Envy, Contempt, and Brutal Love
AN: This is to be the first of several oneshots, which will give a glimpse into the mind of our favorite Highbury gentleman. This one regards the ball at the Eltons. They may not be in order, but hopefully you will enjoy them nonetheless. Without further ado, let the fireworks begin!
Mr. Knightly knew, from shockingly early on, that being acquainted with Mr. Frank Churchill would bring him no good. He felt that he would rue the day he heard that name, and unfortunately, this proved to be true.
Though he was already slightly prejudiced against the young man before they had even met, for the impropriety he displayed in allowing his visit to be put off, distaste grew rapidly into something uglier every time they met.
One such instance was the party at the Coles, in which he had submitted himself to immense jealousy. He was not proud of his emotions, but this is an area in which one has no control—not even gallant Mr. Knightly.
He stepped out of the carriage he had brought for Miss Bates and Miss Fairfax, and perceived the lovely Miss Woodhouse coming up behind him. He smiled inwardly upon seeing her, not thinking of what it would be like when they were in Mr. Churchill's company. He tried to think of that man as little as possible—as much as he tried to think well of Mr. Weston's son, the fact that it had taken him so long to come to Highbury, coupled with his stunt of going to London to have his haircut, had tainted his view of the young man, and he was not looking forward to seeing him again tonight.
However, now, as such a fair creature was before him, Mr. Knightly had no thoughts for Frank Churchill. He was too stricken, as he always was, at the beautiful sight of Miss Emma Woodhouse.
"This is coming as you should do, like a gentleman," she proclaimed upon coming up near him. "I am quite glad to see you." He was sure not to let it show how pleased he was with hearing her approbation—for any approbation of Emma, be it great or insignificant, brought warmth to his heart. He did not tell her, in this instant, that it was not on his account that he had opted to take a carriage. He personally preferred to walk the easy distance.
Playfully, he responded with, "How lucky that we should arrive at the same moment; for, if we had met first 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," replied Emma indignantly. "There is always a look of consciousness or bustle when people come in a way they know to be beneath them. You think you carry it off well, I dare say; but with you is a sort of bravado, an air of unaffected unconcern: I always observe it when I first meet you under those circumstances. Now you have nothing to try for. You are not afraid of ashamed. You are not striving to look taller than any body else. Now I shall be very happy to walk into the same room as you." Knightly had to try hard not to start at the striking reason and wit that Emma always carried with her.
"Nonsensical girl!" Was what he managed, jokingly, in reply—though in truth he found that statement to prove her a very observant, sensible girl.
Because of this short intercourse, Mr. Knightly was in rather high spirits—that is, until dinner, when he saw Frank Churchill seated next to Emma. Frank Churchill did not, by any means, deserve such company. The littlest things regarding that man darkened Mr. Knightly's mood.
But, much to his dismay, dinner was not the only time in which the two were close—in fact, most of the night was carried on this way. Mr. Knightly frowned as the two talked and laughed, their heads mighty close, as if nothing could intrude on the private world of Miss. Woodhouse and Mr. Churchill.
When the ladies quitted to the drawing room, he kept a sharp eye on the way Mr. Churchill mingled with other men. He wondered what it was that Emma found appealing in him, what drew her attention. For this reason, he decided, upon observing that Frank Churchill was sitting alone, to try and find out.
"Mr. Churchill," he addressed with a bow, endeavoring to look amiable and inviting.
"Mr. Knightly," he replied with equal sociability. "How do you do?"
"Very well, thank you. Do you find this party to your liking?" The other gentleman smiled with satisfaction.
"Exceedingly so. I think the Coles have done a lovely job, and I am especially pleased with the company." There was no mistaking what Mr. Churchill insinuated, and Mr. Knightly felt an anger welling up inside of him, but he strived, with effort, to remain composed. Mr. Frank Churchill did not know what he felt, he fancied, and did not know that his words personally affected the one he conversed with.
"Indeed, the party in general is most agreeable."
"The party in general! I am obliged to allow this, but I was referring to one in particular." Mr. Knightly could not take any more, and said, with a brisk air—
"It is not polite to reserve yourself to just one for the evening. I believe it more proper to mingle with many of the party." Frank Churchill smiled warmly.
