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A Solemn and Strange and Perilous Thing

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Reader, I married him – finally! The license acquired, there was no reason to delay further. We set off together from the house, saying nothing to Mary and John the servants. There was nothing to distinguish us as a bridal couple except our happiness. The simple ceremony took but half an hour and the sun was low in the sky when we stepped back into the carriage.

Mr Rochester, a married man of five minutes, already seemed renewed. His features softened and his rayless eyes had a deeper glow about them. He tapped the floor with his walking stick and called ‘drive on!’ – He was impatient to get home.

I put my arm through his and placed my hand over the cuff that fell over his stump. His arm felt strong and sturdy against mine, reassurance of his underlying robustness despite his loss of weight. “You must give the servants five pounds, I’m in an inexplicably good mood today!” he said.
“And one disposed to make light work of roast chicken, I hope. Mary is even now preparing our wedding breakfast, though she does not yet know it.”
“Never mind that, my angel, I must have you to myself. Little tyrant, your reign is over – now I have fairly seized you to have and to hold, and I intend to attach you to me, as with a watch chain – you shall not escape.”
To speak the truth, I had no wish to escape him ever again. However, there were certain forms to be observed and as the new mistress of Ferndean I was determined to ensure that all was done correctly, and that meant dinner first.

We re-entered the house, Mr Rochester going straight to his study and I to the kitchen to apprise Mary and John of our news and receive their congratulations. I arranged that dinner should be served privately in the study where I could prepare it for the master. With only one hand, he required his meat to be cut for him, a job he detested anyone but myself doing for him.

It would be a couple of hours before dinner, and I proposed we take a stroll in the last of the sun. Mr Rochester seemed restless, and as we stepped out of the house again, he gripped my arm and whispered, “Confound the sun! I wish it were already night time, then I would have you finally alone and to myself! Scheming elf, this time you will not evade me.”
“I do not wish to, Edward.”
“Remember when we sat together, the night before our first, ill-fated wedding day?”
“I will never forget it.”
“And I asked if you feared I would not make a good husband to you –”
“To which I replied not at all. I have no doubt of this now or in the future.”
“Even blinded and lame… Some husband I will turn out to be.”
I squeezed his arm, “You suit me, I suit you, what more could we want?”

His agitation continued and I began to wonder if there was more to his fears, something he was not telling me. The fire at Thornfield had deprived him of his sight, of his right hand, and given him a limp, but had it affected any other faculty? I was not then in a position to understand much of these matters, but reasoning and observation made me uneasy nonetheless.

He sat down on a secluded bench and pulled me onto his lap. Pilot lay at our feet, grooming his paws. “Are we quite alone here?” asked my former master suddenly.
“We are, Edward.” I replied.
“I could make you my wife here, on the ground, with no one any the wiser?”
“My dear…” I began. I felt the colour rising in my cheeks, yet the idea of yielding to him thus was not unpleasant; he was my legal husband before God, and most beloved to me on earth. “Janet, you must think me quite coarse,” he muttered, “but this waiting is agony to me.”
I thought him delightful; what bride would object to her spouse wanting her so desperately?

“To be honest, I feel the same as you do.” I replied “But we have waited so long already that a couple more hours will not matter. If anything, they will serve to make our union more exquisite.”
In response he kissed me passionately and held me close. I felt his good hand move against my breast and heard his breathing become laboured. His old impetuosity was rising and in a bid to take back the situation again, I stood up. “The sun has reached below the meridian and we should be setting back for the house. I am hungry, and I am sure you must be too.”
He gave a sigh, “I hunger for you, Janet, nothing else.”
“Nonsense, dear, you require sustenance, and I am resolved that you will have it. I find you have lost weight, as your wife I will see to it that you are fed well.”
“Ah! Married life will suit me now, Jane, my angel, because I have you for bride. Before, I chafed at its restrictions, at the yoke of two mismatched individuals. This time, there is no such impediment. We must be one flesh without any delay!”
“Ah, here we are back home, and the roast chicken smells delicious, does it not? I have ordered it to be served in your study, at the little table. Come Pilot!”

Despite his impatience for our wedding day to be over, Mr Rochester ate a full repast under my watchful eye. Then as the clock in the hall struck the hour, I led him up the stairs to where our bridal chamber was waiting.

In our preparations for the marriage, we had settled that we would share the room that Mr Rochester had been using alone. It had a comfortable four poster bed, the sheets of which had been changed that day, under my instructions. “You will have to perform the services of a valet.” He muttered awkwardly, his good hand fumbling with his sleeve. I had already foreseen this and found it no chore to help him out of his clothes. With one hand he could perform most offices, but not, for example, the tying and untying of a cravat. With my untrained assistance he was divested of his waistcoat, his shirt, his cravat, and finally his boots and breeches. The remaining item of underclothing he stated he would do for himself while I busied myself in removing my own clothing. He had earlier stated “I’ll have no nightdress, Jane, remember, nor anything that hinders my possession of you!” so I slipped between the freshly laundered covers and huddled up to my husband for warmth.

