Persuasions #10, 1988 Page 49
Report on Persuasions Competition 1988
Readers were invited to respond to the question, “What did Emma say?” when Mr. Knightley proposed marriage to her. The judges were Henry G. Burke, a founder of JASNA, and Joan N. Brantz, a member of this Board of Directors. The identity of the competitors was not known to the judges until after the decision was reached. The winner is Elizabeth Gardner and the runner up is Elizabeth F. Buckley, Buffalo, N.Y.
“She spoke then, on being so entreated. What did she say?”
“Mr. Knightley,” she said, “Mr. Knightley, …” She could not proceed: neither voice nor countenance would be controlled. Yet she must not leave him in this suspense; such a request, such a declaration, required an immediate answer. Her fingers quivered involuntarily where he had drawn them within his arm. The slight movement might have told him that he need not despair, and emboldened him to speak again, but before he had time to do so Emma had contrived in some measure to master her agitation, and now forced herself to speak.
“Mr, Knightley,” she said unsteadily, “you have always been one of my wisest and dearest friends – you honour me now much beyond my desserts – there is no one whose good opinion I value more highly, no one whose presence at all times is more grateful to me …” She could say no more, but it had been enough. He again assured her, and with increased warmth, of the sincerity and depth of his affection.
“But I fear, my dearest Emma,” he added, as still shaken by her emotion she resolutely kept her face hidden, “that something troubles you. Indeed, I thought you reluctant to hear me at first, as though you had already guessed what I would say and wished to spare me the pain of a refusal. Will not you now look up? May not I see in your face some confirmation of the hope you have just now given me?” She must look up now, and brought herself to do so, meeting his glowing eyes with a look of such open candour, such serious and heartfelt affection, that he could no longer doubt his own happiness.
“Mr. Knightley,” she said, “It is only lately that I have begun to understand my own heart, and to know that your regard, your friendship, have always been my dearest and most precious blessings, and that my affections have long been yours, far longer than I had ever dreamed. All that troubles me,” she added, trying to smile and even to laugh through the tears which would persist in filling her eyes, “is regret for my own past foolishness and lack of understanding, and I fear that that will be all too easily forgotten while you praise me so delightfully, and make me out to be a woman of sense and judgement. But are you quite, quite sure, that you can desire such a freakish and fanciful creature to be your wife?”
“Nonsensical girl!” exclaimed Mr. Knightley, smiling.
* * *
Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; …