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It was a very great relief to Emma to find Harriet as desirous as herself
to avoid a meeting. Their intercourse was painful enough by letter. How
much worse, had they been obliged to meet!
Harriet expressed herself very much as might be supposed, without
reproaches, or apparent sense of ill-usage; and yet Emma fancied there was
a something of resentment, a something bordering on it in her style, which
increased the desirableness of their being separate.—It might be
only her own consciousness; but it seemed as if an angel only could have
been quite without resentment under such a stroke.
She had no difficulty in procuring Isabella's invitation; and she was
fortunate in having a sufficient reason for asking it, without resorting
to invention.—There was a tooth amiss. Harriet really wished, and
had wished some time, to consult a dentist. Mrs. John Knightley was
delighted to be of use; any thing of ill health was a recommendation to
her—and though not so fond of a dentist as of a Mr. Wingfield, she
was quite eager to have Harriet under her care.—When it was thus
settled on her sister's side, Emma proposed it to her friend, and found
her very persuadable.—Harriet was to go; she was invited for at
least a fortnight; she was to be conveyed in Mr. Woodhouse's carriage.—It
was all arranged, it was all completed, and Harriet was safe in Brunswick
Now Emma could, indeed, enjoy Mr. Knightley's visits; now she could talk,
and she could listen with true happiness, unchecked by that sense of
injustice, of guilt, of something most painful, which had haunted her when
remembering how disappointed a heart was near her, how much might at that
moment, and at a little distance, be enduring by the feelings which she
had led astray herself.
The difference of Harriet at Mrs. Goddard's, or in London, made perhaps an
unreasonable difference in Emma's sensations; but she could not think of
her in London without objects of curiosity and employment, which must be
averting the past, and carrying her out of herself.
She would not allow any other anxiety to succeed directly to the place in
her mind which Harriet had occupied. There was a communication before her,
one which <i>she</i> only could be competent to make—the confession
of her engagement to her father; but she would have nothing to do with it
at present.—She had resolved to defer the disclosure till Mrs.
Weston were safe and well. No additional agitation should be thrown at
this period among those she loved—and the evil should not act on
herself by anticipation before the appointed time.—A fortnight, at
least, of leisure and peace of mind, to crown every warmer, but more
agitating, delight, should be hers.
She soon resolved, equally as a duty and a pleasure, to employ half an
hour of this holiday of spirits in calling on Miss Fairfax.—She
ought to go—and she was longing to see her; the resemblance of their
present situations increasing every other motive of goodwill. It would be
a <i>secret</i> satisfaction; but the consciousness of a similarity of
prospect would certainly add to the interest with which she should attend
to any thing Jane might communicate.
She went—she had driven once unsuccessfully to the door, but had not
been into the house since the morning after Box Hill, when poor Jane had
been in such distress as had filled her with compassion, though all the
worst of her sufferings had been unsuspected.—The fear of being
still unwelcome, determined her, though assured of their being at home, to
wait in the passage, and send up her name.—She heard Patty
announcing it; but no such bustle succeeded as poor Miss Bates had before
made so happily intelligible.—No; she heard nothing but the instant
reply of, "Beg her to walk up;"—and a moment afterwards she was met
on the stairs by Jane herself, coming eagerly forward, as if no other
reception of her were felt sufficient.—Emma had never seen her look
so well, so lovely, so engaging. There was consciousness, animation, and
warmth; there was every thing which her countenance or manner could ever
have wanted.— She came forward with an offered hand; and said, in a
low, but very feeling tone,
"This is most kind, indeed!—Miss Woodhouse, it is impossible for me
to express—I hope you will believe—Excuse me for being so
entirely without words."
Emma was gratified, and would soon have shewn no want of words, if the
sound of Mrs. Elton's voice from the sitting-room had not checked her, and
made it expedient to compress all her friendly and all her congratulatory
sensations into a very, very earnest shake of the hand.
