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Chapter 4

  • A very few days had passed after this adventure, when Harriet came one mornin_o Emma with a small parcel in her hand, and after sitting down an_esitating, thus began:
  • "Miss Woodhouse—if you are at leisure—I have something that I should like t_ell you—a sort of confession to make—and then, you know, it will be over."
  • Emma was a good deal surprized; but begged her to speak. There was _eriousness in Harriet's manner which prepared her, quite as much as he_ords, for something more than ordinary.
  • "It is my duty, and I am sure it is my wish," she continued, "to have n_eserves with you on this subject. As I am happily quite an altered creatur_n one respect, it is very fit that you should have the satisfaction o_nowing it. I do not want to say more than is necessary—I am too much ashame_f having given way as I have done, and I dare say you understand me."
  • "Yes," said Emma, "I hope I do."
  • "How I could so long a time be fancying myself! … " cried Harriet, warmly. "I_eems like madness! I can see nothing at all extraordinary in him now.—I d_ot care whether I meet him or not—except that of the two I had rather not se_im— and indeed I would go any distance round to avoid him—but I do not env_is wife in the least; I neither admire her nor envy her, as I have done: sh_s very charming, I dare say, and all that, but I think her very ill-tempere_nd disagreeable—I shall never forget her look the other night!—However, _ssure you, Miss Woodhouse, I wish her no evil.—No, let them be ever so happ_ogether, it will not give me another moment's pang: and to convince you tha_ have been speaking truth, I am now going to destroy—what I ought to hav_estroyed long ago—what I ought never to have kept— I know that very well
  • (blushing as she spoke).—However, now I will destroy it all—and it is m_articular wish to do it in your presence, that you may see how rational I a_rown. Cannot you guess what this parcel holds?" said she, with a consciou_ook.
  • "Not the least in the world.—Did he ever give you any thing?"
  • "No—I cannot call them gifts; but they are things that I have valued ver_uch."
  • She held the parcel towards her, and Emma read the words Most preciou_reasures on the top. Her curiosity was greatly excited. Harriet unfolded th_arcel, and she looked on with impatience. Within abundance of silver pape_as a pretty little Tunbridge-ware box, which Harriet opened: it was wel_ined with the softest cotton; but, excepting the cotton, Emma saw only _mall piece of court-plaister.
  • "Now," said Harriet, "you must recollect."
  • "No, indeed I do not."
  • "Dear me! I should not have thought it possible you could forget what passe_n this very room about court-plaister, one of the very last times we ever me_n it!—It was but a very few days before I had my sore throat—just before Mr.
  • and Mrs. John Knightley came— I think the very evening.—Do not you remembe_is cutting his finger with your new penknife, and your recommending court-
  • plaister?— But, as you had none about you, and knew I had, you desired me t_upply him; and so I took mine out and cut him a piece; but it was a grea_eal too large, and he cut it smaller, and kept playing some time with wha_as left, before he gave it back to me. And so then, in my nonsense, I coul_ot help making a treasure of it— so I put it by never to be used, and looke_t it now and then as a great treat."
  • "My dearest Harriet!" cried Emma, putting her hand before her face, an_umping up, "you make me more ashamed of myself than I can bear. Remember it?
  • Aye, I remember it all now; all, except your saving this relic—I knew nothin_f that till this moment—but the cutting the finger, and my recommendin_ourt-plaister, and saying I had none about me!—Oh! my sins, my sins!—And _ad plenty all the while in my pocket!—One of my senseless tricks!—I deserv_o be under a continual blush all the rest of my life.—Well—(sitting dow_gain)— go on—what else?"
  • "And had you really some at hand yourself? I am sure I never suspected it, yo_id it so naturally."
  • "And so you actually put this piece of court-plaister by for his sake!" sai_mma, recovering from her state of shame and feeling divided between wonde_nd amusement. And secretly she added to herself, "Lord bless me! when shoul_ ever have thought of putting by in cotton a piece of court-plaister tha_rank Churchill had been pulling about! I never was equal to this."
  • "Here," resumed Harriet, turning to her box again, "here is something stil_ore valuable, I mean that has been more valuable, because this is what di_eally once belong to him, which the court-plaister never did."
  • Emma was quite eager to see this superior treasure. It was the end of an ol_encil,—the part without any lead.
  • "This was really his," said Harriet.—"Do not you remember one morning?—no, _are say you do not. But one morning—I forget exactly the day—but perhaps i_as the Tuesday or Wednesday before that evening, he wanted to make _emorandum in his pocket-book; it was about spruce-beer. Mr. Knightley ha_een telling him something about brewing spruce-beer, and he wanted to put i_own; but when he took out his pencil, there was so little lead that he soo_ut it all away, and it would not do, so you lent him another, and this wa_eft upon the table as good for nothing. But I kept my eye on it; and, as soo_s I dared, caught it up, and never parted with it again from that moment."
  • "I do remember it," cried Emma; "I perfectly remember it.— Talking abou_pruce-beer.—Oh! yes—Mr. Knightley and I both saying we liked it, and Mr.
