Lady Jane of Devizes

She was a small, older woman in simple clothes. She had short, grey hair and unwavering eyes behind glasses. I startled her only momentarily when I yelled for her help on a deserted Devizes street after dark, and she invited my friend Holly and me in immediately, trying to prevent her two cats from getting out, one who wanted to storm our laps and one who observed us nervously from a good distance.

As we sat in her warm cottage, grateful for the help and rest, Jane told us of her travels to Kentucky, Canada and Italy and of how her amorous, temperamental cat was one she had rescued from an Italian street. Maybe that was why she wasn't put off by two strange American women who accosted her on her own neighborhood street. She was used to rescuing foreigners, and as Mark Twain said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..."

When we explained how we couldn't figure out the lock box to our vacation rental, she graciously offered us her phone and lap top to contact the cottage owner. When at first we couldn't get a hold of her, Jane offered coffee with cream and sugar.

On the way to get the coffee, she paused, "Do you want wine instead?"

She knew we had had a frustrating night. What hospitality!

Finally, we found out what we had been doing wrong, and we thanked her repeatedly and continually asked what she wanted us to send her from Arizona as a thank you, but she wouldn't accept the offer.

Before we left, I said, "I don't know what we would have done without your help, Jane!"

Holly added, "Yeah, we would have been sleeping on the street!"

And Jane replied, "I have an extra room. I would have just put you up in there."

My friend Holly and I would later refer to her as Lady Jane, and we, who are so keen on English literature, could not think of a more auspicious name than Jane (except for maybe Anne, Elizabeth or Margaret).

I tell the humorous side of our ordeal here: Left to our own devices in Devizes.

Despite the fact that we were temporarily out of our wits, Lady Jane will always have a fond place in our memory, and it's about time we sent her something from Arizona, even if it's just a simple thank you.

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