HOW IT ALL BEGAN

There is an old saying about mighty oaks and little acorns—it was from such small beginnings that these events came to pass which I am about to lay before you. Read and reflect upon them, for it is true that the turning in the path of one's life may have come and gone, before one realizes it was there to be chosen—or not...

As a penniless orphan, I was unwelcome in my Aunt's household from the moment I arrived. As long as my maternal Uncle Reed lived, I received decent treatment and protection from the constant jealousy and bullying of my older Cousins. Unfortunately, my Uncle was ill and died within a few years of my joining his family.

When I was ten, I finally rebelled against my ill-treatment, and by way of punishment I was sent to a rather bleak charity school. It was the making of me—I found myself in a completely different sphere where my talents were encouraged and my abilities appreciated. I finished with a first-class certificate and an offer to continue as a teacher. I took the offer, because being only sixteen, and with no home waiting for me, I felt I was not yet ready to face the world. Two years went by: the Headmistress went away to a new role as a gentleman's wife; and I thought it was time for me to consider having a change also.

But, it developed that there was no need for me to seek adventure—a letter came for me from a London Solicitor named Briggs. In this letter he informed me that I had another family on my Father's side; an Uncle, my Father's Brother, who resided in Madeira; as well as a previously unknown set of Cousins, who lived in Yorkshire, the children of my Father's Sister. The eldest of them was a clergyman and there were two younger sisters—they were eager to make my acquaintance and wished to invite me to visit them soon.

I was delighted and wrote to them immediately. They answered my letter by return of post in the most cordial terms and within a few days I was on my way to stay with them. The sisters, Mary and Diana, were all I could have wished for in a family, I felt myself fortunate indeed to find such warm and compatible companionship. The brother was rather austere, but very kind and gentlemanly in his conduct. They were all very well educated—my Cousin, St. John Rivers, had been to Cambridge and his sisters were preparing to become teachers, as they were going to have to earn their livings; since their father's recent death had revealed that the family's fortunes were much depleted, due to losses on past investments.

St. John soon received an offer of a Living in _shire, and Mary and Diana found posts at a school in the market town of B_. I was considering a return to my school, when another letter arrived, this time from St. John; in it he said that he had heard of a post for a governess in his near vicinity and that it might be of interest to me. So, my new-found sisters and I were soon parted: they to B_ and I to the little village of Hay, near Millcote, where St. John was now the Parson.

-xxx-

When I arrived at the George Inn in Millcote, I found my cousin waiting for me with a one-horse gig. I was pleased to see him and thanked him for coming to fetch me. He shrugged off my thanks in his customary undemonstrative way; saw to the loading of my trunk and gave me a hand up. A shake of the reins put us in motion, and we were off for Hay.

"How far is it?" I asked.

"A few miles," was his spare reply.

"What is this position like—how many children are there in the family?"

"There is only one child, a little French girl, about eight years of age."

"A French child—are these people foreign, then?"

"I know nothing about her family—her Guardian owns most of the land around here. His family has resided here for several hundred years."

"When does he wish to speak to me about the position?"

"I have no idea, he is not currently in residence. You are to see the Housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax, tomorrow morning."

We were pulling up at the little Parsonage as he spoke. It was a fairly roomy-looking cottage with, as I later learned, four rooms upstairs; as well as a formal parlor, a dining room, a study/library and a small room suitable for a lady's use; for sewing, letter writing and other household matters. A back passage led to the usual offices necessary to a modern home: kitchen, scullery, larder and stillroom. All was clean and bright and well-appointed. I complimented St. John on his good taste and excellent arrangements. He shrugged and said that Mrs. Fairfax was responsible for most of the good things I saw; as she had lived here in the past and still maintained an interest in the house and its condition.

Hannah, the old servant to the Rivers family, had come South with her young master, and kept house for him. I was glad to see her and bring her up to date on the latest news from Morton.

-xxx-

Mrs. Fairfax, it seemed, was the widow of one of the previous incumbents of Hay; she was also a distant cousin of the Rochester family that owned the property. I met with her the next morning up at the Hall; she received me in her cozy parlor, and offered me a cup of tea; she read my letter of recommendation from Lowood and looked at my certificates, and professed herself to be well-pleased with what she saw.

"My dear, if your French is as good as they say it is, then you should have no difficulty with Adele. Mr. Rochester wishes to send her to school in a year or so—she is still rather young—and of course, she will need to learn English. I think that should be your primary objective with her—that, and certainly the basics of a good English education. The post is yours, if you wish it, thirty pounds per annum, room and board all found, here at the Hall, of course."

I accepted the post, to start immediately. "Thank you, Mrs. Fairfax, I am sure that I will like it here very much. Am I to see my pupil soon?"

"Of course, I believe she is out in the grounds with her nurse, Sophie. Shall we go and find them?"

I looked about me as we went outdoors: the Hall was a rather extensive place; stone-built, three stories high in some parts, battlements along the roofline; added onto over the passage of time in various styles; yet it was all a harmonious picture. I thought it rather romantic in its antiquity; I had seen little of the interior, but that seemed to be richly furnished with beautiful carpets, and fine pieces of furniture, upholstered in brilliant colors and shaded by heavy draperies against the fading of the Sun. There were crystal chandeliers and many pictures in heavy gold frames; also a number of vitrines filled with curios of all sorts. I wondered what treasures I might find in the Library, and promised myself that treat before much time had passed.

A little girl was running along the path, chasing after her shuttlecock when she stopped suddenly upon seeing us. "Alors, ca sera ma gouvernante, je crois. Viens, Sophie!"(1) She came up to us and gave a graceful curtsey.

I greeted her in French, "Mais oui, je m'apelle Jane Eyre, et tu t'apelles Adele, n'est-ce pas?"(2)

"Bien sur, Mademoiselle Aire?-non, c'est autre chose—je ne le peux pas dire! Tant pis!"(3)

"Adele, we will begin again—I understand that you are to learn English—is that not so?"

"Y-y-es Mademoiselle, that is what Monsieur Edouard wants."

"Then," I said firmly, "that is what we will do—you understand?"

A slight pout on her face, she nodded her head.

"Very well," I said, "you may return to your game for now—I will see you tomorrow in the schoolroom after breakfast—understood?"

She ran back to her nurse and Mrs. Fairfax and I returned to the house. She showed me the room I was to have, and I returned to the Parsonage to make arrangements for my transfer to Thornfield. St. John was in his study when I walked in the door. He called out to me before I could go upstairs. "Well, will it suit you—this position?"

"I have accepted it. It pays twice what I was receiving at Lowood and I do not believe I will have much difficulty teaching the child."

"Excellent, when are you to start?"

"I begin tomorrow—now I must make arrangements for my trunk to go up to the Hall."

"You are to live there? I had not thought..."

"It seems to be expected—Mrs. Fairfax has already shown me the room I am to have."

"I am not sure if it is wise—well, no matter—just be sure to secure your door at night."

"What are you talking about?"

"Nothing, just a piece of gossip I overheard, just do as I ask, please." He seemed a bit uneasy, but I could get nothing more out of him.

-xxx-

The next morning found me at my desk in the schoolroom at Thornfield. Adele was attentive and reasonably well-behaved. She gave me very little difficulty after the first few days. As time went by, she began to do well in her studies, and I was certain that my employer would be pleased with her progress.

(1) "Now, that will be my governess, I believe. Come, Sophie!"

"Yes, of course, my name is Jane Eyre and you are called Adele, is that not so?"

"Certainly, Miss Aire?-no that's not it—I cannot say it! Too bad!"