Last Updated May 30, 2023.
The ball’s preparations require it to be held later than Frank had planned to stay in town. However, he asks for an extension to attend, and the Churchills reluctantly agree. Emma assumes everything is settled, but Mr. Knightley remains uninterested in the ball despite her efforts to persuade him.
Two days later, a letter from the Churchills states that Frank must return home as Mrs. Churchill is ill. Frank visits to say goodbye and relates that he also called at the Bates’, and his ambiguous account of the visit and his trailing off lead Emma to believe that he has romantic feelings for her. When Frank’s father arrives to take him away, Emma feels sad and worries that she will miss him too much. However, she concludes that he must have feelings for her and that she, in return, must have some manner of feelings for him, despite her attempts to avoid it.
Mr. Knightley feels truly sorry that Emma won’t have the opportunity to dance due to the canceled ball. Jane Fairfax seems indifferent to the news. Emma attributes some of Jane’s indifference to her poor health as of late but her lack of dejection Emma sees as “unbecoming.”
After Frank departs, Emma fills her days with daily tasks and daydreams of him. Her daydreams always end with her refusing him and them parting as friends, so she believes she is not overly infatuated with him. When a letter arrives from Frank, Mrs. Weston presents it to Emma. The letter is appropriate and courteous, and it acknowledges Emma. A note at the bottom apologizes for not having the time to bid farewell to Harriet. Emma is struck by this and briefly ponders whether Frank might be interested in Harriet, though she resolves not to dwell upon the subject. Her initial delight in reading the letter does not linger, and it does not alter her feelings for Frank; she looks forward to the prospect of a “disinterested friendship” with him.
The people of Highbury shift their attention from Frank to Mr. Elton’s new wife, who will be coming to town soon. Emma is disgusted by all the talk and has to face Harriet’s sadness over her rejection again. Emma decides to try a different tactic and scolds Harriet for dwelling on Mr. Elton’s rejection because it upsets Emma. Emma’s behavior greatly grieves Harriet, who really does love Emma dearly. To herself, Emma praises Harriet’s tender heart, believing Harriet to be superior to her in that regard.