Summary and Analysis
The day after the party Emma is still delighted but so chagrined at Jane's musical ability that she sits and practices "vigorously an hour and a half" before Harriet comes in. The latter's references to the Martins make Emma feel obliged to accompany her, as protection, to Ford's shop. Standing in the doorway at Ford's, Emma sees Mrs. Weston and Frank approaching the Bates house. Seeing her, they come forward and Frank lets the two women convince him that he should accompany Mrs. Weston to see Jane's pianoforte. Harriet has just waveringly managed to complete her transactions when Mrs. Weston and Miss Bates arrive and invite them over to appraise the new instrument. Back at home Miss Bates is surprised that Frank has not completed fastening the rivet of Mrs. Bates' spectacles, but he says that he has been helping Jane make the instrument steady while Mrs. Bates was asleep by the fire.
When Jane plays, Frank harps upon the Campbells and Ireland to Emma, with innuendos about the instrument. He seems to want Jane to hear him. When Miss Fairfax smiles at some of his words, Emma, who has been feeling sorry for her, now decides that she is "cherishing very reprehensible feelings."
George Knightley comes by on horseback, and Miss Bates talks with him from the casement of an adjoining room so loudly that all can hear. He offers to bring something for her from Kingston, but she wants nothing — except to rattle on with her talk and to get him inside if possible. When she thanks him effusively for some apples he recently sent them, he is embarrassed and says he must hurry on. Shortly afterward the other guests leave also.
Miss Austen sums up the kind of character that Emma is when, as Emma looks over the nearly blank streets of Highbury, the author says: "A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer." Frank too has apparently seen this in Emma, for he continues to encourage her suspicions about Jane and Mr. Dixon. Later the reader, who may already have some suspicions of his own about Frank, will learn that Frank is using this conjecture, along with his attentions to Emma, to disguise his real situation. He does a very good job of covering up, and it is this aspect of the novel that has led some critics to point out that on one limited level it is a mystery story. Miss Bates is closer to something like a discovery than she knows when she is incredulous about Frank's not having finished the simple repairs to Mrs. Bates' spectacles. Mrs. Bates' being asleep by the fire has left Frank and Jane alone together.
Humor and attendant satire become paramount when George arrives on horseback and talks with Miss Bates, who is far from being unhappy at having to shout her words to him from the house. His generous nature is obvious throughout the scene; also is his abrupt common sense, which is in comic conflict with Miss Bates' urge to talk at length, for he politely and successfully cuts her short. His continuing attitude toward Frank is illustrated when, about to say that he will come inside for five minutes, he learns that Frank and Mrs. Weston are inside and quickly says that he does not have enough time and that Miss Bates' room is already full enough. Crowning the comic scene is Miss Bates' insistence upon relaying the conversation to the drawing room, where the amused group has obviously already heard every word.