Part 2 - Emma Audiobook by Jane Austen (Vol 1: Chs 10-18)

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Though now the middle of December, there had yet been no weather to prevent the
young ladies from tolerably regular exercise; and on the morrow, Emma had a
charitable visit to pay to a poor sick
family, who lived a little way out of Highbury.
Their road to this detached cottage was down Vicarage Lane, a lane leading at right
angles from the broad, though irregular, main street of the place; and, as may be
inferred, containing the blessed abode of Mr. Elton.
A few inferior dwellings were first to be passed, and then, about a quarter of a mile
down the lane rose the Vicarage, an old and not very good house, almost as close to the
road as it could be.
It had no advantage of situation; but had been very much smartened up by the present
proprietor; and, such as it was, there could be no possibility of the two friends
passing it without a slackened pace and observing eyes.--Emma's remark was--
"There it is. There go you and your riddle-book one of
these days."--Harriet's was--
"Oh, what a sweet house!--How very beautiful!--There are the yellow curtains
that Miss Nash admires so much."
"I do not often walk this way now," said Emma, as they proceeded, "but then there
will be an inducement, and I shall gradually get intimately acquainted with
all the hedges, gates, pools and pollards of this part of Highbury."
Harriet, she found, had never in her life been within side the Vicarage, and her
curiosity to see it was so extreme, that, considering exteriors and probabilities,
Emma could only class it, as a proof of
love, with Mr. Elton's seeing ready wit in her.
"I wish we could contrive it," said she; "but I cannot think of any tolerable
pretence for going in;--no servant that I want to inquire about of his housekeeper--
no message from my father."
She pondered, but could think of nothing. After a mutual silence of some minutes,
Harriet thus began again--
"I do so wonder, Miss Woodhouse, that you should not be married, or going to be
married! so charming as you are!"-- Emma laughed, and replied,
"My being charming, Harriet, is not quite enough to induce me to marry; I must find
other people charming--one other person at least.
And I am not only, not going to be married, at present, but have very little intention
of ever marrying at all." "Ah!--so you say; but I cannot believe it."
"I must see somebody very superior to any one I have seen yet, to be tempted; Mr.
Elton, you know, (recollecting herself,) is out of the question: and I do not wish to
see any such person.
I would rather not be tempted. I cannot really change for the better.
If I were to marry, I must expect to repent it."
"Dear me!--it is so odd to hear a woman talk so!"--
"I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry.
Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing! but I never have been in
love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.
And, without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such a situation as mine.
Fortune I do not want; employment I do not want; consequence I do not want: I believe
few married women are half as much mistress of their husband's house as I am of
Hartfield; and never, never could I expect
to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right in any man's
eyes as I am in my father's." "But then, to be an old maid at last, like
Miss Bates!"
"That is as formidable an image as you could present, Harriet; and if I thought I
should ever be like Miss Bates! so silly-- so satisfied--so smiling--so prosing--so
undistinguishing and unfastidious--and so
apt to tell every thing relative to every body about me, I would marry to-morrow.
But between us, I am convinced there never can be any likeness, except in being
"But still, you will be an old maid! and that's so dreadful!"
"Never mind, Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty only which
makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public!
A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old
maid! the proper sport of boys and girls, but a single woman, of good fortune, is
always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as any body else.
And the distinction is not quite so much against the candour and common sense of the
world as appears at first; for a very narrow income has a tendency to contract
the mind, and sour the temper.
Those who can barely live, and who live perforce in a very small, and generally
very inferior, society, may well be illiberal and cross.
This does not apply, however, to Miss Bates; she is only too good natured and too
silly to suit me; but, in general, she is very much to the taste of every body,
though single and though poor.
Poverty certainly has not contracted her mind: I really believe, if she had only a
shilling in the world, she would be very likely to give away sixpence of it; and
nobody is afraid of her: that is a great charm."
"Dear me! but what shall you do? how shall you employ yourself when you grow old?"
"If I know myself, Harriet, mine is an active, busy mind, with a great many
independent resources; and I do not perceive why I should be more in want of
employment at forty or fifty than one-and- twenty.
Woman's usual occupations of hand and mind will be as open to me then as they are now;
or with no important variation.
If I draw less, I shall read more; if I give up music, I shall take to carpet-work.
And as for objects of interest, objects for the affections, which is in truth the great
point of inferiority, the want of which is really the great evil to be avoided in
not marrying, I shall be very well off,
with all the children of a sister I love so much, to care about.
There will be enough of them, in all probability, to supply every sort of
sensation that declining life can need.
There will be enough for every hope and every fear; and though my attachment to
none can equal that of a parent, it suits my ideas of comfort better than what is
warmer and blinder.
My nephews and nieces!--I shall often have a niece with me."
"Do you know Miss Bates's niece? That is, I know you must have seen her a
hundred times--but are you acquainted?"
"Oh! yes; we are always forced to be acquainted whenever she comes to Highbury.
By the bye, that is almost enough to put one out of conceit with a niece.
Heaven forbid! at least, that I should ever bore people half so much about all the
Knightleys together, as she does about Jane Fairfax.
One is sick of the very name of Jane Fairfax.
Every letter from her is read forty times over; her compliments to all friends go
round and round again; and if she does but send her aunt the pattern of a stomacher,
or knit a pair of garters for her
grandmother, one hears of nothing else for a month.
I wish Jane Fairfax very well; but she tires me to death."
They were now approaching the cottage, and all idle topics were superseded.
Emma was very compassionate; and the distresses of the poor were as sure of
relief from her personal attention and kindness, her counsel and her patience, as
from her purse.
She understood their ways, could allow for their ignorance and their temptations, had
no romantic expectations of extraordinary virtue from those for whom education had
done so little; entered into their troubles
with ready sympathy, and always gave her assistance with as much intelligence as
In the present instance, it was sickness and poverty together which she came to
visit; and after remaining there as long as she could give comfort or advice, she
quitted the cottage with such an impression
of the scene as made her say to Harriet, as they walked away,
"These are the sights, Harriet, to do one good.
How trifling they make every thing else appear!--I feel now as if I could think of
nothing but these poor creatures all the rest of the day; and yet, who can say how
soon it may all vanish from my mind?"
"Very true," said Harriet. "Poor creatures! one can think of nothing
"And really, I do not think the impression will soon be over," said Emma, as she
crossed the low hedge, and tottering footstep which ended the narrow, slippery
path through the cottage garden, and brought them into the lane again.
"I do not think it will," stopping to look once more at all the outward wretchedness
of the place, and recall the still greater within.
"Oh! dear, no," said her companion.
They walked on. The lane made a slight bend; and when that
bend was passed, Mr. Elton was immediately in sight; and so near as to give Emma time
only to say farther,
"Ah! Harriet, here comes a very sudden trial of our stability in good thoughts.
Well, (smiling,) I hope it may be allowed that if compassion has produced exertion
and relief to the sufferers, it has done all that is truly important.
If we feel for the wretched, enough to do all we can for them, the rest is empty
sympathy, only distressing to ourselves." Harriet could just answer, "Oh! dear, yes,"
before the gentleman joined them.
The wants and sufferings of the poor family, however, were the first subject on
meeting. He had been going to call on them.
His visit he would now defer; but they had a very interesting parley about what could
be done and should be done. Mr. Elton then turned back to accompany
"To fall in with each other on such an errand as this," thought Emma; "to meet in
a charitable scheme; this will bring a great increase of love on each side.
I should not wonder if it were to bring on the declaration.
It must, if I were not here. I wish I were anywhere else."
Anxious to separate herself from them as far as she could, she soon afterwards took
possession of a narrow footpath, a little raised on one side of the lane, leaving
them together in the main road.
But she had not been there two minutes when she found that Harriet's habits of
dependence and imitation were bringing her up too, and that, in short, they would both
be soon after her.
This would not do; she immediately stopped, under pretence of having some alteration to
make in the lacing of her half-boot, and stooping down in complete occupation of the
footpath, begged them to have the goodness
to walk on, and she would follow in half a minute.
They did as they were desired; and by the time she judged it reasonable to have done
with her boot, she had the comfort of farther delay in her power, being overtaken
by a child from the cottage, setting out,
according to orders, with her pitcher, to fetch broth from Hartfield.
To walk by the side of this child, and talk to and question her, was the most natural
thing in the world, or would have been the most natural, had she been acting just then
without design; and by this means the
others were still able to keep ahead, without any obligation of waiting for her.
She gained on them, however, involuntarily: the child's pace was quick, and theirs
rather slow; and she was the more concerned at it, from their being evidently in a
conversation which interested them.
Mr. Elton was speaking with animation, Harriet listening with a very pleased
attention; and Emma, having sent the child on, was beginning to think how she might
draw back a little more, when they both
looked around, and she was obliged to join them.
Mr. Elton was still talking, still engaged in some interesting detail; and Emma
experienced some disappointment when she found that he was only giving his fair
companion an account of the yesterday's
party at his friend Cole's, and that she was come in herself for the Stilton cheese,
the north Wiltshire, the butter, the celery, the beet-root, and all the dessert.
"This would soon have led to something better, of course," was her consoling
reflection; "any thing interests between those who love; and any thing will serve as
introduction to what is near the heart.
If I could but have kept longer away!"
They now walked on together quietly, till within view of the vicarage pales, when a
sudden resolution, of at least getting Harriet into the house, made her again find
something very much amiss about her boot, and fall behind to arrange it once more.
She then broke the lace off short, and dexterously throwing it into a ditch, was
presently obliged to entreat them to stop, and acknowledged her inability to put
herself to rights so as to be able to walk home in tolerable comfort.
"Part of my lace is gone," said she, "and I do not know how I am to contrive.
I really am a most troublesome companion to you both, but I hope I am not often so ill-
Mr. Elton, I must beg leave to stop at your house, and ask your housekeeper for a bit
of ribband or string, or any thing just to keep my boot on."
Mr. Elton looked all happiness at this proposition; and nothing could exceed his
alertness and attention in conducting them into his house and endeavouring to make
every thing appear to advantage.
The room they were taken into was the one he chiefly occupied, and looking forwards;
behind it was another with which it immediately communicated; the door between
them was open, and Emma passed into it with
the housekeeper to receive her assistance in the most comfortable manner.
She was obliged to leave the door ajar as she found it; but she fully intended that
Mr. Elton should close it.
It was not closed, however, it still remained ajar; but by engaging the
housekeeper in incessant conversation, she hoped to make it practicable for him to
chuse his own subject in the adjoining room.
For ten minutes she could hear nothing but herself.
It could be protracted no longer.
She was then obliged to be finished, and make her appearance.
The lovers were standing together at one of the windows.
It had a most favourable aspect; and, for half a minute, Emma felt the glory of
having schemed successfully. But it would not do; he had not come to the
He had been most agreeable, most delightful; he had told Harriet that he had
seen them go by, and had purposely followed them; other little gallantries and
allusions had been dropt, but nothing serious.
"Cautious, very cautious," thought Emma; "he advances inch by inch, and will hazard
nothing till he believes himself secure."
Still, however, though every thing had not been accomplished by her ingenious device,
she could not but flatter herself that it had been the occasion of much present
enjoyment to both, and must be leading them forward to the great event.
Mr. Elton must now be left to himself. It was no longer in Emma's power to
superintend his happiness or quicken his measures.
The coming of her sister's family was so very near at hand, that first in
anticipation, and then in reality, it became henceforth her prime object of
interest; and during the ten days of their
stay at Hartfield it was not to be expected--she did not herself expect--that
any thing beyond occasional, fortuitous assistance could be afforded by her to the
They might advance rapidly if they would, however; they must advance somehow or other
whether they would or no. She hardly wished to have more leisure for
There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.
Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley, from having been longer than usual absent from Surry,
were exciting of course rather more than the usual interest.
Till this year, every long vacation since their marriage had been divided between
Hartfield and Donwell Abbey; but all the holidays of this autumn had been given to
sea-bathing for the children, and it was
therefore many months since they had been seen in a regular way by their Surry
connexions, or seen at all by Mr. Woodhouse, who could not be induced to get
so far as London, even for poor Isabella's
sake; and who consequently was now most nervously and apprehensively happy in
forestalling this too short visit.
