A very Jane Austen Christmas story; Part Eight


“Now, Aunt Phoebe,” Jane attempted to subdue her aunt’s torrent of tears, “All is not lost. I will chase after the scoundrel and learn what mischief he means”.

“Dear Jane,” Aunt Phoebe sniffed into a handkerchief very daintily, “It’s not that really; it’s just that you look so much like my Imogene, it’s rather uncanny. What if I never again set eyes on her?” More handkerchief sniffling ensued.

Jane was in a state of heavy confusion. She could not decide whether to give chase to the man-- or not. If her mind was comprised of a Greek chorus, about half would be singing ‘yea!’ and the other half ‘nay’! She had to decide for herself… suddenly, and without much consideration, she ran to the open door.

“I will return in but a moment,” Jane promised, slipping recklessly down the steps as the rogue had just a few moments before. She realized how base she must look running through the city streets like an pocketbook-snatching urchin but run she must. She picked up a great deal of speed as she approached the intersection where her boot heel skated prettily across a patch of ice. She collided solidly with a figure.

“Miss Austen!” Mr. Godwin exclaimed, catching his breath. “You are in second person to collide with me in so many minutes.”

“Was the first a rather…” Jane tried to catch her breath, “Was the first a rather rough looking fellow without a hat”?

“Precisely. May I be of some service? Has he abused you?” he asked, suddenly alarmed? Jane shook her head, looking past Mr. Godwin into the crowd. She could not spot the man at all. “I parked around the corner when I realized your sketchbook was on the seat.”

“It must have slipped out of my reticule,” she sighed, giving up hope of continuing the chase. “I think I’ve done something awful.”

She described what had happened in but a few snips of conversation as Mr. Godwin heaved a heavy sigh. “You do realize if you’d caught up to the rascal you may have found yourself in a very compromising situation, alone in the streets”?

“I suppose so,” Jane conceded. ‘But what if he indeed has news of Cousin Imogene?”

“If he was of sound morals, he would have imparted it. The fact of him attempting to extract money from a widow alone and her niece is a reprehensible outrage and material proof of his poor character. I cannot, in good faith, encourage or pretend to condone the notion of you negotiating with a character of that sort”.

“I suppose so.”

“Miss Austen, you worry me. You have something of a man’s spirit—a little wild and headstrong. I must admit I find that aspect of you very pleasing, but all the same… Would you promise me you will stay out of danger until I am able to extricate myself from Parliamentary affairs and return to call?”

“Will you call later tonight, then,” Jane asked, brightening?

“If that is agreeable. I would like to make the acquaintance of your aunt and hear the details of all this.”

Mr. Wright appeared around the corner, in search of Mr. Godwin. Jane waved to him.

“Do you promise, Miss Austen?” he entreated, backing away to catch up with his friends.

“I will stay out of danger, Sir,” she promised, “Thank you for your solicitude.”

Satisfied but skeptical, he tipped his hat as he disappeared around the corner. She clutched her sketchbook and moved a few steps forward to take one last survey of the intersection. Down one street the Godwin buggy was rattling off. Down another Aunt Phoebe was waving from the top of the icy steps. Down a third (narrower and darker than the others) was a twisting, cobbled lane with many turnoffs and wooden trade signs swinging overhead.

Jane strode at a more civilized speed back to the stoop where her aunt was waiting. With every footstep she reasoned with herself ‘Is it dangerous to take a stroll around the city? Would I be breaching my promise to Mr. Godwin if I make but a short ramble? What is danger, after all if no immediate threats present themselves?’

“I lost sight of him,” Jane reported.

“But it looked as though you caught another, more pleasing figure. Rather smartly at that.”

“I happened to run into Mr. Godwin, who was returning with my sketchbook”. Jane waved the book, as if for proof.

“Perhaps I need to start carrying a sketchbook,” Aunt Phoebe smiled. She was looking moderately better. Her tears were erased, and her cheeks looked healthy and rosy in the winter air. Jane wrapped an arm around her aunt’s waist and ascended the steps. Admittedly though, she did turn to gaze down that mysterious little alleyway…

Should she, or shouldn’t she?


A. Will Jane venture out for a short ramble along the alleyway?

B. Will Jane unpack and wait for Mr. Godwin to come calling?

Check here what happens in chapter Nine.