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Though now the middle of December, there had yet been no weather to prevent the
young ladies from tolerably regular exercise; and on the morrow, Emma had a
charitable visit to pay to a poor sick
family, who lived a little way out of Highbury.
Their road to this detached cottage was down Vicarage Lane, a lane leading at right
angles from the broad, though irregular, main street of the place; and, as may be
inferred, containing the blessed abode of Mr. Elton.
A few inferior dwellings were first to be passed, and then, about a quarter of a mile
down the lane rose the Vicarage, an old and not very good house, almost as close to the
road as it could be.
It had no advantage of situation; but had been very much smartened up by the present
proprietor; and, such as it was, there could be no possibility of the two friends
passing it without a slackened pace and observing eyes.--Emma's remark was--
"There it is. There go you and your riddle-book one of
these days."--Harriet's was--
"Oh, what a sweet house!--How very beautiful!--There are the yellow curtains
that Miss Nash admires so much."
"I do not often walk this way now," said Emma, as they proceeded, "but then there
will be an inducement, and I shall gradually get intimately acquainted with
all the hedges, gates, pools and pollards of this part of Highbury."
Harriet, she found, had never in her life been within side the Vicarage, and her
curiosity to see it was so extreme, that, considering exteriors and probabilities,
Emma could only class it, as a proof of
love, with Mr. Elton's seeing ready wit in her.
"I wish we could contrive it," said she; "but I cannot think of any tolerable
pretence for going in;--no servant that I want to inquire about of his housekeeper--
no message from my father."
She pondered, but could think of nothing. After a mutual silence of some minutes,
Harriet thus began again--
"I do so wonder, Miss Woodhouse, that you should not be married, or going to be
married! so charming as you are!"-- Emma laughed, and replied,
"My being charming, Harriet, is not quite enough to induce me to marry; I must find
other people charming--one other person at least.
And I am not only, not going to be married, at present, but have very little intention
of ever marrying at all." "Ah!--so you say; but I cannot believe it."
"I must see somebody very superior to any one I have seen yet, to be tempted; Mr.
Elton, you know, (recollecting herself,) is out of the question: and I do not wish to
see any such person.
I would rather not be tempted. I cannot really change for the better.
If I were to marry, I must expect to repent it."
"Dear me!--it is so odd to hear a woman talk so!"--
"I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry.
Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing! but I never have been in
love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.
And, without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such a situation as mine.
Fortune I do not want; employment I do not want; consequence I do not want: I believe
few married women are half as much mistress of their husband's house as I am of
Hartfield; and never, never could I expect
to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right in any man's
eyes as I am in my father's." "But then, to be an old maid at last, like
Miss Bates!"
"That is as formidable an image as you could present, Harriet; and if I thought I
should ever be like Miss Bates! so silly-- so satisfied--so smiling--so prosing--so
undistinguishing and unfastidious--and so
apt to tell every thing relative to every body about me, I would marry to-morrow.
But between us, I am convinced there never can be any likeness, except in being
"But still, you will be an old maid! and that's so dreadful!"
"Never mind, Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty only which
makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public!
A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old
maid! the proper sport of boys and girls, but a single woman, of good fortune, is
always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as any body else.
And the distinction is not quite so much against the candour and common sense of the
world as appears at first; for a very narrow income has a tendency to contract
the mind, and sour the temper.
Those who can barely live, and who live perforce in a very small, and generally
very inferior, society, may well be illiberal and cross.
This does not apply, however, to Miss Bates; she is only too good natured and too
silly to suit me; but, in general, she is very much to the taste of every body,
though single and though poor.
Poverty certainly has not contracted her mind: I really believe, if she had only a
shilling in the world, she would be very likely to give away sixpence of it; and
nobody is afraid of her: that is a great charm."
"Dear me! but what shall you do? how shall you employ yourself when you grow old?"
"If I know myself, Harriet, mine is an active, busy mind, with a great many
independent resources; and I do not perceive why I should be more in want of
employment at forty or fifty than one-and- twenty.
Woman's usual occupations of hand and mind will be as open to me then as they are now;
or with no important variation.
If I draw less, I shall read more; if I give up music, I shall take to carpet-work.
And as for objects of interest, objects for the affections, which is in truth the great
point of inferiority, the want of which is really the great evil to be avoided in
not marrying, I shall be very well off,
with all the children of a sister I love so much, to care about.
There will be enough of them, in all probability, to supply every sort of
sensation that declining life can need.
There will be enough for every hope and every fear; and though my attachment to
none can equal that of a parent, it suits my ideas of comfort better than what is
warmer and blinder.
My nephews and nieces!--I shall often have a niece with me."
"Do you know Miss Bates's niece? That is, I know you must have seen her a
hundred times--but are you acquainted?"
"Oh! yes; we are always forced to be acquainted whenever she comes to Highbury.
By the bye, that is almost enough to put one out of conceit with a niece.
Heaven forbid! at least, that I should ever bore people half so much about all the
Knightleys together, as she does about Jane Fairfax.
One is sick of the very name of Jane Fairfax.
Every letter from her is read forty times over; her compliments to all friends go
round and round again; and if she does but send her aunt the pattern of a stomacher,
or knit a pair of garters for her
grandmother, one hears of nothing else for a month.
I wish Jane Fairfax very well; but she tires me to death."
They were now approaching the cottage, and all idle topics were superseded.
Emma was very compassionate; and the distresses of the poor were as sure of
relief from her personal attention and kindness, her counsel and her patience, as
from her purse.
