Some change of countenance was necessary for each gentleman as they walke_nto Mrs. Weston's drawing-room;—Mr. Elton must compose his joyous looks, an_r. John Knightley disperse his ill-humour. Mr. Elton must smile less, and Mr.
John Knightley more, to fit them for the place.—Emma only might be as natur_rompted, and shew herself just as happy as she was. To her it was rea_njoyment to be with the Westons. Mr. Weston was a great favourite, and ther_as not a creature in the world to whom she spoke with such unreserve, as t_is wife; not any one, to whom she related with such conviction of bein_istened to and understood, of being always interesting and alway_ntelligible, the little affairs, arrangements, perplexities, and pleasures o_er father and herself. She could tell nothing of Hartfield, in which Mrs.
Weston had not a lively concern; and half an hour's uninterrupte_ommunication of all those little matters on which the daily happiness o_rivate life depends, was one of the first gratifications of each.
This was a pleasure which perhaps the whole day's visit might not afford,
which certainly did not belong to the present half-hour; but the very sight o_rs. Weston, her smile, her touch, her voice was grateful to Emma, and sh_etermined to think as little as possible of Mr. Elton's oddities, or of an_hing else unpleasant, and enjoy all that was enjoyable to the utmost.
The misfortune of Harriet's cold had been pretty well gone through before he_rrival. Mr. Woodhouse had been safely seated long enough to give the histor_f it, besides all the history of his own and Isabella's coming, and of Emma'_eing to follow, and had indeed just got to the end of his satisfaction tha_ames should come and see his daughter, when the others appeared, and Mrs.
Weston, who had been almost wholly engrossed by her attentions to him, wa_ble to turn away and welcome her dear Emma.
Emma's project of forgetting Mr. Elton for a while made her rather sorry t_ind, when they had all taken their places, that he was close to her. Th_ifficulty was great of driving his strange insensibility towards Harriet,
from her mind, while he not only sat at her elbow, but was continuall_btruding his happy countenance on her notice, and solicitously addressing he_pon every occasion. Instead of forgetting him, his behaviour was such tha_he could not avoid the internal suggestion of "Can it really be as my brothe_magined? can it be possible for this man to be beginning to transfer hi_ffections from Harriet to me?—Absurd and insufferable!"— Yet he would be s_nxious for her being perfectly warm, would be so interested about her father,
and so delighted with Mrs. Weston; and at last would begin admiring he_rawings with so much zeal and so little knowledge as seemed terribly like _ould-be lover, and made it some effort with her to preserve her good manners.
For her own sake she could not be rude; and for Harriet's, in the hope tha_ll would yet turn out right, she was even positively civil; but it was a_ffort; especially as something was going on amongst the others, in the mos_verpowering period of Mr. Elton's nonsense, which she particularly wished t_isten to. She heard enough to know that Mr. Weston was giving som_nformation about his son; she heard the words "my son," and "Frank," and "m_on," repeated several times over; and, from a few other half-syllables ver_uch suspected that he was announcing an early visit from his son; but befor_he could quiet Mr. Elton, the subject was so completely past that an_eviving question from her would have been awkward.
Now, it so happened that in spite of Emma's resolution of never marrying,
there was something in the name, in the idea of Mr. Frank Churchill, whic_lways interested her. She had frequently thought—especially since hi_ather's marriage with Miss Taylor—that if she were to marry, he was the ver_erson to suit her in age, character and condition. He seemed by thi_onnexion between the families, quite to belong to her. She could not bu_uppose it to be a match that every body who knew them must think of. That Mr.
and Mrs. Weston did think of it, she was very strongly persuaded; and thoug_ot meaning to be induced by him, or by any body else, to give up a situatio_hich she believed more replete with good than any she could change it for,
she had a great curiosity to see him, a decided intention of finding hi_leasant, of being liked by him to a certain degree, and a sort of pleasure i_he idea of their being coupled in their friends' imaginations.
With such sensations, Mr. Elton's civilities were dreadfully ill-timed; bu_he had the comfort of appearing very polite, while feeling very cross—and o_hinking that the rest of the visit could not possibly pass without bringin_orward the same information again, or the substance of it, from the open-
hearted Mr. Weston.—So it proved;— for when happily released from Mr. Elton,
and seated by Mr. Weston, at dinner, he made use of the very first interval i_he cares of hospitality, the very first leisure from the saddle of mutton, t_ay to her,
"We want only two more to be just the right number. I should like to see tw_ore here,—your pretty little friend, Miss Smith, and my son—and then I shoul_ay we were quite complete. I believe you did not hear me telling the other_n the drawing-room that we are expecting Frank. I had a letter from him thi_orning, and he will be with us within a fortnight."
Emma spoke with a very proper degree of pleasure; and fully assented to hi_roposition of Mr. Frank Churchill and Miss Smith making their party quit_omplete.
"He has been wanting to come to us," continued Mr. Weston, "ever sinc_eptember: every letter has been full of it; but he cannot command his ow_ime. He has those to please who must be pleased, and who (between ourselves)
are sometimes to be pleased only by a good many sacrifices. But now I have n_oubt of seeing him here about the second week in January."
"What a very great pleasure it will be to you! and Mrs. Weston is so anxiou_o be acquainted with him, that she must be almost as happy as yourself."
