Dear readers, tonight we witness something a little different. The protagonist of the novel, Miss Devine, a 19th century governess for small children, is interviewing one of her new charges.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
Well, I don’t rightly remember England as such. Da brought us out to Australia when I was no higher than Grace is now but I do remember the sea. Oh, Miss Devine, how much that sea threw its cold hard hands around our ship and how the wind wailed! I asked Ma what she thought the wind was saying to me but she shut me up with a knock and told me to take little Robbie down below. She was so scared the sea folk would steal her boy away. I got scared watching the way her eyes lit on him like the sea folk were going to steal him away right then, right out of her hands and she’d have no cause to hold on tight, having lost most of her feelings in the bitter chill.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
There’s always been too many children for us to have toys, Miss Devine, but we made do. I remember a tree that grew out of the hard ground near the docks in Hobart. Ma used to let me climb it when Da’s boat was due and ‘cause I spent so much time in that tree, I got to know it’s branches and it’s colours and it was sort of like a living thing to me. Now, don’t look at me like that, Miss Devine. I know you think I take a fancy to things that aren’t always what you can see with your eyes but you don’t know what’s out there. I swear that tree breathed. In summer I watched it shed its bark like it was growing through its skin. I picked up the brown curling back and put it near my other collections, somewhere near the house so Da don’t find it when he’s had a lick too much to drink and think it’s rubbish.
What do you do now?
What a funny question, Miss Devine! You know what I do now. Nothing’s the same since we all came to the lighthouse together, you know that. I found something, something I can do. Like, when Mr Johannsson asks me to do the weather observation in the morning, and I know how to judge the swell height and the size and shape of the waves and the names of the clouds that sweep around that piece of land over there – see, Miss Devine, that rocky ledge where the blue sea breaks? The clouds get caught on the trees sometimes and their underneath hangs down, they remind me of Grace’s skirts when she’s been running in the sharp bushes after Roger, and Ma growls at her because she’s ruining more clothes we don’t have. Anyway, I love helping Mr Johannsson and I love it here at The Sentinel.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
Oh, there’s been so many, Miss Devine! How about that time when the Madeleine almost foundered and all those poor souls nearly lost their lives? Or the time when the storms hit and we didn’t see the sun for days and Da got so mad with me for helping Mr Johannsson? I thought we were lost then, Miss Devine. But Mr Johannsson, he always comes through for us, don’t he? I wish Da didn’t make me stop seeing him but Mrs Dawson, I know you don’ t trust her, but she’s kind to me and she said she’d talk to Da about me going back to help Mr Johannsson in the weather room.Continue reading “Isabella Brown (of The Sentinel, by Jacqueline Hodder)”