A Jane Austen Christmas: The perfect present

Warning: this is my first attempt at writing directly in English, I hope I managed to convey everything I wanted clearly, if I didn’t please tell me so that I can improve. It’s probably that some of the expressions I used aren’t suitable for Regency period. Since I don’t know how to check this aspect, if you notice some mistake please let me know. I also took some liberties with timing; I hope that hardliner Janeites won’t hate me to much!

 

The perfect present

It’s a truth universally acknowledge that a man completely in love with his wife would go against his bachelorhood beliefs to make her happy and would find the most convincing  excuses to explain his behaviour to himself and others.

That was why one morning George Knightley, repeatedly telling himself that surprises are not so foolish after all, asked his wife Emma to dress appropriately for a trip and, after an early breakfast, led her to their carriage, without further explanations.

<< Dear, you know that I trust you implicitly but where are we going? – Emma watched out of the window while the carriage departed from Hartfield, as if she could discern their destination from the path they took.

<< It’s a surprise.

<< A surprise? – she was surprised but most of her astonishment was clearly fake – But I thought that you disliked surprises, because the pleasure is not enhanced and the inconvenience is often considerable.

Mr. Knightley was glad that Emma’s playfulness survived their marriage; he wouldn’t have tolerated a Mrs. Elton always hanging off his words. No, beside the physical proximity that marriage state allows, nothing had changed between Emma and him.

<< The pleasure might not be enhanced, but I assure you won’t suffer any inconvenience, unless you consider being spared some worries an inconvenience.

<< Worries? I am worried now. What kind of surprises might rise worries?

<< The big ones. But do not fret now, I took care of all the worrying issues. Now I won’t say anything more until we reach our destination.

Emma at first tried with direct questions, then with subtle allusions and in the end with flattery but nothing moved George Knightley from his silence. He was sure that she wouldn’t recognize the road, she had travelled too little in her life; he had to be strong enough to remain silent, so that she wouldn’t have any clue about the surprise.

Emma was excited, she absolutely loved surprises, especially if they were from her husband. Now that they were married, she felt such an happiness that she didn’t understand how she could have lived before and that was their first Christmas together as a married couple. She would have organized something special, if only Mr. Knightley would have allowed her, but he insisted that Christmas celebrations were his responsibility. Maybe that was a consequence of so many years of bachelorhood, but Emma cannot believe that he was incapable to trust her about Christmas celebrations since he trusted her in everything else.

After a few hours, Emma’s excitement began to make way for a little apprehension. They were still travelling and their destination didn’t seem anywhere to be seen. She wasn’t sure of the direction, but she couldn’t recall of any particular attraction or beauty on that side of Surrey.

<< Dear, is it very far away? I am worried father would be beside himself if we are not back soon.

<< Don’t worry. You know, John and Isabella are at Hartfield with him and are privy to my plan. We are going to spend a few days out.

<< A few days out? But I have nothing with me! Not another dress nor a clean pair of stockings and I agreed to see Mrs. Weston tomorrow morning and…

<< Emma – he took both her hands to calm her down – at the cost of being repetitive, don’t worry. I thought about everything.

The truth was that George Knightley had been thinking a lot in the past months. Their marriage in summer had been a blessing and while their first Christmas was approaching, Mr. Knightley had started thinking about a present for Emma. He didn’t want something common and without soul, moreover Emma had everything a lady could need in terms of dresses and jewellery. He thought and thought and, when he was beginning to despair, the perfect present came to his mind.

<< Isn’t this London? – Emma’s voice tore him out of his reveries.

<< Yes, it is.

<< You are bringing me to London!

Mr. Knightley smiled to her excitement. Every other woman of her age or her status wouldn’t have been so excited about being in London or, at least, they wouldn’t have shown their happiness that much. It seemed that enthusiasm wasn’t fashionable. But to Emma, who had travelled so little that even Box Hill seemed new and exotic, London was an extraordinary novelty.

