When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true, too. She had a little thin face and a little thin body, thin light hair and a sour expression. Her hair was yellow, and her face was yellow because she had been born in India. She had always been ill in one way or another.
Her father had held a position under the English Government. He had always been busy and ill himself. Her mother had been a great beauty who cared only to go to parties and amuse herself. She had not wanted a little girl at all, and when Mary was born she handed her over to the care of an Ayah.
She never remembered seeing familiarly anything but the faces of her Ayah and the other native servants. They always obeyed her and gave her own way in everything. By the time she was six years old she was as tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived.
The young English governess who came to teach her to read and write disliked her so much that she gave up her place in three months. When other governesses came, they always went away in a shorter time than the first one. So if Mary had not chosen to want to know how to read books, she would never have learned her letters at all.