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"I hope I shall soon have the pleasure of introducing my son to you," said
Mrs. Elton, very willing to suppose a particular compliment intended her
by such a hope, smiled most graciously.
"You have heard of a certain Frank Churchill, I presume," he continued—"and
know him to be my son, though he does not bear my name."
"Oh! yes, and I shall be very happy in his acquaintance. I am sure Mr.
Elton will lose no time in calling on him; and we shall both have great
pleasure in seeing him at the Vicarage."
"You are very obliging.—Frank will be extremely happy, I am sure.—
He is to be in town next week, if not sooner. We have notice of it in a
letter to-day. I met the letters in my way this morning, and seeing my
son's hand, presumed to open it—though it was not directed to me—it
was to Mrs. Weston. She is his principal correspondent, I assure you. I
hardly ever get a letter."
"And so you absolutely opened what was directed to her! Oh! Mr. Weston—(laughing
affectedly) I must protest against that.—A most dangerous precedent
indeed!—I beg you will not let your neighbours follow your example.—Upon
my word, if this is what I am to expect, we married women must begin to
exert ourselves!—Oh! Mr. Weston, I could not have believed it of
"Aye, we men are sad fellows. You must take care of yourself, Mrs. Elton.—This
letter tells us—it is a short letter—written in a hurry,
merely to give us notice—it tells us that they are all coming up to
town directly, on Mrs. Churchill's account—she has not been well the
whole winter, and thinks Enscombe too cold for her—so they are all
to move southward without loss of time."
"Indeed!—from Yorkshire, I think. Enscombe is in Yorkshire?"
"Yes, they are about one hundred and ninety miles from London, a
"Yes, upon my word, very considerable. Sixty-five miles farther than from
Maple Grove to London. But what is distance, Mr. Weston, to people of
large fortune?—You would be amazed to hear how my brother, Mr.
Suckling, sometimes flies about. You will hardly believe me—but
twice in one week he and Mr. Bragge went to London and back again with
"The evil of the distance from Enscombe," said Mr. Weston, "is, that Mrs.
Churchill, <i>as</i> <i>we</i> <i>understand</i>, has not been able to
leave the sofa for a week together. In Frank's last letter she complained,
he said, of being too weak to get into her conservatory without having
both his arm and his uncle's! This, you know, speaks a great degree of
weakness—but now she is so impatient to be in town, that she means
to sleep only two nights on the road.—So Frank writes word.
Certainly, delicate ladies have very extraordinary constitutions, Mrs.
Elton. You must grant me that."
"No, indeed, I shall grant you nothing. I always take the part of my own
sex. I do indeed. I give you notice—You will find me a formidable
antagonist on that point. I always stand up for women—and I assure
you, if you knew how Selina feels with respect to sleeping at an inn, you
would not wonder at Mrs. Churchill's making incredible exertions to avoid
it. Selina says it is quite horror to her—and I believe I have
caught a little of her nicety. She always travels with her own sheets; an
excellent precaution. Does Mrs. Churchill do the same?"
"Depend upon it, Mrs. Churchill does every thing that any other fine lady
ever did. Mrs. Churchill will not be second to any lady in the land for"—
Mrs. Elton eagerly interposed with,
"Oh! Mr. Weston, do not mistake me. Selina is no fine lady, I assure you.
Do not run away with such an idea."
"Is not she? Then she is no rule for Mrs. Churchill, who is as thorough a
fine lady as any body ever beheld."
Mrs. Elton began to think she had been wrong in disclaiming so warmly. It
was by no means her object to have it believed that her sister was <i>not</i>
a fine lady; perhaps there was want of spirit in the pretence of it;—and
she was considering in what way she had best retract, when Mr. Weston went
"Mrs. Churchill is not much in my good graces, as you may suspect—but
this is quite between ourselves. She is very fond of Frank, and therefore
I would not speak ill of her. Besides, she is out of health now; but <i>that</i>
indeed, by her own account, she has always been. I would not say so to
every body, Mrs. Elton, but I have not much faith in Mrs. Churchill's
"If she is really ill, why not go to Bath, Mr. Weston?—To Bath, or
to Clifton?" "She has taken it into her head that Enscombe is too cold for
her. The fact is, I suppose, that she is tired of Enscombe. She has now
been a longer time stationary there, than she ever was before, and she
begins to want change. It is a retired place. A fine place, but very
"Aye—like Maple Grove, I dare say. Nothing can stand more retired
from the road than Maple Grove. Such an immense plantation all round it!
