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COD, 13

October 12, 2017 11:21PM
Lucky 13!!

We’re in the final stretch -- just two more posts after this. Thanks to Nikita again for the peer reviewing, and thanks to those of you who like this story enough to comment.

The Churchills of Donwell



Chapter 13: Bitter Disappointment



While the Woodhouse sisters were engaged with their calls, the Knightley brothers were in conference with Hartfield’s steward. It was everyone's expectation that John and Isabella would inherit the estate upon Mr. Woodhouse's death -- or at least would purchase the remainder from Emma should Mr. Woodhouse provide for his youngest with a portion of land rather than money -- and that the estate would eventually fall to little John while his older brother Henry inherited Enscombe. As such, it behooved John to enquire into how the estate was being run, if there were any problems or concerns on the horizon, and whether he needed to take a more active hand.

In all the years of his marriage, he had never needed to exert himself in Surrey. Mr. Woodhouse was of indifferent health, but Emma had a keen eye for this sort of management and what she could not or would not do was competently performed by the steward, Mr. Avery.

George joined the conferences because he had much experience with Enscombe and John greatly valued his opinion, although John secretly admitted to his wife that he did take some juvenile amusement in watching Mr. Avery shut down George 's warnings and advice as being either unnecessary or already considered.

“And what is your opinion, Mr. Avery, on whether my brother would best retire from Town and take up his permanent residence here?” George asked as they were concluding an interview. “Hartfield seems to be running quite smoothly without him, but I would rather he be here too early than too late.”

“Well, sir,” said the steward, “we are quite comfortable here right now. As thoughtful as these visits are, I do not think we need to alter any arrangements just yet. Perhaps we can discuss it again in a twelve-month, with Miss Woodhouse of course.” As much as he respected the brothers, he was loyal to his mistress and he did not like the idea of discussing this without Miss Woodhouse.

“Rest assured, Avery,” said John, “that I do not want to interfere in such a well-run operation. I am quite content to remain where I am for now, although the time will come when it will be better for me to be here if only to be seen by others as having a place in the neighborhood. And of course if Mr. Woodhouse’s health should deteriorate rapidly my wife will want to be near him."

“Admirably expressed,” complimented Mr. Avery, “but have no fear for the neighborhood. Mr. Weston was accepted by all quite warmly when he settled here. And if Miss Woodhouse wants you to stay, I do not doubt that she will ask.”

George Knightley could not yet be easy but he yielded. If his brother would not press, what right had he to do so?

When the ladies returned from their planned excursion to Donwell Abbey with news of Mrs. Churchill's ill-health, Mr. Woodhouse was terrified for his poor friend but John, who had heard his wife's versions of events for years, was able to roll his eyes and voice a wish that the old woman would be back to normal before long.

“I did not like the look of her, John,” cautioned Isabella. “It was surprising even to Emma to see how weak she is now. I think it is more serious than we realize. And poor Frank was the only one looking after her. Mr. Churchill was not to be found.”

“Frank Churchill cannot have anything else to do,” George said. He had not been much impressed with the younger man. “Surely he can sit with a sick relation in between gadding about the countryside and gossiping with his neighbors.”

Emma thought the criticism was unfounded but she knew better than to defend her friend; George Knightley would just try to twist her words and she was uninterested. She was too busy imagining the reunion between Frank and Miss Fairfax to attend him.

"I wonder what we shall do with our time now that the party at Donwell is cancelled,” Emma voiced aloud. There had to be additional ways to bring Frank and Miss Fairfax together.

Isabella had already thought about that and suggested that people go to Box Hill for the day instead, with she and Emma traveling the London the day after. The idea was quickly met with near universal agreement. Mr. Woodhouse was the only one who found any fault with the plan, considering the distance too far and the weather too unpredictable. He would much rather stay home, and would prefer it if everyone else stayed at home as well, whether the intention was to travel to the capital or even to some place closer. John put that hope to rest and Emma lost no time in offering to extend an invitation for Mrs. Bates to spend the day of the Box Hill excursion at Hartfield so her father would not get lonely. This, of course, guaranteed that Miss Bates would have to be included in the scheme to the local landmark, along with any of her guests.

“And I am sure Mr. Churchill will sit with his wife while Frank enjoys a few hours with his friends,” Emma schemed. “No doubt Frank can give Miss Bates a ride, and Mrs. Campbell and Miss Fairfax too.”

Emma and Isabella discussed the remaining particulars to their satisfaction, despite their father's intermittent worries. But George Knightley could only frown. He had witnessed Frank Churchill’s unforgivable behavior in the spring and it bothered him to hear Miss Woodhouse had let bygones be bygones. When he found a private moment with her later that evening, he had to air his concerns.

He began by reminding her of the dinner party he had attended at Donwell Abbey and how Miss Woodhouse had admitted she was too hurt to be in love with that whelp Frank Churchill. Emma let him exhaust himself. When he slowed, she interrupted him.

“Have I ever told you that I was not in love with Mr Frank Churchill?” she asked him.

George admitted to vague recollections of that.

“And have I ever told you how deeply and irredeemably I am in love with Frank Churchill?” she asked.

