1. CHAPTER I
A 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 attachment
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 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's
feelings. The Enscombe family were not in town quite 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 yet 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 the 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 love than he
had been. Absence, with the conviction probably of her indifference,
had produced this very natural and very desirable effect.