Part 8 out of 9
Emma was sadly fearful that this second disappointment would be
more severe than the first. Considering the very superior claims
of the object, it ought; and judging by its apparently stronger effect
on Harriet's mind, producing reserve and self-command, it would.--
She must communicate the painful truth, however, and as soon
as possible. An injunction of secresy had been among Mr. Weston's
parting words. "For the present, the whole affair was to be
completely a secret. Mr. Churchill had made a point of it,
as a token of respect to the wife he had so very recently lost;
and every body admitted it to be no more than due decorum."--
Emma had promised; but still Harriet must be excepted. It was her
In spite of her vexation, she could not help feeling it almost ridiculous,
that she should have the very same distressing and delicate office to
perform by Harriet, which Mrs. Weston had just gone through by herself.
The intelligence, which had been so anxiously announced to her,
she was now to be anxiously announcing to another. Her heart beat
quick on hearing Harriet's footstep and voice; so, she supposed,
had poor Mrs. Weston felt when _she_ was approaching Randalls.
Could the event of the disclosure bear an equal resemblance!--
But of that, unfortunately, there could be no chance.
"Well, Miss Woodhouse!" cried Harriet, coming eagerly into the room--
"is not this the oddest news that ever was?"
"What news do you mean?" replied Emma, unable to guess, by look
or voice, whether Harriet could indeed have received any hint.
"About Jane Fairfax. Did you ever hear any thing so strange?
Oh!--you need not be afraid of owning it to me, for Mr. Weston has
told me himself. I met him just now. He told me it was to be
a great secret; and, therefore, I should not think of mentioning
it to any body but you, but he said you knew it."
"What did Mr. Weston tell you?"--said Emma, still perplexed.
"Oh! he told me all about it; that Jane Fairfax and Mr. Frank
Churchill are to be married, and that they have been privately
engaged to one another this long while. How very odd!"
It was, indeed, so odd; Harriet's behaviour was so extremely odd,
that Emma did not know how to understand it. Her character appeared
absolutely changed. She seemed to propose shewing no agitation,
or disappointment, or peculiar concern in the discovery. Emma looked
at her, quite unable to speak.
"Had you any idea," cried Harriet, "of his being in love
with her?--You, perhaps, might.--You (blushing as she spoke)
who can see into every body's heart; but nobody else--"
"Upon my word," said Emma, "I begin to doubt my having any such talent.
Can you seriously ask me, Harriet, whether I imagined him attached
to another woman at the very time that I was--tacitly, if not openly--
encouraging you to give way to your own feelings?--I never had
the slightest suspicion, till within the last hour, of Mr. Frank
Churchill's having the least regard for Jane Fairfax. You may be
very sure that if I had, I should have cautioned you accordingly."
"Me!" cried Harriet, colouring, and astonished. "Why should you
caution me?--You do not think I care about Mr. Frank Churchill."
"I am delighted to hear you speak so stoutly on the subject,"
replied Emma, smiling; "but you do not mean to deny that there
was a time--and not very distant either--when you gave me reason
to understand that you did care about him?"
"Him!--never, never. Dear Miss Woodhouse, how could you so mistake me?"
turning away distressed.
"Harriet!" cried Emma, after a moment's pause--"What do you mean?--
Good Heaven! what do you mean?--Mistake you!--Am I to suppose then?--"
She could not speak another word.--Her voice was lost; and she
sat down, waiting in great terror till Harriet should answer.
Harriet, who was standing at some distance, and with face turned
from her, did not immediately say any thing; and when she did speak,
it was in a voice nearly as agitated as Emma's.
"I should not have thought it possible," she began, "that you
could have misunderstood me! I know we agreed never to name him--
but considering how infinitely superior he is to every body else,
I should not have thought it possible that I could be supposed
to mean any other person. Mr. Frank Churchill, indeed! I do not
know who would ever look at him in the company of the other.
I hope I have a better taste than to think of Mr. Frank Churchill,
who is like nobody by his side. And that you should have been
so mistaken, is amazing!--I am sure, but for believing that you
entirely approved and meant to encourage me in my attachment,
I should have considered it at first too great a presumption almost,
to dare to think of him. At first, if you had not told me
that more wonderful things had happened; that there had been
matches of greater disparity (those were your very words);--
I should not have dared to give way to--I should not have thought
it possible--But if _you_, who had been always acquainted with him--"
"Harriet!" cried Emma, collecting herself resolutely--"Let us
understand each other now, without the possibility of farther mistake.
Are you speaking of--Mr. Knightley?"
"To be sure I am. I never could have an idea of any body else--
and so I thought you knew. When we talked about him, it was as clear
"Not quite," returned Emma, with forced calmness, "for all that
you then said, appeared to me to relate to a different person.
I could almost assert that you had _named_ Mr. Frank Churchill.
I am sure the service Mr. Frank Churchill had rendered you,
in protecting you from the gipsies, was spoken of."
"Oh! Miss Woodhouse, how you do forget!"
"My dear Harriet, I perfectly remember the substance of what I
said on the occasion. I told you that I did not wonder at
your attachment; that considering the service he had rendered you,
it was extremely natural:--and you agreed to it, expressing yourself
very warmly as to your sense of that service, and mentioning
even what your sensations had been in seeing him come forward
to your rescue.--The impression of it is strong on my memory."
"Oh, dear," cried Harriet, "now I recollect what you mean; but I
was thinking of something very different at the time. It was not
the gipsies--it was not Mr. Frank Churchill that I meant. No! (with
some elevation) I was thinking of a much more precious circumstance--
of Mr. Knightley's coming and asking me to dance, when Mr. Elton
would not stand up with me; and when there was no other partner in
the room. That was the kind action; that was the noble benevolence
and generosity; that was the service which made me begin to feel
how superior he was to every other being upon earth."
"Good God!" cried Emma, "this has been a most unfortunate--
most deplorable mistake!--What is to be done?"
"You would not have encouraged me, then, if you had understood me?
At least, however, I cannot be worse off than I should have been,
if the other had been the person; and now--it _is_ possible--"
She paused a few moments. Emma could not speak.
"I do not wonder, Miss Woodhouse," she resumed, "that you should feel
a great difference between the two, as to me or as to any body.
You must think one five hundred million times more above me than
the other. But I hope, Miss Woodhouse, that supposing--that if--
strange as it may appear--. But you know they were your own words,
that _more_ wonderful things had happened, matches of _greater_ disparity
had taken place than between Mr. Frank Churchill and me; and, therefore,
it seems as if such a thing even as this, may have occurred before--
and if I should be so fortunate, beyond expression, as to--
if Mr. Knightley should really--if _he_ does not mind the disparity,
I hope, dear Miss Woodhouse, you will not set yourself against it,
and try to put difficulties in the way. But you are too good for that,
I am sure."
Harriet was standing at one of the windows. Emma turned round
to look at her in consternation, and hastily said,
"Have you any idea of Mr. Knightley's returning your affection?"
"Yes," replied Harriet modestly, but not fearfully--"I must say
that I have."
Emma's eyes were instantly withdrawn; and she sat silently meditating,
in a fixed attitude, for a few minutes. A few minutes were sufficient
for making her acquainted with her own heart. A mind like hers,
once opening to suspicion, made rapid progress. She touched--
she admitted--she acknowledged the whole truth. Why was it
so much worse that Harriet should be in love with Mr. Knightley,
than with Frank Churchill? Why was the evil so dreadfully increased
by Harriet's having some hope of a return? It darted through her,
with the speed of an arrow, that Mr. Knightley must marry no one
Her own conduct, as well as her own heart, was before her in the
same few minutes. She saw it all with a clearness which had
never blessed her before. How improperly had she been acting
by Harriet! How inconsiderate, how indelicate, how irrational,
how unfeeling had been her conduct! What blindness, what madness,
had led her on! It struck her with dreadful force, and she
was ready to give it every bad name in the world. Some portion
of respect for herself, however, in spite of all these demerits--
some concern for her own appearance, and a strong sense of justice
by Harriet--(there would be no need of _compassion_ to the girl
who believed herself loved by Mr. Knightley--but justice required
that she should not be made unhappy by any coldness now,)
gave Emma the resolution to sit and endure farther with calmness,
with even apparent kindness.--For her own advantage indeed, it was fit
that the utmost extent of Harriet's hopes should be enquired into;
and Harriet had done nothing to forfeit the regard and interest
which had been so voluntarily formed and maintained--or to deserve
to be slighted by the person, whose counsels had never led her right.--
Rousing from reflection, therefore, and subduing her emotion,
she turned to Harriet again, and, in a more inviting accent, renewed
the conversation; for as to the subject which had first introduced it,
the wonderful story of Jane Fairfax, that was quite sunk and lost.--
Neither of them thought but of Mr. Knightley and themselves.
Harriet, who had been standing in no unhappy reverie, was yet very glad
to be called from it, by the now encouraging manner of such a judge,
and such a friend as Miss Woodhouse, and only wanted invitation,
to give the history of her hopes with great, though trembling
delight.--Emma's tremblings as she asked, and as she listened,
were better concealed than Harriet's, but they were not less.
Her voice was not unsteady; but her mind was in all the perturbation
that such a development of self, such a burst of threatening evil,
such a confusion of sudden and perplexing emotions, must create.--
She listened with much inward suffering, but with great outward
patience, to Harriet's detail.--Methodical, or well arranged,
or very well delivered, it could not be expected to be;
but it contained, when separated from all the feebleness and
tautology of the narration, a substance to sink her spirit--
especially with the corroborating circumstances, which her own memory
brought in favour of Mr. Knightley's most improved opinion of Harriet.
Harriet had been conscious of a difference in his behaviour ever since
those two decisive dances.--Emma knew that he had, on that occasion,
found her much superior to his expectation. From that evening,
or at least from the time of Miss Woodhouse's encouraging her
to think of him, Harriet had begun to be sensible of his talking
to her much more than he had been used to do, and of his having
indeed quite a different manner towards her; a manner of kindness
and sweetness!--Latterly she had been more and more aware of it.
When they had been all walking together, he had so often come and walked
by her, and talked so very delightfully!--He seemed to want to be
acquainted with her. Emma knew it to have been very much the case.
She had often observed the change, to almost the same extent.--
Harriet repeated expressions of approbation and praise from him--
and Emma felt them to be in the closest agreement with what she had
known of his opinion of Harriet. He praised her for being without
art or affectation, for having simple, honest, generous, feelings.--
She knew that he saw such recommendations in Harriet; he had dwelt
on them to her more than once.--Much that lived in Harriet's memory,
many little particulars of the notice she had received from him, a look,
a speech, a removal from one chair to another, a compliment implied,
a preference inferred, had been unnoticed, because unsuspected,
by Emma. Circumstances that might swell to half an hour's relation,
and contained multiplied proofs to her who had seen them, had passed
undiscerned by her who now heard them; but the two latest occurrences
to be mentioned, the two of strongest promise to Harriet, were not
without some degree of witness from Emma herself.--The first,
was his walking with her apart from the others, in the lime-walk
at Donwell, where they had been walking some time before Emma came,
and he had taken pains (as she was convinced) to draw her from
the rest to himself--and at first, he had talked to her in a more
particular way than he had ever done before, in a very particular
way indeed!--(Harriet could not recall it without a blush.) He seemed
to be almost asking her, whether her affections were engaged.--
But as soon as she (Miss Woodhouse) appeared likely to join them,
he changed the subject, and began talking about farming:--
The second, was his having sat talking with her nearly half an hour
before Emma came back from her visit, the very last morning of his
being at Hartfield--though, when he first came in, he had said
that he could not stay five minutes--and his having told her,
during their conversation, that though he must go to London,
it was very much against his inclination that he left home at all,
which was much more (as Emma felt) than he had acknowledged to _her_.
