فصل 01

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کتاب های خیلی ساده

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فصل 01

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CHAPTER ONE

An Offer of Marriage

Emma Woodhouse was beautiful, clever and rich. She lived sixteen miles from London in the village of Highbury and at nearly twenty-one years old she thought her life was perfect. But nothing stays the same for ever and even the most perfect life must sometimes change.

Emma was the younger of two daughters but only she lived with her father at the family home. Her sister Isabella lived in London with her husband and five children.

Emma’s mother died when she was only five, and so her father found Miss Taylor to live with them at Hartfield and look after his two daughters. Miss Taylor became their teacher and friend and, even after Emma had grown up and didn’t need Miss Taylor as a teacher any longer, she continued to live with them and was part of the family.

But Emma’s comfortable life changed when Miss Taylor decided to get married to Mr Weston. Although his house - called ‘Randalls’ - was very near Emma’s, she soon realised there would be a great difference between a Miss Taylor at Hartfield and a Mrs Weston half a mile from Hartfield. And so Emma and her father were left alone together, both wishing that Miss Taylor was still there too.

‘What a pity Mr Weston ever thought of Miss Taylor,’ said Mr Woodhouse, sadly.

‘I cannot agree, Papa. They are very happy together, and I am happy for them. And we shall see them often. They will come here to Hartfield and we shall visit them at Mr Weston’s house. We shall always be meeting.’

But although Emma tried to make her father feel happier, she was just as sad as him.

As they sat together playing cards on the evening after Miss Taylor’s wedding, their friend Mr Knightley came to visit them. His brother John was Isabella’s husband and he had just returned from their home in London.

‘How was the wedding? Who cried the most?’

‘Everybody was on time and looked their best,’ said Emma, ‘And there were no tears.’

‘But I know how sad you must feel, Emma,’ said Mr Knightley.

‘Yes, but I am happy that I made the match myself, four years ago. People said Mr Weston would never marry again, but I saw the possibility of love,’ said Emma.

‘And now Miss Taylor has left us,’ said Mr Woodhouse. ‘So please do not make any more matches that might break up our circle of friends and family, Emma.’

Mr Knightley did not agree with Emma.

‘I cannot see why you think you succeeded. It was no more than a lucky guess,’ he said.

But Emma would not listen. She was sure it was because of her help that Miss Taylor had married Mr Weston, and now she had the idea of making another match.

‘Mr Elton, the vicar - he is such a good and handsome man, everybody says so. And today, in the church, I could see that he would like it very much if it was his wedding. I wish I could help to find him a wife.’

‘Leave him to choose his own wife,’ laughed Mr Knightley. ‘He is twenty-seven and can take care of himself.’

Mr Woodhouse often invited his neighbours to Hartfield for an evening spent playing cards. Emma was happy to entertain their friends, although many of them were closer in age to her father than to her. But on one of these evenings Emma was luckier because one of their neighbours brought a young friend with her. Seventeen-year-old Harriet Smith had been a pupil at the school in Highbury and was still living there with the head teacher because she had no living family. Harriet was very pretty and she and Emma immediately became friends. Harriet was very impressed. She thought Emma was wonderful and the surroundings of Hartfield were much better than she was used to. Emma liked Harriet a lot and wanted to introduce her into good society, but first she would have to help by teaching Harriet a few things. She decided this was a very kind and thoughtful plan.

After that evening, Harriet spent a lot of time at Hartfield and she and Emma were often together. Harriet told Emma about her schoolfriend Elizabeth Martin and her family, who she had stayed with in the summer. Emma heard about the Martins’ farm and as she listened she began to realise that Mr Robert Martin was not the father of the family, but the son. And he was single.

‘Tell me about Mr Robert Martin,’ Emma said and Harriet did tell her.

‘He was kind and clever,’ she said, and she liked him a lot. Emma thought a farmer was a most unsuitable friend for Harriet and knew Mr Elton, the vicar, would be a much better husband. She turned their conversation away from Robert Martin.

‘If you compare him to other young men you will certainly see a difference. For example, Mr Elton is a perfect gentleman. Did I tell you what he said about you the other day?’ she asked, and told Harriet how beautiful he thought she was. Harriet was very pleased and suddenly seemed to want to talk less about Mr Martin.

