Part 6 out of 9
than their own establishment could furnish, to carry round
the refreshments at exactly the proper hour, and in the proper order.
Emma, in the meanwhile, could not be satisfied without a dinner
at Hartfield for the Eltons. They must not do less than others,
or she should be exposed to odious suspicions, and imagined capable
of pitiful resentment. A dinner there must be. After Emma had
talked about it for ten minutes, Mr. Woodhouse felt no unwillingness,
and only made the usual stipulation of not sitting at the bottom
of the table himself, with the usual regular difficulty of deciding
who should do it for him.
The persons to be invited, required little thought. Besides the Eltons,
it must be the Westons and Mr. Knightley; so far it was all of course--
and it was hardly less inevitable that poor little Harriet must
be asked to make the eighth:--but this invitation was not given
with equal satisfaction, and on many accounts Emma was particularly
pleased by Harriet's begging to be allowed to decline it.
"She would rather not be in his company more than she could help.
She was not yet quite able to see him and his charming happy
wife together, without feeling uncomfortable. If Miss Woodhouse
would not be displeased, she would rather stay at home."
It was precisely what Emma would have wished, had she deemed it
possible enough for wishing. She was delighted with the fortitude
of her little friend--for fortitude she knew it was in her to give
up being in company and stay at home; and she could now invite the
very person whom she really wanted to make the eighth, Jane Fairfax.--
Since her last conversation with Mrs. Weston and Mr. Knightley,
she was more conscience-stricken about Jane Fairfax than she had
often been.--Mr. Knightley's words dwelt with her. He had said
that Jane Fairfax received attentions from Mrs. Elton which nobody
else paid her.
"This is very true," said she, "at least as far as relates to me,
which was all that was meant--and it is very shameful.--Of the same age--
and always knowing her--I ought to have been more her friend.--
She will never like me now. I have neglected her too long. But I
will shew her greater attention than I have done."
Every invitation was successful. They were all disengaged and all happy.--
The preparatory interest of this dinner, however, was not yet over.
A circumstance rather unlucky occurred. The two eldest little
Knightleys were engaged to pay their grandpapa and aunt a visit of
some weeks in the spring, and their papa now proposed bringing them,
and staying one whole day at Hartfield--which one day would be
the very day of this party.--His professional engagements did
not allow of his being put off, but both father and daughter were
disturbed by its happening so. Mr. Woodhouse considered eight
persons at dinner together as the utmost that his nerves could bear--
and here would be a ninth--and Emma apprehended that it would
be a ninth very much out of humour at not being able to come even
to Hartfield for forty-eight hours without falling in with a dinner-party.
She comforted her father better than she could comfort herself,
by representing that though he certainly would make them nine,
yet he always said so little, that the increase of noise would be
very immaterial. She thought it in reality a sad exchange for herself,
to have him with his grave looks and reluctant conversation opposed
to her instead of his brother.
The event was more favourable to Mr. Woodhouse than to Emma.
John Knightley came; but Mr. Weston was unexpectedly summoned to town
and must be absent on the very day. He might be able to join them
in the evening, but certainly not to dinner. Mr. Woodhouse was quite
at ease; and the seeing him so, with the arrival of the little boys
and the philosophic composure of her brother on hearing his fate,
removed the chief of even Emma's vexation.
The day came, the party were punctually assembled, and Mr. John Knightley
seemed early to devote himself to the business of being agreeable.
Instead of drawing his brother off to a window while they waited
for dinner, he was talking to Miss Fairfax. Mrs. Elton, as elegant
as lace and pearls could make her, he looked at in silence--
wanting only to observe enough for Isabella's information--but Miss
Fairfax was an old acquaintance and a quiet girl, and he could
talk to her. He had met her before breakfast as he was returning
from a walk with his little boys, when it had been just beginning
to rain. It was natural to have some civil hopes on the subject,
and he said,
"I hope you did not venture far, Miss Fairfax, this morning, or I
am sure you must have been wet.--We scarcely got home in time.
I hope you turned directly."
"I went only to the post-office," said she, "and reached home
before the rain was much. It is my daily errand. I always fetch
the letters when I am here. It saves trouble, and is a something
to get me out. A walk before breakfast does me good."
"Not a walk in the rain, I should imagine."
"No, but it did not absolutely rain when I set out."
Mr. John Knightley smiled, and replied,
"That is to say, you chose to have your walk, for you were not six
yards from your own door when I had the pleasure of meeting you;
and Henry and John had seen more drops than they could count long before.
The post-office has a great charm at one period of our lives.
When you have lived to my age, you will begin to think letters are
never worth going through the rain for."
There was a little blush, and then this answer,
"I must not hope to be ever situated as you are, in the midst of
every dearest connexion, and therefore I cannot expect that simply
growing older should make me indifferent about letters."
"Indifferent! Oh! no--I never conceived you could become indifferent.
Letters are no matter of indifference; they are generally a very
"You are speaking of letters of business; mine are letters
"I have often thought them the worst of the two," replied he coolly.
"Business, you know, may bring money, but friendship hardly
"Ah! you are not serious now. I know Mr. John Knightley too well--
I am very sure he understands the value of friendship as well as
any body. I can easily believe that letters are very little to you,
much less than to me, but it is not your being ten years older than
myself which makes the difference, it is not age, but situation.
You have every body dearest to you always at hand, I, probably,
never shall again; and therefore till I have outlived all my affections,
a post-office, I think, must always have power to draw me out,
in worse weather than to-day."
"When I talked of your being altered by time, by the progress of years,"
said John Knightley, "I meant to imply the change of situation
which time usually brings. I consider one as including the other.
Time will generally lessen the interest of every attachment not within
the daily circle--but that is not the change I had in view for you.
As an old friend, you will allow me to hope, Miss Fairfax, that ten
years hence you may have as many concentrated objects as I have."
It was kindly said, and very far from giving offence. A pleasant
"thank you" seemed meant to laugh it off, but a blush, a quivering lip,
a tear in the eye, shewed that it was felt beyond a laugh.
Her attention was now claimed by Mr. Woodhouse, who being,
according to his custom on such occasions, making the circle of
his guests, and paying his particular compliments to the ladies,
was ending with her--and with all his mildest urbanity, said,
"I am very sorry to hear, Miss Fairfax, of your being out this
morning in the rain. Young ladies should take care of themselves.--
Young ladies are delicate plants. They should take care of their
health and their complexion. My dear, did you change your stockings?"
"Yes, sir, I did indeed; and I am very much obliged by your kind
solicitude about me."
"My dear Miss Fairfax, young ladies are very sure to be cared for.--
I hope your good grand-mama and aunt are well. They are some
of my very old friends. I wish my health allowed me to be a
better neighbour. You do us a great deal of honour to-day, I am sure.
My daughter and I are both highly sensible of your goodness,
and have the greatest satisfaction in seeing you at Hartfield."
The kind-hearted, polite old man might then sit down and feel
that he had done his duty, and made every fair lady welcome and easy.
By this time, the walk in the rain had reached Mrs. Elton,
and her remonstrances now opened upon Jane.
"My dear Jane, what is this I hear?--Going to the post-office
in the rain!--This must not be, I assure you.--You sad girl,
how could you do such a thing?--It is a sign I was not there
to take care of you."
Jane very patiently assured her that she had not caught any cold.
"Oh! do not tell _me_. You really are a very sad girl, and do not
know how to take care of yourself.--To the post-office indeed!
Mrs. Weston, did you ever hear the like? You and I must positively
exert our authority."
"My advice," said Mrs. Weston kindly and persuasively, "I certainly
do feel tempted to give. Miss Fairfax, you must not run such risks.--
Liable as you have been to severe colds, indeed you ought
to be particularly careful, especially at this time of year.
The spring I always think requires more than common care.
Better wait an hour or two, or even half a day for your letters,
than run the risk of bringing on your cough again. Now do not you
feel that you had? Yes, I am sure you are much too reasonable.
You look as if you would not do such a thing again."
"Oh! she _shall_ _not_ do such a thing again," eagerly rejoined
Mrs. Elton. "We will not allow her to do such a thing again:"--
and nodding significantly--"there must be some arrangement made,
there must indeed. I shall speak to Mr. E. The man who fetches
our letters every morning (one of our men, I forget his name)
shall inquire for yours too and bring them to you. That will obviate
all difficulties you know; and from _us_ I really think, my dear Jane,
you can have no scruple to accept such an accommodation."
"You are extremely kind," said Jane; "but I cannot give up my
early walk. I am advised to be out of doors as much as I can,
I must walk somewhere, and the post-office is an object; and upon
my word, I have scarcely ever had a bad morning before."
"My dear Jane, say no more about it. The thing is determined,
that is (laughing affectedly) as far as I can presume to determine
any thing without the concurrence of my lord and master. You know,
Mrs. Weston, you and I must be cautious how we express ourselves.
But I do flatter myself, my dear Jane, that my influence is not entirely
worn out. If I meet with no insuperable difficulties therefore,
consider that point as settled."
"Excuse me," said Jane earnestly, "I cannot by any means consent
to such an arrangement, so needlessly troublesome to your servant.
If the errand were not a pleasure to me, it could be done, as it
always is when I am not here, by my grandmama's."
"Oh! my dear; but so much as Patty has to do!--And it is a kindness
to employ our men."
Jane looked as if she did not mean to be conquered; but instead
of answering, she began speaking again to Mr. John Knightley.
"The post-office is a wonderful establishment!" said she.--
"The regularity and despatch of it! If one thinks of all that it
has to do, and all that it does so well, it is really astonishing!"
"It is certainly very well regulated."
"So seldom that any negligence or blunder appears! So seldom
that a letter, among the thousands that are constantly passing
about the kingdom, is even carried wrong--and not one in a million,
I suppose, actually lost! And when one considers the variety
of hands, and of bad hands too, that are to be deciphered,
it increases the wonder."
"The clerks grow expert from habit.--They must begin with some
quickness of sight and hand, and exercise improves them. If you
want any farther explanation," continued he, smiling, "they are
paid for it. That is the key to a great deal of capacity.
The public pays and must be served well."
The varieties of handwriting were farther talked of, and the usual
"I have heard it asserted," said John Knightley, "that the same
sort of handwriting often prevails in a family; and where the
same master teaches, it is natural enough. But for that reason,
I should imagine the likeness must be chiefly confined to the females,
for boys have very little teaching after an early age, and scramble
into any hand they can get. Isabella and Emma, I think, do write
very much alike. I have not always known their writing apart."
"Yes," said his brother hesitatingly, "there is a likeness.
I know what you mean--but Emma's hand is the strongest."
"Isabella and Emma both write beautifully," said Mr. Woodhouse;
"and always did. And so does poor Mrs. Weston"--with half a sigh
and half a smile at her.
"I never saw any gentleman's handwriting"--Emma began, looking also
at Mrs. Weston; but stopped, on perceiving that Mrs. Weston was
attending to some one else--and the pause gave her time to reflect,
"Now, how am I going to introduce him?--Am I unequal to speaking
his name at once before all these people? Is it necessary
for me to use any roundabout phrase?--Your Yorkshire friend--
your correspondent in Yorkshire;--that would be the way, I suppose,
if I were very bad.--No, I can pronounce his name without the
smallest distress. I certainly get better and better.--Now for it."
