Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 16

  • The hair was curled, and the maid sent away, and Emma sat down to think and b_iserable.—It was a wretched business indeed!—Such an overthrow of every thin_he had been wishing for!—Such a development of every thing mos_nwelcome!—Such a blow for Harriet!—that was the worst of all. Every part o_t brought pain and humiliation, of some sort or other; but, compared with th_vil to Harriet, all was light; and she would gladly have submitted to fee_et more mistaken— more in error—more disgraced by mis-judgment, than sh_ctually was, could the effects of her blunders have been confined to herself.
  • "If I had not persuaded Harriet into liking the man, I could have borne an_hing. He might have doubled his presumption to me— but poor Harriet!"
  • How she could have been so deceived!—He protested that he had never though_eriously of Harriet—never! She looked back as well as she could; but it wa_ll confusion. She had taken up the idea, she supposed, and made every thin_end to it. His manners, however, must have been unmarked, wavering, dubious,
  • or she could not have been so misled.
  • The picture!—How eager he had been about the picture!— and the charade!—and a_undred other circumstances;— how clearly they had seemed to point at Harriet.
  • To be sure, the charade, with its "ready wit"—but then the "soft eyes"— i_act it suited neither; it was a jumble without taste or truth. Who could hav_een through such thick-headed nonsense?
  • Certainly she had often, especially of late, thought his manners to hersel_nnecessarily gallant; but it had passed as his way, as a mere error o_udgment, of knowledge, of taste, as one proof among others that he had no_lways lived in the best society, that with all the gentleness of his address,
  • true elegance was sometimes wanting; but, till this very day, she had never,
  • for an instant, suspected it to mean any thing but grateful respect to her a_arriet's friend.
  • To Mr. John Knightley was she indebted for her first idea on the subject, fo_he first start of its possibility. There was no denying that those brother_ad penetration. She remembered what Mr. Knightley had once said to her abou_r. Elton, the caution he had given, the conviction he had professed that Mr.
  • Elton would never marry indiscreetly; and blushed to think how much truer _nowledge of his character had been there shewn than any she had reache_erself. It was dreadfully mortifying; but Mr. Elton was proving himself, i_any respects, the very reverse of what she had meant and believed him; proud,
  • assuming, conceited; very full of his own claims, and little concerned abou_he feelings of others.
  • Contrary to the usual course of things, Mr. Elton's wanting to pay hi_ddresses to her had sunk him in her opinion. His professions and hi_roposals did him no service. She thought nothing of his attachment, and wa_nsulted by his hopes. He wanted to marry well, and having the arrogance t_aise his eyes to her, pretended to be in love; but she was perfectly easy a_o his not suffering any disappointment that need be cared for. There had bee_o real affection either in his language or manners. Sighs and fine words ha_een given in abundance; but she could hardly devise any set of expressions,
  • or fancy any tone of voice, less allied with real love. She need not troubl_erself to pity him. He only wanted to aggrandise and enrich himself; and i_iss Woodhouse of Hartfield, the heiress of thirty thousand pounds, were no_uite so easily obtained as he had fancied, he would soon try for Mis_omebody else with twenty, or with ten.
  • But—that he should talk of encouragement, should consider her as aware of hi_iews, accepting his attentions, meaning (in short), to marry him!—shoul_uppose himself her equal in connexion or mind!—look down upon her friend, s_ell understanding the gradations of rank below him, and be so blind to wha_ose above, as to fancy himself shewing no presumption in addressing her!— I_as most provoking.
  • Perhaps it was not fair to expect him to feel how very much he was he_nferior in talent, and all the elegancies of mind. The very want of suc_quality might prevent his perception of it; but he must know that in fortun_nd consequence she was greatly his superior. He must know that the Woodhouse_ad been settled for several generations at Hartfield, the younger branch of _ery ancient family—and that the Eltons were nobody. The landed property o_artfield certainly was inconsiderable, being but a sort of notch in th_onwell Abbey estate, to which all the rest of Highbury belonged; but thei_ortune, from other sources, was such as to make them scarcely secondary t_onwell Abbey itself, in every other kind of consequence; and the Woodhouse_ad long held a high place in the consideration of the neighbourhood which Mr.
  • Elton had first entered not two years ago, to make his way as he could,
  • without any alliances but in trade, or any thing to recommend him to notic_ut his situation and his civility.— But he had fancied her in love with him;
  • that evidently must have been his dependence; and after raving a little abou_he seeming incongruity of gentle manners and a conceited head, Emma wa_bliged in common honesty to stop and admit that her own behaviour to him ha_een so complaisant and obliging, so full of courtesy and attention, as
  • (supposing her real motive unperceived) might warrant a man of ordinar_bservation and delicacy, like Mr. Elton, in fancying himself a very decide_avourite. If she had so misinterpreted his feelings, she had little right t_onder that he, with self-interest to blind him, should have mistaken hers.
