Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
EMMA - BY JANE AUSTEN
Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and
happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of
existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very
little to distress or vex her.
She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate,
indulgent father; and had, in consequence of her sister's marriage,
been mistress of his house from a very early period. Her mother had
died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance
of her caresses; and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman
as governess, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection.
Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse's family, less as a
governess than a friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularly
of Emma. Between "them" it was more the intimacy of sisters. Even
before Miss Taylor had ceased to hold the nominal office of governess,
the mildness of her temper had hardly allowed her to impose any
restraint; and the shadow of authority being now long passed away, they
had been living together as friend and friend very mutually attached,
and Emma doing just what she liked; highly esteeming Miss Taylor's
judgment, but directed chiefly by her own.
The real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having
rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too
well of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to
her many enjoyments. The danger, however, was at present so
unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with
Sorrow came--a gentle sorrow--but not at all in the shape of any
disagreeable consciousness.--Miss Taylor married. It was Miss Taylor's
loss which first brought grief. It was on the wedding-day of this
beloved friend that Emma first sat in mournful thought of any
continuance. The wedding over, and the bride-people gone, her father
and herself were left to dine together, with no prospect of a third to
cheer a long evening. Her father composed himself to sleep after
dinner, as usual, and she had then only to sit and think of what she
The event had every promise of happiness for her friend. Mr. Weston
was a man of unexceptionable character, easy fortune, suitable age, and
pleasant manners; and there was some satisfaction in considering with
what self-denying, generous friendship she had always wished and
promoted the match; but it was a black morning's work for her. The
want of Miss Taylor would be felt every hour of every day. She
recalled her past kindness--the kindness, the affection of sixteen
years--how she had taught and how she had played with her from five
years old--how she had devoted all her powers to attach and amuse her
in health--and how nursed her through the various illnesses of
childhood. A large debt of gratitude was owing here; but the
intercourse of the last seven years, the equal footing and perfect
unreserve which had soon followed Isabella's marriage, on their being
left to each other, was yet a dearer, tenderer recollection. She had
been a friend and companion such as few possessed: intelligent,
well-informed, useful, gentle, knowing all the ways of the family,
interested in all its concerns, and peculiarly interested in herself,
in every pleasure, every scheme of hers--one to whom she could speak
every thought as it arose, and who had such an affection for her as
could never find fault.
How was she to bear the change?--It was true that her friend was going
only half a mile from them; but Emma was aware that great must be the
difference between a Mrs. Weston, only half a mile from them, and a
Miss Taylor in the house; and with all her advantages, natural and
domestic, she was now in great danger of suffering from intellectual
solitude. She dearly loved her father, but he was no companion for
her. He could not meet her in conversation, rational or playful.
The evil of the actual disparity in their ages (and Mr. Woodhouse had
not married early) was much increased by his constitution and habits;
for having been a valetudinarian all his life, without activity of mind
or body, he was a much older man in ways than in years; and though
everywhere beloved for the friendliness of his heart and his amiable
temper, his talents could not have recommended him at any time.
Her sister, though comparatively but little removed by matrimony, being
settled in London, only sixteen miles off, was much beyond her daily
reach; and many a long October and November evening must be struggled
through at Hartfield, before Christmas brought the next visit from
Isabella and her husband, and their little children, to fill the house,
and give her pleasant society again.
Highbury, the large and populous village, almost amounting to a town,
to which Hartfield, in spite of its separate lawn, and shrubberies, and
name, did really belong, afforded her no equals. The Woodhouses were
first in consequence there. All looked up to them. She had many
acquaintance in the place, for her father was universally civil, but
not one among them who could be accepted in lieu of Miss Taylor for
even half a day. It was a melancholy change; and Emma could not but
sigh over it, and wish for impossible things, till her father awoke,
and made it necessary to be cheerful. His spirits required support.
He was a nervous man, easily depressed; fond of every body that he was
used to, and hating to part with them; hating change of every kind.
Matrimony, as the origin of change, was always disagreeable; and he was
by no means yet reconciled to his own daughter's marrying, nor could
ever speak of her but with compassion, though it had been entirely a
match of affection, when he was now obliged to part with Miss Taylor
too; and from his habits of gentle selfishness, and of being never able
to suppose that other people could feel differently from himself, he
was very much disposed to think Miss Taylor had done as sad a thing for
herself as for them, and would have been a great deal happier if she
had spent all the rest of her life at Hartfield. Emma smiled and
chatted as cheerfully as she could, to keep him from such thoughts; but
when tea came, it was impossible for him not to say exactly as he had
said at dinner,
"Poor Miss Taylor!--I wish she were here again. What a pity it is that
Mr. Weston ever thought of her!"
"I cannot agree with you, papa; you know I cannot. Mr. Weston is such
a good-humoured, pleasant, excellent man, that he thoroughly deserves a
good wife;--and you would not have had Miss Taylor live with us for
ever, and bear all my odd humours, when she might have a house of her
"A house of her own!--But where is the advantage of a house of her own?
This is three times as large.--And you have never any odd humours, my
"How often we shall be going to see them, and they coming to see
us!--We shall be always meeting! "We" must begin; we must go and pay
wedding visit very soon."
"My dear, how am I to get so far? Randalls is such a distance. I could
not walk half so far."
"No, papa, nobody thought of your walking. We must go in the carriage,
to be sure."
"The carriage! But James will not like to put the horses to for such a
little way;--and where are the poor horses to be while we are paying
"They are to be put into Mr. Weston's stable, papa. You know we have
settled all that already. We talked it all over with Mr. Weston last
night. And as for James, you may be very sure he will always like
going to Randalls, because of his daughter's being housemaid there. I
only doubt whether he will ever take us anywhere else. That was your
doing, papa. You got Hannah that good place. Nobody thought of Hannah
till you mentioned her--James is so obliged to you!"
"I am very glad I did think of her. It was very lucky, for I would not
have had poor James think himself slighted upon any account; and I am
sure she will make a very good servant: she is a civil, pretty-spoken
girl; I have a great opinion of her. Whenever I see her, she always
curtseys and asks me how I do, in a very pretty manner; and when you
have had her here to do needlework, I observe she always turns the lock
of the door the right way and never bangs it. I am sure she will be an
excellent servant; and it will be a great comfort to poor Miss Taylor
to have somebody about her that she is used to see. Whenever James
goes over to see his daughter, you know, she will be hearing of us. He
will be able to tell her how we all are."
Emma spared no exertions to maintain this happier flow of ideas, and
hoped, by the help of backgammon, to get her father tolerably through
the evening, and be attacked by no regrets but her own. The
backgammon-table was placed; but a visitor immediately afterwards
walked in and made it unnecessary.
Mr. Knightley, a sensible man about seven or eight-and-thirty, was not
only a very old and intimate friend of the family, but particularly
connected with it, as the elder brother of Isabella's husband. He
lived about a mile from Highbury, was a frequent visitor, and always
welcome, and at this time more welcome than usual, as coming directly
from their mutual connexions in London. He had returned to a late
dinner, after some days' absence, and now walked up to Hartfield to say
that all were well in Brunswick Square. It was a happy circumstance,
and animated Mr. Woodhouse for some time. Mr. Knightley had a cheerful
manner, which always did him good; and his many inquiries after "poor
Isabella" and her children were answered most satisfactorily. When
this was over, Mr. Woodhouse gratefully observed, "It is very kind of
you, Mr. Knightley, to come out at this late hour to call upon us. I
am afraid you must have had a shocking walk."
"Not at all, sir. It is a beautiful moonlight night; and so mild that
I must draw back from your great fire."
"But you must have found it very damp and dirty. I wish you may not
"Dirty, sir! Look at my shoes. Not a speck on them."
"Well! that is quite surprising, for we have had a vast deal of rain
here. It rained dreadfully hard for half an hour while we were at
breakfast. I wanted them to put off the wedding."
"By the bye--I have not wished you joy. Being pretty well aware of
what sort of joy you must both be feeling, I have been in no hurry with
my congratulations; but I hope it all went off tolerably well. How did
you all behave? Who cried most?"
"Ah! poor Miss Taylor! 'Tis a sad business."
"Poor Mr. and Miss Woodhouse, if you please; but I cannot possibly say
'poor Miss Taylor.' I have a great regard for you and Emma; but when it
comes to the question of dependence or independence!--At any rate, it
must be better to have only one to please than two."
"Especially when "one" of those two is such a fanciful, troublesome
creature!" said Emma playfully. "That is what you have in your head, I
know--and what you would certainly say if my father were not by."
"I believe it is very true, my dear, indeed," said Mr. Woodhouse, with
a sigh. "I am afraid I am sometimes very fanciful and troublesome."
"My dearest papa! You do not think I could mean "you", or suppose Mr.
Knightley to mean "you". What a horrible idea! Oh no! I meant only
myself. Mr. Knightley loves to find fault with me, you know--in a
joke--it is all a joke. We always say what we like to one another."
Mr. Knightley, in fact, was one of the few people who could see faults
in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them: and
though this was not particularly agreeable to Emma herself, she knew it
would be so much less so to her father, that she would not have him
really suspect such a circumstance as her not being thought perfect by
"Emma knows I never flatter her," said Mr. Knightley, "but I meant no
reflection on any body. Miss Taylor has been used to have two persons
to please; she will now have but one. The chances are that she must be
"Well," said Emma, willing to let it pass--"you want to hear about the
wedding; and I shall be happy to tell you, for we all behaved
charmingly. Every body was punctual, every body in their best looks:
not a tear, and hardly a long face to be seen. Oh no; we all felt that
we were going to be only half a mile apart, and were sure of meeting
"Dear Emma bears every thing so well," said her father. "But, Mr.
Knightley, she is really very sorry to lose poor Miss Taylor, and I am
sure she "will" miss her more than she thinks for."
Emma turned away her head, divided between tears and smiles. "It is
impossible that Emma should not miss such a companion," said Mr.
Knightley. "We should not like her so well as we do, sir, if we could
suppose it; but she knows how much the marriage is to Miss Taylor's
advantage; she knows how very acceptable it must be, at Miss Taylor's
time of life, to be settled in a home of her own, and how important to
her to be secure of a comfortable provision, and therefore cannot allow
herself to feel so much pain as pleasure. Every friend of Miss Taylor
must be glad to have her so happily married."
"And you have forgotten one matter of joy to me," said Emma, "and a
very considerable one--that I made the match myself. I made the match,
you know, four years ago; and to have it take place, and be proved in
the right, when so many people said Mr. Weston would never marry again,
may comfort me for any thing."
Mr. Knightley shook his head at her. Her father fondly replied, "Ah!
my dear, I wish you would not make matches and foretell things, for
whatever you say always comes to pass. Pray do not make any more
"I promise you to make none for myself, papa; but I must, indeed, for
other people. It is the greatest amusement in the world! And after
such success, you know!--Every body said that Mr. Weston would never
marry again. Oh dear, no! Mr. Weston, who had been a widower so long,
and who seemed so perfectly comfortable without a wife, so constantly
occupied either in his business in town or among his friends here,
always acceptable wherever he went, always cheerful--Mr. Weston need
not spend a single evening in the year alone if he did not like it. Oh
no! Mr. Weston certainly would never marry again. Some people even
talked of a promise to his wife on her deathbed, and others of the son
and the uncle not letting him. All manner of solemn nonsense was
talked on the subject, but I believed none of it.
"Ever since the day--about four years ago--that Miss Taylor and I met
with him in Broadway Lane, when, because it began to drizzle, he darted
away with so much gallantry, and borrowed two umbrellas for us from
Farmer Mitchell's, I made up my mind on the subject. I planned the
match from that hour; and when such success has blessed me in this
instance, dear papa, you cannot think that I shall leave off
"I do not understand what you mean by 'success,'" said Mr. Knightley.
"Success supposes endeavour. Your time has been properly and
delicately spent, if you have been endeavouring for the last four years
to bring about this marriage. A worthy employment for a young lady's
mind! But if, which I rather imagine, your making the match, as you
call it, means only your planning it, your saying to yourself one idle
day, 'I think it would be a very good thing for Miss Taylor if Mr.
Weston were to marry her,' and saying it again to yourself every now
and then afterwards, why do you talk of success? Where is your merit?
What are you proud of? You made a lucky guess; and "that" is all that
can be said."
"And have you never known the pleasure and triumph of a lucky guess?--
I pity you.--I thought you cleverer--for, depend upon it a lucky guess
is never merely luck. There is always some talent in it. And as to my
poor word 'success,' which you quarrel with, I do not know that I am so
entirely without any claim to it. You have drawn two pretty pictures;
but I think there may be a third--a something between the do-nothing
and the do-all. If I had not promoted Mr. Weston's visits here, and
given many little encouragements, and smoothed many little matters, it
might not have come to any thing after all. I think you must know
Hartfield enough to comprehend that."
"A straightforward, open-hearted man like Weston, and a rational,
unaffected woman like Miss Taylor, may be safely left to manage their
own concerns. You are more likely to have done harm to yourself, than
good to them, by interference."
"Emma never thinks of herself, if she can do good to others," rejoined
Mr. Woodhouse, understanding but in part. "But, my dear, pray do not
make any more matches; they are silly things, and break up one's family
"Only one more, papa; only for Mr. Elton. Poor Mr. Elton! You like Mr.
Elton, papa,--I must look about for a wife for him. There is nobody in
Highbury who deserves him--and he has been here a whole year, and has
fitted up his house so comfortably, that it would be a shame to have
him single any longer--and I thought when he was joining their hands
to-day, he looked so very much as if he would like to have the same
kind office done for him! I think very well of Mr. Elton, and this is
the only way I have of doing him a service."
"Mr. Elton is a very pretty young man, to be sure, and a very good
young man, and I have a great regard for him. But if you want to shew
him any attention, my dear, ask him to come and dine with us some day.
That will be a much better thing. I dare say Mr. Knightley will be so
kind as to meet him."
"With a great deal of pleasure, sir, at any time," said Mr. Knightley,
laughing, "and I agree with you entirely, that it will be a much better
thing. Invite him to dinner, Emma, and help him to the best of the
fish and the chicken, but leave him to chuse his own wife. Depend upon
it, a man of six or seven-and-twenty can take care of himself."
Mr. Weston was a native of Highbury, and born of a respectable family,
which for the last two or three generations had been rising into
gentility and property. He had received a good education, but, on
succeeding early in life to a small independence, had become indisposed
for any of the more homely pursuits in which his brothers were engaged,
and had satisfied an active, cheerful mind and social temper by
entering into the militia of his county, then embodied.
Captain Weston was a general favourite; and when the chances of his
military life had introduced him to Miss Churchill, of a great
Yorkshire family, and Miss Churchill fell in love with him, nobody was
surprized, except her brother and his wife, who had never seen him, and
who were full of pride and importance, which the connexion would offend.
Miss Churchill, however, being of age, and with the full command of her
fortune--though her fortune bore no proportion to the
family-estate--was not to be dissuaded from the marriage, and it took
place, to the infinite mortification of Mr. and Mrs. Churchill, who
threw her off with due decorum. It was an unsuitable connexion, and
did not produce much happiness. Mrs. Weston ought to have found more
in it, for she had a husband whose warm heart and sweet temper made him
think every thing due to her in return for the great goodness of being
in love with him; but though she had one sort of spirit, she had not
the best. She had resolution enough to pursue her own will in spite of
her brother, but not enough to refrain from unreasonable regrets at
that brother's unreasonable anger, nor from missing the luxuries of her
former home. They lived beyond their income, but still it was nothing
in comparison of Enscombe: she did not cease to love her husband, but
she wanted at once to be the wife of Captain Weston, and Miss Churchill
Captain Weston, who had been considered, especially by the Churchills,
as making such an amazing match, was proved to have much the worst of
the bargain; for when his wife died, after a three years' marriage, he
was rather a poorer man than at first, and with a child to maintain.
From the expense of the child, however, he was soon relieved. The boy
had, with the additional softening claim of a lingering illness of his
mother's, been the means of a sort of reconciliation; and Mr. and Mrs.
Churchill, having no children of their own, nor any other young
creature of equal kindred to care for, offered to take the whole charge
of the little Frank soon after her decease. Some scruples and some
reluctance the widower-father may be supposed to have felt; but as they
were overcome by other considerations, the child was given up to the
care and the wealth of the Churchills, and he had only his own comfort
to seek, and his own situation to improve as he could.
A complete change of life became desirable. He quitted the militia and
engaged in trade, having brothers already established in a good way in
London, which afforded him a favourable opening. It was a concern
which brought just employment enough. He had still a small house in
Highbury, where most of his leisure days were spent; and between useful
occupation and the pleasures of society, the next eighteen or twenty
years of his life passed cheerfully away. He had, by that time,
realised an easy competence--enough to secure the purchase of a little
estate adjoining Highbury, which he had always longed for--enough to
marry a woman as portionless even as Miss Taylor, and to live according
to the wishes of his own friendly and social disposition.
It was now some time since Miss Taylor had begun to influence his
schemes; but as it was not the tyrannic influence of youth on youth, it
had not shaken his determination of never settling till he could
purchase Randalls, and the sale of Randalls was long looked forward to;
but he had gone steadily on, with these objects in view, till they were
accomplished. He had made his fortune, bought his house, and obtained
his wife; and was beginning a new period of existence, with every
probability of greater happiness than in any yet passed through. He
had never been an unhappy man; his own temper had secured him from
that, even in his first marriage; but his second must shew him how
delightful a well-judging and truly amiable woman could be, and must
give him the pleasantest proof of its being a great deal better to
choose than to be chosen, to excite gratitude than to feel it.
He had only himself to please in his choice: his fortune was his own;
for as to Frank, it was more than being tacitly brought up as his
uncle's heir, it had become so avowed an adoption as to have him assume
the name of Churchill on coming of age. It was most unlikely,
therefore, that he should ever want his father's assistance. His
father had no apprehension of it. The aunt was a capricious woman, and
governed her husband entirely; but it was not in Mr. Weston's nature to
imagine that any caprice could be strong enough to affect one so dear,
and, as he believed, so deservedly dear. He saw his son every year in
London, and was proud of him; and his fond report of him as a very fine
young man had made Highbury feel a sort of pride in him too. He was
looked on as sufficiently belonging to the place to make his merits and
prospects a kind of common concern.
Mr. Frank Churchill was one of the boasts of Highbury, and a lively
curiosity to see him prevailed, though the compliment was so little
returned that he had never been there in his life. His coming to visit
his father had been often talked of but never achieved.
Now, upon his father's marriage, it was very generally proposed, as a
most proper attention, that the visit should take place. There was not
a dissentient voice on the subject, either when Mrs. Perry drank tea
with Mrs. and Miss Bates, or when Mrs. and Miss Bates returned the
visit. Now was the time for Mr. Frank Churchill to come among them;
and the hope strengthened when it was understood that he had written to
his new mother on the occasion. For a few days, every morning visit in
Highbury included some mention of the handsome letter Mrs. Weston had
received. "I suppose you have heard of the handsome letter Mr. Frank
Churchill has written to Mrs. Weston? I understand it was a very
handsome letter, indeed. Mr. Woodhouse told me of it. Mr. Woodhouse
saw the letter, and he says he never saw such a handsome letter in his
It was, indeed, a highly prized letter. Mrs. Weston had, of course,
formed a very favourable idea of the young man; and such a pleasing
attention was an irresistible proof of his great good sense, and a most
welcome addition to every source and every expression of congratulation
which her marriage had already secured. She felt herself a most
fortunate woman; and she had lived long enough to know how fortunate
she might well be thought, where the only regret was for a partial
separation from friends whose friendship for her had never cooled, and
who could ill bear to part with her.
She knew that at times she must be missed; and could not think, without
pain, of Emma's losing a single pleasure, or suffering an hour's ennui,
from the want of her companionableness: but dear Emma was of no feeble
character; she was more equal to her situation than most girls would
have been, and had sense, and energy, and spirits that might be hoped
would bear her well and happily through its little difficulties and
privations. And then there was such comfort in the very easy distance
of Randalls from Hartfield, so convenient for even solitary female
walking, and in Mr. Weston's disposition and circumstances, which would
make the approaching season no hindrance to their spending half the
evenings in the week together.
Her situation was altogether the subject of hours of gratitude to Mrs.
Weston, and of moments only of regret; and her satisfaction--her more
than satisfaction--her cheerful enjoyment, was so just and so apparent,
that Emma, well as she knew her father, was sometimes taken by surprize
at his being still able to pity 'poor Miss Taylor,' when they left her
at Randalls in the centre of every domestic comfort, or saw her go away
in the evening attended by her pleasant husband to a carriage of her
own. But never did she go without Mr. Woodhouse's giving a gentle
sigh, and saying, "Ah, poor Miss Taylor! She would be very glad to
There was no recovering Miss Taylor--nor much likelihood of ceasing to
pity her; but a few weeks brought some alleviation to Mr. Woodhouse.
The compliments of his neighbours were over; he was no longer teased by
being wished joy of so sorrowful an event; and the wedding-cake, which
had been a great distress to him, was all eat up. His own stomach
could bear nothing rich, and he could never believe other people to be
different from himself. What was unwholesome to him he regarded as
unfit for any body; and he had, therefore, earnestly tried to dissuade
them from having any wedding-cake at all, and when that proved vain, as
earnestly tried to prevent any body's eating it. He had been at the
pains of consulting Mr. Perry, the apothecary, on the subject. Mr.
Perry was an intelligent, gentlemanlike man, whose frequent visits were
one of the comforts of Mr. Woodhouse's life; and upon being applied to,
he could not but acknowledge (though it seemed rather against the bias
of inclination) that wedding-cake might certainly disagree with
many--perhaps with most people, unless taken moderately. With such an
opinion, in confirmation of his own, Mr. Woodhouse hoped to influence
every visitor of the newly married pair; but still the cake was eaten;
and there was no rest for his benevolent nerves till it was all gone.
There was a strange rumour in Highbury of all the little Perrys being
seen with a slice of Mrs. Weston's wedding-cake in their hands: but Mr.
Woodhouse would never believe it.
Mr. Woodhouse was fond of society in his own way. He liked very much
to have his friends come and see him; and from various united causes,
from his long residence at Hartfield, and his good nature, from his
fortune, his house, and his daughter, he could command the visits of
his own little circle, in a great measure, as he liked. He had not
much intercourse with any families beyond that circle; his horror of
late hours, and large dinner-parties, made him unfit for any
acquaintance but such as would visit him on his own terms. Fortunately
for him, Highbury, including Randalls in the same parish, and Donwell
Abbey in the parish adjoining, the seat of Mr. Knightley, comprehended
many such. Not unfrequently, through Emma's persuasion, he had some of
the chosen and the best to dine with him: but evening parties were what
he preferred; and, unless he fancied himself at any time unequal to
company, there was scarcely an evening in the week in which Emma could
not make up a card-table for him.
Real, long-standing regard brought the Westons and Mr. Knightley; and
by Mr. Elton, a young man living alone without liking it, the privilege
of exchanging any vacant evening of his own blank solitude for the
elegancies and society of Mr. Woodhouse's drawing-room, and the smiles
of his lovely daughter, was in no danger of being thrown away.
After these came a second set; among the most come-at-able of whom were
Mrs. and Miss Bates, and Mrs. Goddard, three ladies almost always at
the service of an invitation from Hartfield, and who were fetched and
carried home so often, that Mr. Woodhouse thought it no hardship for
either James or the horses. Had it taken place only once a year, it
would have been a grievance.
Mrs. Bates, the widow of a former vicar of Highbury, was a very old
lady, almost past every thing but tea and quadrille. She lived with
her single daughter in a very small way, and was considered with all
the regard and respect which a harmless old lady, under such untoward
circumstances, can excite. Her daughter enjoyed a most uncommon degree
of popularity for a woman neither young, handsome, rich, nor married.
Miss Bates stood in the very worst predicament in the world for having
much of the public favour; and she had no intellectual superiority to
make atonement to herself, or frighten those who might hate her into
outward respect. She had never boasted either beauty or cleverness.
Her youth had passed without distinction, and her middle of life was
devoted to the care of a failing mother, and the endeavour to make a
small income go as far as possible. And yet she was a happy woman, and
a woman whom no one named without good-will. It was her own universal
good-will and contented temper which worked such wonders. She loved
every body, was interested in every body's happiness, quicksighted to
every body's merits; thought herself a most fortunate creature, and
surrounded with blessings in such an excellent mother, and so many good
neighbours and friends, and a home that wanted for nothing. The
simplicity and cheerfulness of her nature, her contented and grateful
spirit, were a recommendation to every body, and a mine of felicity to
herself. She was a great talker upon little matters, which exactly
suited Mr. Woodhouse, full of trivial communications and harmless
Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a School--not of a seminary, or an
establishment, or any thing which professed, in long sentences of
refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant
morality, upon new principles and new systems--and where young ladies
for enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity--but a
real, honest, old-fashioned Boarding-school, where a reasonable
quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where
girls might be sent to be out of the way, and scramble themselves into
a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies. Mrs.
Goddard's school was in high repute--and very deservedly; for Highbury
was reckoned a particularly healthy spot: she had an ample house and
garden, gave the children plenty of wholesome food, let them run about
a great deal in the summer, and in winter dressed their chilblains with
her own hands. It was no wonder that a train of twenty young couple
now walked after her to church. She was a plain, motherly kind of
woman, who had worked hard in her youth, and now thought herself
entitled to the occasional holiday of a tea-visit; and having formerly
owed much to Mr. Woodhouse's kindness, felt his particular claim on her
to leave her neat parlour, hung round with fancy-work, whenever she
could, and win or lose a few sixpences by his fireside.
These were the ladies whom Emma found herself very frequently able to
collect; and happy was she, for her father's sake, in the power;
though, as far as she was herself concerned, it was no remedy for the
absence of Mrs. Weston. She was delighted to see her father look
comfortable, and very much pleased with herself for contriving things
so well; but the quiet prosings of three such women made her feel that
every evening so spent was indeed one of the long evenings she had
As she sat one morning, looking forward to exactly such a close of the
present day, a note was brought from Mrs. Goddard, requesting, in most
respectful terms, to be allowed to bring Miss Smith with her; a most
welcome request: for Miss Smith was a girl of seventeen, whom Emma knew
very well by sight, and had long felt an interest in, on account of her
beauty. A very gracious invitation was returned, and the evening no
longer dreaded by the fair mistress of the mansion.
Harriet Smith was the natural daughter of somebody. Somebody had
placed her, several years back, at Mrs. Goddard's school, and somebody
had lately raised her from the condition of scholar to that of
parlour-boarder. This was all that was generally known of her history.
She had no visible friends but what had been acquired at Highbury, and
was now just returned from a long visit in the country to some young
ladies who had been at school there with her.
She was a very pretty girl, and her beauty happened to be of a sort
which Emma particularly admired. She was short, plump, and fair, with
a fine bloom, blue eyes, light hair, regular features, and a look of
great sweetness, and, before the end of the evening, Emma was as much
pleased with her manners as her person, and quite determined to
continue the acquaintance.
She was not struck by any thing remarkably clever in Miss Smith's
conversation, but she found her altogether very engaging--not
inconveniently shy, not unwilling to talk--and yet so far from pushing,
shewing so proper and becoming a deference, seeming so pleasantly
grateful for being admitted to Hartfield, and so artlessly impressed by
the appearance of every thing in so superior a style to what she had
been used to, that she must have good sense, and deserve encouragement.
Encouragement should be given. Those soft blue eyes, and all those
natural graces, should not be wasted on the inferior society of
Highbury and its connexions. The acquaintance she had already formed
were unworthy of her. The friends from whom she had just parted,
though very good sort of people, must be doing her harm. They were a
family of the name of Martin, whom Emma well knew by character, as
renting a large farm of Mr. Knightley, and residing in the parish of
Donwell--very creditably, she believed--she knew Mr. Knightley thought
highly of them--but they must be coarse and unpolished, and very unfit
to be the intimates of a girl who wanted only a little more knowledge
and elegance to be quite perfect. "She" would notice her; she would
improve her; she would detach her from her bad acquaintance, and
introduce her into good society; she would form her opinions and her
manners. It would be an interesting, and certainly a very kind
undertaking; highly becoming her own situation in life, her leisure,
She was so busy in admiring those soft blue eyes, in talking and
listening, and forming all these schemes in the in-betweens, that the
evening flew away at a very unusual rate; and the supper-table, which
always closed such parties, and for which she had been used to sit and
watch the due time, was all set out and ready, and moved forwards to
the fire, before she was aware. With an alacrity beyond the common
impulse of a spirit which yet was never indifferent to the credit of
doing every thing well and attentively, with the real good-will of a
mind delighted with its own ideas, did she then do all the honours of
the meal, and help and recommend the minced chicken and scalloped
oysters, with an urgency which she knew would be acceptable to the
early hours and civil scruples of their guests.
Upon such occasions poor Mr. Woodhouses feelings were in sad warfare.
He loved to have the cloth laid, because it had been the fashion of his
youth, but his conviction of suppers being very unwholesome made him
rather sorry to see any thing put on it; and while his hospitality
would have welcomed his visitors to every thing, his care for their
health made him grieve that they would eat.
Such another small basin of thin gruel as his own was all that he
could, with thorough self-approbation, recommend; though he might
constrain himself, while the ladies were comfortably clearing the nicer
things, to say:
"Mrs. Bates, let me propose your venturing on one of these eggs. An
egg boiled very soft is not unwholesome. Serle understands boiling an
egg better than any body. I would not recommend an egg boiled by any
body else; but you need not be afraid, they are very small, you
see--one of our small eggs will not hurt you. Miss Bates, let Emma
help you to a "little" bit of tart--a "very" little bit. Ours are all
apple-tarts. You need not be afraid of unwholesome preserves here. I
do not advise the custard. Mrs. Goddard, what say you to "half" a
glass of wine? A "small" half-glass, put into a tumbler of water? I do
not think it could disagree with you."
Emma allowed her father to talk--but supplied her visitors in a much
more satisfactory style, and on the present evening had particular
pleasure in sending them away happy. The happiness of Miss Smith was
quite equal to her intentions. Miss Woodhouse was so great a personage
in Highbury, that the prospect of the introduction had given as much
panic as pleasure; but the humble, grateful little girl went off with
highly gratified feelings, delighted with the affability with which
Miss Woodhouse had treated her all the evening, and actually shaken
hands with her at last!