Mrs. Weston was disengaged and Emma began again--"Mr. Frank Churchill
writes one of the best gentleman's hands I ever saw."
"I do not admire it," said Mr. Knightley. "It is too small--
wants strength. It is like a woman's writing."
This was not submitted to by either lady. They vindicated him
against the base aspersion. "No, it by no means wanted strength--
it was not a large hand, but very clear and certainly strong.
Had not Mrs. Weston any letter about her to produce?" No, she had
heard from him very lately, but having answered the letter, had put
"If we were in the other room," said Emma, "if I had my writing-desk,
I am sure I could produce a specimen. I have a note of his.--
Do not you remember, Mrs. Weston, employing him to write for you
"He chose to say he was employed"--
"Well, well, I have that note; and can shew it after dinner
to convince Mr. Knightley."
"Oh! when a gallant young man, like Mr. Frank Churchill,"
said Mr. Knightley dryly, "writes to a fair lady like Miss Woodhouse,
he will, of course, put forth his best."
Dinner was on table.--Mrs. Elton, before she could be spoken to,
was ready; and before Mr. Woodhouse had reached her with his request
to be allowed to hand her into the dining-parlour, was saying--
"Must I go first? I really am ashamed of always leading the way."
Jane's solicitude about fetching her own letters had not escaped Emma.
She had heard and seen it all; and felt some curiosity to know
whether the wet walk of this morning had produced any. She suspected
that it _had_; that it would not have been so resolutely encountered
but in full expectation of hearing from some one very dear,
and that it had not been in vain. She thought there was an air
of greater happiness than usual--a glow both of complexion and spirits.
She could have made an inquiry or two, as to the expedition
and the expense of the Irish mails;--it was at her tongue's end--
but she abstained. She was quite determined not to utter a word
that should hurt Jane Fairfax's feelings; and they followed
the other ladies out of the room, arm in arm, with an appearance
of good-will highly becoming to the beauty and grace of each.
When the ladies returned to the drawing-room after dinner, Emma found
it hardly possible to prevent their making two distinct parties;--
with so much perseverance in judging and behaving ill did Mrs. Elton
engross Jane Fairfax and slight herself. She and Mrs. Weston were
obliged to be almost always either talking together or silent together.
Mrs. Elton left them no choice. If Jane repressed her for a
little time, she soon began again; and though much that passed
between them was in a half-whisper, especially on Mrs. Elton's side,
there was no avoiding a knowledge of their principal subjects:
The post-office--catching cold--fetching letters--and friendship,
were long under discussion; and to them succeeded one, which must
be at least equally unpleasant to Jane--inquiries whether she had
yet heard of any situation likely to suit her, and professions of
Mrs. Elton's meditated activity.
"Here is April come!" said she, "I get quite anxious about you.
June will soon be here."
"But I have never fixed on June or any other month--merely looked
forward to the summer in general."
"But have you really heard of nothing?"
"I have not even made any inquiry; I do not wish to make any yet."
"Oh! my dear, we cannot begin too early; you are not aware
of the difficulty of procuring exactly the desirable thing."
"I not aware!" said Jane, shaking her head; "dear Mrs. Elton,
who can have thought of it as I have done?"
"But you have not seen so much of the world as I have. You do not
know how many candidates there always are for the _first_ situations.
I saw a vast deal of that in the neighbourhood round Maple Grove.
A cousin of Mr. Suckling, Mrs. Bragge, had such an infinity
of applications; every body was anxious to be in her family,
for she moves in the first circle. Wax-candles in the schoolroom!
You may imagine how desirable! Of all houses in the kingdom
Mrs. Bragge's is the one I would most wish to see you in."
"Colonel and Mrs. Campbell are to be in town again by midsummer,"
said Jane. "I must spend some time with them; I am sure they will
want it;--afterwards I may probably be glad to dispose of myself.
But I would not wish you to take the trouble of making any inquiries
"Trouble! aye, I know your scruples. You are afraid of giving
me trouble; but I assure you, my dear Jane, the Campbells can
hardly be more interested about you than I am. I shall write
to Mrs. Partridge in a day or two, and shall give her a strict
charge to be on the look-out for any thing eligible."
"Thank you, but I would rather you did not mention the subject
to her; till the time draws nearer, I do not wish to be giving
any body trouble."
"But, my dear child, the time is drawing near; here is April,
and June, or say even July, is very near, with such business
to accomplish before us. Your inexperience really amuses me!
A situation such as you deserve, and your friends would require for you,
is no everyday occurrence, is not obtained at a moment's notice;
indeed, indeed, we must begin inquiring directly."
"Excuse me, ma'am, but this is by no means my intention; I make no
inquiry myself, and should be sorry to have any made by my friends.
When I am quite determined as to the time, I am not at all afraid
of being long unemployed. There are places in town, offices,
where inquiry would soon produce something--Offices for the sale--
not quite of human flesh--but of human intellect."
"Oh! my dear, human flesh! You quite shock me; if you mean a fling
at the slave-trade, I assure you Mr. Suckling was always rather
a friend to the abolition."
"I did not mean, I was not thinking of the slave-trade," replied Jane;
"governess-trade, I assure you, was all that I had in view;
widely different certainly as to the guilt of those who carry it on;
but as to the greater misery of the victims, I do not know where
it lies. But I only mean to say that there are advertising offices,
and that by applying to them I should have no doubt of very soon
meeting with something that would do."
"Something that would do!" repeated Mrs. Elton. "Aye, _that_ may
suit your humble ideas of yourself;--I know what a modest creature
you are; but it will not satisfy your friends to have you taking up
with any thing that may offer, any inferior, commonplace situation,
in a family not moving in a certain circle, or able to command
the elegancies of life."
"You are very obliging; but as to all that, I am very indifferent;
it would be no object to me to be with the rich; my mortifications,
I think, would only be the greater; I should suffer more from comparison.
A gentleman's family is all that I should condition for."
"I know you, I know you; you would take up with any thing; but I
shall be a little more nice, and I am sure the good Campbells will
be quite on my side; with your superior talents, you have a right
to move in the first circle. Your musical knowledge alone would
entitle you to name your own terms, have as many rooms as you like,
and mix in the family as much as you chose;--that is--I do not know--
if you knew the harp, you might do all that, I am very sure;
but you sing as well as play;--yes, I really believe you might,
even without the harp, stipulate for what you chose;--and you must
and shall be delightfully, honourably and comfortably settled before
the Campbells or I have any rest."
"You may well class the delight, the honour, and the comfort
of such a situation together," said Jane, "they are pretty sure
to be equal; however, I am very serious in not wishing any thing
to be attempted at present for me. I am exceedingly obliged to you,
Mrs. Elton, I am obliged to any body who feels for me, but I am
quite serious in wishing nothing to be done till the summer.
For two or three months longer I shall remain where I am, and as
"And I am quite serious too, I assure you," replied Mrs. Elton gaily,
"in resolving to be always on the watch, and employing my friends
to watch also, that nothing really unexceptionable may pass us."
In this style she ran on; never thoroughly stopped by any thing
till Mr. Woodhouse came into the room; her vanity had then a change
of object, and Emma heard her saying in the same half-whisper to Jane,
"Here comes this dear old beau of mine, I protest!--Only think of his
gallantry in coming away before the other men!--what a dear creature
he is;--I assure you I like him excessively. I admire all that quaint,
old-fashioned politeness; it is much more to my taste than modern ease;
modern ease often disgusts me. But this good old Mr. Woodhouse,
I wish you had heard his gallant speeches to me at dinner. Oh! I assure
you I began to think my caro sposo would be absolutely jealous.
I fancy I am rather a favourite; he took notice of my gown.
How do you like it?--Selina's choice--handsome, I think, but I
do not know whether it is not over-trimmed; I have the greatest
dislike to the idea of being over-trimmed--quite a horror of finery.
I must put on a few ornaments now, because it is expected of me.
A bride, you know, must appear like a bride, but my natural taste
is all for simplicity; a simple style of dress is so infinitely
preferable to finery. But I am quite in the minority, I believe;
few people seem to value simplicity of dress,--show and finery
are every thing. I have some notion of putting such a trimming
as this to my white and silver poplin. Do you think it will
The whole party were but just reassembled in the drawing-room
when Mr. Weston made his appearance among them. He had returned
to a late dinner, and walked to Hartfield as soon as it was over.
He had been too much expected by the best judges, for surprize--
but there was great joy. Mr. Woodhouse was almost as glad to see
him now, as he would have been sorry to see him before. John Knightley
only was in mute astonishment.--That a man who might have spent
his evening quietly at home after a day of business in London,
should set off again, and walk half a mile to another man's house,
for the sake of being in mixed company till bed-time, of finishing
his day in the efforts of civility and the noise of numbers,
was a circumstance to strike him deeply. A man who had been in motion
since eight o'clock in the morning, and might now have been still,
who had been long talking, and might have been silent, who had been
in more than one crowd, and might have been alone!--Such a man,
to quit the tranquillity and independence of his own fireside,
and on the evening of a cold sleety April day rush out again into
the world!--Could he by a touch of his finger have instantly taken
back his wife, there would have been a motive; but his coming would
probably prolong rather than break up the party. John Knightley
looked at him with amazement, then shrugged his shoulders, and said,
"I could not have believed it even of _him_."
Mr. Weston meanwhile, perfectly unsuspicious of the indignation
he was exciting, happy and cheerful as usual, and with all
the right of being principal talker, which a day spent anywhere
from home confers, was making himself agreeable among the rest;
and having satisfied the inquiries of his wife as to his dinner,
convincing her that none of all her careful directions to the servants
had been forgotten, and spread abroad what public news he had heard,
was proceeding to a family communication, which, though principally
addressed to Mrs. Weston, he had not the smallest doubt of being
highly interesting to every body in the room. He gave her a letter,
it was from Frank, and to herself; he had met with it in his way,
and had taken the liberty of opening it.
"Read it, read it," said he, "it will give you pleasure;
only a few lines--will not take you long; read it to Emma."
The two ladies looked over it together; and he sat smiling
and talking to them the whole time, in a voice a little subdued,
but very audible to every body.
"Well, he is coming, you see; good news, I think. Well, what do
you say to it?--I always told you he would be here again soon,
did not I?--Anne, my dear, did not I always tell you so, and you would
not believe me?--In town next week, you see--at the latest, I dare say;
for _she_ is as impatient as the black gentleman when any thing is
to be done; most likely they will be there to-morrow or Saturday.
As to her illness, all nothing of course. But it is an excellent
thing to have Frank among us again, so near as town. They will stay
a good while when they do come, and he will be half his time with us.
This is precisely what I wanted. Well, pretty good news, is not it?
