomed to blend them; finding it convenient to make external show
pass for sterling worth--to let white-washed walls vouch for clean
shrines.  It may hate him who dares to scrutinise and expose--to rase the
gilding, and show base metal under it--to penetrate the sepulchre, and
reveal charnel relics: but hate as it will, it is indebted to him.
Ahab did not like Micaiah, because he never prophesied good concerning
him, but evil; probably he liked the sycophant son of Chenaannah better;
yet might Ahab have escaped a bloody death, had he but stopped his ears
to flattery, and opened them to faithful counsel.
There is a man in our own days whose words are not framed to tickle
delicate ears: who, to my thinking, comes before the great ones of
society, much as the son of Imlah came before the throned Kings of Judah
and Israel; and who speaks truth as deep, with a power as prophet-like
and as vital--a mien as dauntless and as daring.  Is the satirist of
"Vanity Fair" admired in high places?  I cannot tell; but I think if some
of those amongst whom he hurls the Greek fire of his sarcasm, and over
whom he flashes the levin-brand of his denunciation, were to take his
warnings in time--they or their seed might yet escape a fatal
Why have I alluded to this man?  I have alluded to him, Reader, because I
think I see in him an intellect profounder and more unique than his
contemporaries have yet recognised; because I regard him as the first
social regenerator of the day--as the very master of that working corps
who would restore to rectitude the warped system of things; because I
think no commentator on his writings has yet found the comparison that
suits him, the terms which rightly characterise his talent.  They say he
is like Fielding: they talk of his wit, humour, comic powers.  He
resembles Fielding as an eagle does a vulture: Fielding could stoop on
carrion, but Thackeray never does.  His wit is bright, his humour
attractive, but both bear the same relation to his serious genius that
the mere lambent sheet-lightning playing under the edge of the summer-
cloud does to the electric death-spark hid in its womb.  Finally, I have
alluded to Mr. Thackeray, because to him--if he will accept the tribute
of a total stranger--I have dedicated this second edition of "JANE EYRE."
_​December​_ 21​_​st​_​, 1847.
I avail myself of the opportunity which a third edition of "Jane Eyre"
affords me, of again addressing a word to the Public, to explain that my
claim to the title of novelist rests on this one work alone.  If,
therefore, the authorship of other works of fiction has been attributed
to me, an honour is awarded where it is not merited; and consequently,
denied where it is justly due.
This explanation will serve to rectify mistakes which may already have
been made, and to prevent future errors.
_​April​_ 13​_​th​_​, 1848.
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 the question.
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,
little children."
"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, remain silent."
A 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
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 phantoms.
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
"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 once--
"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
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
"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 the
"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 _​are​_ mine; 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 Abigail.
"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 cover."
Bessie answered not; but ere long, addressing me, she said--"You 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
"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 grandeur.
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 stool.
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 dismal present.
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
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 nursery.
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 naughty tricks."
"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
"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 dangerous
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 physician.
"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 softly.
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
"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 went 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
   "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 miserable."
"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
"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 response.
"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 place?"
"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. Reed?"
"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
"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
"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 condition."
"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 likewise.
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
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, &c.).  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
"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 capital.
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
_​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 girl?"
"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 teeth!
"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 death?"
"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 for
"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 hence."
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! benefactress!" said I inwardly: "they all call Mrs. Reed
my benefactress; if so, a benefactress is a disagreeable thing."
"Do you say your prayers night and morning?" continued my interrogator.
"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
"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. Brocklehurst."
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
"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
"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 be no difficulty about receiving her.  Good-bye."
"Good-bye, Mr. Brocklehurst; remember me to Mrs. and Miss Brocklehurst,
and to Augusta and Theodore, and Master Broughton Brocklehurst."
"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
handsome attire.
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 within me.
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 I."
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 continued--
"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!"
{How dare I, Mrs. Ried?  How dare I?  Because it is the truth: p30.jpg}
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 are
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! don't scold."
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
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
"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 to
"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 the
"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 head.
"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 enchanting stories, and sang me some of her
sweetest songs.  Even for me life had its gleams of sunshine.
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 six 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 good-
"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 accordingly."
"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."
"O 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 far
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" of L-.
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 asleep.
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 indefinite sound.
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 before.
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 words--
"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 check the general
wrath; doubtless she shared in it.
A clock in the schoolroom struck nine; Miss Miller left her circle, and
standing in the middle of the room, cried--
"Silence!  To your seats!"
Discipline prevailed: in five minutes the confused throng was resolved
into order, and comparative silence quelled the Babel clamour of tongues.
The upper teachers now punctually resumed their posts: but still, all
seemed to wait.  Ranged on benches down the sides of the room, the eighty
girls sat motionless and erect; a quaint assemblage they appeared, all
with plain locks combed from their faces, not a curl visible; in brown
dresses, made high and surrounded by a narrow tucker about the throat,
with little pockets of holland (shaped something like a Highlander's
purse) tied in front of their frocks, and destined to serve the purpose
of a work-bag: all, too, wearing woollen stockings and country-made
shoes, fastened with brass buckles.  Above twenty of those clad in this
costume were full-grown girls, or rather young women; it suited them ill,
and gave an air of oddity even to the prettiest.
I was still looking at them, and also at intervals examining the
teachers--none of whom precisely pleased me; for the stout one was a
little coarse, the dark one not a little fierce, the foreigner harsh and
grotesque, and Miss Miller, poor thing! looked purple, weather-beaten,
and over-worked--when, as my eye wandered from face to face, the whole
school rose simultaneously, as if moved by a common spring.
What was the matter?  I had heard no order given: I was puzzled.  Ere I
had gathered my wits, the classes were again seated: but as all eyes were
now turned to one point, mine followed the general direction, and
encountered the personage who had received me last night.  She stood at
the bottom of the long room, on the hearth; for there was a fire at each
end; she surveyed the two rows of girls silently and gravely.  Miss
Miller approaching, seemed to ask her a question, and having received her
answer, went back to her place, and said aloud--
"Monitor of the first class, fetch the globes!"
While the direction was being executed, the lady consulted moved slowly
up the room.  I suppose I have a considerable organ of veneration, for I
retain yet the sense of admiring awe with which my eyes traced her steps.
Seen now, in broad daylight, she looked tall, fair, and shapely; brown
eyes with a benignant light in their 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, &c., went on for an hour; writing and arithmetic succeeded, and
music lessons were given by Miss Temple to some of the elder girls.  The
duration of each lesson was measured by the clock, which at last struck
twelve.  The superintendent rose--
"I have a word to address to the pupils," said she.
The tumult of cessation from lessons was already breaking forth, but it
sank at her voice.  She went on--
"You had this morning a breakfast which you could not eat; you must be
hungry:--I have ordered that a lunch of bread and cheese shall be served
to all."
The teachers looked at her with a sort of surprise.
"It is to be done on my responsibility," she added, in an explanatory
tone to them, and immediately afterwards left the room.
The bread and cheese was presently brought in and distributed, to the
high delight and refreshment of the whole school.  The order was now
given "To the garden!"  Each put on a coarse straw bonnet, with strings
of coloured calico, and a cloak of grey frieze.  I was similarly
equipped, and, following the stream, I made my way into the open air.
The garden was a wide inclosure, surrounded with walls so high as to
exclude every glimpse of prospect; a covered verandah ran down one side,
and broad walks bordered a middle space divided into scores of little
beds: these beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils to cultivate,
and each bed had an owner.  When full of flowers they would doubtless
look pretty; but now, at the latter end of January, all was wintry blight
and brown decay.  I shuddered as I stood and looked round me: it was an
inclement day for outdoor exercise; not positively rainy, but darkened by
a drizzling yellow fog; all under foot was still soaking wet with the
floods of yesterday.  The stronger among the girls ran about and engaged
in active games, but sundry pale and thin ones herded together for
shelter and warmth in the verandah; and amongst these, as the dense mist
penetrated to their shivering frames, I heard frequently the sound of a
hollow cough.
As yet I had spoken to no one, nor did anybody seem to take notice of me;
I stood lonely enough: but to that feeling of isolation I was accustomed;
it did not oppress me much.  I leant against a pillar of the verandah,
drew my grey mantle close about me, and, trying to forget the cold which
nipped me without, and the unsatisfied hunger which gnawed me within,
delivered myself up to the employment of watching and thinking.  My
reflections were too undefined and fragmentary to merit record: I hardly
yet knew where I was; Gateshead and my past life seemed floated away to
an immeasurable distance; the present was vague and strange, and of the
future I could form no conjecture.  I looked round the convent-like
garden, and then up at the house--a large building, half of which seemed
grey and old, the other half quite new.  The new part, containing the
schoolroom and dormitory, was lit by mullioned and latticed windows,
which gave it a church-like aspect; a stone tablet over the door bore
this inscription:--
"Lowood Institution.--This portion was rebuilt A.D. ---, by Naomi
Brocklehurst, of Brocklehurst Hall, in this county."  "Let your light so
shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your
Father which is in heaven."--St. Matt. 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, &c., and sent me to sit in
a quiet corner of the schoolroom, with directions to hem the same.  At
that hour most of the others were sewing likewise; but one class still
stood round Miss Scatcherd's chair reading, and as all was quiet, the
subject of their lessons could be heard, together with the manner in
which each girl acquitted herself, and the animadversions or
commendations of Miss Scatcherd on the performance.  It was English
history: among the readers I observed my acquaintance of the verandah: at
the commencement of the lesson, her place had been at the top of the
class, but for some error of pronunciation, or some inattention to stops,
she was suddenly sent to the very bottom.  Even in that obscure position,
Miss Scatcherd continued to make her an object of constant notice: she
was continually addressing to her such phrases as the following:--
"Burns" (such it seems was her name: the girls here were all called by
their surnames, as boys are elsewhere), "Burns, you are standing on the
side of your shoe; turn your toes out immediately."  "Burns, you poke
your chin most unpleasantly; draw it in."  "Burns, I insist on your
holding your head up; I will not have you before me in that attitude,"
&c. &c.
A chapter having been read through twice, the books were closed and the
girls examined.  The lesson had comprised part of the reign of Charles
I., and there were sundry questions about tonnage and poundage and ship-
money, which most of them appeared unable to answer; still, every little
difficulty was solved instantly when it reached Burns: her memory seemed
to have retained the substance of the whole lesson, and she was ready
with answers on every point.  I kept expecting that Miss Scatcherd would
praise her attention; but, instead of that, she suddenly cried out--
"You dirty, disagreeable girl! you have never cleaned your nails this
Burns made no answer: I wondered at her silence.  "Why," thought I, "does
she not explain that she could neither clean her nails nor wash her face,
as the water was frozen?"
My attention was now called off by Miss Smith desiring me to hold a skein
of thread: while she was winding it, she talked to me from time to time,
asking whether I had ever been at school before, whether I could mark,
stitch, knit, &c.; till she dismissed me, I could not pursue my
observations on Miss Scatcherd's movements.  When I returned to my seat,
that lady was just delivering an order of which I did not catch the
import; but Burns immediately left the class, and going into the small
inner room where the books were kept, returned in half a minute, carrying
in her hand a bundle of twigs tied together at one end.  This ominous
tool she presented to Miss Scatcherd with a respectful curtesy; then she
quietly, and without being told, unloosed her pinafore, and the teacher
instantly and sharply inflicted on her neck a dozen strokes with the
bunch of twigs.  Not a tear rose to Burns' eye; and, while I paused from
my sewing, because my fingers quivered at this spectacle with a sentiment
of unavailing and impotent anger, not a feature of her pensive face
altered its ordinary expression.
"Hardened girl!" exclaimed Miss Scatcherd; "nothing can correct you of
your slatternly habits: carry the rod away."
Burns obeyed: I looked at her narrowly as she emerged from the
book-closet; she was just putting back her handkerchief into her pocket,
and the trace of a tear glistened on her thin cheek.
The play-hour in the evening I thought the pleasantest fraction of the
day at Lowood: the bit of bread, the draught of coffee swallowed at five
o'clock had revived vitality, if it had not satisfied hunger: the long
restraint of the day was slackened; the schoolroom felt warmer than in
the morning--its fires being allowed to burn a little more brightly, to
supply, in some measure, the place of candles, not yet introduced: the
ruddy gloaming, the licensed uproar, the confusion of many voices gave
one a welcome sense of liberty.
