Part 9 out of 9
"Nothing very bad.--The fate of thousands. She will be disagreeable
in infancy, and correct herself as she grows older. I am losing
all my bitterness against spoilt children, my dearest Emma.
I, who am owing all my happiness to _you_, would not it be horrible
ingratitude in me to be severe on them?"
Emma laughed, and replied: "But I had the assistance of all
your endeavours to counteract the indulgence of other people.
I doubt whether my own sense would have corrected me without it."
"Do you?--I have no doubt. Nature gave you understanding:--
Miss Taylor gave you principles. You must have done well.
My interference was quite as likely to do harm as good. It was
very natural for you to say, what right has he to lecture me?--
and I am afraid very natural for you to feel that it was done
in a disagreeable manner. I do not believe I did you any good.
The good was all to myself, by making you an object of the tenderest
affection to me. I could not think about you so much without doating
on you, faults and all; and by dint of fancying so many errors,
have been in love with you ever since you were thirteen at least."
"I am sure you were of use to me," cried Emma. "I was very often
influenced rightly by you--oftener than I would own at the time.
I am very sure you did me good. And if poor little Anna Weston is
to be spoiled, it will be the greatest humanity in you to do as much
for her as you have done for me, except falling in love with her
when she is thirteen."
"How often, when you were a girl, have you said to me, with one
of your saucy looks--`Mr. Knightley, I am going to do so-and-so;
papa says I may, or I have Miss Taylor's leave'--something which,
you knew, I did not approve. In such cases my interference was giving
you two bad feelings instead of one."
"What an amiable creature I was!--No wonder you should hold
my speeches in such affectionate remembrance."
"`Mr. Knightley.'--You always called me, `Mr. Knightley;' and,
from habit, it has not so very formal a sound.--And yet it is formal.
I want you to call me something else, but I do not know what."
"I remember once calling you `George,' in one of my amiable fits,
about ten years ago. I did it because I thought it would offend you;
but, as you made no objection, I never did it again."
"And cannot you call me `George' now?"
"Impossible!--I never can call you any thing but `Mr. Knightley.'
I will not promise even to equal the elegant terseness of Mrs. Elton,
by calling you Mr. K.--But I will promise," she added presently,
laughing and blushing--"I will promise to call you once by your
Christian name. I do not say when, but perhaps you may guess
where;--in the building in which N. takes M. for better, for worse."
Emma grieved that she could not be more openly just to one
important service which his better sense would have rendered her,
to the advice which would have saved her from the worst of all
her womanly follies--her wilful intimacy with Harriet Smith;
but it was too tender a subject.--She could not enter on it.--
Harriet was very seldom mentioned between them. This, on his side,
might merely proceed from her not being thought of; but Emma
was rather inclined to attribute it to delicacy, and a suspicion,
from some appearances, that their friendship were declining.
She was aware herself, that, parting under any other circumstances,
they certainly should have corresponded more, and that her
intelligence would not have rested, as it now almost wholly did,
on Isabella's letters. He might observe that it was so. The pain
of being obliged to practise concealment towards him, was very little
inferior to the pain of having made Harriet unhappy.
Isabella sent quite as good an account of her visitor as could
be expected; on her first arrival she had thought her out of spirits,
which appeared perfectly natural, as there was a dentist to
be consulted; but, since that business had been over, she did not
appear to find Harriet different from what she had known her before.--
Isabella, to be sure, was no very quick observer; yet if Harriet
had not been equal to playing with the children, it would not have
escaped her. Emma's comforts and hopes were most agreeably carried on,
by Harriet's being to stay longer; her fortnight was likely to be
a month at least. Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley were to come down
in August, and she was invited to remain till they could bring her back.
"John does not even mention your friend," said Mr. Knightley.
"Here is his answer, if you like to see it."
It was the answer to the communication of his intended marriage.
Emma accepted it with a very eager hand, with an impatience all alive
to know what he would say about it, and not at all checked by hearing
that her friend was unmentioned.
"John enters like a brother into my happiness," continued Mr. Knightley,
"but he is no complimenter; and though I well know him to have,
likewise, a most brotherly affection for you, he is so far from
making flourishes, that any other young woman might think him rather
cool in her praise. But I am not afraid of your seeing what he writes."
"He writes like a sensible man," replied Emma, when she had read
the letter. "I honour his sincerity. It is very plain that he
considers the good fortune of the engagement as all on my side,
but that he is not without hope of my growing, in time, as worthy
of your affection, as you think me already. Had he said any thing
to bear a different construction, I should not have believed him."
