A World Far Away – Part I

This entry is part 1 of 11 in the series (Vol 4) A World Far Away

Ξ From the Journals of Edward Rochester – 1811-1815 Ξ

Carter sat in silence. Before he could ask any more questions, the post boy announced our coach was about to depart. I tossed a coin onto the table and we left the inn.

Outside, the gloomy weather did not help my mood. A drizzling, gray mist obscured the morning sun as we hurried across the yard. Pilot raced ahead and leapt up into the coach, followed by myself and Carter. The door was slammed shut, then we lurched forward and rumbled on our way.

 “Edward, what was the voyage like?” He broke the silence after we had bumped a few miles along the road. “Did you know? I had planned to ship out on the HMS Magnamine as ship’s surgeon not long after you departed England, but my father’s death prevented me.”

“The Royal Navy? I had no idea you had a pirate’s heart, James.”

He laughed. “The chance for adventure, not to mention the steady wage, were irresistable. Had my father lived, I don’t believe I would have remained behind.”

“It’s a mercy for me that you did not go. As to my own voyage—you know I am not much of a sailor. The crossing to the West Indies lasted a month, and I was sick for the whole of it, I can tell you. Three days out from port, we ran into a terrible storm. Nearly dead with seasickness, exhaustion and hunger, now I thought I should be drowned as well. A most decidedly unpleasant experience, I can tell you.”

“And yet you survived the passage—twice.”

“Yes, but would that I never had gone to Jamaica at all. There I was, washed up on the shores of a foreign land, in the home of a complete stranger, Jonas Mason. Resigned to my fate, I fully expected, nay hoped, to be introduced to my bride-to-be that very day. Yet she was no where in sight.”

He looked surprised. “Why ever not?”

“At first they insisted I recoup my strength, for the voyage had been difficult. But I soon rose from my sickbed, assuring Mason and his son that I was fit and ready. Yet for another week, they prevented even a glimpse of her.”


“They intended our first meeting should be in the grande ballroom of the governor’s mansion in Spanish Town, at a gala affaire hosted by the colonial governor himself. Mason was one of the wealthiest men on the island. His connections and influence reached into every corner of its society. The ball was to be the highlight of the season.

“To what end?”

“Oh, there were devious hearts at play, James, and for a long time, I did not realize just how treacherous. It had been more than two weeks since my arrival, but the introduction was continually delayed, the litany of excuses being first my illness, then Miss Mason must overcome her “low spirits.” Was I to interpret this as her reluctance respecting our engagement? I was anxious to acquit myself well, but I became hesitant, wondering if she was even desirous of the match. Yet my impatience to begin was difficult to suppress. I had come there to marry her, for God’s sake! Ought I not be accorded the courtesy of an introduction before the wedding day? But her father would not be moved. I must await the ball.”

“Perhaps it was the simplest way to proclaim the match,” remarked Carter thoughtfully. “Were you not the guest of honor, after all? Did not the idea of such a magnificent welcome please you?”

“Oh, if that had been their intent, perhaps. It was a very grande affair, to be sure. But Carter, what do you think? When I strode into that ballroom, my hands were sweating. I had plucked up my courage and screwed it to the sticking place, convinced I was ready to make a go of it. But after traveling thousands of miles, enduring weeks of seasickness, tropical storms, and illness, did I find a woman already courted, won and waiting at the top of the ballroom for me? I did not. Just another wretched fool among many, I was there with half a dozen others that evening, most of whom like me, were foreigners: an Italian, a Spaniard, even an American from Virginia. And they had been enticed by the same inducement: matrimony to a rich man’s daughter.”

“But what your father had told you…”

“…all lies, from beginning to end. Everything I thought I knew about the arrangement was nothing more than a tapestry of falsehoods. I had blundered into an arena, and of course there could be only one left standing. Which one of us would it be? Had I been rational and taken a moment to consider, to think things through, I should have realized what was going on.”

“And yet, whispered Carter. “You remained.”

“I thought only of my father’s anger, of Rowland’s smug satisfaction should I return to England a loser, vanquished in the sport of courtship. How he would ridicule me for my incompetence! For my entire life, James, I had been a failure in my father’s eyes. When I stood in that ballroom, watching the others crowd around her, contending for a smile, in a flash I knew with more certainty than ever I felt in my life that this was it. This one chance, tossed to me like a bone to a starving dog, was slipping through my teeth! It was now or never. I resolved on the spot that Edward Fairfax Rochester—and no other—must be, would be, the winner of the field.”

