CHAP­TER IV

Emma - - CONTENTS -

A very few days had passed after this ad­ven­ture, when Har­riet came one morn­ing to Emma with a small par­cel in her hand, and after sit­ting down and hes­i­tat­ing, thus be­gan:

“Miss Wood­house—if you are at leisure—I have some­thing that I should like to tell 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 a se­ri­ous­ness in Har­riet's man­ner which pre­pared her, quite as much as her words, for some­thing more than or­di­nary.

“It is my duty, and I am sure it is my wish,” she con­tin­ued, “to have no re­serves with you on this sub­ject. As I am hap­pily quite an al­tered crea­ture in one re­spect, it is very fit that you should have the sat­is­fac­tion of know­ing it. I do not want to say more than is nec­es­sary—I am too much ashamed of 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. “It seems like mad­ness! I can see noth­ing at all ex­tra­or­di­nary in him now.—I do not care whether I meet him or not—ex­cept that of the two I had rather not see him—and in­deed I would go any dis­tance round to avoid him—but I do not envy his wife in the least; I nei­ther ad­mire her nor envy her, as I have done: she is very charm­ing, I dare say, and all that, but I think her very ill-tem­pered and dis­agree­able—I shall never for­get her look the other night!—How­ever, I as­sure you, Miss Wood­house, I wish her no evil.—No, let them be ever so happy to­gether, it will not give me an­other mo­ment's pang: and to con­vince you that I have been speak­ing truth, I am now go­ing to de­stroy—what I ought to have de­stroyed 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 my par­tic­u­lar wish to do it in your pres­ence, that you may see how ra­tio­nal I am grown. Can­not you guess what this par­cel holds?” said she, with a con­scious look.

“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 very much.”

She held the par­cel to­wards her, and Emma read the words Most pre­cious trea­sures on the top. Her cu­rios­ity was greatly ex­cited. Har­riet un­folded the par­cel, and she looked on with im­pa­tience. Within abun­dance of sil­ver pa­per was a pretty lit­tle Tun­bridge-ware box, which Har­riet opened: it was well lined with the soft­est cot­ton; but, ex­cept­ing the cot­ton, Emma saw only a small 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 passed in this very room about court-plais­ter, one of the very last times we ever met in 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 re­mem­ber his 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 to sup­ply him; and so I took mine out and cut him a piece; but it was a great deal too large, and he cut it smaller, and kept play­ing some time with what was left, be­fore he gave it back to me. And so then, in my non­sense, I could not help mak­ing a trea­sure of it—so I put it by never to be used, and looked at it now and then as a great treat.”

“My dear­est Har­riet!” cried Emma, putting her hand be­fore her face, and jump­ing 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 noth­ing of that till this mo­ment—but the cut­ting the fin­ger, and my rec­om­mend­ing court-plais­ter, and say­ing I had none about me!—Oh! my sins, my sins!—And I had plenty all the while in my pocket!—One of my sense­less tricks!—I de­serve to be un­der a con­tin­ual blush all the rest of my life.—Well—(sit­ting down again)—go on—what else?”

“And had you re­ally some at hand your­self? I am sure I never sus­pected it, you did it so nat­u­rally.”

“And so you ac­tu­ally put this piece of court-plais­ter by for his sake!” said Emma, re­cov­er­ing from her state of shame and feel­ing di­vided be­tween won­der and amuse­ment. And se­cretly she added to her­self, “Lord bless me! when should I ever have thought of putting by in cot­ton a piece of court

plais­ter that Frank Churchill had been pulling about! I never was equal to this.”

“Here,” re­sumed Har­riet, turn­ing to her box again, “here is some­thing still more valu­able, I mean that has been more valu­able, be­cause this is what did re­ally 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 old pen­cil,—the part without any lead.

“This was re­ally his,” said Har­riet.—“Do not you re­mem­ber one morn­ing?—no, I dare say you do not. But one morn­ing—I for­get ex­actly the day—but per­haps it was the Tues­day or Wed­nes­day be­fore that evening, he wanted to make a mem­o­ran­dum in his pocket-book; it was about spruce­beer. Mr. Knight­ley had been telling him some­thing about brew­ing spruce­beer, and he wanted to put it down; but when he took out his pen­cil, there was so lit­tle lead that he soon cut it all away, and it would not do, so you lent him an­other, and this was left upon the ta­ble as good for noth­ing. But I kept my eye on it; and, as soon as 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 about spruce-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 re­mem­ber it.—Stop; Mr. Knight­ley was stand­ing just here, was not he? I have an idea he was stand­ing just here.”

