About a week after Mrs. Churchill’s death, Mr. Weston arrives at Hartfield with an urgent request to take Emma to see Mrs. Weston. At Randalls, an agitated Mrs. Weston informs Emma that Frank and Jane have been secretly engaged since Weymouth. Emma is astonished, torn between mortification at her unflattering conversations with Frank about Jane and her concern for Harriet’s feelings for Frank.
The answer to all of the riddles regarding Jane and Frank’s behavior finally comes out: their secret engagement. Emma is again completely surprised by the revelation of who is really in love with whom, though her only fault in the affair is her indiscretions regarding Jane.
Emma observes Mrs. Weston’s concern for her, and she reassures her that she has had no feelings for Frank for some time. However, Emma strongly disapproves of Frank’s behavior. She is angry with him for deceiving and courting her; she also believes he has behaved poorly towards Jane in many regards.
Mrs. Weston begs her to postpone judgment until Frank can explain everything by letter. She insists that Frank, too, has suffered from misunderstandings between him and Jane. Upon learning that Jane has accepted a governess position, Frank went frantically to his uncle to plead their case. Mr. Churchill, without the snobbish Mrs. Churchill’s influence, consented to give them his blessing, though insisting they postpone the public engagement until more time has passed. Mr. Weston enters the room cautiously, but is soon comforted by Emma’s warm congratulations regarding his son’s engagement.
As Emma is confronted again with the shortcomings of her perception, she is persuaded to postpone judgment on Frank. It is a lesson of humility that she has been learning throughout the novel, as she reflects on the disastrous consequences of her own vanity-inflated mistakes in judgment on the one hand, and experiences others’ generosity towards herself on the other.