on, and it was all melancholy stagnation. Mrs. Elton’s resources were inadequate to such an attack.

“Is not this most vexatious, Knightley?” she cried.—And such weather for exploring!—These delays and disappointments are quite odious. What are we to do?—The year will wear away at this rate, and nothing done. Before this time last year I assure you we had had a delightful exploring party from Maple Grove to Kings Weston.”

“You had better explore to Donwell,” replied Mr. Knightley. “That may be done without horses. Come and eat my strawberries. They are ripening fast.”

If Mr. Knightley did not begin seriously, he was obliged to proceed so, for his proposal was caught at with delight; and the “Oh! I should like it of all things,” was not plainer in words than manner. Donwell was famous for its strawberry-beds, which seemed a plea for the invitation: but no plea was necessary; cabbage-beds would have been enough to tempt the lady, who only wanted to be going some-where. She promised him again and again to come—much oftener than he doubted—and was extremely gratified by such a proof of intimacy, such a distinguishing compliment as she chose to consider it.

“You may depend upon me,” said she. “I certainly will come. Name your day, and I will come. You will allow me to bring Jane Fairfax?”

“I cannot name a day,” said he, “till I have spoken to some others whom I would wish to meet you.”

“Oh! leave all that to me. Only give me a carte-blanche.—I am Lady Patroness, you know! It is my party. I will bring friends with me.”

“I hope you will bring Elton,” said he:—but I will not trouble you to give any other invitations.”

“Oh! now you are looking very sly. But consider;—you need not be afraid of delegating power to me. I am no young lady on her preferment. Married-


ried women, you know, may be safely authorized. It is my party. Leave it all to me. I will invite your guests.”

“No,”—he calmly replied,—“there is but one married woman in the world whom I can ever allow to invite what guests she pleases to Donwell, and that one is—”

“—Mrs. Weston, I suppose,” interrupted Mrs. Elton, rather mortified.

“No—Mrs. Knightley;—and, till she is in being, I will manage such matters myself.”

“Ah! you are an odd creature!” she cried, satisfied to have no one preferred to herself.—“You are a humourist, and may say what you like. Quite a humourist. Well, I shall bring Jane with me—Jane and her aunt.—The rest I leave to you. I have no objections at all to meeting the Hartfield family. Don’t scruple. I know you are attached to them.”

“You certainly will meet them if I can prevail; and I shall call on Miss Bates in my way home.”

“That’s quite unnecessary; I see Jane every day:—but as you like. It is to be a morning scheme, you know, Knightley; quite a simple thing. I shall wear a large bonnet, and bring one of my little baskets hanging on my arm. Here,—probably this basket with pink ribbon. Nothing can be more simple, you see. And Jane will have such another. There is to be no form or parade—a sort of gipsy party.—We are to walk about your gardens, and gather the strawberries ourselves, and sit under trees;—and whatever else you may like to provide, it is to be all out of doors—a table spread in the shade, you know. Every thing as natural and simple as possible. Is not that your idea?”

“Not quite. My idea of the simple and the natural will be to have the table spread in the dining-room. The nature and the simplicity of gentlemen and ladies, with her servants and furniture, I think is best observed by meals within doors. When you