All Hallows at Eyre Hall, owes its title to the fact that the main events in the novel occur on and around All Hallows. The following two excerpts narrate the events leading up to All Hallows, at Eyre Hall.
When Richard Mason returns to the place where Thornfield Hall had been and Eyre Hall has been erected, he unveils Rochester’s first betrayal to Jane. The existence of his first wife, Bertha Mason’s child born at Thornfield Hall twenty-two years earlier, while Jane was employed there, as Mr. Rochester’s ward’s governess.
Once Jane has discovered Mason’s words were true, that a child was born to Bertha, while she was still married to Edward Rochester and courting her, she decides her husband must be responsible for the child, although he denies being the father. Jane argues that Edward and Bertha were legally married when the child was born.
Here is part of Jane and Edward’s argument as a result of his daughter’s arrival at the Rochester estate. Jane is worried about how the scandal will affect their son, John Rochester, while a bedridden Edward Rochester appears unaffected. Mr. Rochester is the first speaker.
“He (John) will have to live with gossip and scandal, all the Rochesters have.”
“You don’t care when the scandal explodes, because it will no longer affect you. Think of your son, Edward. Think of me. I have endured enough gossip and pain on your behalf. Your first wife, her death, your London life and friends, your solitary visits to Ferndean and the Ingrams, now this other daughter, and God knows what else. I have a feeling there is more you must yet confess to before you are taken by our Lord.”
“You exaggerate, madam.”
“You are selfish, sir.”
“I am tired of this conversation. I need my rest. Leave.”
“As you wish, but she will dine here on All Hallows, and you will come down to dinner to meet her.”
“I shall not.”
“Everyone believes you are her kind benefactor and uncle.”
“Unless of course you tell me the man who is responsible for her existence, you will be held responsible for your actions or carelessness with your first wife’s wellbeing.”
“Get out, I said!”
“I will carry your burden once more, but you will carry yours, too, while you are still among us. Good morning, Edward.”
Bertha’s daughter, Annette, has returned to Eyre Hall with her uncle, Richard Mason. Her visit will bring great distress to all members of the family, and change the course of their future irrevocably. This visit will take place on All Hallows.
However, The next excerpt from All Hallows at Eyre Hall is Chapter XVII, Merriment at the Rochester Arms, which describes a Halloween Party at the Rochester Arms, a nearby inn, which takes place the evening before All Hallows, on All Hallows Eve. John Rochester narrates the party he attends with Adele, Mr. Mason, and Annette Mason, Bertha’s daughter.
This chapter, which is narrated by John Rochester, describes a typical All Hallows Eve Party in Victorian England, and it also narrates vital aspects of the novel. It occurs midpoint in the novel, and almost all the main characters are either present or referred to.
Mr. Mason had invited me to join him and Annette for dinner at the Rochester Arms in Hay, and I asked Adele if she would like to accompany me. Adele seldom leaves the house, now that my father is bedridden, and guests are infrequent, so I was sure the dinner would be an amusing interlude for her. Mr. Raven frequently organizes entertaining banquets on merry occasions, like this evening’s All Hallows Eve dinner, as his father, old Mr. Raven used to.
Adele has always been like a devoted older sister. I love her dearly, and I am overjoyed for her contentment. I wish her to be happy, marry, and perhaps even have a family, although my mother will be very lonely at Eyre Hall once she has left. Adele has told me all about Mr. Greenwood, her new suitor from London, who will be arriving the following evening. She is planning to travel with him to Italy to an encounter with her long lost mother.
Life at Eyre Hall is no doubt dull for merry Adele. My mother is very distracted of late, worried no doubt about my father’s health and immersed in her occupations running the Estate, as well as her absorbing charity work. I often wonder what will become of her, once father was no longer with us. Her life has been so devoted to him, especially in these last few years. I am worried that she will become an eccentric recluse, although I will make sure that never happens, because I will always look after her.
Adele is apprehensive, although excited, about meeting her mother at last, but even happier at the prospect of leaving Eyre Hall for a time and becoming Mr. Greenwood’s travel companion. I am glad that I shall be finishing my studies next June, so I will return home and help my mother with the running of the Estate. She wants me to embark on a political career, but I am not sure if that is what I want to do.
I would like to travel to the United States and be acquainted with the new land and its courageous people first hand. I would also like to visit our prosperous colonies in the West Indies, although my father always told me it was a devilish place, I am sure he is exaggerating. I am also keen to visit Europe, although again, my father has warned me against fickle European women. I knew he had a disastrous experience with his first Caribbean wife, who was Mr. Mason’s sister and Annette’s aunt. Adele’s French mother had also betrayed him, and he had had a succession of capricious and disloyal women until he was fortunate enough to meet my mother and find peace and stability at last.
I long for London society, where I would meet avant-garde artists and poets, like William Morris, Alfred Tennyson or Gabriel Rossetti, although mother would prefer me to frequent social reformers and politicians, like Bishop Templar and Lord Shaftsbury. However, I am not called to being a philanthropist, like my mother, who willingly offers her time and money to needy orphans. I’m afraid I’m a traditional Rochester, like my father. I want to enjoy the privileges I have inherited. I fear I have not been called to repair the world’s injustices, as my mother would wish.
