Emma's very good opinion of Frank Churchill was a little shaken the followin_ay, by hearing that he was gone off to London, merely to have his hair cut. _udden freak seemed to have seized him at breakfast, and he had sent for _haise and set off, intending to return to dinner, but with no more importan_iew that appeared than having his hair cut. There was certainly no harm i_is travelling sixteen miles twice over on such an errand; but there was a_ir of foppery and nonsense in it which she could not approve. It did no_ccord with the rationality of plan, the moderation in expense, or even th_nselfish warmth of heart, which she had believed herself to discern in hi_esterday. Vanity, extravagance, love of change, restlessness of temper, whic_ust be doing something, good or bad; heedlessness as to the pleasure of hi_ather and Mrs. Weston, indifferent as to how his conduct might appear i_eneral; he became liable to all these charges. His father only called him _oxcomb, and thought it a very good story; but that Mrs. Weston did not lik_t, was clear enough, by her passing it over as quickly as possible, an_aking no other comment than that "all young people would have their littl_hims."
With the exception of this little blot, Emma found that his visit hitherto ha_iven her friend only good ideas of him. Mrs. Weston was very ready to say ho_ttentive and pleasant a companion he made himself—how much she saw to like i_is disposition altogether. He appeared to have a very open temper—certainly _ery cheerful and lively one; she could observe nothing wrong in his notions,
a great deal decidedly right; he spoke of his uncle with warm regard, was fon_f talking of him—said he would be the best man in the world if he were lef_o himself; and though there was no being attached to the aunt, h_cknowledged her kindness with gratitude, and seemed to mean always to spea_f her with respect. This was all very promising; and, but for such a_nfortunate fancy for having his hair cut, there was nothing to denote hi_nworthy of the distinguished honour which her imagination had given him; th_onour, if not of being really in love with her, of being at least very nea_t, and saved only by her own indifference— (for still her resolution held o_ever marrying)—the honour, in short, of being marked out for her by all thei_oint acquaintance.
Mr. Weston, on his side, added a virtue to the account which must have som_eight. He gave her to understand that Frank admired her extremely—thought he_ery beautiful and very charming; and with so much to be said for hi_ltogether, she found she must not judge him harshly. As Mrs. Weston observed,
"all young people would have their little whims."
There was one person among his new acquaintance in Surry, not so lenientl_isposed. In general he was judged, throughout the parishes of Donwell an_ighbury, with great candour; liberal allowances were made for the littl_xcesses of such a handsome young man— one who smiled so often and bowed s_ell; but there was one spirit among them not to be softened, from its powe_f censure, by bows or smiles—Mr. Knightley. The circumstance was told him a_artfield; for the moment, he was silent; but Emma heard him almos_mmediately afterwards say to himself, over a newspaper he held in his hand,
"Hum! just the trifling, silly fellow I took him for." She had half a mind t_esent; but an instant's observation convinced her that it was really sai_nly to relieve his own feelings, and not meant to provoke; and therefore sh_et it pass.
Although in one instance the bearers of not good tidings, Mr. and Mrs.
Weston's visit this morning was in another respect particularly opportune.
Something occurred while they were at Hartfield, to make Emma want thei_dvice; and, which was still more lucky, she wanted exactly the advice the_ave.
This was the occurrence:—The Coles had been settled some years in Highbury,
and were very good sort of people—friendly, liberal, and unpretending; but, o_he other hand, they were of low origin, in trade, and only moderatel_enteel. On their first coming into the country, they had lived in proportio_o their income, quietly, keeping little company, and that littl_nexpensively; but the last year or two had brought them a considerabl_ncrease of means— the house in town had yielded greater profits, and fortun_n general had smiled on them. With their wealth, their views increased; thei_ant of a larger house, their inclination for more company. They added t_heir house, to their number of servants, to their expenses of every sort; an_y this time were, in fortune and style of living, second only to the famil_t Hartfield. Their love of society, and their new dining-room, prepared ever_ody for their keeping dinner-company; and a few parties, chiefly among th_ingle men, had already taken place. The regular and best families Emma coul_ardly suppose they would presume to invite— neither Donwell, nor Hartfield,
nor Randalls. Nothing should tempt her to go, if they did; and she regrette_hat her father's known habits would be giving her refusal less meaning tha_he could wish. The Coles were very respectable in their way, but they ough_o be taught that it was not for them to arrange the terms on which th_uperior families would visit them. This lesson, she very much feared, the_ould receive only from herself; she had little hope of Mr. Knightley, none o_r. Weston.
But she had made up her mind how to meet this presumption so many weeks befor_t appeared, that when the insult came at last, it found her very differentl_ffected. Donwell and Randalls had received their invitation, and none ha_ome for her father and herself; and Mrs. Weston's accounting for it with "_uppose they will not take the liberty with you; they know you do not din_ut," was not quite sufficient. She felt that she should like to have had th_ower of refusal; and afterwards, as the idea of the party to be assemble_here, consisting precisely of those whose society was dearest to her,
occurred again and again, she did not know that she might not have bee_empted to accept. Harriet was to be there in the evening, and the Bateses.
They had been speaking of it as they walked about Highbury the day before, an_rank Churchill had most earnestly lamented her absence. Might not the evenin_nd in a dance? had been a question of his. The bare possibility of it acte_s a farther irritation on her spirits; and her being left in solitar_randeur, even supposing the omission to be intended as a compliment, was bu_oor comfort.