The superior degree of confidence towards Harriet, which this one
article marked, gave her severe pain.
On the subject of the first of the two circumstances, she did,
after a little reflection, venture the following question.
"Might he not?--Is not it possible, that when enquiring, as you thought,
into the state of your affections, he might be alluding to Mr. Martin--
he might have Mr. Martin's interest in view? But Harriet rejected
the suspicion with spirit.
"Mr. Martin! No indeed!--There was not a hint of Mr. Martin.
I hope I know better now, than to care for Mr. Martin, or to be
suspected of it."
When Harriet had closed her evidence, she appealed to her dear
Miss Woodhouse, to say whether she had not good ground for hope.
"I never should have presumed to think of it at first," said she,
"but for you. You told me to observe him carefully, and let
his behaviour be the rule of mine--and so I have. But now I seem
to feel that I may deserve him; and that if he does chuse me,
it will not be any thing so very wonderful."
The bitter feelings occasioned by this speech, the many bitter
feelings, made the utmost exertion necessary on Emma's side,
to enable her to say on reply,
"Harriet, I will only venture to declare, that Mr. Knightley is
the last man in the world, who would intentionally give any woman
the idea of his feeling for her more than he really does."
Harriet seemed ready to worship her friend for a sentence so satisfactory;
and Emma was only saved from raptures and fondness, which at
that moment would have been dreadful penance, by the sound of her
father's footsteps. He was coming through the hall. Harriet was
too much agitated to encounter him. "She could not compose herself--
Mr. Woodhouse would be alarmed--she had better go;"--with most ready
encouragement from her friend, therefore, she passed off through
another door--and the moment she was gone, this was the spontaneous
burst of Emma's feelings: "Oh God! that I had never seen her!"
The rest of the day, the following night, were hardly enough
for her thoughts.--She was bewildered amidst the confusion
of all that had rushed on her within the last few hours.
Every moment had brought a fresh surprize; and every surprize
must be matter of humiliation to her.--How to understand it all!
How to understand the deceptions she had been thus practising
on herself, and living under!--The blunders, the blindness of her
own head and heart!--she sat still, she walked about, she tried her
own room, she tried the shrubbery--in every place, every posture,
she perceived that she had acted most weakly; that she had been imposed
on by others in a most mortifying degree; that she had been imposing
on herself in a degree yet more mortifying; that she was wretched,
and should probably find this day but the beginning of wretchedness.
To understand, thoroughly understand her own heart, was the
first endeavour. To that point went every leisure moment which her
father's claims on her allowed, and every moment of involuntary
absence of mind.
How long had Mr. Knightley been so dear to her, as every feeling
declared him now to be? When had his influence, such influence begun?--
When had he succeeded to that place in her affection, which Frank
Churchill had once, for a short period, occupied?--She looked back;
she compared the two--compared them, as they had always stood in
her estimation, from the time of the latter's becoming known to her--
and as they must at any time have been compared by her, had it--
oh! had it, by any blessed felicity, occurred to her, to institute
the comparison.--She saw that there never had been a time when she
did not consider Mr. Knightley as infinitely the superior, or when
his regard for her had not been infinitely the most dear. She saw,
that in persuading herself, in fancying, in acting to the contrary,
she had been entirely under a delusion, totally ignorant of her
own heart--and, in short, that she had never really cared for Frank
Churchill at all!
This was the conclusion of the first series of reflection.
This was the knowledge of herself, on the first question of inquiry,
which she reached; and without being long in reaching it.--
She was most sorrowfully indignant; ashamed of every sensation
but the one revealed to her--her affection for Mr. Knightley.--
Every other part of her mind was disgusting.
With insufferable vanity had she believed herself in the secret of every
body's feelings; with unpardonable arrogance proposed to arrange every
body's destiny. She was proved to have been universally mistaken;
and she had not quite done nothing--for she had done mischief.
She had brought evil on Harriet, on herself, and she too much feared,
on Mr. Knightley.--Were this most unequal of all connexions to
take place, on her must rest all the reproach of having given it
a beginning; for his attachment, she must believe to be produced only
by a consciousness of Harriet's;--and even were this not the case,
he would never have known Harriet at all but for her folly.
Mr. Knightley and Harriet Smith!--It was a union to distance every
wonder of the kind.--The attachment of Frank Churchill and Jane
Fairfax became commonplace, threadbare, stale in the comparison,
exciting no surprize, presenting no disparity, affording nothing
to be said or thought.--Mr. Knightley and Harriet Smith!--Such an
elevation on her side! Such a debasement on his! It was horrible
to Emma to think how it must sink him in the general opinion,
to foresee the smiles, the sneers, the merriment it would prompt at
his expense; the mortification and disdain of his brother, the thousand
inconveniences to himself.--Could it be?--No; it was impossible.
And yet it was far, very far, from impossible.--Was it a new
circumstance for a man of first-rate abilities to be captivated by
very inferior powers? Was it new for one, perhaps too busy to seek,
to be the prize of a girl who would seek him?--Was it new for any
thing in this world to be unequal, inconsistent, incongruous--or for
chance and circumstance (as second causes) to direct the human fate?
Oh! had she never brought Harriet forward! Had she left her where
she ought, and where he had told her she ought!--Had she not,
with a folly which no tongue could express, prevented her marrying
the unexceptionable young man who would have made her happy
and respectable in the line of life to which she ought to belong--
all would have been safe; none of this dreadful sequel would have been.
How Harriet could ever have had the presumption to raise
her thoughts to Mr. Knightley!--How she could dare to fancy
herself the chosen of such a man till actually assured of it!--
But Harriet was less humble, had fewer scruples than formerly.--
Her inferiority, whether of mind or situation, seemed little felt.--
She had seemed more sensible of Mr. Elton's being to stoop
in marrying her, than she now seemed of Mr. Knightley's.--
Alas! was not that her own doing too? Who had been at pains to give
Harriet notions of self-consequence but herself?--Who but herself
had taught her, that she was to elevate herself if possible,
and that her claims were great to a high worldly establishment?--
If Harriet, from being humble, were grown vain, it was her doing too.
Till now that she was threatened with its loss, Emma had never known
how much of her happiness depended on being _first_ with Mr. Knightley,
first in interest and affection.--Satisfied that it was so,
and feeling it her due, she had enjoyed it without reflection;
and only in the dread of being supplanted, found how inexpressibly
important it had been.--Long, very long, she felt she had been first;
for, having no female connexions of his own, there had been
only Isabella whose claims could be compared with hers, and she
had always known exactly how far he loved and esteemed Isabella.
She had herself been first with him for many years past.
She had not deserved it; she had often been negligent or perverse,
slighting his advice, or even wilfully opposing him, insensible of
half his merits, and quarrelling with him because he would not
acknowledge her false and insolent estimate of her own--but still,
from family attachment and habit, and thorough excellence of mind,
he had loved her, and watched over her from a girl, with an endeavour
to improve her, and an anxiety for her doing right, which no
other creature had at all shared. In spite of all her faults,
she knew she was dear to him; might she not say, very dear?--
When the suggestions of hope, however, which must follow here,
presented themselves, she could not presume to indulge them.
Harriet Smith might think herself not unworthy of being peculiarly,
exclusively, passionately loved by Mr. Knightley. _She_ could not.
She could not flatter herself with any idea of blindness in his attachment
to _her_. She had received a very recent proof of its impartiality.--
How shocked had he been by her behaviour to Miss Bates! How directly,
how strongly had he expressed himself to her on the subject!--Not too
strongly for the offence--but far, far too strongly to issue from
any feeling softer than upright justice and clear-sighted goodwill.--
She had no hope, nothing to deserve the name of hope, that he could
have that sort of affection for herself which was now in question;
but there was a hope (at times a slight one, at times much stronger,)
that Harriet might have deceived herself, and be overrating his
regard for _her_.--Wish it she must, for his sake--be the consequence
nothing to herself, but his remaining single all his life.
Could she be secure of that, indeed, of his never marrying at all,
she believed she should be perfectly satisfied.--Let him but continue
the same Mr. Knightley to her and her father, the same Mr. Knightley
to all the world; let Donwell and Hartfield lose none of their
precious intercourse of friendship and confidence, and her peace
would be fully secured.--Marriage, in fact, would not do for her.
It would be incompatible with what she owed to her father, and with
what she felt for him. Nothing should separate her from her father.
She would not marry, even if she were asked by Mr. Knightley.
It must be her ardent wish that Harriet might be disappointed;
and she hoped, that when able to see them together again, she might at
least be able to ascertain what the chances for it were.--She should
see them henceforward with the closest observance; and wretchedly
as she had hitherto misunderstood even those she was watching,
she did not know how to admit that she could be blinded here.--
He was expected back every day. The power of observation would be
soon given--frightfully soon it appeared when her thoughts were in
one course. In the meanwhile, she resolved against seeing Harriet.--
It would do neither of them good, it would do the subject no good,
to be talking of it farther.--She was resolved not to be convinced,
as long as she could doubt, and yet had no authority for opposing
Harriet's confidence. To talk would be only to irritate.--She wrote
to her, therefore, kindly, but decisively, to beg that she would not,
at present, come to Hartfield; acknowledging it to be her conviction,
that all farther confidential discussion of _one_ topic had better
be avoided; and hoping, that if a few days were allowed to pass before
they met again, except in the company of others--she objected only
to a tete-a-tete--they might be able to act as if they had forgotten
the conversation of yesterday.--Harriet submitted, and approved,
and was grateful.
This point was just arranged, when a visitor arrived to tear Emma's
thoughts a little from the one subject which had engrossed them,
sleeping or waking, the last twenty-four hours--Mrs. Weston, who had
been calling on her daughter-in-law elect, and took Hartfield in her
way home, almost as much in duty to Emma as in pleasure to herself,
to relate all the particulars of so interesting an interview.
Mr. Weston had accompanied her to Mrs. Bates's, and gone through his
share of this essential attention most handsomely; but she having
then induced Miss Fairfax to join her in an airing, was now returned
with much more to say, and much more to say with satisfaction,
than a quarter of an hour spent in Mrs. Bates's parlour, with all
the encumbrance of awkward feelings, could have afforded.
A little curiosity Emma had; and she made the most of it while
her friend related. Mrs. Weston had set off to pay the visit
in a good deal of agitation herself; and in the first place had
wished not to go at all at present, to be allowed merely to write
to Miss Fairfax instead, and to defer this ceremonious call till
a little time had passed, and Mr. Churchill could be reconciled
to the engagement's becoming known; as, considering every thing,
she thought such a visit could not be paid without leading to reports:--
but Mr. Weston had thought differently; he was extremely anxious
to shew his approbation to Miss Fairfax and her family, and did not
conceive that any suspicion could be excited by it; or if it were,
that it would be of any consequence; for "such things," he observed,
"always got about." Emma smiled, and felt that Mr. Weston had
very good reason for saying so. They had gone, in short--and very
great had been the evident distress and confusion of the lady.
