Part 7 - Emma Audiobook by Jane Austen (Vol 3: Chs 08-13)


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Transcript:
VOLUME III
CHAPTER VIII
The wretchedness of a scheme to Box Hill was in Emma's thoughts all the evening.
How it might be considered by the rest of the party, she could not tell.
They, in their different homes, and their different ways, might be looking back on it
with pleasure; but in her view it was a morning more completely misspent, more
totally bare of rational satisfaction at
the time, and more to be abhorred in recollection, than any she had ever passed.
A whole evening of back-gammon with her father, was felicity to it.
There, indeed, lay real pleasure, for there she was giving up the sweetest hours
of the twenty-four to his comfort; and feeling that, unmerited as might be the
degree of his fond affection and confiding
esteem, she could not, in her general conduct, be open to any severe reproach.
As a daughter, she hoped she was not without a heart.
She hoped no one could have said to her, "How could you be so unfeeling to your
father?--I must, I will tell you truths while I can."
Miss Bates should never again--no, never!
If attention, in future, could do away the past, she might hope to be forgiven.
She had been often remiss, her conscience told her so; remiss, perhaps, more in
thought than fact; scornful, ungracious.
But it should be so no more. In the warmth of true contrition, she would
call upon her the very next morning, and it should be the beginning, on her side, of a
regular, equal, kindly intercourse.
She was just as determined when the morrow came, and went early, that nothing might
prevent her.
It was not unlikely, she thought, that she might see Mr. Knightley in her way; or,
perhaps, he might come in while she were paying her visit.
She had no objection.
She would not be ashamed of the appearance of the penitence, so justly and truly hers.
Her eyes were towards Donwell as she walked, but she saw him not.
"The ladies were all at home."
She had never rejoiced at the sound before, nor ever before entered the passage, nor
walked up the stairs, with any wish of giving pleasure, but in conferring
obligation, or of deriving it, except in subsequent ridicule.
There was a bustle on her approach; a good deal of moving and talking.
She heard Miss Bates's voice, something was to be done in a hurry; the maid looked
frightened and awkward; hoped she would be pleased to wait a moment, and then ushered
her in too soon.
The aunt and niece seemed both escaping into the adjoining room.
Jane she had a distinct glimpse of, looking extremely ill; and, before the door had
shut them out, she heard Miss Bates saying, "Well, my dear, I shall say you are laid
down upon the bed, and I am sure you are ill enough."
Poor old Mrs. Bates, civil and humble as usual, looked as if she did not quite
understand what was going on.
"I am afraid Jane is not very well," said she, "but I do not know; they tell me she
is well. I dare say my daughter will be here
presently, Miss Woodhouse.
I hope you find a chair. I wish Hetty had not gone.
I am very little able--Have you a chair, ma'am?
Do you sit where you like?
I am sure she will be here presently." Emma seriously hoped she would.
She had a moment's fear of Miss Bates keeping away from her.
But Miss Bates soon came--"Very happy and obliged"--but Emma's conscience told her
that there was not the same cheerful volubility as before--less ease of look and
manner.
A very friendly inquiry after Miss Fairfax, she hoped, might lead the way to a return
of old feelings. The touch seemed immediate.
"Ah! Miss Woodhouse, how kind you are!--I suppose you have heard--and are come to
give us joy.
This does not seem much like joy, indeed, in me--(twinkling away a tear or two)--but
it will be very trying for us to part with her, after having had her so long, and she
has a dreadful headache just now, writing
all the morning:--such long letters, you know, to be written to Colonel Campbell,
and Mrs. Dixon.
'My dear,' said I, 'you will blind yourself'--for tears were in her eyes
perpetually. One cannot wonder, one cannot wonder.
It is a great change; and though she is amazingly fortunate--such a situation, I
suppose, as no young woman before ever met with on first going out--do not think us
ungrateful, Miss Woodhouse, for such
surprising good fortune--(again dispersing her tears)--but, poor dear soul! if you
were to see what a headache she has.
When one is in great pain, you know one cannot feel any blessing quite as it may
deserve. She is as low as possible.
To look at her, nobody would think how delighted and happy she is to have secured
such a situation.
You will excuse her not coming to you--she is not able--she is gone into her own room-
-I want her to lie down upon the bed.
'My dear,' said I, 'I shall say you are laid down upon the bed:' but, however, she
is not; she is walking about the room. But, now that she has written her letters,
she says she shall soon be well.
She will be extremely sorry to miss seeing you, Miss Woodhouse, but your kindness will
excuse her.
You were kept waiting at the door--I was quite ashamed--but somehow there was a
little bustle--for it so happened that we had not heard the knock, and till you were
on the stairs, we did not know any body was coming.
'It is only Mrs. Cole,' said I, 'depend upon it.
Nobody else would come so early.'
'Well,' said she, 'it must be borne some time or other, and it may as well be now.'
But then Patty came in, and said it was you.
'Oh!' said I, 'it is Miss Woodhouse: I am sure you will like to see her.'--'I can see
nobody,' said she; and up she got, and would go away; and that was what made us
keep you waiting--and extremely sorry and ashamed we were.
'If you must go, my dear,' said I, 'you must, and I will say you are laid down upon
the bed.'"
Emma was most sincerely interested.
Her heart had been long growing kinder towards Jane; and this picture of her
present sufferings acted as a cure of every former ungenerous suspicion, and left her
nothing but pity; and the remembrance of
the less just and less gentle sensations of the past, obliged her to admit that Jane
might very naturally resolve on seeing Mrs. Cole or any other steady friend, when she
might not bear to see herself.
She spoke as she felt, with earnest regret and solicitude--sincerely wishing that the
circumstances which she collected from Miss Bates to be now actually determined on,
might be as much for Miss Fairfax's advantage and comfort as possible.
"It must be a severe trial to them all. She had understood it was to be delayed
till Colonel Campbell's return."
"So very kind!" replied Miss Bates. "But you are always kind."
There was no bearing such an "always;" and to break through her dreadful gratitude,
Emma made the direct inquiry of--
"Where--may I ask?--is Miss Fairfax going?" "To a Mrs. Smallridge--charming woman--most
superior--to have the charge of her three little girls--delightful children.
Impossible that any situation could be more replete with comfort; if we except,
perhaps, Mrs. Suckling's own family, and Mrs. Bragge's; but Mrs. Smallridge is
intimate with both, and in the very same
neighbourhood:--lives only four miles from Maple Grove.
Jane will be only four miles from Maple Grove."
"Mrs. Elton, I suppose, has been the person to whom Miss Fairfax owes--"
"Yes, our good Mrs. Elton. The most indefatigable, true friend.
She would not take a denial.
She would not let Jane say, 'No;' for when Jane first heard of it, (it was the day
before yesterday, the very morning we were at Donwell,) when Jane first heard of it,
she was quite decided against accepting the
offer, and for the reasons you mention; exactly as you say, she had made up her
mind to close with nothing till Colonel Campbell's return, and nothing should
induce her to enter into any engagement at
present--and so she told Mrs. Elton over and over again--and I am sure I had no more
idea that she would change her mind!--but that good Mrs. Elton, whose judgment never
fails her, saw farther than I did.
It is not every body that would have stood out in such a kind way as she did, and
refuse to take Jane's answer; but she positively declared she would not write
any such denial yesterday, as Jane wished
her; she would wait--and, sure enough, yesterday evening it was all settled that
Jane should go. Quite a surprize to me!
I had not the least idea!--Jane took Mrs. Elton aside, and told her at once, that
upon thinking over the advantages of Mrs. Smallridge's situation, she had come to the
resolution of accepting it.--I did not know a word of it till it was all settled."
"You spent the evening with Mrs. Elton?" "Yes, all of us; Mrs. Elton would have us
come.
It was settled so, upon the hill, while we were walking about with Mr. Knightley.
'You must all spend your evening with us,' said she--'I positively must have you
all come.'"
"Mr. Knightley was there too, was he?"
"No, not Mr. Knightley; he declined it from the first; and though I thought he would
come, because Mrs. Elton declared she would not let him off, he did not;--but my
mother, and Jane, and I, were all there, and a very agreeable evening we had.
Such kind friends, you know, Miss Woodhouse, one must always find agreeable,
though every body seemed rather fagged after the morning's party.
Even pleasure, you know, is fatiguing--and I cannot say that any of them seemed very
much to have enjoyed it.
However, I shall always think it a very pleasant party, and feel extremely obliged
to the kind friends who included me in it."
"Miss Fairfax, I suppose, though you were not aware of it, had been making up her
mind the whole day?" "I dare say she had."
"Whenever the time may come, it must be unwelcome to her and all her friends--but I
hope her engagement will have every alleviation that is possible--I mean, as to
the character and manners of the family."
"Thank you, dear Miss Woodhouse. Yes, indeed, there is every thing in the
world that can make her happy in it.
Except the Sucklings and Bragges, there is not such another nursery establishment, so
liberal and elegant, in all Mrs. Elton's acquaintance.
Mrs. Smallridge, a most delightful woman!-- A style of living almost equal to Maple
Grove--and as to the children, except the little Sucklings and little Bragges, there
are not such elegant sweet children anywhere.
Jane will be treated with such regard and kindness!--It will be nothing but pleasure,
a life of pleasure.--And her salary!--I really cannot venture to name her salary to
you, Miss Woodhouse.
Even you, used as you are to great sums, would hardly believe that so much could be
given to a young person like Jane."
"Ah! madam," cried Emma, "if other children are at all like what I remember to have
been myself, I should think five times the amount of what I have ever yet heard named
as a salary on such occasions, dearly earned."
"You are so noble in your ideas!" "And when is Miss Fairfax to leave you?"
"Very soon, very soon, indeed; that's the worst of it.
Within a fortnight. Mrs. Smallridge is in a great hurry.
My poor mother does not know how to bear it.
So then, I try to put it out of her thoughts, and say, Come ma'am, do not let
us think about it any more."
"Her friends must all be sorry to lose her; and will not Colonel and Mrs. Campbell be
sorry to find that she has engaged herself before their return?"
"Yes; Jane says she is sure they will; but yet, this is such a situation as she cannot
feel herself justified in declining.
I was so astonished when she first told me what she had been saying to Mrs. Elton, and
when Mrs. Elton at the same moment came congratulating me upon it!
It was before tea--stay--no, it could not be before tea, because we were just going
to cards--and yet it was before tea, because I remember thinking--Oh! no, now I
recollect, now I have it; something happened before tea, but not that.
Mr. Elton was called out of the room before tea, old John Abdy's son wanted to speak
with him.
Poor old John, I have a great regard for him; he was clerk to my poor father twenty-
seven years; and now, poor old man, he is bed-ridden, and very poorly with the
rheumatic gout in his joints--I must go and
see him to-day; and so will Jane, I am sure, if she gets out at all.
And poor John's son came to talk to Mr. Elton about relief from the parish; he is
very well to do himself, you know, being head man at the Crown, ostler, and every
thing of that sort, but still he cannot
keep his father without some help; and so, when Mr. Elton came back, he told us what
John ostler had been telling him, and then it came out about the chaise having been
sent to Randalls to take Mr. Frank Churchill to Richmond.
