Part 7 out of 9
away their alphabets--their box of letters? It used to stand here.
Where is it? This is a sort of dull-looking evening, that ought
to be treated rather as winter than summer. We had great amusement
with those letters one morning. I want to puzzle you again."
Emma was pleased with the thought; and producing the box, the table
was quickly scattered over with alphabets, which no one seemed so much
disposed to employ as their two selves. They were rapidly forming
words for each other, or for any body else who would be puzzled.
The quietness of the game made it particularly eligible for
Mr. Woodhouse, who had often been distressed by the more animated sort,
which Mr. Weston had occasionally introduced, and who now sat happily
occupied in lamenting, with tender melancholy, over the departure
of the "poor little boys," or in fondly pointing out, as he took
up any stray letter near him, how beautifully Emma had written it.
Frank Churchill placed a word before Miss Fairfax. She gave
a slight glance round the table, and applied herself to it.
Frank was next to Emma, Jane opposite to them--and Mr. Knightley
so placed as to see them all; and it was his object to see as much
as he could, with as little apparent observation. The word
was discovered, and with a faint smile pushed away. If meant
to be immediately mixed with the others, and buried from sight,
she should have looked on the table instead of looking just across,
for it was not mixed; and Harriet, eager after every fresh word,
and finding out none, directly took it up, and fell to work.
She was sitting by Mr. Knightley, and turned to him for help.
The word was _blunder_; and as Harriet exultingly proclaimed it,
there was a blush on Jane's cheek which gave it a meaning not
otherwise ostensible. Mr. Knightley connected it with the dream;
but how it could all be, was beyond his comprehension.
How the delicacy, the discretion of his favourite could have been
so lain asleep! He feared there must be some decided involvement.
Disingenuousness and double dealing seemed to meet him at every turn.
These letters were but the vehicle for gallantry and trick.
It was a child's play, chosen to conceal a deeper game on Frank
With great indignation did he continue to observe him; with great
alarm and distrust, to observe also his two blinded companions.
He saw a short word prepared for Emma, and given to her with a look
sly and demure. He saw that Emma had soon made it out, and found
it highly entertaining, though it was something which she judged it
proper to appear to censure; for she said, "Nonsense! for shame!"
He heard Frank Churchill next say, with a glance towards Jane,
"I will give it to her--shall I?"--and as clearly heard Emma
opposing it with eager laughing warmth. "No, no, you must not;
you shall not, indeed."
It was done however. This gallant young man, who seemed to love
without feeling, and to recommend himself without complaisance,
directly handed over the word to Miss Fairfax, and with a particular
degree of sedate civility entreated her to study it. Mr. Knightley's
excessive curiosity to know what this word might be, made him seize
every possible moment for darting his eye towards it, and it was
not long before he saw it to be _Dixon_. Jane Fairfax's perception
seemed to accompany his; her comprehension was certainly more equal
to the covert meaning, the superior intelligence, of those five letters
so arranged. She was evidently displeased; looked up, and seeing
herself watched, blushed more deeply than he had ever perceived her,
and saying only, "I did not know that proper names were allowed,"
pushed away the letters with even an angry spirit, and looked
resolved to be engaged by no other word that could be offered.
Her face was averted from those who had made the attack, and turned
towards her aunt.
"Aye, very true, my dear," cried the latter, though Jane had not
spoken a word--"I was just going to say the same thing. It is time
for us to be going indeed. The evening is closing in, and grandmama
will be looking for us. My dear sir, you are too obliging.
We really must wish you good night."
Jane's alertness in moving, proved her as ready as her aunt
had preconceived. She was immediately up, and wanting to quit
the table; but so many were also moving, that she could not get away;
and Mr. Knightley thought he saw another collection of letters anxiously
pushed towards her, and resolutely swept away by her unexamined.
She was afterwards looking for her shawl--Frank Churchill was
looking also--it was growing dusk, and the room was in confusion;
and how they parted, Mr. Knightley could not tell.
He remained at Hartfield after all the rest, his thoughts full
of what he had seen; so full, that when the candles came to assist
his observations, he must--yes, he certainly must, as a friend--
an anxious friend--give Emma some hint, ask her some question.
He could not see her in a situation of such danger, without trying to
preserve her. It was his duty.
"Pray, Emma," said he, "may I ask in what lay the great amusement,
the poignant sting of the last word given to you and Miss Fairfax?
I saw the word, and am curious to know how it could be so very
entertaining to the one, and so very distressing to the other."
Emma was extremely confused. She could not endure to give him the
true explanation; for though her suspicions were by no means removed,
she was really ashamed of having ever imparted them.
"Oh!" she cried in evident embarrassment, "it all meant nothing;
a mere joke among ourselves."
"The joke," he replied gravely, "seemed confined to you
and Mr. Churchill."
He had hoped she would speak again, but she did not. She would
rather busy herself about any thing than speak. He sat a little
while in doubt. A variety of evils crossed his mind. Interference--
fruitless interference. Emma's confusion, and the acknowledged intimacy,
seemed to declare her affection engaged. Yet he would speak.
He owed it to her, to risk any thing that might be involved in
an unwelcome interference, rather than her welfare; to encounter
any thing, rather than the remembrance of neglect in such a cause.
"My dear Emma," said he at last, with earnest kindness, "do you
think you perfectly understand the degree of acquaintance between
the gentleman and lady we have been speaking of?"
"Between Mr. Frank Churchill and Miss Fairfax? Oh! yes, perfectly.--
Why do you make a doubt of it?"
"Have you never at any time had reason to think that he admired her,
or that she admired him?"
"Never, never!" she cried with a most open eagerness--"Never, for
the twentieth part of a moment, did such an idea occur to me.
And how could it possibly come into your head?"
"I have lately imagined that I saw symptoms of attachment between them--
certain expressive looks, which I did not believe meant to be public."
"Oh! you amuse me excessively. I am delighted to find that you
can vouchsafe to let your imagination wander--but it will not do--
very sorry to check you in your first essay--but indeed it will
not do. There is no admiration between them, I do assure you;
and the appearances which have caught you, have arisen from some
peculiar circumstances--feelings rather of a totally different nature--
it is impossible exactly to explain:--there is a good deal of
nonsense in it--but the part which is capable of being communicated,
which is sense, is, that they are as far from any attachment or
admiration for one another, as any two beings in the world can be.
That is, I _presume_ it to be so on her side, and I can _answer_ for its
being so on his. I will answer for the gentleman's indifference."
She spoke with a confidence which staggered, with a satisfaction
which silenced, Mr. Knightley. She was in gay spirits, and would
have prolonged the conversation, wanting to hear the particulars
of his suspicions, every look described, and all the wheres and hows
of a circumstance which highly entertained her: but his gaiety did
not meet hers. He found he could not be useful, and his feelings
were too much irritated for talking. That he might not be irritated
into an absolute fever, by the fire which Mr. Woodhouse's tender
habits required almost every evening throughout the year, he soon
afterwards took a hasty leave, and walked home to the coolness
and solitude of Donwell Abbey.
After being long fed with hopes of a speedy visit from Mr. and
Mrs. Suckling, the Highbury world were obliged to endure the mortification
of hearing that they could not possibly come till the autumn.
No such importation of novelties could enrich their intellectual stores
at present. In the daily interchange of news, they must be again
restricted to the other topics with which for a while the Sucklings'
coming had been united, such as the last accounts of Mrs. Churchill,
whose health seemed every day to supply a different report,
and the situation of Mrs. Weston, whose happiness it was to be hoped
might eventually be as much increased by the arrival of a child,
as that of all her neighbours was by the approach of it.
Mrs. Elton was very much disappointed. It was the delay of a great
deal of pleasure and parade. Her introductions and recommendations
must all wait, and every projected party be still only talked of.
So she thought at first;--but a little consideration convinced
her that every thing need not be put off. Why should not they
explore to Box Hill though the Sucklings did not come? They could
go there again with them in the autumn. It was settled that they
should go to Box Hill. That there was to be such a party had been
long generally known: it had even given the idea of another.
Emma had never been to Box Hill; she wished to see what every body
found so well worth seeing, and she and Mr. Weston had agreed
to chuse some fine morning and drive thither. Two or three more
of the chosen only were to be admitted to join them, and it was to
be done in a quiet, unpretending, elegant way, infinitely superior
to the bustle and preparation, the regular eating and drinking,
and picnic parade of the Eltons and the Sucklings.
This was so very well understood between them, that Emma could
not but feel some surprise, and a little displeasure, on hearing
from Mr. Weston that he had been proposing to Mrs. Elton, as her
brother and sister had failed her, that the two parties should unite,
and go together; and that as Mrs. Elton had very readily acceded
to it, so it was to be, if she had no objection. Now, as her
objection was nothing but her very great dislike of Mrs. Elton,
of which Mr. Weston must already be perfectly aware, it was not worth
bringing forward again:--it could not be done without a reproof
to him, which would be giving pain to his wife; and she found
herself therefore obliged to consent to an arrangement which she
would have done a great deal to avoid; an arrangement which would
probably expose her even to the degradation of being said to be of
Mrs. Elton's party! Every feeling was offended; and the forbearance
of her outward submission left a heavy arrear due of secret severity
in her reflections on the unmanageable goodwill of Mr. Weston's temper.
"I am glad you approve of what I have done," said he very comfortably.
"But I thought you would. Such schemes as these are nothing
without numbers. One cannot have too large a party. A large party
secures its own amusement. And she is a good-natured woman after all.
One could not leave her out."
Emma denied none of it aloud, and agreed to none of it in private.
It was now the middle of June, and the weather fine; and Mrs. Elton
was growing impatient to name the day, and settle with Mr. Weston
as to pigeon-pies and cold lamb, when a lame carriage-horse threw
every thing into sad uncertainty. It might be weeks, it might be
only a few days, before the horse were useable; but no preparations
could be ventured on, and it was all melancholy stagnation.
Mrs. Elton's resources were inadequate to such an attack.
"Is not this most vexations, Knightley?" she cried.--"And such weather
for exploring!--These delays and disappointments are quite odious.
What are we to do?--The year will wear away at this rate,
and nothing done. Before this time last year I assure you we had
had a delightful exploring party from Maple Grove to Kings Weston."
"You had better explore to Donwell," replied Mr. Knightley.
"That may be done without horses. Come, and eat my strawberries.
They are ripening fast."
If Mr. Knightley did not begin seriously, he was obliged to proceed so,
for his proposal was caught at with delight; and the "Oh! I should
like it of all things," was not plainer in words than manner.
Donwell was famous for its strawberry-beds, which seemed a plea for
the invitation: but no plea was necessary; cabbage-beds would have
been enough to tempt the lady, who only wanted to be going somewhere.
She promised him again and again to come--much oftener than
he doubted--and was extremely gratified by such a proof of intimacy,
such a distinguishing compliment as she chose to consider it.
"You may depend upon me," said she. "I certainly will come.
Name your day, and I will come. You will allow me to bring
"I cannot name a day," said he, "till I have spoken to some others
whom I would wish to meet you."
