The wretchedness of a scheme to Box Hill was in Emma's thoughts all th_vening. How it might be considered by the rest of the party, she could no_ell. They, in their different homes, and their different ways, might b_ooking back on it with pleasure; but in her view it was a morning mor_ompletely misspent, more totally bare of rational satisfaction at the time,
and more to be abhorred in recollection, than any she had ever passed. A whol_vening of back-gammon with her father, was felicity to it. There, indeed, la_eal pleasure, for there she was giving up the sweetest hours of the twenty-
four to his comfort; and feeling that, unmerited as might be the degree of hi_ond affection and confiding esteem, she could not, in her general conduct, b_pen to any severe reproach. As a daughter, she hoped she was not without _eart. She hoped no one could have said to her, "How could you be so unfeelin_o your father?— I must, I will tell you truths while I can." Miss Bate_hould never again—no, never! If attention, in future, could do away the past,
she might hope to be forgiven. She had been often remiss, her conscience tol_er so; remiss, perhaps, more in thought than fact; scornful, ungracious. Bu_t should be so no more. In the warmth of true contrition, she would call upo_er the very next morning, and it should be the beginning, on her side, of _egular, equal, kindly intercourse.
She was just as determined when the morrow came, and went early, that nothin_ight prevent her. It was not unlikely, she thought, that she might see Mr.
Knightley in her way; or, perhaps, he might come in while she were paying he_isit. She had no objection. She would not be ashamed of the appearance of th_enitence, so justly and truly hers. Her eyes were towards Donwell as sh_alked, but she saw him not.
"The ladies were all at home." She had never rejoiced at the sound before, no_ver before entered the passage, nor walked up the stairs, with any wish o_iving pleasure, but in conferring obligation, or of deriving it, except i_ubsequent ridicule.
There was a bustle on her approach; a good deal of moving and talking. Sh_eard Miss Bates's voice, something was to be done in a hurry; the maid looke_rightened and awkward; hoped she would be pleased to wait a moment, and the_shered her in too soon. The aunt and niece seemed both escaping into th_djoining room. Jane she had a distinct glimpse of, looking extremely ill;
and, before the door had shut them out, she heard Miss Bates saying, "Well, m_ear, I shall say you are laid down upon the bed, and I am sure you are il_nough."
Poor old Mrs. Bates, civil and humble as usual, looked as if she did not quit_nderstand what was going on.
"I am afraid Jane is not very well," said she, "but I do not know; they tel_e she is well. I dare say my daughter will be here presently, Miss Woodhouse.
I hope you find a chair. I wish Hetty had not gone. I am very little able—Hav_ou a chair, ma'am? Do you sit where you like? I am sure she will be her_resently."
Emma seriously hoped she would. She had a moment's fear of Miss Bates keepin_way from her. But Miss Bates soon came—"Very happy and obliged"—but Emma'_onscience told her that there was not the same cheerful volubility a_efore—less ease of look and manner. A very friendly inquiry after Mis_airfax, she hoped, might lead the way to a return of old feelings. The touc_eemed immediate.
"Ah! Miss Woodhouse, how kind you are!—I suppose you have heard— and are com_o give us joy. This does not seem much like joy, indeed, in me—(twinklin_way a tear or two)—but it will be very trying for us to part with her, afte_aving had her so long, and she has a dreadful headache just now, writing al_he morning:— such long letters, you know, to be written to Colonel Campbell,
and Mrs. Dixon. `My dear,' said I, `you will blind yourself'— for tears wer_n her eyes perpetually. One cannot wonder, one cannot wonder. It is a grea_hange; and though she is amazingly fortunate—such a situation, I suppose, a_o young woman before ever met with on first going out—do not think u_ngrateful, Miss Woodhouse, for such surprising good fortune—(again dispersin_er tears)—but, poor dear soul! if you were to see what a headache she has.
When one is in great pain, you know one cannot feel any blessing quite as i_ay deserve. She is as low as possible. To look at her, nobody would think ho_elighted and happy she is to have secured such a situation. You will excus_er not coming to you—she is not able—she is gone into her own room— I wan_er to lie down upon the bed. `My dear,' said I, `I shall say you are lai_own upon the bed:' but, however, she is not; she is walking about the room.
But, now that she has written her letters, she says she shall soon be well.
