Posted on March 27. 2009
Jane Fairfax, handsome, clever, and poor, with an uncertain future and a serious disposition, seemed to unite both some of the best blessings of existence as well as the worst misfortunes; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world a dependant on her friends and with a family who lacked the ability to provide for her.
The marriage of Lieutenant Fairfax and Miss Bates of Highbury had been a union filled with hopes for a bright future, but it had all come to a melancholy end with him dying in action abroad. The young widow was as one might imagine struck with grief and the sorrow combined with consumption soon bereaved her young daughter of not only her father but also her mother. All that remained of the little family was a three-year old girl, who became the property, the charge, the consolation, the fondling of her grandmother and aunt. It seemed probable that she was going to be permanently fixed there; of her being taught only what very limited means could command, and growing up with no advantages of connection or improvement to be engrafted on what nature had giving her in a pleasing person, good understanding, and warm-hearted, well meaning relations.
But the compassionate feelings of a friend of her father gave a change to her destiny. This was Colonel Campbell, who had very highly regarded Fairfax, as an excellent officer and most deserving young man; and farther, had been indebted to him for such attentions, during a severe camp-fever, as he believed had saved his life. These were claims which he did not learn to overlook, though some years passed away from the death of poor Fairfax, before his own return to England put anything in his power. When he did return, he sought out the child and took notice of her. He was a married man, with only one living child, a girl, about Jane's age: and Jane became their guest, paying them long visits and growing a favourite with all; and, before she was nine years old, his daughter's great fondness for her, and his own wish of being a real friend, united to produce an offer from Colonel Campbell of undertaking the whole charge of her education. It was accepted; and from that period Jane had belonged to Colonel Campbell's family, and had lived with them entirely, only visiting her grandmother from time to time.
The plan was that she should be brought up for educating others; the very few hundred pounds which she inherited from her father making independence impossible. To provide for her otherwise was out of Colonel Campbell's power; for though his income, by pay and appointments, was handsome, his fortune was moderate and must be all his daughter's; but, by giving her an education, he hoped to be supplying the means of respectable subsistence hereafter.
She had fallen into good hands, and been given an excellent education. Living constantly with right-minded and well-informed people, her heart and understanding had received every advantage of discipline and culture; and Col. Campbell's residence being in London, every lighter talent had been done full justice to, by the attendance of first-rate masters. Her disposition and abilities were equally worthy of all that friendship could do; and at eighteen or nineteen she was, as far as such an early age can be qualified for the care of children, fully competent to the office of instruction herself; but she was too much beloved to be parted with. Col. Campbell consulted his wife on the subject one late night.
"What say you, my dear;" he asked. "What is to be done for our dear Jane? I so wish I had the means to support her forever, but it cannot be. She is by now quite qualified to be a governess, and perhaps it is time for her to provide for herself."
"But surely, we cannot throw her out in the world all alone!" his wife objected. "She is still very young, and I would hardly get one single night's good sleep if I knew she was all alone in the house of strangers. And besides, Charlotte cannot do without her."
"Yes, it is perhaps a bit premature;" the Colonel answered. "It might be good for her, too, to enjoy some good society. She is a very pretty young lady, and if she is really lucky she might catch the eye of some young man who can afford to marry without consideration to fortune."
"Our Jane is worth more than a fortune of 30 000 pounds;" Mrs. Campbell said. "She is the sweetest creature one could ever imagine, with the face of an angel, and so talented. Yes, my dear I think you are right. If we take her out into good society she is bound to make at least an acceptable match. Fortune is not everything."
And so the evil day was put off, and Jane remained with them, sharing, as another daughter, in all the rational pleasures of an elegant society, and a judicious mixture of home and amusement, with only the drawback of the future, the sobering suggestions of her own good understanding to remind her that all this might soon be over. She decided for herself though to remain with her friends only until she turned twenty-one. She had a great need to give herself a fixed date for when her youth was to end and she was going to start fending for herself in the world.
Miss Campbell was delighted to be able to keep her friend, and to enter society in her company. There was a truly warm attachment between the two girls who had grown up side by side, and the fact that Jane was decidedly superior both in beauty and acquirements compared to Miss Campbell had never put any shades over their relationship. They were like sisters, no ever more than so, since they loved each other not out of obligation but out of true affection.
Chapter IIEven though Jane had spent almost all her time in the home of the Campbell's ever since she was a little girl, she had not forgotten her grandmother and her aunt, and Col. Campbell had made sure that she visited them in Highbury as often as was possible. Mrs. Bates was the widow of a former vicar of Highbury, and a very old lady, almost past everything but tea and quadrille. She and her unmarried daughter lived in a very small way, with only a few rooms in one of the smallest houses in Highbury. There they regularly visited with and was invited to Mr. Woodhouse of Hartfield, and in that way belonged to a higher society than their fortune and way of life had determined for them, and this society Jane too belonged to whenever visiting them. As unfortunate as it can be there was no young Mr. Woodhouse whose eyes could be caught by the uncommonly fair complexion of Miss Fairfax or be spell-bound by her singing, since Mr. Woodhouse had only two daughters.
No, Highbury was hardly the place for a young lady without fortune to make an eligible match. After the union between Miss Woodhouse and Mr. John Knightley there was in fact only one bachelor in their circle, Mr. Knighley of Donwell Abbey, and even if he was a good friend of Mrs. Bates it seemed unlikely that he would ever look at a little girl whom he had seen grow up as a perspective wife.
Jane wrote to her grandmother as regularly as one could wish for, and she and her daughter was of course delighted in the fact that their dear Jane was to remain with the Campbell's and not have to earn her living at such tender an age.
Entering London society Jane made an impression on many of the young men, and several even fancied themselves in love. After making inquiries though, and realizing that she was almost completely penniless, they all decided that they were not so much in love after all. So it seemed that Mrs. Campbell's hopes of Jane making a match were to end only hopes and nothing more.
Mrs. Campbell was a sociable lady, well equipped to escort two young ladies in society and she took almost as much pleasure as Miss Campbell and Miss Fairfax in balls and dinner parties. In the summer just after Jane's twentieth birthday she decided that it would be a good thing for the girls to breathe some fresh sea air, and persuaded her husband to take them to a sea-bathing place. Col. Campbell was not at all declined to follow his wife's wishes and so it was decided that the whole family should go to Weymouth, where several of Col. Campbell's acquaintances were also planning to spend the summer months.
The two young ladies concerned by these plans were as one might imagine very happy indeed about the prospects of sea bathing, promenades by the sea shore and the assemblies at a fashionable watering-place.
"Do you not think it will be a wonderful thing;" Miss Campbell said to her friend, "sea-bathing."Jane smiled at the enthusiasm in the eyes of her friend. "Yes, Charlotte. But I cannot possibly imagine what it will be like. Can you?"
"No, but I do know that it must be wonderful."
"So you are not sorry then to leave London, and the company of Mr. Dixon;" Jane continued with an amused spark in her eye. She was referring to a young man from Ireland with whom they had but lately formed an acquaintance with, and who had given Miss Campbell quite a lot of attention ever since.
Miss Campbell blushed and turned away her face but did not answer. Jane decided to herself not to push the subject any further since it apparently embarrassed her friend, even if she was fairly convinced that her dear Charlotte was going to miss the company of Mr. Dixon a great deal even if she would never own it. Charlotte was not used to the attention of young men and Mr. Dixon's clear admiration of her made her self-conscious and nervous.
Just a few evenings later the Campbell's had an engagement to dine with Col. Fitzpatrick and his family, the very family which had introduced Mr. Dixon to them a few weeks earlier. Jane had good hopes that he would be of the party as well, and that an opportunity would come for them to inform him of their plans for the following six or eight weeks. If he was in love with Charlotte it could be no great project for him to go to Weymouth as well, and if he did not seek her out they would at least know that he did not care for her enough to go out of his way to see her.
Charlotte deserved to be happy, and Jane was determined to see her settled before she herself had to leave their daily intercourse. Mr. Dixon would take Charlotte away, all the way to Ireland, but Jane knew that distance meant but little and that they would always be in each others hearts.
The evening passed peacefully, except for the exclamations of Mr. Dixon's when Mrs. Campbell related her scheme to him. "Weymouth!;" he cried. "For the whole summer?"
"Yes, the girls need to get away from London and breathe some fresh air. They are so confined here, and I think it will do them a world of good. Do you not agree Mr. Dixon;" Mrs. Campbell answered.
"Of, course;" Mr. Dixon continued in a calmer voice, "but I had hoped to be able to make myself better acquainted to all of you." He then continued with making inquiries as to when they were to leave London and where they planned to take house at Weymouth.
Jane listened to the conversation with great satisfaction. She felt confident that they would see Mr. Dixon at Weymouth in less than a fourth-night.
Chapter IIIThe Campbell's left for Weymouth and made the journey without any alarm, and was soon installed in comfortable lodgings. They had already some acquaintance there and the days were quickly filled with walks around the beautiful shores, and visits to the library. The two girls enjoyed themselves greatly and Col. Campbell and Mrs. Campbell were happy to see them so well entertained and both of them gaining colour on their cheeks by the fresh sea-air.
About a week after their arrival Jane received a letter from her aunt. These letters were as regular as the letters Jane sent to Highbury, but rarely contained anything but a recital of the latest evenings spent at Hartfield with Mr. Woodhouse and his youngest daughter, and the usual substance less gossip. This letter however contained a piece of news that interested Jane a great deal. Miss Taylor, Miss Woodhouse's governess was engaged to get married to a respectable man of the neighbourhood, Mr. Weston.
Mr. Weston was a native of Highbury, and born of a respectable family, which for the last two or three generations had been rising into gentility and property. He had received a good education, but on succeeding early in life to a small independence, had become indisposed for any of the more homely pursuits in which his brothers were engaged; and had satisfied an active cheerful mind and social temper by entering into the militia of his country, then embodied.
Captain Weston was a general favourite; and when the chances of his military life had introduced him to Miss Churchill, of a great Yorkshire family, and Miss Churchill fell in love with him, nobody was surprised except her brother and his wife, who had never seen him, and who were full of pride and importance which the connection would offend.
Miss Churchill, however, being of age, and with the full command of her fortune -- though her fortune bore no proportion to the family-estate -- was not to be dissuaded from the marriage, and it took place to the infinite mortification of Mr. and Mrs. Churchill, who threw her off with due decorum. It was an unsuitable connection, and did not produce much happiness. Mrs. Weston ought to have found more in it, for she had a husband whose warm heart and sweet temper made him think everything due to her in return for the great goodness of being in love with him; but though she had one sort of spirit, she had not the best. She had resolution enough to pursue her own will in spite of her brother, but not enough to refrain from unreasonable regrets at that brother's unreasonable anger, nor from missing the luxuries of her former home. They lived beyond their income, but still it was nothing in comparison of Enscombe; she did not cease to love her husband, but she wanted at once to be the wife of Captain Weston, and Miss Churchill of Enscombe.
Captain Weston, who had been considered, especially be the Churchills, as making such an amazing match, was proved to have much the worst of the bargain; for when his wife dies after a three years' marriage, he was rather a poorer man than at first, and with a child to maintain. From the expense of the child, however, he was soon relieved. The boy had, with the additional softening claim of a lingering illness of his mother's, been the means of a sort of reconciliation; and Mr. and Mrs. Churchill, having no children of their own, nor any other young creature of equal kindred to care for, offered to taker the whole charge of the little Frank soon after her decease. Some scruples and some reluctance the widow-father may be supposed to have felt, but as they were overcome by other considerations, the child was given up to the care and the wealth of the Churchills and he had only his own comfort to seek and his own situation to improve as he could.
Mr. Weston had since quitted the militia and engaged in trade, having brothers already established in a good way in London, which afforded him a favourable opening, and had for the last eighteen or twenty years eared so much as to afford the purchase of a little estate adjoining Highbury, a purchase that Jane had heard much about in earlier letters from her aunt with whom Mr. Weston had always been a great favourite.
"So you see, my dear Charlotte;" Jane continued after relating the news to her friend, "even governesses can make great matches in due time. There is still hope I guess."
"Oh, Jane!" Charlotte laughed. "You will make a great match, I am sure. You are not a governess yet you know, and no matter what you become in the future you will always be the most beautiful and talented woman I have ever known. But tell me, what sort of man is Mr. Weston's son? I have never heard you talk of him."
"I do not know much about him, for I have never met him in my life. He has never visited Highbury at the same time as myself. Mr. Weston speaks highly of him, of course, but none of the good people of Highbury has ever laid eyes on him as far as I know. Not my aunt at least."
The intercourse of the young ladies was thus interrupted by the announcement of a visitor, who turned out to be no other than Mr. Dixon who soon entered the room. He was greeted with great cordiality and Jane could barely repress a smile as she looked at her friend's reddening cheeks as she explained to their visitor that her parents were both out for their morning walk.
