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Chapter 8

  • Harriet slept at Hartfield that night. For some weeks past she had bee_pending more than half her time there, and gradually getting to have a bed- room appropriated to herself; and Emma judged it best in every respect, safes_nd kindest, to keep her with them as much as possible just at present. Sh_as obliged to go the next morning for an hour or two to Mrs. Goddard's, bu_t was then to be settled that she should return to Hartfield, to make _egular visit of some days.
  • While she was gone, Mr. Knightley called, and sat some time with Mr. Woodhous_nd Emma, till Mr. Woodhouse, who had previously made up his mind to walk out, was persuaded by his daughter not to defer it, and was induced by th_ntreaties of both, though against the scruples of his own civility, to leav_r. Knightley for that purpose. Mr. Knightley, who had nothing of ceremon_bout him, was offering by his short, decided answers, an amusing contrast t_he protracted apologies and civil hesitations of the other.
  • "Well, I believe, if you will excuse me, Mr. Knightley, if you will no_onsider me as doing a very rude thing, I shall take Emma's advice and go ou_or a quarter of an hour. As the sun is out, I believe I had better take m_hree turns while I can. I treat you without ceremony, Mr. Knightley. W_nvalids think we are privileged people."
  • "My dear sir, do not make a stranger of me."
  • "I leave an excellent substitute in my daughter. Emma will be happy t_ntertain you. And therefore I think I will beg your excuse and take my thre_urns—my winter walk."
  • "You cannot do better, sir."
  • "I would ask for the pleasure of your company, Mr. Knightley, but I am a ver_low walker, and my pace would be tedious to you; and, besides, you hav_nother long walk before you, to Donwell Abbey."
  • "Thank you, sir, thank you; I am going this moment myself; and I think th_ooner you go the better. I will fetch your greatcoat and open the garden doo_or you."
  • Mr. Woodhouse at last was off; but Mr. Knightley, instead of being immediatel_ff likewise, sat down again, seemingly inclined for more chat. He bega_peaking of Harriet, and speaking of her with more voluntary praise than Emm_ad ever heard before.
  • "I cannot rate her beauty as you do," said he; "but she is a pretty littl_reature, and I am inclined to think very well of her disposition. He_haracter depends upon those she is with; but in good hands she will turn ou_ valuable woman."
  • "I am glad you think so; and the good hands, I hope, may not be wanting."
  • "Come," said he, "you are anxious for a compliment, so I will tell you tha_ou have improved her. You have cured her of her school-girl's giggle; sh_eally does you credit."
  • "Thank you. I should be mortified indeed if I did not believe I had been o_ome use; but it is not every body who will bestow praise where they may. Yo_o not often overpower me with it."
  • "You are expecting her again, you say, this morning?"
  • "Almost every moment. She has been gone longer already than she intended."
  • "Something has happened to delay her; some visitors perhaps."
  • "Highbury gossips!—Tiresome wretches!"
  • "Harriet may not consider every body tiresome that you would."
  • Emma knew this was too true for contradiction, and therefore said nothing. H_resently added, with a smile,
  • "I do not pretend to fix on times or places, but I must tell you that I hav_ood reason to believe your little friend will soon hear of something to he_dvantage."
  • "Indeed! how so? of what sort?"
  • "A very serious sort, I assure you;" still smiling.
  • "Very serious! I can think of but one thing—Who is in love with her? Who make_ou their confidant?"
  • Emma was more than half in hopes of Mr. Elton's having dropt a hint. Mr.
  • Knightley was a sort of general friend and adviser, and she knew Mr. Elto_ooked up to him.
  • "I have reason to think," he replied, "that Harriet Smith will soon have a_ffer of marriage, and from a most unexceptionable quarter:—Robert Martin i_he man. Her visit to Abbey-Mill, this summer, seems to have done hi_usiness. He is desperately in love and means to marry her."
  • "He is very obliging," said Emma; "but is he sure that Harriet means to marr_im?"
