It is a truth universally acknowledged that people locked down in a pandemic must be in want of a holiday.

However little sense it makes due to the number of COVID cases surging in the country, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of American families that gathering together for Thanksgiving is considered the rightful due of whoever wants it.

Ample evidence of this sort of magical thinking wiped out the first residents of Netherfield Park, when one asymptomatic young man infected the entire company at the fourth of July barbeque.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, as she sewed face masks, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”

Mr. Bennet, making hand sanitizer, replied that he had not.

“Why, my dear, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a Mr. Bingley, a young man of large fortune; that he fled from Texas’ COVID surge in his Tesla Model X; that he took possession on the spot, and will throw a large Thanksgiving gathering on Thursday.”

“Is he married or single?”

“Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a month. What a fine thing for our girls!”

“How so? Are you looking to infect them with the Texas mutation of the COVID plague?”

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.”

“Is that his design in settling here?”

“Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he has been social distancing for months, and may fall in love with one of them out of desperation, and therefore you must visit him as soon as may be.”

“I see no occasion for that. Nobody in Texas has been social distancing. You and the girls may go if you isolate in a hotel for fourteen days after, or you may send them by themselves, which is perhaps still better, for you are just as likely to die if you catch COVID as I am.”

“My dear, you flatter yourself, for I am ten years younger. A man of five thousand a month has surely been practicing good pandemic hygiene, or is at least rich enough to buy the very best medical care. Think of what stable health insurance would mean for our daughters!”

“Better our girls end up old maids with high deductibles than assist Mr. Bingley in slaughtering the countryside.”

“Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children so? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves.”

“You mistake me, my dear,” said Mr. Bennet, preparing to leave as he screwed the cap on the newly made hand sanitizer. “I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.”

* * *

Mr. Bennet always intended to pay his new neighbor a video visit. He found Mr. Bingley’s contact info after a little research on Facebook, and set up a call, always assuring his wife that he would not do so. ‘Til his eldest two daughters accidentally Zoom bombed him, they had no notion the visit would take place.

Mr. Bingley, it turned out, did not intend to break his Pandemic bubble. Instead, he started a torrid internet affair with Jane as less scrupulous households succumbed to COVID. Lizzy also found video Thanksgiving quite agreeable, as she only had to be presentable from the waist up, and could mute Mr. Collins whenever he became tiresome. She only managed to private chat Mr. Bingley’s handsome friend Mr. Darcy twice on that call. Nevertheless, she wasn’t disappointed. Now that they knew one another, they would find a way.

There would be other holidays.