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may be possible to do without dancing entirely. Instances
been known of young people passing many, many months successively,
without being at any ball of any description, and no material injury
accrue either to body or mind;--but when a beginning is made-- when the
felicities of rapid motion have once been, though slightly, felt--it
must be a very heavy set that does not ask for more.
Frank Churchill had danced once at Highbury, and longed to dance again;
and the last half-hour of an evening which Mr. Woodhouse was persuaded
to spend with his daughter at Randalls, was passed by the two young
people in schemes on the subject. Frank's was the first idea;
his the greatest zeal in pursuing it; for the lady was the best
judge of the difficulties, and the most solicitous for accommodation
and appearance. But still she had inclination enough for
people again how delightfully Mr. Frank Churchill and Miss Woodhouse
danced--for doing that in which she need not blush to compare herself
with Jane Fairfax--and even for simple dancing itself, without any of
the wicked aids of vanity--to assist him first in pacing out the room
they were in to see what it could be made to hold--and then in taking
the dimensions of the other parlour, in the hope of discovering, in
spite of all that Mr. Weston could say of their exactly equal size,
that it was a little the largest.
His first proposition and request, that the dance begun at Mr. Cole's
should be finished there--that the same party should be collected, and
the same musician engaged, met with the readiest acquiescence. Mr.
Weston entered into the idea with thorough enjoyment, and Mrs. Weston
most willingly undertook to play as long as they could wish to dance;
and the interesting employment had followed, of reckoning up exactly
who there would be, and portioning out the indispensable division of
space to every couple.
"You and Miss Smith, and Miss Fairfax, will be three, and the two Miss
Coxes five," had been repeated many times over. "And there
be the two Gilberts, young Cox, my father, and myself, besides Mr.
Knightley. Yes, that will be quite enough for pleasure. You
Miss Smith, and Miss Fairfax, will be three, and the two Miss Coxes
five; and for five couple there will be plenty of room."
But soon it came to be on one side,
"But will there be good room for five couple?--I really do not think
"And after all, five couple are not enough to make it worth while to
stand up. Five couple are nothing, when one thinks seriously
about it. It will not do to invite five couple. It can be
allowable only as the thought of the moment."
Somebody said that Miss Gilbert was expected at her brother's, and must
be invited with the rest. Somebody else believed Mrs. Gilbert
would have danced the other evening, if she had been asked. A
word was put in for a second young Cox; and at
last, Mr. Weston naming one family of cousins who must be included, and
another of very old acquaintance who could not be left out, it became a
certainty that the five couple would be at least ten, and a very
interesting speculation in what possible manner they could be disposed
The doors of the two rooms were just opposite each other. "Might not
they use both rooms, and dance across the passage?" It seemed the best
scheme; and yet it was not so good but that many of them wanted a
better. Emma said it would be awkward; Mrs. Weston was in
distress about the supper; and Mr. Woodhouse opposed it earnestly, on
the score of health. It made him so very unhappy, indeed,
could not be persevered in.
"Oh! no," said he; "it would be the extreme of imprudence. I could not
bear it for Emma!-- Emma is not strong. She would catch a
dreadful cold. So would poor little Harriet. So you would
all. Mrs. Weston, you would be quite laid up; do not let them
talk of such a wild thing. Pray do not let them talk of
That young man (speaking lower) is very thoughtless. Do not tell his
father, but that young man is not quite the thing. He has been opening
the doors very often this evening, and keeping them open very
inconsiderately. He does not think of the draught. I do not
to set you against him, but indeed he is not quite the thing!"
Mrs. Weston was sorry for such a charge. She knew the
of it, and said every thing in her power to do it away. Every
door was now closed, the passage plan given up, and the first scheme of
dancing only in the room they were in resorted to again; and with such
good-will on Frank Churchill's part, that the space which a quarter of
an hour before had been deemed barely sufficient for five couple, was
now endeavoured to be made out quite enough for ten.
"We were too magnificent," said he. "We allowed unnecessary
room. Ten couple may stand here very well."
Emma demurred. "It would be a crowd--a sad crowd; and what
could be worse than dancing without space to turn in?"
"Very true," he gravely replied; "it was very bad." But still
he went on measuring, and still he ended with,
"I think there will be very tolerable room for ten couple."
"No, no," said she, "you are quite unreasonable. It would be
dreadful to be standing so close! Nothing can be farther from
pleasure than to be dancing in a crowd--and a crowd in a little room!"
"There is no denying it," he replied. "I agree with you
A crowd in a little room--Miss Woodhouse, you have the art of giving
pictures in a few words. Exquisite, quite exquisite!-- Still,
however, having proceeded so far, one is unwilling to give the matter
up. It would be a disappointment to my father--and altogether--I do not
know that--I am rather of opinion that ten couple might stand here very
Emma perceived that the nature of his gallantry was a little
self-willed, and that he would rather oppose than lose the pleasure of
dancing with her; but she took the compliment, and forgave the
rest. Had she intended ever to marry him, it might have been
worth while to pause and consider, and try to understand the value of
his preference, and the character of his temper; but for all the
purposes of their acquaintance, he was quite amiable enough.
