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Chapter 4
Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting
situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly
spoken of.
A week had not passed since Miss Hawkins's name was first mentioned in
Highbury, before she was, by some means or other, discovered to have every
recommendation of person and mind; to be handsome, elegant, highly
accomplished, and perfectly amiable: and when Mr. Elton himself arrived to
triumph in his happy prospects, and circulate the fame of her merits, there was
very little more for him to do, than to tell her Christian name, and say whose
music she principally played.
Mr. Elton returned, a very happy man. He had gone away rejected and mortified--
disappointed in a very sanguine hope, after a series of what appeared to him
strong encouragement; and not only losing the right lady, but finding himself
debased to the level of a very wrong one. He had gone away deeply offended--
he came back engaged to another--and to another as superior, of course, to the
first, as under such circumstances what is gained always is to what is lost. He
came back gay and self-satisfied, eager and busy, caring nothing for Miss
Woodhouse, and defying Miss Smith.
The charming Augusta Hawkins, in addition to all the usual advantages of perfect
beauty and merit, was in possession of an independent fortune, of so many
thousands as would always be called ten; a point of some dignity, as well as
some convenience: the story told well; he had not thrown himself away--he had
gained a woman of 10,000 l. or thereabouts; and he had gained her with such
delightful rapidity-- the first hour of introduction had been so very soon followed
by distinguishing notice; the history which he had to give Mrs. Cole of the rise
and progress of the affair was so glorious--the steps so quick, from the accidental
rencontre, to the dinner at Mr. Green's, and the party at Mrs. Brown's--smiles and
blushes rising in importance-- with consciousness and agitation richly scattered--
the lady had been so easily impressed--so sweetly disposed--had in short, to use
a most intelligible phrase, been so very ready to have him, that vanity and
prudence were equally contented.
He had caught both substance and shadow--both fortune and affection, and was
just the happy man he ought to be; talking only of himself and his own concerns--
expecting to be congratulated--ready to be laughed at--and, with cordial, fearless
smiles, now addressing all the young ladies of the place, to whom, a few weeks
ago, he would have been more cautiously gallant.
The wedding was no distant event, as the parties had only themselves to please,
and nothing but the necessary preparations to wait for; and when he set out for
Bath again, there was a general expectation, which a certain glance of Mrs.
Cole's did not seem to contradict, that when he next entered Highbury he would
bring his bride.
During his present short stay, Emma had barely seen him; but just enough to feel
that the first meeting was over, and to give her the impression of his not being