That was what happened before tea. It was after tea that Jane spoke to Mrs.
Elton."
Miss Bates would hardly give Emma time to say how perfectly new this circumstance was
to her; but as without supposing it possible that she could be ignorant of any
of the particulars of Mr. Frank Churchill's
going, she proceeded to give them all, it was of no consequence.
What Mr. Elton had learned from the ostler on the subject, being the accumulation of
the ostler's own knowledge, and the knowledge of the servants at Randalls, was,
that a messenger had come over from
Richmond soon after the return of the party from Box Hill--which messenger, however,
had been no more than was expected; and that Mr. Churchill had sent his nephew a
few lines, containing, upon the whole, a
tolerable account of Mrs. Churchill, and only wishing him not to delay coming back
beyond the next morning early; but that Mr. Frank Churchill having resolved to go home
directly, without waiting at all, and his
horse seeming to have got a cold, Tom had been sent off immediately for the Crown
chaise, and the ostler had stood out and seen it pass by, the boy going a good pace,
and driving very steady.
There was nothing in all this either to astonish or interest, and it caught Emma's
attention only as it united with the subject which already engaged her mind.
The contrast between Mrs. Churchill's importance in the world, and Jane
Fairfax's, struck her; one was every thing, the other nothing--and she sat musing on
the difference of woman's destiny, and
quite unconscious on what her eyes were fixed, till roused by Miss Bates's saying,
"Aye, I see what you are thinking of, the pianoforte.
What is to become of that?--Very true.
Poor dear Jane was talking of it just now.- -'You must go,' said she.
'You and I must part.
You will have no business here.--Let it stay, however,' said she; 'give it
houseroom till Colonel Campbell comes back.
I shall talk about it to him; he will settle for me; he will help me out of all
my difficulties.'--And to this day, I do believe, she knows not whether it was his
present or his daughter's."
Now Emma was obliged to think of the pianoforte; and the remembrance of all her
former fanciful and unfair conjectures was so little pleasing, that she soon allowed
herself to believe her visit had been long
enough; and, with a repetition of every thing that she could venture to say of the
good wishes which she really felt, took leave.
>
VOLUME III
CHAPTER IX
Emma's pensive meditations, as she walked home, were not interrupted; but on entering
the parlour, she found those who must rouse her.
Mr. Knightley and Harriet had arrived during her absence, and were sitting with
her father.--Mr. Knightley immediately got up, and in a manner decidedly graver than
usual, said,
"I would not go away without seeing you, but I have no time to spare, and therefore
must now be gone directly. I am going to London, to spend a few days
with John and Isabella.
Have you any thing to send or say, besides the 'love,' which nobody carries?"
"Nothing at all. But is not this a sudden scheme?"
"Yes--rather--I have been thinking of it some little time."
Emma was sure he had not forgiven her; he looked unlike himself.
Time, however, she thought, would tell him that they ought to be friends again.
While he stood, as if meaning to go, but not going--her father began his inquiries.
"Well, my dear, and did you get there safely?--And how did you find my worthy old
friend and her daughter?--I dare say they must have been very much obliged to you for
coming.
Dear Emma has been to call on Mrs. and Miss Bates, Mr. Knightley, as I told you before.
She is always so attentive to them!"
Emma's colour was heightened by this unjust praise; and with a smile, and shake of the
head, which spoke much, she looked at Mr. Knightley.--It seemed as if there were an
instantaneous impression in her favour, as
if his eyes received the truth from her's, and all that had passed of good in her
feelings were at once caught and honoured.- - He looked at her with a glow of regard.
She was warmly gratified--and in another moment still more so, by a little movement
of more than common friendliness on his part.--He took her hand;--whether she had
not herself made the first motion, she
could not say--she might, perhaps, have rather offered it--but he took her hand,
pressed it, and certainly was on the point of carrying it to his lips--when, from some
fancy or other, he suddenly let it go.--Why
he should feel such a scruple, why he should change his mind when it was all but
done, she could not perceive.--He would have judged better, she thought, if he had
not stopped.--The intention, however, was
indubitable; and whether it was that his manners had in general so little gallantry,
or however else it happened, but she thought nothing became him more.--It was
with him, of so simple, yet so dignified a
nature.--She could not but recall the attempt with great satisfaction.
It spoke such perfect amity.--He left them immediately afterwards--gone in a moment.
He always moved with the alertness of a mind which could neither be undecided nor
dilatory, but now he seemed more sudden than usual in his disappearance.
Emma could not regret her having gone to Miss Bates, but she wished she had left her
ten minutes earlier;--it would have been a great pleasure to talk over Jane Fairfax's
situation with Mr. Knightley.--Neither
would she regret that he should be going to Brunswick Square, for she knew how much his
visit would be enjoyed--but it might have happened at a better time--and to have had
longer notice of it, would have been
pleasanter.--They parted thorough friends, however; she could not be deceived as to
the meaning of his countenance, and his unfinished gallantry;--it was all done to
assure her that she had fully recovered his
good opinion.--He had been sitting with them half an hour, she found.
It was a pity that she had not come back earlier!
In the hope of diverting her father's thoughts from the disagreeableness of Mr.
Knightley's going to London; and going so suddenly; and going on horseback, which she
knew would be all very bad; Emma
communicated her news of Jane Fairfax, and her dependence on the effect was justified;
it supplied a very useful check,-- interested, without disturbing him.
He had long made up his mind to Jane Fairfax's going out as governess, and could
talk of it cheerfully, but Mr. Knightley's going to London had been an unexpected
blow.
"I am very glad, indeed, my dear, to hear she is to be so comfortably settled.
Mrs. Elton is very good-natured and agreeable, and I dare say her acquaintance
are just what they ought to be.
I hope it is a dry situation, and that her health will be taken good care of.
It ought to be a first object, as I am sure poor Miss Taylor's always was with me.
You know, my dear, she is going to be to this new lady what Miss Taylor was to us.
And I hope she will be better off in one respect, and not be induced to go away
after it has been her home so long."
The following day brought news from Richmond to throw every thing else into the
background. An express arrived at Randalls to announce
the death of Mrs. Churchill!
Though her nephew had had no particular reason to hasten back on her account, she
had not lived above six-and-thirty hours after his return.
A sudden seizure of a different nature from any thing foreboded by her general state,
had carried her off after a short struggle. The great Mrs. Churchill was no more.
It was felt as such things must be felt.
Every body had a degree of gravity and sorrow; tenderness towards the departed,
solicitude for the surviving friends; and, in a reasonable time, curiosity to know
where she would be buried.
Goldsmith tells us, that when lovely woman stoops to folly, she has nothing to do but
to die; and when she stoops to be disagreeable, it is equally to be
recommended as a clearer of ill-fame.
Mrs. Churchill, after being disliked at least twenty-five years, was now spoken of
with compassionate allowances. In one point she was fully justified.
She had never been admitted before to be seriously ill.
The event acquitted her of all the fancifulness, and all the selfishness of
imaginary complaints.
"Poor Mrs. Churchill! no doubt she had been suffering a great deal: more than any body
had ever supposed--and continual pain would try the temper.
It was a sad event--a great shock--with all her faults, what would Mr. Churchill do
without her? Mr. Churchill's loss would be dreadful
indeed.
Mr. Churchill would never get over it."-- Even Mr. Weston shook his head, and looked
solemn, and said, "Ah! poor woman, who would have thought it!" and resolved, that
his mourning should be as handsome as
possible; and his wife sat sighing and moralising over her broad hems with a
commiseration and good sense, true and steady.
How it would affect Frank was among the earliest thoughts of both.
It was also a very early speculation with Emma.
The character of Mrs. Churchill, the grief of her husband--her mind glanced over them
both with awe and compassion--and then rested with lightened feelings on how Frank
might be affected by the event, how benefited, how freed.
She saw in a moment all the possible good. Now, an attachment to Harriet Smith would
have nothing to encounter.
Mr. Churchill, independent of his wife, was feared by nobody; an easy, guidable man, to
be persuaded into any thing by his nephew.
All that remained to be wished was, that the nephew should form the attachment, as,
with all her goodwill in the cause, Emma could feel no certainty of its being
already formed.
Harriet behaved extremely well on the occasion, with great self-command.
What ever she might feel of brighter hope, she betrayed nothing.
Emma was gratified, to observe such a proof in her of strengthened character, and
refrained from any allusion that might endanger its maintenance.
They spoke, therefore, of Mrs. Churchill's death with mutual forbearance.
Short letters from Frank were received at Randalls, communicating all that was
immediately important of their state and plans.
Mr. Churchill was better than could be expected; and their first removal, on the
departure of the funeral for Yorkshire, was to be to the house of a very old friend in
Windsor, to whom Mr. Churchill had been promising a visit the last ten years.
At present, there was nothing to be done for Harriet; good wishes for the future
were all that could yet be possible on Emma's side.
It was a more pressing concern to shew attention to Jane Fairfax, whose prospects
were closing, while Harriet's opened, and whose engagements now allowed of no delay
in any one at Highbury, who wished to shew
her kindness--and with Emma it was grown into a first wish.
She had scarcely a stronger regret than for her past coldness; and the person, whom she
had been so many months neglecting, was now the very one on whom she would have
lavished every distinction of regard or sympathy.
She wanted to be of use to her; wanted to shew a value for her society, and testify
respect and consideration.
She resolved to prevail on her to spend a day at Hartfield.
A note was written to urge it. The invitation was refused, and by a verbal
message.
"Miss Fairfax was not well enough to write;" and when Mr. Perry called at
Hartfield, the same morning, it appeared that she was so much indisposed as to have
been visited, though against her own
consent, by himself, and that she was suffering under severe headaches, and a
nervous fever to a degree, which made him doubt the possibility of her going to Mrs.
Smallridge's at the time proposed.
Her health seemed for the moment completely deranged--appetite quite gone--and though
there were no absolutely alarming symptoms, nothing touching the pulmonary complaint,
which was the standing apprehension of the family, Mr. Perry was uneasy about her.
He thought she had undertaken more than she was equal to, and that she felt it so
herself, though she would not own it.
Her spirits seemed overcome.
Her present home, he could not but observe, was unfavourable to a nervous disorder:--
confined always to one room;--he could have wished it otherwise--and her good aunt,
though his very old friend, he must
acknowledge to be not the best companion for an invalid of that description.
Her care and attention could not be questioned; they were, in fact, only too
great.
He very much feared that Miss Fairfax derived more evil than good from them.
Emma listened with the warmest concern; grieved for her more and more, and looked
around eager to discover some way of being useful.
To take her--be it only an hour or two-- from her aunt, to give her change of air
and scene, and quiet rational conversation, even for an hour or two, might do her good;
and the following morning she wrote again
to say, in the most feeling language she could command, that she would call for her
in the carriage at any hour that Jane would name--mentioning that she had Mr. Perry's
decided opinion, in favour of such exercise for his patient.
The answer was only in this short note: "Miss Fairfax's compliments and thanks, but
is quite unequal to any exercise."
