Chapter 18Time passed on. A few more to-morrows, and the party from London would be arriving. It was an alarming change; and Emma was thinking of it one morning, as what must bring a great deal to agitate and grieve her, when Mr. Knightley came in, and distressing thoughts were put by. After the first chat of pleasure he was silent; and then, in a graver tone, began with,
`I have something to tell you, Emma; some news.'
`Good or bad?' said she, quickly, looking up in his face.
`I do not know which it ought to be called.'
`Oh! good I am sure. - I see it in your countenance. You are trying not to smile.'
`I am afraid,' said he, composing his features, `I am very much afraid, my dear Emma, that you will not smile when you hear it.'
`Indeed! but why so? - I can hardly imagine that any thing which pleases or amuses you, should not please and amuse me too.'
`There is one subject,' he replied, `I hope but one, on which we do not think alike.' He paused a moment, again smiling, with his eyes fixed on her face. `Does nothing occur to you? - Do not you recollect? - Harriet Smith.'
Her cheeks flushed at the name, and she felt afraid of something, though she knew not what.
`Have you heard from her yourself this morning?' cried he. `You have, I believe, and know the whole.'
`No, I have not; I know nothing; pray tell me.'
`You are prepared for the worst, I see - and very bad it is. Harriet Smith marries Robert Martin.'
Emma gave a start, which did not seem like being prepared - and her eyes, in eager gaze, said, `No, this is impossible!' but her lips were closed.
`It is so, indeed,' continued Mr. Knightley; `I have it from Robert Martin himself. He left me not half an hour ago.'
She was still looking at him with the most speaking amazement.
`You like it, my Emma, as little as I feared. - I wish our opinions were the same. But in time they will. Time, you may be sure, will make one or the other of us think differently; and, in the meanwhile, we need not talk much on the subject.'
`You mistake me, you quite mistake me,' she replied, exerting herself. `It is not that such a circumstance would now make me unhappy, but I cannot believe it. It seems an impossibility! - You cannot mean to say, that Harriet Smith has accepted Robert Martin. You cannot mean that he has even proposed to her again - yet. You only mean, that he intends it.'
`I mean that he has done it,' answered Mr. Knightley, with smiling but determined decision, `and been accepted.'
`Good God!' she cried. - `Well!' - Then having recourse to her workbasket, in excuse for leaning down her face, and concealing all the exquisite feelings of delight and entertainment which she knew she must be expressing, she added, `Well, now tell me every thing; make this intelligible to me. How, where, when? - Let me know it all. I never was more surprized - but it does not make me unhappy, I assure you. - How - how has it been possible?'
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