George was forced to think long and hard but could not be certain what he remembered.

“And, in either case, what does it matter to you?” she asked, a note of disdain more obvious in her voice.

At last he knew better than to answer.




“You know, you should be kinder to George,” Isabella quietly told her sister. “He does not mean to offend you, he just has no practice.”

“I cannot help it if he is so provoking!” Emma sighed. “He is absolutely fascinated by the idea of Frank and me. And I have run out of gentle ways to disabuse him of the notion. I suppose I should feel some pity for him if the man were not usually so clever, but this is his one great failing and it irritates me constantly. I feel as though he does not believe me, that he not-so-secretly suspects me of lying to him. Tell me, how should I behave toward a man who refuses to take me at my word?”

Isabella commiserated lightly and offered to give George some sisterly advice on speaking with Emma, “but more often than not it is you offending him rather than the other way,” she reminded. “And while George blunders accidentally, you are all too intentional.”

There was nothing for Emma to do but to take her sister's reproofs to heart and to be suitably chastened. What was said that was not true? What was said that was unnecessary?

Isabella also spoke with her brother and the end result was that Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley were able to meet again as friends without a word of apology being spoken directly between them.

Matters continued so agreeably between them that George asked her to dance at the Westons' ball, and she accepted which led to the most pleasurable half-hour either of them had ever spent in the other’s company.

Frank Churchill was also at Randalls that night, despite his aunt's ongoing illness. George noticed that Emma did not dance with Frank and that, after initial greetings the two had very little to say to each other, but Emma frequently glanced after the heir to Donwell who was too busy attending Miss Bates and her guests to notice her regard. This evidence of unequal affections bothered George but he was under strict orders from his sister not to speak another word of Frank to Emma. Observations from this enforced silence only convinced George how right he was. Still, he obeyed Isabella and decided to bring the matter up with his brother at a later time.

For her part, Emma enjoyed the ball at Randalls immensely. She got to see Frank and Miss Fairfax together and, while they were not an avowed couple, she was certain that they would be before long. Emma even enjoyed dancing with George Knightley -- they two were not so close as brother and sister to make it pitiable and he could be quite charming when he wasn't treating her like a lying child. If she could only survive the musicale planned by Mrs. Elton, she was sure to find Box Hill a treat.




Mr. Churchill spent the evening of the Westons’ ball exactly as he had wanted, enjoying the comforts of home rather than suffering from the hospitality of Frank’s natural father. Still, it galled him that Frank was there, having no concern for Mrs. Churchill who remained in bed with some lingering ailment. Mr. Churchill would never say that he despised Mr. Weston but Frank had put him sorely out of humor.

This latest battle had started shortly after midday when Frank had run his uncle to ground and informed him that the Westons’ ball was tonight and Frank would be in attendance.

“My father knows that Aunt is sick but he had asked me to be there if only for a little while,” Frank explained.

“And what of your aunt?” demanded Mr. Churchill. “She depends upon you for comfort. What will she do in your absence?”

“I was hoping you would sit with her while I am away,” Frank confessed. Of necessity, Mr. Churchill had avoided the sickroom to avoid Frank.

Mr. Churchill glared obstinately. “Surely such an evening cannot hold much attraction for you,” he said. “You will need to dance on your own two feet rather than sit a horse, and there won't be a single sheep or pig in sight.”

“There will be attraction enough,” Frank said steadily before adding, “Miss Fairfax will be there.”

It was the first time either had acknowledged to the other that the young woman was in Highbury. Mr. Churchill felt that a gauntlet had been thrown. He needed to address this ridiculous infatuation without delay.

“I forbid you to speak with her,” he declared. “Offer her no encouragement. Your aunt and I will never accept her as your bride. Desist this reckless course.”

“I cannot do that. My heart and honor are already engaged,” Frank said, hoping to appeal to his uncle's own sense of honor. “If I can persuade her to accept me, we will be married.”

“Where will you live? It shall not be here,” countered his uncle, feeling a surge of triumph. “No, marry her and we shall disown you!”

Frank paled at those words. For a minute, he could not speak. “Then I will go to Randalls tonight,” he said at last, “and try to have a private word with my father to see if there is some position in his business that would allow me to afford a wife. It will mean a longer engagement but in the end, I shall have my Jane.”

In the end, I shall have my Jane! Oh, how those words wounded! Had it all been for naught? Had he taught Frank nothing? No, he had been firm and repetitive. If there was fault to find, it would be with his nephew!

But how could Mr Churchill show his face with a nephew like that? He prided himself on being a paragon, a pillar of the community. He was known and respected for miles around. At least, he had been. But now who would look him in the eye given this grave failure? Who would not judge him for raising such a headstrong and obstinate young man? And with Frank no longer here, who would shield him from his tenants? Who would make the decisions he so assiduously avoided? It was in every way impossible. Would it not be better to turn a blind eye to the marriage and keep Frank at Donwell? The abbey was large enough that he never need see the church mouse if he didn't want to. But Mrs. Churchill would never approve that arrangement, he realized dejectedly. And what would happen if Frank and that young woman had a child? Would they hire a nurse and governess, or just expect the mother to raise the child as Miss Fairfax had no doubt been trained to do? It was altogether an impossible situation, and solely Frank's fault.