<< I have been here just once, with my mother and Isabella – Mr. Knightley already knew that story, but listened nonetheless – It was Isabella’s birthday and my mother wanted to buy new clothes for her, so we came to London. My mother know all the best shops and we had such fun! Everything seemed so big to me and there was so much to be seen that I felt I hadn’t enough eyes.

Mrs. Woodhouse had been a beautiful, spirited and smart woman. George remembered feeling awe of her as a boy, but he was also attracted by her charming personality. She had loved London and its life, and Mr. Woodhouse had kept an house in Town just for her sake. After she prematurely died, he sold the house and never set a foot in London again, even if most of his acquaintances tried to convince him that London would have been good for the girls. George began to understand his motives only as a married man. If something happened to Emma, he wouldn’t be able to look at Hartfield again.

<< It is such a wonderful surprise! – Emma shifted on the seat next to her husband and throw her harms around his neck – You are the best husband in the world.

<< Surprises aren’t over – he slid his arm around her waist, their sight protected by the carriage curtains, and planted a kiss on her temple.

Emma was astonished and didn’t know what to expect, she was also a bit worried about her father but her trust in her husband was such that she didn’t fret for long. London was so exciting, so bright and full of life, so different from her beloved but well known Highbury.

The carriage slowly progressed through the chaotic traffic, from the suburbs to the commercial district and then into Mayfair, the most fashionable part of the town, where nobles and important people had their houses, go shopping and stroll about to show their consequence. George Knightley liked the city but didn’t particularly appreciate London society and all the ladies of the Ton searching for a husband or for rumours with the same determination.

The carriage suddenly stopped, surprising both Emma and Mr. Knightley. He dismounted and extended his hand to help Emma out.

<< Where are we? – his beautiful wife was looking around her as if she wanted to see all of London with a single glance.

<< This is Hanover Square and that is your Christmas present.

Emma followed her husband pointed finger up to a near building. It was elegant, a white facade with little decoration but very refined, and a big red and green ribbon bow on the door.

<< Obviously you are joking – Emma was trying to regain some of her composure, because she couldn’t believe her eyes.

<< I am definitely not joking – Mr. Knightley smiled and took Emma’s harm to lead her to the door.

<< You bought me a house? For Christmas? – the girl’s eyebrows were pulled up high – Suddenly  the presents I chose for you appear dramatically inadequate – Emma knew enough of administration issues to know how much a house holding cost. They had enough money to live highly comfortably in Highbury, but they also had two estates to take care of: Hartfield and Donwell Abbey.

<< Listen dear – Mr. Knightley took both her hands in his – I know what you are thinking, but I assure you that I wouldn’t have done anything inconsiderate. I thought a lot about this and I want you to have a house in town so that we can attend the Season and you can do whatever women do when gather together in London. You spent too much time alone in Highbury, you deserve this and more.

<< But you dislike London. You always tried to convince me it was a chaotic and frivolous place whenever I told you that I would like to come.

<< I don’t dislike London. I… – he was embarrassed, this kind of speech weren’t his forte – I feared that if you had come to London you would have found a husband. It’s quite silly, I know. I didn’t even knew yet that I was in love with you but I knew that nobody from here would have been right for you. It has been selfish of me to say such things and I want to remedy. Can I?

Mr. Knightley handed a silver key to Emma, she smiled while unlocking the front door and they entered in their new town house.

*^*^*^*^*

Mr. Darcy of Pemberley was frustrated while heading towards his town home in Grosvenor Street. His wife, Elizabeth Darcy was less displeased but sensed her husband irritation.

<< Everything would be perfect anyway – she took his hand in hers and gave him a comforting squeeze – I don’t care where we spend Christmas if I can spend it with you and Georgiana.

Of course Darcy agreed with his wife, but she couldn’t know that the source of his displeasure was not due to the place where they were about to spend Christmas holidays.

