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Chapter 10


CHAPTER X


Hitherto I have recorded in detail the events of my insignificant
existence:  to the first ten years of my life I have given almost as
many chapters.  But this is not to be a regular autobiography.  I am
only bound to invoke Memory where I know her responses will possess
some degree of interest; therefore I now pass a space of eight years
almost in silence:  a few lines only are necessary to keep up the
links of connection.

When the typhus fever had fulfilled its mission of devastation at
Lowood, it gradually disappeared from thence; but not till its
virulence and the number of its victims had drawn public attention
on the school.  Inquiry was made into the origin of the scourge, and
by degrees various facts came out which excited public indignation
in a high degree.  The unhealthy nature of the site; the quantity
and quality of the children's food; the brackish, fetid water used
in its preparation; the pupils' wretched clothing and
accommodations--all these things were discovered, and the discovery
produced a result mortifying to Mr. Brocklehurst, but beneficial to
the institution.

Several wealthy and benevolent individuals in the county subscribed
largely for the erection of a more convenient building in a better
situation; new regulations were made; improvements in diet and
clothing introduced; the funds of the school were intrusted to the
management of a committee.  Mr. Brocklehurst, who, from his wealth
and family connections, could not be overlooked, still retained the
post of treasurer; but he was aided in the discharge of his duties
by gentlemen of rather more enlarged and sympathising minds:  his
office of inspector, too, was shared by those who knew how to
combine reason with strictness, comfort with economy, compassion
with uprightness.  The school, thus improved, became in time a truly
useful and noble institution.  I remained an inmate of its walls,
after its regeneration, for eight years:  six as pupil, and two as
teacher; and in both capacities I bear my testimony to its value and
importance.

During these eight years my life was uniform:  but not unhappy,
because it was not inactive.  I had the means of an excellent
education placed within my reach; a fondness for some of my studies,
and a desire to excel in all, together with a great delight in
pleasing my teachers, especially such as I loved, urged me on:  I
availed myself fully of the advantages offered me.  In time I rose
to be the first girl of the first class; then I was invested with
the office of teacher; which I discharged with zeal for two years:
but at the end of that time I altered.

Miss Temple, through all changes, had thus far continued
superintendent of the seminary:  to her instruction I owed the best
part of my acquirements; her friendship and society had been my
continual solace; she had stood me in the stead of mother,
governess, and, latterly, companion.  At this period she married,
removed with her husband (a clergyman, an excellent man, almost
worthy of such a wife) to a distant county, and consequently was
lost to me.

From the day she left I was no longer the same:  with her was gone
every settled feeling, every association that had made Lowood in
some degree a home to me.  I had imbibed from her something of her
nature and much of her habits:  more harmonious thoughts:  what
seemed better regulated feelings had become the inmates of my mind.
I had given in allegiance to duty and order; I was quiet; I believed
I was content:  to the eyes of others, usually even to my own, I
appeared a disciplined and subdued character.

But destiny, in the shape of the Rev. Mr. Nasmyth, came between me
and Miss Temple:  I saw her in her travelling dress step into a
post-chaise, shortly after the marriage ceremony; I watched the
chaise mount the hill and disappear beyond its brow; and then
retired to my own room, and there spent in solitude the greatest
part of the half-holiday granted in honour of the occasion.

I walked about the chamber most of the time.  I imagined myself only
to be regretting my loss, and thinking how to repair it; but when my
reflections were concluded, and I looked up and found that the
afternoon was gone, and evening far advanced, another discovery
dawned on me, namely, that in the interval I had undergone a
transforming process; that my mind had put off all it had borrowed
of Miss Temple--or rather that she had taken with her the serene
atmosphere I had been breathing in her vicinity--and that now I was
left in my natural element, and beginning to feel the stirring of
old emotions.  It did not seem as if a prop were withdrawn, but
rather as if a motive were gone:  it was not the power to be
tranquil which had failed me, but the reason for tranquillity was no
more.  My world had for some years been in Lowood:  my experience
had been of its rules and systems; now I remembered that the real
world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of
sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go
forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its
perils.