Emma felt that her own note had deserved something better; but it was impossible to
quarrel with words, whose tremulous inequality shewed indisposition so plainly,
and she thought only of how she might best
counteract this unwillingness to be seen or assisted.
In spite of the answer, therefore, she ordered the carriage, and drove to Mrs.
Bates's, in the hope that Jane would be induced to join her--but it would not do;--
Miss Bates came to the carriage door, all
gratitude, and agreeing with her most earnestly in thinking an airing might be of
the greatest service--and every thing that message could do was tried--but all in
vain.
Miss Bates was obliged to return without success; Jane was quite unpersuadable; the
mere proposal of going out seemed to make her worse.--Emma wished she could have seen
her, and tried her own powers; but, almost
before she could hint the wish, Miss Bates made it appear that she had promised her
niece on no account to let Miss Woodhouse in.
"Indeed, the truth was, that poor dear Jane could not bear to see any body--any body at
all--Mrs. Elton, indeed, could not be denied--and Mrs. Cole had made such a
point--and Mrs. Perry had said so much--
but, except them, Jane would really see nobody."
Emma did not want to be classed with the Mrs. Eltons, the Mrs. Perrys, and the Mrs.
Coles, who would force themselves anywhere; neither could she feel any right of
preference herself--she submitted,
therefore, and only questioned Miss Bates farther as to her niece's appetite and
diet, which she longed to be able to assist.
On that subject poor Miss Bates was very unhappy, and very communicative; Jane would
hardly eat any thing:--Mr. Perry recommended nourishing food; but every
thing they could command (and never had any body such good neighbours) was distasteful.
Emma, on reaching home, called the housekeeper directly, to an examination of
her stores; and some arrowroot of very superior quality was speedily despatched to
Miss Bates with a most friendly note.
In half an hour the arrowroot was returned, with a thousand thanks from Miss Bates, but
"dear Jane would not be satisfied without its being sent back; it was a thing she
could not take--and, moreover, she insisted
on her saying, that she was not at all in want of any thing."
When Emma afterwards heard that Jane Fairfax had been seen wandering about the
meadows, at some distance from Highbury, on the afternoon of the very day on which she
had, under the plea of being unequal to any
exercise, so peremptorily refused to go out with her in the carriage, she could have no
doubt--putting every thing together--that Jane was resolved to receive no kindness
from her.
She was sorry, very sorry.
Her heart was grieved for a state which seemed but the more pitiable from this sort
of irritation of spirits, inconsistency of action, and inequality of powers; and it
mortified her that she was given so little
credit for proper feeling, or esteemed so little worthy as a friend: but she had the
consolation of knowing that her intentions were good, and of being able to say to
herself, that could Mr. Knightley have been
privy to all her attempts of assisting Jane Fairfax, could he even have seen into her
heart, he would not, on this occasion, have found any thing to reprove.
>
VOLUME III
CHAPTER X
One morning, about ten days after Mrs. Churchill's decease, Emma was called
downstairs to Mr. Weston, who "could not stay five minutes, and wanted particularly
to speak with her."--He met her at the
parlour-door, and hardly asking her how she did, in the natural key of his voice, sunk
it immediately, to say, unheard by her father,
"Can you come to Randalls at any time this morning?--Do, if it be possible.
Mrs. Weston wants to see you. She must see you."
"Is she unwell?"
"No, no, not at all--only a little agitated.
She would have ordered the carriage, and come to you, but she must see you alone,
and that you know--(nodding towards her father)--Humph!--Can you come?"
"Certainly.
This moment, if you please. It is impossible to refuse what you ask in
such a way. But what can be the matter?--Is she really
not ill?"
"Depend upon me--but ask no more questions. You will know it all in time.
The most unaccountable business! But hush, hush!"
To guess what all this meant, was impossible even for Emma.
Something really important seemed announced by his looks; but, as her friend was well,
she endeavoured not to be uneasy, and settling it with her father, that she would
take her walk now, she and Mr. Weston were
soon out of the house together and on their way at a quick pace for Randalls.
"Now,"--said Emma, when they were fairly beyond the sweep gates,--"now Mr. Weston,
do let me know what has happened."
"No, no,"--he gravely replied.--"Don't ask me.
I promised my wife to leave it all to her. She will break it to you better than I can.
Do not be impatient, Emma; it will all come out too soon."
"Break it to me," cried Emma, standing still with terror.--"Good God!--Mr. Weston,
tell me at once.--Something has happened in Brunswick Square.
I know it has.
Tell me, I charge you tell me this moment what it is."
"No, indeed you are mistaken."--
"Mr. Weston do not trifle with me.-- Consider how many of my dearest friends are
now in Brunswick Square.
Which of them is it?--I charge you by all that is sacred, not to attempt
concealment." "Upon my word, Emma."--
"Your word!--why not your honour!--why not say upon your honour, that it has nothing
to do with any of them?
Good Heavens!--What can be to be broke to me, that does not relate to one of that
family?" "Upon my honour," said he very seriously,
"it does not.
It is not in the smallest degree connected with any human being of the name of
Knightley." Emma's courage returned, and she walked on.
"I was wrong," he continued, "in talking of its being broke to you.
I should not have used the expression.
In fact, it does not concern you--it concerns only myself,--that is, we hope.--
Humph!--In short, my dear Emma, there is no occasion to be so uneasy about it.
I don't say that it is not a disagreeable business--but things might be much worse.--
If we walk fast, we shall soon be at Randalls."
Emma found that she must wait; and now it required little effort.
She asked no more questions therefore, merely employed her own fancy, and that
soon pointed out to her the probability of its being some money concern--something
just come to light, of a disagreeable
nature in the circumstances of the family,- -something which the late event at Richmond
had brought forward. Her fancy was very active.
Half a dozen natural children, perhaps--and poor Frank cut off!--This, though very
undesirable, would be no matter of agony to her.
It inspired little more than an animating curiosity.
"Who is that gentleman on horseback?" said she, as they proceeded--speaking more to
assist Mr. Weston in keeping his secret, than with any other view.
"I do not know.--One of the Otways.--Not Frank;--it is not Frank, I assure you.
You will not see him. He is half way to Windsor by this time."
"Has your son been with you, then?"
"Oh! yes--did not you know?--Well, well, never mind."
For a moment he was silent; and then added, in a tone much more guarded and demure,
"Yes, Frank came over this morning, just to ask us how we did."
They hurried on, and were speedily at Randalls.--"Well, my dear," said he, as
they entered the room--"I have brought her, and now I hope you will soon be better.
I shall leave you together.
There is no use in delay. I shall not be far off, if you want me."--
And Emma distinctly heard him add, in a lower tone, before he quitted the room,--"I
have been as good as my word.
She has not the least idea." Mrs. Weston was looking so ill, and had an
air of so much perturbation, that Emma's uneasiness increased; and the moment they
were alone, she eagerly said,
"What is it my dear friend? Something of a very unpleasant nature, I
find, has occurred;--do let me know directly what it is.
I have been walking all this way in complete suspense.
We both abhor suspense. Do not let mine continue longer.
It will do you good to speak of your distress, whatever it may be."
"Have you indeed no idea?" said Mrs. Weston in a trembling voice.
"Cannot you, my dear Emma--cannot you form a guess as to what you are to hear?"
"So far as that it relates to Mr. Frank Churchill, I do guess."
"You are right.
It does relate to him, and I will tell you directly;" (resuming her work, and seeming
resolved against looking up.) "He has been here this very morning, on a
most extraordinary errand.
It is impossible to express our surprize. He came to speak to his father on a
subject,--to announce an attachment--" She stopped to breathe.
Emma thought first of herself, and then of Harriet.
"More than an attachment, indeed," resumed Mrs. Weston; "an engagement--a positive
engagement.--What will you say, Emma--what will any body say, when it is known that
Frank Churchill and Miss Fairfax are
engaged;--nay, that they have been long engaged!"
Emma even jumped with surprize;--and, horror-struck, exclaimed,
"Jane Fairfax!--Good God! You are not serious?
You do not mean it?"
"You may well be amazed," returned Mrs. Weston, still averting her eyes, and
talking on with eagerness, that Emma might have time to recover-- "You may well be
amazed.
But it is even so. There has been a solemn engagement between
them ever since October--formed at Weymouth, and kept a secret from every
body.
Not a creature knowing it but themselves-- neither the Campbells, nor her family, nor
his.--It is so wonderful, that though perfectly convinced of the fact, it is yet
almost incredible to myself.
I can hardly believe it.--I thought I knew him."
Emma scarcely heard what was said.--Her mind was divided between two ideas--her own
former conversations with him about Miss Fairfax; and poor Harriet;--and for some
time she could only exclaim, and require confirmation, repeated confirmation.
"Well," said she at last, trying to recover herself; "this is a circumstance which I
must think of at least half a day, before I can at all comprehend it.
What!--engaged to her all the winter-- before either of them came to Highbury?"
"Engaged since October,--secretly engaged.- -It has hurt me, Emma, very much.
It has hurt his father equally.
Some part of his conduct we cannot excuse."
Emma pondered a moment, and then replied, "I will not pretend not to understand
you; and to give you all the relief in my power, be assured that no such effect has
followed his attentions to me, as you are apprehensive of."
Mrs. Weston looked up, afraid to believe; but Emma's countenance was as steady as her
words.
"That you may have less difficulty in believing this boast, of my present perfect
indifference," she continued, "I will farther tell you, that there was a period
in the early part of our acquaintance, when
I did like him, when I was very much disposed to be attached to him--nay, was
attached--and how it came to cease, is perhaps the wonder.
Fortunately, however, it did cease.
I have really for some time past, for at least these three months, cared nothing
about him. You may believe me, Mrs. Weston.
This is the simple truth."
Mrs. Weston kissed her with tears of joy; and when she could find utterance, assured
her, that this protestation had done her more good than any thing else in the world
could do.
"Mr. Weston will be almost as much relieved as myself," said she.
"On this point we have been wretched.
It was our darling wish that you might be attached to each other--and we were
persuaded that it was so.-- Imagine what we have been feeling on your account."
"I have escaped; and that I should escape, may be a matter of grateful wonder to you
and myself.
But this does not acquit him, Mrs. Weston; and I must say, that I think him
greatly to blame.
What right had he to come among us with affection and faith engaged, and with
manners so very disengaged?
What right had he to endeavour to please, as he certainly did--to distinguish any one
young woman with persevering attention, as he certainly did--while he really belonged
to another?--How could he tell what
mischief he might be doing?--How could he tell that he might not be making me in love
with him?--very wrong, very wrong indeed." "From something that he said, my dear Emma,
I rather imagine--"
"And how could she bear such behaviour!
Composure with a witness! to look on, while repeated attentions were offering to
another woman, before her face, and not resent it.--That is a degree of placidity,
which I can neither comprehend nor respect."
"There were misunderstandings between them, Emma; he said so expressly.
He had not time to enter into much explanation.
He was here only a quarter of an hour, and in a state of agitation which did not allow
the full use even of the time he could stay--but that there had been
misunderstandings he decidedly said.
The present crisis, indeed, seemed to be brought on by them; and those
misunderstandings might very possibly arise from the impropriety of his conduct."
