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Chapter 5

  • Five o’clock had hardly struck on the morning of the 19th of January, whe_essie brought a candle into my closet and found me already up and nearl_ressed.  I had risen half-an-hour before her entrance, and had washed m_ace, and put on my clothes by the light of a half-moon just setting, whos_ays streamed through the narrow window near my crib.  I was to leav_ateshead that day by a coach which passed the lodge gates at six a.m.  Bessi_as the only person yet risen; she had lit a fire in the nursery, where sh_ow proceeded to make my breakfast.  Few children can eat when excited wit_he thoughts of a journey; nor could I.  Bessie, having pressed me in vain t_ake 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 helpe_e on with my pelisse and bonnet, and wrapping herself in a shawl, she and _eft the nursery.  As we passed Mrs. Reed’s bedroom, she said, “Will you go i_nd bid Missis good-bye?”
  • “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 sh_old me to remember that she had always been my best friend, and to speak o_er and be grateful to her accordingly.”
  • “What did you say, Miss?”
  • “Nothing: I covered my face with the bedclothes, and turned from her to th_all.”
  • “That was wrong, Miss Jane.”
  • “It was quite right, Bessie.  Your Missis has not been my friend: she has bee_y foe.”
  • “O Miss Jane! don’t say so!”
  • “Good-bye to Gateshead!” cried I, as we passed through the hall and went ou_t the front door.
  • The moon was set, and it was very dark; Bessie carried a lantern, whose ligh_lanced on wet steps and gravel road sodden by a recent thaw.  Raw and chil_as 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 th_orter’s wife just kindling her fire: my trunk, which had been carried dow_he evening before, stood corded at the door.  It wanted but a few minutes o_ix, and shortly after that hour had struck, the distant roll of wheel_nnounced the coming coach; I went to the door and watched its lamps approac_apidly through the gloom.
  • “Is she going by herself?” asked the porter’s wife.
  • “Yes.”
  • “And how far is it?”
  • “Fifty miles.”
  • “What a long way!  I wonder Mrs. Reed is not afraid to trust her so fa_lone.”
  • The coach drew up; there it was at the gates with its four horses and its to_aden with passengers: the guard and coachman loudly urged haste; my trunk wa_oisted 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 m_nto the inside.
  • “Ay, ay!” was the answer: the door was slapped to, a voice exclaimed “Al_ight,” and on we drove.  Thus was I severed from Bessie and Gateshead; thu_hirled 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 o_ preternatural length, and that we appeared to travel over hundreds of mile_f road.  We passed through several towns, and in one, a very large one, th_oach 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 eac_nd, a chandelier pendent from the ceiling, and a little red gallery high u_gainst the wall filled with musical instruments.  Here I walked about for _ong time, feeling very strange, and mortally apprehensive of some one comin_n and kidnapping me; for I believed in kidnappers, their exploits havin_requently figured in Bessie’s fireside chronicles.  At last the guar_eturned; once more I was stowed away in the coach, my protector mounted hi_wn 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 bega_o feel that we were getting very far indeed from Gateshead: we ceased to pas_hrough towns; the country changed; great grey hills heaved up round th_orizon: as twilight deepened, we descended a valley, dark with wood, and lon_fter night had overclouded the prospect, I heard a wild wind rushing amongs_rees.
  • Lulled by the sound, I at last dropped asleep; I had not long slumbered whe_he sudden cessation of motion awoke me; the coach-door was open, and a perso_ike a servant was standing at it: I saw her face and dress by the light o_he 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 instantl_rove away.
  • I was stiff with long sitting, and bewildered with the noise and motion of th_oach: Gathering my faculties, I looked about me.  Rain, wind, and darknes_illed the air; nevertheless, I dimly discerned a wall before me and a doo_pen in it; through this door I passed with my new guide: she shut and locke_t behind her.  There was now visible a house or houses—for the buildin_pread far—with many windows, and lights burning in some; we went up a broa_ebbly path, splashing wet, and were admitted at a door; then the servant le_e 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, b_ntervals, papered walls, carpet, curtains, shining mahogany furniture: it wa_ parlour, not so spacious or splendid as the drawing-room at Gateshead, bu_omfortable enough.  I was puzzling to make out the subject of a picture o_he 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 larg_orehead; her figure was partly enveloped in a shawl, her countenance wa_rave, her bearing erect.
  • “The child is very young to be sent alone,” said she, putting her candle dow_n the table.  She considered me attentively for a minute or two, then furthe_dded—
  • “She had better be put to bed soon; she looks tired: are you tired?” sh_sked, 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 t_chool, my little girl?”
  • I explained to her that I had no parents.  She inquired how long they had bee_ead: then how old I was, what was my name, whether I could read, write, an_ew a little: then she touched my cheek gently with her forefinger, an_aying, “She hoped I should be a good child,” dismissed me along with Mis_iller.
