The weather continued much the same all the following morning; and the sam_oneliness, and the same melancholy, seemed to reign at Hartfield—but in th_fternoon it cleared; the wind changed into a softer quarter; the clouds wer_arried off; the sun appeared; it was summer again. With all the eagernes_hich such a transition gives, Emma resolved to be out of doors as soon a_ossible. Never had the exquisite sight, smell, sensation of nature, tranquil, warm, and brilliant after a storm, been more attractive to her. She longed fo_he serenity they might gradually introduce; and on Mr. Perry's coming in soo_fter dinner, with a disengaged hour to give her father, she lost no time il_urrying into the shrubbery.—There, with spirits freshened, and thoughts _ittle relieved, she had taken a few turns, when she saw Mr. Knightley passin_hrough the garden door, and coming towards her.—It was the first intimatio_f his being returned from London. She had been thinking of him the momen_efore, as unquestionably sixteen miles distant.—There was time only for th_uickest arrangement of mind. She must be collected and calm. In half a minut_hey were together. The "How d'ye do's" were quiet and constrained on eac_ide. She asked after their mutual friends; they were all well.—When had h_eft them?—Only that morning. He must have had a wet ride.—Yes.—He meant t_alk with her, she found. "He had just looked into the dining-room, and as h_as not wanted there, preferred being out of doors."—She thought he neithe_ooked nor spoke cheerfully; and the first possible cause for it, suggested b_er fears, was, that he had perhaps been communicating his plans to hi_rother, 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 thi_elief produced another dread. Perhaps he wanted to speak to her, of hi_ttachment to Harriet; he might be watching for encouragement to begin.—Sh_id not, could not, feel equal to lead the way to any such subject. He must d_t all himself. Yet she could not bear this silence. With him it was mos_nnatural. She considered—resolved—and, trying to smile, began—
"You have some news to hear, now you are come back, that will rather surpriz_ou."
"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, h_eplied,
"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 th_nd of them he gave me a brief account of what had happened."
Emma was quite relieved, and could presently say, with a little mor_omposure,
"You probably have been less surprized than any of us, for you have had you_uspicions.—I have not forgotten that you once tried to give me a caution.—_ish I had attended to it—but—(with a sinking voice and a heavy sigh) I see_o have been doomed to blindness."
For a moment or two nothing was said, and she was unsuspicious of havin_xcited any particular interest, till she found her arm drawn within his, an_ressed against his heart, and heard him thus saying, in a tone of grea_ensibility, speaking low,
"Time, my dearest Emma, time will heal the wound.—Your own excellen_ense—your exertions for your father's sake—I know you will not allo_ourself—." Her arm was pressed again, as he added, in a more broken an_ubdued accent, "The feelings of the warmest friendship—Indignation—Abominabl_coundrel!"— And in a louder, steadier tone, he concluded with, "He will soo_e gone. They will soon be in Yorkshire. I am sorry for her. She deserves _etter fate."
Emma understood him; and as soon as she could recover from the flutter o_leasure, excited by such tender consideration, replied,
"You are very kind—but you are mistaken—and I must set you right.— I am not i_ant of that sort of compassion. My blindness to what was going on, led me t_ct by them in a way that I must always be ashamed of, and I was ver_oolishly tempted to say and do many things which may well lay me open t_npleasant conjectures, but I have no other reason to regret that I was not i_he secret earlier."
"Emma!" cried he, looking eagerly at her, "are you, indeed?"— but checkin_imself—"No, no, I understand you—forgive me—I am pleased that you can sa_ven 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 you_eason.—Fortunate that your affections were not farther entangled!—I coul_ever, I confess, from your manners, assure myself as to the degree of wha_ou felt— I could only be certain that there was a preference—and a preferenc_hich I never believed him to deserve.—He is a disgrace to the name o_an.—And is he to be rewarded with that sweet young woman?— Jane, Jane, yo_ill be a miserable creature."
"Mr. Knightley," said Emma, trying to be lively, but really confused— "I am i_ very extraordinary situation. I cannot let you continue in your error; an_et, perhaps, since my manners gave such an impression, I have as much reaso_o be ashamed of confessing that I never have been at all attached to th_erson we are speaking of, as it might be natural for a woman to feel i_onfessing exactly the reverse.— But I never have."
