Emma even jumped with surprize;—and, horror-struck, exclaimed,
“Jane Fairfax!—Good God! You are not serious? You do not mean it?”
“You may well be amazed,” returned Mrs. Weston, still averting her eyes, and talking on with eagerness, that Emma might have time to recover— “You may well be amazed. But it is even so. There has been a solemn engagement between them ever since October—formed at Weymouth, and kept a secret from every body. Not a creature knowing it but themselves—neither the Campbells, nor her family, nor his.— It is so wonderful, that though perfectly convinced of the fact, it is yet almost incredible to myself. I can hardly believe it.— I thought I knew him.”
Emma scarcely heard what was said.—Her mind was divided between two ideas—her own former conversations with him about Miss Fairfax; and poor Harriet;—and for some time she could only exclaim, and require confirmation, repeated confirmation.
“Well,” said she at last, trying to recover herself; “this is a circumstance which I must think of at least half a day, before I can at all comprehend it. What!—engaged to her all the winter— before either of them came to Highbury?”
“Engaged since October,—secretly engaged.—It has hurt me, Emma, very much. It has hurt his father equally. Some part of his conduct we cannot excuse.”
Emma pondered a moment, and then replied, “I will not pretend not to understand you; and to give you all the relief in my power, be assured that no such effect has followed his attentions to me, as you are apprehensive of.”
Mrs. Weston looked up, afraid to believe; but Emma’s countenance was as steady as her words.
“That you may have less difficulty in believing this boast, of my present perfect indifference,” she continued, “I will farther tell you, that there was a period in the early part of our acquaintance, when I did like him, when I was very much disposed to be attached to him—nay, was attached—and how it came to cease, is perhaps the wonder. Fortunately, however, it did cease. I have really for some time past, for at least these three months, cared nothing about him. You may believe me, Mrs. Weston. This is the simple truth.”
Mrs. Weston kissed her with tears of joy; and when she could find utterance, assured her, that this protestation had done her more good than any thing else in the world could do.
“Mr. Weston will be almost as much relieved as myself,” said she. “On this point we have been wretched. It was our darling wish that you might be attached to each other—and we were persuaded that it was so.— Imagine what we have been feeling on your account.”