It may be possible to do without dancing entirely. Instances have been know_f young people passing many, many months successively, without being at an_all of any description, and no material injury accrue either to body o_ind;—but when a beginning is made— when the felicities of rapid motion hav_nce been, though slightly, felt—it must be a very heavy set that does not as_or more.
Frank Churchill had danced once at Highbury, and longed to dance again; an_he last half-hour of an evening which Mr. Woodhouse was persuaded to spen_ith his daughter at Randalls, was passed by the two young people in scheme_n the subject. Frank's was the first idea; and his the greatest zeal i_ursuing it; for the lady was the best judge of the difficulties, and the mos_olicitous for accommodation and appearance. But still she had inclinatio_nough for shewing people again how delightfully Mr. Frank Churchill and Mis_oodhouse danced—for doing that in which she need not blush to compare hersel_ith Jane Fairfax—and even for simple dancing itself, without any of th_icked aids of vanity—to assist him first in pacing out the room they were i_o see what it could be made to hold—and then in taking the dimensions of th_ther parlour, in the hope of discovering, in spite of all that Mr. Westo_ould say of their exactly equal size, that it was a little the largest.
His first proposition and request, that the dance begun at Mr. Cole's shoul_e finished there—that the same party should be collected, and the sam_usician engaged, met with the readiest acquiescence. Mr. Weston entered int_he idea with thorough enjoyment, and Mrs. Weston most willingly undertook t_lay as long as they could wish to dance; and the interesting employment ha_ollowed, of reckoning up exactly who there would be, and portioning out th_ndispensable division of space to every couple.
"You and Miss Smith, and Miss Fairfax, will be three, and the two Miss Coxe_ive," had been repeated many times over. "And there will be the two Gilberts, young Cox, my father, and myself, besides Mr. Knightley. Yes, that will b_uite enough for pleasure. You and Miss Smith, and Miss Fairfax, will b_hree, and the two Miss Coxes five; and for five couple there will be plent_f room."
But soon it came to be on one side,
"But will there be good room for five couple?—I really do not think ther_ill."
"And after all, five couple are not enough to make it worth while to stand up.
Five couple are nothing, when one thinks seriously about it. It will not do t_nvite five couple. It can be allowable only as the thought of the moment."
Somebody said that Miss Gilbert was expected at her brother's, and must b_nvited with the rest. Somebody else believed Mrs. Gilbert would have dance_he other evening, if she had been asked. A word was put in for a second youn_ox; and at last, Mr. Weston naming one family of cousins who must b_ncluded, and another of very old acquaintance who could not be left out, i_ecame a certainty that the five couple would be at least ten, and a ver_nteresting speculation in what possible manner they could be disposed of.
The doors of the two rooms were just opposite each other. "Might not they us_oth rooms, and dance across the passage?" It seemed the best scheme; and ye_t was not so good but that many of them wanted a better. Emma said it woul_e awkward; Mrs. Weston was in distress about the supper; and Mr. Woodhous_pposed it earnestly, on the score of health. It made him so very unhappy, indeed, that it could not be persevered in.
"Oh! no," said he; "it would be the extreme of imprudence. I could not bear i_or Emma!—Emma is not strong. She would catch a dreadful cold. So would poo_ittle Harriet. So you would all. Mrs. Weston, you would be quite laid up; d_ot let them talk of such a wild thing. Pray do not let them talk of it. Tha_oung man (speaking lower) is very thoughtless. Do not tell his father, bu_hat young man is not quite the thing. He has been opening the doors ver_ften this evening, and keeping them open very inconsiderately. He does no_hink of the draught. I do not mean to set you against him, but indeed he i_ot quite the thing!"
Mrs. Weston was sorry for such a charge. She knew the importance of it, an_aid every thing in her power to do it away. Every door was now closed, th_assage plan given up, and the first scheme of dancing only in the room the_ere in resorted to again; and with such good-will on Frank Churchill's part, that the space which a quarter of an hour before had been deemed barel_ufficient for five couple, was now endeavoured to be made out quite enoug_or ten.
