Monday, May 2, 2022

The Most Fabulous, Ugliest Bonnet in the World

Hannah More, NPG, London
I was in Florence last week. Firenze ... you've changed, but you're still the same. I couldn't visit in the manor I'd truly wished, being subject to the whims and needs of a family party (we were together for the first time since the pandemic began!), but I did indulge myself by rereading A Room with a View while there and with some truly wonderful shopping. 

Florence has such amazing stores. It was by accident that I stumbled into my favorite discovery of the trip. It says something unsettling about me that I was more thrilled by finding the ugliest bonnet it has ever been my absolute pleasure to behold than by the treasures of the Uffizi, combed over the day before, but what a cappellino!

The store is called Antiquariato il Cancello and is located in the Via dei Fossi, 13/r ( It is a tiny place packed to the brim with vintage pieces and, amongst them, some truly historical finds. Something perverse in me prevented my taking pictures, but the particular bonnet in question was so tattered already that I could not bear to subject it to anything more. I suspect it ought to be in a museum collection (if any conservators are in the position to rescue it, you'll find it just inside the shop entrance on your left).

It might be later than I suspect, Italian fashion not being my specialty, but my gut tells me it is an 1820-30 creation. It is a mourning bonnet with a good amount of embellishment, all sadly decaying, and of a poke style that I particularly dislike, close fitting and seeming to reach around the wearer's face like a collar, a la Hannah More above. I have been scouring the internet trying to find an image of something that does it justice with little luck. Instead, I ask the reader to use their imagination:

Cross this bonnet,

with these,

then trim it up like this,

and now give it to a ghost to wear for a century or two.

It was dreadful. Dreadfully magnificent. I do hope someone finds it the right home.

Other treasure stumbled upon include some beautiful parasols and a few late 19th century gowns, but the bonnet brought tears to my eyes. Oh, the things it's seen! Boggles the mind and sparks the imagination.

It is so wonderful to travel again,

Monday, March 21, 2022

Rambling Reflections

Watercollor by C.E. Brock,

"Come, Miss Morland, let us leave him to meditate over our faults in the utmost propriety of diction, while we praise Udolpho in whatever terms we like best. It is a most interesting work. You are fond of that kind of reading?"

"To say the truth, I do not much like any other."


"That is, I can read poetry and plays, and things of that sort, and do not dislike travels. But history, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in. Can you?"
"Yes, I am fond of history."

"I wish I were too. I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all -- it is very tiresome ..." 

Tiresome, indeed. It is strange that so many of humanity's most beloved stories should be about war, when war makes for such bad narrative. Readers will raise an outcry when a fictional character's behavior is unexplained or erratic, but reality is often unexplainable. The mayhem of war has no carefully sculpted story arc to cling to. It is perfectly senseless - an exercise in stupidity - and utter chaos.

Oh, how I loathed military history as a child.

Northanger Abbey was my first Austen novel, read at an age when I had no ability to appreciate it, but I liked it well enough to seek out more Austen (I had read most of her novels before the age of 13). I don't remember many of my impressions from that first introduction, but I do remember the scene quoted above and feeling in perfect agreement with Catherine's assessment of history. It was precisely how I felt about what I had already taken to differentiating as military history, a quite distinct field of study from the social history with which I was totally enthralled (the very reason I was reading an 18th century novel in the first place). Austen, despite my incomprehension, offered me a window into how people lived in bygone times. I loved her stories of common concerns and daily life. I did not like endless descriptions of battles and tales of the worst things that humans have ever done to each other.

I think I possessed some modicum of real wisdom as a child. The present and the future have enough horrors on offer and in store. Like Catherine Morland, I studied military history "as a duty, but it never revealed anything that didn't either vex or weary me." As a child, I was inundated with it. My grandfather, in whose house my mother and I lived, served in the US Navy in WWII. The room we called "the den," and in which I primarily played, was adorned with period German army helmets, guns, and even a deactivated grenade (it and a bugle I found to be excellent toys - the helmets were too heavy to be fun, and the guns scared me). In Hebrew school, which I attended seven hours a week, my teachers were largely concentration camp survivors. Only a few had those terrifying blue numbers tattooed on their forearms, but they all had stories to tell of childhoods scarred by unthinkable atrocities. Their most prevalent message: this could happen again. This happened to me. This could happen to you. Be vigilant.

