Mr. Knightley was to dine with them—rather against the inclination
of Mr. Woodhouse, who did not like that any one should share with him in
Isabella's first day. Emma's sense of right however had decided it; and
besides the consideration of what was due to each brother, she had
particular pleasure, from the circumstance of the late disagreement
between Mr. Knightley and herself, in procuring him the proper invitation.
She hoped they might now become friends again. She thought it was time to
make up. Making-up indeed would not do. She certainly had not been
in the wrong, and he would never own that he had. Concession must
be out of the question; but it was time to appear to forget that they had
ever quarrelled; and she hoped it might rather assist the restoration of
friendship, that when he came into the room she had one of the children
with her—the youngest, a nice little girl about eight months old,
who was now making her first visit to Hartfield, and very happy to be
danced about in her aunt's arms. It did assist; for though he began with
grave looks and short questions, he was soon led on to talk of them all in
the usual way, and to take the child out of her arms with all the
unceremoniousness of perfect amity. Emma felt they were friends again; and
the conviction giving her at first great satisfaction, and then a little
sauciness, she could not help saying, as he was admiring the baby,
"What a comfort it is, that we think alike about our nephews and nieces.
As to men and women, our opinions are sometimes very different; but with
regard to these children, I observe we never disagree."
"If you were as much guided by nature in your estimate of men and women,
and as little under the power of fancy and whim in your dealings with
them, as you are where these children are concerned, we might always think
"To be sure—our discordancies must always arise from my being in the
"Yes," said he, smiling—"and reason good. I was sixteen years old
when you were born."
"A material difference then," she replied—"and no doubt you were
much my superior in judgment at that period of our lives; but does not the
lapse of one-and-twenty years bring our understandings a good deal
"Yes—a good deal nearer."
"But still, not near enough to give me a chance of being right, if we
"I have still the advantage of you by sixteen years' experience, and by
not being a pretty young woman and a spoiled child. Come, my dear Emma,
let us be friends, and say no more about it. Tell your aunt, little Emma,
that she ought to set you a better example than to be renewing old
grievances, and that if she were not wrong before, she is now."
"That's true," she cried—"very true. Little Emma, grow up a better
woman than your aunt. Be infinitely cleverer and not half so conceited.
Now, Mr. Knightley, a word or two more, and I have done. As far as good
intentions went, we were both right, and I must say that no effects
on my side of the argument have yet proved wrong. I only want to know that
Mr. Martin is not very, very bitterly disappointed."
"A man cannot be more so," was his short, full answer.
"Ah!—Indeed I am very sorry.—Come, shake hands with me."
This had just taken place and with great cordiality, when John Knightley
made his appearance, and "How d'ye do, George?" and "John, how are you?"
succeeded in the true English style, burying under a calmness that seemed
all but indifference, the real attachment which would have led either of
them, if requisite, to do every thing for the good of the other.
The evening was quiet and conversable, as Mr. Woodhouse declined cards
entirely for the sake of comfortable talk with his dear Isabella, and the
little party made two natural divisions; on one side he and his daughter;
on the other the two Mr. Knightleys; their subjects totally distinct, or
very rarely mixing—and Emma only occasionally joining in one or the
The brothers talked of their own concerns and pursuits, but principally of
those of the elder, whose temper was by much the most communicative, and
who was always the greater talker. As a magistrate, he had generally some
point of law to consult John about, or, at least, some curious anecdote to
give; and as a farmer, as keeping in hand the home-farm at Donwell, he had
to tell what every field was to bear next year, and to give all such local
information as could not fail of being interesting to a brother whose home
it had equally been the longest part of his life, and whose attachments
were strong. The plan of a drain, the change of a fence, the felling of a
tree, and the destination of every acre for wheat, turnips, or spring
corn, was entered into with as much equality of interest by John, as his
cooler manners rendered possible; and if his willing brother ever left him
any thing to inquire about, his inquiries even approached a tone of
While they were thus comfortably occupied, Mr. Woodhouse was enjoying a
full flow of happy regrets and fearful affection with his daughter.
"My poor dear Isabella," said he, fondly taking her hand, and
interrupting, for a few moments, her busy labours for some one of her five
children—"How long it is, how terribly long since you were here! And
how tired you must be after your journey! You must go to bed early, my
dear—and I recommend a little gruel to you before you go.—You
and I will have a nice basin of gruel together. My dear Emma, suppose we
all have a little gruel."
Emma could not suppose any such thing, knowing as she did, that both the
Mr. Knightleys were as unpersuadable on that article as herself;—and
two basins only were ordered. After a little more discourse in praise of
gruel, with some wondering at its not being taken every evening by every
body, he proceeded to say, with an air of grave reflection,
"It was an awkward business, my dear, your spending the autumn at South
End instead of coming here. I never had much opinion of the sea air."
"Mr. Wingfield most strenuously recommended it, sir—or we should not
have gone. He recommended it for all the children, but particularly for
the weakness in little Bella's throat,—both sea air and bathing."