On the evening of the day on which I had seen Miss Scatcherd flog her
pupil, Burns, I wandered as usual among the forms and tables and laughing
groups without a companion, yet not feeling lonely: when I passed the
windows, I now and then lifted a blind, and looked out; it snowed fast, a
drift was already forming against the lower panes; putting my ear close
to the window, I could distinguish from the gleeful tumult within, the
disconsolate moan of the wind outside.
Probably, if I had lately left a good home and kind parents, this would
have been the hour when I should most keenly have regretted the
separation; that wind would then have saddened my heart; this obscure
chaos would have disturbed my peace! as it was, I derived from both a
strange excitement, and reckless and feverish, I wished the wind to howl
more wildly, the gloom to deepen to darkness, and the confusion to rise
to clamour.
Jumping over forms, and creeping under tables, I made my way to one of
the fire-places; there, kneeling by the high wire fender, I found Burns,
absorbed, silent, abstracted from all round her by the companionship of a
book, which she read by the dim glare of the embers.
"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
"What is your name besides Burns?"
"Do you come a long way from here?"
"I come from a place farther north, quite on the borders of Scotland."
"Will you ever go back?"
"I hope so; but nobody can be sure of the future."
"You must wish to leave Lowood?"
"No! why should I?  I was sent to Lowood to get an education; and it
would be of no use going away until I have attained that object."
"But that teacher, Miss Scatcherd, is so cruel to you?"
"Cruel?  Not at all!  She is severe: she dislikes my faults."
"And if I were in your place I should dislike her; I should resist her.
If she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her hand; I should
break it under her nose."
"Probably you would do nothing of the sort: but if you did, Mr.
Brocklehurst would expel you from the school; that would be a great grief
to your relations.  It is far better to endure patiently a smart which
nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action whose evil
consequences will extend to all connected with you; and besides, the
Bible bids us return good for evil."
"But then it seems disgraceful to be flogged, and to be sent to stand in
the middle of a room full of people; and you are such a great girl: I am
far younger than you, and I could not bear it."
"Yet it would be your duty to bear it, if you could not avoid it: it is
weak and silly to say you _​cannot bear​_ what it is your fate to be
required to bear."
I heard her with wonder: I could not comprehend this doctrine of
endurance; and still less could I understand or sympathise with the
forbearance she expressed for her chastiser.  Still I felt that Helen
Burns considered things by a light invisible to my eyes.  I suspected she
might be right and I wrong; but I would not ponder the matter deeply;
like Felix, I put it off to a more convenient season.
"You say you have faults, Helen: what are they?  To me you seem very
"Then learn from me, not to judge by appearances: I am, as Miss Scatcherd
said, slatternly; I seldom put, and never keep, things, in order; I am
careless; I forget rules; I read when I should learn my lessons; I have
no method; and sometimes I say, like you, I cannot _​bear​_ to be subjected
to systematic arrangements.  This is all very provoking to Miss
Scatcherd, who is naturally neat, punctual, and particular."
"And cross and cruel," I added; but Helen Burns would not admit my
addition: she kept silence.
"Is Miss Temple as severe to you as Miss Scatcherd?"
At the utterance of Miss Temple's name, a soft smile flitted over her
grave face.
"Miss Temple is full of goodness; it pains her to be severe to any one,
even the worst in the school: she sees my errors, and tells me of them
gently; and, if I do anything worthy of praise, she gives me my meed
liberally.  One strong proof of my wretchedly defective nature is, that
even her expostulations, so mild, so rational, have not influence to cure
me of my faults; and even her praise, though I value it most highly,
cannot stimulate me to continued care and foresight."
"That is curious," said I, "it is so easy to be careful."
"For _​you​_ I have no doubt it is.  I observed you in your class this
morning, and saw you were closely attentive: your thoughts never seemed
to wander while Miss Miller explained the lesson and questioned you.  Now,
mine continually rove away; when I should be listening to Miss Scatcherd,
and collecting all she says with assiduity, often I lose the very sound
of her voice; I fall into a sort of dream.  Sometimes I think I am in
Northumberland, and that the noises I hear round me are the bubbling of a
little brook which runs through Deepden, near our house;--then, when it
comes to my turn to reply, I have to be awakened; and having heard
nothing of what was read for listening to the visionary brook, I have no
answer ready."
"Yet how well you replied this afternoon."
"It was mere chance; the subject on which we had been reading had
interested me.  This afternoon, instead of dreaming of Deepden, I was
wondering how a man who wished to do right could act so unjustly and
unwisely as Charles the First sometimes did; and I thought what a pity it
was that, with his integrity and conscientiousness, he could see no
farther than the prerogatives of the crown.  If he had but been able to
look to a distance, and see how what they call the spirit of the age was
tending!  Still, I like Charles--I respect him--I pity him, poor murdered
king!  Yes, his enemies were the worst: they shed blood they had no right
to shed.  How dared they kill him!"
Helen was talking to herself now: she had forgotten I could not very well
understand her--that I was ignorant, or nearly so, of the subject she
discussed.  I recalled her to my level.
"And when Miss Temple teaches you, do your thoughts wander then?"
"No, certainly, not often; because Miss Temple has generally something to
say which is newer than my own reflections; her language is singularly
agreeable to me, and the information she communicates is often just what
I wished to gain."
"Well, then, with Miss Temple you are good?"
"Yes, in a passive way: I make no effort; I follow as inclination guides
me.  There is no merit in such goodness."
"A great deal: you are good to those who are good to you.  It is all I
ever desire to be.  If people were always kind and obedient to those who
are cruel and unjust, the wicked people would have it all their own way:
they would never feel afraid, and so they would never alter, but would
grow worse and worse.  When we are struck at without a reason, we should
strike back again very hard; I am sure we should--so hard as to teach the
person who struck us never to do it again."
"You will change your mind, I hope, when you grow older: as yet you are
but a little untaught girl."
"But I feel this, Helen; I must dislike those who, whatever I do to
please them, persist in disliking me; I must resist those who punish me
unjustly.  It is as natural as that I should love those who show me
affection, or submit to punishment when I feel it is 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
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 at it!"
Helen sighed as her reverie fled, and getting up, obeyed the monitor
without reply as without delay.
My first quarter at Lowood seemed an age; and not the golden age either;
it comprised an irksome struggle with difficulties in habituating myself
to new rules and unwonted tasks.  The fear of failure in these points
harassed me worse than the physical hardships of my lot; though these
were no trifles.
During January, February, and part of March, the deep snows, and, after
their melting, the almost impassable roads, prevented our stirring beyond
the garden walls, except to go to church; but within these limits we had
to pass an hour every day in the open air.  Our clothing was insufficient
to protect us from the severe cold: we had no boots, the snow got into
our shoes and melted there: our ungloved hands became numbed and covered
with chilblains, as were our feet: I remember well the distracting
irritation I endured from this cause every evening, when my feet
inflamed; and the torture of thrusting the swelled, raw, and stiff toes
into my shoes in the morning.  Then the scanty supply of food was
distressing: with the keen appetites of growing children, we had scarcely
sufficient to keep alive a delicate invalid.  From this deficiency of
nourishment resulted an abuse, which pressed hardly on the younger
pupils: whenever the famished great girls had an opportunity, they would
coax or menace the little ones out of their portion.  Many a time I have
shared between two claimants the precious morsel of brown bread
distributed at tea-time; and after relinquishing to a third half the
contents of my mug of coffee, I have swallowed the remainder with an
accompaniment of secret tears, forced from me by the exigency of hunger.
Sundays were dreary days in that wintry season.  We had to walk two miles
to Brocklebridge Church, where our patron officiated.  We set out cold,
we arrived at church colder: during the morning service we became almost
paralysed.  It was too far to return to dinner, and an allowance of cold
meat and bread, in the same penurious proportion observed in our ordinary
meals, was served round between the services.
At the close of the afternoon service we returned by an exposed and hilly
road, where the bitter winter wind, blowing over a range of snowy summits
to the north, almost flayed the skin from our faces.
I can remember Miss Temple walking lightly and rapidly along our drooping
line, her plaid cloak, which the frosty wind fluttered, gathered close
about her, and encouraging us, by precept and example, to keep up our
spirits, and march forward, as she said, "like stalwart soldiers."  The
other teachers, poor things, were generally themselves too much dejected
to attempt the task of cheering others.
How we longed for the light and heat of a blazing fire when we got back!
But, to the little ones at least, this was denied: each hearth in the
schoolroom was immediately surrounded by a double row of great girls, and
behind them the younger children crouched in groups, wrapping their
starved arms in their pinafores.
A little solace came at tea-time, in the shape of a double ration of
bread--a whole, instead of a half, slice--with the delicious addition of
a thin scrape of butter: it was the hebdomadal treat to which we all
looked forward from Sabbath to Sabbath.  I generally contrived to reserve
a moiety of this bounteous repast for myself; but the remainder I was
invariably obliged to part with.
The Sunday evening was spent in repeating, by heart, the Church
Catechism, and the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of St. Matthew; and
in listening to a long sermon, read by Miss Miller, whose irrepressible
yawns attested her weariness.  A frequent interlude of these performances
was the enactment of the part of Eutychus by some half-dozen of little
girls, who, overpowered with sleep, would fall down, if not out of the
third loft, yet off the fourth form, and be taken up half dead.  The
remedy was, to thrust them forward into the centre of the schoolroom, and
oblige them to stand there till the sermon was finished.  Sometimes their
feet failed them, and they sank together in a heap; they were then
propped up with the monitors' high stools.
I have not yet alluded to the visits of Mr. Brocklehurst; and indeed that
gentleman was from home during the greater part of the first month after
my arrival; perhaps prolonging his stay with his friend the archdeacon:
his absence was a relief to me.  I need not say that I had my own reasons
for dreading his coming: but come he did at last.
One afternoon (I had then been three weeks at Lowood), as I was sitting
with a slate in my hand, puzzling over a sum in long division, my eyes,
raised in abstraction to the window, caught sight of a figure just
passing: I recognised almost instinctively that gaunt outline; and when,
two minutes after, all the school, teachers included, rose _​en masse​_​, it
was not necessary for me to look up in order to ascertain whose entrance
they thus greeted.  A long stride measured the schoolroom, and presently
beside Miss Temple, who herself had risen, stood the same black column
which had frowned on me so ominously from the hearthrug of Gateshead.  I
now glanced sideways at this piece of architecture.  Yes, I was right: it
was Mr. Brocklehurst, buttoned up in a surtout, and looking longer,
narrower, and more rigid than ever.
I had my own reasons for being dismayed at this apparition; too well I
remembered the perfidious hints given by Mrs. Reed about my disposition,
&c.; the promise pledged by Mr. Brocklehurst to apprise Miss Temple and
the teachers of my vicious nature.  All along I had been dreading the
fulfilment of this promise,--I had been looking out daily for the "Coming
Man," whose information respecting my past life and conversation was to
brand me as a bad child for ever: now there he was.
He stood at Miss Temple's side; he was speaking low in her ear: I did not
doubt he was making disclosures of my villainy; and I watched her eye
with painful anxiety, expecting every moment to see its dark orb turn on
me a glance of repugnance and contempt.  I listened too; and as I
happened to be seated quite at the top of the room, I caught most of what
he said: its import relieved me from immediate apprehension.
"I suppose, Miss Temple, the thread I bought at Lowton will do; it struck
me that it would be just of the quality for the calico chemises, and I
sorted the needles to match.  You may tell Miss Smith that I forgot to
make a memorandum of the darning needles, but she shall have some papers
sent in next week; and she is not, on any account, to give out more than
one at a time to each pupil: if they have more, they are apt to be
careless and lose them.  And, O ma'am!  I wish the woollen stockings were
better looked to!--when I was here last, I went into the kitchen-garden
and examined the clothes drying on the line; there was a quantity of
black hose in a very bad state of repair: from the size of the holes in
them I was sure they had not been well mended from time to time."
He paused.
"Your directions shall be attended to, sir," said Miss Temple.
"And, ma'am," he continued, "the laundress tells me some of the girls
have two clean tuckers in the week: it is too much; the rules limit them
to one."
"I think I can explain that circumstance, sir.  Agnes and Catherine
Johnstone were invited to take tea with some friends at Lowton last
Thursday, and I gave them leave to put on clean tuckers for the
Mr. Brocklehurst nodded.
