it was so extreme, that considering exteriors and probabilities, Emma could only class it, as a proof of love, with Mr. Elton’s seeing ready wit in her.

“I wish we could contrive it,” said she; “but I cannot think of any tolerable pretence for going in; -- no servant that I want to inquire about of his housekeeper—no message from my father.”

She pondered, but could think of nothing. After a mutual silence of some minutes, Harriet thus began again—

“I do so wonder, Miss Woodhouse, that you should not be married, or going to be married! So charming as you are!”

Emma laughed, and replied,

“My being charming, Harriet, is not quite enough to induce me to marry; I must find other people charming—one other person at least. And I am not only, not going to be married, at present, but have very little intention of ever marrying at all.”

“Ah! so you say; but I cannot believe it.”

“I must see somebody very superior to any one I have seen yet, to be tempted; Mr. Elton, you know, (recollecting herself,) is out of the question: and I do not wish to see any such person. I would rather not be tempted. I cannot really change for the better. If I were to marry, I must expect to repent it.”

“Dear me!—it is so odd to hear a woman talk so!” –

“I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry. Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing! but I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature: and I do not think I ever shall. And, without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such a situation as mine. Fortune I do not want; employment I do not want: consequence I do not want; I believe few married women are half as much mistress of their husband’s


tress of their husband’s house, as I am of Hartfield; and never, never could I expect to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right in any man’s eyes as I am maid at last, like Miss Bates!”

“That is as formidable an image as you could present, Harriet; and if I thought I should ever be like Miss Bates! so silly—so satisfied—so smiling—so prosing—so undistinguishing and unfastidious—and so apt to tell every thing relative to every body about me, I would marry to-morrow. But between us, I am convinced there never can be any likeness except in being unmarried.”

“But still you will be an old maid! and that’s so dreadful!”

“Never mind, Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old maid! the proper sport of boys and girls; but a single woman, of good fortune, is not quite so much against the candour and common sense of the world as appears at first; for a very narrow income has a tendency to contract the mind, and sour the temper. Those who can barely live, and who live perforce in a very small, and generally very inferior, society, may well be illiberal and cross. This does not apply, however, to Miss Bates; she is only too good natured and too silly to suite me; but, in general, she is very much to the taste of every body, though single and though poor. Poverty certainly has not contracted her mind: I really believe, if she had only a shilling in the world, she would be very likely to give away sixpence of it; and nobody is afraid of her: that is a great charm.”

VOL. i.