“It is hotter to-day.”

“Not to my feelings. I am perfectly comfortable to-day.”

“You are comfortable because you are under command.”

“Your command?—Yes.”

“Perhaps I intended you to say so, but I meant self-command. You had, somehow or other, broken bounds yesterday and run away from your own management; but to-day you are got back again—and as I cannot be always with you, it is best to believe your temper under your own command rather than mine.”

“It comes to the same thing. I can have no self-command without a motive. You can order me, whether you speak or not. And you can be always with me. You are always with me.”

“Dating from three o’clock yesterday. My perpetual influence could not begin earlier, or you would not have been so much out of humour before.”

“Three o’clock yesterday! That is your date. I thought I had been you first in February.”

“Your gallantry is really unanswerable. But (lowering her voice)—nobody speaks except ourselves, and it is rather too much to be talking nonsense for the entertainment of seven silent people.”

“I say nothing of which I am ashamed,” replied he, with lively impudence. “I saw you first in February. Let every body on the hill hear me if they can. Let my accents swell to Mickleham on one side, and Dorking on the other. I saw you first in February.” And then whispering—“Our companions are excessively stupid. What shall we do to rouse them? Any nonsense will serve. They shall talk. Ladies and gentlemen, I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse, (who, wherever she is, presides,) to say, that she desires to know what you are all thinging of?”

“Oh! no no”—cried Emma, laughing as carelessly


carelessly as she could—“upon no account in the world. It is the very last thing I would stand the brunt of just now. Let me hear any thing rather than what you are all thinking of. I will not say quite all. There are one or two, perhaps, (glancing at Mr. Weston and Harriet,) whose thoughts I might not be afraid of knowing.”

“It is a sort of thing,” cried Mrs. Elton emphatically, “which I should not have thought myself privileged to inquire into. Though, perhaps as the Chaperon of the party—I never was in any circle—exploring parties—young ladies—married women—”

Her mutterings were chiefly to her husband; and he murmured, in reply,

“Very true, my love, very true. Exactly so, indeed—quite unheard of—but some ladies say any thing. Better pass it off as a joke. Every body knows what is due to you.”

“It will not do,” whispered Frank to Emma, “they are most of them affronted. I will attack them with more address. Ladies and gentlemen—I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse to say, that she waves her right of knowing exactly what you may all be thinking of, and only requires something very entertaining from each of you, in a general way. Here are seven of you, besides myself, (who, she is pleased to say, am very entertaining already,) and she only demands from each of you either one thing very clever, be it prose or verse, original or repeated—or two things moderately clever—or three things very dull indeed, and she engages to laugh heartily at them all.”

“Oh! very well,” exclaimed Miss Bates, “then I need not be uneasy. ‘Three things very dull indeed.’ That will just do for me, you know. I shall be sure to say three dull things as soon as ever I open my mouth, shan’t I?—(looking round with the most good-humoured dependence on every body’s assent)—Do not you all think I shall?”

VOL. ii.