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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesEmma - Volume I - Chapter Vii
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Emma - Volume I - Chapter Vii Post by :infobizprofit Category :Long Stories Author :Jane Austen Date :December 2010 Read :1160

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Emma - Volume I - Chapter Vii

The very day of Mr. Elton's going to London produced a fresh occasion
for Emma's services towards her friend. Harriet had been at Hartfield,
as usual, soon after breakfast; and, after a time, had gone home
to return again to dinner: she returned, and sooner than had been
talked of, and with an agitated, hurried look, announcing something
extraordinary to have happened which she was longing to tell.
Half a minute brought it all out. She had heard, as soon as she got
back to Mrs. Goddard's, that Mr. Martin had been there an hour before,
and finding she was not at home, nor particularly expected, had left
a little parcel for her from one of his sisters, and gone away;
and on opening this parcel, she had actually found, besides the two
songs which she had lent Elizabeth to copy, a letter to herself;
and this letter was from him, from Mr. Martin, and contained a direct
proposal of marriage. "Who could have thought it? She was so surprized
she did not know what to do. Yes, quite a proposal of marriage;
and a very good letter, at least she thought so. And he wrote
as if he really loved her very much--but she did not know--and so,
she was come as fast as she could to ask Miss Woodhouse what she
should do.--" Emma was half-ashamed of her friend for seeming so
pleased and so doubtful.

"Upon my word," she cried, "the young man is determined not to lose
any thing for want of asking. He will connect himself well if he can."

"Will you read the letter?" cried Harriet. "Pray do. I'd rather
you would."

Emma was not sorry to be pressed. She read, and was surprized.
The style of the letter was much above her expectation.
There were not merely no grammatical errors, but as a composition it
would not have disgraced a gentleman; the language, though plain,
was strong and unaffected, and the sentiments it conveyed very much
to the credit of the writer. It was short, but expressed good sense,
warm attachment, liberality, propriety, even delicacy of feeling.
She paused over it, while Harriet stood anxiously watching for
her opinion, with a "Well, well," and was at last forced to add,
"Is it a good letter? or is it too short?"

"Yes, indeed, a very good letter," replied Emma rather slowly--"so
good a letter, Harriet, that every thing considered, I think one of
his sisters must have helped him. I can hardly imagine the young
man whom I saw talking with you the other day could express himself
so well, if left quite to his own powers, and yet it is not the
style of a woman; no, certainly, it is too strong and concise;
not diffuse enough for a woman. No doubt he is a sensible man,
and I suppose may have a natural talent for--thinks strongly and
clearly--and when he takes a pen in hand, his thoughts naturally find
proper words. It is so with some men. Yes, I understand the sort
of mind. Vigorous, decided, with sentiments to a certain point,
not coarse. A better written letter, Harriet (returning it,)
than I had expected."

"Well," said the still waiting Harriet;--" well--and-- and what
shall I do?"

"What shall you do! In what respect? Do you mean with regard
to this letter?"

"Yes."

"But what are you in doubt of? You must answer it of course--and speedily."

"Yes. But what shall I say? Dear Miss Woodhouse, do advise me."

"Oh no, no! the letter had much better be all your own. You will
express yourself very properly, I am sure. There is no danger of your
not being intelligible, which is the first thing. Your meaning must
be unequivocal; no doubts or demurs: and such expressions of gratitude
and concern for the pain you are inflicting as propriety requires,
will present themselves unbidden to your mind, I am persuaded.
You need not be prompted to write with the appearance of sorrow
for his disappointment."

"You think I ought to refuse him then," said Harriet, looking down.

"Ought to refuse him! My dear Harriet, what do you mean? Are you
in any doubt as to that? I thought--but I beg your pardon, perhaps I
have been under a mistake. I certainly have been misunderstanding
you, if you feel in doubt as to the purport of your answer.
I had imagined you were consulting me only as to the wording of it."

Harriet was silent. With a little reserve of manner, Emma continued:

"You mean to return a favourable answer, I collect."

"No, I do not; that is, I do not mean--What shall I do? What would
you advise me to do? Pray, dear Miss Woodhouse, tell me what I
ought to do."

