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Emma did not repent her condescension in going to the Coles. The visit
afforded her many pleasant recollections the next day; and all that she
might be supposed to have lost on the side of dignified seclusion, must be
amply repaid in the splendour of popularity. She must have delighted the
Coles—worthy people, who deserved to be made happy!—And left a
name behind her that would not soon die away.
Perfect happiness, even in memory, is not common; and there were two
points on which she was not quite easy. She doubted whether she had not
transgressed the duty of woman by woman, in betraying her suspicions of
Jane Fairfax's feelings to Frank Churchill. It was hardly right; but it
had been so strong an idea, that it would escape her, and his submission
to all that she told, was a compliment to her penetration, which made it
difficult for her to be quite certain that she ought to have held her
The other circumstance of regret related also to Jane Fairfax; and there
she had no doubt. She did unfeignedly and unequivocally regret the
inferiority of her own playing and singing. She did most heartily grieve
over the idleness of her childhood—and sat down and practised
vigorously an hour and a half.
She was then interrupted by Harriet's coming in; and if Harriet's praise
could have satisfied her, she might soon have been comforted.
"Oh! if I could but play as well as you and Miss Fairfax!"
"Don't class us together, Harriet. My playing is no more like her's, than
a lamp is like sunshine."
"Oh! dear—I think you play the best of the two. I think you play
quite as well as she does. I am sure I had much rather hear you. Every
body last night said how well you played."
"Those who knew any thing about it, must have felt the difference. The
truth is, Harriet, that my playing is just good enough to be praised, but
Jane Fairfax's is much beyond it."
"Well, I always shall think that you play quite as well as she does, or
that if there is any difference nobody would ever find it out. Mr. Cole
said how much taste you had; and Mr. Frank Churchill talked a great deal
about your taste, and that he valued taste much more than execution."
"Ah! but Jane Fairfax has them both, Harriet."
"Are you sure? I saw she had execution, but I did not know she had any
taste. Nobody talked about it. And I hate Italian singing.—There is
no understanding a word of it. Besides, if she does play so very well, you
know, it is no more than she is obliged to do, because she will have to
teach. The Coxes were wondering last night whether she would get into any
great family. How did you think the Coxes looked?"
"Just as they always do—very vulgar."
"They told me something," said Harriet rather hesitatingly; "but it is
nothing of any consequence."
Emma was obliged to ask what they had told her, though fearful of its
producing Mr. Elton.
"They told me—that Mr. Martin dined with them last Saturday."
"He came to their father upon some business, and he asked him to stay to
"They talked a great deal about him, especially Anne Cox. I do not know
what she meant, but she asked me if I thought I should go and stay there
again next summer."
"She meant to be impertinently curious, just as such an Anne Cox should
"She said he was very agreeable the day he dined there. He sat by her at
dinner. Miss Nash thinks either of the Coxes would be very glad to marry
"Very likely.—I think they are, without exception, the most vulgar
girls in Highbury."
Harriet had business at Ford's.—Emma thought it most prudent to go
with her. Another accidental meeting with the Martins was possible, and in
her present state, would be dangerous.
Harriet, tempted by every thing and swayed by half a word, was always very
long at a purchase; and while she was still hanging over muslins and
changing her mind, Emma went to the door for amusement.—Much could
not be hoped from the traffic of even the busiest part of Highbury;—Mr.
Perry walking hastily by, Mr. William Cox letting himself in at the
office-door, Mr. Cole's carriage-horses returning from exercise, or a
stray letter-boy on an obstinate mule, were the liveliest objects she
could presume to expect; and when her eyes fell only on the butcher with
his tray, a tidy old woman travelling homewards from shop with her full
basket, two curs quarrelling over a dirty bone, and a string of dawdling
children round the baker's little bow-window eyeing the gingerbread, she
knew she had no reason to complain, and was amused enough; quite enough
still to stand at the door. A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing
nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer.
She looked down the Randalls road. The scene enlarged; two persons
appeared; Mrs. Weston and her son-in-law; they were walking into Highbury;—to
Hartfield of course. They were stopping, however, in the first place at
Mrs. Bates's; whose house was a little nearer Randalls than Ford's; and
had all but knocked, when Emma caught their eye.—Immediately they
crossed the road and came forward to her; and the agreeableness of
yesterday's engagement seemed to give fresh pleasure to the present
meeting. Mrs. Weston informed her that she was going to call on the
Bateses, in order to hear the new instrument.
"For my companion tells me," said she, "that I absolutely promised Miss
Bates last night, that I would come this morning. I was not aware of it
myself. I did not know that I had fixed a day, but as he says I did, I am
"And while Mrs. Weston pays her visit, I may be allowed, I hope," said
Frank Churchill, "to join your party and wait for her at Hartfield—if
you are going home."
Mrs. Weston was disappointed.
"I thought you meant to go with me. They would be very much pleased."
