Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1086
During the night, Emma suffers pangs of guilt about her father and Harriet. She resolves never to leave her father. As long as he is alive, she can only be engaged to Mr. Knightley. She ponders how to spare Harriet from pain. In an attempt to stave off the day when she must tell Harriet the truth, Emma plots to get an invitation for Harriet from her sister to come and visit them in London.
A letter arrives with a note of introduction from Mrs. Weston followed by a lengthy letter from Frank Churchill. It is a letter of explanation and apology addressed to his stepmother. Frank asks her forgiveness for not making his obligatory visit to her sooner. He confesses to coming to Highbury for the sole purpose of being near his fiancée, and regrets using Emma as his ostensible love object. He says he was certain she wasn’t interested in an attachment, so the arrangement suited him perfectly. He professes brotherly affection for Emma and asks her forgiveness.
He tells Mrs. Weston that he sent the pianoforte, and that Jane would not have permitted it if she knew beforehand, so he sent it unannounced. He explains his lateness at the strawberry party at Donwell Abbey. He had a quarrel with Jane whom he met on the road to Highbury. She hadn’t liked his flirting with Emma. When Jane learned that Frank had gone back to Enscombe after the Box Hill party, she wrote to Mrs. Elton’s friend and accepted the position as governess.
Frank begged Jane to be patient with him, but she broke the engagement and returned all his letters. That act caused Frank to take action. He went to his father and revealed everything. His father gave his blessing and he was reconciled with Jane. The letter closed with deep thanks to Mrs. Weston and acknowledgment of Emma.
When Mr. Knightley arrives, Emma insists he read Frank’s letter. He approaches it warily and settles on a line-by-line analysis wherein he blames Frank and acquits Emma. He sympathizes for Jane and would rather not speak about the Eltons when they are mentioned.
Mr. Knightley turns the subject to marriage. He respectfully asks how the two of them might marry without causing Mr. Woodhouse to be unhappy. Mr. Knightley had at first believed that the two of them could take Emma’s father with them to Donwell, but he later saw that would not be wise. Any removal of Mr. Woodhouse from Hartfield might prove disastrous. He suggests moving to Hartfield. Emma mulls over the idea and decides it’s best for their mutual good that Mr. Knightley come to live with them. Her happiness would be increased if it weren’t for Harriet, and Emma regrets that she will have to keep Harriet away from Hartfield for her own good. It would hurt her too much, and she had done nothing to deserve it. Emma concludes that forgetting about Mr. Knightley won’t be easy for Harriet, but Emma cannot expect that she will turn her affections on yet another man this year.
Harriet goes to London in Mr. Woodhouse’s carriage to be with Emma’s sister in Brunswick Square. Emma is relieved knowing that she won’t have to face Harriet for at least two weeks. Emma decides not to tell her father about her marriage until Mrs. Weston has given birth.
Struck by the coincidence between her situation and Jane Fairfax’s, Emma pays her a courtesy call. Emma notes that when she calls this time, there is no flustered Miss Bates covering for Jane, only Jane’s warm handshake and friendly greeting. Emma finds Mrs. Elton paying a call at the Bates’ house at the same time, but she feels in a good enough mood not to let it bother her. From Mrs. Elton’s furtive behavior, Emma gathers that she still thinks Jane’s engagement is a secret that must be kept from Emma.
Mr. Elton arrives to collect his wife and appears worn out. He says he has walked all the way to Donwell Abbey for an appointment with Mr. Knightley, but did not find him home. Emma readies to leave, and Jane walks her to the door.
The two share a private moment in which Jane attempts to apologize to Emma for her behavior. Emma says her apology isn’t needed and that it is she who should be apologizing. They forgive each other at once. Emma leaves with the regret that just as she is beginning to know Jane, she will be leaving to get married. Jane assures her that she soon will be. Emma bids her friend good-bye, telling her friend that she loves to have things decided and in the open.
Once Emma has cleared a path for truth, other truths are revealed. Though Frank’s letter offers excuses and makes apologies, it sheds light on events that had been cloudy. Now she knows she was the cover for Frank’s covert engagement to Jane. Her suspicions that Frank was toying with her are confirmed. She delights in showing the letter to Mr. Knightley because she has acquired a taste for the truth and wants to share it with him. Emma pays a call on Jane Fairfax to discover yet another truth. She is at first put off by Mrs. Elton, but finding her so totally ridiculous in her affectations makes her smile where she once would have winced. Emma lowered herself by sparring with Mrs. Elton. Now she can laugh her off and be free of pretension.
Her biggest revelation in these chapters is saved for her encounter with Jane. Jane is a truthful person whose deception made her sickly, distant, and artificial. Now that the deception has been lifted, Emma sees a warm, vibrant girl in the bloom of good health. Before Jane can overwhelm her with apologies, Emma does something uncharacteristic. She drops her complicated armor of manners and says she and Jane should forgive each other at once. Not only does she want to get at the truth, she wants to get there quickly.
Mr. Knightley’s openness and decisiveness have a liberating effect on Emma. She asks Jane outright when she will be married and receives a simple answer. The two part friends, and Emma confides in Jane how much she loves things decided and open. She may be revealing how much she loves Mr. Knightley-who is the symbol of truth.