"Impropriety!
Oh! Mrs. Weston--it is too calm a censure. Much, much beyond impropriety!--It has sunk
him, I cannot say how it has sunk him in my opinion.
So unlike what a man should be!--None of that upright integrity, that strict
adherence to truth and principle, that disdain of trick and littleness, which a
man should display in every transaction of his life."
"Nay, dear Emma, now I must take his part; for though he has been wrong in this
instance, I have known him long enough to answer for his having many, very many, good
qualities; and--"
"Good God!" cried Emma, not attending to her.--"Mrs. Smallridge, too!
Jane actually on the point of going as governess!
What could he mean by such horrible indelicacy?
To suffer her to engage herself--to suffer her even to think of such a measure!"
"He knew nothing about it, Emma.
On this article I can fully acquit him.
It was a private resolution of hers, not communicated to him--or at least not
communicated in a way to carry conviction.- -Till yesterday, I know he said he was in
the dark as to her plans.
They burst on him, I do not know how, but by some letter or message--and it was the
discovery of what she was doing, of this very project of hers, which determined him
to come forward at once, own it all to his
uncle, throw himself on his kindness, and, in short, put an end to the miserable state
of concealment that had been carrying on so long."
Emma began to listen better.
"I am to hear from him soon," continued Mrs. Weston.
"He told me at parting, that he should soon write; and he spoke in a manner which
seemed to promise me many particulars that could not be given now.
Let us wait, therefore, for this letter.
It may bring many extenuations. It may make many things intelligible and
excusable which now are not to be understood.
Don't let us be severe, don't let us be in a hurry to condemn him.
Let us have patience.
I must love him; and now that I am satisfied on one point, the one material
point, I am sincerely anxious for its all turning out well, and ready to hope that it
may.
They must both have suffered a great deal under such a system of secresy and
concealment." "His sufferings," replied Emma dryly, "do
not appear to have done him much harm.
Well, and how did Mr. Churchill take it?" "Most favourably for his nephew--gave his
consent with scarcely a difficulty. Conceive what the events of a week have
done in that family!
While poor Mrs. Churchill lived, I suppose there could not have been a hope, a chance,
a possibility;--but scarcely are her remains at rest in the family vault, than
her husband is persuaded to act exactly opposite to what she would have required.
What a blessing it is, when undue influence does not survive the grave!--He gave his
consent with very little persuasion."
"Ah!" thought Emma, "he would have done as much for Harriet."
"This was settled last night, and Frank was off with the light this morning.
He stopped at Highbury, at the Bates's, I fancy, some time--and then came on hither;
but was in such a hurry to get back to his uncle, to whom he is just now more
necessary than ever, that, as I tell you,
he could stay with us but a quarter of an hour.--He was very much agitated--very
much, indeed--to a degree that made him appear quite a different creature from any
thing I had ever seen him before.--In
addition to all the rest, there had been the shock of finding her so very unwell,
which he had had no previous suspicion of-- and there was every appearance of his
having been feeling a great deal."
"And do you really believe the affair to have been carrying on with such perfect
secresy?--The Campbells, the Dixons, did none of them know of the engagement?"
Emma could not speak the name of Dixon without a little blush.
"None; not one.
He positively said that it had been known to no being in the world but their two
selves."
"Well," said Emma, "I suppose we shall gradually grow reconciled to the idea, and
I wish them very happy. But I shall always think it a very
abominable sort of proceeding.
What has it been but a system of hypocrisy and deceit,--espionage, and treachery?--To
come among us with professions of openness and simplicity; and such a league in secret
to judge us all!--Here have we been, the
whole winter and spring, completely duped, fancying ourselves all on an equal footing
of truth and honour, with two people in the midst of us who may have been carrying
round, comparing and sitting in judgment on
sentiments and words that were never meant for both to hear.--They must take the
consequence, if they have heard each other spoken of in a way not perfectly
agreeable!"
"I am quite easy on that head," replied Mrs. Weston.
"I am very sure that I never said any thing of either to the other, which both might
not have heard."
"You are in luck.--Your only blunder was confined to my ear, when you imagined a
certain friend of ours in love with the lady."
"True.
But as I have always had a thoroughly good opinion of Miss Fairfax, I never could,
under any blunder, have spoken ill of her; and as to speaking ill of him, there I must
have been safe."
At this moment Mr. Weston appeared at a little distance from the window, evidently
on the watch.
His wife gave him a look which invited him in; and, while he was coming round, added,
"Now, dearest Emma, let me intreat you to say and look every thing that may set his
heart at ease, and incline him to be satisfied with the match.
Let us make the best of it--and, indeed, almost every thing may be fairly said in
her favour.
It is not a connexion to gratify; but if Mr. Churchill does not feel that, why
should we? and it may be a very fortunate circumstance for him, for Frank, I mean,
that he should have attached himself to a
girl of such steadiness of character and good judgment as I have always given her
credit for--and still am disposed to give her credit for, in spite of this one great
deviation from the strict rule of right.
And how much may be said in her situation for even that error!"
"Much, indeed!" cried Emma feelingly.
"If a woman can ever be excused for thinking only of herself, it is in a
situation like Jane Fairfax's.--Of such, one may almost say, that 'the world is not
their's, nor the world's law.'"
She met Mr. Weston on his entrance, with a smiling countenance, exclaiming,
"A very pretty trick you have been playing me, upon my word!
This was a device, I suppose, to sport with my curiosity, and exercise my talent of
guessing. But you really frightened me.
I thought you had lost half your property, at least.
And here, instead of its being a matter of condolence, it turns out to be one of
congratulation.--I congratulate you, Mr. Weston, with all my heart, on the prospect
of having one of the most lovely and
accomplished young women in England for your daughter."
A glance or two between him and his wife, convinced him that all was as right as this
speech proclaimed; and its happy effect on his spirits was immediate.
His air and voice recovered their usual briskness: he shook her heartily and
gratefully by the hand, and entered on the subject in a manner to prove, that he now
only wanted time and persuasion to think the engagement no very bad thing.
His companions suggested only what could palliate imprudence, or smooth objections;
and by the time they had talked it all over together, and he had talked it all over
again with Emma, in their walk back to
Hartfield, he was become perfectly reconciled, and not far from thinking it
the very best thing that Frank could possibly have done.
>
VOLUME III
CHAPTER XI
"Harriet, poor Harriet!"--Those were the words; in them lay the tormenting ideas
which Emma could not get rid of, and which constituted the real misery of the business
to her.
Frank Churchill had behaved very ill by herself--very ill in many ways,--but it was
not so much his behaviour as her own, which made her so angry with him.
It was the scrape which he had drawn her into on Harriet's account, that gave the
deepest hue to his offence.--Poor Harriet! to be a second time the dupe of her
misconceptions and flattery.
Mr. Knightley had spoken prophetically, when he once said, "Emma, you have been no
friend to Harriet Smith."--She was afraid she had done her nothing but disservice.--
It was true that she had not to charge
herself, in this instance as in the former, with being the sole and original author of
the mischief; with having suggested such feelings as might otherwise never have
entered Harriet's imagination; for Harriet
had acknowledged her admiration and preference of Frank Churchill before she
had ever given her a hint on the subject; but she felt completely guilty of having
encouraged what she might have repressed.
She might have prevented the indulgence and increase of such sentiments.
Her influence would have been enough.
And now she was very conscious that she ought to have prevented them.--She felt
that she had been risking her friend's happiness on most insufficient grounds.
Common sense would have directed her to tell Harriet, that she must not allow
herself to think of him, and that there were five hundred chances to one against
his ever caring for her.--"But, with common
sense," she added, "I am afraid I have had little to do."
She was extremely angry with herself.
If she could not have been angry with Frank Churchill too, it would have been
dreadful.--As for Jane Fairfax, she might at least relieve her feelings from any
present solicitude on her account.
Harriet would be anxiety enough; she need no longer be unhappy about Jane, whose
troubles and whose ill-health having, of course, the same origin, must be equally
under cure.--Her days of insignificance and
evil were over.--She would soon be well, and happy, and prosperous.--Emma could now
imagine why her own attentions had been slighted.
This discovery laid many smaller matters open.
No doubt it had been from jealousy.--In Jane's eyes she had been a rival; and well
might any thing she could offer of assistance or regard be repulsed.
An airing in the Hartfield carriage would have been the rack, and arrowroot from the
Hartfield storeroom must have been poison.
She understood it all; and as far as her mind could disengage itself from the
injustice and selfishness of angry feelings, she acknowledged that Jane
Fairfax would have neither elevation nor happiness beyond her desert.
But poor Harriet was such an engrossing charge!
There was little sympathy to be spared for any body else.
Emma was sadly fearful that this second disappointment would be more severe than
the first.
Considering the very superior claims of the object, it ought; and judging by its
apparently stronger effect on Harriet's mind, producing reserve and self-command,
it would.--She must communicate the painful truth, however, and as soon as possible.
An injunction of secresy had been among Mr. Weston's parting words.
"For the present, the whole affair was to be completely a secret.
Mr. Churchill had made a point of it, as a token of respect to the wife he had so very
recently lost; and every body admitted it to be no more than due decorum."--Emma had
promised; but still Harriet must be excepted.
It was her superior duty.
In spite of her vexation, she could not help feeling it almost ridiculous, that she
should have the very same distressing and delicate office to perform by Harriet,
which Mrs. Weston had just gone through by herself.
The intelligence, which had been so anxiously announced to her, she was now to
be anxiously announcing to another.
Her heart beat quick on hearing Harriet's footstep and voice; so, she supposed, had
poor Mrs. Weston felt when she was approaching Randalls.
Could the event of the disclosure bear an equal resemblance!--But of that,
unfortunately, there could be no chance.
"Well, Miss Woodhouse!" cried Harriet, coming eagerly into the room--"is not this
the oddest news that ever was?"
"What news do you mean?" replied Emma, unable to guess, by look or voice, whether
Harriet could indeed have received any hint.
"About Jane Fairfax.
Did you ever hear any thing so strange? Oh!--you need not be afraid of owning it to
me, for Mr. Weston has told me himself. I met him just now.
He told me it was to be a great secret; and, therefore, I should not think of
mentioning it to any body but you, but he said you knew it."
"What did Mr. Weston tell you?"--said Emma, still perplexed.
"Oh! he told me all about it; that Jane Fairfax and Mr. Frank Churchill are to be
married, and that they have been privately engaged to one another this long while.
How very odd!"
It was, indeed, so odd; Harriet's behaviour was so extremely odd, that Emma did not
know how to understand it. Her character appeared absolutely changed.
She seemed to propose shewing no agitation, or disappointment, or peculiar concern in
the discovery. Emma looked at her, quite unable to speak.
"Had you any idea," cried Harriet, "of his being in love with her?--You, perhaps,
might.--You (blushing as she spoke) who can see into every body's heart; but nobody
else--"
"Upon my word," said Emma, "I begin to doubt my having any such talent.
