She had hoped for an answer here—for a few words to say that her conduct was at least intelligible; but he was silent; and, as far as she could judge, deep in thought. At last, and tolerably in his usual tone, he said,

“I have never had a high opinion of Frank Churchill.—I can suppose, however, that I may have underrated him. My acquaintance with him had been but trifling.—And even if I have not underrated him hitherto, he may yet turn out well.—With such a woman he has a chance.—I have no motive for wishing him ill—and for her sake, whose happiness will be involved in his good character and conduct, I shall certainly wish him well.”

“I have no doubt of their being happy together,” said Emma; “I believe them to be very mutually and very sincerely attached.”

“He is a most fortunate man!” returned Mr. Knightley, with energy. “So early in life—at three and twenty—a period when, if a man chooses a wife, he generally chooses ill. At three and twenty to be drawn to such a prize!—What years of felicity that man, in all human calculation, has before him!—Assured of the love of such a woman—the disinterested love, for Jane Fairfax’s character vouches for her disinterestedness; every thing in his favour,—equality of situation—I mean as far as regards society, and all the habits and manners that are important; equality in every point but one—and that one, since the purity of her heart is not to be doubted, such as must increase his felicity, for it will be his to bestow the only advantages she wants.—A man would always wish to give a woman a better home than the one he takes her from; and he who can do it, where there is no doubt of her regard, must, I think, be the happiest of mortals.—Frank Churchill is, indeed, the favourite of fortune. Every thing turns out for his good.—He meets with a young woman at a watering-place, gains her affection


affection, cannot even weary her by negligent treatment—and had he and all his family sought round the world for a perfect wife for him, they could not have found her superior.—His aunt is in the way.—His aunt dies.—He has only to speak.—His friends are eager to promote his happiness.—He has used every body ill—and they are all delighted to forgive him.—He is a fortunate man indeed!”

“You speak as if you envied him.”

“And I do envy him, Emma. In one respect he is the object of my envy.”

Emma could say no more. They seemed to be within half a sentence of Harriet, and her immediate feeling was to avert the subject, if possible. She made her plan; she would speak of something totally different—the children of Brunswick Square; and she only waited for breath to begin, when Mr. Knightley startled her, by saying,

“You will not ask me what is the point of envy.—You are determined, I see, to have no curiosity.—You are wise—but I cannot be wise. Emma, I must tell you what you will not ask, though I may wish it unsaid the next moment.”

“Oh! then, don’t speak it, don’t speak it,” she eagerly cried. “Take a little time, consider, do not commit yourself.”

“Thank you,” said he, in an accent of deep mortification, and not another syllable followed.

Emma could not bear to give him pain. He was wishing to confide in her—perhaps to consult her;—cost her what it would, she would listen. She might assist his resolution, or reconcile him to it; she might give just praise to Harriet, or, by representing to him his own independence, relieve him from that state of indecision, which must be more intolerable than any alternative to such a mind as his.—They had reached the house.

“You are going in, I suppose,” said he.

“No”—replied Emma—quite confirmed by the

VOL. ii.