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Part 1 Chapter 3

Mr. Woodhouse was fond of society in his own way. He liked very much to have his friends come and see him; and from various united causes, from his long residence at Hartfield, and his good nature, from his fortune, his house, and his daughter, he could command the visits of his own little circle, in a great measure, as he liked. He had not much intercourse with any families beyond that circle; his horror of late hours, and large dinner-parties, made him unfit for any acquaintance but such as would visit him on his own terms. Fortunately for him, Highbury, including Randalls in the same parish, and Donwell Abbey in the parish adjoining, the seat of Mr. Knightley, comprehended many such. Not unfrequently, through Emma's persuasion, he had some of the chosen and the best to dine with him: but evening parties were what he preferred; and, unless he fancied himself at any time unequal to company, there was scarcely an evening in the week in which Emma could not make up a card-table for him.

Real, long-standing regard brought the Westons and Mr. Knightley; and by Mr. Elton, a young man living alone without liking it, the privilege of exchanging any vacant evening of his own blank solitude for the elegancies and society of Mr. Woodhouse's drawing-room, and the smiles of his lovely daughter, was in no danger of being thrown away.

After these came a second set; among the most come-at-able of whom were Mrs. and Miss Bates, and Mrs. Goddard, three ladies almost always at the service of an invitation from Hartfield, and who were fetched and carried home so often, that Mr. Woodhouse thought it no hardship for either James or the horses. Had it taken place only once a year, it would have been a grievance.

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.

These were the ladies whom Emma found herself very frequently able to collect; and happy was she, for her father's sake, in the power; though, as far as she was herself concerned, it was no remedy for the absence of Mrs. Weston. She was delighted to see her father look comfortable, and very much pleased with herself for contriving things so well; but the quiet prosings of three such women made her feel that every evening so spent was indeed one of the long evenings she had fearfully anticipated.

As she sat one morning, looking forward to exactly such a close of the present day, a note was brought from Mrs. Goddard, requesting, in most respectful terms, to be allowed to bring Miss Smith with her; a most welcome request: for Miss Smith was a girl of seventeen, whom Emma knew very well by sight, and had long felt an interest in, on account of her beauty. A very gracious invitation was returned, and the evening no longer dreaded by the fair mistress of the mansion.

Harriet Smith was the natural daughter of somebody. Somebody had placed her, several years back, at Mrs. Goddard's school, and somebody had lately raised her from the condition of scholar to that of parlour-boarder. This was all that was generally known of her history. She had no visible friends but what had been acquired at Highbury, and was now just returned from a long visit in the country to some young ladies who had been at school there with her.

She was a very pretty girl, and her beauty happened to be of a sort which Emma particularly admired. She was short, plump, and fair, with a fine bloom, blue eyes, light hair, regular features, and a look of great sweetness, and, before the end of the evening, Emma was as much pleased with her manners as her person, and quite determined to continue the acquaintance.

She was not struck by any thing remarkably clever in Miss Smith's conversation, but she found her altogether very engaging - not inconveniently shy, not unwilling to talk - and yet so far from pushing, shewing so proper and becoming a deference, seeming so pleasantly grateful for being admitted to Hartfield, and so artlessly impressed by the appearance of every thing in so superior a style to what she had been used to, that she must have good sense, and deserve encouragement. Encouragement should be given. Those soft blue eyes, and all those natural graces, should not be wasted on the inferior society of Highbury and its connexions. The acquaintance she had already formed were unworthy of her. The friends from whom she had just parted, though very good sort of people, must be doing her harm. They were a family of the name of Martin, whom Emma well knew by character, as renting a large farm of Mr. Knightley, and residing in the parish of Donwell - very creditably, she believed - she knew Mr. Knightley thought highly of them - but they must be coarse and unpolished, and very unfit to be the intimates of a girl who wanted only a little more knowledge and elegance to be quite perfect. She would notice her; she would improve her; she would detach her from her bad acquaintance, and introduce her into good society; she would form her opinions and her manners. It would be an interesting, and certainly a very kind undertaking; highly becoming her own situation in life, her leisure, and powers.

