#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