He listened in perfect silence. She wished him to speak, but he would not. Sh_upposed she must say more before she were entitled to his clemency; but i_as a hard case to be obliged still to lower herself in his opinion. She wen_n, however.
"I have very little to say for my own conduct.—I was tempted by hi_ttentions, and allowed myself to appear pleased.— An old story, probably—_ommon case—and no more than has happened to hundreds of my sex before; an_et it may not be the more excusable in one who sets up as I do fo_nderstanding. Many circumstances assisted the temptation. He was the son o_r. Weston—he was continually here—I always found him very pleasant—and, i_hort, for (with a sigh) let me swell out the causes ever so ingeniously, the_ll centre in this at last—my vanity was flattered, and I allowed hi_ttentions. Latterly, however—for some time, indeed— I have had no idea o_heir meaning any thing.—I thought them a habit, a trick, nothing that calle_or seriousness on my side. He has imposed on me, but he has not injured me. _ave never been attached to him. And now I can tolerably comprehend hi_ehaviour. He never wished to attach me. It was merely a blind to conceal hi_eal situation with another.—It was his object to blind all about him; and n_ne, I am sure, could be more effectually blinded than myself—except that _as not blinded—that it was my good fortune—that, in short, I was somehow o_ther safe from him."
She had hoped for an answer here—for a few words to say that her conduct wa_t least intelligible; but he was silent; and, as far as she could judge, dee_n 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 bu_rifling.—And even if I have not underrated him hitherto, he may yet turn ou_ell.—With such a woman he has a chance.—I have no motive for wishing hi_ll—and for her sake, whose happiness will be involved in his good characte_nd conduct, I shall certainly wish him well."
"I have no doubt of their being happy together," said Emma; "I believe them t_e very mutually and very sincerely attached."
"He is a most fortunate man!" returned Mr. Knightley, with energy. "So earl_n life—at three-and-twenty—a period when, if a man chuses a wife, h_enerally chuses ill. At three-and-twenty to have drawn such a prize! Wha_ears of felicity that man, in all human calculation, has before him!—Assure_f the love of such a woman—the disinterested love, for Jane Fairfax'_haracter vouches for her disinterestedness; every thing in his favour,— equality of situation—I mean, as far as regards society, and all the habit_nd 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 hi_elicity, for it will be his to bestow the only advantages she wants.—A ma_ould always wish to give a woman a better home than the one he takes he_rom; and he who can do it, where there is no doubt of her regard, must, _hink, be the happiest of mortals.—Frank Churchill is, indeed, the favourit_f fortune. Every thing turns out for his good.—He meets with a young woman a_ watering-place, gains her affection, cannot even weary her by negligen_reatment—and had he and all his family sought round the world for a perfec_ife for him, they could not have found her superior.—His aunt is in th_ay.—His aunt dies.—He has only to speak.—His friends are eager to promote hi_appiness.— He had used every body ill—and they are all delighted to forgiv_im.— 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 he_lan; she would speak of something totally different—the children in Brunswic_quare; and she only waited for breath to begin, when Mr. Knightley startle_er, by saying,
"You will not ask me what is the point of envy.—You are determined, I see, t_ave no curiosity.—You are wise—but I cannot be wise. Emma, I must tell yo_hat 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 littl_ime, consider, do not commit yourself."
"Thank you," said he, in an accent of deep mortification, and not anothe_yllable 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 migh_ssist his resolution, or reconcile him to it; she might give just praise t_arriet, or, by representing to him his own independence, relieve him fro_hat state of indecision, which must be more intolerable than any alternativ_o 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 stil_poke—"I should like to take another turn. Mr. Perry is not gone." And, afte_roceeding 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 spea_penly to me as a friend, or to ask my opinion of any thing that you may hav_n contemplation—as a friend, indeed, you may command me.—I will hear whateve_ou like. I will tell you exactly what I think."
"As a friend!"—repeated Mr. Knightley.—"Emma, that I fear is a word—No, I hav_o wish—Stay, yes, why should I hesitate?— I have gone too far already fo_oncealment.—Emma, I accept your offer— Extraordinary as it may seem, I accep_t, and refer myself to you as a friend.—Tell me, then, have I no chance o_ver succeeding?"
He stopped in his earnestness to look the question, and the expression of hi_yes overpowered her.
"My dearest Emma," said he, "for dearest you will always be, whatever th_vent of this hour's conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma—tell me a_nce. Say `No,' if it is to be said."— She could really say nothing.—"You ar_ilent," he cried, with great animation; "absolutely silent! at present I as_o more."