Chapter IVThe arrival of Mr. Dixon brought much joy to the whole family. Both Col. and Mrs. Campbell had noticed the young man's interest in their daughter and since he was a most respectable man of considerable fortune they were happy to make themselves better acquainted with him. Subsequently they encouraged him to visit and rarely hesitated to invite him to dine.
One morning, a few days after Mr. Dixon's arrival, the weather was unusually fine and Mr. Dixon called at the Campbell's to propose that the ladies should accompany him on a walk down to the sea side. Mrs. Campbell was expecting a visit from one of her numerous friends so she had to decline, even if the young ladies of the household most readily agreed to his suggestion.
Down by the sea there were many others enjoying the beautiful morning, and Mr. Dixon and the two young ladies were often interrupted by various acquaintances. As they made their way forward Jane's eye was caught by a group of ladies and gentlemen whom she had not seen before, standing outside one of the hotels. In the middle of the group stood a laughing blonde young man, who seemed to be the centre of attentions. As she looked in his direction, their eyes happened to meet and they looked right at each other for a moment. He smiled and bowed his head in her direction and, feeling a sudden blush warming her cheeks; she hastily looked away and tried to regain her concentration regarding the discussion of Miss Campbell and Mr. Dixon. It was quite lost on her though, since Mr. Dixon was just telling Miss Campbell of his estate in Ireland, Balycraig, and she could not feel very interested on the subject since it was unlikely that she would ever see the place.
"Do you not think it will be charming, Jane?" she suddenly heard Miss Campbell's warm voice exclaim.
"Yes, of course, Charlotte;" she responded, without having the faintest idea of what her friend was talking about.
"You will find, Mr. Dixon, that Miss Fairfax is an excellent partner;" Miss Campbell continued, leaving Jane a hint of what they had been talking about.
"It will be a great pleasure, indeed, to dance with Miss Fairfax;" Mr. Dixon said with a smile. "But I hope that I shall also have the pleasure to dance with you, Miss Campbell."
Miss Campbell smiled and readily gave her consent. Jane was hoping that Mr. Dixon was indeed genuine in his admiration of her friend. She so much deserved to be happy, and there had not been many young men who had been able to see her warm heart, her intelligence and wit. Most of the young men they had earlier encountered seemed to want either a very beautiful and talented wife or a very rich one, preferably both, and these standards eliminated both herself and Charlotte from being very eligible. Mr. Dixon was perhaps not a very handsome man, but he was pleasant and intelligent and the fact that he had gone out of his way to see Charlotte in Weymouth seemed to incline that he was in fact very much in love with her, and Jane could only hope that she would turn out to be correct.
Jane soon found that she had a hard time concentrating and to take part in the discussion. Since her companions were very well satisfied in talking solely to each other it did not signify much, though. She felt a flutter in her stomach which she could not explain and her eyes wandered constantly towards the hotel they had passed earlier.
Before they parted Mr. Dixon had already claimed Miss Campbell's hand for the two first dances at the assembly, which was to take place the following evening. Miss Campbell could hardly conceal her excitement, but Jane was in no mood to join her in it. She withdrew early that evening complaining of a non-existing headache and tried to get some sleep, but her dreams were strangely disturbed by a pair of smiling blue eyes that she could not put out of her head.
Dressing for an assembly was always a time consuming project for the two girls, and this time around did not prove to be an exception, quite the contrary. Miss Campbell was more eager than ever to look her absolute best and Jane, for reasons she could not even explain to herself, felt nothing less. Charlotte wore a very becoming sprigged blue muslin dress and with it her mother's pearls which she had lent her for the evening. Her whole being was shining with happiness and excitement on the prospect of dancing the whole night away. Jane was, as usually was the case, dressed a little simpler than her friend but was in spite of this breathtaking as ever with her white gown and the simple cross she had inherited after her mother. Her hair seemed almost darker than usually and her complexion had a soft glow. Col. Campbell was indeed very proud of escorting such lovely young ladies, a fact he did not hesitate to inform them of.
When the party entered the ball-room they were soon surrounded by acquaintances, and by Charlotte's side Mr. Dixon was soon present. A union between the two of them seemed now like a certain thing to everyone who could see them together. As the music began to play Mr. Dixon escorted Miss Campbell onto the dance floor to join the first set. Jane's hand was claimed by a Lieutenant Hawkfield, an acquaintance of Col. Campbell whose company was always a pleasure since he was both intelligent and entertaining.
"It seems, Miss Fairfax, that I have been very fortunate this evening;" Lieut. Hawkfield stated a few minutes into the dance.
"Oh? And why is that?"
"I should think that this is the only chance I shall get to dance with you, Miss Fairfax. I was impertinent enough to steal you away from all those young men who could not yet claim your hand, in lack of an introduction. The privilege of an old acquaintance;" he said with a smile.
Jane could not help but laugh at this. "You exaggerate, Lieutenant!"
"Me? Exaggerate? Oh no, Miss Fairfax, and besides you should not laugh. It will only make them the more upset to see you so well entertained. You put me in quite a dangerous situation."
They continued their dance under the same kind of light conversation, and when the two dances were over Lieutenant Hawkfield courteously escorted Jane back to Mrs. Campbell. With a bow he took leave saying: "I bid you a good-night, Miss Fairfax, since this will probably be my last opportunity to speak with you this evening."
Mrs. Campbell was sad to see the young man leave. She had had entertained some hopes of him falling in love with her dear Jane, but it seemed hopeless. Besides, he was not independent and was improbable to support for a family for several years to come. She was interrupted, though, in her lamentations by the returning of her daughter in the company of Mr. Dickson and another gentleman. She was struck by the young man's tall and handsome figure and his open countenance. He was fashionably attired regarding his dress as well as his hair.
"May I please introduce to you, Ma'am, my good friend Mr. Frank Churchill;" Mr. Dixon said. "Churchill, may I present Mrs. Campbell and Miss Fairfax."
"I am happy to make your acquaintance, Ma'am;" Mr. Churchill said with an elegant bow towards Mrs. Campbell.
"And yours, Miss;" he continued with a smile in Jane's direction.
Jane simply curtsied and kept her eyes steady in the direction of her feet. She had recognized the stranger as the young man seen outside the hotel the day before. The very young man who had sent her heart into a flutter, and whose eyes she dared not meet again.
"May I be so bold as to inquire whether you are engaged for the next two dances, Miss Fairfax;" Mr. Churchill asked.
"No, no, I am not engaged;" Jane stuttered.
"Well, then I hope that you will do me the great honour of becoming my partner in the next set;" he then said and held out his hand.
There was not much else to do than to comply, and subsequently Jane took the gentleman's hand and let him escort her out onto the floor.
"So, Miss Fairfax, how delightful to make your acquaintance;" Mr. Churchill said, just after they had taken position amongst the other dancers. "Have you been in Weymouth for long?"
"A couple of weeks;" she responded.
"And have you yet had had opportunity to enjoy all its diversions, would you say? I am but come yesterday so I have not had much time to explore the sights as of yet."
"Weymouth has many fine qualities, I believe."
"So I see;" said he with another smile.
"How is it that you know Mr. Dixon?"
"We have met from time to time, in London mostly with some common acquaintances. But I can hardly claim to know him well. I am but rarely in town, for I am much needed at home. My aunt is of a sickly disposition and takes great comfort in having me near. Since she prefers to stay at Enscombe I must often be content to do so as well."
"Enscombe?" she cried. "I believe I have heard of it sometime or other."
"Really?" he replied with some astonishment. "How can that be? I must sadly acknowledge that I have never heard of Miss Fairfax before, for if I had I am sure it would have been remembered."
Jane could not prevent a slight brush from entering her cheeks, bur she felt too interested not to continue the discussion. "Mr. Churchill;" she therefore continued. "Have you ever heard of a little village in Surrey, called Highbury?"
"Heard of it? Why, I was born there!" he cried. "Do you have acquaintances in Highbury, madam?"
"Yes, my grand-mother and aunt lives there. Mrs. and Miss Bates. Can it really be? Are you not the son of Mr. Weston, currently residing at Randalls?"
"This is most extraordinary, Miss Fairfax. Are you to tell me that you know my father?"
"I have not seen him in a few years. It is quite some time since I had had the opportunity to visit my grand-mother, but I met him often on my visits there as a little girl."
"That explains it all then. I saw my father in town on my way here from Yorkshire, and I am sure that if he had known that you had grown up to be such a charming young lady he would not have neglected to tell me all about you. This must be faith."
"I am sure Mr. Weston has better things to talk about than distant acquaintances anyway;" she said, trying not to laugh. I had just heard his good news from my aunt.
"His impending nuptials you mean? Tell me, Miss Fairfax, have you ever met Miss Taylor?"
"Yes I have. She has been Miss Woodhouse's governess for many years, and I have often met her at Hartfield. She has always been treated as a member of the family."
"So, what is she like? You must forgive my curiosity, but except for my father you are the only creature I have met with who has actually seen her."
"She is a very pleasant lady. She has always been very kind to me."
"That I am particularly glad to hear. I am afraid we must part now Miss Fairfax, but I hope that we shall get an opportunity to get better acquainted ere long."
The music had stopped, and Jane was amazed that the time had passed on so quickly. With some regret she let herself be escorted back to Mrs. Campbell.
"I must beg your forgiveness, Mrs. Campbell, but I must return to my party. I hope though that you will allow me to call on you later this week;" Mr. Churchill said. Since there could only be one answer to such a question Mrs. Campbell readily complied with his request. "Miss Fairfax;" he continued. "It has been a true pleasure, and I hope that we will soon be able to continue our conversation."
"So, Jane;" Mrs. Churchill said. "Was your partner as agreeable as it seemed?"
"Yes, ma'am, very agreeable indeed. It turned out that we have some mutual acquaintances in Highbury, actually."
"How extraordinary! I dare say I shall be very glad to get to know him better."
The evening passed on very joyfully. Both Jane and Charlotte danced the whole night and enjoyed themselves very much indeed. The two girls were near exhaustion as the ball closed and it was time to go home. Jane had not seen much of her new acquaintance though, since had been almost entirely occupied with his own party. When their paths had been crossed in the sets, he had had no opportunity to do more than smile in her direction, but as the Campbell party, escorted by Mr. Dixon, got ready to leave the room Mr. Churchill turned up to bid them farewell. Mr. Dixon administered the introductions between him and Col. Campbell, who did not seem to object to the acquaintance any more than his wife had.
Jane and Charlotte went to bed that night, both longing for the morning for different reasons, reasons they had not even shared with each other.
After breakfast the next morning the two friends sat down to talk over the previous evening and its events. Charlotte was very curios about Mr. Churchill, whom Mr. Dixon had talked very highly of, but Jane was not yet ready to give her many answers. She only admitted that he had been very entertaining and seemed to be a pleasant, well-informed young man. Of course she also related the astonishing revelation regarding his connection to Highbury.
The girls had not much time for their discussion, though, since the arrival of Mr. Dixon and Mr. Churchill was soon announced.
"We only came by to see how you all are this fine morning;" Mr. Dixon said, after the necessary pleasantries had been exchanged.
"We are very well, Mr. Dixon;" Miss Campbell responded. "How very kind of you!"
Mr. Churchill who was standing by the window, said; "I suppose you are too fatigued since last night to venture on a walk outside? It is very fair weather, and if you would be willing to enter into such a scheme I am sure Dixon and I would be very happy to escort you."
"Oh, I am not tired at all;" Miss Churchill claimed, and since Jane did not protest to the plan the two young ladies got ready to go outside.
Almost as soon as they got out of the door the group separated itself into two couples, and since Jane was in fact a bit fatigued, she was of a less stout constitution than her friend, she and Mr. Churchill soon lagged behind Miss Campbell and Mr. Dixon.
Mr. Churchill took up the conversation about Highbury that they had been engaged in during the dance, and listened with great interest as Jane related the primary sights of her childhood-home.
"Have you never been there, all these years;" she asked.
"No, I have not. Not since I was about three years old. My aunt and uncle did not approve of my mother marrying my father, and I do not think they have ever forgiven him for it. My aunt especially is very jealous of him and hardly approves of my seeing him in town."
"That is a shame. I think you should like it. It is confined, of course, but not totally lacking society."
"Yes, so I understand. I must go there soon though. I must pay my respects to my father's new bride as soon as possible. Even my aunt must understand that."
To this Jane made no answer.
"I am sorry, Miss Fairfax;" he continued. "I should not speak so freely. I forget that we have been acquainted for such a short period of time."
"It is all right, Mr. Churchill. I know a thing or two about being dependant on someone else's good will. Col. and Mrs. Campbell have been the friends an orphan could have, but it is not always easy anyway."
