That afternoon, Emma was walking in the garden when she saw Mr Knightley come through the gate. She did not know he had returned to Highbury and she was thinking of him and Harriet at exactly that moment. She was beginning to believe he might really love Harriet and they may perhaps marry one day.
They talked about Isabella and John but Mr Knightley was quieter than usual. Emma wondered whether he wanted to talk to her about Harriet but found it difficult to know how to start. She tried to make conversation.
‘We have some surprising news — a wedding.’
‘Miss Fairfax and Frank Churchill. I have already heard about it,’ he replied.
Emma immediately thought he had been to see Harriet before he came to Hartfield and she had told him. ‘How is it possible that you know?’ she asked.
‘Mr Weston wrote to me on business and he told me the news in his letter,’ he explained.
‘You are probably not as surprised as we were. You suspected it before and tried to warn me.’ Emma sighed. ‘But I would not listen to you. I seem to have been blind about a lot of things.’
Nothing was said for a few minutes, then Mr Knightley took her hand and pressed it to his heart.
‘Dear Emma, time will help you forget him,’ he said, ‘and he will soon be gone.’
‘You are very kind, but you have misunderstood. I am sorry for things I did and tried to do, but I never loved Frank Churchill and he did not love me. He was only trying to hide his love for Jane and I just enjoyed being with him. It was not love,’ said Emma.
There was suddenly a great difference in Mr Knightley. He held her hand tightly. ‘Emma, might there be a chance for me?’
Emma was so surprised she could not speak.
‘If your answer is «No» please tell me now, Emma. I cannot tell you everything I feel for you. If I loved you less I might be able to talk about it more,’ he continued. ‘But you know what I am, everything I say to you is true. And I tell you now, my dear, that I have always loved you.’
Emma had never been happier. She told him then that she loved him too. As they kissed she thought, just for a moment, of Harriet and was glad she had not said anything to Mr Knightley about her.
They went into the house and had tea with Mr Woodhouse but, for the present, said nothing to him about their love. After Mr Knightley had gone, Emma wrote to Isabella and suggested she invited Harriet to London. She thought it would be a good idea if Harriet went away from Highbury for a short time so they did not see each other for a few weeks.
Later that day, Mr Knightley returned to Hartfield. He wanted to ask Emma to marry him but he was worried that Mr Woodhouse would be very upset if Emma left Hartfield and went to live in Mr Knightley’s house.
‘I could not leave him,’ said Emma.
‘We could all live in my house,’ he suggested.
‘He would be very unhappy if he had to leave Hartfield,’ said Emma.
‘Then there is only one answer,’ said Mr Knightley. ‘We must all live in Hartfield.’
It was a good idea and Emma said she would think about it before speaking to her father. The more she thought about it, the more delightful the idea became. The only thing that made her sad was Harriet. If she was still in love with Mr Knightley, she could not be a part of the happy picture in Emma’s mind.
Poor Harriet. Emma knew there was going to be a day when she could forget Mr Knightley, but it was not likely to be soon. It was too much to hope that even Harriet could be in love with more than three men in one year.
Harriet was invited to London as planned and, before Harriet left, Emma wrote to her and explained that she and Mr Knightley wanted to marry.
Mr Woodhouse’s carriage took Harriet to Isabella’s house and, after she had gone, Emma felt more comfortable. Now she could enjoy Mr Knightley’s visits without feeling guilty. She was sure that Harriet could find interesting things to do and there may be people to meet in London to help her forget all that had happened.
Emma told her father she and Mr Knightley were going to get married and they were all going to live in Hartfield. Mr Woodhouse did not like changes in his life and at first he was a little shocked.
‘We will always be here to look after you, Papa. Nothing will change for you, and you know how much you enjoy talking to Mr Knightley’ she said. Emma talked to him about it a little longer and he soon saw that they could all be happy together and it was really quite a good plan. ‘Perhaps in a year or two …’ he said.
The news spread quickly and generally people in Highbury thought it was a very good match, except for Mr and Mrs Elton. She had never liked Emma and thought it was terrible that they would all live together at Hartfield.
‘It will not work. It is a shocking idea,’ she said to her husband.
He just said, ‘She probably always meant to catch Knightley if she could.’
About two weeks later, Mr Knightley called at Hartfield one morning as usual and told Emma, ‘I have something to tell you — some news.’