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Villette begins with its famously passive protagonist, Lucy Snowe, age 14, staying at the home of her godmother Mrs. Bretton. Also in residence are Mrs. Bretton's son, John Graham Bretton (whom the family calls Graham), and a young visitor, Paulina Home (who is called Polly). Polly is a peculiar little girl who soon develops a deep devotion to Graham, who showers her with attention. But Polly's visit is cut short when her father arrives to take her away. For reasons that are not stated, Lucy leaves Mrs. Bretton's home a few weeks after the Polly's departure. After some initial hesitation, she is hired as a caregiver by Miss Marchmont, a rheumatic crippled woman. Lucy is soon accustomed to her work and has begun to feel content with her quiet lifestyle. During an evening of dramatic weather changes, Miss Marchmont regains all her energy and feels young again. She shares with Lucy her sad love story of 30 years previously, and concludes that she should treat Lucy better and be a better person. She believes that death will reunite her with her dead lover. The next morning, Lucy finds Miss Marchmont dead. Lucy then leaves the English countryside and goes to London. At the age of 23, she boards a ship for Labassecour despite knowing very little French. She travels to the city of Villette, where she finds employment as a bonne (nanny) at Mme. Beck's boarding school for girls. (This school is seen as being based upon the Hégers' Brussels pensionnat). After a time, she is hired to teach English at the school, in addition to having to mind Mme. Beck's three children. She thrives despite Mme. Beck's constant surveillance of the staff and students. "Dr. John," a handsome English doctor, frequently visits the school because of his love for the coquette Ginevra Fanshawe. In one of Villette's famous plot twists, "Dr. John" is later revealed to be John Graham Bretton, a fact that Lucy has known but has deliberately concealed from the reader. After Dr. John (i.e, Graham) discovers
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