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Part 1 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 mis-judgment, 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 shewn 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; but she could hardly devise any set of expressions, or fancy any tone of voice, less allied with real love. She need not trouble herself to pity him. He only wanted to aggrandise and enrich himself; and if Miss Woodhouse of Hartfield, the heiress of thirty thousand pounds, were not quite so easily obtained as he had fancied, he would soon try for Miss Somebody else with twenty, or with ten.

But - that he should talk of encouragement, should consider her as aware of his views, accepting his attentions, meaning (in short), to marry him! - should suppose himself her equal in connexion or mind! - look down upon her friend, so well understanding the gradations of rank below him, and be so blind to what rose above, as to fancy himself shewing no presumption in addressing her! - It was most provoking.

Perhaps it was not fair to expect him to feel how very much he was her inferior in talent, and all the elegancies of mind. The very want of such equality might prevent his perception of it; but he must know that in fortune and consequence she was greatly his superior. He must know that the Woodhouses had been settled for several generations at Hartfield, the younger branch of a very ancient family - and that the Eltons were nobody. The landed property of Hartfield certainly was inconsiderable, being but a sort of notch in the Donwell Abbey estate, to which all the rest of Highbury belonged; but their fortune, from other sources, was such as to make them scarcely secondary to Donwell Abbey itself, in every other kind of consequence; and the Woodhouses had 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 notice but 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 about the seeming incongruity of gentle manners and a conceited head, Emma was obliged in common honesty to stop and admit that her own behaviour to him had been so complaisant and obliging, so full of courtesy and attention, as (supposing her real motive unperceived) might warrant a man of ordinary observation and delicacy, like Mr. Elton, in fancying himself a very decided favourite. If she had so misinterpreted his feelings, she had little right to wonder 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 was adventuring too far, assuming too much, making light of what ought to be serious, a trick of what ought to be simple. She was quite concerned and ashamed, and resolved to do such things no more.

`Here have I,' said she, `actually talked poor Harriet into being very much attached to this man. She might never have thought of him but for me; and certainly never would have thought of him with hope, if I had not assured her of 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 have stopped, and left the rest to time and chance. I was introducing her into good company, and giving her the opportunity of pleasing some one worth having; I ought not to have attempted more. But now, poor girl, her peace is cut up for some time. I have been but half a friend to her; and if she were not to feel this disappointment so very much, I am sure I have not an idea of any body else who would be at all desirable for her; - William Coxe - Oh! no, I could not endure William Coxe - a pert young lawyer.'

She stopt to blush and laugh at her own relapse, and then resumed a more serious, more dispiriting cogitation upon what had been, and might be, and must be. The distressing explanation she had to make to Harriet, and all that poor Harriet would be suffering, with the awkwardness of future meetings, the difficulties of continuing or discontinuing the acquaintance, of subduing feelings, concealing resentment, and avoiding eclat, were enough to occupy her in most unmirthful reflections some time longer, and she went to bed at last with nothing settled but the conviction of her having blundered most dreadfully.

To youth and natural cheerfulness like Emma's, though under temporary gloom at night, the return of day will hardly fail to bring return of spirits. The youth and cheerfulness of morning are in happy analogy, and of powerful operation; and if the distress be not poignant enough to keep the eyes unclosed, they will be sure to open to sensations of softened pain and brighter 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 on getting tolerably out of it.

It was a great consolation that Mr. Elton should not be really in love with her, or so particularly amiable as to make it shocking to disappoint him - that Harriet's nature should not be of that superior sort in which the feelings are most acute and retentive - and that there could be no necessity for any body's knowing what had passed except the three principals, and especially for her father's being given a moment's uneasiness about it.

These were very cheering thoughts; and the sight of a great deal of snow on the ground did her further service, for any thing was welcome that might justify their all three being quite asunder at present.

The weather was most favourable for her; though Christmas Day, she could not go to church. Mr. Woodhouse would have been miserable had his daughter attempted it, and she was therefore safe from either exciting or receiving unpleasant and most unsuitable ideas. The ground covered with snow, and the atmosphere in that unsettled state between frost and thaw, which is of all others the most unfriendly for exercise, every morning beginning in rain or snow, and every evening setting in to freeze, she was for many days a most honourable prisoner. No intercourse with Harriet possible but by note; no church for her on Sunday any more than on Christmas Day; and no need to find excuses for Mr. Elton's absenting himself.

It was weather which might fairly confine every body at home; and though she hoped 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 all alone 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, whose feelings must always be of great importance to his companions; and he had, besides, so thoroughly cleared off his ill-humour at Randalls, that his amiableness never failed him during the rest of his stay at Hartfield. He was always agreeable and obliging, and speaking pleasantly of every body. But with all the hopes of cheerfulness, and all the present comfort of delay, there was still 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.

