<SPAN name="link2HCH0025" id="link2HCH0025">
<!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN>
<div style="height: 4em;">
<br /><br /><br /><br />
Emma's very good opinion of Frank Churchill was a little shaken the
following day, by hearing that he was gone off to London, merely to have
his hair cut. A sudden freak seemed to have seized him at breakfast, and
he had sent for a chaise and set off, intending to return to dinner, but
with no more important view that appeared than having his hair cut. There
was certainly no harm in his travelling sixteen miles twice over on such
an errand; but there was an air of foppery and nonsense in it which she
could not approve. It did not accord with the rationality of plan, the
moderation in expense, or even the unselfish warmth of heart, which she
had believed herself to discern in him yesterday. Vanity, extravagance,
love of change, restlessness of temper, which must be doing something,
good or bad; heedlessness as to the pleasure of his father and Mrs.
Weston, indifferent as to how his conduct might appear in general; he
became liable to all these charges. His father only called him a coxcomb,
and thought it a very good story; but that Mrs. Weston did not like it,
was clear enough, by her passing it over as quickly as possible, and
making no other comment than that "all young people would have their
With the exception of this little blot, Emma found that his visit hitherto
had given her friend only good ideas of him. Mrs. Weston was very ready to
say how attentive and pleasant a companion he made himself—how much
she saw to like in his disposition altogether. He appeared to have a very
open temper—certainly a very cheerful and lively one; she could
observe nothing wrong in his notions, a great deal decidedly right; he
spoke of his uncle with warm regard, was fond of talking of him—said
he would be the best man in the world if he were left to himself; and
though there was no being attached to the aunt, he acknowledged her
kindness with gratitude, and seemed to mean always to speak of her with
respect. This was all very promising; and, but for such an unfortunate
fancy for having his hair cut, there was nothing to denote him unworthy of
the distinguished honour which her imagination had given him; the honour,
if not of being really in love with her, of being at least very near it,
and saved only by her own indifference—(for still her resolution
held of never marrying)—the honour, in short, of being marked out
for her by all their joint acquaintance.
Mr. Weston, on his side, added a virtue to the account which must have
some weight. He gave her to understand that Frank admired her extremely—thought
her very beautiful and very charming; and with so much to be said for him
altogether, she found she must not judge him harshly. As Mrs. Weston
observed, "all young people would have their little whims."
There was one person among his new acquaintance in Surry, not so leniently
disposed. In general he was judged, throughout the parishes of Donwell and
Highbury, with great candour; liberal allowances were made for the little
excesses of such a handsome young man—one who smiled so often and
bowed so well; but there was one spirit among them not to be softened,
from its power of censure, by bows or smiles—Mr. Knightley. The
circumstance was told him at Hartfield; for the moment, he was silent; but
Emma heard him almost immediately afterwards say to himself, over a
newspaper he held in his hand, "Hum! just the trifling, silly fellow I
took him for." She had half a mind to resent; but an instant's observation
convinced her that it was really said only to relieve his own feelings,
and not meant to provoke; and therefore she let it pass.
Although in one instance the bearers of not good tidings, Mr. and Mrs.
Weston's visit this morning was in another respect particularly opportune.
Something occurred while they were at Hartfield, to make Emma want their
advice; and, which was still more lucky, she wanted exactly the advice
This was the occurrence:—The Coles had been settled some years in
Highbury, and were very good sort of people—friendly, liberal, and
unpretending; but, on the other hand, they were of low origin, in trade,
and only moderately genteel. On their first coming into the country, they
had lived in proportion to their income, quietly, keeping little company,
and that little unexpensively; but the last year or two had brought them a
considerable increase of means—the house in town had yielded greater
profits, and fortune in general had smiled on them. With their wealth,
their views increased; their want of a larger house, their inclination for
more company. They added to their house, to their number of servants, to
their expenses of every sort; and by this time were, in fortune and style
of living, second only to the family at Hartfield. Their love of society,
and their new dining-room, prepared every body for their keeping
dinner-company; and a few parties, chiefly among the single men, had
already taken place. The regular and best families Emma could hardly
suppose they would presume to invite—neither Donwell, nor Hartfield,
nor Randalls. Nothing should tempt <i>her</i> to go, if they did; and she
regretted that her father's known habits would be giving her refusal less
meaning than she could wish. The Coles were very respectable in their way,
but they ought to be taught that it was not for them to arrange the terms
on which the superior families would visit them. This lesson, she very
much feared, they would receive only from herself; she had little hope of
Mr. Knightley, none of Mr. Weston.
But she had made up her mind how to meet this presumption so many weeks
before it appeared, that when the insult came at last, it found her very
differently affected. Donwell and Randalls had received their invitation,
and none had come for her father and herself; and Mrs. Weston's accounting
for it with "I suppose they will not take the liberty with you; they know
you do not dine out," was not quite sufficient. She felt that she should
like to have had the power of refusal; and afterwards, as the idea of the
party to be assembled there, consisting precisely of those whose society
was dearest to her, occurred again and again, she did not know that she
might not have been tempted to accept. Harriet was to be there in the
evening, and the Bateses. They had been speaking of it as they walked
about Highbury the day before, and Frank Churchill had most earnestly
lamented her absence. Might not the evening end in a dance? had been a
question of his. The bare possibility of it acted as a farther irritation
on her spirits; and her being left in solitary grandeur, even supposing
the omission to be intended as a compliment, was but poor comfort.
