Finding Mr. Rochester again
Ferndean Manor was a large old house in the middle of a wood. It looked dark and lonely, surrounded by trees. As I approached, the narrow front door opened, and out came a figure I could not fail to recognize, Edward Rochester. I held my breath as I watched, feeling a mixture of happiness and sadness. He looked as strong as before and his hair was still black, but in his face I saw a bitter, desperate look, that I had never seen there before. He walked slowly and hesitatingly along the path. Although he kept looking up eagerly at the sky, it was obvious that he could see nothing. After a while he stopped, and stood quietly there, the rain falling fast on his bent, uncovered head. Finally he found his way painfully back to the house, and closed the door.
When I knocked at the door, Mr. Rochester’s old servant, John, opened it and recognized me. He and his wife Mary were the only servants their master had wanted to keep when he moved from Thornfield. Although they were surprised to see me, I had no difficulty in arranging to stay at Ferndean that night.
‘But he may not want to see you,’ warned Mary, as we sat together in the kitchen. ‘He refuses to see anybody except us.’ She was lighting some candles. ‘He always wants candles in the sitting-room when it’s dark, even though he’s blind.’
‘Give them to me, Mary,’ I said. ‘I’ll take them to him.’ The blind man was sitting near the neglected fire in the dark room. ‘Put down the candles, Mary,’ he sighed.
‘Here they are, sir,’ I said.
‘That is Mary, isn’t it?’ he asked, listening carefully. ‘Mary’s in the kitchen,’ I answered.
‘What sweet madness has seized me?’ he cried suddenly. ‘Where is the speaker? I can’t see, but I must feel, or my heart will stop, and my brain will burst! Let me touch you, or I can’t live!’ I held his wandering hand with both of mine. ‘Is it Jane? This is her shape.’ He released his hand and seized my arm, shoulder, neck, waist and held me close to him.
‘She is here,’ I said, ‘and her heart too. I am Jane Eyre. I’ve found you and come back to you.’
‘My living darling! So you aren’t lying dead in a ditch somewhere! Is it a dream? I’ve dreamed so often of you, only to wake in the morning, abandoned, my life dark, my soul thirsty.’
‘I’m alive, and I’m not a dream. In fact, I’m an independent woman now. I’ve inherited five thousand dollars from my uncle.’
‘Ah, that sounds real! I couldn’t dream that. But perhaps you have friends now, and don’t want to spend much time in a lonely house with a blind man like me.’
‘I can do what I like, and I intend to stay with you, unless you object. I’ll be your neighbour, your nurse, your housekeeper, your companion. You will never be sad or lonely as long as I live.’
He did not reply immediately, and I was a little embarrassed by his silence. I had assumed he would still want me to be his wife, and wondered why he did not ask me.
‘Jane,’ he said sadly, ‘you cannot always be my nurse. It’s kind and generous of you, but you’re young, and one day you will want to marry. If I could only see, I’d try to make you love me again, but…’ and he sighed deeply.
I was very relieved to discover that was all he was worrying about, because I knew that his blindness made no difference at all to my love for him. However, I thought too much excitement was not good for him, so I talked of other things, and made him laugh a little. As we separated at bedtime, he asked me, ‘Just one thing, Jane. Were there only ladies in the house where you’ve been?’ I laughed, and escaped upstairs, still laughing. ‘A good idea!’ I thought. ‘A little jealousy will stop him feeling so sorry for himself!’
Next day I took him outside for a long walk in the fresh air. I described the beauty of the fields and sky to him, as we sat close together in the shade of a tree.
‘Tell me, Jane, what happened to you when you so cruelly abandoned me?’ he asked, holding me tightly in his arms.
And so I told him my story. Naturally he was interested in St John Rivers, my cousin.
‘This St John, do you like him?’