Emma (chapter 3,4&5)

Mr. Woodhouse was fond of society in his own way. He liked very much to have his friends come and see him; and from various united causes, from his long residence at Hartfield, and his good nature, from his fortune, his house, and his daughter, he could command the visits of his own little circle, in a great measure, as he liked.

Chapter 3

He had not much intercourse with any families beyond that circle; his horror of late hours, and large dinner parties, made him unfit for any acquaintance but such as would visit him on his own terms. Fortunately for him, Highbury, including Randalls in the same parish, and Donwell Abbey in the parish adjoining, the seat of Mr. Knightley, comprehended many such. Not infrequently, through Emma’s persuasion, he had some of the chosen and the best to dine with him: but evening parties were what he preferred; and, unless he fancied himself at any time unequal to company, there was scarcely an evening in the week in which Emma could not make up a card-table for him.

Real, long-standing regard brought the Westons and Mr. Knightley; and by Mr. Elton, a young man living alone without liking it, the privilege of exchanging any vacant evening of his own blank solitude for the elegancies and society of Mr. Woodhouse’s drawing-room and the smiles of his lovely daughter, was in no danger of being thrown away. After these came a second set; among the most come-at-able of whom were Mrs. and Miss Bates and Mrs. Goddard, three ladies almost always at the service of an invitation from Hartfield and who were fetched and carried home so often that Mr. Woodhouse thought it no hardship for either James or the horses. Had it taken place only once a year, it would have been a grievance.

Mrs. Bates, the widow of a former vicar of Highbury, was a very old lady, almost past everything but tea and quadrille. She lived with her single daughter in a very small way and was considered with all the regard and respect that a harmless old lady, under such untoward circumstances, can excite. Her daughter enjoyed a most uncommon degree of popularity for a woman neither young, handsome, rich, nor married. Miss Bates stood in the very worst predicament in the world for having much of the public favor, and she had no intellectual superiority to make atonement to herself or frighten those who might hate her into outward respect. She had never boasted of either beauty or cleverness.

Her youth had passed without distinction, and her middle life was devoted to the care of a failing mother and the endeavor to make a small income go as far as possible. And yet she was a happy woman and a woman whom no one named without goodwill. It was her own universal goodwill and contented temper which worked such wonders. She loved everybody, was interested in everybody’s happiness, quick-sighted to everybody’s merits; thought herself a most fortunate creature, and was surrounded with blessings in such an excellent mother, so many good neighbors and friends, and a home that she wanted for nothing. The simplicity and cheerfulness of her nature, her contented and grateful spirit, were a recommendation to everybody and a mine of felicity to herself. She was a great talker upon little matters, which exactly suited Mr. Woodhouse, full of trivial communications and harmless gossip.

Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a School — not of a seminary, or an establishment, or anything which professed, in long sentences of refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality, upon new principles and new systems — and where young ladies for enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity — but a real, honest, old-fashioned Boarding-school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments was sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way, and scramble themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies. Mrs. Goddard’s school was in high repute — and very deserving.

Chapter 4

Harriet Smith’s intimacy at Hartfield was soon a settled thing. Quick and decided in her ways, Emma lost no time in inviting, encouraging, and telling her to come very often, and as their acquaintance increased, so did their satisfaction in each other. As a walking companion, Emma had very early foreseen how useful she might find her. In that respect, Mrs. Weston’s loss had been important. Her father never went beyond the shrubbery, where two divisions of the ground sufficed him for his long walk, or his short, as the year varied, and since Mrs. Weston’s marriage, her exercise had been too much confined. She had ventured once alone to Randalls, but it was not pleasant; and a Harriet Smith, therefore, one whom she could summon at any time to a walk, would be a valuable addition to her privileges. But in every respect, as she saw more of her, she approved her and was confirmed in all her kind designs.

Harriet certainly was not clever, but she had a sweet, docile, grateful disposition, was totally free from conceit, and only desired to be guided by anyone she looked up to. Her early attachment to herself was very amiable, and her inclination for good company, and power of appreciating what was elegant and clever, shewed that there was no want of taste, though the strength of understanding must not be expected. Altogether she was quite convinced of Harriet Smith’s being exactly the young friend she wanted — exactly the something which her home required. Such a friend as Mrs. Weston was out of the question. Two such could never be granted. Two such she did not want. It was quite a different sort of thing, a sentiment distinct and independent. Mrs. Weston was the object of regard that had its basis in gratitude and esteem. Harriet would be loved as one to whom she could be useful. For Mrs. Weston, there was nothing to be done; for Harriet, thing.

