"My dear Harriet, you must not refine too much upon this charade.--You will betray your feelings improperly, if you are too conscious and too quick, and appear to affix more meaning, or even quite all the meaning which may be affixed to it. Do not be overpowered by such a little tribute of admiration. If he had been anxious for secrecy, he would not have left the paper while I was by; but he rather pushed it towards me than towards you. Do not let us be too solemn on the business. He has encouragement enough to proceed, without our sighing out our souls over this charade."
"Oh! no--I hope I shall not be ridiculous about it. Do as you please."
Mr. Woodhouse came in, and very soon led to the subject again, by the recurrence of his very frequent inquiry of "Well, my dears, how does your book go on?--Have you got any thing fresh?"
"Yes, papa; we have something to read you, something quite fresh. A piece of paper was found on the table this morning--(dropt, we suppose, by a fairy)--containing a very pretty charade, and we have just copied it in."
She read it to him, just as he liked to have any thing read, slowly and distinctly, and two or three times over, with explanations of every part as she proceeded--and he was very much pleased, and, as she had foreseen, especially struck with the complimentary conclusion.
"Aye, that's very just, indeed, that's very properly said. Very true. `Woman, lovely woman.' It is such a pretty charade, my dear, that I can easily guess what fairy brought it.--Nobody could have written so prettily, but you, Emma."
Emma only nodded, and smiled.--After a little thinking, and a very tender sigh, he added,
"Ah! it is no difficulty to see who you take after! Your dear mother was so clever at all those things! If I had but her memory! But I can remember nothing;--not even that particular riddle which you have heard me mention; I can only recollect the first stanza; and there are several.
Kitty, a fair but frozen maid, Kindled a flame I yet deplore, The hood-wink'd boy I called to aid, Though of his near approach afraid, So fatal to my suit before.
And that is all that I can recollect of it--but it is very clever all the way through. But I think, my dear, you said you had got it."
"Yes, papa, it is written out in our second page. We copied it from the Elegant Extracts. It was Garrick's, you know."
"Aye, very true.--I wish I could recollect more of it.
Kitty, a fair but frozen maid.
The name makes me think of poor Isabella; for she was very near being christened Catherine after her grandmama. I hope we shall have her here next week. Have you thought, my dear, where you shall put her--and what room there will be for the children?"
"Oh! yes--she will have her own room, of course; the room she always has;--and there is the nursery for the children,--just as usual, you know. Why should there be any change?"
"I do not know, my dear--but it is so long since she was here!--not since last Easter, and then only for a few days.--Mr. John Knightley's being a lawyer is very inconvenient.--Poor Isabella!--she is sadly taken away from us all!--and how sorry she will be when she comes, not to see Miss Taylor here!"
"She will not be surprized, papa, at least."
"I do not know, my dear. I am sure I was very much surprized when I first heard she was going to be married."
"We must ask Mr. and Mrs. Weston to dine with us, while Isabella is here."
"Yes, my dear, if there is time.--But--(in a very depressed tone)--she is coming for only one week. There will not be time for any thing."
"It is unfortunate that they cannot stay longer--but it seems a case of necessity. Mr. John Knightley must be in town again on the 28th, and we ought to be thankful, papa, that we are to have the whole of the time they can give to the country, that two or three days are not to be taken out for the Abbey. Mr. Knightley promises to give up his claim this Christmas--though you know it is longer since they were with him, than with us."
"It would be very hard, indeed, my dear, if poor Isabella were to be anywhere but at Hartfield."