  • "Well, well, means to make her an offer then. Will that do? He came to th_bbey two evenings ago, on purpose to consult me about it. He knows I have _horough regard for him and all his family, and, I believe, considers me a_ne of his best friends. He came to ask me whether I thought it would b_mprudent in him to settle so early; whether I thought her too young: i_hort, whether I approved his choice altogether; having some apprehensio_erhaps of her being considered (especially since your making so much of her) as in a line of society above him. I was very much pleased with all that h_aid. I never hear better sense from any one than Robert Martin. He alway_peaks to the purpose; open, straightforward, and very well judging. He tol_e every thing; his circumstances and plans, and what they all proposed doin_n the event of his marriage. He is an excellent young man, both as son an_rother. I had no hesitation in advising him to marry. He proved to me that h_ould afford it; and that being the case, I was convinced he could not d_etter. I praised the fair lady too, and altogether sent him away very happy.
  • If he had never esteemed my opinion before, he would have thought highly of m_hen; and, I dare say, left the house thinking me the best friend an_ounsellor man ever had. This happened the night before last. Now, as we ma_airly suppose, he would not allow much time to pass before he spoke to th_ady, and as he does not appear to have spoken yesterday, it is not unlikel_hat he should be at Mrs. Goddard's to-day; and she may be detained by _isitor, without thinking him at all a tiresome wretch."
  • "Pray, Mr. Knightley," said Emma, who had been smiling to herself through _reat part of this speech, "how do you know that Mr. Martin did not spea_esterday?"
  • "Certainly," replied he, surprized, "I do not absolutely know it; but it ma_e inferred. Was not she the whole day with you?"
  • "Come," said she, "I will tell you something, in return for what you have tol_e. He did speak yesterday—that is, he wrote, and was refused."
  • This was obliged to be repeated before it could be believed; and Mr. Knightle_ctually looked red with surprize and displeasure, as he stood up, in tal_ndignation, and said,
  • "Then she is a greater simpleton than I ever believed her. What is the foolis_irl about?"
  • "Oh! to be sure," cried Emma, "it is always incomprehensible to a man that _oman should ever refuse an offer of marriage. A man always imagines a woma_o be ready for any body who asks her."
  • "Nonsense! a man does not imagine any such thing. But what is the meaning o_his? Harriet Smith refuse Robert Martin? madness, if it is so; but I hope yo_re mistaken."
  • "I saw her answer!—nothing could be clearer."
  • "You saw her answer!—you wrote her answer too. Emma, this is your doing. Yo_ersuaded her to refuse him."
  • "And if I did, (which, however, I am far from allowing) I should not feel tha_ had done wrong. Mr. Martin is a very respectable young man, but I canno_dmit him to be Harriet's equal; and am rather surprized indeed that he shoul_ave ventured to address her. By your account, he does seem to have had som_cruples. It is a pity that they were ever got over."
  • "Not Harriet's equal!" exclaimed Mr. Knightley loudly and warmly; and wit_almer asperity, added, a few moments afterwards, "No, he is not her equa_ndeed, for he is as much her superior in sense as in situation. Emma, you_nfatuation about that girl blinds you. What are Harriet Smith's claims, either of birth, nature or education, to any connexion higher than Rober_artin? She is the natural daughter of nobody knows whom, with probably n_ettled provision at all, and certainly no respectable relations. She is know_nly as parlour-boarder at a common school. She is not a sensible girl, nor _irl of any information. She has been taught nothing useful, and is too youn_nd too simple to have acquired any thing herself. At her age she can have n_xperience, and with her little wit, is not very likely ever to have any tha_an avail her. She is pretty, and she is good tempered, and that is all. M_nly scruple in advising the match was on his account, as being beneath hi_eserts, and a bad connexion for him. I felt that, as to fortune, in al_robability he might do much better; and that as to a rational companion o_seful helpmate, he could not do worse. But I could not reason so to a man i_ove, and was willing to trust to there being no harm in her, to her havin_hat sort of disposition, which, in good hands, like his, might be easily le_right and turn out very well. The advantage of the match I felt to be all o_er side; and had not the smallest doubt (nor have I now) that there would b_ general cry-out upon her extreme good luck. Even your satisfaction I mad_ure of. It crossed my mind immediately that you would not regret you_riend's leaving Highbury, for the sake of her being settled so well. _emember saying to myself, `Even Emma, with all her partiality for Harriet, will think this a good match.'"
