It has been over a month since I have updated this, I've been extremely busy and to make up for it I had planned on this being a long chapter, but in the end I thought it better to split what was chapter six into three chapters, but I am in the middle of sprucing up seven & eight and they will hopefully be up sooner :/
Much love and thanks to all reading and my six(whoo!)followers! Means more than you know :) Apologies if this chapter seems off in places, and if it does let me know and I'll improve it!
"You must be Edward Rochester?" He asked walking toward me.
"Yes." I answered as we shook hands.
"The second, no doubt. I've run into your Father before in town, and heard the local gossip, his name's come up. But Cousin Alice has told me about you. Lisa was telling me only yesterday that she hoped to make your acquaintance soon."
He passed me while talking, heading for a locked bookcase, and producing a key from his sleeve he unlocked it and began to pull out the volumes on the second shelf. When he finished Foster than pulled several large envelopes from the back.
I turned away and he said to me, "I'm not revealing where we keep our gold and silver, Rochester," while returning the books to their place, "these are only documents. Deed to Almore, and other like papers. My own Father is upstairs and he wanted me to fetch them."
He locked the case and gathered the envelopes, but stayed where he was. "The old man can wait a few more moments." He smiled, "I'd like to talk to you my young fellow."
'Young fellow? We are not that so much apart.'
"Alice told me you live in the Ferndean Manor."
He nodded and stared at me for a moment.
'He must have been the indistinguishable mass of darkness.' I thought, 'Those pale, long, and immaculate fingers, the same ones that had carried him to the trees.'
He quickly put his free hand in his jacket pocket (the other held on to the envelopes) and he smiled almost sheepishly, as though he knew my observation. I wanted to ask about what he had meant, spying on me as he had, but I refrained when the sound of two sets of footsteps came nearby.
"Good morning my Darlings! I've had a word with Mr. Rochester, Allie Dear. I must say I like the young man. Well I must go to Father, I will see if I can seek you three out later."
He parted. So was Lucas Foster and as for me, I was not sure whether I could say the same of him. I turned to greet his sister.
Lisa, unlike her brother and cousin, was dark. Black almond-shaped pools in place of eyes and hair a raven hue. A cheery face, with cheeks that glowed with health. She must have been older than she appeared. When she smiled a row of pearls peaked out, and her lips bended in a soft crescent. I had kissed her hand before I knew what I was doing.
"Well, he has manners, Alice." She said. "It is nice to meet you at last Mr. Rochester."
"It is nice to meet you as well, Ms. Foster."
"When I heard there was a young man seeking out cousin Alice, I thought the least t o be done was for her to look appropriate." Lisa Foster placed herself on the nearby sofa, patting the space next to her. Her cousin stood behind her.
As time went on, Ms. Lisa Foster began to remind me of a widow I met once. A kind of memory from your early youth and you can't recall anything but the moment itself; how you got there and why are unknown to you.
In my case it was a visit to this widow, I had been with Mama when we saw her, dressed in mourning (it may have been her husband's funeral) and I remember her voice. A sad and forlorn voice that seemed to banish what it wished to her miserable realm. Tired sounding, and tearful.
Though Ms. Lisa was certainly not mourning, as far as I can tell, but she seemed to have the same pessimism in her tone that the widow had. She seemed just as forlorn, and her youth (for later Alice did confirm she is in fact she is our age) made it all the more strange. But to be fair she was not unpleasant, a bit abrupt in her questioning and had a slightly vexing habit of addressing one (Alice in particular I noticed) in a patronizing fashion.
Though, my friend seemed to return the countenance in like, a bit more masterly perhaps, but never becoming harsh to her.
This seemed to have intensified as time went on, and I chalked it up to the usual sibling-like feelings cousins sometimes hold for one another. And I would have continued thinking so, if not for something that threw me.
We had walked along the grounds, Lisa and Alice had been on my right, arm in arm, and Lisa was telling me an anecdote from Alice's first week in London. It had actually concerned the cousin, Maisie, that had accompanied Alice. Lisa had been in the middle of her tale, when she suddenly grew quiet and I heard a small gasp.
I turned, as she was apologizing and explaining she lost her train of thought, but my attention was drawn to her pale little hand. It was clutching the fabric of her left white sleeve, and I saw a small stain of red, peeking on the edge of her palm.
I didn't call attention to it, and upon these reflections I wish I had. For I noticed Alice had faint traces of red on her fingernails.
They carried on, as they had, and I was not sure what to do if anything. The rest of my time there was calm, and Lisa kept her injured palm to her sleeve. Removing it once revealed a little circle of blood, and a small tear on her skin.
"She has a habit of becoming worried." Alice said, as she walked with me out the gate. Miss Lisa Foster had already departed.
"Do you plan to return tomorrow?" She asked looking at me hopefully. "I should be glad for it. Cousin Lucas has a friend coming this way tomorrow, and I would be obliged if I had a friend of my own with me."