He thought much of the evils of the journey for her, and not a little of the fatigues
of his own horses and coachman who were to bring some of the party the last half of
the way; but his alarms were needless; the
sixteen miles being happily accomplished, and Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley, their five
children, and a competent number of nursery-maids, all reaching Hartfield in
The bustle and joy of such an arrival, the many to be talked to, welcomed, encouraged,
and variously dispersed and disposed of, produced a noise and confusion which his
nerves could not have borne under any other
cause, nor have endured much longer even for this; but the ways of Hartfield and the
feelings of her father were so respected by Mrs. John Knightley, that in spite of
maternal solicitude for the immediate
enjoyment of her little ones, and for their having instantly all the liberty and
attendance, all the eating and drinking, and sleeping and playing, which they could
possibly wish for, without the smallest
delay, the children were never allowed to be long a disturbance to him, either in
themselves or in any restless attendance on them.
Mrs. John Knightley was a pretty, elegant little woman, of gentle, quiet manners, and
a disposition remarkably amiable and affectionate; wrapt up in her family; a
devoted wife, a doating mother, and so
tenderly attached to her father and sister that, but for these higher ties, a warmer
love might have seemed impossible. She could never see a fault in any of them.
She was not a woman of strong understanding or any quickness; and with this resemblance
of her father, she inherited also much of his constitution; was delicate in her own
health, over-careful of that of her
children, had many fears and many nerves, and was as fond of her own Mr. Wingfield in
town as her father could be of Mr. Perry.
They were alike too, in a general benevolence of temper, and a strong habit
of regard for every old acquaintance.
Mr. John Knightley was a tall, gentleman- like, and very clever man; rising in his
profession, domestic, and respectable in his private character; but with reserved
manners which prevented his being generally
pleasing; and capable of being sometimes out of humour.
He was not an ill-tempered man, not so often unreasonably cross as to deserve such
a reproach; but his temper was not his great perfection; and, indeed, with such a
worshipping wife, it was hardly possible
that any natural defects in it should not be increased.
The extreme sweetness of her temper must hurt his.
He had all the clearness and quickness of mind which she wanted, and he could
sometimes act an ungracious, or say a severe thing.
He was not a great favourite with his fair sister-in-law.
Nothing wrong in him escaped her.
She was quick in feeling the little injuries to Isabella, which Isabella never
felt herself.
Perhaps she might have passed over more had his manners been flattering to Isabella's
sister, but they were only those of a calmly kind brother and friend, without
praise and without blindness; but hardly
any degree of personal compliment could have made her regardless of that greatest
fault of all in her eyes which he sometimes fell into, the want of respectful
forbearance towards her father.
There he had not always the patience that could have been wished.
Mr. Woodhouse's peculiarities and fidgetiness were sometimes provoking him to
a rational remonstrance or sharp retort equally ill-bestowed.
It did not often happen; for Mr. John Knightley had really a great regard for his
father-in-law, and generally a strong sense of what was due to him; but it was too
often for Emma's charity, especially as
there was all the pain of apprehension frequently to be endured, though the
offence came not.
The beginning, however, of every visit displayed none but the properest feelings,
and this being of necessity so short might be hoped to pass away in unsullied
They had not been long seated and composed when Mr. Woodhouse, with a melancholy shake
of the head and a sigh, called his daughter's attention to the sad change at
Hartfield since she had been there last.
"Ah, my dear," said he, "poor Miss Taylor-- It is a grievous business."
"Oh yes, sir," cried she with ready sympathy, "how you must miss her!
And dear Emma, too!--What a dreadful loss to you both!--I have been so grieved for
you.--I could not imagine how you could possibly do without her.--It is a sad
change indeed.--But I hope she is pretty well, sir."
"Pretty well, my dear--I hope--pretty well.--I do not know but that the place
agrees with her tolerably."
Mr. John Knightley here asked Emma quietly whether there were any doubts of the air of
Randalls. "Oh! no--none in the least.
I never saw Mrs. Weston better in my life-- never looking so well.
Papa is only speaking his own regret." "Very much to the honour of both," was the
handsome reply.
"And do you see her, sir, tolerably often?" asked Isabella in the plaintive tone which
just suited her father. Mr. Woodhouse hesitated.--"Not near so
often, my dear, as I could wish."
"Oh! papa, we have missed seeing them but one entire day since they married.
Either in the morning or evening of every day, excepting one, have we seen either Mr.
Weston or Mrs. Weston, and generally both, either at Randalls or here--and as you may
suppose, Isabella, most frequently here.
They are very, very kind in their visits. Mr. Weston is really as kind as herself.
Papa, if you speak in that melancholy way, you will be giving Isabella a false idea of
us all.
Every body must be aware that Miss Taylor must be missed, but every body ought also
to be assured that Mr. and Mrs. Weston do really prevent our missing her by any means
to the extent we ourselves anticipated-- which is the exact truth."
"Just as it should be," said Mr. John Knightley, "and just as I hoped it was from
your letters.
Her wish of shewing you attention could not be doubted, and his being a disengaged and
social man makes it all easy.
I have been always telling you, my love, that I had no idea of the change being so
very material to Hartfield as you apprehended; and now you have Emma's
account, I hope you will be satisfied."
"Why, to be sure," said Mr. Woodhouse-- "yes, certainly--I cannot deny that Mrs.
Weston, poor Mrs. Weston, does come and see us pretty often--but then--she is always
obliged to go away again."
"It would be very hard upon Mr. Weston if she did not, papa.--You quite forget poor
Mr. Weston."
"I think, indeed," said John Knightley pleasantly, "that Mr. Weston has some
little claim. You and I, Emma, will venture to take the
part of the poor husband.
I, being a husband, and you not being a wife, the claims of the man may very likely
strike us with equal force.
As for Isabella, she has been married long enough to see the convenience of putting
all the Mr. Westons aside as much as she can."
"Me, my love," cried his wife, hearing and understanding only in part.-- "Are you
talking about me?--I am sure nobody ought to be, or can be, a greater advocate for
matrimony than I am; and if it had not been
for the misery of her leaving Hartfield, I should never have thought of Miss Taylor
but as the most fortunate woman in the world; and as to slighting Mr. Weston, that
excellent Mr. Weston, I think there is nothing he does not deserve.
I believe he is one of the very best- tempered men that ever existed.
Excepting yourself and your brother, I do not know his equal for temper.
I shall never forget his flying Henry's kite for him that very windy day last
Easter--and ever since his particular kindness last September twelvemonth in
writing that note, at twelve o'clock at
night, on purpose to assure me that there was no scarlet fever at Cobham, I have been
convinced there could not be a more feeling heart nor a better man in existence.--If
any body can deserve him, it must be Miss Taylor."
"Where is the young man?" said John Knightley.
"Has he been here on this occasion--or has he not?"
"He has not been here yet," replied Emma.
"There was a strong expectation of his coming soon after the marriage, but it
ended in nothing; and I have not heard him mentioned lately."
"But you should tell them of the letter, my dear," said her father.
"He wrote a letter to poor Mrs. Weston, to congratulate her, and a very proper,
handsome letter it was.
She shewed it to me. I thought it very well done of him indeed.
Whether it was his own idea you know, one cannot tell.
He is but young, and his uncle, perhaps--"
"My dear papa, he is three-and-twenty. You forget how time passes."
"Three-and-twenty!--is he indeed?--Well, I could not have thought it--and he was but
two years old when he lost his poor mother!
Well, time does fly indeed!--and my memory is very bad.
However, it was an exceeding good, pretty letter, and gave Mr. and Mrs. Weston a
great deal of pleasure.
I remember it was written from Weymouth, and dated Sept.
28th--and began, 'My dear Madam,' but I forget how it went on; and it was signed
'F. C. Weston Churchill.'--I remember that perfectly."
"How very pleasing and proper of him!" cried the good-hearted Mrs. John Knightley.
"I have no doubt of his being a most amiable young man.
But how sad it is that he should not live at home with his father!
There is something so shocking in a child's being taken away from his parents and
natural home!
I never could comprehend how Mr. Weston could part with him.
To give up one's child!
I really never could think well of any body who proposed such a thing to any body
"Nobody ever did think well of the Churchills, I fancy," observed Mr. John
Knightley coolly.
"But you need not imagine Mr. Weston to have felt what you would feel in giving up
Henry or John.
Mr. Weston is rather an easy, cheerful- tempered man, than a man of strong
feelings; he takes things as he finds them, and makes enjoyment of them somehow or
other, depending, I suspect, much more upon
what is called society for his comforts, that is, upon the power of eating and
drinking, and playing whist with his neighbours five times a week, than upon
family affection, or any thing that home affords."
Emma could not like what bordered on a reflection on Mr. Weston, and had half a
mind to take it up; but she struggled, and let it pass.
She would keep the peace if possible; and there was something honourable and valuable
in the strong domestic habits, the all- sufficiency of home to himself, whence
resulted her brother's disposition to look
down on the common rate of social intercourse, and those to whom it was
important.--It had a high claim to forbearance.
Mr. Knightley was to dine with them--rather against the inclination of Mr. Woodhouse,
who did not like that any one should share with him in Isabella's first day.
Emma's sense of right however had decided it; and besides the consideration of what
was due to each brother, she had particular pleasure, from the circumstance of the late
disagreement between Mr. Knightley and
herself, in procuring him the proper invitation.
She hoped they might now become friends again.
She thought it was time to make up.
Making-up indeed would not do. She certainly had not been in the wrong,
and he would never own that he had.
Concession must be out of the question; but it was time to appear to forget that they
had ever quarrelled; and she hoped it might rather assist the restoration of
friendship, that when he came into the room
she had one of the children with her--the youngest, a nice little girl about eight
months old, who was now making her first visit to Hartfield, and very happy to be
danced about in her aunt's arms.
It did assist; for though he began with grave looks and short questions, he was
soon led on to talk of them all in the usual way, and to take the child out of her
arms with all the unceremoniousness of perfect amity.
Emma felt they were friends again; and the conviction giving her at first great
satisfaction, and then a little sauciness, she could not help saying, as he was
admiring the baby,
"What a comfort it is, that we think alike about our nephews and nieces.
As to men and women, our opinions are sometimes very different; but with regard
to these children, I observe we never disagree."
"If you were as much guided by nature in your estimate of men and women, and as
little under the power of fancy and whim in your dealings with them, as you are where
these children are concerned, we might always think alike."
"To be sure--our discordancies must always arise from my being in the wrong."
"Yes," said he, smiling--"and reason good.
I was sixteen years old when you were born."
"A material difference then," she replied-- "and no doubt you were much my superior in
judgment at that period of our lives; but does not the lapse of one-and-twenty years
bring our understandings a good deal nearer?"
"Yes--a good deal nearer."
"But still, not near enough to give me a chance of being right, if we think
"I have still the advantage of you by sixteen years' experience, and by not being
a pretty young woman and a spoiled child. Come, my dear Emma, let us be friends, and
say no more about it.
Tell your aunt, little Emma, that she ought to set you a better example than to be
renewing old grievances, and that if she were not wrong before, she is now."
"That's true," she cried--"very true.
Little Emma, grow up a better woman than your aunt.
Be infinitely cleverer and not half so conceited.
Now, Mr. Knightley, a word or two more, and I have done.
As far as good intentions went, we were both right, and I must say that no
effects on my side of the argument have yet proved wrong.
I only want to know that Mr. Martin is not very, very bitterly disappointed."
"A man cannot be more so," was his short, full answer.
"Ah!--Indeed I am very sorry.--Come, shake hands with me."
This had just taken place and with great cordiality, when John Knightley made his
appearance, and "How d'ye do, George?" and "John, how are you?" succeeded in the true
English style, burying under a calmness
that seemed all but indifference, the real attachment which would have led either of
them, if requisite, to do every thing for the good of the other.
The evening was quiet and conversable, as Mr. Woodhouse declined cards entirely for
the sake of comfortable talk with his dear Isabella, and the little party made two
natural divisions; on one side he and his
daughter; on the other the two Mr. Knightleys; their subjects totally
distinct, or very rarely mixing--and Emma only occasionally joining in one or the
The brothers talked of their own concerns and pursuits, but principally of those of
the elder, whose temper was by much the most communicative, and who was always the
greater talker.
As a magistrate, he had generally some point of law to consult John about, or, at
least, some curious anecdote to give; and as a farmer, as keeping in hand the home-
farm at Donwell, he had to tell what every
field was to bear next year, and to give all such local information as could not
fail of being interesting to a brother whose home it had equally been the longest
part of his life, and whose attachments were strong.
The plan of a drain, the change of a fence, the felling of a tree, and the destination
of every acre for wheat, turnips, or spring corn, was entered into with as much
equality of interest by John, as his cooler
manners rendered possible; and if his willing brother ever left him any thing to
inquire about, his inquiries even approached a tone of eagerness.
