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could hardly be a happier creature in the world than Mrs. John
Knightley, in this short visit to Hartfield, going about every morning
among her old acquaintance with her five children, and talking over
what she had done every evening with her father and sister. She had
nothing to wish otherwise, but that the days did not pass so
swiftly. It was a delightful visit;--perfect, in being much
In general their evenings were less engaged with friends than their
mornings; but one complete dinner engagement, and out of the house too,
there was no avoiding, though at Christmas. Mr. Weston would take no
denial; they must all dine at Randalls one day;--even Mr. Woodhouse was
persuaded to think it a possible thing in preference to a division of
How they were all to be conveyed, he would have made a difficulty if he
could, but as his son and daughter's carriage and horses were actually
at Hartfield, he was not able to make more than a simple question on
that head; it hardly amounted to a doubt; nor did it occupy Emma long
to convince him that they might in one of the carriages find room for
Harriet, Mr. Elton, and Mr. Knightley, their own especial set, were the
only persons invited to meet them;--the hours were to be early, as well
as the numbers few; Mr. Woodhouse's habits and inclination being
consulted in every thing.
The evening before this great event (for it was a very great event that
Mr. Woodhouse should dine out, on the 24th of December) had been spent
by Harriet at Hartfield, and she had gone home so much indisposed with
a cold, that, but for her own earnest wish of being nursed by Mrs.
Goddard, Emma could not have allowed her to leave the house. Emma
called on her the next day, and found her doom already signed with
regard to Randalls. She was very feverish and had a bad sore
throat: Mrs. Goddard was full of care and affection, Mr.
was talked of, and Harriet herself was too ill and low to resist the
authority which excluded her from this delightful engagement, though
she could not speak of her loss without many tears.
Emma sat with her as long as she could, to attend her in Mrs. Goddard's
unavoidable absences, and raise her spirits by representing how much
Mr. Elton's would be depressed when he knew her state; and left her at
last tolerably comfortable, in the sweet dependence of his having a
most comfortless visit, and of their all missing her very much. She had
not advanced many yards from Mrs. Goddard's door, when she was met by
Mr. Elton himself, evidently coming towards it, and as they walked on
slowly together in conversation about the invalid--
of whom he, on the rumour of considerable illness, had been going to
inquire, that he might carry some report of her to Hartfield-- they
were overtaken by Mr. John Knightley returning from the daily visit to
Donwell, with his two eldest boys, whose healthy, glowing faces shewed
all the benefit of a country run, and seemed to ensure a quick despatch
of the roast mutton and rice pudding they were hastening home
for. They joined company and proceeded together. Emma was
just describing the nature of her friend's complaint;-- "a
throat very much inflamed, with a great deal of heat about her, a
quick, low pulse, &c. and she was
sorry to find from Mrs.
Goddard that Harriet was liable to very bad sore-throats, and had often
alarmed her with them." Mr. Elton looked all alarm on the
occasion, as he exclaimed,
"A sore-throat!--I hope not infectious. I hope not of a
infectious sort. Has Perry seen her? Indeed you
care of yourself as well as of your friend. Let me entreat
run no risks. Why does not Perry see her?"
Emma, who was not really at all frightened herself, tranquillised this
excess of apprehension by assurances of Mrs. Goddard's experience and
care; but as there must still remain a degree of uneasiness which she
could not wish to reason away, which she would rather feed and assist
than not, she added soon afterwards--as if quite another subject,
"It is so cold, so very cold--and looks and feels so very much like
snow, that if it were to any other place or with any other party, I
should really try not to go out to-day--and dissuade my father from
venturing; but as he has made up his mind, and does not seem to feel
the cold himself, I do not like to interfere, as I know it would be so
great a disappointment to Mr. and Mrs. Weston. But, upon my
Mr. Elton, in your case, I should certainly excuse myself. You appear
to me a little hoarse already, and when you consider what
demand of voice and what fatigues to-morrow will bring, I think it
would be no more than common prudence to stay at home and take care of
Mr. Elton looked as if he did not very well know what answer to make;
which was exactly the case; for though very much gratified by the kind
care of such a fair lady, and not liking to resist any advice of her's,
he had not really the least inclination to give up the visit;-- but
Emma, too eager and busy in her own previous conceptions and views to
hear him impartially, or see him with clear vision, was very well
satisfied with his muttering acknowledgment of its being "very cold,
certainly very cold," and walked on, rejoicing in
having extricated him from Randalls, and secured him the power of
sending to inquire after Harriet every hour of the evening.
"You do quite right," said she;--"we will make your apologies to Mr.
and Mrs. Weston."
