The next day they went to the Pensionnat Heger. Charlotte could not know when she entered it how profoundly her stay in this strange new place was to change her life.
The school was on the Rue d'Isabelle in a quarter close to the central park and near the grandeur of Rue Royale with its stately 18th century houses.
The street itself had a curiously sunken appearance, towered over on all sides by high buildings, with the old city wall alongside much of it.
On the ‘higher’ level lay the spacious aristocratic quarters with fine buildings, the beautiful Parc and the Palace Royale,
the grand residence of the Belgian monarch, king Leopold I. These places were only a stone's throw away from the Pensionnat.
Descending to the ‘lower’ level, the city centre, you found yourself in the busy commercial area and the higgledy-piggledy streets dating back to medieval times. In the mid 19th century these little back streets had become a dirty and overcrowded slum area.
To reach the Pensionnat, below the Rue Royale, you went down a steep flight of steps. Standing at the top of the stairs by the statue of General Belliard, you could look down on the chimneys of the Rue d’Isabelle below and the old city beyond.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs one had only to cross the street to reach the school. It had been built forty years earlier and was a plain white building two storeys high, long and low with a row of large windows on each floor.
In the Pensionnat Charlotte and Emily were taught by the charismatic and inspiring Constantin Heger, whose wife owned the school. He recognised their literary talents and gave them encouragement and guidance in honing their writing skills. In Charlotte's case his legacy was still more profound, since she fell in love with her teacher.