She had hardly been able to speak a word, and every look and action
had shewn how deeply she was suffering from consciousness. The quiet,
heart-felt satisfaction of the old lady, and the rapturous delight
of her daughter--who proved even too joyous to talk as usual,
had been a gratifying, yet almost an affecting, scene. They were
both so truly respectable in their happiness, so disinterested
in every sensation; thought so much of Jane; so much of every body,
and so little of themselves, that every kindly feeling was at work
for them. Miss Fairfax's recent illness had offered a fair plea
for Mrs. Weston to invite her to an airing; she had drawn back and
declined at first, but, on being pressed had yielded; and, in the
course of their drive, Mrs. Weston had, by gentle encouragement,
overcome so much of her embarrassment, as to bring her to converse
on the important subject. Apologies for her seemingly ungracious
silence in their first reception, and the warmest expressions of the
gratitude she was always feeling towards herself and Mr. Weston,
must necessarily open the cause; but when these effusions were put by,
they had talked a good deal of the present and of the future state
of the engagement. Mrs. Weston was convinced that such conversation
must be the greatest relief to her companion, pent up within her own
mind as every thing had so long been, and was very much pleased
with all that she had said on the subject.
"On the misery of what she had suffered, during the concealment
of so many months," continued Mrs. Weston, "she was energetic.
This was one of her expressions. `I will not say, that since I
entered into the engagement I have not had some happy moments; but I
can say, that I have never known the blessing of one tranquil hour:'--
and the quivering lip, Emma, which uttered it, was an attestation
that I felt at my heart."
"Poor girl!" said Emma. "She thinks herself wrong, then, for having
consented to a private engagement?"
"Wrong! No one, I believe, can blame her more than she is disposed
to blame herself. `The consequence,' said she, `has been a state
of perpetual suffering to me; and so it ought. But after all the
punishment that misconduct can bring, it is still not less misconduct.
Pain is no expiation. I never can be blameless. I have been acting
contrary to all my sense of right; and the fortunate turn that every
thing has taken, and the kindness I am now receiving, is what my
conscience tells me ought not to be.' `Do not imagine, madam,'
she continued, `that I was taught wrong. Do not let any reflection
fall on the principles or the care of the friends who brought
me up. The error has been all my own; and I do assure you that,
with all the excuse that present circumstances may appear to give,
I shall yet dread making the story known to Colonel Campbell.'"
"Poor girl!" said Emma again. "She loves him then excessively,
I suppose. It must have been from attachment only, that she could
be led to form the engagement. Her affection must have overpowered
"Yes, I have no doubt of her being extremely attached to him."
"I am afraid," returned Emma, sighing, "that I must often have
contributed to make her unhappy."
"On your side, my love, it was very innocently done. But she
probably had something of that in her thoughts, when alluding
to the misunderstandings which he had given us hints of before.
One natural consequence of the evil she had involved herself in,"
she said, "was that of making her _unreasonable_. The consciousness
of having done amiss, had exposed her to a thousand inquietudes,
and made her captious and irritable to a degree that must have been--
that had been--hard for him to bear. `I did not make the allowances,'
said she, `which I ought to have done, for his temper and spirits--
his delightful spirits, and that gaiety, that playfulness
of disposition, which, under any other circumstances, would, I am sure,
have been as constantly bewitching to me, as they were at first.'
She then began to speak of you, and of the great kindness you
had shewn her during her illness; and with a blush which shewed me
how it was all connected, desired me, whenever I had an opportunity,
to thank you--I could not thank you too much--for every wish and
every endeavour to do her good. She was sensible that you had never
received any proper acknowledgment from herself."
"If I did not know her to be happy now," said Emma, seriously,
"which, in spite of every little drawback from her scrupulous
conscience, she must be, I could not bear these thanks;--for, oh!
Mrs. Weston, if there were an account drawn up of the evil
and the good I have done Miss Fairfax!--Well (checking herself,
and trying to be more lively), this is all to be forgotten.
You are very kind to bring me these interesting particulars.
They shew her to the greatest advantage. I am sure she is very good--
I hope she will be very happy. It is fit that the fortune
should be on his side, for I think the merit will be all on hers."
Such a conclusion could not pass unanswered by Mrs. Weston.
She thought well of Frank in almost every respect; and, what was more,
she loved him very much, and her defence was, therefore, earnest.
She talked with a great deal of reason, and at least equal affection--
but she had too much to urge for Emma's attention; it was soon gone
to Brunswick Square or to Donwell; she forgot to attempt to listen;
and when Mrs. Weston ended with, "We have not yet had the letter
we are so anxious for, you know, but I hope it will soon come,"
she was obliged to pause before she answered, and at last obliged
to answer at random, before she could at all recollect what letter it
was which they were so anxious for.
"Are you well, my Emma?" was Mrs. Weston's parting question.
"Oh! perfectly. I am always well, you know. Be sure to give me
intelligence of the letter as soon as possible."
Mrs. Weston's communications furnished Emma with more food for
unpleasant reflection, by increasing her esteem and compassion,
and her sense of past injustice towards Miss Fairfax. She bitterly
regretted not having sought a closer acquaintance with her, and blushed
for the envious feelings which had certainly been, in some measure,
the cause. Had she followed Mr. Knightley's known wishes, in paying
that attention to Miss Fairfax, which was every way her due; had she
tried to know her better; had she done her part towards intimacy;
had she endeavoured to find a friend there instead of in Harriet Smith;
she must, in all probability, have been spared from every pain
which pressed on her now.--Birth, abilities, and education,
had been equally marking one as an associate for her, to be received
with gratitude; and the other--what was she?--Supposing even that
they had never become intimate friends; that she had never been
admitted into Miss Fairfax's confidence on this important matter--
which was most probable--still, in knowing her as she ought,
and as she might, she must have been preserved from the abominable
suspicions of an improper attachment to Mr. Dixon, which she had
not only so foolishly fashioned and harboured herself, but had so
unpardonably imparted; an idea which she greatly feared had been made
a subject of material distress to the delicacy of Jane's feelings,
by the levity or carelessness of Frank Churchill's. Of all the sources
of evil surrounding the former, since her coming to Highbury,
she was persuaded that she must herself have been the worst.
She must have been a perpetual enemy. They never could have been
all three together, without her having stabbed Jane Fairfax's peace
in a thousand instances; and on Box Hill, perhaps, it had been
the agony of a mind that would bear no more.
The evening of this day was very long, and melancholy, at Hartfield.
The weather added what it could of gloom. A cold stormy rain set in,
and nothing of July appeared but in the trees and shrubs, which the
wind was despoiling, and the length of the day, which only made
such cruel sights the longer visible.
The weather affected Mr. Woodhouse, and he could only be kept tolerably
comfortable by almost ceaseless attention on his daughter's side,
and by exertions which had never cost her half so much before.
It reminded her of their first forlorn tete-a-tete, on the evening
of Mrs. Weston's wedding-day; but Mr. Knightley had walked
in then, soon after tea, and dissipated every melancholy fancy.
Alas! such delightful proofs of Hartfield's attraction, as those
sort of visits conveyed, might shortly be over. The picture which
she had then drawn of the privations of the approaching winter,
had proved erroneous; no friends had deserted them, no pleasures
had been lost.--But her present forebodings she feared would
experience no similar contradiction. The prospect before her now,
was threatening to a degree that could not be entirely dispelled--
that might not be even partially brightened. If all took place
that might take place among the circle of her friends, Hartfield must
be comparatively deserted; and she left to cheer her father with the
spirits only of ruined happiness.
The child to be born at Randalls must be a tie there even dearer
than herself; and Mrs. Weston's heart and time would be occupied
by it. They should lose her; and, probably, in great measure,
her husband also.--Frank Churchill would return among them no more;
and Miss Fairfax, it was reasonable to suppose, would soon cease
to belong to Highbury. They would be married, and settled either
at or near Enscombe. All that were good would be withdrawn; and if
to these losses, the loss of Donwell were to be added, what would
remain of cheerful or of rational society within their reach?
Mr. Knightley to be no longer coming there for his evening comfort!--
No longer walking in at all hours, as if ever willing to change
his own home for their's!--How was it to be endured? And if he were
to be lost to them for Harriet's sake; if he were to be thought
of hereafter, as finding in Harriet's society all that he wanted;
if Harriet were to be the chosen, the first, the dearest, the friend,
the wife to whom he looked for all the best blessings of existence;
what could be increasing Emma's wretchedness but the reflection never far
distant from her mind, that it had been all her own work?
When it came to such a pitch as this, she was not able to refrain
from a start, or a heavy sigh, or even from walking about the room
for a few seconds--and the only source whence any thing like consolation
or composure could be drawn, was in the resolution of her own
better conduct, and the hope that, however inferior in spirit and
gaiety might be the following and every future winter of her life
to the past, it would yet find her more rational, more acquainted
with herself, and leave her less to regret when it were gone.
The weather continued much the same all the following morning;
and the same loneliness, and the same melancholy, seemed to
reign at Hartfield--but in the afternoon it cleared; the wind
changed into a softer quarter; the clouds were carried off;
the sun appeared; it was summer again. With all the eagerness
which such a transition gives, Emma resolved to be out of doors
as soon as possible. Never had the exquisite sight, smell,
sensation of nature, tranquil, warm, and brilliant after a storm,
been more attractive to her. She longed for the serenity they might
gradually introduce; and on Mr. Perry's coming in soon after dinner,
with a disengaged hour to give her father, she lost no time ill
hurrying into the shrubbery.--There, with spirits freshened,
and thoughts a little relieved, she had taken a few turns, when she
saw Mr. Knightley passing through the garden door, and coming
towards her.--It was the first intimation of his being returned
from London. She had been thinking of him the moment before,
as unquestionably sixteen miles distant.--There was time only for
the quickest arrangement of mind. She must be collected and calm.
In half a minute they were together. The "How d'ye do's" were quiet
and constrained on each side. She asked after their mutual friends;
they were all well.--When had he left them?--Only that morning.
He must have had a wet ride.--Yes.--He meant to walk with her,
she found. "He had just looked into the dining-room, and as he
was not wanted there, preferred being out of doors."--She thought
he neither looked nor spoke cheerfully; and the first possible
cause for it, suggested by her fears, was, that he had perhaps been
communicating his plans to his brother, and was pained by the manner
in which they had been received.
They walked together. He was silent. She thought he was often
looking at her, and trying for a fuller view of her face than it
suited her to give. And this belief produced another dread.
Perhaps he wanted to speak to her, of his attachment to Harriet;
he might be watching for encouragement to begin.--She did not,
could not, feel equal to lead the way to any such subject.
He must do it all himself. Yet she could not bear this silence.
With him it was most unnatural. She considered--resolved--and, trying
to smile, began--
"You have some news to hear, now you are come back, that will rather
"Have I?" said he quietly, and looking at her; "of what nature?"
"Oh! the best nature in the world--a wedding."
After waiting a moment, as if to be sure she intended to say no more,
"If you mean Miss Fairfax and Frank Churchill, I have heard
"How is it possible?" cried Emma, turning her glowing cheeks
towards him; for, while she spoke, it occurred to her that he
might have called at Mrs. Goddard's in his way.
"I had a few lines on parish business from Mr. Weston this morning,
and at the end of them he gave me a brief account of what had happened."
Emma was quite relieved, and could presently say, with a little
"_You_ probably have been less surprized than any of us, for you have
had your suspicions.--I have not forgotten that you once tried to give
me a caution.--I wish I had attended to it--but--(with a sinking
voice and a heavy sigh) I seem to have been doomed to blindness."
