Emma Woodhouse Knightley, handsome, clever and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence. But, even at the age of two and twenty, she was still vexed by how little she knew of the world and by how much she had yet to learn.
"Oh, but, how could he leave me like that?" Emma incredulously thought, shivering in her cream chiffon evening gown. "And without so much as a word or look of kindness. Emma shivered from a combination of cold and despair as the rain beat furiously at the windowpane. Pulling at her pink hair ribbon, her mind raced back to the events of that very evening.
For it was only but four hours ago that she and Mr. Knightley had so eagerly and happily anticipated the party at the Westons. Indeed, as was custom, it was Mr. Knightley who had dismissed the maid and helped Emma dress, deciding finally on the aforementioned white dress, and simple strand of pearls set so bewitchingly around her swan-like neck.
"You take my breath way, my darling Emma. I have never seen you look lovelier," murmured Knightley passionately, arms encircled protectively about his young bride's waist.
Bending his head, Knightley impulsively bestowed a playful kiss at the nape of Emma's neck. Cheeks burning bright, Emma trembled with secret delight. She knew that she would always remember how vulnerably handsome Knightley looked that evening. Indeed, she could see this admiration reflected not only in her countenance, but in the eyes of both men and women at the party. Mr. Knightley's firm, upright shoulders, thick chestnut-curls, and gentlemen-like manners easily set him apart from the rest. As Emma herself had noted with singular pride, he virtually towered over the other men. And-how he had looked at her when she had played the pianoforte for the Coles, as if he wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms and cover her face in kisses. It made Emma's heart ache to think how desperately she wanted and needed him.
All at once, a quiet knock at the door suddenly disturbed Emma from her reverie. "Knightley," she cried, a faint smile creeping across her face.
"No, Ma'am-t'is not the master. Will you needing any help tonight, Ma'am? Undressing I mean."
"No, Kitty, that will be all," a dejected Emma managed to utter. "Oh Kitty-Mr. Knightley- did he say where he was going tonight?"
"I believe he told James that he had business to take care of with Mr. Martin, early tomorrow morning. So, he would be staying at Donwell tonight. Ma'am-you look awfully pale. Is there anything I can get you?" Receiving no audible reply, Kitty left an even more agitated Emma, alone once again with her thoughts.
"Oh God that I had never seen that Harriet Martin! That nasty, freckled face little thing," Emma cried passionately. It was not that Emma envied or was remotely threatened by Harriet. In public, in fact, she deliberately praised Harriet's considerable virtues as a mother. Her little Johnny was already a strapping young lad of two and a great favorite amongst the people of Hartfield. What truly vexed Emma, then, was when Mr. Knightley complimented Harriet. This was not often, usually following one of his trips to Donwell, and to be truthful his praise included Robert Martin as much as his wife, Harriet. Still Emma found it unbearable to hear Mr. Knightley's exclamations of what a good mother Harriet was, and what a charming, clean, little house she kept.
Even more unbearable to Emma, this very evening, was the way Harriet had accepted Mr. Knightley's arm at the party. Robert Martin was ill with a slight cold; thus, Mr. Knightley escorted both Harriet and Emma to the Westons' dinner table. "So familiar," Emma thought. "As if she were Mrs. Knightley!" Such was her state of her mind, then, that she couldn't resist plunging Harriet's spirits at the party. After managing to finish a rather halting solo at the pianoforte, Harriet immediately turned to Mrs. Knightley for encouragement.
"Mrs. Knightley-do tell me honestly. Has my playing improved?"
"Was that really all, my dear Mrs. Martin? I've known four year olds who could play better than that. And after a year of my own tutelage."
Almost immediately Emma regretted what she had said and if she needed any further help, she only had to remember the devastated look on her husband's face and the stinging words he had spoken to her during the long carriage ride home.
"Emma-How could you say such a thing to Harriet? And in front of all of our friends-shaming her like that. Badly Done, Emma. Badly done."
Emma felt deep remorse and mortification deep in her soul. "Oh God-What have I done?" she cried, throwing herself on the bed. And so she cried herself to sleep, her tears staining the pillow.
Emma Knightley spent the most wretched night of her existence. She doubted even getting a hour's sleep. And, as if she needed any further proof, she only had to peer into the looking glass, perched opposite her. Emma's cheeks flushed hot as she recalled Kitty's knowing looks at her dark circles and pallor, earlier this morning when she brought up the breakfast tray. Emma could hardly swallow a bite. Her every thought was consumed by Mr. Knightley and what he must be thinking.
Wrapping her dressing gown around her shoulders, Emma began to restlessly pace the floor. Almost immediately, she grabbed a pen and paper and began writing a letter to Harriet. Shamefully, she knew that she could not face her yet. Ringing for Kitty, she then instructed her to send the letter and draw her bath. This in many ways revived Emma's strength, although not her spirits. The whole day in fact she purposefully kept to her bedchamber.
"I don't want to worry, Father," she thought. "Or worse still, have him send for Perry." Emma had even made a pact with herself that if Mr. Knightley did not appear before six o'clock, she would go after him. This was not a time for ladylike restraint. And, so Emma watched the hours go by one after the other on her mantel clock, until the hour finally came. Almost relieved, she flung her coat about her shoulders, barely hearing Mr. Woodhouse's breathless cries.
"But Emma-dear. It's going to rain again. You'll catch your death in this cold."
It was cold and terribly damp, the wind howled against Emma's lightweight cloak. However, onwards she went, oblivious to everything and everyone except her desire to feel Mr. Knightley's strong, tender arms about her. She knew she could not bear another night without him next her.
Finally reaching Donwell, Emma's sprits flagged upon finding the house all but empty. Only the housekeeper, Mrs. Jennings, remained. Graciously excusing herself, Emma made her way to the Gardens, but still there was no Mr. Knightley. She was on the verge of regretting this stupid, idiotic escapade when she suddenly heard a voice call her name. Spinning about, Emma's eyes instantly met his and without a shred of caution, she instantly flew into Knightley's arms, covering his face with kisses.
"Oh my Darling-can you ever forgive me? I've behaved like such a stupid child. Such a jealous fool. It's only because I'm so madly in love with you. I couldn't bear another night without you."
"My Darling-I'll never forget the look on your face last night. Emma dearest-you know I'm no speechmaker, but how I wanted to rush back and take you in my arms last night. Wretched night! The torture-not being able to hold you, to...
"Do not speak of it! I tell you do not speak! And with that, Emma brushed his lips with the sweetest of embraces. "Hold me, don't ever let me go," Emma pleaded as Knightley drew her closer and closer to him.
