My head was spinning and every fibber of my body hurt. I could barely move, I tried sliding one leg to one side and felt a sharp pain in my hip. At least it moved. I kept testing the rest of my limbs, until I tried to move the fingers of my left hand. Nothing. I didn't feel my hand at all. I moved my arm to touch my face with my left arm and felt like an elbow instead of my palm. I opened my eyes immediately, and couldn't see a thing. I lifted my other arm to touch my face, and felt it with bandages. Then, I tried to bring my hands together, but my right hand found only a stump. I gasped in horror. My hand was missing, I had no hand at all!
I began panting, and with my hand I began tracing the features of my face, and found half of it was covered in bandages. I quickly removed them, and touched my left eye. I felt a tender flesh healing under the bandages, a burning pain crossing from my forehead to my cheekbone, and my eyelid shut. I touched my eyelid and screamed, not only because it was the worst pain I've felt, but because I didn't feel my eyeball in there.
I was blind and missing a hand. My hand was shaking now and kept touching the rest of my body to see if everything was still there. My neck was also covered in bandages, as was my chest. Every part that my hand touched hurt, but it was nothing compared to the panic I felt when I realized I was in such a state.
-"Mr. Rochester!" I heard a very familiar voice call my name in an alarmed tone. A voice I knew too well, it was Mrs. Fairfax. "Are you well Sir? "
-"I'm blind and missing a hand Mrs Fairfax, how could I possibly be "well"? I replied in a tone that frightened even myself.
Mrs Fairfax sobbed. I gasped.
-Mr. Rochester, I see you are awake – said another voice, a man's voice, I wasn't quite sure to whom it belonged.
-Who is that? I asked
-It's Dr. Carter Mr Rochester – replied MrsFairfax – he's been attending your wounds all these time.
-What happened? - I asked, confused on what led me to this pitiful state.
-I'm sorry Mr. Rochester, but it had to be done. – replied Carter, trying to sound as soothing as possible.
-Mrs Fairfax, tell me what the devil happened – I commanded
-Well… when you were climbing down the stairs after… trying to… save her… - she choked –
-Yes? Was my irritated answer
-The, the stairs…. The fire had consumed the planks, and it gave in, you fell sir. And the burning splinters and ashes got into your eyes… unfortunately, a bean also collapsed and it knocked you unconscious. We believe it was the bean that hit your head and… damaged your left eye. It fell on the left part of your body, but it was your left hand, Sir, that….
-It got crushed under the beam….- I replied, realizing what happened.
-Yes sir… When the fire stopped, we all began to search for you in the debris. It was Pilot who found you, he began barking like a maniac when he found you under that rubble. John carried you, and Dr. Carter tended your wounds. – said Mrs Fairfax, I could hear her voice overcoming with emotion.
-If you would have been a few more hours under that weight, I believe you wouldn't have survived sir. – said , while he touched my arm.
I shook it and took it away from him. I could feel a warm tear sliding down my cheek. - "I wish you hadn't found me at all" - I whispered.
-But, sir…- protested Mrs. Fairfax.
The old lady kept talking about how grateful they were to see me alive, how brave I was that night, and Carter explained to me how this wounds, as bad as they seem, are nothing compared to what could have happened if they would have found me only one hour after they did. But my mind was having its own conflict. What good am I now? How is life worth living? Life was a painful burden with Jane gone, but now, in this state, it is impossible for me to keep searching for her, and even if I'd found her, how could she love me now? A helpless ruin…
-Get out! Both of you! NOW!- I yelled in an outburst of rage and desperation.
I heard a gasp, and I heard voices from Mrs. Fairfax and Carter. - "Rest now Mr. Rochester, I'll come see you in the morning".- I heard Mrs. Fairfax blowing some candles, and the blurry light I could see was gone. Complete darkness embraced me.
As I heard the door close, I couldn't help but to start crying and sobbing like an infant. I felt powerless, forsaken, punished and I began having blasphemous thoughts to the Almighty, who not only decided to take Jane away from me, but also for transforming me from a man to a crippled.
I kept tracing my body with my hands, and I felt a shriek being torn from the top of my lungs and throat until it escaped from my mouth. It wasn't so much from the physical pain I was feeling, but from the realization that now, I would never, ever see Jane again. Literally.
Days passed, and I began getting sick of every servant taking pity of me. I've always been a proud man, who has done whatever pleased me, whenever and wherever I wanted. Now, I had to take the arm of a servant to do my most basic human needs. I felt humiliated.
I asked Mrs. Fairfax to my parlour.
-Yes Mr. Rochester? – she came rushing.
-Mrs Fairfax… I need two three from you.-
-Certainly Sir!. -
I smiled. Poor old lady, I could feel her pity, but also her eagerness to please me. She always craved for praise and attention.
-Madame, I need you to call Mr. Briggs tomorrow. I need to settle accounts with him and let him in full charge of all my state. I can't handle anything now, let alone something as important as that.- the defeat in my voice was evident.
-Yes sir, right away. What else do you need?-
-I recall you telling me you had a living sister near York? Is that correct?- I frowned, sometimes when she spoke, I didn't really pay attention so this may be complete false.
