#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter10 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapte10

How I Advertised and was offered a post at Thornfield near Millcote

The number of victims during the typhus outbreak had drawn public attention on the school and by degrees various facts were made known which excited public indignation, such as the unhealthy nature of the site; the quantity and quality of the food; the wretched clothing and accommodations.

As a result, several wealthy and benevolent residents in the county financed a more convenient building in a better situation, and improvements were made in diet and clothing.   

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 who knew how to combine reason with strictness, comfort with economy, compassion with uprightness.

I remained at Lowood for eight years after its regeneration, six as a student. I had an excellent education and excelled in all my studies; I rose to be the first girl of the first class. And two as a teacher.

Miss Temple stood by me in the stead of mother, governess, and, latterly, companion. But destiny, in the shape of the Rev. Mr. Nasmyth, came between us. She married, removed with her husband, to a distant county, and consequently was lost to me.

After she left, I longed to enter the real world, where a varied field of hopes, fears and liberty, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek knowledge of life amidst its perils.

A kind fairy dropped the suggestion on my pillow. ‘You must enclose an advertisement and the money to pay for it under a cover directed to the editor of the Herald. You must post it at the post office at Lowton where I can inquire in about a week after you send your letter, if any reply comes, and act accordingly.’

So, I followed my fairy’s suggestion and posted the following advertisement: ‘A young lady accustomed to tuition is desirous of meeting with a situation in a private family where the children are under fourteen. She is qualified to teach the usual branches of a good English education, together with French, Drawing, and Music.’

When I returned a week later, a letter had arrived. I read it in my room with an inch of candle, which remained.

‘If J.E., 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.’

I knew it was a large manufacturing town seventy miles nearer London than the remote county where I now resided. Before accepting the offer I had to secure references, so I told the superintendent I had a prospect of getting a new situation where the salary would be double what I now received and asked if they would permit me to mention them as references. Mr. Brocklehurst informed Mrs. Reed as my natural guardian. She replied that ‘I might do as I pleased: she had long relinquished all interference in my affairs.’ The committee agreed to furnish me with a testimonial of character and capacity, signed by the inspectors of that institution, which I forwarded to Mrs. Fairfax, who then offered me the post of governess in her house.

I met Bessie who told me Miss Georgiana eloped and had to return home with her mother and her sister, John Reed had been thrown out of college for misconduct. She also told me an uncle of mine a wine merchant from Madeira had visited Mrs Reed.

I packed the same trunk I had brought with me eight years ago from Gateshead and took the coach from Lowton to Millcote.

****

This chapter jumps ahead eight years, informing us that over this time Jane has become an excellent student and respected teacher. Jane has grown up and is now emotionally and intellectually ready to leave behind Gateshead and Lowood, and start the third stage of her journey, at Thornfield Hall.

So far, the novel has given us all of Jane’s childhood as backstory and even the first time reader, who is not aware of the plot, is aware that her preparation is complete and her real journey is about to begin.

 

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 11. 

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter9 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 9

Resurgam: When Helen Burns Died In My Arms

The frosts of winter ceased, and the hardships of Lowood lessened. Serene May brought days of blue sky, placid sunshine, and soft gales. Lowood shook loose its tresses; it became all green and flowery and its great elm, ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic life.

The forest-dell, where Lowood lay, was the cradle of pestilence, breathed typhus through its crowded walls, and the seminary was transformed into a hospital. Disease became an inhabitant of Lowood, and death its frequent visitor.

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 broken up, rules relaxed.

Miss Temple’s whole attention was absorbed by the patients. She lived in the sick room. The girls who were fortunate enough to have friends and relations able and willing to remove them left, some went home only to die, others died at the school, and were buried quietly and quickly.

But I, and the rest who continued well, rambled in the wood, like gipsies, from morning till night doing what we liked. We lived better too. Mr. Brocklehurst never came near Lowood and the cross housekeeper was gone, driven away by the fear of infection; her successor provided with comparative liberality, and besides, there were fewer to feed.

My favourite place was a smooth and broad stone, rising white and dry from the middle of the beck, which was broad enough to accommodate, comfortably, another girl and me. My chosen comrade, Mary Ann Wilson, was witty and original. She was older than I and knew more of the world, so she told me many things I liked to hear.

Helen had been removed to the hospital portion of the house with the fever patients; for her complaint was consumption. On sunny afternoons, I watched Miss Temple take her into the garden wrapped in a blanket from the schoolroom window, as I was not allowed to speak to her.