It was the arrival of this very invitation while the Westons were a_artfield, which made their presence so acceptable; for though her firs_emark, on reading it, was that "of course it must be declined," she so ver_oon proceeded to ask them what they advised her to do, that their advice fo_er going was most prompt and successful.
She owned that, considering every thing, she was not absolutely withou_nclination for the party. The Coles expressed themselves so properly—ther_as so much real attention in the manner of it— so much consideration for he_ather. "They would have solicited the honour earlier, but had been waitin_he arrival of a folding-screen from London, which they hoped might keep Mr.
Woodhouse from any draught of air, and therefore induce him the more readil_o give them the honour of his company." Upon the whole, she was ver_ersuadable; and it being briefly settled among themselves how it might b_one without neglecting his comfort—how certainly Mrs. Goddard, if not Mrs.
Bates, might be depended on for bearing him company— Mr. Woodhouse was to b_alked into an acquiescence of his daughter's going out to dinner on a day no_ear at hand, and spending the whole evening away from him. As for his going,
Emma did not wish him to think it possible, the hours would be too late, an_he party too numerous. He was soon pretty well resigned.
"I am not fond of dinner-visiting," said he—"I never was. No more is Emma.
Late hours do not agree with us. I am sorry Mr. and Mrs. Cole should have don_t. I think it would be much better if they would come in one afternoon nex_ummer, and take their tea with us—take us in their afternoon walk; which the_ight do, as our hours are so reasonable, and yet get home without being ou_n the damp of the evening. The dews of a summer evening are what I would no_xpose any body to. However, as they are so very desirous to have dear Emm_ine with them, and as you will both be there, and Mr. Knightley too, to tak_are of her, I cannot wish to prevent it, provided the weather be what i_ught, neither damp, nor cold, nor windy." Then turning to Mrs. Weston, with _ook of gentle reproach—"Ah! Miss Taylor, if you had not married, you woul_ave staid at home with me."
"Well, sir," cried Mr. Weston, "as I took Miss Taylor away, it is incumbent o_e to supply her place, if I can; and I will step to Mrs. Goddard in a moment,
if you wish it."
But the idea of any thing to be done in a moment, was increasing, no_essening, Mr. Woodhouse's agitation. The ladies knew better how to allay it.
Mr. Weston must be quiet, and every thing deliberately arranged.
With this treatment, Mr. Woodhouse was soon composed enough for talking a_sual. "He should be happy to see Mrs. Goddard. He had a great regard for Mrs.
Goddard; and Emma should write a line, and invite her. James could take th_ote. But first of all, there must be an answer written to Mrs. Cole."
"You will make my excuses, my dear, as civilly as possible. You will say tha_ am quite an invalid, and go no where, and therefore must decline thei_bliging invitation; beginning with my compliments, of course. But you will d_very thing right. I need not tell you what is to be done. We must remember t_et James know that the carriage will be wanted on Tuesday. I shall have n_ears for you with him. We have never been there above once since the ne_pproach was made; but still I have no doubt that James will take you ver_afely. And when you get there, you must tell him at what time you would hav_im come for you again; and you had better name an early hour. You will no_ike staying late. You will get very tired when tea is over."
"But you would not wish me to come away before I am tired, papa?"
"Oh! no, my love; but you will soon be tired. There will be a great man_eople talking at once. You will not like the noise."
"But, my dear sir," cried Mr. Weston, "if Emma comes away early, it will b_reaking up the party."
"And no great harm if it does," said Mr. Woodhouse. "The sooner every part_reaks up, the better."
"But you do not consider how it may appear to the Coles. Emma's going awa_irectly after tea might be giving offence. They are good-natured people, an_hink little of their own claims; but still they must feel that any body'_urrying away is no great compliment; and Miss Woodhouse's doing it would b_ore thought of than any other person's in the room. You would not wish t_isappoint and mortify the Coles, I am sure, sir; friendly, good sort o_eople as ever lived, and who have been your neighbours these ten years."
"No, upon no account in the world, Mr. Weston; I am much obliged to you fo_eminding me. I should be extremely sorry to be giving them any pain. I kno_hat worthy people they are. Perry tells me that Mr. Cole never touches mal_iquor. You would not think it to look at him, but he is bilious—Mr. Cole i_ery bilious. No, I would not be the means of giving them any pain. My dea_mma, we must consider this. I am sure, rather than run the risk of hurtin_r. and Mrs. Cole, you would stay a little longer than you might wish. Yo_ill not regard being tired. You will be perfectly safe, you know, among you_riends."
"Oh yes, papa. I have no fears at all for myself; and I should have n_cruples of staying as late as Mrs. Weston, but on your account. I am onl_fraid of your sitting up for me. I am not afraid of your not bein_xceedingly comfortable with Mrs. Goddard. She loves piquet, you know; bu_hen she is gone home, I am afraid you will be sitting up by yourself, instea_f going to bed at your usual time—and the idea of that would entirely destro_y comfort. You must promise me not to sit up."
He did, on the condition of some promises on her side: such as that, if sh_ame home cold, she would be sure to warm herself thoroughly; if hungry, tha_he would take something to eat; that her own maid should sit up for her; an_hat Serle and the butler should see that every thing were safe in the house,