Introduction / In the Rose Garden / Tea with George / The Ladies at Longbourn / Finding Hunsford / Somewhere Over Surrey / An Awkward Business / In the Kitchen
|Jennifer Ehle -1995|
"Let us hope for not all our associates, Bingley, but just those who most matter," he said, thinking of Wickham. What if he was amongst them as well, and Darcy could not get his letter into Elizabeth's hands before the rogue could further insinuate himself? Somehow, he must find a mechanism for discrete communication. The swelling numbers of guests might be an advantage, and in the chaos that ensued once Mr. Knightley announced that rooms had been prepared for the visitors to repair to and refresh before dinner, he thought he might have his opportunity. Walking with determination towards Miss Elizabeth, who was conversing with Mrs. Collins, he was intercepted by Miss Woodhouse, who swept the two ladies away with an invitation to Hartfeld, visible through the corridor's window, along with a few of the other ladies already dressed. Elizabeth graciously accepted, and they took themselves off in the opposite direction from Darcy, joining a party composed of Miss Morland and Mrs. Weston.
Having dispensed Hartfield's hospitality to each and ordering her maid to lay out her newest and most fashionable evening dress (feeling most unwilling to make a target for Lady Catherine and Miss Elliot's disdain), Miss Woodhouse sought her father. She did not wish to intrude her guests upon his peace after such a trying ordeal, but the hours he had spent with Mr. Knightley had gone far to allay his mind of good deal of anxiety, and Emma was pleased to find him so composed, sipping his gruel by the fire.
"That I do not know, Papa, which is why I must hurry and dress for dinner at Donwell. There is yet much to be discussed."
"To go out again, my dear, and after being gone from Hartfeld for so long, is precisely what I wish you would not do."
Emma smiled indulgently, determined to coax her father into acceptance, telling him firmly but gently that she had to go, dwelling on the convenience of having Donwell so very close by, and inquiring into his visit with Miss Bates and the Eltons. Finally seeing him at peace, she excused herself to hasty preparations, promising to send word of Perry, as soon as any was to be had.
Rejoining the ladies in the drawing room, Miss Woodhouse found herself drawn into just the type of intrigue most agreeable to her imagination. Miss Bennet approached her almost immediately, offering quiet thanks for their hostess' timely intervention.
"I do not know if you noticed, Miss Woodhouse, but I am certain Mr. Darcy was about to descend when you invited Mrs. Collins and myself to join you. I think I have rarely been so thankful for an invitation."
"My pleasure to be of service, Miss Bennet. Has Mr. Darcy toubled you?"
Elizabeth blushed slightly, saying only, "He and I do not see eye to eye."
Miss Woodhouse was intrigued. "So you are previously acquainted? I thought he seemed a very pleasant gentleman."
"Mr. Darcy can be agreeable when he chooses," came the elusive reply.
Now Emma was fully alive with curiosity. She had thought Mr. Darcy a bit brusque, but generally e seemed to be cut much from the same cloth as Mr. Knightley, though perhaps with a greater concern for fashion. She could not imagine him arriving at a dinner on foot, or doing anything else so eccentric, but she also could not see him behaving as anything less than a gentleman. Priding herself on her ability to judge character, Emma determined that she would do her best to learn how Mr. Darcy had offended a seemingly sensible lady, though the time for such inquiries was not now at hand. They had a meal to consume and business to discuss, and so the ladies proceeded back to Donwell, ready to encounter whatever further strangeness the remains of the day might unfold.
Mr. Darcy paced Donwell's hall, hoping the ladies would return before any more guests descended. There was already a healthy gathering of gentlemen and ladies amassing in the drawing room, engaged in those conversations that might belong to any party, rather than one so exceptional as this, and while Mr. Darcy was tempted to joining Sir Thomas Bertram, Mr. Tilney, and Mr. Knightlrey in the only sensible discussion there transpiring, his anxiety to deliver the letter, now in his breast pocket, safely to Miss Bennet overrode all other concerns.
As he crossed the floor for what seemed to be the hundredth time, he became aware of a tapping noise. Looking about him, he noticed a woman, strange to him, strumming on a windowpane and beckoning. Such odd behavior would normally incur his disdain, but such was the nature of the day's events that Mr. Darcy's usual fastidiousness was quite overhauled. He opened the front door and stepped outside, confronting an unusual looking woman. She wore neither hat nor gloves, but these were the least of her peculiarities. What most made him stare was her style of dress, which was unlike anything he had ever before witnessed. Before he could demand what such a disreputable person thought she was about, he was addressed familiarly, in a foreign but educated accent.
"Excuse, Mr. Darcy, for rapping at a window is certainly not the manner in which I wished to make your acquaintance, but I will assume bad first impressions are a good omen with you." He stared in perplexity, and she continued. "You may have deduced that I am Mrs. Adams. I know you must have many questions for me, but I only have a moment to spare. I will be back later in the evening to talk to you all about your predicament, but for now, please take this book. It belongs to Miss Bennet. She left at Rosings the last evening she was there. You may return it to her on behalf of your aunt, securing your letter safely inside."
He eagerly took the book, asking, "But how did you know, Mrs. Adams? I was prepared to find you extraordinary, but did not expect telepathy."
She laughed, encouraged by his acceptance of her help. "All will be explained later, at least as well as I am able to explain it. I shall return soon. You cannot not know what an honor it is to meet you, Mr. Darcy," and she swept away into the darkness.
Before Mr. Darcy reentered the Abbey, the ladies were upon him. Miss Woodhouse was all attention as he bowed and greeted them. Escorting the entire party inside, he turned to Elizabeth and said. "I hoped to speak with you, Miss Bennet." Noticing that he had caught the attention of all six ladies, he visibly stiffened, saying formally, and perhaps a bit louder than was necessary: "I believe you left this volume belongs to you. It was left at Rosings, and my aunt wished me to return it."
Elizabeth took it suspiciously. "It is indeed mine. Though I had not realized it traveled with me to Kent." She thought he flushed and continued, "Please forgive my carelessness, and thank you for your assistance, Mr. Darcy."
"A pleasure, madame," he bowed formally and returned to the drawing room ahead of the ladies.
|Claudie Blakley - 2005|