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Chapter 5


CHAPTER V


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-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 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.

"Yes."

"And how far is it?"

"Fifty miles."

"What a long way!  I wonder Mrs. Reed is not afraid to trust her so
far alone."

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 cheek the general
wrath; doubtless she shared in it.

A clock in the schoolroom struck nine; Miss Miller left her circle,
and standing in the middle of the room, cried -

"Silence!  To your seats!"

Discipline prevailed:  in five minutes the confused throng was
resolved into order, and comparative silence quelled the Babel
clamour of tongues.  The upper teachers now punctually resumed their
posts:  but still, all seemed to wait.  Ranged on benches down the
sides of the room, the eighty girls sat motionless and erect; a
quaint assemblage they appeared, all with plain locks combed from
their faces, not a curl visible; in brown dresses, made high and
surrounded by a narrow tucker about the throat, with little pockets
of holland (shaped something like a Highlander's purse) tied in
front of their frocks, and destined to serve the purpose of a work-
bag:  all, too, wearing woollen stockings and country-made shoes,
fastened with brass buckles.  Above twenty of those clad in this
costume were full-grown girls, or rather young women; it suited them
ill, and gave an air of oddity even to the prettiest.

I was still looking at them, and also at intervals examining the
teachers--none of whom precisely pleased me; for the stout one was a
little coarse, the dark one not a little fierce, the foreigner harsh
and grotesque, and Miss Miller, poor thing! looked purple, weather-
beaten, and over-worked--when, as my eye wandered from face to face,
the whole school rose simultaneously, as if moved by a common
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."

"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 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?"

"Yes."

"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.


Charlotte Bronte