Chapters 40-42 Summary

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Last Updated May 30, 2023.

SummaryHarriet shows Emma a small package that contains a wooden box with a piece of court plaster inside. She explains that not long ago, Mr. Elton had cut his finger and that she had given him a piece to cover his wound off of this piece. Additionally, there is the end of a pencil that Mr. Elton once attempted to use to write in his notebook before being loaned another by Emma. Harriet throws both items into the fireplace, proclaiming that it symbolizes the end of her feelings for Mr. Elton. 

During a trivial conversation some time later, Harriet declares that she will never marry, and Emma overhears her mutter the words “so superior to Mr. Elton!” under her breath. Emma discerns that Harriet’s vow means that she must be attracted to someone of higher social status. In response, Harriet explains that this person is so superior that she can only admire him from afar. Thinking of Frank, Emma expresses that it is natural to feel this way since this person has done her a favor. However, Harriet states that it was more of an obligation. Emma warns Harriet not to get too carried away unless she is sure that her feelings are reciprocated. She then reassures Harriet that relationships between people of different social classes have succeeded before and praises her choice.

As the month of June begins, Mr. Knightley develops a dislike for Frank Churchill. Mr. and Mrs. Weston seem to be set upon Frank’s interest in Emma, and Mr. Knightley has observed how much attention Frank pays to her. However, he is suspicious of Frank’s true intentions because he has also noticed signs that Frank is attracted to Jane Fairfax. Mr. Knightley recalls a dinner party at the Eltons’ house where he saw Frank giving Jane admiring looks when Emma was not around.

One evening, Mr. Knightley goes for a walk with Emma and Harriet, and they run into the Westons, Frank, Jane, and Miss Bates. As they engage in casual conversation, Mr. Perry arrives on his horse and greets them before riding away. Afterward, Frank asks Mrs. Weston when Mr. Perry plans to buy a new carriage. Mrs. Weston is confused because she has no knowledge of such a plan, but Frank insists that she had written to him about it. However, Mrs. Weston is certain that she had not written any such letter.

Frank concludes that he must have dreamed the conversation and moves on to another topic. Then, Miss Bates starts a lengthy monologue in which she claims that her family was aware of Perry’s intention to buy a carriage. She explains that she may have let the news slip before realizing what she was saying; she wishes she was more like Jane, who she says would never betray a confidence.

As they make their way toward Hartfield, Mr. Knightley is cautious and observant of Frank’s behavior. He carefully watches Frank’s facial expressions and gestures for any signs of a secret understanding between him and Jane, and though he seems to wish to catch Jane’s eye, he is unsuccessful. 

Later, after having tea, Frank proposes a game involving Emma’s nephews’ alphabet letters where one person creates a jumbled word for the others to decipher. Frank creates a word and passes it to Jane Fairfax. She solves it, and Harriet takes it up next with Mr. Knightley’s help. The word is blunder, and when Jane blushes, Mr. Knightley connects it to the episode about Mr. Perry and the carriage, though he is unsure how it fits. 

As the game continues, Frank makes up a word for...

(This entire section contains 1155 words.)

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Emma, which she finds amusing, but Emma protests his showing it to Jane. Frank does so, and Mr. Knightly soon sees the word to beDixon. Jane blushes deeply, even appearing angry. She looks over at her aunt, who declares they must be going. 

After Jane leaves with Miss Bates, Mr. Knightley feels it is his duty to warn Emma about Frank and Jane. He asks Emma what “Dixon” means, and she assures him that it is just a joke. Mr. Knightley then asks Emma if she suspects any romantic involvement between Frank and Jane, but Emma vehemently denies it, claiming to know at least that Frank is not interested in Jane. 

Mrs. Elton expresses disappointment that her brother’s visit has been delayed and begins to plan an excursion to Box Hill even though her family cannot join them at the time. Emma and Mr. Weston privately plan their trip to Box Hill, but Mr. Weston proposes that their group join Mrs. Elton’s. Emma is not enthusiastic about going with Mrs. Elton but decides not to approach Mr. Weston about the arrangement, knowing it would upset his wife. 

A lame carriage horse disrupts the plans for the excursion to Box Hill. As a result, no plans can be made. Mr. Knightley offers an alternative plan to visit his estate, Donwell Abbey, and enjoy the fresh strawberries that are currently ripe. Mrs. Elton enthusiastically agrees and begins to prepare for a picnic, but Mr. Knightley suggests a more straightforward indoor dinner instead, thinking of Mr. Woodhouse.

After the horse recovers, the group decides to visit Donwell Abbey one day and Box Hill the next. The guests arrive, and Emma is happy to be connected to such a magnificent estate through her sister’s marriage to the Knightley family. Her father is comfortably situated by the fire, and the guests go out to collect strawberries. They gather again to admire the view from the hill at Donwell, which overlooks a cozy and thriving valley. The most notable feature of the valley is Abbey Mill farm, the residence of Robert Martin.

Emma notices Mrs. Weston’s worry about Frank’s absence as they prepare to dine. After the meal, the guests set out for another excursion, and Emma stays with her father. She encounters Jane in the hall, who tells her that she will walk back to Highbury and asks her to apologize for her departure. Emma expresses concern for Jane’s well-being, but she insists on leaving. Shortly after, Frank arrives, citing Mrs. Churchill’s illness as the reason for his tardiness. He complains about the heat and appears agitated, but he eats dinner and returns more composed. Frank confides in Emma that he desires to travel abroad and escape England and feels that he will do so soon, possibly even bringing his aunt and uncle. 

Emma asks Frank to come with them to Box Hill the next day, but he refuses because it will make him angry to travel to Richmond now and then come back to Highbury the following day. However, he will be even angrier if he stays in Richmond because he will miss being with them. Finally, he agrees to join the party, but only if Emma wishes him to come.

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