Harriet Smith's intimacy at Hartfield was soon a settled thing. Quick
and decided in her ways, Emma lost no time in inviting, encouraging,
and telling her to come very often; and as their acquaintance
increased, so did their satisfaction in each other. As a walking
companion, Emma had very early foreseen how useful she might find her.
In that respect Mrs. Weston's loss had been important. Her father
never went beyond the shrubbery, where two divisions of the ground
sufficed him for his long walk, or his short, as the year varied; and
since Mrs. Weston's marriage her exercise had been too much confined.
She had ventured once alone to Randalls, but it was not pleasant; and a
Harriet Smith, therefore, one whom she could summon at any time to a
walk, would be a valuable addition to her privileges. But in every
respect, as she saw more of her, she approved her, and was confirmed in
all her kind designs.
Harriet certainly was not clever, but she had a sweet, docile, grateful
disposition, was totally free from conceit, and only desiring to be
guided by any one she looked up to. Her early attachment to herself
was very amiable; and her inclination for good company, and power of
appreciating what was elegant and clever, shewed that there was no want
of taste, though strength of understanding must not be expected.
Altogether she was quite convinced of Harriet Smith's being exactly the
young friend she wanted--exactly the something which her home required.
Such a friend as Mrs. Weston was out of the question. Two such could
never be granted. Two such she did not want. It was quite a different
sort of thing, a sentiment distinct and independent. Mrs. Weston was
the object of a regard which had its basis in gratitude and esteem.
Harriet would be loved as one to whom she could be useful. For Mrs.
Weston there was nothing to be done; for Harriet every thing.
Her first attempts at usefulness were in an endeavour to find out who
were the parents, but Harriet could not tell. She was ready to tell
every thing in her power, but on this subject questions were vain.
Emma was obliged to fancy what she liked--but she could never believe
that in the same situation "she" should not have discovered the truth.
Harriet had no penetration. She had been satisfied to hear and believe
just what Mrs. Goddard chose to tell her; and looked no farther.
Mrs. Goddard, and the teachers, and the girls and the affairs of the
school in general, formed naturally a great part of the
conversation--and but for her acquaintance with the Martins of
Abbey-Mill Farm, it must have been the whole. But the Martins occupied
her thoughts a good deal; she had spent two very happy months with
them, and now loved to talk of the pleasures of her visit, and describe
the many comforts and wonders of the place. Emma encouraged her
talkativeness--amused by such a picture of another set of beings, and
enjoying the youthful simplicity which could speak with so much
exultation of Mrs. Martin's having ""two" parlours, two very good
parlours, indeed; one of them quite as large as Mrs. Goddard's
drawing-room; and of her having an upper maid who had lived
five-and-twenty years with her; and of their having eight cows, two of
them Alderneys, and one a little Welch cow, a very pretty little Welch
cow indeed; and of Mrs. Martin's saying as she was so fond of it, it
should be called "her" cow; and of their having a very handsome
summer-house in their garden, where some day next year they were all to
drink tea:--a very handsome summer-house, large enough to hold a dozen
For some time she was amused, without thinking beyond the immediate
cause; but as she came to understand the family better, other feelings
arose. She had taken up a wrong idea, fancying it was a mother and
daughter, a son and son's wife, who all lived together; but when it
appeared that the Mr. Martin, who bore a part in the narrative, and was
always mentioned with approbation for his great good-nature in doing
something or other, was a single man; that there was no young Mrs.
Martin, no wife in the case; she did suspect danger to her poor little
friend from all this hospitality and kindness, and that, if she were
not taken care of, she might be required to sink herself forever.
With this inspiriting notion, her questions increased in number and
meaning; and she particularly led Harriet to talk more of Mr. Martin,
and there was evidently no dislike to it. Harriet was very ready to
speak of the share he had had in their moonlight walks and merry
evening games; and dwelt a good deal upon his being so very
good-humoured and obliging. He had gone three miles round one day in
order to bring her some walnuts, because she had said how fond she was
of them, and in every thing else he was so very obliging. He had his
shepherd's son into the parlour one night on purpose to sing to her.
She was very fond of singing. He could sing a little himself. She
believed he was very clever, and understood every thing. He had a very
fine flock, and, while she was with them, he had been bid more for his
wool than any body in the country. She believed every body spoke well
of him. His mother and sisters were very fond of him. Mrs. Martin had
told her one day (and there was a blush as she said it,) that it was
impossible for any body to be a better son, and therefore she was sure,
whenever he married, he would make a good husband. Not that she
"wanted" him to marry. She was in no hurry at all.
"Well done, Mrs. Martin!" thought Emma. "You know what you are about."
"And when she had come away, Mrs. Martin was so very kind as to send
Mrs. Goddard a beautiful goose--the finest goose Mrs. Goddard had ever
seen. Mrs. Goddard had dressed it on a Sunday, and asked all the three
teachers, Miss Nash, and Miss Prince, and Miss Richardson, to sup with
"Mr. Martin, I suppose, is not a man of information beyond the line of
his own business? He does not read?"
"Oh yes!--that is, no--I do not know--but I believe he has read a good
deal--but not what you would think any thing of. He reads the
Agricultural Reports, and some other books that lay in one of the
window seats--but he reads all "them" to himself. But sometimes of an
evening, before we went to cards, he would read something aloud out of
the Elegant Extracts, very entertaining. And I know he has read the
Vicar of Wakefield. He never read the Romance of the Forest, nor The
Children of the Abbey. He had never heard of such books before I
mentioned them, but he is determined to get them now as soon as ever he
The next question was--
"What sort of looking man is Mr. Martin?"
"Oh! not handsome--not at all handsome. I thought him very plain at
first, but I do not think him so plain now. One does not, you know,
after a time. But did you never see him? He is in Highbury every now
and then, and he is sure to ride through every week in his way to
Kingston. He has passed you very often."
"That may be, and I may have seen him fifty times, but without having
any idea of his name. A young farmer, whether on horseback or on foot,
is the very last sort of person to raise my curiosity. The yeomanry
are precisely the order of people with whom I feel I can have nothing
to do. A degree or two lower, and a creditable appearance might
interest me; I might hope to be useful to their families in some way or
other. But a farmer can need none of my help, and is, therefore, in
one sense, as much above my notice as in every other he is below it."
"To be sure. Oh yes! It is not likely you should ever have observed
him; but he knows you very well indeed--I mean by sight."
"I have no doubt of his being a very respectable young man. I know,
indeed, that he is so, and, as such, wish him well. What do you
imagine his age to be?"
"He was four-and-twenty the 8th of last June, and my birthday is the
23rd just a fortnight and a day's difference--which is very odd."
"Only four-and-twenty. That is too young to settle. His mother is
perfectly right not to be in a hurry. They seem very comfortable as
they are, and if she were to take any pains to marry him, she would
probably repent it. Six years hence, if he could meet with a good sort
of young woman in the same rank as his own, with a little money, it
might be very desirable."
"Six years hence! Dear Miss Woodhouse, he would be thirty years old!"
"Well, and that is as early as most men can afford to marry, who are
not born to an independence. Mr. Martin, I imagine, has his fortune
entirely to make--cannot be at all beforehand with the world. Whatever
money he might come into when his father died, whatever his share of
the family property, it is, I dare say, all afloat, all employed in his
stock, and so forth; and though, with diligence and good luck, he may
be rich in time, it is next to impossible that he should have realised
any thing yet."
"To be sure, so it is. But they live very comfortably. They have no
indoors man, else they do not want for any thing; and Mrs. Martin talks
of taking a boy another year."
"I wish you may not get into a scrape, Harriet, whenever he does
marry;--I mean, as to being acquainted with his wife--for though his
sisters, from a superior education, are not to be altogether objected
to, it does not follow that he might marry any body at all fit for you
to notice. The misfortune of your birth ought to make you particularly
careful as to your associates. There can be no doubt of your being a
gentleman's daughter, and you must support your claim to that station
by every thing within your own power, or there will be plenty of people
who would take pleasure in degrading you."
"Yes, to be sure, I suppose there are. But while I visit at Hartfield,
and you are so kind to me, Miss Woodhouse, I am not afraid of what any
body can do."
"You understand the force of influence pretty well, Harriet; but I
would have you so firmly established in good society, as to be
independent even of Hartfield and Miss Woodhouse. I want to see you
permanently well connected, and to that end it will be advisable to
have as few odd acquaintance as may be; and, therefore, I say that if
you should still be in this country when Mr. Martin marries, I wish you
may not be drawn in by your intimacy with the sisters, to be acquainted
with the wife, who will probably be some mere farmer's daughter,
"To be sure. Yes. Not that I think Mr. Martin would ever marry any
body but what had had some education--and been very well brought up.
However, I do not mean to set up my opinion against yours--and I am
sure I shall not wish for the acquaintance of his wife. I shall always
have a great regard for the Miss Martins, especially Elizabeth, and
should be very sorry to give them up, for they are quite as well
educated as me. But if he marries a very ignorant, vulgar woman,
certainly I had better not visit her, if I can help it."
Emma watched her through the fluctuations of this speech, and saw no
alarming symptoms of love. The young man had been the first admirer,
but she trusted there was no other hold, and that there would be no
serious difficulty, on Harriet's side, to oppose any friendly
arrangement of her own.
They met Mr. Martin the very next day, as they were walking on the
Donwell road. He was on foot, and after looking very respectfully at
her, looked with most unfeigned satisfaction at her companion. Emma
was not sorry to have such an opportunity of survey; and walking a few
yards forward, while they talked together, soon made her quick eye
sufficiently acquainted with Mr. Robert Martin. His appearance was
very neat, and he looked like a sensible young man, but his person had
no other advantage; and when he came to be contrasted with gentlemen,
she thought he must lose all the ground he had gained in Harriet's
inclination. Harriet was not insensible of manner; she had voluntarily
noticed her father's gentleness with admiration as well as wonder. Mr.
Martin looked as if he did not know what manner was.
They remained but a few minutes together, as Miss Woodhouse must not be
kept waiting; and Harriet then came running to her with a smiling face,
and in a flutter of spirits, which Miss Woodhouse hoped very soon to
"Only think of our happening to meet him!--How very odd! It was quite a
chance, he said, that he had not gone round by Randalls. He did not
think we ever walked this road. He thought we walked towards Randalls
most days. He has not been able to get the Romance of the Forest yet.
He was so busy the last time he was at Kingston that he quite forgot
it, but he goes again to-morrow. So very odd we should happen to meet!
Well, Miss Woodhouse, is he like what you expected? What do you think
of him? Do you think him so very plain?"
"He is very plain, undoubtedly--remarkably plain:--but that is nothing
compared with his entire want of gentility. I had no right to expect
much, and I did not expect much; but I had no idea that he could be so
very clownish, so totally without air. I had imagined him, I confess,
a degree or two nearer gentility."
"To be sure," said Harriet, in a mortified voice, "he is not so genteel
as real gentlemen."
"I think, Harriet, since your acquaintance with us, you have been
repeatedly in the company of some such very real gentlemen, that you
must yourself be struck with the difference in Mr. Martin. At
Hartfield, you have had very good specimens of well educated, well bred
men. I should be surprized if, after seeing them, you could be in
company with Mr. Martin again without perceiving him to be a very
inferior creature--and rather wondering at yourself for having ever
thought him at all agreeable before. Do not you begin to feel that
now? Were not you struck? I am sure you must have been struck by his
awkward look and abrupt manner, and the uncouthness of a voice which I
heard to be wholly unmodulated as I stood here."
"Certainly, he is not like Mr. Knightley. He has not such a fine air
and way of walking as Mr. Knightley. I see the difference plain
enough. But Mr. Knightley is so very fine a man!"
"Mr. Knightley's air is so remarkably good that it is not fair to
compare Mr. Martin with "him". You might not see one in a hundred with
"gentleman" so plainly written as in Mr. Knightley. But he is not the
only gentleman you have been lately used to. What say you to Mr.
Weston and Mr. Elton? Compare Mr. Martin with either of "them".
Compare their manner of carrying themselves; of walking; of speaking;
of being silent. You must see the difference."
"Oh yes!--there is a great difference. But Mr. Weston is almost an old
man. Mr. Weston must be between forty and fifty."
"Which makes his good manners the more valuable. The older a person
grows, Harriet, the more important it is that their manners should not
be bad; the more glaring and disgusting any loudness, or coarseness, or
awkwardness becomes. What is passable in youth is detestable in later
age. Mr. Martin is now awkward and abrupt; what will he be at Mr.
Weston's time of life?"
"There is no saying, indeed," replied Harriet rather solemnly.
"But there may be pretty good guessing. He will be a completely gross,
vulgar farmer, totally inattentive to appearances, and thinking of
nothing but profit and loss."
"Will he, indeed? That will be very bad."
"How much his business engrosses him already is very plain from the
circumstance of his forgetting to inquire for the book you recommended.
He was a great deal too full of the market to think of any thing
else--which is just as it should be, for a thriving man. What has he
to do with books? And I have no doubt that he "will" thrive, and be a
very rich man in time--and his being illiterate and coarse need not
"I wonder he did not remember the book"--was all Harriet's answer, and
spoken with a degree of grave displeasure which Emma thought might be
safely left to itself. She, therefore, said no more for some time.
Her next beginning was,
"In one respect, perhaps, Mr. Elton's manners are superior to Mr.
Knightley's or Mr. Weston's. They have more gentleness. They might be
more safely held up as a pattern. There is an openness, a quickness,
almost a bluntness in Mr. Weston, which every body likes in "him",
because there is so much good-humour with it--but that would not do to
be copied. Neither would Mr. Knightley's downright, decided,
commanding sort of manner, though it suits "him" very well; his figure,
and look, and situation in life seem to allow it; but if any young man
were to set about copying him, he would not be sufferable. On the
contrary, I think a young man might be very safely recommended to take
Mr. Elton as a model. Mr. Elton is good-humoured, cheerful, obliging,
and gentle. He seems to me to be grown particularly gentle of late. I
do not know whether he has any design of ingratiating himself with
either of us, Harriet, by additional softness, but it strikes me that
his manners are softer than they used to be. If he means any thing, it
must be to please you. Did not I tell you what he said of you the
She then repeated some warm personal praise which she had drawn from
Mr. Elton, and now did full justice to; and Harriet blushed and smiled,
and said she had always thought Mr. Elton very agreeable.
Mr. Elton was the very person fixed on by Emma for driving the young
farmer out of Harriet's head. She thought it would be an excellent
match; and only too palpably desirable, natural, and probable, for her
to have much merit in planning it. She feared it was what every body
else must think of and predict. It was not likely, however, that any
body should have equalled her in the date of the plan, as it had
entered her brain during the very first evening of Harriet's coming to
Hartfield. The longer she considered it, the greater was her sense of
its expediency. Mr. Elton's situation was most suitable, quite the
gentleman himself, and without low connexions; at the same time, not of
any family that could fairly object to the doubtful birth of Harriet.
He had a comfortable home for her, and Emma imagined a very sufficient
income; for though the vicarage of Highbury was not large, he was known
to have some independent property; and she thought very highly of him
as a good-humoured, well-meaning, respectable young man, without any
deficiency of useful understanding or knowledge of the world.
She had already satisfied herself that he thought Harriet a beautiful
girl, which she trusted, with such frequent meetings at Hartfield, was
foundation enough on his side; and on Harriet's there could be little
doubt that the idea of being preferred by him would have all the usual
weight and efficacy. And he was really a very pleasing young man, a
young man whom any woman not fastidious might like. He was reckoned
very handsome; his person much admired in general, though not by her,
there being a want of elegance of feature which she could not dispense
with:--but the girl who could be gratified by a Robert Martin's riding
about the country to get walnuts for her might very well be conquered
by Mr. Elton's admiration.
"I do not know what your opinion may be, Mrs. Weston," said Mr.
Knightley, "of this great intimacy between Emma and Harriet Smith, but
I think it a bad thing."
"A bad thing! Do you really think it a bad thing?--why so?"
"I think they will neither of them do the other any good."
"You surprize me! Emma must do Harriet good: and by supplying her with
a new object of interest, Harriet may be said to do Emma good. I have
been seeing their intimacy with the greatest pleasure. How very
differently we feel!--Not think they will do each other any good! This
will certainly be the beginning of one of our quarrels about Emma, Mr.
"Perhaps you think I am come on purpose to quarrel with you, knowing
Weston to be out, and that you must still fight your own battle."
"Mr. Weston would undoubtedly support me, if he were here, for he
thinks exactly as I do on the subject. We were speaking of it only
yesterday, and agreeing how fortunate it was for Emma, that there
should be such a girl in Highbury for her to associate with. Mr.
Knightley, I shall not allow you to be a fair judge in this case. You
are so much used to live alone, that you do not know the value of a
companion; and, perhaps no man can be a good judge of the comfort a
woman feels in the society of one of her own sex, after being used to
it all her life. I can imagine your objection to Harriet Smith. She
is not the superior young woman which Emma's friend ought to be. But
on the other hand, as Emma wants to see her better informed, it will be
an inducement to her to read more herself. They will read together.
She means it, I know."
"Emma has been meaning to read more ever since she was twelve years
old. I have seen a great many lists of her drawing-up at various times
of books that she meant to read regularly through--and very good lists
they were--very well chosen, and very neatly arranged--sometimes
alphabetically, and sometimes by some other rule. The list she drew up
when only fourteen--I remember thinking it did her judgment so much
credit, that I preserved it some time; and I dare say she may have made
out a very good list now. But I have done with expecting any course of
steady reading from Emma. She will never submit to any thing requiring
industry and patience, and a subjection of the fancy to the
understanding. Where Miss Taylor failed to stimulate, I may safely
affirm that Harriet Smith will do nothing.--You never could persuade
her to read half so much as you wished.--You know you could not."
"I dare say," replied Mrs. Weston, smiling, "that I thought so
"then";--but since we have parted, I can never remember Emma's omitting
to do any thing I wished."
"There is hardly any desiring to refresh such a memory as
"that","--said Mr. Knightley, feelingly; and for a moment or two he had
done. "But I," he soon added, "who have had no such charm thrown over
my senses, must still see, hear, and remember. Emma is spoiled by
being the cleverest of her family. At ten years old, she had the
misfortune of being able to answer questions which puzzled her sister
at seventeen. She was always quick and assured: Isabella slow and
diffident. And ever since she was twelve, Emma has been mistress of
the house and of you all. In her mother she lost the only person able
to cope with her. She inherits her mother's talents, and must have
been under subjection to her."
"I should have been sorry, Mr. Knightley, to be dependent on "your"
recommendation, had I quitted Mr. Woodhouse's family and wanted another
situation; I do not think you would have spoken a good word for me to
any body. I am sure you always thought me unfit for the office I held."
"Yes," said he, smiling. "You are better placed "here"; very fit for a
wife, but not at all for a governess. But you were preparing yourself
to be an excellent wife all the time you were at Hartfield. You might
not give Emma such a complete education as your powers would seem to
promise; but you were receiving a very good education from "her", on
the very material matrimonial point of submitting your own will, and
doing as you were bid; and if Weston had asked me to recommend him a
wife, I should certainly have named Miss Taylor."
"Thank you. There will be very little merit in making a good wife to
such a man as Mr. Weston."
"Why, to own the truth, I am afraid you are rather thrown away, and
that with every disposition to bear, there will be nothing to be borne.
We will not despair, however. Weston may grow cross from the
wantonness of comfort, or his son may plague him."
"I hope not "that".--It is not likely. No, Mr. Knightley, do not
foretell vexation from that quarter."
"Not I, indeed. I only name possibilities. I do not pretend to Emma's
genius for foretelling and guessing. I hope, with all my heart, the
young man may be a Weston in merit, and a Churchill in fortune.--But
Harriet Smith--I have not half done about Harriet Smith. I think her
the very worst sort of companion that Emma could possibly have. She
knows nothing herself, and looks upon Emma as knowing every thing. She
is a flatterer in all her ways; and so much the worse, because
undesigned. Her ignorance is hourly flattery. How can Emma imagine
she has any thing to learn herself, while Harriet is presenting such a
delightful inferiority? And as for Harriet, I will venture to say that
"she" cannot gain by the acquaintance. Hartfield will only put her out
of conceit with all the other places she belongs to. She will grow
just refined enough to be uncomfortable with those among whom birth and
circumstances have placed her home. I am much mistaken if Emma's
doctrines give any strength of mind, or tend at all to make a girl
adapt herself rationally to the varieties of her situation in
life.--They only give a little polish."
"I either depend more upon Emma's good sense than you do, or am more
anxious for her present comfort; for I cannot lament the acquaintance.
How well she looked last night!"
"Oh! you would rather talk of her person than her mind, would you?
Very well; I shall not attempt to deny Emma's being pretty."
"Pretty! say beautiful rather. Can you imagine any thing nearer
perfect beauty than Emma altogether--face and figure?"
"I do not know what I could imagine, but I confess that I have seldom
seen a face or figure more pleasing to me than hers. But I am a
partial old friend."
"Such an eye!--the true hazle eye--and so brilliant! regular features,
open countenance, with a complexion! oh! what a bloom of full health,
and such a pretty height and size; such a firm and upright figure!
There is health, not merely in her bloom, but in her air, her head, her
glance. One hears sometimes of a child being 'the picture of health;'
now, Emma always gives me the idea of being the complete picture of
grown-up health. She is loveliness itself. Mr. Knightley, is not she?"
"I have not a fault to find with her person," he replied. "I think her
all you describe. I love to look at her; and I will add this praise,
that I do not think her personally vain. Considering how very handsome
she is, she appears to be little occupied with it; her vanity lies
another way. Mrs. Weston, I am not to be talked out of my dislike of
Harriet Smith, or my dread of its doing them both harm."
"And I, Mr. Knightley, am equally stout in my confidence of its not
doing them any harm. With all dear Emma's little faults, she is an
excellent creature. Where shall we see a better daughter, or a kinder
sister, or a truer friend? No, no; she has qualities which may be
trusted; she will never lead any one really wrong; she will make no
lasting blunder; where Emma errs once, she is in the right a hundred
"Very well; I will not plague you any more. Emma shall be an angel,
and I will keep my spleen to myself till Christmas brings John and
Isabella. John loves Emma with a reasonable and therefore not a blind
affection, and Isabella always thinks as he does; except when he is not
quite frightened enough about the children. I am sure of having their
opinions with me."
"I know that you all love her really too well to be unjust or unkind;
but excuse me, Mr. Knightley, if I take the liberty (I consider myself,
you know, as having somewhat of the privilege of speech that Emma's
mother might have had) the liberty of hinting that I do not think any
possible good can arise from Harriet Smith's intimacy being made a
matter of much discussion among you. Pray excuse me; but supposing any
little inconvenience may be apprehended from the intimacy, it cannot be
expected that Emma, accountable to nobody but her father, who perfectly
approves the acquaintance, should put an end to it, so long as it is a
source of pleasure to herself. It has been so many years my province
to give advice, that you cannot be surprized, Mr. Knightley, at this
little remains of office."
"Not at all," cried he; "I am much obliged to you for it. It is very
good advice, and it shall have a better fate than your advice has often
found; for it shall be attended to."
"Mrs. John Knightley is easily alarmed, and might be made unhappy about
"Be satisfied," said he, "I will not raise any outcry. I will keep my
ill-humour to myself. I have a very sincere interest in Emma.
Isabella does not seem more my sister; has never excited a greater
interest; perhaps hardly so great. There is an anxiety, a curiosity in
what one feels for Emma. I wonder what will become of her!"
"So do I," said Mrs. Weston gently, "very much."
"She always declares she will never marry, which, of course, means just
nothing at all. But I have no idea that she has yet ever seen a man
she cared for. It would not be a bad thing for her to be very much in
love with a proper object. I should like to see Emma in love, and in
some doubt of a return; it would do her good. But there is nobody
hereabouts to attach her; and she goes so seldom from home."
"There does, indeed, seem as little to tempt her to break her
resolution at present," said Mrs. Weston, "as can well be; and while
she is so happy at Hartfield, I cannot wish her to be forming any
attachment which would be creating such difficulties on poor Mr.
Woodhouse's account. I do not recommend matrimony at present to Emma,
though I mean no slight to the state, I assure you."
Part of her meaning was to conceal some favourite thoughts of her own
and Mr. Weston's on the subject, as much as possible. There were
wishes at Randalls respecting Emma's destiny, but it was not desirable
to have them suspected; and the quiet transition which Mr. Knightley
soon afterwards made to "What does Weston think of the weather; shall
we have rain?" convinced her that he had nothing more to say or surmise
Emma could not feel a doubt of having given Harriet's fancy a proper
direction and raised the gratitude of her young vanity to a very good
purpose, for she found her decidedly more sensible than before of Mr.
Elton's being a remarkably handsome man, with most agreeable manners;
and as she had no hesitation in following up the assurance of his
admiration by agreeable hints, she was soon pretty confident of
creating as much liking on Harriet's side, as there could be any
occasion for. She was quite convinced of Mr. Elton's being in the
fairest way of falling in love, if not in love already. She had no
scruple with regard to him. He talked of Harriet, and praised her so
warmly, that she could not suppose any thing wanting which a little
time would not add. His perception of the striking improvement of
Harriet's manner, since her introduction at Hartfield, was not one of
the least agreeable proofs of his growing attachment.
"You have given Miss Smith all that she required," said he; "you have
made her graceful and easy. She was a beautiful creature when she came
to you, but, in my opinion, the attractions you have added are
infinitely superior to what she received from nature."
"I am glad you think I have been useful to her; but Harriet only wanted
drawing out, and receiving a few, very few hints. She had all the
natural grace of sweetness of temper and artlessness in herself. I
have done very little."
"If it were admissible to contradict a lady," said the gallant Mr.
"I have perhaps given her a little more decision of character, have
taught her to think on points which had not fallen in her way before."
"Exactly so; that is what principally strikes me. So much superadded
decision of character! Skilful has been the hand!"
"Great has been the pleasure, I am sure. I never met with a
disposition more truly amiable."
"I have no doubt of it." And it was spoken with a sort of sighing
animation, which had a vast deal of the lover. She was not less
pleased another day with the manner in which he seconded a sudden wish
of hers, to have Harriet's picture.
"Did you ever have your likeness taken, Harriet?" said she: "did you
ever sit for your picture?"
Harriet was on the point of leaving the room, and only stopt to say,
with a very interesting naivete,
"Oh! dear, no, never."
No sooner was she out of sight, than Emma exclaimed,
"What an exquisite possession a good picture of her would be! I would
give any money for it. I almost long to attempt her likeness myself.
You do not know it I dare say, but two or three years ago I had a great
passion for taking likenesses, and attempted several of my friends, and
was thought to have a tolerable eye in general. But from one cause or
another, I gave it up in disgust. But really, I could almost venture,
if Harriet would sit to me. It would be such a delight to have her
"Let me entreat you," cried Mr. Elton; "it would indeed be a delight!
Let me entreat you, Miss Woodhouse, to exercise so charming a talent in
favour of your friend. I know what your drawings are. How could you
suppose me ignorant? Is not this room rich in specimens of your
landscapes and flowers; and has not Mrs. Weston some inimitable
figure-pieces in her drawing-room, at Randalls?"
Yes, good man!--thought Emma--but what has all that to do with taking
likenesses? You know nothing of drawing. Don't pretend to be in
raptures about mine. Keep your raptures for Harriet's face. "Well, if
you give me such kind encouragement, Mr. Elton, I believe I shall try
what I can do. Harriet's features are very delicate, which makes a
likeness difficult; and yet there is a peculiarity in the shape of the
eye and the lines about the mouth which one ought to catch."
"Exactly so--The shape of the eye and the lines about the mouth--I have
not a doubt of your success. Pray, pray attempt it. As you will do
it, it will indeed, to use your own words, be an exquisite possession."
"But I am afraid, Mr. Elton, Harriet will not like to sit. She thinks
so little of her own beauty. Did not you observe her manner of
answering me? How completely it meant, 'why should my picture be
"Oh! yes, I observed it, I assure you. It was not lost on me. But
still I cannot imagine she would not be persuaded."
Harriet was soon back again, and the proposal almost immediately made;
and she had no scruples which could stand many minutes against the
earnest pressing of both the others. Emma wished to go to work
directly, and therefore produced the portfolio containing her various
attempts at portraits, for not one of them had ever been finished, that
they might decide together on the best size for Harriet. Her many
beginnings were displayed. Miniatures, half-lengths, whole-lengths,
pencil, crayon, and water-colours had been all tried in turn. She had
always wanted to do every thing, and had made more progress both in
drawing and music than many might have done with so little labour as
she would ever submit to. She played and sang;--and drew in almost
every style; but steadiness had always been wanting; and in nothing had
she approached the degree of excellence which she would have been glad
to command, and ought not to have failed of. She was not much deceived
as to her own skill either as an artist or a musician, but she was not
unwilling to have others deceived, or sorry to know her reputation for
accomplishment often higher than it deserved.
There was merit in every drawing--in the least finished, perhaps the
most; her style was spirited; but had there been much less, or had
there been ten times more, the delight and admiration of her two
companions would have been the same. They were both in ecstasies. A
likeness pleases every body; and Miss Woodhouse's performances must be
"No great variety of faces for you," said Emma. "I had only my own
family to study from. There is my father--another of my father--but
the idea of sitting for his picture made him so nervous, that I could
only take him by stealth; neither of them very like therefore. Mrs.
Weston again, and again, and again, you see. Dear Mrs. Weston! always
my kindest friend on every occasion. She would sit whenever I asked
her. There is my sister; and really quite her own little elegant
figure!--and the face not unlike. I should have made a good likeness
of her, if she would have sat longer, but she was in such a hurry to
have me draw her four children that she would not be quiet. Then, here
come all my attempts at three of those four children;--there they are,
Henry and John and Bella, from one end of the sheet to the other, and
any one of them might do for any one of the rest. She was so eager to
have them drawn that I could not refuse; but there is no making
children of three or four years old stand still you know; nor can it be
very easy to take any likeness of them, beyond the air and complexion,
unless they are coarser featured than any of mama's children ever were.
Here is my sketch of the fourth, who was a baby. I took him as he was
sleeping on the sofa, and it is as strong a likeness of his cockade as
you would wish to see. He had nestled down his head most conveniently.