"My Emma, he means no such thing. He only means--"
"He and I should differ very little in our estimation of the two,"
interrupted she, with a sort of serious smile--"much less, perhaps,
than he is aware of, if we could enter without ceremony or reserve
on the subject."
"Emma, my dear Emma--"
"Oh!" she cried with more thorough gaiety, "if you fancy your
brother does not do me justice, only wait till my dear father is in
the secret, and hear his opinion. Depend upon it, he will be much
farther from doing _you_ justice. He will think all the happiness,
all the advantage, on your side of the question; all the merit
on mine. I wish I may not sink into `poor Emma' with him at once.--
His tender compassion towards oppressed worth can go no farther."
"Ah!" he cried, "I wish your father might be half as easily convinced
as John will be, of our having every right that equal worth can give,
to be happy together. I am amused by one part of John's letter--
did you notice it?--where he says, that my information did not take
him wholly by surprize, that he was rather in expectation of hearing
something of the kind."
"If I understand your brother, he only means so far as your having
some thoughts of marrying. He had no idea of me. He seems perfectly
unprepared for that."
"Yes, yes--but I am amused that he should have seen so far into
my feelings. What has he been judging by?--I am not conscious
of any difference in my spirits or conversation that could prepare
him at this time for my marrying any more than at another.--
But it was so, I suppose. I dare say there was a difference when I
was staying with them the other day. I believe I did not play
with the children quite so much as usual. I remember one evening
the poor boys saying, `Uncle seems always tired now.'"
The time was coming when the news must spread farther, and other persons'
reception of it tried. As soon as Mrs. Weston was sufficiently
recovered to admit Mr. Woodhouse's visits, Emma having it in view
that her gentle reasonings should be employed in the cause,
resolved first to announce it at home, and then at Randalls.--
But how to break it to her father at last!--She had bound herself
to do it, in such an hour of Mr. Knightley's absence, or when it
came to the point her heart would have failed her, and she must
have put it off; but Mr. Knightley was to come at such a time,
and follow up the beginning she was to make.--She was forced
to speak, and to speak cheerfully too. She must not make it a more
decided subject of misery to him, by a melancholy tone herself.
She must not appear to think it a misfortune.--With all the spirits
she could command, she prepared him first for something strange,
and then, in a few words, said, that if his consent and approbation
could be obtained--which, she trusted, would be attended with
no difficulty, since it was a plan to promote the happiness of all--
she and Mr. Knightley meant to marry; by which means Hartfield
would receive the constant addition of that person's company
whom she knew he loved, next to his daughters and Mrs. Weston,
best in the world.
Poor man!--it was at first a considerable shock to him, and he tried
earnestly to dissuade her from it. She was reminded, more than once,
of having always said she would never marry, and assured that it
would be a great deal better for her to remain single; and told of
poor Isabella, and poor Miss Taylor.--But it would not do. Emma hung
about him affectionately, and smiled, and said it must be so; and that
he must not class her with Isabella and Mrs. Weston, whose marriages
taking them from Hartfield, had, indeed, made a melancholy change:
but she was not going from Hartfield; she should be always there;
she was introducing no change in their numbers or their comforts but
for the better; and she was very sure that he would be a great deal
the happier for having Mr. Knightley always at hand, when he were once
got used to the idea.--Did he not love Mr. Knightley very much?--
He would not deny that he did, she was sure.--Whom did he ever want
to consult on business but Mr. Knightley?--Who was so useful to him,
who so ready to write his letters, who so glad to assist him?--
Who so cheerful, so attentive, so attached to him?--Would not he
like to have him always on the spot?--Yes. That was all very true.
Mr. Knightley could not be there too often; he should be glad to see
him every day;--but they did see him every day as it was.--Why could
not they go on as they had done?
Mr. Woodhouse could not be soon reconciled; but the worst was overcome,
the idea was given; time and continual repetition must do the rest.--
To Emma's entreaties and assurances succeeded Mr. Knightley's,
whose fond praise of her gave the subject even a kind of welcome;
and he was soon used to be talked to by each, on every fair occasion.--
They had all the assistance which Isabella could give, by letters
of the strongest approbation; and Mrs. Weston was ready,
on the first meeting, to consider the subject in the most
serviceable light--first, as a settled, and, secondly, as a good one--
well aware of the nearly equal importance of the two recommendations
to Mr. Woodhouse's mind.--It was agreed upon, as what was to be;
and every body by whom he was used to be guided assuring him that
it would be for his happiness; and having some feelings himself
which almost admitted it, he began to think that some time or other--
in another year or two, perhaps--it might not be so very bad
if the marriage did take place.
