The Road to Exile – Part VIII

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

~ Go to Jamaica. Be that Englishman! ~

Carter was astonished. “Jamaica was your father’s idea? You never told me that.”

“To what end, James? I was furious with Henry, that he thought I would simply acquiesce to his proposal?”

“You had no intention of going then?”

“No.”

“And your mother’s opinion of the plan?”

I shook my head. “I am almost ashamed to tell you, but I presumed she was in agreement with my father about it. Rarely did she contravene his will. Why should this occasion be any different? I saw her later that evening, and curse me for it, but I never asked her. God, what an arrogant fool I was! Full of pride, anger, resentment. After the events of that evening, I had no intentions of looking the fool while Sir Basil give his daughter in marriage to that devil, Rowland.”

“And yet,” replied Carter, “you did go to Jamaica. What changed your mind? Your mother’s death?”

“The day of her funeral, something happened for which I was completely unprepared. We had returned to the house from the memorial service at the little church near the front gates of Thornfield Hall. Henry shut himself away for the remainder of the afternoon, and I retreated to the library, that refuge wherein I had spent so much of my childhood with her.

***

I sat near the hearth, staring at the place where she used to sit composing letters, sewing, writing in a diary, or directing my early schooling. The aura of her presence still lingered, giving me comfort as it had when I was a boy.

“Edward?”

I looked up. It was Miss Fairfax. Robed in black, a vapory veil still covered her face. I stood at once.

“Kit…Miss Fairfax. Thank you for coming.”

A pang of jealousy pricked me as I thought of her and Rowland.

“How could I not come, Edward?” she said with genuine sympathy. “The moment we received the dreadful news, Father insisted.” She strode across the room towards me. “Of course, I would have been here on any account. I am so sorry about your mother. Do, accept my sincere condolences.”

She held out her hand, still sheathed by a silken black glove.

“Thank you.”

I pressed it warmly with gratitude, but did not immediately release it. Nor did she make an effort to withdraw it from me. Then, as though it had stung me, I suddenly let go.

“You…you have seen Rowland, then?” I asked, trying to suppress the sudden agitation I felt.

Catherine removed the veil. Her dark eyes were looking at me quite intently. “I thought…I believe he is with the other guests.”

She drew near. “I was with him at the graveside, next to Father. Did you not see me, Edward? I was standing in your shadow.”

“Were you? I am…sorry for not acknowledging you. I suppose I must have seen you. Do, forgive me. I…I have too many things on my mind to be of much use to anyone.”

Coming closer still, she said, “Yes, your head is full of many plans I am sure, with your own departure forthcoming.”

“My departure? Oh, yes, of course—”

I stopped short, suddenly wary of revealing to her any specifics about the arrangements my father had made for me. “What can you know of it?”

“Only that you are to journey to some warm and exotic destination halfway around the world and there, take to yourself a wife.”

“How do you know this?”

“Rowland told me.”

“Indeed?”

Rowland! How had he learned of Henry’s little scheme? I remembered the argument we had at Christmas. Father had sent him from the room before revealing any details of the plan for Jamaica. And then like a thunderbolt, his final words before returning to the party struck me: You will enlighten him I trust, Father…about everything.

That bloody bastard! I thought he was referring to his engagement with Miss Fairfax, but no. He had known about the Jamaica venture all along! His influence with Henry was powerful, and no doubt his persuasions had been pivotal to the final decision.

My hatred flamed afresh, but I must not let the demon show itself here. Not now.

And especially, not in front of her.

~ Exile ~ End Part 8 ~

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

Series Navigation<< <i>The Road to Exile – Part VII</i><i>The Road to Exile – Part IX</i> >>

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