Further encounters with Mrs. Elton confirm Emma’s poor opinion of her. In response, Mrs. Elton observes Emma’s reserve and grows colder towards her. She pours out affection on Jane instead, whom she socially takes under her wing. To Emma’s surprise, Jane seems to accept and tolerate Mrs. Elton’s behavior.
Mrs. Elton’s desire to take Jane under her wing parallels Emma’s own relationship with Harriet. For all their mutual dislike of each other, both women are full of their own importance and charity, though the novel does present Emma as having a certain grace that Mrs. Elton distinctly lacks. In some ways, Mrs. Elton is like a coarse double of Emma, showing what Emma might have been had she lacked all her other blessings and her willingness to self-examine and change her own behavior.
Jane receives a second invitation to join the Dixons in Ireland, but she declines and decides to stay in Highbury. Emma suspects Jane must be punishing herself regarding her feelings for Mr. Dixon.
Emma continues to interpret the puzzle of Jane according to her own fancy, even as Jane’s real motives remain mysterious to the reader.
Mrs. Weston, Emma, and Mr. Knightley discuss Jane’s complaisance towards Mrs. Elton’s attentions. When Mr. Knightley warmly defends Jane’s judgment, Emma teases him about the extent of his admiration for Jane. Mr. Knightley colors, but he believes Jane would never have him and makes it clear that he has no romantic interest in her. Despite his great admiration for her, he finds her too reserved. Emma quietly rejoices—both in Mr. Knightley’s security, and in the acknowledged flaw.
Emma’s concern that Mr. Knightley remain her single friend stems from the compound desire to keep her friend to herself and jealousy of Jane. However, Mr. Knightley demonstrates that he is perfectly capable of holding a disinterested and selfless regard for that which he deems good and beautiful, without any personal claims or pride involved.