Emma spared no exertions to maintain this happier flow of ideas, and hoped, by the help of backgammon, to get her father tolerably through the evening, and be attacked by no regrets but her own. The backgammon- table was placed; but a visitor immediately afterwards walked in and made it unnecessary.
Mr. Knightley, a sensible man about seven or eight-and-thirty, was not only a very old and intimate friend of the family, but particularly connected with it, as the elder brother of Isabella's husband. He lived about a mile from Highbury, was a frequent visitor, and always welcome, and at this time more welcome than usual, as coming directly from their mutual connexions in London. He had returned to a late dinner, after some days' absence, and now walked up to Hartfield to say that all were well in Brunswick Square. It was a happy circumstance, and animated Mr. Woodhouse for some time. Mr. Knightley had a cheerful manner, which always did him good; and his many inquiries after `poor Isabella' and her children were answered most satisfactorily. When this was over, Mr. Woodhouse gratefully observed, `It is very kind of you, Mr. Knightley, to come out at this late hour to call upon us. I am afraid you must have had a shocking walk.'
`Not at all, sir. It is a beautiful moonlight night; and so mild that I must draw back from your great fire.'
`But you must have found it very damp and dirty. I wish you may not catch cold.'
`Dirty, sir! Look at my shoes. Not a speck on them.'
`Well! that is quite surprising, for we have had a vast deal of rain here. It rained dreadfully hard for half an hour while we were at breakfast. I wanted them to put off the wedding.'
`By the bye - I have not wished you joy. Being pretty well aware of what sort of joy you must both be feeling, I have been in no hurry with my congratulations; but I hope it all went off tolerably well. How did you all behave? Who cried most?'
`Ah! poor Miss Taylor! 'Tis a sad business.'
`Poor Mr. and Miss Woodhouse, if you please; but I cannot possibly say ``poor Miss Taylor.'' I have a great regard for you and Emma; but when it comes to the question of dependence or independence! - At any rate, it must be better to have only one to please than two.'
`Especially when one of those two is such a fanciful, troublesome creature!' said Emma playfully. `That is what you have in your head, I know - and what you would certainly say if my father were not by.'
`I believe it is very true, my dear, indeed,' said Mr. Woodhouse, with a sigh. `I am afraid I am sometimes very fanciful and troublesome.'
`My dearest papa! You do not think I could mean you, or suppose Mr. Knightley to mean you. What a horrible idea! Oh no! I meant only myself. Mr. Knightley loves to find fault with me, you know - in a joke - it is all a joke. We always say what we like to one another.'
Mr. Knightley, in fact, was one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them: and though this was not particularly agreeable to Emma herself, she knew it would be so much less so to her father, that she would not have him really suspect such a circumstance as her not being thought perfect by every body.
`Emma knows I never flatter her,' said Mr. Knightley, `but I meant no reflection on any body. Miss Taylor has been used to have two persons to please; she will now have but one. The chances are that she must be a gainer.'
`Well,' said Emma, willing to let it pass - `you want to hear about the wedding; and I shall be happy to tell you, for we all behaved charmingly. Every body was punctual, every body in their best looks: not a tear,
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