I’ve always found Jane Bennet to be a little dull and bland. When a character always does the “right” thing and accepts everything that happens to her with little or no complaint, it can be difficult to find her interesting. But I’ve always felt that Jane had potential to be more active and more interesting. With her strong sense of right and wrong and her love for Bingley, she does have forces that drive her. And I’ve long wondered what would happen if those motivations were sufficient for her to overcome her natural passivity.
When Jane Got Angry tells that story. It takes place after Bingley has left Netherfield while Jane is staying in London with the Gardiners. I hope you enjoy the excerpt below:
The February winds whipped Jane’s cloak around her half boots and teased the ribbons of her bonnet. From her vantage point at the corner, she could see the door to Darcy House gleaming in the pale sunshine. As tall and imposing as its owner, the house was easily the largest and most distinguished on this stretch of Curzon Street. A double set of marble steps led to a blue door fitted with a brass knocker. Rows of windows faced the street. Mr. Collins would be very impressed by the cost of the glazing, Jane thought with a tiny smile.
How foolish to be skulking out of sight and watching Darcy House like some sort of French spy—a rather inept French spy, to be sure. Several times someone passing by had given her a curious glance, prompting Jane to consider renouncing the entire enterprise. Miss Bingley is probably correct that her brother has lost interest in me. This is a fruitless endeavor.
Yet she recalled Miss Bingley’s supercilious expression and disdainful words. Jane was quite sure she had done nothing to warrant such treatment. Ascertaining the truth of Mr. Bingley’s sentiments will hurt nobody…save me.
Still, the prospect of returning to the warm house on Gracechurch Street was immensely appealing. Lizzy would not abandon hope, Jane reminded herself. Lizzy would make the most of the opportunity.
I am not Lizzy. I cannot be Lizzy. I can only be myself.
But perhaps she could be Lizzy for one day—or one hour.
She shivered and hugged her arms close to her body, stamping her feet to keep them warm. Hopefully Mr. Bingley would emerge from Darcy House soon so Jane might return. Hopefully Maggie’s friend had been correct about his master’s schedule.
Of course, if there had been a mistake, Jane could simply slip back into the Gardiners’ house with no one the wiser. She would spend the rest of her life trying to forget that she had ever stood outside Darcy House waiting for the door to open. Nobody would know save Maggie, who had already pledged her secrecy.
Perhaps I should depart now. It would be for the best, really. Even now, the thought of speaking with Mr. Bingley made her hands perspire, moistening her gloves and further chilling her fingers. Most likely he would never even appear. She would depart now; there was no reason to stay even a minute more.
The front door opened, and Mr. Bingley emerged. Jane’s breath caught, all thoughts of departing forgotten. He was precisely as she had remembered him—no, he was superior to her memories. His dark gray great coat exactly suited his blue eyes. Wisps of forever-unruly blond hair peeked out from under his hat. And he descended the stairs with a familiar spring in his step.
Perhaps his face was a trifle thinner, and he did not wear the amiable smile she had come to expect. But he was only few feet away from Jane and breathing the same air. What a welcome sight! Jane was so transfixed that she nearly forgot her purpose.
But now that she had seen Mr. Bingley again, she knew she could not lose this opportunity. She must speak with him.
Assuming a nonchalance she was far from feeling, Jane walked briskly along the street as if intent on her destination. It took all her willpower to avoid any sidelong glances toward the steps of Darcy House. What if he does not notice me? The excitement in her blood quickened her step. If I walk too quickly, he may not see me.
Her heart fluttered in her chest like a bird beating its wings. She was nearly past Darcy House, and Mr. Bingley had not uttered a syllable. Jane was beginning to feel a little faint.
Without any conscious decision, she turned her head toward the figure that had just reached the bottom of the steps. It happened to be the very moment Mr. Bingley glanced up. Their eyes met with a mutual shock of recognition. Jane fancied she could hear an explosion.
“M-Miss B-Bennet!” Mr. Bingley’s voice rang out immediately.
Jane stopped immediately with a scrape of her boots on the pathway. This next moment would determine her future. Did he know she was in town? Would he wish to continue the acquaintance? Or would they have a polite conversation about the weather and part ways forever?
Words caught in her throat. “M-Mr. Bingley!” Nerves made her voice sound as surprised as his.
“What a splendid coincidence!” he exclaimed. Jane managed not to wince; there was nothing coincidental about it. “I had not the slightest idea you were in town.”
Aha! Her body remained taut as a cable, but something inside her melted with relief at these words. “I-I have been staying with my aunt and uncle Gardiner these two months,” she managed to say. “At Gracechurch Street.”
“Capital!” He rubbed his hands together. “Might you give me the direction? If, that is, they would be amenable to a visit.”
Jane’s heart was singing, but she strove to keep her face serene. “My aunt and uncle would be very pleased to meet you.”
“I thank you for the invitation. And Darcy would be—” Mr. Bingley broke off, perhaps realizing that Mr. Darcy might not be delighted to renew his acquaintance with Jane or meet her relatives in trade. “Well, I shall visit the Gardiners soon. Very soon!”
“That would be delightful,” Jane said, trying not to smile as if she had just received her heart’s desire.
Their immediate business had been concluded, and yet Mr. Bingley seemed reluctant to depart. “Your family is in good health?” he asked.
“Yes, they all enjoy excellent health.”
“Are any of your sisters also in town?”
“No. They all remain at Longbourn.”
“I see.” Mr. Bingley nodded and gave her a bit of dazed smile.
“And your sisters are in good health?” she asked.
“Yes, Caroline and Louisa are in the best of health— Oh, drat!”
“I am due for luncheon with them”—he opened his watch and peered at it—“now. In fact, I am overdue. I must go.”
“Of course,” she said faintly, hoping this was not her last encounter with the man.
He edged away from her, walking backward as if he could not bear to lose sight of her. “But I will call upon you!” he promised. “Gracechurch Street.” He walked faster, still backward, and Jane feared he would stumble over an unseen obstacle. He continued to wave, and she continued to return the gesture. Finally, he reached the corner. “Expect me soon!” he cried before turning.
Jane waved until he was out of sight.