A huge Jane Eyre fan, this is my first post and I would love to know what you think of my alternate ending (this is what I secretly hoped would happen when I first read Jane Eyre!). Please review, and if you like it I will gladly write more. :)
'If you admit this beggar-woman, St John, I declare she'll carry herself down in the night to unbolt the door for her followers – what o' your sisters then?'
'She looks too weak for trouble, Hannah.'
'We know what the Lord says o' wolves in sheep's clothing! She has feigned this look to gain entry. You can't be too careful with her sort.'
'I shall sit up with her.'
'I'm fear'd ye've not the energy, St John, having travelled so far.'
This man – this St John – turned in the doorway and almost looked at me. Perhaps he did look at me; it was hard to determine through the rain and darkness with an enfeebled vision.
'I've not the focus for this to-night,' he declared morosely, covering his eyes briefly with his hand. He paused and erelong subjoined, 'Hannah, you will give this woman some milk and a piece of bread. I should not like her to perish here of want.'
I saw his figure move away, towards the warm light denied me, and vanish inside the house. I heard no more than the door close; then it opened again. Hannah stepped out with her candle in hand, and looked round from the doorstep, as if to ascertain no assailant lay in wait.
'There,' she said firmly, setting down for me a mug, and pushing some bread into my hand. 'Now, the gentleman 'ere ha' been brought low by the death o' his father. Don't bother him more; drink and eat up, and move off, if ye've an ounce o' honesty!'
She too deserted me; having clapped the door shut she again bolted it within. Once more I was left alone in the darkness: abandoned; shunned. It recalled to me Mrs Reed and the red room. The idea of dying then was very different to my idea of dying now. If I had passed away in my uncle's bedchamber, a pang of gladness would I have felt to think of my negligent relations finding me lifeless in the morning. Now, however, the idea of dying on this doorstep seemed worse to me than dying in a street or on a frequented road.
'If I can but eat my last supper here,' thought I, quite broken, 'I shall return to the hill to find somewhere I might rest everlastingly.'
I barely felt the bread between my numbed fingers, but dipped it in the milk I did, before putting it to my lips. Of the bread and milk, I ate and drank all. When the rain had softened, I rose slowly. The food revived me; for how long was impossible to surmise. If I could but find a little shelter near this very house to sleep the night's remainder, it might be well for me to try St John again in the morning. He seemed to have the capacity to help; if he had not been suffering the passing of his father, I believe he may have admitted me.
No shelter could I find in the garden or by the house, or against the hedge. All the ground swam in puddles. Resolved to return to that desolate and drenched hill, I moved towards the blackness.
These moments, reader, I gladly spent with my master in sweet reverie, where no sin of the flesh could be committed. His company shielded me from the harshness of the cool wind on my damp skin, and fought off the fear of a lonely end. During these glimpses into happiness, I believe I walked farther than I thought possible, and may have curved my path in the darkness; presently, I saw a light far afield, which might have been from the house I left behind. The rain again increased. Soon, I found it was not the same light, but a softer glow, as of a lantern, small and close.
'Perhaps it is merely a guiding star,' thought I, in a state of desperation and perhaps delusion. This was before the light separated into two lights! I heard shouting; I heard strong voices, calling out – perhaps they say 'Rain! Rain!' through the deluge. One step more I could not go.
'I must lay here,' I said internally. My body obeyed. I lost my footing and fell forward onto the saturated ground, thin with moss, thick with mud. I laid my head on my arms and closed my eyes, for my lids weighed heavy as rocks. It was a long while since I'd heard the shouting. Indeed, the rain had stopped and I felt a light on my eyes. I unclosed them to perceive a waxing moon appearing from under those dripping curtains. Suddenly I heard a voice roar the word I most wished to hear, and to utter myself –
'Rochester! – Rochester!' yelled the unfamiliar voice, and it continued, 'Rochester! Here! Here!' and the voice echoed between my ears, or over the moor, like a recurring dream.
The sound of feet landed on the wet grass nearby. Distant hooves grew louder, ever closer. Another set of feet dismounted and eagerly approached. There was a thud and a sliding gush in the mire at my side.
'Jane!' my master's voice rippled against my ear – what a warm whisper! And a whisper more penetrating than the loudest cry. 'Jane! Jane!'
'Does she live?' the initial voice inquired.
I had no strength to move my eyes, nor lift my head to confirm it. I felt myself raised slightly; arms encircled me, frozen shaky fingers touched my face, which if I had strength to, I would have turned to kiss!
'Get me water, man! – Jane! Oh, my little darling! Forgive me! – forgive me, Jane!' A sobbing stifled his voice.