Have you finished it? Has Emma read it all? Put it up, put it up;
we will have a good talk about it some other time, but it will not
do now. I shall only just mention the circumstance to the others in a
Mrs. Weston was most comfortably pleased on the occasion.
Her looks and words had nothing to restrain them. She was happy,
she knew she was happy, and knew she ought to be happy.
Her congratulations were warm and open; but Emma could not speak
so fluently. _She_ was a little occupied in weighing her own feelings,
and trying to understand the degree of her agitation, which she
rather thought was considerable.
Mr. Weston, however, too eager to be very observant, too communicative
to want others to talk, was very well satisfied with what she did say,
and soon moved away to make the rest of his friends happy by a partial
communication of what the whole room must have overheard already.
It was well that he took every body's joy for granted, or he
might not have thought either Mr. Woodhouse or Mr. Knightley
particularly delighted. They were the first entitled,
after Mrs. Weston and Emma, to be made happy;--from them he would
have proceeded to Miss Fairfax, but she was so deep in conversation
with John Knightley, that it would have been too positive
an interruption; and finding himself close to Mrs. Elton, and
her attention disengaged, he necessarily began on the subject with her.
"I hope I shall soon have the pleasure of introducing my son to you,"
said Mr. Weston.
Mrs. Elton, very willing to suppose a particular compliment intended
her by such a hope, smiled most graciously.
"You have heard of a certain Frank Churchill, I presume," he continued--
"and know him to be my son, though he does not bear my name."
"Oh! yes, and I shall be very happy in his acquaintance.
I am sure Mr. Elton will lose no time in calling on him; and we
shall both have great pleasure in seeing him at the Vicarage."
"You are very obliging.--Frank will be extremely happy, I am sure.--
He is to be in town next week, if not sooner. We have notice of it
in a letter to-day. I met the letters in my way this morning,
and seeing my son's hand, presumed to open it--though it was not directed
to me--it was to Mrs. Weston. She is his principal correspondent,
I assure you. I hardly ever get a letter."
"And so you absolutely opened what was directed to her! Oh! Mr. Weston--
(laughing affectedly) I must protest against that.--A most dangerous
precedent indeed!--I beg you will not let your neighbours follow
your example.--Upon my word, if this is what I am to expect,
we married women must begin to exert ourselves!--Oh! Mr. Weston,
I could not have believed it of you!"
"Aye, we men are sad fellows. You must take care of yourself,
Mrs. Elton.--This letter tells us--it is a short letter--written in
a hurry, merely to give us notice--it tells us that they are all
coming up to town directly, on Mrs. Churchill's account--she has
not been well the whole winter, and thinks Enscombe too cold for her--
so they are all to move southward without loss of time."
"Indeed!--from Yorkshire, I think. Enscombe is in Yorkshire?"
"Yes, they are about one hundred and ninety miles from London.
a considerable journey."
"Yes, upon my word, very considerable. Sixty-five miles farther
than from Maple Grove to London. But what is distance, Mr. Weston,
to people of large fortune?--You would be amazed to hear how my brother,
Mr. Suckling, sometimes flies about. You will hardly believe me--
but twice in one week he and Mr. Bragge went to London and back again
with four horses."
"The evil of the distance from Enscombe," said Mr. Weston, "is, that
Mrs. Churchill, _as_ _we_ _understand_, has not been able to leave the
sofa for a week together. In Frank's last letter she complained,
he said, of being too weak to get into her conservatory without having
both his arm and his uncle's! This, you know, speaks a great degree
of weakness--but now she is so impatient to be in town, that she
means to sleep only two nights on the road.--So Frank writes word.
Certainly, delicate ladies have very extraordinary constitutions,
Mrs. Elton. You must grant me that."
"No, indeed, I shall grant you nothing. I Always take the part
of my own sex. I do indeed. I give you notice--You will find me
a formidable antagonist on that point. I always stand up for women--
and I assure you, if you knew how Selina feels with respect
to sleeping at an inn, you would not wonder at Mrs. Churchill's
making incredible exertions to avoid it. Selina says it is quite
horror to her--and I believe I have caught a little of her nicety.
She always travels with her own sheets; an excellent precaution.
Does Mrs. Churchill do the same?"
"Depend upon it, Mrs. Churchill does every thing that any other
fine lady ever did. Mrs. Churchill will not be second to any lady
in the land for"--
Mrs. Elton eagerly interposed with,
"Oh! Mr. Weston, do not mistake me. Selina is no fine lady,
I assure you. Do not run away with such an idea."
"Is not she? Then she is no rule for Mrs. Churchill, who is
as thorough a fine lady as any body ever beheld."
Mrs. Elton began to think she had been wrong in disclaiming so warmly.
It was by no means her object to have it believed that her sister
was _not_ a fine lady; perhaps there was want of spirit in the pretence
of it;--and she was considering in what way she had best retract,
when Mr. Weston went on.
"Mrs. Churchill is not much in my good graces, as you may suspect--
but this is quite between ourselves. She is very fond of Frank,
and therefore I would not speak ill of her. Besides, she is out of
health now; but _that_ indeed, by her own account, she has always been.
I would not say so to every body, Mrs. Elton, but I have not much
faith in Mrs. Churchill's illness."
"If she is really ill, why not go to Bath, Mr. Weston?--To Bath,
or to Clifton?" "She has taken it into her head that Enscombe is too
cold for her. The fact is, I suppose, that she is tired of Enscombe.
She has now been a longer time stationary there, than she ever
was before, and she begins to want change. It is a retired place.
A fine place, but very retired."
"Aye--like Maple Grove, I dare say. Nothing can stand more retired from
the road than Maple Grove. Such an immense plantation all round it!
You seem shut out from every thing--in the most complete retirement.--
And Mrs. Churchill probably has not health or spirits like Selina
to enjoy that sort of seclusion. Or, perhaps she may not have
resources enough in herself to be qualified for a country life.
I always say a woman cannot have too many resources--and I feel
very thankful that I have so many myself as to be quite independent
"Frank was here in February for a fortnight."
"So I remember to have heard. He will find an _addition_ to the
society of Highbury when he comes again; that is, if I may presume
to call myself an addition. But perhaps he may never have heard
of there being such a creature in the world."
This was too loud a call for a compliment to be passed by,
and Mr. Weston, with a very good grace, immediately exclaimed,
"My dear madam! Nobody but yourself could imagine such a
thing possible. Not heard of you!--I believe Mrs. Weston's
letters lately have been full of very little else than Mrs. Elton."
He had done his duty and could return to his son.
"When Frank left us," continued he, "it was quite uncertain when we
might see him again, which makes this day's news doubly welcome.
It has been completely unexpected. That is, _I_ always had a strong
persuasion he would be here again soon, I was sure something
favourable would turn up--but nobody believed me. He and Mrs. Weston
were both dreadfully desponding. `How could he contrive to come?
And how could it be supposed that his uncle and aunt would spare
him again?' and so forth--I always felt that something would happen
in our favour; and so it has, you see. I have observed, Mrs. Elton,
in the course of my life, that if things are going untowardly one month,
they are sure to mend the next."
"Very true, Mr. Weston, perfectly true. It is just what I used
to say to a certain gentleman in company in the days of courtship,
when, because things did not go quite right, did not proceed with all
the rapidity which suited his feelings, he was apt to be in despair,
and exclaim that he was sure at this rate it would be _May_ before
Hymen's saffron robe would be put on for us. Oh! the pains I have
been at to dispel those gloomy ideas and give him cheerfuller views!
The carriage--we had disappointments about the carriage;--one morning,
I remember, he came to me quite in despair."
She was stopped by a slight fit of coughing, and Mr. Weston instantly
seized the opportunity of going on.
"You were mentioning May. May is the very month which Mrs. Churchill
is ordered, or has ordered herself, to spend in some warmer place
than Enscombe--in short, to spend in London; so that we have the
agreeable prospect of frequent visits from Frank the whole spring--
precisely the season of the year which one should have chosen
for it: days almost at the longest; weather genial and pleasant,
always inviting one out, and never too hot for exercise. When he
was here before, we made the best of it; but there was a good deal
of wet, damp, cheerless weather; there always is in February, you know,
and we could not do half that we intended. Now will be the time.
This will be complete enjoyment; and I do not know, Mrs. Elton,
whether the uncertainty of our meetings, the sort of constant
expectation there will be of his coming in to-day or to-morrow,
and at any hour, may not be more friendly to happiness than having
him actually in the house. I think it is so. I think it is the
state of mind which gives most spirit and delight. I hope you
will be pleased with my son; but you must not expect a prodigy.
He is generally thought a fine young man, but do not expect a prodigy.
Mrs. Weston's partiality for him is very great, and, as you may suppose,
most gratifying to me. She thinks nobody equal to him."
"And I assure you, Mr. Weston, I have very little doubt that my
opinion will be decidedly in his favour. I have heard so much
in praise of Mr. Frank Churchill.--At the same time it is fair
to observe, that I am one of those who always judge for themselves,
and are by no means implicitly guided by others. I give you notice
that as I find your son, so I shall judge of him.--I am no flatterer."
Mr. Weston was musing.
"I hope," said he presently, "I have not been severe upon poor
Mrs. Churchill. If she is ill I should be sorry to do her injustice;
but there are some traits in her character which make it difficult
for me to speak of her with the forbearance I could wish.
You cannot be ignorant, Mrs. Elton, of my connexion with the family,
nor of the treatment I have met with; and, between ourselves,
the whole blame of it is to be laid to her. She was the instigator.
Frank's mother would never have been slighted as she was but for her.
Mr. Churchill has pride; but his pride is nothing to his wife's:
his is a quiet, indolent, gentlemanlike sort of pride that would
harm nobody, and only make himself a little helpless and tiresome;
but her pride is arrogance and insolence! And what inclines one less
to bear, she has no fair pretence of family or blood. She was nobody
when he married her, barely the daughter of a gentleman; but ever
since her being turned into a Churchill she has out-Churchill'd them
all in high and mighty claims: but in herself, I assure you, she is
"Only think! well, that must be infinitely provoking! I have quite
a horror of upstarts. Maple Grove has given me a thorough disgust
to people of that sort; for there is a family in that neighbourhood
who are such an annoyance to my brother and sister from the airs
they give themselves! Your description of Mrs. Churchill made me
think of them directly. People of the name of Tupman, very lately
settled there, and encumbered with many low connexions, but giving
themselves immense airs, and expecting to be on a footing with the old
established families. A year and a half is the very utmost that they can
have lived at West Hall; and how they got their fortune nobody knows.
They came from Birmingham, which is not a place to promise much,
you know, Mr. Weston. One has not great hopes from Birmingham.
I always say there is something direful in the sound: but nothing
more is positively known of the Tupmans, though a good many things
I assure you are suspected; and yet by their manners they evidently
think themselves equal even to my brother, Mr. Suckling, who happens
to be one of their nearest neighbours. It is infinitely too bad.
