4. CHAPTER IV
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 improved by the mixture of pique
and pretension, now spread over his air. She was, in fact,
beginning very much to wonder that she had ever thought him pleasing
at all; and his sight was so inseparably connected with some very
disagreeable feelings, that, except in a moral light, as a penance,
a lesson, a source of profitable humiliation to her own mind,
she would have been thankful to be assured of never seeing him again.
She wished him very well; but he gave her pain, and his welfare
twenty miles off would administer most satisfaction.
The pain of his continued residence in Highbury, however, must certainly
be lessened by his marriage. Many vain solicitudes would be prevented--
many awkwardnesses smoothed by it. A Mrs. Elton would be an excuse for
any change of intercourse; former intimacy might sink without remark.
It would be almost beginning their life of civility again.