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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com Digital Library-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte


54

CHAPTER VII

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 teatime; 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,
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