She was so busy in admiring those soft blue eyes, in talking and listening, and forming all these schemes in the in-betweens, that the evening flew away at a very unusual rate; and the supper-table, which always closed such parties, and for which she had been used to sit and watch the due time, was all set out and ready, and moved forwards to the fire, before she was aware. With an alacrity beyond the common impulse of a spirit which yet was never indifferent to the credit of doing every thing well and attentively, with the real good-will of a mind delighted with its own ideas, did she then do all the honours of the meal, and help and recommend the minced chicken and scalloped oysters, with an urgency which she knew would be acceptable to the early hours and civil scruples of their guests.

Upon such occasions poor Mr. Woodhouses feelings were in sad warfare. He loved to have the cloth laid, because it had been the fashion of his youth, but his conviction of suppers being very unwholesome made him rather sorry to see any thing put on it; and while his hospitality would have welcomed his visitors to every thing, his care for their health made him grieve that they would eat.

Such another small basin of thin gruel as his own was all that he could, with thorough self-approbation, recommend; though he might constrain himself, while the ladies were comfortably clearing the nicer things, to say:

`Mrs. Bates, let me propose your venturing on one of these eggs. An egg boiled very soft is not unwholesome. Serle understands boiling an egg better than any body. I would not recommend an egg boiled by any body else; but you need not be afraid, they are very small, you see - one of our small eggs will not hurt you. Miss Bates, let Emma help you to a little bit of tart - a very little bit. Ours are all apple-tarts. You need not be afraid of unwholesome preserves here. I do not advise the custard. Mrs. Goddard, what say you to half a glass of wine? A small half-glass, put into a tumbler of water? I do not think it could disagree with you.'

Emma allowed her father to talk - but supplied her visitors in a much more satisfactory style, and on the present evening had particular pleasure in sending them away happy. The happiness of Miss Smith was quite equal to her intentions. Miss Woodhouse was so great a personage in Highbury, that the prospect of the introduction had given as much panic as pleasure; but the humble, grateful little girl went off with highly gratified feelings, delighted with the affability with which Miss Woodhouse had treated her all the evening, and actually shaken hands with her at last!

 

伍德豪斯先生喜欢按自己的方式与人交往。他很愿意让朋友到他家来看望他;而且由于种种原因,比如说他长期住在哈特菲尔德,为人和蔼可亲,又有房子又有钱,还有个女儿,因而可以在很大程度上按照他的心愿,安排他那个小圈子里的人们来他家。他跟那个小圈子以外的人家就不大交往了。他讨厌晚睡,也害怕搞大型宴会,除了肯按他的要求来他家的人,跟别人就合不来了。幸好,在海伯里,包括同一教区的兰多尔斯,以及邻近教区奈特利先生居住的当维尔寺(译注:寺在此意为曾是寺院的乡村住宅。),倒有不少遂他心意的人。经爱玛劝说,他时不时地邀请几位上流人士来家吃饭,不过他更喜欢客人晚上来玩,因此除了偶尔觉得身体欠佳不宜跟大家一起玩以外,爱玛几乎天天晚上都能给他安排一张牌桌。

韦斯顿夫妇和奈特利先生是多年的至交,自然是要登门的。埃尔顿先生是个不甘寂寞的单身汉,与其一个人待在家里闷得发慌,不如跑到伍德豪斯先生的漂亮客厅里凑凑热闹,领略一下他那漂亮女儿的妩媚笑脸,因此他一次也不会错失良机。

此外还有一帮人,其中来得最勤的,是贝茨太太母女俩和戈达德太太,只要哈特菲尔德那里有请,这三位女士几乎总是随请随到,而且还经常用马车接送,伍德豪斯先生觉得,不管对詹姆斯还是对马来说,这都没有什么难办的,若是让他们一年只跑一趟,那倒可能难为了他们。

