I stood lonely enough; but to that feeling of isolation I was accustomed; it did not oppress me much. I leaned against a pillar of the verandah, drew my gray mantle close about me, and trying to forget the cold which nipped me without, and the unsatisfied hunger which gnawed me within, delivered myself up to the employment of watching and thinking…Gateshead and my past life seemed floated away to an immeasurable distance; the present was vague and strange, and of the future I could form no conjecture.
“My dear children…this is a sad, a melancholy occasion; for it becomes my duty to warn you that this girl, who might be one of God’s own lambs, is a little cast-away…You must be on your guard against her; you must shun her example; if necessary, avoid her company, exclude her from your sports, and shut her from your converse. Teachers, you must watch her; keep your eyes on her movements, weigh well her words, scrutinize her actions, punish her body to save the soul; if, indeed, such salvation be possible, for… this girl is—a liar!”
There I was, then, mounted aloft; I, who had said I could not bear the shame of standing on my natural feet in the middle of the room, was now exposed to general view on a pedestal of infamy. What my sensations were, no language can describe; but just as they all rose, stifling my breath and constricting my throat, a girl came up and passed me; in passing, she lifted her eyes. What a strange light inspired them! What an extraordinary sensation that ray sent through me! How the new feeling bore me up!
No explanation was afforded then to my many questions; but a day or two afterward I learned that Miss Temple, on returning to her own room at dawn, had found me laid in the little crib; my face against Helen Burns’ shoulder, my arms round her neck. I was asleep, and Helen was—dead.
My world had for some years been in Lowood; my experience had been of its rules and systems; now I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go forth into its expanse to seek real knowledge of life amid its perils….I tired of the routine of eight years in one afternoon. I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the wind then faintly blowing.