Part 1 out of 9
Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home
and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings
of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world
with very little to distress or vex her.
She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate,
indulgent father; and had, in consequence of her sister's marriage,
been mistress of his house from a very early period. Her mother
had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct
remembrance of her caresses; and her place had been supplied
by an excellent woman as governess, who had fallen little short
of a mother in affection.
Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse's family,
less as a governess than a friend, very fond of both daughters,
but particularly of Emma. Between _them_ it was more the intimacy
of sisters. Even before Miss Taylor had ceased to hold the nominal
office of governess, the mildness of her temper had hardly allowed
her to impose any restraint; and the shadow of authority being
now long passed away, they had been living together as friend and
friend very mutually attached, and Emma doing just what she liked;
highly esteeming Miss Taylor's judgment, but directed chiefly by
The real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having
rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little
too well of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened
alloy to her many enjoyments. The danger, however, was at present
so unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes
Sorrow came--a gentle sorrow--but not at all in the shape of any
disagreeable consciousness.--Miss Taylor married. It was Miss
Taylor's loss which first brought grief. It was on the wedding-day
of this beloved friend that Emma first sat in mournful thought
of any continuance. The wedding over, and the bride-people gone,
her father and herself were left to dine together, with no prospect
of a third to cheer a long evening. Her father composed himself
to sleep after dinner, as usual, and she had then only to sit
and think of what she had lost.
The event had every promise of happiness for her friend. Mr. Weston
was a man of unexceptionable character, easy fortune, suitable age,
and pleasant manners; and there was some satisfaction in considering
with what self-denying, generous friendship she had always wished
and promoted the match; but it was a black morning's work for her.
The want of Miss Taylor would be felt every hour of every day.
She recalled her past kindness--the kindness, the affection of sixteen
years--how she had taught and how she had played with her from five
years old--how she had devoted all her powers to attach and amuse
her in health--and how nursed her through the various illnesses
of childhood. A large debt of gratitude was owing here; but the
intercourse of the last seven years, the equal footing and perfect
unreserve which had soon followed Isabella's marriage, on their
being left to each other, was yet a dearer, tenderer recollection.
She had been a friend and companion such as few possessed: intelligent,
well-informed, useful, gentle, knowing all the ways of the family,
interested in all its concerns, and peculiarly interested in herself,
in every pleasure, every scheme of hers--one to whom she could speak
every thought as it arose, and who had such an affection for her
as could never find fault.
How was she to bear the change?--It was true that her friend was
going only half a mile from them; but Emma was aware that great must
be the difference between a Mrs. Weston, only half a mile from them,
and a Miss Taylor in the house; and with all her advantages,
natural and domestic, she was now in great danger of suffering
from intellectual solitude. She dearly loved her father, but he
was no companion for her. He could not meet her in conversation,
rational or playful.
The evil of the actual disparity in their ages (and Mr. Woodhouse had
not married early) was much increased by his constitution and habits;
for having been a valetudinarian all his life, without activity
of mind or body, he was a much older man in ways than in years;
and though everywhere beloved for the friendliness of his heart
and his amiable temper, his talents could not have recommended him
at any time.
Her sister, though comparatively but little removed by matrimony,
being settled in London, only sixteen miles off, was much beyond
her daily reach; and many a long October and November evening must
be struggled through at Hartfield, before Christmas brought the next
visit from Isabella and her husband, and their little children,
to fill the house, and give her pleasant society again.
Highbury, the large and populous village, almost amounting to a town,
to which Hartfield, in spite of its separate lawn, and shrubberies,
and name, did really belong, afforded her no equals. The Woodhouses
were first in consequence there. All looked up to them. She had
many acquaintance in the place, for her father was universally civil,
but not one among them who could be accepted in lieu of Miss
Taylor for even half a day. It was a melancholy change; and Emma
could not but sigh over it, and wish for impossible things,
till her father awoke, and made it necessary to be cheerful.
His spirits required support. He was a nervous man, easily depressed;
fond of every body that he was used to, and hating to part with them;
hating change of every kind. Matrimony, as the origin of change,
was always disagreeable; and he was by no means yet reconciled
to his own daughter's marrying, nor could ever speak of her but
with compassion, though it had been entirely a match of affection,
when he was now obliged to part with Miss Taylor too; and from
his habits of gentle selfishness, and of being never able to
suppose that other people could feel differently from himself,
he was very much disposed to think Miss Taylor had done as sad
a thing for herself as for them, and would have been a great deal
happier if she had spent all the rest of her life at Hartfield.
Emma smiled and chatted as cheerfully as she could, to keep him
from such thoughts; but when tea came, it was impossible for him
not to say exactly as he had said at dinner,
"Poor Miss Taylor!--I wish she were here again. What a pity it
is that Mr. Weston ever thought of her!"
"I cannot agree with you, papa; you know I cannot. Mr. Weston is such
a good-humoured, pleasant, excellent man, that he thoroughly deserves
a good wife;--and you would not have had Miss Taylor live with us
for ever, and bear all my odd humours, when she might have a house of her own?"
"A house of her own!--But where is the advantage of a house of her own?
This is three times as large.--And you have never any odd humours,
"How often we shall be going to see them, and they coming to see
us!--We shall be always meeting! _We_ must begin; we must go and pay
wedding visit very soon."
"My dear, how am I to get so far? Randalls is such a distance.
I could not walk half so far."
"No, papa, nobody thought of your walking. We must go in the carriage,
to be sure."
"The carriage! But James will not like to put the horses to for
such a little way;--and where are the poor horses to be while we
are paying our visit?"
"They are to be put into Mr. Weston's stable, papa. You know we
have settled all that already. We talked it all over with Mr. Weston
last night. And as for James, you may be very sure he will always like
going to Randalls, because of his daughter's being housemaid there.
I only doubt whether he will ever take us anywhere else. That was
your doing, papa. You got Hannah that good place. Nobody thought
of Hannah till you mentioned her--James is so obliged to you!"
"I am very glad I did think of her. It was very lucky, for I would
not have had poor James think himself slighted upon any account;
and I am sure she will make a very good servant: she is a civil,
pretty-spoken girl; I have a great opinion of her. Whenever I see her,
she always curtseys and asks me how I do, in a very pretty manner;
and when you have had her here to do needlework, I observe she
always turns the lock of the door the right way and never bangs it.
I am sure she will be an excellent servant; and it will be a great
comfort to poor Miss Taylor to have somebody about her that she is
used to see. Whenever James goes over to see his daughter, you know,
she will be hearing of us. He will be able to tell her how we
Emma spared no exertions to maintain this happier flow of ideas,
and hoped, by the help of backgammon, to get her father tolerably
through the evening, and be attacked by no regrets but her own.
The backgammon-table was placed; but a visitor immediately afterwards
walked in and made it unnecessary.
Mr. Knightley, a sensible man about seven or eight-and-thirty, was not
only a very old and intimate friend of the family, but particularly
connected with it, as the elder brother of Isabella's husband.
He lived about a mile from Highbury, was a frequent visitor,
and always welcome, and at this time more welcome than usual,
as coming directly from their mutual connexions in London. He had
returned to a late dinner, after some days' absence, and now walked
up to Hartfield to say that all were well in Brunswick Square.
It was a happy circumstance, and animated Mr. Woodhouse for some time.
Mr. Knightley had a cheerful manner, which always did him good;
and his many inquiries after "poor Isabella" and her children were
answered most satisfactorily. When this was over, Mr. Woodhouse
gratefully observed, "It is very kind of you, Mr. Knightley, to come
out at this late hour to call upon us. I am afraid you must have
had a shocking walk."
"Not at all, sir. It is a beautiful moonlight night; and so mild
that I must draw back from your great fire."
"But you must have found it very damp and dirty. I wish you may
not catch cold."
"Dirty, sir! Look at my shoes. Not a speck on them."
"Well! that is quite surprising, for we have had a vast deal
of rain here. It rained dreadfully hard for half an hour
while we were at breakfast. I wanted them to put off the wedding."
"By the bye--I have not wished you joy. Being pretty well aware
of what sort of joy you must both be feeling, I have been in no hurry
with my congratulations; but I hope it all went off tolerably well.
How did you all behave? Who cried most?"
"Ah! poor Miss Taylor! 'Tis a sad business."
"Poor Mr. and Miss Woodhouse, if you please; but I cannot possibly
say `poor Miss Taylor.' I have a great regard for you and Emma;
but when it comes to the question of dependence or independence!--At
any rate, it must be better to have only one to please than two."
"Especially when _one_ of those two is such a fanciful, troublesome creature!"
said Emma playfully. "That is what you have in your head,
I know--and what you would certainly say if my father were not by."
"I believe it is very true, my dear, indeed," said Mr. Woodhouse,
with a sigh. "I am afraid I am sometimes very fanciful and troublesome."
"My dearest papa! You do not think I could mean _you_, or suppose
Mr. Knightley to mean _you_. What a horrible idea! Oh no! I meant
only myself. Mr. Knightley loves to find fault with me, you know--
in a joke--it is all a joke. We always say what we like to one another."
