Here we reach the end of our journey. I hope you enjoy this final instalment. I shall certainly look at writing a continuation (my brain is on fire with ideas!), and if not, a new Jane Eyre story… we shall see which takes shape! I am incredibly grateful to all of you: your support has been amazing, and most especially that of Bonbonnett, Elwren75, Anonymouse, Rivers.1880, Biblioiam, MDawgg, Laura fdo, Callofhonour, and everyone who has taken the time to read my work. I thank you :')
Chapter 17 – My Mrs Rochester
The month of mourning passed away, during which I had given Mr Rochester my friendship gladly, and he received it gratefully. For the most part he was perfectly at ease in my company, and only every so often did his patience give way to a recital of subtle questions, such as, 'Would I remain at Hay long?' – 'Did I intend to be a school-mistress for ever?' – 'How long did I suppose a widower should wait until he might respectfully wed again?' – that sort of thing.
And does the reader think me cold for disregarding these probes and provocations? He knew as well as I that it would be insensitive to act on our feelings for one another, or even mention anything more than friendship so soon: his wife had been in the crypt one month.
In mid-December, I closed my village-school for the season of general holiday, taking care to send the children off not one of them empty-handed. Mr Rochester sent John to fetch me down to dine with him. To John's surprise and I daresay to Mr Rochester's, I accepted the invitation and took supper with him at Thornfield. When we had finished, we sat together in the drawing-room, talking of Adele and the arrangement of her return for Christmas week.
Quite unexpectedly, he took a gentle hold of my hand and asked outright if enough time had passed to speak from the heart. I insisted that it was too soon; that the subject might be attempted after Christmas. Ever the impatient master, Mr Rochester would not wait three days before he broached the subject again; I ignored his questions and went on drinking my tea in silence. When he caressed my hand, I made a fist; when he attempted kisses, I turned my head and asked that he might let them fall harmlessly on my cheek.
'You trying thing! Fire sprite! – I shall have my revenge, though I should reach forty, or fifty, first, if you have your way, eh?'
'In that case I shall think twice about taking such a man for my husband.'
'Now you know, Jane, that I would never ask you to endure anything; if you should tell me on our wedding night that you were afraid, I would not pressure you in the slightest. Though I am rather inclined to think it is I who should be afraid, witch!'
'You don't talk too wisely just now.'
'Pure as the spring rain, she is,' he said speaking in another direction, 'but hard, cool, and treasurable as diamonds! – my very own, pale and mystical, "unbreakable" Jane Eyre.'
'You shan't get round me with flattery, you known that.'
'A rough diamond then!' he said, placing me on his knee. 'But a rare one all the same. Jane, when are you going to permit me to fasten the sacred ball and chain around your young maiden's ankle?'
'It is yet too early, sir, to speak of matrimony.'
'It is now December,' he said, discounting my remark. 'We can marry Christmas week.'
'No, sir, I think it is too soon.'
'To-morrow is not soon enough,' he went on.
'That is impossible, Edward.'
'I know it, but I shall speak to Wood all the same, first thing on the morrow, to have it all arranged, for I wish to marry you in no more than three days hence. We must become one flesh, Jane, without delay. It shall be Christmas come early when I unwrap my present that night.'
'Not if I can help it, sir.'
'We can leave for Paris the moment we've taken our vows.'
'No talk of bridal tours just now, if you please. A simple ceremony, and to remain at Thornfield, with you, sir, is all I could wish for – it is all I should ever want.'
'So be it, if that is your wish.'
'It is; as long as you don't think you might be fastening any chain – whether real or figurative – about my limbs like I were a piece of property. I am not a possession to be bought or sold–!'
He pulled me to him and silenced me with a kiss. 'No, you're not property, my little bride, you are my equal. I only wish you were not so rich,' he said, chuckling, taking up his teacup while I sat there on his knee.
'What on earth for?' I asked.
'So that no one can claim I had another motive.'
'I don't care for what strangers think, sir. Anybody who knows us, will, I'm afraid, be perfectly aware of your wish to marry me when I was poor. – On that subject, sir, I do feel I should tell you that I am not as rich as you think, not any longer, for I gave three thousand pounds away.'
'What?' He almost spat his tea back into his cup. 'Jane?' he said, dabbing his mouth, 'there is a ringing sound in my ear. Did you just say that you gave three thousand pounds away?'
