Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by Lillian Kanouche
“What are you doing on my land?” He barked furiously. She dropped the flowers in her hand and looked up very surprised. And scared. She had no idea whose land it was. The earth was God’s and all land thereof…It’s not like she was stealing, she was just picking pretty flowers. Besides there were zillions of them. She’d found herself on a field a few miles from home. It was too pretty to continue walking so she sat and enjoyed the sun and beautiful flowers.
“Miss are you aware whose land this is?” The man was very angry for sure. She was in trouble this time.
“It belongs to God.” she answered as she stood up. His eyes became dark.
“And did He give you permission to come here?”
“Yes I should think.”
“Young lady, do you know who you are talking to?”
“A very angry man!”
He looked at her. And she looked back at him with a look trying so hard to look like defiance itself. Try as hard as she could, her sweet face could not muster up the mean look she was trying hard to give. Gee. Would anyone ever take her seriously? She had one innocent, sweet and somewhat saintly face. And he was looking at her like an ant. Humph! Ant indeed, wait until she bit him! Then he will respect ants!
“What is your name?” he spat.
“What is yours?” she replied with the same measure of ire and determination. Who did he think he was? This giant. He looked massive and the fact that he was on a horse didn’t help.
Her attempt to be rude and rough was comical. She was too sweet to pull off any stunt of the sort. He, in fact, was finding it so hard to stay mad. It took all the effort to muster up a nasty face to a fairy as she. Her hand was shaking miserably, one flower had already fallen out of her shaking grasp and she looked like fainting was an option.
“Trespassing is an offence, young lady. If you don’t leave this instance you will sleep in jail.” Poor girl, all the flowers were now on the ground beside her. He doubted she even noticed. She was trying hard to look brave.
“Where’s home?” He was more gentle. The creature looked fragile.
“Near the church.” Her voice was small and shaky. “I’ll leave now.” She spoke as she woodenly moved towards the direction she thought that was home. Even if she owned the whole world plus the sun, she wouldn’t be half as mean.
She walked towards the wrong direction. The hills could do that to someone, confuse their sense of direction. A few metres far off he called, “Where you going?” she didn’t turn. She just kept walking. Slowly at first, then hurriedly. And when she got the strength she started running. She wanted to be as far as possible from the cruel man. Few minutes later she heard a horse behind her. She tried running faster. What did the man want? As she looked back to confirm it was him, she tripped and fell. She was scared to death. The horse stopped behind her, and before she could do anything, she felt strong hands lifting her off the ground, and mounting her on the horse. Then the mean giant joined her on the horse. He was behind her. She was shaking so hard. He reached out put his arms around her and held her hands as if drawing her to him. She felt small. “Shhhh,” Mr. Mean spoke.
“I may act unkind but I don’t eat people. “
“Then you eat horses?”
He laughed hard. Of all things he didn’t expect the elf say something of the sort at such a time. He could like the small creature. If he had the time.
“Where are you taking me?” she asked and it came of barely as a whisper.
“Home?” she was starting to sound frantic. As far as she knew she’d been going home before the giant grabbed her, and the direction he was taking was totally opposite.
“Which home?” she asked louder. “Are you kidnapping me?” she turned to look at him, her eyes wide as onions. She was getting scared again, the poor child.
Her voice was shaky. She was shaking hard. She then started crying. He could tell from the way her shoulders were shaking.
“Hey. shhh. Look.” He was rubbing her back. If she wasn’t upset, that hand that was rubbing her back would have been broken by the lethal bite of her mouth. She appreciated the gesture though. He could be part human after all. But not full.
She looked up to see the church. Home was a few steps away. She was so relieved she almost jumped off the horse literally… actually she did. She tried to get off the horse before it stopped. But he held her back.
“Calm down for a few more seconds, will you?” With that he slowed down the horse got off, and carried her down ever so gently. Strange beings surely lived on earth. Now she was certain of it.
When her feet were finally on the ground she didn’t know what to do. He had been terrible most of the way, but saintly on some turns. To say thank you was impossible. What he had put her through was mean, even God would understand. To be mean to him now that she was practically home and in the midst of people, well, wasn’t her at all. So she just ran off without a word or even looking back.
As he climbed his horse he realized, he’d just met one of the prettiest ladies in his county. Actually she was the prettiest. Okay, he wasn’t sure he had seen ladies in his county. He hardly ever paid attention anymore. They were all the same. And he’d had enough of them to know how vain they were.