I was so fortunate as to be growing up in the United States, largely isolated from the conflicts that my government and those of others waged against each other, across an ocean. I couldn't hear the bombs falling on many of those I now call friends, but I did know they were out there, and I knew that it could just as easily be me, hiding underground, hoping to somehow survive the onslaught. My time to live such history would likely come. Why dwell more than necessary on that aspect of the past?

Not many of my teachers agreed with this perspective. Perhaps it was inevitable, growing up near Philadelphia, that I should spend countless hours wilting away on old battlefields, listening to detailed accounts of each charge and retreat. There is always such an eerie incongruousness between these sunny fields and the blood that once soaked their soil. I hated every moment.

How comparatively peaceful were Austen's drawing rooms and carriage rides! Yet her world was also at the mercy of the "quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences." Very few of her days were lived in times of so-called peace. Do you think she escaped into the world of her novels, just as much as we, her devoted readers, do now? Pride and Prejudice was an established favorite amongst British troop in the trenches during WWI. It is yet another aspect of Austen's genius: this ability to zero in on the minutiae of daily life and render it thrilling, sweeping the reader out of time and space to a happily ever after ending at Pemberley.

I wish real life were as orderly as a novel. I wish I could analize it in a tidy essay, my conclusions backed up by contextual evidence, but it is impossible. Hubris to try. Instead, I pay attention, try to listen instead of just talk (a lifelong struggle), and concentrate on discovering the same enthusiasm for the minutiae of my daily life as I can in those of Austen's characters. Military history is adding to its gory portfolio nearby. I suppose the time is ripe to dwell on life's simple joys. Maybe I'lll even write about them, and maybe they will then do someone else a little bit of good.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Thoughts composed after rereading Forster's Where Angels Fear to Tread

We just returned from what has become an annual ski vacation. I even skied this time, for the first time, I believe, since 1985. It went ... ok I guess? I'm even considering trying it again next year, but this time I must insist on a proper instructor, not my husband and daughter.

We were at the same resort two years ago, when COVID was just hitting the news. Having had a lifelong fear of epidemics/pandemics, it had already on my radar for five or six weeks in February 2020, especially when Jack got sick with flu-like symptoms that trip. We were there again last year, masked but unvaccinated. So it felt like we were coming full circle this year, when the Swiss government lifted the vast bulk of regulations on the 17th. The hospitality workers were quite giddy, though still only cautiously hopeful that the end of this pandemic really might be approaching. Everyone is so tired and traumatised. I do so hope that we all find the time to heal.

That simmering optimism was at odds with my reading material (to say nothing of the news cycle, which I did pay some modicum of attention to). I hadn't read any E.M. Forster in a good many years and sort of thoughtlessly threw a copy of Where Angels Fear to Tread in my bag. I was curious to reread an old favorite author, to see how my perspective on his works might have changed with both social progress and age. It is his novel that I had read longest ago and only once, when I was still in high school, and I did not recall much about it. It just so happens to also be his first novel, and I am feeling some temptation to continue through his work chronologically, if I can find the time.

Such an endeavor really should be accompanied by a survey of modern literary criticism of his work. I really am not sure what current scholars have to say of him. His glaring imperialism can be incredibly disturbing. It seems amazingly unconscious on his part, his presumption of British supremacy is so thickly woven into his plots. At the same time, his voice is vitally important as one of the very few gay voices represented in the English literary canon, and those same plots, infuriating in their arrogance, tell heartbreaking tales of isolation, fractured identity, and the torture conventional society can inflict on those forced to adhere to its strictures. At the climax of Where Angels Fear to Tread, I threw the book from me and ferociously paced the room, weeping hysterically. The pain was so, so raw. How did I not recall it? I must have been far too young to understand what I was reading.

My grand takeaway was a violent warning against overly managing parents, more concerned with reputation than their children's well-being.

Austen also addresses these themes, in the horrors of Eliza William's fate in Sense and Sensibility and Sir Thomas' hubris in Mansfield Park. Such potential simmers in characters like General Tilney of Northanger Abbey, Lady Catherine of Pride and Prejudice, and Lady Russell of Persuasion.

Folie de la fiancée de LammermoorÉmile Signol, 1850. 