“Ah! I do not know. I can­not rec­ol­lect.—It is very odd, but I can­not rec­ol­lect.—Mr. El­ton was sit­ting here, I re­mem­ber, much about where I am now.”—

“Well, go on.”

“Oh! that's all. I have noth­ing more to shew you, or to say—ex­cept that I am now 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 up these things?”

“Yes, sim­ple­ton as I was!—but I am quite ashamed of it now, and wish I could for­get as eas­ily as I can burn them. It was very wrong of me, you know, to keep any re­mem­brances, after he was mar­ried. I knew it was—but had not res­o­lu­tion enough to part with them.”

“But, Har­riet, is it nec­es­sary to burn the court-plais­ter?—I have not a word to 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 look to 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, might be proved to have made Har­riet's.—About a fort­night after the alarm, they came to a suf­fi­cient ex­pla­na­tion, and quite un­de­signedly. Emma was not think­ing of it at the mo­ment, which made the in­for­ma­tion she re­ceived more valu­able. She merely said, in the course of some triv­ial chat, “Well, Har­riet, when­ever you marry I would ad­vise you to do so and so”—and thought no more of it, till after a minute's si­lence she heard Har­riet say in a very se­ri­ous tone, “I shall never marry.”

Emma then looked up, and im­me­di­ately saw how it was; and after a mo­ment's de­bate, 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 is not in com­pli­ment to Mr. El­ton?”

“Mr. El­ton in­deed!” cried Har­riet in­dig­nantly.—“Oh! no”—and Emma could just catch the words, “so su­pe­rior to Mr. El­ton!”

She then took a longer time for con­sid­er­a­tion. Should she pro­ceed no far­ther?—should she let it pass, and seem to sus­pect noth­ing?—Per­haps Har­riet might think her cold or an­gry if she did; or per­haps if she were to­tally silent, it might only drive Har­riet into ask­ing her to hear too much; and against any thing like such an un­re­serve as had been, such an open and fre­quent dis­cus­sion of hopes and chances, she was per­fectly re­solved.—She be­lieved it would be wiser for her to say and know at once, all that she meant to say and know. Plain deal­ing was al­ways best. She had pre­vi­ously de­ter­mined how far she would pro­ceed, on any ap­pli­ca­tion of the sort; and it would be safer for both, to have the ju­di­cious law of her own brain laid down with speed.—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 the per­son whom you might pre­fer, would be too greatly your su­pe­rior in sit­u­a­tion to think of you. Is not it so?”

“Oh! Miss Wood­house, be­lieve me I have not the pre­sump­tion to sup­pose — In­deed I am not so mad.—But it is a plea­sure to me to ad­mire him at a dis­tance—and to think of his in­fi­nite su­pe­ri­or­ity to all the rest of the world, with the grat­i­tude, won­der, and ven­er­a­tion, which are so proper, in me espe­cially.”

“I am not at all sur­prized at you, Har­riet. The ser­vice he ren­dered you was enough to warm your heart.”

“Ser­vice! oh! it was such an in­ex­press­ible obli­ga­tion!—The very rec­ol­lec­tion of it, and all that I felt at the time—when I saw him com­ing— his no­ble look—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, I think, to chuse so well and so grate­fully.—But that it will be a for­tu­nate pref­er­ence is more than 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 what you are about. Per­haps it will be wis­est in you to check your feel­ings while you can: at any rate do not let them carry you far, un­less you are per­suaded of his lik­ing you. Be ob­ser­vant of him. Let his be­hav­iour be the guide of your sen­sa­tions. I give you this cau­tion now, be­cause I shall never speak to you again on the sub­ject. I am de­ter­mined against all in­ter­fer­ence. Hence­for­ward I know noth­ing of the mat­ter. Let no name ever pass our lips. We were very wrong be­fore; we will be cau­tious now.—He is your su­pe­rior, no doubt, and there do seem ob­jec­tions and ob­sta­cles of a very se­ri­ous na­ture; but yet, Har­riet, more won­der­ful things have taken place, there have been matches of greater dis­par­ity. 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 a mark of good taste which I shall al­ways know how to value.”

Har­riet kissed her hand in silent and sub­mis­sive grat­i­tude. Emma was very de­cided in think­ing such an at­tach­ment no bad thing for her friend. Its ten­dency would be to raise and re­fine her mind—and it must be sav­ing her from the dan­ger of degra­da­tion.

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