That's very like. I am rather proud of little George. The corner of
the sofa is very good. Then here is my last,"--unclosing a pretty
sketch of a gentleman in small size, whole-length--"my last and my
best--my brother, Mr. John Knightley.--This did not want much of being
finished, when I put it away in a pet, and vowed I would never take
another likeness. I could not help being provoked; for after all my
pains, and when I had really made a very good likeness of it--(Mrs.
Weston and I were quite agreed in thinking it "very" like)--only too
handsome--too flattering--but that was a fault on the right side--after
all this, came poor dear Isabella's cold approbation of--"Yes, it was a
little like--but to be sure it did not do him justice." We had had a
great deal of trouble in persuading him to sit at all. It was made a
great favour of; and altogether it was more than I could bear; and so I
never would finish it, to have it apologised over as an unfavourable
likeness, to every morning visitor in Brunswick Square;--and, as I
said, I did then forswear ever drawing any body again. But for
Harriet's sake, or rather for my own, and as there are no husbands and
wives in the case "at" "present", I will break my resolution now."
Mr. Elton seemed very properly struck and delighted by the idea, and
was repeating, "No husbands and wives in the case at present indeed, as
you observe. Exactly so. No husbands and wives," with so interesting
a consciousness, that Emma began to consider whether she had not better
leave them together at once. But as she wanted to be drawing, the
declaration must wait a little longer.
She had soon fixed on the size and sort of portrait. It was to be a
whole-length in water-colours, like Mr. John Knightley's, and was
destined, if she could please herself, to hold a very honourable
station over the mantelpiece.
The sitting began; and Harriet, smiling and blushing, and afraid of not
keeping her attitude and countenance, presented a very sweet mixture of
youthful expression to the steady eyes of the artist. But there was no
doing any thing, with Mr. Elton fidgeting behind her and watching every
touch. She gave him credit for stationing himself where he might gaze
and gaze again without offence; but was really obliged to put an end to
it, and request him to place himself elsewhere. It then occurred to
her to employ him in reading.
"If he would be so good as to read to them, it would be a kindness
indeed! It would amuse away the difficulties of her part, and lessen
the irksomeness of Miss Smith's."
Mr. Elton was only too happy. Harriet listened, and Emma drew in
peace. She must allow him to be still frequently coming to look; any
thing less would certainly have been too little in a lover; and he was
ready at the smallest intermission of the pencil, to jump up and see
the progress, and be charmed.--There was no being displeased with such
an encourager, for his admiration made him discern a likeness almost
before it was possible. She could not respect his eye, but his love
and his complaisance were unexceptionable.
The sitting was altogether very satisfactory; she was quite enough
pleased with the first day's sketch to wish to go on. There was no
want of likeness, she had been fortunate in the attitude, and as she
meant to throw in a little improvement to the figure, to give a little
more height, and considerably more elegance, she had great confidence
of its being in every way a pretty drawing at last, and of its filling
its destined place with credit to them both--a standing memorial of the
beauty of one, the skill of the other, and the friendship of both; with
as many other agreeable associations as Mr. Elton's very promising
attachment was likely to add.
Harriet was to sit again the next day; and Mr. Elton, just as he ought,
entreated for the permission of attending and reading to them again.
"By all means. We shall be most happy to consider you as one of the
The same civilities and courtesies, the same success and satisfaction,
took place on the morrow, and accompanied the whole progress of the
picture, which was rapid and happy. Every body who saw it was pleased,
but Mr. Elton was in continual raptures, and defended it through every
"Miss Woodhouse has given her friend the only beauty she
wanted,"--observed Mrs. Weston to him--not in the least suspecting that
she was addressing a lover.--"The expression of the eye is most
correct, but Miss Smith has not those eyebrows and eyelashes. It is
the fault of her face that she has them not."
"Do you think so?" replied he. "I cannot agree with you. It appears
to me a most perfect resemblance in every feature. I never saw such a
likeness in my life. We must allow for the effect of shade, you know."
"You have made her too tall, Emma," said Mr. Knightley.
Emma knew that she had, but would not own it; and Mr. Elton warmly
"Oh no! certainly not too tall; not in the least too tall. Consider,
she is sitting down--which naturally presents a different--which in
short gives exactly the idea--and the proportions must be preserved,
you know. Proportions, fore-shortening.--Oh no! it gives one exactly
the idea of such a height as Miss Smith's. Exactly so indeed!"
"It is very pretty," said Mr. Woodhouse. "So prettily done! Just as
your drawings always are, my dear. I do not know any body who draws so
well as you do. The only thing I do not thoroughly like is, that she
seems to be sitting out of doors, with only a little shawl over her
shoulders--and it makes one think she must catch cold."
"But, my dear papa, it is supposed to be summer; a warm day in summer.
Look at the tree."
"But it is never safe to sit out of doors, my dear."
"You, sir, may say any thing," cried Mr. Elton, "but I must confess
that I regard it as a most happy thought, the placing of Miss Smith out
of doors; and the tree is touched with such inimitable spirit! Any
other situation would have been much less in character. The naivete of
Miss Smith's manners--and altogether--Oh, it is most admirable! I
cannot keep my eyes from it. I never saw such a likeness."
The next thing wanted was to get the picture framed; and here were a
few difficulties. It must be done directly; it must be done in London;
the order must go through the hands of some intelligent person whose
taste could be depended on; and Isabella, the usual doer of all
commissions, must not be applied to, because it was December, and Mr.
Woodhouse could not bear the idea of her stirring out of her house in
the fogs of December. But no sooner was the distress known to Mr.
Elton, than it was removed. His gallantry was always on the alert.
"Might he be trusted with the commission, what infinite pleasure should
he have in executing it! he could ride to London at any time. It was
impossible to say how much he should be gratified by being employed on
such an errand."
"He was too good!--she could not endure the thought!--she would not
give him such a troublesome office for the world,"--brought on the
desired repetition of entreaties and assurances,--and a very few
minutes settled the business.
Mr. Elton was to take the drawing to London, chuse the frame, and give
the directions; and Emma thought she could so pack it as to ensure its
safety without much incommoding him, while he seemed mostly fearful of
not being incommoded enough.
"What a precious deposit!" said he with a tender sigh, as he received
"This man is almost too gallant to be in love," thought Emma. "I
should say so, but that I suppose there may be a hundred different ways
of being in love. He is an excellent young man, and will suit Harriet
exactly; it will be an 'Exactly so,' as he says himself; but he does
sigh and languish, and study for compliments rather more than I could
endure as a principal. I come in for a pretty good share as a second.
But it is his gratitude on Harriet's account."
The very day of Mr. Elton's going to London produced a fresh occasion
for Emma's services towards her friend. Harriet had been at Hartfield,
as usual, soon after breakfast; and, after a time, had gone home to
return again to dinner: she returned, and sooner than had been talked
of, and with an agitated, hurried look, announcing something
extraordinary to have happened which she was longing to tell. Half a
minute brought it all out. She had heard, as soon as she got back to
Mrs. Goddard's, that Mr. Martin had been there an hour before, and
finding she was not at home, nor particularly expected, had left a
little parcel for her from one of his sisters, and gone away; and on
opening this parcel, she had actually found, besides the two songs
which she had lent Elizabeth to copy, a letter to herself; and this
letter was from him, from Mr. Martin, and contained a direct proposal
of marriage. "Who could have thought it? She was so surprized she did
not know what to do. Yes, quite a proposal of marriage; and a very
good letter, at least she thought so. And he wrote as if he really
loved her very much--but she did not know--and so, she was come as fast
as she could to ask Miss Woodhouse what she should do.--" Emma was
half-ashamed of her friend for seeming so pleased and so doubtful.
"Upon my word," she cried, "the young man is determined not to lose any
thing for want of asking. He will connect himself well if he can."
"Will you read the letter?" cried Harriet. "Pray do. I'd rather you
Emma was not sorry to be pressed. She read, and was surprized. The
style of the letter was much above her expectation. There were not
merely no grammatical errors, but as a composition it would not have
disgraced a gentleman; the language, though plain, was strong and
unaffected, and the sentiments it conveyed very much to the credit of
the writer. It was short, but expressed good sense, warm attachment,
liberality, propriety, even delicacy of feeling. She paused over it,
while Harriet stood anxiously watching for her opinion, with a "Well,
well," and was at last forced to add, "Is it a good letter? or is it
"Yes, indeed, a very good letter," replied Emma rather slowly--"so good
a letter, Harriet, that every thing considered, I think one of his
sisters must have helped him. I can hardly imagine the young man whom
I saw talking with you the other day could express himself so well, if
left quite to his own powers, and yet it is not the style of a woman;
no, certainly, it is too strong and concise; not diffuse enough for a
woman. No doubt he is a sensible man, and I suppose may have a natural
talent for--thinks strongly and clearly--and when he takes a pen in
hand, his thoughts naturally find proper words. It is so with some
men. Yes, I understand the sort of mind. Vigorous, decided, with
sentiments to a certain point, not coarse. A better written letter,
Harriet (returning it,) than I had expected."
"Well," said the still waiting Harriet;--"well--and--and what shall I
"What shall you do! In what respect? Do you mean with regard to this
"But what are you in doubt of? You must answer it of course--and
"Yes. But what shall I say? Dear Miss Woodhouse, do advise me."
"Oh no, no! the letter had much better be all your own. You will
express yourself very properly, I am sure. There is no danger of your
not being intelligible, which is the first thing. Your meaning must be
unequivocal; no doubts or demurs: and such expressions of gratitude and
concern for the pain you are inflicting as propriety requires, will
present themselves unbidden to "your" mind, I am persuaded. You need
not be prompted to write with the appearance of sorrow for his
"You think I ought to refuse him then," said Harriet, looking down.
"Ought to refuse him! My dear Harriet, what do you mean? Are you in any
doubt as to that? I thought--but I beg your pardon, perhaps I have been
under a mistake. I certainly have been misunderstanding you, if you
feel in doubt as to the "purport" of your answer. I had imagined you
were consulting me only as to the wording of it."
Harriet was silent. With a little reserve of manner, Emma continued:
"You mean to return a favourable answer, I collect."
"No, I do not; that is, I do not mean--What shall I do? What would you
advise me to do? Pray, dear Miss Woodhouse, tell me what I ought to do."
"I shall not give you any advice, Harriet. I will have nothing to do
with it. This is a point which you must settle with your feelings."
"I had no notion that he liked me so very much," said Harriet,
contemplating the letter. For a little while Emma persevered in her
silence; but beginning to apprehend the bewitching flattery of that
letter might be too powerful, she thought it best to say,
"I lay it down as a general rule, Harriet, that if a woman "doubts" as
to whether she should accept a man or not, she certainly ought to
refuse him. If she can hesitate as to 'Yes,' she ought to say 'No'
directly. It is not a state to be safely entered into with doubtful
feelings, with half a heart. I thought it my duty as a friend, and
older than yourself, to say thus much to you. But do not imagine that
I want to influence you."
"Oh! no, I am sure you are a great deal too kind to--but if you would
just advise me what I had best do--No, no, I do not mean that--As you
say, one's mind ought to be quite made up--One should not be
hesitating--It is a very serious thing.--It will be safer to say 'No,'
perhaps.--Do you think I had better say 'No?'"
"Not for the world," said Emma, smiling graciously, "would I advise you
either way. You must be the best judge of your own happiness. If you
prefer Mr. Martin to every other person; if you think him the most
agreeable man you have ever been in company with, why should you
hesitate? You blush, Harriet.--Does any body else occur to you at this
moment under such a definition? Harriet, Harriet, do not deceive
yourself; do not be run away with by gratitude and compassion. At this
moment whom are you thinking of?"
The symptoms were favourable.--Instead of answering, Harriet turned
away confused, and stood thoughtfully by the fire; and though the
letter was still in her hand, it was now mechanically twisted about
without regard. Emma waited the result with impatience, but not
without strong hopes. At last, with some hesitation, Harriet said--
"Miss Woodhouse, as you will not give me your opinion, I must do as
well as I can by myself; and I have now quite determined, and really
almost made up my mind--to refuse Mr. Martin. Do you think I am right?"
"Perfectly, perfectly right, my dearest Harriet; you are doing just
what you ought. While you were at all in suspense I kept my feelings
to myself, but now that you are so completely decided I have no
hesitation in approving. Dear Harriet, I give myself joy of this. It
would have grieved me to lose your acquaintance, which must have been
the consequence of your marrying Mr. Martin. While you were in the
smallest degree wavering, I said nothing about it, because I would not
influence; but it would have been the loss of a friend to me. I could
not have visited Mrs. Robert Martin, of Abbey-Mill Farm. Now I am
secure of you for ever."
Harriet had not surmised her own danger, but the idea of it struck her
"You could not have visited me!" she cried, looking aghast. "No, to be
sure you could not; but I never thought of that before. That would
have been too dreadful!--What an escape!--Dear Miss Woodhouse, I would
not give up the pleasure and honour of being intimate with you for any
thing in the world."
"Indeed, Harriet, it would have been a severe pang to lose you; but it
must have been. You would have thrown yourself out of all good
society. I must have given you up."
"Dear me!--How should I ever have borne it! It would have killed me
never to come to Hartfield any more!"
"Dear affectionate creature!--"You" banished to Abbey-Mill Farm!--"You"
confined to the society of the illiterate and vulgar all your life! I
wonder how the young man could have the assurance to ask it. He must
have a pretty good opinion of himself."
"I do not think he is conceited either, in general," said Harriet, her
conscience opposing such censure; "at least, he is very good natured,
and I shall always feel much obliged to him, and have a great regard
for--but that is quite a different thing from--and you know, though he
may like me, it does not follow that I should--and certainly I must
confess that since my visiting here I have seen people--and if one
comes to compare them, person and manners, there is no comparison at
all, "one" is so very handsome and agreeable. However, I do really
think Mr. Martin a very amiable young man, and have a great opinion of
him; and his being so much attached to me--and his writing such a
letter--but as to leaving you, it is what I would not do upon any
"Thank you, thank you, my own sweet little friend. We will not be
parted. A woman is not to marry a man merely because she is asked, or
because he is attached to her, and can write a tolerable letter."
"Oh no;--and it is but a short letter too."
Emma felt the bad taste of her friend, but let it pass with a "very
true; and it would be a small consolation to her, for the clownish
manner which might be offending her every hour of the day, to know that
her husband could write a good letter."
"Oh! yes, very. Nobody cares for a letter; the thing is, to be always
happy with pleasant companions. I am quite determined to refuse him.
But how shall I do? What shall I say?"
Emma assured her there would be no difficulty in the answer, and
advised its being written directly, which was agreed to, in the hope of
her assistance; and though Emma continued to protest against any
assistance being wanted, it was in fact given in the formation of every
sentence. The looking over his letter again, in replying to it, had
such a softening tendency, that it was particularly necessary to brace
her up with a few decisive expressions; and she was so very much
concerned at the idea of making him unhappy, and thought so much of
what his mother and sisters would think and say, and was so anxious
that they should not fancy her ungrateful, that Emma believed if the
young man had come in her way at that moment, he would have been
accepted after all.
This letter, however, was written, and sealed, and sent. The business
was finished, and Harriet safe. She was rather low all the evening,
but Emma could allow for her amiable regrets, and sometimes relieved
them by speaking of her own affection, sometimes by bringing forward
the idea of Mr. Elton.
"I shall never be invited to Abbey-Mill again," was said in rather a
"Nor, if you were, could I ever bear to part with you, my Harriet. You
are a great deal too necessary at Hartfield to be spared to Abbey-Mill."
"And I am sure I should never want to go there; for I am never happy
but at Hartfield."
Some time afterwards it was, "I think Mrs. Goddard would be very much
surprized if she knew what had happened. I am sure Miss Nash
would--for Miss Nash thinks her own sister very well married, and it is
only a linen-draper."
"One should be sorry to see greater pride or refinement in the teacher
of a school, Harriet. I dare say Miss Nash would envy you such an
opportunity as this of being married. Even this conquest would appear
valuable in her eyes. As to any thing superior for you, I suppose she
is quite in the dark. The attentions of a certain person can hardly be
among the tittle-tattle of Highbury yet. Hitherto I fancy you and I
are the only people to whom his looks and manners have explained
Harriet blushed and smiled, and said something about wondering that
people should like her so much. The idea of Mr. Elton was certainly
cheering; but still, after a time, she was tender-hearted again towards
the rejected Mr. Martin.
"Now he has got my letter," said she softly. "I wonder what they are
all doing--whether his sisters know--if he is unhappy, they will be
unhappy too. I hope he will not mind it so very much."
"Let us think of those among our absent friends who are more cheerfully
employed," cried Emma. "At this moment, perhaps, Mr. Elton is shewing
your picture to his mother and sisters, telling how much more beautiful
is the original, and after being asked for it five or six times,
allowing them to hear your name, your own dear name."
"My picture!--But he has left my picture in Bond-street."
"Has he so!--Then I know nothing of Mr. Elton. No, my dear little
modest Harriet, depend upon it the picture will not be in Bond-street
till just before he mounts his horse to-morrow. It is his companion
all this evening, his solace, his delight. It opens his designs to his
family, it introduces you among them, it diffuses through the party
those pleasantest feelings of our nature, eager curiosity and warm
prepossession. How cheerful, how animated, how suspicious, how busy
their imaginations all are!"
Harriet smiled again, and her smiles grew stronger.
Harriet slept at Hartfield that night. For some weeks past she had
been spending more than half her time there, and gradually getting to
have a bed-room appropriated to herself; and Emma judged it best in
every respect, safest and kindest, to keep her with them as much as
possible just at present. She was obliged to go the next morning for
an hour or two to Mrs. Goddard's, but it was then to be settled that
she should return to Hartfield, to make a regular visit of some days.
While she was gone, Mr. Knightley called, and sat some time with Mr.
Woodhouse and Emma, till Mr. Woodhouse, who had previously made up his
mind to walk out, was persuaded by his daughter not to defer it, and
was induced by the entreaties of both, though against the scruples of
his own civility, to leave Mr. Knightley for that purpose. Mr.
Knightley, who had nothing of ceremony about him, was offering by his
short, decided answers, an amusing contrast to the protracted apologies
and civil hesitations of the other.
"Well, I believe, if you will excuse me, Mr. Knightley, if you will not
consider me as doing a very rude thing, I shall take Emma's advice and
go out for a quarter of an hour. As the sun is out, I believe I had
better take my three turns while I can. I treat you without ceremony,
Mr. Knightley. We invalids think we are privileged people."
"My dear sir, do not make a stranger of me."
"I leave an excellent substitute in my daughter. Emma will be happy to
entertain you. And therefore I think I will beg your excuse and take
my three turns--my winter walk."
"You cannot do better, sir."
"I would ask for the pleasure of your company, Mr. Knightley, but I am
a very slow walker, and my pace would be tedious to you; and, besides,
you have another long walk before you, to Donwell Abbey."
"Thank you, sir, thank you; I am going this moment myself; and I think
the sooner "you" go the better. I will fetch your greatcoat and open
the garden door for you."
Mr. Woodhouse at last was off; but Mr. Knightley, instead of being
immediately off likewise, sat down again, seemingly inclined for more
chat. He began speaking of Harriet, and speaking of her with more
voluntary praise than Emma had ever heard before.
"I cannot rate her beauty as you do," said he; "but she is a pretty
little creature, and I am inclined to think very well of her
disposition. Her character depends upon those she is with; but in good
hands she will turn out a valuable woman."
"I am glad you think so; and the good hands, I hope, may not be
"Come," said he, "you are anxious for a compliment, so I will tell you
that you have improved her. You have cured her of her school-girl's
giggle; she really does you credit."
"Thank you. I should be mortified indeed if I did not believe I had
been of some use; but it is not every body who will bestow praise where
they may. "You" do not often overpower me with it."
"You are expecting her again, you say, this morning?"
"Almost every moment. She has been gone longer already than she
"Something has happened to delay her; some visitors perhaps."
"Highbury gossips!--Tiresome wretches!"
"Harriet may not consider every body tiresome that you would."
Emma knew this was too true for contradiction, and therefore said
nothing. He presently added, with a smile,
"I do not pretend to fix on times or places, but I must tell you that I
have good reason to believe your little friend will soon hear of
something to her advantage."
"Indeed! how so? of what sort?"
"A very serious sort, I assure you;" still smiling.
"Very serious! I can think of but one thing--Who is in love with her?
Who makes you their confidant?"
Emma was more than half in hopes of Mr. Elton's having dropt a hint.
Mr. Knightley was a sort of general friend and adviser, and she knew
Mr. Elton looked up to him.
"I have reason to think," he replied, "that Harriet Smith will soon
have an offer of marriage, and from a most unexceptionable
quarter:--Robert Martin is the man. Her visit to Abbey-Mill, this
summer, seems to have done his business. He is desperately in love and
means to marry her."
"He is very obliging," said Emma; "but is he sure that Harriet means to
"Well, well, means to make her an offer then. Will that do? He came to
the Abbey two evenings ago, on purpose to consult me about it. He
knows I have a thorough regard for him and all his family, and, I
believe, considers me as one of his best friends. He came to ask me
whether I thought it would be imprudent in him to settle so early;
whether I thought her too young: in short, whether I approved his
choice altogether; having some apprehension perhaps of her being
considered (especially since "your" making so much of her) as in a line
of society above him. I was very much pleased with all that he said.
I never hear better sense from any one than Robert Martin. He always
speaks to the purpose; open, straightforward, and very well judging.
He told me every thing; his circumstances and plans, and what they all
proposed doing in the event of his marriage. He is an excellent young
man, both as son and brother. I had no hesitation in advising him to
marry. He proved to me that he could afford it; and that being the
case, I was convinced he could not do better. I praised the fair lady
too, and altogether sent him away very happy. If he had never esteemed
my opinion before, he would have thought highly of me then; and, I dare
say, left the house thinking me the best friend and counsellor man ever
had. This happened the night before last. Now, as we may fairly
suppose, he would not allow much time to pass before he spoke to the
lady, and as he does not appear to have spoken yesterday, it is not
unlikely that he should be at Mrs. Goddard's to-day; and she may be
detained by a visitor, without thinking him at all a tiresome wretch."
"Pray, Mr. Knightley," said Emma, who had been smiling to herself
through a great part of this speech, "how do you know that Mr. Martin
did not speak yesterday?"
"Certainly," replied he, surprized, "I do not absolutely know it; but
it may be inferred. Was not she the whole day with you?"
"Come," said she, "I will tell you something, in return for what you
have told me. He did speak yesterday--that is, he wrote, and was
This was obliged to be repeated before it could be believed; and Mr.
Knightley actually looked red with surprize and displeasure, as he
stood up, in tall indignation, and said,
"Then she is a greater simpleton than I ever believed her. What is the
foolish girl about?"
"Oh! to be sure," cried Emma, "it is always incomprehensible to a man
that a woman should ever refuse an offer of marriage. A man always
imagines a woman to be ready for any body who asks her."
"Nonsense! a man does not imagine any such thing. But what is the
meaning of this? Harriet Smith refuse Robert Martin? madness, if it is
so; but I hope you are mistaken."
"I saw her answer!--nothing could be clearer."
"You saw her answer!--you wrote her answer too. Emma, this is your
doing. You persuaded her to refuse him."
"And if I did, (which, however, I am far from allowing) I should not
feel that I had done wrong. Mr. Martin is a very respectable young
man, but I cannot admit him to be Harriet's equal; and am rather
surprized indeed that he should have ventured to address her. By your
account, he does seem to have had some scruples. It is a pity that
they were ever got over."
"Not Harriet's equal!" exclaimed Mr. Knightley loudly and warmly; and
with calmer asperity, added, a few moments afterwards, "No, he is not
her equal indeed, for he is as much her superior in sense as in
situation. Emma, your infatuation about that girl blinds you. What
are Harriet Smith's claims, either of birth, nature or education, to
any connexion higher than Robert Martin? She is the natural daughter of
nobody knows whom, with probably no settled provision at all, and
certainly no respectable relations. She is known only as
parlour-boarder at a common school. She is not a sensible girl, nor a
girl of any information. She has been taught nothing useful, and is
too young and too simple to have acquired any thing herself. At her
age she can have no experience, and with her little wit, is not very
likely ever to have any that can avail her. She is pretty, and she is
good tempered, and that is all. My only scruple in advising the match
was on his account, as being beneath his deserts, and a bad connexion
for him. I felt that, as to fortune, in all probability he might do
much better; and that as to a rational companion or useful helpmate, he
could not do worse. But I could not reason so to a man in love, and
was willing to trust to there being no harm in her, to her having that
sort of disposition, which, in good hands, like his, might be easily
led aright and turn out very well. The advantage of the match I felt
to be all on her side; and had not the smallest doubt (nor have I now)
that there would be a general cry-out upon her extreme good luck. Even
"your" satisfaction I made sure of. It crossed my mind immediately
that you would not regret your friend's leaving Highbury, for the sake
of her being settled so well. I remember saying to myself, 'Even Emma,
with all her partiality for Harriet, will think this a good match.'"
"I cannot help wondering at your knowing so little of Emma as to say
any such thing. What! think a farmer, (and with all his sense and all
his merit Mr. Martin is nothing more,) a good match for my intimate
friend! Not regret her leaving Highbury for the sake of marrying a man
whom I could never admit as an acquaintance of my own! I wonder you
should think it possible for me to have such feelings. I assure you
mine are very different. I must think your statement by no means fair.
You are not just to Harriet's claims. They would be estimated very
differently by others as well as myself; Mr. Martin may be the richest
of the two, but he is undoubtedly her inferior as to rank in
society.--The sphere in which she moves is much above his.--It would be
"A degradation to illegitimacy and ignorance, to be married to a
respectable, intelligent gentleman-farmer!"
"As to the circumstances of her birth, though in a legal sense she may
be called Nobody, it will not hold in common sense. She is not to pay
for the offence of others, by being held below the level of those with
whom she is brought up.--There can scarcely be a doubt that her father
is a gentleman--and a gentleman of fortune.--Her allowance is very
liberal; nothing has ever been grudged for her improvement or
comfort.--That she is a gentleman's daughter, is indubitable to me;
that she associates with gentlemen's daughters, no one, I apprehend,
will deny.--She is superior to Mr. Robert Martin."
"Whoever might be her parents," said Mr. Knightley, "whoever may have
had the charge of her, it does not appear to have been any part of
their plan to introduce her into what you would call good society.
After receiving a very indifferent education she is left in Mrs.
Goddard's hands to shift as she can;--to move, in short, in Mrs.
Goddard's line, to have Mrs. Goddard's acquaintance. Her friends
evidently thought this good enough for her; and it "was" good enough.
She desired nothing better herself. Till you chose to turn her into a
friend, her mind had no distaste for her own set, nor any ambition
beyond it. She was as happy as possible with the Martins in the
summer. She had no sense of superiority then. If she has it now, you
have given it. You have been no friend to Harriet Smith, Emma. Robert
Martin would never have proceeded so far, if he had not felt persuaded
of her not being disinclined to him. I know him well. He has too much
real feeling to address any woman on the haphazard of selfish passion.
And as to conceit, he is the farthest from it of any man I know.
Depend upon it he had encouragement."
It was most convenient to Emma not to make a direct reply to this
assertion; she chose rather to take up her own line of the subject
"You are a very warm friend to Mr. Martin; but, as I said before, are
unjust to Harriet. Harriet's claims to marry well are not so
contemptible as you represent them. She is not a clever girl, but she
has better sense than you are aware of, and does not deserve to have
her understanding spoken of so slightingly. Waiving that point,
however, and supposing her to be, as you describe her, only pretty and
good-natured, let me tell you, that in the degree she possesses them,
they are not trivial recommendations to the world in general, for she
is, in fact, a beautiful girl, and must be thought so by ninety-nine
people out of an hundred; and till it appears that men are much more
philosophic on the subject of beauty than they are generally supposed;
till they do fall in love with well-informed minds instead of handsome
faces, a girl, with such loveliness as Harriet, has a certainty of
being admired and sought after, of having the power of chusing from
among many, consequently a claim to be nice. Her good-nature, too, is
not so very slight a claim, comprehending, as it does, real, thorough
sweetness of temper and manner, a very humble opinion of herself, and a
great readiness to be pleased with other people. I am very much
mistaken if your sex in general would not think such beauty, and such
temper, the highest claims a woman could possess."
"Upon my word, Emma, to hear you abusing the reason you have, is almost
enough to make me think so too. Better be without sense, than misapply
it as you do."
"To be sure!" cried she playfully. "I know "that" is the feeling of
you all. I know that such a girl as Harriet is exactly what every man
delights in--what at once bewitches his senses and satisfies his
judgment. Oh! Harriet may pick and chuse. Were you, yourself, ever to
marry, she is the very woman for you. And is she, at seventeen, just
entering into life, just beginning to be known, to be wondered at
because she does not accept the first offer she receives? No--pray let
her have time to look about her."
"I have always thought it a very foolish intimacy," said Mr. Knightley
presently, "though I have kept my thoughts to myself; but I now
perceive that it will be a very unfortunate one for Harriet. You will
puff her up with such ideas of her own beauty, and of what she has a
claim to, that, in a little while, nobody within her reach will be good
enough for her. Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of
mischief. Nothing so easy as for a young lady to raise her
expectations too high. Miss Harriet Smith may not find offers of
marriage flow in so fast, though she is a very pretty girl. Men of
sense, whatever you may chuse to say, do not want silly wives. Men of
family would not be very fond of connecting themselves with a girl of
such obscurity--and most prudent men would be afraid of the
inconvenience and disgrace they might be involved in, when the mystery
of her parentage came to be revealed. Let her marry Robert Martin, and
she is safe, respectable, and happy for ever; but if you encourage her
to expect to marry greatly, and teach her to be satisfied with nothing
less than a man of consequence and large fortune, she may be a
parlour-boarder at Mrs. Goddard's all the rest of her life--or, at
least, (for Harriet Smith is a girl who will marry somebody or other,)
till she grow desperate, and is glad to catch at the old
"We think so very differently on this point, Mr. Knightley, that there
can be no use in canvassing it. We shall only be making each other
more angry. But as to my "letting" her marry Robert Martin, it is
impossible; she has refused him, and so decidedly, I think, as must
prevent any second application. She must abide by the evil of having
refused him, whatever it may be; and as to the refusal itself, I will
not pretend to say that I might not influence her a little; but I
assure you there was very little for me or for any body to do. His
appearance is so much against him, and his manner so bad, that if she
ever were disposed to favour him, she is not now. I can imagine, that
before she had seen any body superior, she might tolerate him. He was
the brother of her friends, and he took pains to please her; and
altogether, having seen nobody better (that must have been his great
assistant) she might not, while she was at Abbey-Mill, find him
disagreeable. But the case is altered now. She knows now what
gentlemen are; and nothing but a gentleman in education and manner has
any chance with Harriet."
