There was a little blush, and then this answer,

“I must not hope to be ever situated as you are, in the midst of every dearest connection, and therefore I cannot expect that simply growing older should make me indifferent about letters.”

“Indifferent! Oh! no—I never conceived you could become indifferent. Letters are no matter of indifference; they are generally a very positive curse.”

“You are speaking of letters of business; mine are letters of friendship.”

“I have often thought them the worst of the two,” replied he coolly. “Business, you know, may bring money, but friendship hardly ever does.”

“Ah! you are not serious now. I know Mr. John Knightley too well—I am very sure he understands the value of friendship as well as any body. I can easily believe that letters are very little to you, much less than to me, but it is not your being ten years older than myself which makes the difference, it is not age, but situation. You have every body dearest to you always at hand, I probably, never shall again; and therefore till I have outlived all my affections, a post-office, I think, must always have power to draw me out, in worse weather than to-day.”

“When I talked of your being altered by time, by the progress of years,” said John Knightley, “I meant to imply the change of situation which time usually brings. I consider one as including the other. Time will generally lessen the interest of every attachment not within the daily circle—but that is not the change I had in view for you. As an old friend, you will allow me to hope, Miss Fairfax, that ten years hence you may have as many concentrated objects as I have.”

It was kindly said, and very far from giving offence. A pleasant “thank you” seemed meant to


laugh it off, but a blush, a quivering lip, a tear in the eye, shewed that it was felt beyond a laugh. Her attention was now claimed by Mr. Woodhouse, who being, according to his custom on such occasions, making the circle of his guests, and paying his particular compliments to the ladies, was ending with her—and with all his mildest urbanity, said,

“I am very sorry to hear, Miss Fairfax, of you being out this morning in the rain. Young ladies should take care of themselves.—Young ladies are delicate plants. They should take care of their health and their complexion. My dear, did you change your stockings?”

“Yes, sir, I did indeed; and I am very much obliged by your kind solicitude about me.”

“My dear Miss Fairfax, young ladies are very sure to be cared for.—I hope your good grand-mamma and aunt are well. They are some of my very old friends. I wish my health allowed me to be a better neighbour. You do us a great deal of honour to-day, I am sure. My daughter and I are both highly sensible of your goodness, and have the greatest satisfaction of seeing you at Hartfield.”

The kind-hearted, polite old man might then sit down and feel that he had done his duty, and made every fair lady welcome and easy.

By this time, the walk in the rain had reached Mrs. Elton, and her remonstrances now opened upon Jane.

“My dear Jane, what is this I hear–Going to the post-office in the rain!—This must not be I assure you.—You sad girl, how could you do such a thing?—It is a sign I was not there to take care of you.”

Jane very patiently assured her that she had not caught any cold.

“Oh! do not tell me. You really are a very sad girl, and do not know how to take care you yourself.—