A very Jane Austen Christmas story; Part One

A Very Jane Austen Christmas- PART ONE
This month at Ribbon Candy Hooking we are unwrapping a very British Christmas theme. The ‘Jane Austen Advent Calendars’ are sold out, but a month of festive and historic new patterns and supplies are about to premier. Everyone is encouraged to participate in an ongoing, original ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Jane Austen story will provide the background to new patterns and colored swatch sets with a Jane Austen theme.
This is PART ONE of ‘A Very Jane Austen Christmas’.
Read the text and choose A or B. Your ‘votes’ will steer the direction of the story.
Look for the next installment of text in the next couple of days. The story will continue to move according to your votes—right up until Christmas Day.
The last of the December daylight streamed through the tall windows as Jane sat at her carpet-work. The wheel of the year was moving toward the shortest day, and the measured hours of light, before the candles need be employed, were fewer each day.
The mantle was festooned with scented greenery Jane had collected on walks with her sister, Cassandra. The small sitting room smelled of balsam, cinnamon, and embers. Jane looked down at the clockwork medallion she had just finished, set in a field of amber and Turkey red. She threaded a strand of navy wool through the eye of her needle, edged forward on the seat of her needlepoint chair, and prepared to stab the first flower petal north of the medallion. Just as she started to hum the first bars of ‘While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks at Night’ the sitting room door slammed open with a most unceremonious crack.
“Darling Jane,” her mother boomed! “You’ll never guess”!
Cassandra was hot on her mother’s slippered heels, tripping on the tails of her long paisley shawl and sneezing into a lace-embroidered Brussels handkerchief of the most exquisite quality. Cassandra had been ill for several days and Jane was surprised to find her sister abroad from her bed chamber.
“You’ll never guess, Cassandra sniffed. “Poor, dear Imogene is as good as gone!”
Jane dropped the needle, and it landed straight up in the Axminster carpet. “Cassandra! What on earth do you mean by bounding about, out of bed, and talking such nonsense. You are bound to catch your death of cold…”
“Too late,” Cassandra coughed.
“My dears!” Their mother shouted. “We are getting very far off course. Your poor cousin, Imogene is gone!”
Jane’s eyes immediately filled with tears, and she snatched at Cassandra’s handkerchief.
Cassandra quickly snatched it back, demonstrating a marked improvement to her poorly condition. “Not gone in that regard, Jane,” Cassandra amended, “Cousin, Imogene, has gone missing.”
“Gone missing,” her mother echoed in unison.
“Whatever can you mean,” Jane asked? “Explain yourselves more plainly. Whatever can you mean by ‘gone missing’?”
Jane’s mother plunked down on the needlepoint seat that Jane had hitherto occupied, trying to gather her wits about her. Cassandra leaned against a fir bough, tightening her shawl around her shoulders and expediating a small snowfall of fir needles.
“I’ve just had a letter from my sister….”
“From dear Aunt Phoebe,” Cassandra interjected.
“Yes,” Jane snapped. “I am duly acquainted with the family tree.”
“Phoebe sent word….” Jane’s mother continued…. “Oh, it’s a most sensitive matter, Jane…”
“Well for heaven’s sake, inform me, Mother, before I expire on account of consternation!”
Mrs. Austen breathed in deeply and sobbed, “Phoebe sent word that poor, dear Imogene has gone.”
“Gone in what regard?” Jane asked, struggling to understand. “Has she passed?”
Both Cassandra and Mrs. Austen gasped and pressed their hands together as if in prayer.
“I am fast losing my sense of humor,” Jane warned.
Cassandra, launching herself off the fir garland, was at once the most plague-ridden soul imaginable, and at the same time the most animated storyteller. “Imogene left the house a week Tuesday and has not been home since.”
Jane quickly did the math in her bonnet. “That’s nearly a week!”
“Precisely my dear.” Her mother sank deep into the chair. “And naturally you must go to poor Phoebe. Find where Cousin Imogen has gotten to and bring her home.”
“I beg your pardon, Mother,” Jane burst.
“Certainly, you don’t mean to disappoint your Aunt Phoebe by leaving her to anguish over the whereabouts of her only daughter?”
“Well, what service am I meant to employ? I am not in the business of acquisitioning errant family members.” Jane crossed her arms but only because her hands had begun to shake.
Jane’s mother began to cry softly.
Cassandra uncrossed her arms. “Jane,” she began ominously, “Our dear Mother would be much comforted if you might find it within yourself to go to Aunt Phoebe and, by whatever means you might garnish, find Cousin Imogene.”
“Has Imogene a beau of whom we have not yet made a formal introduction?” Jane asked.
“No,” they crowed in unison.
“Mightn’t she have had a secret intrigue to which we have not yet had…”
“No,” Cassandra interrupted. “Imogene is as dull as dirt, as you well know.”
Their mother was too fatigued to tisk. Cassandra was too ill to mince words. And Jane began to deeply feel the worry that her mother and sister already owned. She imagined Imogene as a child, in the attic room with herself and Cassandra, trying on feathered hats from ancient trunks. And Imogene, writing out recipes for nut bread in the margin of her diary. Jane sank back onto her chair, not realizing she was sitting atop her mother’s best muslin. “Poor Imogene.”
“Indeed,” nodded her mother and sister in unison.
Jane looked at the mantle, festooned in fir boughs. Her heart had been fixed on making improvements to the mantle, and all of the rooms of Chawton for the matter, by adding balls of glass and cloved pomanders. The idea of a fatiguing journey to London, where Aunt Phoebe and Cousin Imogene lived was most unwelcome. And just as her morning walks were becoming frosty and crystalline; the Sweet Box, Advent Bells, and Paperwhite Narcissus were in bloom. How could she support leaving at such a time as this.
“Will you, my dear,” her mother pressed, “Will you go and be an easement to Aunt Phoebe? Employ your cleverness to ascertain Imogene’s whereabouts. My dear, you must see that it’s the very ignorance of the matter that is insupportable. You must find Imogene, or I fear my dear sister will unravel in a most regrettable manner. Will you, Jane?”
Will Jane decide to:
A) Remain at Chawton and, by all means, advance the holiday decorations before the snowbells wilt.
B) Leave in haste for London.