Mr. Suckling, who has been eleven years a resident at Maple Grove,
and whose father had it before him--I believe, at least--I am
almost sure that old Mr. Suckling had completed the purchase before
They were interrupted. Tea was carrying round, and Mr. Weston,
having said all that he wanted, soon took the opportunity of
After tea, Mr. and Mrs. Weston, and Mr. Elton sat down with Mr. Woodhouse
to cards. The remaining five were left to their own powers,
and Emma doubted their getting on very well; for Mr. Knightley seemed
little disposed for conversation; Mrs. Elton was wanting notice,
which nobody had inclination to pay, and she was herself
in a worry of spirits which would have made her prefer being silent.
Mr. John Knightley proved more talkative than his brother.
He was to leave them early the next day; and he soon began with--
"Well, Emma, I do not believe I have any thing more to say about
the boys; but you have your sister's letter, and every thing is
down at full length there we may be sure. My charge would be much
more concise than her's, and probably not much in the same spirit;
all that I have to recommend being comprised in, do not spoil them,
and do not physic them."
"I rather hope to satisfy you both," said Emma, "for I shall do all
in my power to make them happy, which will be enough for Isabella;
and happiness must preclude false indulgence and physic."
"And if you find them troublesome, you must send them home again."
"That is very likely. You think so, do not you?"
"I hope I am aware that they may be too noisy for your father--
or even may be some encumbrance to you, if your visiting engagements
continue to increase as much as they have done lately."
"Certainly; you must be sensible that the last half-year has made
a great difference in your way of life."
"Difference! No indeed I am not."
"There can be no doubt of your being much more engaged with company
than you used to be. Witness this very time. Here am I come
down for only one day, and you are engaged with a dinner-party!--
When did it happen before, or any thing like it? Your neighbourhood
is increasing, and you mix more with it. A little while ago,
every letter to Isabella brought an account of fresh gaieties;
dinners at Mr. Cole's, or balls at the Crown. The difference
which Randalls, Randalls alone makes in your goings-on, is very great."
"Yes," said his brother quickly, "it is Randalls that does it all."
"Very well--and as Randalls, I suppose, is not likely to have less
influence than heretofore, it strikes me as a possible thing, Emma,
that Henry and John may be sometimes in the way. And if they are,
I only beg you to send them home."
"No," cried Mr. Knightley, "that need not be the consequence.
Let them be sent to Donwell. I shall certainly be at leisure."
"Upon my word," exclaimed Emma, "you amuse me! I should like to know
how many of all my numerous engagements take place without your being
of the party; and why I am to be supposed in danger of wanting leisure
to attend to the little boys. These amazing engagements of mine--
what have they been? Dining once with the Coles--and having a ball
talked of, which never took place. I can understand you--(nodding at
Mr. John Knightley)--your good fortune in meeting with so many of
your friends at once here, delights you too much to pass unnoticed.
But you, (turning to Mr. Knightley,) who know how very, very seldom
I am ever two hours from Hartfield, why you should foresee such a
series of dissipation for me, I cannot imagine. And as to my dear
little boys, I must say, that if Aunt Emma has not time for them,
I do not think they would fare much better with Uncle Knightley,
who is absent from home about five hours where she is absent one--
and who, when he is at home, is either reading to himself or settling
Mr. Knightley seemed to be trying not to smile; and succeeded
without difficulty, upon Mrs. Elton's beginning to talk to him.
A very little quiet reflection was enough to satisfy Emma as to the
nature of her agitation on hearing this news of Frank Churchill.
She was soon convinced that it was not for herself she was feeling at
all apprehensive or embarrassed; it was for him. Her own attachment
had really subsided into a mere nothing; it was not worth thinking of;--
but if he, who had undoubtedly been always so much the most in love
of the two, were to be returning with the same warmth of sentiment
which he had taken away, it would be very distressing. If a separation
of two months should not have cooled him, there were dangers and evils
before her:--caution for him and for herself would be necessary.
She did not mean to have her own affections entangled again,
and it would be incumbent on her to avoid any encouragement of his.
She wished she might be able to keep him from an absolute declaration.
That would be so very painful a conclusion of their present acquaintance!
and yet, she could not help rather anticipating something decisive.
She felt as if the spring would not pass without bringing a crisis,
an event, a something to alter her present composed and tranquil state.
It was not very long, though rather longer than Mr. Weston had foreseen,
before she had the power of forming some opinion of Frank Churchill's
feelings. The Enscombe family were not in town quite so soon as had
been imagined, but he was at Highbury very soon afterwards. He rode
down for a couple of hours; he could not yet do more; but as he came
from Randalls immediately to Hartfield, she could then exercise all
her quick observation, and speedily determine how he was influenced,
and how she must act. They met with the utmost friendliness.
There could be no doubt of his great pleasure in seeing her.
But she had an almost instant doubt of his caring for her as he
had done, of his feeling the same tenderness in the same degree.
She watched him well. It was a clear thing he was less in love than he
had been. Absence, with the conviction probably of her indifference,
had produced this very natural and very desirable effect.
He was in high spirits; as ready to talk and laugh as ever, and seemed
delighted to speak of his former visit, and recur to old stories:
and he was not without agitation. It was not in his calmness that
she read his comparative difference. He was not calm; his spirits
were evidently fluttered; there was restlessness about him.
Lively as he was, it seemed a liveliness that did not satisfy himself;
but what decided her belief on the subject, was his staying only a
quarter of an hour, and hurrying away to make other calls in Highbury.
"He had seen a group of old acquaintance in the street as he passed--
he had not stopped, he would not stop for more than a word--but he
had the vanity to think they would be disappointed if he did not call,
and much as he wished to stay longer at Hartfield, he must hurry off."
She had no doubt as to his being less in love--but neither his
agitated spirits, nor his hurrying away, seemed like a perfect cure;
and she was rather inclined to think it implied a dread of her
returning power, and a discreet resolution of not trusting himself
with her long.
This was the only visit from Frank Churchill in the course of ten days.
He was often hoping, intending to come--but was always prevented.
His aunt could not bear to have him leave her. Such was his own account
at Randall's. If he were quite sincere, if he really tried to come,
it was to be inferred that Mrs. Churchill's removal to London had
been of no service to the wilful or nervous part of her disorder.
That she was really ill was very certain; he had declared himself
convinced of it, at Randalls. Though much might be fancy, he could
not doubt, when he looked back, that she was in a weaker state
of health than she had been half a year ago. He did not believe it
to proceed from any thing that care and medicine might not remove,
or at least that she might not have many years of existence before her;
but he could not be prevailed on, by all his father's doubts, to say
that her complaints were merely imaginary, or that she was as strong
It soon appeared that London was not the place for her. She could
not endure its noise. Her nerves were under continual irritation
and suffering; and by the ten days' end, her nephew's letter to
Randalls communicated a change of plan. They were going to remove
immediately to Richmond. Mrs. Churchill had been recommended
to the medical skill of an eminent person there, and had otherwise
a fancy for the place. A ready-furnished house in a favourite
spot was engaged, and much benefit expected from the change.
Emma heard that Frank wrote in the highest spirits of this arrangement,
and seemed most fully to appreciate the blessing of having two
months before him of such near neighbourhood to many dear friends--
for the house was taken for May and June. She was told that now
he wrote with the greatest confidence of being often with them,
almost as often as he could even wish.
Emma saw how Mr. Weston understood these joyous prospects. He was
considering her as the source of all the happiness they offered.
She hoped it was not so. Two months must bring it to the proof.
Mr. Weston's own happiness was indisputable. He was quite delighted.
It was the very circumstance he could have wished for. Now, it would
be really having Frank in their neighbourhood. What were nine miles
to a young man?--An hour's ride. He would be always coming over.
The difference in that respect of Richmond and London was enough
to make the whole difference of seeing him always and seeing
him never. Sixteen miles--nay, eighteen--it must be full eighteen
to Manchester-street--was a serious obstacle. Were he ever able
to get away, the day would be spent in coming and returning.
There was no comfort in having him in London; he might as well be
at Enscombe; but Richmond was the very distance for easy intercourse.
Better than nearer!
One good thing was immediately brought to a certainty by this removal,--
the ball at the Crown. It had not been forgotten before, but it had
been soon acknowledged vain to attempt to fix a day. Now, however,
it was absolutely to be; every preparation was resumed, and very soon
after the Churchills had removed to Richmond, a few lines from Frank,
to say that his aunt felt already much better for the change,
and that he had no doubt of being able to join them for twenty-four
hours at any given time, induced them to name as early a day as possible.
Mr. Weston's ball was to be a real thing. A very few to-morrows
stood between the young people of Highbury and happiness.
Mr. Woodhouse was resigned. The time of year lightened the evil
to him. May was better for every thing than February. Mrs. Bates
was engaged to spend the evening at Hartfield, James had due notice,
and he sanguinely hoped that neither dear little Henry nor dear
little John would have any thing the matter with them, while dear
Emma were gone.
No misfortune occurred, again to prevent the ball. The day approached,
the day arrived; and after a morning of some anxious watching,
Frank Churchill, in all the certainty of his own self, reached Randalls
before dinner, and every thing was safe.
No second meeting had there yet been between him and Emma.
The room at the Crown was to witness it;--but it would be better
than a common meeting in a crowd. Mr. Weston had been so very
earnest in his entreaties for her arriving there as soon as possible
after themselves, for the purpose of taking her opinion as to the
propriety and comfort of the rooms before any other persons came,
that she could not refuse him, and must therefore spend some quiet
interval in the young man's company. She was to convey Harriet,
and they drove to the Crown in good time, the Randalls party just
sufficiently before them.
Frank Churchill seemed to have been on the watch; and though
he did not say much, his eyes declared that he meant to have
a delightful evening. They all walked about together, to see
that every thing was as it should be; and within a few minutes
were joined by the contents of another carriage, which Emma
could not hear the sound of at first, without great surprize.
"So unreasonably early!" she was going to exclaim; but she presently
found that it was a family of old friends, who were coming, like herself,
by particular desire, to help Mr. Weston's judgment; and they were
so very closely followed by another carriage of cousins, who had been
entreated to come early with the same distinguishing earnestness,
on the same errand, that it seemed as if half the company might
soon be collected together for the purpose of preparatory inspection.
Emma perceived that her taste was not the only taste on which
Mr. Weston depended, and felt, that to be the favourite and
intimate of a man who had so many intimates and confidantes,
was not the very first distinction in the scale of vanity.
She liked his open manners, but a little less of open-heartedness
would have made him a higher character.--General benevolence,
but not general friendship, made a man what he ought to be.--
She could fancy such a man. The whole party walked about,
and looked, and praised again; and then, having nothing else to do,
formed a sort of half-circle round the fire, to observe in their
various modes, till other subjects were started, that, though _May_,
a fire in the evening was still very pleasant.
Emma found that it was not Mr. Weston's fault that the number
of privy councillors was not yet larger. They had stopped
at Mrs. Bates's door to offer the use of their carriage,
but the aunt and niece were to be brought by the Eltons.
Frank was standing by her, but not steadily; there was a restlessness,
which shewed a mind not at ease. He was looking about, he was going
to the door, he was watching for the sound of other carriages,--
impatient to begin, or afraid of being always near her.
