To understand, thoroughly understand her own heart, was the first endeavour. To that point went every leisure moment which her father's claims on her allowed, and every moment of involuntary absence of mind.
How long had Mr. Knightley been so dear to her, as every feelings declared him now to be? When had his influence, such influence began?-When had he succeeded to that place in her affection, which Frank Churchill had once, for a short period, occupied? –She looked back; she compared the two –compared them, as they had always stood in her estimation, from the time of the latter's becoming known to her-and as they must at any time have been compared by her, had it- oh! Had it, by any blessed felicity, occurred to her, to institute the comparison. –She saw that there never had been a time when she did not consider Mr Knightley as infinitely the superior, or when his regard for her had not been infinitely the most dear. She saw, that in persuading herself, in fancying, in acting to the contrary, she had been entirely under a delusion, totally ignorant of her own heart-and, in short, that she had never really cared for Frank Churchill at all!
This was the conclusion of the first series of reflection. This was the knowledge of herself, on the first series of reflection. This was the knowledge of herself, on the first question of inquiry, which she reached; and without being long in reaching it. – She was most sorrowfully indignant; ashamed of every sensation but one revealed to her- her affection for Mr Knightley.
"'As a friend!' –repeated Mr Knightley.- 'Emma, that I fear is a word- No, I have no wish- Stay, yes, why would I hesitate? – I have gone too far already for concealment. – Emma, I accept your offer- Extraordinary as it may seem, I accept it, and refer myself to you as a friend. – Tell me, then, have I no chance of ever succeeding?'
He stopped in his earnestness to look the question, and the expression of his eyes overpowered her.
'My dearest Emma,' said her, ' for dearest you will always be, whatever the event of this hour's conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma-tell me at once. Say "No," if it is to be said.'- She could really say nothing. (…)
Emma was almost ready to sink under the agitation of this moment. The dread of being awakened from the happiest dream was perhaps the most prominent feeling.
'I cannot make speeches, Emma:' – he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing. – 'If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. – You hear nothing but truth from me. I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it. –Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover. – But you understand me. –Yes, you see, you understand my feelings- and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice."
He had, in fact, been wholly unsuspicious of his own influence. He had followed her into the shrubbery with no idea of trying it. He had come, in his anxiety to see how she bore Frank Churchill's engagement, with no selfish view, no view at all, but of endeavouring, if she allowed him an opening, to soothe or to counsel her.- The rest had been the work of the moment , the immediate effect of what she heard, on his feelings. The delightful assurance of her total indifference towards Frank Churchill, of her having a heart completely disengaged from him, had given birth to the hope, that, in time, he might gain her affection himself;- but it had been no present hope- he had only, in the momentary conquest of eagerness over judgment , aspired to be told that she did not forbid his attempt to attach her.-The superior hopes which gradually opened were so much the more enchanting.- The affection, which he had been asking to be allowed to create if he could, was already his!- Within half an hour, he had passed from a thoroughly distressed state of mind, to something so like perfect happiness, that it could bear no other name.
Her change was equal. – This one half hour had given to each the same precious certainty of being beloved, had cleared from each the same degree of ignorance, jealousy, or distrust.
A Moment of hoping:
What totally different feelings did Emma take back into the house from what she had brought out!- she had then been only daring to hope for a little respite of suffering; - she was now in an exquisite flutter of happiness, and such happiness moreover as she believed must still be greater when the flutter should have passed away.
My Favourite parts of Jane Austen's Emma.