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Part 2 Chapter 7

Emma's very good opinion of Frank Churchill was a little shaken the following day, by hearing that he was gone off to London, merely to have his hair cut. A sudden freak seemed to have seized him at breakfast, and he had sent for a chaise and set off, intending to return to dinner, but with no more important view that appeared than having his hair cut. There was certainly no harm in his travelling sixteen miles twice over on such an errand; but there was an air of foppery and nonsense in it which she could not approve. It did not accord with the rationality of plan, the moderation in expense, or even the unselfish warmth of heart, which she had believed herself to discern in him yesterday. Vanity, extravagance, love of change, restlessness of temper, which must be doing something, good or bad; heedlessness as to the pleasure of his father and Mrs. Weston, indifferent as to how his conduct might appear in general; he became liable to all these charges. His father only called him a coxcomb, and thought it a very good story; but that Mrs. Weston did not like it, was clear enough, by her passing it over as quickly as possible, and making no other comment than that `all young people would have their little whims.'

With the exception of this little blot, Emma found that his visit hitherto had given her friend only good ideas of him. Mrs. Weston was very ready to say how attentive and pleasant a companion he made himself - how much she saw to like in his disposition altogether. He appeared to have a very open temper - certainly a very cheerful and lively one; she could observe nothing wrong in his notions, a great deal decidedly right; he spoke of his uncle with warm regard, was fond of talking of him - said he would be the best man in the world if he were left to himself; and though there was no being attached to the aunt, he acknowledged her kindness with gratitude, and seemed to mean always to speak of her with respect. This was all very promising; and, but for such an unfortunate fancy for having his hair cut, there was nothing to denote him unworthy of the distinguished honour which her imagination had given him; the honour, if not of being really in love with her, of being at least very near it, and saved only by her own indifference - (for still her resolution held of never marrying) - the honour, in short, of being marked out for her by all their joint acquaintance.

Mr. Weston, on his side, added a virtue to the account which must have some weight. He gave her to understand that Frank admired her extremely - thought her very beautiful and very charming; and with so much to be said for him altogether, she found she must not judge him harshly. As Mrs. Weston observed, `all young people would have their little whims.'

There was one person among his new acquaintance in Surry, not so leniently disposed. In general he was judged, throughout the parishes of Donwell and Highbury, with great candour; liberal allowances were made for the little excesses of such a handsome young man - one who smiled so often and bowed so well; but there was one spirit among them not to be softened, from its power of censure, by bows or smiles - Mr. Knightley. The circumstance was told him at Hartfield; for the moment, he was silent; but Emma heard him almost immediately afterwards say to himself, over a newspaper he held in his hand, `Hum! just the trifling, silly fellow I took him for.' She had half a mind to resent; but an instant's observation convinced her that it was really said only to relieve his own feelings, and not meant to provoke; and therefore she let it pass.

Although in one instance the bearers of not good tidings, Mr. and Mrs. Weston's visit this morning was in another respect particularly opportune. Something occurred while they were at Hartfield, to make Emma want their advice; and, which was still more lucky, she wanted exactly the advice they gave.

This was the occurrence: - The Coles had been settled some years in Highbury, and were very good sort of people - friendly, liberal, and unpretending; but, on the other hand, they were of low origin, in trade, and only moderately genteel. On their first coming into the country, they had lived in proportion to their income, quietly, keeping little company, and that little unexpensively; but the last year or two had brought them a considerable increase of means - the house in town had yielded greater profits, and fortune in general had smiled on them. With their wealth, their views increased; their want of a larger house, their inclination for more company. They added to their house, to their number of servants, to their expenses of every sort; and by this time were, in fortune and style of living, second only to the family at Hartfield. Their love of society, and their new dining-room, prepared every body for their keeping dinner-company; and a few parties, chiefly among the single men, had already taken place. The regular and best families Emma could hardly suppose they would presume to invite - neither Donwell, nor Hartfield, nor Randalls. Nothing should tempt her to go, if they did; and she regretted that her father's known habits would be giving her refusal less meaning than she could wish. The Coles were very respectable in their way, but they ought to be taught that it was not for them to arrange the terms on which the superior families would visit them. This lesson, she very much feared, they would receive only from herself; she had little hope of Mr. Knightley, none of Mr. Weston.

