A Mixed Up Mashup

Read the Introduction: http://alexaadams.blogspot.com/2012/08/a-walk-in-austenland-mashup.html

Read Walking in Austen Land: http://alexaadams.blogspot.com/2011/08/austen-in-walking-land.html

In the Rose Garden

Colin Firth 1995
Mr. Darcy paced impatiently. He knew she often walked here, and he suspected she would seek the solace of a solitary ramble on this particular morning. Such strong emotions as Miss Elizabeth Bennet had expressed the previous evening were far from customary to that lady: she would certainly require recuperation.. And so he remained where he was, striding back and forth through the grove, trying to conquer his own perturbation.

Catherine raced along as quickly as her skirts would carry her through the shrubbery. Speed was of the essence, though she just knew her sister must be mistaken. Mr. Tilney could not be here! No indeed! That could not be his hat she spotted through the wood, but she further quickened her pace nonetheless. His height! His cut of coat! But was he not too broad? No, it must be he, and her heart raced forward towards him as he turned, sensing her approach, to project his own greeting her way. But no! She halted, frozen in place, for it was not, after all, Mr. Tilney, but a complete stranger before her, of handsome but excessively stern countenance. Instinctively she turned in flight, but before she could dissapear whence she came, he called out, "Excuse me! Miss!"

Felicity Jones 2007
Manners well ingrained acknowledged his hail, and she turned inquiring eyes upon him, as he passed through the gate separating the Mr. Allen's estate from the parsonage.

He frowned. "You are not Miss Bennet."

"No, sir!" she replied, curiosity rising.

"Do you have a purpose here?" he pressed. "Forgive me if I intrude, but these are my aunt's grounds."

"You must be mistaken," she replied too readily. "This land belongs to the parsonage. My father is Rector," she continued, by way of explanation.

Mr. Darcy, being rather sleep deprived and depressed, was feeling more excitable than was his custom, and he replied in open horror, "Good god! It cannot be so!"

Miss Morland was affronted. "I have no reason to prevaricate, sir!"

"You are the daughter of Mr. Collins?"

"Certainly not! I am Mr. Morland's eldest daughter," she said in superior tones. "Who might you be? Mrs. Allen has no nephews your age."

"Mrs. Allen? I have no notion of any such person! This land belongs to Rosings," he gestured empirically towards the house, just visible through the trees, "the estate of Lady Catherine de Bourgh,"

"You are mistaken, sir!" she stubbornly insisted, though quite unsure from where the great house had appeared. "This land belongs to Fullerton, as it always has."

Darcy knew not what to make of such an assertion. He had never heard of Fullerton, and he was on the verge of concluding the young lady was out of her senses, when he suddenly had cause to doubt his own. There, right before him, where he was certain a path never before existed, came a young lady, elegantly dressed and of eager stride,

Gwyneth Paltrow  1996
"May I be of some assistance?" Emma inquired pleasantly, eying the two before her with approval. She knew not what two fashionable strangers were doing in Highbury, but she was pleased to see them. It had been a particularly dull morning, and such interesting persons, arguing in the middle of the lane, must provide diversion. When neither responded to her question, only staring at her most disconcertingly, she pressed on. "You appear as if you were lost," she explained, somewhat irritated that it should be necessary. "I know this country well and might be able to direct you."

"But," stammered Catherine, looking to the strange gentleman for confirmation of what she saw, "but, excuse me, but there was no a lane here before, was there?"

"Certainly not," affirmed Mr. Darcy, relieved enough to have his own senses confirmed that he dispensed with any examination of his measure. Other questions were more pressing, "How it comes here now, I cannot say, but it certainly is here ... " he paused in confusion " ... now."

Emma, quite out of patience, spoke her mind. "What nonesense is this? This path, or something very near like it, has been here more than 20 years," she asserted confidently, "and though I cannot bear witness to what proceeded that time, I think it is enough is to prove the path's existence just a few moments past."

Though he could not see where it led, Darcy thought he spotted a glimmer of light ahead. "Then tell me, Miss ... I am so sorry, ought we not introduce ourselves? I am Fitzwilliam Darcy, of Derbyshire, and this is Miss Morland, of Fullerton, I believe, and you are?"

"Miss Woodhouse!" she snapped, quite expecting to repress the man's impertinence. Her surprise when the name meant nothing to her companions was transparent.

Darcy saw her confusion and hurried to establish those facts he could. "Miss Woodhouse, I do not know from where you materialized, nor Miss Morland either, but I do know that this," he pointed again towards Rosings, "is the estate of my aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. You can both see the house, can you not?"

"From where did it come?" exclaimed Emma in disbelief, but before the matter could be further investigated, an angry voice was heard approaching from the direction in which all three were gazing.

Judi Dench 2005
"I will not have it, sir! I cannot say how such a thing has come to be, but I warn you it will not be tolerated!"

Mr. Darcy had only just processed who it was that spoke so empirically when his aunt, accompanied by Charles Bingley, came into view.

The latter spotted his friend gratefully, but before he could express a word of greeting, Lady Catherine had commanded his attention.

"Darcy! There you are! You must assist me. This man has put a house on my lawn, and I insist that it must be removed at once!"

Simon Woods 2005
Darcy blinked at Charles, who hurried, as best he could, to explain the situation. "I do not know how it may have happened, Darcy! A marvel it is, but I am only leasing the house, you know, so I really cannot be held responsible for a thing like this." He gestured behind him, where the ramparts of a second house, quite next to Rosings, were suddenly visible.

"Am I to assume that is Netherfield Hall?" Darcy confirmed, adding dryly, "What is it doing in Kent?"

"This cannot be!" declared Miss Woodhouse. "We all saw that it was not there two minutes ago. And we are not in Kent, but Surrey! What can be happening?"

"Oh, dear!" a new female voice was heard to moan, and the entire assemblage turned to confront two newcomers: a young woman, perhaps slightly passed her prime, and an older gentleman, of extremely dignified appearance. "We cannot live in Surrey! It is far too close to London."

Valerie Gearon 1971
"Indeed my dear, you are quite right!" the man replied. "Nothing but merchants and tradesmen, seeking to gain a bit of respectability by purchasing the mere acre or two of land, at an easy distance from their shops and warehouses. Surrey will not do for us."

"Pardon me," declared an incensed Miss Woodhouse, "but I have heard it said that Surrey is the garden of England."

"Your point is highly irrelevant," chimed in Lady Catherine, not to be outdone in indignation, "as Rosings is in Kent. The De Bourghs have always hailed form Kent, and neither or I, nor my daughter, will reside anywhere else!"

Elizabeth Elliot sniffed disdainfully. "I do not what to think of this new company we have found ourselves in, Papa. Who might they be?"

Basil Dignam 1971
"I don't know my dear, but this gentleman certainly appears presentable," Sir Walter indicated to Darcy while eying his greatcoat. "My good sir, who is your tailor? He has done an excellent job with your capes."

Darcy wondered at such an inquiry amidst the state of confusion they were in. Disregarding it, he focused on the matter at hand. "Clearly we are experiencing a most odd phenomenon. Neither roads nor houses materialize out of nowhere, and whole counties have no means of collision."

"Perhaps I can help elucidate the matter," chimed in a tall gentleman, emerging from the shrubbery.

"Mr. Tilney!" Catherine cried in delight, approaching him with eager steps before she remembered to be embarrassed.

JJ Feild 2007
"My dear Miss Morland," he smiled upon her. "How happy I am to find you safe, if in highly unusual circumstances. My good ladies and gentleman," he addressed the, "while I have no scientific explanation for the strange phenomenon we are experiencing, I have gained some insight into the reason behind it. Though my explanation does not precisely conform to the laws of physics, unless this is some fantastic dream, I think it is the best for which we can hope. My own home is surprisingly close by, but as I look about me," he gestured to the many impressive estates now within view, "some of yours must be even more convenient. Might we adjourn to one, in order to discuss the matter? Whose is this?" he pointed to the closest edifice, a massive and meandering building that looked as if it would be far more comfortable in the neat grove for which it was built, rather than sitting in prominence upon the hill top.

"Why, that's Donwell Abbey!" cried Emma eagerly, expressing both her perplexity and relief. "Mr. Knightley will see us comfortable. Shall we proceed?"

But with so many great personages at hand, all determined to direct the situation as they saw fit, forward motion was hard to achieve. Perceiving Darcy's inclination to follow Miss Woodhouse, Lady Catherine eventually allowed herself to be persuaded, but Sir Walter posed a seemingly insurmountable barrier in his insistence that such a party's descention upon any house, let alone an abbey, would be an inexcusable breach of etiquette. No one disagreed, which is why he proved so hard to sway, but under such exceptional circumstances, it was concluded the faux pas would be overlooked. There was some further debate about the proper order in which they should proceed, requiring more introductions to determine, but once finally underway they speedily reached Donwell, where they were greeted by an understandably bewildered Mr. Knightley.

Jeremy Northam 1996
"Emma," he cried upon seeing her. "Perhaps you can explain what Hartfield is doing upon my lawns?"

"Oh dear," she replied, eyeing her family home with disapproval. "I do not know what is happening, Mr. Knightley, but all these people are misplaced, it seems. We came here to confer with you."

"I do have some notion of what is happening, sir," said Mr. Tilney. "Might we impose upon your hospitality?"

"By all means," Mr. Knightley replied, seeing in his expression, and that of Mr. Darcy, reasonable men determined to address the perplexing problem at hand. The rest of the assemblage, based on looks alone, he could not depend on. As if he were accustomed to entertaining such an assortment of personages, he opened his doors and called for tea.

Tea with George

One can imagine the chagrin of an established and steady housekeeper, such as Mrs. Hodges, upon being asked to supply tea to an impromptu party of eight strangers, but this was not the time to give vent to her emotions. Whatever chaos might have ensued downstairs, in the drawing room all was as commonplace as possible, considering the circumstances.

Once all his guests were made known to Mr. Knightley, he was quick to turn their attention to Mr. Tilney. All complied readily enough, their interest united in unraveling their nonsensical circumstances. Mr. Tilney surveyed his expectant audience for a moment, wondering where to begin a tale as strange as his.