You seem shut out from every thing—in the most complete retirement.—And
Mrs. Churchill probably has not health or spirits like Selina to enjoy
that sort of seclusion. Or, perhaps she may not have resources enough in
herself to be qualified for a country life. I always say a woman cannot
have too many resources—and I feel very thankful that I have so many
myself as to be quite independent of society."
"Frank was here in February for a fortnight."
"So I remember to have heard. He will find an <i>addition</i> to the
society of Highbury when he comes again; that is, if I may presume to call
myself an addition. But perhaps he may never have heard of there being
such a creature in the world."
This was too loud a call for a compliment to be passed by, and Mr. Weston,
with a very good grace, immediately exclaimed,
"My dear madam! Nobody but yourself could imagine such a thing possible.
Not heard of you!—I believe Mrs. Weston's letters lately have been
full of very little else than Mrs. Elton."
He had done his duty and could return to his son.
"When Frank left us," continued he, "it was quite uncertain when we might
see him again, which makes this day's news doubly welcome. It has been
completely unexpected. That is, <i>I</i> always had a strong persuasion he
would be here again soon, I was sure something favourable would turn up—but
nobody believed me. He and Mrs. Weston were both dreadfully desponding.
'How could he contrive to come? And how could it be supposed that his
uncle and aunt would spare him again?' and so forth—I always felt
that something would happen in our favour; and so it has, you see. I have
observed, Mrs. Elton, in the course of my life, that if things are going
untowardly one month, they are sure to mend the next."
"Very true, Mr. Weston, perfectly true. It is just what I used to say to a
certain gentleman in company in the days of courtship, when, because
things did not go quite right, did not proceed with all the rapidity which
suited his feelings, he was apt to be in despair, and exclaim that he was
sure at this rate it would be <i>May</i> before Hymen's saffron robe would
be put on for us. Oh! the pains I have been at to dispel those gloomy
ideas and give him cheerfuller views! The carriage—we had
disappointments about the carriage;—one morning, I remember, he came
to me quite in despair."
She was stopped by a slight fit of coughing, and Mr. Weston instantly
seized the opportunity of going on.
"You were mentioning May. May is the very month which Mrs. Churchill is
ordered, or has ordered herself, to spend in some warmer place than
Enscombe—in short, to spend in London; so that we have the agreeable
prospect of frequent visits from Frank the whole spring—precisely
the season of the year which one should have chosen for it: days almost at
the longest; weather genial and pleasant, always inviting one out, and
never too hot for exercise. When he was here before, we made the best of
it; but there was a good deal of wet, damp, cheerless weather; there
always is in February, you know, and we could not do half that we
intended. Now will be the time. This will be complete enjoyment; and I do
not know, Mrs. Elton, whether the uncertainty of our meetings, the sort of
constant expectation there will be of his coming in to-day or to-morrow,
and at any hour, may not be more friendly to happiness than having him
actually in the house. I think it is so. I think it is the state of mind
which gives most spirit and delight. I hope you will be pleased with my
son; but you must not expect a prodigy. He is generally thought a fine
young man, but do not expect a prodigy. Mrs. Weston's partiality for him
is very great, and, as you may suppose, most gratifying to me. She thinks
nobody equal to him."
"And I assure you, Mr. Weston, I have very little doubt that my opinion
will be decidedly in his favour. I have heard so much in praise of Mr.
Frank Churchill.—At the same time it is fair to observe, that I am
one of those who always judge for themselves, and are by no means
implicitly guided by others. I give you notice that as I find your son, so
I shall judge of him.—I am no flatterer."
Mr. Weston was musing.
"I hope," said he presently, "I have not been severe upon poor Mrs.
Churchill. If she is ill I should be sorry to do her injustice; but there
are some traits in her character which make it difficult for me to speak
of her with the forbearance I could wish. You cannot be ignorant, Mrs.
Elton, of my connexion with the family, nor of the treatment I have met
with; and, between ourselves, the whole blame of it is to be laid to her.
She was the instigator. Frank's mother would never have been slighted as
she was but for her. Mr. Churchill has pride; but his pride is nothing to
his wife's: his is a quiet, indolent, gentlemanlike sort of pride that
would harm nobody, and only make himself a little helpless and tiresome;
but her pride is arrogance and insolence! And what inclines one less to
bear, she has no fair pretence of family or blood. She was nobody when he
married her, barely the daughter of a gentleman; but ever since her being
turned into a Churchill she has out-Churchill'd them all in high and
mighty claims: but in herself, I assure you, she is an upstart."
