Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 6

  • 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.