Emma did not repent her condescension in going to the Coles. The visi_fforded her many pleasant recollections the next day; and all that she migh_e supposed to have lost on the side of dignified seclusion, must be ampl_epaid in the splendour of popularity. She must have delighted th_oles—worthy people, who deserved to be made happy!—And left a name behind he_hat would not soon die away.
Perfect happiness, even in memory, is not common; and there were two points o_hich she was not quite easy. She doubted whether she had not transgressed th_uty of woman by woman, in betraying her suspicions of Jane Fairfax's feeling_o Frank Churchill. It was hardly right; but it had been so strong an idea, that it would escape her, and his submission to all that she told, was _ompliment to her penetration, which made it difficult for her to be quit_ertain that she ought to have held her tongue.
The other circumstance of regret related also to Jane Fairfax; and there sh_ad no doubt. She did unfeignedly and unequivocally regret the inferiority o_er own playing and singing. She did most heartily grieve over the idleness o_er childhood—and sat down and practised vigorously an hour and a half.
She was then interrupted by Harriet's coming in; and if Harriet's praise coul_ave satisfied her, she might soon have been comforted.
"Oh! if I could but play as well as you and Miss Fairfax!"
"Don't class us together, Harriet. My playing is no more like her's, than _amp is like sunshine."
"Oh! dear—I think you play the best of the two. I think you play quite as wel_s she does. I am sure I had much rather hear you. Every body last night sai_ow well you played."
"Those who knew any thing about it, must have felt the difference. The trut_s, Harriet, that my playing is just good enough to be praised, but Jan_airfax's is much beyond it."
"Well, I always shall think that you play quite as well as she does, or tha_f there is any difference nobody would ever find it out. Mr. Cole said ho_uch taste you had; and Mr. Frank Churchill talked a great deal about you_aste, and that he valued taste much more than execution."
"Ah! but Jane Fairfax has them both, Harriet."
"Are you sure? I saw she had execution, but I did not know she had any taste.
Nobody talked about it. And I hate Italian singing.— There is no understandin_ word of it. Besides, if she does play so very well, you know, it is no mor_han she is obliged to do, because she will have to teach. The Coxes wer_ondering last night whether she would get into any great family. How did yo_hink the Coxes looked?"
"Just as they always do—very vulgar."
"They told me something," said Harriet rather hesitatingly;" but it is nothin_f any consequence."
Emma was obliged to ask what they had told her, though fearful of it_roducing Mr. Elton.
"They told me—that Mr. Martin dined with them last Saturday."
"He came to their father upon some business, and he asked him to stay t_inner."
"They talked a great deal about him, especially Anne Cox. I do not know wha_he meant, but she asked me if I thought I should go and stay there again nex_ummer."
"She meant to be impertinently curious, just as such an Anne Cox should be."
"She said he was very agreeable the day he dined there. He sat by her a_inner. Miss Nash thinks either of the Coxes would be very glad to marry him."
"Very likely.—I think they are, without exception, the most vulgar girls i_ighbury."
Harriet had business at Ford's.—Emma thought it most prudent to go with her.
Another accidental meeting with the Martins was possible, and in her presen_tate, would be dangerous.
Harriet, tempted by every thing and swayed by half a word, was always ver_ong at a purchase; and while she was still hanging over muslins and changin_er mind, Emma went to the door for amusement.—Much could not be hoped fro_he traffic of even the busiest part of Highbury;— Mr. Perry walking hastil_y, Mr. William Cox letting himself in at the office-door, Mr. Cole'_arriage-horses returning from exercise, or a stray letter-boy on an obstinat_ule, were the liveliest objects she could presume to expect; and when he_yes fell only on the butcher with his tray, a tidy old woman travellin_omewards from shop with her full basket, two curs quarrelling over a dirt_one, and a string of dawdling children round the baker's little bow-windo_yeing the gingerbread, she knew she had no reason to complain, and was amuse_nough; quite enough still to stand at the door. A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer.
She looked down the Randalls road. The scene enlarged; two persons appeared; Mrs. Weston and her son-in-law; they were walking into Highbury;—to Hartfiel_f course. They were stopping, however, in the first place at Mrs. Bates's; whose house was a little nearer Randalls than Ford's; and had all but knocked, when Emma caught their eye.—Immediately they crossed the road and came forwar_o her; and the agreeableness of yesterday's engagement seemed to give fres_leasure to the present meeting. Mrs. Weston informed her that she was goin_o call on the Bateses, in order to hear the new instrument.
"For my companion tells me," said she, "that I absolutely promised Miss Bate_ast night, that I would come this morning. I was not aware of it myself. _id not know that I had fixed a day, but as he says I did, I am going now."
"And while Mrs. Weston pays her visit, I may be allowed, I hope," said Fran_hurchill, "to join your party and wait for her at Hartfield— if you are goin_ome."
Mrs. Weston was disappointed.
"I thought you meant to go with me. They would be very much pleased."
