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Chapter 7

  • The very day of Mr. Elton's going to London produced a fresh occasion fo_mma'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 t_inner: she returned, and sooner than had been talked of, and with a_gitated, hurried look, announcing something extraordinary to have happene_hich she was longing to tell. Half a minute brought it all out. She ha_eard, as soon as she got back to Mrs. Goddard's, that Mr. Martin had bee_here an hour before, and finding she was not at home, nor particularl_xpected, had left a little parcel for her from one of his sisters, and gon_way; and on opening this parcel, she had actually found, besides the tw_ongs which she had lent Elizabeth to copy, a letter to herself; and thi_etter was from him, from Mr. Martin, and contained a direct proposal o_arriage. "Who could have thought it? She was so surprized she did not kno_hat to do. Yes, quite a proposal of marriage; and a very good letter, a_east she thought so. And he wrote as if he really loved her very much—but sh_id not know—and so, she was come as fast as she could to ask Miss Woodhous_hat she should do.—" Emma was half-ashamed of her friend for seeming s_leased and so doubtful.
  • "Upon my word," she cried, "the young man is determined not to lose any thin_or 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 o_he letter was much above her expectation. There were not merely n_rammatical errors, but as a composition it would not have disgraced _entleman; the language, though plain, was strong and unaffected, and th_entiments it conveyed very much to the credit of the writer. It was short, but expressed good sense, warm attachment, liberality, propriety, eve_elicacy of feeling. She paused over it, while Harriet stood anxiousl_atching 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 _etter, Harriet, that every thing considered, I think one of his sisters mus_ave helped him. I can hardly imagine the young man whom I saw talking wit_ou the other day could express himself so well, if left quite to his ow_owers, and yet it is not the style of a woman; no, certainly, it is to_trong and concise; not diffuse enough for a woman. No doubt he is a sensibl_an, and I suppose may have a natural talent for—thinks strongly an_learly—and when he takes a pen in hand, his thoughts naturally find prope_ords. 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 writte_etter, 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 expres_ourself very properly, I am sure. There is no danger of your not bein_ntelligible, which is the first thing. Your meaning must be unequivocal; n_oubts or demurs: and such expressions of gratitude and concern for the pai_ou are inflicting as propriety requires, will present themselves unbidden t_our mind, I am persuaded. You need not be prompted to write with th_ppearance 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 doub_s to that? I thought—but I beg your pardon, perhaps I have been under _istake. I certainly have been misunderstanding you, if you feel in doubt a_o the purport of your answer. I had imagined you were consulting me only a_o 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 advis_e 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, contemplatin_he letter. For a little while Emma persevered in her silence; but beginnin_o apprehend the bewitching flattery of that letter might be too powerful, sh_hought it best to say,
  • "I lay it down as a general rule, Harriet, that if a woman doubts as t_hether she should accept a man or not, she certainly ought to refuse him. I_he can hesitate as to `Yes,' she ought to say `No' directly. It is not _tate to be safely entered into with doubtful feelings, with half a heart. _hought it my duty as a friend, and older than yourself, to say thus much t_ou. 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 jus_dvise me what I had best do—No, no, I do not mean that—As you say, one's min_ught to be quite made up—One should not be hesitating—It is a very seriou_hing.—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 eithe_ay. 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 hav_ver been in company with, why should you hesitate? You blush, Harriet.—Doe_ny 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 an_ompassion. At this moment whom are you thinking of?"
  • The symptoms were favourable.—Instead of answering, Harriet turned awa_onfused, and stood thoughtfully by the fire; and though the letter was stil_n her hand, it was now mechanically twisted about without regard. Emma waite_he result with impatience, but not without strong hopes. At last, with som_esitation, Harriet said—
  • "Miss Woodhouse, as you will not give me your opinion, I must do as well as _an by myself; and I have now quite determined, and really almost made up m_ind—to refuse Mr. Martin. Do you think I am right?"
  • "Perfectly, perfectly right, my dearest Harriet; you are doing just what yo_ught. While you were at all in suspense I kept my feelings to myself, but no_hat you are so completely decided I have no hesitation in approving. Dea_arriet, I give myself joy of this. It would have grieved me to lose you_cquaintance, which must have been the consequence of your marrying Mr.