It was the arrival of this very invitation while the Westons were at
Hartfield, which made their presence so acceptable; for though her first
remark, on reading it, was that "of course it must be declined," she so
very soon proceeded to ask them what they advised her to do, that their
advice for her going was most prompt and successful.
She owned that, considering every thing, she was not absolutely without
inclination for the party. The Coles expressed themselves so properly—there
was so much real attention in the manner of it—so much consideration
for her father. "They would have solicited the honour earlier, but had
been waiting the arrival of a folding-screen from London, which they hoped
might keep Mr. Woodhouse from any draught of air, and therefore induce him
the more readily to give them the honour of his company." Upon the whole,
she was very persuadable; and it being briefly settled among themselves
how it might be done without neglecting his comfort—how certainly
Mrs. Goddard, if not Mrs. Bates, might be depended on for bearing him
company—Mr. Woodhouse was to be talked into an acquiescence of his
daughter's going out to dinner on a day now near at hand, and spending the
whole evening away from him. As for <i>his</i> going, Emma did not wish
him to think it possible, the hours would be too late, and the party too
numerous. He was soon pretty well resigned.
"I am not fond of dinner-visiting," said he—"I never was. No more is
Emma. Late hours do not agree with us. I am sorry Mr. and Mrs. Cole should
have done it. I think it would be much better if they would come in one
afternoon next summer, and take their tea with us—take us in their
afternoon walk; which they might do, as our hours are so reasonable, and
yet get home without being out in the damp of the evening. The dews of a
summer evening are what I would not expose any body to. However, as they
are so very desirous to have dear Emma dine with them, and as you will
both be there, and Mr. Knightley too, to take care of her, I cannot wish
to prevent it, provided the weather be what it ought, neither damp, nor
cold, nor windy." Then turning to Mrs. Weston, with a look of gentle
reproach—"Ah! Miss Taylor, if you had not married, you would have
staid at home with me."
"Well, sir," cried Mr. Weston, "as I took Miss Taylor away, it is
incumbent on me to supply her place, if I can; and I will step to Mrs.
Goddard in a moment, if you wish it."
But the idea of any thing to be done in a <i>moment</i>, was increasing,
not lessening, Mr. Woodhouse's agitation. The ladies knew better how to
allay it. Mr. Weston must be quiet, and every thing deliberately arranged.
With this treatment, Mr. Woodhouse was soon composed enough for talking as
usual. "He should be happy to see Mrs. Goddard. He had a great regard for
Mrs. Goddard; and Emma should write a line, and invite her. James could
take the note. But first of all, there must be an answer written to Mrs.
"You will make my excuses, my dear, as civilly as possible. You will say
that I am quite an invalid, and go no where, and therefore must decline
their obliging invitation; beginning with my <i>compliments</i>, of
course. But you will do every thing right. I need not tell you what is to
be done. We must remember to let James know that the carriage will be
wanted on Tuesday. I shall have no fears for you with him. We have never
been there above once since the new approach was made; but still I have no
doubt that James will take you very safely. And when you get there, you
must tell him at what time you would have him come for you again; and you
had better name an early hour. You will not like staying late. You will
get very tired when tea is over."
"But you would not wish me to come away before I am tired, papa?"
"Oh! no, my love; but you will soon be tired. There will be a great many
people talking at once. You will not like the noise."
"But, my dear sir," cried Mr. Weston, "if Emma comes away early, it will
be breaking up the party."
"And no great harm if it does," said Mr. Woodhouse. "The sooner every
party breaks up, the better."
"But you do not consider how it may appear to the Coles. Emma's going away
directly after tea might be giving offence. They are good-natured people,
and think little of their own claims; but still they must feel that any
body's hurrying away is no great compliment; and Miss Woodhouse's doing it
would be more thought of than any other person's in the room. You would
not wish to disappoint and mortify the Coles, I am sure, sir; friendly,
good sort of people as ever lived, and who have been your neighbours these
"No, upon no account in the world, Mr. Weston; I am much obliged to you
for reminding me. I should be extremely sorry to be giving them any pain.
I know what worthy people they are. Perry tells me that Mr. Cole never
touches malt liquor. You would not think it to look at him, but he is
bilious—Mr. Cole is very bilious. No, I would not be the means of
giving them any pain. My dear Emma, we must consider this. I am sure,
rather than run the risk of hurting Mr. and Mrs. Cole, you would stay a
little longer than you might wish. You will not regard being tired. You
will be perfectly safe, you know, among your friends."
"Oh yes, papa. I have no fears at all for myself; and I should have no
scruples of staying as late as Mrs. Weston, but on your account. I am only
afraid of your sitting up for me. I am not afraid of your not being
exceedingly comfortable with Mrs. Goddard. She loves piquet, you know; but
when she is gone home, I am afraid you will be sitting up by yourself,
instead of going to bed at your usual time—and the idea of that
would entirely destroy my comfort. You must promise me not to sit up."
He did, on the condition of some promises on her side: such as that, if
she came home cold, she would be sure to warm herself thoroughly; if
hungry, that she would take something to eat; that her own maid should sit
up for her; and that Serle and the butler should see that every thing were
safe in the house, as usual.