There could hardly be a happier creature in the world than Mrs. John Knightley,
in this short visit to Hartfield, going about every morning among her old
acquaintance with her five children, and talking over what she had done every
evening with her father and sister. She had nothing to wish otherwise, but that
the days did not pass so swiftly. It was a delightful visit;--perfect, in being much
In general their evenings were less engaged with friends than their mornings; but
one complete dinner engagement, and out of the house too, there was no
avoiding, though at Christmas. Mr. Weston would take no denial; they must all
dine at Randalls one day;--even Mr. Woodhouse was persuaded to think it a
possible thing in preference to a division of the party.
How they were all to be conveyed, he would have made a difficulty if he could,
but as his son and daughter's carriage and horses were actually at Hartfield, he
was not able to make more than a simple question on that head; it hardly
amounted to a doubt; nor did it occupy Emma long to convince him that they
might in one of the carriages find room for Harriet also.
Harriet, Mr. Elton, and Mr. Knightley, their own especial set, were the only
persons invited to meet them;--the hours were to be early, as well as the
numbers few; Mr. Woodhouse's habits and inclination being consulted in every
The evening before this great event (for it was a very great event that Mr.
Woodhouse should dine out, on the 24th of December) had been spent by
Harriet at Hartfield, and she had gone home so much indisposed with a cold,
that, but for her own earnest wish of being nursed by Mrs. Goddard, Emma could
not have allowed her to leave the house. Emma called on her the next day, and
found her doom already signed with regard to Randalls. She was very feverish
and had a bad sore throat: Mrs. Goddard was full of care and affection, Mr. Perry
was talked of, and Harriet herself was too ill and low to resist the authority which
excluded her from this delightful engagement, though she could not speak of her
loss without many tears.
Emma sat with her as long as she could, to attend her in Mrs. Goddard's
unavoidable absences, and raise her spirits by representing how much Mr.
Elton's would be depressed when he knew her state; and left her at last tolerably
comfortable, in the sweet dependence of his having a most comfortless visit, and
of their all missing her very much. She had not advanced many yards from Mrs.
Goddard's door, when she was met by Mr. Elton himself, evidently coming
towards it, and as they walked on slowly together in conversation about the
invalid-- of whom he, on the rumour of considerable illness, had been going to
inquire, that he might carry some report of her to Hartfield-- they were overtaken
by Mr. John Knightley returning from the daily visit to Donwell, with his two eldest
boys, whose healthy, glowing faces showed all the benefit of a country run, and
seemed to ensure a quick despatch of the roast mutton and rice pudding they
were hastening home for. They joined company and proceeded together. Emma