26 Fruits

 

Philippa Cowley-Thwaites: style of Jane Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an institution must succeed in every respect, if it is to command the respect  of a lady.
Looking out across the fields of his estate, Mr Frank Knightley, esteemed manager of Correspondence of the Highest Order, Limited wondered if his latest endeavours would be enough to command the favour of Emilia Verisimilitude, the object of his affections.
It seemed an age since their first meeting.  Lighting up an otherwise dull ball in Bath’s pump rooms, standing proud in the newest muslin from France , her beauty had left an indelible mark on his heart – like the ink on the transglobal correspondence perpetuated by his  business.
Her dance card had been marked by every eligible bachelor in Bath – all vying for her condescension in the amontillado – but the look they had exchanged when she had been obliged to refuse him said everything – his turn would come, and soon.
And, in business terms, indeed it had.
The year 6 had been a good one for Correspondence of the Highest Order, Limited.
From its humble beginnings in the shadow of the Old Bailey London it had grown to some considerable stature, increasing sales of gentlemen’s writing materials and secretarial services by twenty percent.
The most modern gentlemen considered it their honour, and, indeed, their right to call upon his services wherever they might be in the world, entreating him to supply them with secretaries to accompany them across the globe from the Indies to the new settlements of the Antipodes.
Knightley found himself drawing upon every facet of his business to create secretaries of the very highest calibre. Discretion was their watchword, erudition their lifeblood. The piece de resistance of his humble business was the secretaries’ ability to travel with their masters –  bringing a new mobility to the exchange of pleasantries across oceans, or the leaving of a calling card in some far flung colonial mansion.
“Innovation remains the key to current and future growth” murmured Knightley as he stood before his armoire, discussing  suitable attire for the evening’s  diversions with Kemp, his beloved manservant and unofficial advisor.
“A small piece of direction, if I may, my Lord” ventured Kemp in the shadows by the dressing table.
“New ideas never succeed unless they have a human dimension. Perhaps, in conversation with Miss Emilia it would be prudent to tell her about the successful correspondence facilitated by your company between Lord Darcy of Pemberley and Miss Bennet of Longbourne. The kindling of a romantic flame cannot but touch the heart of every accomplished young woman”.
“Capital, Kemp”, smiled Knightley, donning his frock coat with a flourish.” We are in a good position to face the future. The order book is strong – and my income is assured.  I am a gentleman and a man of integrity. My business endeavours prove that I am Mercury and Cupid combined in an ever changing world. How can such credentials fail to make her mine?”


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