Before the middle of the next day, he was at Hartfield; and he entered
the room with such an agreeable smile as certified the continuance of
the scheme. It soon appeared that he came to announce an
"Well, Miss Woodhouse," he almost immediately began, "your inclination
for dancing has not been quite frightened away, I hope, by the terrors
of my father's little rooms. I bring a new proposal on the
subject:--a thought of my father's, which waits only your approbation
to be acted upon. May I hope for the honour of your hand for
the two first dances of this little
projected ball, to be given, not at
Randalls, but at the Crown Inn?"
"Yes; if you and Mr. Woodhouse see no objection, and I trust you
cannot, my father hopes his friends will be so kind as to visit him
there. Better accommodations, he can promise them, and not a less
grateful welcome than at Randalls. It is his own
Weston sees no objection to it, provided you are satisfied.
is what we all feel. Oh! you were perfectly right!
couple, in either of the Randalls rooms, would have been
insufferable!--Dreadful!--I felt how right you were the whole time, but
was too anxious for securing any thing to like to yield. Is
it a good exchange?--You consent-- I hope you consent?"
"It appears to me a plan that nobody can object to, if Mr. and Mrs.
Weston do not. I think it admirable; and, as far as I can
for myself, shall be most happy--It seems the only improvement that
could be. Papa, do you not think it an excellent improvement?"
She was obliged to repeat and explain it, before it was fully
comprehended; and then, being quite new, farther representations were
necessary to make it acceptable.
"No; he thought it very far from an improvement--a very bad plan-- much
worse than the other. A room at an inn was always damp and
dangerous; never properly aired, or fit to be inhabited. If they must
dance, they had better dance at Randalls. He had never been
the room at the Crown in his life--did not know the people who kept it
by sight.--Oh! no--a very bad plan. They would catch worse
at the Crown than anywhere."
"I was going to observe, sir," said Frank Churchill, "that one of the
great recommendations of this change would be the very little danger of
any body's catching cold-- so much less danger at the Crown than at
Randalls! Mr. Perry might have reason to regret the
but nobody else could."
"Sir," said Mr. Woodhouse, rather warmly, "you are very much mistaken
if you suppose Mr. Perry to be that sort of character. Mr. Perry is
extremely concerned when any of us are ill. But I do not
understand how the room at the Crown can be safer for you than your
"From the very circumstance of its being larger, sir. We
have no occasion to open the windows at all--not once the whole
evening; and it is that dreadful habit of opening the windows, letting
in cold air upon heated bodies, which (as you well know, sir) does the
"Open the windows!--but surely, Mr. Churchill, nobody would think of
opening the windows at Randalls. Nobody could be so
never heard of such a thing. Dancing with open windows!--I am
sure, neither your father nor Mrs. Weston (poor Miss Taylor that was)
would suffer it."
"Ah! sir--but a thoughtless young person will sometimes step behind a
window-curtain, and throw up a sash, without its being suspected. I
have often known it done myself."
"Have you indeed, sir?--Bless me! I never could have supposed
But I live out of the world, and am often astonished at what I hear.
However, this does make a difference; and, perhaps, when we come to
talk it over--but these sort of things require a good deal of
consideration. One cannot resolve upon them in a hurry. If
and Mrs. Weston will be so obliging as to call here one morning, we may
talk it over, and see what can be done."
"But, unfortunately, sir, my time is so limited--"
"Oh!" interrupted Emma, "there will be plenty of time for talking every
thing over. There is no hurry at all. If it can be
contrived to be at the Crown, papa, it will be very convenient for the
horses. They will be so near their own stable."
"So they will, my dear. That is a great thing. Not
James ever complains; but it is right to spare our horses when we can.
If I could be sure of the rooms being thoroughly aired--but is Mrs.
Stokes to be trusted? I doubt it. I do not
know her, even by sight."
"I can answer for every thing of that nature, sir, because it will be
under Mrs. Weston's care. Mrs. Weston undertakes to direct
"There, papa!--Now you must be satisfied--Our own dear Mrs. Weston, who
is carefulness itself. Do not you remember what Mr. Perry
so many years ago, when I had the measles? `If Miss Taylor
undertakes to wrap Miss Emma up, you need not have any fears,
sir.' How often have I heard you speak of it as such a
"Aye, very true. Mr. Perry did say so. I shall
it. Poor little Emma! You were very bad with the measles;
is, you would have been very bad, but for Perry's great attention. He
came four times a day for a week. He said, from the first,
was a very good sort--which was our great comfort; but the measles are
a dreadful complaint. I hope whenever poor Isabella's little
have the measles, she will send for Perry."
"My father and Mrs. Weston are at the Crown at this moment," said Frank
Churchill, "examining the capabilities of the house. I left them there
and came on to Hartfield, impatient for your opinion, and hoping you
might be persuaded to join them and give your advice on the
I was desired to say so from both. It would be the greatest
pleasure to them, if you could allow me to attend you there. They can
do nothing satisfactorily without you."
