Part 3 out of 9
"My first enjoyment," replied John Knightley, as they passed through
the sweep-gate, "will be to find myself safe at Hartfield again."
Some change of countenance was necessary for each gentleman
as they walked into Mrs. Weston's drawing-room;--Mr. Elton must
compose his joyous looks, and Mr. John Knightley disperse his
ill-humour. Mr. Elton must smile less, and Mr. John Knightley more,
to fit them for the place.--Emma only might be as nature prompted,
and shew herself just as happy as she was. To her it was real
enjoyment to be with the Westons. Mr. Weston was a great favourite,
and there was not a creature in the world to whom she spoke with
such unreserve, as to his wife; not any one, to whom she related
with such conviction of being listened to and understood, of being
always interesting and always intelligible, the little affairs,
arrangements, perplexities, and pleasures of her father and herself.
She could tell nothing of Hartfield, in which Mrs. Weston had not
a lively concern; and half an hour's uninterrupted communication
of all those little matters on which the daily happiness of private
life depends, was one of the first gratifications of each.
This was a pleasure which perhaps the whole day's visit might
not afford, which certainly did not belong to the present half-hour;
but the very sight of Mrs. Weston, her smile, her touch, her voice
was grateful to Emma, and she determined to think as little as
possible of Mr. Elton's oddities, or of any thing else unpleasant,
and enjoy all that was enjoyable to the utmost.
The misfortune of Harriet's cold had been pretty well gone through
before her arrival. Mr. Woodhouse had been safely seated long
enough to give the history of it, besides all the history of his own
and Isabella's coming, and of Emma's being to follow, and had indeed
just got to the end of his satisfaction that James should come
and see his daughter, when the others appeared, and Mrs. Weston,
who had been almost wholly engrossed by her attentions to him,
was able to turn away and welcome her dear Emma.
Emma's project of forgetting Mr. Elton for a while made her rather
sorry to find, when they had all taken their places, that he was
close to her. The difficulty was great of driving his strange
insensibility towards Harriet, from her mind, while he not only sat
at her elbow, but was continually obtruding his happy countenance
on her notice, and solicitously addressing her upon every occasion.
Instead of forgetting him, his behaviour was such that she could
not avoid the internal suggestion of "Can it really be as my brother
imagined? can it be possible for this man to be beginning to transfer
his affections from Harriet to me?--Absurd and insufferable!"--
Yet he would be so anxious for her being perfectly warm, would be
so interested about her father, and so delighted with Mrs. Weston;
and at last would begin admiring her drawings with so much zeal
and so little knowledge as seemed terribly like a would-be lover,
and made it some effort with her to preserve her good manners.
For her own sake she could not be rude; and for Harriet's, in the hope
that all would yet turn out right, she was even positively civil;
but it was an effort; especially as something was going on amongst
the others, in the most overpowering period of Mr. Elton's nonsense,
which she particularly wished to listen to. She heard enough
to know that Mr. Weston was giving some information about his son;
she heard the words "my son," and "Frank," and "my son,"
repeated several times over; and, from a few other half-syllables
very much suspected that he was announcing an early visit from
his son; but before she could quiet Mr. Elton, the subject was
so completely past that any reviving question from her would have
Now, it so happened that in spite of Emma's resolution of never marrying,
there was something in the name, in the idea of Mr. Frank Churchill,
which always interested her. She had frequently thought--especially since
his father's marriage with Miss Taylor--that if she _were_ to marry,
he was the very person to suit her in age, character and condition.
He seemed by this connexion between the families, quite to belong to her.
She could not but suppose it to be a match that every body who knew
them must think of. That Mr. and Mrs. Weston did think of it, she was
very strongly persuaded; and though not meaning to be induced by him,
or by any body else, to give up a situation which she believed more
replete with good than any she could change it for, she had a great
curiosity to see him, a decided intention of finding him pleasant,
of being liked by him to a certain degree, and a sort of pleasure
in the idea of their being coupled in their friends' imaginations.
With such sensations, Mr. Elton's civilities were dreadfully ill-timed;
but she had the comfort of appearing very polite, while feeling
very cross--and of thinking that the rest of the visit could not
possibly pass without bringing forward the same information again,
or the substance of it, from the open-hearted Mr. Weston.--So it proved;--
for when happily released from Mr. Elton, and seated by Mr. Weston,
at dinner, he made use of the very first interval in the cares
of hospitality, the very first leisure from the saddle of mutton,
to say to her,
"We want only two more to be just the right number. I should
like to see two more here,--your pretty little friend, Miss Smith,
and my son--and then I should say we were quite complete.
I believe you did not hear me telling the others in the drawing-room
that we are expecting Frank. I had a letter from him this morning,
and he will be with us within a fortnight."
Emma spoke with a very proper degree of pleasure; and fully assented
to his proposition of Mr. Frank Churchill and Miss Smith making
their party quite complete.
"He has been wanting to come to us," continued Mr. Weston,
"ever since September: every letter has been full of it;
but he cannot command his own time. He has those to please
who must be pleased, and who (between ourselves) are sometimes
to be pleased only by a good many sacrifices. But now
I have no doubt of seeing him here about the second week in January."
"What a very great pleasure it will be to you! and Mrs. Weston
is so anxious to be acquainted with him, that she must be almost
as happy as yourself."
"Yes, she would be, but that she thinks there will be another
put-off. She does not depend upon his coming so much as I do:
but she does not know the parties so well as I do. The case,
you see, is--(but this is quite between ourselves: I did not mention
a syllable of it in the other room. There are secrets in all families,
you know)--The case is, that a party of friends are invited to pay
a visit at Enscombe in January; and that Frank's coming depends upon
their being put off. If they are not put off, he cannot stir.
But I know they will, because it is a family that a certain lady,
of some consequence, at Enscombe, has a particular dislike to:
and though it is thought necessary to invite them once in two or
three years, they always are put off when it comes to the point.
I have not the smallest doubt of the issue. I am as confident
of seeing Frank here before the middle of January, as I am
of being here myself: but your good friend there (nodding
towards the upper end of the table) has so few vagaries herself,
and has been so little used to them at Hartfield, that she cannot
calculate on their effects, as I have been long in the practice
"I am sorry there should be any thing like doubt in the case,"
replied Emma; "but am disposed to side with you, Mr. Weston. If you
think he will come, I shall think so too; for you know Enscombe."
"Yes--I have some right to that knowledge; though I have never been
at the place in my life.--She is an odd woman!--But I never allow
myself to speak ill of her, on Frank's account; for I do believe
her to be very fond of him. I used to think she was not capable
of being fond of any body, except herself: but she has always been
kind to him (in her way--allowing for little whims and caprices,
and expecting every thing to be as she likes). And it is no small credit,
in my opinion, to him, that he should excite such an affection;
for, though I would not say it to any body else, she has no more
heart than a stone to people in general; and the devil of a temper."
Emma liked the subject so well, that she began upon it, to Mrs. Weston,
very soon after their moving into the drawing-room: wishing her joy--
yet observing, that she knew the first meeting must be rather alarming.--
Mrs. Weston agreed to it; but added, that she should be very
glad to be secure of undergoing the anxiety of a first meeting
at the time talked of: "for I cannot depend upon his coming.
I cannot be so sanguine as Mr. Weston. I am very much afraid
that it will all end in nothing. Mr. Weston, I dare say, has been
telling you exactly how the matter stands?"
"Yes--it seems to depend upon nothing but the ill-humour
of Mrs. Churchill, which I imagine to be the most certain
thing in the world."
"My Emma!" replied Mrs. Weston, smiling, "what is the certainty
of caprice?" Then turning to Isabella, who had not been
attending before--"You must know, my dear Mrs. Knightley,
that we are by no means so sure of seeing Mr. Frank Churchill,
in my opinion, as his father thinks. It depends entirely upon
his aunt's spirits and pleasure; in short, upon her temper.
To you--to my two daughters--I may venture on the truth.
Mrs. Churchill rules at Enscombe, and is a very odd-tempered woman;
and his coming now, depends upon her being willing to spare him."
"Oh, Mrs. Churchill; every body knows Mrs. Churchill,"
replied Isabella: "and I am sure I never think of that poor young
man without the greatest compassion. To be constantly living
with an ill-tempered person, must be dreadful. It is what we
happily have never known any thing of; but it must be a life
of misery. What a blessing, that she never had any children!
Poor little creatures, how unhappy she would have made them!"
Emma wished she had been alone with Mrs. Weston. She should then have
heard more: Mrs. Weston would speak to her, with a degree of unreserve
which she would not hazard with Isabella; and, she really believed,
would scarcely try to conceal any thing relative to the Churchills
from her, excepting those views on the young man, of which her own
imagination had already given her such instinctive knowledge.
But at present there was nothing more to be said. Mr. Woodhouse
very soon followed them into the drawing-room. To be sitting
long after dinner, was a confinement that he could not endure.
Neither wine nor conversation was any thing to him; and gladly did
he move to those with whom he was always comfortable.
While he talked to Isabella, however, Emma found an opportunity
"And so you do not consider this visit from your son as by any
means certain. I am sorry for it. The introduction must be unpleasant,
whenever it takes place; and the sooner it could be over, the better."
"Yes; and every delay makes one more apprehensive of other delays.
Even if this family, the Braithwaites, are put off, I am still
afraid that some excuse may be found for disappointing us.
I cannot bear to imagine any reluctance on his side; but I am sure
there is a great wish on the Churchills' to keep him to themselves.
There is jealousy. They are jealous even of his regard for his father.
In short, I can feel no dependence on his coming, and I wish Mr. Weston
were less sanguine."
"He ought to come," said Emma. "If he could stay only a couple
of days, he ought to come; and one can hardly conceive a young man's
not having it in his power to do as much as that. A young _woman_,
if she fall into bad hands, may be teazed, and kept at a distance
from those she wants to be with; but one cannot comprehend a young
_man_'s being under such restraint, as not to be able to spend a week
with his father, if he likes it."
"One ought to be at Enscombe, and know the ways of the family,
before one decides upon what he can do," replied Mrs. Weston.
"One ought to use the same caution, perhaps, in judging of the
conduct of any one individual of any one family; but Enscombe,
I believe, certainly must not be judged by general rules:
_she_ is so very unreasonable; and every thing gives way to her."
"But she is so fond of the nephew: he is so very great a favourite.
Now, according to my idea of Mrs. Churchill, it would be most natural,
that while she makes no sacrifice for the comfort of the husband,
to whom she owes every thing, while she exercises incessant caprice
towards _him_, she should frequently be governed by the nephew,
to whom she owes nothing at all."
"My dearest Emma, do not pretend, with your sweet temper,
to understand a bad one, or to lay down rules for it: you must
let it go its own way. I have no doubt of his having, at times,
considerable influence; but it may be perfectly impossible for him
to know beforehand _when_ it will be."
Emma listened, and then coolly said, "I shall not be satisfied,
unless he comes."
"He may have a great deal of influence on some points,"
continued Mrs. Weston, "and on others, very little: and among those,
on which she is beyond his reach, it is but too likely, may be
this very circumstance of his coming away from them to visit us."