贝茨太太是海伯里前牧师的遗孀,现在已成了个老太太,除了喝喝茶、打打牌,几乎什么事也干不了。她身边守着个独生女,两人过着十分清苦的日子,而她身为一个与人无忤的老太婆,又处于如此可怜的境况,理所当然受到了大家的关心和敬重。她女儿虽然并不年轻,也不漂亮,又没有钱,还没结婚,可是却极有人缘。贝茨小姐置身于极其窘迫的境地,按理说很难博得众人的好感;再说她也没有出众的才智,好弥补她的缺陷,或者让那些可能讨厌她的人见了害怕,表面上装得恭恭敬敬。她既不漂亮,又不聪明,在无声无息中度过了金色年华,到了中年,就一心一意地侍奉老迈的母亲,还要精打细算,把一笔小小的收入尽量多派些用场。不过她倒是个乐呵呵的女人,谁说起她都觉得她不错。她对谁都很友好,加上又有个容易知足的脾气,因而便产生了这样的奇迹。她爱每一个人,关心每一个人的安乐,善于洞察每一个人的优点,觉得自己是个极其幸运的人,有个极好的母亲,还有那么多好邻居、好朋友,家里什么也不缺,真是福分不浅。她生性纯朴开朗、知足感恩,这不仅使她赢得众人的欢心,而且成为她快乐的源泉。她很会闲聊,说的都是些生活琐事,也不中伤任何人,正合伍德豪斯先生的心意。

戈达德太太是一所学校的校长。她这所学校可不像有些私立学校、教育机构那样,硬要天花乱坠地胡说一通,标榜自己按照新原则、新制度,将文科教育和培养美德融为一炉,不想年轻小姐们付了高昂的学费,到头来毁坏了身体,养成了虚荣心。她的学校是一所名符其实的老式寄宿学校,不用出多少钱就能学到不少东西,家里把姑娘送出去,好歹接受一点教育,回到家里也不会变成学究。戈达德太太的学校名气很大,而且绝非徒有虚名,因为海伯里被视为一个特别有益于身心健康的地方:她有宽敞的校舍,好大的花园,给孩子们提供大量有益于健康的食物,夏天让他们四处奔跑,冬天亲手给他们包扎冻疮。难怪她上教堂时,身后跟着四十个女孩子。她是个普通的、慈母型的女人,年轻时辛辛苦苦,现在觉得可以偶尔去串串门喝喝茶了。伍德豪斯先生以前待她不错,她觉得自己欠了他不少的情,因此只要能抽身,就会离开她那整整洁洁、挂着许多刺绣的客厅,跑到他的壁炉边,赌上几个六便士。

这是爱玛经常能够请到的几位女士。为父亲着想,她还真高兴自己有这个本事。不过就她自己而言,这怎么也补偿不了韦斯顿太太离去造成的损失。她看见父亲那舒心的样子,心里觉得挺高兴;再一想自己筹划得这么好,不禁感到十分得意。不过,这三个女人那平淡乏味的谈话使她觉得,每个晚上都这样度过,那岂不是她早就担心的难熬的夜晚吗。

一天上午,爱玛坐在那里,心里正想着这一天又要出现同样的结局,却突然接到戈达德太太叫人送来的一封信,信里以极其恭敬的措辞,要求允许她把史密斯小姐带来玩。这个要求真让对方求之不得:史密斯小姐十七岁,爱玛跟她见过多次面,看她长得漂亮,早就对她产生了兴趣。哈特菲尔德大厦可爱的女主人发出了情恳意切的邀请,从此再也不担心夜晚难熬了。

哈丽特·史密斯是一个什么人的私生女。几年前,有人把她送到戈达德太太的学校里,最近又提升了她的身份,由学生变成了特别寄宿生。对于她的身世,大家就知道这么多。除了在海伯里交的朋友外,没见她还有其他要好的人。前一段到乡下去看望跟她同过学的几位小姐,住了好些日子,最近刚刚回来。

她长得十分秀丽,而且她的美又恰好是爱玛特别欣羡的那种美。她身材不高,丰腴白皙,容光焕发,蓝蓝的眼睛,淡淡的头发,五官端正,表情甜蜜。晚上还没结束,爱玛就很喜欢她了,不光喜欢她的容貌,而且喜欢她的举止,便决心继续跟她交往。

