Last Updated May 30, 2023.
Frank travels sixteen miles to have his hair styled, making him vulnerable to disapproval for his excessive behavior. However, Emma believes that Frank’s self-importance is not a significant obstacle to his being worthy of a romantic relationship with her—though Emma herself is determined to remain single.
The Coles are organizing a party and want to invite the high society of Highbury, to which they are quickly gaining entry. Emma initially decides to decline the invitation, but she changes her mind when she receives a thoughtful and respectful invitation from the Coles and encouragement from the Westons. She quickly accepts the invitation and makes arrangements for her father’s care while she is out. Mr. Woodhouse is reluctant to agree to Emma attending the party, but he eventually consents on the condition that she will leave early. Mrs. Weston reminds Mr. Woodhouse that leaving early may offend the Coles, so he says that Emma may stay late. Emma agrees, as long as her father promises not to stay up waiting for her.
Emma is warmly welcomed at the party hosted by the Coles, where her high-society acquaintances are present. Emma is happy to be seated next to Frank and believes he may have had a hand in the seating arrangement. A conversation about Jane Fairfax catches Emma’s attention, and she listens attentively to the gossip about a piano that has been delivered to the Bates’ house. According to Mrs. Cole, the piano was probably sent by Colonel and Mrs. Campbell, although there was no mention of it in a recent letter from them.
Emma believes that Mr. Dixon sent the piano as a covert expression of love, and she presents what she believes to be evidence for her hypothesis. She explains, for instance, that Mr. Dixon saved Jane’s life during a party on board a ship. Frank, who was present during the incident, did not observe anything that would suggest a romantic link between Mr. Dixon and Jane, but he nevertheless concedes that Emma may be correct.
When Emma talks more with Frank about his life in Enscombe, she discovers that he possesses a talent for persuading Mrs. Churchill that his father lacks and that his social life in Enscombe is unsatisfactory. As a result, Emma surmises that Frank could be equally content living in Highbury. Later, Emma notices Frank gazing at Jane Fairfax from a distance. He insists that he is wondering at her peculiar hairstyle, not staring directly at her.
Mrs. Weston comes to sit by Emma and informs her that Emma’s matchmaking has rubbed off on her. Mrs. Weston has begun to wonder about a possible relationship between Jane Fairfax and Mr. Knightley. Emma is horrified by the idea: if Mr. Knightley were to marry Jane and have a son, Emma’s nephew Henry would be deprived of his rightful inheritance of Donwell Abbey. Additionally, Mr. Knightley could only marry someone of Jane’s social class out of pity.
Mrs. Weston and Emma argue about this matter until Emma is asked to play and sing. She does so reasonably well, but when Jane Fairfax takes her turn, Emma is forced to confront her inferior musical talent. Frank then joins Jane in singing until her voice becomes hoarse.
After the singing, dancing begins, and Frank invites Emma to dance a waltz with him. Emma agrees, but she remains cautious and observes Mr. Knightley. When he does not ask Jane to dance, Emma is satisfied. Emma shifts her focus back to Frank, realizing they make a charming pair.