Mr. Woodhouse was soon ready for his tea; and when he had drank his
tea he was quite ready to go home; and it was as much as his three
companions could do, to entertain away his notice of the lateness
of the hour, before the other gentlemen appeared. Mr. Weston was
chatty and convivial, and no friend to early separations of any sort;
but at last the drawing-room party did receive an augmentation.
Mr. Elton, in very good spirits, was one of the first to walk in.
Mrs. Weston and Emma were sitting together on a sofa. He joined
them immediately, and, with scarcely an invitation, seated himself
Emma, in good spirits too, from the amusement afforded her mind
by the expectation of Mr. Frank Churchill, was willing to forget
his late improprieties, and be as well satisfied with him as before,
and on his making Harriet his very first subject, was ready to listen
with most friendly smiles.
He professed himself extremely anxious about her fair friend--
her fair, lovely, amiable friend. "Did she know?--had she
heard any thing about her, since their being at Randalls?--
he felt much anxiety--he must confess that the nature of her
complaint alarmed him considerably." And in this style he talked
on for some time very properly, not much attending to any answer,
but altogether sufficiently awake to the terror of a bad sore throat;
and Emma was quite in charity with him.
But at last there seemed a perverse turn; it seemed all at once as if
he were more afraid of its being a bad sore throat on her account,
than on Harriet's--more anxious that she should escape the infection,
than that there should be no infection in the complaint. He began
with great earnestness to entreat her to refrain from visiting
the sick-chamber again, for the present--to entreat her to _promise_
_him_ not to venture into such hazard till he had seen Mr. Perry
and learnt his opinion; and though she tried to laugh it off
and bring the subject back into its proper course, there was no
putting an end to his extreme solicitude about her. She was vexed.
It did appear--there was no concealing it--exactly like the pretence
of being in love with her, instead of Harriet; an inconstancy,
if real, the most contemptible and abominable! and she had difficulty
in behaving with temper. He turned to Mrs. Weston to implore
her assistance, "Would not she give him her support?--would not she
add her persuasions to his, to induce Miss Woodhouse not to go
to Mrs. Goddard's till it were certain that Miss Smith's disorder
had no infection? He could not be satisfied without a promise--
would not she give him her influence in procuring it?"
"So scrupulous for others," he continued, "and yet so careless
for herself! She wanted me to nurse my cold by staying at home to-day,
and yet will not promise to avoid the danger of catching an ulcerated
sore throat herself. Is this fair, Mrs. Weston?--Judge between us.
Have not I some right to complain? I am sure of your kind support
Emma saw Mrs. Weston's surprize, and felt that it must be great,
at an address which, in words and manner, was assuming to himself
the right of first interest in her; and as for herself, she was
too much provoked and offended to have the power of directly
saying any thing to the purpose. She could only give him a look;
but it was such a look as she thought must restore him to his senses,
and then left the sofa, removing to a seat by her sister, and giving
her all her attention.
She had not time to know how Mr. Elton took the reproof, so rapidly
did another subject succeed; for Mr. John Knightley now came
into the room from examining the weather, and opened on them
all with the information of the ground being covered with snow,
and of its still snowing fast, with a strong drifting wind;
concluding with these words to Mr. Woodhouse:
"This will prove a spirited beginning of your winter engagements,
sir. Something new for your coachman and horses to be making
their way through a storm of snow."
Poor Mr. Woodhouse was silent from consternation; but every body else
had something to say; every body was either surprized or not surprized,
and had some question to ask, or some comfort to offer. Mrs. Weston
and Emma tried earnestly to cheer him and turn his attention
from his son-in-law, who was pursuing his triumph rather unfeelingly.
"I admired your resolution very much, sir," said he, "in venturing
out in such weather, for of course you saw there would be snow
very soon. Every body must have seen the snow coming on.
I admired your spirit; and I dare say we shall get home very well.
Another hour or two's snow can hardly make the road impassable;
and we are two carriages; if one is blown over in the bleak part
of the common field there will be the other at hand. I dare say we
shall be all safe at Hartfield before midnight."
Mr. Weston, with triumph of a different sort, was confessing that he
had known it to be snowing some time, but had not said a word,
lest it should make Mr. Woodhouse uncomfortable, and be an excuse
for his hurrying away. As to there being any quantity of snow fallen
or likely to fall to impede their return, that was a mere joke;
he was afraid they would find no difficulty. He wished the road might
be impassable, that he might be able to keep them all at Randalls;
and with the utmost good-will was sure that accommodation might
be found for every body, calling on his wife to agree with him,
that with a little contrivance, every body might be lodged,
which she hardly knew how to do, from the consciousness of there
being but two spare rooms in the house.
"What is to be done, my dear Emma?--what is to be done?"
was Mr. Woodhouse's first exclamation, and all that he could say
for some time. To her he looked for comfort; and her assurances
of safety, her representation of the excellence of the horses,
and of James, and of their having so many friends about them,
revived him a little.
His eldest daughter's alarm was equal to his own. The horror of
being blocked up at Randalls, while her children were at Hartfield,
was full in her imagination; and fancying the road to be now just
passable for adventurous people, but in a state that admitted no delay,
she was eager to have it settled, that her father and Emma should remain
at Randalls, while she and her husband set forward instantly through
all the possible accumulations of drifted snow that might impede them.
"You had better order the carriage directly, my love," said she;
"I dare say we shall be able to get along, if we set off directly;
and if we do come to any thing very bad, I can get out and walk.
I am not at all afraid. I should not mind walking half the way.
I could change my shoes, you know, the moment I got home; and it is not
the sort of thing that gives me cold."
"Indeed!" replied he. "Then, my dear Isabella, it is the most
extraordinary sort of thing in the world, for in general every
thing does give you cold. Walk home!--you are prettily shod
for walking home, I dare say. It will be bad enough for the horses."
Isabella turned to Mrs. Weston for her approbation of the plan.
Mrs. Weston could only approve. Isabella then went to Emma;
but Emma could not so entirely give up the hope of their being
all able to get away; and they were still discussing the point,
when Mr. Knightley, who had left the room immediately after his
brother's first report of the snow, came back again, and told them
that he had been out of doors to examine, and could answer for there
not being the smallest difficulty in their getting home, whenever they
liked it, either now or an hour hence. He had gone beyond the sweep--
some way along the Highbury road--the snow was nowhere above half
an inch deep--in many places hardly enough to whiten the ground;
a very few flakes were falling at present, but the clouds were parting,
and there was every appearance of its being soon over. He had seen
the coachmen, and they both agreed with him in there being nothing
To Isabella, the relief of such tidings was very great, and they
were scarcely less acceptable to Emma on her father's account,
who was immediately set as much at ease on the subject as his nervous
constitution allowed; but the alarm that had been raised could not
be appeased so as to admit of any comfort for him while he continued
at Randalls. He was satisfied of there being no present danger in
returning home, but no assurances could convince him that it was safe
to stay; and while the others were variously urging and recommending,
Mr. Knightley and Emma settled it in a few brief sentences: thus--
"Your father will not be easy; why do not you go?"
"I am ready, if the others are."
"Shall I ring the bell?"
And the bell was rung, and the carriages spoken for. A few
minutes more, and Emma hoped to see one troublesome companion
deposited in his own house, to get sober and cool, and the other
recover his temper and happiness when this visit of hardship were over.
The carriage came: and Mr. Woodhouse, always the first object on
such occasions, was carefully attended to his own by Mr. Knightley
and Mr. Weston; but not all that either could say could prevent some
renewal of alarm at the sight of the snow which had actually fallen,
and the discovery of a much darker night than he had been prepared for.
"He was afraid they should have a very bad drive. He was afraid
poor Isabella would not like it. And there would be poor Emma
in the carriage behind. He did not know what they had best do.
They must keep as much together as they could;" and James was talked to,
and given a charge to go very slow and wait for the other carriage.
Isabella stept in after her father; John Knightley, forgetting that he
did not belong to their party, stept in after his wife very naturally;
so that Emma found, on being escorted and followed into the second
carriage by Mr. Elton, that the door was to be lawfully shut on them,
and that they were to have a tete-a-tete drive. It would not have been
the awkwardness of a moment, it would have been rather a pleasure,
previous to the suspicions of this very day; she could have talked
to him of Harriet, and the three-quarters of a mile would have
seemed but one. But now, she would rather it had not happened.
She believed he had been drinking too much of Mr. Weston's good wine,
and felt sure that he would want to be talking nonsense.
To restrain him as much as might be, by her own manners, she was
immediately preparing to speak with exquisite calmness and gravity
of the weather and the night; but scarcely had she begun, scarcely had
they passed the sweep-gate and joined the other carriage, than she
found her subject cut up--her hand seized--her attention demanded,
and Mr. Elton actually making violent love to her: availing himself
of the precious opportunity, declaring sentiments which must be already
well known, hoping--fearing--adoring--ready to die if she refused him;
but flattering himself that his ardent attachment and unequalled
love and unexampled passion could not fail of having some effect,
and in short, very much resolved on being seriously accepted as soon
as possible. It really was so. Without scruple--without apology--
without much apparent diffidence, Mr. Elton, the lover of Harriet,
was professing himself _her_ lover. She tried to stop him; but vainly;
he would go on, and say it all. Angry as she was, the thought of
the moment made her resolve to restrain herself when she did speak.
She felt that half this folly must be drunkenness, and therefore
could hope that it might belong only to the passing hour.
Accordingly, with a mixture of the serious and the playful, which she
hoped would best suit his half and half state, she replied,
"I am very much astonished, Mr. Elton. This to _me_! you forget yourself--
you take me for my friend--any message to Miss Smith I shall
be happy to deliver; but no more of this to _me_, if you please."
"Miss Smith!--message to Miss Smith!--What could she possibly mean!"--
And he repeated her words with such assurance of accent, such boastful
pretence of amazement, that she could not help replying with quickness,
"Mr. Elton, this is the most extraordinary conduct! and I can account
for it only in one way; you are not yourself, or you could not speak
either to me, or of Harriet, in such a manner. Command yourself
enough to say no more, and I will endeavour to forget it."
But Mr. Elton had only drunk wine enough to elevate his spirits,
not at all to confuse his intellects. He perfectly knew his own meaning;
and having warmly protested against her suspicion as most injurious,
and slightly touched upon his respect for Miss Smith as her friend,--
but acknowledging his wonder that Miss Smith should be mentioned
at all,--he resumed the subject of his own passion, and was very
urgent for a favourable answer.
As she thought less of his inebriety, she thought more of his inconstancy
and presumption; and with fewer struggles for politeness, replied,
"It is impossible for me to doubt any longer. You have made
yourself too clear. Mr. Elton, my astonishment is much beyond
any thing I can express. After such behaviour, as I have witnessed
during the last month, to Miss Smith--such attentions as I
have been in the daily habit of observing--to be addressing me
in this manner--this is an unsteadiness of character, indeed,
which I had not supposed possible! Believe me, sir, I am far,
very far, from gratified in being the object of such professions."