Mr. Knightley, in fact, was one of the few people who could see
faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them:
and though this was not particularly agreeable to Emma herself,
she knew it would be so much less so to her father, that she would
not have him really suspect such a circumstance as her not being
thought perfect by every body.
"Emma knows I never flatter her," said Mr. Knightley, "but I
meant no reflection on any body. Miss Taylor has been used
to have two persons to please; she will now have but one.
The chances are that she must be a gainer."
"Well," said Emma, willing to let it pass--"you want to hear
about the wedding; and I shall be happy to tell you, for we all
behaved charmingly. Every body was punctual, every body in their
best looks: not a tear, and hardly a long face to be seen. Oh no;
we all felt that we were going to be only half a mile apart,
and were sure of meeting every day."
"Dear Emma bears every thing so well," said her father.
"But, Mr. Knightley, she is really very sorry to lose poor Miss Taylor,
and I am sure she _will_ miss her more than she thinks for."
Emma turned away her head, divided between tears and smiles.
"It is impossible that Emma should not miss such a companion,"
said Mr. Knightley. "We should not like her so well as we do, sir,
if we could suppose it; but she knows how much the marriage is to
Miss Taylor's advantage; she knows how very acceptable it must be,
at Miss Taylor's time of life, to be settled in a home of her own,
and how important to her to be secure of a comfortable provision,
and therefore cannot allow herself to feel so much pain as pleasure.
Every friend of Miss Taylor must be glad to have her so happily
"And you have forgotten one matter of joy to me," said Emma,
"and a very considerable one--that I made the match myself.
I made the match, you know, four years ago; and to have it take place,
and be proved in the right, when so many people said Mr. Weston would
never marry again, may comfort me for any thing."
Mr. Knightley shook his head at her. Her father fondly replied,
"Ah! my dear, I wish you would not make matches and foretell things,
for whatever you say always comes to pass. Pray do not make any
"I promise you to make none for myself, papa; but I must, indeed,
for other people. It is the greatest amusement in the world! And
after such success, you know!--Every body said that Mr. Weston would
never marry again. Oh dear, no! Mr. Weston, who had been a widower
so long, and who seemed so perfectly comfortable without a wife,
so constantly occupied either in his business in town or among his
friends here, always acceptable wherever he went, always cheerful--
Mr. Weston need not spend a single evening in the year alone if he did
not like it. Oh no! Mr. Weston certainly would never marry again.
Some people even talked of a promise to his wife on her deathbed,
and others of the son and the uncle not letting him. All manner
of solemn nonsense was talked on the subject, but I believed none
"Ever since the day--about four years ago--that Miss Taylor and I
met with him in Broadway Lane, when, because it began to drizzle,
he darted away with so much gallantry, and borrowed two umbrellas
for us from Farmer Mitchell's, I made up my mind on the subject.
I planned the match from that hour; and when such success has blessed
me in this instance, dear papa, you cannot think that I shall leave
"I do not understand what you mean by `success,'" said Mr. Knightley.
"Success supposes endeavour. Your time has been properly and
delicately spent, if you have been endeavouring for the last four
years to bring about this marriage. A worthy employment for a young
lady's mind! But if, which I rather imagine, your making the match,
as you call it, means only your planning it, your saying to yourself
one idle day, `I think it would be a very good thing for Miss Taylor
if Mr. Weston were to marry her,' and saying it again to yourself
every now and then afterwards, why do you talk of success? Where
is your merit? What are you proud of? You made a lucky guess;
and _that_ is all that can be said."
"And have you never known the pleasure and triumph of a lucky guess?--
I pity you.--I thought you cleverer--for, depend upon it a lucky
guess is never merely luck. There is always some talent in it.
And as to my poor word `success,' which you quarrel with, I do not
know that I am so entirely without any claim to it. You have drawn
two pretty pictures; but I think there may be a third--a something
between the do-nothing and the do-all. If I had not promoted Mr. Weston's
visits here, and given many little encouragements, and smoothed
many little matters, it might not have come to any thing after all.
I think you must know Hartfield enough to comprehend that."
"A straightforward, open-hearted man like Weston, and a rational,
unaffected woman like Miss Taylor, may be safely left to manage their
own concerns. You are more likely to have done harm to yourself,
than good to them, by interference."
"Emma never thinks of herself, if she can do good to others,"
rejoined Mr. Woodhouse, understanding but in part. "But, my dear,
pray do not make any more matches; they are silly things, and break up
one's family circle grievously."
"Only one more, papa; only for Mr. Elton. Poor Mr. Elton! You
like Mr. Elton, papa,--I must look about for a wife for him.
There is nobody in Highbury who deserves him--and he has been
here a whole year, and has fitted up his house so comfortably,
that it would be a shame to have him single any longer--and I thought
when he was joining their hands to-day, he looked so very much as if
he would like to have the same kind office done for him! I think
very well of Mr. Elton, and this is the only way I have of doing
him a service."
"Mr. Elton is a very pretty young man, to be sure, and a very
good young man, and I have a great regard for him. But if you
want to shew him any attention, my dear, ask him to come
and dine with us some day. That will be a much better thing.
I dare say Mr. Knightley will be so kind as to meet him."
"With a great deal of pleasure, sir, at any time," said Mr. Knightley,
laughing, "and I agree with you entirely, that it will be a much
better thing. Invite him to dinner, Emma, and help him to the best
of the fish and the chicken, but leave him to chuse his own wife.
Depend upon it, a man of six or seven-and-twenty can take care
Mr. Weston was a native of Highbury, and born of a respectable family,
which for the last two or three generations had been rising into
gentility and property. He had received a good education, but,
on succeeding early in life to a small independence, had become
indisposed for any of the more homely pursuits in which his brothers
were engaged, and had satisfied an active, cheerful mind and social
temper by entering into the militia of his county, then embodied.
Captain Weston was a general favourite; and when the chances
of his military life had introduced him to Miss Churchill,
of a great Yorkshire family, and Miss Churchill fell in love
with him, nobody was surprized, except her brother and his wife,
who had never seen him, and who were full of pride and importance,
which the connexion would offend.
Miss Churchill, however, being of age, and with the full command
of her fortune--though her fortune bore no proportion to the
family-estate--was not to be dissuaded from the marriage, and it
took place, to the infinite mortification of Mr. and Mrs. Churchill,
who threw her off with due decorum. It was an unsuitable connexion,
and did not produce much happiness. Mrs. Weston ought to have found
more in it, for she had a husband whose warm heart and sweet temper
made him think every thing due to her in return for the great goodness
of being in love with him; but though she had one sort of spirit,
she had not the best. She had resolution enough to pursue
her own will in spite of her brother, but not enough to refrain
from unreasonable regrets at that brother's unreasonable anger,
nor from missing the luxuries of her former home. They lived beyond
their income, but still it was nothing in comparison of Enscombe:
she did not cease to love her husband, but she wanted at once
to be the wife of Captain Weston, and Miss Churchill of Enscombe.
Captain Weston, who had been considered, especially by the Churchills,
as making such an amazing match, was proved to have much the worst
of the bargain; for when his wife died, after a three years' marriage,
he was rather a poorer man than at first, and with a child to maintain.
From the expense of the child, however, he was soon relieved.
The boy had, with the additional softening claim of a lingering
illness of his mother's, been the means of a sort of reconciliation;
and Mr. and Mrs. Churchill, having no children of their own,
nor any other young creature of equal kindred to care for, offered to
take the whole charge of the little Frank soon after her decease.
Some scruples and some reluctance the widower-father may be supposed
to have felt; but as they were overcome by other considerations,
the child was given up to the care and the wealth of the Churchills,
and he had only his own comfort to seek, and his own situation to
improve as he could.
A complete change of life became desirable. He quitted the militia
and engaged in trade, having brothers already established in a
good way in London, which afforded him a favourable opening.
It was a concern which brought just employment enough. He had still
a small house in Highbury, where most of his leisure days were spent;
and between useful occupation and the pleasures of society,
the next eighteen or twenty years of his life passed cheerfully away.
He had, by that time, realised an easy competence--enough to secure
the purchase of a little estate adjoining Highbury, which he had
always longed for--enough to marry a woman as portionless even
as Miss Taylor, and to live according to the wishes of his own
friendly and social disposition.
It was now some time since Miss Taylor had begun to influence
his schemes; but as it was not the tyrannic influence of youth
on youth, it had not shaken his determination of never settling
till he could purchase Randalls, and the sale of Randalls was long
looked forward to; but he had gone steadily on, with these objects
in view, till they were accomplished. He had made his fortune,
bought his house, and obtained his wife; and was beginning a new
period of existence, with every probability of greater happiness
than in any yet passed through. He had never been an unhappy man;
his own temper had secured him from that, even in his first marriage;
but his second must shew him how delightful a well-judging and truly
amiable woman could be, and must give him the pleasantest proof
of its being a great deal better to choose than to be chosen,
to excite gratitude than to feel it.
He had only himself to please in his choice: his fortune was
his own; for as to Frank, it was more than being tacitly brought
up as his uncle's heir, it had become so avowed an adoption
as to have him assume the name of Churchill on coming of age.
It was most unlikely, therefore, that he should ever want his
father's assistance. His father had no apprehension of it.
