Disclaimer: Most unfortunately these characters do not belong to me

Ch 1 :The Innkeeper's Tale

It was a fine evening and Mr. Bates had just returned from Thornfield where he had gone to visit his new neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Rochester. They were an attractively mysterious couple and he wished to know more about them. He stopped at the George's inn on his way home and while the inn keeper brought him some tea he said:

"Sir would you sit with me for some time?"

"yes, of course."

"I presume you know Mr. and Mrs. Rochester?"

"Yes sir, I used to work for Mr. Rochester's father."

"Did you? Well, may be then you could give me some information?"

'Any thing, sir."

"I mean about the present couple. They seem to be a queer pairing!"

"Theirs is a long tale, sir."

"No matter, I like long tales."

"Then I'll start from the very beginning. Well after the old Mr. Rochester died, Mr. Rowland dismissed me. (It was then that I opened this inn.)I was really upset to leave Thornfield where I had lived for so long. I never liked Mr. Rowland much. Even as children, Mr. Edward was more of a gentleman than his brother was although Mr. Rowland set their father against his younger son whom after his departure for America (so I was told) I didn't see after 4 years when Mr. Rowland died.

From what I heard from the servants Mr. Edward had become a surly man and was not as lively as he used to be. They said that he had brought with him a servant; a Mrs. Poole who they said received more salary than any other at the Hall. She was our constant customer usually for buying gin. I saw that she was a reserved person and never talked much so I never ventured to ask her anything.

Mr. Edward, I heard left England after two weeks and rarely visited Thornfield although whenever he stayed, it was for utmost a fortnight, hardly even that much. On one of the last days of December Mrs. Fairfax, the old house keeper sent Leah and John, the footman, to buy a huge list of so many things, Leah who was a friend of my wife told us that Mr. Rochester had given a splendid Christmas party and had invited a great many ladies and gentlemen of rank. When the party was over he packed again and left the country. Some years went by and he seldom came to England except for business and left as soon as possible. It went on like this until one day Leah and Grace came to the inn. I heard Leah's conversation with my wife while I was getting another bottle of gin for Grace.

"So, Leah, your master has come back?"

"Yes, but I don't think he'll stay."

"But maybe he would this time. You say he's brought a child with him."

"Yes, she is a little French girl."

"Whose child is it? Certainly not his?"

"I don't know; I don't think so. She doesn't look like him at all. But he has told Mrs. Fairfax to find a governess for her."

"So this means she is to stay at Thornfield?"

"I suppose so."

"Leah!" called Grace from the other side of the room. "Coming" she replied and turning again to my wife said "Lets just hope that she'll stay because the house is too dull with the master always away!"

After they were gone I turned to my wife

"Well, Eliza, what was all that about?"

"Servants gossip of the day. They say the master of Thornfield has returned and brought a little girl with him. Do you think it is his child?"

"No Mr. Edward is too much of a gentleman to have a daughter out side marriage."

"Well" said my wife sarcastically "if its possibility is there it reduces his gentlemanly credit."

"I don't even believe that there is any possibility of it."

"Why do you back him up so much?"

'He is a Goodman"

"No doubt about that; but it doesn't mean that he wouldn't…."

"I think that's enough Elizabeth" I said louder than her to interrupt her saying anything inappropriate in front of children who had just come in.

After some weeks, word reached that he had again left and the Hall was back in routine with the exception of a child and her nurse, both foreign until one night a lady arrived here. My wife's brother was helping us that night as the inn was busy.

He came up to me:

"Jack, a lady here wants to know if there's been anyone waiting for Jane Eyre."

If I knew who that lady was to be I would have certainly gone to see her myself but instead I sent my brother in law to answer her in the negative. After some time John (Thornfield's footman) came.

"Hello John, want a drink?"

"No, thank you."

"Then if you have not come for a drink what have you come for then?"

"The little French girl's governess was to arrive here tonight."

"What's her name?"

"Jane Eyre"

"Oh, she went upstairs. She was waiting here for some time then grew tired and went up. I'll send someone to fetch her."

Some months passed, Mr. Bates, and at intervals I heard from the servants of the Hall that she was doing well. Leah liked her and so did Mrs. Fairfax. Once Mary, John's wife who cooks there, told me that Mrs. Fairfax has grown happier than before ever since Miss Eyre had come.

Then on one cold evening of January, I saw John riding through the night. I stopped him.

"Where are you bound to at this hour?"

"Going to fetch Mr. Carter."

"The physician? Is there something wrong?"

"No, only Mr. Rochester is back and he sprained his ankle in an accident on the road."

As he was in a hurry I didn't delay him. So he was back again! I expected that e would resume his wanderings around the world and as I didn't see the servants of the Hall for sometime I had no idea that Mr. Edward had remained at home for two months until Mrs. Fairfax sent some servants with another of those rare, long lists.

"Leah has Mr. Rochester come home again?"

"Oh, no. He has been staying at Thornfield since he returned last time until a fortnight ago when he went to one of these grand parties exactly the day after the fire."

"The fire? What fire?"

"Oh you didn't know?"

"Know about what?" Asked my wife from the kitchen.

"That Mr. Rochester was almost burnt in his bed."

"Burnt?" We both said in surprise

"Oh, he is alright only the bed and the curtains were damaged."

"What caused the fire?"

"We were told that master was reading in bed and forgot to blow out the candle before he slept but I don't think that's the case."

"Why not?"

"I don't know but I felt that Miss Eyre knew something about that night. I think she was in the master's bedroom during the fire."

"Miss Eyre?"

"She's the governess."

"I know but what would she do in his bedroom? What makes you say such a thing?" said my wife.

"You may think me horrid for this but…um…well, the day when Mr. Rochester left, in the evening, I went to Miss Eyre's room, thinking that she may be there because she had finished with Miss Adele's lessons, to tell her to come down for tea. When after twice knocking she didn't answer, I went inside and found her night gown left on her bed and I saw that it was a little burnt on its lower edges. I think she hadn't noticed it that she didn't mend it."

"Well, there could be other reasons…"

"I don't think so. Anyway she is so close to him, you know."

"Who?" my wife asked

"Obviously, I'm talking about master and Miss Eyre." Leah said impatiently.

"He is always after her. I should be going now or Mrs. Fairfax will get angry. There's a lot of work to be done. Master is going to bring a party of those rich, fashionable people with him and I guess they're going to stay for some time. Goodbye."

She left leaving us musing astounded at what we had heard.

To be continued…