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Jane Austen Lives Again - Chapter Ten

Chapter Ten

Alice received Jane’s news the next morning with her usual stoicism, privately deciding that Frankie was simply being polite, and that she would not read anything else into it. It would have appeared rude if he’d made no enquiry, and he’d obviously done so at the last minute. Mae had found an opportunity to tell her that Emily had thrown herself at Frankie all night and that they’d hardly been separated, and whilst Alice didn’t want to dwell on those facts, at least she knew he wasn’t interested in making any overtures to her. She’d already decided he was completely indifferent, reasoning that in all the years they were separated he could at any point have written to her or picked up the telephone. The truth was that he didn’t love her any more, and had not loved her enough to pursue her again. Their meeting in the village had been like that of two strangers, but worse than that, because Alice knew there was no possibility of ever getting back together. The thought of the picnic arranged for the afternoon filled her with dread, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to make another excuse. 
The day started with fine weather as on the previous morning, but by lunchtime gunmetal clouds were sweeping across the sky with the resulting tumultuous rain set in for the afternoon. The only person who felt any pleasure in seeing the stair rods of water was Alice, and she thought herself left off the hook. Any plans for a picnic on the beach were quickly abandoned, and as a result, an indolent torpor seemed to settle on the house and all its inhabitants.
The weather didn’t improve for a whole fortnight, and whilst Jane was hopeful that it might give her more time to write, she found she had to be available to sit and chaperone the girls at all hours of the day and in the evenings too. One thing she was grateful for was that she didn’t see much of Will. He seemed to be busy about the estate, she’d caught a glimpse of him more than once through the front door, battling against the elements, suitably attired in working clothes, gum boots, and a sou’wester. He rarely made an appearance, only occasionally showing up for dinner where he appeared to ignore her as much as she was trying to avoid him. Occasionally their eyes met across the table, and sometimes she felt his gaze intent upon her features, but whenever she stared right back, he looked away.
Julius Weatherfield, true to his word, arrived every day to see Mae. Jane was grateful for the fact that Alice came to sit in the drawing room too, and they passed their time reading or playing card games with Emily and Cora who seemed restless unless they had plenty to do. On the Thursday of the following week Lieutenant Dauncey called, and by Friday afternoon they had a house full of visitors with Jonathan Keeling and the Wallis brothers joining the other two gentlemen.
Lady Milton was in her element, enjoying the fact that her drawing room was filled with some of the most eligible men in the county. She drew the line at inviting them to dine, but welcomed them enough to spend as much time as they liked in daylight hours.
Jonathan was talking about his disappointment that the picnic hadn’t taken place, and was suggesting that until the weather turned again, they must have a gathering at his house.
‘I’ve some news that I think you’ll enjoy,’ he said. ‘An old university friend of mine is coming to stay tomorrow. Kit lives down in deepest Cornwall, but when I heard he was thinking of coming up to Devon for a few weeks I made sure he was going to spend some time with me. Kit’s got his sister Camilla and a friend coming too, and I can’t wait for you all to meet him. It’s short notice, but do you think you could all come for dinner tomorrow night. It’ll be all of us here, of course, and the usual suspects … Jessie and Nora Beales, as well as Captain Bartlett.’
‘Oh no, not the captain,’ said Mae, ‘he just mopes about all the time and is such dull company.’
‘If I’ve heard the best way to make an Indian curry, I’ve heard it a thousand times,’ said Julius, ‘and I’ve only just met him. One would think he was in his dotage, not in his early thirties.’
‘I think he’s feeling a bit under par at the moment,’ said Jonathan trying not to show his frustration at Mae and Julius’s comments, ‘he gets very lonely out at Sherford all by himself, and I’m sure he’s always glad of a bit of company. I noticed he and Jessie were dancing on more than one occasion at Frankie’s party, and I’d like to encourage that.’
