Francis Churchill Weston Churchill is the charming, perpetually-absent son of Mr. Weston. His reputation, for much of the story, is based more on a distant image than on intimate knowledge. He writes very good, flattering letters, and says all the right things...but how much of that is the real Frank?
Characters: Frank Churchill & The Westons
Since his mother's death, he he has been raised by his Uncle and Aunt Churchill (his mother's brother and sister-in-law, who didn't approve of her marriage to Mr. Weston), even going as far as to take their surname. As his aunt is a tyrannical invalid, he is often obliged to push back or cut short his Highbury visits (although it's also safe to say he wants to schedule his trips to coincide with Jane F.'s; if she isn't going to be there, he's less interested in visiting his father and stepmother, the creep!). He is also obligated to keep his engagement to Jane Fairfax a secret until his aunt's passing, so as to maintain his Churchill inheritance.
While some view him as dashing and essentially good-hearted (if flakey), others, including Mr. Knightley, find him thoughtless and insensitive (a selfish streak he probably inherited from his mother, whom also made an imprudent match; see the quotations about Mr. Weston, below). His gleeful deceptions are not greatest hits, particularly in "leading Emma on." It's also not terribly cool of him to keep Jane on the line until his aunt's death (money), nor is it good of him to ignore his father and new stepmother as he so often does. When news of his engagement breaks, he seems a bit too anxious to assume that he'll be forgiven. More, instead of apologizing in person, he leaves it to a letter, by which he expects Mrs. Weston to circulate his apologies for him.
However thoughtless he may be, though, he does seem to care for Jane Fairfax, and is kind to her family (fixing Mrs. Bates' spectacles, for example).
You may continue reading about Frank Churchill, or skip down to the Westons.
Everybody loves him, but nobody really knows him (Ch. 2):
Mr. Frank Churchill was one of the boasts of Highbury, and a lively curiosity to see him prevailed, though the compliment was so little returned that he had never been there in his life. His coming to visit his father had been often talked of but never achieved.
Now, upon his father's marriage, it was very generally proposed, as a most proper attention, that the visit should take place. There was not a dissentient voice on the subject, either when Mrs. Perry drank tea with Mrs. and Miss Bates, or when Mrs. and Miss Bates returned the visit. Now was the time for Mr. Frank Churchill to come among them; and the hope strengthened when it was understood that he had written to his new mother on the occasion. For a few days every morning visit in Highbury included some mention of the handsome letter Mrs. Weston had received. "I suppose you have heard of the handsome letter Mr. Frank Churchill had written to Mrs. Weston? I understand it was a very handsome letter, indeed. Mr. Woodhouse told me of it. Mr. Woodhouse saw the letter, and he says he never saw such a handsome letter in his life."
It was, indeed, a highly-prized letter. Mrs. Weston had, of course, formed a very favourable idea of the young man; and such a pleasing attention was an irresistible proof of his great good sense, and a most welcome addition to every source and every expression of congratulation which her marriage had already secured. She felt herself a most fortunate woman; and she had lived long enough to know how fortunate she might well be thought, where the only regret was for a partial separation from friends, whose friendship for her had never cooled, and who could ill bear to part with her!
At Randalls, Emma thinks about Frank (Ch. 14):
She heard enough to know that Mr. Weston was giving some information about his son; she heard the words "my son," and "Frank," and "my son," repeated several times over; and from a few other half-syllables very much suspected that he was announcing an early visit from his son; but before she could quiet Mr. Elton, the subject was so completely past that any reviving question from her would have been awkward.
Now, it so happened that in spite of Emma's resolution of never marrying, there was something in the name, in the idea of Mr. Frank Churchill, which always interested her. She had frequently thought -- especially since his father's marriage with Miss Taylor -- that if she were to marry, he was the very person to suit her in age, character and condition. He seemed by this connection between the families, quite to belong to her. She could not but suppose it to be a match that every body who knew them must think of. That Mr. and Mrs. Weston did think of it, she was very strongly persuaded; and though not meaning to be induced by him, or by any body else, to give up a situation which she believed more replete with good than any she could change it for, she had a great curiosity to see him, a decided intention of finding him pleasant, of being liked by him to a certain degree, and a sort of pleasure in the idea of their being coupled in their friends' imaginations.
Emma wonders why Frank keeps putting off Mr. and Mrs. Weston (Ch. 14):
"He ought to come," said Emma. "If he could stay only a couple of days, he ought to come; and one can hardly conceive a young man's not having it in his power to do as much as that. A young woman, if she fall into bad hands, may be teazed, and kept at a distance from those she wants to be with; but one cannot comprehend a young man's being under such restraint, as not be to able to spend a week with his father, if he likes it."
"One ought to be at Enscombe, and know the ways of the family, before one decides upon what he can do," replied Mrs. Weston. "One ought to use the same caution, perhaps, in judging of the conduct of any one individual of any one family; but Enscombe, I believe, certainly must not be judged by general rules: she is so very unreasonable; and every thing gives way to her."
"But she is so fond of the nephew: he is so very great a favourite. Now, according to my idea of Mrs. Churchill, it would be most natural, that while she makes no sacrifice for the comfort of the husband, to whom she owes every thing, while she exercises incessant caprice towards him, she should frequently be governed by the nephew, to whom she owes nothing at all."
"My dearest Emma, do not pretend, with your sweet temper, to understand a bad one, or to lay down rules for it: you must let it go its own way. I have no doubt of his having, at times, considerable influence; but it may be perfectly impossible for him to know beforehand when it will be."
Emma meets Frank, who says all the right things (Ch. 23):
She opened the parlour door, and saw two gentlemen sitting with her father -- Mr. Weston and his son. They had been arrived only a few minutes, and Mr. Weston had scarcely finished his explanation of Frank's being a day before his time, and her father was yet in the midst of his very civil welcome and congratulations, when she appeared, to have her share of surprize, introduction, and pleasure.
The Frank Churchill so long talked of, so high in interest, was actually before her -- he was presented to her, and she did not think too much had been said in his praise; he was a very good looking young man; height, air, address, all were unexceptionable, and his countenance had a great deal of the spirit and liveliness of his father's; he looked quick and sensible. She felt immediately that she should like him; and there was a well-bred ease of manner, and a readiness to talk, which convinced her that he came intending to be acquainted with her, and that acquainted they soon must be.
He had reached Randalls the evening before. She was pleased with the eagerness to arrive which had made him alter his plan, and travel earlier, later, and quicker, that he might gain half a day.
"I told you yesterday," cried Mr. Weston with exultation, "I told you all that he would be here before the time named. I remembered what I used to do myself. One cannot creep upon a journey; one cannot help getting on faster than one has planned; and the pleasure of coming in upon one's friends before the look-out begins, is worth a great deal more than any little exertion it needs."
"It is a great pleasure where one can indulge in it," said the young man, "though there are not many houses that I should presume on so far; but in coming home I felt I might do any thing."
The word home made his father look on him with fresh complacency. Emma was directly sure that he knew how to make himself agreeable; the conviction was strengthened by what followed. He was very much pleased with Randalls, thought it a most admirably arranged house, would hardly allow it even to be very small, admired the situation, the walk to Highbury, Highbury itself, Hartfield still more, and professed himself to have always felt the sort of interest in the country which none but one's own country gives, and the greatest curiosity to visit it. That he should never have been able to indulge so amiable a feeling before, passed suspiciously through Emma's brain; but still if it were a falsehood, it was a pleasant one, and pleasantly handled. His manner had no air of study or exaggeration. He did really look and speak as if in a state of no common enjoyment.