Mrs. Weston was acting no part, feigning no feelings in all that she
said to him in favour of the event.--She had been extremely surprized,
never more so, than when Emma first opened the affair to her;
but she saw in it only increase of happiness to all, and had
no scruple in urging him to the utmost.--She had such a regard
for Mr. Knightley, as to think he deserved even her dearest Emma;
and it was in every respect so proper, suitable, and unexceptionable
a connexion, and in one respect, one point of the highest importance,
so peculiarly eligible, so singularly fortunate, that now it seemed
as if Emma could not safely have attached herself to any other creature,
and that she had herself been the stupidest of beings in not having
thought of it, and wished it long ago.--How very few of those men
in a rank of life to address Emma would have renounced their own
home for Hartfield! And who but Mr. Knightley could know and bear
with Mr. Woodhouse, so as to make such an arrangement desirable!--
The difficulty of disposing of poor Mr. Woodhouse had been always
felt in her husband's plans and her own, for a marriage between Frank
and Emma. How to settle the claims of Enscombe and Hartfield had
been a continual impediment--less acknowledged by Mr. Weston than
by herself--but even he had never been able to finish the subject
better than by saying--"Those matters will take care of themselves;
the young people will find a way." But here there was nothing to be
shifted off in a wild speculation on the future. It was all right,
all open, all equal. No sacrifice on any side worth the name.
It was a union of the highest promise of felicity in itself,
and without one real, rational difficulty to oppose or delay it.
Mrs. Weston, with her baby on her knee, indulging in such reflections
as these, was one of the happiest women in the world. If any thing
could increase her delight, it was perceiving that the baby would
soon have outgrown its first set of caps.
The news was universally a surprize wherever it spread;
and Mr. Weston had his five minutes share of it; but five minutes
were enough to familiarise the idea to his quickness of mind.--
He saw the advantages of the match, and rejoiced in them with all
the constancy of his wife; but the wonder of it was very soon nothing;
and by the end of an hour he was not far from believing that he
had always foreseen it.
"It is to be a secret, I conclude," said he. "These matters are
always a secret, till it is found out that every body knows them.
Only let me be told when I may speak out.--I wonder whether Jane has
He went to Highbury the next morning, and satisfied himself on
that point. He told her the news. Was not she like a daughter,
his eldest daughter?--he must tell her; and Miss Bates being present,
it passed, of course, to Mrs. Cole, Mrs. Perry, and Mrs. Elton,
immediately afterwards. It was no more than the principals were
prepared for; they had calculated from the time of its being known
at Randalls, how soon it would be over Highbury; and were thinking
of themselves, as the evening wonder in many a family circle,
with great sagacity.
In general, it was a very well approved match. Some might think him,
and others might think her, the most in luck. One set might
recommend their all removing to Donwell, and leaving Hartfield
for the John Knightleys; and another might predict disagreements
among their servants; but yet, upon the whole, there was no serious
objection raised, except in one habitation, the Vicarage.--There,
the surprize was not softened by any satisfaction. Mr. Elton
cared little about it, compared with his wife; he only hoped "the
young lady's pride would now be contented;" and supposed "she had
always meant to catch Knightley if she could;" and, on the point
of living at Hartfield, could daringly exclaim, "Rather he than I!"--
But Mrs. Elton was very much discomposed indeed.--"Poor Knightley!
poor fellow!--sad business for him.--She was extremely concerned;
for, though very eccentric, he had a thousand good qualities.--
How could he be so taken in?--Did not think him at all in love--
not in the least.--Poor Knightley!--There would be an end of all
pleasant intercourse with him.--How happy he had been to come and dine
with them whenever they asked him! But that would be all over now.--
Poor fellow!--No more exploring parties to Donwell made for _her_.
Oh! no; there would be a Mrs. Knightley to throw cold water on
every thing.--Extremely disagreeable! But she was not at all sorry
that she had abused the housekeeper the other day.--Shocking plan,
living together. It would never do. She knew a family near Maple
Grove who had tried it, and been obliged to separate before the end
of the first quarter.
Time passed on. A few more to-morrows, and the party from London
would be arriving. It was an alarming change; and Emma was thinking
of it one morning, as what must bring a great deal to agitate and
grieve her, when Mr. Knightley came in, and distressing thoughts
were put by. After the first chat of pleasure he was silent;
and then, in a graver tone, began with,
"I have something to tell you, Emma; some news."
"Good or bad?" said she, quickly, looking up in his face.
"I do not know which it ought to be called."
