Saturday, January 15, 2011

Emma Janeicillin: Part Four

It took all of Emma's notable contrivance to greet her fiance alone that evening, but being determined to share with him the good news herself, it was well worth the exertion. Her father was easily left in his usual chair in the parlor, happily ensconced near a comfortable fire. John and Isabella needed only to be asked and happily joined Mr. Woodhouse there. But as for the many nieces and nephews, whose presence at Hartfield Emma had never before begrudged, it took no little amount of stratagem to ensure they were safely employed in the nursery and not underfoot. For the little ones the feat was not so monumental, a simple game of spillikins, to which she had abandoned them, serving to suffice, but Henry and John proved far more difficult to manage. Emma was ashamed to admit that she had at last resorted to bribery, as no other means at her disposal had been effective, the boys rather desiring to tell Uncle George of the man they had dubbed the “fowl thief” themselves, and she would pay the price on the morrow by spending what Mr. Woodhouse was sure to deem an unconscionable amount of time gallivanting around the park on whatever adventure the boys devised. Yet as that was tomorrow's concern, she relished her ability to usher Mr. Knightley into one of the smaller sitting room as soon as he arrived for dinner, in order to indulge in a few precious moments alone.

“Emma, my dear, what is all this? Not that I am sorry to find you alone, but you look as if you might burst with news. What is it?”

“You have of course heard of the events of last night, have you not Mr. Knightley?”

“I presume you refer to the mysterious disappearance of poultry from the neighborhood?”

“Precisely. You have no notion how advantageous this event has been in our favor.”

In fact, Mr. Knightley had a very good notion indeed. He had met Miss Bates in Highbury following her visit to Hartfield, and that good lady had deprive Emma of her ability to share the exalted news herself, as she quickly spread it throughout the neighborhood. Most of the residents duly rejoiced, except for Mrs. Elton, who had bemoaned Knightley's fate. Mrs. Weston had been quite tempted to disregard both weather and missing turkeys to rush to Hartfield and express her joy. It was only Mr. Knightley's timely arrival at Randalls that prevented this occurrence, as, accurately convinced Emma would be quite anxious to impart the news to him herself, he convinced that good lady that revealing how widespread the knowledge was would ruin some of the excitement for her favorite. However, as he had no intention of betraying his lack of ignorance on the subject, he replied quite convincingly, “Indeed? How could such an unfortunate occurrence possibly bring any one good? It has already been the cause of a great deal of inconvenience to myself, forced to spend the day investigating the circumstance when I had much rather have spent it with you.”

At this Emma laughed. “Oh yes, I am sure, as if William Larkins would not have had something to say about such a notion. He must already deplore our engagement as the downfall of Donwell. You neglect your duties for Hartfield, and marriage will only worsen the matter, when you abandon your ancestral home to come to us.”

“William is not my keeper, despite what you think, Emma, and what duty has gone neglected, may I ask?”

“I am sure Mr. Larkins would be quite happy to furnish a list of offenses if pressed, Mr. Knightley.”

“Well, we had best not importune him in that case, and do call me George, Emma dear.”

“Very well, George, I will try, but the habits of a lifetime cannot be expected to disappear over night. But you have quite distracted me from my purpose. The incident at Randalls quite over set my father's piece of mind, as you can well imagine. Miss Bates broke it upon him most unceremoniously, and I was rather vexed with the creature, as I am sure you may well imagine, until she made everything right, and more so. Never before has she stood so high in my good graces. We are eternally indebted to her.”
“Are we indeed?” he responded with an amused smile. “And how has this miracle occurred?”

“When Miss Bates first arrived and rambled on for several minutes about shocking going-ons, intrusions, and long forgotten mysteries, I felt all my old impatience for her. My father was notably upset, and I was bent on putting an end to conversation posthaste until she burst out with the least silly thing I have ever heard her say, informing Papa what comfort it must be to him to have the Mr. Knightleys in residence for protection. Well, he clung to this notion so fiercely that he practically ordered us to marry at once! Not what have you to say to my fine news?”