Can you seriously ask me, Harriet, whether I imagined him attached to another woman at
the very time that I was--tacitly, if not openly--encouraging you to give way to your
own feelings?--I never had the slightest
suspicion, till within the last hour, of Mr. Frank Churchill's having the least
regard for Jane Fairfax. You may be very sure that if I had, I
should have cautioned you accordingly."
"Me!" cried Harriet, colouring, and astonished.
"Why should you caution me?--You do not think I care about Mr. Frank Churchill."
"I am delighted to hear you speak so stoutly on the subject," replied Emma,
smiling; "but you do not mean to deny that there was a time--and not very distant
either--when you gave me reason to understand that you did care about him?"
"Him!--never, never. Dear Miss Woodhouse, how could you so
mistake me?" turning away distressed.
"Harriet!" cried Emma, after a moment's pause--"What do you mean?--Good Heaven!
what do you mean?--Mistake you!--Am I to suppose then?--"
She could not speak another word.--Her voice was lost; and she sat down, waiting
in great terror till Harriet should answer.
Harriet, who was standing at some distance, and with face turned from her, did not
immediately say any thing; and when she did speak, it was in a voice nearly as agitated
as Emma's.
"I should not have thought it possible," she began, "that you could have
misunderstood me!
I know we agreed never to name him--but considering how infinitely superior he is
to every body else, I should not have thought it possible that I could be
supposed to mean any other person.
Mr. Frank Churchill, indeed! I do not know who would ever look at him in
the company of the other.
I hope I have a better taste than to think of Mr. Frank Churchill, who is like nobody
by his side.
And that you should have been so mistaken, is amazing!--I am sure, but for believing
that you entirely approved and meant to encourage me in my attachment, I should
have considered it at first too great a
presumption almost, to dare to think of him.
At first, if you had not told me that more wonderful things had happened; that there
had been matches of greater disparity (those were your very words);--I should not
have dared to give way to--I should not
have thought it possible--But if you, who had been always acquainted with him--"
"Harriet!" cried Emma, collecting herself resolutely--"Let us understand each other
now, without the possibility of farther mistake.
Are you speaking of--Mr. Knightley?"
"To be sure I am. I never could have an idea of any body
else--and so I thought you knew. When we talked about him, it was as clear
as possible."
"Not quite," returned Emma, with forced calmness, "for all that you then said,
appeared to me to relate to a different person.
I could almost assert that you had named Mr. Frank Churchill.
I am sure the service Mr. Frank Churchill had rendered you, in protecting you from
the gipsies, was spoken of."
"Oh! Miss Woodhouse, how you do forget!" "My dear Harriet, I perfectly remember the
substance of what I said on the occasion.
I told you that I did not wonder at your attachment; that considering the service he
had rendered you, it was extremely natural:--and you agreed to it, expressing
yourself very warmly as to your sense of
that service, and mentioning even what your sensations had been in seeing him come
forward to your rescue.--The impression of it is strong on my memory."
"Oh, dear," cried Harriet, "now I recollect what you mean; but I was thinking of
something very different at the time. It was not the gipsies--it was not Mr.
Frank Churchill that I meant.
No! (with some elevation) I was thinking of a much more precious circumstance--of Mr.
Knightley's coming and asking me to dance, when Mr. Elton would not stand up with me;
and when there was no other partner in the room.
That was the kind action; that was the noble benevolence and generosity; that was
the service which made me begin to feel how superior he was to every other being upon
earth."
"Good God!" cried Emma, "this has been a most unfortunate--most deplorable mistake!-
-What is to be done?" "You would not have encouraged me, then, if
you had understood me?
At least, however, I cannot be worse off than I should have been, if the other had
been the person; and now--it is possible- -"
She paused a few moments.
Emma could not speak. "I do not wonder, Miss Woodhouse," she
resumed, "that you should feel a great difference between the two, as to me or as
to any body.
You must think one five hundred million times more above me than the other.
But I hope, Miss Woodhouse, that supposing- -that if--strange as it may appear--.
But you know they were your own words, that more wonderful things had happened,
matches of greater disparity had taken place than between Mr. Frank Churchill and
me; and, therefore, it seems as if such a
thing even as this, may have occurred before--and if I should be so fortunate,
beyond expression, as to--if Mr. Knightley should really--if he does not mind the
disparity, I hope, dear Miss Woodhouse, you
will not set yourself against it, and try to put difficulties in the way.
But you are too good for that, I am sure." Harriet was standing at one of the windows.
Emma turned round to look at her in consternation, and hastily said,
"Have you any idea of Mr. Knightley's returning your affection?"
"Yes," replied Harriet modestly, but not fearfully--"I must say that I have."
Emma's eyes were instantly withdrawn; and she sat silently meditating, in a fixed
attitude, for a few minutes.
A few minutes were sufficient for making her acquainted with her own heart.
A mind like hers, once opening to suspicion, made rapid progress.
She touched--she admitted--she acknowledged the whole truth.
Why was it so much worse that Harriet should be in love with Mr. Knightley, than
with Frank Churchill?
Why was the evil so dreadfully increased by Harriet's having some hope of a return?
It darted through her, with the speed of an arrow, that Mr. Knightley must marry no one
but herself!
Her own conduct, as well as her own heart, was before her in the same few minutes.
She saw it all with a clearness which had never blessed her before.
How improperly had she been acting by Harriet!
How inconsiderate, how indelicate, how irrational, how unfeeling had been her
conduct!
What blindness, what madness, had led her on!
It struck her with dreadful force, and she was ready to give it every bad name in the
world.
Some portion of respect for herself, however, in spite of all these demerits--
some concern for her own appearance, and a strong sense of justice by Harriet--(there
would be no need of compassion to the
girl who believed herself loved by Mr. Knightley--but justice required that she
should not be made unhappy by any coldness now,) gave Emma the resolution to sit and
endure farther with calmness, with even
apparent kindness.--For her own advantage indeed, it was fit that the utmost extent
of Harriet's hopes should be enquired into; and Harriet had done nothing to forfeit the
regard and interest which had been so
voluntarily formed and maintained--or to deserve to be slighted by the person, whose
counsels had never led her right.--Rousing from reflection, therefore, and subduing
her emotion, she turned to Harriet again,
and, in a more inviting accent, renewed the conversation; for as to the subject which
had first introduced it, the wonderful story of Jane Fairfax, that was quite sunk
and lost.--Neither of them thought but of Mr. Knightley and themselves.
Harriet, who had been standing in no unhappy reverie, was yet very glad to be
called from it, by the now encouraging manner of such a judge, and such a friend
as Miss Woodhouse, and only wanted
invitation, to give the history of her hopes with great, though trembling
delight.--Emma's tremblings as she asked, and as she listened, were better concealed
than Harriet's, but they were not less.
Her voice was not unsteady; but her mind was in all the perturbation that such a
development of self, such a burst of threatening evil, such a confusion of
sudden and perplexing emotions, must
create.--She listened with much inward suffering, but with great outward patience,
to Harriet's detail.--Methodical, or well arranged, or very well delivered, it could
not be expected to be; but it contained,
when separated from all the feebleness and tautology of the narration, a substance to
sink her spirit--especially with the corroborating circumstances, which her own
memory brought in favour of Mr. Knightley's most improved opinion of Harriet.
Harriet had been conscious of a difference in his behaviour ever since those two
decisive dances.--Emma knew that he had, on that occasion, found her much superior to
his expectation.
From that evening, or at least from the time of Miss Woodhouse's encouraging her to
think of him, Harriet had begun to be sensible of his talking to her much more
than he had been used to do, and of his
having indeed quite a different manner towards her; a manner of kindness and
sweetness!--Latterly she had been more and more aware of it.
When they had been all walking together, he had so often come and walked by her, and
talked so very delightfully!--He seemed to want to be acquainted with her.
Emma knew it to have been very much the case.
She had often observed the change, to almost the same extent.--Harriet repeated
expressions of approbation and praise from him--and Emma felt them to be in the
closest agreement with what she had known of his opinion of Harriet.
He praised her for being without art or affectation, for having simple, honest,
generous, feelings.--She knew that he saw such recommendations in Harriet; he had
dwelt on them to her more than once.--Much
that lived in Harriet's memory, many little particulars of the notice she had received
from him, a look, a speech, a removal from one chair to another, a compliment implied,
a preference inferred, had been unnoticed, because unsuspected, by Emma.
Circumstances that might swell to half an hour's relation, and contained multiplied
proofs to her who had seen them, had passed undiscerned by her who now heard them; but
the two latest occurrences to be mentioned,
the two of strongest promise to Harriet, were not without some degree of witness
from Emma herself.--The first, was his walking with her apart from the others, in
the lime-walk at Donwell, where they had
been walking some time before Emma came, and he had taken pains (as she was
convinced) to draw her from the rest to himself--and at first, he had talked to her
in a more particular way than he had ever
done before, in a very particular way indeed!--(Harriet could not recall it
without a blush.)
He seemed to be almost asking her, whether her affections were engaged.--But as soon
as she (Miss Woodhouse) appeared likely to join them, he changed the subject, and
began talking about farming:--The second,
was his having sat talking with her nearly half an hour before Emma came back from her
visit, the very last morning of his being at Hartfield--though, when he first came
in, he had said that he could not stay five
minutes--and his having told her, during their conversation, that though he must go
to London, it was very much against his inclination that he left home at all, which
was much more (as Emma felt) than he had acknowledged to her.
The superior degree of confidence towards Harriet, which this one article marked,
gave her severe pain.
On the subject of the first of the two circumstances, she did, after a little
reflection, venture the following question.
"Might he not?--Is not it possible, that when enquiring, as you thought, into the
state of your affections, he might be alluding to Mr. Martin--he might have Mr.
Martin's interest in view?
But Harriet rejected the suspicion with spirit.
"Mr. Martin! No indeed!--There was not a hint of Mr.
Martin.
I hope I know better now, than to care for Mr. Martin, or to be suspected of it."
When Harriet had closed her evidence, she appealed to her dear Miss Woodhouse, to say
whether she had not good ground for hope.
"I never should have presumed to think of it at first," said she, "but for you.
You told me to observe him carefully, and let his behaviour be the rule of mine--and
so I have.
But now I seem to feel that I may deserve him; and that if he does chuse me, it will
not be any thing so very wonderful."
The bitter feelings occasioned by this speech, the many bitter feelings, made the
utmost exertion necessary on Emma's side, to enable her to say on reply,
"Harriet, I will only venture to declare, that Mr. Knightley is the last man in the
world, who would intentionally give any woman the idea of his feeling for her more
than he really does."
Harriet seemed ready to worship her friend for a sentence so satisfactory; and Emma
was only saved from raptures and fondness, which at that moment would have been
dreadful penance, by the sound of her father's footsteps.
He was coming through the hall. Harriet was too much agitated to encounter
him.
"She could not compose herself-- Mr. Woodhouse would be alarmed--she had better
go;"--with most ready encouragement from her friend, therefore, she passed off
through another door--and the moment she
was gone, this was the spontaneous burst of Emma's feelings: "Oh God! that I had never
seen her!"
The rest of the day, the following night, were hardly enough for her thoughts.--She
was bewildered amidst the confusion of all that had rushed on her within the last few
hours.
