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After being long fed with hopes of a speedy visit from Mr. and Mrs.
Suckling, the Highbury world were obliged to endure the mortification of
hearing that they could not possibly come till the autumn. No such
importation of novelties could enrich their intellectual stores at
present. In the daily interchange of news, they must be again restricted
to the other topics with which for a while the Sucklings' coming had been
united, such as the last accounts of Mrs. Churchill, whose health seemed
every day to supply a different report, and the situation of Mrs. Weston,
whose happiness it was to be hoped might eventually be as much increased
by the arrival of a child, as that of all her neighbours was by the
approach of it.
Mrs. Elton was very much disappointed. It was the delay of a great deal of
pleasure and parade. Her introductions and recommendations must all wait,
and every projected party be still only talked of. So she thought at
first;—but a little consideration convinced her that every thing
need not be put off. Why should not they explore to Box Hill though the
Sucklings did not come? They could go there again with them in the autumn.
It was settled that they should go to Box Hill. That there was to be such
a party had been long generally known: it had even given the idea of
another. Emma had never been to Box Hill; she wished to see what every
body found so well worth seeing, and she and Mr. Weston had agreed to
chuse some fine morning and drive thither. Two or three more of the chosen
only were to be admitted to join them, and it was to be done in a quiet,
unpretending, elegant way, infinitely superior to the bustle and
preparation, the regular eating and drinking, and picnic parade of the
Eltons and the Sucklings.
This was so very well understood between them, that Emma could not but
feel some surprise, and a little displeasure, on hearing from Mr. Weston
that he had been proposing to Mrs. Elton, as her brother and sister had
failed her, that the two parties should unite, and go together; and that
as Mrs. Elton had very readily acceded to it, so it was to be, if she had
no objection. Now, as her objection was nothing but her very great dislike
of Mrs. Elton, of which Mr. Weston must already be perfectly aware, it was
not worth bringing forward again:—it could not be done without a
reproof to him, which would be giving pain to his wife; and she found
herself therefore obliged to consent to an arrangement which she would
have done a great deal to avoid; an arrangement which would probably
expose her even to the degradation of being said to be of Mrs. Elton's
party! Every feeling was offended; and the forbearance of her outward
submission left a heavy arrear due of secret severity in her reflections
on the unmanageable goodwill of Mr. Weston's temper.
"I am glad you approve of what I have done," said he very comfortably.
"But I thought you would. Such schemes as these are nothing without
numbers. One cannot have too large a party. A large party secures its own
amusement. And she is a good-natured woman after all. One could not leave
Emma denied none of it aloud, and agreed to none of it in private.
It was now the middle of June, and the weather fine; and Mrs. Elton was
growing impatient to name the day, and settle with Mr. Weston as to
pigeon-pies and cold lamb, when a lame carriage-horse threw every thing
into sad uncertainty. It might be weeks, it might be only a few days,
before the horse were useable; but no preparations could be ventured on,
and it was all melancholy stagnation. Mrs. Elton's resources were
inadequate to such an attack.
"Is not this most vexatious, Knightley?" she cried.—"And such
weather for exploring!—These delays and disappointments are quite
odious. What are we to do?—The year will wear away at this rate, and
nothing done. Before this time last year I assure you we had had a
delightful exploring party from Maple Grove to Kings Weston."
"You had better explore to Donwell," replied Mr. Knightley. "That may be
done without horses. Come, and eat my strawberries. They are ripening
If Mr. Knightley did not begin seriously, he was obliged to proceed so,
for his proposal was caught at with delight; and the "Oh! I should like it
of all things," was not plainer in words than manner. Donwell was famous
for its strawberry-beds, which seemed a plea for the invitation: but no
plea was necessary; cabbage-beds would have been enough to tempt the lady,
who only wanted to be going somewhere. She promised him again and again to
come—much oftener than he doubted—and was extremely gratified
by such a proof of intimacy, such a distinguishing compliment as she chose
to consider it.
"You may depend upon me," said she. "I certainly will come. Name your day,
and I will come. You will allow me to bring Jane Fairfax?"