  • "I cannot help wondering at your knowing so little of Emma as to say any suc_hing. What! think a farmer, (and with all his sense and all his merit Mr.
  • Martin is nothing more,) a good match for my intimate friend! Not regret he_eaving Highbury for the sake of marrying a man whom I could never admit as a_cquaintance of my own! I wonder you should think it possible for me to hav_uch feelings. I assure you mine are very different. I must think you_tatement by no means fair. You are not just to Harriet's claims. They woul_e estimated very differently by others as well as myself; Mr. Martin may b_he richest of the two, but he is undoubtedly her inferior as to rank i_ociety.—The sphere in which she moves is much above his.—It would be _egradation."
  • "A degradation to illegitimacy and ignorance, to be married to a respectable, intelligent gentleman-farmer!"
  • "As to the circumstances of her birth, though in a legal sense she may b_alled Nobody, it will not hold in common sense. She is not to pay for th_ffence of others, by being held below the level of those with whom she i_rought up.—There can scarcely be a doubt that her father is a gentleman—and _entleman of fortune.—Her allowance is very liberal; nothing has ever bee_rudged for her improvement or comfort.—That she is a gentleman's daughter, i_ndubitable to me; that she associates with gentlemen's daughters, no one, _pprehend, will deny.—She is superior to Mr. Robert Martin."
  • "Whoever might be her parents," said Mr. Knightley, "whoever may have had th_harge of her, it does not appear to have been any part of their plan t_ntroduce her into what you would call good society. After receiving a ver_ndifferent education she is left in Mrs. Goddard's hands to shift as sh_an;—to move, in short, in Mrs. Goddard's line, to have Mrs. Goddard'_cquaintance. Her friends evidently thought this good enough for her; and i_as good enough. She desired nothing better herself. Till you chose to tur_er into a friend, her mind had no distaste for her own set, nor any ambitio_eyond it. She was as happy as possible with the Martins in the summer. Sh_ad no sense of superiority then. If she has it now, you have given it. Yo_ave been no friend to Harriet Smith, Emma. Robert Martin would never hav_roceeded so far, if he had not felt persuaded of her not being disinclined t_im. I know him well. He has too much real feeling to address any woman on th_aphazard of selfish passion. And as to conceit, he is the farthest from it o_ny man I know. Depend upon it he had encouragement."
  • It was most convenient to Emma not to make a direct reply to this assertion; she chose rather to take up her own line of the subject again.
  • "You are a very warm friend to Mr. Martin; but, as I said before, are unjus_o Harriet. Harriet's claims to marry well are not so contemptible as yo_epresent them. She is not a clever girl, but she has better sense than yo_re aware of, and does not deserve to have her understanding spoken of s_lightingly. Waiving that point, however, and supposing her to be, as yo_escribe her, only pretty and good-natured, let me tell you, that in th_egree she possesses them, they are not trivial recommendations to the worl_n general, for she is, in fact, a beautiful girl, and must be thought so b_inety-nine people out of an hundred; and till it appears that men are muc_ore philosophic on the subject of beauty than they are generally supposed; till they do fall in love with well-informed minds instead of handsome faces, a girl, with such loveliness as Harriet, has a certainty of being admired an_ought after, of having the power of chusing from among many, consequently _laim to be nice. Her good-nature, too, is not so very slight a claim, comprehending, as it does, real, thorough sweetness of temper and manner, _ery humble opinion of herself, and a great readiness to be pleased with othe_eople. I am very much mistaken if your sex in general would not think suc_eauty, and such temper, the highest claims a woman could possess."
  • "Upon my word, Emma, to hear you abusing the reason you have, is almost enoug_o make me think so too. Better be without sense, than misapply it as you do."
  • "To be sure!" cried she playfully. "I know that is the feeling of you all. _now that such a girl as Harriet is exactly what every man delights in—what a_nce bewitches his senses and satisfies his judgment. Oh! Harriet may pick an_huse. Were you, yourself, ever to marry, she is the very woman for you. An_s she, at seventeen, just entering into life, just beginning to be known, t_e wondered at because she does not accept the first offer she receives?
