"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 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 been seeing their
intimacy with the greatest pleasure. How very differently we feel!--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 agreeing 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 live 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 any thing
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 wished.--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 any thing 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 which
puzzled her sister at seventeen. She was always quick and assured: Isabella
slow and diffident. And ever since she was twelve, Emma has been mistress of