"I cannot name a day," said he, "till I have spoken to some others whom I
would wish to meet you."
"Oh! leave all that to me. Only give me a carte-blanche.—I am Lady
Patroness, you know. It is my party. I will bring friends with me."
"I hope you will bring Elton," said he: "but I will not trouble you to
give any other invitations."
"Oh! now you are looking very sly. But consider—you need not be
afraid of delegating power to <i>me</i>. I am no young lady on her
preferment. Married women, you know, may be safely authorised. It is my
party. Leave it all to me. I will invite your guests."
"No,"—he calmly replied,—"there is but one married woman in
the world whom I can ever allow to invite what guests she pleases to
Donwell, and that one is—"
"—Mrs. Weston, I suppose," interrupted Mrs. Elton, rather mortified.
"No—Mrs. Knightley;—and till she is in being, I will manage
such matters myself."
"Ah! you are an odd creature!" she cried, satisfied to have no one
preferred to herself.—"You are a humourist, and may say what you
like. Quite a humourist. Well, I shall bring Jane with me—Jane and
her aunt.—The rest I leave to you. I have no objections at all to
meeting the Hartfield family. Don't scruple. I know you are attached to
"You certainly will meet them if I can prevail; and I shall call on Miss
Bates in my way home."
"That's quite unnecessary; I see Jane every day:—but as you like. It
is to be a morning scheme, you know, Knightley; quite a simple thing. I
shall wear a large bonnet, and bring one of my little baskets hanging on
my arm. Here,—probably this basket with pink ribbon. Nothing can be
more simple, you see. And Jane will have such another. There is to be no
form or parade—a sort of gipsy party. We are to walk about your
gardens, and gather the strawberries ourselves, and sit under trees;—and
whatever else you may like to provide, it is to be all out of doors—a
table spread in the shade, you know. Every thing as natural and simple as
possible. Is not that your idea?"
"Not quite. My idea of the simple and the natural will be to have the
table spread in the dining-room. The nature and the simplicity of
gentlemen and ladies, with their servants and furniture, I think is best
observed by meals within doors. When you are tired of eating strawberries
in the garden, there shall be cold meat in the house."
"Well—as you please; only don't have a great set out. And, by the
bye, can I or my housekeeper be of any use to you with our opinion?—Pray
be sincere, Knightley. If you wish me to talk to Mrs. Hodges, or to
"I have not the least wish for it, I thank you."
"Well—but if any difficulties should arise, my housekeeper is
"I will answer for it, that mine thinks herself full as clever, and would
spurn any body's assistance."
"I wish we had a donkey. The thing would be for us all to come on donkeys,
Jane, Miss Bates, and me—and my caro sposo walking by. I really must
talk to him about purchasing a donkey. In a country life I conceive it to
be a sort of necessary; for, let a woman have ever so many resources, it
is not possible for her to be always shut up at home;—and very long
walks, you know—in summer there is dust, and in winter there is
"You will not find either, between Donwell and Highbury. Donwell Lane is
never dusty, and now it is perfectly dry. Come on a donkey, however, if
you prefer it. You can borrow Mrs. Cole's. I would wish every thing to be
as much to your taste as possible."
"That I am sure you would. Indeed I do you justice, my good friend. Under
that peculiar sort of dry, blunt manner, I know you have the warmest
heart. As I tell Mr. E., you are a thorough humourist.—Yes, believe
me, Knightley, I am fully sensible of your attention to me in the whole of
this scheme. You have hit upon the very thing to please me."
Mr. Knightley had another reason for avoiding a table in the shade. He
wished to persuade Mr. Woodhouse, as well as Emma, to join the party; and
he knew that to have any of them sitting down out of doors to eat would
inevitably make him ill. Mr. Woodhouse must not, under the specious
pretence of a morning drive, and an hour or two spent at Donwell, be
tempted away to his misery.