‘Well, that’s some relief to hear … at least he’ll leave me alone if he’s after Jessie,’ said Mae, none too quietly, turning to bestow a winning smile on Julius.
There was an awkward silence. Mae didn’t seem in the least perturbed by what she’d said, but Jane saw Alice was colouring up, and looking downcast into the hands clasped nervously in her lap.
Emily, who realised the time was ripe for diversion and longing to show her excitement for the invitation, instantly turned to Frankie who was sitting next to her on the sofa, with a huge grin. ‘Oh, what fun, I think it’s a case of the more, the merrier! You’ll come, won’t you, Frankie? Though I wish this wretched weather would stop. All our plans for picnics and excursions out are completely put on hold.’
‘I couldn’t agree more,’ said Mae, adding mysteriously, ‘I’ve a few plans of my own I’d like to put into place.’
‘Yes, I’d love to come,’ said Frankie turning slightly away from Emily and addressing the whole room. ‘I’m sure I echo the thoughts of all in this room.’
Jane had been observing the pair all afternoon. She thought there was an obvious attraction from Emily towards Frankie, but she couldn’t make up her mind about him. He seemed quite engaged by her on occasion, but Jane also noticed he was more enthusiastic towards Emily if he thought Alice was watching them. And though Alice tried very hard not to look, Jane knew that she’d seen all that was going on. Frankie had not exchanged one word with Alice at all, and seemed distracted. No, more than that, thought Jane, he was not his usual effusive and happy self.
Frankie was mildly irritated by the company, and he was feeling particularly needled by Alice. He thought how much she’d changed, he’d even said to Emily he would not have recognised her if he’d passed her unknowing in the street. She was so quiet and timid, and couldn’t even be bothered to acknowledge him. The least she could do was be pleasant and ask him how he was doing, and he began to think she’d grown just like her father. Clearly, the old family snobbishness was still evident. He would never forgive her or Lord Milton, though Lady Milton seemed worth encouraging.   
‘Yes, Frankie, I’m sure we’re all in agreement,’ said Lady Milton. ‘Indeed, we’d love to come for dinner, the invitation is so very generous of you, Jonathan darling, and it’s always a pleasure getting to know some new young men. I cannot speak for Albert, but I know Zoot will love to be there and I shall tell him later when he comes up from the village. Whereabouts in Cornwall does young Kit reside?’
‘His family were in tin mining until fairly recently, but have moved to St Ives to establish an estate.’
‘New money,’ said Lady Milton, pursing her scarlet lips in approval, ‘but, there’s no shame in that these days with the majority. Is he very rich?’
‘I believe he is extremely well off,’ said Jonathan, who was finding it hard not to laugh, ‘but I’ll leave that for you to find out.’
‘And I shall enjoy doing so enormously,’ Flora answered with a deep-throated giggle. ‘I think he sounds quite perfect for one of my girls.’
‘Lieutenant Dauncey, have you heard of the family?’ interrupted Beth, anxious to move her mother’s outspoken thoughts on. ‘What’s his other name, Jonathan?’ asked Beth.
‘It’s Branwell, Kit Branwell.’
‘No, I don’t know the name,’ Gilbert Dauncey replied after a moment’s hesitation, ‘but Cornwall is a big place, and I only know of the old mining families in the area. I don’t have many connections there now.’
‘Cornwall is not far away,’ Lady Milton announced, ‘it will be splendid to have such a short distance to visit my grandchildren. And he’s bringing a friend, you say.’
‘Yes, I think he’s from the same area near St Just … he didn’t say too much … only mentioned him as his great friend Fergus.’
‘Oh, what a splendid name, he sounds like a hero from a Scottish legend,’ Lady Milton enthused. ‘I cannot wait to meet them. Cora, your head is always full of romance, Fergus sounds most suitable.’
Jane couldn’t help feeling sorry for Cora whose embarrassment at her mother’s faux pas showed in her crimson cheeks. The other person she was most concerned about was Alice who’d hardly spoken a word all day. Jane knew Alice was in an impossible situation, but it seemed she was fading faster into the background, and becoming ever more reluctant to speak in company. It just wasn’t right, and she decided she must do something about it.

The next day brought slightly finer weather. Although it was hardly flaming June, at least the rain had stopped, and the odd patch of blue could be seen up above the white clouds.
Beth was up bright and early, and feeling excited about the evening. She hoped she would be able to sit next to Gilbert Dauncey at dinner, and she thought about the afternoon they’d spent together the day before with pleasure. He was handsome, charming, and best of all, he made her laugh, and when she thought about what a rum deal he’d been handed in life Beth decided he must be an extraordinary character to have survived so well, with such a joyous outlook and his sense of humour intact.
Crossing the hall, she noticed the pile of morning post on the table, and rifling through the letters found one for herself. It must have been hand-delivered, she thought, because there was no stamp, but she couldn’t think who might be writing to her, as she didn’t recognise the handwriting. Quickly tearing open the envelope she scanned the page, and saw Gilbert’s name at the bottom, but if there were any first hopes that it might be a love letter they were dashed when she read its contents.
Dear Beth,
I thought it best to send you a note, as I have no hopes of seeing you today. I am so sorry, but I find I am unable to fulfil this evening’s engagement after all. I’ve been contacted by my solicitor and am going to London on his instruction for he has some pressing news for me, and several items of importance to discuss. It is impossible for me to say how long I shall be gone, but I hope to be returned in a week or so.
I wanted to explain my absence, and hope it will not be too long before I shall see you again. Please send my best to your parents.
Kindest regards,
Gilbert Dauncey
PS Rest assured, I have also written a letter of apology to Jonathan Keeling.
Beth read the letter through twice. It was rather formal, and far from being romantic, though it did mention that he hoped it wouldn’t be too long before he saw her again. Not exactly the stuff to set her heart racing, and she couldn’t help feeling disappointed. She wondered what could possibly be so important that it would take him off to London. He’d sounded rather guarded, but she hoped it had something to do with sorting out what was rightfully due to him in his inheritance. Pocketing the letter, she set off for the dining room to have some breakfast, though suddenly she didn’t feel she had the appetite she’d had before Gilbert’s news.

Alice was getting ready for breakfast, and despairing at the state of her wardrobe when she heard the knock at the door. She was surprised to see Emily who didn’t usually make a habit of coming to see Alice in her room, but it wasn’t very long before she found out why she’d been so eager to visit.
‘We’ve been having such a lovely time since Frankie arrived, don’t you think?’ Emily asked directly, almost as soon as she was through the door. Collapsing into a chair she picked up a cushion and proceeded to squash and pummel it round its edge, pulling at the bobble tassels. Alice couldn’t answer truthfully, and say she’d never felt so miserable in her life before so she decided on a half-truth to satisfy her sister. ‘Yes, it’s been lovely seeing him again.’
‘And do you like him as much as you ever did, Alice?’
‘I don’t know quite what you mean, Emily,’ Alice faltered, not wishing to share her intimate thoughts.
‘It’s just that you hardly seem to speak a word to each other,’ Emily continued, twirling a tassel round her finger, ‘which in the circumstances, is understandable.’
‘Well, I suppose we have nothing really left to say to one another.’
‘You don’t want to talk to him?’
‘Not exactly, but … it’s too complicated, Emily, and I don’t want to talk about it.’
‘Do you know what Frankie said to me yesterday?’
Alice tried not to let her irritation show. She wished she’d hurry up and say whatever it was she’d come to say. ‘No, I don’t, Emily.’
‘He said he thought you were completely altered, and that he wouldn’t have recognised you if he’d bumped into you in the High Street.’
Alice was completely taken aback. She knew the passing years and her disappointment at life not turning out quite how she’d wanted had taken its toll, but if this was the case she could hardly bear it.
‘I think that’s probably true,’ Alice said bravely at last, ‘I have changed. You probably don’t remember how I looked all that time ago, but he’s right. Time has not been so kind to me, as it has to him.’
‘I just wanted you to know that I really like him, and if you don’t have those same feelings any more, well …’
‘If you’re asking me for permission to see Frankie, you don’t need it. There’s no love lost between us, Emily, I know that.’
‘Then I have your blessing?’
Emily already had her hand on the door, as she took Alice’s wan smile to be exactly that.
Alice’s tears flowed freely after that, and when she’d exhausted all her emotions, all the pent-up feelings, she dabbed her face dry. She really had to make some changes and a few decisions, she thought. The first one resolved on putting Frankie out of her head for good, and the second was one involving her stepmother, and a change she’d been considering for a long time.