"We were too magnificent," said he. "We allowed unnecessary room. Ten coupl_ay stand here very well."
Emma demurred. "It would be a crowd—a sad crowd; and what could be worse tha_ancing without space to turn in?"
"Very true," he gravely replied; "it was very bad." But still he went o_easuring, and still he ended with,
"I think there will be very tolerable room for ten couple."
"No, no," said she, "you are quite unreasonable. It would be dreadful to b_tanding so close! Nothing can be farther from pleasure than to be dancing i_ crowd—and a crowd in a little room!"
"There is no denying it," he replied. "I agree with you exactly. A crowd in _ittle room—Miss Woodhouse, you have the art of giving pictures in a fe_ords. Exquisite, quite exquisite!—Still, however, having proceeded so far, one is unwilling to give the matter up. It would be a disappointment to m_ather—and altogether—I do not know that—I am rather of opinion that te_ouple might stand here very well."
Emma perceived that the nature of his gallantry was a little self-willed, an_hat he would rather oppose than lose the pleasure of dancing with her; bu_he took the compliment, and forgave the rest. Had she intended ever to marr_im, it might have been worth while to pause and consider, and try t_nderstand the value of his preference, and the character of his temper; bu_or all the purposes of their acquaintance, he was quite amiable enough.
Before the middle of the next day, he was at Hartfield; and he entered th_oom with such an agreeable smile as certified the continuance of the scheme.
It soon appeared that he came to announce an improvement.
"Well, Miss Woodhouse," he almost immediately began, "your inclination fo_ancing has not been quite frightened away, I hope, by the terrors of m_ather's little rooms. I bring a new proposal on the subject:—a thought of m_ather's, which waits only your approbation to be acted upon. May I hope fo_he honour of your hand for the two first dances of this little projecte_all, to be given, not at Randalls, but at the Crown Inn?"
"Yes; if you and Mr. Woodhouse see no objection, and I trust you cannot, m_ather hopes his friends will be so kind as to visit him there. Bette_ccommodations, he can promise them, and not a less grateful welcome than a_andalls. It is his own idea. Mrs. Weston sees no objection to it, provide_ou are satisfied. This is what we all feel. Oh! you were perfectly right! Te_ouple, in either of the Randalls rooms, would have bee_nsufferable!—Dreadful!—I felt how right you were the whole time, but was to_nxious for securing any thing to like to yield. Is not it a goo_xchange?—You consent— I hope you consent?"
"It appears to me a plan that nobody can object to, if Mr. and Mrs. Weston d_ot. I think it admirable; and, as far as I can answer for myself, shall b_ost happy—It seems the only improvement that could be. Papa, do you not thin_t an excellent improvement?"
She was obliged to repeat and explain it, before it was fully comprehended; and then, being quite new, farther representations were necessary to make i_cceptable.
"No; he thought it very far from an improvement—a very bad plan— much wors_han the other. A room at an inn was always damp and dangerous; never properl_ired, or fit to be inhabited. If they must dance, they had better dance a_andalls. He had never been in the room at the Crown in his life—did not kno_he people who kept it by sight.—Oh! no—a very bad plan. They would catc_orse colds at the Crown than anywhere."
"I was going to observe, sir," said Frank Churchill, "that one of the grea_ecommendations of this change would be the very little danger of any body'_atching cold— so much less danger at the Crown than at Randalls! Mr. Perr_ight have reason to regret the alteration, but nobody else could."
"Sir," said Mr. Woodhouse, rather warmly, "you are very much mistaken if yo_uppose Mr. Perry to be that sort of character. Mr. Perry is extremel_oncerned when any of us are ill. But I do not understand how the room at th_rown can be safer for you than your father's house."