"It is more proper, to be sure," said he, in a manner most confusing to Mr. Knightly. He was saved from further conversation, though, as Mr. Weston came up and began to speak to him on business. Frank Churchill, with a nod of the head, declared that he was going to the drawing room to "mingle with others", though it was doubted that he would do such a thing.
As he quitted the room, Knightly still did not know what made him a favorite in Emma's ever so sensible mind.
Some time later, Mr. Knightly discovered Emma to be engaged in conversation with someone other than the disagreeable Mr. Churchill. He was pleased to see his seat taken by a much more suitable companion—Mrs. Weston. Though he could not guess what they were talking about, he saw a few glances cast in his direction, and a few in the direction of Frank Churchill, who was conversing with Miss Fairfax.
Just after this, Emma had taken a seat at the pianoforte, and Mr. Knightly's heart inadvertently skipped. He always vastly enjoyed hearing her perform. Since she was just learning, so simple a song as "Three Blind Mice" would bring him pleasure, so long as it was dear Emma plucking the notes. Now, his opinion had not varied.
However, he was angered thoroughly when Miss Woodhouse's gorgeous song was polluted by the harmony of the one who had attached himself to her all night.
"For shame!" Thought Knightly crossly. "I cannot believe him to have the nerve! Emma's voice, so pure, so graceful, needs no help to make it perfect. This man is ruining her song!"
And so the next song followed in the same manner, until Emma's place was taken by Jane Fairfax. He watched disdainfully as the man by the pianoforte corrupted yet another young lady's performance. Miss Fairfax, as well, played incredibly well—much too well for the accompaniment of Frank Churchill.
Mr. Knightly's sense of music told him that Miss Fairfax was superior to Miss Woodhouse in performance, but his heart refuted the idea. Love had made him blind—or, rather, deaf—and he thought nobody superior to Emma, no matter how exquisite their playing.
He did, however, despite his disapproval of Frank Churchill, take pleasure in the performance. He glanced back out of habit, and discovered that Emma was sitting alone. Fearing that this might be the only opportunity of the night to talk to her without a most unwelcome addition, he readily took a seat beside her.
"Miss Fairfax does a superb job," he noted once they had greeted each other. Emma readily agreed, and after a few more lines, changed the subject.
"It was so very kind of you to lend your carriage to Miss Fairfax and her aunt," said she. Mr. Knightly wondered if she was jealous of the other young lady's performance, considering how quickly she changed the subject.
"Thank you; t'was the least I could do."
"I often feel concerned, that I dare not make our carriage more useful on such occasions. It is not that I am without the wish; but you know how impossible my father would deem it that James should put to for such a purpose." He admired her good intentions, and replied with—
"Quite out of the question, quite out of the question. But you must often wish it, I am sure." He smiled warmly at her, proud of her good will.
"This present from the Campbells—this pianoforte is very kindly given." Mr. Knightly wondered why she wanted to talk so much of Miss Fairfax; he would much rather be talking of her.
"Yes, but they would have done better had they given her notice of it. Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable. I should have expected better judgment from Colonel Campbell." Emma had a satisfied glint in her eye, though Knightly could not imagine why. Maybe she shared his opinion, and was glad that he agreed with her; he supposed that must be it. She said no further on the subject, and the two listened to Miss Fairfax for some time. By the end of the second song, it was clear that her voice needed a rest.
"That will do," said Mr. Knightly at the conclusion of the song. "You have sung enough for one evening; now be quiet." He was discontented, however, when another song was proposed, and Frank Churchill was all in agreement.
How dare that man! He was exceedingly heated to see such a selfish creature—first keeping Miss Woodhouse all to himself, and then ruining her song with his voice, and now this.
"That fellow," said he, with great indignation, "thinks of nothing but showing off his own voice. Thus must not be." He spotted Miss Bates walking by, and in deciding that she might be able to do something, he stopped her and said, "Miss Bates, are you mad, to let your niece sing herself hoarse in this manner? Go, and interfere. They have no mercy on her."
Once the music had stopped, dancing was soon talked of. "Oh please, no dancing," thought Mr. Knightly, not inclined by any measure to see Frank Churchill twirling graceful young Emma.
It was to be, though—unfortunately. Though he didn't want to dance, he might have, in a spurt of confidence, asked Emma—but she was too quickly asked by, of course, Frank Churchill.
The evening was thus concluded by a happy Emma and Churchill, dancing freely with jubilant smiles, causing Mr. Knightly to feel sick with envy as he watched his love relish in another's embrace.