An Irish Air

Back with the next section of Across the Sea, and we find Rochester in a good mood. But will it last?


“You were right in saying that she is talented.” said Blake to me after dinner.

He was of course speaking of Jane, who sat quietly – radiantly – with Lady Blake and the children.

Blake continued, “I would go so far to say that she possesses extraordinary abilities for such a young girl.”

“I am glad that you appreciate her talents. Not many would, you know.”

“And she said you had taught her while she was at Thornfield?”

“Yes, the natural sciences – or what I know of it. She was interested; hence I was more than willing to impart my knowledge. Apart from Eshton, there are not many people in the world who claim an interest, as you very well know.”

Blake chuckled. “Yes, I know that I have long disappointed the both of you with my lack of interest in science, but knowing what a sieve of a brain I have for facts, I had better stick to my horses and dogs!”

We both laughed and took a sip of our whiskeys.

“But more seriously,” said I, “I must thank you for taking on Miss Eyre. I did not like sending her all this way on her own, but it was the least I could do to ensure that she had a good place to go to when Adèle went to school. A governess’s life is tenuous at the very best. I could not bear to throw such a girl, already alone in the world, out to the wolves.”

Blake looked back at Jane. “Such a brilliant girl without family or connections – that is a pitiful thing.”

“Not pitiful, Blake – it is a source of inspiration.”

I excused myself and walked over to join the little group. Jane eyes glittered when she spotted my approach, and I could not help but grin back. Then again, after this afternoon, I would grin at anything. I seated myself in an armchair adjacent to hers, and would have stared at her all night if it was not for Lady Blake.

“Ah, Mr. Rochester, just the man we wanted to see. Erroll here has some questions to ask of you.”

“I told him that you have been to Africa.” added Jane.

“Yes, that is so,” I replied in the most serious manner, “So what would you like to ask me – out with it, boy!”

But the boy remained mum, gazing at me with large eyes before hastily whispering something into Jane’s ear.

“It’s alright,” I heard her say; “He is not as frightful as he looks – truly.”

The boy swallowed, and then said hesitantly, “Sir, have you seen a lion?”

“I have.”

“And a… a hippopotamus?”

“That too.”

The boy’s face lit up. “Is it frightfully big?” he asked in excitement.

“Frightfully – and dangerous too – they can outrun a man if they wish.”

After that it was inevitable that Erroll plied me with more questions, to the consternation of his sister, who also asked her fair share. Jane sat listening amusedly, and to my surprise I quite enjoyed this little interlude, until a disquieting thought came to me.

Was this what it was like to have a family?

I frowned, and my expression did not slip Jane by. She caught my eye questioningly, but not being able to voice my thoughts at that moment, I could only return a half-hearted smile.

So close we are – and yet so very far away!

At least you know that she loves you and trusts you.

But is her trust misplaced?

Too soon, it was time for Jane and the children to retire for the night. I watched them go with regret, barely noticing that Arthur had returned to the drawing room and was studying me closely.

After breakfast the following morning, he invited me to go riding with him. Eager to stretch our legs before the party, we saddled our horses – magnificent geldings courtesy of our host – and galloped around the bay towards the nearby woods. After half-an-hour of hard riding, we reeled in the reins and slowed the horses down to an easy walk. Still, there was little talk, I being preoccupied with Jane, and Eshton – well, something was evidently troubling him, though I had no idea what it could be.

When we reached the edge of the woods, Eshton dismounted and suggested that we walked for awhile. I joined him on the ground and together we walked the horses towards the shore.

It was only then that Eshton remarked, “You seem a little happier of late, Edward.”

I paused and looked at him cautiously.

“So do you, Arthur.” Up until this morning, that is.

He continued, “I suppose the Irish air is doing us both a world of good.”

“One cannot help feeling good when one is surrounded by this stunning prospect.” I replied, looking out on to the vast Galway Bay with its uniformly clear skies, its sparkling blue water, and its emerald-green grass.

“So you would be glad to stay a little longer than a fortnight?”

I grinned. I would be happy to stay here all my life – as long as Jane was with me.

“Yes, Arthur, I shall be happy to extend our stay. But why this sudden change of plan?”

He looked ill-at-ease but still replied, “Nothing to speak of, Edward. Just like you, I have discovered the beauty of this place, and now find it hard to leave.”

Somehow, his words made me uneasy, but I did not have time to dwell on it for he quickly added, “But one word of advice, Edward.”

“Advice? About what?”

“About… About Miss Eyre. I noticed how you are getting on much better with her of late-”

“So you have been watching us? Spying on us?”

“No, of course not! But it was unusual to see the two of you together last night after you had scrupulously avoided her since we first arrived. Edward, as a friend who knows the extent of your situation, I just want you to think about what you are doing.”

“What I am doing?” I cried furiously, “Who do you think I am? I am not out to ruin her, Arthur, but cannot two good friends spend some time together?”

“Not when they are practically lovers.”

A charged pause.

Then Arthur said gently, “Look, I know you would not intentionally hurt her, but Edward, please be careful for there is so much at stake here.”

At stake? I knew very well what was at stake. But why was he concerned all of a sudden?

And then it came to me.

Oh, Arthur, surely not.


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Catch up on previous sections…
3: Soul Friends
2: Listless
1: Revelations

The strange world of fandom

From all my posts here you would think that I’m a bit of a fangirl. Yes, I am mildly obsessive about the things I’m passionate about but when faced with real obsessive fans I really just have to scratch my head.

I rubbed shoulders with these, er, interesting people at (out of all things) a Missy Higgins concert. Now, Missy is an unassuming young Australian songstress who has developed a bit of a following. My friend C, who is a bit of a fan, managed to get her hands on practically front row seats for the Saturday gig. Naturally, all three of us who went were suitably excited, having never been seated so far up the front before. And look at how good our view was!

But the world of the front row is evidently a helluva lot more stranger than the world of the back row. When Tim Rogers’ drummer broke a drumstick midway through set, propelling it directly at C’s feet, the girl who was sitting 2 seats away dove in like a ravenous vulture! She didn’t apologise, oh no, she just screamed out, “Mine!” and tucked the drumstick into her bag. Then there was this other fan who approached the stage multiple times in order to give Missy a card, prompting security to give him a talk to. Nothing else to do but shake our heads and laugh.

Luckily Missy was oblivious to most of this and we got a good gig.