Joseph took us to the inn in our best carriage and waited there with us while we enjoyed the most magical night of the year, the night in which we witness the weakening of the barrier between this world and the other, where the dead and supernatural beings abide. I hoped to be able to get to know a supernatural being I had just met, the stunning and enigmatic woman who had suddenly burst into my life. Since the first day I had seen her strewed on the causeway below my horse, I had felt captivated by her watery eyes. I had never seen such a remarkable looking lady in England. I imagined she took after her aunt, my father’s first wife, and I understood how he must have been spellbound by her striking looks.
I had dreamt about her black almond shaped eyes shining like smoky quartz, and I longed to caress her flawless olive skin and kiss her dense creamy lips. I had never met a Jamaican woman, and I wondered if they were as compliant as I had been told, even though they were Creoles with English blood. I might follow my father’s footsteps, but I would not commit his same mistakes. Even so, I was looking forward to looking into her face once more, just to see if she stirred the same feelings a second time.
The evening was as dazzling as I had expected. We were given a table in the corner, away from the boisterous villagers, with generous helpings of roast duck and plenty of red wine from France. I had hoped to dance with Annette, and so, have the perfect excuse to hold her hand and even squeeze her waist, but in spite of her uncle’s insistence, she refused, due to her sprained ankle. Fortunately, after dinner, Mr. Mason convinced Adele to dance with him and listen to the ghost stories being told, so we were allowed to converse at our secluded table.
I realized that Annette was not the gay, undemanding type of woman I had imagined from her youth and beauty, on the contrary, she was well-read and modest, much like many of the English girls I had met. Of course she was nothing like my fiancée, Elizabeth Harwood. Elizabeth was an English rose, whose transparent skin, coral cheeks, and lips were more exquisite than any of Gainsborough’s celebrated portraits. Elizabeth is beautiful, demure, and sweet, nothing like her ambitious and ruthless father, one of the most feared judges at the Inns of Court, where he would like me to be apprenticed, when I finished at Christ Church.
I love Elizabeth, because my mother adores her, and because her father, Judge Haywood, is determined that I should be his son-in-law. Elizabeth is distant and shy, and although she insists that her greatest wish is to be by my side every day of her life, she does not exhibit any passion when she is near me. I suspect she thinks I am a good catch. I’m an only son, who will inherit a large and prosperous Estate, and she is also aware that our marriage would be very beneficial to me.
I said I love Elizabeth, and I do, but I am not in love with her, and now, I am absolutely sure I never have been, and I never will be. I have known it since I met her, but I was sure of it two days ago. I have no doubt that there will never be any passion in our marriage, although we will probably be contented and prosperous. I am sure now that I have never been in love before, because I had never experienced such overwhelming feelings towards a woman, until a few days ago when I met Miss Annette Mason.
Annette has a wild, feral beauty I had never encountered. I was on my way back to Eyre Hall, near Hay, when I beheld a magnificent apparition in the middle of the grey wilderness. She was lying on the causeway, wrapped in a crimson cape while a thick mane of unruly black hair was set free, as her crimson bonnet bounced onto the rocky ground. I unsaddled my horse and rushed to her side, and I realized she was quite real and dreadfully hurt. She sat on the ground crying, as a trickle of blood slid down her bruised forehead, complaining of a sprained ankle, painful arm, and aching head.
My first impression had been extraordinary, but as I carried her away from the causeway onto a stile, I was stunned by her beautiful face and perfect contour. I had no idea who such an exotic and beautiful creature could be. Fortunately, I discovered that although we were related, there was no blood relationship, so my feelings were not indecent.
Yesterday, on my way back from my visit to Bishop Templar, I decided to stop by the Rochester Arms, in the hope of another chance meeting with Annette. fortunately, she was dining with her uncle, who beckoned me to sit with them. I needed little persuasion to join them and find out more about the mysterious dark beauty. So far, I have discovered that her name is Annette Mason, and she has come all the way from Jamaica to pay her last respects to my father, who has been her generous benefactor since she was a child. Her parents died when she was an infant, and she was brought up in a convent school, where she is now a music teacher. She was staying with her uncle at the Rochester Arms, waiting for an invitation to Eyre Hall.
At a surprisingly late hour, while we were still eating, Michael delivered a message from my mother, which Mr. Mason, read and replied to immediately. I offered Michael a glass of ale, which he declined with the excuse my mother had insisted he should return with the answer to her message at once. I appreciated Michael, on duty all day, so obsessed with my mother’s wellbeing, like a sentinel. It reassured me that he was always so efficiently and faithfully by her side, especially now that my father was so ill.
The news Michael brought could not be better. We would all be dining together once more at Eyre Hall the day after tomorrow, All Hallows. Annette and her uncle would be staying as guests for some days. I was so besotted by her that the news was music to my ears. I was determined that she should be my mistress, as soon as possible. I had to have her in my arms, and I imagined it would not be a difficult feat while she was staying at my house. Tonight I had to let her know how I felt and find out if she felt the same. Mr. Mason had insisted I return today to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve with his niece, and I had naturally accepted the invitation, once more.
