10. CHAPTER X
"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 always respectable,
and may be as sensible and pleasant as any body else. And the
distinction 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 suit 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
"Dear me! but what shall you do? how shall you employ yourself
when you grow old?"
"If I know myself, Harriet, mine is an active, busy mind, with a great
many independent resources; and I do not perceive why I should be
more in want of employment at forty or fifty than one-and-twenty.
Woman's usual occupations of hand and mind will be as open to me then
as they are now; or with no important variation. If I draw less,
I shall read more; if I give up music, I shall take to carpet-work.
And as for objects of interest, objects for the affections,
which is in truth the great point of inferiority, the want of which
is really the great evil to be avoided in not marrying, I shall
be very well off, with all the children of a sister I love so much,
to care about. There will be enough of them, in all probability,
to supply every sort of sensation that declining life can need.
There will be enough for every hope and every fear; and though my
attachment to none can equal that of a parent, it suits my ideas
of comfort better than what is warmer and blinder. My nephews
and nieces!--I shall often have a niece with me."