"I shall not give you any advice, Harriet. I will have nothing to
do with it. This is a point which you must settle with your feelings."

"I had no notion that he liked me so very much," said Harriet,
contemplating the letter. For a little while Emma persevered
in her silence; but beginning to apprehend the bewitching flattery
of that letter might be too powerful, she thought it best to say,

"I lay it down as a general rule, Harriet, that if a woman doubts
as to whether she should accept a man or not, she certainly ought
to refuse him. If she can hesitate as to `Yes,' she ought to say
`No' directly. It is not a state to be safely entered into
with doubtful feelings, with half a heart. I thought it my duty
as a friend, and older than yourself, to say thus much to you.
But do not imagine that I want to influence you."

"Oh! no, I am sure you are a great deal too kind to--but if you
would just advise me what I had best do--No, no, I do not mean
that--As you say, one's mind ought to be quite made up--One should
not be hesitating--It is a very serious thing.--It will be safer
to say `No,' perhaps.--Do you think I had better say `No?'"

"Not for the world," said Emma, smiling graciously, "would I advise
you either way. You must be the best judge of your own happiness.
If you prefer Mr. Martin to every other person; if you think him
the most agreeable man you have ever been in company with, why should
you hesitate? You blush, Harriet.--Does any body else occur to you
at this moment under such a definition? Harriet, Harriet, do not
deceive yourself; do not be run away with by gratitude and compassion.
At this moment whom are you thinking of?"

The symptoms were favourable.--Instead of answering, Harriet turned
away confused, and stood thoughtfully by the fire; and though
the letter was still in her hand, it was now mechanically twisted
about without regard. Emma waited the result with impatience,
but not without strong hopes. At last, with some hesitation,
Harriet said--

"Miss Woodhouse, as you will not give me your opinion, I must
do as well as I can by myself; and I have now quite determined,
and really almost made up my mind--to refuse Mr. Martin. Do you
think I am right?"

"Perfectly, perfectly right, my dearest Harriet; you are doing just
what you ought. While you were at all in suspense I kept my feelings
to myself, but now that you are so completely decided I have no
hesitation in approving. Dear Harriet, I give myself joy of this.
It would have grieved me to lose your acquaintance, which must have
been the consequence of your marrying Mr. Martin. While you were in
the smallest degree wavering, I said nothing about it, because I would
not influence; but it would have been the loss of a friend to me.
I could not have visited Mrs. Robert Martin, of Abbey-Mill Farm.
Now I am secure of you for ever."

Harriet had not surmised her own danger, but the idea of it struck
her forcibly.

"You could not have visited me!" she cried, looking aghast.
"No, to be sure you could not; but I never thought of that before.
That would have been too dreadful!--What an escape!--Dear Miss Woodhouse,
I would not give up the pleasure and honour of being intimate with you
for any thing in the world."

"Indeed, Harriet, it would have been a severe pang to lose you;
but it must have been. You would have thrown yourself out of all
good society. I must have given you up."

"Dear me!--How should I ever have borne it! It would have killed
me never to come to Hartfield any more!"

"Dear affectionate creature!--You banished to Abbey-Mill Farm!--You
confined to the society of the illiterate and vulgar all your life!
I wonder how the young man could have the assurance to ask it.
He must have a pretty good opinion of himself."

"I do not think he is conceited either, in general," said Harriet,
her conscience opposing such censure; "at least, he is very good natured,
and I shall always feel much obliged to him, and have a great regard
for-- but that is quite a different thing from--and you know,
though he may like me, it does not follow that I should--and
certainly I must confess that since my visiting here I have seen
people--and if one comes to compare them, person and manners,
there is no comparison at all, one is so very handsome and agreeable.
However, I do really think Mr. Martin a very amiable young man,
and have a great opinion of him; and his being so much attached
to me--and his writing such a letter--but as to leaving you,
it is what I would not do upon any consideration."

"Thank you, thank you, my own sweet little friend. We will not
be parted. A woman is not to marry a man merely because she is asked,
or because he is attached to her, and can write a tolerable letter."

"Oh no;--and it is but a short letter too."

Emma felt the bad taste of her friend, but let it pass with a
"very true; and it would be a small consolation to her, for the
clownish manner which might be offending her every hour of the day,
to know that her husband could write a good letter."