So finally we were together and alone as man and wife. I lay on his right, allowing his good hand free range of movement.
“Now you are truly mine!” he said in triumph, as he enfolded me in a passionate embrace. The absence of a hand did not trouble him as he held me in his powerful arms. “I have longed, dreamed, of this moment.” He sighed, nuzzling my neck and kissing along the edge of my ear. He pulled back and peered at me, “You are not afraid are you, Jane? The prospect of intimacy does not alarm you?”
“In no way,” I assured him, “It is something I have long dreamed of, wondering how it would have been had I gone to France with you as you entreated.” Indeed, dear reader, I had often imagined in that little schoolhouse at Melton, after the children had gone home for the evening, how I might have been lying, half-drunk with his love, in the arms of my master.
“Ah, I knew it, my linnet, you are not some pallid, quaking, mewling type with her head full of needlework and good works, you were ever a creature of flesh and blood, my heart’s desire.”
“There is nothing wrong with needlework and good works,” said I, thinking of the simple children I had been teaching, and, as his caresses began to make me burn inside, added “in their place.”
He did not hear me, but continued the exploration of my skin, sighing and murmuring his pleasure, “My Jane pleases me, do I please her?” he coaxed.
“To the finest fibre of my being,” I assured him, finding it even now difficult not to add ‘sir’, as I was wont. I took his question as a hint and ran a tentative hand along the hair of his manly chest. He was covered with a moderate amount of hair, not excessive, but pleasing to me. To prove my answer, I kissed him down the front pausing tentatively to ensure that this was what he would want. His low moan of pleasure encouraged me to further exploration.

We had left two candles burning, one on each side of the bed, and going beneath the covers I could dimly make out my husband’s flesh. I knew little of the intimate parts of men, but like many unmarried women, I had listened attentively to all hints and oblique remarks. I had it in mind that some men found the act of marriage impossible, either through physical weakness, or mental strain and I had feared that after so long a separation, the fire and its aftermath, my beloved husband could not prove himself – imagine the humiliation to so proud a man! I had feared this, because in this case it would have been preferable not to have married him at all. My eye detected a glimpse of pale flesh, and my hand confirmed it, for aught I could tell, his powers were unhindered by misfortune. Then I checked myself: do good wives do this service for their husbands or would they be thought coarse?
“Do not stop, Janet.” Came the faint moan from the pillow above me. “No, firmer, grip and move up and down, like, so...” his hand encircled mine as he made to show me what I should do. I blushed and reminded him of my inexpertise in these matters. He called me ‘little bungler’ and pulled me up to kiss me roughly. I was full of desire to please my Edward after so much suffering, and lay down beside him, submitting.
“No, my angel, not yet. I will not hurt you, see you are not ready,” his fingers found my most secret place and ran over the whole area, finding that sensitive cleft and gently moving around it until I thought I might die of pleasure. I felt my body yielding as he parted me with his fingers. They slid in easily until I felt a tension, “There is your sweet maiden soul,” he murmured.
“For pity’s sake, take it, Edward.” I moaned, feeling a flame kindling from my groin and licking along my entire body. I half pulled him on top of me and felt a surge of elation as he entered. From his own taught muscles, I knew that he was restraining himself with utmost difficulty to ensure that I might take pleasure also. The pain, when it came, was no pain for me, but joy and relief that at last we were one flesh, as we were already one in heart and mind. It was of necessity, brief. The effects of long abstinence meant he could not last long, and he gave a series of savage and low cries, such as I feared would be heared around the house. The myth of Grace Poole now long resolved, would mean that no one would be in the slightest doubt whence these sounds now came.
“Edward, the servants!” I said at length.
“The servants be d_____d!” he murmured drowsily and chuckled. After a few moments he revived sufficiently, “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
“Not that it signified,” I assured him, “and nothing I have not longed for.”
“Ah, but you felt nothing more?”
“Only deepest gratitude that you are now mine for as long as we both live.”
“I meant, did you seem to burst with pleasure?”
“Because you are now truly my husband, of course I did.” Not wanting to hurt him.

To my surprise his hand reached down to my groin again and sought that most sensitive place, now slippery with the dew of his love; again he caressed it, first circling, then brushing over the surface, but varying the pressure all the time until I was squirming with pleasure. Then suddenly it was as if my whole body were on fire and waves of bliss bursting over and through me, racking me in sweetest agony so that I writhed and moaned and finally cried out loudly. So this is what he had meant! Had I any notion that this was what waited for the future Mrs Rochester, I doubt I would ever have found the resolve to have left him, but gone instead to live with him and suffer the consequences.
“Jane, the servants!” he teased, imitating me as he kissed my face.
“I don’t care about the servants.”
“Hmm, well then no more do I. And they are a bit deaf anyway.”

The moon was high in the sky and shining brightly through our windows even as the candles guttered and went out. We passed our wedding night in love and sleep, our bodies intertwining with both. My husband had said that we had much time to make up for, and the hours of night would never be enough for him to express all his love for me, and to pay me the ‘duty’ bound by a husband to his wife. Perhaps that is why it was mid day before we arose and appeared for breakfast downstairs, whereof we partook of eggs and fried ham.
“Bless ‘e, tha mun be hungry” I heard Mary mutter fondly to the master as she cleared away our plates.

“You must tell me, dear wife, what you meant in your diary about marriage being ‘a solemn, a strange and perilous thing’.” Said my husband to me a few days later as we sat in a cheerful glade.
“At the time I wrote it, I had no notion that I would be married to you, but it is true enough. It is solemn, because the vows are lifelong and made before God, we blaspheme if we don’t make them seriously; it is strange because a single person cannot easily imagine the married state, and observation does not generally help; each couple is different, and the true life of a relationship cannot be determined from outside; and it is perilous, because no one may truly know another, and people change. Take the novel the Tenant of Wildfell Hall, for instance, where a woman marries for love a man who turns out to be a drunk, or yourself, married to Bertha Mason, knowing nothing of her condition. We risk much in marrying.”
“I risked insanity by not marrying you.” Said Mr Rochester gravely, putting his arm round me.

I nestled against him, happy at last, and high above us, a skylark rose, singing its joy.