"Well, for once it may pass; but please not to let the circumstance occur
too often.  And there is another thing which surprised me; I find, in
settling accounts with the housekeeper, that a lunch, consisting of bread
and cheese, has twice been served out to the girls during the past
fortnight.  How is this?  I looked over the regulations, and I find no
such meal as lunch mentioned.  Who introduced this innovation? and by
what authority?"
"I must be responsible for the circumstance, sir," replied Miss Temple:
"the breakfast was so ill prepared that the pupils could not possibly eat
it; and I dared not allow them to remain fasting till dinner-time."
"Madam, allow me an instant.  You are aware that my plan in bringing up
these girls is, not to accustom them to habits of luxury and indulgence,
but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying.  Should any little
accidental disappointment of the appetite occur, such as the spoiling of
a meal, the under or the over dressing of a dish, the incident ought not
to be neutralised by replacing with something more delicate the comfort
lost, thus pampering the body and obviating the aim of this institution;
it ought to be improved to the spiritual edification of the pupils, by
encouraging them to evince fortitude under temporary privation.  A brief
address on those occasions would not be mistimed, wherein a judicious
instructor would take the opportunity of referring to the sufferings of
the primitive Christians; to the torments of martyrs; to the exhortations
of our blessed Lord Himself, calling upon His disciples to take up their
cross and follow Him; to His warnings that man shall not live by bread
alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God; to His
divine consolations, "If ye suffer hunger or thirst for My sake, happy
are ye."  Oh, madam, when you put bread and cheese, instead of burnt
porridge, into these children's mouths, you may indeed feed their vile
bodies, but you little think how you starve their immortal souls!"
Mr. Brocklehurst again paused--perhaps overcome by his feelings.  Miss
Temple had looked down when he first began to speak to her; but she now
gazed straight before her, and her face, naturally pale as marble,
appeared to be assuming also the coldness and fixity of that material;
especially her mouth, closed as if it would have required a sculptor's
chisel to open it, and her brow settled gradually into petrified
Meantime, Mr. Brocklehurst, standing on the hearth with his hands behind
his back, majestically surveyed the whole school.  Suddenly his eye gave
a blink, as if it had met something that either dazzled or shocked its
pupil; turning, he said in more rapid accents than he had hitherto used--
"Miss Temple, Miss Temple, what--_​what​_ is that girl with curled hair?
Red hair, ma'am, curled--curled all over?"  And extending his cane he
pointed to the awful object, his hand shaking as he did so.
"It is Julia Severn," replied Miss Temple, very quietly.
"Julia Severn, ma'am!  And why has she, or any other, curled hair?  Why,
in defiance of every precept and principle of this house, does she
conform to the world so openly--here in an evangelical, charitable
establishment--as to wear her hair one mass of curls?"
"Julia's hair curls naturally," returned Miss Temple, still more quietly.
"Naturally!  Yes, but we are not to conform to nature; I wish these girls
to be the children of Grace: and why that abundance?  I have again and
again intimated that I desire the hair to be arranged closely, modestly,
plainly.  Miss Temple, that girl's hair must be cut off entirely; I will
send a barber to-morrow: and I see others who have far too much of the
excrescence--that tall girl, tell her to turn round.  Tell all the first
form to rise up and direct their faces to the wall."
Miss Temple passed her handkerchief over her lips, as if to smooth away
the involuntary smile that curled them; she gave the order, however, and
when the first class could take in what was required of them, they
obeyed.  Leaning a little back on my bench, I could see the looks and
grimaces with which they commented on this manoeuvre: it was a pity Mr.
Brocklehurst could not see them too; he would perhaps have felt that,
whatever he might do with the outside of the cup and platter, the inside
was further beyond his interference than he imagined.
He scrutinised the reverse of these living medals some five minutes, then
pronounced sentence.  These words fell like the knell of doom--
"All those top-knots must be cut off."
Miss Temple seemed to remonstrate.
"Madam," he pursued, "I have a Master to serve whose kingdom is not of
this world: my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts of the
flesh; to teach them to clothe themselves with shame-facedness and
sobriety, not with braided hair and costly apparel; and each of the young
persons before us has a string of hair twisted in plaits which vanity
itself might have woven; these, I repeat, must be cut off; think of the
time wasted, of--"
Mr. Brocklehurst was here interrupted: three other visitors, ladies, now
entered the room.  They ought to have come a little sooner to have heard
his lecture on dress, for they were splendidly attired in velvet, silk,
and furs.  The two younger of the trio (fine girls of sixteen and
seventeen) had grey beaver hats, then in fashion, shaded with ostrich
plumes, and from under the brim of this graceful head-dress fell a
profusion of light tresses, elaborately curled; the elder lady was
enveloped in a costly velvet shawl, trimmed with ermine, and she wore a
false front of French curls.
These ladies were deferentially received by Miss Temple, as Mrs. and the
Misses Brocklehurst, and conducted to seats of honour at the top of the
room.  It seems they had come in the carriage with their reverend
relative, and had been conducting a rummaging scrutiny of the room
upstairs, while he transacted business with the housekeeper, questioned
the laundress, and lectured the superintendent.  They now proceeded to
address divers remarks and reproofs to Miss Smith, who was charged with
the care of the linen and the inspection of the dormitories: but I had no
time to listen to what they said; other matters called off and enchanted
my attention.
Hitherto, while gathering up the discourse of Mr. Brocklehurst and Miss
Temple, I had not, at the same time, neglected precautions to secure my
personal safety; which I thought would be effected, if I could only elude
observation.  To this end, I had sat well back on the form, and while
seeming to be busy with my sum, had held my slate in such a manner as to
conceal my face: I might have escaped notice, had not my treacherous
slate somehow happened to slip from my hand, and falling with an
obtrusive crash, directly drawn every eye upon me; I knew it was all over
now, and, as I stooped to pick up the two fragments of slate, I rallied
my forces for the worst.  It came.
"A careless girl!" said Mr. Brocklehurst, and immediately after--"It is
the new pupil, I perceive."  And before I could draw breath, "I must not
forget I have a word to say respecting her."  Then aloud: how loud it
seemed to me!  "Let the child who broke her slate come forward!"
Of my own accord I could not have stirred; I was paralysed: but the two
great girls who sit on each side of me, set me on my legs and pushed me
towards the dread judge, and then Miss Temple gently assisted me to his
very feet, and I caught her whispered counsel--
"Don't be afraid, Jane, I saw it was an accident; you shall not be
The kind whisper went to my heart like a dagger.
"Another minute, and she will despise me for a hypocrite," thought I; and
an impulse of fury against Reed, Brocklehurst, and Co. bounded in my
pulses at the conviction.  I was no Helen Burns.
"Fetch that stool," said Mr. Brocklehurst, pointing to a very high one
from which a monitor had just risen: it was brought.
"Place the child upon it."
And I was placed there, by whom I don't know: I was in no condition to
note particulars; I was only aware that they had hoisted me up to the
height of Mr. Brocklehurst's nose, that he was within a yard of me, and
that a spread of shot orange and purple silk pelisses and a cloud of
silvery plumage extended and waved below me.
Mr. Brocklehurst hemmed.
"Ladies," said he, turning to his family, "Miss Temple, teachers, and
children, you all see this girl?"
Of course they did; for I felt their eyes directed like burning-glasses
against my scorched skin.
"You see she is yet young; you observe she possesses the ordinary form of
childhood; God has graciously given her the shape that He has given to
all of us; no signal deformity points her out as a marked character.  Who
would think that the Evil One had already found a servant and agent in
her?  Yet such, I grieve to say, is the case."
A pause--in which I began to steady the palsy of my nerves, and to feel
that the Rubicon was passed; and that the trial, no longer to be shirked,
must be firmly sustained.
"My dear children," pursued the black marble clergyman, with pathos,
"this is a sad, a melancholy occasion; for it becomes my duty to warn
you, that this girl, who might be one of God's own lambs, is a little
castaway: not a member of the true flock, but evidently an interloper and
an alien.  You must be on your guard against her; you must shun her
example; if necessary, avoid her company, exclude her from your sports,
and shut her out from your converse.  Teachers, you must watch her: keep
your eyes on her movements, weigh well her words, scrutinise her actions,
punish her body to save her soul: if, indeed, such salvation be possible,
for (my tongue falters while I tell it) this girl, this child, the native
of a Christian land, worse than many a little heathen who says its
prayers to Brahma and kneels before Juggernaut--this girl is--a liar!"
Now came a pause of ten minutes, during which I, by this time in perfect
possession of my wits, observed all the female Brocklehursts produce
their pocket-handkerchiefs and apply them to their optics, while the
elderly lady swayed herself to and fro, and the two younger ones
whispered, "How shocking!"  Mr. Brocklehurst resumed.
"This I learned from her benefactress; from the pious and charitable lady
who adopted her in her orphan state, reared her as her own daughter, and
whose kindness, whose generosity the unhappy girl repaid by an
ingratitude so bad, so dreadful, that at last her excellent patroness was
obliged to separate her from her own young ones, fearful lest her vicious
example should contaminate their purity: she has sent her here to be
healed, even as the Jews of old sent their diseased to the troubled pool
of Bethesda; and, teachers, superintendent, I beg of you not to allow the
waters to stagnate round her."
With this sublime conclusion, Mr. Brocklehurst adjusted the top button of
his surtout, muttered something to his family, who rose, bowed to Miss
Temple, and then all the great people sailed in state from the room.
Turning at the door, my judge said--
"Let her stand half-an-hour longer on that stool, and let no one speak to
her during the remainder of the day."
There was I, then, mounted aloft; I, who had said I could not bear the
shame of standing on my natural feet in the middle of the room, was now
exposed to general view on a pedestal of infamy.  What my sensations were
no language can describe; but just as they all rose, stifling my breath
and constricting my throat, a girl came up and passed me: in passing, she
lifted her eyes.  What a strange light inspired them!  What an
extraordinary sensation that ray sent through me!  How the new feeling
bore me up!  It was as if a martyr, a hero, had passed a slave or victim,
and imparted strength in the transit.  I mastered the rising hysteria,
lifted up my head, and took a firm stand on the stool.  Helen Burns asked
some slight question about her work of Miss Smith, was chidden for the
triviality of the inquiry, returned to her place, and smiled at me as she
again went by.  What a smile!  I remember it now, and I know that it was
the effluence of fine intellect, of true courage; it lit up her marked
lineaments, her thin face, her sunken grey eye, like a reflection from
the aspect of an angel.  Yet at that moment Helen Burns wore on her arm
"the untidy badge;" scarcely an hour ago I had heard her condemned by
Miss Scatcherd to a dinner of bread and water on the morrow because she
had blotted an exercise in copying it out.  Such is the imperfect nature
of man! such spots are there on the disc of the clearest planet; and eyes
like Miss Scatcherd's can only see those minute defects, and are blind to
the full brightness of the orb.
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 me."
"Jane, you are mistaken: probably not one in the school either despises
or dislikes you: many, I am sure, pity you much."
"How can they pity me after what Mr. Brocklehurst has said?"
"Mr. Brocklehurst is not a god: nor is he even a great and admired man:
he is little liked here; he never took steps to make himself liked.  Had
he treated you as an especial favourite, you would have found enemies,
declared or covert, all around you; as it is, the greater number would
offer you sympathy if they dared.  Teachers and pupils may look coldly on
you for a day or two, but friendly feelings are concealed in their
hearts; and if you persevere in doing well, these feelings will ere long
appear so much the more evidently for their temporary suppression.
Besides, Jane"--she paused.
"Well, Helen?" said I, putting my hand into hers: she chafed my fingers
gently to warm them, and went on--
"If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own
conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be
without friends."
"No; I know I should think well of myself; but that is not enough: if
others don't love me I would rather die than live--I cannot bear to be
solitary and hated, Helen.  Look here; to gain some real affection from
you, or Miss Temple, or any other whom I truly love, I would willingly
submit to have the bone of my arm broken, or to let a bull toss me, or to
stand behind a kicking horse, and let it dash its hoof at my chest--"
"Hush, Jane! you think too much of the love of human beings; you are too
impulsive, too vehement; the sovereign hand that created your frame, and
put life into it, has provided you with other resources than your feeble
self, or than creatures feeble as you.  Besides this earth, and besides
the race of men, there is an invisible world and a kingdom of spirits:
that world is round us, for it is everywhere; and those spirits watch us,
for they are commissioned to guard us; and if we were dying in pain and
shame, if scorn smote us on all sides, and hatred crushed us, angels see
our tortures, recognise our innocence (if innocent we be: as I know you
are of this charge which Mr. Brocklehurst has weakly and pompously
repeated at second-hand from Mrs. Reed; for I read a sincere nature in
your ardent eyes and on your clear front), and God waits only the
separation of spirit from flesh to crown us with a full reward.  Why,
then, should we ever sink overwhelmed with distress, when life is so soon
over, and death is so certain an entrance to happiness--to glory?"
