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Mr. Elton must now be left to himself. It was no longer in Emma's power to
superintend his happiness or quicken his measures. The coming of her
sister's family was so very near at hand, that first in anticipation, and
then in reality, it became henceforth her prime object of interest; and
during the ten days of their stay at Hartfield it was not to be expected—she
did not herself expect—that any thing beyond occasional, fortuitous
assistance could be afforded by her to the lovers. They might advance
rapidly if they would, however; they must advance somehow or other whether
they would or no. She hardly wished to have more leisure for them. There
are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for
Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley, from having been longer than usual absent
from Surry, were exciting of course rather more than the usual interest.
Till this year, every long vacation since their marriage had been divided
between Hartfield and Donwell Abbey; but all the holidays of this autumn
had been given to sea-bathing for the children, and it was therefore many
months since they had been seen in a regular way by their Surry
connexions, or seen at all by Mr. Woodhouse, who could not be induced to
get so far as London, even for poor Isabella's sake; and who consequently
was now most nervously and apprehensively happy in forestalling this too
He thought much of the evils of the journey for her, and not a little of
the fatigues of his own horses and coachman who were to bring some of the
party the last half of the way; but his alarms were needless; the sixteen
miles being happily accomplished, and Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley, their
five children, and a competent number of nursery-maids, all reaching
Hartfield in safety. The bustle and joy of such an arrival, the many to be
talked to, welcomed, encouraged, and variously dispersed and disposed of,
produced a noise and confusion which his nerves could not have borne under
any other cause, nor have endured much longer even for this; but the ways
of Hartfield and the feelings of her father were so respected by Mrs. John
Knightley, that in spite of maternal solicitude for the immediate
enjoyment of her little ones, and for their having instantly all the
liberty and attendance, all the eating and drinking, and sleeping and
playing, which they could possibly wish for, without the smallest delay,
the children were never allowed to be long a disturbance to him, either in
themselves or in any restless attendance on them.
Mrs. John Knightley was a pretty, elegant little woman, of gentle, quiet
manners, and a disposition remarkably amiable and affectionate; wrapt up
in her family; a devoted wife, a doating mother, and so tenderly attached
to her father and sister that, but for these higher ties, a warmer love
might have seemed impossible. She could never see a fault in any of them.
She was not a woman of strong understanding or any quickness; and with
this resemblance of her father, she inherited also much of his
constitution; was delicate in her own health, over-careful of that of her
children, had many fears and many nerves, and was as fond of her own Mr.
Wingfield in town as her father could be of Mr. Perry. They were alike
too, in a general benevolence of temper, and a strong habit of regard for
every old acquaintance.
Mr. John Knightley was a tall, gentleman-like, and very clever man; rising
in his profession, domestic, and respectable in his private character; but
with reserved manners which prevented his being generally pleasing; and
capable of being sometimes out of humour. He was not an ill-tempered man,
not so often unreasonably cross as to deserve such a reproach; but his
temper was not his great perfection; and, indeed, with such a worshipping
wife, it was hardly possible that any natural defects in it should not be
increased. The extreme sweetness of her temper must hurt his. He had all
the clearness and quickness of mind which she wanted, and he could
sometimes act an ungracious, or say a severe thing.
He was not a great favourite with his fair sister-in-law. Nothing wrong in
him escaped her. She was quick in feeling the little injuries to Isabella,
which Isabella never felt herself. Perhaps she might have passed over more
had his manners been flattering to Isabella's sister, but they were only
those of a calmly kind brother and friend, without praise and without
blindness; but hardly any degree of personal compliment could have made
her regardless of that greatest fault of all in her eyes which he
sometimes fell into, the want of respectful forbearance towards her
father. There he had not always the patience that could have been wished.
Mr. Woodhouse's peculiarities and fidgetiness were sometimes provoking him
to a rational remonstrance or sharp retort equally ill-bestowed. It did
not often happen; for Mr. John Knightley had really a great regard for his
father-in-law, and generally a strong sense of what was due to him; but it
was too often for Emma's charity, especially as there was all the pain of
apprehension frequently to be endured, though the offence came not. The
beginning, however, of every visit displayed none but the properest
feelings, and this being of necessity so short might be hoped to pass away
in unsullied cordiality. They had not been long seated and composed when
Mr. Woodhouse, with a melancholy shake of the head and a sigh, called his
daughter's attention to the sad change at Hartfield since she had been
"Ah, my dear," said he, "poor Miss Taylor—It is a grievous
"Oh yes, sir," cried she with ready sympathy, "how you must miss her! And
dear Emma, too!—What a dreadful loss to you both!—I have been
so grieved for you.—I could not imagine how you could possibly do
without her.—It is a sad change indeed.—But I hope she is
pretty well, sir."
"Pretty well, my dear—I hope—pretty well.—I do not know
but that the place agrees with her tolerably."
Mr. John Knightley here asked Emma quietly whether there were any doubts
of the air of Randalls.
"Oh! no—none in the least. I never saw Mrs. Weston better in my life—never
looking so well. Papa is only speaking his own regret."