For a moment or two nothing was said, and she was unsuspicious
of having excited any particular interest, till she found her arm
drawn within his, and pressed against his heart, and heard him
thus saying, in a tone of great sensibility, speaking low,
"Time, my dearest Emma, time will heal the wound.--Your own
excellent sense--your exertions for your father's sake--I know
you will not allow yourself--." Her arm was pressed again,
as he added, in a more broken and subdued accent, "The feelings
of the warmest friendship--Indignation--Abominable scoundrel!"--
And in a louder, steadier tone, he concluded with, "He will soon
be gone. They will soon be in Yorkshire. I am sorry for _her_.
She deserves a better fate."
Emma understood him; and as soon as she could recover from the
flutter of pleasure, excited by such tender consideration, replied,
"You are very kind--but you are mistaken--and I must set you right.--
I am not in want of that sort of compassion. My blindness to what
was going on, led me to act by them in a way that I must always
be ashamed of, and I was very foolishly tempted to say and do many
things which may well lay me open to unpleasant conjectures, but I
have no other reason to regret that I was not in the secret earlier."
"Emma!" cried he, looking eagerly at her, "are you, indeed?"--
but checking himself--"No, no, I understand you--forgive me--I am
pleased that you can say even so much.--He is no object of regret,
indeed! and it will not be very long, I hope, before that becomes
the acknowledgment of more than your reason.--Fortunate that your
affections were not farther entangled!--I could never, I confess,
from your manners, assure myself as to the degree of what you felt--
I could only be certain that there was a preference--and a preference
which I never believed him to deserve.--He is a disgrace to the name
of man.--And is he to be rewarded with that sweet young woman?--
Jane, Jane, you will be a miserable creature."
"Mr. Knightley," said Emma, trying to be lively, but really confused--
"I am in a very extraordinary situation. I cannot let you continue in
your error; and yet, perhaps, since my manners gave such an impression,
I have as much reason to be ashamed of confessing that I never have
been at all attached to the person we are speaking of, as it might
be natural for a woman to feel in confessing exactly the reverse.--
But I never have."
He listened in perfect silence. She wished him to speak, but he
would not. She supposed she must say more before she were entitled
to his clemency; but it was a hard case to be obliged still to lower
herself in his opinion. She went on, however.
"I have very little to say for my own conduct.--I was tempted
by his attentions, and allowed myself to appear pleased.--
An old story, probably--a common case--and no more than has happened
to hundreds of my sex before; and yet it may not be the more excusable
in one who sets up as I do for Understanding. Many circumstances
assisted the temptation. He was the son of Mr. Weston--he was
continually here--I always found him very pleasant--and, in short,
for (with a sigh) let me swell out the causes ever so ingeniously,
they all centre in this at last--my vanity was flattered, and I
allowed his attentions. Latterly, however--for some time, indeed--
I have had no idea of their meaning any thing.--I thought them
a habit, a trick, nothing that called for seriousness on my side.
He has imposed on me, but he has not injured me. I have never been
attached to him. And now I can tolerably comprehend his behaviour.
He never wished to attach me. It was merely a blind to conceal
his real situation with another.--It was his object to blind
all about him; and no one, I am sure, could be more effectually
blinded than myself--except that I was _not_ blinded--that it was my
good fortune--that, in short, I was somehow or other safe from him."
She had hoped for an answer here--for a few words to say that her
conduct was at least intelligible; but he was silent; and, as far
as she could judge, deep in thought. At last, and tolerably
in his usual tone, he said,
"I have never had a high opinion of Frank Churchill.--I can suppose,
however, that I may have underrated him. My acquaintance with
him has been but trifling.--And even if I have not underrated
him hitherto, he may yet turn out well.--With such a woman he has
a chance.--I have no motive for wishing him ill--and for her sake,
whose happiness will be involved in his good character and conduct,
I shall certainly wish him well."
"I have no doubt of their being happy together," said Emma;
"I believe them to be very mutually and very sincerely attached."
"He is a most fortunate man!" returned Mr. Knightley, with energy.
"So early in life--at three-and-twenty--a period when, if a man
chuses a wife, he generally chuses ill. At three-and-twenty
to have drawn such a prize! What years of felicity that man,
in all human calculation, has before him!--Assured of the love of
such a woman--the disinterested love, for Jane Fairfax's character
vouches for her disinterestedness; every thing in his favour,--
equality of situation--I mean, as far as regards society, and all the
habits and manners that are important; equality in every point but one--
and that one, since the purity of her heart is not to be doubted,
such as must increase his felicity, for it will be his to bestow the
only advantages she wants.--A man would always wish to give a woman
a better home than the one he takes her from; and he who can do it,
where there is no doubt of _her_ regard, must, I think, be the happiest
of mortals.--Frank Churchill is, indeed, the favourite of fortune.
Every thing turns out for his good.--He meets with a young woman
at a watering-place, gains her affection, cannot even weary her
by negligent treatment--and had he and all his family sought round
the world for a perfect wife for him, they could not have found
her superior.--His aunt is in the way.--His aunt dies.--He has
only to speak.--His friends are eager to promote his happiness.--
He had used every body ill--and they are all delighted to forgive him.--
He is a fortunate man indeed!"
"You speak as if you envied him."
"And I do envy him, Emma. In one respect he is the object of my envy."
Emma could say no more. They seemed to be within half a sentence
of Harriet, and her immediate feeling was to avert the subject,
if possible. She made her plan; she would speak of something
totally different--the children in Brunswick Square; and she
only waited for breath to begin, when Mr. Knightley startled her,
"You will not ask me what is the point of envy.--You are determined,
I see, to have no curiosity.--You are wise--but _I_ cannot be wise.
Emma, I must tell you what you will not ask, though I may wish it
unsaid the next moment."
"Oh! then, don't speak it, don't speak it," she eagerly cried.
"Take a little time, consider, do not commit yourself."
"Thank you," said he, in an accent of deep mortification, and not
another syllable followed.
Emma could not bear to give him pain. He was wishing to confide in her--
perhaps to consult her;--cost her what it would, she would listen.
She might assist his resolution, or reconcile him to it;
she might give just praise to Harriet, or, by representing to him
his own independence, relieve him from that state of indecision,
which must be more intolerable than any alternative to such a mind
as his.--They had reached the house.
"You are going in, I suppose?" said he.
"No,"--replied Emma--quite confirmed by the depressed manner
in which he still spoke--"I should like to take another turn.
Mr. Perry is not gone." And, after proceeding a few steps, she added--
"I stopped you ungraciously, just now, Mr. Knightley, and, I am afraid,
gave you pain.--But if you have any wish to speak openly to me
as a friend, or to ask my opinion of any thing that you may have
in contemplation--as a friend, indeed, you may command me.--I will
hear whatever you like. I will tell you exactly what I think."
"As a friend!"--repeated Mr. Knightley.--"Emma, that I fear is
a word--No, I have no wish--Stay, yes, why should I hesitate?--
I have gone too far already for concealment.--Emma, I accept your offer--
Extraordinary as it may seem, I accept it, and refer myself to you
as a friend.--Tell me, then, have I no chance of ever succeeding?"
He stopped in his earnestness to look the question, and the expression
of his eyes overpowered her.
"My dearest Emma," said he, "for dearest you will always be,
whatever the event of this hour's conversation, my dearest,
most beloved Emma--tell me at once. Say `No,' if it is to be said."--
She could really say nothing.--"You are silent," he cried,
with great animation; "absolutely silent! at present I ask no more."
Emma was almost ready to sink under the agitation of this moment.
The dread of being awakened from the happiest dream, was perhaps
the most prominent feeling.
"I cannot make speeches, Emma:" he soon resumed; and in a tone
of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was
tolerably convincing.--"If I loved you less, I might be able
to talk about it more. But you know what I am.--You hear nothing
but truth from me.--I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you
have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.--
Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as
you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little
to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.--
But you understand me.--Yes, you see, you understand my feelings--
and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear,
once to hear your voice."
While he spoke, Emma's mind was most busy, and, with all the wonderful
velocity of thought, had been able--and yet without losing a word--
to catch and comprehend the exact truth of the whole; to see that
Harriet's hopes had been entirely groundless, a mistake, a delusion,
as complete a delusion as any of her own--that Harriet was nothing;
that she was every thing herself; that what she had been saying
relative to Harriet had been all taken as the language of her
own feelings; and that her agitation, her doubts, her reluctance,
her discouragement, had been all received as discouragement
from herself.--And not only was there time for these convictions,
with all their glow of attendant happiness; there was time also to
rejoice that Harriet's secret had not escaped her, and to resolve
that it need not, and should not.--It was all the service she could
now render her poor friend; for as to any of that heroism of sentiment
which might have prompted her to entreat him to transfer his affection
from herself to Harriet, as infinitely the most worthy of the two--
or even the more simple sublimity of resolving to refuse him
at once and for ever, without vouchsafing any motive, because he
could not marry them both, Emma had it not. She felt for Harriet,
with pain and with contrition; but no flight of generosity run mad,
opposing all that could be probable or reasonable, entered her brain.
She had led her friend astray, and it would be a reproach to
her for ever; but her judgment was as strong as her feelings,
and as strong as it had ever been before, in reprobating any such
alliance for him, as most unequal and degrading. Her way was clear,
though not quite smooth.--She spoke then, on being so entreated.--
What did she say?--Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.--
She said enough to shew there need not be despair--and to invite him
to say more himself. He _had_ despaired at one period; he had received
such an injunction to caution and silence, as for the time crushed
every hope;--she had begun by refusing to hear him.--The change had
perhaps been somewhat sudden;--her proposal of taking another turn,
her renewing the conversation which she had just put an end to,
might be a little extraordinary!--She felt its inconsistency;
but Mr. Knightley was so obliging as to put up with it, and seek no
Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure;
seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised,
or a little mistaken; but where, as in this case, though the conduct
is mistaken, the feelings are not, it may not be very material.--
Mr. Knightley could not impute to Emma a more relenting heart than
she possessed, or a heart more disposed to accept of his.
He had, in fact, been wholly unsuspicious of his own influence.
He had followed her into the shrubbery with no idea of trying it.
He had come, in his anxiety to see how she bore Frank Churchill's
engagement, with no selfish view, no view at all, but of endeavouring,
if she allowed him an opening, to soothe or to counsel her.--The rest
had been the work of the moment, the immediate effect of what he heard,
on his feelings. The delightful assurance of her total indifference
towards Frank Churchill, of her having a heart completely disengaged
from him, had given birth to the hope, that, in time, he might gain
her affection himself;--but it had been no present hope--he had only,
in the momentary conquest of eagerness over judgment, aspired to be
told that she did not forbid his attempt to attach her.--The superior
hopes which gradually opened were so much the more enchanting.--
The affection, which he had been asking to be allowed to create,
if he could, was already his!--Within half an hour, he had passed
from a thoroughly distressed state of mind, to something so like
perfect happiness, that it could bear no other name.
_Her_ change was equal.--This one half-hour had given to each the
same precious certainty of being beloved, had cleared from each
the same degree of ignorance, jealousy, or distrust.--On his side,
there had been a long-standing jealousy, old as the arrival,
or even the expectation, of Frank Churchill.--He had been in love
with Emma, and jealous of Frank Churchill, from about the same period,
one sentiment having probably enlightened him as to the other.