One evening on returning from my walk I saw Mr. Bates, the surgeon, with a nurse and I asked her, ‘How is Helen Burns?’

‘Very poorly. Mr. Bates has been to see her.’

‘And what does he say about her?’

‘He says she’ll not be here long.’

“Where is she?”

‘She is in Miss Temple’s room.’

That night when my companions in the dormitory were all wrapt in profound repose, I crept out and set off in quest of Helen. I had to give her one last kiss and exchange with her one last word before she died.

I found the door slightly ajar and saw the outline of Helen’s body in a little crib. 

‘Helen!’ I whispered softly, ‘are you awake?’

She was pale, wasted, but quite composed. ‘Can it be you, Jane? Why are you here?’

‘I heard you were very ill, and I could not sleep till I had spoken to you.’

‘You are just in time probably.’

‘Are you going home, Helen?’

‘Yes; to my last home. I am very happy, Jane; and when you hear that I am dead, you must be sure and not grieve: there is nothing to grieve about. We all must die one day, and the illness which is removing me is not painful; it is gentle and gradual: my mind is at rest. I leave no one to regret me much. By dying young, I shall escape great sufferings. I had not qualities or talents to make my way very well in the world: I should have been continually at fault.’

‘But where are you going, Helen?’

‘I am going to God.’

‘Where is God? What is God?’

‘My Maker and yours, who will never destroy what He created. I rely implicitly on His power, and confide wholly in His goodness.’

‘You are sure that there is such a place as heaven, and that our souls can get to it when we die?’

‘I am sure there is a future state; I believe God is good; I can resign my immortal part to Him without any misgiving. God is my father; God is my friend: I love Him; I believe He loves me.’

‘And shall I see you again, Helen, when I die?’

‘You will come to the same region of happiness: be received by the same mighty, universal Parent, no doubt, dear Jane.’

I lay with my face hidden on her neck and she said, ‘I feel as if I could sleep: but don’t leave me, Jane; I like to have you near me.’

‘I’ll stay with you, Helen; no one shall take me way.’

She kissed me, and I her, and we both soon slumbered.

The next morning, I was carried back to the dormitory and learnt that Miss Temple had found me laid in the little crib with my arms round Helen’s dead body.

Her grave is in Brocklehurst churchyard: for fifteen years after her death it was only covered by a grassy mound; but now a grey marble tablet marks the spot, inscribed with her name, and the word ‘Resurgam.’

This chapter is a disturbing combination of carefree time away from school, frolicking in the woods in the budding spring, during the month of May, and the dreadful typhus outbreak, which affected half of the girls at Lowood.

Jane made a new friend and was allowed to run wild in the woods, while the teachers looked after the sick girls. Unfortunately, her best friend, Helen Burns, was taken ill and later died in her arms. The way ten-year-old Jane recounts these dreadful events in such a matter-of-fact way, as if they are not such dreadful hardships, is disquieting.

I still remember the first time I read the paragraph in which she describes how Helen died in her arms while she slept, and it still sends shivers up my spine. I suppose hardship, death and disease were a normal part of Victorian life, but the degree of acceptance, bordering on lack of feeling, is heart wrenching. 

I found her narration of the typhus epidemic detached, as if the suffering of so many girls didn’t affect her and she was happy to spend her days having fun in the woods.

The way she narrates Helen’s death is also strangely disconnected. She must have been cold and breathing with difficulty when she died, but Jane says nothing of that, or how she feels about her friend’s death. Her reaction, the next day, when she found out her friend had died in her arms is oddly cool. The little girl has learned to control her deepest thoughts and emotions from everyone, including the reader.    

The event definitely affected her as she tells the reader she returned in 15 years’ time, at 25, after she had married Mr Rochester, to lay a headstone on her friend’s grave. The word ‘resurgam’ is Latin for “I shall rise again.” And it’s found in the Bible referred to the resurrection of Christ on the third day. Helen was fervently religious, as we can see from the extract. Helen was a fundamental influence in Jane’s religious beliefs and faith in God, especially regarding life after death. 

After everything she has already gone through, the reader is now more aware than ever that Jane will survive any crisis life throws in her way.

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 10! 

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter8 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 8

How I was promoted to a higher class

Five o’clock struck; school was dismissed, and all were gone into the refectory to tea. I ventured to descend from the stool, sat on the floor, and overwhelmed by grief, I wept. I had been crushed and trodden on and ardently I wished to die.