  • The lady I had left might be about twenty-nine; the one who went with m_ppeared some years younger: the first impressed me by her voice, look, an_ir.  Miss Miller was more ordinary; ruddy in complexion, though of a carewor_ountenance; hurried in gait and action, like one who had always _ultiplicity of tasks on hand: she looked, indeed, what I afterwards found sh_eally was, an under-teacher.  Led by her, I passed from compartment t_ompartment, from passage to passage, of a large and irregular building; till, emerging from the total and somewhat dreary silence pervading that portion o_he house we had traversed, we came upon the hum of many voices, and presentl_ntered a wide, long room, with great deal tables, two at each end, on each o_hich burnt a pair of candles, and seated all round on benches, a congregatio_f girls of every age, from nine or ten to twenty.  Seen by the dim light o_he dips, their number to me appeared countless, though not in realit_xceeding eighty; they were uniformly dressed in brown stuff frocks of quain_ashion, and long holland pinafores.  It was the hour of study; they wer_ngaged in conning over their to-morrow’s task, and the hum I had heard wa_he combined result of their whispered repetitions.
  • Miss Miller signed to me to sit on a bench near the door, then walking up t_he 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 th_ooks 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, wit_ortions of something, I knew not what, arranged thereon, and a pitcher o_ater 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 th_ood, 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 scarcel_oticed what sort of a place the bedroom was, except that, like th_choolroom, 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 o_eds, each of which was quickly filled with two occupants; in ten minutes th_ingle light was extinguished, and amidst silence and complete darkness I fel_sleep.
  • The night passed rapidly.  I was too tired even to dream; I only once awoke t_ear the wind rave in furious gusts, and the rain fall in torrents, and to b_ensible that Miss Miller had taken her place by my side.  When I agai_nclosed my eyes, a loud bell was ringing; the girls were up and dressing; da_ad not yet begun to dawn, and a rushlight or two burned in the room.  I to_ose reluctantly; it was bitter cold, and I dressed as well as I could fo_hivering, and washed when there was a basin at liberty, which did not occu_oon, as there was but one basin to six girls, on the stands down the middl_f the room.  Again the bell rang: all formed in file, two and two, and i_hat 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 repeatedl_xclaimed, “Silence!” and “Order!”  When it subsided, I saw them all drawn u_n four semicircles, before four chairs, placed at the four tables; all hel_ooks 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 th_ow, vague hum of numbers; Miss Miller walked from class to class, hushin_his indefinite sound.
  • A distant bell tinkled: immediately three ladies entered the room, each walke_o 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 childre_ere assembled: to this inferior class I was called, and placed at the botto_f it.
  • Business now began, the day’s Collect was repeated, then certain texts o_cripture were said, and to these succeeded a protracted reading of chapter_n 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: ho_lad I was to behold a prospect of getting something to eat!  I was now nearl_ick from inanition, having taken so little the day before.
  • The refectory was a great, low-ceiled, gloomy room; on two long tables smoke_asins of something hot, which, however, to my dismay, sent forth an odour fa_rom inviting.  I saw a universal manifestation of discontent when the fume_f the repast met the nostrils of those destined to swallow it; from the va_f the procession, the tall girls of the first class, rose the whispere_ords—
  • “Disgusting!  The porridge is burnt again!”
  • “Silence!” ejaculated a voice; not that of Miss Miller, but one of the uppe_eachers, a little and dark personage, smartly dressed, but of somewhat moros_spect, who installed herself at the top of one table, while a more buxom lad_resided at the other.  I looked in vain for her I had first seen the nigh_efore; she was not visible: Miss Miller occupied the foot of the table wher_ sat, and a strange, foreign-looking, elderly lady, the French teacher, as _fterwards found, took the corresponding seat at the other board.  A lon_race was said and a hymn sung; then a servant brought in some tea for th_eachers, and the meal began.
  • Ravenous, and now very faint, I devoured a spoonful or two of my portio_ithout thinking of its taste; but the first edge of hunger blunted, _erceived I had got in hand a nauseous mess; burnt porridge is almost as ba_s rotten potatoes; famine itself soon sickens over it.  The spoons were move_lowly: I saw each girl taste her food and try to swallow it; but in mos_ases the effort was soon relinquished.  Breakfast was over, and none ha_reakfasted.  Thanks being returned for what we had not got, and a second hym_hanted, the refectory was evacuated for the schoolroom.  I was one of th_ast to go out, and in passing the tables, I saw one teacher take a basin o_he porridge and taste it; she looked at the others; all their countenance_xpressed 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 th_choolroom was in a glorious tumult; for that space of time it seemed to b_ermitted to talk loud and more freely, and they used their privilege.  Th_hole conversation ran on the breakfast, which one and all abused roundly.
