Emma HTML version

Chapter 16
Every body in and about Highbury who had ever visited Mr. Elton, was disposed
to pay him attention on his marriage. Dinner-parties and evening-parties were
made for him and his lady; and invitations flowed in so fast that she had soon the
pleasure of apprehending they were never to have a disengaged day.
"I see how it is," said she. "I see what a life I am to lead among you. Upon my
word we shall be absolutely dissipated. We really seem quite the fashion. If this
is living in the country, it is nothing very formidable. From Monday next to
Saturday, I assure you we have not a disengaged day!--A woman with fewer
resources than I have, need not have been at a loss."
No invitation came amiss to her. Her Bath habits made evening-parties perfectly
natural to her, and Maple Grove had given her a taste for dinners. She was a
little shocked at the want of two drawing rooms, at the poor attempt at rout-
cakes, and there being no ice in the Highbury card-parties. Mrs. Bates, Mrs.
Perry, Mrs. Goddard and others, were a good deal behind-hand in knowledge of
the world, but she would soon show them how every thing ought to be arranged.
In the course of the spring she must return their civilities by one very superior
party--in which her card-tables should be set out with their separate candles and
unbroken packs in the true style--and more waiters engaged for the evening than
their own establishment could furnish, to carry round the refreshments at exactly
the proper hour, and in the proper order.
Emma, in the meanwhile, could not be satisfied without a dinner at Hartfield for
the Eltons. They must not do less than others, or she should be exposed to
odious suspicions, and imagined capable of pitiful resentment. A dinner there
must be. After Emma had talked about it for ten minutes, Mr. Woodhouse felt no
unwillingness, and only made the usual stipulation of not sitting at the bottom of
the table himself, with the usual regular difficulty of deciding who should do it for
The persons to be invited, required little thought. Besides the Eltons, it must be
the Westons and Mr. Knightley; so far it was all of course-- and it was hardly less
inevitable that poor little Harriet must be asked to make the eighth:--but this
invitation was not given with equal satisfaction, and on many accounts Emma
was particularly pleased by Harriet's begging to be allowed to decline it. "She
would rather not be in his company more than she could help. She was not yet
quite able to see him and his charming happy wife together, without feeling
uncomfortable. If Miss Woodhouse would not be displeased, she would rather
stay at home." It was precisely what Emma would have wished, had she deemed
it possible enough for wishing. She was delighted with the fortitude of her little
friend--for fortitude she knew it was in her to give up being in company and stay
at home; and she could now invite the very person whom she really wanted to
make the eighth, Jane Fairfax.-- Since her last conversation with Mrs. Weston
and Mr. Knightley, she was more conscience-stricken about Jane Fairfax than
she had often been.--Mr. Knightley's words dwelt with her. He had said that Jane
Fairfax received attentions from Mrs. Elton which nobody else paid her.