"Nonsense, errant nonsense, as ever was talked!" cried Mr.
Knightley.--"Robert Martin's manners have sense, sincerity, and
good-humour to recommend them; and his mind has more true gentility
than Harriet Smith could understand."
Emma made no answer, and tried to look cheerfully unconcerned, but was
really feeling uncomfortable and wanting him very much to be gone. She
did not repent what she had done; she still thought herself a better
judge of such a point of female right and refinement than he could be;
but yet she had a sort of habitual respect for his judgment in general,
which made her dislike having it so loudly against her; and to have him
sitting just opposite to her in angry state, was very disagreeable.
Some minutes passed in this unpleasant silence, with only one attempt
on Emma's side to talk of the weather, but he made no answer. He was
thinking. The result of his thoughts appeared at last in these words.
"Robert Martin has no great loss--if he can but think so; and I hope it
will not be long before he does. Your views for Harriet are best known
to yourself; but as you make no secret of your love of match-making, it
is fair to suppose that views, and plans, and projects you have;--and
as a friend I shall just hint to you that if Elton is the man, I think
it will be all labour in vain."
Emma laughed and disclaimed. He continued,
"Depend upon it, Elton will not do. Elton is a very good sort of man,
and a very respectable vicar of Highbury, but not at all likely to make
an imprudent match. He knows the value of a good income as well as any
body. Elton may talk sentimentally, but he will act rationally. He is
as well acquainted with his own claims, as you can be with Harriet's.
He knows that he is a very handsome young man, and a great favourite
wherever he goes; and from his general way of talking in unreserved
moments, when there are only men present, I am convinced that he does
not mean to throw himself away. I have heard him speak with great
animation of a large family of young ladies that his sisters are
intimate with, who have all twenty thousand pounds apiece."
"I am very much obliged to you," said Emma, laughing again. "If I had
set my heart on Mr. Elton's marrying Harriet, it would have been very
kind to open my eyes; but at present I only want to keep Harriet to
myself. I have done with match-making indeed. I could never hope to
equal my own doings at Randalls. I shall leave off while I am well."
"Good morning to you,"--said he, rising and walking off abruptly. He
was very much vexed. He felt the disappointment of the young man, and
was mortified to have been the means of promoting it, by the sanction
he had given; and the part which he was persuaded Emma had taken in the
affair, was provoking him exceedingly.
Emma remained in a state of vexation too; but there was more
indistinctness in the causes of her's, than in his. She did not always
feel so absolutely satisfied with herself, so entirely convinced that
her opinions were right and her adversary's wrong, as Mr. Knightley.
He walked off in more complete self-approbation than he left for her.
She was not so materially cast down, however, but that a little time
and the return of Harriet were very adequate restoratives. Harriet's
staying away so long was beginning to make her uneasy. The possibility
of the young man's coming to Mrs. Goddard's that morning, and meeting
with Harriet and pleading his own cause, gave alarming ideas. The
dread of such a failure after all became the prominent uneasiness; and
when Harriet appeared, and in very good spirits, and without having any
such reason to give for her long absence, she felt a satisfaction which
settled her with her own mind, and convinced her, that let Mr.
Knightley think or say what he would, she had done nothing which
woman's friendship and woman's feelings would not justify.
He had frightened her a little about Mr. Elton; but when she considered
that Mr. Knightley could not have observed him as she had done, neither
with the interest, nor (she must be allowed to tell herself, in spite
of Mr. Knightley's pretensions) with the skill of such an observer on
such a question as herself, that he had spoken it hastily and in anger,
she was able to believe, that he had rather said what he wished
resentfully to be true, than what he knew any thing about. He
certainly might have heard Mr. Elton speak with more unreserve than she
had ever done, and Mr. Elton might not be of an imprudent,
inconsiderate disposition as to money matters; he might naturally be
rather attentive than otherwise to them; but then, Mr. Knightley did
not make due allowance for the influence of a strong passion at war
with all interested motives. Mr. Knightley saw no such passion, and of
course thought nothing of its effects; but she saw too much of it to
feel a doubt of its overcoming any hesitations that a reasonable
prudence might originally suggest; and more than a reasonable, becoming
degree of prudence, she was very sure did not belong to Mr. Elton.
Harriet's cheerful look and manner established hers: she came back, not
to think of Mr. Martin, but to talk of Mr. Elton. Miss Nash had been
telling her something, which she repeated immediately with great
delight. Mr. Perry had been to Mrs. Goddard's to attend a sick child,
and Miss Nash had seen him, and he had told Miss Nash, that as he was
coming back yesterday from Clayton Park, he had met Mr. Elton, and
found to his great surprize, that Mr. Elton was actually on his road to
London, and not meaning to return till the morrow, though it was the
whist-club night, which he had been never known to miss before; and Mr.
Perry had remonstrated with him about it, and told him how shabby it
was in him, their best player, to absent himself, and tried very much
to persuade him to put off his journey only one day; but it would not
do; Mr. Elton had been determined to go on, and had said in a "very"
"particular" way indeed, that he was going on business which he would
not put off for any inducement in the world; and something about a very
enviable commission, and being the bearer of something exceedingly
precious. Mr. Perry could not quite understand him, but he was very
sure there must be a "lady" in the case, and he told him so; and Mr.
Elton only looked very conscious and smiling, and rode off in great
spirits. Miss Nash had told her all this, and had talked a great deal
more about Mr. Elton; and said, looking so very significantly at her,
"that she did not pretend to understand what his business might be, but
she only knew that any woman whom Mr. Elton could prefer, she should
think the luckiest woman in the world; for, beyond a doubt, Mr. Elton
had not his equal for beauty or agreeableness."
Mr. Knightley might quarrel with her, but Emma could not quarrel with
herself. He was so much displeased, that it was longer than usual
before he came to Hartfield again; and when they did meet, his grave
looks shewed that she was not forgiven. She was sorry, but could not
repent. On the contrary, her plans and proceedings were more and more
justified and endeared to her by the general appearances of the next
The Picture, elegantly framed, came safely to hand soon after Mr.
Elton's return, and being hung over the mantelpiece of the common
sitting-room, he got up to look at it, and sighed out his half
sentences of admiration just as he ought; and as for Harriet's
feelings, they were visibly forming themselves into as strong and
steady an attachment as her youth and sort of mind admitted. Emma was
soon perfectly satisfied of Mr. Martin's being no otherwise remembered,
than as he furnished a contrast with Mr. Elton, of the utmost advantage
to the latter.
Her views of improving her little friend's mind, by a great deal of
useful reading and conversation, had never yet led to more than a few
first chapters, and the intention of going on to-morrow. It was much
easier to chat than to study; much pleasanter to let her imagination
range and work at Harriet's fortune, than to be labouring to enlarge
her comprehension or exercise it on sober facts; and the only literary
pursuit which engaged Harriet at present, the only mental provision she
was making for the evening of life, was the collecting and transcribing
all the riddles of every sort that she could meet with, into a thin
quarto of hot-pressed paper, made up by her friend, and ornamented with
ciphers and trophies.
In this age of literature, such collections on a very grand scale are
not uncommon. Miss Nash, head-teacher at Mrs. Goddard's, had written
out at least three hundred; and Harriet, who had taken the first hint
of it from her, hoped, with Miss Woodhouse's help, to get a great many
more. Emma assisted with her invention, memory and taste; and as
Harriet wrote a very pretty hand, it was likely to be an arrangement of
the first order, in form as well as quantity.
Mr. Woodhouse was almost as much interested in the business as the
girls, and tried very often to recollect something worth their putting
in. "So many clever riddles as there used to be when he was young--he
wondered he could not remember them! but he hoped he should in time."
And it always ended in "Kitty, a fair but frozen maid."
His good friend Perry, too, whom he had spoken to on the subject, did
not at present recollect any thing of the riddle kind; but he had
desired Perry to be upon the watch, and as he went about so much,
something, he thought, might come from that quarter.
It was by no means his daughter's wish that the intellects of Highbury
in general should be put under requisition. Mr. Elton was the only one
whose assistance she asked. He was invited to contribute any really
good enigmas, charades, or conundrums that he might recollect; and she
had the pleasure of seeing him most intently at work with his
recollections; and at the same time, as she could perceive, most
earnestly careful that nothing ungallant, nothing that did not breathe
a compliment to the sex should pass his lips. They owed to him their
two or three politest puzzles; and the joy and exultation with which at
last he recalled, and rather sentimentally recited, that well-known
My first doth affliction denote,
Which my second is destin'd to feel
And my whole is the best antidote
That affliction to soften and heal.--
made her quite sorry to acknowledge that they had transcribed it some
pages ago already.
"Why will not you write one yourself for us, Mr. Elton?" said she;
"that is the only security for its freshness; and nothing could be
easier to you."
"Oh no! he had never written, hardly ever, any thing of the kind in his
life. The stupidest fellow! He was afraid not even Miss Woodhouse"--he
stopt a moment--"or Miss Smith could inspire him."
The very next day however produced some proof of inspiration. He
called for a few moments, just to leave a piece of paper on the table
containing, as he said, a charade, which a friend of his had addressed
to a young lady, the object of his admiration, but which, from his
manner, Emma was immediately convinced must be his own.
"I do not offer it for Miss Smith's collection," said he. "Being my
friend's, I have no right to expose it in any degree to the public eye,
but perhaps you may not dislike looking at it."
The speech was more to Emma than to Harriet, which Emma could
understand. There was deep consciousness about him, and he found it
easier to meet her eye than her friend's. He was gone the next
moment:--after another moment's pause,
"Take it," said Emma, smiling, and pushing the paper towards
Harriet--"it is for you. Take your own."
But Harriet was in a tremor, and could not touch it; and Emma, never
loth to be first, was obliged to examine it herself.
My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings,
Lords of the earth! their luxury and ease.
Another view of man, my second brings,
Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!
But ah! united, what reverse we have!
Man's boasted power and freedom, all are flown;
Lord of the earth and sea, he bends a slave,
And woman, lovely woman, reigns alone.
Thy ready wit the word will soon supply,
May its approval beam in that soft eye!
She cast her eye over it, pondered, caught the meaning, read it through
again to be quite certain, and quite mistress of the lines, and then
passing it to Harriet, sat happily smiling, and saying to herself,
while Harriet was puzzling over the paper in all the confusion of hope
and dulness, "Very well, Mr. Elton, very well indeed. I have read
worse charades. "Courtship"--a very good hint. I give you credit for
it. This is feeling your way. This is saying very plainly--'Pray,
Miss Smith, give me leave to pay my addresses to you. Approve my
charade and my intentions in the same glance.'
May its approval beam in that soft eye!
Harriet exactly. Soft is the very word for her eye--of all epithets,
the justest that could be given.
Thy ready wit the word will soon supply.
Humph--Harriet's ready wit! All the better. A man must be very much in
love, indeed, to describe her so. Ah! Mr. Knightley, I wish you had
the benefit of this; I think this would convince you. For once in your
life you would be obliged to own yourself mistaken. An excellent
charade indeed! and very much to the purpose. Things must come to a
crisis soon now.
She was obliged to break off from these very pleasant observations,
which were otherwise of a sort to run into great length, by the
eagerness of Harriet's wondering questions.
"What can it be, Miss Woodhouse?--what can it be? I have not an idea--I
cannot guess it in the least. What can it possibly be? Do try to find
it out, Miss Woodhouse. Do help me. I never saw any thing so hard.
Is it kingdom? I wonder who the friend was--and who could be the young
lady. Do you think it is a good one? Can it be woman?
And woman, lovely woman, reigns alone.
Can it be Neptune?
Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!
Or a trident? or a mermaid? or a shark? Oh, no! shark is only one
syllable. It must be very clever, or he would not have brought it.
Oh! Miss Woodhouse, do you think we shall ever find it out?"
"Mermaids and sharks! Nonsense! My dear Harriet, what are you thinking
of? Where would be the use of his bringing us a charade made by a
friend upon a mermaid or a shark? Give me the paper and listen.
For Miss ------, read Miss Smith.
My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings,
Lords of the earth! their luxury and ease.
That is "court".
Another view of man, my second brings;
Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!
That is "ship";--plain as it can be.--Now for the cream.
But ah! united, ("courtship", you know,) what reverse we have!
Man's boasted power and freedom, all are flown.
Lord of the earth and sea, he bends a slave,
And woman, lovely woman, reigns alone.
A very proper compliment!--and then follows the application, which I
think, my dear Harriet, you cannot find much difficulty in
comprehending. Read it in comfort to yourself. There can be no doubt
of its being written for you and to you."
Harriet could not long resist so delightful a persuasion. She read the
concluding lines, and was all flutter and happiness. She could not
speak. But she was not wanted to speak. It was enough for her to
feel. Emma spoke for her.
"There is so pointed, and so particular a meaning in this compliment,"
said she, "that I cannot have a doubt as to Mr. Elton's intentions.
You are his object--and you will soon receive the completest proof of
it. I thought it must be so. I thought I could not be so deceived;
but now, it is clear; the state of his mind is as clear and decided, as
my wishes on the subject have been ever since I knew you. Yes,
Harriet, just so long have I been wanting the very circumstance to
happen what has happened. I could never tell whether an attachment
between you and Mr. Elton were most desirable or most natural. Its
probability and its eligibility have really so equalled each other! I
am very happy. I congratulate you, my dear Harriet, with all my heart.
This is an attachment which a woman may well feel pride in creating.
This is a connexion which offers nothing but good. It will give you
every thing that you want--consideration, independence, a proper
home--it will fix you in the centre of all your real friends, close to
Hartfield and to me, and confirm our intimacy for ever. This, Harriet,
is an alliance which can never raise a blush in either of us."
"Dear Miss Woodhouse!"--and "Dear Miss Woodhouse," was all that
Harriet, with many tender embraces could articulate at first; but when
they did arrive at something more like conversation, it was
sufficiently clear to her friend that she saw, felt, anticipated, and
remembered just as she ought. Mr. Elton's superiority had very ample
"Whatever you say is always right," cried Harriet, "and therefore I
suppose, and believe, and hope it must be so; but otherwise I could not
have imagined it. It is so much beyond any thing I deserve. Mr.
Elton, who might marry any body! There cannot be two opinions about
"him". He is so very superior. Only think of those sweet verses--'To
Miss ------.' Dear me, how clever!--Could it really be meant for me?"
"I cannot make a question, or listen to a question about that. It is a
certainty. Receive it on my judgment. It is a sort of prologue to the
play, a motto to the chapter; and will be soon followed by
"It is a sort of thing which nobody could have expected. I am sure, a
month ago, I had no more idea myself!--The strangest things do take
"When Miss Smiths and Mr. Eltons get acquainted--they do indeed--and
really it is strange; it is out of the common course that what is so
evidently, so palpably desirable--what courts the pre-arrangement of
other people, should so immediately shape itself into the proper form.
You and Mr. Elton are by situation called together; you belong to one
another by every circumstance of your respective homes. Your marrying
will be equal to the match at Randalls. There does seem to be a
something in the air of Hartfield which gives love exactly the right
direction, and sends it into the very channel where it ought to flow.
The course of true love never did run smooth--
A Hartfield edition of Shakespeare would have a long note on that
"That Mr. Elton should really be in love with me,--me, of all people,
who did not know him, to speak to him, at Michaelmas! And he, the very
handsomest man that ever was, and a man that every body looks up to,
quite like Mr. Knightley! His company so sought after, that every body
says he need not eat a single meal by himself if he does not chuse it;
that he has more invitations than there are days in the week. And so
excellent in the Church! Miss Nash has put down all the texts he has
ever preached from since he came to Highbury. Dear me! When I look
back to the first time I saw him! How little did I think!--The two
Abbots and I ran into the front room and peeped through the blind when
we heard he was going by, and Miss Nash came and scolded us away, and
staid to look through herself; however, she called me back presently,
and let me look too, which was very good-natured. And how beautiful we
thought he looked! He was arm-in-arm with Mr. Cole."
"This is an alliance which, whoever--whatever your friends may be, must
be agreeable to them, provided at least they have common sense; and we
are not to be addressing our conduct to fools. If they are anxious to
see you "happily" married, here is a man whose amiable character gives
every assurance of it;--if they wish to have you settled in the same
country and circle which they have chosen to place you in, here it will
be accomplished; and if their only object is that you should, in the
common phrase, be "well" married, here is the comfortable fortune, the
respectable establishment, the rise in the world which must satisfy
"Yes, very true. How nicely you talk; I love to hear you. You
understand every thing. You and Mr. Elton are one as clever as the
other. This charade!--If I had studied a twelvemonth, I could never
have made any thing like it."
"I thought he meant to try his skill, by his manner of declining it
"I do think it is, without exception, the best charade I ever read."
"I never read one more to the purpose, certainly."
"It is as long again as almost all we have had before."
"I do not consider its length as particularly in its favour. Such
things in general cannot be too short."
Harriet was too intent on the lines to hear. The most satisfactory
comparisons were rising in her mind.
"It is one thing," said she, presently--her cheeks in a glow--"to have
very good sense in a common way, like every body else, and if there is
any thing to say, to sit down and write a letter, and say just what you
must, in a short way; and another, to write verses and charades like
Emma could not have desired a more spirited rejection of Mr. Martin's
"Such sweet lines!" continued Harriet--"these two last!--But how shall
I ever be able to return the paper, or say I have found it out?--Oh!
Miss Woodhouse, what can we do about that?"
"Leave it to me. You do nothing. He will be here this evening, I dare
say, and then I will give it him back, and some nonsense or other will
pass between us, and you shall not be committed.--Your soft eyes shall
chuse their own time for beaming. Trust to me."
"Oh! Miss Woodhouse, what a pity that I must not write this beautiful
charade into my book! I am sure I have not got one half so good."
"Leave out the two last lines, and there is no reason why you should
not write it into your book."
"Oh! but those two lines are"--
--"The best of all. Granted;--for private enjoyment; and for private
enjoyment keep them. They are not at all the less written you know,
because you divide them. The couplet does not cease to be, nor does
its meaning change. But take it away, and all "appropriation" ceases,
and a very pretty gallant charade remains, fit for any collection.
Depend upon it, he would not like to have his charade slighted, much
better than his passion. A poet in love must be encouraged in both
capacities, or neither. Give me the book, I will write it down, and
then there can be no possible reflection on you."
Harriet submitted, though her mind could hardly separate the parts, so
as to feel quite sure that her friend were not writing down a
declaration of love. It seemed too precious an offering for any degree
"I shall never let that book go out of my own hands," said she.
"Very well," replied Emma; "a most natural feeling; and the longer it
lasts, the better I shall be pleased. But here is my father coming:
you will not object to my reading the charade to him. It will be
giving him so much pleasure! He loves any thing of the sort, and
especially any thing that pays woman a compliment. He has the
tenderest spirit of gallantry towards us all!--You must let me read it
Harriet looked grave.
"My dear Harriet, you must not refine too much upon this charade.--You
will betray your feelings improperly, if you are too conscious and too
quick, and appear to affix more meaning, or even quite all the meaning
which may be affixed to it. Do not be overpowered by such a little
tribute of admiration. If he had been anxious for secrecy, he would
not have left the paper while I was by; but he rather pushed it towards
me than towards you. Do not let us be too solemn on the business. He
has encouragement enough to proceed, without our sighing out our souls
over this charade."
"Oh! no--I hope I shall not be ridiculous about it. Do as you please."
Mr. Woodhouse came in, and very soon led to the subject again, by the
recurrence of his very frequent inquiry of "Well, my dears, how does
your book go on?--Have you got any thing fresh?"
"Yes, papa; we have something to read you, something quite fresh. A
piece of paper was found on the table this morning--(dropt, we suppose,
by a fairy)--containing a very pretty charade, and we have just copied
She read it to him, just as he liked to have any thing read, slowly and
distinctly, and two or three times over, with explanations of every
part as she proceeded--and he was very much pleased, and, as she had
foreseen, especially struck with the complimentary conclusion.
"Aye, that's very just, indeed, that's very properly said. Very true.
'Woman, lovely woman.' It is such a pretty charade, my dear, that I can
easily guess what fairy brought it.--Nobody could have written so
prettily, but you, Emma."
Emma only nodded, and smiled.--After a little thinking, and a very
tender sigh, he added,
"Ah! it is no difficulty to see who you take after! Your dear mother
was so clever at all those things! If I had but her memory! But I can
remember nothing;--not even that particular riddle which you have heard
me mention; I can only recollect the first stanza; and there are
Kitty, a fair but frozen maid,
Kindled a flame I yet deplore,
The hood-wink'd boy I called to aid,
Though of his near approach afraid,
So fatal to my suit before.
And that is all that I can recollect of it--but it is very clever all
the way through. But I think, my dear, you said you had got it."
"Yes, papa, it is written out in our second page. We copied it from
the Elegant Extracts. It was Garrick's, you know."
"Aye, very true.--I wish I could recollect more of it.
Kitty, a fair but frozen maid.
The name makes me think of poor Isabella; for she was very near being
christened Catherine after her grandmama. I hope we shall have her
here next week. Have you thought, my dear, where you shall put
her--and what room there will be for the children?"
"Oh! yes--she will have her own room, of course; the room she always
has;--and there is the nursery for the children,--just as usual, you
know. Why should there be any change?"
"I do not know, my dear--but it is so long since she was here!--not
since last Easter, and then only for a few days.--Mr. John Knightley's
being a lawyer is very inconvenient.--Poor Isabella!--she is sadly
taken away from us all!--and how sorry she will be when she comes, not
to see Miss Taylor here!"
"She will not be surprized, papa, at least."
"I do not know, my dear. I am sure I was very much surprized when I
first heard she was going to be married."
"We must ask Mr. and Mrs. Weston to dine with us, while Isabella is
"Yes, my dear, if there is time.--But--(in a very depressed tone)--she
is coming for only one week. There will not be time for any thing."
"It is unfortunate that they cannot stay longer--but it seems a case of
necessity. Mr. John Knightley must be in town again on the 28th, and
we ought to be thankful, papa, that we are to have the whole of the
time they can give to the country, that two or three days are not to be
taken out for the Abbey. Mr. Knightley promises to give up his claim
this Christmas--though you know it is longer since they were with him,
than with us."
"It would be very hard, indeed, my dear, if poor Isabella were to be
anywhere but at Hartfield."
Mr. Woodhouse could never allow for Mr. Knightley's claims on his
brother, or any body's claims on Isabella, except his own. He sat
musing a little while, and then said,
"But I do not see why poor Isabella should be obliged to go back so
soon, though he does. I think, Emma, I shall try and persuade her to
stay longer with us. She and the children might stay very well."
"Ah! papa--that is what you never have been able to accomplish, and I
do not think you ever will. Isabella cannot bear to stay behind her
This was too true for contradiction. Unwelcome as it was, Mr.
Woodhouse could only give a submissive sigh; and as Emma saw his
spirits affected by the idea of his daughter's attachment to her
husband, she immediately led to such a branch of the subject as must
"Harriet must give us as much of her company as she can while my
brother and sister are here. I am sure she will be pleased with the
children. We are very proud of the children, are not we, papa? I
wonder which she will think the handsomest, Henry or John?"
"Aye, I wonder which she will. Poor little dears, how glad they will
be to come. They are very fond of being at Hartfield, Harriet."
"I dare say they are, sir. I am sure I do not know who is not."
"Henry is a fine boy, but John is very like his mama. Henry is the
eldest, he was named after me, not after his father. John, the second,
is named after his father. Some people are surprized, I believe, that
the eldest was not, but Isabella would have him called Henry, which I
thought very pretty of her. And he is a very clever boy, indeed. They
are all remarkably clever; and they have so many pretty ways. They
will come and stand by my chair, and say, 'Grandpapa, can you give me a
bit of string?' and once Henry asked me for a knife, but I told him
knives were only made for grandpapas. I think their father is too
rough with them very often."
"He appears rough to you," said Emma, "because you are so very gentle
yourself; but if you could compare him with other papas, you would not
think him rough. He wishes his boys to be active and hardy; and if
they misbehave, can give them a sharp word now and then; but he is an
affectionate father--certainly Mr. John Knightley is an affectionate
father. The children are all fond of him."
"And then their uncle comes in, and tosses them up to the ceiling in a
very frightful way!"
"But they like it, papa; there is nothing they like so much. It is
such enjoyment to them, that if their uncle did not lay down the rule
of their taking turns, whichever began would never give way to the
"Well, I cannot understand it."
"That is the case with us all, papa. One half of the world cannot
understand the pleasures of the other."
Later in the morning, and just as the girls were going to separate in
preparation for the regular four o'clock dinner, the hero of this
inimitable charade walked in again. Harriet turned away; but Emma
could receive him with the usual smile, and her quick eye soon
discerned in his the consciousness of having made a push--of having
thrown a die; and she imagined he was come to see how it might turn up.
His ostensible reason, however, was to ask whether Mr. Woodhouse's
party could be made up in the evening without him, or whether he should
be in the smallest degree necessary at Hartfield. If he were, every
thing else must give way; but otherwise his friend Cole had been saying
so much about his dining with him--had made such a point of it, that he
had promised him conditionally to come.
Emma thanked him, but could not allow of his disappointing his friend
on their account; her father was sure of his rubber. He re-urged--she
re-declined; and he seemed then about to make his bow, when taking the
paper from the table, she returned it--
"Oh! here is the charade you were so obliging as to leave with us;
thank you for the sight of it. We admired it so much, that I have
ventured to write it into Miss Smith's collection. Your friend will
not take it amiss I hope. Of course I have not transcribed beyond the
first eight lines."
Mr. Elton certainly did not very well know what to say. He looked
rather doubtingly--rather confused; said something about
"honour,"--glanced at Emma and at Harriet, and then seeing the book
open on the table, took it up, and examined it very attentively. With
the view of passing off an awkward moment, Emma smilingly said,
"You must make my apologies to your friend; but so good a charade must
not be confined to one or two. He may be sure of every woman's
approbation while he writes with such gallantry."
"I have no hesitation in saying," replied Mr. Elton, though hesitating
a good deal while he spoke; "I have no hesitation in saying--at least
if my friend feels at all as "I" do--I have not the smallest doubt
that, could he see his little effusion honoured as "I" see it, (looking
at the book again, and replacing it on the table), he would consider it
as the proudest moment of his life."
After this speech he was gone as soon as possible. Emma could not
think it too soon; for with all his good and agreeable qualities, there
was a sort of parade in his speeches which was very apt to incline her
to laugh. She ran away to indulge the inclination, leaving the tender
and the sublime of pleasure to Harriet's share.
Though now the middle of December, there had yet been no weather to
prevent the young ladies from tolerably regular exercise; and on the
morrow, Emma had a charitable visit to pay to a poor sick family, who
lived a little way out of Highbury.
Their road to this detached cottage was down Vicarage Lane, a lane
leading at right angles from the broad, though irregular, main street
of the place; and, as may be inferred, containing the blessed abode of
Mr. Elton. A few inferior dwellings were first to be passed, and then,
about a quarter of a mile down the lane rose the Vicarage, an old and
not very good house, almost as close to the road as it could be. It
had no advantage of situation; but had been very much smartened up by
the present proprietor; and, such as it was, there could be no
possibility of the two friends passing it without a slackened pace and
observing eyes.--Emma's remark was--
"There it is. There go you and your riddle-book one of these days."--
"Oh, what a sweet house!--How very beautiful!--There are the yellow
curtains that Miss Nash admires so much."
"I do not often walk this way "now"," said Emma, as they proceeded,
"but "then" there will be an inducement, and I shall gradually get
intimately acquainted with all the hedges, gates, pools and pollards of
this part of Highbury."
Harriet, she found, had never in her life been within side the
Vicarage, and her curiosity to see it was so extreme, that, considering
exteriors and probabilities, Emma could only class it, as a proof of
love, with Mr. Elton's seeing ready wit in her.
"I wish we could contrive it," said she; "but I cannot think of any
tolerable pretence for going in;--no servant that I want to inquire
about of his housekeeper--no message from my father."
She pondered, but could think of nothing. After a mutual silence of
some minutes, Harriet thus began again--
"I do so wonder, Miss Woodhouse, that you should not be married, or
going to be married! so charming as you are!"--
Emma laughed, and replied,
"My being charming, Harriet, is not quite enough to induce me to marry;
I must find other people charming--one other person at least. And I am
not only, not going to be married, at present, but have very little
intention of ever marrying at all."
"Ah!--so you say; but I cannot believe it."
"I must see somebody very superior to any one I have seen yet, to be
tempted; Mr. Elton, you know, (recollecting herself,) is out of the
question: and I do "not" wish to see any such person. I would rather
not be tempted. I cannot really change for the better. If I were to
marry, I must expect to repent it."
"Dear me!--it is so odd to hear a woman talk so!"--
"I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry. Were I to
fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing! but I never have
been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever
shall. And, without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such
a situation as mine. Fortune I do not want; employment I do not want;
consequence I do not want: I believe few married women are half as much
mistress of their husband's house as I am of Hartfield; and never,
never could I expect to be so truly beloved and important; so always
first and always right in any man's eyes as I am in my father's."
"But then, to be an old maid at last, like Miss Bates!"
"That is as formidable an image as you could present, Harriet; and if I
thought I should ever be like Miss Bates! so silly--so satisfied--so
smiling--so prosing--so undistinguishing and unfastidious--and so apt
to tell every thing relative to every body about me, I would marry
to-morrow. But between "us", I am convinced there never can be any
likeness, except in being unmarried."
"But still, you will be an old maid! and that's so dreadful!"