"Ah! my dear, but Perry had many doubts about the sea doing her any good;
and as to myself, I have been long perfectly convinced, though perhaps I
never told you so before, that the sea is very rarely of use to any body.
I am sure it almost killed me once."
"Come, come," cried Emma, feeling this to be an unsafe subject, "I must
beg you not to talk of the sea. It makes me envious and miserable;—I
who have never seen it! South End is prohibited, if you please. My dear
Isabella, I have not heard you make one inquiry about Mr. Perry yet; and
he never forgets you."
"Oh! good Mr. Perry—how is he, sir?"
"Why, pretty well; but not quite well. Poor Perry is bilious, and he has
not time to take care of himself—he tells me he has not time to take
care of himself—which is very sad—but he is always wanted all
round the country. I suppose there is not a man in such practice anywhere.
But then there is not so clever a man any where."
"And Mrs. Perry and the children, how are they? do the children grow? I
have a great regard for Mr. Perry. I hope he will be calling soon. He will
be so pleased to see my little ones."
"I hope he will be here to-morrow, for I have a question or two to ask him
about myself of some consequence. And, my dear, whenever he comes, you had
better let him look at little Bella's throat."
"Oh! my dear sir, her throat is so much better that I have hardly any
uneasiness about it. Either bathing has been of the greatest service to
her, or else it is to be attributed to an excellent embrocation of Mr.
Wingfield's, which we have been applying at times ever since August."
"It is not very likely, my dear, that bathing should have been of use to
her—and if I had known you were wanting an embrocation, I would have
"You seem to me to have forgotten Mrs. and Miss Bates," said Emma, "I have
not heard one inquiry after them."
"Oh! the good Bateses—I am quite ashamed of myself—but you
mention them in most of your letters. I hope they are quite well. Good old
Mrs. Bates—I will call upon her to-morrow, and take my children.—They
are always so pleased to see my children.—And that excellent Miss
Bates!—such thorough worthy people!—How are they, sir?"
"Why, pretty well, my dear, upon the whole. But poor Mrs. Bates had a bad
cold about a month ago."
"How sorry I am! But colds were never so prevalent as they have been this
autumn. Mr. Wingfield told me that he has never known them more general or
heavy—except when it has been quite an influenza."
"That has been a good deal the case, my dear; but not to the degree you
mention. Perry says that colds have been very general, but not so heavy as
he has very often known them in November. Perry does not call it
altogether a sickly season."
"No, I do not know that Mr. Wingfield considers it very sickly
"Ah! my poor dear child, the truth is, that in London it is always a
sickly season. Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be. It is a
dreadful thing to have you forced to live there! so far off!—and the
air so bad!"
"No, indeed—we are not at all in a bad air. Our part of
London is very superior to most others!—You must not confound us
with London in general, my dear sir. The neighbourhood of Brunswick Square
is very different from almost all the rest. We are so very airy! I should
be unwilling, I own, to live in any other part of the town;—there is
hardly any other that I could be satisfied to have my children in: but we
are so remarkably airy!—Mr. Wingfield thinks the vicinity of
Brunswick Square decidedly the most favourable as to air."
"Ah! my dear, it is not like Hartfield. You make the best of it—but
after you have been a week at Hartfield, you are all of you different
creatures; you do not look like the same. Now I cannot say, that I think
you are any of you looking well at present."
"I am sorry to hear you say so, sir; but I assure you, excepting those
little nervous head-aches and palpitations which I am never entirely free
from anywhere, I am quite well myself; and if the children were rather
pale before they went to bed, it was only because they were a little more
tired than usual, from their journey and the happiness of coming. I hope
you will think better of their looks to-morrow; for I assure you Mr.
Wingfield told me, that he did not believe he had ever sent us off
altogether, in such good case. I trust, at least, that you do not think
Mr. Knightley looking ill," turning her eyes with affectionate anxiety
towards her husband.
"Middling, my dear; I cannot compliment you. I think Mr. John Knightley
very far from looking well."
"What is the matter, sir?—Did you speak to me?" cried Mr. John
Knightley, hearing his own name.
"I am sorry to find, my love, that my father does not think you looking
well—but I hope it is only from being a little fatigued. I could
have wished, however, as you know, that you had seen Mr. Wingfield before
you left home."
"My dear Isabella,"—exclaimed he hastily—"pray do not concern
yourself about my looks. Be satisfied with doctoring and coddling yourself
and the children, and let me look as I chuse."
"I did not thoroughly understand what you were telling your brother,"
cried Emma, "about your friend Mr. Graham's intending to have a bailiff
from Scotland, to look after his new estate. What will it answer? Will not
the old prejudice be too strong?"
And she talked in this way so long and successfully that, when forced to
give her attention again to her father and sister, she had nothing worse
to hear than Isabella's kind inquiry after Jane Fairfax; and Jane Fairfax,
though no great favourite with her in general, she was at that moment very
happy to assist in praising.
