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Part 2 Chapter 14

Mrs. Elton was first seen at church: but though devotion might be interrupted, curiosity could not be satisfied by a bride in a pew, and it must be left for the visits in form which were then to be paid, to settle whether she were very pretty indeed, or only rather pretty, or not pretty at all.

Emma had feelings, less of curiosity than of pride or propriety, to make her resolve on not being the last to pay her respects; and she made a point of Harriet's going with her, that the worst of the business might be gone through as soon as possible.

She could not enter the house again, could not be in the same room to which she had with such vain artifice retreated three months ago, to lace up her boot, without recollecting. A thousand vexatious thoughts would recur. Compliments, charades, and horrible blunders; and it was not to be supposed that poor Harriet should not be recollecting too; but she behaved very well, and was only rather pale and silent. The visit was of course short; and there was so much embarrassment and occupation of mind to shorten it, that Emma would not allow herself entirely to form an opinion of the lady, and on no account to give one, beyond the nothing-meaning terms of being `elegantly dressed, and very pleasing.'

She did not really like her. She would not be in a hurry to find fault, but she suspected that there was no elegance; - ease, but not elegance. - She was almost sure that for a young woman, a stranger, a bride, there was too much ease. Her person was rather good; her face not unpretty; but neither feature, nor air, nor voice, nor manner, were elegant. Emma thought at least it would turn out so.

As for Mr. Elton, his manners did not appear - but no, she would not permit a hasty or a witty word from herself about his manners. It was an awkward ceremony at any time to be receiving wedding visits, and a man had need be all grace to acquit himself well through it. The woman was better off; she might have the assistance of fine clothes, and the privilege of bashfulness, but the man had only his own good sense to depend on; and when she considered how peculiarly unlucky poor Mr. Elton was in being in the same room at once with the woman he had just married, the woman he had wanted to marry, and the woman whom he had been expected to marry, she must allow him to have the right to look as little wise, and to be as much affectedly, and as little really easy as could be.

`Well, Miss Woodhouse,' said Harriet, when they had quitted the house, and after waiting in vain for her friend to begin; `Well, Miss Woodhouse, (with a gentle sigh,) what do you think of her? - Is not she very charming?'

There was a little hesitation in Emma's answer.

`Oh! yes - very - a very pleasing young woman.'

`I think her beautiful, quite beautiful.'

`Very nicely dressed, indeed; a remarkably elegant gown.'

`I am not at all surprized that he should have fallen in love.'

`Oh! no - there is nothing to surprize one at all. - A pretty fortune; and she came in his way.'

`I dare say,' returned Harriet, sighing again, `I dare say she was very much attached to him.'

`Perhaps she might; but it is not every man's fate to marry the woman who loves him best. Miss Hawkins perhaps wanted a home, and thought this the best offer she was likely to have.'

`Yes,' said Harriet earnestly, `and well she might, nobody could ever have a better. Well, I wish them happy with all my heart. And now, Miss Woodhouse, I do not think I shall mind seeing them again. He is just as superior as ever; - but being married, you know, it is quite a different thing. No, indeed, Miss Woodhouse, you need not be afraid; I can sit and admire him now without any great misery. To know that he has not thrown himself away, is such a comfort! - She does seem a charming young woman, just what he deserves. Happy creature! He called her ``Augusta.'' How delightful!'

When the visit was returned, Emma made up her mind. She could then see more and judge better. From Harriet's happening not to be at Hartfield, and her father's being present to engage Mr. Elton, she had a quarter of an hour of the lady's conversation to herself, and could composedly attend to her; and the quarter of an hour quite convinced her that Mrs. Elton was a vain woman, extremely well satisfied with herself, and thinking much of her own importance; that she meant to shine and be very superior, but with manners which had been formed in a bad school, pert and familiar; that all her notions were drawn from one set of people, and one style of living; that if not foolish she was ignorant, and that her society would certainly do Mr. Elton no good.

Harriet would have been a better match. If not wise or refined herself, she would have connected him with those who were; but Miss Hawkins, it might be fairly supposed from her easy conceit, had been the best of her own set. The rich brother-in-law near Bristol was the pride of the alliance, and his place and his carriages were the pride of him.