The darkness of the text and its imperialist perspective notwithstanding, the story somehow still manages to include absolutely brilliant comical moments, most accessible to me in the clash between English and Italian cultures. There is one scene in particular, where three English travellers in Italy go to the opera, that perfectly resemble real exchanges I have witnessed in my travels. His depiction brought particularly to mind a visit to the Arena di Verona in 1999 to see Aida, where the large contingency of Germans in the audience took exception to the more raucous behavior of the Italian attendees (the latter were adept at perfectly ignoring the former). In the book, the performance is Lucia di Lammermore. I've always wanted to see this, as The Bride of Lammermoor, upon which it is based, is my favorite Sir Walter Scott novel (in keeping with my well-established penchant for books about insanity). Perhaps that contributes to my delight in this moment:

Harriet, meanwhile, had been coughing ominously at the drop-scene, which presently rose on the grounds of Ravenswood, and the chorus of Scotch retainers burst into cry. The audience accompanied with tappings and drummings, swaying in the melody like corn in the wind. Harriet, though she did not care for music, knew how to listen to it. She uttered an acid “Shish!”

“Shut it,” whispered her brother.

“We must make a stand from the beginning. They’re talking.”

“It is tiresome,” murmured Miss Abbott; “but perhaps it isn’t for us to interfere.”

Harriet shook her head and shished again. The people were quiet, not because it is wrong to talk during a chorus, but because it is natural to be civil to a visitor. For a little time she kept the whole house in order, and could smile at her brother complacently.

Her success annoyed him. He had grasped the principle of opera in Italy—it aims not at illusion but at entertainment—and he did not want this great evening-party to turn into a prayer-meeting. But soon the boxes began to fill, and Harriet’s power was over. Families greeted each other across the auditorium. People in the pit hailed their brothers and sons in the chorus, and told them how well they were singing. When Lucia appeared by the fountain there was loud applause, and cries of “Welcome to Monteriano!”

One can almost feel sorry for Harriet (but not really).

These were the literary musings that entertained me while on holiday. I wish I had been able to read more. We are supposed to go to Florence this spring ... A Room with a View might prove irresistible in its temptations.

I had better hurry up and find those modern essays on Forster. Any suggestions?

Monday, January 31, 2022

Random Reflections on the Bigg-Wither's Affair

I must not allow this blog to fall back into neglect. It will not do. I cannot have struggled in vein to bring it back to some semblance of life. The thought is intolerable.

How often I imagine how very different Austen's life (and, subsequently, my own) would have been if she had maintained her very short engagement to Harris Bigg-Wither. Could she have found a way to maintain a household and family and still write her masterpieces? It seems very doubtful, especially when I can't seem to find the time to write with only two children and all the modern appliances, to say nothing of the godsend that is takeout/delivery to the modern parent in a pinch. Running a household in the early 19th century was so enormously more complicated (though at least the Regency homemaker was relieved the burden of calculating their carbon footprint). I don't see how Jane could have done it, even in a comfortable and well-staffed house such as Manydown Park must have been.

I am immensely grateful that she chose not to marry, though it must have been an awful decision to make. I am also relieved to know that my neglected writing is not so detrimental to literary culture. Such genius is a burden I'm rather happy not to bear.

Manydown Park, 1833
Was it her writing that influenced Austen's rejection of Mr. Bigg-Wither? Or was it romantic notions? Or something else? We will never know, but the thing I feel fairly confident asserting is that when Jane and Cassandra landed unexpectedly at the Stevenson rectory and poured the entire adventure into James Austen's ears is that they were very likely told off. Think Sir Thomas when Fanny rejects Mr. Crawford:

And I should have been very much surprised had either of my daughters, on receiving a proposal of marriage at any time which might carry with it only half the eligibility of this, immediately and peremptorily, and without paying my opinion or my regard the compliment of any consultation, put a decided negative on it. I should have been much surprised and much hurt by such a proceeding. I should have thought it a gross violation of duty and respect. You are not to be judged by the same rule. You do not owe me the duty of a child. - Sir Thomas Bertram, Mansfield Park
Such a decision would, according to the morality of the day, be seen as incredibly selfish, hindering the entire family's prospects. More parents of the era would relate to Mrs. Bennet's opinion of Elizabeth's rejection of Mr. Collins, ridiculous as she is, than that of Mr. Bennet. The brother of her friends and heir to his estate, located in Austen's native neighbourhood, amongst her closest friends and relations: James, who always struck me as the family curmudgeon, must have given her an earful.
She is a very headstrong foolish girl, and does not know her own interest; but I will make her know it. - Mrs. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

These are the thoughts that occupy me as I continue to try and get life back into something like a routine rhythm. There is always solace and useful distraction to be found in Jane. What would we do without her?