But she had made up her mind how to meet this presumption so many weeks before it appeared, that when the insult came at last, it found her very differently affected. Donwell and Randalls had received their invitation, and none had come for her father and herself; and Mrs. Weston's accounting for it with `I suppose they will not take the liberty with you; they know you do not dine out,' was not quite sufficient. She felt that she should like to have had the power of refusal; and afterwards, as the idea of the party to be assembled there, consisting precisely of those whose society was dearest to her, occurred again and again, she did not know that she might not have been tempted to accept. Harriet was to be there in the evening, and the Bateses. They had been speaking of it as they walked about Highbury the day before, and Frank Churchill had most earnestly lamented her absence. Might not the evening end in a dance? had been a question of his. The bare possibility of it acted as a farther irritation on her spirits; and her being left in solitary grandeur, even supposing the omission to be intended as a compliment, was but poor comfort.

It was the arrival of this very invitation while the Westons were at Hartfield, which made their presence so acceptable; for though her first remark, on reading it, was that `of course it must be declined,' she so very soon proceeded to ask them what they advised her to do, that their advice for her going was most prompt and successful.

She owned that, considering every thing, she was not absolutely without inclination for the party. The Coles expressed themselves so properly - there was so much real attention in the manner of it - so much consideration for her father. `They would have solicited the honour earlier, but had been waiting the arrival of a folding-screen from London, which they hoped might keep Mr. Woodhouse from any draught of air, and therefore induce him the more readily to give them the honour of his company. `Upon the whole, she was very persuadable; and it being briefly settled among themselves how it might be done without neglecting his comfort - how certainly Mrs. Goddard, if not Mrs. Bates, might be depended on for bearing him company - Mr. Woodhouse was to be talked into an acquiescence of his daughter's going out to dinner on a day now near at hand, and spending the whole evening away from him. As for his going, Emma did not wish him to think it possible, the hours would be too late, and the party too numerous. He was soon pretty well resigned.

`I am not fond of dinner-visiting,' said he - `I never was. No more is Emma. Late hours do not agree with us. I am sorry Mr. and Mrs. Cole should have done it. I think it would be much better if they would come in one afternoon next summer, and take their tea with us - take us in their afternoon walk; which they might do, as our hours are so reasonable, and yet get home without being out in the damp of the evening. The dews of a summer evening are what I would not expose any body to. However, as they are so very desirous to have dear Emma dine with them, and as you will both be there, and Mr. Knightley too, to take care of her, I cannot wish to prevent it, provided the weather be what it ought, neither damp, nor cold, nor windy.' Then turning to Mrs. Weston, with a look of gentle reproach - `Ah! Miss Taylor, if you had not married, you would have staid at home with me.'

`Well, sir,' cried Mr. Weston, `as I took Miss Taylor away, it is incumbent on me to supply her place, if I can; and I will step to Mrs. Goddard in a moment, if you wish it.'

But the idea of any thing to be done in a moment, was increasing, not lessening, Mr. Woodhouse's agitation. The ladies knew better how to allay it. Mr. Weston must be quiet, and every thing deliberately arranged.

With this treatment, Mr. Woodhouse was soon composed enough for talking as usual. `He should be happy to see Mrs. Goddard. He had a great regard for Mrs. Goddard; and Emma should write a line, and invite her. James could take the note. But first of all, there must be an answer written to Mrs. Cole.'

`You will make my excuses, my dear, as civilly as possible. You will say that I am quite an invalid, and go no where, and therefore must decline their obliging invitation; beginning with my compliments, of course. But you will do every thing right. I need not tell you what is to be done. We must remember to let James know that the carriage will be wanted on Tuesday. I shall have no fears for you with him. We have never been there above once since the new approach was made; but still I have no doubt that James will take you very safely. And when you get there, you must tell him at what time you would have him come for you again; and you had better name an early hour. You will not like staying late. You will get very tired when tea is over.'

`But you would not wish me to come away before I am tired, papa?'

`Oh! no, my love; but you will soon be tired. There will be a great many people talking at once. You will not like the noise.'

`But, my dear sir,' cried Mr. Weston, `if Emma comes away early, it will be breaking up the party.'

`And no great harm if it does,' said Mr. Woodhouse. `The sooner every party breaks up, the better.'

