The weather continued much the same all the following morning; and the
same loneliness, and the same melancholy, seemed to reign at Hartfield—but
in the afternoon it cleared; the wind changed into a softer quarter; the
clouds were carried off; the sun appeared; it was summer again. With all
the eagerness which such a transition gives, Emma resolved to be out of
doors as soon as possible. Never had the exquisite sight, smell, sensation
of nature, tranquil, warm, and brilliant after a storm, been more
attractive to her. She longed for the serenity they might gradually
introduce; and on Mr. Perry's coming in soon after dinner, with a
disengaged hour to give her father, she lost no time in hurrying into the
shrubbery.—There, with spirits freshened, and thoughts a little
relieved, she had taken a few turns, when she saw Mr. Knightley passing
through the garden door, and coming towards her.—It was the first
intimation of his being returned from London. She had been thinking of him
the moment before, as unquestionably sixteen miles distant.—There
was time only for the quickest arrangement of mind. She must be collected
and calm. In half a minute they were together. The "How d'ye do's" were
quiet and constrained on each side. She asked after their mutual friends;
they were all well.—When had he left them?—Only that morning.
He must have had a wet ride.—Yes.—He meant to walk with her,
she found. "He had just looked into the dining-room, and as he was not
wanted there, preferred being out of doors."—She thought he neither
looked nor spoke cheerfully; and the first possible cause for it,
suggested by her fears, was, that he had perhaps been communicating his
plans to his brother, and was pained by the manner in which they had been
They walked together. He was silent. She thought he was often looking at
her, and trying for a fuller view of her face than it suited her to give.
And this belief produced another dread. Perhaps he wanted to speak to her,
of his attachment to Harriet; he might be watching for encouragement to
begin.—She did not, could not, feel equal to lead the way to any
such subject. He must do it all himself. Yet she could not bear this
silence. With him it was most unnatural. She considered—resolved—and,
trying to smile, began—
"You have some news to hear, now you are come back, that will rather
"Have I?" said he quietly, and looking at her; "of what nature?"
"Oh! the best nature in the world—a wedding."
After waiting a moment, as if to be sure she intended to say no more, he
"If you mean Miss Fairfax and Frank Churchill, I have heard that already."
"How is it possible?" cried Emma, turning her glowing cheeks towards him;
for, while she spoke, it occurred to her that he might have called at Mrs.
Goddard's in his way.
"I had a few lines on parish business from Mr. Weston this morning, and at
the end of them he gave me a brief account of what had happened."
Emma was quite relieved, and could presently say, with a little more
"You probably have been less surprized than any of us, for you have
had your suspicions.—I have not forgotten that you once tried to
give me a caution.—I wish I had attended to it—but—(with
a sinking voice and a heavy sigh) I seem to have been doomed to
For a moment or two nothing was said, and she was unsuspicious of having
excited any particular interest, till she found her arm drawn within his,
and pressed against his heart, and heard him thus saying, in a tone of
great sensibility, speaking low,
"Time, my dearest Emma, time will heal the wound.—Your own excellent
sense—your exertions for your father's sake—I know you will
not allow yourself—." Her arm was pressed again, as he added, in a
more broken and subdued accent, "The feelings of the warmest friendship—Indignation—Abominable
scoundrel!"—And in a louder, steadier tone, he concluded with, "He
will soon be gone. They will soon be in Yorkshire. I am sorry for her.
She deserves a better fate."
Emma understood him; and as soon as she could recover from the flutter of
pleasure, excited by such tender consideration, replied,
"You are very kind—but you are mistaken—and I must set you
right.— I am not in want of that sort of compassion. My blindness to
what was going on, led me to act by them in a way that I must always be
ashamed of, and I was very foolishly tempted to say and do many things
which may well lay me open to unpleasant conjectures, but I have no other
reason to regret that I was not in the secret earlier."
"Emma!" cried he, looking eagerly at her, "are you, indeed?"—but
checking himself—"No, no, I understand you—forgive me—I
am pleased that you can say even so much.—He is no object of regret,
indeed! and it will not be very long, I hope, before that becomes the
acknowledgment of more than your reason.—Fortunate that your
affections were not farther entangled!—I could never, I confess,
from your manners, assure myself as to the degree of what you felt—I
could only be certain that there was a preference—and a preference
which I never believed him to deserve.—He is a disgrace to the name
of man.—And is he to be rewarded with that sweet young woman?—Jane,
Jane, you will be a miserable creature."
"Mr. Knightley," said Emma, trying to be lively, but really confused—"I
am in a very extraordinary situation. I cannot let you continue in your
error; and yet, perhaps, since my manners gave such an impression, I have
as much reason to be ashamed of confessing that I never have been at all
attached to the person we are speaking of, as it might be natural for a
woman to feel in confessing exactly the reverse.—But I never have."
He listened in perfect silence. She wished him to speak, but he would not.
She supposed she must say more before she were entitled to his clemency;
but it was a hard case to be obliged still to lower herself in his
opinion. She went on, however.