The very first subject after being seated was Maple Grove, `My brother Mr. Suckling's seat;' - a comparison of Hartfield to Maple Grove. The grounds of Hartfield were small, but neat and pretty; and the house was modern and well-built. Mrs. Elton seemed most favourably impressed by the size of the room, the entrance, and all that she could see or imagine. `Very like Maple Grove indeed! - She was quite struck by the likeness! - That room was the very shape and size of the morning-room at Maple Grove; her sister's favourite room.' - Mr. Elton was appealed to. - `Was not it astonishingly like? - She could really almost fancy herself at Maple Grove.'

`And the staircase - You know, as I came in, I observed how very like the staircase was; placed exactly in the same part of the house. I really could not help exclaiming! I assure you, Miss Woodhouse, it is very delightful to me, to be reminded of a place I am so extremely partial to as Maple Grove. I have spent so many happy months there! (with a little sigh of sentiment). A charming place, undoubtedly. Every body who sees it is struck by its beauty; but to me, it has been quite a home. Whenever you are transplanted, like me, Miss Woodhouse, you will understand how very delightful it is to meet with any thing at all like what one has left behind. I always say this is quite one of the evils of matrimony.'

Emma made as slight a reply as she could; but it was fully sufficient for Mrs. Elton, who only wanted to be talking herself.

`So extremely like Maple Grove! And it is not merely the house - the grounds, I assure you, as far as I could observe, are strikingly like. The laurels at Maple Grove are in the same profusion as here, and stand very much in the same way - just across the lawn; and I had a glimpse of a fine large tree, with a bench round it, which put me so exactly in mind! My brother and sister will be enchanted with this place. People who have extensive grounds themselves are always pleased with any thing in the same style.'

Emma doubted the truth of this sentiment. She had a great idea that people who had extensive grounds themselves cared very little for the extensive grounds of any body else; but it was not worth while to attack an error so double-dyed, and therefore only said in reply,

`When you have seen more of this country, I am afraid you will think you have overrated Hartfield. Surry is full of beauties.'

`Oh! yes, I am quite aware of that. It is the garden of England, you know. Surry is the garden of England.'

`Yes; but we must not rest our claims on that distinction. Many counties, I believe, are called the garden of England, as well as Surry.'

`No, I fancy not,' replied Mrs. Elton, with a most satisfied smile.' I never heard any county but Surry called so.'

Emma was silenced.

`My brother and sister have promised us a visit in the spring, or summer at farthest,' continued Mrs. Elton; `and that will be our time for exploring. While they are with us, we shall explore a great deal, I dare say. They will have their barouche-landau, of course, which holds four perfectly; and therefore, without saying any thing of our carriage, we should be able to explore the different beauties extremely well. They would hardly come in their chaise, I think, at that season of the year. Indeed, when the time draws on, I shall decidedly recommend their bringing the barouche-landau; it will be so very much preferable. When people come into a beautiful country of this sort, you know, Miss Woodhouse, one naturally wishes them to see as much as possible; and Mr. Suckling is extremely fond of exploring. We explored to King's-Weston twice last summer, in that way, most delightfully, just after their first having the barouche-landau. You have many parties of that kind here, I suppose, Miss Woodhouse, every summer?'

`No; not immediately here. We are rather out of distance of the very striking beauties which attract the sort of parties you speak of; and we are a very quiet set of people, I believe; more disposed to stay at home than engage in schemes of pleasure.'

`Ah! there is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. Nobody can be more devoted to home than I am. I was quite a proverb for it at Maple Grove. Many a time has Selina said, when she has been going to Bristol, ``I really cannot get this girl to move from the house. I absolutely must go in by myself, though I hate being stuck up in the barouche-landau without a companion; but Augusta, I believe, with her own good-will, would never stir beyond the park paling.'' Many a time has she said so; and yet I am no advocate for entire seclusion. I think, on the contrary, when people shut themselves up entirely from society, it is a very bad thing; and that it is much more advisable to mix in the world in a proper degree, without living in it either too much or too little. I perfectly understand your situation, however, Miss Woodhouse - (looking towards Mr. Woodhouse), Your father's state of health must be a great drawback. Why does not he try Bath? - Indeed he should. Let me recommend Bath to you. I assure you I have no doubt of its doing Mr. Woodhouse good.'

`My father tried it more than once, formerly; but without receiving any benefit; and Mr. Perry, whose name, I dare say, is not unknown to you, does not conceive it would be at all more likely to be useful now.'