"Oh! good I am sure.--I see it in your countenance. You are trying
not to smile."
"I am afraid," said he, composing his features, "I am very much afraid,
my dear Emma, that you will not smile when you hear it."
"Indeed! but why so?--I can hardly imagine that any thing which
pleases or amuses you, should not please and amuse me too."
"There is one subject," he replied, "I hope but one, on which
we do not think alike." He paused a moment, again smiling,
with his eyes fixed on her face. "Does nothing occur to you?--
Do not you recollect?--Harriet Smith."
Her cheeks flushed at the name, and she felt afraid of something,
though she knew not what.
"Have you heard from her yourself this morning?" cried he.
"You have, I believe, and know the whole."
"No, I have not; I know nothing; pray tell me."
"You are prepared for the worst, I see--and very bad it is.
Harriet Smith marries Robert Martin."
Emma gave a start, which did not seem like being prepared--
and her eyes, in eager gaze, said, "No, this is impossible!"
but her lips were closed.
"It is so, indeed," continued Mr. Knightley; "I have it from Robert
Martin himself. He left me not half an hour ago."
She was still looking at him with the most speaking amazement.
"You like it, my Emma, as little as I feared.--I wish our opinions were
the same. But in time they will. Time, you may be sure, will make
one or the other of us think differently; and, in the meanwhile,
we need not talk much on the subject."
"You mistake me, you quite mistake me," she replied, exerting herself.
"It is not that such a circumstance would now make me unhappy,
but I cannot believe it. It seems an impossibility!--You cannot mean
to say, that Harriet Smith has accepted Robert Martin. You cannot
mean that he has even proposed to her again--yet. You only mean,
that he intends it."
"I mean that he has done it," answered Mr. Knightley, with smiling
but determined decision, "and been accepted."
"Good God!" she cried.--"Well!"--Then having recourse to her workbasket,
in excuse for leaning down her face, and concealing all the
exquisite feelings of delight and entertainment which she knew she
must be expressing, she added, "Well, now tell me every thing;
make this intelligible to me. How, where, when?--Let me know it all.
I never was more surprized--but it does not make me unhappy,
I assure you.--How--how has it been possible?"
"It is a very simple story. He went to town on business three days ago,
and I got him to take charge of some papers which I was wanting
to send to John.--He delivered these papers to John, at his chambers,
and was asked by him to join their party the same evening to Astley's.
They were going to take the two eldest boys to Astley's. The party
was to be our brother and sister, Henry, John--and Miss Smith.
My friend Robert could not resist. They called for him in their way;
were all extremely amused; and my brother asked him to dine with
them the next day--which he did--and in the course of that visit
(as I understand) he found an opportunity of speaking to Harriet;
and certainly did not speak in vain.--She made him, by her acceptance,
as happy even as he is deserving. He came down by yesterday's coach,
and was with me this morning immediately after breakfast, to report
his proceedings, first on my affairs, and then on his own.
This is all that I can relate of the how, where, and when.
Your friend Harriet will make a much longer history when you see her.--
She will give you all the minute particulars, which only woman's
language can make interesting.--In our communications we deal only
in the great.--However, I must say, that Robert Martin's heart seemed
for _him_, and to _me_, very overflowing; and that he did mention,
without its being much to the purpose, that on quitting their
box at Astley's, my brother took charge of Mrs. John Knightley
and little John, and he followed with Miss Smith and Henry;
and that at one time they were in such a crowd, as to make Miss Smith
He stopped.--Emma dared not attempt any immediate reply. To speak,
she was sure would be to betray a most unreasonable degree
of happiness. She must wait a moment, or he would think her mad.
Her silence disturbed him; and after observing her a little while,
"Emma, my love, you said that this circumstance would not now make
you unhappy; but I am afraid it gives you more pain than you expected.
His situation is an evil--but you must consider it as what satisfies
your friend; and I will answer for your thinking better and better
of him as you know him more. His good sense and good principles would
delight you.--As far as the man is concerned, you could not wish your
friend in better hands. His rank in society I would alter if I could,
which is saying a great deal I assure you, Emma.--You laugh at me
about William Larkins; but I could quite as ill spare Robert Martin."
He wanted her to look up and smile; and having now brought herself
not to smile too broadly--she did--cheerfully answering,
"You need not be at any pains to reconcile me to the match. I think
Harriet is doing extremely well. _Her_ connexions may be worse than _his_.
In respectability of character, there can be no doubt that they are.
I have been silent from surprize merely, excessive surprize.