"I have very little to say for my own conduct.—I was tempted by his
attentions, and allowed myself to appear pleased.—An old story,
probably—a common case—and no more than has happened to
hundreds of my sex before; and yet it may not be the more excusable in one
who sets up as I do for Understanding. Many circumstances assisted the
temptation. He was the son of Mr. Weston—he was continually here—I
always found him very pleasant—and, in short, for (with a sigh) let
me swell out the causes ever so ingeniously, they all centre in this at
last—my vanity was flattered, and I allowed his attentions.
Latterly, however—for some time, indeed—I have had no idea of
their meaning any thing.—I thought them a habit, a trick, nothing
that called for seriousness on my side. He has imposed on me, but he has
not injured me. I have never been attached to him. And now I can tolerably
comprehend his behaviour. He never wished to attach me. It was merely a
blind to conceal his real situation with another.—It was his object
to blind all about him; and no one, I am sure, could be more effectually
blinded than myself—except that I was not blinded—that
it was my good fortune—that, in short, I was somehow or other safe
She had hoped for an answer here—for a few words to say that her
conduct was at least intelligible; but he was silent; and, as far as she
could judge, deep in thought. At last, and tolerably in his usual tone, he
"I have never had a high opinion of Frank Churchill.—I can suppose,
however, that I may have underrated him. My acquaintance with him has been
but trifling.—And even if I have not underrated him hitherto, he may
yet turn out well.—With such a woman he has a chance.—I have
no motive for wishing him ill—and for her sake, whose happiness will
be involved in his good character and conduct, I shall certainly wish him
"I have no doubt of their being happy together," said Emma; "I believe
them to be very mutually and very sincerely attached."
"He is a most fortunate man!" returned Mr. Knightley, with energy. "So
early in life—at three-and-twenty—a period when, if a man
chuses a wife, he generally chuses ill. At three-and-twenty to have drawn
such a prize! What years of felicity that man, in all human calculation,
has before him!—Assured of the love of such a woman—the
disinterested love, for Jane Fairfax's character vouches for her
disinterestedness; every thing in his favour,—equality of situation—I
mean, as far as regards society, and all the habits and manners that are
important; equality in every point but one—and that one, since the
purity of her heart is not to be doubted, such as must increase his
felicity, for it will be his to bestow the only advantages she wants.—A
man would always wish to give a woman a better home than the one he takes
her from; and he who can do it, where there is no doubt of her
regard, must, I think, be the happiest of mortals.—Frank Churchill
is, indeed, the favourite of fortune. Every thing turns out for his good.—He
meets with a young woman at a watering-place, gains her affection, cannot
even weary her by negligent treatment—and had he and all his family
sought round the world for a perfect wife for him, they could not have
found her superior.—His aunt is in the way.—His aunt dies.—He
has only to speak.—His friends are eager to promote his happiness.—He
had used every body ill—and they are all delighted to forgive him.—He
is a fortunate man indeed!"
"You speak as if you envied him."
"And I do envy him, Emma. In one respect he is the object of my envy."
Emma could say no more. They seemed to be within half a sentence of
Harriet, and her immediate feeling was to avert the subject, if possible.
She made her plan; she would speak of something totally different—the
children in Brunswick Square; and she only waited for breath to begin,
when Mr. Knightley startled her, by saying,
"You will not ask me what is the point of envy.—You are determined,
I see, to have no curiosity.—You are wise—but I cannot
be wise. Emma, I must tell you what you will not ask, though I may wish it
unsaid the next moment."
"Oh! then, don't speak it, don't speak it," she eagerly cried. "Take a
little time, consider, do not commit yourself."
"Thank you," said he, in an accent of deep mortification, and not another
Emma could not bear to give him pain. He was wishing to confide in her—perhaps
to consult her;—cost her what it would, she would listen. She might
assist his resolution, or reconcile him to it; she might give just praise
to Harriet, or, by representing to him his own independence, relieve him
from that state of indecision, which must be more intolerable than any
alternative to such a mind as his.—They had reached the house.
"You are going in, I suppose?" said he.
"No,"—replied Emma—quite confirmed by the depressed manner in
which he still spoke—"I should like to take another turn. Mr. Perry
is not gone." And, after proceeding a few steps, she added—"I
stopped you ungraciously, just now, Mr. Knightley, and, I am afraid, gave
you pain.—But if you have any wish to speak openly to me as a
friend, or to ask my opinion of any thing that you may have in
contemplation—as a friend, indeed, you may command me.—I will
hear whatever you like. I will tell you exactly what I think."
"As a friend!"—repeated Mr. Knightley.—"Emma, that I fear is a
word—No, I have no wish—Stay, yes, why should I hesitate?—I
have gone too far already for concealment.—Emma, I accept your offer—Extraordinary
as it may seem, I accept it, and refer myself to you as a friend.—Tell
me, then, have I no chance of ever succeeding?"
He stopped in his earnestness to look the question, and the expression of
his eyes overpowered her.
"My dearest Emma," said he, "for dearest you will always be, whatever the
event of this hour's conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma—tell
me at once. Say 'No,' if it is to be said."—She could really say
nothing.—"You are silent," he cried, with great animation;
"absolutely silent! at present I ask no more."