'It is true; I gave each of my cousins a thousand pounds apiece. They are my relatives, and by no means rich ones; my uncle's feud was not with them directly. It seemed wrong to keep the entire sum to myself. I have written to Diana and Mary already, asking them that if they wish, they may come to Hay and run the village-school in my stead. It would be a great start-up for them, since they now have family near, and the school is established.'
'What of St John?' said Mr Rochester with a quizzical eye. 'Won't he visit his sisters, and therefore you; he now has the means, of course; there is nothing to prevent him.'
'He is still going to India, sir. I had news of it in a letter from Diana. She writes most strangely about his intentions that–'
'I have a queer feeling that he shall never return; that I shall never see him more.'
'Have you been dreaming your future again, sibyl? I hope for his sake the reading is correct.'
'Now, sir, I don't know what you have to be jealous about.'
'I shan't have, once I have you safe as my wife.'
'What would you have me do, Jane?' He fully embraced me and planted rapturous kisses on my lips. 'You know you have mastered me utterly. Command me now as only you know how to.'
'I just might, sir, but–'
'"Edward" – give me my name!'
'Oh, Edward! I wish only to have a little more time.'
'Time!' he pished. 'Nigh on sixteen years I have longed for your likeness, Janet, and you wish me to be patient? Well, what's another year?' – Needless to inform the reader, he was sarcastic, and quite rightly so; what I asked was quite preposterous considering.
'There is nothing wrong in us marrying right away, Jane,' he said softly. 'There is no impediment now; it is all above-board. I love you, and you love me, do you, Jane?'
'Yes, sir, most truly I do.'
'Then let's not waste any more time in being apart.' He stroked my fingers gently now while I sat perched on his lap. I took the weight of his muscular hands in both mine and lifted them to my lips.
Reader, I married him. I knew, as we entered that same church at the end of the drive, where I had once questioned how it could be, that I, a poor plain orphan girl, should become the wife of the Master of Thornfield; I had now, at last, the answers I had craved. I was grateful to God and to my self-respecting spirit that I was no fool for asking them. I had not been a simpleton for believing there was something amiss, to have asked those questions inwardly; all had been revealed, and I was now easy in my mind while I stood beside my dear Edward, when Mr Wood pronounced us man and wife, sighing no small relief at having had no interruptions. I was glad too, that our wedding night would be at Thornfield Hall.
Our true bridal day turned out a relatively simple affair, and it suited me better. Mrs Fairfax came into the library in the afternoon to offer her congratulations. Mary, when bringing the tea, curtseyed to me and offered her compliments to the Mistress of Thornfield.
My husband, after supper, asked me to sit with him for a little while in the drawing-room before we would go up to bed. There was a good fire. He placed me on his knee and we talked of Adele coming home in a few short days.
'It has been a long day to-day, Jane; you are not exhausted, I hope?'
'No, sir, though it has been a most exciting day, naturally.'
'Then let us retire early.'
'The clock, sir, has not yet struck nine.'
'I don't care a straw for what that clock says. My clock says we must become one flesh without delay.' and leaning forward, he patted my hand, and asked if I required 'liquid courage'.
I should have assented and taken another glass of wine, but I did not wish him to think I dreaded the night ahead. As keen as mustard, Edward nodded and lifted me up in his arms.
We reached the top of the stairs and trod the matted gallery quietly, so as not to let the house know that the bridegroom and his missus were off to bed for the first time.
'Mrs Fairfax has put your things in your former chamber, my little wife, so that you might make yourself ready in there.' He walked at my side, passing his own room, to open my old door for me.
'Thank you, Edward.'
'What is it, Mrs Rochester? Why do you hesitate?'
'I should just ask Mrs Fairfax if she will help me with unfastening my frock.'
He ushered me inside and closed the door. 'Let me have that pleasure, Jane.' My master's hands were already at my waist, turning me about; I steadied myself with holding on to the bedpost while he moved his hands to the central clasps. The sound of the fabric ruffled under his touch, and the metallic hooks chinked a sound as each came undone. Realising my breathing had become overly audible; I blushed and held my breath.
His task done, he turned me to face him, and looked down into my eyes; those fine dark planets smiled upon me, he there kissed my brow. 'Come to me when you have made yourself ready, my darling,' said he, moving to go, before he stopped to extort a promise from me that I would not be long.'