`Ah! that's a great pity; for I assure you, Miss Woodhouse, where the waters do agree, it is quite wonderful the relief they give. In my Bath life, I have seen such instances of it! And it is so cheerful a place, that it could not fail of being of use to Mr. Woodhouse's spirits, which, I understand, are sometimes much depressed. And as to its recommendations to you, I fancy I need not take much pains to dwell on them. The advantages of Bath to the young are pretty generally understood. It would be a charming introduction for you, who have lived so secluded a life; and I could immediately secure you some of the best society in the place. A line from me would bring you a little host of acquaintance; and my particular friend, Mrs. Partridge, the lady I have always resided with when in Bath, would be most happy to shew you any attentions, and would be the very person for you to go into public with.'

It was as much as Emma could bear, without being impolite. The idea of her being indebted to Mrs. Elton for what was called an introduction - of her going into public under the auspices of a friend of Mrs. Elton's - probably some vulgar, dashing widow, who, with the help of a boarder, just made a shift to live! - The dignity of Miss Woodhouse, of Hartfield, was sunk indeed!

She restrained herself, however, from any of the reproofs she could have given, and only thanked Mrs. Elton coolly; `but their going to Bath was quite out of the question; and she was not perfectly convinced that the place might suit her better than her father.' And then, to prevent farther outrage and indignation, changed the subject directly.

`I do not ask whether you are musical, Mrs. Elton. Upon these occasions, a lady's character generally precedes her; and Highbury has long known that you are a superior performer.'

`Oh! no, indeed; I must protest against any such idea. A superior performer! - very far from it, I assure you. Consider from how partial a quarter your information came. I am doatingly fond of music - passionately fond; - and my friends say I am not entirely devoid of taste; but as to any thing else, upon my honour my performance is mediocre to the last degree. You, Miss Woodhouse, I well know, play delightfully. I assure you it has been the greatest satisfaction, comfort, and delight to me, to hear what a musical society I am got into. I absolutely cannot do without music. It is a necessary of life to me; and having always been used to a very musical society, both at Maple Grove and in Bath, it would have been a most serious sacrifice. I honestly said as much to Mr. E. when he was speaking of my future home, and expressing his fears lest the retirement of it should be disagreeable; and the inferiority of the house too - knowing what I had been accustomed to - of course he was not wholly without apprehension. When he was speaking of it in that way, I honestly said that the world I could give up - parties, balls, plays - for I had no fear of retirement. Blessed with so many resources within myself, the world was not necessary to me. I could do very well without it. To those who had no resources it was a different thing; but my resources made me quite independent. And as to smaller-sized rooms than I had been used to, I really could not give it a thought. I hoped I was perfectly equal to any sacrifice of that description. Certainly I had been accustomed to every luxury at Maple Grove; but I did assure him that two carriages were not necessary to my happiness, nor were spacious apartments. ``But,'' said I, ``to be quite honest, I do not think I can live without something of a musical society. I condition for nothing else; but without music, life would be a blank to me.'''

`We cannot suppose,' said Emma, smiling, `that Mr. Elton would hesitate to assure you of there being a very musical society in Highbury; and I hope you will not find he has outstepped the truth more than may be pardoned, in consideration of the motive.'

`No, indeed, I have no doubts at all on that head. I am delighted to find myself in such a circle. I hope we shall have many sweet little concerts together. I think, Miss Woodhouse, you and I must establish a musical club, and have regular weekly meetings at your house, or ours. Will not it be a good plan? If we exert ourselves, I think we shall not be long in want of allies. Something of that nature would be particularly desirable for me, as an inducement to keep me in practice; for married women, you know - there is a sad story against them, in general. They are but too apt to give up music.'

`But you, who are so extremely fond of it - there can be no danger, surely?'

`I should hope not; but really when I look around among my acquaintance, I tremble. Selina has entirely given up music - never touches the instrument - though she played sweetly. And the same may be said of Mrs. Jeffereys - Clara Partridge, that was - and of the two Milmans, now Mrs. Bird and Mrs. James Cooper; and of more than I can enumerate. Upon my word it is enough to put one in a fright. I used to be quite angry with Selina; but really I begin now to comprehend that a married woman has many things to call her attention. I believe I was half an hour this morning shut up with my housekeeper.'

`But every thing of that kind,' said Emma, `will soon be in so regular a train - '

`Well,' said Mrs. Elton, laughing, `we shall see.'

Emma, finding her so determined upon neglecting her music, had nothing more to say; and, after a moment's pause, Mrs. Elton chose another subject.

`We have been calling at Randalls,' said she, `and found them both at home; and very pleasant people they seem to be. I like them extremely. Mr. Weston seems an excellent creature - quite a first-rate favourite with me already, I assure you. And she appears so truly good - there is something so motherly and kind-hearted about her, that it wins upon one directly. She was your governess, I think?'

