While preparing the pieces for my blog tour to introduce Mrs. Collins’ Lover, I chose to interview a character. I knew immediately it would not be Elizabeth or Darcy – their story is told within the pages. Instead, I debated between Jane and Mary, finally deciding upon Mary as she was a key part of Elizabeth’s redemption. I was aware that readers were or would be displeased with Jane. Now that the book has been out for almost a month, I decided it was time to give Jane an opportunity to, if not redeem, explain the changes she underwent in this tale. In order to do so, I thought a few journal entries would suffice.
15 August 1813
One year. It is hard to believe Charles and I have been married for a full year. Little though Mama will allow me to think otherwise. Is it so unusual that I am not yet with child? We spent so many months travelling, constantly exposed to new and unusual things; I was truly pleased that I did not conceive when we spent so much time in carriages and on boats. To be expecting would have been a misery. Though, I thought, perhaps I might have been when we returned in June, but it was not to be.
Caroline is visiting again. She declares she dislikes Netherfield and Hertfordshire, but still she comes. I begin to believe she and Louisa have had a falling out. I am certain she will return to London once the disagreement is forgotten, but until then I must hear of the shortcomings of everything and everyone in my home. If only Lizzy were near, but she rarely writes. It seems we are a second thought to her now.
I seem to be melancholy on such a joyful day. I must put on a smile and see to it Charles does not worry. Perhaps my courses are coming on. I do hope it is not as I fear.
27 January 1814
Lydia has left school. Kitty has written to say there was some altercation; another young lady said something which displeased my sister, and the headmistress scolded the two for unladylike behaviour. The next morning when they woke, Lydia was not in her bed. A full search of the school revealed no sign of her. Papa has gone to see what he might learn and Mama has taken to her bed.
I know I should comfort her, but I have been so tired recently. I have not had my courses since October and I am certain I am with child. Is it wrong to place him before my family? I must be careful, but Mama demands I come to her each day. I shared my news with her today, hoping it would improve her spirits, but she could only say it was high time and she prayed I was strong enough to carry this one.
Caroline and the Hursts remain with us, though they see the distress my family suffers. I begin to believe they find amusement in our misfortune. I understand why Lizzy never liked them. Oh, Lizzy! I believe no one has told her. I must do so immediately, though I fear we are no longer a concern to her. She has her son and will no doubt have another child within a year or two. But enough of this. She must know what has befallen our family.
31 January 1814
After a week of wondering where Lydia might be and what might have befallen her, to have her appear without a scratch or concern was too much. Pretty as you please, she marched up to Longbourn’s door and announced she would not return to a school where fun was not allowed. Mama and I had been beside ourselves with worry. Papa appeared much as he did the summer he fell ill. But Lydia cared not for the tears and prayers which had been wasted upon her. She …
10 February 1814
Again? God, I do not understand. I thought this would be the heir that Charles and I desire. Why would you take him from us? Lydia was home and Charles and I returned to Netherfield. Caroline and Louisa gave their false sympathies for having a sister such as Lydia. I chose to retire and wait for Charles, but then … Oh God, why do I continue to fail in this way? Charles will surely regret marrying me. I see the disappointment in his sisters’ eyes whenever they look at me. I feel so empty. If only Lizzy were here. She could make me see reason, make me believe that this is not a punishment.
What have I done? Why do You turn from me, Lord? Am I to be like Sarai or Hannah? I beg of You, Father. I must provide Charles a son. I am certain he wishes to have an heir, though he says it is not a necessity. How can I prove myself worthy if I cannot bear his child?
5 July 1814
The rector read from Exodus today and I nearly wept. “Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” Is this why? Am I suffering the punishment of my forefathers? Will I ever have a child or will the sins of my family follow me? I have done what I thought was expected of me, yet I have lost one child after another. The fear in my heart that I am not able to carry a child tears at my very being. Why, God? Why?
And a brief scene that was deleted from the book as it was from Jane’s point of view. Following the birth of Elizabeth’s second child, Darcy brought their son into her room and the family fell asleep in a loving embrace.
Jane slipped from her bed, glancing at the side where Charles normally slept. They had barely spoken that day. Charles had assured her Darcy would leave in the morning, but then he had left for his own room. She was uncertain how to repair the rift between them. With a sigh, she decided to check on her sister and niece. Her slippered feet carried her silently down the hall. The entire house appeared to be sleeping.
She hesitated as she reached her sister’s door, not wanting to knock and disturb the inhabitants’ precious sleep. As quietly as she could, Jane turned the knob and pushed the door open. Her countenance fell when she saw the grouping on the bed. Anger flared within her for but a moment before the tenderness of the sight touched her heart. She stood still, shaking as she battled within herself on what to do, but finally backed from the room and closed the door behind her.
Tears flowed down her cheeks as she made her way back to her room. She paced the length of the room several times, before she found herself in front of Charles’ door. Before her courage abandoned her, she knocked. There were some noises on the other side, and she was just about to turn away when Charles opened the door.
“Yes?” he asked as he held himself stiffly. “May I help you, Jane?”
She began to tremble and a sob escaped her as she stepped into his now open arms. He embraced her and closed the door.
“Hush now, dear one.” Charles placed kisses upon her hair and forehead as he brushed away the tears. “Whatever has undone you?”
“They … are … in … love,” she whispered between sniffs.
“But … but …”
Charles set her away from himself far enough that he could see her face. “Darcy understands your misgivings. As I told you earlier, he is leaving in the morning, but I have told him he may return in March.”
Jane nodded and settled her head against his shoulder.
“Come to bed, Janie girl,” Charles said as he caressed her back. When she nodded again, Charles turned and guided her to his bed.
Was I able to raise any sympathy for dear Jane? If you have not yet read Mrs. Collins’ Lover, I hope you will give it a chance.