I was silent; Helen had calmed me; but in the tranquillity she imparted
there was an alloy of inexpressible sadness.  I felt the impression of
woe as she spoke, but I could not tell whence it came; and when, having
done speaking, she breathed a little fast and coughed a short cough, I
momentarily forgot my own sorrows to yield to a vague concern for her.
Resting my head on Helen's shoulder, I put my arms round her waist; she
drew me to her, and we reposed in silence.  We had not sat long thus,
when another person came in.  Some heavy clouds, swept from the sky by a
rising wind, had left the moon bare; and her light, streaming in through
a window near, shone full both on us and on the approaching figure, which
we at once recognised as Miss Temple.
"I came on purpose to find you, Jane Eyre," said she; "I want you in my
room; and as Helen Burns is with you, she may come too."
We went; following the superintendent's guidance, we had to thread some
intricate passages, and mount a staircase before we reached her
apartment; it contained a good fire, and looked cheerful.  Miss Temple
told Helen Burns to be seated in a low arm-chair on one side of the
hearth, and herself taking another, she called me to her side.
"Is it all over?" she asked, looking down at my face.  "Have you cried
your grief away?"
"I am afraid I never shall do that."
"Because I have been wrongly accused; and you, ma'am, and everybody else,
will now think me wicked."
"We shall think you what you prove yourself to be, my child.  Continue to
act as a good girl, and you will satisfy us."
"Shall I, Miss Temple?"
"You will," said she, passing her arm round me.  "And now tell me who is
the lady whom Mr. Brocklehurst called your benefactress?"
"Mrs. Reed, my uncle's wife.  My uncle is dead, and he left me to her
"Did she not, then, adopt you of her own accord?"
"No, ma'am; she was sorry to have to do it: but my uncle, as I have often
heard the servants say, got her to promise before he died that she would
always keep me."
"Well now, Jane, you know, or at least I will tell you, that when a
criminal is accused, he is always allowed to speak in his own defence.
You have been charged with falsehood; defend yourself to me as well as
you can.  Say whatever your memory suggests is true; but add nothing and
exaggerate nothing."
I resolved, in the depth of my heart, that I would be most moderate--most
correct; and, having reflected a few minutes in order to arrange
coherently what I had to say, I told her all the story of my sad
childhood.  Exhausted by emotion, my language was more subdued than it
generally was when it developed that sad theme; and mindful of Helen's
warnings against the indulgence of resentment, I infused into the
narrative far less of gall and wormwood than ordinary.  Thus restrained
and simplified, it sounded more credible: I felt as I went on that Miss
Temple fully believed me.
In the course of the tale I had mentioned Mr. Lloyd as having come to see
me after the fit: for I never forgot the, to me, frightful episode of the
red-room: in detailing which, my excitement was sure, in some degree, to
break bounds; for nothing could soften in my recollection the spasm of
agony which clutched my heart when Mrs. Reed spurned my wild supplication
for pardon, and locked me a second time in the dark and haunted chamber.
I had finished: Miss Temple regarded me a few minutes in silence; she
then said--
"I know something of Mr. Lloyd; I shall write to him; if his reply agrees
with your statement, you shall be publicly cleared from every imputation;
to me, Jane, you are clear now."
She kissed me, and still keeping me at her side (where I was well
contented to stand, for I derived a child's pleasure from the
contemplation of her face, her dress, her one or two ornaments, her white
forehead, her clustered and shining curls, and beaming dark eyes), she
proceeded to address Helen Burns.
"How are you to-night, Helen?  Have you coughed much to-day?"
"Not quite so much, I think, ma'am."
"And the pain in your chest?"
"It is a little better."
Miss Temple got up, took her hand and examined her pulse; then she
returned to her own seat: as she resumed it, I heard her sigh low.  She
was pensive a few minutes, then rousing herself, she said cheerfully--
"But you two are my visitors to-night; I must treat you as such."  She
rang her bell.
"Barbara," she said to the servant who answered it, "I have not yet had
tea; bring the tray and place cups for these two young ladies."
And a tray was soon brought.  How pretty, to my eyes, did the china cups
and bright teapot look, placed on the little round table near the fire!
How fragrant was the steam of the beverage, and the scent of the toast!
of which, however, I, to my dismay (for I was beginning to be hungry)
discerned only a very small portion: Miss Temple discerned it too.
"Barbara," said she, "can you not bring a little more bread and butter?
There is not enough for three."
Barbara went out: she returned soon--
"Madam, Mrs. Harden says she has sent up the usual quantity."
Mrs. Harden, be it observed, was the housekeeper: a woman after Mr.
Brocklehurst's own heart, made up of equal parts of whalebone and iron.
"Oh, very well!" returned Miss Temple; "we must make it do, Barbara, I
suppose."  And as the girl withdrew she added, smiling, "Fortunately, I
have it in my power to supply deficiencies for this once."
Having invited Helen and me to approach the table, and placed before each
of us a cup of tea with one delicious but thin morsel of toast, she got
up, unlocked a drawer, and taking from it a parcel wrapped in paper,
disclosed presently to our eyes a good-sized seed-cake.
"I meant to give each of you some of this to take with you," said she,
"but as there is so little toast, you must have it now," and she
proceeded to cut slices with a generous hand.
We feasted that evening as on nectar and ambrosia; and not the least
delight of the entertainment was the smile of gratification with which
our hostess regarded us, as we satisfied our famished appetites on the
delicate fare she liberally supplied.
Tea over and the tray removed, she again summoned us to the fire; we sat
one on each side of her, and now a conversation followed between her and
Helen, which it was indeed a privilege to be admitted to hear.
Miss Temple had always something of serenity in her air, of state in her
mien, of refined propriety in her language, which precluded deviation
into the ardent, the excited, the eager: something which chastened the
pleasure of those who looked on her and listened to her, by a controlling
sense of awe; and such was my feeling now: but as to Helen Burns, I was
struck with wonder.
The refreshing meal, the brilliant fire, the presence and kindness of her
beloved instructress, or, perhaps, more than all these, something in her
own unique mind, had roused her powers within her.  They woke, they
kindled: first, they glowed in the bright tint of her cheek, which till
this hour I had never seen but pale and bloodless; then they shone in the
liquid lustre of her eyes, which had suddenly acquired a beauty more
singular than that of Miss Temple's--a beauty neither of fine colour nor
long eyelash, nor pencilled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of
radiance.  Then her soul sat on her lips, and language flowed, from what
source I cannot tell.  Has a girl of fourteen a heart large enough,
vigorous enough, to hold the swelling spring of pure, full, fervid
eloquence?  Such was the characteristic of Helen's discourse on that, to
me, memorable evening; her spirit seemed hastening to live within a very
brief span as much as many live during a protracted existence.
They conversed of things I had never heard of; of nations and times past;
of countries far away; of secrets of nature discovered or guessed at:
they spoke of books: how many they had read!  What stores of knowledge
they possessed!  Then they seemed so familiar with French names and
French authors: but my amazement reached its climax when Miss Temple
asked Helen if she sometimes snatched a moment to recall the Latin her
father had taught her, and taking a book from a shelf, bade her read and
construe a page of Virgil; and Helen obeyed, my organ of veneration
expanding at every sounding line.  She had scarcely finished ere the bell
announced bedtime! no delay could be admitted; Miss Temple embraced us
both, saying, as she drew us to her heart--
"God bless you, my children!"
Helen she held a little longer than me: she let her go more reluctantly;
it was Helen her eye followed to the door; it was for her she a second
time breathed a sad sigh; for her she wiped a tear from her cheek.
On reaching the bedroom, we heard the voice of Miss Scatcherd: she was
examining drawers; she had just pulled out Helen Burns's, and when we
entered Helen was greeted with a sharp reprimand, and told that to-morrow
she should have half-a-dozen of untidily folded articles pinned to her
"My things were indeed in shameful disorder," murmured Helen to me, in a
low voice: "I intended to have arranged them, but I forgot."
Next morning, Miss Scatcherd wrote in conspicuous characters on a piece
of pasteboard the word "Slattern," and bound it like a phylactery round
Helen's large, mild, intelligent, and benign-looking forehead.  She wore
it till evening, patient, unresentful, regarding it as a deserved
punishment.  The moment Miss Scatcherd withdrew after afternoon school, I
ran to Helen, tore it off, and thrust it into the fire: the fury of which
she was incapable had been burning in my soul all day, and tears, hot and
large, had continually been scalding my cheek; for the spectacle of her
sad resignation gave me an intolerable pain at the heart.
About a week subsequently to the incidents above narrated, Miss Temple,
who had written to Mr. Lloyd, received his answer: it appeared that what
he said went to corroborate my account.  Miss Temple, having assembled
the whole school, announced that inquiry had been made into the charges
alleged against Jane Eyre, and that she was most happy to be able to
pronounce her completely cleared from every imputation.  The teachers
then shook hands with me and kissed me, and a murmur of pleasure ran
through the ranks of my companions.
Thus relieved of a grievous load, I from that hour set to work afresh,
resolved to pioneer my way through every difficulty: I toiled hard, and
my success was proportionate to my efforts; my memory, not naturally
tenacious, improved with practice; exercise sharpened my wits; in a few
weeks I was promoted to a higher class; in less than two months I was
allowed to commence French and drawing.  I learned the first two tenses
of the verb _​Etre​_​, and sketched my first cottage (whose walls, by-the-
bye, outrivalled in slope those of the leaning tower of Pisa), on the
same day.  That night, on going to bed, I forgot to prepare in
imagination the Barmecide supper of hot roast potatoes, or white bread
and new milk, with which I was wont to amuse my inward cravings: I
feasted instead on the spectacle of ideal drawings, which I saw in the
dark; all the work of my own hands: freely pencilled houses and trees,
picturesque rocks and ruins, Cuyp-like groups of cattle, sweet paintings
of butterflies hovering over unblown roses, of birds picking at ripe
cherries, of wren's nests enclosing pearl-like eggs, wreathed about with
young ivy sprays.  I examined, too, in thought, the possibility of my
ever being able to translate currently a certain little French story
which Madame Pierrot had that day shown me; nor was that problem solved
to my satisfaction ere I fell sweetly asleep.
Well has Solomon said--"Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a
stalled ox and hatred therewith."
I would not now have exchanged Lowood with all its privations for
Gateshead and its daily luxuries.
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
Have I not described a pleasant site for a dwelling, when I speak of it
as bosomed in hill and wood, and rising from the verge of a stream?
Assuredly, pleasant enough: but whether healthy or not is another
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
Semi-starvation and neglected colds had predisposed most of the pupils to
receive infection: forty-five out of the eighty girls lay ill at one
time.  Classes were broken up, rules relaxed.  The few who continued well
were allowed almost unlimited license; because the medical attendant
insisted on the necessity of frequent exercise to keep them in health:
and had it been otherwise, no one had leisure to watch or restrain them.
Miss Temple's whole attention was absorbed by the patients: she lived in
the sick-room, never quitting it except to snatch a few hours' rest at
night.  The teachers were fully occupied with packing up and making other
necessary preparations for the departure of those girls who were
fortunate enough to have friends and relations able and willing to remove
them from the seat of contagion.  Many, already smitten, went home only
to die: some died at the school, and were buried quietly and quickly, the
nature of the malady forbidding delay.
While disease had thus become an inhabitant of Lowood, and death its
frequent visitor; while there was gloom and fear within its walls; while
its rooms and passages steamed with hospital smells, the drug and the
pastille striving vainly to overcome the effluvia of mortality, that
bright May shone unclouded over the bold hills and beautiful woodland out
of doors.  Its garden, too, glowed with flowers: hollyhocks had sprung up
tall as trees, lilies had opened, tulips and roses were in bloom; the
borders of the little beds were gay with pink thrift and crimson double
daisies; the sweetbriars gave out, morning and evening, their scent of
spice and apples; and these fragrant treasures were all useless for most
of the inmates of Lowood, except to furnish now and then a handful of
herbs and blossoms to put in a coffin.
