Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and only reading it once."

(The above quote by C.S. Lewis applies to women too.  Heehee.)

As a nice little way to wrap up 2013, I decided to fill out the reading-and-writing tags from the Notebook Sisters' blog-- I actually missed the deadline for participation, haha, but I'm filling out the reading tag anyway because I am a radical.  (Check my writing blog later today for the writing tag.)

1. What was your overall favourite book this year? (Yes. Pick one.)

Aaaack.  Um.  Does this include rereads or new books?  Sheesh.  I'm going to go with new books, sooooo I'll say Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart.  Unfortunately I only started keeping track of the books I've been reading in October of this year (on my own, that is-- before that Mom and I kept a list together, back in the dear old days gone by when I was Still In School :P) so I feel terribly as if I'd forgotten something.  Oh, well, Nine Coaches Waiting was swellissimus, anyway.

2. Favourite debut(s)? (Author must have been first published in 2013.)

The Princess and the Sage by Annaliese Blakeney.  Out-of-this-world hilarious, and sources close to the author say she's working on a sequel.

3. Which books did you reread this year?

Goodness.  Okay, let's do our best with this thing.  In not-order (random order is an oxymoron):

Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery
The Golden Road by L.M. Montgomery
Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery :P
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart
Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Two are Better than One by Carol Ryrie Brink
Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose
Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker
Sister of the Bride by Beverly Cleary
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon
Christmas After All by Kathryn Lasky
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I'm sure there were lots of others, but like I said, I've been rather bad at keeping track.  (Even my book list from the end of my senior year only featured books that were new, so rereads are hard to locate.  Ha.)

4. Favourite cover(s) this year!

This, from Better Book Titles.  (Sorry, guys, I'm really not much of a cover girl-- pun not intended.  I'm always much more interested in the way it looks inside-- or else I prefer antique copies.  Heehee.)

5. Worst cover(s)?

Ummmmmmmm.  I really don't notice covers all that much, to be honest.  Ooooh, perhaps this one-- it didn't come out this year (but I'm not sure if the To Kill a Mockingbird one did either, so whatever) but I discovered it this year via the the Worst Cover Throwdown over at the P&P95Forever Club and... yeah.

6. What self-published books did you read this year?

The Princess and the Sage by Annaliese Blakeney, Annabeth's War by Jessica Greyson and a few beta-reads.

7. Which book(s) gave you a massive hangover?

I don't particularly like the word "hangover," but I'm assuming in this sense it means a book that stuck with you for a while and kind of kept you from enjoying other books because you were still in its world, am I right? Okay, then.  I'm going to go with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society because that one just held onto me for several days after I finished it.  I didn't want it to end (see this).  And I want a sequel really really badly, by the way.

8. Best standalone you read?

I'm shamelessly tweaking this question to make it what *I* want it to be, and so I'm going to answer it as if it's asking for the best short story I read.  That would definitely be What Would Austen Do? by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway.  It appeared in the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, which I wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend (some of the stories are pretty trashy) but it had some gems, and that one was the gemmiest of them all.  It's about a teenage boy who accidentally signs up for English Country dancing and goes full-fledged Janeite.  And it's awesome.  (Why am I saying awesome?  Whatever happened to cool?  Nothing?  Cool.)

9. Biggest book(s) you've read this year?

Les Miserables, by all means (my sister Anne put it well: "Victor Hugo did not know when to shut up.") but Dickens' Dombey and Son came close.

10. Book(s) you followed the hype for and then loved!

I don't really follow book-hype... heh.  I walk by my wild lone and wave my wild tail where it pleases me (name the quotation, guys) where books are concerned.  And this will make me sound like a hipster, but outside the small realm of self-publishing, I read very very few modern books when they first come out.  *adjusts plastic-framed glasses*  "It's Mumford and SONS, not Mumford and SON."

11. Most disappointing book(s) you read this year?

I was rather let down by Like Dandelion Dust by Karen Kingsbury.  Apologies to all the Kingsbury fans out there (I know you are a great and strong army) but I just don't think much of her books.  LDD had a good premise and all, which was what made me try it (I've read several of her other novels and wasn't impressed) but it left me feeling flat and blah and that-ending-was-too-convenient-and-predictable.  I also read The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson as a reluctant foray (heh, heh) into young adult romance, and it was... meh.  I like her books for middle-grade readers SO much better.

12. Favourite leading-female character?

Jane Eyre, probably.  Or Elizabeth Bennet.  :D

13. Favourite leading-male character?

Um.  Mr. Darcy.  Hello.  Also Atticus Finch.

14. Best romance(s)?

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are the obvious answer but I've already used each of them once so I'm going to go with Tommy and Tuppence from the novels about them by Agatha Christie... they're just so doggoned CUTE together!  I would so, so love to see a really well-done TV series based on the books with Anthony Andrews and Jennifer Ehle (at the right ages-- hush, it's a dream casting) playing the Beresfords.  Sigh.

15. What book(s) hit the DNF list? (Did not finish.)

I started to read The Postmistress by Sarah Blake because the synopsis on Goodreads looked so intriguing... didn't get past the second chapter.  Ugh.  Let's just say it was getting inappropriate really early on.  Plus language.  And ick.

16. What book(s) did you read out of your comfort-zone?

Great question, this.  Ummmm... maybe Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought by Stephen J. Nichols.  I'll admit I've always shied away from theological books because I thought they would be over my head, but I tried this one since it was partially a biography (I like biographies) and wonder of wonders, it actually made sense and was enjoyable to read.  Who'd-a-thunk it?

17. Which author did you read the most from?

According to my rereads list, I think that would be L.M. Montgomery.  

18. Top 5 books you'd recommend from all the books you've read this year?

I chose to go with four new books and one old one, just for a change of pace, so...

~The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
~Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart 
~The Princess and the Sage by Annaliese Blakeney
~The Last Sin Eater by Francene Rivers
~Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose 

(I left out Jane Eyre and Les Mis and everything Jane Austen, because those are obvious choices.  Heehee.)

19. How many books did you read this year all up?

I'm guessing around sixty, based on the list of re-reads above plus all the new books I've read this year plus the ones I'm sure I'm not recalling at the moment.  :P

20. What's a book you're hugely excited for coming out in 2014?!

Fly Away Home by Rachel Heffington!  I had the privilege of beta-reading one of the drafts for this delightful novel and I can't WAIT to get a print copy in my hands.  I'm also tremendously looking forward to the new Penderwicks book-- good grief, the title hasn't even been released yet.  I do love the Penderwicks.  :D

All the secrets of the world are contained in books.  Read at your own risk.
~Lemony Snicket

Monday, December 30, 2013

Emma: Homeschool Edition (Chapter Four)

Sorry this is so late, folks! Busy, busy weekend!

Harriet Smith's regular visits at Hartfield were soon a settled thing. Quick and decided in her ways, Emma lost no time in inviting, encouraging, and telling her to come very often; and as their acquaintance increased, so did their satisfaction in each other. As a morning jog companion, Emma had very early foreseen how useful she might find her. In that respect Mrs. Weston's loss had been important. Her father never went beyond his little stationary bike in the basement (which never went above four miles per hour); and since Mrs. Weston's marriage Emma had felt her exercise had been too much confined.  She did not like to go out jogging all alone, and her only other options were to use her father’s bike (which was not a fun prospect) or to do sit-ups all by herself in her bedroom, and she hated sit-ups.  She had ventured once alone to the gym, but it was not pleasant; and a Harriet Smith, therefore, one whom she could summon at any time to a nice little run, would be a valuable addition to her privileges. But in every respect as she saw more of her, she approved her, and was confirmed in all her kind designs.

