I started my journey to Lowood School in January. The weather was cold,
windy and rainy and it was dark when I arrived.
Lowood School was very large, but it was very different from Mrs Reed's
house. It was cold and forbidding. A teacher took me into a wide, long
room which was full of girls. There were about eighty of them. Their ages
were from about nine to twenty. They all wore ugly brown dresses.
It was time for supper. There was only water to drink, and a small piece
of bread to eat. I drank some water because I was thirsty, but I was too
tired to eat anything. After supper I went upstairs to bed with the other girls.
The teacher took me into a very large room with many beds in it. All the
girls slept in this one room and there were two girls in every bed.
It was very early when I woke up next morning. It was dark outside and
the big room was very cold. We had to wash ourselves in ice-cold water,
and then put on our brown dresses. Then we went downstairs to the
classroom for the start of the early morning lessons.
I was very hungry and it seemed a long time before it was time for
There was a terrible smell of burnt food. All of the girls were hungry,
but the food was too badly burnt for us to eat.
We all left the dining room feeling cold and miserable.
Lessons began again at nine o'clock. I looked at the other girls and thought
how strange they seemed in their ugly brown dresses. Some of the girls were
almost young women, and the dresses looked even odder and out of
place on these big girls. I did not like the teachers. They seemed to be very
strict and unfriendly.
Miss Temple, the head teacher, came in to see us at twelve o'clock. Her
face was very pretty, and she seemed to be kinder than the other teachers. 'I
have something to say to you all,' she said. 'I know that you could not eat
your breakfast this morning, so I have decided that you will have bread and
cheese for lunch.' The other teachers looked surprised. 'I'll pay for this meal
myself,' Miss Temple told us. The girls were all delighted.
After we had eaten our lunch, we went out into the garden. It was very
cold, and our brown school dresses were too thin to keep us warm in the
winter weather. Nearly all of the girls looked cold and unhappy. Some of
them looked very ill. I walked around the garden and hoped that someone
would speak to me, but no one did.
One girl was reading a book, and I decided to try to be friendly with her.
'Is your book interesting?' I asked.
'I like it,' she replied.
'Does Miss Temple own the school?' I asked.
'No, she doesn't,' the girl answered. 'A man called Mr Brocklehurst owns
the school. He buys all our food and clothes. '
This girl was called Helen Burns. I liked her immediately, even though she
was older than me. I knew that she would be my friend.
I asked Helen a lot of questions about the school. She told me that some of the girls were ill because they did not get enough to eat, and they were
always cold. Mr Brocklehurst was not a generous man. He bought clothes
for the girls which were not warm enough for the cold winter, and there was
never enough food to eat. Only very strong girls could stay well when they
had to live in these harsh conditions.
In the spring of that year, many of the girls became ill. They had a disease
which was infectious and some of them died.
Lessons stopped, and we girls who were well spent most of our time
outside in the fields near the school. The weather was now warm and sunny,
so it was a happy time for us. My friend, Helen Burns, was not with us. She
was so ill that she had to stay in bed.
Miss Temple moved Helen into her own room, and one evening I went to
see her. I felt great sadness when I saw how thin she was, and how pale her
face had become. When she spoke to me, her voice was so low that I had to
lean close to her to hear what she said.
'Jane,' she said, 'it's so good to see you. I want to say goodbye.'
'Why, Helen?' I asked her, 'Are you going away from here?'
'Yes, I am, Jane,' Helen replied. 'I'm going far away.'
I stayed with Helen through the night to comfort her, and in the morning I
found that she had died.
As a result of so many pupils dying at the school, there was an inquiry
into the conditions which had caused the disease.
When people knew about the poor food, the dirty water and light clothing
which the children were given, they gave money to improve the lives of the
girls. Lowood School was a much happier and healthier place from that time