Emma was not sorrow 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 in 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 concerns 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 favorable 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 own 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: