Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Mixed Up Mashup: Somewhere Over Surrey

Mr. Knightley sat some hours with Mr. Woodhouse. It was impossible to make the distraught man even remotely comfortable in any less time. Though relieved to know Emma was safe at Donwell, he could not make his mind up to her being sent for, just in case the world turned upside down once more while she was walking about, nor could he allow Mr. Knightley to leave, for much the same reason. It was only when Miss Bates and her niece called, in company with the Eltons, that he could even begin to believe that reality bore the slightest resemblance to its own self.

Sophie Thompson 1996
They had met Mr. Tilney, who steered them in the direction Donwell and Hartfield currently lay. "My dear Mr. Woodhouse! How very strange! I was just telling Jane, I do not know what to make of it! Is it not extraordinary? My mother and I were breakfasting. Jane was not yet about, as she is unused to our early hours, you know. The Colonel and Mrs. Campbell rose far later, but of course they would need the sleep, with all their many evening engagements. The very quiet manner in which mother and I live must be very difficult for Jane, following such fine style. Of course, Mr. Perry does think the quiet will do her good, Mr. Woodhouse -"
Donald Eccles 1972

"Indeed, my dear Miss Bates, you must do precisely as Perry prescribes! No one understands the cause of headache better than Perry!"

"Certainly, my dear Mr. Woodhouse - and how kind of you to take such interest in Jane's health - but I do think the change in environment must require some time for adjustment. So you see Jane was not in the room at the time, but mother and I were, and we saw it all happen just as clear as I see all these good friends before me now. Well, it is possible Mother did not, for while with her spectacles - so cleverly secured by Mr. Frank Churchill: is he not gallant? - she can certainly see well enough for her work, and thank goodness for it, but I often wonder if she has difficulty at a distance. Just the other day, I saw Miss Cole and William Cox walking together. "Mother," I said, "is that not Mr. William Cox escorting Miss Cole?" and mother could not confirm that it was. I am very sure I was correct, however, because I saw Mrs. Cole later that morning, and she told me they had met at Ford's - Poor Mrs. Ford! - and William brought her home. I wonder where they all can be? One moment all of HIghbury was just where it ought to be, and the next moment I was looking at an entirely unfamiliar set of houses! Is it not extraordinary?"

Fiona Walker 1972
"It is highly unusual!" concurred a piqued Mrs. Elton. "I never heard of such goings on at Maple Grove!"

Blake Ritson 2009
"Exactly so, Augusta! Highly unusual! What is to be done?"

All naturally looked to Mr. Knightley for direction, and he told them of the meeting that had taken place at Donwell, and what had there been decided. He would like to have sent them all on to his home, that they might gather as many of the residents of this bizarre neighborhood in one place, but having already determined that no good could come from trying to move Mr. Woodhouse, he recommend they all remain at Highbury except Mr. Elton, who might assist him in canvassing the area. This, however, Mrs. Elton could not bear. She was not of a nervous nature, being blessed with those precious resources that preclude such disorders, but under these exceptional circumstances, she thought it not unreasonable for a new bride to require her husband's attentions. Mr. Knightley would not deign to argue such points, and assured that these Highbury notables would be pleased to commiserate with each other for no short period of time, Mr. Knightley said his goodbyes and made good his escape.

He had not walked far down the lane when he met Mr. Tilney, who was leading an assortment of incongruent characters to Donwell. "Mr. Knightley!" he hailed him. "I have not managed to find Mrs. Adams, but I have found the family she recommended to me, the Prices. This is Sir Thomas Bertram, who was so good as to offer his assistance, and Mr. Crawford. I found the latter in company with Mr. Price and his daughters, who were walking in Norfolk when they found themselves stranded on this strange road. Amazingly convenient that Mrs. Adams told me precisely where their home lay, is it not, for they knew not in which direction to turn. I thought to bring them with me first, that they might share in our conference."

"You have been far more productive than I," Mr. Knightly said upon completing the introductions. "I have only been to one house, the owner of whom was already known to me, and though several more members of my own neighborhood found us there, at your direction, I am only now setting out to explore the road ahead."

"I do not think it worth your time," replied Mr. Tilney. "I did venture some distance that way and found nothing but park land. It would take a great deal of time to explore it further, and I think our hours of daylight dwindle. Let us return to Donwell."

Mr. Knightley looked to the sky and saw the truth. Though spring, the day seemed not nearly as long as it ought - yet one more unfathomable puzzle to solve. He turned his steps towards home, falling in with these new companions.

It quickly became clear that there was more connection between the newcomers than appearances would have suggested. Though never fashionable, Mr. Knightley knew a perfectly tailored coat a well as the next gentleman, and thought it rather odd that a man of Mr. Crawford's stamp should be paying court, as he transparently was, to the daughter of such a creature as Mr. Price. So much was the attestation of appearance alone, but the relationship took on a still odder appearance when it became clear that the Misses Price were nieces to Sir Thomas. It was to this gentleman whom Mr. Knightley felt instinctively drawn, hoping the conscientious stamp of his brow would prove him an asset, but he found him taciturn and withdrawn.  At first he supposed this an understandable result of their unusual predicament - an excuse he had been making for many a new acquaintance that day - but upon understanding he was a relation to Mr. Price, the reasons behind the man's chagrin became more transparent. Clearly, here was not a connection of which he boasted. It was impossible the men were brothers, so Mr. Knightley assumed their wives must be sisters, and either Mr. Price had done very well for himself in marriage, or Sir Thomas rather poorly.

The former gentleman proved more garrulous than the baronet, eagerly questioning Mr. Knightley as to his business. Upon learning him a gentleman farmer, he expressed himself thusly:

David Buck 1983
"Are you, sir? That may do very well for some; Mr. Crawford's in the same line, and he's as right a lad as ever I met. But the call of the sea was all I ever knew, and my sons are just the same. My boy William was just made lieutenant, and prouder of him I could not be!"

"Very understandable, sir! I congratulate you."

"Lord knows it would have been the devil to pay had I to sponsor them myself - I've lost count of how many boys I've had! But Sir Thomas has been a fine one for patronage. He nearly raised Fan there, my eldest, and neither hide nor hair of her have we seen these many years, but even he never was able to see them promoted. Then here comes along Mr. Crawford, nephew to the admiral of same name, and before we know it William's made! Just like that! It goes to show how important grand connections are at sea, and if you had none yourself, I do not blame you one bit for keeping firm anchor on land."

Mr. Knightley saw Miss Price's conscious blush, and Mr. Crawford's attempt to shield her from the worst of this speech. Instinctively, she shed away from him and towards her uncle, who seem to find her companionship a cordial under trying circumstances.

Bernard Hepton 1983
"I trust we will soon be at our destination," he heard Sir Thomas saying. "You know poor Tom is sick abed, and I do not like to leave Lady Bertram alone under such strain."

Sylvestra Le Touzel 1983
"Is not my Aunt Norris with her, sir?" questionsed a concerned Miss Price.

"Indeed she is, Fanny, but I begin to wonder of late if she does not aggravate your aunt more than she helps. She has not proved of much assistance in this late crisis."

"I am sorry to hear that, sir."

"You shall return with me to Mansfield tonight, Fanny. We need your calm presence. Your things, it seems, can be readily sent for, and as your family is now located so nearby," he suppressed a weary sigh, "there is no need for you make a formal goodbye."

Miss Price seemed grateful for this consideration. Mr. Knightley thought he began to know these people and wondered how their familial tensions might cause further havoc amidst the existent chaos. Mr. Tilney's thoughts must have been similar, for the two men shared a concerned glance. Little did they know what greater trials lay immediately ahead.

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