"I don't care if the whole world sees us."
Ever so gently, Mr. Knightley, then, lowered his bride to the ground, his breath hot on her face. Emma could feel the insistent pounding of his heart against hers. For so long, due to the differences in their ages, he had been almost afraid to show Emma the full extent of his passion. Suddenly, clothing became superfluous. Knightley's lips burned her forehead, eyes and cheeks, until finally meeting her own in the most tender of embraces. Emma felt herself flying as never before. Running her fingers through his hair, she even called him George. So down and down they went, having to remind each other that it wasn't a dream....
At dawn, as luck would have it, Mr. Woodhouse's prediction came true and it furiously started to rain. Wrapping Emma in his blue coat, Knightley swept her up in his arms and carried her into the house. And, so Emma blissfully awoke with Mr. Knightley's arms still wrapped around her...
Emma could not remember a time when she had slept so little and yet so well. How perfectly satisfied and content she felt this morning, compared to the previous day's anxiety! Her head resting against Mr. Knightley's pillow-like chest, she smiled at his peaceful, eloquent slumber.
"How handsome he looks," she sighed. "almost like a little boy-so young as he looked." Turning on her side, Emma playfully brushed a stray piece of grass from Mr. Knightley's dark, lustrous hair; indeed, this was the only visible reminder of their night of passion. Instantly, Emma replayed over and over in her mind every treasured word and look, the tantalizing feel of his skin against hers. Smiling, she traced an intricate design a long his face, finally bestowing a tender kiss on his lips. To her great amusement and surprise, Mr. Knightley opened his eyes.
"Good morning," she said sweetly.
"I think it would be safer to say good afternoon," he replied huskily. "And never have I been awakened in such a delightful way, or by such a charming lady." Emma blushed deeply at his words. Ever so gently, Mr. Knightley grasped her face between his hands. His eyes burned her forehead. Brushing Emma's hair from her face, his mouth insistently found her own. Emma clung to him breathlessly, as much out of necessity for never had she felt so dizzy by his embrace.
"My Dearest, beloved Emma. Are you hungry?" Knightley muttered passionately against her ear.
Momentarily confused by his words, Emma finally answered: "No-not particularly. Have our clothes dried yet?"
"I don't think so. It will probably take another hour or two at the most." Meeting her gaze, Mr. Knightley smirked bewitchingly.
"Really-a whole hour. What can we possibly do here for a whole hour?" The brilliancy of her countenance and her hazel eyes was such that Mr. Knightley could no longer prolong the suspense. Slowly running his hand along her cheek, he clasped Emma to him.
Three hours later, Mr. Knightley sat before his former dressing table, buttoning his white shirt. Emma was not helping matters much. For every button he succeeded in fastening, she undid two.
"My Darling! I wish I could stay with you all day, but Mrs. Jennings must be wondering where we are. And it doesn't help that you must look so fetching in my clothes. You should always wear my clothes."
"Mr. Knightley-how I wish we could always stay at Donwell. I've never seen such a perfectly, delightful place."
"Emma dearest-do you mean that? You know what that would entail-leaving your father."
"I know-but perhaps Father could be persuaded. Besides, I think there might be an even more important reason for our removal to Donwell..." Her eyes shining brightly, Emma met Mr. Knightley's anxious gaze.
"Emma-my dearest, beloved Emma! You don't mean...My Darling! You shouldn't be on your feet." Effortlessly, Mr. Knightley swept Emma up into his arms, protectively shouldering her head against his chest. Carrying her once again to the bed, he covered her face and hands with kisses.
"My Dearest, sweetest Emma. Why didn't you tell me? Are you quite certain you are all right?"
"I wanted to be completely certain," she replied calmly. And, I am more than well. I don't think I have ever been more content and happy."
The perfect happiness of the moment was too swiftly interrupted by an insistent knock at the door. Hesitantly, Mrs. Jennings entered.
"Sir. Ma'am. I do not wish to disturb you, but Mrs. Martin is desperate to see you-Mr. Knightley. Her husband has taken a turn for the worse and is in need of Mr. Perry."
Under the most unusual and stressful circumstances, Emma found herself for the very first time in the Martin farmhouse. Mr. Knightley had insisted that she return to Hartfield, deeply concerned for her safety and especially the welfare of their unborn child. However, in this case, Emma persisted and won, declaring that she wished to be of service to the Martins and Harriet. As mistress of Donwell, it was her duty and obligation. Faced with such a sweet and ardent appeal, Mr. Knightley relented. Indeed, these days he found that he could not deny her anything.
It was not sheer benevolence alone which drew Emma to the Martin farmhouse, this very evening. She had long wondered how much of Mr. Knightley's praise and enthusiasm for Robert and Harriet Martin's home was just hyperbole, a testament to his kind and generous disposition. Once again, however, Emma had to admit that his judgment was sound. Although the farmhouse could never be called fashionable or elegant, it had a warmth and palatable dignity, negating the cracked floors and smoky chimney.
As Emma sat at the kitchen table, little Johnny's brown moppet head resting on her shoulder, she could not help delighting in the delicious aromas emanating from the wood-stove. Harriet Smith Martin's touches were everywhere, from the delicate, lace curtains hanging above the window to the brightly coloured wildflowers, set so betwitchingly at the centre of the table. Furthermore, old Mrs. Martin and Elizabeth could not have been more attentive or kind to Mrs. Knightley. As deeply distressed as they all were over Robert Martin's fever, the two women still found time to inquire after Mr. Woodhouse's health, profusely thanking her for her service. Emma herself noted that their manners were as fine, if not superior, to the grandest of ladies.
Sensing Mr. Knightley's eyes on her, Emma looked up and met his gaze. Instantly, she knew that he was reading her thoughts and a blush of pleasure went to her cheeks. "How much I love and need him," she thought. "Poor Harriet-What she must be suffering! I don't think I could bear it if anything happened to Mr. Knightley." Around the same time, Mr. Perry came out, along with a weary Harriet Martin. Mr. Knightley was the first to speak.
"Well Perry, I am certain the ladies have suffered enough. How is he?"
"Ladies-I am happy to report that he will be fine. He is a very lucky man. I have seen lesser men succumb under such a fever. This is the sickly season and all. Still, he is a strong man and his fever finally broke, thanks in no large part to Mrs. Martin and her continuous application of cold compresses. She is quite the nurse."
