"I do not know what your opinion may be, Mrs. Weston," said Mr. Knightley, "o_his great intimacy between Emma and Harriet Smith, but I think it a ba_hing."
"A bad thing! Do you really think it a bad thing?—why so?"
"I think they will neither of them do the other any good."
"You surprize me! Emma must do Harriet good: and by supplying her with a ne_bject of interest, Harriet may be said to do Emma good. I have been seein_heir intimacy with the greatest pleasure. How very differently we feel!—No_hink they will do each other any good! This will certainly be the beginnin_f one of our quarrels about Emma, Mr. Knightley."
"Perhaps you think I am come on purpose to quarrel with you, knowing Weston t_e out, and that you must still fight your own battle."
"Mr. Weston would undoubtedly support me, if he were here, for he think_xactly as I do on the subject. We were speaking of it only yesterday, an_greeing how fortunate it was for Emma, that there should be such a girl i_ighbury for her to associate with. Mr. Knightley, I shall not allow you to b_ fair judge in this case. You are so much used to live alone, that you do no_now the value of a companion; and, perhaps no man can be a good judge of th_omfort a woman feels in the society of one of her own sex, after being use_o it all her life. I can imagine your objection to Harriet Smith. She is no_he superior young woman which Emma's friend ought to be. But on the othe_and, as Emma wants to see her better informed, it will be an inducement t_er 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. _ave seen a great many lists of her drawing-up at various times of books tha_he meant to read regularly through—and very good lists they were—very wel_hosen, and very neatly arranged—sometimes alphabetically, and sometimes b_ome other rule. The list she drew up when only fourteen—I remember thinkin_t did her judgment so much credit, that I preserved it some time; and I dar_ay she may have made out a very good list now. But I have done with expectin_ny course of steady reading from Emma. She will never submit to any thin_equiring industry and patience, and a subjection of the fancy to th_nderstanding. Where Miss Taylor failed to stimulate, I may safely affirm tha_arriet Smith will do nothing.—You never could persuade her to read half s_uch as you wished.—You know you could not."
"I dare say," replied Mrs. Weston, smiling, "that I thought so then;—but sinc_e have parted, I can never remember Emma's omitting to do any thing _ished."
"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 soo_dded, "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. A_en years old, she had the misfortune of being able to answer questions whic_uzzled her sister at seventeen. She was always quick and assured: Isabell_low and diffident. And ever since she was twelve, Emma has been mistress o_he house and of you all. In her mother she lost the only person able to cop_ith her. She inherits her mother's talents, and must have been unde_ubjection to her."
"I should have been sorry, Mr. Knightley, to be dependent on you_ecommendation, had I quitted Mr. Woodhouse's family and wanted anothe_ituation; I do not think you would have spoken a good word for me to an_ody. 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, bu_ot at all for a governess. But you were preparing yourself to be an excellen_ife all the time you were at Hartfield. You might not give Emma such _omplete education as your powers would seem to promise; but you wer_eceiving a very good education from her, on the very material matrimonia_oint of submitting your own will, and doing as you were bid; and if Westo_ad asked me to recommend him a wife, I should certainly have named Mis_aylor."
"Thank you. There will be very little merit in making a good wife to such _an as Mr. Weston."
"Why, to own the truth, I am afraid you are rather thrown away, and that wit_very disposition to bear, there will be nothing to be borne. We will no_espair, however. Weston may grow cross from the wantonness of comfort, or hi_on may plague him."
"I hope not that.—It is not likely. No, Mr. Knightley, do not foretel_exation from that quarter."
"Not I, indeed. I only name possibilities. I do not pretend to Emma's geniu_or foretelling and guessing. I hope, with all my heart, the young man may b_ Weston in merit, and a Churchill in fortune.—But Harriet Smith—I have no_alf done about Harriet Smith. I think her the very worst sort of companio_hat Emma could possibly have. She knows nothing herself, and looks upon Emm_s knowing every thing. She is a flatterer in all her ways; and so much th_orse, because undesigned. Her ignorance is hourly flattery. How can Emm_magine she has any thing to learn herself, while Harriet is presenting such _elightful inferiority? And as for Harriet, I will venture to say that sh_annot gain by the acquaintance. Hartfield will only put her out of concei_ith all the other places she belongs to. She will grow just refined enough t_e uncomfortable with those among whom birth and circumstances have placed he_ome. I am much mistaken if Emma's doctrines give any strength of mind, o_end at all to make a girl adapt herself rationally to the varieties of he_ituation in life.—They only give a little polish."
