Chapters 25-26 Summary and Analysis
Mr. and Mrs. Cole: tradespeople of Highbury
Frank travels sixteen miles to get his hair cut, leaving himself open to criticism for his extravagance. Emma tries to keep his vanity in proportion, thinking it a small barrier to the love affair she is sure will blossom between them.
The Coles plan a party that will include the society of Highbury into which they are quickly rising. Emma is determined to decline their invitation, but when it comes it is so considerate and respectful that she asks the Westons for advice, hoping they will give her encouragement. When they do, she hastily accepts and makes arrangements for her father to be taken care of when she is out. Though there is no hurrying Mr. Woodhouse into a decision, he agrees, provided Emma leaves the party early. When Mrs. Weston reminds him that an early departure might offend the Coles, Mr. Woodhouse allows her a late stay. She agrees, provided he promises not to sit up and wait for her.
Emma is received most cordially at the Cole’s party. Her uppercrust society friends are all in attendance, though Mrs. and Miss Bates and Jane aren’t expected until after dinner. She is pleased to find Frank seated next to her and suspects he had something to do with the arrangement. The topic of Jane Fairfax is overheard, and Emma finds herself listening intently. The gossip swirls around a small piano that just arrived at the Bates’ house. Mrs. Cole suspects Col. and Mrs. Campbell sent it, though no mention of the gift was made in a subsequent letter.
Emma is convinced that Mr. Dixon sent the instrument as a secret love offering and concocts a story to match her theory. Frank appears to go along with the story. Emma surmises that Mr. Dixon and Mrs. Dixon sent the pianoforte to keep Jane happy in Highbury and away from Ireland and any possibility of coming between them. She offers shreds of evidence to prove her theory. It is known that Mr. Dixon saved Jane’s life during a shipboard party, which Emma finds intriguing. Frank counters that he was there during the incident and noticed nothing unusual that would link them romantically.
When Emma further engages Frank about his own life at Enscombe, she learns that he has a way of persuading Mrs. Churchill that his father lacks, and that his social life there is tepid. She concludes that he could be just as happy in Highbury. Later in the drawing room, Emma spies Frank staring at Jane Fairfax from across the room, though he claims not to be looking at her, but her hairdo.
Mrs. Weston is brimming with excitement. She tells Emma that her matchmaking has rubbed off, and she is determined to push the coupling of Jane Fairfax and Mr. Knightley. Emma is horrified at the prospect. If Mr. Knightley married Jane, Emma’s nephew would be cut off from his rightful inheritance of Donwell Abbey. Further, Mr. Knightley could only marry someone of Jane’s class out of kindness. Mrs. Weston and Emma argue the matter until Emma is pressed to play and sing. She does so...
(The entire section is 810 words.)