He began-stopping, however, almost directly to say, “Had I been offered the sight of one of this gentleman’s letters to his mother-in-law a few months ago, Emma, it would not have been taken with such indifference.”

He proceeded a little farther, reading to himself; and then, with a smile, observed, “Humph!—a fine complimentary opening:—But it is his way. One man’s style must not be the rule of another’s. We will not be severe.”

“It will be natural for me,” he added shortly afterwards, “to speak my opinion aloud as I read. By doing it, I shall feel that I am near you. It will not be so great a loss of time: but if you dislike it—”

“Not at all. I should wish it.”

Mr. Knightley returned to his reading with greater alacrity.

“He trifles here,” said he, “as to the temptation. He knows he is wrong, and has nothing rational to urge.—Bad.—He ought not to have formed the engagement.—‘His father’s disposition:’—he is unjust, however, to his father. Mr. Weston’s sanguine temper was a blessing on all his upright and honourable exertions; but Mr. Weston earned every present comfort before he endeavoured to gain it.—Very true; he did not come till Miss Fairfax was here.”

“And I have not forgotten,” said Emma, “how sure you were that he might have come sooner if he would. You pass it over very handsomely—but you were perfectly right.”

“I was not quite impartial in my judgment, Emma:—but yet, I think—had you not been in the case—I should still have distrusted him.”

When he came to Miss Woodhouse, he was obliged to read the whole of it aloud—all that related to her, with a smile; a look; a shake of the head; a word or two of assent, or disapprobation; or


merely of love, as the subject required; concluding, however, seriously, and, after steady reflection, thus—

“Very bad—though it might have been worse.—Playing a most dangerous game. Too much indebted to the event for his acquittal.—No judge of his own manners by you.—Always deceived in fact by his own wishes, and regardless of little besides his own convenience.—Fancying you to have fathomed his secret. Natural enough!—his own mind full of intrigue, that he should suspect it in others.—Mystery; Finesse—how they pervert the understanding! My Emma, does not every thing serve to prove more and more the beauty of truth and sincerity in all our dealings with each other?”

Emma agreed to it, and with a blush of sensibility on Harriet’s account, which she could not give any sincere explanation of.

“You had better go on,” said she.

He did so, but very soon stopt again to say, “the pianoforte! Ah! That was the act of a very, very young man, one too young to consider whether the inconvenience of it might not very much exceed the pleasure. A boyish scheme, indeed!—I cannot comprehend a man’s wishing to give a woman any proof of affection which he knows she would rather dispense with; and he did know that she would have prevented the instrument’s coming if she could.”

After this, he made some progress without any pause. Frank Churchill’s confession of having behaved shamefully was the first thing to call for more than a word in passing.

“I perfectly agree with you sir,”—was then his remark. “You did behave very shamefully. You never wrote a truer line.” And having gone through what immediately followed the basis of their disagreement, and his persisting to act in direct opposition to Jane Fairfax’s sense of right, he made a fuller pause to say, “This is very bad.—He had