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Emma could not forgive her;—but as neither provocation nor
resentment were discerned by Mr. Knightley, who had been of the party, and
had seen only proper attention and pleasing behaviour on each side, he was
expressing the next morning, being at Hartfield again on business with Mr.
Woodhouse, his approbation of the whole; not so openly as he might have
done had her father been out of the room, but speaking plain enough to be
very intelligible to Emma. He had been used to think her unjust to Jane,
and had now great pleasure in marking an improvement.
"A very pleasant evening," he began, as soon as Mr. Woodhouse had been
talked into what was necessary, told that he understood, and the papers
swept away;—"particularly pleasant. You and Miss Fairfax gave us
some very good music. I do not know a more luxurious state, sir, than
sitting at one's ease to be entertained a whole evening by two such young
women; sometimes with music and sometimes with conversation. I am sure
Miss Fairfax must have found the evening pleasant, Emma. You left nothing
undone. I was glad you made her play so much, for having no instrument at
her grandmother's, it must have been a real indulgence."
"I am happy you approved," said Emma, smiling; "but I hope I am not often
deficient in what is due to guests at Hartfield."
"No, my dear," said her father instantly; "<i>that</i> I am sure you are
not. There is nobody half so attentive and civil as you are. If any thing,
you are too attentive. The muffin last night—if it had been handed
round once, I think it would have been enough."
"No," said Mr. Knightley, nearly at the same time; "you are not often
deficient; not often deficient either in manner or comprehension. I think
you understand me, therefore."
An arch look expressed—"I understand you well enough;" but she said
only, "Miss Fairfax is reserved."
"I always told you she was—a little; but you will soon overcome all
that part of her reserve which ought to be overcome, all that has its
foundation in diffidence. What arises from discretion must be honoured."
"You think her diffident. I do not see it."
"My dear Emma," said he, moving from his chair into one close by her, "you
are not going to tell me, I hope, that you had not a pleasant evening."
"Oh! no; I was pleased with my own perseverance in asking questions; and
amused to think how little information I obtained."
"I am disappointed," was his only answer.
"I hope every body had a pleasant evening," said Mr. Woodhouse, in his
quiet way. "I had. Once, I felt the fire rather too much; but then I moved
back my chair a little, a very little, and it did not disturb me. Miss
Bates was very chatty and good-humoured, as she always is, though she
speaks rather too quick. However, she is very agreeable, and Mrs. Bates
too, in a different way. I like old friends; and Miss Jane Fairfax is a
very pretty sort of young lady, a very pretty and a very well-behaved
young lady indeed. She must have found the evening agreeable, Mr.
Knightley, because she had Emma."
"True, sir; and Emma, because she had Miss Fairfax."
Emma saw his anxiety, and wishing to appease it, at least for the present,
said, and with a sincerity which no one could question—
"She is a sort of elegant creature that one cannot keep one's eyes from. I
am always watching her to admire; and I do pity her from my heart."
Mr. Knightley looked as if he were more gratified than he cared to
express; and before he could make any reply, Mr. Woodhouse, whose thoughts
were on the Bates's, said—
"It is a great pity that their circumstances should be so confined! a
great pity indeed! and I have often wished—but it is so little one
can venture to do—small, trifling presents, of any thing uncommon—Now
we have killed a porker, and Emma thinks of sending them a loin or a leg;
it is very small and delicate—Hartfield pork is not like any other
pork—but still it is pork—and, my dear Emma, unless one could
be sure of their making it into steaks, nicely fried, as ours are fried,
without the smallest grease, and not roast it, for no stomach can bear
roast pork—I think we had better send the leg—do not you think
so, my dear?"
"My dear papa, I sent the whole hind-quarter. I knew you would wish it.
There will be the leg to be salted, you know, which is so very nice, and
the loin to be dressed directly in any manner they like."
"That's right, my dear, very right. I had not thought of it before, but
that is the best way. They must not over-salt the leg; and then, if it is
not over-salted, and if it is very thoroughly boiled, just as Serle boils
ours, and eaten very moderately of, with a boiled turnip, and a little
carrot or parsnip, I do not consider it unwholesome."
"Emma," said Mr. Knightley presently, "I have a piece of news for you. You
like news—and I heard an article in my way hither that I think will
"News! Oh! yes, I always like news. What is it?—why do you smile so?—where
did you hear it?—at Randalls?"
He had time only to say,
"No, not at Randalls; I have not been near Randalls," when the door was
thrown open, and Miss Bates and Miss Fairfax walked into the room. Full of
thanks, and full of news, Miss Bates knew not which to give quickest. Mr.
Knightley soon saw that he had lost his moment, and that not another
syllable of communication could rest with him.