"Oh! leave all that to me. Only give me a carte-blanche.--I am
Lady Patroness, you know. It is my party. I will bring friends
"I hope you will bring Elton," said he: "but I will not trouble
you to give any other invitations."
"Oh! now you are looking very sly. But consider--you need not be afraid
of delegating power to _me_. I am no young lady on her preferment.
Married women, you know, may be safely authorised. It is my party.
Leave it all to me. I will invite your guests."
"No,"--he calmly replied,--"there is but one married woman in the world
whom I can ever allow to invite what guests she pleases to Donwell,
and that one is--"
"--Mrs. Weston, I suppose," interrupted Mrs. Elton, rather mortified.
"No--Mrs. Knightley;--and till she is in being, I will manage
such matters myself."
"Ah! you are an odd creature!" she cried, satisfied to have no
one preferred to herself.--"You are a humourist, and may say what
you like. Quite a humourist. Well, I shall bring Jane with me--
Jane and her aunt.--The rest I leave to you. I have no objections
at all to meeting the Hartfield family. Don't scruple. I know
you are attached to them."
"You certainly will meet them if I can prevail; and I shall call
on Miss Bates in my way home."
"That's quite unnecessary; I see Jane every day:--but as you like.
It is to be a morning scheme, you know, Knightley; quite a simple thing.
I shall wear a large bonnet, and bring one of my little baskets
hanging on my arm. Here,--probably this basket with pink ribbon.
Nothing can be more simple, you see. And Jane will have such another.
There is to be no form or parade--a sort of gipsy party. We are
to walk about your gardens, and gather the strawberries ourselves,
and sit under trees;--and whatever else you may like to provide,
it is to be all out of doors--a table spread in the shade, you know.
Every thing as natural and simple as possible. Is not that your idea?"
"Not quite. My idea of the simple and the natural will be to have
the table spread in the dining-room. The nature and the simplicity
of gentlemen and ladies, with their servants and furniture, I think
is best observed by meals within doors. When you are tired of eating
strawberries in the garden, there shall be cold meat in the house."
"Well--as you please; only don't have a great set out. And, by the bye,
can I or my housekeeper be of any use to you with our opinion?--
Pray be sincere, Knightley. If you wish me to talk to Mrs. Hodges,
or to inspect anything--"
"I have not the least wish for it, I thank you."
"Well--but if any difficulties should arise, my housekeeper
is extremely clever."
"I will answer for it, that mine thinks herself full as clever,
and would spurn any body's assistance."
"I wish we had a donkey. The thing would be for us all to come
on donkeys, Jane, Miss Bates, and me--and my caro sposo walking by.
I really must talk to him about purchasing a donkey. In a country
life I conceive it to be a sort of necessary; for, let a woman have
ever so many resources, it is not possible for her to be always shut
up at home;--and very long walks, you know--in summer there is dust,
and in winter there is dirt."
"You will not find either, between Donwell and Highbury.
Donwell Lane is never dusty, and now it is perfectly dry. Come on
a donkey, however, if you prefer it. You can borrow Mrs. Cole's.
I would wish every thing to be as much to your taste as possible."
"That I am sure you would. Indeed I do you justice, my good friend.
Under that peculiar sort of dry, blunt manner, I know you have the
warmest heart. As I tell Mr. E., you are a thorough humourist.--
Yes, believe me, Knightley, I am fully sensible of your attention
to me in the whole of this scheme. You have hit upon the very thing
to please me."
Mr. Knightley had another reason for avoiding a table in the shade.
He wished to persuade Mr. Woodhouse, as well as Emma, to join the party;
and he knew that to have any of them sitting down out of doors
to eat would inevitably make him ill. Mr. Woodhouse must not,
under the specious pretence of a morning drive, and an hour or two
spent at Donwell, be tempted away to his misery.
He was invited on good faith. No lurking horrors were to upbraid
him for his easy credulity. He did consent. He had not been
at Donwell for two years. "Some very fine morning, he, and Emma,
and Harriet, could go very well; and he could sit still with
Mrs. Weston, while the dear girls walked about the gardens.
He did not suppose they could be damp now, in the middle of
the day. He should like to see the old house again exceedingly,
and should be very happy to meet Mr. and Mrs. Elton, and any other
of his neighbours.--He could not see any objection at all to his,
and Emma's, and Harriet's going there some very fine morning.
He thought it very well done of Mr. Knightley to invite them--
very kind and sensible--much cleverer than dining out.--He was not
fond of dining out."
Mr. Knightley was fortunate in every body's most ready concurrence.
The invitation was everywhere so well received, that it seemed as if,
like Mrs. Elton, they were all taking the scheme as a particular
compliment to themselves.--Emma and Harriet professed very high
expectations of pleasure from it; and Mr. Weston, unasked,
promised to get Frank over to join them, if possible; a proof
of approbation and gratitude which could have been dispensed with.--
Mr. Knightley was then obliged to say that he should be glad
to see him; and Mr. Weston engaged to lose no time in writing,
and spare no arguments to induce him to come.
In the meanwhile the lame horse recovered so fast, that the party
to Box Hill was again under happy consideration; and at last Donwell
was settled for one day, and Box Hill for the next,--the weather
appearing exactly right.
Under a bright mid-day sun, at almost Midsummer, Mr. Woodhouse
was safely conveyed in his carriage, with one window down,
to partake of this al-fresco party; and in one of the most
comfortable rooms in the Abbey, especially prepared for him by a
fire all the morning, he was happily placed, quite at his ease,
ready to talk with pleasure of what had been achieved, and advise
every body to come and sit down, and not to heat themselves.--
Mrs. Weston, who seemed to have walked there on purpose to be tired,
and sit all the time with him, remained, when all the others
were invited or persuaded out, his patient listener and sympathiser.
It was so long since Emma had been at the Abbey, that as soon as she
was satisfied of her father's comfort, she was glad to leave him,
and look around her; eager to refresh and correct her memory with
more particular observation, more exact understanding of a house
and grounds which must ever be so interesting to her and all her family.
She felt all the honest pride and complacency which her alliance
with the present and future proprietor could fairly warrant,
as she viewed the respectable size and style of the building,
its suitable, becoming, characteristic situation, low and sheltered--
its ample gardens stretching down to meadows washed by a stream,
of which the Abbey, with all the old neglect of prospect,
had scarcely a sight--and its abundance of timber in rows and avenues,
which neither fashion nor extravagance had rooted up.--The house
was larger than Hartfield, and totally unlike it, covering a good
deal of ground, rambling and irregular, with many comfortable,
and one or two handsome rooms.--It was just what it ought to be,
and it looked what it was--and Emma felt an increasing respect
for it, as the residence of a family of such true gentility,
untainted in blood and understanding.--Some faults of temper John
Knightley had; but Isabella had connected herself unexceptionably.
She had given them neither men, nor names, nor places, that could
raise a blush. These were pleasant feelings, and she walked about
and indulged them till it was necessary to do as the others did,
and collect round the strawberry-beds.--The whole party were assembled,
excepting Frank Churchill, who was expected every moment from Richmond;
and Mrs. Elton, in all her apparatus of happiness, her large bonnet
and her basket, was very ready to lead the way in gathering,
accepting, or talking--strawberries, and only strawberries,
could now be thought or spoken of.--"The best fruit in England--
every body's favourite--always wholesome.--These the finest beds
and finest sorts.--Delightful to gather for one's self--the only way
of really enjoying them.--Morning decidedly the best time--never tired--
every sort good--hautboy infinitely superior--no comparison--
the others hardly eatable--hautboys very scarce--Chili preferred--
white wood finest flavour of all--price of strawberries in London--
abundance about Bristol--Maple Grove--cultivation--beds when to
be renewed--gardeners thinking exactly different--no general rule--
gardeners never to be put out of their way--delicious fruit--
only too rich to be eaten much of--inferior to cherries--
currants more refreshing--only objection to gathering strawberries
the stooping--glaring sun--tired to death--could bear it no longer--
must go and sit in the shade."
Such, for half an hour, was the conversation--interrupted only
once by Mrs. Weston, who came out, in her solicitude after her
son-in-law, to inquire if he were come--and she was a little uneasy.--
She had some fears of his horse.
Seats tolerably in the shade were found; and now Emma was obliged
to overhear what Mrs. Elton and Jane Fairfax were talking of.--
A situation, a most desirable situation, was in question. Mrs. Elton
had received notice of it that morning, and was in raptures.
It was not with Mrs. Suckling, it was not with Mrs. Bragge,
but in felicity and splendour it fell short only of them: it was
with a cousin of Mrs. Bragge, an acquaintance of Mrs. Suckling,
a lady known at Maple Grove. Delightful, charming, superior,
first circles, spheres, lines, ranks, every thing--and Mrs. Elton
was wild to have the offer closed with immediately.--On her side,
all was warmth, energy, and triumph--and she positively refused
to take her friend's negative, though Miss Fairfax continued
to assure her that she would not at present engage in any thing,
repeating the same motives which she had been heard to urge before.--
Still Mrs. Elton insisted on being authorised to write an acquiescence
by the morrow's post.--How Jane could bear it at all, was astonishing
to Emma.--She did look vexed, she did speak pointedly--and at last,
with a decision of action unusual to her, proposed a removal.--
"Should not they walk? Would not Mr. Knightley shew them the gardens--
all the gardens?--She wished to see the whole extent."--The pertinacity
of her friend seemed more than she could bear.
It was hot; and after walking some time over the gardens in a scattered,
dispersed way, scarcely any three together, they insensibly
followed one another to the delicious shade of a broad short
avenue of limes, which stretching beyond the garden at an equal
distance from the river, seemed the finish of the pleasure grounds.--
It led to nothing; nothing but a view at the end over a low stone
wall with high pillars, which seemed intended, in their erection,
to give the appearance of an approach to the house, which never had
been there. Disputable, however, as might be the taste of such
a termination, it was in itself a charming walk, and the view
which closed it extremely pretty.--The considerable slope, at nearly
the foot of which the Abbey stood, gradually acquired a steeper
form beyond its grounds; and at half a mile distant was a bank
of considerable abruptness and grandeur, well clothed with wood;--
and at the bottom of this bank, favourably placed and sheltered,
rose the Abbey Mill Farm, with meadows in front, and the river
making a close and handsome curve around it.
It was a sweet view--sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure,
English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright,
without being oppressive.
In this walk Emma and Mr. Weston found all the others assembled;
and towards this view she immediately perceived Mr. Knightley
and Harriet distinct from the rest, quietly leading the way.
Mr. Knightley and Harriet!--It was an odd tete-a-tete; but she was
glad to see it.--There had been a time when he would have scorned
her as a companion, and turned from her with little ceremony.
Now they seemed in pleasant conversation. There had been a time
also when Emma would have been sorry to see Harriet in a spot
so favourable for the Abbey Mill Farm; but now she feared it not.
It might be safely viewed with all its appendages of prosperity
and beauty, its rich pastures, spreading flocks, orchard in blossom,
and light column of smoke ascending.--She joined them at the wall,
and found them more engaged in talking than in looking around.
