AN: Although this is a fanfiction for Jane Eyre only, it pays homage to Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia. It explores the connections between the past and the present and the scenes take place mostly in the same room, but in different time periods. It also explores the themes of how a time period in history might affect attitudes and even decor and architecture. Most importantly, the main theme is how the knowledge of the past is never lost.
This story takes place after the events of the novel, but it is based on strictly canonical past events. There are none of my crazy AU ideas here.
Chapter 1 - 1845
The library of the new Thornfield had come to be the most loved room in the house. Imposing windows reached almost to the ceilings, letting in so much light that the room seemed bright and sunny even on the cloudiest days. Window seats beneath them allowed for one to sit and enjoy the views of the garden. If one wished to wander into the garden instead of watching it from the inside, a set of French doors led directly to it.
The contents of the library were quite skimpy at the moment. So much of Thornfield had been destroyed in the fire eight years earlier. We had cases lining the walls that had yet to be filled with books. There was little in the way of art on the walls or cabinets full of curios. We had chairs by the fire and a desk in one corner, and it was quite comfortable for entertaining guests for tea or dealing with business matters, but as a reading room, it fell quite short.
Our most-used piece of furniture was a large table in the center of the room. As Edward and I often needed to work together (reading and writing were difficult for him, so I often had to handle his business correspondence and accounts), we found that it was easier to sit side-by-side at a large table. It meant we could be joined by anyone who wished to work with us as well. Many casual family meetings were conducted around this grand centerpiece.
It was a splendid spring day and Edward and I seemed to be the only occupants of the house. Everyone else was out enjoying the gardens. I was anxious as I was anticipating Adele's return from school that day. I had also just received a letter from Mary and felt the eager for the news of friends in Morton.
"So what does Mary have to say for herself today," Edward asked. "What's the Morton gossip?"
Mary and her husband, Charles Wharton, had settled in Morton and were living at Moor House. Charles was a clergyman friend of St. John Rivers and had taken his post when St. John left for India.
"Did you know Charles is the eldest of five brothers?" I asked.
"I do believe you have said something about it," Edward replied.
"His two youngest brothers were visiting them recently. It seems they are not all as well-grounded as their brother. They had their hands full with such mischievous young scamps."
"How old are the boys?" Edward asked.
"I believe the youngest is twenty. The next youngest is twenty-three. Neither are married yet and they seem to want to be perpetual boys. These young men love pranks and pratfalls for sure. I do understand young Finley is quite bright with a head for numbers if he could only keep himself out of trouble."
I continued to read the letter. "I have some other news. Rosamond Granby has had a baby girl - Olivia Rose Granby. I'm so happy for them. Rosamond and Freddy have waited so long to finally have a child."
Edward could not see my face very well, but he could always read my heart. He knew my thoughts that I could not speak aloud. There was a certain sadness I felt as I read about Rosamond's newfound joy.
"Jane, I know you are happy for your friend, but I sense you are not thinking just of her."
"No, I suppose I am not," I said.
He reached over and gently placed his arm around me. "I know you can't help thinking of Teddy."
"It's hard not to. I really am happy for Rosamond, but it does drive home my own losses."
As if they had been prompted to bring me some cheer and remind me of the good fortune I still have, Sophie came through the french doors from the garden with St. John. A highly energetic boy, he broke from Sophie's grasp on his hand and bounded to the library table as soon as he saw us sitting there.
"Mama! Papa!" he exclaimed. "Look what I have found." He held in his hands something that appeared to be remnant of a piece of carved wood. Surely it was an artifact from the original Thornfield. St. John had an eye for curiosities and was always plucking things from the garden and grounds that others had missed for years.
Edward took the piece from his son and held it in his good hand, examining it with his limited eyesight. St. John Climbed onto my knee and put his arms around my neck. "This may be a piece of the bannister of the main staircase," Edward declared. "Or it may be a from the old cabinet in the great hall. Nice work, St. John." He patted his son's head.
St. John shrunk away slightly from his father. It was a sad fact that Edward could give a rather intimidating appearance to the young and the impressionable. He had always had a strong stern presence and a proud bearing. Since the fire his appearance was even more shocking. When he went out he covered his scarred, missing eye with a black patch. He also had a prosthetic hand made of wood that he wore in the company of others, which he covered with a black glove. I often joked that he looked like the kind of men I feared would snatch me away when I was a child. He teased me that I spent too much time reading fairy stories. Edward had not always been at ease showing tenderness toward children, which didn't help in St. John's earlier years, although he had grown much better at it.
"Is Adele coming soon," St. John asked.
"I hope she will be here before tea time," I replied. "Speaking of tea time, it is time you cleaned up a bit so you can be respectable enough to sit down to tea. Go with Sophie now and ready yourself."
"Yes, Mama," he said and climbed off my knee.
"If we are to have tea here in the library, I suggest you put this paperwork away," Edward reminded me.
"Yes, you're right. I must save this letter."
Since Thornfield was rebuilt, I had become obsessive in making sure no part of its story was lost. The old Thornfield and all that went with it was almost completely gone. I wanted to save any piece of it I could. I also wanted to make sure that nothing of our family story was lost. Letters were saved and stored in boxes, as were all of my sketches and paintings, St. John's findings, and all other household records. I wanted to future inhabitants of Thornfield to know its story. I did not want to lose our home to time.
As I began to tidy the table for tea, the French doors swung open revealing Adele. "Madame and Monsieur Rochester!" she exclaimed. She ran to me and embraced me. She sedately went to Edward and kissed his cheek. "I hope I am in time for tea."
At sixteen Adele had grown to a lovely young woman. She had almost lost her French accent and while not entirely like an English lady in her habits and temperament, she was much improved from the vain and flighty child she had been. She had been away at school, but Edward and I allowed her to spend her summers with us at Thornfield. I liked having her as a companion and St. John adored her.
"You are just in time, Adele," I told her. "I'll have John take your trunk to your room." I rang for John.
"Where is Sophie?" she asked.
"She took St. John to clean up for tea. You know how he gets into things in the garden."
After St. John's birth I had embarked on a quest to find Sophie again. She had been a good nurse to Adele and I had felt sorry for her as she had lost her position rather abruptly when Edward had sent Adele off to school. Fortunately she had not been difficult to trace and she was more than happy to be in the Rochester employ once again. It thrilled Adele to no end that she could see her former nurse again when she came to visit us.
Adele asked to be excused to go to her room and prepare for tea. Edward and I were alone once more.
Edward put his arm around me and squeezed my shoulders. "My little archivist. We have much good fortune to chronicle."
"Yes," I agreed. "May it live on."