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Emma, Volume III, Chapter XIX (Chapter 55)

Can Harriet really have switched her affections back to Robert Martin so quickly? Well . . . yes. And it turns out that Harriet's father was a merchant, well-off enough to pay for her upkeep and respectable enough to want to keep her illegitimacy quiet for himself (and probably his wife). But he was neither noble nor rich, and Emma finds herself shocked at her presumption that Harriet might have deserved any of the gentlemen in town. (Mr Knightley apparently refrains from saying "I told you so".)

[Emma] had no doubt of Harriet's happiness with any good-tempered man; but with him, and in the home he offered, there would be the hope of more, of security, stability, and improvement. She would be placed in the midst of those who loved her, and who had better sense than herself; retired enough for safety, and occupied enough for cheerfulness. She would be never led into temptation, nor left for it to find her out. She would be respectable and happy; and Emma admitted her to be the luckiest creature in the world, to have created so steady and persevering an affection in such a man;--or, if not quite the luckiest, to yield only to herself.

Harriet, necessarily drawn away by her engagements with the Martins, was less and less at Hartfield; which was not to be regretted.--The intimacy between her and Emma must sink; their friendship must change into a calmer sort of goodwill; and, fortunately, what ought to be, and must be, seemed already beginning, and in the most gradual, natural manner.

Harriet is married before the end of September, and Jane Fairfax is set to be married in November, as soon as Frank Churchill is out of "deep mourning" (the first three months of mourning) for his aunt. Emma and Mr Knightley have chosen October as the month for their own marriage, but they have to convince Mr Woodhouse, who is only willing to admit it might happen someday.

Turns out that what makes up Mr Woodhouse's mind for him is a burglary; specifically, somebody steals all of Mrs Weston's turkeys, and other poultry houses in the area are hit as well. Such perfidy makes Mr Woodhouse very uneasy, and his son-in-law, Mr John Knightley, and his future son-in-law Mr (George) Knightley, convince him that he'll be better off with Mr Knightley being there full-time.

And somehow, Mrs Elton gets (almost) the last word:

The result of this distress was, that, with a much more voluntary, cheerful consent than his daughter had ever presumed to hope for at the moment, she was able to fix her wedding-day--and Mr Elton was called on, within a month from the marriage of Mr and Mrs Robert Martin, to join the hands of Mr Knightley and Miss Woodhouse.

The wedding was very much like other weddings, where the parties have no taste for finery or parade; and Mrs Elton, from the particulars detailed by her husband, thought it all extremely shabby, and very inferior to her own.--"Very little white satin, very few lace veils; a most pitiful business!--Selina would stare when she heard of it."--But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.

HA! Mrs Elton is all sour grapes about it not being posh enough for her taste. I prefer, however, to imagine how sour Mr Elton must have felt, first in performing a ceremony for Harriet Smith and Robert Martin, and now for Emma and Mr Knightley. And yet, he's the parish priest, so of course he's stuck doing it.

After the end of the book

Austen family tradition says that Austen often discussed the afterlives of her characters with family members. According to that tradition, Mr Woodhouse lived for another two years or so after Emma's marriage to Mr Knightley; thereafter, they moved to Donwell Abbey. The tiles that Frank had placed in front of Jane Fairfax while at Donwell Abbey, and that she had swept away, would have spelled PARDON. And, I am sorry to say, Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax did not live happily ever after - or at least not for long. Jane Churchill's weak health wasn't entirely a charade - she lived only nine years after their marriage, leaving Frank a widow (as his father had been before him).

Kiva - loans that change lives
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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 18th, 2013 03:18 pm (UTC)
Ruth Wilson
Nov. 14th, 2018 07:49 pm (UTC)
Mrs. Elton
Mrs. Elton was definitely eating sour grapes after Emma's wedding--she wasn't invited to it! She had to depend on "the particulars detailed by her husband" to learn about the paucity of lace and satin.

I enjoy your Austen-related writings very much--thank you for doing them and for keeping them available.
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