15. CHAPTER XV
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
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?"