CHAP­TER V

Emma - - CONTENTS -

In this state of schemes, and hopes, and con­nivance, June opened upon Hart­field. To High­bury in gen­eral it brought no ma­te­rial change. The El­tons were still talk­ing of a visit from the Suck­lings, and of the use to be made of their barouche-lan­dau; and Jane Fair­fax was still at her grand­mother's; and as the re­turn of the Camp­bells from Ire­land was again de­layed, and Au­gust, in­stead of Mid­sum­mer, fixed for it, she was likely to re­main there full two months longer, pro­vided at least she were able to de­feat Mrs. El­ton's ac­tiv­ity in her ser­vice, and save her­self from be­ing hur­ried into a de­light­ful sit­u­a­tion against her will.

Mr. Knight­ley, who, for some rea­son best known to him­self, had cer­tainly taken an early dis­like to Frank Churchill, was only grow­ing to dis­like him more. He be­gan to sus­pect him of some dou­ble deal­ing in his pur­suit of Emma. That Emma was his ob­ject ap­peared in­dis­putable. Every thing de­clared it; his own at­ten­tions, his fa­ther's hints, his mother-in-law's guarded si­lence; it was all in uni­son; words, con­duct, dis­cre­tion, and in­dis­cre­tion, told the same story. But while so many were de­vot­ing him to Emma, and Emma her­self mak­ing him over to Har­riet, Mr. Knight­ley be­gan to sus­pect him of some in­cli­na­tion to tri­fle with Jane Fair­fax. He could not un­der­stand it; but there were symp­toms of in­tel­li­gence be­tween them—he thought so at least—symp­toms of ad­mi­ra­tion on his side, which, hav­ing once ob­served, he could not per­suade him­self to think en­tirely void of mean­ing, how­ever he might wish to es­cape any of Emma's er­rors of imag­i­na­tion. She was not present when the sus­pi­cion first arose. He was din­ing with the Ran­dalls fam­ily, and Jane, at the El­tons'; and he had seen a look, more than a sin­gle look, at Miss Fair­fax, which, from the ad­mirer of Miss Wood­house, seemed some­what out of place. When he was again in their com­pany, he could not help re­mem­ber­ing what he had seen; nor could he avoid ob­ser­va­tions which, un­less it were like Cow­per and his fire at twi­light,

“My­self cre­at­ing what I saw,” brought him yet stronger sus­pi­cion of there be­ing a some­thing of pri­vate lik­ing, of pri­vate un­der­stand­ing even, be­tween Frank Churchill and Jane.

He had walked up one day after din­ner, as he very of­ten did, to spend his evening at Hart­field. Emma and Har­riet were go­ing to walk; he joined them; and, on re­turn­ing, they fell in with a larger party, who, like them­selves, judged it wis­est to take their ex­er­cise early, as the weather threat­ened rain; Mr. and Mrs. We­ston and their son, Miss Bates and her niece, who had ac­ci­den­tally met. They all united; and, on reach­ing Hart­field gates, Emma, who knew it was ex­actly the sort of vis­it­ing that would be wel­come to her fa­ther, pressed them all to go in and drink tea with him. The Ran­dalls party agreed to it im­me­di­ately; and after a pretty long speech from Miss Bates, which few per­sons lis­tened to, she also found it pos­si­ble to ac­cept dear Miss Wood­house's most oblig­ing in­vi­ta­tion.

As they were turn­ing into the grounds, Mr. Perry passed by on horse­back. The gen­tle­men spoke of his horse.

“By the bye,” said Frank Churchill to Mrs. We­ston presently, “what be­came of Mr. Perry's plan of set­ting up his car­riage?”

Mrs. We­ston looked sur­prized, and said, “I did not know that he ever had any such plan.”

“Nay, I had it from you. You wrote me word of it three months ago.” “Me! im­pos­si­ble!”

“In­deed you did. I re­mem­ber it per­fectly. You men­tioned it as what was cer­tainly to be very soon. Mrs. Perry had told some­body, and was ex­tremely happy about it. It was ow­ing to her per­sua­sion, as she thought his be­ing out in bad weather did him a great deal of harm. You must re­mem­ber it now?” “Upon my word I never heard of it till this mo­ment.”

“Never! re­ally, never!—Bless me! how could it be?—Then I must have dreamt it—but I was com­pletely per­suaded—Miss Smith, you walk as if you were tired. You will not be sorry to find your­self at home.”

“What is this?—What is this?” cried Mr. We­ston, “about Perry and a car­riage? Is Perry go­ing to set up his car­riage, Frank? I am glad he can af­ford it. You had it from him­self, had you?”

