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
"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
"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
"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
"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 yours—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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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