   Harriet certainly was not clever, but she had a sweet, docile, grateful disposition; was totally free from conceit; and only desiring to be guided by any one she looked up to. Her early attachment to Emma was very amiable; and her inclination for good company, and power of appreciating what was well done and respectable, showed that there was no want of taste, though strength of understanding must not be expected from a girl who had had such an inferior education.  Altogether Emma was quite convinced of Harriet Smith's being exactly the young friend she wanted -- exactly the something which her happy little home required. Another such a friend as Mrs. Weston was out of the question. Two such could never be granted. Two such she did not want. It was quite a different sort of thing -- a sentiment distinct and independent. Mrs. Weston was the object of a regard, which had its basis in gratitude and esteem. Harriet would be loved as one to whom she could be exemplary. For Mrs. Weston there was nothing to be done; for Harriet every thing.
    Her first attempts at usefulness were in an endeavour to secure Harriet a place teaching Sunday School, as she felt this would elevate Harriet to a social status in the church that could not go unnoticed by eligible young men in the membership.  Harriet, however, was content merely to assist Emma as she in turn assisted at youth group, and to talk Emma’s ear off in the process.
    Mrs. Goddard, and the teachers, and the girls, and the affairs of the school in general, formed naturally a great part of her conversation -- and but for her acquaintance with the Martins (those she had met at the youth retreat), it must have been the whole. But the Martins occupied her thoughts a good deal; she had met up with them several times since the retreat, and now loved to talk of the pleasures of their visit and describe the many comforts and wonders of their lovely home. Emma encouraged her talkativeness -- amused by such a picture of another set of beings (not going much in the company of the Modern Sort herself), and enjoying the youthful simplicity which could speak with so much exultation of Rebecca Martin’s being valedictorian in her high school graduating class and Emily Martin’s having been in the championship finals for her lacrosse team.

    For some time she was amused, without thinking beyond the immediate cause; but as she came to understand the family better, other feelings arose. She had taken up a wrong idea, thinking the fellow Harriet referred to as Robert was yet in middle school; but when it appeared that the Robert Martin, who bore a part in the narrative, and was always mentioned with approbation for his great good-nature in doing something or other, was a single young man with a degree from a secular college; that there was no twelve-year-old Martin at all; she did suspect danger to her poor little friend from all this hospitality and kindness -- and that if she were not taken care of, she might be required to sink herself for ever.

    With this inspiriting notion, her questions increased in number and meaning; and she particularly led Harriet to talk more of Robert Martin, -- and there was evidently no dislike to it. Harriet was very ready to speak of the share he had had in their lunches at Denny’s and woodland hikes; and dwelt a good deal upon his being so very good-humoured and obliging. 

    "He had gone out of his way after work one day, in order to bring her a lime slushie from Sonic, because she had said how fond she was of them -- and in every thing else he was so very obliging! He had played his guitar for her, original compositions at that. She was very fond of guitar playing. He had written the lyrics to his own songs, too. She believed he was very clever, and understood every thing. He had a very fine car; and frequently when she went out with the girls, he had been the one to drive them in his Subaru. She believed every body spoke well of him. His mother and sisters were very fond of him.  Mrs. Martin had told her one day, (and there was a blush as she said it,) that it was impossible for any body to be a better son; and therefore she was sure whenever he married he would make a good husband. Not that she wanted him to marry. She was in no hurry at all."

    "Well done, Mrs. Martin!" thought Emma. "You know what you are about.” Aloud she said, "Mr. Martin, I suppose, is not a man of information beyond the line of his own business. He does not read?"

    "Oh, yes! that is, no -- I do not know -- but I believe he has read a good deal -- but not what you would think any thing of. He reads the New York Times and an occasional book on his Kindle, I think. I know he had read Animal Farm in high school and thought it would be about agriculture, but it was not-- do you not think the title misleading in that case, Emma? He never read anything by Beverly Lewis, nor Lynn Austin either. He had never heard of such books before I mentioned them, but I recommended The Redemption of Sarah Cain and he is going to see if he can get a copy."

    The next question was, "What sort of looking man is Robert Martin?"

    "Oh! not particularly attractive -- not really. I thought him very normal at first, but I do not think him so ordinary now. One does not, you know, after a time. But, did you never see him! He is at Highbury services every now and then with his sisters; he has been in the church lobby when you were there very often."

    "That may be -- and I may have seen him fifty times, but without having any idea of his name. A young man with no connections to my friends and whose shirt is not tucked in, is the very last sort of person to raise my curiosity. The middle-class suburban soccer families are precisely the order of people with whom I feel I can have nothing to do. An income bracket lower, and a creditable appearance might interest me; I might hope to be useful to their families in some way or other.  After all, it is the responsibility of churches to help the poor and needy, and not expect the federal government to do it. But a young man of his sort can need none of my help, and is therefore in one sense as much above my notice as in every other he is below it.  Public school and all that, you know, dear."

    "To be sure. Oh! yes, it is not likely you should ever have observed him -- but he knows you very well indeed -- I mean by sight."

    "I have no doubt of his being a very Nice Young Man. I know indeed that he is so, if you say it; and as such wish him well. What do you imagine his age to be?"

    "He turned twenty-four on June 8th, and my birthday is the 23rd -- just a two weeks and a day's difference! Which is very odd!"

    "Not odd at all-- have you never heard that in a room of twenty-one people or more, the odds are fifty-fifty that two of them will share a birthday?  Hmmm, only twenty-four.  For a young man, that is a bit young to marry. His mother is perfectly right not to be in a hurry. They seem very comfortable as they are, and if she were to take any pains to marry him, she would probably repent it.  Besides, I suppose he expects to find his own wife, at a coffee shop or some such nonsense.  Six years hence, if he could meet with a good sort of young woman in the same social circles as his own, with at least the ability to make a casserole and clean a bathroom, it might be very desirable."

    "Six years hence! Dear Emma, he would be thirty years old!"

    "Well, and that is as early as most men begin to show at least the beginning signs of maturity if they have been set back by a public high school.  Robert Martin, I imagine, takes little more interest in his future than whether he will get to the next level in Call of Duty this weekend. It is next to impossible that he should have gotten his act together yet."

    "To be sure... so it is... But I really do believe he is an exception.  His conversational skills are really very good, and he never texts while he is talking to me.  He is quite an adult in all ways of looking at it-- I really think he could get married whenever he chooses, if he could find the right girl."

    "I wish you may not get into an awkward situation, Harriet, whenever he does marry; -- I mean, as to being acquainted with his wife -- for though his sisters, from their frequent attendance at Highbury and the good influence of the youth camp, are not to be altogether objected to, it does not follow that their brother might marry anybody at all fit for you to notice. The misfortune of your own education and background ought to make you particularly careful as to your associates. There can be no doubt now, at least, of your being introduced into better and higher circles, and you cannot afford to lose your good standing at Highbury by spending too much time with a family that shops almost exclusively at Walmart and has probably never seen the inside of Trader Joe’s in their combined lives."

    "Yes, to be sure -- I suppose that is true. But while I visit at Hartfield, and you are so kind to me, Emma, I am not afraid of what any body can say of me."

    "You understand the force of influence pretty well, Harriet; but I would have you so firmly established in good fellowship, as to be independent even of Hartfield and me. I want to see you permanently well connected -- and to that end it will be advisable to have as few odd acquaintance as may be; and, therefore, I say that if you should still be in this neighborhood when Robert Martin marries, I wish you may not be drawn in, by your intimacy with the sisters, to be acquainted with the wife, who will probably be some former high school cheerleader, with a community college education."

    "To be sure. Yes. Not that I think Robert Martin would ever marry any body but what had had at least a passable education -- and been very well brought up. However, I do not mean to set up my opinion against yours -- and I am sure I shall not wish for the acquaintance of his wife. I shall always have a great regard for the Miss Martins, especially Emily, and should be very sorry to give them up, for they are quite as well educated as me. But if he marries a very obnoxious, feministic sort of woman, certainly I had better not visit her, if I can help it."

    Emma watched her through the fluctuations of this speech, and saw no alarming symptoms of love. The young man had been the first admirer, but she trusted there was no other hold, and that there would be no serious difficulty on Harriet's side to oppose any friendly arrangement of her own.

