The next morning brought Mr. Frank Churchill again. He came with Mrs. Weston, to whom and to Highbury he seemed to take very cordially. He had been sittin_ith her, it appeared, most companionably at home, till her usual hour o_xercise; and on being desired to chuse their walk, immediately fixed o_ighbury.—"He did not doubt there being very pleasant walks in ever_irection, but if left to him, he should always chuse the same. Highbury, tha_iry, cheerful, happy-looking Highbury, would be his constant attraction."— Highbury, with Mrs. Weston, stood for Hartfield; and she trusted to it_earing the same construction with him. They walked thither directly.
Emma had hardly expected them: for Mr. Weston, who had called in for half _inute, in order to hear that his son was very handsome, knew nothing of thei_lans; and it was an agreeable surprize to her, therefore, to perceive the_alking up to the house together, arm in arm. She was wanting to see hi_gain, and especially to see him in company with Mrs. Weston, upon hi_ehaviour to whom her opinion of him was to depend. If he were deficien_here, nothing should make amends for it. But on seeing them together, sh_ecame perfectly satisfied. It was not merely in fine words or hyperbolica_ompliment that he paid his duty; nothing could be more proper or pleasin_han his whole manner to her—nothing could more agreeably denote his wish o_onsidering her as a friend and securing her affection. And there was tim_nough for Emma to form a reasonable judgment, as their visit included all th_est of the morning. They were all three walking about together for an hour o_wo— first round the shrubberies of Hartfield, and afterwards in Highbury. H_as delighted with every thing; admired Hartfield sufficiently for Mr.
Woodhouse's ear; and when their going farther was resolved on, confessed hi_ish to be made acquainted with the whole village, and found matter o_ommendation and interest much oftener than Emma could have supposed.
Some of the objects of his curiosity spoke very amiable feelings. He begged t_e shewn the house which his father had lived in so long, and which had bee_he home of his father's father; and on recollecting that an old woman who ha_ursed him was still living, walked in quest of her cottage from one end o_he street to the other; and though in some points of pursuit or observatio_here was no positive merit, they shewed, altogether, a good-will toward_ighbury in general, which must be very like a merit to those he was with.
Emma watched and decided, that with such feelings as were now shewn, it coul_ot be fairly supposed that he had been ever voluntarily absenting himself; that he had not been acting a part, or making a parade of insincer_rofessions; and that Mr. Knightley certainly had not done him justice.
Their first pause was at the Crown Inn, an inconsiderable house, though th_rincipal one of the sort, where a couple of pair of post-horses were kept, more for the convenience of the neighbourhood than from any run on the road; and his companions had not expected to be detained by any interest excite_here; but in passing it they gave the history of the large room visibl_dded; it had been built many years ago for a ball-room, and while th_eighbourhood had been in a particularly populous, dancing state, had bee_ccasionally used as such;—but such brilliant days had long passed away, an_ow the highest purpose for which it was ever wanted was to accommodate _hist club established among the gentlemen and half-gentlemen of the place. H_as immediately interested. Its character as a ball-room caught him; an_nstead of passing on, he stopt for several minutes at the two superior sashe_indows which were open, to look in and contemplate its capabilities, an_ament that its original purpose should have ceased. He saw no fault in th_oom, he would acknowledge none which they suggested. No, it was long enough, broad enough, handsome enough. It would hold the very number for comfort. The_ught to have balls there at least every fortnight through the winter. Why ha_ot Miss Woodhouse revived the former good old days of the room?—She who coul_o any thing in Highbury! The want of proper families in the place, and th_onviction that none beyond the place and its immediate environs could b_empted to attend, were mentioned; but he was not satisfied. He could not b_ersuaded that so many good-looking houses as he saw around him, could no_urnish numbers enough for such a meeting; and even when particulars wer_iven and families described, he was still unwilling to admit that th_nconvenience of such a mixture would be any thing, or that there would be th_mallest difficulty in every body's returning into their proper place the nex_orning. He argued like a young man very much bent on dancing; and Emma wa_ather surprized to see the constitution of the Weston prevail so decidedl_gainst the habits of the Churchills. He seemed to have all the life an_pirit, cheerful feelings, and social inclinations of his father, and nothin_f the pride or reserve of Enscombe. Of pride, indeed, there was, perhaps, scarcely enough; his indifference to a confusion of rank, bordered too much o_nelegance of mind. He could be no judge, however, of the evil he was holdin_heap. It was but an effusion of lively spirits.
At last he was persuaded to move on from the front of the Crown; and being no_lmost facing the house where the Bateses lodged, Emma recollected hi_ntended visit the day before, and asked him if he had paid it.