Helen Burns approached with my coffee and bread. ‘Come, eat something,’ she said and sat beside me; but I would have choked in my present condition.

‘Helen, why do you stay with a girl whom everybody believes to be a liar?’

‘There are only eighty people who have heard you called so, and the world contains hundreds of millions.’

‘But what have I to do with millions? The eighty, I know, despise me.’

‘Jane, not one in the school either despises or dislikes you: many, I am sure, pity you.’

‘How can they pity me after what Mr. Brocklehurst has said?’

‘Mr. Brocklehurst is little liked here. Had he treated you as a favourite, you would have found enemies. Teachers and pupils may look coldly on you for a day or two, but friendly feelings will prevail if you persevere in doing well.’

I put my hand into hers, and she chafed my fingers gently to warm them. ‘If others don’t love me, I would rather die than live—I cannot bear to be solitary and hated, Helen.’

‘Hush, Jane! You think too much of the love of human beings; you are too impulsive, too vehement. Besides this earth, and besides the race of men, there is an invisible world and a kingdom of spirits who are commissioned to guard us. God waits only the separation of spirit from flesh to crown us with a full reward of happiness and glory.’

Helen’s words had calmed me. I rested my head on her shoulder and we reposed in silence until Miss Temple approached.

‘Jane Eyre, I want you in my room. Helen Burns may come too.’

We walked through the intricate passages and mounted a staircase to her apartment, which contained a cheerful fire.  

‘Have you cried your grief away?’ she asked.

‘I have been wrongly accused. Everybody thinks me wicked.’

‘If you continue to act as a good girl, you will satisfy us.’ said she, passing her arm round me. ‘And now tell me who is the lady whom Mr. Brocklehurst called your benefactress?’

‘Mrs. Reed, my uncle’s wife. My uncle made her promise on his deathbed that she would always keep me.’

‘When a criminal is accused, he is always allowed to speak in his own defence.’

So I told her the story of my sad childhood. I mentioned Mr. Lloyd’s visit after the frightful episode of the red room.

‘I shall write to Mr Lloyd; if his reply agrees with your statement, you shall be publicly cleared from every imputation; to me, Jane, you are clear now.’

She kissed me and keeping me at her side she addressed Helen Burns.

‘How is the pain in your chest? Have you coughed much to-day?’

‘I am a little better.’

‘Tonight, you are my visitors.’ She rang her bell.

‘Barbara,’ she said to the servant who answered it, ‘I have not yet had tea; bring tea and bread and butter for these two young ladies.’

When Barbara said Mrs. Harden, the housekeeper, had refused the extra food, Mrs Temple unlocked a drawer, and gave us some seedcake which tasted like nectar and ambrosia.

Then I was struck with wonder as Helen and Miss Temple spoke of nations and times past; of countries far away; and books they had read, including French and Latin texts.

The following morning, Miss Scatcherd wrote ‘Slattern’ on a piece of pasteboard and bound it round Helen’s forehead as a punishment for her untidiness. The moment Miss Scatcherd left, I tore it off and thrust it into the fire.

About a week later, Miss Temple received Mr Lloyd’s reply in which he corroborated my account, and Miss Temple assembled the whole school and announced that I was completely cleared.

Thus relieved of a grievous load, I resolved to pioneer my way through every difficulty. I toiled hard, and my success was proportionate to my efforts. In a few weeks I was promoted to a higher class and in less than two months I was allowed to commence French and drawing.

I learned the truth of Solomon’s words: ‘Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.’

I would not now have exchanged Lowood with all its privations for Gateshead and its daily luxuries.

This chapter begins with ten-year-old Jane going as far as to wish her own death after the humiliation suffered because of Mr Brocklehurst’s false accusations.

Although Helen’s words console her, it is Miss Temple’s kindness and her promise to get in touch with Mr Lloyd in order to clear Jane’s name that she is hopeful, Jane finally regains her self-esteem and motivation and her life takes an unexpected turn for the best when her name is cleared and her efforts are rewarded and she can learn French and Drawing, her favourite subjects.

Despite its dire beginning, we have a hopeful chapter in Jane’s childhood, at last.  

Her knowledge of French is what will enable her to become Adele’s governess, and her Mr Rochester is impressed with her drawings when he meets her. Jane is learning to control her temper and the value of hard work to improve her station in life.

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 9! 

