Emma did not really like Mrs Elton. She seemed a little too comfortable, in a new place with new people. She was not very elegant, Emma thought. She dressed well and was pretty, but she did not seem a lady.
When Mr Elton came into the room he looked very uncomfortable, but Emma thought it was really bad luck for him. He had married Augusta, he had wanted to marry Emma, and Harriet had wanted him to marry her. And now they were all in the same room at the same time.
The visit was short and, in time, Mr and Mrs Elton returned it by visiting Hartfield.
There, Mrs Elton talked a lot about her brother and sister and their house. She said it was a lot like Hartfield.
‘This room is just like their drawing room! Do you agree Mr E? And the gardens! When my brother comes to visit us, we must all come to see your gardens, Miss Woodhouse.’
Emma liked her even less than before and Mr Elton had very little opportunity to speak at all.
‘Is there a musical society in Highbury, Miss Woodhouse? Do you play?’ she asked.
Emma said she did.
‘We must start a little music club. It will be so amusing, don’t you think?’
Before she could answer, Mrs Elton continued, ‘We have just come from Randalls. What lovely people Mr and Mrs Weston are! He is quite a favourite of mine already! Mrs Weston was your teacher, I think?’
Emma did not have time to reply.
‘I knew that and so I was a little surprised to find that she is such a lady. And who do you think arrived while we were there?’ she asked.
Emma could not think of anybody to suggest.
‘Knightley! Knightley himself! Was it not lucky? A very good friend of Mr E’s! And I like him already. Knightley is quite the gentleman.’
Happily, it was then time for Mr and Mrs Elton to leave. Emma could breathe again.
What an awful woman,’ she thought. ‘A very rude woman. Knightley, she called him! A music club! And she was surprised that Mrs Weston was a lady! I do not like her at all.’
Mr Woodhouse was kinder.
‘A very pretty young woman,’ he said, ‘but she speaks a little too quickly. It hurts the ear.’
Dear Papa,’ said Emma. ‘You are too kind.’
During the next few weeks, Emma did not see anything to change her opinion of Mrs Elton. She was rude and thought herself very important, but Mr Elton seemed happy and proud of her. Emma wondered whether it was just because of the ten thousand pounds. Mrs Elton seemed to know Emma did not like her so she stayed away from Hartfield. But she became very interested in Jane Fairfax and decided Jane needed her help as an introduction into good society. Emma felt very sorry for Jane, who was more elegant than Mrs Elton could ever be.
One afternoon at Randalls, Emma, Mrs Weston and Mr Knightley were discussing Jane.
‘Why does she stay here so long?’ wondered Emma. ‘She could go home to the Campbells and I cannot understand why she prefers to be here month after month.’
‘If she stays, she will have to see Mrs Elton a lot of the time and I cannot believe she will like that,’ said Mrs Weston. ‘But perhaps she likes to be away from her aunt and grandmother occasionally.’
Mr Knightley agreed. ‘And if there is no other person to be with …’ he said, looking at Emma.
‘I know how much you like Jane Fairfax. Perhaps you like her more than you realise,’ Emma said to him.
‘Oh — I see what you are thinking of. I am sure Miss Fairfax would not have me if I asked her, and I am also sure I will never ask her,’ he replied.
Mrs Weston touched Emma’s foot with hers.
Mr Knightley continued. ‘So, you have decided that I should marry Jane Fairfax, have you?’
‘Not at all,’ said Emma. ‘You were angry with me before for match-making and I had no idea of trying it with you. You would not come and sit with us in this comfortable way if you were married.’
Emma thought Mr Knightley might be angry with her if he thought she and Mrs Weston were match-making him with Jane, but she was surprised to see that he seemed a little amused by the idea.
I like Jane Fairfax, of course. But I have never thought of being in love with her. Not once,’ he said.
After he had left, Emma said to Mrs Weston, ‘Now, what do you think about Mr Knightley marrying Jane Fairfax?’
‘My dear Emma, I think he tries too hard to tell us he is not in love with her. I would not be surprised if he was. I may be right in the end,’ Mrs Weston replied.