'I shall be five minutes, sir.'
He left the room, and I, bolting the door behind, began with undressing. While in the process, I observed a box on my toilet-table, crowned with a note: the elegant hand I recognised instantly to be Edward's. It was my wedding present, it said, one that I should wear to-night. Within the silvery leaves of tissue paper, folded upon itself was a long and pale silk nightdress, trimmed with the most exquisite white lace. Embroidered just above the hem were my new initials: J.R.
Deeper in the box was a dressing-gown of the same material, only heavier with not so much lace; I was glad of its simplicity. They were lightly fragranced with the sweet and warm scent of jasmine, which left me feeling slightly heady after I had held it under my nose and breathed it in deeply, repeatedly. There was something calming about it, and perhaps that is why Mr Rochester chose it, or perhaps it was a popular choice for nervous brides.
My breathing became quite shallow as I lifted out the nightdress fully and felt how light and thin it was, and how it would not conceal my figure if I wore nothing else but this. I should not feel right treading the gallery wearing just these items. I began to panic and look about me, but quickly resolved that I must at least try them and decide then if they were too revealing. If they were, then I would appear before him in my frock or cloak, and he may grumble how he likes, I would not feel uncomfortable going to his chamber at least. I decided that I would try on the nightdress, before washing my face and smoothing my hair. I found slippers in the box, too, and I put those on to keep my feet warm.
The nightdress I found was a very fine fragile thing that I half feared I might tear before I got it on. There! Now I stood before the looking-glass. What an alteration! and not one in the least like I was expecting. It did not wash my complexion out, as I had anticipated, but gave me a healthier glow. The neckline, scalloped with the fine lace, which a ribbon fastened over my bust, became my slender shoulders rather well, and the length was ideal, covering my ankles without falling too long that I might trip. I had been right about the material; the shape of my figure was too clear, almost visible I thought. I turned a little at seeing myself, and was suddenly overcome with nervousness and embarrassment at the thought of appearing thus before Mr Rochester. I could see his smile now! How he would triumph to claim me in this scanty thing!
I thought I heard somebody on the gallery and I stopped to listen. I dreaded then that I had been more than five minutes and my master was coming to fetch me. I did not wish to give him that trouble, and I imagined hearing the story of our wedding night repeated in my ear for many anniversaries to come, when he would sip his wine and smoke his cigar, saying, 'Remember our first night together, Janet; you recall how I had to come to fetch you from your room? How you must have trembled at the thought of, etc., etc.'
'No,' I resolved, 'I shall not let him exult in that, nor let him think I am afraid. I'll not make him wait longer than I had promised.' and to the looking-glass I did not turn again, but instead I tied the belt of the dressing-gown firmly about my waist and marched to my chamber door.
Out on the gallery sat Pilot and he laid down when he saw me approach to pass him. I patted his head and silently moved towards my husband's chamber. Knocking softly on the door, I imagined he should call out 'enter!' but he did not. He opened the door instead and stood yet in his half-open shirt, untucked over his breeches.
'You are not ready,' spilled from my lips nervously, seeing that his facial hair and neck were damp where he had been washing and shaving again. 'I shall come back,' I said.
'You'll do nothing of the sort, enchantress! Come along, lingerer!' He held open the door and ushered me inside before closing it quietly. With one hand encasing mine, he locked us within. Those black spheres did not leave my face for a moment, as he turned fully towards me and examined me in the heavier fabric of the dressing-gown.
'Well, I had your size correct here, my fairy; and what about the slip?'
'It fits very well, sir, if not a little lacking in material. Do you suppose the silk warehouse were short on this fabric?'
'You're not short on audacity, are you, Thing? I see you are on your guard and your tongue was always your sharpest weapon. How might I disarm you, do you think, so that I do not injure myself on our wedding night?'
Of course, I knew I might be defensive and impossible. I inhaled long and softly, so that he might not know, for I have always been as stubborn as he, and then I said with some reluctance, not wishing to be ungrateful, 'Thank you, it is very beautiful.'
His smiled was more so, and was my reward. 'Do you like the scent?' he asked eagerly. 'I have spent less time trekking over Europe than I did in choosing a scent that would please you, and all in the hope it might help you to feel calm and happy.'
