The Emma Read Along has turned my thoughts back to an Emma novella I wrote four years ago as a Halloween entertainment, the first in a series of dark twists on Austen’s novels. Reviewing it now, I see in it the same need to explore the worst case scenario that drove me to write The Madness of Mr. Darcy, my most recent novel. In its inception, Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid is your basic “what if?” scenario. It asks what might have been if Mr. Knightley had warned Emma that her attentions to Mr. Elton might be misconstrued. How would she respond? I thought the story’s title sufficient preparation for the fact that this was a tale gone very wrong, but boy was I wrong! To my surprise I learned that readers did not see the end coming at all and many felt indignant at the story’s conclusion. Nevertheless, I’ve continued to look for the possible negatives in Austen’s novels and expound on them for those readers who sometimes need a break from happily ever afters. In Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling I explored the possibility that Jane Bennet isn’t quite the angel Elizabeth and Bingley think her, and Becoming Mrs. Norris is a prequel to Mansfield Park, attempting to account for how Fanny’s aunt became so awful in the first place. These stories aren’t big sellers for me. Any observer of the genre can predict how little attention a story about Aunt Norris will receive, but I’m glad I wrote it, and I hope to continue my Twisted Austen series this Halloween. I am still waiting for inspiration to strike. Maybe the Morlands siblings will end up married to the Thorpes? Perhaps Willoughby comprises Marianne and they are forced to marry? Or I could kill Mary Musgrove off by means of an apoplectic fit and have Anne marry a grieved Charles, in order to provide her nephews with a mother, all before Captain Wentworth returns to the region. Who knows what twisted turn my mind will find amidst Austen’s beauty? I think I have a knack for it, though such musings stand in stark contrast to my nearly angst-free Tales of Less Pride & Prejudice. May fans of all my novels, gleeful or disturbing, enjoy this rather ghastly diversion.
Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid
“Nonsense, arrant nonsense, as ever was talked!” cried Mr. Knightley. “Robert Martin’s manners have sense, sincerity, and good humor to recommend them, and his mind has more true gentility than Harriet Smith could understand.”
Emma Woodhouse made no answer. She tried to look cheerfully unconcerned, but was really feeling uncomfortable and wanting him very much to be gone. She did not repent what she had done. She thought Harriet destined for far greater things than farm life, but a habitual respect for his judgment in general made her dislike having it so loudly against her. To have him sitting just opposite to her in angry state was very disagreeable.
“Robert Martin has no great loss,” he continued, “if he can but think so, and I hope it will not be long before he does. Your views for Harriet are best known to yourself, but as you make no secret of your love of matchmaking, it is fair to suppose that views, and plans, and projects you have. As a friend I shall just hint to you that if Elton is the man, I think it will be all labor in vain.”
Emma laughed and disclaimed. He continued, “Depend upon it, Elton will not do. Elton is a very good sort of man, and a very respectable vicar of Highbury, but not at all likely to make an imprudent match.”
“I am very much obliged to you,” said Emma, laughing again. “If I had set my heart on Mr. Elton’s marrying Harriet, it would have been very kind to open my eyes, but at present I only want to keep Harriet to myself.”
“I do not believe you, I am sorry to say.”
Now Emma was offended. “You do not believe me? What a thing to imply!”
“It will not do to prevaricate, Emma. I must once more speak to you as I have been used to do. I cannot see you acting wrongly without a remonstrance.”
Emma rose. “Mr. Knightley! I think myself a better judge of such a point of female right and refinement -”
“This conversation no longer has anything to do with Harriet Smith and Robert Martin, poor man! If you are not playing at matchmaking, why are you showing Elton such favor? Believe me, he will misconstrue your intentions. He will believe you give him encouragement.”
“Encouragement?” she repeated in disbelief. “Mr. Elton never forgets his place!”
“I assure you he had good reason to think highly of himself. He knows that he is a very handsome young man, and a great favorite wherever he goes, and from his general way of talking in unreserved moments, when there are only men present, I am convinced that he does not mean to throw himself away. I have heard him speak with great animation of a large family of young ladies that his sisters are intimate with, who have all twenty thousand pounds apiece.”
“Then he can have no possible designs on me!”
“Nonsense! If he can do better, he will.”
As she absorbed the full implications of Mr. Knightley’s words, Emma felt a wave of heat. She turned away from the ever present fire, which her father’s valetudinarian habits required, and went to the window, never daring to open it, in deference to those same requirements, but finding some relief in the coolness of the glass.
Mr. Knightley took her response as a dismissal. “You would do well to consider what I have said. Good morning to you,” said he, rising and walking off abruptly.
Emma dared not detain him. She desperately needed to be alone with her thoughts. Quickly she searched her memory for some evidence to the contrary: anything to quelch the sickly sensation that threatened to overwhelm her. His frequent praise of Harriet – all he ever did was talk of Miss Smith – but yet, did he not praise Emma almost as often? No. That was just his way: sighing and languishing, and studying for compliments. She could not be so deceived. His manner was so very particular regarding the portrait. “No husbands and wives in the case at present …” is what he said, and if she had not been so selfish as to put her own gratification before her friend’s, they might already be engaged. She could not be mistaken.
Continue reading Emma & Elton at The Writer’s Block: https://austenauthors.net/writers-block/priceless-prose/emma-elton-something-truly-horrid/. Please be sure to return here and share your thoughts on the story. Your feedback is like manna to me.