  • Elton's seeming resolved to learn to like it too. I perfectly remembe_t.—Stop; Mr. Knightley was standing just here, was not he? I have an idea h_as standing just here."
  • "Ah! I do not know. I cannot recollect.—It is very odd, but I canno_ecollect.—Mr. Elton was sitting here, I remember, much about where I a_ow."—
  • "Well, go on."
  • "Oh! that's all. I have nothing more to shew you, or to say— except that I a_ow going to throw them both behind the fire, and I wish you to see me do it."
  • "My poor dear Harriet! and have you actually found happiness in treasuring u_hese things?"
  • "Yes, simpleton as I was!—but I am quite ashamed of it now, and wish I coul_orget as easily as I can burn them. It was very wrong of me, you know, t_eep any remembrances, after he was married. I knew it was—but had no_esolution enough to part with them."
  • "But, Harriet, is it necessary to burn the court-plaister?—I have not a wor_o say for the bit of old pencil, but the court-plaister might be useful."
  • "I shall be happier to burn it," replied Harriet. "It has a disagreeable loo_o me. I must get rid of every thing.— There it goes, and there is an end,
  • thank Heaven! of Mr. Elton."
  • "And when," thought Emma, "will there be a beginning of Mr. Churchill?"
  • She had soon afterwards reason to believe that the beginning was already made,
  • and could not but hope that the gipsy, though she had told no fortune, migh_e proved to have made Harriet's.—About a fortnight after the alarm, they cam_o a sufficient explanation, and quite undesignedly. Emma was not thinking o_t at the moment, which made the information she received more valuable. Sh_erely said, in the course of some trivial chat, "Well, Harriet, whenever yo_arry I would advise you to do so and so"—and thought no more of it, til_fter a minute's silence she heard Harriet say in a very serious tone, "_hall never marry."
  • Emma then looked up, and immediately saw how it was; and after a moment'_ebate, as to whether it should pass unnoticed or not, replied,
  • "Never marry!—This is a new resolution."
  • "It is one that I shall never change, however."
  • After another short hesitation, "I hope it does not proceed from— I hope it i_ot in compliment to Mr. Elton?"
  • "Mr. Elton indeed!" cried Harriet indignantly.—"Oh! no"—and Emma could jus_atch the words, "so superior to Mr. Elton!"
  • She then took a longer time for consideration. Should she proceed n_arther?—should she let it pass, and seem to suspect nothing?— Perhaps Harrie_ight think her cold or angry if she did; or perhaps if she were totall_ilent, it might only drive Harriet into asking her to hear too much; an_gainst any thing like such an unreserve as had been, such an open an_requent discussion of hopes and chances, she was perfectly resolved.— Sh_elieved it would be wiser for her to say and know at once, all that she mean_o say and know. Plain dealing was always best. She had previously determine_ow far she would proceed, on any application of the sort; and it would b_afer for both, to have the judicious law of her own brain laid down wit_peed.— She was decided, and thus spoke—
  • "Harriet, I will not affect to be in doubt of your meaning. Your resolution,
  • or rather your expectation of never marrying, results from an idea that th_erson whom you might prefer, would be too greatly your superior in situatio_o think of you. Is not it so?"
  • "Oh! Miss Woodhouse, believe me I have not the presumption to suppose— Indee_ am not so mad.—But it is a pleasure to me to admire him at a distance—and t_hink of his infinite superiority to all the rest of the world, with th_ratitude, wonder, and veneration, which are so proper, in me especially."
  • "I am not at all surprized at you, Harriet. The service he rendered you wa_nough to warm your heart."
  • "Service! oh! it was such an inexpressible obligation!— The very recollectio_f it, and all that I felt at the time— when I saw him coming—his nobl_ook—and my wretchedness before. Such a change! In one moment such a change!
  • From perfect misery to perfect happiness!"
  • "It is very natural. It is natural, and it is honourable.— Yes, honourable, _hink, to chuse so well and so gratefully.— But that it will be a fortunat_reference is more that I can promise. I do not advise you to give way to it,
  • Harriet. I do not by any means engage for its being returned. Consider wha_ou are about. Perhaps it will be wisest in you to check your feelings whil_ou can: at any rate do not let them carry you far, unless you are persuade_f his liking you. Be observant of him. Let his behaviour be the guide of you_ensations. I give you this caution now, because I shall never speak to yo_gain on the subject. I am determined against all interference. Henceforward _now nothing of the matter. Let no name ever pass our lips. We were very wron_efore; we will be cautious now.—He is your superior, no doubt, and there d_eem objections and obstacles of a very serious nature; but yet, Harriet, mor_onderful things have taken place, there have been matches of greate_isparity. But take care of yourself. I would not have you too sanguine;
  • though, however it may end, be assured your raising your thoughts to him, is _ark of good taste which I shall always know how to value."
  • Harriet kissed her hand in silent and submissive gratitude. Emma was ver_ecided in thinking such an attachment no bad thing for her friend. It_endency would be to raise and refine her mind— and it must be saving her fro_he danger of degradation.