Every moment had brought a fresh surprize; and every surprize must be matter of
humiliation to her.--How to understand it all!
How to understand the deceptions she had been thus practising on herself, and living
under!--The blunders, the blindness of her own head and heart!--she sat still, she
walked about, she tried her own room, she
tried the shrubbery--in every place, every posture, she perceived that she had acted
most weakly; that she had been imposed on by others in a most mortifying degree; that
she had been imposing on herself in a
degree yet more mortifying; that she was wretched, and should probably find this day
but the beginning of wretchedness. To understand, thoroughly understand her
own heart, was the first endeavour.
To that point went every leisure moment which her father's claims on her allowed,
and every moment of involuntary absence of mind.
How long had Mr. Knightley been so dear to her, as every feeling declared him now to
be?
When had his influence, such influence begun?-- When had he succeeded to that
place in her affection, which Frank Churchill had once, for a short period,
occupied?--She looked back; she compared
the two--compared them, as they had always stood in her estimation, from the time of
the latter's becoming known to her--and as they must at any time have been compared by
her, had it--oh! had it, by any blessed
felicity, occurred to her, to institute the comparison.--She saw that there never had
been a time when she did not consider Mr. Knightley as infinitely the superior, or
when his regard for her had not been infinitely the most dear.
She saw, that in persuading herself, in fancying, in acting to the contrary, she
had been entirely under a delusion, totally ignorant of her own heart--and, in short,
that she had never really cared for Frank Churchill at all!
This was the conclusion of the first series of reflection.
This was the knowledge of herself, on the first question of inquiry, which she
reached; and without being long in reaching it.--She was most sorrowfully indignant;
ashamed of every sensation but the one
revealed to her--her affection for Mr. Knightley.--Every other part of her mind
was disgusting.
With insufferable vanity had she believed herself in the secret of every body's
feelings; with unpardonable arrogance proposed to arrange every body's destiny.
She was proved to have been universally mistaken; and she had not quite done
nothing--for she had done mischief.
She had brought evil on Harriet, on herself, and she too much feared, on Mr.
Knightley.--Were this most unequal of all connexions to take place, on her must rest
all the reproach of having given it a
beginning; for his attachment, she must believe to be produced only by a
consciousness of Harriet's;--and even were this not the case, he would never have
known Harriet at all but for her folly.
Mr. Knightley and Harriet Smith!--It was a union to distance every wonder of the
kind.--The attachment of Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax became commonplace,
threadbare, stale in the comparison,
exciting no surprize, presenting no disparity, affording nothing to be said or
thought.--Mr. Knightley and Harriet Smith!- -Such an elevation on her side!
Such a debasement on his!
It was horrible to Emma to think how it must sink him in the general opinion, to
foresee the smiles, the sneers, the merriment it would prompt at his expense;
the mortification and disdain of his
brother, the thousand inconveniences to himself.--Could it be?--No; it was
impossible.
And yet it was far, very far, from impossible.--Was it a new circumstance for
a man of first-rate abilities to be captivated by very inferior powers?
Was it new for one, perhaps too busy to seek, to be the prize of a girl who would
seek him?--Was it new for any thing in this world to be unequal, inconsistent,
incongruous--or for chance and circumstance
(as second causes) to direct the human fate?
Oh! had she never brought Harriet forward!
Had she left her where she ought, and where he had told her she ought!--Had she not,
with a folly which no tongue could express, prevented her marrying the unexceptionable
young man who would have made her happy and
respectable in the line of life to which she ought to belong--all would have been
safe; none of this dreadful sequel would have been.
How Harriet could ever have had the presumption to raise her thoughts to Mr.
Knightley!--How she could dare to fancy herself the chosen of such a man till
actually assured of it!--But Harriet was
less humble, had fewer scruples than formerly.--Her inferiority, whether of mind
or situation, seemed little felt.--She had seemed more sensible of Mr. Elton's being
to stoop in marrying her, than she now
seemed of Mr. Knightley's.--Alas! was not that her own doing too?
Who had been at pains to give Harriet notions of self-consequence but herself?--
Who but herself had taught her, that she was to elevate herself if possible, and
that her claims were great to a high
worldly establishment?--If Harriet, from being humble, were grown vain, it was her
doing too.
>
VOLUME III
CHAPTER XII
Till now that she was threatened with its loss, Emma had never known how much of her
happiness depended on being first with Mr. Knightley, first in interest and
affection.--Satisfied that it was so, and
feeling it her due, she had enjoyed it without reflection; and only in the dread
of being supplanted, found how inexpressibly important it had been.--Long,
very long, she felt she had been first;
for, having no female connexions of his own, there had been only Isabella whose
claims could be compared with hers, and she had always known exactly how far he loved
and esteemed Isabella.
She had herself been first with him for many years past.
She had not deserved it; she had often been negligent or perverse, slighting his
advice, or even wilfully opposing him, insensible of half his merits, and
quarrelling with him because he would not
acknowledge her false and insolent estimate of her own--but still, from family
attachment and habit, and thorough excellence of mind, he had loved her, and
watched over her from a girl, with an
endeavour to improve her, and an anxiety for her doing right, which no other
creature had at all shared.
In spite of all her faults, she knew she was dear to him; might she not say, very
dear?--When the suggestions of hope, however, which must follow here, presented
themselves, she could not presume to indulge them.
Harriet Smith might think herself not unworthy of being peculiarly, exclusively,
passionately loved by Mr. Knightley.
She could not. She could not flatter herself with any idea
of blindness in his attachment to her.
She had received a very recent proof of its impartiality.--How shocked had he been by
her behaviour to Miss Bates!
How directly, how strongly had he expressed himself to her on the subject!--Not too
strongly for the offence--but far, far too strongly to issue from any feeling softer
than upright justice and clear-sighted
goodwill.--She had no hope, nothing to deserve the name of hope, that he could
have that sort of affection for herself which was now in question; but there was a
hope (at times a slight one, at times much
stronger,) that Harriet might have deceived herself, and be overrating his regard for
her.--Wish it she must, for his sake--be the consequence nothing to herself, but his
remaining single all his life.
Could she be secure of that, indeed, of his never marrying at all, she believed she
should be perfectly satisfied.--Let him but continue the same Mr. Knightley to her and
her father, the same Mr. Knightley to all
the world; let Donwell and Hartfield lose none of their precious intercourse of
friendship and confidence, and her peace would be fully secured.--Marriage, in fact,
would not do for her.
It would be incompatible with what she owed to her father, and with what she felt for
him. Nothing should separate her from her
father.
She would not marry, even if she were asked by Mr. Knightley.
It must be her ardent wish that Harriet might be disappointed; and she hoped, that
when able to see them together again, she might at least be able to ascertain what
the chances for it were.--She should see
them henceforward with the closest observance; and wretchedly as she had
hitherto misunderstood even those she was watching, she did not know how to admit
that she could be blinded here.--He was expected back every day.
The power of observation would be soon given--frightfully soon it appeared when
her thoughts were in one course.
In the meanwhile, she resolved against seeing Harriet.--It would do neither of
them good, it would do the subject no good, to be talking of it farther.--She was
resolved not to be convinced, as long as
she could doubt, and yet had no authority for opposing Harriet's confidence.
To talk would be only to irritate.--She wrote to her, therefore, kindly, but
decisively, to beg that she would not, at present, come to Hartfield; acknowledging
it to be her conviction, that all farther
confidential discussion of one topic had better be avoided; and hoping, that if a
few days were allowed to pass before they met again, except in the company of others-
-she objected only to a tete-a-tete--they
might be able to act as if they had forgotten the conversation of yesterday.--
Harriet submitted, and approved, and was grateful.
This point was just arranged, when a visitor arrived to tear Emma's thoughts a
little from the one subject which had engrossed them, sleeping or waking, the
last twenty-four hours--Mrs. Weston, who
had been calling on her daughter-in-law elect, and took Hartfield in her way home,
almost as much in duty to Emma as in pleasure to herself, to relate all the
particulars of so interesting an interview.
Mr. Weston had accompanied her to Mrs. Bates's, and gone through his share of this
essential attention most handsomely; but she having then induced Miss Fairfax to
join her in an airing, was now returned
with much more to say, and much more to say with satisfaction, than a quarter of an
hour spent in Mrs. Bates's parlour, with all the encumbrance of awkward feelings,
could have afforded.
A little curiosity Emma had; and she made the most of it while her friend related.
Mrs. Weston had set off to pay the visit in a good deal of agitation herself; and in
the first place had wished not to go at all at present, to be allowed merely to write
to Miss Fairfax instead, and to defer this
ceremonious call till a little time had passed, and Mr. Churchill could be
reconciled to the engagement's becoming known; as, considering every thing, she
thought such a visit could not be paid
without leading to reports:--but Mr. Weston had thought differently; he was extremely
anxious to shew his approbation to Miss Fairfax and her family, and did not
conceive that any suspicion could be
excited by it; or if it were, that it would be of any consequence; for "such things,"
he observed, "always got about." Emma smiled, and felt that Mr. Weston had
very good reason for saying so.
They had gone, in short--and very great had been the evident distress and confusion of
the lady.
She had hardly been able to speak a word, and every look and action had shewn how
deeply she was suffering from consciousness.
The quiet, heart-felt satisfaction of the old lady, and the rapturous delight of her
daughter--who proved even too joyous to talk as usual, had been a gratifying, yet
almost an affecting, scene.
They were both so truly respectable in their happiness, so disinterested in every
sensation; thought so much of Jane; so much of every body, and so little of themselves,
that every kindly feeling was at work for them.
Miss Fairfax's recent illness had offered a fair plea for Mrs. Weston to invite her to
an airing; she had drawn back and declined at first, but, on being pressed had
yielded; and, in the course of their drive,
Mrs. Weston had, by gentle encouragement, overcome so much of her embarrassment, as
to bring her to converse on the important subject.
Apologies for her seemingly ungracious silence in their first reception, and the
warmest expressions of the gratitude she was always feeling towards herself and Mr.
Weston, must necessarily open the cause;
but when these effusions were put by, they had talked a good deal of the present and
of the future state of the engagement.
Mrs. Weston was convinced that such conversation must be the greatest relief to
her companion, pent up within her own mind as every thing had so long been, and was
very much pleased with all that she had said on the subject.
"On the misery of what she had suffered, during the concealment of so many months,"
continued Mrs. Weston, "she was energetic.
This was one of her expressions.
'I will not say, that since I entered into the engagement I have not had some happy
moments; but I can say, that I have never known the blessing of one tranquil hour:'--
and the quivering lip, Emma, which uttered
it, was an attestation that I felt at my heart."
"Poor girl!" said Emma. "She thinks herself wrong, then, for having
consented to a private engagement?"
"Wrong! No one, I believe, can blame her more than
she is disposed to blame herself.
'The consequence,' said she, 'has been a state of perpetual suffering to me; and so
it ought.
But after all the punishment that misconduct can bring, it is still not less
misconduct. Pain is no expiation.
I never can be blameless.
I have been acting contrary to all my sense of right; and the fortunate turn that every
thing has taken, and the kindness I am now receiving, is what my conscience tells me
ought not to be.'
