Friday, October 19, 2012

A MIxed Up Mashup: An Awkard Business

Emma Woodhouse had her hands full. In their master's absence, Mr. Knightley's servants naturally looked to her for direction, and amidst such unprecedented circumstances, much was required. To further play hostess to three such contrary characters as were left upon her hands taxed her ingenuity in no small degree. Little did she recognize, however, the many undercurrents compelling her new associates, a wonder for one so perceptive to the affairs of others. The strain of the present crisis must stand as excuse for such uncharacteristic stupidity.

It was not long following the gentlemen's departure that Sir Walter returned, bringing with him John Dashwood, Captain Wentworth, and Admiral Croft. An intense dispute had arisen amongst these men. Sir Walter, claiming the loss of Camden Place, demanded to resume his position as master of Kellynch. Yes, he understood that he had signed a contract with his tenant, precluding any legal claim, but yet he insisted that the present predicament render it null and void. Surely had he foreseen such a need, he would never have then permitted such restrictive terms.

Rupert Penry-Jones 2007
This was the first meeting Captain Wentworth had been forced to endure with the foolish baronet since his broken engagement to her daughter some eight years ago. He could not regret the lost connection, nor had he forgotten the very insulting way he had been treated by Sir Walter at that time. To have him appear out of nowhere now, and behaving so incredibly unreasonable, was almost more than the Captain could stand. Stubbornly he defended his brother's rights, but Sir Walter grew increasingly dictatorial. Proclaiming he was sure his new acquaintance, Sir John Dashwood, would be so hospitable as to provide accommodations for the displaced Crofts, that gentleman stalled and stammered over a response to such presumption, neither wanting to offend Sir Walter nor house the strangers. The end result was the gentlemen carried their dispute all the way back to Donwell, leaving Mrs. Croft at Norland en route, in hopes she and its mistress might have better luck resolving the conflict than their husbands.

The distraction of their arrival was welcome to Emma for the garrulousness they added to the conversation, as the ladies had been proceeding very poorly on their own. Lady Catherine had established herself in the room's most imposing chair and ordered about the servants as if she were in her own home. As they insisted on deferring to Emma in everything, she quickly became a focus for all her ladyship's chagrin, and had been enduring a barrage of slights with far more grace than she had ever thought possible. Reflecting that one never knew one's strength until tested, she congratulated herself on maintaining her pose, and concentrated her attentions on getting to know Miss Morland, whom she found perfectly charming. One so innocent and artless had instant appeal to Emma, and she further ingratiated herself by proving so accommodating to these more difficult new acquaintances.

As unable to shake off her wounded dignity as Lady Catherine, though she expressed in a quieter fashion, Elizabeth Elliot found it expedient to make herself that lady's ally. It was clear who would be dominant in their strange tea party, and the discussion enjoyed its most peaceful plateau while they contentedly compared genealogies. Emma could not like the disdain of Miss Elliot's tone upon learning that Mr. Morland was with the church, nor Lady Catherine's officious questions regarding his income, but as Miss Morland seem to take this treatment in stride, she was loath to intervene on her behalf. Anything that kept the peace she welcomed, until the two ladies began to attack the accommodations at Donwell.  Here she would speak, and it was a good thing the gentlemen entered when they did, for she feared that the conversation was in danger of becoming an outright argument.

The servants now reached a fevered pitch of confusion. Were all these people dining at Donwell? Where was a butcher to be found in these strange surroundings? Though no one was dressed to dine, Emma thought Mr. Knightley had best provide at least a light repast, and she excused herself to consult with Mrs. Hodge in the storeroom. Never before had she delved this deep into the Abbey, and her eye was alert to every convenience and arrangement. After such a day of previously unknown excitement, Emma was of a mind to find interest everywhere, and she praised the housekeeper's methods with enthusiasm, thereby placating her troubles to no small degree. Emma hoped, upon returning to the drawing room, that Mrs. Hodges would pass her cheered demeanor onto the rest of the staff, giving her an opportunity to get to know some of the gentlemen. She was very pleased with the appearance of Captain Wentworth, an impression increased when she noted Miss Elliot's cold reception of him.

John Woodvine 1995
Frederick was happy to speak with a companion both pretty and intelligent. To forget the Elliots at such a moment was no small luxury. As the Admiral seemed pleased to sit between Miss Morland and Lady Catherine, happily regaling both with tales of high adventure on the sea in spite incessant interruption, and Elizabeth had quickly commanded her father's full attention, alive with concerns for the slighted Dalrymples, for whom Mr. Dashwood found surprising quantities of sympathy, he could only count himself fortunate in his companion. Here was sweetness of manner, more than a little beauty, and what he suspected was an uncommonly strong mind. Well did he recall reciting these qualification to his sister, not a week before, and despite the urgency of their circumstances, he could only wonder, as he listened to Miss Woodhouse speak of her father, if he had not fallen in with precisely the lady for whom he had been searching.

When Anne Elliot entered the room, he tried to grasp onto these thoughts and cling to them, much like lifeboat, for protection. With renewed intensity did he attend to Miss Woodhouse, determined that Anne should not perceive what pain her mere presence caused him, but unfortunately, his temptress was accompanied by two companions, one of whom immediately claimed Miss Woodhouse's full attention. Consumed by her delight to see Mrs. Weston, the charming captain was forgotten, left to stand in uncomfortable state before the newcomers, struggling to avoid Anne's eye.

Anne was equally disconcerted to come upon Captain Wentworth in such a manner, and the surprise of being reunited with her father and sister before him intensified her discomfort. Mr. Darcy saw her unease, and grateful for the way in which she had soothed his own disordered nerves at Longbourn, he now put his efforts into returning the favor. Seeing that Miss Elliot and his aunt had come to a sort of understanding, he found himself secluded into an area of the room that contained its most haughty inhabitants. Still suffering under Miss Bennet's rebukes of the previous evening, it was only Miss Anne whom he could tolerate amongst their select group, and the two engaged in a more animated conversation than was customary to either, she seeking relief for feelings most overwrought, and he hoping to distinguish himself from the pretensions of the others. It was at this moment that another group was announced, and he heard, with something between panic and delight, Miss Bennet announced.

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