-Yes Sir, what about it?- she replied, puzzled.
-I also recall telling me she insists on you giving up this job and go live with her…-
-Oh no no Mr Rochester – she interrupted me – how could you possibly think I could leave you? No sir, have no fear, I won't leave your side. – she said in a triumphant air that was almost as if she liked being under my service.
I smiled again. She was loyal and cared for me, I know she would have stayed with me until the end without asking for it. And that is exactly why, in compensation for all her hard work, I had to free her.
-Mrs Fairfax, I need you to go live with her.-
-What? - She asked confused.
-I can't have you devote the rest of your life to me. It's not fair to you. You have served this family for decades, and it's time for you rest and take care of yourself and your family. I shall ask Briggs to provide for you a pension for the rest of your life, you won't have to work another day of your life.
-Oh Mrs Rochester no! I want to stay here! I want to serve you! – she objected.
-Mrs Fairfax, you'll serve me if you go away. Please. I'm tired of servants whispering behind my back about my current state. I will retire to live in Ferndean, it's decided. I will leave next week. I can't take you with me to that accursed place, the dampness and loneliness would soon take a toll on your health. No. I'm doing this for both of us. I don't want more servants than John and Mary, and that is only because I need them and they are quiet and go around their business. You, I won't be needing you there, and you certainly don't need or deserve to remain next to a pathetic "master". Go live the rest of you live in peace, I wish you all the best Mrs. Fairfax. – I sincerely stated, I had only gratitude for her, but at the same time, I wanted her gone as soon as possible.
I could hear the old lady sobbing, I felt bad but to be honest, I was tired of this and my patience was running low. Still, I did my best not to act like a beast and tell her to leave now.
-Mr Rochester… thank you sir. If you change your mind, I will be here. – her voice was broken.
-Thank you Mrs. Fairfax.-
-Mr Rochester….- she asked timidly.
-What?!- I replied annoyed, I wanted this damn conversation to be over.
-You said three favours… what is the third favour? - She asked, composing herself.
I smiled. I forgot about it.
-Mrs Fairfax… promise me… promise me, if you ever see Jane again… just tell her how very much I love her, and will love her until the end of my days. If you see her again, please… don't tell her how I am… only if she asks for me, but don't rush her to see me out of pity. Promise me. – I laid this request with all my heart.
Her sobs became louder, it was starting to anger me.
-I promise you sir.-
With this, I heard her leave the room.
I wondered what would happen if Jane saw me like this. Would she be repulsed? Disgusted? Frightened? I hadn't seen myself of course, but I could tell that I was now a revolting sight. The bandages were gone, and now my face was covered in a grand scab running from the middle of my forehead down to my left cheek. My eyelid was closed, and of course, I had no hand. Not to mention I forgot when was the last time I cut my hair and shaved.
I chuckled. - "Well Rochester, you were never a handsome man. But at least you were full. Now you are uglier than ever and incomplete. I'd love to see if Blanche Ingram would still fancy me even if she'd heard the tale about losing my fortune was a lie. – I said to myself, talking to myself had been a routine of mine for quite some time now.
I smiled. Of course not. Not even all the money in the world could make her overlook my ugliness now. My helplessness.
But Jane… I know Jane wouldn't act like that. She told me, she never found me attractive. She never cared about my money. She cared about my soul. My soul is still there, isn't it?
I clenched my fist and again I felt a flash of anger shake me from my core. Again, anger directed to God.
Why? Why have you done this to me? Snatch her from me, and when my one burden called Bertha, decided to take her own life, and finally get rid of her and the impediment of marrying Jane, you decided to take my sight, my hand, my independence? You took away that heavy and horrible ballast but in exchange, turned me into a useless sack of bones? Why do you hate me so much God? Why? Why didn't you just killed me then and there? At least dead, I could have the hope to see Jane again in Judgment Day, even if it was just a glimpse of her soul going to heaven while I would go the other direction. Now, I must live for how long, before I could die, find peace and hopefully meet again with her in the next life?
My fist fell heavy and violently on top of the table that was next to me, breaking the glass of water that was near it, and hurting my one good hand with all the small crystals that got into my flesh. I felt blood running down my hand and arm. I had cut myself, but I was too blind and useless to tie something around it and stop the haemorrhage.
-WHAT HAPPENED? - Came Mrs. Fairfax running, her voice in shock.
-Just tie a clean cloth around my hand will you?- I answered very rudely.
Mrs Fairfax did what was requested, and let me be. I closed my eyes, and tried to imagine Jane sitting next to me. I instinctively smiled. Just remembering her, sitting there, quiet, in her chair, afraid to make a sudden move, make an unpleasant remark, or even taking too much room, made me remember how I had fallen for her, and how much I needed her.
I imagined her looking up to me, her eyes timid, a sly smirk forming in her lips, then back to her book and read. Those days were gone. Where is she? How is she? Is she even alive? Is she well? Has she found refuge? Comfort? Love..? Has she made new ties? Does she remember me? All these questions burned in my brain, day and night, not knowing anything about her was worse than the pain in my empty eye socket and my crippled arm.
-Forget her Rochester… let her go….