But I, and the rest who continued well, enjoyed fully the beauties of the
scene and season; they let us ramble in the wood, like gipsies, from
morning till night; we did what we liked, went where we liked: we lived
better too.  Mr. Brocklehurst and his family never came near Lowood now:
household matters were not scrutinised into; the cross housekeeper was
gone, driven away by the fear of infection; her successor, who had been
matron at the Lowton Dispensary, unused to the ways of her new abode,
provided with comparative liberality.  Besides, there were fewer to feed;
the sick could eat little; our breakfast-basins were better filled; when
there was no time to prepare a regular dinner, which often happened, she
would give us a large piece of cold pie, or a thick slice of bread and
cheese, and this we carried away with us to the wood, where we each chose
the spot we liked best, and dined sumptuously.
My favourite seat was a smooth and broad stone, rising white and dry from
the very middle of the beck, and only to be got at by wading through the
water; a feat I accomplished barefoot.  The stone was just broad enough
to accommodate, comfortably, another girl and me, at that time my chosen
comrade--one Mary Ann Wilson; a shrewd, observant personage, whose
society I took pleasure in, partly because she was witty and original,
and partly because she had a manner which set me at my ease.  Some years
older than I, she knew more of the world, and could tell me many things I
liked to hear: with her my curiosity found gratification: to my faults
also she gave ample indulgence, never imposing curb or rein on anything I
said.  She had a turn for narrative, I for analysis; she liked to inform,
I to question; so we got on swimmingly together, deriving much
entertainment, if not much improvement, from our mutual intercourse.
And where, meantime, was Helen Burns?  Why did I not spend these sweet
days of liberty with her?  Had I forgotten her? or was I so worthless as
to have grown tired of her pure society?  Surely the Mary Ann Wilson I
have mentioned was inferior to my first acquaintance: she could only tell
me amusing stories, and reciprocate any racy and pungent gossip I chose
to indulge in; while, if I have spoken truth of Helen, she was qualified
to give those who enjoyed the privilege of her converse a taste of far
higher things.
True, reader; and I knew and felt this: and though I am a defective
being, with many faults and few redeeming points, yet I never tired of
Helen Burns; nor ever ceased to cherish for her a sentiment of
attachment, as strong, tender, and respectful as any that ever animated
my heart.  How could it be otherwise, when Helen, at all times and under
all circumstances, evinced for me a quiet and faithful friendship, which
ill-humour never soured, nor irritation never troubled?  But Helen was
ill at present: for some weeks she had been removed from my sight to I
knew not what room upstairs.  She was not, I was told, in the hospital
portion of the house with the fever patients; for her complaint was
consumption, not typhus: and by consumption I, in my ignorance,
understood something mild, which time and care would be sure to
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
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
"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 my
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
"How comfortable I am!  That last fit of coughing has tired me a little;
I feel as if I could sleep: but don't leave me, Jane; I like to have you
near me."
"I'll stay with you, _​dear​_ Helen: no one shall take me away."
"Are you warm, darling?"
"Good-night, Jane."
"Good-night, Helen."
She kissed me, and I her, and we both soon slumbered.
When I awoke it was day: an unusual movement roused me; I looked up; I
was in somebody's arms; the nurse held me; she was carrying me through
the passage back to the dormitory.  I was not reprimanded for leaving my
bed; people had something else to think about; no explanation was
afforded then to my many questions; but a day or two afterwards I learned
that Miss Temple, on returning to her own room at dawn, had found me laid
in the little crib; my face against Helen Burns's shoulder, my arms round
her neck.  I was asleep, and Helen was--dead.
Her grave is in Brocklebridge churchyard: for fifteen years after her
death it was only covered by a grassy mound; but now a grey marble tablet
marks the spot, inscribed with her name, and the word "Resurgam."
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
When the typhus fever had fulfilled its mission of devastation at Lowood,
it gradually disappeared from thence; but not till its virulence and the
number of its victims had drawn public attention on the school.  Inquiry
was made into the origin of the scourge, and by degrees various facts
came out which excited public indignation in a high degree.  The
unhealthy nature of the site; the quantity and quality of the children's
food; the brackish, fetid water used in its preparation; the pupils'
wretched clothing and accommodations--all these things were discovered,
and the discovery produced a result mortifying to Mr. Brocklehurst, but
beneficial to the institution.
Several wealthy and benevolent individuals in the county subscribed
largely for the erection of a more convenient building in a better
situation; new regulations were made; improvements in diet and clothing
introduced; the funds of the school were intrusted to the management of a
committee.  Mr. Brocklehurst, who, from his wealth and family
connections, could not be overlooked, still retained the post of
treasurer; but he was aided in the discharge of his duties by gentlemen
of rather more enlarged and sympathising minds: his office of inspector,
too, was shared by those who knew how to combine reason with strictness,
comfort with economy, compassion with uprightness.  The school, thus
improved, became in time a truly useful and noble institution.  I
remained an inmate of its walls, after its regeneration, for eight years:
six as pupil, and two as teacher; and in both capacities I bear my
testimony to its value and importance.
During these eight years my life was uniform: but not unhappy, because it
was not inactive.  I had the means of an excellent education placed
within my reach; a fondness for some of my studies, and a desire to excel
in all, together with a great delight in pleasing my teachers, especially
such as I loved, urged me on: I availed myself fully of the advantages
offered me.  In time I rose to be the first girl of the first class; then
I was invested with the office of teacher; which I discharged with zeal
for two years: but at the end of that time I altered.
Miss Temple, through all changes, had thus far continued superintendent
of the seminary: to her instruction I owed the best part of my
acquirements; her friendship and society had been my continual solace;
she had stood me in the stead of mother, governess, and, latterly,
companion.  At this period she married, removed with her husband (a
clergyman, an excellent man, almost worthy of such a wife) to a distant
county, and consequently was lost to me.
From the day she left I was no longer the same: with her was gone every
settled feeling, every association that had made Lowood in some degree a
home to me.  I had imbibed from her something of her nature and much of
her habits: more harmonious thoughts: what seemed better regulated
feelings had become the inmates of my mind.  I had given in allegiance to
duty and order; I was quiet; I believed I was content: to the eyes of
others, usually even to my own, I appeared a disciplined and subdued
But destiny, in the shape of the Rev. Mr. Nasmyth, came between me and
Miss Temple: I saw her in her travelling dress step into a post-chaise,
shortly after the marriage ceremony; I watched the chaise mount the hill
and disappear beyond its brow; and then retired to my own room, and there
spent in solitude the greatest part of the half-holiday granted in honour
of the occasion.
I walked about the chamber most of the time.  I imagined myself only to
be regretting my loss, and thinking how to repair it; but when my
reflections were concluded, and I looked up and found that the afternoon
was gone, and evening far advanced, another discovery dawned on me,
namely, that in the interval I had undergone a transforming process; that
my mind had put off all it had borrowed of Miss Temple--or rather that
she had taken with her the serene atmosphere I had been breathing in her
vicinity--and that now I was left in my natural element, and beginning to
feel the stirring of old emotions.  It did not seem as if a prop were
withdrawn, but rather as if a motive were gone: it was not the power to
be tranquil which had failed me, but the reason for tranquillity was no
more.  My world had for some years been in Lowood: my experience had been
of its rules and systems; now I remembered that the real world was wide,
and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and
excitements, awaited those who had courage to go forth into its expanse,
to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils.
I went to my window, opened it, and looked out.  There were the two wings
of the building; there was the garden; there were the skirts of Lowood;
there was the hilly horizon.  My eye passed all other objects to rest on
those most remote, the blue peaks; it was those I longed to surmount; all
within their boundary of rock and heath seemed prison-ground, exile
limits.  I traced the white road winding round the base of one mountain,
and vanishing in a gorge between two; how I longed to follow it farther!
I recalled the time when I had travelled that very road in a coach; I
remembered descending that hill at twilight; an age seemed to have
elapsed since the day which brought me first to Lowood, and I had never
quitted it since.  My vacations had all been spent at school: Mrs. Reed
had never sent for me to Gateshead; neither she nor any of her family had
ever been to visit me.  I had had no communication by letter or message
with the outer world: school-rules, school-duties, school-habits and
notions, and voices, and faces, and phrases, and costumes, and
preferences, and antipathies--such was what I knew of existence.  And now
I felt that it was not enough; I tired of the routine of eight years in
one afternoon.  I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I
uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the wind then faintly blowing.  I
abandoned it and framed a humbler supplication; for change, stimulus:
that petition, too, seemed swept off into vague space: "Then," I cried,
half desperate, "grant me at least a new servitude!"
Here a bell, ringing the hour of supper, called me downstairs.
I was not free to resume the interrupted chain of my reflections till
bedtime: even then a teacher who occupied the same room with me kept me
from the subject to which I longed to recur, by a prolonged effusion of
small talk.  How I wished sleep would silence her.  It seemed as if,
could I but go back to the idea which had last entered my mind as I stood
at the window, some inventive suggestion would rise for my relief.
Miss Gryce snored at last; she was a heavy Welshwoman, and till now her
habitual nasal strains had never been regarded by me in any other light
than as a nuisance; to-night I hailed the first deep notes with
satisfaction; I was debarrassed of interruption; my half-effaced thought
instantly revived.
"A new servitude!  There is something in that," I soliloquised (mentally,
be it understood; I did not talk aloud), "I know there is, because it
does not sound too sweet; it is not like such words as Liberty,
Excitement, Enjoyment: delightful sounds truly; but no more than sounds
for me; and so hollow and fleeting that it is mere waste of time to
listen to them.  But Servitude!  That must be matter of fact.  Any one
may serve: I have served here eight years; now all I want is to serve
elsewhere.  Can I not get so much of my own will?  Is not the thing
feasible?  Yes--yes--the end is not so difficult; if I had only a brain
active enough to ferret out the means of attaining it."
I sat up in bed by way of arousing this said brain: it was a chilly
night; I covered my shoulders with a shawl, and then I proceeded _​to
think​_ again with all my might.
"What do I want?  A new place, in a new house, amongst new faces, under
new circumstances: I want this because it is of no use wanting anything
better.  How do people do to get a new place?  They apply to friends, I
suppose: I have no friends.  There are many others who have no friends,
who must look about for themselves and be their own helpers; and what is
their resource?"
I could not tell: nothing answered me; I then ordered my brain to find a
response, and quickly.  It worked and worked faster: I felt the pulses
throb in my head and temples; but for nearly an hour it worked in chaos;
and no result came of its efforts.  Feverish with vain labour, I got up
and took a turn in the room; undrew the curtain, noted a star or two,
shivered with cold, and again crept to bed.
A kind fairy, in my absence, had surely dropped the required suggestion
on my pillow; for as I lay down, it came quietly and naturally to my
mind.--"Those who want situations advertise; you must advertise in the
_---shire Herald​_​."
"How?  I know nothing about advertising."
Replies rose smooth and prompt now:--
"You must enclose the advertisement and the money to pay for it under a
cover directed to the editor of the _​Herald​_​; you must put it, the first
opportunity you have, into the post at Lowton; answers must be addressed
to J.E., at the post-office there; you can go and inquire in about a week
after you send your letter, if any are come, and act accordingly."
This scheme I went over twice, thrice; it was then digested in my mind; I
had it in a clear practical form: I felt satisfied, and fell asleep.
With earliest day, I was up: I had my advertisement written, enclosed,
and directed before the bell rang to rouse the school; it ran thus:--
"A young lady accustomed to tuition" (had I not been a teacher two
years?) "is desirous of meeting with a situation in a private family
where the children are under fourteen" (I thought that as I was barely
eighteen, it would not do to undertake the guidance of pupils nearer my
own age).  "She is qualified to teach the usual branches of a good English
education, together with French, Drawing, and Music" (in those days,
reader, this now narrow catalogue of accomplishments, would have been
held tolerably comprehensive).  "Address, J.E., Post-office, Lowton, ---
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
"Mrs. Fairfax, Thornfield, near Millcote, ---shire."