"I will." So had been my automatic response, and as a result I said it before I knew I had.
She smiled, and we had reached the clearing.
"Since you now have the acquaintance of two Ms. Fosters," She said turning to leave, "why don't you call me Alice from now on?"
She then left me. I couldn't make sense of it. Her or her cousins to some extent. I could see the whole picture of things was alluding me. Just as well I was unsure what that picture was and a more disturbing one had been of Ms. Alice. Pinching Lisa, like how one would pinch a child or kick a dog when displeased with it.
My only experience with such like cruelty, had been by schoolmates, schoolmasters, and those of the neighboring town by Kempton. Worse things had drawn blood, and much more of it.
But my mysterious friend had never given reason (not even in her spirited run) to seem anything but kind.
I walked home deciding to journey round to the veranda. I saw Mama had placed herself there, Branwell played by himself someway off. She heard me approach, and I sat next to her.
"How was your outing?" She asked, keeping her eyes on the child playing.
"It was well..." I answered. "Mama?"
She looked at me. I hesitated, "The family, that lives in that old place a little way from here? We've never really made any contact with them, why?"
"As far as I know, they've usually only taken residence there a few weeks at a time. Why do you ask?"
I hesitated again, Mama's voice was as calm as it had always been, but like the day before it filled me with anxiety. I looked over to Branwell, who was still in a world of his own, playing with what I assumed was a little Calvary.
"Have you met them?" Mama asked. Looking at me pointedly, I felt my face warm and nodded, slowly. She didn't ask how long ago. She was quiet, perhaps expecting me to lay all down in front of her, but I was silent as well.
Finally she said, "I've heard they have brought red-haired niece with them."
'The same who had...' I thought. Out loud I spoke gently, "Yes. They have."
"And you've spoken with her?" Was She choosing her words carefully, or was I imaging as much? Her resolute, expecting way made me feel many years younger. Alice's words from before 'You speak as though we are doing something so bad!' ran past my brain, and that moment, it was as though we were.
I nodded again. "She seems a decent type of character." When Mama didn't respond I added, "So far, that is. So far."
"Eddie." She turned towards me completely. "You've obtained a bad habit, of not telling your Mother things. I don't mean about her, but surely you could have told me where you were going. And that's all I wanted to know."
"Why did you not ask me?"
"I did not think it would be necessary." She replied, "And I could conclude as much already, you started leaving into the woods directly after the incident."
I could see no contempt, and I heard no anger in her tone. She matched my stare and continued, "And I saw that you wanted to tell me. Your eyes, you should be mindful of those organs."
"Are you upset with me?"
"No, not really. I might have done the same, when I was your age." Mama mused with a small smile. "Your Papa likes to say you and I have a calmness about ourselves. But I think he sees it as my nunnette upbringing, compared to his indulgent one. When I was as old as you I had a certain restlessness. It is the reason I advertised my services as a governess. "
"It's also what threw you into Papa's path."
She laughed and said 'threw' was a very good word for it. "But even then I had a curious hunger for something, I knew not what. I was curious about where I was, and those around me, and it wouldn't be quite right to condemn you for the same." Mama looked back at Branwell, who was now laying flat on his back, staring at the sky.
"Though I think your still waters are naturally your own." She said absently.
"Does Papa know ?" I asked.
"Is he angry?"
"I don't think so, but it might be wise for you to ask him yourself." She replied. "What is her name?"
"Alice." Was my quick response, and it was directly after I uttered it that I realised it was only her Christian name I had said, and Mother had also caught it. Why had I omitted her surname?
"Does, this Alice have another name?" Mama asked, a small smile on her lips.
"Foster. Alice Foster." I redeemed.
"Well, as long as Ms. Foster does not tempt you to follow her example, I grant my consent." Mama then rose and leaned to kiss me. I was glad of her indulgence (if one could call it that) but I was still taken by surprise.
"Are you...happy with it?" That was not the correct term, but it was the only one I could form, though even I was not sure what was meant by it. She said she consented, but was she content with her decision? Would she rather I sever the contact?
If this was so, then it was hidden. Mama answered, after recovering from her own confusion of my sentence, "As I said before, I had a restless curiosity when I was eighteen...and because of it I met my husband."
She left and went inside. A weight lifted off my back, but in the same instance, an unpleasant feeling replaced the pressure. Had I wanted them to forbid me from Almore? I certainly did not expect Mama to be permissive, but perhaps that wasn't fair to her.
There was some other forbidding that kept returning, and I spent the rest of that day trying to figure it. The only one of the Fosters that filled me with an unpleasant notion was Lucas, what had he been doing? How long had he watched me? And more importantly why?
I replayed last night several times to myself, searching and wracking my brain for anything useful to pull. Something to shine a light upon the dark mystery, something I noticed about him, or his sister. But nothing I recalled seemed useful. And of course I was not closer to the original answer I wished to obtain.
