A very Jane Austen Christmas story; Part Thirteen
HAPPY CHRISTMAS MORNING, EVERYONE!
Part 13 – THE BREAK
Jane had more ideas than energy as she and Mr. Godwin stood blocking the sidewalk.
“Are you quite sure you have the energy to start a new investigation at this hour,” Mr. Godwin asked?
Mr. Godwin was far from convinced, but nonetheless the two began a thorough survey of the street, commencing at the Toy Wares shop. Dollhouses and dollies crowded the window alongside bullseye targets, hoops, jars of clay marbles, feathered shuttlecocks, hobby horses, and colorful lawn bowls. It took some doing for Mr. Godwin and Jane to enter the busy shop, but they persevered and waited their turn at the counter. The proprietress was visibly annoyed that her customers were asking after a person rather than a purchase. It was equally clear that she had never heard of a person named ‘Imogene.” Mr. Godwin paid for a velvet racehorse with a little sewn saddle of carpet material, and they exited.
“For you, Miss Austen,” he said, handing over the papered parcel, “A souvenir of the day’s adventure.”
Jane happily accepted the gift and they pushed on to the Grafton, the draper, where Jane picked up stockings. Then Wedgewood’s, where Mr. Godwin purchased a lovely china tray for his mother. And then Twining’s where they both bought bergamot tea. The crowds were teeming and the variation in temperature between the snowy chill of the street and the warm, crowded interiors was beginning to challenge Jane’s constitution.
When they entered the butcher shop Jane visibly swayed. The bodies hanging on hooks over the proprietor’s shoulder depleted Jane’s last reserve of fortitude.
“Let us move on,” Mr. Godwin said, ushering Jane back outdoors quickly.
“I assure you I am very well,” Jane said in a voice that was meant to ensure confidence as she moved toward a low wall where she planned to sit for a moment. It was a fine idea, but on the way, Jane tripped on a loose cobble and fell impressively. Her parcels scattered in every direction and the sidewalk opened up. Mr. Godwin sprang into action, lifting Jane up to a seated position, as passersby collected the parcels and stood in attendance. It became abundantly clear that Jane could neither stand nor walk.
“My dearest, Jane,” Mr. Godwin whispered, fraught but focused, “I’m going to lift you up and it might cause a good deal of pain.”
Jane nodded, wishing for privacy and an end to the pain in her ankle. A kind stranger in the crowd hailed a carriage as Mr. Godwin lifted Jane off the ground. The carriage door was opened by unknown friends and Jane was deposited, as softly as possible, across the cushioned seat. The parcels were handed in by the well-wishing crowd outside and the door was closed swiftly. Jane’s face twisted in pain as the carriage set off, bumping along the cobbled road. Mr. Godwin quickly moved to sit beside her. It was entirely improper but nonetheless he removed Jane’s slipper, stashed it in his coat pocket, and lifted her stockinged leg onto his ungloved hands in an attempt to cushion the jostling motion of the carriage.
“I apologize for the liberty,” Mr. Godwin whispered.
Jane tried to smile. “You are aiding me immensely.”
The carriage pulled up to Aunt Phoebe’s house and Mr. Godwin carried Jane into the house. Susan scurried out to retrieve the parcels and Aunt Phoebe ran forward, up to the second floor to turn down the covers down on Jane’s bed. Mr. Godwin, understanding the plan, continued upstairs taking infinite care not to catch Jane’s foot on the railing.
“Call a physician,” he told Susan when she caught up to him.
“What on earth has happened?”
“Miss Austen was exceedingly fatigued, and she tripped on a cobble. I should never have allowed her to push herself shopping so late in the day.”
Jane protested but Mr. Godwin spoke assertively over her. “Susan, bring some ice, if you will.” Mrs. Seymour, if you will, bring a strong drink. The doctor is likely to fool with her leg and it’s bound to cause pain.” When the others had gone, he whispered to Jane, “I despair, my dear Jane…”
“You mustn’t,” she reached her hand out to him, “It was an infernal accident. I despair that I will not be home for Christmas, but otherwise I am fine. Please send word to my mother and sister. Tell then I am perfectly well but have suffered a silly accident and I will return to them in a day or two. Please write them.”
Mr. Godwin doubted Jane’s timeline very much, but he did not allow for his facial expression to betray his thoughts.
“We will make a most Merry Christmas here in town,” he promised.
Jane smiled brightly. “Hand me my velvet horse, Mr. Godwin.” He unwrapped it for her and placed it on her bedside table so that it looked like it was galloping. “Cousin Imogene!” she laughed.
“We have had a time,” Mr. Godwin laughed too.
“You have had a time!” Aunt Phoebe said, joining them. Aunt Phoebe did not know the half of it—but she was soon to learn. As they waited for the physician to arrive Susan joined them and they all sat around the edge of Jane’s bed talking about the adventures of the day and the sighting of Cousin Imogene.
“She has fractured her ankle,” the doctor pronounced much later.
“That is better than a break, is it not,” Jane asked?”
“It is not. An ankle fracture is a break.”
“Will I be well enough to travel tomorrow?” Jane asked, “For it will be Christmas.”
“It will take six to twelve weeks for the ankle to recover. Certainly, several weeks before you are able to put weight on it,” the doctor said, snapping his bag shut.
Jane looked at Mr. Godwin in alarm as the church bells rang midnight.
Now you have done it. Poor Jane was far too tired to push on after hardly any sleep and a long, emotional day. There’s not a thing to be done now. Jane is properly laid up. Come back later to see what might be done next.