"Only think! well, that must be infinitely provoking! I have quite a
horror of upstarts. Maple Grove has given me a thorough disgust to people
of that sort; for there is a family in that neighbourhood who are such an
annoyance to my brother and sister from the airs they give themselves!
Your description of Mrs. Churchill made me think of them directly. People
of the name of Tupman, very lately settled there, and encumbered with many
low connexions, but giving themselves immense airs, and expecting to be on
a footing with the old established families. A year and a half is the very
utmost that they can have lived at West Hall; and how they got their
fortune nobody knows. They came from Birmingham, which is not a place to
promise much, you know, Mr. Weston. One has not great hopes from
Birmingham. I always say there is something direful in the sound: but
nothing more is positively known of the Tupmans, though a good many things
I assure you are suspected; and yet by their manners they evidently think
themselves equal even to my brother, Mr. Suckling, who happens to be one
of their nearest neighbours. It is infinitely too bad. Mr. Suckling, who
has been eleven years a resident at Maple Grove, and whose father had it
before him—I believe, at least—I am almost sure that old Mr.
Suckling had completed the purchase before his death."
They were interrupted. Tea was carrying round, and Mr. Weston, having said
all that he wanted, soon took the opportunity of walking away.
After tea, Mr. and Mrs. Weston, and Mr. Elton sat down with Mr. Woodhouse
to cards. The remaining five were left to their own powers, and Emma
doubted their getting on very well; for Mr. Knightley seemed little
disposed for conversation; Mrs. Elton was wanting notice, which nobody had
inclination to pay, and she was herself in a worry of spirits which would
have made her prefer being silent.
Mr. John Knightley proved more talkative than his brother. He was to leave
them early the next day; and he soon began with—
"Well, Emma, I do not believe I have any thing more to say about the boys;
but you have your sister's letter, and every thing is down at full length
there we may be sure. My charge would be much more concise than her's, and
probably not much in the same spirit; all that I have to recommend being
comprised in, do not spoil them, and do not physic them."
"I rather hope to satisfy you both," said Emma, "for I shall do all in my
power to make them happy, which will be enough for Isabella; and happiness
must preclude false indulgence and physic."
"And if you find them troublesome, you must send them home again."
"That is very likely. You think so, do not you?"
"I hope I am aware that they may be too noisy for your father—or
even may be some encumbrance to you, if your visiting engagements continue
to increase as much as they have done lately."
"Certainly; you must be sensible that the last half-year has made a great
difference in your way of life."
"Difference! No indeed I am not."
"There can be no doubt of your being much more engaged with company than
you used to be. Witness this very time. Here am I come down for only one
day, and you are engaged with a dinner-party!—When did it happen
before, or any thing like it? Your neighbourhood is increasing, and you
mix more with it. A little while ago, every letter to Isabella brought an
account of fresh gaieties; dinners at Mr. Cole's, or balls at the Crown.
The difference which Randalls, Randalls alone makes in your goings-on, is
"Yes," said his brother quickly, "it is Randalls that does it all."
"Very well—and as Randalls, I suppose, is not likely to have less
influence than heretofore, it strikes me as a possible thing, Emma, that
Henry and John may be sometimes in the way. And if they are, I only beg
you to send them home."
"No," cried Mr. Knightley, "that need not be the consequence. Let them be
sent to Donwell. I shall certainly be at leisure."
"Upon my word," exclaimed Emma, "you amuse me! I should like to know how
many of all my numerous engagements take place without your being of the
party; and why I am to be supposed in danger of wanting leisure to attend
to the little boys. These amazing engagements of mine—what have they
been? Dining once with the Coles—and having a ball talked of, which
never took place. I can understand you—(nodding at Mr. John
Knightley)—your good fortune in meeting with so many of your friends
at once here, delights you too much to pass unnoticed. But you, (turning
to Mr. Knightley,) who know how very, very seldom I am ever two hours from
Hartfield, why you should foresee such a series of dissipation for me, I
cannot imagine. And as to my dear little boys, I must say, that if Aunt
Emma has not time for them, I do not think they would fare much better
with Uncle Knightley, who is absent from home about five hours where she
is absent one—and who, when he is at home, is either reading to
himself or settling his accounts."
Mr. Knightley seemed to be trying not to smile; and succeeded without
difficulty, upon Mrs. Elton's beginning to talk to him.