He was giving Harriet information as to modes of agriculture, etc.
and Emma received a smile which seemed to say, "These are my
own concerns. I have a right to talk on such subjects, without being
suspected of introducing Robert Martin."--She did not suspect him.
It was too old a story.--Robert Martin had probably ceased to think
of Harriet.--They took a few turns together along the walk.--The shade
was most refreshing, and Emma found it the pleasantest part of
The next remove was to the house; they must all go in and eat;--
and they were all seated and busy, and still Frank Churchill did
not come. Mrs. Weston looked, and looked in vain. His father would
not own himself uneasy, and laughed at her fears; but she could
not be cured of wishing that he would part with his black mare.
He had expressed himself as to coming, with more than common certainty.
"His aunt was so much better, that he had not a doubt of getting
over to them."--Mrs. Churchill's state, however, as many were ready
to remind her, was liable to such sudden variation as might disappoint
her nephew in the most reasonable dependence--and Mrs. Weston
was at last persuaded to believe, or to say, that it must be
by some attack of Mrs. Churchill that he was prevented coming.--
Emma looked at Harriet while the point was under consideration;
she behaved very well, and betrayed no emotion.
The cold repast was over, and the party were to go out once more
to see what had not yet been seen, the old Abbey fish-ponds;
perhaps get as far as the clover, which was to be begun cutting
on the morrow, or, at any rate, have the pleasure of being hot,
and growing cool again.--Mr. Woodhouse, who had already taken
his little round in the highest part of the gardens, where no
damps from the river were imagined even by him, stirred no more;
and his daughter resolved to remain with him, that Mrs. Weston
might be persuaded away by her husband to the exercise and variety
which her spirits seemed to need.
Mr. Knightley had done all in his power for Mr. Woodhouse's
entertainment. Books of engravings, drawers of medals, cameos,
corals, shells, and every other family collection within his cabinets,
had been prepared for his old friend, to while away the morning;
and the kindness had perfectly answered. Mr. Woodhouse had been
exceedingly well amused. Mrs. Weston had been shewing them all to him,
and now he would shew them all to Emma;--fortunate in having no other
resemblance to a child, than in a total want of taste for what he saw,
for he was slow, constant, and methodical.--Before this second looking
over was begun, however, Emma walked into the hall for the sake
of a few moments' free observation of the entrance and ground-plot
of the house--and was hardly there, when Jane Fairfax appeared,
coming quickly in from the garden, and with a look of escape.--
Little expecting to meet Miss Woodhouse so soon, there was a start
at first; but Miss Woodhouse was the very person she was in quest of.
"Will you be so kind," said she, "when I am missed, as to say
that I am gone home?--I am going this moment.--My aunt is not aware
how late it is, nor how long we have been absent--but I am sure we
shall be wanted, and I am determined to go directly.--I have said
nothing about it to any body. It would only be giving trouble
and distress. Some are gone to the ponds, and some to the lime walk.
Till they all come in I shall not be missed; and when they do,
will you have the goodness to say that I am gone?"
"Certainly, if you wish it;--but you are not going to walk
to Highbury alone?"
"Yes--what should hurt me?--I walk fast. I shall be at home
in twenty minutes."
"But it is too far, indeed it is, to be walking quite alone.
Let my father's servant go with you.--Let me order the carriage.
It can be round in five minutes."
"Thank you, thank you--but on no account.--I would rather walk.--
And for _me_ to be afraid of walking alone!--I, who may so soon have
to guard others!"
She spoke with great agitation; and Emma very feelingly replied,
"That can be no reason for your being exposed to danger now.
I must order the carriage. The heat even would be danger.--You are
"I am,"--she answered--"I am fatigued; but it is not the sort
of fatigue--quick walking will refresh me.--Miss Woodhouse, we all
know at times what it is to be wearied in spirits. Mine, I confess,
are exhausted. The greatest kindness you can shew me, will be to let
me have my own way, and only say that I am gone when it is necessary."
Emma had not another word to oppose. She saw it all; and entering
into her feelings, promoted her quitting the house immediately,
and watched her safely off with the zeal of a friend. Her parting
look was grateful--and her parting words, "Oh! Miss Woodhouse,
the comfort of being sometimes alone!"--seemed to burst from
an overcharged heart, and to describe somewhat of the continual
endurance to be practised by her, even towards some of those who
loved her best.
"Such a home, indeed! such an aunt!" said Emma, as she turned back
into the hall again. "I do pity you. And the more sensibility
you betray of their just horrors, the more I shall like you."
Jane had not been gone a quarter of an hour, and they had only
accomplished some views of St. Mark's Place, Venice, when Frank
Churchill entered the room. Emma had not been thinking of him,
she had forgotten to think of him--but she was very glad to see him.
Mrs. Weston would be at ease. The black mare was blameless;
_they_ were right who had named Mrs. Churchill as the cause.
He had been detained by a temporary increase of illness in her;
a nervous seizure, which had lasted some hours--and he had quite given
up every thought of coming, till very late;--and had he known how hot
a ride he should have, and how late, with all his hurry, he must be,
he believed he should not have come at all. The heat was excessive;
he had never suffered any thing like it--almost wished he had staid
at home--nothing killed him like heat--he could bear any degree of cold,
etc., but heat was intolerable--and he sat down, at the greatest
possible distance from the slight remains of Mr. Woodhouse's fire,
looking very deplorable.
"You will soon be cooler, if you sit still," said Emma.
"As soon as I am cooler I shall go back again. I could very
ill be spared--but such a point had been made of my coming!
You will all be going soon I suppose; the whole party breaking up.
I met _one_ as I came--Madness in such weather!--absolute madness!"
Emma listened, and looked, and soon perceived that Frank Churchill's
state might be best defined by the expressive phrase of being
out of humour. Some people were always cross when they were hot.
Such might be his constitution; and as she knew that eating
and drinking were often the cure of such incidental complaints,
she recommended his taking some refreshment; he would find abundance
of every thing in the dining-room--and she humanely pointed out
"No--he should not eat. He was not hungry; it would only make
him hotter." In two minutes, however, he relented in his own favour;
and muttering something about spruce-beer, walked off. Emma returned
all her attention to her father, saying in secret--
"I am glad I have done being in love with him. I should not like a
man who is so soon discomposed by a hot morning. Harriet's sweet
easy temper will not mind it."
He was gone long enough to have had a very comfortable meal, and came
back all the better--grown quite cool--and, with good manners,
like himself--able to draw a chair close to them, take an interest
in their employment; and regret, in a reasonable way, that he
should be so late. He was not in his best spirits, but seemed
trying to improve them; and, at last, made himself talk nonsense
very agreeably. They were looking over views in Swisserland.
"As soon as my aunt gets well, I shall go abroad," said he.
"I shall never be easy till I have seen some of these places.
You will have my sketches, some time or other, to look at--or my tour
to read--or my poem. I shall do something to expose myself."
"That may be--but not by sketches in Swisserland. You will
never go to Swisserland. Your uncle and aunt will never allow
you to leave England."
"They may be induced to go too. A warm climate may be prescribed
for her. I have more than half an expectation of our all going abroad.
I assure you I have. I feel a strong persuasion, this morning,
that I shall soon be abroad. I ought to travel. I am tired
of doing nothing. I want a change. I am serious, Miss Woodhouse,
whatever your penetrating eyes may fancy--I am sick of England--
and would leave it to-morrow, if I could."
"You are sick of prosperity and indulgence. Cannot you invent
a few hardships for yourself, and be contented to stay?"
"_I_ sick of prosperity and indulgence! You are quite mistaken.
I do not look upon myself as either prosperous or indulged. I am
thwarted in every thing material. I do not consider myself at all
a fortunate person."
"You are not quite so miserable, though, as when you first came.
Go and eat and drink a little more, and you will do very well.
Another slice of cold meat, another draught of Madeira and water,
will make you nearly on a par with the rest of us."
"No--I shall not stir. I shall sit by you. You are my best cure."
"We are going to Box Hill to-morrow;--you will join us.
It is not Swisserland, but it will be something for a young
man so much in want of a change. You will stay, and go with us?"
"No, certainly not; I shall go home in the cool of the evening."
"But you may come again in the cool of to-morrow morning."
"No--It will not be worth while. If I come, I shall be cross."
"Then pray stay at Richmond."
"But if I do, I shall be crosser still. I can never bear to think
of you all there without me."
"These are difficulties which you must settle for yourself.
Chuse your own degree of crossness. I shall press you no more."
The rest of the party were now returning, and all were soon collected.
With some there was great joy at the sight of Frank Churchill;
others took it very composedly; but there was a very general distress
and disturbance on Miss Fairfax's disappearance being explained.
That it was time for every body to go, concluded the subject; and with
a short final arrangement for the next day's scheme, they parted.
Frank Churchill's little inclination to exclude himself increased
so much, that his last words to Emma were,
"Well;--if _you_ wish me to stay and join the party, I will."
She smiled her acceptance; and nothing less than a summons from
Richmond was to take him back before the following evening.
They had a very fine day for Box Hill; and all the other outward
circumstances of arrangement, accommodation, and punctuality,
were in favour of a pleasant party. Mr. Weston directed the whole,
officiating safely between Hartfield and the Vicarage, and every
body was in good time. Emma and Harriet went together; Miss Bates
and her niece, with the Eltons; the gentlemen on horseback.
Mrs. Weston remained with Mr. Woodhouse. Nothing was wanting
but to be happy when they got there. Seven miles were travelled
in expectation of enjoyment, and every body had a burst of admiration
on first arriving; but in the general amount of the day there
was deficiency. There was a languor, a want of spirits, a want of union,
which could not be got over. They separated too much into parties.
The Eltons walked together; Mr. Knightley took charge of Miss
Bates and Jane; and Emma and Harriet belonged to Frank Churchill.
And Mr. Weston tried, in vain, to make them harmonise better. It seemed
at first an accidental division, but it never materially varied.
Mr. and Mrs. Elton, indeed, shewed no unwillingness to mix,
and be as agreeable as they could; but during the two whole hours
that were spent on the hill, there seemed a principle of separation,
between the other parties, too strong for any fine prospects, or any
cold collation, or any cheerful Mr. Weston, to remove.
At first it was downright dulness to Emma. She had never seen Frank
Churchill so silent and stupid. He said nothing worth hearing--
looked without seeing--admired without intelligence--listened without
knowing what she said. While he was so dull, it was no wonder that
Harriet should be dull likewise; and they were both insufferable.
When they all sat down it was better; to her taste a great deal better,
for Frank Churchill grew talkative and gay, making her his first object.
Every distinguishing attention that could be paid, was paid to her.
To amuse her, and be agreeable in her eyes, seemed all that he
cared for--and Emma, glad to be enlivened, not sorry to be flattered,
was gay and easy too, and gave him all the friendly encouragement,
the admission to be gallant, which she had ever given in the first
and most animating period of their acquaintance; but which now,
in her own estimation, meant nothing, though in the judgment of most
people looking on it must have had such an appearance as no English
word but flirtation could very well describe. "Mr. Frank Churchill
and Miss Woodhouse flirted together excessively." They were laying
themselves open to that very phrase--and to having it sent off
in a letter to Maple Grove by one lady, to Ireland by another.