She will be extremely sorry to miss seeing you, Miss Woodhouse, but you_indness will excuse her. You were kept waiting at the door—I was quit_shamed— but somehow there was a little bustle—for it so happened that we ha_ot heard the knock, and till you were on the stairs, we did not know any bod_as coming. `It is only Mrs. Cole,' said I, `depend upon it. Nobody else woul_ome so early.' `Well,' said she, `it must be borne some time or other, and i_ay as well be now.' But then Patty came in, and said it was you. `Oh!' sai_, `it is Miss Woodhouse: I am sure you will like to see her.'— `I can se_obody,' said she; and up she got, and would go away; and that was what mad_s keep you waiting—and extremely sorry and ashamed we were. `If you must go,
my dear,' said I, `you must, and I will say you are laid down upon the bed.'"
Emma was most sincerely interested. Her heart had been long growing kinde_owards Jane; and this picture of her present sufferings acted as a cure o_very former ungenerous suspicion, and left her nothing but pity; and th_emembrance of the less just and less gentle sensations of the past, oblige_er to admit that Jane might very naturally resolve on seeing Mrs. Cole or an_ther steady friend, when she might not bear to see herself. She spoke as sh_elt, with earnest regret and solicitude—sincerely wishing that th_ircumstances which she collected from Miss Bates to be now actuall_etermined on, might be as much for Miss Fairfax's advantage and comfort a_ossible. "It must be a severe trial to them all. She had understood it was t_e delayed till Colonel Campbell's return."
"So very kind!" replied Miss Bates. "But you are always kind."
There was no bearing such an "always;" and to break through her dreadfu_ratitude, Emma made the direct inquiry of—
"Where—may I ask?—is Miss Fairfax going?"
"To a Mrs. Smallridge—charming woman—most superior—to have the charge of he_hree little girls—delightful children. Impossible that any situation could b_ore replete with comfort; if we except, perhaps, Mrs. Suckling's own family,
and Mrs. Bragge's; but Mrs. Smallridge is intimate with both, and in the ver_ame neighbourhood:—lives only four miles from Maple Grove. Jane will be onl_our miles from Maple Grove."
"Mrs. Elton, I suppose, has been the person to whom Miss Fairfax owes—"
"Yes, our good Mrs. Elton. The most indefatigable, true friend. She would no_ake a denial. She would not let Jane say, `No;' for when Jane first heard o_t, (it was the day before yesterday, the very morning we were at Donwell,)
when Jane first heard of it, she was quite decided against accepting th_ffer, and for the reasons you mention; exactly as you say, she had made u_er mind to close with nothing till Colonel Campbell's return, and nothin_hould induce her to enter into any engagement at present—and so she told Mrs.
Elton over and over again—and I am sure I had no more idea that she woul_hange her mind!—but that good Mrs. Elton, whose judgment never fails her, sa_arther than I did. It is not every body that would have stood out in such _ind way as she did, and refuse to take Jane's answer; but she positivel_eclared she would not write any such denial yesterday, as Jane wished her;
she would wait—and, sure enough, yesterday evening it was all settled tha_ane should go. Quite a surprize to me! I had not the least idea!—Jane too_rs. Elton aside, and told her at once, that upon thinking over the advantage_f Mrs. Smallridge's situation, she had come to the resolution of acceptin_t.—I did not know a word of it till it was all settled."
"You spent the evening with Mrs. Elton?"
"Yes, all of us; Mrs. Elton would have us come. It was settled so, upon th_ill, while we were walking about with Mr. Knightley. `You must all spend you_vening with us,' said she—`I positively must have you all come.'"
"Mr. Knightley was there too, was he?"
"No, not Mr. Knightley; he declined it from the first; and though I thought h_ould come, because Mrs. Elton declared she would not let him off, he di_ot;—but my mother, and Jane, and I, were all there, and a very agreeabl_vening we had. Such kind friends, you know, Miss Woodhouse, one must alway_ind agreeable, though every body seemed rather fagged after the morning'_arty. Even pleasure, you know, is fatiguing—and I cannot say that any of the_eemed very much to have enjoyed it. However, I shall always think it a ver_leasant party, and feel extremely obliged to the kind friends who included m_n it."
"Miss Fairfax, I suppose, though you were not aware of it, had been making u_er mind the whole day?"
"I dare say she had."
"Whenever the time may come, it must be unwelcome to her and all he_riends—but I hope her engagement will have every alleviation that i_ossible—I mean, as to the character and manners of the family."
"Thank you, dear Miss Woodhouse. Yes, indeed, there is every thing in th_orld that can make her happy in it. Except the Sucklings and Bragges, ther_s not such another nursery establishment, so liberal and elegant, in all Mrs.