  • The first error and the worst lay at her door. It was foolish, it was wrong,
  • to take so active a part in bringing any two people together. It wa_dventuring too far, assuming too much, making light of what ought to b_erious, a trick of what ought to be simple. She was quite concerned an_shamed, and resolved to do such things no more.
  • "Here have I," said she, "actually talked poor Harriet into being very muc_ttached to this man. She might never have thought of him but for me; an_ertainly never would have thought of him with hope, if I had not assured he_f his attachment, for she is as modest and humble as I used to think him. Oh!
  • that I had been satisfied with persuading her not to accept young Martin.
  • There I was quite right. That was well done of me; but there I should hav_topped, and left the rest to time and chance. I was introducing her into goo_ompany, and giving her the opportunity of pleasing some one worth having; _ught not to have attempted more. But now, poor girl, her peace is cut up fo_ome time. I have been but half a friend to her; and if she were not to fee_his disappointment so very much, I am sure I have not an idea of any bod_lse who would be at all desirable for her;—William Coxe—Oh! no, I could no_ndure William Coxe— a pert young lawyer."
  • She stopt to blush and laugh at her own relapse, and then resumed a mor_erious, more dispiriting cogitation upon what had been, and might be, an_ust be. The distressing explanation she had to make to Harriet, and all tha_oor Harriet would be suffering, with the awkwardness of future meetings, th_ifficulties of continuing or discontinuing the acquaintance, of subduin_eelings, concealing resentment, and avoiding eclat, were enough to occupy he_n most unmirthful reflections some time longer, and she went to bed at las_ith nothing settled but the conviction of her having blundered mos_readfully.
  • To youth and natural cheerfulness like Emma's, though under temporary gloom a_ight, the return of day will hardly fail to bring return of spirits. Th_outh and cheerfulness of morning are in happy analogy, and of powerfu_peration; and if the distress be not poignant enough to keep the eye_nclosed, they will be sure to open to sensations of softened pain an_righter hope.
  • Emma got up on the morrow more disposed for comfort than she had gone to bed,
  • more ready to see alleviations of the evil before her, and to depend o_etting tolerably out of it.
  • It was a great consolation that Mr. Elton should not be really in love wit_er, or so particularly amiable as to make it shocking to disappoint him—tha_arriet's nature should not be of that superior sort in which the feelings ar_ost acute and retentive— and that there could be no necessity for any body'_nowing what had passed except the three principals, and especially for he_ather's being given a moment's uneasiness about it.
  • These were very cheering thoughts; and the sight of a great deal of snow o_he ground did her further service, for any thing was welcome that migh_ustify their all three being quite asunder at present.
  • The weather was most favourable for her; though Christmas Day, she could no_o to church. Mr. Woodhouse would have been miserable had his daughte_ttempted it, and she was therefore safe from either exciting or receivin_npleasant and most unsuitable ideas. The ground covered with snow, and th_tmosphere in that unsettled state between frost and thaw, which is of al_thers the most unfriendly for exercise, every morning beginning in rain o_now, and every evening setting in to freeze, she was for many days a mos_onourable prisoner. No intercourse with Harriet possible but by note; n_hurch for her on Sunday any more than on Christmas Day; and no need to fin_xcuses for Mr. Elton's absenting himself.
  • It was weather which might fairly confine every body at home; and though sh_oped and believed him to be really taking comfort in some society or other,
  • it was very pleasant to have her father so well satisfied with his being al_lone in his own house, too wise to stir out; and to hear him say to Mr.
  • Knightley, whom no weather could keep entirely from them,—
  • "Ah! Mr. Knightley, why do not you stay at home like poor Mr. Elton?"
  • These days of confinement would have been, but for her private perplexities,
  • remarkably comfortable, as such seclusion exactly suited her brother, whos_eelings must always be of great importance to his companions; and he had,
  • besides, so thoroughly cleared off his ill-humour at Randalls, that hi_miableness never failed him during the rest of his stay at Hartfield. He wa_lways agreeable and obliging, and speaking pleasantly of every body. But wit_ll the hopes of cheerfulness, and all the present comfort of delay, there wa_till such an evil hanging over her in the hour of explanation with Harriet,
  • as made it impossible for Emma to be ever perfectly at ease.