It was his jealousy of Frank Churchill that had taken him from
the country.--The Box Hill party had decided him on going away.
He would save himself from witnessing again such permitted,
encouraged attentions.--He had gone to learn to be indifferent.--
But he had gone to a wrong place. There was too much domestic
happiness in his brother's house; woman wore too amiable a form in it;
Isabella was too much like Emma--differing only in those striking
inferiorities, which always brought the other in brilliancy before him,
for much to have been done, even had his time been longer.--He had
stayed on, however, vigorously, day after day--till this very morning's
post had conveyed the history of Jane Fairfax.--Then, with the
gladness which must be felt, nay, which he did not scruple to feel,
having never believed Frank Churchill to be at all deserving Emma,
was there so much fond solicitude, so much keen anxiety for her,
that he could stay no longer. He had ridden home through the rain;
and had walked up directly after dinner, to see how this sweetest
and best of all creatures, faultless in spite of all her faults,
bore the discovery.
He had found her agitated and low.--Frank Churchill was a villain.--
He heard her declare that she had never loved him. Frank Churchill's
character was not desperate.--She was his own Emma, by hand and word,
when they returned into the house; and if he could have thought
of Frank Churchill then, he might have deemed him a very good sort
What totally different feelings did Emma take back into the house
from what she had brought out!--she had then been only daring to hope
for a little respite of suffering;--she was now in an exquisite
flutter of happiness, and such happiness moreover as she believed
must still be greater when the flutter should have passed away.
They sat down to tea--the same party round the same table--
how often it had been collected!--and how often had her eyes fallen
on the same shrubs in the lawn, and observed the same beautiful
effect of the western sun!--But never in such a state of spirits,
never in any thing like it; and it was with difficulty that she could
summon enough of her usual self to be the attentive lady of the house,
or even the attentive daughter.
Poor Mr. Woodhouse little suspected what was plotting against him
in the breast of that man whom he was so cordially welcoming, and so
anxiously hoping might not have taken cold from his ride.--Could he
have seen the heart, he would have cared very little for the lungs;
but without the most distant imagination of the impending evil,
without the slightest perception of any thing extraordinary in
the looks or ways of either, he repeated to them very comfortably
all the articles of news he had received from Mr. Perry, and talked
on with much self-contentment, totally unsuspicious of what they
could have told him in return.
As long as Mr. Knightley remained with them, Emma's fever continued;
but when he was gone, she began to be a little tranquillised
and subdued--and in the course of the sleepless night, which was
the tax for such an evening, she found one or two such very serious
points to consider, as made her feel, that even her happiness
must have some alloy. Her father--and Harriet. She could not be
alone without feeling the full weight of their separate claims;
and how to guard the comfort of both to the utmost, was the question.
With respect to her father, it was a question soon answered.
She hardly knew yet what Mr. Knightley would ask; but a very short
parley with her own heart produced the most solemn resolution
of never quitting her father.--She even wept over the idea of it,
as a sin of thought. While he lived, it must be only an engagement;
but she flattered herself, that if divested of the danger of
drawing her away, it might become an increase of comfort to him.--
How to do her best by Harriet, was of more difficult decision;--
how to spare her from any unnecessary pain; how to make
her any possible atonement; how to appear least her enemy?--
On these subjects, her perplexity and distress were very great--
and her mind had to pass again and again through every bitter
reproach and sorrowful regret that had ever surrounded it.--
She could only resolve at last, that she would still avoid a
meeting with her, and communicate all that need be told by letter;
that it would be inexpressibly desirable to have her removed just
now for a time from Highbury, and--indulging in one scheme more--
nearly resolve, that it might be practicable to get an invitation
for her to Brunswick Square.--Isabella had been pleased with Harriet;
and a few weeks spent in London must give her some amusement.--
She did not think it in Harriet's nature to escape being benefited
by novelty and variety, by the streets, the shops, and the children.--
At any rate, it would be a proof of attention and kindness in herself,
from whom every thing was due; a separation for the present; an averting
of the evil day, when they must all be together again.
She rose early, and wrote her letter to Harriet; an employment
which left her so very serious, so nearly sad, that Mr. Knightley,
in walking up to Hartfield to breakfast, did not arrive at all too soon;
and half an hour stolen afterwards to go over the same ground again
with him, literally and figuratively, was quite necessary to reinstate
her in a proper share of the happiness of the evening before.
He had not left her long, by no means long enough for her to have
the slightest inclination for thinking of any body else, when a letter
was brought her from Randalls--a very thick letter;--she guessed
what it must contain, and deprecated the necessity of reading it.--
She was now in perfect charity with Frank Churchill; she wanted
no explanations, she wanted only to have her thoughts to herself--
and as for understanding any thing he wrote, she was sure she was
incapable of it.--It must be waded through, however. She opened
the packet; it was too surely so;--a note from Mrs. Weston to herself,
ushered in the letter from Frank to Mrs. Weston.
"I have the greatest pleasure, my dear Emma, in forwarding
to you the enclosed. I know what thorough justice you will
do it, and have scarcely a doubt of its happy effect.--I think
we shall never materially disagree about the writer again;
but I will not delay you by a long preface.--We are quite well.--
This letter has been the cure of all the little nervousness I have
been feeling lately.--I did not quite like your looks on Tuesday,
but it was an ungenial morning; and though you will never own being
affected by weather, I think every body feels a north-east wind.--
I felt for your dear father very much in the storm of Tuesday
afternoon and yesterday morning, but had the comfort of hearing
last night, by Mr. Perry, that it had not made him ill.
[To Mrs. Weston.]
MY DEAR MADAM,
"If I made myself intelligible yesterday, this letter will be expected;
but expected or not, I know it will be read with candour and indulgence.--
You are all goodness, and I believe there will be need of even
all your goodness to allow for some parts of my past conduct.--
But I have been forgiven by one who had still more to resent.
My courage rises while I write. It is very difficult for the
prosperous to be humble. I have already met with such success
in two applications for pardon, that I may be in danger of thinking
myself too sure of yours, and of those among your friends who have
had any ground of offence.--You must all endeavour to comprehend
the exact nature of my situation when I first arrived at Randalls;
you must consider me as having a secret which was to be kept
at all hazards. This was the fact. My right to place myself
in a situation requiring such concealment, is another question.
I shall not discuss it here. For my temptation to _think_ it a right,
I refer every caviller to a brick house, sashed windows below,
and casements above, in Highbury. I dared not address her openly;
my difficulties in the then state of Enscombe must be too well
known to require definition; and I was fortunate enough to prevail,
before we parted at Weymouth, and to induce the most upright female
mind in the creation to stoop in charity to a secret engagement.--
Had she refused, I should have gone mad.--But you will be ready to say,
what was your hope in doing this?--What did you look forward to?--
To any thing, every thing--to time, chance, circumstance, slow effects,
sudden bursts, perseverance and weariness, health and sickness.
Every possibility of good was before me, and the first of blessings
secured, in obtaining her promises of faith and correspondence.
If you need farther explanation, I have the honour, my dear madam,
of being your husband's son, and the advantage of inheriting
a disposition to hope for good, which no inheritance of houses
or lands can ever equal the value of.--See me, then, under these
circumstances, arriving on my first visit to Randalls;--and here I
am conscious of wrong, for that visit might have been sooner paid.
You will look back and see that I did not come till Miss Fairfax
was in Highbury; and as _you_ were the person slighted, you will
forgive me instantly; but I must work on my father's compassion,
by reminding him, that so long as I absented myself from his house,
so long I lost the blessing of knowing you. My behaviour,
during the very happy fortnight which I spent with you, did not,
I hope, lay me open to reprehension, excepting on one point.
And now I come to the principal, the only important part of my
conduct while belonging to you, which excites my own anxiety,
or requires very solicitous explanation. With the greatest respect,
and the warmest friendship, do I mention Miss Woodhouse; my father
perhaps will think I ought to add, with the deepest humiliation.--
A few words which dropped from him yesterday spoke his opinion,
and some censure I acknowledge myself liable to.--My behaviour
to Miss Woodhouse indicated, I believe, more than it ought.--
In order to assist a concealment so essential to me, I was led
on to make more than an allowable use of the sort of intimacy
into which we were immediately thrown.--I cannot deny that Miss
Woodhouse was my ostensible object--but I am sure you will believe
the declaration, that had I not been convinced of her indifference,
I would not have been induced by any selfish views to go on.--
Amiable and delightful as Miss Woodhouse is, she never gave me
the idea of a young woman likely to be attached; and that she was
perfectly free from any tendency to being attached to me, was as much
my conviction as my wish.--She received my attentions with an easy,
friendly, goodhumoured playfulness, which exactly suited me.
We seemed to understand each other. From our relative situation,
those attentions were her due, and were felt to be so.--Whether Miss
Woodhouse began really to understand me before the expiration of
that fortnight, I cannot say;--when I called to take leave of her,
I remember that I was within a moment of confessing the truth,
and I then fancied she was not without suspicion; but I have no
doubt of her having since detected me, at least in some degree.--
She may not have surmised the whole, but her quickness must
have penetrated a part. I cannot doubt it. You will find,
whenever the subject becomes freed from its present restraints,
that it did not take her wholly by surprize. She frequently gave
me hints of it. I remember her telling me at the ball, that I
owed Mrs. Elton gratitude for her attentions to Miss Fairfax.--
I hope this history of my conduct towards her will be admitted
by you and my father as great extenuation of what you saw amiss.
While you considered me as having sinned against Emma Woodhouse,
I could deserve nothing from either. Acquit me here, and procure
for me, when it is allowable, the acquittal and good wishes of that
said Emma Woodhouse, whom I regard with so much brotherly affection,
as to long to have her as deeply and as happily in love as myself.--
Whatever strange things I said or did during that fortnight, you have
now a key to. My heart was in Highbury, and my business was to get
my body thither as often as might be, and with the least suspicion.
If you remember any queernesses, set them all to the right account.--
Of the pianoforte so much talked of, I feel it only necessary to say,
that its being ordered was absolutely unknown to Miss F--, who would
never have allowed me to send it, had any choice been given her.--
The delicacy of her mind throughout the whole engagement,
my dear madam, is much beyond my power of doing justice to.
You will soon, I earnestly hope, know her thoroughly yourself.--
No description can describe her. She must tell you herself what she is--
yet not by word, for never was there a human creature who would
so designedly suppress her own merit.--Since I began this letter,
which will be longer than I foresaw, I have heard from her.--
She gives a good account of her own health; but as she never complains,
I dare not depend. I want to have your opinion of her looks.
I know you will soon call on her; she is living in dread of the visit.
Perhaps it is paid already. Let me hear from you without delay;
I am impatient for a thousand particulars. Remember how few
minutes I was at Randalls, and in how bewildered, how mad a state:
and I am not much better yet; still insane either from happiness
or misery. When I think of the kindness and favour I have met with,
of her excellence and patience, and my uncle's generosity, I am mad
with joy: but when I recollect all the uneasiness I occasioned her,
and how little I deserve to be forgiven, I am mad with anger.
If I could but see her again!--But I must not propose it yet.
My uncle has been too good for me to encroach.--I must still add
to this long letter. You have not heard all that you ought to hear.
I could not give any connected detail yesterday; but the suddenness,
and, in one light, the unseasonableness with which the affair burst out,
needs explanation; for though the event of the 26th ult., as you
will conclude, immediately opened to me the happiest prospects,
I should not have presumed on such early measures, but from the
very particular circumstances, which left me not an hour to lose.
