Emma Chapter 43
The weather was lovely for the trip to Box Hill, but the mood of the travelers upon arriving was not. They seemed listless and soon split into groups. The Eltons did not like Miss Woodhouse or Miss Smith, and vice versa, and Miss Bates and Miss Fairfax were annoyances to Emma. All these poor relations divided the party. Emma was with Harriet and Frank Churchill, but she found him to be unlike himself, very quiet and dull. He seemed distracted, his attention elsewhere; this seemed to lessen Harriet's spirits as well. When they finally sit down Mr. Churchill improved, paying Emma his lively attention. They flirt with each other, though Emma did not have her heart attached to it or to him. Mr. Churchill was very excitable, and seems determined to cause a stir in the group. He said that Miss Woodhouse wanted to hear everyone's thoughts, a request that offended Mrs. Elton. He next asked to hear one funny story, or several dull ones, from each person. Miss Bates joked that three dull things would be very easy for her, and Emma cruelly remarked: "'Ah! ma'am, but there may be a difficulty. Pardon me, but you will be limited as to number--only three at once.'" Chapter 43, pg. 340 It took Miss Bates a moment to comprehend, and then she was very hurt. She faulted herself, not Miss Woodhouse, her kind old friend. Mr. Weston tries to change the subject. He suggests puzzles, but Mrs. Elton is still offended, and won't help break the tension. She and her husband walk off.
In their absence Mr. Churchill criticizes them, and the quickness of their courtship. Miss Fairfax speaks up to defend the idea of love arising from short acquaintances. But she thinks that only a weak person would hold onto such a love. Mr. Churchill asks Miss Woodhouse to choose a wife for him, and of the qualities he asks for, Emma finds nearly all of them in Harriet Smith. The day is ending, and Mr. Knightley approaches Emma while she waits for her carriage. He reprimands Emma for her comment to Miss Bates. For Emma to behave such to a woman whose situation is so inferior to her own, shows a lack of compassion. Emma's shame makes her silent, but Mr. Knightley fears she is only angry with him. The carriage arrives, and Emma enters hers before she is able to speak to Mr. Knightley. Unsettled, Emma sees now how cruel her words had been. She perhaps regretted even more the way she left things unsaid with Mr. Knightley. Feeling the most sadness, Emma cries the whole ride home.