Harriet’s visit with the Martins is distressing to all parties. Just as Harriet, Mrs. Martin, and the Martin sisters begin to recover their former familiarity and intimacy, Emma arrives to retrieve Harriet. The Martins perceive the intended slight of her visit’s brevity, Harriet is miserable, and even Emma feels pained by the offense she has led Harriet to inflict upon the Martins. Nonetheless, Emma believes that the separation between the Martins and Harriet is for Harriet's own good.
Though Emma is not insensible to Harriet’s pain and regrets offending the good-hearted Martins, her conviction of the Martins’ social inferiority spurs her to continue to “protect” Harriet from them. Harriet, for her part, is too weak-willed to go against Emma’s guidance, though she is soft-hearted enough to feel wretched about the affair.
Emma and Harriet run into a cheerful Mr. and Mrs. Weston on their return, who announce that Frank Churchill is to visit the next day. Frank arrives early, and Emma meets him at Hartfield. She finds him handsome, well bred, and charming; altogether, he meets her expectations, and she anticipates they will become fast friends. He knows how to make himself agreeable and is eager to please, generously praising Mrs. Weston to Emma’s gratification.
Frank is exactly the charming young man Emma has anticipated, though her own biases have been known to lead her to find many characters to be just what she expects—and wants—them to be. It is too early, however, for even Emma to know the intentions that lie behind this young man’s charm.
Emma suspects that Mr. Weston watches eagerly for a developing attachment between herself and Frank, and Emma wonders if such suspicions have crossed Frank’s mind as they have hers. At the end of his very agreeable visit, Frank mentions that he will drop by the Bates residence, to pay a visit to his acquaintance from Weymouth, Jane Fairfax.
Within the rather confined circle of Emma’s society, marriage is on everyone’s mind. It is perhaps the most significant live event, and one that arrests not only Emma’s too active imagination, but also in fact everyone’s attention.