Gift Guide2

A Hero’s Guide to Gift
Giving (edition E)

At
an inn located upon a little used road in  –shire,–undistinguished,
but nevertheless of excellent reputation with those gentleman of taste and breeding–a meeting is underway in the snug private dining room by a roaring fire this cold December night.

“Gentlemen,
gentlemen!”  Captain Wentworth rapped on the podium.  “Quiet
down, please!  We’ll be here all night if we don’t settle this.” He
nodded to Fitzwilliam Darcy to take his place as
moderator.

Darcy
rose looking pained, for public speaking was not his strong suit. Squaring
his shoulders, he manfully stepped forward and placed his timepiece
prominently on the podium. “Thank you, Captain,” he said, and faced his
audience.  “As you know, the Gentlemen of Austen Service Society has
been commissioned with presenting to our esteemed authoress a gift worthy
of her immense talent and magnificent imagination–”

Charles
Musgrove stifled a yawn. “More jawing,” he murmured to no one in
particular. “I hunt tomorrow…early to bed and all that. The sooner we
settle this, the better.”

Darcy
looked annoyed. “–and
magnificent
imagination,” he repeated, with emphasis. “Most unfortunately, our last
meeting devolved into a shouting match.  We must resolve this in a
civilized manner.”

“Define
civilized,” someone quipped.

Rev.
Edmund Bertram spoke up. “When Miss Austen’s villains come up with
appropriate
suggestions,”
he said primly, “we shall certainly come to an agreement. As for the
cost–”

A
man in the back stood up. “It is you heroes who should bear the cost!” he
shouted. “It’s only fair! We villains are purse-pinched, no thanks to Miss
Austen!  Why she deserves a gift  is beyond me!”

Darcy’s
valet, Fletcher, who doubled as the Sargent-at-Arms, stood.  “Mr
Wickham, sir,” he said, his eyes sharp with warning.

“She
ought,” Wickham continued hotly, “to have provided for us properly!
As it is, we bear the deprivations of poverty
and
the scorn of readers!  I for one refuse to
contribute!”

“This
issue has been settled, Mr Wickham,” said Fletcher darkly. “ If you
persist, I will remove you–”

Wickham
laughed maliciously.  “I’d like to see you try, you pretentious piece
of–”  He lunged forward.

A
shot rang out. Admiral McGillvary lowered Charles Musgrove’s shotgun. He
turned to Darcy. “Go ahead.”

“My
word,” protested Darcy.  “Who the devil are you?  And what about
Wickham?”

“I’m
a New Creation, and it looks like Wickham’s dead. Problem solved.
Shall we get on?”

Captain
Wentworth grinned at the startled Darcy.  “A most civilized
resolution,” he remarked.  “Now, to the issue at hand. Resolved: we
all pay for Miss Austen’s gift.”

Darcy
drew a long breath and took hold of the podium for support. “Would anyone
like to offer a suggestion?”

There
was silence in the hall.  Presently John Dashwood lifted a hand. “I
still say that a gift card from Bed Bath and Beyond is the ticket,” he
said.  “She undoubtedly wants to get beyond Bath. I know I
would.”

“I’d
prefer the Bed, myself.  At a nice little inn with a snug companion.”
Mr Willoughby winked broadly.

Darcy
scowled. “Hardly appropriate for Miss Austen!”

“But
that’s just the trouble,” said Captain Benwick.  “How does one choose
a gift for a lady who is over two hundred years old?”

Frank
Churchill spoke up: “You know how women are,” he said. “There’s always a
hidden message. Or so they think.”

“Just
how old will Miss Austen be?”  This was from Colonel
Fitzwilliam.

Charles
Musgrove began counting on his fingers.  Arithmetic was not his best
subject.

“Two
hundred and thirty-six,” said Captain Benwick.

Someone
whistled. “There isn’t a cake large enough to hold the
candles!”

“That’s
not an age,” said George Knightley. “That’s an area code!”

Darcy
placed both hands on the podium. “Might I remind you, gentlemen,” he said,
“that the entire world will be celebrating Miss Austen’s
natalis?
One can hardly avoid the issue of age.”

