But the privations, or rather the hardships, of Lowood lessened. Spring drew on:
she was indeed already come; the frosts of winter had ceased; its snows were
melted, its cutting winds ameliorated. My wretched feet, flayed and swollen to
lameness by the sharp air of January, began to heal and subside under the
gentler breathings of April; the nights and mornings no longer by their Canadian
temperature froze the very blood in our veins; we could now endure the play-hour
passed in the garden: sometimes on a sunny day it began even to be pleasant
and genial, and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening
daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each
morning brighter traces of her steps. Flowers peeped out amongst the leaves;
snow- drops, crocuses, purple auriculas, and golden-eyed pansies. On Thursday
afternoons (half-holidays) we now took walks, and found still sweeter flowers
opening by the wayside, under the hedges.
I discovered, too, that a great pleasure, an enjoyment which the horizon only
bounded, lay all outside the high and spike-guarded walls of our garden: this
pleasure consisted in prospect of noble summits girdling a great hill-hollow, rich
in verdure and shadow; in a bright beck, full of dark stones and sparkling eddies.
How different had this scene looked when I viewed it laid out beneath the iron
sky of winter, stiffened in frost, shrouded with snow!-- when mists as chill as
death wandered to the impulse of east winds along those purple peaks, and
rolled down "ing" and holm till they blended with the frozen fog of the beck! That
beck itself was then a torrent, turbid and curbless: it tore asunder the wood, and
sent a raving sound through the air, often thickened with wild rain or whirling
sleet; and for the forest on its banks, that showed only ranks of skeletons.
April advanced to May: a bright serene May it was; days of blue sky, placid
sunshine, and soft western or southern gales filled up its duration. And now
vegetation matured with vigour; Lowood shook loose its tresses; it became all
green, all flowery; its great elm, ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic
life; woodland plants sprang up profusely in its recesses; unnumbered varieties
of moss filled its hollows, and it made a strange ground-sunshine out of the
wealth of its wild primrose plants: I have seen their pale gold gleam in
overshadowed spots like scatterings of the sweetest lustre. All this I enjoyed
often and fully, free, unwatched, and almost alone: for this unwonted liberty and
pleasure there was a cause, to which it now becomes my task to advert.
Have I not described a pleasant site for a dwelling, when I speak of it as
bosomed in hill and wood, and rising from the verge of a stream? Assuredly,
pleasant enough: but whether healthy or not is another question.
That forest-dell, where Lowood lay, was the cradle of fog and fog- bred
pestilence; which, quickening with the quickening spring, crept into the Orphan
Asylum, breathed typhus through its crowded schoolroom and dormitory, and,
ere May arrived, transformed the seminary into an hospital.
Semi-starvation and neglected colds had predisposed most of the pupils to
receive infection: forty-five out of the eighty girls lay ill at one time. Classes were