Emma had been so caught up with her new friendship with Harriet, that she had wasted no time in inviting the girl back to Hartfield. Emma had a feeling that Harriet may be a very useful ally in the wardrobe rehabilitation project. The younger girl obviously knew a thing or two about hairstyles and make-up from her professional training, and, furthermore, she seemed to be very au fait with fashion trends, though perhaps in not quite the style that Emma would chose for herself. Harriet’s look was a trifle glamorous.
The invitation had been issued, and accepted with pleasing gratitude. Harriet was to come the following day for lunch, and then to spend the afternoon in Emma’s company. Once the wardrobe project had been outlined to Harriet the younger girl proved her value to her new friend. Yes. Harriet had lots of fashion magazines, and ‘looks books’ showing all the latest celebrity trends, and the top hair and make-up looks she readily enthused.
‘I could’ Harriet had offered shyly, ‘do a make-over on you if you like?’ When her suggestion did not receive a rebuff, Harriet pressed on, ‘I have to practice make-up and hairstyles, and I could do you a manicure as well.’ Emma inspected Harriet’s flawlessly natural looking features thoughtfully,
‘Are you wearing make-up then?’ she asked, having previously assumed that Harriet’s beauty was totally natural.
‘Oh yeah, I never go out without make-up’ Harriet sounded shocked. Emma peered a little closer, and could then detect a subtle touch of colour and a hint of mascara that had a lengthening and thickening effect on Harriet’s lashes which served to emphasise the size, shape and colour of her fabulous eyes.
‘OK then, if its subtle. I wouldn’t want to look y’know, common…’ Emma hesitated, not wanting to give any offence.
‘You could never look common’ Harriet assured with a faint air of shock, which Emma found rather flattering, ‘I can teach you how to do it too’ Harriet volunteered, happy to be able to use her skills to the benefit of her new friend.
The afternoon was well spent in Emma’s bedroom. Harriet gave a second opinion as Emma modeled various outfits that she had catalogued the previous day. Harriet took some photographs on Emma’s iPhone, which Emma could see would be a great help in remembering what went with what, especially when she was in a hurry.
‘You look really cool’ Harriet praised shyly, ‘you could be a fashion blogger, or a stylist or a model even.’ Emma accepted the flattery, yet, being of a pragmatic nature, discarded the comments as being rather effulgent; Emma was not vain enough to consider that she was well suited to modeling. She had to admit though, that she came out rather well in the photos particularly the few that Harriet took after she had done Emma’s make-up.
‘Cool’ Emma deemed, copying Harriet’s vocabulary, ‘you’re very skilful it does look really natural. Harriet smiled her thanks, and offered to do Emma’s hair.
That evening Emma presided over dinner with her father dressed in one of her newly contrived outfits of oyster silk shirt worn loose over classic grey pants. She glowed with good health and a teeny weeny swipe of blusher, and her hair looked very becoming, artfully looped into a loose up-do with tendrils escaping around her face. Her father of course noticed nothing different, yet he did compliment her on her good looks more than once.
Emma’s ears were alert to the sound of footsteps once dinner was over. If George Knightley were to appear, it was usually at about this time. Emma deemed it a good experiment to see if she passed muster with George. She could be sure that he would not hold off a criticism of her, if she were not to his liking. Sure enough Emma heard the sound of gravel crunching and then came his customary rap on the French window. Emma smiled, her scheme was perfect, a male opinion would ascertain the success of the wardrobe project that had, since Harriet’s involvement, morphed into project makeover.
The usual greetings were exchanged, drinks poured, and the trio settled into their usual places to discuss the day. George Knightley always bent his ear to her father’s wants when he first arrived. Emma listened patiently to her father’s usual response to the enquiry after his health. Once he had enumerated his ailments and worries, his mind turned to happier thoughts, and he told George of Emma’s new friendship. George Knightley listened to Henry’s praise of Harriet Smith with surprise. He had noticed the girl (it was difficult for a red blooded male not to), and was much disquieted to learn of Emma’s rapidly advanced friendship with the girl. Not that he knew of anything dubious about the girl’s character, but she looked to him the nearest thing to a hooker that he ever wished to set eyes on.
George’s candid grey eyes rested on Emma as her father talked. He could detect an outside influence immediately, Emma looked different somehow, though certainly not in Harriet’s mould. He wondered speculatively on the balance of such a friendship for Emma. She was certainly in need of some female company, having been bereft of Anne Taylor’s constant companionship. But Harriet Smith? The girl was bimbo, or if that were a trifle harsh, a dumb blonde at any rate. George refrained from comment continuing his conversation with Mr. Woodhouse until the latter nodded off, as was his wont.
‘So Emma, what have you been up to since I saw you last?’ Knightley invited her confidences. Emma explained Harriet’s Smith’s role in part two of the wardrobe rehabilitation project that had now morphed into project makeover. George Knightley eyed her closely, torn between amusement at Emma’s worldly innocence, and anxiety for her un-guardedness. George had a strange feeling that friendship between the two girls would lead to no good.
Influenced by his disquiet George Knightley lost no time in alerting Anne Weston to his concerns. Anne listened with growing impatience to George’s apprehensions, and consequently fell to defending Emma against his worries.
‘I cannot agree with you in this matter’ she began, ‘that Emma is superior in circumstance and intelligence aside, of course I agree. Yet Emma will help Harriet to improve through wider interests and reading, I know that she intends it.’
‘Ah Emma’s good intentions!’ George Knightley responded with a role of his eyes skyward, ‘I can but agree with you that Emma always means to do more. In fact I’ve never known anyone to draw up such a good ‘to do’ list in all my life. I still have one, which did her so much credit; she must have been about fourteen at the time, beautifully written and I believe alphabetically arranged. Yet my confidence in Emma’s following any of her good resolutions has yet to be rewarded. Emma likes to plan; yet she lacks the persistence to apply her intellect where more easy diversions can be found. I believe that Harriet’s Smith’s friendship will be one of these entertainments.’
‘I see that we are still beset by our customary quarrels regarding Emma’ Anne Weston responded philosophically. ‘Thankfully I never needed your recommendation for another position, as I’m sure I would never have gotten further employment. I think you have always thought me to be an unsuitable companion for Emma, so how little chance would poor Harriet Smith ever have?’
‘Indeed I think that you are much more suited to your current role as Mrs. Weston, than you ever were as a governess to Emma, but as a friend to her I could never doubt your qualifications.’ The protagonists smiled at one another momentarily before the line of hostilities were redrawn. ‘I have not finished my objections to Emma’s friendship with Harriet Smith, hear me out please for I beg your influence in this matter. Harriet Smith is very pretty, and rather dim, I’m not sure what Emma finds interesting about her company, but I suspect that she has some sort of mischief hatching in her mind. Harriet is flattered by Emma’s attentions. The girl knows how to please and how to be pleasing, she will inflate Emma’s ego with her fawning, and Emma will give the girl grandiose ideas of her own possibilities. I already had it directly from Emma that she thinks that Harriet could be a celebrity; apparently all that it requires these days is to be very pretty, and it is no matter that one is entirely devoid of any talent.’ George Knightley’s brows knitted in a frown of frustration. Why ever do I feel I have to make Emma’s doings my business?
‘I think that I depend on Emma’s intelligence much more than you do’ Anne responded playfully, ‘I’m sure that Emma will do well by Harriet. She needs some female company, and she looked so well last night I’m sure the friendship is doing her good.’
‘Well obviously if you prefer to talk of Emma’s appearance, rather than her substance, of course I have no arguement with you, nor could anyone. Emma looks exceedingly well, she is very pretty.’
‘Not merely pretty, surely? Emma is beautiful, everything about her face and her figure’ Anne teased.
‘Well I confess I always have though so, but then I am a particularly old family friend, not to mention being now her brother by marriage. It would be hard for me to find fault with Emma’s appearance, for it is very dear to me.’
George Knightley listened to Anne Weston with mounting impatience as she enumerated Emma’s perfections. He moved restlessly not able to argue against her, yet feeling that she was missing the point.
‘I’m not to be dissuaded of my objections to the relationship between Emma and Harriet Smith’ he rejoined as soon as Anne had finished her praises. ‘I agree that Emma is all those things and more, and to her credit she is not vain of her appearance. Her vanity lies in another direction entirely. Emma thinks that it is within her power to manipulate the lives of others to her will. In effect she thinks that she can predict the future and make it happen, and that she can play with the lives of people like she always used to play with her dolls. I think that the relationship between her and Harriet Smith will do them both harm.
‘I don’t see how you can profess to care so much for Emma when you harbour such a low opinion of her!’ Anne Weston protested, ‘She is the most dutiful of daughters, beyond patient with her father, and careful of all his ailments. She never complains about the limitations of her life here in Highbury even though she has only twice been as far as London to visit her sister, and thence only for a day. In all the years that I have known Emma she has hardly ever done any wrong, and when she did she always made up for it with heartfelt apologies, and improved behaviour. I should of all people know this to be true.’
‘Very well have it your way, Emma is to be an angel and I am a disagreeable old fogey. I’ll take my bad mood away, and leave you in peace, but I have to confess a great anxiety, and a curiosity, I suppose, as to what will become of Emma.’
‘And I do too’ Anne Weston’s agreement was heartfelt.
‘She often says that she will not marry, which means nothing of course, unless she were to meet someone who could make her feel differently. To fall in love with someone, and to be in doubt that her feelings were returned would be good for her, but where hereabouts is she to meet someone; she so seldom goes from home?’
Anne Weston agreed with George Knightley’s conjecture with an inward smile, for she and her husband cherished a secret plan for Emma. Emma had long been fascinated by stories of Geoff’s son Frank Churchill. It would only be another week and the mythological person would come amongst them. He had proposed, in a very sweet letter to Anne, that he should stay with his father and new wife for a fortnight. He said, very handsomely, that he regretted his long absence from his father, and from Highbury, and that he would like to make up for lost time now that his father had settled in the little town permanently, and had married again.
It had proved impossible for Anne and Geoffrey not to conjecture about his son, and Emma, who had been like a daughter to her. What if they were to more than like each other, in fact what if they were to fall in love?