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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 <i>one</i> <i>respect</i>, 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
She held the parcel towards her, and Emma read the words <i>Most</i> <i>precious</i>
<i>treasures</i> 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 <i>must</i> 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
"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 <i>has</i> <i>been</i> 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
<i>that</i> <i>evening</i>, he wanted to make a memorandum in his
pocket-book; it was about spruce-beer. Mr. Knightley had been telling him
something about brewing spruce-beer, 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
"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
"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 <i>told</i> 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
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
"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 <i>him</i>,
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.