"Ah! by the bye," then sinking his voice, and looking demure for the moment — "I hope Mr. Knightley is well?" He paused. — She coloured and laughed. — "I know you saw my letter, and think you may remember my wish in your favour. Let me return your congratulations. — I assure you that I have heard the news with the warmest interest and satisfaction. — He is a man whom I cannot presume to praise."
Emma was delighted, and only wanted him to go on in the same style; but his mind was the next moment in his own concerns and with his own Jane, and his next words were,
"Did you ever see such a skin? — such smoothness! such delicacy! — and yet without being actually fair. — One cannot call her fair. It is a most uncommon complexion, with her dark eye-lashes and hair — a most distinguishing complexion! So peculiarly the lady in it. — Just colour enough for beauty."
"I have always admired her complexion," replied Emma, archly; "but do not I remember the time when you found fault with her for being so pale? — When we first began to talk of her. — Have you quite forgotten?"
"Oh! no — what an impudent dog I was! — How could I dare — "
But he laughed so heartily at the recollection, that Emma could not help saying,
"I do suspect that in the midst of your perplexities at that time, you had very great amusement in tricking us all. — I am sure you had. — I am sure it was a consolation to you."
"Oh! no, no, no — how can you suspect me of such a thing? I was the most miserable wretch!"
"Not quite so miserable as to be insensible to mirth. I am sure it was a source of high entertainment to you, to feel that you were taking us all in. — Perhaps I am the readier to suspect, because, to tell you the truth, I think it might have been some amusement to myself in the same situation. I think there is a little likeness between us."
"If not in our dispositions," she presently added, with a look of true sensibility, "there is a likeness in our destiny; the destiny which bids fair to connect us with two characters so much superior to our own."
"True, true," he answered, warmly. "No, not true on your side. You can have no superior, but most true on mine. — She is a complete angel. Look at her. Is not she an angel in every gesture? Observe the turn of her throat. Observe her eyes, as she is looking up at my father. — You will be glad to hear (inclining his head, and whispering seriously) that my uncle means to give her all my aunt's jewels. They are to be new set. I am resolved to have some in an ornament for the head. Will not it be beautiful in her dark hair?"
"Very beautiful, indeed," replied Emma; and she spoke so kindly, that he gratefully burst out,
"How delighted I am to see you again! and to see you in such excellent looks! — I would not have missed this meeting for the world. I should certainly have called at Hartfield, had you failed to come."
The others had been talking of the child, Mrs. Weston giving an account of a little alarm she had been under, the evening before, from the infant's appearing not quite well. She believed she had been foolish, but it had alarmed her, and she had been within half a minute of sending for Mr. Perry. Perhaps she ought to be ashamed, but Mr. Weston had been almost as uneasy as herself. — In ten minutes, however, the child had been perfectly well again. This was her history; and particularly interesting it was to Mr. Woodhouse, who commended her very much for thinking of sending for Perry, and only regretted that she had not done it. "She should always send for Perry, if the child appeared in the slightest degree disordered, were it only for a moment. She could not be too soon alarmed, nor send for Perry too often. It was a pity, perhaps, that he had not come last night; for, though the child seemed well now, very well considering, it would probably have been better if Perry had seen it."
Frank Churchill caught the name.
"Perry!" said he to Emma, and trying, as he spoke, to catch Miss Fairfax's eye. "My friend Mr. Perry! What are they saying about Mr. Perry? — Has he been here this morning? — And how does he travel now? — Has he set up his carriage?"
Emma soon recollected, and understood him; and while she joined in the laugh, it was evident from Jane's countenance that she too was really hearing him, though trying to seem deaf.
"Such an extraordinary dream of mine!" he cried. "I can never think of it without laughing. — She hears us, she hears us, Miss Woodhouse. I see it in her cheek, her smile, her vain attempt to frown. Look at her. Do not you see that, at this instant, the very passage of her own letter, which sent me the report, is passing under her eye — that the whole blunder is spread before her — that she can attend to nothing else, though pretending to listen to the others?"
Jane was forced to smile completely, for a moment; and the smile partly remained as she turned towards him, and said in a conscious, low, yet steady voice,
"How you can bear such recollections, is astonishing to me! — They will sometimes obtrude — but how you can court them!"
He had a great deal to say in return, and very entertainingly; but Emma's feelings were chiefly with Jane, in the argument; and on leaving Randalls, and falling naturally into a comparison of the two men, she felt, that pleased as she had been to see Frank Churchill, and really regarding him as she did with friendship, she had never been more sensible of Mr. Knightley's high superiority of character. The happiness of this most happy day, received its completion, in the animated contemplation of his worth which this comparison produced.