The aunt was a capricious woman, and governed her husband entirely;
but it was not in Mr. Weston's nature to imagine that any caprice
could be strong enough to affect one so dear, and, as he believed,
so deservedly dear. He saw his son every year in London,
and was proud of him; and his fond report of him as a very fine
young man had made Highbury feel a sort of pride in him too.
He was looked on as sufficiently belonging to the place to make his
merits and prospects a kind of common concern.
Mr. Frank Churchill was one of the boasts of Highbury, and a lively
curiosity to see him prevailed, though the compliment was so little
returned that he had never been there in his life. His coming
to visit his father had been often talked of but never achieved.
Now, upon his father's marriage, it was very generally proposed,
as a most proper attention, that the visit should take place.
There was not a dissentient voice on the subject, either when
Mrs. Perry drank tea with Mrs. and Miss Bates, or when Mrs. and
Miss Bates returned the visit. Now was the time for Mr. Frank
Churchill to come among them; and the hope strengthened when it was
understood that he had written to his new mother on the occasion.
For a few days, every morning visit in Highbury included some mention
of the handsome letter Mrs. Weston had received. "I suppose you
have heard of the handsome letter Mr. Frank Churchill has written
to Mrs. Weston? I understand it was a very handsome letter, indeed.
Mr. Woodhouse told me of it. Mr. Woodhouse saw the letter, and he
says he never saw such a handsome letter in his life."
It was, indeed, a highly prized letter. Mrs. Weston had, of course,
formed a very favourable idea of the young man; and such a pleasing
attention was an irresistible proof of his great good sense,
and a most welcome addition to every source and every expression
of congratulation which her marriage had already secured. She felt
herself a most fortunate woman; and she had lived long enough
to know how fortunate she might well be thought, where the only
regret was for a partial separation from friends whose friendship
for her had never cooled, and who could ill bear to part with her.
She knew that at times she must be missed; and could not think,
without pain, of Emma's losing a single pleasure, or suffering
an hour's ennui, from the want of her companionableness: but dear
Emma was of no feeble character; she was more equal to her situation
than most girls would have been, and had sense, and energy,
and spirits that might be hoped would bear her well and happily
through its little difficulties and privations. And then there was
such comfort in the very easy distance of Randalls from Hartfield,
so convenient for even solitary female walking, and in Mr. Weston's
disposition and circumstances, which would make the approaching
season no hindrance to their spending half the evenings in the
Her situation was altogether the subject of hours of gratitude
to Mrs. Weston, and of moments only of regret; and her
satisfaction--her more than satisfaction--her cheerful enjoyment,
was so just and so apparent, that Emma, well as she knew her father,
was sometimes taken by surprize at his being still able to pity
`poor Miss Taylor,' when they left her at Randalls in the centre
of every domestic comfort, or saw her go away in the evening
attended by her pleasant husband to a carriage of her own.
But never did she go without Mr. Woodhouse's giving a gentle sigh,
and saying, "Ah, poor Miss Taylor! She would be very glad to stay."
There was no recovering Miss Taylor--nor much likelihood of
ceasing to pity her; but a few weeks brought some alleviation
to Mr. Woodhouse. The compliments of his neighbours were over;
he was no longer teased by being wished joy of so sorrowful an event;
and the wedding-cake, which had been a great distress to him,
was all eat up. His own stomach could bear nothing rich, and he
could never believe other people to be different from himself.
What was unwholesome to him he regarded as unfit for any body;
and he had, therefore, earnestly tried to dissuade them from having
any wedding-cake at all, and when that proved vain, as earnestly
tried to prevent any body's eating it. He had been at the pains
of consulting Mr. Perry, the apothecary, on the subject. Mr. Perry
was an intelligent, gentlemanlike man, whose frequent visits were one
of the comforts of Mr. Woodhouse's life; and upon being applied to,
he could not but acknowledge (though it seemed rather against the
bias of inclination) that wedding-cake might certainly disagree
with many--perhaps with most people, unless taken moderately.
With such an opinion, in confirmation of his own, Mr. Woodhouse hoped
to influence every visitor of the newly married pair; but still the
cake was eaten; and there was no rest for his benevolent nerves till
it was all gone.
There was a strange rumour in Highbury of all the little Perrys
being seen with a slice of Mrs. Weston's wedding-cake in their
hands: but Mr. Woodhouse would never believe it.
Mr. Woodhouse was fond of society in his own way. He liked very much
to have his friends come and see him; and from various united causes,
from his long residence at Hartfield, and his good nature,
from his fortune, his house, and his daughter, he could command the
visits of his own little circle, in a great measure, as he liked.
He had not much intercourse with any families beyond that circle;
his horror of late hours, and large dinner-parties, made him unfit
for any acquaintance but such as would visit him on his own terms.
Fortunately for him, Highbury, including Randalls in the same parish,
and Donwell Abbey in the parish adjoining, the seat of Mr. Knightley,
comprehended many such. Not unfrequently, through Emma's persuasion,
he had some of the chosen and the best to dine with him: but evening
parties were what he preferred; and, unless he fancied himself at any
time unequal to company, there was scarcely an evening in the week
in which Emma could not make up a card-table for him.
Real, long-standing regard brought the Westons and Mr. Knightley;
and by Mr. Elton, a young man living alone without liking it,
the privilege of exchanging any vacant evening of his own blank solitude
for the elegancies and society of Mr. Woodhouse's drawing-room,
and the smiles of his lovely daughter, was in no danger of being
After these came a second set; among the most come-at-able
of whom were Mrs. and Miss Bates, and Mrs. Goddard, three ladies
almost always at the service of an invitation from Hartfield,
and who were fetched and carried home so often, that Mr. Woodhouse
thought it no hardship for either James or the horses. Had it
taken place only once a year, it would have been a grievance.
Mrs. Bates, the widow of a former vicar of Highbury, was a
very old lady, almost past every thing but tea and quadrille.
She lived with her single daughter in a very small way, and was
considered with all the regard and respect which a harmless old lady,
under such untoward circumstances, can excite. Her daughter enjoyed
a most uncommon degree of popularity for a woman neither young,
handsome, rich, nor married. Miss Bates stood in the very worst
predicament in the world for having much of the public favour;
and she had no intellectual superiority to make atonement to herself,
or frighten those who might hate her into outward respect.
She had never boasted either beauty or cleverness. Her youth
had passed without distinction, and her middle of life was devoted
to the care of a failing mother, and the endeavour to make a small
income go as far as possible. And yet she was a happy woman,
and a woman whom no one named without good-will. It was her own
universal good-will and contented temper which worked such wonders.
She loved every body, was interested in every body's happiness,
quicksighted to every body's merits; thought herself a most fortunate
creature, and surrounded with blessings in such an excellent mother,
and so many good neighbours and friends, and a home that wanted
for nothing. The simplicity and cheerfulness of her nature,
her contented and grateful spirit, were a recommendation to every body,
and a mine of felicity to herself. She was a great talker upon
little matters, which exactly suited Mr. Woodhouse, full of trivial
communications and harmless gossip.
Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a School--not of a seminary,
or an establishment, or any thing which professed, in long sentences of
refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality,
upon new principles and new systems--and where young ladies for
enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity--but
a real, honest, old-fashioned Boarding-school, where a reasonable
quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price,
and where girls might be sent to be out of the way, and scramble
themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming
back prodigies. Mrs. Goddard's school was in high repute--and
very deservedly; for Highbury was reckoned a particularly healthy
spot: she had an ample house and garden, gave the children plenty
of wholesome food, let them run about a great deal in the summer,
and in winter dressed their chilblains with her own hands.
It was no wonder that a train of twenty young couple now walked
after her to church. She was a plain, motherly kind of woman,
who had worked hard in her youth, and now thought herself entitled
to the occasional holiday of a tea-visit; and having formerly
owed much to Mr. Woodhouse's kindness, felt his particular claim
on her to leave her neat parlour, hung round with fancy-work,
whenever she could, and win or lose a few sixpences by his fireside.
These were the ladies whom Emma found herself very frequently
able to collect; and happy was she, for her father's sake,
in the power; though, as far as she was herself concerned,
it was no remedy for the absence of Mrs. Weston. She was delighted
to see her father look comfortable, and very much pleased with
herself for contriving things so well; but the quiet prosings
of three such women made her feel that every evening so spent
was indeed one of the long evenings she had fearfully anticipated.
As she sat one morning, looking forward to exactly such a close
of the present day, a note was brought from Mrs. Goddard, requesting,
in most respectful terms, to be allowed to bring Miss Smith with her;
a most welcome request: for Miss Smith was a girl of seventeen,
whom Emma knew very well by sight, and had long felt an interest in,
on account of her beauty. A very gracious invitation was returned,
and the evening no longer dreaded by the fair mistress of the mansion.
Harriet Smith was the natural daughter of somebody. Somebody had
placed her, several years back, at Mrs. Goddard's school,
and somebody had lately raised her from the condition of scholar
to that of parlour-boarder. This was all that was generally known
of her history. She had no visible friends but what had been
acquired at Highbury, and was now just returned from a long visit
in the country to some young ladies who had been at school there with her.