"That sweet, amiable Jane Fairfax!" said Mrs. John Knightley.—"It is
so long since I have seen her, except now and then for a moment
accidentally in town! What happiness it must be to her good old
grandmother and excellent aunt, when she comes to visit them! I always
regret excessively on dear Emma's account that she cannot be more at
Highbury; but now their daughter is married, I suppose Colonel and Mrs.
Campbell will not be able to part with her at all. She would be such a
delightful companion for Emma."
Mr. Woodhouse agreed to it all, but added,
"Our little friend Harriet Smith, however, is just such another pretty
kind of young person. You will like Harriet. Emma could not have a better
companion than Harriet."
"I am most happy to hear it—but only Jane Fairfax one knows to be so
very accomplished and superior!—and exactly Emma's age."
This topic was discussed very happily, and others succeeded of similar
moment, and passed away with similar harmony; but the evening did not
close without a little return of agitation. The gruel came and supplied a
great deal to be said—much praise and many comments—undoubting
decision of its wholesomeness for every constitution, and pretty severe
Philippics upon the many houses where it was never met with tolerable;—but,
unfortunately, among the failures which the daughter had to instance, the
most recent, and therefore most prominent, was in her own cook at South
End, a young woman hired for the time, who never had been able to
understand what she meant by a basin of nice smooth gruel, thin, but not
too thin. Often as she had wished for and ordered it, she had never been
able to get any thing tolerable. Here was a dangerous opening.
"Ah!" said Mr. Woodhouse, shaking his head and fixing his eyes on her with
tender concern.—The ejaculation in Emma's ear expressed, "Ah! there
is no end of the sad consequences of your going to South End. It does not
bear talking of." And for a little while she hoped he would not talk of
it, and that a silent rumination might suffice to restore him to the
relish of his own smooth gruel. After an interval of some minutes,
however, he began with,
"I shall always be very sorry that you went to the sea this autumn,
instead of coming here."
"But why should you be sorry, sir?—I assure you, it did the children
a great deal of good."
"And, moreover, if you must go to the sea, it had better not have been to
South End. South End is an unhealthy place. Perry was surprized to hear
you had fixed upon South End."
"I know there is such an idea with many people, but indeed it is quite a
mistake, sir.—We all had our health perfectly well there, never
found the least inconvenience from the mud; and Mr. Wingfield says it is
entirely a mistake to suppose the place unhealthy; and I am sure he may be
depended on, for he thoroughly understands the nature of the air, and his
own brother and family have been there repeatedly."
"You should have gone to Cromer, my dear, if you went anywhere.—Perry
was a week at Cromer once, and he holds it to be the best of all the
sea-bathing places. A fine open sea, he says, and very pure air. And, by
what I understand, you might have had lodgings there quite away from the
sea—a quarter of a mile off—very comfortable. You should have
"But, my dear sir, the difference of the journey;—only consider how
great it would have been.—An hundred miles, perhaps, instead of
"Ah! my dear, as Perry says, where health is at stake, nothing else should
be considered; and if one is to travel, there is not much to chuse between
forty miles and an hundred.—Better not move at all, better stay in
London altogether than travel forty miles to get into a worse air. This is
just what Perry said. It seemed to him a very ill-judged measure."
Emma's attempts to stop her father had been vain; and when he had reached
such a point as this, she could not wonder at her brother-in-law's
"Mr. Perry," said he, in a voice of very strong displeasure, "would do as
well to keep his opinion till it is asked for. Why does he make it any
business of his, to wonder at what I do?—at my taking my family to
one part of the coast or another?—I may be allowed, I hope, the use
of my judgment as well as Mr. Perry.—I want his directions no more
than his drugs." He paused—and growing cooler in a moment, added,
with only sarcastic dryness, "If Mr. Perry can tell me how to convey a
wife and five children a distance of an hundred and thirty miles with no
greater expense or inconvenience than a distance of forty, I should be as
willing to prefer Cromer to South End as he could himself."
"True, true," cried Mr. Knightley, with most ready interposition—"very
true. That's a consideration indeed.—But John, as to what I was
telling you of my idea of moving the path to Langham, of turning it more
to the right that it may not cut through the home meadows, I cannot
conceive any difficulty. I should not attempt it, if it were to be the
means of inconvenience to the Highbury people, but if you call to mind
exactly the present line of the path.... The only way of proving it,
however, will be to turn to our maps. I shall see you at the Abbey
to-morrow morning I hope, and then we will look them over, and you shall
give me your opinion."
Mr. Woodhouse was rather agitated by such harsh reflections on his friend
Perry, to whom he had, in fact, though unconsciously, been attributing
many of his own feelings and expressions;—but the soothing
attentions of his daughters gradually removed the present evil, and the
immediate alertness of one brother, and better recollections of the other,
prevented any renewal of it.