No one saw it coming. Even Sister Julienne admitted she’d failed to notice the signs. After all, between Chummy’s brush with death and the new baby, and then Sister Bernadette’s exit from the Order to marry the doctor (The doctor? And the nun? Poplar would whisper about it for months), everyone had been rather distracted. And while no one wanted to admit it, they’d forgotten about Jane.
Until one morning there was an extra empty chair at breakfast.
“Where’s Jane?” Jenny asked. “Is she out on a call?”
Cynthia frowned. “No. I knocked on her door, but there was no answer."
"Perhaps she had one too many Babychams last night and is sleeping it off,” Trixie said, giggling. Everyone knew Jane never drank, or smoked or danced or even spoke too loudly. She was practically a nun, except for her well-known devotion to the Reverend Appleby-Thornton and his letters. But all they ever did was play chess by post, so no one thought much of it.
Sister Julienne glided into the dining room with a look of utter shock on her face.
“What is it?” Sister Evangelina said, sighing. “Have we got another call about this one’s sticky fingers?” She nodded toward Sister Monica Joan.
“I have not pilfered items for some time,” she said, between sips of tea. “Except for cake, and that is nothing but what is due to me."
"I regret to say that Jane has left us.” Sister Julienne held out a folded piece of paper. “I found this under my door this morning. It appears she has eloped – with the Reverend Appleby-Thornton.”
A stunned silence settled over the table.
“Why – Why didn’t she tell anyone?” Jenny asked.
“She writes she is sorry she didn’t tell us, but she wanted to keep things quiet,” Sister Julienne said.
“Well, good for her,” Trixie said coolly.
“I think it’s lovely,” Cynthia said.
Sister Evangelina set her teacup down hard on the table, rattling the plates and cutlery.
“Young girls these days have no sense of duty and commitment to their work. Gallivanting off to the ends of the earth, their heads turned by a wink and a smile. It’s absolutely –”
“Sister.” Sister Julienne cut her off with a stern look. “I’m sure Jane did not mean to cause us any worry. And a marriage also requires commitment.”
“But to run off in the middle of the night?” Cynthia said. “Did no one hear anything?"
"I confess, I did suspect something,” Chummy said, speaking up for the first time. “I was up with Freddy and saw her leave, but I thought she was just headed out on a call.”
“She had been getting a lot of letters lately,” Jenny said.
“Love letters,” said Chummy. “From her Casanova."
The nurses dissolved into a fit of giggles. Sister Evangelina let out a grumbling sigh and rose to her feet. She glared at the row of nurses, her face thunderous, and the laughter stopped.
"We’ve got clinic today – with Dr. Casanova – and I expect all of you early. Unless any of you have plans to run off with the postman?" She stomped off.
The nurses looked at each other, mouths agape.
"Dr. Casanova? In those jumpers?” Trixie said, barely suppressing a laugh.
“I fear Sister Evangelina is still a little sensitive about Sister– I mean, Shelagh’s departure,” Sister Julienne said. “It might be best if you kept any men away from Nonnatus House for a while.”
“Oh dear,” said Chummy. “Peter will have to sleep at the station.” The nurses laughed.
“I shall write to Jane at the address she left and give her our congratulations,” Sister Julienne said, smiling. “She says they will settle not far from the Mother House and we are welcome to visit whenever we are in Chichester.”
The nurses all smiled and agreed that a trip to visit Jane would be a splendid idea, but they knew it would never happen. No one ever went to Chichester.
“Do you think she’s all right, Sister? Jane is a quiet soul, not one for displaying her emotions. It’s hard to tell. But to have lived her life without so much as a kiss. You are speaking to a nun, Trixie. Oh, yes, sorry.
I sympathise, I really do, but as Jane is practically silent around her
colleagues, the ability to speak to men is probably beyond her. Where did Sister Julienne find her? That wouldn’t be for me to say.“
Sister Bernadette as the “match-maker” between Jane and Reverend Applebee-Thornton.
Plot twist: Jane Sutton has been away for a year studying and passing her midwifery courses. She comes back to Nonnatus House in 1960 as a midwife who frequently exchanges letters with her fiancé, the Reverend Applebee-Thornton. She is intimidated by Patsy Mount and is starry-eyed at the lovely story of Dr. Turner and the former Sister Bernadette. The one most delighted to see her is Sister Monica Joan, in whom everyone notices positive change when Jane is around.