"Me! I should be quite in the way. But, perhaps—I may be equally in the wa_ere. Miss Woodhouse looks as if she did not want me. My aunt always sends m_ff when she is shopping. She says I fidget her to death; and Miss Woodhous_ooks as if she could almost say the same. What am I to do?"
"I am here on no business of my own," said Emma; "I am only waiting for m_riend. She will probably have soon done, and then we shall go home. But yo_ad better go with Mrs. Weston and hear the instrument."
"Well—if you advise it.—But (with a smile) if Colonel Campbell should hav_mployed a careless friend, and if it should prove to have an indifferen_one—what shall I say? I shall be no support to Mrs. Weston. She might do ver_ell by herself. A disagreeable truth would be palatable through her lips, bu_ am the wretchedest being in the world at a civil falsehood."
"I do not believe any such thing," replied Emma.—"I am persuaded that you ca_e as insincere as your neighbours, when it is necessary; but there is n_eason to suppose the instrument is indifferent. Quite otherwise indeed, if _nderstood Miss Fairfax's opinion last night."
"Do come with me," said Mrs. Weston, "if it be not very disagreeable to you.
It need not detain us long. We will go to Hartfield afterwards. We will follo_hem to Hartfield. I really wish you to call with me. It will be felt so grea_n attention! and I always thought you meant it."
He could say no more; and with the hope of Hartfield to reward him, returne_ith Mrs. Weston to Mrs. Bates's door. Emma watched them in, and then joine_arriet at the interesting counter,—trying, with all the force of her ow_ind, to convince her that if she wanted plain muslin it was of no use to loo_t figured; and that a blue ribbon, be it ever so beautiful, would still neve_atch her yellow pattern. At last it was all settled, even to the destinatio_f the parcel.
"Should I send it to Mrs. Goddard's, ma'am?" asked Mrs. Ford.— "Yes—no—yes, t_rs. Goddard's. Only my pattern gown is at Hartfield. No, you shall send it t_artfield, if you please. But then, Mrs. Goddard will want to see it.—And _ould take the pattern gown home any day. But I shall want the ribbo_irectly— so it had better go to Hartfield—at least the ribbon. You could mak_t into two parcels, Mrs. Ford, could not you?"
"It is not worth while, Harriet, to give Mrs. Ford the trouble of tw_arcels."
"No more it is."
"No trouble in the world, ma'am," said the obliging Mrs. Ford.
"Oh! but indeed I would much rather have it only in one. Then, if you please, you shall send it all to Mrs. Goddard's— I do not know—No, I think, Mis_oodhouse, I may just as well have it sent to Hartfield, and take it home wit_e at night. What do you advise?"
"That you do not give another half-second to the subject. To Hartfield, if yo_lease, Mrs. Ford."
"Aye, that will be much best," said Harriet, quite satisfied, "I should not a_ll like to have it sent to Mrs. Goddard's."
Voices approached the shop—or rather one voice and two ladies: Mrs. Weston an_iss Bates met them at the door.
"My dear Miss Woodhouse," said the latter, "I am just run across to entrea_he favour of you to come and sit down with us a little while, and give u_our opinion of our new instrument; you and Miss Smith. How do you do, Mis_mith?—Very well I thank you.—And I begged Mrs. Weston to come with me, that _ight be sure of succeeding."
"I hope Mrs. Bates and Miss Fairfax are—"
"Very well, I am much obliged to you. My mother is delightfully well; and Jan_aught no cold last night. How is Mr. Woodhouse?—I am so glad to hear such _ood account. Mrs. Weston told me you were here.— Oh! then, said I, I must ru_cross, I am sure Miss Woodhouse will allow me just to run across and entrea_er to come in; my mother will be so very happy to see her—and now we are suc_ nice party, she cannot refuse.—`Aye, pray do,' said Mr. Frank Churchill, `Miss Woodhouse's opinion of the instrument will be worth having.'— But, sai_, I shall be more sure of succeeding if one of you will go with me.—`Oh,'
said he, `wait half a minute, till I have finished my job;'—For, would yo_elieve it, Miss Woodhouse, there he is, in the most obliging manner in th_orld, fastening in the rivet of my mother's spectacles.—The rivet came out, you know, this morning.— So very obliging!—For my mother had no use of he_pectacles— could not put them on. And, by the bye, every body ought to hav_wo pair of spectacles; they should indeed. Jane said so. I meant to take the_ver to John Saunders the first thing I did, but something or other hindere_e all the morning; first one thing, then another, there is no saying what, you know. At one time Patty came to say she thought the kitchen chimney wante_weeping. Oh, said I, Patty do not come with your bad news to me. Here is th_ivet of your mistress's spectacles out. Then the baked apples came home, Mrs.
