Part 5 - Emma Audiobook by Jane Austen (Vol 2: Chs 14-18)


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VOLUME II
CHAPTER XIV
Mrs. Elton was first seen at church: but though devotion might be interrupted,
curiosity could not be satisfied by a bride in a pew, and it must be left for the
visits in form which were then to be paid,
to settle whether she were very pretty indeed, or only rather pretty, or not
pretty at all.
Emma had feelings, less of curiosity than of pride or propriety, to make her resolve
on not being the last to pay her respects; and she made a point of Harriet's going
with her, that the worst of the business might be gone through as soon as possible.
She could not enter the house again, could not be in the same room to which she had
with such vain artifice retreated three months ago, to lace up her boot, without
recollecting.
A thousand vexatious thoughts would recur.
Compliments, charades, and horrible blunders; and it was not to be supposed
that poor Harriet should not be recollecting too; but she behaved very
well, and was only rather pale and silent.
The visit was of course short; and there was so much embarrassment and occupation of
mind to shorten it, that Emma would not allow herself entirely to form an opinion
of the lady, and on no account to give one,
beyond the nothing-meaning terms of being "elegantly dressed, and very pleasing."
She did not really like her.
She would not be in a hurry to find fault, but she suspected that there was no
elegance;--ease, but not elegance.-- She was almost sure that for a young woman, a
stranger, a bride, there was too much ease.
Her person was rather good; her face not unpretty; but neither feature, nor air, nor
voice, nor manner, were elegant. Emma thought at least it would turn out so.
As for Mr. Elton, his manners did not appear--but no, she would not permit a
hasty or a witty word from herself about his manners.
It was an awkward ceremony at any time to be receiving wedding visits, and a man had
need be all grace to acquit himself well through it.
The woman was better off; she might have the assistance of fine clothes, and the
privilege of bashfulness, but the man had only his own good sense to depend on; and
when she considered how peculiarly unlucky
poor Mr. Elton was in being in the same room at once with the woman he had just
married, the woman he had wanted to marry, and the woman whom he had been expected to
marry, she must allow him to have the right
to look as little wise, and to be as much affectedly, and as little really easy as
could be.
"Well, Miss Woodhouse," said Harriet, when they had quitted the house, and after
waiting in vain for her friend to begin; "Well, Miss Woodhouse, (with a gentle
sigh,) what do you think of her?--Is not she very charming?"
There was a little hesitation in Emma's answer.
"Oh! yes--very--a very pleasing young woman."
"I think her beautiful, quite beautiful." "Very nicely dressed, indeed; a remarkably
elegant gown."
"I am not at all surprized that he should have fallen in love."
"Oh! no--there is nothing to surprize one at all.--A pretty fortune; and she came in
his way."
"I dare say," returned Harriet, sighing again, "I dare say she was very much
attached to him."
"Perhaps she might; but it is not every man's fate to marry the woman who loves him
best.
Miss Hawkins perhaps wanted a home, and thought this the best offer she was likely
to have." "Yes," said Harriet earnestly, "and well
she might, nobody could ever have a better.
Well, I wish them happy with all my heart. And now, Miss Woodhouse, I do not think I
shall mind seeing them again.
He is just as superior as ever;--but being married, you know, it is quite a different
thing.
No, indeed, Miss Woodhouse, you need not be afraid; I can sit and admire him now
without any great misery.
To know that he has not thrown himself away, is such a comfort!--She does seem a
charming young woman, just what he deserves.
Happy creature!
He called her 'Augusta.' How delightful!"
When the visit was returned, Emma made up her mind.
She could then see more and judge better.
From Harriet's happening not to be at Hartfield, and her father's being present
to engage Mr. Elton, she had a quarter of an hour of the lady's conversation to
herself, and could composedly attend to
her; and the quarter of an hour quite convinced her that Mrs. Elton was a vain
woman, extremely well satisfied with herself, and thinking much of her own
importance; that she meant to shine and be
very superior, but with manners which had been formed in a bad school, pert and
familiar; that all her notions were drawn from one set of people, and one style of
living; that if not foolish she was
ignorant, and that her society would certainly do Mr. Elton no good.
Harriet would have been a better match.
If not wise or refined herself, she would have connected him with those who were; but
Miss Hawkins, it might be fairly supposed from her easy conceit, had been the best of
her own set.
The rich brother-in-law near Bristol was the pride of the alliance, and his place
and his carriages were the pride of him.
The very first subject after being seated was Maple Grove, "My brother Mr. Suckling's
seat;"--a comparison of Hartfield to Maple Grove.
The grounds of Hartfield were small, but neat and pretty; and the house was modern
and well-built.
Mrs. Elton seemed most favourably impressed by the size of the room, the entrance, and
all that she could see or imagine.
"Very like Maple Grove indeed!--She was quite struck by the likeness!--That room
was the very shape and size of the morning- room at Maple Grove; her sister's favourite
room."--Mr. Elton was appealed to.--"Was
not it astonishingly like?--She could really almost fancy herself at Maple
Grove."
"And the staircase--You know, as I came in, I observed how very like the staircase was;
placed exactly in the same part of the house.
I really could not help exclaiming!
I assure you, Miss Woodhouse, it is very delightful to me, to be reminded of a place
I am so extremely partial to as Maple Grove.
I have spent so many happy months there!
(with a little sigh of sentiment). A charming place, undoubtedly.
Every body who sees it is struck by its beauty; but to me, it has been quite a
home.
Whenever you are transplanted, like me, Miss Woodhouse, you will understand how
very delightful it is to meet with any thing at all like what one has left behind.
I always say this is quite one of the evils of matrimony."
Emma made as slight a reply as she could; but it was fully sufficient for Mrs. Elton,
who only wanted to be talking herself.
"So extremely like Maple Grove! And it is not merely the house--the
grounds, I assure you, as far as I could observe, are strikingly like.
The laurels at Maple Grove are in the same profusion as here, and stand very much in
the same way--just across the lawn; and I had a glimpse of a fine large tree, with a
bench round it, which put me so exactly in mind!
My brother and sister will be enchanted with this place.
People who have extensive grounds themselves are always pleased with any
thing in the same style." Emma doubted the truth of this sentiment.
She had a great idea that people who had extensive grounds themselves cared very
little for the extensive grounds of any body else; but it was not worth while to
attack an error so double-dyed, and therefore only said in reply,
"When you have seen more of this country, I am afraid you will think you have overrated
Hartfield.
Surry is full of beauties." "Oh! yes, I am quite aware of that.
It is the garden of England, you know. Surry is the garden of England."
"Yes; but we must not rest our claims on that distinction.
Many counties, I believe, are called the garden of England, as well as Surry."
"No, I fancy not," replied Mrs. Elton, with a most satisfied smile.
"I never heard any county but Surry called so."
Emma was silenced.
"My brother and sister have promised us a visit in the spring, or summer at
farthest," continued Mrs. Elton; "and that will be our time for exploring.
While they are with us, we shall explore a great deal, I dare say.
They will have their barouche-landau, of course, which holds four perfectly; and
therefore, without saying any thing of our carriage, we should be able to
explore the different beauties extremely well.
They would hardly come in their chaise, I think, at that season of the year.
Indeed, when the time draws on, I shall decidedly recommend their bringing the
barouche-landau; it will be so very much preferable.
When people come into a beautiful country of this sort, you know, Miss Woodhouse, one
naturally wishes them to see as much as possible; and Mr. Suckling is extremely
fond of exploring.
We explored to King's-Weston twice last summer, in that way, most delightfully,
just after their first having the barouche- landau.
You have many parties of that kind here, I suppose, Miss Woodhouse, every summer?"
"No; not immediately here.
We are rather out of distance of the very striking beauties which attract the sort of
parties you speak of; and we are a very quiet set of people, I believe; more
disposed to stay at home than engage in schemes of pleasure."
"Ah! there is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.
Nobody can be more devoted to home than I am.
I was quite a proverb for it at Maple Grove.
Many a time has Selina said, when she has been going to Bristol, 'I really cannot get
this girl to move from the house.
I absolutely must go in by myself, though I hate being stuck up in the barouche-landau
without a companion; but Augusta, I believe, with her own good-will, would
never stir beyond the park paling.'
Many a time has she said so; and yet I am no advocate for entire seclusion.
I think, on the contrary, when people shut themselves up entirely from society, it is
a very bad thing; and that it is much more advisable to mix in the world in a proper
degree, without living in it either too much or too little.
I perfectly understand your situation, however, Miss Woodhouse--(looking towards
Mr. Woodhouse), Your father's state of health must be a great drawback.
Why does not he try Bath?--Indeed he should.
Let me recommend Bath to you. I assure you I have no doubt of its doing
Mr. Woodhouse good."