"Me! I should be quite in the way. But, perhaps—I may be equally in
the way here. Miss Woodhouse looks as if she did not want me. My aunt
always sends me off when she is shopping. She says I fidget her to death;
and Miss Woodhouse looks as if she could almost say the same. What am I to
"I am here on no business of my own," said Emma; "I am only waiting for my
friend. She will probably have soon done, and then we shall go home. But
you had better go with Mrs. Weston and hear the instrument."
"Well—if you advise it.—But (with a smile) if Colonel Campbell
should have employed a careless friend, and if it should prove to have an
indifferent tone—what shall I say? I shall be no support to Mrs.
Weston. She might do very well by herself. A disagreeable truth would be
palatable through her lips, but I am the wretchedest being in the world at
a civil falsehood."
"I do not believe any such thing," replied Emma.—"I am persuaded
that you can be as insincere as your neighbours, when it is necessary; but
there is no reason to suppose the instrument is indifferent. Quite
otherwise indeed, if I understood Miss Fairfax's opinion last night."
"Do come with me," said Mrs. Weston, "if it be not very disagreeable to
you. It need not detain us long. We will go to Hartfield afterwards. We
will follow them to Hartfield. I really wish you to call with me. It will
be felt so great an attention! and I always thought you meant it."
He could say no more; and with the hope of Hartfield to reward him,
returned with Mrs. Weston to Mrs. Bates's door. Emma watched them in, and
then joined Harriet at the interesting counter,—trying, with all the
force of her own mind, to convince her that if she wanted plain muslin it
was of no use to look at figured; and that a blue ribbon, be it ever so
beautiful, would still never match her yellow pattern. At last it was all
settled, even to the destination of the parcel.
"Should I send it to Mrs. Goddard's, ma'am?" asked Mrs. Ford.—"Yes—no—yes,
to Mrs. Goddard's. Only my pattern gown is at Hartfield. No, you shall
send it to Hartfield, if you please. But then, Mrs. Goddard will want to
see it.—And I could take the pattern gown home any day. But I shall
want the ribbon directly—so it had better go to Hartfield—at
least the ribbon. You could make it into two parcels, Mrs. Ford, could not
"It is not worth while, Harriet, to give Mrs. Ford the trouble of two
"No more it is."
"No trouble in the world, ma'am," said the obliging Mrs. Ford.
"Oh! but indeed I would much rather have it only in one. Then, if you
please, you shall send it all to Mrs. Goddard's—I do not know—No,
I think, Miss Woodhouse, I may just as well have it sent to Hartfield, and
take it home with me at night. What do you advise?"
"That you do not give another half-second to the subject. To Hartfield, if
you please, Mrs. Ford."
"Aye, that will be much best," said Harriet, quite satisfied, "I should
not at all like to have it sent to Mrs. Goddard's."
Voices approached the shop—or rather one voice and two ladies: Mrs.
Weston and Miss Bates met them at the door.
"My dear Miss Woodhouse," said the latter, "I am just run across to
entreat the favour of you to come and sit down with us a little while, and
give us your opinion of our new instrument; you and Miss Smith. How do you
do, Miss Smith?—Very well I thank you.—And I begged Mrs.
Weston to come with me, that I might be sure of succeeding."
"I hope Mrs. Bates and Miss Fairfax are—"
"Very well, I am much obliged to you. My mother is delightfully well; and
Jane caught no cold last night. How is Mr. Woodhouse?—I am so glad
to hear such a good account. Mrs. Weston told me you were here.—Oh!
then, said I, I must run across, I am sure Miss Woodhouse will allow me
just to run across and entreat her to come in; my mother will be so very
happy to see her—and now we are such a nice party, she cannot
refuse.—'Aye, pray do,' said Mr. Frank Churchill, 'Miss Woodhouse's
opinion of the instrument will be worth having.'—But, said I, I
shall be more sure of succeeding if one of you will go with me.—'Oh,'
said he, 'wait half a minute, till I have finished my job;'—For,
would you believe it, Miss Woodhouse, there he is, in the most obliging
manner in the world, fastening in the rivet of my mother's spectacles.—The
rivet came out, you know, this morning.—So very obliging!—For
my mother had no use of her spectacles—could not put them on. And,
by the bye, every body ought to have two pair of spectacles; they should
indeed. Jane said so. I meant to take them over to John Saunders the first
thing I did, but something or other hindered me all the morning; first one
thing, then another, there is no saying what, you know. At one time Patty
came to say she thought the kitchen chimney wanted sweeping. Oh, said I,
Patty do not come with your bad news to me. Here is the rivet of your
mistress's spectacles out. Then the baked apples came home, Mrs. Wallis
sent them by her boy; they are extremely civil and obliging to us, the
Wallises, always—I have heard some people say that Mrs. Wallis can
be uncivil and give a very rude answer, but we have never known any thing
but the greatest attention from them. And it cannot be for the value of
our custom now, for what is our consumption of bread, you know? Only three
of us.—besides dear Jane at present—and she really eats
nothing—makes such a shocking breakfast, you would be quite
frightened if you saw it. I dare not let my mother know how little she
eats—so I say one thing and then I say another, and it passes off.