She understood their ways, could allow for their ignorance and their temptations, had
no romantic expectations of extraordinary virtue from those for whom education had
done so little; entered into their troubles
with ready sympathy, and always gave her assistance with as much intelligence as
In the present instance, it was sickness and poverty together which she came to
visit; and after remaining there as long as she could give comfort or advice, she
quitted the cottage with such an impression
of the scene as made her say to Harriet, as they walked away,
"These are the sights, Harriet, to do one good.
How trifling they make every thing else appear!--I feel now as if I could think of
nothing but these poor creatures all the rest of the day; and yet, who can say how
soon it may all vanish from my mind?"
"Very true," said Harriet. "Poor creatures! one can think of nothing
"And really, I do not think the impression will soon be over," said Emma, as she
crossed the low hedge, and tottering footstep which ended the narrow, slippery
path through the cottage garden, and brought them into the lane again.
"I do not think it will," stopping to look once more at all the outward wretchedness
of the place, and recall the still greater within.
"Oh! dear, no," said her companion.
They walked on. The lane made a slight bend; and when that
bend was passed, Mr. Elton was immediately in sight; and so near as to give Emma time
only to say farther,
"Ah! Harriet, here comes a very sudden trial of our stability in good thoughts.
Well, (smiling,) I hope it may be allowed that if compassion has produced exertion
and relief to the sufferers, it has done all that is truly important.
If we feel for the wretched, enough to do all we can for them, the rest is empty
sympathy, only distressing to ourselves." Harriet could just answer, "Oh! dear, yes,"
before the gentleman joined them.
The wants and sufferings of the poor family, however, were the first subject on
meeting. He had been going to call on them.
His visit he would now defer; but they had a very interesting parley about what could
be done and should be done. Mr. Elton then turned back to accompany
"To fall in with each other on such an errand as this," thought Emma; "to meet in
a charitable scheme; this will bring a great increase of love on each side.
I should not wonder if it were to bring on the declaration.
It must, if I were not here. I wish I were anywhere else."
Anxious to separate herself from them as far as she could, she soon afterwards took
possession of a narrow footpath, a little raised on one side of the lane, leaving
them together in the main road.
But she had not been there two minutes when she found that Harriet's habits of
dependence and imitation were bringing her up too, and that, in short, they would both
be soon after her.
This would not do; she immediately stopped, under pretence of having some alteration to
make in the lacing of her half-boot, and stooping down in complete occupation of the
footpath, begged them to have the goodness
to walk on, and she would follow in half a minute.
They did as they were desired; and by the time she judged it reasonable to have done
with her boot, she had the comfort of farther delay in her power, being overtaken
by a child from the cottage, setting out,
according to orders, with her pitcher, to fetch broth from Hartfield.
To walk by the side of this child, and talk to and question her, was the most natural
thing in the world, or would have been the most natural, had she been acting just then
without design; and by this means the
others were still able to keep ahead, without any obligation of waiting for her.
She gained on them, however, involuntarily: the child's pace was quick, and theirs
rather slow; and she was the more concerned at it, from their being evidently in a
conversation which interested them.
Mr. Elton was speaking with animation, Harriet listening with a very pleased
attention; and Emma, having sent the child on, was beginning to think how she might
draw back a little more, when they both
looked around, and she was obliged to join them.
Mr. Elton was still talking, still engaged in some interesting detail; and Emma
experienced some disappointment when she found that he was only giving his fair
companion an account of the yesterday's
party at his friend Cole's, and that she was come in herself for the Stilton cheese,
the north Wiltshire, the butter, the celery, the beet-root, and all the dessert.
"This would soon have led to something better, of course," was her consoling
reflection; "any thing interests between those who love; and any thing will serve as
introduction to what is near the heart.
If I could but have kept longer away!"
They now walked on together quietly, till within view of the vicarage pales, when a
sudden resolution, of at least getting Harriet into the house, made her again find
something very much amiss about her boot, and fall behind to arrange it once more.
She then broke the lace off short, and dexterously throwing it into a ditch, was
presently obliged to entreat them to stop, and acknowledged her inability to put
herself to rights so as to be able to walk home in tolerable comfort.
"Part of my lace is gone," said she, "and I do not know how I am to contrive.
I really am a most troublesome companion to you both, but I hope I am not often so ill-
Mr. Elton, I must beg leave to stop at your house, and ask your housekeeper for a bit
of ribband or string, or any thing just to keep my boot on."
Mr. Elton looked all happiness at this proposition; and nothing could exceed his
alertness and attention in conducting them into his house and endeavouring to make
every thing appear to advantage.
The room they were taken into was the one he chiefly occupied, and looking forwards;
behind it was another with which it immediately communicated; the door between
them was open, and Emma passed into it with
the housekeeper to receive her assistance in the most comfortable manner.
She was obliged to leave the door ajar as she found it; but she fully intended that
Mr. Elton should close it.
It was not closed, however, it still remained ajar; but by engaging the
housekeeper in incessant conversation, she hoped to make it practicable for him to
chuse his own subject in the adjoining room.
For ten minutes she could hear nothing but herself.
It could be protracted no longer.
She was then obliged to be finished, and make her appearance.
The lovers were standing together at one of the windows.
It had a most favourable aspect; and, for half a minute, Emma felt the glory of
having schemed successfully. But it would not do; he had not come to the
He had been most agreeable, most delightful; he had told Harriet that he had
seen them go by, and had purposely followed them; other little gallantries and
allusions had been dropt, but nothing serious.
"Cautious, very cautious," thought Emma; "he advances inch by inch, and will hazard
nothing till he believes himself secure."
Still, however, though every thing had not been accomplished by her ingenious device,
she could not but flatter herself that it had been the occasion of much present
enjoyment to both, and must be leading them forward to the great event.
