Sleep did not come easily to Emma that night. Her mind was reeling and her thoughts were bouncing between the happiness of having Mrs. Weston secure with all the prospect joys of having her own daughter, and the uneasiness of her heart. Though she preferred joyful thoughts her mind kept wandering back to the extremely vexing conversation that superseded such joy.
Was it not unfair of her to wish to stop such a discourse from taking place? Mr. Knightley clearly desired to consult her on the matter, and as his friend she ought to hear him out. Even if the subject were to break her heart. Yes, that is what a good friend would do, is it not? Or, should she warn him of the evils of such an attachment? Though she had once been vehement in defending the good naturedness of Harriet Smith she surely must remind Mr. Knightley of the perils of such a match. He had once considered Harriet nowhere near the equal of Robert Martin, his own tennant. As she mused on this recollection a small voice in the back of her mind softly pointed out that it was because of her own marked attachment to Harriet that Mr. Knightley had been obliged to observe any amiable qualities in her at all, and to admonish those qualities now, when it suited her, would make her the most accursed hypocrite. That voice also pointed out that it had been Emma’s influence that encouraged Harriet to think above her station in the first place, as Mr. Knightley had once warned her against. Why had she not listened? Why had she not been content enough to find a new friend in Harriet and leave her happiness to her own agenda.
“It is all my own fault!” She cried
She could not help the tears that followed, and allowed herself, just this once, to feel the full force of her misery. It was a small comfort and soon made her head heavy and eyes grow weary. The warm embrace of her bed beckoned her.
The following morning Emma found herself moving rather slowly. She had resolved not to cry anymore on the subject, but she grew weary at the idea of having to put on an agreeable countenance before facing her father. She did not want him to worry, indeed she could not be the subject of his worry. She would never have allowed that even when she was ill! And now when the calamity was a matter of her heart, after she had spent years assuring him of the security of her company- she could not allude to any discomfort. No, this remorse could only be known to her, and as it was of her own design she would not subject anyone else to its consideration.
She called for her maid and readied herself for the day ahead. Her hair was tended to and every curl placed to perfection. She wore a bright dress that she hoped would distract from the suckeness of her eyes. As she quit her chambers and made her way down to the drawing room for their before breakfast tete-a-tete she was met with a most surprising scene. Mr. Perry was in the hallway having a hushed conversation with a group of servants. Upon seeing Ms. Woodhouse he bowed deeply and motioned for them to have a private word in the entryway. After some brief pleasantries the nature of his early visit was revealed.
“It appears, Ms. Woodhouse, that your father had a small fainting spell upon quitting his bed this morning.”
Emma’s shock was apparent.
“Do not distress yourself, he is much better now, though perhaps a little shaken. I have prescribed extra rest and an increase of fluids. I am sure he will be feeling much his old self soon, but I will be back this afternoon to check on him.”
“To be sure Mr. Perry, thank you for your diligence, he shall be under careful watch today and your recommendations shall be religiously adhered to. I thank you.” Was all she could muster in reply. She thanked him again for his concern and attentions and upon his leave rushed to her father’s side.
“Father, what happened? Did you injure yourself?”
“No, no Emma I am quite well, at least I think I am. So silly it is, Mr. Perry thinks me dehydrated, like a wilting plant you see. I really cannot account for such behavior, I am truly such an invalid.” He sighed
Before she could rebut such a statement Mr. Knighley entered, rather hurriedly, into the room.
“I fancied and earlier walk today and saw Mr. Perry leaving Hartfield. He said you were unwell this morning sir, I hope it is nothing serious” His eyes wandered from father to daughter as he said this, searching for signs of concern in her eyes.
“I’m afraid I have given everyone quite a scare this morning, such foolishness on my part.”
“No father, no one could blame you, I am sure it is this rather extreme change in weather that has permitted such a response. The heat and dampness in the air has extracted your strength, that is all. We shall listen very closely to Mr. Perry, no excursions today, and lots of water, that shall be the trick.” Emma consoled.
“I quite agree, and you shall not be without company sir, I am sure all of your friends in Highbury are as eager to see you well as those in Hartfield.” Mr. Knightley added warmly.
“Perhaps Mr. Knightley can sit with you father, whilst I talk to cook and the servants. We must make Mr. Perry’s recommendations known” She said, patting his hand comfortingly.
“I will be most happy to oblige, sir.”
While Mr. Knightley sat across from her father and began to talk of his plans for this years harvest, Emma felt her heart swell in gratitude. She knew quite well how to handle her father on her own under normal circumstances, however when something was amiss it was always nice to have backup and with Mrs. Weston disposed to her own familial events, Mr. Knightley’s steadfastness was a most welcome reinforcement. This was the kind of friend Mr. Knightley was, he had always cared for her father and showed him the utmost attention. How could she part with such comradery of spirit? She yearned for things to stay exactly as they were, yet she knew that Mr. Knightley was a stubborn creature and had he set his mind to a task, let alone his heart, it was only a matter of time until such a task was complete. Still Emma prayed for a little more time. Time to grow accustomed to such a change, if that were even possible. Time to observe these so-called attachments Harriet had spoken of. Time to armor her heart in case there was verity in Harriet’s conviction. And perhaps time to share her own feelings, if time could make her brave.