On the morning of the fifteenth of January, Bessie rushed up to my room, to tell me a visitor wanted to see me. Who could it be? I knew Mrs. Reed would be there too and I was frightened of seeing her again. When I nervously entered the breakfast-room I looked up at — a black column! At least that is what he looked like to me. He was a tall, thin man dressed all in black, with a cold, stony face at the top of the column.
‘This is the little girl I wrote to you about,’ said Mrs. Reed to the stony stranger.
‘Well, Jane Eyre,’ said the stranger heavily, ‘and are you a good child?’
It was impossible to say yes, with Mrs. Reed sitting there, so I was silent.
‘Perhaps the less said about that, the better, Mr. Brocklehurst,’ said Mrs. Reed, shaking her head.
‘I’m sorry to hear it,’ he answered. ‘Come here, Jane Eyre, and answer my questions. Where do the wicked go after death?’
‘They go to hell,’ I answered.
‘And what must you do to avoid going there?’ he asked.
I thought for a moment, but could not find the right answer.
‘I must keep in good health, and not die,’ I replied.
‘Wrong! Children younger than you die all the time. Another question. Do you enjoy reading the
‘Yes, sometimes,’ I replied, hesitating.
‘That is not enough. Your answers show me you have a wicked heart. You must pray to God to change it, if you ever want to go to heaven.’
‘Mr. Brocklehurst,’ interrupted Mrs. Reed, ‘I mentioned to you in my letter that this little girl has in fact a very bad character. If you accept her at Lowood school, please make sure that the headmistress and teachers know how dishonest she is. She will try to lie to them of course. You see, Jane, you cannot try your tricks on Mr. Brocklehurst.’
However hard I had tried to please Mrs. Reed in the past, she always thought the worst of me. It was not surprising that I had come to hate her. Now she was accusing me in front of a stranger. My hopes of starting a new life at school began to fade.
‘Do not worry, madam,’ Mr. Brocklehurst said, ‘the teachers will watch her carefully. Life at Lowood will do her good. We believe in hard work, plain food, simple clothes and no luxury of any kind.’
‘I will send her as soon as possible then, Mr. Brocklehurst. I hope she will be taught according to her low position in life.’
‘Indeed she will, madam. I hope she will be grateful for this opportunity to improve her character. Little girl, read this book. It tells the story of the sudden death of a young girl who was a liar. Read and pray.’
After Mr. Brocklehurst had given me the book and left, I felt I had to speak. Anger was boiling up inside me. I walked up to Mrs. Reed and looked straight into her eyes.
‘I do not deceive people! If I told lies, I would say I loved you! But I don’t, I hate you! I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. If anyone asks how you treated me, I will tell them the truth, that you were very cruel to me. People think you are a good woman, but you are lying to them!’
Even before I had finished I began to experience a great feeling of freedom and relief. At last I had said what I felt! Mrs. Reed looked frightened and unhappy.
‘Jane, I want to be your friend. You don’t know what you’re saying. You are too excited. Go to your room and lie down.’
‘I won’t lie down. I’m quite calm. Send me to school soon, Mrs. Reed. I hate living here.’
‘I will indeed send her soon,’ murmured Mrs. Reed to herself.