bonbonnet: LOL. There is always something I miss in these chapters. I know "opening night" wasn't exactly the stuff dreams are made of, but I wanted to give it that sense of reality, as he's a blind-cripple and she's inexperienced. I think that detailed chapter was a one-shot. There are implications, but nothing more like that. Those kind of chapters take energy to write! Thanks for commenting.
brontefan: Thank you for the cheer! More has arrived. :)
Commander: Thanks for the review. Glad you enjoyed, despite the pain. )
Sash: Thank you so much. It's funny because of the rest of the story is pretty squeaky clean, it almost seems like that chapter doesn't fit in. Thanks for sharing.
fshfan: I enjoyed Dalton as Rochester as well, but I must say, I did enjoy Michael Fassbender's Rochester too. (Really didn't like William Hurt. As Rochester? Come on. My apologies if I offend anyone's sensibility with my opinion.) Thanks for sharing.
OK, so moving right along. We now fast forward to 2 years later...
Chapter 35: The Apple of His Eye
My first two years of married life with Janet were viewed through a cloudy haze. But how was it possible that amidst this perceptual darkness I found myself surrounded by light and love and overwhelming happiness?
My "honeymoon years" might have appeared to the casual onlooker too calm and complacent for the likes of me. Compared to the whirlwind life I was raised in, the contemptuous existence during the course of my first marriage, and the sham of a bachelor's life I lived shortly thereafter, my marriage to Jane appeared peaceful and much too wholesome. I, who travelled across the continent at a moment's whim, who bed more women than I cared to recollect, now living a domesticated and tame existence with a woman resembling an angel incarnate. I reveled in it.
Jane was my whole world. She completely captured the essence of the ideal helpmate. Like Eve to her Adam, Jane was all that was consistent with what a man could want in a wife, and unlike Eve, she never led me astray. Jane proved more than patient, kind, cheerful, loving, and to me she was the most exquisite beauty to walk the earth. Her gentle tones were melody to my ears, her light touch balm to my scars. Under her care, guidance, and attention my emotional pains ceased. My nightmares ended. I had no need to dream of my loving wife, for I lived and experienced the daily reality of her. My night's rest was now truly for repose, and when deprived of the activity I engaged in occupations all the sweeter.
I cherished the time spent alone with Jane. Sometimes we spoke not a word, just savored in the harmony of one another's presence. I would sit in my leather armchair while Jane would read, knit, sew, draw, or play the piano. I will not report that her ability in that regards graduated as to allow her performance of grand concertos, but her simple chords carried more force and fire than any of Mozart's or Beethoven's symphonies. I could listen to her play for hours.
The night belonged to us, free from the claims and duties of society. That was when I longed for the restoration of my sight, to behold my Janet with lover's eyes. But I never lamented the loss. God had given me so much, had blest me beyond measure. I would gladly live with my losses in exchange for the lifetime of present happiness Jane and I shared.
At present I could feel as she lay beside me, her small frame practically eclipsed in my embrace. I adored the symphony of her soft breaths in the still of the night, to imagine the stillness of her features as she slumbered. Her skin, as I ran a hand over it, I remembered, was white, ethereal; her tiny, plum-red lips so inviting. I traced her favorable mouth with my finger, delighted to discover it slightly parted as her muscles' control subsided in rest. My hands moved to her hair. Her crown of dark glory, molasses and timber wood darkening the otherwise glow of her person. How had I existed so long with the false and showy? This purity, this spiritual goodness that I could feel, expelled from her pores and cascaded over her mortal frame and left me forever transfixed, a willing captor of her divine lure. She made me whole. God bless her, she was the vessel that saved me.
And how did I reward this creature of light and love? You would think I would allow her the rest she most certainly deserved, but no... I was a redeemed person, yes, but not so much altered as you might think. I was still very much a man, complete, not half as I once viewed myself, and I roused my wife, for you see, without meaning to, she aroused me.
In a matter of minutes, and with some attention placed in the right places, Jane not only stirred but murmured her approbation, and yet she tried playing coy.
"Mr. Rochester, you would deny me a night's rest for this?" The little vixen excelled in the art of malicious teasing.
"Tell me you do not desire it as I do," I whispered into her ear before rubbing my lips to her neck, covering her with an abundance of kisses.
"You will have to discover that for yourself. I will not assist you," and I felt her escape my grasp, her small form slipping easily under the covers.
A smile at once broke over my lips. I would play her game and win. And she knew it.
