Fairfax.’ Heavens! Let me not suppose that she dares go about, Emma Woodhouse-ing me!—But upon my honour, there seem no limits to the licentiousness of that woman’s tongue!”

Emma had not to listen to such paradings again—to any so exclusively addressed to herself—so disgustingly decorated with a “dear Miss Woodhouse.” The change on Mr. Elton’s side soon afterwards appeared, and she was left in peace—-neither forced to be the very particular friend of Mrs. Elton, nor, under Mrs. Elton’s guidance, the very active patroness of Jane Fairfax, and only sharing with others in a general way, in knowing what was felt, what was meditated, and what was done.

She looked on with some amusement. Miss Bates’s gratitude for Mrs. Elton’s attentions to Jane was in the first style of guileless simplicity and warmth. She was quite one of the worthies—the most amiable, affable, delightful woman—just as accomplished and condescending as Mrs. Elton meant to be considered. Emma’s only surprize was that Jane Fairfax should accept those attentions and tolerate Mrs. Elton as she seemed to do. She heard of her walking with the Eltons, sitting with the Eltons, spending a day with the Eltons! This was astonishing!—She could not have believed it possible that the taste or the pride of Miss Fairfax could endure such society and friendship as the Vicarage had to offer.

“She is a riddle, quite a riddle!” said she.—“To chuse to remain here month after month, under privations of every sort! And now to chuse the mortification of Mrs. Elton’s notice and the penury of her conversation, rather than return to the superior companions who have always loved her with such real, generous affection.”

Jane had come to Highbury professedly for three months; the Campbells were gone to Ireland for


three months; but now the Campbells had promised their daughter to stay at least till Midsummer, and fresh invitations had arrived for her to join them there. According to Miss Bates—it all came from her—Mrs. Dixon had written most pressingly. Would Jane but go, means were to be found, servants sent, friends contrived—no travelling difficulty allowed to exist; but still she had declined it!

“She must have some motive, more powerful than appears, for refusing this invitation,” was Emma’s conclusion. “She must be under some sort of penance, inflicted either by the Campbells or herself. There is great fear, great caution, great resolution somewhere.—She is not to be with the Dixons. The decree is issued by somebody. But why must she consent to be with the Eltons?—Here is quite a separate puzzle.”

Upon her speaking her wonder aloud on that part of the subject, before the few who knew her opinion of Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Weston ventured this apology for Jane.

“We cannot suppose that she has any great enjoyment at the Vicarage, my dear Emma—but it is better than being always at home. Her aunt is a good creature, but, as a constant companion, must be very tiresome. We must consider what Miss Fairfax quits, before we condemn her taste for what she goes to.”

“You are right, Mrs. Weston,” said Mr. Knightley warmly, “Miss Fairfax is as capable as any of us of forming a just opinion of Mrs. Elton. Could she have chosen with whom to associate, she would not have chosen her. But (with a reproachful smile at Emma) she receives attentions from Mrs. Elton which nobody else pays her.”

Emma felt that Mrs. Weston was giving her a momentary glance; and she was herself struck by