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  • VOLUME I

  • CHAPTER X

  • Though now the middle of December, there had yet been no weather to prevent the

  • young ladies from tolerably regular exercise; and on the morrow, Emma had a

  • charitable visit to pay to a poor sick

  • family, who lived a little way out of Highbury.

  • Their road to this detached cottage was down Vicarage Lane, a lane leading at right

  • angles from the broad, though irregular, main street of the place; and, as may be

  • inferred, containing the blessed abode of Mr. Elton.

  • A few inferior dwellings were first to be passed, and then, about a quarter of a mile

  • down the lane rose the Vicarage, an old and not very good house, almost as close to the

  • road as it could be.

  • It had no advantage of situation; but had been very much smartened up by the present

  • proprietor; and, such as it was, there could be no possibility of the two friends

  • passing it without a slackened pace and observing eyes.--Emma's remark was--

  • "There it is. There go you and your riddle-book one of

  • these days."--Harriet's was--

  • "Oh, what a sweet house!--How very beautiful!--There are the yellow curtains

  • that Miss Nash admires so much."

  • "I do not often walk this way now," said Emma, as they proceeded, "but then there

  • will be an inducement, and I shall gradually get intimately acquainted with

  • all the hedges, gates, pools and pollards of this part of Highbury."

  • Harriet, she found, had never in her life been within side the Vicarage, and her

  • curiosity to see it was so extreme, that, considering exteriors and probabilities,

  • Emma could only class it, as a proof of

  • love, with Mr. Elton's seeing ready wit in her.

  • "I wish we could contrive it," said she; "but I cannot think of any tolerable

  • pretence for going in;--no servant that I want to inquire about of his housekeeper--

  • no message from my father."

  • She pondered, but could think of nothing. After a mutual silence of some minutes,

  • Harriet thus began again--

  • "I do so wonder, Miss Woodhouse, that you should not be married, or going to be

  • married! so charming as you are!"-- Emma laughed, and replied,

  • "My being charming, Harriet, is not quite enough to induce me to marry; I must find

  • other people charming--one other person at least.

  • And I am not only, not going to be married, at present, but have very little intention

  • of ever marrying at all." "Ah!--so you say; but I cannot believe it."

  • "I must see somebody very superior to any one I have seen yet, to be tempted; Mr.

  • Elton, you know, (recollecting herself,) is out of the question: and I do not wish to

  • see any such person.

  • I would rather not be tempted. I cannot really change for the better.

  • If I were to marry, I must expect to repent it."

  • "Dear me!--it is so odd to hear a woman talk so!"--

  • "I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry.

  • Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing! but I never have been in

  • love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.

  • And, without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such a situation as mine.

  • Fortune I do not want; employment I do not want; consequence I do not want: I believe

  • few married women are half as much mistress of their husband's house as I am of

  • Hartfield; and never, never could I expect

  • to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right in any man's

  • eyes as I am in my father's." "But then, to be an old maid at last, like

  • Miss Bates!"

  • "That is as formidable an image as you could present, Harriet; and if I thought I

  • should ever be like Miss Bates! so silly-- so satisfied--so smiling--so prosing--so

  • undistinguishing and unfastidious--and so

  • apt to tell every thing relative to every body about me, I would marry to-morrow.

  • But between us, I am convinced there never can be any likeness, except in being

  • unmarried."

  • "But still, you will be an old maid! and that's so dreadful!"

  • "Never mind, Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty only which

  • makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public!

  • A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old

  • maid! the proper sport of boys and girls, but a single woman, of good fortune, is

  • always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as any body else.

  • And the distinction is not quite so much against the candour and common sense of the

  • world as appears at first; for a very narrow income has a tendency to contract

  • the mind, and sour the temper.

  • Those who can barely live, and who live perforce in a very small, and generally

  • very inferior, society, may well be illiberal and cross.

  • This does not apply, however, to Miss Bates; she is only too good natured and too

  • silly to suit me; but, in general, she is very much to the taste of every body,

  • though single and though poor.

  • Poverty certainly has not contracted her mind: I really believe, if she had only a

  • shilling in the world, she would be very likely to give away sixpence of it; and

  • nobody is afraid of her: that is a great charm."

  • "Dear me! but what shall you do? how shall you employ yourself when you grow old?"

  • "If I know myself, Harriet, mine is an active, busy mind, with a great many

  • independent resources; and I do not perceive why I should be more in want of

  • employment at forty or fifty than one-and- twenty.