    They met Robert Martin the very next day, as they were walking the 2-mile loop at the Donwell park.  He was walking his dog (Emma detested dogs), and after nodding very respectfully at Emma, looked with most unfeigned satisfaction at her companion.  Emma was not sorry to have such an opportunity of survey; and walking a few yards forward, while they talked together, soon made her quick eye sufficiently acquainted with Mr. Robert Martin. His appearance was very neat (he was wearing a windbreaker and she could not tell if his shirt was tucked in or not, but his hair was parted on the side and that at least was a good sign), and he looked like a sensible young man, but his dog was of course a count against him in Emma’s opinion; and when he came to be contrasted with the gentlemen she was acquainted with, she thought he must lose all the ground he had gained in Harriet's inclination. Harriet was not insensible of good old-fashioned manners; she had voluntarily noticed Mr. Knightley’s general attitude with admiration as well as wonder.  Robert Martin, on the other hand, had probably never opened a door for a lady in his life.

    They remained but a few minutes together, as Emma must not be kept waiting; and Harriet then came running to her with a smiling face, and in a flutter of spirits, which Emma hoped very soon to compose.

    "Only think of our happening to meet him! How very odd! It was quite a chance, he said, that he had not gone round by the playground. He did not think we ever walked this way. He thought did our walking in the morning, most days. He has not been able to get The Redemption of Sarah Cain yet. He was so busy the last time he was at Mardel that he quite forgot it, but he’s going shopping with his sisters again tomorrow. So very odd we should happen to meet! Well, Emma, is he like what you expected? What do you think of him? Do you think him so very plain?"

    "He is very plain, undoubtedly -- remarkably plain, and needs a shave, I think: -- but that is nothing, compared with his entire want of maturity. I had no right to expect much, and I did not expect much; but I had no idea that he could be so very clownish, so totally without the air of a gentleman. I had imagined him, I confess, a degree or two nearer actual adulthood."

    "To be sure," said Harriet, in a mortified voice, "he is not so genteel as-- as some at Highbury."

    "I think, Harriet, since your acquaintance with us, you have been repeatedly in the company of some, such very real gentlemen, that you must yourself be struck with the difference in Robert Martin. At Highbury you have seen some very good specimens of well-educated, well-bred young men. I should be surprised if, after seeing them, you could be in company with Robert Martin again without perceiving him to be a very inferior creature -- and rather wondering at yourself for having ever thought him at all agreeable before. Do not you begin to feel that now? Were not you struck? I am sure you must have been struck by his awkward look and abrupt manner -- and the modern slang he used, which I heard several times as I stood here.”

    "Certainly, he is not like Mr. Knightley. He has not such a fine air and way of talking as Mr. Knightley. I see the difference plain enough. But Mr. Knightley is so very fine a man!"

    "Mr. Knightley's personality is so remarkably good, that it is not fair to compare Mr. Martin with him. You might not see one in a hundred, with ‘gentleman’ so plainly written as in Mr. Knightley. But he is not the only gentleman you have been lately used to. What say you to Mr. Weston and Pastor Elton? Compare Mr. Martin with either of them. Compare their manner of carrying themselves; of walking; of speaking; of being silent. You must see the difference."

    "Oh, yes! -- there is a great difference. But Mr. Weston is quite middle-aged. Mr. Weston must be between forty and fifty."

    "Which makes his good manners the more valuable. The older a person grows, Harriet, the more important it is that their manners should not be bad -- the more glaring and disgusting any loudness, or coarseness, or awkwardness becomes. What is passable in youth, is detestable in later age. Mr. Martin is now awkward and abrupt and rather like a teenager; what will he be at Mr. Weston's time of life?"

    "There is no saying, indeed!" replied Harriet, rather solemnly.
    "But there may be pretty good guessing.  He will be a completely gross, annoying man who goes out in public in pajama bottoms -- totally inattentive to appearances, and thinking of nothing but whether he will be home again in time to catch his cop show."

    "Will he, indeed? That will be very bad."

    "How much his inferior interests engross him already, is very plain from the circumstance of his forgetting to buy the book you recommended. He was a great deal too full of -- what is it you said he does for a living? window installation? the idea!-- to think of any thing else -- which is just as it should be, for a successful man.  But Robert Martin is not -- he probably makes less than minimum wage -- he probably listens to Top 40 radio on his way to work.”

    "I wonder he did not remember the book" -- was all Harriet's answer, and spoken with a degree of grave displeasure which Emma thought might be safely left to itself. She, therefore, said no more for some time. Her next beginning was,

    "In one respect, perhaps, Pastor Elton's manners are superior to Mr. Knightley's or Mr. Weston's. They have more gentleness. They might be more safely held up as a pattern. There is an openness, a quickness, almost a bluntness in Mr. Weston, which every body likes in him because there is so much good humor with it -- but that would not do to be copied.  You must remember he has been in the armed forces, and is not accustomed to all the social niceties of a place like Highbury.  Neither would Mr. Knightley's downright, decided, commanding sort of manner -- though it suits him very well; his age and situation in life seem to allow it; but if any young man were to set about copying him, he would not be sufferable.  On the contrary, I think a young man might be very safely recommended to take Pastor Elton as a model. Pastor Elton is good-humoured, cheerful, obliging, and polite. He seems to me, to be grown particularly attentive and courteous of late. I do not know whether he has any design of ingratiating himself with either of us, Harriet, by additional pleasantness, but it strikes me that his manners are more attentive than they used to be. If he means anything, it must be to please you. Did not I tell you what he said of you the other day?"

    She then repeated some warm personal praise which she had drawn from Pastor Elton-- something to do with how nicely Harriet cleaned the whiteboards after the last youth group meeting--, and now did full justice to; and Harriet blushed and smiled, and said she had always thought Pastor Elton very nice.

    Pastor Elton was the very person fixed on by Emma for driving the young window-installer out of Harriet's head. She thought it would be an excellent match (Harriet would make an ideal minister’s wife); and only too palpably desirable, natural, and probable, for her to have much merit in planning it. She feared it was what every body else must think of and predict. It was not likely, however, that any body should have equalled her in the date of the plan, as it had entered her brain during the very first evening of Harriet's coming to Hartfield. The longer she considered it, the greater was her sense of its expediency. Pastor Elton's education and situation were most suitable, without low connections; at the same time having no close family that could fairly object to the doubtful origins of Harriet. There would be no overly picky mother-in-law to contend with, no sisters who would sneer at Harriet for not knowing how to play the harp.  He had a comfortable home for her, and Emma imagined a very sufficient income; and she thought very highly of him as a good-humoured, godly, respectable young man, with no dog, no motorcycle and no apparent taste for video games.

    She had already satisfied herself that he thought Harriet a pretty girl, which she trusted, with such frequent meetings at Hartfield, was foundation enough on his side; and on Harriet's, there could be little doubt that the idea of being preferred by him would have all the usual weight and efficacy. And he was really a very pleasing young man, a young man whom any single young woman who was not overly picky might like. He was reckoned very handsome; his appearance was not exactly to Emma’s taste, but the girl who could be gratified by a Robert Martin's going two minutes out of his way to get her a lime slushie, might very well be conquered by Pastor Elton's admiration.

Friday, December 27, 2013

“I had assumed it had got into your wardrobe by mistake, sir… or else it had been placed there by your enemies.”

Pip, pip, cheerio, folks!  Just wanted to pop by quite briefly and wish you all a two-days-late merry Christmas, and to remind you that the Opera Ghost's salary is due.  Er, I mean, that if you want to submit posts for the January I'd Like to Share link-up, please go do so over here.

Also... due to holiday busy-ness and all that sort of rot, the Emma: Homeschool Edition chapter will be a day late this week (that is, it'll appear tomorrow.)  Thanks ever so much for understanding!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Emma: Homeschool Edition (Chapter Three)

 Mr. Woodhouse was fond of fellowship in his own way. He liked very much to have his friends come and see him; and from various united causes, from his long residence in the neighborhood, and his good nature, from his high standing in the homeschool community, his in-ground pool, and his daughter, he could command the visits of his own little circle, in a great measure as he liked. He had not much intercourse with any families beyond that circle; his horror of late hours and large potluck suppers made him unfit for any acquaintance, but such as would visit him on his own terms. Fortunately for him, the Highbury church family comprehended many such. Not unfrequently, through Emma's persuasion, he had some of the chosen and the best over for dinner with him, but game nights were what he preferred, and, unless he fancied himself at any time unequal to company, there was scarcely an evening in the week in which Emma could not make up a Boggle table for him.

