all the Mistresses and the Misses of Highbury and their card-parties. She had not been prepared to have Jane Fairfax succeed Mr. Elton; but he was actually hurried off by Miss Bates, she jumped away from him at last abruptly to the Coles, to usher in a letter from her niece.

“Oh! yes—Mr. Elton, I understood—certainly as to dancing at the rooms at Bath was—Mrs. Cole was so kind as to sit some time with us, talking of Jane; for as soon as she came in, she began inquiring after her, Jane is so very great a favourite there. Whenever she is with us, Mrs. Cole does not know how to shew her kindness enough; and I must say that Jane deserved it as much as any body can. And so she began inquiring after her directly, saying, ‘I know you cannot have heard from Jane lately, because it is not her time for writing;’ and when I immediately said, “But indeed we have, we had a letter this very morning,’ I do not know that I ever saw any body more surprized. ‘Have you, upon your honour!’ said she; ‘well, that is quite unexpected. Do let me hear what she says.’”

Emma’s politeness was at hand directly, to say, with smiling interest—

“Have you heard from Miss Fairfax so lately? I am extremely happy. I hope she is well?”

“Thank you. You are so kind!” replied the happily deceived aunt, while eagerly hunting for the letter.—“Oh! here it is. I was sure it could not be far off; but I had put my huswife upon it, you see, without being aware, and so it was quite hid, but I had it in my hand so very lately that I was almost sure it must be on the table. I was reading it to Mrs. Cole, and since she went away, I was reading it again to my mother, for it is such a pleasure to her—a letter from Jane—that she can never hear it often enough; so I knew it could not be far off, and


here it is, only just under my huswife—and since you are so kind as to wish to hear what she says;--but, first of all, I really must in justice to Jane, apologise for her writing so short a letter—only two pages you see—hardly two—and in general she fills the whole paper and crosses half. My mother often wonders that I can make it out so well. She often says, when the letter is first opened, ‘Well, Hetty, now I think you will be put to it to make out all that chequer-work’—don’t you, ma’am?—And then I tell her, I am sure she would contrive to make it out herself, if she had nobody to do it for her—every word of it—I am sure she would pore over it till she had made out every word. And, indeed, though my mother’s eyes are not so good as they were, she can see amazingly well still, thank God! with the help of spectacles. It is such a blessing! My mother’s are really very good indeed. Jane often says, when she is here, ‘I am sure, grand-mama, you must have had very strong eyes to see as you do!—I only wish my eyes may last me as well.’”

All this spoken extremely fast obliged Miss Bates to stop for breath; and Emma said something very civil about the excellence of Miss Fairfax’s hand-writing.

“You are extremely kind,” replied Miss Bates highly gratified; “you who are such a judge, and write so beautifully yourself. I am sure there is nobody’s praise that could give us so much pleasure as Miss Woodhouse’s. My mother does not hear; she is a little deaf you know. “Ma’am,” addressing her, “do you hear what Miss Woodhouse is so obliging to say about Jane’s hand-writing?”

And Emma had the advantage of hearing her own silly compliment repeated twice over before the good old lady could comprehend it. She was pondering