Miss Jane's Undoing
Miss Jane’s Undoing

    The night was hot and sweaty as Miss Jane Fielding lay in her bed, dreaming about the romance novels she read on the sly.  Her father, a very strict man, disapproved of such frivolous occupations.  He instructed Jane and her sister Mary, to spend their time reading sermons, practicing the pianoforte and doing charity work for the poor in their neighborhood.  Mary  seemed content with this situation and to  never want anything other than to be daddy’s good little girl.  Jane was more like her mother.  She loved beautiful clothes, parties, dancing and, most of all, boys.
      Their father didn’t prohibit their social interaction within the neighborhood, but there were only so many families in their little village.  Jane wished she could get away, go to London and have a season, but her father couldn’t afford that.  Maybe next year, they would make it to Bath, but it was doubtful that they would get to mix in the best circles.  However, from what  she’d heard, the good thing about Bath was that everybody who went there frequented the pump rooms.  So there was a good chance she would catch the eye of a Duke or an Earl.  Or at least a Baron!
    She sighed as the warm summer breeze swept over her body.  She’d had trouble sleeping the last few nights, ever since young Thomas Bailey came home from college.  As children, she and Thomas—or Tommy, as she used to refer to him back then—made fast friends.  Much to her father’s chagrin, Jane had been a hoydenish kind of young girl and Tommy her partner in crime.  Together, they played many a prank on unsuspecting villagers when she should have practiced the pianoforte and he was meant to take lessons with a tutor.  Fortunately, none of their antics had been malicious in intent, which made them local favorites rather than outcasts.  Eventually, Tommy went off to college at Oxford while she stayed behind, mended her manners and came out into society.
    Before he left for college, though, he confessed to her—in a stable no less—that he loved her.  She laughed in his face, thinking he joked.  However, his hurt expression brought home the truth—he really did care about her.  She felt taken aback for she never suspected Tommy of harboring affections impossible for her to return.  Even back then, she’d read a few romance novels and knew that she could only find true love with a swashbuckling pirate or an evil Duke!  Tommy could only fill the role of the urchin that the hero used to carry notes to and from his beloved; he wasn’t cut out to be a leading man.  At least, that was what she’d thought three years ago, before he went off to Oxford.  The new Tommy was a different animal altogether.  He bowed gracefully, spoke with assurance and hardly ever cracked a smile!


    Jane first saw him during a walk with her sister Mary, to the house of a sick neighbor.  She went unwillingly, for she would rather have been home reading a romance or dressing her new hat for an upcoming ball.  However, Mary didn’t want to go alone and persisted in her entreaties until Jane relented.  They paused outside the door of the sick neighbor’s house to adjust their bonnets and were about to knock when a voice greeted them from behind.
    “Good morning Miss Fielding, Miss Jane.”
    The two girls turned around and, with astonishment, gazed upon a young man, his clothes perfectly pressed, his shoes gleaming with polish and his well-brushed hat held in his hand, as he executed an elegant bow.  One look up at his face and Jane nearly threw herself into his arms.  However, his expression stopped her from doing so, throwing her into confusion.  He looked like her Tommy but he behaved like a stranger!
    “Mr. Bailey, how wonderful to see you again,” said Mary, who recovered faster than Jane.
    “It’s wonderful to be back,” said Tommy.  The familiar grin spread across his face, but he soon replaced it with a new one-sided smirk that Jane

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