"I am the Rector of a good-sized parish, well-established and orderly. Perhaps had I been more accustomed to disarray, today's proceedings would seem less exceptional, but it is my sad fate to have been born incurably tidy." He had hoped humor would ease his listeners, and when it failed knew not whether to blame their lack of sensibility, or the quality of the joke. "I must confess myself as perplexed and bewildered as you all. Please understand that I possess nothing like a solution to our dilemma, only increased insight into what has happened." He paused again, feeling he was again proceeding wrong. The suspicion was confirmed by the blank stares of his listeners.

"Do go on, Mr. Tilney," Catherine whispered encouragingly.

He smiled at her gratefully and continued. "Earlier this morning, as I was leaving my home for a journey," he gazed at Catherine significantly, "I met a very unusual lady, Mrs. Adams, who was walking with a baby. Everything about her - her dress, her speech, her knowledge of myself and all of you, I suspect - was exceptional. She greeted me by name and introduced herself. I was a bit taken aback by her forwardness until I noticed how my surroundings were altering. Houses appeared where there had been none before, and I found myself listening as Mrs. Adams recommended several families, who were apparently the homes' inhabitants, to my attention. She then pointed out a lane that had never before existed, explaining that it was the road to Fullerton, which I would find not a mile's distance away, when I believed it a day's ride off! With that she proceeded on her way, and I, to my astonishment, was presenting myself to Mr. and Mrs. Morland not a quarter of an hour later!"

"I do not see how this is relevant to the invasion of my grounds by a multitude of encroaching homes!" Lady Catherine grumbled.

"Do you believe this woman responsible?" Mr. Knightley inquired.

"I think she must be implicated in some manner. I was too shocked to question her properly when we met."

"I understand the sensation," Mr. Knightley confessed, thinking of his perplexity when he looked up from the breakfast table to see Hartfield just outside the window. "We must find this Mrs. Adams."

"She may not be the only strange person amongst us," said Mr. Darcy, appraising Sir Walter coolly. "We should do a thorough search of the neighborhood. Perhaps there is a pattern to who has been affected. Regardless, any odd persons will be revealed, as well as the extent of the phenomenon."

"Very good, Darcy!" said Bingley agreeably. "Just let me know how I may be of assistance, and we are sure to soon get to the bottom of all this."

"We are five men. The ladies should remain here, as we each proceed in different directions for one mile, inquiring at each home along the way, and then we will return to share our findings," Mr. Knightley suggested. "If anyone meets Mrs. Adams, try to bring her along. That seems all we should attempt so late in the morning. No matter how unusual the circumstances, the dinner hour must be considered."

"We are expected at my cousin's, Lady Dalrymple, this evening,  and it will not do to be late. I must return to Camden Place at once," Sir Walter said with dignity.

"In case you failed to have noticed, sir," said Mr. Tilney, "nothing in our preset landscape bears the slightest resemblance to that surrounding Bath."

"My house must be at hand! Miss Elliot and I only left it not two hours ago."

"We will do our best to locate it, Sir Walter, during our survey," Mr. Knightley assured him.

"Very good! Bingley, do keep your eye out for Camden Place," Darcy said in a low voice. "Even if we hadn't more important matters to consider, one could hardly miss is!"

"Will you be joining us, Sir Walter?" Mr. Tilney asked.

He looked to Elizabeth despairingly, but as she had no better advice to give, he declared his intention of heading eastward, as that was the general direction from which they had previously come.

"Let us be on our way!" Mr. Knightley declared, anxious to be doing something.

"Wait!" Emma cried. "We do not know if things are still changing! What if you are unable to return?"

Mr. Knightley met her eye with a smile. "I do not think that is the case. It is quite an orderly job, as you can see out that window. Perfectly complete in its way. I've been watching closely, and there has been no change, perceptible to me, for over an hour. Yet Miss Woodhouse is quite correct to urge caution, gentlemen. I think we should do a quick survey of the grounds before heading off."

Determining that the world appeared to no longer be shifting about, Mr. Knighltey headed west, as that was the direction in which Hartfield lay, and he wanted to be the man to confront Mr. Woodhouse. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley, the latter of whom spotted Longbourn at a distance, both turned their steps southward. The remaining street of houses lay to the east, and Mr. Tilney found himself the companion of Sir Walter as they approached the first estate, alarmingly close to Mr. Knightley's stables, though you would not know it were it not for the stench.

There was some dispute as to how they should approach.

"This is most irregular, Mr. Tilney. One doesn't just walk up to a house of this sort! I hope it belongs no one of any importance."

"The greatest importance they could be, Sir Walter," Mr. Tilney replied with admirable patience, "would be if they might shed light on why and where we have all been thrown together." He stared out across the expanse of lawn, "Do keep looking for Mrs. Adams."

"You must announce us, Tilney!"

"Very well!" he took one last glance across the lawn before ringing the doorbell. A haughty servant answered, only begrudgingly presenting their cards to his mistress. The gentlemen were invited into a handsome drawing room and introduced to Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood.

Do pity Mr. Tilney, to find himself the lone sensible person in such company! The others were quickly sizing up their respective worths. The Dashwoods saw much to admire in Sir Walter and nothing to despise in his companion, while the baronet, perceiving that here were two to give him his due, quickly took command of the proceedings.

"You will forgive us calling in such a manner, for surely you have noticed the strange happenings that have been occuring!" he explained. "We have begun to organize a response to our predicament, and so come to learn in what company we find ourselves. There is some question," he added secretively, "of mischief afoot. It is imperative we determine each resident of the neighborhood's character."

Fanny Dashwood looked alarmed, and Mr. Tilney struggled to keep his eyes from rolling. "How shocking," she exclaimed, "to not know who one's neighbors are! John and I had been admiring the house next door and wondering how best to approach, but what if they are not genteel?"

Sir Walter's eye followed where Mrs. Dashwood's finger pointed out a great window, spying with shock his very own residence.

"Why it's Kellynch Hall, and very handsomely situated, I must say! This relieves me of concern for Camden Place, for if it is not found on hand, my tenant, Admiral Croft, will just have to make way for us. I must call upon him immediately."

"I shall accompany you, Sir Walter" declared Mr. Dashwood. "For you will be able to make the introductions properly."

"Indeed," he condescended, not sure that he was happy to confer the favor just claimed, but ready to assume his new acquaintance might be neighborly enough to take in the displaced Crofts, should he and Elizabeth require their eviction. Mr. Tilney, in the name of expediency, left his companions to their joint task, happy for the excuse to proceed further along alone.  

The Ladies at Longbourn

Amanda Root 1995
It was with trepidation that Anne followed her sister Mary down the remarkably ordered road, packed with structures one would undoubtedly describe as noble homes, had they not been stacked one on top of the next. Yet when she spotted the great house at Uppercross, remarkable as it appeared sitting upon a street corner surrounded by neighbors on all sides, the world suddenly seemed not so unbearable. It was her first taste of true comfort since reality had been cast into confusion that morning, when she watched a house materialize upon her sister's veranda,  Mary must have felt something similar, for both quickened their steps, hurrying to the door. Upon crossing the threshold, they found themselves in such a scene of chaos that the one just left no longer seemed so bizarre.

Morag Hood 1971
Children ran everywhere, several unknown persons crowded the hall, and all seemed to be talking at once, creating a grand cacophony. Instantly spotting Charles through the mayhem, Mary threw herself into his arms and burst into tears.

"Charles!" she cried through her sobs. "Do you know what has happened? Has the whole world gone mad? Thank goodness Anne was with me, for I never could have calmed the boys myself. Jemima is overwrought and completely useless!"

"Mary!" he said soothingly, leading both ladies into an adjoining parlor. "I cannot think that Anne, nor you, would have left the boys alone with her if that were true."

"What can you know of it? Men do always manage to avoid everything most disagreeable!"  

Simon Russell Beale 1995
"You would not envy me if you knew what I have been up to," he mumbled disconsolately. "That strange woman brought all these people here, insisting my mother take them in for some indefinite period of time. I was not here, and so do not know quite how it was, but she assures me that there was no rejecting them. The Harvilles seem very good sorts, but I know not what to make of this Benwick fellow. Even worse, she insisted Lousia be sent to bed for a head injury she never has sustained. How either agreed to such a thing, I haven't a clue."

Judy Cornwell 1995
"She was not to be denied!" explained a remarkably placid Mrs. Musgrove, just then entering the room. "Had you met Mrs. Adams, you would have complied with her wishes too, Charles. How else could she convince Captain and Mrs. Harville to relocate their entire family from Lyme? Just imagine! Two of poor Richard's commanding officers! I could not possibly refuse them."

"I already explained to you, mama, that they did not come from Lyme, but just up the road. The entire world has been turned on its head, you know, and Harville has a perfectly good house not two miles from here. The only trouble seems to be that he took the place on account of its proximity to the ocean, and now it sits upon a river instead! Quite remarkable!"

"It certainly is," concurred Anne, glad to be getting to the matter uppermost in her mind. "I am no scientist, but must there not be some reasonable explanation for the strange phenomenon we are experiencing?"

"Someone might have one, but it is not me," declared Charles with fervor. "If I were to consider the matter, I think this Mrs. Adams must be at the very root of the problem."

"Oh no, Charles!" his mother cried. "She had the sweetest baby girl! Besides, only think how very kind of her it was to warn us that Louisa might fall if she went to Lyme. We had no plans for such an excursion, but nevertheless, it is quite a relief to me that we shall never have to suffer such a harrowing incident as Mrs. Adams described. It was really quite dreadful!"

"But that is precisely my point, mama! How could she come by such information, and why would she insist that you take in all these unknown house guests!"

"She said it was essential to my daughter's happiness. I do not know to which she referred, but I am not one to do anything that might curtail the pleasures of my children! She further told me that Mary and Anne would soon arrive, and that I was to send them to a house down the road - Longbourn is the name - just as soon as I was able. There is much to do, but I am sure I can manage with just Henrietta. You had best be on your way at once, for they must be expecting you!'

Be it due to the relief of action or just plain curiosity, the sisters readily complied with this dictate. Of course, Mary did make some protest, particularly when she discovered that Charles was to remain behind, but even this was relatively mild. Soon they were again making their way down the strange road, and it was not long before they stood in front of the ivy covered edifice that Mrs. Adams had described to Mrs. Musgrove.

"This is very strange, Anne. Can we really just appear upon the doorstep of persons totally unconnected to us?"

"Nothing can be stranger than this morning, Mary. Such exceptional circumstances surely override common civilities. Besides, we have Mrs. Adams recommendation." Even as she said the words, Anne wondered if the residents of the house would have any idea who Mrs. Adams was, but she kept her thought to herself and knocked upon the door. 

