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Part 1 Chapter 5

I do not know what your opinion may be, Mrs. Weston,' said Mr. Knightley, `of this great intimacy between Emma and Harriet Smith, but I think it a bad thing.'

`A bad thing! Do you really think it a bad thing? - why so?'

`I think they will neither of them do the other any good.'

`You surprize me! Emma must do Harriet good: and by supplying her with a new object of interest, Harriet may be said to do Emma good. I have been seeing their intimacy with the greatest pleasure. How very differently we feel! - Not think they will do each other any good! This will certainly be the beginning of one of our quarrels about Emma, Mr. Knightley.'

`Perhaps you think I am come on purpose to quarrel with you, knowing Weston to be out, and that you must still fight your own battle.'

`Mr. Weston would undoubtedly support me, if he were here, for he thinks exactly as I do on the subject. We were speaking of it only yesterday, and agreeing how fortunate it was for Emma, that there should be such a girl in Highbury for her to associate with. Mr. Knightley, I shall not allow you to be a fair judge in this case. You are so much used to live alone, that you do not know the value of a companion; and, perhaps no man can be a good judge of the comfort a woman feels in the society of one of her own sex, after being used to it all her life. I can imagine your objection to Harriet Smith. She is not the superior young woman which Emma's friend ought to be. But on the other hand, as Emma wants to see her better informed, it will be an inducement to her to read more herself. They will read together. She means it, I know.'

`Emma has been meaning to read more ever since she was twelve years old. I have seen a great many lists of her drawing-up at various times of books that she meant to read regularly through - and very good lists they were - very well chosen, and very neatly arranged - sometimes alphabetically, and sometimes by some other rule. The list she drew up when only fourteen - I remember thinking it did her judgment so much credit, that I preserved it some time; and I dare say she may have made out a very good list now. But I have done with expecting any course of steady reading from Emma. She will never submit to any thing requiring industry and patience, and a subjection of the fancy to the understanding. Where Miss Taylor failed to stimulate, I may safely affirm that Harriet Smith will do nothing. - You never could persuade her to read half so much as you wished. - You know you could not.'

`I dare say,' replied Mrs. Weston, smiling, `that I thought so then; - but since we have parted, I can never remember Emma's omitting to do any thing I wished.'

`There is hardly any desiring to refresh such a memory as that,' - said Mr. Knightley, feelingly; and for a moment or two he had done. `But I,' he soon added, `who have had no such charm thrown over my senses, must still see, hear, and remember. Emma is spoiled by being the cleverest of her family. At ten years old, she had the misfortune of being able to answer questions which puzzled her sister at seventeen. She was always quick and assured: Isabella slow and diffident. And ever since she was twelve, Emma has been mistress of the house and of you all. In her mother she lost the only person able to cope with her. She inherits her mother's talents, and must have been under subjection to her.'

`I should have been sorry, Mr. Knightley, to be dependent on your recommendation, had I quitted Mr. Woodhouse's family and wanted another situation; I do not think you would have spoken a good word for me to any body. I am sure you always thought me unfit for the office I held.'

`Yes,' said he, smiling. `You are better placed here; very fit for a wife, but not at all for a governess. But you were preparing yourself to be an excellent wife all the time you were at Hartfield. You might not give Emma such a complete education as your powers would seem to promise; but you were receiving a very good education from her, on the very material matrimonial point of submitting your own will, and doing as you were bid; and if Weston had asked me to recommend him a wife, I should certainly have named Miss Taylor.'

`Thank you. There will be very little merit in making a good wife to such a man as Mr. Weston.'

`Why, to own the truth, I am afraid you are rather thrown away, and that with every disposition to bear, there will be nothing to be borne. We will not despair, however. Weston may grow cross from the wantonness of comfort, or his son may plague him.'

`I hope not that. - It is not likely. No, Mr. Knightley, do not foretell vexation from that quarter.'