“No, sir,” replied his son, laugh­ing, “I seem to have had it from no­body. —Very odd!—I re­ally was per­suaded of Mrs. We­ston's hav­ing men­tioned it in one of her let­ters to En­scombe, many weeks ago, with all these par­tic­u­lars—but as she de­clares she never heard a syl­la­ble of it be­fore, of course it must have been a dream. I am a great dreamer. I dream of every

body at High­bury when I am away—and when I have gone through my par­tic­u­lar friends, then I be­gin dream­ing of Mr. and Mrs. Perry.”

“It is odd though,” ob­served his fa­ther, “that you should have had such a reg­u­lar con­nected dream about peo­ple whom it was not very likely you should be think­ing of at En­scombe. Perry's set­ting up his car­riage! and his wife's per­suad­ing him to it, out of care for his health—just what will hap­pen, I have no doubt, some time or other; only a lit­tle pre­ma­ture. What an air of prob­a­bil­ity some­times runs through a dream! And at oth­ers, what a heap of ab­sur­di­ties it is! Well, Frank, your dream cer­tainly shews that High­bury is in your thoughts when you are ab­sent. Emma, you are a great dreamer, I think?”

Emma was out of hear­ing. She had hur­ried on be­fore her guests to pre­pare her fa­ther for their ap­pear­ance, and was be­yond the reach of Mr. We­ston's hint.

“Why, to own the truth,” cried Miss Bates, who had been try­ing in vain to be heard the last two min­utes, “if I must speak on this sub­ject, there is no deny­ing that Mr. Frank Churchill might have—I do not mean to say that he did not dream it—I am sure I have some­times the odd­est dreams in the world—but if I am ques­tioned about it, I must ac­knowl­edge that there was such an idea last spring; for Mrs. Perry her­self men­tioned it to my mother, and the Coles knew of it as well as our­selves—but it was quite a se­cret, known to no­body else, and only thought of about three days. Mrs. Perry was very anx­ious that he should have a car­riage, and came to my mother in great spir­its one morn­ing be­cause she thought she had pre­vailed. Jane, don't you re­mem­ber grand­mama's telling us of it when we got home? I for­get where we had been walk­ing to—very likely to Ran­dalls; yes, I think it was to Ran­dalls. Mrs. Perry was al­ways par­tic­u­larly fond of my mother—in­deed I do not know who is not—and she had men­tioned it to her in con­fi­dence; she had no ob­jec­tion to her telling us, of course, but it was not to go be­yond: and, from that day to this, I never men­tioned it to a soul that I know of. At the same time, I will not pos­i­tively an­swer for my hav­ing never dropt a hint, be­cause I know I do some­times pop out a thing be­fore I am aware. I am a talker, you know; I am rather a talker; and now and then I have let a thing es­cape me which I should not. I am not like Jane; I wish I were. I will an­swer for it she never be­trayed the least thing in the world.

Where is she?—Oh! just be­hind. Per­fectly re­mem­ber Mrs. Perry's com­ing. —Ex­tra­or­di­nary dream, in­deed!”

They were en­ter­ing the hall. Mr. Knight­ley's eyes had pre­ceded Miss Bates's in a glance at Jane. From Frank Churchill's face, where he thought he saw con­fu­sion sup­pressed or laughed away, he had in­vol­un­tar­ily turned to hers; but she was in­deed be­hind, and too busy with her shawl. Mr. We­ston had walked in. The two other gen­tle­men waited at the door to let her pass. Mr. Knight­ley sus­pected in Frank Churchill the de­ter­mi­na­tion of catch­ing her eye—he seemed watch­ing her in­tently—in vain, how­ever, if it were so—Jane passed be­tween them into the hall, and looked at nei­ther.

There was no time for far­ther re­mark or ex­pla­na­tion. The dream must be borne with, and Mr. Knight­ley must take his seat with the rest round the large mod­ern cir­cu­lar ta­ble which Emma had in­tro­duced at Hart­field, and which none but Emma could have had power to place there and per­suade her fa­ther to use, in­stead of the small-sized Pem­broke, on which two of his daily meals had, for forty years been crowded. Tea passed pleas­antly, and no­body seemed in a hurry to move.

“Miss Wood­house,” said Frank Churchill, after ex­am­in­ing a ta­ble be­hind him, which he could reach as he sat, “have your neph­ews taken away their al­pha­bets—their box of let­ters? It used to stand here. Where is it? This is a sort of dull-look­ing evening, that ought to be treated rather as win­ter than sum­mer. We had great amuse­ment with those let­ters one morn­ing. I want to puz­zle you again.”

