"...for her complaint was consumption..." (pg. 79)
Consumption is actually the disease known as tuberculosis. Tuberculosis used to be a death sentence, but now TB can be treated with simple antibiotics. Tuberculosis is a disease that most commonly affects the lungs but can affect any organ in the body. Consumption was a common disease during Bronte's time and took a very long time to take its toll on the body. Helen's quiet suffering from TB highlights her martyr-like characterization. Helen would have had a perfectly good reason to be more of a whiny or less honorable girl, but instead she ignores her sickness and does her best to do what she feels is right in the eyes of her elders and God.