The Road to Exile – Part V

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

Rowland stood before me in an attitude of such self-righteous arrogance it was almost as if I was ten years old, enduring his humiliations all over again. This time, however, I was not that child, but my own man, and my fingers twitched to be around his throat.

“Already engaged?” I fell into a chair, reeling from the shock and could only ask weakly, “What gives you the right? Miss Fairfax and I…you know very well that she and I were meant to—”

“I know no such thing, little brother. You and Miss Fairfax? Don’t be absurd.” He looked at me with mock sincerity. “Ah. You actually believe it, don’t you? That she wanted to marry you?”

I leapt out of the chair, my anger doubled at the sight of his conceited grin, and I half-choked on the reply. “It has always been understood between us, that is all. It is to be this Spring, after I finish school. Dammit, she will be my bride, not yours!”     

His voice rose to match my increasing anger. “No, she will not! Your idiotic notion is preposterous, Edward. You have created your own little dreamworld. She never had any such intention.”

“Of course she did! We were always together. We grew fond of each other, and talked of it so often. I simply believed it was meant to be.”

Again, he smiled with that withering look of judgment. “You talked about it, did you? Since you were children? Don’t be ridiculous.”

“There is nothing ridiculous about it. It is…as I said.”

“Miss Fairfax is the only daughter of a baronet, for God’s sake. She would never marry a second son who can bring neither rank nor fortune into such a marriage. Your wild fancies have carried you away for so long you have ill-considered the consequences of such impropriety.”

He laughed as I pushed past him and stumbled to the mantlepiece. Every feeling of bitterness and hatred of him I ever harbored from childhood rose up in my throat. I had nothing to say to these words: they were not new to me. For as long as I could remember, he had hurled them at me daily, repeating them incessantly until this reproach of my inferior position became a vague sing-song in my ears.

“You are insufferable,” I shouted helplessly. “For once, I would possess what you wanted, but could not have. And that idea galls you, doesn’t it?”

“You believe Miss Fairfax is what I want?”

“You have said it yourself, Rowland. You are engaged to her. Why else would you do it?”

He came closer. “You are far too trusting of women, Edward. Miss Fairfax is a pretty enough girl, and when she comes into her full womanhood, will be quite comely. To be sure, she will provide me pleasure enough, for awhile at least. But you see Edward, I understand men like Sir Basil. He is interested in connections, wealth, power. The Rochester estate will bring all of those things, and the Rochester estate will be mine.” He laid special emphasis on that last word. “But yes, you are right. A most delightful benefit that accrues to me is that our marriage will prevent you from having her.”

“Catherine could never love you!”

“Oh, let me assure you. Love has very little to do with this. Besides, she is very much her father’s child. You have been so smitten by your fantasy you cannot see that. But, it matters not, for we both shall get what we want out of the bargain.”

“You’re nothing but a heartless bastard, pretending to do your duty to our father all the while you enjoy rubbing my nose in it!”

“Pretending to do my duty?” His voice rose again, for I had touched a nerve. “You are so pathetic Edward, do you know that? You have ever been so, always groveling after me to go somewhere you did not belong.”

“The blood that flows in my veins is just as much Rochester blood as yours. And I will not relinquish the rights that bestows upon me.”

“There can be no rights where you are concerned: birth order, my dear little brother, is everything.  Casting aspersions on my paternity will gain you nothing.” He shrugged, then added, “Providence raised me above you. Just accept it.”

“Providence? You have never acknowledged Providence in your life, yet now its invocation suits your purpose to justify what you have done?” I took a step towards him then muttered, “Let the authorities then consign me to His judgment after I have wrung your neck!”

How I loathed him and everything that would be his and could never be mine, for God help me, he was right. He was right! And I despised him all the more for it.

He stepped back, a genuine look of surprise on his face. “You would do it, wouldn’t you?”

Just then the library door banged open and in strode our father, glowering at us both.

“What in blazes is going on in here?”

~ Exile – End Part 5 ~

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

Series Navigation<< <i>The Road to Exile – Part IV</i><i>The Road to Exile – Part VI</i> >>

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