He was invited on good faith. No lurking horrors were to upbraid him for
his easy credulity. He did consent. He had not been at Donwell for two
years. "Some very fine morning, he, and Emma, and Harriet, could go very
well; and he could sit still with Mrs. Weston, while the dear girls walked
about the gardens. He did not suppose they could be damp now, in the
middle of the day. He should like to see the old house again exceedingly,
and should be very happy to meet Mr. and Mrs. Elton, and any other of his
neighbours.—He could not see any objection at all to his, and
Emma's, and Harriet's going there some very fine morning. He thought it
very well done of Mr. Knightley to invite them—very kind and
sensible—much cleverer than dining out.—He was not fond of
Mr. Knightley was fortunate in every body's most ready concurrence. The
invitation was everywhere so well received, that it seemed as if, like
Mrs. Elton, they were all taking the scheme as a particular compliment to
themselves.—Emma and Harriet professed very high expectations of
pleasure from it; and Mr. Weston, unasked, promised to get Frank over to
join them, if possible; a proof of approbation and gratitude which could
have been dispensed with.—Mr. Knightley was then obliged to say that
he should be glad to see him; and Mr. Weston engaged to lose no time in
writing, and spare no arguments to induce him to come.
In the meanwhile the lame horse recovered so fast, that the party to Box
Hill was again under happy consideration; and at last Donwell was settled
for one day, and Box Hill for the next,—the weather appearing
Under a bright mid-day sun, at almost Midsummer, Mr. Woodhouse was safely
conveyed in his carriage, with one window down, to partake of this
al-fresco party; and in one of the most comfortable rooms in the Abbey,
especially prepared for him by a fire all the morning, he was happily
placed, quite at his ease, ready to talk with pleasure of what had been
achieved, and advise every body to come and sit down, and not to heat
themselves.—Mrs. Weston, who seemed to have walked there on purpose
to be tired, and sit all the time with him, remained, when all the others
were invited or persuaded out, his patient listener and sympathiser.
It was so long since Emma had been at the Abbey, that as soon as she was
satisfied of her father's comfort, she was glad to leave him, and look
around her; eager to refresh and correct her memory with more particular
observation, more exact understanding of a house and grounds which must
ever be so interesting to her and all her family.
She felt all the honest pride and complacency which her alliance with the
present and future proprietor could fairly warrant, as she viewed the
respectable size and style of the building, its suitable, becoming,
characteristic situation, low and sheltered—its ample gardens
stretching down to meadows washed by a stream, of which the Abbey, with
all the old neglect of prospect, had scarcely a sight—and its
abundance of timber in rows and avenues, which neither fashion nor
extravagance had rooted up.—The house was larger than Hartfield, and
totally unlike it, covering a good deal of ground, rambling and irregular,
with many comfortable, and one or two handsome rooms.—It was just
what it ought to be, and it looked what it was—and Emma felt an
increasing respect for it, as the residence of a family of such true
gentility, untainted in blood and understanding.—Some faults of
temper John Knightley had; but Isabella had connected herself
unexceptionably. She had given them neither men, nor names, nor places,
that could raise a blush. These were pleasant feelings, and she walked
about and indulged them till it was necessary to do as the others did, and
collect round the strawberry-beds.—The whole party were assembled,
excepting Frank Churchill, who was expected every moment from Richmond;
and Mrs. Elton, in all her apparatus of happiness, her large bonnet and
her basket, was very ready to lead the way in gathering, accepting, or
talking—strawberries, and only strawberries, could now be thought or
spoken of.—"The best fruit in England—every body's favourite—always
wholesome.—These the finest beds and finest sorts.—Delightful
to gather for one's self—the only way of really enjoying them.—Morning
decidedly the best time—never tired—every sort good—hautboy
infinitely superior—no comparison—the others hardly eatable—hautboys
very scarce—Chili preferred—white wood finest flavour of all—price
of strawberries in London—abundance about Bristol—Maple Grove—cultivation—beds
when to be renewed—gardeners thinking exactly different—no
general rule—gardeners never to be put out of their way—delicious
fruit—only too rich to be eaten much of—inferior to cherries—currants
more refreshing—only objection to gathering strawberries the
stooping—glaring sun—tired to death—could bear it no
longer—must go and sit in the shade."
