CHAP­TER XIX

Emma - - CONTENTS -

If Emma had still, at in­ter­vals, an anx­ious feel­ing for Har­riet, a mo­men­tary doubt of its be­ing pos­si­ble for her to be re­ally cured of her at­tach­ment to Mr. Knight­ley, and re­ally able to ac­cept an­other man from un­bi­ased in­cli­na­tion, it was not long that she had to suf­fer from the re­cur­rence of any such un­cer­tainty. A very few days brought the party from Lon­don, and she had no sooner an op­por­tu­nity of be­ing one hour alone with Har­riet, than she be­came per­fectly sat­is­fied—un­ac­count­able as it was!— that Robert Martin had thor­oughly sup­planted Mr. Knight­ley, and was now form­ing all her views of hap­pi­ness.

Har­riet was a lit­tle dis­tressed—did look a lit­tle fool­ish at first: but hav­ing once owned that she had been pre­sump­tu­ous and silly, and self-de­ceived, be­fore, her pain and con­fu­sion seemed to die away with the words, and leave her without a care for the past, and with the fullest ex­ul­ta­tion in the present and fu­ture; for, as to her friend's ap­pro­ba­tion, Emma had in­stantly re­moved every fear of that na­ture, by meet­ing her with the most un­qual­i­fied con­grat­u­la­tions.—Har­riet was most happy to give every par­tic­u­lar of the evening at Ast­ley's, and the din­ner the next day; she could dwell on it all with the ut­most de­light. But what did such par­tic­u­lars ex­plain?—The fact was, as Emma could now ac­knowl­edge, that Har­riet had al­ways liked Robert Martin; and that his con­tin­u­ing to love her had been ir­re­sistible.— Be­yond this, it must ever be un­in­tel­li­gi­ble to Emma.

The event, how­ever, was most joy­ful; and every day was giv­ing her fresh rea­son for think­ing so.—Har­riet's parent­age be­came known. She proved to be the daugh­ter of a trades­man, rich enough to af­ford her the com­fort­able main­te­nance which had ever been hers, and de­cent enough to have al­ways wished for con­ceal­ment.—Such was the blood of gen­til­ity which Emma had for­merly been so ready to vouch for!—It was likely to be as un­tainted, per­haps, as the blood of many a gentle­man: but what a con­nex­ion had she been pre­par­ing for Mr. Knight­ley—or for the Churchills—or even for Mr. El­ton!—The stain of il­le­git­i­macy, un­bleached by no­bil­ity or wealth, would have been a stain in­deed.

No ob­jec­tion was raised on the fa­ther's side; the young man was treated lib­er­ally; it was all as it should be: and as Emma be­came ac­quainted with Robert Martin, who was now in­tro­duced at Hart­field, she fully ac­knowl­edged in him all the ap­pear­ance of sense and worth which could bid fairest for her lit­tle friend. She had no doubt of Har­riet's hap­pi­ness with any good-tem­pered man; but with him, and in the home he of­fered, there would be the hope of more, of se­cu­rity, sta­bil­ity, and im­prove­ment. She would be placed in the midst of those who loved her, and who had bet­ter sense than her­self; re­tired enough for safety, and oc­cu­pied enough for cheer­ful­ness. She would be never led into temp­ta­tion, nor left for it to find her out. She would be re­spectable and happy; and Emma ad­mit­ted her to be the luck­i­est crea­ture in the world, to have cre­ated so steady and per­se­ver­ing an af­fec­tion in such a man;—or, if not quite the luck­i­est, to yield only to her­self.

Har­riet, nec­es­sar­ily drawn away by her en­gage­ments with the Martins, was less and less at Hart­field; which was not to be re­gret­ted.—The in­ti­macy be­tween her and Emma must sink; their friend­ship must change into a calmer sort of good­will; and, for­tu­nately, what ought to be, and must be, seemed al­ready be­gin­ning, and in the most grad­ual, nat­u­ral man­ner.

