Scattered Roses

Chapter 4

Her pupil, Rose discovered as they entered the library, was an exquisitely dressed child with hair of dark gold and dark brown eyes. She was talking animatedly to whom Rose assumed was her bonne, a girl who seemed to be about her own age.

"Good morning, Adele," Mrs Fairfax said with a smile. "Come and greet the lady who is to teach you, and to make you a clever woman of you some day." The little girl approached, eyeing the pair the entire time.

"C'est le ma gouverante!" she said, pointing to a startled Rose, and addressing her nurse; who answered -

"Mais oui, certainement."

"Did I mention she's French?" Mrs Fairfax muttered. Rose couldn't help rolling her eyes at that statement.

"I've noticed."

"The nurse is also French," she continued, not noticing another eyeroll, "Adele, I believe, never left France until six months ago. When she first came here she could speak no English; now she can talk it a little: I don't understand her, but you will make out her meaning, I dare say."

Rose had had the advantage of being taught French by a French lady; and as she had been taught the language almost every day in the last ten years, she had become accustomed to the ebb and flow of the language and was able to hold her own quite easily, and therefore not likely to be much at a loss with Adele. She shook hands with the little girl, and as they followed Mrs Fairfax in to breakfast, she asked her some simple questions in her own language;, how old she was, her favourite pastimes, and so on. Adele replied briefly at first, but after we were seated at the table, and she had examined her for ten minutes with her large hazel eyes, the walls of her reservation came tumbling down.

"Sophie has been crying because no one understands us," Adele chattered, as Rose buttered some toast for herself.

"Mademoiselle!" her maid whispered, mortified. Her young charge looked slightly abashed.

"Nobody can speak to us except for Mr Rochester and he has gone away," she amended. "And Mademoiselle - what is your name?"

"Eyre. Jane Eyre."

"Aire?"

Rose concealed a smile. "Almost."

"Can you understand her when she runs on so fast?" Mrs. Fairfax asked in surprise.

"Oh yes," she said demurely, taking a sip of her tea. "I understand her as well as I understand you, Mrs Fairfax."

"Would you ask her about her parents?" Mrs Fairfax asked as she poured herself another cup. "Mr Rochester's neglected to tell me anything about her."

"Adele, where did you live before you came to Thornfield?" Rose asked, curious to know the answer herself.

"With Maman...but she has gone to the Holy Virgin now," the child responded quietly. Rose bit her lip and turned to Mrs Fairfax.

"Her mother has passed away."

Mrs Fairfax murmured sympathetically.

"Maman used to teach me to dance and say verses," the child continued. "When gentlemen came to see her I used to dance for them or sit on their knees and sing. May I sing for you now?"

"That would be lovely, Adele," Rose said with a small smile, turning to mutter a quick, "Adele wishes to show us her accomplishments." to Mrs Fairfax.

Adele had finished her breakfast, so she came and placed herself on Rose's knee (much to the governess' astonishment) then, folded her hands, shook back her curls and began to sing. The song was, in essence, about a lady whose lover has betrayed her and who attends a ball decked in her finest to show him that he means nothing to her. It was an odd song for a child to sing, but Adele sang it well enough and didn't seem to completely understand the lyrics. Once she had finished her song, she then rushed into La Ligue des Rats: fable de La Fontaine. She recited the piece with great attention to her punctuation and emphasis, her voice had great flexibility, and any gestures used were appropriate for the piece.

"That was charming, Adele," Rose praised, "Your mother taught you very well."

She preened at the obvious praise, and after breakfast, Mrs. Fairfax led them to the library, which was to serve as the schoolroom. It had been furnished with a pianoforte, an easel for painting, two globes, and an entire bookcase positively groaning with books; most of them were for study, but there was at least one bookshelf with literature, poetry, biography, travels, romances - in short, something to occupy Rose in the evenings. After testing Adele on her knowledge, she had a starting point to work from, and the morning passed quickly. Adele was quiet, but prone to daydreaming; something that would be remedied when she started learning the piano and to paint, Rose guessed. She seemed to prefer the arts to the sciences.

After a few days passed, they settled into a routine of beginning lessons after breakfast and finishing before lunch. Rose was honestly shocked to discover that it had been nearly a month since she'd arrived in Thornfield. As she went upstairs after lunch one day, Mrs Fairfax called her into a room. It was a large, stately apartment, with rich purple chairs and matching curtains, a Turkish carpet, walnut-panelled walls, one vast window rich in slanted glass, and a lofty ceiling. Mrs. Fairfax was dusting some vases which stood on a sideboard.

