12. CHAPTER XII
"As you do us such ample justice now," said Emma, laughing, "I will
venture to ask, whether you did not come a little doubtfully at first?
Do not we rather surpass your expectations? I am sure we do.
I am sure you did not much expect to like us. You would not have been
so long in coming, if you had had a pleasant idea of Highbury."
He laughed rather consciously; and though denying the sentiment,
Emma was convinced that it had been so.
"And you must be off this very morning?"
"Yes; my father is to join me here: we shall walk back together,
and I must be off immediately. I am almost afraid that every moment
will bring him."
"Not five minutes to spare even for your friends Miss Fairfax and
Miss Bates? How unlucky! Miss Bates's powerful, argumentative mind
might have strengthened yours."
"Yes--I have called there; passing the door, I thought it better.
It was a right thing to do. I went in for three minutes, and was
detained by Miss Bates's being absent. She was out; and I felt it
impossible not to wait till she came in. She is a woman that one may,
that one must laugh at; but that one would not wish to slight.
It was better to pay my visit, then"--
He hesitated, got up, walked to a window.
"In short," said he, "perhaps, Miss Woodhouse--I think you can
hardly be quite without suspicion"--
He looked at her, as if wanting to read her thoughts. She hardly
knew what to say. It seemed like the forerunner of something
absolutely serious, which she did not wish. Forcing herself
to speak, therefore, in the hope of putting it by, she calmly said,
"You are quite in the right; it was most natural to pay your visit, then"--