~ A World Far Away ~ End Part I ~

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

A World Far Away – Part II

This entry is part 2 of 11 in the series (Vol 4) A World Far Away

Ξ From the Journals of Edward Rochester – 1811-1815 Ξ

  ~ It was now or never. I resolved on the spot that Edward Fairfax Rochester—and no other—must be, would be, the winner of the field. ~

Carter sat in silence, pondering all I had told him. The coach rattled steadily onward.

“And now, James. Recall that I spoke to you about treachery. But I was ignorant of just how deep it ran until Jonas Mason died more than two years later. I am sure you well remember that year, heralded as it was by Catherine Fairfax’s death in the carriage accident.”

He nodded. “It was a tragedy indeed, a mere six months before her own wedding. But everyone suffered that day, Edward. Especially your brother. His own injuries were extremely serious. I feared he would never use his hand or arm again—”

“My brother,” I replied with vehemence, “was an arrogant fool whose reckless disregard for everyone but himself killed her. But I never heard about it, until that first time you wrote to me after my father died. He had commanded me to forget all about Catherine Fairfax, and I’m sure it never occurred to him to notify me of her death, banished as I had been to that world so far away.”

“You left the country so soon after your mother’s funeral. I thought you might write and let me know to where, but I never heard from you.”

“I was angry and ashamed, desperate to conceal everything about my situation. I wrote to Henry within mere weeks of my marriage, begging him to keep it a secret. I described everything in disgusting detail so he would have no choice. How he prized his stellar reputation! But the consequences of the marriage he had arranged for me were far worse than he imagined, I’m sure. If word got out, it would be a blight on the family name that could never be eradicated. Most willingly did he comply with my request.”

“Catherine, poor girl, lingered for several hours after the accident.” Carter shaded his eyes at the grim memory. “Oh, God, I’m so sorry, Edward, but there was nothing I could for her. And Rowland was yet unconscious, his arm broken and mangled…your father was beside himself.”

“No doubt,” I replied with contempt. “But did Henry tell you nothing about me? Did you even ask?”

“Of course I did. He told me you had left England to seek your fortune, but nothing more. He spoke not a word about your marriage or where you had gone. I asked him to tell me so I might write to you, but he never answered me. It wasn’t until your brother’s death almost a year later that I learned you were in the West Indies. But what is this treachery you spoke of? What fresh duplicity did Mason’s death uncover?”

I smiled grimly. “Certainly my father never intended me to know all the intimate details of the sordid arrangement he’d made. It’s almost laughable now, but it was Henry himself who’d revealed them, and in a most peculiar way. Jonas Mason had been dead perhaps a year, when one afternoon, Lucias, the old butler, informed me that a gentleman—a lawyer, in fact—had come to Alta Arboleta, and he was looking for me.”

~ A World Far Away ~ End Part II ~

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

A World Far Away – Part III

This entry is part 3 of 11 in the series (Vol 4) A World Far Away

Ξ From the Journals of Edward Rochester – 1811-1815 Ξ

 ~ Mason had been dead perhaps a year, when one afternoon, Lucias, the old butler, informed me that a gentleman—a lawyer, in fact—had come to Alta Arboleta, and he was looking for me. ~

                                                                 * * *

“Mr. Edward…there is a gentleman to see you. Will you receive him?”

“Who can it be, Lucias?”

“Mr. Campbell.”

“Campbell?” I repeated distractedly. “Ah, yes, Jonas’ solicitor.”

What could he want, I wonder? Some devilish construction in Mason’s will to thrust more indignities upon me? 

“Well, send him in, then. I should be glad for the company—we have so few visitors these days.”

The old servant bowed, and a minute later, Campbell appeared.

I rose from behind my desk and approached the man whom I now remembered. He had conducted the reading of Mason’s will not long after Jonas died, but that was months ago. He held forth his hand.

“Mr. Rochester, t’is a great pleasure to see you again, sir.” His grip was firm and his Scots brogue thick.

“I remember you very well, Campbell. Would you care for something cool to drink?  I cannot imagine what business brings you out on such a hot afternoon as this.”

“I’ll not keep ya long, sir. My business will take only a few minutes.”

“Won’t you at least sit down, then?”

He nodded, set his valise on the floor, then took a chair on one side of my desk, while I resumed the seat on the other. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit, sir? I thought everything had been taken care of respecting the disposition of Mr. Mason’s properties.”

“Aye, that is true enough. But I found something in his personal effects that he never told me about. As I took an oath to execute my duties faithfully and with the utmost integrity, I must see to this final task.”

“Of course. But what more can that duty have to do with me? Or his daughter? I was made aware of all the provisions at the reading of his will, but as I said, that was months ago.”