But hardly had she so spoken, when she found her brother was civilly
offering a seat in his carriage, if the weather were Mr. Elton's only
objection, and Mr. Elton actually accepting the offer with much prompt
satisfaction. It was a done thing; Mr. Elton was to go, and
had his broad handsome face expressed more pleasure than at this
moment; never had his smile been stronger, nor his eyes more exulting
than when he next looked at her.
"Well," said she to herself, "this is most strange!--After I had got
him off so well, to chuse to go into company, and leave Harriet ill
behind!--Most strange indeed!--But there is, I believe, in many men,
especially single men, such an inclination-- such a
passion for dining out--a dinner engagement is so high in the class of
their pleasures, their employments, their dignities, almost their
duties, that any thing gives way to it--and this must be the case with
Mr. Elton; a most valuable, amiable, pleasing young man undoubtedly,
and very much in love with Harriet; but still, he cannot refuse an
invitation, he must dine out wherever he is asked.
What a strange thing love is! he can see ready wit in Harriet, but will
not dine alone for her."
Soon afterwards Mr. Elton quitted them, and she could not but do him
the justice of feeling that there was a great deal of sentiment in his
manner of naming Harriet at parting; in the tone of his voice while
assuring her that he should call at Mrs. Goddard's for news of her fair
friend, the last thing before he prepared for the happiness of meeting
her again, when he hoped to be able to give a better report; and he
sighed and smiled himself off in a way that left the balance of
approbation much in his favour.
After a few minutes of entire silence between them, John Knightley
"I never in my life saw a man more intent on being agreeable than Mr.
Elton. It is downright labour to him where ladies are
With men he can be rational and unaffected, but when he has ladies to
please, every feature works."
"Mr. Elton's manners are not perfect," replied Emma; "but where there
is a wish to please, one ought to overlook, and one does overlook a
great deal. Where a man does his best with only moderate
he will have the advantage over negligent superiority. There
such perfect good-temper and good-will in Mr. Elton as one cannot but
"Yes," said Mr. John Knightley presently, with some slyness, "he seems
to have a great deal of good-will towards you."
"Me!" she replied with a smile of astonishment, "are you imagining me
to be Mr. Elton's object?"
"Such an imagination has crossed me, I own, Emma; and if it never
occurred to you before, you may as well take it into consideration now."
"Mr. Elton in love with me!--What an idea!"
"I do not say it is so; but you will do well to consider whether it is
so or not, and to regulate your behaviour accordingly. I think your
manners to him encouraging. I speak as a friend,
Emma. You had better look about you, and ascertain what you
do, and what you mean to do."
"I thank you; but I assure you you are quite mistaken. Mr.
and I are very good friends, and nothing more;" and she walked on,
amusing herself in the consideration of the blunders which often arise
from a partial knowledge of circumstances, of the mistakes which people
of high pretensions to judgment are for ever falling into; and not very
well pleased with her brother for imagining her blind and ignorant, and
in want of counsel. He said no more.
Mr. Woodhouse had so completely made up his mind to the visit, that in
spite of the increasing coldness, he seemed to have no idea of
shrinking from it, and set forward at last most punctually with his
eldest daughter in his own carriage, with less apparent consciousness
of the weather than either of the others; too full of the wonder of his
own going, and the pleasure it was to afford at Randalls to see that it
was cold, and too well wrapt up to feel it. The cold, however, was
severe; and by the time the second carriage was
in motion, a few flakes of snow were finding their way down, and the
sky had the appearance of being so overcharged as to want only a milder
air to produce a very white world in a very short time.
Emma soon saw that her companion was not in the happiest humour. The
preparing and the going abroad in such weather, with the sacrifice of
his children after dinner, were evils, were disagreeables at least,
which Mr. John Knightley did not by any means like; he anticipated
nothing in the visit that could be at all worth the purchase; and the
whole of their drive to the vicarage was spent by him in expressing his
"A man," said he, "must have a very good opinion of himself when he
asks people to leave their own fireside, and encounter such a day as
this, for the sake of coming to see him. He must think
most agreeable fellow; I could not do such a thing. It is the greatest
absurdity--Actually snowing at this moment!-- The folly of not allowing
people to be comfortable at home--and the folly of people's not staying
comfortably at home when they can! If we were obliged to go out such an
evening as this, by any call of duty or business, what a hardship we
should deem it;--and here are we, probably with rather thinner clothing
than usual, setting forward voluntarily, without excuse, in defiance of
the voice of nature, which tells man, in every thing given to his view
or his feelings, to
stay at home himself, and keep all under shelter that he can;-- here
are we setting forward to spend five dull hours in another man's house,
with nothing to say or to hear that was not said and heard yesterday,
and may not be said and heard again to-morrow. Going in dismal weather,
to return probably in worse;--four horses and four servants taken out
for nothing but to convey five idle, shivering creatures into colder
rooms and worse company than they might
have had at home."