"Very much to the honour of both," was the handsome reply.
"And do you see her, sir, tolerably often?" asked Isabella in the
plaintive tone which just suited her father.
Mr. Woodhouse hesitated.—"Not near so often, my dear, as I could
"Oh! papa, we have missed seeing them but one entire day since they
married. Either in the morning or evening of every day, excepting one,
have we seen either Mr. Weston or Mrs. Weston, and generally both, either
at Randalls or here—and as you may suppose, Isabella, most
frequently here. They are very, very kind in their visits. Mr. Weston is
really as kind as herself. Papa, if you speak in that melancholy way, you
will be giving Isabella a false idea of us all. Every body must be aware
that Miss Taylor must be missed, but every body ought also to be assured
that Mr. and Mrs. Weston do really prevent our missing her by any means to
the extent we ourselves anticipated—which is the exact truth."
"Just as it should be," said Mr. John Knightley, "and just as I hoped it
was from your letters. Her wish of shewing you attention could not be
doubted, and his being a disengaged and social man makes it all easy. I
have been always telling you, my love, that I had no idea of the change
being so very material to Hartfield as you apprehended; and now you have
Emma's account, I hope you will be satisfied."
"Why, to be sure," said Mr. Woodhouse—"yes, certainly—I cannot
deny that Mrs. Weston, poor Mrs. Weston, does come and see us pretty often—but
then—she is always obliged to go away again."
"It would be very hard upon Mr. Weston if she did not, papa.—You
quite forget poor Mr. Weston."
"I think, indeed," said John Knightley pleasantly, "that Mr. Weston has
some little claim. You and I, Emma, will venture to take the part of the
poor husband. I, being a husband, and you not being a wife, the claims of
the man may very likely strike us with equal force. As for Isabella, she
has been married long enough to see the convenience of putting all the Mr.
Westons aside as much as she can."
"Me, my love," cried his wife, hearing and understanding only in part.—
"Are you talking about me?—I am sure nobody ought to be, or can be,
a greater advocate for matrimony than I am; and if it had not been for the
misery of her leaving Hartfield, I should never have thought of Miss
Taylor but as the most fortunate woman in the world; and as to slighting
Mr. Weston, that excellent Mr. Weston, I think there is nothing he does
not deserve. I believe he is one of the very best-tempered men that ever
existed. Excepting yourself and your brother, I do not know his equal for
temper. I shall never forget his flying Henry's kite for him that very
windy day last Easter—and ever since his particular kindness last
September twelvemonth in writing that note, at twelve o'clock at night, on
purpose to assure me that there was no scarlet fever at Cobham, I have
been convinced there could not be a more feeling heart nor a better man in
existence.—If any body can deserve him, it must be Miss Taylor."
"Where is the young man?" said John Knightley. "Has he been here on this
occasion—or has he not?"
"He has not been here yet," replied Emma. "There was a strong expectation
of his coming soon after the marriage, but it ended in nothing; and I have
not heard him mentioned lately."
"But you should tell them of the letter, my dear," said her father. "He
wrote a letter to poor Mrs. Weston, to congratulate her, and a very
proper, handsome letter it was. She shewed it to me. I thought it very
well done of him indeed. Whether it was his own idea you know, one cannot
tell. He is but young, and his uncle, perhaps—"
"My dear papa, he is three-and-twenty. You forget how time passes."
"Three-and-twenty!—is he indeed?—Well, I could not have
thought it—and he was but two years old when he lost his poor
mother! Well, time does fly indeed!—and my memory is very bad.
However, it was an exceeding good, pretty letter, and gave Mr. and Mrs.
Weston a great deal of pleasure. I remember it was written from Weymouth,
and dated Sept. 28th—and began, 'My dear Madam,' but I forget how it
went on; and it was signed 'F. C. Weston Churchill.'—I remember that
"How very pleasing and proper of him!" cried the good-hearted Mrs. John
Knightley. "I have no doubt of his being a most amiable young man. But how
sad it is that he should not live at home with his father! There is
something so shocking in a child's being taken away from his parents and
natural home! I never could comprehend how Mr. Weston could part with him.
To give up one's child! I really never could think well of any body who
proposed such a thing to any body else."
"Nobody ever did think well of the Churchills, I fancy," observed Mr. John
Knightley coolly. "But you need not imagine Mr. Weston to have felt what
you would feel in giving up Henry or John. Mr. Weston is rather an easy,
cheerful-tempered man, than a man of strong feelings; he takes things as
he finds them, and makes enjoyment of them somehow or other, depending, I
suspect, much more upon what is called society for his comforts, that is,
upon the power of eating and drinking, and playing whist with his
neighbours five times a week, than upon family affection, or any thing
that home affords."
Emma could not like what bordered on a reflection on Mr. Weston, and had
half a mind to take it up; but she struggled, and let it pass. She would
keep the peace if possible; and there was something honourable and
valuable in the strong domestic habits, the all-sufficiency of home to
himself, whence resulted her brother's disposition to look down on the
common rate of social intercourse, and those to whom it was important.—It
had a high claim to forbearance.