Chapter 15This letter must make its way to Emma's feelings. She was obliged, in spite of her previous determination to the contrary, to do it all the justice that Mrs. Weston foretold. As soon as she came to her own name, it was irresistible; every line relating to herself was interesting, and almost every line agreeable; and when this charm ceased, the subject could still maintain itself, by the natural return of her former regard for the writer, and the very strong attraction which any picture of love must have for her at that moment. She never stopt till she had gone through the whole; and though it was impossible not to feel that he had been wrong, yet he had been less wrong than she had supposed - and he had suffered, and was very sorry - and he was so grateful to Mrs. Weston, and so much in love with Miss Fairfax, and she was so happy herself, that there was no being severe; and could he have entered the room, she must have shaken hands with him as heartily as ever.
She thought so well of the letter, that when Mr. Knightley came again, she desired him to read it. She was sure of Mrs. Weston's wishing it to be communicated; especially to one, who, like Mr. Knightley, had seen so much to blame in his conduct.
`I shall be very glad to look it over,' said he; `but it seems long. I will take it home with me at night.'
But that would not do. Mr. Weston was to call in the evening, and she must return it by him.
`I would rather be talking to you,' he replied; `but as it seems a matter of justice, it shall be done.'
He began - stopping, however, almost directly to say, `Had I been offered the sight of one of this gentleman's letters to his mother-in-law a few months ago, Emma, it would not have been taken with such indifference.'
He proceeded a little farther, reading to himself; and then, with a smile, observed, `Humph! a fine complimentary opening: But it is his way. One man's style must not be the rule of another's. We will not be severe.'
`It will be natural for me,' he added shortly afterwards, `to speak my opinion aloud as I read. By doing it, I shall feel that I am near you. It will not be so great a loss of time: but if you dislike it - '
`Not at all. I should wish it.'
Mr. Knightley returned to his reading with greater alacrity.
`He trifles here,' said he, `as to the temptation. He knows he is wrong, and has nothing rational to urge. - Bad. - He ought not to have formed the engagement. - ``His father's disposition:'' - he is unjust, however, to his father. Mr. Weston's sanguine temper was a blessing on all his upright and honourable exertions; but Mr. Weston earned every present comfort before he endeavoured to gain it. - Very true; he did not come till Miss Fairfax was here.'
`And I have not forgotten,' said Emma, `how sure you were that he might have come sooner if he would. You pass it over very handsomely - but you were perfectly right.'
`I was not quite impartial in my judgment, Emma: - but yet, I think - had you not been in the case - I should still have distrusted him.'
When he came to Miss Woodhouse, he was obliged to read the whole of it aloud - all that related to her, with a smile; a look; a shake of the head; a word or two of assent, or disapprobation; or merely of love, as the subject required; concluding, however, seriously, and, after steady reflection, thus -
`Very bad - though it might have been worse. - Playing a most dangerous game. Too much indebted to the event for his acquittal. - No judge of his own manners by you. - Always deceived in fact by his own wishes, and regardless of little besides his own convenience. - Fancying you to have fathomed his secret. Natural enough! - his own mind full of intrigue, that he should suspect it in others. - Mystery; Finesse - how they pervert the understanding! My Emma, does not every thing serve to prove more and more the beauty of truth and sincerity in all our dealings with each other?'
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