"They seem to be excellent people. Dixon thinks very highly of the whole family. One particular part of the family especially;" he smilingly said. "But you are tired, Miss Fairfax! How thoughtless of me. Please, let me lend you my arm at least. Perhaps we should turn back."
"Thank you, but I am quite well. I do not think Mrs. Campbell should like me to turn back home without Miss Campbell." She took the offered arm, though, and Mr. Churchill slowed down their pace even more.
After about ten minutes of a leisurely stroll and pleasant conversation about almost anything that you can imagine, they finally caught up with Mr. Dixon and Miss Campbell who were sitting on a bench in earnest conversation. There was a certain glow over Miss Campbell that Jane had never seen before, and she looked very content and happy. As soon as they came in sight Mr. Dixon rose up from the bench and took half a step away from the lady, looking rather self-conscious.
"There you are, Dixon!" Mr. Churchill shouted. "We were starting to think that you had ran off over the English channel."
At this Miss Campbell's cheeks turned a deep red, but Mr. Dixon only laughed. "Indeed, Churchill, if I had had such plans I would certainly not have invited you to tag along."
At reaching the bench Mr. Churchill made sure that Jane sat down to rest, and quite soon proposed they should escort the ladies back to their lodgings, a scheme that was readily agreed to by the rest of the party.
As they returned the gentlemen started to take their leave at the gate, but were soon convinced that they should accompany the ladies indoors to take some refreshments and to meet with Mrs. and Col. Campbell. Mrs. Campbell was very happy to see them, even if she did scold the young ladies a little bit for venturing out on a walk the very morning after a ball.
"Where can the Colonel be this morning, Mrs. Campbell;" Mr. Dixon inquired.
"Oh, he went out earlier to see some of his friends;" Mrs. Campbell responded. "I declare, he is quite impossible to keep indoors in the summers."
"Mama, it is not so bad;" cried Miss Campbell.
"I had hoped to be able to pay him my respects. I scarcely had the opportunity to exchange two words with him last night."
"Well, Mr. Dixon, if you are not otherwise engaged, perhaps you would like to join us for dinner this evening;" Mrs. Campbell said. "And perhaps your friend might be prevailed upon to join us as well. It will be just a family dinner in all its simplicity, but we would be very glad to have your company."
The two gentlemen both accepted the invitation and soon after this took their leave of the three ladies.
Chapter VII"Mr. Dixon seemed very anxious to meet with you father;" Jane said to Charlotte as the two young ladies withdrew to dress for dinner.
"Oh;" said Charlotte, her face turning positively red, "do you think so. No… I think he was more eager than usually."
Jane smiled and did not press her friend nay further, even if she had a strong suspicion that something important had happened between Charlotte and Mr. Dixon on their morning walk.
The two gentlemen arrived just punctually as one could wish for, and Mr. Churchill proved to be just as charming as Mrs. Campbell had thought he would be on further acquaintance. She did not regret the invitation, even if it had been the produce of only a minute's reflection. Mr. Dixon however was quieter than usually. When the last course had been carried out by the servants the ladies withdrew to the drawing-room, leaving the gentlemen to their port and cigars.
Only about a quarter of an hour Mr. Churchill joined the three ladies, and took a seat next to Jane.
"You might wonder, Miss Fairfax, of my sudden abandonment of the Colonel and Mr. Dixon, but they seemed to have so much to talk about and I was simply getting in the way;" he said with a conspiratorial smile. "I hope that you shall approve of my actions, since I know how much you are willing to promote the happiness of those around you."
"You seem to think that you have me completely figured out already, Mr. Churchill."
He sounded surprised at the thought. "I think I do, actually. What an amazing thing. I, who can hardly figure out myself!"
"Perhaps I am not such a troublesome character to draw."
"You certainly should be. A charming young lady, such as yourself, ought to make sure to have a character that is difficult to sort out."
"I have failed then. But on the other hand, perhaps not. My future, I should say, is a life different from the one I lead at the moment, and as I start to earn my living it might be a good thing not to be too complicated a person. A governess should be quite straightforward do not you think?"
"I cannot say. I have not known any governesses, and I have a hard time imagining Miss Fairfax in that position."
"Never the less, it is my future and as soon as Charlotte is settled I shall begin the preparations."
At this they were interrupted by the entrance of Colonel Campbell, closely followed by Mr. Dixon. They both had broad smiles on their faces and as soon as he came into the room the Colonel said; "My dear Charlotte!" and went to his daughter and kissed her cheeks. He then continued turning to his wife; "My dear, I have good news. It seems as if our daughter has received a proposal from Mr. Dixon just this morning, and since he assures me of her favourable answer I have given him my hearty consent."
"What wonderful news;" cried Mrs. Campbell, embracing her daughter. "Please, let me welcome you into the family Mr. Dixon. I am sure you will make my daughter a very happy woman."
"I dare say, I shall try my best, ma'am;" he said, kissing Charlotte's hand, "but I doubt that I can make her even half as happy as I already know she will make me."
The evening passed away very joyously after this interval, as one might imagine. Jane felt truly happy for her dear friend, but at the same time she could not help but feeling a bit melancholy. Charlotte's wedding would mark the beginning of their adulthood, and for her it meant that she would eventually have to earn her own bread. She had always known it would happen, of course, but it did not make the prospect any more appealing. To be separated from her loved ones and thrown into a house of strangers. She could not hope to be received as Miss Taylor had been at Hartfield, more a friend and family member than a servant. Most governesses had to take their position in the middle, not part of the family and not really a servant either, with no circle in which they really belonged. The dream of meeting a man whom she could love well enough to marry and escape her destiny, was a dream already shattered and she knew that the light conversation with Mr. Churchill was not to lead anywhere. He was hardly a man who had the means to choose a wife without neither fortune nor connections, and subsequently she made the decision that she should think of him no more. Even if was, by far, the most amiable man she had ever met, with light spirits and yet a considerate disposition. She had not been amiss in recognizing the fact that he had helped his friend to the opportunity for a private conference with both Charlotte and Col. Campbell, and this alone, she thought, would be a proof of his good character even if his appearance had in other ways been lacking.
These were the thoughts that accompanied Jane to bed that night, but even if she could resolve to be rational she could not keep Mr. Churchill out of her dreams. One might think that this fact would make her sleep troubled, but it was quite the contrary. When she woke up the next morning it was with a smile on her lips and she had seldom felt so well-rested.
During the following weeks Mr. Dixon was a daily visitor at Col. Campbell's lodgings, and he was quite often accompanied by his friend. The four young people often took walks together, an arrangement that suited Mrs. Campbell's sense of propriety, for even if her daughter was engaged, she could not approve of her being alone with Mr. Dixon, at least not too often.
One evening with no other guests than Mr. Dixon and Mr. Churchill, Jane was sitting in a corner of the drawing-room writing to her grand-mother. She had neglected her correspondence, but hoped to be forgiven since she had such exciting news to relate. Her grand-mother and aunt were always interested in news about Jane's other friends and the fact that Miss Campbell was suddenly engaged to be married was something that was bound to make them almost as ecstatic as if it had concerned Jane herself.
When Jane finished her letter and joined the rest of the party, Mr. Dixon asked if she would not grant them some entertainment from the piano-forte, and she readily agreed, glad to have some occupation. Her resolution not to think any more about Mr. Churchill had proved to be quite a challenge and his almost constant intercourse with the Campbell's made the challenge even harder. He often sought her company and she could not help but to like him even more for every day that went by.
Jane started on an Italian song, one of her favorites, and as she started on the second verse a soft bass voice fell took up a second. It was none other than Frank Churchill, and as the song ended he received the highest praise and was accused of having an excellent voice.
"Oh, no, here is the true artist;" he said looking at Jane. "I have seldom heard such an excellent performance, and I am afraid my interference lessened the experience for everyone besides myself."
This statement was immediately met with vivid objections and both he and Jane were begged to grant the listeners with another song. They both turned out to be easily persuaded and sang one or two duets together.
On the next morning Jane and Charlotte rose uncommonly early. They were going to join several other young ladies and gentlemen on a party on the water. It would be a completely new experience for both of them and as Mr. Dixon came to escort them they had been ready for a full half-hour in eager anticipation of his arrival.
To be onboard a sail-boat turned out to be just as exciting as Jane could have imagined. The wind blew straight into her face and loosened up some curls in her hair, which was at all other times tightly pulled back. An involuntary smile was on her lips as she looked around out on the open sea.
"You seem to be in your true element, Miss Fairfax;" she heard a familiar voice saying behind her.
"That cannot be, Mr. Churchill;" said she, "since this is my first experience out at sea."
"Never the less you seem perfectly in tune with the elements. Who could have thought that a young lady such as yourself should bee completely untouched by the rough sea and not be made to feel unwell as so many others?" He looked in the direction of Miss Campbell who held the rail in a firm grip, looking rather anxious and pale.
"Oh, Miss Campbell is unwell. I must go to her." Jane excused herself and started walking in Miss Campbell's direction.
Suddenly there was a whirling among the sails and Jane was pushed towards the rail. During the millisecond when she thought she was going over-board she heard someone shouting her name, and then felt someone grabbing her habit, pulling her so safety. Mr. Dixon, who had also been on his way to Miss Campbell, had reached her just in time.
The whole party gathered round them, relieved that Mr. Dixon's presence of mind had avoided a serious accident. Jane rose up and started to reassure everyone that she was not hurt and felt perfectly fine. She then saw the face of Mr. Churchill. He had turned even paler than Miss Campbell had been before the accident, and the look he gave her was full of fear. Then he drew a huge breath, regained his countenance and said with a smile: "Miss Fairfax, when I said that you were in tune with the elements I did not mean to propose that you should throw yourself into one of them."
"I assure you, Mr. Churchill, it was completely involuntarily;" she replied with a faint smile. She was then taken away by Miss Campbell to sit down and rest, as the boat turned towards land again. Even if Jane protested that she was alright and that there was no reason what so ever to end the outing on her account the rest of the party all agreed that it would be best to get Miss Fairfax home as soon as could be.
Mrs. Campbell was of course heavily upset when hearing of the adventures at sea, but was relieved on seeing Jane coping as well as she did. She did force Jane, though, to sit down by the fire for the whole afternoon and pressed her to retire early that evening. Jane complied with very few objections, for since she felt completely fine she realized that it would be an argument she could not win. At bed that night she lay awake wondering about the call she had heard. It had sounded like Mr. Churchill's voice and he had called out her name. "Jane!"
The next morning Mr. Churchill called at an early hour to inquire after Jane's health. She repeated the phrases that by now seemed almost stuck in her mouth, saying she was well. Both Mrs. Campbell and Charlotte had left the room, leaving Jane alone with Mr. Churchill.
"I was afraid we were going to lose you yesterday, Miss Fairfax;" he began. "I have never been so frightened my whole life. I could have kissed Dixon for saving you."
At this Jane could not help but laugh. "Do you not think that might have upset Miss Campbell?" said she.
"You are a hard woman, Miss Fairfax. Making fun of my emotions like that." Mr. Churchill was smiling as well, but soon grew more serious aging. "I have nothing to offer you Miss Fairfax. As you know I am totally dependent on my aunt and uncle's good will."
"Offer me? What ever are you talking about, Mr. Churchill?"
"Is it not clear? I am talking of the two of us being madly in love and that we ought to get married of course!" he cried.
To this Jane did not respond and he continued: "Surely you must be aware of my feelings, Jane. I only wish I was at liberty to give you the kind of proposal you deserve. The kind of proposal I owe you."
"You do not owe me anything, Mr. Churchill."
"That is nonsense, Jane, I owe you my life. But I do not know what to do. I am sure my uncle would adore you, but my aunt…she cares too much for fortune and position…I know that this is wrong, but you must promise to be my wife or I shall go completely mad. Please, Jane, speak to me."
"But I cannot, Mr. Churchill. How could I? You should not speak of such things either, especially not since they are out of your control."
"Do not try to lecture me Jane, you are not a governess yet and if it were in my power to do so I would make sure that you never had to educate anyone but your own daughters. Can you really claim that you do not love me? Look me in the eyes and say the word, and I promise you that I will never bother you again. I will leave Weymouth in half-an-hour's time and never come close to you again."
"I cannot," she said with her eyes firmly fixed on her hands.
"Then say you will be my wife, Jane. I am sure I can persuade my uncle to agree to the match and he can speak to my aunt. I love you Jane, and I am certain no one else can make me happy. They will understand. I will make them understand. Just trust me and give me time. I wish I had been able to talk to them before I came to you but I could not wait. I could not take the chance that you would be swept away by some one else. Do you not see? We will both be miserable if we cannot be together."
Finally Jane lifted up her eyes and looked into the face she had come to love during the last few weeks. She looked into his earnest eyes and realized she had no choice. Perhaps she was going to be miserable if she said yes, but not more so than if she said no. Away with duty and obedience, why should she be obligated to follow the wishes of Mrs. Churchill, a woman she had never even met? Why should she not grasp as this straw offered to her and take the chance of happiness?