I examined the document long: the writing was old-fashioned and rather
uncertain, like that of an elderly lady.  This circumstance was
satisfactory: a private fear had haunted me, that in thus acting for
myself, and by my own guidance, I ran the risk of getting into some
scrape; and, above all things, I wished the result of my endeavours to be
respectable, proper, _​en regle​_​.  I now felt that an elderly lady was no
bad ingredient in the business I had on hand.  Mrs. Fairfax!  I saw her
in a black gown and widow's cap; frigid, perhaps, but not uncivil: a
model of elderly English respectability.  Thornfield! that, doubtless,
was the name of her house: a neat orderly spot, I was sure; though I
failed in my efforts to conceive a correct plan of the premises.
Millcote, ---shire; I brushed up my recollections of the map of England,
yes, I saw it; both the shire and the town.  ---shire was seventy miles
nearer London than the remote county where I now resided: that was a
recommendation to me.  I longed to go where there was life and movement:
Millcote was a large manufacturing town on the banks of the A-; a busy
place enough, doubtless: so much the better; it would be a complete
change at least.  Not that my fancy was much captivated by the idea of
long chimneys and clouds of smoke--"but," I argued, "Thornfield will,
probably, be a good way from the town."
Here the socket of the candle dropped, and the wick went out.
Next day new steps were to be taken; my plans could no longer be confined
to my own breast; I must impart them in order to achieve their success.
Having sought and obtained an audience of the superintendent during the
noontide recreation, I told her I had a prospect of getting a new
situation where the salary would be double what I now received (for at
Lowood I only got 15 pounds per annum); and requested she would break the
matter for me to Mr. Brocklehurst, or some of the committee, and
ascertain whether they would permit me to mention them as references.  She
obligingly consented to act as mediatrix in the matter.  The next day she
laid the affair before Mr. Brocklehurst, who said that Mrs. Reed must be
written to, as she was my natural guardian.  A note was accordingly
addressed to that lady, who returned for answer, that "I might do as I
pleased: she had long relinquished all interference in my affairs."  This
note went the round of the committee, and at last, after what appeared to
me most tedious delay, formal leave was given me to better my condition
if I could; and an assurance added, that as I had always conducted myself
well, both as teacher and pupil, at Lowood, a testimonial of character
and capacity, signed by the inspectors of that institution, should
forthwith be furnished me.
This testimonial I accordingly received in about a month, forwarded a
copy of it to Mrs. Fairfax, and got that lady's reply, stating that she
was satisfied, and fixing that day fortnight as the period for my
assuming the post of governess in her house.
I now busied myself in preparations: the fortnight passed rapidly.  I had
not a very large wardrobe, though it was adequate to my wants; and the
last day sufficed to pack my trunk,--the same I had brought with me eight
years ago from Gateshead.
The box was corded, the card nailed on.  In half-an-hour the carrier was
to call for it to take it to Lowton, whither I myself was to repair at an
early hour the next morning to meet the coach.  I had brushed my black
stuff travelling-dress, prepared my bonnet, gloves, and muff; sought in
all my drawers to see that no article was left behind; and now having
nothing more to do, I sat down and tried to rest.  I could not; though I
had been on foot all day, I could not now repose an instant; I was too
much excited.  A phase of my life was closing to-night, a new one opening
to-morrow: impossible to slumber in the interval; I must watch feverishly
while the change was being accomplished.
"Miss," said a servant who met me in the lobby, where I was wandering
like a troubled spirit, "a person below wishes to see you."
"The carrier, no doubt," I thought, and ran downstairs without inquiry.  I
was passing the back-parlour or teachers' sitting-room, the door of which
was half open, to go to the kitchen, when some one ran out--
"It's her, I am sure!--I could have told her anywhere!" cried the
individual who stopped my progress and took my hand.
I looked: I saw a woman attired like a well-dressed servant, matronly,
yet still young; very good-looking, with black hair and eyes, and lively
"Well, who is it?" she asked, in a voice and with a smile I half
recognised; "you've not quite forgotten me, I think, Miss Jane?"
In another second I was embracing and kissing her rapturously: "Bessie!
Bessie!  Bessie!" that was all I said; whereat she half laughed, half
cried, and we both went into the parlour.  By the fire stood a little
fellow of three years old, in plaid frock and trousers.
"That is my little boy," said Bessie directly.
"Then you are married, Bessie?"
"Yes; nearly five years since to Robert Leaven, the coachman; and I've a
little girl besides Bobby there, that I've christened Jane."
"And you don't live at Gateshead?"
"I live at the lodge: the old porter has left."
"Well, and how do they all get on?  Tell me everything about them,
Bessie: but sit down first; and, Bobby, come and sit on my knee, will
you?" but Bobby preferred sidling over to his mother.
"You're not grown so very tall, Miss Jane, nor so very stout," continued
Mrs. Leaven.  "I dare say they've not kept you too well at school: Miss
Reed is the head and shoulders taller than you are; and Miss Georgiana
would make two of you in breadth."
"Georgiana is handsome, I suppose, Bessie?"
"Very.  She went up to London last winter with her mama, and there
everybody admired her, and a young lord fell in love with her: but his
relations were against the match; and--what do you think?--he and Miss
Georgiana made it up to run away; but they were found out and stopped.  It
was Miss Reed that found them out: I believe she was envious; and now she
and her sister lead a cat and dog life together; they are always
"Well, and what of John Reed?"
"Oh, he is not doing so well as his mama could wish.  He went to college,
and he got--plucked, I think they call it: and then his uncles wanted him
to be a barrister, and study the law: but he is such a dissipated young
man, they will never make much of him, I think."
"What does he look like?"
"He is very tall: some people call him a fine-looking young man; but he
has such thick lips."
"And Mrs. Reed?"
"Missis looks stout and well enough in the face, but I think she's not
quite easy in her mind: Mr. John's conduct does not please her--he spends
a deal of money."
"Did she send you here, Bessie?"
"No, indeed: but I have long wanted to see you, and when I heard that
there had been a letter from you, and that you were going to another part
of the country, I thought I'd just set off, and get a look at you before
you were quite out of my reach."
"I am afraid you are disappointed in me, Bessie."  I said this laughing:
I perceived that Bessie's glance, though it expressed regard, did in no
shape denote admiration.
"No, Miss Jane, not exactly: you are genteel enough; you look like a
lady, and it is as much as ever I expected of you: you were no beauty as
a child."
I smiled at Bessie's frank answer: I felt that it was correct, but I
confess I was not quite indifferent to its import: at eighteen most
people wish to please, and the conviction that they have not an exterior
likely to second that desire brings anything but gratification.
"I dare say you are clever, though," continued Bessie, by way of solace.
"What can you do?  Can you play on the piano?"
"A little."
There was one in the room; Bessie went and opened it, and then asked me
to sit down and give her a tune: I played a waltz or two, and she was
"The Miss Reeds could not play as well!" said she exultingly.  "I always
said you would surpass them in learning: and can you draw?"
"That is one of my paintings over the chimney-piece."  It was a landscape
in water colours, of which I had made a present to the superintendent, in
acknowledgment of her obliging mediation with the committee on my behalf,
and which she had framed and glazed.
"Well, that is beautiful, Miss Jane!  It is as fine a picture as any Miss
Reed's drawing-master could paint, let alone the young ladies themselves,
who could not come near it: and have you learnt French?"
"Yes, Bessie, I can both read it and speak it."
"And you can work on muslin and canvas?"
"I can."
"Oh, you are quite a lady, Miss Jane!  I knew you would be: you will get
on whether your relations notice you or not.  There was something I
wanted to ask you.  Have you ever heard anything from your father's
kinsfolk, the Eyres?"
"Never in my life."
"Well, you know Missis always said they were poor and quite despicable:
and they may be poor; but I believe they are as much gentry as the Reeds
are; for one day, nearly seven years ago, a Mr. Eyre came to Gateshead
and wanted to see you; Missis said you were at school fifty miles off; he
seemed so much disappointed, for he could not stay: he was going on a
voyage to a foreign country, and the ship was to sail from London in a
day or two.  He looked quite a gentleman, and I believe he was your
father's brother."
"What foreign country was he going to, Bessie?"
"An island thousands of miles off, where they make wine--the butler did
tell me--"
"Madeira?" I suggested.
"Yes, that is it--that is the very word."
"So he went?"
"Yes; he did not stay many minutes in the house: Missis was very high
with him; she called him afterwards a 'sneaking tradesman.'  My Robert
believes he was a wine-merchant."
"Very likely," I returned; "or perhaps clerk or agent to a
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 my thoughts.
It is a very strange sensation to inexperienced youth to feel itself
quite alone in the world, cut adrift from every connection, uncertain
whether the port to which it is bound can be reached, and prevented by
many impediments from returning to that it has quitted.  The charm of
adventure sweetens that sensation, the glow of pride warms it; but then
the throb of fear disturbs it; and fear with me became predominant when
half-an-hour elapsed and still I was alone.  I bethought myself to ring
the bell.
"Is there a place in this neighbourhood called Thornfield?" I asked of
the waiter who answered the summons.
"Thornfield?  I don't know, ma'am; I'll inquire at the bar."  He
vanished, but reappeared instantly--
"Is your name Eyre, Miss?"
"Person here waiting for you."
I jumped up, took my muff and umbrella, and hastened into the
inn-passage: a man was standing by the open door, and in the lamp-lit
street I dimly saw a one-horse conveyance.
"This will be your luggage, I suppose?" said the man rather abruptly when
he saw me, pointing to my trunk in the passage.
"Yes."  He hoisted it on to the vehicle, which was a sort of car, and
then I got in; before he shut me up, I asked him how far it was to
"A matter of six miles."
"How long shall we be before we get there?"
"Happen an hour and a half."
He fastened the car door, climbed to his own seat outside, and we set
off.  Our progress was leisurely, and gave me ample time to reflect; I
was content to be at length so near the end of my journey; and as I
leaned back in the comfortable though not elegant conveyance, I meditated
much at my ease.
"I suppose," thought I, "judging from the plainness of the servant and
carriage, Mrs. Fairfax is not a very dashing person: so much the better;
I never lived amongst fine people but once, and I was very miserable with
them.  I wonder if she lives alone except this little girl; if so, and if
she is in any degree amiable, I shall surely be able to get on with her;
I will do my best; it is a pity that doing one's best does not always
answer.  At Lowood, indeed, I took that resolution, kept it, and
succeeded in pleasing; but with Mrs. Reed, I remember my best was always
spurned with scorn.  I pray God Mrs. Fairfax may not turn out a second
Mrs. Reed; but if she does, I am not bound to stay with her! let the
worst come to the worst, I can advertise again.  How far are we on our
road now, I wonder?"
I let down the window and looked out; Millcote was behind us; judging by
the number of its lights, it seemed a place of considerable magnitude,
much larger than Lowton.  We were now, as far as I could see, on a sort
of common; but there were houses scattered all over the district; I felt
we were in a different region to Lowood, more populous, less picturesque;
more stirring, less romantic.
The roads were heavy, the night misty; my conductor let his horse walk
all the way, and the hour and a half extended, I verily believe, to two
hours; at last he turned in his seat and said--
"You're noan so far fro' Thornfield now."
Again I looked out: we were passing a church; I saw its low broad tower
against the sky, and its bell was tolling a quarter; I saw a narrow
galaxy of lights too, on a hillside, marking a village or hamlet.  About
ten minutes after, the driver got down and opened a pair of gates: we
passed through, and they clashed to behind us.  We now slowly ascended a
drive, and came upon the long front of a house: candlelight gleamed from
one curtained bow-window; all the rest were dark.  The car stopped at the
front door; it was opened by a maid-servant; I alighted and went in.
"Will you walk this way, ma'am?" said the girl; and I followed her across
a square hall with high doors all round: she ushered me into a room whose
double illumination of fire and candle at first dazzled me, contrasting
as it did with the darkness to which my eyes had been for two hours
inured; when I could see, however, a cosy and agreeable picture presented
itself to my view.
A snug small room; a round table by a cheerful fire; an arm-chair high-
backed and old-fashioned, wherein sat the neatest imaginable little
elderly lady, in widow's cap, black silk gown, and snowy muslin apron;
exactly like what I had fancied Mrs. Fairfax, only less stately and
milder looking.  She was occupied in knitting; a large cat sat demurely
at her feet; nothing in short was wanting to complete the beau-ideal of
domestic comfort.  A more reassuring introduction for a new governess
could scarcely be conceived; there was no grandeur to overwhelm, no
stateliness to embarrass; and then, as I entered, the old lady got up and
promptly and kindly came forward to meet me.