Emma was almost ready to sink under the agitation of this moment. The
dread of being awakened from the happiest dream, was perhaps the most
"I cannot make speeches, Emma:" he soon resumed; and in a tone of such
sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.—"If
I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what
I am.—You hear nothing but truth from me.—I have blamed you,
and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would
have borne it.—Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest
Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have
as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent
lover.—But you understand me.—Yes, you see, you understand my
feelings—and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to
hear, once to hear your voice."
While he spoke, Emma's mind was most busy, and, with all the wonderful
velocity of thought, had been able—and yet without losing a word—to
catch and comprehend the exact truth of the whole; to see that Harriet's
hopes had been entirely groundless, a mistake, a delusion, as complete a
delusion as any of her own—that Harriet was nothing; that she was
every thing herself; that what she had been saying relative to Harriet had
been all taken as the language of her own feelings; and that her
agitation, her doubts, her reluctance, her discouragement, had been all
received as discouragement from herself.—And not only was there time
for these convictions, with all their glow of attendant happiness; there
was time also to rejoice that Harriet's secret had not escaped her, and to
resolve that it need not, and should not.—It was all the service she
could now render her poor friend; for as to any of that heroism of
sentiment which might have prompted her to entreat him to transfer his
affection from herself to Harriet, as infinitely the most worthy of the
two—or even the more simple sublimity of resolving to refuse him at
once and for ever, without vouchsafing any motive, because he could not
marry them both, Emma had it not. She felt for Harriet, with pain and with
contrition; but no flight of generosity run mad, opposing all that could
be probable or reasonable, entered her brain. She had led her friend
astray, and it would be a reproach to her for ever; but her judgment was
as strong as her feelings, and as strong as it had ever been before, in
reprobating any such alliance for him, as most unequal and degrading. Her
way was clear, though not quite smooth.—She spoke then, on being so
entreated.—What did she say?—Just what she ought, of course. A
lady always does.—She said enough to shew there need not be despair—and
to invite him to say more himself. He had despaired at one period;
he had received such an injunction to caution and silence, as for the time
crushed every hope;—she had begun by refusing to hear him.—The
change had perhaps been somewhat sudden;—her proposal of taking
another turn, her renewing the conversation which she had just put an end
to, might be a little extraordinary!—She felt its inconsistency; but
Mr. Knightley was so obliging as to put up with it, and seek no farther
Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure;
seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little
mistaken; but where, as in this case, though the conduct is mistaken, the
feelings are not, it may not be very material.—Mr. Knightley could
not impute to Emma a more relenting heart than she possessed, or a heart
more disposed to accept of his.
He had, in fact, been wholly unsuspicious of his own influence. He had
followed her into the shrubbery with no idea of trying it. He had come, in
his anxiety to see how she bore Frank Churchill's engagement, with no
selfish view, no view at all, but of endeavouring, if she allowed him an
opening, to soothe or to counsel her.—The rest had been the work of
the moment, the immediate effect of what he heard, on his feelings. The
delightful assurance of her total indifference towards Frank Churchill, of
her having a heart completely disengaged from him, had given birth to the
hope, that, in time, he might gain her affection himself;—but it had
been no present hope—he had only, in the momentary conquest of
eagerness over judgment, aspired to be told that she did not forbid his
attempt to attach her.—The superior hopes which gradually opened
were so much the more enchanting.—The affection, which he had been
asking to be allowed to create, if he could, was already his!—Within
half an hour, he had passed from a thoroughly distressed state of mind, to
something so like perfect happiness, that it could bear no other name.
Her change was equal.—This one half-hour had given to each
the same precious certainty of being beloved, had cleared from each the
same degree of ignorance, jealousy, or distrust.—On his side, there
had been a long-standing jealousy, old as the arrival, or even the
expectation, of Frank Churchill.—He had been in love with Emma, and
jealous of Frank Churchill, from about the same period, one sentiment
having probably enlightened him as to the other. It was his jealousy of
Frank Churchill that had taken him from the country.—The Box Hill
party had decided him on going away. He would save himself from witnessing
again such permitted, encouraged attentions.—He had gone to learn to
be indifferent.—But he had gone to a wrong place. There was too much
domestic happiness in his brother's house; woman wore too amiable a form
in it; Isabella was too much like Emma—differing only in those
striking inferiorities, which always brought the other in brilliancy
before him, for much to have been done, even had his time been longer.—He
had stayed on, however, vigorously, day after day—till this very
morning's post had conveyed the history of Jane Fairfax.—Then, with
the gladness which must be felt, nay, which he did not scruple to feel,
having never believed Frank Churchill to be at all deserving Emma, was
there so much fond solicitude, so much keen anxiety for her, that he could
stay no longer. He had ridden home through the rain; and had walked up
directly after dinner, to see how this sweetest and best of all creatures,
faultless in spite of all her faults, bore the discovery.
He had found her agitated and low.—Frank Churchill was a villain.—
He heard her declare that she had never loved him. Frank Churchill's
character was not desperate.—She was his own Emma, by hand and word,
when they returned into the house; and if he could have thought of Frank
Churchill then, he might have deemed him a very good sort of fellow.