Mrs. Elton receives social attention from everyone in town. Emma plans a dinner for the Eltons at Hartfield, eager to extricate herself from any suspicions that she harbors ill feelings towards Mrs. Elton (even though she does). When Harriet cannot come, Emma takes the opportunity of amending her neglect of Jane and invites her instead. She also invites Isabella and John Knightley, who will be in the area.
Emma, very aware of her social rank, is also aware of her social obligations. Her pride ensures that she carries out every duty expected towards Mrs. Elton, and it also spurs her to improve her behavior towards Jane Fairfax.
During the party, Mr. John Knightley talks with Jane, solicitously scolding her for walking through the rain to fetch her letters. Jane blushes but insists that she enjoys her walks and values letters of friendship. Mrs. Elton overhears and decides that she will have her servant fetch Jane’s letters for her, but Jane just as determinedly objects that she will continue to fetch her own letters. Emma suspects that Jane has been receiving letters from some one very dear, whom she keeps secret.
Here, as in other cases, Emma interprets more interesting motives behind Jane’s determination to fetch her own letters. She continues to interpret Jane’s behavior through the narrative she has created between Jane and Mr. Dixon. Ironically, Emma is half-right: there is a secret story regarding those letters, but it involves not Dixon but rather the very man Emma believes is in love with her, Emma! So even when Emma's insight is right about a situation, her fancies and vanities still stop her from getting it entirely right.
The conversation turns to handwriting, and Emma’s handwriting is praised. Emma in turn praises Frank’s handwriting, but Mr. Knightley counters that it is weak and womanly.
Emma and Mr. Knightley continue to disagree over their impressions of Frank, this time literally reading personality between the lines of his handwriting.