Time passed on. A few more to-morrows, and the party from London would be
arriving. It was an alarming change; and Emma was thinking of it one
morning, as what must bring a great deal to agitate and grieve her, when
Mr. Knightley came in, and distressing thoughts were put by. After the
first chat of pleasure he was silent; and then, in a graver tone, began
"I have something to tell you, Emma; some news."
"Good or bad?" said she, quickly, looking up in his face.
"I do not know which it ought to be called."
"Oh! good I am sure.—I see it in your countenance. You are trying
not to smile."
"I am afraid," said he, composing his features, "I am very much afraid, my
dear Emma, that you will not smile when you hear it."
"Indeed! but why so?—I can hardly imagine that any thing which
pleases or amuses you, should not please and amuse me too."
"There is one subject," he replied, "I hope but one, on which we do not
think alike." He paused a moment, again smiling, with his eyes fixed on
her face. "Does nothing occur to you?—Do not you recollect?—Harriet
Her cheeks flushed at the name, and she felt afraid of something, though
she knew not what.
"Have you heard from her yourself this morning?" cried he. "You have, I
believe, and know the whole."
"No, I have not; I know nothing; pray tell me."
"You are prepared for the worst, I see—and very bad it is. Harriet
Smith marries Robert Martin."
Emma gave a start, which did not seem like being prepared—and her
eyes, in eager gaze, said, "No, this is impossible!" but her lips were
"It is so, indeed," continued Mr. Knightley; "I have it from Robert Martin
himself. He left me not half an hour ago."
She was still looking at him with the most speaking amazement.
"You like it, my Emma, as little as I feared.—I wish our opinions
were the same. But in time they will. Time, you may be sure, will make one
or the other of us think differently; and, in the meanwhile, we need not
talk much on the subject."
"You mistake me, you quite mistake me," she replied, exerting herself. "It
is not that such a circumstance would now make me unhappy, but I cannot
believe it. It seems an impossibility!—You cannot mean to say, that
Harriet Smith has accepted Robert Martin. You cannot mean that he has even
proposed to her again—yet. You only mean, that he intends it."
"I mean that he has done it," answered Mr. Knightley, with smiling but
determined decision, "and been accepted."
"Good God!" she cried.—"Well!"—Then having recourse to her
workbasket, in excuse for leaning down her face, and concealing all the
exquisite feelings of delight and entertainment which she knew she must be
expressing, she added, "Well, now tell me every thing; make this
intelligible to me. How, where, when?—Let me know it all. I never
was more surprized—but it does not make me unhappy, I assure you.—How—how
has it been possible?"
"It is a very simple story. He went to town on business three days ago,
and I got him to take charge of some papers which I was wanting to send to
John.—He delivered these papers to John, at his chambers, and was
asked by him to join their party the same evening to Astley's. They were
going to take the two eldest boys to Astley's. The party was to be our
brother and sister, Henry, John—and Miss Smith. My friend Robert
could not resist. They called for him in their way; were all extremely
amused; and my brother asked him to dine with them the next day—which
he did—and in the course of that visit (as I understand) he found an
opportunity of speaking to Harriet; and certainly did not speak in vain.—She
made him, by her acceptance, as happy even as he is deserving. He came
down by yesterday's coach, and was with me this morning immediately after
breakfast, to report his proceedings, first on my affairs, and then on his
own. This is all that I can relate of the how, where, and when. Your
friend Harriet will make a much longer history when you see her.—She
will give you all the minute particulars, which only woman's language can
make interesting.—In our communications we deal only in the great.—However,
I must say, that Robert Martin's heart seemed for him, and to me,
very overflowing; and that he did mention, without its being much to the
purpose, that on quitting their box at Astley's, my brother took charge of
Mrs. John Knightley and little John, and he followed with Miss Smith and
Henry; and that at one time they were in such a crowd, as to make Miss
Smith rather uneasy."
He stopped.—Emma dared not attempt any immediate reply. To speak,
she was sure would be to betray a most unreasonable degree of happiness.
She must wait a moment, or he would think her mad. Her silence disturbed
him; and after observing her a little while, he added,
"Emma, my love, you said that this circumstance would not now make you
unhappy; but I am afraid it gives you more pain than you expected. His
situation is an evil—but you must consider it as what satisfies your
friend; and I will answer for your thinking better and better of him as
you know him more. His good sense and good principles would delight you.—As
far as the man is concerned, you could not wish your friend in better
hands. His rank in society I would alter if I could, which is saying a
great deal I assure you, Emma.—You laugh at me about William
Larkins; but I could quite as ill spare Robert Martin."
