Emma

Page 74

Knightley looked as if he were more gratified than he cared to express; and before he could make any reply, Mr. Woodhouse, whose thoughts were on the Bates's, said--

"It is a great pity that their circumstances should be so confined! a great pity indeed! and I have often wished--but it is so little one can venture to do--small, trifling presents, of any thing uncommon-- Now we have killed a porker, and Emma thinks of sending them a loin or a leg; it is very small and delicate--Hartfield pork is not like any other pork--but still it is pork--and, my dear Emma, unless one could be sure of their making it into steaks, nicely fried, as ours are fried, without the smallest grease, and not roast it, for no stomach can bear roast pork--I think we had better send the leg-- do not you think so, my dear?"

"My dear papa, I sent the whole hind-quarter. I knew you would wish it. There will be the leg to be salted, you know, which is so very nice, and the loin to be dressed directly in any manner they like."

"That's right, my dear, very right. I had not thought of it before, but that is the best way. They must not over-salt the leg; and then, if it is not over-salted, and if it is very thoroughly boiled, just as Serle boils ours, and eaten very moderately of, with a boiled turnip, and a little carrot or parsnip, I do not consider it unwholesome."

"Emma," said Mr. Knightley presently, "I have a piece of news for you. You like news--and I heard an article in my way hither that I think will interest you."

"News! Oh! yes, I always like news. What is it?--why do you smile so?--where did you hear it?--at Randalls?"

He had time only to say,

"No, not at Randalls; I have not been near Randalls," when the door was thrown open, and Miss Bates and Miss Fairfax walked into the room. Full of thanks, and full of news, Miss Bates knew not which to give quickest. Mr. Knightley soon saw that he had lost his moment, and that not another syllable of communication could rest with him.

"Oh! my dear sir, how are you this morning? My dear Miss Woodhouse-- I come quite over-powered. Such a beautiful hind-quarter of pork! You are too bountiful! Have you heard the news? Mr. Elton is going to be married."

Emma had not had time even to think of Mr. Elton, and she was so completely surprized that she could not avoid a little start, and a little blush, at the sound.

"There is my news:--I thought it would interest you," said Mr. Knightley, with a smile which implied a conviction of some part of what had passed between them.

"But where could _you_ hear it?" cried Miss Bates. "Where could you possibly hear it, Mr. Knightley? For it is not five minutes since I received Mrs. Cole's note--no, it cannot be more than five-- or at least ten--for I had got my bonnet and spencer on, just ready to come out--I was only gone down to speak to Patty again about the pork--Jane was standing in the passage--were not you, Jane?-- for my mother was so afraid that we had not any salting-pan large enough. So I said I would go down and see, and Jane said, `Shall I go down instead? for I think you have a little cold, and Patty has been washing the kitchen.'--`Oh! my dear,' said I--well, and just then came the note. A Miss Hawkins-- that's all I know. A Miss Hawkins of Bath. But, Mr. Knightley, how could you possibly have heard it? for the very moment Mr. Cole told Mrs. Cole of it, she sat down and wrote to me. A Miss Hawkins--"

"I was with Mr. Cole on business an hour and a half ago. He had just read Elton's letter as I was shewn in, and handed it to me directly."

"Well! that is quite--I suppose there never was a piece of news more generally interesting. My dear sir, you really are too bountiful. My mother desires her very best compliments and regards, and a thousand thanks, and says you really quite oppress her."

"We consider our Hartfield pork," replied Mr. Woodhouse--"indeed it certainly is, so very superior to all other pork, that Emma and I cannot have a greater pleasure than--"

"Oh! my dear sir, as my mother says, our friends are only too good to us.

Emma Page 75

Jane Austen

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