“It was, sir,” replied Campbell. “But these documents do not concern Mr. Mason’s will.” He leaned over and fumbled in the valise then pulled out a wrapped and bound packet.” I found these letters in his effects—all of which bear your family name—Rochester.”


“They were in the strong box locked in his desk, but of course I had the key for both the desk and the box. Perhaps he’d forgotten about them, although he was usually most careful about such matters.”


“There was nothing else in the box save these seven letters, three of which were sent to Mr. Mason by a Henry Rochester of Thornfield Hall, in England.”

“My father.”

“Aye. And three of the letters were fair copies of the replies sent by Mr. Mason. As my client left me no explicit instructions concerning the disposition of this correspondence, the ownership properly reverts to their author.”

“My father is dead, Mr. Campbell.” Or soon would be, by what Carter had written to me.

“Then the law recognizes you, sir, as the rightful owner. If the author is dead, his closest living relative becomes the possessor. And as you are…um…husband to Mr. Mason’s daughter, I must give you the fair copies of his letters for safe-keeping.” He cleared his throat. “I am sorry to say it, but…well, it’s not very likely they will ever be of any use to her, is it now?”

I sighed. “No, Campbell. You are quite right about that. But you said there were seven letters. Three from my father, and Mr. Mason’s three replies. From whom is the odd letter?”

He did not immediately reply, but untied the string from around the packet of letters, then handed me the one off the top. “Will you swear this is your father’s hand?”

I took the document he proffered and unfolded it. There at the bottom was Henry’s unmistakeable scribble. “Yes, certainly, this is his signature. Not a doubt of it.”

After thumbing through the letters, he took up another. “Here is the odd epistle, sir. It is addressed to Mr. Mason. It was not written by your father, but rather a Mr. Rowland Rochester.

~ A World Far Away – End of Part III ~

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

A World Far Away – Part IV

This entry is part 4 of 11 in the series (Vol 4) A World Far Away

Ξ From the Journals of Edward Rochester – 1811-1815 Ξ

After thumbing through the letters, Campbell took up another. “Here is the odd epistle, sir. It is addressed to Mr. Mason…from a Mr. Rowland Rochester.”

“Rowland? He was my elder brother, but I am sorry to say that he too, is dead.”

“Well, sir…may I offer my sincerest condolences.”

“Thank you,” I replied hastily, accepting the letter he held forth. My eye dropped immediately to the valediction. “Yes, this is Rowland’s hand.”

I returned it to him. He put it back into the bundle with the others then retied the string.

“I only thought that perhaps you might like to have these, sir.”

“Thank you, Campbell. Is there a receipt, or something I must sign?”

He smiled. “Indeed there is, sir.” He pull a thrice-folded paper from his coat pocket then laid it on the desk, smoothing the creases so it would lay flat. “Here at the bottom, sir. By signing this document you acknowledge these letters to have been written by family members, either by blood or marriage, and that on this day, you received them into your possession.”

“I am much obliged to you, Mr. Rochester,” said Campbell, taking the document after I signed it and handing me the packet. “Your letters.”

“Are you certain you will take no refreshment?”

“No, thank you again, sir. This is but one among several errands I have this afternoon. I will take my leave now, so good day to you.”

I rose and we shook hands again. “Good day, Mr. Campbell.”

I watched him go, then dropped into the chair and stared at the neatly tied bundle just sitting there. Three letters, all written by Henry Rochester to Jonas Mason. I seemed to recall my father having claimed to receive but one letter from Mason, wherein he had inquired if his old friend was aware of any suitable young men to wed his daughter. Her beauty, her eligibility as a member of one of the richest families in Jamaica was the talk of the West Indies, and her father deemed it was time to find her a husband. Henry wrote back that I was that suitable young man.

So what was in this other correspondence? And how was Rowland involved in the negotiations between two fathers arranging their children’s futures? I always suspected he had played some part. Perhaps here was proof.

Suddenly burning with a curiosity to know, I quickly untied the bundled, fumbled through them and found the oldest, which appeared to have been written five years ago, a year before ever I came to this cursed place.

Thornfield Hall, September, 18___

Mason –

Though it has been several years since last we’ve seen one another, the news of your prosperous endeavors in the West Indies reaches me even here at Thornfield Hall. I congratulate you.

I understand there is a daughter for whom you are urgently seeking a husband, one who can bring good blood and a fine English name. Consider my youngest, Edward, who must have some means to secure his future. He has taken it into his head to pursue an occupation, but it is misguided ambition and will come to nothing. If your fortune is as large as you claim, send me proof. I am certain we can come to an understanding.