They had departed from London two days before, in order to reach Pemberley; Georgiana, who had spent a few weeks with a friend, was about to arrive at the same time, but their plans failed because of unexpected snow. They all had to stop at the nearest village inn, a tiny place that had never seen so many visitors at one time, and waited for the storm to stop. Darcy had been worried about the conditions of the roads but still confident that they could make it to Pemberley. Until the following morning.

When they got up for breakfast, the country around them was covered in such a layer of snow that it was impossible to discern whether you were walking on the road or on an open field. Swearing between his teeth, Darcy had hired an horse to have a look at the road and understood that they had two possibilities: spend Christmas in the little village or going back on the road to London, the only one clean enough to be travelable.

Darcy was worried that Elizabeth would suffer from all this stress, even if her pregnancy was proceeding without any hint of problems, and her assurance that she was perfectly well did nothing to ease his mind.

<< Brother, Elizabeth is right. Darcy’s House will be perfect for Christmas! London is lovely in the snow.

Darcy couldn’t help but smile at his sister attempt to make the best of the situation. Elizabeth company in the past year and a half had worked magic on Georgiana self-confidence, she wasn’t disturbed by large gatherings anymore and she had begun to play the piano for more than the strict family circle. She had also begun to make suggestions and requests with the expectation of them to be accepted.

<< Can we invite Jane and Mr. Bingley to spend a few days with us? I would love to see Jane… and Charles of course.

Elizabeth and Darcy exchanged a knowing glance. Georgiana had developed a great fondness of Elizabeth’s elder sister, they matched very well in temperament and Jane’s sweetness was very agreeable for a shy girl as Georgiana was. However they knew there may be more in this suggestion: Joseph Bingley, Charles’ younger brother, was spending some time with his brother and his wife and, during their last visit in Hertfordshire, Georgiana showed an interest in the boy that troubled Darcy not a little.

<< We’ll see…

While Elizabeth hid a smile behind her hand, Darcy went back to his frustration. It was childish of him, but the most disturbing thing was that his present for Elizabeth, the present he worked on for weeks, that required a lot of planning and plotting in order not to be discovered, and that he couldn’t wait to give her, was at Pemberley and now he had nothing to give her on Christmas day. Nothing special enough, at least.

Darcy had spend the first year of their marriage buying Elizabeth all sort of presents, from jewellery to clothes, from objects to decorate her favourite rooms to tons of new books to match her excellent tastes. The previous Christmas his present for her had been a pearl necklace to match her ring. He knew that pearls weren’t the current fashion for engagement rings, but Elizabeth was different from any other woman and deserved something unique.

This year his present was even more special. The news that Elizabeth was with child filled him with a joy and an expectation that he didn’t think he could experience. That was why the perfect present for Elizabeth came immediately to his mind: he had the nursery at Pemberley completely redecorated and filled with the most beautiful and unique furniture. Everything, from the walls to the curtains, from the blankets to the carpets was in different shades of green, since they didn’t know if the baby would be a boy or a girl. Moreover several boxes where filled with the most incredible toys he had ever seen. And now all of this was miles away.

<< Brother, is everything right? – Georgiana approached him once safely arrived back at their town house – I mean, I know we all planned to spend Christmas at Pemberley, but it’s not so bad, isn’t it?

Since Elizabeth was going to rest for a while, Darcy decided to talk to Georgiana about his present for his wife.

<< Oh, Fitzwilliam! I am sure Elizabeth will love your present anyway, it doesn’t really matter when you will be able to give it to her.

<< I know, and I still have some smaller presents for her with me, but it would have been so…

<< I know – Georgiana didn’t let him finish and took his hand in a gesture of comfort. Suddenly she seemed to realize something, because her face brightened and a mischievous smile appeared on her lips.

<< What are you thinking about?

<< Isn’t there a room, here at Darcy House that used to be the nursery?

<< Yes, but it has been rarely used because children were always brought up at Pemberley.

<< Christmas is still a few days away. Do you think we have enough time to redecorate the nursery here, as a present from all of us for Elizabeth?

