Emma's pensive meditations, as she walked home, were not interrupted; but o_ntering the parlour, she found those who must rouse her. Mr. Knightley an_arriet had arrived during her absence, and were sitting with her father.—Mr.
Knightley immediately got up, and in a manner decidedly graver than usual,
"I would not go away without seeing you, but I have no time to spare, an_herefore must now be gone directly. I am going to London, to spend a few day_ith John and Isabella. Have you any thing to send or say, besides the `love,'
which nobody carries?"
"Nothing at all. But is not this a sudden scheme?"
"Yes—rather—I have been thinking of it some little time."
Emma was sure he had not forgiven her; he looked unlike himself. Time,
however, she thought, would tell him that they ought to be friends again.
While he stood, as if meaning to go, but not going— her father began hi_nquiries.
"Well, my dear, and did you get there safely?—And how did you find my worth_ld friend and her daughter?—I dare say they must have been very much oblige_o you for coming. Dear Emma has been to call on Mrs. and Miss Bates, Mr.
Knightley, as I told you before. She is always so attentive to them!"
Emma's colour was heightened by this unjust praise; and with a smile, an_hake of the head, which spoke much, she looked at Mr. Knightley.— It seeme_s if there were an instantaneous impression in her favour, as if his eye_eceived the truth from her's, and all that had passed of good in her feeling_ere at once caught and honoured.— He looked at her with a glow of regard. Sh_as warmly gratified— and in another moment still more so, by a littl_ovement of more than common friendliness on his part.—He took her hand;—
whether she had not herself made the first motion, she could not say— sh_ight, perhaps, have rather offered it—but he took her hand, pressed it, an_ertainly was on the point of carrying it to his lips— when, from some fanc_r other, he suddenly let it go.—Why he should feel such a scruple, why h_hould change his mind when it was all but done, she could not perceive.—H_ould have judged better, she thought, if he had not stopped.—The intention,
however, was indubitable; and whether it was that his manners had in genera_o little gallantry, or however else it happened, but she thought nothin_ecame him more.— It was with him, of so simple, yet so dignified a nature.—
She could not but recall the attempt with great satisfaction. It spoke suc_erfect amity.—He left them immediately afterwards— gone in a moment. H_lways moved with the alertness of a mind which could neither be undecided no_ilatory, but now he seemed more sudden than usual in his disappearance.
Emma could not regret her having gone to Miss Bates, but she wished she ha_eft her ten minutes earlier;—it would have been a great pleasure to talk ove_ane Fairfax's situation with Mr. Knightley.— Neither would she regret that h_hould be going to Brunswick Square, for she knew how much his visit would b_njoyed—but it might have happened at a better time—and to have had longe_otice of it, would have been pleasanter.—They parted thorough friends,
however; she could not be deceived as to the meaning of his countenance, an_is unfinished gallantry;—it was all done to assure her that she had full_ecovered his good opinion.—He had been sitting with them half an hour, sh_ound. It was a pity that she had not come back earlier!
In the hope of diverting her father's thoughts from the disagreeableness o_r. Knightley's going to London; and going so suddenly; and going o_orseback, which she knew would be all very bad; Emma communicated her news o_ane Fairfax, and her dependence on the effect was justified; it supplied _ery useful check,— interested, without disturbing him. He had long made u_is mind to Jane Fairfax's going out as governess, and could talk of i_heerfully, but Mr. Knightley's going to London had been an unexpected blow.
"I am very glad, indeed, my dear, to hear she is to be so comfortably settled.
Mrs. Elton is very good-natured and agreeable, and I dare say her acquaintanc_re just what they ought to be. I hope it is a dry situation, and that he_ealth will be taken good care of. It ought to be a first object, as I am sur_oor Miss Taylor's always was with me. You know, my dear, she is going to b_o this new lady what Miss Taylor was to us. And I hope she will be better of_n one respect, and not be induced to go away after it has been her home s_ong."
The following day brought news from Richmond to throw every thing else int_he background. An express arrived at Randalls to announce the death of Mrs.
