• Deborah Yaffe

Quack

As luck would have it, my family’s Thanksgiving guest list this year will once again consist of none but our four selves. And just as we did two years ago, we have decided to take advantage of the guest-free occasion by departing from tradition and serving something other than turkey. This year, the vote was for . . . drum roll . . . duck.


Which naturally sent me on a hunt through the novels of Jane Austen for any mention of our quacking-waterfowl friends. Disregarding an incidental, idiomatic reference to “ducks and drakes” in Mansfield Park leaves us with this moment, towards the end of Pride and Prejudice, when Mrs. Bennet hears news of Mr. Bingley’s imminent return:

"Well, well, and so Mr. Bingley is coming down, sister," (for Mrs. Phillips first brought her the news). "Well, so much the better. Not that I care about it, though. He is nothing to us, you know, and I am sure I never want to see him again. But, however, he is very welcome to come to Netherfield, if he likes it. And who knows what may happen? But that is nothing to us. You know, sister, we agreed long ago never to mention a word about it. And so, is it quite certain he is coming?"
"You may depend on it," replied the other, "for Mrs. Nicholls was in Meryton last night; I saw her passing by, and went out myself on purpose to know the truth of it; and she told me that it was certain true. He comes down on Thursday at the latest, very likely on Wednesday. She was going to the butcher's, she told me, on purpose to order in some meat on Wednesday, and she has got three couple of ducks just fit to be killed."

--Pride and Prejudice, ch. 53


I certainly won’t be killing our duck myself, and I don’t plan to cook as many as Mrs. Nicholls (three couple? Does that mean six?). But I’m hoping our holiday has as happy a conclusion as Bingley’s return to Netherfield.

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