consulted; but since that business had been over, she did not appear to find Harriet different from what she had known her before.—Isabella, to be sure, was no very quick observer; yet if Harriet had not been equal to playing with the children, it would not have escaped her. Emma’s comforts and hopes were most agreeably carried on, by Harriet’s being to stay longer; her fortnight was likely to be a month at least. Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley were to come down in August, and she was invited to remain till they could bring her back.

“John does not even mention your friend,” said Mr. Knightley. “Here is his answer, if you like to see it.”

It was the answer to the communication of his intended marriage. Emma accepted it with a very eager hand, with an impatience all alive to know what he would say about it, and not at all checked by hearing that her friend was unmentioned.

“John enters like a brother into my happiness,” continued Mr. Knightley, “but he is no complimenter; and though I well know him to have, likewise, a most brotherly affection for you, he is far from making flourishes, that any other young woman might think him rather cool in her praise. But I am not afraid of your seeing what he writes.”

“He writes like a sensible man,” replied Emma, when she had read the letter. “I honour his sincerity. It is very plain that he considers the good fortune of the engagement as all on my side, but that he is not without hope of my growing, in time, as worthy of your affection, as you think me already. Had he said anything to bear a different construction, I should not have believed him.”

“My Emma, he means no such thing. He only means——”

“He and I should differ very little in our estimation of the two,”—interrupted she, with a sort of serious smile—“ much less, perhaps, than he is


aware of, if we could enter without ceremony or reserve on the subject.”

“Emma, my dear Emma—“

“Oh!” she cried with more thorough gaiety, “if you fancy your brother does not do me justice, only wait till my dear father is in the secret, and hear his opinion. Depend upon it, he will be much farther from doing you justice. He will think all the happiness, all the advantage, on your side of the question; all the merit on mine. I wish I may not sink into ‘poor Emma’ with him at once.—His tender compassion towards oppressed worth can go no farther.”

“Ah!” he cried, “I wish your father might be half as easily convinced as John will be, of our having every right that equal worth can give, to be happy together. I am amused by one part of John’s letter—did you notice it?—where he says, that my information did not take him wholly by surprise, that he was rather in expectation of hearing something of the kind.”

“If I understand your brother, he only means so far as having some thoughts of marrying. He had no idea of me. He seems perfectly unprepared for that.”

“Yes, yes—but I am amused that he should have been so far into my feelings. What has he been judging by?—I am not conscious of any difference in my spirits or conversation that could prepare him at this time for marrying any more than at another.—But it was so, I suppose. I dare say there was a difference when I was staying with him the other day. I believe I did not play with the children quite so much as usual. I remember one evening the poor boy’s saying, ‘Uncle seems always tired now.’”

The time was coming when the news must spread farther, and other persons’ reception of it tried. As soon as Mrs. Weston was sufficiently recovered to