Perhaps it was useless to continue seeking answers for that, with the other mysteries that attacked my mind. All the questions, and none of the answers, but I would find them, all the pieces until the entire picture was clear. Of that I was determined.
But, then the image, of Alice's lightly red colored fingernails came to mind. Perhaps Mr. Foster was not the only one I was to be cautious of. I may have not known Alice for so long, but it seemed unlikely she should have a change of face so suddenly.
Why then had she done such a thing? Had Ms. Lisa Foster provoked her? No recollection of such came to mind, nothing she could have said. And Ms. Lisa had not done more than try to hide the cut.
I rose, suddenly anxious, and walked about the room. By now the other inhabitants of Ferndean had long since retired, and myself unable to rest. I gravitated to the window. Thoughts of what I had seen and what was yet to be found, and wondering if perhaps Alice's faults had been clear to all else, and I had ingored them.
These thoughts were interrupted, and replaced with a sharp chill. Below the window, standing at the edge of the grounds I saw a figure. The face twisted into such a glare, and still I recognized it as the one belonging to Lucas Foster. It was him! I could not mistake that face. Though he had earlier conveyed such a light and casual cheerfulness, now was not showing anything but contempt.
Dressing as much as I believed I needed to, and lighting a candle, I made my way down, leaving by the servant's door and keeping to the shadows, I walked along the house.
But as I soon reached the lawn, and I found I was alone. Whatever bravado had possessed me then, turned me toward the wood and there I went.
It was quiet, as it had been the night before, and I found myself to be very much alone. There were no owls or other nocturnal creatures to keep me company. It was all very still. And from somewhere out of the dark shadows, out of my sight, a voice growled at me.
"You should be in bed."
And there he was, standing tall, and emerging to my sight, his lamp held close.
"As should you. What do you mean by coming here?"
"To get a look of Frendean." He said calmly.
"And you can not do this in the daytime?"
"No." He growled. "In any event I did not think you would be up and about. And what do you mean by running into the dark woods at such an hour, after what could have been the devil himself?" Foster came toward me and prodded at my jacket. "See here? You don't even have a means to defend yourself! Are you usually so reckless?"
"Was it you stalking me the night before?" I asked, not caring for politeness, or to amswer to his condescending tone. I had my own inquiries.
"No." He said plainly. Offering no more of an explanation, I was not sure to believe him. But he showed no signs of falsehood. I asked who had.
Alice? But she had woken me only a few hours later.
"You'll have to ask her." He said and then went on his way, without another word. I was left to find my way home in the dark, and had fitful dreams, eventually dressing completely and waiting for the sun. My thoughts filled with the encounter, and the disturbing answers I have received.
Foster was there when I set off, his demeanour changed. He seemed as friendly and conversational as he had been when I first met him.
"Is your name Rochester or Polly?" He asked puckishly, "You paled when you caught sight of me!"
"Really my name is Edward." I replied, passing him.
"Well, then Edward, they commissioned me to fetch you-"
"You haven't known me well or long enough to call me Edward." I told him. "And don't think I gave you any sort of permission."
"Well then Rochester...I suppose you do deserve an explanation." He said, catching up to me.
"Cousin Alice was the one who had come upon you that night. Since her arrival to England I've discovered she has queer spells, prefers to walk alone at night. It was dangerous, Mother thought, in London. But here she and my Father are permissive. I do not know why she 'stalked' you, using your own words, but she did come back and recite to me the speech you made."
I had no response.
"Alice has a bit of an odd make up. Far from mad but a bit..."
"As I said, queer spells, and strange fancies. When she breaks your heart try not to let it be too broken. If you can."
"Why do you seem to think she has it?" I asked. Offended he had decided he had the authority to make such a remark. How impertinent.
"Doesn't she?" He asked.
"I shouldn't think so." I replied, asking, "Is that why you decided to sneak along Frendean? Where my Mother or young brother could have seen you?"
"My apologies there. I was being truthful in my explanation, but I admit, it was unwise."
We said no more,and walked in silence. I suppose I had some of the answers I wanted, disturbing though I found them. It was not till we came to Almore's gate that I remembered Alice had said her Cousin had a friend calling upon them today, but there was no third-party waiting for him. No sign of a visitor, but I did not mention it.
"I believe Dear Alice is somewhere in the garden. You better find her before the rabbit."* He said, "I have my company to tend to for now, but if I know him he'll wish to find you both, eventually."
He put his hand out, trying to call a truce and I grasped it, willingly. "There," He said "we are friends once more?"
"Once more." I agreed, though we were not even that to begin with.
"And you say she does not sway your soul? She does not possess your being?"
"Never had then? Not even when you saw her, bare as her day of birth?" He asked, and I was shocked. He had known? He knew I had seen her?
The vainglorious smirk grew at my silence, and he disappeared into the manor. Leaving me was to find Alice.
* Alice in Wonderland was published, as far as I could find, in 1865. I couldn't resist the reference.
Like I said, seven should be up soon (sooner than a month)!Many thanks for reading.