Alison Steadman 1995
The ladies were ushered into a small sitting room overcrowded by ladies, young and old. A Mrs. Bennet greeted them in a flustered and overly intimate manner, instantly arousing Mary's disdain. She put forward three of her daughters, all rather unpromising, explaining as she did so that the two eldest were away from home, "And how they shall ever return to us I am sure I do not know, for we do not even know where we are. It has been a most trying morning, most overwhelming to my nerves! This is Mrs. Dashwood and her youngest daughter, Miss Margaret. The two eldest, she tells me, are in London, just like my poor Jane. Who can say, my dear Mrs. Dashwood, if we shall ever see our dear girls again! And this is Mrs. Weston, who has no children, but nevertheless worries about a Miss Woodhouse. Do you have children, Mrs. Musgrove?"

"I have two sons."

"Sons! Are they married?"

Mary's hauteur increased. "They are four and two!"

"Oh! Mere boys then," said Mrs. Bennet despondently. "Be grateful! You cannot know the worries Mrs. Dashwood and I bear."

"I assure you, ma'am, that the events of this day have left me quite as distraught as anyone. I am terribly prone to the headache, and it is a wonder I have not yet succumbed."

As Mary and Mrs. Bennet began an animated debate regarding who suffered more, Anne found a seat between Mrs. Dashwood, who looked to be struggling not to laugh, and Mrs. Weston.

Janet McTeer 2008
"Do not mind our hostess," said Mrs. Dashwood in an undertone. "I have now been here for some hours and feel quite the expert on her excitability. I was on the verge of departing when Mrs. Weston arrived, but as she too had spoken with Mrs. Adams and been directed here by her, I decided to remain. We are very fortunate in Mrs. Bennet's hospitality."

"You are not concerned for your daughters?" asked Anne.

"Not at all. Mrs. Adams assures me they should be along shortly."

"Who is Mrs. Adams? I did not see her myself but was the recipient of a message, yet I cannot but think she must be somehow involved in whatever it is that has happened to us all."

Samantha Bond 1995
"It is most peculiar," agreed Mrs. Weston, "but having spoken with the lady and seen her with that dear little girl, I am assured there can be no harm in her. Her knowledge of us all is uncanny, and I know not how she came by it, but she is going to help us. I feel certain of it."

"Mrs. Weston is right. We just have to stay here and wait for whatever it is that will happen next."

All three ladies glanced towards Mrs. Bennet, who was now insisting Mrs. Musgrove could not possibly know a headache as bad as her own, and Anne realized that she ought to intervene before Mary became too incensed. Before she could ask their hostess where Longbourn, under normal circumstances, was located, a diversion was provided by one of the Miss Bennets, who exclaimed from her perch by the window:

Polly Maberly 1995
"Look, mamma! Is that not Mr. Bingley coming towards the house?"

"Mr. Bingley!" Mrs. Bennet cried, bustling towards the window.

"There is another gentleman with him - it looks like that tall, proud man."

"Good gracious! Mr. Darcy! What is the world coming to? And Jane stuck in town! How will we ever get her back before he leaves again?"

All the ladies, whether they knew who the gentlemen referred to were or not, eagerly awaited their knock.

Finding Hunsford

Mr. Darcy hurried beside Bingley towards Longbourn, quite forgetting his purpose as he rushed towards where he hoped Miss Elizabeth Bennet might be found. He could feel the letter still in his breast pocket, the slight friction it created a constant reminder of his disappointment and the agony suffered in its writing. But if she were there, how would he ever be able to deliver it? It was impossible. He would have to find a way to meet her in private, which is precisely the circumstance she would be most determined to avoid. Perhaps she remained at Hunsford, wherever it might be. Regardless, he knew not why he continued to hurry towards the one familiar object in a most bizarre landscape, for he could only expect a very cool reception, assuming Elizabeth's feelings for him were indicative of her family's.

And how would they greet Bingley? What would he say upon learning of Darcy's involvement in separating him from Miss Bennet? His pace slackened, and he began to fall behind his friend. There was every possibility that Elizabeth would write to her sister regarding what she had learned.  Looking about him, he saw with guilty feelings all the houses they had passed by, the residents of each requiring interview. "One moment, Bingley!" he called out, coming to a complete stop.

"What is it Darcy? Do you not see it is Longbourn? I know you think she thought little of me, but I have been unable to forget her. I must see if Miss Bennet is home."

"For once I am as anxious to greet familiar faces as you are, but we really should not have hastened here so. It was negligent. We have a responsibility to fulfill."

"We can retrace our steps as soon as our call is complete, but I for one will begin nowhere other than Longbourn."

"Very well," Darcy conceded, loath to come between Bingley and the Bennets again, and he lengthened his strides once more. It was only a few minutes before they were at the door.

"Mr. Bingley! How excellent to see you again. And Mr. Darcy, too." He noticed how her suddenly cold tone raised the eyebrows of the three ladies on the sofa, two of which shared a significant glance. If Mrs. Bennet's lack of hospitality did not make him uneasy enough, their acute inspection solidified his discomfiture. Instinctively, his hauteur rose.

Anne perceived Mr. Darcy's response to the close scrutiny he and Mr. Bingley received, not just from those who had not previously made his acquaintance, but also from the two youngest daughters of the house, who were giggling and whispering to each other in a most conspicuous manner. She dropped her gaze and focused upon her work, supplied from Mrs. Bennet's poor basket, relieving him of at least one set of prying eyes. Her response did not go unnoticed by Mr. Darcy, who was instantly reminded of Elizabeth's recent rebukes. He forced his face into an expression he hoped was amiable.

"You find us in uproar, as I am sure you know," continued their hostess, having completed the introductions. "Do tell me, Mr. Bingley, if you returned to the neighborhood on purpose, or just happened to find yourself amongst us again?"

"The latter, I am afraid, but I always intended to return to Netherfield. It was really very convenient that I just happened to wake up there this morning. Oddly enough, I now find myself neighbor to your cousin's benefactress. Are your older daughter's at home?"

"Sadly not. As I have been saying to Mrs. Dashwood, who too has daughters in town, no one can know the agony we suffer, not knowing where our dear ones might be!"

"And I have repeatedly assured you, Mrs. Bennet," said Mary Musgrove, "that all mothers know such suffering. I have two boys of my own, gentlemen, and very find lads you will find them. You must come to Uppercross and shoot with my husband. It is not a quarter mile from here." She smiled amiably, very pleased with the appearance of these new acquaintances.

 "You forget, Mary, that the park is quite gone," reminded Anne.

"Oh dear! I quite forgot. We must hope that someone has retained their park, or else I know not what Charles will do with himself. He must have something to hunt."

"Perhaps he will begin with his own grounds."

Mr. Darcy looked eagerly towards Anne. "That must be the first object with us all. We passed several homes on our way here. In which direction is Uppercross?"

"Due North," Anne replied.

"Then we must have passed it on our way here."

"It is a Tudor building and quite conspicuous sitting in prominence on the corner. It was much more at home in its cozy grove in Somersetshire."

"I recall it well. Your description is most apt." Darcy was please to discover a sensible lady amongst the party assembled, even if she was not the one he had hoped (and feared) to find.

"My husband and I live in the Cottage, which is now just a block beyond." Mary supplied.

Mrs. Weston looked interested. "The pretty little place with the French windows? The trellis in my garden at Randalls lies directly to your left."

"It is very convenient we have met you all here," said Mr. Darcy seriously. "Several of us have banded together to search the area, discovering who it is we all find ourselves amongst, and trying to see if we cannot locate this strange woman who seems to be implicated in whatever it is that has happened."

"You mean Mrs. Adams," said Mrs. Dashwood.

"Have you seen her?" asked Mr. Darcy eagerly.

"Yes. Mrs. Weston, Mrs. Bennet, and I have all conversed with her, and we agree she seems a pleasant, if unusual, lady. She is undoubtedly the person to speak to, if your goal is to make some sense out of our predicament."

"What else could it be? We all must want to get to the bottom of this."

"I for one am very pleased to find myself amongst so many new acquaintances," declared Mrs. Bennet defiantly. "Even you, Mr. Darcy, can no longer find the society of our neighborhood limited. Only think of the dinner parties we are sure to have!"

"Forgive me, madame, but I cannot think of such things at a time like this. It is imperative that we learn what has happened to us, and in order to do so, it seems we must find this Mrs. Adams."

"I think Mr. Darcy is quite right," defended Mrs. Musgrove. "Social concerns certainly must wait until some very pressing questions have been answered. Then we may consider entertaining, and I have no doubt that Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove will be amongst the first to open their doors to our new neighbors." secretly, she worried that such behavior would force her to associate with those beneath her notice, but she wisely kept such concerns to herself.

Julia Sawalha 1995
"Perhaps Mr. Bingley will have another ball at Netherfield," giggled Lydia Bennet. "The last one was marvelous! I'm sure I danced with every one of the officers."

"Certainly there will be quite a competition to see who can be most hospitable," said Darcy dryly, "and my friend Bingley can be counted upon to enter the ranks, but to keep to the matter at hand, is your home located in the vicinity as well, Mrs. Dashwood?"

"Barton Cottage is not a block away. You can see it from the window."

He looked where she pointed, to a picturesque cottage not one hundred yards away, but his eye was caught elsewhere. Directly beside it stood the familiar rectory of Hunsford.

"Mrs. Bennet, are you aware that your cousin's home at Hunsford is also within sight?" He instantly found himself crowded out by the three Bennet girls, who all jockeyed for position at the window.

"Mr. Collins? Dear me! How disagreeable! Well, at least we will have Lizzy at home, though Jane would be much more to the point! You will excuse me, I'm sure, but I must collect her at once. There is no need for her to be keeping Charlotte company when I could very well use her assistance here. Mary, you will entertain our guests until I return."

Tessa Peake-Jones 1980
"Yes, Mama," she replied importantly. "Shall I open the pianoforte? Perhaps some of our new neighbors are musical."

"Yes, yes! Whatever you like. I must be off! Kitty, you are to accompany me."

"But I do not want to see Mr. Collins anymore than you do, Mama! Why must I be the one to go?"

"As Darcy and I are heading in that direction ourselves, we would be happy to escort you to Hunsford, Mrs. Bennet," offered Bingley.

"Thank you, Mr. Bingley! Always such a gentleman!"