Light gushes of water flowed near my ears, and a wetted cloth or handkerchief gently washed my face. After which, water was applied directly to my lips. Suddenly the ground beneath me fell away, as my body parted from it, and those muscular arms responsible held me with a determination to never let go. I know not to where I was borne, or how long the intervals of consciousness lasted, but soon I felt the turbulence of a rock-strewn way, and heard the sound of rolling carriage wheels beneath me. Soft yellow light penetrated my eyelids and slipped under my lashes – beyond, I saw the fringe of blue fabric framing a window of dark blue horizon. A lantern swung against it, which held the light I perceived.
Mr Rochester supported me; presently his closed eyes were peaceful. He was not asleep; his arms cradled me, encaging me in a position that required mindful energy. Those great jetty eyebrows, fixed in a position of anxiety, and other familiar grim features expressed ease too. My heart might have burst with relief to be with him again in the flesh. But my head too sharply directed some apprehension its way, to steady my actions and remind that pining organ of mine: 'Should I be locked in a room, too? How far will he venture now to keep me near? How should I act?'
'Do not act at all,' returned an inward voice. 'True love has no stage and no players. Games are for winning or losing; if you play, someone must lose.'
I trusted this voice and felt relief wash over me while I committed to stay true to my heart and to Mr Rochester's – though only for the duration of my recovery.
'I have terrified him,' thought I. 'He deserves my gratitude and then later my honesty.'
I wished to return to sleep but presently a dryness scratched in my throat that I could not endure. I must have water.
'Sir?' I muttered – perhaps the word was too cold for this moment, but familiar enough for a beginning. It issued from my arid lips more eagerly than I had intended or thought possible.
His arms flinched; his head whipped round. His eyes sprang open and fixed on mine.
'Jane! You live! – you live!' bringing me up against him, stooping his head and putting his warm face to mine. With no expectation, he instinctively swept his lips across my cold gaunt cheek and pressed them firmly to my chapped lips.
Reader, I welcomed it, like the Eucharist: to taste of his body was nourishment indeed! Perhaps this was the paradise I had hoped to receive me, even temporarily. My future was still uncertain; I yet felt close to death!
'Can you rise, my darling?' he asked, pulling his head back only inches. 'And drink something?'
He brought me slowly to a seated position where I discovered he had removed my bonnet and allowed my hair to fall naturally, which he smoothed with his hand away from my face.
'Your bonnet was all mud and rain, Janet;' he said, while readying a flask, 'your hair is yet damp! Here –' He put wine to my lips, substituting this for bread and repeating the exchange. 'Are you revived, Jane? We are almost home.'
Home. This should have put me on edge, but already I had decided to allow myself freedom of discomfort and fear. I will allow myself to feel happiness at seeing him and comfort at feeling him; for me, it was pleasure to comfort him in return. My escape was a failure, but it would have been a failure whether Mr Rochester discovered me or not. I was to perish on the moor – that was certain. If escape is not the answer, I must decide what is. Only if Mr Rochester intends his original role, I must try something else, but not yet.
My master lifted me from the carriage and carried me over the threshold at an hour when perhaps everyone was in bed: it was very dark. Conscious but too weak to do anything but observe, I found my eyes absorbed little. His unremitting strength conveyed me up the stairs and through the chill gallery to a bedchamber, familiar and very warm, which glowed with a waning fire.
'Now, Jane,' he whispered, 'don't waste vital breath in talking, and never fear; you are safe! Nothing and no one shall harm you. You will rest and rest only. All are asleep and I mean to keep it that way.'
He lay me down upon the foot of the bed. I saw him move away and heard him vigorously stir the fire until the room was newly aglow. I did not see him return to the bed because a tiredness came upon me that I could not fight off, even as I felt and beheld Mr Rochester removing my cloak, then my shoes. His muscular hands soon turned me on my side, where he began feeling, and then removing, my black silk frock, which was drenched in rain and mire.
'Please, sir?' I uttered, to which he didn't respond. His full attention he placed directly in his task. Not an ounce of strength had I to stop him, nor breath enough to talk him down. 'I must trust him,' I thought, because that was all I could do.
My dress now removed, he felt the feet of my stockings and, as I very well knew, found them to be quite wet. He removed them from the knee before unfastening my camisole and corset by the gentlest motions, clearing his throat as he did. An acceleration in my heart rate and exclamation of 'Sir!' did not faze him as my chemise and petticoat were next to undergo scrutiny. Indeed, these were the final layers of any woman's cumbersome attire. He felt these only round the edges, and, I suppose – certainly, I hoped! – determining them to be dry, he left them in-situ. Again, he lifted me but this time to the head of the bed, having pulled back the coverlet, and placing me down pulled the blanket over me.
He kissed my brow and whispered, 'Sleep, now, Janet.'
Thanks for reading!
P.S. If you do like my ideas and style, then you might like my novel, Halton Cray, which is available on Amazon for a bargain. Inspired by Jane Eyre, it is a contemporary paranormal romance with similar tones set in a Tudor manor in southeast England.