Darcy gave some consideration to the plan. Time wasn’t on their side, but he had open accounts with shop keepers enough to be assured the uttermost cooperation and speed. The nursery wasn’t as big as the one at Pemberley, an advantage with such a short time, but they would need help nonetheless.

<< Maybe we can do it. Let’s ask for some help. I’ll talk to the housekeeper, we will need Elizabeth to be otherwise occupied. In the meantime you can write to Jane. I think the Bingleys can be in London in no time if it is for a good reason.

Georgiana smiled brightly and run to her room. Perhaps Darcy’s perfect present could be restored.

*^*^*^*^*

Admiral Croft town house wasn’t as big or as fashionable as the other houses in Mayfair but to Frederick Wentworth and his wife Anne it tasted like home like nowhere else. After the Captain had gained Sir Walter consent to marry his daughter, Anne and the Captain hadn’t wanted to wait a minute longer than necessary to celebrate a wedding that should have been celebrated so many years before. That was why they had got married even before they had found a home.

After their marriage, Admiral and Mrs. Croft had returned to Kellinch Hall and had left their house in Bath to the newlyweds, however Anne’s dislike for Bath and the excessive proximity to Sir Walter and Miss Elliot, had prompted them to search quickly for a suitable place.

They both wanted to settle somewhere near the sea, even if for different reasons, and Dorset seemed the right choice. After some research, Captain Wentworth had found a little estate not far from Lyme and consequently from his dear friend Captain Harville, that seemed perfect but required some renovation. That was why Frederick and Anne were abusing of Colonel’s hospitality in London. However Captain Wentworth had plans to remove his wife from town soon.

<< Good morning Captain. What news from the bridge deck, Sir?

Since their stay with the Crofts began, he took the habit of going to the Port of London at least twice a week and every time he came back, his wife asked him the same question, knowing he would have some news from other seamen. But today his news had nothing to do with warships and commissions.

<< Actually I have some news – Frederick sat near Anne on the sofa and she put away her book, giving him her entire attention – I should wait until Christmas but I think that you’d like to prepare a little.

<< Prepare for what?

<< I wanted something special for our first Christmas together and no object could be good enough. So I decided to do something different.

He handed out a stack of paper and Anne began to leaf through the pages. At first she didn’t seem to realise, then she opened her eyes wide with understanding.

<< You didn’t! – she leapt up with the papers in her hands.

<< I did it – Captain Wentworth stood up too with a broad grin on his face.

<< And what about the fact that we have to supervise our house renovation? – Anne’s eyebrows were lifted but her smile was mischievous.

<< Harville accepted to stay at the keeper’s house with his family for the duration of our trip.

<< And you hope to persuade him to stay after that too, I assume.

<< You assume correctly, but this is not the reason I bought two places on a ship that is going to set out on new year’s eve to the continent – he moved towards her.

<< I know. But I’ll be happy to consent to every plan that can help to persuade the Harvilles to accept our support. Now – she sat again on the sofa and patted near her to signal him to sit by her side – tell me something about this trip you are going to bring me on.

And Captain Wentworth begun to talk. He was enthusiastic, he couldn’t wait to be at sea again, even if only as a passenger, and he couldn’t wait to bring Anne around the world with him. He knew that no other present would have been right for her, who had travelled so little but had an open and adventurous mind.

<< I absolutely agree with all your plans. I can’t wait to see France and Italy and Greece. I will come to Asia too if you bring me, but I fear you’ll have to endure some more London society before we can depart from town.

Wentworth closed his eyes in faked horror << Oh dear, don’t tell me. The Admiral received another invitation.

<< I am afraid I have to tell you exactly this. Sophia and the Admiral received an invitation to a ball and the invitation is extended to us. It will be hold by Mr. Darcy of Pemberley. Do you know him?

<< Of course not. I have never been good enough for these coxcombs – Frederick scratched his head and stood up – I can’t wait to meet another condescending and disdainful landlord!