Mrs. Elton was spoken of. "I think she must be here soon," said he.
"I have a great curiosity to see Mrs. Elton, I have heard so much
of her. It cannot be long, I think, before she comes."
A carriage was heard. He was on the move immediately;
but coming back, said,
"I am forgetting that I am not acquainted with her. I have never seen
either Mr. or Mrs. Elton. I have no business to put myself forward."
Mr. and Mrs. Elton appeared; and all the smiles and the proprieties passed.
"But Miss Bates and Miss Fairfax!" said Mr. Weston, looking about.
"We thought you were to bring them."
The mistake had been slight. The carriage was sent for them now.
Emma longed to know what Frank's first opinion of Mrs. Elton
might be; how he was affected by the studied elegance of her dress,
and her smiles of graciousness. He was immediately qualifying
himself to form an opinion, by giving her very proper attention,
after the introduction had passed.
In a few minutes the carriage returned.--Somebody talked of rain.--
"I will see that there are umbrellas, sir," said Frank to his father:
"Miss Bates must not be forgotten:" and away he went. Mr. Weston
was following; but Mrs. Elton detained him, to gratify him by her
opinion of his son; and so briskly did she begin, that the young
man himself, though by no means moving slowly, could hardly be out
"A very fine young man indeed, Mr. Weston. You know I candidly told
you I should form my own opinion; and I am happy to say that I am
extremely pleased with him.--You may believe me. I never compliment.
I think him a very handsome young man, and his manners are precisely
what I like and approve--so truly the gentleman, without the least
conceit or puppyism. You must know I have a vast dislike to puppies--
quite a horror of them. They were never tolerated at Maple Grove.
Neither Mr. Suckling nor me had ever any patience with them; and we
used sometimes to say very cutting things! Selina, who is mild almost
to a fault, bore with them much better."
While she talked of his son, Mr. Weston's attention was chained;
but when she got to Maple Grove, he could recollect that there were
ladies just arriving to be attended to, and with happy smiles must
Mrs. Elton turned to Mrs. Weston. "I have no doubt of its being
our carriage with Miss Bates and Jane. Our coachman and horses are
so extremely expeditious!--I believe we drive faster than any body.--
What a pleasure it is to send one's carriage for a friend!--
I understand you were so kind as to offer, but another time it
will be quite unnecessary. You may be very sure I shall always
take care of _them_."
Miss Bates and Miss Fairfax, escorted by the two gentlemen,
walked into the room; and Mrs. Elton seemed to think it as much
her duty as Mrs. Weston's to receive them. Her gestures and
movements might be understood by any one who looked on like Emma;
but her words, every body's words, were soon lost under the
incessant flow of Miss Bates, who came in talking, and had not
finished her speech under many minutes after her being admitted
into the circle at the fire. As the door opened she was heard,
"So very obliging of you!--No rain at all. Nothing to signify.
I do not care for myself. Quite thick shoes. And Jane declares--
Well!--(as soon as she was within the door) Well! This is brilliant
indeed!--This is admirable!--Excellently contrived, upon my word.
Nothing wanting. Could not have imagined it.--So well lighted up!--
Jane, Jane, look!--did you ever see any thing? Oh! Mr. Weston,
you must really have had Aladdin's lamp. Good Mrs. Stokes
would not know her own room again. I saw her as I came in;
she was standing in the entrance. `Oh! Mrs. Stokes,' said I--
but I had not time for more." She was now met by Mrs. Weston.--
"Very well, I thank you, ma'am. I hope you are quite well.
Very happy to hear it. So afraid you might have a headache!--
seeing you pass by so often, and knowing how much trouble you must have.
Delighted to hear it indeed. Ah! dear Mrs. Elton, so obliged
to you for the carriage!--excellent time. Jane and I quite ready.
Did not keep the horses a moment. Most comfortable carriage.--
Oh! and I am sure our thanks are due to you, Mrs. Weston, on that score.
Mrs. Elton had most kindly sent Jane a note, or we should have been.--
But two such offers in one day!--Never were such neighbours.
I said to my mother, `Upon my word, ma'am--.' Thank you, my mother
is remarkably well. Gone to Mr. Woodhouse's. I made her take
her shawl--for the evenings are not warm--her large new shawl--
Mrs. Dixon's wedding-present.--So kind of her to think of my mother!
Bought at Weymouth, you know--Mr. Dixon's choice. There were
three others, Jane says, which they hesitated about some time.
Colonel Campbell rather preferred an olive. My dear Jane,
are you sure you did not wet your feet?--It was but a drop or two,
but I am so afraid:--but Mr. Frank Churchill was so extremely--
and there was a mat to step upon--I shall never forget his
extreme politeness.--Oh! Mr. Frank Churchill, I must tell you
my mother's spectacles have never been in fault since; the rivet
never came out again. My mother often talks of your good-nature.
Does not she, Jane?--Do not we often talk of Mr. Frank Churchill?--
Ah! here's Miss Woodhouse.--Dear Miss Woodhouse, how do you do?--
Very well I thank you, quite well. This is meeting quite in fairy-land!--
Such a transformation!--Must not compliment, I know (eyeing Emma
most complacently)--that would be rude--but upon my word, Miss Woodhouse,
you do look--how do you like Jane's hair?--You are a judge.--
She did it all herself. Quite wonderful how she does her hair!--
No hairdresser from London I think could.--Ah! Dr. Hughes I declare--
and Mrs. Hughes. Must go and speak to Dr. and Mrs. Hughes for
a moment.--How do you do? How do you do?--Very well, I thank you.
This is delightful, is not it?--Where's dear Mr. Richard?--
Oh! there he is. Don't disturb him. Much better employed talking
to the young ladies. How do you do, Mr. Richard?--I saw you the
other day as you rode through the town--Mrs. Otway, I protest!--
and good Mr. Otway, and Miss Otway and Miss Caroline.--Such a host
of friends!--and Mr. George and Mr. Arthur!--How do you do? How do
you all do?--Quite well, I am much obliged to you. Never better.--
Don't I hear another carriage?--Who can this be?--very likely the
worthy Coles.--Upon my word, this is charming to be standing about
among such friends! And such a noble fire!--I am quite roasted.
No coffee, I thank you, for me--never take coffee.--A little tea
if you please, sir, by and bye,--no hurry--Oh! here it comes.
Every thing so good!"
Frank Churchill returned to his station by Emma; and as soon as Miss
Bates was quiet, she found herself necessarily overhearing the
discourse of Mrs. Elton and Miss Fairfax, who were standing a little
way behind her.--He was thoughtful. Whether he were overhearing too,
she could not determine. After a good many compliments to Jane
on her dress and look, compliments very quietly and properly taken,
Mrs. Elton was evidently wanting to be complimented herself--
and it was, "How do you like my gown?--How do you like my trimming?--
How has Wright done my hair?"--with many other relative questions,
all answered with patient politeness. Mrs. Elton then said,
"Nobody can think less of dress in general than I do--but upon such
an occasion as this, when every body's eyes are so much upon me,
and in compliment to the Westons--who I have no doubt are giving
this ball chiefly to do me honour--I would not wish to be inferior
to others. And I see very few pearls in the room except mine.--
So Frank Churchill is a capital dancer, I understand.--We shall see
if our styles suit.--A fine young man certainly is Frank Churchill.
I like him very well."
At this moment Frank began talking so vigorously, that Emma could
not but imagine he had overheard his own praises, and did not want
to hear more;--and the voices of the ladies were drowned for a while,
till another suspension brought Mrs. Elton's tones again distinctly
forward.--Mr. Elton had just joined them, and his wife was exclaiming,
"Oh! you have found us out at last, have you, in our seclusion?--
I was this moment telling Jane, I thought you would begin to be
impatient for tidings of us."
"Jane!"--repeated Frank Churchill, with a look of surprize and displeasure.--
"That is easy--but Miss Fairfax does not disapprove it, I suppose."
"How do you like Mrs. Elton?" said Emma in a whisper.
"Not at all."
"You are ungrateful."
"Ungrateful!--What do you mean?" Then changing from a frown to
a smile--"No, do not tell me--I do not want to know what you mean.--
Where is my father?--When are we to begin dancing?"
Emma could hardly understand him; he seemed in an odd humour.
He walked off to find his father, but was quickly back again with both
Mr. and Mrs. Weston. He had met with them in a little perplexity,
which must be laid before Emma. It had just occurred to Mrs. Weston
that Mrs. Elton must be asked to begin the ball; that she would
expect it; which interfered with all their wishes of giving Emma
that distinction.--Emma heard the sad truth with fortitude.
"And what are we to do for a proper partner for her?" said Mr. Weston.
"She will think Frank ought to ask her."
Frank turned instantly to Emma, to claim her former promise;
and boasted himself an engaged man, which his father looked his most
perfect approbation of--and it then appeared that Mrs. Weston was
wanting _him_ to dance with Mrs. Elton himself, and that their business
was to help to persuade him into it, which was done pretty soon.--
Mr. Weston and Mrs. Elton led the way, Mr. Frank Churchill and Miss
Woodhouse followed. Emma must submit to stand second to Mrs. Elton,
though she had always considered the ball as peculiarly for her.
It was almost enough to make her think of marrying. Mrs. Elton had
undoubtedly the advantage, at this time, in vanity completely gratified;
for though she had intended to begin with Frank Churchill, she could
not lose by the change. Mr. Weston might be his son's superior.--
In spite of this little rub, however, Emma was smiling with enjoyment,
delighted to see the respectable length of the set as it was forming,
and to feel that she had so many hours of unusual festivity before her.--
She was more disturbed by Mr. Knightley's not dancing than by any
thing else.--There he was, among the standers-by, where he ought not
to be; he ought to be dancing,--not classing himself with the husbands,
and fathers, and whist-players, who were pretending to feel an interest
in the dance till their rubbers were made up,--so young as he looked!--
He could not have appeared to greater advantage perhaps anywhere,
than where he had placed himself. His tall, firm, upright figure,
among the bulky forms and stooping shoulders of the elderly men,
was such as Emma felt must draw every body's eyes; and, excepting her
own partner, there was not one among the whole row of young men
who could be compared with him.--He moved a few steps nearer,
and those few steps were enough to prove in how gentlemanlike
a manner, with what natural grace, he must have danced, would he
but take the trouble.--Whenever she caught his eye, she forced him
to smile; but in general he was looking grave. She wished he could
love a ballroom better, and could like Frank Churchill better.--
He seemed often observing her. She must not flatter herself that he
thought of her dancing, but if he were criticising her behaviour,
she did not feel afraid. There was nothing like flirtation between
her and her partner. They seemed more like cheerful, easy friends,
than lovers. That Frank Churchill thought less of her than he had done,
The ball proceeded pleasantly. The anxious cares, the incessant
attentions of Mrs. Weston, were not thrown away. Every body
seemed happy; and the praise of being a delightful ball,
which is seldom bestowed till after a ball has ceased to be,
was repeatedly given in the very beginning of the existence of this.