Mr. Elton must now be left to himself. It was no longer in Emma's power to
superintend his happiness or quicken his measures.
The coming of her sister's family was so very near at hand, that first in
anticipation, and then in reality, it became henceforth her prime object of
interest; and during the ten days of their
stay at Hartfield it was not to be expected--she did not herself expect--that
any thing beyond occasional, fortuitous assistance could be afforded by her to the
They might advance rapidly if they would, however; they must advance somehow or other
whether they would or no. She hardly wished to have more leisure for
There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.
Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley, from having been longer than usual absent from Surry,
were exciting of course rather more than the usual interest.
Till this year, every long vacation since their marriage had been divided between
Hartfield and Donwell Abbey; but all the holidays of this autumn had been given to
sea-bathing for the children, and it was
therefore many months since they had been seen in a regular way by their Surry
connexions, or seen at all by Mr. Woodhouse, who could not be induced to get
so far as London, even for poor Isabella's
sake; and who consequently was now most nervously and apprehensively happy in
forestalling this too short visit.
He thought much of the evils of the journey for her, and not a little of the fatigues
of his own horses and coachman who were to bring some of the party the last half of
the way; but his alarms were needless; the
sixteen miles being happily accomplished, and Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley, their five
children, and a competent number of nursery-maids, all reaching Hartfield in
The bustle and joy of such an arrival, the many to be talked to, welcomed, encouraged,
and variously dispersed and disposed of, produced a noise and confusion which his
nerves could not have borne under any other
cause, nor have endured much longer even for this; but the ways of Hartfield and the
feelings of her father were so respected by Mrs. John Knightley, that in spite of
maternal solicitude for the immediate
enjoyment of her little ones, and for their having instantly all the liberty and
attendance, all the eating and drinking, and sleeping and playing, which they could
possibly wish for, without the smallest
delay, the children were never allowed to be long a disturbance to him, either in
themselves or in any restless attendance on them.
Mrs. John Knightley was a pretty, elegant little woman, of gentle, quiet manners, and
a disposition remarkably amiable and affectionate; wrapt up in her family; a
devoted wife, a doating mother, and so
tenderly attached to her father and sister that, but for these higher ties, a warmer
love might have seemed impossible. She could never see a fault in any of them.
She was not a woman of strong understanding or any quickness; and with this resemblance
of her father, she inherited also much of his constitution; was delicate in her own
health, over-careful of that of her
children, had many fears and many nerves, and was as fond of her own Mr. Wingfield in
town as her father could be of Mr. Perry.
They were alike too, in a general benevolence of temper, and a strong habit
of regard for every old acquaintance.
Mr. John Knightley was a tall, gentleman- like, and very clever man; rising in his
profession, domestic, and respectable in his private character; but with reserved
manners which prevented his being generally
pleasing; and capable of being sometimes out of humour.
He was not an ill-tempered man, not so often unreasonably cross as to deserve such
a reproach; but his temper was not his great perfection; and, indeed, with such a
worshipping wife, it was hardly possible
that any natural defects in it should not be increased.
The extreme sweetness of her temper must hurt his.
He had all the clearness and quickness of mind which she wanted, and he could
sometimes act an ungracious, or say a severe thing.
He was not a great favourite with his fair sister-in-law.
Nothing wrong in him escaped her.
She was quick in feeling the little injuries to Isabella, which Isabella never
felt herself.
Perhaps she might have passed over more had his manners been flattering to Isabella's
sister, but they were only those of a calmly kind brother and friend, without
praise and without blindness; but hardly
any degree of personal compliment could have made her regardless of that greatest
fault of all in her eyes which he sometimes fell into, the want of respectful
forbearance towards her father.
There he had not always the patience that could have been wished.
Mr. Woodhouse's peculiarities and fidgetiness were sometimes provoking him to
a rational remonstrance or sharp retort equally ill-bestowed.
It did not often happen; for Mr. John Knightley had really a great regard for his
father-in-law, and generally a strong sense of what was due to him; but it was too
often for Emma's charity, especially as
there was all the pain of apprehension frequently to be endured, though the
offence came not.
The beginning, however, of every visit displayed none but the properest feelings,
and this being of necessity so short might be hoped to pass away in unsullied
They had not been long seated and composed when Mr. Woodhouse, with a melancholy shake
of the head and a sigh, called his daughter's attention to the sad change at
Hartfield since she had been there last.
"Ah, my dear," said he, "poor Miss Taylor-- It is a grievous business."
"Oh yes, sir," cried she with ready sympathy, "how you must miss her!
And dear Emma, too!--What a dreadful loss to you both!--I have been so grieved for
you.--I could not imagine how you could possibly do without her.--It is a sad
change indeed.--But I hope she is pretty well, sir."
"Pretty well, my dear--I hope--pretty well.--I do not know but that the place
agrees with her tolerably."
Mr. John Knightley here asked Emma quietly whether there were any doubts of the air of
Randalls. "Oh! no--none in the least.
I never saw Mrs. Weston better in my life-- never looking so well.
Papa is only speaking his own regret." "Very much to the honour of both," was the
handsome reply.
"And do you see her, sir, tolerably often?" asked Isabella in the plaintive tone which
just suited her father. Mr. Woodhouse hesitated.--"Not near so
often, my dear, as I could wish."
"Oh! papa, we have missed seeing them but one entire day since they married.
Either in the morning or evening of every day, excepting one, have we seen either Mr.
Weston or Mrs. Weston, and generally both, either at Randalls or here--and as you may
suppose, Isabella, most frequently here.