`Not I, indeed. I only name possibilities. I do not pretend to Emma's genius for foretelling and guessing. I hope, with all my heart, the young man may be a Weston in merit, and a Churchill in fortune. - But Harriet Smith - I have not half done about Harriet Smith. I think her the very worst sort of companion that Emma could possibly have. She knows nothing herself, and looks upon Emma as knowing every thing. She is a flatterer in all her ways; and so much the worse, because undesigned. Her ignorance is hourly flattery. How can Emma imagine she has any thing to learn herself, while Harriet is presenting such a delightful inferiority? And as for Harriet, I will venture to say that she cannot gain by the acquaintance. Hartfield will only put her out of conceit with all the other places she belongs to. She will grow just refined enough to be uncomfortable with those among whom birth and circumstances have placed her home. I am much mistaken if Emma's doctrines give any strength of mind, or tend at all to make a girl adapt herself rationally to the varieties of her situation in life. - They only give a little polish.'

`I either depend more upon Emma's good sense than you do, or am more anxious for her present comfort; for I cannot lament the acquaintance. How well she looked last night!'

`Oh! you would rather talk of her person than her mind, would you? Very well; I shall not attempt to deny Emma's being pretty.'

`Pretty! say beautiful rather. Can you imagine any thing nearer perfect beauty than Emma altogether - face and figure?'

`I do not know what I could imagine, but I confess that I have seldom seen a face or figure more pleasing to me than hers. But I am a partial old friend.'

`Such an eye! - the true hazle eye - and so brilliant! regular features, open countenance, with a complexion! oh! what a bloom of full health, and such a pretty height and size; such a firm and upright figure! There is health, not merely in her bloom, but in her air, her head, her glance. One hears sometimes of a child being ``the picture of health;'' now, Emma always gives me the idea of being the complete picture of grown-up health. She is loveliness itself. Mr. Knightley, is not she?'

`I have not a fault to find with her person,' he replied. `I think her all you describe. I love to look at her; and I will add this praise, that I do not think her personally vain. Considering how very handsome she is, she appears to be little occupied with it; her vanity lies another way. Mrs. Weston, I am not to be talked out of my dislike of Harriet Smith, or my dread of its doing them both harm.'

`And I, Mr. Knightley, am equally stout in my confidence of its not doing them any harm. With all dear Emma's little faults, she is an excellent creature. Where shall we see a better daughter, or a kinder sister, or a truer friend? No, no; she has qualities which may be trusted; she will never lead any one really wrong; she will make no lasting blunder; where Emma errs once, she is in the right a hundred times.'

`Very well; I will not plague you any more. Emma shall be an angel, and I will keep my spleen to myself till Christmas brings John and Isabella. John loves Emma with a reasonable and therefore not a blind affection, and Isabella always thinks as he does; except when he is not quite frightened enough about the children. I am sure of having their opinions with me.'

`I know that you all love her really too well to be unjust or unkind; but excuse me, Mr. Knightley, if I take the liberty (I consider myself, you know, as having somewhat of the privilege of speech that Emma's mother might have had) the liberty of hinting that I do not think any possible good can arise from Harriet Smith's intimacy being made a matter of much discussion among you. Pray excuse me; but supposing any little inconvenience may be apprehended from the intimacy, it cannot be expected that Emma, accountable to nobody but her father, who perfectly approves the acquaintance, should put an end to it, so long as it is a source of pleasure to herself. It has been so many years my province to give advice, that you cannot be surprized, Mr. Knightley, at this little remains of office.'

`Not at all,' cried he; `I am much obliged to you for it. It is very good advice, and it shall have a better fate than your advice has often found; for it shall be attended to.'

`Mrs. John Knightley is easily alarmed, and might be made unhappy about her sister.'

`Be satisfied,' said he, `I will not raise any outcry. I will keep my ill-humour to myself. I have a very sincere interest in Emma. Isabella does not seem more my sister; has never excited a greater interest; perhaps hardly so great. There is an anxiety, a curiosity in what one feels for Emma. I wonder what will become of her!'

