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In this state of schemes, and hopes, and connivance, June opened upon
Hartfield. To Highbury in general it brought no material change. The
Eltons were still talking of a visit from the Sucklings, and of the use to
be made of their barouche-landau; and Jane Fairfax was still at her
grandmother's; and as the return of the Campbells from Ireland was again
delayed, and August, instead of Midsummer, fixed for it, she was likely to
remain there full two months longer, provided at least she were able to
defeat Mrs. Elton's activity in her service, and save herself from being
hurried into a delightful situation against her will.
Mr. Knightley, who, for some reason best known to himself, had certainly
taken an early dislike to Frank Churchill, was only growing to dislike him
more. He began to suspect him of some double dealing in his pursuit of
Emma. That Emma was his object appeared indisputable. Every thing declared
it; his own attentions, his father's hints, his mother-in-law's guarded
silence; it was all in unison; words, conduct, discretion, and
indiscretion, told the same story. But while so many were devoting him to
Emma, and Emma herself making him over to Harriet, Mr. Knightley began to
suspect him of some inclination to trifle with Jane Fairfax. He could not
understand it; but there were symptoms of intelligence between them—he
thought so at least—symptoms of admiration on his side, which,
having once observed, he could not persuade himself to think entirely void
of meaning, however he might wish to escape any of Emma's errors of
imagination. <i>She</i> was not present when the suspicion first arose. He
was dining with the Randalls family, and Jane, at the Eltons'; and he had
seen a look, more than a single look, at Miss Fairfax, which, from the
admirer of Miss Woodhouse, seemed somewhat out of place. When he was again
in their company, he could not help remembering what he had seen; nor
could he avoid observations which, unless it were like Cowper and his fire
"Myself creating what I saw,"
brought him yet stronger suspicion of there being a something of private
liking, of private understanding even, between Frank Churchill and Jane.
He had walked up one day after dinner, as he very often did, to spend his
evening at Hartfield. Emma and Harriet were going to walk; he joined them;
and, on returning, they fell in with a larger party, who, like themselves,
judged it wisest to take their exercise early, as the weather threatened
rain; Mr. and Mrs. Weston and their son, Miss Bates and her niece, who had
accidentally met. They all united; and, on reaching Hartfield gates, Emma,
who knew it was exactly the sort of visiting that would be welcome to her
father, pressed them all to go in and drink tea with him. The Randalls
party agreed to it immediately; and after a pretty long speech from Miss
Bates, which few persons listened to, she also found it possible to accept
dear Miss Woodhouse's most obliging invitation.
As they were turning into the grounds, Mr. Perry passed by on horseback.
The gentlemen spoke of his horse.
"By the bye," said Frank Churchill to Mrs. Weston presently, "what became
of Mr. Perry's plan of setting up his carriage?"
Mrs. Weston looked surprized, and said, "I did not know that he ever had
any such plan."
"Nay, I had it from you. You wrote me word of it three months ago."
"Indeed you did. I remember it perfectly. You mentioned it as what was
certainly to be very soon. Mrs. Perry had told somebody, and was extremely
happy about it. It was owing to <i>her</i> persuasion, as she thought his
being out in bad weather did him a great deal of harm. You must remember
"Upon my word I never heard of it till this moment."
"Never! really, never!—Bless me! how could it be?—Then I must
have dreamt it—but I was completely persuaded—Miss Smith, you
walk as if you were tired. You will not be sorry to find yourself at
"What is this?—What is this?" cried Mr. Weston, "about Perry and a
carriage? Is Perry going to set up his carriage, Frank? I am glad he can
afford it. You had it from himself, had you?"
"No, sir," replied his son, laughing, "I seem to have had it from nobody.—Very
odd!—I really was persuaded of Mrs. Weston's having mentioned it in
one of her letters to Enscombe, many weeks ago, with all these particulars—but
as she declares she never heard a syllable of it before, of course it must
have been a dream. I am a great dreamer. I dream of every body at Highbury
when I am away—and when I have gone through my particular friends,
then I begin dreaming of Mr. and Mrs. Perry."
"It is odd though," observed his father, "that you should have had such a
regular connected dream about people whom it was not very likely you
should be thinking of at Enscombe. Perry's setting up his carriage! and
his wife's persuading him to it, out of care for his health—just
what will happen, I have no doubt, some time or other; only a little
premature. What an air of probability sometimes runs through a dream! And
at others, what a heap of absurdities it is! Well, Frank, your dream
certainly shews that Highbury is in your thoughts when you are absent.
Emma, you are a great dreamer, I think?"
