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The wretchedness of a scheme to Box Hill was in Emma's thoughts all the
evening. How it might be considered by the rest of the party, she could
not tell. They, in their different homes, and their different ways, might
be looking back on it with pleasure; but in her view it was a morning more
completely misspent, more totally bare of rational satisfaction at the
time, and more to be abhorred in recollection, than any she had ever
passed. A whole evening of back-gammon with her father, was felicity to
it. <i>There</i>, indeed, lay real pleasure, for there she was giving up
the sweetest hours of the twenty-four to his comfort; and feeling that,
unmerited as might be the degree of his fond affection and confiding
esteem, she could not, in her general conduct, be open to any severe
reproach. As a daughter, she hoped she was not without a heart. She hoped
no one could have said to her, "How could you be so unfeeling to your
father?—I must, I will tell you truths while I can." Miss Bates
should never again—no, never! If attention, in future, could do away
the past, she might hope to be forgiven. She had been often remiss, her
conscience told her so; remiss, perhaps, more in thought than fact;
scornful, ungracious. But it should be so no more. In the warmth of true
contrition, she would call upon her the very next morning, and it should
be the beginning, on her side, of a regular, equal, kindly intercourse.
She was just as determined when the morrow came, and went early, that
nothing might prevent her. It was not unlikely, she thought, that she
might see Mr. Knightley in her way; or, perhaps, he might come in while
she were paying her visit. She had no objection. She would not be ashamed
of the appearance of the penitence, so justly and truly hers. Her eyes
were towards Donwell as she walked, but she saw him not.
"The ladies were all at home." She had never rejoiced at the sound before,
nor ever before entered the passage, nor walked up the stairs, with any
wish of giving pleasure, but in conferring obligation, or of deriving it,
except in subsequent ridicule.
There was a bustle on her approach; a good deal of moving and talking. She
heard Miss Bates's voice, something was to be done in a hurry; the maid
looked frightened and awkward; hoped she would be pleased to wait a
moment, and then ushered her in too soon. The aunt and niece seemed both
escaping into the adjoining room. Jane she had a distinct glimpse of,
looking extremely ill; and, before the door had shut them out, she heard
Miss Bates saying, "Well, my dear, I shall <i>say</i> you are laid down
upon the bed, and I am sure you are ill enough."
Poor old Mrs. Bates, civil and humble as usual, looked as if she did not
quite understand what was going on.
"I am afraid Jane is not very well," said she, "but I do not know; they <i>tell</i>
me she is well. I dare say my daughter will be here presently, Miss
Woodhouse. I hope you find a chair. I wish Hetty had not gone. I am very
little able—Have you a chair, ma'am? Do you sit where you like? I am
sure she will be here presently."
Emma seriously hoped she would. She had a moment's fear of Miss Bates
keeping away from her. But Miss Bates soon came—"Very happy and
obliged"—but Emma's conscience told her that there was not the same
cheerful volubility as before—less ease of look and manner. A very
friendly inquiry after Miss Fairfax, she hoped, might lead the way to a
return of old feelings. The touch seemed immediate.
"Ah! Miss Woodhouse, how kind you are!—I suppose you have heard—and
are come to give us joy. This does not seem much like joy, indeed, in me—(twinkling
away a tear or two)—but it will be very trying for us to part with
her, after having had her so long, and she has a dreadful headache just
now, writing all the morning:—such long letters, you know, to be
written to Colonel Campbell, and Mrs. Dixon. 'My dear,' said I, 'you will
blind yourself'—for tears were in her eyes perpetually. One cannot
wonder, one cannot wonder. It is a great change; and though she is
amazingly fortunate—such a situation, I suppose, as no young woman
before ever met with on first going out—do not think us ungrateful,
Miss Woodhouse, for such surprising good fortune—(again dispersing
her tears)—but, poor dear soul! if you were to see what a headache
she has. When one is in great pain, you know one cannot feel any blessing
quite as it may deserve. She is as low as possible. To look at her, nobody
would think how delighted and happy she is to have secured such a
situation. You will excuse her not coming to you—she is not able—she
is gone into her own room—I want her to lie down upon the bed. 'My
dear,' said I, 'I shall say you are laid down upon the bed:' but, however,
she is not; she is walking about the room. But, now that she has written
her letters, she says she shall soon be well. She will be extremely sorry
to miss seeing you, Miss Woodhouse, but your kindness will excuse her. You
were kept waiting at the door—I was quite ashamed—but somehow
there was a little bustle—for it so happened that we had not heard
the knock, and till you were on the stairs, we did not know any body was
coming. 'It is only Mrs. Cole,' said I, 'depend upon it. Nobody else would
come so early.' 'Well,' said she, 'it must be borne some time or other,
and it may as well be now.' But then Patty came in, and said it was you.
