The very day of Mr. Elton's going to London produced a fresh occasion for
Emma's services towards her friend. Harriet had been at Hartfield, as usual, soon
after breakfast; and, after a time, had gone home to return again to dinner: she
returned, and sooner than had been talked of, and with an agitated, hurried look,
announcing something extraordinary to have happened which she was longing to
tell. Half a minute brought it all out. She had heard, as soon as she got back to
Mrs. Goddard's, that Mr. Martin had been there an hour before, and finding she
was not at home, nor particularly expected, had left a little parcel for her from one
of his sisters, and gone away; and on opening this parcel, she had actually
found, besides the two songs which she had lent Elizabeth to copy, a letter to
herself; and this letter was from him, from Mr. Martin, and contained a direct
proposal of marriage. "Who could have thought it? She was so surprised she did
not know what to do. Yes, quite a proposal of marriage; and a very good letter, at
least she thought so. And he wrote as if he really loved her very much--but she
did not know--and so, she was come as fast as she could to ask Miss
Woodhouse what she should do.--" Emma was half-ashamed of her friend for
seeming so pleased and so doubtful.
"Upon my word," she cried, "the young man is determined not to lose any thing
for want of asking. He will connect himself well if he can."
"Will you read the letter?" cried Harriet. "Pray do. I'd rather you would."
Emma was not sorry to be pressed. She read, and was surprised. 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
"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?"