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was not required, by any subsequent discovery, to retract her ill
opinion of Mrs. Elton. Her observation had been pretty
Such as Mrs. Elton appeared to her on this second interview, such she
appeared whenever they met again,--self-important, presuming, familiar,
ignorant, and ill-bred. She had a little beauty and a little
accomplishment, but so little judgment that she thought herself coming
with superior knowledge of the world, to enliven and improve a country
neighbourhood; and conceived Miss Hawkins to have held such a place in
society as Mrs. Elton's consequence only could surpass.
There was no reason to suppose Mr. Elton thought at all differently
from his wife. He seemed not merely happy with her, but
had the air of congratulating himself on having brought such a woman to
Highbury, as not even Miss Woodhouse could equal; and the greater part
of her new acquaintance, disposed to commend, or not in the habit of
judging, following the lead of Miss Bates's good-will, or taking it for
granted that the bride must be as clever and as agreeable as she
professed herself, were very well satisfied; so
that Mrs. Elton's praise passed from one mouth to another as it ought
to do, unimpeded by Miss Woodhouse, who readily continued her first
contribution and talked with a good grace of her being "very pleasant
and very elegantly dressed."
In one respect Mrs. Elton grew even worse than she had appeared at
first. Her feelings altered towards Emma.--Offended,
the little encouragement which her proposals of intimacy met with, she
drew back in her turn and gradually became much more cold and distant;
and though the effect was agreeable, the ill-will which produced it was
necessarily increasing Emma's dislike. Her manners, too--and Mr.
Elton's, were unpleasant towards Harriet. They were sneering and
negligent. Emma hoped it must rapidly
Harriet's cure; but the sensations which could prompt such behaviour
sunk them both very much.--It was not to be doubted that poor Harriet's
attachment had been an offering to conjugal unreserve, and her own
share in the story, under a colouring the least favourable to her and
the most soothing to him, had in all likelihood been given
She was, of course, the object of their joint dislike.-- When they had
nothing else to say, it must be always easy to begin abusing Miss
Woodhouse; and the enmity which they dared not shew in open disrespect
to her, found a broader vent in contemptuous treatment of Harriet.
Mrs. Elton took a great fancy to Jane Fairfax; and from the first. Not
merely when a state of warfare with one young lady might be supposed to
recommend the other, but from the very first; and she was not satisfied
with expressing a natural and reasonable admiration-- but without
solicitation, or plea, or privilege, she must be wanting to assist and
befriend her.--Before Emma had forfeited her confidence, and about the
third time of their meeting, she heard all Mrs. Elton's knight-errantry
on the subject.--
"Jane Fairfax is absolutely charming, Miss Woodhouse.--I quite rave
about Jane Fairfax.--A sweet, interesting creature. So mild
ladylike--and with such talents!--I assure you I think she has very
extraordinary talents. I do not scruple to say that she plays
extremely well. I know enough of music to speak decidedly on
point. Oh! she is absolutely charming! You will
laugh at my
warmth--but, upon my word, I talk of nothing but Jane Fairfax.-- And
her situation is so calculated to affect one!--Miss Woodhouse, we must
exert ourselves and endeavour to do something for her. We must bring
her forward. Such talent as hers must not be suffered to
unknown.--I dare say you have heard those charming lines of the poet,
`Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
`And waste its fragrance on the desert air.'
We must not allow them to be verified in sweet Jane Fairfax."
"I cannot think there is any danger of it," was Emma's calm answer--
"and when you are better acquainted with Miss Fairfax's situation and
understand what her home has been, with Colonel and Mrs. Campbell, I
have no idea that you will suppose her talents can be unknown."
"Oh! but dear Miss Woodhouse, she is now in such retirement, such
obscurity, so thrown away.--Whatever advantages she may have enjoyed
with the Campbells are so palpably at an end! And I think she
feels it. I am sure she does. She is very timid and
One can see that she feels the want of encouragement. I like
the better for it. I must confess it is a recommendation to
am a great advocate for timidity--and I am sure one does not often meet
with it.--But in those who are at all inferior, it is extremely
prepossessing. Oh! I assure you, Jane Fairfax is a
delightful character, and interests me more than I can express."
