The stupidest fellow! He was afraid not even Miss Woodhouse"--he stopt a moment--"or Miss Smith could inspire him."
The very next day however produced some proof of inspiration. He called for a few moments, just to leave a piece of paper on the table containing, as he said, a charade, which a friend of his had addressed to a young lady, the object of his admiration, but which, from his manner, Emma was immediately convinced must be his own.
"I do not offer it for Miss Smith's collection," said he. "Being my friend's, I have no right to expose it in any degree to the public eye, but perhaps you may not dislike looking at it."
The speech was more to Emma than to Harriet, which Emma could understand. There was deep consciousness about him, and he found it easier to meet her eye than her friend's. He was gone the next moment:--after another moment's pause,
"Take it," said Emma, smiling, and pushing the paper towards Harriet--"it is for you. Take your own."
But Harriet was in a tremor, and could not touch it; and Emma, never loth to be first, was obliged to examine it herself.
My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings, Lords of the earth! their luxury and ease. Another view of man, my second brings, Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!
But ah! united, what reverse we have! Man's boasted power and freedom, all are flown; Lord of the earth and sea, he bends a slave, And woman, lovely woman, reigns alone.
Thy ready wit the word will soon supply, May its approval beam in that soft eye!
She cast her eye over it, pondered, caught the meaning, read it through again to be quite certain, and quite mistress of the lines, and then passing it to Harriet, sat happily smiling, and saying to herself, while Harriet was puzzling over the paper in all the confusion of hope and dulness, "Very well, Mr. Elton, very well indeed. I have read worse charades. _Courtship_--a very good hint. I give you credit for it. This is feeling your way. This is saying very plainly--`Pray, Miss Smith, give me leave to pay my addresses to you. Approve my charade and my intentions in the same glance.'
May its approval beam in that soft eye!
Harriet exactly. Soft is the very word for her eye--of all epithets, the justest that could be given.
Thy ready wit the word will soon supply.
Humph--Harriet's ready wit! All the better. A man must be very much in love, indeed, to describe her so. Ah! Mr. Knightley, I wish you had the benefit of this; I think this would convince you. For once in your life you would be obliged to own yourself mistaken. An excellent charade indeed! and very much to the purpose. Things must come to a crisis soon now.
She was obliged to break off from these very pleasant observations, which were otherwise of a sort to run into great length, by the eagerness of Harriet's wondering questions.
"What can it be, Miss Woodhouse?--what can it be? I have not an idea--I cannot guess it in the least. What can it possibly be? Do try to find it out, Miss Woodhouse. Do help me. I never saw any thing so hard. Is it kingdom? I wonder who the friend was--and who could be the young lady. Do you think it is a good one? Can it be woman?
And woman, lovely woman, reigns alone.
Can it be Neptune?
Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!
Or a trident? or a mermaid? or a shark? Oh, no! shark is only one syllable. It must be very clever, or he would not have brought it. Oh! Miss Woodhouse, do you think we shall ever find it out?"
"Mermaids and sharks! Nonsense! My dear Harriet, what are you thinking of? Where would be the use of his bringing us a charade made by a friend upon a mermaid or a shark? Give me the paper and listen.
For Miss ----------, read Miss Smith.
My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings, Lords of the earth! their luxury and ease.
That is _court_.
Another view of man, my second brings; Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!
That is _ship_;--plain as it can be.--Now for the cream.