The introduction was alarming. Hartfield was a very fine and beautiful old house, of such antiquity and comfort as Mrs. Elton had never seen before in her life; and she could only maintain her composure, and conceal how overwhelmed and unimportant she really felt, by making comparisons with Maple Grove. She knew she was mentioning it too often – she could not help talking too much when she was nervous – and she felt the impression being made upon Miss Woodhouse was an unfortunate one. When she mentioned the staircase at Maple Grove, she distinctly saw a contemptuous expression pass over Miss Woodhouse’s proud features. Rattled, she tried to compensate, to overcome the young lady’s evident disdain, by throwing a little extra warmth into her manner, and assuming a higher degree of friendship and amity for Miss Woodhouse than she really felt, or than was possible to feel on such short acquaintance. She and Miss Woodhouse must be friends; their situations relative to each other demanded it; and not knowing how to engage so very formidable and proud a young lady, possessed of manners of such icy perfection, Mrs. Elton unwisely chose the unfortunate method of an over-assumption of intimacy. In her anxiety she heard herself suggesting that she and Miss Woodhouse unite to form a musical society – highly desirable and important to Mrs. Elton, to be sure – but it was with chagrin that she saw Miss Woodhouse coldly passing over the suggestion. She tried to present as prepossessing a portrait of herself as she could, impressing upon Miss Woodhouse the position that she, as Miss Hawkins, had held in society; but Miss Woodhouse was not, would not be, impressed. Not by Maple Grove, not by several mentions of her brother-in-law Mr. Suckling’s fine carriages, not by her kind offer to introduce her to friends in Bath – what more could she possibly say to appease and engage this young lady?
Augusta knew, even as she was speaking, that everything she was saying was wrong, but she thought that Miss Woodhouse might show some consideration, might feel some sympathy for the uncertainty she felt as a stranger, as a bride. But no sympathy, no warmth was forthcoming. A powerful resentment began to come over Augusta. This Miss Woodhouse was intolerable! Dreadful woman! So self-satisfied, so certain of everything she said! Augusta could hardly keep from putting her down, correcting her when she so arrogantly looked down her nose and declared, “Many counties are called the garden of England, I believe.” She argued about everything. Mrs. Elton had not had the advantage of the best music masters, in Bristol, and was thankful to be able to give up the painful obligation to have to play and sing before every body, at evening parties at Bath as well as before every group of newcomers to Maple Grove. But from Miss Woodhouse’s sneers, you would think that giving up music as a married woman, was something reprehensible. It was plain by the end of a quarter of an hour, that she and Miss Woodhouse were not to be bosom friends. Hopelessly, Augusta tried to impress on Miss Woodhouse that she was to be respected as a married woman, at least; that she had held an important position in society before her marriage; that her sister was well married – but each implied boast, or direct brag, hit the wrong spot, and Miss Woodhouse only looked more and more scornful, if that was possible. Even a compliment spoken about that nice Mrs. Weston, who had been Miss Woodhouse’s governess but now had risen to be quite an enviable and important figure in Highbury society, did not serve. Showing interest and approval of the man who might almost be considered the King of Highbury, Mr. Knightley, an intimate friend of the Woodhouses, did not answer either. Mrs. Elton was hurt, disappointed, at her wits’ end. She would have to seek for friends elsewhere, it was very plain. Where could she look? That elegant young Miss Fairfax was more come-at-able, certainly less unpleasing, than this Miss Woodhouse, and might be properly grateful for friendly overtures. Perhaps she would find a friend, an ally, there.