Frank and Emma get to know each other, and Gossip a bit about Jane Fairfax. He follows her lead, careful not to say or offer up too much himself. Emma is impressed (Ch. 24):
He perfectly agreed with her: and after walking together so long, and thinking so much alike, Emma felt herself so well acquainted with him, that she could hardly believe it to be only their second meeting. He was not exactly what she had expected; less of the man of the world in some of his notions, less of the spoiled child of fortune, therefore better than she had expected. His ideas seemed more moderate -- his feeling warmer. She was particularly struck by his manner of considering Mr. Elton's house, which, as well as the church, he would go and look at, and would not join them in finding much fault with. No, he could not believe it a bad house; not such a house as a man was to be pitied for having. If it were to be shared with the woman he loved, he could not think any man to be pitied for having that house. There must be ample room in it for every real comfort. The man must be a blockhead who wanted more.
Frank's "haircut" disappoints Emma (little does she know that the trip was actually made to procure Jane's pianoforte), though she generally likes him very much (Ch. 25):
Emma's very good opinion of Frank Churchill was a little shaken the following day, by hearing that he was gone off to London, merely to have his hair cut. A sudden freak seemed to have seized him at breakfast, and he had sent for a chaise and set off, intending to return to dinner, but with no more important view that appeared than having his hair cut. There was certainly no harm in his travelling sixteen miles twice over on such an errand; but there was an air of foppery and nonsense in it which she could not approve. It did not accord with the rationality of plan, the moderation in expense, or even the unselfish warmth of heart which she had believed herself to discern in him yesterday. Vanity, extravagance, love of change, restlessness of temper, which must be doing something, good or bad; heedlessness as to the pleasure of his father and Mrs. Weston, indifference as to how his conduct might appear in general; he became liable to all these charges. His father only called him a coxcomb, and thought it a very good story; but that Mrs. Weston did not like it, was clear enough, by her passing it over as quickly as possible, and making no other comment than that "all young people would have their little whims."
With the exception of this little blot, Emma found that his visit hitherto had given her friend only good ideas of him. Mrs. Weston was very ready to say how attentive and pleasant a companion he made himself -- how much she saw to like in his disposition altogether. He appeared to have a very open temper -- certainly a very cheerful and lively one; she could observe nothing wrong in his notions, a great deal decidedly right; he spoke of his uncle with warm regard, was fond of talking of him -- said he would be the best man in the world if he were left to himself; and though there was no being attached to the aunt, he acknowledged her kindness with gratitude, and seemed to mean always to speak of her with respect. This was all very promising; and, but for such an unfortunate fancy for having his hair cut, there was nothing to denote him unworthy of the distinguished honour which her imagination had given him; the honour, if not of being really in love with her, of being at least very near it, and saved only by her own indifference -- (for still her resolution held of never marrying) -- the honour, in short, of being marked out for her by all their joint acquaintance.
Mr. Weston, on his side, added a virtue to the account which must have some weight. He gave her to understand that Frank admired her extremely -- thought her very beautiful and very charming; and with so much to be said for him altogether, she found she must not judge him harshly. As Mrs. Weston observed, "all young people would have their little whims."
Emma tries to convince herself that Frank isn't a flake (Ch. 26):
"I do not know whether it ought to be so, but certainly silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way. Wickedness is always wickedness, but folly is not always folly, -- It depends upon the character of those who handle it. Mr. Knightley, he is not a trifling, silly young man. If he were, he would have done this differently. He would either have gloried in the achievement, or been ashamed of it. There would have been either the ostentation of a coxcomb, or the evasions of a mind too weak to defend its own vanities. No, I am perfectly sure that he is not trifling or silly."
Emma and Frank discuss Jane's pianoforte at the Coles' party. Emma takes the lead in suggesting Mr. Dixon as the gift-giver, based on their previous discussion on Jane Fairfax and the Campbells (Ch. 26):
Miss Woodhouse made the proper acquiescence; and finding that nothing more was to be entrapped from any communication of Mrs. Cole's, turned to Frank Churchill.
"Why do you smile?" said she.
"Nay, why do you?"
"Me! I suppose I smile for pleasure at Col. Campbell's being so rich and so liberal. It is a handsome present."
"I rather wonder that it was never made before."
"Perhaps Miss Fairfax has never been staying here so long before."
"Or that he did not give her the use of their own instrument -- which must now be shut up in London, untouched by any body."
"That is a grand pianoforté, and he might think it too large for Mrs. Bates's house."
"You may say what you chuse -- but your countenance testifies that your thoughts on this subject are very much like mine."
"I do not know. I rather believe you are giving me more credit for acuteness than I deserve. I smile because you smile, and shall probably suspect whatever I find you suspect; but at present I do not see what there is to question. If Col. Campbell is not the person, who can be?"
"What do you say to Mrs. Dixon?"
"Mrs. Dixon! very true indeed. I had not thought of Mrs. Dixon. She must know as well as her father, how acceptable an instrument would be; and perhaps the mode of it, the mystery, the surprize, is more like a young woman's scheme than an elderly man's. It is Mrs. Dixon I dare say. I told you that your suspicions would guide mine."
"If so, you must extend your suspicions and comprehend Mr. Dixon in them."
"Mr. Dixon! Very well. Yes, I immediately perceive that it must be the joint present of Mr. and Mrs. Dixon. We were speaking the other day, you know, of his being so warm an admirer of her performance."
"Yes, and what you told me on that head, confirmed an idea which I had entertained before. I do not mean to reflect upon the good intentions of either Mr. Dixon or Miss Fairfax, but I cannot help suspecting either that, after making his proposals to her friend, he had the misfortune to fall in love with her, or that he became conscious of a little attachment on her side. One might guess twenty things without guessing exactly the right; but I am sure there must be a particular cause for her chusing to come to Highbury instead of going with the Campbells to Ireland. Here, she must be leading a life of privation and penance; there it would have been all enjoyment. As to the pretence of trying her native air, I look upon that as a mere excuse. In the summer it might have passed; but what can any body's native air do for them in the months of January, February, and March? Good fires and carriages would be much more to the purpose in most cases of delicate health, and I dare say in her's. I do not require you to adopt all my suspicions, though you make so noble a profession of doing it, but I honestly tell you what they are."
"And, upon my word, they have an air of great probability. Mr. Dixon's preference of her music to her friend's, I can answer for being very decided."
"And then, he saved her life. Did you ever hear of that? A water-party; and by some accident she was falling overboard. He caught her."
"He did. I was there -- one of the party."
"Were you really? Well! But you observed nothing of course, for it seems to be a new idea to you. If I had been there, I think I should have made some discoveries."
"I dare say you would; but I, simple I, saw nothing but the fact, that Miss Fairfax was nearly dashed from the vessel and that Mr. Dixon caught her. It was the work of a moment. And though the consequent shock and alarm was very great and much more durable -- indeed I believe it was half an hour before any of us were comfortable again -- yet that was too general a sensation for any thing of peculiar anxiety to be observable. I do not mean to say, however, that you might not have made discoveries."
