A Jane Austen Encounter

A Jane Austen Encounter by Donna Fletcher Crow Read Free Book Online

Book: A Jane Austen Encounter by Donna Fletcher Crow Read Free Book Online
Authors: Donna Fletcher Crow
Tags: Fiction, Literary, Suspense, Mystery, British Mystery
celebration of her charms, and went to her chair in good humour with everybody, and perfectly satisfied with her share of public attention.”
    Elizabeth was so enjoying her thoughts that she almost walked into a newcomer to the room. “Careful.” Hands grasped her by each shoulder.
    She started to cry out when she looked up. “Richard!” She fell against him with a gasp of laughter. “Oh, I’m so glad it’s you.”
    “Of course it’s me. Who did you expect?”
    “I don’t know. No one, really. It’s just that I had the feeling—earlier. Oh, nothing. Truly. I’m just so glad to see you. I was lost in thought, remembering Catherine Morland’s first visit to the Upper Rooms, and I had been wishing you were here.”
    “And here I am. I trust that rake John Thorpe hasn’t engaged you for a dance?” He held out his hand as if he would lead her to the floor.
    She placed her hand in his, wishing for the swirling music of a waltz, but instead it was the sharp tones of Muriel Greystone that filled their ears. “So, you have joined us, Dr. Spenser. You don’t mean to say you’ve completed your work at the Centre?”
    “Not completed, no. Arthur is still beavering away. But we have discovered something.”
    Elizabeth caught her breath. She had the strongest impulse to clap her hand over Richard’s mouth. But if they had found something exciting in that box of papers, why on earth shouldn’t he tell Muriel?

Chapter 5
    “OF COURSE, IT’S JUST guesswork at this point, but I couldn’t wait to tell you.” Richard retained his grasp on Elizabeth’s hand and spoke directly to her, but Muriel Greystone assumed command of the conversation.
    “What did you find?”
    “Well, it’s hard to say at this point.”
    “Come on, out with it, man. Either you found something or you didn’t.”
    Richard looked around a bit wildly. He hoped he wasn’t showing how trapped he felt by Muriel’s insistence. He wanted to tell Elizabeth what he suspected, but he didn’t want to be ridiculed by the expert Dr. Greystone before he had had a chance to check on whether or not this fit the known facts.
    “Well—” The inference was clear. Richard could have been a wayward undergraduate who had turned up for his tutorial woefully unprepared.
    He realized now. He should have stayed in the office and continued on through the other papers with Arthur rather than dashing off to share with Elizabeth. Unfortunately, he was into it now. No going back. “Yesterday, when we were touring the Jane Austen Centre, I quite literally bumped into a continuation of The Watsons by Edith Brown, her great-grandniece.”
    Muriel gave an impatient wave to indicate that this was old news and certainly of no scholarly interest. But Elizabeth’s eyes lit up. “Did you find evidence of Jane’s plan?” Elizabeth gasped. “Not journal notes in Jane’s own handwriting? A letter? A letter to Cassandra?”
    “No, no, nothing that direct, I’m afraid. But, yes, a letter. From Edith to her father about a biography they were collaborating on about his grandfather.”
    Muriel snorted. “Don’t tell me that’s the cause of all this excitement. Surely you know the book—Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers.”
    Richard knew the book and the subtitle as well: Being the Adventures of Sir Francis Austen, G.C.B., Admiral of the Fleet and Rear-Admiral Charles Austen by John Henry and Edith Charlotte Hubback, but Muriel allowed for no reply.
    “It’s standard-enough fare. Since it was published in 1906, it’s hardly a matter of amazement that such letters would be extant.
    “Of course you know,” although her tone indicated that she didn’t think they did, “the whole thing was something of a cottage industry for the Hubback family. Catherine, daughter of Jane’s brother Francis, published the first completion of The Watsons in 1850. Called it The Younger Sister . Her husband had some sort of breakdown and she had to support her family.”
    Richard started

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