Monday, October 29, 2012

Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid (Part Six)

Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four / Part Five

Mr. Woodhouse had so completely made up his mind to the visit, that in spite of the increasing coldness, he seemed to have no idea of shrinking from it, and set forward at last most punctually with his eldest daughter in his own carriage, with less apparent consciousness of the weather than either of the others. The cold, however, was severe, and by the time the second carriage was in motion, a few flakes of snow were finding their way down, and the sky had the appearance of being so overcharged as to want only a milder air to produce a very white world in a very short time.

Neither Emma nor her companion were in the happiest humor. The preparing and the going abroad in such weather, with the sacrifice of his children after dinner, were evils, were disagreeables at least, which Mr. John Knightley did not by any means like. He anticipated nothing in the visit that could be at all worth the purchase, and such circumstances being particularly inclined to render him disagreeable, the whole of their drive to the vicarage was spent by him in expressing his discontent.

Emma did not find herself equal to give the pleased assent to his complaints, which no doubt he was in the habit of receiving from her sister. She could not be complying, and she dreaded being quarrelsome. Their conversation of that morning already bordered far too closely upon open dissent for her liking, but her feelings remaining injured, her heroism could only reach to silence. She allowed him to talk, and arranged the glasses, and wrapped herself up, without opening her lips.

Though he said no more of Mr. Elton, a rather conspicuous omission, particularly considering they were bound to collect him, Emma easily imagined her brother’s sharp eyes prepared for discovery. Anything resembling particular attention from the vicar would be immediately perceived and made much of, and she schooled herself to be as distant towards her suitor as courtesy permitted.

They arrived, the carriage turned, the step was let down, and Mr. Elton, spruce, black, and smiling, was with them instantly. Mr. Elton was all obligation and cheerfulness; he was so very cheerful in his civilities, indeed, that she felt certain her companion was heartily congratulating himself on being proved correct. She dared not look at him, but determining upon what was surely a harmless topic of conversation, turned Mr. Elton’s attentions towards her suffering friend.

"My report from Mrs. Goddard's," said she presently, "was not so pleasant as I had hoped. 'Not better' was my answer."

His face lengthened immediately, and his voice was the voice of sentiment as he answered.
"Oh! No, I am grieved to find, I was on the point of telling you that when I called at Mrs. Goddard's door, which I did the very last thing before I returned to dress, I was told that Miss Smith was not better. By no means better, rather worse. Very much grieved and concerned. I had flattered myself that she must be better after such a cordial as I knew had been given her in the morning."

Emma thought she perceived a self-satisfied noise emanating from Mr. John Knightley’s direction. Ignoring the compliment, she continued, “Mr. Perry has been with her, as you probably heard."

"Yes. I imagined - that is - I did not -"

"He has been used to her in these complaints, and I hope tomorrow morning will bring us both a more comfortable report. But it is impossible not to feel uneasiness. Such a sad loss to our party today!"

"Dreadful! Exactly so, indeed. She will be missed every moment."

This was very proper; the sigh which accompanied it was really estimable. She hoped here was proof enough that Mr. Elton was rather free with his gallantries, lessening the importance in her brother’s mind of those reserved for her. She would have liked to interpret his despondency as a sign of burgeoning feelings for her little friend, but it did not last. Only half a minute afterwards he began to speak of other things, and in a voice of the greatest alacrity and enjoyment to compliment to accommodations of the carriage. His determination to see everything in the most pleasant light, even the inclimate weather, made Emma’s spirits sink. Only a man in the deepest throes of love could continue on so cheerfully with so little encouragement. She said nothing, and her brother spoke only to censure. When Mr. Elton suggested the possibility of being snowed in at Randalls, maybe for days on end, and with such a look of pleasure, Emma dared a glance at her neighbor and saw his eyes raised in astonishment. He caught her eye, in which she read all he must be thinking, though he only said, "I cannot wish to be snowed up a week at Randalls."

“Nor can I,” Emma was quick to comply.

"We are sure of excellent fires," continued Mr. Elton, undaunted, "and everything in the greatest comfort. Charming people, Mr. and Mrs. Weston. Mrs. Weston indeed is much beyond praise, and he is exactly what one values, so hospitable, and so fond of society. It will be a small party, but where small parties are select, they are perhaps the most agreeable of any. I think you will agree with me,” he turned with a soft air to Emma, “I think I shall certainly have your approbation, though Mr. Knightley perhaps, from being used to the large parties of London, may not quite enter into our feelings."

"I know nothing of the large parties of London, sir. I never dine with anybody."

"Indeed!” in a tone of wonder and pity, “I had no idea that the law had been so great a slavery. Well, sir, the time must come when you will be paid for all this, when you will have little labor and great enjoyment."

"My first enjoyment," replied John Knightley, as they passed through the sweep gate, "will be to find myself safe at Hartfield again."

In spite of all her former contrary feelings, never had Emma known herself to be in such complete agreement with her brother. 

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Come back tomorrow to read part seven!

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