The conversation was here interrupted. They were called on to share in the awkwardness of a rather long interval between the courses, and obliged to be as formal and as orderly as the others; but when the table was again safely covered, when every corner dish was placed exactly right, and occupation and ease were generally restored, Emma said,
"The arrival of this pianoforté is decisive with me. I wanted to know a little more, and this tells me quite enough. Depend upon it, we shall soon hear that it is a present from Mr. and Mrs. Dixon."
"And if the Dixons should absolutely deny all knowledge of it we must conclude it to come from the Campbells."
"No, I am sure it is not from the Campbells Miss Fairfax knows it is not from the Campbells, or they would have been guessed at first. She would not have been puzzled, had she dared fix on them. I may not have convinced you perhaps, but I am perfectly convinced myself that Mr. Dixon is a principal in the business."
"Indeed you injure me if you suppose me unconvinced. Your reasonings carry my judgment along with them entirely. At first, while I supposed you satisfied that Col. Campbell was the giver, I saw it only as paternal kindness, and thought it the most natural thing in the world. But when you mentioned Mrs. Dixon, I felt how much more probable that it should be the tribute of warm female friendship. And now I can see it in no other light than as an offering of love."
At the Cole's, we see how "handsome" Frank is (and we see how intentionally he attempts to fool everyone into thinking he likes Emma) (Ch 26):
They were soon joined by some of the gentlemen; and the very first of the early was Frank Churchill. In he walked, the first and the handsomest; and after paying his compliments en passant to Miss Bates and her niece, made his way directly to the opposite side of the circle, where sat Miss Woodhouse; and till he could find a seat by her, would not sit at all. Emma divined what every body present must be thinking. She was his object, and every body must perceive it.
Mr. Knightley thinks the pianoforte gift was a stupid, thoughtless surprise; more, he thinks Frank is a selfish idiot for forcing Jane to sing with him when her voice is so obviously giving out (Ch. 26):
"Yes," he replied, and without the smallest apparent embarrassment. "But they would have done better had they given her notice of it. Surprizes are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable. I should have expected better judgment in Colonel Campbell."
From that moment, Emma could have taken her oath that Mr. Knightley had had no concern in giving the instrument. But whether he were entirely free from peculiar attachment -- whether there were no actual preference -- remained a little longer doubtful. Towards the end of Jane's second song, her voice grew thick.
"That will do," said he, when it was finished, thinking aloud "You have sung quite enough for one evening; now, be quiet."
Another song, however, was soon begged for. "One more; they would not fatigue Miss Fairfax on any account, and would only ask for one more." And Frank Churchill was heard to say, "I think you could manage this without effort; the first part is so trifling. The strength of the song falls on the second."
Mr. Knightley grew angry.
"That fellow," said he, indignantly, "thinks of nothing but showing off his own voice. This must not be." And touching Miss Bates, who at that moment passed near "Miss Bates, are you mad, to let your niece sing herself hoarse in this manner? Go, and interfere. They have no mercy on her."
Also at the Coles', Frank comments to Emma about Jane's "languid dancing" and her "outre" hairstyle. Not very nice comments, for a fiance. ;)
Miss Bates congratulates Mrs. Weston on her kind stepson (Ch. 27):
"I declare I cannot recollect what I was talking of. Oh! my mother's spectacles. So very obliging of Mr. Frank Churchill! 'Oh!' said he, 'I do think I can fasten the rivet; I like a job of this kind excessively.' Which you know shewed him to be so very -- Indeed I must say that, much as I had heard of him before and much as I had expected, he very far exceeds any thing -- I do congratulate you, Mrs. Weston, most warmly. He seems every thing the fondest parent could -- 'Oh!', said he, 'I can fasten the rivet. I like a job of that sort excessively.' I never shall forget his manner.
Frank fixes Mrs. Bates' spectacles, and assists Jane with her new pianoforte. When Emma arrives, he resumes the Mr. Dixon charade for her benefit (Ch. 28):
The appearance of the little sitting-room as they entered, was tranquillity itself; Mrs. Bates, deprived of her usual employment, slumbering on one side of the fire, Frank Churchill, at a table near her, most deedily occupied about her spectacles, and Jane Fairfax, standing with her back to them, intent on her pianoforté.
Busy as he was, however, the young man was yet able to shew a most happy countenance on seeing Emma again.
"This is a pleasure," said he, in rather a low voice, "coming at least ten minutes earlier than I had calculated. You find me trying to be useful; tell me if you think I shall succeed."
"What!" said Mrs. Weston, "have not you finished it yet? you would not earn a very good livelihood as a working-silversmith at this rate."
"I have not been working uninterruptedly," he replied, "I have been assisting Miss Fairfax in trying to make her instrument stand steadily, it was not quite firm; an unevenness in the floor, I believe. You see we have been wedging one leg with paper. This was very kind of you to be persuaded to come. I was almost afraid you would be hurrying home."
He contrived that she should be seated by him; and was sufficiently employed in looking out the best baked apple for her, and trying to make her help or advise him in his work, till Jane Fairfax was quite ready to sit down to the pianoforté again. That she was not immediately ready, Emma did suspect to arise from the state of her nerves; she had not yet possessed the instrument long enough to touch it without emotion; she must reason herself into the power of performance; and Emma could not but pity such feelings, whatever their origin, and could not but resolve never to expose them to her neighbour again.
At last Jane began, and though the first bars were feebly given, the powers of the instrument were gradually done full justice to. Mrs. Weston had been delighted before, and was delighted again; Emma joined her in all her praise; and the pianoforté, with every proper discrimination, was pronounced to be altogether of the highest promise.
"Whoever Col. Campbell might employ," said Frank Churchill, with a smile at Emma, "the person has not chosen ill. I heard a good deal of Col. Campbell's taste at Weymouth; and the softness of the upper notes I am sure is exactly what he and all that party would particularly prize. I dare say, Miss Fairfax, that he either gave his friend very minute directions, or wrote to Broadwood himself. Do not you think so?"
Jane did not look round. She was not obliged to hear. Mrs. Weston had been speaking to her at the same moment.
Frank needs to leave Highbury. He goes to say goodbye to the Woodhouses, and ostensibly to confess his engagement to Emma (which he begins to do before he is interrupted). He admits visiting the Bateses first, which indicates to us that Jane is always foremost in his mind, even if he does show his love for her in weird ways (Ch. 30):
"And you must be off this very morning?"
"Yes; my father is to join me here: we shall walk back together, and I must be off immediately. I am almost afraid that every moment will bring him."
"Not five minutes to spare even for your friends Miss Fairfax and Miss Bates? How unlucky! Miss Bates's powerful, argumentative mind might have strengthened yours."
"Yes -- I have called there; passing the door, I thought it better. It was a right thing to do. I went in for three minutes, and was detained by Miss Bates's being absent. She was out; and I felt it impossible not to wait till she came in. She is a woman that one may, that one must laugh at; but that one would not wish to slight. It was better to pay my visit, then" --
He hesitated, got up, walked to a window.
"In short," said he, "perhaps, Miss Woodhouse -- I think you can hardly be quite without suspicion -- "
On Frank's handwriting...and character (ch. 35):
Mrs. Weston was disengaged and Emma began again -- "Mr. Frank Churchill writes one of the best gentlemen's hands I ever saw."