Churchill! Though her nephew had had no particular reason to hasten back o_er account, she had not lived above six-and-thirty hours after his return. _udden seizure of a different nature from any thing foreboded by her genera_tate, had carried her off after a short struggle. The great Mrs. Churchil_as no more.
It was felt as such things must be felt. Every body had a degree of gravit_nd sorrow; tenderness towards the departed, solicitude for the survivin_riends; and, in a reasonable time, curiosity to know where she would b_uried. Goldsmith tells us, that when lovely woman stoops to folly, she ha_othing to do but to die; and when she stoops to be disagreeable, it i_qually to be recommended as a clearer of ill-fame. Mrs. Churchill, afte_eing disliked at least twenty-five years, was now spoken of wit_ompassionate allowances. In one point she was fully justified. She had neve_een admitted before to be seriously ill. The event acquitted her of all th_ancifulness, and all the selfishness of imaginary complaints.
"Poor Mrs. Churchill! no doubt she had been suffering a great deal: more tha_ny body had ever supposed—and continual pain would try the temper. It was _ad event—a great shock—with all her faults, what would Mr. Churchill d_ithout her? Mr. Churchill's loss would be dreadful indeed. Mr. Churchil_ould never get over it."— Even Mr. Weston shook his head, and looked solemn,
and said, "Ah! poor woman, who would have thought it!" and resolved, that hi_ourning should be as handsome as possible; and his wife sat sighing an_oralising over her broad hems with a commiseration and good sense, true an_teady. How it would affect Frank was among the earliest thoughts of both. I_as also a very early speculation with Emma. The character of Mrs. Churchill,
the grief of her husband—her mind glanced over them both with awe an_ompassion—and then rested with lightened feelings on how Frank might b_ffected by the event, how benefited, how freed. She saw in a moment all th_ossible good. Now, an attachment to Harriet Smith would have nothing t_ncounter. Mr. Churchill, independent of his wife, was feared by nobody; a_asy, guidable man, to be persuaded into any thing by his nephew. All tha_emained to be wished was, that the nephew should form the attachment, as,
with all her goodwill in the cause, Emma could feel no certainty of its bein_lready formed.
Harriet behaved extremely well on the occasion, with great self-command. Wha_ver she might feel of brighter hope, she betrayed nothing. Emma wa_ratified, to observe such a proof in her of strengthened character, an_efrained from any allusion that might endanger its maintenance. They spoke,
therefore, of Mrs. Churchill's death with mutual forbearance.
Short letters from Frank were received at Randalls, communicating all that wa_mmediately important of their state and plans. Mr. Churchill was better tha_ould be expected; and their first removal, on the departure of the funera_or Yorkshire, was to be to the house of a very old friend in Windsor, to who_r. Churchill had been promising a visit the last ten years. At present, ther_as nothing to be done for Harriet; good wishes for the future were all tha_ould yet be possible on Emma's side.
It was a more pressing concern to shew attention to Jane Fairfax, whos_rospects were closing, while Harriet's opened, and whose engagements no_llowed of no delay in any one at Highbury, who wished to shew he_indness—and with Emma it was grown into a first wish. She had scarcely _tronger regret than for her past coldness; and the person, whom she had bee_o many months neglecting, was now the very one on whom she would hav_avished every distinction of regard or sympathy. She wanted to be of use t_er; wanted to shew a value for her society, and testify respect an_onsideration. She resolved to prevail on her to spend a day at Hartfield. _ote was written to urge it. The invitation was refused, and by a verba_essage. "Miss Fairfax was not well enough to write;" and when Mr. Perr_alled at Hartfield, the same morning, it appeared that she was so muc_ndisposed as to have been visited, though against her own consent, b_imself, and that she was suffering under severe headaches, and a nervou_ever to a degree, which made him doubt the possibility of her going to Mrs.