"Never mind, Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty
only which makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single
woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable
old maid! the proper sport of boys and girls, but a single woman, of
good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and
pleasant as any body else. And the distinction is not quite so much
against the candour and common sense of the world as appears at first;
for a very narrow income has a tendency to contract the mind, and sour
the temper. Those who can barely live, and who live perforce in a very
small, and generally very inferior, society, may well be illiberal and
cross. This does not apply, however, to Miss Bates; she is only too
good natured and too silly to suit me; but, in general, she is very
much to the taste of every body, though single and though poor.
Poverty certainly has not contracted her mind: I really believe, if
she had only a shilling in the world, she would be very likely to give
away sixpence of it; and nobody is afraid of her: that is a great
"Dear me! but what shall you do? how shall you employ yourself when you
"If I know myself, Harriet, mine is an active, busy mind, with a great
many independent resources; and I do not perceive why I should be more
in want of employment at forty or fifty than one-and-twenty. Woman's
usual occupations of hand and mind will be as open to me then as they
are now; or with no important variation. If I draw less, I shall read
more; if I give up music, I shall take to carpet-work. And as for
objects of interest, objects for the affections, which is in truth the
great point of inferiority, the want of which is really the great evil
to be avoided in "not" marrying, I shall be very well off, with all the
children of a sister I love so much, to care about. There will be
enough of them, in all probability, to supply every sort of sensation
that declining life can need. There will be enough for every hope and
every fear; and though my attachment to none can equal that of a
parent, it suits my ideas of comfort better than what is warmer and
blinder. My nephews and nieces!--I shall often have a niece with me."
"Do you know Miss Bates's niece? That is, I know you must have seen
her a hundred times--but are you acquainted?"
"Oh! yes; we are always forced to be acquainted whenever she comes to
Highbury. By the bye, "that" is almost enough to put one out of
conceit with a niece. Heaven forbid! at least, that I should ever bore
people half so much about all the Knightleys together, as she does
about Jane Fairfax. One is sick of the very name of Jane Fairfax.
Every letter from her is read forty times over; her compliments to all
friends go round and round again; and if she does but send her aunt the
pattern of a stomacher, or knit a pair of garters for her grandmother,
one hears of nothing else for a month. I wish Jane Fairfax very well;
but she tires me to death."
They were now approaching the cottage, and all idle topics were
superseded. Emma was very compassionate; and the distresses of the
poor were as sure of relief from her personal attention and kindness,
her counsel and her patience, as from her purse. She understood their
ways, could allow for their ignorance and their temptations, had no
romantic expectations of extraordinary virtue from those for whom
education had done so little; entered into their troubles with ready
sympathy, and always gave her assistance with as much intelligence as
good-will. In the present instance, it was sickness and poverty
together which she came to visit; and after remaining there as long as
she could give comfort or advice, she quitted the cottage with such an
impression of the scene as made her say to Harriet, as they walked away,
"These are the sights, Harriet, to do one good. How trifling they make
every thing else appear!--I feel now as if I could think of nothing but
these poor creatures all the rest of the day; and yet, who can say how
soon it may all vanish from my mind?"
"Very true," said Harriet. "Poor creatures! one can think of nothing
"And really, I do not think the impression will soon be over," said
Emma, as she crossed the low hedge, and tottering footstep which ended
the narrow, slippery path through the cottage garden, and brought them
into the lane again. "I do not think it will," stopping to look once
more at all the outward wretchedness of the place, and recall the still
"Oh! dear, no," said her companion.
They walked on. The lane made a slight bend; and when that bend was
passed, Mr. Elton was immediately in sight; and so near as to give Emma
time only to say farther,
"Ah! Harriet, here comes a very sudden trial of our stability in good
thoughts. Well, (smiling,) I hope it may be allowed that if compassion
has produced exertion and relief to the sufferers, it has done all that
is truly important. If we feel for the wretched, enough to do all we
can for them, the rest is empty sympathy, only distressing to
Harriet could just answer, "Oh! dear, yes," before the gentleman joined
them. The wants and sufferings of the poor family, however, were the
first subject on meeting. He had been going to call on them. His
visit he would now defer; but they had a very interesting parley about
what could be done and should be done. Mr. Elton then turned back to
"To fall in with each other on such an errand as this," thought Emma;
"to meet in a charitable scheme; this will bring a great increase of
love on each side. I should not wonder if it were to bring on the
declaration. It must, if I were not here. I wish I were anywhere
Anxious to separate herself from them as far as she could, she soon
afterwards took possession of a narrow footpath, a little raised on one
side of the lane, leaving them together in the main road. But she had
not been there two minutes when she found that Harriet's habits of
dependence and imitation were bringing her up too, and that, in short,
they would both be soon after her. This would not do; she immediately
stopped, under pretence of having some alteration to make in the lacing
of her half-boot, and stooping down in complete occupation of the
footpath, begged them to have the goodness to walk on, and she would
follow in half a minute. They did as they were desired; and by the
time she judged it reasonable to have done with her boot, she had the
comfort of farther delay in her power, being overtaken by a child from
the cottage, setting out, according to orders, with her pitcher, to
fetch broth from Hartfield. To walk by the side of this child, and
talk to and question her, was the most natural thing in the world, or
would have been the most natural, had she been acting just then without
design; and by this means the others were still able to keep ahead,
without any obligation of waiting for her. She gained on them,
however, involuntarily: the child's pace was quick, and theirs rather
slow; and she was the more concerned at it, from their being evidently
in a conversation which interested them. Mr. Elton was speaking with
animation, Harriet listening with a very pleased attention; and Emma,
having sent the child on, was beginning to think how she might draw
back a little more, when they both looked around, and she was obliged
to join them.
Mr. Elton was still talking, still engaged in some interesting detail;
and Emma experienced some disappointment when she found that he was
only giving his fair companion an account of the yesterday's party at
his friend Cole's, and that she was come in herself for the Stilton
cheese, the north Wiltshire, the butter, the cellery, the beet-root,
and all the dessert.
"This would soon have led to something better, of course," was her
consoling reflection; "any thing interests between those who love; and
any thing will serve as introduction to what is near the heart. If I
could but have kept longer away!"
They now walked on together quietly, till within view of the vicarage
pales, when a sudden resolution, of at least getting Harriet into the
house, made her again find something very much amiss about her boot,
and fall behind to arrange it once more. She then broke the lace off
short, and dexterously throwing it into a ditch, was presently obliged
to entreat them to stop, and acknowledged her inability to put herself
to rights so as to be able to walk home in tolerable comfort.
"Part of my lace is gone," said she, "and I do not know how I am to
contrive. I really am a most troublesome companion to you both, but I
hope I am not often so ill-equipped. Mr. Elton, I must beg leave to
stop at your house, and ask your housekeeper for a bit of ribband or
string, or any thing just to keep my boot on."
Mr. Elton looked all happiness at this proposition; and nothing could
exceed his alertness and attention in conducting them into his house
and endeavouring to make every thing appear to advantage. The room
they were taken into was the one he chiefly occupied, and looking
forwards; behind it was another with which it immediately communicated;
the door between them was open, and Emma passed into it with the
housekeeper to receive her assistance in the most comfortable manner.
She was obliged to leave the door ajar as she found it; but she fully
intended that Mr. Elton should close it. It was not closed, however,
it still remained ajar; but by engaging the housekeeper in incessant
conversation, she hoped to make it practicable for him to chuse his own
subject in the adjoining room. For ten minutes she could hear nothing
but herself. It could be protracted no longer. She was then obliged
to be finished, and make her appearance.
The lovers were standing together at one of the windows. It had a most
favourable aspect; and, for half a minute, Emma felt the glory of
having schemed successfully. But it would not do; he had not come to
the point. He had been most agreeable, most delightful; he had told
Harriet that he had seen them go by, and had purposely followed them;
other little gallantries and allusions had been dropt, but nothing
"Cautious, very cautious," thought Emma; "he advances inch by inch, and
will hazard nothing till he believes himself secure."
Still, however, though every thing had not been accomplished by her
ingenious device, she could not but flatter herself that it had been
the occasion of much present enjoyment to both, and must be leading
them forward to the great event.
Mr. Elton must now be left to himself. It was no longer in Emma's
power to superintend his happiness or quicken his measures. The coming
of her sister's family was so very near at hand, that first in
anticipation, and then in reality, it became henceforth her prime
object of interest; and during the ten days of their stay at Hartfield
it was not to be expected--she did not herself expect--that any thing
beyond occasional, fortuitous assistance could be afforded by her to
the lovers. They might advance rapidly if they would, however; they
must advance somehow or other whether they would or no. She hardly
wished to have more leisure for them. There are people, who the more
you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.
Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley, from having been longer than usual absent
from Surry, were exciting of course rather more than the usual
interest. Till this year, every long vacation since their marriage had
been divided between Hartfield and Donwell Abbey; but all the holidays
of this autumn had been given to sea-bathing for the children, and it
was therefore many months since they had been seen in a regular way by
their Surry connexions, or seen at all by Mr. Woodhouse, who could not
be induced to get so far as London, even for poor Isabella's sake; and
who consequently was now most nervously and apprehensively happy in
forestalling this too short visit.
He thought much of the evils of the journey for her, and not a little
of the fatigues of his own horses and coachman who were to bring some
of the party the last half of the way; but his alarms were needless;
the sixteen miles being happily accomplished, and Mr. and Mrs. John
Knightley, their five children, and a competent number of
nursery-maids, all reaching Hartfield in safety. The bustle and joy of
such an arrival, the many to be talked to, welcomed, encouraged, and
variously dispersed and disposed of, produced a noise and confusion
which his nerves could not have borne under any other cause, nor have
endured much longer even for this; but the ways of Hartfield and the
feelings of her father were so respected by Mrs. John Knightley, that
in spite of maternal solicitude for the immediate enjoyment of her
little ones, and for their having instantly all the liberty and
attendance, all the eating and drinking, and sleeping and playing,
which they could possibly wish for, without the smallest delay, the
children were never allowed to be long a disturbance to him, either in
themselves or in any restless attendance on them.
Mrs. John Knightley was a pretty, elegant little woman, of gentle,
quiet manners, and a disposition remarkably amiable and affectionate;
wrapt up in her family; a devoted wife, a doating mother, and so
tenderly attached to her father and sister that, but for these higher
ties, a warmer love might have seemed impossible. She could never see
a fault in any of them. She was not a woman of strong understanding or
any quickness; and with this resemblance of her father, she inherited
also much of his constitution; was delicate in her own health,
over-careful of that of her children, had many fears and many nerves,
and was as fond of her own Mr. Wingfield in town as her father could be
of Mr. Perry. They were alike too, in a general benevolence of temper,
and a strong habit of regard for every old acquaintance.
Mr. John Knightley was a tall, gentleman-like, and very clever man;
rising in his profession, domestic, and respectable in his private
character; but with reserved manners which prevented his being
generally pleasing; and capable of being sometimes out of humour. He
was not an ill-tempered man, not so often unreasonably cross as to
deserve such a reproach; but his temper was not his great perfection;
and, indeed, with such a worshipping wife, it was hardly possible that
any natural defects in it should not be increased. The extreme
sweetness of her temper must hurt his. He had all the clearness and
quickness of mind which she wanted, and he could sometimes act an
ungracious, or say a severe thing.
He was not a great favourite with his fair sister-in-law. Nothing wrong
in him escaped her. She was quick in feeling the little injuries to
Isabella, which Isabella never felt herself. Perhaps she might have
passed over more had his manners been flattering to Isabella's sister,
but they were only those of a calmly kind brother and friend, without
praise and without blindness; but hardly any degree of personal
compliment could have made her regardless of that greatest fault of all
in her eyes which he sometimes fell into, the want of respectful
forbearance towards her father. There he had not always the patience
that could have been wished. Mr. Woodhouse's peculiarities and
fidgetiness were sometimes provoking him to a rational remonstrance or
sharp retort equally ill-bestowed. It did not often happen; for Mr.
John Knightley had really a great regard for his father-in-law, and
generally a strong sense of what was due to him; but it was too often
for Emma's charity, especially as there was all the pain of
apprehension frequently to be endured, though the offence came not.
The beginning, however, of every visit displayed none but the properest
feelings, and this being of necessity so short might be hoped to pass
away in unsullied cordiality. They had not been long seated and
composed when Mr. Woodhouse, with a melancholy shake of the head and a
sigh, called his daughter's attention to the sad change at Hartfield
since she had been there last.
"Ah, my dear," said he, "poor Miss Taylor--It is a grievous business."
"Oh yes, sir," cried she with ready sympathy, "how you must miss her!
And dear Emma, too!--What a dreadful loss to you both!--I have been so
grieved for you.--I could not imagine how you could possibly do without
her.--It is a sad change indeed.--But I hope she is pretty well, sir."
"Pretty well, my dear--I hope--pretty well.--I do not know but that the
place agrees with her tolerably."
Mr. John Knightley here asked Emma quietly whether there were any
doubts of the air of Randalls.
"Oh! no--none in the least. I never saw Mrs. Weston better in my
life--never looking so well. Papa is only speaking his own regret."
"Very much to the honour of both," was the handsome reply.
"And do you see her, sir, tolerably often?" asked Isabella in the
plaintive tone which just suited her father.
Mr. Woodhouse hesitated.--"Not near so often, my dear, as I could wish."
"Oh! papa, we have missed seeing them but one entire day since they
married. Either in the morning or evening of every day, excepting one,
have we seen either Mr. Weston or Mrs. Weston, and generally both,
either at Randalls or here--and as you may suppose, Isabella, most
frequently here. They are very, very kind in their visits. Mr. Weston
is really as kind as herself. Papa, if you speak in that melancholy
way, you will be giving Isabella a false idea of us all. Every body
must be aware that Miss Taylor must be missed, but every body ought
also to be assured that Mr. and Mrs. Weston do really prevent our
missing her by any means to the extent we ourselves anticipated--which
is the exact truth."
"Just as it should be," said Mr. John Knightley, "and just as I hoped
it was from your letters. Her wish of shewing you attention could not
be doubted, and his being a disengaged and social man makes it all
easy. I have been always telling you, my love, that I had no idea of
the change being so very material to Hartfield as you apprehended; and
now you have Emma's account, I hope you will be satisfied."
"Why, to be sure," said Mr. Woodhouse--"yes, certainly--I cannot deny
that Mrs. Weston, poor Mrs. Weston, does come and see us pretty often--
but then--she is always obliged to go away again."
"It would be very hard upon Mr. Weston if she did not, papa.-- You
quite forget poor Mr. Weston."
"I think, indeed," said John Knightley pleasantly, "that Mr. Weston has
some little claim. You and I, Emma, will venture to take the part of
the poor husband. I, being a husband, and you not being a wife, the
claims of the man may very likely strike us with equal force. As for
Isabella, she has been married long enough to see the convenience of
putting all the Mr. Westons aside as much as she can."
"Me, my love," cried his wife, hearing and understanding only in
part.-- "Are you talking about me?--I am sure nobody ought to be, or
can be, a greater advocate for matrimony than I am; and if it had not
been for the misery of her leaving Hartfield, I should never have
thought of Miss Taylor but as the most fortunate woman in the world;
and as to slighting Mr. Weston, that excellent Mr. Weston, I think
there is nothing he does not deserve. I believe he is one of the very
best-tempered men that ever existed. Excepting yourself and your
brother, I do not know his equal for temper. I shall never forget his
flying Henry's kite for him that very windy day last Easter--and ever
since his particular kindness last September twelvemonth in writing
that note, at twelve o'clock at night, on purpose to assure me that
there was no scarlet fever at Cobham, I have been convinced there could
not be a more feeling heart nor a better man in existence.--If any body
can deserve him, it must be Miss Taylor."
"Where is the young man?" said John Knightley. "Has he been here on
this occasion--or has he not?"
"He has not been here yet," replied Emma. "There was a strong
expectation of his coming soon after the marriage, but it ended in
nothing; and I have not heard him mentioned lately."
"But you should tell them of the letter, my dear," said her father.
"He wrote a letter to poor Mrs. Weston, to congratulate her, and a very
proper, handsome letter it was. She shewed it to me. I thought it
very well done of him indeed. Whether it was his own idea you know,
one cannot tell. He is but young, and his uncle, perhaps--"
"My dear papa, he is three-and-twenty. You forget how time passes."
"Three-and-twenty!--is he indeed?--Well, I could not have thought it--
and he was but two years old when he lost his poor mother! Well, time
does fly indeed!--and my memory is very bad. However, it was an
exceeding good, pretty letter, and gave Mr. and Mrs. Weston a great
deal of pleasure. I remember it was written from Weymouth, and dated
Sept. 28th--and began, 'My dear Madam,' but I forget how it went on;
and it was signed 'F. C. Weston Churchill.'-- I remember that
"How very pleasing and proper of him!" cried the good-hearted Mrs. John
Knightley. "I have no doubt of his being a most amiable young man.
But how sad it is that he should not live at home with his father!
There is something so shocking in a child's being taken away from his
parents and natural home! I never could comprehend how Mr. Weston
could part with him. To give up one's child! I really never could
think well of any body who proposed such a thing to any body else."
"Nobody ever did think well of the Churchills, I fancy," observed Mr.
John Knightley coolly. "But you need not imagine Mr. Weston to have
felt what you would feel in giving up Henry or John. Mr. Weston is
rather an easy, cheerful-tempered man, than a man of strong feelings;
he takes things as he finds them, and makes enjoyment of them somehow
or other, depending, I suspect, much more upon what is called society
for his comforts, that is, upon the power of eating and drinking, and
playing whist with his neighbours five times a week, than upon family
affection, or any thing that home affords."
Emma could not like what bordered on a reflection on Mr. Weston, and
had half a mind to take it up; but she struggled, and let it pass. She
would keep the peace if possible; and there was something honourable
and valuable in the strong domestic habits, the all-sufficiency of home
to himself, whence resulted her brother's disposition to look down on
the common rate of social intercourse, and those to whom it was
important.--It had a high claim to forbearance.
Mr. Knightley was to dine with them--rather against the inclination of
Mr. Woodhouse, who did not like that any one should share with him in
Isabella's first day. Emma's sense of right however had decided it;
and besides the consideration of what was due to each brother, she had
particular pleasure, from the circumstance of the late disagreement
between Mr. Knightley and herself, in procuring him the proper
She hoped they might now become friends again. She thought it was time
to make up. Making-up indeed would not do. "She" certainly had not
been in the wrong, and "he" would never own that he had. Concession
must be out of the question; but it was time to appear to forget that
they had ever quarrelled; and she hoped it might rather assist the
restoration of friendship, that when he came into the room she had one
of the children with her--the youngest, a nice little girl about eight
months old, who was now making her first visit to Hartfield, and very
happy to be danced about in her aunt's arms. It did assist; for though
he began with grave looks and short questions, he was soon led on to
talk of them all in the usual way, and to take the child out of her
arms with all the unceremoniousness of perfect amity. Emma felt they
were friends again; and the conviction giving her at first great
satisfaction, and then a little sauciness, she could not help saying,
as he was admiring the baby,
"What a comfort it is, that we think alike about our nephews and
nieces. As to men and women, our opinions are sometimes very
different; but with regard to these children, I observe we never
"If you were as much guided by nature in your estimate of men and
women, and as little under the power of fancy and whim in your dealings
with them, as you are where these children are concerned, we might
always think alike."
"To be sure--our discordancies must always arise from my being in the
"Yes," said he, smiling--"and reason good. I was sixteen years old
when you were born."
"A material difference then," she replied--"and no doubt you were much
my superior in judgment at that period of our lives; but does not the
lapse of one-and-twenty years bring our understandings a good deal
"Yes--a good deal "nearer"."
"But still, not near enough to give me a chance of being right, if we
"I have still the advantage of you by sixteen years' experience, and by
not being a pretty young woman and a spoiled child. Come, my dear
Emma, let us be friends, and say no more about it. Tell your aunt,
little Emma, that she ought to set you a better example than to be
renewing old grievances, and that if she were not wrong before, she is
"That's true," she cried--"very true. Little Emma, grow up a better
woman than your aunt. Be infinitely cleverer and not half so
conceited. Now, Mr. Knightley, a word or two more, and I have done.
As far as good intentions went, we were "both" right, and I must say
that no effects on my side of the argument have yet proved wrong. I
only want to know that Mr. Martin is not very, very bitterly
"A man cannot be more so," was his short, full answer.
"Ah!--Indeed I am very sorry.--Come, shake hands with me."
This had just taken place and with great cordiality, when John
Knightley made his appearance, and "How d'ye do, George?" and "John,
how are you?" succeeded in the true English style, burying under a
calmness that seemed all but indifference, the real attachment which
would have led either of them, if requisite, to do every thing for the
good of the other.
The evening was quiet and conversable, as Mr. Woodhouse declined cards
entirely for the sake of comfortable talk with his dear Isabella, and
the little party made two natural divisions; on one side he and his
daughter; on the other the two Mr. Knightleys; their subjects totally
distinct, or very rarely mixing--and Emma only occasionally joining in
one or the other.
The brothers talked of their own concerns and pursuits, but principally
of those of the elder, whose temper was by much the most communicative,
and who was always the greater talker. As a magistrate, he had
generally some point of law to consult John about, or, at least, some
curious anecdote to give; and as a farmer, as keeping in hand the
home-farm at Donwell, he had to tell what every field was to bear next
year, and to give all such local information as could not fail of being
interesting to a brother whose home it had equally been the longest
part of his life, and whose attachments were strong. The plan of a
drain, the change of a fence, the felling of a tree, and the
destination of every acre for wheat, turnips, or spring corn, was
entered into with as much equality of interest by John, as his cooler
manners rendered possible; and if his willing brother ever left him any
thing to inquire about, his inquiries even approached a tone of
While they were thus comfortably occupied, Mr. Woodhouse was enjoying a
full flow of happy regrets and fearful affection with his daughter.
"My poor dear Isabella," said he, fondly taking her hand, and
interrupting, for a few moments, her busy labours for some one of her
five children--"How long it is, how terribly long since you were here!
And how tired you must be after your journey! You must go to bed
early, my dear--and I recommend a little gruel to you before you
go.--You and I will have a nice basin of gruel together. My dear Emma,
suppose we all have a little gruel."
Emma could not suppose any such thing, knowing as she did, that both
the Mr. Knightleys were as unpersuadable on that article as
herself;--and two basins only were ordered. After a little more
discourse in praise of gruel, with some wondering at its not being
taken every evening by every body, he proceeded to say, with an air of
"It was an awkward business, my dear, your spending the autumn at South
End instead of coming here. I never had much opinion of the sea air."
"Mr. Wingfield most strenuously recommended it, sir--or we should not
have gone. He recommended it for all the children, but particularly
for the weakness in little Bella's throat,--both sea air and bathing."
"Ah! my dear, but Perry had many doubts about the sea doing her any
good; and as to myself, I have been long perfectly convinced, though
perhaps I never told you so before, that the sea is very rarely of use
to any body. I am sure it almost killed me once."
"Come, come," cried Emma, feeling this to be an unsafe subject, "I must
beg you not to talk of the sea. It makes me envious and miserable;--I
who have never seen it! South End is prohibited, if you please. My
dear Isabella, I have not heard you make one inquiry about Mr. Perry
yet; and he never forgets you."
"Oh! good Mr. Perry--how is he, sir?"
"Why, pretty well; but not quite well. Poor Perry is bilious, and he
has not time to take care of himself--he tells me he has not time to
take care of himself--which is very sad--but he is always wanted all
round the country. I suppose there is not a man in such practice
anywhere. But then there is not so clever a man any where."
"And Mrs. Perry and the children, how are they? do the children grow?
I have a great regard for Mr. Perry. I hope he will be calling soon.
He will be so pleased to see my little ones."
"I hope he will be here to-morrow, for I have a question or two to ask
him about myself of some consequence. And, my dear, whenever he comes,
you had better let him look at little Bella's throat."
"Oh! my dear sir, her throat is so much better that I have hardly any
uneasiness about it. Either bathing has been of the greatest service
to her, or else it is to be attributed to an excellent embrocation of
Mr. Wingfield's, which we have been applying at times ever since
"It is not very likely, my dear, that bathing should have been of use
to her--and if I had known you were wanting an embrocation, I would
have spoken to--
"You seem to me to have forgotten Mrs. and Miss Bates," said Emma, "I
have not heard one inquiry after them."
"Oh! the good Bateses--I am quite ashamed of myself--but you mention
them in most of your letters. I hope they are quite well. Good old
Mrs. Bates--I will call upon her to-morrow, and take my children.--They
are always so pleased to see my children.-- And that excellent Miss
Bates!--such thorough worthy people!-- How are they, sir?"
"Why, pretty well, my dear, upon the whole. But poor Mrs. Bates had a
bad cold about a month ago."
"How sorry I am! But colds were never so prevalent as they have been
this autumn. Mr. Wingfield told me that he has never known them more
general or heavy--except when it has been quite an influenza."
"That has been a good deal the case, my dear; but not to the degree you
mention. Perry says that colds have been very general, but not so
heavy as he has very often known them in November. Perry does not call
it altogether a sickly season."
"No, I do not know that Mr. Wingfield considers it "very" sickly
"Ah! my poor dear child, the truth is, that in London it is always a
sickly season. Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be. It is a
dreadful thing to have you forced to live there! so far off!--and the
air so bad!"
"No, indeed--"we" are not at all in a bad air. Our part of London is
very superior to most others!--You must not confound us with London in
general, my dear sir. The neighbourhood of Brunswick Square is very
different from almost all the rest. We are so very airy! I should be
unwilling, I own, to live in any other part of the town;--there is
hardly any other that I could be satisfied to have my children in: but
"we" are so remarkably airy!--Mr. Wingfield thinks the vicinity of
Brunswick Square decidedly the most favourable as to air."
"Ah! my dear, it is not like Hartfield. You make the best of it--but
after you have been a week at Hartfield, you are all of you different
creatures; you do not look like the same. Now I cannot say, that I
think you are any of you looking well at present."
"I am sorry to hear you say so, sir; but I assure you, excepting those
little nervous head-aches and palpitations which I am never entirely
free from anywhere, I am quite well myself; and if the children were
rather pale before they went to bed, it was only because they were a
little more tired than usual, from their journey and the happiness of
coming. I hope you will think better of their looks to-morrow; for I
assure you Mr. Wingfield told me, that he did not believe he had ever
sent us off altogether, in such good case. I trust, at least, that you
do not think Mr. Knightley looking ill," turning her eyes with
affectionate anxiety towards her husband.
"Middling, my dear; I cannot compliment you. I think Mr. John
Knightley very far from looking well."
"What is the matter, sir?--Did you speak to me?" cried Mr. John
Knightley, hearing his own name.
"I am sorry to find, my love, that my father does not think you looking
well--but I hope it is only from being a little fatigued. I could have
wished, however, as you know, that you had seen Mr. Wingfield before
you left home."
"My dear Isabella,"--exclaimed he hastily--"pray do not concern
yourself about my looks. Be satisfied with doctoring and coddling
yourself and the children, and let me look as I chuse."
"I did not thoroughly understand what you were telling your brother,"
cried Emma, "about your friend Mr. Graham's intending to have a bailiff
from Scotland, to look after his new estate. What will it answer?
Will not the old prejudice be too strong?"
And she talked in this way so long and successfully that, when forced
to give her attention again to her father and sister, she had nothing
worse to hear than Isabella's kind inquiry after Jane Fairfax; and Jane
Fairfax, though no great favourite with her in general, she was at that
moment very happy to assist in praising.
"That sweet, amiable Jane Fairfax!" said Mrs. John Knightley.-- "It is
so long since I have seen her, except now and then for a moment
accidentally in town! What happiness it must be to her good old
grandmother and excellent aunt, when she comes to visit them! I always
regret excessively on dear Emma's account that she cannot be more at
Highbury; but now their daughter is married, I suppose Colonel and Mrs.
Campbell will not be able to part with her at all. She would be such a
delightful companion for Emma."
Mr. Woodhouse agreed to it all, but added,
"Our little friend Harriet Smith, however, is just such another pretty
kind of young person. You will like Harriet. Emma could not have a
better companion than Harriet."
"I am most happy to hear it--but only Jane Fairfax one knows to be so
very accomplished and superior!--and exactly Emma's age."
This topic was discussed very happily, and others succeeded of similar
moment, and passed away with similar harmony; but the evening did not
close without a little return of agitation. The gruel came and
supplied a great deal to be said--much praise and many comments--
undoubting decision of its wholesomeness for every constitution, and
pretty severe Philippics upon the many houses where it was never met
with tolerable;--but, unfortunately, among the failures which the
daughter had to instance, the most recent, and therefore most
prominent, was in her own cook at South End, a young woman hired for
the time, who never had been able to understand what she meant by a
basin of nice smooth gruel, thin, but not too thin. Often as she had
wished for and ordered it, she had never been able to get any thing
tolerable. Here was a dangerous opening.
"Ah!" said Mr. Woodhouse, shaking his head and fixing his eyes on her
with tender concern.--The ejaculation in Emma's ear expressed, "Ah!
there is no end of the sad consequences of your going to South End. It
does not bear talking of." And for a little while she hoped he would
not talk of it, and that a silent rumination might suffice to restore
him to the relish of his own smooth gruel. After an interval of some
minutes, however, he began with,
"I shall always be very sorry that you went to the sea this autumn,
instead of coming here."
"But why should you be sorry, sir?--I assure you, it did the children a
great deal of good."
"And, moreover, if you must go to the sea, it had better not have been
to South End. South End is an unhealthy place. Perry was surprized to
hear you had fixed upon South End."
"I know there is such an idea with many people, but indeed it is quite
a mistake, sir.--We all had our health perfectly well there, never
found the least inconvenience from the mud; and Mr. Wingfield says it
is entirely a mistake to suppose the place unhealthy; and I am sure he
may be depended on, for he thoroughly understands the nature of the
air, and his own brother and family have been there repeatedly."
"You should have gone to Cromer, my dear, if you went anywhere.-- Perry
was a week at Cromer once, and he holds it to be the best of all the
sea-bathing places. A fine open sea, he says, and very pure air. And,
by what I understand, you might have had lodgings there quite away from
the sea--a quarter of a mile off--very comfortable. You should have
"But, my dear sir, the difference of the journey;--only consider how
great it would have been.--An hundred miles, perhaps, instead of forty."