"Good Heaven!" cried Mr. Elton, "what can be the meaning of this?--
Miss Smith!--I never thought of Miss Smith in the whole course
of my existence--never paid her any attentions, but as your friend:
never cared whether she were dead or alive, but as your friend.
If she has fancied otherwise, her own wishes have misled her,
and I am very sorry--extremely sorry--But, Miss Smith, indeed!--Oh!
Miss Woodhouse! who can think of Miss Smith, when Miss Woodhouse
is near! No, upon my honour, there is no unsteadiness of character.
I have thought only of you. I protest against having paid the smallest
attention to any one else. Every thing that I have said or done,
for many weeks past, has been with the sole view of marking my
adoration of yourself. You cannot really, seriously, doubt it.
No!--(in an accent meant to be insinuating)--I am sure you have seen
and understood me."
It would be impossible to say what Emma felt, on hearing this--
which of all her unpleasant sensations was uppermost. She was
too completely overpowered to be immediately able to reply:
and two moments of silence being ample encouragement for Mr. Elton's
sanguine state of mind, he tried to take her hand again, as he
"Charming Miss Woodhouse! allow me to interpret this interesting silence.
It confesses that you have long understood me."
"No, sir," cried Emma, "it confesses no such thing. So far from
having long understood you, I have been in a most complete error
with respect to your views, till this moment. As to myself, I am
very sorry that you should have been giving way to any feelings--
Nothing could be farther from my wishes--your attachment to my
friend Harriet--your pursuit of her, (pursuit, it appeared,) gave me
great pleasure, and I have been very earnestly wishing you success:
but had I supposed that she were not your attraction to Hartfield,
I should certainly have thought you judged ill in making your visits
so frequent. Am I to believe that you have never sought to recommend
yourself particularly to Miss Smith?--that you have never thought
seriously of her?"
"Never, madam," cried he, affronted in his turn: "never, I assure you.
_I_ think seriously of Miss Smith!--Miss Smith is a very good sort
of girl; and I should be happy to see her respectably settled.
I wish her extremely well: and, no doubt, there are men who might not
object to--Every body has their level: but as for myself, I am not,
I think, quite so much at a loss. I need not so totally despair
of an equal alliance, as to be addressing myself to Miss Smith!--
No, madam, my visits to Hartfield have been for yourself only;
and the encouragement I received--"
"Encouragement!--I give you encouragement!--Sir, you have been entirely
mistaken in supposing it. I have seen you only as the admirer
of my friend. In no other light could you have been more to me than
a common acquaintance. I am exceedingly sorry: but it is well that
the mistake ends where it does. Had the same behaviour continued,
Miss Smith might have been led into a misconception of your views;
not being aware, probably, any more than myself, of the very
great inequality which you are so sensible of. But, as it is,
the disappointment is single, and, I trust, will not be lasting.
I have no thoughts of matrimony at present."
He was too angry to say another word; her manner too decided
to invite supplication; and in this state of swelling resentment,
and mutually deep mortification, they had to continue together a few
minutes longer, for the fears of Mr. Woodhouse had confined them
to a foot-pace. If there had not been so much anger, there would have
been desperate awkwardness; but their straightforward emotions left
no room for the little zigzags of embarrassment. Without knowing
when the carriage turned into Vicarage Lane, or when it stopped,
they found themselves, all at once, at the door of his house;
and he was out before another syllable passed.--Emma then felt it
indispensable to wish him a good night. The compliment was just returned,
coldly and proudly; and, under indescribable irritation of spirits,
she was then conveyed to Hartfield.
There she was welcomed, with the utmost delight, by her father,
who had been trembling for the dangers of a solitary drive from
Vicarage Lane--turning a corner which he could never bear to think of--
and in strange hands--a mere common coachman--no James; and there it
seemed as if her return only were wanted to make every thing go well:
for Mr. John Knightley, ashamed of his ill-humour, was now all
kindness and attention; and so particularly solicitous for the comfort
of her father, as to seem--if not quite ready to join him in a basin
of gruel--perfectly sensible of its being exceedingly wholesome;
and the day was concluding in peace and comfort to all their little party,
except herself.--But her mind had never been in such perturbation;
and it needed a very strong effort to appear attentive and cheerful till
the usual hour of separating allowed her the relief of quiet reflection.
The hair was curled, and the maid sent away, and Emma sat down to think
and be miserable.--It was a wretched business indeed!--Such an overthrow
of every thing she had been wishing for!--Such a development of every
thing most unwelcome!--Such a blow for Harriet!--that was the worst
of all. Every part of it brought pain and humiliation, of some sort
or other; but, compared with the evil to Harriet, all was light;
and she would gladly have submitted to feel yet more mistaken--
more in error--more disgraced by mis-judgment, than she actually was,
could the effects of her blunders have been confined to herself.
"If I had not persuaded Harriet into liking the man, I could have
borne any thing. He might have doubled his presumption to me--
but poor Harriet!"
How she could have been so deceived!--He protested that he
had never thought seriously of Harriet--never! She looked back
as well as she could; but it was all confusion. She had taken
up the idea, she supposed, and made every thing bend to it.
His manners, however, must have been unmarked, wavering, dubious,
or she could not have been so misled.
The picture!--How eager he had been about the picture!--
and the charade!--and an hundred other circumstances;--
how clearly they had seemed to point at Harriet. To be sure,
the charade, with its "ready wit"--but then the "soft eyes"--
in fact it suited neither; it was a jumble without taste or truth.
Who could have seen through such thick-headed nonsense?
Certainly she had often, especially of late, thought his manners
to herself unnecessarily gallant; but it had passed as his way,
as a mere error of judgment, of knowledge, of taste, as one proof
among others that he had not always lived in the best society,
that with all the gentleness of his address, true elegance
was sometimes wanting; but, till this very day, she had never,
for an instant, suspected it to mean any thing but grateful respect
to her as Harriet's friend.
To Mr. John Knightley was she indebted for her first idea on
the subject, for the first start of its possibility. There was
no denying that those brothers had penetration. She remembered
what Mr. Knightley had once said to her about Mr. Elton, the caution
he had given, the conviction he had professed that Mr. Elton would
never marry indiscreetly; and blushed to think how much truer
a knowledge of his character had been there shewn than any she
had reached herself. It was dreadfully mortifying; but Mr. Elton
was proving himself, in many respects, the very reverse of what she
had meant and believed him; proud, assuming, conceited; very full
of his own claims, and little concerned about the feelings of others.
Contrary to the usual course of things, Mr. Elton's wanting
to pay his addresses to her had sunk him in her opinion.
His professions and his proposals did him no service. She thought
nothing of his attachment, and was insulted by his hopes.
He wanted to marry well, and having the arrogance to raise his
eyes to her, pretended to be in love; but she was perfectly easy
as to his not suffering any disappointment that need be cared for.
There had been no real affection either in his language or manners.
Sighs and fine words had been given in abundance; but she could
hardly devise any set of expressions, or fancy any tone of voice,
less allied with real love. She need not trouble herself to pity him.
He only wanted to aggrandise and enrich himself; and if Miss Woodhouse
of Hartfield, the heiress of thirty thousand pounds, were not quite
so easily obtained as he had fancied, he would soon try for Miss
Somebody else with twenty, or with ten.
But--that he should talk of encouragement, should consider her as
aware of his views, accepting his attentions, meaning (in short),
to marry him!--should suppose himself her equal in connexion
or mind!--look down upon her friend, so well understanding the
gradations of rank below him, and be so blind to what rose above,
as to fancy himself shewing no presumption in addressing her!--
It was most provoking.
Perhaps it was not fair to expect him to feel how very much he
was her inferior in talent, and all the elegancies of mind.
The very want of such equality might prevent his perception of it;
but he must know that in fortune and consequence she was greatly
his superior. He must know that the Woodhouses had been settled
for several generations at Hartfield, the younger branch
of a very ancient family--and that the Eltons were nobody.
The landed property of Hartfield certainly was inconsiderable,
being but a sort of notch in the Donwell Abbey estate, to which all
the rest of Highbury belonged; but their fortune, from other sources,
was such as to make them scarcely secondary to Donwell Abbey itself,
in every other kind of consequence; and the Woodhouses had long
held a high place in the consideration of the neighbourhood which
Mr. Elton had first entered not two years ago, to make his way
as he could, without any alliances but in trade, or any thing
to recommend him to notice but his situation and his civility.--
But he had fancied her in love with him; that evidently must
have been his dependence; and after raving a little about the
seeming incongruity of gentle manners and a conceited head,
Emma was obliged in common honesty to stop and admit that her own
behaviour to him had been so complaisant and obliging, so full of
courtesy and attention, as (supposing her real motive unperceived)
might warrant a man of ordinary observation and delicacy,
like Mr. Elton, in fancying himself a very decided favourite. If _she_
had so misinterpreted his feelings, she had little right to wonder
that _he_, with self-interest to blind him, should have mistaken hers.
The first error and the worst lay at her door. It was foolish,
it was wrong, to take so active a part in bringing any two
people together. It was adventuring too far, assuming too much,
making light of what ought to be serious, a trick of what ought
to be simple. She was quite concerned and ashamed, and resolved
to do such things no more.
"Here have I," said she, "actually talked poor Harriet into being
very much attached to this man. She might never have thought of him
but for me; and certainly never would have thought of him with hope,
if I had not assured her of his attachment, for she is as modest
and humble as I used to think him. Oh! that I had been satisfied with
persuading her not to accept young Martin. There I was quite right.
That was well done of me; but there I should have stopped, and left
the rest to time and chance. I was introducing her into good company,
and giving her the opportunity of pleasing some one worth having;
I ought not to have attempted more. But now, poor girl, her peace
is cut up for some time. I have been but half a friend to her;
and if she were _not_ to feel this disappointment so very much, I am
sure I have not an idea of any body else who would be at all desirable
for her;--William Coxe--Oh! no, I could not endure William Coxe--
a pert young lawyer."
She stopt to blush and laugh at her own relapse, and then resumed
a more serious, more dispiriting cogitation upon what had been,
and might be, and must be. The distressing explanation she had
to make to Harriet, and all that poor Harriet would be suffering,
with the awkwardness of future meetings, the difficulties of
continuing or discontinuing the acquaintance, of subduing feelings,
concealing resentment, and avoiding eclat, were enough to occupy
her in most unmirthful reflections some time longer, and she went
to bed at last with nothing settled but the conviction of her having
blundered most dreadfully.
To youth and natural cheerfulness like Emma's, though under
temporary gloom at night, the return of day will hardly fail
to bring return of spirits. The youth and cheerfulness of morning
are in happy analogy, and of powerful operation; and if the
distress be not poignant enough to keep the eyes unclosed, they
will be sure to open to sensations of softened pain and brighter hope.
Emma got up on the morrow more disposed for comfort than she had
gone to bed, more ready to see alleviations of the evil before her,
and to depend on getting tolerably out of it.
It was a great consolation that Mr. Elton should not be really
in love with her, or so particularly amiable as to make it shocking
to disappoint him--that Harriet's nature should not be of that
superior sort in which the feelings are most acute and retentive--
and that there could be no necessity for any body's knowing
what had passed except the three principals, and especially
for her father's being given a moment's uneasiness about it.
