VIRTUAL TOUR: A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott Southard

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All her heroines find love in the end—but is there love waiting for Jane?

Jane Austen spends her days writing and matchmaking in the small countryside village of Steventon, until a ball at Godmersham Park propels her into a new world where she yearns for a romance of her own. But whether her heart will settle on a young lawyer, a clever Reverend, a wealthy childhood friend, or a mysterious stranger is anyone’s guess.

Written in the style of Jane herself, this novel ponders the question faced by many devoted readers over the years—did she ever find love? Weaving fact with fiction, it re-imagines her life, using her own stories to fill in the gaps left by history and showing that all of us—to a greater or lesser degree—are head over heels for Jane.

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EXCERPT

9780983671923 Austen Cover.inddChapter IV from Volume II

It has often been said that good things come to those who wait, but the fault with the expression is that it does not take into consideration the especially bad things that you are doing your utmost to avoid. Do bad things travel in different paths and fashions to the good? Can bad things be avoided since they, unlike most good things, are rarely expected or hoped for? Jane had a bad thing that she wanted to avoid, and the only plan she could come up with after an evening contemplating it was to run away—fast.

“Why do you need me to go on this walk with you?” Charles complained. He grabbed a branch from the ground and swung it around himself like a sword. Jane had to step back to avoid being hit.

Jane decided not to answer Charles’ question. “Is it wrong to enjoy our fields and hikes, Charles? Should not the pleasures of walking and breathing fresh air be enough? This may be our last time walking this trail together.”

“That is what you said a few days ago,” Charles moaned. “You cannot have two last times.”

Jane stopped and looked across the valley. The shock of the upcoming journey to Bath seemed to almost take her aback more now than it had earlier.

“I grew up here,” she said quietly, more to herself than to Charles.

“I grew up here too,” Charles said and sat on the ground by her. “I hardly see why that is so important a detail.”

“It is to me.”

“Everyone has to grow up someplace,” Charles said. “I would rather it had been someplace more exciting for me. India or Africa or the Caribbean would all have been better.”

“Do not let Cassandra hear you state your wish to travel to the Caribbean.” Jane frowned.

“No, of course not,” Charles said, lying back on the ground. “I am not stupid, Jane.”

“I did not say you were,” Jane said with a smirk. “You are my favorite of my younger brothers.”

“And you, Jane,”—Charles smiled in return—“are my favorite older sister named Jane.”

“It is a good arrangement.” Jane nodded, holding out her hand to Charles. He took it and rose to his feet.

“And you are my favorite sister with brown, curly hair.”

Jane did a little curtsy. “I thank you, sir. You are my favorite brother who is my height.”

“What a coincidence!” Charles said with a polite bow. “You are my favorite sister who is my height.”

They began walking again.

“Did I mention, Charles, that you are my favorite brother who is twelve?”

“You are my favorite sister who is forty.”

“I am not forty!”

Charles laughed.

“And it was such a pleasant game.” Jane sighed, looking up at the sun. “What time do you think it is?”

Charles eyed the sun as well. “Thirty minutes till noon.”

“We’ll keep walking. Show me that one path that you claimed no one knows about but you.”

“I will not. That is a secret. What are we doing here, Jane?” A louder whine entered Charles’ voice.

“Avoiding the apocalypse,” Jane said in a dark tone. “Avoiding the end of all things.”

“I would like to see that! Do you think there would be actual devils there?”

“You want to see a devil?”

“At least once, yes. I have heard so much about them recently.”

“That is true.” Jane laughed, recollecting the new Reverend’s sermon.

And, as if he was called by their conversation, in that instant Jane could see Mr. Blackwell approaching over a hill. Her plan had failed, and her own personal demon was approaching. She looked at her brother. “Not all devils come in red.”

Charles looked over in her direction, seeing Mr. Blackwell. “You do not mean Mr. Blackwell? He is far too boring to be evil.”

“Hush, Charles. He is to me. Protect me. Do not leave my side. If you leave me, he will do something most evil, worse than you can imagine.”

“What is that? Kill you? Maim you?”

“Propose.”

Charles glared in his direction. That was all he needed to hear.

“So you think I ought to refuse him, then?”

Charles did not reply for there was no need; the expression on his face at the thought was a clear enough message for Jane.

“Ah! Miss Austen! Master Austen! I have been looking for the both of you. Your mother thought you both might be out on a walk.”

Blackwell sounded already out of breath from the excursion.

Charles held his stick out as a drawn sword and stood in front of Jane. Mr. Blackwell seemed surprised to see Charles standing in such a manner.

“Is something wrong, Master Austen?”

Charles did not answer.

Mr. Blackwell looked to Jane for direction. She only shrugged.

“Could you give us some privacy, Master Charles?” Mr. Blackwell asked smugly.

“I cannot do that, sir,” Charles said, crossing his arms across his chest. “I have agreed to act as my sister’s escort on this hike. Only she can send me away.”

Jane could not have been prouder of Charles, but Mr. Blackwell was not to be undone so easily. “Will you leave if I give you a pound?” he asked.

“Rather!” Charles exclaimed quickly and handed his stick to Mr. Blackwell. The money was quickly exchanged and, before Jane could protest, her brother was running away down the trail towards town, waving back at her.

Jane had never been so disappointed with her brother Charles.

She was now alone with Mr. Blackwell. There was no excuse or escape possible for her. I will be calm, she thought. I will be mistress of myself. I will be polite and listen and then say no when asked.

“Will you take my arm?” Mr. Blackwell said in a most dignified manner.

Jane did so; it felt overly rude not to. They began to walk.

“I am uncertain if you have noticed, Miss Austen, but there is a matter of great importance to me that I have wished to speak to you on. It is for that reason that I have searched you out.”

Even though Jane already had a fair idea where this conversation was going, she decided it was best to pretend ignorance.

“I do not know what you mean, Mr. Blackwell. What could you have to speak to me alone about? We have spoken in private before.”

Mr. Blackwell rubbed his eyes, complained about the pollen in the air and the effect it had on his allergies, and then continued with the meat of the conversation. “It is a matter of quite some delicacy,” he said, “probably the most delicate—well, I would assume as much—that a conversation can be. Of course, it could be said that the planning of one’s funeral could be just as difficult.”

Jane did not know how to answer to that. Was he comparing his proposal to making funeral arrangements?


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About the Author

02_Scott D. Southard
Scott D. Southard, the author of A Jane Austen Daydream, swears he is not obsessed with Jane Austen. He is also the author of the novels: My Problem with Doors, Megan, Permanent Spring Showers, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, and 3 Days in Rome. With his eclectic writing he has found his way into radio, being the creator of the radio comedy series The Dante Experience. The production was honored with the Golden Headset Award for Best MultiCast Audio and the Silver Ogle Award for Best Fantasy Audio Production. Scott received his Master’s in writing from the University of Southern California. Scott can be found on the internet via his writing blog “The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard” (http://sdsouthard.com) where he writes on far-ranging topics like writing, art, books, TV, writing, parenting, life, movies, and writing. He even shares original fiction on the site. Currently, Scott resides in Michigan with his very understanding wife, his two patient children, and a very opinionated dog named Bronte.

You can find Scott on Facebook and Twitter.

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