“Do you like the teachers?”
“Do you like the little black one, and the Madame -? — I cannot pronounce her name as you do.”
“Miss Scatcherd is hasty — you must take care not to offend her; Madame Pierrot is not a bad sort of person.”
“But Miss Temple is the best — isn’t she?”
“Miss Temple is very good and very clever; she is above the rest, because she knows far more than they do.”
“Have you been long here?”
“Are you an orphan?”
“My mother is dead.”
“Are you happy here?”
“You ask rather too many questions. I have given you answers enough for the present: now I want to read.”
But at that moment the summons sounded for dinner; all re-entered the house. The odour which now filled the refectory was scarcely more appetising than that which had regaled our nostrils at breakfast: the dinner was served in two huge tin-plated vessels, whence rose a strong steam redolent of rancid fat. I found the mess to consist of indifferent potatoes and strange shreds of rusty meat, mixed and cooked together. Of this preparation a tolerably abundant plateful was apportioned to each pupil. I ate what I could, and wondered within myself whether every day’s fare would be like this.
After dinner, we immediately adjourned to the schoolroom: lessons recommenced, and were continued till five o’clock.
The only marked event of the afternoon was, that I saw the girl with whom I had conversed in the verandah dismissed in disgrace by Miss Scatcherd from a history class, and sent to stand in the middle of the large schoolroom. The punishment seemed to me in a high degree ignominious, especially for so great a girl — she looked thirteen or upwards. I expected she would show signs of great distress and shame; but to my surprise she neither wept nor blushed: composed, though grave, she stood, the central mark of all eyes. “How can she bear it so quietly — so firmly?” I asked of myself. “Were I in her place, it seems to me I should wish the earth to open and swallow me up. She looks as if she were thinking of something beyond her punishment — beyond her situation: of something not round her nor before her. I have heard of day-dreams — is she in a day-dream now? Her eyes are fixed on the floor, but I am sure they do not see it — her sight seems turned in, gone down into her heart: she is looking at what she can remember, I believe; not at what is really present. I wonder what sort of a girl she is — whether good or naughty.”
Soon after five p.m. we had another meal, consisting of a small mug of coffee, and half-a-slice of brown bread. I devoured my bread and drank my coffee with relish; but I should have been glad of as much more — I was still hungry. Half-an-hour’s recreation succeeded, then study; then the glass of water and the piece of oat-cake, prayers, and bed. Such was my first day at Lowood.