Not that Emma was gay and thoughtless from any real felicity;
it was rather because she felt less happy than she had expected.
She laughed because she was disappointed; and though she liked him
for his attentions, and thought them all, whether in friendship,
admiration, or playfulness, extremely judicious, they were not winning
back her heart. She still intended him for her friend.
"How much I am obliged to you," said he, "for telling me to come to-day!--
If it had not been for you, I should certainly have lost all the
happiness of this party. I had quite determined to go away again."
"Yes, you were very cross; and I do not know what about,
except that you were too late for the best strawberries.
I was a kinder friend than you deserved. But you were humble.
You begged hard to be commanded to come."
"Don't say I was cross. I was fatigued. The heat overcame me."
"It is hotter to-day."
"Not to my feelings. I am perfectly comfortable to-day."
"You are comfortable because you are under command."
"Perhaps I intended you to say so, but I meant self-command. You had,
somehow or other, broken bounds yesterday, and run away from your
own management; but to-day you are got back again--and as I cannot
be always with you, it is best to believe your temper under your
own command rather than mine."
"It comes to the same thing. I can have no self-command without
a motive. You order me, whether you speak or not. And you can
be always with me. You are always with me."
"Dating from three o'clock yesterday. My perpetual influence
could not begin earlier, or you would not have been so much
out of humour before."
"Three o'clock yesterday! That is your date. I thought I had seen
you first in February."
"Your gallantry is really unanswerable. But (lowering her voice)--
nobody speaks except ourselves, and it is rather too much to be
talking nonsense for the entertainment of seven silent people."
"I say nothing of which I am ashamed," replied he, with lively impudence.
"I saw you first in February. Let every body on the Hill hear me if
they can. Let my accents swell to Mickleham on one side, and Dorking
on the other. I saw you first in February." And then whispering--
"Our companions are excessively stupid. What shall we do to rouse them?
Any nonsense will serve. They _shall_ talk. Ladies and gentlemen,
I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse (who, wherever she is, presides)
to say, that she desires to know what you are all thinking of?"
Some laughed, and answered good-humouredly. Miss Bates said a great deal;
Mrs. Elton swelled at the idea of Miss Woodhouse's presiding;
Mr. Knightley's answer was the most distinct.
"Is Miss Woodhouse sure that she would like to hear what we are
all thinking of?"
"Oh! no, no"--cried Emma, laughing as carelessly as she could--
"Upon no account in the world. It is the very last thing I
would stand the brunt of just now. Let me hear any thing rather
than what you are all thinking of. I will not say quite all.
There are one or two, perhaps, (glancing at Mr. Weston and Harriet,)
whose thoughts I might not be afraid of knowing."
"It is a sort of thing," cried Mrs. Elton emphatically,
"which _I_ should not have thought myself privileged to
inquire into. Though, perhaps, as the _Chaperon_ of the party--
_I_ never was in any circle--exploring parties--young ladies--married women--"
Her mutterings were chiefly to her husband; and he murmured,
"Very true, my love, very true. Exactly so, indeed--quite unheard of--
but some ladies say any thing. Better pass it off as a joke.
Every body knows what is due to _you_."
"It will not do," whispered Frank to Emma; "they are most
of them affronted. I will attack them with more address.
Ladies and gentlemen--I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse to say, that she
waives her right of knowing exactly what you may all be thinking of,
and only requires something very entertaining from each of you,
in a general way. Here are seven of you, besides myself, (who, she
is pleased to say, am very entertaining already,) and she only
demands from each of you either one thing very clever, be it prose
or verse, original or repeated--or two things moderately clever--
or three things very dull indeed, and she engages to laugh heartily
at them all."
"Oh! very well," exclaimed Miss Bates, "then I need not be uneasy.
`Three things very dull indeed.' That will just do for me, you know.
I shall be sure to say three dull things as soon as ever I open
my mouth, shan't I? (looking round with the most good-humoured
dependence on every body's assent)--Do not you all think I shall?"
Emma could not resist.
"Ah! ma'am, but there may be a difficulty. Pardon me--but you
will be limited as to number--only three at once."
Miss Bates, deceived by the mock ceremony of her manner, did not
immediately catch her meaning; but, when it burst on her, it could
not anger, though a slight blush shewed that it could pain her.
"Ah!--well--to be sure. Yes, I see what she means, (turning to
Mr. Knightley,) and I will try to hold my tongue. I must make
myself very disagreeable, or she would not have said such a thing
to an old friend."
"I like your plan," cried Mr. Weston. "Agreed, agreed. I will do
my best. I am making a conundrum. How will a conundrum reckon?"
"Low, I am afraid, sir, very low," answered his son;--"but we shall
be indulgent--especially to any one who leads the way."
"No, no," said Emma, "it will not reckon low. A conundrum of
Mr. Weston's shall clear him and his next neighbour. Come, sir,
pray let me hear it."
"I doubt its being very clever myself," said Mr. Weston.
"It is too much a matter of fact, but here it is.--What two letters
of the alphabet are there, that express perfection?"
"What two letters!--express perfection! I am sure I do not know."
"Ah! you will never guess. You, (to Emma), I am certain, will
never guess.--I will tell you.--M. and A.--Em-ma.--Do you understand?"
Understanding and gratification came together. It might be a very
indifferent piece of wit, but Emma found a great deal to laugh
at and enjoy in it--and so did Frank and Harriet.--It did not seem
to touch the rest of the party equally; some looked very stupid
about it, and Mr. Knightley gravely said,
"This explains the sort of clever thing that is wanted, and Mr. Weston
has done very well for himself; but he must have knocked up every
body else. _Perfection_ should not have come quite so soon."
"Oh! for myself, I protest I must be excused," said Mrs. Elton;
"_I_ really cannot attempt--I am not at all fond of the sort of thing.
I had an acrostic once sent to me upon my own name, which I was not
at all pleased with. I knew who it came from. An abominable puppy!--
You know who I mean (nodding to her husband). These kind of things
are very well at Christmas, when one is sitting round the fire;
but quite out of place, in my opinion, when one is exploring
about the country in summer. Miss Woodhouse must excuse me.
I am not one of those who have witty things at every body's service.
I do not pretend to be a wit. I have a great deal of vivacity
in my own way, but I really must be allowed to judge when to speak
and when to hold my tongue. Pass us, if you please, Mr. Churchill.
Pass Mr. E., Knightley, Jane, and myself. We have nothing clever to say--
not one of us.
"Yes, yes, pray pass _me_," added her husband, with a sort of
sneering consciousness; "_I_ have nothing to say that can entertain
Miss Woodhouse, or any other young lady. An old married man--
quite good for nothing. Shall we walk, Augusta?"
"With all my heart. I am really tired of exploring so long
on one spot. Come, Jane, take my other arm."
Jane declined it, however, and the husband and wife walked off.
"Happy couple!" said Frank Churchill, as soon as they were out
of hearing:--"How well they suit one another!--Very lucky--marrying as
they did, upon an acquaintance formed only in a public place!--They only
knew each other, I think, a few weeks in Bath! Peculiarly lucky!--
for as to any real knowledge of a person's disposition that Bath,
or any public place, can give--it is all nothing; there can be
no knowledge. It is only by seeing women in their own homes,
among their own set, just as they always are, that you can form
any just judgment. Short of that, it is all guess and luck--
and will generally be ill-luck. How many a man has committed himself
on a short acquaintance, and rued it all the rest of his life!"
Miss Fairfax, who had seldom spoken before, except among her
own confederates, spoke now.
"Such things do occur, undoubtedly."--She was stopped by a cough.
Frank Churchill turned towards her to listen.
"You were speaking," said he, gravely. She recovered her voice.
"I was only going to observe, that though such unfortunate circumstances
do sometimes occur both to men and women, I cannot imagine them
to be very frequent. A hasty and imprudent attachment may arise--
but there is generally time to recover from it afterwards. I would
be understood to mean, that it can be only weak, irresolute characters,
(whose happiness must be always at the mercy of chance,)
who will suffer an unfortunate acquaintance to be an inconvenience,
an oppression for ever."
He made no answer; merely looked, and bowed in submission; and soon
afterwards said, in a lively tone,
"Well, I have so little confidence in my own judgment, that whenever
I marry, I hope some body will chuse my wife for me. Will you?
(turning to Emma.) Will you chuse a wife for me?--I am sure I
should like any body fixed on by you. You provide for the family,
you know, (with a smile at his father). Find some body for me.
I am in no hurry. Adopt her, educate her."
"And make her like myself."
"By all means, if you can."
"Very well. I undertake the commission. You shall have a charming wife."
"She must be very lively, and have hazle eyes. I care for nothing else.
I shall go abroad for a couple of years--and when I return,
I shall come to you for my wife. Remember."
Emma was in no danger of forgetting. It was a commission to touch every
favourite feeling. Would not Harriet be the very creature described?
Hazle eyes excepted, two years more might make her all that he wished.
He might even have Harriet in his thoughts at the moment;
who could say? Referring the education to her seemed to imply it.
"Now, ma'am," said Jane to her aunt, "shall we join Mrs. Elton?"
"If you please, my dear. With all my heart. I am quite ready.
I was ready to have gone with her, but this will do just as well.
We shall soon overtake her. There she is--no, that's somebody else.
That's one of the ladies in the Irish car party, not at all like her.--
Well, I declare--"
They walked off, followed in half a minute by Mr. Knightley.
Mr. Weston, his son, Emma, and Harriet, only remained; and the young
man's spirits now rose to a pitch almost unpleasant. Even Emma grew
tired at last of flattery and merriment, and wished herself rather
walking quietly about with any of the others, or sitting almost alone,
and quite unattended to, in tranquil observation of the beautiful
views beneath her. The appearance of the servants looking out
for them to give notice of the carriages was a joyful sight;
and even the bustle of collecting and preparing to depart,
and the solicitude of Mrs. Elton to have _her_ carriage first,
were gladly endured, in the prospect of the quiet drive home which was
to close the very questionable enjoyments of this day of pleasure.
Such another scheme, composed of so many ill-assorted people,
she hoped never to be betrayed into again.
While waiting for the carriage, she found Mr. Knightley by her side.
He looked around, as if to see that no one were near, and then said,
"Emma, I must once more speak to you as I have been used to do:
a privilege rather endured than allowed, perhaps, but I must still
use it. I cannot see you acting wrong, without a remonstrance.
How could you be so unfeeling to Miss Bates? How could you be so
insolent in your wit to a woman of her character, age, and situation?--
Emma, I had not thought it possible."
Emma recollected, blushed, was sorry, but tried to laugh it off.
"Nay, how could I help saying what I did?--Nobody could have helped it.
It was not so very bad. I dare say she did not understand me."
"I assure you she did. She felt your full meaning. She has talked
of it since. I wish you could have heard how she talked of it--
with what candour and generosity. I wish you could have heard her
honouring your forbearance, in being able to pay her such attentions,
as she was for ever receiving from yourself and your father,
when her society must be so irksome."