I could not move. Misguided ambition? Will come to nothing? Here was proof of yet further deception. It had been my own father who initiated the contact with Mason! Just who the hell did he think he was?

Damn him. Oh, damn him to Hell!

~ A World Far Away – End of Part IV ~

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

A World Far Away – Part V

This entry is part 5 of 11 in the series (Vol 4) A World Far Away

Ξ From the Journals of Edward Rochester – 1811-1815 Ξ

I could not move. Misguided ambition? Will come to nothing? Who the hell did he think he was? Well, damn him. Oh, damn him!

Resentment burned through me as I scattered the others across the desktop, eagerly seeking the next one. When I found it, my eyes devoured these words:

Thornfield Hall December, 18___

Mason –

…your wife’s affliction is unfortunate, but with respect to her daughter, it is perhaps nothing more than excitable, animal spirits. I see no undue cause for alarm, therefore let Edward remain ignorant. I have hope for reasonable success, so there must be no undue delay to thwart our purpose.

My hands were shaking as I tore open the last one:

Thornfield Hall March, 18___

Mason –

I believe £30,000 is a more reasonable offer, one which I can accept. If you are as you proclaim to be, anxious for our English name and blood, let me advise you of this: Edward is sensible of recent failures and therefore will be eager to succeed. Some incentive to insure his whole-hearted participation would not be imprudent—

What deviousness was this? A red haze filled my vision. With mounting fury I snatched up the the letter from Rowland. The picture it painted, a conspiracy so absolute, so devilishly wrought, sent me reeling:

Thornfield Hall April, 18___

My Dear Sir –

As we shall soon be related by way of marriage, I trust you will see to it that the wedding takes place at once. Your son Richard has informed me that while there may be regrettable circumstances respecting the bride, he believes the match can only benefit her. My brother is young and quite naive, but lusty enough to get her with child immediately. Act with appropriate alacrity, sir, and it will be of no consequence. Your heir will be conceived, and your legacy unbroken…

                                                                       * * *

Carter stared at me, pale with shock, unable to speak.

“I read the letters a dozen times over and what they revealed? It was contemptible. There is no doubt. My own father initiated the plot, James. They all knew the terrible truth of the fate awaiting me in Jamaica.”

“Rochester,” he whispered. “I don’t know what to say—”

“No words can express the outrage, the utter humiliation I felt in that moment. But worse than that, was the abject hopelessness of my situation. How Rowland must have laughed while weaving his plot. In every conceivable scenario, he would be the victor, and I, the vanquished. Should I have refused the challenge, they would simply brand me a coward, unworthy of the name of Rochester. If I brave the journey, but miserably fail as a lover, again I must return in shame. But no, Carter! I took up the challenge and won the day. But as you see, my triumph was hollow: it was a rigged game after all. And the prize? Nothing more than a fetter of servitude to madness!”

~ A World Far Away – End of Part V ~

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

A World Far Away – Part VI

This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series (Vol 4) A World Far Away

Ξ From the Journals of Edward Rochester – 1811-1815 Ξ

~ But my triumph was hollow: it was a rigged game after all – and the prize? Nothing more than a fetter of servitude to madness!” ~

“My God, Edward. They knew?”

“They did.”

“No wonder they kept you apart.”

“Yes,” I replied bitterly. “They must protect their loathsome little secret.”

“But surely,” he continued, “someone on the island must have known something—?”

“Perhaps. But Jonas Mason was respected, even feared by others in that insular society. I doubt not he paid well to buy their silence.”

“An old story, to be sure.”

“These were vile discoveries, but before I knew any of it,

“But before I knew any of this, my wife’s conduct was such that she must be confined, for her own safety as well as that of others. Most of our servants had fled, fearful of her violent temper. I was forced in every way to become her warden. As the weeks dragged into months, I sank deeper into despair, and soon my only comfort came from a bottle.”

“Rochester,” he whispered. “I cannot imagine how you endured it.”

“Not very well, James. When the terrible truth in Campbell’s letters came thundering down upon me, I had nothing left to withstand the torrent, and it swept me away to a place I had been more times than I could count: the wharf in Spanish Town, its docks littered with the squalid watering holes to which her lunatic fascinations and monstrous appetites had time and again enticed her. But this time, I found myself there not to extricate my mad wife from the clutches of some drunken sailor, but rather to seek oblivion in whiskey and rum. I began to frequent one establishment in particular for the company of a young woman I had met there…”


The murmurs of a dozen conversations ceased as I entered the pub. Never before had I come to this wretched establishment as a patron, and yet the denizens all knew me, for they had heard the stories of  that “English-man” who returned again and again to the shantytowns, searching for his wife, “the madwoman from up the hill,” to bring her back home again.