Of very important, very recordable events, it was not more productive
than such meetings usually are. There was one, however, which Emma
thought something of.--The two last dances before supper were begun,
and Harriet had no partner;--the only young lady sitting down;--
and so equal had been hitherto the number of dancers, that how there
could be any one disengaged was the wonder!--But Emma's wonder
lessened soon afterwards, on seeing Mr. Elton sauntering about.
He would not ask Harriet to dance if it were possible to be avoided:
she was sure he would not--and she was expecting him every moment to
escape into the card-room.
Escape, however, was not his plan. He came to the part of the room
where the sitters-by were collected, spoke to some, and walked about
in front of them, as if to shew his liberty, and his resolution
of maintaining it. He did not omit being sometimes directly
before Miss Smith, or speaking to those who were close to her.--
Emma saw it. She was not yet dancing; she was working her way
up from the bottom, and had therefore leisure to look around,
and by only turning her head a little she saw it all. When she was
half-way up the set, the whole group were exactly behind her, and she
would no longer allow her eyes to watch; but Mr. Elton was so near,
that she heard every syllable of a dialogue which just then took
place between him and Mrs. Weston; and she perceived that his wife,
who was standing immediately above her, was not only listening also,
but even encouraging him by significant glances.--The kind-hearted,
gentle Mrs. Weston had left her seat to join him and say, "Do not
you dance, Mr. Elton?" to which his prompt reply was, "Most readily,
Mrs. Weston, if you will dance with me."
"Me!--oh! no--I would get you a better partner than myself.
I am no dancer."
"If Mrs. Gilbert wishes to dance," said he, "I shall have great pleasure,
I am sure--for, though beginning to feel myself rather an old married man,
and that my dancing days are over, it would give me very great
pleasure at any time to stand up with an old friend like Mrs. Gilbert."
"Mrs. Gilbert does not mean to dance, but there is a young lady
disengaged whom I should be very glad to see dancing--Miss Smith."
"Miss Smith!--oh!--I had not observed.--You are extremely obliging--
and if I were not an old married man.--But my dancing days are over,
Mrs. Weston. You will excuse me. Any thing else I should be most happy
to do, at your command--but my dancing days are over."
Mrs. Weston said no more; and Emma could imagine with what
surprize and mortification she must be returning to her seat.
This was Mr. Elton! the amiable, obliging, gentle Mr. Elton.--
She looked round for a moment; he had joined Mr. Knightley at a
little distance, and was arranging himself for settled conversation,
while smiles of high glee passed between him and his wife.
She would not look again. Her heart was in a glow, and she feared
her face might be as hot.
In another moment a happier sight caught her;--Mr. Knightley
leading Harriet to the set!--Never had she been more surprized,
seldom more delighted, than at that instant. She was all pleasure
and gratitude, both for Harriet and herself, and longed to be
thanking him; and though too distant for speech, her countenance
said much, as soon as she could catch his eye again.
His dancing proved to be just what she had believed it,
extremely good; and Harriet would have seemed almost too lucky,
if it had not been for the cruel state of things before, and for
the very complete enjoyment and very high sense of the distinction
which her happy features announced. It was not thrown away on her,
she bounded higher than ever, flew farther down the middle,
and was in a continual course of smiles.
Mr. Elton had retreated into the card-room, looking (Emma trusted)
very foolish. She did not think he was quite so hardened as his wife,
though growing very like her;--_she_ spoke some of her feelings,
by observing audibly to her partner,
"Knightley has taken pity on poor little Miss Smith!--Very goodnatured,
Supper was announced. The move began; and Miss Bates might be
heard from that moment, without interruption, till her being
seated at table and taking up her spoon.
"Jane, Jane, my dear Jane, where are you?--Here is your tippet.
Mrs. Weston begs you to put on your tippet. She says she is afraid
there will be draughts in the passage, though every thing has
been done--One door nailed up--Quantities of matting--My dear Jane,
indeed you must. Mr. Churchill, oh! you are too obliging!
How well you put it on!--so gratified! Excellent dancing indeed!--
Yes, my dear, I ran home, as I said I should, to help grandmama
to bed, and got back again, and nobody missed me.--I set off without
saying a word, just as I told you. Grandmama was quite well,
had a charming evening with Mr. Woodhouse, a vast deal of chat,
and backgammon.--Tea was made downstairs, biscuits and baked apples
and wine before she came away: amazing luck in some of her throws:
and she inquired a great deal about you, how you were amused,
and who were your partners. `Oh!' said I, `I shall not forestall Jane;
I left her dancing with Mr. George Otway; she will love to tell you
all about it herself to-morrow: her first partner was Mr. Elton,
I do not know who will ask her next, perhaps Mr. William Cox.'
My dear sir, you are too obliging.--Is there nobody you would
not rather?--I am not helpless. Sir, you are most kind. Upon my word,
Jane on one arm, and me on the other!--Stop, stop, let us stand
a little back, Mrs. Elton is going; dear Mrs. Elton, how elegant
she looks!--Beautiful lace!--Now we all follow in her train.
Quite the queen of the evening!--Well, here we are at the passage.
Two steps, Jane, take care of the two steps. Oh! no, there is
but one. Well, I was persuaded there were two. How very odd!
I was convinced there were two, and there is but one. I never saw any
thing equal to the comfort and style--Candles everywhere.--I was telling
you of your grandmama, Jane,--There was a little disappointment.--
The baked apples and biscuits, excellent in their way, you know;
but there was a delicate fricassee of sweetbread and some asparagus
brought in at first, and good Mr. Woodhouse, not thinking the
asparagus quite boiled enough, sent it all out again. Now there
is nothing grandmama loves better than sweetbread and asparagus--
so she was rather disappointed, but we agreed we would not speak of it
to any body, for fear of its getting round to dear Miss Woodhouse,
who would be so very much concerned!--Well, this is brilliant!
I am all amazement! could not have supposed any thing!--Such
elegance and profusion!--I have seen nothing like it since--
Well, where shall we sit? where shall we sit? Anywhere, so that
Jane is not in a draught. Where _I_ sit is of no consequence.
Oh! do you recommend this side?--Well, I am sure, Mr. Churchill--
only it seems too good--but just as you please. What you direct
in this house cannot be wrong. Dear Jane, how shall we ever
recollect half the dishes for grandmama? Soup too! Bless me!
I should not be helped so soon, but it smells most excellent, and I
cannot help beginning."
Emma had no opportunity of speaking to Mr. Knightley till
after supper; but, when they were all in the ballroom again,
her eyes invited him irresistibly to come to her and be thanked.
He was warm in his reprobation of Mr. Elton's conduct; it had been
unpardonable rudeness; and Mrs. Elton's looks also received the due
share of censure.
"They aimed at wounding more than Harriet," said he. "Emma, why
is it that they are your enemies?"
He looked with smiling penetration; and, on receiving
no answer, added, "_She_ ought not to be angry with you, I suspect,
whatever he may be.--To that surmise, you say nothing, of course;
but confess, Emma, that you did want him to marry Harriet."
"I did," replied Emma, "and they cannot forgive me."
He shook his head; but there was a smile of indulgence with it,
and he only said,
"I shall not scold you. I leave you to your own reflections."
"Can you trust me with such flatterers?--Does my vain spirit ever
tell me I am wrong?"
"Not your vain spirit, but your serious spirit.--If one leads
you wrong, I am sure the other tells you of it."
"I do own myself to have been completely mistaken in Mr. Elton.
There is a littleness about him which you discovered, and which I
did not: and I was fully convinced of his being in love with Harriet.
It was through a series of strange blunders!"
"And, in return for your acknowledging so much, I will do you the justice
to say, that you would have chosen for him better than he has chosen for
himself.--Harriet Smith has some first-rate qualities, which Mrs. Elton
is totally without. An unpretending, single-minded, artless girl--
infinitely to be preferred by any man of sense and taste to such
a woman as Mrs. Elton. I found Harriet more conversable than I expected."
Emma was extremely gratified.--They were interrupted by the bustle
of Mr. Weston calling on every body to begin dancing again.
"Come Miss Woodhouse, Miss Otway, Miss Fairfax, what are you all doing?--
Come Emma, set your companions the example. Every body is lazy!
Every body is asleep!"
"I am ready," said Emma, "whenever I am wanted."
"Whom are you going to dance with?" asked Mr. Knightley.
She hesitated a moment, and then replied, "With you, if you will
"Will you?" said he, offering his hand.
"Indeed I will. You have shewn that you can dance, and you know we
are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper."
"Brother and sister! no, indeed."
This little explanation with Mr. Knightley gave Emma considerable
pleasure. It was one of the agreeable recollections of the ball,
which she walked about the lawn the next morning to enjoy.--She was
extremely glad that they had come to so good an understanding respecting
the Eltons, and that their opinions of both husband and wife were so
much alike; and his praise of Harriet, his concession in her favour,
was peculiarly gratifying. The impertinence of the Eltons, which for
a few minutes had threatened to ruin the rest of her evening, had been
the occasion of some of its highest satisfactions; and she looked
forward to another happy result--the cure of Harriet's infatuation.--
From Harriet's manner of speaking of the circumstance before they
quitted the ballroom, she had strong hopes. It seemed as if her eyes
were suddenly opened, and she were enabled to see that Mr. Elton
was not the superior creature she had believed him. The fever
was over, and Emma could harbour little fear of the pulse being
quickened again by injurious courtesy. She depended on the evil
feelings of the Eltons for supplying all the discipline of pointed
neglect that could be farther requisite.--Harriet rational,
Frank Churchill not too much in love, and Mr. Knightley not
wanting to quarrel with her, how very happy a summer must be before her!
She was not to see Frank Churchill this morning. He had told
her that he could not allow himself the pleasure of stopping
at Hartfield, as he was to be at home by the middle of the day.
She did not regret it.
Having arranged all these matters, looked them through, and put them all
to rights, she was just turning to the house with spirits freshened up
for the demands of the two little boys, as well as of their grandpapa,
when the great iron sweep-gate opened, and two persons entered
whom she had never less expected to see together--Frank Churchill,
with Harriet leaning on his arm--actually Harriet!--A moment
sufficed to convince her that something extraordinary had happened.
Harriet looked white and frightened, and he was trying to cheer her.--
The iron gates and the front-door were not twenty yards asunder;--
they were all three soon in the hall, and Harriet immediately sinking
into a chair fainted away.
A young lady who faints, must be recovered; questions must be answered,
and surprizes be explained. Such events are very interesting,
but the suspense of them cannot last long. A few minutes made Emma
acquainted with the whole.
Miss Smith, and Miss Bickerton, another parlour boarder at
Mrs. Goddard's, who had been also at the ball, had walked out together,
and taken a road, the Richmond road, which, though apparently public
enough for safety, had led them into alarm.--About half a mile
beyond Highbury, making a sudden turn, and deeply shaded by elms
on each side, it became for a considerable stretch very retired;
and when the young ladies had advanced some way into it,
they had suddenly perceived at a small distance before them,
on a broader patch of greensward by the side, a party of gipsies.
