3. CHAPTER III
Mrs. Bates, the widow of a former vicar of Highbury, was a
very old lady, almost past every thing but tea and quadrille.
She lived with her single daughter in a very small way, and was
considered with all the regard and respect which a harmless old lady,
under such untoward circumstances, can excite. Her daughter enjoyed
a most uncommon degree of popularity for a woman neither young,
handsome, rich, nor married. Miss Bates stood in the very worst
predicament in the world for having much of the public favour;
and she had no intellectual superiority to make atonement to herself,
or frighten those who might hate her into outward respect.
She had never boasted either beauty or cleverness. Her youth
had passed without distinction, and her middle of life was devoted
to the care of a failing mother, and the endeavour to make a small
income go as far as possible. And yet she was a happy woman,
and a woman whom no one named without good-will. It was her own
universal good-will and contented temper which worked such wonders.
She loved every body, was interested in every body's happiness,
quicksighted to every body's merits; thought herself a most fortunate
creature, and surrounded with blessings in such an excellent mother,
and so many good neighbours and friends, and a home that wanted
for nothing. The simplicity and cheerfulness of her nature,
her contented and grateful spirit, were a recommendation to every body,
and a mine of felicity to herself. She was a great talker upon
little matters, which exactly suited Mr. Woodhouse, full of trivial
communications and harmless gossip.
Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a School--not of a seminary,
or an establishment, or any thing which professed, in long sentences of
refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality,
upon new principles and new systems--and where young ladies for
enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity--but
a real, honest, old-fashioned Boarding-school, where a reasonable
quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price,
and where girls might be sent to be out of the way, and scramble
themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming
back prodigies. Mrs. Goddard's school was in high repute--and
very deservedly; for Highbury was reckoned a particularly healthy
spot: she had an ample house and garden, gave the children plenty
of wholesome food, let them run about a great deal in the summer,
and in winter dressed their chilblains with her own hands.
It was no wonder that a train of twenty young couple now walked
after her to church. She was a plain, motherly kind of woman,
who had worked hard in her youth, and now thought herself entitled
to the occasional holiday of a tea-visit; and having formerly
owed much to Mr. Woodhouse's kindness, felt his particular claim
on her to leave her neat parlour, hung round with fancy-work,
whenever she could, and win or lose a few sixpences by his fireside.