<< Just think about this: we will have the opportunity to dance together again. I want to see if dancing with me has the same effect it had at Kellinch eight years ago.

<< Well, if you put it this way…

*^*^*^*

Since their return to London, Elizabeth Darcy had been in a twirl of activities. In just a few days, with the housekeeper and Georgiana’s help, she had decorated the whole house with green, red and golden ribbons, she had organized family celebrations for Christmas and a formal ball. The ball was meant to be the final act of the Darcys’ Christmas festivities because they all hoped to be on the road to Pemberley again before New Year’s Eve.

Elizabeth had spent the week before Christmas in astonishment, due to her husband behaviour. After their return in town, Darcy had become elusive and absent-minded and she had to rely on Colonel Fitzwilliam to arrange the guest list and send the invitations for the ball. She could understand that he was upset not to be at Pemberley for Christmas, but that seemed too much even for the most disappointed of men. Darcy’s strange behaviour had been explained on Christmas morning, when he and Georgiana had blindfolded her and brought her to a dark room. When her eyes had been unveiled, she had seen the most beautiful nursery she had ever seen, filled with the finest objects a baby and her mother could fancy.

Now that Christmas was over and Darcy had solved the issue of Elizabeth’s present, he was considerate and helpful again. He had approved unconditionally everything Elizabeth had planned, agreed to all the addition Colonel Fitzwilliam had done to the guest list and took care of some practical issues.

Elizabeth never cared about the good opinion of London society but she always did her best for the sake of his husband reputation and business. This ball was also important for another reason: Darcy, Elizabeth and Colonel Fitzwilliam had decided that it was time to let Georgiana move in a more varied society before her official presentation at Court and that evening seemed the perfect opportunity.

Jane and Charles Bingley were at Darcy House too and Charles’ brother, Joseph, had come with them, that was why Darcy decided to keep an attentive eye on his sister’s behaviour during the ball.

Everything was ready, the great hall was prepared for dinner, the ball room had been cleaned and decorated from end to end; the Darcys and the Bingleys with Colonel Fitzwilliam were lined up in the entrance hall ready to receive the guests. Georgiana seemed a bit nervous but Joseph presence at her side helped her a lot. Elizabeth stood at the other side of Darcy, beautiful in an emerald green gown with her usual air of self-confidence.

The Wentworths and the Crofts were among the first guests to arrive because the Admiral was punctuality himself and didn’t want an old friend like Colonel Fitzwilliam to wait.
Anne Wentworth was more inclined than her husband to like the Darcy family and she immediately took a like for Jane Bingley and Georgiana Darcy, Mrs. Darcy’s sisters. They appeared to be the kind of sisters she would have liked to have and never had. Elizabeth Darcy wasn’t so easy to decipher but Anne hoped to have more opportunity to talk to her during the ball.
Captain Wentworth wore his high uniform because he knew he looked well in it.  Other soldiers and sailors were in attendance that evening but no one was so impressive. Mrs. Darcy and her sister seemed good kind of young women and, due to the fact that Anne seemed to like them, he was ready to make an effort to like them too. At first sight, Fitzwilliam Darcy appeared to be as conceited as he had feared, but after a little conversation he improved as much as to be tolerable but not enough to tempt him to know him better.

The next to arrive were Mr. an Mrs. Knightley. Emma was happy that her husband had some acquaintances in town because she had none and the invitation they received for that evening was exclusively due to Mr. Knightley acquaintance with Mr. Darcy. Emma knew nothing about him but she had heard some rumors and the Darcy family seemed one of the most prominent in London society. Moreover Mr. Knightley spoke highly of Fitzwilliam Darcy and that was the best of recommendation. Mrs. Darcy was another matter entirely, she had been a country girl from a family of lower rank than her own, that was why she hoped not to meet another Mrs. Elton, conceited and convinced that a big house was the only valuable thing in life.