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

My COVID-19 Saga

Happy New Year! When I last wrote, I was full of hope for 2022. Unfortunately, the year got off to a very disappointing start, as my family succumbed to COVID. I almost wrote finally succumbed. There was a definite sense of inevitability as it dawned on me, through heavy brain fog, what it was that ailed me. Today is the family's first day out of isolation, and I'm trying to get my head back on straight and process what happened to us. Forgive me as I completely abandon Austen for the moment and use this forum as a place to record and reflect on the experience.

It's really difficult to know where to begin.

My husband and I are double vaccinated. We had appointments to get boosters (now rescheduled for next week), but because of the Swiss system of eligibility, we could not have legally gotten them within this country in time to avoid infection. My brother-in-law, who lives in Germany and received his booster just about a week before we got sick, was with us over Christmas, while we were all infected, and repeatedly tested negative.

First my son got sick, and on his birthday, poor little guy, but it did not appear to be COVID. He had a sudden fever which went down quickly with medication and dissipated completely over the next 24 hours. No other symptoms. I wrote this off as another of the many common, mysterious childhood ailments that circulate in nursery schools. Fortunately, everyone was home for the holidays (when everything, including most test centers, are closed here) and not socializing outside the house, anyway. Then my daughter complained about headache, ear ache, and throat ache, but only when she was bored. As she danced about the house the rest of the time, I did not worry. She has a history of anxiety headaches, and she was starting a new school on January 3rd. This seemed the more reasonable explanation for her discomfort. Then, suddenly, my ears started to ache. I thought it could be sinus pressure, but it felt different. More like a dull ache in the ear canal itself than the far too customary throbbing from my sinus cavities. John said he felt off, maybe sick. Alarms were starting to knell in my head, but it was now his birthday, and he seemed to be rallying, so we proceeded with our cooking and feasting plans. Shortly before dinner, I said I needed a quick nap. I pretty much slept for the next 48 hrs. Fortunately, John was not as debilitated as me. He and the kids managed to enjoy a cozy New Year at home sans Mama, and for that I am grateful.

I do not know what variant we had because of the difficulty accessing full testing options over the holidays, but I can tell you what it felt like. It was certainly what is referred to as mild COVID. I had no fever or trouble breathing. It did not feel like the common cold or rhinovirus, to which I'm susceptible. The brain fog, as mentioned, was prevalent, but it wasn't only effecting the clarity of my thoughts. My entire head felt kind of vacuous: a strange sense of emptiness. "Fog" is an inadequate descriptive. The lack of mucous left my nose feeling voided, and the sensation seemed to penetrate outward until it pressed against my skull, causing a dull but constant pain. I had never felt anything like it before, and because of the novelty of the sensation, I pretty much knew exactly what I had before the test confirmed it. After I woke up and rejoined the world, I continued to have short waves of sickness over the next several days, despite otherwise feeling pretty normal. By the end of the week, this had passed, but then, seemingly suddenly, both John and I lost our sense of taste and smell.

This is terribly disconcerting.

I am the buyer and preparer of my children's food. How can I pick out fruit, when I can't even smell sour milk? I also can't tell if they need a bath, or smell smoke from the fire.

The good news is that we seem to be slowly regaining our sense of taste. I can now vaguely taste cheddar cheese (my favorite), when I couldn't a week ago. I can tell if I brushed my teeth or not. All this is a strong indicator that we will recover. I cling to that thought and look forward to the day that I can bring a vast new appreciation to every thing I taste and smell. May it be soon! We're a foodie family. I don't know what we do without that joy in our lives.

Other good news: though my daughter was horribly disappointed to not be able to begin school in person on the 3rd, we found the new school's home learning plan massively superior to what we had before. She was very happy and surprisingly calm when I dropped her off this morning. This afternoon, she takes her first ever school bus ride (they are not common here). She's so excited, and so I am. I can't wait to hear all about it.

