By Jane Austen and Lisabet Sarai
Emma had no opportunity of speaking to Mr. Knightley till after supper; but, when they were all in the ballroom again, her eyes invited him irresistibly to come to her and be thanked. He was warm in his reprobation of Mr. Elton's conduct; it had been unpardonable rudeness; and Mrs. Elton's looks also received the due share of censure.
"They aimed at wounding more than Harriet," said he. "Emma, why is it that they are your enemies?"
He looked with smiling penetration; and, on receiving no answer, added, "She ought not to be angry with you, I suspect, whatever he may be. To that surmise, you say nothing, of course; but confess, Emma, that you did want him to marry Harriet."
"I did," replied Emma, "and they cannot forgive me."
He shook his head; but there was a smile of indulgence with it, and he only said,
"I shall not scold you. I leave you to your own reflections."
"Can you trust me with such flatterers? Does my vain spirit ever tell me I am wrong?"
"Not your vain spirit, but your serious spirit. If one leads you wrong, I am sure the other tells you of it."
"I do own myself to have been completely mistaken in Mr. Elton. There is a littleness about him which you discovered, and which I did not: and I was fully convinced of his being in love with Harriet. It was through a series of strange blunders!"
"And, in return for your acknowledging so much, I will do you the justice to say, that you would have chosen for him better than he has chosen for himself. Harriet Smith has some first-rate qualities, which Mrs. Elton is totally without. An unpretending, single-minded, artless girl – infinitely to be preferred by any man of sense and taste to such a woman as Mrs. Elton. I found Harriet more conversable than I expected."
Emma was extremely gratified. They were interrupted by the bustle of Mr. Weston calling on every body to begin dancing again.
"Come Miss Woodhouse, Miss Otway, Miss Fairfax, what are you all doing? Come Emma, set your companions the example. Everybody is lazy! Everybody is asleep!"
"I am ready," said Emma, "whenever I am wanted."
"Whom are you going to dance with?" asked Mr. Knightley.
She hesitated a moment, and then replied, "With you, if you will ask me."
"Will you?" said he, offering his hand.
"Indeed I will. You have shown that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper."
"Brother and sister! no, indeed."
In truth, he held her far closer than Emma would have thought proper, had he been anyone other than the dear friend of her father whom she had known from childhood. When his hand meandered from her shoulder down the stretch of her back bared by her decolletage, she attributed this familiarity to the excitement of the dance, for the orchestra had struck a lively rhythm with this second set, quite in contrast to the sedate and graceful measures that had characterized the earlier hours of the ball. Her quickened breathing and rapidly beating heart she likewise blamed on the quickness of their steps.
His hand drooped lower still, until it rested upon her hip, though his manner was still so casual that she could scarcely credit him with being aware of his impropriety. Emma glanced about at the other couples on the dance floor - Mr. and Mrs. Elton, the Westons, Jane Fairfax in the arms of Frank Churchill, Harriet led by Mr. Cox – and reassured herself that all their attentions were fully engaged with their partners. No one appeared to have noticed Mr. Knightley's most unaccountable brazenness.
His fingers padding at her flesh burned like a brand through her gown and petticoat. She gazed up at him in a silent question, searching the dignified and noble face so familiar to her, and so dear. A wild light flared in his eyes while his smile conveyed a most unexpected hint of mockery.
“Are you unwell, my dear Miss Woodhouse? Your complexion has gone quite pale.”
She sagged against him as something like a fever rushed through her. An odd protuberance prodded her torso, noticeable despite the stiffness of her corset. “I – I'm not sure. I do feel somewhat faint.”
“Let me escort you to the garden. The evening air is bound to revive you.”
Her normal equanimity most seriously disturbed, Emma allowed him to lead her away, although she could feel the curious eyes of the other guests following them. His hand encircled her waist as he drew her away from the brightly illuminated ballroom, through the double doors to the terrace. After seating himself upon a wrought iron bench, he pulled her into his lap.
“Mr. Knightley! Sir! Whatever are you doing?” Her efforts to resist were feeble, for the sake of form only. In fact, she craved nothing more than to feel the heat and hardness of his man's body against hers. For once, Emma could not deceive herself. Despite her shame, her conscience could not conquer her far more urgent desire. His lips were mere inches from hers while his bold hands clasped her thighs with breathtaking force.
If he should kiss me, Emma thought, I shall indeed faint away, but if he does not, I doubt I can bear the disappointment.
The moment of silence drew out, until Emma was convinced her companion was deliberately prolonging her agony. At last he released a laugh, so bold and harsh that it made Emma wonder if he'd gone mad.
“I've changed my opinion, Miss Woodhouse, about your disastrous matchmaking. I've come to the conclusion that you are far more likely to mend your ways if you receive a bit of chastisement.”
Without waiting for a response, he flipped her over his knees and began to draw her skirts up her legs, exposing her sky-blue stockings. Emma kicked and struggled, sending her kid dancing slippers flying into the shrubbery.
“Wait! Stop! What are you doing?” He had flung her dress over her head and was now parting her petticoat. Almost before she realized what was occurring, he had bared her bottom to the cool night breeze.
“What your father should have done long ago. You have been pampered and indulged for far too long, Miss Woodhouse. It's well past time that someone take you in hand, and by Job, I'm the man to do it.”