"Yes, she would be, but that she thinks there will be another put-off. Sh_oes not depend upon his coming so much as I do: but she does not know th_arties so well as I do. The case, you see, is—(but this is quite betwee_urselves: I did not mention a syllable of it in the other room. There ar_ecrets in all families, you know)—The case is, that a party of friends ar_nvited to pay a visit at Enscombe in January; and that Frank's coming depend_pon their being put off. If they are not put off, he cannot stir. But I kno_hey will, because it is a family that a certain lady, of some consequence, a_nscombe, has a particular dislike to: and though it is thought necessary t_nvite them once in two or three years, they always are put off when it come_o the point. I have not the smallest doubt of the issue. I am as confident o_eeing Frank here before the middle of January, as I am of being here myself:
but your good friend there (nodding towards the upper end of the table) has s_ew vagaries herself, and has been so little used to them at Hartfield, tha_he cannot calculate on their effects, as I have been long in the practice o_oing."
"I am sorry there should be any thing like doubt in the case," replied Emma;
"but am disposed to side with you, Mr. Weston. If you think he will come, _hall think so too; for you know Enscombe."
"Yes—I have some right to that knowledge; though I have never been at th_lace in my life.—She is an odd woman!—But I never allow myself to speak il_f her, on Frank's account; for I do believe her to be very fond of him. _sed to think she was not capable of being fond of any body, except herself:
but she has always been kind to him (in her way—allowing for little whims an_aprices, and expecting every thing to be as she likes). And it is no smal_redit, in my opinion, to him, that he should excite such an affection; for,
though I would not say it to any body else, she has no more heart than a ston_o people in general; and the devil of a temper."
Emma liked the subject so well, that she began upon it, to Mrs. Weston, ver_oon after their moving into the drawing-room: wishing her joy— yet observing,
that she knew the first meeting must be rather alarming.— Mrs. Weston agree_o it; but added, that she should be very glad to be secure of undergoing th_nxiety of a first meeting at the time talked of: "for I cannot depend upo_is coming. I cannot be so sanguine as Mr. Weston. I am very much afraid tha_t will all end in nothing. Mr. Weston, I dare say, has been telling yo_xactly how the matter stands?"
"Yes—it seems to depend upon nothing but the ill-humour of Mrs. Churchill,
which I imagine to be the most certain thing in the world."
"My Emma!" replied Mrs. Weston, smiling, "what is the certainty of caprice?"
Then turning to Isabella, who had not been attending before—"You must know, m_ear Mrs. Knightley, that we are by no means so sure of seeing Mr. Fran_hurchill, in my opinion, as his father thinks. It depends entirely upon hi_unt's spirits and pleasure; in short, upon her temper. To you—to my tw_aughters—I may venture on the truth. Mrs. Churchill rules at Enscombe, and i_ very odd-tempered woman; and his coming now, depends upon her being willin_o spare him."
"Oh, Mrs. Churchill; every body knows Mrs. Churchill," replied Isabella: "an_ am sure I never think of that poor young man without the greates_ompassion. To be constantly living with an ill-tempered person, must b_readful. It is what we happily have never known any thing of; but it must b_ life of misery. What a blessing, that she never had any children! Poo_ittle creatures, how unhappy she would have made them!"
Emma wished she had been alone with Mrs. Weston. She should then have hear_ore: Mrs. Weston would speak to her, with a degree of unreserve which sh_ould not hazard with Isabella; and, she really believed, would scarcely tr_o conceal any thing relative to the Churchills from her, excepting thos_iews on the young man, of which her own imagination had already given he_uch instinctive knowledge. But at present there was nothing more to be said.
Mr. Woodhouse very soon followed them into the drawing-room. To be sittin_ong after dinner, was a confinement that he could not endure. Neither win_or conversation was any thing to him; and gladly did he move to those wit_hom he was always comfortable.
While he talked to Isabella, however, Emma found an opportunity of saying,
"And so you do not consider this visit from your son as by any means certain.
I am sorry for it. The introduction must be unpleasant, whenever it take_lace; and the sooner it could be over, the better."
"Yes; and every delay makes one more apprehensive of other delays. Even i_his family, the Braithwaites, are put off, I am still afraid that some excus_ay be found for disappointing us. I cannot bear to imagine any reluctance o_is side; but I am sure there is a great wish on the Churchills' to keep hi_o themselves. There is jealousy. They are jealous even of his regard for hi_ather. In short, I can feel no dependence on his coming, and I wish Mr.
Weston were less sanguine."
"He ought to come," said Emma. "If he could stay only a couple of days, h_ught to come; and one can hardly conceive a young man's not having it in hi_ower to do as much as that. A young woman, if she fall into bad hands, may b_eazed, and kept at a distance from those she wants to be with; but one canno_omprehend a young man's being under such restraint, as not to be able t_pend a week with his father, if he likes it."
"One ought to be at Enscombe, and know the ways of the family, before on_ecides upon what he can do," replied Mrs. Weston. "One ought to use the sam_aution, perhaps, in judging of the conduct of any one individual of any on_amily; but Enscombe, I believe, certainly must not be judged by genera_ules: she is so very unreasonable; and every thing gives way to her."
"But she is so fond of the nephew: he is so very great a favourite. Now,
according to my idea of Mrs. Churchill, it would be most natural, that whil_he makes no sacrifice for the comfort of the husband, to whom she owes ever_hing, while she exercises incessant caprice towards him, she shoul_requently be governed by the nephew, to whom she owes nothing at all."
"My dearest Emma, do not pretend, with your sweet temper, to understand a ba_ne, or to lay down rules for it: you must let it go its own way. I have n_oubt of his having, at times, considerable influence; but it may be perfectl_mpossible for him to know beforehand when it will be."
Emma listened, and then coolly said, "I shall not be satisfied, unless h_omes."
"He may have a great deal of influence on some points," continued Mrs. Weston,
"and on others, very little: and among those, on which she is beyond hi_each, it is but too likely, may be this very circumstance of his coming awa_rom them to visit us."