Emma did not find herself equal to give the pleased assent, which no
doubt he was in the habit of receiving, to emulate the "Very true, my
love," which must have been usually administered by his travelling
companion; but she had resolution enough to refrain from making any
answer at all. She could not be complying, she dreaded being
quarrelsome; her heroism reached only to silence. She allowed
to talk, and arranged the glasses, and wrapped herself up, without
opening her lips.
They arrived, the carriage turned, the step was let down, and Mr.
Elton, spruce, black, and smiling, was with them instantly. Emma
thought with pleasure of some change of subject. Mr. Elton
all obligation and cheerfulness; he was so very cheerful in his
civilities indeed, that she began to think he must have received a
different account of Harriet from what had reached her. She had sent
while dressing, and the answer had been, "Much the same-- not better."
"My report from Mrs. Goddard's," said she presently, "was not so
pleasant as I had hoped--`Not better' was my answer."
His face lengthened immediately; and his voice was the voice of
sentiment as he answered.
"Oh! no--I am grieved to find--I was on the point of telling you that
when I called at Mrs. Goddard's door, which I did the very last thing
before I returned to dress, I was told that Miss Smith was not better,
by no means better, rather worse. Very much grieved and
concerned-- I had flattered myself that she must be better after such a
I knew had been given her in the morning."
Emma smiled and answered--"My visit was of use to the nervous part of
her complaint, I hope; but not even I can charm away a sore throat; it
is a most severe cold indeed. Mr. Perry has been with her, as
"Yes--I imagined--that is--I did not--"
"He has been used to her in these complaints, and I hope to-morrow
morning will bring us both a more comfortable report. But it
impossible not to feel uneasiness. Such a sad loss to our
"Dreadful!--Exactly so, indeed.--She will be missed every moment."
This was very proper; the sigh which accompanied it was really
estimable; but it should have lasted longer. Emma was rather
dismay when only half a minute afterwards he began to speak of other
things, and in a voice of the greatest alacrity and enjoyment.
"What an excellent device," said he, "the use of a sheepskin for
carriages. How very comfortable they make it;--impossible to
cold with such precautions. The contrivances of modern days
indeed have rendered a gentleman's carriage perfectly complete. One is
so fenced and guarded from the weather, that not a breath of air can
find its way unpermitted. Weather becomes absolutely of no
consequence. It is a very cold afternoon--but in this
know nothing of the matter.--Ha! snows a little I see."
"Yes," said John Knightley, "and I think we shall have a good deal of
"Christmas weather," observed Mr. Elton. "Quite seasonable;
extremely fortunate we may think ourselves that it did not begin
yesterday, and prevent this day's party, which it might very possibly
have done, for Mr. Woodhouse would hardly have ventured had there been
much snow on the ground; but now it is of no consequence. This is quite
the season indeed for friendly meetings. At Christmas every
invites their friends about them, and people think little of even the
worst weather. I was snowed up at a friend's house once for a
week. Nothing could be pleasanter. I went for only
night, and could not get away till that very day se'nnight."
Mr. John Knightley looked as if he did not comprehend the pleasure, but
said only, coolly,
"I cannot wish to be snowed up a week at Randalls."
At another time Emma might have been amused, but she was too much
astonished now at Mr. Elton's spirits for other feelings. Harriet
seemed quite forgotten in the expectation of a pleasant party.
"We are sure of excellent fires," continued he, "and every thing in the
greatest comfort. Charming people, Mr. and Mrs. Weston;--
Weston indeed is much beyond praise, and he is exactly what one values,
so hospitable, and so fond of society;-- it will be a small party, but
where small parties are select, they are perhaps the most agreeable of
any. Mr. Weston's dining-room does not accommodate more than
comfortably; and for my part, I would rather, under such circumstances,
fall short by two than exceed by two. I think you will agree
me, (turning with a soft air to Emma,) I think I shall certainly have
though Mr. Knightley perhaps, from being used to the large parties of
London, may not quite enter into our feelings."
"I know nothing of the large parties of London, sir--I never dine with
"Indeed! (in a tone of wonder and pity,) I had no idea that the law had
been so great a slavery. Well, sir, the time must come when
will be paid for all this, when you will have little labour and great
"My first enjoyment," replied John Knightley, as they passed through
the sweep-gate, "will be to find myself safe at Hartfield
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