While they were thus comfortably occupied, Mr. Woodhouse was enjoying a full flow of
happy regrets and fearful affection with his daughter.
"My poor dear Isabella," said he, fondly taking her hand, and interrupting, for a
few moments, her busy labours for some one of her five children--"How long it is, how
terribly long since you were here!
And how tired you must be after your journey!
You must go to bed early, my dear--and I recommend a little gruel to you before you
go.--You and I will have a nice basin of gruel together.
My dear Emma, suppose we all have a little gruel."
Emma could not suppose any such thing, knowing as she did, that both the Mr.
Knightleys were as unpersuadable on that article as herself;--and two basins only
were ordered.
After a little more discourse in praise of gruel, with some wondering at its not being
taken every evening by every body, he proceeded to say, with an air of grave
"It was an awkward business, my dear, your spending the autumn at South End instead of
coming here. I never had much opinion of the sea air."
"Mr. Wingfield most strenuously recommended it, sir--or we should not have gone.
He recommended it for all the children, but particularly for the weakness in little
Bella's throat,--both sea air and bathing."
"Ah! my dear, but Perry had many doubts about the sea doing her any good; and as to
myself, I have been long perfectly convinced, though perhaps I never told you
so before, that the sea is very rarely of use to any body.
I am sure it almost killed me once."
"Come, come," cried Emma, feeling this to be an unsafe subject, "I must beg you not
to talk of the sea. It makes me envious and miserable;--I who
have never seen it!
South End is prohibited, if you please. My dear Isabella, I have not heard you make
one inquiry about Mr. Perry yet; and he never forgets you."
"Oh! good Mr. Perry--how is he, sir?"
"Why, pretty well; but not quite well.
Poor Perry is bilious, and he has not time to take care of himself--he tells me he has
not time to take care of himself--which is very sad--but he is always wanted all round
the country.
I suppose there is not a man in such practice anywhere.
But then there is not so clever a man any where."
"And Mrs. Perry and the children, how are they? do the children grow?
I have a great regard for Mr. Perry. I hope he will be calling soon.
He will be so pleased to see my little ones."
"I hope he will be here to-morrow, for I have a question or two to ask him about
myself of some consequence.
And, my dear, whenever he comes, you had better let him look at little Bella's
"Oh! my dear sir, her throat is so much better that I have hardly any uneasiness
about it.
Either bathing has been of the greatest service to her, or else it is to be
attributed to an excellent embrocation of Mr. Wingfield's, which we have been
applying at times ever since August."
"It is not very likely, my dear, that bathing should have been of use to her--and
if I had known you were wanting an embrocation, I would have spoken to--
"You seem to me to have forgotten Mrs. and Miss Bates," said Emma, "I have not heard
one inquiry after them."
"Oh! the good Bateses--I am quite ashamed of myself--but you mention them in most of
your letters. I hope they are quite well.
Good old Mrs. Bates--I will call upon her to-morrow, and take my children.--They are
always so pleased to see my children.--And that excellent Miss Bates!--such thorough
worthy people!--How are they, sir?"
"Why, pretty well, my dear, upon the whole. But poor Mrs. Bates had a bad cold about a
month ago." "How sorry I am!
But colds were never so prevalent as they have been this autumn.
Mr. Wingfield told me that he has never known them more general or heavy--except
when it has been quite an influenza."
"That has been a good deal the case, my dear; but not to the degree you mention.
Perry says that colds have been very general, but not so heavy as he has very
often known them in November.
Perry does not call it altogether a sickly season."
"No, I do not know that Mr. Wingfield considers it very sickly except--
"Ah! my poor dear child, the truth is, that in London it is always a sickly season.
Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be.
It is a dreadful thing to have you forced to live there! so far off!--and the air so
bad!" "No, indeed--we are not at all in a bad
Our part of London is very superior to most others!--You must not confound us with
London in general, my dear sir. The neighbourhood of Brunswick Square is
very different from almost all the rest.
We are so very airy!
I should be unwilling, I own, to live in any other part of the town;--there is
hardly any other that I could be satisfied to have my children in: but we are so
remarkably airy!--Mr. Wingfield thinks the
vicinity of Brunswick Square decidedly the most favourable as to air."
"Ah! my dear, it is not like Hartfield.
You make the best of it--but after you have been a week at Hartfield, you are all of
you different creatures; you do not look like the same.
Now I cannot say, that I think you are any of you looking well at present."
"I am sorry to hear you say so, sir; but I assure you, excepting those little nervous
head-aches and palpitations which I am never entirely free from anywhere, I am
quite well myself; and if the children were
rather pale before they went to bed, it was only because they were a little more tired
than usual, from their journey and the happiness of coming.
I hope you will think better of their looks to-morrow; for I assure you Mr. Wingfield
told me, that he did not believe he had ever sent us off altogether, in such good
I trust, at least, that you do not think Mr. Knightley looking ill," turning her
eyes with affectionate anxiety towards her husband.
"Middling, my dear; I cannot compliment you.
I think Mr. John Knightley very far from looking well."
"What is the matter, sir?--Did you speak to me?" cried Mr. John Knightley, hearing his
own name.
"I am sorry to find, my love, that my father does not think you looking well--but
I hope it is only from being a little fatigued.
I could have wished, however, as you know, that you had seen Mr. Wingfield before you
left home."
"My dear Isabella,"--exclaimed he hastily-- "pray do not concern yourself about my
Be satisfied with doctoring and coddling yourself and the children, and let me look
as I chuse."
"I did not thoroughly understand what you were telling your brother," cried Emma,
"about your friend Mr. Graham's intending to have a bailiff from Scotland, to look
after his new estate.
What will it answer? Will not the old prejudice be too strong?"
And she talked in this way so long and successfully that, when forced to give her
attention again to her father and sister, she had nothing worse to hear than
Isabella's kind inquiry after Jane Fairfax;
and Jane Fairfax, though no great favourite with her in general, she was at that moment
very happy to assist in praising.
"That sweet, amiable Jane Fairfax!" said Mrs. John Knightley.--"It is so long since
I have seen her, except now and then for a moment accidentally in town!
What happiness it must be to her good old grandmother and excellent aunt, when she
comes to visit them!
I always regret excessively on dear Emma's account that she cannot be more at
Highbury; but now their daughter is married, I suppose Colonel and Mrs.
Campbell will not be able to part with her at all.
She would be such a delightful companion for Emma."
Mr. Woodhouse agreed to it all, but added,
"Our little friend Harriet Smith, however, is just such another pretty kind of young
person. You will like Harriet.
Emma could not have a better companion than Harriet."
"I am most happy to hear it--but only Jane Fairfax one knows to be so very
accomplished and superior!--and exactly Emma's age."
This topic was discussed very happily, and others succeeded of similar moment, and
passed away with similar harmony; but the evening did not close without a little
return of agitation.
The gruel came and supplied a great deal to be said--much praise and many comments--
undoubting decision of its wholesomeness for every constitution, and pretty severe
Philippics upon the many houses where it
was never met with tolerable;--but, unfortunately, among the failures which the
daughter had to instance, the most recent, and therefore most prominent, was in her
own cook at South End, a young woman hired
for the time, who never had been able to understand what she meant by a basin of
nice smooth gruel, thin, but not too thin.
Often as she had wished for and ordered it, she had never been able to get any thing
tolerable. Here was a dangerous opening.
"Ah!" said Mr. Woodhouse, shaking his head and fixing his eyes on her with tender
concern.--The ejaculation in Emma's ear expressed, "Ah! there is no end of the sad
consequences of your going to South End.
It does not bear talking of." And for a little while she hoped he would
not talk of it, and that a silent rumination might suffice to restore him to
the relish of his own smooth gruel.
After an interval of some minutes, however, he began with,
"I shall always be very sorry that you went to the sea this autumn, instead of coming
"But why should you be sorry, sir?--I assure you, it did the children a great
deal of good." "And, moreover, if you must go to the sea,
it had better not have been to South End.
South End is an unhealthy place. Perry was surprized to hear you had fixed
upon South End."
"I know there is such an idea with many people, but indeed it is quite a mistake,
sir.--We all had our health perfectly well there, never found the least inconvenience
from the mud; and Mr. Wingfield says it is
entirely a mistake to suppose the place unhealthy; and I am sure he may be depended
on, for he thoroughly understands the nature of the air, and his own brother and
family have been there repeatedly."
"You should have gone to Cromer, my dear, if you went anywhere.--Perry was a week at
Cromer once, and he holds it to be the best of all the sea-bathing places.
A fine open sea, he says, and very pure air.
And, by what I understand, you might have had lodgings there quite away from the sea-
-a quarter of a mile off--very comfortable.
You should have consulted Perry." "But, my dear sir, the difference of the
journey;--only consider how great it would have been.--An hundred miles, perhaps,
instead of forty."
"Ah! my dear, as Perry says, where health is at stake, nothing else should be
considered; and if one is to travel, there is not much to chuse between forty miles
and an hundred.--Better not move at all,
better stay in London altogether than travel forty miles to get into a worse air.
This is just what Perry said. It seemed to him a very ill-judged
Emma's attempts to stop her father had been vain; and when he had reached such a point
as this, she could not wonder at her brother-in-law's breaking out.
"Mr. Perry," said he, in a voice of very strong displeasure, "would do as well to
keep his opinion till it is asked for.
Why does he make it any business of his, to wonder at what I do?--at my taking my
family to one part of the coast or another?--I may be allowed, I hope, the use
of my judgment as well as Mr. Perry.--I
want his directions no more than his drugs."
He paused--and growing cooler in a moment, added, with only sarcastic dryness, "If Mr.
Perry can tell me how to convey a wife and five children a distance of an hundred and
thirty miles with no greater expense or
inconvenience than a distance of forty, I should be as willing to prefer Cromer to
South End as he could himself." "True, true," cried Mr. Knightley, with
most ready interposition--"very true.
That's a consideration indeed.--But John, as to what I was telling you of my idea of
moving the path to Langham, of turning it more to the right that it may not cut
through the home meadows, I cannot conceive any difficulty.
I should not attempt it, if it were to be the means of inconvenience to the Highbury
people, but if you call to mind exactly the present line of the path....
The only way of proving it, however, will be to turn to our maps.
I shall see you at the Abbey to-morrow morning I hope, and then we will look them
over, and you shall give me your opinion."
Mr. Woodhouse was rather agitated by such harsh reflections on his friend Perry, to
whom he had, in fact, though unconsciously, been attributing many of his own feelings
and expressions;--but the soothing
attentions of his daughters gradually removed the present evil, and the immediate
alertness of one brother, and better recollections of the other, prevented any
renewal of it.
There could hardly be a happier creature in the world than Mrs. John Knightley, in this
short visit to Hartfield, going about every morning among her old acquaintance with her
five children, and talking over what she
had done every evening with her father and sister.
She had nothing to wish otherwise, but that the days did not pass so swiftly.
It was a delightful visit;--perfect, in being much too short.
In general their evenings were less engaged with friends than their mornings; but one
complete dinner engagement, and out of the house too, there was no avoiding, though at
Mr. Weston would take no denial; they must all dine at Randalls one day;--even Mr.
Woodhouse was persuaded to think it a possible thing in preference to a division
of the party.
How they were all to be conveyed, he would have made a difficulty if he could, but as
his son and daughter's carriage and horses were actually at Hartfield, he was not able
to make more than a simple question on that
head; it hardly amounted to a doubt; nor did it occupy Emma long to convince him
that they might in one of the carriages find room for Harriet also.
Harriet, Mr. Elton, and Mr. Knightley, their own especial set, were the only
persons invited to meet them;--the hours were to be early, as well as the numbers
few; Mr. Woodhouse's habits and inclination being consulted in every thing.
The evening before this great event (for it was a very great event that Mr. Woodhouse
should dine out, on the 24th of December) had been spent by Harriet at Hartfield, and
she had gone home so much indisposed with a
cold, that, but for her own earnest wish of being nursed by Mrs. Goddard, Emma could
not have allowed her to leave the house.
Emma called on her the next day, and found her doom already signed with regard to
She was very feverish and had a bad sore throat: Mrs. Goddard was full of care and
affection, Mr. Perry was talked of, and Harriet herself was too ill and low to
resist the authority which excluded her
from this delightful engagement, though she could not speak of her loss without many
Emma sat with her as long as she could, to attend her in Mrs. Goddard's unavoidable
absences, and raise her spirits by representing how much Mr. Elton's would be
depressed when he knew her state; and left
her at last tolerably comfortable, in the sweet dependence of his having a most
comfortless visit, and of their all missing her very much.