He wanted her to look up and smile; and having now brought herself not to
smile too broadly—she did—cheerfully answering,
"You need not be at any pains to reconcile me to the match. I think
Harriet is doing extremely well. Her connexions may be worse than
his. In respectability of character, there can be no doubt that
they are. I have been silent from surprize merely, excessive surprize. You
cannot imagine how suddenly it has come on me! how peculiarly unprepared I
was!—for I had reason to believe her very lately more determined
against him, much more, than she was before."
"You ought to know your friend best," replied Mr. Knightley; "but I should
say she was a good-tempered, soft-hearted girl, not likely to be very,
very determined against any young man who told her he loved her."
Emma could not help laughing as she answered, "Upon my word, I believe you
know her quite as well as I do.—But, Mr. Knightley, are you
perfectly sure that she has absolutely and downright accepted him.
I could suppose she might in time—but can she already?—Did not
you misunderstand him?—You were both talking of other things; of
business, shows of cattle, or new drills—and might not you, in the
confusion of so many subjects, mistake him?—It was not Harriet's
hand that he was certain of—it was the dimensions of some famous
The contrast between the countenance and air of Mr. Knightley and Robert
Martin was, at this moment, so strong to Emma's feelings, and so strong
was the recollection of all that had so recently passed on Harriet's side,
so fresh the sound of those words, spoken with such emphasis, "No, I hope
I know better than to think of Robert Martin," that she was really
expecting the intelligence to prove, in some measure, premature. It could
not be otherwise.
"Do you dare say this?" cried Mr. Knightley. "Do you dare to suppose me so
great a blockhead, as not to know what a man is talking of?—What do
"Oh! I always deserve the best treatment, because I never put up with any
other; and, therefore, you must give me a plain, direct answer. Are you
quite sure that you understand the terms on which Mr. Martin and Harriet
"I am quite sure," he replied, speaking very distinctly, "that he told me
she had accepted him; and that there was no obscurity, nothing doubtful,
in the words he used; and I think I can give you a proof that it must be
so. He asked my opinion as to what he was now to do. He knew of no one but
Mrs. Goddard to whom he could apply for information of her relations or
friends. Could I mention any thing more fit to be done, than to go to Mrs.
Goddard? I assured him that I could not. Then, he said, he would endeavour
to see her in the course of this day."
"I am perfectly satisfied," replied Emma, with the brightest smiles, "and
most sincerely wish them happy."
"You are materially changed since we talked on this subject before."
"I hope so—for at that time I was a fool."
"And I am changed also; for I am now very willing to grant you all
Harriet's good qualities. I have taken some pains for your sake, and for
Robert Martin's sake, (whom I have always had reason to believe as much in
love with her as ever,) to get acquainted with her. I have often talked to
her a good deal. You must have seen that I did. Sometimes, indeed, I have
thought you were half suspecting me of pleading poor Martin's cause, which
was never the case; but, from all my observations, I am convinced of her
being an artless, amiable girl, with very good notions, very seriously
good principles, and placing her happiness in the affections and utility
of domestic life.—Much of this, I have no doubt, she may thank you
"Me!" cried Emma, shaking her head.—"Ah! poor Harriet!"
She checked herself, however, and submitted quietly to a little more
praise than she deserved.
Their conversation was soon afterwards closed by the entrance of her
father. She was not sorry. She wanted to be alone. Her mind was in a state
of flutter and wonder, which made it impossible for her to be collected.
She was in dancing, singing, exclaiming spirits; and till she had moved
about, and talked to herself, and laughed and reflected, she could be fit
for nothing rational.
Her father's business was to announce James's being gone out to put the
horses to, preparatory to their now daily drive to Randalls; and she had,
therefore, an immediate excuse for disappearing.
The joy, the gratitude, the exquisite delight of her sensations may be
imagined. The sole grievance and alloy thus removed in the prospect of
Harriet's welfare, she was really in danger of becoming too happy for
security.—What had she to wish for? Nothing, but to grow more worthy
of him, whose intentions and judgment had been ever so superior to her
own. Nothing, but that the lessons of her past folly might teach her
humility and circumspection in future.
