I Arrive in Dover – Conclusion

Ξ  From the Journal of Edward F. Rochester ~ 1825  Ξ

~“No, Carter, no. I plead my innocence, and I beg you would believe me. I am not Adele’s father.” ~

“I suppose I do, Edward. We shall talk more about it. And soon.” He stifled a great yawn.

“Yes,” I agreed. “Very soon.”

The coach bumped along the Great North Road towards London. Carter had been up since very early this morning, waiting while we passengers were ferried in from the packet. He closed his eyes and leaned against the cushions, and despite the jostling of the coach, soon dozed peacefully. My dog Pilot, who’d been lying quietly at my feet stood and stretched and laid his great head on my leg. Idly I scratched his ears as I stared out the window, the bright orange glow of sunset shimmering against the darkening night sky.

I thought about our conversation, about my disappointments, and wondered if Carter was right. Was it an impossible quest or so unreasonable an expectation, to find a woman who suited me? Sometimes I heard a voice or beheld a form I hoped would be her. But always, it ended in disappointment or betrayal. Hope was starved into bitterness; energy and activity abandoned to recklessness.

After four long years of exile in the West Indies, I had nearly forsaken myself. Hideous recollection! What foolish hope drove me across the Atlantic to Europe, where I believed happiness was possible? Something had prevented my self-destruction and reawakened a vision, infusing me with the courage to seek my dream of the ideal. From whence had come this vision?

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of those ruinous years in Jamaica, the idea began out of a half-comprehended experience of childhood. Shadowy, but strangely impressive, the memory slowly shaped itself into something more solid, and I remembered the day I had seen it in the library at Thornfield Hall.

I had spent many happy hours in that room surrounded by books, where school lessons of history, poetry, mathematics and music had been conducted. My mother’s great worktable had once been there, arranged with her writing desk and workbox and stacks of volumes, among which would be found Donne, an atlas, her well-read Bible and especially, her beloved Sonnets. Nearby was my own little desk and chair. How often I withdrew to this retreat, and she to whom I ran—for none other would have me—gave me comfort in my sorrows over the latest ignominy rained upon me by my brother.

“Today we shall begin with Goldsmith,” she would say. Or, “you shall hear of Endymion and the Moon Goddess.”

And would follow a story of lands far away, exotic and strange. I wondered when she had visited such places, for she spoke of them as if she had seen them with her own eyes. The telling of those tales would transport her into that mysterious bourne, and so caught up into its wonders she became that it seemed she no longer was in the library, or aware of my presence there.

One day my father had come in, unannounced. Not infrequently did he do so, generally to consult with her about some household matter. But this day, while she was thus enraptured, he paused, and listened, as fascinated as was I, as caught up in the narrative as was I.

After some minutes, he drew near without a sound. Unusual, for generally he came and noisily conducted whatever business he had and was gone. But he was oblivious to my presence, his attention wholly engaged by his wife’s voice, rising and falling with the telling of her tale. I watched him, daring not to breathe, daring not to speak, for it might break the spell.

At last she drew to the end of the story and opened her eyes. When she noticed him there, a strange smile suffused her countenance. As he approached, she closed her eyes and without a word, he softly kissed her upraised cheek.

The atmosphere of the library tingled.

My heart thrilled strangely as I watched. Something compelling, something mysterious had just passed between them. No words had been spoken, yet the effect was more powerful than an ocean of speech; that they had a profound affection for one another was apparent even to my infant brain. Her whole person changed when she saw him, her eyes aglow with some secret delight. At the sight of her smile, his gruff, brooding countenance softened, becoming almost agreeable.

And even now, as I recalled that hour, I wondered that the man I perceived my father to be had the power to stir such emotion within her. As a boy of seven or eight of course, I knew nothing of the ways of a man and a woman, but it only made me wonder all the more: how could he have such potent feelings for her and yet to me, he showed little else but indifference?

My mother had been my greatest advocate, but even her persuasions had been insufficient to overthrow the malicious influence of my elder brother Rowland, for whom I, it seemed, was the object of his every antipathy. And where Rowland, his favorite son was concerned, Henry Rochester simply was blind. He had no will to make room for a third in his heart.

Irreconcilable and strange, it was then, and still is to me, a mystery.

~ I Arrive in Dover – Conclusion ~

© 2016 by R.Q. Bell and Imaginality Press; All rights reserved.

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