"I do not admire it," said Mr. Knightley. "It is too small -- wants strength. It is like a woman's writing."
This was not submitted to by either lady. They vindicated him against the base aspersion. "No, it by no means wanted strength -- it was not a large hand, but very clear and certainly strong. Had not Mrs. Weston any letter about her to produce?" No, she had heard from him very lately, but having answered the letter, had put it away.
Mr. Knightley and Emma quarrel over Frank Churchill:
Emma: "You seem determined to think ill of him."
"Me!" Not at all," replied Mr. Knightley, rather displeased; "I do not want to think ill of him. I should be as ready to acknowledge his merits as any other man; but I hear of none, except what are merely personal - that he is well-grown and good-looking, with smooth, plausible manners."
Frank saves Harriet from the gipsies, on his way back from the Bateses (to see Jane, duh) (Ch. 39):
In this state Frank Churchill had found her, she trembling and conditioning, they loud and insolent. By a most fortunate chance his leaving Highbury had been delayed so as to bring him to her assistance at this critical moment. The pleasantness of the morning had induced him to walk forward, and leave his horses to meet him by another road, a mile or two beyond Highbury -- and happening to have borrowed a pair of scissors the night before of Miss Bates, and to have forgotten to restore them, he had been obliged to stop at her door, and go in for a few minutes: he was therefore later than he had intended; and being on foot, was unseen by the whole party till almost close to them. The terror which the woman and boy had been creating in Harriet was then their own portion. He had left them completely frightened; and Harriet eagerly clinging to him, and hardly able to speak, had just strength enough to reach Hartfield, before her spirits were quite overcome. It was his idea to bring her to Hartfield: he had thought of no other place.
Mr. Knightley observes Frank during the puzzles scene (Ch. 41):
With great indignation did he continue to observe him; with great alarm and distrust, to observe also his two blinded companions. He saw a short word prepared for Emma, and given to her with a look sly and demure. He saw that Emma had soon made it out, and found it highly entertaining, though it was something which she judged it proper to appear to censure; for she said, "Nonsense! for shame!" He heard Frank Churchill next say, with a glance towards Jane, "I will give it to her -- shall I?" and as clearly heard Emma opposing it with eager laughing warmth. "No, no, you must not; you shall not, indeed."
It was done however. This gallant young man, who seemed to love without feeling, and to recommend himself without complaisance, directly handed over the word to Miss Fairfax, and with a particular degree of sedate civility entreated her to study it. Mr. Knightley's excessive curiosity to know what this word might be, made him seize every possible moment for darting his eye towards it, and it was not long before he saw it to be Dixon. Jane Fairfax's perception seemed to accompany his; her comprehension was certainly more equal to the covert meaning, the superior intelligence, of those five letters so arranged. She was evidently displeased; looked up, and seeing herself watched, blushed more deeply than he had ever perceived her, and saying only, "I did not know that proper names were allowed," pushed away the letters with even an angry spirit, and looked resolved to be engaged by no other word that could be offered. Her face was averted from those who had made the attack, and turned towards her aunt.
Emma and Frank start to screw things up at Box Hill (Ch. 43):
When they all sat down it was better; to her taste a great deal better, for Frank Churchill grew talkative and gay, making her his first object. Every distinguishing attention that could be paid, was paid to her. To amuse her, and be agreeable in her eyes, seemed all that he cared for -- and Emma, glad to be enlivened, not sorry to be flattered, was gay and easy too, and gave him all the friendly encouragement, the admission to be gallant, which she had ever given in the first and most animating period of their acquaintance; but which now, in her own estimation, meant nothing, though in the judgment of most people looking on it must have had such an appearance as no English word but flirtation could very well describe. "Mr. Frank Churchill and Miss Woodhouse flirted together excessively." They were laying themselves open to that very phrase -- and to having it sent off in a letter to Maple Grove by one lady, to Ireland by another. Not that Emma was gay and thoughtless from any real felicity; it was rather because she felt less happy than she had expected. She laughed because she was disappointed; and though she liked him for his attentions, and thought them all, whether in friendship, admiration, or playfulness, extremely judicious, they were not winning back her heart. She still intended him for her friend.
"I say nothing of which I am ashamed," replied he, with lively impudence. "I saw you first in February. Let every body on the Hill hear me if they can. Let my accents swell to Mickleham on one side, and Dorking on the other. I saw you first in February." And then whispering -- "Our companions are excessively stupid. What shall we do to rouse them? Any nonsense will serve. They shall talk. Ladies and gentlemen, I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse (who, wherever she is, presides,) to say, that she desires to know what you are all thinking of."
Some laughed, and answered good-humouredly. Miss Bates said a great deal Mrs. Elton swelled at the idea of Miss Woodhouse's presiding; Mr. Knightley's answer was the most distinct.
"Is Miss Woodhouse sure that she would like to hear what we are all thinking of?"
Frank and Jane Spat at Box Hill (Ch. 43):
[On the Eltons] "Happy couple!" said Frank Churchill, as soon as they were out of hearing; "how well they suit one another! Very lucky - marrying as they did, upon an acquaintance formed only in a public place! They only knew each other, I think, a few weeks in Bath! Peculiarly lucky! For as to any realy knowlede of a person's disposition that Bath, or any public place, can give - it is all nothing; there can be no knowledge. It is only by seeing women in their own homes, among their own set, just as they always are, that you can form any just judgement. Short of that, it is all guess and luck - and will generally be ill-luck. How many a man has committed himself on a short acquaintance, and rued it all the rest of his life!"
Miss Fairfax, who had seldom spoken before, except among her own confederates, spoke now.
"Such things do occur, undoubtedly." She was stopped by a cough. Frank Churchill turned towards her to listen.
"You were speaking," said he gravely. She recovered her voice.
"I was only going to observe, that though such unfortunate circumstances do something occur both to men and women, I cannot imagine them to be very frequent. A hasty and imprudent attachment may arise - but there is generally time to recover from it afterwards. I would be understood to mean, that it can be only weak, irresolute characters (whose happiness must be always at the mercy of chance), who will suffer an unfortunate acquaintance to be an inconvenience, an oppression for ever."
He made no answer; merely looked, and bowed in submission; and soon afterwards said, in a lively tone:
"Well, I have so little confidence in my own judgement, that whenever I marry, I hope somebody will choose my wife for me...
"Now ma'am," said Jane to her aunt, "shall we join Mrs. Elton?"
Emma feels guilt for thinking ill of Jane, and for participating in Frank's careless games (Ch. 48):
...an idea which she greatly feared had been made a subject of material distress to the delicacy of Jane's feelings, by the levity or carelessness of Frank Churchill's.
