Emma- Jane Austen: Remorseful fictional letter on actions at Box Hill picnic
My dear Isabella,
I hope this letter finds you and your darling family well. Papa has requested that I ask after little John and implores you refer him to Mr Perry, as the last we heard, he was in bed in a sickly condition.
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However, I feel I must confess the true intentions of my writing to you. I have been in a state of turmoil and reflection over my poorly judged actions the day before last. A party of eight comprising the companies of Mr Weston, his son Frank Churchill, the Elton’s, Miss Bates, her niece Jane, Mr Knightley and myself ventured to Box Hill for a picnic lunch in a place so well spoken of. There was a tired, uneasiness, which seemed to hang over the event from commencement to end and, which, sister, I do believe has been ever prominent since the addition of the Elton’s to our circle. Mrs Elton deems herself a wanted addition that Highbury should be only grateful to have and her husband unforgivably allows her to overindulge her merits.
Once we had settled under our umbrellas, Mr Churchill proposed a game whereby I would laugh as a member of the party told me either one thing very clever, two things moderately clever or three things rather dull. This suggestion was well received by most excepting Mrs Elton. She made it her business to pointedly object to the idea, being so presumptuous as to label herself the chaperone of the picnic and to admonish our very interest in the personal thoughts of others.
After she has contributed her opinion, Mrs Elton uncouthly departed with her husband dutifully following. The atmosphere was stunted by her usual pomposity and sudden exit but we disregarded her advice and proceeded with the novelty. As Miss Bates was about to attempt a contribution, I shamelessly, yet in mere jest exclaimed that there might be a difficulty in her being limited to only three things of dullness.
Sister I daresay dear Miss Bates comprehended my meaning however she did appear uncomfortable and muttered to Mr Knightley some words of acknowledgement to the statement. After I had spoken, I felt ashamed that it was I who has said such a thing. I do believe that Mrs Elton’s abruptness influenced my actions and I do not feel entirely to blame. Was it any wonder that I was not in the best of moods considering the air of the picnic was filled with the anxiety and discomfort?
As each of us in the group was making our respective departures, Mr Knightley fell in step with me. He confronted me angrily about my remark to Miss Bates and told me how insensitive I had been considering her age and situation. He informed me that on his walk with Miss Bates after the picnic, she had spoken only of my comment and instead of sympathising with herself, she was so humble as to still speak of how fortunate she is to receive my attentions. Yet by far the worst of it was when he said I had embarrassed her not only in front of her niece, but in front of people who were likely to be guided by my treatment of her.
Oh sister, it was most dreadful seeing Mr Knightley, my oldest and dearest friend in such a disappointed manner towards me. I cannot describe what complete remorse I felt as I left that day. I have found it difficult to set my mind to any form of activity as my thoughts linger but only on this. I feel I should apologise; it would certainly be a most self-degrading gesture, yet if I were to come across Mr Knightley on my way, he may see I am truly sorry and mean to repent my actions. I hope to regain the respect of Mr Knightley, which I presently feel uncertain of since our last conversation.