Elton's acquaintance. Mrs. Smallridge, a most delightful woman!—A style o_iving almost equal to Maple Grove—and as to the children, except the littl_ucklings and little Bragges, there are not such elegant sweet childre_nywhere. Jane will be treated with such regard and kindness!— It will b_othing but pleasure, a life of pleasure.—And her salary!— I really canno_enture to name her salary to you, Miss Woodhouse. Even you, used as you ar_o great sums, would hardly believe that so much could be given to a youn_erson like Jane."
"Ah! madam," cried Emma, "if other children are at all like what I remember t_ave been myself, I should think five times the amount of what I have ever ye_eard named as a salary on such occasions, dearly earned."
"You are so noble in your ideas!"
"And when is Miss Fairfax to leave you?"
"Very soon, very soon, indeed; that's the worst of it. Within a fortnight.
Mrs. Smallridge is in a great hurry. My poor mother does not know how to bea_t. So then, I try to put it out of her thoughts, and say, Come ma'am, do no_et us think about it any more."
"Her friends must all be sorry to lose her; and will not Colonel and Mrs.
Campbell be sorry to find that she has engaged herself before their return?"
"Yes; Jane says she is sure they will; but yet, this is such a situation a_he cannot feel herself justified in declining. I was so astonished when sh_irst told me what she had been saying to Mrs. Elton, and when Mrs. Elton a_he same moment came congratulating me upon it! It was before tea—stay—no, i_ould not be before tea, because we were just going to cards—and yet it wa_efore tea, because I remember thinking—Oh! no, now I recollect, now I hav_t; something happened before tea, but not that. Mr. Elton was called out o_he room before tea, old John Abdy's son wanted to speak with him. Poor ol_ohn, I have a great regard for him; he was clerk to my poor father twenty-
seven years; and now, poor old man, he is bed-ridden, and very poorly with th_heumatic gout in his joints— I must go and see him to-day; and so will Jane,
I am sure, if she gets out at all. And poor John's son came to talk to Mr.
Elton about relief from the parish; he is very well to do himself, you know,
being head man at the Crown, ostler, and every thing of that sort, but stil_e cannot keep his father without some help; and so, when Mr. Elton came back,
he told us what John ostler had been telling him, and then it came out abou_he chaise having been sent to Randalls to take Mr. Frank Churchill t_ichmond. That was what happened before tea. It was after tea that Jane spok_o Mrs. Elton."
Miss Bates would hardly give Emma time to say how perfectly new thi_ircumstance was to her; but as without supposing it possible that she coul_e ignorant of any of the particulars of Mr. Frank Churchill's going, sh_roceeded to give them all, it was of no consequence.
What Mr. Elton had learned from the ostler on the subject, being th_ccumulation of the ostler's own knowledge, and the knowledge of the servant_t Randalls, was, that a messenger had come over from Richmond soon after th_eturn of the party from Box Hill— which messenger, however, had been no mor_han was expected; and that Mr. Churchill had sent his nephew a few lines,
containing, upon the whole, a tolerable account of Mrs. Churchill, and onl_ishing him not to delay coming back beyond the next morning early; but tha_r. Frank Churchill having resolved to go home directly, without waiting a_ll, and his horse seeming to have got a cold, Tom had been sent of_mmediately for the Crown chaise, and the ostler had stood out and seen i_ass by, the boy going a good pace, and driving very steady.
There was nothing in all this either to astonish or interest, and it caugh_mma's attention only as it united with the subject which already engaged he_ind. The contrast between Mrs. Churchill's importance in the world, and Jan_airfax's, struck her; one was every thing, the other nothing—and she sa_using on the difference of woman's destiny, and quite unconscious on what he_yes were fixed, till roused by Miss Bates's saying,
"Aye, I see what you are thinking of, the pianoforte. What is to become o_hat?—Very true. Poor dear Jane was talking of it just now.— `You must go,'
said she. `You and I must part. You will have no business here.—Let it stay,
however,' said she; `give it houseroom till Colonel Campbell comes back. _hall talk about it to him; he will settle for me; he will help me out of al_y difficulties.'— And to this day, I do believe, she knows not whether it wa_is present or his daughter's."
Now Emma was obliged to think of the pianoforte; and the remembrance of al_er former fanciful and unfair conjectures was so little pleasing, that sh_oon allowed herself to believe her visit had been long enough; and, with _epetition of every thing that she could venture to say of the good wishe_hich she really felt, took leave.