||Back to contents page
very little quiet reflection was enough to satisfy Emma as to the
nature of her agitation on hearing this news of Frank Churchill. She
was soon convinced that it was not for herself she was feeling at all
apprehensive or embarrassed; it was for him. Her own
had really subsided into a mere nothing; it was not worth thinking
of;-- but if he, who had undoubtedly been always so much the most in
love of the two, were to be returning with the same warmth of sentiment
which he had taken away, it would be very distressing. If a
separation of two months should not have cooled him, there were dangers
and evils before her:--caution for him and for herself would be
necessary. She did not mean to have her own affections entangled again,
and it would be incumbent on her to avoid any encouragement of his.
She wished she might be able to keep him from an absolute declaration.
That would be so very painful a conclusion of their present
acquaintance! and yet, she could not help rather anticipating something
decisive. She felt as if the spring would not pass without bringing a
crisis, an event, a something to alter her present composed and
It was not very long, though rather longer than Mr. Weston had
foreseen, before she had the power of forming some opinion of Frank
Churchill's feelings. The Enscombe family were not in town
so soon as had been imagined, but he was at Highbury very soon
afterwards. He rode down for a couple of hours; he could not
do more; but as he came from Randalls immediately to Hartfield, she
could then exercise all her quick observation, and speedily determine
how he was influenced, and how she must act. They met with
utmost friendliness. There could be no doubt of his great pleasure in
seeing her. But she had an almost instant doubt of his caring for her
as he had done, of his feeling the same tenderness in the same degree.
She watched him well. It was a clear thing he was less in
than he had been. Absence, with the conviction probably of
indifference, had produced this very natural and very desirable effect.
He was in high spirits; as ready to talk and laugh as ever, and seemed
delighted to speak of his former visit, and recur to old stories: and
he was not without agitation. It was not in his calmness that
read his comparative difference. He was not calm; his spirits
were evidently fluttered; there was restlessness about him. Lively as
he was, it seemed a liveliness that did not satisfy himself; but what
decided her belief on the subject, was his staying only a quarter of an
hour, and hurrying away to make other calls in Highbury.
"He had seen a group of old acquaintance in the street as he passed--
he had not stopped, he would not stop for more than a word--but he had
the vanity to think they would be disappointed if he did not call, and
much as he wished to stay longer at Hartfield, he must hurry off." She
had no doubt as to his being less in love--but neither his agitated
spirits, nor his hurrying away, seemed like a perfect cure; and she was
rather inclined to think it implied a dread of her returning power, and
a discreet resolution of not trusting himself with her long.
This was the only visit from Frank Churchill in the course of ten days.
He was often hoping, intending to come--but was always prevented. His
aunt could not bear to have him leave her. Such was his own
account at Randall's. If he were quite sincere, if he really tried to
come, it was to be inferred that Mrs. Churchill's removal to London had
of no service to the wilful or nervous part of her disorder. That she
was really ill was very certain; he had declared himself convinced of
it, at Randalls. Though much might be fancy, he could not
when he looked back, that she was in a weaker state of health than she
had been half a year ago. He did not believe it to proceed
any thing that care and medicine might not remove, or at least that she
might not have many years of existence before her; but he could not be
prevailed on, by all his father's doubts, to say that her complaints
were merely imaginary, or that she was as strong as ever.
It soon appeared that London was not the place for her. She
not endure its noise. Her nerves were under continual
and suffering; and by the ten days' end, her nephew's letter to
Randalls communicated a change of plan. They were going to
immediately to Richmond. Mrs. Churchill had been recommended
the medical skill of an eminent person there, and had otherwise a fancy
for the place. A ready-furnished house in a favourite spot
engaged, and much benefit expected from the change.
Emma heard that Frank wrote in the highest spirits of this arrangement,
and seemed most fully to appreciate the blessing of having two months
before him of such near neighbourhood to many dear friends-- for the
house was taken for May and June. She was told that now he
with the greatest confidence of being often with them, almost
as often as he could even wish.
Emma saw how Mr. Weston understood these joyous prospects. He
considering her as the source of all the happiness they offered. She
hoped it was not so. Two months must bring it to the proof.
Mr. Weston's own happiness was indisputable. He was quite
delighted. It was the very circumstance he could have wished
Now, it would be really having Frank in their neighbourhood.
were nine miles to a young man?--An hour's ride. He would be
always coming over. The difference in that respect of Richmond and
London was enough to make the whole difference of seeing him always and
seeing him never. Sixteen miles--nay, eighteen--it must be
eighteen to Manchester-street--was a serious obstacle. Were
ever able to get away, the day would be spent in coming and returning.
There was no comfort in having him in London; he might as well be at
Enscombe; but Richmond was the very distance for easy intercourse.
Better than nearer!
One good thing was immediately brought to a certainty by this
removal,-- the ball at the Crown. It had not been forgotten
before, but it had been soon acknowledged vain to attempt to fix a
day. Now, however, it was absolutely to be; every preparation
resumed, and very soon after the Churchills had removed to Richmond, a
few lines from Frank, to say that his aunt felt already much better for
the change, and that he had no doubt of being able to join them for
twenty-four hours at any given time, induced them to name as early a
day as possible.
Mr. Weston's ball was to be a real thing. A very few
stood between the young people of Highbury and happiness.
Mr. Woodhouse was resigned. The time of year lightened the
to him. May was better for every thing than
Bates was engaged to spend the evening at Hartfield, James had due
notice, and he sanguinely hoped that neither dear little Henry nor dear
little John would have any thing the matter with them, while dear Emma
to contents page