Emma Woodhouse handsome clever and rich with a comfortable home
and happy disposition seemed to unite some of the best blessings
of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world
with very little to distress or vex her.
She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate
indulgent father; and had in consequence of her sister's marriage
been mistress of his house from a very early period. Her mother
had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct
remembrance of her caresses; and her place had been supplied
by an excellent woman as governess who had fallen little short
of a mother in affection.
Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse's family
less as a governess than a friend very fond of both daughters
but particularly of Emma. Between them it was more the intimacy
of sisters. Even before Miss Taylor had ceased to hold the nominal
office of governess the mildness of her temper had hardly allowed
her to impose any restraint; and the shadow of authority being
now long passed away they had been living together as friend and
friend very mutually attached and Emma doing just what she liked;
highly esteeming Miss Taylor's judgment but directed chiefly by
The real evils indeed of Emma's situation were the power of having
rather too much her own way and a disposition to think a little
too well of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened
alloy to her many enjoyments. The danger however was at present
so unperceived that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes
Sorrow came--a gentle sorrow--but not at all in the shape of any
disagreeable consciousness.--Miss Taylor married. It was Miss
Taylor's loss which first brought grief. It was on the wedding-day
of this beloved friend that Emma first sat in mournful thought
of any continuance. The wedding over and the bride-people gone
her father and herself were left to dine together with no prospect
of a third to cheer a long evening. Her father composed himself
to sleep after dinner as usual and she had then only to sit
and think of what she had lost.
The event had every promise of happiness for her friend. Mr. Weston
was a man of unexceptionable character easy fortune suitable age
and pleasant manners; and there was some satisfaction in considering
with what self-denying generous friendship she had always wished
and promoted the match; but it was a black morning's work for her.
The want of Miss Taylor would be felt every hour of every day.
She recalled her past kindness--the kindness the affection of sixteen
years--how she had taught and how she had played with her from five
years old--how she had devoted all her powers to attach and amuse
her in health--and how nursed her through the various illnesses
of childhood. A large debt of gratitude was owing here; but the
intercourse of the last seven years the equal footing and perfect
unreserve which had soon followed Isabella's marriage on their
being left to each other was yet a dearer tenderer recollection.
She had been a friend and companion such as few possessed: intelligent
well-informed useful gentle knowing all the ways of the family
interested in all its concerns and peculiarly interested in herself
in every pleasure every scheme of hers--one to whom she could speak
every thought as it arose and who had such an affection for her
as could never find fault.
How was she to bear the change?--It was true that her friend was
going only half a mile from them; but Emma was aware that great must
be the difference between a Mrs. Weston only half a mile from them
and a Miss Taylor in the house; and with all her advantages
natural and domestic she was now in great danger of suffering
from intellectual solitude. She dearly loved her father but he
was no companion for her. He could not meet her in conversation
rational or playful.
The evil of the actual disparity in their ages (and Mr. Woodhouse had
not married early) was much increased by his constitution and habits;
for having been a valetudinarian all his life without activity
of mind or body he was a much older man in ways than in years;
and though everywhere beloved for the friendliness of his heart
and his amiable temper his talents could not have recommended him
at any time.
Her sister though comparatively but little removed by matrimony
being settled in London only sixteen miles off was much beyond
her daily reach; and many a long October and November evening must
be struggled through at Hartfield before Christmas brought the next
visit from Isabella and her husband and their little children
to fill the house and give her pleasant society again.
Highbury the large and populous village almost amounting to a town
to which Hartfield in spite of its separate lawn and shrubberies
and name did really belong afforded her no equals. The Woodhouses
were first in consequence there. All looked up to them. She had
many acquaintance in the place for her father was universally civil
but not one among them who could be accepted in lieu of Miss
Taylor for even half a day. It was a melancholy change; and Emma
could not but sigh over it and wish for impossible things
till her father awoke and made it necessary to be cheerful.
His spirits required support. He was a nervous man easily depressed;
fond of every body that he was used to and hating to part with them;
hating change of every kind. Matrimony as the origin of change
was always disagreeable; and he was by no means yet reconciled
to his own daughter's marrying nor could ever speak of her but
with compassion though it had been entirely a match of affection
when he was now obliged to part with Miss Taylor too; and from
his habits of gentle selfishness and of being never able to
suppose that other people could feel differently from himself
he was very much disposed to think Miss Taylor had done as sad
a thing for herself as for them and would have been a great deal
happier if she had spent all the rest of her life at Hartfield.
Emma smiled and chatted as cheerfully as she could to keep him
from such thoughts; but when tea came it was impossible for him
not to say exactly as he had said at dinner
"Poor Miss Taylor!--I wish she were here again. What a pity it
is that Mr. Weston ever thought of her!"
"I cannot agree with you papa; you know I cannot. Mr. Weston is such
a good-humoured pleasant excellent man that he thoroughly deserves
a good wife;--and you would not have had Miss Taylor live with us
for ever and bear all my odd humours when she might have a house of her own?"
"A house of her own!--But where is the advantage of a house of her own?