But about the middle of the day she gets hungry, and there is nothing she
likes so well as these baked apples, and they are extremely wholesome, for
I took the opportunity the other day of asking Mr. Perry; I happened to
meet him in the street. Not that I had any doubt before—I have so
often heard Mr. Woodhouse recommend a baked apple. I believe it is the
only way that Mr. Woodhouse thinks the fruit thoroughly wholesome. We have
apple-dumplings, however, very often. Patty makes an excellent
apple-dumpling. Well, Mrs. Weston, you have prevailed, I hope, and these
ladies will oblige us."
Emma would be "very happy to wait on Mrs. Bates, &c.," and they did at
last move out of the shop, with no farther delay from Miss Bates than,
"How do you do, Mrs. Ford? I beg your pardon. I did not see you before. I
hear you have a charming collection of new ribbons from town. Jane came
back delighted yesterday. Thank ye, the gloves do very well—only a
little too large about the wrist; but Jane is taking them in."
"What was I talking of?" said she, beginning again when they were all in
Emma wondered on what, of all the medley, she would fix.
"I declare I cannot recollect what I was talking of.—Oh! my mother's
spectacles. So very obliging of Mr. Frank Churchill! 'Oh!' said he, 'I do
think I can fasten the rivet; I like a job of this kind excessively.'—Which
you know shewed him to be so very.... Indeed I must say that, much as I
had heard of him before and much as I had expected, he very far exceeds
any thing.... I do congratulate you, Mrs. Weston, most warmly. He seems
every thing the fondest parent could.... 'Oh!' said he, 'I can fasten the
rivet. I like a job of that sort excessively.' I never shall forget his
manner. And when I brought out the baked apples from the closet, and hoped
our friends would be so very obliging as to take some, 'Oh!' said he
directly, 'there is nothing in the way of fruit half so good, and these
are the finest-looking home-baked apples I ever saw in my life.' That, you
know, was so very.... And I am sure, by his manner, it was no compliment.
Indeed they are very delightful apples, and Mrs. Wallis does them full
justice—only we do not have them baked more than twice, and Mr.
Woodhouse made us promise to have them done three times—but Miss
Woodhouse will be so good as not to mention it. The apples themselves are
the very finest sort for baking, beyond a doubt; all from Donwell—some
of Mr. Knightley's most liberal supply. He sends us a sack every year; and
certainly there never was such a keeping apple anywhere as one of his
trees—I believe there is two of them. My mother says the orchard was
always famous in her younger days. But I was really quite shocked the
other day—for Mr. Knightley called one morning, and Jane was eating
these apples, and we talked about them and said how much she enjoyed them,
and he asked whether we were not got to the end of our stock. 'I am sure
you must be,' said he, 'and I will send you another supply; for I have a
great many more than I can ever use. William Larkins let me keep a larger
quantity than usual this year. I will send you some more, before they get
good for nothing.' So I begged he would not—for really as to ours
being gone, I could not absolutely say that we had a great many left—it
was but half a dozen indeed; but they should be all kept for Jane; and I
could not at all bear that he should be sending us more, so liberal as he
had been already; and Jane said the same. And when he was gone, she almost
quarrelled with me—No, I should not say quarrelled, for we never had
a quarrel in our lives; but she was quite distressed that I had owned the
apples were so nearly gone; she wished I had made him believe we had a
great many left. Oh, said I, my dear, I did say as much as I could.
However, the very same evening William Larkins came over with a large
basket of apples, the same sort of apples, a bushel at least, and I was
very much obliged, and went down and spoke to William Larkins and said
every thing, as you may suppose. William Larkins is such an old
acquaintance! I am always glad to see him. But, however, I found
afterwards from Patty, that William said it was all the apples of <i>that</i>
sort his master had; he had brought them all—and now his master had
not one left to bake or boil. William did not seem to mind it himself, he
was so pleased to think his master had sold so many; for William, you
know, thinks more of his master's profit than any thing; but Mrs. Hodges,
he said, was quite displeased at their being all sent away. She could not
bear that her master should not be able to have another apple-tart this
spring. He told Patty this, but bid her not mind it, and be sure not to
say any thing to us about it, for Mrs. Hodges <i>would</i> be cross
sometimes, and as long as so many sacks were sold, it did not signify who
ate the remainder. And so Patty told me, and I was excessively shocked
indeed! I would not have Mr. Knightley know any thing about it for the
world! He would be so very.... I wanted to keep it from Jane's knowledge;
but, unluckily, I had mentioned it before I was aware."
Miss Bates had just done as Patty opened the door; and her visitors walked
upstairs without having any regular narration to attend to, pursued only
by the sounds of her desultory good-will.
"Pray take care, Mrs. Weston, there is a step at the turning. Pray take
care, Miss Woodhouse, ours is rather a dark staircase—rather darker
and narrower than one could wish. Miss Smith, pray take care. Miss
Woodhouse, I am quite concerned, I am sure you hit your foot. Miss Smith,
the step at the turning."