I went to my window, opened it, and looked out.  There were the two
wings of the building; there was the garden; there were the skirts
of Lowood; there was the hilly horizon.  My eye passed all other
objects to rest on those most remote, the blue peaks; it was those I
longed to surmount; all within their boundary of rock and heath
seemed prison-ground, exile limits.  I traced the white road winding
round the base of one mountain, and vanishing in a gorge between
two; how I longed to follow it farther!  I recalled the time when I
had travelled that very road in a coach; I remembered descending
that hill at twilight; an age seemed to have elapsed since the day
which brought me first to Lowood, and I had never quitted it since.
My vacations had all been spent at school:  Mrs. Reed had never sent
for me to Gateshead; neither she nor any of her family had ever been
to visit me.  I had had no communication by letter or message with
the outer world:  school-rules, school-duties, school-habits and
notions, and voices, and faces, and phrases, and costumes, and
preferences, and antipathies--such was what I knew of existence.
And now I felt that it was not enough; I tired of the routine of
eight years in one afternoon.  I desired liberty; for liberty I
gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the
wind then faintly blowing.  I abandoned it and framed a humbler
supplication; for change, stimulus:  that petition, too, seemed
swept off into vague space:  "Then," I cried, half desperate, "grant
me at least a new servitude!"

Here a bell, ringing the hour of supper, called me downstairs.

I was not free to resume the interrupted chain of my reflections
till bedtime:  even then a teacher who occupied the same room with
me kept me from the subject to which I longed to recur, by a
prolonged effusion of small talk.  How I wished sleep would silence
her.  It seemed as if, could I but go back to the idea which had
last entered my mind as I stood at the window, some inventive
suggestion would rise for my relief.

Miss Gryce snored at last; she was a heavy Welshwoman, and till now
her habitual nasal strains had never been regarded by me in any
other light than as a nuisance; to-night I hailed the first deep
notes with satisfaction; I was debarrassed of interruption; my half-
effaced thought instantly revived.

"A new servitude!  There is something in that," I soliloquised
(mentally, be it understood; I did not talk aloud), "I know there
is, because it does not sound too sweet; it is not like such words
as Liberty, Excitement, Enjoyment:  delightful sounds truly; but no
more than sounds for me; and so hollow and fleeting that it is mere
waste of time to listen to them.  But Servitude!  That must be
matter of fact.  Any one may serve:  I have served here eight years;
now all I want is to serve elsewhere.  Can I not get so much of my
own will?  Is not the thing feasible?  Yes--yes--the end is not so
difficult; if I had only a brain active enough to ferret out the
means of attaining it."

I sat up in bed by way of arousing this said brain:  it was a chilly
night; I covered my shoulders with a shawl, and then I proceeded TO
THINK again with all my might.

"What do I want?  A new place, in a new house, amongst new faces,
under new circumstances:  I want this because it is of no use
wanting anything better.  How do people do to get a new place?  They
apply to friends, I suppose:  I have no friends.  There are many
others who have no friends, who must look about for themselves and
be their own helpers; and what is their resource?"

I could not tell:  nothing answered me; I then ordered my brain to
find a response, and quickly.  It worked and worked faster:  I felt
the pulses throb in my head and temples; but for nearly an hour it
worked in chaos; and no result came of its efforts.  Feverish with
vain labour, I got up and took a turn in the room; undrew the
curtain, noted a star or two, shivered with cold, and again crept to
bed.

A kind fairy, in my absence, had surely dropped the required
suggestion on my pillow; for as I lay down, it came quietly and
naturally to my mind.--"Those who want situations advertise; you
must advertise in the -shire Herald."

"How?  I know nothing about advertising."

Replies rose smooth and prompt now:-

"You must enclose the advertisement and the money to pay for it
under a cover directed to the editor of the Herald; you must put it,
the first opportunity you have, into the post at Lowton; answers
must be addressed to J.E., at the post-office there; you can go and
inquire in about a week after you send your letter, if any are come,
and act accordingly."

This scheme I went over twice, thrice; it was then digested in my
mind; I had it in a clear practical form:  I felt satisfied, and
fell asleep.

With earliest day, I was up:  I had my advertisement written,
enclosed, and directed before the bell rang to rouse the school; it
ran thus:-

"A young lady accustomed to tuition" (had I not been a teacher two
years?) "is desirous of meeting with a situation in a private family
where the children are under fourteen (I thought that as I was
barely eighteen, it would not do to undertake the guidance of pupils
nearer my own age).  She is qualified to teach the usual branches of
a good English education, together with French, Drawing, and Music"
(in those days, reader, this now narrow catalogue of
accomplishments, would have been held tolerably comprehensive).
"Address, J.E., Post-office, Lowton, -shire."

This document remained locked in my drawer all day:  after tea, I
asked leave of the new superintendent to go to Lowton, in order to
perform some small commissions for myself and one or two of my
fellow-teachers; permission was readily granted; I went.  It was a
walk of two miles, and the evening was wet, but the days were still
long; I visited a shop or two, slipped the letter into the post-
office, and came back through heavy rain, with streaming garments,
but with a relieved heart.