Polly Maberley 1995
"Then you will have no need of my company, will you Mama?"

"No, Kitty, I have no need of you. Surely a lady of my age does not require a chaperone!' she giggled as girlishly as her daughters.

Darcy struggled to not show his contempt, bringing his thoughts back to Elizabeth and how she would react to him showing up at Hunsford in the company of her mother. It was a circumstance to be avoided at all costs."

"Is Mr. Bennet at home?" he asked hopefully. "We should really speak with him prior to our departure. Perhaps I might interview him while Mr. Bingley sees you to Hunsford?"

"No. Mrs. Adams carried him off with her. Something about a most impressive library it was imperative he see. I know not when we shall see his return."

"That is unfortunate," he conceded, knowing not how else to avoid a most uncomfortable meeting with Elizabeth. "I suppose we might as well continue southward from the Rectory, and then we can call at the homes we missed as we return to Donwell."

"Donwell Abbey!" exclaimed Mrs. Weston excitedly. "Dear Mr. Knightley's home! How good it will be to see a familiar face."

"I well know the feeling," chimed in Bingley. "It was familiarity that hastened Darcy and myself here. Are you acquainted with Miss Woodhouse as well?"

"Dear me, yes! I was her governess before I married Mr. Weston."

"Her governess!" cried Mary and Mrs. Bennet in tandem, the former raising her chin disdainfully, while the latter began to lecture Mrs. Weston regarding the vast difference between a mother's tender feelings and that of a hired caretaker.

Perceiving the discomfort of her companion, Anne was quick to advise Mrs. Weston to call on Donwell posthaste, that she might be reunited with her friends. "I will join you," she said, rising from her seat. "I am afraid my curiosity is far too engaged to tolerate sitting here and waiting for something to happen. Would you care to join us, Mary?"

Mrs. Musgrove was unsure. She was not eager for more walking, but she also had no desire to become further acquainted with Mrs. Weston.

"If you like, Mrs. Musgrove, Darcy and I could call here again to escort you either to Donwell or your own home, once we again head in that direction." It was his ardent desire that Miss Bennet would somehow materialize in her family home before they returned, in a similar way to that which Miss Elizabeth had been located.

"Thank you, Mr. Bingley. That is most attentive. I will remain here, Anne."

"Very well. I shall see you shortly. Are you ready, Mrs. Weston?"

"I certainly am. Surely learning of my dear Emma's whereabouts was precisely what Mrs. Adams intended in directing me here."

"You know, Bingley, perhaps I ought to see the ladies on to Donwell. From there I could call at the houses that remain unaccounted, meeting you somewhere in the middle. We would cover ground far more quickly in such a manner."

"Excellent notion! I will see you shortly."

So Anne, Mrs. Weston, Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Bingley all said their goodbyes to Mrs. Musgrove, Mrs. Dashwood, Margaret, who was looking on in wide eyed fascination as Lydia dictated to her older sister what pieces she ought and ought not to play, and the three Bennet daughters. Upon reaching the road, they parted ways, Mr. Bingley and Mrs. Bennet bound for Hunsford, while Darcy enjoyed the surprisingly felicitous companionship of Mrs. Weston and Miss Elliot as they made their way back up the hill. He looked behind him one last time towards Hunsford, simultaneously yearning to enter the parsonage doors and congratulating himself on his near escape.

Somewhere Over Surrey

Mr. Knightley sat some hours with Mr. Woodhouse. It was impossible to make the distraught man even remotely comfortable in any less time. Though relieved to know Emma was safe at Donwell, he could not make his mind up to her being sent for, just in case the world turned upside down once more while she was walking about, nor could he allow Mr. Knightley to leave, for much the same reason. It was only when Miss Bates and her niece called, in company with the Eltons, that he could even begin to believe that reality bore the slightest resemblance to its own self.

Sophie Thompson 1996
They had met Mr. Tilney, who steered them in the direction Donwell and Hartfield currently lay. "My dear Mr. Woodhouse! How very strange! I was just telling Jane, I do not know what to make of it! Is it not extraordinary? My mother and I were breakfasting. Jane was not yet about, as she is unused to our early hours, you know. The Colonel and Mrs. Campbell rose far later, but of course they would need the sleep, with all their many evening engagements. The very quiet manner in which mother and I live must be very difficult for Jane, following such fine style. Of course, Mr. Perry does think the quiet will do her good, Mr. Woodhouse -"
Donald Eccles 1972

"Indeed, my dear Miss Bates, you must do precisely as Perry prescribes! No one understands the cause of headache better than Perry!"

"Certainly, my dear Mr. Woodhouse - and how kind of you to take such interest in Jane's health - but I do think the change in environment must require some time for adjustment. So you see Jane was not in the room at the time, but mother and I were, and we saw it all happen just as clear as I see all these good friends before me now. Well, it is possible Mother did not, for while with her spectacles - so cleverly secured by Mr. Frank Churchill: is he not gallant? - she can certainly see well enough for her work, and thank goodness for it, but I often wonder if she has difficulty at a distance. Just the other day, I saw Miss Cole and William Cox walking together. "Mother," I said, "is that not Mr. William Cox escorting Miss Cole?" and mother could not confirm that it was. I am very sure I was correct, however, because I saw Mrs. Cole later that morning, and she told me they had met at Ford's - Poor Mrs. Ford! - and William brought her home. I wonder where they all can be? One moment all of HIghbury was just where it ought to be, and the next moment I was looking at an entirely unfamiliar set of houses! Is it not extraordinary?"

Fiona Walker 1972
"It is highly unusual!" concurred a piqued Mrs. Elton. "I never heard of such goings on at Maple Grove!"

Blake Ritson 2009
"Exactly so, Augusta! Highly unusual! What is to be done?"

All naturally looked to Mr. Knightley for direction, and he told them of the meeting that had taken place at Donwell, and what had there been decided. He would like to have sent them all on to his home, that they might gather as many of the residents of this bizarre neighborhood in one place, but having already determined that no good could come from trying to move Mr. Woodhouse, he recommend they all remain at Highbury except Mr. Elton, who might assist him in canvassing the area. This, however, Mrs. Elton could not bear. She was not of a nervous nature, being blessed with those precious resources that preclude such disorders, but under these exceptional circumstances, she thought it not unreasonable for a new bride to require her husband's attentions. Mr. Knightley would not deign to argue such points, and assured that these Highbury notables would be pleased to commiserate with each other for no short period of time, Mr. Knightley said his goodbyes and made good his escape.

He had not walked far down the lane when he met Mr. Tilney, who was leading an assortment of incongruent characters to Donwell. "Mr. Knightley!" he hailed him. "I have not managed to find Mrs. Adams, but I have found the family she recommended to me, the Prices. This is Sir Thomas Bertram, who was so good as to offer his assistance, and Mr. Crawford. I found the latter in company with Mr. Price and his daughters, who were walking in Norfolk when they found themselves stranded on this strange road. Amazingly convenient that Mrs. Adams told me precisely where their home lay, is it not, for they knew not in which direction to turn. I thought to bring them with me first, that they might share in our conference."

"You have been far more productive than I," Mr. Knightly said upon completing the introductions. "I have only been to one house, the owner of whom was already known to me, and though several more members of my own neighborhood found us there, at your direction, I am only now setting out to explore the road ahead."

"I do not think it worth your time," replied Mr. Tilney. "I did venture some distance that way and found nothing but park land. It would take a great deal of time to explore it further, and I think our hours of daylight dwindle. Let us return to Donwell."

Mr. Knightley looked to the sky and saw the truth. Though spring, the day seemed not nearly as long as it ought - yet one more unfathomable puzzle to solve. He turned his steps towards home, falling in with these new companions.

It quickly became clear that there was more connection between the newcomers than appearances would have suggested. Though never fashionable, Mr. Knightley knew a perfectly tailored coat a well as the next gentleman, and thought it rather odd that a man of Mr. Crawford's stamp should be paying court, as he transparently was, to the daughter of such a creature as Mr. Price. So much was the attestation of appearance alone, but the relationship took on a still odder appearance when it became clear that the Misses Price were nieces to Sir Thomas. It was to this gentleman whom Mr. Knightley felt instinctively drawn, hoping the conscientious stamp of his brow would prove him an asset, but he found him taciturn and withdrawn.  At first he supposed this an understandable result of their unusual predicament - an excuse he had been making for many a new acquaintance that day - but upon understanding he was a relation to Mr. Price, the reasons behind the man's chagrin became more transparent. Clearly, here was not a connection of which he boasted. It was impossible the men were brothers, so Mr. Knightley assumed their wives must be sisters, and either Mr. Price had done very well for himself in marriage, or Sir Thomas rather poorly.

The former gentleman proved more garrulous than the baronet, eagerly questioning Mr. Knightley as to his business. Upon learning him a gentleman farmer, he expressed himself thusly:

David Buck 1983
"Are you, sir? That may do very well for some; Mr. Crawford's in the same line, and he's as right a lad as ever I met. But the call of the sea was all I ever knew, and my sons are just the same. My boy William was just made lieutenant, and prouder of him I could not be!"

"Very understandable, sir! I congratulate you."

"Lord knows it would have been the devil to pay had I to sponsor them myself - I've lost count of how many boys I've had! But Sir Thomas has been a fine one for patronage. He nearly raised Fan there, my eldest, and neither hide nor hair of her have we seen these many years, but even he never was able to see them promoted. Then here comes along Mr. Crawford, nephew to the admiral of same name, and before we know it William's made! Just like that! It goes to show how important grand connections are at sea, and if you had none yourself, I do not blame you one bit for keeping firm anchor on land."

Mr. Knightley saw Miss Price's conscious blush, and Mr. Crawford's attempt to shield her from the worst of this speech. Instinctively, she shed away from him and towards her uncle, who seem to find her companionship a cordial under trying circumstances.

Bernard Hepton 1983
"I trust we will soon be at our destination," he heard Sir Thomas saying. "You know poor Tom is sick abed, and I do not like to leave Lady Bertram alone under such strain."

Sylvestra Le Touzel 1983
"Is not my Aunt Norris with her, sir?" questionsed a concerned Miss Price.

"Indeed she is, Fanny, but I begin to wonder of late if she does not aggravate your aunt more than she helps. She has not proved of much assistance in this late crisis."

"I am sorry to hear that, sir."