 

爱玛的头发卷好了,女佣给打发走了,她便坐下来思前想后,心里很不好受。这件事真让人伤心!她一直在企盼的事,就这样告吹了!她最讨厌的事,却出现了这样的结果!对哈丽特是多大的打击啊!这是最糟糕的。这件事处处给她带来了这样那样的痛苦和羞辱。但是,比起哈丽特的不幸来,一切都是微不足道的。假如她的过失仅仅殃及她本人,那她即使觉得自己比实际上犯了更大的错误——更严重的错误——由于判断错误而丢失更大的脸面,她也会心甘情愿。

“如果哈丽特不是听了我的劝说喜欢上了这个人,那我什么都可以忍受。埃尔顿先生可以对我做出加倍冒昧无礼的事来——但是可怜的哈丽特啊!”

她怎么能受这样的蒙骗呀!埃尔顿先生分辩说,他从来没有认真考虑过哈丽特——从来没有啊!她仔细想了想,可是脑子里却乱糟糟的。她觉得是她先有了这个念头,然后什么事都往这上面扯。不过,他的态度肯定是含含糊糊、犹犹豫豫的,否则她决不会产生这样的误解。

那幅画像!他多么热衷于那幅画像啊!那个字谜!还有上百个别的证据。看上去清清楚楚地表明他有意于哈丽特。当然,字谜中用了“聪敏过人”——接着又用了“温柔的眼睛”——其实这两者都不恰当。这只是一种胡拼乱凑,既不高雅,又不符合实际。谁能猜透这种笨拙的胡说八道呢?

的确,她经常感到他没有必要对她那样殷勤,特别是最近。不过,她一直把这看成他的习性,看成仅仅是错觉、误断或情趣不高,看成他并非一直生活在上流社会的一个明证。所以,尽管他谈吐斯文,但他有时还缺乏真正的文雅。不过,直到今天以前,她一直以为他念她是哈丽特的朋友,便对她又感激又敬重,一刻也没怀疑他还会有什么别的意思。

她多亏了约翰·奈特利先生,才第一次想到这个问题,开始意识到这种可能性。无可否认,这兄弟俩很有洞察力。她记得奈特利先生有一次跟她谈起埃尔顿先生,提醒她小心一些,说他深信埃尔顿先生决不会轻率结婚。对于埃尔顿先生的品格,有人看得比她准确得多,她想到这里脸就红了。这真叫她万分羞愧。的确,埃尔顿先生在许多方面与她想象的截然相反:傲慢、骄矜、自负,一心只为自己打算,丝毫不顾忌别人的情感。

此事异乎寻常的是,埃尔顿先生向她求爱,反而使她看不起他。他的表白和求婚全是徒劳无益。她一点也不稀罕他的爱,他的满怀希望使她感觉受了侮辱。他想攀一门好亲事,便自不量力地看中了她,大言不惭地说是爱上了她。不过,使她感到十分欣慰的是,他并没有颓然为之失望,用不着别人来安慰。他的言词和神情都没流露出真实的柔情。他说了不少甜言蜜语,老是唉声叹气,但她简直想不出有哪句话,也想不出有哪个声调,能比他的话、他的声调更缺少真正的爱。她用不着自寻烦恼来可怜他。他只不过是想提高自己的身价,捞取钱财而已。如果哈特菲尔德的身为三万英镑家产继承人的伍德豪斯小姐,并不像他想象的那样容易捞到手,那他马上就会去另找一位拥有两万英镑或一万英镑的小姐。

但是——他居然说他受到了鼓励,居然认为她知道了他的心意,接受了他的献殷勤,一句话,打算嫁给他!居然认为自己在门第和心智上与她旗鼓相当!居然瞧不起她的朋友,光看到别人地位比他低,却看不到有人地位比他高,居然不知天高地厚,向她求起婚来!真叫人来气。

也许,要指望他感觉自己在天资和心灵上赶不上她,那是不公道的。正是因为双方相去甚远,他才看不到这种差距。不过他应该明白,就财产和地位而言,她爱玛比他优越得多。他一定知道,伍德豪斯家是一个古老世家的后裔,已在哈特菲尔德居住了好几代——而埃尔顿家却湮没无闻。当然,哈特菲尔德的地产数量很少,只不过像是当维尔寺的一隅,海伯里的其余地产都归当维尔寺所有。不过,伍德豪斯家别的财源充裕,在其他方面几乎都不亚于当维尔寺。伍德豪斯家在这附近一带早就享有很高的声望,而埃尔顿先生只是两年前才来到这里,一心只想往上爬,除了职业上的来往之外,跟外界没有其他任何交往,除了身为牧师和对人彬彬有礼之外,没有其他任何惹人注目的地方。然而他却异想天开,以为她爱玛爱上了他。显然,他一定是这样认为的。举止那么斯文,心里却那么不自量,爱玛对这明显的表里不一嘀咕了一阵之后,又不得不停下来,坦率地承认自己对他那样热心体贴,那样礼貌周全,像埃尔顿先生这样不大明察、不大敏锐的人,在没有察觉她的真正动机的情况下,难免会想入非非,认定自己成_r她的心上人。既然她爱玛都误解了他的感情,那他埃尔顿让个人的私利迷住了心窍,因而误解了她的感情,她也就没有什么权利觉得奇怪了。