Emma was most happy to be called to such a council; and her father,
engaging to think it all over while she was gone, the two young people
set off together without delay for the Crown. There were Mr.
Mrs. Weston; delighted to see her and receive her approbation, very
busy and very happy in their different way; she, in some little
distress; and he, finding every thing perfect.
"Emma," said she, "this paper is worse than I expected.
Look! in places
you see it is dreadfully dirty; and the wainscot is more yellow and
forlorn than any thing I could have imagined."
"My dear, you are too particular," said her husband. "What
all that signify? You will see nothing of it by candlelight.
will be as clean as Randalls by candlelight. We never see any
thing of it on our club-nights."
The ladies here probably exchanged looks which meant, "Men never know
when things are dirty or not;" and the gentlemen perhaps thought each
to himself, "Women will have their little nonsenses and needless cares."
One perplexity, however, arose, which the gentlemen did not disdain. It
regarded a supper-room. At the time of the ballroom's being
built, suppers had not been in question; and a small card-room
adjoining, was the only addition. What was to be
card-room would be wanted as a card-room now; or, if cards were
conveniently voted unnecessary by their four selves, still was it not
too small for any comfortable supper? Another room of much
size might be secured for the purpose; but it was at the other end of
the house, and a long awkward passage must be gone through to get at
it. This made a difficulty. Mrs. Weston was afraid of
for the young people in that passage; and neither Emma nor the
gentlemen could tolerate the prospect of being miserably crowded at
Mrs. Weston proposed having no regular supper; merely sandwiches,
&c., set out in the little room; but that was scouted as a
suggestion. A private dance, without sitting down to supper,
pronounced an infamous fraud upon the rights of men and women; and Mrs.
Weston must not speak of it again. She then took another line
expediency, and looking into the doubtful room, observed,
"I do not think it is so very small. We shall not be many,
And Mr. Weston at the same time, walking briskly with long steps
through the passage, was calling out,
"You talk a great deal of the length of this passage, my dear. It is a
mere nothing after all; and not the least draught from the stairs."
"I wish," said Mrs. Weston, "one could know which arrangement our
guests in general would like best. To do what would be most
generally pleasing must be our object--if one could but tell what that
"Yes, very true," cried Frank, "very true. You want your
neighbours' opinions. I do not wonder at you. If
ascertain what the chief of them--the Coles, for instance.
are not far off. Shall I call upon them? Or Miss
is still nearer.-- And I do not know whether Miss Bates is not as
likely to understand the inclinations of the rest of the people as any
body. I think we do want a larger council. Suppose
I go and
invite Miss Bates to join us?"
"Well--if you please," said Mrs. Weston rather hesitating, "if you
think she will be of any use."
"You will get nothing to the purpose from Miss Bates," said Emma. "She
will be all delight and gratitude, but she will tell you nothing. She
will not even listen to your questions. I see no advantage in
consulting Miss Bates."
"But she is so amusing, so extremely amusing! I am very fond
hearing Miss Bates talk. And I need not bring the whole
Here Mr. Weston joined them, and on hearing what was proposed, gave it
his decided approbation.
"Aye, do, Frank.--Go and fetch Miss Bates, and let us end the matter at
once. She will enjoy the scheme, I am sure; and I do not know
properer person for shewing us how to do away difficulties. Fetch Miss
Bates. We are growing a little too nice. She is a
lesson of how to be happy. But fetch them both. Invite them
"Both sir! Can the old lady?" . . .
"The old lady! No, the young lady, to be sure. I
think you a great blockhead, Frank, if you bring the aunt without the
"Oh! I beg your pardon, sir. I did not immediately
recollect. Undoubtedly if you wish it, I will endeavour to persuade
them both." And away he ran.
Long before he reappeared, attending the short, neat, brisk-moving
aunt, and her elegant niece,-- Mrs. Weston, like a sweet-tempered woman
and a good wife, had examined the passage again, and found the evils of
it much less than she had supposed before-- indeed very trifling; and
here ended the difficulties of decision. All the rest, in speculation
at least, was perfectly smooth. All the minor arrangements of table and
chair, lights and music, tea and supper, made themselves; or were left
as mere trifles to be settled at any time between Mrs. Weston and Mrs.
Stokes.-- Every body invited, was certainly to come; Frank had already
written to Enscombe to propose staying a few days beyond his fortnight,
which could not possibly be refused. And a delightful dance
was to be.
Most cordially, when Miss Bates arrived, did she agree that it must. As
a counsellor she was not wanted; but as an approver, (a much safer
character,) she was truly welcome. Her approbation, at once
general and minute, warm and incessant, could not but please; and for
another half-hour they were all walking to and fro, between the
different rooms, some suggesting, some attending, and all in happy
enjoyment of the future. The party did not break up without
Emma's being positively secured for the two first dances by
the hero of the evening, nor without her overhearing Mr. Weston whisper
to his wife, "He has asked her, my dear. That's right. I knew
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