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Chapter 16
The hair was curled, and the maid sent away, and Emma sat down to think and
be miserable.--It was a wretched business indeed!--Such an overthrow of every
thing she had been wishing for!--Such a development of every thing most
unwelcome!--Such a blow for Harriet!--that was the worst of all. Every part of it
brought pain and humiliation, of some sort or other; but, compared with the evil to
Harriet, all was light; and she would gladly have submitted to feel yet more
mistaken-- more in error--more disgraced by misjudgment, than she actually 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 any thing.
He might have doubled his presumption to me-- but poor Harriet!"
How she could have been so deceived!--He protested that he had never thought
seriously of Harriet--never! She looked back as well as she could; but it was all
confusion. She had taken up the idea, she supposed, and made every thing bend
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
an hundred 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"-- in
fact it suited neither; it was a jumble without taste or truth. Who could have seen
through such thick-headed nonsense?
Certainly she had often, especially of late, thought his manners to herself
unnecessarily gallant; but it had passed as his way, as a mere error of judgment,
of knowledge, of taste, as one proof among others that he had not always 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 as Harriet's friend.
To Mr. John Knightley was she indebted for her first idea on the subject, for the
first start of its possibility. There was no denying that those brothers had
penetration. She remembered what Mr. Knightley had once said to her about Mr.
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 a
knowledge of his character had been there shown than any she had reached
herself. It was dreadfully mortifying; but Mr. Elton was proving himself, in many
respects, the very reverse of what she had meant and believed him; proud,
assuming, conceited; very full of his own claims, and little concerned about the
feelings of others.
Contrary to the usual course of things, Mr. Elton's wanting to pay his addresses
to her had sunk him in her opinion. His professions and his proposals did him no
service. She thought nothing of his attachment, and was insulted by his hopes.
He wanted to marry well, and having the arrogance to raise his eyes to her,
pretended to be in love; but she was perfectly easy as to his not suffering any
disappointment that need be cared for. There had been no real affection either in
his language or manners. Sighs and fine words had been given in abundance;