"I hope I shall soon have the pleasure of introducing my son to you," said Mr.
Mrs. Elton, very willing to suppose a particular compliment intended her b_uch a hope, smiled most graciously.
"You have heard of a certain Frank Churchill, I presume," he continued— "an_now him to be my son, though he does not bear my name."
"Oh! yes, and I shall be very happy in his acquaintance. I am sure Mr. Elto_ill lose no time in calling on him; and we shall both have great pleasure i_eeing him at the Vicarage."
"You are very obliging.—Frank will be extremely happy, I am sure.— He is to b_n town next week, if not sooner. We have notice of it in a letter to-day. _et the letters in my way this morning, and seeing my son's hand, presumed t_pen it—though it was not directed to me—it was to Mrs. Weston. She is hi_rincipal correspondent, I assure you. I hardly ever get a letter."
"And so you absolutely opened what was directed to her! Oh! Mr. Weston— (laughing affectedly) I must protest against that.—A most dangerous preceden_ndeed!—I beg you will not let your neighbours follow your example.—Upon m_ord, if this is what I am to expect, we married women must begin to exer_urselves!—Oh! Mr. Weston, I could not have believed it of you!"
"Aye, we men are sad fellows. You must take care of yourself, Mrs. Elton.—Thi_etter tells us—it is a short letter—written in a hurry, merely to give u_otice—it tells us that they are all coming up to town directly, on Mrs.
Churchill's account—she has not been well the whole winter, and think_nscombe too cold for her— so they are all to move southward without loss o_ime."
"Indeed!—from Yorkshire, I think. Enscombe is in Yorkshire?"
"Yes, they are about one hundred and ninety miles from London. a considerabl_ourney."
"Yes, upon my word, very considerable. Sixty-five miles farther than fro_aple Grove to London. But what is distance, Mr. Weston, to people of larg_ortune?—You would be amazed to hear how my brother, Mr. Suckling, sometime_lies about. You will hardly believe me— but twice in one week he and Mr.
Bragge went to London and back again with four horses."
"The evil of the distance from Enscombe," said Mr. Weston, "is, that Mrs.
Churchill, as we understand, has not been able to leave the sofa for a wee_ogether. In Frank's last letter she complained, he said, of being too weak t_et into her conservatory without having both his arm and his uncle's! This, you know, speaks a great degree of weakness—but now she is so impatient to b_n town, that she means to sleep only two nights on the road.—So Frank write_ord. Certainly, delicate ladies have very extraordinary constitutions, Mrs.
Elton. You must grant me that."
"No, indeed, I shall grant you nothing. I Always take the part of my own sex.
I do indeed. I give you notice—You will find me a formidable antagonist o_hat point. I always stand up for women— and I assure you, if you knew ho_elina feels with respect to sleeping at an inn, you would not wonder at Mrs.
Churchill's making incredible exertions to avoid it. Selina says it is quit_orror to her—and I believe I have caught a little of her nicety. She alway_ravels with her own sheets; an excellent precaution. Does Mrs. Churchill d_he same?"
"Depend upon it, Mrs. Churchill does every thing that any other fine lady eve_id. Mrs. Churchill will not be second to any lady in the land for"—
Mrs. Elton eagerly interposed with,
"Oh! Mr. Weston, do not mistake me. Selina is no fine lady, I assure you. D_ot run away with such an idea."
"Is not she? Then she is no rule for Mrs. Churchill, who is as thorough a fin_ady as any body ever beheld."
Mrs. Elton began to think she had been wrong in disclaiming so warmly. It wa_y no means her object to have it believed that her sister was not a fin_ady; perhaps there was want of spirit in the pretence of it;—and she wa_onsidering in what way she had best retract, when Mr. Weston went on.
"Mrs. Churchill is not much in my good graces, as you may suspect— but this i_uite between ourselves. She is very fond of Frank, and therefore I would no_peak ill of her. Besides, she is out of health now; but that indeed, by he_wn account, she has always been. I would not say so to every body, Mrs.
Elton, but I have not much faith in Mrs. Churchill's illness."
"If she is really ill, why not go to Bath, Mr. Weston?—To Bath, or t_lifton?" "She has taken it into her head that Enscombe is too cold for her.
The fact is, I suppose, that she is tired of Enscombe. She has now been _onger time stationary there, than she ever was before, and she begins to wan_hange. It is a retired place. A fine place, but very retired."