These were very cheering thoughts; and the sight of a great deal
of snow on the ground did her further service, for any thing was
welcome that might justify their all three being quite asunder
The weather was most favourable for her; though Christmas Day,
she could not go to church. Mr. Woodhouse would have been miserable
had his daughter attempted it, and she was therefore safe from
either exciting or receiving unpleasant and most unsuitable ideas.
The ground covered with snow, and the atmosphere in that unsettled
state between frost and thaw, which is of all others the most
unfriendly for exercise, every morning beginning in rain or snow,
and every evening setting in to freeze, she was for many days a most
honourable prisoner. No intercourse with Harriet possible but by note;
no church for her on Sunday any more than on Christmas Day; and no
need to find excuses for Mr. Elton's absenting himself.
It was weather which might fairly confine every body at home;
and though she hoped and believed him to be really taking comfort
in some society or other, it was very pleasant to have her father
so well satisfied with his being all alone in his own house,
too wise to stir out; and to hear him say to Mr. Knightley, whom no
weather could keep entirely from them,--
"Ah! Mr. Knightley, why do not you stay at home like poor Mr. Elton?"
These days of confinement would have been, but for her private
perplexities, remarkably comfortable, as such seclusion exactly
suited her brother, whose feelings must always be of great importance
to his companions; and he had, besides, so thoroughly cleared off
his ill-humour at Randalls, that his amiableness never failed him
during the rest of his stay at Hartfield. He was always agreeable
and obliging, and speaking pleasantly of every body. But with all
the hopes of cheerfulness, and all the present comfort of delay,
there was still such an evil hanging over her in the hour of explanation
with Harriet, as made it impossible for Emma to be ever perfectly at ease.
Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley were not detained long at Hartfield.
The weather soon improved enough for those to move who must move;
and Mr. Woodhouse having, as usual, tried to persuade his daughter
to stay behind with all her children, was obliged to see the whole
party set off, and return to his lamentations over the destiny
of poor Isabella;--which poor Isabella, passing her life with
those she doated on, full of their merits, blind to their faults,
and always innocently busy, might have been a model of right
The evening of the very day on which they went brought a note
from Mr. Elton to Mr. Woodhouse, a long, civil, ceremonious note,
to say, with Mr. Elton's best compliments, "that he was proposing
to leave Highbury the following morning in his way to Bath;
where, in compliance with the pressing entreaties of some friends,
he had engaged to spend a few weeks, and very much regretted
the impossibility he was under, from various circumstances of
weather and business, of taking a personal leave of Mr. Woodhouse,
of whose friendly civilities he should ever retain a grateful sense--
and had Mr. Woodhouse any commands, should be happy to attend to them."
Emma was most agreeably surprized.--Mr. Elton's absence just
at this time was the very thing to be desired. She admired
him for contriving it, though not able to give him much credit
for the manner in which it was announced. Resentment could not
have been more plainly spoken than in a civility to her father,
from which she was so pointedly excluded. She had not even a
share in his opening compliments.--Her name was not mentioned;--
and there was so striking a change in all this, and such an
ill-judged solemnity of leave-taking in his graceful acknowledgments,
as she thought, at first, could not escape her father's suspicion.
It did, however.--Her father was quite taken up with the surprize
of so sudden a journey, and his fears that Mr. Elton might never get
safely to the end of it, and saw nothing extraordinary in his language.
It was a very useful note, for it supplied them with fresh matter
for thought and conversation during the rest of their lonely evening.
Mr. Woodhouse talked over his alarms, and Emma was in spirits
to persuade them away with all her usual promptitude.
She now resolved to keep Harriet no longer in the dark. She had
reason to believe her nearly recovered from her cold, and it was
desirable that she should have as much time as possible for getting
the better of her other complaint before the gentleman's return.
She went to Mrs. Goddard's accordingly the very next day, to undergo
the necessary penance of communication; and a severe one it was.--
She had to destroy all the hopes which she had been so industriously
feeding--to appear in the ungracious character of the one preferred--
and acknowledge herself grossly mistaken and mis-judging in all her
ideas on one subject, all her observations, all her convictions,
all her prophecies for the last six weeks.
The confession completely renewed her first shame--and the sight
of Harriet's tears made her think that she should never be in charity
with herself again.
Harriet bore the intelligence very well--blaming nobody--
and in every thing testifying such an ingenuousness of disposition
and lowly opinion of herself, as must appear with particular
advantage at that moment to her friend.
Emma was in the humour to value simplicity and modesty to the utmost;
and all that was amiable, all that ought to be attaching,
seemed on Harriet's side, not her own. Harriet did not consider
herself as having any thing to complain of. The affection of such
a man as Mr. Elton would have been too great a distinction.--
She never could have deserved him--and nobody but so partial
and kind a friend as Miss Woodhouse would have thought it possible.
Her tears fell abundantly--but her grief was so truly artless,
that no dignity could have made it more respectable in Emma's eyes--
and she listened to her and tried to console her with all her heart
and understanding--really for the time convinced that Harriet was
the superior creature of the two--and that to resemble her would
be more for her own welfare and happiness than all that genius or
intelligence could do.
It was rather too late in the day to set about being simple-minded
and ignorant; but she left her with every previous resolution
confirmed of being humble and discreet, and repressing imagination
all the rest of her life. Her second duty now, inferior only to her
father's claims, was to promote Harriet's comfort, and endeavour
to prove her own affection in some better method than by match-making.
She got her to Hartfield, and shewed her the most unvarying kindness,
striving to occupy and amuse her, and by books and conversation,
to drive Mr. Elton from her thoughts.
Time, she knew, must be allowed for this being thoroughly done; and she
could suppose herself but an indifferent judge of such matters in general,
and very inadequate to sympathise in an attachment to Mr. Elton
in particular; but it seemed to her reasonable that at Harriet's age,
and with the entire extinction of all hope, such a progress might be
made towards a state of composure by the time of Mr. Elton's return,
as to allow them all to meet again in the common routine of acquaintance,
without any danger of betraying sentiments or increasing them.
Harriet did think him all perfection, and maintained the non-existence
of any body equal to him in person or goodness--and did, in truth,
prove herself more resolutely in love than Emma had foreseen;
but yet it appeared to her so natural, so inevitable to strive
against an inclination of that sort _unrequited_, that she could not
comprehend its continuing very long in equal force.
If Mr. Elton, on his return, made his own indifference as evident
and indubitable as she could not doubt he would anxiously do,
she could not imagine Harriet's persisting to place her happiness
in the sight or the recollection of him.
Their being fixed, so absolutely fixed, in the same place, was bad
for each, for all three. Not one of them had the power of removal,
or of effecting any material change of society. They must encounter
each other, and make the best of it.
Harriet was farther unfortunate in the tone of her companions at
Mrs. Goddard's; Mr. Elton being the adoration of all the teachers
and great girls in the school; and it must be at Hartfield only
that she could have any chance of hearing him spoken of with cooling
moderation or repellent truth. Where the wound had been given,
there must the cure be found if anywhere; and Emma felt that,
till she saw her in the way of cure, there could be no true peace
Mr. Frank Churchill did not come. When the time proposed
drew near, Mrs. Weston's fears were justified in the arrival
of a letter of excuse. For the present, he could not be spared,
to his "very great mortification and regret; but still he looked
forward with the hope of coming to Randalls at no distant period."
Mrs. Weston was exceedingly disappointed--much more disappointed,
in fact, than her husband, though her dependence on seeing the
young man had been so much more sober: but a sanguine temper,
though for ever expecting more good than occurs, does not
always pay for its hopes by any proportionate depression.
It soon flies over the present failure, and begins to hope again.
For half an hour Mr. Weston was surprized and sorry; but then he
began to perceive that Frank's coming two or three months later
would be a much better plan; better time of year; better weather;
and that he would be able, without any doubt, to stay considerably
longer with them than if he had come sooner.
These feelings rapidly restored his comfort, while Mrs. Weston,
of a more apprehensive disposition, foresaw nothing but a repetition
of excuses and delays; and after all her concern for what her husband
was to suffer, suffered a great deal more herself.
Emma was not at this time in a state of spirits to care really
about Mr. Frank Churchill's not coming, except as a disappointment
at Randalls. The acquaintance at present had no charm for her.
She wanted, rather, to be quiet, and out of temptation; but still, as it
was desirable that she should appear, in general, like her usual self,
she took care to express as much interest in the circumstance,
and enter as warmly into Mr. and Mrs. Weston's disappointment,
as might naturally belong to their friendship.
She was the first to announce it to Mr. Knightley; and exclaimed
quite as much as was necessary, (or, being acting a part, perhaps
rather more,) at the conduct of the Churchills, in keeping him away.
She then proceeded to say a good deal more than she felt, of the
advantage of such an addition to their confined society in Surry;
the pleasure of looking at somebody new; the gala-day to Highbury entire,
which the sight of him would have made; and ending with reflections
on the Churchills again, found herself directly involved in a
disagreement with Mr. Knightley; and, to her great amusement,
perceived that she was taking the other side of the question from her
real opinion, and making use of Mrs. Weston's arguments against herself.
"The Churchills are very likely in fault," said Mr. Knightley,
coolly; "but I dare say he might come if he would."
"I do not know why you should say so. He wishes exceedingly to come;
but his uncle and aunt will not spare him."
"I cannot believe that he has not the power of coming, if he made
a point of it. It is too unlikely, for me to believe it without proof."
"How odd you are! What has Mr. Frank Churchill done, to make you
suppose him such an unnatural creature?"
"I am not supposing him at all an unnatural creature, in suspecting
that he may have learnt to be above his connexions, and to care
very little for any thing but his own pleasure, from living with
those who have always set him the example of it. It is a great deal
more natural than one could wish, that a young man, brought up
by those who are proud, luxurious, and selfish, should be proud,
luxurious, and selfish too. If Frank Churchill had wanted to see
his father, he would have contrived it between September and January.
A man at his age--what is he?--three or four-and-twenty--cannot be
without the means of doing as much as that. It is impossible."
"That's easily said, and easily felt by you, who have always
been your own master. You are the worst judge in the world,
Mr. Knightley, of the difficulties of dependence. You do not know
what it is to have tempers to manage."
"It is not to be conceived that a man of three or four-and-twenty
should not have liberty of mind or limb to that amount. He cannot
want money--he cannot want leisure. We know, on the contrary,
that he has so much of both, that he is glad to get rid of them at
the idlest haunts in the kingdom. We hear of him for ever at some
watering-place or other. A little while ago, he was at Weymouth.
This proves that he can leave the Churchills."
"Yes, sometimes he can."
"And those times are whenever he thinks it worth his while;
whenever there is any temptation of pleasure."
"It is very unfair to judge of any body's conduct, without an
intimate knowledge of their situation. Nobody, who has not been
in the interior of a family, can say what the difficulties
of any individual of that family may be. We ought to be
acquainted with Enscombe, and with Mrs. Churchill's temper,
before we pretend to decide upon what her nephew can do.