"What a beautiful room," Rose said thoughtfully, looking around. "I don't know how I've missed this."

"This is the main dining-room, my dear," Mrs Fairfax explained. "I've just opened the window, to let in a little air. Everything gets so damp in rooms that are seldom lived-in; the drawing-room is ice-cold."

She pointed to a wide arch near the window, which was hung with an interestingly-dyed curtain, looped to one side. Climbing up the two stone steps, and peeping in, Rose sighed dreamily. The drawing room (and indeed, the boudoir beyond) were both spread with rich carpets patterned with brilliant garlands of flowers; the ceilings decorated with carved white grapes and vine-leaves, which glowed in rich contrast to the crimson couches and ottomans. The ornaments on the pale Parisian mantelpiece were made of glittering Bohemian glass in ruby red; and between the windows, large mirrors repeated the general blending of snow and fire.

"These rooms are kept in impeccable condition, Mrs. Fairfax," Rose called over her shoulder. "Not a spot of dust or a single canvas sheet. I'd almost think that the room was used daily except for the slight chill."

"Why thank you, Miss Eyre," the old dame called back. A thought struck Rose, and she turned to look at Mrs Fairfax.

"If the master of the house isn't here, why keep the rooms ready?"

"Oh, Mr. Rochester's visits are rare, but we are never forewarned. I thought it best to keep the rooms in readiness."

"What is he like?" Rose asked, her curiosity piqued.

"He's well-liked; the family has always been respected here. He has a gentleman's tastes and habits, and is considered to be a just landlord to his tenants, though he does not go among them as much as they would like."

"But what of his character?"

"He is rather peculiar, I think: he has travelled a great deal, and seen a great deal of the world. I dare say he is clever, but I never had much conversation with him."

"How is he peculiar, Mrs Fairfax?" she persisted. The dame looked unsure of how to reply.

"Well, when he speaks to you, you cannot be always sure whether he is in jest or earnest, whether he is pleased or the contrary."

After that rather vague statement, Mrs Fairfax led Rose from the dining-room and brought her on a proper tour of the house. Like a duckling following its mother, Rose trailed after her obediently, admiring as she went. The entire house was beautifully arranged, and the large chambers at the front were especially beautiful. Furniture that had once been place downstairs had been moved as the years had gone by and the fashions changed. The dim light filtering through the windows showed bedsteads a hundred years old, chests in oak or walnut, exotic with their strange carvings of palm branches and cherubs' heads; rows of venerable chairs, high-backed and narrow; antique stools with traces of beautiful embroidery on the cushion tops that had been stitched by fingers decades ago. The whole floor had a stilling feel, as though they were in a shrine of some sort. Or a tomb, Rose thought wryly.

"Do the servants sleep here?" Rose asked, her voice sounding unnaturally loud.

"No, no one ever sleeps here," Mrs Fairfax said shaking her head. "Do you know, one would almost say that, if there were a ghost at Thornfield Hall, that this would be its haunt?"

"Really?" Rose laughed. "Is there a ghost, then?"

"Not that I know of," Mrs. Fairfax responded, smiling. "Come, my dear."

As they re-traced their steps down the corridor, a laugh echoed around them. It was a strange laugh; noticeable, loud, but completely without cheer. They both halted, and the laugh faded away, before it began again, and much louder then the first time. It bounced off of the walls and made Rose feel extremely edgy.

"Mrs. Fairfax," Rose whispered, pressing her hands together in the folds of her skirt. "What on earth was that?"

"One of the servants, very likely," she answered, cool as a cucumber. "Perhaps Grace Poole."

"Grace Poole? Does she often laugh like that?" Rose said, disbelievingly.

"Oh yes. She does sewing in one of the rooms. Sometimes Leah joins her, and they can get very noisy. Grace!"

A door set into a curved part of the wall near them opened, and a servant came out. She was rather plain and hard-faced, her grey hair hanging in tendrils out from under her cap. Rose nearly snorted at calling this stranger plain. She was hardly an English Rose herself.

"Too much noise, Grace," Mrs. Fairfax said firmly. "Remember instructions."

Grace gave the most half-hearted curtsy Rose had ever seen, and slunk back into the room, leaving Mrs Fairfax to usher a most curious Rose away.

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