Mr. Weston was a native of Highbury, and born of a respectable family,
which for the last two or three generations had been rising into gentility
and property. He had received a good education, but, on succeeding early
in life to a small independence, had become indisposed for any of the more
homely pursuits in which his brothers were engaged, and had satisfied an
active, cheerful mind and social temper by entering into the militia of
his county, then embodied.
Captain Weston was a general favourite; and when the chances of his
military life had introduced him to Miss Churchill, of a great Yorkshire
family, and Miss Churchill fell in love with him, nobody was surprized,
except her brother and his wife, who had never seen him, and who were full
of pride and importance, which the connexion would offend.
Miss Churchill, however, being of age, and with the full command of her
fortune—though her fortune bore no proportion to the family-estate—was
not to be dissuaded from the marriage, and it took place, to the infinite
mortification of Mr. and Mrs. Churchill, who threw her off with due
decorum. It was an unsuitable connexion, and did not produce much
happiness. Mrs. Weston ought to have found more in it, for she had a
husband whose warm heart and sweet temper made him think every thing due
to her in return for the great goodness of being in love with him; but
though she had one sort of spirit, she had not the best. She had
resolution enough to pursue her own will in spite of her brother, but not
enough to refrain from unreasonable regrets at that brother's unreasonable
anger, nor from missing the luxuries of her former home. They lived beyond
their income, but still it was nothing in comparison of Enscombe: she did
not cease to love her husband, but she wanted at once to be the wife of
Captain Weston, and Miss Churchill of Enscombe.
Captain Weston, who had been considered, especially by the Churchills, as
making such an amazing match, was proved to have much the worst of the
bargain; for when his wife died, after a three years' marriage, he was
rather a poorer man than at first, and with a child to maintain. From the
expense of the child, however, he was soon relieved. The boy had, with the
additional softening claim of a lingering illness of his mother's, been
the means of a sort of reconciliation; and Mr. and Mrs. Churchill, having
no children of their own, nor any other young creature of equal kindred to
care for, offered to take the whole charge of the little Frank soon after
her decease. Some scruples and some reluctance the widower-father may be
supposed to have felt; but as they were overcome by other considerations,
the child was given up to the care and the wealth of the Churchills, and
he had only his own comfort to seek, and his own situation to improve as
A complete change of life became desirable. He quitted the militia and
engaged in trade, having brothers already established in a good way in
London, which afforded him a favourable opening. It was a concern which
brought just employment enough. He had still a small house in Highbury,
where most of his leisure days were spent; and between useful occupation
and the pleasures of society, the next eighteen or twenty years of his
life passed cheerfully away. He had, by that time, realised an easy
competence—enough to secure the purchase of a little estate
adjoining Highbury, which he had always longed for—enough to marry a
woman as portionless even as Miss Taylor, and to live according to the
wishes of his own friendly and social disposition.
It was now some time since Miss Taylor had begun to influence his schemes;
but as it was not the tyrannic influence of youth on youth, it had not
shaken his determination of never settling till he could purchase
Randalls, and the sale of Randalls was long looked forward to; but he had
gone steadily on, with these objects in view, till they were accomplished.
He had made his fortune, bought his house, and obtained his wife; and was
beginning a new period of existence, with every probability of greater
happiness than in any yet passed through. He had never been an unhappy
man; his own temper had secured him from that, even in his first marriage;
but his second must shew him how delightful a well-judging and truly
amiable woman could be, and must give him the pleasantest proof of its
being a great deal better to choose than to be chosen, to excite gratitude
than to feel it.
He had only himself to please in his choice: his fortune was his own; for
as to Frank, it was more than being tacitly brought up as his uncle's
heir, it had become so avowed an adoption as to have him assume the name
of Churchill on coming of age. It was most unlikely, therefore, that he
should ever want his father's assistance. His father had no apprehension
of it. The aunt was a capricious woman, and governed her husband entirely;
but it was not in Mr. Weston's nature to imagine that any caprice could be
strong enough to affect one so dear, and, as he believed, so deservedly
dear. He saw his son every year in London, and was proud of him; and his
fond report of him as a very fine young man had made Highbury feel a sort
of pride in him too. He was looked on as sufficiently belonging to the
place to make his merits and prospects a kind of common concern.