"My father tried it more than once, formerly; but without receiving any
benefit; and Mr. Perry, whose name, I dare say, is not unknown to you, does not
conceive it would be at all more likely to be useful now."
"Ah! that's a great pity; for I assure you, Miss Woodhouse, where the waters do agree,
it is quite wonderful the relief they give.
In my Bath life, I have seen such instances of it!
And it is so cheerful a place, that it could not fail of being of use to Mr.
Woodhouse's spirits, which, I understand, are sometimes much depressed.
And as to its recommendations to you, I fancy I need not take much pains to dwell
on them. The advantages of Bath to the young are
pretty generally understood.
It would be a charming introduction for you, who have lived so secluded a life; and
I could immediately secure you some of the best society in the place.
A line from me would bring you a little host of acquaintance; and my particular
friend, Mrs. Partridge, the lady I have always resided with when in Bath, would be
most happy to shew you any attentions, and
would be the very person for you to go into public with."
It was as much as Emma could bear, without being impolite.
The idea of her being indebted to Mrs. Elton for what was called an
introduction--of her going into public under the auspices of a friend of Mrs.
Elton's--probably some vulgar, dashing
widow, who, with the help of a boarder, just made a shift to live!--The dignity of
Miss Woodhouse, of Hartfield, was sunk indeed!
She restrained herself, however, from any of the reproofs she could have given, and
only thanked Mrs. Elton coolly; "but their going to Bath was quite out of the
question; and she was not perfectly
convinced that the place might suit her better than her father."
And then, to prevent farther outrage and indignation, changed the subject directly.
"I do not ask whether you are musical, Mrs. Elton.
Upon these occasions, a lady's character generally precedes her; and Highbury has
long known that you are a superior performer."
"Oh! no, indeed; I must protest against any such idea.
A superior performer!--very far from it, I assure you.
Consider from how partial a quarter your information came.
I am doatingly fond of music--passionately fond;--and my friends say I am not entirely
devoid of taste; but as to any thing else, upon my honour my performance is mediocre
to the last degree.
You, Miss Woodhouse, I well know, play delightfully.
I assure you it has been the greatest satisfaction, comfort, and delight to me,
to hear what a musical society I am got into.
I absolutely cannot do without music.
It is a necessary of life to me; and having always been used to a very musical society,
both at Maple Grove and in Bath, it would have been a most serious sacrifice.
I honestly said as much to Mr. E. when he was speaking of my future home, and
expressing his fears lest the retirement of it should be disagreeable; and the
inferiority of the house too--knowing what
I had been accustomed to--of course he was not wholly without apprehension.
When he was speaking of it in that way, I honestly said that the world I could
give up--parties, balls, plays--for I had no fear of retirement.
Blessed with so many resources within myself, the world was not necessary to
me. I could do very well without it.
To those who had no resources it was a different thing; but my resources made me
quite independent.
And as to smaller-sized rooms than I had been used to, I really could not give it a
thought. I hoped I was perfectly equal to any
sacrifice of that description.
Certainly I had been accustomed to every luxury at Maple Grove; but I did assure him
that two carriages were not necessary to my happiness, nor were spacious apartments.
'But,' said I, 'to be quite honest, I do not think I can live without something of a
musical society. I condition for nothing else; but without
music, life would be a blank to me.'"
"We cannot suppose," said Emma, smiling, "that Mr. Elton would hesitate to assure
you of there being a very musical society in Highbury; and I hope you will not find
he has outstepped the truth more than may
be pardoned, in consideration of the motive."
"No, indeed, I have no doubts at all on that head.
I am delighted to find myself in such a circle.
I hope we shall have many sweet little concerts together.
I think, Miss Woodhouse, you and I must establish a musical club, and have regular
weekly meetings at your house, or ours. Will not it be a good plan?
If we exert ourselves, I think we shall not be long in want of allies.
Something of that nature would be particularly desirable for me, as an
inducement to keep me in practice; for married women, you know--there is a sad
story against them, in general.
They are but too apt to give up music." "But you, who are so extremely fond of it--
there can be no danger, surely?" "I should hope not; but really when I look
around among my acquaintance, I tremble.
Selina has entirely given up music--never touches the instrument--though she played
sweetly.
And the same may be said of Mrs. Jeffereys- -Clara Partridge, that was--and of the two
Milmans, now Mrs. Bird and Mrs. James Cooper; and of more than I can enumerate.
Upon my word it is enough to put one in a fright.
I used to be quite angry with Selina; but really I begin now to comprehend that a
married woman has many things to call her attention.
I believe I was half an hour this morning shut up with my housekeeper."
"But every thing of that kind," said Emma, "will soon be in so regular a train--"
"Well," said Mrs. Elton, laughing, "we shall see."
Emma, finding her so determined upon neglecting her music, had nothing more to
say; and, after a moment's pause, Mrs. Elton chose another subject.
"We have been calling at Randalls," said she, "and found them both at home; and very
pleasant people they seem to be. I like them extremely.
Mr. Weston seems an excellent creature-- quite a first-rate favourite with me
already, I assure you.
And she appears so truly good--there is something so motherly and kind-hearted
about her, that it wins upon one directly. She was your governess, I think?"
Emma was almost too much astonished to answer; but Mrs. Elton hardly waited for
the affirmative before she went on. "Having understood as much, I was rather
astonished to find her so very lady-like!
But she is really quite the gentlewoman." "Mrs. Weston's manners," said Emma, "were
always particularly good.
Their propriety, simplicity, and elegance, would make them the safest model for any
young woman." "And who do you think came in while we were
there?"
Emma was quite at a loss. The tone implied some old acquaintance--and
how could she possibly guess?
"Knightley!" continued Mrs. Elton; "Knightley himself!--Was not it lucky?--
for, not being within when he called the other day, I had never seen him before; and
of course, as so particular a friend of Mr. E.'s, I had a great curiosity.
'My friend Knightley' had been so often mentioned, that I was really impatient to
see him; and I must do my caro sposo the justice to say that he need not be ashamed
of his friend.
Knightley is quite the gentleman. I like him very much.
Decidedly, I think, a very gentleman-like man."
Happily, it was now time to be gone.
They were off; and Emma could breathe. "Insufferable woman!" was her immediate
exclamation. "Worse than I had supposed.
Absolutely insufferable!
Knightley!--I could not have believed it. Knightley!--never seen him in her life
before, and call him Knightley!--and discover that he is a gentleman!
A little upstart, vulgar being, with her Mr. E., and her caro sposo, and her
resources, and all her airs of pert pretension and underbred finery.
Actually to discover that Mr. Knightley is a gentleman!
I doubt whether he will return the compliment, and discover her to be a lady.
I could not have believed it!
And to propose that she and I should unite to form a musical club!
One would fancy we were bosom friends!
And Mrs. Weston!--Astonished that the person who had brought me up should be a
gentlewoman! Worse and worse.
I never met with her equal.
Much beyond my hopes. Harriet is disgraced by any comparison.
Oh! what would Frank Churchill say to her, if he were here?
How angry and how diverted he would be!
Ah! there I am--thinking of him directly. Always the first person to be thought of!
How I catch myself out! Frank Churchill comes as regularly into my
mind!"--
All this ran so glibly through her thoughts, that by the time her father had
arranged himself, after the bustle of the Eltons' departure, and was ready to speak,
she was very tolerably capable of attending.
"Well, my dear," he deliberately began, "considering we never saw her before, she
seems a very pretty sort of young lady; and I dare say she was very much pleased with
you.
She speaks a little too quick. A little quickness of voice there is which
rather hurts the ear.
But I believe I am nice; I do not like strange voices; and nobody speaks like you
and poor Miss Taylor.
However, she seems a very obliging, pretty- behaved young lady, and no doubt will make
him a very good wife. Though I think he had better not have
married.
I made the best excuses I could for not having been able to wait on him and Mrs.
Elton on this happy occasion; I said that I hoped I should in the course of the
summer.
But I ought to have gone before. Not to wait upon a bride is very remiss.
Ah! it shews what a sad invalid I am! But I do not like the corner into Vicarage
Lane."
"I dare say your apologies were accepted, sir.
Mr. Elton knows you." "Yes: but a young lady--a bride--I ought to
have paid my respects to her if possible.
It was being very deficient." "But, my dear papa, you are no friend to
matrimony; and therefore why should you be so anxious to pay your respects to a
bride?
It ought to be no recommendation to you. It is encouraging people to marry if you
make so much of them."
"No, my dear, I never encouraged any body to marry, but I would always wish to pay
every proper attention to a lady--and a bride, especially, is never to be
neglected.
More is avowedly due to her. A bride, you know, my dear, is always the
first in company, let the others be who they may."
"Well, papa, if this is not encouragement to marry, I do not know what is.
And I should never have expected you to be lending your sanction to such vanity-baits
for poor young ladies."
