The Road to Exile – Part VII

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

“You will hold your tongue,” said Henry, in an ominous tone. “He is a Rochester, and your brother.  Show some respect.”

“Perhaps you will compel him to do likewise?”   

He frowned. “While it is sometimes true that mutual affection has little to do with such arrangements, it is my understanding that Miss Fairfax made no objections to the match. There is nothing then, to prevent them from marrying.”

“You must know well what that means, Father. Did not you wed above your station when you married my mother? An earl’s daughter?”

Whatever Henry Rochester’s temperament, he could never remain angry when the idea of my mother was brought before him. But neither was he prepared to relinquish his displeasure with me, for he replied sternly, “Do not make presumptions about things of which you are intensely ignorant.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“You thought to invoke an ancient promise to permit your marriage to a baronet’s daughter. But whatever you believe about it, know this: appeal to that promise has rarely been successful, nor has it any covenant power.”

“If it swayed my grandfather, why not Sir Basil as well?”

“It was entirely your mother’s influence which persuaded her father. She refused to be wed to some stranger simply because her father believed his birth was blessed by Heaven.”

I stared at him. “You mean to tell me…she…chose you?”

He laughed suddenly, full and hearty. “She was his favorite, you know. But after he condemned her eldest sister to marriage with that cold-blooded bastard, your mother never forgave him. He consented to our marriage hoping to win back her approbation.”

I got up from the chair and went to the hearth. “Why are you telling me all this, Father?”

“Because you know very well that Rowland is right. With her engagement to him, you must no longer think of Miss Fairfax at all.”

“I must choose for myself some sort of profession, it seems. Perhaps the Law? Would that not meet with your approval? Shall we have a lawyer in the family, then?”

“Don’t be an ass, Edward,” said Henry in a low, measured tone. “Of course you’re not going to practice law.”

“Why am I at college, then, what is the point? You have told me more times than I can count that it all falls to Rowland. What am I expected to live upon, unless by the sweat of my own brow?”

Henry hesitated a moment, then replied cooly, “I have a plan in mind for you.”

“Do you? I suppose I should be flattered. But why waste time at Oxford? Am I there to learn something useful, or has it been merely to pass the time until you can manipulate circumstances to arrange for my future?”

“Whether you care to believe it or not, Edward, I have given a great deal of consideration to your future. I would not have you left without resource. To that end, I have an arrangement in view.”

“An arrangement?” I laughed bitterly. “Am I to be a bargaining chip then, unlike my mother who refused the privilege?”

In a low voice, he replied, “Have a care, boy. I am in no mood for your sarcasm.”

“Well, do you expect my gratitude, then? What sort of glorious future does this arrangement entail?  Have you purchased an officer’s commission in the army for me, is that it?”

“I would never occur to me to do such a thing.”

“Certainly you cannot be thinking of the Church.”

“No, of course not. What use have I for the Church?”

“Then what?”

“Some months ago, I received a letter from Jonas Mason, an old friend of mine who lives in the West Indies.”

“Where did you say? The West Indies?”

Henry held up his hand. “Now hear me out. Yes, the West Indies. Jamaica, Spanishtown. We are old friends from many years ago, and when we parted company, he set off to make his fortune in the New World. And indeed, he has been very successful there. His land holdings are extensive, and his vineyards in Madeira thrive. Mason’s only son spends half of the year overseeing the wine-making business there, and it seems desires no other responsibilities. Jonas therefore has no provision for the succession of his West Indian endeavors.”

Henry continued. “But his eldest daughter, by all reports, is the jewel of the island, beautiful and desired by all men who behold her. Mason believes the only way left him to secure his legacy is to seek a suitable husband for her.”

I laughed. “And I am to be this husband?”

“Why not? Jonas Mason demands that good English blood run through the veins of his grandson, to whom he intends to bequeath his wealth. This is my challenge for you, boy. For years you have clamored for the opportunity to prove yourself. Here, I lay it at your feet. All you need do is accept it. Do you have the courage to take it up? Go to Jamaica. Be that Englishman!”

~ Exile – End Part 6 ~

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

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