Mr. Frank Churchill was one of the boasts of Highbury, and a lively
curiosity to see him prevailed, though the compliment was so little
returned that he had never been there in his life. His coming to visit his
father had been often talked of but never achieved.
Now, upon his father's marriage, it was very generally proposed, as a most
proper attention, that the visit should take place. There was not a
dissentient voice on the subject, either when Mrs. Perry drank tea with
Mrs. and Miss Bates, or when Mrs. and Miss Bates returned the visit. Now
was the time for Mr. Frank Churchill to come among them; and the hope
strengthened when it was understood that he had written to his new mother
on the occasion. For a few days, every morning visit in Highbury included
some mention of the handsome letter Mrs. Weston had received. "I suppose
you have heard of the handsome letter Mr. Frank Churchill has written to
Mrs. Weston? I understand it was a very handsome letter, indeed. Mr.
Woodhouse told me of it. Mr. Woodhouse saw the letter, and he says he
never saw such a handsome letter in his life."
It was, indeed, a highly prized letter. Mrs. Weston had, of course, formed
a very favourable idea of the young man; and such a pleasing attention was
an irresistible proof of his great good sense, and a most welcome addition
to every source and every expression of congratulation which her marriage
had already secured. She felt herself a most fortunate woman; and she had
lived long enough to know how fortunate she might well be thought, where
the only regret was for a partial separation from friends whose friendship
for her had never cooled, and who could ill bear to part with her.
She knew that at times she must be missed; and could not think, without
pain, of Emma's losing a single pleasure, or suffering an hour's ennui,
from the want of her companionableness: but dear Emma was of no feeble
character; she was more equal to her situation than most girls would have
been, and had sense, and energy, and spirits that might be hoped would
bear her well and happily through its little difficulties and privations.
And then there was such comfort in the very easy distance of Randalls from
Hartfield, so convenient for even solitary female walking, and in Mr.
Weston's disposition and circumstances, which would make the approaching
season no hindrance to their spending half the evenings in the week
Her situation was altogether the subject of hours of gratitude to Mrs.
Weston, and of moments only of regret; and her satisfaction—her more
than satisfaction—her cheerful enjoyment, was so just and so
apparent, that Emma, well as she knew her father, was sometimes taken by
surprize at his being still able to pity 'poor Miss Taylor,' when they
left her at Randalls in the centre of every domestic comfort, or saw her
go away in the evening attended by her pleasant husband to a carriage of
her own. But never did she go without Mr. Woodhouse's giving a gentle
sigh, and saying, "Ah, poor Miss Taylor! She would be very glad to stay."
There was no recovering Miss Taylor—nor much likelihood of ceasing
to pity her; but a few weeks brought some alleviation to Mr. Woodhouse.
The compliments of his neighbours were over; he was no longer teased by
being wished joy of so sorrowful an event; and the wedding-cake, which had
been a great distress to him, was all eat up. His own stomach could bear
nothing rich, and he could never believe other people to be different from
himself. What was unwholesome to him he regarded as unfit for any body;
and he had, therefore, earnestly tried to dissuade them from having any
wedding-cake at all, and when that proved vain, as earnestly tried to
prevent any body's eating it. He had been at the pains of consulting Mr.
Perry, the apothecary, on the subject. Mr. Perry was an intelligent,
gentlemanlike man, whose frequent visits were one of the comforts of Mr.
Woodhouse's life; and upon being applied to, he could not but acknowledge
(though it seemed rather against the bias of inclination) that
wedding-cake might certainly disagree with many—perhaps with most
people, unless taken moderately. With such an opinion, in confirmation of
his own, Mr. Woodhouse hoped to influence every visitor of the newly
married pair; but still the cake was eaten; and there was no rest for his
benevolent nerves till it was all gone.
There was a strange rumour in Highbury of all the little Perrys being seen
with a slice of Mrs. Weston's wedding-cake in their hands: but Mr.
Woodhouse would never believe it.