Emma Knightley, handsome, clever, and rich, with a disposition almost always happy – an exception being when her little William, her sweet son, would start screeching because of some offense received, either real or imaginary – united some the best blessings in existence even if, having now lived for seven-and-twenty years and having been a wife and mother for almost five, she had found a little more to distress or vex her.
Her indulgent father had been convinced, by either his close society or by his own council, to partake in the consumption of the waters at Bath. Doubting the efficacy of these waters on her poor papa’s condition was not, however, what seemed to vex Emma; rather it was the charming expression of ecstasy on Mrs Elton’s face, and the even more charming verbal expressions she would proffer to any willing ear about Mr Woodhouse’s acceptance of her exalted judgement. It had to be admitted that residing in Bath had some decided advantages – the utmost being that not one ear of Mr and Mrs Knightley’s family had been subjected to Mrs Elton euphoric triumph for long.
Another decided advantage was the expansion of one’s society – not that one’s society at home was in any way faulty or deficient, but it was indeed lovely to be able to grace new friends with one’s time. Life in this lively centre, so unlike the serene countryside surrounding Hartfield, was also proving to be exciting in some unexpected ways.
It was only the day before yesterday that Emma had been walking down the Circus when a woman almost dislodged her pink bonnet so distracted she was in her running; her wanton display of manners ended at the corner with Bennett Street, when she reached a most handsome gentleman – and kissed him publicly! Such an unprincipled behaviour could not but make Emma smile and wish she knew more of what had brought it about. No matter, her friend would surely know what to think of the entire accident.
Emma left her basket for Mrs Randall with a gracious nod, at the entrance of number 4, Sydney Place. She also left her gloves and injured bonnet, before she reached the drawing room. When she did, she found her friend as she usually did on a Tuesday morning: perched on a little chair, her round glasses poised precariously on her nose, her elbows barely touching the small table in front of her, and a quill that never seemed to rest. It took longer than it would have been polite for Emma’s friend to realise a guest had arrived and Emma, in her loveliness, waited patiently to be acknowledge.
‘Oh, my dear Mrs Knightley, you are welcome,’ said her host when she could be made to raise her head.
‘Thank you, I apologise for my tardiness but I just witnessed the most incredible sight!’
Emma moved to the settee, as it was her custom already, but waited for her host to join her before sitting. Once everyone had assumed their desired position, the conversation resumed.
‘What could it possibly be, my dear?’
Emma smile and knew her learned friend would find pleasure in what she was going to tell her.
‘Well, Miss Jane, I was walking down the Circus when a lady I had never seen before – no, maybe I did see her before, now that I think about it. Was it the concert? Oh, I do not remember. Anyway…’