"My dear, you do not understand me. This is a matter of mere common politeness
and good-breeding, and has nothing to do with any encouragement to people to marry."
Emma had done.
Her father was growing nervous, and could not understand her.
Her mind returned to Mrs. Elton's offences, and long, very long, did they occupy her.
>
VOLUME II
CHAPTER XV
Emma was not required, by any subsequent discovery, to retract her ill opinion of
Mrs. Elton. Her observation had been pretty correct.
Such as Mrs. Elton appeared to her on this second interview, such she appeared
whenever they met again,--self-important, presuming, familiar, ignorant, and ill-
bred.
She had a little beauty and a little accomplishment, but so little judgment that
she thought herself coming with superior knowledge of the world, to enliven and
improve a country neighbourhood; and
conceived Miss Hawkins to have held such a place in society as Mrs. Elton's
consequence only could surpass. There was no reason to suppose Mr. Elton
thought at all differently from his wife.
He seemed not merely happy with her, but proud.
He had the air of congratulating himself on having brought such a woman to Highbury, as
not even Miss Woodhouse could equal; and the greater part of her new acquaintance,
disposed to commend, or not in the habit of
judging, following the lead of Miss Bates's good-will, or taking it for granted that
the bride must be as clever and as agreeable as she professed herself, were
very well satisfied; so that Mrs. Elton's
praise passed from one mouth to another as it ought to do, unimpeded by Miss
Woodhouse, who readily continued her first contribution and talked with a good grace
of her being "very pleasant and very elegantly dressed."
In one respect Mrs. Elton grew even worse than she had appeared at first.
Her feelings altered towards Emma.-- Offended, probably, by the little
encouragement which her proposals of intimacy met with, she drew back in her
turn and gradually became much more cold
and distant; and though the effect was agreeable, the ill-will which produced it
was necessarily increasing Emma's dislike. Her manners, too--and Mr. Elton's, were
unpleasant towards Harriet.
They were sneering and negligent.
Emma hoped it must rapidly work Harriet's cure; but the sensations which could prompt
such behaviour sunk them both very much.-- It was not to be doubted that poor
Harriet's attachment had been an offering
to conjugal unreserve, and her own share in the story, under a colouring the least
favourable to her and the most soothing to him, had in all likelihood been given also.
She was, of course, the object of their joint dislike.--When they had nothing else
to say, it must be always easy to begin abusing Miss Woodhouse; and the enmity
which they dared not shew in open
disrespect to her, found a broader vent in contemptuous treatment of Harriet.
Mrs. Elton took a great fancy to Jane Fairfax; and from the first.
Not merely when a state of warfare with one young lady might be supposed to recommend
the other, but from the very first; and she was not satisfied with expressing a natural
and reasonable admiration--but without
solicitation, or plea, or privilege, she must be wanting to assist and befriend
her.--Before Emma had forfeited her confidence, and about the third time of
their meeting, she heard all Mrs. Elton's knight-errantry on the subject.--
"Jane Fairfax is absolutely charming, Miss Woodhouse.--I quite rave about Jane
Fairfax.--A sweet, interesting creature.
So mild and ladylike--and with such talents!--I assure you I think she has very
extraordinary talents. I do not scruple to say that she plays
extremely well.
I know enough of music to speak decidedly on that point.
Oh! she is absolutely charming!
You will laugh at my warmth--but, upon my word, I talk of nothing but Jane Fairfax.--
And her situation is so calculated to affect one!--Miss Woodhouse, we must exert
ourselves and endeavour to do something for her.
We must bring her forward.
Such talent as hers must not be suffered to remain unknown.--I dare say you have heard
those charming lines of the poet,
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen And waste its fragrance on the desert air.
We must not allow them to be verified in sweet Jane Fairfax."
"I cannot think there is any danger of it," was Emma's calm answer--"and when you are
better acquainted with Miss Fairfax's situation and understand what her home has
been, with Colonel and Mrs. Campbell, I
have no idea that you will suppose her talents can be unknown."
"Oh! but dear Miss Woodhouse, she is now in such retirement, such obscurity, so thrown
away.--Whatever advantages she may have enjoyed with the Campbells are so palpably
at an end!
And I think she feels it. I am sure she does.
She is very timid and silent. One can see that she feels the want of
encouragement.
I like her the better for it. I must confess it is a recommendation to
me.
I am a great advocate for timidity--and I am sure one does not often meet with it.--
But in those who are at all inferior, it is extremely prepossessing.
Oh! I assure you, Jane Fairfax is a very delightful character, and interests me more
than I can express."
"You appear to feel a great deal--but I am not aware how you or any of Miss Fairfax's
acquaintance here, any of those who have known her longer than yourself, can shew
her any other attention than"--
"My dear Miss Woodhouse, a vast deal may be done by those who dare to act.
You and I need not be afraid.
If we set the example, many will follow it as far as they can; though all have not
our situations.
We have carriages to fetch and convey her home, and we live in a style which could
not make the addition of Jane Fairfax, at any time, the least inconvenient.--I should
be extremely displeased if Wright were to
send us up such a dinner, as could make me regret having asked more than Jane
Fairfax to partake of it. I have no idea of that sort of thing.
It is not likely that I should, considering what I have been used to.
My greatest danger, perhaps, in housekeeping, may be quite the other way,
in doing too much, and being too careless of expense.
Maple Grove will probably be my model more than it ought to be--for we do not at all
affect to equal my brother, Mr. Suckling, in income.--However, my resolution is taken
as to noticing Jane Fairfax.--I shall
certainly have her very often at my house, shall introduce her wherever I can, shall
have musical parties to draw out her talents, and shall be constantly on the
watch for an eligible situation.
My acquaintance is so very extensive, that I have little doubt of hearing of something
to suit her shortly.--I shall introduce her, of course, very particularly to my
brother and sister when they come to us.
I am sure they will like her extremely; and when she gets a little acquainted with
them, her fears will completely wear off, for there really is nothing in the manners
of either but what is highly conciliating.-
-I shall have her very often indeed while they are with me, and I dare say we shall
sometimes find a seat for her in the barouche-landau in some of our exploring
parties."
"Poor Jane Fairfax!"--thought Emma.--"You have not deserved this.
You may have done wrong with regard to Mr. Dixon, but this is a punishment beyond what
you can have merited!--The kindness and protection of Mrs. Elton!--'Jane Fairfax
and Jane Fairfax.'
Heavens! Let me not suppose that she dares go about,
Emma Woodhouse-ing me!--But upon my honour, there seems no limits to the licentiousness
of that woman's tongue!"
Emma had not to listen to such paradings again--to any so exclusively addressed to
herself--so disgustingly decorated with a "dear Miss Woodhouse."
The change on Mrs. Elton's side soon afterwards appeared, and she was left in
peace--neither forced to be the very particular friend of Mrs. Elton, nor, under
Mrs. Elton's guidance, the very active
patroness of Jane Fairfax, and only sharing with others in a general way, in knowing
what was felt, what was meditated, what was done.
She looked on with some amusement.--Miss Bates's gratitude for Mrs. Elton's
attentions to Jane was in the first style of guileless simplicity and warmth.
She was quite one of her worthies--the most amiable, affable, delightful woman--just as
accomplished and condescending as Mrs. Elton meant to be considered.
Emma's only surprize was that Jane Fairfax should accept those attentions and tolerate
Mrs. Elton as she seemed to do.
She heard of her walking with the Eltons, sitting with the Eltons, spending a day
with the Eltons!
This was astonishing!--She could not have believed it possible that the taste or the
pride of Miss Fairfax could endure such society and friendship as the Vicarage had
to offer.
"She is a riddle, quite a riddle!" said she.--"To chuse to remain here month after
month, under privations of every sort!
And now to chuse the mortification of Mrs. Elton's notice and the penury of her
conversation, rather than return to the superior companions who have always loved
her with such real, generous affection."
Jane had come to Highbury professedly for three months; the Campbells were gone to
Ireland for three months; but now the Campbells had promised their daughter to
stay at least till Midsummer, and fresh
invitations had arrived for her to join them there.
According to Miss Bates--it all came from her--Mrs. Dixon had written most
pressingly.
Would Jane but go, means were to be found, servants sent, friends contrived--no
travelling difficulty allowed to exist; but still she had declined it!
"She must have some motive, more powerful than appears, for refusing this
invitation," was Emma's conclusion.
"She must be under some sort of penance, inflicted either by the Campbells or
herself.
There is great fear, great caution, great resolution somewhere.--She is not to be
with the Dixons. The decree is issued by somebody.
But why must she consent to be with the Eltons?--Here is quite a separate puzzle."
Upon her speaking her wonder aloud on that part of the subject, before the few who
knew her opinion of Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Weston ventured this apology for Jane.
