Elizabeth Markette comes from a wealthy family in Philadelphia, but when her grandmother, her sole guardian, dies, she is forced to live by her own means. No matter—Elizabeth is an avid reader of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. Inspired by Jane Eyre—and drawing confidence from her namesake Elizabeth Bennet—Elizabeth sets sail for England to secure a position as a governess. With just enough money to cover her travel expenses, she arrives in England practically penniless but full of high hopes.
High hopes won't get you far, though. Elizabeth is forced to stay with her new friend, socialite Lavinia Solange Vivian Bancroft, until she can find a governess position. Lavinia's mother Eloise hears of a family seeking a governess, and off goes Elizabeth with nary a reference to her name. Herman and Juliet Crimp are impressed with her education and apparent competency, however, so she is hired.
Mercy stood on tiptoe and peered into Rodney’s face. “You have a cut on your chin,” she announced. “Did you clean it? Why didn’t you put a bandage on it?”
“It’s too tiny for a bandage,” said Rodney, lightly touching the cut and wincing in pretended agony. “I just bear my pain in silence.”
“Don’t be silly,” said Mercy. “How did you get it?”
“I bit myself,” said Rodney mournfully.
“You did?” Isabelle was fascinated. Mercy gave Elizabeth a see-what-I-have-to-put-up-with look.
“How did you reach?” Joseph looked skeptical.
“How did I reach what?”
“Your chin. With your teeth.”
“I stood on a chair,” said Rodney. Mercy rolled her eyes and disappeared with the empty cake plate.
Joseph and Isabelle processed this. Isabelle seemed satisfied with Rodney’s explanation, but Joseph was dubious. “I don’t believe you,” he told Rodney bluntly.
“Well,” said Rodney, lowering his voice conspiratorially, “the truth of the matter is that I was BIT. But it’s a very embarrassing thing, being BIT, especially by such a tiny creature.”
“What kind of tiny creature?” Elizabeth asked, in spite of herself.
“A garden toad,” said Rodney solemnly. “An ungrateful wretch that lives in the back garden. I made his acquaintance last Wednesday when I was raking the flower beds, and we’ve become friends of a sort. He wants to learn to read, and I’ve been teaching him, but he is not a good pupil. Yesterday he insisted that the letter C had just one sound, and when I corrected him, he BIT me most impertinently. Tomorrow I will keep him in after school and make him write ‘I Will Not Bite The Face That Teaches Me’ one hundred times.”
Mercy swooped back into the room with a cold rag. “Hold still,” she commanded her brother, and proceeded to gently but firmly clean Rodney’s cut. “You must either sharpen your razor or get a new one,” she told him.
“Did he cut himself shaving?” asked Joseph, looking suspicious.
“I am quite sure he did. Don’t listen to his ridiculous stories,” said Mercy.