“Mary?” “Who owns that land near the river, the one with many blue flowers?” Jane asked nonchalantly.
“Well I believe the owner, Mr. Rochester has not been around for some time. However his distant relative, Mrs Fairfax has been looking after the property”
“Where did he go?”
“I don’t know Jane. Did you want to buy the land?”
“Off course not Mary. Just curious.”
“Well, you and your curiosity should be washing the dishes before supper is ready.”
Humph. Clearly she would have to get her information from someone else. Mary could be difficult to talk to sometimes. She may as well forget about the land and the man. Oh, but how could she forget the one person who brought the definition of meanness to life?
Having been an orphan and rejected by her only living relations, Jane hadn’t sought to go back ‘home’. She instead had taught at Lowood School and after that sent applications for position of a teacher elsewhere. She had enjoyed living here; the people were friendly, the students adorable and there was a sense of peace here. The moment she walked into this county she knew, she had found home. She lived with Mary a middle aged widow from church who had taken her in. Her life though not with much excitement, was peaceful and happy. And that, she was more than glad to have.
With school having closed, she had had enough time to walk, paint and admire the country. There were parts of the village she had never been to. And curiosity had led her into the mean man’s land. Goodness, some people should live on the moon. Away from everybody. Even animals.
She really needed something to do. School wouldn’t open in four weeks. Sure enough she had her painting but, she felt that was too much time. Hence when the advertisement for a tutor came to her notice, she quickly applied. An interview was to be held the next day in the town hall. Well, she wasn’t really desperate but it would be a distraction from how twenty four hours on some days could may as well be twenty four days.
She was sure she was early. And surprised to find her student, Adele outside the hall all playing with a dog all alone.
“Hey sweetheart, you are here all alone?”
“Miss Jane!” she ran and hugged her favourite teacher. “You have come for the interview?”
“Well, come in.” she said as she took her hand and half dragged her in. She walked in to find the mean giant sitting reading a book. If it were not for Adele holding her hand she would have ran out and left without turning back. The creature had a child!
“Mr. Rochester. My teacher has come for the interview!” piped Adele rather excited. Mr. Rochester looked up from his book and looked at her rather stiffly at first. She prayed she might fail the interview. ‘God I have never asked for failure, so please grant me total failure in this interview today.’
“Eyre. Jane Eyre sir.”
“Adele is your student?”
“Yes sir.” He looked at her a little while longer and said “You have the job. You start tomorrow at 8am”
She looked horrified. Wait a minute, he’d seen those big eyes before. Off course! The girl picking flowers a fortnight ago. How tiny and fragile she looked. He must have really overdone it. What had he been doing shouting at a pretty thing like this? She looked like she was about to say something, perhaps decline the job offer. She however after looking down at Adele, and stroking her hair ever so gently said “Yes sir. Thank you” and left without saying another word.
His heart swelled. How could she say no to her Adele? It is not like their paths would cross while she taught Adele. Truth be told it took a lot of effort not to do exactly that. He was curious about her. It had been long since anyone caused such a stirring in him. She was sweet, innocent, patient, soft spoken and beautiful. In his age he’d been convinced that such ladies had been extinct. He had insisted that they have lunch together every day. Adele, he, Mrs. Rochester and Jane. He really just wanted to be close to her. He could tell she was afraid of him. During the first week of tutoring she was conscious when he was around. And hardly said much. But after two weeks she relaxed abit. She however still didn’t say much. Mostly answered questions briefly only when asked. He went out of his way to be kind to her. He enjoyed it. When she smiled it was the best reward he could ask for.
Two weeks into the tutoring he asked her to accompany him on a walk. She was not too comfortable with it. But she had realised Mr. Rochester was not all that mean. In fact she was starting to like him. He walked her through the fields as he showed her his property. “You are welcome to walk and pick flowers when you desire Miss Eyre.” He didn’t look at her as he said it. “I’m sorry I shouted at you that day.” He said as he held out a single daisy. On his face was such an earnest and forlorn look. Her like for him tripled that day. He’d taken her out on a walk just to apologise.
By the time school opened, they were such good friends. They took long walks during the weekend with Adele and Pilot, their dog, accompanying them on some turns. Short were those days when they had each other for company. So nine months later, when Mr. Rochester asked her to marry him, she simply replied with a “Yes sir.”
From the book Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte