I am writing to you from my desk at Netherfield. Yes, I am married! Three days ago Mr. Charles Bingley and I were united in wedlock in a lovely ceremony shared with my sister Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy of Derbyshire. Mr. Darcy is not an acquaintance of yours, but I am certain of your approval of both his character and standing in society. My sister will be a happy woman--Elizabeth married for love.
The events of the past few months still confound me. As you may recall I had lost all hope for any reconciliation between Mr. Bingley and myself after a brief encounter with his sisters in London. Time passed quietly during the past spring and just as I had adjusted to the irreversibility of the circumstance, he returned to Netherfield. His arrival was followed by a few days absence from society while he hosted a small hunting party, then much to my astonishment Mr. Bingley paid a call to my father's home.
Our first encounter was less than encouraging as I was at a loss of words to add to conversation and he uncertain if I held any particular affection for him. Yet he was not discouraged and returned two days later. On a succeeding visit he confessed to me he had loved me all the time he was away and followed this heartfelt declaration with a proposal of marriage. Like Elizabeth, I married for love.
A element of me feels censurable for expressing my joy with my new husband to you, but since I have burdened you with my tribulation of late, I thought you might appreciate the favorable ending to what was once considered without hope. After all the pain endured in the past few years, I never imagined that one day I would be as happy as I am now. How am I to account for such fortune?
I do believe my matrimony should respectively end our correspondence. If I may be allowed, I would like to make the solemn promise that I will never forget you, Andrew. You have touched my spirit with your benevolence and philanthropy in a way that time and distance could not remove. I am grateful for all we had together.
Thank you for your companionship throughout the years,
I will cherish it always.
Jane set her pen down and blew on the paper acknowledging a somber pain in her heart that felt akin to finality. Without a doubt this would be her last correspondence to Andrew. Her sense of right and wrong would not allow her to carry on in such a personal manner with another man now that she was a married woman. Andrew had been her savior during a long, lonely period last winter but the time had come for her to step away from the past and the comfort it had offered her.
"How many letters have I sent in the past year?" She questioned herself in the privacy of her mind while she habitually addressed the letter, "Twelve perhaps?"
Her eyes drifted from the parchment in front of her out the window her desk was placed near. The view of the grounds did little to decrease the tinge of melancholy she experienced as she considered the changes her life had taken of late. The path to happiness for Jane had been painfully traveled, a well guarded fact she kept from even those closest to her for numerous years.
A movement outside caught her eye and as she focused to the east she recognized that in the distance it was Charles preparing for his morning ride, the first since their wedding. Standing, Jane leaned over to gaze at her husband through the window as he mounted his horse. The man was truly the answer to the never spoken prayer of hers for someone kind and gentle to love. A sweeter lover she could not ask for and this acknowledgment brought a smile to her lips.
Acutely aware that his bride was currently occupying the room he has specially prepared for her, Charles steered his horse in her direction, not expecting but pleasantly surprised to see her looking down on him. He tipped his hat and smiled back at her without embarrassment of being so obviously in-love with the enchanting lady who stood behind the glass pane.
Waves were exchanged and after he rode out of her line of sight, Jane returned her attention to her letter. The ink had dried during her intermission. Exercising her usual caution, she dripped wax over the seam, keeping the crease perfectly straight before reaching for her stamp.
Three years earlier.
"Lizzy, slow down!" Jane hissed through clenched teeth while the throbbing in her ankle increased. "I can hop only so fast, surely you realize this!"
Jane was becoming quite vexed with her exuberant younger sister. "Why," she asked herself under her breath since she did not trust her tongue at the moment, "in the world does Lizzy have to be so blasted brave? I knew I shouldn't have followed her up the bloody hill. It was too steep!"
"I am moving slow, Jane." Elizabeth called over her shoulder a good twenty paces in front of her sister.
"Ha! I need to stop." Unceremoniously Jane sat down in a heap on the road. Her choice of inconvenient location made two points at one. The first was a way to show her frustration toward her sister. Jane knew Elizabeth would never leave her in the middle of a dirt path to get run over by a carriage driver not paying regard to the thoroughfare before him. The second and more important was because she could hop no more.
Her outburst produced the desired results as it did indeed bring her sister back toward her person. Granted, Elizabeth stomped with her hands on her hips obviously unhappy with her less-than-agile sister, but her return was a return none the less.
"Pull off my shoe." Jane instructed firmly. "I can not reach it."
"Oh really, this is too much!" Elizabeth started as she bent down to unlace her sister's shoe. "I have tripped many..."
Jane's ankle was swollen to almost twice the normal size.
"I will get Papa!" Elizabeth shouted as she raced off toward the house with her sister's shoe in hand.
Jane had badly twisted her ankle as she fell a fair distance down the hill. Her mother's prescribed treatment for the girl was in form of compresses, rest, and consistent scolding and lecturing for her unladylike behavior.
"That could have been your neck," Mrs. Bennet informed her eldest daughter in a manner void of compassion. "You are very lucky indeed! I did not raise my daughters to go scampering about like heathen forest urchins. Jane, you are going to ruin your skin and hence your beauty by getting sun on your face. What will happen to us and your chances at attracting a man of any worth if you appear the part of a common field worker?"
To dramatize her point, Mrs. Bennet tugged on the button at her daughter's wrist and raised the sleeve several inches to expose a slight tan on Jane's hand. The injured ankle was now an afterthought as she turned over the hand in inspection. "Again without your gloves!"
In her usual fare, Mrs. Bennet's voice rose several octaves as the chastising began. It would continue until a time when Mrs. Bennet's nerves would finally give way and she would need to retire to her room due to aggravated exhaustion.
To the little credit Mrs. Bennet deserved, her exaggerated comments were founded in the truth. It was her duty as a mother of five female children to prepare them for the only respectable occupation for gentleman's daughters--Marriage.
The family itself was not in dire straights, yet there was a hindrance to their security in the future. The property they lived on was entailed away to the paternal male side of the family. Without a son to lay claim to the inheritance, there would come a day when they would be expected to relinquish the home and grounds.
The very real prospect that upon Mr. Bennet's demise his family would be left without the means to support themselves had never been properly dealt with by the figureheads of the home. The Bennets as a whole had always lived just slightly above their means. Never to the point of dipping into the girls pitiful inheritance, but without any real thought to what would become of the children should one of them not marry well enough to aid the others should they need financial support in adulthood.
Long ago Mrs. Bennet accepted the unalterable certitude that the only course of action before her was to prepare her girls to make the best possible matches with what few gentlemen were available. Jane was by far the most comely of the five girls and the eldest. These two attributes therefore lended her the most promise in her mother's eyes. And to be completely honest, if Jane were to wed a wealthy gentleman, Mrs. Bennet would not have to struggle so with the remaining four daughters who did not show as much potentiality as Jane.
Realistically, Jane did not fully comprehend the responsibility laid at her feet. It wasn't as if she was a disobedient child who would not heed to her mother's instruction, but a spirited young woman who still viewed love and romance through the eyes of the inexperienced. Her concerns were not those of prosperity or security.
Jane responded to her mother's ranting by rolling her eyes and quietly agreeing. She knew that any reprimand she would receive would be nothing compared to what her sister Elizabeth would have to bear. Mrs. Bennet's second daughter often took the brunt of blame whenever her eldest acted out of turn. It was easier for the mother to place accountability for Jane's exuberance at the feet of Elizabeth rather than spend the time developing and training her daughter.
A howl emitted from the middle aged woman marked the end of Jane's torture as her mother sought out the true villain who caused her such distress: Elizabeth.
One might consider that Mrs. Bennet's habit of misdirecting blame would have driven a wedge between the two sisters, but this was not the case. Elizabeth had long ago realized her mother to be a woman of little thought or consideration, therefore her words rarely disturbed her peace of mind. In fact there were occasions late at night when giggling could be heard from her bedroom as she entertained Jane with her latest impression of their mother and her antics. Today would surely be no different.
A grin was suppressed by Jane as she watched her mother twitch in her chair near her bedside. Elizabeth would soon have new material to amuse her with once the others in the household went to bed.
Twenty four hours later no improvement was visible, only a blackening of the injured area and increased pain. Even the girls tart attitudes turned sour as the seriousness of the situation lost all traces of humor. Real concern set in and the doctor in Meryton sent for.
Dr. Austen was a man of six and twenty freshly in possession of his title. It was common knowledge about town that his father had a sizable fortune in London in which Dr. Austen was sole heir. Mrs. Bennet had been hoping to become acquainted with this particular gentleman before one of the less desirable young ladies in the area laid claim to him, but since his arrival two months past she had not been afforded the opportunity. Now the introductions would be made in the worst of manners--her fairest daughter laid up by foolish folly.
"If only Mary or Kitty could have been injured, instead of Jane," she mused to Mr. Bennet as he passed through the parlor where she was waiting with Jane for the favorable doctor. "Then Jane could show how compassionate and charitable she is. Just look at her Mr. Bennet, she appears like a wounded bird, not at all flattering to her figure!"
"You are always thinking of your daughters, Mrs. Bennet." He responded dryly as he made way to the nearest exit. "It must make you quite weary at the end of the day."
"I assure you, I take my responsibility seriously." She answered in the direction of her husband while ignoring the look pleading for mercy coming from her daughter.
"Jane, when the Doctor arrives, I want you to smile and act demure," Mrs. Bennet instructed, "Do not scrunch up your face if his examination brings pain. It is most unbecoming."
For a brief time Jane was at a loss of words. During the night she had developed a low grade fever and every pump of her heart sent a shooting pain through her lower leg. Yet her mother acted oblivious to these facts and determined to focus on the availability of some forthcoming man. The longer she dwelled on the older woman's unfeeling behavior, the more irritated Jane became until she simply had to verbalize some of her frustration.
"Mother," she snapped, "I assure you that although I am in constant pain and unable to give a proper curtsey, I will certainly perform to the best of my abilities. I understand how very important first impressions are to you."
Mrs. Bennet should have been offended by her daughter's show of disrespect, but quickly decided to turn the sarcasm into a promise and all trespass was forgotten while she waited. A master of ignoring unpleasantness that she did not wish to devote time to, Mrs. Bennet's mind wandered off to contemplate the hearsay she had collected secondhand about the young doctor.
An hour later and much to her delight, Dr. Austen was everything Mrs. Bennet had created in her imagination. She greeted him warmly, thanking him profusely for coming such a distance on short notice. While the two exchanged pleasantries, Jane studied him from her position on the divan. Her curiosity was not to appease her mother. Jane was determined not to show any interest in the man just to vex her mother for her comments earlier. She was only looking because soon she was going to have to expose her ankle to this man and such a personal act deserved a little reassurance that he was not an ogre or worse.
The good doctor was a tall man who appeared well proportioned considering his height. His blond hair was considerably lighter than hers and clipped closely to his head, and he possessed a voice that was soft yet competent. Fashionably dressed, he seemed to be without airs in his stance and presentation. Jane couldn't see his face because her mother was blocking her view but from what she could view so far, she would admit his being attractive and non-intimidating.
It was not until he turned to her full line of sight that Jane fell in love.
Dr. Austen's features were perfectly formed. His skin was flawlessly smooth and tanned, yet it had a touch of ruggedness to it she had not expected from a scholarly man. She gazed up to his deep brown eyes and recognized tenderness emitting from them. He had been smiling at Mrs. Bennet before he directed his attention toward Jane for proper introductions and the expression itself was brilliant.
On sight Jane determined him to be the most handsome man she had ever encountered and for a brief moment wished it had been Mary or Kitty injured instead of herself. With nervous hands she smoothed the material of her dress as this thought made her suddenly self-conscious about her present state. Her mother said all the correct words as she acquainted the doctor with her daughter and Jane responded with equally correct words, but if asked to recall what she said she would not be able to quote herself.
It was in the haze of stumbling on overwhelming attraction for the first time that she was dwelling in. Jane was not alone.