"You shall return with me to Mansfield tonight, Fanny. We need your calm presence. Your things, it seems, can be readily sent for, and as your family is now located so nearby," he suppressed a weary sigh, "there is no need for you make a formal goodbye."

Miss Price seemed grateful for this consideration. Mr. Knightley thought he began to know these people and wondered how their familial tensions might cause further havoc amidst the existent chaos. Mr. Tilney's thoughts must have been similar, for the two men shared a concerned glance. Little did they know what greater trials lay immediately ahead.

An Awkward Business

Emma Woodhouse had her hands full. In their master's absence, Mr. Knightley's servants naturally looked to her for direction, and amidst such unprecedented circumstances, much was required. To further play hostess to three such contrary characters as were left upon her hands taxed her ingenuity in no small degree. Little did she recognize, however, the many undercurrents compelling her new associates, a wonder for one so perceptive to the affairs of others. The strain of the present crisis must stand as excuse for such uncharacteristic stupidity.

It was not long following the gentlemen's departure that Sir Walter returned, bringing with him John Dashwood, Captain Wentworth, and Admiral Croft. An intense dispute had arisen amongst these men. Sir Walter, claiming the loss of Camden Place, demanded to resume his position as master of Kellynch. Yes, he understood that he had signed a contract with his tenant, precluding any legal claim, but yet he insisted that the present predicament render it null and void. Surely had he foreseen such a need, he would never have then permitted such restrictive terms.

Rupert Penry-Jones 2007
This was the first meeting Captain Wentworth had been forced to endure with the foolish baronet since his broken engagement to her daughter some eight years ago. He could not regret the lost connection, nor had he forgotten the very insulting way he had been treated by Sir Walter at that time. To have him appear out of nowhere now, and behaving so incredibly unreasonable, was almost more than the Captain could stand. Stubbornly he defended his brother's rights, but Sir Walter grew increasingly dictatorial. Proclaiming he was sure his new acquaintance, Sir John Dashwood, would be so hospitable as to provide accommodations for the displaced Crofts, that gentleman stalled and stammered over a response to such presumption, neither wanting to offend Sir Walter nor house the strangers. The end result was the gentlemen carried their dispute all the way back to Donwell, leaving Mrs. Croft at Norland en route, in hopes she and its mistress might have better luck resolving the conflict than their husbands.

The distraction of their arrival was welcome to Emma for the garrulousness they added to the conversation, as the ladies had been proceeding very poorly on their own. Lady Catherine had established herself in the room's most imposing chair and ordered about the servants as if she were in her own home. As they insisted on deferring to Emma in everything, she quickly became a focus for all her ladyship's chagrin, and had been enduring a barrage of slights with far more grace than she had ever thought possible. Reflecting that one never knew one's strength until tested, she congratulated herself on maintaining her pose, and concentrated her attentions on getting to know Miss Morland, whom she found perfectly charming. One so innocent and artless had instant appeal to Emma, and she further ingratiated herself by proving so accommodating to these more difficult new acquaintances.

As unable to shake off her wounded dignity as Lady Catherine, though she expressed in a quieter fashion, Elizabeth Elliot found it expedient to make herself that lady's ally. It was clear who would be dominant in their strange tea party, and the discussion enjoyed its most peaceful plateau while they contentedly compared genealogies. Emma could not like the disdain of Miss Elliot's tone upon learning that Mr. Morland was with the church, nor Lady Catherine's officious questions regarding his income, but as Miss Morland seem to take this treatment in stride, she was loath to intervene on her behalf. Anything that kept the peace she welcomed, until the two ladies began to attack the accommodations at Donwell.  Here she would speak, and it was a good thing the gentlemen entered when they did, for she feared that the conversation was in danger of becoming an outright argument.

The servants now reached a fevered pitch of confusion. Were all these people dining at Donwell? Where was a butcher to be found in these strange surroundings? Though no one was dressed to dine, Emma thought Mr. Knightley had best provide at least a light repast, and she excused herself to consult with Mrs. Hodge in the storeroom. Never before had she delved this deep into the Abbey, and her eye was alert to every convenience and arrangement. After such a day of previously unknown excitement, Emma was of a mind to find interest everywhere, and she praised the housekeeper's methods with enthusiasm, thereby placating her troubles to no small degree. Emma hoped, upon returning to the drawing room, that Mrs. Hodges would pass her cheered demeanor onto the rest of the staff, giving her an opportunity to get to know some of the gentlemen. She was very pleased with the appearance of Captain Wentworth, an impression increased when she noted Miss Elliot's cold reception of him.

John Woodvine 1995
Frederick was happy to speak with a companion both pretty and intelligent. To forget the Elliots at such a moment was no small luxury. As the Admiral seemed pleased to sit between Miss Morland and Lady Catherine, happily regaling both with tales of high adventure on the sea in spite incessant interruption, and Elizabeth had quickly commanded her father's full attention, alive with concerns for the slighted Dalrymples, for whom Mr. Dashwood found surprising quantities of sympathy, he could only count himself fortunate in his companion. Here was sweetness of manner, more than a little beauty, and what he suspected was an uncommonly strong mind. Well did he recall reciting these qualification to his sister, not a week before, and despite the urgency of their circumstances, he could only wonder, as he listened to Miss Woodhouse speak of her father, if he had not fallen in with precisely the lady for whom he had been searching.

When Anne Elliot entered the room, he tried to grasp onto these thoughts and cling to them, much like lifeboat, for protection. With renewed intensity did he attend to Miss Woodhouse, determined that Anne should not perceive what pain her mere presence caused him, but unfortunately, his temptress was accompanied by two companions, one of whom immediately claimed Miss Woodhouse's full attention. Consumed by her delight to see Mrs. Weston, the charming captain was forgotten, left to stand in uncomfortable state before the newcomers, struggling to avoid Anne's eye.

Anne was equally disconcerted to come upon Captain Wentworth in such a manner, and the surprise of being reunited with her father and sister before him intensified her discomfort. Mr. Darcy saw her unease, and grateful for the way in which she had soothed his own disordered nerves at Longbourn, he now put his efforts into returning the favor. Seeing that Miss Elliot and his aunt had come to a sort of understanding, he found himself secluded into an area of the room that contained its most haughty inhabitants. Still suffering under Miss Bennet's rebukes of the previous evening, it was only Miss Anne whom he could tolerate amongst their select group, and the two engaged in a more animated conversation than was customary to either, she seeking relief for feelings most overwrought, and he hoping to distinguish himself from the pretensions of the others. It was at this moment that another group was announced, and he heard, with something between panic and delight, Miss Bennet announced.

In the Kitchen 

Too much cannot be said of Mrs. Hodge at such a moment. Though the cares of a shifting reality lay just as heavily on her shoulders as on those belonging to the assembled company in Donwell's best drawing room, the latter did not need to concern themselves with how to procure sustenance for such a crush, including no less than two baronets, when the butcher has disappeared.

The nightmare began that morning when William Larkins burst into her office demanding whether or not she knew the world had been turned upside down. She did not, and a quick assessment from her window proved that the world was very well right side up, which she told him, though how to account for the familiar sight of Hartfield, looking anything but ordinary sitting no more than fifty yards distant, just as if it had always been so close, she did not know. "And how is a man expected to get anything done on an estate which had mostly vanished?" he inquired. Again, answers were unavailable, resulting in the rousing of Mr. Knightley, an audience for his complaints far more satisfying than Mrs. Hodge. Though Mr. Knightley was no more able than his housekeeper to address William Larkin's concerns, speaking with the master made him feel as if he were doing something.  The two men went outside to inspect the situation, while Mrs. Hodge set about the none too easy task of calming the alarmed servants. Before she could convince them to take up their customary duties, she found herself beset by the arrival of an angry crowd of discommoded gentry. The maids no longer had anytime to cry over the end of the world, for the ladies needs must be met, and refreshments must be prepared.

A moment of true panic came when Miss Woodhouse, no doubt meaning to be helpful, called upon Mrs. Hodge to join her in a survey of the pantry. Though flattered by the lady's praise of her arrangements, and while the dishes she suggested be prepared were very reasonable and showed a great deal of good taste, Miss Woodhosue seemed totally unaware that with the disappearance of the farm, and with no hide nor hair of Highbury to be seen, there was almost no meat to be found. When Mrs. Hodge attempted to voice her concerns, they were airily dismissed. "Under such circumstance, Mrs. Hodge, everyone can certainly make do with a light repast. They will all have born worse fare. Some of the most exclusive assemblies in town are known to offer only scant refreshment. I have no doubt Lady Catherine and Miss Elliot have attended Almacks, but to ask them such a question," she laughed, "would only earn them my disdain, and I dare not afford them such ready bait."

"But Miss Woodhouse, how many must be fed?"

"I think we are about twenty now, but there may be more," she said reflectively. "I am sure we will make do very well," and she left Mrs. Hodges to the more stark realities of their circumstances.

The dairy and poultry yard were still existent, a great relief to all at Donwell concerned with the making and procurement of food, and the men were able to shoot a few birds, but as the evening drew nearer, and the world had still not returned to normal, Mrs. Hodge became desperate. The numbers of  hungry ladies and gentleman continued to swell upstairs until near sixty were assembled, and while the dining room at Donwell could accommodate so many, it had not been called on to do so in the past forty years. As footmen began calling, bearing bandboxes and portmanteaus containing evening dress for their masters and mistresses, it was becoming increasingly clear to the harried housekeeper that a disaster of epic proportions was close at hand. Unwilling to completely empty her storeroom, not knowing how she would feed the household tomorrow if she did, every extra hand available was employed in quickly assembling as extensive a meal as the circumstances allowed, while the rest of the staff, idle workmen included, struggled to prepare quarters to serve as dressing rooms for the guests.

Mrs. Hodge troubles were unnecessarily increased by one of the gentleman - a querulous baronet by the name of Sir Walter Elliot - who seemed to require just as much or even more care than the most demanding of the gentler sex. Her patience in listening to his derision of the footman who had been ordered to assist Sir Walter, Mr. Knightly not keeping a man of his own, was an act of rare fortitude, draining the poor woman of almost every last ounce of energy yet remaining. When she fortified herself enough to enter the kitchen and gauge the progress being made there, she was almost entirely undone by the sight of a most unusual woman - genteel or not she could not tell - laughing bemusedly as she pulled several bizarre packages from a large bag, all made of some unrecognizable material, to the attentive audience of the entire kitchen staff. Upon spotting Mrs. Hodge, she abandoned her display to grasp the lady's hand familiarly, exclaiming in unusual accents: "And you must be Mrs. Hodge! To forgive me for the inexcusable predicament I have thrust you into. I had no notion of all the trouble I would cause, let alone that there might be any need for the practical necessities of daily life to be considered. I have nothing but my own ignorance to excuse me, which is rather shabby, don't you think?"