"Thank-you Mr. Perry. Thank-you for everything. Mrs. Goddard always said that cold compresses were the best remedy. We are indeed indebted to you. And Mr. and Mrs. Knightley too. We are most grateful for all of your service and kindness." Silently, Harriet kissed Mrs. Knightley's hands. For once, Emma was rendered speechless.
Moments later, Emma found herself safely ensconced in Mr. Knightley's carriage, his arms wrapped tightly around her. Gently, he stroked her hair. Exhausted, Emma soon found herself falling asleep against her husband's shoulder, lulled by the motion of the carriage. Within an hour, they arrived at Hartfield. Silently, Mr. Knightley lifted Emma out of the carriage and carried her upstairs, placing his wife before the fire.
"My Darling-are you cold?" he asked, lifting Emma's hand to his lips.
"A little," she replied softly.
Immediately, he took off his coat and wrapped it about Emma's shoulders. Tenderly, he cradled her against his chest, placing his head against her own. "Dearest Emma-do you know how very proud of you I am. You could not have been more compassionate to the Martins." After a while, he added: "Emma, were you in earnest, earlier? Do you still wish to remove to Donwell? As you know, it is immaterial to me where we live. You made me the happiest of men, consenting to be my wife."
"Indeed, I was Mr. Knightley," she replied strongly. "As much as I hate the thought of giving Father pain, I believe it is time that we had our own house, our own privacy."
"Well, as you are determined, we will both speak to him when I return from London."
"London? Oh yes. You have some business to discuss with John. I completely forgot," she replied, lowering her face.
Lifting Emma's chin to meet his face, Mr. Knightley softly answered: "Dearest, I wish I could take you with me, but it will only be of a few weeks' duration. I promise." Smirking bewitchingly, he further stated: "There is one obvious benefit of a separation of which I can think: the pleasure to be derived by all when I return."
Kitty's thick, Irish brogue broke the delicious silence of the room. "Mrs. Knightley-will you be needing any help undressing?"
Commanding Emma to her feet by the ardent look in his eyes, Mr. Knightley pressed her against him and lifted her to the awaiting bed. Possessing a keen perception way beyond her years, Kitty wisely and instinctively decided not to pursue the matter.
Three days later, Emma went to Randalls for her weekly tea with Mrs. Weston. Emma loved nothing more than to visit her former governess. Next to Mr. Knightley and her father, Mrs. Weston was the dearest person in the world to her. This very afternoon, however, an unwelcome intrusion in the usual familiarity and intimacy of these occasions was one Mrs. Elton. As Emma sat opposite her, calmly sipping her tea, she could not help recollecting with some degree of pleasure that this was the first time she had seen Mrs. Elton socially in many months. Mr. and Mrs. Elton were hardly frequent callers at Hartfield or even Donwell. In fact, Mrs. Elton had just returned from another extended trip to Bath, visiting her "very particular" friend, Mrs. Partridge. In between ravenous bites of her sandwich, the lady was endeavouring to relate, to Emma and Mrs. Weston, the intimate details of her latest excursion.
"Why Mrs. Knightley-you look so pale! Doesn't she look pale, Mrs. Weston? You really should consider going to Bath. The waters and air would do wonders for you. You should see Mr. E-quite the changed man. His few grey hairs have simply gone away!"
"Mrs. Elton, I have no inclination to visit Bath," Emma quietly protested. "There is no place in the world more conducive to my health and spirits than Highbury."
"The colossal nerve of that woman!" Emma silently remarked. "Grey hairs indeed. I am in no doubt as to how he got them."
"You'll never guess whom we saw in Bath," Mrs. Elton continued, interrupting Emma's reverie. Before any of the ladies could reply, she smugly uttered: "Mr. and Mrs. Frank Churchill! Dear Jane was always a favorite of mine, so sweet and charming. And such lady-like manners. That's such a rare quality these days," she added, gazing intently at Emma.
"They say he simply adores and spoils her. And her jewels...."
"Yes, we had a letter from Frank just the other day, concerning their trip to Bath and London," Mrs. Weston interjected uncomfortably. "Mr. Weston and I both hope that they will be able to visit Randalls soon."
"Yes-that would be lovely. Oh Mrs. Knightley," she continued with greater enthusiasm, "you do not know what a shock I had on my last evening in Bath.."
"I am sure I can't imagine," Emma replied sharply. Still Mrs. Elton persisted.
"Mrs. Partridge, the lady whom I always reside with on my trips to Bath, introduced me to the most charming creature-a Lady Hollingsworth. Apparently, she spent her girlhood in Highbury. Mrs. Partridge and I simply raved about her. And such beauty-flawless, ivory skin and the true crystal-blue eyes. Now that I think about it-she resembled your little friend. What was her name? Oh yes-Miss Smith! Anyway, she expressed a great interest in you."
"I am confidant I have never met the woman. You must be mistaken, Mrs. Elton."
"Now, that I think about it-you would have been too young. From what I understand, she was quite a favorite with Knightley at one time. She entreated me to convey her sincere good wishes for your marriage"
A red-faced Mrs. Weston immediately sprung to her feet. "Oh my-look at the time. And Mr. Weston shall be home soon."
"Indeed. And I was never one to wear out my welcome. As my friends always say, I am the soul of tact. It would not do for Mr. E to come home and find me elsewhere. For he is simply lost without me! Please excuse me ladies and give my best wishes to Mr. Weston. Good evening Mrs. Weston...Mrs. Knightley"
Moments after Mrs. Elton departed, Emma remained blankly staring at her empty tea cup, her head spinning. "Vulgar, insufferable woman! What did she mean? This is all so strange." Lifting her head, Emma's anxiety increased as Mrs. Weston busied herself with the china, deliberately avoiding her gaze.
"Tell me!" Emma cried, her voice filled with terror. "Tell me the truth! About what was Mrs. Elton speaking? Who is this woman?"
"Emma dear-I am as mystified as you.."
"I charge you to tell me at this moment. I cannot bear this silence a moment longer."
"Emma dear-if I had known what Mrs. Elton planned to say, I would never have permitted her to remain in this house!" To be utterly honest, Emma had never seen Mrs. Weston so enraged.
After a few uncomfortable minutes, Mrs. Weston gently sat down beside Emma. Warming Emma's trembling hands, she finally decided to speak again: "When I first came to Highbury, I do recall that Mr. Knightley was engaged to a local girl, a very pretty and high-spirited young lady named Annabel Edwards. Her father was the curate here. I was not privy to the entire story, but I do know that the engagement was broken off almost as soon as it was made. The young lady left for London to reside with her aunt. I believe there were many objections to the match as Miss Edwards possessed neither fortune or connection. A mutual acquaintance informed me, a long time later, that she had managed to marry a member of the House of Lords. Although I never met the lady, I often heard her beauty and poise praised."