Emma was pleased with the thought; and pro­duc­ing the box, the ta­ble was quickly scat­tered over with al­pha­bets, which no one seemed so much dis­posed to em­ploy as their two selves. They were rapidly form­ing words for each other, or for any body else who would be puz­zled. The quiet­ness of the game made it par­tic­u­larly el­i­gi­ble for Mr. Wood­house, who had of­ten been dis­tressed by the more an­i­mated sort, which Mr. We­ston had oc­ca­sion­ally in­tro­duced, and who now sat hap­pily oc­cu­pied in lament­ing, with ten­der melan­choly, over the de­par­ture of the “poor lit­tle boys,” or in fondly point­ing out, as he took up any stray let­ter near him, how beau­ti­fully Emma had writ­ten it.

Frank Churchill placed a word be­fore Miss Fair­fax. She gave a slight glance round the ta­ble, and ap­plied her­self to it. Frank was next to Emma, Jane op­po­site to them—and Mr. Knight­ley so placed as to see them all; and

it was his ob­ject to see as much as he could, with as lit­tle ap­par­ent ob­ser­va­tion. The word was dis­cov­ered, and with a faint smile pushed away. If meant to be im­me­di­ately mixed with the oth­ers, and buried from sight, she should have looked on the ta­ble in­stead of look­ing just across, for it was not mixed; and Har­riet, ea­ger after every fresh word, and find­ing out none, di­rectly took it up, and fell to work. She was sit­ting by Mr. Knight­ley, and turned to him for help. The word was blun­der; and as Har­riet ex­ult­ingly pro­claimed it, there was a blush on Jane's cheek which gave it a mean­ing not oth­er­wise os­ten­si­ble. Mr. Knight­ley con­nected it with the dream; but how it could all be, was be­yond his com­pre­hen­sion. How the del­i­cacy, the dis­cre­tion of his favourite could have been so lain asleep! He feared there must be some de­cided in­volve­ment. Disin­gen­u­ous­ness and dou­ble deal­ing seemed to meet him at every turn. These let­ters were but the ve­hi­cle for gal­lantry and trick. It was a child's play, cho­sen to con­ceal a deeper game on Frank Churchill's part.

With great in­dig­na­tion did he con­tinue to ob­serve him; with great alarm and dis­trust, to ob­serve also his two blinded com­pan­ions. He saw a short word pre­pared for Emma, and given to her with a look sly and de­mure. He saw that Emma had soon made it out, and found it highly en­ter­tain­ing, though it was some­thing which she judged it proper to ap­pear to cen­sure; for she said, “Non­sense! for shame!” He heard Frank Churchill next say, with a glance to­wards Jane, “I will give it to her—shall I?”—and as clearly heard Emma op­pos­ing it with ea­ger laugh­ing warmth. “No, no, you must not; you shall not, in­deed.”

It was done how­ever. This gal­lant young man, who seemed to love without feel­ing, and to rec­om­mend him­self without com­plai­sance, di­rectly handed over the word to Miss Fair­fax, and with a par­tic­u­lar de­gree of se­date ci­vil­ity en­treated her to study it. Mr. Knight­ley's ex­ces­sive cu­rios­ity to know what this word might be, made him seize every pos­si­ble mo­ment for dart­ing his eye to­wards it, and it was not long be­fore he saw it to be Dixon. Jane Fair­fax's per­cep­tion seemed to ac­com­pany his; her com­pre­hen­sion was cer­tainly more equal to the covert mean­ing, the su­pe­rior in­tel­li­gence, of those five let­ters so ar­ranged. She was ev­i­dently dis­pleased; looked up, and see­ing her­self watched, blushed more deeply than he had ever per­ceived her, and say­ing only, “I did not know that proper names were al­lowed,” pushed away the let­ters with even an an­gry spirit, and looked re­solved to be en­gaged by no other word that could be of­fered.

Her face was averted from those who had made the at­tack, and turned to­wards her aunt.

“Aye, very true, my dear,” cried the lat­ter, though Jane had not spo­ken a word—“I was just go­ing to say the same thing. It is time for us to be go­ing in­deed. The evening is clos­ing in, and grand­mama will be look­ing for us. My dear sir, you are too oblig­ing. We re­ally must wish you good night.”