`So do I,' said Mrs. Weston gently, `very much.'

`She always declares she will never marry, which, of course, means just nothing at all. But I have no idea that she has yet ever seen a man she cared for. It would not be a bad thing for her to be very much in love with a proper object. I should like to see Emma in love, and in some doubt of a return; it would do her good. But there is nobody hereabouts to attach her; and she goes so seldom from home.'

`There does, indeed, seem as little to tempt her to break her resolution at present,' said Mrs. Weston, `as can well be; and while she is so happy at Hartfield, I cannot wish her to be forming any attachment which would be creating such difficulties on poor Mr. Woodhouse's account. I do not recommend matrimony at present to Emma, though I mean no slight to the state, I assure you.'

Part of her meaning was to conceal some favourite thoughts of her own and Mr. Weston's on the subject, as much as possible. There were wishes at Randalls respecting Emma's destiny, but it was not desirable to have them suspected; and the quiet transition which Mr. Knightley soon afterwards made to `What does Weston think of the weather; shall we have rain?' convinced her that he had nothing more to say or surmise about Hartfield.

 

“韦斯顿太太,”奈特利先生说,“爱玛和哈丽特搞得这么亲密,我不知道你是怎么看的,我看不是件好事。”

“不是件好事!你真认为不是件好事吗?为什么?”

“我看她们两人谁对谁都没有好处。”

“你真让我感到惊奇!爱玛肯定会对哈丽特有好处的,而哈丽特给爱玛提供了一个新的关心对象,可以说对爱玛也有好处。我看着她们那么亲密,真感到万分高兴。我们的想法差得太远啦!居然认为她们对彼此没有好处!奈特利先生,我们以后少不了要为爱玛争吵,这无疑是个开端。”

“你也许认为我知道韦斯顿不在家,也知道你还会孤军奋战,便故意来跟你争吵。”

“韦斯顿先生要是在家,一定会支持我的,因为他在这件事上跟我的看法完全一致。就在昨天我们还谈起过,都觉得爱玛真幸运,能在海伯里结识这样一个姑娘。奈特利先生,我看你在这件事上可不是个公正的法官。你一个人生活惯了,不知道有个伴侣的益处。一个女人本来一直习惯于有个女伴陪着,现在又有了这样一个女伴,她从中得到多大的慰藉,也许是哪个男人也体会不到的。我可以想象你为什么嫌弃哈丽特。爱玛的朋友应该是个有身份的年轻女子,可哈丽特却不是。不过话又说回来,爱玛要指导她增长点知识,这就会促使她自己多读些书。她们会一起读书的。我知道爱玛有这个打算。”

“爱玛从十二岁起就打算多读些书。我看见她前前后后列过好多书单,打算一本本地看完——那些书单列得可好啦——都是些精选的书,排列得井井有条——有时按字母顺序,有时按别的规则。她十四岁时列的那张书单——我记得当时觉得她还挺有眼力的,便把书单保存了一阵子。这一次爱玛说不定也列了一个很好的书单,可我不敢指望她会持之以恒地读书了。她再也不会干那些需要勤奋和坚韧的事情了,就爱想人非非,不肯开动脑筋。我敢说,以前泰勒小姐没能激发起她来,现在哈丽特·史密斯也将无能为力。当年你叫她看书,好说歹说也没法让她看上一半。你知道你劝不了她。”

“的确,”韦斯顿太太笑吟吟地答道,“我当时也是这么看的。不过,自我们分手以后,我从不记得爱玛还有我叫她做事她不肯做的时候。”