"From the very circumstance of its being larger, sir. We shall have n_ccasion to open the windows at all—not once the whole evening; and it is tha_readful habit of opening the windows, letting in cold air upon heated bodies, which (as you well know, sir) does the mischief."
"Open the windows!—but surely, Mr. Churchill, nobody would think of openin_he windows at Randalls. Nobody could be so imprudent! I never heard of such _hing. Dancing with open windows!—I am sure, neither your father nor Mrs.
Weston (poor Miss Taylor that was) would suffer it."
"Ah! sir—but a thoughtless young person will sometimes step behind a window- curtain, and throw up a sash, without its being suspected. I have often know_t done myself."
"Have you indeed, sir?—Bless me! I never could have supposed it. But I liv_ut of the world, and am often astonished at what I hear. However, this doe_ake a difference; and, perhaps, when we come to talk it over—but these sor_f things require a good deal of consideration. One cannot resolve upon the_n a hurry. If Mr. and Mrs. Weston will be so obliging as to call here on_orning, we may talk it over, and see what can be done."
"But, unfortunately, sir, my time is so limited—"
"Oh!" interrupted Emma, "there will be plenty of time for talking every thin_ver. There is no hurry at all. If it can be contrived to be at the Crown, papa, it will be very convenient for the horses. They will be so near thei_wn stable."
"So they will, my dear. That is a great thing. Not that James ever complains; but it is right to spare our horses when we can. If I could be sure of th_ooms being thoroughly aired—but is Mrs. Stokes to be trusted? I doubt it. _o not know her, even by sight."
"I can answer for every thing of that nature, sir, because it will be unde_rs. Weston's care. Mrs. Weston undertakes to direct the whole."
"There, papa!—Now you must be satisfied—Our own dear Mrs. Weston, who i_arefulness itself. Do not you remember what Mr. Perry said, so many year_go, when I had the measles? `If Miss Taylor undertakes to wrap Miss Emma up, you need not have any fears, sir.' How often have I heard you speak of it a_uch a compliment to her!"
"Aye, very true. Mr. Perry did say so. I shall never forget it. Poor littl_mma! You were very bad with the measles; that is, you would have been ver_ad, but for Perry's great attention. He came four times a day for a week. H_aid, from the first, it was a very good sort—which was our great comfort; bu_he measles are a dreadful complaint. I hope whenever poor Isabella's littl_nes have the measles, she will send for Perry."
"My father and Mrs. Weston are at the Crown at this moment," said Fran_hurchill, "examining the capabilities of the house. I left them there an_ame on to Hartfield, impatient for your opinion, and hoping you might b_ersuaded to join them and give your advice on the spot. I was desired to sa_o from both. It would be the greatest pleasure to them, if you could allow m_o attend you there. They can do nothing satisfactorily without you."
Emma was most happy to be called to such a council; and her father, engagin_o think it all over while she was gone, the two young people set off togethe_ithout delay for the Crown. There were Mr. and Mrs. Weston; delighted to se_er and receive her approbation, very busy and very happy in their differen_ay; she, in some little distress; and he, finding every thing perfect.
"Emma," said she, "this paper is worse than I expected. Look! in places yo_ee it is dreadfully dirty; and the wainscot is more yellow and forlorn tha_ny thing I could have imagined."
"My dear, you are too particular," said her husband. "What does all tha_ignify? You will see nothing of it by candlelight. It will be as clean a_andalls by candlelight. We never see any thing of it on our club-nights."
The ladies here probably exchanged looks which meant, "Men never know whe_hings are dirty or not;" and the gentlemen perhaps thought each to himself,
"Women will have their little nonsenses and needless cares."
One perplexity, however, arose, which the gentlemen did not disdain. I_egarded a supper-room. At the time of the ballroom's being built, suppers ha_ot been in question; and a small card-room adjoining, was the only addition.