Emma was almost ready to sink under the agitation of this moment. The dread o_eing awakened from the happiest dream, was perhaps the most prominen_eeling.
"I cannot make speeches, Emma:" he soon resumed; and in a tone of suc_incere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.—"If _oved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what _m.—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.— Bea_ith the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have born_ith them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. Go_nows, I have been a very indifferent lover.— But you understand me.—Yes, yo_ee, 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 wonderfu_elocity of thought, had been able—and yet without losing a word— to catch an_omprehend the exact truth of the whole; to see that Harriet's hopes had bee_ntirely groundless, a mistake, a delusion, as complete a delusion as any o_er own—that Harriet was nothing; that she was every thing herself; that wha_he had been saying relative to Harriet had been all taken as the language o_er own feelings; and that her agitation, her doubts, her reluctance, he_iscouragement, had been all received as discouragement from herself.—And no_nly was there time for these convictions, with all their glow of attendan_appiness; there was time also to rejoice that Harriet's secret had no_scaped her, and to resolve that it need not, and should not.—It was all th_ervice she could now render her poor friend; for as to any of that heroism o_entiment which might have prompted her to entreat him to transfer hi_ffection 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 fo_ver, 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 n_light of generosity run mad, opposing all that could be probable o_easonable, entered her brain. She had led her friend astray, and it would b_ 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 fo_im, as most unequal and degrading. Her way was clear, though not quit_mooth.—She spoke then, on being so entreated.— What did she say?—Just wha_he ought, of course. A lady always does.— She said enough to shew there nee_ot be despair—and to invite him to say more himself. He had despaired at on_eriod; he had received such an injunction to caution and silence, as for th_ime crushed every hope;—she had begun by refusing to hear him.—The change ha_erhaps been somewhat sudden;—her proposal of taking another turn, he_enewing the conversation which she had just put an end to, might be a littl_xtraordinary!—She felt its inconsistency; but Mr. Knightley was so obligin_s 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 littl_istaken; but where, as in this case, though the conduct is mistaken, th_eelings are not, it may not be very material.— Mr. Knightley could not imput_o Emma a more relenting heart than she possessed, or a heart more disposed t_ccept of his.
He had, in fact, been wholly unsuspicious of his own influence. He ha_ollowed her into the shrubbery with no idea of trying it. He had come, in hi_nxiety to see how she bore Frank Churchill's engagement, with no selfis_iew, no view at all, but of endeavouring, if she allowed him an opening, t_oothe or to counsel her.—The rest had been the work of the moment, th_mmediate effect of what he heard, on his feelings. The delightful assuranc_f her total indifference towards Frank Churchill, of her having a hear_ompletely disengaged from him, had given birth to the hope, that, in time, h_ight 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 tha_he did not forbid his attempt to attach her.—The superior hopes whic_radually opened were so much the more enchanting.— The affection, which h_ad been asking to be allowed to create, if he could, was already his!—Withi_alf an hour, he had passed from a thoroughly distressed state of mind, t_omething 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 preciou_ertainty of being beloved, had cleared from each the same degree o_gnorance, jealousy, or distrust.—On his side, there had been a long-standin_ealousy, old as the arrival, or even the expectation, of Frank Churchill.—H_ad been in love with Emma, and jealous of Frank Churchill, from about th_ame period, one sentiment having probably enlightened him as to the other. I_as his jealousy of Frank Churchill that had taken him from the country.—Th_ox Hill party had decided him on going away. He would save himself fro_itnessing again such permitted, encouraged attentions.—He had gone to lear_o be indifferent.— But he had gone to a wrong place. There was too muc_omestic happiness in his brother's house; woman wore too amiable a form i_t; Isabella was too much like Emma—differing only in those strikin_nferiorities, which always brought the other in brilliancy before him, fo_uch 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 conveye_he 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 b_t all deserving Emma, was there so much fond solicitude, so much keen anxiet_or 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 o_ll creatures, faultless in spite of all her faults, bore the discovery.
He had found her agitated and low.—Frank Churchill was a villain.— He hear_er declare that she had never loved him. Frank Churchill's character was no_esperate.—She was his own Emma, by hand and word, when they returned into th_ouse; and if he could have thought of Frank Churchill then, he might hav_eemed him a very good sort of fellow.