"And, he was in love with her," Emma managed to utter in the thinnest of voices.
"Emma-you cannot doubt Mr. Knightley's affection for you! I have never seen a man more in love with his wife. Whatever he may have felt for this woman is in the past. I beg you to put it out of your mind this instant. He loves you, only you. Of that-I am certain."
"Then-why has he never spoken of this to me?"
Receiving no audible answer, Emma stood up and flung her cloak about her shoulders. Mrs. Elton had aimed to wound her and had admirably succeeded. This only served to heighten Emma's intense pain and dread.
"But-Emma dearest. Will you not let me send for the carriage to take you home?
"No thank-you Mrs. Weston. I would rather walk. Do not be concerned." Turning sharply, she closed the door.
Her heart racing, Emma furiously walked towards Hartfield. Indeed so rapid and intense was her pace that she mentally refused to stop and remove a nasty gravel stone from her pink slipper. As long as she concentrated on walking home, Emma knew that she would be fine. There was a comfort in the regularity of her stride, the soft, cool breeze soothing her flushed cheeks. Her deliberate, frantic pace temporarily numbed the senses and the mind.
Finally reaching Hartfield within a quarter of an hour, Emma pictured Mr. Woodhouse's reaction upon seeing her disheveled appearance and instantly decided against entering the house. Making her way to the gardens, Emma endeavoured to understand the overwhelming sense of dread and terror that Mrs. Elton's words had brought her.
That Mr. Knightley's heart had ever belonged to another, no matter how many years ago or for how short of a duration, repelled, even repulsed her. Weighing more heavily on her mind was the fact that Mr. Knightley had wanted to marry this Miss Edwards. For Emma knew only too well that Mr. Knightley was not a man who would give his heart, his name, so easily. Mr. Knightley loved deeply and completely, with his whole heart and his very soul.
"Annabel Edwards. Annabel," Emma murmured disdainfully. "Such a dreadful, commonplace name. It sounds like a kitchen maid's name!" All at once, Emma recalled Mrs. Elton's words-that Lady Hollingsworth bore a striking resemblance to one Harriet Smith Martin, the same sweet air and pretty, blue eyes.
"And that is precisely the kind of beauty that I have never admired!" A more hideous thought darted through her mind, piercing Emma's heart. Immediately, she envisioned Mr. Knightley kissing this Harriet-esque phantom in the same ardent way that he had always embraced her. Furiously, Emma shook her head to expel the thought. Try as she might, however, her imagination continued to overwhelm her.
"Does Mr. Knightley ever think about this woman when he sees Harriet? Or worse still, has he ever met Lady Hollingsworth in London. Surely, it is possible. It is more than possible! Why has he never spoken of this engagement to me? Could a part of him still love her and it is too painful for him to discuss? Has Mr. Knightley ever wondered what his life might have been like if his family had not parted them? Oh God! This is too horrible to contemplate!"
Furiously picking at the wild flowers, a panic-stricken Emma finally decided on her course of action: "No. I must know! I need to be certain of his true feelings. There is only one thing to do. I must somehow invite this Lady Hollingsworth person to Highbury!
Emma's opportunity materialized sooner than she had expected in the form of a hastily dispatched, gilded invitation to the Weston's ball at the Crown Inn to be held on the last Friday of the month. A subsequent conversation with Mrs. Weston, the very next day, revealed that Mr. Weston was more than mildly acquainted with Annabel Edward's husband. Lord Alfred Hollingsworth, or Teddy, as Mr. Weston fondly referred to him, was an amiable, ruddy faced, high spirited chap of some one and fifty years, whose cherubic appearance had not yielded to the passing of time. Indeed, Teddy was the childhood playmate of Mr. Weston's first wife, Miss Churchill of Enscombe. To add further irony to the situation, Miss Churchill's family had once hoped that she would become Lady Hollingsworth. Mr. Weston reflected that good old Teddy was as warm-hearted and gregarious of a gentleman as you could ever hope to find. Indeed, he was only person from Miss Churchill's circle who had overwhelmingly accepted their marriage.
To make a day's events short, then, Emma managed to convince a dubious Mrs. Weston of the necessity of inviting Lord and Lady Hollingsworth to Highbury and Mrs. Weston in turn entreated Mr. Weston to bestow an invitation to the ball. As you can no doubt imagine, the former required more effort than the latter. And all of this was accomplished, the invitation immediately and decidedly sent, before dessert had even been served. It was a testament to Mr. Weston's warm heart and temper that he never once thought to ask why his wife and Emma were so keen to have the Hollingsworths at the ball, or how they even came to know of the couple at all. Instead, Mr. Weston contented himself with his great joy at the prospect of seeing dear Teddy again, sharing his happiness in his second marriage.
After an endless series of sleepless, pacing the floor nights, the evening of the Crown ball finally arrived for Emma. Helping Emma into his carriage, Mr. Weston joyously informed her that Lord and Lady Hollingsworth would indeed be at the ball. It took all of Emma's strength to give him the faintest of smiles. As for Mr. Knightley, business with John still kept him in London; his last letter informed Emma that he would not return until next week, at the earliest. Under any other normal circumstance, Emma would have found his prolonged absence unbearable. But, tonight, she could only feel relief. Her emotions and her mind were no longer compatible. Even her very emotions were at war with one other. If Emma could delight in anything it was that it was she who was in control of the planned meeting and not Annabel Edwards.
Gently squeezing her hand, Mrs. Weston leaned forward in the carriage and whispered: "I hope you know what you are doing, Emma dear." At least to her own heart, Emma had to own that she did not. Looking out the carriage window, Emma reflected that this vast stretch of darkness best mirrored her state of mind. Since learning of Lady Hollingsworth's existence two weeks ago, she had been consumed by the most acute dread and terror. Indeed, she had not once contemplated how she would bring Mr. Knightley and Lady Hollingsworth together. Above all, she first needed to satisfy her own perverse curiosity. If Emma desired anything from tonight it was to look upon this Annabel Edwards and hear her voice, gaze into her eyes. As if by facing her, Emma hoped she would discover that Lady Hollingsworth wasn't real at all.