Their curious stares followed me as I took the bottle and glass from the bartender then retreated into a dark and dingy corner of the tavern. But soon enough, the novelty wore off and everyone went about his business. It seemed that even such a den of thieves as this honored the unspoken code that respected a man’s right to drink alone, even a man everyone knew to be rich.

I had drunk about half my bottle when I noticed a gaudily painted young woman watching me with dark, eager eyes and a smile she hoped would ellicit an invitation. Then, in exchange for a pitiful coin or two, she would charm and flatter, using whatever wiles she thought might please me, just as she would use them on any man who had stumbled through the door looking for intimacy, now matter how disagreeable or disgusting he might be.

I beckoned her to my table.

Señor? You wish me to join you?”

I nodded.

She smiled shyly, unaware, or not caring, how her fresh-faced youth and pretty face would soon fade into weariness and despair under the terrible privations of her trade. Yet there she sat, fully expecting that I should toss a few pence on the table then follow her upstairs.

I remember her surprise, naïve though it was, when I refused her shy overtures. Was I not there for the same reason every other man came to that place? To get roaring drunk then enjoy some soft companionship? That I had come here to drink, I said, there could be no doubt. But could she not be satisfied merely to sit and talk with me, if I was content to do so?

Yes, she would try.

It had been years since I had conversed in peace with any woman who was not a servant in my house. And though it perhaps amused her to earn her coin in that way, she nevertheless accepted my money and kept company with me, and together we talked and laughed and drank long into the night.


“For weeks, Carter, whenever I met her, all we did was talk. It was enough. I wanted nothing from her. And, I might have kept that oath, but for your letter with news that my father was dead.”

“I was sorry to have to write it, Edward.”

“All that day, I sat alone and got very drunk. I was so angry! I felt cheated, knowing I could never curse my father to his face for what he had done to me. I remember stumbling my way to the stables, managing to saddle a horse, and riding away from the house. I found myself once again in Spanish Town, in that wretched tavern where she was, and this time, Carter, God help me: I followed her upstairs.”

He tried to comfort me. “Edward, don’t do this to yourself—”

“Why not, James? I had broken every other promise I made to myself, except this one. And now, that one, too, lay broken. I began to believe that my father had been right all along. The seed was sown the day of my marriage. It had grown week and month and year upon year, watered by emptiness, nurtured by loneliness. And now, I harvested it myself by abandoning this last vestige of my self-respect. That morning, I fled back to Alta Arboleta, full of shame and self-loathing. My humiliation now was so complete, I thought nothing else could bring me lower. But an unexpected visitor proved how wrong I was….”

~ A World Far Away – End of Part VI ~

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

A World Far Away – Part VII

This entry is part 7 of 11 in the series (Vol 4) A World Far Away

Ξ From the Journals of Edward Rochester – 1811-1815 Ξ

I fled back to Alta Arboleta, full of shame and self-loathing. My humiliation now was so complete, I thought nothing else could bring me lower. But an unexpected visitor proved how wrong I was….”


A morning squall swept inland as I rode back to the house upon the hill. The rain passed swiftly, and the hot sun soon dried my clothes. The bustle and noise of the Spanish Town docks was far behind me as I crept back to the place I had departed late the night before. Too much rum had given me a thundering headache, and I felt like a wounded animal slinking back to its den.

I took a little-used path to the stables, where the last remaining groom took my horse. Walking up to the house on none too steady legs, I longed only for sleep. While passing up the shaded drive I noticed a fine-looking carriage standing at the front of the mansion. Strange. I recalled no appointments for visitors. But then, I never had visitors anymore.

Lucias stood on the back veranda. He rarely waited for me after one of my binges. Oh God, what had she done now, I thought, sinking beneath a feeling of sick anticipation.

“Lucias?” I eyed him suspiciously. “Are you here to scold me, or is there fresh trouble concerning your mistress?”

He smiled sadly. “No sir, Missah,” he sighed. “But Señor Richard has come.”

“Ah.” Relief washed over me. “What do you suppose could pry him away from his precious vineyards? Perhaps the rat who deserted the sinking ship had a change of heart.” I ordered tea to be brought to the library. “He is in the library, yes?” The old servant nodded. “And Lucias,” I winked. “Bring a little extra something…more robust to enhance its flavor, hmm?”

With a wearied eye, he surveyed my rumpled clothing and unshaven appearance. “Will Missah be having supper tonight? Or just da drink?”

Like a father’s rebuke, his skepticism stung me. He was my steward and took great pride in his duties over my household and its servants, at least when there had been such a staff. But having been in service with the Masons for more than twenty years, he, more than anyone else, understood the hopelessness of my circumstances.