Smallridge's at the time proposed. Her health seemed for the moment completel_eranged— appetite quite gone—and though there were no absolutely alarmin_ymptoms, nothing touching the pulmonary complaint, which was the standin_pprehension of the family, Mr. Perry was uneasy about her. He thought she ha_ndertaken more than she was equal to, and that she felt it so herself, thoug_he would not own it. Her spirits seemed overcome. Her present home, he coul_ot but observe, was unfavourable to a nervous disorder:— confined always t_ne room;—he could have wished it otherwise— and her good aunt, though hi_ery old friend, he must acknowledge to be not the best companion for a_nvalid of that description. Her care and attention could not be questioned;
they were, in fact, only too great. He very much feared that Miss Fairfa_erived more evil than good from them. Emma listened with the warmest concern;
grieved for her more and more, and looked around eager to discover some way o_eing useful. To take her—be it only an hour or two—from her aunt, to give he_hange of air and scene, and quiet rational conversation, even for an hour o_wo, might do her good; and the following morning she wrote again to say, i_he most feeling language she could command, that she would call for her i_he carriage at any hour that Jane would name— mentioning that she had Mr.
Perry's decided opinion, in favour of such exercise for his patient. Th_nswer was only in this short note:
"Miss Fairfax's compliments and thanks, but is quite unequal to any exercise."
Emma felt that her own note had deserved something better; but it wa_mpossible to quarrel with words, whose tremulous inequality shewe_ndisposition so plainly, and she thought only of how she might bes_ounteract this unwillingness to be seen or assisted. In spite of the answer,
therefore, she ordered the carriage, and drove to Mrs. Bates's, in the hop_hat Jane would be induced to join her— but it would not do;—Miss Bates cam_o the carriage door, all gratitude, and agreeing with her most earnestly i_hinking an airing might be of the greatest service—and every thing tha_essage could do was tried— but all in vain. Miss Bates was obliged to retur_ithout success; Jane was quite unpersuadable; the mere proposal of going ou_eemed to make her worse.—Emma wished she could have seen her, and tried he_wn powers; but, almost before she could hint the wish, Miss Bates made i_ppear that she had promised her niece on no account to let Miss Woodhouse in.
"Indeed, the truth was, that poor dear Jane could not bear to see any body—an_ody at all— Mrs. Elton, indeed, could not be denied—and Mrs. Cole had mad_uch a point—and Mrs. Perry had said so much—but, except them, Jane woul_eally see nobody."
Emma did not want to be classed with the Mrs. Eltons, the Mrs. Perrys, and th_rs. Coles, who would force themselves anywhere; neither could she feel an_ight of preference herself— she submitted, therefore, and only questione_iss Bates farther as to her niece's appetite and diet, which she longed to b_ble to assist. On that subject poor Miss Bates was very unhappy, and ver_ommunicative; Jane would hardly eat any thing:— Mr. Perry recommende_ourishing food; but every thing they could command (and never had any bod_uch good neighbours) was distasteful.
Emma, on reaching home, called the housekeeper directly, to an examination o_er stores; and some arrowroot of very superior quality was speedil_espatched to Miss Bates with a most friendly note. In half an hour th_rrowroot was returned, with a thousand thanks from Miss Bates, but "dear Jan_ould not be satisfied without its being sent back; it was a thing she coul_ot take—and, moreover, she insisted on her saying, that she was not at all i_ant of any thing."
When Emma afterwards heard that Jane Fairfax had been seen wandering about th_eadows, at some distance from Highbury, on the afternoon of the very day o_hich she had, under the plea of being unequal to any exercise, s_eremptorily refused to go out with her in the carriage, she could have n_oubt—putting every thing together— that Jane was resolved to receive n_indness from her. She was sorry, very sorry. Her heart was grieved for _tate which seemed but the more pitiable from this sort of irritation o_pirits, inconsistency of action, and inequality of powers; and it mortifie_er that she was given so little credit for proper feeling, or esteemed s_ittle worthy as a friend: but she had the consolation of knowing that he_ntentions were good, and of being able to say to herself, that could Mr.
Knightley have been privy to all her attempts of assisting Jane Fairfax, coul_e even have seen into her heart, he would not, on this occasion, have foun_ny thing to reprove.