She was a very pretty girl, and her beauty happened to be of a sort
which Emma particularly admired. She was short, plump, and fair,
with a fine bloom, blue eyes, light hair, regular features,
and a look of great sweetness, and, before the end of the evening,
Emma was as much pleased with her manners as her person, and quite
determined to continue the acquaintance.
She was not struck by any thing remarkably clever in Miss Smith's
conversation, but she found her altogether very engaging--not
inconveniently shy, not unwilling to talk--and yet so far from pushing,
shewing so proper and becoming a deference, seeming so pleasantly
grateful for being admitted to Hartfield, and so artlessly
impressed by the appearance of every thing in so superior a style
to what she had been used to, that she must have good sense,
and deserve encouragement. Encouragement should be given.
Those soft blue eyes, and all those natural graces, should not be
wasted on the inferior society of Highbury and its connexions.
The acquaintance she had already formed were unworthy of her.
The friends from whom she had just parted, though very good sort
of people, must be doing her harm. They were a family of the name
of Martin, whom Emma well knew by character, as renting a large farm
of Mr. Knightley, and residing in the parish of Donwell--very creditably,
she believed--she knew Mr. Knightley thought highly of them--but they
must be coarse and unpolished, and very unfit to be the intimates
of a girl who wanted only a little more knowledge and elegance
to be quite perfect. _She_ would notice her; she would improve her;
she would detach her from her bad acquaintance, and introduce her
into good society; she would form her opinions and her manners.
It would be an interesting, and certainly a very kind undertaking;
highly becoming her own situation in life, her leisure, and powers.
She was so busy in admiring those soft blue eyes, in talking
and listening, and forming all these schemes in the in-betweens, that
the evening flew away at a very unusual rate; and the supper-table,
which always closed such parties, and for which she had been
used to sit and watch the due time, was all set out and ready,
and moved forwards to the fire, before she was aware. With an
alacrity beyond the common impulse of a spirit which yet was never
indifferent to the credit of doing every thing well and attentively,
with the real good-will of a mind delighted with its own ideas,
did she then do all the honours of the meal, and help and recommend
the minced chicken and scalloped oysters, with an urgency which she
knew would be acceptable to the early hours and civil scruples of their guests.
Upon such occasions poor Mr. Woodhouses feelings were in sad warfare.
He loved to have the cloth laid, because it had been the fashion
of his youth, but his conviction of suppers being very unwholesome
made him rather sorry to see any thing put on it; and while his
hospitality would have welcomed his visitors to every thing,
his care for their health made him grieve that they would eat.
Such another small basin of thin gruel as his own was all that
he could, with thorough self-approbation, recommend; though he
might constrain himself, while the ladies were comfortably clearing
the nicer things, to say:
"Mrs. Bates, let me propose your venturing on one of these eggs.
An egg boiled very soft is not unwholesome. Serle understands boiling
an egg better than any body. I would not recommend an egg boiled
by any body else; but you need not be afraid, they are very small,
you see--one of our small eggs will not hurt you. Miss Bates,
let Emma help you to a _little_ bit of tart--a _very_ little bit.
Ours are all apple-tarts. You need not be afraid of unwholesome
preserves here. I do not advise the custard. Mrs. Goddard, what say
you to _half_ a glass of wine? A _small_ half-glass, put into a tumbler
of water? I do not think it could disagree with you."
Emma allowed her father to talk--but supplied her visitors in
a much more satisfactory style, and on the present evening had
particular pleasure in sending them away happy. The happiness
of Miss Smith was quite equal to her intentions. Miss Woodhouse
was so great a personage in Highbury, that the prospect of the
introduction had given as much panic as pleasure; but the humble,
grateful little girl went off with highly gratified feelings,
delighted with the affability with which Miss Woodhouse had treated
her all the evening, and actually shaken hands with her at last!
Harriet Smith's intimacy at Hartfield was soon a settled thing.
Quick and decided in her ways, Emma lost no time in inviting, encouraging,
and telling her to come very often; and as their acquaintance increased,
so did their satisfaction in each other. As a walking companion,
Emma had very early foreseen how useful she might find her.
In that respect Mrs. Weston's loss had been important. Her father
never went beyond the shrubbery, where two divisions of the ground
sufficed him for his long walk, or his short, as the year varied;
and since Mrs. Weston's marriage her exercise had been too much confined.
She had ventured once alone to Randalls, but it was not pleasant;
and a Harriet Smith, therefore, one whom she could summon at any
time to a walk, would be a valuable addition to her privileges.
But in every respect, as she saw more of her, she approved her,
and was confirmed in all her kind designs.
Harriet certainly was not clever, but she had a sweet, docile,
grateful disposition, was totally free from conceit, and only desiring
to be guided by any one she looked up to. Her early attachment
to herself was very amiable; and her inclination for good company,
and power of appreciating what was elegant and clever, shewed that
there was no want of taste, though strength of understanding must
not be expected. Altogether she was quite convinced of Harriet
Smith's being exactly the young friend she wanted--exactly the
something which her home required. Such a friend as Mrs. Weston
was out of the question. Two such could never be granted.
Two such she did not want. It was quite a different sort of thing,
a sentiment distinct and independent. Mrs. Weston was the object
of a regard which had its basis in gratitude and esteem.
Harriet would be loved as one to whom she could be useful.
For Mrs. Weston there was nothing to be done; for Harriet every thing.
Her first attempts at usefulness were in an endeavour to find out who
were the parents, but Harriet could not tell. She was ready to tell
every thing in her power, but on this subject questions were vain.
Emma was obliged to fancy what she liked--but she could never
believe that in the same situation _she_ should not have discovered
the truth. Harriet had no penetration. She had been satisfied
to hear and believe just what Mrs. Goddard chose to tell her;
and looked no farther.
Mrs. Goddard, and the teachers, and the girls and the affairs of the
school in general, formed naturally a great part of the conversation--and
but for her acquaintance with the Martins of Abbey-Mill Farm,
it must have been the whole. But the Martins occupied her thoughts
a good deal; she had spent two very happy months with them,
and now loved to talk of the pleasures of her visit, and describe
the many comforts and wonders of the place. Emma encouraged her
talkativeness--amused by such a picture of another set of beings,
and enjoying the youthful simplicity which could speak with so much
exultation of Mrs. Martin's having "_two_ parlours, two very good parlours,
indeed; one of them quite as large as Mrs. Goddard's drawing-room;
and of her having an upper maid who had lived five-and-twenty years
with her; and of their having eight cows, two of them Alderneys,
and one a little Welch cow, a very pretty little Welch cow indeed;
and of Mrs. Martin's saying as she was so fond of it, it should be
called _her_ cow; and of their having a very handsome summer-house
in their garden, where some day next year they were all to drink
tea:--a very handsome summer-house, large enough to hold a dozen people."
For some time she was amused, without thinking beyond the immediate cause;
but as she came to understand the family better, other feelings arose.
She had taken up a wrong idea, fancying it was a mother and daughter,
a son and son's wife, who all lived together; but when it appeared
that the Mr. Martin, who bore a part in the narrative, and was always
mentioned with approbation for his great good-nature in doing something
or other, was a single man; that there was no young Mrs. Martin,
no wife in the case; she did suspect danger to her poor little
friend from all this hospitality and kindness, and that, if she
were not taken care of, she might be required to sink herself forever.
With this inspiriting notion, her questions increased in number
and meaning; and she particularly led Harriet to talk more of Mr. Martin,
and there was evidently no dislike to it. Harriet was very ready
to speak of the share he had had in their moonlight walks and merry
evening games; and dwelt a good deal upon his being so very good-humoured
and obliging. He had gone three miles round one day in order to bring
her some walnuts, because she had said how fond she was of them,
and in every thing else he was so very obliging. He had his
shepherd's son into the parlour one night on purpose to sing to her.
She was very fond of singing. He could sing a little himself.
She believed he was very clever, and understood every thing.
He had a very fine flock, and, while she was with them,
he had been bid more for his wool than any body in the country.
She believed every body spoke well of him. His mother and sisters
were very fond of him. Mrs. Martin had told her one day (and there
was a blush as she said it,) that it was impossible for any body
to be a better son, and therefore she was sure, whenever he married,
he would make a good husband. Not that she _wanted_ him to marry.
She was in no hurry at all.
"Well done, Mrs. Martin!" thought Emma. "You know what you are about."
"And when she had come away, Mrs. Martin was so very kind as to send
Mrs. Goddard a beautiful goose--the finest goose Mrs. Goddard had
ever seen. Mrs. Goddard had dressed it on a Sunday, and asked all
the three teachers, Miss Nash, and Miss Prince, and Miss Richardson,
to sup with her."
"Mr. Martin, I suppose, is not a man of information beyond the line
of his own business? He does not read?"
"Oh yes!--that is, no--I do not know--but I believe he has
read a good deal--but not what you would think any thing of.
He reads the Agricultural Reports, and some other books that lay
in one of the window seats--but he reads all _them_ to himself.
But sometimes of an evening, before we went to cards, he would read
something aloud out of the Elegant Extracts, very entertaining.
And I know he has read the Vicar of Wakefield. He never read the
Romance of the Forest, nor The Children of the Abbey. He had never
heard of such books before I mentioned them, but he is determined
to get them now as soon as ever he can."
