Emma eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 469 pages of information about Emma.
Emma was sadly fearful that this second disappointment would be more severe than the first.  Considering the very superior claims of the object, it ought; and judging by its apparently stronger effect on Harriet’s mind, producing reserve and self-command, it would.—­ She must communicate the painful truth, however, and as soon as possible.  An injunction of secresy had been among Mr. Weston’s parting words.  “For the present, the whole affair was to be completely a secret.  Mr. Churchill had made a point of it, as a token of respect to the wife he had so very recently lost; and every body admitted it to be no more than due decorum.”—­ Emma had promised; but still Harriet must be excepted.  It was her superior duty.

In spite of her vexation, she could not help feeling it almost ridiculous, that she should have the very same distressing and delicate office to perform by Harriet, which Mrs. Weston had just gone through by herself.  The intelligence, which had been so anxiously announced to her, she was now to be anxiously announcing to another.  Her heart beat quick on hearing Harriet’s footstep and voice; so, she supposed, had poor Mrs. Weston felt when she was approaching Randalls.  Could the event of the disclosure bear an equal resemblance!—­ But of that, unfortunately, there could be no chance.

“Well, Miss Woodhouse!” cried Harriet, coming eagerly into the room—­ “is not this the oddest news that ever was?”

“What news do you mean?” replied Emma, unable to guess, by look or voice, whether Harriet could indeed have received any hint.

“About Jane Fairfax.  Did you ever hear any thing so strange?  Oh!—­you need not be afraid of owning it to me, for Mr. Weston has told me himself.  I met him just now.  He told me it was to be a great secret; and, therefore, I should not think of mentioning it to any body but you, but he said you knew it.”

“What did Mr. Weston tell you?”—­said Emma, still perplexed.

“Oh! he told me all about it; that Jane Fairfax and Mr. Frank Churchill are to be married, and that they have been privately engaged to one another this long while.  How very odd!”

It was, indeed, so odd; Harriet’s behaviour was so extremely odd, that Emma did not know how to understand it.  Her character appeared absolutely changed.  She seemed to propose shewing no agitation, or disappointment, or peculiar concern in the discovery.  Emma looked at her, quite unable to speak.

“Had you any idea,” cried Harriet, “of his being in love with her?—­You, perhaps, might.—­You (blushing as she spoke) who can see into every body’s heart; but nobody else—­”

“Upon my word,” said Emma, “I begin to doubt my having any such talent.  Can you seriously ask me, Harriet, whether I imagined him attached to another woman at the very time that I was—­tacitly, if not openly—­ encouraging you to give way to your own feelings?—­I never had the slightest suspicion, till within the last hour, of Mr. Frank Churchill’s having the least regard for Jane Fairfax.  You may be very sure that if I had, I should have cautioned you accordingly.”

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Emma from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.