'Do not imagine, madam,' she continued, 'that I was taught wrong.
Do not let any reflection fall on the principles or the care of the friends who
brought me up.
The error has been all my own; and I do assure you that, with all the excuse that
present circumstances may appear to give, I shall yet dread making the story known to
Colonel Campbell.'"
"Poor girl!" said Emma again. "She loves him then excessively, I suppose.
It must have been from attachment only, that she could be led to form the
engagement.
Her affection must have overpowered her judgment."
"Yes, I have no doubt of her being extremely attached to him."
"I am afraid," returned Emma, sighing, "that I must often have contributed to make
her unhappy." "On your side, my love, it was very
innocently done.
But she probably had something of that in her thoughts, when alluding to the
misunderstandings which he had given us hints of before.
One natural consequence of the evil she had involved herself in," she said, "was that
of making her unreasonable.
The consciousness of having done amiss, had exposed her to a thousand inquietudes, and
made her captious and irritable to a degree that must have been--that had been--hard
for him to bear.
'I did not make the allowances,' said she, 'which I ought to have done, for his temper
and spirits--his delightful spirits, and that gaiety, that playfulness of
disposition, which, under any other
circumstances, would, I am sure, have been as constantly bewitching to me, as they
were at first.'
She then began to speak of you, and of the great kindness you had shewn her during her
illness; and with a blush which shewed me how it was all connected, desired me,
whenever I had an opportunity, to thank
you--I could not thank you too much--for every wish and every endeavour to do her
good.
She was sensible that you had never received any proper acknowledgment from
herself."
"If I did not know her to be happy now," said Emma, seriously, "which, in spite of
every little drawback from her scrupulous conscience, she must be, I could not bear
these thanks;--for, oh!
Mrs. Weston, if there were an account drawn up of the evil and the good I have done
Miss Fairfax!--Well (checking herself, and trying to be more lively), this is all to
be forgotten.
You are very kind to bring me these interesting particulars.
They shew her to the greatest advantage. I am sure she is very good--I hope she will
be very happy.
It is fit that the fortune should be on his side, for I think the merit will be all on
hers." Such a conclusion could not pass unanswered
by Mrs. Weston.
She thought well of Frank in almost every respect; and, what was more, she loved him
very much, and her defence was, therefore, earnest.
She talked with a great deal of reason, and at least equal affection--but she had too
much to urge for Emma's attention; it was soon gone to Brunswick Square or to
Donwell; she forgot to attempt to listen;
and when Mrs. Weston ended with, "We have not yet had the letter we are so anxious
for, you know, but I hope it will soon come," she was obliged to pause before she
answered, and at last obliged to answer at
random, before she could at all recollect what letter it was which they were so
anxious for. "Are you well, my Emma?" was Mrs. Weston's
parting question.
"Oh! perfectly. I am always well, you know.
Be sure to give me intelligence of the letter as soon as possible."
Mrs. Weston's communications furnished Emma with more food for unpleasant reflection,
by increasing her esteem and compassion, and her sense of past injustice towards
Miss Fairfax.
She bitterly regretted not having sought a closer acquaintance with her, and blushed
for the envious feelings which had certainly been, in some measure, the cause.
Had she followed Mr. Knightley's known wishes, in paying that attention to Miss
Fairfax, which was every way her due; had she tried to know her better; had she done
her part towards intimacy; had she
endeavoured to find a friend there instead of in Harriet Smith; she must, in all
probability, have been spared from every pain which pressed on her now.--Birth,
abilities, and education, had been equally
marking one as an associate for her, to be received with gratitude; and the other--
what was she?--Supposing even that they had never become intimate friends; that she had
never been admitted into Miss Fairfax's
confidence on this important matter--which was most probable--still, in knowing her as
she ought, and as she might, she must have been preserved from the abominable
suspicions of an improper attachment to Mr.
Dixon, which she had not only so foolishly fashioned and harboured herself, but had so
unpardonably imparted; an idea which she greatly feared had been made a subject of
material distress to the delicacy of Jane's
feelings, by the levity or carelessness of Frank Churchill's.
Of all the sources of evil surrounding the former, since her coming to Highbury, she
was persuaded that she must herself have been the worst.
She must have been a perpetual enemy.
They never could have been all three together, without her having stabbed Jane
Fairfax's peace in a thousand instances; and on Box Hill, perhaps, it had been the
agony of a mind that would bear no more.
The evening of this day was very long, and melancholy, at Hartfield.
The weather added what it could of gloom.
A cold stormy rain set in, and nothing of July appeared but in the trees and shrubs,
which the wind was despoiling, and the length of the day, which only made such
cruel sights the longer visible.
The weather affected Mr. Woodhouse, and he could only be kept tolerably comfortable by
almost ceaseless attention on his daughter's side, and by exertions which had
never cost her half so much before.
It reminded her of their first forlorn tete-a-tete, on the evening of Mrs.
Weston's wedding-day; but Mr. Knightley had walked in then, soon after tea, and
dissipated every melancholy fancy.
Alas! such delightful proofs of Hartfield's attraction, as those sort of visits
conveyed, might shortly be over.
The picture which she had then drawn of the privations of the approaching winter, had
proved erroneous; no friends had deserted them, no pleasures had been lost.--But her
present forebodings she feared would experience no similar contradiction.
The prospect before her now, was threatening to a degree that could not be
entirely dispelled--that might not be even partially brightened.
If all took place that might take place among the circle of her friends, Hartfield
must be comparatively deserted; and she left to cheer her father with the spirits
only of ruined happiness.
The child to be born at Randalls must be a tie there even dearer than herself; and
Mrs. Weston's heart and time would be occupied by it.
They should lose her; and, probably, in great measure, her husband also.--Frank
Churchill would return among them no more; and Miss Fairfax, it was reasonable to
suppose, would soon cease to belong to Highbury.
They would be married, and settled either at or near Enscombe.
All that were good would be withdrawn; and if to these losses, the loss of Donwell
were to be added, what would remain of cheerful or of rational society within
their reach?
Mr. Knightley to be no longer coming there for his evening comfort!--No longer walking
in at all hours, as if ever willing to change his own home for their's!--How was
it to be endured?
And if he were to be lost to them for Harriet's sake; if he were to be thought of
hereafter, as finding in Harriet's society all that he wanted; if Harriet were to be
the chosen, the first, the dearest, the
friend, the wife to whom he looked for all the best blessings of existence; what could
be increasing Emma's wretchedness but the reflection never far distant from her mind,
that it had been all her own work?
When it came to such a pitch as this, she was not able to refrain from a start, or a
heavy sigh, or even from walking about the room for a few seconds--and the only source
whence any thing like consolation or
composure could be drawn, was in the resolution of her own better conduct, and
the hope that, however inferior in spirit and gaiety might be the following and every
future winter of her life to the past, it
would yet find her more rational, more acquainted with herself, and leave her less
to regret when it were gone.
>
VOLUME III
CHAPTER XIII
The weather continued much the same all the following morning; and the same loneliness,
and the same melancholy, seemed to reign at Hartfield--but in the afternoon it cleared;
the wind changed into a softer quarter; the
clouds were carried off; the sun appeared; it was summer again.
With all the eagerness which such a transition gives, Emma resolved to be out
of doors as soon as possible.
Never had the exquisite sight, smell, sensation of nature, tranquil, warm, and
brilliant after a storm, been more attractive to her.
She longed for the serenity they might gradually introduce; and on Mr. Perry's
coming in soon after dinner, with a disengaged hour to give her father, she
lost no time ill hurrying into the
shrubbery.--There, with spirits freshened, and thoughts a little relieved, she had
taken a few turns, when she saw Mr. Knightley passing through the garden door,
and coming towards her.--It was the first
intimation of his being returned from London.
She had been thinking of him the moment before, as unquestionably sixteen miles
distant.--There was time only for the quickest arrangement of mind.
She must be collected and calm.
In half a minute they were together. The "How d'ye do's" were quiet and
constrained on each side.
She asked after their mutual friends; they were all well.--When had he left them?--
Only that morning. He must have had a wet ride.--Yes.--He
meant to walk with her, she found.
"He had just looked into the dining-room, and as he was not wanted there, preferred
being out of doors."--She thought he neither looked nor spoke cheerfully; and
the first possible cause for it, suggested
by her fears, was, that he had perhaps been communicating his plans to his brother, and
was pained by the manner in which they had been received.
They walked together.
He was silent. She thought he was often looking at her,
and trying for a fuller view of her face than it suited her to give.
And this belief produced another dread.
Perhaps he wanted to speak to her, of his attachment to Harriet; he might be watching
for encouragement to begin.--She did not, could not, feel equal to lead the way to
any such subject.
He must do it all himself. Yet she could not bear this silence.
With him it was most unnatural. She considered--resolved--and, trying to
smile, began--
"You have some news to hear, now you are come back, that will rather surprize you."
"Have I?" said he quietly, and looking at her; "of what nature?"
"Oh! the best nature in the world--a wedding."
After waiting a moment, as if to be sure she intended to say no more, he replied,
"If you mean Miss Fairfax and Frank Churchill, I have heard that already."
"How is it possible?" cried Emma, turning her glowing cheeks towards him; for, while
she spoke, it occurred to her that he might have called at Mrs. Goddard's in his way.
"I had a few lines on parish business from Mr. Weston this morning, and at the end of
them he gave me a brief account of what had happened."
Emma was quite relieved, and could presently say, with a little more
composure,
"You probably have been less surprized than any of us, for you have had your
suspicions.--I have not forgotten that you once tried to give me a caution.--I wish I
had attended to it--but--(with a sinking
voice and a heavy sigh) I seem to have been doomed to blindness."
For a moment or two nothing was said, and she was unsuspicious of having excited any
particular interest, till she found her arm drawn within his, and pressed against his
heart, and heard him thus saying, in a tone of great sensibility, speaking low,
"Time, my dearest Emma, time will heal the wound.--Your own excellent sense--your
exertions for your father's sake--I know you will not allow yourself--."
Her arm was pressed again, as he added, in a more broken and subdued accent, "The
feelings of the warmest friendship-- Indignation--Abominable scoundrel!"--And in
a louder, steadier tone, he concluded with, "He will soon be gone.
They will soon be in Yorkshire. I am sorry for her.
She deserves a better fate."
Emma understood him; and as soon as she could recover from the flutter of pleasure,
excited by such tender consideration, replied,
"You are very kind--but you are mistaken-- and I must set you right.-- I am not in
want of that sort of compassion.
My blindness to what was going on, led me to act by them in a way that I must always
be ashamed of, and I was very foolishly tempted to say and do many things which may
well lay me open to unpleasant conjectures,
but I have no other reason to regret that I was not in the secret earlier."
"Emma!" cried he, looking eagerly at her, "are you, indeed?"--but checking himself--
"No, no, I understand you--forgive me--I am pleased that you can say even so much.--He
is no object of regret, indeed! and it will
not be very long, I hope, before that becomes the acknowledgment of more than
your reason.--Fortunate that your affections were not farther entangled!--I
could never, I confess, from your manners,
assure myself as to the degree of what you felt--I could only be certain that there
was a preference--and a preference which I never believed him to deserve.--He is a
disgrace to the name of man.--And is he to
be rewarded with that sweet young woman?-- Jane, Jane, you will be a miserable
creature."