The next question was--
"What sort of looking man is Mr. Martin?"
"Oh! not handsome--not at all handsome. I thought him very plain
at first, but I do not think him so plain now. One does not, you know,
after a time. But did you never see him? He is in Highbury every
now and then, and he is sure to ride through every week in his way
to Kingston. He has passed you very often."
"That may be, and I may have seen him fifty times, but without
having any idea of his name. A young farmer, whether on horseback
or on foot, is the very last sort of person to raise my curiosity.
The yeomanry are precisely the order of people with whom I feel I
can have nothing to do. A degree or two lower, and a creditable
appearance might interest me; I might hope to be useful to their
families in some way or other. But a farmer can need none of my help,
and is, therefore, in one sense, as much above my notice as in every
other he is below it."
"To be sure. Oh yes! It is not likely you should ever have
observed him; but he knows you very well indeed--I mean by sight."
"I have no doubt of his being a very respectable young man.
I know, indeed, that he is so, and, as such, wish him well.
What do you imagine his age to be?"
"He was four-and-twenty the 8th of last June, and my birthday is
the 23rd just a fortnight and a day's difference--which is very odd."
"Only four-and-twenty. That is too young to settle. His mother is
perfectly right not to be in a hurry. They seem very comfortable
as they are, and if she were to take any pains to marry him,
she would probably repent it. Six years hence, if he could meet
with a good sort of young woman in the same rank as his own,
with a little money, it might be very desirable."
"Six years hence! Dear Miss Woodhouse, he would be thirty years old!"
"Well, and that is as early as most men can afford to marry,
who are not born to an independence. Mr. Martin, I imagine,
has his fortune entirely to make--cannot be at all beforehand with
the world. Whatever money he might come into when his father died,
whatever his share of the family property, it is, I dare say,
all afloat, all employed in his stock, and so forth; and though,
with diligence and good luck, he may be rich in time, it is next to
impossible that he should have realised any thing yet."
"To be sure, so it is. But they live very comfortably.
They have no indoors man, else they do not want for any thing;
and Mrs. Martin talks of taking a boy another year."
"I wish you may not get into a scrape, Harriet, whenever he does
marry;--I mean, as to being acquainted with his wife--for though
his sisters, from a superior education, are not to be altogether
objected to, it does not follow that he might marry any body at all fit
for you to notice. The misfortune of your birth ought to make you
particularly careful as to your associates. There can be no doubt
of your being a gentleman's daughter, and you must support your
claim to that station by every thing within your own power, or there
will be plenty of people who would take pleasure in degrading you."
"Yes, to be sure, I suppose there are. But while I visit
at Hartfield, and you are so kind to me, Miss Woodhouse,
I am not afraid of what any body can do."
"You understand the force of influence pretty well, Harriet; but I
would have you so firmly established in good society, as to be
independent even of Hartfield and Miss Woodhouse. I want to see you
permanently well connected, and to that end it will be advisable
to have as few odd acquaintance as may be; and, therefore, I say
that if you should still be in this country when Mr. Martin marries,
I wish you may not be drawn in by your intimacy with the sisters,
to be acquainted with the wife, who will probably be some mere
farmer's daughter, without education."
"To be sure. Yes. Not that I think Mr. Martin would ever marry any body
but what had had some education--and been very well brought up.
However, I do not mean to set up my opinion against your's--and I
am sure I shall not wish for the acquaintance of his wife. I shall
always have a great regard for the Miss Martins, especially Elizabeth,
and should be very sorry to give them up, for they are quite as well
educated as me. But if he marries a very ignorant, vulgar woman,
certainly I had better not visit her, if I can help it."
Emma watched her through the fluctuations of this speech,
and saw no alarming symptoms of love. The young man had been
the first admirer, but she trusted there was no other hold,
and that there would be no serious difficulty, on Harriet's side,
to oppose any friendly arrangement of her own.
They met Mr. Martin the very next day, as they were walking on the
Donwell road. He was on foot, and after looking very respectfully
at her, looked with most unfeigned satisfaction at her companion.
Emma was not sorry to have such an opportunity of survey;
and walking a few yards forward, while they talked together, soon made
her quick eye sufficiently acquainted with Mr. Robert Martin.
His appearance was very neat, and he looked like a sensible young man,
but his person had no other advantage; and when he came to be
contrasted with gentlemen, she thought he must lose all the ground
he had gained in Harriet's inclination. Harriet was not insensible
of manner; she had voluntarily noticed her father's gentleness
with admiration as well as wonder. Mr. Martin looked as if he
did not know what manner was.
They remained but a few minutes together, as Miss Woodhouse must
not be kept waiting; and Harriet then came running to her with a
smiling face, and in a flutter of spirits, which Miss Woodhouse
hoped very soon to compose.
"Only think of our happening to meet him!--How very odd! It was
quite a chance, he said, that he had not gone round by Randalls.
He did not think we ever walked this road. He thought we walked
towards Randalls most days. He has not been able to get the
Romance of the Forest yet. He was so busy the last time he was
at Kingston that he quite forgot it, but he goes again to-morrow.
So very odd we should happen to meet! Well, Miss Woodhouse, is he
like what you expected? What do you think of him? Do you think him
so very plain?"
"He is very plain, undoubtedly--remarkably plain:--but that is
nothing compared with his entire want of gentility. I had no
right to expect much, and I did not expect much; but I had no
idea that he could be so very clownish, so totally without air.
I had imagined him, I confess, a degree or two nearer gentility."
"To be sure," said Harriet, in a mortified voice, "he is not
so genteel as real gentlemen."
"I think, Harriet, since your acquaintance with us, you have been
repeatedly in the company of some such very real gentlemen,
that you must yourself be struck with the difference in Mr. Martin.
At Hartfield, you have had very good specimens of well educated,
well bred men. I should be surprized if, after seeing them,
you could be in company with Mr. Martin again without perceiving
him to be a very inferior creature--and rather wondering at
yourself for having ever thought him at all agreeable before.
Do not you begin to feel that now? Were not you struck? I am sure
you must have been struck by his awkward look and abrupt manner,
and the uncouthness of a voice which I heard to be wholly unmodulated
as I stood here."
"Certainly, he is not like Mr. Knightley. He has not such a fine
air and way of walking as Mr. Knightley. I see the difference
plain enough. But Mr. Knightley is so very fine a man!"
"Mr. Knightley's air is so remarkably good that it is not fair
to compare Mr. Martin with _him_. You might not see one in a hundred
with _gentleman_ so plainly written as in Mr. Knightley. But he is
not the only gentleman you have been lately used to. What say you
to Mr. Weston and Mr. Elton? Compare Mr. Martin with either of _them_.
Compare their manner of carrying themselves; of walking; of speaking;
of being silent. You must see the difference."
"Oh yes!--there is a great difference. But Mr. Weston is almost
an old man. Mr. Weston must be between forty and fifty."
"Which makes his good manners the more valuable. The older a
person grows, Harriet, the more important it is that their manners
should not be bad; the more glaring and disgusting any loudness,
or coarseness, or awkwardness becomes. What is passable in youth
is detestable in later age. Mr. Martin is now awkward and abrupt;
what will he be at Mr. Weston's time of life?"
"There is no saying, indeed," replied Harriet rather solemnly.
"But there may be pretty good guessing. He will be a completely gross,
vulgar farmer, totally inattentive to appearances, and thinking
of nothing but profit and loss."
"Will he, indeed? That will be very bad."
"How much his business engrosses him already is very plain from the
circumstance of his forgetting to inquire for the book you recommended.
He was a great deal too full of the market to think of any thing
else--which is just as it should be, for a thriving man. What has
he to do with books? And I have no doubt that he _will_ thrive,
and be a very rich man in time--and his being illiterate and coarse
need not disturb _us_."
"I wonder he did not remember the book"--was all Harriet's answer,
and spoken with a degree of grave displeasure which Emma thought might
be safely left to itself. She, therefore, said no more for some time.
Her next beginning was,
"In one respect, perhaps, Mr. Elton's manners are superior
to Mr. Knightley's or Mr. Weston's. They have more gentleness.
They might be more safely held up as a pattern. There is an openness,
a quickness, almost a bluntness in Mr. Weston, which every body
likes in _him_, because there is so much good-humour with it--but
that would not do to be copied. Neither would Mr. Knightley's
downright, decided, commanding sort of manner, though it suits
_him_ very well; his figure, and look, and situation in life seem
to allow it; but if any young man were to set about copying him,
he would not be sufferable. On the contrary, I think a young man
might be very safely recommended to take Mr. Elton as a model.
Mr. Elton is good-humoured, cheerful, obliging, and gentle.
He seems to me to be grown particularly gentle of late. I do not
know whether he has any design of ingratiating himself with either
of us, Harriet, by additional softness, but it strikes me that his
manners are softer than they used to be. If he means any thing,
it must be to please you. Did not I tell you what he said of you
the other day?"
She then repeated some warm personal praise which she had drawn
from Mr. Elton, and now did full justice to; and Harriet blushed
and smiled, and said she had always thought Mr. Elton very agreeable.