Emma was out of hearing. She had hurried on before her guests to prepare
her father for their appearance, and was beyond the reach of Mr. Weston's
"Why, to own the truth," cried Miss Bates, who had been trying in vain to
be heard the last two minutes, "if I must speak on this subject, there is
no denying that Mr. Frank Churchill might have—I do not mean to say
that he did not dream it—I am sure I have sometimes the oddest
dreams in the world—but if I am questioned about it, I must
acknowledge that there was such an idea last spring; for Mrs. Perry
herself mentioned it to my mother, and the Coles knew of it as well as
ourselves—but it was quite a secret, known to nobody else, and only
thought of about three days. Mrs. Perry was very anxious that he should
have a carriage, and came to my mother in great spirits one morning
because she thought she had prevailed. Jane, don't you remember
grandmama's telling us of it when we got home? I forget where we had been
walking to—very likely to Randalls; yes, I think it was to Randalls.
Mrs. Perry was always particularly fond of my mother—indeed I do not
know who is not—and she had mentioned it to her in confidence; she
had no objection to her telling us, of course, but it was not to go
beyond: and, from that day to this, I never mentioned it to a soul that I
know of. At the same time, I will not positively answer for my having
never dropt a hint, because I know I do sometimes pop out a thing before I
am aware. I am a talker, you know; I am rather a talker; and now and then
I have let a thing escape me which I should not. I am not like Jane; I
wish I were. I will answer for it <i>she</i> never betrayed the least
thing in the world. Where is she?—Oh! just behind. Perfectly
remember Mrs. Perry's coming.—Extraordinary dream, indeed!"
They were entering the hall. Mr. Knightley's eyes had preceded Miss
Bates's in a glance at Jane. From Frank Churchill's face, where he thought
he saw confusion suppressed or laughed away, he had involuntarily turned
to hers; but she was indeed behind, and too busy with her shawl. Mr.
Weston had walked in. The two other gentlemen waited at the door to let
her pass. Mr. Knightley suspected in Frank Churchill the determination of
catching her eye—he seemed watching her intently—in vain,
however, if it were so—Jane passed between them into the hall, and
looked at neither.
There was no time for farther remark or explanation. The dream must be
borne with, and Mr. Knightley must take his seat with the rest round the
large modern circular table which Emma had introduced at Hartfield, and
which none but Emma could have had power to place there and persuade her
father to use, instead of the small-sized Pembroke, on which two of his
daily meals had, for forty years been crowded. Tea passed pleasantly, and
nobody seemed in a hurry to move.
"Miss Woodhouse," said Frank Churchill, after examining a table behind
him, which he could reach as he sat, "have your nephews taken away their
alphabets—their box of letters? It used to stand here. Where is it?
This is a sort of dull-looking evening, that ought to be treated rather as
winter than summer. We had great amusement with those letters one morning.
I want to puzzle you again."
Emma was pleased with the thought; and producing the box, the table was
quickly scattered over with alphabets, which no one seemed so much
disposed to employ as their two selves. They were rapidly forming words
for each other, or for any body else who would be puzzled. The quietness
of the game made it particularly eligible for Mr. Woodhouse, who had often
been distressed by the more animated sort, which Mr. Weston had
occasionally introduced, and who now sat happily occupied in lamenting,
with tender melancholy, over the departure of the "poor little boys," or
in fondly pointing out, as he took up any stray letter near him, how
beautifully Emma had written it.
Frank Churchill placed a word before Miss Fairfax. She gave a slight
glance round the table, and applied herself to it. Frank was next to Emma,
Jane opposite to them—and Mr. Knightley so placed as to see them
all; and it was his object to see as much as he could, with as little
apparent observation. The word was discovered, and with a faint smile
pushed away. If meant to be immediately mixed with the others, and buried
from sight, she should have looked on the table instead of looking just
across, for it was not mixed; and Harriet, eager after every fresh word,
and finding out none, directly took it up, and fell to work. She was
sitting by Mr. Knightley, and turned to him for help. The word was <i>blunder</i>;
and as Harriet exultingly proclaimed it, there was a blush on Jane's cheek
which gave it a meaning not otherwise ostensible. Mr. Knightley connected
it with the dream; but how it could all be, was beyond his comprehension.
How the delicacy, the discretion of his favourite could have been so lain
asleep! He feared there must be some decided involvement. Disingenuousness
and double dealing seemed to meet him at every turn. These letters were
but the vehicle for gallantry and trick. It was a child's play, chosen to
conceal a deeper game on Frank Churchill's part.
With great indignation did he continue to observe him; with great alarm
and distrust, to observe also his two blinded companions. He saw a short
word prepared for Emma, and given to her with a look sly and demure. He
saw that Emma had soon made it out, and found it highly entertaining,
though it was something which she judged it proper to appear to censure;
for she said, "Nonsense! for shame!" He heard Frank Churchill next say,
with a glance towards Jane, "I will give it to her—shall I?"—and
as clearly heard Emma opposing it with eager laughing warmth. "No, no, you
must not; you shall not, indeed."