The smile upon the youthful man's face was abandoned to amazement when he fully looked upon her. The woman before him with her leg propped on pillows on the divan was so beautiful, just as he had heard from the townsfolk. The light from outside reflected perfectly on her this fair morning and it appeared as if it the Sun God himself was caressing her being in an act of devotion. Momentarily struck immobile by the illusion, Dr. Austen found it difficult contain his admiration despite the fact that his mind demanded of him to regain his composure.
"Miss Bennet," he stuttered nervously, "let us have a look at your ailment." He was determined not to act in a manner that could call his professionalism in question, but never before had he had a reaction to a patient or a woman as he was experiencing with Jane. If it were not for the fact he had to touch this lovely creature, he would not of doubted his ability. To distract himself and not look the part of a fool, Dr. Austen bent down and rifled through the small bag he had brought with him.
Jane was unaware of any uneasiness coming from the doctor, for she was much to involved in her own to notice, but her mother did.
Mrs. Bennet was well relieved that Jane could still command admiration even in her condition. Maybe the fall had been the stroke of luck they needed! An aspiring doctor with a fortune of his own to inherit was quite the windfall and there were few more deserving than Jane to receive the bounty of this man's attention. Being a somewhat illogical woman in her own right, she could foresee no obstacles standing in the way of the young couple who but two minutes ago were strangers to one another.
The air about Mrs. Bennet cracked with the possibility of a daughter married so well and the giddiness this brought about was displayed by her chattering endlessly. No subject was considered too delicate as she randomly jumped from the weather to the type of carriage the doctor employed.
Just as Jane had become convinced that her mother was going to embarrass her beyond repair at any moment, a blessing from above occurred-the parlor door opened.
"Oh, I beg your pardon," Elizabeth apologized after entering the room. She had not realized that the doctor had arrived. "If you will excuse me."
She had planned to exit as graciously as possible so the examination could continue on undisturbed, but Jane thwarted her plan.
"No Lizzy, it is quite all right. Let me introduce you."
Mrs. Bennet shot a frown at her eldest for inviting her sister into their mix. She had no intention of allowing Elizabeth to take the Doctor's concentration away from Jane. He obviously admired Jane's attractiveness, now Mrs. Bennet wanted Jane to charm him with the sweet disposition she often showed in company. Elizabeth would only attract attention away from the objective.
Ignoring her mother's look by choice, Jane turned to the doctor. "Dr. Austen, may I introduce my sister Miss Elizabeth Bennet."
"Miss Elizabeth Bennet, it is a pleasure." He replied in a friendly tone. Polite repartee occurred between the two as Elizabeth asked him a few intelligent questions. Like her mother, she possessed the ability to speak with strangers with ease, but unlike her mother she employed common sense when choosing topics. It was but a minute before she concluded him to be a personable fellow with whom a small exchange of banter could happen without any fatalistic results.
"Dr. Austen, I do hope you find my dear sister able to recover. She may be too kind a person to mention this, but I am to blame for her condition." Elizabeth explained with a twinkle in her eyes. She had perceived Jane's expression when she entered the room- "quite taken" she would say.
Elizabeth's statement was all that was needed for the uncomfortable situation in the room to come to an end. Dr. Austen was able to resume his exam of Jane relieved of the tension experienced previously in her presence.
Jane too found her senses had somewhat returned and she smiled bravely at the doctor, taking advantage of the opening Elizabeth's discourse provided.
"My sister may have encouraged me," Jane whispered to him in confidence so that her mother would not hear, "but it was I who did the deed."
Dr. Austen grinned. She could not have known how powerful an affect her undesigning act had on him.
It was some time later when the Doctor took his leave from the Bennet residence. Much to the family's delight his prognosis was that Jane had not broken her ankle, just bruised it severely. A follow-up visit was suggested for two days hence in which all parties involved found satisfaction.
"Oh Jane, I must say I believe him in love with you! And so soon!" Her mother gushed after Dr. Austen was shown to his carriage. Jane did not hear her mother's words for her thoughts were concentrated on the impression of the man she had just met. Perhaps this was one time when Jane should not have blocked out her mother's voice because oddly enough, Mrs. Bennet was correct.