Mr. Raven had prepared a great feast. Everyone was eating, drinking, dancing and singing while a group of musicians played delightful songs with the aid of the German flute, an English guitar, a whistle, and a hammered dulcimer. There were at least a dozen spit-roast hogs and plenty of ale and rum for everyone.
After eating the meat, we ordered a Halloween cake. Adele suggested we cut a piece for mother and take it back to her. Each piece of cake had a button with a message for the coming year. Adele found a blue button, which meant she would be making a journey. Annette received a yellow button, meaning she would be coming into money. I discovered a white button, signifying I was to get married in the coming year. Mr. Mason got the worst one, I’m afraid. He got the black button, which predestined him to remain a solitary bachelor.
Mason naturally dismissed it with a huff as a heathen superstition, but the rest of us were very pleased with our buttons. My mother’s uneaten piece obviously hid the red button, meaning she would find her true love in the coming year. I wondered nostalgically if my demanding, short-tempered father had been the love of her life, and whether she would remarry after his death. I adored my father, but my mother was too young, beautiful and marvellous to live an isolated existence at Eyre Hall for the rest of her days.
I asked Annette to accompany me for a walk around the inn to observe the other divination practices taking place, which she had never heard of in Spanish Town. I reminded her that fortune-telling was practiced on this magical night to peep into the year ahead. Most young people were interested in marriage divination. So as we wandered around, we saw groups of young boys apple bobbing while girls ate and peeled apples in front of a mirror by candlelight, in the hope of getting a glimpse of their future husband.
Other groups were telling stories about ghosts and witches, who visited the earth on this night to bring messages to the living. Annette told me many of the native people in Jamaica were very superstitious and carried out black magic and witchcraft by casting spells on naive people, usually involving chants and animal sacrifice. She did not look favourably on these practices and was surprised that English people should believe in such things. I told her it was like a childish game for us.
Annette told me about how she missed the beauty of her country, the purple red skies at sunset and sunrise, and the fury of the wind in the autumn. She remembered the closeness of the moon with its dazzling moonshine and the millions of stars that covered the skies like a glittering dome. She explained how the plants are brightly coloured and smell sweeter than honey, and how the sun shines brightly every day, melting away the cold and sadness.
She asked me if I had ever visited her island, and I promised to do so, as soon as I could. She described her colonial mansion with ample verandahs all around the house overlooking the ocean. When I told her it sounded like paradise to me, she said that was what my father had said. I did not want to displease her, so I smiled, although I was surprised by her words. My father had always spoken very negatively about her country, calling it “the hellish West Indies”, but I was determined to travel there sooner than later. Annette had already convinced me of its beauty.
I told her about my mother’s plans for my future, and she told me I was lucky to have a mother who loved me and cared about my expectations. She congratulated me on my engagement, but I hastened to let her know how I felt about her. She looked surprised, even shocked, saying that we were related and should not even think about a romantic attachment. Although she added that she would like to be my friend, because she liked my company. That was enough for the moment. I apologized, not wishing to contradict her. I knew she liked me, and I would have plenty of time to seduce her while she was at Eyre Hall.
When Adele and I left the inn, on our way home, she told me she was very annoyed with me for leaving her alone with Mr. Mason for such a long time. She thought he was a most tedious companion. I apologized and promised to make it up to her by being especially amiable to Mr. Greenwood.
When we arrived, Simon opened the door and asked us if we wanted anything from the kitchen. We told him we had eaten enough food for a week and went straight up to bed. As we passed the library, Michael appeared in the hall and told us that my mother had fallen asleep. He offered to carry her up to her bedroom, mentioning that she had had an upsetting argument with Dr. Carter regarding my father’s health, so Adele offered to spend the night in her bedroom, lest she should have a nightmare.
I had noticed my mother behaving somewhat strangely since I had returned. She looked absent and lost in her own worries. My head was spinning from the noise, the rum, and the exhilarating evening I had spent with Annette. But the sight of Michael carrying my mother upstairs, with her arms and legs hanging limply around her pale day dress, and her auburn hair dangling loosely off her shoulders almost swiping the stairs, surprised me for its beauty. They were like two characters in a fairy tale acting out the final scene. Michael held her firmly and climbed the stairs nimbly, his eyes bursting with devotion, while Adele scolded them both for being up so late. I suspected, even in my dazed stupor, that Michael was in love with my mother. Although the idea did not displease me, I pushed it away from my thoughts as absurd. It was Annette’s visage that would haunt me all night long.
Tomorrow I’ll be including an excerpt of what happens the following day at Eyre Hall, on All Hallows.
There’s more about how Halloween has been celebrated over the centuries here
There’s more about Halloween festivities at Eyre Hall, including some spooky stories the servants told, here
By the way, if you would like to read the rest of All Hallows at Eyre Hall (US link), and UK link it will be on offer for a special reduced Price of 0.99 cents or 0.99 pence, for a limited time, until 2nd November.