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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 Square.
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
before her, one which she 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
secret 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
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
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
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
she writes. Oh! she is a sweet creature! You would
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
"You know all other things
Now I say, my dear, in our case, for lady, read----mum! a word to the
wise.--I am in a fine flow of spirits, an't I? But I want to
your heart at ease as to Mrs. S.--My representation, you see, has quite
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 names, 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
in harmony of the weather and Mrs. Weston, she found herself abruptly
"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 assistance that Perry might have; not a word of a certain
young physician from Windsor.--Oh! no; Perry shall have all the credit."
"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
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
However, I think it answered so far as to tempt one to go
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 one 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
"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
"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,
wanting his opinion. They seem not able to do any thing
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
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
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
you have! I say, Jane, what a perfect character you and I
make, if we could be shaken together. My liveliness and your
solidity would produce perfection.--Not that I presume to insinuate,
however, that some people may not think you 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
her sparkling vivacity.
"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 Crown."
"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
no message for me. The housekeeper declared she knew nothing
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 it?"
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
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
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
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
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
(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
you might be supposed to owe them, is so perfectly satisfied, so
"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
side. Let us forgive each other at once. We must do whatever
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
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
at least, of deep mourning; but when they are over, I imagine there
will be nothing more to wait for."
"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!--
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