Finding herself expected to reply, Mrs. Hodges managed to murmur an ascent.

"I am doing my best to ease any difficulties until we can sort the whole fiasco out. You must let me know your needs, and I will see to them as best I can. I was fairly certain that Donwell was unlikely to be prepared for such a crowd as you are entertaining tonight, as I imagine Mr. Knightly usually entertains but seldom, and so went to the supermarket on your behalf. I know the plastic is strange to your eyes, but I assure oyu it is perfectly safe. Here are several roasts, all trimmed and ready for cooking. These are chicken breasts. As I was just explain to "Cook", as I understand she is called, that the bones have already been removed. Really rather inexcusable of Austen, is it not Mrs. Hodge, to have paid so little to head to the serving classes? You should be thankful for your name. That is a turkey. You will be unable to prepare it, I am afraid, for several days, for it is frozen. I do hope the rest it is enough to feed your guests. I know they will be expecting a great deal of protein. Had I though tofu might suffice, I would have brought you pounds of the stuff." 


"It's a bean curd product. Very nutritious, but no substitute for English mutton," she laughed. 

Mrs. Hodge tried to join in, but her failed smile was little more than awkward. Fortunately, the lady did not seem to mind.

"I think I can get a bushel of crabs tomorrow. No packaging, so they will appear just like you epect. Would that be satisfactory Cook?"

"Yes, ma'am. The master likes a buttered crab very well."

"Good. How I'm to sustain the grocery bill, I have no idea, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Mrs. Hodge, in spite of her troubles, was too thankful to anyone, no matter how strange, who was so willing to assist in overcoming the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of food preparation when there was no food to be found, without expressing her sincere gratitude. No matter if it came wrapped in strange film, compensation must be addressed, but the lady dismissed it, insisting that she would return later that evening to speak with the company upstairs, and instructing Mrs. Hodge to let Mr. Knightley know to expect her. It was only then that Mrs. Hodge thought to ask for her card. Again, she laughed inexplicably, exclaiming that she did not have one, but assuring the housekeeper that Mr. Knigtley would be happy to receive her, and causally informing the housekeeper of her name, just as if such a form of introduction was perfectly unexceptional, and departed.

"I'm grateful to the lady, no doubt of it, Mrs. Hodge," said the cook, after the door had closed behind her, "but I don't know why anyone would kill so many chickens and only cook the breasts. It makes one think the rest of 'em must still be running about somewhere."

Mrs. Hodge had no time to dwell on the implication of mutilated chickens. Seeing everyone go back to their work, she sought Mr. Knightley, only recently returned, and shared with him her tale of unexpected bounty.

The Letter

Jennifer Ehle -1995
Elizabeth knew she was likely to confront Mr. Darcy at Donwell, Mrs. Bennet having spoken at length of his appearance at Longbourn that day, giving his call all the attention and deference due to the most exciting event of the day, never mind the complete alteration of reality. Her mother was all anticipation for an evening amongst new society, and as nothing seemed more certain than such an officious gentleman busying himself arranging everyone's affairs, she felt certain to find him in the thick of things. As expected, there he stood, but upon hearing her name announced and so quickly catching his stern eye, none of her preparation seemed to matter. Never before had she felt so distinctly uncomfortable in company. So direct and imposing was his glare that she felt certain all must see it too and think his behavior odd. She struggled against the need to blush and steeled herself for the ordeal.

Mr. Darcy had no notion how he might pass the missive he had penned so recently, though it now seemed an eternity ago, to Miss Bennet without being perceived, but he knew that he must deliver it into her hands as soon as he could contrive it. With that intention he had left Rosings in the morning, intending to intercept Miss Bennet in the walk he was certain she would take, but instead he came upon Miss Morland, as the world unaccountably shifted. If they were entrapped in the same crowded society for long, it would not do for Miss Bennet to continue harboring such grave misconceptions as she had of him. Already he felt shame for the anger with which he first sought pen and paper. Some sentiments expressed were fleeting, particularly under the stress of true emergency, and he wished he had left more unsaid. Just seeing Elizabeth somehow made the whole topsy-turvy world seem a little less maddening, but he did not know when he might have the time to rewrite his hasty words.

Mr. Bingley, who had escorted the Bennets, along with Mrs. Dashwood, Miss Margaret, and Mr. and Mrs. Collins, to Donwell, quickly came to Darcy's side, expressing his dismay in finding no trace of Jane Bennet, nor his own sisters. "Mrs. Dashwood also has two daughter's in London, but who can say where London might be? I was certainly in town last night, but as I woke up in Netherfield, which now stands upon your aunt's honorable lawn, I thought all our other associates might also be found in the neighborhood."

"Let us hope for not all our associates, Bingley, but just those who most matter," he said, thinking of Wickham. What if he was amongst them as well, and Darcy could not get his letter into Elizabeth's hands before the rogue could further insinuate himself? Somehow, he must find a mechanism for discrete communication. The swelling numbers of guests might be an advantage, and in the chaos that ensued once Mr. Knightley announced that rooms had been prepared for the visitors to repair to and refresh before dinner, he thought he might have his opportunity. Walking with determination towards Miss Elizabeth, who was conversing with Mrs. Collins, he was intercepted by Miss Woodhouse, who swept the two ladies away with an invitation to Hartfeld, visible through the corridor's window, along with a few of the other ladies already dressed. Elizabeth graciously accepted, and they took themselves off in the opposite direction from Darcy, joining a party composed of Miss Morland and Mrs. Weston.

This division of the party was not the result of Emma's determination to gather around herself those ladies whose company appeared the most congenial, simultaneously escaping from those whose presence had so quickly proven intolerable, though it was a welcome result. An entire day spent entertaining Lady Catherine and Miss Elliot was enough to try anyone's patience, so when a squabble looked about to erupt over which ladies received the best accommodations, Miss Woodhouse removed herself from the equation, thereby negating any desire of the servants to give her the preference of family and securing her liberation. She instantly determined to take Miss Morland and Mrs. Weston with her, Miss Bennet and Mrs. Collins being welcome afterthoughts. As they passed through the foyer, the ladies came upon Miss Anne, who had already complete her toilet. Instantly claimed as indispensable to Emma's select group, and the six ladies left the Abbey.

Having dispensed Hartfield's hospitality to each and ordering her maid to lay out her newest and most fashionable evening dress (feeling most unwilling to make a target for Lady Catherine and Miss Elliot's disdain), Miss Woodhouse sought her father. She did not wish to intrude her guests upon his peace after such a trying ordeal, but the hours he had spent with Mr. Knightley had gone far to allay his mind of good deal of anxiety, and Emma was pleased to find him so composed, sipping his gruel by the fire.

"I plan an early evening for me, my dear, as I think it had best be with you, too. Such intolerable excitement as this day has brought unduly taxes the system, and I am sure Perry would recommend a great deal of rest after such exertion, especially for those of delicate constitution. Has Mr. Knightley yet found Perry?"

"That I do not know, Papa, which is why I must hurry and dress for dinner at Donwell. There is yet much to be discussed."

"To go out again, my dear, and after being gone from Hartfeld for so long, is precisely what I wish you would not do."

Emma smiled indulgently, determined to coax her father into acceptance, telling him firmly but gently that she had to go, dwelling on the convenience of having Donwell so very close by, and inquiring into his visit with Miss Bates and the Eltons. Finally seeing him at peace, she excused herself to hasty preparations, promising to send word of Perry, as soon as any was to be had.

Rejoining the ladies in the drawing room, Miss Woodhouse found herself drawn into just the type of intrigue most agreeable to her imagination. Miss Bennet approached her almost immediately, offering quiet thanks for their hostess' timely intervention.

"I do not know if you noticed, Miss Woodhouse, but I am certain Mr. Darcy was about to descend when you invited Mrs. Collins and myself to join you. I think I have rarely been so thankful for an invitation."

"My pleasure to be of service, Miss Bennet. Has Mr. Darcy toubled you?"

Elizabeth blushed slightly, saying only, "He and I do not see eye to eye."

Miss Woodhouse was intrigued. "So you are previously acquainted? I thought he seemed a very pleasant gentleman."

"Mr. Darcy can be agreeable when he chooses," came the elusive reply.

Now Emma was fully alive with curiosity. She had thought Mr. Darcy a bit brusque, but generally e seemed to be cut much from the same cloth as Mr. Knightley, though perhaps with a greater concern for fashion. She could not imagine him arriving at a dinner on foot, or doing anything else so eccentric, but she also could not see him behaving as anything less than a gentleman. Priding herself on her ability to judge character, Emma determined that she would do her best to learn how Mr. Darcy had offended a seemingly sensible lady, though the time for such inquiries was not now at hand. They had a meal to consume and business to discuss, and so the ladies proceeded back to Donwell, ready to encounter whatever further strangeness the remains of the day might unfold.

Mr. Darcy paced Donwell's hall, hoping the ladies would return before any more guests descended. There was already a healthy gathering of gentlemen and ladies amassing in the drawing room, engaged in those conversations that might belong to any party, rather than one so exceptional as this, and while Mr. Darcy was tempted to joining Sir Thomas Bertram, Mr. Tilney, and Mr. Knightlrey in the only sensible discussion there transpiring, his anxiety to deliver the letter, now in his breast pocket, safely to Miss Bennet overrode all other concerns. 

As he crossed the floor for what seemed to be the hundredth time, he became aware of a tapping noise. Looking about him, he noticed a woman, strange to him, strumming on a windowpane and beckoning. Such odd behavior would normally incur his disdain, but such was the nature of the day's events that Mr. Darcy's usual fastidiousness was quite overhauled. He opened the front door and stepped outside, confronting an unusual looking woman. She wore neither hat nor gloves, but these were the least of her peculiarities. What most made him stare was her style of dress, which was unlike anything he had ever before witnessed. Before he could demand what such a disreputable person thought she was about, he was addressed familiarly, in a foreign but educated accent.