This is three times as large.--And you have never any odd humours
"How often we shall be going to see them and they coming to see
us!--We shall be always meeting! We must begin; we must go and pay
wedding visit very soon."
"My dear how am I to get so far? Randalls is such a distance.
I could not walk half so far."
"No papa nobody thought of your walking. We must go in the carriage
to be sure."
"The carriage! But James will not like to put the horses to for
such a little way;--and where are the poor horses to be while we
are paying our visit?"
"They are to be put into Mr. Weston's stable papa. You know we
have settled all that already. We talked it all over with Mr. Weston
last night. And as for James you may be very sure he will always like
going to Randalls because of his daughter's being housemaid there.
I only doubt whether he will ever take us anywhere else. That was
your doing papa. You got Hannah that good place. Nobody thought
of Hannah till you mentioned her--James is so obliged to you!"
"I am very glad I did think of her. It was very lucky for I would
not have had poor James think himself slighted upon any account;
and I am sure she will make a very good servant: she is a civil
pretty-spoken girl; I have a great opinion of her. Whenever I see her
she always curtseys and asks me how I do in a very pretty manner;
and when you have had her here to do needlework I observe she
always turns the lock of the door the right way and never bangs it.
I am sure she will be an excellent servant; and it will be a great
comfort to poor Miss Taylor to have somebody about her that she is
used to see. Whenever James goes over to see his daughter you know
she will be hearing of us. He will be able to tell her how we
Emma spared no exertions to maintain this happier flow of ideas
and hoped by the help of backgammon to get her father tolerably
through the evening and be attacked by no regrets but her own.
The backgammon-table was placed; but a visitor immediately afterwards
walked in and made it unnecessary.
Mr. Knightley a sensible man about seven or eight-and-thirty was not
only a very old and intimate friend of the family but particularly
connected with it as the elder brother of Isabella's husband.
He lived about a mile from Highbury was a frequent visitor
and always welcome and at this time more welcome than usual
as coming directly from their mutual connexions in London. He had
returned to a late dinner after some days' absence and now walked
up to Hartfield to say that all were well in Brunswick Square.
It was a happy circumstance and animated Mr. Woodhouse for some time.
Mr. Knightley had a cheerful manner which always did him good;
and his many inquiries after "poor Isabella" and her children were
answered most satisfactorily. When this was over Mr. Woodhouse
gratefully observed "It is very kind of you Mr. Knightley to come
out at this late hour to call upon us. I am afraid you must have
had a shocking walk."
"Not at all sir. It is a beautiful moonlight night; and so mild
that I must draw back from your great fire."
"But you must have found it very damp and dirty. I wish you may
not catch cold."
"Dirty sir! Look at my shoes. Not a speck on them."
"Well! that is quite surprising for we have had a vast deal
of rain here. It rained dreadfully hard for half an hour
while we were at breakfast. I wanted them to put off the wedding."
"By the bye--I have not wished you joy. Being pretty well aware
of what sort of joy you must both be feeling I have been in no hurry
with my congratulations; but I hope it all went off tolerably well.
How did you all behave? Who cried most?"
"Ah! poor Miss Taylor! 'Tis a sad business."
"Poor Mr. and Miss Woodhouse if you please; but I cannot possibly
say `poor Miss Taylor.' I have a great regard for you and Emma;
but when it comes to the question of dependence or independence!--At
any rate it must be better to have only one to please than two."
"Especially when one of those two is such a fanciful troublesome creature!"
said Emma playfully. "That is what you have in your head
I know--and what you would certainly say if my father were not by."
"I believe it is very true my dear indeed" said Mr. Woodhouse
with a sigh. "I am afraid I am sometimes very fanciful and troublesome."
"My dearest papa! You do not think I could mean you or suppose
Mr. Knightley to mean you. What a horrible idea! Oh no! I meant
only myself. Mr. Knightley loves to find fault with me you know--
in a joke--it is all a joke. We always say what we like to one another."
Mr. Knightley in fact was one of the few people who could see
faults in Emma Woodhouse and the only one who ever told her of them:
and though this was not particularly agreeable to Emma herself
she knew it would be so much less so to her father that she would
not have him really suspect such a circumstance as her not being
thought perfect by every body.
"Emma knows I never flatter her" said Mr. Knightley "but I
meant no reflection on any body. Miss Taylor has been used
to have two persons to please; she will now have but one.
The chances are that she must be a gainer."
"Well" said Emma willing to let it pass--"you want to hear
about the wedding; and I shall be happy to tell you for we all
behaved charmingly. Every body was punctual every body in their
best looks: not a tear and hardly a long face to be seen. Oh no;
we all felt that we were going to be only half a mile apart
and were sure of meeting every day."
"Dear Emma bears every thing so well" said her father.
"But Mr. Knightley she is really very sorry to lose poor Miss Taylor
and I am sure she will miss her more than she thinks for."
Emma turned away her head divided between tears and smiles.
"It is impossible that Emma should not miss such a companion"
said Mr. Knightley. "We should not like her so well as we do sir
if we could suppose it; but she knows how much the marriage is to