Mr. Knightley laughed and embraced Emma, “I have merely to ask what stretch of ocean it most behooves you to visit. My dear Emma, these are superior tidings! And to think we owe it all to Miss Bates! I always knew you would come to appreciate her one day.”

“She has performed for us a most invaluable service. I had already resolved to never say another uncharitable thing about her again, but now that I am quite in her debt, I shall rather sing her praises to the entire neighborhood. I will make a point of visiting her regularly, and on the day she expects her letter from Jane too, so that she may enjoy the felicity of both describing all of its content as well as reciting the note itself, and I will be thankful to have brought her the opportunity of doing so.”

Such altruistic feelings on his intended's part only doubled Mr. Knightley's gratitude that she remained ignorant of the rapidity with which Miss Bates had managed to spread her announcement. “But where shall we go, Emma? You who have traveled so very little must have a particular notion as to our destination.”

“Well, why Papa is now thoroughly reconciled, or should I even say desirous?, of our expeditious union, he is not so enthused about the notion of my traveling. We had best not venture too far, so as to spare his nerves some anxiety, though we are all so well aware of Mr. Perry's predilection for Cromer. Besides, John and Isabella must depart by November, so we haven't much time for a long journey.”

“True. Shall I consult with Perry as to his nearest recommendation?”

“I think I had rather that we should chose a location and then inform Mr. Perry of how salubrious he finds it, before informing my father of our plans.”

“Brilliant notion. What shall it be then? Brighton? Mrs. Elton will be all envy.”

Emma made a face. “I think we can enjoy ourselves quite thoroughly without engaging Mrs. Elton's better instincts. Though Brighton should be growing quieter at this time of year, I think some place rather less showy might better fit our tastes, do you agree?”
“You know I do. Personally, I had much rather go to Worthing. Still very fashionable and elegant, but not the crush it was a few years ago. To travel there would be easy, and as I have a friend residing in the district, we can receive very good guidance as to where to stay. Besides, as I have never been there either, we will be discovering it together, which notion rather pleases me.”

“Then Worthing it shall be. How soon can you speak to Mr. Perry? It is very likely that he shall be here in the morning, and I would not like Papa to consult him before we have our say.”

“I shall send him a note immediately, if you will be so kind as to supply me with writing materials.”

“I am at your beck and call, Mr. Kni – George, I mean to say.”

“Much better, my dear. It shall be rolling off your tongue in no time.”

Emma laughed. “We shall see.”
The dinner that evening at Hartfield found everyone in high spirits, that is excepting Mr. Woodhouse. The fright he had endured that morning left him shaken, but none of his fidgets and worries could dampen the atmosphere. The Knightleys, both present and future, did not openly gloat over the setting of a wedding date, but having the matter resolved, and with such surprising lack of trouble, left them all feeling both satisfied and agreeable. Even Mr. John Knightley showed unusual patience with his father-in-law, going so far as to suggest a game of backgammon to him, an occupation he cheerfully kept up until Mr. Woodhouse had had his fill, and Isabella, catching her husband's good humor, never once showed the slightest concern for the health and well-being of any member of her brood. All this goodwill eventually had its effect on Mr. Woodhouse, and he too began to forget his fears. Those of us who know the players involved cannot expect that such a happy family party would become the norm, but a stranger looking in on that evening would never have guessed that peace and harmony did not always reign amongst those gathered together. 

Be sure to come back next week for another dose!


  1. Janeicillin for the soul is good indeed. Ah, dear Emma and Mr. Knightley - she may struggle to call him by that name, but I never shall - and her bribing small nephews. That would make a great scene too! :-)

    One small question - is it supposed to be "duly rejoiced" or "dully rejoiced?"

  2. Hi ibmiller! Duly, absolutely. I made the correction, and thanks for pointing it out! In my rush to make sure I actually get the Janeicillin out in a semi-timely manner, I am not always overly careful in proofreading.

    So glad you enjoyed this week's dose!