Now this unexpected turn towards the end of Emma is not what I expected when I first read it. Frank was for Emma surely! But, as always, Mr Knightley was right when he thought about a possible attachment between them.
But, looking back, Austen does include some hints for us along the way.
Firstly, when Jane first comes on the scene and when she is talking to Emma one day, she is very vague about Frank, whom she met at Weymouth. But, unfortunately for the very interested Emma, she doesn't wish to talk about him much when Emma questions. This is shown well in the 1996 Paltrow version...
“Was he handsome?”
“Many say he is.”
“Was he agreeable?”
“He was in no way disagreeable.”
“Was he a man of information?”
“All his statements seemed correct.”
These are not the answers which will satisfy Emma’s intrigue about this Mr Frank Churchill.
The next hint is linked to Frank’s always managing to find an excuse for not visiting his father in Highbury. His poor, poor aunt keeps becoming too ill so she can’t bear to part with her beloved Frank. Luckily, he does manage to visit. Isn’t it funny how it is after Jane has arrived that he is able to come?
Next up, this trifling business about this trip to London for this vital hair cut! Imperative business indeed! What a coincidence that the pianoforte for Jane arrives shortly after his visit... but of course it is from Colonel Campbell, but Jane is not so sure as everyone else seems to be.
Frank lets his guard down a little at the Cole’s party. When the piano is placed, naturally, Emma is asked to perform! After a lovely song, or duet once Frank joins in, Frank asks Jane to perform. Surely this is just out of politeness, but then asking her to sing a further three songs? That is more than mere politeness...
This speculation about this lovely, yet a little inconvenient gift of a piano, is the talk of the town for a number of days, and what an honour for Miss Bates when Emma come to view the instrument. What a surprise that Frank is already there, mending Mrs Bateses glasses. I thought he found the company of the Bateses too intolerable?
Isn’t Frank so very eager for this ball! I wonder why... Well, of course to dance with Emma. Jane seems also rather animated when she hears of the possibility of a ball, in fact, Emma had never seen her so animated, about anything! Could they be thinking of the possibility of dancing with each other? Of course, Frank would say, he would have to dance at least once with Jane, out of civility. And why would he wish it, he told Emma her dancing is of little consequence.
Oh dear, Mrs Churchill is ill, again. He must be off this instant, and had only a short time to say goodbye to Emma. Shame he couldn’t spare 5 minutes for the Bateses. Oh? He has already been there, to Emma’s surprise. Why would he wish to spend the last morning of his at Highbury, at that house? “Seeing as you know everything, you can hardly be without suspicion.” What does this mean? Well, Emma has an answer to everything, Frank must be in love with her – Emma that is, not Jane! It must be this, with his high regard for “this place” and he thought he would be able to stay here forever...
Oh, poor, sad Jane. Going out in rain to fetch her letters! Who could they be from making them of such important for her to go out in the pouring rain? She could have caught a cold! How nice of Mrs Elton to offer to collect them, not that Jane will let her servant be troubled. And, there is the issue of privacy. And again, how obliging of Mrs Elton to help Jane to find a governess position. But, Jane will not agree to this. She doesn't want to leave Highbury, quite yet. But surely all the good positions will be gone soon, and surely she does not wish to stay with her, talkative, aunt for too long? What could the reason be?
Finally Frank returns and the ball can go ahead! Isn’t Frank the gentleman, escorting Jane and Miss Bates into the ball, before they were even three steps out of the carriage? But, when Emma questions him on why he is staring at Jane, he ungallantly says that he is, supposedly, thinking how awful her hair looks – must be an Irish tradition!
Next up, just before the strawberry party, the mention of Dr Perry's plan to set up a carriage is mentioned. He thought he heard in Mrs Weston's letter, but Mrs Weston knows nothing of this plan. Where did he hear it then? He must have been mistaken...
What a fun game to play! Nice to return to your childhood ways with a game of alphabet tiles (not that some need to look far to be a child again!) 'Blunred'- blunder is a peculiar choice of word to give Miss Fairfax isn’t it?
Next we have one of the biggest hints. Knightley's suspicion. We have seen throughout that Knightley’s judgments and ideas are normally correct, with Elton for example. Knightley wonders about the extent of Jane and Frank’s relationship. But, as Emma is always right, this is nonsense! She knows how much Frank dislikes Jane!
Jane is still continually refusing to accept a governess position, why ever not?
On the day of the strawberry party, Jane does not seem in spirits. So much so that she decided to leaves the strawberry party early. She is fatigued, but it is not the usual kind. It’s a shame she wouldn’t take the carriage home, and in such heat! Shortly after, Frank arrived – also not in spirits. He says he ran into Jane so assumes the party is breaking up! He is not sure why she would be walking home in this heat, its madness! Frank really is not happy, why is he so angry I wonder?
Box hill – doesn’t Frank go a little far with his ‘attentions’ to Emma during this visit? There are also some very strange comments during the conversion, referring to getting to know someone in their own environment if you are to truly understand someone’s disposition. What a strange topic of conversation...
Once again Frank is off again for his Aunt, who then dies! How unfortunate! During this time, Emma wishes to make emends to them for her hurtful comment at Box Hill. But, poor Jane is too ill to see Emma, every time she tries to visit! What a shame. Jane has never seemed keen on Emma since Frank was showing her particular attention, but why should this bother her? Surely she is nothing to Frank.
So, shortly after this, it is all revealed! What a surprise Emma received! How is it even possible? Jane and Frank – engaged! Who would have thought it...
Your affectionate friend,