  • Woman's usual occupations of hand and mind will be as open to me then as they are now;

  • or with no important variation.

  • If I draw less, I shall read more; if I give up music, I shall take to carpet-work.

  • And as for objects of interest, objects for the affections, which is in truth the great

  • point of inferiority, the want of which is really the great evil to be avoided in

  • not marrying, I shall be very well off,

  • with all the children of a sister I love so much, to care about.

  • There will be enough of them, in all probability, to supply every sort of

  • sensation that declining life can need.

  • There will be enough for every hope and every fear; and though my attachment to

  • none can equal that of a parent, it suits my ideas of comfort better than what is

  • warmer and blinder.

  • My nephews and nieces!--I shall often have a niece with me."

  • "Do you know Miss Bates's niece? That is, I know you must have seen her a

  • hundred times--but are you acquainted?"

  • "Oh! yes; we are always forced to be acquainted whenever she comes to Highbury.

  • By the bye, that is almost enough to put one out of conceit with a niece.

  • Heaven forbid! at least, that I should ever bore people half so much about all the

  • Knightleys together, as she does about Jane Fairfax.

  • One is sick of the very name of Jane Fairfax.

  • Every letter from her is read forty times over; her compliments to all friends go

  • round and round again; and if she does but send her aunt the pattern of a stomacher,

  • or knit a pair of garters for her

  • grandmother, one hears of nothing else for a month.

  • I wish Jane Fairfax very well; but she tires me to death."

  • They were now approaching the cottage, and all idle topics were superseded.

  • Emma was very compassionate; and the distresses of the poor were as sure of

  • relief from her personal attention and kindness, her counsel and her patience, as

  • from her purse.

  • She understood their ways, could allow for their ignorance and their temptations, had

  • no romantic expectations of extraordinary virtue from those for whom education had

  • done so little; entered into their troubles

  • with ready sympathy, and always gave her assistance with as much intelligence as

  • good-will.

  • In the present instance, it was sickness and poverty together which she came to

  • visit; and after remaining there as long as she could give comfort or advice, she

  • quitted the cottage with such an impression

  • of the scene as made her say to Harriet, as they walked away,

  • "These are the sights, Harriet, to do one good.

  • How trifling they make every thing else appear!--I feel now as if I could think of

  • nothing but these poor creatures all the rest of the day; and yet, who can say how

  • soon it may all vanish from my mind?"

  • "Very true," said Harriet. "Poor creatures! one can think of nothing

  • else."

  • "And really, I do not think the impression will soon be over," said Emma, as she

  • crossed the low hedge, and tottering footstep which ended the narrow, slippery

  • path through the cottage garden, and brought them into the lane again.

  • "I do not think it will," stopping to look once more at all the outward wretchedness

  • of the place, and recall the still greater within.

  • "Oh! dear, no," said her companion.

  • They walked on. The lane made a slight bend; and when that

  • bend was passed, Mr. Elton was immediately in sight; and so near as to give Emma time

  • only to say farther,

  • "Ah! Harriet, here comes a very sudden trial of our stability in good thoughts.

  • Well, (smiling,) I hope it may be allowed that if compassion has produced exertion

  • and relief to the sufferers, it has done all that is truly important.

  • If we feel for the wretched, enough to do all we can for them, the rest is empty

  • sympathy, only distressing to ourselves." Harriet could just answer, "Oh! dear, yes,"

  • before the gentleman joined them.

  • The wants and sufferings of the poor family, however, were the first subject on

  • meeting. He had been going to call on them.

  • His visit he would now defer; but they had a very interesting parley about what could

  • be done and should be done. Mr. Elton then turned back to accompany

  • them.

  • "To fall in with each other on such an errand as this," thought Emma; "to meet in

  • a charitable scheme; this will bring a great increase of love on each side.

  • I should not wonder if it were to bring on the declaration.

  • It must, if I were not here. I wish I were anywhere else."

  • Anxious to separate herself from them as far as she could, she soon afterwards took

  • possession of a narrow footpath, a little raised on one side of the lane, leaving

  • them together in the main road.

  • But she had not been there two minutes when she found that Harriet's habits of

  • dependence and imitation were bringing her up too, and that, in short, they would both

  • be soon after her.

  • This would not do; she immediately stopped, under pretence of having some alteration to

  • make in the lacing of her half-boot, and stooping down in complete occupation of the

  • footpath, begged them to have the goodness

  • to walk on, and she would follow in half a minute.

