In Highbury, there is great speculation about Miss Hawkins, Mr. Elton’s fiancée. Mr. Elton returns to the village long enough to confirm the rumors that his bride-to-be is beautiful, accomplished, and of some fortune. Emma is relieved that his marriage will ease the awkwardness of his return to their social circle, but she has some uncharitable thoughts about Miss Hawkins’s inferior connections. She has difficulty persuading Harriet to share her coolness, however. Only the topic of Mr. Martin puts Mr. Elton out of Harriet’s mind.
Harriet is flustered when Mr. Martin’s sister leaves her a note at Mrs. Goddard’s. Emma decides that Harriet should return the visit but stay only a brief time in order to reinforce the distance that Emma, despite a twinge of conscience, believes Harriet must maintain from the Martin family.
Emma takes Harriet to visit the Martins. Ahead of time, they agree that Emma is to return and retrieve Harriet after fifteen minutes. Harriet has a friendly and emotional visit with Mr. Martin’s mother and sister, but when the visit is cut short, it is clear the Martins understand that they have been slighted. Though pained, Emma still believes she is doing what is best for Harriet.
Emma’s spirits are revived by a meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Weston, who bring the news that Frank Churchill’s arrival is imminent. The following day, Emma unexpectedly meets Frank at Hartfield, and she is pleased to find that he is very good-looking, bright, and charming. Frank has just the right compliment for everyone, especially Mrs. Weston, which pleases Emma. Emma can see that Mr. Weston hopes that she and Frank might form an attachment, and she wonders if the thought has occurred to Frank. When his father departs on an errand, Frank leaves to call on his acquaintance from Weymouth, Jane Fairfax.
Frank Churchill and Mrs. Weston visit Hartfield the next day, and Emma is pleased by Frank’s warmth toward his stepmother. He seems genuinely interested in everything about Highbury as the three walk about the village, especially in the sites that are meaningful to his father. Encountering an unused ballroom, he suggests that they should organize a dance, and he dismisses Emma’s protestations about the village’s lack of worthy families.
Emma inquires about Frank’s visit with the Bateses, and the two share impressions of Jane. Frank says that he finds her unattractive and reserved. He thinks, however, that she is a talented musician and affirms that they saw a good deal of each other in Weymouth. Emma shares her theory about Jane and Mr. Dixon, which Frank seems to resist, but then he gives in to Emma’s greater knowledge of Jane. On the whole, Emma finds Frank even more to her liking than she expected, possessing his father’s warmth and sociability and lacking the proud airs one might acquire from the Churchills.