15. CHAPTER XV
Emma was not required, by any subsequent discovery, to retract her ill
opinion of Mrs. Elton. Her observation had been pretty correct.
Such as Mrs. Elton appeared to her on this second interview,
such she appeared whenever they met again,--self-important, presuming,
familiar, ignorant, and ill-bred. She had a little beauty and a
little accomplishment, but so little judgment that she thought herself
coming with superior knowledge of the world, to enliven and improve
a country neighbourhood; and conceived Miss Hawkins to have held
such a place in society as Mrs. Elton's consequence only could surpass.
There was no reason to suppose Mr. Elton thought at all differently
from his wife. He seemed not merely happy with her, but proud.
He had the air of congratulating himself on having brought such
a woman to Highbury, as not even Miss Woodhouse could equal;
and the greater part of her new acquaintance, disposed to commend,
or not in the habit of judging, following the lead of Miss Bates's
good-will, or taking it for granted that the bride must be as clever
and as agreeable as she professed herself, were very well satisfied;
so that Mrs. Elton's praise passed from one mouth to another as it
ought to do, unimpeded by Miss Woodhouse, who readily continued her
first contribution and talked with a good grace of her being "very
pleasant and very elegantly dressed."
In one respect Mrs. Elton grew even worse than she had appeared
at first. Her feelings altered towards Emma.--Offended, probably,
by the little encouragement which her proposals of intimacy met with,
she drew back in her turn and gradually became much more cold
and distant; and though the effect was agreeable, the ill-will
which produced it was necessarily increasing Emma's dislike.
Her manners, too--and Mr. Elton's, were unpleasant towards Harriet.
They were sneering and negligent. Emma hoped it must rapidly work
Harriet's cure; but the sensations which could prompt such behaviour
sunk them both very much.--It was not to be doubted that poor
Harriet's attachment had been an offering to conjugal unreserve,
and her own share in the story, under a colouring the least favourable
to her and the most soothing to him, had in all likelihood been
given also. She was, of course, the object of their joint dislike.--
When they had nothing else to say, it must be always easy to begin
abusing Miss Woodhouse; and the enmity which they dared not shew
in open disrespect to her, found a broader vent in contemptuous
treatment of Harriet.