They are very, very kind in their visits. Mr. Weston is really as kind as herself.
Papa, if you speak in that melancholy way, you will be giving Isabella a false idea of
us all.
Every body must be aware that Miss Taylor must be missed, but every body ought also
to be assured that Mr. and Mrs. Weston do really prevent our missing her by any means
to the extent we ourselves anticipated-- which is the exact truth."
"Just as it should be," said Mr. John Knightley, "and just as I hoped it was from
your letters.
Her wish of shewing you attention could not be doubted, and his being a disengaged and
social man makes it all easy.
I have been always telling you, my love, that I had no idea of the change being so
very material to Hartfield as you apprehended; and now you have Emma's
account, I hope you will be satisfied."
"Why, to be sure," said Mr. Woodhouse-- "yes, certainly--I cannot deny that Mrs.
Weston, poor Mrs. Weston, does come and see us pretty often--but then--she is always
obliged to go away again."
"It would be very hard upon Mr. Weston if she did not, papa.--You quite forget poor
Mr. Weston."
"I think, indeed," said John Knightley pleasantly, "that Mr. Weston has some
little claim. You and I, Emma, will venture to take the
part of the poor husband.
I, being a husband, and you not being a wife, the claims of the man may very likely
strike us with equal force.
As for Isabella, she has been married long enough to see the convenience of putting
all the Mr. Westons aside as much as she can."
"Me, my love," cried his wife, hearing and understanding only in part.-- "Are you
talking about me?--I am sure nobody ought to be, or can be, a greater advocate for
matrimony than I am; and if it had not been
for the misery of her leaving Hartfield, I should never have thought of Miss Taylor
but as the most fortunate woman in the world; and as to slighting Mr. Weston, that
excellent Mr. Weston, I think there is nothing he does not deserve.
I believe he is one of the very best- tempered men that ever existed.
Excepting yourself and your brother, I do not know his equal for temper.
I shall never forget his flying Henry's kite for him that very windy day last
Easter--and ever since his particular kindness last September twelvemonth in
writing that note, at twelve o'clock at
night, on purpose to assure me that there was no scarlet fever at Cobham, I have been
convinced there could not be a more feeling heart nor a better man in existence.--If
any body can deserve him, it must be Miss Taylor."
"Where is the young man?" said John Knightley.
"Has he been here on this occasion--or has he not?"
"He has not been here yet," replied Emma.
"There was a strong expectation of his coming soon after the marriage, but it
ended in nothing; and I have not heard him mentioned lately."
"But you should tell them of the letter, my dear," said her father.
"He wrote a letter to poor Mrs. Weston, to congratulate her, and a very proper,
handsome letter it was.
She shewed it to me. I thought it very well done of him indeed.
Whether it was his own idea you know, one cannot tell.
He is but young, and his uncle, perhaps--"
"My dear papa, he is three-and-twenty. You forget how time passes."
"Three-and-twenty!--is he indeed?--Well, I could not have thought it--and he was but
two years old when he lost his poor mother!
Well, time does fly indeed!--and my memory is very bad.
However, it was an exceeding good, pretty letter, and gave Mr. and Mrs. Weston a
great deal of pleasure.
I remember it was written from Weymouth, and dated Sept.
28th--and began, 'My dear Madam,' but I forget how it went on; and it was signed
'F. C. Weston Churchill.'--I remember that perfectly."
"How very pleasing and proper of him!" cried the good-hearted Mrs. John Knightley.
"I have no doubt of his being a most amiable young man.
But how sad it is that he should not live at home with his father!
There is something so shocking in a child's being taken away from his parents and
natural home!
I never could comprehend how Mr. Weston could part with him.
To give up one's child!
I really never could think well of any body who proposed such a thing to any body
"Nobody ever did think well of the Churchills, I fancy," observed Mr. John
Knightley coolly.
"But you need not imagine Mr. Weston to have felt what you would feel in giving up
Henry or John.
Mr. Weston is rather an easy, cheerful- tempered man, than a man of strong
feelings; he takes things as he finds them, and makes enjoyment of them somehow or
other, depending, I suspect, much more upon
what is called society for his comforts, that is, upon the power of eating and
drinking, and playing whist with his neighbours five times a week, than upon
family affection, or any thing that home affords."
Emma could not like what bordered on a reflection on Mr. Weston, and had half a
mind to take it up; but she struggled, and let it pass.
She would keep the peace if possible; and there was something honourable and valuable
in the strong domestic habits, the all- sufficiency of home to himself, whence
resulted her brother's disposition to look
down on the common rate of social intercourse, and those to whom it was
important.--It had a high claim to forbearance.
Mr. Knightley was to dine with them--rather against the inclination of Mr. Woodhouse,
who did not like that any one should share with him in Isabella's first day.
Emma's sense of right however had decided it; and besides the consideration of what
was due to each brother, she had particular pleasure, from the circumstance of the late
disagreement between Mr. Knightley and
herself, in procuring him the proper invitation.
She hoped they might now become friends again.
She thought it was time to make up.
Making-up indeed would not do. She certainly had not been in the wrong,
and he would never own that he had.
Concession must be out of the question; but it was time to appear to forget that they
had ever quarrelled; and she hoped it might rather assist the restoration of
friendship, that when he came into the room
she had one of the children with her--the youngest, a nice little girl about eight
months old, who was now making her first visit to Hartfield, and very happy to be
danced about in her aunt's arms.
It did assist; for though he began with grave looks and short questions, he was
soon led on to talk of them all in the usual way, and to take the child out of her
arms with all the unceremoniousness of perfect amity.