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter7 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 7

Chapter VII Mr Brocklehurst’s Visit to Lowood

My first quarter at Lowood was an irksome struggle as I habituated myself to new rules and unwanted tasks. The deep snows of January, February, and March, meant impassable roads which prevented our stirring beyond the garden walls, except to go to church which was even colder than Lowood. 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.

The scanty supply of food was distressing: with the keen appetites of growing children, we had scarcely sufficient to keep alive a delicate invalid. This deficiency of nourishment resulted an abuse, the older girls would coax or menace the little ones, like me, out of their portions.

Mr. Brocklehurst’s first visit occurred a month after my arrival. I dreaded that he had come to keep the promise he pledged to my aunt to apprise Miss Temple and the teachers of what he described as my vicious nature.

I was near enough to hear him complain to Miss Temple that we were getting extra clothes, bread and cheese without his authorisation.

‘Madam, You are aware that my plan in bringing up these girls is, not to accustom them to habits of luxury and indulgence, but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying, encouraging them to evince fortitude under temporary privation, such as the torments of martyrs and the exhortations of our blessed Lord Himself who said. ‘If ye suffer hunger or thirst for My sake, happy are ye.’

He then turned his wrath on Julia Severn. “Why is her red hair worn in a mass of curls? Their hair must be arranged modestly and plainly. That girl’s hair must be cut off entirely.’

Mr. Brocklehurst was here interrupted by three other visitors, his wife and daughters, splendidly attired in velvet, silk, and furs. The elder lady was enveloped in a costly velvet shawl, trimmed with ermine, and she wore a false front of French curls.

I had sat well back and held my slate up to conceal my face, but it slipped from my hand and fell with an obtrusive crash.

‘Let the child who broke her slate come forward!’ said Mr Brocklehurst.

When I stepped forward, he told someone to fetch a stool and I was placed there, hoisted up to the height of his nose.

‘Ladies,’ said he, turning to everyone. ‘It is my duty to warn you, that this girl is an interloper and an alien. You must be on your guard against her, avoid her company, exclude her from your sports, and shut her out from your converse. Teachers, you must watch her: keep your eyes on her movements, weigh well her words, scrutinise her actions, punish her body to save her soul: if, indeed, such salvation be possible, this girl is a liar! Let her stand half-an-hour longer on that stool, and let no one speak to her during the remainder of the day.’

There was I, then, mounted aloft, in the middle of the room, exposed to general view on a pedestal of infamy.

Helen Burns passed by me, lifted her eyes, smiled and like an angel gave me her courage and strength to lift up my head, and stand firmly on the stool.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jane-on-stool.1-1.jpg

In this chapter we are informed that Jane is living in an inhospitable Lowood, suffering from extreme cold, and she is unhappy following many rules and carrying out unwanted tasks. She is also being underfed and bullied by the older girls who steal their meagre portions of food.

Mr Brocklehurst’s visit is devastating. Jane is insulted, defamed, humiliated and ridiculed in front of all the school, on a ‘pedestal of infamy’. Fortunately, she received courage from her friend, Helen Burns, to endure the ordeal.

Mr Brocklehurst’s splendidly attired daughters are a striking contrast to the poor, underfed and skimpily dressed girls at Lowood. Another minor detail, which I have included because of its significance, is that fact that Mr Brocklehurst orders Julia Severn’s curls to be cut off, while his wife is wearing ‘a false front of French curls’. Perhaps the curls will be used to make a wig for his wife?  

The way the clergyman uses the name of ‘The Blessed Lord’ to justify the cruelty with which he expects the girls at Lowood to be treated, makes him a major villain in the novel. Although he has a minor role, he is the most despicable character and the greatest villain in the novel, much worse than her Aunt Reed, because he has been gravely mistreating all the girls at Lowood for years, for his own financial gain. 

The plot thickens. Jane finds herself in a cruel and unjust situation once again. What will happen now? How will she move forward or out of the new pit she has been thrust into?

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 8!

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter6 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 6

My First Conversation with Helen Burns

The north-east wind, which whistled through the crevices of our bedroom windows all night long, had frozen the water in our pitchers. After an hour and a half of prayers and Bible-reading, I felt ready to perish with cold. I was grateful for today’s meagre portion of unburnt porridge, but I was still hungry.

Three months had passed; it was March. Being little accustomed to learn by heart, the morning lessons appeared to me both long and difficult and the frequent change from task to task, bewildered me.