Her first attempts at usefulness were in an endeavor to find out who the parents were, but Harriet could not tell. She was ready to tell everything in her power, but on this subject, questions were vain. Emma was obliged to fancy what she liked — but she could never believe that in the same situation, she should not have discovered the truth. Harriet had no penetration. She had been satisfied to hear and believe just what Mrs. Goddard chose to tell her and looked no farther.

Mrs. Goddard, and the teachers, and the girls, and the affairs of the school, in general, formed a great part of the conversation naturally — and but for her acquaintance with the Martins of Abbey-Mill Farm, it must have been the whole. But the Martins occupied her thoughts a good deal; she had spent two very happy months with them and now loved to talk of the pleasures of her visit and describe the many comforts and wonders of the place. Emma encouraged her talkativeness — amused by such a picture of another set of beings and enjoying the youthful simplicity which could speak with so much exultation of Mrs. Martin’s having “two parlors, two very good parlors, indeed; one of them quite as large as Mrs. Goddard’s drawing-room; and of her having an upper maid who had lived five-and-twenty years with her; and of their having eight cows, two of them Alderneys, and one a little Welch cow, a very pretty little Welch cow indeed; and of Mrs. Martin’s saying as she was so fond of it, it should be called her cow; and of their having a very handsome summer-house in their garden, where some day next year they were all to drink tea:— a very handsome summer-house, large enough to hold a dozen people.”

For some time, she was amused, without thinking beyond the immediate cause; but as she came to understand the family better, other feelings arose. She had taken up a wrong idea, fancying it was a mother and daughter, a son and son’s wife, who all lived together; but when it appeared that Mr. Martin, who bore a part in the narrative and was always mentioned with approbation for his great good-nature

Chapter 5

“I do not know what your opinion may be, Mrs. Weston,” said Mr. Knightley, “of this great intimacy between Emma and Harriet Smith, but I think it a bad thing.” “A bad thing! Do you really think it is a bad thing? — why so?” “I think they will neither of them do the other any good.” “You surprise me! Emma must do Harriet good: and by supplying her with a new object of interest, Harriet may be said to do Emma good. I have seen their intimacy with the greatest pleasure. How very differently we feel! — I do not think they will do each other any good! This will certainly be the beginning of one of our quarrels about Emma, Mr. Knightley.” “Perhaps you think I am come on purpose to quarrel with you, knowing Weston to be out, and that you must still fight your own battle.”

“Mr. Weston would undoubtedly support me if he were here, for he thinks exactly as I do on the subject. We were speaking of it only yesterday and agreed how fortunate it was for Emma that there should be such a girl in Highbury for her to associate with. Mr. Knightley, I shall not allow you to be a fair judge in this case. You are so much used to living alone that you do not know the value of a companion, and perhaps no man can be a good judge of the comfort a woman feels in the society of one of her own sex after being used to it all her life. I can imagine your objection to Harriet Smith. She is not the superior young woman which Emma’s friend ought to be. But on the other hand, as Emma wants to see her better informed, it will be an inducement to her to read more herself. They will read together. She means it, I know.”

“Emma has been meaning to read more ever since she was twelve years old. I have seen a great many lists of her drawing-up at various times of books that she meant to read regularly through — and very good lists they were — very well chosen and very neatly arranged — sometimes alphabetically, and sometimes by some other rule. The list she drew up when only fourteen — I remember thinking it did her judgment so much credit that I preserved it some time, and I dare say she may have made out a very good list now. But I have done with expecting any course of steady reading from Emma. She will never submit to anything requiring industry and patience and a subjection of the fancy to the understanding. Where Miss Taylor failed to stimulate, I may safely affirm that Harriet Smith will do nothing. — You never could persuade her to read half so much as you wish. — You know you could not.”

“I dare say,” replied Mrs. Weston, smiling, “that I thought so then — but since we have parted, I can never remember Emma’s omitting to do anything I wished.” “There is hardly any desiring to refresh such a memory as that,”— said Mr. Knightley, feelingly, and for a moment or two, he had done. “But I,” he soon added, “who have had no such charm thrown over my senses, must still see, hear, and remember. Emma is spoiled by being the cleverest of her family. At ten years old, she had the misfortune of being able to answer questions that puzzled her sister at seventeen. She was always quick and assured: Isabella was slow and diffident. And ever since she was twelve, Emma has been mistress of the house and of you all. In her mother, she lost the only person able to cope with her. She inherits her mother’s talents and must have been under subjection to her.”

“I should have been sorry, Mr. Knightley, to be dependent on your recommendation, had I quitted Mr. Woodhouse’s family and wanted another situation; I do not think you would have spoken a good word for me to anybody. I am sure you always thought me unfit for the office I held.” “Yes,” said he, smiling. “You are better placed here; very fit for a wife, but not at all for a governess. But you were preparing yourself to be an excellent wife all the time you were at Hartfield. You might not give Emma such a complete education as your power.

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