Mr. Elton was the very person fixed on by Emma for driving
the young farmer out of Harriet's head. She thought it would
be an excellent match; and only too palpably desirable, natural,
and probable, for her to have much merit in planning it.
She feared it was what every body else must think of and predict.
It was not likely, however, that any body should have equalled
her in the date of the plan, as it had entered her brain during
the very first evening of Harriet's coming to Hartfield. The longer
she considered it, the greater was her sense of its expediency.
Mr. Elton's situation was most suitable, quite the gentleman himself,
and without low connexions; at the same time, not of any family
that could fairly object to the doubtful birth of Harriet. He had a
comfortable home for her, and Emma imagined a very sufficient income;
for though the vicarage of Highbury was not large, he was known
to have some independent property; and she thought very highly
of him as a good-humoured, well-meaning, respectable young man,
without any deficiency of useful understanding or knowledge of the world.
She had already satisfied herself that he thought Harriet a beautiful
girl, which she trusted, with such frequent meetings at Hartfield,
was foundation enough on his side; and on Harriet's there could be
little doubt that the idea of being preferred by him would have all
the usual weight and efficacy. And he was really a very pleasing
young man, a young man whom any woman not fastidious might like.
He was reckoned very handsome; his person much admired in general,
though not by her, there being a want of elegance of feature which
she could not dispense with:--but the girl who could be gratified
by a Robert Martin's riding about the country to get walnuts
for her might very well be conquered by Mr. Elton's admiration.
"I do not know what your opinion may be, Mrs. Weston," said Mr. Knightley, "of
this great intimacy between Emma and Harriet Smith, but I think it a bad thing."
"A bad thing! Do you really think it a bad thing?--why so?"
"I think they will neither of them do the other any good."
"You surprize me! Emma must do Harriet good: and by supplying her
with a new object of interest, Harriet may be said to do Emma good.
I have been seeing their intimacy with the greatest pleasure.
How very differently we feel!--Not think they will do each other any
good! This will certainly be the beginning of one of our quarrels
about Emma, Mr. Knightley."
"Perhaps you think I am come on purpose to quarrel with you,
knowing Weston to be out, and that you must still fight your own battle."
"Mr. Weston would undoubtedly support me, if he were here,
for he thinks exactly as I do on the subject. We were speaking
of it only yesterday, and agreeing how fortunate it was for Emma,
that there should be such a girl in Highbury for her to associate with.
Mr. Knightley, I shall not allow you to be a fair judge in this case.
You are so much used to live alone, that you do not know the value
of a companion; and, perhaps no man can be a good judge of the comfort
a woman feels in the society of one of her own sex, after being used
to it all her life. I can imagine your objection to Harriet Smith.
She is not the superior young woman which Emma's friend ought to be.
But on the other hand, as Emma wants to see her better informed,
it will be an inducement to her to read more herself. They will
read together. She means it, I know."
"Emma has been meaning to read more ever since she was twelve
years old. I have seen a great many lists of her drawing-up at
various times of books that she meant to read regularly through--and
very good lists they were--very well chosen, and very neatly
arranged--sometimes alphabetically, and sometimes by some other rule.
The list she drew up when only fourteen--I remember thinking it
did her judgment so much credit, that I preserved it some time;
and I dare say she may have made out a very good list now. But I
have done with expecting any course of steady reading from Emma.
She will never submit to any thing requiring industry and patience,
and a subjection of the fancy to the understanding. Where Miss Taylor
failed to stimulate, I may safely affirm that Harriet Smith will do
nothing.--You never could persuade her to read half so much as you
wished.--You know you could not."
"I dare say," replied Mrs. Weston, smiling, "that I thought
so _then_;--but since we have parted, I can never remember Emma's
omitting to do any thing I wished."
"There is hardly any desiring to refresh such a memory as _that_,"--said
Mr. Knightley, feelingly; and for a moment or two he had done. "But I,"
he soon added, "who have had no such charm thrown over my senses,
must still see, hear, and remember. Emma is spoiled by being the
cleverest of her family. At ten years old, she had the misfortune of
being able to answer questions which puzzled her sister at seventeen.
She was always quick and assured: Isabella slow and diffident.
And ever since she was twelve, Emma has been mistress of the house
and of you all. In her mother she lost the only person able to cope
with her. She inherits her mother's talents, and must have been
under subjection to her."
"I should have been sorry, Mr. Knightley, to be dependent on
_your_ recommendation, had I quitted Mr. Woodhouse's family and wanted
another situation; I do not think you would have spoken a good word for
me to any body. I am sure you always thought me unfit for the office I held."
"Yes," said he, smiling. "You are better placed _here_; very fit
for a wife, but not at all for a governess. But you were preparing
yourself to be an excellent wife all the time you were at Hartfield.
You might not give Emma such a complete education as your powers would
seem to promise; but you were receiving a very good education from _her_,
on the very material matrimonial point of submitting your own will,
and doing as you were bid; and if Weston had asked me to recommend
him a wife, I should certainly have named Miss Taylor."
"Thank you. There will be very little merit in making a good wife
to such a man as Mr. Weston."
"Why, to own the truth, I am afraid you are rather thrown away,
and that with every disposition to bear, there will be nothing
to be borne. We will not despair, however. Weston may grow cross
from the wantonness of comfort, or his son may plague him."
"I hope not _that_.--It is not likely. No, Mr. Knightley, do not
foretell vexation from that quarter."
"Not I, indeed. I only name possibilities. I do not pretend to Emma's
genius for foretelling and guessing. I hope, with all my heart,
the young man may be a Weston in merit, and a Churchill in fortune.--But
Harriet Smith--I have not half done about Harriet Smith. I think
her the very worst sort of companion that Emma could possibly have.
She knows nothing herself, and looks upon Emma as knowing every thing.
She is a flatterer in all her ways; and so much the worse,
because undesigned. Her ignorance is hourly flattery. How can
Emma imagine she has any thing to learn herself, while Harriet
is presenting such a delightful inferiority? And as for Harriet,
I will venture to say that _she_ cannot gain by the acquaintance.
Hartfield will only put her out of conceit with all the other places
she belongs to. She will grow just refined enough to be uncomfortable
with those among whom birth and circumstances have placed her home.
I am much mistaken if Emma's doctrines give any strength of mind,
or tend at all to make a girl adapt herself rationally to the varieties
of her situation in life.--They only give a little polish."
"I either depend more upon Emma's good sense than you do, or am more
anxious for her present comfort; for I cannot lament the acquaintance.
How well she looked last night!"
"Oh! you would rather talk of her person than her mind, would you?
Very well; I shall not attempt to deny Emma's being pretty."
"Pretty! say beautiful rather. Can you imagine any thing nearer
perfect beauty than Emma altogether--face and figure?"
"I do not know what I could imagine, but I confess that I have
seldom seen a face or figure more pleasing to me than hers.
But I am a partial old friend."
"Such an eye!--the true hazle eye--and so brilliant! regular features,
open countenance, with a complexion! oh! what a bloom of full health,
and such a pretty height and size; such a firm and upright figure!
There is health, not merely in her bloom, but in her air, her head,
her glance. One hears sometimes of a child being `the picture
of health;' now, Emma always gives me the idea of being the complete
picture of grown-up health. She is loveliness itself. Mr. Knightley,
is not she?"
"I have not a fault to find with her person," he replied.
"I think her all you describe. I love to look at her; and I
will add this praise, that I do not think her personally vain.
Considering how very handsome she is, she appears to be little
occupied with it; her vanity lies another way. Mrs. Weston, I am
not to be talked out of my dislike of Harriet Smith, or my dread
of its doing them both harm."
"And I, Mr. Knightley, am equally stout in my confidence of its
not doing them any harm. With all dear Emma's little faults,
she is an excellent creature. Where shall we see a better daughter,
or a kinder sister, or a truer friend? No, no; she has qualities
which may be trusted; she will never lead any one really wrong;
she will make no lasting blunder; where Emma errs once, she is in the
right a hundred times."
"Very well; I will not plague you any more. Emma shall be an angel,
and I will keep my spleen to myself till Christmas brings John
and Isabella. John loves Emma with a reasonable and therefore
not a blind affection, and Isabella always thinks as he does;
except when he is not quite frightened enough about the children.
I am sure of having their opinions with me."
"I know that you all love her really too well to be unjust or unkind;
but excuse me, Mr. Knightley, if I take the liberty (I consider myself,
you know, as having somewhat of the privilege of speech that Emma's
mother might have had) the liberty of hinting that I do not think
any possible good can arise from Harriet Smith's intimacy being made
a matter of much discussion among you. Pray excuse me; but supposing
any little inconvenience may be apprehended from the intimacy,
it cannot be expected that Emma, accountable to nobody but her father,
who perfectly approves the acquaintance, should put an end to it,
so long as it is a source of pleasure to herself. It has been so
many years my province to give advice, that you cannot be surprized,
Mr. Knightley, at this little remains of office."
"Not at all," cried he; "I am much obliged to you for it.
It is very good advice, and it shall have a better fate than your
advice has often found; for it shall be attended to."
"Mrs. John Knightley is easily alarmed, and might be made unhappy
about her sister."