  • No—pray let her have time to look about her."
  • "I have always thought it a very foolish intimacy," said Mr. Knightle_resently, "though I have kept my thoughts to myself; but I now perceive tha_t will be a very unfortunate one for Harriet. You will puff her up with suc_deas of her own beauty, and of what she has a claim to, that, in a littl_hile, nobody within her reach will be good enough for her. Vanity working o_ weak head, produces every sort of mischief. Nothing so easy as for a youn_ady to raise her expectations too high. Miss Harriet Smith may not fin_ffers of marriage flow in so fast, though she is a very pretty girl. Men o_ense, whatever you may chuse to say, do not want silly wives. Men of famil_ould not be very fond of connecting themselves with a girl of suc_bscurity—and most prudent men would be afraid of the inconvenience an_isgrace they might be involved in, when the mystery of her parentage came t_e revealed. Let her marry Robert Martin, and she is safe, respectable, an_appy for ever; but if you encourage her to expect to marry greatly, and teac_er to be satisfied with nothing less than a man of consequence and larg_ortune, she may be a parlour-boarder at Mrs. Goddard's all the rest of he_ife—or, at least, (for Harriet Smith is a girl who will marry somebody o_ther,) till she grow desperate, and is glad to catch at the old writing- master's son."
  • "We think so very differently on this point, Mr. Knightley, that there can b_o use in canvassing it. We shall only be making each other more angry. But a_o my letting her marry Robert Martin, it is impossible; she has refused him, and so decidedly, I think, as must prevent any second application. She mus_bide by the evil of having refused him, whatever it may be; and as to th_efusal itself, I will not pretend to say that I might not influence her _ittle; but I assure you there was very little for me or for any body to do.
  • His appearance is so much against him, and his manner so bad, that if she eve_ere disposed to favour him, she is not now. I can imagine, that before sh_ad seen any body superior, she might tolerate him. He was the brother of he_riends, and he took pains to please her; and altogether, having seen nobod_etter (that must have been his great assistant) she might not, while she wa_t Abbey-Mill, find him disagreeable. But the case is altered now. She know_ow what gentlemen are; and nothing but a gentleman in education and manne_as any chance with Harriet."
  • "Nonsense, errant nonsense, as ever was talked!" cried Mr. Knightley.—"Rober_artin's manners have sense, sincerity, and good-humour to recommend them; an_is mind has more true gentility than Harriet Smith could understand."
  • Emma made no answer, and tried to look cheerfully unconcerned, but was reall_eeling uncomfortable and wanting him very much to be gone. She did not repen_hat she had done; she still thought herself a better judge of such a point o_emale right and refinement than he could be; but yet she had a sort o_abitual respect for his judgment in general, which made her dislike having i_o loudly against her; and to have him sitting just opposite to her in angr_tate, was very disagreeable. Some minutes passed in this unpleasant silence, with only one attempt on Emma's side to talk of the weather, but he made n_nswer. He was thinking. The result of his thoughts appeared at last in thes_ords.
  • "Robert Martin has no great loss—if he can but think so; and I hope it wil_ot be long before he does. Your views for Harriet are best known to yourself; but as you make no secret of your love of match-making, it is fair to suppos_hat views, and plans, and projects you have;—and as a friend I shall jus_int to you that if Elton is the man, I think it will be all labour in vain."
  • Emma laughed and disclaimed. He continued,
  • "Depend upon it, Elton will not do. Elton is a very good sort of man, and _ery respectable vicar of Highbury, but not at all likely to make an impruden_atch. He knows the value of a good income as well as any body. Elton may tal_entimentally, but he will act rationally. He is as well acquainted with hi_wn claims, as you can be with Harriet's. He knows that he is a very handsom_oung man, and a great favourite wherever he goes; and from his general way o_alking in unreserved moments, when there are only men present, I am convince_hat he does not mean to throw himself away. I have heard him speak with grea_nimation of a large family of young ladies that his sisters are intimat_ith, who have all twenty thousand pounds apiece."
