Summary and Analysis
Volume 3: Chapter III
The next morning Emma feels that Mr. Elton's slight of the night before will cure Harriet of her infatuation. Emma also does not regret that she will not see Frank, who has to be back at Richmond by the middle of the day. She is therefore surprised when Frank appears with a fainting Harriet on his arm. After Harriet has actually fainted, Emma learns that on a morning walk along the Richmond road her pretty friend has met with and been bullied by a party of gypsies, from whom Frank has luckily rescued her. When Harriet recovers, Frank must go on his belated way and Emma ponders upon how seemingly "every thing united to promise the most interesting consequences" for Harriet and Frank. But she contents herself that she will "not stir a step, nor drop a hint" to further her wish: It will be "a mere passive scheme." Meanwhile a warning about the gypsies is spread over Highbury, though the gypsies have hurried off before the town's young ladies can even begin to panic.
The important action of this chapter is not that which occurs completely "offstage" with the gypsies, but that which presents Emma's still-developing character. She is as much a schemer as ever, but her scheming is now modified. Trying to tell herself that she has practiced "enough of interference," she hopes to stick to passive wishing. Her imagination is as strong as ever, but she is at least trying to cope with her willfulness.