Emma was almost too much astonished to answer; but Mrs. Elton hardly waited for the affirmative before she went on.

`Having understood as much, I was rather astonished to find her so very lady-like! But she is really quite the gentlewoman.'

`Mrs. Weston's manners,' said Emma, `were always particularly good. Their propriety, simplicity, and elegance, would make them the safest model for any young woman.'

`And who do you think came in while we were there?'

Emma was quite at a loss. The tone implied some old acquaintance - and how could she possibly guess?

`Knightley!' continued Mrs. Elton; `Knightley himself! - Was not it lucky? - for, not being within when he called the other day, I had never seen him before; and of course, as so particular a friend of Mr. E.'s, I had a great curiosity. ``My friend Knightley'' had been so often mentioned, that I was really impatient to see him; and I must do my caro sposo the justice to say that he need not be ashamed of his friend. Knightley is quite the gentleman. I like him very much. Decidedly, I think, a very gentleman-like man.'

Happily, it was now time to be gone. They were off; and Emma could breathe.

`Insufferable woman!' was her immediate exclamation. `Worse than I had supposed. Absolutely insufferable! Knightley! - I could not have believed it. Knightley! - never seen him in her life before, and call him Knightley! - and discover that he is a gentleman! A little upstart, vulgar being, with her Mr. E., and her caro sposo, and her resources, and all her airs of pert pretension and underbred finery. Actually to discover that Mr. Knightley is a gentleman! I doubt whether he will return the compliment, and discover her to be a lady. I could not have believed it! And to propose that she and I should unite to form a musical club! One would fancy we were bosom friends! And Mrs. Weston! - Astonished that the person who had brought me up should be a gentlewoman! Worse and worse. I never met with her equal. Much beyond my hopes. Harriet is disgraced by any comparison. Oh! what would Frank Churchill say to her, if he were here? How angry and how diverted he would be! Ah! there I am - thinking of him directly. Always the first person to be thought of! How I catch myself out! Frank Churchill comes as regularly into my mind!' -

All this ran so glibly through her thoughts, that by the time her father had arranged himself, after the bustle of the Eltons' departure, and was ready to speak, she was very tolerably capable of attending.

`Well, my dear,' he deliberately began, `considering we never saw her before, she seems a very pretty sort of young lady; and I dare say she was very much pleased with you. She speaks a little too quick. A little quickness of voice there is which rather hurts the ear. But I believe I am nice; I do not like strange voices; and nobody speaks like you and poor Miss Taylor. However, she seems a very obliging, pretty-behaved young lady, and no doubt will make him a very good wife. Though I think he had better not have married. I made the best excuses I could for not having been able to wait on him and Mrs. Elton on this happy occasion; I said that I hoped I should in the course of the summer. But I ought to have gone before. Not to wait upon a bride is very remiss. Ah! it shews what a sad invalid I am! But I do not like the corner into Vicarage Lane.'

`I dare say your apologies were accepted, sir. Mr. Elton knows you.'

`Yes: but a young lady - a bride - I ought to have paid my respects to her if possible. It was being very deficient.'

`But, my dear papa, you are no friend to matrimony; and therefore why should you be so anxious to pay your respects to a bride? It ought to be no recommendation to you. It is encouraging people to marry if you make so much of them.'

`No, my dear, I never encouraged any body to marry, but I would always wish to pay every proper attention to a lady - and a bride, especially, is never to be neglected. More is avowedly due to her. A bride, you know, my dear, is always the first in company, let the others be who they may.'

`Well, papa, if this is not encouragement to marry, I do not know what is. And I should never have expected you to be lending your sanction to such vanity-baits for poor young ladies.'

`My dear, you do not understand me. This is a matter of mere common politeness and good-breeding, and has nothing to do with any encouragement to people to marry.'

Emma had done. Her father was growing nervous, and could not understand her. Her mind returned to Mrs. Elton's offences, and long, very long, did they occupy her.