"Oh! my dear sir, how are you this morning? My dear Miss Woodhouse—I
come quite over-powered. Such a beautiful hind-quarter of pork! You are
too bountiful! Have you heard the news? Mr. Elton is going to be married."
Emma had not had time even to think of Mr. Elton, and she was so
completely surprized that she could not avoid a little start, and a little
blush, at the sound.
"There is my news:—I thought it would interest you," said Mr.
Knightley, with a smile which implied a conviction of some part of what
had passed between them.
"But where could <i>you</i> hear it?" cried Miss Bates. "Where could you
possibly hear it, Mr. Knightley? For it is not five minutes since I
received Mrs. Cole's note—no, it cannot be more than five—or
at least ten—for I had got my bonnet and spencer on, just ready to
come out—I was only gone down to speak to Patty again about the pork—Jane
was standing in the passage—were not you, Jane?—for my mother
was so afraid that we had not any salting-pan large enough. So I said I
would go down and see, and Jane said, 'Shall I go down instead? for I
think you have a little cold, and Patty has been washing the kitchen.'—'Oh!
my dear,' said I—well, and just then came the note. A Miss Hawkins—that's
all I know. A Miss Hawkins of Bath. But, Mr. Knightley, how could you
possibly have heard it? for the very moment Mr. Cole told Mrs. Cole of it,
she sat down and wrote to me. A Miss Hawkins—"
"I was with Mr. Cole on business an hour and a half ago. He had just read
Elton's letter as I was shewn in, and handed it to me directly."
"Well! that is quite—I suppose there never was a piece of news more
generally interesting. My dear sir, you really are too bountiful. My
mother desires her very best compliments and regards, and a thousand
thanks, and says you really quite oppress her."
"We consider our Hartfield pork," replied Mr. Woodhouse—"indeed it
certainly is, so very superior to all other pork, that Emma and I cannot
have a greater pleasure than—"
"Oh! my dear sir, as my mother says, our friends are only too good to us.
If ever there were people who, without having great wealth themselves, had
every thing they could wish for, I am sure it is us. We may well say that
'our lot is cast in a goodly heritage.' Well, Mr. Knightley, and so you
actually saw the letter; well—"
"It was short—merely to announce—but cheerful, exulting, of
course."— Here was a sly glance at Emma. "He had been so fortunate
as to—I forget the precise words—one has no business to
remember them. The information was, as you state, that he was going to be
married to a Miss Hawkins. By his style, I should imagine it just
"Mr. Elton going to be married!" said Emma, as soon as she could speak.
"He will have every body's wishes for his happiness."
"He is very young to settle," was Mr. Woodhouse's observation. "He had
better not be in a hurry. He seemed to me very well off as he was. We were
always glad to see him at Hartfield."
"A new neighbour for us all, Miss Woodhouse!" said Miss Bates, joyfully;
"my mother is so pleased!—she says she cannot bear to have the poor
old Vicarage without a mistress. This is great news, indeed. Jane, you
have never seen Mr. Elton!—no wonder that you have such a curiosity
to see him."
Jane's curiosity did not appear of that absorbing nature as wholly to
"No—I have never seen Mr. Elton," she replied, starting on this
appeal; "is he—is he a tall man?"
"Who shall answer that question?" cried Emma. "My father would say 'yes,'
Mr. Knightley 'no;' and Miss Bates and I that he is just the happy medium.
When you have been here a little longer, Miss Fairfax, you will understand
that Mr. Elton is the standard of perfection in Highbury, both in person
"Very true, Miss Woodhouse, so she will. He is the very best young man—But,
my dear Jane, if you remember, I told you yesterday he was precisely the
height of Mr. Perry. Miss Hawkins,—I dare say, an excellent young
woman. His extreme attention to my mother—wanting her to sit in the
vicarage pew, that she might hear the better, for my mother is a little
deaf, you know—it is not much, but she does not hear quite quick.
Jane says that Colonel Campbell is a little deaf. He fancied bathing might
be good for it—the warm bath—but she says it did him no
lasting benefit. Colonel Campbell, you know, is quite our angel. And Mr.
Dixon seems a very charming young man, quite worthy of him. It is such a
happiness when good people get together—and they always do. Now,
here will be Mr. Elton and Miss Hawkins; and there are the Coles, such
very good people; and the Perrys—I suppose there never was a happier
or a better couple than Mr. and Mrs. Perry. I say, sir," turning to Mr.
Woodhouse, "I think there are few places with such society as Highbury. I
always say, we are quite blessed in our neighbours.—My dear sir, if
there is one thing my mother loves better than another, it is pork—a
roast loin of pork—"
"As to who, or what Miss Hawkins is, or how long he has been acquainted
with her," said Emma, "nothing I suppose can be known. One feels that it
cannot be a very long acquaintance. He has been gone only four weeks."