I should myself have shrunk from any thing so hasty, and she would have
felt every scruple of mine with multiplied strength and refinement.--
But I had no choice. The hasty engagement she had entered into with
that woman--Here, my dear madam, I was obliged to leave off abruptly,
to recollect and compose myself.--I have been walking over the country,
and am now, I hope, rational enough to make the rest of my letter
what it ought to be.--It is, in fact, a most mortifying retrospect
for me. I behaved shamefully. And here I can admit, that my manners
to Miss W., in being unpleasant to Miss F., were highly blameable.
_She_ disapproved them, which ought to have been enough.--My plea of
concealing the truth she did not think sufficient.--She was displeased;
I thought unreasonably so: I thought her, on a thousand occasions,
unnecessarily scrupulous and cautious: I thought her even cold.
But she was always right. If I had followed her judgment, and subdued
my spirits to the level of what she deemed proper, I should have
escaped the greatest unhappiness I have ever known.--We quarrelled.--
Do you remember the morning spent at Donwell?--_There_ every little
dissatisfaction that had occurred before came to a crisis. I was late;
I met her walking home by herself, and wanted to walk with her,
but she would not suffer it. She absolutely refused to allow me,
which I then thought most unreasonable. Now, however, I see nothing
in it but a very natural and consistent degree of discretion.
While I, to blind the world to our engagement, was behaving one
hour with objectionable particularity to another woman, was she
to be consenting the next to a proposal which might have made
every previous caution useless?--Had we been met walking together
between Donwell and Highbury, the truth must have been suspected.--
I was mad enough, however, to resent.--I doubted her affection.
I doubted it more the next day on Box Hill; when, provoked by
such conduct on my side, such shameful, insolent neglect of her,
and such apparent devotion to Miss W., as it would have been
impossible for any woman of sense to endure, she spoke her
resentment in a form of words perfectly intelligible to me.--
In short, my dear madam, it was a quarrel blameless on her side,
abominable on mine; and I returned the same evening to Richmond,
though I might have staid with you till the next morning,
merely because I would be as angry with her as possible. Even then,
I was not such a fool as not to mean to be reconciled in time;
but I was the injured person, injured by her coldness, and I went
away determined that she should make the first advances.--I shall
always congratulate myself that you were not of the Box Hill party.
Had you witnessed my behaviour there, I can hardly suppose you would
ever have thought well of me again. Its effect upon her appears
in the immediate resolution it produced: as soon as she found I
was really gone from Randalls, she closed with the offer of that
officious Mrs. Elton; the whole system of whose treatment of her,
by the bye, has ever filled me with indignation and hatred.
I must not quarrel with a spirit of forbearance which has been
so richly extended towards myself; but, otherwise, I should loudly
protest against the share of it which that woman has known.--
`Jane,' indeed!--You will observe that I have not yet indulged myself
in calling her by that name, even to you. Think, then, what I must
have endured in hearing it bandied between the Eltons with all
the vulgarity of needless repetition, and all the insolence of
imaginary superiority. Have patience with me, I shall soon have done.--
She closed with this offer, resolving to break with me entirely,
and wrote the next day to tell me that we never were to meet again.--
_She_ _felt_ _the_ _engagement_ _to_ _be_ _a_ _source_ _of_ _repentance_ _and_ _misery_
_to_ _each_: _she_ _dissolved_ _it_.--This letter reached me on the very
morning of my poor aunt's death. I answered it within an hour;
but from the confusion of my mind, and the multiplicity of business
falling on me at once, my answer, instead of being sent with all
the many other letters of that day, was locked up in my writing-desk;
and I, trusting that I had written enough, though but a few lines,
to satisfy her, remained without any uneasiness.--I was rather
disappointed that I did not hear from her again speedily;
but I made excuses for her, and was too busy, and--may I add?--
too cheerful in my views to be captious.--We removed to Windsor;
and two days afterwards I received a parcel from her, my own letters
all returned!--and a few lines at the same time by the post,
stating her extreme surprize at not having had the smallest reply
to her last; and adding, that as silence on such a point could
not be misconstrued, and as it must be equally desirable to both
to have every subordinate arrangement concluded as soon as possible,
she now sent me, by a safe conveyance, all my letters, and requested,
that if I could not directly command hers, so as to send them
to Highbury within a week, I would forward them after that period
to her at--: in short, the full direction to Mr. Smallridge's,
near Bristol, stared me in the face. I knew the name, the place,
I knew all about it, and instantly saw what she had been doing.
It was perfectly accordant with that resolution of character
which I knew her to possess; and the secrecy she had maintained,
as to any such design in her former letter, was equally descriptive
of its anxious delicacy. For the world would not she have seemed
to threaten me.--Imagine the shock; imagine how, till I had actually
detected my own blunder, I raved at the blunders of the post.--
What was to be done?--One thing only.--I must speak to my uncle.
Without his sanction I could not hope to be listened to again.--
I spoke; circumstances were in my favour; the late event had softened
away his pride, and he was, earlier than I could have anticipated,
wholly reconciled and complying; and could say at last, poor man!
with a deep sigh, that he wished I might find as much happiness
in the marriage state as he had done.--I felt that it would be
of a different sort.--Are you disposed to pity me for what I must
have suffered in opening the cause to him, for my suspense while
all was at stake?--No; do not pity me till I reached Highbury,
and saw how ill I had made her. Do not pity me till I saw her wan,
sick looks.--I reached Highbury at the time of day when, from my
knowledge of their late breakfast hour, I was certain of a good chance
of finding her alone.--I was not disappointed; and at last I was
not disappointed either in the object of my journey. A great deal
of very reasonable, very just displeasure I had to persuade away.
But it is done; we are reconciled, dearer, much dearer, than ever,
and no moment's uneasiness can ever occur between us again. Now, my
dear madam, I will release you; but I could not conclude before.
A thousand and a thousand thanks for all the kindness you have
ever shewn me, and ten thousand for the attentions your heart
will dictate towards her.--If you think me in a way to be happier
than I deserve, I am quite of your opinion.--Miss W. calls me
the child of good fortune. I hope she is right.--In one respect,
my good fortune is undoubted, that of being able to subscribe
Your obliged and affectionate Son,
F. C. WESTON CHURCHILL.
This letter must make its way to Emma's feelings. She was obliged,
in spite of her previous determination to the contrary, to do
it all the justice that Mrs. Weston foretold. As soon as she
came to her own name, it was irresistible; every line relating
to herself was interesting, and almost every line agreeable;
and when this charm ceased, the subject could still maintain itself,
by the natural return of her former regard for the writer, and the
very strong attraction which any picture of love must have for her at
that moment. She never stopt till she had gone through the whole;
and though it was impossible not to feel that he had been wrong,
yet he had been less wrong than she had supposed--and he had suffered,
and was very sorry--and he was so grateful to Mrs. Weston,
and so much in love with Miss Fairfax, and she was so happy herself,
that there was no being severe; and could he have entered the room,
she must have shaken hands with him as heartily as ever.
She thought so well of the letter, that when Mr. Knightley came again,
she desired him to read it. She was sure of Mrs. Weston's wishing
it to be communicated; especially to one, who, like Mr. Knightley,
had seen so much to blame in his conduct.
"I shall be very glad to look it over," said he; "but it seems long.
I will take it home with me at night."
But that would not do. Mr. Weston was to call in the evening,
and she must return it by him.
"I would rather be talking to you," he replied; "but as it seems
a matter of justice, it shall be done."
He began--stopping, however, almost directly to say, "Had I been offered
the sight of one of this gentleman's letters to his mother-in-law a few
months ago, Emma, it would not have been taken with such indifference."
He proceeded a little farther, reading to himself; and then,
with a smile, observed, "Humph! a fine complimentary opening:
But it is his way. One man's style must not be the rule of another's.
We will not be severe."
"It will be natural for me," he added shortly afterwards, "to speak my
opinion aloud as I read. By doing it, I shall feel that I am near you.
It will not be so great a loss of time: but if you dislike it--"
"Not at all. I should wish it."
Mr. Knightley returned to his reading with greater alacrity.
"He trifles here," said he, "as to the temptation. He knows
he is wrong, and has nothing rational to urge.--Bad.--He ought
not to have formed the engagement.--`His father's disposition:'--
he is unjust, however, to his father. Mr. Weston's sanguine
temper was a blessing on all his upright and honourable exertions;
but Mr. Weston earned every present comfort before he endeavoured
to gain it.--Very true; he did not come till Miss Fairfax was here."
"And I have not forgotten," said Emma, "how sure you were that he
might have come sooner if he would. You pass it over very handsomely--
but you were perfectly right."
"I was not quite impartial in my judgment, Emma:--but yet, I think--
had _you_ not been in the case--I should still have distrusted him."
When he came to Miss Woodhouse, he was obliged to read the whole
of it aloud--all that related to her, with a smile; a look;
a shake of the head; a word or two of assent, or disapprobation;
or merely of love, as the subject required; concluding, however,
seriously, and, after steady reflection, thus--
"Very bad--though it might have been worse.--Playing a most
dangerous game. Too much indebted to the event for his acquittal.--
No judge of his own manners by you.--Always deceived in fact by his
own wishes, and regardless of little besides his own convenience.--
Fancying you to have fathomed his secret. Natural enough!--
his own mind full of intrigue, that he should suspect it
in others.--Mystery; Finesse--how they pervert the understanding!
My Emma, does not every thing serve to prove more and more the
beauty of truth and sincerity in all our dealings with each other?"
Emma agreed to it, and with a blush of sensibility on Harriet's account,
which she could not give any sincere explanation of.
"You had better go on," said she.
He did so, but very soon stopt again to say, "the pianoforte!
Ah! That was the act of a very, very young man, one too young
to consider whether the inconvenience of it might not very much
exceed the pleasure. A boyish scheme, indeed!--I cannot
comprehend a man's wishing to give a woman any proof of affection
which he knows she would rather dispense with; and he did
know that she would have prevented the instrument's coming if she could."
After this, he made some progress without any pause.
Frank Churchill's confession of having behaved shamefully
was the first thing to call for more than a word in passing.
"I perfectly agree with you, sir,"--was then his remark.
"You did behave very shamefully. You never wrote a truer line."
And having gone through what immediately followed of the basis
of their disagreement, and his persisting to act in direct
opposition to Jane Fairfax's sense of right, he made a fuller pause
to say, "This is very bad.--He had induced her to place herself,
for his sake, in a situation of extreme difficulty and uneasiness,
and it should have been his first object to prevent her from
suffering unnecessarily.--She must have had much more to contend with,
in carrying on the correspondence, than he could. He should have
respected even unreasonable scruples, had there been such; but hers
were all reasonable. We must look to her one fault, and remember
that she had done a wrong thing in consenting to the engagement,
to bear that she should have been in such a state of punishment."
Emma knew that he was now getting to the Box Hill party,
and grew uncomfortable. Her own behaviour had been so very improper!
She was deeply ashamed, and a little afraid of his next look.
It was all read, however, steadily, attentively, and without
the smallest remark; and, excepting one momentary glance at her,
instantly withdrawn, in the fear of giving pain--no remembrance
of Box Hill seemed to exist.
"There is no saying much for the delicacy of our good friends,
the Eltons," was his next observation.--"His feelings are natural.--
What! actually resolve to break with him entirely!--She felt
the engagement to be a source of repentance and misery to each--
she dissolved it.--What a view this gives of her sense of
his behaviour!--Well, he must be a most extraordinary--"
"Nay, nay, read on.--You will find how very much he suffers."