'Oh!' said I, 'it is Miss Woodhouse: I am sure you will like to see her.'—'I
can see nobody,' said she; and up she got, and would go away; and that was
what made us keep you waiting—and extremely sorry and ashamed we
were. 'If you must go, my dear,' said I, 'you must, and I will say you are
laid down upon the bed.'"
Emma was most sincerely interested. Her heart had been long growing kinder
towards Jane; and this picture of her present sufferings acted as a cure
of every former ungenerous suspicion, and left her nothing but pity; and
the remembrance of the less just and less gentle sensations of the past,
obliged her to admit that Jane might very naturally resolve on seeing Mrs.
Cole or any other steady friend, when she might not bear to see herself.
She spoke as she felt, with earnest regret and solicitude—sincerely
wishing that the circumstances which she collected from Miss Bates to be
now actually determined on, might be as much for Miss Fairfax's advantage
and comfort as possible. "It must be a severe trial to them all. She had
understood it was to be delayed till Colonel Campbell's return."
"So very kind!" replied Miss Bates. "But you are always kind."
There was no bearing such an "always;" and to break through her dreadful
gratitude, Emma made the direct inquiry of—
"Where—may I ask?—is Miss Fairfax going?"
"To a Mrs. Smallridge—charming woman—most superior—to
have the charge of her three little girls—delightful children.
Impossible that any situation could be more replete with comfort; if we
except, perhaps, Mrs. Suckling's own family, and Mrs. Bragge's; but Mrs.
Smallridge is intimate with both, and in the very same neighbourhood:—lives
only four miles from Maple Grove. Jane will be only four miles from Maple
"Mrs. Elton, I suppose, has been the person to whom Miss Fairfax owes—"
"Yes, our good Mrs. Elton. The most indefatigable, true friend. She would
not take a denial. She would not let Jane say, 'No;' for when Jane first
heard of it, (it was the day before yesterday, the very morning we were at
Donwell,) when Jane first heard of it, she was quite decided against
accepting the offer, and for the reasons you mention; exactly as you say,
she had made up her mind to close with nothing till Colonel Campbell's
return, and nothing should induce her to enter into any engagement at
present—and so she told Mrs. Elton over and over again—and I
am sure I had no more idea that she would change her mind!—but that
good Mrs. Elton, whose judgment never fails her, saw farther than I did.
It is not every body that would have stood out in such a kind way as she
did, and refuse to take Jane's answer; but she positively declared she
would <i>not</i> write any such denial yesterday, as Jane wished her; she
would wait—and, sure enough, yesterday evening it was all settled
that Jane should go. Quite a surprize to me! I had not the least idea!—Jane
took Mrs. Elton aside, and told her at once, that upon thinking over the
advantages of Mrs. Smallridge's situation, she had come to the resolution
of accepting it.—I did not know a word of it till it was all
"You spent the evening with Mrs. Elton?"
"Yes, all of us; Mrs. Elton would have us come. It was settled so, upon
the hill, while we were walking about with Mr. Knightley. 'You <i>must</i>
<i>all</i> spend your evening with us,' said she—'I positively must
have you <i>all</i> come.'"
"Mr. Knightley was there too, was he?"
"No, not Mr. Knightley; he declined it from the first; and though I
thought he would come, because Mrs. Elton declared she would not let him
off, he did not;—but my mother, and Jane, and I, were all there, and
a very agreeable evening we had. Such kind friends, you know, Miss
Woodhouse, one must always find agreeable, though every body seemed rather
fagged after the morning's party. Even pleasure, you know, is fatiguing—and
I cannot say that any of them seemed very much to have enjoyed it.
However, <i>I</i> shall always think it a very pleasant party, and feel
extremely obliged to the kind friends who included me in it."
"Miss Fairfax, I suppose, though you were not aware of it, had been making
up her mind the whole day?"
"I dare say she had."
"Whenever the time may come, it must be unwelcome to her and all her
friends—but I hope her engagement will have every alleviation that
is possible—I mean, as to the character and manners of the family."