"Excuse, Mr. Darcy, for rapping at a window is certainly not the manner in which I wished to make your acquaintance, but I will assume bad first impressions are a good omen with you." He stared in perplexity, and she continued. "You may have deduced that I am Mrs. Adams. I know you must have many questions for me, but I only have a moment to spare. I will be back later in the evening to talk to you all about your predicament, but for now, please take this book. It belongs to Miss Bennet. She left at Rosings the last evening she was there. You may return it to her on behalf of your aunt, securing your letter safely inside."

He eagerly took the book, asking, "But how did you know, Mrs. Adams? I was prepared to find you extraordinary, but did not expect telepathy."

She laughed, encouraged by his acceptance of her help. "All will be explained later, at least as well as I am able to explain it. I shall return soon. You cannot not know what an honor it is to meet you, Mr. Darcy," and she swept away into the darkness.

Before Mr. Darcy reentered the Abbey, the ladies were upon him. Miss Woodhouse was all attention as he bowed and greeted them. Escorting the entire party inside, he turned to Elizabeth and said. "I hoped to speak with you, Miss Bennet." Noticing that he had caught the attention of all six ladies, he visibly stiffened, saying formally, and perhaps a bit louder than was necessary: "I believe you left this volume belongs to you. It was left at Rosings, and my aunt wished me to return it."

Elizabeth took it suspiciously. "It is indeed mine. Though I had not realized it traveled with me to Kent." She thought he flushed and continued, "Please forgive my carelessness, and thank you for your assistance, Mr. Darcy."

"A pleasure, madame," he bowed formally and returned to the drawing room ahead of the ladies.

Claudie Blakley - 2005
Mrs. Collins leaned close to her friend and said softly, "Mr. Darcy is extraordinarily attentive, is he not Eliza?" but Miss Woodhouse could hear each word. She also saw Miss Bennet warn away Mrs. Collins with a look before following Mr. Darcy into the drawing room. Questions of time and space still lay heavy on Emma's mind, but she could admit to herself the intrigue unfolding before her was far more entertaining. Seldom had she enjoyed such an interesting day. Wondering what might be so very particular about so normal looking book, she eagerly looked forward to whatever it was that might happen next.  

Dining at Donwell

Emma watched as the other ladies entered the drawing room, smiling at Mr. Darcy. He remained in the hall, staring most particularly at Miss Bennet's retreating back, and she was certain something very interesting had just occurred between the two - far more than just the simple return of a forgotten object. Perhaps there was a note for Miss Bennet in the book? Mr. Darcy was so very formal in his presentation of the volume, and Emma was certain it must be some sort of a signal, known only to the two of them. Yet Miss Bennet had spoken of wanting to avoid Mr. Darcy - why would she risk a forbidden correspondence with a man she did not care for?  Emma was agog with speculation, her mind rapidly weighing the possibility for romance against that of blackmail, but as soon as she entered the drawing room, Mr. Knightley quickly commanded her attention.

"Thank goodness you have returned, Emma. I require your assistance in sorting out this debacle," he said, gesturing towards the small mob of fashionables, several of whom were engaged in energetic argument.   

Emma smiled, "Let my guess: the issue is precedence? It has been all day."

"You would think, under such circumstances, that pageantry could be set aside, but no. The Elliot family tree must be our prime concern. I pray Sir Thomas Bertram is a better representation of the nation's baronetcies. His only demand regards being seated as far as possible from Mr. Price, which one cannot dismiss as unreasonable."

Emma surveyed the poorly dressed man who eagerly insinuating himself amongst the party's naval contingency. "For that I cannot blame him. I think Mr. Price will be pleased to sit near Captain Wentworth, who might also prove just the man to keep him in check."

He noted his companion's admiring appraisal of the Captain, but said only, "Let us hope the rest of this mass of notables are so easily appeased."

They stepped away from the guests to survey the dining room, where an impressive table had been laid. "My!" Emma exclaimed, looking with familial pride to Mr. Knightley. "Now this is Donwell in its glory! I advised Mrs. Hodge that your guests would understand far less grand fare than this portends. I know not how she and Cook managed such a feat."

"We had some unexpected assistance from Mrs. Adams," he replied. Emma looked at him in surprise. "It seems along with the bulk of Highbury and Donwell, we have misplaced the butcher as well, let alone the livestock to justify his trade."

"I had not considered," she betrayed slight consternation. "Mrs. Adams is remarkably accommodating."

"Indeed," he said dryly. "We shall have much business to attend before she returns."

Emma's face expressed excitement at the prospect, and Mr. Knightley laughed, "Yes, my dear, we will finally meet her ourselves."

"You believe she can extricate us from this confusion?" she asked, her words tinged with a hint of the disappointment she would feel at having such a true adventure come to an end.

"I hope so," he replied, "for I feel fairly certain she must be responsible for it."

They returned to the drawing room where, after several more minutes of squabbling, the guests were finally able to proceed. Sir Walter quickly secured the companionship of his two nieces to himself, and along with the  attending Mr. Crawford, claimed a place for his party as far from his brother-in-law on the one end, and Lady Catherine and Sir Walter on the other, that he could contrive. Fanny found herself seated between Mr. Crawford and Mrs. Dashwood. She felt fortunate in this lady's companionship, for she had both a kindly aspect and a claim on her sympathies, for the locations of her eldest daughters, like Fanny's own friends in town, yet remained unknown. Having been so seldom exposed to the finer aspects of maternal feeling, Fanny felt stupendous admiration for Mrs. Dashwood, who balanced so well the expression of her very true concern with a desire to shield Miss Margaret, sitting on her other side, from the worst of her fears. The ease with which the two conversed and commiserated was a blessing, for Fanny was quite in danger of being overwhelmed by the strange foreboding brought on by her circumstances.

Robert Burbage 1983
Mr. Crawford was largely left to the neighbor on his right. Elizabeth, of course, found her companion thoroughly agreeable, for who but Fanny did not? Her enjoyment of the witty conversation which came so easily to both was, perhaps, unduly increased by the presence of Mr. Darcy across the table, gazing on her disconcertingly. She did not know how he came by her book, which she knew quite well was never at Rosings, and mistrusted his prevarication. Determined to think on it no more, she found a great deal of relief from the tensions of the past two days in Mr. Crawford's discourse. The gentleman's manner was at its very best, for regardless of the alteration of reality, his main purpose remained the pursuit of Fanny, and no matter how charming the lady on his right might be, he would not allow his attentions to pass the bounds of polite discourse into flirtation. 

Mr. Darcy was in agony as he watched Elizabeth laugh at something Crawford said, envying this man only just introduced the enjoyment of her smiles. As soon as the book had left his hand, he began to furiously doubt the wisdom of accepting Mrs. Adams assistance. Who was the woman, after all, and how did she come by Miss Bennet's possessions? He should have forced her to come inside and explain their predicament to her full ability, rather than allowing himself to be distracted by a poor conveyance for his message. The unusual events of the day, compounded with lack of sleep, must be to blame for the unsoundness of his judgement.

Mrs. Collins chose to not take offense at her neighbor's inattention, for a lack of predictable behavior was what she had come to expect from Mr. Darcy. She saw with amusement where his focus was captured, and in doing so also perceived that Miss Woodhouse, too, took note of his interest in Elizabeth. Charlotte wondered what the lady would make of it, particularly after Elizabeth's expressions of dislike for the man. She wished She wouldn't be so dismissive of a man who might offer so very much.

Anne sat on Mr. Darcy's other side, and she too saw a great deal.  There could be no mistaking the gentleman's distress, however, and Anne dismissed all idle speculations, setting herself instead to the task of again relieving Mr. Darcy's discomfort. It took a great deal more effort on her part than it had at Longbourn, but she was eventually rewarded by his posture relaxing, and his attentiveness to her questions increasing.

Captain Wentworth saw her efforts to speak with the same man who had engaged her attention earlier with a degree of pain he could not allow himself to acknowledge. Fortunately, he was amply provided with an abundance of distraction. Here were his good friends, Harville and Benwick, his brother and sister, and a bevy of admiring ladies to entertain him. He had already once made the Misses Musgrove's acquaintance, and the two were fervent in their new found love of all things naval. Kitty and Lydia Bennet quickly doubled the size of his coterie. With so many rivals for his attention, it was hard to spare a thought for Anne Elliot, though he managed it often enough, nevertheless.

Both the John Dashwoods and the Eltons had firmly attached themselves to the de Bourgh and Elliot contingency, and along with Mr. Collins, the three gentleman found themselves in a lively discussion regarding the importance of improving one's state, to which they were graced with a good deal of advice from Lady Catherine. Sir Walter could have nothing to say on such a subject, instead entertaining the ladies with a description of the ugliest woman he ever saw, occasionally interrupting himself to assert loudly his rights to Kellynch.

Amidst such intrigue and frivolity, Catherine was pleased to find herself seated next to Mr. Tilney. "I had wondered if we would never sit down," he said with a smile."Little does Sir Walter know that mine is the most desirable seat at this impressive table."

"Mr. Knightley's servants have certainly proven their worth today," she replied, not perceiving the meaning of his compliment. "To prepare such a feast, and with no notice at all! I am unfamiliar with this preparation of chicken, but it is quite lovely."

"Miss Morland," Henry persisted, "the excellencies of this fine repast aside, never would I have thought, upon setting out for Fullerton this morning, that I would have the felicity of dining beside you this evening. All outrage to the laws of physics aside, I could not be more content with my circumstances or company." Catherine blushed becomingly, unable to misconstrue such advert gallantry, and Henry was pleased to change the subject. "Your father and mother are not with us?"

"No. Miss Woodhouse was so kind as to write to them this morning, informing them of my whereabouts, inviting them to join us at Donwell, and asking if I might be her guest at Hartfield while we sort matters out." She blushed again, this time with pleasure at the flattering attention she had received from her new friend.

"Miss Woodhouse seems an excellent lady. May I take it from your parents absence that you will be residing at the elegant abode next door for the time being?"

"Yes. They could not leave the children this evening, you see, and so I am to represent the family in any discussion of what is to be done," she said with pride.

Henry surveyed her with pleasure. "That is a quite a responsibility. Your father's faith in your ability to fulfill such a role speaks very highly of his daughter's capabilities."

"To be honest, I do not think he would have allowed it, had I not managed the journey from Northanger Abbey so well."

"I have not yet offered my apologies for my father's inexcusable behavior," he said seriously. "Upon learning of the ruthless way in which he revoked his welcome, I immediately set forth to assure myself of your safety."

