CHAP­TER XIII

Emma - - CONTENTS -

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 re­ceived.

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 sur­prize you.”

“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 replied,

“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 com­po­sure,

“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 blind­ness.”

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 from him.”

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 said,

“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 well.”

“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 syl­la­ble fol­lowed.

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 prom­i­nent feel­ing.

“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 ex­pla­na­tion.

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 long­stand­ing 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.

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