How could she have been so brutal . . . to Miss Bates! . . . And how suffer him to leave her without saying one word of common kindness!
The Box Hill trip is not a success. Mr. and Mrs. Elton keep to themselves; Mr. Knightley, Miss Bates, and Jane form a second exclusive party; and Emma stays with Harriet and Frank. Emma is disappointed by Harriet’s and Frank’s dullness. Later, Frank becomes excessively lively and gallant. Emma is confident that there is nothing behind his flirtations, but she is aware that others can pick up on their flirtation. The party sits about listlessly, and Frank says that Emma demands to know what they are thinking of. Mrs. Elton is offended by Frank’s deference to Emma, and Knightley asks dryly if she would really like to know what he is thinking. Frank then demands a piece of cleverness from each member of the party, asking them to produce either “one thing very clever . . . or two things moderately clever; or three things very dull indeed.” Miss Bates good-naturedly comments that the she will have no trouble meeting the last requirement, but Emma responds, “Ah! ma’am, but there may be a difficulty. Pardon me, but you will be limited as to number—only three at once.” Mr. Weston offers a conundrum in praise of Emma, and the Eltons leave in disgust for a walk.
Frank comments that sometimes matches made in public places become regrettable on further acquaintance and that, as a result, Mr. and Mrs. Elton are lucky that they are compatible. Jane demurs and leaves for a walk with her aunt and Mr. Knightley. Emma, left with Frank, grows tired of his flattery. Later, Mr. Knightley takes Emma aside and reprimands her for her conduct toward Miss Bates, reminding Emma that Miss Bates has had an unfortunate life and deserves compassion. Emma has never felt “so agitated, so mortified, [so] grieved” in her life; she cries almost all the way home.
On reflection, Emma decides that the Box Hill party was a disaster. Still feeling horrible about her treatment of Miss Bates, Emma soothes her conscience by visiting the Bateses first thing the following morning. Miss Bates’s humility and kindness are a further reproach to Emma’s bad behavior. During Emma’s visit, Jane remains in the bedroom with a headache.
Jane has just accepted the governess position recommended by Mrs. Elton, and Emma expresses surprise and genuine concern for the unhappiness Jane’s departure must cause everyone. Jane will leave within a fortnight (two weeks). Emma is surprised to learn that Frank departed the previous evening for Richmond, and she is struck by the difference between Mrs. Churchill’s power and Jane’s. She is ashamed of her earlier conjectures about Jane’s relationship with Mr. Dixon.
Emma returns to Hartfield to discover that Mr. Knightley and Harriet have arrived in her absence. Knightley is about to depart for London to visit John and Isabella. His hastiness surprises Emma. Mr. Woodhouse inquires about Emma’s visit with the Bateses, and Emma blushes and exchanges a glance with Knightley. She believes he understands her feelings and forgives her. He makes an unusual gesture, taking her hand and almost kissing it. She is gratified, though a little puzzled about his scruple in completing the kiss.
The next day, unexpected news arrives: Mrs. Churchill has died. Emma thinks this event may improve Harriet’s chances with Frank. Meanwhile, she attempts to provide assistance to Jane, inviting her to Hartfield, sending her healthful foods, and attempting to visit her. Jane pleads ill health, but Emma hears that Jane has been taking outside exercise, and she feels hurt that Jane seems to be particularly avoiding her.