In the afternoon, as I sat in a quiet corner of the schoolroom doing needlework, I watched Miss Scatcherd make a girl called Burns the object of her constant scolding.

‘You dirty, disagreeable girl!’ she said and inflicted on her neck a dozen strokes with the bunch of twigs.

After classes, I saw the girl reading a book by the dim glare of the embers.

‘Is it still ‘Rasselas’?’ I asked.

‘Yes, and I have just finished it.’

‘What is your name besides Burns?’

‘Helen.’

‘Do you come a long way from here?’

‘I come from the borders of Scotland.’

‘Will you ever go back?’

‘I hope so; but nobody can be sure of the future.’

‘You must wish to leave Lowood?’

‘No! I was sent to Lowood to get an education.’

‘But Miss Scatcherd, is so cruel to you.’

‘She dislikes my faults.’

‘If she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her hand; I should break it under her nose.’

‘If you did, Mr. Brocklehurst would expel you from the school. It is far better to endure patiently, than to commit a hasty action whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you; and besides, the Bible bids us return good for evil.’

‘But it is disgraceful to be publicly flogged.’

‘I am careless, and I forget rules. I provoke Miss Scatcherd, who is naturally neat, punctual, and particular.’

‘Is Miss Temple as severe to you as Miss Scatcherd?’

At the utterance of Miss Temple’s name, she smiled. ‘Miss Temple is full of goodness; she sees my errors and tells me of them gently; and, if I do anything worthy of praise, she gives it to me.’

‘If we are struck at without a reason, we should strike back again very hard, so hard as to teach the person who struck us never to do it again.’

‘You will change your mind, I hope, when you grow older.’

‘I must resist those who punish me unjustly.’

‘Heathens and savage tribes hold that doctrine, but Christians and civilised nations disown it.’

I could not comprehend this doctrine of endurance. ‘How?’

‘It is not violence that best overcomes hate—nor vengeance that most certainly heals injury.’

‘What then?’

‘Read the New Testament, and observe what Christ says, and how He acts; make His word your rule, and His conduct your example.’

‘What does He say?’

‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you.’

Helen listened patiently as I told her about my aunt’s cruelty. ‘Would you not be happier if you tried to forget her severity, together with the passionate emotions it excited? Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs. Revenge disgusts me. I live in calm, looking to the end.’

A monitor, a great rough girl, interrupted us, exclaiming, ‘Helen Burns, if you don’t put your drawer in order, I’ll tell Miss Scatcherd to come and look at it!’

Helen sighed and obeyed without reply as without delay.

In this chapter Jane is an angry, bitter child who hates the world and is on a crusade against injustice, but Helen, who is a few years older and has a calmer character, teaches her that it is better to adopt Christian values, not hold grudges or hate, and bear whatever life sends your way.

At this point, Jane doesn’t agree with her new friend, but as the novel progresses, she will adopt some of Helen’s ideas, for example, she will eventually forgive her aunt on her deathbed.

The chapter also brings up an interesting debate on education and the merits of strict discipline versus kindness and understanding. Miss Temple prefers a sympathetic approach, while Miss Scatcherd’s teachings force Helen to face her shortcomings by using humiliation and violence. Jane prefers the first approach and Helen the second. We will soon see, when Jane is a teacher, which one of the two prevails.

Regarding Helen’s stoic philosophy, it is influenced by the Bible and Rasselas, a philosophical novel published in 1759 by Samuel Johnson.

Rasselas is the Prince of Abyssinia, who lives a life of luxury in Happy Valley, but at 26, bored with his pleasurable but unhappy life, he decides to travel the world and discover whether it’s possible for mankind to attain happiness. He finally returns to his Happy Valley and accepts that life on earth is not meant to be happy.

Rasselas has realised that the search for happiness on Earth is futile. Everyone is unhappy regardless of their circumstances and situation. Consequently, Man should search for God by focusing on one’s immortal soul, and thereby reach eternal happiness after death.

Helen is telling Jane that happiness does not depend on external circumstances, but that it is within ourselves. The kindness or cruelty we are subject to are merely different means to the same end: self-improvement or godliness. We must try to be the best version of ourselves in whichever circumstances we live by following the dictates of Christianity; ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you.’ Because heaven will recompense you after death, as she says, ‘looking to the end.’

This is a fascinating and intense chapter with a profound discussion on education, happiness, and the meaning of life, bearing in mind that Jane is ten years old, although Helen is a few years older. Jane has not yet read Rasselas, although as it seems to be a required text at Lowood and she will read it in the future. As the novel progresses, Jane will tame her rebellious nature, although she will never be as meek and submissive as Helen.