首先出错,而且错得更严重的,是她。那么起劲地要把两个人撮合在一起,真是又愚蠢又荒唐。本该是很严肃的事,却不当一回事,本该是很简单的事,却拿来当儿戏,真是太冒失、太逞能了。她深感不安,羞愧不已,决心再也不干这种事了。

“其实,”她心想,“可怜的哈丽特是听了我的话,才深深地爱上了这个人。要不是因为我,她可能永远也不会想到他的;要不是我一再说他喜欢她,她决不会对他抱有希望,因为她这个人又谦虚又谨慎,以前我总以为埃尔顿先生也是又谦虚又谨慎。唉!要是我仅仅劝说她拒绝马丁就好了。在这一点上,我全然没有错。这件事我干得很好,不过我应该就此罢手,其余的留给时间和机会去安排。我把她引荐到上流社会,使她有机会赢得一个值得攀附的人的好感;我不该做过了头。可是现在,可怜的姑娘,她的心在很长一段时间里得不到安宁了。我只不过帮了她一半忙。即使她对这次失恋并不感到十分伤心,那我也想不出还有哪个人对她比较合适。威廉·考克斯——哦!不行,我可受不了威廉·考克斯——一个愣头愣脑的年轻律师。”

她不再往下想了,不由得脸红了,笑自己又故态复萌。接着她又更加认真、更加颓丧地回顾了已经发生的事,揣摩了可能发生和必定发生的事。她不得不令人伤心地向哈丽特说明实情,可怜的哈丽特会感到多么痛苦,以后他们俩再见面会多么尴尬,不管继续来往还是中断来往,以及抑制感情,掩饰忿恨,避免冲突,都是很难的事,这些足以使她懊丧地又思忖了一会。最后她上床睡觉了,除了确信自己铸成大错之外,别的什么也没琢磨出来。

像爱玛这样富有朝气而又生性欢快的人,尽管夜里一时感到忧伤,但是一到白天定会重又高兴起来。早晨的朝气和欢快气息和她有着绝妙的酷似之处,而且对她起着强烈的感染作用。只要不是痛苦得无法合眼,等到睁开眼时,那就会感到痛苦已经缓解,心里充满了希望。

爱玛第二天起床时,感觉比上床时好受一些,心想眼前的不幸还会不断减轻,相信她定能从中摆脱出来。

使她感到莫大安慰的是:其一、埃尔顿先生并没有真正爱上她,对她并不是特别亲切,拒绝他也没有什么大不了的;其二、哈丽特不是一个生性出众的人,感情不是十分强烈,也不会至死不变;其三、除了三个主要的人之外,没有必要让其他人知道内情,特别是没有必要让她父亲为这事感到一时一刻的不安。

这些想法使她高兴起来。看到地上积着厚厚的雪,她越发感到高兴,因为任何事只要能使他们眼下互不见面,她都要为之庆幸。

天气对她十分有利。虽然是圣诞节,她却不能上教堂。她若是想去的话,伍德豪斯先生定会于心不忍,因此她可以确保无事,既不会引起又不会招来令人不快和令人难堪的想法。地上覆盖着雪,大气变幻不定,时而要结冰,时而要解冻,这最不适合搞什么活动。每天早上不是下雪就是下雨,到了晚上就开始结冻。接连好几天,她都心甘情愿地关在家里。跟哈丽特没法来往,只能写写信;星期天跟圣诞节一样,也不能上教堂;埃尔顿先生不来登门,也无须为他找什么借口。

这种天气完全可以把每个人都禁锢在家里。爱玛虽然认为父亲跟朋友在一起过得很快活,也希望他能这样做,但是使她+分高兴的是,他现在却情愿一个人待在家里,明智地不出门;而且她还听他对不管什么天气都要来看他们的奈特利先生说:

“咳!奈特利先生,你为什么不像可怜的埃尔顿先生那样待在家里呢?”

要不是因为心里烦恼,这几天闭门不出本可以过得极其愉快,因为她姐夫最不喜欢人来人往,而他的情绪又总给他的朋友带来很大影响。再说,他在兰多尔斯生的闷气早已涤荡而光,回到哈特菲尔德以后一直是和和气气的。他总是又和蔼又热心,谈起谁来都拣好话说。不过,尽管可望让人快活的事情不少,尽管还存在暂时拖延的欣慰,但足向哈丽特说明真情的时刻总要来临的,这一不幸正威胁着爱玛,使她不可能完全安下心来。



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