In the Janeites group read of Emma in progress, my central claim that Jane Fairfax is pregnant continues to be questioned skeptically:
Nancy Mayer wrote: "...The situation, the clothes, the circumstances make it impossible for Jane Fairfax to hide a pregnancy. To get down to basics-- her maid would know that she hadn't had to wash any rags for months."
Then Christy Somer replied: "Yes, the Bates' did have one maid-of-all-works. And it seems reasonable to assume that for the majority of genteel families with only one or two maids, they would have been the first to suspect such a condition for the lack of wash -or, even if JF washed her own rags, the maid would miss seeing the drying of them."
I never suggested that Jane Fairfax's pregnancy was a secret from her aunt or from their maid Patty.
Just listen very carefully to Miss Bates telling you about it:
"...And, by-the-bye, everybody ought to have two pair of spectacles; they should indeed. Jane said so. I meant to take them over to John Saunders the first thing I did, but something or other hindered me all the morning; first one thing, then another, there is no saying what: you know. At one time Patty came to say she thought the kitchen chimney wanted sweeping. 'Oh,'said I, 'Patty, do not come with your bad news to me. Here is the rivet of your mistress's spectacles out.' Then the baked apples came home..."
Two sets of spectacles, indeed! The very definition of the double-story structure I have claimed JA wrote for all six of her novels, and Miss Bates is there to tell every reader about it, who doesn't zone her out, as Emma does..
And Apropos Patty's saying the "chimney wanted sweeping", just remember the official answer to Garrick's Riddle that Mr. Woodhouse tries to fully recollect - "chimney sweep" - of course the Freudian implications of sweeping chimneys, especially In regard to a pregnant woman, do not require any explanation.
And by the way, as I've also been speaking about in my Jane Fairfax talks since the beginning, and finally posted about in 2010 in my blog...
....the Bates's maid Patty also figures in the second salacious solution to the charade long attributed to Henry Austen which has as its official answer "Pat-riot" - that second solution which I figured out is "Han-cock" -- and of course Patty and Hannah are the names of servants in Emma.
So...Jane having Miss Bates and Patty (as well, of course, as Mrs. Weston) in on her secret and helping her keep it secret (most of all from Emma, which isn't very difficult!) is an integral part of the shadow story I have long ago sleuthed out.
And finally, apropos those rags you both mentioned, here is what Miss Bates has to say about Jane's protective clothing (tippet on the exterior, quantities of matting on the interior) while under the acute stress of attending the Crown Inn ball, and being tormented by Mrs Elton- who knows exactly what is going on and is trying to blackmail Jane with exposure:
"Jane, Jane, my dear Jane, where areyou? Here is your tippet. Mrs. Westonbegs you to put on your tippet. She says she is afraid there will be draughts in the passage, though everything has been done—one door nailed up—quantities of matting, my dear Jane, indeed you must."
I mean, there it all is, right under everyone's noses, even a contingency plan if Jane's water should break unexpectedly.