17. CHAPTER XVII
When the ladies returned to the drawing-room after dinner, Emma found
it hardly possible to prevent their making two distinct parties;--
with so much perseverance in judging and behaving ill did Mrs. Elton
engross Jane Fairfax and slight herself. She and Mrs. Weston were
obliged to be almost always either talking together or silent together.
Mrs. Elton left them no choice. If Jane repressed her for a
little time, she soon began again; and though much that passed
between them was in a half-whisper, especially on Mrs. Elton's side,
there was no avoiding a knowledge of their principal subjects:
The post-office--catching cold--fetching letters--and friendship,
were long under discussion; and to them succeeded one, which must
be at least equally unpleasant to Jane--inquiries whether she had
yet heard of any situation likely to suit her, and professions of
Mrs. Elton's meditated activity.
"Here is April come!" said she, "I get quite anxious about you.
June will soon be here."
"But I have never fixed on June or any other month--merely looked
forward to the summer in general."
"But have you really heard of nothing?"
"I have not even made any inquiry; I do not wish to make any yet."
"Oh! my dear, we cannot begin too early; you are not aware
of the difficulty of procuring exactly the desirable thing."
"I not aware!" said Jane, shaking her head; "dear Mrs. Elton,
who can have thought of it as I have done?"
"But you have not seen so much of the world as I have. You do not
know how many candidates there always are for the first situations.
I saw a vast deal of that in the neighbourhood round Maple Grove.
A cousin of Mr. Suckling, Mrs. Bragge, had such an infinity
of applications; every body was anxious to be in her family,
for she moves in the first circle. Wax-candles in the schoolroom!
You may imagine how desirable! Of all houses in the kingdom
Mrs. Bragge's is the one I would most wish to see you in."