Be­fore the end of Septem­ber, Emma at­tended Har­riet to church, and saw her hand be­stowed on Robert Martin with so com­plete a sat­is­fac­tion, as no re­mem­brances, even con­nected with Mr. El­ton as he stood be­fore them, could im­pair.—Per­haps, in­deed, at that time she scarcely saw Mr. El­ton, but as the cler­gy­man whose bless­ing at the al­tar might next fall on her­self.— Robert Martin and Har­riet Smith, the lat­est cou­ple en­gaged of the three, were the first to be mar­ried.

Jane Fair­fax had al­ready quit­ted High­bury, and was re­stored to the com­forts of her beloved home with the Camp­bells.—The Mr. Churchills were also in town; and they were only wait­ing for Novem­ber.

The in­ter­me­di­ate month was the one fixed on, as far as they dared, by Emma and Mr. Knight­ley.—They had de­ter­mined that their mar­riage ought to be con­cluded while John and Is­abella were still at Hart­field, to al­low them the fort­night's ab­sence in a tour to the sea­side, which was the plan.— John and Is­abella, and every other friend, were agreed in ap­prov­ing it. But Mr. Wood­house—how was Mr. Wood­house to be in­duced to con­sent?—he, who had never yet al­luded to their mar­riage but as a dis­tant event.

When first sounded on the sub­ject, he was so mis­er­able, that they were al­most hope­less.—A sec­ond al­lu­sion, in­deed, gave less pain.—He be­gan to think it was to be, and that he could not pre­vent it—a very promis­ing step of the mind on its way to res­ig­na­tion. Still, how­ever, he was not happy. Nay, he ap­peared so much oth­er­wise, that his daugh­ter's courage failed. She could not bear to see him suf­fer­ing, to know him fan­cy­ing him­self ne­glected; and though her un­der­stand­ing al­most ac­qui­esced in the as­sur­ance of both the Mr. Knight­leys, that when once the event were over, his dis­tress would be soon over too, she hes­i­tated—she could not pro­ceed.

In this state of sus­pense they were be­friended, not by any sud­den il­lu­mi­na­tion of Mr. Wood­house's mind, or any won­der­ful change of his ner­vous sys­tem, but by the op­er­a­tion of the same sys­tem in an­other way.— Mrs. We­ston's poul­try-house was robbed one night of all her tur­keys— ev­i­dently by the in­ge­nu­ity of man. Other poul­try-yards in the neigh­bour­hood also suf­fered.—Pil­fer­ing was house­break­ing to Mr. Wood­house's fears.—He was very un­easy; and but for the sense of his sonin-law's pro­tec­tion, would have been un­der wretched alarm every night of his life. The strength, res­o­lu­tion, and pres­ence of mind of the Mr. Knight­leys, com­manded his fullest de­pen­dence. While ei­ther of them pro­tected him and his, Hart­field was safe.—But Mr. John Knight­ley must be in Lon­don again by the end of the first week in Novem­ber.

The re­sult of this dis­tress was, that, with a much more vol­un­tary, cheer­ful con­sent than his daugh­ter had ever pre­sumed to hope for at the mo­ment, she was able to fix her wed­ding-day—and Mr. El­ton was called on, within a month from the mar­riage of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Martin, to join the hands of Mr. Knight­ley and Miss Wood­house.

The wed­ding was very much like other wed­dings, where the par­ties have no taste for fin­ery or pa­rade; and Mrs. El­ton, from the par­tic­u­lars de­tailed by her hus­band, thought it all ex­tremely shabby, and very in­fe­rior to her own.—“Very lit­tle white satin, very few lace veils; a most piti­ful busi­ness! —Selina would stare when she heard of it.”—But, in spite of these de­fi­cien­cies, the wishes, the hopes, the con­fi­dence, the pre­dic­tions of the small band of true friends who wit­nessed the cer­e­mony, were fully an­swered in the per­fect hap­pi­ness of the union.

FINIS

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from International

© PressReader. All rights reserved.