    Real, long-standing regard brought the Westons and Mr. Knightley; and by Pastor Elton, a young man living alone without liking it (after all, the Bible itself states that it is not good for man to be alone!), the privilege of exchanging any evening spent with his laptop and a frozen dinner for the cheerful chatter and board games of Mr. Woodhouse's living room (not to mention the smiles and conversation of his attractive and single daughter), was in no danger of being thrown away.

    After these came a second set; among the most come-at-able of whom were Mrs. and Miss Bates and Mrs. Goddard, three ladies almost always at the service of an invitation from the Woodhouses, and who traveled there and back so often that Mr. Woodhouse thought it no hardship for their health to be venturing out in the weather, as they were used to it. Had it taken place only once a year, it would have been a grievance.

    Mrs. Bates, the widow of a former Highbury pastor, was a very old lady, almost past every thing but instant coffee and Wheel of Fortune. She lived with her single daughter in a very small house, and was considered with all the regard and respect which a harmless old lady, under such untoward circumstances, can excite. Her daughter enjoyed a most uncommon degree of popularity for a woman neither young, stylish, well-to-do or possessing a Better Half. Miss Bates stood in the very worst predicament in the world for having much of the public favor; and she had no intellectual superiority to make atonement to herself, or frighten those who might hate her, into outward respect. She had never boasted either beauty or cleverness-- she had been in the science fair as a child but have never got past preliminary competition. Her youth had passed without courtship or any other distinction, and her middle age was devoted to the care of a failing mother, and the endeavor to make a small income go as far as possible without the help of food stamps or other government assistance.  And yet she was a happy woman, and a woman whom few named without a smile. It was her own universal goodwill and positive attitude which worked such wonders. She loved every body, was interested in every body's happiness, quick-sighted to every body's talents and skills; thought herself a blessed woman, and surrounded with blessings in such an excellent mother and such a good church family, and a home that wanted for nothing. The simplicity and cheerfulness of her nature, her contented and grateful spirit, were a recommendation to every body and an example to the young children in her Sunday School class. She was a great talker upon little matters, which exactly suited Mr. Woodhouse, full of trivial communications and harmless gossip.  Indeed, her Twitter account was in danger of being suspended because she constantly misinterpreted 140 characters as 140 words.

    Mrs. Goddard was the principal of a local private girls’ school-- a Christian, conservative, well-regulated establishment that held to good old-fashioned principles regarding skirt length and language in the hallways.  The school was held in some reasonable regard by the homeschooling elite of the Highbury church-- it was not, after all, the same as good parental education, but several church members did send their daughters there and one had to be respectful of other people’s views even if they weren’t as good as one’s own.  Besides, Mrs. Goddard herself was a cousin of Mr. Woodhouse, as well as being a kind, motherly sort of woman.  She who had worked hard throughout her whole life, and enjoyed the treat of an occasional visit at Hartfield; and having formerly owed much to Mr. Woodhouse's kindness, felt his particular claim on her to drive out to his house every so often for a round or two of Scrabble.

    These were the ladies whom Emma found herself very frequently able to invite; and happy was she, for her father's sake; though, as far as she was herself concerned, it was no remedy for the absence of Mrs. Weston. She was delighted to see her father look comfortable, and very much pleased with herself for contriving things so well; but the lengthy deliberation before each turn and consulting of the Scrabble dictionary from three such women made her feel that every evening so spent, was indeed one of the long evenings she had fearfully anticipated.  Being neither antisocial nor rude, she could not feel comfortable hiding her face in her phone all evening, and so she was compelled by politeness to sit beside Miss Bates and wait while that worthy lady deliberated over what sort of word she could devise with the letters ACODAVO.

    As she opened her iPad one morning, looking forward to exactly such a close of the present day, an email arrived t from Mrs. Goddard, requesting, in most respectful terms, to be allowed to bring Harriet Smith with her; a most welcome request: for Harriet was a girl of nineteen whom Emma knew very well by sight and had long felt an interest in, on account of her excellent sense of modest fashion. A very gracious invitation was returned, and the evening no longer dreaded by the fair homemaker of the Woodhouse domain-- in fact, Emma hopped up straightaway to set about making some bran muffins to pass around that evening as a little treat.

    Harriet Smith was the daughter of parents who traveled extensively and had placed her, several years back, at Mrs. Goddard's school.  She had graduated the year before with few honors but a reasonably good report in all subjects, and owing to her natural ability to connect with young children, had acquired the position of assistant teacher at the school.  She had no visible friends but what had been acquired at the Highbury church, and was now just returned from a young ladies’ retreat at a summer mountain camp, at which she had met some young women who happened to live nearby.  She and the Martin girls, in consequence, had become rather friendly and indeed their family had begun attending services at Highbury with some regularity.

    She was a very pretty girl, and her beauty happened to be of a sort which Emma particularly admired. She was short and perhaps inclined to plumpness (an attribute she sought to correct by abstention from carbs in any form, a fact Emma only remembered after she had taken the bran muffins out of the oven), with a lovely smile, blue eyes, light hair, regular features, and a look of great sweetness; and before the end of the evening, Emma was as much pleased with her manners as her person (though of course Emma knew better than to judge a person on looks alone), and quite determined to continue the acquaintance.  

    She was not struck by any thing remarkably clever in Harriet’s conversation (what, after all, could be expected from a girl who had attended a boarding school?), but she found her altogether very engaging -- not inconveniently shy, not unwilling to talk -- and yet so far from being obnoxious, showing such nice manners, seeming so pleasantly grateful for being invited to one of the almost-famous Hartfield game nights, and so artlessly impressed by the appearance of every thing in so superior a style to what she had been used to, that she must have good sense and deserve encouragement. Encouragement should be given. Those soft blue eyes and all those natural graces should not be wasted on the inferior society of Mrs. Goddard’s school and its connections. The acquaintance she had already formed were unworthy of her. The friends from whom she had just parted, though very good sort of people, must be doing her harm. Emma knew quite a bit of the Martin family, as she made it her business to know all she could about every attendee at Highbury (without the slightest idea of gossiping, of course) and though they seemed a genteel sort of family, the parents both worked outside the home and the children had all gone to public school.  They were by now graduated, and the eldest son showed a creditable interest in an agricultural career, but they must certainly have experienced ungodly and liberal influences in a government-run institution, and were in point of fact unworthy companions for a girl who only needed a little more fine-tuning to be made practically perfect in Emma’s sight.  She would notice her; she would improve her; she would detach her from her lowly acquaintance, and introduce her to better companions; she would form her opinions and her manners. It would be an interesting, and certainly a very kind undertaking; highly becoming her own situation in life and giving her more material for blogging.

    She was so busy in admiring Harriet’s skill in eyeshadow application, in talking and listening, and forming all these schemes in the in-betweens, that the evening flew away at a very unusual rate; and the popcorn, muffins and cocoa, which always closed such parties, and for which she had been used to sit and watch the due time, was all set out and ready, before she was aware. With an alacrity beyond the common impulse of a spirit which yet was never indifferent to the credit of doing every thing well and attentively, with the real good-will of a mind delighted with its own ideas (well, all right, she got them off Pinterest but at least she was the executor), did she then do all the honors of the snack, and passed her matching napkins and styrofoam bowls with an urgency she knew would be acceptable to the early hours of their guests.

    Upon such occasions poor Mr. Woodhouse's feelings were in sad warfare. He loved to have people over and exercise his daughter’s hospitality skills; but his conviction of snacks being very unwholesome made him rather sorry to see any thing actually served to the guests; and while his generosity would have welcomed his visitors to every thing, his care for their health made him grieve that they would eat.