Emma felt they were friends again; and the conviction giving her at first great
satisfaction, and then a little sauciness, she could not help saying, as he was
admiring the baby,
"What a comfort it is, that we think alike about our nephews and nieces.
As to men and women, our opinions are sometimes very different; but with regard
to these children, I observe we never disagree."
"If you were as much guided by nature in your estimate of men and women, and as
little under the power of fancy and whim in your dealings with them, as you are where
these children are concerned, we might always think alike."
"To be sure--our discordancies must always arise from my being in the wrong."
"Yes," said he, smiling--"and reason good.
I was sixteen years old when you were born."
"A material difference then," she replied-- "and no doubt you were much my superior in
judgment at that period of our lives; but does not the lapse of one-and-twenty years
bring our understandings a good deal nearer?"
"Yes--a good deal nearer."
"But still, not near enough to give me a chance of being right, if we think
"I have still the advantage of you by sixteen years' experience, and by not being
a pretty young woman and a spoiled child. Come, my dear Emma, let us be friends, and
say no more about it.
Tell your aunt, little Emma, that she ought to set you a better example than to be
renewing old grievances, and that if she were not wrong before, she is now."
"That's true," she cried--"very true.
Little Emma, grow up a better woman than your aunt.
Be infinitely cleverer and not half so conceited.
Now, Mr. Knightley, a word or two more, and I have done.
As far as good intentions went, we were both right, and I must say that no
effects on my side of the argument have yet proved wrong.
I only want to know that Mr. Martin is not very, very bitterly disappointed."
"A man cannot be more so," was his short, full answer.
"Ah!--Indeed I am very sorry.--Come, shake hands with me."
This had just taken place and with great cordiality, when John Knightley made his
appearance, and "How d'ye do, George?" and "John, how are you?" succeeded in the true
English style, burying under a calmness
that seemed all but indifference, the real attachment which would have led either of
them, if requisite, to do every thing for the good of the other.
The evening was quiet and conversable, as Mr. Woodhouse declined cards entirely for
the sake of comfortable talk with his dear Isabella, and the little party made two
natural divisions; on one side he and his
daughter; on the other the two Mr. Knightleys; their subjects totally
distinct, or very rarely mixing--and Emma only occasionally joining in one or the
The brothers talked of their own concerns and pursuits, but principally of those of
the elder, whose temper was by much the most communicative, and who was always the
greater talker.
As a magistrate, he had generally some point of law to consult John about, or, at
least, some curious anecdote to give; and as a farmer, as keeping in hand the home-
farm at Donwell, he had to tell what every
field was to bear next year, and to give all such local information as could not
fail of being interesting to a brother whose home it had equally been the longest
part of his life, and whose attachments were strong.
The plan of a drain, the change of a fence, the felling of a tree, and the destination
of every acre for wheat, turnips, or spring corn, was entered into with as much
equality of interest by John, as his cooler
manners rendered possible; and if his willing brother ever left him any thing to
inquire about, his inquiries even approached a tone of eagerness.
While they were thus comfortably occupied, Mr. Woodhouse was enjoying a full flow of
happy regrets and fearful affection with his daughter.
"My poor dear Isabella," said he, fondly taking her hand, and interrupting, for a
few moments, her busy labours for some one of her five children--"How long it is, how
terribly long since you were here!
And how tired you must be after your journey!
You must go to bed early, my dear--and I recommend a little gruel to you before you
go.--You and I will have a nice basin of gruel together.
My dear Emma, suppose we all have a little gruel."
Emma could not suppose any such thing, knowing as she did, that both the Mr.
Knightleys were as unpersuadable on that article as herself;--and two basins only
were ordered.
After a little more discourse in praise of gruel, with some wondering at its not being
taken every evening by every body, he proceeded to say, with an air of grave
"It was an awkward business, my dear, your spending the autumn at South End instead of
coming here. I never had much opinion of the sea air."
"Mr. Wingfield most strenuously recommended it, sir--or we should not have gone.
He recommended it for all the children, but particularly for the weakness in little
Bella's throat,--both sea air and bathing."
"Ah! my dear, but Perry had many doubts about the sea doing her any good; and as to
myself, I have been long perfectly convinced, though perhaps I never told you
so before, that the sea is very rarely of use to any body.
I am sure it almost killed me once."
"Come, come," cried Emma, feeling this to be an unsafe subject, "I must beg you not
to talk of the sea. It makes me envious and miserable;--I who
have never seen it!
South End is prohibited, if you please. My dear Isabella, I have not heard you make
one inquiry about Mr. Perry yet; and he never forgets you."
"Oh! good Mr. Perry--how is he, sir?"
"Why, pretty well; but not quite well.
Poor Perry is bilious, and he has not time to take care of himself--he tells me he has
not time to take care of himself--which is very sad--but he is always wanted all round
the country.
I suppose there is not a man in such practice anywhere.
But then there is not so clever a man any where."
"And Mrs. Perry and the children, how are they? do the children grow?
I have a great regard for Mr. Perry. I hope he will be calling soon.
He will be so pleased to see my little ones."
"I hope he will be here to-morrow, for I have a question or two to ask him about
myself of some consequence.
And, my dear, whenever he comes, you had better let him look at little Bella's
"Oh! my dear sir, her throat is so much better that I have hardly any uneasiness
about it.
Either bathing has been of the greatest service to her, or else it is to be
attributed to an excellent embrocation of Mr. Wingfield's, which we have been
applying at times ever since August."
"It is not very likely, my dear, that bathing should have been of use to her--and
if I had known you were wanting an embrocation, I would have spoken to--
"You seem to me to have forgotten Mrs. and Miss Bates," said Emma, "I have not heard
one inquiry after them."