All to soon, at least to Emma, Mr. Weston's carriage jolted to a halt. With a sinking feeling in her heart, Emma tightly grasped Mr. Weston's arm as he led the two ladies into the lantern-lit Crown ballroom. Miss Bates or rather Miss Bates's voice met them at the door.
"Oh My Mr. And Mrs. Weston and dear Mrs. Knightley. How d'ye do? I hope you are all quite well. Very happy to hear it. I am well thank-you. My mother is quite well. Gone to Mr. Woodhouse's for the evening. Ah-Mr. and Mrs. Cole-I declare! This is brilliant, being among such friends. I am quite well thank-you. Don't you love Mrs. Knightley's dress and hair? You look just like an angel. Oh! Where is Mr. Knightley? Gone to Brunswick Square. A great pity he should miss such a brilliant ball. We are so much obliged to him for sending another barrel of his best apples. So very obliging of William Larkins to make the trip and in the rain! AS I said to my mother- upon my word, I hope he does not catch cold. Such a lovely night for the ball. Lovely. Lovely. I know it will not rain tonight. Oh yes-thank-you. We had a letter from Jane just last Tuesday, or was it Thursday? She and Frank just returned from London. Upon my word, I have never seen a girl so happy in marriage. Mr. Frank Churchill is all generosity. Oh Mr. and Mrs. Elton! Never better thank you. Very much obliged to you. A little tea would be lovely. You are all kindness."
The music had the effect of quieting Miss Bates and Emma subsequently found herself unconsciously led to the floor by Mr. Weston. The usual pleasure of the dance had little effect on Emma's spirits this evening. To be truthful, her eyes never left the ballroom's entrance once. Moreover, the maddening sound of an approaching carriage and the subsequent arrivals brought its own unique torture, every time.
An hour had already elapsed and the Hollingsworths had still not arrived. After two more dances, Emma found that she could no longer bear this cacophonous parade of over-heated bodies, light and noise any longer. Feeling terribly light-headed, she silently made her way to the seclusion of the terrace bench. Breathing deeply, her heart jumped as she looked up and saw Mr. Knightley coming towards her. Within seconds she was in his arms. Mr. Knightley held Emma tightly, as if he had just found her again after the longest of searches. His look, his voice rejuvenated her spirits and she momentarily forgot everything and everyone but her pleasure in his calming presence.
"Emma-my dearest, sweetest Emma." Bending Emma's head back, Mr. Knightley looked lovingly into her eyes. "How much I have missed you. My darling-you have never looked more beautiful. Of all the ways you wear your hair-that is the way I love best." Wrapping her arms about Mr. Knightley's neck, Emma tenderly drew his lips down to hers.
"Mr. Knightley-how did you know I was here?"
"Your father told me. My business finished earlier than I had expected and so I rode home, anxious to be near you. I completely forgot the Weston's ball."
"Yes-the Weston's ball.." Emma muttered, visibly trembling.
"Darling-you are shivering," an alarmed Mr. Knightley cried, grasping her even more closely to him.
"Mr. Knightley-will you do something for me?"
"Anything," he said softly.
"Take me home. I can bear it here no longer. I want nothing more than to be alone with you." Without another word, Mr. Knightley lifted Emma's hand to his lips and with his other arm tightly secured about her waist, he led his wife back into the ballroom. Mr. Weston immediately appeared before them.
"Oh Emma-I was just looking for you. And my word, Knightley-so you managed to make it after all. Wonderful. May I present my old friend Lord Hollingsworth and his wife. I always say it is a small world for the lady just informed me that she grew up in Highbury."
The lady in question was every bit as beautiful as Emma had been led to believe. The former Annabel Edwards was tall and slim with an arresting display of golden curls floating in incandescent waves over her forehead. It was chiefly her luminous crystal-blue eyes which gave distinction to Lady Hollingsworth's square-shaped face and colour to her pallor. Her eyes were an oddly bewitching mixture of angelic sweetness and womanly restlessness. They hid more than they revealed. It was a face that even as a child could never have been described as child-like. A bell-like voice suddenly interrupted the dreadful awkwardness of the room.
"It is indeed a pleasure to make your acquaintance-Mrs. Knightley." she murmured silkily, thrusting a child-like, be-ringed hand in Emma's direction. And-George-you are looking well..."
Emma could only fixate on the fact that she had called him George. In all of her wild imaginings, she had never once thought it possible that this woman would have the nerve to call him George. It suddenly darted into Emma's head that if Mr. Knightley was able to look into Lady Hollingsworth eyes then he no longer felt anything for her. With a sinking feeling in her heart, Emma waited, but still Mr. Knightley did not. Indeed, he was avoiding Lady Hollingsworth's gaze as much, if not more so, as she was.
"You are already acquainted with Mr. Knightley, ma'am?"
"We have met before," Mr. Knightley added, the colour gradually returning to his face.
"My father was curate here, Mr. Weston, when I was but a girl," Lady Hollingsworth breezily responded. "George and I played together as children. I cannot recollect a time when he was not getting me out of one scrape or another.." Pausing for full dramatic effect, Lady Hollingsworth tucked a loose curl, which had dared to fall from her forehead, behind an bobble-decorated ear.
Emma could only bear to watch this conversation in a frozen, stony silence. It seemed to Emma that she was watching a performance-the very best kind. Indeed, her rival's cool, collected demeanor was so perfected that it never appeared affected. Such was Lady Hollingsworth's immense achievement. Every sing-song cadence, animated gesture, and every effortless word conspired together to produce the richest, most intoxicating, harmonious melody. The lady was undoubtedly aware of the magic created when she veiled her eyelashes, setting them dancing like rose petals across her cheek. If anyone can be said to be in complete command of one's surroundings and world, Lady Hollingsworth was. And she knew it, especially the power of her steady, unwavering gaze. As her heart literally turned over, Emma reflected that Lady Hollingsworth was almost daring, challenging Mr. Knightley to look at her.
Intently adjusting and re-adjusting her ivory satin gloves, perfecting perfection, the former Annabel Edwards patiently waited for the propitious moment and continued: "Do you remember the summer I broke my ankle jumping your father's fence? I did not want either you or John to know how mortally terrified I was. Many a times I thought of turning back, but I could not, would not.."
"No one had greater spirit, Annabel," Mr. Knightley slowly replied, carefully choosing his words.
"Stubborn as my horse, Bessie! That's what I always say-Sir," Lord Hollingsworth interjected, grasping his wife's arm between his fleshy palms. "What a time I had convincing her to marry the old boy!" With that, Lord Hollingsworth broke into an uncontrollable fit of laughter. Every renewed burst loosened some hitherto unseen pocket of flesh, culminating in a ripple of perspiration along Lord Alfred's baby-pink brow. Only Mr. Weston joined in his friend's gaiety.