Bright sunlight poured into the cozy parlor; the warmth of the tawny rays heated my skin, and I reached my hand towards my cravat to loosen it a mite. Jane was presently out, visiting my former ward at the school she had enrolled her in. My loving wife had tried to care for Adele as her own, but because of my infirmities it had proved too great a task. She settled for instilling the young girl at a school fifteen miles from our proximity, visiting the lass when she had a moment's time.
Whilst Janet was away attending and amusing, I sat contently, listening to the trill of the birds from the open window, delighting in the finer feel of the day. The air smelt of sweetness, of shropshire lads and delphiniums in full bloom, of fern leaf beech trees from the abundant surrounding forest. Nature caroled happily all around, and I joined in its revelry by quietly praising God's handiwork.
Upon opening my eyes, I started. I expected nothing more than my darkened vision, but instead, I could make out the items in the room though something of a blur. At first I thought it my imagination, a trick of the mind. I closed my eyes and blinked once more, rubbing my fingers furiously over my eye and brow. It was to no avail. When I lifted my heavy lids, I recognized detail to my surroundings. I could see the mantelpiece by the fireplace, witnessed the small doilies adorning the coffee table, viewed the shine of the candelabras. It wasn't by any means a perfect visual acuteness, but it was enough. It was enough.
I leapt from the seat, walking around the room as if I had never been there before. I scrutinized objects, studied pieces, inspected items. Even my own hand held fascination as I gazed upon it, marveling at the shiny band resting on the fourth finger. Since I had lost my left hand, Jane had determined I should wear the ring on the right.
Now with true impatience did I await the return of my wife. It was not so much to share the news of my newly discovered sense of sight, but to use it. To see her. To behold the wonder of her gaze, to relive the beauty of her smiles, in short, to drink in her loveliness, but she tarried. That was Jane's way. In the moments I earnestly sought her, she made me wait. It was unjust for me to lay the blame at her charge - she had no knowledge of what had only transpired - but it was part of my former impetuosity to think unreasonably.
I reached for my watch chain, recollecting I no longer owned it. It was now on Jane's person, my gift to her the day following her return. All at once, I wanted to be outside, even if only at the yard's front gate. I felt it would bring me closer to Jane as I waited.
"Sir," I heard Mary call from the kitchen as I clamored noisily about the hall and out the front door. "Sir, would you rather not wait for John?"
I barely heard her, too busy was I practically tripping over my own two feet to get outdoors - on my own - for the first time in two years.
It was just past midday. I could tell from the way the sun was positioned practically overhead. To gaze upon that ball of yellow and red was not a difficult task. I could not see the way I once used to, but I could decipher its distinct gold and its hazy form. All at once, the world opened to me. I ambled towards the small garden and brushed my fingers against petals and pistils. Leaves held a surreal sort of fascination and grass a glorious form of awe. God's artistry was on display for me to behold. Just for me.
Call me selfish, chastise my egotistical ways, but the longer I viewed my surroundings, the greater my need to see Jane. But she would not be home til much later, I discerned by the sun and the chimes from the church bells yonder.
"Sir," I heard John call from behind. "Sir, are you all right?"
My manservant thought me a moody and desperate creature. This I knew from previous times when I was such. He now sought me with trepidation and concern. I closed my eyes, not wishing to see just anyone yet. I would wait for Jane. Lay my eyes on her first. To know for sure. To share with her. She was my soulmate. None other should be privileged with the knowledge she had should have first claim to.
"I am well, John. Do not pay mind to my fits. I would think you used to them by now."
"Aye, sir. I s'pose I should be. Ms. Jane may not take a fancy to your sittin' out here."
John was one of the few creatures on earth who could address my wife with such familiarity and not have his neck rung for it. "She will not mind in the least. I can handle her if it proves otherwise. You needn't concern yourself in that regards."
I could imagine John giving an exaggerated sort of shrug of surrender as he replied, "As you wish, sir." His retreating steps told of his defeat, not that he had come out with much hope of subduing in the first place. "Just take care where you step!" he called over his shoulder.
The shadows drew long. My form was stiff and sore from sitting in that boulder for hours. Twice more did John come to draw me inside. Once, when he brought me my tea, and the second time at his wife's insistence. While thankful for Mary's helpful and efficient service, I was eternally grateful Jane was not the nagging sort.
Still, she remained a truant. Her return long overdue. Surely she would not come past dinner? That would be unheard of. Unless, of course, the company at the school was more pleasurable.
I believed in Jane's faithfulness as I believed in the rise and fall of the sun and the spin of the earth, but that was not to say that some man, some well-educated, handsome individual free of handicaps and impediments, would not try to make a push for her. Just because she was a married woman did not guarantee a thing. During my time of iniquitous travels, I had spent many a year witnessing such low behavior from knaves whose lust for life ran deeper than conscience. They knew who to prey on, and used any manner of artifice to get their end.