Serious she was, very serious in her thankfulness, and in her resolutions;
and yet there was no preventing a laugh, sometimes in the very midst of
them. She must laugh at such a close! Such an end of the doleful
disappointment of five weeks back! Such a heart—such a Harriet!
Now there would be pleasure in her returning—Every thing would be a
pleasure. It would be a great pleasure to know Robert Martin.
High in the rank of her most serious and heartfelt felicities, was the
reflection that all necessity of concealment from Mr. Knightley would soon
be over. The disguise, equivocation, mystery, so hateful to her to
practise, might soon be over. She could now look forward to giving him
that full and perfect confidence which her disposition was most ready to
welcome as a duty.
In the gayest and happiest spirits she set forward with her father; not
always listening, but always agreeing to what he said; and, whether in
speech or silence, conniving at the comfortable persuasion of his being
obliged to go to Randalls every day, or poor Mrs. Weston would be
They arrived.—Mrs. Weston was alone in the drawing-room:—but
hardly had they been told of the baby, and Mr. Woodhouse received the
thanks for coming, which he asked for, when a glimpse was caught through
the blind, of two figures passing near the window.
"It is Frank and Miss Fairfax," said Mrs. Weston. "I was just going to
tell you of our agreeable surprize in seeing him arrive this morning. He
stays till to-morrow, and Miss Fairfax has been persuaded to spend the day
with us.—They are coming in, I hope."
In half a minute they were in the room. Emma was extremely glad to see him—but
there was a degree of confusion—a number of embarrassing
recollections on each side. They met readily and smiling, but with a
consciousness which at first allowed little to be said; and having all sat
down again, there was for some time such a blank in the circle, that Emma
began to doubt whether the wish now indulged, which she had long felt, of
seeing Frank Churchill once more, and of seeing him with Jane, would yield
its proportion of pleasure. When Mr. Weston joined the party, however, and
when the baby was fetched, there was no longer a want of subject or
animation—or of courage and opportunity for Frank Churchill to draw
near her and say,
"I have to thank you, Miss Woodhouse, for a very kind forgiving message in
one of Mrs. Weston's letters. I hope time has not made you less willing to
pardon. I hope you do not retract what you then said."
"No, indeed," cried Emma, most happy to begin, "not in the least. I am
particularly glad to see and shake hands with you—and to give you
joy in person."
He thanked her with all his heart, and continued some time to speak with
serious feeling of his gratitude and happiness.
"Is not she looking well?" said he, turning his eyes towards Jane. "Better
than she ever used to do?—You see how my father and Mrs. Weston doat
But his spirits were soon rising again, and with laughing eyes, after
mentioning the expected return of the Campbells, he named the name of
Dixon.—Emma blushed, and forbade its being pronounced in her
"I can never think of it," she cried, "without extreme shame."
"The shame," he answered, "is all mine, or ought to be. But is it possible
that you had no suspicion?—I mean of late. Early, I know, you had
"I never had the smallest, I assure you."
"That appears quite wonderful. I was once very near—and I wish I had—it
would have been better. But though I was always doing wrong things, they
were very bad wrong things, and such as did me no service.—It would
have been a much better transgression had I broken the bond of secrecy and
told you every thing."
"It is not now worth a regret," said Emma.
"I have some hope," resumed he, "of my uncle's being persuaded to pay a
visit at Randalls; he wants to be introduced to her. When the Campbells
are returned, we shall meet them in London, and continue there, I trust,
till we may carry her northward.—But now, I am at such a distance
from her—is not it hard, Miss Woodhouse?—Till this morning, we
have not once met since the day of reconciliation. Do not you pity me?"
Emma spoke her pity so very kindly, that with a sudden accession of gay
thought, he cried,
"Ah! by the bye," then sinking his voice, and looking demure for the
moment—"I hope Mr. Knightley is well?" He paused.—She coloured
and laughed.—"I know you saw my letter, and think you may remember
my wish in your favour. Let me return your congratulations.—I assure
you that I have heard the news with the warmest interest and satisfaction.—He
is a man whom I cannot presume to praise."