"Oh! the good Bateses--I am quite ashamed of myself--but you mention them in most of
your letters. I hope they are quite well.
Good old Mrs. Bates--I will call upon her to-morrow, and take my children.--They are
always so pleased to see my children.--And that excellent Miss Bates!--such thorough
worthy people!--How are they, sir?"
"Why, pretty well, my dear, upon the whole. But poor Mrs. Bates had a bad cold about a
month ago." "How sorry I am!
But colds were never so prevalent as they have been this autumn.
Mr. Wingfield told me that he has never known them more general or heavy--except
when it has been quite an influenza."
"That has been a good deal the case, my dear; but not to the degree you mention.
Perry says that colds have been very general, but not so heavy as he has very
often known them in November.
Perry does not call it altogether a sickly season."
"No, I do not know that Mr. Wingfield considers it very sickly except--
"Ah! my poor dear child, the truth is, that in London it is always a sickly season.
Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be.
It is a dreadful thing to have you forced to live there! so far off!--and the air so
bad!" "No, indeed--we are not at all in a bad
Our part of London is very superior to most others!--You must not confound us with
London in general, my dear sir. The neighbourhood of Brunswick Square is
very different from almost all the rest.
We are so very airy!
I should be unwilling, I own, to live in any other part of the town;--there is
hardly any other that I could be satisfied to have my children in: but we are so
remarkably airy!--Mr. Wingfield thinks the
vicinity of Brunswick Square decidedly the most favourable as to air."
"Ah! my dear, it is not like Hartfield.
You make the best of it--but after you have been a week at Hartfield, you are all of
you different creatures; you do not look like the same.
Now I cannot say, that I think you are any of you looking well at present."
"I am sorry to hear you say so, sir; but I assure you, excepting those little nervous
head-aches and palpitations which I am never entirely free from anywhere, I am
quite well myself; and if the children were
rather pale before they went to bed, it was only because they were a little more tired
than usual, from their journey and the happiness of coming.
I hope you will think better of their looks to-morrow; for I assure you Mr. Wingfield
told me, that he did not believe he had ever sent us off altogether, in such good
I trust, at least, that you do not think Mr. Knightley looking ill," turning her
eyes with affectionate anxiety towards her husband.
"Middling, my dear; I cannot compliment you.
I think Mr. John Knightley very far from looking well."
"What is the matter, sir?--Did you speak to me?" cried Mr. John Knightley, hearing his
own name.
"I am sorry to find, my love, that my father does not think you looking well--but
I hope it is only from being a little fatigued.
I could have wished, however, as you know, that you had seen Mr. Wingfield before you
left home."
"My dear Isabella,"--exclaimed he hastily-- "pray do not concern yourself about my
Be satisfied with doctoring and coddling yourself and the children, and let me look
as I chuse."
"I did not thoroughly understand what you were telling your brother," cried Emma,
"about your friend Mr. Graham's intending to have a bailiff from Scotland, to look
after his new estate.
What will it answer? Will not the old prejudice be too strong?"
And she talked in this way so long and successfully that, when forced to give her
attention again to her father and sister, she had nothing worse to hear than
Isabella's kind inquiry after Jane Fairfax;
and Jane Fairfax, though no great favourite with her in general, she was at that moment
very happy to assist in praising.
"That sweet, amiable Jane Fairfax!" said Mrs. John Knightley.--"It is so long since
I have seen her, except now and then for a moment accidentally in town!
What happiness it must be to her good old grandmother and excellent aunt, when she
comes to visit them!
I always regret excessively on dear Emma's account that she cannot be more at
Highbury; but now their daughter is married, I suppose Colonel and Mrs.
Campbell will not be able to part with her at all.
She would be such a delightful companion for Emma."
Mr. Woodhouse agreed to it all, but added,
"Our little friend Harriet Smith, however, is just such another pretty kind of young
person. You will like Harriet.
Emma could not have a better companion than Harriet."
"I am most happy to hear it--but only Jane Fairfax one knows to be so very
accomplished and superior!--and exactly Emma's age."
This topic was discussed very happily, and others succeeded of similar moment, and
passed away with similar harmony; but the evening did not close without a little
return of agitation.
The gruel came and supplied a great deal to be said--much praise and many comments--
undoubting decision of its wholesomeness for every constitution, and pretty severe
Philippics upon the many houses where it
was never met with tolerable;--but, unfortunately, among the failures which the
daughter had to instance, the most recent, and therefore most prominent, was in her
own cook at South End, a young woman hired
for the time, who never had been able to understand what she meant by a basin of
nice smooth gruel, thin, but not too thin.
Often as she had wished for and ordered it, she had never been able to get any thing
tolerable. Here was a dangerous opening.
"Ah!" said Mr. Woodhouse, shaking his head and fixing his eyes on her with tender
concern.--The ejaculation in Emma's ear expressed, "Ah! there is no end of the sad
consequences of your going to South End.
It does not bear talking of." And for a little while she hoped he would
not talk of it, and that a silent rumination might suffice to restore him to
the relish of his own smooth gruel.
After an interval of some minutes, however, he began with,
"I shall always be very sorry that you went to the sea this autumn, instead of coming
"But why should you be sorry, sir?--I assure you, it did the children a great
deal of good." "And, moreover, if you must go to the sea,
it had better not have been to South End.
South End is an unhealthy place. Perry was surprized to hear you had fixed
upon South End."
"I know there is such an idea with many people, but indeed it is quite a mistake,
sir.--We all had our health perfectly well there, never found the least inconvenience
from the mud; and Mr. Wingfield says it is
entirely a mistake to suppose the place unhealthy; and I am sure he may be depended
on, for he thoroughly understands the nature of the air, and his own brother and
family have been there repeatedly."
