And What of Adele?
by Ivy Rangee

"Jane, may I hold the little devil while you do that?"

"Of course, Edward, but you're going to spoil him."

"Will I, Jane? I'm looking forward to that!"

Jane and Edward Rochester sat in the alcove made by the dormer in their bedroom. Jane had arranged the space into a cozy sitting room when she knew Charles Edward Eyre Rochester was in the works – a place to nest - somewhere private and safe so she could nurse her little bird in peace, but that had been a fantasy. The two were never alone. Edward Rochester doted on them and never more than when she breastfed the tiny infant. He had pronounced it a thing of outrageous beauty, refusing to allow her to cover her naked breasts with a shawl. Jane was pleased that his vision had returned, but she had been deeply embarrassed at first –the way he gazed at her as the baby fed. However, now it pleased her as she stood before him, handing him the tiny bundle so she could button up her blouse.

Edward took the baby and cuddled him to his chest, staring down at the little child who gurgled happily. Little Charles was so like his father, born with a mop of black unruly hair, squalling so all the world would hear. Already his eyes were darkening in color, and he ate with such sensual gusto. He would be a handful - just like Edward. Jane saw a tear course over Edward's cheek, and she reached down to sweep it away. She knew what Edward felt - absolute awe and happiness.

"Dear Edward."

"My Jane."

"Why do you weep?"

"From both happiness and sorrow."

"Why sorrow?"

"I have been most cruel to Adele."

"Edward."

"Indeed, abusive and all to protect myself. What a coward I am."

"How can you say that? You are the boldest man I have ever met."

"I willingly risked ostracism by attempting to commit bigamy with you, but, when it came to a poor little bastard waif who might be my own flesh and blood, I feared society's censure, claiming her as my ward instead of adopting her as my own. Even gaining praise for my false generosity by asserting I'd done it for a deceased friend. And that is not the worst of it; when she sought love, as any child would, I pushed her away. I am the most heinous of creatures."

"But you took her in, though you doubted you'd fathered her. You gave her a nurse and a governess."

"That is true. But it wasn't enough, I can see now what a child needs, and I failed to provide it. I gave the most minimal and only what money could buy."

"What brings on this melancholy, Sir?"

"Sir? Have I displeased you, my fairy queen?"

"It angers me when you denigrate yourself. Such indulgence is to be avoided."

"Ah, but 'the unexamined life is not worth living'. Isn't that so?"

"I am familiar with Socrates in the Greek, Mr. Rochester. But you have not answered my question."

"It may seem odd, since I have traveled the world and experienced life in a way most would envy. But it was not a life I chose; it was the unforeseen result of my greed and circumstances. In truth, this life with you is what I always longed for and believed unattainable."

"But what has this to do with Adele?"

"Do you think her mother ever fed her so lovingly?"

"I am not in a position to answer that question."

"And there was most definitely no doting father to receive her into his arms while her mother covered her lovely breasts," said Edward reaching up to touch Jane, who had forgotten to button up.

"Edward!" reproved Jane, though she smiled at the compliment, as she fastened her blouse.

"Adele has been deprived of unconditional love and all because I protected myself instead of her."

"Protected yourself?"

"Yes, Jane. Adele is a child; she embodied the paradise I thought I had lost."

"But Edward, I don't understand?"

"I believed I would never have a true wife who would give me legitimate children. I was a denizen of a dark, barren world with no future, no love, no hope – everything a child represents. I could not bear the pain. So I took it out on Adele."

"How can you say this? You indulged her."

"Perhaps in superficial ways. What she needed was parental love, and that I refused her out of self interest."

"But she is a bastard. Perhaps not even yours – you have been as generous as you could manage under the circumstances."

"But perhaps she is mine, Jane."

"Is she, Edward?"

"I don't know. But what if it were our little Charles who was an innocent out in the wilderness? How would you wish the world to treat him?"

"I understand, Edward. What is it you have in mind?"

"I'm concerned about her future. Not everyone is as accepting of bastards as you, my dear sylphid wife."

"I am not a bastard, but I know what it is to be rejected and alone. I would not wish that on Adele. She is such a sweet little Aphrodite, and such women are open to abuse."

"So you do understand, my brilliant, inestimable Jane?"

"Yes, and again I ask what shall we do?"

"Would you be willing to consider adopting Adele? It is my wish to allow her into our home as our child. If you agree, I shall set aside a trust fund that would always be available to her alone, even if we should find someone willing to marry her."

"But Edward, what of love?

"I shall treat her as my own and love her as I love Charles. Hopefully, I can rectify my wretched error."

"Your desires mirror my own; I agree most heartily. I cannot wait to see her pretty little face when you tell her."

"Truly, Jane?"

"Truly, Edward. Are you relieved of this burden, Sir?

"I am not, but I feel most lighthearted anyway. What shall we do? Is it time to feed Charles, again?"

"No it is not, however, it is time for our lunch, my darling man – a nursing mother needs constant nourishment. After that we shall summon your lawyer and commence the paper work so Adele may be ours as soon as possible."

Taking little Charles from Edwards, Jane frowned. "I believe Charles needs a change and so do you. You had better find a clean shirt and wash up."

Edward looked at his very damp shirt. "I was so engrossed in conversation I didn't notice the increasing dampness. But, Jane do you not agree? Our son is bound for great things; he has the mighty stream of champion race horse."

"Mr. Rochester, you are a most indulgent father! Is there nothing this child does that isn't an indication of his greatness to you?

"I should think not." Edward smiled and pulled her into his lap resting his head on her shoulder.

"Now, I shall have to change my clothes as well," Jane observed.

"Don't worry; I'll help you."

"I think I can manage."

"I'm sure you can. Do you know Jane? I believe you would flourish without me, but I should perish without you."

"You are wrong, Sir."

"Thank you, my dearest Janet, for not abandoning this wretched Hephaestus. You are truly a wondrous little witch."

Jane smiled as it came to her that the difference between them resembled the contrast between literalism and metaphor. She had always prided herself on her plain, reasoned speech. He spoke in the old language of the bards; because of Edward she had come to appreciate metaphor's power to bring out shades of meaning the glare of literalism would always obscure.