A very little quiet reflection was enough to satisfy Emma as to the nature o_er agitation on hearing this news of Frank Churchill. She was soon convince_hat it was not for herself she was feeling at all apprehensive o_mbarrassed; it was for him. Her own attachment had really subsided into _ere nothing; it was not worth thinking of;— but if he, who had undoubtedl_een always so much the most in love of the two, were to be returning with th_ame warmth of sentiment which he had taken away, it would be ver_istressing. If a separation of two months should not have cooled him, ther_ere dangers and evils before her:—caution for him and for herself would b_ecessary. She did not mean to have her own affections entangled again, and i_ould be incumbent on her to avoid any encouragement of his.
She wished she might be able to keep him from an absolute declaration. Tha_ould be so very painful a conclusion of their present acquaintance! and yet,
she could not help rather anticipating something decisive. She felt as if th_pring would not pass without bringing a crisis, an event, a something t_lter her present composed and tranquil state.
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'_eelings. The Enscombe family were not in town quite so soon as had bee_magined, but he was at Highbury very soon afterwards. He rode down for _ouple of hours; he could not yet do more; but as he came from Randall_mmediately to Hartfield, she could then exercise all her quick observation,
and speedily determine how he was influenced, and how she must act. They me_ith the utmost friendliness. There could be no doubt of his great pleasure i_eeing her. But she had an almost instant doubt of his caring for her as h_ad done, of his feeling the same tenderness in the same degree. She watche_im well. It was a clear thing he was less in love than he had been. Absence,
with the conviction probably of her indifference, had produced this ver_atural and very desirable effect.
He was in high spirits; as ready to talk and laugh as ever, and seeme_elighted to speak of his former visit, and recur to old stories: and he wa_ot without agitation. It was not in his calmness that she read hi_omparative difference. He was not calm; his spirits were evidently fluttered;
there was restlessness about him. Lively as he was, it seemed a livelines_hat did not satisfy himself; but what decided her belief on the subject, wa_is staying only a quarter of an hour, and hurrying away to make other call_n Highbury. "He had seen a group of old acquaintance in the street as h_assed— he had not stopped, he would not stop for more than a word—but he ha_he vanity to think they would be disappointed if he did not call, and much a_e wished to stay longer at Hartfield, he must hurry off." She had no doubt a_o his being less in love—but neither his agitated spirits, nor his hurryin_way, seemed like a perfect cure; and she was rather inclined to think i_mplied a dread of her returning power, and a discreet resolution of no_rusting himself with her long.
This was the only visit from Frank Churchill in the course of ten days. He wa_ften hoping, intending to come—but was always prevented. His aunt could no_ear to have him leave her. Such was his own account at Randall's. If he wer_uite sincere, if he really tried to come, it was to be inferred that Mrs.
Churchill's removal to London had been of no service to the wilful or nervou_art of her disorder. That she was really ill was very certain; he ha_eclared himself convinced of it, at Randalls. Though much might be fancy, h_ould not doubt, when he looked back, that she was in a weaker state of healt_han she had been half a year ago. He did not believe it to proceed from an_hing that care and medicine might not remove, or at least that she might no_ave many years of existence before her; but he could not be prevailed on, b_ll his father's doubts, to say that her complaints were merely imaginary, o_hat she was as strong as ever.
It soon appeared that London was not the place for her. She could not endur_ts noise. Her nerves were under continual irritation and suffering; and b_he ten days' end, her nephew's letter to Randalls communicated a change o_lan. They were going to remove immediately to Richmond. Mrs. Churchill ha_een recommended to the medical skill of an eminent person there, and ha_therwise a fancy for the place. A ready-furnished house in a favourite spo_as engaged, and much benefit expected from the change.
Emma heard that Frank wrote in the highest spirits of this arrangement, an_eemed most fully to appreciate the blessing of having two months before hi_f such near neighbourhood to many dear friends— for the house was taken fo_ay and June. She was told that now he wrote with the greatest confidence o_eing often with them, almost as often as he could even wish.
Emma saw how Mr. Weston understood these joyous prospects. He was considerin_er 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 wa_he very circumstance he could have wished for. Now, it would be really havin_rank in their neighbourhood. What were nine miles to a young man?—An hour'_ide. He would be always coming over. The difference in that respect o_ichmond and London was enough to make the whole difference of seeing hi_lways and seeing him never. Sixteen miles—nay, eighteen—it must be ful_ighteen to Manchester-street—was a serious obstacle. Were he ever able to ge_way, the day would be spent in coming and returning. There was no comfort i_aving him in London; he might as well be at Enscombe; but Richmond was th_ery distance for easy intercourse. Better than nearer!
One good thing was immediately brought to a certainty by this removal,— th_all at the Crown. It had not been forgotten before, but it had been soo_cknowledged vain to attempt to fix a day. Now, however, it was absolutely t_e; every preparation was resumed, and very soon after the Churchills ha_emoved to Richmond, a few lines from Frank, to say that his aunt felt alread_uch better for the change, and that he had no doubt of being able to joi_hem for twenty-four hours at any given time, induced them to name as early _ay as possible.
Mr. Weston's ball was to be a real thing. A very few to-morrows stood betwee_he young people of Highbury and happiness.
Mr. Woodhouse was resigned. The time of year lightened the evil to him. Ma_as better for every thing than February. Mrs. Bates was engaged to spend th_vening at Hartfield, James had due notice, and he sanguinely hoped tha_either dear little Henry nor dear little John would have any thing the matte_ith them, while dear Emma were gone.