If the Meryton gossipmongers were correct, Dr. Andrew Austen and Miss Jane Bennet were an item. After all, it was a well-known fact about town that he dined at her house three times in the past week! Not only that, but the doctor was often caught sporting a pleasant smile whenever questioned about Miss Bennet's condition by the curious about town.
Jane could not hide her enthusiasm from the masses, but never once was a word of validation uttered by her to either confirm or deny the affair. Her mother more than accommodated their interest with the mildest of exaggeration.
In truth Dr. Austen had helped Jane through her recovery and spent many hours in her company. It all started out quite innocently. He took her on short walks around the park, slowly building up to longer jaunts. At first, it was necessary for her to lean on his arm for support, but as time went by she took his arm simply for the closeness it afforded. One of her sisters was always present, and in the beginning Elizabeth was more often than one the chosen one. But after the second week of her convalescence the three younger sisters began to take turns accompanying the couple.
The girls were easily distracted, and this usually led to the doctor and Jane being left to their own devices. Yet no one complained about the impropriety of the action. Jane and Dr. Austen could be trusted to stay in full view of the home where her mother could keep a close eye on their...err...her daughter's progress.
The nine year age difference between the two was never allowed to become an issue. Dr. Austen, who had spent many consecutive years with books and scholars while obtaining his degree, found Jane's love of life refreshing. Seeing the world through her eyes brought out the man he once was before the confinement of education.
Easy humor was an element that blossomed when they were alone yet it was tempered with times of serious discussion and explanation. Dr. Austen found that behind her bright smile was a mind that could easily grasp the more technical topics of life. It was Jane who often brought up his profession, Jane who wanted to know the smallest of details concerning his daily routine.
She did not express this inquisitiveness as a means of flattering him but because she has a genuine thirst for knowledge. Dr. Austen eventually became convinced that had she been exposed to the guiding hand of a governess during her youth, Jane might have never been content to simply sit in the parlor and paint screens. She was far too bright for such idle nonsense.
He had had the opportunity to observe her in mixed company on a couple of occasions and realized a pattern to her behavior. When she was with him and away from the scrutiny of others, she spoke with a higher degree of intelligence. But when surrounded by her peers, she often allowed incorrect facts and misinformation to be quoted by others without rectification on her part. One sunny autumn day while they were enjoying an unattended moment, he asked her why.
"It is easier for me not to say anything than to question or correct others." Jane answered his question.
"If I may ask, why do you believe that to be so? Your sister Elizabeth is quite brave in her approach. She does not hide her intelligence for the sake of others."
"She is not the eldest."
The look on his face told Jane that he did not understand.
"Elizabeth is not the daughter my mother has all of her hopes pinned on."
There was a pause in their discussion as the truthfulness of her declaration brought about different reactions in the two people sitting side by side. Jane could not help but find her situation a little somber due to the limits of acting less than she was, and he discovered yet a deeper understanding and respect for the woman he loved.
"You are more than that, Jane. I find that you challenge me. You ask logical questions, you remember my words. I can not imagine what it must be like to hide that element of yourself from others."
"It is part of being a woman, Dr. Austen." No bitterness was evident in her tone.
"I do not recall my mother being so guarded."
"Did your father support her?"
"Yes, he did." A mischievous grin crept across Dr. Austen's face. "It seems as if they were often in challenging conversation where mother would exert her opinion freely, and father would question her motives and reasoning."
"Was it argumentative?"
"No, the opposite. Well-mannered and even merry." He turned to face Jane. "I believe you would have liked my mother. I can say with certainty that she would have endorsed you."
Dr. Austen placed his hand lightly atop hers before continuing. "May I ask a favor from you? You need not comply if it makes you uncomfortable. I will understand."
"Of course. What is your request?" She asked.
"When we are away from others as we are now...no, that does not sound correct. Let me rephrase. When we are...conversing like we are..." Tripping over his words, the doctor halted his speech and looked hopelessly at Jane. "I know what I am about to suggest may be considered unacceptable..."
"Close your eyes." Jane broke in.
"Close your eyes and say what you are struggling with. This is what I do."