“我还真不想勾起这样的回忆,”奈特利先生颇有感触地说道,过了一会又平静了下来。“不过,”他接着说道,“我不是个耳聋眼花、头脑糊涂的人,还得看,还得听,还得回忆。爱玛因为是家里最聪明的人,就被宠坏了。她十岁的时候,就不幸地能回答十七岁的姐姐也回答不了的问题。她总是很敏锐,很有自信,而伊莎贝拉却又迟钝,又缺乏自信。爱玛自十二岁起,就成了家里的女主人,你们大家都得听她的。她母亲一去世,她就失去了唯一能管束她的人。她继承了母亲的天赋,当年一定是听她的话的。”

“奈特利先生,我当初若是离开伍德豪斯先生家而另找个人家,要靠你推荐那可就倒了霉了。你恐怕不会向任何人说我一句好话。我敢肯定,你始终认为我做那份工作不称职。”

“是的,”奈特利先生笑嘻嘻地说。“你在这儿更合适。你很适合做太太,一点也不适合做家庭教师。不过,你在哈特菲尔德的时候,一直在为做一个贤惠的妻子做准备。从你的能力看,你本来似乎能给爱玛一个圆满的教育,可你也许没有做到这一点。不过,你倒接受了爱玛给你的良好教育,以后处理夫妻关系这个重大问题时,可以做到放弃自己的意愿,听从别人的吩咐。当初韦斯顿要是问我谁做他妻子最合适,我一定会推举你泰勒小姐。”

“谢谢。给韦斯顿先生这样的人做个贤惠的妻子,这并不说明我有什么了不起的。”

“哦,说真的,我担心你的贤惠要白费了,一心一意想忍耐,结果却没有什么好忍耐的。不过,我们也用不着泄气。韦斯顿因为日子过得太舒适了,说不定也会发发脾气,或者他儿子也会惹他烦恼。”

“我希望不要出这种事。这不可能。不会的,奈特利先生,你别预言他儿子会给他带来烦恼。”

“我还真不是预言。我只是说说可能性。我可并不自以为具有爱玛那样的天赋,又能预言,又会猜测。我衷心希望,那个年轻人继承了韦斯顿家的品德,邱吉尔家的财富。可是哈丽特-史密斯——我对她的看法还远远没有说完。我认为,她是爱玛可能找到的最糟糕的伙伴。她自己什么也不懂,却以为爱玛什么都懂。她对她百般逢迎,而且并非故意这么做,因而更加糟糕。她由于无知,便时时刻刻地奉承别人。哈丽特甘愿摆出一副低首下心、讨人喜欢的样子,爱玛怎能觉得自己还有什么不足之处呢?至于哈丽特,我敢说她也不会从这场结交中得到好处。哈特菲尔德只会使她忘乎所以,不再喜欢一切与她身份相符的地方。她会变得十分骄气,跟那些与她出身和境况相当的人待在一起,会觉得非常别扭。我不相信爱玛的教诲能起到陶冶心性的作用,让一个姑娘理智地适应各种生活环境,而只能给她镀一点金罢了。”

“不知是因为我比你更相信爱玛的理智,还是因为我更关心她眼下的安适,反正我不会抱怨她们两人的结交。昨天晚上爱玛看上去有多美啊!”

“哦!你宁愿谈论她的相貌而不谈论她的心智,是吧?好吧,我也不想否认爱玛长得漂亮。”

“漂亮!应该说美丽无双。你把脸蛋和身材通盘衡量一下,你想想还有谁能比爱玛更接近尽善尽美呢?”

“我也不知道该怎么想,不过说实话,我从没见过哪个人的脸蛋和身材能像她的那样迷人。不过,我是个偏心的老朋友。”

“多美的眼睛啊!不折不扣的淡褐色,而且那么水灵!五官那么端正,神情那么坦诚,面色那么红润!哦!浑身焕发着一种健康美,高矮胖瘦恰到好处,一副亭亭玉立的丰姿。她的健康美,不仅表现在她的青春娇艳上,而且表现在她的风度、心智和眼神上。人们常听说某个孩子是‘健康美的化身’,如今爱玛总使我觉得她是成熟的健康美的完美化身。她就是美的化身。奈特利先生,你说对吗?”