A child on the watch, came towards them to beg; and Miss Bickerton,
excessively frightened, gave a great scream, and calling on Harriet
to follow her, ran up a steep bank, cleared a slight hedge at the top,
and made the best of her way by a short cut back to Highbury.
But poor Harriet could not follow. She had suffered very much
from cramp after dancing, and her first attempt to mount the bank
brought on such a return of it as made her absolutely powerless--
and in this state, and exceedingly terrified, she had been obliged
How the trampers might have behaved, had the young ladies been
more courageous, must be doubtful; but such an invitation for attack
could not be resisted; and Harriet was soon assailed by half a
dozen children, headed by a stout woman and a great boy, all clamorous,
and impertinent in look, though not absolutely in word.--More and
more frightened, she immediately promised them money, and taking out
her purse, gave them a shilling, and begged them not to want more,
or to use her ill.--She was then able to walk, though but slowly,
and was moving away--but her terror and her purse were too tempting,
and she was followed, or rather surrounded, by the whole gang,
In this state Frank Churchill had found her, she trembling
and conditioning, they loud and insolent. By a most fortunate
chance his leaving Highbury had been delayed so as to bring him
to her assistance at this critical moment. The pleasantness
of the morning had induced him to walk forward, and leave his
horses to meet him by another road, a mile or two beyond Highbury--
and happening to have borrowed a pair of scissors the night before
of Miss Bates, and to have forgotten to restore them, he had
been obliged to stop at her door, and go in for a few minutes:
he was therefore later than he had intended; and being on foot,
was unseen by the whole party till almost close to them.
The terror which the woman and boy had been creating in Harriet
was then their own portion. He had left them completely frightened;
and Harriet eagerly clinging to him, and hardly able to speak,
had just strength enough to reach Hartfield, before her spirits
were quite overcome. It was his idea to bring her to Hartfield:
he had thought of no other place.
This was the amount of the whole story,--of his communication and
of Harriet's as soon as she had recovered her senses and speech.--
He dared not stay longer than to see her well; these several delays
left him not another minute to lose; and Emma engaging to give
assurance of her safety to Mrs. Goddard, and notice of there
being such a set of people in the neighbourhood to Mr. Knightley,
he set off, with all the grateful blessings that she could utter
for her friend and herself.
Such an adventure as this,--a fine young man and a lovely young
woman thrown together in such a way, could hardly fail of suggesting
certain ideas to the coldest heart and the steadiest brain.
So Emma thought, at least. Could a linguist, could a grammarian,
could even a mathematician have seen what she did, have witnessed their
appearance together, and heard their history of it, without feeling
that circumstances had been at work to make them peculiarly interesting
to each other?--How much more must an imaginist, like herself,
be on fire with speculation and foresight!--especially with such
a groundwork of anticipation as her mind had already made.
It was a very extraordinary thing! Nothing of the sort had ever
occurred before to any young ladies in the place, within her memory;
no rencontre, no alarm of the kind;--and now it had happened
to the very person, and at the very hour, when the other very
person was chancing to pass by to rescue her!--It certainly
was very extraordinary!--And knowing, as she did, the favourable
state of mind of each at this period, it struck her the more.
He was wishing to get the better of his attachment to herself,
she just recovering from her mania for Mr. Elton. It seemed as if
every thing united to promise the most interesting consequences.
It was not possible that the occurrence should not be strongly
recommending each to the other.
In the few minutes' conversation which she had yet had with him,
while Harriet had been partially insensible, he had spoken of her terror,
her naivete, her fervour as she seized and clung to his arm, with a
sensibility amused and delighted; and just at last, after Harriet's
own account had been given, he had expressed his indignation
at the abominable folly of Miss Bickerton in the warmest terms.
Every thing was to take its natural course, however, neither impelled
nor assisted. She would not stir a step, nor drop a hint.
No, she had had enough of interference. There could be no harm
in a scheme, a mere passive scheme. It was no more than a wish.
Beyond it she would on no account proceed.
Emma's first resolution was to keep her father from the knowledge
of what had passed,--aware of the anxiety and alarm it would occasion:
but she soon felt that concealment must be impossible. Within half
an hour it was known all over Highbury. It was the very event
to engage those who talk most, the young and the low; and all
the youth and servants in the place were soon in the happiness of
frightful news. The last night's ball seemed lost in the gipsies.
Poor Mr. Woodhouse trembled as he sat, and, as Emma had foreseen,
would scarcely be satisfied without their promising never to go
beyond the shrubbery again. It was some comfort to him that many
inquiries after himself and Miss Woodhouse (for his neighbours
knew that he loved to be inquired after), as well as Miss Smith,
were coming in during the rest of the day; and he had the pleasure
of returning for answer, that they were all very indifferent--
which, though not exactly true, for she was perfectly well,
and Harriet not much otherwise, Emma would not interfere with.
She had an unhappy state of health in general for the child of such
a man, for she hardly knew what indisposition was; and if he did not
invent illnesses for her, she could make no figure in a message.
The gipsies did not wait for the operations of justice; they took
themselves off in a hurry. The young ladies of Highbury might have
walked again in safety before their panic began, and the whole
history dwindled soon into a matter of little importance but to Emma
and her nephews:--in her imagination it maintained its ground,
and Henry and John were still asking every day for the story of
Harriet and the gipsies, and still tenaciously setting her right
if she varied in the slightest particular from the original recital.
A very few days had passed after this adventure, when Harriet came
one morning to Emma with a small parcel in her hand, and after
sitting down and hesitating, thus began:
"Miss Woodhouse--if you are at leisure--I have something that I
should like to tell you--a sort of confession to make--and then,
you know, it will be over."
Emma was a good deal surprized; but begged her to speak.
There was a seriousness in Harriet's manner which prepared her,
quite as much as her words, for something more than ordinary.
"It is my duty, and I am sure it is my wish," she continued,
"to have no reserves with you on this subject. As I am happily
quite an altered creature in _one_ _respect_, it is very fit that you
should have the satisfaction of knowing it. I do not want to say
more than is necessary--I am too much ashamed of having given way
as I have done, and I dare say you understand me."
"Yes," said Emma, "I hope I do."
"How I could so long a time be fancying myself! . . ."
cried Harriet, warmly. "It seems like madness! I can see nothing
at all extraordinary in him now.--I do not care whether I meet
him or not--except that of the two I had rather not see him--
and indeed I would go any distance round to avoid him--but I do
not envy his wife in the least; I neither admire her nor envy her,
as I have done: she is very charming, I dare say, and all that,
but I think her very ill-tempered and disagreeable--I shall never forget
her look the other night!--However, I assure you, Miss Woodhouse,
I wish her no evil.--No, let them be ever so happy together,
it will not give me another moment's pang: and to convince you
that I have been speaking truth, I am now going to destroy--what I
ought to have destroyed long ago--what I ought never to have kept--
I know that very well (blushing as she spoke).--However, now I
will destroy it all--and it is my particular wish to do it
in your presence, that you may see how rational I am grown.
Cannot you guess what this parcel holds?" said she, with a conscious look.
"Not the least in the world.--Did he ever give you any thing?"
"No--I cannot call them gifts; but they are things that I have
valued very much."
She held the parcel towards her, and Emma read the words _Most_
_precious_ _treasures_ on the top. Her curiosity was greatly excited.
Harriet unfolded the parcel, and she looked on with impatience.
Within abundance of silver paper was a pretty little Tunbridge-ware box,
which Harriet opened: it was well lined with the softest cotton;
but, excepting the cotton, Emma saw only a small piece of court-plaister.
"Now," said Harriet, "you _must_ recollect."
"No, indeed I do not."
"Dear me! I should not have thought it possible you could forget
what passed in this very room about court-plaister, one of the very
last times we ever met in it!--It was but a very few days before I
had my sore throat--just before Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley came--
I think the very evening.--Do not you remember his cutting his finger
with your new penknife, and your recommending court-plaister?--
But, as you had none about you, and knew I had, you desired
me to supply him; and so I took mine out and cut him a piece;
but it was a great deal too large, and he cut it smaller, and kept
playing some time with what was left, before he gave it back to me.
And so then, in my nonsense, I could not help making a treasure of it--
so I put it by never to be used, and looked at it now and then
as a great treat."
"My dearest Harriet!" cried Emma, putting her hand before her face,
and jumping up, "you make me more ashamed of myself than I can bear.
Remember it? Aye, I remember it all now; all, except your saving
this relic--I knew nothing of that till this moment--but the cutting
the finger, and my recommending court-plaister, and saying I had none
about me!--Oh! my sins, my sins!--And I had plenty all the while in
my pocket!--One of my senseless tricks!--I deserve to be under a
continual blush all the rest of my life.--Well--(sitting down again)--
go on--what else?"
"And had you really some at hand yourself? I am sure I never
suspected it, you did it so naturally."
"And so you actually put this piece of court-plaister by for his sake!"
said Emma, recovering from her state of shame and feeling divided
between wonder and amusement. And secretly she added to herself,
"Lord bless me! when should I ever have thought of putting by in cotton
a piece of court-plaister that Frank Churchill had been pulling about!
I never was equal to this."
"Here," resumed Harriet, turning to her box again, "here is
something still more valuable, I mean that _has_ _been_ more valuable,
because this is what did really once belong to him, which the
court-plaister never did."
Emma was quite eager to see this superior treasure. It was the end
of an old pencil,--the part without any lead.
"This was really his," said Harriet.--"Do not you remember
one morning?--no, I dare say you do not. But one morning--I forget
exactly the day--but perhaps it was the Tuesday or Wednesday before
_that_ _evening_, he wanted to make a memorandum in his pocket-book;
it was about spruce-beer. Mr. Knightley had been telling him
something about brewing spruce-beer, and he wanted to put it down;
but when he took out his pencil, there was so little lead that he
soon cut it all away, and it would not do, so you lent him another,
and this was left upon the table as good for nothing. But I kept
my eye on it; and, as soon as I dared, caught it up, and never
parted with it again from that moment."
"I do remember it," cried Emma; "I perfectly remember it.--
Talking about spruce-beer.--Oh! yes--Mr. Knightley and I both saying we
liked it, and Mr. Elton's seeming resolved to learn to like it too.
I perfectly remember it.--Stop; Mr. Knightley was standing just here,
was not he? I have an idea he was standing just here."
"Ah! I do not know. I cannot recollect.--It is very odd,
but I cannot recollect.--Mr. Elton was sitting here, I remember,
much about where I am now."--
"Well, go on."
"Oh! that's all. I have nothing more to shew you, or to say--
except that I am now going to throw them both behind the fire,
and I wish you to see me do it."
"My poor dear Harriet! and have you actually found happiness
in treasuring up these things?"
"Yes, simpleton as I was!--but I am quite ashamed of it now, and wish
I could forget as easily as I can burn them. It was very wrong
of me, you know, to keep any remembrances, after he was married.
I knew it was--but had not resolution enough to part with them."