Frank compliments Jane and apologizes to Mrs. Weston for being a crappy stepson in a letter (Ch. 50):
It is very difficult for the prosperous to be humble. I have already met with such success in two applications for pardon, that I may be in danger of thinking myself too sure of your's, and of those among your friends who have had any ground of offence. You must all endeavour to comprehend the exact nature of my situation when I first arrived at Randalls; you must consider me as having a secret which was to be kept at all hazards. This was the fact. My right to place myself in a situation requiring such concealment, is another question. I shall not discuss it here. For my temptation to think it a right, I refer every caviller to a brick house, sashed windows below, and casements above, in Highbury. I dared not address her openly; my difficulties in the then state of Enscombe must be too well known to require definition; and I was fortunate enough to prevail, before we parted at Weymouth, and to induce the most upright female mind in the creation to stoop in charity to a secret engagement. Had she refused, I should have gone mad. But you will be ready to say, what was your hope in doing this? What did you look forward to? To any thing, every thing -- to time, chance, circumstance, slow effects, sudden bursts, perseverance and weariness, health and sickness. Every possibility of good was before me, and the first of blessings secured, in obtaining her promises of faith and correspondence. If you need farther explanation, I have the honour, my dear madam, of being your husband's son, and the advantage of inheriting a disposition to hope for good, which no inheritance of houses or lands can ever equal the value of. See me, then, under these circumstances, arriving on my first visit to Randalls; and here I am conscious of wrong, for that visit might have been sooner paid. You will look back and see that I did not come till Miss Fairfax was in Highbury; and as you were the person slighted, you will forgive me instantly; but I must work on my father's compassion, by reminding him, that so long as I absented myself from his house, so long I lost the blessing of knowing you.
Mr. Knightley comments on Frank's "apology" letter, at Emma's request (Ch. 51):
"I would rather be talking to you," he replied; "but as it seems a matter of justice, it shall be done."
He began -- stopping, however, almost directly to say, "Had I been offered the sight of one of this gentleman's letters to his mother-in-law a few months ago, Emma, it would not have been taken with such indifference."
He proceeded a little farther, reading to himself; and then, with a smile, observed, "Humph! a fine complimentary opening: but it is his way. One man's style must not be the rule of another's. We will not be severe."
"It will be natural for me," he added shortly afterwards, "to speak my opinion aloud as I read. By doing it, I shall feel that I am near you. It will not be so great a loss of time: but if you dislike it -- "
"Not at all. I should wish it."
Mr. Knightley returned to his reading with greater alacrity.
"He trifles here," said he, "as to the temptation. He knows he is wrong, and has nothing rational to urge. Bad. He ought not to have formed the engagement. 'His father's disposition:' -- he is unjust, however, to his father. Mr. Weston's sanguine temper was a blessing on all his upright and honourable exertions; but Mr. Weston earned every present comfort before he endeavoured to gain it. Very true; he did not come till Miss Fairfax was here."
"And I have not forgotten," said Emma, "how sure you were that he might have come sooner if he would. You pass it over very handsomely; but you were perfectly right."
"I was not quite impartial in my judgment, Emma; but yet, I think, had you not been in the case, I should still have distrusted him."
When he came to Miss Woodhouse, he was obliged to read the whole of it aloud -- all that related to her, with a smile; a look; a shake of the head; a word or two of assent, or disapprobation; or merely of love, as the subject required; concluding, however, seriously, and, after steady reflection, thus --
"Very bad -- though it might have been worse. Playing a most dangerous game. Too much indebted to the event for his acquittal. No judge of his own manners by you. Always deceived in fact by his own wishes, and regardless of little besides his own convenience. Fancying you to have fathomed his secret. Natural enough! his own mind full of intrigue, that he should suspect it in others. Mystery -- finesse -- how they pervert the understanding! My Emma, does not every thing serve to prove more and more the beauty of truth and sincerity in all our dealings with each other?"
Emma agreed to it, and with a blush of sensibility on Harriet's account, which she could not give any sincere explanation of.
"You had better go on," said she.
He did so, but very soon stopt again to say, "the piano-forte! Ah! That was the act of a very, very young man, one too young to consider whether the inconvenience of it might not very much exceed the pleasure. A boyish scheme, indeed! I cannot comprehend a man's wishing to give a woman any proof of affection which he knows she would rather dispense with; and he did know that she would have prevented the instrument's coming if she could."
After this, he made some progress without any pause. Frank Churchill's confession of having behaved shamefully was the first thing to call for more than a word in passing.
"I perfectly agree with you, sir," was then his remark. "You did behave very shamefully. You never wrote a truer line." And having gone through what immediately followed of the basis of their disagreement, and his persisting to act in direct opposition to Jane Fairfax's sense of right, he made a fuller pause to say, "This is very bad. He had induced her to place herself, for his sake, in a situation of extreme difficulty and uneasiness, and it should have been his first object to prevent her from suffering unnecessarily. She must have had much more to contend with, in carrying on the correspondence, than he could. He should have respected even unreasonable scruples, had there been such; but her's were all reasonable. We must look to her one fault, and remember that she had done a wrong thing in consenting to the engagement, to bear that she should have been in such a state of punishment."
Emma knew that he was now getting to the Box-Hill party, and grew uncomfortable. Her own behaviour had been so very improper! She was deeply ashamed, and a little afraid of his next look. It was all read, however, steadily, attentively, and without the smallest remark; and, excepting one momentary glance at her, instantly withdrawn, in the fear of giving pain, no remembrance of Box-Hill seemed to exist.
"There is no saying much for the delicacy of our good friends, the Eltons," was his next observation. "His feelings are natural. What! actually to resolve to break with him entirely! She felt the engagement to be a source of repentance and misery to each: she dissolved it. What a view this gives of her sense of his behaviour! Well, he must be a most extraordinary -- "
"Nay, nay, read on. You will find how very much he suffers."
"I hope he does," replied Mr. Knightley coolly, and resuming the letter. 'Smallridge!' "What does this mean? What is all this?"
"She had engaged to go as governess to Mrs. Smallridge's children -- a dear friend of Mrs. Elton's -- a neighbour of Maple Grove; and, by the bye, I wonder how Mrs. Elton bears the disappointment."
"Say nothing, my dear Emma, while you oblige me to read -- not even of Mrs. Elton. Only one page more. I shall soon have done. What a letter the man writes!"
"I wish you would read it with a kinder spirit towards him."
"Well, there is feeling here. He does seem to have suffered in finding her ill. Certainly, I can have no doubt of his being fond of her. 'Dearer, much dearer than ever.' I hope he may long continue to feel all the value of such a reconciliation. He is a very liberal thanker, with his thousands and tens of thousands. 'Happier than I deserve.' Come, he knows himself there. 'Miss Woodhouse calls me the child of good fortune.' Those were Miss Woodhouse's words, were they? And a fine ending -- and there is the letter. The child of good fortune! That was your name for him, was it?"
"You do not appear so well satisfied with his letter as I am; but still you must, at least I hope you must, think the better of him for it. I hope it does him some service with you."
"Yes, certainly it does. He has had great faults, faults of inconsideration and thoughtlessness; and I am very much of his opinion in thinking him likely to be happier than he deserves: but still as he is, beyond a doubt, really attached to Miss Fairfax, and will soon, it may be hoped, have the advantage of being constantly with her. I am very ready to believe his character will improve, and acquire from her's the steadiness and delicacy of principle that it wants. And now, let me talk to you of something else. I have another person's interest at present so much at heart, that I cannot think any longer about Frank Churchill. Ever since I left you this morning, Emma, my mind has been hard at work on one subject."
Frank thanks Emma for her forgiveness, in person (and bounces around between contrition and self-absorbed happiness) (Ch. 54):
"I have to thank you, Miss Woodhouse, for a very kind forgiving message in one of Mrs. Weston's letters. I hope time has not made you less willing to pardon. I hope you do not retract what you then said."
