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Have you taken cold, Sir? (Jane Eyre, Edward Rochester, M)


Sequoia

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Notes:

In the novel, they are constantly talking about taking cold, but they never do. I had to right this wrong...

This was written for day 4 of sicktember: Hiding an Illness. It was first posted on AO3, but @SexualOddity convinced me to post it here, as well.

And I want to thank @SexualOddity for betareading this fic. I was a bit anxious to share it, as a non-native speaker trying to imitate Brontë... I'd never have found the courage if not for her and my AO3 buddy's support :) We have the best writing community ^^

 

Have you taken cold, Sir?

I lightened a candle and put it on the desk, the warm light now illuminating Adele’s fine handwriting. It was only afternoon, but dark clouds hang over the sky and absorbed any light that could have made its way into Adele’s study room. The girl had convinced me to end the lesson earlier, saying she would go crazy sitting here and watching the constant rain. I had given in, for my own mind was concentrated on a different matter. I cast a look outside. The thorn trees battled with the heavy winds, their leaves soaked and close to black from the rain.

Surely, the master would not return in this raging storm. He had left Thornfield early, before I or any of the servants had risen, having been summoned to Millcote on business once again. The rain had set in yesterday, but it hadn’t been until noon that it developed into this gale. I watched the storm-raged trees, hoping the master had found a decent place to abide the storm and, at the same time, wishing he was right here at Thornfield. The mansion felt cold and empty without him, despite the party that was still residing here. Mr. Rochester’s absence dulled the spirit of his guests. I had seen Miss Ingram idly roaming the library, while the others were playing some silent card games. It was quiet in the house, the only sound being the wailing wind outside, rattling on the windows.

Sighing, I turned back to Adele’s text. She had greatly improved her English, there was barely a word I needed to correct, and soon I found my way to the library to fetch myself a book. I sat down in a window-seat and let the spell of fiction keep me occupied on this dreary afternoon. The hours passed, and the darkness grew, swallowing the storm-tossed trees. I could still hear them groaning in the sharp winds, and for a moment, I fancied I had made out the tramp of horse-hooves within the noise. But when I cast a look outside, it was too dark to make out details.

Before long, I heard Adele’s little voice calling out: “Monsieur Rochester has returned!” Nearly dropping the book, I had to keep myself from jumping off the window-seat and made my way to the hall.

Miss Ingram, Mrs. Dent and Mrs. Eshton stood at the foot of the stairs. In the door frame I could make out a cloaked figure.

“Good heavens, you’re soaked!”, exclaimed one of the ladies.

Mr. Rochester did not reply. In fact, he marched right through them and dashed up the stairs, leaving a trail of water behind. I met his eye, hidden under wet hair, and he slowed down, opening his mouth as if to greet me.

“Edward!”, Miss Ingram called after him. “What has happened?”

At once, his smile faltered and a shadow crossed his face. He closed his eyes for a second before turning towards the Ladies. “All is right! I shall join you in the drawing-room in a moment. And by all means, close the door, or you will take cold, wearing these thin garments!”

The door was closed, and the ladies headed back to the drawing-room. Mr. Rochester, however, remained on the stairs. A morose scowl blackened his feature, something seemed to have him in its grip.

“What is the matter, Sir?”

He did not reply, not until I heard the door downstairs shut close. Then, his expression faltered, and he lifted his gaze to the chandelier, taking in a near-silent breath.

Hhhh…Hhh’RHSSHHH-shoo!

“Blasted storm.” He sniffed carefully and rubbed his nose so fiercely, as if another sneeze lingered within.

“Have you taken cold, Sir?”

“Me?” He scoffed. “But Mesrour might. Some fool latched the stable door close, I left the horse in the yard, Jahhhne- Ihh!“ He paused and a strange look passed over his face. He was fighting against a force invisible to my eyes, his crooked nose flaring ever so slightly. “Hhh…Hhh!

“Sir?”

He turned towards me, and the shadow seemed to leave his eyes for a moment. He parted his lips, words almost visible lingering on them, quickly turning into another anguished breath. “Jahhne, hHHeh!

He gripped the handrail for support and hastily raised his arm to his face. “RHSSHHHHooo! ... Hhh’RSHHH-shhoo!

“Bless you, Sir.”

He shook his head, droplets of water percolating from his hair and coat, and he straightened with a sniff.
“Jane”, he repeated, “Go and fetch John. He shall look after Mesrour, and dry him thoroughly.”

“Yes, Sir.”

I rushed past him, down the stairway, and from the corner of my eye I could still see him lingering on the tread. He appeared to be watching me, and I hurried through the corridor to get out of his sight. Just as I closed the door kitchen behind me, a thunderous set of sneezes echoed through the hallway, followed by a set of curses. I flinched and briefly debated stepping back out to ensure the master had not fallen down the stairs in this sudden fit. But then, quick footsteps faded away, and I returned to my search of John.

 


Mr. Rochester’s animating nature revived the conversations of his guests without exception. Even tonight, when he had barely said a word, the conversations were brimming and the dullness that his absence had brought over Thornfield was forgotten. I was sitting in my usual spot, the window-seat, and watched the party. I had not exchanged a single word with Mr. Rochester since the incident on the stairway. I was almost certain that he had not even noticed me sitting here in the shade, for he sat at quite a distance, sunken into a chair in front of the fireplace.

‘The journey must have exhausted him’, I thought to myself. Usually, he was the center of attention, often leading the conversation, singing with Miss Ingram, but tonight, he silently watched the flames and only nodded idly when Mr. Eshton or one of the others addressed him.

He excused himself early that night.