"Oh!" cried Emma, "I know there is not a better creature in the world:
but you must allow, that what is good and what is ridiculous are
most unfortunately blended in her."
"They are blended," said he, "I acknowledge; and, were she prosperous,
I could allow much for the occasional prevalence of the ridiculous
over the good. Were she a woman of fortune, I would leave every
harmless absurdity to take its chance, I would not quarrel with you
for any liberties of manner. Were she your equal in situation--
but, Emma, consider how far this is from being the case. She is poor;
she has sunk from the comforts she was born to; and, if she live
to old age, must probably sink more. Her situation should secure
your compassion. It was badly done, indeed! You, whom she had known
from an infant, whom she had seen grow up from a period when her
notice was an honour, to have you now, in thoughtless spirits,
and the pride of the moment, laugh at her, humble her--and before
her niece, too--and before others, many of whom (certainly _some_,)
would be entirely guided by _your_ treatment of her.--This is not
pleasant to you, Emma--and it is very far from pleasant to me;
but I must, I will,--I will tell you truths while I can;
satisfied with proving myself your friend by very faithful counsel,
and trusting that you will some time or other do me greater justice
than you can do now."
While they talked, they were advancing towards the carriage;
it was ready; and, before she could speak again, he had handed her in.
He had misinterpreted the feelings which had kept her face averted,
and her tongue motionless. They were combined only of anger
against herself, mortification, and deep concern. She had not
been able to speak; and, on entering the carriage, sunk back
for a moment overcome--then reproaching herself for having taken
no leave, making no acknowledgment, parting in apparent sullenness,
she looked out with voice and hand eager to shew a difference;
but it was just too late. He had turned away, and the horses were
in motion. She continued to look back, but in vain; and soon,
with what appeared unusual speed, they were half way down the hill,
and every thing left far behind. She was vexed beyond what could
have been expressed--almost beyond what she could conceal.
Never had she felt so agitated, mortified, grieved, at any circumstance
in her life. She was most forcibly struck. The truth of this
representation there was no denying. She felt it at her heart.
How could she have been so brutal, so cruel to Miss Bates! How could
she have exposed herself to such ill opinion in any one she valued!
And how suffer him to leave her without saying one word of gratitude,
of concurrence, of common kindness!
Time did not compose her. As she reflected more, she seemed
but to feel it more. She never had been so depressed. Happily it
was not necessary to speak. There was only Harriet, who seemed not
in spirits herself, fagged, and very willing to be silent; and Emma
felt the tears running down her cheeks almost all the way home,
without being at any trouble to check them, extraordinary as they were.
The wretchedness of a scheme to Box Hill was in Emma's thoughts all
the evening. How it might be considered by the rest of the party,
she could not tell. They, in their different homes, and their different
ways, might be looking back on it with pleasure; but in her view it
was a morning more completely misspent, more totally bare of rational
satisfaction at the time, and more to be abhorred in recollection,
than any she had ever passed. A whole evening of back-gammon with
her father, was felicity to it. _There_, indeed, lay real pleasure,
for there she was giving up the sweetest hours of the twenty-four
to his comfort; and feeling that, unmerited as might be the degree
of his fond affection and confiding esteem, she could not, in her
general conduct, be open to any severe reproach. As a daughter,
she hoped she was not without a heart. She hoped no one could
have said to her, "How could you be so unfeeling to your father?--
I must, I will tell you truths while I can." Miss Bates should
never again--no, never! If attention, in future, could do away
the past, she might hope to be forgiven. She had been often remiss,
her conscience told her so; remiss, perhaps, more in thought
than fact; scornful, ungracious. But it should be so no more.
In the warmth of true contrition, she would call upon her the
very next morning, and it should be the beginning, on her side,
of a regular, equal, kindly intercourse.
She was just as determined when the morrow came, and went early,
that nothing might prevent her. It was not unlikely, she thought,
that she might see Mr. Knightley in her way; or, perhaps, he might
come in while she were paying her visit. She had no objection.
She would not be ashamed of the appearance of the penitence, so justly
and truly hers. Her eyes were towards Donwell as she walked, but she
saw him not.
"The ladies were all at home." She had never rejoiced at the sound
before, nor ever before entered the passage, nor walked up the stairs,
with any wish of giving pleasure, but in conferring obligation,
or of deriving it, except in subsequent ridicule.
There was a bustle on her approach; a good deal of moving and talking.
She heard Miss Bates's voice, something was to be done in a hurry;
the maid looked frightened and awkward; hoped she would be pleased
to wait a moment, and then ushered her in too soon. The aunt and
niece seemed both escaping into the adjoining room. Jane she had
a distinct glimpse of, looking extremely ill; and, before the door
had shut them out, she heard Miss Bates saying, "Well, my dear,
I shall _say_ you are laid down upon the bed, and I am sure you are
Poor old Mrs. Bates, civil and humble as usual, looked as if she
did not quite understand what was going on.
"I am afraid Jane is not very well," said she, "but I do not know;
they _tell_ me she is well. I dare say my daughter will be here presently,
Miss Woodhouse. I hope you find a chair. I wish Hetty had not gone.
I am very little able--Have you a chair, ma'am? Do you sit where
you like? I am sure she will be here presently."
Emma seriously hoped she would. She had a moment's fear of Miss
Bates keeping away from her. But Miss Bates soon came--"Very happy
and obliged"--but Emma's conscience told her that there was not the
same cheerful volubility as before--less ease of look and manner.
A very friendly inquiry after Miss Fairfax, she hoped, might lead
the way to a return of old feelings. The touch seemed immediate.
"Ah! Miss Woodhouse, how kind you are!--I suppose you have heard--
and are come to give us joy. This does not seem much like joy,
indeed, in me--(twinkling away a tear or two)--but it will be
very trying for us to part with her, after having had her so long,
and she has a dreadful headache just now, writing all the morning:--
such long letters, you know, to be written to Colonel Campbell,
and Mrs. Dixon. `My dear,' said I, `you will blind yourself'--
for tears were in her eyes perpetually. One cannot wonder,
one cannot wonder. It is a great change; and though she is
amazingly fortunate--such a situation, I suppose, as no young woman
before ever met with on first going out--do not think us ungrateful,
Miss Woodhouse, for such surprising good fortune--(again dispersing
her tears)--but, poor dear soul! if you were to see what a headache
she has. When one is in great pain, you know one cannot feel
any blessing quite as it may deserve. She is as low as possible.
To look at her, nobody would think how delighted and happy she
is to have secured such a situation. You will excuse her not
coming to you--she is not able--she is gone into her own room--
I want her to lie down upon the bed. `My dear,' said I, `I shall
say you are laid down upon the bed:' but, however, she is not;
she is walking about the room. But, now that she has written
her letters, she says she shall soon be well. She will be extremely
sorry to miss seeing you, Miss Woodhouse, but your kindness will
excuse her. You were kept waiting at the door--I was quite ashamed--
but somehow there was a little bustle--for it so happened that we
had not heard the knock, and till you were on the stairs, we did
not know any body was coming. `It is only Mrs. Cole,' said I,
`depend upon it. Nobody else would come so early.' `Well,' said she,
`it must be borne some time or other, and it may as well be now.'
But then Patty came in, and said it was you. `Oh!' said I,
`it is Miss Woodhouse: I am sure you will like to see her.'--
`I can see nobody,' said she; and up she got, and would go away;
and that was what made us keep you waiting--and extremely sorry
and ashamed we were. `If you must go, my dear,' said I, `you must,
and I will say you are laid down upon the bed.'"
Emma was most sincerely interested. Her heart had been long growing
kinder towards Jane; and this picture of her present sufferings acted
as a cure of every former ungenerous suspicion, and left her nothing
but pity; and the remembrance of the less just and less gentle
sensations of the past, obliged her to admit that Jane might very
naturally resolve on seeing Mrs. Cole or any other steady friend,
when she might not bear to see herself. She spoke as she felt,
with earnest regret and solicitude--sincerely wishing that the
circumstances which she collected from Miss Bates to be now actually
determined on, might be as much for Miss Fairfax's advantage
and comfort as possible. "It must be a severe trial to them all.
She had understood it was to be delayed till Colonel Campbell's return."
"So very kind!" replied Miss Bates. "But you are always kind."
There was no bearing such an "always;" and to break through her
dreadful gratitude, Emma made the direct inquiry of--
"Where--may I ask?--is Miss Fairfax going?"
"To a Mrs. Smallridge--charming woman--most superior--to have
the charge of her three little girls--delightful children.
Impossible that any situation could be more replete with comfort;
if we except, perhaps, Mrs. Suckling's own family, and Mrs. Bragge's;
but Mrs. Smallridge is intimate with both, and in the very
same neighbourhood:--lives only four miles from Maple Grove.
Jane will be only four miles from Maple Grove."
"Mrs. Elton, I suppose, has been the person to whom Miss Fairfax owes--"
"Yes, our good Mrs. Elton. The most indefatigable, true friend.
She would not take a denial. She would not let Jane say, `No;' for
when Jane first heard of it, (it was the day before yesterday,
the very morning we were at Donwell,) when Jane first heard of it,
she was quite decided against accepting the offer, and for the
reasons you mention; exactly as you say, she had made up her mind
to close with nothing till Colonel Campbell's return, and nothing
should induce her to enter into any engagement at present--and so she
told Mrs. Elton over and over again--and I am sure I had no more
idea that she would change her mind!--but that good Mrs. Elton,
whose judgment never fails her, saw farther than I did. It is not
every body that would have stood out in such a kind way as she did,
and refuse to take Jane's answer; but she positively declared she
would _not_ write any such denial yesterday, as Jane wished her;
she would wait--and, sure enough, yesterday evening it was all
settled that Jane should go. Quite a surprize to me! I had not
the least idea!--Jane took Mrs. Elton aside, and told her at once,
that upon thinking over the advantages of Mrs. Smallridge's situation,
she had come to the resolution of accepting it.--I did not know a word
of it till it was all settled."
"You spent the evening with Mrs. Elton?"
"Yes, all of us; Mrs. Elton would have us come. It was settled so,
upon the hill, while we were walking about with Mr. Knightley.
`You _must_ _all_ spend your evening with us,' said she--`I positively must
have you _all_ come.'"
"Mr. Knightley was there too, was he?"
"No, not Mr. Knightley; he declined it from the first; and though I
thought he would come, because Mrs. Elton declared she would not let
him off, he did not;--but my mother, and Jane, and I, were all there,
and a very agreeable evening we had. Such kind friends, you know,
Miss Woodhouse, one must always find agreeable, though every body
seemed rather fagged after the morning's party. Even pleasure,
you know, is fatiguing--and I cannot say that any of them seemed
very much to have enjoyed it. However, _I_ shall always think it
a very pleasant party, and feel extremely obliged to the kind friends
who included me in it."
"Miss Fairfax, I suppose, though you were not aware of it, had been
making up her mind the whole day?"
"I dare say she had."
"Whenever the time may come, it must be unwelcome to her and all
her friends--but I hope her engagement will have every alleviation
that is possible--I mean, as to the character and manners of the family."