她觉得,从言谈来看,史密斯小姐并不特别聪明,不过她又发觉她十分可爱——并没有令人别扭的羞涩,也并非少言寡语——一点也不冒昧,讲起礼貌来还有分有寸,颇为得体,主人家让她到哈特菲尔德来玩,她似乎感到很高兴,也很领情。看到这里样样东西都很讲究,也不装作无动于衷,总觉得比她以前见过的都强。这说明她有眼力,需要给以鼓励。她也应该受到鼓励。让她待在海伯里的下等人中间,她那双温柔的蓝眼睛,那与生俱来的百般妩媚,岂非白白浪费了。她以前结交的,都是些跟她不相称的人。她刚刚离开的那些朋友,虽说都是些很好的人,但只会给她带来坏处。那家人姓马丁,爱玛很了解他们的品行,他们租了奈特利先生的一大片农场,住在当维尔教区——她相信一定搞得很体面。她知道,奈特利先生很看得起这家人,不过他们一定粗里粗气,缺乏教养,让一个只要稍微长点学识、稍微文雅一点就能变得十全十美的姑娘跟他们搅在一起,那是很不合适的。她爱玛可不能看着她不管;她要改善她的状况,帮她摆脱那些不体面的人,把她引进上流社会,还要培养她的思想和举止。这是一件有趣的、当然也是十分仁慈的举动。她处于这样的生活状况,有的是闲暇和精力,倒很适合做这件事。

她在专心地欣赏那双温柔的蓝色眼睛,时而讲时而听,一面琢磨出了这些主意。这样一来,时间过得特别快,晚上一晃就过去了。每次玩完了,最后总要吃晚饭。往常都是爱玛坐在那里观察时机,可今天还没等她察觉,饭桌早已摆好了,搬到了火炉边。她一向都足个很要面子的人,总喜欢按照自己的意思,怀着一片好心,认真做好每一件事,今天则表现得格外热情,竭尽女主人之谊,帮助跟着劝食,敦促客人吃碎鸡肉和焙牡蛎。她知道,客人都想早散早回,并且为了礼貌起见,也会欢迎这样的敦促。

到这种时候,可怜的伍德豪斯先生心里又难过又矛盾。他喜欢桌上铺上桌布,因为这是他年轻时的时尚;但他又认为吃晚饭有碍身体健康,因而一见桌上摆上了食物,就觉得心里很不是滋味。一方面,他出于热情好客,倒也巴不得客人样样都吃;另一方面,他又关心客人的身体,还就怕他们真吃起来。

充其量,他只会怀着自我陶醉的心情,劝客人像他那样,再喝一小钵稀粥,但一见女宾们在津津有味地报销那些美味食品,他又不得不说: “贝茨太太,我劝你大胆地吃一只鸡蛋。煮得很嫩的鸡蛋是不会损害身体的。塞尔煮鸡蛋比谁都煮得好。如果是别人煮的鸡蛋,我不会劝你吃的。不过,你也用不着担心。你瞧,这些鸡蛋都很小,吃一只小鸡蛋对你没有妨害。贝茨小姐,让爱玛给你捡一小块果馅饼——很小一块。我们家全吃苹果馅饼。你不必担心,这里没有对身体不利的果酱。我不劝你吃蛋奶糕。戈达德太太,喝半杯葡萄酒怎么样?就小半杯——兑上一杯水吧?我想你喝了不会不舒服的,”

爱玛任父亲尽管说去,她却以大方得多的方式招待客人。就在这天晚上,她特别想把客人高高兴兴地送走。史密斯小姐那样高兴,一点也没辜负她的一番好意。伍德豪斯小姐是海伯里的一个大人物,有机会结识她使她感到既惊惶又高兴。不过,这位出身卑微、感恩戴德的小姑娘临走时感到十分得意,伍德豪斯小姐一晚上待她那么亲切,最后竟然还跟她握了手,真让她为之高兴!



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