Thursday, June 6, 2013
ANNE EYRE (House Guests: chapter Ten) #Jane Eyre Retelling
That afternoon, after Sophie had finished her riding lesson, we raced each other up to the main house. Mrs Fairfax came walking out of the entrance hall, waving a note.
‘I just received a message, Anne. The house is going to be a bit chaotic for the next few days. Mr Rochester is preparing to leave soon and when he returns he’s bringing a party of guests back with him, friends and a family from the neighbouring properties, who are visiting. It’s traditional to be welcoming out here in the country Anne. You and Sophie will be expected to attend dinner every evening. He’s bringing his girlfriend, Nicola Ingram, back with him.’
My face froze.
I wasn’t aware he had a girlfriend though I suppose it was not really any of my business. The previous evening we’d spent together as friends more than employer and employee. I’d just assumed, like me, he was alone in the world apart from casual acquaintances. Though he had Sophie and the monetary advantages his inheritance had given him, he had no close relatives. But of course, his extreme wealth and his noble lineage really meant he was nothing like me, apart from a shared experience we’d both felt, a common bond of childhood neglect.
The next morning over breakfast Mrs Fairfax tried to warn me.
‘This is a strange place for a young girl Anne; not much to do apart from looking after Sophie and once the house guests arrive, well, it becomes more like a hotel with, let’s just say, rambunctious guests.’
‘You forget, I used to live with wild kids in foster homes before my expensive schooling. I am happy here Mrs Fairfax, perhaps for the first time. This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited or lived in.’
‘Just be careful Anne. You know little of the real world or of men like Rochester.’
‘I suppose you must think I’m very naïve for an eighteen-year-old from London but I’ve been shut up in a girls’ school for the past few years and there was no topic off limits and no cruelty other girls wouldn’t stoop to in order to rise to the top, so to speak. There is a kind of serenity to my days here, something missing that I longed for. Sometimes, my judgments are flawed. Perhaps I have been harsh in my assessments of people. You have all been so kind to me here in a way I was not used to, and I have learnt to take things at face value and not look for the bad in the good.’
Mrs Fairfax smiled.
‘Just be careful, Anne, like I said. And remember, sometimes when we are young, we have the most clarity.’
I wasn’t sure what she meant.
That afternoon when we were playing with Sophie’s doll family and her house in the school room, Sophie started telling me about a dark-haired lady that roamed the halls at night. In the weeks I’d been with her, Sophie had literally started talking to me almost totally in English.
‘I saw her once, well, heard her. She was singing a song in French and I understood all the words. She wore a full length dress and had wild hair. The maid, Leah, told me there are strange creatures upstairs who only come out when we are asleep and if you see them they reach for you and squeeze you and make you scream until you beg them to stop!’
Suddenly Sophie, who was always demonstrative with people she liked, wrapped her arms around me and squealed.
‘Shh, Sophie. What have I told you about shrieking? You’ll frighten the entire house.’
‘Well, it’s a scary story. And anyway, she’s not a ghost, this lady, she’s a creature with fangs and once she bites you, she goes crazy from the blood and yells the place down.’
‘Utter nonsense,’ I said as Sophie tried to tickle me, quite successfully I might add.
Sophie was laughing by then and winding herself around me until we both ended up in a bunch on the floor and Mrs Fairfax came hurrying in with tea.
Sophie had a note she pulled out from her jean’s pocket.
‘Oh, I nearly forgot,’ Sophie said, ‘it’s from my riding instructor. I said you were eighteen and single. He wants to meet you.’
I laughed at Sophie playing matchmaker. I wanted to see in myself what others might see – a person worthy of friendship and love, as we all are. But something, or someone, held me back from responding to the note – just a few words of friendship offering a riding lesson saying, ‘you must be a very special person for Sophie to think so highly of you.’
It was sweet and funny and I said we could invite him to have lunch with us one day after lessons in the meadow. I hadn’t agreed to the riding lesson since I was slightly afraid of horses and getting too used to living at Thornton.
Already, I was intrigued, attracted, possibly enraptured by Nathanial Rochester; but I would never let him know that. There was no way he could possibly return my feelings and I wanted to save myself the embarrassment of sharing them.