"I trust you, and I am willing to give you my word. I have waited my whole life, and I can keep on waiting forever. To be your wife is the only thing I could ever wish for."
Mr. Churchill took her hand and kissed it. "My dearest, most wonderful girl. I will make you so happy. Tomorrow morning I shall go back to Yorkshire and talk with my uncle. I wish I did not have to leave you, but I shall write to you as often as I can. Will you please promise me to write as well? We are engaged now, you know, so it is not improper to correspond."
"Does it seem, Mr. Churchill, as if I am in a position to refuse anything you ask of me;" Jane said with a helpless smile.
At this point one might wonder what had become of Mrs. Campbell, who surely should not have left her ward alone with a young man for such a long period of time. This was in fact a deliberate action on her part. She had ever since she met Mr. Churchill entertained hopes of him making Jane an offer and she simply wanted to let him have an opportunity to do so. They were soon to leave Weymouth and return to London to prepare for Charlotte's wedding, and it was not certain he would get another chance. On returning to the drawing room was disappointed though. Instead of meeting with the news of them being engaged she met with the news of Mr. Churchill's leaving Weymouth the following day.
The following months were a trying time for Jane. She joined Mrs. Campbell and Charlotte in the preparations for Charlotte's wedding, but the tasks that should have been a pure joy to take part in made her think about her own situation more than what was good for her and Charlotte's happiness made her all the more feel the differences in their situations. Mr. Churchill wrote to her regularly, and his letters were filled with love and promises but since he had found his aunt seriously ill he had not yet dared to talk to his family about their engagement. It was frustrating, but still Jane could understand his feelings. His aunt had loved him and taken care of him for almost his entire life, and he did not want to hurt her.
On the wedding day Jane accompanied her dear friend to church and saw her hands be joined with Mr. Dixon's. Charlotte had never looked so beautiful before and she, her mother and her friend shed tears of happiness during the ceremony. On parting with each other after the wedding breakfast they shed even more tears. They had hardly been separated before and now Charlotte was to leave for Ireland and there was no knowing on when they should all meet again.
"You must promise to write every week Jane. And visit. You must come! Promise me!" Mrs. Dixon cried from the carriage the seconds before it drove off.
"I promise, Charlotte! Be well, my dear!" Jane had to shout her response as the carriage rolled away.
Mrs. Campbell took Jane's arm saying: "Thank God, you are not leaving as well. I dare say I shall not have a moments rest until I hear of their safe arrival. Just think of everything that might happen on the journey. I so wish they could stay here in London."
"I am sure they will be all right, Mrs. Campbell;" said Jane. "Charlotte will be very happy I dare say. Mr. Dixon has a very fine estate, so of course they must live there. He cannot always be in London."
That evening Col. Campbell and his wife again had a serious conversation regarding their young ward.
"I dare say Jane will soon start talking about leaving us again, my dear;" the Colonel said.
"Oh, do not talk about it. I could not bear to lose her as well as Charlotte. We must persuade her to stay. Why should she not?"
"It is not right. Our home will always be open to her and Charlotte's too, but Jane has pride. She is determined to fence for herself, and we cannot condemn her to a life of constant dependence. You must let her go of it is what she wants."
"You are right, my dear;" his wife at last agreed. "But she is not quite well, you know. She has not really been herself since we came back from Weymouth, and I shall not let her leave us until she has regained her strength. Nothing you say or do can make me agree to that."
"That is all very well my dear, I agree with you completely, but I think we must let her decide what is right."
Had her friends known the whole story, it would have relieved them both, but so well played Jane the part of a future governess as to keep them totally in the dark. She did not entertain any plans as to start sending out inquiries for a position, at least not yet. There was still hope of a future for her and Mr. Churchill. As long as he had not received an absolute negative from Mr. and Mrs. Churchill there was a chance that they would accept her, but she also knew that she would never marry him without their consent. It would ruin him if she did, and she loved him well enough to be able to refrain from him if it was necessary to further his happiness. At least she hoped she did.
To be, for a long period of time, separated from the one you love can be very trying and Jane had never been of a strong constitution. The fatigue noticed by Mrs. Campbell increased rather than declined during the following weeks. She tried her best to be a cheerful companion, but after lying awake for almost an entire night it is hard to be cheerful. She contracted a heavy cold and suffered from headaches almost every afternoon. Mrs. Campbell grew more and more concerned with Jane's health and called in her apothecary, but the only advice he could give was that the patient should rest as much as possible.
The reports from Ireland were much more favourable than the ones being sent back from London, and it seemed as if Mrs. Dixon was very happy with her new situation. She missed her family greatly, though, which was hardly surprising since she had scarcely been separated from her parents more than one week at a time before she was married. Col. and Mrs. Campbell had planned to visit the newlyweds the following summer, but as they missed Charlotte just as much as she seemed to miss them, they began talking about making the journey earlier. Mrs. Dixon was delighted with the scheme since it would mean that it would be possible for Jane to accompany the Campbell's on the trip and
Mrs. Campbell hoped that a change of scenery might be benefitting for her health.
Neither Mrs. Campbell nor Mrs. Dixon could have imagined that Jane would not agree to the scheme, but she was not willing to leave England. Not until she had received some definite intelligence from Yorkshire. She wished very much to see Charlotte again and was truly sorry to have to decline the offer but in her heart she knew there was no choice. She had still hopes to be able to travel to Ireland after her own marriage to Mr. Churchill even if this hope grew smaller and smaller for every letter she received from him. Instead she proposed to Mrs. Campbell that she should go to stay with her grand-mother in Highbury for a few months. It had been more than two years since she had visited her family there, and she made a point of saying there might be little opportunity for her to do so after she had started her life as a governess.
Even though everybody tried to persuade her to go to Ireland, Mrs. Dixon wrote several intriguing letters in which she and her husband's wishes of seeing their dear friend were made as clear as they could be, but Jane stood firm. To Highbury she would go and nowhere else. There was nothing to be done except accepting her wishes. Her friends could only hope that her native air would prove to be a good cure for her cold and fatigue, and arrange for her journey. She wrote to her grand-mother to announce her arrival and was also forced to admit that she had not been completely well during the winter. She had not wanted to worry her grand-mother and her aunt by relating her illness to them but since she was still not quite well she could hardly keep the information from them any longer.
A short letter came with the returning post from her aunt that clearly showed how happy they were that she should come. Jane could hardly keep from shedding a few tears at remembering how loved she was by her friends in Highbury. She should have gone sooner. Her grand-mother was old and would perhaps not see many more summers and to be deprived of her grand-daughters company for over two years, it was not fair. Mrs. Bates deserved to be treated better by someone she loved so dearly.
Three months was to be spent my Col. and Mrs. Campbell in Ireland so it was concluded that Jane were to spend at least that long a time in Highbury. Mrs. Campbell made her promise not to make any arrangement for starting to earn her living before they returned to the country, but instead to follow them to Ireland if she felt she could not stay in Surrey for the whole time, something that she most readily agreed to.
Jane wrote, of course, not only to Surrey to relate her plans, but to Yorkshire as well. Mr. Churchill expressed his relief on her not going all the way to Ireland, and seemed to have some hopes of visiting Highbury too. He had still not been able to pay his respects to his father's wife and felt that it was long overdue. It had been planned he should go shortly after Christmas, but his aunt had not felt well enough to part with him and the trip had been postponed indefinitely. One could only imagine what Mrs. Weston felt at this. Not to be visited by her step-son, furthermore a step-son she had never met. The prospect of seeing Mr. Churchill at Highbury did not lessen the joy Jane felt in going there, and she hoped they would have some opportunity of meeting. Letters cannot be the full means of relating feelings between two people as a simple look into the other persons eyes can.
Two days before Col. and Mrs. Campbell were to leave London; their carriage drove Jane to Surrey. She arrived without any alarm and was as always greeted by her grand-mother and aunt with much love and affection. Mrs. Bates was a silent little lady and did not do much but smile at her beloved grand-daughter but her daughter was not the kind of woman who is inclined to repress neither her emotions nor her voice.
"Dear Jane, you are come at last! We have expected you this whole last hour, have we not mother, and I felt certain that there had been some accident or other, but I did not want to worry my mother so I tried my best to be quiet. But now you are here! Let me have a look at you, you do not look well at all. A bad cold, indeed, we shall send for Mr. Perry as soon as could be. He will be able to cure you I am sure, for he always did when you were a little girl;" were only the first flood of intelligence flowing from Miss Bates' lips when Jane entered the small drawing-room.
"My dear aunt;" Jane said embracing her "how wonderful it is to be home. I am sure the fresh air at Highbury shall cure me ere long."
The two older ladies were both eager to get an account of Jane's life during the last two years and at least Miss Bates was hardly less eager to relate to her niece all the latest news of Highbury. It was inevitable that Jane should hear the name of Frank Churchill being mentioned, but she found she could bear it very well. Her friends had no notion of their intimate acquaintance even if she had mentioned the fact that they had met in Weymouth.
"It was said that he was to come the second week of January, but it all came to nothing;" Miss Bates said.
"Mr. Weston must have been very disappointed. And Mrs. Weston too;" was Jane's only response.
"Yes, indeed they were, but at least Mr. Weston has high hopes of seeing his son here in the course of the spring, and I dare say he will come. Such a lovely young man, as he seems to be, cannot keep from visiting his father's new bride for much longer."
The first days at Highbury were filled with visits with old friends of Mrs. and Miss Bates', and Jane enjoyed the calm society of her native village. Their circle consisted of very few young people and the only one of a similar age as Jane was Miss Woodhouse. Miss Woodhouse was a very beautiful and elegant young lady whom Jane had known for almost all her life. Mrs. Bates and Mr. Woodhouse were old friends and the families had often met, but there had never been any strong friendship between the two girls. Jane knew that she ought not to feel intimidated by Miss Woodhouse, but at times it was hard not to. During their first meeting Jane felt more at ease than she had for a long time in the company of Miss Woodhouse though, she was nothing but charming and obliging, inviting them for an evening party just a few nights later.
"There will be nothing special, Miss Fairfax;" she said, "only a peaceful evening amongst friends. My father and I yearn for company, we have not quite adapted to the loss of Mrs. Weston from our family-circle, and your grand-mother and aunt are very often so kind as to visit us."
Jane could imagine what joy her grand-mother had to visit Mr. Woodhouse and to be attended to as she had been in her youth, and it was therefore not hard to at least feel gratitude towards Miss Woodhouse on her account. Especially since the invitations were granted in such a way, as if Mrs. and Miss Bates were doing her a favour by coming.
Sadly these emotions were not long lasting. On spending a whole evening in company with Miss Woodhouse, Jane could not avoid noticing the fact that she had to struggle to be polite towards Miss Bates. Jane listened with great pain at her aunt's accounts of her health and her eating, and exhibiting the caps and work-bags she had brought as gifts when arriving in Highbury. Jane was embarrassed but it was also clear that Miss Woodhouse had very little respect for Miss Bates and cared even less about her. Mr. Woodhouse, though, was sincere in his friendship towards the Bates ladies and so seemed Mr. Knightley, Mr. and Mrs. Weston to be, much to Jane's relief. Miss Smith, the young friend of Miss Woodhouse's, seemed to Jane a pleasant enough girl. She was perhaps not she brightest young woman Jane had met, but at least she was kind and un-assuming. She was apparently a huge admirer of Miss Woodhouse, and it was not difficult to understand that it was the greatest reason as to why Miss Woodhouse liked her so much.
In the evening they had music, and after Miss Woodhouse's performance, which was excellent as ever with great vivacity even if it perhaps lacked in execution, Jane was bid to take seat at the piano. Her love for music was great but in company such as this she always felt unsure of her own capacity and could not let herself get absorbed by the music. The consequence was therefore that her exhibition lacked in the same vivacity that had impregnated the music of Miss Woodhouse's. When not in her usual circle Jane often seemed more reserved than usual and in the company of Miss Woodhouse, who was always perfectly unreserved it was more evident than ever that Jane was not. Her present situation made her even more cautious in what she was saying, since she feared she would betray her emotions if speaking too much about Weymouth and Mr. Churchill, especially in the company of Mr. Weston. Because of this she gave as little answers as possible to Miss Woodhouse's questions. Miss Woodhouse, who had never met with Mr. Weston's son was of course very interest in a person whom she was so closely connected to, and wanted very much to hear Jane's account of him.
"Is he handsome?" Miss Woodhouse asked.
"I believe he is reckoned a very fine young man."
"Is he agreeable?" Miss Woodhouse continued.
"He was generally thought so."
"Did he appear a sensible young man; a young man of information?"