"Thank you, dear Miss Woodhouse. Yes, indeed, there is every thing
in the world that can make her happy in it. Except the Sucklings
and Bragges, there is not such another nursery establishment,
so liberal and elegant, in all Mrs. Elton's acquaintance.
Mrs. Smallridge, a most delightful woman!--A style of living almost
equal to Maple Grove--and as to the children, except the little
Sucklings and little Bragges, there are not such elegant sweet
children anywhere. Jane will be treated with such regard and kindness!--
It will be nothing but pleasure, a life of pleasure.--And her salary!--
I really cannot venture to name her salary to you, Miss Woodhouse.
Even you, used as you are to great sums, would hardly believe that
so much could be given to a young person like Jane."
"Ah! madam," cried Emma, "if other children are at all like what I
remember to have been myself, I should think five times the amount
of what I have ever yet heard named as a salary on such occasions,
"You are so noble in your ideas!"
"And when is Miss Fairfax to leave you?"
"Very soon, very soon, indeed; that's the worst of it.
Within a fortnight. Mrs. Smallridge is in a great hurry. My poor
mother does not know how to bear it. So then, I try to put it out of
her thoughts, and say, Come ma'am, do not let us think about it any more."
"Her friends must all be sorry to lose her; and will not Colonel
and Mrs. Campbell be sorry to find that she has engaged herself
before their return?"
"Yes; Jane says she is sure they will; but yet, this is such
a situation as she cannot feel herself justified in declining.
I was so astonished when she first told me what she had been saying
to Mrs. Elton, and when Mrs. Elton at the same moment came congratulating
me upon it! It was before tea--stay--no, it could not be before tea,
because we were just going to cards--and yet it was before tea,
because I remember thinking--Oh! no, now I recollect, now I have it;
something happened before tea, but not that. Mr. Elton was called
out of the room before tea, old John Abdy's son wanted to speak
with him. Poor old John, I have a great regard for him; he was clerk
to my poor father twenty-seven years; and now, poor old man, he is
bed-ridden, and very poorly with the rheumatic gout in his joints--
I must go and see him to-day; and so will Jane, I am sure, if she
gets out at all. And poor John's son came to talk to Mr. Elton
about relief from the parish; he is very well to do himself,
you know, being head man at the Crown, ostler, and every thing
of that sort, but still he cannot keep his father without some help;
and so, when Mr. Elton came back, he told us what John ostler
had been telling him, and then it came out about the chaise having
been sent to Randalls to take Mr. Frank Churchill to Richmond.
That was what happened before tea. It was after tea that Jane spoke
to Mrs. Elton."
Miss Bates would hardly give Emma time to say how perfectly
new this circumstance was to her; but as without supposing it
possible that she could be ignorant of any of the particulars
of Mr. Frank Churchill's going, she proceeded to give them all,
it was of no consequence.
What Mr. Elton had learned from the ostler on the subject, being the
accumulation of the ostler's own knowledge, and the knowledge
of the servants at Randalls, was, that a messenger had come over
from Richmond soon after the return of the party from Box Hill--
which messenger, however, had been no more than was expected;
and that Mr. Churchill had sent his nephew a few lines, containing,
upon the whole, a tolerable account of Mrs. Churchill, and only
wishing him not to delay coming back beyond the next morning early;
but that Mr. Frank Churchill having resolved to go home directly,
without waiting at all, and his horse seeming to have got a cold,
Tom had been sent off immediately for the Crown chaise, and the
ostler had stood out and seen it pass by, the boy going a good pace,
and driving very steady.
There was nothing in all this either to astonish or interest,
and it caught Emma's attention only as it united with the subject
which already engaged her mind. The contrast between Mrs. Churchill's
importance in the world, and Jane Fairfax's, struck her; one was
every thing, the other nothing--and she sat musing on the difference
of woman's destiny, and quite unconscious on what her eyes were fixed,
till roused by Miss Bates's saying,
"Aye, I see what you are thinking of, the pianoforte. What is to become
of that?--Very true. Poor dear Jane was talking of it just now.--
`You must go,' said she. `You and I must part. You will have no
business here.--Let it stay, however,' said she; `give it houseroom
till Colonel Campbell comes back. I shall talk about it to him;
he will settle for me; he will help me out of all my difficulties.'--
And to this day, I do believe, she knows not whether it was his
present or his daughter's."
Now Emma was obliged to think of the pianoforte; and the remembrance
of all her former fanciful and unfair conjectures was so little pleasing,
that she soon allowed herself to believe her visit had been
long enough; and, with a repetition of every thing that she could
venture to say of the good wishes which she really felt, took leave.
Emma's pensive meditations, as she walked home, were not interrupted;
but on entering the parlour, she found those who must rouse her.
Mr. Knightley and Harriet had arrived during her absence, and were
sitting with her father.--Mr. Knightley immediately got up, and in a
manner decidedly graver than usual, said,
"I would not go away without seeing you, but I have no time to spare,
and therefore must now be gone directly. I am going to London,
to spend a few days with John and Isabella. Have you any thing to
send or say, besides the `love,' which nobody carries?"
"Nothing at all. But is not this a sudden scheme?"
"Yes--rather--I have been thinking of it some little time."
Emma was sure he had not forgiven her; he looked unlike himself.
Time, however, she thought, would tell him that they ought to be
friends again. While he stood, as if meaning to go, but not going--
her father began his inquiries.
"Well, my dear, and did you get there safely?--And how did you
find my worthy old friend and her daughter?--I dare say they must
have been very much obliged to you for coming. Dear Emma has been
to call on Mrs. and Miss Bates, Mr. Knightley, as I told you before.
She is always so attentive to them!"
Emma's colour was heightened by this unjust praise; and with a smile,
and shake of the head, which spoke much, she looked at Mr. Knightley.--
It seemed as if there were an instantaneous impression in her favour,
as if his eyes received the truth from her's, and all that had
passed of good in her feelings were at once caught and honoured.--
He looked at her with a glow of regard. She was warmly gratified--
and in another moment still more so, by a little movement of
more than common friendliness on his part.--He took her hand;--
whether she had not herself made the first motion, she could not say--
she might, perhaps, have rather offered it--but he took her hand,
pressed it, and certainly was on the point of carrying it to his lips--
when, from some fancy or other, he suddenly let it go.--Why he should feel
such a scruple, why he should change his mind when it was all but done,
she could not perceive.--He would have judged better, she thought,
if he had not stopped.--The intention, however, was indubitable;
and whether it was that his manners had in general so little gallantry,
or however else it happened, but she thought nothing became him more.--
It was with him, of so simple, yet so dignified a nature.--
She could not but recall the attempt with great satisfaction.
It spoke such perfect amity.--He left them immediately afterwards--
gone in a moment. He always moved with the alertness of a mind which
could neither be undecided nor dilatory, but now he seemed more sudden
than usual in his disappearance.
Emma could not regret her having gone to Miss Bates, but she wished
she had left her ten minutes earlier;--it would have been a great
pleasure to talk over Jane Fairfax's situation with Mr. Knightley.--
Neither would she regret that he should be going to Brunswick Square,
for she knew how much his visit would be enjoyed--but it might have
happened at a better time--and to have had longer notice of it,
would have been pleasanter.--They parted thorough friends, however;
she could not be deceived as to the meaning of his countenance,
and his unfinished gallantry;--it was all done to assure her that she
had fully recovered his good opinion.--He had been sitting with them
half an hour, she found. It was a pity that she had not come
In the hope of diverting her father's thoughts from the disagreeableness
of Mr. Knightley's going to London; and going so suddenly;
and going on horseback, which she knew would be all very bad;
Emma communicated her news of Jane Fairfax, and her dependence
on the effect was justified; it supplied a very useful check,--
interested, without disturbing him. He had long made up his mind to Jane
Fairfax's going out as governess, and could talk of it cheerfully,
but Mr. Knightley's going to London had been an unexpected blow.
"I am very glad, indeed, my dear, to hear she is to be so
comfortably settled. Mrs. Elton is very good-natured and agreeable,
and I dare say her acquaintance are just what they ought
to be. I hope it is a dry situation, and that her health
will be taken good care of. It ought to be a first object,
as I am sure poor Miss Taylor's always was with me. You know,
my dear, she is going to be to this new lady what Miss Taylor
was to us. And I hope she will be better off in one respect,
and not be induced to go away after it has been her home so long."
The following day brought news from Richmond to throw every
thing else into the background. An express arrived at Randalls
to announce the death of Mrs. Churchill! Though her nephew
had had no particular reason to hasten back on her account,
she had not lived above six-and-thirty hours after his return.
A sudden seizure of a different nature from any thing foreboded
by her general state, had carried her off after a short struggle.
The great Mrs. Churchill was no more.
It was felt as such things must be felt. Every body had a
degree of gravity and sorrow; tenderness towards the departed,
solicitude for the surviving friends; and, in a reasonable time,
curiosity to know where she would be buried. Goldsmith tells us,
that when lovely woman stoops to folly, she has nothing to do
but to die; and when she stoops to be disagreeable, it is equally
to be recommended as a clearer of ill-fame. Mrs. Churchill,
after being disliked at least twenty-five years, was now spoken of
with compassionate allowances. In one point she was fully justified.
She had never been admitted before to be seriously ill. The event
acquitted her of all the fancifulness, and all the selfishness
of imaginary complaints.
"Poor Mrs. Churchill! no doubt she had been suffering a great deal:
more than any body had ever supposed--and continual pain would try
the temper. It was a sad event--a great shock--with all her faults,
what would Mr. Churchill do without her? Mr. Churchill's loss
would be dreadful indeed. Mr. Churchill would never get over it."--
Even Mr. Weston shook his head, and looked solemn, and said,
"Ah! poor woman, who would have thought it!" and resolved, that his
mourning should be as handsome as possible; and his wife sat sighing
and moralising over her broad hems with a commiseration and good sense,
true and steady. How it would affect Frank was among the earliest
thoughts of both. It was also a very early speculation with Emma.
The character of Mrs. Churchill, the grief of her husband--her mind
glanced over them both with awe and compassion--and then rested
with lightened feelings on how Frank might be affected by the event,
how benefited, how freed. She saw in a moment all the possible good.
Now, an attachment to Harriet Smith would have nothing to encounter.
Mr. Churchill, independent of his wife, was feared by nobody;
an easy, guidable man, to be persuaded into any thing by his nephew.
All that remained to be wished was, that the nephew should form
the attachment, as, with all her goodwill in the cause, Emma could feel
no certainty of its being already formed.
Harriet behaved extremely well on the occasion, with great self-command.
What ever she might feel of brighter hope, she betrayed nothing. Emma was
gratified, to observe such a proof in her of strengthened character,
and refrained from any allusion that might endanger its maintenance.
They spoke, therefore, of Mrs. Churchill's death with mutual forbearance.
Short letters from Frank were received at Randalls, communicating
all that was immediately important of their state and plans.
