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letter must make its way to Emma's feelings. She was obliged,
spite of her previous determination to the contrary, to do it all the
justice that Mrs. Weston foretold. As soon as she came to her
name, it was irresistible; every line relating to herself was
interesting, and almost every line agreeable; and when this charm
ceased, the subject could still maintain itself, by the natural return
of her former regard for the writer, and the very strong attraction
which any picture of love must have for her at that moment.
never stopt till she had gone through the whole; and though it was
impossible not to feel that he had been wrong, yet he had been less
wrong than she had supposed--and he had suffered, and was very
sorry--and he was so grateful to Mrs. Weston, and so much in love with
Miss Fairfax, and she was so happy herself, that there was no being
severe; and could he have entered the room, she must have shaken hands
with him as heartily as ever.
She thought so well of the letter, that when Mr. Knightley came again,
she desired him to read it. She was sure of Mrs. Weston's
it to be communicated; especially to one, who, like Mr. Knightley, had
seen so much to blame in his conduct.
"I shall be very glad to look it over," said he; "but it seems long. I
will take it home with me at night."
But that would not do. Mr. Weston was to call in the evening,
she must return it by him.
"I would rather be talking to you," he replied; "but as it seems a
matter of justice, it shall be done."
He began--stopping, however, almost directly to say, "Had I been
offered the sight of one of this gentleman's letters to his
mother-in-law a few months ago, Emma, it would not have been taken with
He proceeded a little farther, reading to himself; and then, with a
smile, observed, "Humph! a fine complimentary opening: But it is his
way. One man's style must not be the rule of another's. We
not be severe."
"It will be natural for me," he added shortly afterwards, "to speak my
opinion aloud as I read. By doing it, I shall feel that I am
you. It will not be so great a loss of time: but if you
"Not at all. I should wish it."
Mr. Knightley returned to his reading with greater alacrity.
"He trifles here," said he, "as to the temptation. He knows
wrong, and has nothing rational to urge.--Bad.--He ought not to have
formed the engagement.--`His father's disposition:'-- he is unjust,
however, to his father. Mr. Weston's sanguine temper was a
blessing on all his upright and honourable exertions; but Mr. Weston
earned every present comfort before he endeavoured to gain it.--Very
true; he did not come till Miss Fairfax was here."
"And I have not forgotten," said Emma, "how sure you were that he might
have come sooner if he would. You pass it over very
but you were perfectly right."
"I was not quite impartial in my judgment, Emma:--but yet, I think--
had you not been in the case--I should still have distrusted him."
When he came to Miss Woodhouse, he was obliged to read the whole of it
aloud--all that related to her, with a smile; a look; a shake of the
head; a word or two of assent, or disapprobation; or merely of love, as
the subject required; concluding, however, seriously, and, after steady
"Very bad--though it might have been worse.--Playing a most dangerous
game. Too much indebted to the event for his acquittal.-- No
judge of his own manners by you.--Always deceived in fact by his own
wishes, and regardless of little besides his own convenience.--
Fancying you to have fathomed his secret. Natural enough!--
own mind full of intrigue, that he should suspect it in
others.--Mystery; Finesse--how they pervert the understanding! My Emma,
does not every thing serve to prove more and more the beauty
of truth and sincerity in all our dealings with each other?"
Emma agreed to it, and with a blush of sensibility on Harriet's
account, which she could not give any sincere explanation of.
"You had better go on," said she.
He did so, but very soon stopt again to say, "the pianoforte!
That was the act of a very, very young man, one too young to consider
whether the inconvenience of it might not very much exceed the
pleasure. A boyish scheme, indeed!--I cannot comprehend a
wishing to give a woman any proof of affection which he knows she would
rather dispense with; and he did know that she would have prevented the
instrument's coming if she could."
After this, he made some progress without any pause. Frank Churchill's
confession of having behaved shamefully was the first thing to call for
more than a word in passing.
"I perfectly agree with you, sir,"--was then his remark. "You did
behave very shamefully. You never wrote a truer line." And
gone through what immediately followed of the basis of their
disagreement, and his persisting to act in direct opposition to Jane
Fairfax's sense of right, he made a fuller pause to say, "This is very
bad.--He had induced her to place herself, for his sake, in a situation
of extreme difficulty and uneasiness, and
it should have been his first object to prevent her from suffering
unnecessarily.--She must have had much more to contend with, in
carrying on the correspondence, than he could. He should have
respected even unreasonable scruples, had there been such; but hers
were all reasonable. We must look to her one fault, and
that she had done a wrong thing in consenting to the engagement, to
bear that she should have been in such a state of punishment."
Emma knew that he was now getting to the Box Hill party, and grew
uncomfortable. Her own behaviour had been so very improper!
was deeply ashamed, and a little afraid of his next look. It was all
read, however, steadily, attentively, and without the smallest remark;
and, excepting one momentary glance at her, instantly withdrawn, in the
fear of giving pain--no remembrance of Box Hill seemed to exist.
"There is no saying much for the delicacy of our good friends, the
Eltons," was his next observation.--"His feelings are natural.-- What!
actually resolve to break with him entirely!-- She felt the engagement
to be a source of repentance and misery to each-- she dissolved it.--
What a view this gives of her sense of his behaviour!--Well, he must be
a most extraordinary--"
"Nay, nay, read on.--You will find how very much he suffers."