`But you do not consider how it may appear to the Coles. Emma's going away directly after tea might be giving offence. They are good-natured people, and think little of their own claims; but still they must feel that any body's hurrying away is no great compliment; and Miss Woodhouse's doing it would be more thought of than any other person's in the room. You would not wish to disappoint and mortify the Coles, I am sure, sir; friendly, good sort of people as ever lived, and who have been your neighbours these ten years.'

`No, upon no account in the world, Mr. Weston; I am much obliged to you for reminding me. I should be extremely sorry to be giving them any pain. I know what worthy people they are. Perry tells me that Mr. Cole never touches malt liquor. You would not think it to look at him, but he is bilious - Mr. Cole is very bilious. No, I would not be the means of giving them any pain. My dear Emma, we must consider this. I am sure, rather than run the risk of hurting Mr. and Mrs. Cole, you would stay a little longer than you might wish. You will not regard being tired. You will be perfectly safe, you know, among your friends.'

`Oh yes, papa. I have no fears at all for myself; and I should have no scruples of staying as late as Mrs. Weston, but on your account. I am only afraid of your sitting up for me. I am not afraid of your not being exceedingly comfortable with Mrs. Goddard. She loves piquet, you know; but when she is gone home, I am afraid you will be sitting up by yourself, instead of going to bed at your usual time - and the idea of that would entirely destroy my comfort. You must promise me not to sit up.'

He did, on the condition of some promises on her side: such as that, if she came home cold, she would be sure to warm herself thoroughly; if hungry, that she would take something to eat; that her own maid should sit up for her; and that Serle and the butler should see that every thing were safe in the house, as usual.

 

第二天,爱玛听说弗兰克·邱吉尔仅仅为了理发而跑到伦敦,原先对他的好感顿时有一点削弱。吃早饭时,他似乎突发奇想,叫了一辆轻便马车出发了,打算赶回来吃晚饭,看来并没有什么要紧的事,只不过想去理个发。诚然,为这事来回跑两个十六英里也未尝不可,但是爱玛看不惯那纨绔子弟的习气,那轻浮的作风。她昨天还觉得他办事有条有理,花钱有所节制,甚至待人热情无私,谁想他今天的表现却并非如此。图慕虚荣,大手大脚,心神不定,喜欢变来变去,这些特征必定要起作用,不管是好作用还是坏作用;不顾他父亲和韦斯顿太太是否高兴,也不管他的行为会给大家造成什么印象;人们会这样责备他。他父亲只说他是个花花公子,并觉得这件事很有趣。不过,韦斯顿太太显然不喜欢他这样做,因为她没有多提这件事,只说了一句:“年轻人都有点心血来潮。”

爱玛发现,弗兰克到来之后,除了这点小毛病之外,给她的朋友留下的都是好印象。韦斯顿太太逢人便说,他是一个多么亲切、多么可爱的伙伴——她发现他的性情处处都很讨人喜欢。他看来心胸开阔——真是又开朗又活跃。她发觉他的念头不会有错,往往是绝对正确的。他总是满怀深情地说起舅舅,喜欢跟人谈论他——说他舅舅若能自行其便的话,一定会是世界上最好的人。他虽说并不喜爱舅妈,但又感激她的情意,好像谈起她时总是怀着敬意。这些都是很好的苗头。本来,爱玛在想象中已给他加上了一项殊荣,他要不是生出一个到伦敦理发的怪念头,还真没有什么表明他不配得到这份殊荣。他的这份殊荣,如果说他还不是真正爱上了她,至少也非常近乎于爱上了她,只是由于她自己态度冷淡,他的感情才没有进一步发展——(因为她依然抱着终身不嫁的决心)——总之,他们俩共同认识的人都给他这种殊荣,把他选作爱玛的对象。

韦斯顿先生又给这一说法增添了一个很有分量的砝码。他对爱玛说,弗兰克极其爱慕她——认为她非常漂亮,非常可爱。弗兰克有那么多值得称道的地方,爱玛觉得自己不能再苛求他了。正如韦斯顿太太所说的,“年轻人都有点心血来潮。”

弗兰克在萨里新认识的人当中,有一个人对他不那么宽怀大度。总的说来,在当维尔和海伯里两个教区,大家对他都做出了公正的评价。这么漂亮的一个青年——一个经常面带微笑、对人彬彬有礼的青年,即使有点稍微过分的地方,大家也可以宽宏大量地原谅他。然而,这当中就有一个人,生性喜欢挑剔,没有被他的微笑和彬彬有礼所感化——那就是奈特利先生。他在哈特菲尔德听说了他去伦敦理发的事,当时一声未吭。可是,随后他手里拿起一张报纸来看时,爱玛听见他自言自语:“咳!我早就料到他是个轻浮的傻瓜。”爱玛本来有点想反驳,但仔细一想,就觉得他说那话只是想发泄一下自己的情绪,并不想招惹谁,因此也就没有去理会。