"No, indeed," cried Emma, most happy to begin, "not in the least. I am particularly glad to see and shake hands with you, and to give you joy in person."
He thanked her with all his heart, and continued some time to speak with serious feeling of his gratitude and happiness.
"Is not she looking well?" said he, turning his eyes towards Jane. "Better than she ever used to do? You see how my father and Mrs. Weston doat upon her."
But his spirits were soon rising again, and with laughing eyes, after mentioning the expected return of the Campbells, he named the name of Dixon. Emma blushed, and forbad its being pronounced in her hearing.
"I can never think of it," she cried, "without extreme shame."
"The shame," he answered, "is all mine, or ought to be. But is it possible that you had no suspicion? I mean of late. Early, I know you had none."
"I never had the smallest, I assure you."
"That appears quite wonderful. I was once very near -- and I wish I had; it would have been better. But though I was always doing wrong things, they were very bad wrong things, and such as did me no service. It would have been a much better transgression had I broken the bond of secrecy and told you everything."
"It is not now worth a regret," said Emma.
"I have some hope," resumed he, "of my uncle's being persuaded to pay a visit at Randalls; he wants to be introduced to her. When the Campbells are returned, we shall meet them in London, and continue there, I trust, till we may carry her northward. But now, I am at such a distance from her -- is not it hard, Miss Woodhouse? Till this morning, we have not once met since the day of reconciliation. Do not you pity me?"
Emma spoke her pity so very kindly, that, with a sudden accession of gay thought, he cried,
"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!"
It's not difficult to see where Frank Churchill gets his charm; even though Frank hasn't grown up with his father, they share many traits. Mr. Weston is popular, cheerful, and a natural center of attention. Unlike Frank, however, Mr. Weston has become a good and practical planner when it comes to important matters. Mr. Weston is one of the four principal landowners in the village of Highbury and the surrounding parish, making his home at Randalls.
His second wife, formerly Miss Anne (or Anna) Taylor, is a kindhearted, forgiving woman who spent sixteen years as governess to Emma (and for much of that time, to Emma's elder sister Isabella, too). She and her new husband remain good friends with the Woodhouses. She is, in fact, Emma's closest female friend.
About Miss Taylor/Mrs. Weston, her relationship with the Woodhouses, and her marriage (Ch. 1):
Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse's family, less as a governess than a friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularly of Emma. Between them it was more the intimacy of sisters. Even before Miss Taylor had ceased to hold the nominal office of governess, the mildness of her temper had hardly allowed her to impose any restraint; and the shadow of authority being now long passed away, they had been living together as friend and friend very mutually attached, and Emma doing just what she liked; highly esteeming Miss Taylor's judgment, but directed chiefly by her own.
Sorrow came -- a gentle sorrow -- but not at all in the shape of any disagreeable consciousness. Miss Taylor married. It was Miss Taylor's loss which first brought grief. It was on the wedding-day of this beloved friend that Emma first sat in mournful thought of any continuance. The wedding over and the bride-people gone, her father and herself were left to dine together, with no prospect of a third to cheer a long evening. Her father composed himself to sleep after dinner, as usual, and she had then only to sit and think of what she had lost.
The event had every promise of happiness for her friend. Mr. Weston was a man of unexceptionable character, easy fortune, suitable age and pleasant manners; and there was some satisfaction in considering with what self-denying, generous friendship she had always wished and promoted the match; but it was a black morning's work for her. The want of Miss Taylor would be felt every hour of every day. She recalled her past kindness -- the kindness, the affection of sixteen years -- how she had taught and how she had played with her from five years old -- how she had devoted all her powers to attach and amuse her in health -- and how nursed her through the various illnesses of childhood. A large debt of gratitude was owing here; but the intercourse of the last seven years, the equal footing and perfect unreserve which had soon followed Isabella's marriage on their being left to each other, was yet a dearer, tenderer recollection. It had been a friend and companion such as few possessed, intelligent, well-informed, useful, gentle, knowing all the ways of the family, interested in all its concerns, and peculiarly interested in herself, in every pleasure, every scheme of her's; -- one to whom she could speak every thought as it arose, and who had such an affection for her as could never find fault.
About Mr. Weston, his marriage to Miss Churchill, the early life of his son Frank, and his marriage to Miss Taylor (Ch. 2):
Mr. Weston was a native of Highbury, and born of a respectable family, which for the last two or three generations had been rising into gentility and property. He had received a good education, but on succeeding early in life to a small independence, had become indisposed for any of the more homely pursuits in which his brothers were engaged; and had satisfied an active cheerful mind and social temper by entering into the militia of his country, then embodied.
Captain Weston was a general favourite; and when the chances of his military life had introduced him to Miss Churchill, of a great Yorkshire family, and Miss Churchill fell in love with him, nobody was surprized except her brother and his wife, who had never seen him, and who were full of pride and importance, which the connection would offend.
Miss Churchill, however, being of age, and with the full command of her fortune -- though her fortune bore no proportion to the family-estate -- was not to be dissuaded from the marriage, and it took place to the infinite mortification of Mr. and Mrs. Churchill, who threw her off with due decorum. It was an unsuitable connection, and did not produce much happiness. Mrs. Weston ought to have found more in it, for she had a husband whose warm heart and sweet temper made him think every thing due to her in return for the great goodness of being in love with him; but though she had one sort of spirit, she had not the best. She had resolution enough to pursue her own will in spite of her brother, but not enough to refrain from unreasonable regrets at that brother's unreasonable anger, nor from missing the luxuries of her former home. They lived beyond their income, but still it was nothing in comparison of Enscombe; she did not cease to love her husband, but she wanted at once to be the wife of Captain Weston, and Miss Churchill of Enscombe.
Captain Weston, who had been considered, especially by the Churchills, as making such an amazing match, was proved to have much the worst of the bargain; for when his wife died after a three years' marriage, he was rather a poorer man than at first, and with a child to maintain. From the expense of the child, however, he was soon relieved. The boy had, with the additional softening claim of a lingering illness of his mother's, been the means of a sort of reconciliation; and Mr. and Mrs. Churchill, having no children of their own, nor any other young creature of equal kindred to care for, offered to take the whole charge of the little Frank soon after her decease. Some scruples and some reluctance the widower-father may be supposed to have felt; but as they were overcome by other considerations, the child was given up to the care and the wealth of the Churchills, and he had only his own comfort to seek and his own situation to improve as he could.
A complete change of life became desirable. He quitted the militia and engaged in trade, having brothers already established in a good way in London, which afforded him a favourable opening. It was a concern which brought just employment enough. He had still a small house in Highbury, where most of his leisure days were spent; and between useful occupation and the pleasures of society, the next eighteen or twenty years of his life passed cheerfully away. He had, by that time, realized an easy competence -- enough to secure the purchase of a little estate adjoining Highbury, which he had always longed for -- enough to marry a woman as portionless even as Miss Taylor, and to live according to the wishes of his own friendly and social disposition.
It was now some time since Miss Taylor had begun to influence his schemes; but as it was not the tyrannic influence of youth on youth, it had not shaken his determination of never settling till he could purchase Randalls, and the sale of Randalls was long looked forward to: but he had gone steadily on, with these objects in view, till they were accomplished. He had made his fortune, bought his house, and obtained his wife; and was beginning a new period of existence with every probability of greater happiness than in any yet passed through. He had never been an unhappy man; his own temper had secured him from that, even in his first marriage; but his second must shew him how delightful a well-judging and truly amiable woman could be, and must give him the pleasantest proof of its being a great deal better to chuse than to be chosen, to excite gratitude than to feel it.