"Ah! my dear, as Perry says, where health is at stake, nothing else
should be considered; and if one is to travel, there is not much to
chuse between forty miles and an hundred.--Better not move at all,
better stay in London altogether than travel forty miles to get into a
worse air. This is just what Perry said. It seemed to him a very
Emma's attempts to stop her father had been vain; and when he had
reached such a point as this, she could not wonder at her
brother-in-law's breaking out.
"Mr. Perry," said he, in a voice of very strong displeasure, "would do
as well to keep his opinion till it is asked for. Why does he make it
any business of his, to wonder at what I do?--at my taking my family
to one part of the coast or another?--I may be allowed, I hope, the use
of my judgment as well as Mr. Perry.-- I want his directions no more
than his drugs." He paused--and growing cooler in a moment, added,
with only sarcastic dryness, "If Mr. Perry can tell me how to convey a
wife and five children a distance of an hundred and thirty miles with
no greater expense or inconvenience than a distance of forty, I should
be as willing to prefer Cromer to South End as he could himself."
"True, true," cried Mr. Knightley, with most ready interposition--
"very true. That's a consideration indeed.--But John, as to what I was
telling you of my idea of moving the path to Langham, of turning it
more to the right that it may not cut through the home meadows, I
cannot conceive any difficulty. I should not attempt it, if it were to
be the means of inconvenience to the Highbury people, but if you call
to mind exactly the present line of the path. . . . The only way of
proving it, however, will be to turn to our maps. I shall see you at
the Abbey to-morrow morning I hope, and then we will look them over,
and you shall give me your opinion."
Mr. Woodhouse was rather agitated by such harsh reflections on his
friend Perry, to whom he had, in fact, though unconsciously, been
attributing many of his own feelings and expressions;--but the
soothing attentions of his daughters gradually removed the present
evil, and the immediate alertness of one brother, and better
recollections of the other, prevented any renewal of it.
There could hardly be a happier creature in the world than Mrs. John
Knightley, in this short visit to Hartfield, going about every morning
among her old acquaintance with her five children, and talking over
what she had done every evening with her father and sister. She had
nothing to wish otherwise, but that the days did not pass so swiftly.
It was a delightful visit;--perfect, in being much too short.
In general their evenings were less engaged with friends than their
mornings; but one complete dinner engagement, and out of the house too,
there was no avoiding, though at Christmas. Mr. Weston would take no
denial; they must all dine at Randalls one day;--even Mr. Woodhouse was
persuaded to think it a possible thing in preference to a division of
How they were all to be conveyed, he would have made a difficulty if he
could, but as his son and daughter's carriage and horses were actually
at Hartfield, he was not able to make more than a simple question on
that head; it hardly amounted to a doubt; nor did it occupy Emma long
to convince him that they might in one of the carriages find room for
Harriet, Mr. Elton, and Mr. Knightley, their own especial set, were the
only persons invited to meet them;--the hours were to be early, as well
as the numbers few; Mr. Woodhouse's habits and inclination being
consulted in every thing.
The evening before this great event (for it was a very great event that
Mr. Woodhouse should dine out, on the 24th of December) had been spent
by Harriet at Hartfield, and she had gone home so much indisposed with
a cold, that, but for her own earnest wish of being nursed by Mrs.
Goddard, Emma could not have allowed her to leave the house. Emma
called on her the next day, and found her doom already signed with
regard to Randalls. She was very feverish and had a bad sore throat:
Mrs. Goddard was full of care and affection, Mr. Perry was talked of,
and Harriet herself was too ill and low to resist the authority which
excluded her from this delightful engagement, though she could not
speak of her loss without many tears.
Emma sat with her as long as she could, to attend her in Mrs. Goddard's
unavoidable absences, and raise her spirits by representing how much
Mr. Elton's would be depressed when he knew her state; and left her at
last tolerably comfortable, in the sweet dependence of his having a
most comfortless visit, and of their all missing her very much. She
had not advanced many yards from Mrs. Goddard's door, when she was met
by Mr. Elton himself, evidently coming towards it, and as they walked
on slowly together in conversation about the invalid--of whom he, on
the rumour of considerable illness, had been going to inquire, that he
might carry some report of her to Hartfield--they were overtaken by
Mr. John Knightley returning from the daily visit to Donwell, with his
two eldest boys, whose healthy, glowing faces shewed all the benefit of
a country run, and seemed to ensure a quick despatch of the roast
mutton and rice pudding they were hastening home for. They joined
company and proceeded together. Emma was just describing the nature of
her friend's complaint;--"a throat very much inflamed, with a great
deal of heat about her, a quick, low pulse, &c. and she was sorry to
find from Mrs. Goddard that Harriet was liable to very bad
sore-throats, and had often alarmed her with them." Mr. Elton looked
all alarm on the occasion, as he exclaimed,
"A sore-throat!--I hope not infectious. I hope not of a putrid
infectious sort. Has Perry seen her? Indeed you should take care of
yourself as well as of your friend. Let me entreat you to run no
risks. Why does not Perry see her?"
Emma, who was not really at all frightened herself, tranquillised this
excess of apprehension by assurances of Mrs. Goddard's experience and
care; but as there must still remain a degree of uneasiness which she
could not wish to reason away, which she would rather feed and assist
than not, she added soon afterwards--as if quite another subject,
"It is so cold, so very cold--and looks and feels so very much like
snow, that if it were to any other place or with any other party, I
should really try not to go out to-day--and dissuade my father from
venturing; but as he has made up his mind, and does not seem to feel
the cold himself, I do not like to interfere, as I know it would be so
great a disappointment to Mr. and Mrs. Weston. But, upon my word, Mr.
Elton, in your case, I should certainly excuse myself. You appear to
me a little hoarse already, and when you consider what demand of voice
and what fatigues to-morrow will bring, I think it would be no more
than common prudence to stay at home and take care of yourself
Mr. Elton looked as if he did not very well know what answer to make;
which was exactly the case; for though very much gratified by the kind
care of such a fair lady, and not liking to resist any advice of her's,
he had not really the least inclination to give up the visit;--but
Emma, too eager and busy in her own previous conceptions and views to
hear him impartially, or see him with clear vision, was very well
satisfied with his muttering acknowledgment of its being "very cold,
certainly very cold," and walked on, rejoicing in having extricated him
from Randalls, and secured him the power of sending to inquire after
Harriet every hour of the evening.
"You do quite right," said she;--"we will make your apologies to Mr.
and Mrs. Weston."
But hardly had she so spoken, when she found her brother was civilly
offering a seat in his carriage, if the weather were Mr. Elton's only
objection, and Mr. Elton actually accepting the offer with much prompt
satisfaction. It was a done thing; Mr. Elton was to go, and never had
his broad handsome face expressed more pleasure than at this moment;
never had his smile been stronger, nor his eyes more exulting than when
he next looked at her.
"Well," said she to herself, "this is most strange!--After I had got
him off so well, to chuse to go into company, and leave Harriet ill
behind!--Most strange indeed!--But there is, I believe, in many men,
especially single men, such an inclination--such a passion for dining
out--a dinner engagement is so high in the class of their pleasures,
their employments, their dignities, almost their duties, that any thing
gives way to it--and this must be the case with Mr. Elton; a most
valuable, amiable, pleasing young man undoubtedly, and very much in
love with Harriet; but still, he cannot refuse an invitation, he must
dine out wherever he is asked. What a strange thing love is! he can
see ready wit in Harriet, but will not dine alone for her."
Soon afterwards Mr. Elton quitted them, and she could not but do him
the justice of feeling that there was a great deal of sentiment in his
manner of naming Harriet at parting; in the tone of his voice while
assuring her that he should call at Mrs. Goddard's for news of her fair
friend, the last thing before he prepared for the happiness of meeting
her again, when he hoped to be able to give a better report; and he
sighed and smiled himself off in a way that left the balance of
approbation much in his favour.
After a few minutes of entire silence between them, John Knightley
"I never in my life saw a man more intent on being agreeable than Mr.
Elton. It is downright labour to him where ladies are concerned. With
men he can be rational and unaffected, but when he has ladies to
please, every feature works."
"Mr. Elton's manners are not perfect," replied Emma; "but where there
is a wish to please, one ought to overlook, and one does overlook a
great deal. Where a man does his best with only moderate powers, he
will have the advantage over negligent superiority. There is such
perfect good-temper and good-will in Mr. Elton as one cannot but value."
"Yes," said Mr. John Knightley presently, with some slyness, "he seems
to have a great deal of good-will towards you."
"Me!" she replied with a smile of astonishment, "are you imagining me
to be Mr. Elton's object?"
"Such an imagination has crossed me, I own, Emma; and if it never
occurred to you before, you may as well take it into consideration now."
"Mr. Elton in love with me!--What an idea!"
"I do not say it is so; but you will do well to consider whether it is
so or not, and to regulate your behaviour accordingly. I think your
manners to him encouraging. I speak as a friend, Emma. You had better
look about you, and ascertain what you do, and what you mean to do."
"I thank you; but I assure you you are quite mistaken. Mr. Elton and I
are very good friends, and nothing more;" and she walked on, amusing
herself in the consideration of the blunders which often arise from a
partial knowledge of circumstances, of the mistakes which people of
high pretensions to judgment are for ever falling into; and not very
well pleased with her brother for imagining her blind and ignorant, and
in want of counsel. He said no more.
Mr. Woodhouse had so completely made up his mind to the visit, that in
spite of the increasing coldness, he seemed to have no idea of
shrinking from it, and set forward at last most punctually with his
eldest daughter in his own carriage, with less apparent consciousness
of the weather than either of the others; too full of the wonder of his
own going, and the pleasure it was to afford at Randalls to see that it
was cold, and too well wrapt up to feel it. The cold, however, was
severe; and by the time the second carriage was in motion, a few flakes
of snow were finding their way down, and the sky had the appearance of
being so overcharged as to want only a milder air to produce a very
white world in a very short time.
Emma soon saw that her companion was not in the happiest humour. The
preparing and the going abroad in such weather, with the sacrifice of
his children after dinner, were evils, were disagreeables at least,
which Mr. John Knightley did not by any means like; he anticipated
nothing in the visit that could be at all worth the purchase; and the
whole of their drive to the vicarage was spent by him in expressing his
"A man," said he, "must have a very good opinion of himself when he
asks people to leave their own fireside, and encounter such a day as
this, for the sake of coming to see him. He must think himself a most
agreeable fellow; I could not do such a thing. It is the greatest
absurdity--Actually snowing at this moment!-- The folly of not allowing
people to be comfortable at home--and the folly of people's not staying
comfortably at home when they can! If we were obliged to go out such
an evening as this, by any call of duty or business, what a hardship we
should deem it;--and here are we, probably with rather thinner clothing
than usual, setting forward voluntarily, without excuse, in defiance of
the voice of nature, which tells man, in every thing given to his view
or his feelings, to stay at home himself, and keep all under shelter
that he can;--here are we setting forward to spend five dull hours in
another man's house, with nothing to say or to hear that was not said
and heard yesterday, and may not be said and heard again to-morrow.
Going in dismal weather, to return probably in worse;--four horses and
four servants taken out for nothing but to convey five idle, shivering
creatures into colder rooms and worse company than they might have had
Emma did not find herself equal to give the pleased assent, which no
doubt he was in the habit of receiving, to emulate the "Very true, my
love," which must have been usually administered by his travelling
companion; but she had resolution enough to refrain from making any
answer at all. She could not be complying, she dreaded being
quarrelsome; her heroism reached only to silence. She allowed him to
talk, and arranged the glasses, and wrapped herself up, without opening
They arrived, the carriage turned, the step was let down, and Mr.
Elton, spruce, black, and smiling, was with them instantly. Emma
thought with pleasure of some change of subject. Mr. Elton was all
obligation and cheerfulness; he was so very cheerful in his civilities
indeed, that she began to think he must have received a different
account of Harriet from what had reached her. She had sent while
dressing, and the answer had been, "Much the same--not better."
""My" report from Mrs. Goddard's," said she presently, "was not so
pleasant as I had hoped--'Not better' was "my" answer."
His face lengthened immediately; and his voice was the voice of
sentiment as he answered.
"Oh! no--I am grieved to find--I was on the point of telling you that
when I called at Mrs. Goddard's door, which I did the very last thing
before I returned to dress, I was told that Miss Smith was not better,
by no means better, rather worse. Very much grieved and concerned-- I
had flattered myself that she must be better after such a cordial as I
knew had been given her in the morning."
Emma smiled and answered--"My visit was of use to the nervous part of
her complaint, I hope; but not even I can charm away a sore throat; it
is a most severe cold indeed. Mr. Perry has been with her, as you
"Yes--I imagined--that is--I did not--"
"He has been used to her in these complaints, and I hope to-morrow
morning will bring us both a more comfortable report. But it is
impossible not to feel uneasiness. Such a sad loss to our party
"Dreadful!--Exactly so, indeed.--She will be missed every moment."
This was very proper; the sigh which accompanied it was really
estimable; but it should have lasted longer. Emma was rather in dismay
when only half a minute afterwards he began to speak of other things,
and in a voice of the greatest alacrity and enjoyment.
"What an excellent device," said he, "the use of a sheepskin for
carriages. How very comfortable they make it;--impossible to feel cold
with such precautions. The contrivances of modern days indeed have
rendered a gentleman's carriage perfectly complete. One is so fenced
and guarded from the weather, that not a breath of air can find its way
unpermitted. Weather becomes absolutely of no consequence. It is a
very cold afternoon--but in this carriage we know nothing of the
matter.--Ha! snows a little I see."
"Yes," said John Knightley, "and I think we shall have a good deal of
"Christmas weather," observed Mr. Elton. "Quite seasonable; and
extremely fortunate we may think ourselves that it did not begin
yesterday, and prevent this day's party, which it might very possibly
have done, for Mr. Woodhouse would hardly have ventured had there been
much snow on the ground; but now it is of no consequence. This is
quite the season indeed for friendly meetings. At Christmas every body
invites their friends about them, and people think little of even the
worst weather. I was snowed up at a friend's house once for a week.
Nothing could be pleasanter. I went for only one night, and could not
get away till that very day se'nnight."
Mr. John Knightley looked as if he did not comprehend the pleasure, but
said only, coolly,
"I cannot wish to be snowed up a week at Randalls."
At another time Emma might have been amused, but she was too much
astonished now at Mr. Elton's spirits for other feelings. Harriet
seemed quite forgotten in the expectation of a pleasant party.
"We are sure of excellent fires," continued he, "and every thing in the
greatest comfort. Charming people, Mr. and Mrs. Weston;--Mrs. Weston
indeed is much beyond praise, and he is exactly what one values, so
hospitable, and so fond of society;--it will be a small party, but
where small parties are select, they are perhaps the most agreeable of
any. Mr. Weston's dining-room does not accommodate more than ten
comfortably; and for my part, I would rather, under such circumstances,
fall short by two than exceed by two. I think you will agree with me,
(turning with a soft air to Emma,) I think I shall certainly have your
approbation, though Mr. Knightley perhaps, from being used to the large
parties of London, may not quite enter into our feelings."
"I know nothing of the large parties of London, sir--I never dine with
"Indeed! (in a tone of wonder and pity,) I had no idea that the law had
been so great a slavery. Well, sir, the time must come when you will
be paid for all this, when you will have little labour and great
"My first enjoyment," replied John Knightley, as they passed through
the sweep-gate, "will be to find myself safe at Hartfield again."
Some change of countenance was necessary for each gentleman as they
walked into Mrs. Weston's drawing-room;--Mr. Elton must compose his
joyous looks, and Mr. John Knightley disperse his ill-humour. Mr. Elton
must smile less, and Mr. John Knightley more, to fit them for the
place.--Emma only might be as nature prompted, and shew herself just as
happy as she was. To her it was real enjoyment to be with the Westons.
Mr. Weston was a great favourite, and there was not a creature in the
world to whom she spoke with such unreserve, as to his wife; not any
one, to whom she related with such conviction of being listened to and
understood, of being always interesting and always intelligible, the
little affairs, arrangements, perplexities, and pleasures of her father
and herself. She could tell nothing of Hartfield, in which Mrs. Weston
had not a lively concern; and half an hour's uninterrupted
communication of all those little matters on which the daily happiness
of private life depends, was one of the first gratifications of each.
This was a pleasure which perhaps the whole day's visit might not
afford, which certainly did not belong to the present half-hour; but
the very sight of Mrs. Weston, her smile, her touch, her voice was
grateful to Emma, and she determined to think as little as possible of
Mr. Elton's oddities, or of any thing else unpleasant, and enjoy all
that was enjoyable to the utmost.
The misfortune of Harriet's cold had been pretty well gone through
before her arrival. Mr. Woodhouse had been safely seated long enough
to give the history of it, besides all the history of his own and
Isabella's coming, and of Emma's being to follow, and had indeed just
got to the end of his satisfaction that James should come and see his
daughter, when the others appeared, and Mrs. Weston, who had been
almost wholly engrossed by her attentions to him, was able to turn away
and welcome her dear Emma.
Emma's project of forgetting Mr. Elton for a while made her rather
sorry to find, when they had all taken their places, that he was close
to her. The difficulty was great of driving his strange insensibility
towards Harriet, from her mind, while he not only sat at her elbow, but
was continually obtruding his happy countenance on her notice, and
solicitously addressing her upon every occasion. Instead of forgetting
him, his behaviour was such that she could not avoid the internal
suggestion of "Can it really be as my brother imagined? can it be
possible for this man to be beginning to transfer his affections from
Harriet to me?--Absurd and insufferable!"-- Yet he would be so anxious
for her being perfectly warm, would be so interested about her father,
and so delighted with Mrs. Weston; and at last would begin admiring her
drawings with so much zeal and so little knowledge as seemed terribly
like a would-be lover, and made it some effort with her to preserve her
good manners. For her own sake she could not be rude; and for
Harriet's, in the hope that all would yet turn out right, she was even
positively civil; but it was an effort; especially as something was
going on amongst the others, in the most overpowering period of Mr.
Elton's nonsense, which she particularly wished to listen to. She
heard enough to know that Mr. Weston was giving some information about
his son; she heard the words "my son," and "Frank," and "my son,"
repeated several times over; and, from a few other half-syllables very
much suspected that he was announcing an early visit from his son; but
before she could quiet Mr. Elton, the subject was so completely past
that any reviving question from her would have been awkward.
Now, it so happened that in spite of Emma's resolution of never
marrying, there was something in the name, in the idea of Mr. Frank
Churchill, which always interested her. She had frequently
thought--especially since his father's marriage with Miss Taylor--that
if she "were" to marry, he was the very person to suit her in age,
character and condition. He seemed by this connexion between the
families, quite to belong to her. She could not but suppose it to be a
match that every body who knew them must think of. That Mr. and Mrs.
Weston did think of it, she was very strongly persuaded; and though not
meaning to be induced by him, or by any body else, to give up a
situation which she believed more replete with good than any she could
change it for, she had a great curiosity to see him, a decided
intention of finding him pleasant, of being liked by him to a certain
degree, and a sort of pleasure in the idea of their being coupled in
their friends' imaginations.
With such sensations, Mr. Elton's civilities were dreadfully ill-timed;
but she had the comfort of appearing very polite, while feeling very
cross--and of thinking that the rest of the visit could not possibly
pass without bringing forward the same information again, or the
substance of it, from the open-hearted Mr. Weston.--So it proved;--for
when happily released from Mr. Elton, and seated by Mr. Weston, at
dinner, he made use of the very first interval in the cares of
hospitality, the very first leisure from the saddle of mutton, to say
"We want only two more to be just the right number. I should like to
see two more here,--your pretty little friend, Miss Smith, and my
son--and then I should say we were quite complete. I believe you did
not hear me telling the others in the drawing-room that we are
expecting Frank. I had a letter from him this morning, and he will be
with us within a fortnight."
Emma spoke with a very proper degree of pleasure; and fully assented to
his proposition of Mr. Frank Churchill and Miss Smith making their
party quite complete.
"He has been wanting to come to us," continued Mr. Weston, "ever since
September: every letter has been full of it; but he cannot command his
own time. He has those to please who must be pleased, and who (between
ourselves) are sometimes to be pleased only by a good many sacrifices.
But now I have no doubt of seeing him here about the second week in
"What a very great pleasure it will be to you! and Mrs. Weston is so
anxious to be acquainted with him, that she must be almost as happy as
"Yes, she would be, but that she thinks there will be another put-off.
She does not depend upon his coming so much as I do: but she does not
know the parties so well as I do. The case, you see, is--(but this is
quite between ourselves: I did not mention a syllable of it in the
other room. There are secrets in all families, you know)--The case is,
that a party of friends are invited to pay a visit at Enscombe in
January; and that Frank's coming depends upon their being put off. If
they are not put off, he cannot stir. But I know they will, because it
is a family that a certain lady, of some consequence, at Enscombe, has
a particular dislike to: and though it is thought necessary to invite
them once in two or three years, they always are put off when it comes
to the point. I have not the smallest doubt of the issue. I am as
confident of seeing Frank here before the middle of January, as I am of
being here myself: but your good friend there (nodding towards the
upper end of the table) has so few vagaries herself, and has been so
little used to them at Hartfield, that she cannot calculate on their
effects, as I have been long in the practice of doing."
"I am sorry there should be any thing like doubt in the case," replied
Emma; "but am disposed to side with you, Mr. Weston. If you think he
will come, I shall think so too; for you know Enscombe."
"Yes--I have some right to that knowledge; though I have never been at
the place in my life.--She is an odd woman!--But I never allow myself
to speak ill of her, on Frank's account; for I do believe her to be
very fond of him. I used to think she was not capable of being fond of
any body, except herself: but she has always been kind to him (in her
way--allowing for little whims and caprices, and expecting every thing
to be as she likes). And it is no small credit, in my opinion, to him,
that he should excite such an affection; for, though I would not say it
to any body else, she has no more heart than a stone to people in
general; and the devil of a temper."
Emma liked the subject so well, that she began upon it, to Mrs. Weston,
very soon after their moving into the drawing-room: wishing her
joy--yet observing, that she knew the first meeting must be rather
alarming.-- Mrs. Weston agreed to it; but added, that she should be
very glad to be secure of undergoing the anxiety of a first meeting at
the time talked of: "for I cannot depend upon his coming. I cannot be
so sanguine as Mr. Weston. I am very much afraid that it will all end
in nothing. Mr. Weston, I dare say, has been telling you exactly how
the matter stands?"
"Yes--it seems to depend upon nothing but the ill-humour of Mrs.
Churchill, which I imagine to be the most certain thing in the world."
"My Emma!" replied Mrs. Weston, smiling, "what is the certainty of
caprice?" Then turning to Isabella, who had not been attending
before--"You must know, my dear Mrs. Knightley, that we are by no means
so sure of seeing Mr. Frank Churchill, in my opinion, as his father
thinks. It depends entirely upon his aunt's spirits and pleasure; in
short, upon her temper. To you--to my two daughters--I may venture on
the truth. Mrs. Churchill rules at Enscombe, and is a very
odd-tempered woman; and his coming now, depends upon her being willing
to spare him."
"Oh, Mrs. Churchill; every body knows Mrs. Churchill," replied
Isabella: "and I am sure I never think of that poor young man without
the greatest compassion. To be constantly living with an ill-tempered
person, must be dreadful. It is what we happily have never known any
thing of; but it must be a life of misery. What a blessing, that she
never had any children! Poor little creatures, how unhappy she would
have made them!"
Emma wished she had been alone with Mrs. Weston. She should then have
heard more: Mrs. Weston would speak to her, with a degree of unreserve
which she would not hazard with Isabella; and, she really believed,
would scarcely try to conceal any thing relative to the Churchills from
her, excepting those views on the young man, of which her own
imagination had already given her such instinctive knowledge. But at
present there was nothing more to be said. Mr. Woodhouse very soon
followed them into the drawing-room. To be sitting long after dinner,
was a confinement that he could not endure. Neither wine nor
conversation was any thing to him; and gladly did he move to those with
whom he was always comfortable.
While he talked to Isabella, however, Emma found an opportunity of
"And so you do not consider this visit from your son as by any means
certain. I am sorry for it. The introduction must be unpleasant,
whenever it takes place; and the sooner it could be over, the better."
"Yes; and every delay makes one more apprehensive of other delays.
Even if this family, the Braithwaites, are put off, I am still afraid
that some excuse may be found for disappointing us. I cannot bear to
imagine any reluctance on his side; but I am sure there is a great wish
on the Churchills' to keep him to themselves. There is jealousy. They
are jealous even of his regard for his father. In short, I can feel no
dependence on his coming, and I wish Mr. Weston were less sanguine."
"He ought to come," said Emma. "If he could stay only a couple of
days, he ought to come; and one can hardly conceive a young man's not
having it in his power to do as much as that. A young "woman", if she
fall into bad hands, may be teazed, and kept at a distance from those
she wants to be with; but one cannot comprehend a young "man"'s being
under such restraint, as not to be able to spend a week with his
father, if he likes it."
"One ought to be at Enscombe, and know the ways of the family, before
one decides upon what he can do," replied Mrs. Weston. "One ought to
use the same caution, perhaps, in judging of the conduct of any one
individual of any one family; but Enscombe, I believe, certainly must
not be judged by general rules: "she" is so very unreasonable; and
every thing gives way to her."
"But she is so fond of the nephew: he is so very great a favourite.
Now, according to my idea of Mrs. Churchill, it would be most natural,
that while she makes no sacrifice for the comfort of the husband, to
whom she owes every thing, while she exercises incessant caprice
towards "him", she should frequently be governed by the nephew, to whom
she owes nothing at all."
"My dearest Emma, do not pretend, with your sweet temper, to understand
a bad one, or to lay down rules for it: you must let it go its own
way. I have no doubt of his having, at times, considerable influence;
but it may be perfectly impossible for him to know beforehand "when" it
Emma listened, and then coolly said, "I shall not be satisfied, unless
"He may have a great deal of influence on some points," continued Mrs.
Weston, "and on others, very little: and among those, on which she is
beyond his reach, it is but too likely, may be this very circumstance
of his coming away from them to visit us."
Mr. Woodhouse was soon ready for his tea; and when he had drank his tea
he was quite ready to go home; and it was as much as his three
companions could do, to entertain away his notice of the lateness of
the hour, before the other gentlemen appeared. Mr. Weston was chatty
and convivial, and no friend to early separations of any sort; but at
last the drawing-room party did receive an augmentation. Mr. Elton, in
very good spirits, was one of the first to walk in. Mrs. Weston and
Emma were sitting together on a sofa. He joined them immediately, and,
with scarcely an invitation, seated himself between them.
Emma, in good spirits too, from the amusement afforded her mind by the
expectation of Mr. Frank Churchill, was willing to forget his late
improprieties, and be as well satisfied with him as before, and on his
making Harriet his very first subject, was ready to listen with most
He professed himself extremely anxious about her fair friend--her
fair, lovely, amiable friend. "Did she know?--had she heard any thing
about her, since their being at Randalls?--he felt much anxiety--he
must confess that the nature of her complaint alarmed him
considerably." And in this style he talked on for some time very
properly, not much attending to any answer, but altogether sufficiently
awake to the terror of a bad sore throat; and Emma was quite in charity
But at last there seemed a perverse turn; it seemed all at once as if
he were more afraid of its being a bad sore throat on her account, than
on Harriet's--more anxious that she should escape the infection, than
that there should be no infection in the complaint. He began with
great earnestness to entreat her to refrain from visiting the
sick-chamber again, for the present--to entreat her to "promise" "him"
not to venture into such hazard till he had seen Mr. Perry and learnt
his opinion; and though she tried to laugh it off and bring the subject
back into its proper course, there was no putting an end to his extreme
solicitude about her. She was vexed. It did appear--there was no
concealing it--exactly like the pretence of being in love with her,
instead of Harriet; an inconstancy, if real, the most contemptible and
abominable! and she had difficulty in behaving with temper. He turned
to Mrs. Weston to implore her assistance, "Would not she give him her
support?--would not she add her persuasions to his, to induce Miss
Woodhouse not to go to Mrs. Goddard's till it were certain that Miss
Smith's disorder had no infection? He could not be satisfied without a
promise--would not she give him her influence in procuring it?"
"So scrupulous for others," he continued, "and yet so careless for
herself! She wanted me to nurse my cold by staying at home to-day, and
yet will not promise to avoid the danger of catching an ulcerated sore
throat herself. Is this fair, Mrs. Weston?--Judge between us. Have
not I some right to complain? I am sure of your kind support and aid."
Emma saw Mrs. Weston's surprize, and felt that it must be great, at an
address which, in words and manner, was assuming to himself the right
of first interest in her; and as for herself, she was too much provoked
and offended to have the power of directly saying any thing to the
purpose. She could only give him a look; but it was such a look as she
thought must restore him to his senses, and then left the sofa,
removing to a seat by her sister, and giving her all her attention.
She had not time to know how Mr. Elton took the reproof, so rapidly did
another subject succeed; for Mr. John Knightley now came into the room
from examining the weather, and opened on them all with the information
of the ground being covered with snow, and of its still snowing fast,
with a strong drifting wind; concluding with these words to Mr.
"This will prove a spirited beginning of your winter engagements, sir.
Something new for your coachman and horses to be making their way
through a storm of snow."
Poor Mr. Woodhouse was silent from consternation; but every body else
had something to say; every body was either surprized or not surprized,
and had some question to ask, or some comfort to offer. Mrs. Weston
and Emma tried earnestly to cheer him and turn his attention from his
son-in-law, who was pursuing his triumph rather unfeelingly.
"I admired your resolution very much, sir," said he, "in venturing out
in such weather, for of course you saw there would be snow very soon.
Every body must have seen the snow coming on. I admired your spirit;
and I dare say we shall get home very well. Another hour or two's snow
can hardly make the road impassable; and we are two carriages; if one
is blown over in the bleak part of the common field there will be the
other at hand. I dare say we shall be all safe at Hartfield before
Mr. Weston, with triumph of a different sort, was confessing that he
had known it to be snowing some time, but had not said a word, lest it
should make Mr. Woodhouse uncomfortable, and be an excuse for his
hurrying away. As to there being any quantity of snow fallen or likely
to fall to impede their return, that was a mere joke; he was afraid
they would find no difficulty. He wished the road might be impassable,
that he might be able to keep them all at Randalls; and with the utmost
good-will was sure that accommodation might be found for every body,
calling on his wife to agree with him, that with a little contrivance,
every body might be lodged, which she hardly knew how to do, from the
consciousness of there being but two spare rooms in the house.
