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.