"You appear to feel a great deal--but I am not aware how you or any of
Miss Fairfax's acquaintance here, any of those who have known her
longer than yourself, can shew her any other attention than"--
"My dear Miss Woodhouse, a vast deal may be done by those who dare to
act. You and I need not be afraid. If we set the
many will follow it as far as they can; though all have not our
situations. We have carriages to fetch and convey her home,
we live in a style which could not make the addition of Jane Fairfax,
at any time, the least inconvenient.--I should be extremely displeased
if Wright were to send us up such a dinner, as could make me regret
having asked more than Jane Fairfax to partake of it. I have
idea of that sort of thing. It is not likely that I should,
considering what I have been used to. My greatest danger, perhaps, in
housekeeping, may be quite the other way, in doing too much, and being
too careless of expense. Maple Grove will probably be my model more
than it ought to be-- for we do not at all affect to equal my brother,
Mr. Suckling, in income.--However, my resolution is taken as to
noticing Jane Fairfax.-- I shall certainly have her very often at my
house, shall introduce her wherever I can, shall have musical parties
to draw out her talents, and shall be constantly on the watch for an
eligible situation. My acquaintance is so very extensive, that I have
little doubt of hearing of something to suit her shortly.--I shall
introduce her, of course, very particularly to my brother and sister
when they come to us. I am sure they will like her extremely;
when she gets a little acquainted with them, her fears will completely
wear off, for there really is nothing in the manners of either but what
conciliating.--I shall have her very often indeed while they are with
me, and I dare say we shall sometimes find a seat for her in the
barouche-landau in some of our exploring parties."
"Poor Jane Fairfax!"--thought Emma.--"You have not deserved this. You
may have done wrong with regard to Mr. Dixon, but this is a punishment
beyond what you can have merited!--The kindness and protection of Mrs.
Elton!--`Jane Fairfax and Jane Fairfax.' Heavens!
Let me not suppose that she dares go about, Emma Woodhouse-ing me!--
my honour, there seems no limits to the licentiousness of that woman's
Emma had not to listen to such paradings again--to any so exclusively
addressed to herself--so disgustingly decorated with a "dear Miss
Woodhouse." The change on Mrs. Elton's side soon afterwards
appeared, and she was left in peace--neither forced to be the very
particular friend of Mrs. Elton, nor, under Mrs. Elton's guidance, the
very active patroness of Jane Fairfax, and only sharing with others in
a general way, in knowing what was felt, what was meditated, what was
She looked on with some amusement.--Miss Bates's gratitude for Mrs.
Elton's attentions to Jane was in the first style of guileless
simplicity and warmth. She was quite one of her worthies--
most amiable, affable, delightful woman--just as accomplished and
condescending as Mrs. Elton meant to be considered. Emma's only
surprize was that Jane Fairfax should accept those attentions and
tolerate Mrs. Elton as she seemed to do. She heard of her walking with
the Eltons, sitting with the Eltons, spending a day with the
Eltons! This was astonishing!--She could not have believed it
possible that the taste or the pride of Miss Fairfax could endure such
society and friendship as the Vicarage had to offer.
"She is a riddle, quite a riddle!" said she.--"To chuse to remain here
month after month, under privations of every sort! And now to
chuse the mortification of Mrs. Elton's notice and the penury of her
conversation, rather than return to the superior companions who have
always loved her with such real, generous affection."
Jane had come to Highbury professedly for three months; the Campbells
were gone to Ireland for three months; but now the Campbells had
promised their daughter to stay at least till Midsummer, and fresh
invitations had arrived for her to join them there. According to Miss
Bates--it all came from her--Mrs. Dixon had written most
pressingly. Would Jane but go, means were to be found,
sent, friends contrived--no travelling difficulty allowed to exist; but
still she had declined it!
"She must have some motive, more powerful than appears, for refusing
this invitation," was Emma's conclusion. "She must be under
sort of penance, inflicted either by the Campbells or herself. There is
great fear, great caution, great resolution somewhere.-- She is not to
be with the Dixons. The decree is issued by somebody. But why
must she consent to be with the Eltons?--Here is quite a separate
Upon her speaking her wonder aloud on that part of the subject, before
the few who knew her opinion of Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Weston ventured this
apology for Jane.
"We cannot suppose that she has any great enjoyment at the Vicarage, my
dear Emma--but it is better than being always at home. Her aunt is a
good creature, but, as a constant companion, must be very
tiresome. We must consider what Miss Fairfax quits, before we
condemn her taste for what she goes to."
"You are right, Mrs. Weston," said Mr. Knightley warmly, "Miss Fairfax
is as capable as any of us of forming a just opinion of Mrs. Elton.
Could she have chosen with whom to associate, she would not have chosen
her. But (with a reproachful smile at Emma) she receives
attentions from Mrs. Elton, which nobody else pays her."
Emma felt that Mrs. Weston was giving her a momentary glance; and she
was herself struck by his warmth. With a faint blush, she
"Such attentions as Mrs. Elton's, I should have imagined, would rather
disgust than gratify Miss Fairfax. Mrs. Elton's invitations I
should have imagined any thing but inviting."
"I should not wonder," said Mrs. Weston, "if Miss Fairfax were to have
been drawn on beyond her own inclination, by her aunt's eagerness in
accepting Mrs. Elton's civilities for her. Poor Miss Bates
very likely have committed her niece and hurried her into a greater
appearance of intimacy than her own good sense would have dictated, in
spite of the very natural wish of a little change."