Searing pain flashed across her tender buttocks as his palm landed, hard and true. Her cry echoed through the garden, scarcely muffled by the fabric swaddling her head. With his second, even more ferocious blow, her voice rose to a keening wail.
“I'd advise you to be quieter, Miss Woodhouse, if you want to retain your reputation as a paragon of polite society here in the parish.”
“Please stop, sir! I'll keep my imagination in check in the future. I promise.”
“A promise is better sealed with flesh and blood, Emma.” He rained more blows upon her poor naked bottom, each one seemingly more excruciating than the last. Sensible to the truth of his recommendations regarding noise, she bit her knuckles and tried to stifle her cries.
As the spanking continued, Emma noted a change in her own reactions. The fiery sting in her bottom kindled a strange sensation in the secret recess between her thighs. The conflagration seemed to spread, heating and then melting her female core. The tingling there reminded her of dreams she'd deliberately pushed out of her mind, visions she had been ashamed to consign to her journal – visions which, she now recalled, had featured the person presently abusing her. He was right to punish her. She was vain, silly, willful, and now, it appeared, consumed with lust as well.
With a calculated degree of stealth, she parted her legs to create a wider gap between them, hoping to lure her tormenter into touching her there, in that sensitive spot she dared not name. A hunger such as she had never known seized her, an unbearable emptiness that she knew could only be assuaged by the man who held her in thrall. Surely, he could not help noticing her moist offering, yet he continued to spank her, ignoring her silent plea. Emma moaned, nearly overwhelmed by sensation and need. Would she have to abase herself to the point of begging?
About a month ago, Total-E-Bound, one of my regular publishers, triggered a media firestorm when they announced the launch of their new Clandestine Classics imprint. Clandestine Classics are pastiches which augment time-honored and beloved works like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, A Study in Scarlet, Anna Karenina, and Northanger Abbey by adding explicit sex scenes. “Risqué remakes” is how the publisher bills these books. The objective is not to retell these favorite stories in an erotic way, but rather, to take the original text and expand it – to flesh out (literally) the romantic relationships implied in the original, or hidden behind closed doors.
I was invited to contribute a volume to the launch. I declined. At the time, I felt something close to outrage. All the targeted books are works in the public domain, so officially at least there are no copyright issues. Nevertheless, to me, the process felt like a desecration of something sacred - like we were robbing these authors by modifying the books that define their legacy.
Not all the books on TEB's list would be considered masterpieces, but many fall into that category. How incredibly arrogant to believe that a gaggle of romance authors can successfully hack into the prose and the story in order to “seamlessly” insert scenes that don't fit the tone or the intent of the book in the least – even if they succeed in capturing the language! In general, I don't have any problem with pornography – it has its place and its purpose – but this effort to pervert the classics (in a literal sense) struck me as exploitative porn of the worst sort. In their solicitation, the publisher promised that Clandestine Classics would boost sales for all of TEB's titles. I wasn't sure I wanted to be associated with a publisher that felt comfortable adding raunchy sex to Macbeth.
I urged the publisher not to go ahead with this plan. I anticipated that many readers would share my sense of violation at seeing their favorite books boulderized and “sexed-up”. It seemed to me that the negative publicity would far outweigh the benefits of any sales.
I was wrong. Total-E-Bound anticipated the vituperative attacks of both moralist and literary types; they viewed the controversy as a marketing opportunity. The week the Clandestine Classics project went public, Total-E-Bound was all over the news – in blogs and forums, in print media, on radio, on television, in the United Kingdom where the company is based and in the U.S.
As time has passed, I've calmed down a bit. For one thing, I've listened to the excited chatter of the authors who've participated in the effort. They've picked books that personally excite them. M/M romance authors finally get explore the possible sexual relationship between Holmes and Watson. Writers who grew up mooning over the attraction between Rochester and plain Jane now get the chance to make their teen dreams graphic. These authors treat the process very much like fan fiction – although there's a big difference in that fan fic rewrites the characters' stories, rather than grafting sex into existing books.
If someone decided to take one of my stories and “augment” it by adding sex scenes (unlikely as that seems), I'd be furious. I'm a bit surprised that the contemporary authors who have contributed to the Clandestine Classics don't realize they're doing the same thing to someone else's masterpiece. Does it really matter that the author is dead? I concluded that, among my author colleagues at TEB at least, mine was a minority view.
I also came to understand that I'm hopelessly old-fashioned. In this world of digital content, nobody seems to be upset by “mash-ups” that throw together ideas or expressions in ways never envisioned by the creators. One reason it's so difficult to combat piracy of digital content is that many people – perhaps the majority of individuals who have grown up in the Internet age – believe that content should be free of restrictions, that anyone and everyone should have the right to excerpt, quote, condense, and perhaps, insert his or her own “contributions” to the material. Total-E-Bound is sticking strictly to the law – in fact the Sherlock-Holmes-derived Clandestine Classics can't be sold in the United States due to some sort of trademark issue – but the spirit of the imprint has much in common with people who create play lists or videos by munging together content they happened on and liked, whether they “own” it or not.
Anyway, for this topic at Oh Get a Grip, I thought I'd take a stab at a bit of pastiche myself. It proved to be as difficult as I had expected - simply finding a good spot to insert a sex scene was hard, given that most of Emma is polite conversation – but quite a bit of fun too. I don't intend to take this any further, though, and I sincerely hope that Jane Austen isn't turning over in her grave.
At least I gave her first billing.