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 7!

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter5 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

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

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter4

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 4

How I met Mr Brocklehurst  

November, December, and half of January passed away. Christmas and the New Year had been celebrated at Gateshead with the usual festive cheer; presents had been interchanged, dinners and evening parties given, but from every enjoyment I was, of course, excluded.

On the 15 of January I was called to the breakfast room to meet a visitor.

‘What is your name?’ The tall man with the large eyes and grim face asked.

“Jane Eyre, sir.”

‘How old are you?’

‘Ten.’

‘Are you a good child?’

My aunt shook her head. ‘The less said on that subject the better, Mr. Brocklehurst.’

‘Do you know where the wicked go after death?’  he asked.

‘They go to hell,’ was my answer.

‘And what is hell? Can you tell me that?’

‘A pit full of fire.’

‘And should you like to fall into that pit burn forever?’

‘No, sir.’

‘What must you do to avoid it?’

‘I must keep in good health, and not die.’

He looked displeased. ‘Do you say your prayers night and morning?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Do you read your Bible?’

‘Sometimes.’

“Do you read the psalms?”

“They are not interesting.”

Mr Brocklehurst gasped. “That proves you are wicked.”

‘And deceitful,’ said my aunt. ‘May I depend upon this child being received as a pupil at Lowood to be to be brought up in a manner suiting her prospects and to be made useful and to be kept humble.’

He nodded. ‘You may.’ Then he turned to me. ‘Here is a book entitled the ‘Child’s Guide,’ read it carefully. There is an account of the awfully sudden death of Martha, a naughty child addicted to falsehood and deceit.’

When he left, knowing I would soon be leaving, I told my aunt how I felt. ‘I will never come to see you when I am grown up; and if anyone asks me how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty.’

The fourth chapter of Jane Eyre introduces Mr Brocklehurst, a clergyman and fanatical christian who is the supervisor of Lowood Institution for Orphaned Girls. we will see as the novel progresses how he mistreats the girls at the boarding school.

This chapter shows ten-year-old Jane to be sure of herself and eloquent enough to maintain a lively discussion with Brocklehurst and tell her aunt exactly what she thinks of her.

The reader has no inclination to feel sorry for this girl, who has a strong, principled character, and although she is still a child who needs to learn to control her temper, we know that she will survive whatever ordeals she will encounter at Lowood.

If you check out this page of the British Library you can see a photograph of Charlotte Bronte’s handwritten manuscript of Jane’s conversation with Mr Brocklehurst.

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 5!

Images from Pixabay

Letter J and K #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Jobs and Knowledge

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today Jane Eyre is going to tell us about her ‘Jobs’ and her ‘Knowledge’ I’ve written about them together, because her knowledge enabled her to work as a teacher.

K J

My name’s Jane Eyre and I’m a writer and a teacher.

I believe that without the knowledge gained at Lowood Institution and my teaching experience, I would never have survived in the harsh world in which I was born, a woman and an orphan.

I spent eight years at Lowood institution, where I was a teacher for the last two years. Although life at Lowood was hard, I am very fortunate to have studied, worked, and lived there for eight years. I learnt fluent French, history, geography, and English grammar. I also learned to play the piano reasonably well and had great skill at drawing. I had great teachers with stores of knowledge, such as Miss Temple, whose guidance helped me to gain invaluable teaching experience and knowledge.

Lowood

It was a very strict boarding school. In the mornings and afternoons, I taught English, French, Drawing, and Music. In the evenings, I had various duties such as sitting with with the girls during their hour of study and reading prayers before seeing them to bed. Once the girls were in bed, the teachers had supper and when we retired for the night. I usually read by the light of the candlestick, until the socket of the candle dropped, and the wick went out. Once a month, for a few days, if I was lucky and the sky was clear and there was a glowing moon at my window, I would read until my eyelids fell heavily.

When my friend and mentor, Miss Temple, left Lowood to marry and live in a distant land, I became restless. Tired of the suffocating atmosphere of Lowood and eager for horizons, I applied for a job as a governess. I had always conducted myself well, both as teacher and pupil, at Lowood, so the school inspectors signed a testimonial of character and capacity, which enabled me to be employed as governess in a private home.