"How do you do, my dear?  I am afraid you have had a tedious ride; John
drives so slowly; you must be cold, come to the fire."
"Mrs. Fairfax, I suppose?" said I.
"Yes, you are right: do sit down."
She conducted me to her own chair, and then began to remove my shawl and
untie my bonnet-strings; I begged she would not give herself so much
"Oh, it is no trouble; I dare say your own hands are almost numbed with
cold.  Leah, make a little hot negus and cut a sandwich or two: here are
the keys of the storeroom."
And she produced from her pocket a most housewifely bunch of keys, and
delivered them to the servant.
"Now, then, draw nearer to the fire," she continued.  "You've brought
your luggage with you, haven't you, my dear?"
"Yes, ma'am."
"I'll see it carried into your room," she said, and bustled out.
"She treats me like a visitor," thought I.  "I little expected such a
reception; I anticipated only coldness and stiffness: this is not like
what I have heard of the treatment of governesses; but I must not exult
too soon."
She returned; with her own hands cleared her knitting apparatus and a
book or two from the table, to make room for the tray which Leah now
brought, and then herself handed me the refreshments.  I felt rather
confused at being the object of more attention than I had ever before
received, and, that too, shown by my employer and superior; but as she
did not herself seem to consider she was doing anything out of her place,
I thought it better to take her civilities quietly.
"Shall I have the pleasure of seeing Miss Fairfax to-night?" I asked,
when I had partaken of what she offered me.
"What did you say, my dear?  I am a little deaf," returned the good lady,
approaching her ear to my mouth.
I repeated the question more distinctly.
"Miss Fairfax?  Oh, you mean Miss Varens!  Varens is the name of your
future pupil."
"Indeed!  Then she is not your daughter?"
"No,--I have no family."
I should have followed up my first inquiry, by asking in what way Miss
Varens was connected with her; but I recollected it was not polite to ask
too many questions: besides, I was sure to hear in time.
"I am so glad," she continued, as she sat down opposite to me, and took
the cat on her knee; "I am so glad you are come; it will be quite
pleasant living here now with a companion.  To be sure it is pleasant at
any time; for Thornfield is a fine old hall, rather neglected of late
years perhaps, but still it is a respectable place; yet you know in
winter-time one feels dreary quite alone in the best quarters.  I say
alone--Leah is a nice girl to be sure, and John and his wife are very
decent people; but then you see they are only servants, and one can't
converse with them on terms of equality: one must keep them at due
distance, for fear of losing one's authority.  I'm sure last winter (it
was a very severe one, if you recollect, and when it did not snow, it
rained and blew), not a creature but the butcher and postman came to the
house, from November till February; and I really got quite melancholy
with sitting night after night alone; I had Leah in to read to me
sometimes; but I don't think the poor girl liked the task much: she felt
it confining.  In spring and summer one got on better: sunshine and long
days make such a difference; and then, just at the commencement of this
autumn, little Adela Varens came and her nurse: a child makes a house
alive all at once; and now you are here I shall be quite gay."
My heart really warmed to the worthy lady as I heard her talk; and I drew
my chair a little nearer to her, and expressed my sincere wish that she
might find my company as agreeable as she anticipated.
"But I'll not keep you sitting up late to-night," said she; "it is on the
stroke of twelve now, and you have been travelling all day: you must feel
tired.  If you have got your feet well warmed, I'll show you your
bedroom.  I've had the room next to mine prepared for you; it is only a
small apartment, but I thought you would like it better than one of the
large front chambers: to be sure they have finer furniture, but they are
so dreary and solitary, I never sleep in them myself."
I thanked her for her considerate choice, and as I really felt fatigued
with my long journey, expressed my readiness to retire.  She took her
candle, and I followed her from the room.  First she went to see if the
hall-door was fastened; having taken the key from the lock, she led the
way upstairs.  The steps and banisters were of oak; the staircase window
was high and latticed; both it and the long gallery into which the
bedroom doors opened looked as if they belonged to a church rather than a
house.  A very chill and vault-like air pervaded the stairs and gallery,
suggesting cheerless ideas of space and solitude; and I was glad, when
finally ushered into my chamber, to find it of small dimensions, and
furnished in ordinary, modern style.
When Mrs. Fairfax had bidden me a kind good-night, and I had fastened my
door, gazed leisurely round, and in some measure effaced the eerie
impression made by that wide hall, that dark and spacious staircase, and
that long, cold gallery, by the livelier aspect of my little room, I
remembered that, after a day of bodily fatigue and mental anxiety, I was
now at last in safe haven.  The impulse of gratitude swelled my heart,
and I knelt down at the bedside, and offered up thanks where thanks were
due; not forgetting, ere I rose, to implore aid on my further path, and
the power of meriting the kindness which seemed so frankly offered me
before it was earned.  My couch had no thorns in it that night; my
solitary room no fears.  At once weary and content, I slept soon and
soundly: when I awoke it was broad day.
The chamber looked such a bright little place to me as the sun shone in
between the gay blue chintz window curtains, showing papered walls and a
carpeted floor, so unlike the bare planks and stained plaster of Lowood,
that my spirits rose at the view.  Externals have a great effect on the
young: I thought that a fairer era of life was beginning for me, one that
was to have its flowers and pleasures, as well as its thorns and toils.
My faculties, roused by the change of scene, the new field offered to
hope, seemed all astir.  I cannot precisely define what they expected,
but it was something pleasant: not perhaps that day or that month, but at
an indefinite future period.
I rose; I dressed myself with care: obliged to be plain--for I had no
article of attire that was not made with extreme simplicity--I was still
by nature solicitous to be neat.  It was not my habit to be disregardful
of appearance or careless of the impression I made: on the contrary, I
ever wished to look as well as I could, and to please as much as my want
of beauty would permit.  I sometimes regretted that I was not handsomer;
I sometimes wished to have rosy cheeks, a straight nose, and small cherry
mouth; I desired to be tall, stately, and finely developed in figure; I
felt it a misfortune that I was so little, so pale, and had features so
irregular and so marked.  And why had I these aspirations and these
regrets?  It would be difficult to say: I could not then distinctly say
it to myself; yet I had a reason, and a logical, natural reason too.
However, when I had brushed my hair very smooth, and put on my black
frock--which, Quakerlike as it was, at least had the merit of fitting to
a nicety--and adjusted my clean white tucker, I thought I should do
respectably enough to appear before Mrs. Fairfax, and that my new pupil
would not at least recoil from me with antipathy.  Having opened my
chamber window, and seen that I left all things straight and neat on the
toilet table, I ventured forth.
Traversing the long and matted gallery, I descended the slippery steps of
oak; then I gained the hall: I halted there a minute; I looked at some
pictures on the walls (one, I remember, represented a grim man in a
cuirass, and one a lady with powdered hair and a pearl necklace), at a
bronze lamp pendent from the ceiling, at a great clock whose case was of
oak curiously carved, and ebon black with time and rubbing.  Everything
appeared very stately and imposing to me; but then I was so little
accustomed to grandeur.  The hall-door, which was half of glass, stood
open; I stepped over the threshold.  It was a fine autumn morning; the
early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields;
advancing on to the lawn, I looked up and surveyed the front of the
mansion.  It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though
considerable: a gentleman's manor-house, not a nobleman's seat:
battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look.  Its grey front
stood out well from the background of a rookery, whose cawing tenants
were now on the wing: they flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a
great meadow, from which these were separated by a sunk fence, and where
an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at
once explained the etymology of the mansion's designation.  Farther off
were hills: not so lofty as those round Lowood, nor so craggy, nor so
like barriers of separation from the living world; but yet quiet and
lonely hills enough, and seeming to embrace Thornfield with a seclusion I
had not expected to find existent so near the stirring locality of
Millcote.  A little hamlet, whose roofs were blent with trees, straggled
up the side of one of these hills; the church of the district stood
nearer Thornfield: its old tower-top looked over a knoll between the
house and gates.
I was yet enjoying the calm prospect and pleasant fresh air, yet
listening with delight to the cawing of the rooks, yet surveying the
wide, hoary front of the hall, and thinking what a great place it was for
one lonely little dame like Mrs. Fairfax to inhabit, when that lady
appeared at the door.
"What! out already?" said she.  "I see you are an early riser."  I went
up to her, and was received with an affable kiss and shake of the hand.
"How do you like Thornfield?" she asked.  I told her I liked it very
"Yes," she said, "it is a pretty place; but I fear it will be getting out
of order, unless Mr. Rochester should take it into his head to come and
reside here permanently; or, at least, visit it rather oftener: great
houses and fine grounds require the presence of the proprietor."
"Mr. Rochester!" I exclaimed.  "Who is he?"
"The owner of Thornfield," she responded quietly.  "Did you not know he
was called Rochester?"
Of course I did not--I had never heard of him before; but the old lady
seemed to regard his existence as a universally understood fact, with
which everybody must be acquainted by instinct.
"I thought," I continued, "Thornfield belonged to you."
"To me?  Bless you, child; what an idea!  To me!  I am only the
housekeeper--the manager.  To be sure I am distantly related to the
Rochesters by the mother's side, or at least my husband was; he was a
clergyman, incumbent of Hay--that little village yonder on the hill--and
that church near the gates was his.  The present Mr. Rochester's mother
was a Fairfax, and second cousin to my husband: but I never presume on
the connection--in fact, it is nothing to me; I consider myself quite in
the light of an ordinary housekeeper: my employer is always civil, and I
expect nothing more."
"And the little girl--my pupil!"
"She is Mr. Rochester's ward; he commissioned me to find a governess for
her.  He intended to have her brought up in ---shire, I believe.  Here
she comes, with her 'bonne,' as she calls her nurse."  The enigma then
was explained: this affable and kind little widow was no great dame; but
a dependant like myself.  I did not like her the worse for that; on the
contrary, I felt better pleased than ever.  The equality between her and
me was real; not the mere result of condescension on her part: so much
the better--my position was all the freer.
As I was meditating on this discovery, a little girl, followed by her
attendant, came running up the lawn.  I looked at my pupil, who did not
at first appear to notice me: she was quite a child, perhaps seven or
eight years old, slightly built, with a pale, small-featured face, and a
redundancy of hair falling in curls to her waist.
"Good morning, Miss Adela," said Mrs. Fairfax.  "Come and speak to the
lady who is to teach you, and to make you a clever woman some day."  She
"C'est la ma gouverante!" said she, pointing to me, and addressing her
nurse; who answered--
"Mais oui, certainement."
"Are they foreigners?" I inquired, amazed at hearing the French language.
"The nurse is a foreigner, and Adela was born on the Continent; and, I
believe, never left it till within six months ago.  When she first came
here she could speak no English; now she can make shift to talk it a
little: I don't understand her, she mixes it so with French; but you will
make out her meaning very well, I dare say."
Fortunately I had had the advantage of being taught French by a French
lady; and as I had always made a point of conversing with Madame Pierrot
as often as I could, and had besides, during the last seven years, learnt
a portion of French by heart daily--applying myself to take pains with my
accent, and imitating as closely as possible the pronunciation of my
teacher, I had acquired a certain degree of readiness and correctness in
the language, and was not likely to be much at a loss with Mademoiselle
Adela.  She came and shook hand with me when she heard that I was her
governess; and as I led her in to breakfast, I addressed some phrases to
her in her own tongue: she replied briefly at first, but after we were
seated at the table, and she had examined me some ten minutes with her
large hazel eyes, she suddenly commenced chattering fluently.
"Ah!" cried she, in French, "you speak my language as well as Mr.
Rochester does: I can talk to you as I can to him, and so can Sophie.  She
will be glad: nobody here understands her: Madame Fairfax is all English.
Sophie is my nurse; she came with me over the sea in a great ship with a
chimney that smoked--how it did smoke!--and I was sick, and so was
Sophie, and so was Mr. Rochester.  Mr. Rochester lay down on a sofa in a
pretty room called the salon, and Sophie and I had little beds in another
place.  I nearly fell out of mine; it was like a shelf.  And
Mademoiselle--what is your name?"
"Eyre--Jane Eyre."