"Be satisfied," said he, "I will not raise any outcry. I will keep
my ill-humour to myself. I have a very sincere interest in Emma.
Isabella does not seem more my sister; has never excited a
greater interest; perhaps hardly so great. There is an anxiety,
a curiosity in what one feels for Emma. I wonder what will become
"So do I," said Mrs. Weston gently, "very much."
"She always declares she will never marry, which, of course,
means just nothing at all. But I have no idea that she has yet
ever seen a man she cared for. It would not be a bad thing for her
to be very much in love with a proper object. I should like to see
Emma in love, and in some doubt of a return; it would do her good.
But there is nobody hereabouts to attach her; and she goes so seldom
"There does, indeed, seem as little to tempt her to break
her resolution at present," said Mrs. Weston, "as can well be;
and while she is so happy at Hartfield, I cannot wish her to be
forming any attachment which would be creating such difficulties
on poor Mr. Woodhouse's account. I do not recommend matrimony
at present to Emma, though I mean no slight to the state, I assure you."
Part of her meaning was to conceal some favourite thoughts of
her own and Mr. Weston's on the subject, as much as possible.
There were wishes at Randalls respecting Emma's destiny, but it
was not desirable to have them suspected; and the quiet transition
which Mr. Knightley soon afterwards made to "What does Weston
think of the weather; shall we have rain?" convinced her that he
had nothing more to say or surmise about Hartfield.
Emma could not feel a doubt of having given Harriet's fancy
a proper direction and raised the gratitude of her young vanity
to a very good purpose, for she found her decidedly more sensible
than before of Mr. Elton's being a remarkably handsome man, with most
agreeable manners; and as she had no hesitation in following up
the assurance of his admiration by agreeable hints, she was soon
pretty confident of creating as much liking on Harriet's side,
as there could be any occasion for. She was quite convinced
of Mr. Elton's being in the fairest way of falling in love,
if not in love already. She had no scruple with regard to him.
He talked of Harriet, and praised her so warmly, that she could
not suppose any thing wanting which a little time would not add.
His perception of the striking improvement of Harriet's manner,
since her introduction at Hartfield, was not one of the least
agreeable proofs of his growing attachment.
"You have given Miss Smith all that she required," said he;
"you have made her graceful and easy. She was a beautiful creature
when she came to you, but, in my opinion, the attractions you have
added are infinitely superior to what she received from nature."
"I am glad you think I have been useful to her; but Harriet
only wanted drawing out, and receiving a few, very few hints.
She had all the natural grace of sweetness of temper and artlessness
in herself. I have done very little."
"If it were admissible to contradict a lady," said the gallant
"I have perhaps given her a little more decision of character,
have taught her to think on points which had not fallen in her
"Exactly so; that is what principally strikes me. So much superadded
decision of character! Skilful has been the hand!"
"Great has been the pleasure, I am sure. I never met with
a disposition more truly amiable."
"I have no doubt of it." And it was spoken with a sort
of sighing animation, which had a vast deal of the lover.
She was not less pleased another day with the manner
in which he seconded a sudden wish of hers, to have Harriet's picture.
"Did you ever have your likeness taken, Harriet?" said she: "did
you ever sit for your picture?"
Harriet was on the point of leaving the room, and only stopt to say,
with a very interesting naivete,
"Oh! dear, no, never."
No sooner was she out of sight, than Emma exclaimed,
"What an exquisite possession a good picture of her would be! I would
give any money for it. I almost long to attempt her likeness myself.
You do not know it I dare say, but two or three years ago I had
a great passion for taking likenesses, and attempted several of
my friends, and was thought to have a tolerable eye in general.
But from one cause or another, I gave it up in disgust.
But really, I could almost venture, if Harriet would sit to me.
It would be such a delight to have her picture!"
"Let me entreat you," cried Mr. Elton; "it would indeed be a delight!
Let me entreat you, Miss Woodhouse, to exercise so charming a
talent in favour of your friend. I know what your drawings are.
How could you suppose me ignorant? Is not this room rich in
specimens of your landscapes and flowers; and has not Mrs. Weston
some inimitable figure-pieces in her drawing-room, at Randalls?"
Yes, good man!--thought Emma--but what has all that to do with taking
likenesses? You know nothing of drawing. Don't pretend to be
in raptures about mine. Keep your raptures for Harriet's face.
"Well, if you give me such kind encouragement, Mr. Elton, I believe
I shall try what I can do. Harriet's features are very delicate,
which makes a likeness difficult; and yet there is a peculiarity
in the shape of the eye and the lines about the mouth which one ought
"Exactly so--The shape of the eye and the lines about the mouth--I
have not a doubt of your success. Pray, pray attempt it.
As you will do it, it will indeed, to use your own words,
be an exquisite possession."
"But I am afraid, Mr. Elton, Harriet will not like to sit.
She thinks so little of her own beauty. Did not you observe her
manner of answering me? How completely it meant, `why should my
picture be drawn?'"
"Oh! yes, I observed it, I assure you. It was not lost on me.
But still I cannot imagine she would not be persuaded."
Harriet was soon back again, and the proposal almost immediately made;
and she had no scruples which could stand many minutes against the earnest
pressing of both the others. Emma wished to go to work directly,
and therefore produced the portfolio containing her various attempts
at portraits, for not one of them had ever been finished, that they
might decide together on the best size for Harriet. Her many
beginnings were displayed. Miniatures, half-lengths, whole-lengths,
pencil, crayon, and water-colours had been all tried in turn.
She had always wanted to do every thing, and had made more progress
both in drawing and music than many might have done with so little
labour as she would ever submit to. She played and sang;--and drew
in almost every style; but steadiness had always been wanting;
and in nothing had she approached the degree of excellence which she
would have been glad to command, and ought not to have failed of.
She was not much deceived as to her own skill either as an artist
or a musician, but she was not unwilling to have others deceived,
or sorry to know her reputation for accomplishment often higher
than it deserved.
There was merit in every drawing--in the least finished, perhaps the most;
her style was spirited; but had there been much less, or had there
been ten times more, the delight and admiration of her two companions
would have been the same. They were both in ecstasies. A likeness
pleases every body; and Miss Woodhouse's performances must be capital.
"No great variety of faces for you," said Emma. "I had only my
own family to study from. There is my father--another of my
father--but the idea of sitting for his picture made him so nervous,
that I could only take him by stealth; neither of them very
like therefore. Mrs. Weston again, and again, and again, you see.
Dear Mrs. Weston! always my kindest friend on every occasion.
She would sit whenever I asked her. There is my sister; and really
quite her own little elegant figure!--and the face not unlike.
I should have made a good likeness of her, if she would have
sat longer, but she was in such a hurry to have me draw her four
children that she would not be quiet. Then, here come all my
attempts at three of those four children;--there they are,
Henry and John and Bella, from one end of the sheet to the other,
and any one of them might do for any one of the rest. She was so
eager to have them drawn that I could not refuse; but there is no
making children of three or four years old stand still you know;
nor can it be very easy to take any likeness of them, beyond the
air and complexion, unless they are coarser featured than any
of mama's children ever were. Here is my sketch of the fourth,
who was a baby. I took him as he was sleeping on the sofa, and it
is as strong a likeness of his cockade as you would wish to see.
He had nestled down his head most conveniently. That's very like.
I am rather proud of little George. The corner of the sofa is very good.
Then here is my last,"--unclosing a pretty sketch of a gentleman
in small size, whole-length--"my last and my best--my brother,
Mr. John Knightley.--This did not want much of being finished, when I
put it away in a pet, and vowed I would never take another likeness.
I could not help being provoked; for after all my pains, and when I
had really made a very good likeness of it--(Mrs. Weston and I
were quite agreed in thinking it _very_ like)--only too handsome--too
flattering--but that was a fault on the right side--after
all this, came poor dear Isabella's cold approbation of--"Yes,
it was a little like--but to be sure it did not do him justice."
We had had a great deal of trouble in persuading him to sit at all.
It was made a great favour of; and altogether it was more than I
could bear; and so I never would finish it, to have it apologised
over as an unfavourable likeness, to every morning visitor in
Brunswick Square;--and, as I said, I did then forswear ever drawing
any body again. But for Harriet's sake, or rather for my own,
and as there are no husbands and wives in the case _at_ _present_,
I will break my resolution now."
Mr. Elton seemed very properly struck and delighted by the idea,
and was repeating, "No husbands and wives in the case at present
indeed, as you observe. Exactly so. No husbands and wives,"
with so interesting a consciousness, that Emma began to consider
whether she had not better leave them together at once. But as she
wanted to be drawing, the declaration must wait a little longer.
She had soon fixed on the size and sort of portrait.
It was to be a whole-length in water-colours, like Mr. John
Knightley's, and was destined, if she could please herself,
to hold a very honourable station over the mantelpiece.
The sitting began; and Harriet, smiling and blushing, and afraid
of not keeping her attitude and countenance, presented a very sweet
mixture of youthful expression to the steady eyes of the artist.