Both felt rather anxious to hear him speak again; and after a few
minutes silence, he said,
"Another thing must be taken into consideration too--Mrs. Elton does
not talk to Miss Fairfax as she speaks of her. We all know
difference between the pronouns he or she and thou, the plainest spoken
amongst us; we all feel the influence of a something beyond common
civility in our personal intercourse with each other-- a something more
early implanted. We cannot give any body the disagreeable
that we may have been very full of the hour before. We feel things
differently. And besides the operation of this, as a general
principle, you may be sure that Miss Fairfax awes Mrs. Elton by her
superiority both of mind and manner; and that, face to face, Mrs. Elton
treats her with all the respect which she has a claim to.
woman as Jane Fairfax probably never fell in Mrs. Elton's way
before--and no degree of vanity can prevent her acknowledging her own
comparative littleness in action, if not in consciousness."
"I know how highly you think of Jane Fairfax," said Emma. Little Henry
was in her thoughts, and a mixture of alarm and delicacy made her
irresolute what else to say.
"Yes," he replied, "any body may know how highly I think of her."
"And yet," said Emma, beginning hastily and with an arch look, but soon
stopping--it was better, however, to know the worst at once-- she
hurried on--"And yet, perhaps, you may hardly be aware yourself how
highly it is. The extent of your admiration may take you by
surprize some day or other."
Mr. Knightley was hard at work upon the lower buttons of his thick
leather gaiters, and either the exertion
of getting them together, or
some other cause, brought the colour into his face, as he answered,
"Oh! are you there?--But you are miserably behindhand. Mr.
Cole gave me a hint of it six weeks ago."
He stopped.--Emma felt her foot pressed by Mrs. Weston, and did not
herself know what to think. In a moment he went on--
"That will never be, however, I can assure you. Miss Fairfax,
dare say, would not have me if I were to ask her--and I am very sure I
shall never ask her."
Emma returned her friend's pressure with interest; and was pleased
enough to exclaim,
"You are not vain, Mr. Knightley. I will say that for you."
He seemed hardly to hear her; he was thoughtful--and in a manner which
shewed him not pleased, soon afterwards said,
"So you have been settling that I should marry Jane Fairfax?"
"No indeed I have not. You have scolded me too much for
match-making, for me to presume to take such a liberty with
What I said just now, meant nothing. One says those sort of
things, of course, without any idea of a serious meaning. Oh!
upon my word I have not the smallest wish for your marrying Jane
Fairfax or Jane any body. You
would not come in and sit with us in this comfortable way, if you were
Mr. Knightley was thoughtful again. The result of his reverie
was, "No, Emma, I do not think the extent of my admiration for her will
ever take me by surprize.--I never had a thought of her in that way, I
assure you." And soon afterwards, "Jane Fairfax is a very
charming young woman--but not even Jane Fairfax is perfect.
has a fault. She has not the open temper which a man would wish for in
Emma could not but rejoice to hear that she had a fault. "Well," said
she, "and you soon silenced Mr. Cole, I suppose?"
"Yes, very soon. He gave me a quiet hint; I told him he was
mistaken; he asked my pardon and said no more. Cole does not
to be wiser or wittier than his neighbours."
"In that respect how unlike dear Mrs. Elton, who wants to be wiser and
wittier than all the world! I wonder how she speaks of the
Coles-- what she calls them! How can she find any appellation
them, deep enough in familiar vulgarity? She calls you,
Knightley--what can she do for Mr. Cole? And so I am not to
Fairfax accepts her civilities and consents to be with her. Mrs.
Weston, your argument weighs most with me. I can much more
readily enter into the temptation of getting away from Miss Bates, than
I can believe in the triumph of Miss Fairfax's mind over Mrs.
Elton. I have no faith in Mrs. Elton's acknowledging herself
inferior in thought, word, or deed; or in her being under any restraint
beyond her own scanty rule of good-breeding. I cannot imagine
that she will not be continually insulting her visitor with praise,
encouragement, and offers of service; that she will not be continually
detailing her magnificent intentions, from the procuring her a
permanent situation to the including her in those delightful exploring
parties which are to take place in the barouche-landau."
"Jane Fairfax has feeling," said Mr. Knightley--"I do not accuse her of
want of feeling. Her sensibilities, I suspect, are
her temper excellent in its power of forbearance, patience,
self-control; but it wants openness. She is
more reserved, I think, than she used to be--And I love an open
temper. No--till Cole alluded to my supposed attachment, it
had never entered my head. I saw Jane Fairfax and
with her, with admiration and pleasure always--but with no thought
"Well, Mrs. Weston," said Emma triumphantly when he left them, "what do
you say now to Mr. Knightley's marrying Jane Fairfax?"
"Why, really, dear Emma, I say that he is so very much occupied by the
idea of not being in love with her, that I should not wonder if it were
to end in his being so at last. Do not beat me."
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