"I either depend more upon Emma's good sense than you do, or am more anxiou_or her present comfort; for I cannot lament the acquaintance. How well sh_ooked last night!"
"Oh! you would rather talk of her person than her mind, would you? Very well;
I shall not attempt to deny Emma's being pretty."
"Pretty! say beautiful rather. Can you imagine any thing nearer perfect beaut_han Emma altogether—face and figure?"
"I do not know what I could imagine, but I confess that I have seldom seen _ace or figure more pleasing to me than hers. But I am a partial old friend."
"Such an eye!—the true hazle eye—and so brilliant! regular features, ope_ountenance, with a complexion! oh! what a bloom of full health, and such _retty height and size; such a firm and upright figure! There is health, no_erely in her bloom, but in her air, her head, her glance. One hears sometime_f a child being `the picture of health;' now, Emma always gives me the ide_f being the complete picture of grown-up health. She is loveliness itself.
Mr. Knightley, is not she?"
"I have not a fault to find with her person," he replied. "I think her all yo_escribe. I love to look at her; and I will add this praise, that I do no_hink her personally vain. Considering how very handsome she is, she appear_o be little occupied with it; her vanity lies another way. Mrs. Weston, I a_ot to be talked out of my dislike of Harriet Smith, or my dread of its doin_hem both harm."
"And I, Mr. Knightley, am equally stout in my confidence of its not doing the_ny harm. With all dear Emma's little faults, she is an excellent creature.
Where shall we see a better daughter, or a kinder sister, or a truer friend?
No, no; she has qualities which may be trusted; she will never lead any on_eally wrong; she will make no lasting blunder; where Emma errs once, she i_n the right a hundred times."
"Very well; I will not plague you any more. Emma shall be an angel, and I wil_eep my spleen to myself till Christmas brings John and Isabella. John love_mma with a reasonable and therefore not a blind affection, and Isabell_lways thinks as he does; except when he is not quite frightened enough abou_he children. I am sure of having their opinions with me."
"I know that you all love her really too well to be unjust or unkind; bu_xcuse me, Mr. Knightley, if I take the liberty (I consider myself, you know,
as having somewhat of the privilege of speech that Emma's mother might hav_ad) the liberty of hinting that I do not think any possible good can aris_rom Harriet Smith's intimacy being made a matter of much discussion amon_ou. Pray excuse me; but supposing any little inconvenience may be apprehende_rom the intimacy, it cannot be expected that Emma, accountable to nobody bu_er father, who perfectly approves the acquaintance, should put an end to it,
so long as it is a source of pleasure to herself. It has been so many years m_rovince to give advice, that you cannot be surprized, Mr. Knightley, at thi_ittle remains of office."
"Not at all," cried he; "I am much obliged to you for it. It is very goo_dvice, and it shall have a better fate than your advice has often found; fo_t shall be attended to."
"Mrs. John Knightley is easily alarmed, and might be made unhappy about he_ister."
"Be satisfied," said he, "I will not raise any outcry. I will keep my ill-
humour to myself. I have a very sincere interest in Emma. Isabella does no_eem more my sister; has never excited a greater interest; perhaps hardly s_reat. There is an anxiety, a curiosity in what one feels for Emma. I wonde_hat will become of her!"
"So do I," said Mrs. Weston gently, "very much."
"She always declares she will never marry, which, of course, means jus_othing at all. But I have no idea that she has yet ever seen a man she care_or. It would not be a bad thing for her to be very much in love with a prope_bject. I should like to see Emma in love, and in some doubt of a return; i_ould do her good. But there is nobody hereabouts to attach her; and she goe_o seldom from home."
"There does, indeed, seem as little to tempt her to break her resolution a_resent," said Mrs. Weston, "as can well be; and while she is so happy a_artfield, I cannot wish her to be forming any attachment which would b_reating such difficulties on poor Mr. Woodhouse's account. I do not recommen_atrimony at present to Emma, though I mean no slight to the state, I assur_ou."
Part of her meaning was to conceal some favourite thoughts of her own and Mr.
Weston's on the subject, as much as possible. There were wishes at Randall_especting Emma's destiny, but it was not desirable to have them suspected;
and the quiet transition which Mr. Knightley soon afterwards made to "Wha_oes Weston think of the weather; shall we have rain?" convinced her that h_ad nothing more to say or surmise about Hartfield.