"Aye—like Maple Grove, I dare say. Nothing can stand more retired from th_oad than Maple Grove. Such an immense plantation all round it! You seem shu_ut from every thing—in the most complete retirement.— And Mrs. Churchil_robably has not health or spirits like Selina to enjoy that sort o_eclusion. Or, perhaps she may not have resources enough in herself to b_ualified for a country life. I always say a woman cannot have too man_esources—and I feel very thankful that I have so many myself as to be quit_ndependent of society."
"Frank was here in February for a fortnight."
"So I remember to have heard. He will find an addition to the society o_ighbury when he comes again; that is, if I may presume to call myself a_ddition. But perhaps he may never have heard of there being such a creatur_n the world."
This was too loud a call for a compliment to be passed by, and Mr. Weston, with a very good grace, immediately exclaimed,
"My dear madam! Nobody but yourself could imagine such a thing possible. No_eard of you!—I believe Mrs. Weston's letters lately have been full of ver_ittle else than Mrs. Elton."
He had done his duty and could return to his son.
"When Frank left us," continued he, "it was quite uncertain when we might se_im again, which makes this day's news doubly welcome. It has been completel_nexpected. That is, I always had a strong persuasion he would be here agai_oon, I was sure something favourable would turn up—but nobody believed me. H_nd Mrs. Weston were both dreadfully desponding. `How could he contrive t_ome? And how could it be supposed that his uncle and aunt would spare hi_gain?' and so forth—I always felt that something would happen in our favour; and so it has, you see. I have observed, Mrs. Elton, in the course of my life, that if things are going untowardly one month, they are sure to mend th_ext."
"Very true, Mr. Weston, perfectly true. It is just what I used to say to _ertain gentleman in company in the days of courtship, when, because thing_id not go quite right, did not proceed with all the rapidity which suited hi_eelings, he was apt to be in despair, and exclaim that he was sure at thi_ate it would be May before Hymen's saffron robe would be put on for us. Oh!
the pains I have been at to dispel those gloomy ideas and give him cheerfulle_iews! The carriage—we had disappointments about the carriage;—one morning, _emember, he came to me quite in despair."
She was stopped by a slight fit of coughing, and Mr. Weston instantly seize_he opportunity of going on.
"You were mentioning May. May is the very month which Mrs. Churchill i_rdered, or has ordered herself, to spend in some warmer place tha_nscombe—in short, to spend in London; so that we have the agreeable prospec_f frequent visits from Frank the whole spring— precisely the season of th_ear which one should have chosen for it: days almost at the longest; weathe_enial and pleasant, always inviting one out, and never too hot for exercise.
When he was here before, we made the best of it; but there was a good deal o_et, damp, cheerless weather; there always is in February, you know, and w_ould not do half that we intended. Now will be the time. This will b_omplete enjoyment; and I do not know, Mrs. Elton, whether the uncertainty o_ur meetings, the sort of constant expectation there will be of his coming i_o-day or to-morrow, and at any hour, may not be more friendly to happines_han having him actually in the house. I think it is so. I think it is th_tate of mind which gives most spirit and delight. I hope you will be please_ith my son; but you must not expect a prodigy. He is generally thought a fin_oung man, but do not expect a prodigy. Mrs. Weston's partiality for him i_ery great, and, as you may suppose, most gratifying to me. She thinks nobod_qual to him."
"And I assure you, Mr. Weston, I have very little doubt that my opinion wil_e decidedly in his favour. I have heard so much in praise of Mr. Fran_hurchill.—At the same time it is fair to observe, that I am one of those wh_lways judge for themselves, and are by no means implicitly guided by others.
I give you notice that as I find your son, so I shall judge of him.—I am n_latterer."
Mr. Weston was musing.
"I hope," said he presently, "I have not been severe upon poor Mrs. Churchill.
If she is ill I should be sorry to do her injustice; but there are some trait_n her character which make it difficult for me to speak of her with th_orbearance I could wish. You cannot be ignorant, Mrs. Elton, of my connexio_ith the family, nor of the treatment I have met with; and, between ourselves, the whole blame of it is to be laid to her. She was the instigator. Frank'_other would never have been slighted as she was but for her. Mr. Churchil_as pride; but his pride is nothing to his wife's: his is a quiet, indolent, gentlemanlike sort of pride that would harm nobody, and only make himself _ittle helpless and tiresome; but her pride is arrogance and insolence! An_hat inclines one less to bear, she has no fair pretence of family or blood.
She was nobody when he married her, barely the daughter of a gentleman; bu_ver since her being turned into a Churchill she has out-Churchill'd them al_n high and mighty claims: but in herself, I assure you, she is an upstart."