“All
the same, she won’t like it,” Charles Bingley said.

“And
she’ll take it out on us,” added Knightley.  “Even if it’s a gift she
likes.”

“Who
knows what that is?” Colonel Brandon said.  “All we have is her
novels.”

“The
only gifts mentioned in my book,” said Captain Wentworth, “were the ones
the Elliots decided NOT to give.  Unless you count Louisa’s
concussion as a gift.”

“Hey!”
protested Charles Musgrove.

“It
certainly was for me,” said Wentworth.

“And
me,” added Benwick.

Darcy
raised his voice. “I propose that our gift must be a pianoforte. Miss
Austen must secretly desire such a gift, for the instrument appears
everywhere in her stories and at least twice as a gift to one of her
females.”

“It’s
a little late to order one,” Henry Tilney pointed out. “Or are pianofortes
so easily acquired?”

Darcy
raised his voice. “I have personal information,” he said, “that the
pianoforte at Chawton is in a deplorable state. And that confounded
brother of hers, the rich one, will do nothing to replace it with even a
serviceable instrument.”

“But
what does that have to do with us?”

“And
a pianoforte is mightily expensive,” added Charles Musgrove.  “I
say., how about launching an Occupy Godmersham campaign to force brother
Edward to furnish Jane with a pianoforte?  Or better plumbing or
heating at Chawton?”

“Plumbing
as a birthday gift?” Colonel Fitzwilliam straightened from his pose
against the wall. “I don’t think so.”

“She
had me give a horse to Miss Marianne,” said Mr Willoughby.

“No,
it must be a pianoforte,” insisted Darcy.  “Miss Austen had me give
one to Georgiana and Churchill there gave one to Miss Fairfax, so it must
be a secret desire she entertains.”

“How
do you know the bed isn’t a secret desire?” said
Willoughby.

“At
her
age?  All she wants is a comfortable mattress and a thick shawl
against the cold and diseases we older people are heir to,” declared Mr.
Woodhouse.

McGillvary
gave a shout of derision. “Not her.  A good corset is more her style.
Keeps her looking trim on the dance floor.”

“All
right! Now we’re getting somewhere,” Colonel Fitzwilliam said.  “What
does a woman on the slightly high side of two hundred
want?

“How
about a bottle of wine?” Wentworth chimed in.  “And some Belgian
chocolates?”

McGillvary
cocked an eyebrow. “Darcy, you ought to write to your aunt at Rosings.
She’s plenty ancient and would know what to advise.”

Darcy
snorted. “I daresay she would…endlessly!”

Colonel
Fitzwilliam put a hand to his breast declaring
sotto
voce

“If I’d ever become an old woman, which I am most assuredly not, I would
have been a true proficient.”

Charles
Musgrove suddenly sat up straight.  “If you ask me, we could offer to
finish one of her books. Make it a bit more lively. No more bonnet books,
my lads. Blood and Guts–now there’s the ticket!”

“Musgrove,
may I point out that you haven’t read a book in over a decade,” Wentworth
snorted. “The idea of you writing one is preposterous!”

“And
what is
Horse
and Hound,

may I ask!”

“To
be correct, it is a journal, sir.,” Fletcher interrupted, “not a book. If
I may, Miss Austen

wants
some very fine lace. At two hundred and thirty-six she certainly will have
things to disguise and lace is just the thing!”

“Very
perceptive for a servant–Fletcher is it?” Sir Walter peered at him with
grudging interest.  “I was going to suggest gloves.  And
Gowland’s Lotion. All women of a certain age are simply wild for
Gowland’s.”

Darcy
pounded on the podium.  “No, I must insist–the pianoforte is the
perfect gift for our esteemed creator. It will keep her out of trouble and
our lives safe from her quill.”

“Hear,
hear!” said George Knightley.

“And
a fan as well,” added Wentworth. “They have a language with those things,
women do. Like semaphores, but nice for the drawing room.”

Darcy
sighed. “I will concede the gloves and, perhaps, the
lace.”

Fletcher
bowed, “Thank you, sir.”