"Thank you, dear Miss Woodhouse. Yes, indeed, there is every thing in the
world that can make her happy in it. Except the Sucklings and Bragges,
there is not such another nursery establishment, so liberal and elegant,
in all Mrs. Elton's acquaintance. Mrs. Smallridge, a most delightful
woman!—A style of living almost equal to Maple Grove—and as to
the children, except the little Sucklings and little Bragges, there are
not such elegant sweet children anywhere. Jane will be treated with such
regard and kindness!—It will be nothing but pleasure, a life of
pleasure.—And her salary!—I really cannot venture to name her
salary to you, Miss Woodhouse. Even you, used as you are to great sums,
would hardly believe that so much could be given to a young person like
"Ah! madam," cried Emma, "if other children are at all like what I
remember to have been myself, I should think five times the amount of what
I have ever yet heard named as a salary on such occasions, dearly earned."
"You are so noble in your ideas!"
"And when is Miss Fairfax to leave you?"
"Very soon, very soon, indeed; that's the worst of it. Within a fortnight.
Mrs. Smallridge is in a great hurry. My poor mother does not know how to
bear it. So then, I try to put it out of her thoughts, and say, Come
ma'am, do not let us think about it any more."
"Her friends must all be sorry to lose her; and will not Colonel and Mrs.
Campbell be sorry to find that she has engaged herself before their
"Yes; Jane says she is sure they will; but yet, this is such a situation
as she cannot feel herself justified in declining. I was so astonished
when she first told me what she had been saying to Mrs. Elton, and when
Mrs. Elton at the same moment came congratulating me upon it! It was
before tea—stay—no, it could not be before tea, because we
were just going to cards—and yet it was before tea, because I
remember thinking—Oh! no, now I recollect, now I have it; something
happened before tea, but not that. Mr. Elton was called out of the room
before tea, old John Abdy's son wanted to speak with him. Poor old John, I
have a great regard for him; he was clerk to my poor father twenty-seven
years; and now, poor old man, he is bed-ridden, and very poorly with the
rheumatic gout in his joints—I must go and see him to-day; and so
will Jane, I am sure, if she gets out at all. And poor John's son came to
talk to Mr. Elton about relief from the parish; he is very well to do
himself, you know, being head man at the Crown, ostler, and every thing of
that sort, but still he cannot keep his father without some help; and so,
when Mr. Elton came back, he told us what John ostler had been telling
him, and then it came out about the chaise having been sent to Randalls to
take Mr. Frank Churchill to Richmond. That was what happened before tea.
It was after tea that Jane spoke to Mrs. Elton."
Miss Bates would hardly give Emma time to say how perfectly new this
circumstance was to her; but as without supposing it possible that she
could be ignorant of any of the particulars of Mr. Frank Churchill's
going, she proceeded to give them all, it was of no consequence.
What Mr. Elton had learned from the ostler on the subject, being the
accumulation of the ostler's own knowledge, and the knowledge of the
servants at Randalls, was, that a messenger had come over from Richmond
soon after the return of the party from Box Hill—which messenger,
however, had been no more than was expected; and that Mr. Churchill had
sent his nephew a few lines, containing, upon the whole, a tolerable
account of Mrs. Churchill, and only wishing him not to delay coming back
beyond the next morning early; but that Mr. Frank Churchill having
resolved to go home directly, without waiting at all, and his horse
seeming to have got a cold, Tom had been sent off immediately for the
Crown chaise, and the ostler had stood out and seen it pass by, the boy
going a good pace, and driving very steady.
There was nothing in all this either to astonish or interest, and it
caught Emma's attention only as it united with the subject which already
engaged her mind. The contrast between Mrs. Churchill's importance in the
world, and Jane Fairfax's, struck her; one was every thing, the other
nothing—and she sat musing on the difference of woman's destiny, and
quite unconscious on what her eyes were fixed, till roused by Miss Bates's
"Aye, I see what you are thinking of, the pianoforte. What is to become of
that?—Very true. Poor dear Jane was talking of it just now.—'You
must go,' said she. 'You and I must part. You will have no business here.—Let
it stay, however,' said she; 'give it houseroom till Colonel Campbell
comes back. I shall talk about it to him; he will settle for me; he will
help me out of all my difficulties.'—And to this day, I do believe,
she knows not whether it was his present or his daughter's."
Now Emma was obliged to think of the pianoforte; and the remembrance of
all her former fanciful and unfair conjectures was so little pleasing,
that she soon allowed herself to believe her visit had been long enough;
and, with a repetition of every thing that she could venture to say of the
good wishes which she really felt, took leave.