Emma HTML version

Chapter I
Emma and Harriet had been walking together one morning, and, in Emma's
opinion, had been talking enough of Mr. Elton for that day. She could not think
that Harriet's solace or her own sins required more; and she was therefore
industriously getting rid of the subject as they returned;--but it burst out again
when she thought she had succeeded, and after speaking some time of what the
poor must suffer in winter, and receiving no other answer than a very plaintive--
"Mr. Elton is so good to the poor!" she found something else must be done.
They were just approaching the house where lived Mrs. and Miss Bates. She
determined to call upon them and seek safety in numbers. There was always
sufficient reason for such an attention; Mrs. and Miss Bates loved to be called on,
and she knew she was considered by the very few who presumed ever to see
imperfection in her, as rather negligent in that respect, and as not contributing
what she ought to the stock of their scanty comforts.
She had had many a hint from Mr. Knightley and some from her own heart, as to
her deficiency--but none were equal to counteract the persuasion of its being
very disagreeable,--a waste of time--tiresome women-- and all the horror of being
in danger of falling in with the second-rate and third-rate of Highbury, who were
calling on them for ever, and therefore she seldom went near them. But now she
made the sudden resolution of not passing their door without going in--observing,
as she proposed it to Harriet, that, as well as she could calculate, they were just
now quite safe from any letter from Jane Fairfax.
The house belonged to people in business. Mrs. and Miss Bates occupied the
drawing-room floor; and there, in the very moderate-sized apartment, which was
every thing to them, the visitors were most cordially and even gratefully
welcomed; the quiet neat old lady, who with her knitting was seated in the
warmest corner, wanting even to give up her place to Miss Woodhouse, and her
more active, talking daughter, almost ready to overpower them with care and
kindness, thanks for their visit, solicitude for their shoes, anxious inquiries after
Mr. Woodhouse's health, cheerful communications about her mother's, and
sweet-cake from the buffet--"Mrs. Cole had just been there, just called in for ten
minutes, and had been so good as to sit an hour with them, and she had taken a
piece of cake and been so kind as to say she liked it very much; and, therefore,
she hoped Miss Woodhouse and Miss Smith would do them the favour to eat a
piece too."
The mention of the Coles was sure to be followed by that of Mr. Elton. There was
intimacy between them, and Mr. Cole had heard from Mr. Elton since his going
away. Emma knew what was coming; they must have the letter over again, and
settle how long he had been gone, and how much he was engaged in company,
and what a favourite he was wherever he went, and how full the Master of the
Ceremonies' ball had been; and she went through it very well, with all the interest