When Mrs. Elton’s rich relatives fail to visit, Mr. Weston suggests that their parties (Emma and her friends with Mrs. Elton and her friends) merge in an outing to Box Hill. However, a lame horse forces the postponement of the outing, and Mrs. Elton seizes instead on Mr. Knightley’s passing invitation to explore his estate, Donwell Abbey. She eagerly begins to make the arrangements, but Mr. Knightley asserts his authority over them. Meanwhile, the lame horse heals and the Box Hill trip is planned to follow the next day.
Mrs. Elton and Emma’s set are constantly looking for a diversion, as the little town of Highbury provides limited excitement. When there are no new marriages or visitors, they rely on social visits and nature outings for entertainment. Mrs. Elton is as eager as ever to seize upon any invitations that may gratify her vanity.
At Donwell, Emma regards her friend’s estate with pleasure and pride. Mrs. Elton badgers Jane to accept a governess position that she has found for her, and Jane finally removes herself by proposing a walk. Emma spots Mr. Knightley and Harriet in pleasant conversation leading the way.
Mr. Knightley reveals himself to be a generous judge of character, as he willingly amends his opinion of Harriet to include more virtues than he initially allowed. Emma shows her true generosity in delighting in her friend’s fortune.
Mrs. Weston worries at Frank’s delay, as he is expected from Richmond. While cooling off in the house, Emma encounters an agitated Jane. Jane appears distressed and exhausted, and she asks Emma to inform the others that she has left for home. Emma feels some sympathy for her. Just then, an out of humor Frank arrives. He has run into Jane as she left, and he complains about the heat. However, he agrees to join the Box Hill expedition the next day.
Emma begins to sympathize with Jane’s forbearance of her irritating friends, as she observes Jane’s real distress and desire for solitude. She realizes that despite Jane’s reserve, Jane must feel considerable irritation towards those who love her best—her annoying aunt and the presumptuous Mrs. Elton.