  • Poor things! it was the sole consolation they had.  Miss Miller was now th_nly teacher in the room: a group of great girls standing about her spoke wit_erious and sullen gestures.  I heard the name of Mr. Brocklehurst pronounce_y some lips; at which Miss Miller shook her head disapprovingly; but she mad_o great effort to check the general wrath; doubtless she shared in it.
  • A clock in the schoolroom struck nine; Miss Miller left her circle, an_tanding in the middle of the room, cried—
  • “Silence!  To your seats!”
  • Discipline prevailed: in five minutes the confused throng was resolved int_rder, and comparative silence quelled the Babel clamour of tongues.  Th_pper teachers now punctually resumed their posts: but still, all seemed t_ait.  Ranged on benches down the sides of the room, the eighty girls sa_otionless and erect; a quaint assemblage they appeared, all with plain lock_ombed from their faces, not a curl visible; in brown dresses, made high an_urrounded 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 woolle_tockings and country-made shoes, fastened with brass buckles.  Above twent_f those clad in this costume were full-grown girls, or rather young women; i_uited 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—non_f whom precisely pleased me; for the stout one was a little coarse, the dar_ne not a little fierce, the foreigner harsh and grotesque, and Miss Miller, poor thing! looked purple, weather-beaten, and over-worked—when, as my ey_andered from face to face, the whole school rose simultaneously, as if move_y a common spring.
  • What was the matter?  I had heard no order given: I was puzzled.  Ere I ha_athered my wits, the classes were again seated: but as all eyes were no_urned to one point, mine followed the general direction, and encountered th_ersonage who had received me last night.  She stood at the bottom of the lon_oom, on the hearth; for there was a fire at each end; she surveyed the tw_ows of girls silently and gravely.  Miss Miller approaching, seemed to as_er a question, and having received her answer, went back to her place, an_aid aloud—
  • “Monitor of the first class, fetch the globes!”
  • While the direction was being executed, the lady consulted moved slowly up th_oom.  I suppose I have a considerable organ of veneration, for I retain ye_he sense of admiring awe with which my eyes traced her steps.  Seen now, i_road daylight, she looked tall, fair, and shapely; brown eyes with _enignant 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, o_ very dark brown, was clustered in round curls, according to the fashion o_hose times, when neither smooth bands nor long ringlets were in vogue; he_ress, also in the mode of the day, was of purple cloth, relieved by a sort o_panish trimming of black velvet; a gold watch (watches were not so commo_hen as now) shone at her girdle.  Let the reader add, to complete th_icture, refined features; a complexion, if pale, clear; and a stately air an_arriage, and he will have, at least, as clearly as words can give it, _orrect idea of the exterior of Miss Temple—Maria Temple, as I afterwards sa_he 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 sea_efore a pair of globes placed on one of the tables, summoned the first clas_ound her, and commenced giving a lesson on geography; the lower classes wer_alled by the teachers: repetitions in history, grammar, &c., went on for a_our; writing and arithmetic succeeded, and music lessons were given by Mis_emple to some of the elder girls.  The duration of each lesson was measure_y 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 san_t her voice.  She went on—
  • “You had this morning a breakfast which you could not eat; you must b_ungry:—I have ordered that a lunch of bread and cheese shall be served t_ll.”
  • The teachers looked at her with a sort of surprise.
  • “It is to be done on my responsibility,” she added, in an explanatory tone t_hem, and immediately afterwards left the room.
  • The bread and cheese was presently brought in and distributed, to the hig_elight and refreshment of the whole school.  The order was now given “To th_arden!”  Each put on a coarse straw bonnet, with strings of coloured calico, and a cloak of grey frieze.  I was similarly equipped, and, following th_tream, I made my way into the open air.
  • The garden was a wide inclosure, surrounded with walls so high as to exclud_very glimpse of prospect; a covered verandah ran down one side, and broa_alks bordered a middle space divided into scores of little beds: these bed_ere assigned as gardens for the pupils to cultivate, and each bed had a_wner.  When full of flowers they would doubtless look pretty; but now, at th_atter end of January, all was wintry blight and brown decay.  I shuddered a_ stood and looked round me: it was an inclement day for outdoor exercise; no_ositively rainy, but darkened by a drizzling yellow fog; all under foot wa_till soaking wet with the floods of yesterday.  The stronger among the girl_an about and engaged in active games, but sundry pale and thin ones herde_ogether for shelter and warmth in the verandah; and amongst these, as th_ense mist penetrated to their shivering frames, I heard frequently the soun_f a hollow cough.
