Jane Eyre (Chapter 9, page 2 of 7)

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Chapter 9

Have I not described a pleasant site for a dwelling, when I speak of
it as bosomed in hill and wood, and rising from the verge of a
stream? Assuredly, pleasant enough: but whether healthy or not is
another question.

That forest-dell, where Lowood lay, was the cradle of fog and fog-
bred pestilence; which, quickening with the quickening spring, crept
into the Orphan Asylum, breathed typhus through its crowded
schoolroom and dormitory, and, ere May arrived, transformed the
seminary into an hospital.

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. The few
who continued well were allowed almost unlimited license; because
the medical attendant insisted on the necessity of frequent exercise
to keep them in health: and had it been otherwise, no one had
leisure to watch or restrain them. Miss Temple's whole attention
was absorbed by the patients: she lived in the sick-room, never
quitting it except to snatch a few hours' rest at night. The
teachers were fully occupied with packing up and making other
necessary preparations for the departure of those girls who were
fortunate enough to have friends and relations able and willing to
remove them from the seat of contagion. Many, already smitten, went
home only to die: some died at the school, and were buried quietly
and quickly, the nature of the malady forbidding delay.

While disease had thus become an inhabitant of Lowood, and death its
frequent visitor; while there was gloom and fear within its walls;
while its rooms and passages steamed with hospital smells, the drug
and the pastille striving vainly to overcome the effluvia of
mortality, that bright May shone unclouded over the bold hills and
beautiful woodland out of doors. Its garden, too, glowed with
flowers: hollyhocks had sprung up tall as trees, lilies had opened,
tulips and roses were in bloom; the borders of the little beds were
gay with pink thrift and crimson double daisies; the sweetbriars
gave out, morning and evening, their scent of spice and apples; and
these fragrant treasures were all useless for most of the inmates of
Lowood, except to furnish now and then a handful of herbs and
blossoms to put in a coffin.

But I, and the rest who continued well, enjoyed fully the beauties
of the scene and season; they let us ramble in the wood, like
gipsies, from morning till night; we did what we liked, went where
we liked: we lived better too. Mr. Brocklehurst and his family
never came near Lowood now: household matters were not scrutinised
into; the cross housekeeper was gone, driven away by the fear of
infection; her successor, who had been matron at the Lowton
Dispensary, unused to the ways of her new abode, provided with
comparative liberality. Besides, there were fewer to feed; the sick
could eat little; our breakfast-basins were better filled; when
there was no time to prepare a regular dinner, which often happened,
she would give us a large piece of cold pie, or a thick slice of
bread and cheese, and this we carried away with us to the wood,
where we each chose the spot we liked best, and dined sumptuously.

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