Last Updated May 30, 2023.
The people of Highbury are preoccupied with discussing Miss Augusta Hawkins, who is set to become Mr. Elton’s wife. There is a general understanding that Miss Hawkins possesses both wealth and beauty, making her a suitable partner for the vicar. However, Emma experiences discomfort whenever she hears about either of them and perceives their union as a humbling experience and lesson. Consequently, she shifts her focus to Harriet.
Despite Emma’s success in persuading Harriet to fall in love, she struggles to convince her to fall out of it. Harriet is experiencing a state of turmoil following her chance meeting with the Martin family and the news of Mr. Elton’s engagement. The situation becomes more complicated when Elizabeth Martin visits Mrs. Goddard’s boarding school and leaves a note for Harriet in her absence. Emma determines that Harriet should respond to the note with a visit but recognizes that the situation requires tactful handling.
At the outset, the visit is rather icy, but the Martin sisters and Harriet succeed in rekindling fond recollections from Harriet’s visit the previous autumn. However, Emma abruptly interrupts the gathering when she arrives in her carriage to retrieve Harriet. During the ride home, Emma is deeply troubled by Harriet’s situation and stops at Randalls for comfort. Although Mr. and Mrs. Weston are not present, Emma spots their carriage, and they inform her that Frank Churchill is expected to arrive the following day.
Frank arrives a day earlier than expected, much to his father's delight, and is introduced the following day to Emma and her father. Frank starts with casual conversation and then praises various people and places, including Highbury, Hartfield, Randalls, and Mrs. Weston.
Frank, who knows Jane Fairfax, asks about the Bates family, with whom Jane is currently residing. He intends to visit her, and his father suggests that he do it that morning. Mr. Woodhouse offers to have his servant guide Frank to the Bates family home, but Frank declines the offer, and he and his father depart.
During their second encounter, Emma observes that Frank is friendly toward Mrs. Weston, which greatly pleases Emma. As they stroll through Highbury, they come across the Crown Inn, and Frank wonders why the old tradition of holding balls at the inn has not been reinstated.
When Emma asks about his visit to the Bates household, Frank avoids the subject of Jane Fairfax. Instead, Emma tries to engage him in conversation about Jane’s well-being, appearance, musical talent, and the prospect of a romance between her and her brother-in-law. However, Frank remains noncommittal while remaining friendly.
Frank implies that Emma knows Jane better than he does because she was Jane's childhood friend. However, Emma confesses that she has never been close to Jane because she is disgusted at how her family praises her and thinks she is too reserved, which leads Emma to believe that Jane must be concealing something. Frank agrees with Emma, and she feels that they have a strong friendship because of their similar opinions. When Frank reflects on Mr. Elton’s small house, he declares that it will be spacious enough because it will be filled with the love of Mr. Elton and his new wife. Mrs. Weston finds this amusing since Frank has never lived in a small house. Emma is sure that Frank is indicating his willingness to marry early, not for financial gain but for love.