“Of course I shall have supper. And no doubt Mr. Mason will join me.”

He went off to attend his duties while I hurried upstairs to change. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the glass and it startled me. I looked older than my 26 years. I had been here four years, but it seemed a lifetime ago when I was an eager young man, desperate to make his mark upon the world. I would give anything to have them back again.

But such musings would only sink me deeper into melancholy and were best left to another hour. Besides, it would be ill-mannered to keep my guest waiting. I made myself presentable, then went downstairs. In the library standing near the hearth stood Richard Mason, my brother-in-law.

“Well, well, Richard,” exclaimed I with feigned cheerfulness. “What brings you to my riotous little corner of the world?”   

As I advanced, he stiffened. “Dick, what is it? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.” I thumped my chest. “But I assure, I am alive and breathing.”

I gestured for him to sit in my chair. After a few minutes of agitated silence, he said, 

“Rochester, I am just returned from Madiera.”

“Jonas is dead so you decided to come back. Why?”

“There was little love between my father and I. Campbell wrote to me some time ago about a matter regarding the estate…but that is not really why I have come.”

Lucias appeared at this moment with the tea service. Mason fell silent as the old man poured out two cups, then departed.

“Certainly I don’t know what you could say to me that ought be kept from him.” I beckoned Mason to the table. “He is aware of everything that goes on in this house and has been for years, so do not pretend otherwise. But now…sit down. Have some refreshment.”

I took the bottle of whiskey which Lucias had brought with the tea, and put a drop or two into my cup. “Care for something a bit stronger?”

Mason refused the whiskey, but took a cup of tea. I waited for him to pick up the conversation where he had broken it off, but he merely sat there, saying nothing, drinking nothing.

“Your father, Richard…you say you had your disagreements with him?”

He nodded.

“Well, don’t let it be of such concern. It is the way of all sons with fathers, I fear. They have their differences and no way of overcoming them short of violence. So instead, they settle for uneasy silence, or as in your case and in mine, separation by great distances.”

“It is not something I am keen for others to know.”

“It’s the reason Jonas wanted a grandson, I suppose?”

Again, he nodded. “There was nothing for me here.”

“What is this other business you spoke off?”

“My concern must now be for the living. I am come to investigate certain…reports I have heard. I wish to believe them false, but I could not in conscience ignore them.”

“What are these reports you speak of?”

Mason was my wife’s only remaining blood relative. Etiquette dictated that I should consider him family. But I never could. He had scrupulously avoided the suitors, but after the wedding, he suddenly wanted to be my friend, and attached himself to me like a devoted dog. I found it all quite insufferable. I endured his servile attentions believing he was concerned for his sister, who had married this young foreigner. But it was unwitting sympathy born of ignorance. The letters Campbell had given me revealed his motives to be far less noble.

 “Rochester,” he pursued quietly. “These rumors are of a most disturbing nature.”

“Reports, rumors? Which is it? Make up your mind.”

“Regardless,” he replied, “the business which brings me here concerns my sister’s welfare.”

“My wife, you mean?” I drank the rest of my tea, then filled the cup, again including more whiskey. “And these reports? They have finally made you aware of her shameful conduct, I suppose?”

Almost shaking, he whispered, “These reports, Fairfax, concern not my sister’s conduct—but yours.”

~ A World Far Away – End of Part VII ~

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

A World Far Away – Part VIII

This entry is part 8 of 11 in the series (Vol 4) A World Far Away

Ξ From the Journals of Edward Rochester – 1811-1815 Ξ

Almost shaking, he whispered, “These reports, Fairfax, concern not my sister’s conduct—but yours.”

My conduct?” I swallowed another mouthful of tea. “What sort of nonsense is this?”

He turned away, afraid to meet my eye. “I have been informed…that is to say that you have—”

“That I what, man? Dammit, face me, and say what you mean.”

Mason turned sharply. He was shaking violently, but suddenly blurted out, “You have been beating her, Rochester! You mistreat her cruelly, and—”

“I? Beat my wife?” I interrupted. “Where ever did you hear such nonsense?”

“I have received letters from an old friend of my father.”

He stood a little taller as he confronted me with this claim, evincing a kind of boldness I had never seen in him before.

“An old friend?” I asked with contempt. “What is his name?”

Mason hesitated. “I…cannot say—”

“A man has a right to face his accuser!” I cried. “And of such a contemptible act? Don’t dissemble with me, Richard. Who makes this scurrilous claim?”

He fell back, unprepared for my vehement denial.