Jane's alert­ness in mov­ing, proved her as ready as her aunt had pre­con­ceived. She was im­me­di­ately up, and want­ing to quit the ta­ble; but so many were also mov­ing, that she could not get away; and Mr. Knight­ley thought he saw an­other col­lec­tion of let­ters anx­iously pushed to­wards her, and res­o­lutely swept away by her un­ex­am­ined. She was af­ter­wards look­ing for her shawl—Frank Churchill was look­ing also—it was grow­ing dusk, and the room was in con­fu­sion; and how they parted, Mr. Knight­ley could not tell.

He re­mained at Hart­field after all the rest, his thoughts full of what he had seen; so full, that when the can­dles came to as­sist his ob­ser­va­tions, he must—yes, he cer­tainly must, as a friend—an anx­ious friend—give Emma some hint, ask her some ques­tion. He could not see her in a sit­u­a­tion of such dan­ger, without try­ing to pre­serve her. It was his duty.

“Pray, Emma,” said he, “may I ask in what lay the great amuse­ment, the poignant sting of the last word given to you and Miss Fair­fax? I saw the word, and am cu­ri­ous to know how it could be so very en­ter­tain­ing to the one, and so very dis­tress­ing to the other.”

Emma was ex­tremely con­fused. She could not en­dure to give him the true ex­pla­na­tion; for though her sus­pi­cions were by no means re­moved, she was re­ally ashamed of hav­ing ever im­parted them.

“Oh!” she cried in ev­i­dent em­bar­rass­ment, “it all meant noth­ing; a mere joke among our­selves.”

“The joke,” he replied gravely, “seemed con­fined to you and Mr. Churchill.”

He had hoped she would speak again, but she did not. She would rather busy her­self about any thing than speak. He sat a lit­tle while in doubt. A va­ri­ety of evils crossed his mind. In­ter­fer­ence—fruit­less in­ter­fer­ence. Emma's con­fu­sion, and the ac­knowl­edged in­ti­macy, seemed to de­clare her af­fec­tion en­gaged. Yet he would speak. He owed it to her, to risk any thing

that might be in­volved in an un­wel­come in­ter­fer­ence, rather than her wel­fare; to en­counter any thing, rather than the re­mem­brance of ne­glect in such a cause.

“My dear Emma,” said he at last, with earnest kind­ness, “do you think you per­fectly un­der­stand the de­gree of ac­quain­tance be­tween the gentle­man and lady we have been speak­ing of?”

“Be­tween Mr. Frank Churchill and Miss Fair­fax? Oh! yes, per­fectly.— Why do you make a doubt of it?”

“Have you never at any time had rea­son to think that he ad­mired her, or that she ad­mired him?”

“Never, never!” she cried with a most open ea­ger­ness—“Never, for the twen­ti­eth part of a mo­ment, did such an idea oc­cur to me. And how could it pos­si­bly come into your head?”

“I have lately imag­ined that I saw symp­toms of at­tach­ment be­tween them —cer­tain ex­pres­sive looks, which I did not be­lieve meant to be pub­lic.”

“Oh! you amuse me ex­ces­sively. I am de­lighted to find that you can vouch­safe to let your imag­i­na­tion wan­der—but it will not do—very sorry to check you in your first es­say—but in­deed it will not do. There is no ad­mi­ra­tion be­tween them, I do as­sure you; and the ap­pear­ances which have caught you, have arisen from some pe­cu­liar cir­cum­stances—feel­ings rather of a to­tally dif­fer­ent na­ture—it is im­pos­si­ble ex­actly to ex­plain:—there is a good deal of non­sense in it—but the part which is ca­pa­ble of be­ing com­mu­ni­cated, which is sense, is, that they are as far from any at­tach­ment or ad­mi­ra­tion for one an­other, as any two be­ings in the world can be. That is, I pre­sume it to be so on her side, and I can an­swer for its be­ing so on his. I will an­swer for the gentle­man's in­dif­fer­ence.”

She spoke with a con­fi­dence which stag­gered, with a sat­is­fac­tion which si­lenced, Mr. Knight­ley. She was in gay spir­its, and would have pro­longed the con­ver­sa­tion, want­ing to hear the par­tic­u­lars of his sus­pi­cions, every look de­scribed, and all the wheres and hows of a cir­cum­stance which highly en­ter­tained her: but his gai­ety did not meet hers. He found he could not be use­ful, and his feel­ings were too much ir­ri­tated for talk­ing. That he might not be ir­ri­tated into an ab­so­lute fever, by the fire which Mr. Wood­house's ten­der habits re­quired al­most every evening through­out the year, he soon af­ter­wards took a hasty leave, and walked home to the cool­ness and soli­tude of Don­well Abbey.

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