Last Updated May 30, 2023.
Emma finds the party at Box Hill less enjoyable than she anticipated. The trip there is pleasant, but after their arrival, everyone divides into cliques. Frank appears disengaged and uninterested in the party until he sits next to Emma. He begins to flirt with her, which the others in the group notice. Though Emma encourages him with her behavior, she continues to only think of him as a friend.
In an attempt to break the dull atmosphere and get everyone talking, Frank says that Emma wants to know what they are all thinking about. Some of them answer, and Mrs. Elton balks at Frank's mention of Emma as presiding over the party, feeling that it should be herself.
Frank then changes his instructions: Now, each guest has to say one very clever thing, two moderately clever ones, or three dull ones. Miss Bates exclaims that she can easily say three dull things, but Emma reminds her that she will be limited to three. Miss Bates feels hurt by Emma's remark and observes that she must "make [herself] very disagreeable" if Emma would speak like this to her. Mr. Weston offers a conundrum, which amuses some of the party; Mrs. Elton insists that she, along with her husband, Mr. Knightley, and Jane, be excused from the game. The Eltons then excuse themselves and go for a walk.
Frank makes sarcastic remarks about Mr. and Mrs. Elton's marriage and suggests that it was rushed, and Mr. Elton may not have had enough time to properly assess his bride, leading to regret. Jane Fairfax disputes this, saying that only a weak man would allow such a mistake. Frank then shifts his focus to Emma, asking her to help him find a suitable wife.
After the guests leave, Mr. Knightley reprimands Emma for her unkind comments toward Miss Bates. He accuses her of bullying someone who is less fortunate and defenseless. Mr. Knightley urges Emma to make amends with Miss Bates. He escorts Emma to her carriage and departs on horseback. Emma is ashamed and regretful for insulting Miss Bates and exposing her behavior to Mr. Knightley. She cries over her mistake.
Emma spends the night with her father and decides to make amends for her previous bad behavior by calling on Miss Bates the following day. When she arrives, Miss Bates greets her, but Emma learns that Jane is unwell and unable to see her. Miss Bates informs Emma that Jane will be departing soon and has been writing letters all morning, causing her to feel exhausted. In addition, Emma discovers that Mrs. Elton has arranged for Jane to work as a governess for a family. After hearing this news, Emma feels remorseful for the cruel stories she fabricated about Jane.
When Emma returns home, she discovers that Mr. Knightley and Harriet are visiting her father. Mr. Knightley seems to be in a hurry to go to London. When he learns that Emma has visited the Bates women, he starts to kiss her hand but quickly lets it go and leaves. Emma is optimistic that this unfinished gesture signifies that Mr. Knightley's opinion of her has improved.
The following day, Emma hears the news of Mrs. Churchill's death. Although people around her express their condolences, Emma thinks about whether this will now free Frank. She imagines that with Mrs. Churchill gone, Frank will be able to pursue a relationship with Harriet Smith without any obstacles. Emma feels sorry for Jane Fairfax as she seems to have fewer options than Harriet. Emma writes a note to Jane, inviting her for a visit, but her invitation is declined. Mr. Perry advises Jane to get some fresh air to alleviate her physical discomfort, so Emma invites her again, but once more, she is turned down.
Afterward, Emma discovers that Jane was seen in a meadow near Highbury. She tells herself that Jane doesn't need anything from her and feels guilty for not being a better friend to her. Emma comforts herself by thinking that if Mr. Knightley saw her efforts to be friendly, he would approve of them.