A Miss Emma Watson is “recently returned to her family from the care of an Aunt who had brought her up” and is thrust into the sudden acquaintance of several sisters and brothers with whom she did not grow up (Austen 271). The Watsons are one of the poorer families in the Town of D. in Surry, and Emma is invited to make her first public appearance to the neighbourhood at a Ball hosted by a rich family, the Edwards, who always extend their charitable invitations to the Watsons.
The novel fragment begins with Emma riding with her older sister, Elizabeth, to the Edwards’ house in town, and receiving a brief education on their family members and family social circle. At the Ball, she meets some of these characters, in particular, Tom Musgrave, a “young Man of very good fortune quite independent, and remarkably agreeable, an universal favourite wherever he goes,” but who “is always behaving in a particular way to one [girl] or another” (272). Emma also meets Lord Osborne, the son of the Town’s reigning aristocratic family, who “was not fond of Women’s company, and he never danced” (286).
However, Emma is most impressed with the “quietly-chearful, gentlemanlike air” of Lord Osborne’s tutor, Mr. Howard, and neither Tom Musgrave’s nor Lord Osborne’s visitations following the Ball excite her beyond a degree of feeling mortification at the contrast between their finery and her family’s humble home (290). Unlike the income-centric attitudes of her sisters Penelope and Margaret, or of her sister-in-law Jane and her brother Robert, Emma was brought up to be more than a gold-digging, husband-grabbing tart.
The ending of the fragment reveals Emma’s reflections on how she has gone from a comfortable, indulgent and refined lifestyle with her Aunt and late Uncle to being of “importance to no one, a burden on those, whose affection she could not expect, an addition in an house, already overstocked, surrounded by inferior minds with little chance of domestic comfort, and as little hope of future support” (316). In other words, some shit will go down because Emma doesn’t fit into their narrow-minded little world.