"We cannot suppose that she has any great enjoyment at the Vicarage, my dear Emma--
but it is better than being always at home. Her aunt is a good creature, but, as a
constant companion, must be very tiresome.
We must consider what Miss Fairfax quits, before we condemn her taste for what she
goes to."
"You are right, Mrs. Weston," said Mr. Knightley warmly, "Miss Fairfax is as
capable as any of us of forming a just opinion of Mrs. Elton.
Could she have chosen with whom to associate, she would not have chosen her.
But (with a reproachful smile at Emma) she receives attentions from Mrs. Elton, which
nobody else pays her."
Emma felt that Mrs. Weston was giving her a momentary glance; and she was herself
struck by his warmth. With a faint blush, she presently replied,
"Such attentions as Mrs. Elton's, I should have imagined, would rather disgust than
gratify Miss Fairfax. Mrs. Elton's invitations I should have
imagined any thing but inviting."
"I should not wonder," said Mrs. Weston, "if Miss Fairfax were to have been drawn on
beyond her own inclination, by her aunt's eagerness in accepting Mrs. Elton's
civilities for her.
Poor Miss Bates may very likely have committed her niece and hurried her into a
greater appearance of intimacy than her own good sense would have dictated, in spite of
the very natural wish of a little change."
Both felt rather anxious to hear him speak again; and after a few minutes silence, he
said,
"Another thing must be taken into consideration too--Mrs. Elton does not talk
to Miss Fairfax as she speaks of her.
We all know the difference between the pronouns he or she and thou, the plainest
spoken amongst us; we all feel the influence of a something beyond common
civility in our personal intercourse with
each other--a something more early implanted.
We cannot give any body the disagreeable hints that we may have been very full of
the hour before.
We feel things differently.
And besides the operation of this, as a general principle, you may be sure that
Miss Fairfax awes Mrs. Elton by her superiority both of mind and manner; and
that, face to face, Mrs. Elton treats her
with all the respect which she has a claim to.
Such a woman as Jane Fairfax probably never fell in Mrs. Elton's way before--and no
degree of vanity can prevent her acknowledging her own comparative
littleness in action, if not in consciousness."
"I know how highly you think of Jane Fairfax," said Emma.
Little Henry was in her thoughts, and a mixture of alarm and delicacy made her
irresolute what else to say. "Yes," he replied, "any body may know how
highly I think of her."
"And yet," said Emma, beginning hastily and with an arch look, but soon stopping--it
was better, however, to know the worst at once--she hurried on--"And yet, perhaps,
you may hardly be aware yourself how highly it is.
The extent of your admiration may take you by surprize some day or other."
Mr. Knightley was hard at work upon the lower buttons of his thick leather gaiters,
and either the exertion of getting them together, or some other cause, brought the
colour into his face, as he answered,
"Oh! are you there?--But you are miserably behindhand.
Mr. Cole gave me a hint of it six weeks ago."
He stopped.--Emma felt her foot pressed by Mrs. Weston, and did not herself know what
to think. In a moment he went on--
"That will never be, however, I can assure you.
Miss Fairfax, I dare say, would not have me if I were to ask her--and I am very sure I
shall never ask her."
Emma returned her friend's pressure with interest; and was pleased enough to
exclaim, "You are not vain, Mr. Knightley.
I will say that for you."
He seemed hardly to hear her; he was thoughtful--and in a manner which shewed
him not pleased, soon afterwards said, "So you have been settling that I should
marry Jane Fairfax?"
"No indeed I have not. You have scolded me too much for match-
making, for me to presume to take such a liberty with you.
What I said just now, meant nothing.
One says those sort of things, of course, without any idea of a serious meaning.
Oh! no, upon my word I have not the smallest wish for your marrying Jane
Fairfax or Jane any body.
You would not come in and sit with us in this comfortable way, if you were married."
Mr. Knightley was thoughtful again.
The result of his reverie was, "No, Emma, I do not think the extent of my admiration
for her will ever take me by surprize.--I never had a thought of her in that way, I
assure you."
And soon afterwards, "Jane Fairfax is a very charming young woman--but not even
Jane Fairfax is perfect. She has a fault.
She has not the open temper which a man would wish for in a wife."
Emma could not but rejoice to hear that she had a fault.
"Well," said she, "and you soon silenced Mr. Cole, I suppose?"
"Yes, very soon.
He gave me a quiet hint; I told him he was mistaken; he asked my pardon and said no
more. Cole does not want to be wiser or wittier
than his neighbours."
"In that respect how unlike dear Mrs. Elton, who wants to be wiser and wittier
than all the world! I wonder how she speaks of the Coles--what
she calls them!
How can she find any appellation for them, deep enough in familiar vulgarity?
She calls you, Knightley--what can she do for Mr. Cole?
And so I am not to be surprized that Jane Fairfax accepts her civilities and consents
to be with her. Mrs. Weston, your argument weighs most with
me.
I can much more readily enter into the temptation of getting away from Miss Bates,
than I can believe in the triumph of Miss Fairfax's mind over Mrs. Elton.
I have no faith in Mrs. Elton's acknowledging herself the inferior in
thought, word, or deed; or in her being under any restraint beyond her own scanty
rule of good-breeding.
I cannot imagine that she will not be continually insulting her visitor with
praise, encouragement, and offers of service; that she will not be continually
detailing her magnificent intentions, from
the procuring her a permanent situation to the including her in those delightful
exploring parties which are to take place in the barouche-landau."
"Jane Fairfax has feeling," said Mr. Knightley--"I do not accuse her of want of
feeling.
Her sensibilities, I suspect, are strong-- and her temper excellent in its power of
forbearance, patience, self-control; but it wants openness.
She is reserved, more reserved, I think, than she used to be--And I love an open
temper. No--till Cole alluded to my supposed
attachment, it had never entered my head.
I saw Jane Fairfax and conversed with her, with admiration and pleasure always--but
with no thought beyond."
"Well, Mrs. Weston," said Emma triumphantly when he left them, "what do you say now to
Mr. Knightley's marrying Jane Fairfax?"
"Why, really, dear Emma, I say that he is so very much occupied by the idea of not
being in love with her, that I should not wonder if it were to end in his being so at
last.
Do not beat me."
>
VOLUME II
CHAPTER XVI
Every body in and about Highbury who had ever visited Mr. Elton, was disposed to pay
him attention on his marriage.
Dinner-parties and evening-parties were made for him and his lady; and invitations
flowed in so fast that she had soon the pleasure of apprehending they were never to
have a disengaged day.
"I see how it is," said she. "I see what a life I am to lead among you.
Upon my word we shall be absolutely dissipated.
We really seem quite the fashion.
If this is living in the country, it is nothing very formidable.
From Monday next to Saturday, I assure you we have not a disengaged day!--A woman with
fewer resources than I have, need not have been at a loss."
No invitation came amiss to her.
Her Bath habits made evening-parties perfectly natural to her, and Maple Grove
had given her a taste for dinners.
She was a little shocked at the want of two drawing rooms, at the poor attempt at rout-
cakes, and there being no ice in the Highbury card-parties.
Mrs. Bates, Mrs. Perry, Mrs. Goddard and others, were a good deal behind-hand in
knowledge of the world, but she would soon shew them how every thing ought to be
arranged.
In the course of the spring she must return their civilities by one very superior
party--in which her card-tables should be set out with their separate candles and
unbroken packs in the true style--and more
waiters engaged for the evening than their own establishment could furnish, to carry
round the refreshments at exactly the proper hour, and in the proper order.
Emma, in the meanwhile, could not be satisfied without a dinner at Hartfield for
the Eltons.
They must not do less than others, or she should be exposed to odious suspicions, and
imagined capable of pitiful resentment. A dinner there must be.
After Emma had talked about it for ten minutes, Mr. Woodhouse felt no
unwillingness, and only made the usual stipulation of not sitting at the bottom of
the table himself, with the usual regular
difficulty of deciding who should do it for him.
The persons to be invited, required little thought.
Besides the Eltons, it must be the Westons and Mr. Knightley; so far it was all of
course--and it was hardly less inevitable that poor little Harriet must be asked to
make the eighth:--but this invitation was
not given with equal satisfaction, and on many accounts Emma was particularly pleased
by Harriet's begging to be allowed to decline it.
"She would rather not be in his company more than she could help.
She was not yet quite able to see him and his charming happy wife together, without
feeling uncomfortable.
If Miss Woodhouse would not be displeased, she would rather stay at home."
It was precisely what Emma would have wished, had she deemed it possible enough
for wishing.
She was delighted with the fortitude of her little friend--for fortitude she knew it
was in her to give up being in company and stay at home; and she could now invite the
very person whom she really wanted to make
the eighth, Jane Fairfax.-- Since her last conversation with Mrs. Weston and Mr.