Emma blushed deeply at her folly. With insufferable arrogance and vanity she had believed that she alone knew how to best handle the Lady Hollingsworth situation. And that she could control the meeting, resolve her feelings, and tidily and neatly dispose of Lady Hollingsworth from her mind, as if she never existed at all. Why had she not chosen instead to speak to Mr. Knightley? Surely-his words could not have wounded her as much as this! Panic-stricken and perversely curious, she had been these past two weeks; but still Emma had to recognize that she had never really believed that Mr. Knightley was not hers and hers alone- only now. His deliberate refusal to meet Lady Hollingsworth's gaze continued to weigh heavily with Emma, piercing her heart. Could he still love her? And did she still love him? Once again-she recognized that she had been a fool. She had made herself believe that what she wanted, needed most, was to face Lady Hollingsworth-when she really didn't want to acknowledge her at all! By inviting the Hollingsworths to Highbury she had brought unpardonable indignities and embarrassments to herself, and especially to Mr. Knightley. Many a time, she tried to read his thoughts, but he seemed lost in his own self-induced reverie. What was Mr. Knightley thinking? Did he suspect her involvement in the meeting? Emma reflected that within a matter of minutes, an invisible wall had been erected between them and she did not know how to surmount it. And it was all her own folly. Her own doing! Oh God! Had she not brought Lady Hollingsworth back to Highbury! Had she only left her and the past where they belonged! Emma's thoughts were all too soon interrupted by Mrs. Elton's exuberant exclamations.
"Why Lord and Lady Hollingsworth-this is indeed a surprise! Dear Mr. E's eyesight is not at all what it once used to be, but I was certain it could only be you! I had no idea you knew the Westons! Quite the amazing coincidence, I think, she cooed," intently staring at Emma. "Although no one thinks of dress less than I do, I could not help admiring yours. Satin, is it not? I am all astonishment at how similar our styles are. And tell me-have you been enjoying your stay in our dear Highbury? Perhaps Mr. E and I could interest you in one our exploring parties. As my friends always say, I am the model guide. I almost feel like an adopted daughter of Highbury, if I can presume to call myself such.."
"Thank-you Mrs. Elton-that is very kind of you. And an exploring party-what an utterly charming invitation! However, I think I can speak for Lord Hollingsworth in saying that we are not certain of our plans, as yet. I can assure you that it is indeed delightful to see Highbury again. There was a time when I believed I wanted nothing more than to leave, and now I can't imagine a more enchanting, inviting place. It is truly home." Intently searching Mr. Knightley's face, she slowly continued: "I am reminded of the lines- twice or thrice I had loved thee, before I knew thy face or name."
"That is how I feel returning to Highbury," she added, lowering her chin as a butterfly spreads its wings. Emma could but dig her finger nails into her palms, vainly trying to keep her composure. "Oh God! How I hate that sing-song voice of hers!" Thankfully, Mrs. Weston re-appeared, wrapping a supportive arm about Emma's waist.
"My Dear-I think our guests are getting restless. Should we not announce supper?"
"Indeed- Mrs. Weston. I have forgotten my manners. Knightley-would you be so kind as to assist me?"
"Why yes. Of course-Mr. Weston. At your service," Mr. Knightley replied in a voice tinged with audible relief. Arching her head, Lady Hollingsworth smiled sweetly at Emma, as her husband offered his arm. Out of the corner of her eye, Emma could not help noticing how Lady Hollingsworth made a point of deliberately turning towards the terrace, only to look back with her eyes and catch Mr. Knightley's gaze. It was the first time he openly met her eyes, the whole evening. Emma continued to reflect on this odd gesture and what it all meant, until Mr. Knightley's firm, insistent voice awakened her.
"Emma. Emma dear-do you still wish to return to Hartfield?"
"Indeed-Mr. Knightley. I am dreadfully tired."
"Surely you would not wish me to slight Mr. Weston?" Lifting her chin to meet his face, he continued: "I promise. I shall not be long. Trust me! Trust me-my darling. Mrs. Weston-pray, take care of her." Before Emma could further protest, he was gone; his distinctive figure lost in the multicoloured haze of swirling dance couples. For the longest of moments, Emma continued to look longingly, desperately after Mr. Knightley, but he did not return. She felt as if someone had just struck her in the very pit of her stomach. An aching sensation overwhelmed her body. Indeed-she was literally paralyzed with fear.
"Emma dear-you look awfully pale. Will you not sit down for a moment?" Mrs. Weston replied, the deepest concern plainly etched over her face.
"Sit down! You want me to sit down. Oh dear! Mrs. Weston-what have I done? Did you see the way she was looking at him-her eyes never left his for a moment. And that poem of hers-solely directed at Mr. Knightley. How dare she? That sing-song voice of hers and those smiles and that neck. That woman has no neck! How could he have ever loved her? It is such a debasement on his part!"
Emma-may I remind you that you still no nothing of Mr. Knightley's true feelings, nor will you until you talk to him. My dearest child-will you not take a turn with me? A little night air might compose you."
Gently, then, Mrs. Weston led Emma towards the terrace. Almost at once, Emma recognized Mr. Knightley and Lady Hollingsworth, heavily engrossed in an intimate tête-à-tête, at the opposite end of the balcony. Even in the poor light, it appeared to Emma that Lady Hollingsworth's face was literally touching his. Shock and mortification overtaking her, Emma sprung from Mrs. Weston's firm grasp. Hurriedly, she brushed past the guests, as they one by one jostled past her, even tearing Emma's gown, on their collective way to the supper-room. Tears began to well up in Emma's eyes, blurring her vision. But for once, she did not care who noticed them.
Like a weary child, Emma closed the bedroom door and threw herself on the bed, muffling her sobs in the rose-scented, feather pillows. "I must think it all out," she muttered again and again.
James' hoarse cries immediately captured her attention and staggering to the window, Emma looked out at Mr. Knightley. Even under the cloak of night, made all the more ominous by the torrent of rain showers, Emma could never mistake the firm, broad shoulders, shock of dark hair, and commanding presence. With great ease and grace, Mr. Knightley leapt from his horse and set about giving instructions to James. Emma was heartily thankful for this warning, however brief, which allowed her to compose her thoughts and smooth her rumpled dress and hair. She even mentally prepared a speech only to instantly forget it when Mr. Knightley, rain-drenched and pale-faced, finally entered the room.