He may, at times, be able to do a great deal more than he can at others."
"There is one thing, Emma, which a man can always do, if he chuses,
and that is, his duty; not by manoeuvring and finessing, but by vigour
and resolution. It is Frank Churchill's duty to pay this attention
to his father. He knows it to be so, by his promises and messages;
but if he wished to do it, it might be done. A man who felt rightly
would say at once, simply and resolutely, to Mrs. Churchill--
`Every sacrifice of mere pleasure you will always find me ready to make
to your convenience; but I must go and see my father immediately.
I know he would be hurt by my failing in such a mark of respect to him
on the present occasion. I shall, therefore, set off to-morrow.'--
If he would say so to her at once, in the tone of decision becoming
a man, there would be no opposition made to his going."
"No," said Emma, laughing; "but perhaps there might be some made to his
coming back again. Such language for a young man entirely dependent,
to use!--Nobody but you, Mr. Knightley, would imagine it possible.
But you have not an idea of what is requisite in situations directly
opposite to your own. Mr. Frank Churchill to be making such
a speech as that to the uncle and aunt, who have brought him up,
and are to provide for him!--Standing up in the middle of the room,
I suppose, and speaking as loud as he could!--How can you imagine
such conduct practicable?"
"Depend upon it, Emma, a sensible man would find no difficulty in it.
He would feel himself in the right; and the declaration--made,
of course, as a man of sense would make it, in a proper manner--
would do him more good, raise him higher, fix his interest stronger
with the people he depended on, than all that a line of shifts
and expedients can ever do. Respect would be added to affection.
They would feel that they could trust him; that the nephew who had
done rightly by his father, would do rightly by them; for they know,
as well as he does, as well as all the world must know, that he
ought to pay this visit to his father; and while meanly exerting
their power to delay it, are in their hearts not thinking the better
of him for submitting to their whims. Respect for right conduct
is felt by every body. If he would act in this sort of manner,
on principle, consistently, regularly, their little minds would bend
"I rather doubt that. You are very fond of bending little minds;
but where little minds belong to rich people in authority,
I think they have a knack of swelling out, till they are quite as
unmanageable as great ones. I can imagine, that if you, as you are,
Mr. Knightley, were to be transported and placed all at once in
Mr. Frank Churchill's situation, you would be able to say and do
just what you have been recommending for him; and it might have
a very good effect. The Churchills might not have a word to say
in return; but then, you would have no habits of early obedience
and long observance to break through. To him who has, it might
not be so easy to burst forth at once into perfect independence,
and set all their claims on his gratitude and regard at nought.
He may have as strong a sense of what would be right, as you can have,
without being so equal, under particular circumstances, to act up
"Then it would not be so strong a sense. If it failed to produce
equal exertion, it could not be an equal conviction."
"Oh, the difference of situation and habit! I wish you would try
to understand what an amiable young man may be likely to feel
in directly opposing those, whom as child and boy he has been
looking up to all his life."
"Our amiable young man is a very weak young man, if this be the first
occasion of his carrying through a resolution to do right against
the will of others. It ought to have been a habit with him by
this time, of following his duty, instead of consulting expediency.
I can allow for the fears of the child, but not of the man.
As he became rational, he ought to have roused himself and shaken off
all that was unworthy in their authority. He ought to have opposed
the first attempt on their side to make him slight his father.
Had he begun as he ought, there would have been no difficulty now."
"We shall never agree about him," cried Emma; "but that is
nothing extraordinary. I have not the least idea of his being
a weak young man: I feel sure that he is not. Mr. Weston would
not be blind to folly, though in his own son; but he is very likely
to have a more yielding, complying, mild disposition than would suit
your notions of man's perfection. I dare say he has; and though
it may cut him off from some advantages, it will secure him many others."
"Yes; all the advantages of sitting still when he ought to move,
and of leading a life of mere idle pleasure, and fancying himself
extremely expert in finding excuses for it. He can sit down and
write a fine flourishing letter, full of professions and falsehoods,
and persuade himself that he has hit upon the very best method
in the world of preserving peace at home and preventing his father's
having any right to complain. His letters disgust me."
"Your feelings are singular. They seem to satisfy every body else."
"I suspect they do not satisfy Mrs. Weston. They hardly can
satisfy a woman of her good sense and quick feelings: standing in
a mother's place, but without a mother's affection to blind her.
It is on her account that attention to Randalls is doubly due,
and she must doubly feel the omission. Had she been a person
of consequence herself, he would have come I dare say; and it would
not have signified whether he did or no. Can you think your friend
behindhand in these sort of considerations? Do you suppose she
does not often say all this to herself? No, Emma, your amiable
young man can be amiable only in French, not in English. He may be
very `aimable,' have very good manners, and be very agreeable; but he
can have no English delicacy towards the feelings of other people:
nothing really amiable about him."
"You seem determined to think ill of him."
"Me!--not at all," replied Mr. Knightley, rather displeased; "I do
not want to think ill of him. I should be as ready to acknowledge
his merits as any other man; but I hear of none, except what are
merely personal; that he is well-grown and good-looking, with smooth,
"Well, if he have nothing else to recommend him, he will be a
treasure at Highbury. We do not often look upon fine young men,
well-bred and agreeable. We must not be nice and ask for all
the virtues into the bargain. Cannot you imagine, Mr. Knightley,
what a _sensation_ his coming will produce? There will be but one subject
throughout the parishes of Donwell and Highbury; but one interest--
one object of curiosity; it will be all Mr. Frank Churchill;
we shall think and speak of nobody else."
"You will excuse my being so much over-powered. If I find him
conversable, I shall be glad of his acquaintance; but if he is only
a chattering coxcomb, he will not occupy much of my time or thoughts."
"My idea of him is, that he can adapt his conversation to the taste
of every body, and has the power as well as the wish of being
universally agreeable. To you, he will talk of farming; to me,
of drawing or music; and so on to every body, having that general
information on all subjects which will enable him to follow the lead,
or take the lead, just as propriety may require, and to speak
extremely well on each; that is my idea of him."
"And mine," said Mr. Knightley warmly, "is, that if he turn out any
thing like it, he will be the most insufferable fellow breathing!
What! at three-and-twenty to be the king of his company--the great man--
the practised politician, who is to read every body's character,
and make every body's talents conduce to the display of his
own superiority; to be dispensing his flatteries around, that he
may make all appear like fools compared with himself! My dear Emma,
your own good sense could not endure such a puppy when it came
to the point."
"I will say no more about him," cried Emma, "you turn every
thing to evil. We are both prejudiced; you against, I for him;
and we have no chance of agreeing till he is really here."
"Prejudiced! I am not prejudiced."
"But I am very much, and without being at all ashamed of it.
My love for Mr. and Mrs. Weston gives me a decided prejudice in
"He is a person I never think of from one month's end to another,"
said Mr. Knightley, with a degree of vexation, which made Emma
immediately talk of something else, though she could not comprehend
why he should be angry.
To take a dislike to a young man, only because he appeared to be
of a different disposition from himself, was unworthy the real
liberality of mind which she was always used to acknowledge in him;
for with all the high opinion of himself, which she had often laid
to his charge, she had never before for a moment supposed it could
make him unjust to the merit of another.
Emma and Harriet had been walking together one morning, and,
in Emma's opinion, had been talking enough of Mr. Elton for that day.
She could not think that Harriet's solace or her own sins required more;
and she was therefore industriously getting rid of the subject
as they returned;--but it burst out again when she thought she
had succeeded, and after speaking some time of what the poor must
suffer in winter, and receiving no other answer than a very plaintive--
"Mr. Elton is so good to the poor!" she found something else must be done.
They were just approaching the house where lived Mrs. and Miss Bates.
She determined to call upon them and seek safety in numbers.
There was always sufficient reason for such an attention; Mrs. and
Miss Bates loved to be called on, and she knew she was considered
by the very few who presumed ever to see imperfection in her,
as rather negligent in that respect, and as not contributing what she
ought to the stock of their scanty comforts.
She had had many a hint from Mr. Knightley and some from her own heart,
as to her deficiency--but none were equal to counteract the persuasion
of its being very disagreeable,--a waste of time--tiresome women--
and all the horror of being in danger of falling in with the second-rate
and third-rate of Highbury, who were calling on them for ever,
and therefore she seldom went near them. But now she made the sudden
resolution of not passing their door without going in--observing,
as she proposed it to Harriet, that, as well as she could calculate,
they were just now quite safe from any letter from Jane Fairfax.
The house belonged to people in business. Mrs. and Miss Bates occupied
the drawing-room floor; and there, in the very moderate-sized apartment,
which was every thing to them, the visitors were most cordially
and even gratefully welcomed; the quiet neat old lady, who with her
knitting was seated in the warmest corner, wanting even to give up
her place to Miss Woodhouse, and her more active, talking daughter,
almost ready to overpower them with care and kindness, thanks for
their visit, solicitude for their shoes, anxious inquiries after
Mr. Woodhouse's health, cheerful communications about her mother's,
and sweet-cake from the beaufet--"Mrs. Cole had just been there,
just called in for ten minutes, and had been so good as to sit an
hour with them, and _she_ had taken a piece of cake and been so kind
as to say she liked it very much; and, therefore, she hoped Miss
Woodhouse and Miss Smith would do them the favour to eat a piece too."
The mention of the Coles was sure to be followed by that of Mr. Elton.
There was intimacy between them, and Mr. Cole had heard from
Mr. Elton since his going away. Emma knew what was coming; they must
have the letter over again, and settle how long he had been gone,
and how much he was engaged in company, and what a favourite he
was wherever he went, and how full the Master of the Ceremonies'
ball had been; and she went through it very well, with all the
interest and all the commendation that could be requisite, and always
putting forward to prevent Harriet's being obliged to say a word.
This she had been prepared for when she entered the house;
but meant, having once talked him handsomely over, to be no farther
incommoded by any troublesome topic, and to wander at large amongst
all the Mistresses and Misses of Highbury, and their card-parties.
She had not been prepared to have Jane Fairfax succeed Mr. Elton;
but he was actually hurried off by Miss Bates, she jumped away
from him at last abruptly to the Coles, to usher in a letter from
"Oh! yes--Mr. Elton, I understand--certainly as to dancing--
Mrs. Cole was telling me that dancing at the rooms at Bath was--
Mrs. Cole was so kind as to sit some time with us, talking of Jane;
for as soon as she came in, she began inquiring after her,
Jane is so very great a favourite there. Whenever she is with us,
Mrs. Cole does not know how to shew her kindness enough;
and I must say that Jane deserves it as much as any body can.
And so she began inquiring after her directly, saying, `I know you
cannot have heard from Jane lately, because it is not her time
for writing;' and when I immediately said, `But indeed we have,
we had a letter this very morning,' I do not know that I ever saw
any body more surprized. `Have you, upon your honour?' said she;
`well, that is quite unexpected. Do let me hear what she says.'"
Emma's politeness was at hand directly, to say, with smiling interest--
"Have you heard from Miss Fairfax so lately? I am extremely happy.
I hope she is well?"