"I hope he does," replied Mr. Knightley coolly, and resuming the letter.
"`Smallridge!'--What does this mean? What is all this?"
"She had engaged to go as governess to Mrs. Smallridge's children--
a dear friend of Mrs. Elton's--a neighbour of Maple Grove; and,
by the bye, I wonder how Mrs. Elton bears the disappointment?"
"Say nothing, my dear Emma, while you oblige me to read--not even
of Mrs. Elton. Only one page more. I shall soon have done.
What a letter the man writes!"
"I wish you would read it with a kinder spirit towards him."
"Well, there _is_ feeling here.--He does seem to have suffered in finding
her ill.--Certainly, I can have no doubt of his being fond of her.
`Dearer, much dearer than ever.' I hope he may long continue to feel
all the value of such a reconciliation.--He is a very liberal thanker,
with his thousands and tens of thousands.--`Happier than I deserve.'
Come, he knows himself there. `Miss Woodhouse calls me the child
of good fortune.'--Those were Miss Woodhouse's words, were they?--
And a fine ending--and there is the letter. The child of good fortune!
That was your name for him, was it?"
"You do not appear so well satisfied with his letter as I am;
but still you must, at least I hope you must, think the better
of him for it. I hope it does him some service with you."
"Yes, certainly it does. He has had great faults, faults of
inconsideration and thoughtlessness; and I am very much of his
opinion in thinking him likely to be happier than he deserves:
but still as he is, beyond a doubt, really attached to Miss Fairfax,
and will soon, it may be hoped, have the advantage of being constantly
with her, I am very ready to believe his character will improve,
and acquire from hers the steadiness and delicacy of principle
that it wants. And now, let me talk to you of something else.
I have another person's interest at present so much at heart,
that I cannot think any longer about Frank Churchill. Ever since I
left you this morning, Emma, my mind has been hard at work on
The subject followed; it was in plain, unaffected, gentlemanlike English,
such as Mr. Knightley used even to the woman he was in love with,
how to be able to ask her to marry him, without attacking the
happiness of her father. Emma's answer was ready at the first word.
"While her dear father lived, any change of condition must be impossible
for her. She could never quit him." Part only of this answer,
however, was admitted. The impossibility of her quitting her father,
Mr. Knightley felt as strongly as herself; but the inadmissibility
of any other change, he could not agree to. He had been thinking
it over most deeply, most intently; he had at first hoped to induce
Mr. Woodhouse to remove with her to Donwell; he had wanted to believe
it feasible, but his knowledge of Mr. Woodhouse would not suffer
him to deceive himself long; and now he confessed his persuasion,
that such a transplantation would be a risk of her father's comfort,
perhaps even of his life, which must not be hazarded. Mr. Woodhouse
taken from Hartfield!--No, he felt that it ought not to be attempted.
But the plan which had arisen on the sacrifice of this, he trusted
his dearest Emma would not find in any respect objectionable;
it was, that he should be received at Hartfield; that so long as
her father's happiness in other words his life--required Hartfield
to continue her home, it should be his likewise.
Of their all removing to Donwell, Emma had already had her own
passing thoughts. Like him, she had tried the scheme and rejected it;
but such an alternative as this had not occurred to her.
She was sensible of all the affection it evinced. She felt that,
in quitting Donwell, he must be sacrificing a great deal of independence
of hours and habits; that in living constantly with her father,
and in no house of his own, there would be much, very much,
to be borne with. She promised to think of it, and advised him
to think of it more; but he was fully convinced, that no reflection
could alter his wishes or his opinion on the subject. He had
given it, he could assure her, very long and calm consideration;
he had been walking away from William Larkins the whole morning,
to have his thoughts to himself.
"Ah! there is one difficulty unprovided for," cried Emma. "I am
sure William Larkins will not like it. You must get his consent
before you ask mine."
She promised, however, to think of it; and pretty nearly promised, moreover,
to think of it, with the intention of finding it a very good scheme.
It is remarkable, that Emma, in the many, very many, points of view
in which she was now beginning to consider Donwell Abbey, was never
struck with any sense of injury to her nephew Henry, whose rights
as heir-expectant had formerly been so tenaciously regarded.
Think she must of the possible difference to the poor little boy;
and yet she only gave herself a saucy conscious smile about it,
and found amusement in detecting the real cause of that violent
dislike of Mr. Knightley's marrying Jane Fairfax, or any body else,
which at the time she had wholly imputed to the amiable solicitude of
the sister and the aunt.
This proposal of his, this plan of marrying and continuing at Hartfield--
the more she contemplated it, the more pleasing it became.
His evils seemed to lessen, her own advantages to increase,
their mutual good to outweigh every drawback. Such a companion
for herself in the periods of anxiety and cheerlessness before her!--
Such a partner in all those duties and cares to which time must be
giving increase of melancholy!
She would have been too happy but for poor Harriet; but every
blessing of her own seemed to involve and advance the sufferings
of her friend, who must now be even excluded from Hartfield.
The delightful family party which Emma was securing for herself,
poor Harriet must, in mere charitable caution, be kept at a
distance from. She would be a loser in every way. Emma could not
deplore her future absence as any deduction from her own enjoyment.
In such a party, Harriet would be rather a dead weight than otherwise;
but for the poor girl herself, it seemed a peculiarly cruel necessity
that was to be placing her in such a state of unmerited punishment.
In time, of course, Mr. Knightley would be forgotten, that is,
supplanted; but this could not be expected to happen very early.
Mr. Knightley himself would be doing nothing to assist the cure;--
not like Mr. Elton. Mr. Knightley, always so kind, so feeling,
so truly considerate for every body, would never deserve to be
less worshipped than now; and it really was too much to hope even
of Harriet, that she could be in love with more than _three_ men
in one year.
It was a very great relief to Emma to find Harriet as desirous
as herself to avoid a meeting. Their intercourse was painful
enough by letter. How much worse, had they been obliged to meet!
Harriet expressed herself very much as might be supposed,
without reproaches, or apparent sense of ill-usage; and yet Emma fancied
there was a something of resentment, a something bordering on it in
her style, which increased the desirableness of their being separate.--
It might be only her own consciousness; but it seemed as if an
angel only could have been quite without resentment under such a stroke.
She had no difficulty in procuring Isabella's invitation;
and she was fortunate in having a sufficient reason for asking it,
without resorting to invention.--There was a tooth amiss.
Harriet really wished, and had wished some time, to consult a dentist.
Mrs. John Knightley was delighted to be of use; any thing of ill
health was a recommendation to her--and though not so fond of a
dentist as of a Mr. Wingfield, she was quite eager to have Harriet
under her care.--When it was thus settled on her sister's side,
Emma proposed it to her friend, and found her very persuadable.--
Harriet was to go; she was invited for at least a fortnight; she was
to be conveyed in Mr. Woodhouse's carriage.--It was all arranged,
it was all completed, and Harriet was safe in Brunswick Square.
Now Emma could, indeed, enjoy Mr. Knightley's visits; now she
could talk, and she could listen with true happiness, unchecked by
that sense of injustice, of guilt, of something most painful,
which had haunted her when remembering how disappointed a heart was
near her, how much might at that moment, and at a little distance,
be enduring by the feelings which she had led astray herself.
The difference of Harriet at Mrs. Goddard's, or in London, made perhaps
an unreasonable difference in Emma's sensations; but she could not
think of her in London without objects of curiosity and employment,
which must be averting the past, and carrying her out of herself.
She would not allow any other anxiety to succeed directly to the place
in her mind which Harriet had occupied. There was a communication
before her, one which _she_ only could be competent to make--
the confession of her engagement to her father; but she would
have nothing to do with it at present.--She had resolved to defer
the disclosure till Mrs. Weston were safe and well. No additional
agitation should be thrown at this period among those she loved--
and the evil should not act on herself by anticipation before the
appointed time.--A fortnight, at least, of leisure and peace of mind,
to crown every warmer, but more agitating, delight, should be hers.
She soon resolved, equally as a duty and a pleasure, to employ half
an hour of this holiday of spirits in calling on Miss Fairfax.--
She ought to go--and she was longing to see her; the resemblance of
their present situations increasing every other motive of goodwill.
It would be a _secret_ satisfaction; but the consciousness of a
similarity of prospect would certainly add to the interest with
which she should attend to any thing Jane might communicate.
She went--she had driven once unsuccessfully to the door, but had
not been into the house since the morning after Box Hill, when poor
Jane had been in such distress as had filled her with compassion,
though all the worst of her sufferings had been unsuspected.--
The fear of being still unwelcome, determined her, though assured
of their being at home, to wait in the passage, and send up her name.--
She heard Patty announcing it; but no such bustle succeeded as poor
Miss Bates had before made so happily intelligible.--No; she heard
nothing but the instant reply of, "Beg her to walk up;"--and a moment
afterwards she was met on the stairs by Jane herself, coming eagerly
forward, as if no other reception of her were felt sufficient.--
Emma had never seen her look so well, so lovely, so engaging.
There was consciousness, animation, and warmth; there was every
thing which her countenance or manner could ever have wanted.--
She came forward with an offered hand; and said, in a low, but very
"This is most kind, indeed!--Miss Woodhouse, it is impossible
for me to express--I hope you will believe--Excuse me for being
so entirely without words."
Emma was gratified, and would soon have shewn no want of words,
if the sound of Mrs. Elton's voice from the sitting-room had not
checked her, and made it expedient to compress all her friendly
and all her congratulatory sensations into a very, very earnest
shake of the hand.
Mrs. Bates and Mrs. Elton were together. Miss Bates was out,
which accounted for the previous tranquillity. Emma could have
wished Mrs. Elton elsewhere; but she was in a humour to have patience
with every body; and as Mrs. Elton met her with unusual graciousness,
she hoped the rencontre would do them no harm.
She soon believed herself to penetrate Mrs. Elton's thoughts,
and understand why she was, like herself, in happy spirits;
it was being in Miss Fairfax's confidence, and fancying herself
acquainted with what was still a secret to other people.
Emma saw symptoms of it immediately in the expression of her face;
and while paying her own compliments to Mrs. Bates, and appearing
to attend to the good old lady's replies, she saw her with a sort
of anxious parade of mystery fold up a letter which she had apparently
been reading aloud to Miss Fairfax, and return it into the purple
and gold reticule by her side, saying, with significant nods,
"We can finish this some other time, you know. You and I shall
not want opportunities. And, in fact, you have heard all the
essential already. I only wanted to prove to you that Mrs. S. admits
our apology, and is not offended. You see how delightfully
she writes. Oh! she is a sweet creature! You would have doated
on her, had you gone.--But not a word more. Let us be discreet--
quite on our good behaviour.--Hush!--You remember those lines--
I forget the poem at this moment:
"For when a lady's in the case,
"You know all other things give place."
Now I say, my dear, in _our_ case, for _lady_, read----mum! a word
to the wise.--I am in a fine flow of spirits, an't I? But I want
to set your heart at ease as to Mrs. S.--_My_ representation, you see,
has quite appeased her."
And again, on Emma's merely turning her head to look
at Mrs. Bates's knitting, she added, in a half whisper,
"I mentioned no _names_, you will observe.--Oh! no; cautious as
a minister of state. I managed it extremely well."