Despite the fact that Frank had clearly spent time in the company of Miss Fairfax and the probability that Frank had spoken with Weston, Mr. Churchill had heard none of it. Still, the man did not repent and ask for information. If Frank had news worth sharing then let him be brave enough to mention it!

Breakfast after the ball brought no grand announcement. Frank did not declare that Miss Fairfax was coming to tour the abbey, nor mention when he would be moving permanently to Town for some meager living in Weston's business. If he seemed more at peace with himself than usual, he politely kept his emotions under control in front of his uncle but he did not tarry over breakfast and went to meet with Mr. Endicott as soon as his plate was emptied.

It was there in the abbey’s office that Frank could smile openly, and speak with such a tone, and look with such satisfaction, that the steward fully expected an engagement had been made.

It had not, but Frank at last felt the relief of knowing that it was only a matter of time. He had spoken to Jane, and to Mrs. Campbell. The visit to Jane's family had been entirely Mrs. Campbell’s idea who had read through a number of letters from Highbury and had formed a completely different theory as to why Frank Churchill had been so closely tied to Miss Woodhouse. Jane had retained her doubts but had agreed to go with Mrs. Campbell for support. The Emma Woodhouse they had met was so very different from the possessive vixen Jane had imagined, and listening to Miss Bates rattle on about Mr. Frank, Miss Woodhouse, and everyone else in the neighborhood opened her eyes to the real nature of the relationship between Frank and his longtime friend. In the end, she confessed to Frank that Mrs. Campbell had the right of it.

As giddy as he felt to hear that, Frank had to claim responsibility for much of the behavior that have her that impression. Had he only been more firm with his uncle and aunt sooner, so much heartache could have been spared. However, he realized, the heartache could not be avoided entirely, and he had to explain that he was unable to offer more than himself, that his uncle was firmly opposed to the match. Frank did not believe this irrevocably prevented their union, but it did mean that, should Jane accept him, he would not immediately have a home in which to receive her. A long engagement would be needed for him to find work and a permanent place to live.

Mrs. Campbell was sympathetic but concerned that Frank, who had been raised in luxury, might quickly regret his reduced circumstances. “What will happen,” she wondered, “if you later seek to reconcile with the Churchills?” Would Frank be steadfast enough to stand by Jane?

“The past year has opened my eyes to some defects in their characters and mine,” he answered. “I think a reconciliation will be highly unlikely.”

Mrs. Campbell chose not to voice any doubts but rather determined to wait and see how Frank attempted to provide for himself. If he applied himself industriously, then Mrs. Campbell would not worry too deeply for Jane’s sake, for a handsome young man with charm and good breeding will find opportunities for success. However, if Frank delayed and squandered his chances, then the wedding would certainly never happen. She would let the colonel handle it, but she would recommend to him that no engagement would be agreed upon until Frank had managed to find a position. If nothing else, it would spur the young man to be quick.

Frank needed no further incentive than his own internal desire to be settled with Jane. He had arrived early and had already spoken with his father before the other guests had arrived. His father had offered him nothing substantial at the time, but had said he would see what he could do, which was all Frank had needed to hear.

And so Frank now went about the business of the morning, with a considerably lighter heart than usual. His time at Donwell Abbey was drawing to a close. While he did not yet know the number of days remaining, he felt them counting down. In some ways it made him sad to think of all the people he was leaving, all the servants he had known his entire life, all the farmers and tenants who had come to depend upon him in the last half-year. Even his uncle and aunt would be missed; despite this formidable stalemate, he had many fond memories of their care. But he had a future waiting for him, and he had grown impatient for its arrival. And that future was not at Donwell.

After riding about with Endicott for a few hours, he changed and had tea with his aunt. He longed to break the news to her, but she was still unwell and he knew the news would strike her like a blow. Her health confounded him. Mr. Perry’s repeated attempts to cure her were failures. She remained weak. Perhaps she even declined further. Frank stayed with her throughout the afternoon, leaving only when it was time for him to ride over to Randalls to call again upon his father.

Mr. Weston had thought over Frank’s dilemma and had sent a letter by express to London before the sun had risen. He had the response by the time Frank arrived and was able to give his son the good news. There was an opening to assist the manager of a warehouse. It was not a prime position but Frank had already known he must keep his expectations in line. He had not devoted himself to law, the military, or religion, so he must make his way in trade. His tutelage under Endicott would serve him well wherever he went, and if he would be managing stacks of boxes rather than farms, so much the better! Boxes and crates had to be less complicated than livestock and weather. And the salary was right; it would not transform him into a prince, but it would be enough to turn him into a husband.
SubjectAuthorPosted

COD, 13

NN SOctober 12, 2017 11:21PM

Re: COD, 13

KateBOctober 16, 2017 12:19AM

Loving this story and.....

TashaOctober 14, 2017 06:00PM

Re: COD, 13

TinaOctober 14, 2017 05:09PM

Re: COD, 13

Maria VOctober 13, 2017 06:55PM

Re: COD, 13

AiOctober 13, 2017 12:59AM



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