You cannot imagine how suddenly it has come on me! how peculiarly
unprepared I was!--for I had reason to believe her very lately more
determined against him, much more, than she was before."
"You ought to know your friend best," replied Mr. Knightley;
"but I should say she was a good-tempered, soft-hearted girl,
not likely to be very, very determined against any young man who told
her he loved her."
Emma could not help laughing as she answered, "Upon my word,
I believe you know her quite as well as I do.--But, Mr. Knightley,
are you perfectly sure that she has absolutely and downright
_accepted_ him. I could suppose she might in time--but can she already?--
Did not you misunderstand him?--You were both talking of other things;
of business, shows of cattle, or new drills--and might not you,
in the confusion of so many subjects, mistake him?--It was not
Harriet's hand that he was certain of--it was the dimensions of some
The contrast between the countenance and air of Mr. Knightley and
Robert Martin was, at this moment, so strong to Emma's feelings,
and so strong was the recollection of all that had so recently
passed on Harriet's side, so fresh the sound of those words,
spoken with such emphasis, "No, I hope I know better than to think
of Robert Martin," that she was really expecting the intelligence
to prove, in some measure, premature. It could not be otherwise.
"Do you dare say this?" cried Mr. Knightley. "Do you dare to suppose
me so great a blockhead, as not to know what a man is talking of?--
What do you deserve?"
"Oh! I always deserve the best treatment, because I never put
up with any other; and, therefore, you must give me a plain,
direct answer. Are you quite sure that you understand the terms
on which Mr. Martin and Harriet now are?"
"I am quite sure," he replied, speaking very distinctly, "that he
told me she had accepted him; and that there was no obscurity,
nothing doubtful, in the words he used; and I think I can give you
a proof that it must be so. He asked my opinion as to what he
was now to do. He knew of no one but Mrs. Goddard to whom he
could apply for information of her relations or friends. Could I
mention any thing more fit to be done, than to go to Mrs. Goddard?
I assured him that I could not. Then, he said, he would endeavour
to see her in the course of this day."
"I am perfectly satisfied," replied Emma, with the brightest smiles,
"and most sincerely wish them happy."
"You are materially changed since we talked on this subject before."
"I hope so--for at that time I was a fool."
"And I am changed also; for I am now very willing to grant you all
Harriet's good qualities. I have taken some pains for your sake,
and for Robert Martin's sake, (whom I have always had reason to believe
as much in love with her as ever,) to get acquainted with her.
I have often talked to her a good deal. You must have seen that
I did. Sometimes, indeed, I have thought you were half suspecting me
of pleading poor Martin's cause, which was never the case; but, from all
my observations, I am convinced of her being an artless, amiable girl,
with very good notions, very seriously good principles, and placing
her happiness in the affections and utility of domestic life.--
Much of this, I have no doubt, she may thank you for."
"Me!" cried Emma, shaking her head.--"Ah! poor Harriet!"
She checked herself, however, and submitted quietly to a little
more praise than she deserved.
Their conversation was soon afterwards closed by the entrance of
her father. She was not sorry. She wanted to be alone. Her mind
was in a state of flutter and wonder, which made it impossible for her
to be collected. She was in dancing, singing, exclaiming spirits;
and till she had moved about, and talked to herself, and laughed
and reflected, she could be fit for nothing rational.
Her father's business was to announce James's being gone out to put
the horses to, preparatory to their now daily drive to Randalls;
and she had, therefore, an immediate excuse for disappearing.
The joy, the gratitude, the exquisite delight of her sensations
may be imagined. The sole grievance and alloy thus removed in the
prospect of Harriet's welfare, she was really in danger of becoming
too happy for security.--What had she to wish for? Nothing, but to
grow more worthy of him, whose intentions and judgment had been
ever so superior to her own. Nothing, but that the lessons
of her past folly might teach her humility and circumspection in future.
Serious she was, very serious in her thankfulness, and in her resolutions;
and yet there was no preventing a laugh, sometimes in the very midst
of them. She must laugh at such a close! Such an end of the doleful
disappointment of five weeks back! Such a heart--such a Harriet!
Now there would be pleasure in her returning--Every thing would
be a pleasure. It would be a great pleasure to know Robert Martin.
High in the rank of her most serious and heartfelt felicities,
was the reflection that all necessity of concealment from
Mr. Knightley would soon be over. The disguise, equivocation,
mystery, so hateful to her to practise, might soon be over.
She could now look forward to giving him that full and perfect
confidence which her disposition was most ready to welcome as a duty.
