The Trip to Box Hill

Dancing with Mr Knightley was one of Emma’s favourite memories of the ball. She was also glad they both thought the same of Mr and Mrs Elton and their insult to Harriet. It seemed as if Harriet’s eyes had suddenly opened at the ball and she now saw Mr Elton differently. Emma walked in the garden the morning after the ball and decided it would be a happy summer — Harriet out of love, Frank not too much in love and Mr Knightley not arguing with her!

Frank was not going to call at Hartfield that morning because he had to go straight back to Richmond. So, as Emma was just going back into the house, she was very surprised to see him coming through the gates, with Harriet. Harriet looked white and frightened and he was obviously trying to calm her. Soon they were all in the house and Harriet immediately fainted.

Emma fetched some water and slowly Harriet became a little better and was able to tell her story.

She had been out with a friend and they were walking along the Richmond Road, when they suddenly met a group of gipsies. A child asked the girls for money and they were both very frightened. Harriet’s friend ran away, but before Harriet could follow her, more gipsy children arrived and were all round her. She thought if she gave them some money they would go away but the opposite happened and suddenly she was surrounded by a lot of gipsies.

At that moment, Frank came along the road on his way back to Richmond. He saw what was happening, saved her and brought her to Hartfield. When he was sure Harriet felt better, he continued on his journey home.

In half an hour, the news was all over Highbury and everyone heard what had happened. Mr Knightley went with some other men to find the gipsies but they had already gone. The story soon became unimportant, but Emma remembered how worried Frank had been about Harriet and how she had held onto his arm. She began to have stronger hopes for them both.

About a fortnight later, Emma and Harriet were talking together and Emma said something about people getting married. To her surprise, Harriet replied, ‘I shall never marry.’

‘I hope this is nothing to do with Mr Elton,’ replied Emma and Harriet denied it at once.

‘No, of course not. It is someone much better.’

Emma understood at once. Harriet meant Frank Churchill and she was unhappy because she knew he came from a very good family and could not think of marrying her.

‘I am not surprised about this Harriet. The way he saved you was enough to warm your heart, but you are right. You must not hope for too much.’

‘He was wonderful, Miss Woodhouse! When I remember how I felt at the time — and then I saw him coming towards me. Suddenly I was happy again,’ said Harriet.

‘But strange things have happened before, Harriet. You must see how he behaves with you to know how much he really likes you. We made a mistake before because we hoped for too much. This time we will be more careful and not even speak his name,’ said Emma.

Mr Knightley had never liked Frank Churchill and as time went on he disliked him more. He began to think that, while Emma seemed to be his special favourite, he also had a liking for Jane Fairfax. Nothing was said to make him think this, but once or twice he had seen a certain look pass between them. Emma was his dear friend and he knew he must say something to her about it. She did not believe it at all and was amused by the idea so he said no more, but it worried him.

In June, a trip was arranged by Mrs Elton to Box Hill, a beautiful place in the countryside. It was going to be a simple party with only one or two servants and a picnic. A few days before the trip, one of the Eltons’ carriage horses hurt his leg and they could not go.

‘Most annoying, Knightley,’ Mrs Elton said. ‘What can we do? The weather is perfect, too.’

‘Come and eat my strawberries. They are ready now and you do not need horses to travel that distance.’ He meant it as a joke but Mrs Elton thought it was a delightful idea.

‘Excellent!’ she said. ‘I will arrange food and guests. Just name the day.’

Mr Knightley certainly did not want her to arrange anything and said he could do it himself.

‘Very well. I shall bring Jane and her aunt and you can ask the other guests. We will walk around your gardens, pick strawberries and sit under trees, just like a gipsy party! It will be very pleasant.’

As Emma walked in Mr Knightley’s gardens on the day of the party she saw him and Harriet standing together away from the others. She was a little surprised, but pleased to find them in conversation. She joined them and they walked together for a time.

Mr Weston had invited Frank but by lunch time he still had not arrived and Mrs Weston began to be worried about him. They all had lunch in the house and then afterwards went into the garden again. Still there was no sign of Frank. Emma stayed in the drawing room with Mr Woodhouse for a time because it was too hot for him to be outdoors. She was just walking through the hall when Jane Fairfax suddenly came in through the door. She looked as if she wanted to escape from something and she was surprised to see Emma.


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