Nobody had any information to give; and, after a few more wonderings, Emma
"You are silent, Miss Fairfax—but I hope you mean to take an
interest in this news. You, who have been hearing and seeing so much of
late on these subjects, who must have been so deep in the business on Miss
Campbell's account—we shall not excuse your being indifferent about
Mr. Elton and Miss Hawkins."
"When I have seen Mr. Elton," replied Jane, "I dare say I shall be
interested—but I believe it requires <i>that</i> with me. And as it
is some months since Miss Campbell married, the impression may be a little
"Yes, he has been gone just four weeks, as you observe, Miss Woodhouse,"
said Miss Bates, "four weeks yesterday.—A Miss Hawkins!—Well,
I had always rather fancied it would be some young lady hereabouts; not
that I ever—Mrs. Cole once whispered to me—but I immediately
said, 'No, Mr. Elton is a most worthy young man—but'—In short,
I do not think I am particularly quick at those sort of discoveries. I do
not pretend to it. What is before me, I see. At the same time, nobody
could wonder if Mr. Elton should have aspired—Miss Woodhouse lets me
chatter on, so good-humouredly. She knows I would not offend for the
world. How does Miss Smith do? She seems quite recovered now. Have you
heard from Mrs. John Knightley lately? Oh! those dear little children.
Jane, do you know I always fancy Mr. Dixon like Mr. John Knightley. I mean
in person—tall, and with that sort of look—and not very
"Quite wrong, my dear aunt; there is no likeness at all."
"Very odd! but one never does form a just idea of any body beforehand. One
takes up a notion, and runs away with it. Mr. Dixon, you say, is not,
strictly speaking, handsome?"
"Handsome! Oh! no—far from it—certainly plain. I told you he
"My dear, you said that Miss Campbell would not allow him to be plain, and
that you yourself—"
"Oh! as for me, my judgment is worth nothing. Where I have a regard, I
always think a person well-looking. But I gave what I believed the general
opinion, when I called him plain."
"Well, my dear Jane, I believe we must be running away. The weather does
not look well, and grandmama will be uneasy. You are too obliging, my dear
Miss Woodhouse; but we really must take leave. This has been a most
agreeable piece of news indeed. I shall just go round by Mrs. Cole's; but
I shall not stop three minutes: and, Jane, you had better go home directly—I
would not have you out in a shower!—We think she is the better for
Highbury already. Thank you, we do indeed. I shall not attempt calling on
Mrs. Goddard, for I really do not think she cares for any thing but <i>boiled</i>
pork: when we dress the leg it will be another thing. Good morning to you,
my dear sir. Oh! Mr. Knightley is coming too. Well, that is so very!—I
am sure if Jane is tired, you will be so kind as to give her your arm.—Mr.
Elton, and Miss Hawkins!—Good morning to you."
Emma, alone with her father, had half her attention wanted by him while he
lamented that young people would be in such a hurry to marry—and to
marry strangers too—and the other half she could give to her own
view of the subject. It was to herself an amusing and a very welcome piece
of news, as proving that Mr. Elton could not have suffered long; but she
was sorry for Harriet: Harriet must feel it—and all that she could
hope was, by giving the first information herself, to save her from
hearing it abruptly from others. It was now about the time that she was
likely to call. If she were to meet Miss Bates in her way!—and upon
its beginning to rain, Emma was obliged to expect that the weather would
be detaining her at Mrs. Goddard's, and that the intelligence would
undoubtedly rush upon her without preparation.