Mrs. Bates and Mrs. Elton were together. Miss Bates was out, which
accounted for the previous tranquillity. Emma could have wished Mrs. Elton
elsewhere; but she was in a humour to have patience with every body; and
as Mrs. Elton met her with unusual graciousness, she hoped the rencontre
would do them no harm.
She soon believed herself to penetrate Mrs. Elton's thoughts, and
understand why she was, like herself, in happy spirits; it was being in
Miss Fairfax's confidence, and fancying herself acquainted with what was
still a secret to other people. Emma saw symptoms of it immediately in the
expression of her face; and while paying her own compliments to Mrs.
Bates, and appearing to attend to the good old lady's replies, she saw her
with a sort of anxious parade of mystery fold up a letter which she had
apparently been reading aloud to Miss Fairfax, and return it into the
purple and gold reticule by her side, saying, with significant nods,
"We can finish this some other time, you know. You and I shall not want
opportunities. And, in fact, you have heard all the essential already. I
only wanted to prove to you that Mrs. S. admits our apology, and is not
offended. You see how delightfully she writes. Oh! she is a sweet
creature! You would have doated on her, had you gone.—But not a word
more. Let us be discreet—quite on our good behaviour.—Hush!—You
remember those lines—I forget the poem at this moment:
"For when a lady's in the case,
"You know all other things give place."
Now I say, my dear, in <i>our</i> case, for <i>lady</i>, read——mum!
a word to the wise.—I am in a fine flow of spirits, an't I? But I
want to set your heart at ease as to Mrs. S.—<i>My</i>
representation, you see, has quite appeased her."
And again, on Emma's merely turning her head to look at Mrs. Bates's
knitting, she added, in a half whisper,
"I mentioned no <i>names</i>, you will observe.—Oh! no; cautious as
a minister of state. I managed it extremely well."
Emma could not doubt. It was a palpable display, repeated on every
possible occasion. When they had all talked a little while in harmony of
the weather and Mrs. Weston, she found herself abruptly addressed with,
"Do not you think, Miss Woodhouse, our saucy little friend here is
charmingly recovered?—Do not you think her cure does Perry the
highest credit?—(here was a side-glance of great meaning at Jane.)
Upon my word, Perry has restored her in a wonderful short time!—Oh!
if you had seen her, as I did, when she was at the worst!"—And when
Mrs. Bates was saying something to Emma, whispered farther, "We do not say
a word of any <i>assistance</i> that Perry might have; not a word of a
certain young physician from Windsor.—Oh! no; Perry shall have all
"I have scarce had the pleasure of seeing you, Miss Woodhouse," she
shortly afterwards began, "since the party to Box Hill. Very pleasant
party. But yet I think there was something wanting. Things did not seem—that
is, there seemed a little cloud upon the spirits of some.—So it
appeared to me at least, but I might be mistaken. However, I think it
answered so far as to tempt one to go again. What say you both to our
collecting the same party, and exploring to Box Hill again, while the fine
weather lasts?—It must be the same party, you know, quite the same
party, not <i>one</i> exception."
Soon after this Miss Bates came in, and Emma could not help being diverted
by the perplexity of her first answer to herself, resulting, she supposed,
from doubt of what might be said, and impatience to say every thing.
"Thank you, dear Miss Woodhouse, you are all kindness.—It is
impossible to say—Yes, indeed, I quite understand—dearest
Jane's prospects—that is, I do not mean.—But she is charmingly
recovered.—How is Mr. Woodhouse?—I am so glad.—Quite out
of my power.—Such a happy little circle as you find us here.—Yes,
indeed.—Charming young man!—that is—so very friendly; I
mean good Mr. Perry!—such attention to Jane!"—And from her
great, her more than commonly thankful delight towards Mrs. Elton for
being there, Emma guessed that there had been a little show of resentment
towards Jane, from the vicarage quarter, which was now graciously
overcome.—After a few whispers, indeed, which placed it beyond a
guess, Mrs. Elton, speaking louder, said,
"Yes, here I am, my good friend; and here I have been so long, that
anywhere else I should think it necessary to apologise; but, the truth is,
that I am waiting for my lord and master. He promised to join me here, and
pay his respects to you."
