“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 friends, and older than yourself, to say thus much to you. But do not imagine that I want to influence you.”

“Oh! no, I am sure you are a great deal too kind to–but if you would just advise me what I had best do–No, no, I do not mean that–As you say, one’s mind ought to be quite made up–One should not be hesitating–It is a very serious thing.–it will be safer to say “No,” perhaps,–Do you think I had better say ‘No?’”

“Not for the world,” said Emma, smiling graciously, “would I advise you either way. You must be the best judge of your own happiness. If you prefer Mr. Martin to every other person; if you think him the most agreeable man you have ever been in company with, why should you hesitate? You blush, Harriet.–Does any body else occur to you at this moment under such a definition? Harriet, Harriet, do not deceive yourself; do not be run away with by gratitude and compassion. At this moment whom are you thinking of?”

The symptoms were favourable.–Instead of answering, Harriet turned away confused, and stood thoughtfully by the fire; and though the letter was still in her hand, it was now mechanically twisted about without regard. Emma waited the result with impatience, but not without strong hopes. At last, with some hesitation, Harriet said–

“Miss Woodhouse, as you will not give me your opinion, I must do as well as I can by myself; and I have now quite determined, and really almost made


up my mind–to refuse Mr. Martin. Do you think I am right?”

“Perfectly, perfectly right, my dearest Harriet; you are doing just what you ought. While you were at all in suspense I kept my feelings to myself, but now that you are so completely decided I have no hesitation in approving. Dear Harriet, I give myself joy of this. It would have grieved me to lose your acquaintance, which must have been the consequence of your marrying Mr. Martin. While you were in the smallest degree wavering, I said nothing about it, because I would not influence; but it would have been the loss of a friend to me. I could not have visited Mrs. Robert Martin, of Abbey-Mill Farm. Now I am sure of you for ever.”

Harriet had not surmised her own danger, but the idea of it struck her forcibly.

“You could not have visited me!” she cried, looking aghast. “No, to be sure you could not; but I never thought of that before. That would have been too dreadful!–What an escape!–Dear Miss Woodhouse, I would not have given up the pleasure and honour of being intimate with you for any thing in the world.”

“Indeed, Harriet, it would have been a severe pang to lose you; but it must have been. You would have thrown yourself out of all good society. I must have given you up.”

“Dear me!–How should I have ever borne it? It would have killed me to never come to Hartfield any more!”

“Dear affectionate creature!–You banished to Abbey-Mill Farm!–You confined in the society of the illiterate and vulgar all your life! I wonder how the young man could have the assurance to ask it. He must have a pretty good opinion of himself.”

vol. i F