Frank Churchill Appears
Mr Elton returned to Highbury a happy man. It was not long before everyone knew about his future wife. Her name was Augusta Hawkins and she came from a family with money. Ten thousand pounds was the rumour in Highbury.
Emma only saw him once or twice before he went to Bath again, but Harriet always seemed to see him, or hear his voice. Everyone said he looked very much in love and when she heard that, Harriet became more unhappy.
One day when they were shopping in Highbury, Emma and Harriet met Mr and Mrs Weston.
‘We have just been sitting with your father,’ said Mr Weston. ‘We wanted to tell you the good news. Frank is coming tomorrow and staying for a whole fortnight. We had a letter this morning.’
‘And we shall soon bring him over to Hartfield,’ said Mrs Weston.
They were both very happy and Emma was delighted. She hoped Mr Elton might be talked about less when Frank Churchill arrived in Highbury and was looking forward to meeting him at last.
The next morning, Emma was in her bedroom when she heard voices downstairs and when she walked into the drawing room, there sat her father with Mr Weston and his son. Mr Weston introduced her and explained that Frank had come a day earlier than they thought.
He was a very handsome man and he looked sensible and friendly. She felt immediately that she would like him. As they talked together, Frank asked Emma about herself and Highbury. Did she like walking and riding? Was it a pleasant society in Highbury? Did they have musical evenings? And dancing — were there balls? They talked about Mrs Weston and Frank said how much he liked her already.
Emma looked at Mr Weston and could see what he was thinking. He had wanted to see them as a couple.
After some time, Mr Weston said they must go because he had business in Highbury and Frank said he might spend the time visiting some people he knew a little.
‘Miss Jane Fairfax and I met last summer in Weymouth. Do you know the family she lives with?’
Of course Mr Woodhouse was delighted to give Frank directions to find Mrs Bates’s house.
‘Miss Fairfax is a beautiful woman and a brilliant musician,’ said Emma and Frank agreed but with a very quiet ‘Yes.’
‘Her aunt will talk to you without stopping,’ she continued, ‘but they will make you very welcome.’
And so they left, but the next morning Mr Frank Churchill went to Hartfield to see Emma again, this time with Mrs Weston. All three walked together into Highbury and had a very pleasant morning. The more Emma talked to Frank the more she believed Mr Knightley had been wrong about him.
They stopped to look at the Crown Inn, a hotel in Highbury, and Mrs Weston told Frank about the ballroom there. He was immediately interested, although Emma said it was not used for balls any more. Frank looked through the windows and said it was a beautiful room and should be used again.
‘You must arrange it, Miss Woodhouse,’ he said, and Emma laughed at the idea.
Emma’s good opinion of Frank was shaken a little the next day when she heard he had gone to London just to have his hair cut. There was nothing wrong with that, except that it did not seem very sensible. But generally, everyone in Highbury seemed to think Frank was a very good young man. Everyone except Mr Knightley. He was not surprised to hear about Frank’s trip to London and said he thought it was a silly thing to do.
That evening, Frank returned to Randalls from London. He had had his hair cut and laughed at himself for doing it. He was not ashamed and Emma began to think there was nothing wrong in it after all.
There was other news in Highbury that was more important. Some neighbours, Mr and Mrs Cole, were going to hold a dinner party. The Coles had a large and beautiful house. There was always music there, and there might possibly be dancing.
On the night of the party, Emma’s carriage arrived at the Coles’ house behind Mr Knightley’s.
‘I am surprised to see your carriage,’ she said, ‘you usually walk or ride everywhere. But this is more suitable for a gentleman so now I shall really be very happy to walk into the same room with you!’
Mr Knightley laughed at her and they went in to the party together.
At dinner, Emma sat next to Frank and they talked together about society in Highbury. Jane Fairfax sat across the table from them, wondering what they were talking about. Emma wondered whether other guests thought she and Frank were a special couple. After dinner, when he joined the ladies in the drawing room, he came across the room and sat next to Emma again. She began to realise that his life with his aunt and uncle was very boring.
‘We never see anyone new and never have parties. My aunt is often ill and it is difficult for her to let me go away from home on my own.’
Harriet and some other young ladies were invited to arrive after dinner and Emma was happy to see Harriet looking pretty and confident when she came into the room. Frank spoke to Jane for a short time and was polite and friendly to Miss Bates. Before he could get back to his seat next to Emma, Mrs Weston had taken it.