Posted on 2010-02-14
She had danced with Mr. Knightley countless times before. He had, after all, been her grudging partner years ago in those dancing lessons Mrs. Weston had given her so that she would be proficient in the art when she came out. But that had been different.
Then he had grumbled about how much he hated dancing and she had given the saucy reply that his dislike of it was with good reason, as he was not at all good at it. This statement had unfortunately been made at the same time that she had moved in the wrong direction and had ended up stepping painfully on his toes. Even through his wince he had managed to smirk at her hypocrisy, and just for that she had purposely stepped on his toes again. Mrs. Weston had decided after that that these lessons were rather counterproductive, and Mr. Knightley had gratefully accepted the reprieve.
However, now he was leading her to the set, apparently willingly, if his smile was anything to go by. She felt her own lips curling upward at the edges as she heard Miss Bates' voice from somewhere behind her exclaiming, 'Oh, it's Mr. Knightley – with Emma!' Well might she be surprised – Emma found it a rather unexpected turn of events herself. This was Mr. Knightley, her oldest friend – the voice of reason, always there to listen, always there to advise, the only one who had that annoying talent of effortlessly awakening her conscience. Standing opposite him now, as the first strains of music welled up, Emma had to laugh a little at the oddity of it all.
As they began the dance, she could see a hint of a smile on his face in which there was not a little nostalgia. She raised her eyebrows at him silently, sure that he was thinking of the last time they had danced together. I won't step on your toes again, if that's what you're worried about, her eyes said, and as his smile widened, she could see that he had understood.
If she were to analyse what else was different about this dance compared to all those others, it would be their eyes, which remained steadily on one another. During lessons, she had mainly been watching her feet, and then later Mr. Knightley's as she was targetting them, and he had darted increasingly longing looks out the window to the path which led back to Donwell. Now, however, it was as if he could not take his eyes off her.
The look in his eyes as he regarded her was entirely new, and their expression a mixture of shyness, wonder and... something else. She returned his gaze just as intently, determined to commit that expression to memory. She had never seen Mr. Knightley like this, and, she thought with a pang which she did not quite understand, she was unlikely ever to see him so again. Not scolding her, not teasing her, merely regarding her with an openness so complete that it was as if she were seeing into his soul. It was new, it was unusual, but in that moment she felt with a full certainty that it was right.
As they were completing the final movements of the dance, hands intertwined, Emma sighed happily. She felt thoroughly satisfied with the evening and a feeling of complete contentment stole over her. She was dancing with Mr. Knightley, her oldest friend – and there was nothing more natural in the world.The End