Emma was delighted, and only wanted him to go on in the same style; but
his mind was the next moment in his own concerns and with his own Jane,
and his next words were,
"Did you ever see such a skin?—such smoothness! such delicacy!—and
yet without being actually fair.—One cannot call her fair. It is a
most uncommon complexion, with her dark eye-lashes and hair—a most
distinguishing complexion! So peculiarly the lady in it.—Just colour
enough for beauty."
"I have always admired her complexion," replied Emma, archly; "but do not
I remember the time when you found fault with her for being so pale?—When
we first began to talk of her.—Have you quite forgotten?"
"Oh! no—what an impudent dog I was!—How could I dare—"
But he laughed so heartily at the recollection, that Emma could not help
"I do suspect that in the midst of your perplexities at that time, you had
very great amusement in tricking us all.—I am sure you had.—I
am sure it was a consolation to you."
"Oh! no, no, no—how can you suspect me of such a thing? I was the
most miserable wretch!"
"Not quite so miserable as to be insensible to mirth. I am sure it was a
source of high entertainment to you, to feel that you were taking us all
in.—Perhaps I am the readier to suspect, because, to tell you the
truth, I think it might have been some amusement to myself in the same
situation. I think there is a little likeness between us."
"If not in our dispositions," she presently added, with a look of true
sensibility, "there is a likeness in our destiny; the destiny which bids
fair to connect us with two characters so much superior to our own."
"True, true," he answered, warmly. "No, not true on your side. You can
have no superior, but most true on mine.—She is a complete angel.
Look at her. Is not she an angel in every gesture? Observe the turn of her
throat. Observe her eyes, as she is looking up at my father.—You
will be glad to hear (inclining his head, and whispering seriously) that
my uncle means to give her all my aunt's jewels. They are to be new set. I
am resolved to have some in an ornament for the head. Will not it be
beautiful in her dark hair?"
"Very beautiful, indeed," replied Emma; and she spoke so kindly, that he
gratefully burst out,
"How delighted I am to see you again! and to see you in such excellent
looks!—I would not have missed this meeting for the world. I should
certainly have called at Hartfield, had you failed to come."
The others had been talking of the child, Mrs. Weston giving an account of
a little alarm she had been under, the evening before, from the infant's
appearing not quite well. She believed she had been foolish, but it had
alarmed her, and she had been within half a minute of sending for Mr.
Perry. Perhaps she ought to be ashamed, but Mr. Weston had been almost as
uneasy as herself.—In ten minutes, however, the child had been
perfectly well again. This was her history; and particularly interesting
it was to Mr. Woodhouse, who commended her very much for thinking of
sending for Perry, and only regretted that she had not done it. "She
should always send for Perry, if the child appeared in the slightest
degree disordered, were it only for a moment. She could not be too soon
alarmed, nor send for Perry too often. It was a pity, perhaps, that he had
not come last night; for, though the child seemed well now, very well
considering, it would probably have been better if Perry had seen it."
Frank Churchill caught the name.
"Perry!" said he to Emma, and trying, as he spoke, to catch Miss Fairfax's
eye. "My friend Mr. Perry! What are they saying about Mr. Perry?—Has
he been here this morning?—And how does he travel now?—Has he
set up his carriage?"
Emma soon recollected, and understood him; and while she joined in the
laugh, it was evident from Jane's countenance that she too was really
hearing him, though trying to seem deaf.
"Such an extraordinary dream of mine!" he cried. "I can never think of it
without laughing.—She hears us, she hears us, Miss Woodhouse. I see
it in her cheek, her smile, her vain attempt to frown. Look at her. Do not
you see that, at this instant, the very passage of her own letter, which
sent me the report, is passing under her eye—that the whole blunder
is spread before her—that she can attend to nothing else, though
pretending to listen to the others?"
Jane was forced to smile completely, for a moment; and the smile partly
remained as she turned towards him, and said in a conscious, low, yet
"How you can bear such recollections, is astonishing to me!—They will
sometimes obtrude—but how you can court them!"
He had a great deal to say in return, and very entertainingly; but Emma's
feelings were chiefly with Jane, in the argument; and on leaving Randalls,
and falling naturally into a comparison of the two men, she felt, that
pleased as she had been to see Frank Churchill, and really regarding him
as she did with friendship, she had never been more sensible of Mr.
Knightley's high superiority of character. The happiness of this most
happy day, received its completion, in the animated contemplation of his
worth which this comparison produced.