“我看她的相貌是无可挑剔的,”奈特利先生答道。“我想她完全像你说的那样。我喜欢看她。我还想给她加一条优点:我觉得她并不为自己的相貌而自负。尽管她长得十分漂亮,她好像对此并没念念不忘。她的自负表现在别的方面。韦斯顿太太,不管你怎么说,我还是不赞成她和哈丽特·史密斯搞得那么亲热,我担心这对她们两人都没有好处。”

“奈特利先生,我同样坚定不移地相信,这不会给她们带来任何坏处。亲爱的爱玛虽然有些这样那样的小毛病,但她是个非凡的女性。我们上哪儿能找到一个这么孝顺的女儿,这么亲切的姐妹,这么真挚的朋友?绝对找不到。她有许多可以信得过的品质,决不会把谁带坏,也不会犯不可收拾的错误。爱玛错一次,就要对一百次。”

“那好吧,我不再难为你了。让爱玛做天使去吧,我把我的怨言闷在肚子里,等约翰和伊莎贝拉来过圣诞节时再说。约翰爱爱玛比较注意分寸,而不是一味溺爱,伊莎贝拉总是跟他一个心眼,只是约翰不像她那样,会让孩子的事搞得惊惶不安。我想他们一定会赞成我的看法。”

“我知道你们大家都真心爱她,不会做对不起她,或是坑害她的事。不过请原谅,奈特利先生,你知道,我认为爱玛的母亲当年可以说的话,我也有权说几句,因此我要冒昧地表示:我看你们随便议论爱玛和哈丽特·史密斯关系密切,恐怕也没有什么好处。请恕我直言,就算她们关系密切怕会引起什么不便,只要爱玛自己觉得高兴,你就休想她会放弃这种关系,因为爱玛的事只有她父亲管得着,而她父亲又百分之百地赞成她们来往。多少年来,我一直把向人提出忠告视为我的职责,奈特利先生,你不会对我残存的这点小小的职权感到惊讶吧?”

“哪里的话,”奈特利先生嚷道。“我为此非常感激你。你说得很有道理,与你以往的劝告相比,这次一定会收到更好的效果,因为我一定会听你的。”

“约翰·奈特利夫人很容易担惊受怕,搞不好会为她妹妹发愁的。”

“放心吧,”奈特利先生说,“我不会大喊大叫的。我会克制住我的坏脾气的。我是真心实意地关心爱玛。伊莎贝拉也就是我的弟媳罢了,从没激起我更大的兴趣,也许还比不上爱玛。爱玛让人觉得牵肠挂肚的。不知道她以后会怎么样啊!”

“我也不知道,”韦斯顿太太轻声说道,“真不知道。”

“她总说她一辈子不结婚,当然这话也不能当真。不过,我看她至今还没遇上一个她所喜爱的男人。她要是能真心爱上一个合适的男人,那倒不是一件坏事。我希望爱玛爱上什么人,而她又拿不准对方是否爱她。这对她有好处。可惜附近没有一个能招她喜爱的人,再说她又很少出门。”

“现在看来,”韦斯顿太太说道,“似乎还真没有什么力量能诱惑她违背自己的决心。既然她在哈特菲尔德过得这么快活,我也不希望她爱上什么人,那样一来可就苦了可怜的伍德豪斯先生了。我不劝说爱玛现在就考虑婚事,不过你放心好了,我并不反对她结婚。”

韦斯顿太太说这番话的意图之一,是想尽量掩饰她和韦斯顿先生在这件事情上的某些如意想法。兰多尔斯的这两个人已经在盘算爱玛的终身大事了,不过不想让他人察觉。过了不久,奈特利先生悄然把话题一转:“韦斯顿觉得天气怎么样,会下雨吗?”韦斯顿太太便意识到,对于哈特菲尔德的事,奈特利先生没有什么好说的,也没有什么好猜测的了。



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