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Part 3 Chapter 4

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 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 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 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 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.

 

这件事过去后没几天的一个上午,哈丽特拎着一个小包裹来看爱玛,坐下后犹豫了一阵,然后说道:

“伍德豪斯小姐——如果你有空的话——我想跟你讲一件事——算是一种坦白吧——然后么,你知道,就算过去了。”

爱玛大为惊讶,但还是求她快说。哈丽特不仅话说得一本正经,神情也一本正经,爱玛便有了思想准备,知道一定有什么不寻常的事。

“在这件事情上,”哈丽特接着说道,“我有责任对你直言不讳,也的确不想瞒你。在某一方面,我幸好完全变了一个人,所以应该让你知道,你也好为之高兴。我不想多说——我以前没有控制住自己的感情,真感到难为情,你也许能谅解我吧。”

“是的,”爱玛说,“我想能谅解。”

“我怎么这么久都在想人非非啊……”哈丽特激愤地嚷道。“简直像是发疯!现在,我看他丝毫没有什么特别的地方。我不在乎是否看见他——其实比较而言,我宁可不看见他——的确,为了躲开他,让我绕多远都愿意——不过,我一点也不羡慕他妻子。我不像以前那样羡慕她,嫉妒她。她也许是挺迷人的,有诸如此类的优点,可我认为她脾气很坏,让人很讨厌——我一辈子都忘不了她那天晚上的那副神情!不过,你放心好了,伍德豪斯小姐,我不咒她倒霉。不,让他们幸福地生活下去吧,我不会有片刻的痛悔。为了让你相信我说的是实话,我这就毁掉——我早该毁掉的东西——我不该保存的东西——这我心里很清楚,”说着脸上泛起了红晕,“不管怎么说,我现在就把它全毁掉——我还特别希望当着你的面毁掉,让你看看我现在有多清醒。难道你猜不出这包里是什么吗?”她带着羞涩的神情说道。

“压根儿猜不出。他给过你什么东西吗?”

“没有——那些东西称不上礼物,可我却把它们当成了宝贝。”

哈丽特把小包递到她跟前,爱玛看到上面写着“最珍贵的宝贝”几个字。她的好奇心给激发起来了。哈丽特把小包打开,爱玛在一旁焦急地瞅着。在多层锡纸里面,是一只漂亮的滕布里奇(译注:指英国肯特郡的滕布里奇韦尔斯,那里的手工工人以制作精巧的礼品盒、玩具等而著名)小盒。哈丽特打开小盒,里面整齐地衬着极其柔软的棉花。可是除了棉花以外,爱玛只看到一小块橡皮膏。

“现在,”哈丽特说,“你一定想起来了。”

“不,我确实想不起来。”

“天哪!我们最后在这屋里见过几次面,其中有一次用过橡皮膏,没想到你居然给忘记了!就在我喉咙痛的前几天——就在约翰·奈特利夫妇俩到来之前——我想就在那天晚上吧。难道你不记得他用你的新铅笔刀割破了手指头,你叫他贴橡皮膏吗?可是你没有橡皮膏,知道我有,就叫我给他一块。我就把我的拿出来,给他剪了一块。不想太大了,他便剪小了些,把剩下的那块拿在手里玩了玩,然后才还给我。我当时也是瞎胡闹,把它当成了宝贝——于是就把它收起来,也不再用了,而是作为莫大的乐趣,经常拿出来看看。”

“最亲爱的哈丽特!”爱玛嚷道,一边用手捂住脸,忽地跳起来,“你叫我羞愧得无地自容了。记得吗?唉,我这下全记起来了,只是不知道你保存了这个纪念品——我是刚刚知道有这么回事——可我记得他割破了手指,我叫他贴橡皮膏,说我又没有啊!哦!我的罪过,我的罪过呀!当时我口袋里就有好多呀!我耍的一个无聊的花招!我真该脸红一辈子。好了,”她又坐了下来,“说下去——还有什么?”

“你当时真有吗?我还真没想到你会有,你装得好像啊。”

“这么说,你真是为了他把这块橡皮膏保存起来了!”爱玛说,她已经从羞愧中解脱出来,只觉得又惊奇又好笑。她心里暗自想道:“天哪!我什么时候会想到把弗兰克·邱吉尔拉着玩的橡皮膏放在棉花里保存起来呀!我决不可能干出这种事。”

“你瞧,”哈丽特又转向那小盒子说,“这儿还有一件更加珍贵的东西,我的意思是说以前更加珍贵,因为这东西原来的确是属于他的,而那橡皮膏却不是。”

爱玛急于要看看那件更珍贵的宝贝。那是一个旧铅笔头,里面却没有笔芯。

“这真是他的,”哈丽特说。“你不记得有一天上午吗?不,你大概不记得了。可是其实有一天上午——我忘了究竟是哪一天——不过也许是那个晚上以前的星期二或星期三,他想在笔记本里做个记录,免得以后忘掉。那是关于云杉啤酒(译注:系用云杉枝叶酿造的一种啤酒)的事。奈特利先生在跟他讲怎样酿云杉啤酒,他想把它记下来。可他拿出铅笔的时候,发现只剩一点点笔芯,几下就削光了,不能再用了,于是你又借了一支给他,这个铅笔头就撂在桌上没用了。不过,我两眼一直盯着它,一有敢动手的机会,就把它拿起来,一直保存到现在。”

“我还真记得呢,”爱玛嚷道,“记得一清二楚。是在谈酿啤酒的事。哦!是的——奈特利先生和我都说喜欢那种酒,埃尔顿先生似乎决心也要学着喜欢它。我记得一清二楚。等一等,奈特利先生就站在这儿,对吧?我记得他就站在这儿。”

“啊!我不知道。我记不得了。真奇怪,我记不得了。我记得埃尔顿先生坐在这儿,大约就是我现在坐的地方。”

“好吧,说下去。”

“哦!就这些。我没有别的东西拿给你看了,也没有别的事告诉你了——只是我要把这两样东西都扔到火里,我想让你看着我这么做。”

“我亲爱的哈丽特好可怜啊!你珍藏这些东西真感到快活吗?”