The succeeding week seemed long:  it came to an end at last,
however, like all sublunary things, and once more, towards the close
of a pleasant autumn day, I found myself afoot on the road to
Lowton.  A picturesque track it was, by the way; lying along the
side of the beck and through the sweetest curves of the dale:  but
that day I thought more of the letters, that might or might not be
awaiting me at the little burgh whither I was bound, than of the
charms of lea and water.

My ostensible errand on this occasion was to get measured for a pair
of shoes; so I discharged that business first, and when it was done,
I stepped across the clean and quiet little street from the
shoemaker's to the post-office:  it was kept by an old dame, who
wore horn spectacles on her nose, and black mittens on her hands.

"Are there any letters for J.E.?" I asked.

She peered at me over her spectacles, and then she opened a drawer
and fumbled among its contents for a long time, so long that my
hopes began to falter.  At last, having held a document before her
glasses for nearly five minutes, she presented it across the
counter, accompanying the act by another inquisitive and mistrustful
glance--it was for J.E.

"Is there only one?" I demanded.

"There are no more," said she; and I put it in my pocket and turned
my face homeward:  I could not open it then; rules obliged me to be
back by eight, and it was already half-past seven.

Various duties awaited me on my arrival.  I had to sit with the
girls during their hour of study; then it was my turn to read
prayers; to see them to bed:  afterwards I supped with the other
teachers.  Even when we finally retired for the night, the
inevitable Miss Gryce was still my companion:  we had only a short
end of candle in our candlestick, and I dreaded lest she should talk
till it was all burnt out; fortunately, however, the heavy supper
she had eaten produced a soporific effect:  she was already snoring
before I had finished undressing.  There still remained an inch of
candle:  I now took out my letter; the seal was an initial F.; I
broke it; the contents were brief.

"If J.E., who advertised in the -shire Herald of last Thursday,
possesses the acquirements mentioned, and if she is in a position to
give satisfactory references as to character and competency, a
situation can be offered her where there is but one pupil, a little
girl, under ten years of age; and where the salary is thirty pounds
per annum.  J.E. is requested to send references, name, address, and
all particulars to the direction:-

"Mrs. Fairfax, Thornfield, near Millcote, -shire."

I examined the document long:  the writing was old-fashioned and
rather uncertain, like that of in elderly lady.  This circumstance
was satisfactory:  a private fear had haunted me, that in thus
acting for myself, and by my own guidance, I ran the risk of getting
into some scrape; and, above all things, I wished the result of my
endeavours to be respectable, proper, en 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, whether I myself was to
repair at an early hour the next morning to meet the coach.  I had
brushed my black stuff travelling-dress, prepared my bonnet, gloves,
and muff; sought in all my drawers to see that no article was left
behind; and now having nothing more to do, I sat down and tried to
rest.  I could not; though I had been on foot all day, I could not
now repose an instant; I was too much excited.  A phase of my life
was closing to-night, a new one opening to-morrow:  impossible to
slumber in the interval; I must watch feverishly while the change
was being accomplished.

"Miss," said a servant who met me in the lobby, where I was
wandering like a troubled spirit, "a person below wishes to see
you."

"The carrier, no doubt," I thought, and ran downstairs without
inquiry.  I was passing the back-parlour or teachers' sitting-room,
the door of which was half open, to go to the kitchen, when some one
ran out -

"It's her, I am sure!--I could have told her anywhere!" cried the
individual who stopped my progress and took my hand.

I looked:  I saw a woman attired like a well-dressed servant,
matronly, yet still young; very good-looking, with black hair and
eyes, and lively complexion.

"Well, who is it?" she asked, in a voice and with a smile I half
recognised; "you've not quite forgotten me, I think, Miss Jane?"

In another second I was embracing and kissing her rapturously:
"Bessie!  Bessie!  Bessie!" that was all I said; whereat she half
laughed, half cried, and we both went into the parlour.  By the fire
stood a little fellow of three years old, in plaid frock and
trousers.

"That is my little boy," said Bessie directly.

"Then you are married, Bessie?"

"Yes; nearly five years since to Robert Leaven, the coachman; and
I've a little girl besides Bobby there, that I've christened Jane."

"And you don't live at Gateshead?"

"I live at the lodge:  the old porter has left."

"Well, and how do they all get on?  Tell me everything about them,
Bessie:  but sit down first; and, Bobby, come and sit on my knee,
will you?" but Bobby preferred sidling over to his mother.