"Thank you. You are so kind!" replied the happily deceived aunt,
while eagerly hunting for the letter.--"Oh! here it is. I was sure
it could not be far off; but I had put my huswife upon it, you see,
without being aware, and so it was quite hid, but I had it in my hand
so very lately that I was almost sure it must be on the table.
I was reading it to Mrs. Cole, and since she went away, I was
reading it again to my mother, for it is such a pleasure to her--
a letter from Jane--that she can never hear it often enough;
so I knew it could not be far off, and here it is, only just under
my huswife--and since you are so kind as to wish to hear what
she says;--but, first of all, I really must, in justice to Jane,
apologise for her writing so short a letter--only two pages you see--
hardly two--and in general she fills the whole paper and crosses half.
My mother often wonders that I can make it out so well.
She often says, when the letter is first opened, `Well, Hetty,
now I think you will be put to it to make out all that checker-work'--
don't you, ma'am?--And then I tell her, I am sure she would contrive
to make it out herself, if she had nobody to do it for her--
every word of it--I am sure she would pore over it till she had
made out every word. And, indeed, though my mother's eyes are not
so good as they were, she can see amazingly well still, thank God!
with the help of spectacles. It is such a blessing! My mother's
are really very good indeed. Jane often says, when she is here,
`I am sure, grandmama, you must have had very strong eyes to see
as you do--and so much fine work as you have done too!--I only wish
my eyes may last me as well.'"
All this spoken extremely fast obliged Miss Bates to stop for breath;
and Emma said something very civil about the excellence of Miss
"You are extremely kind," replied Miss Bates, highly gratified;
"you who are such a judge, and write so beautifully yourself.
I am sure there is nobody's praise that could give us so much pleasure
as Miss Woodhouse's. My mother does not hear; she is a little deaf
you know. Ma'am," addressing her, "do you hear what Miss Woodhouse
is so obliging to say about Jane's handwriting?"
And Emma had the advantage of hearing her own silly compliment
repeated twice over before the good old lady could comprehend it.
She was pondering, in the meanwhile, upon the possibility, without seeming
very rude, of making her escape from Jane Fairfax's letter, and had
almost resolved on hurrying away directly under some slight excuse,
when Miss Bates turned to her again and seized her attention.
"My mother's deafness is very trifling you see--just nothing at all.
By only raising my voice, and saying any thing two or three times over,
she is sure to hear; but then she is used to my voice. But it is very
remarkable that she should always hear Jane better than she does me.
Jane speaks so distinct! However, she will not find her grandmama
at all deafer than she was two years ago; which is saying a great
deal at my mother's time of life--and it really is full two years,
you know, since she was here. We never were so long without seeing
her before, and as I was telling Mrs. Cole, we shall hardly know
how to make enough of her now."
"Are you expecting Miss Fairfax here soon?"
"Oh yes; next week."
"Indeed!--that must be a very great pleasure."
"Thank you. You are very kind. Yes, next week. Every body is
so surprized; and every body says the same obliging things. I am
sure she will be as happy to see her friends at Highbury, as they
can be to see her. Yes, Friday or Saturday; she cannot say which,
because Colonel Campbell will be wanting the carriage himself one
of those days. So very good of them to send her the whole way!
But they always do, you know. Oh yes, Friday or Saturday next.
That is what she writes about. That is the reason of her writing out
of rule, as we call it; for, in the common course, we should not have
heard from her before next Tuesday or Wednesday."
"Yes, so I imagined. I was afraid there could be little chance
of my hearing any thing of Miss Fairfax to-day."
"So obliging of you! No, we should not have heard, if it had not
been for this particular circumstance, of her being to come here
so soon. My mother is so delighted!--for she is to be three months
with us at least. Three months, she says so, positively, as I
am going to have the pleasure of reading to you. The case is,
you see, that the Campbells are going to Ireland. Mrs. Dixon has
persuaded her father and mother to come over and see her directly.
They had not intended to go over till the summer, but she is so
impatient to see them again--for till she married, last October,
she was never away from them so much as a week, which must make
it very strange to be in different kingdoms, I was going to say,
but however different countries, and so she wrote a very urgent letter
to her mother--or her father, I declare I do not know which it was,
but we shall see presently in Jane's letter--wrote in Mr. Dixon's
name as well as her own, to press their coming over directly,
and they would give them the meeting in Dublin, and take them back
to their country seat, Baly-craig, a beautiful place, I fancy.
Jane has heard a great deal of its beauty; from Mr. Dixon, I mean--
I do not know that she ever heard about it from any body else;
but it was very natural, you know, that he should like to speak
of his own place while he was paying his addresses--and as Jane used
to be very often walking out with them--for Colonel and Mrs. Campbell
were very particular about their daughter's not walking out
often with only Mr. Dixon, for which I do not at all blame them;
of course she heard every thing he might be telling Miss Campbell
about his own home in Ireland; and I think she wrote us word
that he had shewn them some drawings of the place, views that he
had taken himself. He is a most amiable, charming young man,
I believe. Jane was quite longing to go to Ireland, from his account
At this moment, an ingenious and animating suspicion entering
Emma's brain with regard to Jane Fairfax, this charming Mr. Dixon,
and the not going to Ireland, she said, with the insidious design
of farther discovery,
"You must feel it very fortunate that Miss Fairfax should be allowed
to come to you at such a time. Considering the very particular
friendship between her and Mrs. Dixon, you could hardly have expected
her to be excused from accompanying Colonel and Mrs. Campbell."
"Very true, very true, indeed. The very thing that we have always
been rather afraid of; for we should not have liked to have her
at such a distance from us, for months together--not able to come
if any thing was to happen. But you see, every thing turns out
for the best. They want her (Mr. and Mrs. Dixon) excessively to
come over with Colonel and Mrs. Campbell; quite depend upon it;
nothing can be more kind or pressing than their _joint_ invitation,
Jane says, as you will hear presently; Mr. Dixon does not seem in the
least backward in any attention. He is a most charming young man.
Ever since the service he rendered Jane at Weymouth, when they were
out in that party on the water, and she, by the sudden whirling
round of something or other among the sails, would have been dashed
into the sea at once, and actually was all but gone, if he had not,
with the greatest presence of mind, caught hold of her habit--
(I can never think of it without trembling!)--But ever since we
had the history of that day, I have been so fond of Mr. Dixon!"
"But, in spite of all her friends' urgency, and her own wish
of seeing Ireland, Miss Fairfax prefers devoting the time to you
and Mrs. Bates?"
"Yes--entirely her own doing, entirely her own choice; and Colonel
and Mrs. Campbell think she does quite right, just what they
should recommend; and indeed they particularly _wish_ her to try
her native air, as she has not been quite so well as usual lately."
"I am concerned to hear of it. I think they judge wisely.
But Mrs. Dixon must be very much disappointed. Mrs. Dixon,
I understand, has no remarkable degree of personal beauty; is not,
by any means, to be compared with Miss Fairfax."
"Oh! no. You are very obliging to say such things--but certainly not.
There is no comparison between them. Miss Campbell always was
absolutely plain--but extremely elegant and amiable."
"Yes, that of course."
"Jane caught a bad cold, poor thing! so long ago as the 7th
of November, (as I am going to read to you,) and has never been
well since. A long time, is not it, for a cold to hang upon her?
She never mentioned it before, because she would not alarm us.
Just like her! so considerate!--But however, she is so far from well,
that her kind friends the Campbells think she had better come home,
and try an air that always agrees with her; and they have no doubt
that three or four months at Highbury will entirely cure her--
and it is certainly a great deal better that she should come here,
than go to Ireland, if she is unwell. Nobody could nurse her, as we
"It appears to me the most desirable arrangement in the world."
"And so she is to come to us next Friday or Saturday, and the
Campbells leave town in their way to Holyhead the Monday following--
as you will find from Jane's letter. So sudden!--You may guess,
dear Miss Woodhouse, what a flurry it has thrown me in!
If it was not for the drawback of her illness--but I am afraid
we must expect to see her grown thin, and looking very poorly.
I must tell you what an unlucky thing happened to me, as to that.
I always make a point of reading Jane's letters through to myself first,
before I read them aloud to my mother, you know, for fear of there
being any thing in them to distress her. Jane desired me to do it,
so I always do: and so I began to-day with my usual caution;
but no sooner did I come to the mention of her being unwell, than I
burst out, quite frightened, with `Bless me! poor Jane is ill!'--
which my mother, being on the watch, heard distinctly, and was sadly
alarmed at. However, when I read on, I found it was not near so bad
as I had fancied at first; and I make so light of it now to her,
that she does not think much about it. But I cannot imagine
how I could be so off my guard. If Jane does not get well soon,
we will call in Mr. Perry. The expense shall not be thought of;
and though he is so liberal, and so fond of Jane that I dare say
he would not mean to charge any thing for attendance, we could not
suffer it to be so, you know. He has a wife and family to maintain,
and is not to be giving away his time. Well, now I have just given you
a hint of what Jane writes about, we will turn to her letter, and I am
sure she tells her own story a great deal better than I can tell it
"I am afraid we must be running away," said Emma, glancing at Harriet,
and beginning to rise--"My father will be expecting us.
I had no intention, I thought I had no power of staying more than
five minutes, when I first entered the house. I merely called,
because I would not pass the door without inquiring after Mrs. Bates;
but I have been so pleasantly detained! Now, however, we must wish
you and Mrs. Bates good morning."
And not all that could be urged to detain her succeeded.
She regained the street--happy in this, that though much had been
forced on her against her will, though she had in fact heard
the whole substance of Jane Fairfax's letter, she had been able
to escape the letter itself.
Jane Fairfax was an orphan, the only child of Mrs. Bates's
The marriage of Lieut. Fairfax of the _______ regiment of infantry,
and Miss Jane Bates, had had its day of fame and pleasure,
hope and interest; but nothing now remained of it, save the melancholy
remembrance of him dying in action abroad--of his widow sinking
under consumption and grief soon afterwards--and this girl.
By birth she belonged to Highbury: and when at three years old,
on losing her mother, she became the property, the charge,
the consolation, the fondling of her grandmother and aunt, there had
seemed every probability of her being permanently fixed there;
of her being taught only what very limited means could command,
and growing up with no advantages of connexion or improvement,
to be engrafted on what nature had given her in a pleasing person,
good understanding, and warm-hearted, well-meaning relations.
But the compassionate feelings of a friend of her father gave
a change to her destiny. This was Colonel Campbell, who had
very highly regarded Fairfax, as an excellent officer and most
deserving young man; and farther, had been indebted to him for
such attentions, during a severe camp-fever, as he believed had saved
his life. These were claims which he did not learn to overlook,
though some years passed away from the death of poor Fairfax,
before his own return to England put any thing in his power.
When he did return, he sought out the child and took notice of her.
He was a married man, with only one living child, a girl,
about Jane's age: and Jane became their guest, paying them long visits
and growing a favourite with all; and before she was nine years old,
his daughter's great fondness for her, and his own wish of being
a real friend, united to produce an offer from Colonel Campbell
of undertaking the whole charge of her education. It was accepted;
and from that period Jane had belonged to Colonel Campbell's family,
and had lived with them entirely, only visiting her grandmother
from time to time.