"Yes, oh! yes"—he replied; "I was just going to mention it. A very successfu_isit:—I saw all the three ladies; and felt very much obliged to you for you_reparatory hint. If the talking aunt had taken me quite by surprize, it mus_ave been the death of me. As it was, I was only betrayed into paying a mos_nreasonable visit. Ten minutes would have been all that was necessary, perhaps all that was proper; and I had told my father I should certainly be a_ome before him—but there was no getting away, no pause; and, to my utte_stonishment, I found, when he (finding me nowhere else) joined me there a_ast, that I had been actually sitting with them very nearly three-quarters o_n hour. The good lady had not given me the possibility of escape before."
"And how did you think Miss Fairfax looking?"
"Ill, very ill—that is, if a young lady can ever be allowed to look ill. Bu_he expression is hardly admissible, Mrs. Weston, is it? Ladies can never loo_ll. And, seriously, Miss Fairfax is naturally so pale, as almost always t_ive the appearance of ill health.— A most deplorable want of complexion."
Emma would not agree to this, and began a warm defence of Miss Fairfax'_omplexion. "It was certainly never brilliant, but she would not allow it t_ave a sickly hue in general; and there was a softness and delicacy in he_kin which gave peculiar elegance to the character of her face." He listene_ith all due deference; acknowledged that he had heard many people say th_ame—but yet he must confess, that to him nothing could make amends for th_ant of the fine glow of health. Where features were indifferent, a fin_omplexion gave beauty to them all; and where they were good, the effec_as—fortunately he need not attempt to describe what the effect was.
"Well," said Emma, "there is no disputing about taste.—At least you admire he_xcept her complexion."
He shook his head and laughed.—"I cannot separate Miss Fairfax and he_omplexion."
"Did you see her often at Weymouth? Were you often in the same society?"
At this moment they were approaching Ford's, and he hastily exclaimed, "Ha!
this must be the very shop that every body attends every day of their lives, as my father informs me. He comes to Highbury himself, he says, six days ou_f the seven, and has always business at Ford's. If it be not inconvenient t_ou, pray let us go in, that I may prove myself to belong to the place, to b_ true citizen of Highbury. I must buy something at Ford's. It will be takin_ut my freedom.— I dare say they sell gloves."
"Oh! yes, gloves and every thing. I do admire your patriotism. You will b_dored in Highbury. You were very popular before you came, because you wer_r. Weston's son—but lay out half a guinea at Ford's, and your popularity wil_tand upon your own virtues."
They went in; and while the sleek, well-tied parcels of "Men's Beavers" and
"York Tan" were bringing down and displaying on the counter, he said—"But _eg your pardon, Miss Woodhouse, you were speaking to me, you were sayin_omething at the very moment of this burst of my amor patriae. Do not let m_ose it. I assure you the utmost stretch of public fame would not make m_mends for the loss of any happiness in private life."
"I merely asked, whether you had known much of Miss Fairfax and her party a_eymouth."
"And now that I understand your question, I must pronounce it to be a ver_nfair one. It is always the lady's right to decide on the degree o_cquaintance. Miss Fairfax must already have given her account.— I shall no_ommit myself by claiming more than she may chuse to allow."
"Upon my word! you answer as discreetly as she could do herself. But he_ccount of every thing leaves so much to be guessed, she is so very reserved, so very unwilling to give the least information about any body, that I reall_hink you may say what you like of your acquaintance with her."
"May I, indeed?—Then I will speak the truth, and nothing suits me so well. _et her frequently at Weymouth. I had known the Campbells a little in town; and at Weymouth we were very much in the same set. Colonel Campbell is a ver_greeable man, and Mrs. Campbell a friendly, warm-hearted woman. I like the_ll."
"You know Miss Fairfax's situation in life, I conclude; what she is destine_o be?"
"Yes—(rather hesitatingly)—I believe I do."
"You get upon delicate subjects, Emma," said Mrs. Weston smiling; "remembe_hat I am here.—Mr. Frank Churchill hardly knows what to say when you speak o_iss Fairfax's situation in life. I will move a little farther off."
"I certainly do forget to think of her," said Emma, "as having ever been an_hing but my friend and my dearest friend."
He looked as if he fully understood and honoured such a sentiment.
When the gloves were bought, and they had quitted the shop again, "Did yo_ver hear the young lady we were speaking of, play?" said Frank Churchill.
"Ever hear her!" repeated Emma. "You forget how much she belongs to Highbury.
I have heard her every year of our lives since we both began. She play_harmingly."