"You're not grown so very tall, Miss Jane, nor so very stout,"
continued Mrs. Leaven.  "I dare say they've not kept you too well at
school:  Miss Reed is the head and shoulders taller than you are;
and Miss Georgiana would make two of you in breadth."

"Georgiana is handsome, I suppose, Bessie?"

"Very.  She went up to London last winter with her mama, and there
everybody admired her, and a young lord fell in love with her:  but
his relations were against the match; and--what do you think?--he
and Miss Georgiana made it up to run away; but they were found out
and stopped.  It was Miss Reed that found them out:  I believe she
was envious; and now she and her sister lead a cat and dog life
together; they are always quarrelling--"

"Well, and what of John Reed?"

"Oh, he is not doing so well as his mama could wish.  He went to
college, and he got--plucked, I think they call it:  and then his
uncles wanted him to be a barrister, and study the law:  but he is
such a dissipated young man, they will never make much of him, I
think."

"What does he look like?"

"He is very tall:  some people call him a fine-looking young man;
but he has such thick lips."

"And Mrs. Reed?"

"Missis looks stout and well enough in the face, but I think she's
not quite easy in her mind:  Mr. John's conduct does not please her-
-he spends a deal of money."

"Did she send you here, Bessie?"

"No, indeed:  but I have long wanted to see you, and when I heard
that there had been a letter from you, and that you were going to
another part of the country, I thought I'd just set of, and get a
look at you before you were quite out of my reach."

"I am afraid you are disappointed in me, Bessie."  I said this
laughing:  I perceived that Bessie's glance, though it expressed
regard, did in no shape denote admiration.

"No, Miss Jane, not exactly:  you are genteel enough; you look like
a lady, and it is as much as ever I expected of you:  you were no
beauty as a child."

I smiled at Bessie's frank answer:  I felt that it was correct, but
I confess I was not quite indifferent to its import:  at eighteen
most people wish to please, and the conviction that they have not an
exterior likely to second that desire brings anything but
gratification.

"I dare say you are clever, though," continued Bessie, by way of
solace.  "What can you do?  Can you play on the piano?"

"A little."

There was one in the room; Bessie went and opened it, and then asked
me to sit down and give her a tune:  I played a waltz or two, and
she was charmed.

"The Miss Reeds could not play as well!" said she exultingly.  "I
always said you would surpass them in learning:  and can you draw?"

"That is one of my paintings over the chimney-piece."  It was a
landscape in water colours, of which I had made a present to the
superintendent, in acknowledgment of her obliging mediation with the
committee on my behalf, and which she had framed and glazed.

"Well, that is beautiful, Miss Jane!  It is as fine a picture as any
Miss Reed's drawing-master could paint, let alone the young ladies
themselves, who could not come near it:  and have you learnt
French?"

"Yes, Bessie, I can both read it and speak it."

"And you can work on muslin and canvas?"

"I can."

"Oh, you are quite a lady, Miss Jane!  I knew you would be:  you
will get on whether your relations notice you or not.  There was
something I wanted to ask you.  Have you ever heard anything from
your father's kinsfolk, the Eyres?"

"Never in my life."

"Well, you know Missis always said they were poor and quite
despicable:  and they may be poor; but I believe they are as much
gentry as the Reeds are; for one day, nearly seven years ago, a Mr.
Eyre came to Gateshead and wanted to see you; Missis said you were
it school fifty miles off; he seemed so much disappointed, for he
could not stay:  he was going on a voyage to a foreign country, and
the ship was to sail from London in a day or two.  He looked quite a
gentleman, and I believe he was your father's brother."

"What foreign country was he going to, Bessie?"

"An island thousands of miles off, where they make wine--the butler
did tell me--"

"Madeira?" I suggested.

"Yes, that is it--that is the very word."

"So he went?"

"Yes; he did not stay many minutes in the house:  Missis was very
high with him; she called him afterwards a 'sneaking tradesman.'  My
Robert believes he was a wine-merchant."

"Very likely," I returned; "or perhaps clerk or agent to a wine-
merchant."

Bessie and I conversed about old times an hour longer, and then she
was obliged to leave me:  I saw her again for a few minutes the next
morning at Lowton, while I was waiting for the coach.  We parted
finally at the door of the Brocklehurst Arms there:  each went her
separate way; she set off for the brow of Lowood Fell to meet the
conveyance which was to take her back to Gateshead, I mounted the
vehicle which was to bear me to new duties and a new life in the
unknown environs of Millcote.


Charlotte Bronte