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six 
Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine 
 Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven

This is a thoroughly delightful read. Jane Austen re-awakens in the 1920s, 110 years after her death, and faces the new industrial world with her usual aplomb. Trains and motorised cars, along with shorter skirts, must be accepted. In reduced circumstances, she has to work as a governess. Noting the changes in environment, manners and appearance, but never succumbing to depression or undue anxiety, Miss Austen deals with the same daily social tasks and complications that her characters did. She has young women to encourage and chasten into suitable romances – while not remaining immune herself. The author has convincingly captured Jane Austen’s tone and personality. The 1920s come to life in the way that they affected a rural, once rich, family. The characters are true to Austen’s own novels and I am sure, were she defrosted into life for real, she would be amused and pleased to read this novel. Historical Novel Society
Travelling to Devonshire aboard a steam train, Jane Austen remarks to her companion and physician: ‘Dr Lyford, if I can survive embalming, the subsequent resurrection and the effects of transdifferentiation, I will live to tell the tale …’
So begins Jane Odiwe’s ‘fairy story for grown-ups’, in which Austen is brought back from the dead - scientifically, rather than miraculously - and transported to the west of England in 1925. Penniless (her royalties don’t go far in the Jazz Age) and - naturally - alone, she takes the traditional route for single women of no fortune and becomes governess to a clutch of sparky girls in a romantically crumbling castle by the sea.
She finds the bohemian Milton family quite enchanting, and is sure that she can bring some old-fashioned order to their somewhat chaotic existence - but to her initial dismay finds herself falling for the dark-eyed, curly-haired, and handsome son of the house. What follows is pure romance, but with the twists of humour and intrigue that Odiwe’s readers have come to expect. This is such an enjoyable tale - Odiwe handles the 1920s setting with the same assurance that she has brought to her Regency-set novels, and her rendering of a 20th century Jane is a delight. Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine

With Jane Austen being alive in the 1920’s and earning her keep as a governess, Jane Austen Lives Again sometimes felt like Downton Abbey meets Mary Poppins/Sound of Music (which are some of my favorite things!)It was a wonderful blend of history, fiction, and fairy tale! Absorbing, ingenious, and immensely satisfying – you definitely don’t want to miss Jane Austen Lives Again!

Meredith Esparza - Austenesque Reviews

Imagine a world where Jane Austen and her favorite characters exist in a Downton Abbey atmosphere—Impossible, you say, and yet, apart from the passage of years, they are all gentlemen and gentlemen’s daughters, as Elizabeth Bennet so succinctly puts it. In Jane Odiwe’s latest novel, Jane Austen Lives Again, our favorite author does not die at 42 in Winchester, but is kept, somehow in stasis, until Dr. Lyford can not only cure her last lingering illness, but revive her again in the prime of her life. The scientific details are not spelled out, and honestly, it doesn’t matter, as Ms. Odiwe’s book will captivate you from the first. Finally we are able to see Jane “live again” sans vampires and magic, and enjoy her introduction to modern life in the 1920’s. 
Laura Boyle Jane Austen Centre Online Review

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