韦斯顿夫妇虽然带来了一条不大好的消息,但从另一方面来看,他们这天早晨却来得特别凑巧。他们待在哈特菲尔德的时候,爱玛遇上了一件事,需要听听他们的意见。而更加凑巧的是,他们出的主意正中爱玛的心意。

事情是这样的:科尔家已在海伯里居住多年,算是个很好的人家——与人为善,慷慨大方,谦和朴实。但是,从另一方面看,他们出身低微,靠做买卖营生,只是略有点上流人的风度。他们初来这儿时,过日子量入为出,深居简出,很少与人来往,即使有点来往,也不怎么花钱。可是,近一两年来,他们的收人大大增加了——城里的房子收益增多了,,命运之神在朝他们微笑。随着财富的增加,他们的眼界也高了,想住一座较大的房子,想多结交些朋友。他们扩建了房屋,增添了仆人,扩大了各项开支。时至如今,他们在财产和生活方式上仅次于哈特菲尔德那家人。他们喜欢交际,又新建了餐厅,准备请每个人都来做客,并已请过几次客了,邀的大多是单身汉。爱玛估计,他们不大敢贸然邀请那些正经的名门大户——不管是当维尔,还是哈特菲尔德,或是兰多尔斯,一概不敢邀请。即使他们有请,她说什么也不会去。她感到遗憾的是,大家都知道她父亲的习性,因此她的拒绝也就表达不出她意想中的意味。科尔夫妇可算是很体面的人,可是应该让他们明白,他们没有资格安排上流人家去他们家做客。爱玛心想,能叫他们明白这一点的,恐怕只有她自己,奈特利先生不大可能,韦斯顿先生更不可指望。

早在几个星期之前,爱玛就打定主意要如何对付这种自以为是的行径,可等到终于受到怠慢的时候,她心里则完全是另一番滋味。当维尔和兰多尔斯都接到了科尔家的邀请,她父亲和她自己却没接到。韦斯顿太太解释说:“我看他们不敢冒昧地请你们,知道你们不去别人家吃饭。”可这理由并不充分。她觉得她很想得到拒绝他们的权利。后来想到一些跟她最亲近的人要去那里做客,而且这念头一次次地冒出来,她又拿不准自己若是接到邀请的话,是否能不为之动心。哈丽特晚上要去那里,贝茨家也要去。前一天在海伯里散步时,他们讲起过这件事,弗兰克·邱吉尔对她没去感到万分可惜。那天晚上最后是否可能来一场舞会?这是他问的一个问题。正是因为存在这种可能性,爱玛越发觉得心里不是滋味。就算是人家看她高贵而不敢高攀,就算是可以把人家不请她视为一种恭维,那也只能是微不足道的安慰。

就在韦斯顿夫妇还待在哈特菲尔德的时候,请柬送来了。这时,爱玛还真庆幸有这夫妇俩在场。虽然她一看完信就说了声“当然应该拒绝”,但她马上又请教他们该怎么办,他们立即劝她应该去,而且还很奏效。

爱玛承认说,考虑到种种因素,她并非完全不想去赴宴。科尔家的请柬写得那么妥帖——表现得真是非常客气——对她父亲体贴人微。“本拟早日恳请光临,只因一直在等待折叠屏风从伦敦运到,以期能为伍德豪斯先生挡风御寒,伍德豪斯先生也会因此而更乐于光临。”总的说来,爱玛很快就给说通了。他们三人当即商定了应该怎么办,而又不至于忽视了伍德豪斯先生的舒适——当然要有个人陪伴他,如果贝茨太太不行的话,那就要劳驾戈达德太太。晚宴眼看就要到了,还要劝说伍德豪斯先生,让他同意女儿去赴宴,整个晚上都要离开他。至于让他也去赴宴,爱玛并不企望他会认为有这个可能:晚宴要很晚才散,去的人又太多。伍德豪斯先生很快就答应了。