"At a watering-place, or in a common London acquaintance, it is difficult to decide on such points. Manners are all that can be safely judged of, under a much longer knowledge than we have yet had of Mr. Churchill. I believe every body found his manners pleasing."
With theses answers extracted Miss Woodhouse finally gave up and instead started up a conversation with Mr. Weston instead, a person who was far more likely to give intelligence about his son than Jane seemed to be. Jane could not keep herself from listening to Mr. Weston's praises of his son. "What a beautiful bond there is between them, even if they have lived separate for all this time:" Jane thought. "There is so much true emotion in both of them."
The evening was concluded by a light supper, during which Mr. Woodhouse in his usual manner tried to prevent his guests from eating too much of any thing but gruel. He was one of these persons who very much enjoyed to see a table filled with anything that his guests could want, but his constant worry about his friends health prevented him from feeling any joy in seeing them eating and drinking what they were served.
On the next morning Jane went to the post-office to collect the letters. Since she received letters she did not want anyone to see, this was important to her, and both the apothecary in London and Mr. Perry had suggested that she should be out-doors as much as possible so not even her aunt could oppose the short daily walk. When Jane returned home, with no letter which could give her joy she found Miss Bates almost ecstatic over a hind-quarter of port just sent over from Hartfield.
"Dear Jane, here you are at last! You must come with me to Hartfield and thank Miss Woodhouse for this wonderful gift. Such friends as ours you do not come across anywhere in the world I declare;" Miss Bates exclaimed as Jane entered the drawing-room. As it was clear that her aunt would not let her stay behind and was already dressed in her bonnet and spencer Jane quickly consented to her proposal.
"Do you think, Hetty, that we have a salting-pan large enough for the pork," Mrs. Bates said from her place in the sofa.
"Oh, mother, you are so right. I must go down to Patty and check," cried Miss Bates.
"Shall I not go down instead, aunt," Jane asked. "I believe you have a cold and Patty has just been washing the kitchen."
"Oh, my dear! you are so considerate, but I assure you I am quite well and I shall only be down for a few moments," Miss Bates assured her.
Just that moment there was a knock on the door and Patty herself came in with a note to Miss Bates from her friend Mrs. Cole. The note proved to contain some very interesting news about the vicar, Mr. Elton, who was since some time away from Highbury visiting Bath. Apparently he was engaged to be married. Miss Bates was quite in raptures and full of curiosity. Unfortunately the note did not give half as much information as she would have wished for, so there was not much to be done but to walk over to Hartfield to share the news as well as thank Miss Woodhouse for her extreme kindness. Jane had while her aunt had been reading her note quietly consulted Patty about the pork and salting-pan. Patty seemed perfectly confident that their largest salting-pan would not be too small for the hind-quarter, and since there was nothing more to detain them Jane and her aunt were soon on their way towards Hartfield.
As soon as Jane and her aunt entered the room where they found Miss Woodhouse in company with her father and Mr. Knightley Miss Bates started talking.
"Oh, my dear sir, how are you this morning? My dear Miss Woodhouse -- I come quite overpowered. Such a beautiful hind-quarter of pork! You are too bountiful! Have you heard the news? Mr. Elton is going to be married."
Jane could see that Miss Woodhouse was started with the information, and that a slight blush came over her.
"There is my news: -- I thought it would interest you," Mr. Knightley said.
"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 od 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 half ago. He had just read Elton's letter as I was shown in, and handed it to me directly," Mr. Knightley replied.
"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. If ever there were people who, without having great wealth themselves, had everything they could wish for, I am sure it is us. We may well say that 'our lot is cast in a goodly heritage'. Well, Mr. Knightley, and so you actually saw the letter; well --"
"It was short, merely to announce -- but cheerful, exulting, of course. He had been so fortunate as to -- I forget the precise words -- one has no business to remember them. The information was, as you state, that he was going to be married to a Miss Hawkins. By his style, I should imagine it just settled."
"Mr. Elton going to be married!" said Miss Woodhouse. "He will have everybody's wishes for his happiness."
"He is very young to settle," Mr. Woodhouse observed. "He had better not be in a hurry. He seemed to me very well off as he was. We were always glad to see him at Hartfield."
"A new neighbour for us all, Miss Woodhouse!" said Miss Bates, joyfully; "my mother is so pleased! she says she cannot bear to have the poor old Vicarage without a mistress. This is great news, indeed. Jane, you have never seen Mr. Elton! no wonder that you should have such a curiosity to see him."
"No -- I have never seen Mr. Elton," Jane replied, not really knowing what to say on the subject. "Is he -- is he a tall man?"
"Who shall answer that question?" cried Miss Woodhouse. "My father would say 'yes', Mr. Knightley, 'no' and Miss Bates and I that he is just the happy medium. Then you have been here a little longer, Miss Fairfax, you will understand that Mr. Elton is the standard of perfection in Highbury, both in person and mind."
"Very true, Miss Woodhouse, so she will. He is the very best young man -- But, my dear Jane, if you remember, I told you yesterday he was precisely the height of Mr. Perry. Miss Hawkins, -- I dare say, an excellent young woman. His extreme attention to my mother -- wanting her to sit in the vicarage-pew, that she might hear the better, for my mother is a little deaf, you know -- it is not much, but she does not hear quite quick. Jane says that Colonel Campbell is a little deaf. He fancied bathing might be good for it -- the warm bath -- but she says it did him no lasting benefit. Colonel Campbell, you know, is quite our angel. And Mr. Dixon seems a very charming young man, quite worthy of him. It is such happiness when good people get together -- and they always do. Now, here will be Mr. Elton and Miss Hawkins; and there are the Coles, such very good people; and the Perrys -- I suppose there never was a happier and better couple than Mr. and Mrs. Perry. I say, sir," turning to Mr. Woodhouse, "I think there are few places with such society as Highbury. I always say, we are quite blessed in our neighbours. My dear sir, if there is one thing my mother loves better than another, it is pork -- a roast loin of pork." --
"As to who, or what Miss Hawkins is, or how long he has been acquainted with her," said Miss Woodhouse, "nothing I suppose can be known. One feels that it cannot be a very long acquaintance. He has been gone only four weeks."
Nobody had any information to give, and Miss Woodhouse continued, "You are silent, Miss Fairfax -- but I hope you mean to take an interest in this news. You, who have been hearing and seeing so much of late on these subjects, who must have been so deep in the business on Miss Campbell's account -- we shall not excuse your being indifferent about Mr. Elton and Miss Hawkins."
"When I have seen Mr. Elton," replied Jane, "I dare say I shall be interested -- but I believe it requires that with me. And as it is some months since Miss Campbell married, the impression may be a little worn off." Little inclination did she feel on discussing love and marriage, as anyone who knew about her own secret engagement would have understood.
"Yes, he has been gone just four weeks, as you observe, Miss Woodhouse," said Miss Bates, "four weeks yesterday. A Miss Hawkins. Well, I had always rather fancied it would be some young lady hereabouts; not that I ever -- Mrs. Cole once whispered to me -- but I immediately said, 'No, Mr. Elton is a most worthy young man -- but' -- In short, I do not think I am particularly quick at those sort of discoveries. I do not pretend to it. What is before me, I see. At the same time, nobody could wonder if Mr. Elton should have aspired -- Miss Woodhouse lets me chatter on, so good-humouredly. She knows I would not offend for the world. How does Miss Smith do? She seems quite recovered now. Have you heard from Mrs. John Knightley lately? Oh! those dear little children. Jane, do you know I always fancy Mr. Dixon like Mr. John Knightley? I mean in person -- tall, and with that sort of look -- and not very talkative."
Jane had been observing Miss Woodhouse during Miss Bates' speech, and found that there was probably some kind of story between her and Mr. Elton. Miss Bates' comments had not been lost on either of them and it was clear that Miss Woodhouse did not care for them. A slight pause made Jane realize that she was expected to respond.
"Quite wrong, my dear aunt, there is no likeness at all," she said.
"Very odd! but one never does form a just idea of any body beforehand. One takes up a notion, and runs away with it. Mr. Dixon, you say, is not, strictly speaking, handsome."
"Handsome! Oh, no -- far from it -- certainly plain. I told you he was plain."
"My dear, you said that Miss Campbell would not allow him to be plain, and that you yourself --"
"Oh! as for me, my judgment is worth nothing. Where I have a regard, I always think a person well-looking. But I gave what I believed the general opinion, when I called him plain."
"Well, my dear Jane, I believe we must be running away. The weather does not look well, and grandmamma will be uneasy. You are too obliging, my dear Miss Woodhouse; but we really must take leave. This has been a most agreeable piece of news indeed. I shall just go round by Mrs. Cole's; but I shall not stop three minutes: and, Jane, you had better go home directly -- I would not have you out in a shower! We think she is the better for Highbury already. Thank you, we do indeed. I shall not attempt calling on Mrs. Goddard, for I really do not think she cares for anything but boiled pork: when we dress the leg it will be another thing. Good morning to you, my dear sir. Oh! Mr. Knightley is coming too. Well, that is so very! I am sure if Jane is tired, you will be so kind as to giver her your arm. Mr. Elton, and Miss Hawkins. Good morning to you."
Escorted by Mr. Knightley Jane and her aunt thus left Hartfield and since there was nothing to be done to prevent it Miss Bates soon hurried off to see Mrs. Cole. Mr. Knightley and Jane continued together at a slower pace.
"So, Miss Fairfax, are you enjoying your stay in Highbury so far?" Mr. Knightley asked. "It must seem confined to you who are used to a more varied society."
"I am enjoying it very much, thank you. I prefer the quiet country life to the hectic life in town actually. I always feel so much more at piece here."
"Do you really? I should imagine that there are not many young ladies that share those feelings with you."
"Are you sure that such feelings are only for young women, then? What about your brother, Mr. Knightley. He must prefer London, does he not?"
"John prefers to stay at home, no matter if it is in town or in the country," Mr. Knightley said with a smile. "But, why should he not? He is married and perfectly happy. But here we are, Miss Fairfax. I send my best wishes to Mrs. Bates. I shall come by to call on her tomorrow or perhaps the day after."
Mr. Knightley took his leave and Jane went up stairs to tend to her grand-mamma. Jane felt a true regard for Mr. Knightley. He had always been a kind friend to her grant-mother and aunt and to her as well during her youth. It was a shame, she thought, that he was not married. He could make any young woman very happy, but it seemed he had no great interest to find a deserving wife.
Chapter XIVHuman nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly spoken of.
A week had not passed since Miss Hawkins's name was first mentioned in Highbury, before she was, by some means or other, discovered to have every recommendation of person and mind; to be handsome, elegant, highly accomplished, and perfectly amiable: and when Mr. Elton himself arrived to triumph in his happy prospects, and circulate the fame of her merits, there was very little more for him to do, than to tell her Christian name, and say whose music she principally played.
As Mr. Elton called on Mrs. and Miss Bates Jane saw him for the first time. His appearance was neither plain nor handsome. He seemed eager to please those around him and did not come across as unintelligent but he was certainly lacking in spirit and wit. As he was certainly polite towards Mrs. and Miss Bates it was impossible for Jane not to think well of him, but she could not help but feel that he was not so very pleasing as every one seemed to think.
The charming Augusta Hawkins, in addition to all the usual advantages of perfect beauty and merit, was in possession of an independent fortune, of so many thousands as would always be called ten; a point of some dignity, as well as some convenience: the story told well; he had not thrown himself away -- he had gained a woman of ten thousand pounds, or thereabouts; and he gained her with such delightful rapidity – the first hour of introduction had been so very soon followed by distinguishing notice; the history which he had to give of the rise and progress of the affair was so glorious -- the steps so quick, from the accidental rencontre, to the dinner at Mr. Green's, and the party at Mrs. Brown's -- smiles and blushes rising in importance -- with consciousness and agitation richly scattered -- the lady had been so easily impressed -- so sweetly disposed -- had in short, to use a most intelligible phrase, been so very ready to have him, that vanity and prudence were equally contented.
He had caught both substance and shadow -- both fortune and affection, and was just the happy man he ought to be; talking only of himself and his own concerns -- expecting to be congratulated -- ready to be laughed at -- and, with cordial, fearless smiles, now addressing all the young ladies of the place, to whom, a few weeks ago, he would have been more cautiously gallant. Jane, too, became an object of these gallantries and she received them with as much politeness she could achieve.
The wedding was no distant event, as the parties had only themselves to please, and nothing but the necessary preparations to wait for; and when he set out for Bath again, there was a general expectation, which a certain glance of Mrs. Cole's did not seem to contradict, that when he next entered Highbury he would bring his bride.
Jane's interest on the subject was quite cool, but she was happy for the young couple. No one, she thought, should have to endure the same feelings as she did by being prevented from marrying as soon as possible, and she hoped that both Mr. Elton and Miss Hawkins realized just how lucky they were that no one stood in the way of their happiness.