Mr. Churchill was better than could be expected; and their
first removal, on the departure of the funeral for Yorkshire,
was to be to the house of a very old friend in Windsor, to whom
Mr. Churchill had been promising a visit the last ten years.
At present, there was nothing to be done for Harriet; good wishes
for the future were all that could yet be possible on Emma's side.
It was a more pressing concern to shew attention to Jane Fairfax,
whose prospects were closing, while Harriet's opened, and whose
engagements now allowed of no delay in any one at Highbury, who wished
to shew her kindness--and with Emma it was grown into a first wish.
She had scarcely a stronger regret than for her past coldness;
and the person, whom she had been so many months neglecting, was now
the very one on whom she would have lavished every distinction of
regard or sympathy. She wanted to be of use to her; wanted to shew
a value for her society, and testify respect and consideration.
She resolved to prevail on her to spend a day at Hartfield.
A note was written to urge it. The invitation was refused, and by
a verbal message. "Miss Fairfax was not well enough to write;"
and when Mr. Perry called at Hartfield, the same morning,
it appeared that she was so much indisposed as to have been visited,
though against her own consent, by himself, and that she was suffering
under severe headaches, and a nervous fever to a degree, which made
him doubt the possibility of her going to Mrs. Smallridge's at the
time proposed. Her health seemed for the moment completely deranged--
appetite quite gone--and though there were no absolutely
alarming symptoms, nothing touching the pulmonary complaint,
which was the standing apprehension of the family, Mr. Perry was
uneasy about her. He thought she had undertaken more than she
was equal to, and that she felt it so herself, though she would
not own it. Her spirits seemed overcome. Her present home,
he could not but observe, was unfavourable to a nervous disorder:--
confined always to one room;--he could have wished it otherwise--
and her good aunt, though his very old friend, he must acknowledge
to be not the best companion for an invalid of that description.
Her care and attention could not be questioned; they were, in fact,
only too great. He very much feared that Miss Fairfax derived more
evil than good from them. Emma listened with the warmest concern;
grieved for her more and more, and looked around eager to discover
some way of being useful. To take her--be it only an hour
or two--from her aunt, to give her change of air and scene,
and quiet rational conversation, even for an hour or two,
might do her good; and the following morning she wrote again to say,
in the most feeling language she could command, that she would
call for her in the carriage at any hour that Jane would name--
mentioning that she had Mr. Perry's decided opinion, in favour
of such exercise for his patient. The answer was only in this
"Miss Fairfax's compliments and thanks, but is quite unequal
to any exercise."
Emma felt that her own note had deserved something better; but it
was impossible to quarrel with words, whose tremulous inequality
shewed indisposition so plainly, and she thought only of how she
might best counteract this unwillingness to be seen or assisted.
In spite of the answer, therefore, she ordered the carriage, and drove
to Mrs. Bates's, in the hope that Jane would be induced to join her--
but it would not do;--Miss Bates came to the carriage door, all gratitude,
and agreeing with her most earnestly in thinking an airing might be of
the greatest service--and every thing that message could do was tried--
but all in vain. Miss Bates was obliged to return without success;
Jane was quite unpersuadable; the mere proposal of going out
seemed to make her worse.--Emma wished she could have seen her,
and tried her own powers; but, almost before she could hint the wish,
Miss Bates made it appear that she had promised her niece on
no account to let Miss Woodhouse in. "Indeed, the truth was,
that poor dear Jane could not bear to see any body--any body at all--
Mrs. Elton, indeed, could not be denied--and Mrs. Cole had made
such a point--and Mrs. Perry had said so much--but, except them,
Jane would really see nobody."
Emma did not want to be classed with the Mrs. Eltons, the Mrs. Perrys,
and the Mrs. Coles, who would force themselves anywhere;
neither could she feel any right of preference herself--
she submitted, therefore, and only questioned Miss Bates farther
as to her niece's appetite and diet, which she longed to be able
to assist. On that subject poor Miss Bates was very unhappy,
and very communicative; Jane would hardly eat any thing:--
Mr. Perry recommended nourishing food; but every thing they could
command (and never had any body such good neighbours) was distasteful.
Emma, on reaching home, called the housekeeper directly, to an
examination of her stores; and some arrowroot of very superior quality
was speedily despatched to Miss Bates with a most friendly note.
In half an hour the arrowroot was returned, with a thousand thanks
from Miss Bates, but "dear Jane would not be satisfied without its
being sent back; it was a thing she could not take--and, moreover,
she insisted on her saying, that she was not at all in want of any thing."
When Emma afterwards heard that Jane Fairfax had been seen wandering
about the meadows, at some distance from Highbury, on the afternoon
of the very day on which she had, under the plea of being unequal
to any exercise, so peremptorily refused to go out with her in
the carriage, she could have no doubt--putting every thing together--
that Jane was resolved to receive no kindness from _her_. She was sorry,
very sorry. Her heart was grieved for a state which seemed
but the more pitiable from this sort of irritation of spirits,
inconsistency of action, and inequality of powers; and it mortified
her that she was given so little credit for proper feeling, or esteemed
so little worthy as a friend: but she had the consolation of knowing
that her intentions were good, and of being able to say to herself,
that could Mr. Knightley have been privy to all her attempts
of assisting Jane Fairfax, could he even have seen into her heart,
he would not, on this occasion, have found any thing to reprove.
One morning, about ten days after Mrs. Churchill's decease,
Emma was called downstairs to Mr. Weston, who "could not stay
five minutes, and wanted particularly to speak with her."--
He met her at the parlour-door, and hardly asking her how she did,
in the natural key of his voice, sunk it immediately, to say,
unheard by her father,
"Can you come to Randalls at any time this morning?--Do, if it
be possible. Mrs. Weston wants to see you. She must see you."
"Is she unwell?"
"No, no, not at all--only a little agitated. She would have
ordered the carriage, and come to you, but she must see you _alone_,
and that you know--(nodding towards her father)--Humph!--Can you come?"
"Certainly. This moment, if you please. It is impossible to
refuse what you ask in such a way. But what can be the matter?--
Is she really not ill?"
"Depend upon me--but ask no more questions. You will know it
all in time. The most unaccountable business! But hush, hush!"
To guess what all this meant, was impossible even for Emma.
Something really important seemed announced by his looks;
but, as her friend was well, she endeavoured not to be uneasy,
and settling it with her father, that she would take her walk now,
she and Mr. Weston were soon out of the house together and on
their way at a quick pace for Randalls.
"Now,"--said Emma, when they were fairly beyond the sweep gates,--
"now Mr. Weston, do let me know what has happened."
"No, no,"--he gravely replied.--"Don't ask me. I promised my wife
to leave it all to her. She will break it to you better than I can.
Do not be impatient, Emma; it will all come out too soon."
"Break it to me," cried Emma, standing still with terror.--
"Good God!--Mr. Weston, tell me at once.--Something has happened
in Brunswick Square. I know it has. Tell me, I charge you tell
me this moment what it is."
"No, indeed you are mistaken."--
"Mr. Weston do not trifle with me.--Consider how many of my dearest
friends are now in Brunswick Square. Which of them is it?--
I charge you by all that is sacred, not to attempt concealment."
"Upon my word, Emma."--
"Your word!--why not your honour!--why not say upon your honour,
that it has nothing to do with any of them? Good Heavens!--What can
be to be _broke_ to me, that does not relate to one of that family?"
"Upon my honour," said he very seriously, "it does not. It is not
in the smallest degree connected with any human being of the name
Emma's courage returned, and she walked on.
"I was wrong," he continued, "in talking of its being _broke_ to you.
I should not have used the expression. In fact, it does not concern you--
it concerns only myself,--that is, we hope.--Humph!--In short,
my dear Emma, there is no occasion to be so uneasy about it.
I don't say that it is not a disagreeable business--but things might
be much worse.--If we walk fast, we shall soon be at Randalls."
Emma found that she must wait; and now it required little effort.
She asked no more questions therefore, merely employed her own fancy,
and that soon pointed out to her the probability of its being some
money concern--something just come to light, of a disagreeable
nature in the circumstances of the family,--something which the late
event at Richmond had brought forward. Her fancy was very active.
Half a dozen natural children, perhaps--and poor Frank cut off!--
This, though very undesirable, would be no matter of agony to her.
It inspired little more than an animating curiosity.
"Who is that gentleman on horseback?" said she, as they proceeded--
speaking more to assist Mr. Weston in keeping his secret, than with
any other view.
"I do not know.--One of the Otways.--Not Frank;--it is not Frank,
I assure you. You will not see him. He is half way to Windsor
by this time."
"Has your son been with you, then?"
"Oh! yes--did not you know?--Well, well, never mind."
For a moment he was silent; and then added, in a tone much more
guarded and demure,
"Yes, Frank came over this morning, just to ask us how we did."
They hurried on, and were speedily at Randalls.--"Well, my dear,"
said he, as they entered the room--"I have brought her, and now
I hope you will soon be better. I shall leave you together.
There is no use in delay. I shall not be far off, if you want me."--
And Emma distinctly heard him add, in a lower tone, before he
quitted the room,--"I have been as good as my word. She has not the
Mrs. Weston was looking so ill, and had an air of so much perturbation,
that Emma's uneasiness increased; and the moment they were alone,
she eagerly said,
"What is it my dear friend? Something of a very unpleasant nature,
I find, has occurred;--do let me know directly what it is.
I have been walking all this way in complete suspense. We both
abhor suspense. Do not let mine continue longer. It will do you
good to speak of your distress, whatever it may be."
"Have you indeed no idea?" said Mrs. Weston in a trembling voice.
"Cannot you, my dear Emma--cannot you form a guess as to what you
are to hear?"
"So far as that it relates to Mr. Frank Churchill, I do guess."
"You are right. It does relate to him, and I will tell you directly;"
(resuming her work, and seeming resolved against looking up.)
"He has been here this very morning, on a most extraordinary errand.
It is impossible to express our surprize. He came to speak to his
father on a subject,--to announce an attachment--"
She stopped to breathe. Emma thought first of herself, and then
"More than an attachment, indeed," resumed Mrs. Weston; "an engagement--
a positive engagement.--What will you say, Emma--what will any
body say, when it is known that Frank Churchill and Miss Fairfax
are engaged;--nay, that they have been long engaged!"
Emma even jumped with surprize;--and, horror-struck, exclaimed,
"Jane Fairfax!--Good God! You are not serious? You do not mean it?"
"You may well be amazed," returned Mrs. Weston, still averting her eyes,
and talking on with eagerness, that Emma might have time to recover--
"You may well be amazed. But it is even so. There has been a solemn
engagement between them ever since October--formed at Weymouth,
and kept a secret from every body. Not a creature knowing it
but themselves--neither the Campbells, nor her family, nor his.--
It is so wonderful, that though perfectly convinced of the fact,
it is yet almost incredible to myself. I can hardly believe it.--
I thought I knew him."
Emma scarcely heard what was said.--Her mind was divided between
two ideas--her own former conversations with him about Miss Fairfax;
and poor Harriet;--and for some time she could only exclaim,
and require confirmation, repeated confirmation.