Jane was by no means a woman who flaunted her fortune. Even after inheriting her wealth, she remained true to her values, modesty and humility her primary attire, but there were changes to her appearance, most a result of my insistence. Gone were the restricting, foreboding braids from her Lowood and governess days. She put small curls in her hair held with silks and ribbons. Though I could not previously detect one hue from the next, I knew Jane's garbs of black, brown, and grey to be a thing of the past. She now wore color of demure intensity - that was how she described them to me; her gowns spoke life. They had more trimmings, lace, and bows - delicate, tasteful, but ever present. I'd run my fingers over the fabric long enough to discover lower necklines and shorter cuffs. Jane revealed just a touch more of her beautiful self, and the thought of another man feasting his eyes on what I had been denied to gaze upon for twenty-four months, nay, longer, since she had run away, made my blood heat.
Ere long I detected the sound of crunching gravel. A person walked about. The step was gentle, but certain. I knew my little wife's gait anywhere, and how typical of her to traverse on foot, refusing to send for the carriage. Jane was a child of nature, a sprite from the jovial woodlands. Contentment filled her soul when at one with her elements. She was my element.
"Edward?" I heard my fairy ask in that ethereal voice of hers. It was soft and dream-like, much like her entire person. "What brings you outdoors?" I kept my eyes closed and felt her shadow cross over me. She was so close. So close. Just inches separated us, I knew. Her nearness made me shudder.
"Are you all right, dearest?" I felt her lower herself and press her lips, soft and gentle, to mine. "Forgive my lateness, but Adele and I had such a fine day. She inquired after her 'ami, Monsieur Rochester'".
Dear Lord, please let this be real. Please let me see her when I open my eyes.
God in His abundant mercy heard my silent plea. I rose from my place on the boulder, sore back, stiff joints forgotten. For when I opened my eyes... When I opened my eyes...
Jane grasped my forearm. "Edward, pray tell, are you all right? Do you need me to fetch for the doctor? You look quite feverish? Your face is flushed and...your eyes. Something - something is different."
All I could do was continue drinking in the fullness of her expression, staring as if beholding her for the very first time. I was a man who had rediscovered his lost love; a man who had been given a second chance at life. Why had God been so merciful to me, the greatest of sinners?
My darling's ruby lips began to tremble as she could no longer find the words. She knew. She must have! How could I hide the desire in my eyes as I drank her all in?
I pressed my fingers to her ivory cheeks, tracing the curve of her jaw and the tiny cleft of her chin. My finger reached out to capture one of her newly formed curls. I had felt them plenty, knew the sensation of her hair against my fingers as my very own, but to behold them, to witness the new fashion that was Jane's...my Jane. I had never seen her quite so. She was more than beautiful. More than exquisite. I fixated my eyes to her damp, hazel ones. They overfilled with tears. Mine grew suspiciously wet. I smiled with true feeling.
"Edward!" she gasped. "You can...see, can't you?"
My heart was so overwhelmed with emotion. I chose instead to remove her shawl and say, "That gold chain glittering about your neck has a rather familiar pendant affixed. It's been some time since I viewed my watch." But it was not the watch where my gaze traveled and fixated upon, rather the bosom where that pendant perched slightly higher than her bosom.
My Jane pulled me to her, enveloping me in a tight embrace. I heard her weep with joy while she, too, thanked the Almighty profusely. "We will have to take you to the oculist in London, Edward, to see how much of your sight you have regained."
"We will go tomorrow. Depart first thing in the morning."
When first shocks settled, and the waning sun told it was soon time to sup, we returned indoors. We decided not to speak a word of my newfound vision to anyone until we received the doctor's report. In the interim, we would behave as usual. Though that plan did not go as easy as when said. I could not sit still during the course of the meal. Jane's easy, practical, and polite conversation did not suit my eager impulses. It was good to hear of Adele, pleasing to know she continued to improve in lady-like qualities, grace, and manners, but I wanted... You may very well imagine what I wanted. And as soon as Jane had removed the napkin from her lap and settled it neatly across the table, I jumped from my seat, plucked her out from hers, and carried her upstairs.
"It is too early to go to bed," she protested laughingly while Mary watched in shock, amusement, and horror as I whisked past her with Jane as my prisoner.
"I have no intentions of sleeping as you are certainly aware, Mrs. Rochester."
Without putting her down, I managed to turn the bedroom handle and open the door. I kicked the door shut behind us eagerly. Were it not for the impending ride to London, I swear I would not have left that room for anything.