Love in Lockdown
The second in a series of short pieces which imagine how characters from Jane Austen's novels might have handled lockdown. This is a letter from Jane Fairfax to Mr Frank Churchill; they are secretly engaged but cannot be together while his domineering guardian lives.
My Dearest Frank
If you are reading this then I have managed to smuggle out a letter without being questioned. There is so little privacy in our lives and in our home; we each watch the others and pounce on the slightest diversion from everyday monotony. Thankfully, I can escape now and then to take some air: a solitary walk, the blissful quiet of the countryside to savour to myself, the warmth of the sun on my veiled face. Later I will enjoy it again, moment by moment, as I relate it to my companions- every bird, every flower, every encounter eagerly gobbled up by our starving imaginations. Mrs Elton has a new bonnet. For three days, we talked of nothing else. My aunt stays at home with Mrs Bates. Like a caged bird, she sings all day. I play the piano after supper. While I am playing, I imagine a time when our engagement will no longer be a secret. How is your guardian? Mrs Churchill’s poor health is often in my thoughts.
My own heart is sore; not knowing when you will be able to travel safely again is agony. You must know that any letter from you will be devoured like Christmas ham by Miss Bates and endlessly repeated to her mother like a well-remembered poem. Sometimes I envy the deafness of old age- does that make me a wicked person, my darling? You are the only one who can hear my secret thoughts. Do you love me any less for this confession? I fear this enforced requirement to stay at home in our little household might cause me to speak harshly to those who do not deserve it. Lord, give me strength. Don’t be alarmed, my angel, we are all quite well and for that I am thankful.
Will you write to us with news from town, my love, but I pray you, nothing alarming. We are already suffering from poor Miss Bates’ nerves and indeed we are all a-flutter since the mail coach brought rumours of a miracle cure. Have you heard talk of this? I pray it’s not too late for your dear aunt and her many ailments.
Mr Perry, the apothecary, is greatly in demand, but we heard that he found time to visit old Mr Woodhouse and check on his health. Yesterday, he left a fruit cake on our doorstep, baked by his dear wife. They are such assets to Highbury. We were so touched by their kindness we stood by the window and applauded.
Our only other caller has been Miss Woodhouse, who brought us a pigeon pie and some greens she had picked from her garden. In return, my aunt told her all about Mrs Elton’s new bonnet. I swear Miss Woodhouse caught my eye and winked, but it may have been the sunlight on the window. I hope she and I might be friends someday. Perhaps after we are married, my dear Frank?
Until we meet again, I am forever your
Image: The cast of Emma (2009) BBC TV series adapted from Emma by Jane Austen (1815)
There are many adapations to choose from- this is my favourite