Jane Eyre (Chapter 7, page 1 of 8)


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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 others.

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