Emma found that she must wait; and now it required little effort. She asked no more questions therefore, merely employed her own fancy, and that soon pointed out to her the probability of its being some money concern—something just come to light, of a disagreeable nature in the circumstances of the family,—something which the late event at Richmond had brought forward. Her fancy was very active. Half a dozen natural children, perhaps—and poor Frank cut off!— This, though very undesirable, would be no matter of agony to her. It inspired little more than an animating curiosity.
“Who is that gentleman on horseback?” said she, as they proceeded— speaking more to assist Mr. Weston in keeping his secret, than with any other view.
“I do not know.—One of the Otways.—Not Frank;—it is not Frank, I assure you. You will not see him. He is half way to Windsor by this time.”
“Has your son been with you, then?”
“Oh! yes—did not you know?—Well, well, never mind.”
For a moment he was silent; and then added, in a tone much more guarded and demure,
“Yes, Frank came over this morning, just to ask us how we did.”
They hurried on, and were speedily at Randalls.—“Well, my dear,” said he, as they entered the room—“I have brought her, and now I hope you will soon be better. I shall leave you together. There is no use in delay. I shall not be far off, if you want me.”— And Emma distinctly heard him add, in a lower tone, before he quitted the room,—“I have been as good as my word. She has not the least idea.”
Mrs. Weston was looking so ill, and had an air of so much perturbation, that Emma’s uneasiness increased; and the moment they were alone, she eagerly said,
“What is it my dear friend? Something of a very unpleasant nature, I find, has occurred;—do let me know directly what it is. I have been walking all this way in complete suspense. We both abhor suspense. Do not let mine continue longer. It will do you good to speak of your distress, whatever it may be.”
“Have you indeed no idea?” said Mrs. Weston in a trembling voice. “Cannot you, my dear Emma—cannot you form a guess as to what you are to hear?”
“So far as that it relates to Mr. Frank Churchill, I do guess.”
“You are right. It does relate to him, and I will tell you directly;” (resuming her work, and seeming resolved against looking up.) “He has been here this very morning, on a most extraordinary errand. It is impossible to express our surprize. He came to speak to his father on a subject,—to announce an attachment—”
She stopped to breathe. Emma thought first of herself, and then of Harriet.
“More than an attachment, indeed,” resumed Mrs. Weston; “an engagement— a positive engagement.—What will you say, Emma—what will any body say, when it is known that Frank Churchill and Miss Fairfax are engaged;—nay, that they have been long engaged!”