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
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 her own.
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 with her.
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