He followed her instructions without hesitation. It was not long before he could speak with ease. "Although this goes against one of the most basic of disciplines we were raised to observe, if it pleases you, I would be happy for you to use my Christian name of Andrew. Of course, do so only if you feel comfortable. I do not want you to lower your standards."
"Andrew is a lovely name."
"Thank you. It is my maternal grandfather's name." He replied as he opened his eyes to her smiling face. "I erred a moment ago and referred to you as Jane without permission. I meant no disrespect and seek your forgiveness."
"There is nothing to forgive," Jane assured him. "Permission granted."
In late October, Dr. Austen traveled to London for a visit with his father. Andrew Austen was born an only child, just as both of his parents were without siblings and other than a few distant cousins he did not know, they were the only two remaining from his bloodline.
His mother had died two years past after a long and happy life. Since that time, Dr. Austen's father had suffered a great deal from his impregnable grief associated with his wife's passing. As of late, Mr. Austen had become more vocal in his complaining about his world being empty now with a wife gone and a son away.
Letters from concerned friends had been sent to Meryton informing the young man of his fathers increasing melancholy, leaving Dr. Austen in an awkward position. The contract he had signed with the village would not be complete until April of next year, yet Dr. Austen was uncertain that he desired to leave the area he had grown so fond of. Or was it that he knew he could not leave behind a particular young lady he felt more than a fondness for.
Dr. Austen did sympathize with his father's predicament and offered invitations to his father to join him in the country, but Mr. Austen repeatedly refused his son's kind petitions. Mr. Austen seemed to prefer to stay in his London home among his memories and sorrow.
This was where the awkward position came about. It was not as if he could not fathom moving back to London and taking his rightful place at Austen House, but without Jane by his side the lure of London held no appeal. They had become inseparable, and without a shadow of a doubt Dr. Austen knew he had found the woman he was meant to spend his remaining days with.
With a solution in his mind, the good doctor left his beloved with the promise of a prompt return and perhaps some very good news from town. He was never so direct to verbally confirm that his trip was directly tied to a future proposal, but the love so obvious on his face told her that it was so.
Jane understood that a move of such importance would have to include the blessings of his father, but even this knowledge did not help her as the fortnight he was away moved slowly. During this time she confided everything to Elizabeth, and near the end of the exile period the sisters held no secrets. Jane expressed her feelings of love and devotion, and the torture of being apart for so long. She even was so bold as to reveal the three embraces she and Dr. Austen had exchanged.
On the day of his intended return the sky brought forth a terrible downpour. Jane was despondent knowing that such a day would not bring the doctor back. The weather could not be controlled by mere mortals, therefore with a heavy heart she retired that night praying for clear skies on the morrow.
The next day was an improvement with drizzle being the only remain of the previous storm. By noon the clouds gave way to the sun. It was not until she felt the warmth of the rays coming through the window in her room that Jane allowed herself to hope "maybe today."
At two in the afternoon, Dr. Austen arrived.
When she caught sight of him coming up the lane, Jane grabbed her cape and hurried outside so they may walk the park in private before the rest of the family was alerted to his presence.
Her heart was beating against her chest when she reached his carriage, but it was not from the exertion of the short run. As her mother had said several times during his absence, this could very well be the day that Jane's life would change forever.
When Jane thought those words, they were comforting, but when her mother said them aloud they grated on her nerves and made her snippish with the woman. Perhaps it was because her mother was admitting Jane's deepest wants aloud for everyone to hear. The feelings were so private and sacred and to Jane it felt like that they took on a pre-planned cheapness when coming out of her mother's mouth.
In her excitement Jane barely registered the dampness seeping into her slippers from the grass, but Dr. Austen's pale complexion caught her immediate attention. He told Jane that he had in-fact arrived in Meryton during the thunderstorm-chilled and feverish. After a good night rest combined with several cups of his landlord's broth, he felt much improved with only a small cough remaining.
Jane, relieved he was with her once again moved on to another subject ignoring the lifelessness in his voice.
"Andrew, how did you find your father? Was he in good health?" She did not ask what was really on her mind.
"Yes Jane, he was well. Thank you for asking." Dr. Austen did not elaborate but instead offered her his arm.
