Chapters 37-39 Summary and Analysis
When Frank Churchill returns, he pays a brief call on Emma and hurries away to Highbury to make other visits. From the beginning of their visit Emma senses that he is less in love with her than he had been during his former visit. Though he is as outwardly friendly and lively as ever regarding small matters, she detects an indifference toward her. Frank does not visit her again for the next ten days.
Emma learns that Frank’s aunt, Mrs. Churchill, cannot endure London and is moving the family to Richmond, nine miles from Highbury. Frank writes that he is happy with the move, as it situates him even closer to Highbury and more frequent visits. Plans are resumed to hold the ball at the Crown Inn.
On the day of the ball, Mr. Weston urges Emma to come early. She agrees and brings Harriet along. Guests arrive and introductions are made. Emma is eager to know what Frank thinks of Mrs. Elton, whom he has never met. The Eltons have agreed to bring Miss Bates and Jane Fairfax with them, but arrive alone. Another carriage is sent and when it returns, Frank rushes out with an umbrella he says is for Miss Bates.
Mrs. Elton solicits Mr. Weston for compliments. But all chatter is drowned out when the talkative Miss Bates enters the room. Mrs. Elton is smugly certain the ball is being held in her honor and claims Frank Churchill and she will lead off the dancing. Mrs. Weston persuades her husband to dance with Mrs. Elton instead, freeing Frank to partner with Emma.
The dance begins with Mrs. Elton and Mr. Weston leading the procession, and Emma and Frank in second place. Used to being first, Emma has to contend herself with the prospect of an evening full of festivities. Her only disappointment is Mr. Knightley. She observes him standing around talking to the other guests, looking grave.
When Emma looks around, she spies Harriet sitting alone. She watches as Mrs. Weston tries to persuade Mr. Elton to dance. Mr. Elton jokes that he doesn’t dance, but will do so if Mrs. Weston will dance with him. She does not respond. Emma is shocked at his behavior, but pleased when Mr. Knightley asks Harriet to dance. Mr. Elton retreats, looking sheepish. Mrs. Elton tells her partner that Mr. Knightley is dancing with Harriet out of sympathy. Harriet enjoys herself in Mr. Knightley’s capable arms. When supper is announced, Miss Bates begins a non-stop monologue that finishes when the eating is begun.
After supper, Mr. Knightley tells Emma that Mr. Elton’s conduct was unpardonably rude. He understands how they might aim to wound Harriet, but wonders what Emma has done to make them her enemies. He knows Emma wanted Mr. Elton to marry Harriet, but relieves her of another scolding. He tells her that he leaves her to her own conscience in the matter. They end the evening by dancing together.
The following morning Emma thinks the Eltons are horrid and that Harriet is cured of her infatuation with Mr. Elton. She further reflects that Frank Churchill is not too much in love with her, and Mr. Knightley hadn’t quarreled with her for her meddling. She looks forward to...
(The entire section is 829 words.)