Standing by the mantelpiece, the fire casting shadows across his handsome face, Mr. Knightley lowered his chin and looked up with his eyes, insistently seeking Emma's gaze. It was a characteristic gesture of his and one of the things that Emma loved most about him: That intangible, magical way he could silently enter her mind and read her thoughts. To be truthful, Emma loved too many things about Mr. Knightley.
For what seemed an eternity, they stood, wordlessly, endlessly gazing at each other as the hearth logs crackled and snapped. Emma trembled, so much so that she continued to remain silent, fearing that he would detect the sound of terror in her voice. She had determined that Mr. Knightley should and would speak Lady Hollingsworth's name first. Unable to bear another moment of this dreadful silence, however, she finally found her voice and began.
"Yes. I know," she haltingly began, only to drop her face between her hands.
"Emma-You cannot really believe? How could I think of anyone else, when there is you...? How could I love..?" Mr. Knightley stared alarmingly at Emma's white face, only to abruptly break off in mid-sentence and take her in his arms. With incredible tenderness and gentleness, he placed Emma's head on his shoulder, enfolding her even more tightly in his embrace. Mr. Knightley's lips moved from her lips to her closed eyes, as he continued to hold Emma as if he would never let her go. Emma gasped with pleasure, desperately clinging to him. Slowly, she ran her hands over the strong shoulders beneath the waistcoat, aware of every heart-beat, every breath of the body close to hers.
"I love you so much. I love you more than anything else in the world. My dearest Emma-you are terribly cold. Will you not sit by the fire?" Mr. Knightley softly muttered against her face. Glancing around the room, he immediately swept Emma off her feet and carried her to the bed, wrapping the warm, smooth blankets about Emma's shoulders. When he was completely certain that she was properly looked after, he then, and only then, decided to continue.
"How did you learn of my connection to Annab.. Lady Hollingsworth? Mrs. Elton's contented, satisfied air told much at the ball. It was she, was it not?"
"Yes-it was Mrs. Elton. She became acquainted with Lady Hollingsworth in Bath. However, the fault is mine; for it was I, and I alone, who pressured Mrs. Weston to invite the Hollingsworths to the ball. I could not rest until I knew the whole story."
"Mrs. Elton! Selfish! Unpardonable woman!" Emma had not expected the fury that Mr. Knightley displayed. She had never seen him so angry as he jumped up, muttering under his breath. Finally, he came back and knelt before Emma, tenderly grasping her hands in his.
"Emma-you know you hear nothing but truth from me. And you always will. Listen to me, then, my darling. This is not pleasant for me to discuss, but as you are undoubtedly aware, Lady Hollingsworth and I knew each other as children. However, it was not until I returned home from a trip abroad, the summer of my twenty-seventh year, that I felt anything beyond friendship for her. Indeed, we were all charmed by Annabel-her playfulness, her wit-John, even my father. I knew her heart was not completely disengaged from her cousin Edward, an army lieut. whom her family had sent away. But, the events of that summer convinced me of our mutual attachment and I proposed.... Much of that you already know. Where you are mistaken, however, is that it was not my family who severed our engagement...It was Miss Edwards. Soon after, a letter arrived regarding her cousin Edward's death. Annabel had always been devoted to him-they were very similar in interest and temperament. His death was a great shock to her and she, in turn, decided to revoke her acceptance of my marriage proposal. The lady made it clear that she loved me, but only as a brother. Nor, would she be content remaining in Highbury, in the country as her mother before her. Miss Edwards, then, informed me that she had decided to accept her Aunt Catherine's invitation and spend a season in London. As you can no doubt imagine, whatever I felt for her died at that moment."
Emma continued to remain silent, mesmerized by the sheer power of his voice and the gentleness of his touch. His words weighed heavily with her and she recognized the delusion under which she had been labouring. She had taken a phantom from the past and magnified it into a fairytale of epic proportions; lovers cruelly parted who would always regret one another. She next heard him utter in such a tone of sincerity that his behaviour tonight was only the result of embarrassment. He had been truly shocked to see Lady Hollingsworth again and had been trying to uncover her purpose in returning to Highbury when Emma appeared on the terrace. If Emma continued to feel any pain it was only for him, and her role in bringing such an unpleasant part of Mr. Knightley's past to the surface. The truth was undeniable and simple. Mr. Knightley was hers and hers alone. Her happiness was inexplicably and indelibly dependent on his.
Stroking her cheek, Mr. Knightley spoke again: "All of those weeks in Brunswick Square, I could only think of you. Dull would be the soul who could gaze upon the majesty of London and be unaffected, but none of it compares to my own, Emma. Dearest Emma-there is nobody but you. There never could be anyone else but you." If Emma continued to harbour any doubts, she immediately and completely surrendered then to the brilliant light of Mr. Knightley's eyes.
Under a cloudless, golden June day, a party of well-wishers gathered around Mr. Knightley's beautiful, noble gardens to mark the occasion of his and Emma's removal to Donwell Abbey. After much gentle persuasion and coaxing on the part of Emma, and especially Mr. Knightley, Mr. Woodhouse was finally persuaded to accompany them, leaving Hartfield to John and Isabella. When the topic was first broached, Mr. Woodhouse's misery at the prospect can scarce be expressed, so much so that Emma almost abandoned the idea all together. It was only when Mr. Knightley thought it proper and time to inform Mr. Woodhouse, in a discrete and gentlemanly fashion, of Emma's "delicate condition" that he relented. A subsequent conversation with Mr. Perry further strengthened Mr. Woodhouse's new-found conviction of the necessity of moving; the air and space of Donwell would be so much more conducive to poor Emma's health. Sickly season being what it was and all.
And so on this most perfect, sun-kissed day, the guests, under the spirited leadership of a basket-armed Mrs. Elton, began to pick strawberries from Donwell's famous, lush fields. A notable absentee in the party was the mistress of the house, Mrs. Knightley. The intense heat of the afternoon had the effect of tiring Emma and Mr. Knightley insisted that she return to the shade of her bedchamber. Emma's absence was of particular interest and a topic of conversation with the Eltons, especially Mrs. Elton.
"Poor Knightley!" she cried. "And did you notice how she left the ball so abruptly? I fear he will always love that charming Lady Hollingsworth. Such a beauty. 'Tis a mark of desperation- this removal to Donwell. Poor man! How he suffers! No one to help him with his guests."
"My dear-he looked rather well to me," Mr. Elton added distractedly.