"What! are we to have the pleasure of a call from Mr. Elton?—That
will be a favour indeed! for I know gentlemen do not like morning visits,
and Mr. Elton's time is so engaged."
"Upon my word it is, Miss Bates.—He really is engaged from morning
to night.—There is no end of people's coming to him, on some
pretence or other.—The magistrates, and overseers, and
churchwardens, are always wanting his opinion. They seem not able to do
any thing without him.—'Upon my word, Mr. E.,' I often say, 'rather
you than I.—I do not know what would become of my crayons and my
instrument, if I had half so many applicants.'—Bad enough as it is,
for I absolutely neglect them both to an unpardonable degree.—I
believe I have not played a bar this fortnight.—However, he is
coming, I assure you: yes, indeed, on purpose to wait on you all." And
putting up her hand to screen her words from Emma—"A congratulatory
visit, you know.—Oh! yes, quite indispensable."
Miss Bates looked about her, so happily—!
"He promised to come to me as soon as he could disengage himself from
Knightley; but he and Knightley are shut up together in deep consultation.—Mr.
E. is Knightley's right hand."
Emma would not have smiled for the world, and only said, "Is Mr. Elton
gone on foot to Donwell?—He will have a hot walk."
"Oh! no, it is a meeting at the Crown, a regular meeting. Weston and Cole
will be there too; but one is apt to speak only of those who lead.—I
fancy Mr. E. and Knightley have every thing their own way."
"Have not you mistaken the day?" said Emma. "I am almost certain that the
meeting at the Crown is not till to-morrow.—Mr. Knightley was at
Hartfield yesterday, and spoke of it as for Saturday."
"Oh! no, the meeting is certainly to-day," was the abrupt answer, which
denoted the impossibility of any blunder on Mrs. Elton's side.—"I do
believe," she continued, "this is the most troublesome parish that ever
was. We never heard of such things at Maple Grove."
"Your parish there was small," said Jane.
"Upon my word, my dear, I do not know, for I never heard the subject
"But it is proved by the smallness of the school, which I have heard you
speak of, as under the patronage of your sister and Mrs. Bragge; the only
school, and not more than five-and-twenty children."
"Ah! you clever creature, that's very true. What a thinking brain you
have! I say, Jane, what a perfect character you and I should make, if we
could be shaken together. My liveliness and your solidity would produce
perfection.—Not that I presume to insinuate, however, that <i>some</i>
people may not think <i>you</i> perfection already.—But hush!—not
a word, if you please."
It seemed an unnecessary caution; Jane was wanting to give her words, not
to Mrs. Elton, but to Miss Woodhouse, as the latter plainly saw. The wish
of distinguishing her, as far as civility permitted, was very evident,
though it could not often proceed beyond a look.
Mr. Elton made his appearance. His lady greeted him with some of her
"Very pretty, sir, upon my word; to send me on here, to be an encumbrance
to my friends, so long before you vouchsafe to come!—But you knew
what a dutiful creature you had to deal with. You knew I should not stir
till my lord and master appeared.—Here have I been sitting this
hour, giving these young ladies a sample of true conjugal obedience—for
who can say, you know, how soon it may be wanted?"
Mr. Elton was so hot and tired, that all this wit seemed thrown away. His
civilities to the other ladies must be paid; but his subsequent object was
to lament over himself for the heat he was suffering, and the walk he had
had for nothing.
"When I got to Donwell," said he, "Knightley could not be found. Very odd!
very unaccountable! after the note I sent him this morning, and the
message he returned, that he should certainly be at home till one."
"Donwell!" cried his wife.—"My dear Mr. E., you have not been to
Donwell!—You mean the Crown; you come from the meeting at the
"No, no, that's to-morrow; and I particularly wanted to see Knightley
to-day on that very account.—Such a dreadful broiling morning!—I
went over the fields too—(speaking in a tone of great ill-usage,)
which made it so much the worse. And then not to find him at home! I
assure you I am not at all pleased. And no apology left, no message for
me. The housekeeper declared she knew nothing of my being expected.—Very
extraordinary!—And nobody knew at all which way he was gone. Perhaps
to Hartfield, perhaps to the Abbey Mill, perhaps into his woods.—Miss
Woodhouse, this is not like our friend Knightley!—Can you explain
Emma amused herself by protesting that it was very extraordinary, indeed,
and that she had not a syllable to say for him.