The very same day that Mr. Elton left for Bath Jane received some intelligence that was much more inclined to interest her and to uplift her spirits. On her usual morning walk to the post-office she finally received the letter she had been waiting anxiously for. It was sent, not from Yorkshire but from Oxford. He was so near Highbury that he might be expected the very next day, and had finally managed to make his aunt agree to a visit with his father for a whole fourth-night.
The next morning Jane woke up with a smile and took some extra care in dressing, even if she was not going out. She tried her best to appear calm but her whole inside were in a complete uproar. To avoid being even more upset she stayed clear of the windows and instead sat down by her grand-mother with her work. Unfortunately she could not keep her aunt from often walking up to the window looking out, for she had heard the news from Mr. Weston the day before and was extremely curious of the young man.
Just a few minutes before the clock were to strike twelve Miss Bates cried to her niece: "There is Mr. Weston, I declare, and in company with him a young man. Tall and handsome! It must be Mr. Frank Churchill -- did you not say he was tall, Jane -- come and have a look and tell me if I am not correct. Mr. Frank Churchill, he is come at last!"
Jane did not stir from her seat and soon the two men were out of sight.
"Do you think he shall call here, Jane?" Miss Bates asked. "It seemed as if they were on their way to Hartfield. Mr. Weston must be eager to introduce his son to Mr. and Miss Woodhouse, but I do hope they shall come here as well."
"We are only slightly acquainted, aunt," Jane responded. "There is little reason for Mr. Churchill to call on me." That was her words but she knew in her heart he would come as soon as possible. She was nervous, though, they had not met for a long time and she could only hope that his feelings for her would not be altered after such a long separation. She knew that hers were not, but little knowledge as she had of the male heart she dared not expect him to still hold her in high regard.
He came, though, without his father. As soon as Jane heard his steps in the stairs she knew it was him, and as he entered the room she hardly dared to look at him. She drew her breath and introduced him to her grand-mother and aunt. Miss Bates bid him to sit down and first then Jane could no longer resist the urge to look into his eyes. She lifted up her head and looked into those wonderful blue eyes and suddenly knew that nothing had changed. All she needed to know was in that look and as her aunt talked no one of them listened but only looked at each other.
Posted on April 3, 2009Mr. Churchill stayed for quite a long while with the three ladies. Miss Bates was immensely flattered he should do so, and talked a great deal. It was not until she went down to the kitchen to ask Patty to bring some tea that Mr. Churchill had any chance of talking to Jane.
"I am glad to see you so well, Miss Fairfax," he said. "It is a great while since we met. I only wish I could have come sooner. I was greeted with such joy at Randalls last night when I arrived that I realized that Highbury has more claim on my attention than I could ever have imagined."
"I can imagine that Mr. Weston was very glad to see you, and to be able to introduce you to his wife."
"Yes, indeed." Mr. Churchill glanced in Mrs. Bates' direction and lowered his voice. "Dear Jane, how glad I am to see you. You would not believe how I have missed you and here you are finally. I hope we shall be able to see as much of each other as possible."
At this Miss Bates came into the room again followed by Patty who was carrying a tray.
"Ah, Miss Bates, you are too kind. I was just saying to Miss Fairfax what a pity it is that she does not have an instrument. She plays so beautiful so one must wish that she could always entertain you and your mother, and your guests too."
"Yes, indeed it is, but I do not even know if we would be able to make room for an instrument, Mr. Churchill," cried Miss Bates.
Mr. Churchill had been sitting with the ladies for about three-quarters of and hour when they had another visitor. Mr. Weston came looking for his son, since he had thought him to arrive back at Randalls long before him.
"There you are still, Frank, I was afraid you had lost your way trying to get home again," he cried almost as soon as he had gotten into the room. He then greeted the ladies with much cordiality.
"I am sorry father, but I seem to have stayed much longer than I had expected to. When there is pleasant company it is easy to forget the time, it seems. I shall be with you shortly."
"Oh, Mr. Weston, we should not have kept him from you the very first day of his visit," cried Miss Bates.
"That is quite as it should be, Miss Bates, I would not want him to only wait around for me when I have business to attend to, but now I am afraid Mrs. Weston is expecting us at home."
The two gentlemen began taking their leave, both of them saying they looked forward on seeing the ladies again soon.
"Yes, yes, it will be very charming. I have this morning received a charming invitation from Mrs. Cole for tea the day after tomorrow, or if it was the day after that -- I shall have to find the note to check -- I am sure I had it only a few minutes ago. Such good friends -- I dare say it will be a wonderful party;" cried Miss Bates.
"Then perhaps we will be able to hear you play, Miss Fairfax;" Mr. Churchill said and bowed before leaving the room with his father.
On the following morning Jane entertained some hopes on seeing Mr. Churchill again and often walked up to the window to look out. On her regular walk to the post-office she had seen neither him nor Mr. or Mrs. Weston, and as the morning went by her hopes on seeing any of them was lessened with every minute. Finally, though, he came walking into the village in company with Mrs. Weston and Miss Woodhouse. Jane saw with some pain how he was conversing Miss Woodhouse, who seemed very content with the company. "His friends must wish him to marry a young woman with both fortune and beauty;" she thought. "And not a penniless orphan who has to earn her own daily bread." Jane withdrew from the window and hoped that she had not been seen by the walking trio. It was frustrating to know that he was so near, and still not be able to talk alone with him. The party at the Cole's would at least give them an opportunity to meet in a larger crowd, and perhaps there would be some chance for them to speak with one another.
In the afternoon the next day something truly extraordinary happened. A beautiful pianoforte arrived from Broadwood's. There was no explanatory note to give them a clue to who had sent it, and they were all very much surprised.
"Dear me;" cried Miss Bates, "who can have ordered it? It surely must be from Colonel Campbell -- what a great friend he is -- absolutely charming!"
"It is strange that he has not written about it beforehand, though;" Jane said. "I had a letter from Mrs. Campbell only a few says ago and there was no mentioning of it."
"But, who else can it be! No I am sure it must be Col. Campbell."
"Yes, you must be right aunt. Perhaps he just did not want to ruin the surprise. It is indeed a fine instrument. Very elegant, and it fits perfectly even if the Colonel has not visited here for several years;" Jane said.
So they decided between them that the giver must be Col. Campbell, but Jane had some suspicions towards a different quarter. It was not at all like the Colonel to make such a surprise, and if he had why would he not send a note with the piano letting them know that it was he who had sent it? As she stroked the smooth surface her thoughts wandered to the very man she suspected as the giver. "It would be just like him;" she thought with a smile, "so impulsive and so warm-hearted. He knows of my love for music, and strives to make me as happy as possible. What a wonderful gift. Only too bad he cannot get credit for the gesture, it must go to Col. Campbell, at least for now."
Chapter XVIMrs. Cole called quite early the next morning and was almost as stunned as Miss Bates and Jane had been on the sight of the instrument. After hearing the explanation formed by the ladies about the origin of the present, Mrs. Cole expressed with great alacrity, the joy she felt on Jane's behalf.
"I declare, I do not know when I have heard anything that has given me more satisfaction!" she cried. "It has always hurt me that you should not have an instrument, Miss Fairfax, you who play so delightfully. It seemed quite a shame, especially considering how many houses there are where fine instruments are absolutely thrown away. I am almost ashamed as I look at our new grand pianoforte in the drawing-room, while I do not know one note from another, and our little girls, who are but just beginning, perhaps may never make any thing of it. Mr. Cole quite agrees with me, but he is so particularly fond of music that he could not help indulging himself in the purchase, hoping that some of our good neighbours might be so obliging occasionally to put it to better use than we can; and that really is the reason why the instrument was bought -- or else I am sure we ought to be ashamed of it. We really hope that you will be prevailed on to try it this evening, Miss Fairfax."
Jane politely consented to the request and soon after Mrs. Cole hurried off to take care of the preparations for the evening. She had not been gone long when a note came for Miss Bates from Donwell Abbey, with an offer from Mr. Knightley. He was to order his carriage for the evening, and expressed a very kind wish that Miss Bates and her niece should use it too, on their way to the Cole's. Miss Bates was indeed a fine object for such kindness and she did not know how to express her joy on having such a great friend as Mr. Knightley. She sent an answer immediately saying that they would gladly accept the kind offer, and that they would be sure to be ready as soon as the carriage came to collect them.
Mrs. Bates was invited to spend the evening with Mr. Woodhouse, together with Mrs. Goddard to keep him company as Miss Woodhouse went to the dinner-party at Mr. and Mrs. Cole. Since the old lady much preferred a small company above a large one, she was happy to accept the invitation, so it had been decided that Miss Bates and her niece would attend to the party alone. They sent off Mrs. Bates in time for an early dinner, together with Mrs. Goddard in Mr. Woodhouse's carriage that came to fetch the two ladies.
Jane and her aunt had their dinner alone, and especially Miss Bates was very inclined to talk. She looked forward very much to the party in the evening and were hoping to see some more of Mr. Frank Churchill who had appeared a very fine young man when they had met.
"Of course, I knew he must be a fine young man;" she said. "Mr. Weston is such a gentleman, that one must believe a son of his would be the most amiable young man one could ever imagine."
Jane was, as one can imagine, happy that her aunt liked the man she had fallen in love with but it was very difficult for her not being able to talk about him in the way she long so much to do. "I wish I dared confide in my aunt;" she thought, "but it would turn out well. My aunt is a great talker, and I am afraid she could never hold her tongue."
Mr. Knightley's carriage arrived just as punctually as the gentleman himself used to be, and the two ladies took their seats for the short ride to Mr. Cole's house. As they entered the drawing-room the ladies that had attended the dinner had already retreated from the dining-room and was joined by Mrs. Cox and her daughters as well as by Miss Smith and a couple of other young ladies who were staying with Mrs. Goddard. Jane was almost as soon as she got in met with congratulations and questions regarding the pianoforte. Mrs. Cole had evidently been relating the news to anyone who would listen, and Jane praised "her excellent friend col. Campbell," even if she felt she could not withhold a slightly conscious blush.
Mrs. Weston, kind-hearted and musical, was particularly interested by the circumstance, and she kept to the subject longer than any of the other ladies present. She asked questions and talked about the tone, touch, and pedal and Jane could only with quite a lot of effort sit calmly by her side and give the necessary answers.
They were soon joined by some of the gentlemen; and the very first of the early was Frank Churchill. In he walked the first and the handsomest but on passing Jane and her aunt he stayed only shortly to pay his compliments. He then made his way directly to the opposite side of the circle, where sat Miss Woodhouse; and till he could find a seat by her, would not sit at all. It seemed quite obvious that Miss Woodhouse was the object of his attention and Jane, who tried to avoid the sight of them together, directed her attention towards her aunt and Mrs. Weston instead. Mrs. Weston had finally left the subject of Jane's new pianoforte and was instead offering Mrs. Bates and Jane a place in her carriage on their way home.
"Thank you, Mrs. Weston, thank you very much. I do not think that there could be any other person who is as fortunate as me when it comes to the kindness of my excellent friends;" cried Miss Bates, "but there is no occasion to trouble you and Mr. Weston for Mr. Knightley's carriage brought us here and is to take us home again."
Mrs. Weston looked a bit surprised at this, but said nothing further on the subject.
As the rest of the gentlemen had entered the room Jane looked again in Mr. Churchill's direction and saw that he was looking directly at her and that Miss Woodhouse's attention had been drawn away from him by Mr. Cole. That look made Jane feel a whole lot better and she again felt convinced that she was still the object of his interest even if he could not show this interest in public. As Mr. Cole moved away Miss Woodhouse said something to him and he seemed started and gave a long speech that Jane could not hear and then rose up and started walking in Jane's direction.
Quietly he said to her: "You look very well this evening Miss Fairfax. I am sorry that I have not had any opportunity to saying so before. I wish we could have some opportunity to talk this evening." With this he took the chair Mrs. Weston had only just left and sat down by her side.
Miss Bates was very happy to have the young man in her vicinity and started up a conversation with him, asking him questions of his aunt and uncle. He answered them with great politeness and seemed glad to make himself better acquainted with Miss Bates. Jane did not say much, though, afraid as she was to betray her feelings. She realized that Mr. Churchill played this game of theirs much better than she ever could. He seemed perfectly at ease even when he whispered some comments to her, but she could not remain equally calm and unaffected by his presence.