"Aire?  Bah!  I cannot say it.  Well, our ship stopped in the morning,
before it was quite daylight, at a great city--a huge city, with very
dark houses and all smoky; not at all like the pretty clean town I came
from; and Mr. Rochester carried me in his arms over a plank to the land,
and Sophie came after, and we all got into a coach, which took us to a
beautiful large house, larger than this and finer, called an hotel.  We
stayed there nearly a week: I and Sophie used to walk every day in a
great green place full of trees, called the Park; and there were many
children there besides me, and a pond with beautiful birds in it, that I
fed with crumbs."
"Can you understand her when she runs on so fast?" asked Mrs. Fairfax.
I understood her very well, for I had been accustomed to the fluent
tongue of Madame Pierrot.
"I wish," continued the good lady, "you would ask her a question or two
about her parents: I wonder if she remembers them?"
"Adele," I inquired, "with whom did you live when you were in that pretty
clean town you spoke of?"
"I lived long ago with mama; but she is gone to the Holy Virgin.  Mama
used to teach me to dance and sing, and to say verses.  A great many
gentlemen and ladies came to see mama, and I used to dance before them,
or to sit on their knees and sing to them: I liked it.  Shall I let you
hear me sing now?"
She had finished her breakfast, so I permitted her to give a specimen of
her accomplishments.  Descending from her chair, she came and placed
herself on my knee; then, folding her little hands demurely before her,
shaking back her curls and lifting her eyes to the ceiling, she commenced
singing a song from some opera.  It was the strain of a forsaken lady,
who, after bewailing the perfidy of her lover, calls pride to her aid;
desires her attendant to deck her in her brightest jewels and richest
robes, and resolves to meet the false one that night at a ball, and prove
to him, by the gaiety of her demeanour, how little his desertion has
affected her.
The subject seemed strangely chosen for an infant singer; but I suppose
the point of the exhibition lay in hearing the notes of love and jealousy
warbled with the lisp of childhood; and in very bad taste that point was:
at least I thought so.
Adele sang the canzonette tunefully enough, and with the _​naivete​_ of her
age.  This achieved, she jumped from my knee and said, "Now,
Mademoiselle, I will repeat you some poetry."
Assuming an attitude, she began, "La Ligue des Rats: fable de La
Fontaine."  She then declaimed the little piece with an attention to
punctuation and emphasis, a flexibility of voice and an appropriateness
of gesture, very unusual indeed at her age, and which proved she had been
carefully trained.
"Was it your mama who taught you that piece?" I asked.
"Yes, and she just used to say it in this way: 'Qu' avez vous donc? lui
dit un de ces rats; parlez!'  She made me lift my hand--so--to remind me
to raise my voice at the question.  Now shall I dance for you?"
"No, that will do: but after your mama went to the Holy Virgin, as you
say, with whom did you live then?"
"With Madame Frederic and her husband: she took care of me, but she is
nothing related to me.  I think she is poor, for she had not so fine a
house as mama.  I was not long there.  Mr. Rochester asked me if I would
like to go and live with him in England, and I said yes; for I knew Mr.
Rochester before I knew Madame Frederic, and he was always kind to me and
gave me pretty dresses and toys: but you see he has not kept his word,
for he has brought me to England, and now he is gone back again himself,
and I never see him."
After breakfast, Adele and I withdrew to the library, which room, it
appears, Mr. Rochester had directed should be used as the schoolroom.
Most of the books were locked up behind glass doors; but there was one
bookcase left open containing everything that could be needed in the way
of elementary works, and several volumes of light literature, poetry,
biography, travels, a few romances, &c.  I suppose he had considered that
these were all the governess would require for her private perusal; and,
indeed, they contented me amply for the present; compared with the scanty
pickings I had now and then been able to glean at Lowood, they seemed to
offer an abundant harvest of entertainment and information.  In this
room, too, there was a cabinet piano, quite new and of superior tone;
also an easel for painting and a pair of globes.
I found my pupil sufficiently docile, though disinclined to apply: she
had not been used to regular occupation of any kind.  I felt it would be
injudicious to confine her too much at first; so, when I had talked to
her a great deal, and got her to learn a little, and when the morning had
advanced to noon, I allowed her to return to her nurse.  I then proposed
to occupy myself till dinner-time in drawing some little sketches for her
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
"What a beautiful room!" I exclaimed, as I looked round; for I had never
before seen any half so imposing.
"Yes; this is the dining-room.  I have just opened the window, to let in
a little air and sunshine; for everything gets so damp in apartments that
are seldom inhabited; the drawing-room yonder feels like a vault."
She pointed to a wide arch corresponding to the window, and hung like it
with a Tyrian-dyed curtain, now looped up.  Mounting to it by two broad
steps, and looking through, I thought I caught a glimpse of a fairy
place, so bright to my novice-eyes appeared the view beyond.  Yet it was
merely a very pretty drawing-room, and within it a boudoir, both spread
with white carpets, on which seemed laid brilliant garlands of flowers;
both ceiled with snowy mouldings of white grapes and vine-leaves, beneath
which glowed in rich contrast crimson couches and ottomans; while the
ornaments on the pale Parian mantelpiece were of sparkling Bohemian
glass, ruby red; and between the windows large mirrors repeated the
general blending of snow and fire.
"In what order you keep these rooms, Mrs. Fairfax!" said I.  "No dust, no
canvas coverings: except that the air feels chilly, one would think they
were inhabited daily."
"Why, Miss Eyre, though Mr. Rochester's visits here are rare, they are
always sudden and unexpected; and as I observed that it put him out to
find everything swathed up, and to have a bustle of arrangement on his
arrival, I thought it best to keep the rooms in readiness."
"Is Mr. Rochester an exacting, fastidious sort of man?"
"Not particularly so; but he has a gentleman's tastes and habits, and he
expects to have things managed in conformity to them."
"Do you like him?  Is he generally liked?"
"Oh, yes; the family have always been respected here.  Almost all the
land in this neighbourhood, as far as you can see, has belonged to the
Rochesters time out of mind."
"Well, but, leaving his land out of the question, do you like him?  Is he
liked for himself?"
"I have no cause to do otherwise than like him; and I believe he is
considered a just and liberal landlord by his tenants: but he has never
lived much amongst them."
"But has he no peculiarities?  What, in short, is his character?"
"Oh! his character is unimpeachable, I suppose.  He is rather peculiar,
perhaps: he has travelled a great deal, and seen a great deal of the
world, I should think.  I dare say he is clever, but I never had much
conversation with him."
"In what way is he peculiar?"
"I don't know--it is not easy to describe--nothing striking, but you feel
it when he speaks to you; you cannot be always sure whether he is in jest
or earnest, whether he is pleased or the contrary; you don't thoroughly
understand him, in short--at least, I don't: but it is of no consequence,
he is a very good master."
This was all the account I got from Mrs. Fairfax of her employer and
mine.  There are people who seem to have no notion of sketching a
character, or observing and describing salient points, either in persons
or things: the good lady evidently belonged to this class; my queries
puzzled, but did not draw her out.  Mr. Rochester was Mr. Rochester in
her eyes; a gentleman, a landed proprietor--nothing more: she inquired
and searched no further, and evidently wondered at my wish to gain a more
definite notion of his identity.
When we left the dining-room, she proposed to show me over the rest of
the house; and I followed her upstairs and downstairs, admiring as I
went; for all was well arranged and handsome.  The large front chambers I
thought especially grand: and some of the third-storey rooms, though dark
and low, were interesting from their air of antiquity.  The furniture
once appropriated to the lower apartments had from time to time been
removed here, as fashions changed: and the imperfect light entering by
their narrow casement showed bedsteads of a hundred years old; chests in
oak or walnut, looking, with their strange carvings of palm branches and
cherubs' heads, like types of the Hebrew ark; rows of venerable chairs,
high-backed and narrow; stools still more antiquated, on whose cushioned
tops were yet apparent traces of half-effaced embroideries, wrought by
fingers that for two generations had been coffin-dust.  All these relics
gave to the third storey of Thornfield Hall the aspect of a home of the
past: a shrine of memory.  I liked the hush, the gloom, the quaintness of
these retreats in the day; but I by no means coveted a night's repose on
one of those wide and heavy beds: shut in, some of them, with doors of
oak; shaded, others, with wrought old English hangings crusted with thick
work, portraying effigies of strange flowers, and stranger birds, and
strangest human beings,--all which would have looked strange, indeed, by
the pallid gleam of moonlight.
"Do the servants sleep in these rooms?" I asked.
"No; they occupy a range of smaller apartments to the back; no one ever
sleeps here: one would almost say that, if there were a ghost at
Thornfield Hall, this would be its haunt."
"So I think: you have no ghost, then?"
"None that I ever heard of," returned Mrs. Fairfax, smiling.
"Nor any traditions of one? no legends or ghost stories?"
"I believe not.  And yet it is said the Rochesters have been rather a
violent than a quiet race in their time: perhaps, though, that is the
reason they rest tranquilly in their graves now."
"Yes--'after life's fitful fever they sleep well,'" I muttered.  "Where
are you going now, Mrs. Fairfax?" for she was moving away.
"On to the leads; will you come and see the view from thence?"  I
followed still, up a very narrow staircase to the attics, and thence by a
ladder and through a trap-door to the roof of the hall.  I was now on a
level with the crow colony, and could see into their nests.  Leaning over
the battlements and looking far down, I surveyed the grounds laid out
like a map: the bright and velvet lawn closely girdling the grey base of
the mansion; the field, wide as a park, dotted with its ancient timber;
the wood, dun and sere, divided by a path visibly overgrown, greener with
moss than the trees were with foliage; the church at the gates, the road,
the tranquil hills, all reposing in the autumn day's sun; the horizon
bounded by a propitious sky, azure, marbled with pearly white.  No
feature in the scene was extraordinary, but all was pleasing.  When I
turned from it and repassed the trap-door, I could scarcely see my way
down the ladder; the attic seemed black as a vault compared with that
arch of blue air to which I had been looking up, and to that sunlit scene
of grove, pasture, and green hill, of which the hall was the centre, and
over which I had been gazing with delight.
Mrs. Fairfax stayed behind a moment to fasten the trap-door; I, by drift
of groping, found the outlet from the attic, and proceeded to descend the
narrow garret staircase.  I lingered in the long passage to which this
led, separating the front and back rooms of the third storey: narrow,
low, and dim, with only one little window at the far end, and looking,
with its two rows of small black doors all shut, like a corridor in some
Bluebeard's castle.
While I paced softly on, the last sound I expected to hear in so still a
region, a laugh, struck my ear.  It was a curious laugh; distinct,
formal, mirthless.  I stopped: the sound ceased, only for an instant; it
began again, louder: for at first, though distinct, it was very low.  It
passed off in a clamorous peal that seemed to wake an echo in every
lonely chamber; though it originated but in one, and I could have pointed
out the door whence the accents issued.
"Mrs. Fairfax!" I called out: for I now heard her descending the great
stairs.  "Did you hear that loud laugh?  Who is it?"
"Some of the servants, very likely," she answered: "perhaps Grace Poole."
"Did you hear it?" I again inquired.
"Yes, plainly: I often hear her: she sews in one of these rooms.
Sometimes Leah is with her; they are frequently noisy together."
The laugh was repeated in its low, syllabic tone, and terminated in an
odd murmur.
"Grace!" exclaimed Mrs. Fairfax.
I really did not expect any Grace to answer; for the laugh was as tragic,
as preternatural a laugh as any I ever heard; and, but that it was high
noon, and that no circumstance of ghostliness accompanied the curious
cachinnation; but that neither scene nor season favoured fear, I should
have been superstitiously afraid.  However, the event showed me I was a
fool for entertaining a sense even of surprise.
The door nearest me opened, and a servant came out,--a woman of between
thirty and forty; a set, square-made figure, red-haired, and with a hard,
plain face: any apparition less romantic or less ghostly could scarcely
be conceived.
"Too much noise, Grace," said Mrs. Fairfax.  "Remember directions!"  Grace
curtseyed silently and went in.
"She is a person we have to sew and assist Leah in her housemaid's work,"
continued the widow; "not altogether unobjectionable in some points, but
she does well enough.  By-the-bye, how have you got on with your new
pupil this morning?"
The conversation, thus turned on Adele, continued till we reached the
light and cheerful region below.  Adele came running to meet us in the
hall, exclaiming--
"Mesdames, vous etes servies!" adding, "J'ai bien faim, moi!"
We found dinner ready, and waiting for us in Mrs. Fairfax's room.
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