“Although
I initially discounted Musgrove’s idea, there may be more merit there than
at first blush.” Rev. Burtram rose and addressed the gathering. “You must
agree that the agony of waiting that she’s put us through with the old
goose quill and paper stuff is unconscionable.” He resumed his seat to the
sound of general approval.

“Sir,
I heard of a new mechanical device that allows a writer to speed through
their work in a trice. It is an author-actuated typing machine.” Fletcher
looked about the room and leaned close to Darcy. “It is a French
contraption, I believe.”

Darcy’s
eyebrows rose. “Faster writing, hmmm. Perhaps then Miss Austen could write
her OWN sequels, prequels and whatever the blazes people will think up
next and leave us in peace and our own century!”

“I
have it!’ Bingley cried brightly. “A holiday We could give her an
all-expenses-paid  holiday to– oh, I don’t know–somewhere nice, of
course. Not Brighton or Bath but perhaps to Truro or
Ireland.

McGillvary
shook his head. “Rains too much in Ireland. And we’re at war with most
everyplace else.”

“Ireland!”
Wentworth hooted. “Bingley, please, the woman should at least have a hint
of the sun if she’s on holiday.”

“An
ALL-expenses paid holiday?” Charles protested. “How about a
partial-expenses-paid holiday? Can’t go overboard, you know, even if she
is our authoress.” He looked back to the meeting’s moderator. “I say,
Darcy, where did that Byron chap end up? It was nice and
cheap.”

“Well,
the Lake District then,” said Bingley.  “Lots of GEOGRAPHY in the
Lake District. Don’t she like ‘prospects’ after all? And walks, she’s
dotty for long walks, ain’t she?”

“Whatever,”
said Charles. “I don’t want to spend a lot of money. Or any money. How
about a card with a sketch of the beach?

“What
are those to rocks and mountains?” Colonel Brandon said quietly. Henry
Tilney and John Thorpe, on either side of him, looked at one another and
shrugged.

Wentworth
loudly cleared his throat. “In keeping with Charles’s economical holiday,
we could send her a card with perhaps a seaside landscape? Could we get
someone to draw something? Who draws? Has Jane Eyre been born yet? She’s a
dab hand at art.”

“Emma
is an artist!” exclaimed Mr Elton. “Knightley! Call your girl and see what
she can do for us.”

“No,”
protested Darcy.  “I must insist–the pianoforte is the perfect gift
for our esteemed creator. It will keep her–and us! –out of
trouble.”

“I
still say a good bottle of something comforting,” said Wentworth. “The
nights have to be long for the old girl.

“Oh,
all right!” Darcy conceded. “A bottle of good port, and Belgian
Chocolates, as well as the gloves, fan, and lace!”

“But,
blast it, the expense!” Charles exploded. “For a lady that old we’re going
to need to buy a lace TABLECLOTH.”

“Musgrove,”
Darcy addressed him sternly, “even if it takes a tablecloth, think of the
people it will employ. You don’t fancy an Occupy Musgrove on your
doorstep, do you?”

“Gentlemen,”
Benwick intervened, “I think Mr. Darcy is most perceptive in his idea of a
pianoforte. Music will comfort her heart if she is
lonely.”

“But
so will a young bloke!” McGillvery snorted.

“All
right!” Darcy despaired on bringing the men to order, but shot McGillvary
a disapproving scowl nonetheless. “So, here we have it: port, lace,
gloves, a fan, and chocolates all delivered by a fine young squire. And
what she does with any or all of these is her own affair!”

The
Admiral quipped, “If I know her reading public, what she does will soon be
detailed in a true-life romance book:
Jane
and the Squire Bearing Gifts
!”

The
room exploded with booing and raucous cat calls. McGillvary barely missed
being clipped by a particularly well-crafted shoe with a silver
buckle.

So,
you see Gentle Reader, the gentlemen are full of ideas and enthusiasm, but
are not yet able to decide on a gift for dear Jane. The thinking is, since
she
IS
two
hundred and thirty-six years old, she can wait a few more
days.

That’s
the trouble with birthdays.  Every year they come around … and the
gift choosing process begins all over again.

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