    Such another small glass of gluten-free soy milkshake as his own, was all that he could, with thorough self-approbation, recommend, though he might constrain himself, while the ladies were comfortably clearing the nicer things, to say:

    "Mrs. Bates, let me propose your venturing on one of these muffins. A muffin made with oat bran and rice flour, sweetened with agave nectar, is not unwholesome. Emma understands about making muffins to suit a healthy diet; I would not recommend a muffin baked by any body else -- but you need not be afraid -- they are very small, you see -- one of our small muffins will not hurt you. Miss Bates, let Emma help you to a little bit of cocoa -- a very little bit. Ours is always made with raw milk. You need not be afraid of unwholesome nastiness here. I do not advise the popcorn; it is made with processed butter. Mrs. Goddard, what say you to some of my soy milkshake? A small half glass -- put into a tumbler of water with a vitamin C supplement? I do not think it could disagree with you."

    Emma allowed her father to talk -- but quietly supplied her visitors in a much more satisfactory style; and on the present evening had particular pleasure in sending them away satisfied. The happiness of Harriet Smith was quite equal to her intentions. Emma Woodhouse was so great a personage in the Highbury congregation, that the prospect of the introduction had given as much panic as pleasure -- but the awed, appreciative girl went off with highly gratified feelings, delighted with the affability with which Emma Woodhouse had treated her all the evening, and actually exchanged email addresses with her at the last!

Monday, December 16, 2013

What I Owe to Jane Austen

Today is the birthday of my favorite author in the entire world (she'd be 238 if she'd lived to today!) and in the spirit of It's a Wonderful Life, I got to thinking about how much different my life would be today if Jane Austen had never existed.

So if Jane Austen had never existed...

~ I might never have developed the lifelong love for classic literature that I have now.  I read Dickens and Orczy before I picked up P&P, but it was Jane Austen's novels that really cemented my love for classic novels.

~ I wouldn't have been half as inspired to be a writer myself.  This sounds like an exaggeration, but it's true-- Pride and Prejudice and (to an even greater extent) Sense and Sensibility made me want very badly to write books of my own, for real.   (Ever since I was little I've wanted to be an author, but it was reading Jane Austen in my early teens that sealed the deal.)

~ I wouldn't have gotten interested in Regency clothing, and possibly by extension historical costuming (so, if we really extend that, I never would have started my business).

 ~ I wouldn't have quotes such as these to turn to when I needed to hear/read/say a bit of wit, truth or humor.

~ I would have a far smaller collection of favorite movies, that's for sure. :D

~ I probably never would have started this blog.

~ In which case, I never would have met this girl and traveled to her house to spend a week and a bit with her that turned our already-best friendship into something even better.

(yes, the book we're pretending to read is P&P)

~I never would have met this girl or (though she won't admit it's thanks to Jane Austen :D) made plans to meet this one

~ I never would have written my novel.  (yes, that was a shameless plug, and here's another shameless plug for the fact that it's twenty percent off in the CreateSpace store {with the discount code 3QH797U5} until January first!  Christmas special, you know.  :D)

~ I never would have virutally-met any of you wonderful people who follow this blog... and that would be a sad, sad thing indeed.  

Thank you, Jane Austen, and a hipy papy bthuthdth thuthda bthuthdy to you.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Emma: Homeschool Edition (Chapter Two)

Mr. Weston had attended Highbury Christian Fellowship for several years (his uncle having been the previous pastor), and employed himself in the contracting business, which for the last two or three years had been doing quite well for him. He had received a relatively good education, though it had been taken at a public school, but of course since it had happened years and years ago (before government institutions became Really Awful), he must be excused a little bit.  He had married young, been in the Air Force for the first few years of his marriage, and had lost his wife while his family was traveling from base to base.  (It should be noted here that Mrs. Weston died in a car accident and was not actually misplaced as the Westons moved around the country.)  Upon the death of his beloved wife, he had found himself unable to care for his young son Frank (the life of an Air Force pilot being strenuous enough without a motherless child thrown into the mix) and with some reluctance he had allowed the boy to go live with his mother’s family, the Churchills.  Their only stipulation in the care of Frank was that he should be legally adopted by them (they had never approved of their sister’s marrying Mr. Weston in the first place) and that he should have minimal contact with his father.  Believing that this was the best opportunity for little Frank, Mr. Weston agreed.

But soon after giving up his son, a complete change of life became desirable. He quitted the Air Force and started his contracting business, having brothers already established in a good way in construction and excavation, which afforded him a favorable opening. It was a venture which brought just employment enough-- enough to find a good wife who was well skilled as a homemaker and to live according to the wishes of his own friendly and social disposition.  That good wife turned out to be Anne Taylor.

He had only himself to please in his choice: he did his best not to be influenced by his wife’s overbearing family, and as they did not particularly care for him, they left him alone often as not.  He saw his son once a year at the Churchill’s summer home in Cape Cod, and was proud of him; and his fond report of him as a very fine young man had made the Highbury church feel a sort of pride in him too. He was looked on as sufficiently belonging to the membership to make his merits and prospects a kind of common concern.  He had completed his first twelve grades at a good Christian school-- perhaps not quite what many of the parents at Highbury would have liked for their children, but it would do for someone else’s-- and any deficiencies in his education were smoothed over by his recent graduation from Patrick Henry College and his recently acquired position as a media manager at Vision Forum.  Rumor in Highbury had it that he had actually done an internship at the Adventures in Odyssey headquarters while getting his degree.

Mr. Frank Churchill was now one of the boasts of Highbury, and a lively curiosity to see him prevailed, though the compliment was so little returned that he had never been there in his life. His coming to visit his father had been often talked of but never achieved.

Now, upon his father's marriage, it was very generally proposed, as a most proper attention, that the visit should take place. There was not a dissentient voice on the subject, either when Mrs. Perry chatted at Starbucks with Mrs. and Miss Bates, or when Mrs. and Miss Bates met her again at Panera.  Now was the time for Mr. Frank Churchill to come among them; and the hope strengthened when it was understood that he had written to his stepmother on the occasion. For a few days, every morning visit in Highbury included some mention of the actual snail-mail letter Mrs. Weston had received. 

"I suppose you have heard of the real, actual handwritten letter Mr. Frank Churchill had written to Mrs. Weston? I understand it was a beautiful letter, indeed. Mr. Woodhouse told me of it. Mr. Woodhouse saw the letter, and he says he never saw such a handsome letter in his life.  There is something so nice about a young man who still writes letters.  I wonder if Mr. Churchill is on Facebook?"

It was, indeed, a highly-prized letter. Mrs. Weston had, of course, formed a very favourable idea of the young man; and such a pleasing attention was an irresistible proof of his great good sense-- much better than a mere Dayspring e-card would have been--, and a most welcome addition to every source and every expression of congratulation which her marriage had already secured. She felt herself a most fortunate woman; and she had lived long enough to know how fortunate she might well be thought, where the only regret was for a partial separation from friends, whose friendship for her had never cooled, and who could ill bear to part with her!

She knew that at times she must be missed; and could not think, without pain, of Emma's losing a single pleasure, or suffering an hour's loneliness, from the want of her companionableness: but dear Emma was of no feeble character; she was more equal to her situation than most girls would have been, and had sense and energy and spirits that might be hoped would bear her well and happily through its little difficulties and privations.  And then there was such comfort in the very easy distance of Randalls from Hartfield, so convenient for their spending half the evenings in the week together.  Besides which, they Skyped on every day that they did not meet in person.

