Part 8 - Emma Audiobook by Jane Austen (Vol 3: Chs 14-19)


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Transcript:
VOLUME III
CHAPTER XIV
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.
"Yours ever, "A. W."
[To Mrs. Weston.] WINDSOR-JULY. 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 myself,
Your obliged and affectionate Son, F. C. WESTON CHURCHILL.
>
VOLUME III
CHAPTER XV
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 one
subject."
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.
>
VOLUME III
CHAPTER XVI
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 feeling tone,
"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 talked of."
"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 till one."
"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 explain it?"
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 sent it."
"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, to say,
"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?"
"Very." "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!--Good-bye, good-bye."
>
VOLUME III
CHAPTER XVII
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?"
"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 any suspicion."
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.
>
VOLUME III
CHAPTER XVIII
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 rather uneasy."
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, he added,
"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 famous ox."
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 and say,
"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 then said."
"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."
He bowed.
"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.
>
VOLUME III
CHAPTER XIX
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 to Emma.
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, natural manner.
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.
FINIS
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