“You must believe these accusations to be true,” I continued, “otherwise why would you have come?”

He looked away again. “I…I don’t know.”

“A fine thing, Dick. I am your brother. Yet without so much as a word to me, you travel all the way from Madiera to condemn me on the word of a stranger?”

He was silent.

“You know all too well the history of this sordid little arrangement?” I gestured to the house around us. “Or have you forgotten how eagerly you gave your unreserved blessings to the match?”

I knew he wished to deny it, but could not.   

“Let me assure you, I have not. All those years ago we suitors, like so many prize cattle, were paraded daily before your sister, but it was a pointless exercise. Like Judas, my own father sold me for £30,000 of blood money before ever I set foot on this cursed island.”

His mouth dropped open, and he went white, quite white.

“Oh yes, Richard. I know all about that devilish bargain.”

I began pacing before him, my ire roused afresh by the remembrance of it all. The memories swept over me like a foul wind, clinging to every nerve, their collective voice groaning with never-ending condemnation.

He sat down, still quite pale, still mute.

“Well, Richard? Are you going to deny it?”

“Rochester,” he whispered. “It is what I…what we thought best.”

“You thought, you thought! I have long suspected that all the parties and festivities were mere exhibitions for my benefit. And all the while you watched, like a spy in the shadows, the unfolding of your plan.”

Of all his family, he was the only one who had ever shown the slightest affection for her. I half filled my cup with whiskey, and drained it in one, burning draught. I was getting drunk again, but I did not care. I paced before him, agitated by his noxious presence, angered by the baseless charges he had hurled in my face.

“Now Dick you will tell me. Who is this bastard who wrote such things to you?”

He sat quavering in his chair, but found the courage to say, “Perhaps I have been hasty. Perhaps the accusations against you…have been exaggerated.”

The iron restraint I had forced upon myself these four years was slipping away. My resolve to repress the deep antipathy I felt towards all who had conspired in the plot was beginning to fail me. The whiskey worked its rancorous charm, loosening my tongue, imperiling the tenuous hold by which I yet held my temper.

   “But you cannot deny, Rochester,” he continued timidly, “that she is no longer mistress of this house.” Suddenly he rose from his chair and came nearer. “All her servants have been dismissed, have they not? She is now held in close quarters, like a captive in her own home!”

“Oh no, you are not at all mistaken,” I assured him, laughing bitterly. “But only a fool would consider that she is the captive. It is quite the reverse, Mason. It is everyone in this house who is prisoner: we are all at the mercy of her demons. She is mad, you know. Quite insane.”

~ A World Far Away – End of Part VIII ~

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


A World Far Away – Part IX

This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series (Vol 4) A World Far Away

Ξ From the Journals of Edward Rochester – 1811-1815 Ξ

  ~ It is quite the reverse, Mason. Everyone is this house is at the mercy of her demons. She is mad, you know. Quite insane.”  ~

He staggered. For a moment I thought he might faint.

“Surely, this does not surprise you? You even wrote to my brother about it.”

“What…did you say?”

“You heard me. You knew she was doomed to the same end as your mother. How could you not?”

“Rochester, please,” he almost collapsed into the chair. “It cannot be…it is…too soon for this.”

“What do you mean?”

“I had hoped…we believed that marriage might do her good—”

“You hoped? There is nothing to be done for her, I tell you. I have tried. God knows, I have tried!”

I crossed the room to where he sat in my chair and looked down at his round, smooth face.

“You would accuse me of violence against your sister? I’ll show you violence.” I drew up the sleeves of my shirt and held up my forearms. “Take a look, Richard. A good, long look, and then tell me who is guilty.”

My flesh was criss-crossed with raw, angry welts and cuts, some deep enough to have required a surgeon’s ministrations.

“Last week when I went to her room and asked if she should like to come outside and enjoy the garden, without warning she attacked me. Somehow she had secreted a hair comb and for days had been sharpening one end against the tile floor, waiting only for the right moment to strike at me with it.”

Mason shook his head. “I…I am sorry.”

“Somehow I don’t think you are. But do you now understand the necessity for confinement?”

He leapt from his chair. “You admit it, then? You are nothing more than her jailer!”

  “For God’s sake, Richard, be reasonable! It’s for her own safety, as well as others. You’ve been gone a long time and don’t know the half of it.”

He clutched at my shirt sleeve almost like a child as he replied, “Rochester, we could not have known it would be…so soon.”

“You keep saying that! Spare me your feeble excuses,” I cried, pushing his slender fingers off my arm. “You knew her fate. That’s why you lied. That’s why you pretended your mother was dead, when all along she was interred in that hellhole of an asylum in Kingston.”