'I should always be happy with you, Edward, scent or no scent; but I cannot help feeling nervous.'
'Kiss me, Janet, and let us hold each other now as we shall for the rest of our lives.'
He kissed me and held me in his arms.
'Now, sir, I should like to sit with you a moment, since it is yet early, unless there is a particular reason for this impatience?'
'What possible reason could there be, Jane, other than my wish, under the purest love, to claim you entirely? – Don't answer that! just move over there, nearer the fire, before you catch a chill. I should have thought better of ordering these for your bonny wee frame in winter.'
Mr Rochester took my hand and led me to the end of the bed. He stood before me and asked if I remembered saving him from the fire.
'After which, we stood right about here,' he said, 'how I wanted you then,' he added, enveloping me in his arms, so that my chin rested on his bare chest. 'How I have wanted you ever since.' He unknotted the belt of my gown and peeled the fabric away from the fine, light nightdress beneath. He pulled the ribbon that fastened the lace collar, and as it came undone in his hands, he gathered me to his breast once more and kissed my lips leisurely, repeatedly. These kisses rained too on my cheek and jaw, and while his lips found their way to my neck, I whispered nervously –
'Edward,' sounding unintentionally awkward, while turning my face to lay my cheek flat to his chest, light with fine black hair, deep in his manly scent.
'Your heart beats like a rabbit's, Jane,' he whispered gently, enclosing me in his arms; 'there is nothing to fear, my good English girl.'
I shifted down a lump in my throat to whisper, 'I am afraid that I will disappoint you; but don't laugh; I don't know what to do.'
He sat down at the foot of his bed, gathering me to him and placing me on his knee. His eyes pierced mine while he took my shaky hands in his and chafed them gently.
'My little wife, don't distress yourself; I would not expect you to know, nor would I ask you to pretend to anything about it. All is right here: I shall lead you tenderly,' he said in a low, confident tone that I felt he would, truly.
His left hand rubbed the base of my spine and his right sought my knee; he massaged it, creasing the thin silk that presently separated his flesh from mine. Though I naturally smiled to his words, the genuine tone of the voice iterating them, I quivered with nervous excitement to have him as my teacher; and my nervous excitement only grew as he lifted me up in to his arms and carried me round to one side of the bed. I felt his heart booming strong and glad while he held me against his chest. He laid me down within the covers, and with the fire burning in the grate, his candle on the side table, I watched him at first before closing my eyes while he removed his shirt and breeches.
'Will you not put on a night-shirt?' I asked in a fluster, as he climbed into bed and moved up against me.
He shook his head, smiling. 'What the deuce for? I don't want a night-shirt. – I thought you didn't know anything about this ceremony, Janet?'
'I don't, except for some of those things talked or joked about in school by the older girls, who laughed at such things.' My cheeks burnt hotter with every word I said.
'What things? Come, tell me.'
'Well, how married couples are not supposed to be uncovered when they are together, but should wear night-attire at all times, even while–' I stopped.
'While in the act; and how we should not be intimate on certain days of the week.'
He chuckled and pulled me against him. 'Nonsense! Nobody adheres to those rules, or if they do, they cannot be happily wed.' He paused to look upon me and soon I got a hearty kissing. His breathing fell hard and low, and before I knew it, I had found his rhythm repeated in mine.
'Well, Janet,' he said, leaving my lips a moment, 'I intend for us to be happily married. Do you think there would be any people in the world if all spouses undertook to follow such a ridiculous set of rituals? Besides, you forget one vital vow in all this: you swore to obey me. Ha! I see your smile, in both surprise and relief!'
'Nonsense,' I said back, unable to stop smiling. I laid my arm across him and my cheek against his massive chest as he breathed heavily. 'Edward?' I said, raising my head again and looking into those fiercely black eyes. 'Will you extinguish the candle then, at least? The fire burns brightly enough.'
He looked at me smiling, his left arm tucked beneath me, his right tracing the pattern of the fine lace along my neckline, before slipping the silk away from my shoulders. He kissed me again and whispered, 'My Mrs Rochester.' – turning his head, he blew out the candle.
Within one year of our marriage, we were blessed with a daughter. A fine girl of a good weight, with her father's dark complexion and mop of black hair. Her smell, so exquisitely pure, filled the room in which I rested, my husband holding her beside me on the bed.