In the gayest and happiest spirits she set forward with her father;
not always listening, but always agreeing to what he said;
and, whether in speech or silence, conniving at the comfortable
persuasion of his being obliged to go to Randalls every day,
or poor Mrs. Weston would be disappointed.
They arrived.--Mrs. Weston was alone in the drawing-room:--
but hardly had they been told of the baby, and Mr. Woodhouse
received the thanks for coming, which he asked for, when a glimpse
was caught through the blind, of two figures passing near the window.
"It is Frank and Miss Fairfax," said Mrs. Weston. "I was just
going to tell you of our agreeable surprize in seeing him arrive
this morning. He stays till to-morrow, and Miss Fairfax has been
persuaded to spend the day with us.--They are coming in, I hope."
In half a minute they were in the room. Emma was extremely glad
to see him--but there was a degree of confusion--a number of
embarrassing recollections on each side. They met readily and smiling,
but with a consciousness which at first allowed little to be said;
and having all sat down again, there was for some time such a blank
in the circle, that Emma began to doubt whether the wish now indulged,
which she had long felt, of seeing Frank Churchill once more,
and of seeing him with Jane, would yield its proportion of pleasure.
When Mr. Weston joined the party, however, and when the baby
was fetched, there was no longer a want of subject or animation--
or of courage and opportunity for Frank Churchill to draw near her
"I have to thank you, Miss Woodhouse, for a very kind forgiving
message in one of Mrs. Weston's letters. I hope time has not made
you less willing to pardon. I hope you do not retract what you
"No, indeed," cried Emma, most happy to begin, "not in the least.
I am particularly glad to see and shake hands with you--and to give
you joy in person."
He thanked her with all his heart, and continued some time to speak
with serious feeling of his gratitude and happiness.
"Is not she looking well?" said he, turning his eyes towards Jane.
"Better than she ever used to do?--You see how my father and
Mrs. Weston doat upon her."
But his spirits were soon rising again, and with laughing eyes,
after mentioning the expected return of the Campbells, he named
the name of Dixon.--Emma blushed, and forbade its being pronounced
in her hearing.
"I can never think of it," she cried, "without extreme shame."
"The shame," he answered, "is all mine, or ought to be. But is it
possible that you had no suspicion?--I mean of late. Early, I know,
you had none."
"I never had the smallest, I assure you."
"That appears quite wonderful. I was once very near--and I wish I had--
it would have been better. But though I was always doing wrong things,
they were very bad wrong things, and such as did me no service.--
It would have been a much better transgression had I broken the bond
of secrecy and told you every thing."
"It is not now worth a regret," said Emma.
"I have some hope," resumed he, "of my uncle's being persuaded
to pay a visit at Randalls; he wants to be introduced to her.
When the Campbells are returned, we shall meet them in London,
and continue there, I trust, till we may carry her northward.--But now,
I am at such a distance from her--is not it hard, Miss Woodhouse?--
Till this morning, we have not once met since the day of reconciliation.
Do not you pity me?"
Emma spoke her pity so very kindly, that with a sudden accession
of gay thought, he cried,
"Ah! by the bye," then sinking his voice, and looking demure for
the moment--"I hope Mr. Knightley is well?" He paused.--She coloured
and laughed.--"I know you saw my letter, and think you may remember
my wish in your favour. Let me return your congratulations.--
I assure you that I have heard the news with the warmest interest
and satisfaction.--He is a man whom I cannot presume to praise."
Emma was delighted, and only wanted him to go on in the same style;
but his mind was the next moment in his own concerns and with his
own Jane, and his next words were,
"Did you ever see such a skin?--such smoothness! such delicacy!--
and yet without being actually fair.--One cannot call her fair.
It is a most uncommon complexion, with her dark eye-lashes and hair--
a most distinguishing complexion! So peculiarly the lady in it.--
Just colour enough for beauty."
"I have always admired her complexion," replied Emma, archly; "but do not
I remember the time when you found fault with her for being so pale?--
When we first began to talk of her.--Have you quite forgotten?"
"Oh! no--what an impudent dog I was!--How could I dare--"
But he laughed so heartily at the recollection, that Emma could
not help saying,
"I do suspect that in the midst of your perplexities at that time,
you had very great amusement in tricking us all.--I am sure you had.--
I am sure it was a consolation to you."
"Oh! no, no, no--how can you suspect me of such a thing?
I was the most miserable wretch!"
"Not quite so miserable as to be insensible to mirth. I am sure it
was a source of high entertainment to you, to feel that you were taking
us all in.--Perhaps I am the readier to suspect, because, to tell
you the truth, I think it might have been some amusement to myself
in the same situation. I think there is a little likeness between us."