Jane and Adele

I worked at Thornfield Hall as governess to an eight–year-old French girl called Adele, from October to June. My salary was 30 pounds a year. One of the reasons I was chosen for the employment was my knowledge of French. Fortunately I had had the advantage of being taught French by a French lady, Madame Pierrot, with whom I conversed as often as I could. My French was almost fluent after seven years of applying myself daily to the language, and Adele respected me at once for this reason.

In the mornings, after breakfast, Adele and I withdrew to the library, the room Mr. Rochester had directed should be used as the schoolroom. Most of the books for adult reading were locked up behind glass doors, except one bookcase left open containing everything that could be needed in the way of elementary works of literature, poetry, biography, travels, a few romances. They were many more than had been available at Lowood. There was also a new and grand cabinet piano, an easel for painting and a pair of globes.

Adele was a docile, though unenthusiastic pupil. She was a little spoilt and it was not easy for her to concentrate, however she was obedient and although she had no special talents, she made reasonable progress. She studied with me until noon, and then she had some free time with her French nurse. She was friendly and loving and I became very fond of her.

When I had to leave Thornfield Hall, after the interruption of my bigamous wedding, I travelled to a distant town to find work.

My kind cousins, Mary, Diana, and St. John Rivers, who did not yet know they were my kin, neither did I, sheltered me from the cold and shared their meagre rations of food with me. As soon as I recovered from my illness and arduous travels, I begged them to find me a job, because I did not want to be dependent on their charity.

‘I will be a dressmaker; I will be a plain-workwoman; I will be a servant, a nurse-girl, if I can be no better,’ I said to them.

St. John was finally able to find me a job as a teacher. There was no girls’ school at Morton, and St. John had hired a cottage with two rooms attached to a schoolroom with the intention of opening one. My salary was thirty pounds a year plus the use of the simply furnished adjacent cottage. The cost would be covered by a lady called, Miss Oliver; the only daughter of the richest man in the parish. She also paid for the education and clothing of an orphan from the workhouse, to be my maid.

Jane Teacher

It was a small village school attended by poor cottagers’ daughters. I was required to teach them knitting, sewing, reading, writing, and ciphering. They spoke with a broad accent. some of them were unmannered and  rough, as well as ignorant; but others are docile.

I took it as my duty and my challenge was to develop these the these students into refined and intelligent children. My efforts were rewarded, and they soon took a pleasure in doing their work well, keeping their persons neat, in learning their tasks regularly,in acquiring quiet and orderly manners. They progressed surprisingly well, and I was able to teach some of them grammar, geography, and history.

After marrying Mr. Rochester and inheriting my uncle’s fortune, I had no need or time to work as a teacher. I had enough to keep me busy at home, my husband, my child, the Estate, and my writing career.

I hope matters will improve for women in the future, but at the moment, teaching is one of the greatest and most honourable professions a woman can undertake. It will allow her to live independently and fulfill her need to be useful in society. Teachers instill knowledge, good habits, and encourage students to develop their talents to their best ability.

I dream of a day when everyone will have access to education and knowledge whatever their job or station in life. Every person should be allowed to grow intellectually and morally through education.

Education Quote

Letter G #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Gardens

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today it’s all about Jane Eyre’s Gardens. Jane will tell us all about the gardens in her life, in her own words.

G

The first garden I can remember was at my Aunt Reed’s house, Gateshead Hall. There was a glass-door in the breakfast-room, which led onto the shrubbery and the path leading to the gate and the fields, where the sheep fed on short, blanched grass. I remember it was almost leafless, so it must have been the end of autumn, because when I walked out further, there was another part of the plantation with leafless, silent trees, and falling fir-cones. I can see a few autumn, russet leaves swept by the winds. I spent nine springs and nine summers in that house, and yet I cannot recall ever seeing a single flower. No child should be forced to have such a colourless childhood.

Snowy garden

When I first arrived at Lowood Institution, when I was ten years old, it was winter, and I did not enjoy being forced out to the garden for fresh air in the freezing, snow-covered garden, especially since our clothes were insufficient to protect us from the severe cold. We had no boots, and our shoes were soaked and our numbed hands covered in chilblains, as were our feet.

The garden was a wide enclosure, surrounded with high walls, and a covered verandah along one side. There were broad walks and a middle space divided into scores of little beds which these beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils to cultivate.

When April arrived, I had settled in. I had some friends and I had grown to enjoy the classes and the lessons. We could at last endure our daily hour in the garden, and when it was sunny, it was pleasant. I was overjoyed to plant in my garden the seeds we were given and some roots I had dug up in the forest.

