Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Character Interview: Lady Jane Ramsey

It is late one Wednesday night in 1671 and I am sitting in the Rose & Crown in Southwark with Lady Jane Ramsey. 

She has just arrived from work and she looks tired. Only halfway through the week, and she’s already worked nearly thirty-six hours as a seamstress across the street. When we left her at the end of Tyburn, she was wielding a poker in a gorgeous blue dress, and now she’s wielding needles in homespun. The difference is significant. I try to hide my surprise at her appearance as she downs her first glass of wine. 

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me, Lady Jane.

(Whispers, distressed) Don’t call me that here! 

Oh, of course. Sorry! What do the people around here call you?

Jane, is all. People tend not to ask questions here. 

Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?

Of course not. May I ask you one?

Sure.

(leans in) Why are we here?

I have some news for you. I have written your story and it’s coming out in April.

Surely not...the whole story?

Definitely the whole story.

...the fight?

Yes.

...the pig pen?

Yep.

...the incident with the poker?

Oh yes. That part’s been out since December.

(covers her eyes) I’ve never been so embarrassed…

There’s no need to be embarrassed. I think your story is wonderful. You ran away from home--

I certainly did!

--and you made a life for yourself here in Southwark. I think that’s very brave. Was it difficult?

Difficult? It wasn’t precisely difficult, no. I did it because I had to. There was nothing else I could have done. 

Your father might disagree…

I’m certain he would, but it was never his decision to make. I value my freedom too highly to surrender it because someone tells me I ought to. I’d had quite enough of his making decisions for me, so I had to go. He chose everything for me, you understand. My dresses, my servants, my meals, my lessons. He even chose the furnishings in my old room right down to that ghastly footstool with the salmon ruffles. When he chose a man for me--if you can say that Lord Lewes is indeed a man--I knew it had to end.

Lord Lewes was not to your taste?

(makes a face) You are jesting?

I really am. I remember him drooling over Sally in Tyburn.

I wasn’t there. I’m given to understand that Nick hit him. 

I’m given to understand that you’ve been doing a little hitting of your own lately! Is it true that you’re learning to box?

(groans) You’ve been talking to Carys. We’ve been going to the fights down at Bear Gardens and she’s insisted I learn to throw a punch or two. She’s really very skilled. She assures me it can be most cathartic to hit something now and then, and I rather fear she’s right…

Anyone in particular you’d like to hit?

(Jane glances at the bar. There’s no one back there but Meg Henshawe, pouring a beer. She glares at us and Jane pretends not to notice.)

No one I can think of.

Has Meg been giving you a hard time? I know she has a thing for Mark…

A thing? A claim, certainly. She never lets me forget it.

Tell me about Mark. Did he give you the welcome you were expecting?

Not at all.

What were you hoping was going to happen?

It’s silly, really. 

Go on?

I suppose I had this idea that he’d be happy to see me, and we’d run away together and get married and have a dozen children. (laughs) Things aren’t always simple, are they?

No, they’re not. Can you describe your perfect man? 

(shrugs) Well, he’d be Mark. 

Still?

Of course. Always. I’ve never met anyone like him. He’s stubborn and ridiculous, but he has a good heart. The best of hearts.

And he’s not hard to look at, either.

(blushes) No, indeed. 

Would you still want to stay in Southwark even if nothing ever happens between you two? 

Of course. All of my friends are here. I have a job, and Carys can’t keep up on the orders on her own. If I went back I’d have to marry someone awful, no doubt. I can’t see someone like Lord Lewes allowing me to work, drink spirits, or attend fights with my friends. 

Do you miss anything about it at all? Being Lady Jane?

I do. It isn’t easy living in Southwark. I’d like a dry room with a good bed and enough money to afford kindling. I’d like to eat fresh bread every day and not have to ration my cheese until I get paid. I miss my maid, I miss drinking chocolate, and I miss all of my lovely thick stockings. I only have two pair now, you know, and the warmer ones are full of holes. I would love to sit in front of a roaring fire with tea and biscuits, but that’s not likely to happen here. Did you now that most people here have never even heard of tea?

Everyone drinks coffee, don’t they?

They do! And it’s the thickest, most vile concoction anyone ever dreamt of! But do you know, I’m growing accustomed to it? No matter how cold it gets, or how badly I’d like some tea, it’s not worth going back. This place has a charm of its own, and I like it here. There’s a fire just here, and I can have my coffee with a pork pie--they do marvellous pies here--and have a chat with my friends. That’s all I need, really. 

And Mark?

He’d be ideal, but for now it’s just me and Horatio.

Horatio?!

The rat that lives in my wall. Charming little fellow. He has darling ears! 

***

Read the rest of Jane’s story in Virtue’s Lady (The Southwark Saga, Book 2), coming out on April 13th from Liquid Silver Books. In the meantime, pop over to Tami Lund’s for a very cheeky interview with Mark Virtue...

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