She had not advanced many yards from Mrs. Goddard's door, when she was met by Mr.
Elton himself, evidently coming towards it, and as they walked on slowly together in
conversation about the invalid--of whom he,
on the rumour of considerable illness, had been going to inquire, that he might carry
some report of her to Hartfield--they were overtaken by Mr. John Knightley returning
from the daily visit to Donwell, with his
two eldest boys, whose healthy, glowing faces shewed all the benefit of a country
run, and seemed to ensure a quick despatch of the roast mutton and rice pudding they
were hastening home for.
They joined company and proceeded together.
Emma was just describing the nature of her friend's complaint;--"a throat very much
inflamed, with a great deal of heat about her, a quick, low pulse, &c. and she was
sorry to find from Mrs. Goddard that
Harriet was liable to very bad sore- throats, and had often alarmed her with
them." Mr. Elton looked all alarm on the occasion,
as he exclaimed,
"A sore-throat!--I hope not infectious. I hope not of a putrid infectious sort.
Has Perry seen her? Indeed you should take care of yourself as
well as of your friend.
Let me entreat you to run no risks. Why does not Perry see her?"
Emma, who was not really at all frightened herself, tranquillised this excess of
apprehension by assurances of Mrs. Goddard's experience and care; but as there
must still remain a degree of uneasiness
which she could not wish to reason away, which she would rather feed and assist than
not, she added soon afterwards--as if quite another subject,
"It is so cold, so very cold--and looks and feels so very much like snow, that if it
were to any other place or with any other party, I should really try not to go out
to-day--and dissuade my father from
venturing; but as he has made up his mind, and does not seem to feel the cold himself,
I do not like to interfere, as I know it would be so great a disappointment to Mr.
and Mrs. Weston.
But, upon my word, Mr. Elton, in your case, I should certainly excuse myself.
You appear to me a little hoarse already, and when you consider what demand of voice
and what fatigues to-morrow will bring, I think it would be no more than common
prudence to stay at home and take care of yourself to-night."
Mr. Elton looked as if he did not very well know what answer to make; which was exactly
the case; for though very much gratified by the kind care of such a fair lady, and not
liking to resist any advice of her's, he
had not really the least inclination to give up the visit;--but Emma, too eager and
busy in her own previous conceptions and views to hear him impartially, or see him
with clear vision, was very well satisfied
with his muttering acknowledgment of its being "very cold, certainly very cold," and
walked on, rejoicing in having extricated him from Randalls, and secured him the
power of sending to inquire after Harriet every hour of the evening.
"You do quite right," said she;--"we will make your apologies to Mr. and Mrs.
But hardly had she so spoken, when she found her brother was civilly offering a
seat in his carriage, if the weather were Mr. Elton's only objection, and Mr. Elton
actually accepting the offer with much prompt satisfaction.
It was a done thing; Mr. Elton was to go, and never had his broad handsome face
expressed more pleasure than at this moment; never had his smile been stronger,
nor his eyes more exulting than when he next looked at her.
"Well," said she to herself, "this is most strange!--After I had got him off so well,
to chuse to go into company, and leave Harriet ill behind!--Most strange indeed!--
But there is, I believe, in many men,
especially single men, such an inclination- -such a passion for dining out--a dinner
engagement is so high in the class of their pleasures, their employments, their
dignities, almost their duties, that any
thing gives way to it--and this must be the case with Mr. Elton; a most valuable,
amiable, pleasing young man undoubtedly, and very much in love with Harriet; but
still, he cannot refuse an invitation, he must dine out wherever he is asked.
What a strange thing love is! he can see ready wit in Harriet, but will not dine
alone for her."
Soon afterwards Mr. Elton quitted them, and she could not but do him the justice of
feeling that there was a great deal of sentiment in his manner of naming Harriet
at parting; in the tone of his voice while
assuring her that he should call at Mrs. Goddard's for news of her fair friend, the
last thing before he prepared for the happiness of meeting her again, when he
hoped to be able to give a better report;
and he sighed and smiled himself off in a way that left the balance of approbation
much in his favour. After a few minutes of entire silence
between them, John Knightley began with--
"I never in my life saw a man more intent on being agreeable than Mr. Elton.
It is downright labour to him where ladies are concerned.
With men he can be rational and unaffected, but when he has ladies to please, every
feature works."
"Mr. Elton's manners are not perfect," replied Emma; "but where there is a wish to
please, one ought to overlook, and one does overlook a great deal.
Where a man does his best with only moderate powers, he will have the advantage
over negligent superiority. There is such perfect good-temper and good-
will in Mr. Elton as one cannot but value."
"Yes," said Mr. John Knightley presently, with some slyness, "he seems to have a
great deal of good-will towards you."
"Me!" she replied with a smile of astonishment, "are you imagining me to be
Mr. Elton's object?"
"Such an imagination has crossed me, I own, Emma; and if it never occurred to you
before, you may as well take it into consideration now."
"Mr. Elton in love with me!--What an idea!"
"I do not say it is so; but you will do well to consider whether it is so or not,
and to regulate your behaviour accordingly. I think your manners to him encouraging.
I speak as a friend, Emma.
You had better look about you, and ascertain what you do, and what you mean to
do." "I thank you; but I assure you you are
quite mistaken.
Mr. Elton and I are very good friends, and nothing more;" and she walked on, amusing
herself in the consideration of the blunders which often arise from a partial
knowledge of circumstances, of the mistakes
which people of high pretensions to judgment are for ever falling into; and not
very well pleased with her brother for imagining her blind and ignorant, and in
want of counsel.
He said no more.
Mr. Woodhouse had so completely made up his mind to the visit, that in spite of the
increasing coldness, he seemed to have no idea of shrinking from it, and set forward
at last most punctually with his eldest
daughter in his own carriage, with less apparent consciousness of the weather than
either of the others; too full of the wonder of his own going, and the pleasure
it was to afford at Randalls to see that it was cold, and too well wrapt up to feel it.
The cold, however, was severe; and by the time the second carriage was in motion, a
few flakes of snow were finding their way down, and the sky had the appearance of
being so overcharged as to want only a
milder air to produce a very white world in a very short time.
Emma soon saw that her companion was not in the happiest humour.
The preparing and the going abroad in such weather, with the sacrifice of his children
after dinner, were evils, were disagreeables at least, which Mr. John
Knightley did not by any means like; he
anticipated nothing in the visit that could be at all worth the purchase; and the whole
of their drive to the vicarage was spent by him in expressing his discontent.
"A man," said he, "must have a very good opinion of himself when he asks people to
leave their own fireside, and encounter such a day as this, for the sake of coming
to see him.
He must think himself a most agreeable fellow; I could not do such a thing.
It is the greatest absurdity--Actually snowing at this moment!--The folly of not
allowing people to be comfortable at home-- and the folly of people's not staying
comfortably at home when they can!
If we were obliged to go out such an evening as this, by any call of duty or
business, what a hardship we should deem it;--and here are we, probably with rather
thinner clothing than usual, setting
forward voluntarily, without excuse, in defiance of the voice of nature, which
tells man, in every thing given to his view or his feelings, to stay at home himself,
and keep all under shelter that he can;--
here are we setting forward to spend five dull hours in another man's house, with
nothing to say or to hear that was not said and heard yesterday, and may not be said
and heard again to-morrow.
Going in dismal weather, to return probably in worse;--four horses and four servants
taken out for nothing but to convey five idle, shivering creatures into colder rooms
and worse company than they might have had at home."
Emma did not find herself equal to give the pleased assent, which no doubt he was in
the habit of receiving, to emulate the "Very true, my love," which must have been
usually administered by his travelling
companion; but she had resolution enough to refrain from making any answer at all.
She could not be complying, she dreaded being quarrelsome; her heroism reached only
to silence.
She allowed him to talk, and arranged the glasses, and wrapped herself up, without
opening her lips.
They arrived, the carriage turned, the step was let down, and Mr. Elton, spruce, black,
and smiling, was with them instantly. Emma thought with pleasure of some change
of subject.
Mr. Elton was all obligation and cheerfulness; he was so very cheerful in
his civilities indeed, that she began to think he must have received a different
account of Harriet from what had reached her.
She had sent while dressing, and the answer had been, "Much the same--not better."
"My report from Mrs. Goddard's," said she presently, "was not so pleasant as I had
hoped--'Not better' was my answer."
His face lengthened immediately; and his voice was the voice of sentiment as he
"Oh! no--I am grieved to find--I was on the point of telling you that when I called at
Mrs. Goddard's door, which I did the very last thing before I returned to dress, I
was told that Miss Smith was not better, by no means better, rather worse.
Very much grieved and concerned--I had flattered myself that she must be better
after such a cordial as I knew had been given her in the morning."
Emma smiled and answered--"My visit was of use to the nervous part of her complaint, I
hope; but not even I can charm away a sore throat; it is a most severe cold indeed.
Mr. Perry has been with her, as you probably heard."
"Yes--I imagined--that is--I did not--"
"He has been used to her in these complaints, and I hope to-morrow morning
will bring us both a more comfortable report.
But it is impossible not to feel uneasiness.
Such a sad loss to our party to-day!" "Dreadful!--Exactly so, indeed.--She will
be missed every moment."
This was very proper; the sigh which accompanied it was really estimable; but it
should have lasted longer.
Emma was rather in dismay when only half a minute afterwards he began to speak of
other things, and in a voice of the greatest alacrity and enjoyment.
"What an excellent device," said he, "the use of a sheepskin for carriages.
How very comfortable they make it;-- impossible to feel cold with such
The contrivances of modern days indeed have rendered a gentleman's carriage perfectly
One is so fenced and guarded from the weather, that not a breath of air can find
its way unpermitted. Weather becomes absolutely of no
It is a very cold afternoon--but in this carriage we know nothing of the matter.--
Ha! snows a little I see." "Yes," said John Knightley, "and I think we
shall have a good deal of it."
"Christmas weather," observed Mr. Elton.
"Quite seasonable; and extremely fortunate we may think ourselves that it did not
begin yesterday, and prevent this day's party, which it might very possibly have
done, for Mr. Woodhouse would hardly have
ventured had there been much snow on the ground; but now it is of no consequence.
This is quite the season indeed for friendly meetings.
At Christmas every body invites their friends about them, and people think little
of even the worst weather. I was snowed up at a friend's house once
for a week.
Nothing could be pleasanter. I went for only one night, and could not
get away till that very day se'nnight."
Mr. John Knightley looked as if he did not comprehend the pleasure, but said only,
coolly, "I cannot wish to be snowed up a week at
At another time Emma might have been amused, but she was too much astonished now
at Mr. Elton's spirits for other feelings. Harriet seemed quite forgotten in the
expectation of a pleasant party.
"We are sure of excellent fires," continued he, "and every thing in the greatest
Charming people, Mr. and Mrs. Weston;--Mrs. Weston indeed is much beyond praise, and he
is exactly what one values, so hospitable, and so fond of society;--it will be a small
party, but where small parties are select, they are perhaps the most agreeable of any.
Mr. Weston's dining-room does not accommodate more than ten comfortably; and
for my part, I would rather, under such circumstances, fall short by two than
exceed by two.
I think you will agree with me, (turning with a soft air to Emma,) I think I shall
certainly have your approbation, though Mr. Knightley perhaps, from being used to the
large parties of London, may not quite enter into our feelings."
"I know nothing of the large parties of London, sir--I never dine with any body."
(in a tone of wonder and pity,) I had no idea that the law had been so great a
Well, sir, the time must come when you will be paid for all this, when you will have
little labour and great enjoyment."
"My first enjoyment," replied John Knightley, as they passed through the
sweep-gate, "will be to find myself safe at Hartfield again."
Some change of countenance was necessary for each gentleman as they walked into Mrs.
Weston's drawing-room;--Mr. Elton must compose his joyous looks, and Mr. John
Knightley disperse his ill-humour.
Mr. Elton must smile less, and Mr. John Knightley more, to fit them for the place.-
-Emma only might be as nature prompted, and shew herself just as happy as she was.
To her it was real enjoyment to be with the Westons.
Mr. Weston was a great favourite, and there was not a creature in the world to whom she
spoke with such unreserve, as to his wife; not any one, to whom she related with such
conviction of being listened to and
understood, of being always interesting and always intelligible, the little affairs,
arrangements, perplexities, and pleasures of her father and herself.
She could tell nothing of Hartfield, in which Mrs. Weston had not a lively concern;
and half an hour's uninterrupted communication of all those little matters
on which the daily happiness of private
life depends, was one of the first gratifications of each.