"Only think! well, that must be infinitely provoking! I have quite a horror o_pstarts. Maple Grove has given me a thorough disgust to people of that sort; for there is a family in that neighbourhood who are such an annoyance to m_rother and sister from the airs they give themselves! Your description o_rs. Churchill made me think of them directly. People of the name of Tupman, very lately settled there, and encumbered with many low connexions, but givin_hemselves immense airs, and expecting to be on a footing with the ol_stablished families. A year and a half is the very utmost that they can hav_ived at West Hall; and how they got their fortune nobody knows. They cam_rom Birmingham, which is not a place to promise much, you know, Mr. Weston.
One has not great hopes from Birmingham. I always say there is somethin_ireful in the sound: but nothing more is positively known of the Tupmans, though a good many things I assure you are suspected; and yet by their manner_hey evidently think themselves equal even to my brother, Mr. Suckling, wh_appens to be one of their nearest neighbours. It is infinitely too bad. Mr.
Suckling, who has been eleven years a resident at Maple Grove, and whos_ather had it before him—I believe, at least—I am almost sure that old Mr.
Suckling had completed the purchase before his death."
They were interrupted. Tea was carrying round, and Mr. Weston, having said al_hat he wanted, soon took the opportunity of walking away.
After tea, Mr. and Mrs. Weston, and Mr. Elton sat down with Mr. Woodhouse t_ards. The remaining five were left to their own powers, and Emma doubte_heir getting on very well; for Mr. Knightley seemed little disposed fo_onversation; Mrs. Elton was wanting notice, which nobody had inclination t_ay, and she was herself in a worry of spirits which would have made he_refer being silent.
Mr. John Knightley proved more talkative than his brother. He was to leav_hem early the next day; and he soon began with—
"Well, Emma, I do not believe I have any thing more to say about the boys; bu_ou have your sister's letter, and every thing is down at full length there w_ay be sure. My charge would be much more concise than her's, and probably no_uch in the same spirit; all that I have to recommend being comprised in, d_ot spoil them, and do not physic them."
"I rather hope to satisfy you both," said Emma, "for I shall do all in m_ower to make them happy, which will be enough for Isabella; and happines_ust preclude false indulgence and physic."
"And if you find them troublesome, you must send them home again."
"That is very likely. You think so, do not you?"
"I hope I am aware that they may be too noisy for your father— or even may b_ome encumbrance to you, if your visiting engagements continue to increase a_uch as they have done lately."
"Certainly; you must be sensible that the last half-year has made a grea_ifference in your way of life."
"Difference! No indeed I am not."
"There can be no doubt of your being much more engaged with company than yo_sed to be. Witness this very time. Here am I come down for only one day, an_ou are engaged with a dinner-party!— When did it happen before, or any thin_ike it? Your neighbourhood is increasing, and you mix more with it. A littl_hile ago, every letter to Isabella brought an account of fresh gaieties; dinners at Mr. Cole's, or balls at the Crown. The difference which Randalls, Randalls alone makes in your goings-on, is very great."
"Yes," said his brother quickly, "it is Randalls that does it all."
"Very well—and as Randalls, I suppose, is not likely to have less influenc_han heretofore, it strikes me as a possible thing, Emma, that Henry and Joh_ay be sometimes in the way. And if they are, I only beg you to send the_ome."
"No," cried Mr. Knightley, "that need not be the consequence. Let them be sen_o Donwell. I shall certainly be at leisure."
"Upon my word," exclaimed Emma, "you amuse me! I should like to know how man_f all my numerous engagements take place without your being of the party; an_hy I am to be supposed in danger of wanting leisure to attend to the littl_oys. These amazing engagements of mine— what have they been? Dining once wit_he Coles—and having a ball talked of, which never took place. I ca_nderstand you—(nodding at Mr. John Knightley)—your good fortune in meetin_ith so many of your friends at once here, delights you too much to pas_nnoticed. But you, (turning to Mr. Knightley,) who know how very, very seldo_ am ever two hours from Hartfield, why you should foresee such a series o_issipation for me, I cannot imagine. And as to my dear little boys, I mus_ay, that if Aunt Emma has not time for them, I do not think they would far_uch better with Uncle Knightley, who is absent from home about five hour_here she is absent one— and who, when he is at home, is either reading t_imself or settling his accounts."
Mr. Knightley seemed to be trying not to smile; and succeeded withou_ifficulty, upon Mrs. Elton's beginning to talk to him.