A/N: All recognizable characters are lifted from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, none are mine own. Some parts in the beginning of this chapter were lifted as is, some with a bit of alteration to fit my plot. It's my first post, and I had decided to brave several chapters rather than a one-shot. I would appreciate your comments a lot!
"Could you decide now?" asked the missionary. The inquiry was put in gentle tones; he drew me to him as gently. Oh, that gentleness! how far more potent is it than force! I could resist St. John's wrath; I grew pliant as a reed under his kindness.
"Yes, St. John. My answer is yes."
"My prayers are heard!" exclaimed St. John. He pressed his hand firmer on my head, as if he had already claimed all of me; he surrounded me with his arm, almost as if someone else would take me. I had now, like him, put love out of the question, and thought only of duty. For love had once almost led me astray, it is but duty I shall lay my eyes on for now. I will be with St. John.
The house was quiet and the one candle that was burning was almost out. Only the two of us remained in the near-darkness of the passage. His sisters, as well as Hannah, were undoubtedly already resting in their rooms.
After some time had passed, St. John released me from his embrace and clasped both of my hands with his own as he bored into the windows of my soul. I saw his blue eyes burning with sincerity, but not with passion. And as he lowered his lips to mine, I could only close my eyes.
St. John's kiss was brief but almost warm. It was a strange thing, for I felt no love for him, not one of passion. I could not help myself from reminiscing Thornfield Hall's master, the master of my affections. The same gentleman whom I had not seen for almost a year, whose love I had cherished once long ago. For a moment, I wondered how Mr. Rochester was doing, where he was. But, just as quickly, I snapped my thoughts back to Moor House, where St. John was staring deep into my eyes.
He led me into the passage and stopped at my chamber's threshold, still holding my hand, gentle as he was. It seemed he had forgotten how to form his words: his gaze was unwavering and has started to make me quite uneasy. At last, he smiled and kissed me goodnight.
I watched him as he walked away; his rooms were farther down the hall. The only light guiding his path was the stubby candle he held, its wick almost consumed. I saw him stop on his door and steal a glance towards my direction. Dark as it was, I worried whether he noticed the blood rush on my cheeks. I hurriedly entered my room, my nerves confusing my thoughts, my heart throbbing in my ears.
I could not sleep that evening. I could not believe my path had suddenly changed, when only this morning I had been convinced not to give in to St. John's scheme. I was to become his wife now, and travel to India. My musings strayed to Mr. Rochester once more, and his grand plans of touring Europe in what seemed like ages ago. I dared not think too much of it before, hoping I could somehow bury the wretched memories of his unfortunate deception, but the memories seemed to overflow like a river on a dam after days of continuous rain.
As I lay unmoving in my bed, I feared my somewhat heedless decision was overwhelming me. Marriage! To St. John! I bore him no such love as I did when I accepted Mr. Rochester's proposal. St. John was a brother and I could not see myself as his wife.
Mr. Rochester… Edward… I yearned. Has a wife, my conscience continued. Yes, I forget the impediment. I almost always do. I think only of his favorable traits, and overlook his state. He is married, and that was not like to change.
St. John, on the other hand, was a free bachelor and a good man, able and accomplished, tall and fair. There was nothing a lady such as I could not hope to like. But there was no love between us, no passion; despite his conviction that enough of love would follow, I could not see it.
My mind wandered on through the night, darting from Thornfield Hall and Moor House and back again. I envisioned Mr. Rochester arriving in the night, convincing me to leave with him, only to remember Bertha Antoinetta Mason, his own mad wife.
St. John was ever so right. I should have long crushed this lawless passion of a married man. It was him I should wed and later serve God with. St. John was right. But, try as I might, Edward Fairfax Rochester kept lingering in the recesses of my mind.
The sun had been shining its faint rays at the bite of dawn when I realized it was too late for sleep now: Moor House woke early. And so instead, I had decided to dress and take a morning walk down the path, hoping it would calm me. I crept through the old house like a thief in the night, taking great care not to make noise. I did not fancy disturbing anyone's rest.
When I finally stepped out, a cool morning breeze welcomed me. There was a bite to the air that awakened the senses. Sleeplessness was fast becoming a stupid notion now. If St. John noticed my lack of sleep, he might suspect something amiss and think I have lost conviction overnight. I did lose my conviction after I got to thinking it over, but I had no plans to retract my answer. I do believe St. John would do me more good than bad. And even if I had gone confused, surely he should expect some form of anxiety from me after his evening proposal, should he not? The circumstances warrant it, at the least.
I had been walking aimlessly amidst the grounds, deeply immersed in my own thoughts, when I heard someone call me– "Jane! Jane!" the voice said. I looked around and found myself hoping it might be Mr. Rochester, only it was not. It was St. John.
"What were you thinking, Jane? The day is cold, and the winds are sharp– You'd get a chill," he scolded, yet softly. It wasn't long before he was in front of me, his hands reaching for mine. "Let us go back inside or these hands will freeze," he smiled.
I could only nod in agreement as he wasted no time getting me back inside. Something is amiss, I thought. St. John was kind, yet he was also stern and quite distant. His show of concern, his grasp, his glances – something was amiss, yet I could not fathom what.
When, at last, we had stepped inside the house, St. John bid me to sit across the fireplace and nimbly started the fire. The warmth soothed my freezing hands; I had not noticed they were cold until the fire was lit. The warmth also soothed my nerves somehow.
St. John positioned another chair in the fire and assumed the seat. He quietly warmed his hands as well, while shooting furtive glances towards me. I decided to keep silent, despite the urge of courtesy that I should thank him. I knew he was going to ask me why I went out, and I feared I could not word out a favorable explanation – I did not want him to think me erratic. After his long week of cold stares, I longed for his approbation, and I believed that being fickle would not help me retrieve it.
"My sisters will be along now, Jane," St. John started, after a while. "I wish to impart to them our engagement."
Engagement... I was engaged to a man once, answered my thoughts. "Nothing would please me more," answered my lips.
He gave me a small smile at that, and I saw his eyes shine. "You have made me happy, Jane," he confessed. "I had feared you'd had a change of heart."
"I was uneasy, St. John, but my answer remains the same."
He only smiled, a calm spreading visibly on his features. The tense on his muscles were gone, his eyes softened and relaxed. He had then returned to quiet, his gaze fixed on the crackling fire.
Moments later, I heard someone bustling in the kitchens and looked to St. John. He stood, acknowledged "Hannah must be awake now", and strode out of the common room. I moved to follow behind him but he beckoned for me to stay. And so I did.