I sat in the shadows for a while longer, as to not draw attention to me, then I went after him. But it appeared I had waited too long; the hallways were empty except for a chilling wind hauling through them. I quickly made my way to my room. When I passed the door to Mr. Rochester’s chambers, I heard a set of muffled sneezes.

“Bless you, Sir!”, I said quietly.

There was no reply.

 


The next morning passed as usual, with nothing interrupting Adele’s studies but her frequent requests to join the ladies. I put her off until noon, and when the bell rang below, my own step was nearly as brisk as little Adele’s. We raced down the stairs, Adele in anticipation to spend time with the pretty ladies, as she put it, and I – I had not seen Mr. Rochester all day. He must have slept late, or perhaps he had quietly attended to business while I was teaching Adele. But to my great disappointment, the master had not joined the ladies in the drawing-room, and so I wandered off to the library. 

I found the door to be occupied by Pilot. My spirit lifted at the sight of him, and the long-haired, black and white dog was equally delighted to see me. He got up and greeted me with a wag of his tail. I briefly patted his head before I entered the library, mending my pace to meet Pilot’s owner.

At first, I believed him gone already, but Pilot was never mistaken. I finally spotted Mr. Rochester in a corner. He was leaning on the wall, his look fixed on a spot behind the bookshelves. I watched him with curiosity as he lifted his broad shoulders nearly up to his ears and slowly tilted his head back, his nostrils caught in a helpless flare. “Hhh!

He stood momentarily frozen, then he wrenched forward and sneezed, gripping the shelf for support: “Hhh’RSHHH-SHHoo! ... Hhn’RHSSHHHHooo!

“Bless you.”

Mr. Rochester swung around. An irritated look passed over his features, somewhat attenuated by a few tears lingering in the corners of his eyes. But when he recognised me, it turned into his regular frown. He directed his irritation at his nose instead, pinching it close and rubbing it fiercely from side to side before addressing me.

“There you are, Jane, sneaking up on me again.”

“I am not sneaking up on you, Sir, I am merely fetching myself a book.”

“Of course you are.” He shook his head and cast Pilot a disdainful look.

“Has he made you any trouble?”, I asked.

“Who?”

“Pilot, Sir. You left him outside the library.”

“He was to alert me of any intruders, but you must have bewitched that blasted creature.”

“It was not his fault; he was so delighted to see me. I am sorry for disturbing you, Sir”, I said and turned to leave.

“Jane!”, he called out in a mixture of disbelief and desperation, as if he hadn’t just told me I was intruding his space. “Where are you going?”

“To read my book.”

“Come here and sit with me for a while, if you please?” He walked over to the fireplace and sank onto the sofa, massaging his head with his thumbs. I sat next to him and watched him carefully.

“Are you unwell, Sir?”

He groaned and ran his fingers down from his temples along the sides of his crooked nose, before giving an irritated sniff. “Jane, do you remember the times when we used to spend our evenings here, in front of the fire?”

“I do, Sir.”

A strange, distant look wandered over his face as he caught my eye, some emotion lingering in his dark pupils that I could not quite place. He nodded slowly. “The house was much warmer back then.”

“Are you not enjoying the company of your guests? You seemed very engaged, especially with Miss Ingram.”

He looked at the fire for a while with a dark grimace, as if his mind had been caught in an unpleasant thought. I could almost see the words lingering on his lips, but they were quickly replaced by a hitching breath. “Hhh… HhhHHh…”

He scowled and long, slender fingers rubbed vigorously at his nose, trying to restrain the eruption. However, the flare of nostrils only intensified, and a few tears showed in the corners of his eyes before he suddenly closed them and turned away from me.

Hhhu-RHSSHHHH-shoo! Hhhh… HHhhh-RSHHH-shhht!”

“Bless you, Sir. You sneezed an awful lot today. Have you taken cold?

There was a brief silence. Just as Mr. Rochester looked as if he were about to reply, the bell rang for the hour to dress for dinner.

“Damn it”, he spat and rose to his feet, quickly making his way to the door. There he halted and looked back. “Why do you never speak to me in the drawing-room, Jane?”

“I told you before, I don’t want to disturb you and your party, Sir.”

“But you will be there tonight, sitting in that silent corner of yours?”

“I will, Sir.”

“Hm.” He nodded in contentment and stormed off without another word.

Edited by TheCakeIsAlive
Requested by user
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You posted it yaaaaay! I've probably told you most of this before when I was beta reading (I do try to stick to constructive stuff but then I end up getting too excited and having to tell you how great everything is).

 

I just love your writing. Your style and your descriptions in this fic just transported me write into the book. It's a while since I read it but the characters ring very true. I love Jane being eager to see Mr. Rochester but juuust falling short of admitting that to herself. And I love Mr. Rochester being so full of bluster and not admitting that he's I'll or that he wants Jane to stay (but then being so indignant when she tried to leave 🥰). Incredible.

 

This is fantastic work, I'm so glad you shared it 😁

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Wow, I love how you capture the essence of the original in this. I always struck me too how many times they talked about a cold, without there being one. Thank you for sharing it. 

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Especially for a non-native speaker: this is fantastic :) I feel like you've really captured the tone of the original. :) 

Very enjoyable read!

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 months later...

I loved Jane Eyre! This was so cute. Thank you for writing!

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Loved this! You really captured the feel of the book, especially the dynamic between Jane and Rochester. This is 100% what Rochester would be like with a cold, no doubt! Fantastic work!

15 hours ago, jai_is_bae? said:

What is AO3?

Archive of Our Own--it's a fanfic site.

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  • 2 months later...

I love how you have encapsulated the characters and the language used by Charlotte Brontë. Making your story sound like it was written in the 19th century can’t have been easy but you did a fantastic job of it.

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