"I cannot imagine," said Mrs. Elton, (feeling the indignity as a wife
ought to do,) "I cannot imagine how he could do such a thing by you, of
all people in the world! The very last person whom one should expect to be
forgotten!—My dear Mr. E., he must have left a message for you, I am
sure he must.—Not even Knightley could be so very eccentric;—and
his servants forgot it. Depend upon it, that was the case: and very likely
to happen with the Donwell servants, who are all, I have often observed,
extremely awkward and remiss.—I am sure I would not have such a
creature as his Harry stand at our sideboard for any consideration. And as
for Mrs. Hodges, Wright holds her very cheap indeed.—She promised
Wright a receipt, and never sent it."
"I met William Larkins," continued Mr. Elton, "as I got near the house,
and he told me I should not find his master at home, but I did not believe
him.—William seemed rather out of humour. He did not know what was
come to his master lately, he said, but he could hardly ever get the
speech of him. I have nothing to do with William's wants, but it really is
of very great importance that <i>I</i> should see Knightley to-day; and it
becomes a matter, therefore, of very serious inconvenience that I should
have had this hot walk to no purpose."
Emma felt that she could not do better than go home directly. In all
probability she was at this very time waited for there; and Mr. Knightley
might be preserved from sinking deeper in aggression towards Mr. Elton, if
not towards William Larkins.
She was pleased, on taking leave, to find Miss Fairfax determined to
attend her out of the room, to go with her even downstairs; it gave her an
opportunity which she immediately made use of, to say,
"It is as well, perhaps, that I have not had the possibility. Had you not
been surrounded by other friends, I might have been tempted to introduce a
subject, to ask questions, to speak more openly than might have been
strictly correct.—I feel that I should certainly have been
"Oh!" cried Jane, with a blush and an hesitation which Emma thought
infinitely more becoming to her than all the elegance of all her usual
composure—"there would have been no danger. The danger would have
been of my wearying you. You could not have gratified me more than by
expressing an interest—. Indeed, Miss Woodhouse, (speaking more
collectedly,) with the consciousness which I have of misconduct, very
great misconduct, it is particularly consoling to me to know that those of
my friends, whose good opinion is most worth preserving, are not disgusted
to such a degree as to—I have not time for half that I could wish to
say. I long to make apologies, excuses, to urge something for myself. I
feel it so very due. But, unfortunately—in short, if your compassion
does not stand my friend—"
"Oh! you are too scrupulous, indeed you are," cried Emma warmly, and
taking her hand. "You owe me no apologies; and every body to whom you
might be supposed to owe them, is so perfectly satisfied, so delighted
"You are very kind, but I know what my manners were to you.—So cold
and artificial!—I had always a part to act.—It was a life of
deceit!—I know that I must have disgusted you."
"Pray say no more. I feel that all the apologies should be on my side. Let
us forgive each other at once. We must do whatever is to be done quickest,
and I think our feelings will lose no time there. I hope you have pleasant
accounts from Windsor?"
"And the next news, I suppose, will be, that we are to lose you—just
as I begin to know you."
"Oh! as to all that, of course nothing can be thought of yet. I am here
till claimed by Colonel and Mrs. Campbell."
"Nothing can be actually settled yet, perhaps," replied Emma, smiling—"but,
excuse me, it must be thought of."
The smile was returned as Jane answered,
"You are very right; it has been thought of. And I will own to you, (I am
sure it will be safe), that so far as our living with Mr. Churchill at
Enscombe, it is settled. There must be three months, at least, of deep
mourning; but when they are over, I imagine there will be nothing more to
"Thank you, thank you.—This is just what I wanted to be assured of.—Oh!
if you knew how much I love every thing that is decided and open!—Good-bye,