  • Martin. While you were in the smallest degree wavering, I said nothing abou_t, because I would not influence; but it would have been the loss of a frien_o me. I could not have visited Mrs. Robert Martin, of Abbey-Mill Farm. Now _m secure of you for ever."
  • Harriet had not surmised her own danger, but the idea of it struck he_orcibly.
  • "You could not have visited me!" she cried, looking aghast. "No, to be sur_ou could not; but I never thought of that before. That would have been to_readful!—What an escape!—Dear Miss Woodhouse, I would not give up th_leasure 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 mus_ave been. You would have thrown yourself out of all good society. I must hav_iven you up."
  • "Dear me!—How should I ever have borne it! It would have killed me never t_ome to Hartfield any more!"
  • "Dear affectionate creature!—You banished to Abbey-Mill Farm!—You confined t_he society of the illiterate and vulgar all your life! I wonder how the youn_an could have the assurance to ask it. He must have a pretty good opinion o_imself."
  • "I do not think he is conceited either, in general," said Harriet, he_onscience opposing such censure; "at least, he is very good natured, and _hall always feel much obliged to him, and have a great regard for—but that i_uite a different thing from—and you know, though he may like me, it does no_ollow that I should—and certainly I must confess that since my visiting her_ have seen people—and if one comes to compare them, person and manners, ther_s no comparison at all, one is so very handsome and agreeable. However, I d_eally think Mr. Martin a very amiable young man, and have a great opinion o_im; and his being so much attached to me—and his writing such a letter—but a_o 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. _oman is not to marry a man merely because she is asked, or because he i_ttached 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; an_t would be a small consolation to her, for the clownish manner which might b_ffending her every hour of the day, to know that her husband could write _ood letter."
  • "Oh! yes, very. Nobody cares for a letter; the thing is, to be always happ_ith pleasant companions. I am quite determined to refuse him. But how shall _o? What shall I say?"
  • Emma assured her there would be no difficulty in the answer, and advised it_eing written directly, which was agreed to, in the hope of her assistance; and though Emma continued to protest against any assistance being wanted, i_as in fact given in the formation of every sentence. The looking over hi_etter again, in replying to it, had such a softening tendency, that it wa_articularly necessary to brace her up with a few decisive expressions; an_he was so very much concerned at the idea of making him unhappy, and though_o much of what his mother and sisters would think and say, and was so anxiou_hat they should not fancy her ungrateful, that Emma believed if the young ma_ad 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 wa_inished, and Harriet safe. She was rather low all the evening, but Emma coul_llow for her amiable regrets, and sometimes relieved them by speaking of he_wn affection, sometimes by bringing forward the idea of Mr. Elton.
  • "I shall never be invited to Abbey-Mill again," was said in rather a sorrowfu_one.
  • "Nor, if you were, could I ever bear to part with you, my Harriet. You are _reat 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 a_artfield."
  • Some time afterwards it was, "I think Mrs. Goddard would be very muc_urprized if she knew what had happened. I am sure Miss Nash would—for Mis_ash 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 _chool, Harriet. I dare say Miss Nash would envy you such an opportunity a_his 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. Th_ttentions of a certain person can hardly be among the tittle-tattle o_ighbury yet. Hitherto I fancy you and I are the only people to whom his look_nd manners have explained themselves."
  • Harriet blushed and smiled, and said something about wondering that peopl_hould like her so much. The idea of Mr. Elton was certainly cheering; bu_till, 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 al_oing—whether his sisters know—if he is unhappy, they will be unhappy too. _ope he will not mind it so very much."
  • "Let us think of those among our absent friends who are more cheerfull_mployed," cried Emma. "At this moment, perhaps, Mr. Elton is shewing you_icture to his mother and sisters, telling how much more beautiful is th_riginal, and after being asked for it five or six times, allowing them t_ear 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 modes_arriet, depend upon it the picture will not be in Bond-street till jus_efore 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 yo_mong them, it diffuses through the party those pleasantest feelings of ou_ature, 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.