This was a pleasure which perhaps the whole day's visit might not afford, which
certainly did not belong to the present half-hour; but the very sight of Mrs.
Weston, her smile, her touch, her voice was
grateful to Emma, and she determined to think as little as possible of Mr. Elton's
oddities, or of any thing else unpleasant, and enjoy all that was enjoyable to the
The misfortune of Harriet's cold had been pretty well gone through before her
Mr. Woodhouse had been safely seated long enough to give the history of it, besides
all the history of his own and Isabella's coming, and of Emma's being to follow, and
had indeed just got to the end of his
satisfaction that James should come and see his daughter, when the others appeared, and
Mrs. Weston, who had been almost wholly engrossed by her attentions to him, was
able to turn away and welcome her dear Emma.
Emma's project of forgetting Mr. Elton for a while made her rather sorry to find, when
they had all taken their places, that he was close to her.
The difficulty was great of driving his strange insensibility towards Harriet, from
her mind, while he not only sat at her elbow, but was continually obtruding his
happy countenance on her notice, and
solicitously addressing her upon every occasion.
Instead of forgetting him, his behaviour was such that she could not avoid the
internal suggestion of "Can it really be as my brother imagined? can it be possible for
this man to be beginning to transfer his
affections from Harriet to me?--Absurd and insufferable!"--Yet he would be so anxious
for her being perfectly warm, would be so interested about her father, and so
delighted with Mrs. Weston; and at last
would begin admiring her drawings with so much zeal and so little knowledge as seemed
terribly like a would-be lover, and made it some effort with her to preserve her good
For her own sake she could not be rude; and for Harriet's, in the hope that all would
yet turn out right, she was even positively civil; but it was an effort; especially as
something was going on amongst the others,
in the most overpowering period of Mr. Elton's nonsense, which she particularly
wished to listen to.
She heard enough to know that Mr. Weston was giving some information about his son;
she heard the words "my son," and "Frank," and "my son," repeated several times over;
and, from a few other half-syllables very
much suspected that he was announcing an early visit from his son; but before she
could quiet Mr. Elton, the subject was so completely past that any reviving question
from her would have been awkward.
Now, it so happened that in spite of Emma's resolution of never marrying, there was
something in the name, in the idea of Mr. Frank Churchill, which always interested
She had frequently thought--especially since his father's marriage with Miss
Taylor--that if she were to marry, he was the very person to suit her in age,
character and condition.
He seemed by this connexion between the families, quite to belong to her.
She could not but suppose it to be a match that every body who knew them must think
That Mr. and Mrs. Weston did think of it, she was very strongly persuaded; and though
not meaning to be induced by him, or by any body else, to give up a situation which she
believed more replete with good than any
she could change it for, she had a great curiosity to see him, a decided intention
of finding him pleasant, of being liked by him to a certain degree, and a sort of
pleasure in the idea of their being coupled in their friends' imaginations.
With such sensations, Mr. Elton's civilities were dreadfully ill-timed; but
she had the comfort of appearing very polite, while feeling very cross--and of
thinking that the rest of the visit could
not possibly pass without bringing forward the same information again, or the
substance of it, from the open-hearted Mr. Weston.--So it proved;--for when happily
released from Mr. Elton, and seated by Mr.
Weston, at dinner, he made use of the very first interval in the cares of hospitality,
the very first leisure from the saddle of mutton, to say to her,
"We want only two more to be just the right number.
I should like to see two more here,--your pretty little friend, Miss Smith, and my
son--and then I should say we were quite complete.
I believe you did not hear me telling the others in the drawing-room that we are
expecting Frank. I had a letter from him this morning, and
he will be with us within a fortnight."
Emma spoke with a very proper degree of pleasure; and fully assented to his
proposition of Mr. Frank Churchill and Miss Smith making their party quite complete.
"He has been wanting to come to us," continued Mr. Weston, "ever since
September: every letter has been full of it; but he cannot command his own time.
He has those to please who must be pleased, and who (between ourselves) are sometimes
to be pleased only by a good many sacrifices.
But now I have no doubt of seeing him here about the second week in January."
"What a very great pleasure it will be to you! and Mrs. Weston is so anxious to be
acquainted with him, that she must be almost as happy as yourself."
"Yes, she would be, but that she thinks there will be another put-off.
She does not depend upon his coming so much as I do: but she does not know the parties
so well as I do.
The case, you see, is--(but this is quite between ourselves: I did not mention a
syllable of it in the other room.
There are secrets in all families, you know)--The case is, that a party of friends
are invited to pay a visit at Enscombe in January; and that Frank's coming depends
upon their being put off.
If they are not put off, he cannot stir.
But I know they will, because it is a family that a certain lady, of some
consequence, at Enscombe, has a particular dislike to: and though it is thought
necessary to invite them once in two or
three years, they always are put off when it comes to the point.
I have not the smallest doubt of the issue.
I am as confident of seeing Frank here before the middle of January, as I am of
being here myself: but your good friend there (nodding towards the upper end of the
table) has so few vagaries herself, and has
been so little used to them at Hartfield, that she cannot calculate on their effects,
as I have been long in the practice of doing."
"I am sorry there should be any thing like doubt in the case," replied Emma; "but am
disposed to side with you, Mr. Weston. If you think he will come, I shall think so
too; for you know Enscombe."
"Yes--I have some right to that knowledge; though I have never been at the place in my
life.--She is an odd woman!--But I never allow myself to speak ill of her, on
Frank's account; for I do believe her to be very fond of him.
I used to think she was not capable of being fond of any body, except herself: but
she has always been kind to him (in her way--allowing for little whims and
caprices, and expecting every thing to be as she likes).
And it is no small credit, in my opinion, to him, that he should excite such an
affection; for, though I would not say it to any body else, she has no more heart
than a stone to people in general; and the devil of a temper."
Emma liked the subject so well, that she began upon it, to Mrs. Weston, very soon
after their moving into the drawing-room: wishing her joy--yet observing, that she
knew the first meeting must be rather
alarming.-- Mrs. Weston agreed to it; but added, that she should be very glad to be
secure of undergoing the anxiety of a first meeting at the time talked of: "for I
cannot depend upon his coming.
I cannot be so sanguine as Mr. Weston. I am very much afraid that it will all end
in nothing. Mr. Weston, I dare say, has been telling
you exactly how the matter stands?"
"Yes--it seems to depend upon nothing but the ill-humour of Mrs. Churchill, which I
imagine to be the most certain thing in the world."
"My Emma!" replied Mrs. Weston, smiling, "what is the certainty of caprice?"
Then turning to Isabella, who had not been attending before--"You must know, my dear
Mrs. Knightley, that we are by no means so sure of seeing Mr. Frank Churchill, in my
opinion, as his father thinks.
It depends entirely upon his aunt's spirits and pleasure; in short, upon her temper.
To you--to my two daughters--I may venture on the truth.
Mrs. Churchill rules at Enscombe, and is a very odd-tempered woman; and his coming
now, depends upon her being willing to spare him."
"Oh, Mrs. Churchill; every body knows Mrs. Churchill," replied Isabella: "and I am
sure I never think of that poor young man without the greatest compassion.
To be constantly living with an ill- tempered person, must be dreadful.
It is what we happily have never known any thing of; but it must be a life of misery.
What a blessing, that she never had any children!
Poor little creatures, how unhappy she would have made them!"
Emma wished she had been alone with Mrs. Weston.
She should then have heard more: Mrs. Weston would speak to her, with a degree of
unreserve which she would not hazard with Isabella; and, she really believed, would
scarcely try to conceal any thing relative
to the Churchills from her, excepting those views on the young man, of which her own
imagination had already given her such instinctive knowledge.
But at present there was nothing more to be said.
Mr. Woodhouse very soon followed them into the drawing-room.
To be sitting long after dinner, was a confinement that he could not endure.
Neither wine nor conversation was any thing to him; and gladly did he move to those
with whom he was always comfortable.
While he talked to Isabella, however, Emma found an opportunity of saying,
"And so you do not consider this visit from your son as by any means certain.
I am sorry for it.
The introduction must be unpleasant, whenever it takes place; and the sooner it
could be over, the better." "Yes; and every delay makes one more
apprehensive of other delays.
Even if this family, the Braithwaites, are put off, I am still afraid that some excuse
may be found for disappointing us.
I cannot bear to imagine any reluctance on his side; but I am sure there is a great
wish on the Churchills' to keep him to themselves.
There is jealousy.
They are jealous even of his regard for his father.
In short, I can feel no dependence on his coming, and I wish Mr. Weston were less
"He ought to come," said Emma. "If he could stay only a couple of days, he
ought to come; and one can hardly conceive a young man's not having it in his power to
do as much as that.
A young woman, if she fall into bad hands, may be teased, and kept at a
distance from those she wants to be with; but one cannot comprehend a young man's
being under such restraint, as not to be
able to spend a week with his father, if he likes it."
"One ought to be at Enscombe, and know the ways of the family, before one decides upon
what he can do," replied Mrs. Weston.
"One ought to use the same caution, perhaps, in judging of the conduct of any
one individual of any one family; but Enscombe, I believe, certainly must not be
judged by general rules: she is so very
unreasonable; and every thing gives way to her."
"But she is so fond of the nephew: he is so very great a favourite.
Now, according to my idea of Mrs. Churchill, it would be most natural, that
while she makes no sacrifice for the comfort of the husband, to whom she owes
every thing, while she exercises incessant
caprice towards him, she should frequently be governed by the nephew, to
whom she owes nothing at all."
"My dearest Emma, do not pretend, with your sweet temper, to understand a bad one, or
to lay down rules for it: you must let it go its own way.
I have no doubt of his having, at times, considerable influence; but it may be
perfectly impossible for him to know beforehand when it will be."
Emma listened, and then coolly said, "I shall not be satisfied, unless he comes."
"He may have a great deal of influence on some points," continued Mrs. Weston, "and
on others, very little: and among those, on which she is beyond his reach, it is but
too likely, may be this very circumstance of his coming away from them to visit us."
Mr. Woodhouse was soon ready for his tea; and when he had drank his tea he was quite
ready to go home; and it was as much as his three companions could do, to entertain
away his notice of the lateness of the hour, before the other gentlemen appeared.
Mr. Weston was chatty and convivial, and no friend to early separations of any sort;
but at last the drawing-room party did receive an augmentation.
Mr. Elton, in very good spirits, was one of the first to walk in.
Mrs. Weston and Emma were sitting together on a sofa.
He joined them immediately, and, with scarcely an invitation, seated himself
between them.
Emma, in good spirits too, from the amusement afforded her mind by the
expectation of Mr. Frank Churchill, was willing to forget his late improprieties,
and be as well satisfied with him as
before, and on his making Harriet his very first subject, was ready to listen with
most friendly smiles.
He professed himself extremely anxious about her fair friend--her fair, lovely,
amiable friend.
"Did she know?--had she heard any thing about her, since their being at Randalls?--
he felt much anxiety--he must confess that the nature of her complaint alarmed him
And in this style he talked on for some time very properly, not much attending to
any answer, but altogether sufficiently awake to the terror of a bad sore throat;
and Emma was quite in charity with him.
But at last there seemed a perverse turn; it seemed all at once as if he were more
afraid of its being a bad sore throat on her account, than on Harriet's--more
anxious that she should escape the
infection, than that there should be no infection in the complaint.
He began with great earnestness to entreat her to refrain from visiting the sick-
chamber again, for the present--to entreat her to promise him not to venture into
such hazard till he had seen Mr. Perry and
learnt his opinion; and though she tried to laugh it off and bring the subject back
into its proper course, there was no putting an end to his extreme solicitude
about her.
She was vexed.
It did appear--there was no concealing it-- exactly like the pretence of being in love
with her, instead of Harriet; an inconstancy, if real, the most contemptible
and abominable! and she had difficulty in behaving with temper.
He turned to Mrs. Weston to implore her assistance, "Would not she give him her
support?--would not she add her persuasions to his, to induce Miss Woodhouse not to go
to Mrs. Goddard's till it were certain that Miss Smith's disorder had no infection?
He could not be satisfied without a promise--would not she give him her
influence in procuring it?"
"So scrupulous for others," he continued, "and yet so careless for herself!
She wanted me to nurse my cold by staying at home to-day, and yet will not promise to
avoid the danger of catching an ulcerated sore throat herself.
Is this fair, Mrs. Weston?--Judge between us.
Have not I some right to complain? I am sure of your kind support and aid."