Knightley, she was more conscience-stricken about Jane Fairfax than she had often
been.--Mr. Knightley's words dwelt with her.
He had said that Jane Fairfax received attentions from Mrs. Elton which nobody
else paid her.
"This is very true," said she, "at least as far as relates to me, which was all that
was meant--and it is very shameful.--Of the same age--and always knowing her--I ought
to have been more her friend.--She will never like me now.
I have neglected her too long. But I will shew her greater attention than
I have done."
Every invitation was successful. They were all disengaged and all happy.--
The preparatory interest of this dinner, however, was not yet over.
A circumstance rather unlucky occurred.
The two eldest little Knightleys were engaged to pay their grandpapa and aunt a
visit of some weeks in the spring, and their papa now proposed bringing them, and
staying one whole day at Hartfield--which
one day would be the very day of this party.--His professional engagements did
not allow of his being put off, but both father and daughter were disturbed by its
happening so.
Mr. Woodhouse considered eight persons at dinner together as the utmost that his
nerves could bear--and here would be a ninth--and Emma apprehended that it would
be a ninth very much out of humour at not
being able to come even to Hartfield for forty-eight hours without falling in with a
dinner-party.
She comforted her father better than she could comfort herself, by representing that
though he certainly would make them nine, yet he always said so little, that the
increase of noise would be very immaterial.
She thought it in reality a sad exchange for herself, to have him with his grave
looks and reluctant conversation opposed to her instead of his brother.
The event was more favourable to Mr. Woodhouse than to Emma.
John Knightley came; but Mr. Weston was unexpectedly summoned to town and must be
absent on the very day.
He might be able to join them in the evening, but certainly not to dinner.
Mr. Woodhouse was quite at ease; and the seeing him so, with the arrival of the
little boys and the philosophic composure of her brother on hearing his fate, removed
the chief of even Emma's vexation.
The day came, the party were punctually assembled, and Mr. John Knightley seemed
early to devote himself to the business of being agreeable.
Instead of drawing his brother off to a window while they waited for dinner, he was
talking to Miss Fairfax.
Mrs. Elton, as elegant as lace and pearls could make her, he looked at in silence--
wanting only to observe enough for Isabella's information--but Miss Fairfax
was an old acquaintance and a quiet girl, and he could talk to her.
He had met her before breakfast as he was returning from a walk with his little boys,
when it had been just beginning to rain.
It was natural to have some civil hopes on the subject, and he said,
"I hope you did not venture far, Miss Fairfax, this morning, or I am sure you
must have been wet.--We scarcely got home in time.
I hope you turned directly."
"I went only to the post-office," said she, "and reached home before the rain was much.
It is my daily errand. I always fetch the letters when I am here.
It saves trouble, and is a something to get me out.
A walk before breakfast does me good." "Not a walk in the rain, I should imagine."
"No, but it did not absolutely rain when I set out."
Mr. John Knightley smiled, and replied,
"That is to say, you chose to have your walk, for you were not six yards from your
own door when I had the pleasure of meeting you; and Henry and John had seen more drops
than they could count long before.
The post-office has a great charm at one period of our lives.
When you have lived to my age, you will begin to think letters are never worth
going through the rain for."
There was a little blush, and then this answer,
"I must not hope to be ever situated as you are, in the midst of every dearest
connexion, and therefore I cannot expect that simply growing older should make me
indifferent about letters."
"Indifferent! Oh! no--I never conceived you could become
indifferent. Letters are no matter of indifference; they
are generally a very positive curse."
"You are speaking of letters of business; mine are letters of friendship."
"I have often thought them the worst of the two," replied he coolly.
"Business, you know, may bring money, but friendship hardly ever does."
"Ah! you are not serious now.
I know Mr. John Knightley too well--I am very sure he understands the value of
friendship as well as any body.
I can easily believe that letters are very little to you, much less than to me, but it
is not your being ten years older than myself which makes the difference, it is
not age, but situation.
You have every body dearest to you always at hand, I, probably, never shall again;
and therefore till I have outlived all my affections, a post-office, I think, must
always have power to draw me out, in worse weather than to-day."
"When I talked of your being altered by time, by the progress of years," said John
Knightley, "I meant to imply the change of situation which time usually brings.
I consider one as including the other.
Time will generally lessen the interest of every attachment not within the daily
circle--but that is not the change I had in view for you.
As an old friend, you will allow me to hope, Miss Fairfax, that ten years hence
you may have as many concentrated objects as I have."
It was kindly said, and very far from giving offence.
A pleasant "thank you" seemed meant to laugh it off, but a blush, a quivering lip,
a tear in the eye, shewed that it was felt beyond a laugh.
Her attention was now claimed by Mr. Woodhouse, who being, according to his
custom on such occasions, making the circle of his guests, and paying his particular
compliments to the ladies, was ending with
her--and with all his mildest urbanity, said,
"I am very sorry to hear, Miss Fairfax, of your being out this morning in the rain.
Young ladies should take care of themselves.--Young ladies are delicate
plants. They should take care of their health and
their complexion.
My dear, did you change your stockings?" "Yes, sir, I did indeed; and I am very much
obliged by your kind solicitude about me."
"My dear Miss Fairfax, young ladies are very sure to be cared for.--I hope your
good grand-mama and aunt are well. They are some of my very old friends.
I wish my health allowed me to be a better neighbour.
You do us a great deal of honour to-day, I am sure.
My daughter and I are both highly sensible of your goodness, and have the greatest
satisfaction in seeing you at Hartfield."
The kind-hearted, polite old man might then sit down and feel that he had done his
duty, and made every fair lady welcome and easy.
By this time, the walk in the rain had reached Mrs. Elton, and her remonstrances
now opened upon Jane.
"My dear Jane, what is this I hear?--Going to the post-office in the rain!--This must
not be, I assure you.--You sad girl, how could you do such a thing?--It is a sign I
was not there to take care of you."
Jane very patiently assured her that she had not caught any cold.
"Oh! do not tell me.
You really are a very sad girl, and do not know how to take care of yourself.--To the
post-office indeed! Mrs. Weston, did you ever hear the like?
You and I must positively exert our authority."
"My advice," said Mrs. Weston kindly and persuasively, "I certainly do feel tempted
to give.
Miss Fairfax, you must not run such risks.- -Liable as you have been to severe colds,
indeed you ought to be particularly careful, especially at this time of year.
The spring I always think requires more than common care.
Better wait an hour or two, or even half a day for your letters, than run the risk of
bringing on your cough again.
Now do not you feel that you had? Yes, I am sure you are much too reasonable.
You look as if you would not do such a thing again."
"Oh! she shall not do such a thing again," eagerly rejoined Mrs. Elton.
"We will not allow her to do such a thing again:"--and nodding significantly--"there
must be some arrangement made, there must indeed.
I shall speak to Mr. E.
The man who fetches our letters every morning (one of our men, I forget his name)
shall inquire for yours too and bring them to you.
That will obviate all difficulties you know; and from us I really think, my dear
Jane, you can have no scruple to accept such an accommodation."
"You are extremely kind," said Jane; "but I cannot give up my early walk.
I am advised to be out of doors as much as I can, I must walk somewhere, and the post-
office is an object; and upon my word, I have scarcely ever had a bad morning
before."
"My dear Jane, say no more about it. The thing is determined, that is (laughing
affectedly) as far as I can presume to determine any thing without the concurrence
of my lord and master.
You know, Mrs. Weston, you and I must be cautious how we express ourselves.
But I do flatter myself, my dear Jane, that my influence is not entirely worn out.
If I meet with no insuperable difficulties therefore, consider that point as settled."
"Excuse me," said Jane earnestly, "I cannot by any means consent to such an
arrangement, so needlessly troublesome to your servant.
If the errand were not a pleasure to me, it could be done, as it always is when I am
not here, by my grandmama's."
"Oh! my dear; but so much as Patty has to do!--And it is a kindness to employ our
men."
Jane looked as if she did not mean to be conquered; but instead of answering, she
began speaking again to Mr. John Knightley.
"The post-office is a wonderful establishment!" said she.--"The regularity
and despatch of it!
If one thinks of all that it has to do, and all that it does so well, it is really
astonishing!" "It is certainly very well regulated."
"So seldom that any negligence or blunder appears!
So seldom that a letter, among the thousands that are constantly passing about
the kingdom, is even carried wrong--and not one in a million, I suppose, actually lost!
And when one considers the variety of hands, and of bad hands too, that are to be
deciphered, it increases the wonder."
"The clerks grow expert from habit.--They must begin with some quickness of sight and
hand, and exercise improves them.
If you want any farther explanation," continued he, smiling, "they are paid for
it. That is the key to a great deal of
capacity.
The public pays and must be served well." The varieties of handwriting were farther
talked of, and the usual observations made.