  • As yet I had spoken to no one, nor did anybody seem to take notice of me; _tood lonely enough: but to that feeling of isolation I was accustomed; it di_ot oppress me much.  I leant against a pillar of the verandah, drew my gre_antle 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 th_mployment of watching and thinking.  My reflections were too undefined an_ragmentary to merit record: I hardly yet knew where I was; Gateshead and m_ast life seemed floated away to an immeasurable distance; the present wa_ague and strange, and of the future I could form no conjecture.  I looke_ound the convent-like garden, and then up at the house—a large building, hal_f which seemed grey and old, the other half quite new.  The new part, containing the schoolroom and dormitory, was lit by mullioned and lattice_indows, which gave it a church-like aspect; a stone tablet over the door bor_his 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 i_eaven.”—St. Matt. v. 16.
  • I read these words over and over again: I felt that an explanation belonged t_hem, and was unable fully to penetrate their import.  I was still ponderin_he signification of “Institution,” and endeavouring to make out a connectio_etween the first words and the verse of Scripture, when the sound of a coug_lose behind me made me turn my head.  I saw a girl sitting on a stone benc_ear; 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 struc_e as strange, and consequently attractive.  In turning a leaf she happened t_ook up, and I said to her directly—
  • “Is your book interesting?”  I had already formed the intention of asking he_o lend it to me some day.
  • “I like it,” she answered, after a pause of a second or two, during which sh_xamined me.
  • “What is it about?” I continued.  I hardly know where I found the hardihoo_hus to open a conversation with a stranger; the step was contrary to m_ature and habits: but I think her occupation touched a chord of sympath_omewhere; for I too liked reading, though of a frivolous and childish kind; _ould 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 takin_han the title: “Rasselas” looked dull to my trifling taste; I saw nothin_bout fairies, nothing about genii; no bright variety seemed spread over th_losely-printed pages.  I returned it to her; she received it quietly, an_ithout saying anything she was about to relapse into her former studiou_ood: again I ventured to disturb her—
  • “Can you tell me what the writing on that stone over the door means?  What i_owood Institution?”
  • “This house where you are come to live.”
  • “And why do they call it Institution?  Is it in any way different from othe_chools?”
  • “It is partly a charity-school: you and I, and all the rest of us, ar_harity-children.  I suppose you are an orphan: are not either your father o_our mother dead?”
  • “Both died before I can remember.”
  • “Well, all the girls here have lost either one or both parents, and this i_alled 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 th_eficiency is supplied by subscription.”
  • “Who subscribes?”
  • “Different benevolent-minded ladies and gentlemen in this neighbourhood and i_ondon.”
  • “Who was Naomi Brocklehurst?”
  • “The lady who built the new part of this house as that tablet records, an_hose son overlooks and directs everything here.”
  • “Why?”
  • “Because he is treasurer and manager of the establishment.”
  • “Then this house does not belong to that tall lady who wears a watch, and wh_aid 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 ou_lothes.”
  • “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?”
  • “Yes.”
  • “And what are the other teachers called?”
  • “The one with red cheeks is called Miss Smith; she attends to the work, an_uts out—for we make our own clothes, our frocks, and pelisses, an_verything; the little one with black hair is Miss Scatcherd; she teache_istory and grammar, and hears the second class repetitions; and the one wh_ears a shawl, and has a pocket-handkerchief tied to her side with a yello_ibband, is Madame Pierrot: she comes from Lisle, in France, and teache_rench.”
  • “Do you like the teachers?”
  • “Well enough.”
  • “Do you like the little black one, and the Madame —?—I cannot pronounce he_ame as you do.”
  • “Miss Scatcherd is hasty—you must take care not to offend her; Madame Pierro_s 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 sh_nows 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 th_resent: 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 tha_hat which had regaled our nostrils at breakfast: the dinner was served in tw_uge tin-plated vessels, whence rose a strong steam redolent of rancid fat.  _ound the mess to consist of indifferent potatoes and strange shreds of rust_eat, mixed and cooked together.  Of this preparation a tolerably abundan_lateful was apportioned to each pupil.  I ate what I could, and wondere_ithin 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 _ad conversed in the verandah dismissed in disgrace by Miss Scatcherd from _istory class, and sent to stand in the middle of the large schoolroom.  Th_unishment seemed to me in a high degree ignominious, especially for so grea_ girl—she looked thirteen or upwards.  I expected she would show signs o_reat 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 sh_ear it so quietly—so firmly?” I asked of myself.  “Were I in her place, i_eems to me I should wish the earth to open and swallow me up.  She looks a_f 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 sh_n a day-dream now?  Her eyes are fixed on the floor, but I am sure they d_ot see it—her sight seems turned in, gone down into her heart: she is lookin_t what she can remember, I believe; not at what is really present.  I wonde_hat 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 wit_elish; 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 th_iece of oat-cake, prayers, and bed.  Such was my first day at Lowood.