“我不喜欢到别人家去吃饭,”他说,“我一向不喜欢。爱玛也不喜欢。我们不习惯闹得太晚。很遗憾,科尔夫妇居然会这样安排。如果等到夏天哪个下午他们来跟我们喝喝茶——或者邀请我们一道散散步,那就好多了。他们可以这么做,因为我们的时间安排得很合理,可以早早地回家,不会沾上晚上的露水。夏天晚上有露水,我可不想让任何人给打湿了。不过,你们一心想让亲爱的爱玛去吃饭,你们俩和奈特利先生也要去,可以关照她,我也就不想阻拦了,只要天气好,没雨,不冷,也没风。”随即转向韦斯顿太太,脸上露出温和的责备神情:“咳!泰勒小姐,你要是还没结婚的话,就可以待在家里陪伴我啦。”

“哦,先生,”韦斯顿先生嚷道,“既然是我夺走了泰勒小姐,我就有责任尽可能地找人代替她。你要是愿意的话,我马上就去找戈达德太太。”

可是,一听说马上要办什么事,伍德豪斯先生不仅没有安心,反而更加焦急了。两位女士知道怎样才能缓和他的情绪。韦斯顿先生必须保持沉默,一切都得仔仔细细地安排好。

这样一来,伍德豪斯先生马上就平静下来了,能像平常一样讲话了。“我很想见见戈达德太太。我很敬重她,爱玛应该给她写封请柬,可以让詹姆斯送去。不过,先得给科尔太太写封回信。”

“你要代我表示歉意,亲爱的,尽量写得客气些。你就说我体弱多病,哪儿都不去,所以不能接受他们的盛情邀请。当然,开头要代我表示问候。不过,你什么事都能办得妥妥帖帖的,用不着我嘱咐你怎么办。我们得记住跟詹姆斯说一声,星期二要用马车。由他赶车送你去,我就不用担心了。自从新修了那条路以后,我们只去过那儿一次。不过,我想詹姆斯会把你平平安安地送到的。你到了那儿,可得关照他什么时候回去接你,最好把时间定得早一些。你不要待得太晚了,等吃过了茶点,你就会觉得很累了。”

“可是,你不会要我还没累就走吧,爸爸?”

“哦!不会的,亲爱的。不过,你很快就会累的。那么多人七嘴八舌地讲话,你不会喜欢吵吵嚷嚷的。”

“可是,亲爱的先生,”韦斯顿先生大声嚷道,“要是爱玛走得早,那晚会就散了。”

“散了也无妨呀,”伍德豪斯先生说道。“不管什么样的聚会,都是散得越早越好。”

“可你没有考虑科尔夫妇会怎么想。爱玛一喝完茶就走,会惹人家不高兴的。他们都是厚道人,倒不会计较自己怎么样,不过要是有人急匆匆地走掉,他们肯定会觉得不大礼貌;如果走掉的是爱玛,那会比屋里任何人走掉,都更惹人不高兴。我敢说,先生,你是不想叫科尔夫妇扫兴、丢面子的。他们是最善良、最友好的人,这十年来一直是你的邻居。”

“不会的,绝对不会的。韦斯顿先生,多谢你提醒了我。惹他们难过,我会感到万分抱歉的。我知道他们是值得敬重的人。佩里告诉我,科尔先生从来不沾麦芽酒。你从他外表还看不出来,他容易发脾气——科尔先生动不动就发脾气。不,我可不愿意惹他们心里不痛快。亲爱的爱玛,我们得考虑到这一点。依我看,你宁可忍着性子多待一会儿,也别冒昧地使科尔夫妇感到为难。你不要去管它累不累。你要知道,你跟朋友们在一起是绝对安全的。”

“哦,是的,爸爸。我一点也不为自己担心,韦斯顿太太待多久,我也会毫不犹豫地待多久,我不过是为你着想罢了,怕你不睡等我。我倒不担心你跟戈达德太太在一起会怎么不自在。你知道,她喜欢玩扑克牌,可她回家以后,我怕你一个人坐着,而不按时睡觉——一想到你会这样,我就一点也没有心思玩了,你得答应别等我。”

做父亲的答应了,条件是女儿也答应了几件事,例如:要是她回来时觉得冷,一定要把身子都暖和过来;要是肚子饿了,就吃点东西;她自己的女仆得等她回来;塞尔和管家得像往常一样,把家里的一切都安排妥帖。



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