Emma continues to imagine herself in love with Frank and fantasizes various scenarios of their dalliance. However, all of them end in her rejection of him and the subsiding of their romance into friendship. Emma concludes she is happier remaining single, and she believes Frank’s feelings for her to be warm but changeable.
Despite Emma’s imagined love for Frank, it is an affection that leaves her with no doubt that she is still perfectly in control of the situation. It is not the kind of love that disarms and humbles Emma as Mr. Knightley wishes for her earlier in the novel.
Mrs. Weston receives a letter from Frank, which Emma reads with great pleasure. A mention of Harriet in the letter makes Emma briefly speculate that her friend might replace her in Frank’s affections, but then remembers her vow to abstain from matchmaking.
Emma cannot resist the impulses of her fancy, even under rather ridiculous circumstances, as she pleasantly imagines a match between Harriet and the man she claims to be in love with. This also, of course, calls into question the depth of Emma's "love" for Frank.
Mr. Elton now becomes the center of attention for town gossip, in light of his impending arrival accompanied by his bride. Emma attempts to comfort the flustered Harriet, and she at last begs her friend to cease dwelling on Mr. Elton for Emma’s own sake. This appeal works immediately, and Emma is warmed by Harriet’s deep love for her. She feels that such tenderness of heart cannot be esteemed highly enough, and that Harriet is her superior in this regard.
The confined nature of town life results in its changeable preoccupation with various social changes—the arrival of a stranger, or a marriage, being of great excitement. Harriet remains particularly tender and vulnerable in regard to Mr. Elton, and it is only her love for Emma—neither concern for her own well being nor for her dignity—that compels her to refrain from active distress. Harriet forces herself to not be sad for the benefit of Emma, which feeds Emma's own vanity.