Such, for half an hour, was the conversation—interrupted only once
by Mrs. Weston, who came out, in her solicitude after her son-in-law, to
inquire if he were come—and she was a little uneasy.—She had
some fears of his horse.
Seats tolerably in the shade were found; and now Emma was obliged to
overhear what Mrs. Elton and Jane Fairfax were talking of.—A
situation, a most desirable situation, was in question. Mrs. Elton had
received notice of it that morning, and was in raptures. It was not with
Mrs. Suckling, it was not with Mrs. Bragge, but in felicity and splendour
it fell short only of them: it was with a cousin of Mrs. Bragge, an
acquaintance of Mrs. Suckling, a lady known at Maple Grove. Delightful,
charming, superior, first circles, spheres, lines, ranks, every thing—and
Mrs. Elton was wild to have the offer closed with immediately.—On
her side, all was warmth, energy, and triumph—and she positively
refused to take her friend's negative, though Miss Fairfax continued to
assure her that she would not at present engage in any thing, repeating
the same motives which she had been heard to urge before.—Still Mrs.
Elton insisted on being authorised to write an acquiescence by the
morrow's post.—How Jane could bear it at all, was astonishing to
Emma.—She did look vexed, she did speak pointedly—and at last,
with a decision of action unusual to her, proposed a removal.—"Should
not they walk? Would not Mr. Knightley shew them the gardens—all the
gardens?—She wished to see the whole extent."—The pertinacity
of her friend seemed more than she could bear.
It was hot; and after walking some time over the gardens in a scattered,
dispersed way, scarcely any three together, they insensibly followed one
another to the delicious shade of a broad short avenue of limes, which
stretching beyond the garden at an equal distance from the river, seemed
the finish of the pleasure grounds.—It led to nothing; nothing but a
view at the end over a low stone wall with high pillars, which seemed
intended, in their erection, to give the appearance of an approach to the
house, which never had been there. Disputable, however, as might be the
taste of such a termination, it was in itself a charming walk, and the
view which closed it extremely pretty.—The considerable slope, at
nearly the foot of which the Abbey stood, gradually acquired a steeper
form beyond its grounds; and at half a mile distant was a bank of
considerable abruptness and grandeur, well clothed with wood;—and at
the bottom of this bank, favourably placed and sheltered, rose the Abbey
Mill Farm, with meadows in front, and the river making a close and
handsome curve around it.
It was a sweet view—sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure,
English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being
In this walk Emma and Mr. Weston found all the others assembled; and
towards this view she immediately perceived Mr. Knightley and Harriet
distinct from the rest, quietly leading the way. Mr. Knightley and
Harriet!—It was an odd tete-a-tete; but she was glad to see it.—There
had been a time when he would have scorned her as a companion, and turned
from her with little ceremony. Now they seemed in pleasant conversation.
There had been a time also when Emma would have been sorry to see Harriet
in a spot so favourable for the Abbey Mill Farm; but now she feared it
not. It might be safely viewed with all its appendages of prosperity and
beauty, its rich pastures, spreading flocks, orchard in blossom, and light
column of smoke ascending.—She joined them at the wall, and found
them more engaged in talking than in looking around. He was giving Harriet
information as to modes of agriculture, etc. and Emma received a smile
which seemed to say, "These are my own concerns. I have a right to talk on
such subjects, without being suspected of introducing Robert Martin."—She
did not suspect him. It was too old a story.—Robert Martin had
probably ceased to think of Harriet.—They took a few turns together
along the walk.—The shade was most refreshing, and Emma found it the
pleasantest part of the day.
The next remove was to the house; they must all go in and eat;—and
they were all seated and busy, and still Frank Churchill did not come.
Mrs. Weston looked, and looked in vain. His father would not own himself
uneasy, and laughed at her fears; but she could not be cured of wishing
that he would part with his black mare. He had expressed himself as to
coming, with more than common certainty. "His aunt was so much better,
that he had not a doubt of getting over to them."—Mrs. Churchill's
state, however, as many were ready to remind her, was liable to such
sudden variation as might disappoint her nephew in the most reasonable
dependence—and Mrs. Weston was at last persuaded to believe, or to
say, that it must be by some attack of Mrs. Churchill that he was
prevented coming.—Emma looked at Harriet while the point was under
consideration; she behaved very well, and betrayed no emotion.