"You should have gone to Cromer, my dear, if you went anywhere.--Perry was a week at
Cromer once, and he holds it to be the best of all the sea-bathing places.
A fine open sea, he says, and very pure air.
And, by what I understand, you might have had lodgings there quite away from the sea-
-a quarter of a mile off--very comfortable.
You should have consulted Perry." "But, my dear sir, the difference of the
journey;--only consider how great it would have been.--An hundred miles, perhaps,
instead of forty."
"Ah! my dear, as Perry says, where health is at stake, nothing else should be
considered; and if one is to travel, there is not much to chuse between forty miles
and an hundred.--Better not move at all,
better stay in London altogether than travel forty miles to get into a worse air.
This is just what Perry said. It seemed to him a very ill-judged
Emma's attempts to stop her father had been vain; and when he had reached such a point
as this, she could not wonder at her brother-in-law's breaking out.
"Mr. Perry," said he, in a voice of very strong displeasure, "would do as well to
keep his opinion till it is asked for.
Why does he make it any business of his, to wonder at what I do?--at my taking my
family to one part of the coast or another?--I may be allowed, I hope, the use
of my judgment as well as Mr. Perry.--I
want his directions no more than his drugs."
He paused--and growing cooler in a moment, added, with only sarcastic dryness, "If Mr.
Perry can tell me how to convey a wife and five children a distance of an hundred and
thirty miles with no greater expense or
inconvenience than a distance of forty, I should be as willing to prefer Cromer to
South End as he could himself." "True, true," cried Mr. Knightley, with
most ready interposition--"very true.
That's a consideration indeed.--But John, as to what I was telling you of my idea of
moving the path to Langham, of turning it more to the right that it may not cut
through the home meadows, I cannot conceive any difficulty.
I should not attempt it, if it were to be the means of inconvenience to the Highbury
people, but if you call to mind exactly the present line of the path....
The only way of proving it, however, will be to turn to our maps.
I shall see you at the Abbey to-morrow morning I hope, and then we will look them
over, and you shall give me your opinion."
Mr. Woodhouse was rather agitated by such harsh reflections on his friend Perry, to
whom he had, in fact, though unconsciously, been attributing many of his own feelings
and expressions;--but the soothing
attentions of his daughters gradually removed the present evil, and the immediate
alertness of one brother, and better recollections of the other, prevented any
renewal of it.
There could hardly be a happier creature in the world than Mrs. John Knightley, in this
short visit to Hartfield, going about every morning among her old acquaintance with her
five children, and talking over what she
had done every evening with her father and sister.
She had nothing to wish otherwise, but that the days did not pass so swiftly.
It was a delightful visit;--perfect, in being much too short.
In general their evenings were less engaged with friends than their mornings; but one
complete dinner engagement, and out of the house too, there was no avoiding, though at
Mr. Weston would take no denial; they must all dine at Randalls one day;--even Mr.
Woodhouse was persuaded to think it a possible thing in preference to a division
of the party.
How they were all to be conveyed, he would have made a difficulty if he could, but as
his son and daughter's carriage and horses were actually at Hartfield, he was not able
to make more than a simple question on that
head; it hardly amounted to a doubt; nor did it occupy Emma long to convince him
that they might in one of the carriages find room for Harriet also.
Harriet, Mr. Elton, and Mr. Knightley, their own especial set, were the only
persons invited to meet them;--the hours were to be early, as well as the numbers
few; Mr. Woodhouse's habits and inclination being consulted in every thing.
The evening before this great event (for it was a very great event that Mr. Woodhouse
should dine out, on the 24th of December) had been spent by Harriet at Hartfield, and
she had gone home so much indisposed with a
cold, that, but for her own earnest wish of being nursed by Mrs. Goddard, Emma could
not have allowed her to leave the house.
Emma called on her the next day, and found her doom already signed with regard to
She was very feverish and had a bad sore throat: Mrs. Goddard was full of care and
affection, Mr. Perry was talked of, and Harriet herself was too ill and low to
resist the authority which excluded her
from this delightful engagement, though she could not speak of her loss without many
Emma sat with her as long as she could, to attend her in Mrs. Goddard's unavoidable
absences, and raise her spirits by representing how much Mr. Elton's would be
depressed when he knew her state; and left
her at last tolerably comfortable, in the sweet dependence of his having a most
comfortless visit, and of their all missing her very much.
She had not advanced many yards from Mrs. Goddard's door, when she was met by Mr.
Elton himself, evidently coming towards it, and as they walked on slowly together in
conversation about the invalid--of whom he,
on the rumour of considerable illness, had been going to inquire, that he might carry
some report of her to Hartfield--they were overtaken by Mr. John Knightley returning
from the daily visit to Donwell, with his
two eldest boys, whose healthy, glowing faces shewed all the benefit of a country
run, and seemed to ensure a quick despatch of the roast mutton and rice pudding they
were hastening home for.
They joined company and proceeded together.
Emma was just describing the nature of her friend's complaint;--"a throat very much
inflamed, with a great deal of heat about her, a quick, low pulse, &c. and she was
sorry to find from Mrs. Goddard that
Harriet was liable to very bad sore- throats, and had often alarmed her with
them." Mr. Elton looked all alarm on the occasion,
as he exclaimed,
"A sore-throat!--I hope not infectious. I hope not of a putrid infectious sort.
Has Perry seen her? Indeed you should take care of yourself as
well as of your friend.
Let me entreat you to run no risks. Why does not Perry see her?"