"Oh! yes, very. Nobody cares for a letter; the thing is, to be always
happy with pleasant companions. I am quite determined to refuse him.
But how shall I do? What shall I say?"

Emma assured her there would be no difficulty in the answer,
and advised its being written directly, which was agreed to,
in the hope of her assistance; and though Emma continued to protest
against any assistance being wanted, it was in fact given in the
formation of every sentence. The looking over his letter again,
in replying to it, had such a softening tendency, that it was
particularly necessary to brace her up with a few decisive expressions;
and she was so very much concerned at the idea of making him unhappy,
and thought so much of what his mother and sisters would think and say,
and was so anxious that they should not fancy her ungrateful,
that Emma believed if the young man had come in her way at that moment,
he would have been accepted after all.

This letter, however, was written, and sealed, and sent.
The business was finished, and Harriet safe. She was rather low
all the evening, but Emma could allow for her amiable regrets,
and sometimes relieved them by speaking of her own affection,
sometimes by bringing forward the idea of Mr. Elton.

"I shall never be invited to Abbey-Mill again," was said in rather
a sorrowful tone.

"Nor, if you were, could I ever bear to part with you, my Harriet.
You are a great deal too necessary at Hartfield to be spared
to Abbey-Mill."

"And I am sure I should never want to go there; for I am never happy
but at Hartfield."

Some time afterwards it was, "I think Mrs. Goddard would be very
much surprized if she knew what had happened. I am sure Miss Nash
would--for Miss Nash thinks her own sister very well married,
and it is only a linen-draper."

"One should be sorry to see greater pride or refinement in the
teacher of a school, Harriet. I dare say Miss Nash would envy you
such an opportunity as this of being married. Even this conquest
would appear valuable in her eyes. As to any thing superior for you,
I suppose she is quite in the dark. The attentions of a certain
person can hardly be among the tittle-tattle of Highbury yet.
Hitherto I fancy you and I are the only people to whom his looks
and manners have explained themselves."

Harriet blushed and smiled, and said something about wondering
that people should like her so much. The idea of Mr. Elton was
certainly cheering; but still, after a time, she was tender-hearted
again towards the rejected Mr. Martin.

"Now he has got my letter," said she softly. "I wonder what they
are all doing--whether his sisters know--if he is unhappy,
they will be unhappy too. I hope he will not mind it so very much."

"Let us think of those among our absent friends who are more
cheerfully employed," cried Emma. "At this moment, perhaps, Mr. Elton
is shewing your picture to his mother and sisters, telling how much
more beautiful is the original, and after being asked for it five
or six times, allowing them to hear your name, your own dear name."

"My picture!--But he has left my picture in Bond-street."

"Has he so!--Then I know nothing of Mr. Elton. No, my dear
little modest Harriet, depend upon it the picture will not be
in Bond-street till just before he mounts his horse to-morrow.
It is his companion all this evening, his solace, his delight.
It opens his designs to his family, it introduces you among them,
it diffuses through the party those pleasantest feelings of our nature,
eager curiosity and warm prepossession. How cheerful, how animated,
how suspicious, how busy their imaginations all are!"

Harriet smiled again, and her smiles grew stronger.

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Harriet slept at Hartfield that night. For some weeks past shehad been spending more than half her time there, and graduallygetting to have a bed-room appropriated to herself; and Emmajudged it best in every respect, safest and kindest, to keep herwith them as much as possible just at present. She was obligedto go the next morning for an hour or two to Mrs. Goddard's,but it was then to be settled that she should return to Hartfield,to make a regular visit of some days.While she was gone, Mr. Knightley called, and sat some time withMr. Woodhouse and Emma, till Mr.
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Emma could not feel a doubt of having given Harriet's fancya proper direction and raised the gratitude of her young vanityto a very good purpose, for she found her decidedly more sensiblethan before of Mr. Elton's being a remarkably handsome man, with mostagreeable manners; and as she had no hesitation in following upthe assurance of his admiration by agreeable hints, she was soonpretty confident of creating as much liking on Harriet's side,as there could be any occasion for. She was quite convincedof Mr. Elton's being in the fairest way of falling in love,if not in love already. She had
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