Emma saw Mrs. Weston's surprize, and felt that it must be great, at an address which,
in words and manner, was assuming to himself the right of first interest in her;
and as for herself, she was too much
provoked and offended to have the power of directly saying any thing to the purpose.
She could only give him a look; but it was such a look as she thought must restore him
to his senses, and then left the sofa, removing to a seat by her sister, and
giving her all her attention.
She had not time to know how Mr. Elton took the reproof, so rapidly did another subject
succeed; for Mr. John Knightley now came into the room from examining the weather,
and opened on them all with the information
of the ground being covered with snow, and of its still snowing fast, with a strong
drifting wind; concluding with these words to Mr. Woodhouse:
"This will prove a spirited beginning of your winter engagements, sir.
Something new for your coachman and horses to be making their way through a storm of
Poor Mr. Woodhouse was silent from consternation; but every body else had
something to say; every body was either surprized or not surprized, and had some
question to ask, or some comfort to offer.
Mrs. Weston and Emma tried earnestly to cheer him and turn his attention from his
son-in-law, who was pursuing his triumph rather unfeelingly.
"I admired your resolution very much, sir," said he, "in venturing out in such weather,
for of course you saw there would be snow very soon.
Every body must have seen the snow coming on.
I admired your spirit; and I dare say we shall get home very well.
Another hour or two's snow can hardly make the road impassable; and we are two
carriages; if one is blown over in the bleak part of the common field there will
be the other at hand.
I dare say we shall be all safe at Hartfield before midnight."
Mr. Weston, with triumph of a different sort, was confessing that he had known it
to be snowing some time, but had not said a word, lest it should make Mr. Woodhouse
uncomfortable, and be an excuse for his hurrying away.
As to there being any quantity of snow fallen or likely to fall to impede their
return, that was a mere joke; he was afraid they would find no difficulty.
He wished the road might be impassable, that he might be able to keep them all at
Randalls; and with the utmost good-will was sure that accommodation might be found for
every body, calling on his wife to agree
with him, that with a little contrivance, every body might be lodged, which she
hardly knew how to do, from the consciousness of there being but two spare
rooms in the house.
"What is to be done, my dear Emma?--what is to be done?" was Mr. Woodhouse's first
exclamation, and all that he could say for some time.
To her he looked for comfort; and her assurances of safety, her representation of
the excellence of the horses, and of James, and of their having so many friends about
them, revived him a little.
His eldest daughter's alarm was equal to his own.
The horror of being blocked up at Randalls, while her children were at Hartfield, was
full in her imagination; and fancying the road to be now just passable for
adventurous people, but in a state that
admitted no delay, she was eager to have it settled, that her father and Emma should
remain at Randalls, while she and her husband set forward instantly through all
the possible accumulations of drifted snow that might impede them.
"You had better order the carriage directly, my love," said she; "I dare say
we shall be able to get along, if we set off directly; and if we do come to any
thing very bad, I can get out and walk.
I am not at all afraid. I should not mind walking half the way.
I could change my shoes, you know, the moment I got home; and it is not the sort
of thing that gives me cold."
"Indeed!" replied he. "Then, my dear Isabella, it is the most
extraordinary sort of thing in the world, for in general every thing does give you
Walk home!--you are prettily shod for walking home, I dare say.
It will be bad enough for the horses." Isabella turned to Mrs. Weston for her
approbation of the plan.
Mrs. Weston could only approve.
Isabella then went to Emma; but Emma could not so entirely give up the hope of their
being all able to get away; and they were still discussing the point, when Mr.
Knightley, who had left the room
immediately after his brother's first report of the snow, came back again, and
told them that he had been out of doors to examine, and could answer for there not
being the smallest difficulty in their
getting home, whenever they liked it, either now or an hour hence.
He had gone beyond the sweep--some way along the Highbury road--the snow was
nowhere above half an inch deep--in many places hardly enough to whiten the ground;
a very few flakes were falling at present,
but the clouds were parting, and there was every appearance of its being soon over.
He had seen the coachmen, and they both agreed with him in there being nothing to
To Isabella, the relief of such tidings was very great, and they were scarcely less
acceptable to Emma on her father's account, who was immediately set as much at ease on
the subject as his nervous constitution
allowed; but the alarm that had been raised could not be appeased so as to admit of any
comfort for him while he continued at Randalls.
He was satisfied of there being no present danger in returning home, but no assurances
could convince him that it was safe to stay; and while the others were variously
urging and recommending, Mr. Knightley and
Emma settled it in a few brief sentences: thus--
"Your father will not be easy; why do not you go?"
"I am ready, if the others are."
"Shall I ring the bell?" "Yes, do."
And the bell was rung, and the carriages spoken for.
A few minutes more, and Emma hoped to see one troublesome companion deposited in his
own house, to get sober and cool, and the other recover his temper and happiness when
this visit of hardship were over.
The carriage came: and Mr. Woodhouse, always the first object on such occasions,
was carefully attended to his own by Mr. Knightley and Mr. Weston; but not all that
either could say could prevent some renewal
of alarm at the sight of the snow which had actually fallen, and the discovery of a
much darker night than he had been prepared for.
"He was afraid they should have a very bad drive.
He was afraid poor Isabella would not like it.
And there would be poor Emma in the carriage behind.
He did not know what they had best do.
They must keep as much together as they could;" and James was talked to, and given
a charge to go very slow and wait for the other carriage.
Isabella stept in after her father; John Knightley, forgetting that he did not
belong to their party, stept in after his wife very naturally; so that Emma found, on
being escorted and followed into the second
carriage by Mr. Elton, that the door was to be lawfully shut on them, and that they
were to have a tete-a-tete drive.
It would not have been the awkwardness of a moment, it would have been rather a
pleasure, previous to the suspicions of this very day; she could have talked to him
of Harriet, and the three-quarters of a mile would have seemed but one.
But now, she would rather it had not happened.
She believed he had been drinking too much of Mr. Weston's good wine, and felt sure
that he would want to be talking nonsense.
To restrain him as much as might be, by her own manners, she was immediately preparing
to speak with exquisite calmness and gravity of the weather and the night; but
scarcely had she begun, scarcely had they
passed the sweep-gate and joined the other carriage, than she found her subject cut
up--her hand seized--her attention demanded, and Mr. Elton actually making
violent love to her: availing himself of
the precious opportunity, declaring sentiments which must be already well
known, hoping--fearing--adoring--ready to die if she refused him; but flattering
himself that his ardent attachment and
unequalled love and unexampled passion could not fail of having some effect, and
in short, very much resolved on being seriously accepted as soon as possible.
It really was so.
Without scruple--without apology--without much apparent diffidence, Mr. Elton, the
lover of Harriet, was professing himself her lover.
She tried to stop him; but vainly; he would go on, and say it all.
Angry as she was, the thought of the moment made her resolve to restrain herself when
she did speak.
She felt that half this folly must be drunkenness, and therefore could hope that
it might belong only to the passing hour.
Accordingly, with a mixture of the serious and the playful, which she hoped would best
suit his half and half state, she replied, "I am very much astonished, Mr. Elton.
This to me! you forget yourself--you take me for my friend--any message to Miss Smith
I shall be happy to deliver; but no more of this to me, if you please."
"Miss Smith!--message to Miss Smith!--What could she possibly mean!"--And he repeated
her words with such assurance of accent, such boastful pretence of amazement, that
she could not help replying with quickness,
"Mr. Elton, this is the most extraordinary conduct! and I can account for it only in
one way; you are not yourself, or you could not speak either to me, or of Harriet, in
such a manner.
Command yourself enough to say no more, and I will endeavour to forget it."
But Mr. Elton had only drunk wine enough to elevate his spirits, not at all to confuse
his intellects.
He perfectly knew his own meaning; and having warmly protested against her
suspicion as most injurious, and slightly touched upon his respect for Miss Smith as
her friend,--but acknowledging his wonder
that Miss Smith should be mentioned at all,--he resumed the subject of his own
passion, and was very urgent for a favourable answer.
As she thought less of his inebriety, she thought more of his inconstancy and
presumption; and with fewer struggles for politeness, replied,
"It is impossible for me to doubt any longer.
You have made yourself too clear. Mr. Elton, my astonishment is much beyond
any thing I can express.
After such behaviour, as I have witnessed during the last month, to Miss Smith--such
attentions as I have been in the daily habit of observing--to be addressing me in
this manner--this is an unsteadiness of
character, indeed, which I had not supposed possible!
Believe me, sir, I am far, very far, from gratified in being the object of such
"Good Heaven!" cried Mr. Elton, "what can be the meaning of this?--Miss Smith!--I
never thought of Miss Smith in the whole course of my existence--never paid her any
attentions, but as your friend: never cared
whether she were dead or alive, but as your friend.
If she has fancied otherwise, her own wishes have misled her, and I am very
sorry--extremely sorry--But, Miss Smith, indeed!--Oh! Miss Woodhouse! who can think
of Miss Smith, when Miss Woodhouse is near!
No, upon my honour, there is no unsteadiness of character.
I have thought only of you. I protest against having paid the smallest
attention to any one else.
Every thing that I have said or done, for many weeks past, has been with the sole
view of marking my adoration of yourself. You cannot really, seriously, doubt it.
No!--(in an accent meant to be insinuating)--I am sure you have seen and
understood me."
It would be impossible to say what Emma felt, on hearing this--which of all her
unpleasant sensations was uppermost.
She was too completely overpowered to be immediately able to reply: and two moments
of silence being ample encouragement for Mr. Elton's sanguine state of mind, he
tried to take her hand again, as he joyously exclaimed--
"Charming Miss Woodhouse! allow me to interpret this interesting silence.
It confesses that you have long understood me."
"No, sir," cried Emma, "it confesses no such thing.
So far from having long understood you, I have been in a most complete error with
respect to your views, till this moment.
As to myself, I am very sorry that you should have been giving way to any
feelings--Nothing could be farther from my wishes--your attachment to my friend
Harriet--your pursuit of her, (pursuit, it
appeared,) gave me great pleasure, and I have been very earnestly wishing you
success: but had I supposed that she were not your attraction to Hartfield, I should
certainly have thought you judged ill in making your visits so frequent.
Am I to believe that you have never sought to recommend yourself particularly to Miss
Smith?--that you have never thought seriously of her?"
"Never, madam," cried he, affronted in his turn: "never, I assure you.
I think seriously of Miss Smith!--Miss Smith is a very good sort of girl; and I
should be happy to see her respectably settled.
I wish her extremely well: and, no doubt, there are men who might not object to--
Every body has their level: but as for myself, I am not, I think, quite so much at
a loss.
I need not so totally despair of an equal alliance, as to be addressing myself to
Miss Smith!--No, madam, my visits to Hartfield have been for yourself only; and
the encouragement I received--"
"Encouragement!--I give you encouragement!- -Sir, you have been entirely mistaken in
supposing it. I have seen you only as the admirer of my
In no other light could you have been more to me than a common acquaintance.
I am exceedingly sorry: but it is well that the mistake ends where it does.
Had the same behaviour continued, Miss Smith might have been led into a
misconception of your views; not being aware, probably, any more than myself, of
the very great inequality which you are so sensible of.
But, as it is, the disappointment is single, and, I trust, will not be lasting.
I have no thoughts of matrimony at present."
He was too angry to say another word; her manner too decided to invite supplication;
and in this state of swelling resentment, and mutually deep mortification, they had
to continue together a few minutes longer,
for the fears of Mr. Woodhouse had confined them to a foot-pace.
If there had not been so much anger, there would have been desperate awkwardness; but
their straightforward emotions left no room for the little zigzags of embarrassment.
Without knowing when the carriage turned into Vicarage Lane, or when it stopped,
they found themselves, all at once, at the door of his house; and he was out before
another syllable passed.--Emma then felt it indispensable to wish him a good night.
The compliment was just returned, coldly and proudly; and, under indescribable
irritation of spirits, she was then conveyed to Hartfield.
There she was welcomed, with the utmost delight, by her father, who had been
trembling for the dangers of a solitary drive from Vicarage Lane--turning a corner
which he could never bear to think of--and
in strange hands--a mere common coachman-- no James; and there it seemed as if her
return only were wanted to make every thing go well: for Mr. John Knightley, ashamed of
his ill-humour, was now all kindness and
attention; and so particularly solicitous for the comfort of her father, as to seem--
if not quite ready to join him in a basin of gruel--perfectly sensible of its being
exceedingly wholesome; and the day was
concluding in peace and comfort to all their little party, except herself.--But
her mind had never been in such perturbation; and it needed a very strong
effort to appear attentive and cheerful
till the usual hour of separating allowed her the relief of quiet reflection.