The cold repast was over, and the party were to go out once more to see
what had not yet been seen, the old Abbey fish-ponds; perhaps get as far
as the clover, which was to be begun cutting on the morrow, or, at any
rate, have the pleasure of being hot, and growing cool again.—Mr.
Woodhouse, who had already taken his little round in the highest part of
the gardens, where no damps from the river were imagined even by him,
stirred no more; and his daughter resolved to remain with him, that Mrs.
Weston might be persuaded away by her husband to the exercise and variety
which her spirits seemed to need.
Mr. Knightley had done all in his power for Mr. Woodhouse's entertainment.
Books of engravings, drawers of medals, cameos, corals, shells, and every
other family collection within his cabinets, had been prepared for his old
friend, to while away the morning; and the kindness had perfectly
answered. Mr. Woodhouse had been exceedingly well amused. Mrs. Weston had
been shewing them all to him, and now he would shew them all to Emma;—fortunate
in having no other resemblance to a child, than in a total want of taste
for what he saw, for he was slow, constant, and methodical.—Before
this second looking over was begun, however, Emma walked into the hall for
the sake of a few moments' free observation of the entrance and
ground-plot of the house—and was hardly there, when Jane Fairfax
appeared, coming quickly in from the garden, and with a look of escape.—Little
expecting to meet Miss Woodhouse so soon, there was a start at first; but
Miss Woodhouse was the very person she was in quest of.
"Will you be so kind," said she, "when I am missed, as to say that I am
gone home?—I am going this moment.—My aunt is not aware how
late it is, nor how long we have been absent—but I am sure we shall
be wanted, and I am determined to go directly.—I have said nothing
about it to any body. It would only be giving trouble and distress. Some
are gone to the ponds, and some to the lime walk. Till they all come in I
shall not be missed; and when they do, will you have the goodness to say
that I am gone?"
"Certainly, if you wish it;—but you are not going to walk to
"Yes—what should hurt me?—I walk fast. I shall be at home in
"But it is too far, indeed it is, to be walking quite alone. Let my
father's servant go with you.—Let me order the carriage. It can be
round in five minutes."
"Thank you, thank you—but on no account.—I would rather walk.—And
for <i>me</i> to be afraid of walking alone!—I, who may so soon have
to guard others!"
She spoke with great agitation; and Emma very feelingly replied, "That can
be no reason for your being exposed to danger now. I must order the
carriage. The heat even would be danger.—You are fatigued already."
"I am,"—she answered—"I am fatigued; but it is not the sort of
fatigue—quick walking will refresh me.—Miss Woodhouse, we all
know at times what it is to be wearied in spirits. Mine, I confess, are
exhausted. The greatest kindness you can shew me, will be to let me have
my own way, and only say that I am gone when it is necessary."
Emma had not another word to oppose. She saw it all; and entering into her
feelings, promoted her quitting the house immediately, and watched her
safely off with the zeal of a friend. Her parting look was grateful—and
her parting words, "Oh! Miss Woodhouse, the comfort of being sometimes
alone!"—seemed to burst from an overcharged heart, and to describe
somewhat of the continual endurance to be practised by her, even towards
some of those who loved her best.
"Such a home, indeed! such an aunt!" said Emma, as she turned back into
the hall again. "I do pity you. And the more sensibility you betray of
their just horrors, the more I shall like you."
Jane had not been gone a quarter of an hour, and they had only
accomplished some views of St. Mark's Place, Venice, when Frank Churchill
entered the room. Emma had not been thinking of him, she had forgotten to
think of him—but she was very glad to see him. Mrs. Weston would be
at ease. The black mare was blameless; <i>they</i> were right who had
named Mrs. Churchill as the cause. He had been detained by a temporary
increase of illness in her; a nervous seizure, which had lasted some hours—and
he had quite given up every thought of coming, till very late;—and
had he known how hot a ride he should have, and how late, with all his
hurry, he must be, he believed he should not have come at all. The heat
was excessive; he had never suffered any thing like it—almost wished
he had staid at home—nothing killed him like heat—he could
bear any degree of cold, etc., but heat was intolerable—and he sat
down, at the greatest possible distance from the slight remains of Mr.
