The Road to Exile – Part IV

Ξ From the Journals of Edward Rochester – 1809-1810 Ξ

He removed her cloak and tossed it to me.

“See to that, will you, Edward?” And off they went, arm in arm down the hall and into the drawing room where I spied a group of guests gathered round the pianoforte singing Christmas carols.

I followed them into the house and stopped in the hallway. Fury like a volcano rose within me as I watched him hover amidst a cluster of family friends, entertaining them with a ready joke or a compliment, especially to Miss Fairfax, who appeared indifferent rather than pleased with his unctous charms.

He had swooped out the door and snatched her from my arm as a hawk captures its frightened prey. How often had he simply taken what was mine? How fond he was of boasting that one day Thornfield would belong to him, and when that day came, I had best look to myself.

Well, not this time. I would not retreat before his belligerence now or ever again. He must feel the sting of my wrath this once. It had been building for years, and it was time to let the demon loose! 

I stormed into the drawing room and there he stood, already another glass of Christmas punch in hand, Miss Fairfax at his side, amidst a small gathering, familiar faces all: Captain Dent and his wife, Mariah. Arthur and Mrs. Eshton, and George Lynn, recently returned from St. James where he had been knighted.

I stood before my brother simmering with rage.

“See to this yourself, you bastard.” I threw her cloak at him.   

“Well, well, what have we here, little brother?”

Neatly, he snatched it out of the air, not spilling a drop of his drink. Everyone in the circle around us abruptly ceased their conversations. Miss Fairfax looked at me pleadingly, her face shaded by a strange expression, a mixture of injured pride and embarrassment.

“Edward, please,” she whispered. “It is too late.”

“I should have done this a long time ago.” The indignation and rage had risen within me and would not be silenced. I faced him. “I will speak with you alone, Rowland. Now.”

His eyes widened in surprise, I suppose at my audacity to call him out. But I would brook no refusal, and he knew it. Would he comport himself as a gentleman? Would he show the courtesy due our mother on this occasion? For an instant, I feared I had unleashed the devil in him once again.

“Well, well,” he laughed. “The cub has claws after all. If you will excuse me,” he bowed to the others. “It seems my little brother desires an audience.”

He signaled for a servant, who came immediately and took the cloak. He drained the remainder of the drink in one draft. “Shall we?”

I bowed to take my leave of our friends. As we made our way through the sea of guests, I felt strangely exhilarated, thrilled by their amazement as a murmur of gossip rippled through their ranks, and all eyes were upon us as we walked out of the room. Among those who watched was our father, Henry Rochester.

A few moments later, I burst into the library, half expecting my mother to be sitting at her accustomed spot at the large table in one corner, writing letters or correcting my ciphers. But that table had been removed years ago, when I had been sent away to school. She never again used this room to attend her daily business.

A fire burned well in the hearth, and the air was warm, but the room somehow felt cold and lifeless. Rowland’s booted step behind me broke the hush of silence. I was in his face at once.

“What makes you think you can get away with it this time?”

“Get away with what, Edward? Do, speak plainly.”

“Don’t pretend to be ignorant. You know very well that I speak of Miss Fairfax. I will know your intentions.”

“My intentions?”

“How do you justify the presumptuous and intimate nature of your greeting? It was nothing but disrespect and impudence from beginning to end. Her father is a guest in this house!”

“Oh, Sir Basil above all men could have no objections. And of course he is here. He has come at our request.”

“Your request?  What do you mean?”

“Just this,” he smirked. “Sir Basil will proclaim it to the world tonight. Miss Fairfax is to be my wife. What do you think of that?”

~ Exile – End Part 4 ~

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

Series Navigation<< <i>The Road to Exile – Part III</i><i>The Road to Exile – Part V</i> >>

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