They walked quietly for a while lost in their own thoughts. One hundred questions were on the tip of Jane's tongue, but she remained silent believing that Dr. Austen was working on the impending proposal in his mind. But he was not. He was working on an explanation.
"I will tell you all," he began quietly, "so you will understand my predicament."
Those words stopped Jane in her tracks and she turned to look up at him. The sad expression he wore instantly destroyed her confidence, that and the fact that his eyes were closed.
"Jane, my father is a good man. Our friends and neighbors even referred to him as jolly before the passing of my mother. I went to him to ask for his blessing so that I might propose marriage to you, but I think you are well aware of this. I began to relate my intentions toward you to him, but he did not receive them graciously." Dr. Austen shook his head. He was delivering the worst of news to the woman he loved.
"My father has threatened to cut off all financial support to us if we are to marry; including inheritance."
Jane abruptly removed her hand from his arm as the shock penetrated her. Her life had changed today, but she had not anticipated that it would be a change for the worse.
"What reason did he give for his actions?" She demanded with an edge of anger in her tone. "How can he make such a judgment when he does not even know me?"
She did not give him an opportunity to answer before she hit the soft-spoken man with another round of questions.
"How does he have a right to destroy our happiness Andrew? Is it that my family is not good enough? Is there a woman in London he would rather you court?"
"Jane, let me explain. Father is not a vindictive man. I believe he does not realize what he is doing. During our conversation, he made the statement, 'If I were to marry, I would never return to London.' I believe this to be the root cause of his refusal. I wanted to reassure him that I may indeed move to London with you, but I had not yet asked your opinion on the subject. I could not give him an empty promise." Dr. Austen paused only long enough to cough before he continued on.
"He is very lonely and unhappy. I am all he has left in the world. His fear motivates him to act. I hold the greatest hope that he will change his mind. He must! I can not be easy knowing I have caused pain to him."
Jane could control herself no more. Her dreams were crashing down around her and the man she loved...the man responsible for her heart breaking was standing before her worried about bringing pain to the true villain.
"This man, who is willing to reduce you to poverty if you marry me, still commands your sympathy? Although I admire your loyalty, Dr. Austen, I question the placement!"
The force of her words stung him as he witnessed her wrath for the first time. Dr. Austen's natural defense came to his aid and he matched the harshness of her attitude.
"Is it the poverty that has you so concerned?" He too was feeling anger. "You seem not to consider the damage this matter has caused to me! I am asked to choose between the two most important people in my life and I refuse to. I want them both! If you will allow me..."
Jane would listen no more and spit out one more thought before stalking off toward the house.
"It seems as if your father has placed you in your current situation Andrew. You must decide what your next step will be."
Unwilling to shed a tear until she reached the comfort of her own room, Jane stormed past her bewildered mother and not one drop of water left her eyes until the door had been bolted shut.
Everything she had longed for was lost that day. Andrew was not the breed of person who could choose between loved ones. He had too tender a heart for such a mission. In her anger Jane became determined to make his choice an easy one; she would release him.
Jane stayed to her room for the next two days. She had not disclosed to anyone the conversation she had with Dr. Austen. Her sister Elizabeth attempted numerous times to get her to share her grief, but Jane stood firm. Had the family understood what anguish it would bring her to discuss the matter they would not have tried so hard.
On the fourth day Jane returned downstairs, although she would still not answer questions about her situation with Dr. Austen. She was promptly informed that he had not paid a call during the time elapsed. Jane took his inaction to mean he had made his decision and chose his father over her, and this brought about a fresh opening of her wounded heart.
On the fifth day a most unusual visitor came to the house. It was Mr. Roberts, Dr. Austen's landlord. He anxiously requested an audience with Jane.
"Miss Bennet, I come here today to make a request. Dr. Austen has taken ill. He assures my wife and me that he will be well, but I hear him coughing at all hours in the night. He has not come down for his meals for three days and I am sincerely concerned!"
Mr. Roberts paused, giving emphasis to his next words. " He would not permit Mrs. Roberts to enter his room today, and I fear he has taken a turn for the worst. Miss Bennet, please join me and see if you can reach him. We are very fond of the doctor...please join me."