"But, Harriet, is it necessary to burn the court-plaister?--I have
not a word to say for the bit of old pencil, but the court-plaister
might be useful."
"I shall be happier to burn it," replied Harriet. "It has
a disagreeable look to me. I must get rid of every thing.--
There it goes, and there is an end, thank Heaven! of Mr. Elton."
"And when," thought Emma, "will there be a beginning of Mr. Churchill?"
She had soon afterwards reason to believe that the beginning was
already made, and could not but hope that the gipsy, though she had
_told_ no fortune, might be proved to have made Harriet's.--About a
fortnight after the alarm, they came to a sufficient explanation,
and quite undesignedly. Emma was not thinking of it at the moment,
which made the information she received more valuable.
She merely said, in the course of some trivial chat, "Well, Harriet,
whenever you marry I would advise you to do so and so"--and thought
no more of it, till after a minute's silence she heard Harriet
say in a very serious tone, "I shall never marry."
Emma then looked up, and immediately saw how it was; and after a
moment's debate, as to whether it should pass unnoticed or not, replied,
"Never marry!--This is a new resolution."
"It is one that I shall never change, however."
After another short hesitation, "I hope it does not proceed from--
I hope it is not in compliment to Mr. Elton?"
"Mr. Elton indeed!" cried Harriet indignantly.--"Oh! no"--and Emma
could just catch the words, "so superior to Mr. Elton!"
She then took a longer time for consideration. Should she proceed
no farther?--should she let it pass, and seem to suspect nothing?--
Perhaps Harriet might think her cold or angry if she did;
or perhaps if she were totally silent, it might only drive
Harriet into asking her to hear too much; and against any thing
like such an unreserve as had been, such an open and frequent
discussion of hopes and chances, she was perfectly resolved.--
She believed it would be wiser for her to say and know at once,
all that she meant to say and know. Plain dealing was always best.
She had previously determined how far she would proceed,
on any application of the sort; and it would be safer for both,
to have the judicious law of her own brain laid down with speed.--
She was decided, and thus spoke--
"Harriet, I will not affect to be in doubt of your meaning.
Your resolution, or rather your expectation of never marrying,
results from an idea that the person whom you might prefer,
would be too greatly your superior in situation to think of you.
Is not it so?"
"Oh! Miss Woodhouse, believe me I have not the presumption to suppose--
Indeed I am not so mad.--But it is a pleasure to me to admire him
at a distance--and to think of his infinite superiority to all
the rest of the world, with the gratitude, wonder, and veneration,
which are so proper, in me especially."
"I am not at all surprized at you, Harriet. The service he rendered
you was enough to warm your heart."
"Service! oh! it was such an inexpressible obligation!--
The very recollection of it, and all that I felt at the time--
when I saw him coming--his noble look--and my wretchedness before.
Such a change! In one moment such a change! From perfect misery
to perfect happiness!"
"It is very natural. It is natural, and it is honourable.--
Yes, honourable, I think, to chuse so well and so gratefully.--
But that it will be a fortunate preference is more that I can promise.
I do not advise you to give way to it, Harriet. I do not by any
means engage for its being returned. Consider what you are about.
Perhaps it will be wisest in you to check your feelings while you can:
at any rate do not let them carry you far, unless you are persuaded
of his liking you. Be observant of him. Let his behaviour be the
guide of your sensations. I give you this caution now, because I
shall never speak to you again on the subject. I am determined
against all interference. Henceforward I know nothing of the matter.
Let no name ever pass our lips. We were very wrong before;
we will be cautious now.--He is your superior, no doubt, and there
do seem objections and obstacles of a very serious nature;
but yet, Harriet, more wonderful things have taken place, there have
been matches of greater disparity. But take care of yourself.
I would not have you too sanguine; though, however it may end,
be assured your raising your thoughts to _him_, is a mark of good taste
which I shall always know how to value."
Harriet kissed her hand in silent and submissive gratitude.
Emma was very decided in thinking such an attachment no bad thing
for her friend. Its tendency would be to raise and refine her mind--
and it must be saving her from the danger of degradation.
In this state of schemes, and hopes, and connivance, June opened
upon Hartfield. To Highbury in general it brought no material change.
The Eltons were still talking of a visit from the Sucklings,
and of the use to be made of their barouche-landau; and Jane Fairfax
was still at her grandmother's; and as the return of the Campbells
from Ireland was again delayed, and August, instead of Midsummer,
fixed for it, she was likely to remain there full two months longer,
provided at least she were able to defeat Mrs. Elton's activity
in her service, and save herself from being hurried into a delightful
situation against her will.
Mr. Knightley, who, for some reason best known to himself, had certainly
taken an early dislike to Frank Churchill, was only growing to dislike
him more. He began to suspect him of some double dealing in his
pursuit of Emma. That Emma was his object appeared indisputable.
Every thing declared it; his own attentions, his father's hints,
his mother-in-law's guarded silence; it was all in unison;
words, conduct, discretion, and indiscretion, told the same story.
But while so many were devoting him to Emma, and Emma herself making him
over to Harriet, Mr. Knightley began to suspect him of some inclination
to trifle with Jane Fairfax. He could not understand it; but there
were symptoms of intelligence between them--he thought so at least--
symptoms of admiration on his side, which, having once observed,
he could not persuade himself to think entirely void of meaning,
however he might wish to escape any of Emma's errors of imagination.
_She_ was not present when the suspicion first arose. He was dining
with the Randalls family, and Jane, at the Eltons'; and he had
seen a look, more than a single look, at Miss Fairfax, which,
from the admirer of Miss Woodhouse, seemed somewhat out of place.
When he was again in their company, he could not help remembering
what he had seen; nor could he avoid observations which, unless it
were like Cowper and his fire at twilight,
"Myself creating what I saw,"
brought him yet stronger suspicion of there being a something
of private liking, of private understanding even, between Frank
Churchill and Jane.
He had walked up one day after dinner, as he very often did,
to spend his evening at Hartfield. Emma and Harriet were going
to walk; he joined them; and, on returning, they fell in with a
larger party, who, like themselves, judged it wisest to take their
exercise early, as the weather threatened rain; Mr. and Mrs. Weston
and their son, Miss Bates and her niece, who had accidentally met.
They all united; and, on reaching Hartfield gates, Emma, who knew it
was exactly the sort of visiting that would be welcome to her father,
pressed them all to go in and drink tea with him. The Randalls
party agreed to it immediately; and after a pretty long speech
from Miss Bates, which few persons listened to, she also found it
possible to accept dear Miss Woodhouse's most obliging invitation.
As they were turning into the grounds, Mr. Perry passed by on horseback.
The gentlemen spoke of his horse.
"By the bye," said Frank Churchill to Mrs. Weston presently,
"what became of Mr. Perry's plan of setting up his carriage?"
Mrs. Weston looked surprized, and said, "I did not know that he
ever had any such plan."
"Nay, I had it from you. You wrote me word of it three months ago."
"Indeed you did. I remember it perfectly. You mentioned it as
what was certainly to be very soon. Mrs. Perry had told somebody,
and was extremely happy about it. It was owing to _her_ persuasion,
as she thought his being out in bad weather did him a great deal
of harm. You must remember it now?"
"Upon my word I never heard of it till this moment."
"Never! really, never!--Bless me! how could it be?--Then I must
have dreamt it--but I was completely persuaded--Miss Smith,
you walk as if you were tired. You will not be sorry to find
yourself at home."
"What is this?--What is this?" cried Mr. Weston, "about Perry
and a carriage? Is Perry going to set up his carriage, Frank?
I am glad he can afford it. You had it from himself, had you?"
"No, sir," replied his son, laughing, "I seem to have had it
from nobody.--Very odd!--I really was persuaded of Mrs. Weston's
having mentioned it in one of her letters to Enscombe, many weeks ago,
with all these particulars--but as she declares she never heard
a syllable of it before, of course it must have been a dream. I am
a great dreamer. I dream of every body at Highbury when I am away--
and when I have gone through my particular friends, then I begin
dreaming of Mr. and Mrs. Perry."
"It is odd though," observed his father, "that you should have had such
a regular connected dream about people whom it was not very likely you
should be thinking of at Enscombe. Perry's setting up his carriage!
and his wife's persuading him to it, out of care for his health--
just what will happen, I have no doubt, some time or other;
only a little premature. What an air of probability sometimes
runs through a dream! And at others, what a heap of absurdities
it is! Well, Frank, your dream certainly shews that Highbury is in
your thoughts when you are absent. Emma, you are a great dreamer,
Emma was out of hearing. She had hurried on before her guests
to prepare her father for their appearance, and was beyond the reach
of Mr. Weston's hint.
"Why, to own the truth," cried Miss Bates, who had been trying in vain
to be heard the last two minutes, "if I must speak on this subject,
there is no denying that Mr. Frank Churchill might have--I do not
mean to say that he did not dream it--I am sure I have sometimes
the oddest dreams in the world--but if I am questioned about it,
I must acknowledge that there was such an idea last spring;
for Mrs. Perry herself mentioned it to my mother, and the Coles
knew of it as well as ourselves--but it was quite a secret,
known to nobody else, and only thought of about three days.
Mrs. Perry was very anxious that he should have a carriage, and came
to my mother in great spirits one morning because she thought she
had prevailed. Jane, don't you remember grandmama's telling us
of it when we got home? I forget where we had been walking to--
very likely to Randalls; yes, I think it was to Randalls.
Mrs. Perry was always particularly fond of my mother--indeed I do
not know who is not--and she had mentioned it to her in confidence;
she had no objection to her telling us, of course, but it was not
to go beyond: and, from that day to this, I never mentioned it
to a soul that I know of. At the same time, I will not positively
answer for my having never dropt a hint, because I know I do
sometimes pop out a thing before I am aware. I am a talker,
you know; I am rather a talker; and now and then I have let a thing
escape me which I should not. I am not like Jane; I wish I were.
I will answer for it _she_ never betrayed the least thing in the world.
Where is she?--Oh! just behind. Perfectly remember Mrs. Perry's coming.--
Extraordinary dream, indeed!"
They were entering the hall. Mr. Knightley's eyes had preceded
Miss Bates's in a glance at Jane. From Frank Churchill's face,
where he thought he saw confusion suppressed or laughed away,
he had involuntarily turned to hers; but she was indeed behind,
and too busy with her shawl. Mr. Weston had walked in. The two
other gentlemen waited at the door to let her pass. Mr. Knightley
suspected in Frank Churchill the determination of catching her eye--
he seemed watching her intently--in vain, however, if it were so--
Jane passed between them into the hall, and looked at neither.
There was no time for farther remark or explanation. The dream must
be borne with, and Mr. Knightley must take his seat with the rest round
the large modern circular table which Emma had introduced at Hartfield,
and which none but Emma could have had power to place there and
persuade her father to use, instead of the small-sized Pembroke,
on which two of his daily meals had, for forty years been crowded.
Tea passed pleasantly, and nobody seemed in a hurry to move.
"Miss Woodhouse," said Frank Churchill, after examining a table
behind him, which he could reach as he sat, "have your nephews taken