Jane Eyre HTML version

Chapter 7
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
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
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