Part 4 Summary

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Last Updated April 5, 2023.

While Clarissa mends her dress, she becomes aware of voices emanating from downstairs. It turns out to be Peter, who has come back from India and decided to pay her an unexpected visit. They both feel happy to see each other but speak blandly and as acquaintances might; however, their eyes and body language reveal the truth: their reunion has caused intense emotions that neither of them knows quite what to do with.

Peter asks about Richard, and Clarissa invites Peter to her party; their conversation is full of casual pleasantries, but Clarissa notices that Peter has retained his previous habit of fidgeting with his pocket knife. His habitual fidgeting makes her nervous, as she cannot tell whether Peter is disinterested in the conversation or just nervous. 

As the conversation trails awkwardly, the pair shift to Bourton; the events of the past linger at the fringes of their conversation, unacknowledged but keenly felt. Their memories feel like ghosts haunting them, and the feeling is worsened when Clarissa unintentionally mentions that Peter had proposed to her in the past, and she deeply regrets bringing up that painful memory. Looking into Peter’s eyes, she watches him relive the agony her rejection caused him, and she strives to change the subject.

When Clarissa brings up the lake at Bourton, the memories and mental images associated with it become so intense that she feels like they might overpower her. Clarissa inquires about Peter's life, and he reveals that he is in love. Staring boldly at Clarissa, he observes her reaction closely, attempting to discern her feelings at the news. Although the woman that Peter loves, Daisy, is already married, both Clarissa and Peter still feel that this announcement signifies a sort of triumph for him.

Peter and Clarissa have become more conscious of their need to present themselves to each other as impressively as possible, as they both feel inadequate when comparing themselves to the other. Suddenly, Peter starts to cry. Clarissa consoles him, realizing that the past has endured in the present, just as it has in her memory. 

After Peter regains his composure, Clarissa notices a remarkable transformation in him and perceives that he still possesses an unusual kind of influence. Interestingly, at the same moment, Peter realizes that Clarissa also has a certain power over him. He grabs her shoulders and demands to know if she has been content with Richard.

The front door opens, and Clarissa hears that Elizabeth has arrived home. She takes advantage of the welcome interruption to steer clear of the conversation Peter had initiated. Peter, worn out and distraught by the conversation, offers a brief greeting to Elizabeth, then departs, hastily passing by both the mother and daughter. As he leaves, Clarissa's reminder about the party echoes in Peter's mind.

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