The plan was that she should be brought up for educating others;
the very few hundred pounds which she inherited from her father
making independence impossible. To provide for her otherwise
was out of Colonel Campbell's power; for though his income, by pay
and appointments, was handsome, his fortune was moderate and must
be all his daughter's; but, by giving her an education, he hoped
to be supplying the means of respectable subsistence hereafter.
Such was Jane Fairfax's history. She had fallen into good hands,
known nothing but kindness from the Campbells, and been given
an excellent education. Living constantly with right-minded
and well-informed people, her heart and understanding had received
every advantage of discipline and culture; and Colonel Campbell's
residence being in London, every lighter talent had been done
full justice to, by the attendance of first-rate masters.
Her disposition and abilities were equally worthy of all that
friendship could do; and at eighteen or nineteen she was, as far
as such an early age can be qualified for the care of children,
fully competent to the office of instruction herself; but she
was too much beloved to be parted with. Neither father nor mother
could promote, and the daughter could not endure it. The evil day
was put off. It was easy to decide that she was still too young;
and Jane remained with them, sharing, as another daughter, in all
the rational pleasures of an elegant society, and a judicious
mixture of home and amusement, with only the drawback of the future,
the sobering suggestions of her own good understanding to remind
her that all this might soon be over.
The affection of the whole family, the warm attachment of Miss
Campbell in particular, was the more honourable to each party
from the circumstance of Jane's decided superiority both in beauty
and acquirements. That nature had given it in feature could not
be unseen by the young woman, nor could her higher powers of mind
be unfelt by the parents. They continued together with unabated
regard however, till the marriage of Miss Campbell, who by that chance,
that luck which so often defies anticipation in matrimonial affairs,
giving attraction to what is moderate rather than to what is superior,
engaged the affections of Mr. Dixon, a young man, rich and agreeable,
almost as soon as they were acquainted; and was eligibly
and happily settled, while Jane Fairfax had yet her bread to earn.
This event had very lately taken place; too lately for any thing to be
yet attempted by her less fortunate friend towards entering on her path
of duty; though she had now reached the age which her own judgment
had fixed on for beginning. She had long resolved that one-and-twenty
should be the period. With the fortitude of a devoted novitiate,
she had resolved at one-and-twenty to complete the sacrifice,
and retire from all the pleasures of life, of rational intercourse,
equal society, peace and hope, to penance and mortification for ever.
The good sense of Colonel and Mrs. Campbell could not oppose such
a resolution, though their feelings did. As long as they lived,
no exertions would be necessary, their home might be hers for ever;
and for their own comfort they would have retained her wholly;
but this would be selfishness:--what must be at last, had better
be soon. Perhaps they began to feel it might have been kinder
and wiser to have resisted the temptation of any delay, and spared
her from a taste of such enjoyments of ease and leisure as must
now be relinquished. Still, however, affection was glad to catch
at any reasonable excuse for not hurrying on the wretched moment.
She had never been quite well since the time of their daughter's marriage;
and till she should have completely recovered her usual strength,
they must forbid her engaging in duties, which, so far from being
compatible with a weakened frame and varying spirits, seemed,
under the most favourable circumstances, to require something
more than human perfection of body and mind to be discharged with
With regard to her not accompanying them to Ireland, her account
to her aunt contained nothing but truth, though there might be some
truths not told. It was her own choice to give the time of their
absence to Highbury; to spend, perhaps, her last months of perfect
liberty with those kind relations to whom she was so very dear:
and the Campbells, whatever might be their motive or motives,
whether single, or double, or treble, gave the arrangement
their ready sanction, and said, that they depended more on a few
months spent in her native air, for the recovery of her health,
than on any thing else. Certain it was that she was to come;
and that Highbury, instead of welcoming that perfect novelty which
had been so long promised it--Mr. Frank Churchill--must put up for
the present with Jane Fairfax, who could bring only the freshness
of a two years' absence.
Emma was sorry;--to have to pay civilities to a person she did
not like through three long months!--to be always doing more than
she wished, and less than she ought! Why she did not like Jane
Fairfax might be a difficult question to answer; Mr. Knightley
had once told her it was because she saw in her the really
accomplished young woman, which she wanted to be thought herself;
and though the accusation had been eagerly refuted at the time,
there were moments of self-examination in which her conscience could
not quite acquit her. But "she could never get acquainted with her:
she did not know how it was, but there was such coldness and reserve--
such apparent indifference whether she pleased or not--and then,
her aunt was such an eternal talker!--and she was made such a fuss
with by every body!--and it had been always imagined that they were
to be so intimate--because their ages were the same, every body had
supposed they must be so fond of each other." These were her reasons--
she had no better.
It was a dislike so little just--every imputed fault was so magnified
by fancy, that she never saw Jane Fairfax the first time after any
considerable absence, without feeling that she had injured her;
and now, when the due visit was paid, on her arrival, after a two years'
interval, she was particularly struck with the very appearance
and manners, which for those two whole years she had been depreciating.
Jane Fairfax was very elegant, remarkably elegant; and she had
herself the highest value for elegance. Her height was pretty,
just such as almost every body would think tall, and nobody could
think very tall; her figure particularly graceful; her size a most
becoming medium, between fat and thin, though a slight appearance
of ill-health seemed to point out the likeliest evil of the two.
Emma could not but feel all this; and then, her face--her features--
there was more beauty in them altogether than she had remembered;
it was not regular, but it was very pleasing beauty. Her eyes,
a deep grey, with dark eye-lashes and eyebrows, had never been denied
their praise; but the skin, which she had been used to cavil at,
as wanting colour, had a clearness and delicacy which really needed
no fuller bloom. It was a style of beauty, of which elegance
was the reigning character, and as such, she must, in honour,
by all her principles, admire it:--elegance, which, whether of person
or of mind, she saw so little in Highbury. There, not to be vulgar,
was distinction, and merit.
In short, she sat, during the first visit, looking at Jane Fairfax
with twofold complacency; the sense of pleasure and the sense
of rendering justice, and was determining that she would dislike
her no longer. When she took in her history, indeed, her situation,
as well as her beauty; when she considered what all this elegance
was destined to, what she was going to sink from, how she was going
to live, it seemed impossible to feel any thing but compassion
and respect; especially, if to every well-known particular entitling
her to interest, were added the highly probable circumstance
of an attachment to Mr. Dixon, which she had so naturally started
to herself. In that case, nothing could be more pitiable
or more honourable than the sacrifices she had resolved on.
Emma was very willing now to acquit her of having seduced
Mr. Dixon's actions from his wife, or of any thing mischievous
which her imagination had suggested at first. If it were love,
it might be simple, single, successless love on her side alone.
She might have been unconsciously sucking in the sad poison,
while a sharer of his conversation with her friend; and from the best,
the purest of motives, might now be denying herself this visit
to Ireland, and resolving to divide herself effectually from
him and his connexions by soon beginning her career of laborious duty.
Upon the whole, Emma left her with such softened, charitable feelings,
as made her look around in walking home, and lament that Highbury
afforded no young man worthy of giving her independence;
nobody that she could wish to scheme about for her.
These were charming feelings--but not lasting. Before she had
committed herself by any public profession of eternal friendship for
Jane Fairfax, or done more towards a recantation of past prejudices
and errors, than saying to Mr. Knightley, "She certainly is handsome;
she is better than handsome!" Jane had spent an evening at Hartfield
with her grandmother and aunt, and every thing was relapsing much
into its usual state. Former provocations reappeared. The aunt
was as tiresome as ever; more tiresome, because anxiety for her
health was now added to admiration of her powers; and they had to
listen to the description of exactly how little bread and butter
she ate for breakfast, and how small a slice of mutton for dinner,
as well as to see exhibitions of new caps and new workbags for her
mother and herself; and Jane's offences rose again. They had music;
Emma was obliged to play; and the thanks and praise which necessarily
followed appeared to her an affectation of candour, an air
of greatness, meaning only to shew off in higher style her own very
superior performance. She was, besides, which was the worst of all,
so cold, so cautious! There was no getting at her real opinion.
Wrapt up in a cloak of politeness, she seemed determined
to hazard nothing. She was disgustingly, was suspiciously reserved.
If any thing could be more, where all was most, she was more
reserved on the subject of Weymouth and the Dixons than any thing.
She seemed bent on giving no real insight into Mr. Dixon's character,
or her own value for his company, or opinion of the suitableness
of the match. It was all general approbation and smoothness;
nothing delineated or distinguished. It did her no service however.
Her caution was thrown away. Emma saw its artifice, and returned
to her first surmises. There probably _was_ something more to conceal
than her own preference; Mr. Dixon, perhaps, had been very near
changing one friend for the other, or been fixed only to Miss Campbell,
for the sake of the future twelve thousand pounds.
The like reserve prevailed on other topics. She and Mr. Frank Churchill
had been at Weymouth at the same time. It was known that they were
a little acquainted; but not a syllable of real information could Emma
procure as to what he truly was. "Was he handsome?"--"She believed
he was reckoned a very fine young man." "Was he agreeable?"--
"He was generally thought so." "Did he appear a sensible young man;
a young man of information?"--"At a watering-place, or in a common
London acquaintance, it was difficult to decide on such points.
Manners were all that could be safely judged of, under a much longer
knowledge than they had yet had of Mr. Churchill. She believed
every body found his manners pleasing." Emma could not forgive her.
Emma could not forgive her;--but as neither provocation nor resentment
were discerned by Mr. Knightley, who had been of the party, and had
seen only proper attention and pleasing behaviour on each side,
he was expressing the next morning, being at Hartfield again on
business with Mr. Woodhouse, his approbation of the whole; not so
openly as he might have done had her father been out of the room,
but speaking plain enough to be very intelligible to Emma.
He had been used to think her unjust to Jane, and had now great
pleasure in marking an improvement.
"A very pleasant evening," he began, as soon as Mr. Woodhouse
had been talked into what was necessary, told that he understood,
and the papers swept away;--"particularly pleasant. You and Miss
Fairfax gave us some very good music. I do not know a more
luxurious state, sir, than sitting at one's ease to be entertained
a whole evening by two such young women; sometimes with music
and sometimes with conversation. I am sure Miss Fairfax must
have found the evening pleasant, Emma. You left nothing undone.
I was glad you made her play so much, for having no instrument
at her grandmother's, it must have been a real indulgence."
"I am happy you approved," said Emma, smiling; "but I hope I am
not often deficient in what is due to guests at Hartfield."
"No, my dear," said her father instantly; "_that_ I am sure you
are not. There is nobody half so attentive and civil as you are.
If any thing, you are too attentive. The muffin last night--if it
had been handed round once, I think it would have been enough."
"No," said Mr. Knightley, nearly at the same time; "you are not
often deficient; not often deficient either in manner or comprehension.
I think you understand me, therefore."
An arch look expressed--"I understand you well enough;" but she
said only, "Miss Fairfax is reserved."
"I always told you she was--a little; but you will soon overcome
all that part of her reserve which ought to be overcome, all that
has its foundation in diffidence. What arises from discretion
must be honoured."