'What shall we call her?' I asked, leaning back against my pillows with a tray over my lap, and on it, a plate of eggs, bacon, some porridge and toast, with a cup of tea too, for I was famished.
'I like Janet.' Laughed Edward, gazing at our little one in his arms, and tracing each line of her wrinkled face while she slept.
'What was your mother's Christian name?' I inquired, ignoring his suggestion.
'Ah! Then I should infinitely prefer Emily Jane. – Emily Jane Fairfax Rochester. She will bear both our initials, just as I now bear my mother's: J.R.'
'Emily Jane,' he repeated, smiling. 'It is a perfect name for our perfect girl. Speaking of perfect little girls,' he added, coining one of his sly looks, 'where the devil is Adele at? She has not stopped asking after you both since the start of your labour. Now she may come in here, she has gone off to God knows where! She shall be disappointed when I tell her she missed her chance. Foolish child!'
'Now, Edward, you must not say that any longer. Adele has improved significantly since we removed her from that dreadful school, particularly in the last six months.' I sipped my tea and smiled again to watch him cooing over Emily. 'Did you see the little book Adele has been writing? She forms her letters beautifully in a good clear hand. You must not make her doubt herself by calling her foolish.'
He smiled and turned his large and brilliant eyes upon Emily again, rocking her gently in his arms. I heard then the distinct trip of Adele's little foot out on the gallery.
'If I am not mistaken, Janet, our little wanderer returns. – I hear you out there, child!' said he, raising his voice a little, to which Emily frowned in her sleep and I thought her look rather uncanny to her father's. 'Come along then!' he added.
The door unclosed gently and Adele peeped round it before hurrying in. 'Ah! Mrs Rochester!' she said excitedly, 'you have had your baby at last!'
'Close the door, Adele,' said Edward, 'and come over here: but no running!'
Adele tucked her loosened hair behind her ears as she approached Mr Rochester, looking then over his arm at Emily. 'Is it a girl?'
'Yes,' said my husband; 'you have a little sister to play with. Her name is Emily.'
'Emily,' she whispered, smiling before humming a little tune.
'If you teach her one of those damned opera verses, I shall never buy you a pretty dress again.'
She paused in her song, and had begun to stroke Emily's fingers. 'No, Mr Rochester. I won't do that.'
'Good. Now run along to the kitchen and ask Mary for a sweetmeat. You are far too thin still since you came away from that school.'
She came up to the head of the bed and asked to kiss my cheek, before making her way to the door.
'Will I go back to that school, Mr Rochester?'
'No. Mrs Rochester will look out a new school for you, somewhere better and altogether closer to home.'
She smiled and opened the door to go out. I went on eating my late breakfast with a smile on my face.
In the following years, we had our son, Edward, who had both his father's black hair and eyes. Hazel hair eventually replaced Emily's dark mop, and her eyes became a dark shade of green.
Edward and I, then, are happy. Those who surround us are happy too. Diana and Mary Rivers came to Thornfield for a visit while I was expecting Emily, and they were both of them every bit as I had hoped. They gave their immeasurable thanks for the invitation, and the thousand pounds each, and were delighted to continue running Hay school with my husband as their patron. When I get the rare opportunity, I enjoy a walk up the hill to my former little cottage, where it thrives yet as a charity school, but with additional private lessons given too; Diana and Mary teach the globe, and German or French. Independence, they agreed, would be the making of their happiness. They are both courting officers and we expect to hear news of a double engagement any day.
As to St John Rivers, he left England for India, to enter on a path he had marked out for himself; he pursues it still. He is unmarried: he will never marry now. He wrote to me six months after I had written to him, to express his gratitude for the funding; but he did not allude to my marriage, or mention Mr Rochester. His last letter drew a tear from my eye; he wrote that he eagerly anticipates a sure reward for his faithful service, and I do not doubt he is deserving of it. I know that I shall not receive another letter from India; his sisters will one day call for me, and in their faces will be written that no fear of death did darken their brother's last hour; his hope was too sure, his faith steadfast. His own words are a pledge of this –
'My Master,' he says, 'has forewarned me. Daily He announces more distinctly, "surely I come quickly!" and hourly I more eagerly respond, "Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!"'