Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre: Ch. 5

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Chapter V

Five o’clock had hardly struck on the morning of the 19th of January,h when Bessie brought a candle into my closet and found me already up and nearly dressed.  I had risen half-an-hour before her entrance, and had washed my face, and put on my clothes by the light of a half-moon just setting, whose rays streamed through the narrow window near my crib.  I was to leave Gateshead that day by a coach which passed the lodge gates at six a.m.  Bessie was the only person yet risen; she had lit a fire in the nursery, where she now proceeded to make my breakfast.  Few children can eat when excited with the thoughts of a journey; nor could I.  Bessie, having pressed me in vain to take a few spoonfuls of the boiled milk and bread she had prepared for me, wrapped up some biscuits in a paper and put them into my bag; then she helped me on with my pelissew and bonnet, and wrapping herself in a shawl, she and I left the nursery.  As we passed Mrs. Reed’s bedroom, she said, “Will you go in and bid Missis good-bye?”

“No, Bessie: she came to my crib last night when you were gone down to supper, and said I need not disturb her in the morning, or my cousins either; and she told me to remember that she had always been my best friend, and to speak of her and be grateful to her accordingly.”

“What did you say, Miss?”

“Nothing: I covered my face with the bedclothes, and turned from her to the wall.”

“That was wrong, Miss Jane.”

“It was quite right, Bessie.  Your Missis has not been my friend: she has been my foe.”

“O Miss Jane! don’t say so!”

“Good-bye to Gateshead!” cried I, as we passed through the hall and went out at the front door.

The moon was set, and it was very dark; Bessie carried a lantern, whose light glanced on wet steps and gravel road sodden by a recent thaw.  Raw and chill was the winter morning: my teeth chattered as I hastened down the drive.  There was a light in the porter’s lodge: when we reached it, we found the porter’s wife just kindling her fire: my trunk, which had been carried down the evening before, stood corded at the door.  It wanted but a few minutes of six, and shortly after that hour had struck, the distant roll of wheels announced the coming coach; I went to the door and watched its lamps approach rapidly through the gloom.

“Is she going by herself?” asked the porter’s wife.


“And how far is it?”

“Fifty miles.”h

“What a long way!  I wonder Mrs. Reed is not afraid to trust her so far alone.”

The coach drew up; there it was at the gates with its four horses and its top laden with passengers: the guard and coachman loudly urged haste; my trunk was hoisted up; I was taken from Bessie’s neck, to which I clung with kisses.

“Be sure and take good care of her,” cried she to the guard, as he lifted me into the inside.

“Ay, ay!” was the answer: the door was slapped to, a voice exclaimed “All right,” and on we drove.  Thus was I severed from Bessie and Gateshead; thus whirled away to unknown, and, as I then deemed, remote and mysterious regions.

X [h] Five o’clock had hardly struck on the morning…

Daily Life

Assuming Gateshead Hall is approximately the latitude of York, sunrise on January 19th would occur at about 8:07 and sunset barely 8 hours later at 4:22. Average temperatures in York for January are from the mid-30s to the mid-40s, though the early 19th c. experienced some more extreme cold.

X [w] pelisse

Daily Life

 "A woman's long cloak, with armhole slits and a shoulder cape or hood, often made of a rich fabric; (later also) a long fitted coat of similar style" (OED).. 


X [h] “Fifty miles.”


The coach could travel some 6-8mph over roads that in earlier 19th-c. England were often poor, especially in winter. There also had to be stops to change horses and to allow the passengers out.