Reader, I married him.
I married St. John Rivers. My heart ached and burned and broke, and still I did it. That day on the moor, he asked me again, but this time, I didn’t refuse.
As he led me back into the cottage, I thought for a moment I heard a voice cry out on the moor. But it was only my imagination.
Diana and Mary were delighted. Preparation for the wedding began at once, but they were more focused on our travel itinerary than a party: we would leave for India the day after we married.
“We will depart for London early, and set sail at eleven o’clock. So we mustn’t be up late,” said St. John, taking my hand. “I know it’s not what you wanted, Jane. But you must put Mr. Rochester out of your mind.”
“I am resolved, St. John,” I said steadily. “He is completely gone from my thoughts.”
But I lied; Mr. Rochester was in my thoughts every hour. I thought of him as I dressed in my bridal gown, Diana and Mary twisting my hair up and arranging my veil. And I thought of him as I married St. John.
The next day, we boarded the Queen Mother in London, bound for Bombay.
The voyage was pure hell, each lurch of the ship making my head spin with nausea. Coming ashore was shocking, a swirl of color and noise and such vicious heat, my skin blossomed with sweat within moments. I stumbled and caught onto someone’s hand: a young Indian man, his face concerned.
“Thank you,” I told him in Hindustani.
“Are you Mrs. Rivers?” he asked. Before I could answer, St. John appeared at my elbow.
“I am Reverend Rivers,” he said. The man nodded.
“I am Abhijeet, from the mission. Please follow me; I’ll take you there.”
“Come, Jane,” said St. John.
The mission was a small, whitewashed building, scrupulously scrubbed from its worn floor to its peeling door. St. John immediately stepped through to inspect the chapel.
“Do you have everything you need, Mrs. Rivers?” asked Abhijeet. He was watching me closely. “May I fetch you anything?”
I glanced toward the door, then reached into my bag. “Yes. You can mail this letter for me.”
The notice was postmarked from London. It had taken five long months to reach me, five months in which I had begun to know India.
Dear Mrs. Rivers,
I regret to inform you that Edward Rochester of Thornfield Hall died of injuries sustained in a house fire on 19 October 1821. I further regret that I have no additional information concerning the circumstances of his death or the whereabouts of his ward, Miss Adele Varens. All further inquiries may be directed to the late Mr. Rochester’s lawyer, Mr. Charkham.
There followed an address in London.
Abhijeet was watching me with his dark, steady eyes, a gaze I had grown used to over the last months.
“Do you have news, Mrs. Rivers?” he asked quietly. I rose to look out the window, the marketplace teeming below.
“Nothing that will change me, Abhijeet,” I said softly. Tearing the letter to pieces, I let it fall into the street.