"What is to be done, my dear Emma?--what is to be done?" was Mr.
Woodhouse's first exclamation, and all that he could say for some time.
To her he looked for comfort; and her assurances of safety, her
representation of the excellence of the horses, and of James, and of
their having so many friends about them, revived him a little.
His eldest daughter's alarm was equal to his own. The horror of being
blocked up at Randalls, while her children were at Hartfield, was full
in her imagination; and fancying the road to be now just passable for
adventurous people, but in a state that admitted no delay, she was
eager to have it settled, that her father and Emma should remain at
Randalls, while she and her husband set forward instantly through all
the possible accumulations of drifted snow that might impede them.
"You had better order the carriage directly, my love," said she; "I
dare say we shall be able to get along, if we set off directly; and if
we do come to any thing very bad, I can get out and walk. I am not at
all afraid. I should not mind walking half the way. I could change my
shoes, you know, the moment I got home; and it is not the sort of thing
that gives me cold."
"Indeed!" replied he. "Then, my dear Isabella, it is the most
extraordinary sort of thing in the world, for in general every thing
does give you cold. Walk home!--you are prettily shod for walking
home, I dare say. It will be bad enough for the horses."
Isabella turned to Mrs. Weston for her approbation of the plan. Mrs.
Weston could only approve. Isabella then went to Emma; but Emma could
not so entirely give up the hope of their being all able to get away;
and they were still discussing the point, when Mr. Knightley, who had
left the room immediately after his brother's first report of the snow,
came back again, and told them that he had been out of doors to
examine, and could answer for there not being the smallest difficulty
in their getting home, whenever they liked it, either now or an hour
hence. He had gone beyond the sweep--some way along the Highbury
road--the snow was nowhere above half an inch deep--in many places
hardly enough to whiten the ground; a very few flakes were falling at
present, but the clouds were parting, and there was every appearance of
its being soon over. He had seen the coachmen, and they both agreed
with him in there being nothing to apprehend.
To Isabella, the relief of such tidings was very great, and they were
scarcely less acceptable to Emma on her father's account, who was
immediately set as much at ease on the subject as his nervous
constitution allowed; but the alarm that had been raised could not be
appeased so as to admit of any comfort for him while he continued at
Randalls. He was satisfied of there being no present danger in
returning home, but no assurances could convince him that it was safe
to stay; and while the others were variously urging and recommending,
Mr. Knightley and Emma settled it in a few brief sentences: thus--
"Your father will not be easy; why do not you go?"
"I am ready, if the others are."
"Shall I ring the bell?"
And the bell was rung, and the carriages spoken for. A few minutes
more, and Emma hoped to see one troublesome companion deposited in his
own house, to get sober and cool, and the other recover his temper and
happiness when this visit of hardship were over.
The carriage came: and Mr. Woodhouse, always the first object on such
occasions, was carefully attended to his own by Mr. Knightley and Mr.
Weston; but not all that either could say could prevent some renewal of
alarm at the sight of the snow which had actually fallen, and the
discovery of a much darker night than he had been prepared for. "He
was afraid they should have a very bad drive. He was afraid poor
Isabella would not like it. And there would be poor Emma in the
carriage behind. He did not know what they had best do. They must
keep as much together as they could;" and James was talked to, and
given a charge to go very slow and wait for the other carriage.
Isabella stept in after her father; John Knightley, forgetting that he
did not belong to their party, stept in after his wife very naturally;
so that Emma found, on being escorted and followed into the second
carriage by Mr. Elton, that the door was to be lawfully shut on them,
and that they were to have a tete-a-tete drive. It would not have been
the awkwardness of a moment, it would have been rather a pleasure,
previous to the suspicions of this very day; she could have talked to
him of Harriet, and the three-quarters of a mile would have seemed but
one. But now, she would rather it had not happened. She believed he
had been drinking too much of Mr. Weston's good wine, and felt sure
that he would want to be talking nonsense.
To restrain him as much as might be, by her own manners, she was
immediately preparing to speak with exquisite calmness and gravity of
the weather and the night; but scarcely had she begun, scarcely had
they passed the sweep-gate and joined the other carriage, than she
found her subject cut up--her hand seized--her attention demanded, and
Mr. Elton actually making violent love to her: availing himself of the
precious opportunity, declaring sentiments which must be already well
known, hoping--fearing--adoring--ready to die if she refused him; but
flattering himself that his ardent attachment and unequalled love and
unexampled passion could not fail of having some effect, and in short,
very much resolved on being seriously accepted as soon as possible. It
really was so. Without scruple--without apology--without much
apparent diffidence, Mr. Elton, the lover of Harriet, was professing
himself "her" lover. She tried to stop him; but vainly; he would go
on, and say it all. Angry as she was, the thought of the moment made
her resolve to restrain herself when she did speak. She felt that half
this folly must be drunkenness, and therefore could hope that it might
belong only to the passing hour. Accordingly, with a mixture of the
serious and the playful, which she hoped would best suit his half and
half state, she replied,
"I am very much astonished, Mr. Elton. This to "me"! you forget
yourself--you take me for my friend--any message to Miss Smith I shall
be happy to deliver; but no more of this to "me", if you please."
"Miss Smith!--message to Miss Smith!--What could she possibly mean!"--
And he repeated her words with such assurance of accent, such boastful
pretence of amazement, that she could not help replying with quickness,
"Mr. Elton, this is the most extraordinary conduct! and I can account
for it only in one way; you are not yourself, or you could not speak
either to me, or of Harriet, in such a manner. Command yourself enough
to say no more, and I will endeavour to forget it."
But Mr. Elton had only drunk wine enough to elevate his spirits, not at
all to confuse his intellects. He perfectly knew his own meaning; and
having warmly protested against her suspicion as most injurious, and
slightly touched upon his respect for Miss Smith as her friend,--but
acknowledging his wonder that Miss Smith should be mentioned at
all,--he resumed the subject of his own passion, and was very urgent
for a favourable answer.
As she thought less of his inebriety, she thought more of his
inconstancy and presumption; and with fewer struggles for politeness,
"It is impossible for me to doubt any longer. You have made yourself
too clear. Mr. Elton, my astonishment is much beyond any thing I can
express. After such behaviour, as I have witnessed during the last
month, to Miss Smith--such attentions as I have been in the daily habit
of observing--to be addressing me in this manner--this is an
unsteadiness of character, indeed, which I had not supposed possible!
Believe me, sir, I am far, very far, from gratified in being the object
of such professions."
"Good Heaven!" cried Mr. Elton, "what can be the meaning of this?--
Miss Smith!--I never thought of Miss Smith in the whole course of my
existence--never paid her any attentions, but as your friend: never
cared whether she were dead or alive, but as your friend. If she has
fancied otherwise, her own wishes have misled her, and I am very
sorry--extremely sorry--But, Miss Smith, indeed!--Oh! Miss Woodhouse!
who can think of Miss Smith, when Miss Woodhouse is near! No, upon my
honour, there is no unsteadiness of character. I have thought only of
you. I protest against having paid the smallest attention to any one
else. Every thing that I have said or done, for many weeks past, has
been with the sole view of marking my adoration of yourself. You
cannot really, seriously, doubt it. No!--(in an accent meant to be
insinuating)--I am sure you have seen and understood me."
It would be impossible to say what Emma felt, on hearing this--which
of all her unpleasant sensations was uppermost. She was too completely
overpowered to be immediately able to reply: and two moments of silence
being ample encouragement for Mr. Elton's sanguine state of mind, he
tried to take her hand again, as he joyously exclaimed--
"Charming Miss Woodhouse! allow me to interpret this interesting
silence. It confesses that you have long understood me."
"No, sir," cried Emma, "it confesses no such thing. So far from having
long understood you, I have been in a most complete error with respect
to your views, till this moment. As to myself, I am very sorry that
you should have been giving way to any feelings-- Nothing could be
farther from my wishes--your attachment to my friend Harriet--your
pursuit of her, (pursuit, it appeared,) gave me great pleasure, and I
have been very earnestly wishing you success: but had I supposed that
she were not your attraction to Hartfield, I should certainly have
thought you judged ill in making your visits so frequent. Am I to
believe that you have never sought to recommend yourself particularly
to Miss Smith?--that you have never thought seriously of her?"
"Never, madam," cried he, affronted in his turn: "never, I assure you.
"I" think seriously of Miss Smith!--Miss Smith is a very good sort of
girl; and I should be happy to see her respectably settled. I wish her
extremely well: and, no doubt, there are men who might not object
to--Every body has their level: but as for myself, I am not, I think,
quite so much at a loss. I need not so totally despair of an equal
alliance, as to be addressing myself to Miss Smith!-- No, madam, my
visits to Hartfield have been for yourself only; and the encouragement
"Encouragement!--I give you encouragement!--Sir, you have been entirely
mistaken in supposing it. I have seen you only as the admirer of my
friend. In no other light could you have been more to me than a common
acquaintance. I am exceedingly sorry: but it is well that the mistake
ends where it does. Had the same behaviour continued, Miss Smith might
have been led into a misconception of your views; not being aware,
probably, any more than myself, of the very great inequality which you
are so sensible of. But, as it is, the disappointment is single, and,
I trust, will not be lasting. I have no thoughts of matrimony at
He was too angry to say another word; her manner too decided to invite
supplication; and in this state of swelling resentment, and mutually
deep mortification, they had to continue together a few minutes longer,
for the fears of Mr. Woodhouse had confined them to a foot-pace. If
there had not been so much anger, there would have been desperate
awkwardness; but their straightforward emotions left no room for the
little zigzags of embarrassment. Without knowing when the carriage
turned into Vicarage Lane, or when it stopped, they found themselves,
all at once, at the door of his house; and he was out before another
syllable passed.--Emma then felt it indispensable to wish him a good
night. The compliment was just returned, coldly and proudly; and,
under indescribable irritation of spirits, she was then conveyed to
There she was welcomed, with the utmost delight, by her father, who had
been trembling for the dangers of a solitary drive from Vicarage
Lane--turning a corner which he could never bear to think of--and in
strange hands--a mere common coachman--no James; and there it seemed as
if her return only were wanted to make every thing go well: for Mr.
John Knightley, ashamed of his ill-humour, was now all kindness and
attention; and so particularly solicitous for the comfort of her
father, as to seem--if not quite ready to join him in a basin of
gruel--perfectly sensible of its being exceedingly wholesome; and the
day was concluding in peace and comfort to all their little party,
except herself.--But her mind had never been in such perturbation; and
it needed a very strong effort to appear attentive and cheerful till
the usual hour of separating allowed her the relief of quiet reflection.
The hair was curled, and the maid sent away, and Emma sat down to think
and be miserable.--It was a wretched business indeed!--Such an
overthrow of every thing she had been wishing for!--Such a development
of every thing most unwelcome!--Such a blow for Harriet!--that was the
worst of all. Every part of it brought pain and humiliation, of some
sort or other; but, compared with the evil to Harriet, all was light;
and she would gladly have submitted to feel yet more mistaken--more in
error--more disgraced by mis-judgment, than she actually was, could the
effects of her blunders have been confined to herself.
"If I had not persuaded Harriet into liking the man, I could have borne
any thing. He might have doubled his presumption to me--but poor
How she could have been so deceived!--He protested that he had never
thought seriously of Harriet--never! She looked back as well as she
could; but it was all confusion. She had taken up the idea, she
supposed, and made every thing bend to it. His manners, however, must
have been unmarked, wavering, dubious, or she could not have been so
The picture!--How eager he had been about the picture!--and the
charade!--and an hundred other circumstances;--how clearly they had
seemed to point at Harriet. To be sure, the charade, with its "ready
wit"--but then the "soft eyes"--in fact it suited neither; it was a
jumble without taste or truth. Who could have seen through such
Certainly she had often, especially of late, thought his manners to
herself unnecessarily gallant; but it had passed as his way, as a mere
error of judgment, of knowledge, of taste, as one proof among others
that he had not always lived in the best society, that with all the
gentleness of his address, true elegance was sometimes wanting; but,
till this very day, she had never, for an instant, suspected it to mean
any thing but grateful respect to her as Harriet's friend.
To Mr. John Knightley was she indebted for her first idea on the
subject, for the first start of its possibility. There was no denying
that those brothers had penetration. She remembered what Mr. Knightley
had once said to her about Mr. Elton, the caution he had given, the
conviction he had professed that Mr. Elton would never marry
indiscreetly; and blushed to think how much truer a knowledge of his
character had been there shewn than any she had reached herself. It
was dreadfully mortifying; but Mr. Elton was proving himself, in many
respects, the very reverse of what she had meant and believed him;
proud, assuming, conceited; very full of his own claims, and little
concerned about the feelings of others.
Contrary to the usual course of things, Mr. Elton's wanting to pay his
addresses to her had sunk him in her opinion. His professions and his
proposals did him no service. She thought nothing of his attachment,
and was insulted by his hopes. He wanted to marry well, and having the
arrogance to raise his eyes to her, pretended to be in love; but she
was perfectly easy as to his not suffering any disappointment that need
be cared for. There had been no real affection either in his language
or manners. Sighs and fine words had been given in abundance; but she
could hardly devise any set of expressions, or fancy any tone of voice,
less allied with real love. She need not trouble herself to pity him.
He only wanted to aggrandise and enrich himself; and if Miss Woodhouse
of Hartfield, the heiress of thirty thousand pounds, were not quite so
easily obtained as he had fancied, he would soon try for Miss Somebody
else with twenty, or with ten.
But--that he should talk of encouragement, should consider her as aware
of his views, accepting his attentions, meaning (in short), to marry
him!--should suppose himself her equal in connexion or mind!--look down
upon her friend, so well understanding the gradations of rank below
him, and be so blind to what rose above, as to fancy himself shewing no
presumption in addressing her!-- It was most provoking.
Perhaps it was not fair to expect him to feel how very much he was her
inferior in talent, and all the elegancies of mind. The very want of
such equality might prevent his perception of it; but he must know that
in fortune and consequence she was greatly his superior. He must know
that the Woodhouses had been settled for several generations at
Hartfield, the younger branch of a very ancient family--and that the
Eltons were nobody. The landed property of Hartfield certainly was
inconsiderable, being but a sort of notch in the Donwell Abbey estate,
to which all the rest of Highbury belonged; but their fortune, from
other sources, was such as to make them scarcely secondary to Donwell
Abbey itself, in every other kind of consequence; and the Woodhouses
had long held a high place in the consideration of the neighbourhood
which Mr. Elton had first entered not two years ago, to make his way as
he could, without any alliances but in trade, or any thing to recommend
him to notice but his situation and his civility.-- But he had fancied
her in love with him; that evidently must have been his dependence; and
after raving a little about the seeming incongruity of gentle manners
and a conceited head, Emma was obliged in common honesty to stop and
admit that her own behaviour to him had been so complaisant and
obliging, so full of courtesy and attention, as (supposing her real
motive unperceived) might warrant a man of ordinary observation and
delicacy, like Mr. Elton, in fancying himself a very decided favourite.
If "she" had so misinterpreted his feelings, she had little right to
wonder that "he", with self-interest to blind him, should have mistaken
The first error and the worst lay at her door. It was foolish, it was
wrong, to take so active a part in bringing any two people together.
It was adventuring too far, assuming too much, making light of what
ought to be serious, a trick of what ought to be simple. She was quite
concerned and ashamed, and resolved to do such things no more.
"Here have I," said she, "actually talked poor Harriet into being very
much attached to this man. She might never have thought of him but for
me; and certainly never would have thought of him with hope, if I had
not assured her of his attachment, for she is as modest and humble as I
used to think him. Oh! that I had been satisfied with persuading her
not to accept young Martin. There I was quite right. That was well
done of me; but there I should have stopped, and left the rest to time
and chance. I was introducing her into good company, and giving her
the opportunity of pleasing some one worth having; I ought not to have
attempted more. But now, poor girl, her peace is cut up for some time.
I have been but half a friend to her; and if she were "not" to feel
this disappointment so very much, I am sure I have not an idea of any
body else who would be at all desirable for her;--William Coxe--Oh! no,
I could not endure William Coxe--a pert young lawyer."
She stopt to blush and laugh at her own relapse, and then resumed a
more serious, more dispiriting cogitation upon what had been, and might
be, and must be. The distressing explanation she had to make to
Harriet, and all that poor Harriet would be suffering, with the
awkwardness of future meetings, the difficulties of continuing or
discontinuing the acquaintance, of subduing feelings, concealing
resentment, and avoiding eclat, were enough to occupy her in most
unmirthful reflections some time longer, and she went to bed at last
with nothing settled but the conviction of her having blundered most
To youth and natural cheerfulness like Emma's, though under temporary
gloom at night, the return of day will hardly fail to bring return of
spirits. The youth and cheerfulness of morning are in happy analogy,
and of powerful operation; and if the distress be not poignant enough
to keep the eyes unclosed, they will be sure to open to sensations of
softened pain and brighter hope.
Emma got up on the morrow more disposed for comfort than she had gone
to bed, more ready to see alleviations of the evil before her, and to
depend on getting tolerably out of it.
It was a great consolation that Mr. Elton should not be really in love
with her, or so particularly amiable as to make it shocking to
disappoint him--that Harriet's nature should not be of that superior
sort in which the feelings are most acute and retentive--and that
there could be no necessity for any body's knowing what had passed
except the three principals, and especially for her father's being
given a moment's uneasiness about it.
These were very cheering thoughts; and the sight of a great deal of
snow on the ground did her further service, for any thing was welcome
that might justify their all three being quite asunder at present.
The weather was most favourable for her; though Christmas Day, she
could not go to church. Mr. Woodhouse would have been miserable had
his daughter attempted it, and she was therefore safe from either
exciting or receiving unpleasant and most unsuitable ideas. The ground
covered with snow, and the atmosphere in that unsettled state between
frost and thaw, which is of all others the most unfriendly for
exercise, every morning beginning in rain or snow, and every evening
setting in to freeze, she was for many days a most honourable prisoner.
No intercourse with Harriet possible but by note; no church for her on
Sunday any more than on Christmas Day; and no need to find excuses for
Mr. Elton's absenting himself.
It was weather which might fairly confine every body at home; and
though she hoped and believed him to be really taking comfort in some
society or other, it was very pleasant to have her father so well
satisfied with his being all alone in his own house, too wise to stir
out; and to hear him say to Mr. Knightley, whom no weather could keep
entirely from them,--
"Ah! Mr. Knightley, why do not you stay at home like poor Mr. Elton?"
These days of confinement would have been, but for her private
perplexities, remarkably comfortable, as such seclusion exactly suited
her brother, whose feelings must always be of great importance to his
companions; and he had, besides, so thoroughly cleared off his
ill-humour at Randalls, that his amiableness never failed him during
the rest of his stay at Hartfield. He was always agreeable and
obliging, and speaking pleasantly of every body. But with all the
hopes of cheerfulness, and all the present comfort of delay, there was
still such an evil hanging over her in the hour of explanation with
Harriet, as made it impossible for Emma to be ever perfectly at ease.
Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley were not detained long at Hartfield. The
weather soon improved enough for those to move who must move; and Mr.
Woodhouse having, as usual, tried to persuade his daughter to stay
behind with all her children, was obliged to see the whole party set
off, and return to his lamentations over the destiny of poor
Isabella;--which poor Isabella, passing her life with those she doated
on, full of their merits, blind to their faults, and always innocently
busy, might have been a model of right feminine happiness.
The evening of the very day on which they went brought a note from Mr.
Elton to Mr. Woodhouse, a long, civil, ceremonious note, to say, with
Mr. Elton's best compliments, "that he was proposing to leave Highbury
the following morning in his way to Bath; where, in compliance with the
pressing entreaties of some friends, he had engaged to spend a few
weeks, and very much regretted the impossibility he was under, from
various circumstances of weather and business, of taking a personal
leave of Mr. Woodhouse, of whose friendly civilities he should ever
retain a grateful sense--and had Mr. Woodhouse any commands, should be
happy to attend to them."
Emma was most agreeably surprized.--Mr. Elton's absence just at this
time was the very thing to be desired. She admired him for contriving
it, though not able to give him much credit for the manner in which it
was announced. Resentment could not have been more plainly spoken than
in a civility to her father, from which she was so pointedly excluded.
She had not even a share in his opening compliments.--Her name was not
mentioned;--and there was so striking a change in all this, and such
an ill-judged solemnity of leave-taking in his graceful
acknowledgments, as she thought, at first, could not escape her
It did, however.--Her father was quite taken up with the surprize of so
sudden a journey, and his fears that Mr. Elton might never get safely
to the end of it, and saw nothing extraordinary in his language. It
was a very useful note, for it supplied them with fresh matter for
thought and conversation during the rest of their lonely evening. Mr.
Woodhouse talked over his alarms, and Emma was in spirits to persuade
them away with all her usual promptitude.
She now resolved to keep Harriet no longer in the dark. She had reason
to believe her nearly recovered from her cold, and it was desirable
that she should have as much time as possible for getting the better of
her other complaint before the gentleman's return. She went to Mrs.
Goddard's accordingly the very next day, to undergo the necessary
penance of communication; and a severe one it was.-- She had to destroy
all the hopes which she had been so industriously feeding--to appear in
the ungracious character of the one preferred--and acknowledge herself
grossly mistaken and mis-judging in all her ideas on one subject, all
her observations, all her convictions, all her prophecies for the last
The confession completely renewed her first shame--and the sight of
Harriet's tears made her think that she should never be in charity with
Harriet bore the intelligence very well--blaming nobody--and in every
thing testifying such an ingenuousness of disposition and lowly opinion
of herself, as must appear with particular advantage at that moment to
Emma was in the humour to value simplicity and modesty to the utmost;
and all that was amiable, all that ought to be attaching, seemed on
Harriet's side, not her own. Harriet did not consider herself as
having any thing to complain of. The affection of such a man as Mr.
Elton would have been too great a distinction.-- She never could have
deserved him--and nobody but so partial and kind a friend as Miss
Woodhouse would have thought it possible.
Her tears fell abundantly--but her grief was so truly artless, that no
dignity could have made it more respectable in Emma's eyes--and she
listened to her and tried to console her with all her heart and
understanding--really for the time convinced that Harriet was the
superior creature of the two--and that to resemble her would be more
for her own welfare and happiness than all that genius or intelligence
It was rather too late in the day to set about being simple-minded and
ignorant; but she left her with every previous resolution confirmed of
being humble and discreet, and repressing imagination all the rest of
her life. Her second duty now, inferior only to her father's claims,
was to promote Harriet's comfort, and endeavour to prove her own
affection in some better method than by match-making. She got her to
Hartfield, and shewed her the most unvarying kindness, striving to
occupy and amuse her, and by books and conversation, to drive Mr. Elton
from her thoughts.
Time, she knew, must be allowed for this being thoroughly done; and she
could suppose herself but an indifferent judge of such matters in
general, and very inadequate to sympathise in an attachment to Mr.
Elton in particular; but it seemed to her reasonable that at Harriet's
age, and with the entire extinction of all hope, such a progress might
be made towards a state of composure by the time of Mr. Elton's return,
as to allow them all to meet again in the common routine of
acquaintance, without any danger of betraying sentiments or increasing
Harriet did think him all perfection, and maintained the non-existence
of any body equal to him in person or goodness--and did, in truth,
prove herself more resolutely in love than Emma had foreseen; but yet
it appeared to her so natural, so inevitable to strive against an
inclination of that sort "unrequited", that she could not comprehend
its continuing very long in equal force.
If Mr. Elton, on his return, made his own indifference as evident and
indubitable as she could not doubt he would anxiously do, she could not
imagine Harriet's persisting to place her happiness in the sight or the
recollection of him.
Their being fixed, so absolutely fixed, in the same place, was bad for
each, for all three. Not one of them had the power of removal, or of
effecting any material change of society. They must encounter each
other, and make the best of it.
Harriet was farther unfortunate in the tone of her companions at Mrs.
Goddard's; Mr. Elton being the adoration of all the teachers and great
girls in the school; and it must be at Hartfield only that she could
have any chance of hearing him spoken of with cooling moderation or
repellent truth. Where the wound had been given, there must the cure
be found if anywhere; and Emma felt that, till she saw her in the way
of cure, there could be no true peace for herself.
Mr. Frank Churchill did not come. When the time proposed drew near,
Mrs. Weston's fears were justified in the arrival of a letter of
excuse. For the present, he could not be spared, to his "very great
mortification and regret; but still he looked forward with the hope of
coming to Randalls at no distant period."
Mrs. Weston was exceedingly disappointed--much more disappointed, in
fact, than her husband, though her dependence on seeing the young man
had been so much more sober: but a sanguine temper, though for ever
expecting more good than occurs, does not always pay for its hopes by
any proportionate depression. It soon flies over the present failure,
and begins to hope again. For half an hour Mr. Weston was surprized
and sorry; but then he began to perceive that Frank's coming two or
three months later would be a much better plan; better time of year;
better weather; and that he would be able, without any doubt, to stay
considerably longer with them than if he had come sooner.
These feelings rapidly restored his comfort, while Mrs. Weston, of a
more apprehensive disposition, foresaw nothing but a repetition of
excuses and delays; and after all her concern for what her husband was
to suffer, suffered a great deal more herself.
Emma was not at this time in a state of spirits to care really about
Mr. Frank Churchill's not coming, except as a disappointment at
Randalls. The acquaintance at present had no charm for her. She
wanted, rather, to be quiet, and out of temptation; but still, as it
was desirable that she should appear, in general, like her usual self,
she took care to express as much interest in the circumstance, and
enter as warmly into Mr. and Mrs. Weston's disappointment, as might
naturally belong to their friendship.
She was the first to announce it to Mr. Knightley; and exclaimed quite
as much as was necessary, (or, being acting a part, perhaps rather
more,) at the conduct of the Churchills, in keeping him away. She then
proceeded to say a good deal more than she felt, of the advantage of
such an addition to their confined society in Surry; the pleasure of
looking at somebody new; the gala-day to Highbury entire, which the
sight of him would have made; and ending with reflections on the
Churchills again, found herself directly involved in a disagreement
with Mr. Knightley; and, to her great amusement, perceived that she was
taking the other side of the question from her real opinion, and making
use of Mrs. Weston's arguments against herself.
"The Churchills are very likely in fault," said Mr. Knightley, coolly;
"but I dare say he might come if he would."
"I do not know why you should say so. He wishes exceedingly to come;
but his uncle and aunt will not spare him."
"I cannot believe that he has not the power of coming, if he made a
point of it. It is too unlikely, for me to believe it without proof."
"How odd you are! What has Mr. Frank Churchill done, to make you
suppose him such an unnatural creature?"
"I am not supposing him at all an unnatural creature, in suspecting
that he may have learnt to be above his connexions, and to care very
little for any thing but his own pleasure, from living with those who
have always set him the example of it. It is a great deal more natural
than one could wish, that a young man, brought up by those who are
proud, luxurious, and selfish, should be proud, luxurious, and selfish
too. If Frank Churchill had wanted to see his father, he would have
contrived it between September and January. A man at his age--what is
he?--three or four-and-twenty--cannot be without the means of doing as
much as that. It is impossible."
"That's easily said, and easily felt by you, who have always been your
own master. You are the worst judge in the world, Mr. Knightley, of
the difficulties of dependence. You do not know what it is to have
tempers to manage."
"It is not to be conceived that a man of three or four-and-twenty
should not have liberty of mind or limb to that amount. He cannot want
money--he cannot want leisure. We know, on the contrary, that he has
so much of both, that he is glad to get rid of them at the idlest
haunts in the kingdom. We hear of him for ever at some watering-place
or other. A little while ago, he was at Weymouth. This proves that he
can leave the Churchills."
"Yes, sometimes he can."
"And those times are whenever he thinks it worth his while; whenever
there is any temptation of pleasure."
"It is very unfair to judge of any body's conduct, without an intimate
knowledge of their situation. Nobody, who has not been in the interior
of a family, can say what the difficulties of any individual of that
family may be. We ought to be acquainted with Enscombe, and with Mrs.
Churchill's temper, before we pretend to decide upon what her nephew
can do. He may, at times, be able to do a great deal more than he can
"There is one thing, Emma, which a man can always do, if he chuses, and
that is, his duty; not by manoeuvring and finessing, but by vigour and
resolution. It is Frank Churchill's duty to pay this attention to his
father. He knows it to be so, by his promises and messages; but if he
wished to do it, it might be done. A man who felt rightly would say at
once, simply and resolutely, to Mrs. Churchill-- 'Every sacrifice of
mere pleasure you will always find me ready to make to your
convenience; but I must go and see my father immediately. I know he
would be hurt by my failing in such a mark of respect to him on the
present occasion. I shall, therefore, set off to-morrow.'-- If he
would say so to her at once, in the tone of decision becoming a man,
there would be no opposition made to his going."
"No," said Emma, laughing; "but perhaps there might be some made to his
coming back again. Such language for a young man entirely dependent,
to use!--Nobody but you, Mr. Knightley, would imagine it possible. But
you have not an idea of what is requisite in situations directly
opposite to your own. Mr. Frank Churchill to be making such a speech
as that to the uncle and aunt, who have brought him up, and are to
provide for him!--Standing up in the middle of the room, I suppose, and
speaking as loud as he could!--How can you imagine such conduct
"Depend upon it, Emma, a sensible man would find no difficulty in it.
He would feel himself in the right; and the declaration--made, of
course, as a man of sense would make it, in a proper manner--would do
him more good, raise him higher, fix his interest stronger with the
people he depended on, than all that a line of shifts and expedients
can ever do. Respect would be added to affection. They would feel
that they could trust him; that the nephew who had done rightly by his
father, would do rightly by them; for they know, as well as he does, as
well as all the world must know, that he ought to pay this visit to his
father; and while meanly exerting their power to delay it, are in their
hearts not thinking the better of him for submitting to their whims.
Respect for right conduct is felt by every body. If he would act in
this sort of manner, on principle, consistently, regularly, their
little minds would bend to his."
