The Modern Griselda, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 6.

“E sol quei giorni io mi vidi contenta,

Ch’averla compiaciuto mi trovai.”

“You are a great deal more courageous than I am, my dear,” said Emma to her husband, after Mr. Bolingbroke had left them. “I should be very much afraid of interfering between your friend and his wife.”

“What is friendship,” said Mr. Granby, “if it will run no risks? I must run the hazard of being called a mischief-maker.”

“That is not the danger of which I was thinking,” said Emma; “though I confess that I should be weak enough to fear that a little: but what I meant to express was an apprehension of our doing harm where we most wish to do good.”

“Do you, my dear Emma, think Griselda incorrigible?”

“No, indeed,” cried Emma, with anxious emphasis; “far from it. But without thinking a person incorrigible, may we not dislike the idea of inflicting correction? I should be very sorry to be the means of giving Griselda any pain; she was my friend when we were children; I have a real regard for her, and if she does not now seem disposed to love me, that must be my fault, not hers: or if it is not my fault, call it my misfortune. At all events, I have no right to force myself upon her acquaintance. She prefers Mrs. Nettleby; I have not the false humility to say, that I think Mrs. Nettleby will prove as safe or as good a friend as I hope I should he. But of this Mrs. Bolingbroke has a right to judge. And I am sure, far from resenting her resolution to avoid my acquaintance, my only feeling about it, at this instant, is the dread that it should continue to be a matter of dispute between her and her husband.”

“If Mr. Bolingbroke insisted, or if I advised him to insist upon his wife’s coming here, when she does not like it,” said Mr. Granby, “I should act absurdly, and he would act unjustly; but all that he requires is equality of rights, and the liberty of going where he pleases. She refuses to come to see you: he refuses to go to see Mr. John Nettleby. Which has the best of the battle?”

Emma thought it would be best if there were no battle; and observed, that refusals and reprisals would only irritate the parties, whose interest and happiness it was to be pacified and to agree. She said, that if Mr. Bolingbroke, instead of opposing his will to that of his wife, which, in fact, was only conquering force by force, would speak reasonably to her, probably she might be induced to yield, or to command her temper. Mrs. Granby suggested, that a compromise, founded on an offer of mutual sacrifice and mutual compliance, might be obtained. That Mr. Bolingbroke might promise to give up some of his time to the man he disliked, upon condition that Griselda should submit to the society of a woman to whom she had an aversion.

“If she consented to this,” said Emma, “I would do my best to make her like me; or at least to make her time pass agreeably at our house: her liking me is a matter of no manner of consequence.”

Emma was capable of putting herself entirely out of the question, when the interest of others was at stake; her whole desire was to conciliate, and all her thoughts were intent upon making her friends happy. She seemed to live in them more than in herself, and from sympathy arose the greatest pleasure and pain of her existence. Her sympathy was not of that useless kind which is called forth only by the elegant fictitious sorrows of a heroine of romance; hers was ready for all the occasions of real life; nor was it to be easily checked by the imperfections of those to whom she could be of service. At this moment, when she perceived that her husband was disgusted by Griselda’s caprice, she said all she could think of in her favour: she recollected every anecdote of Griselda’s childhood, which showed an amiable disposition; and argued, that it was not probable her temper should have entirely changed in a few years. Emma’s quick-sighted good-nature could discern the least portion of merit, where others could find only faults; as certain experienced eyes can discover grains of gold in the sands, which the ignorant have searched, and abandoned as useless. In consequence of Emma’s advice — for who would reject good advice, offered with so much gentleness? — Mr. Granby wrote a note to Mr. Bolingbroke, to recommend the compromise which she had suggested. Upon his return home, Mr. Bolingbroke was informed that his lady had gone to bed much indisposed; he spent a restless night, notwithstanding all his newly-acquired magnanimity. He was much relieved in the morning by his friend’s note, and blessed Emma for proposing the compromise.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37