Your mind passes over the intervening years since your truest friend left you behind. In fact, eight years have passed, and you are now a teacher at Lowood.
Over the years, you have written many times to Helen. Her father reluctantly accepted his daughter’s return, and after Helen’s recovery, you entertained the hope that she would come back to Lowood. But her father decided instead to send her to a more expensive school closer to home.
Helen was always an indifferent writer - at school she was often too distracted by a book to realize how much time had passed. And when presented with a task, it was hard for her to see it through. Her letters to you were frequent in the beginning, but with a new life, and a new school, her letters started to dwindle. But even your own life starts to revolve more around your studies and your duties at Lowood.
Mr. Brocklehurst still managed the inmates of Lowood with a heavy hand, but Miss Temple undertook to gradually adjust his mindset. When a few girls fell ill from typhus, Miss Temple showed Mr. Brocklehurst the result of his program of poor nutrition and inadequate clothing and accommodations. Somehow conditions at Lowood improved, and with the influence of his more benevolently minded daughters, the school became a truly useful institution. Your next six years as a pupil at the school was not quite the challenge it had once been.
After your six years, Mr. Brocklehurst and Miss Temple were so impressed by your progress that they ask you to remain as a teacher. You discharge that duty for two more years until an event occurs that alters you.
Through Miss Temple, you owe the best part of your acquirements; her friendship and society have been a solace to you. At this time, however, she marries (an excellent man, almost worthy of such a wife) and all of Lowood takes a holiday to celebrate the former Miss Temple’s good fortune.
A servant meets you in the hallway as you are preparing for the festivities.
“Miss, a person below wishes to see you,”
Thinking it is some caterer needing more instruction, you hurry down to put things to right.
As you enter the back-parlor, a woman rises with a wide smile on her face. She is very like someone you once knew. She is very like… Helen Burns.
“Oh Helen, you came! Why did you not write that you were coming to visit?”
“My dear friend! I did write, at least, I think I did, perhaps I forgot. At any rate, I am here now! You’ve not grown so very tall, but I think I could recognize you anywhere. There is still that peculiar brightness and fervor to your manner, I am glad to see.”
You sit down with Helen on the settee. “Well, you have grown very tall but you still have that same elegant and serene air. I have missed you so much Helen, but you must be happy.”
“I am well and happy to see you are settled at Lowood. When I heard you became a teacher, I was quite proud of you.”
You converse with Helen for an hour longer, before you rush to your room to prepare for the ceremony.
Afterward, you spend as much time with Helen as you can before her early departure the next morning. She is going on to visit some family in the area before returning home. Her father managed to secure her a marriage to a rich landowner in Northumberland, and this would be her last outing as an unmarried woman. The wedding will be small, and despite Helen’s plea for you to visit her, you must demure. You haven’t an escort or the money to make the journey, and the school would never give you leave on such short notice.
With Helen and Miss Temple’s departure, every settled feeling, every association that made Lowood a home to you disappears. And yet you are a respected member of the institution and know you can continue to do good for the girls who are still here. While old emotions for excitement and adventure stir within you, your settled and useful existence at Lowood also beckons you to stay.
That evening, a knock on your bedroom door admits an excitable Miss Miller.
“Oh good, you are still up! I have overheard from the committee this afternoon that they are considering offering you the superintendent position at Lowood! They feel your steadfastness and attention to detail may enhance the institution. Isn’t that wonderful?”
“Surely, I am too young for such a position. You, for instance…”
“Oh no, I could never be superintendent. I have not the constitution for it I fear. The older matrons may not be pleased with your appointment, but I feel you would do us all an enormous amount of good. I thought I should tell you, so you can prepare for the proposal. It is unusual for someone so young to be offered the position, but I know that you are well-regarded among everyone here.”
Overwhelmed, you murmur, “Thank you,” as you close the door on Miss Miller’s retreating back.
Sinking into the seat by your bed, you consider your options.
To stay at Lowood and become superintendent, go to THIRTEEN
To look for a job elsewhere, go to FOURTEEN