But there was no doing any thing, with Mr. Elton fidgeting behind
her and watching every touch. She gave him credit for stationing
himself where he might gaze and gaze again without offence;
but was really obliged to put an end to it, and request him to
place himself elsewhere. It then occurred to her to employ him
"If he would be so good as to read to them, it would be a kindness
indeed! It would amuse away the difficulties of her part, and lessen
the irksomeness of Miss Smith's."
Mr. Elton was only too happy. Harriet listened, and Emma drew
in peace. She must allow him to be still frequently coming to look;
any thing less would certainly have been too little in a lover;
and he was ready at the smallest intermission of the pencil,
to jump up and see the progress, and be charmed.--There was no
being displeased with such an encourager, for his admiration
made him discern a likeness almost before it was possible.
She could not respect his eye, but his love and his complaisance
The sitting was altogether very satisfactory; she was quite
enough pleased with the first day's sketch to wish to go on.
There was no want of likeness, she had been fortunate in the attitude,
and as she meant to throw in a little improvement to the figure,
to give a little more height, and considerably more elegance, she had
great confidence of its being in every way a pretty drawing at last,
and of its filling its destined place with credit to them both--a
standing memorial of the beauty of one, the skill of the other,
and the friendship of both; with as many other agreeable associations
as Mr. Elton's very promising attachment was likely to add.
Harriet was to sit again the next day; and Mr. Elton, just as he ought,
entreated for the permission of attending and reading to them again.
"By all means. We shall be most happy to consider you as one
of the party."
The same civilities and courtesies, the same success and satisfaction,
took place on the morrow, and accompanied the whole progress
of the picture, which was rapid and happy. Every body who saw it
was pleased, but Mr. Elton was in continual raptures, and defended
it through every criticism.
"Miss Woodhouse has given her friend the only beauty she
wanted,"--observed Mrs. Weston to him--not in the least suspecting
that she was addressing a lover.--"The expression of the eye is
most correct, but Miss Smith has not those eyebrows and eyelashes.
It is the fault of her face that she has them not."
"Do you think so?" replied he. "I cannot agree with you.
It appears to me a most perfect resemblance in every feature.
I never saw such a likeness in my life. We must allow for the effect
of shade, you know."
"You have made her too tall, Emma," said Mr. Knightley.
Emma knew that she had, but would not own it; and Mr. Elton warmly added,
"Oh no! certainly not too tall; not in the least too tall. Consider,
she is sitting down--which naturally presents a different--which
in short gives exactly the idea--and the proportions must
be preserved, you know. Proportions, fore-shortening.--Oh no! it
gives one exactly the idea of such a height as Miss Smith's. Exactly so indeed!"
"It is very pretty," said Mr. Woodhouse. "So prettily done! Just
as your drawings always are, my dear. I do not know any body who draws
so well as you do. The only thing I do not thoroughly like is,
that she seems to be sitting out of doors, with only a little shawl
over her shoulders--and it makes one think she must catch cold."
"But, my dear papa, it is supposed to be summer; a warm day in summer.
Look at the tree."
"But it is never safe to sit out of doors, my dear."
"You, sir, may say any thing," cried Mr. Elton, "but I must confess
that I regard it as a most happy thought, the placing of Miss
Smith out of doors; and the tree is touched with such inimitable
spirit! Any other situation would have been much less in character.
The naivete of Miss Smith's manners--and altogether--Oh, it is
most admirable! I cannot keep my eyes from it. I never saw such
The next thing wanted was to get the picture framed; and here were a
few difficulties. It must be done directly; it must be done in London;
the order must go through the hands of some intelligent person whose taste
could be depended on; and Isabella, the usual doer of all commissions,
must not be applied to, because it was December, and Mr. Woodhouse
could not bear the idea of her stirring out of her house in the fogs
of December. But no sooner was the distress known to Mr. Elton,
than it was removed. His gallantry was always on the alert.
"Might he be trusted with the commission, what infinite pleasure
should he have in executing it! he could ride to London at any time.
It was impossible to say how much he should be gratified by being
employed on such an errand."
"He was too good!--she could not endure the thought!--she would
not give him such a troublesome office for the world,"--brought
on the desired repetition of entreaties and assurances,--and
a very few minutes settled the business.
Mr. Elton was to take the drawing to London, chuse the frame,
and give the directions; and Emma thought she could so pack it
as to ensure its safety without much incommoding him, while he
seemed mostly fearful of not being incommoded enough.
"What a precious deposit!" said he with a tender sigh, as he
"This man is almost too gallant to be in love," thought Emma.
"I should say so, but that I suppose there may be a hundred different
ways of being in love. He is an excellent young man, and will suit
Harriet exactly; it will be an `Exactly so,' as he says himself;
but he does sigh and languish, and study for compliments rather more
than I could endure as a principal. I come in for a pretty good
share as a second. But it is his gratitude on Harriet's account."
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
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?"
"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,
"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
"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
"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.
Harriet slept at Hartfield that night. For some weeks past she
had been spending 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, safest and kindest, to keep her
with them as much as possible just at present. She was obliged
to 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 with
Mr. Woodhouse and 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 the entreaties of both, though against the scruples
of his own civility, to leave Mr. Knightley for that purpose.
Mr. Knightley, who had nothing of ceremony about him, was offering
by his short, decided answers, an amusing contrast to the protracted
apologies and civil hesitations of the other.
"Well, I believe, if you will excuse me, Mr. Knightley, if you
will not consider me as doing a very rude thing, I shall take
Emma's advice and go out for a quarter of an hour. As the sun
is out, I believe I had better take my three turns while I can.
I treat you without ceremony, Mr. Knightley. We invalids 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
to entertain you. And therefore I think I will beg your excuse
and take my three turns--my winter walk."
"You cannot do better, sir."
"I would ask for the pleasure of your company, Mr. Knightley,
but I am a very slow walker, and my pace would be tedious to you;
and, besides, you have another long walk before you, to Donwell Abbey."
"Thank you, sir, thank you; I am going this moment myself; and I
think the sooner _you_ go the better. I will fetch your greatcoat
and open the garden door for you."
Mr. Woodhouse at last was off; but Mr. Knightley, instead of being
immediately off likewise, sat down again, seemingly inclined
for more chat. He began speaking of Harriet, and speaking
of her with more voluntary praise than Emma had ever heard before.
"I cannot rate her beauty as you do," said he; "but she is a
pretty little creature, and I am inclined to think very well of
her disposition. Her character depends upon those she is with;
but in good hands she will turn out a 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 that you have improved her. You have cured her of her
school-girl's giggle; she really does you credit."
"Thank you. I should be mortified indeed if I did not believe I
had been of some use; but it is not every body who will bestow
praise where they may. _You_ do 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
"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. He presently added, with a smile,
"I do not pretend to fix on times or places, but I must tell you
that I have good reason to believe your little friend will soon
hear of something to her advantage."
"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 makes you 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. Elton looked up to him.
"I have reason to think," he replied, "that Harriet Smith will
soon have an offer of marriage, and from a most unexceptionable
quarter:--Robert Martin is the man. Her visit to Abbey-Mill,
this summer, seems to have done his business. He is desperately
in love and means to marry her."
"He is very obliging," said Emma; "but is he sure that Harriet
means to marry him?"
"Well, well, means to make her an offer then. Will that do? He came
to the Abbey two evenings ago, on purpose to consult me about it.
He knows I have a thorough regard for him and all his family, and,
I believe, considers me as one of his best friends. He came to ask
me whether I thought it would be imprudent in him to settle so early;
whether I thought her too young: in short, whether I approved his
choice altogether; having some apprehension perhaps 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 he said.
I never hear better sense from any one than Robert Martin.
He always speaks to the purpose; open, straightforward, and very
well judging. He told me every thing; his circumstances and plans,
and what they all proposed doing in the event of his marriage. He is
an excellent young man, both as son and brother. I had no hesitation
in advising him to marry. He proved to me that he could afford it;
and that being the case, I was convinced he could not do better.
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 me then; and, I dare say, left the house thinking me the
best friend and counsellor man ever had. This happened the night
before last. Now, as we may fairly suppose, he would not allow
much time to pass before he spoke to the lady, and as he does not
appear to have spoken yesterday, it is not unlikely that he should
be at Mrs. Goddard's to-day; and she may be detained by a visitor,
without thinking him at all a tiresome wretch."
"Pray, Mr. Knightley," said Emma, who had been smiling to herself
through a great part of this speech, "how do you know that Mr. Martin
did not speak yesterday?"
"Certainly," replied he, surprized, "I do not absolutely know it;
but it may be inferred. Was not she the whole day with you?"
"Come," said she, "I will tell you something, in return for what
you have told me. He did speak yesterday--that is, he wrote,
and was refused."
This was obliged to be repeated before it could be believed;
and Mr. Knightley actually looked red with surprize and displeasure,
as he stood up, in tall indignation, and said,
"Then she is a greater simpleton than I ever believed her.
What is the foolish girl about?"
"Oh! to be sure," cried Emma, "it is always incomprehensible
to a man that a woman should ever refuse an offer of marriage.
A man always imagines a woman to be ready for any body who asks her."
"Nonsense! a man does not imagine any such thing. But what is
the meaning of this? Harriet Smith refuse Robert Martin? madness,
if it is so; but I hope you are mistaken."
"I saw her answer!--nothing could be clearer."