It was done however. This gallant young man, who seemed to love without
feeling, and to recommend himself without complaisance, directly handed
over the word to Miss Fairfax, and with a particular degree of sedate
civility entreated her to study it. Mr. Knightley's excessive curiosity to
know what this word might be, made him seize every possible moment for
darting his eye towards it, and it was not long before he saw it to be <i>Dixon</i>.
Jane Fairfax's perception seemed to accompany his; her comprehension was
certainly more equal to the covert meaning, the superior intelligence, of
those five letters so arranged. She was evidently displeased; looked up,
and seeing herself watched, blushed more deeply than he had ever perceived
her, and saying only, "I did not know that proper names were allowed,"
pushed away the letters with even an angry spirit, and looked resolved to
be engaged by no other word that could be offered. Her face was averted
from those who had made the attack, and turned towards her aunt.
"Aye, very true, my dear," cried the latter, though Jane had not spoken a
word—"I was just going to say the same thing. It is time for us to
be going indeed. The evening is closing in, and grandmama will be looking
for us. My dear sir, you are too obliging. We really must wish you good
Jane's alertness in moving, proved her as ready as her aunt had
preconceived. She was immediately up, and wanting to quit the table; but
so many were also moving, that she could not get away; and Mr. Knightley
thought he saw another collection of letters anxiously pushed towards her,
and resolutely swept away by her unexamined. She was afterwards looking
for her shawl—Frank Churchill was looking also—it was growing
dusk, and the room was in confusion; and how they parted, Mr. Knightley
could not tell.
He remained at Hartfield after all the rest, his thoughts full of what he
had seen; so full, that when the candles came to assist his observations,
he must—yes, he certainly must, as a friend—an anxious friend—give
Emma some hint, ask her some question. He could not see her in a situation
of such danger, without trying to preserve her. It was his duty.
"Pray, Emma," said he, "may I ask in what lay the great amusement, the
poignant sting of the last word given to you and Miss Fairfax? I saw the
word, and am curious to know how it could be so very entertaining to the
one, and so very distressing to the other."
Emma was extremely confused. She could not endure to give him the true
explanation; for though her suspicions were by no means removed, she was
really ashamed of having ever imparted them.
"Oh!" she cried in evident embarrassment, "it all meant nothing; a mere
joke among ourselves."
"The joke," he replied gravely, "seemed confined to you and Mr.
He had hoped she would speak again, but she did not. She would rather busy
herself about any thing than speak. He sat a little while in doubt. A
variety of evils crossed his mind. Interference—fruitless
interference. Emma's confusion, and the acknowledged intimacy, seemed to
declare her affection engaged. Yet he would speak. He owed it to her, to
risk any thing that might be involved in an unwelcome interference, rather
than her welfare; to encounter any thing, rather than the remembrance of
neglect in such a cause.
"My dear Emma," said he at last, with earnest kindness, "do you think you
perfectly understand the degree of acquaintance between the gentleman and
lady we have been speaking of?"
"Between Mr. Frank Churchill and Miss Fairfax? Oh! yes, perfectly.—Why
do you make a doubt of it?"
"Have you never at any time had reason to think that he admired her, or
that she admired him?"
"Never, never!" she cried with a most open eagerness—"Never, for the
twentieth part of a moment, did such an idea occur to me. And how could it
possibly come into your head?"
"I have lately imagined that I saw symptoms of attachment between them—certain
expressive looks, which I did not believe meant to be public."
"Oh! you amuse me excessively. I am delighted to find that you can
vouchsafe to let your imagination wander—but it will not do—very
sorry to check you in your first essay—but indeed it will not do.
There is no admiration between them, I do assure you; and the appearances
which have caught you, have arisen from some peculiar circumstances—feelings
rather of a totally different nature—it is impossible exactly to
explain:—there is a good deal of nonsense in it—but the part
which is capable of being communicated, which is sense, is, that they are
as far from any attachment or admiration for one another, as any two
beings in the world can be. That is, I <i>presume</i> it to be so on her
side, and I can <i>answer</i> for its being so on his. I will answer for
the gentleman's indifference."
She spoke with a confidence which staggered, with a satisfaction which
silenced, Mr. Knightley. She was in gay spirits, and would have prolonged
the conversation, wanting to hear the particulars of his suspicions, every
look described, and all the wheres and hows of a circumstance which highly
entertained her: but his gaiety did not meet hers. He found he could not
be useful, and his feelings were too much irritated for talking. That he
might not be irritated into an absolute fever, by the fire which Mr.
Woodhouse's tender habits required almost every evening throughout the
year, he soon afterwards took a hasty leave, and walked home to the
coolness and solitude of Donwell Abbey.