Emma could not doubt. It was a palpable display, repeated on every
possible occasion. When they had all talked a little while in harmony
of the weather and Mrs. Weston, she found herself abruptly addressed with,
"Do not you think, Miss Woodhouse, our saucy little friend here is
charmingly recovered?--Do not you think her cure does Perry the
highest credit?--(here was a side-glance of great meaning at Jane.)
Upon my word, Perry has restored her in a wonderful short time!--
Oh! if you had seen her, as I did, when she was at the worst!"--
And when Mrs. Bates was saying something to Emma, whispered farther,
"We do not say a word of any _assistance_ that Perry might have;
not a word of a certain young physician from Windsor.--Oh! no;
Perry shall have all the credit."
"I have scarce had the pleasure of seeing you, Miss Woodhouse,"
she shortly afterwards began, "since the party to Box Hill.
Very pleasant party. But yet I think there was something wanting.
Things did not seem--that is, there seemed a little cloud upon
the spirits of some.--So it appeared to me at least, but I might
be mistaken. However, I think it answered so far as to tempt one
to go again. What say you both to our collecting the same party,
and exploring to Box Hill again, while the fine weather lasts?--
It must be the same party, you know, quite the same party,
not _one_ exception."
Soon after this Miss Bates came in, and Emma could not help being diverted
by the perplexity of her first answer to herself, resulting, she supposed,
from doubt of what might be said, and impatience to say every thing.
"Thank you, dear Miss Woodhouse, you are all kindness.--It is impossible
to say--Yes, indeed, I quite understand--dearest Jane's prospects--
that is, I do not mean.--But she is charmingly recovered.--
How is Mr. Woodhouse?--I am so glad.--Quite out of my power.--
Such a happy little circle as you find us here.--Yes, indeed.--
Charming young man!--that is--so very friendly; I mean good Mr. Perry!--
such attention to Jane!"--And from her great, her more than commonly
thankful delight towards Mrs. Elton for being there, Emma guessed
that there had been a little show of resentment towards Jane,
from the vicarage quarter, which was now graciously overcome.--
After a few whispers, indeed, which placed it beyond a guess,
Mrs. Elton, speaking louder, said,
"Yes, here I am, my good friend; and here I have been so long,
that anywhere else I should think it necessary to apologise;
but, the truth is, that I am waiting for my lord and master.
He promised to join me here, and pay his respects to you."
"What! are we to have the pleasure of a call from Mr. Elton?--
That will be a favour indeed! for I know gentlemen do not like
morning visits, and Mr. Elton's time is so engaged."
"Upon my word it is, Miss Bates.--He really is engaged from morning
to night.--There is no end of people's coming to him, on some pretence
or other.--The magistrates, and overseers, and churchwardens,
are always wanting his opinion. They seem not able to do any thing
without him.--`Upon my word, Mr. E.,' I often say, `rather you than I.--
I do not know what would become of my crayons and my instrument,
if I had half so many applicants.'--Bad enough as it is, for I
absolutely neglect them both to an unpardonable degree.--I believe
I have not played a bar this fortnight.--However, he is coming,
I assure you: yes, indeed, on purpose to wait on you all." And putting
up her hand to screen her words from Emma--"A congratulatory visit,
you know.--Oh! yes, quite indispensable."
Miss Bates looked about her, so happily!--
"He promised to come to me as soon as he could disengage himself
from Knightley; but he and Knightley are shut up together
in deep consultation.--Mr. E. is Knightley's right hand."
Emma would not have smiled for the world, and only said, "Is Mr. Elton
gone on foot to Donwell?--He will have a hot walk."
"Oh! no, it is a meeting at the Crown, a regular meeting.
Weston and Cole will be there too; but one is apt to speak only
of those who lead.--I fancy Mr. E. and Knightley have every thing
their own way."
"Have not you mistaken the day?" said Emma. "I am almost certain
that the meeting at the Crown is not till to-morrow.--Mr. Knightley
was at Hartfield yesterday, and spoke of it as for Saturday."
"Oh! no, the meeting is certainly to-day," was the abrupt answer,
which denoted the impossibility of any blunder on Mrs. Elton's side.--
"I do believe," she continued, "this is the most troublesome parish
that ever was. We never heard of such things at Maple Grove."
"Your parish there was small," said Jane.
"Upon my word, my dear, I do not know, for I never heard the subject
"But it is proved by the smallness of the school, which I have heard
you speak of, as under the patronage of your sister and Mrs. Bragge;
the only school, and not more than five-and-twenty children."
"Ah! you clever creature, that's very true. What a thinking brain
you have! I say, Jane, what a perfect character you and I should make,
if we could be shaken together. My liveliness and your solidity
would produce perfection.--Not that I presume to insinuate, however,
that _some_ people may not think _you_ perfection already.--But hush!--
not a word, if you please."
It seemed an unnecessary caution; Jane was wanting to give her words,
not to Mrs. Elton, but to Miss Woodhouse, as the latter plainly saw.
The wish of distinguishing her, as far as civility permitted,
was very evident, though it could not often proceed beyond a look.
Mr. Elton made his appearance. His lady greeted him with some
of her sparkling vivacity.
"Very pretty, sir, upon my word; to send me on here, to be an
encumbrance to my friends, so long before you vouchsafe to come!--
But you knew what a dutiful creature you had to deal with.
You knew I should not stir till my lord and master appeared.--
Here have I been sitting this hour, giving these young ladies
a sample of true conjugal obedience--for who can say, you know,
how soon it may be wanted?"
Mr. Elton was so hot and tired, that all this wit seemed thrown away.
His civilities to the other ladies must be paid; but his subsequent
object was to lament over himself for the heat he was suffering,
and the walk he had had for nothing.
"When I got to Donwell," said he, "Knightley could not be found.
Very odd! very unaccountable! after the note I sent him this morning,
and the message he returned, that he should certainly be at home
"Donwell!" cried his wife.--"My dear Mr. E., you have not been
to Donwell!--You mean the Crown; you come from the meeting at the Crown."
"No, no, that's to-morrow; and I particularly wanted to see Knightley
to-day on that very account.--Such a dreadful broiling morning!--
I went over the fields too--(speaking in a tone of great ill-usage,)
which made it so much the worse. And then not to find him at home!
I assure you I am not at all pleased. And no apology left, no message
for me. The housekeeper declared she knew nothing of my being expected.--
Very extraordinary!--And nobody knew at all which way he was gone.
Perhaps to Hartfield, perhaps to the Abbey Mill, perhaps into his woods.--
Miss Woodhouse, this is not like our friend Knightley!--Can you
Emma amused herself by protesting that it was very extraordinary,
indeed, and that she had not a syllable to say for him.
"I cannot imagine," said Mrs. Elton, (feeling the indignity as a wife
ought to do,) "I cannot imagine how he could do such a thing by you,
of all people in the world! The very last person whom one should expect
to be forgotten!--My dear Mr. E., he must have left a message for you,
I am sure he must.--Not even Knightley could be so very eccentric;--
and his servants forgot it. Depend upon it, that was the case:
and very likely to happen with the Donwell servants, who are all,
I have often observed, extremely awkward and remiss.--I am sure I
would not have such a creature as his Harry stand at our sideboard
for any consideration. And as for Mrs. Hodges, Wright holds
her very cheap indeed.--She promised Wright a receipt, and never
"I met William Larkins," continued Mr. Elton, "as I got near
the house, and he told me I should not find his master at home,
but I did not believe him.--William seemed rather out of humour.
He did not know what was come to his master lately, he said, but he
could hardly ever get the speech of him. I have nothing to do with
William's wants, but it really is of very great importance that _I_
should see Knightley to-day; and it becomes a matter, therefore,
of very serious inconvenience that I should have had this hot walk
to no purpose."
Emma felt that she could not do better than go home directly.
In all probability she was at this very time waited for there;
and Mr. Knightley might be preserved from sinking deeper in aggression
towards Mr. Elton, if not towards William Larkins.
She was pleased, on taking leave, to find Miss Fairfax determined
to attend her out of the room, to go with her even downstairs;
it gave her an opportunity which she immediately made use of,
"It is as well, perhaps, that I have not had the possibility.
Had you not been surrounded by other friends, I might have been
tempted to introduce a subject, to ask questions, to speak more
openly than might have been strictly correct.--I feel that I should
certainly have been impertinent."
"Oh!" cried Jane, with a blush and an hesitation which Emma thought
infinitely more becoming to her than all the elegance of all her
usual composure--"there would have been no danger. The danger
would have been of my wearying you. You could not have gratified
me more than by expressing an interest--. Indeed, Miss Woodhouse,
(speaking more collectedly,) with the consciousness which I
have of misconduct, very great misconduct, it is particularly
consoling to me to know that those of my friends, whose good
opinion is most worth preserving, are not disgusted to such a
degree as to--I have not time for half that I could wish to say.
I long to make apologies, excuses, to urge something for myself.
I feel it so very due. But, unfortunately--in short, if your
compassion does not stand my friend--"
"Oh! you are too scrupulous, indeed you are," cried Emma warmly,
and taking her hand. "You owe me no apologies; and every body to
whom you might be supposed to owe them, is so perfectly satisfied,
so delighted even--"
"You are very kind, but I know what my manners were to you.--
So cold and artificial!--I had always a part to act.--It was a life
of deceit!--I know that I must have disgusted you."
"Pray say no more. I feel that all the apologies should be on my side.
Let us forgive each other at once. We must do whatever is to be
done quickest, and I think our feelings will lose no time there.
I hope you have pleasant accounts from Windsor?"
"And the next news, I suppose, will be, that we are to lose you--
just as I begin to know you."
"Oh! as to all that, of course nothing can be thought of yet.
I am here till claimed by Colonel and Mrs. Campbell."
"Nothing can be actually settled yet, perhaps," replied Emma,
smiling--"but, excuse me, it must be thought of."
The smile was returned as Jane answered,
"You are very right; it has been thought of. And I will own
to you, (I am sure it will be safe), that so far as our living
with Mr. Churchill at Enscombe, it is settled. There must be
three months, at least, of deep mourning; but when they are over,
I imagine there will be nothing more to wait for."
"Thank you, thank you.--This is just what I wanted to be assured of.--
Oh! if you knew how much I love every thing that is decided and open!--
Mrs. Weston's friends were all made happy by her safety;
and if the satisfaction of her well-doing could be increased
to Emma, it was by knowing her to be the mother of a little girl.
She had been decided in wishing for a Miss Weston. She would
not acknowledge that it was with any view of making a match
for her, hereafter, with either of Isabella's sons; but she was
convinced that a daughter would suit both father and mother best.
It would be a great comfort to Mr. Weston, as he grew older--
and even Mr. Weston might be growing older ten years hence--to have
his fireside enlivened by the sports and the nonsense, the freaks
and the fancies of a child never banished from home; and Mrs. Weston--
no one could doubt that a daughter would be most to her; and it
would be quite a pity that any one who so well knew how to teach,
should not have their powers in exercise again.
"She has had the advantage, you know, of practising on me,"
she continued--"like La Baronne d'Almane on La Comtesse d'Ostalis,
in Madame de Genlis' Adelaide and Theodore, and we shall now see
her own little Adelaide educated on a more perfect plan."
"That is," replied Mr. Knightley, "she will indulge her even more
than she did you, and believe that she does not indulge her at all.
It will be the only difference."
"Poor child!" cried Emma; "at that rate, what will become of her?"