Chapter 12 – Hope against hope
With all my strength, with all the resolve I could muster, I drew deep into my reserves to fight the pressure of Beaver’s murdering hands. I clawed at him, I scratched his hands, his face, I kicked him in the stomach and the underbelly, but, of course, it was all to no avail. Slowly but inevitably, the breath was driven out of me. My thoughts, weakening but stubborn, seemed to float towards the one person of genuine importance in my life; Edward, my husband. Far more horrible than to die was the notion that I would never, ever, see my darling Edward again. My body, awakened by his touch, would never savour pleasure again. My heart, bursting with love for him, would never meet his again in blissful union. Drifting into total blackness, my last coherent thought was for him, my darling Edward.
The sound of an infernal racket dragged me back into this life; I managed to open my eyes. Someone had brought a lamp into the shed, and in its flickering light I saw shadows dancing and whirling whilst I heard grunts and thumps, consistent with fighting. Two men seemed to be engaged in wrestling, punching, and rolling from one end of the shed to the other.
I found I could breathe again, although my throat was throbbing painfully; every blissful intake of air seemed to burn my lungs. My rasping, laboured breathing was deafening to my own ears. My vision, however, was rapidly clearing and, at first, I could not believe my eyes. I must be dreaming; how was it possible that one of the fighters was Edward?
But it was him!
It was my Edward, sitting astride upon Beaver and showering him with hard blows. Beaver was a big man, though. He grabbed Edward by the lapels of his coat and managed in overturning him. Edward did not stop striking at him for one second, yet he was now at the receiving end of Beaver’s beefy fists.
How had he managed to get here in the first place? He was blind, it was virtually impossible for him to find his way in unknown surroundings!
Oh, merciful God! Edward was bleeding in the face! I must help him, he was weakening under the heavy blows. I crawled on hands and feet towards the heap of rubbish in one of the shed’s corners. Groping rather than seeing, my fingers found a piece of wood that seemed heavy enough to knock a person unconscious. However, to do that, I had to be on my feet, and that was very difficult since the world was tilting from time to time. Therefore I concentrated on my breathing and, seeking support against the wall, I slowly stood. My heart nearly stopped when I saw Beaver’s hands around Edward’s throat, squeezing hard. In two steps I was upon him, hitting the back of his head with the wood as hard as I could. Without a sound he collapsed on top of Edward, who grunted when the wind was driven out of him by the fellow’s weight. Using both hands, I managed to roll Beaver off him, and next I was showering Edward’s face with kisses. I was stroking him and uttering nonsense, until he pulled me into his arms and kissed me so fervently on the mouth that tears sprang into my eyes. I did not move, though; I could not move for the life of me. I was too happy to be in his arms again, to feel him, to be alive and to be his!
A flutter of movement reached the corner of my eye!
I broke our kiss and was on my feet in seconds, only to see the slender figure of Miss Edwina Blackthorn who fell onto her knees beside Beaver’s motionless form.
“Oh, Timothy, I’m so sorry. Mr. Rochester, I think he’s dead! He doesn’t move! Oh, somebody help me, please?”
The misery in her voice made me rush by her side and feel for the man’s pulse. He was alive, and I told her so. Edward was there too now, feeling the man’s head.
“Do not worry, Miss Blackthorn, he is only unconscious, but we have to put him to bed. Now, Jane, my love, is there something here that could serve as a cart, a wheelbarrow, maybe?”
I looked around but saw nothing.
“There is one outside, Mr. Rochester, I will get it!” Miss Blackthorn exclaimed and ran away.
“How on earth did you come here, Edward? And with her? I do not understand.”
Edward chuckled and pulled me back into his arms again.
“She came to Ferndean last night, and told me everything. By then I was nearly out of my mind with worry for you, witch! What business did you have, I ask you, to go traipsing around the countryside alone and without me? Keithley came back with the curricle by dusk, shot through the shoulder and with no idea of your whereabouts. He only knew about your visit to Blanche Ingram and told us about the attack while he was driving you home. It seems that he was ambushed and shot without him seeing his attacker. When he came to his senses again, you were gone. I had search parties to find you but I had no inkling as to where to start looking!”
“Blanche Ingram … oh, Edward, she’s behind all this! She … “
“Shhh! I know, Miss Blackthorn told me. But …”
“Mr. Rochester, sir, I have the cart but I do not think it fits through the door”, came Miss Blackthorn’s voice from outside.
“Come, Jane, give me a hand. We must get this fellow here to Ferndean. I want to interrogate him thoroughly once he wakes up.”
Between the three of us, we managed to get Beaver onto the cart, after I bound his hands onto his back. Miss Blackthorn was begging me not to do it, but Edward was anxious that he might get violent again, should he wake up before we reached home. We then wheeled the cart through the moorland and back to the road where Edward had left the curricle. With Beaver tight up at our feet, and the three of us cramped together on the seat, Miss Blackthorn drove us to Ferndean. She was the only one who could actually drive the contraption, me being ignorant still of how to do it and Edward being blind.
Once we reached the manor, Edward’s loud orders immediately made the house spring to life.
Beaver was carried away to the stables where he was to be fastened on a makeshift bed; his head wound was bathed and bound. Miss Blackthorn was whisked away by an agitated Alice to a guest room, and I was grabbed firmly by my husband and marched up the stairs and into our bedchamber.
Edward kicked the door shut, and I had barely the chance to put my lamp down before he seized both of my arms. In a fit of rage, he barked at me, “You, Jane Rochester, have some serious explaining to do! What were you thinking of, opening my letters and acting in my place without notifying me?”