Sunday, August 06, 2006

An extract from Mr Knightley's Diary

As promised, here is an extract from Mr Knightley's Diary.

In it, Mr Knightley finds himself dissatisfied with Frank Churchill without realizing why he has taken such a dislike to him.

Monday March 8th

After a day’s work I was ready to enjoy the evening. I arranged for the carriage to be brought round in good time. I would not have taken it for myself, as I prefer to walk or ride, but I was glad to be able to show Miss Bates some attention, and to safeguard the health of her niece.

‘Well, this is travelling in style, is it not, Jane?’ asked Miss Bates as we drove to the Coles’s house.

Miss Fairfax, thus appealed to, said it was, but she continued to be in low spirits. It is perhaps not to be expected that the Highbury air could do her any good in March, but when the weather improves, then I hope to see an improvement in her health.

We arrived. I helped the Bateses out but I did not immediately follow them inside, as Emma arrived just behind me.

As she stepped out of the carriage, I thought I had never seen her look better. Her gown could be glimpsed beneath her pelisse, and I could see that it was new. I noticed that her hair was done in a different style, and I was disappointed to think that it was all in compliment to Frank Churchill.

‘This is coming as you should,’ she said in her nonsensical way, as she looked at my carriage appreciatively, ‘like a gentleman. I am quite glad to see you.’
I shook my head and laughed, saying: ‘How lucky that we should arrive at the same moment; for, if we had first met in the drawing-room, I doubt whether you would have discerned me to be more of a gentleman than usual. You might not have distinguished how I came by my look or manner.’

‘Yes I should; I am sure I should,’ she said serenely.
‘Nonsensical girl!’
I could not help my eyes following her as we went in, and I saw that the Coles had gone out of their way to please her. She was received with a cordial respect which could not but gratify her, and she was given all the consequence she could wish for. When the Westons arrived, their brightest smiles were for her, and Mr Weston’s son went straight to her side.

I wanted to like him, but I could not. Insufferable puppy! To go to London for a haircut! And then to go straight away to Emma, and ignore the rest of the party!
I did not want to watch the two of them, but I found I could not help myeself. He is of an age with her, he is handsome and charming, and what is more, the Westons wish the match. I have long suspected it, and now I am sure of it. They look upon her already as a daughter-in-law. But I cannot abide the thought of Emma being married to Frank Churchill!

To a good man, yes, one who knows her in all her moods, who can laugh at her follies and rejoice in her virtues; who will not allow her to give in to her worst instincts; one who knows her, and who, knowing her, would still love her, and would love her as she should be loved.
And that man is not Frank Churchill.

I spent the rest of the evening in an unhappy state and paid little attention to the conversation over dinner. Elton and his interesting situation were talked over; Miss Fairfax’s new pianoforte was discussed; and Emma talked all the time to Frank Churchill.

What could he have to say to her that was so amusing? She seemed to value his every word. I heard some mention of Weymouth, but nothing that seemed to warrant such close attention.
I was glad when dinner came to an end. The ladies left us, and the talk turned to politics. Frank Churchill took no part in the discussion. As I watched him, I could not help thinking that there was something unsettled about him, something that did not ring true.

He was very taken with Emma, but I thought his feelings were shallow and immature.
The talk moved on to parish business.
‘I can have nothing of interest to add,’ he said, standing up, ‘and so I will go and join the ladies. Perhaps I might be able to entertain them.’
Weston looked pleased at this gallantry, and Cole remarked, when he had left the room: ‘An agreeable young man.’
That was not my view of him, but I did not say so.

When we had finished with parish business, we moved through to the drawing-room, and I saw that he was sitting next to Emma. On her being spoken to by Mr Cole, however, his eyes wandered to Miss Fairfax. I hoped he might be switching his affections, but no such thing. As soon as Emma spoke to him, he was all attention again.
To turn my thoughts from this gloomy scene, I engaged Harriet in conversation, for she was sitting by herself. I asked her what she had been reading, and she told me she had been reading a romance. She looked nervously at Emma as she said so, and a further question elicited the information that she had been reading it at Mrs Goddard’s and not at Hartfield.

She talked about the book intelligently, however, and it was clear she had given it much thought.
I saw Emma glance at me several times, and look concerned. She supposed I was finding her little friend wanting. But Harriet is much improved, and there is a sweetness to her nature that will always recommend her to people of sense. She does not fly off to London for a hair cut on a whim.

Mr Knightley's Diary can be preordered from Amazon by clicking here. It will be out at the end of August in the UK, and October in the US.

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