A little bustle showed that tea was over, and the instrument in preparation. Mr. Cole approached Miss Woodhouse and entreated her to do them the honour of trying it. Mr. Churchill gave Jane an apologizing nod and followed Mr. Cole and added some very pressing entreaties towards the young lady whom in a very short time gave compliance to the suggestion. With an elegant smile Miss Woodhouse rose up and went over to the instrument, where she started up a song. Miss Woodhouse lacked neither taste nor spirit and she accompanied her own voice very well. Jane looked with a more eager interest at Mr. Churchill, who was standing by the instrument. He gave her a quick wink, seen by none other, and as Miss Woodhouse began on the second verse of her song he took up a second. As the song was concluded he begged his pardon for interfering in Miss Woodhouse's performance. He was accused of having a delightful voice and a perfect knowledge of music; which was properly denied; and that he knew nothing of the matter, and had no voice at all, roundly asserted. They sang together once more; and Miss Woodhouse would then resign her place to Jane.
"Dear Miss Fairfax;" she said, "I hope that you will, too, grant us with a performance."
The suggestion was supported by several others and Jane therefore rose from her seat and took over the place already abandoned by Miss Woodhouse.
"Perhaps I may be so bold as to suggest a duet, Miss Fairfax. The very one we sang together at Weymouth?" Mr. Churchill suggested.
To this Jane only smiled and began to play the first chords of the song he had suggested. She was soon wrapped up in the music and after finishing the song, she started on another one. At the end of the second song, Jane felt her voice growing thick. Perhaps she was not yet completely well from her cold after all. As the last chord had died away Mr. Knightley, who had evidently reacted to Jane's faltering voice, said:
"That will do, you have sung enough for one evening; now be quiet."
Another song, however, was soon begged for by the rest of the company. "One more; they would not fatigue Miss Fairfax on any account, and would only ask for one more." Mr. Churchill glanced through the sheet music and suggested a song he had found.
"I think you could manage this without effort; the first part is so trifling. The strength of the song falls on the second;" he said.
Mr. Knightley, though, would not give in to the wishes of others. Jane heard him say in the direction of Miss Woodhouse: "That fellow thinks of nothing but showing off his own voice. This must not be." He then turned to Miss Bates to get her assistance in putting a stop to the music. "Miss Bates, are mad, to let your niece sing herself hoarse in this manner? Go and interfere. They have no mercy on her."
Miss Bates was as quick to comply with this as Mr. Knightley could have wished for, and stepped forward. Since Jane did not particularly wish to sing any further it was not a great task for her aunt to persuade her to leave the instrument, and thus ceases the concert since Jane and Miss Woodhouse were the only young-lady-performers.
Within five minutes the proposal of dancing was so effectually promoted my Mr. and Mrs. Cole that everything was rapidly clearing away, to give proper space. Mrs. Weston, capital in her country-dances, was seated, and beginning an irresistible waltz. Mr. Churchill claimed the hand of Miss Woodhouse and brought her up to the top of the set that was quickly forming. Jane was asked up onto the dance floor by one of the younger Mr. Coxes. Of course she was disappointed not to have Mr. Churchill as her partner, but she knew very well that it would have looked very strange. Miss Woodhouse was the young lady of the party who could claim precedence over everyone else and to her attention must be given before it was given to someone else.
Two dances, unfortunately, were all that could be allowed. It was growing late, and Miss Bates became anxious to get home, on her mother's account. After some attempts, therefore, to be permitted to begin again the young people were obliged to thank Mrs. Weston, look sorrowful, and have done.
As Mr. Churchill took his leave of Jane and Miss Bates he whispered in a low voice: "I shall try to come calling tomorrow, Jane," and with that he was gone to Miss Woodhouse's side to escort her to her carriage.
Chapter XVIIThe next morning Jane sat down at her pianoforte and gently stroked the keys. Some sheets of music had been sent with the instrument and she had not yet had time to try the new songs. She was eager to do so before her expected guest would arrive and since there were few things Mrs. Bates liked as well as to hear her grand-daughter play there was no one who would protest at her playing. Miss Bates was occupied in the kitchen with Patty so the drawing-room was quiet apart from the sound of the pianoforte and nothing could disturb Jane's concentration.
Unfortunately there was a break in Jane's concentration caused by the fact that a rivet in Mrs. Bates' spectacles came out, and the old lady whose sight was highly dependable on those spectacles was blurred to the point where she could no longer carry on with her work. Only a few moments later, when Jane had already begun to try to put the spectacles together again, Miss Bates came into the room.
"Oh, dear!" she cried. "Has the rivet gone out again? My poor mother! I shall go over to John Saunders with the glasses this instant so that he can mend them for us."
"It is too bad you do not have an extra pair of spectacles, grand-mama;" Jane said. "everyone who depends on them for their sight ought to have a second pair."
"Yes, my dear, you are so right;" Miss Bates cried. "I shall only go and get my spencer and bonnet and then I shall be off in a moment."
At this there was a knock on the door and Patty came into the room.
"I beg your pardon, ma'am," she said. "But I believe the kitchen chimney wants sweeping. It is so many sots, that I am afraid it will catch fire."
"Oh, Patty!" cried Miss Bates, "Do not come with your bad news to me. Here is the rivet of your mistress's spectacles out and I must run over to John Saunders with them to have them mended."
"Perhaps I could make that errand for you, aunt;" Jane began to say, but she was interrupted by the door-bell. Patty went down stairs and soon came up again to announce that Mrs. Wallis's boy had come with the baked apples. At this Miss Bates followed Patty down to the kitchen to tend to the delivery and left both her mother and her niece in quite a confused state.
"Do you think I should go to John Saunders, or shall I wait until my aunt returns?" Jane asked.
"You are a good girl, Jane, but there need not be any hurry. I am quite alright even without my spectacles;" Mrs. Bates said.
At this Jane instead sat down by the piano again and tried to concentrate on her music, but soon she was interrupted once again. There was again the sound of the door-bell and soon she heard the bustle of her aunt and a couple of visitors in the staircase. Into the room came Miss Bates together with Mrs. Weston and her step-son who were urged to sit down and take some refreshments that Miss Bates almost instantly left the room to tell Patty to prepare.
"We came to hear your new pianoforte, Miss Fairfax;" Mrs. Weston said. "Frank told me this morning that I had absolutely promised to do so yesterday, so here we are. I hope you have found it a fine instrument?"
"It is a beautiful instrument, Mrs. Weston;" Jane replied, "but I have hardly had time to try it as of yet. You should have postponed your visit a few days so I would have had time to learn some of the new songs that came with it."
Miss Bates came back into the room with Patty and the tea tray. "We are quite in an uproar this morning, Mrs. Weston;" she said. "But I know you will forgive us, since you are so very kind. We are so blessed with our good friends and neighbours -- only this morning we got home baked apples from Mrs. Wallis -- there is nothing Jane likes so well as these baked apples, and they are extremely wholesome, for I took the opportunity the other day of asking Mr. Perry; I happened to meet him in the street. Not that I had any doubt before -- I have so often heard Mr. Woodhouse recommend a baked apple. I believe it is the only way that Mr. Woodhouse thinks the fruit wholesome. We have apple dumplings, however, very often. Patty makes an excellent apple-dumpling. But this business with the apples made me totally forget about the rivet in mother's spectacles. I was just going over to John Saunders with them to have him put it back in when the apples came."
"Oh! I do think I can fasten the rivet;" Mr. Churchill said. "I like a job of this kind excessively."
"Oh, Mr. Churchill;" cried Miss Bates. "How very kind of you!"
Mr. Churchill received both the spectacles and the loose rivet and sat down at a table to put them together. Mrs. Weston had gone up to the instrument and lightly touched the keys.
"It certainly has a very fine tune, Miss Fairfax;" she said. "I do not believe even the pianoforte at Hartfield has got a better one."
"Oh, do you really think so, Mrs. Weston;" cried Miss Bates. "I do declare -- I must say that Miss Woodhouse played very beautiful last night. Have you seen her this morning, Mrs. Weston?"
"Yes, Frank and I saw her down at Ford's just before we came here. She was in company with Miss Smith."
"Oh, then I must run across;" Miss Bates continued. "I am sure Miss Woodhouse will allow me just to run across and entreat her to come in; my mother will be so very happy to see her -- and now we are such a nice party, she cannot refuse."
"Aye, pray do;" said Mr. Churchill. "Miss Woodhouse's opinion of the instrument will be worth having."
"But;" said Miss Bates, "I shall be more sure of succeeding of one of you will do with me."
"Oh! Wait half-a-minute till I have finished my job."
"You sit still, Frank, and finish what you have started;" said Mrs. Weston. "I can go with you, Miss Bates, and see if I can be of assistance in persuading Miss Woodhouse and Miss Smith to come along."
The two ladies thus went and apart from Mrs. Bates, Jane and Mr. Churchill were alone. He left his seat and came up to the pianoforte where Jane was standing. Mrs. Bates appeared to be asleep so Mr. Churchill dared speak to Jane in a low voice.
"Dear Jane, how glad I am to see you and to be able to speak to you again. You look so pale, you are not unwell I hope?"
"It is nothing. Only a slight cold."
"I should not have tried to keep you singing last night. It seems as if Mr. Knightley is a better friend of yours than I am. Perhaps it would be better -- no, I have tried to talk to my aunt about marriage, but she went into a fit just by thinking about it. That was why I could not come here before. She cannot bear to have me gone when she is feeling unwell."
"It is so hard not be able to talk to anyone. My poor aunt and grand-mother -- I have deceived them so completely. And the Colonel and Mrs. Campbell as well. We should not -- we ought not to do this to our family and friends."
"But what else can we do? I cannot bear the thought of being separated from you forever, Jane. They must approve of the marriage sooner or later. My uncle will adore you, I am sure, and my aunt -- well she will too see what a wonderful person you are. She had neither rank nor fortune when she married my uncle, so why should she not think it to be alright that I marry a woman whose only fault, if it can even be said to be a fault, is that she has no money?"
They suddenly heard a bustle in the stairs and the voice of Miss Bates. "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 narrower than one could wish. Miss Smith, pray take care. Miss Woodhouse, I am quite concerned, I am sure you hit your foot. Miss Smith, the step at the turning."
At this Mr. Churchill went back to the table and again took up Mrs. Bates' spectacles and returned to his work.
Chapter XVIIIAs the other party entered the room they only saw Mrs. Bates slumbering on one side of the fire, Mr. Churchill, at a table near her, most deedily occupied about her spectacles, and Jane, standing with her back to them, intent on her pianoforte.
Busy as the young man appeared, though, he was yet able to show a most happy countenance on seeing the additions to the party. He primarily addressed Miss Woodhouse and said: "This is a pleasure, coming at least ten minutes earlier than I had calculated. You find me trying to be useful; tell me if you think I shall succeed."
"What!" said Mrs. Weston, "have you not finished it yet? You would not earn a very good livelihood as a working-silversmith at this rate."
"I have not been working uninterruptedly," he replied. "I have been assisting Miss Fairfax in trying to make her instrument stand steadily, it was not quite firm; an unevenness in the floor, I believe. You see we have been wedging one leg with paper. This was very king of you to be persuaded to come. I was almost afraid you would be hurrying home."
As Jane tried to get ready to sit down by her instrument and play, her aunt was serving the guests some of the baked apples that had arrived earlier the same morning. Jane was not immediately ready to play, she had not yet possessed the instrument long enough to touch it without emotion; she must reason herself into the power of performance in front of such a company as the one assembled before her.
At last Jane began, and though the first bars were feebly given, the powers of the instrument were gradually done full justice to. Mrs. Weston had been delighted before, and was delighted again; Miss Woodhouse joined her in all her praise; and the pianoforte, with proper discrimination, was pronounced to be altogether of the highest promise.
"What joy it is to hear you play, Miss Fairfax;" Mrs. Weston said. "I must congratulate you again on your fine instrument. Col. Campbell is indeed a great friend."
"I am very fortunate in his friendship;" Jane replied with a blush.
"How much your friends in Ireland must be enjoying your pleasure on this occasion, Miss Fairfax;" Mr. Churchill said. "I dare say they often think of you, and wonder which will be the day; the precise day of the instrument's coming to hand. Do you Col. Campbell knows the business to be going forward just at this time? Do you imagine it to be the consequence of an immediate commission from him, or that he may have sent only a general direction, an order indefinite as to time, to depend upon contingencies and conveniences?"
"Till I have a letter from Col. Campbell;" she replied, in a voice of forced calmness, "I can imagine nothing with any confidence. It must be all conjecture."
"Conjecture -- aye, sometimes one conjectures right, and sometimes one conjectures wrong. I wish I could conjecture how soon I shall make this rivet quite firm. What nonsense one talks, Miss Woodhouse, when hard at work, if one talks at all; -- your real workmen, I suppose, hold their tongues; but we gentlemen labourers if we get hold of a word -- Miss Fairfax said something about conjecturing. There, it is done. I have the pleasure, madam, (to Mrs. Bates) of restoring your spectacles, healed for the present."
He was very warmly thanked both by mother and daughter, but soon went to the pianoforte, and begged Jane, who was still sitting at it, to play something more.