‘I think Mr Elton likes you a lot. Remember how he wanted me to paint a picture of you? And how he sighed over it when I had finished?’

The painting had been Emma’s idea at first but when he heard about it, Mr Elton was immediately enthusiastic and thought it a very good suggestion. Emma painted Harriet in the garden and Mr Elton wanted to watch. But he walked about so much and asked so many questions that it became difficult for Emma to think about painting and for Harriet to think about standing still. Finally, Emma asked him to sit down and read something to them.

When the picture was finished Mr Elton thought it looked exactly like Harriet, but not everyone agreed.

‘The picture is a little too beautiful around the eyes,’ said Mrs Weston.

‘Not at all!’ replied Mr Elton. ‘Miss Smith is just as beautiful as Miss Woodhouse has painted her.’

Mr Knightley knew Emma very well and was always honest with her. He said, ‘You’ve made her too tall, Emma.’

‘Oh, no,’ said Mr Elton. ‘Not too tall. Exactly right in my opinion.’

That was when Emma first began to see the possibility of a match between them and had great hopes that it would happen. Then Harriet had started talking about Robert Martin and Emma worried that he might spoil her match-making plans.

The next day she met Harriet in Highbury village and heard some unwelcome news.

‘Miss Woodhouse,’ said a very excited Harriet, ‘Mr Martin has written to ask me to marry him!’

She showed Emma the letter and she agreed it was certainly a very good letter.

‘So good that I wonder whether his sister helped him to write it,’ she said.

‘How shall I reply?’ Harriet asked.

’ I cannot tell you - it must be your own letter,’ Emma replied. ‘But I am sure you will write it so that he will not be too unhappy.’

‘So you think I should refuse him,’ said Harriet sadly, looking down.

‘I shall not advise you. This is something you must decide yourself

Harriet was silent. She looked at the letter again.’I had no idea he liked me so much,’ she said.

Emma decided she must speak to save Harriet from an unsuitable marriage.

‘Harriet, if you doubt your answer, of course you should refuse him. If you cannot say “yes” immediately you must say “no”.’

‘Then I will refuse. Do you think I am right?’

‘Perfectly, dearest Harriet. And remember, Mr Martin is only a farmer - he is not your equal or mine. If you married him, I could never visit you,’ said Emma.

Harriet’s letter was written and sent. She was a little quiet all evening and once she said she hoped Mr Martin and his sisters were not too sad. Emma tried to help her and started talking about Mr Elton again.

‘We shall see him tomorrow, Harriet. He will come into this room and look at your picture again, and sigh as he always does when he sees it.’

Harriet smiled and became happier.

When Mr Knightley and Emma were in the gardens at Hartfield the next day he spoke to her about Harriet.

‘I congratulate you, Emma. She was always a pretty girl but you have taught her a lot. I think your friend may get some news today that will make her happy.’

Emma thought at first that Mr Elton might have said something to Mr Knightley but then he continued.

‘Robert Martin asked my opinion of her, was she too young to marry? Was it too soon to ask her? I advised him to ask. He’s very much in love with her.’

‘He has already asked,’ said Emma,’ and she has refused him.’

‘What? She is a very foolish girl. Are you sure?’

’ Of course, I saw her answer.’

Mr Knightley became angry with her.

‘Saw it! You mean you wrote it! I think this was your idea, Emma.’

‘It was not, but I believe that, although he is a very pleasant young man, he is not Harriet’s equal.’

‘Harriet Smith has no family and no money.This was a good match for her. Until she met you, she thought of nothing better for herself, but you have filled her head with ideas of high society and of how beautiful she is. She was happy enough with the Martins in the summer.’

Emma was unhappy because he was so angry with her, but she would not agree that she had been wrong.

‘Now she knows what gentlemen are, she sees him differently. Now she is looking for something better.’

‘Remember, Emma, sensible men do not want silly wives. Harriet may not have another chance to marry,’ he replied. He started to walk away from her.

‘And if you were thinking of Mr Elton for Harriet, it will not work. He is a good vicar and a good man but he will look for money and good family in a wife.’

Emma laughed. ‘I am not trying to make a match for Harriet with Mr Elton,’ she said, hoping that Mr Knightley would stop being angry and stay.

‘Believe me, Emma, Mr Elton will choose sensibly,’ he said over his shoulder. ‘Good morning to you.’

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