Her situation was altogether the subject of hours of gratitude to Mrs. Weston, and of moments only of regret; and her satisfaction -- her more than satisfaction -- her cheerful enjoyment was so just and so apparent, that Emma, well as she knew her father, was sometimes taken by surprise at his being still able to pity "poor Miss Taylor," when they left her at Randalls in the centre of every domestic comfort, or saw her go away in the evening attended by her pleasant husband to a house of her own. But never did she go without Mr. Woodhouse's giving a gentle sigh, and saying:

"Ah! poor Miss Taylor. She would be very glad to stay." There was no recovering Miss Taylor -- nor much likelihood of ceasing to pity her: but a few weeks brought some alleviation to Mr. Woodhouse. The compliments of his neighbors were over; he was no longer teased by being wished joy of so sorrowful an event; and the wedding-cake, which had been a great distress to him, was all eat up. He knew for a fact that it had been made with unrefined sugar, which he believed to be the devil’s own sweetening agent, and he could never believe that other people might not share his opinion. What was unwholesome to him, he regarded as unfit for any body; and he had, therefore, earnestly tried to dissuade the newlyweds from having any wedding cake at all, and when that proved vain, as earnestly tried to prevent any body's eating it. He had been at the pains of consulting Dr. Perry, the Woodhouse’s family doctor, on the subject. Dr. Perry was an intelligent, gentlemanlike man, whose attendance at Highbury and easy accessibility were one of the comforts of Mr. Woodhouse's life; and, upon being applied to, he could not but acknowledge, (though it seemed rather against the bias of inclination,) that wedding cake made of white sugar could certainly prove unhealthful to many -- perhaps even to most people, unless taken moderately. With such an opinion, in confirmation of his own, Mr. Woodhouse hoped to influence every visitor of the new-married pair; but still the cake was eaten; and there was no rest for his benevolent nerves till it was all gone.

There was a strange rumour in Highbury of all the little Perrys being seen with a slice of the Westons’ wedding cake on each of their Styrofoam plates: but Mr. Woodhouse would never believe it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dreams the way we've planned 'em, if we work in tandem...

If you read my blog with any kind of regularity, you're probably aware of the fact that I'm... uh... a bit of a fangirl.  To name just a few of my fanships, I have a rather strong fondness for a certain author named Jane Austen (and classic literature in general), a bit of an affinity to a certain book &c. known as Les Miserables (the &c. stands for the musical and the movie, of course), a slightly gushy liking for a musical called Phantom of the Opera (and musical theatre in general, too-- shows, performers whose initials are Aaron Tveit, the works), an admiration for a series about The Scarlet Pimpernel (and especially the 1982 movie), a passion for Sherlock Holmes mysteries (plus a mounting desire to see the BBC show), and a great interest in P.G Wodehouse's novels (particularly those of the Jeeves variety, along with the BBC show).

And though you may not realize it, my liking for all those things listed above (well, except Jane Austen... ahemmmmmmmmm) are at least partially the fault of one person.  Because this one person either introduced me to each of those passions or fueled my love of them.  (Can't forget, won't regret, what I did for loooooove...)

You're probably getting quite curious as to who this is, aren't you? (Motel, who IS it?)

Who is it?  It's me, Reb Tevye.


Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the woman whom you can blame for a great deal of my gushing here on YAPDB (and just to clear the air, I also ask forgiveness for the things I've done you've blamed me for)-- send all letters of complaint to her at her blog if you so desire.  (I have a message, messieurs, from the Opera Ghost.)

Yeah, people, it's pretty much all the fault of Alexandra.  I call her Ally, because I kinda sorta really like her even though she's dragged me into all these obsessions that I would be so much saner without.  I mean, she's hilarious and fun and a kindred spirit and pretty much just all-around awesome.  Ever since I met her through blogging in October 2011 (over two years ago, sheesh!) I've wanted to be able to meet her in person.

Which is why I'm so, so excited about the fact that I'm going to be at her house exactly two months from today.  (Impossible things are happening every day!)  Because apparently, she kinda likes me too. At any rate, she invited me to come visit her for a week, and who could pass that up??? I ask you!  Having tea parties on the ceiling and highly questionable outings of every other kind!   This is indeed an unparalleled delight!  I had rather hoped that I could come, you know.  Guys, I'm going to see Ally live in living color.  How cool is THAT?

We are, obviously, really looking forward to this.

Here's to us! The toast of all the city, such a pity that the Phantom won't be there.  We're going to have seven whole days together-- or perhaps I should say seven short days.  Seven short days, oh there's so much to do... seven short days to have a lifetime of fun.  And we'll be having fun, you bet.  The silly, crazy kind, ya know?

We have all these plans that I'm SO looking forward to (she's going to show me SHERLOCK!  SQUEEEEEE!) and I'm just sitting here being super, super excited. I have almost never felt like this-- I could say for once I'm lost for words, but I'm not really. :P  I'm flying so high right now, defying gravity... let's just hope all our zany togetherness doesn't involve gerbils because something dangerous could happen.  (My dad's allergic and my mom's murophobic-- it's a real thing.)  But no matter what happens, this visit will be great, because there's no fight we cannot win.  Do we fight for the right to a night at the opera now?  *crash* He's HERE! The phantom of the operaaaaaaaa...

Okay, shutting up.  If all those musical quotes haven't driven you away by now, I don't know what will.

The point of this post is to say that I'm going out to visit Ally (and by extension Belle and Alex, who happen to live in the same house-- hi, guys!) on February 11th, 2014, and that I'm doing a happy dance in my head because I'm so thrilled and excited about it.

All right, well, I suppose there's nothing left inside my head (everything that's left to say's been said) so I'll close this post.

And now there are only sixty-two days to wait-- yes, yes, I'm counting.  Do you blame me?


Friday, December 6, 2013

Emma: Homeschool Edition (Chapter One)

(In which we introduce Miss Dashwood's irreverent reworking of Jane Austen's classic novel, to be presented in weekly installments for the benefit of those blog readers who may be interested in such nonsense.) And we must give credit where credit is due-- this series was partly inspired by Rachel Coker's Truth Universally Acknowledged.  However, this series is not in any way affiliated with or inspired by Pemberley Digital's Emma Approved-- no, seriously, I came up with this idea before I even heard of EA.  ;)

Emma Woodhouse, a handsome, clever stay-at-home daughter, with a comfortable home and a homeschool education, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate, indulgent father (though of course not too indulgent-- he understood discipline as any good father ought), and had, in consequence of her sister's marriage, been a Young Homemaker from a very early period.  Her mother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses, and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as private tutor, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection.  This Miss Taylor had provided the at-home education Emma and her sister Isabella had needed, and she had become almost a member of the family.

Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in the Woodhouse household, less as a governess than a friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularly of Emma. Between them it was more the intimacy of sisters.  Some days they even wore matching jumpers, inciting admiration and compliments whenever they went to co-op together.  Even before Miss Taylor had ceased to hold the nominal office of teacher, the mildness of her temper had hardly allowed her to impose any restraint (besides which, the duty of discipline belonged to Emma’s father alone); and the shadow of authority being now long passed away, they had been living together as friend and friend very mutually attached, and Emma doing just what she liked within reason; highly esteeming Miss Taylor's judgment, but directed chiefly by her own and her father’s.

The real evils indeed of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments. The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with her.  She maintained a blog (entitled “Happily at Home”) on the Internet where she wrote about daily life, recipes, and of course a weekly Monday Modesty feature in which she showcased whatever outfit she happened to be wearing  that day, as an encouragement to younger girls.  There were a few followers who thought, perhaps, that Emma showed some arrogance in her manner of writing and style of presenting her posts, but one cannot travel the Internet for long without encountering rude people of some kind, and Emma never paid any attention to these naysayers.  
Sorrow came -- a gentle sorrow -- but not at all in the shape of any disagreeable consciousness. Miss Taylor married. This was, of course, in and of itself not a sorrow at all, for she had married a godly man and could now settle into a home of her own and be no longer subjected to scrutiny by others in their church who wondered why she was still single.  She was just the kind of woman who would make the right man very happy someday, and it had always been a desire of hers to have a husband and children, so all in all things were arranged quite nicely.  But it was Miss Taylor's loss which first brought grief. It was on the wedding-day of this beloved friend that Emma first sat in mournful thought of any continuance. The wedding over and the bride-people gone, with the newly married Westons on their way to their honeymoon at the Creation Museum, her father and herself were left to dine together, with no prospect of a third to cheer a long evening. Her father composed himself to sleep after dinner, as usual, and she had then only to sit and think of what she had lost.  She considered writing a blog post about her loneliness, but considering that Miss Taylor-- no, Mrs. Weston-- read her blog, she did not wish to instigate feelings of guilt.  