Wallis sent them by her boy; they are extremely civil and obliging to us, th_allises, always—I have heard some people say that Mrs. Wallis can be uncivi_nd give a very rude answer, but we have never known any thing but th_reatest attention from them. And it cannot be for the value of our custo_ow, for what is our consumption of bread, you know? Only three of us.— besides dear Jane at present—and she really eats nothing—makes such a shockin_reakfast, you would be quite frightened if you saw it. I dare not let m_other know how little she eats—so I say one thing and then I say another, an_t passes off. But about the middle of the day she gets hungry, and there i_othing she likes so well as these baked apples, and they are extremel_holesome, for I took the opportunity the other day of asking Mr. Perry; _appened to meet him in the street. Not that I had any doubt before— I have s_ften heard Mr. Woodhouse recommend a baked apple. I believe it is the onl_ay that Mr. Woodhouse thinks the fruit thoroughly wholesome. We have apple- dumplings, however, very often. Patty makes an excellent apple-dumpling. Well, Mrs. Weston, you have prevailed, I hope, and these ladies will oblige us."
Emma would be "very happy to wait on Mrs. Bates, &c.," and they did at las_ove out of the shop, with no farther delay from Miss Bates than,
"How do you do, Mrs. Ford? I beg your pardon. I did not see you before. I hea_ou have a charming collection of new ribbons from town. Jane came bac_elighted yesterday. Thank ye, the gloves do very well—only a little too larg_bout the wrist; but Jane is taking them in."
"What was I talking of?" said she, beginning again when they were all in th_treet.
Emma wondered on what, of all the medley, she would fix.
"I declare I cannot recollect what I was talking of.—Oh! my mother'_pectacles. So very obliging of Mr. Frank Churchill! `Oh!' said he, `I d_hink I can fasten the rivet; I like a job of this kind excessively.'—Whic_ou know shewed him to be so very… . Indeed I must say that, much as I ha_eard of him before and much as I had expected, he very far exceeds any thing… . I do congratulate you, Mrs. Weston, most warmly. He seems every thing th_ondest parent could… . `Oh!' said he, `I can fasten the rivet. I like a jo_f that sort excessively.' I never shall forget his manner. And when I brough_ut the baked apples from the closet, and hoped our friends would be so ver_bliging as to take some, `Oh!' said he directly, `there is nothing in the wa_f fruit half so good, and these are the finest-looking home-baked apples _ver saw in my life.' That, you know, was so very… . And I am sure, by hi_anner, it was no compliment. Indeed they are very delightful apples, and Mrs.
Wallis does them full justice—only we do not have them baked more than twice, and Mr. Woodhouse made us promise to have them done three times— but Mis_oodhouse will be so good as not to mention it. The apples themselves are th_ery finest sort for baking, beyond a doubt; all from Donwell—some of Mr.
Knightley's most liberal supply. He sends us a sack every year; and certainl_here never was such a keeping apple anywhere as one of his trees—I believ_here is two of them. My mother says the orchard was always famous in he_ounger days. But I was really quite shocked the other day— for Mr. Knightle_alled one morning, and Jane was eating these apples, and we talked about the_nd said how much she enjoyed them, and he asked whether we were not got t_he end of our stock. `I am sure you must be,' said he, `and I will send yo_nother supply; for I have a great many more than I can ever use. Willia_arkins let me keep a larger quantity than usual this year. I will send yo_ome more, before they get good for nothing.' So I begged he would not—fo_eally as to ours being gone, I could not absolutely say that we had a grea_any left—it was but half a dozen indeed; but they should be all kept fo_ane; and I could not at all bear that he should be sending us more, s_iberal as he had been already; and Jane said the same. And when he was gone, she almost quarrelled with me—No, I should not say quarrelled, for we neve_ad a quarrel in our lives; but she was quite distressed that I had owned th_pples were so nearly gone; she wished I had made him believe we had a grea_any left. Oh, said I, my dear, I did say as much as I could. However, th_ery same evening William Larkins came over with a large basket of apples, th_ame sort of apples, a bushel at least, and I was very much obliged, and wen_own and spoke to William Larkins and said every thing, as you may suppose.
William Larkins is such an old acquaintance! I am always glad to see him. But, however, I found afterwards from Patty, that William said it was all th_pples of that sort his master had; he had brought them all—and now his maste_ad not one left to bake or boil. William did not seem to mind it himself, h_as so pleased to think his master had sold so many; for William, you know, thinks more of his master's profit than any thing; but Mrs. Hodges, he said, was quite displeased at their being all sent away. She could not bear that he_aster should not be able to have another apple-tart this spring. He tol_atty this, but bid her not mind it, and be sure not to say any thing to u_bout it, for Mrs. Hodges would be cross sometimes, and as long as so man_acks were sold, it did not signify who ate the remainder. And so Patty tol_e, and I was excessively shocked indeed! I would not have Mr. Knightley kno_ny thing about it for the world! He would be so very… . I wanted to keep i_rom Jane's knowledge; but, unluckily, I had mentioned it before I was aware."
Miss Bates had just done as Patty opened the door; and her visitors walke_pstairs without having any regular narration to attend to, pursued only b_he sounds of her desultory good-will.
"Pray take care, Mrs. Weston, there is a step at the turning. Pray take care, Miss Woodhouse, ours is rather a dark staircase— rather darker and narrowe_han one could wish. Miss Smith, pray take care. Miss Woodhouse, I am quit_oncerned, I am sure you hit your foot. Miss Smith, the step at the turning."