The shower was heavy, but short; and it had not been over five minutes,
when in came Harriet, with just the heated, agitated look which hurrying
thither with a full heart was likely to give; and the "Oh! Miss Woodhouse,
what do you think has happened!" which instantly burst forth, had all the
evidence of corresponding perturbation. As the blow was given, Emma felt
that she could not now shew greater kindness than in listening; and
Harriet, unchecked, ran eagerly through what she had to tell. "She had set
out from Mrs. Goddard's half an hour ago—she had been afraid it
would rain—she had been afraid it would pour down every moment—but
she thought she might get to Hartfield first—she had hurried on as
fast as possible; but then, as she was passing by the house where a young
woman was making up a gown for her, she thought she would just step in and
see how it went on; and though she did not seem to stay half a moment
there, soon after she came out it began to rain, and she did not know what
to do; so she ran on directly, as fast as she could, and took shelter at
Ford's."—Ford's was the principal woollen-draper, linen-draper, and
haberdasher's shop united; the shop first in size and fashion in the
place.—"And so, there she had set, without an idea of any thing in
the world, full ten minutes, perhaps—when, all of a sudden, who
should come in—to be sure it was so very odd!—but they always
dealt at Ford's—who should come in, but Elizabeth Martin and her
brother!—Dear Miss Woodhouse! only think. I thought I should have
fainted. I did not know what to do. I was sitting near the door—Elizabeth
saw me directly; but he did not; he was busy with the umbrella. I am sure
she saw me, but she looked away directly, and took no notice; and they
both went to quite the farther end of the shop; and I kept sitting near
the door!—Oh! dear; I was so miserable! I am sure I must have been
as white as my gown. I could not go away you know, because of the rain;
but I did so wish myself anywhere in the world but there.—Oh! dear,
Miss Woodhouse—well, at last, I fancy, he looked round and saw me;
for instead of going on with her buyings, they began whispering to one
another. I am sure they were talking of me; and I could not help thinking
that he was persuading her to speak to me—(do you think he was, Miss
Woodhouse?)—for presently she came forward—came quite up to
me, and asked me how I did, and seemed ready to shake hands, if I would.
She did not do any of it in the same way that she used; I could see she
was altered; but, however, she seemed to <i>try</i> to be very friendly,
and we shook hands, and stood talking some time; but I know no more what I
said—I was in such a tremble!—I remember she said she was
sorry we never met now; which I thought almost too kind! Dear, Miss
Woodhouse, I was absolutely miserable! By that time, it was beginning to
hold up, and I was determined that nothing should stop me from getting
away—and then—only think!—I found he was coming up
towards me too—slowly you know, and as if he did not quite know what
to do; and so he came and spoke, and I answered—and I stood for a
minute, feeling dreadfully, you know, one can't tell how; and then I took
courage, and said it did not rain, and I must go; and so off I set; and I
had not got three yards from the door, when he came after me, only to say,
if I was going to Hartfield, he thought I had much better go round by Mr.
Cole's stables, for I should find the near way quite floated by this rain.
Oh! dear, I thought it would have been the death of me! So I said, I was
very much obliged to him: you know I could not do less; and then he went
back to Elizabeth, and I came round by the stables—I believe I did—but
I hardly knew where I was, or any thing about it. Oh! Miss Woodhouse, I
would rather done any thing than have it happen: and yet, you know, there
was a sort of satisfaction in seeing him behave so pleasantly and so
kindly. And Elizabeth, too. Oh! Miss Woodhouse, do talk to me and make me
Very sincerely did Emma wish to do so; but it was not immediately in her
power. She was obliged to stop and think. She was not thoroughly
comfortable herself. The young man's conduct, and his sister's, seemed the
result of real feeling, and she could not but pity them. As Harriet
described it, there had been an interesting mixture of wounded affection
and genuine delicacy in their behaviour. But she had believed them to be
well-meaning, worthy people before; and what difference did this make in
the evils of the connexion? It was folly to be disturbed by it. Of course,
he must be sorry to lose her—they must be all sorry. Ambition, as
well as love, had probably been mortified. They might all have hoped to
rise by Harriet's acquaintance: and besides, what was the value of
Harriet's description?—So easily pleased—so little discerning;—what
signified her praise?
She exerted herself, and did try to make her comfortable, by considering
all that had passed as a mere trifle, and quite unworthy of being dwelt
"It might be distressing, for the moment," said she; "but you seem to have
behaved extremely well; and it is over—and may never—can
never, as a first meeting, occur again, and therefore you need not think
Harriet said, "very true," and she "would not think about it;" but still
she talked of it—still she could talk of nothing else; and Emma, at
last, in order to put the Martins out of her head, was obliged to hurry on
the news, which she had meant to give with so much tender caution; hardly
knowing herself whether to rejoice or be angry, ashamed or only amused, at
such a state of mind in poor Harriet—such a conclusion of Mr.
Elton's importance with her!
Mr. Elton's rights, however, gradually revived. Though she did not feel
the first intelligence as she might have done the day before, or an hour
before, its interest soon increased; and before their first conversation
was over, she had talked herself into all the sensations of curiosity,
wonder and regret, pain and pleasure, as to this fortunate Miss Hawkins,
which could conduce to place the Martins under proper subordination in her
Emma learned to be rather glad that there had been such a meeting. It had
been serviceable in deadening the first shock, without retaining any
influence to alarm. As Harriet now lived, the Martins could not get at
her, without seeking her, where hitherto they had wanted either the
courage or the condescension to seek her; for since her refusal of the
brother, the sisters never had been at Mrs. Goddard's; and a twelvemonth
might pass without their being thrown together again, with any necessity,
or even any power of speech.