What was to be done? This card-room would be wanted as a card-room now; or, i_ards were conveniently voted unnecessary by their four selves, still was i_ot too small for any comfortable supper? Another room of much better siz_ight be secured for the purpose; but it was at the other end of the house, and a long awkward passage must be gone through to get at it. This made _ifficulty. Mrs. Weston was afraid of draughts for the young people in tha_assage; and neither Emma nor the gentlemen could tolerate the prospect o_eing miserably crowded at supper.
Mrs. Weston proposed having no regular supper; merely sandwiches, &c., set ou_n the little room; but that was scouted as a wretched suggestion. A privat_ance, without sitting down to supper, was pronounced an infamous fraud upo_he rights of men and women; and Mrs. Weston must not speak of it again. Sh_hen took another line of expediency, and looking into the doubtful room, observed,
"I do not think it is so very small. We shall not be many, you know."
And Mr. Weston at the same time, walking briskly with long steps through th_assage, was calling out,
"You talk a great deal of the length of this passage, my dear. It is a mer_othing after all; and not the least draught from the stairs."
"I wish," said Mrs. Weston, "one could know which arrangement our guests i_eneral would like best. To do what would be most generally pleasing must b_ur object—if one could but tell what that would be."
"Yes, very true," cried Frank, "very true. You want your neighbours' opinions.
I do not wonder at you. If one could ascertain what the chief of them—th_oles, for instance. They are not far off. Shall I call upon them? Or Mis_ates? She is still nearer.— And I do not know whether Miss Bates is not a_ikely to understand the inclinations of the rest of the people as any body. _hink we do want a larger council. Suppose I go and invite Miss Bates to joi_s?"
"Well—if you please," said Mrs. Weston rather hesitating, "if you think sh_ill be of any use."
"You will get nothing to the purpose from Miss Bates," said Emma. "She will b_ll delight and gratitude, but she will tell you nothing. She will not eve_isten to your questions. I see no advantage in consulting Miss Bates."
"But she is so amusing, so extremely amusing! I am very fond of hearing Mis_ates talk. And I need not bring the whole family, you know."
Here Mr. Weston joined them, and on hearing what was proposed, gave it hi_ecided approbation.
"Aye, do, Frank.—Go and fetch Miss Bates, and let us end the matter at once.
She will enjoy the scheme, I am sure; and I do not know a properer person fo_hewing us how to do away difficulties. Fetch Miss Bates. We are growing _ittle too nice. She is a standing lesson of how to be happy. But fetch the_oth. Invite them both."
"Both sir! Can the old lady?" …
"The old lady! No, the young lady, to be sure. I shall think you a grea_lockhead, Frank, if you bring the aunt without the niece."
"Oh! I beg your pardon, sir. I did not immediately recollect. Undoubtedly i_ou wish it, I will endeavour to persuade them both." And away he ran.
Long before he reappeared, attending the short, neat, brisk-moving aunt, an_er elegant niece,—Mrs. Weston, like a sweet-tempered woman and a good wife, had examined the passage again, and found the evils of it much less than sh_ad supposed before— indeed very trifling; and here ended the difficulties o_ecision. All the rest, in speculation at least, was perfectly smooth. All th_inor arrangements of table and chair, lights and music, tea and supper, mad_hemselves; or were left as mere trifles to be settled at any time betwee_rs. Weston and Mrs. Stokes.— Every body invited, was certainly to come; Fran_ad already written to Enscombe to propose staying a few days beyond hi_ortnight, which could not possibly be refused. And a delightful dance it wa_o be.
Most cordially, when Miss Bates arrived, did she agree that it must. As _ounsellor she was not wanted; but as an approver, (a much safer character,) she was truly welcome. Her approbation, at once general and minute, warm an_ncessant, could not but please; and for another half-hour they were al_alking to and fro, between the different rooms, some suggesting, som_ttending, and all in happy enjoyment of the future. The party did not brea_p without Emma's being positively secured for the two first dances by th_ero of the evening, nor without her overhearing Mr. Weston whisper to hi_ife, "He has asked her, my dear. That's right. I knew he would!"