When they got in the entrance hall at Darcy House, Emma was pleasantly surprised by the true elegance of the place. The family was lined up to welcome the guests. Emma’s eyes were immediately captured by Mr. Darcy, a very fine and handsome gentleman, just a little less handsome that her perfect husband. Then she looked intently at Mrs. Darcy. She was a good looking young woman, maybe a year or two older than Emma, with sparkling eyes. Her open smile dashed away any fear of finding a conceited woman, her air of self confidence told Emma that she wasn’t in awe of the Ton and a few words exchanged were enough to assure her that Mrs. Darcy had a lively mind. Mr. Knightley had a long and steady, even though only for business, acquaintance with Darcy and believed him to be a very good fellow, so he didn’t need to be impressed.

Elizabeth wasn’t sure what to expect from Mrs. Knightley and Mrs. Wentworth. She hadn’t met any woman she liked in London still, a fact that made every stay in town a little less pleasant than could be, but Anne Wentworth appeared to be one of her kind.

Some among the best musicians of London began to play as soon as all the guest arrived and the music filled the ball room. The first dance was led by Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, immediately followed by Mr. and Mrs. Bingley. Georgiana hesitated just for the time it took to Joseph Bingley to bow and ask for her first dance, then they both took place in the set. Emma and Mr. Knightley were the next. He knew how much she liked to dance and how little opportunities she had. Captain Wentworth was decided not to give all these coxcombs any opportunities to criticize his manners, so he took his wife’s hand and led her to the dance floor.

On the whole the first two dances at Mrs. Darcy’s ball were a fine example of refine accomplishment in dancing and every other guest in the room couldn’t but admire the couples on the floor. Elizabeth was relieved that everything was going on so smoothly, her only worry was her husband’s eyebrows that were more and more frowned at every glance in Georgiana’s direction. As soon as the dance steps allowed some conversation, Elizabeth tried to ease his mind.

<< Please, dear. Do not fret over Georgiana too much. It’s her first London ball and it’s more than understandable that she tends to stay with someone she knows well.

<< Yes, it’s understandable. The problem is that she doesn’t know Joseph so well. They met in Hertfordshire just two months ago, dined together five times, danced twice and played cards at the same table once. This is not a long standing acquaintance.

Elizabeth smiled << My mother would consider these occurrences enough to begin planning the wedding – but these words weren’t the most appropriate to calm Darcy’s fears.

<< I don’t want her to commit to someone so soon, that’s all. If in a few decades they still wanted to dance together we will talk about marriage.

Elizabeth laughed openly in a way that would have horrified most of the ladies of the Ton and Darcy’s eyebrows relaxed visibly. Darcy’s humor had developed tremendously since their marriage.

After the first two dances, Darcy insisted that Elizabeth rested a little. That was why she found herself near Emma Knightley at one of the tables filled with refreshments.

<< Mrs. Darcy let me tell you, this evening is perfect. I have never been to such a splendid ball before!

This comment coming from a married woman of Mrs. Knightley status sounded so unaffected, sincere and full of real delight that Elizabeth’s opinion of the lady suddenly improved.

<< I am glad you are enjoying yourself Mrs. Knightley. This ball has been organized quite in a hurry, we should have been in Derbyshire by now if it wasn’t for the snow.

<< I see. Well, I am glad you are still here. I don’t have many opportunities to dance at home in Surrey – immediately after speaking these words, Emma was slightly embarrassed. She shouldn’t have said something that clearly marked her as someone not used to London Season, but Elizabeth Darcy inspired immediate familiarity.

<< I don’t have either in Derbyshire. My husband is not particularly fond of large gatherings but he will have to come to terms with balls soon – Elizabeth glanced towards Georgiana, who was still dancing with Joseph Bingley. Emma was relieved by Mrs. Darcy’s reception of her words and felt encouraged to speak freely.

<< Miss Georgiana looks like a most accomplished young lady. I am surprised she isn’t officially out in society yet, she seems perfectly ready. But Mr. Darcy doesn’t appear very pleased. I imagine he is overly protective as every elder brother – again Emma feared she had overstepped the boundaries of what is acceptable in society, but she couldn’t help.