The bitterness and anger of four long years suddenly boiled up, choking me with its acrid taste. I wanted him to suffer as I had suffered.

“Did you ever go there, Richard? Do you know what it was like?”

He began to cry. “I…I could never bring myself to it.” He buried his face in his hands and wept softly.

I seized his hands and tore them away from his face, and forced him to look at me.

“Well, I did go there, when your pitiable mother was dead. At last she had found peace, for God knows, she must have had none in that Bedlam. They could find no one else willing to claim the mortal remains for a decent burial. Your father was quite ill, but had he been hale, he would have refused the duty nonetheless. You well know, he had washed his hands of her welfare years ago. Where were you, Richard?”

“I know…I should have come. I am a coward.”

“It was horrible. I could only take the warden’s word it was she. Filthy, emaciated, covered with running sores—”

“No more, I beg you,” he cried.

“Oh, but there is so much more, Richard, and you will hear it. Do you know they sometimes lock up men and women together? No matter the age? Whether healthy or ill? And of course, few of them are restrained. It seems their antics constitute the entertainment for those who are supposed to care for them.”

He threw his hands over his ears and cried pitieously. “Please, please, no more. Rochester…have mercy!” He whimpered like a whipped dog.

“Mercy?” I cried. I grabbed him by the lapels of his coat.

“No more, no more,” he sobbed, clawing at my fingers.

“You will hear the truth!” With a swift blow I slapped him across the cheek.

 ~ A World Far Away – End of Part IX ~

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

A World Far Away – Part X

This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series (Vol 4) A World Far Away

Ξ From the Journals of Edward Rochester – 1811-1815 Ξ

~ “You will hear the truth!” With a swift blow I slapped him across the cheek. ~

His eyes went wide, more with fear than pain. He ceased struggling and let himself be supported by my grip.

“You will hear the truth,” I repeated, still clutching his coat. “Night after night, Mason, until I lost track of the days and weeks. Night after unending night, I would be summoned into town—whatever quarter, whatever sin-hole she had crawled into. Wherever there was drink and men willing to buy, she would find her way there, seeking appeasement for her monstrous appetites. And when she chose not to wander into wild company and partake of their bacchanals, she spent her maniac fury against those of her own household!”

I breathed fast, and when I realized I still gripped him by the coat, I let go. He fell back, stumbling into his chair, silent, still smarting from the blow across his cheek and trembling with shock. But I had more to say, and began to pace before him.

“Most every servant in this house, save Lucias and Zabeth, have fled for their lives, Mason, for she was entirely unreasonable, cruel and violent, erupting into wild rages sparked by any trivial event. One of her laundry maids she chased down the drive, threatening her with a butcher knife. When she caught the frightened thing, instead of stabbing the girl, she bit off her ear, claiming it a just punishment, for the stupid servant had disobeyed her orders. When I questioned the poor child about them, they were nothing but gibberish.”

He slumped over, covering his face in his hands, his shoulders heaving with his sobbing cries. Good God, I thought. He really had no idea of how low she had sunk.


He threw up his arms, as if to ward off another blow, and shrank into the shadow, still weeping softly.

It was useless to try and explain myself. He no longer wanted to listen. Exhausted and wrung out, I dropped into a chair, too weary to say more.

We sat a long time in a heavy, uneasy silence. A dim regret that I had given way to my temper passed through my mind. At last I said,

“Mason, I only want you to understand. In spite of her conduct, and the obvious danger she was to herself and others, I would not condemn her to the horrible fate suffered by your mother.”

He made no reply.

“Of course I loathe her behavior. Its fetid shadow has darkened my own existence, and robbed me of a future inheritance. I am mocked behind my back and their heartless pity sickens me. I am the cuckhold of the lunatic, who in her sickness abused and used herself ruthlessly. They shun me and those of my household as if it were plague-ridden or worse. But your sister…can you not understand? She is nothing to them. They think of her only as another inmate to provide fresh amusements to the keepers of Pandemonium. Whether you care to believe it or not, I do bear a conscience. Though her natural flesh and blood has abandoned her, she is my wife, and a duty by which I am bound. I could never consign her to that place.”

He sat quietly in the chair, still holding his face. He had ceased weeping, but was too overcome, or ashamed, to meet my eye.

“All the doctors agree, and believe me, there have been many of them. She is mad, and unpredictably violent. That is why she must be confined. I, of course, bear the full force of her rage and hatred, for I am the executor of the business. I hold the key to her cell as it were, and she hates me for it. Given the means and opportunity, I know she would kill me.”

 ~ A World Far Away – End Part X ~

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