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Chapter 15
Mr. Woodhouse was soon ready for his tea; and when he had drank his tea he
was quite ready to go home; and it was as much as his three companions could
do, to entertain away his notice of the lateness of the hour, before the other
gentlemen appeared. Mr. Weston was chatty and convivial, and no friend to early
separations of any sort; but at last the drawing-room party did receive an
augmentation. Mr. Elton, in very good spirits, was one of the first to walk in. Mrs.
Weston and Emma were sitting together on a sofa. He joined them immediately,
and, with scarcely an invitation, seated himself between them.
Emma, in good spirits too, from the amusement afforded her mind by the
expectation of Mr. Frank Churchill, was willing to forget his late improprieties, and
be as well satisfied with him as before, and on his making Harriet his very first
subject, was ready to listen with most friendly smiles.
He professed himself extremely anxious about her fair friend-- her fair, lovely,
amiable friend. "Did she know?--had she heard any thing about her, since their
being at Randalls?-- he felt much anxiety--he must confess that the nature of her
complaint alarmed him considerably." And in this style he talked on for some time
very properly, not much attending to any answer, but altogether sufficiently
awake to the terror of a bad sore throat; and Emma was quite in charity with him.
But at last there seemed a perverse turn; it seemed all at once as if he were
more afraid of its being a bad sore throat on her account, than on Harriet's--more
anxious that she should escape the infection, than that there should be no
infection in the complaint. He began with great earnestness to entreat her to
refrain from visiting the sick-chamber again, for the present--to entreat her to
promise him not to venture into such hazard till he had seen Mr. Perry and learnt
his opinion; and though she tried to laugh it off and bring the subject back into its
proper course, there was no putting an end to his extreme solicitude about her.
She was vexed. It did appear--there was no concealing it--exactly like the
pretence of being in love with her, instead of Harriet; an inconstancy, if real, the
most contemptible and abominable! and she had difficulty in behaving with
temper. He turned to Mrs. Weston to implore her assistance, "Would not she give
him her support?--would not she add her persuasions to his, to induce Miss
Woodhouse not to go to Mrs. Goddard's till it were certain that Miss Smith's
disorder had no infection? He could not be satisfied without a promise-- would
not she give him her influence in procuring it?"
"So scrupulous for others," he continued, "and yet so careless for herself! She
wanted me to nurse my cold by staying at home to-day, and yet will not promise
to avoid the danger of catching an ulcerated sore throat herself. Is this fair, Mrs.
Weston?--Judge between us. Have not I some right to complain? I am sure of
your kind support and aid."
Emma saw Mrs. Weston's surprise, and felt that it must be great, at an address
which, in words and manner, was assuming to himself the right of first interest in
her; and as for herself, she was too much provoked and offended to have the
power of directly saying any thing to the purpose. She could only give him a look;