1. 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 beaufet--"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."