"Mr. Knightley," said Emma, trying to be lively, but really confused--"I am in a
very extraordinary situation.
I cannot let you continue in your error; and yet, perhaps, since my manners gave
such an impression, I have as much reason to be ashamed of confessing that I never
have been at all attached to the person we
are speaking of, as it might be natural for a woman to feel in confessing exactly the
reverse.--But I never have." He listened in perfect silence.
She wished him to speak, but he would not.
She supposed she must say more before she were entitled to his clemency; but it was a
hard case to be obliged still to lower herself in his opinion.
She went on, however.
"I have very little to say for my own conduct.--I was tempted by his attentions,
and allowed myself to appear pleased.--An old story, probably--a common case--and no
more than has happened to hundreds of my
sex before; and yet it may not be the more excusable in one who sets up as I do for
Understanding. Many circumstances assisted the temptation.
He was the son of Mr. Weston--he was continually here--I always found him very
pleasant--and, in short, for (with a sigh) let me swell out the causes ever so
ingeniously, they all centre in this at
last--my vanity was flattered, and I allowed his attentions.
Latterly, however--for some time, indeed--I have had no idea of their meaning any
thing.--I thought them a habit, a trick, nothing that called for seriousness on my
side.
He has imposed on me, but he has not injured me.
I have never been attached to him. And now I can tolerably comprehend his
behaviour.
He never wished to attach me.
It was merely a blind to conceal his real situation with another.--It was his object
to blind all about him; and no one, I am sure, could be more effectually blinded
than myself--except that I was not
blinded--that it was my good fortune--that, in short, I was somehow or other safe from
him."
She had hoped for an answer here--for a few words to say that her conduct was at least
intelligible; but he was silent; and, as far as she could judge, deep in thought.
At last, and tolerably in his usual tone, he said,
"I have never had a high opinion of Frank Churchill.--I can suppose, however, that I
may have underrated him.
My acquaintance with him has been but trifling.--And even if I have not
underrated him hitherto, he may yet turn out well.--With such a woman he has a
chance.--I have no motive for wishing him
ill--and for her sake, whose happiness will be involved in his good character and
conduct, I shall certainly wish him well."
"I have no doubt of their being happy together," said Emma; "I believe them to be
very mutually and very sincerely attached." "He is a most fortunate man!" returned Mr.
Knightley, with energy.
"So early in life--at three-and-twenty--a period when, if a man chuses a wife, he
generally chuses ill. At three-and-twenty to have drawn such a
prize!
What years of felicity that man, in all human calculation, has before him!--Assured
of the love of such a woman--the disinterested love, for Jane Fairfax's
character vouches for her
disinterestedness; every thing in his favour,--equality of situation--I mean, as
far as regards society, and all the habits and manners that are important; equality in
every point but one--and that one, since
the purity of her heart is not to be doubted, such as must increase his
felicity, for it will be his to bestow the only advantages she wants.--A man would
always wish to give a woman a better home
than the one he takes her from; and he who can do it, where there is no doubt of her
regard, must, I think, be the happiest of mortals.--Frank Churchill is, indeed, the
favourite of fortune.
Every thing turns out for his good.--He meets with a young woman at a watering-
place, gains her affection, cannot even weary her by negligent treatment--and had
he and all his family sought round the
world for a perfect wife for him, they could not have found her superior.--His
aunt is in the way.--His aunt dies.--He has only to speak.--His friends are eager to
promote his happiness.--He had used every
body ill--and they are all delighted to forgive him.--He is a fortunate man
indeed!" "You speak as if you envied him."
"And I do envy him, Emma.
In one respect he is the object of my envy."
Emma could say no more.
They seemed to be within half a sentence of Harriet, and her immediate feeling was to
avert the subject, if possible.
She made her plan; she would speak of something totally different--the children
in Brunswick Square; and she only waited for breath to begin, when Mr. Knightley
startled her, by saying,
"You will not ask me what is the point of envy.--You are determined, I see, to have
no curiosity.--You are wise--but I cannot be wise.
Emma, I must tell you what you will not ask, though I may wish it unsaid the next
moment." "Oh! then, don't speak it, don't speak it,"
she eagerly cried.
"Take a little time, consider, do not commit yourself."
"Thank you," said he, in an accent of deep mortification, and not another syllable
followed.
Emma could not bear to give him pain. He was wishing to confide in her--perhaps
to consult her;--cost her what it would, she would listen.
She might assist his resolution, or reconcile him to it; she might give just
praise to Harriet, or, by representing to him his own independence, relieve him from
that state of indecision, which must be
more intolerable than any alternative to such a mind as his.--They had reached the
house. "You are going in, I suppose?" said he.
"No,"--replied Emma--quite confirmed by the depressed manner in which he still spoke--
"I should like to take another turn. Mr. Perry is not gone."
And, after proceeding a few steps, she added--"I stopped you ungraciously, just
now, Mr. Knightley, and, I am afraid, gave you pain.--But if you have any wish to
speak openly to me as a friend, or to ask
my opinion of any thing that you may have in contemplation--as a friend, indeed, you
may command me.--I will hear whatever you like.
I will tell you exactly what I think."
"As a friend!"--repeated Mr. Knightley.-- "Emma, that I fear is a word--No, I have no
wish--Stay, yes, why should I hesitate?--I have gone too far already for concealment.-
-Emma, I accept your offer--Extraordinary
as it may seem, I accept it, and refer myself to you as a friend.--Tell me, then,
have I no chance of ever succeeding?"
He stopped in his earnestness to look the question, and the expression of his eyes
overpowered her.
"My dearest Emma," said he, "for dearest you will always be, whatever the event of
this hour's conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma--tell me at once.
Say 'No,' if it is to be said."--She could really say nothing.--"You are silent," he
cried, with great animation; "absolutely silent! at present I ask no more."
Emma was almost ready to sink under the agitation of this moment.
The dread of being awakened from the happiest dream, was perhaps the most
prominent feeling.
"I cannot make speeches, Emma:" he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere,
decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.--"If I loved you
less, I might be able to talk about it more.
But you know what I am.--You hear nothing but truth from me.--I have blamed you, and
lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne
it.--Bear with the truths I would tell you
now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them.
The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them.
God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.--But you understand me.--Yes, you
see, you understand my feelings--and will return them if you can.
At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice."
While he spoke, Emma's mind was most busy, and, with all the wonderful velocity of
thought, had been able--and yet without losing a word--to catch and comprehend the
exact truth of the whole; to see that
Harriet's hopes had been entirely groundless, a mistake, a delusion, as
complete a delusion as any of her own--that Harriet was nothing; that she was every
thing herself; that what she had been
saying relative to Harriet had been all taken as the language of her own feelings;
and that her agitation, her doubts, her reluctance, her discouragement, had been
all received as discouragement from
herself.--And not only was there time for these convictions, with all their glow of
attendant happiness; there was time also to rejoice that Harriet's secret had not
escaped her, and to resolve that it need
not, and should not.--It was all the service she could now render her poor
friend; for as to any of that heroism of sentiment which might have prompted her to
entreat him to transfer his affection from
herself to Harriet, as infinitely the most worthy of the two--or even the more simple
sublimity of resolving to refuse him at once and for ever, without vouchsafing any
motive, because he could not marry them both, Emma had it not.
She felt for Harriet, with pain and with contrition; but no flight of generosity run
mad, opposing all that could be probable or reasonable, entered her brain.
She had led her friend astray, and it would be a reproach to her for ever; but her
judgment was as strong as her feelings, and as strong as it had ever been before, in
reprobating any such alliance for him, as most unequal and degrading.
Her way was clear, though not quite smooth.--She spoke then, on being so
entreated.--What did she say?--Just what she ought, of course.
A lady always does.--She said enough to shew there need not be despair--and to
invite him to say more himself.
He had despaired at one period; he had received such an injunction to caution and
silence, as for the time crushed every hope;--she had begun by refusing to hear
him.--The change had perhaps been somewhat
sudden;--her proposal of taking another turn, her renewing the conversation which
she had just put an end to, might be a little extraordinary!--She felt its
inconsistency; but Mr. Knightley was so
obliging as to put up with it, and seek no farther explanation.
Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can
it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken; but where,
as in this case, though the conduct is
mistaken, the feelings are not, it may not be very material.--Mr. Knightley could not
impute to Emma a more relenting heart than she possessed, or a heart more disposed to
accept of his.
He had, in fact, been wholly unsuspicious of his own influence.
He had followed her into the shrubbery with no idea of trying it.
He had come, in his anxiety to see how she bore Frank Churchill's engagement, with no
selfish view, no view at all, but of endeavouring, if she allowed him an
opening, to soothe or to counsel her.--The
rest had been the work of the moment, the immediate effect of what he heard, on his
feelings.
The delightful assurance of her total indifference towards Frank Churchill, of
her having a heart completely disengaged from him, had given birth to the hope,
that, in time, he might gain her affection
himself;--but it had been no present hope-- he had only, in the momentary conquest of
eagerness over judgment, aspired to be told that she did not forbid his attempt to
attach her.--The superior hopes which
gradually opened were so much the more enchanting.--The affection, which he had
been asking to be allowed to create, if he could, was already his!--Within half an
hour, he had passed from a thoroughly
distressed state of mind, to something so like perfect happiness, that it could bear
no other name.
Her change was equal.--This one half-hour had given to each the same precious
certainty of being beloved, had cleared from each the same degree of ignorance,
jealousy, or distrust.--On his side, there
had been a long-standing jealousy, old as the arrival, or even the expectation, of
Frank Churchill.--He had been in love with Emma, and jealous of Frank Churchill, from
about the same period, one sentiment having probably enlightened him as to the other.
It was his jealousy of Frank Churchill that had taken him from the country.--The Box
Hill party had decided him on going away.
He would save himself from witnessing again such permitted, encouraged attentions.--He
had gone to learn to be indifferent.--But he had gone to a wrong place.
There was too much domestic happiness in his brother's house; woman wore too amiable
a form in it; Isabella was too much like Emma--differing only in those striking
inferiorities, which always brought the
other in brilliancy before him, for much to have been done, even had his time been
longer.--He had stayed on, however, vigorously, day after day--till this very
morning's post had conveyed the history of
Jane Fairfax.--Then, with the gladness which must be felt, nay, which he did not
scruple to feel, having never believed Frank Churchill to be at all deserving
Emma, was there so much fond solicitude, so
much keen anxiety for her, that he could stay no longer.
He had ridden home through the rain; and had walked up directly after dinner, to see
how this sweetest and best of all creatures, faultless in spite of all her
faults, bore the discovery.
He had found her agitated and low.--Frank Churchill was a villain.-- He heard her
declare that she had never loved him.
Frank Churchill's character was not desperate.--She was his own Emma, by hand
and word, when they returned into the house; and if he could have thought of
Frank Churchill then, he might have deemed him a very good sort of fellow.
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