Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Christmas Competition: Entry #8

 Today we have another entry, from Louise, set in the world of Emma.

A few days prior to Christmas, the year before the events in Emma

Miss Taylor stood at the dining room window and looked anxiously out at the snow that was just now beginning to carpet the grounds of Hartfield. So distracted was she, that the entrance of the young mistress of the house was not immediately perceived by her one-time governess and current confidant.

"The table looks wonderful, Miss Taylor." Emma enthused, and then sighed a little wistfully, "I am afraid I will never have your taste in arranging the flowers just so."


Her friend turned from the window with an indulgent smile, "Nonsense my dear Emma, you know you had no need of me. You would have done just as well on your own, I simply took the task in hand to be useful."


Emma's eyes developed that arch look she used whenever she chose to tease her friends, "Well I will not argue with you or else you will think I cannot get on without you, and that will never do. Our friends I'm sure would be most shocked and disappointed to hear of such a failure in my upbringing... Mr Weston for example, has often expressed a high regard for your abilities I believe."


"Emma!" Miss Taylor blushed deeply, unable to hide her consciousness of her meaning, it not being the first time her protégé had alluded to a possible match between them. "You must not talk so."


The younger woman however could not be so easily quieted. "But indeed my dear Miss Taylor it is so, for I have heard him tell Papa that he honoured you for your unselfish devotion to our family in so well supplying the role of surrogate mother and teacher for all these years, and beginning at so young an age too."


"I think he rather meant it as a compliment to you, as to how fine a young lady you've become in spite of my age and inexperience at the time of my taking charge of you and dear Isabella." The older woman's cheeks were still suffused with colour but despite her dissembling she was not wholly displeased by the notion.


"I think not," Emma replied decidedly, "because Mr Knightly was there and he would have been sure to contradict him had he meant anything of the kind."


Miss Taylor laughed at this, knowing how much Emma loved to dispute with her sister's brother-in-law, but shaking her head and turning back towards the window, she attempted to change the subject. "I hope your guests will not be deterred by the weather Emma, although with your dear sister and her family here I fear we could not put up all of them if it turns very bad, and though it is only a short journey to the village, I cannot be sure that we could convince your father to send out the carriage either."


"Well James is already gone to fetch Mrs and Miss Bates as well as Mrs Goddard, they will be here any moment I daresay and Papa can hardly make them walk home if the snow does get worse." Emma replied with some satisfaction, but then added with further reflection, “Although I suppose he could insist they leave early, which would be almost as bad…” Shaking off the thought, the young woman continued, “However I doubt of its causing us serious troubles, this is the first real party of the Christmas season and I am sure everyone is looking forward to it, besides, you see it is just a flurry and is stopping already.”


The older woman glanced out of the window and then nodded in agreement, “Well we need have no fear of Mr Knightly failing us at least.”


“Nor indeed Mr Weston, I am sure."  Emma added, her eyes sparkling with mischief.


Miss Taylor shook her head, amused in spite of herself. "We should go in to the parlour and check that Mr Woodhouse is comfortable, he will not like to be alone in such uncertain temperatures and I believe your sister and her husband intended to say goodnight to their children before dressing for dinner and are most likely still with them."


Inclining her head in agreement, Emma preceded her through the door and then waited to link arms with her in the hall. "My father will miss you sadly when you are married but I promise to be just as solicitous of his comfort in your absence, I do assure you."


Miss Taylor paused, causing her friend to stop as well. "Now Emma this conversation really must cease, it is not appropriate. It is not at all likely that a confirmed bachelor, a widower for so many years, would suddenly look around himself for a wife and what is more, choose a comparatively penniless governess who is far past her prime, to fulfil the role."


Here Emma became a little indignant. "You are not past your prime! Upon my honour, you are a very attractive woman still, already proven in the management of a household as well as children... As for being a governess, it is a respectable profession but you are now more my paid companion than anything else, and your heritage is better than Mr Weston's, as gentlemanly as he is, and his fortune will do for both of you quite easily."


Satisfied with her friend's silence, Emma once more linked their arms and compelled her to continue their walk. "It is a pity perhaps that Mr Weston does not still wear his uniform. Regimentals must always lend an air of distinction to a man, do you not think?"


Here Miss Taylor betrayed herself in her eagerness to defend her supposed admirer, Mr Weston did not need his former profession to give him the air of a distinguished gentleman, but she went on to say. "Suspect me if you must, dearest Emma, indeed I can conceal nothing from you. I would be most honoured should that gentleman of our acquaintance single me out, but I do not expect it, and I would much prefer if you did not put me to the blush by making my wishes known to him. They are only the idle fancies of a woman who should, by now, know better than to continue in vain hopes."


Emma's eyes flew up to meet the older woman’s and she said at once, "Surely you know I would never do such a thing? I mean only to encourage his wishes, which I assure you are most plain. I tease you because I would have you learn to rate your own merits more highly, but I would not for the world cause you any pain."


"I know that it would never be intentionally done, Emma dear." Miss Taylor smiled, "But whatever you think you perceive, or perceive in truth, it is never wise to be open about such matters before the gentleman himself perceives it, for then you may cause offense or embarrassment to both parties."


"Very well." The younger woman agreed, amusement returning to her eyes. "I shall say no more for now, John and Isabella will be down in a few minutes anyway and it would not do to include Mr John in such a discussion, but we shall see who is right at last."


Emma was good to her word and mentioned the matter no more that evening; not when Mr Weston arrived ahead of even Mr Knightly, and after greeting them all in his usual friendly manner, seated himself beside her friend, nor when he particularly requested that Miss Taylor, and Miss Woodhouse of course, should visit the estate he had just purchased at Randalls in order to assist him with its furnishings by providing a woman's eye, but she smiled privately to herself as she foresaw a different Christmas party in the year to come.


Happy New Year. Louise

What a delightful little story! I really enjoyed reading a scene between Emma and Miss Taylor, before Miss Taylor becomes Mrs Weston, and to see Emma's scheming matchmaking once again! Thank you Louise!

Your affectionate friend,
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