Emma eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 596 pages of information about Emma.

“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.”

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Emma from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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