‘We had a letter just this morning. Jane is coming to stay next week.’
‘How lovely for you! And how long will she stay?’
‘For three months at least — and we are so excited, Miss Woodhouse,’ said Miss Bates. ‘I said we are very excited!’ she shouted at her mother.
‘The Campbells are going to Ireland and because Jane has had a bad cold recently she decided not to travel with them,’ she explained. ‘Now, let me read you the whole letter, Miss Woodhouse.’
But although she knew it was not polite to go so suddenly, Emma did not want to stay and hear the letter.
‘I am so sorry, but we must go now,’ she said. ‘My father will be waiting for us.’
Emma and Harriet left the house, although Miss Bates tried very hard to make them stay a few more minutes. They promised to return the next week when Jane was there, and Emma invited Mrs and Miss Bates to come to Hartfield with Jane for an evening of music.
The evening at Hartfield was pleasant and everyone enjoyed the music. Mr Knightley was invited, also Harriet and Mr and Mrs Weston, so there was quite a big party. Both Jane and Emma sang and played the piano, but Jane was much better. Emma tried to make conversation with her but she always found it difficult because Jane was quiet and a little cold. She often seemed unfriendly and Emma did not know why.
As she tried to find something to say, she remembered Miss Bates telling her that Jane had spent some time the summer before in Weymouth.
‘Did you meet Mr Frank Churchill? I understand he was also in Weymouth last summer.’
‘Yes, we were introduced,’ said Jane.
‘Tell me about him. Was he handsome?’
‘People seem to think so.’
‘And sensible? Interesting? Clever?’
But Jane told her nothing. ‘It is difficult to say, we did not meet often. He is very polite,’ was all she said. Emma was not at all satisfied with that, and disliked Jane more than before.
The next day, the same news came to Hartfield from two different people, first Mr Knightley, then Miss Bates. Mr Elton was going to be married.
Emma was surprised, it was only four weeks since he had left Highbury.
‘He is marrying a Miss Hawkins of Bath. That is all I know,’ said Miss Bates. ‘A new neighbour for us all Miss Woodhouse! My mother is so pleased!’
‘We are all pleased, of course,’ said Emma, without looking at Mr Knightley.
That afternoon Emma decided she must tell Harriet the news when she called, before she heard it from Miss Bates or someone else. But it started to rain and Harriet did not come at her usual time. When she arrived later, the first thing she said was, ‘Oh, Miss Woodhouse, what do you think has happened?’
Emma thought at once that Harriet knew about Mr Elton, but it was a different story that she told.
‘It started to rain as I was walking through Highbury so I decided to wait in one of the shops until the rain stopped. And who do you think came into the shop?’
Emma could not guess but she could see how excited Harriet was.
‘Elizabeth Martin and her brother! I did not know what to do. I was sitting near the door and Elizabeth saw me immediately, but he did not because he was busy with the umbrella. Then they both went to the other side of the shop and I kept sitting there -I could not go away because of the rain. At last he saw me and they whispered together for a little and then, Miss Woodhouse, what do you think?’
Harriet stopped for breath and Emma said, ‘I really do not know Harriet, do tell me.’
‘They came across to me and we shook hands and stood talking for some time. Then I saw that the rain had nearly stopped so I said I must go.’
‘And now here you are.’
‘Miss Woodhouse, I did not want it to happen, but it was so nice to speak to them again. Did I do the right thing?’ asked Harriet.
Emma thought about it. As Harriet was so pleased to see Mr Martin again she might not be too upset at the news about Mr Elton, so the meeting must be a good thing.
‘You behaved perfectly, Harriet. Now it is over and, as a first meeting, it can never happen again.’
For some time Harriet could not talk about anything except the Martins and Emma was right. The news about Mr Elton did not shock her so very much after all.