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The Rescue of Harriet Smith

June 24, 2023 10:58PM
Blurb: A retelling of Harriet Smith's encounter with a group of children and Frank Churchill, from Emma

The Rescue of Harriet Smith

Miss Smith watched in horror as Miss Bickerton took off without her, "No, Martha ... don't leave me ... how could you?" she cried after her friend as Martha, apparently not hearing Harriet's distress, performed a triple somersault over a slight hedge and raced towards the village road.

One of the Romani people, who had been looking on, turned to the others and said, "A perfect ten!"

His companion replied, "I'll give it a nine point five."

Harriet shook her head as she contemplated the perverse set of circumstances that left her alone with these strange and terrifying nomads who had approached as she and her friend had been walking harmlessly along the road. She had read books and heard rumors of their ill-deeds; their mistreatment and robbery of unprotected women on the road were widely known throughout the kingdom.

Presently, she handed one of the children a shilling and began to limp away.

An elder who stood watching, not far from the group of children, said something in an accent that Harriet could not comprehend, and the children began to follow her. She was sure the old woman had ordered them to rob her, and she tried to walk faster on her still cramping leg.

The children were upon her in a moment and surrounded her. She swatted at them, "Get away."

One of them said, "What is the matter with her?" trying to fend off Harriet's flailing arms.

One of the older children said, "Her friend has abandoned her. She cannot walk home alone. We must accompany and protect her."

Meanwhile, Harriet, still terrified and not understanding them, assumed the worst. "Get away from me!" she cried. The cramp in her leg was causing her to feel unstable on her feet. One of the older children tried reaching out to steady her, which only increased her terror. "No, leave me be," she cried as she fell to the ground, clutching her purse to herself.

The whole gang now surrounded her from above. "This poor lady. Why is she so afraid?" asked one.

"Why is she crying?" asked a young child, reaching out to touch Harriet's tear-stained cheek.

Harriet pushed the little girl's hand away. "I do not have any more money," she said with feeling.

Meanwhile, Frank Churchill was daydreaming about his recent visit with Miss Bates and Miss Fairfax as he meandered along towards the crossroads where he had left his horse. His cape gently billowed in the breeze as he sniffed the wildflower-scented air, attempting to recapture the scent of Miss Fairfax's hair and skin, so tantalizingly close in the Bateses' cramped apartment.

He was suddenly roused from his romantic reverie by a noisy commotion ahead where he saw a group of dirty Romani children gathered in the road. As he crept forward to ascertain what interested them, he saw a young lady of his acquaintance on the ground in the middle of the hoard.

"They are assaulting her!" he naturally concluded. "But why is she alone? How did this come to pass?" he wondered. "I must protect her from these vicious little reprobates!" he finally resolved, as he sprang forth, brandishing his walking stick to let them know he meant business.

"Oh no," cried one of the children, "a highwayman!"

An older boy placed his arm across Harriet's shoulders, "Don't let him get her," he ordered the pack as they crowded around her protectively.

"What is that on his collar?" asked a young boy pointing to a spot of lipstick that Frank was unaware had rubbed off on his clothing.

"Must be blood," cried another child, "from his last victim."

"Protect the Lady at all costs," they yelled, closing in ever nearer around Harriet.

For her part, Harriet was sure she was to be kidnapped and dragged away to the mob's encampment where they would steal all her money and perform unspeakable acts upon her person. She continued to cry out incoherently, no longer able to form words.

Frank descended on the lot, swinging his walking stick. "Ha-ha," he cried. "Unhand her you ruffians! And be gone!"

But the children were determined to protect the nice lady who had given them a shilling from this ghastly villain. The largest boy managed to wrestle the walking stick away from Frank and the assault of several younger ones had him on the ground in a moment. "We've seen your kind before," one of the children cried as they pulled him down. "We will not stand for your brutality," said another as she kicked him in the shins. And then they were upon him.

Harriet, now free from the oppressive crowd of children, watched in horror. "What are you doing?" she cried.

"They are protecting you," said a deep voice behind her. A tall, handsome, young Romani man approached. She lost all thought for a moment upon setting eyes on him. Taking in his handsome visage, she noticed a dark shock of hair falling recklessly over one sparkling green eye.

A cry of desperation from Frank roused her to her senses. "But I am in no danger from Mr. Churchill," she explained.
With a few words, the young man called off the attack and the children scampered away back to the encampment.

"Are you quite all right, Miss?" asked the young man.

"Oh yes," said Harriet breathlessly. "I had thought ... well, I am relieved to know they were only trying to protect me." Then looking back towards the direction the children had run, she added, "The little dears."

She scarcely heard Frank moaning from the nearby ditch, as the young man offered his arm, "I am Fennix, and you are?"

"Thank you Mr. Fennix," she replied, taking his arm.

"Just Fennix," he said, "no mister."

"Ah, I am Harriet ... uh, Miss Smith, that is."

"Miss Smith," he intoned, his lips caressing the syllables of her name with silky smoothness. "Allow me to see you home."

She walked in step with him, glancing briefly at Frank.

"Do not worry, we have healers who will see to him," said Fennix. They looked on for a moment as the children returned with two or three adults, who dragged Frank back to a tent to provide medical aid.

"Perhaps he should be brought to Mr. Perry," suggested Harriet.

"No, no," said Fennix, "The fault is ours, so must the remedy be! My people will not give way!"

Harriet gazed up into his beautiful deep green eyes. "You are so kind," she simpered. "What a lovely sentiment." As he escorted her back towards Highbury, she thought to herself, "I believe I am falling in love with this Romani man. Whatever will Miss Woodhouse think of me now?"


The Rescue of Harriet Smith

Alicia M and Jen PJune 24, 2023 10:58PM


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