"My dear Mr. E-your lack of perception astonishes me! Look into his eyes! It's a sad affair. Perhaps I could persuade him to confide in me. As my friends always say, I am the soul of compassion. Knightley was always such an eccentric. But-I fear he finds no comfort at home. And the poor man is truly trapped now. I have long disapproved of child-bearing so early in marriage. It shows a shocking lack of decorum!"
Poor Knightley immediately came into view and unable to avoid Mrs. Elton's insistent cries, he gingerly made his way to their side.
"Elton. Mrs. Elton. I trust you are enjoying Donwell. We shall be moving into the house shortly for a light supper."
"Knightley-that reminds me there was something I wished to speak to you about. Given Mrs. Knightley's unfortunate absence, I wondered if I might be of assistance to you with your guests. Leave everything to me. I shall not disappoint you."
"How very generous and selfless you are, Mrs. Elton! But-I would not wish to impose on you," Mr. Knightley replied slowly, almost giving into a stronger impulse. Turning, he decided to take a different approach: "Mrs. Elton-your exploring hats never cease to interest me. Such an intricate and immense display of feathers. How ever do you manage it?"
"Knightley-you amuse me exceedingly. My friends often say that no one trims a hat as well as I. Perhaps-I could instruct Mrs. Knightley.."
Mr. Knightley's face hardened once again. Before he could reply, however, James appeared, a small pink envelope thrust in his left hand.
"Urgent business, Sir," James muttered hastily, before excusing himself. Mr. Knightley carefully opened the envelope and walking away from the Eltons, he set about reading its contents. When Mr. Knightley reached the bottom of the page, a faint smile darted up his face, deepening in his eyes, only to disappear when he faced Mrs. Elton once again.
"I hope everything is fine," Mrs. Elton responded, more curious than concerned.
"Quite-a complicated business matter is all. But-one deserving the most immediate and careful attention. Mrs. Elton, I believe I will impose on your kindness after all. It would so ease my mind to know that you were overseeing the party. Please ensure that the guests retire to the shade of the house and implore them to dine without me."
"Why yes-of course...," Mrs. Elton started to utter. But before she could finish, Mr. Knightley bowed and was gone. Glancing back at Mr. E, Mrs. Elton could only sigh and bestow a knowing look: "Poor Knightley," she uttered again and again, before decidedly and immediately turning her attentions to the ineptitude of Mr. Knightley's housekeeper and the calamity that Mrs. Jennings informed her was the supper table.
Breathing in the triumph of the supper, Mrs. Elton leaned back in her chair, Mrs. Knightley's chair. All at once, she realized that she had misplaced a jeweled-encrusted pin, a wedding gift from her brother, Mr. Suckling of Maple Grove. It was of great sentimental value, and more to the point-it was worth a small fortune. Excusing herself, she quickly returned to the gardens and as luck was always her strong suit, (unlike poor Selina) she soon found the red-ruby treasure among the tangled web of grass near the meadows.
Turning towards the House, Mrs. Elton next recognized Knightley walking back from the strawberry beds. About to call out to him, she soon realized that he wasn't alone.
In an incredibly intimate gesture, Mr. Knightley ran a yellow wildflower along Emma's face, down to the base of her neck, just below the gathered-up curls. Tenderly, Mr. Knightley rested his mouth on the same spot, re-tracing the flower's path with his lips. Emma insistently pulled at his white collar, drawing him back into the maze of shrubbery.
Alone once again, Mrs. Elton's shock and discomposure were indeed acute. Never had she felt more mortified. Undoubtedly, Mrs. Knightley had made a swift and complete recovery! Reaching for her pocket-book, Mrs. Elton took out a small, blossom-fragranced card. Splashed across the paper, in bold golden lettering, was the name Lady Hollingsworth. With a more composed air, Mrs. Elton returned to the house.
Languidly, Emma stretched her arm out to the slightly wilted yellow rose, carelessly brushing her fingers against the velvety petals. Her smile deepening, she grasped a small white card, peeking out from the flower. The words "Je t'aime" immediately enveloped her, unlocking the magic of the moonlight scene, the night before. Mr. Knightley had found her standing by the window, the soft light illuminating her hair and skin. He paused for an instant, raising his fingers to his mouth in that characteristic gesture, as if he were vainly attempting to check his emotions. Then, he came and drew her to him with an impulsive tenderness and gentleness which touched her deeply. How could she have ever doubted his love for her! His love was visible in every treasured gesture, every look. Oh, what a happy summer was before her! Mr. Knightley and she happily removed to Donwell, eagerly anticipating the birth of their child; Mr. Woodhouse finally settled and not too much disturbed by the move; John, Isabella, and the children were planning a summer visit; and above all, Lady Hollingsworth had returned to London.
Arching her back, Emma rang for Kitty and proceeded to relax in a warm bath. Hastily, she dressed and made her way to Ford's. As part of the removal to Donwell, Emma was still working with the workmen, making considerable improvements to her bedchamber, and especially her father's private rooms. His comfort was a primary concern. Mr. Knightley had done everything imaginable to entertain Mr. Woodhouse. Drawers of medals, shells, other family collections were displayed in his room, a source of continual amusement for his old friend. The cook had even been instructed to prepare a nice basin of gruel for Mr. Woodhouse to mark their first night at Donwell.
Mr. Ford had just gone to the back room to retrieve another fabric, when an all-too familiar voice called out Emma's name.
"How do you do Mrs. Knightley." Turning, Emma gazed into the impenetrable mystery of Lady Hollingsworth's dark eyes.
"Lady Hollingsworth," Emma stammered. "Mr. Weston informed us that you had left Highbury."
"A sudden change in plans. Lord Hollingsworth's cough was so much improved by the Highbury air that he was determined to spend the summer here. I could not persuade him otherwise. And Mrs. Elton was so kind as to find us a house."
"Mrs. Elton-you and she have become great friends for such a short acquaintance, have you not?."
"Mrs. Elton is all kindness. Lord Hollingsworth is particularly excited about the prospect of exploring Box Hill. He is even ordering an exploring outfit from London for the occasion. I haven't seem him this excited in years. I trust you and G---, Mr. Knightley will be among our party. You are most cordially welcome. Oh my, look at the time and there is my carriage. Good-day Mrs. Knightley."
Emma was visibly struck, her face an alarming white. What was this woman's purpose in remaining in Highbury? Was it to be only to be near- Mr. Knightley? So discomposed and mortified was Emma that she left the store without her package.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.