"I hope he does," replied Mr. Knightley coolly, and resuming the
letter. "`Smallridge!'--What does this mean? What is all
"She had engaged to go as governess to Mrs. Smallridge's children-- a
dear friend of Mrs. Elton's--a neighbour of Maple Grove; and, by the
bye, I wonder how Mrs. Elton bears the disappointment?"
"Say nothing, my dear Emma, while you oblige me to read--not even of
Mrs. Elton. Only one page more. I shall soon have
What a letter the man writes!"
"I wish you would read it with a kinder spirit towards him."
"Well, there is feeling here.--He does seem to have suffered in finding
her ill.--Certainly, I can have no doubt of his being fond of her.
`Dearer, much dearer than ever.' I hope he may long continue
feel all the value of such a reconciliation.--He is a very liberal
thanker, with his thousands and tens of thousands.--`Happier than I
deserve.' Come, he knows himself there. `Miss Woodhouse calls
the child of good fortune.'--Those were Miss Woodhouse's words, were
they?-- And a fine ending--and there is the letter. The child
good fortune! That was your name for him, was it?"
"You do not appear so well satisfied with his letter as I am; but still
you must, at least I hope you must, think the better of him for
it. I hope it does him some service with you."
"Yes, certainly it does. He has had great faults, faults of
inconsideration and thoughtlessness; and I am very much of
opinion in thinking him likely to be happier than he deserves: but
still as he is, beyond a doubt, really attached to Miss Fairfax, and
will soon, it may be hoped, have the advantage of being constantly with
her, I am very ready to believe his character will improve, and acquire
from hers the steadiness and delicacy of principle that it
And now, let me talk to you of something else. I have another person's
interest at present so much at heart, that I cannot think any longer
about Frank Churchill. Ever since I left you this morning,
Emma, my mind has been hard at work on one
The subject followed; it was in plain, unaffected, gentlemanlike
English, such as Mr. Knightley used even to the woman he was in love
with, how to be able to ask her to marry him, without attacking the
happiness of her father. Emma's answer was ready at the first
word. "While her dear father lived, any change of condition must be
impossible for her. She could never quit him." Part
this answer, however, was admitted. The impossibility of her
quitting her father, Mr. Knightley felt as strongly as herself; but the
inadmissibility of any other change, he could not agree to.
had been thinking it over most deeply, most intently; he had at first
hoped to induce Mr. Woodhouse to remove with her to Donwell; he had
wanted to believe it feasible, but his knowledge of Mr. Woodhouse would
not suffer him to deceive himself long; and now he confessed his
persuasion, that such a transplantation would be a risk of her father's
comfort, perhaps even of his life, which must not be
Mr. Woodhouse taken from Hartfield!--No, he felt that it ought not to
be attempted. But the plan which had arisen on the sacrifice of this,
he trusted his dearest Emma would not find in any respect
objectionable; it was, that he should be received at Hartfield; that so
long as her father's happiness in other words his life--required
Hartfield to continue her home, it should be his likewise.
Of their all removing to Donwell, Emma had already had her own passing
thoughts. Like him, she had tried the scheme and rejected it;
such an alternative as this had not occurred to her. She was sensible
of all the affection it evinced. She felt that, in quitting
Donwell, he must be sacrificing a great deal of independence of hours
and habits; that in living constantly with her father, and in no house
of his own, there would be much, very much, to be borne with.
promised to think of it, and advised him to think of it more; but he
was fully convinced, that no reflection could alter his wishes or his
opinion on the subject. He had given it, he could assure her,
very long and calm consideration; he had
been walking away from William Larkins the whole morning, to have his
thoughts to himself.
"Ah! there is one difficulty unprovided for," cried Emma. "I
sure William Larkins will not like it. You must get his
before you ask mine."
She promised, however, to think of it; and pretty nearly promised,
moreover, to think of it, with the intention of finding it a very good
It is remarkable, that Emma, in the many, very many, points of view in
which she was now beginning to consider Donwell Abbey, was never struck
with any sense of injury to her nephew Henry, whose rights as
heir-expectant had formerly been so tenaciously regarded. Think she
must of the possible difference to the poor little boy; and yet she
only gave herself a saucy conscious smile about it, and found amusement
in detecting the real cause of that violent dislike of Mr. Knightley's
marrying Jane Fairfax, or any body else,
which at the time she had wholly imputed to the amiable solicitude of
the sister and the aunt.
This proposal of his, this plan of marrying and continuing at
Hartfield-- the more she contemplated it, the more pleasing it became.
His evils seemed to lessen, her own advantages to increase, their
mutual good to outweigh every drawback. Such a companion for
herself in the periods of anxiety and cheerlessness before her!--
Such a partner in all those duties and cares to which time must be
giving increase of melancholy!
She would have been too happy but for poor Harriet; but every blessing
of her own seemed to involve and advance the sufferings of her friend,
who must now be even excluded from Hartfield. The delightful family
party which Emma was securing for herself, poor Harriet must, in mere
charitable caution, be kept at a distance from. She would be
loser in every way. Emma could not deplore her future absence
any deduction from her own enjoyment. In such a party, Harriet would be
rather a dead weight than otherwise; but for the poor girl herself, it
seemed a peculiarly cruel necessity that was to be placing her in such
a state of unmerited punishment.
In time, of course, Mr. Knightley would be forgotten, that is,
supplanted; but this could not be expected to happen very early. Mr.
Knightley himself would be doing nothing to assist the cure;-- not like
Mr. Elton. Mr. Knightley, always so kind, so feeling, so
considerate for every body, would never deserve to be less worshipped
than now; and it really was too much to hope even of Harriet, that she
could be in love with more than three men in one year.
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