The event had every promise of happiness for her friend. Mr. Weston, their church’s youth group leader was a man of unexceptionable character, sound doctrine, a steady income and a house with no mortgage; and there was some satisfaction in considering with what self-denying, generous friendship she had always wished and promoted the match; but it was a black morning's work for her. The want of Miss Taylor would be felt every hour of every day. She recalled her past kindness -- the kindness, the affection of sixteen years -- how she had taught and how she had played with her from five years old -- how she had devoted all her powers to attach and amuse her in health -- and how nursed her through the various illnesses of childhood. A large debt of gratitude was owing here; but the intercourse of the last seven years, the equal footing and perfect unreserve which had soon followed Isabella's marriage on their being left to each other, was yet a dearer, tenderer recollection. It had been a friend and companion such as few possessed, intelligent, well-informed, useful, gentle, knowing all the ways of the family, interested in all its concerns, and peculiarly interested in herself, in every pleasure, every scheme of her's; -- one to whom she could speak every thought as it arose, and who had such an affection for her as could never find fault.  In short, Miss Taylor had been the quintessential Proverbs 31 woman, and how could Emma expect to ever bear the loss?

Or the change, for that matter?  It was true that her friend was only moving to Randalls, a small town about ten minutes away from them; but Emma was aware that great must be the difference between a Mrs. Weston only ten minutes from them, and a Miss Taylor in the house; and with all her advantages, natural and domestic, she was now in great danger of suffering from intellectual solitude.  Her blogging friends were nice, of course, but they were only on the Internet and did not count.  She dearly loved her father, but he was no companion for her. He could not meet her in conversation, rational or playful, and they frequently suffered from a lack of topic at any rate, for he never watched Blimey Cow.

The evil of the actual disparity in their ages (and Mr. Woodhouse had not married early) was much increased by his constitution and habits; for having been a bit of a hypochondriac all his life, without activity of mind or body, he was a much older man in ways than in years; and though everywhere beloved for the friendliness of his heart and his amiable temper, his talents could not have recommended him at any time.  Besides which, he was currently experimenting with a gluten-free diet, which Emma of course lauded as an admirable enterprise, but it certainly did create more work for her both in the kitchen and when grocery shopping. 

Her sister, though comparatively but little removed by matrimony, being settled in the countryside on a self-sufficient farm only forty miles off, was much beyond her daily reach; and many a long October and November evening must be struggled through at Hartfield (they had named their homeschool Hartfield Academy and the name had continued with the house), before Christmas brought the next visit from Isabella and her husband and their several little children to fill the house and give her pleasant society again.

Highbury Christian Fellowship, the large and thriving church to which the Woodhouses belonged, afforded her few equals. The Woodhouses were among the first in consequence there, having homeschooled both their children from day one and set the standard in the community.  All looked up to them, despite there being but two girls in the family.  She had many acquaintance throughout the church, for her father was universally civil even to those who utilized government education, but not one among them who could be accepted in lieu of Miss Taylor for even half a day.  Emma volunteered her time as assistant in the youth group, but of course most of those young people were all still in public high school and could hardly be considered for friendship.  It was a melancholy change; and Emma could not but sigh over it and wish for impossible things, till her father awoke, and made it necessary to be cheerful. His spirits required support. He was a nervous man, easily depressed; fond of every body that he was used to, and hating to part with them; hating change of every kind.  He still used Internet Explorer and refused to touch Emma’s iPad with a ten-foot pole.  Matrimony, as the origin of change, was always disagreeable; and he was by no means yet reconciled to his own daughter's marrying, nor could ever speak of her but with compassion, though it had been entirely a match of affection and suitability (both parties being INFJ personality types), when he was now obliged to part with Miss Taylor too; and from his habits of gentle selfishness and of being never able to suppose that other people could feel differently from himself, he was very much disposed to think Miss Taylor had done as sad a thing for herself as for them, and would have been a great deal happier if she had spent all the rest of her life at Hartfield. Emma smiled and chatted as cheerfully as she could, to keep him from such thoughts; but when dinner came, it was impossible for him not to say exactly as he had on the way home from church,

 "Poor Miss Taylor! -- I wish she were here again. What a pity it is that Mr. Weston ever thought of her!"

"I cannot agree with you, Daddy; you know I cannot. Mr. Weston is such a godly, pleasant, reliable man, that he thoroughly deserves a Proverbs 31 wife; -- and you would not have had Miss Taylor live with us for ever and bear all my little quirks, when she might have a house of her own and children to raise?"

"A house of her own! -- but where is the advantage of a house of her own? This is three times as large as Mr. Weston’s, though his is fully paid off as well. And you have no quirks, at least not the bad sort, my dear."

"How often we shall be going to see them and they coming to see us! We shall be always meeting! We must begin, we must go and take them a casserole as soon as they get back from Kentucky."

"My dear, how am I to get so far? Randalls is such a distance from here. I could not drive half so far.  You know how carsick I get on a long trip."

"No, Daddy, nobody thought of your driving. I shall drive, to be sure."

"You drive!  But you have only just got your license a year ago, my dear, and you know what a difficulty you have with parallel parking."

"There is no need for me to parallel park at the Westons’ house, Daddy-- they have a two-car garage.  You know we have settled all that already. We talked it all over with Mr. Weston last night and he promised the second door of his garage would be always available for our use. And the Honda fits so nicely in their garage-- I tried it out just last week.  I’m so glad we gave up the van when Isabella got married-- I would hate to have had to learn to drive on that huge thing.”

"I am very glad we did, my dear, for it was a gas-guzzler of the worst sort, and I never felt comfortable taking it into a parking garage, as we never seemed likely to clear the roof.  You must remember the time when we went to visit your aunt Sophie in the hospital and the top of it scraped the entryway-- at times I still have nightmares about that and wake up in a cold sweat.  It was easily fixed, of course, but the Honda is a much better vehicle for our needs.  It was John’s idea, you know-- how nice it is to have a son-in-law who knows all about cars.  I must ask him to take a look at it again when they come for Christmas, as the fuel tank cover is doing a strange flappity thing that I do not like, and occasionally popping off after I have shut it.  But I am sure John will be able to fix it-- he fixes everything, which must be very pleasant around the house for Isabella.”

Emma spared no exertions to maintain this happier flow of ideas, and hoped, by the help of Dutch Blitz, to get her father tolerably through the evening, and be attacked by no regrets but her own. The Dutch Blitz cards were placed; but a visitor immediately afterwards walked in and made it unnecessary.

Mr. Knightley, a sensible man about thirty, was not only a very old and intimate friend of the family, but particularly connected with it as the younger brother of Isabella's husband. He lived only a few streets away from the Woodhouses in a house he’d fixed up himself, was a frequent visitor and always welcome, and at this time more welcome than usual, as coming directly from a visit at John and Isabella’s. He had returned to a late frozen dinner after some days’ absence, and now walked up to Hartfield to say that all were well on the farm. It was a happy circumstance and animated Mr. Woodhouse for some time. Mr. Knightley had a cheerful manner which always did him good; and his many inquiries after "poor Isabella" and her five young children were answered most satisfactorily. When this was over, Mr. Woodhouse gratefully observed,

"It is very kind of you, Mr. Knightley, to come out at this late hour to call upon us. I am afraid you must have had a shocking walk."

"Not at all, sir. It is a beautiful, moonlight night; and so mild that I must take off my polar tec.  Do you always keep the heat so high this time of year?  I would think the electric bill must be tremendous."

"The electric bill is nothing in comparison to Emma’s health.  I would not have her catch a cold for the world.  If she would only eat more properly and give up grains and breads, she would be in less danger, but she does not share my concerns about diet.  But you must have found it very damp and dirty on the sidewalks-- the street sweepers have not been through the neighborhood in several months."