"Well," said she at last, trying to recover herself; "this is a
circumstance which I must think of at least half a day, before I
can at all comprehend it. What!--engaged to her all the winter--
before either of them came to Highbury?"
"Engaged since October,--secretly engaged.--It has hurt me,
Emma, very much. It has hurt his father equally. _Some_ _part_
of his conduct we cannot excuse."
Emma pondered a moment, and then replied, "I will not pretend
_not_ to understand you; and to give you all the relief in my power,
be assured that no such effect has followed his attentions to me,
as you are apprehensive of."
Mrs. Weston looked up, afraid to believe; but Emma's countenance
was as steady as her words.
"That you may have less difficulty in believing this boast, of my
present perfect indifference," she continued, "I will farther tell you,
that there was a period in the early part of our acquaintance,
when I did like him, when I was very much disposed to be
attached to him--nay, was attached--and how it came to cease,
is perhaps the wonder. Fortunately, however, it did cease.
I have really for some time past, for at least these three months,
cared nothing about him. You may believe me, Mrs. Weston.
This is the simple truth."
Mrs. Weston kissed her with tears of joy; and when she could
find utterance, assured her, that this protestation had done
her more good than any thing else in the world could do.
"Mr. Weston will be almost as much relieved as myself," said she.
"On this point we have been wretched. It was our darling wish that you
might be attached to each other--and we were persuaded that it was so.--
Imagine what we have been feeling on your account."
"I have escaped; and that I should escape, may be a matter of
grateful wonder to you and myself. But this does not acquit _him_,
Mrs. Weston; and I must say, that I think him greatly to blame.
What right had he to come among us with affection and faith engaged,
and with manners so _very_ disengaged? What right had he to endeavour
to please, as he certainly did--to distinguish any one young woman with
persevering attention, as he certainly did--while he really belonged
to another?--How could he tell what mischief he might be doing?--
How could he tell that he might not be making me in love with him?--
very wrong, very wrong indeed."
"From something that he said, my dear Emma, I rather imagine--"
"And how could _she_ bear such behaviour! Composure with a witness!
to look on, while repeated attentions were offering to another woman,
before her face, and not resent it.--That is a degree of placidity,
which I can neither comprehend nor respect."
"There were misunderstandings between them, Emma; he said
so expressly. He had not time to enter into much explanation.
He was here only a quarter of an hour, and in a state of agitation
which did not allow the full use even of the time he could stay--
but that there had been misunderstandings he decidedly said.
The present crisis, indeed, seemed to be brought on by them;
and those misunderstandings might very possibly arise from the
impropriety of his conduct."
"Impropriety! Oh! Mrs. Weston--it is too calm a censure.
Much, much beyond impropriety!--It has sunk him, I cannot say how
it has sunk him in my opinion. So unlike what a man should be!--
None of that upright integrity, that strict adherence to truth
and principle, that disdain of trick and littleness, which a man
should display in every transaction of his life."
"Nay, dear Emma, now I must take his part; for though he has been
wrong in this instance, I have known him long enough to answer
for his having many, very many, good qualities; and--"
"Good God!" cried Emma, not attending to her.--"Mrs. Smallridge, too!
Jane actually on the point of going as governess! What could he
mean by such horrible indelicacy? To suffer her to engage herself--
to suffer her even to think of such a measure!"
"He knew nothing about it, Emma. On this article I can fully
acquit him. It was a private resolution of hers, not communicated
to him--or at least not communicated in a way to carry conviction.--
Till yesterday, I know he said he was in the dark as to her plans.
They burst on him, I do not know how, but by some letter or message--
and it was the discovery of what she was doing, of this very project
of hers, which determined him to come forward at once, own it
all to his uncle, throw himself on his kindness, and, in short,
put an end to the miserable state of concealment that had been
carrying on so long."
Emma began to listen better.
"I am to hear from him soon," continued Mrs. Weston. "He told me
at parting, that he should soon write; and he spoke in a manner which
seemed to promise me many particulars that could not be given now.
Let us wait, therefore, for this letter. It may bring many extenuations.
It may make many things intelligible and excusable which now are
not to be understood. Don't let us be severe, don't let us be in
a hurry to condemn him. Let us have patience. I must love him;
and now that I am satisfied on one point, the one material point,
I am sincerely anxious for its all turning out well, and ready
to hope that it may. They must both have suffered a great deal
under such a system of secresy and concealment."
"_His_ sufferings," replied Emma dryly, "do not appear to have done
him much harm. Well, and how did Mr. Churchill take it?"
"Most favourably for his nephew--gave his consent with scarcely
a difficulty. Conceive what the events of a week have done
in that family! While poor Mrs. Churchill lived, I suppose there
could not have been a hope, a chance, a possibility;--but scarcely
are her remains at rest in the family vault, than her husband is
persuaded to act exactly opposite to what she would have required.
What a blessing it is, when undue influence does not survive the grave!--
He gave his consent with very little persuasion."
"Ah!" thought Emma, "he would have done as much for Harriet."
"This was settled last night, and Frank was off with the light
this morning. He stopped at Highbury, at the Bates's, I fancy,
some time--and then came on hither; but was in such a hurry to get
back to his uncle, to whom he is just now more necessary than ever,
that, as I tell you, he could stay with us but a quarter of an hour.--
He was very much agitated--very much, indeed--to a degree that made
him appear quite a different creature from any thing I had ever seen
him before.--In addition to all the rest, there had been the shock of
finding her so very unwell, which he had had no previous suspicion of--
and there was every appearance of his having been feeling a great deal."
"And do you really believe the affair to have been carrying on
with such perfect secresy?--The Campbells, the Dixons, did none
of them know of the engagement?"
Emma could not speak the name of Dixon without a little blush.
"None; not one. He positively said that it had been known to no
being in the world but their two selves."
"Well," said Emma, "I suppose we shall gradually grow reconciled
to the idea, and I wish them very happy. But I shall always
think it a very abominable sort of proceeding. What has it been
but a system of hypocrisy and deceit,--espionage, and treachery?--
To come among us with professions of openness and simplicity;
and such a league in secret to judge us all!--Here have we been,
the whole winter and spring, completely duped, fancying ourselves
all on an equal footing of truth and honour, with two people in the
midst of us who may have been carrying round, comparing and sitting
in judgment on sentiments and words that were never meant for both
to hear.--They must take the consequence, if they have heard each
other spoken of in a way not perfectly agreeable!"
"I am quite easy on that head," replied Mrs. Weston. "I am
very sure that I never said any thing of either to the other,
which both might not have heard."
"You are in luck.--Your only blunder was confined to my ear,
when you imagined a certain friend of ours in love with the lady."
"True. But as I have always had a thoroughly good opinion of Miss
Fairfax, I never could, under any blunder, have spoken ill of her;
and as to speaking ill of him, there I must have been safe."
At this moment Mr. Weston appeared at a little distance from the window,
evidently on the watch. His wife gave him a look which invited
him in; and, while he was coming round, added, "Now, dearest Emma,
let me intreat you to say and look every thing that may set his
heart at ease, and incline him to be satisfied with the match.
Let us make the best of it--and, indeed, almost every thing may
be fairly said in her favour. It is not a connexion to gratify;
but if Mr. Churchill does not feel that, why should we? and it
may be a very fortunate circumstance for him, for Frank, I mean,
that he should have attached himself to a girl of such steadiness
of character and good judgment as I have always given her credit for--
and still am disposed to give her credit for, in spite of this
one great deviation from the strict rule of right. And how much
may be said in her situation for even that error!"
"Much, indeed!" cried Emma feelingly. "If a woman can ever
be excused for thinking only of herself, it is in a situation
like Jane Fairfax's.--Of such, one may almost say, that `the
world is not their's, nor the world's law.'"
She met Mr. Weston on his entrance, with a smiling countenance,
"A very pretty trick you have been playing me, upon my word!
This was a device, I suppose, to sport with my curiosity,
and exercise my talent of guessing. But you really frightened me.
I thought you had lost half your property, at least. And here,
instead of its being a matter of condolence, it turns out to be one
of congratulation.--I congratulate you, Mr. Weston, with all my heart,
on the prospect of having one of the most lovely and accomplished
young women in England for your daughter."
A glance or two between him and his wife, convinced him that all was
as right as this speech proclaimed; and its happy effect on his spirits
was immediate. His air and voice recovered their usual briskness:
he shook her heartily and gratefully by the hand, and entered
on the subject in a manner to prove, that he now only wanted
time and persuasion to think the engagement no very bad thing.
His companions suggested only what could palliate imprudence,
or smooth objections; and by the time they had talked it all
over together, and he had talked it all over again with Emma,
in their walk back to Hartfield, he was become perfectly reconciled,
and not far from thinking it the very best thing that Frank could
possibly have done.
"Harriet, poor Harriet!"--Those were the words; in them lay the
tormenting ideas which Emma could not get rid of, and which constituted
the real misery of the business to her. Frank Churchill had behaved
very ill by herself--very ill in many ways,--but it was not so much
_his_ behaviour as her _own_, which made her so angry with him.
It was the scrape which he had drawn her into on Harriet's account,
that gave the deepest hue to his offence.--Poor Harriet! to be a second
time the dupe of her misconceptions and flattery. Mr. Knightley
had spoken prophetically, when he once said, "Emma, you have been
no friend to Harriet Smith."--She was afraid she had done her nothing
but disservice.--It was true that she had not to charge herself,
in this instance as in the former, with being the sole and original
author of the mischief; with having suggested such feelings as might
otherwise never have entered Harriet's imagination; for Harriet
had acknowledged her admiration and preference of Frank Churchill
before she had ever given her a hint on the subject; but she felt
completely guilty of having encouraged what she might have repressed.
She might have prevented the indulgence and increase of such sentiments.
Her influence would have been enough. And now she was very conscious
that she ought to have prevented them.--She felt that she had been
risking her friend's happiness on most insufficient grounds.
Common sense would have directed her to tell Harriet, that she
must not allow herself to think of him, and that there were five
hundred chances to one against his ever caring for her.--"But, with
common sense," she added, "I am afraid I have had little to do."
She was extremely angry with herself. If she could not have been
angry with Frank Churchill too, it would have been dreadful.--
As for Jane Fairfax, she might at least relieve her feelings
from any present solicitude on her account. Harriet would
be anxiety enough; she need no longer be unhappy about Jane,
whose troubles and whose ill-health having, of course, the same origin,
must be equally under cure.--Her days of insignificance and evil
were over.--She would soon be well, and happy, and prosperous.--
Emma could now imagine why her own attentions had been slighted.
This discovery laid many smaller matters open. No doubt it had been
from jealousy.--In Jane's eyes she had been a rival; and well might
any thing she could offer of assistance or regard be repulsed.
An airing in the Hartfield carriage would have been the rack,
and arrowroot from the Hartfield storeroom must have been poison.
She understood it all; and as far as her mind could disengage itself
from the injustice and selfishness of angry feelings, she acknowledged
that Jane Fairfax would have neither elevation nor happiness beyond
her desert. But poor Harriet was such an engrossing charge!
There was little sympathy to be spared for any body else.