He had only himself to please in his choice: his fortune was his own; for as to Frank, it was more than being tacitly brought up as his uncle's heir, it had become so avowed an adoption as to have him assume the name of Churchill on coming of age. It was most unlikely, therefore, that he should ever want his father's assistance. His father had no apprehension of it. The aunt was a capricious woman, and governed her husband entirely; but it was not in Mr. Weston's nature to imagine that any caprice could be strong enough to affect one so dear, and, as he believed, so deservedly dear. He saw his son every year in London, and was proud of him; and his fond report of him as a very fine young man had made Highbury feel a sort of pride in him too. He was looked on as sufficiently belonging to the place to make his merits and prospects a kind of common concern.
Emma differentiates between her friendships with Harriet and Mrs. Weston (Ch. 4):
Altogether she was quite convinced of Harriet Smith's being exactly the young friend she wanted -- exactly the something which her home required. Such a friend as Mrs. Weston was out of the question. Two such could never be granted. Two such she did not want. It was quite a different sort of thing -- a sentiment distinct and independent. Mrs. Weston was the object of a regard, which had its basis in gratitude and esteem. Harriet would be loved as one to whom she could be useful. For Mrs. Weston there was nothing to be done; for Harriet every thing.
Mrs. Weston, a very good friend, assures Mr. Knightley that Emma is...well, almost perfect, LOL (Ch. 5):
"You surprize me! Emma must do Harriet good: and by supplying her with a new object of interest, Harriet may be said to do Emma good. I have been seeing their intimacy with the greatest pleasure. How very differently we feel! Not think they will do each other any good! This will certainly be the beginning of one of our quarrels about Emma, Mr. Knightley."
"Perhaps you think I am come on purpose to quarrel with you, knowing Weston to be out, and that you must still fight your own battle."
"Mr. Weston would undoubtedly support me, if he were here, for he thinks exactly as I do on the subject. We were speaking of it only yesterday, and agreeing how fortunate it was for Emma, that there should be such a girl in Highbury for her to associate with. Mr. Knightley, I shall not allow you to be a fair judge in this case. You are so much used to live alone, that you do not know the value of a companion; and perhaps no man can be a good judge of the comfort a woman feels in the society of one of her own sex, after being used to it all her life. I can imagine your objection to Harriet Smith. She is not the superior young woman which Emma's friend ought to be. But on the other hand as Emma wants to see her better informed, it will be an inducement to her to read more herself. They will read together. She means it, I know."
"Emma has been meaning to read more ever since she was twelve years old. I have seen a great many lists of her drawing up at various times of books that she meant to read regularly through -- and very good lists they were -- very well chosen, and very neatly arranged -- sometimes alphabetically, and sometimes by some other rule. The list she drew up when only fourteen -- I remember thinking it did her judgment so much credit, that I preserved it some time; and I dare say she may have made out a very good list now. But I have done with expecting any course of steady reading from Emma. She will never submit to any thing requiring industry and patience, and a subjection of the fancy to the understanding. Where Miss Taylor failed to stimulate, I may safely affirm that Harriet Smith will do nothing. You never could persuade her to read half so much as you wished. You know you could not."
"I dare say," replied Mrs. Weston, smiling, "that I thought so then; -- but since we have parted, I can never remember Emma's omitting to do any thing I wished."
"I either depend more upon Emma's good sense than you do, or am more anxious for her present comfort; for I cannot lament the acquaintance. How well she looked last night!"
"Oh! you would rather talk of her person than her mind, would you? Very well; I shall not attempt to deny Emma's being pretty."
"Pretty! say beautiful rather. Can you imagine any thing nearer perfect beauty than Emma altogether -- face and figure?"
"I do not know what I could imagine, but I confess that I have seldom seen a face or figure more pleasing to me than her's. But I am a partial old friend."
"Such an eye! the true hazle eye -- and so brilliant! regular features, open countenance, with a complexion! oh! what a bloom of full health, and such a pretty height and size; such a firm and upright figure. There is health, not merely in her bloom, but in her air, her head, her glance. One hears sometimes of a child being ""the picture of health;"" now Emma always gives me the idea of being the complete picture of grown-up health. She is loveliness itself. Mr. Knightley, is not she?"
"I have not a fault to find with her person," he replied. I think her all you describe. I love to look at her; and I will add this praise, that I do not think her personally vain. Considering how very handsome she is, she appears to be little occupied with it; her vanity lies another way. Mrs. Weston, I am not to be talked out of my dislike of her intimacy with Harriet Smith, or my dread of its doing them both harm."
"And I, Mr. Knightley, am equally stout in my confidence of its not doing them any harm. With all dear Emma's little faults, she is an excellent creature. Where shall we see a better daughter, or a kinder sister, or a truer friend? No, no; she has qualities which may be trusted; she will never lead any one really wrong; she will make no lasting blunder; where Emma errs once, she is in the right a hundred times."
"Very well; I will not plague you any more. Emma shall be an angel, and I will keep my spleen to myself till Christmas brings John and Isabella. John loves Emma with a reasonable and therefore not a blind affection, and Isabella always thinks as he does; except when he is not quite frightened enough about the children. I am sure of having their opinions with me."
"I know that you all love her really too well to be unjust or unkind; but excuse me, Mr. Knightley, if I take the liberty (I consider myself, you know, as having somewhat of the privilege of speech that Emma's mother might have had) the liberty of hinting that I do not think any possible good can arise from Harriet Smith's intimacy being made a matter of much discussion among you. Pray excuse me; but supposing any little inconvenience may be apprehended from the intimacy, it cannot be expected that Emma, accountable to nobody but her father, who perfectly approves the acquaintance, should put an end to it, so long as it is a source of pleasure to herself. It has been so many years my province to give advice, that you cannot be surprized, Mr. Knightley, at this little remains of office."
Mr. and Mrs. Weston much-loved by Emma; Mrs. Weston a calming influence on her (Ch. 14):
Emma only might be as nature prompted, and shew herself just as happy as she was. To her, it was real enjoyment to be with the Westons. Mr. Weston was a great favourite, and there was not a creature in the world to whom she spoke with such unreserve, as to his wife; not any one, to whom she related with such conviction of being listened to and understood, of being always interesting and always intelligible, the little affairs, arrangements, perplexities and pleasures of her father and herself. She could tell nothing of Hartfield, in which Mrs. Weston had not a lively concern; and half an hour's uninterrupted communication of all those little matters on which the daily happiness of private life depends, was one of the first gratifications of each.
this was a pleasure which perhaps the whole day's visit might not afford, which certainly did not belong to the present half hour; but the very sight of Mrs. Weston, her smile, her touch, her voice was grateful to Emma...
Emma wished she had been alone with Mrs. Weston. She should then have heard more: Mrs. Weston would speak to her, with a degree of unreserve which she would not hazard with Isabella; and, she really believed, would scarcely try to conceal any thing relative to the Churchills from her, excepting those views on the young man, of which her own imagination had already given her such instinctive knowledge.
