‘I have just made a little plan,’ said Mrs Weston. ‘How do you think Miss Bates and her niece came here tonight?’ she asked.

‘I suppose they walked.’

‘Exactly. I suddenly thought it was not a very good idea for Jane to walk home late on a cold night, so Mr Weston suggested to Miss Bates that we should take them in our carriage. But she said Mr Knightley had already offered his. I wonder if that is why he used his carriage. You know he usually walks.’

‘Yes, that is typical of him,’ said Emma. ‘You know how kind he always is.’

‘But perhaps it is more than kindness. The more I think about it, the more I am sure that I have made a match between Miss Fairfax and Mr Knightley!’

‘Dear Mrs Weston! How could you think of such a thing? Mr Knightley must not marry! Isabella’s son should have the family house after him. No, no I cannot agree to Mr Knightley’s marrying. And I am sure it is not at all likely to happen,’ whispered Emma. ‘And Jane Fairfax too, of all women!’ she added.

‘ She has always been a favourite with him,’ said Mrs Weston. And I cannot see anything unsuitable in the match.’

Emma would not listen. ‘Mr Knightley does not want to marry. Why should he? He is happy by himself with his farm and his sheep and his library.’

‘But if he really loves Jane Fairfax …’

‘No, no, you are quite wrong. Believe me, this is not a good match, or a possible one,’ Emma replied.

They talked a little more and then, when Emma looked around, she saw that Frank was sitting with Jane. At that moment, Mr Cole asked Emma to play the piano and sing. She agreed but after two songs she invited Jane to play. Emma sat down and looked across at Mr Knightley. He was listening very carefully to Jane, and Emma started to wonder about what Mrs Weston had said.

When Jane finished her songs somebody suggested dancing and the room was quickly prepared. Mrs Weston sat at the piano and immediately Frank took Emma’s hand and led her to the centre of the room.

While the other couples were getting ready Emma looked round for Mr Knightley. She knew he did not like dancing and if he danced with Jane Fairfax, it might possibly mean something. But she saw he was talking to Mrs Cole and another man had asked Jane to dance.

Emma enjoyed dancing with Frank and was sorry that there were only two dances before someone said it was getting late and they all ought to go home.

Frank took Emma to her carriage.

‘Perhaps it was a good thing we had to stop,’ he said. ‘Soon I would have had to ask Miss Fairfax and she does not dance as well as you. Dancing with you was wonderful,’ he told her as they said goodnight.


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