"If not in our dispositions," she presently added, with a look of
true sensibility, "there is a likeness in our destiny; the destiny
which bids fair to connect us with two characters so much superior
to our own."
"True, true," he answered, warmly. "No, not true on your side. You can
have no superior, but most true on mine.--She is a complete angel.
Look at her. Is not she an angel in every gesture? Observe the turn
of her throat. Observe her eyes, as she is looking up at my father.--
You will be glad to hear (inclining his head, and whispering seriously)
that my uncle means to give her all my aunt's jewels. They are to be
new set. I am resolved to have some in an ornament for the head.
Will not it be beautiful in her dark hair?"
"Very beautiful, indeed," replied Emma; and she spoke so kindly,
that he gratefully burst out,
"How delighted I am to see you again! and to see you in such
excellent looks!--I would not have missed this meeting for the world.
I should certainly have called at Hartfield, had you failed to come."
The others had been talking of the child, Mrs. Weston giving an
account of a little alarm she had been under, the evening before,
from the infant's appearing not quite well. She believed she had
been foolish, but it had alarmed her, and she had been within half
a minute of sending for Mr. Perry. Perhaps she ought to be ashamed,
but Mr. Weston had been almost as uneasy as herself.--In ten minutes,
however, the child had been perfectly well again. This was
her history; and particularly interesting it was to Mr. Woodhouse,
who commended her very much for thinking of sending for Perry,
and only regretted that she had not done it. "She should always send
for Perry, if the child appeared in the slightest degree disordered,
were it only for a moment. She could not be too soon alarmed,
nor send for Perry too often. It was a pity, perhaps, that he
had not come last night; for, though the child seemed well now,
very well considering, it would probably have been better if Perry
had seen it."
Frank Churchill caught the name.
"Perry!" said he to Emma, and trying, as he spoke, to catch Miss
Fairfax's eye. "My friend Mr. Perry! What are they saying
about Mr. Perry?--Has he been here this morning?--And how does
he travel now?--Has he set up his carriage?"
Emma soon recollected, and understood him; and while she joined
in the laugh, it was evident from Jane's countenance that she
too was really hearing him, though trying to seem deaf.
"Such an extraordinary dream of mine!" he cried. "I can never think
of it without laughing.--She hears us, she hears us, Miss Woodhouse.
I see it in her cheek, her smile, her vain attempt to frown.
Look at her. Do not you see that, at this instant, the very passage
of her own letter, which sent me the report, is passing under her eye--
that the whole blunder is spread before her--that she can attend to
nothing else, though pretending to listen to the others?"
Jane was forced to smile completely, for a moment; and the smile
partly remained as she turned towards him, and said in a conscious,
low, yet steady voice,
"How you can bear such recollections, is astonishing to me!--
They _will_ sometimes obtrude--but how you can court them!"
He had a great deal to say in return, and very entertainingly;
but Emma's feelings were chiefly with Jane, in the argument; and on
leaving Randalls, and falling naturally into a comparison of the two men,
she felt, that pleased as she had been to see Frank Churchill,
and really regarding him as she did with friendship, she had never
been more sensible of Mr. Knightley's high superiority of character.
The happiness of this most happy day, received its completion, in the
animated contemplation of his worth which this comparison produced.
If Emma had still, at intervals, an anxious feeling for Harriet,
a momentary doubt of its being possible for her to be really cured
of her attachment to Mr. Knightley, and really able to accept
another man from unbiased inclination, it was not long that she
had to suffer from the recurrence of any such uncertainty.
A very few days brought the party from London, and she had no
sooner an opportunity of being one hour alone with Harriet,
than she became perfectly satisfied--unaccountable as it was!--
that Robert Martin had thoroughly supplanted Mr. Knightley,
and was now forming all her views of happiness.
Harriet was a little distressed--did look a little foolish at first:
but having once owned that she had been presumptuous and silly,
and self-deceived, before, her pain and confusion seemed to die
away with the words, and leave her without a care for the past,
and with the fullest exultation in the present and future; for, as to
her friend's approbation, Emma had instantly removed every fear of
that nature, by meeting her with the most unqualified congratulations.--
Harriet was most happy to give every particular of the evening at
Astley's, and the dinner the next day; she could dwell on it all
with the utmost delight. But what did such particulars explain?--
The fact was, as Emma could now acknowledge, that Harriet had
always liked Robert Martin; and that his continuing to love her had
been irresistible.--Beyond this, it must ever be unintelligible
The event, however, was most joyful; and every day was giving her
fresh reason for thinking so.--Harriet's parentage became known.
