Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 829
Summary 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...
(The entire section contains 829 words.)
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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 a happy summer. Just then, Frank appears at her gate holding a pale and shaken Harriet Smith. Harriet faints into a chair and is revived long enough to tell what happened. On her way home from the ball, she was set upon by a group of gypsies. Frank was walking near his carriage on the same road and rushed to her aid. He sent the gypsies packing and brought her immediately to Hartfield. Once Frank is certain Harriet is well, he leaves. Their shared adventure gives Emma ideas of matchmaking Harriet and Frank. She feels that they are both in a favorable state of mind for such a union. Better still, she won’t have to do much since fate has thrown them together.
Emma is experiencing some closure on the events she has set into motion, though still no insight. The Eltons behaved so abominably towards Harriet at the ball, she can dismiss them righteously. Mr. Elton has shown his true inferiority to Harriet and freed her of any lingering feelings toward him. Frank Churchill’s behavior has proven to Emma that he isn’t completely in love with her, freeing her from having to refuse him. Mr. Knightley didn’t even quarrel with her at the ball. Emma takes satisfaction that things are finally going her way.
The icing on the cake materializes when Frank and Harriet come in from their fateful encounter. Frank saved the helpless Harriet from being set upon by gypsies. Emma sees this meeting as providential. Because fate threw the two together, she won’t even have to get actively involved in matchmaking. She can sit back and watch their coupling unfold before her eyes.