Mr. Elton must now be left to himself. It was no longer in Emma's power t_uperintend his happiness or quicken his measures. The coming of her sister'_amily was so very near at hand, that first in anticipation, and then i_eality, it became henceforth her prime object of interest; and during the te_ays of their stay at Hartfield it was not to be expected—she did not hersel_xpect— that any thing beyond occasional, fortuitous assistance could b_fforded by her to the lovers. They might advance rapidly if they would,
however; they must advance somehow or other whether they would or no. Sh_ardly wished to have more leisure for them. There are people, who the mor_ou do for them, the less they will do for themselves.
Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley, from having been longer than usual absent fro_urry, were exciting of course rather more than the usual interest. Till thi_ear, every long vacation since their marriage had been divided betwee_artfield and Donwell Abbey; but all the holidays of this autumn had bee_iven to sea-bathing for the children, and it was therefore many months sinc_hey had been seen in a regular way by their Surry connexions, or seen at al_y Mr. Woodhouse, who could not be induced to get so far as London, even fo_oor Isabella's sake; and who consequently was now most nervously an_pprehensively happy in forestalling this too short visit.
He thought much of the evils of the journey for her, and not a little of th_atigues of his own horses and coachman who were to bring some of the part_he last half of the way; but his alarms were needless; the sixteen mile_eing happily accomplished, and Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley, their fiv_hildren, and a competent number of nursery-maids, all reaching Hartfield i_afety. The bustle and joy of such an arrival, the many to be talked to,
welcomed, encouraged, and variously dispersed and disposed of, produced _oise and confusion which his nerves could not have borne under any othe_ause, nor have endured much longer even for this; but the ways of Hartfiel_nd the feelings of her father were so respected by Mrs. John Knightley, tha_n spite of maternal solicitude for the immediate enjoyment of her littl_nes, and for their having instantly all the liberty and attendance, all th_ating and drinking, and sleeping and playing, which they could possibly wis_or, without the smallest delay, the children were never allowed to be long _isturbance to him, either in themselves or in any restless attendance o_hem.
Mrs. John Knightley was a pretty, elegant little woman, of gentle, quie_anners, and a disposition remarkably amiable and affectionate; wrapt up i_er family; a devoted wife, a doating mother, and so tenderly attached to he_ather and sister that, but for these higher ties, a warmer love might hav_eemed impossible. She could never see a fault in any of them. She was not _oman of strong understanding or any quickness; and with this resemblance o_er father, she inherited also much of his constitution; was delicate in he_wn health, over-careful of that of her children, had many fears and man_erves, and was as fond of her own Mr. Wingfield in town as her father coul_e of Mr. Perry. They were alike too, in a general benevolence of temper, an_ strong habit of regard for every old acquaintance.
Mr. John Knightley was a tall, gentleman-like, and very clever man; rising i_is profession, domestic, and respectable in his private character; but wit_eserved manners which prevented his being generally pleasing; and capable o_eing sometimes out of humour. He was not an ill-tempered man, not so ofte_nreasonably cross as to deserve such a reproach; but his temper was not hi_reat perfection; and, indeed, with such a worshipping wife, it was hardl_ossible that any natural defects in it should not be increased. The extrem_weetness of her temper must hurt his. He had all the clearness and quicknes_f mind which she wanted, and he could sometimes act an ungracious, or say _evere thing.
He was not a great favourite with his fair sister-in-law. Nothing wrong in hi_scaped her. She was quick in feeling the little injuries to Isabella, whic_sabella never felt herself. Perhaps she might have passed over more had hi_anners been flattering to Isabella's sister, but they were only those of _almly kind brother and friend, without praise and without blindness; bu_ardly any degree of personal compliment could have made her regardless o_hat greatest fault of all in her eyes which he sometimes fell into, the wan_f respectful forbearance towards her father. There he had not always th_atience that could have been wished. Mr. Woodhouse's peculiarities an_idgetiness were sometimes provoking him to a rational remonstrance or shar_etort equally ill-bestowed. It did not often happen; for Mr. John Knightle_ad really a great regard for his father-in-law, and generally a strong sens_f what was due to him; but it was too often for Emma's charity, especially a_here was all the pain of apprehension frequently to be endured, though th_ffence came not. The beginning, however, of every visit displayed none bu_he properest feelings, and this being of necessity so short might be hoped t_ass away in unsullied cordiality. They had not been long seated and compose_hen Mr. Woodhouse, with a melancholy shake of the head and a sigh, called hi_aughter's attention to the sad change at Hartfield since she had been ther_ast.
"Ah, my dear," said he, "poor Miss Taylor—It is a grievous business."
"Oh yes, sir," cried she with ready sympathy, "how you must miss her! And dea_mma, too!—What a dreadful loss to you both!— I have been so grieved fo_ou.—I could not imagine how you could possibly do without her.—It is a sa_hange indeed.—But I hope she is pretty well, sir."
"Pretty well, my dear—I hope—pretty well.—I do not know but that the plac_grees with her tolerably."
Mr. John Knightley here asked Emma quietly whether there were any doubts o_he air of Randalls.
"Oh! no—none in the least. I never saw Mrs. Weston better in my life— neve_ooking so well. Papa is only speaking his own regret."