<< Fitzwilliam is a very good brother, but tends to forget Georgiana is almost eighteen. Last time we went to visit my family in Hertforshire…

Suddenly Elizabeth found herself sat in a corner of the room with Mrs. Knightley, telling her everything about Georgiana and Joseph Bingley, her brother-in-law’s brother. Even if Emma Knightley was very different from all of her sisters, particularly from Jane, Elizabeth found real ease in conversation with her. She would have spent the entire evening talking with her but she had hostess duties to perform; however before leaving Mrs. Knightley to herself she assured a promise of a call before they all departed from London.

After crossing the ball room, exchanging pleasantries with many guests, Elizabeth found Darcy talking with Captain Wentworth. He was as tall and as impressive as Fitzwilliam, with a sharper tongue and no scruples in voicing his opinions. However Darcy appeared to enjoy his conversation because he was talking animatedly, forgetting to be reserved and shy. Obviously they were talking about war or the momentarily absence of it.

<< Gentlemen, I am sorry to intrude into your conversation, but where is your lovely wife Captain?

Mrs. Wentworth was the only lady in the room with whom Elizabeth hadn’t talked yet and was curious to know her better. Following Captain Wentworth indications, she found Anne Wentworth in an adjacent room, far from the noise of the ball room, deep in conversation with Jane. When her sister saw her approaching she waved to her.

<< Elizabeth! Mrs. Wentworth was telling me everything about the Christmas present from the Captain – Anne smiled, her eyes glowing – They are going on a trip around the world and they will travel on a ship.

Jane, who wasn’t fond of travelling, was amazed at Anne bravery while Elizabeth was more interested in knowing more about their trip and Anne was more than happy to talk about their projects. After a while, Elizabeth was surprised by the fact that they were talking as if they had been friends for all their lives and find it annoying to leave them to play the hostess part. However it was time to invite the guests in the dining room.

<< Dear, here you are – Darcy’s voice came from behind her in the crowded ball room – I was worried. Are you well?

<< Yes my dear, I am very well – then caught by sudden inspiration she went on – Fitzwilliam would terribly you mind if I invited Mrs. Knightley and Mrs. Wentworth to join our table at dinner? I talked to both of them during the evening and I really appreciated their company.

Darcy laughed quite loud for his usual level of composure << This would be enough to suppress every doubt about our marriage. I was searching for you just to ask if you would have minded if I had invited Mr. Knightley and Captain Wentworth to our table. The Captain seems to have overcome his prejudice against London coxcombs, at least against two of them.

Elizabeth laughed too, earning a few astonished glances from the nearby ladies. With a mischievous smile, she took her husband’s hand << One heart and one mind. Can I ask for more?

That evening every guest that hadn’t the luck of being invited at the Darcy’s table envied those who had been, because the company was good, the laugh frequent and the conversation never wanting. Even Georgiana, the shy and discreet Georgiana, supported on one side by Joseph Bingley and on the other by Jane Bingley, talked and laughed a lot.

Elizabeth, who strongly wished to get to know them better, was relieved to see that Emma Knightley and Anne Wentworth seemed to get along with each other well. The first bright and full of enthusiasm for life and the second more mature but not less passionate formed a well-matched pair.

That ball, organized in a rush just because everyone knew that the Darcys of Pemberley where in Town and they couldn’t avoid give their share of events during the Christmas season, had became an unexpected source of pleasure both for men and women. Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley and Captain Wentworth had found friendship where they thought they would have found only meaningless conversations and their wives, thrown together more or less fortuitously, had found valuable female companions. Even if they all had life of their own and could rarely meet all together, they kept corresponding, so that Elizabeth and Emma knew everything about Anne and the Captain’s tour and Anne learnt all about Elizabeth baby and Highbury’s rumors. In the end, the wish of each gentleman to find a special present for his wife resulted in the most beautiful present possible: friendship.

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