My name is Jane Eyre. When I was very small, my father and mother died, and I was alone. I was very poor. My parents left me no money. I had no brothers or sisters to look after me.
My mother's brother, my Uncle Reed, came to take me to stay with him. He lived in a large house called Gateshead with his wife and three children. There were two girls, Eliza and Georgiana, and a boy called John. They were all older than me.
Uncle Reed was kind to me, but after a while he died, too. Then my life became very unhappy. My aunt and my cousins were cruel to me. John was the worst. He was much bigger than me. He was always trying to make me cry. I only had one friend at Gateshead. That was the servant girl, Bessie.
One cold, wet afternoon my aunt would not let me sit by the fire with the other children. She said I was too bad. I went into another room where there were some books. I took one and began to read it.
John Reed came into the room, looking for me. At that time he was a schoolboy. He was fourteen years old. I was only ten and very small for my age.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"Reading," I answered.
"Show me the book."
I gave him the book I was looking at.
"This is one of our books," he said angrily. "You must not read our books. You are not the same as us. You are just a poor relation. I am going to punish you for taking our things. Go and stand by the door."
I was afraid of John. I always obeyed him. I went to the door. When I turned round, John threw the book straight at me. It was a big, heavy book. It hit me and I fell. I banged my head against the door.
The pain made me forget that John Reed was bigger and stronger than me. I was not afraid of him any more. I became very angry with him.
"Wicked boy," I shouted loudly. "You are like a murderer. You are like one of the cruel Roman emperors!"
"What! what!" he cried. "Did she say that to me? Did you hear her, Eliza and Georgiana? I shall tell mother what she said. But first -"
He ran straight at me with his head down. I felt him hit me. He started to pull my hair. But John Reed did not know how angry I was. I really thought he was a cruel murderer. I thought he was going to kill me. I began to fight for my life. I cannot remember what I did to him, but I heard him calling me "Rat! Rat!" He cried out with pain.
Charlotte Brontė was one of three very talented sisters who lived quietly in the north of England about 150 years ago. All three sisters became famous as writers.
Charlotte Brontė: Jane Eyre. Oxford Progressive English Readers; Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1993
Grade 1 (1,400 headwords)