The hair was curled, and the maid sent away, and Emma sat down to think and be
miserable.--It was a wretched business indeed!--Such an overthrow of every thing
she had been wishing for!--Such a
development of every thing most unwelcome!- -Such a blow for Harriet!--that was the
worst of all.
Every part of it brought pain and humiliation, of some sort or other; but,
compared with the evil to Harriet, all was light; and she would gladly have submitted
to feel yet more mistaken--more in error--
more disgraced by mis-judgment, than she actually was, could the effects of her
blunders have been confined to herself. "If I had not persuaded Harriet into liking
the man, I could have borne any thing.
He might have doubled his presumption to me--but poor Harriet!"
How she could have been so deceived!--He protested that he had never thought
seriously of Harriet--never!
She looked back as well as she could; but it was all confusion.
She had taken up the idea, she supposed, and made every thing bend to it.
His manners, however, must have been unmarked, wavering, dubious, or she could
not have been so misled.
The picture!--How eager he had been about the picture!--and the charade!--and an
hundred other circumstances;--how clearly they had seemed to point at Harriet.
To be sure, the charade, with its "ready wit"--but then the "soft eyes"--in fact it
suited neither; it was a jumble without taste or truth.
Who could have seen through such thick- headed nonsense?
Certainly she had often, especially of late, thought his manners to herself
unnecessarily gallant; but it had passed as his way, as a mere error of judgment, of
knowledge, of taste, as one proof among
others that he had not always lived in the best society, that with all the gentleness
of his address, true elegance was sometimes wanting; but, till this very day, she had
never, for an instant, suspected it to mean
any thing but grateful respect to her as Harriet's friend.
To Mr. John Knightley was she indebted for her first idea on the subject, for the
first start of its possibility.
There was no denying that those brothers had penetration.
She remembered what Mr. Knightley had once said to her about Mr. Elton, the caution he
had given, the conviction he had professed that Mr. Elton would never marry
indiscreetly; and blushed to think how much
truer a knowledge of his character had been there shewn than any she had reached
It was dreadfully mortifying; but Mr. Elton was proving himself, in many respects, the
very reverse of what she had meant and believed him; proud, assuming, conceited;
very full of his own claims, and little concerned about the feelings of others.
Contrary to the usual course of things, Mr. Elton's wanting to pay his addresses to her
had sunk him in her opinion.
His professions and his proposals did him no service.
She thought nothing of his attachment, and was insulted by his hopes.
He wanted to marry well, and having the arrogance to raise his eyes to her,
pretended to be in love; but she was perfectly easy as to his not suffering any
disappointment that need be cared for.
There had been no real affection either in his language or manners.
Sighs and fine words had been given in abundance; but she could hardly devise any
set of expressions, or fancy any tone of voice, less allied with real love.
She need not trouble herself to pity him.
He only wanted to aggrandise and enrich himself; and if Miss Woodhouse of
Hartfield, the heiress of thirty thousand pounds, were not quite so easily obtained
as he had fancied, he would soon try for
Miss Somebody else with twenty, or with ten.
But--that he should talk of encouragement, should consider her as aware of his views,
accepting his attentions, meaning (in short), to marry him!--should suppose
himself her equal in connexion or mind!--
look down upon her friend, so well understanding the gradations of rank below
him, and be so blind to what rose above, as to fancy himself shewing no presumption in
addressing her!--It was most provoking.
Perhaps it was not fair to expect him to feel how very much he was her inferior in
talent, and all the elegancies of mind.
The very want of such equality might prevent his perception of it; but he must
know that in fortune and consequence she was greatly his superior.
He must know that the Woodhouses had been settled for several generations at
Hartfield, the younger branch of a very ancient family--and that the Eltons were
The landed property of Hartfield certainly was inconsiderable, being but a sort of
notch in the Donwell Abbey estate, to which all the rest of Highbury belonged; but
their fortune, from other sources, was such
as to make them scarcely secondary to Donwell Abbey itself, in every other kind
of consequence; and the Woodhouses had long held a high place in the consideration of
the neighbourhood which Mr. Elton had first
entered not two years ago, to make his way as he could, without any alliances but in
trade, or any thing to recommend him to notice but his situation and his civility.-
-But he had fancied her in love with him;
that evidently must have been his dependence; and after raving a little about
the seeming incongruity of gentle manners and a conceited head, Emma was obliged in
common honesty to stop and admit that her
own behaviour to him had been so complaisant and obliging, so full of
courtesy and attention, as (supposing her real motive unperceived) might warrant a
man of ordinary observation and delicacy,
like Mr. Elton, in fancying himself a very decided favourite.
If she had so misinterpreted his feelings, she had little right to wonder
that he, with self-interest to blind him, should have mistaken hers.
The first error and the worst lay at her door.
It was foolish, it was wrong, to take so active a part in bringing any two people
It was adventuring too far, assuming too much, making light of what ought to be
serious, a trick of what ought to be simple.
She was quite concerned and ashamed, and resolved to do such things no more.
"Here have I," said she, "actually talked poor Harriet into being very much attached
to this man.
She might never have thought of him but for me; and certainly never would have thought
of him with hope, if I had not assured her of his attachment, for she is as modest and
humble as I used to think him.
Oh! that I had been satisfied with persuading her not to accept young Martin.
There I was quite right.
That was well done of me; but there I should have stopped, and left the rest to
time and chance.
I was introducing her into good company, and giving her the opportunity of pleasing
some one worth having; I ought not to have attempted more.
But now, poor girl, her peace is cut up for some time.
I have been but half a friend to her; and if she were not to feel this
disappointment so very much, I am sure I have not an idea of any body else who would
be at all desirable for her;--William Coxe-
-Oh! no, I could not endure William Coxe--a pert young lawyer."
She stopt to blush and laugh at her own relapse, and then resumed a more serious,
more dispiriting cogitation upon what had been, and might be, and must be.
The distressing explanation she had to make to Harriet, and all that poor Harriet would
be suffering, with the awkwardness of future meetings, the difficulties of
continuing or discontinuing the
acquaintance, of subduing feelings, concealing resentment, and avoiding eclat,
were enough to occupy her in most unmirthful reflections some time longer,
and she went to bed at last with nothing
settled but the conviction of her having blundered most dreadfully.
To youth and natural cheerfulness like Emma's, though under temporary gloom at
night, the return of day will hardly fail to bring return of spirits.
The youth and cheerfulness of morning are in happy analogy, and of powerful
operation; and if the distress be not poignant enough to keep the eyes unclosed,
they will be sure to open to sensations of softened pain and brighter hope.
Emma got up on the morrow more disposed for comfort than she had gone to bed, more
ready to see alleviations of the evil before her, and to depend on getting
tolerably out of it.
It was a great consolation that Mr. Elton should not be really in love with her, or
so particularly amiable as to make it shocking to disappoint him--that Harriet's
nature should not be of that superior sort
in which the feelings are most acute and retentive--and that there could be no
necessity for any body's knowing what had passed except the three principals, and
especially for her father's being given a moment's uneasiness about it.
These were very cheering thoughts; and the sight of a great deal of snow on the ground
did her further service, for any thing was welcome that might justify their all three
being quite asunder at present.
The weather was most favourable for her; though Christmas Day, she could not go to
Mr. Woodhouse would have been miserable had his daughter attempted it, and she was
therefore safe from either exciting or receiving unpleasant and most unsuitable
The ground covered with snow, and the atmosphere in that unsettled state between
frost and thaw, which is of all others the most unfriendly for exercise, every morning
beginning in rain or snow, and every
evening setting in to freeze, she was for many days a most honourable prisoner.
No intercourse with Harriet possible but by note; no church for her on Sunday any more
than on Christmas Day; and no need to find excuses for Mr. Elton's absenting himself.
It was weather which might fairly confine every body at home; and though she hoped
and believed him to be really taking comfort in some society or other, it was
very pleasant to have her father so well
satisfied with his being all alone in his own house, too wise to stir out; and to
hear him say to Mr. Knightley, whom no weather could keep entirely from them,--
"Ah! Mr. Knightley, why do not you stay at home like poor Mr. Elton?"
These days of confinement would have been, but for her private perplexities,
remarkably comfortable, as such seclusion exactly suited her brother, whose feelings
must always be of great importance to his
companions; and he had, besides, so thoroughly cleared off his ill-humour at
Randalls, that his amiableness never failed him during the rest of his stay at
He was always agreeable and obliging, and speaking pleasantly of every body.
But with all the hopes of cheerfulness, and all the present comfort of delay, there was
still such an evil hanging over her in the hour of explanation with Harriet, as made
it impossible for Emma to be ever perfectly at ease.
Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley were not detained long at Hartfield.
The weather soon improved enough for those to move who must move; and Mr. Woodhouse
having, as usual, tried to persuade his daughter to stay behind with all her
children, was obliged to see the whole
party set off, and return to his lamentations over the destiny of poor
Isabella;--which poor Isabella, passing her life with those she doated on, full of
their merits, blind to their faults, and
always innocently busy, might have been a model of right feminine happiness.
The evening of the very day on which they went brought a note from Mr. Elton to Mr.
Woodhouse, a long, civil, ceremonious note, to say, with Mr. Elton's best compliments,
"that he was proposing to leave Highbury
the following morning in his way to Bath; where, in compliance with the pressing
entreaties of some friends, he had engaged to spend a few weeks, and very much
regretted the impossibility he was under,
from various circumstances of weather and business, of taking a personal leave of Mr.
Woodhouse, of whose friendly civilities he should ever retain a grateful sense--and
had Mr. Woodhouse any commands, should be happy to attend to them."
Emma was most agreeably surprized.--Mr. Elton's absence just at this time was the
very thing to be desired.
She admired him for contriving it, though not able to give him much credit for the
manner in which it was announced.
Resentment could not have been more plainly spoken than in a civility to her father,
from which she was so pointedly excluded.
She had not even a share in his opening compliments.--Her name was not mentioned;--
and there was so striking a change in all this, and such an ill-judged solemnity of
leave-taking in his graceful
acknowledgments, as she thought, at first, could not escape her father's suspicion.
It did, however.--Her father was quite taken up with the surprize of so sudden a
journey, and his fears that Mr. Elton might never get safely to the end of it, and saw
nothing extraordinary in his language.
It was a very useful note, for it supplied them with fresh matter for thought and
conversation during the rest of their lonely evening.
Mr. Woodhouse talked over his alarms, and Emma was in spirits to persuade them away
with all her usual promptitude. She now resolved to keep Harriet no longer
in the dark.
She had reason to believe her nearly recovered from her cold, and it was
desirable that she should have as much time as possible for getting the better of her
other complaint before the gentleman's return.
She went to Mrs. Goddard's accordingly the very next day, to undergo the necessary
penance of communication; and a severe one it was.--She had to destroy all the hopes
which she had been so industriously
feeding--to appear in the ungracious character of the one preferred--and
acknowledge herself grossly mistaken and mis-judging in all her ideas on one
subject, all her observations, all her
convictions, all her prophecies for the last six weeks.
The confession completely renewed her first shame--and the sight of Harriet's tears
made her think that she should never be in charity with herself again.
Harriet bore the intelligence very well-- blaming nobody--and in every thing
testifying such an ingenuousness of disposition and lowly opinion of herself,
as must appear with particular advantage at that moment to her friend.
Emma was in the humour to value simplicity and modesty to the utmost; and all that was
amiable, all that ought to be attaching, seemed on Harriet's side, not her own.
Harriet did not consider herself as having any thing to complain of.
The affection of such a man as Mr. Elton would have been too great a distinction.--
She never could have deserved him--and nobody but so partial and kind a friend as
Miss Woodhouse would have thought it possible.
Her tears fell abundantly--but her grief was so truly artless, that no dignity could
have made it more respectable in Emma's eyes--and she listened to her and tried to
console her with all her heart and
understanding--really for the time convinced that Harriet was the superior
creature of the two--and that to resemble her would be more for her own welfare and
happiness than all that genius or intelligence could do.
It was rather too late in the day to set about being simple-minded and ignorant; but
she left her with every previous resolution confirmed of being humble and discreet, and
repressing imagination all the rest of her life.