"You think so, do you?—I wanted the opinion of some one who could reall_udge. She appeared to me to play well, that is, with considerable taste, bu_ know nothing of the matter myself.— I am excessively fond of music, bu_ithout the smallest skill or right of judging of any body's performance.—_ave been used to hear her's admired; and I remember one proof of her bein_hought to play well:—a man, a very musical man, and in love with anothe_oman—engaged to her—on the point of marriage— would yet never ask that othe_oman to sit down to the instrument, if the lady in question could sit dow_nstead—never seemed to like to hear one if he could hear the other. That, _hought, in a man of known musical talent, was some proof."
"Proof indeed!" said Emma, highly amused.—"Mr. Dixon is very musical, is he?
We shall know more about them all, in half an hour, from you, than Mis_airfax would have vouchsafed in half a year."
"Yes, Mr. Dixon and Miss Campbell were the persons; and I thought it a ver_trong proof."
"Certainly—very strong it was; to own the truth, a great deal stronger than, if I had been Miss Campbell, would have been at all agreeable to me. I coul_ot excuse a man's having more music than love—more ear than eye—a more acut_ensibility to fine sounds than to my feelings. How did Miss Campbell appea_o like it?"
"It was her very particular friend, you know."
"Poor comfort!" said Emma, laughing. "One would rather have a strange_referred than one's very particular friend—with a stranger it might not recu_gain—but the misery of having a very particular friend always at hand, to d_very thing better than one does oneself!— Poor Mrs. Dixon! Well, I am gla_he is gone to settle in Ireland."
"You are right. It was not very flattering to Miss Campbell; but she reall_id not seem to feel it."
"So much the better—or so much the worse:—I do not know which. But be i_weetness or be it stupidity in her—quickness of friendship, or dulness o_eeling—there was one person, I think, who must have felt it: Miss Fairfa_erself. She must have felt the improper and dangerous distinction."
"As to that—I do not—"
"Oh! do not imagine that I expect an account of Miss Fairfax's sensations fro_ou, or from any body else. They are known to no human being, I guess, bu_erself. But if she continued to play whenever she was asked by Mr. Dixon, on_ay guess what one chuses."
"There appeared such a perfectly good understanding among them all—" he bega_ather quickly, but checking himself, added, "however, it is impossible for m_o say on what terms they really were— how it might all be behind the scenes.
I can only say that there was smoothness outwardly. But you, who have know_iss Fairfax from a child, must be a better judge of her character, and of ho_he is likely to conduct herself in critical situations, than I can be."
"I have known her from a child, undoubtedly; we have been children and wome_ogether; and it is natural to suppose that we should be intimate,—that w_hould have taken to each other whenever she visited her friends. But we neve_id. I hardly know how it has happened; a little, perhaps, from tha_ickedness on my side which was prone to take disgust towards a girl s_dolized and so cried up as she always was, by her aunt and grandmother, an_ll their set. And then, her reserve—I never could attach myself to any one s_ompletely reserved."
"It is a most repulsive quality, indeed," said he. "Oftentimes ver_onvenient, no doubt, but never pleasing. There is safety in reserve, but n_ttraction. One cannot love a reserved person."
"Not till the reserve ceases towards oneself; and then the attraction may b_he greater. But I must be more in want of a friend, or an agreeabl_ompanion, than I have yet been, to take the trouble of conquering any body'_eserve to procure one. Intimacy between Miss Fairfax and me is quite out o_he question. I have no reason to think ill of her—not the least—except tha_uch extreme and perpetual cautiousness of word and manner, such a dread o_iving a distinct idea about any body, is apt to suggest suspicions of ther_eing something to conceal."
He perfectly agreed with her: and after walking together so long, and thinkin_o much alike, Emma felt herself so well acquainted with him, that she coul_ardly believe it to be only their second meeting. He was not exactly what sh_ad expected; less of the man of the world in some of his notions, less of th_poiled child of fortune, therefore better than she had expected. His idea_eemed more moderate— his feelings warmer. She was particularly struck by hi_anner of considering Mr. Elton's house, which, as well as the church, h_ould go and look at, and would not join them in finding much fault with. No, he could not believe it a bad house; not such a house as a man was to b_itied for having. If it were to be shared with the woman he loved, he coul_ot think any man to be pitied for having that house. There must be ample roo_n it for every real comfort. The man must be a blockhead who wanted more.
Mrs. Weston laughed, and said he did not know what he was talking about. Use_nly to a large house himself, and without ever thinking how many advantage_nd accommodations were attached to its size, he could be no judge of th_rivations inevitably belonging to a small one. But Emma, in her own mind, determined that he did know what he was talking about, and that he shewed _ery amiable inclination to settle early in life, and to marry, from worth_otives. He might not be aware of the inroads on domestic peace to b_ccasioned by no housekeeper's room, or a bad butler's pantry, but no doubt h_id perfectly feel that Enscombe could not make him happy, and that wheneve_e were attached, he would willingly give up much of wealth to be allowed a_arly establishment.