Woodhouse's fire, looking very deplorable.
"You will soon be cooler, if you sit still," said Emma.
"As soon as I am cooler I shall go back again. I could very ill be spared—but
such a point had been made of my coming! You will all be going soon I
suppose; the whole party breaking up. I met <i>one</i> as I came—Madness
in such weather!—absolute madness!"
Emma listened, and looked, and soon perceived that Frank Churchill's state
might be best defined by the expressive phrase of being out of humour.
Some people were always cross when they were hot. Such might be his
constitution; and as she knew that eating and drinking were often the cure
of such incidental complaints, she recommended his taking some
refreshment; he would find abundance of every thing in the dining-room—and
she humanely pointed out the door.
"No—he should not eat. He was not hungry; it would only make him
hotter." In two minutes, however, he relented in his own favour; and
muttering something about spruce-beer, walked off. Emma returned all her
attention to her father, saying in secret—
"I am glad I have done being in love with him. I should not like a man who
is so soon discomposed by a hot morning. Harriet's sweet easy temper will
not mind it."
He was gone long enough to have had a very comfortable meal, and came back
all the better—grown quite cool—and, with good manners, like
himself—able to draw a chair close to them, take an interest in
their employment; and regret, in a reasonable way, that he should be so
late. He was not in his best spirits, but seemed trying to improve them;
and, at last, made himself talk nonsense very agreeably. They were looking
over views in Swisserland.
"As soon as my aunt gets well, I shall go abroad," said he. "I shall never
be easy till I have seen some of these places. You will have my sketches,
some time or other, to look at—or my tour to read—or my poem.
I shall do something to expose myself."
"That may be—but not by sketches in Swisserland. You will never go
to Swisserland. Your uncle and aunt will never allow you to leave
"They may be induced to go too. A warm climate may be prescribed for her.
I have more than half an expectation of our all going abroad. I assure you
I have. I feel a strong persuasion, this morning, that I shall soon be
abroad. I ought to travel. I am tired of doing nothing. I want a change. I
am serious, Miss Woodhouse, whatever your penetrating eyes may fancy—I
am sick of England—and would leave it to-morrow, if I could."
"You are sick of prosperity and indulgence. Cannot you invent a few
hardships for yourself, and be contented to stay?"
"<i>I</i> sick of prosperity and indulgence! You are quite mistaken. I do
not look upon myself as either prosperous or indulged. I am thwarted in
every thing material. I do not consider myself at all a fortunate person."
"You are not quite so miserable, though, as when you first came. Go and
eat and drink a little more, and you will do very well. Another slice of
cold meat, another draught of Madeira and water, will make you nearly on a
par with the rest of us."
"No—I shall not stir. I shall sit by you. You are my best cure."
"We are going to Box Hill to-morrow;—you will join us. It is not
Swisserland, but it will be something for a young man so much in want of a
change. You will stay, and go with us?"
"No, certainly not; I shall go home in the cool of the evening."
"But you may come again in the cool of to-morrow morning."
"No—It will not be worth while. If I come, I shall be cross."
"Then pray stay at Richmond."
"But if I do, I shall be crosser still. I can never bear to think of you
all there without me."
"These are difficulties which you must settle for yourself. Chuse your own
degree of crossness. I shall press you no more."
The rest of the party were now returning, and all were soon collected.
With some there was great joy at the sight of Frank Churchill; others took
it very composedly; but there was a very general distress and disturbance
on Miss Fairfax's disappearance being explained. That it was time for
every body to go, concluded the subject; and with a short final
arrangement for the next day's scheme, they parted. Frank Churchill's
little inclination to exclude himself increased so much, that his last
words to Emma were,
"Well;—if <i>you</i> wish me to stay and join the party, I will."
She smiled her acceptance; and nothing less than a summons from Richmond
was to take him back before the following evening.