Her second duty now, inferior only to her father's claims, was to promote Harriet's
comfort, and endeavour to prove her own affection in some better method than by
She got her to Hartfield, and shewed her the most unvarying kindness, striving to
occupy and amuse her, and by books and conversation, to drive Mr. Elton from her
Time, she knew, must be allowed for this being thoroughly done; and she could
suppose herself but an indifferent judge of such matters in general, and very
inadequate to sympathise in an attachment
to Mr. Elton in particular; but it seemed to her reasonable that at Harriet's age,
and with the entire extinction of all hope, such a progress might be made towards a
state of composure by the time of Mr.
Elton's return, as to allow them all to meet again in the common routine of
acquaintance, without any danger of betraying sentiments or increasing them.
Harriet did think him all perfection, and maintained the non-existence of any body
equal to him in person or goodness--and did, in truth, prove herself more
resolutely in love than Emma had foreseen;
but yet it appeared to her so natural, so inevitable to strive against an inclination
of that sort unrequited, that she could not comprehend its continuing very long in
equal force.
If Mr. Elton, on his return, made his own indifference as evident and indubitable as
she could not doubt he would anxiously do, she could not imagine Harriet's persisting
to place her happiness in the sight or the recollection of him.
Their being fixed, so absolutely fixed, in the same place, was bad for each, for all
Not one of them had the power of removal, or of effecting any material change of
society. They must encounter each other, and make
the best of it.
Harriet was farther unfortunate in the tone of her companions at Mrs. Goddard's; Mr.
Elton being the adoration of all the teachers and great girls in the school; and
it must be at Hartfield only that she could
have any chance of hearing him spoken of with cooling moderation or repellent truth.
Where the wound had been given, there must the cure be found if anywhere; and Emma
felt that, till she saw her in the way of cure, there could be no true peace for
Mr. Frank Churchill did not come. When the time proposed drew near, Mrs.
Weston's fears were justified in the arrival of a letter of excuse.
For the present, he could not be spared, to his "very great mortification and regret;
but still he looked forward with the hope of coming to Randalls at no distant
Mrs. Weston was exceedingly disappointed-- much more disappointed, in fact, than her
husband, though her dependence on seeing the young man had been so much more sober:
but a sanguine temper, though for ever
expecting more good than occurs, does not always pay for its hopes by any
proportionate depression. It soon flies over the present failure, and
begins to hope again.
For half an hour Mr. Weston was surprized and sorry; but then he began to perceive
that Frank's coming two or three months later would be a much better plan; better
time of year; better weather; and that he
would be able, without any doubt, to stay considerably longer with them than if he
had come sooner.
These feelings rapidly restored his comfort, while Mrs. Weston, of a more
apprehensive disposition, foresaw nothing but a repetition of excuses and delays; and
after all her concern for what her husband
was to suffer, suffered a great deal more herself.
Emma was not at this time in a state of spirits to care really about Mr. Frank
Churchill's not coming, except as a disappointment at Randalls.
The acquaintance at present had no charm for her.
She wanted, rather, to be quiet, and out of temptation; but still, as it was desirable
that she should appear, in general, like her usual self, she took care to express as
much interest in the circumstance, and
enter as warmly into Mr. and Mrs. Weston's disappointment, as might naturally belong
to their friendship.
She was the first to announce it to Mr. Knightley; and exclaimed quite as much as
was necessary, (or, being acting a part, perhaps rather more,) at the conduct of the
Churchills, in keeping him away.
She then proceeded to say a good deal more than she felt, of the advantage of such an
addition to their confined society in Surry; the pleasure of looking at somebody
new; the gala-day to Highbury entire, which
the sight of him would have made; and ending with reflections on the Churchills
again, found herself directly involved in a disagreement with Mr. Knightley; and, to
her great amusement, perceived that she was
taking the other side of the question from her real opinion, and making use of Mrs.
Weston's arguments against herself.
"The Churchills are very likely in fault," said Mr. Knightley, coolly; "but I dare say
he might come if he would." "I do not know why you should say so.
He wishes exceedingly to come; but his uncle and aunt will not spare him."
"I cannot believe that he has not the power of coming, if he made a point of it.
It is too unlikely, for me to believe it without proof."
"How odd you are!
What has Mr. Frank Churchill done, to make you suppose him such an unnatural
"I am not supposing him at all an unnatural creature, in suspecting that he may have
learnt to be above his connexions, and to care very little for any thing but his own
pleasure, from living with those who have always set him the example of it.
It is a great deal more natural than one could wish, that a young man, brought up by
those who are proud, luxurious, and selfish, should be proud, luxurious, and
selfish too.
If Frank Churchill had wanted to see his father, he would have contrived it between
September and January.
A man at his age--what is he?--three or four-and-twenty--cannot be without the
means of doing as much as that. It is impossible."
"That's easily said, and easily felt by you, who have always been your own master.
You are the worst judge in the world, Mr. Knightley, of the difficulties of
You do not know what it is to have tempers to manage."
"It is not to be conceived that a man of three or four-and-twenty should not have
liberty of mind or limb to that amount.
He cannot want money--he cannot want leisure.
We know, on the contrary, that he has so much of both, that he is glad to get rid of
them at the idlest haunts in the kingdom.
We hear of him for ever at some watering- place or other.
A little while ago, he was at Weymouth. This proves that he can leave the
"Yes, sometimes he can." "And those times are whenever he thinks it
worth his while; whenever there is any temptation of pleasure."
"It is very unfair to judge of any body's conduct, without an intimate knowledge of
their situation.
Nobody, who has not been in the interior of a family, can say what the difficulties of
any individual of that family may be.
We ought to be acquainted with Enscombe, and with Mrs. Churchill's temper, before we
pretend to decide upon what her nephew can do.
He may, at times, be able to do a great deal more than he can at others."
"There is one thing, Emma, which a man can always do, if he chuses, and that is, his
duty; not by manoeuvring and finessing, but by vigour and resolution.
It is Frank Churchill's duty to pay this attention to his father.
He knows it to be so, by his promises and messages; but if he wished to do it, it
might be done.
A man who felt rightly would say at once, simply and resolutely, to Mrs. Churchill--
'Every sacrifice of mere pleasure you will always find me ready to make to your
convenience; but I must go and see my father immediately.
I know he would be hurt by my failing in such a mark of respect to him on the
present occasion.
I shall, therefore, set off to-morrow.'--If he would say so to her at once, in the tone
of decision becoming a man, there would be no opposition made to his going."
"No," said Emma, laughing; "but perhaps there might be some made to his coming back
Such language for a young man entirely dependent, to use!--Nobody but you, Mr.
Knightley, would imagine it possible.
But you have not an idea of what is requisite in situations directly opposite
to your own.
Mr. Frank Churchill to be making such a speech as that to the uncle and aunt, who
have brought him up, and are to provide for him!--Standing up in the middle of the
room, I suppose, and speaking as loud as he
could!--How can you imagine such conduct practicable?"
"Depend upon it, Emma, a sensible man would find no difficulty in it.
He would feel himself in the right; and the declaration--made, of course, as a man of
sense would make it, in a proper manner-- would do him more good, raise him higher,
fix his interest stronger with the people
he depended on, than all that a line of shifts and expedients can ever do.
Respect would be added to affection.
They would feel that they could trust him; that the nephew who had done rightly by his
father, would do rightly by them; for they know, as well as he does, as well as all
the world must know, that he ought to pay
this visit to his father; and while meanly exerting their power to delay it, are in
their hearts not thinking the better of him for submitting to their whims.
Respect for right conduct is felt by every body.
If he would act in this sort of manner, on principle, consistently, regularly, their
little minds would bend to his."
"I rather doubt that.
You are very fond of bending little minds; but where little minds belong to rich
people in authority, I think they have a knack of swelling out, till they are quite
as unmanageable as great ones.
I can imagine, that if you, as you are, Mr. Knightley, were to be transported and
placed all at once in Mr. Frank Churchill's situation, you would be able to say and do
just what you have been recommending for him; and it might have a very good effect.
The Churchills might not have a word to say in return; but then, you would have no
habits of early obedience and long observance to break through.
To him who has, it might not be so easy to burst forth at once into perfect
independence, and set all their claims on his gratitude and regard at nought.
He may have as strong a sense of what would be right, as you can have, without being so
equal, under particular circumstances, to act up to it."
"Then it would not be so strong a sense.
If it failed to produce equal exertion, it could not be an equal conviction."
"Oh, the difference of situation and habit!
I wish you would try to understand what an amiable young man may be likely to feel in
directly opposing those, whom as child and boy he has been looking up to all his
"Our amiable young man is a very weak young man, if this be the first occasion of his
carrying through a resolution to do right against the will of others.
It ought to have been a habit with him by this time, of following his duty, instead
of consulting expediency. I can allow for the fears of the child, but
not of the man.
As he became rational, he ought to have roused himself and shaken off all that was
unworthy in their authority.
He ought to have opposed the first attempt on their side to make him slight his
father. Had he begun as he ought, there would have
been no difficulty now."
"We shall never agree about him," cried Emma; "but that is nothing extraordinary.
I have not the least idea of his being a weak young man: I feel sure that he is not.
Mr. Weston would not be blind to folly, though in his own son; but he is very
likely to have a more yielding, complying, mild disposition than would suit your
notions of man's perfection.
I dare say he has; and though it may cut him off from some advantages, it will
secure him many others."
"Yes; all the advantages of sitting still when he ought to move, and of leading a
life of mere idle pleasure, and fancying himself extremely expert in finding excuses
for it.
He can sit down and write a fine flourishing letter, full of professions and
falsehoods, and persuade himself that he has hit upon the very best method in the
world of preserving peace at home and
preventing his father's having any right to complain.
His letters disgust me." "Your feelings are singular.
They seem to satisfy every body else."
"I suspect they do not satisfy Mrs. Weston. They hardly can satisfy a woman of her good
sense and quick feelings: standing in a mother's place, but without a mother's
affection to blind her.
It is on her account that attention to Randalls is doubly due, and she must doubly
feel the omission.
Had she been a person of consequence herself, he would have come I dare say; and
it would not have signified whether he did or no.
Can you think your friend behindhand in these sort of considerations?
Do you suppose she does not often say all this to herself?
No, Emma, your amiable young man can be amiable only in French, not in English.
He may be very 'aimable,' have very good manners, and be very agreeable; but he can
have no English delicacy towards the feelings of other people: nothing really
amiable about him."
"You seem determined to think ill of him." "Me!--not at all," replied Mr. Knightley,
rather displeased; "I do not want to think ill of him.
I should be as ready to acknowledge his merits as any other man; but I hear of
none, except what are merely personal; that he is well-grown and good-looking, with
smooth, plausible manners."
"Well, if he have nothing else to recommend him, he will be a treasure at Highbury.
We do not often look upon fine young men, well-bred and agreeable.
We must not be nice and ask for all the virtues into the bargain.
Cannot you imagine, Mr. Knightley, what a sensation his coming will produce?
There will be but one subject throughout the parishes of Donwell and Highbury; but
one interest--one object of curiosity; it will be all Mr. Frank Churchill; we shall
think and speak of nobody else."
"You will excuse my being so much over- powered.
If I find him conversable, I shall be glad of his acquaintance; but if he is only a
chattering coxcomb, he will not occupy much of my time or thoughts."
"My idea of him is, that he can adapt his conversation to the taste of every body,
and has the power as well as the wish of being universally agreeable.
To you, he will talk of farming; to me, of drawing or music; and so on to every body,
having that general information on all subjects which will enable him to follow
the lead, or take the lead, just as
propriety may require, and to speak extremely well on each; that is my idea of
"And mine," said Mr. Knightley warmly, "is, that if he turn out any thing like it, he
will be the most insufferable fellow breathing!
What! at three-and-twenty to be the king of his company--the great man--the practised
politician, who is to read every body's character, and make every body's talents
conduce to the display of his own
superiority; to be dispensing his flatteries around, that he may make all
appear like fools compared with himself!
My dear Emma, your own good sense could not endure such a puppy when it came to the
point." "I will say no more about him," cried Emma,
"you turn every thing to evil.
We are both prejudiced; you against, I for him; and we have no chance of agreeing till
he is really here." "Prejudiced!
I am not prejudiced."
"But I am very much, and without being at all ashamed of it.
My love for Mr. and Mrs. Weston gives me a decided prejudice in his favour."
"He is a person I never think of from one month's end to another," said Mr.
Knightley, with a degree of vexation, which made Emma immediately talk of something
else, though she could not comprehend why he should be angry.
To take a dislike to a young man, only because he appeared to be of a different
disposition from himself, was unworthy the real liberality of mind which she was
always used to acknowledge in him; for with
all the high opinion of himself, which she had often laid to his charge, she had never
before for a moment supposed it could make him unjust to the merit of another.