"You did not need to put yourself to such trouble," she replied, avoiding his gaze.

"Yes, I did, for there would be no peace of mind for myself until I was certain of your well-being. Miss Morland," he lowered his voice, "you must know my feelings for you, or at least recognize their sincerity when I profess how deeply I have come to care for you. Only one so lacking in pretension as yourself could have remained in any doubt this long. I'd like to make it my responsibility to always see to your welfare. Would you allow me that honor?"

Catherine must have reserved her deepest blush for this moment, for she turned a color more ambitious than any yet attempted, to Henry's great delight. "Yes, Mr. Tilney. I would like that very much."

Poor Emma! When she learned later than evening from her new friend what transpired during the course of the dinner, she was most grieved to have allowed such a romantic episode to have passed without her notice. How fortunate that her other new companions were to prove so much more entertaining in their quests for love.

Through the Looking Glass

"Mr. Collins!" Lady Catherine interrupted the rector as he replied to her own question, effectively silencing the table. "Now is not the time to speak of tithes. Can you not perceive that Mr. Knightley has something to say?"

"Thank you, Lady Catherine," said Mr. Knightley, acknowledging her unwanted assistance, for he had indeed risen to his feet in order to command the attention of his guests. Upon fortifying himself the best he could on the rather unusual fare his staff had prepared, the host of this unruly gathering thought it time to address the business in hand. "As much as the familiar rituals of dressing and dining might provide reassurance in a world turned upside down, I'm afraid further delay will not make our situation any more decipherable. I welcome you all to Donwell Abbey and have only to wish your acquaintance was met under more ordinary circumstances. Answers to the many questions this day's unusual events provoke are what we require."

"I believe we can all agree on who might supply those answers," Mr. Darcy spoke up determinedly. "It is Mrs. Adams who is the only person amongst us who seems to understand our circumstances, and to an extraordinary degree."

"Indeed," concurred Mr. Knightley. "I am pleased to say she will be joining us after dinner."

"Then it seems there is little left to be discussed at this time," interposed Sir Walter. "Let us defer further conversation until the ladies withdraw."

"I should also say," proceeded Mr. Knightley, ignoring the increasingly troublesome baronet, "that we our indebted to Mrs. Adams for supplying the bulk of fare upon which we dine this evening. One of the most pressing issues we must face is how to sustain our estates without the produce of the land. I cannot attest for everyone, but almost the entire acreage associated with Donwell has vanished, including the majority of my livestock. There is no sign of the home farm, but the kitchen garden, thankfully, remains."

"My mother's garden is gone," attested Charles Musgrove, "as is the dairy and poultry yard, but most of the woods remain. There was no time to take out a gun today, but I do not think I have ever seen so many birds, nor such varieties."

"I am so relieved, Charles," Mary said happily, "for now you can fulfill my invitation to Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley for a hunting party."

"This hardly seems the time for sport," Sir Thomas said with a frown, "but as Mansfield Park has likewise been reduced to little more than pleasure grounds, it seems it might be necessary."

"I think our first order of business on the morrow ought to be a complete survey of the land," Mr. Knightley determined. "If one estate keeps their poultry, and another their dairy, perhaps we might devise a barter system in order to ensure all needs are met."

"I'm sorry to say I have no grounds to survey," said Mr. Bingley amiably, "as Netherfield Park is entirely surrounded by Rosings on all sides. I would be pleased to accept your invitation, Mrs. Musgrove, but I fear my time must be employed in trying to account for my sister's whereabouts." He actually thought more of Miss Bennet than Caroline, but such concern was not his to profess.

"Excuse me," Mrs. Dashwood spoke up, "but I wonder how many arrangements we should make before consulting with Mrs. Adams."

Mrs. Weston seconded the notion. "She may already have plans for what we are to do."

Mr. Knightley hesitated, "It seems wrong to place so much dependance on one woman."

"And who is this Mrs. Adams, to decide for us all?" Mrs. Elton contributed. "Do we even know who she is?"

"Mrs. Adams will explain herself," Mrs. Dashwood persisted, "but she and I spoke at length this morning.  She left me determined to discover my eldest daughters, and I have complete faith in her ability to extricate us all from this unusual situation."

"As do I," Mrs. Bennet declared pointedly. "Mrs. Adams will bring my dear Jane home again, just as she made sure Lizzy was near at hand. I do wonder what has become of Mr. Bennet, but she will surely tell me when we speak again."

"I wonder if there is not a pattern or meaning to be found in who Mrs. Adams has interacted with so far," Miss Woodhouse mused. "Has she only spoken with those who are missing their relations, like Mrs. Dashwood and Mrs. Bennet?"

"She spoke at length with my mother this morning," Charles Musgrove replied, "and all of our family is together. Even my own house has been relocated within sight of Uppercross. Mrs. Adams brought us guests, in the form of the Harvilles and Captain Benwick."

"So she still had particular business with your mother," Mr. Knightley reflected. "In such chaos, is it possible all her movements could be so efficient?"

"I seemed to meet her quite by accident,"Mr. Tilney attested, "though she rendered me no little service by pointing me in the direction of Fullerton." He smiled at Miss Morland, who blushed becomingly in response.

"How many of you have spoken with Mrs. Adams?" Mr. Knightley asked the company at large. "A show of hands, please." He was surprised to see Mr. Darcy raise his hand, as he had spoken with the man shortly before diner, and he had betrayed no sign of having made her acquaintance. "Mr. Darcy?" he questioned.

The gentleman betrayed some signs of embarrassment. "I met her for just a moment before entering the drawing room this evening." In response to his host's obviously perplexity, he continued, "She was rapping upon the window in your hall."

"Indeed?" said a confused Mr. Knightley. "Had she anything particular to say?"

"She introduced herself and said she would return later in the evening." He could not say she had given him Elizabeth Bennet's book, and he again bemoaned the exchange that forced him to prevaricate.

"Such proceedings do not seem to conform with her previous behavior. I'm afraid that puts an end to your search for order in her appearances, Emma," Mr. Knightley concluded with a slight smile.

"We shall see," was her response, as she studied Mr. Darcy closely.

"There seems little purpose in pursuing such conjecture until the lady, if that is what she is, arrives to enlighten us further," inserted Lady Catherine, determined to maintain her share of the conversation. "Let us focus on the practical. Land must surveyed, and game must be shot. This will occupy the men."

"I think I might prefer to contribute to the game stores as well," supplied John Dashwood, who shuddered to consider what of Norland might have vanished. He had thought to sell his timber before, but never without substantial profit.

"I shall inspect Kellynch personally," asserted Sir Walter poignantly.

"I remind you again, Sir Walter," replied Captain Wentworth severely, "that Kellynch is not at the moment your home, but the legal residence of the Admiral."

"What care I for contracts at such a time? There is not a trace of Bath to be found, rendering it necessary for me to reclaim possession immediately. The Crofts may remain as my guests until further accommodation can be made."

Captain Wentworth began to rise from his seat in protest, but Lady Catherine forestalled him, commanding the attention of the table with a display of her own impressive height. "I invite Sir Walter and Miss Elliot to be my guests at Rosings Park until this predicament is resolved. We have more important matters to discuss."

Some of the more thoughtful and observant members of the party might have detected some communication between the grand lady and her nephew both proceeding and following this intervention, and a few might have silently thanked Mr. Darcy the resolution he seemed to provide to a mounting conflict.

"That is very kind of you, Lady Catherine," Elizabeth Elliot said quickly, grateful for the escape from such a public airing of their difficulty. Sir Walter, upon reflection, was also able to accept her hospitality with gracious sensations, for regardless of his rights as Elliot of Kellynch, it remained an expensive estate to maintain. Furthermore, at a time of crisis, the demands of the landlord were sure to prove exceedingly burdensome, while being the guest of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, no matter how sadly pronounced the lady's crow's feet, sounded very pleasant indeed.

"There is no reason for the ladies to remain idle," Lady Catherine resumed her dictates. "Several should oversea a complete inventory of each estate's stores, while those who ought to be in the classroom," she stared down the table at Lydia and and Kitty Bennet, who were whispering to each other and Captain Benwick, and whose solemn veneer was beginning to break under the influence of their antics, "will be put under Mrs. Jennings supervision at Rosings Hall, that they might benefit from Miss de Bourgh's superior example. Miss Elliot may also assist in their supervision."

This soured the prospect of being a guest at Roings, but before Miss Elliot could begin to object, her indignation was drown out by the far more verbose protestations of the younger Bennet ladies. "The Misses Musgroves intend to walk out with the hunting party," Lydia complained, "and they invited Kitty and I to join them. We have already accepted!"

 "Enough, Lydia! You should be honored by Lady Catherine's attention!" her mother admonished through a simpering  smile. "She is such a high spirited girl!"

"I was informed by Miss Bennet of the sad neglect of your daughters' education," Lady Catherine said severely, "but I had no notion it could be quite this bad!"

Mrs. Bennet's smile fell, and Mr. Darcy quickly interjected, "The young ladies will enjoy the company of others their age, while those unemployed by the inventory can be of great assistance in mapping out the terrain we explored today."

Elizabeth, unconsciously thanking Mr. Darcy for this lifeline, held on to it tightly. "Is there any territory that remains unexplored? Are we all accounted for?"

He looked directly at her. "I had hoped to find some trace of Pemberley."

"There is one area we missed," Mr. Tilney confessed. "I'm afraid that upon spotting Northanger Abbey, my father's estate, to the southeast, I abandoned that path of exploration, heading west instead." Several voices rose in protest, and the gentleman apologized, explaining that he last parted with his farther on bad terms, and promising to correct his oversight on the morrow.

"That wont be necessary, Mr. Tilney," said a voice from the door. "You have business at Fullerton that has already been delayed too long."

Having walked in without waiting for the stuttering footman's announcement, Mrs. Adams now strode with odd gate towards the front of the room, gazing at the party before her in wonderment. "You are all really here!" she said gleefully, and turning to Mr. Knightley, she familiarly shook his hand. "I know I have a great deal of explaining to do, but first let me bask in the moment just a bit. To be surrounded by all of Austen's characters like this! This is either some wild dream come true, or I have completely lost my mind."


  1. This is Amazing! You are truly talented writer, you have grasped the characters so well furthermore reiterated the formal writing of the 19th century so effortlessly!

    1. Thank you! Maybe someday I’ll finish the story, but it kind of ran aground when I wrote myself into it. So pleased you enjoyed it!