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.