4. CHAPTER IV
Had it been allowable entertainment, had there been no pain
to her friend, or reproach to herself, in the waverings of
Harriet's mind, Emma would have been amused by its variations.
Sometimes Mr. Elton predominated, sometimes the Martins; and each
was occasionally useful as a check to the other. Mr. Elton's
engagement had been the cure of the agitation of meeting Mr. Martin.
The unhappiness produced by the knowledge of that engagement had been
a little put aside by Elizabeth Martin's calling at Mrs. Goddard's
a few days afterwards. Harriet had not been at home; but a note had
been prepared and left for her, written in the very style to touch;
a small mixture of reproach, with a great deal of kindness;
and till Mr. Elton himself appeared, she had been much occupied
by it, continually pondering over what could be done in return,
and wishing to do more than she dared to confess. But Mr. Elton,
in person, had driven away all such cares. While he staid,
the Martins were forgotten; and on the very morning of his setting off
for Bath again, Emma, to dissipate some of the distress it occasioned,
judged it best for her to return Elizabeth Martin's visit.
How that visit was to be acknowledged--what would be necessary--
and what might be safest, had been a point of some doubtful
consideration. Absolute neglect of the mother and sisters,
when invited to come, would be ingratitude. It must not be:
and yet the danger of a renewal of the acquaintance!--
After much thinking, she could determine on nothing better, than Harriet's
returning the visit; but in a way that, if they had understanding,
should convince them that it was to be only a formal acquaintance.
She meant to take her in the carriage, leave her at the Abbey Mill,
while she drove a little farther, and call for her again so soon,
as to allow no time for insidious applications or dangerous
recurrences to the past, and give the most decided proof of what
degree of intimacy was chosen for the future.
She could think of nothing better: and though there was something
in it which her own heart could not approve--something of ingratitude,
merely glossed over--it must be done, or what would become of Harriet?