"Dirty, sir! Look at my sneakers. Not a speck on them."
"Well! That is quite surprising, for we have had a vast deal of rain here. It rained dreadfully hard for half an hour, while we were having breakfast. I wanted them to put off the wedding."
"By the bye -- I have not wished you joy. Being pretty well aware of what sort of joy you must both be feeling, I have been in no hurry with my congratulations. But I hope it all went off tolerably well. How did you all behave? Who cried most and who caught the bouquet?"
"Ah! poor Miss Taylor! 'tis a sad business."
"Poor Mr. and Miss Woodhouse, if you please; but I cannot possibly say ‘poor Miss Taylor.’ I have a great regard for you and Emma; but when it comes to the question of staying here in a mere job or getting married! At any rate, it must be better to have only one to please, than two."
"Especially when one of those two is such a crazy, spontaneous creature!" said Emma playfully. "That, is what you have in your head, I know -- and what you would certainly say if my father were not by."
"I believe it is very true, my dear, indeed," said Mr. Woodhouse with a sigh. "I am afraid I am sometimes very crazy and spontaneous."
"My dearest Daddy! You do not think I could mean you , or suppose Mr. Knightley to mean you . What a horrible idea! Oh, no! I meant only myself. Mr. Knightley loves to find fault with me you know -- in love, of course -- it is all in love. We always say what we like to one another."
Mr. Knightley, in fact, was one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them: and though this was not particularly agreeable to Emma herself, she knew it would be so much less so to her father, that she would not have him really suspect such a circumstance as her not being thought perfect by everybody.
"Emma knows I never flatter her," said Mr. Knightley; "but I meant no reflection on anybody. Miss Taylor has been used to have two persons to please; she will now have but one. The chances are that she must be a gainer.  Plus, she now has a home of her own to manage as she sees fit.  I knew that college class on home decorating would serve her well-- I am glad she took it last year."
“Do not mention college in Emma’s hearing,” whispered Mr. Woodhouse.  “I would not have her getting ideas in her head.”
"Well," said Emma, not having heard this little aside -- "you want to hear about the wedding, and I shall be happy to tell you, for we all behaved charmingly. Everybody was punctual, everybody dressed nicely and no short skirts.  Not a tear, and hardly a long face to be seen. Oh, no, we all felt that we were going to be only ten minutes apart, and were sure of meeting frequently.  Only think of the health food store, and the library, and the post office, and the Goodwill-- why, we shall run into Miss Taylor every day we go out on errands."
"Dear Emma bears everything so well," said her father. "But, Mr. Knightley, she is really very sorry to lose poor Miss Taylor, and I am sure she will miss her more than she thinks for."
Emma turned away her head, divided between tears and smiles.
"It is impossible that Emma should not miss such a companion," said Mr. Knightley. "We should not like her so well as we do, sir, if we could suppose it. But she knows how much the marriage is to Miss Taylor's advantage; she knows how very acceptable it must be at Miss Taylor's time of life to be settled in a home of her own, and how important to her to have the prospect of children to raise and teach, and therefore cannot allow herself to feel so much pain as pleasure. Every friend of Miss Taylor must be glad to have her so happily married and taken care of."
"And you have forgotten one matter of joy to me," said Emma, "and a very considerable one -- that I made the match myself. I made the match, you know, four years ago when Miss Taylor begin helping out with youth group; and to have it take place, and be proved in the right, when so many people said Mr. Weston would never marry again, may comfort me for anything."
Mr. Knightley shook his head at her. Her father fondly replied, "Ah, my dear, I wish you would not make matches and predict things, for whatever you say always comes to pass. Pray do not make any more matches."
"I promise you to make none for myself, Daddy; but I must, indeed, for other people. It is the greatest amusement in the world! And after such success you know! I must surely be better than any Christian dating service. Everybody said that Mr. Weston would never marry again. Oh dear, no! Mr. Weston, who had been a widower so long-- why, before he moved here, which must make it six years at least-- and who seemed so perfectly comfortable without a helpmeet, so constantly occupied either in his contracting business or among the young people at church, always acceptable wherever he went, always cheerful -- Mr. Weston need not spend a single evening in the year alone if he did not like it. Oh, no! Mr. Weston certainly would never marry again. Some people even talked of a promise to his wife on her hospital bed, and others of the son and the uncle not letting him. All manner of solemn nonsense was talked on the subject, but I believed none of it. Ever since the day (about two years ago) that Miss Taylor and I began assisting with the youth group meetings every Wednesday evening, I made up my mind on the subject.  Do you know, he not only stood up to give me his chair, but he went directly into the fellowship hall and got another, specifically for Miss Taylor.  Then he sat down directly beside her, and I planned the match from that hour.  When such success has blessed me in this instance, Daddy, you cannot think that I shall leave off matchmaking."
"I do not understand what you mean by 'success;' said Mr. Knightley. "Success supposes endeavor. Your time has been properly and delicately spent, if you have been endeavoring for the last two years to bring about this marriage, and I know for a fact you have not because you spent all of last year learning how to operate that juicer you got for Christmas.  Matchmaking indeed-- worthy employment for a young lady's mind!  Your time would be much better spent actually learning the verses for Bible quizzing instead of always being the caller.  But if, which I rather imagine, your making the match, as you call it, means only your planning it, your saying to yourself one idle day, 'I think it would be a very good thing for Miss Taylor if Mr. Weston were to begin courting her,' and saying it again to yourself every now and then afterwards, -- why do you talk of success? Where is your merit? What are you proud of? You made a good guess; and that is all that can be said."
"And have you never known the pleasure and triumph of a correct guess? I pity you. I thought you cleverer -- for depend upon it, a good guess is never mere speculation. There is always some talent in it. And as to my poor word ‘success,’ which you quarrel with, I do not know that I am so entirely without any claim to it. You have drawn two pretty pictures -- but I think there may be a third -- a something between the do-nothing and the do-all. If I had not maneuvered the seating each time at youth group, and made sure the two of them were partnered in every project, and given many little encouragements, and dropped hints about what a good homemaker Miss Taylor was, it might not have come to any thing after all."
"A straight-forward, open-hearted man, like Jack Weston, and a pleasant, sensible woman, like Anne Taylor, may be safely left to manage their own concerns. You are more likely to have done embarrassment to yourself, than good to them, by interference.  The time when you suggested that we pray for spouses for the single people of the congregation during our small group prayer time that one Sunday was particularly cringeworthy.  I do not doubt but that everyone present knew exactly what you meant, and if they did not they probably supposed you were looking for a husband for yourself."
"Emma never thinks of herself, if she can do good to others;" rejoined Mr. Woodhouse, understanding but in part. "But, my dear, pray do not make any more matches, they are silly things, and break up one's family circle grievously."
"Only one more, Daddy; only for Pastor Elton. Poor Pastor Elton! You like Pastor Elton, Daddy-- I must look about for a wife for him. There is nobody in church who deserves him -- and he has been here a whole year, and has fitted up his new house so nicely with the new siding that it would be a shame to have him single any longer -- and I thought when he was joining their hands today, he looked so very much as if he would like to have the same kind office done for him! It is not good for man to be alone, you know, and I am sure there must be several nice young ladies in the congregation who would be happy to enter into a serious relationship with him.  I think very well of Pastor Elton, and this is the only way I have of doing him a service."
"Pastor Elton is a very theologically sound young man to be sure, and very well educated-- he has a Mason-Dixon diploma, you know-- and I have a great regard for him. But if you want to show him any attention, my dear, ask him to come and have dinner with us after church some day. That will be a much better thing. I dare say Mr. Knightley will be so kind as to meet him."

"With a great deal of pleasure, sir, at any time," said Mr. Knightley laughing; "and I agree with you entirely that it will be a much better thing. Invite him to dinner, Emma, and help him to the best of your Spanish rice casserole, but leave him to choose his own wife. Depend upon it, a man of twenty-seven or twenty-eight with a seminary education can take care of himself."

Chapter Two appears on December 13th!