Mr. Weston is a party animal (Ch. 15):
Mr. Weston was chatty and convivial, and no friend to early separations of any sort...
At the Coles' party, Mrs. Weston shows interest in Jane's pianoforte gift (Ch. 26):
Mrs. Weston, kind-hearted and musical, was particularly interested by the circumstance...
Mr. Weston sends Frank to ask Emma if she'll give him her input on the ball he plans to give (Ch. 29):
"My father and Mrs. Weston are at the Crown at this moment," said Frank Churchill, "examining the capabilities of the house. I left them there and came on to Hartfield, impatient for your opinion, and hoping you might be persuaded to join them and give your advice on the spot. I was desired to say so from both. It would be the greatest pleasure to them, if you could allow me to attend you there. They can do nothing satisfactorily without you."
Emma was most happy to be called to such a council; and her father, engaging to think it all over while she was gone, the two young people set off together without delay for the Crown. There were Mr. and Mrs. Weston; delighted to see her and receive her approbation, very busy and very happy in their different way; she, in some little distress; and he, finding every thing perfect.
Mrs. Weston souses out the rooms at the Crown Inn, where her husband (ever the generous host) plans to hold the ball (Ch. 29):
Mrs. Weston, like a sweet-tempered woman and a good wife, had examined the passage again, and found the evils of it much less than she had supposed before -- indeed very trifling...
Mr. Weston brings a "surprise" - a letter from Frank - to a gathering at Hartfield. Like his son Frank, he obviously miscalculates the effects of his surprises a bit. :) John Knightley thinks he's crazy for dropping in like this after such a long day...even moreso for actually enjoying it (Ch. 35):
The whole party were but just reassembled in the drawing-room when Mr. Weston made his appearance among them. He had returned to a late dinner, and walked to Hartfield as soon as it was over. He had been too much expected by the best judges, for surprize -- but there was great joy. Mr. Woodhouse was almost as glad to see him now, as he would have been sorry to see him before. John Knightley only was in mute astonishment. That a man who might have spent his evening quietly at home after a day of business in London, should set off again, and walk half-a-mile to another man's house, for the sake of being in mixed company till bed-time, of finishing his day in the efforts of civility and the noise of numbers, was a circumstance to strike him deeply. A man who had been in motion since eight o'clock in the morning, and might now have been still, who had been long talking, and might have been silent, who had been in more than one crowd, and might have been alone! Such a man, to quit the tranquillity and independence of his own fire-side, and on the evening of a cold sleety April day rush out again into the world! Could he by a touch of his finger have instantly taken back his wife, there would have been a motive; but his coming would probably prolong rather than break up the party. John Knightley looked at him with amazement, then shrugged his shoulders, and said, "I could not have believed it even of him."
Mr. Weston Shares a letter from Frank (Ch. 35):
Mr. Weston meanwhile, perfectly unsuspicious of the indignation he was exciting, happy and cheerful as usual, and with all the right of being principal talker, which a day spent any where from home confers, was making himself agreeable among the rest; and having satisfied the inquiries of his wife as to his dinner, convincing her that none of all her careful directions to the servants had been forgotten, and spread abroad what public news he had heard, was proceeding to a family communication, which, though principally addressed to Mrs. Weston, he had not the smallest doubt of being highly interesting to every body in the room. He gave her a letter, it was from Frank, and to herself; he had met with it in his way, and had taken the liberty of opening it.
"Read it, read it," said he, "it will give you pleasure; only a few lines -- will not take you long; read it to Emma."
Mr. Weston plans the Box Hill picnic (and tries to integrate the party in his usual cheerful way), while Kind Mrs. Weston stays with Mr. Woodhouse (Ch. 43):
Mr. Weston directed the whole, officiating safely between Hartfield and the vicarage, and every body was in good time. Emma and Harriet went together; Miss Bates and her niece, with the Eltons; the gentlemen on horseback. Mrs. Weston remained with Mr. Woodhouse. Nothing was wanting but to be happy when they got there. Seven miles were travelled in expectation of enjoyment, and every body had a burst of admiration on first arriving; but in the general amount of the day there was deficiency. There was a languor, a want of spirits, a want of union, which could not be got over. They separated too much into parties. The Eltons walked together; Mr. Knightley took charge of Miss Bates and Jane; and Emma and Harriet belonged to Frank Churchill. And Mr. Weston tried, in vain, to make them harmonize better. It seemed at first an accidental division, but it never materially varied. Mr. and Mrs. Elton, indeed, showed no unwillingness to mix, and be as agreeable as they could: but during the two whole hours that were spent on the hill, there seemed a principle of separation, between the other parties, too strong for any fine prospects, or any cold collation, or any cheerful Mr. Weston, to remove.
Mr. Weston's kind conundrum (Ch. 43):
"No, no," said Emma, "it will not reckon low. A conundrum of Mr. Weston's shall clear him and his next neighbour. Come, sir, pray let me hear it." "I doubt it's being very clever myself," said Mr. Weston. "It is too much a matter of fact, but here it is. What two letters of the alphabet are there, that express perfection?" "What two letters! express perfection! I am sure I do not know." "Ah! you will never guess. You," (to Emma), "I am certain, will never guess. I will tell you. M. and A. Em-ma. Do you understand?"
The Westons react to the news of Mrs. Churchill's passing; they both worry about Frank, and make tasteful, respectful comments regarding the tragedy. Mr. Weston also turns his mind to his mourning ensembles (LOL) (Ch. 45):
"Poor Mrs. Churchill! no doubt she had been suffering a great deal: more than any body had ever supposed -- and continual pain would try the temper. It was a sad event -- a great shock -- with all her faults, what would Mr. Churchill do without her? Mr. Churchill's loss would be dreadful indeed. Mr. Churchill would never get over it." Even Mr. Weston [always the cheerful one!] shook his head, and looked solemn, and said, "Ah! poor woman, who would have thought it!" and resolved, that his mourning should be as handsome as possible; and his wife sat sighing and moralizing over her broad hems with a commiseration and good sense, true and steady. How it would affect Frank was among the earliest thoughts of both.
Mrs. Weston wants to make sure Emma is okay about the Jane-Frank engagement news. Emma is not pleased with Frank's behavior. Mrs. Weston kindly defends him, insisting that he will explain himself (Ch. 48):
"If I did not know her to be happy now," said Emma, seriously, "which, in spite of every little drawback from her scrupulous conscience, she must be, I could not bear these thanks;for, oh! Mrs. Weston, if there were an account drawn up of the evil and the good I have done Miss Fairfax! Well," (checking herself, and trying to be more lively), "this is all to be forgotten. You are very kind to bring me these interesting particulars. They show her to the greatest advantage. I am sure she is very good; I hope she will be very happy. It is fit that the fortune should be on his side, for I think the merit will be all on her's."
Such a conclusion could not pass unanswered by Mrs. Weston. She thought well of Frank in almost every respect; and, what was more, she loved him very much, and her defence was, therefore, earnest. She talked with a great deal of reason, and at least equal affection -- but she had too much to urge for Emma's attention; it was soon gone to Brunswick Square or to Donwell; she forgot to attempt to listen; and when Mrs. Weston ended with, "We have not yet had the letter we are so anxious for, you know, but I hope it will soon come," she was obliged to pause before she answered, and at last obliged to answer at random, before she could at all recollect what letter it was which they were so anxious for.