  • "I am very much obliged to you," said Emma, laughing again. "If I had set m_eart on Mr. Elton's marrying Harriet, it would have been very kind to open m_yes; but at present I only want to keep Harriet to myself. I have done wit_atch-making indeed. I could never hope to equal my own doings at Randalls. _hall leave off while I am well."
  • "Good morning to you,"—said he, rising and walking off abruptly. He was ver_uch vexed. He felt the disappointment of the young man, and was mortified t_ave been the means of promoting it, by the sanction he had given; and th_art which he was persuaded Emma had taken in the affair, was provoking hi_xceedingly.
  • Emma remained in a state of vexation too; but there was more indistinctness i_he causes of her's, than in his. She did not always feel so absolutel_atisfied with herself, so entirely convinced that her opinions were right an_er adversary's wrong, as Mr. Knightley. He walked off in more complete self- approbation than he left for her. She was not so materially cast down, however, but that a little time and the return of Harriet were very adequat_estoratives. Harriet's staying away so long was beginning to make her uneasy.
  • The possibility of the young man's coming to Mrs. Goddard's that morning, an_eeting with Harriet and pleading his own cause, gave alarming ideas. Th_read of such a failure after all became the prominent uneasiness; and whe_arriet appeared, and in very good spirits, and without having any such reaso_o give for her long absence, she felt a satisfaction which settled her wit_er own mind, and convinced her, that let Mr. Knightley think or say what h_ould, she had done nothing which woman's friendship and woman's feeling_ould not justify.
  • He had frightened her a little about Mr. Elton; but when she considered tha_r. Knightley could not have observed him as she had done, neither with th_nterest, nor (she must be allowed to tell herself, in spite of Mr.
  • Knightley's pretensions) with the skill of such an observer on such a questio_s herself, that he had spoken it hastily and in anger, she was able t_elieve, that he had rather said what he wished resentfully to be true, tha_hat he knew any thing about. He certainly might have heard Mr. Elton spea_ith more unreserve than she had ever done, and Mr. Elton might not be of a_mprudent, inconsiderate disposition as to money matters; he might naturall_e rather attentive than otherwise to them; but then, Mr. Knightley did no_ake due allowance for the influence of a strong passion at war with al_nterested motives. Mr. Knightley saw no such passion, and of course though_othing of its effects; but she saw too much of it to feel a doubt of it_vercoming any hesitations that a reasonable prudence might originall_uggest; and more than a reasonable, becoming degree of prudence, she was ver_ure did not belong to Mr. Elton.
  • Harriet's cheerful look and manner established hers: she came back, not t_hink of Mr. Martin, but to talk of Mr. Elton. Miss Nash had been telling he_omething, which she repeated immediately with great delight. Mr. Perry ha_een to Mrs. Goddard's to attend a sick child, and Miss Nash had seen him, an_e had told Miss Nash, that as he was coming back yesterday from Clayton Park, he had met Mr. Elton, and found to his great surprize, that Mr. Elton wa_ctually on his road to London, and not meaning to return till the morrow, though it was the whist-club night, which he had been never known to mis_efore; and Mr. Perry had remonstrated with him about it, and told him ho_habby it was in him, their best player, to absent himself, and tried ver_uch to persuade him to put off his journey only one day; but it would not do; Mr. Elton had been determined to go on, and had said in a very particular wa_ndeed, that he was going on business which he would not put off for an_nducement in the world; and something about a very enviable commission, an_eing the bearer of something exceedingly precious. Mr. Perry could not quit_nderstand him, but he was very sure there must be a lady in the case, and h_old him so; and Mr. Elton only looked very conscious and smiling, and rod_ff in great spirits. Miss Nash had told her all this, and had talked a grea_eal more about Mr. Elton; and said, looking so very significantly at her,
  • "that she did not pretend to understand what his business might be, but sh_nly knew that any woman whom Mr. Elton could prefer, she should think th_uckiest woman in the world; for, beyond a doubt, Mr. Elton had not his equa_or beauty or agreeableness."