"I have heard it asserted," said John Knightley, "that the same sort of
handwriting often prevails in a family; and where the same master teaches, it is
natural enough.
But for that reason, I should imagine the likeness must be chiefly confined to the
females, for boys have very little teaching after an early age, and scramble into any
hand they can get.
Isabella and Emma, I think, do write very much alike.
I have not always known their writing apart."
"Yes," said his brother hesitatingly, "there is a likeness.
I know what you mean--but Emma's hand is the strongest."
"Isabella and Emma both write beautifully," said Mr. Woodhouse; "and always did.
And so does poor Mrs. Weston"--with half a sigh and half a smile at her.
"I never saw any gentleman's handwriting"-- Emma began, looking also at Mrs. Weston;
but stopped, on perceiving that Mrs. Weston was attending to some one else--and the
pause gave her time to reflect, "Now, how
am I going to introduce him?--Am I unequal to speaking his name at once before all
these people?
Is it necessary for me to use any roundabout phrase?--Your Yorkshire friend--
your correspondent in Yorkshire;--that would be the way, I suppose, if I were very
bad.--No, I can pronounce his name without the smallest distress.
I certainly get better and better.--Now for it."
Mrs. Weston was disengaged and Emma began again--"Mr. Frank Churchill writes one of
the best gentleman's hands I ever saw." "I do not admire it," said Mr. Knightley.
"It is too small--wants strength.
It is like a woman's writing." This was not submitted to by either lady.
They vindicated him against the base aspersion.
"No, it by no means wanted strength--it was not a large hand, but very clear and
certainly strong. Had not Mrs. Weston any letter about her to
produce?"
No, she had heard from him very lately, but having answered the letter, had put it
away.
"If we were in the other room," said Emma, "if I had my writing-desk, I am sure I
could produce a specimen.
I have a note of his.--Do not you remember, Mrs. Weston, employing him to write for you
one day?" "He chose to say he was employed"--
"Well, well, I have that note; and can shew it after dinner to convince Mr. Knightley."
"Oh! when a gallant young man, like Mr. Frank Churchill," said Mr. Knightley dryly,
"writes to a fair lady like Miss Woodhouse, he will, of course, put forth his best."
Dinner was on table.--Mrs. Elton, before she could be spoken to, was ready; and
before Mr. Woodhouse had reached her with his request to be allowed to hand her into
the dining-parlour, was saying--
"Must I go first? I really am ashamed of always leading the
way." Jane's solicitude about fetching her own
letters had not escaped Emma.
She had heard and seen it all; and felt some curiosity to know whether the wet walk
of this morning had produced any.
She suspected that it had; that it would not have been so resolutely encountered but
in full expectation of hearing from some one very dear, and that it had not been in
vain.
She thought there was an air of greater happiness than usual--a glow both of
complexion and spirits.
She could have made an inquiry or two, as to the expedition and the expense of the
Irish mails;--it was at her tongue's end-- but she abstained.
She was quite determined not to utter a word that should hurt Jane Fairfax's
feelings; and they followed the other ladies out of the room, arm in arm, with an
appearance of good-will highly becoming to the beauty and grace of each.
>
VOLUME II
CHAPTER XVII
When the ladies returned to the drawing- room after dinner, Emma found it hardly
possible to prevent their making two distinct parties;--with so much
perseverance in judging and behaving ill
did Mrs. Elton engross Jane Fairfax and slight herself.
She and Mrs. Weston were obliged to be almost always either talking together or
silent together.
Mrs. Elton left them no choice.
If Jane repressed her for a little time, she soon began again; and though much that
passed between them was in a half-whisper, especially on Mrs. Elton's side, there was
no avoiding a knowledge of their principal
subjects: The post-office--catching cold-- fetching letters--and friendship, were long
under discussion; and to them succeeded one, which must be at least equally
unpleasant to Jane--inquiries whether she
had yet heard of any situation likely to suit her, and professions of Mrs. Elton's
meditated activity. "Here is April come!" said she, "I get
quite anxious about you.
June will soon be here." "But I have never fixed on June or any
other month--merely looked forward to the summer in general."
"But have you really heard of nothing?"
"I have not even made any inquiry; I do not wish to make any yet."
"Oh! my dear, we cannot begin too early; you are not aware of the difficulty of
procuring exactly the desirable thing."
"I not aware!" said Jane, shaking her head; "dear Mrs. Elton, who can have thought of
it as I have done?" "But you have not seen so much of the world
as I have.
You do not know how many candidates there always are for the first situations.
I saw a vast deal of that in the neighbourhood round Maple Grove.
A cousin of Mr. Suckling, Mrs. Bragge, had such an infinity of applications; every
body was anxious to be in her family, for she moves in the first circle.
Wax-candles in the schoolroom!
You may imagine how desirable! Of all houses in the kingdom Mrs. Bragge's
is the one I would most wish to see you in."
"Colonel and Mrs. Campbell are to be in town again by midsummer," said Jane.
"I must spend some time with them; I am sure they will want it;--afterwards I may
probably be glad to dispose of myself.
But I would not wish you to take the trouble of making any inquiries at
present." "Trouble! aye, I know your scruples.
You are afraid of giving me trouble; but I assure you, my dear Jane, the Campbells can
hardly be more interested about you than I am.
I shall write to Mrs. Partridge in a day or two, and shall give her a strict charge to
be on the look-out for any thing eligible."
"Thank you, but I would rather you did not mention the subject to her; till the time
draws nearer, I do not wish to be giving any body trouble."
"But, my dear child, the time is drawing near; here is April, and June, or say even
July, is very near, with such business to accomplish before us.
Your inexperience really amuses me!
A situation such as you deserve, and your friends would require for you, is no
everyday occurrence, is not obtained at a moment's notice; indeed, indeed, we must
begin inquiring directly."
"Excuse me, ma'am, but this is by no means my intention; I make no inquiry myself, and
should be sorry to have any made by my friends.
When I am quite determined as to the time, I am not at all afraid of being long
unemployed.
There are places in town, offices, where inquiry would soon produce something--
Offices for the sale--not quite of human flesh--but of human intellect."
"Oh! my dear, human flesh!
You quite shock me; if you mean a fling at the slave-trade, I assure you Mr. Suckling
was always rather a friend to the abolition."
"I did not mean, I was not thinking of the slave-trade," replied Jane; "governess-
trade, I assure you, was all that I had in view; widely different certainly as to the
guilt of those who carry it on; but as to
the greater misery of the victims, I do not know where it lies.
But I only mean to say that there are advertising offices, and that by applying
to them I should have no doubt of very soon meeting with something that would do."
"Something that would do!" repeated Mrs. Elton.
"Aye, that may suit your humble ideas of yourself;--I know what a modest creature
you are; but it will not satisfy your friends to have you taking up with any
thing that may offer, any inferior,
commonplace situation, in a family not moving in a certain circle, or able to
command the elegancies of life."
"You are very obliging; but as to all that, I am very indifferent; it would be no
object to me to be with the rich; my mortifications, I think, would only be the
greater; I should suffer more from comparison.
A gentleman's family is all that I should condition for."
"I know you, I know you; you would take up with any thing; but I shall be a little
more nice, and I am sure the good Campbells will be quite on my side; with your
superior talents, you have a right to move in the first circle.
Your musical knowledge alone would entitle you to name your own terms, have as many
rooms as you like, and mix in the family as much as you chose;--that is--I do not know-
-if you knew the harp, you might do all
that, I am very sure; but you sing as well as play;--yes, I really believe you might,
even without the harp, stipulate for what you chose;--and you must and shall be
delightfully, honourably and comfortably
settled before the Campbells or I have any rest."
"You may well class the delight, the honour, and the comfort of such a situation
together," said Jane, "they are pretty sure to be equal; however, I am very serious in
not wishing any thing to be attempted at present for me.
I am exceedingly obliged to you, Mrs. Elton, I am obliged to any body who feels
for me, but I am quite serious in wishing nothing to be done till the summer.
For two or three months longer I shall remain where I am, and as I am."
"And I am quite serious too, I assure you," replied Mrs. Elton gaily, "in resolving to
be always on the watch, and employing my friends to watch also, that nothing really
unexceptionable may pass us."
In this style she ran on; never thoroughly stopped by any thing till Mr. Woodhouse
came into the room; her vanity had then a change of object, and Emma heard her saying
in the same half-whisper to Jane,
"Here comes this dear old beau of mine, I protest!--Only think of his gallantry in
coming away before the other men!--what a dear creature he is;--I assure you I like
him excessively.
I admire all that quaint, old-fashioned politeness; it is much more to my taste
than modern ease; modern ease often disgusts me.
But this good old Mr. Woodhouse, I wish you had heard his gallant speeches to me at
dinner. Oh! I assure you I began to think my caro
sposo would be absolutely jealous.
