Emma

Page 87

I do admire your patriotism. You will be adored in Highbury. You were very popular before you came, because you were Mr. Weston's son--but lay out half a guinea at Ford's, and your popularity will stand upon your own virtues."

They went in; and while the sleek, well-tied parcels of "Men's Beavers" and "York Tan" were bringing down and displaying on the counter, he said--"But I beg your pardon, Miss Woodhouse, you were speaking to me, you were saying something at the very moment of this burst of my _amor_ _patriae_. Do not let me lose it. I assure you the utmost stretch of public fame would not make me amends for the loss of any happiness in private life."

"I merely asked, whether you had known much of Miss Fairfax and her party at Weymouth."

"And now that I understand your question, I must pronounce it to be a very unfair one. It is always the lady's right to decide on the degree of acquaintance. Miss Fairfax must already have given her account.-- I shall not commit myself by claiming more than she may chuse to allow."

"Upon my word! you answer as discreetly as she could do herself. But her account of every thing leaves so much to be guessed, she is so very reserved, so very unwilling to give the least information about any body, that I really think you may say what you like of your acquaintance with her."

"May I, indeed?--Then I will speak the truth, and nothing suits me so well. I met her frequently at Weymouth. I had known the Campbells a little in town; and at Weymouth we were very much in the same set. Colonel Campbell is a very agreeable man, and Mrs. Campbell a friendly, warm-hearted woman. I like them all."

"You know Miss Fairfax's situation in life, I conclude; what she is destined to be?"

"Yes--(rather hesitatingly)--I believe I do."

"You get upon delicate subjects, Emma," said Mrs. Weston smiling; "remember that I am here.--Mr. Frank Churchill hardly knows what to say when you speak of Miss Fairfax's situation in life. I will move a little farther off."

"I certainly do forget to think of _her_," said Emma, "as having ever been any thing but my friend and my dearest friend."

He looked as if he fully understood and honoured such a sentiment.

When the gloves were bought, and they had quitted the shop again, "Did you ever hear the young lady we were speaking of, play?" said Frank Churchill.

"Ever hear her!" repeated Emma. "You forget how much she belongs to Highbury. I have heard her every year of our lives since we both began. She plays charmingly."

"You think so, do you?--I wanted the opinion of some one who could really judge. She appeared to me to play well, that is, with considerable taste, but I know nothing of the matter myself.-- I am excessively fond of music, but without the smallest skill or right of judging of any body's performance.--I have been used to hear her's admired; and I remember one proof of her being thought to play well:--a man, a very musical man, and in love with another woman--engaged to her--on the point of marriage-- would yet never ask that other woman to sit down to the instrument, if the lady in question could sit down instead--never seemed to like to hear one if he could hear the other. That, I thought, in a man of known musical talent, was some proof."

"Proof indeed!" said Emma, highly amused.--"Mr. Dixon is very musical, is he? We shall know more about them all, in half an hour, from you, than Miss Fairfax would have vouchsafed in half a year."

"Yes, Mr. Dixon and Miss Campbell were the persons; and I thought it a very strong proof."

"Certainly--very strong it was; to own the truth, a great deal stronger than, if _I_ had been Miss Campbell, would have been at all agreeable to me. I could not excuse a man's having more music than love--more ear than eye--a more acute sensibility to fine sounds than to my feelings. How did Miss Campbell appear to like it?"

"It was her very particular friend, you know."

"Poor comfort!" said Emma, laughing. "One would rather have a stranger preferred than one's very particular friend--with a stranger it might not recur again--but the misery of having a very particular friend always at hand, to do every thing better than one does oneself!-- Poor Mrs.

Emma Page 88

Jane Austen

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