Emma Chapter 38
It was the day of the ball, and great fun seemed certain. Frank Churchill was not called away, and nobody was ill. Mr. Weston asked Emma to come early to check out the Inn, and Emma brought Harriet with her. She was not the only one asked to arrive early, and soon most of the guests had arrived. The Eltons were to come with Miss Bates and Miss Fairfax as their guests, but the Eltons forgot to pick them up. The carriage was sent, and Mr. Churchill eagerly went to greet them.
The chatter of Miss Bates soon dominated the room. She thanked the Eltons, Mr. Churchill, and complimented all the well-dressed revelers. Mrs. Elton complimented her own dress as she pulled Miss Fairfax aside. She praised Mr. Churchill to her friend, so loudly that everyone could hear it. The young man did not like Mrs. Elton. The bride was the topic of conversation, as Mrs. Weston feared that she likely expected to begin the ball, an honor normally reserved for Miss Woodhouse. They gave Mrs. Elton the honor, and her partner was Mr. Weston. Emma took the slight well, her only worry being Mr. Knightley. Her friend was not dancing, and it was a pity to see such a handsome man alone. This situation was cured during the last two dances before supper. Harriet was the only young woman without a partner, and Mr. Elton cruelly walked around the room, showing off his unwillingness to ask her. Mrs. Weston asked him to dance with Harriet, and was flatly refused! It was in shockingly bad taste, and Emma felt for her poor friend. But Mr. Knightley came to her rescue, and he and Harriet danced well together.
It was time for dinner, and Frank Churchill walked in with Miss Bates and Miss Fairfax. It was not until after dinner that Emma could speak to Mr. Knightley about the Eltons. He guessed that the slight to Harriet was also one to her, and he asked Emma what was the cause. She told him only of Harriet, not of Mr. Elton's designs toward herself. He was amused at her blundered matchmaking, and felt that Mr. Elton had lost the better woman. Emma was happy to hear Mr. Knightley speak well of her friend. When it was time to dance again, the pair decided that they could be partners. They were not too much like family, said Mr. Knightley; to dance together would be acceptable.