“是呀,谁叫我那么傻的!不过我现在感到非常羞愧,想把它们烧了,也能一股脑地把它们忘掉。你知道,他都结婚了,我真不该保留什么纪念品。我也知道不该——可就是下不了决心扔掉。”

“可是,哈丽特,橡皮膏也要烧掉吗?我对那旧铅笔头没什么好说的,可那橡皮膏或许还有用呢。”

“烧了心里痛快些,”哈丽特答道。“我看了觉得讨厌。什么都得清除掉。去它的吧,谢天谢地!埃尔顿先生的事就此了结了。”

“那么,”爱玛心想,“邱吉尔先生的事什么时候开始呢?”

过了不久,她就有理由相信,这事已经开始了,而且不由得在想,虽说她没有算过命,但那个吉普赛人说不定会给哈丽特带来好运。在那次受惊后大约两个星期,她们俩进行了一次长谈,而且完全是偶然间谈起的。当时爱玛并不在考虑这件事,因而觉得听到的情况更加可贵。在闲聊中,她只说了一句:“我说,哈丽特,不管你什么时候结婚,我都要给你出出主意”——然后就把此事抛到了脑后。沉默了一会之后,只听哈丽特以一本正经的口气说道:“我永远也不结婚。”

爱玛抬起头来,立刻明白了是怎么回事。她心里嘀咕了一下,琢磨该不该理会她这话,然后答道:

“永远不结婚!这可是个新的决定。”

“然而却是个我永远不会改变的决定。”

又迟疑了片刻之后:“我想不是因为——我想不是为了埃尔顿先生的缘故吧?”

“什么埃尔顿先生!”哈丽特气愤地叫了起来。“哦!不,”——爱玛只听到这么一句,“跟埃尔顿先生毫不相干!”

爱玛接着沉思了好久。她是否应该不再谈下去了?她是否应该不再追问了,装作毫不猜疑的样子?要是那样的话,哈丽特也许会认为她冷漠无情,或者在生她的气;而她要是完全闷声不响的话,那也许只会逼得哈丽特要她听的话太多了。因此她完全打定了主意,不像过去那样毫无保留,那样经常而坦率地谈论希望和机会。她觉得比较明智的做法,是把她想说的话、想知道的事,一次说个清楚、问个明白。开诚布公总是上策。她事前已经想过了,如果哈丽特要她出主意的话,她将把话说到什么地步。要经过头脑的思索尽快作出明断,这对双方都比较稳妥。她打定了主意,便这样说道:

“哈丽特,我不想假装不明白你的意思。你那永不结婚的决心,或者不如说希望,是由这样一个想法产生的,这就是:你可能看中的那个人地位比你高得太多了,因而不会考虑你,对吧?”

“哦!伍德豪斯小姐,请相信我,我不会这样冒昧地认为——我确实没有这样狂妄。不过,能远远地爱慕他——想想他比天下所有的人都好得多,那对我是一桩赏心乐事,当然谁都会怀着应有的感激、惊异和崇敬之情,尤其是我。”

“我对你一点也不感到惊奇,哈丽特。他帮了你那么个忙,够让你心里热乎乎的了。”

“帮忙!哦!那真是一种难以用言语表达的恩惠!一想起这件事,一想起我当时的心情——眼见着他走过来——那副堂堂的神情——而我以前却那么可怜。这样的变化!顷刻之间发生了这样的变化!从可怜巴巴变成了美滋滋的。”

“这很自然。很自然,也很体面。是的,我想能作这样美好、这样可喜的选择,那是很体面的。可是,这样的选择是否会带来好的结果,那我可不敢说。我劝你不要放任自己的感情,哈丽特。我决不敢说你的情感得到了回报。想想你这是在干什么。也许你最好还是趁现在做得到的时候,尽早控制住自己的感情。无论如何,不要感情用事做出过分的事来,除非你肯定他喜欢你。要留神观察他。让他的行为作你感情的向导。我现在给你这个告诫,因为我以后不会跟你在这件事上再说什么了。我决心不再干预了。从此以后,我就算是什么都不知道好了。我们不要再提什么人的名字。我们以前完全搞错了,现在要谨慎。毫无疑问,他条件比你好,看来确实会有人竭力反对,加以阻挠。可话又说回来,哈丽特,比这更奇妙的事都发生过,条件更悬殊的人都结合了。不过,你要当心。我希望你不要过于乐观。不过,无论结果如何,你放心好了,你心里对他有意思,说明你有眼力,这将永远受到我的珍重。”

哈丽特一声不吭,带着驯顺的感激之情吻了吻她的手。爱玛深信,她的朋友有这番心意并非坏事。这种心意会提高她的思想,培育她的情操——而且一定会把她从堕落的危险中拯救出来。



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