A very Jane Austen Christmas story; Part Eleven


Contrary to being upset, Mr. Godwin seemed amused at finding Jane.

“Miss Austen! I had a feeling I might find you here”!

“Indeed” Jane half smiled?

“I could tell by the glimmer in your expression last night that you were not inclined to wait in your investigations. Mr. Wright is making my apologies in Parliament today,” Mr. Godwin coughed in an artificial manner. “You see I find myself a little bit under the weather. I am at your disposal entirely.” He winked.

Jane took his arm laughing and feeling infinitely relieved. When they strode past the mantua maker she scowled, and her eyes shot daggers at Jane.

“What have you discovered so far this morning,” he asked.

“Nothing yet,” Jane conceded. “I have been looking through the crowd for a glimpse of Cousin Imogene. It occurred to me that she might be among the crowd here. I thought if I came back at a busy hour, I might have a better chance of bumping into her.”

“I read your thoughts,” Mr. Godwin smiled. “And I must admit your logic is sound. I do want to speak to you quite plainly, Miss Austen.”

“Plainly?” she repeated, remembering that plain speech was not socially proper.

He sat her down on a park bench by a small pond in the center of the little green. “Are we feeling quite sure that Cousin Imogene has not eloped with some scoundrel of a fellow?”

Jane bit her lip, “I have not seen her in some time. And certainly, her mother, Aunt Phoebe, can be a bit reckless and animated. But, to my memory, Aunt Phoebe was always rather strict with my cousin, and Cousin Imogene was always rather formal, and diligent. I honestly cannot see her running off.”

“Very good,” Mr. Godwin nodded, leaning back a little. “Let’s begin with that, as a fact in place. We will further our investigation on the premise that elopement is not part of the solution.”

Jane sighed, feeling relieved. Surely elopement was the most obvious solution, but she felt sure it was the wrong one and she was further bolstered by the knowledge that Mr. Godwin believed in her and was willing to eliminate that option.

“So where does that leave us,” Jane asked.

“It seems Cousin Imogene has found a means for supporting herself. You are telling me that your impression is that she is diligent and upstanding in character.”

“Certainly,” Jane agreed.

“Then we are, speaking plainly, eliminating the possibility of her working for, for example, the mantua maker? Speaking plainly.”

“Yes,” Jane confirmed without embarrassment. “I am quite sure she would not stoop to that.”

“Then we must grant that she has found either a friend or a situation that supports her.”

“Why, yes,” Jane nodded, the clouds suddenly clearing above and the world flooding with sunlight, both literally and figuratively.

“Are you feeling lighter, Miss Austen? Now the shadows are falling away?”

“I am, Mr. Godwin. I never would believe that Cousin Imogene would be involved in something untoward or…. nefarious. And I must admit I am relieved that you accept me on my word regarding my cousin’s character. Elsewise…”

“Elsewise it would be impossible to work together in finding her, because we would be starting at opposite and opposing ends.” They had been sitting like bookends on the park bench and he sidled a little closer.   

“Precisely,” she agreed, sidling a little closer too.

‘…Cousin Imogene… Newmarket… an hour….’ The words flitted by as two men in top hats passed the bench. Jane and Mr. Godwin sat up like squirrels at the sound of a nut dropping and stared at each other.

“Come!” Mr. Godwin commanded, reaching a gloved hand out to Jane, who was somehow stuck in a state of shock. She loosened herself and sprang into step beside him as they set off through the streets tailing the top hats.

There is nothing to be decided at this juncture. We must trust in Mr. Godwin’s superior instinct and follow the men and chase the clue! Tune in later to see what the chase yields. 

Check here what happens in chapter Twelve.