"If you are very kind;" said he, "it will be one of the waltzes we danced last night; -- let me live them over again. You did not enjoy them as I did; you appeared tired the whole time. I believe you were glad we danced no longer; but I would have given worlds -- all the worlds one ever has to give -- for another half hour."
"What felicity it is to hear a tune again which has made one happy! If I mistake not that was danced at Weymouth."
Jane looked up at him and coloured deeply. It was a tune that was danced at Weymouth. The first dance they had shared. She stopped and played another melody instead. Mr. Churchill took up some music from a chair near the pianoforte and turned to Miss Woodhouse.
"Here is something quite new to me. Do you know it? Cramer. And here are a new set of Irish melodies. That, from such a quarter, one might expect. This was all sent with the instrument. Very thoughtful of Col. Campbell, was not it? He knew Miss Fairfax could have no music here. I honour that part of the attention particularly; it shows it to have been so thoroughly from the heart. Nothing hastily done; nothing incomplete. True affection only could have prompted it."
Jane knew this was in part directed towards her and could not help but smile. It had been thoughtful, indeed. She only wished he would not continue to talk about the present as if it came from the Campbell's. That he took up a seat by Miss Woodhouse and engaged in some quiet conversation with her was almost a relief. She started playing Robin Adair, one of Mr. Churchill's favourite tunes.
Miss Bates, who was as usual up on her feet, passed near the window and descried Mr. Knightley on horseback not far off.
"Mr. Knightley I declare! I must speak to him if possible, just to thank him. I will not open the window here; it would give you all cold; but I can go into my mother's room you know. I dare say he will come in when he knows who is here. Quite delightful to have you all meet so! Our little room so honoured!"
She was in the adjoining chamber while she still spoke, and opening the casement there, immediately called Mr. Knightley's attention, and every syllable of their conversation was as distinctly heard by the others, as if it had passed within the same apartment.
"How d'ye do? How d'ye do? Very well, I thank you. So obliged to you for the carriage last night. We were just in time; my mother just ready for us. Pray come in; do come in. You will find some friends here."
So began Miss Bates; and Mr. Knightley seemed determined to be heard in his turn, for most resolutely and commandingly did he say:
"How is your niece, Miss Bates? I want to inquire after you all, but particularly your niece. How is Miss Fairfax? I hope she caught no cold last night. How is she to-day? Tell me how Miss Fairfax is."
And Miss Bates was obliged to give a direct answer before he would hear her in anything else. Mr. Churchill gave Jane a look at this. Perhaps he was still thinking of what he had said regarding Mr. Knightley's concern of her health the night before.
"So obliged to you! So very much obliged to you for the carriage;" resumed Miss Bates.
He cut her short with,
"I am going to Kingston. Can I do anything for you?"
"Oh! Dear, Kingston -- are you? Mrs. Cole was saying the other day she wanted something from Kingston."
"Mrs. Cole has servants to send. Can I do anything for you?"
"No, I thank you. But do come in. Who do you think is here? Miss Woodhouse and Miss Smith; so kind as to call to hear the new pianoforte. Do put up your horse at the Crown, and come in."
"Well," said he in a deliberating manner, "for five minutes, perhaps."
"And here is Mrs. Weston and Mr. Frank Churchill too! Quite delightful; so many friends!"
"No, not now, I thank you. I could not stay two minutes. I must get on to Kingston as fast as I can."
"Oh! Do come in. They will be so very happy to see you."
"No, no, your room is full enough. I will call another day, and hear the pianoforte."
"Well, I am so sorry! Oh! Mr. Knightley, what a delightful party last night; how extremely pleasant. Did you ever see such dancing? Was not it delightful? Miss Woodhouse and Mr. Frank Churchill; I never saw any thing equal to it."
"Oh, very delightful indeed; I can say nothing less, for I suppose Miss Woodhouse and Mr. Frank Churchill are hearing every thing that passes. And (raising his voice still more) I do not see why Miss Fairfax should not be mentioned too. I think Miss Fairfax dances very well; and Mrs. Weston is the very best country-dance player, without exception, in England. Now, if your friends have any gratitude, they will say something pretty loud about you and me in return; but I cannot stay to hear it."
"Oh! Mr. Knightley, one moment more; something of consequence -- so shocked! Jane and I are both so shocked about the apples!"
"What is the matter now?"
"To think of your sending us all your store apples. You said you had a great many, and now you have not one left. We really are so shocked! Mrs. Hodges may well be angry. William Larkins mentioned it here. You should not have not have done it, indeed you should not. Ah! He is off. He never can bear to be thanked. But I thought he would have staid now, and it would have been a pity not to have mentioned -- Well, (returning into the room,) I have not been able to succeed. Mr. Knightley cannot stop. He is going to Kingston. He asked me if he could do any thing --"
"Yes," said Jane, "we heard his kind offers, we heard everything."
"Oh! Yes, my dear, I dare say you might, because you know the door was open, and the window was open, and
Mr. Knightley spoke loud. You must have heard everything to be sure. 'Can I do anything for you at Kingston?' said he, so I just mentioned -- Oh! Miss Woodhouse, must you be going? You seem but just come; so very obliging of you."
"Yes, Miss Bates, I must get home to my father;" Miss Woodhouse said. On examining watches, so much of the morning was perceived to be gone, that Mrs. Weston and her companion also felt themselves obliged to take leave.
Chapter XIXAs Jane was on her way to the post-office the next morning she saw Mr. Churchill at a distance down the Randalls road. It seemed as if he was on his way to Highbury and she hoped that he was on his way to see her. As he saw her he raised his arm to salute her but stopped and then turned away from the main road and went into the nearby little forest. Jane smiled and hurried into the post-office. After collecting the few letters that was found there she extended her walk down to the forest where she found Mr. Churchill waiting.
"My dear!" said he. "I am so glad we have gotten this opportunity to be alone. It is so hard to be near you and not be able to speak freely."
"Yes, but I cannot be away for long. My aunt will be worried."
"I must go back to Yorkshire soon -- I hate to leave you, but my aunt will hardly allow me to stay much longer. I shall speak with them as soon as I get there, I promise. The next time we meet we will be able to tell the whole world about our engagement. It will be a fine thing to have everyone know about it. Any day now you might get a better offer from someone else."
Jane laughed. "What are you talking about? Who would give me an offer?"
"Why, your Mr. Knightley of course. Did you not hear him yesterday? His inquiries after your health and his description of your dancing."
"Mr. Knightley is only being polite and attentive to me since he is such an old friend to my family. He thinks nothing of me I assure you."
"Oh! It is not only me, Jane. Mrs. Weston suspects him to. She told me all about it on our way home yesterday. What an amazing match it would be, and how happy all your friends would be. I would not be happy at all I assure you, but I could not do anything but to agree with her even if all I wanted to do was to scream out loud that he cannot have you."
"I am sure he does not mean any thing by it, and even if he did it would not matter."
"Oh! How I wish we could have danced together the other night! I had no choice, you know, but to ask Miss Woodhouse and I hoped to be able to dance the next two dances with you, and then there were no more, but I have a plan that I know will make you happy. I have convinced my father and Mrs. Weston to give a ball. At first we were talking about having it at Randalls but apparently the rooms are not large enough, so I have concocted another scheme. I am going to Hartfield later to get Mr. and Miss Woodhouse's approval, because without it nothing will happen. We shall dance at the Crown!"
"It is a great plan, and it will certainly give joy to many houses in Highbury, but will there be time before you must go back to Yorkshire?"
"That will be alright. Planning something only takes as long as one decides it will take, and I have great faith in the abilities of my dear step-mother."
"I believe I must go now, or my aunt will be alarmed;" Jane said.
"Yes, I shall not keep you any longer. I shall come soon again, though, you can count on that. Farewell my love!"
With this the young couple parted, both of them with their hearts filled with joyous expectations. Perhaps Mr. Churchill was a bit more excited with the prospect of a ball than was the case with Jane, but she had on the other hand not only that to look forward to but also his return from Yorkshire with his aunt's consent which he seemed so certain that he would receive.
The rest of the morning Jane spent by the pianoforte. She again played the waltz they had danced to in Weymouth. Her mind was filled with sweet remembrances and it seemed to her much later as if the whole morning had gone by in an instant. She should have written to Charlotte, but could not concentrate on anything but music.
Suddenly there was a knock on the door. "Who can that be?" cried Miss Bates and went downstairs. Up she came again shortly followed by Mr. Churchill.
"I hope I am not interrupting something, but we are in desperate need of your help;" he said. Mrs. Weston, Miss Woodhouse and my father are all at the Crown just now. We are planning a ball you see, and we do not know where to serve the supper, and are desperate for some good advice."
"A ball! I do declare -- what a charming idea -- did you hear that, Jane?"
"Yes, aunt I heard."
"Would you not be so kind as to come with me to the Crown Miss Bates? And Miss Fairfax as well?" Mr. Churchill asked.
There was no need for much persuasion since the two ladies readily agreed to come with him and in only a few minutes time they were on their way. They came, though, too late to be of any real use as counsellors, but as approvers they were very welcome. Miss Bates' approbation of all the arrangement, at once general and minute, warm and incessant, could not but please; and for an half-hour they were all walking to and fro, between the different rooms, some suggesting, some attending, and all in happy enjoyment of the future.
Mr. Churchill took an opportunity to say a few words with Jane as she was standing by one of the windows. "I hope you know, Jane;" he said in a low voice, "that you would be my first choice as a partner if it was possible. I am afraid I must ask Miss Woodhouse to dance the two first dances with me, but this time at least it is certain that there will be more."
She quickly looked up at him and gave him a faint smile, and with this he was satisfied and went over to the other side of the room to secure the hand of Miss Woodhouse for the opening of the ball. She readily agreed and seemed very pleased. Jane suppressed a sigh at the sight of them standing together.
The only thing that could now threaten the happiness of the young people of Highbury was the possible removal of Mr. Churchill from their circle. He had written to Enscombe to get leave to stay a few days longer than originally planned and even if he seemed certain they would approve no one could really draw a breath of relief before the answer came. Enscombe however was gracious, gracious in fact, if not in word. His wish of staying longer evidently did not please; but it was not opposed. All was safe and prosperous.
Chapter XXJane realized that she enjoyed the prospect of a ball to much greater extent than she had thought she would. Highbury society was confined, and her life there was nothing like the life she was used to be living in London together with the Campbells, and even if she had been in earnest when saying to Mr. Knightley that she liked the quiet country-life a change was welcome. The fact that Mr. Churchill was to remain at Randalls for a few more days added to the pleasing prospect. They had had so little time together and a ball-room might grant them several opportunities to intermingle without raising any suspicions. She hoped nothing may happen to prevent the event.
Unfortunately the two days of joyful security were immediately followed by the overthrow of everything. Just after breakfast Mr. Churchill called at Mrs. Bates' house bringing the awful news. A letter had arrived from his uncle to urge his instant return. Mrs. Churchill was unwell -- far too unwell to do without him; she had been in a very suffering state (so said her husband) when writing to her nephew two days before, though from her usual unwillingness to give pain, and constant habit of never thinking of herself, she had not mentioned it; but now she was too ill to trifle, and must entreat him to set off for Enscombe without delay.
Miss Bates had just before he came gone out on an errand, but the presence of Mrs. Bates sadly prevented the young couple to speak freely.
"What else can I do, but to obey?" he asked, but there was no one who could give him any answers that he wanted to hear. Jane did not say a word and Mrs. Bates could give neither advice nor consolation.
The arrival of Miss Bates after a couple of minutes did not bring any thing of substance to the problem and there was in short, nothing that could be done and the young couple did not even get an opportunity to take their leave in private but was forced by the presence of Mrs. and Miss Bates to utter only the regular courtesy phrases.
He then left, not knowing when he would be able to return, and as Jane saw him leave it struck her that it might be forever. It was not at all unlikely that his aunt would never give her consent on either him going to Highbury again or to get married. "It is time," she thought, "that I start making preparations for my future. If we cannot be together, I must not be here when he returns. It will be much worse to meet only as common acquaintances than never to meet again at all." She could feel her eyes starting to fill up with tears and drew a heavy breath trying to fight them.
"Are you feeling unwell, my dear;" her aunt said, looking at her with great concern.
"It is nothing, aunt, just a headache. I think perhaps I shall go and lie down for a while." With this she fled the room and the company that could give her no comfort. When in her own little chamber she threw herself down on the bed and gave in to the tears.
The claimed headache gave Jane an excuse to stay in for the following days, which she was very glad to do. It would have been impossible, she thought, to avoid being suspected on feeling more than she ought regarding the diminishment of the circle if she would have been forced to be a part of it herself. After spending a few days more or less confined to her chamber she succeeded in regaining a calm composure to meet the world with. Her grand-mother and her aunt especially had been very much concerned about her health and were both of them very much relieved when she started to look her old self again.