The brown flower beds turned green, and flowers peeped out amongst the leaves: snow- drops, crocuses, purple auriculas, and golden-eyed pansies. The vegetation matured in May and Lowood became green and flowery, at last. The great elm, ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic life; woodland plants sprang up profusely.

Orchard spring

It doesn’t seem possible, but I imagined it was the first time I had seen the sweet explosion of spring. The garden glowed with flowers: hollyhocks sprung up tall as trees, lilies opened, tulips and roses were in bloom; the borders of the little beds were gay with pink thrift and crimson double daisies.

In June, the flowers smelt so sweet as the dew fell. The evenings were so warm and serene, I knew this was where I had to be. Nevertheless, as the years passed, when I went upstairs to my room and opened the window and looked out, I yearned to travel beyond the hilly horizon, over those most remote peaks I longed to surmount. I hadn’t left Lowood in eight years and I longed to follow it farther, which I did when Miss Temple married and left.

Thornfield Hall didn’t have a garden, as such, it had a lawn in front of the building and grounds leading onto a great meadow, which was separated by a fence. Beyond there was an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion’s designation.

There was an Eden-like orchard, which was full of trees blooming with flowers. A very high wall shut it out from the court, on one side; on the other, a beech avenue screened it from the lawn. A winding walk, bordered with laurels and terminating in a giant horse- chestnut, led down to the fence At the bottom was the fence, and beyond, the fields and the winding path which led to Hay.

Proposal garden

The orchard with gooseberry trees, large plums, and cherry trees, was my favourite place to wander unseen, and it was pleasantly shady in spring and summer. There was a delicious fragrance of sweet-briar and southernwood, jasmine, pink, and rose. It was here, one June evening, when trees laden with ripening fruit, that Mr. Rochester proposed to me, the first time, by the light of the rising moon.

After leaving Thornfield Hall, when it was discovered that Mr. Rochester had a wife, who was locked in his attic, I wandered about like a lost and starving dog, crossing fields on foot to get as far away from Thornfield as was possible, I knocked on a clergyman’s door. It was Moor House, in Morton, where the Mary, Diana, and St. John Rivers lived. It was a small grey, antique house with a low roof and latticed casements. The garden was dark with yew and holly and there were no flowers.

I stayed there until I recovered my strength and found a job as a teacher. My new home was a cottage with whitewashed walls and a sanded floor half hour from Morton. There was a small school room and a kitchen with had four painted chairs and a table, a clock, a cupboard. Above, there was a small chamber with a bedstead and chest of drawers. There was a tiny garden with a wicket, which shut me in from the meadow beyond. It looked very scanty when I arrived, but I was going to plant some roots in spring.

Jane Teacher

I was glad of this opportunity to make a living on my own as a school-teacher and when I looked at the quiet fields before my cottage, I knew I should be happy, but I cried of loneliness. I stayed at the school until the end of autumn, when I discovered I had inherited a small fortune from my Uncle John in Madeira, and that the Rivers were my cousins on my father’s side. So, I returned to Moor House to live with them, until one night I heard Edward calling me, and I returned to Thornfield Hall.

Thornfield had been burnt down by Mrs. Rochester, Bertha Mason. I eventually found Edward at his Manor House, Ferndean. It was an isolated and sombre place. There was no garden, there were no flowers, no garden-beds; only a broad gravel-walk girdling a grass-plat, and this set in the heavy frame of the forest. The house presented two pointed gables in its front; the windows were latticed and narrow, and the front door was narrow too.

When I found Edward, he was crippled and blind, and feeling rather sorry for himself. He said he was like the old lightning-struck chestnut tree in the Thornfield orchard, but I told him he it wasn’t true, to me he was as green and vigorous as the last time I had seen him.

Mr. Rochester Blind

The second time he proposed to me was also in the open air. I led him out of the wet and wild wood into some cheerful fields, which I described to him. They were brilliantly green with flowers and hedges and the sky was sparklingly blue. He sat in a hidden and lovely spot, on a dry stump of a tree, and I sat on his knee, while I told him about my travels since I had left Thornfield.

I told him I was an independent, rich woman and that I could build a house next to his. This house would have a beautiful garden, which he would one day be able to see when he recovered his eyesight. I think that might happen. I would call it Eyre Hall, in honour of my uncle, John Eyre.

Jane and Rochester friends