I Arrive in Dover – Conclusion

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series (Vol 1) Returning to England

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.

I Arrive in Dover – Part II

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series (Vol 1) Returning to England

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

~ “But why should I not have made such an attempt, Edward? For besides the child and her nurse, there is now a governess for her.” ~

“Ah, Mrs. Fairfax has been successful, then?”

He nodded. “I did mention that in my letter.”

“Some hardened, upright spinster to correct every French defect, I suppose?”

“No, not a spinster, but a young woman. She arrived in October, I believe.”

“You have met her, then?”

“No, but when I had tea with Mrs. Fairfax in November, she mentioned the new governess: a pleasant young woman possessed of fine tutorial gifts. Seems they often spend the evenings together.”

“That is one benefit, at least. She is good company for my housekeeper.”

“You simply couldn’t be bothered to let an old friend in on yet another Rochester secret, eh? I must discover these things for myself?” He shook his head. “After all these years, am I not to be trusted?”

I looked away, ashamed. “I feared you would ask me to relinquish the plan, and I was in such a damned hurry to be back to the Continent. Perhaps it was imprudent, even cowardly of me, but I knew you would have questions, would demand explanations…”

“But a child! Edward, for God’s sake! Where on earth did you pick her up?”

I winced. “That, as you so plainly suggest, is what I did not do. Be patient, Carter, and you will hear the whole story, just as I promised in my letter. But as to circumstances…let me just say it was rather more a case of her being left on my hands.”

“I see,” he replied, shaking his head, a deuced, all-knowing smile on his face.

“James, you must believe me. The child is not my daughter.”

“That is precisely the conclusion everyone else will draw, Edward. And on the face of it, the supposition is not unjustifiable, I daresay. Are you aware of the rumors?”

“Of course. There are always rumors,” I replied bitterly. “It is the way of things. People’s lives are so pathetic they have nothing better to ponder each day than hearsay and scandal. When one day a little French girl arrives at the house of an English country gentleman, the natural assumption is of course, that she is my bastard daughter. It merely adds to the mysteries associated with Edward Rochester and Thornfield Hall.” I laughed. “I would be disappointed if such an event did not set all the tongues to wagging. I don’t give a damn for the opinion of others, Carter, only yours. Truly, I cannot abide that you would unjustly condemn me.”

“What else should I conclude? You have been very close over the years, and yet I have gleaned much from our rare conversations and the scattered letters I have received. You have wandered the globe, living at Paris, Naples, Rome, St. Petersburg for God’s sake! The very edge of civilization. Living with mistresses…well, surely, the child belongs to one of them.”

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

~ I Arrive in Dover – End of Part II ~

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

I Arrive in Dover – Part I

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series (Vol 1) Returning to England

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

“It’s good to see you again, Rochester,” exclaimed James Carter, as my trunk was hoisted onto the top rack of the coach preparing to leave Dover.

We shook hands. “I am glad you are come to meet me, James.”

My dog Pilot jumped in before ahead of us, then pushed his nose forward as we climbed in after. I scratched his ear, while Carter patted his head.

“Aye, dog. I am glad to see you as well.”

The coach soon settled into a rattling rhythm as we headed north along the Dover Road towards London.

Early January was damned cold, even bundled as we were from head to foot against the weather. The morning mist was gathering, but the road was yet dry, and Carter and I were the only passengers. After we had bumped along in silence for awhile, he suddenly observed, “Your dog at least looks hale and well-fed, Rochester.”

“That is well. And I?”

“To all outward appearances, you are very hearty…”

“…outward appearances?”

“You are quite distracted by something, Edward. You forget how well I know you, in spite of your attempts to conceal everything.”

“James, the death of your son–can you forgive my cold heart?

I deliberately avoided seeing you when last I was in England, and truly, I rue the decision. My head was so full of other things.

Well, it’s a damn sorry excuse is all, and I heartily regret it.”

“Thank you, Edward. It is strange. As a doctor, I have attended the deathbed of many a still-born infant, and seen the grief of so many mothers and fathers. I cannot deny that I felt their sorrows, and grieved for their losses, but when it is your own flesh and blood…”

“…it is a very different thing, indeed. But no apology is necessary, James. You cannot be expected to grieve for every child as you grieve the death of your own son. No man has that much mercy in his soul.”

Carter nodded. Mutely he gazed at me a moment, unable to reply. He turned his face to the window, and watched the barren, frost-laden meadows roll by. “I could not know him, Edward. He died without a name, and yet the pain was…so much greater than I could have imagined,” his eyes glistening with tears. “What should it be like to lose a child who has lived in the world? Whom you have seen smile, and laugh, and cry and call you ‘Father’?”

I shook my head. “It is something no man can fathom until he must walk through that valley. But take heart. Emily is young, is she not? She will yet be able to bear children, I trust?”

He smiled at hearing his wife’s name. “She speaks of it already. But now,” he continued more cheerfully, “while I am grateful for your condolences, belatedly though you offer them, you shall not evade my concern for you. Late last summer when you came to Thornfield, you took every precaution to prevent any encounter between us. Why?”

I laughed. “How can you ask me that? You wrote to me in November, as I recall, informing me in rather a disapproving tone, that you had discovered a child was living there. I knew you would have such objections, so, I simply told you nothing about her.”

“But why should I not have made such an attempt, Edward? For besides the child and her nurse, there is now a governess for her.”

~ I Arrive in Dover – End Part I ~

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