So that's the bulk of my saga. To cope with isolation, we went ahead and celebrated Christmas again last weekend. We made gifts for each other and cooked up another feast (which the kids tell us tasted good). We also watched the entire Harry Potter film collection while running about the place on broomsticks fashioned out of old wrapping paper rolls. We had fun, but thank goodness it's over.

Now to start picking up the dropped pieces of my life. I should probably start by taking down the Christmas tree. It's dried to a crisp, and I can't smell smoke.

May 2022 fulfil all my best hopes for it, despite this inauspicious start. I wish you all health, happiness, and Austen galore. Next week ...

Monday, December 20, 2021

Happy Holidays

This will be my last post of the year. I give myself time off to completely indulge in the joys of the season. First I'd like to offer my The Madness of Mr. Darcy continuation, Mr. Darcy's Christmas Present, for free Kindle download. The promotion will begin tomorrow and end on the 25th. Merry Christmas!

I had grand ambitions of writing a new Christmas story or poem parody, as I used to in days of old, but that did not happen. Schade. So how about a few quick limericks, instead? I only spent maybe twenty minutes on these, so forgive the quality (that's why I chose limerick as my medium: it's forgiving). This was inspired by chapter 21 of Pride and Prejudice

Whilst proclaiming the utmost sincerity,
Miss Bingley's lacks it transparently.
Gaieties still abound
Without her around.
Our Christmas relies not on her verity.

But then we think of the other,
Who left Jane's heart torn asunder.
Since he suffers, too,
(as he ought to do),
Let the sister be blamed for the brother.

Jane Austen commands us most cleverly
To forgive weakness and behaviors unmannerly,
When justified
By pride mollified
And the beauty of the grounds at Pemberley.
For slightly more (only slightly) cerebral Christmas offerings, check out the afore mentioned parodies, written about a decade ago:

(warning: this one is kind of depressing)

Happy and healthy holidays to all, however you celebrate, wherever you are. I'll catch you in 2022.

Monday, December 6, 2021

NaNoWriMo Update: Week Four, a week late

Even as I feel fairly positive about my improvement over last year's performance, I really checked out that last week. Between the school stuffs, Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah starting so early, I never quite finished those last few scenes I meant to write. I totalled out at 12,649 words, but that does not reflect the huge leaps I made in turning three novels into one, functioning story. The manuscript is in a much more tolerable state now. From the NaNoEditMo perspective, this is something to celebrate, and so I shall.

Today is the last day of Hanukkah (last night was the final candle) , and now my mind is fully engrossed in Christmas. I'm terribly behind on preparations (same tune, new lyrics), but I ought to catch up. Samichlaus visits my children in school today, bringing sacks of tasty treats. The Christmas markets are mostly open and accessible. It's lovely visiting them once more.

It is uncertain how much writing I will continue to accomplish amidst all the upcoming hubbub, but I will try to stick to my mostly regular blogging. I also want to dig back into the Mixed-up Mashup conundrum. It would be wonderful to finish it this year, but I won't hold my breath. 

Here is a very short, very rough excerpt from the beginning of the now nearly finished rough copy of Tales of Pride and Prejudice. I'd love to hear your thoughts:

Pemberley, January 1791

It was a cold-hearted visitor for whom Pemberley, at any time, was an unimpressive sight to behold, but only those so fortunate as to be included in the estate’s annual Twelfth Night celebrations knew the house in all its glory. One wondered how the surrounding woods could remain so lush, when surely a hefty percentage of the foliage had been harvested and moved indoors, there to festoon every window pane, stairwell, and mantelpiece. With all the multitudes of candles alight and the torches lining the drive blazing forth towards the sky, every invitee who traversed that fiery avenue knew that their evening would be one they should not soon forget.

However, that time had not yet come. The day was still young, and though all the greenery was already in place, casting its festive atmosphere, the only sound of merriment currently ringing through those hallowed halls were those emanating from young Mr. Wickham, son of the estate’s steward, who ran through the gallery, laughing all the while, and down the servant’s stair, concealed behind a tapestry. The young master of the house, normally a proper enough gentleman, was in hot pursuit of the imp, who had moments before pilfered his favorite toy soldier. His progress was impeded by a most effective obstacle: the great form of his aunt, Lady Catherine De Bourgh, her dear friend, Augusta Westingham, both of whom were currently guests of the house, and, most formidably, his mother, Lady Anne Darcy, who frowned down at him disapprovingly. “What is this, Fitzwilliam? I expect an explanation for such unruly behavior.”

