Chapter 8 - 2012
My research was beginning to prove exactly what I didn't want to know. Mum seemed to be correct. I found some old accounts showing an inheritance from a John Eyre in Madeira to Jane Eyre in England. So my great-great-great-great grandmother was not from Madeira, but she had inherited money from there.
My romantic dreams seemed shattered. The inheritance seemed to come before her marriage to Edward Rochester. Thornfield was rebuilt a couple years later. Clearly Edward Rochester had married Jane Eyre for her fortune to help him rebuild his ancestral home. Looking at Jane's portrait, she was so unremarkable looking, I think that maybe she only had her money to recommend her.
I tried to imagine that somehow things were different. There had been almost no portraits or drawings of Edward Rochester in Thornfield. I found only one drawing in one of Jane's portfolios that almost looked like a caricature. He was a barrel-chested man with black hair and a patch over one eye. He wore a black glove on one hand. He did not look like any big prize. Maybe his marriage to Jane was a case of there being "someone for everyone". Why would Jane marry someone bloke with one eye who was twenty years older than she was if all he wanted was her money?
It was an twilight on an August evening. I was sitting on the window seat in the library while Ben sat at the table. Since I had discovered the truth about Jane Eyre and her inheritance, I had withdrawn from him somewhat. Hope, permanence, extraordinary romance - those things all seemed rather foolish. I was starting to think it was time to touch up my mousy brown roots, go back to school, and lose myself in the ever changing world of art. I wanted to forget about Thornfield, architecture, my family history, and most especially Ben himself.
I had yet to give up on my research completely though. I still was quite curious about the mysterious Adele, the pretty girl who showed up in portraits in Jane's portfolios. I found some of her old letters to Jane. I opened it cautiously, not knowing what to find.
January 25, 1847
Dear Madame Rochester,
I want to thank you and Monsieur Rochester for granting Finley permission to ask me to marry him. I have accepted him. I know you and Monsieur were unsure of his intentions -I remember how you tried to talk to me about staying on my guard - but you can see now his intentions are quite honorable. He loves me very much and is working hard at the bank to make sure we have a home.
We plan to marry at the end of the summer. From there we will settle in London. I do hope that we will continue to be welcome at Thornfield and at Moor House when we miss our families. We would like to have the wedding at Thornfield if you would allow it.
Cherie Madame Jeanette, I hope that I can be as happy are you and Monsieur Rochester. Even when you were my governess I remember seeing the two of you together and thinking that there was something special about how Monsieur Rochester looked at you and talked to you. I was too young to understand it, but I see it now. I knew I would accept no less from the man I would marry, and I hope you believe that Finley truly honors and loves me.
Please write soon and let us know if you approve of our plans. I will be coming for a visit before the summer starts.
I let out out a gasp as I read this. "Oh my god!" I exclaimed.
Ben looked up from his laptop. "What is it?"
"This letter," I said. "From Adele Varens. It says that Jane was a governess. She was Adele's governess."
Ben came over to the window seat and gently took the letter from me. "You're right. Adele names Jane as her governess right here. Do you know who Adele was?"
"I suppose she was Edward's daughter. Perhaps we was widowed young and he hired Jane as the governess since he couldn't raise Adele himself. I suppose once she inherited the money from her uncle in Madeira, she was no longer a lowly governess and was free to marry him."
I pulled out another letter from Adele.
July 16, 1848
Dear Madame Rochester,
All is well in London, but we are very happy to come to Thornfield next month and come away from the crowds. This will be the last time we can travel for quite some time.
You see, I have good news. I am going to have a child in January. We are so excited to welcome a new member of the family.
As a child I missed Maman greatly, but I was a very lucky little girl to have you as my governess. For many years I wished that you and Monsieur Rochester had been my mama and papa. Even though Monsieur Rochester did not seem to like me very much when I was small, I still realized he took good care of me and that he sent me you.
You and Monsieur Rochester have seen to it that I did not grow up wanting anything. I see how much you love and care for St. John and Helen. I hope that I can be as good to my child as you have been to all three of us.
I look forward to seeing you in August.
With Much Love,
Adele was not Edward's daughter. Her presence at Thornfield was still a mystery. It seems she was a girl he took care of. I suppose I would never know for sure. Still, the second letter was confirmation that Jane Rochester met Edward when she was working for him.
I don't think I realized I was crying until I felt Ben gently wipe a tear from my face. I was so overwhelmed with emotion.
"Hey," he said. "What' the matter."
"Nothing," I replied. "Everything is perfect."
I still didn't know everything about Jane and Edward Rochester, but I knew everything I needed to know. Jane had gone from governess to heiress to devoted wife. Edward had been in love with her all along even though he was twenty years older than she was. They were a happy and loving couple and were good parents. This wasn't a romantic tale. This was real. That's what I said to Ben. "It was real. All of it was real. Mum was wrong. The old stories are right."
Ben put his arm around me. "All that work you did this summer did some good. You found what you wanted." He smiled and gave my shoulders an encouraging squeeze. The gesture was brotherly. I didn't want a brother.
I looked at him seriously. "You know I never believed in permanence. My great-great-great grandfather was a famous archaeologist and I still believed that most things in life were lost in the past. I didn't believe in immortality for anyone but the extremely lucky. I didn't believe in love."
"And now," Ben asked.
I smiled at him genuinely. "Now I believe anything is possible. Maybe nothing is ever really lost. It's just misplaced."
Ben laughed. Then he pulled me closer and kissed me. I think we were both surprised by the gesture, but once he did it, we both knew it was exactly right. "I hope you keep believing. Believe in yourself most of all." He kissed me again. This time neither of us was surprised.
He pulled me close and we sat on the window seat together, not talking but simply enjoying being together as we had been meant to be all along. I wanted to tell him how much he meant to me, how much he had shown me over the summer, but I felt the words didn't really need to be spoken. Not now.
I looked out the window as stars began to appear in the sky. I had superstitious thoughts that maybe they contained the souls of my ancestors. I imagined that Jane Rochester was looking down on me, giving me her blessing, and that she approved.