Emma, who was not really at all frightened herself, tranquillised this excess of
apprehension by assurances of Mrs. Goddard's experience and care; but as there
must still remain a degree of uneasiness
which she could not wish to reason away, which she would rather feed and assist than
not, she added soon afterwards--as if quite another subject,
"It is so cold, so very cold--and looks and feels so very much like snow, that if it
were to any other place or with any other party, I should really try not to go out
to-day--and dissuade my father from
venturing; but as he has made up his mind, and does not seem to feel the cold himself,
I do not like to interfere, as I know it would be so great a disappointment to Mr.
and Mrs. Weston.
But, upon my word, Mr. Elton, in your case, I should certainly excuse myself.
You appear to me a little hoarse already, and when you consider what demand of voice
and what fatigues to-morrow will bring, I think it would be no more than common
prudence to stay at home and take care of yourself to-night."
Mr. Elton looked as if he did not very well know what answer to make; which was exactly
the case; for though very much gratified by the kind care of such a fair lady, and not
liking to resist any advice of her's, he
had not really the least inclination to give up the visit;--but Emma, too eager and
busy in her own previous conceptions and views to hear him impartially, or see him
with clear vision, was very well satisfied
with his muttering acknowledgment of its being "very cold, certainly very cold," and
walked on, rejoicing in having extricated him from Randalls, and secured him the
power of sending to inquire after Harriet every hour of the evening.
"You do quite right," said she;--"we will make your apologies to Mr. and Mrs.
But hardly had she so spoken, when she found her brother was civilly offering a
seat in his carriage, if the weather were Mr. Elton's only objection, and Mr. Elton
actually accepting the offer with much prompt satisfaction.
It was a done thing; Mr. Elton was to go, and never had his broad handsome face
expressed more pleasure than at this moment; never had his smile been stronger,
nor his eyes more exulting than when he next looked at her.
"Well," said she to herself, "this is most strange!--After I had got him off so well,
to chuse to go into company, and leave Harriet ill behind!--Most strange indeed!--
But there is, I believe, in many men,
especially single men, such an inclination- -such a passion for dining out--a dinner
engagement is so high in the class of their pleasures, their employments, their
dignities, almost their duties, that any
thing gives way to it--and this must be the case with Mr. Elton; a most valuable,
amiable, pleasing young man undoubtedly, and very much in love with Harriet; but
still, he cannot refuse an invitation, he must dine out wherever he is asked.
What a strange thing love is! he can see ready wit in Harriet, but will not dine
alone for her."
Soon afterwards Mr. Elton quitted them, and she could not but do him the justice of
feeling that there was a great deal of sentiment in his manner of naming Harriet
at parting; in the tone of his voice while
assuring her that he should call at Mrs. Goddard's for news of her fair friend, the
last thing before he prepared for the happiness of meeting her again, when he
hoped to be able to give a better report;
and he sighed and smiled himself off in a way that left the balance of approbation
much in his favour. After a few minutes of entire silence
between them, John Knightley began with--
"I never in my life saw a man more intent on being agreeable than Mr. Elton.
It is downright labour to him where ladies are concerned.
With men he can be rational and unaffected, but when he has ladies to please, every
feature works."
"Mr. Elton's manners are not perfect," replied Emma; "but where there is a wish to
please, one ought to overlook, and one does overlook a great deal.
Where a man does his best with only moderate powers, he will have the advantage
over negligent superiority. There is such perfect good-temper and good-
will in Mr. Elton as one cannot but value."
"Yes," said Mr. John Knightley presently, with some slyness, "he seems to have a
great deal of good-will towards you."
"Me!" she replied with a smile of astonishment, "are you imagining me to be
Mr. Elton's object?"
"Such an imagination has crossed me, I own, Emma; and if it never occurred to you
before, you may as well take it into consideration now."
"Mr. Elton in love with me!--What an idea!"
"I do not say it is so; but you will do well to consider whether it is so or not,
and to regulate your behaviour accordingly. I think your manners to him encouraging.
I speak as a friend, Emma.
You had better look about you, and ascertain what you do, and what you mean to
do." "I thank you; but I assure you you are
quite mistaken.
Mr. Elton and I are very good friends, and nothing more;" and she walked on, amusing
herself in the consideration of the blunders which often arise from a partial
knowledge of circumstances, of the mistakes
which people of high pretensions to judgment are for ever falling into; and not
very well pleased with her brother for imagining her blind and ignorant, and in
want of counsel.
He said no more.
Mr. Woodhouse had so completely made up his mind to the visit, that in spite of the
increasing coldness, he seemed to have no idea of shrinking from it, and set forward
at last most punctually with his eldest
daughter in his own carriage, with less apparent consciousness of the weather than
either of the others; too full of the wonder of his own going, and the pleasure
it was to afford at Randalls to see that it was cold, and too well wrapt up to feel it.
The cold, however, was severe; and by the time the second carriage was in motion, a
few flakes of snow were finding their way down, and the sky had the appearance of
being so overcharged as to want only a
milder air to produce a very white world in a very short time.
Emma soon saw that her companion was not in the happiest humour.
The preparing and the going abroad in such weather, with the sacrifice of his children
after dinner, were evils, were disagreeables at least, which Mr. John
Knightley did not by any means like; he
anticipated nothing in the visit that could be at all worth the purchase; and the whole
of their drive to the vicarage was spent by him in expressing his discontent.
"A man," said he, "must have a very good opinion of himself when he asks people to
leave their own fireside, and encounter such a day as this, for the sake of coming
to see him.
He must think himself a most agreeable fellow; I could not do such a thing.