High Comedy

EMMA: Volume II Chapter XV

Far be it for self to attempt to sum up the Immortal Jane, but time is short and self has a book (nay, many books!) to complete. If only self could keep up this arch language for a moment longer — so that she could finish her work-in-progress set in, naturally, Regency England!

But, she digresses.

A chapter or two ago, Mrs. Weston confided to Emma that she believes Mr. Knightley is in love with Jane Fairfax. This suggestion puts Emma in high dudgeon (even though she has never, hitherto, thought of Mr. Knightley in any way other than a brother)

So, Emma decides to probe about the nature of his feelings for Jane Fairfax (Among other things, Jane was the recipient of a piano from a mysterious benefactor. And, pianos being expensive, suspicion on the possible donor centers on Mr. Knightley). She asks him a direct question about Jane. What follows is a most delightful episode of “foot pressing.” Self never encountered the like in any of the Jane Austen novels she has read to date. You know, when someone is about to put her/his foot in her/his mouth and someone gives you a kick under the table? As a kind of warning?

Here’s the scene:

Mr. Knightley was hard at work upon the lower buttons of his thick leather gaiters, and either the exertion of getting them together, or some other cause, brought the colour into his face, as he answered,

“Oh, are you there? — But you are miserably behind-hand. Mr. Cole gave me a hint of it six weeks ago.”

He stopped. Emma felt her foot pressed by Mrs. Weston, and did not know herself what to think. In a moment he went on —

“That will never be, however, I can assure you. Miss Fairfax, I dare say, would not have me if I were to ask her — and I am very sure I shall never ask her.”

He becomes annoyed with Emma’s questions, and then thoughtful. Jane Fairfax, Mr. Knightley says, “has a fault. She has not the open temper which a man would wish for in a wife.”

!!!!! Emma, open your eyes! Open your eyes!

Stay tuned.

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