"You think her diffident. I do not see it."
"My dear Emma," said he, moving from his chair into one close
by her, "you are not going to tell me, I hope, that you
had not a pleasant evening."
"Oh! no; I was pleased with my own perseverance in asking questions;
and amused to think how little information I obtained."
"I am disappointed," was his only answer.
"I hope every body had a pleasant evening," said Mr. Woodhouse,
in his quiet way. "I had. Once, I felt the fire rather too much;
but then I moved back my chair a little, a very little, and it did
not disturb me. Miss Bates was very chatty and good-humoured,
as she always is, though she speaks rather too quick. However,
she is very agreeable, and Mrs. Bates too, in a different way.
I like old friends; and Miss Jane Fairfax is a very pretty sort of
young lady, a very pretty and a very well-behaved young lady indeed.
She must have found the evening agreeable, Mr. Knightley, because she
"True, sir; and Emma, because she had Miss Fairfax."
Emma saw his anxiety, and wishing to appease it, at least for
the present, said, and with a sincerity which no one could question--
"She is a sort of elegant creature that one cannot keep one's eyes from.
I am always watching her to admire; and I do pity her from my heart."
Mr. Knightley looked as if he were more gratified than he cared
to express; and before he could make any reply, Mr. Woodhouse,
whose thoughts were on the Bates's, said--
"It is a great pity that their circumstances should be so confined!
a great pity indeed! and I have often wished--but it is so little one
can venture to do--small, trifling presents, of any thing uncommon--
Now we have killed a porker, and Emma thinks of sending them
a loin or a leg; it is very small and delicate--Hartfield pork is
not like any other pork--but still it is pork--and, my dear Emma,
unless one could be sure of their making it into steaks, nicely fried,
as ours are fried, without the smallest grease, and not roast it,
for no stomach can bear roast pork--I think we had better send the leg--
do not you think so, my dear?"
"My dear papa, I sent the whole hind-quarter. I knew you would wish it.
There will be the leg to be salted, you know, which is so very nice,
and the loin to be dressed directly in any manner they like."
"That's right, my dear, very right. I had not thought of it before,
but that is the best way. They must not over-salt the leg; and then,
if it is not over-salted, and if it is very thoroughly boiled,
just as Serle boils ours, and eaten very moderately of, with a
boiled turnip, and a little carrot or parsnip, I do not consider
"Emma," said Mr. Knightley presently, "I have a piece of news for you.
You like news--and I heard an article in my way hither that I think
will interest you."
"News! Oh! yes, I always like news. What is it?--why do you
smile so?--where did you hear it?--at Randalls?"
He had time only to say,
"No, not at Randalls; I have not been near Randalls," when the door
was thrown open, and Miss Bates and Miss Fairfax walked into the room.
Full of thanks, and full of news, Miss Bates knew not which to
give quickest. Mr. Knightley soon saw that he had lost his moment,
and that not another syllable of communication could rest with him.
"Oh! my dear sir, how are you this morning? My dear Miss Woodhouse--
I come quite over-powered. Such a beautiful hind-quarter of pork!
You are too bountiful! Have you heard the news? Mr. Elton is going
to be married."
Emma had not had time even to think of Mr. Elton, and she was
so completely surprized that she could not avoid a little start,
and a little blush, at the sound.
"There is my news:--I thought it would interest you,"
said Mr. Knightley, with a smile which implied a conviction
of some part of what had passed between them.
"But where could _you_ hear it?" cried Miss Bates. "Where could
you possibly hear it, Mr. Knightley? For it is not five minutes
since I received Mrs. Cole's note--no, it cannot be more than five--
or at least ten--for I had got my bonnet and spencer on, just ready
to come out--I was only gone down to speak to Patty again about
the pork--Jane was standing in the passage--were not you, Jane?--
for my mother was so afraid that we had not any salting-pan
large enough. So I said I would go down and see, and Jane said,
`Shall I go down instead? for I think you have a little cold,
and Patty has been washing the kitchen.'--`Oh! my dear,'
said I--well, and just then came the note. A Miss Hawkins--
that's all I know. A Miss Hawkins of Bath. But, Mr. Knightley,
how could you possibly have heard it? for the very moment Mr. Cole
told Mrs. Cole of it, she sat down and wrote to me. A Miss Hawkins--"
"I was with Mr. Cole on business an hour and a half ago.
He had just read Elton's letter as I was shewn in, and handed it
to me directly."
"Well! that is quite--I suppose there never was a piece of news more
generally interesting. My dear sir, you really are too bountiful.
My mother desires her very best compliments and regards, and a
thousand thanks, and says you really quite oppress her."
"We consider our Hartfield pork," replied Mr. Woodhouse--"indeed it
certainly is, so very superior to all other pork, that Emma and I
cannot have a greater pleasure than--"
"Oh! my dear sir, as my mother says, our friends are only too good
to us. If ever there were people who, without having great wealth
themselves, had every thing they could wish for, I am sure it is us.
We may well say that `our lot is cast in a goodly heritage.'
Well, Mr. Knightley, and so you actually saw the letter; well--"
"It was short--merely to announce--but cheerful, exulting, of course."--
Here was a sly glance at Emma. "He had been so fortunate as to--
I forget the precise words--one has no business to remember them.
The information was, as you state, that he was going to be married
to a Miss Hawkins. By his style, I should imagine it just settled."
"Mr. Elton going to be married!" said Emma, as soon as she could speak.
"He will have every body's wishes for his happiness."
"He is very young to settle," was Mr. Woodhouse's observation.
"He had better not be in a hurry. He seemed to me very well off
as he was. We were always glad to see him at Hartfield."
"A new neighbour for us all, Miss Woodhouse!" said Miss Bates,
joyfully; "my mother is so pleased!--she says she cannot
bear to have the poor old Vicarage without a mistress.
This is great news, indeed. Jane, you have never seen
Mr. Elton!--no wonder that you have such a curiosity to see him."
Jane's curiosity did not appear of that absorbing nature as wholly
to occupy her.
"No--I have never seen Mr. Elton," she replied, starting on this appeal;
"is he--is he a tall man?"
"Who shall answer that question?" cried Emma. "My father would
say `yes,' Mr. Knightley `no;' and Miss Bates and I that he is
just the happy medium. When you have been here a little longer,
Miss Fairfax, you will understand that Mr. Elton is the standard
of perfection in Highbury, both in person and mind."
"Very true, Miss Woodhouse, so she will. He is the very best
young man--But, my dear Jane, if you remember, I told you yesterday
he was precisely the height of Mr. Perry. Miss Hawkins,--I dare say,
an excellent young woman. His extreme attention to my mother--
wanting her to sit in the vicarage pew, that she might hear the better,
for my mother is a little deaf, you know--it is not much, but she
does not hear quite quick. Jane says that Colonel Campbell is a
little deaf. He fancied bathing might be good for it--the warm bath--
but she says it did him no lasting benefit. Colonel Campbell,
you know, is quite our angel. And Mr. Dixon seems a very charming
young man, quite worthy of him. It is such a happiness when good
people get together--and they always do. Now, here will be Mr. Elton
and Miss Hawkins; and there are the Coles, such very good people;
and the Perrys--I suppose there never was a happier or a better couple
than Mr. and Mrs. Perry. I say, sir," turning to Mr. Woodhouse,
"I think there are few places with such society as Highbury.
I always say, we are quite blessed in our neighbours.--My dear sir,
if there is one thing my mother loves better than another, it is pork--
a roast loin of pork--"
"As to who, or what Miss Hawkins is, or how long he has been
acquainted with her," said Emma, "nothing I suppose can be known.
One feels that it cannot be a very long acquaintance. He has been
gone only four weeks."
Nobody had any information to give; and, after a few more wonderings,
"You are silent, Miss Fairfax--but I hope you mean to take
an interest in this news. You, who have been hearing and seeing
so much of late on these subjects, who must have been so deep
in the business on Miss Campbell's account--we shall not excuse
your being indifferent about Mr. Elton and Miss Hawkins."
"When I have seen Mr. Elton," replied Jane, "I dare say I
shall be interested--but I believe it requires _that_ with me.
And as it is some months since Miss Campbell married, the impression
may be a little worn off."
"Yes, he has been gone just four weeks, as you observe, Miss Woodhouse,"
said Miss Bates, "four weeks yesterday.--A Miss Hawkins!--Well, I had
always rather fancied it would be some young lady hereabouts;
not that I ever--Mrs. Cole once whispered to me--but I immediately said,
`No, Mr. Elton is a most worthy young man--but'--In short, I do
not think I am particularly quick at those sort of discoveries.
I do not pretend to it. What is before me, I see. At the same time,
nobody could wonder if Mr. Elton should have aspired--Miss Woodhouse
lets me chatter on, so good-humouredly. She knows I would not
offend for the world. How does Miss Smith do? She seems quite
recovered now. Have you heard from Mrs. John Knightley lately?
Oh! those dear little children. Jane, do you know I always fancy
Mr. Dixon like Mr. John Knightley. I mean in person--tall, and with
that sort of look--and not very talkative."
"Quite wrong, my dear aunt; there is no likeness at all."
"Very odd! but one never does form a just idea of any body beforehand.
One takes up a notion, and runs away with it. Mr. Dixon, you say,
is not, strictly speaking, handsome?"
"Handsome! Oh! no--far from it--certainly plain. I told you he
"My dear, you said that Miss Campbell would not allow him to be plain,
and that you yourself--"
"Oh! as for me, my judgment is worth nothing. Where I have a regard,
I always think a person well-looking. But I gave what I believed
the general opinion, when I called him plain."
"Well, my dear Jane, I believe we must be running away.
The weather does not look well, and grandmama will be uneasy.
You are too obliging, my dear Miss Woodhouse; but we really must
take leave. This has been a most agreeable piece of news indeed.
I shall just go round by Mrs. Cole's; but I shall not stop three minutes:
and, Jane, you had better go home directly--I would not have you
out in a shower!--We think she is the better for Highbury already.
Thank you, we do indeed. I shall not attempt calling on Mrs. Goddard,
for I really do not think she cares for any thing but _boiled_ pork:
when we dress the leg it will be another thing. Good morning to you,
my dear sir. Oh! Mr. Knightley is coming too. Well, that is
so very!--I am sure if Jane is tired, you will be so kind as to
give her your arm.--Mr. Elton, and Miss Hawkins!--Good morning
Emma, alone with her father, had half her attention wanted by him
while he lamented that young people would be in such a hurry to marry--
and to marry strangers too--and the other half she could give
to her own view of the subject. It was to herself an amusing
and a very welcome piece of news, as proving that Mr. Elton
could not have suffered long; but she was sorry for Harriet:
Harriet must feel it--and all that she could hope was, by giving
the first information herself, to save her from hearing it abruptly
from others. It was now about the time that she was likely to call.
If she were to meet Miss Bates in her way!--and upon its beginning
to rain, Emma was obliged to expect that the weather would be
detaining her at Mrs. Goddard's, and that the intelligence would
undoubtedly rush upon her without preparation.