Emma Chapter 26
Mr. Frank Churchill returned from his journey to London. Emma did her best to excuse his behavior as neither silly nor weak. She compared him to Mr. Knightley, then realized the comparison was unfair. Satisfied that Frank Churchill was still a respectable, sensible young man, Emma looked forward to seeing him at the Coles' dinner. The night of the dinner Emma left her father happy with Mrs. Goddard and Mrs. Bates, and left for the Coles'.
Upon arriving, Emma was pleased to see Mr. Knightley using his carriage; he usually preferred to ride, which Emma found beneath his class. Mr. Knightley made fun of her for being so impressed, and then the two walked into the house together. Emma was happy to be the center of attention and love; the other young ladies were to arrive later in the evening. But Jane Fairfax was still a topic of conversation. Mrs. Cole had stopped by the Bates', and newly arrived was a beautiful pianoforte, from an unknown patron. Everyone expected it to be from Colonel Campbell, her current benefactor, but even Jane did not know for sure. Frank Churchill noticed Miss Woodhouse's smile, and he asked what her thoughts were. The present was an odd one, and Emma told him her guess that the present was actually from Mr. Dixon! Emma has conjured up a scenario in which Mr. Dixon, meant to marry her friend, fell in love with Jane; or perhaps Jane simply fell in love with him, her best friend's beau. Mr. Dixon's preference for Jane's music, and how he saved her life, were both offered up as proof of the attachment. Mr. Churchill seemed to agree with her.
The other young ladies arrived, and Miss Fairfax found herself hounded with questions. She looked uncomfortable, and had little insight to offer. Frank Churchill kept close by Miss Woodhouse, the two feeling they shared a secret about Miss Fairfax. The pair discussed Highbury and Enscombe, but once Emma found him staring at Miss Fairfax. He told Emma that he was only looking at Miss Fairfax's odd hair style, and that he must go ask her about it. Strange, but Emma believed him. In his absence Mrs. Weston came by, and told Emma that Miss Bates and her niece arrived at the party in Mr. Knightley's carriage, which he was kind enough to loan. Emma smiled at her friend's modest generosity. Mrs. Weston thought perhaps he had a motive though--an affection for Miss Fairfax! Emma found this unbelievable and shocking; she thought of the loss to her nephew Henry Knightley, who would be heir of Donwell Abby if his uncle remained single. Agitated, Emma tells her friend that Mr. Knightley is happy and does not want nor need to marry. Also, Jane Fairfax is not a good enough match, especially with her chatterbox aunt as a part of the deal.
Mrs. Weston scolds Emma, and tells her that doesn't matter, because she believes Mr. Knightley is interested in Miss Fairfax. He praises and inquires about her; and Mrs. Weston thinks he sent the pianoforte! Emma, knowing her friend, does not believe he would act so impulsively or secretly. Emma scolds Mrs. Weston for acting too much like herself--a matchmaker with an overactive imagination.
After dinner Emma was asked to play on the pianoforte, which she did. She knew Miss Fairfax was the better musician, though everyone was very kind to both. Frank Churchill sang while each woman played, but Mr. Knightley became annoyed when Frank urged Miss Fairfax to play for too long. This made Emma wonder about his heart, but when the dancing began, she found Mr. Knightley dancing with no one. Jane Fairfax danced with someone else, and Emma danced with Frank, who commented on his luck at avoiding a dance with Miss Fairfax.