She proved to be the daughter of a tradesman, rich enough to afford
her the comfortable maintenance which had ever been hers, and decent
enough to have always wished for concealment.--Such was the blood
of gentility which Emma had formerly been so ready to vouch for!--
It was likely to be as untainted, perhaps, as the blood of many
a gentleman: but what a connexion had she been preparing for
Mr. Knightley--or for the Churchills--or even for Mr. Elton!--
The stain of illegitimacy, unbleached by nobility or wealth,
would have been a stain indeed.
No objection was raised on the father's side; the young man was
treated liberally; it was all as it should be: and as Emma became
acquainted with Robert Martin, who was now introduced at Hartfield,
she fully acknowledged in him all the appearance of sense and worth
which could bid fairest for her little friend. She had no doubt
of Harriet's happiness with any good-tempered man; but with him,
and in the home he offered, there would be the hope of more,
of security, stability, and improvement. She would be placed in the
midst of those who loved her, and who had better sense than herself;
retired enough for safety, and occupied enough for cheerfulness.
She would be never led into temptation, nor left for it to find her out.
She would be respectable and happy; and Emma admitted her to be
the luckiest creature in the world, to have created so steady and
persevering an affection in such a man;--or, if not quite the luckiest,
to yield only to herself.
Harriet, necessarily drawn away by her engagements with the Martins,
was less and less at Hartfield; which was not to be regretted.--
The intimacy between her and Emma must sink; their friendship must
change into a calmer sort of goodwill; and, fortunately, what ought
to be, and must be, seemed already beginning, and in the most gradual,
Before the end of September, Emma attended Harriet to church, and saw
her hand bestowed on Robert Martin with so complete a satisfaction,
as no remembrances, even connected with Mr. Elton as he stood
before them, could impair.--Perhaps, indeed, at that time she
scarcely saw Mr. Elton, but as the clergyman whose blessing at the
altar might next fall on herself.--Robert Martin and Harriet Smith,
the latest couple engaged of the three, were the first to be married.
Jane Fairfax had already quitted Highbury, and was restored to the
comforts of her beloved home with the Campbells.--The Mr. Churchills
were also in town; and they were only waiting for November.
The intermediate month was the one fixed on, as far as they dared,
by Emma and Mr. Knightley.--They had determined that their marriage
ought to be concluded while John and Isabella were still at Hartfield,
to allow them the fortnight's absence in a tour to the seaside,
which was the plan.--John and Isabella, and every other friend,
were agreed in approving it. But Mr. Woodhouse--how was Mr. Woodhouse
to be induced to consent?--he, who had never yet alluded to their
marriage but as a distant event.
When first sounded on the subject, he was so miserable, that they
were almost hopeless.--A second allusion, indeed, gave less pain.--
He began to think it was to be, and that he could not prevent it--
a very promising step of the mind on its way to resignation.
Still, however, he was not happy. Nay, he appeared so much otherwise,
that his daughter's courage failed. She could not bear to see
him suffering, to know him fancying himself neglected; and though
her understanding almost acquiesced in the assurance of both the
Mr. Knightleys, that when once the event were over, his distress
would be soon over too, she hesitated--she could not proceed.
In this state of suspense they were befriended, not by any sudden
illumination of Mr. Woodhouse's mind, or any wonderful change of his
nervous system, but by the operation of the same system in another way.--
Mrs. Weston's poultry-house was robbed one night of all her turkeys--
evidently by the ingenuity of man. Other poultry-yards in the
neighbourhood also suffered.--Pilfering was _housebreaking_ to
Mr. Woodhouse's fears.--He was very uneasy; and but for the sense
of his son-in-law's protection, would have been under wretched alarm
every night of his life. The strength, resolution, and presence
of mind of the Mr. Knightleys, commanded his fullest dependence.
While either of them protected him and his, Hartfield was safe.--
But Mr. John Knightley must be in London again by the end of the
first week in November.
The result of this distress was, that, with a much more voluntary,
cheerful consent than his daughter had ever presumed to hope for at
the moment, she was able to fix her wedding-day--and Mr. Elton was
called on, within a month from the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Robert
Martin, to join the hands of Mr. Knightley and Miss Woodhouse.
The wedding was very much like other weddings, where the parties
have no taste for finery or parade; and Mrs. Elton, from the
particulars detailed by her husband, thought it all extremely shabby,
and very inferior to her own.--"Very little white satin, very few
lace veils; a most pitiful business!--Selina would stare when she
heard of it."--But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes,
the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band
of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered
in the perfect happiness of the union.