  • They did as they were desired; and by the time she judged it reasonable to have done

  • with her boot, she had the comfort of farther delay in her power, being overtaken

  • by a child from the cottage, setting out,

  • according to orders, with her pitcher, to fetch broth from Hartfield.

  • To walk by the side of this child, and talk to and question her, was the most natural

  • thing in the world, or would have been the most natural, had she been acting just then

  • without design; and by this means the

  • others were still able to keep ahead, without any obligation of waiting for her.

  • She gained on them, however, involuntarily: the child's pace was quick, and theirs

  • rather slow; and she was the more concerned at it, from their being evidently in a

  • conversation which interested them.

  • Mr. Elton was speaking with animation, Harriet listening with a very pleased

  • attention; and Emma, having sent the child on, was beginning to think how she might

  • draw back a little more, when they both

  • looked around, and she was obliged to join them.

  • Mr. Elton was still talking, still engaged in some interesting detail; and Emma

  • experienced some disappointment when she found that he was only giving his fair

  • companion an account of the yesterday's

  • party at his friend Cole's, and that she was come in herself for the Stilton cheese,

  • the north Wiltshire, the butter, the celery, the beet-root, and all the dessert.

  • "This would soon have led to something better, of course," was her consoling

  • reflection; "any thing interests between those who love; and any thing will serve as

  • introduction to what is near the heart.

  • If I could but have kept longer away!"

  • They now walked on together quietly, till within view of the vicarage pales, when a

  • sudden resolution, of at least getting Harriet into the house, made her again find

  • something very much amiss about her boot, and fall behind to arrange it once more.

  • She then broke the lace off short, and dexterously throwing it into a ditch, was

  • presently obliged to entreat them to stop, and acknowledged her inability to put

  • herself to rights so as to be able to walk home in tolerable comfort.

  • "Part of my lace is gone," said she, "and I do not know how I am to contrive.

  • I really am a most troublesome companion to you both, but I hope I am not often so ill-

  • equipped.

  • Mr. Elton, I must beg leave to stop at your house, and ask your housekeeper for a bit

  • of ribband or string, or any thing just to keep my boot on."

  • Mr. Elton looked all happiness at this proposition; and nothing could exceed his

  • alertness and attention in conducting them into his house and endeavouring to make

  • every thing appear to advantage.

  • The room they were taken into was the one he chiefly occupied, and looking forwards;

  • behind it was another with which it immediately communicated; the door between

  • them was open, and Emma passed into it with

  • the housekeeper to receive her assistance in the most comfortable manner.

  • She was obliged to leave the door ajar as she found it; but she fully intended that

  • Mr. Elton should close it.

  • It was not closed, however, it still remained ajar; but by engaging the

  • housekeeper in incessant conversation, she hoped to make it practicable for him to

  • chuse his own subject in the adjoining room.

  • For ten minutes she could hear nothing but herself.

  • It could be protracted no longer.

  • She was then obliged to be finished, and make her appearance.

  • The lovers were standing together at one of the windows.

  • It had a most favourable aspect; and, for half a minute, Emma felt the glory of

  • having schemed successfully. But it would not do; he had not come to the

  • point.

  • He had been most agreeable, most delightful; he had told Harriet that he had

  • seen them go by, and had purposely followed them; other little gallantries and

  • allusions had been dropt, but nothing serious.

  • "Cautious, very cautious," thought Emma; "he advances inch by inch, and will hazard

  • nothing till he believes himself secure."

  • Still, however, though every thing had not been accomplished by her ingenious device,

  • she could not but flatter herself that it had been the occasion of much present

  • enjoyment to both, and must be leading them forward to the great event.

  • >

  • VOLUME I

  • CHAPTER XI

  • Mr. Elton must now be left to himself. It was no longer in Emma's power to

  • superintend his happiness or quicken his measures.

  • The coming of her sister's family was so very near at hand, that first in

  • anticipation, and then in reality, it became henceforth her prime object of

  • interest; and during the ten days of their

  • stay at Hartfield it was not to be expected--she did not herself expect--that

  • any thing beyond occasional, fortuitous assistance could be afforded by her to the

  • lovers.

  • They might advance rapidly if they would, however; they must advance somehow or other

  • whether they would or no. She hardly wished to have more leisure for

  • them.

  • There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they