"I rather doubt that. You are very fond of bending little minds; but
where little minds belong to rich people in authority, I think they
have a knack of swelling out, till they are quite as unmanageable as
great ones. I can imagine, that if you, as you are, Mr. Knightley,
were to be transported and placed all at once in Mr. Frank Churchill's
situation, you would be able to say and do just what you have been
recommending for him; and it might have a very good effect. The
Churchills might not have a word to say in return; but then, you would
have no habits of early obedience and long observance to break through.
To him who has, it might not be so easy to burst forth at once into
perfect independence, and set all their claims on his gratitude and
regard at nought. He may have as strong a sense of what would be
right, as you can have, without being so equal, under particular
circumstances, to act up to it."
"Then it would not be so strong a sense. If it failed to produce equal
exertion, it could not be an equal conviction."
"Oh, the difference of situation and habit! I wish you would try to
understand what an amiable young man may be likely to feel in directly
opposing those, whom as child and boy he has been looking up to all his
"Our amiable young man is a very weak young man, if this be the first
occasion of his carrying through a resolution to do right against the
will of others. It ought to have been a habit with him by this time,
of following his duty, instead of consulting expediency. I can allow
for the fears of the child, but not of the man. As he became rational,
he ought to have roused himself and shaken off all that was unworthy in
their authority. He ought to have opposed the first attempt on their
side to make him slight his father. Had he begun as he ought, there
would have been no difficulty now."
"We shall never agree about him," cried Emma; "but that is nothing
extraordinary. I have not the least idea of his being a weak young
man: I feel sure that he is not. Mr. Weston would not be blind to
folly, though in his own son; but he is very likely to have a more
yielding, complying, mild disposition than would suit your notions of
man's perfection. I dare say he has; and though it may cut him off
from some advantages, it will secure him many others."
"Yes; all the advantages of sitting still when he ought to move, and of
leading a life of mere idle pleasure, and fancying himself extremely
expert in finding excuses for it. He can sit down and write a fine
flourishing letter, full of professions and falsehoods, and persuade
himself that he has hit upon the very best method in the world of
preserving peace at home and preventing his father's having any right
to complain. His letters disgust me."
"Your feelings are singular. They seem to satisfy every body else."
"I suspect they do not satisfy Mrs. Weston. They hardly can satisfy a
woman of her good sense and quick feelings: standing in a mother's
place, but without a mother's affection to blind her. It is on her
account that attention to Randalls is doubly due, and she must doubly
feel the omission. Had she been a person of consequence herself, he
would have come I dare say; and it would not have signified whether he
did or no. Can you think your friend behindhand in these sort of
considerations? Do you suppose she does not often say all this to
herself? No, Emma, your amiable young man can be amiable only in
French, not in English. He may be very 'aimable,' have very good
manners, and be very agreeable; but he can have no English delicacy
towards the feelings of other people: nothing really amiable about him."
"You seem determined to think ill of him."
"Me!--not at all," replied Mr. Knightley, rather displeased; "I do not
want to think ill of him. I should be as ready to acknowledge his
merits as any other man; but I hear of none, except what are merely
personal; that he is well-grown and good-looking, with smooth,
"Well, if he have nothing else to recommend him, he will be a treasure
at Highbury. We do not often look upon fine young men, well-bred and
agreeable. We must not be nice and ask for all the virtues into the
bargain. Cannot you imagine, Mr. Knightley, what a "sensation" his
coming will produce? There will be but one subject throughout the
parishes of Donwell and Highbury; but one interest--one object of
curiosity; it will be all Mr. Frank Churchill; we shall think and speak
of nobody else."
"You will excuse my being so much over-powered. If I find him
conversable, I shall be glad of his acquaintance; but if he is only a
chattering coxcomb, he will not occupy much of my time or thoughts."
"My idea of him is, that he can adapt his conversation to the taste of
every body, and has the power as well as the wish of being universally
agreeable. To you, he will talk of farming; to me, of drawing or
music; and so on to every body, having that general information on all
subjects which will enable him to follow the lead, or take the lead,
just as propriety may require, and to speak extremely well on each;
that is my idea of him."
"And mine," said Mr. Knightley warmly, "is, that if he turn out any
thing like it, he will be the most insufferable fellow breathing!
What! at three-and-twenty to be the king of his company--the great
man--the practised politician, who is to read every body's character,
and make every body's talents conduce to the display of his own
superiority; to be dispensing his flatteries around, that he may make
all appear like fools compared with himself! My dear Emma, your own
good sense could not endure such a puppy when it came to the point."
"I will say no more about him," cried Emma, "you turn every thing to
evil. We are both prejudiced; you against, I for him; and we have no
chance of agreeing till he is really here."
"Prejudiced! I am not prejudiced."
"But I am very much, and without being at all ashamed of it. My love
for Mr. and Mrs. Weston gives me a decided prejudice in his favour."
"He is a person I never think of from one month's end to another," said
Mr. Knightley, with a degree of vexation, which made Emma immediately
talk of something else, though she could not comprehend why he should
To take a dislike to a young man, only because he appeared to be of a
different disposition from himself, was unworthy the real liberality of
mind which she was always used to acknowledge in him; for with all the
high opinion of himself, which she had often laid to his charge, she
had never before for a moment supposed it could make him unjust to the
merit of another.
Emma and Harriet had been walking together one morning, and, in Emma's
opinion, had been talking enough of Mr. Elton for that day. She could
not think that Harriet's solace or her own sins required more; and she
was therefore industriously getting rid of the subject as they
returned;--but it burst out again when she thought she had succeeded,
and after speaking some time of what the poor must suffer in winter,
and receiving no other answer than a very plaintive-- "Mr. Elton is so
good to the poor!" she found something else must be done.
They were just approaching the house where lived Mrs. and Miss Bates.
She determined to call upon them and seek safety in numbers. There was
always sufficient reason for such an attention; Mrs. and Miss Bates
loved to be called on, and she knew she was considered by the very few
who presumed ever to see imperfection in her, as rather negligent in
that respect, and as not contributing what she ought to the stock of
their scanty comforts.
She had had many a hint from Mr. Knightley and some from her own heart,
as to her deficiency--but none were equal to counteract the persuasion
of its being very disagreeable,--a waste of time--tiresome women--and
all the horror of being in danger of falling in with the second-rate
and third-rate of Highbury, who were calling on them for ever, and
therefore she seldom went near them. But now she made the sudden
resolution of not passing their door without going in--observing, as
she proposed it to Harriet, that, as well as she could calculate, they
were just now quite safe from any letter from Jane Fairfax.
The house belonged to people in business. Mrs. and Miss Bates occupied
the drawing-room floor; and there, in the very moderate-sized
apartment, which was every thing to them, the visitors were most
cordially and even gratefully welcomed; the quiet neat old lady, who
with her knitting was seated in the warmest corner, wanting even to
give up her place to Miss Woodhouse, and her more active, talking
daughter, almost ready to overpower them with care and kindness, thanks
for their visit, solicitude for their shoes, anxious inquiries after
Mr. Woodhouse's health, cheerful communications about her mother's, and
sweet-cake from the beaufet--"Mrs. Cole had just been there, just
called in for ten minutes, and had been so good as to sit an hour with
them, and "she" had taken a piece of cake and been so kind as to say
she liked it very much; and, therefore, she hoped Miss Woodhouse and
Miss Smith would do them the favour to eat a piece too."
The mention of the Coles was sure to be followed by that of Mr. Elton.
There was intimacy between them, and Mr. Cole had heard from Mr. Elton
since his going away. Emma knew what was coming; they must have the
letter over again, and settle how long he had been gone, and how much
he was engaged in company, and what a favourite he was wherever he
went, and how full the Master of the Ceremonies' ball had been; and she
went through it very well, with all the interest and all the
commendation that could be requisite, and always putting forward to
prevent Harriet's being obliged to say a word.
This she had been prepared for when she entered the house; but meant,
having once talked him handsomely over, to be no farther incommoded by
any troublesome topic, and to wander at large amongst all the
Mistresses and Misses of Highbury, and their card-parties. She had not
been prepared to have Jane Fairfax succeed Mr. Elton; but he was
actually hurried off by Miss Bates, she jumped away from him at last
abruptly to the Coles, to usher in a letter from her niece.
"Oh! yes--Mr. Elton, I understand--certainly as to dancing-- Mrs. Cole
was telling me that dancing at the rooms at Bath was-- Mrs. Cole was so
kind as to sit some time with us, talking of Jane; for as soon as she
came in, she began inquiring after her, Jane is so very great a
favourite there. Whenever she is with us, Mrs. Cole does not know how
to shew her kindness enough; and I must say that Jane deserves it as
much as any body can. And so she began inquiring after her directly,
saying, 'I know you cannot have heard from Jane lately, because it is
not her time for writing;' and when I immediately said, 'But indeed we
have, we had a letter this very morning,' I do not know that I ever saw
any body more surprized. 'Have you, upon your honour?' said she;
'well, that is quite unexpected. Do let me hear what she says.'"
Emma's politeness was at hand directly, to say, with smiling interest--
"Have you heard from Miss Fairfax so lately? I am extremely happy. I
hope she is well?"
"Thank you. You are so kind!" replied the happily deceived aunt, while
eagerly hunting for the letter.--"Oh! here it is. I was sure it could
not be far off; but I had put my huswife upon it, you see, without
being aware, and so it was quite hid, but I had it in my hand so very
lately that I was almost sure it must be on the table. I was reading
it to Mrs. Cole, and since she went away, I was reading it again to my
mother, for it is such a pleasure to her--a letter from Jane--that she
can never hear it often enough; so I knew it could not be far off, and
here it is, only just under my huswife--and since you are so kind as to
wish to hear what she says;--but, first of all, I really must, in
justice to Jane, apologise for her writing so short a letter--only two
pages you see--hardly two--and in general she fills the whole paper
and crosses half. My mother often wonders that I can make it out so
well. She often says, when the letter is first opened, 'Well, Hetty,
now I think you will be put to it to make out all that checker-work'--
don't you, ma'am?--And then I tell her, I am sure she would contrive to
make it out herself, if she had nobody to do it for her--every word of
it--I am sure she would pore over it till she had made out every word.
And, indeed, though my mother's eyes are not so good as they were, she
can see amazingly well still, thank God! with the help of spectacles.
It is such a blessing! My mother's are really very good indeed. Jane
often says, when she is here, 'I am sure, grandmama, you must have had
very strong eyes to see as you do--and so much fine work as you have
done too!--I only wish my eyes may last me as well.'"
All this spoken extremely fast obliged Miss Bates to stop for breath;
and Emma said something very civil about the excellence of Miss
"You are extremely kind," replied Miss Bates, highly gratified; "you
who are such a judge, and write so beautifully yourself. I am sure
there is nobody's praise that could give us so much pleasure as Miss
Woodhouse's. My mother does not hear; she is a little deaf you know.
Ma'am," addressing her, "do you hear what Miss Woodhouse is so obliging
to say about Jane's handwriting?"
And Emma had the advantage of hearing her own silly compliment repeated
twice over before the good old lady could comprehend it. She was
pondering, in the meanwhile, upon the possibility, without seeming very
rude, of making her escape from Jane Fairfax's letter, and had almost
resolved on hurrying away directly under some slight excuse, when Miss
Bates turned to her again and seized her attention.
"My mother's deafness is very trifling you see--just nothing at all.
By only raising my voice, and saying any thing two or three times over,
she is sure to hear; but then she is used to my voice. But it is very
remarkable that she should always hear Jane better than she does me.
Jane speaks so distinct! However, she will not find her grandmama at
all deafer than she was two years ago; which is saying a great deal at
my mother's time of life--and it really is full two years, you know,
since she was here. We never were so long without seeing her before,
and as I was telling Mrs. Cole, we shall hardly know how to make enough
of her now."
"Are you expecting Miss Fairfax here soon?"
"Oh yes; next week."
"Indeed!--that must be a very great pleasure."
"Thank you. You are very kind. Yes, next week. Every body is so
surprized; and every body says the same obliging things. I am sure she
will be as happy to see her friends at Highbury, as they can be to see
her. Yes, Friday or Saturday; she cannot say which, because Colonel
Campbell will be wanting the carriage himself one of those days. So
very good of them to send her the whole way! But they always do, you
know. Oh yes, Friday or Saturday next. That is what she writes about.
That is the reason of her writing out of rule, as we call it; for, in
the common course, we should not have heard from her before next
Tuesday or Wednesday."
"Yes, so I imagined. I was afraid there could be little chance of my
hearing any thing of Miss Fairfax to-day."
"So obliging of you! No, we should not have heard, if it had not been
for this particular circumstance, of her being to come here so soon.
My mother is so delighted!--for she is to be three months with us at
least. Three months, she says so, positively, as I am going to have
the pleasure of reading to you. The case is, you see, that the
Campbells are going to Ireland. Mrs. Dixon has persuaded her father
and mother to come over and see her directly. They had not intended to
go over till the summer, but she is so impatient to see them again--for
till she married, last October, she was never away from them so much as
a week, which must make it very strange to be in different kingdoms, I
was going to say, but however different countries, and so she wrote a
very urgent letter to her mother--or her father, I declare I do not
know which it was, but we shall see presently in Jane's letter--wrote
in Mr. Dixon's name as well as her own, to press their coming over
directly, and they would give them the meeting in Dublin, and take them
back to their country seat, Baly-craig, a beautiful place, I fancy.
Jane has heard a great deal of its beauty; from Mr. Dixon, I mean-- I
do not know that she ever heard about it from any body else; but it was
very natural, you know, that he should like to speak of his own place
while he was paying his addresses--and as Jane used to be very often
walking out with them--for Colonel and Mrs. Campbell were very
particular about their daughter's not walking out often with only Mr.
Dixon, for which I do not at all blame them; of course she heard every
thing he might be telling Miss Campbell about his own home in Ireland;
and I think she wrote us word that he had shewn them some drawings of
the place, views that he had taken himself. He is a most amiable,
charming young man, I believe. Jane was quite longing to go to
Ireland, from his account of things."
At this moment, an ingenious and animating suspicion entering Emma's
brain with regard to Jane Fairfax, this charming Mr. Dixon, and the not
going to Ireland, she said, with the insidious design of farther
"You must feel it very fortunate that Miss Fairfax should be allowed to
come to you at such a time. Considering the very particular friendship
between her and Mrs. Dixon, you could hardly have expected her to be
excused from accompanying Colonel and Mrs. Campbell."
"Very true, very true, indeed. The very thing that we have always been
rather afraid of; for we should not have liked to have her at such a
distance from us, for months together--not able to come if any thing
was to happen. But you see, every thing turns out for the best. They
want her (Mr. and Mrs. Dixon) excessively to come over with Colonel and
Mrs. Campbell; quite depend upon it; nothing can be more kind or
pressing than their "joint" invitation, Jane says, as you will hear
presently; Mr. Dixon does not seem in the least backward in any
attention. He is a most charming young man. Ever since the service he
rendered Jane at Weymouth, when they were out in that party on the
water, and she, by the sudden whirling round of something or other
among the sails, would have been dashed into the sea at once, and
actually was all but gone, if he had not, with the greatest presence of
mind, caught hold of her habit-- (I can never think of it without
trembling!)--But ever since we had the history of that day, I have been
so fond of Mr. Dixon!"
"But, in spite of all her friends' urgency, and her own wish of seeing
Ireland, Miss Fairfax prefers devoting the time to you and Mrs. Bates?"
"Yes--entirely her own doing, entirely her own choice; and Colonel and
Mrs. Campbell think she does quite right, just what they should
recommend; and indeed they particularly "wish" her to try her native
air, as she has not been quite so well as usual lately."
"I am concerned to hear of it. I think they judge wisely. But Mrs.
Dixon must be very much disappointed. Mrs. Dixon, I understand, has no
remarkable degree of personal beauty; is not, by any means, to be
compared with Miss Fairfax."
"Oh! no. You are very obliging to say such things--but certainly not.
There is no comparison between them. Miss Campbell always was
absolutely plain--but extremely elegant and amiable."
"Yes, that of course."
"Jane caught a bad cold, poor thing! so long ago as the 7th of
November, (as I am going to read to you,) and has never been well
since. A long time, is not it, for a cold to hang upon her? She never
mentioned it before, because she would not alarm us. Just like her! so
considerate!--But however, she is so far from well, that her kind
friends the Campbells think she had better come home, and try an air
that always agrees with her; and they have no doubt that three or four
months at Highbury will entirely cure her--and it is certainly a great
deal better that she should come here, than go to Ireland, if she is
unwell. Nobody could nurse her, as we should do."
"It appears to me the most desirable arrangement in the world."
"And so she is to come to us next Friday or Saturday, and the Campbells
leave town in their way to Holyhead the Monday following--as you will
find from Jane's letter. So sudden!--You may guess, dear Miss
Woodhouse, what a flurry it has thrown me in! If it was not for the
drawback of her illness--but I am afraid we must expect to see her
grown thin, and looking very poorly. I must tell you what an unlucky
thing happened to me, as to that. I always make a point of reading
Jane's letters through to myself first, before I read them aloud to my
mother, you know, for fear of there being any thing in them to distress
her. Jane desired me to do it, so I always do: and so I began to-day
with my usual caution; but no sooner did I come to the mention of her
being unwell, than I burst out, quite frightened, with 'Bless me! poor
Jane is ill!'--which my mother, being on the watch, heard distinctly,
and was sadly alarmed at. However, when I read on, I found it was not
near so bad as I had fancied at first; and I make so light of it now to
her, that she does not think much about it. But I cannot imagine how I
could be so off my guard. If Jane does not get well soon, we will call
in Mr. Perry. The expense shall not be thought of; and though he is so
liberal, and so fond of Jane that I dare say he would not mean to
charge any thing for attendance, we could not suffer it to be so, you
know. He has a wife and family to maintain, and is not to be giving
away his time. Well, now I have just given you a hint of what Jane
writes about, we will turn to her letter, and I am sure she tells her
own story a great deal better than I can tell it for her."
"I am afraid we must be running away," said Emma, glancing at Harriet,
and beginning to rise--"My father will be expecting us. I had no
intention, I thought I had no power of staying more than five minutes,
when I first entered the house. I merely called, because I would not
pass the door without inquiring after Mrs. Bates; but I have been so
pleasantly detained! Now, however, we must wish you and Mrs. Bates
And not all that could be urged to detain her succeeded. She regained
the street--happy in this, that though much had been forced on her
against her will, though she had in fact heard the whole substance of
Jane Fairfax's letter, she had been able to escape the letter itself.
Jane Fairfax was an orphan, the only child of Mrs. Bates's youngest
The marriage of Lieut. Fairfax of the """"""" regiment of infantry, and
Miss Jane Bates, had had its day of fame and pleasure, hope and
interest; but nothing now remained of it, save the melancholy
remembrance of him dying in action abroad--of his widow sinking under
consumption and grief soon afterwards--and this girl.
By birth she belonged to Highbury: and when at three years old, on
losing her mother, she became the property, the charge, the
consolation, the fondling of her grandmother and aunt, there had seemed
every probability of her being permanently fixed there; of her being
taught only what very limited means could command, and growing up with
no advantages of connexion or improvement, to be engrafted on what
nature had given her in a pleasing person, good understanding, and
warm-hearted, well-meaning relations.
But the compassionate feelings of a friend of her father gave a change
to her destiny. This was Colonel Campbell, who had very highly
regarded Fairfax, as an excellent officer and most deserving young man;
and farther, had been indebted to him for such attentions, during a
severe camp-fever, as he believed had saved his life. These were
claims which he did not learn to overlook, though some years passed
away from the death of poor Fairfax, before his own return to England
put any thing in his power. When he did return, he sought out the
child and took notice of her. He was a married man, with only one
living child, a girl, about Jane's age: and Jane became their guest,
paying them long visits and growing a favourite with all; and before
she was nine years old, his daughter's great fondness for her, and his
own wish of being a real friend, united to produce an offer from
Colonel Campbell of undertaking the whole charge of her education. It
was accepted; and from that period Jane had belonged to Colonel
Campbell's family, and had lived with them entirely, only visiting her
grandmother from time to time.
The plan was that she should be brought up for educating others; the
very few hundred pounds which she inherited from her father making
independence impossible. To provide for her otherwise was out of
Colonel Campbell's power; for though his income, by pay and
appointments, was handsome, his fortune was moderate and must be all
his daughter's; but, by giving her an education, he hoped to be
supplying the means of respectable subsistence hereafter.
Such was Jane Fairfax's history. She had fallen into good hands, known
nothing but kindness from the Campbells, and been given an excellent
education. Living constantly with right-minded and well-informed
people, her heart and understanding had received every advantage of
discipline and culture; and Colonel Campbell's residence being in
London, every lighter talent had been done full justice to, by the
attendance of first-rate masters. Her disposition and abilities were
equally worthy of all that friendship could do; and at eighteen or
nineteen she was, as far as such an early age can be qualified for the
care of children, fully competent to the office of instruction herself;
but she was too much beloved to be parted with. Neither father nor
mother could promote, and the daughter could not endure it. The evil
day was put off. It was easy to decide that she was still too young;
and Jane remained with them, sharing, as another daughter, in all the
rational pleasures of an elegant society, and a judicious mixture of
home and amusement, with only the drawback of the future, the sobering
suggestions of her own good understanding to remind her that all this
might soon be over.
The affection of the whole family, the warm attachment of Miss Campbell
in particular, was the more honourable to each party from the
circumstance of Jane's decided superiority both in beauty and
acquirements. That nature had given it in feature could not be unseen
by the young woman, nor could her higher powers of mind be unfelt by
the parents. They continued together with unabated regard however,
till the marriage of Miss Campbell, who by that chance, that luck which
so often defies anticipation in matrimonial affairs, giving attraction
to what is moderate rather than to what is superior, engaged the
affections of Mr. Dixon, a young man, rich and agreeable, almost as
soon as they were acquainted; and was eligibly and happily settled,
while Jane Fairfax had yet her bread to earn.
This event had very lately taken place; too lately for any thing to be
yet attempted by her less fortunate friend towards entering on her path
of duty; though she had now reached the age which her own judgment had
fixed on for beginning. She had long resolved that one-and-twenty
should be the period. With the fortitude of a devoted novitiate, she
had resolved at one-and-twenty to complete the sacrifice, and retire
from all the pleasures of life, of rational intercourse, equal society,
peace and hope, to penance and mortification for ever.
The good sense of Colonel and Mrs. Campbell could not oppose such a
resolution, though their feelings did. As long as they lived, no
exertions would be necessary, their home might be hers for ever; and
for their own comfort they would have retained her wholly; but this
would be selfishness:--what must be at last, had better be soon.
Perhaps they began to feel it might have been kinder and wiser to have
resisted the temptation of any delay, and spared her from a taste of
such enjoyments of ease and leisure as must now be relinquished.
Still, however, affection was glad to catch at any reasonable excuse
for not hurrying on the wretched moment. She had never been quite well
since the time of their daughter's marriage; and till she should have
completely recovered her usual strength, they must forbid her engaging
in duties, which, so far from being compatible with a weakened frame
and varying spirits, seemed, under the most favourable circumstances,
to require something more than human perfection of body and mind to be
discharged with tolerable comfort.
With regard to her not accompanying them to Ireland, her account to her
aunt contained nothing but truth, though there might be some truths not
told. It was her own choice to give the time of their absence to
Highbury; to spend, perhaps, her last months of perfect liberty with
those kind relations to whom she was so very dear: and the Campbells,
whatever might be their motive or motives, whether single, or double,
or treble, gave the arrangement their ready sanction, and said, that
they depended more on a few months spent in her native air, for the
recovery of her health, than on any thing else. Certain it was that
she was to come; and that Highbury, instead of welcoming that perfect
novelty which had been so long promised it--Mr. Frank Churchill--must
put up for the present with Jane Fairfax, who could bring only the
freshness of a two years' absence.
Emma was sorry;--to have to pay civilities to a person she did not like
through three long months!--to be always doing more than she wished,
and less than she ought! Why she did not like Jane Fairfax might be a
difficult question to answer; Mr. Knightley had once told her it was
because she saw in her the really accomplished young woman, which she
wanted to be thought herself; and though the accusation had been
eagerly refuted at the time, there were moments of self-examination in
which her conscience could not quite acquit her. But "she could never
get acquainted with her: she did not know how it was, but there was
such coldness and reserve--such apparent indifference whether she
pleased or not--and then, her aunt was such an eternal talker!--and she
was made such a fuss with by every body!--and it had been always
imagined that they were to be so intimate--because their ages were the
same, every body had supposed they must be so fond of each other."
These were her reasons--she had no better.
It was a dislike so little just--every imputed fault was so magnified
by fancy, that she never saw Jane Fairfax the first time after any
considerable absence, without feeling that she had injured her; and
now, when the due visit was paid, on her arrival, after a two years'
interval, she was particularly struck with the very appearance and
manners, which for those two whole years she had been depreciating.
Jane Fairfax was very elegant, remarkably elegant; and she had herself
the highest value for elegance. Her height was pretty, just such as
almost every body would think tall, and nobody could think very tall;
her figure particularly graceful; her size a most becoming medium,
between fat and thin, though a slight appearance of ill-health seemed
to point out the likeliest evil of the two. Emma could not but feel
all this; and then, her face--her features--there was more beauty in
them altogether than she had remembered; it was not regular, but it was
very pleasing beauty. Her eyes, a deep grey, with dark eye-lashes and
eyebrows, had never been denied their praise; but the skin, which she
had been used to cavil at, as wanting colour, had a clearness and
delicacy which really needed no fuller bloom. It was a style of
beauty, of which elegance was the reigning character, and as such, she
must, in honour, by all her principles, admire it:--elegance, which,
whether of person or of mind, she saw so little in Highbury. There,
not to be vulgar, was distinction, and merit.
In short, she sat, during the first visit, looking at Jane Fairfax with
twofold complacency; the sense of pleasure and the sense of rendering
justice, and was determining that she would dislike her no longer.
When she took in her history, indeed, her situation, as well as her
beauty; when she considered what all this elegance was destined to,
what she was going to sink from, how she was going to live, it seemed
impossible to feel any thing but compassion and respect; especially, if
to every well-known particular entitling her to interest, were added
the highly probable circumstance of an attachment to Mr. Dixon, which
she had so naturally started to herself. In that case, nothing could
be more pitiable or more honourable than the sacrifices she had
resolved on. Emma was very willing now to acquit her of having seduced
Mr. Dixon's actions from his wife, or of any thing mischievous which
her imagination had suggested at first. If it were love, it might be
simple, single, successless love on her side alone. She might have
been unconsciously sucking in the sad poison, while a sharer of his
conversation with her friend; and from the best, the purest of motives,
might now be denying herself this visit to Ireland, and resolving to
divide herself effectually from him and his connexions by soon
beginning her career of laborious duty.
Upon the whole, Emma left her with such softened, charitable feelings,
as made her look around in walking home, and lament that Highbury
afforded no young man worthy of giving her independence; nobody that
she could wish to scheme about for her.
These were charming feelings--but not lasting. Before she had
committed herself by any public profession of eternal friendship for
Jane Fairfax, or done more towards a recantation of past prejudices and
errors, than saying to Mr. Knightley, "She certainly is handsome; she
is better than handsome!" Jane had spent an evening at Hartfield with
her grandmother and aunt, and every thing was relapsing much into its
usual state. Former provocations reappeared. The aunt was as tiresome
as ever; more tiresome, because anxiety for her health was now added to
admiration of her powers; and they had to listen to the description of
exactly how little bread and butter she ate for breakfast, and how
small a slice of mutton for dinner, as well as to see exhibitions of
new caps and new workbags for her mother and herself; and Jane's
offences rose again. They had music; Emma was obliged to play; and the
thanks and praise which necessarily followed appeared to her an
affectation of candour, an air of greatness, meaning only to shew off
in higher style her own very superior performance. She was, besides,
which was the worst of all, so cold, so cautious! There was no getting
at her real opinion. Wrapt up in a cloak of politeness, she seemed
determined to hazard nothing. She was disgustingly, was suspiciously
If any thing could be more, where all was most, she was more reserved
on the subject of Weymouth and the Dixons than any thing. She seemed
bent on giving no real insight into Mr. Dixon's character, or her own
value for his company, or opinion of the suitableness of the match. It
was all general approbation and smoothness; nothing delineated or
distinguished. It did her no service however. Her caution was thrown
away. Emma saw its artifice, and returned to her first surmises.
There probably "was" something more to conceal than her own preference;
Mr. Dixon, perhaps, had been very near changing one friend for the
other, or been fixed only to Miss Campbell, for the sake of the future
twelve thousand pounds.
The like reserve prevailed on other topics. She and Mr. Frank
Churchill had been at Weymouth at the same time. It was known that
they were a little acquainted; but not a syllable of real information
could Emma procure as to what he truly was. "Was he handsome?"--"She
believed he was reckoned a very fine young man." "Was he agreeable?"--
"He was generally thought so." "Did he appear a sensible young man; a
young man of information?"--"At a watering-place, or in a common London
acquaintance, it was difficult to decide on such points. Manners were
all that could be safely judged of, under a much longer knowledge than
they had yet had of Mr. Churchill. She believed every body found his
manners pleasing." Emma could not forgive her.
Emma could not forgive her;--but as neither provocation nor resentment
were discerned by Mr. Knightley, who had been of the party, and had
seen only proper attention and pleasing behaviour on each side, he was
expressing the next morning, being at Hartfield again on business with
Mr. Woodhouse, his approbation of the whole; not so openly as he might
have done had her father been out of the room, but speaking plain
enough to be very intelligible to Emma. He had been used to think her
unjust to Jane, and had now great pleasure in marking an improvement.
"A very pleasant evening," he began, as soon as Mr. Woodhouse had been
talked into what was necessary, told that he understood, and the papers
swept away;--"particularly pleasant. You and Miss Fairfax gave us some
very good music. I do not know a more luxurious state, sir, than
sitting at one's ease to be entertained a whole evening by two such
young women; sometimes with music and sometimes with conversation. I
am sure Miss Fairfax must have found the evening pleasant, Emma. You
left nothing undone. I was glad you made her play so much, for having
no instrument at her grandmother's, it must have been a real
"I am happy you approved," said Emma, smiling; "but I hope I am not
often deficient in what is due to guests at Hartfield."
"No, my dear," said her father instantly; ""that" I am sure you are
not. There is nobody half so attentive and civil as you are. If any
thing, you are too attentiv
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