"Very much to the honour of both," was the handsome reply.
"And do you see her, sir, tolerably often?" asked Isabella in the plaintiv_one which just suited her father.
Mr. Woodhouse hesitated.—"Not near so often, my dear, as I could wish."
"Oh! papa, we have missed seeing them but one entire day since they married.
Either in the morning or evening of every day, excepting one, have we see_ither Mr. Weston or Mrs. Weston, and generally both, either at Randalls o_ere—and as you may suppose, Isabella, most frequently here. They are very,
very kind in their visits. Mr. Weston is really as kind as herself. Papa, i_ou speak in that melancholy way, you will be giving Isabella a false idea o_s all. Every body must be aware that Miss Taylor must be missed, but ever_ody ought also to be assured that Mr. and Mrs. Weston do really prevent ou_issing her by any means to the extent we ourselves anticipated—which is th_xact truth."
"Just as it should be," said Mr. John Knightley, "and just as I hoped it wa_rom your letters. Her wish of shewing you attention could not be doubted, an_is being a disengaged and social man makes it all easy. I have been alway_elling you, my love, that I had no idea of the change being so very materia_o Hartfield as you apprehended; and now you have Emma's account, I hope yo_ill be satisfied."
"Why, to be sure," said Mr. Woodhouse—"yes, certainly—I cannot deny that Mrs.
Weston, poor Mrs. Weston, does come and see us pretty often— but then—she i_lways obliged to go away again."
"It would be very hard upon Mr. Weston if she did not, papa.— You quite forge_oor Mr. Weston."
"I think, indeed," said John Knightley pleasantly, "that Mr. Weston has som_ittle claim. You and I, Emma, will venture to take the part of the poo_usband. I, being a husband, and you not being a wife, the claims of the ma_ay very likely strike us with equal force. As for Isabella, she has bee_arried long enough to see the convenience of putting all the Mr. Weston_side as much as she can."
"Me, my love," cried his wife, hearing and understanding only in part.— "Ar_ou talking about me?—I am sure nobody ought to be, or can be, a greate_dvocate for matrimony than I am; and if it had not been for the misery of he_eaving Hartfield, I should never have thought of Miss Taylor but as the mos_ortunate woman in the world; and as to slighting Mr. Weston, that excellen_r. Weston, I think there is nothing he does not deserve. I believe he is on_f the very best-tempered men that ever existed. Excepting yourself and you_rother, I do not know his equal for temper. I shall never forget his flyin_enry's kite for him that very windy day last Easter—and ever since hi_articular kindness last September twelvemonth in writing that note, at twelv_'clock at night, on purpose to assure me that there was no scarlet fever a_obham, I have been convinced there could not be a more feeling heart nor _etter man in existence.—If any body can deserve him, it must be Miss Taylor."
"Where is the young man?" said John Knightley. "Has he been here on thi_ccasion—or has he not?"
"He has not been here yet," replied Emma. "There was a strong expectation o_is coming soon after the marriage, but it ended in nothing; and I have no_eard him mentioned lately."
"But you should tell them of the letter, my dear," said her father. "He wrot_ letter to poor Mrs. Weston, to congratulate her, and a very proper, handsom_etter it was. She shewed it to me. I thought it very well done of him indeed.
Whether it was his own idea you know, one cannot tell. He is but young, an_is uncle, perhaps—"
"My dear papa, he is three-and-twenty. You forget how time passes."
"Three-and-twenty!—is he indeed?—Well, I could not have thought it— and he wa_ut two years old when he lost his poor mother! Well, time does fl_ndeed!—and my memory is very bad. However, it was an exceeding good, prett_etter, and gave Mr. and Mrs. Weston a great deal of pleasure. I remember i_as written from Weymouth, and dated Sept. 28th—and began, `My dear Madam,'
but I forget how it went on; and it was signed `F. C. Weston Churchill.'— _emember that perfectly."
"How very pleasing and proper of him!" cried the good-hearted Mrs. Joh_nightley. "I have no doubt of his being a most amiable young man. But how sa_t is that he should not live at home with his father! There is something s_hocking in a child's being taken away from his parents and natural home! _ever could comprehend how Mr. Weston could part with him. To give up one'_hild! I really never could think well of any body who proposed such a thin_o any body else."
"Nobody ever did think well of the Churchills, I fancy," observed Mr. Joh_nightley coolly. "But you need not imagine Mr. Weston to have felt what yo_ould feel in giving up Henry or John. Mr. Weston is rather an easy, cheerful-
tempered man, than a man of strong feelings; he takes things as he finds them,
and makes enjoyment of them somehow or other, depending, I suspect, much mor_pon what is called society for his comforts, that is, upon the power o_ating and drinking, and playing whist with his neighbours five times a week,
than upon family affection, or any thing that home affords."
Emma could not like what bordered on a reflection on Mr. Weston, and had hal_ mind to take it up; but she struggled, and let it pass. She would keep th_eace if possible; and there was something honourable and valuable in th_trong domestic habits, the all-sufficiency of home to himself, whenc_esulted her brother's disposition to look down on the common rate of socia_ntercourse, and those to whom it was important.—It had a high claim t_orbearance.