I fancy I am rather a favourite; he took notice of my gown.
How do you like it?--Selina's choice-- handsome, I think, but I do not know
whether it is not over-trimmed; I have the greatest dislike to the idea of being over-
trimmed--quite a horror of finery.
I must put on a few ornaments now, because it is expected of me.
A bride, you know, must appear like a bride, but my natural taste is all for
simplicity; a simple style of dress is so infinitely preferable to finery.
But I am quite in the minority, I believe; few people seem to value simplicity of
dress,--show and finery are every thing.
I have some notion of putting such a trimming as this to my white and silver
poplin. Do you think it will look well?"
The whole party were but just reassembled in the drawing-room when Mr. Weston made
his appearance among them. He had returned to a late dinner, and
walked to Hartfield as soon as it was over.
He had been too much expected by the best judges, for surprize--but there was great
joy.
Mr. Woodhouse was almost as glad to see him now, as he would have been sorry to see him
before.
John Knightley only was in mute astonishment.--That a man who might have
spent his evening quietly at home after a day of business in London, should set off
again, and walk half a mile to another
man's house, for the sake of being in mixed company till bed-time, of finishing his day
in the efforts of civility and the noise of numbers, was a circumstance to strike him
deeply.
A man who had been in motion since eight o'clock in the morning, and might now have
been still, who had been long talking, and might have been silent, who had been in
more than one crowd, and might have been
alone!--Such a man, to quit the tranquillity and independence of his own
fireside, and on the evening of a cold sleety April day rush out again into the
world!--Could he by a touch of his finger
have instantly taken back his wife, there would have been a motive; but his coming
would probably prolong rather than break up the party.
John Knightley looked at him with amazement, then shrugged his shoulders, and
said, "I could not have believed it even of him."
Mr. Weston meanwhile, perfectly unsuspicious of the indignation he was
exciting, happy and cheerful as usual, and with all the right of being principal
talker, which a day spent anywhere from
home confers, was making himself agreeable among the rest; and having satisfied the
inquiries of his wife as to his dinner, convincing her that none of all her careful
directions to the servants had been
forgotten, and spread abroad what public news he had heard, was proceeding to a
family communication, which, though principally addressed to Mrs. Weston, he
had not the smallest doubt of being highly interesting to every body in the room.
He gave her a letter, it was from Frank, and to herself; he had met with it in his
way, and had taken the liberty of opening it.
"Read it, read it," said he, "it will give you pleasure; only a few lines--will not
take you long; read it to Emma."
The two ladies looked over it together; and he sat smiling and talking to them the
whole time, in a voice a little subdued, but very audible to every body.
"Well, he is coming, you see; good news, I think.
Well, what do you say to it?--I always told you he would be here again soon, did not
I?--Anne, my dear, did not I always tell you so, and you would not believe me?--In
town next week, you see--at the latest, I
dare say; for she is as impatient as the black gentleman when any thing is to be
done; most likely they will be there to- morrow or Saturday.
As to her illness, all nothing of course.
But it is an excellent thing to have Frank among us again, so near as town.
They will stay a good while when they do come, and he will be half his time with us.
This is precisely what I wanted.
Well, pretty good news, is not it? Have you finished it?
Has Emma read it all?
Put it up, put it up; we will have a good talk about it some other time, but it will
not do now. I shall only just mention the circumstance
to the others in a common way."
Mrs. Weston was most comfortably pleased on the occasion.
Her looks and words had nothing to restrain them.
She was happy, she knew she was happy, and knew she ought to be happy.
Her congratulations were warm and open; but Emma could not speak so fluently.
She was a little occupied in weighing her own feelings, and trying to understand the
degree of her agitation, which she rather thought was considerable.
Mr. Weston, however, too eager to be very observant, too communicative to want others
to talk, was very well satisfied with what she did say, and soon moved away to make
the rest of his friends happy by a partial
communication of what the whole room must have overheard already.
It was well that he took every body's joy for granted, or he might not have thought
either Mr. Woodhouse or Mr. Knightley particularly delighted.
They were the first entitled, after Mrs. Weston and Emma, to be made happy;--from
them he would have proceeded to Miss Fairfax, but she was so deep in
conversation with John Knightley, that it
would have been too positive an interruption; and finding himself close to
Mrs. Elton, and her attention disengaged, he necessarily began on the subject with
her.
>
VOLUME II
CHAPTER XVIII
"I hope I shall soon have the pleasure of introducing my son to you," said Mr.
Weston.
Mrs. Elton, very willing to suppose a particular compliment intended her by such
a hope, smiled most graciously.
"You have heard of a certain Frank Churchill, I presume," he continued--"and
know him to be my son, though he does not bear my name."
"Oh! yes, and I shall be very happy in his acquaintance.
I am sure Mr. Elton will lose no time in calling on him; and we shall both have
great pleasure in seeing him at the Vicarage."
"You are very obliging.--Frank will be extremely happy, I am sure.-- He is to be
in town next week, if not sooner. We have notice of it in a letter to-day.
I met the letters in my way this morning, and seeing my son's hand, presumed to open
it--though it was not directed to me--it was to Mrs. Weston.
She is his principal correspondent, I assure you.
I hardly ever get a letter." "And so you absolutely opened what was
directed to her!
Oh! Mr. Weston--(laughing affectedly) I must protest against that.--A most
dangerous precedent indeed!--I beg you will not let your neighbours follow your
example.--Upon my word, if this is what I
am to expect, we married women must begin to exert ourselves!--Oh! Mr. Weston, I
could not have believed it of you!" "Aye, we men are sad fellows.
You must take care of yourself, Mrs. Elton.--This letter tells us--it is a short
letter--written in a hurry, merely to give us notice--it tells us that they are all
coming up to town directly, on Mrs.
Churchill's account--she has not been well the whole winter, and thinks Enscombe too
cold for her--so they are all to move southward without loss of time."
"Indeed!--from Yorkshire, I think.
Enscombe is in Yorkshire?" "Yes, they are about one hundred and ninety
miles from London, a considerable journey." "Yes, upon my word, very considerable.
Sixty-five miles farther than from Maple Grove to London.
But what is distance, Mr. Weston, to people of large fortune?--You would be amazed to
hear how my brother, Mr. Suckling, sometimes flies about.
You will hardly believe me--but twice in one week he and Mr. Bragge went to London
and back again with four horses."
"The evil of the distance from Enscombe," said Mr. Weston, "is, that Mrs. Churchill,
as we understand, has not been able to leave the sofa for a week together.
In Frank's last letter she complained, he said, of being too weak to get into her
conservatory without having both his arm and his uncle's!
This, you know, speaks a great degree of weakness--but now she is so impatient to be
in town, that she means to sleep only two nights on the road.--So Frank writes word.
Certainly, delicate ladies have very extraordinary constitutions, Mrs. Elton.
You must grant me that." "No, indeed, I shall grant you nothing.
I always take the part of my own sex.
I do indeed. I give you notice--You will find me a
formidable antagonist on that point.
I always stand up for women--and I assure you, if you knew how Selina feels with
respect to sleeping at an inn, you would not wonder at Mrs. Churchill's making
incredible exertions to avoid it.
Selina says it is quite horror to her--and I believe I have caught a little of her
nicety. She always travels with her own sheets; an
excellent precaution.
Does Mrs. Churchill do the same?" "Depend upon it, Mrs. Churchill does every
thing that any other fine lady ever did. Mrs. Churchill will not be second to any
lady in the land for"--
Mrs. Elton eagerly interposed with, "Oh! Mr. Weston, do not mistake me.
Selina is no fine lady, I assure you. Do not run away with such an idea."
"Is not she?
Then she is no rule for Mrs. Churchill, who is as thorough a fine lady as any body ever
beheld." Mrs. Elton began to think she had been
wrong in disclaiming so warmly.
It was by no means her object to have it believed that her sister was not a fine
lady; perhaps there was want of spirit in the pretence of it;--and she was
considering in what way she had best retract, when Mr. Weston went on.
"Mrs. Churchill is not much in my good graces, as you may suspect--but this is
quite between ourselves.
She is very fond of Frank, and therefore I would not speak ill of her.
Besides, she is out of health now; but that indeed, by her own account, she has
always been.
I would not say so to every body, Mrs. Elton, but I have not much faith in Mrs.
Churchill's illness." "If she is really ill, why not go to Bath,
Mr. Weston?--To Bath, or to Clifton?"
"She has taken it into her head that Enscombe is too cold for her.
The fact is, I suppose, that she is tired of Enscombe.
She has now been a longer time stationary there, than she ever was before, and she
begins to want change. It is a retired place.
A fine place, but very retired."
"Aye--like Maple Grove, I dare say. Nothing can stand more retired from the
road than Maple Grove. Such an immense plantation all round it!
