Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 5
My First Day at Lowood Institution
I left Gateshead Hall at six am on the morning of the 19th of January. At twilight, after a 50-mile coach journey, we descended a valley into a dark, windy wood. A servant accompanied me along a pebbly path and into a house.
A tall lady with dark hair, dark eyes, enveloped in a shawl said, ‘The child is very young to be sent alone.’ I later learned she was Miss Maria Temple, the superintendent of Lowood.
She instructed Miss Miller to take me to another long room with great tables and girls aged between ten and twenty, uniformly dressed in brown stuff frocks and long pinafores, seated round on benches, in their hour of study.
Four girls went out and returned bearing trays with a thin oaten cake cut into fragments and mugs of water which were handed around. I drank because I was thirsty, but I did not eat.
After the meal, prayers were read by Miss Miller, and the classes filed off, two and two, upstairs to a large room with rows of beds, each filled with two occupants. I fell asleep at once.
At dawn a loud bell signalled we should wake up, wash our faces, get dressed and formed in file, two and two, descended the stairs and enter the cold and dimly lit schoolroom where Miss Miller read prayers.
We sat around four tables with one teacher. I sat with the smallest children. After four classes we had burnt porridge for breakfast. I ate a few spoonfuls because I was starving and then we went back to class. At twelve, the classes stopped and miss Temple ordered a lunch of bread and cheese.
After lunch we went out to the garden, a wide space surrounded with walls so high as to exclude every glimpse of what lay beyond. Some flower beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils to cultivate, and each bed had an owner.
Some girls ran playing active games while others sat in the shelter of the verandah where I leant against a pillar and spoke to a girl reading a book. I asked her some questions, and she told me Lowood was a charity school for orphans and poor children. I found out the treasurer was Mr Brocklehurst, a clergyman who lived in a large hall two miles away.
We re-entered the house for dinner made up of some potatoes and strange shreds of rusty meat, mixed and cooked together. After dinner we had more classes until five o’clock. Miss Scatcherd ridiculed a girl by making her stand in the middle of the large schoolroom.
Soon after five p.m. we had the best meal of the day, comprising a small mug of coffee, and half-a-slice of brown bread which I devoured and wished for more.
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.
This picture of Oliver Twist asking for more, reminds me of the burnt porridge Jane Eyre had to eat on her first day at Lowood. Jane is the female equivalent of Oliver (published by Charles Dickens about ten years before Jane Eyre).
Jane was one of the youngest children in the institution and she had just arrived, so she accepted her lot and didn’t complain, although some older girls did.
Here we have another sad chapter where Jane is forced to live at a charity school as a pauper and endure the hardships of the life of a Victorian orphan. It’s like a prison. The girls wear identical ugly and uncomfortable clothes, made of ‘stuff’ a coarse material. The food is disgusting, and it’s a cold and lonely place, and although her stay has only just begun, we can imagine there is much more hardship in store.
There are two positive points in the chapter which give us some hope for Jane. She meets Helen, who will become her best friend, and she also meets Miss Temple, the superintendent, a kind and fair teacher who will leave a mark on Jane, as we will soon see.
Again, we have faith that Jane will find a way to survive yet again in another hostile environment.
The summary is based on the free ebook by planet books which you can find here.
I’ll be posting a chapter of Jane Eyre in flash fiction every Friday. If you’re wondering why, read all about it here.
If you’d you’d like to Reread Jane Eyre with me, visit my blog every Friday for #JaneEyreFF posts.
See you next week for chapter 6!
Images from Pixabay