Young Fitzwilliam Darcy reddened with shame under the glare of his mother’s reproach. He knew he had behaved wrongly, and past experience had already taught him that no explanation he attempted would pacify his mother’s pique, but he was only eight, and he felt all the indignation of being the wronged party, unfaiurly held to account while the true perpetrator got away, and struggle though he might, he could not contain his indignation. 

“George was in my room again, Mother. It is all his fault … ”

“Yes,” she interrupted. “I saw him come careening through before you, but in what way can his uncouth behavior in anyway account your lack of conduct? I expect more from my son.”

“You ought not allow Mr. Darcy to so indulge that young rascal,” Lady Catherine inserted, never one to be left out of a conversation. “T’will come to now good, as I have warned him time and again.”

Lady Anne ignored her sister, an art in which she was well practiced. “Do you think the conduct becoming Mr. Wickham’s son is on par with what is expected from the heir of Pemberley? Is this how the sprig of a noble tree presents himself to the world?”

The boy hung his head. “No, ma’am.”

“Never forget who you are, Fitzwilliam. Now, it is past time you were dressed for the children’s party. It will not do for your guests to begin without you.”

“Yes, Mother,” and without further objection, the young master obeyed, retreating, if not with noble hauteur, than at least at a far more sedate pace than that at which he had charged forth, mere minutes before.

“Try not to be too hard on him, Anne,” commented Augusta, once the young gentleman was gone. “He is just a boy. It is a short lived phase that they grow out of it all too soon.”

“Youth is a dangerous excuse for not knowing one’s place,” retorted Lady Anne. “I will speak to George about young Wickham. He becomes more unruly by the day.”

“You should witness the antics in which my nephew James engages. The young rascal will be the death of my poor brother. He won’t heed a word he says.”

“I have broached this subject with Sir James,” Lady Catherine confided. “I warned him it is far easier to break a colt while he is young, but your brother will spoil the boy so! He shall grow quite impossible as he ages,” she predicted.

“Nonsense!” laughed Augusta, well used to her friend’s interference and not at all intimidated by it. “Never have I known a more charming young scamp.” She sighed longingly. “I begin to fear I shall never have one of my own.”

“You are yet young woman Augusta,” reassured Lady Catherine. “Have you tried that tea I suggested?”

“I assure you that I have tried everything that has been suggested by either the doctor or you, Catherine. I have been pushed and prodded far beyond the bounds of decency. So far, it has all been to little avail.”

“Yes, we have all been inspected and examined. It is most unpleasant.”

Mrs. Westingham sighed. “But at least you both have something to show for such invasions.”

“You assume too much, Augusta,” Lady Anne said. “Fitzwilliam sprang into existence with little enough fuss.  I have been expecting five times since his birth. Nothing has come of it,” she concluded sadly.

Mrs. Westingham eyed her suspiciously. “Not nothing, I should say. That emerald set Mr. Darcy bestowed upon you deserves some attention.”

“The emeralds are inadequate consolation,” she responded seriously, but understanding her friend’s desire to lighten the suddenly sour mood, continued, “but do not take that to imply that I am anything but exceedingly pleased with my Christmas present from George.”

“It was the least he could do after your sufferings!” Lady Catherine continued, not knowing when to let sleeping dogs lay. “I, too, have endured my share of medical intrusions, and I begin to doubt the doctors have the slightest notion as to what they are doing. I, for one, am done with being experimented upon. For all we know, it is the gentlemen whose health is to blame. Why not badger their poor persons for a while, instead of ours? Besides, the future is already secure. Anne shall marry Fitzwilliam, and they will united the two estates.”

“I see you have it all organized, Catherine,” Lady Anne said, inspecting her older sister quizzically. “Shall they have nothing to say about it? What shall you do if he cannot like her, and she elopes with your rector?”

Mrs. Westingham laughed, the argument about the futures of Anne de Bourgh and Fitzwilliam Darcy already being an old source of disagreement between the sisters. “Shall you wear the emeralds this evening, Anne?”

That lady happily assented and began regaling the others with tales of her gown, future speculations and old sorrows forgotten for a moment, as they all set their minds upon the imminent delights before them.