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The older Jane narrating the novel breaks in, explaining that she’s going to skip eight years ahead in the story. First, she fills us in on a few details of what’s happened at Lowood in the meantime:
Many girls died of typhus at the school, and the outbreak put the school in the public eye, so Mr. Brocklehurst’s cruelty and neglect as an inspector became known. Other people who had both money and compassion got involved, built a new school building in a better place, and passed new regulations to make the school more humane.
Mr. Brocklehurst is still treasurer, but there are other people looking over his shoulder now to make sure the girls have enough to eat and nobody cuts their hair off for them or anything weird and cruel like that.
Jane is a student at the school for six more years and then becomes a teacher there for two years.
At this point, Miss Temple, who has been Jane’s mentor and inspiration and all that jazz, gets married and leaves the school.
Jane realizes that, without Miss Temple, she’s not content to stay at Lowood anymore—she wants to get out in the world and have adventures. She looks out her window at the road to the school and realizes she hasn’t traveled away from the school on that road at all since she arrived there eight years ago. Even if her new adventure is just a new lowly position somewhere else, she wants to get away.
Jane’s longing for freedom is interrupted by her teaching duties. Finally, after her teacher-roommate Miss Gryce falls asleep that night, she can start thinking again about how to leave Lowood.
Jane decides to advertise herself in the regional newspaper as an available tutor or governess. She posts the ad without telling anyone at Lowood what she’s doing.
A week later, Jane goes into town to see if any letters came in response to her ad; everyone at Lowood thinks she’s going "to get measured for a pair of shoes" (1.10.26). There is one letter, but she has to wait for that evening, after everyone is asleep, to read it.
Jane is satisfied with the situation offered by the letter, which is a post as governess to a little girl less than ten years old. The salary is double what she makes at Lowood. She’s also glad that the letter writer is an older woman, a Mrs. Fairfax, and she imagines Mrs. Fairfax as an elderly widow with one daughter at her home—Thornfield.
Jane tells the current superintendent of the school about her new job and asks her to be the one to tell Mr. Brocklehurst so that she doesn’t have to talk to him herself. He insists on writing to Mrs. Reed, but she doesn’t care at all and says Jane can do whatever she wants.
Jane gets everything prepared over the next two weeks. As she is waiting for the carriage to come to take her on the first part of her journey to Thornfield, someone comes to see her: Bessie!
Bessie tells Jane all the news about Gateshead. Bessie and Robert Leaven, the coachman, are married, and Bessie has a three-year-old boy, who is with her on the visit to see Jane. Georgiana Reed is curvy, stout, and pretty, and tried to elope with a lord. Eliza Reed is tall, thin, and jealous of her sister’s romance. John has flunked out of college, failed to become a barrister, and is generally a good-for-nothing, spending his mom’s money. Mrs. Reed is upset about John’s conduct.
Bessie exults over Jane’s achievements at school—her piano playing, painting, French, and sewing are far superior to the Reed girls’ abilities. Even so, Bessie is honest with Jane about her looks—she is "no beauty" but she does "look like a lady" (1.10.64).
Bessie also tells Jane that one of her relatives, possibly her uncle, came to Gateshead to see her seven years ago, but had to leave for Madeira before he could go to Lowood to see her. They speculate that he may be a wine merchant or employed by one.
Bessie leaves to go back to Gateshead, and Jane leaves for Thornfield.