You seem shut out from every thing--in the most complete retirement.--And Mrs.
Churchill probably has not health or spirits like Selina to enjoy that sort of
seclusion.
Or, perhaps she may not have resources enough in herself to be qualified for a
country life.
I always say a woman cannot have too many resources--and I feel very thankful that I
have so many myself as to be quite independent of society."
"Frank was here in February for a fortnight."
"So I remember to have heard.
He will find an addition to the society of Highbury when he comes again; that is,
if I may presume to call myself an addition.
But perhaps he may never have heard of there being such a creature in the world."
This was too loud a call for a compliment to be passed by, and Mr. Weston, with a
very good grace, immediately exclaimed,
"My dear madam! Nobody but yourself could imagine such a
thing possible.
Not heard of you!--I believe Mrs. Weston's letters lately have been full of very
little else than Mrs. Elton." He had done his duty and could return to
his son.
"When Frank left us," continued he, "it was quite uncertain when we might see him
again, which makes this day's news doubly welcome.
It has been completely unexpected.
That is, I always had a strong persuasion he would be here again soon, I was sure
something favourable would turn up--but nobody believed me.
He and Mrs. Weston were both dreadfully desponding.
'How could he contrive to come?
And how could it be supposed that his uncle and aunt would spare him again?' and so
forth--I always felt that something would happen in our favour; and so it has, you
see.
I have observed, Mrs. Elton, in the course of my life, that if things are going
untowardly one month, they are sure to mend the next."
"Very true, Mr. Weston, perfectly true.
It is just what I used to say to a certain gentleman in company in the days of
courtship, when, because things did not go quite right, did not proceed with all the
rapidity which suited his feelings, he was
apt to be in despair, and exclaim that he was sure at this rate it would be May
before Hymen's saffron robe would be put on for us.
Oh! the pains I have been at to dispel those gloomy ideas and give him cheerfuller
views!
The carriage--we had disappointments about the carriage;--one morning, I remember, he
came to me quite in despair."
She was stopped by a slight fit of coughing, and Mr. Weston instantly seized
the opportunity of going on. "You were mentioning May.
May is the very month which Mrs. Churchill is ordered, or has ordered herself, to
spend in some warmer place than Enscombe-- in short, to spend in London; so that we
have the agreeable prospect of frequent
visits from Frank the whole spring-- precisely the season of the year which one
should have chosen for it: days almost at the longest; weather genial and pleasant,
always inviting one out, and never too hot for exercise.
When he was here before, we made the best of it; but there was a good deal of wet,
damp, cheerless weather; there always is in February, you know, and we could not do
half that we intended.
Now will be the time.
This will be complete enjoyment; and I do not know, Mrs. Elton, whether the
uncertainty of our meetings, the sort of constant expectation there will be of his
coming in to-day or to-morrow, and at any
hour, may not be more friendly to happiness than having him actually in the house.
I think it is so. I think it is the state of mind which gives
most spirit and delight.
I hope you will be pleased with my son; but you must not expect a prodigy.
He is generally thought a fine young man, but do not expect a prodigy.
Mrs. Weston's partiality for him is very great, and, as you may suppose, most
gratifying to me. She thinks nobody equal to him."
"And I assure you, Mr. Weston, I have very little doubt that my opinion will be
decidedly in his favour.
I have heard so much in praise of Mr. Frank Churchill.--At the same time it is fair to
observe, that I am one of those who always judge for themselves, and are by no means
implicitly guided by others.
I give you notice that as I find your son, so I shall judge of him.--I am no
flatterer." Mr. Weston was musing.
"I hope," said he presently, "I have not been severe upon poor Mrs. Churchill.
If she is ill I should be sorry to do her injustice; but there are some traits in her
character which make it difficult for me to speak of her with the forbearance I could
wish.
You cannot be ignorant, Mrs. Elton, of my connexion with the family, nor of the
treatment I have met with; and, between ourselves, the whole blame of it is to be
laid to her.
She was the instigator. Frank's mother would never have been
slighted as she was but for her.
Mr. Churchill has pride; but his pride is nothing to his wife's: his is a quiet,
indolent, gentlemanlike sort of pride that would harm nobody, and only make himself a
little helpless and tiresome; but her pride is arrogance and insolence!
And what inclines one less to bear, she has no fair pretence of family or blood.
She was nobody when he married her, barely the daughter of a gentleman; but ever since
her being turned into a Churchill she has out-Churchill'd them all in high and mighty
claims: but in herself, I assure you, she is an upstart."
"Only think! well, that must be infinitely provoking!
I have quite a horror of upstarts.
Maple Grove has given me a thorough disgust to people of that sort; for there is a
family in that neighbourhood who are such an annoyance to my brother and sister from
the airs they give themselves!
Your description of Mrs. Churchill made me think of them directly.
People of the name of Tupman, very lately settled there, and encumbered with many low
connexions, but giving themselves immense airs, and expecting to be on a footing with
the old established families.
A year and a half is the very utmost that they can have lived at West Hall; and how
they got their fortune nobody knows.
They came from Birmingham, which is not a place to promise much, you know, Mr.
Weston. One has not great hopes from Birmingham.
I always say there is something direful in the sound: but nothing more is positively
known of the Tupmans, though a good many things I assure you are suspected; and yet
by their manners they evidently think
themselves equal even to my brother, Mr. Suckling, who happens to be one of their
nearest neighbours. It is infinitely too bad.
Mr. Suckling, who has been eleven years a resident at Maple Grove, and whose father
had it before him--I believe, at least--I am almost sure that old Mr. Suckling had
completed the purchase before his death."
They were interrupted. Tea was carrying round, and Mr. Weston,
having said all that he wanted, soon took the opportunity of walking away.
After tea, Mr. and Mrs. Weston, and Mr. Elton sat down with Mr. Woodhouse to cards.
The remaining five were left to their own powers, and Emma doubted their getting on
very well; for Mr. Knightley seemed little disposed for conversation; Mrs. Elton was
wanting notice, which nobody had
inclination to pay, and she was herself in a worry of spirits which would have made
her prefer being silent. Mr. John Knightley proved more talkative
than his brother.
He was to leave them early the next day; and he soon began with--
"Well, Emma, I do not believe I have any thing more to say about the boys; but you
have your sister's letter, and every thing is down at full length there we may be
sure.
My charge would be much more concise than her's, and probably not much in the same
spirit; all that I have to recommend being comprised in, do not spoil them, and do not
physic them."
"I rather hope to satisfy you both," said Emma, "for I shall do all in my power to
make them happy, which will be enough for Isabella; and happiness must preclude false
indulgence and physic."
"And if you find them troublesome, you must send them home again."
"That is very likely. You think so, do not you?"
"I hope I am aware that they may be too noisy for your father--or even may be some
encumbrance to you, if your visiting engagements continue to increase as much as
they have done lately."
"Increase!" "Certainly; you must be sensible that the
last half-year has made a great difference in your way of life."
"Difference!
No indeed I am not." "There can be no doubt of your being much
more engaged with company than you used to be.
Witness this very time.
Here am I come down for only one day, and you are engaged with a dinner-party!--When
did it happen before, or any thing like it? Your neighbourhood is increasing, and you
mix more with it.
A little while ago, every letter to Isabella brought an account of fresh
gaieties; dinners at Mr. Cole's, or balls at the Crown.
The difference which Randalls, Randalls alone makes in your goings-on, is very
great." "Yes," said his brother quickly, "it is
Randalls that does it all."
"Very well--and as Randalls, I suppose, is not likely to have less influence than
heretofore, it strikes me as a possible thing, Emma, that Henry and John may be
sometimes in the way.
And if they are, I only beg you to send them home."
"No," cried Mr. Knightley, "that need not be the consequence.
Let them be sent to Donwell.
I shall certainly be at leisure." "Upon my word," exclaimed Emma, "you amuse
me!
I should like to know how many of all my numerous engagements take place without
your being of the party; and why I am to be supposed in danger of wanting leisure to
attend to the little boys.
These amazing engagements of mine--what have they been?
Dining once with the Coles--and having a ball talked of, which never took place.
I can understand you--(nodding at Mr. John Knightley)--your good fortune in meeting
with so many of your friends at once here, delights you too much to pass unnoticed.
But you, (turning to Mr. Knightley,) who know how very, very seldom I am ever two
hours from Hartfield, why you should foresee such a series of dissipation for
me, I cannot imagine.
And as to my dear little boys, I must say, that if Aunt Emma has not time for them, I
do not think they would fare much better with Uncle Knightley, who is absent from
home about five hours where she is absent
one--and who, when he is at home, is either reading to himself or settling his
accounts."
Mr. Knightley seemed to be trying not to smile; and succeeded without difficulty,
upon Mrs. Elton's beginning to talk to him.
>