Mr. Frank Churchill did not come. When the time proposed drew near, Mrs.
Weston's fears were justified in the arrival of a letter of excuse. For the present,
he could not be spared, to his "very great mortification and regret; but still he
looked forward with the hope of coming to Randalls at no distant period."
Mrs. Weston was exceedingly disappointed--much more disappointed, in fact,
than her husband, though her dependence on seeing the young man had been
so much more sober: but a sanguine temper, though for ever expecting more
good than occurs, does not always pay for its hopes by any proportionate
depression. It soon flies over the present failure, and begins to hope again. For
half an hour Mr. Weston was surprised and sorry; but then he began to perceive
that Frank's coming two or three months later would be a much better plan; better
time of year; better weather; and that he would be able, without any doubt, to
stay considerably longer with them than if he had come sooner.
These feelings rapidly restored his comfort, while Mrs. Weston, of a more
apprehensive disposition, foresaw nothing but a repetition of excuses and delays;
and after all her concern for what her husband was to suffer, suffered a great
deal more herself.
Emma was not at this time in a state of spirits to care really about Mr. Frank
Churchill's not coming, except as a disappointment at Randalls. The
acquaintance at present had no charm for her. She wanted, rather, to be quiet,
and out of temptation; but still, as it was desirable that she should appear, in
general, like her usual self, she took care to express as much interest in the
circumstance, and enter as warmly into Mr. and Mrs. Weston's disappointment,
as might naturally belong to their friendship.
She was the first to announce it to Mr. Knightley; and exclaimed quite as much
as was necessary, (or, being acting a part, perhaps rather more,) at the conduct
of the Churchills, in keeping him away. She then proceeded to say a good deal
more than she felt, of the advantage of such an addition to their confined society
in Surry; the pleasure of looking at somebody new; the gala-day to Highbury
entire, which the sight of him would have made; and ending with reflections on
the Churchills again, found herself directly involved in a disagreement with Mr.
Knightley; and, to her great amusement, perceived that she was taking the other
side of the question from her real opinion, and making use of Mrs. Weston's
arguments against herself.
"The Churchills are very likely in fault," said Mr. Knightley, coolly; "but I dare say
he might come if he would."
"I do not know why you should say so. He wishes exceedingly to come; but his
uncle and aunt will not spare him."
"I cannot believe that he has not the power of coming, if he made a point of it. It
is too unlikely, for me to believe it without proof."
"How odd you are! What has Mr. Frank Churchill done, to make you suppose him
such an unnatural creature?"