 

人们是在教堂里第一次见到埃尔顿太太的。但是,一个新娘坐在长椅上,虽然会打断别人的虔诚祈祷,却满足不了大家的好奇心,以后还得通过正式的登门拜访,才能断定她是真的很漂亮,还是仅仅有点漂亮,还是根本不漂亮。

爱玛与其说是出于好奇心,不如说是出于自尊和礼仪,决定不要最后一个去登门拜访她。她非要让哈丽特陪她一起去,以便尽早度过那最尴尬的局面。

她再走进这座房子,走进三个月前她借口系鞋带而枉费心机走进去的那间屋子(译注:见小说第一卷第十章),不由得勾起了回忆。上千个令人气恼的念头涌进她的脑际。那些恭维话,那些字谜,那些荒谬的错误。不要以为可怜的哈丽特就不在追忆过去。不过她表现得相当不错,只是脸色苍白,默默不语。当然,拜访的时间很短:那么尴尬的局面,又是那么心事重重,自然要把时间缩短。爱玛顾不得仔细端量一下新娘,根本谈不上对她有什么看法,只能空泛地说一声“衣着讲究,样子挺讨人喜欢”。

爱玛并非真正喜欢她。她不想急于挑毛病,但是觉得她并不文雅:大方而不文雅。她几乎可以肯定,她作为一个年轻女人,一个陌生人,一个新娘,有些过于大方了。她的模样相当不错,脸蛋也不能算不漂亮,但是她的五官、神态、嗓音、举止都不优雅。爱玛心想,至少以后会显现出来。

至于埃尔顿先生,他的举止好像并不——不行,她可不能对他的举止轻率下结论,或是说什么俏皮话。婚礼后接待来客,什么时候都是件尴尬的事情,新郎必须很有雅量才能应付过去。新娘则比较好办。她们有漂亮的衣服做帮衬,还有可以羞答答的特权,而新郎只能依靠自己的聪明才智。她认为可怜的埃尔顿先生特别不幸,居然跟他刚娶的女人、原来想娶的女人以及别人要他娶的女人,同待在一间屋子里。她只得承认,他有理由显得笨拙、做作、局促不安。

“呃,伍德豪斯小姐,”两人走出牧师住宅以后,哈丽特等了好久不见朋友吭声,便先开了口。“呃,伍德豪斯小姐,”说着轻轻叹了口气,“你觉得她怎么样?难道不是很可爱吗?”

爱玛回答时有点支支吾吾。

“哦!是的——非常——一个非常讨人喜欢的年轻女子。”

“我认为她长得挺美的,相当美。”

“的确穿得很讲究。那件长裙特别漂亮。”

“埃尔顿先生会爱上她,我一点也不感到奇怪。”

“哦!是呀——一点也没有什么好奇怪的。那么有钱,又恰好遇见了埃尔顿先生。”

“我敢说,”哈丽特又叹了口气,回答说,“我敢说她很爱埃尔顿先生。”

“也许是这样。可是并非个个男人都能娶到最爱他的女人。也许是霍金斯小姐想要有个家,并且认为这是她能攀上的最好的亲事。”

“足呀,”哈丽特诚挚地说,“八成是这样的,没有人能攀到比这更好的亲事了。嗯,我打心底里祝他们幸福。伍德豪斯小姐,我想我以后再见到他们也不会介意了。他还是那么出众。不过你知道,人一结了婚就大不一样了。真的,伍德豪斯小姐,你不用担心。我现在可以坐在那里欣赏他,而不感到很痛苦。知道他没娶一个跟他不般配的女人,真是莫大的安慰啊!埃尔顿太太看上去真是个可爱的年轻女人,跟他正般配。真是个有福气的人啊!他管他太太叫‘奥古斯塔’,多么惬意呀!”

新婚夫妇回访以后,爱玛就打定了主意。这时候,她可以看得仔细些,作出比较公正的判断。哈丽特碰巧不在哈特菲尔德,伍德豪斯先生要应酬埃尔顿先生,她便独自跟那位太太聊了一刻钟,可以安安静静地听她说话。经过这一刻钟的交谈,她深深地认识到:埃尔顿太太是个爱慕虚荣的人,沾沾自喜,自以为了不起;就想炫耀自己,出人头地,可惜她是在一所蹩脚的学校受的教育,举止又冒失又随便;她的见识都来自于同一类人、同一种生活方式;即使算不上愚蠢,也可以说是愚昧无知;埃尔顿先生跟她朝夕相处,肯定没有什么好处。

要是换成哈丽特,就会般配多了。虽说她本人不聪明,不优雅,但她能使他结交上聪明、优雅的人。而霍金斯小姐呢,从她那大大落落、自命不凡的神态来看,或许可以算作她那一类人中的佼佼者。这次联姻唯一值得骄傲的,是她那位住在布里斯托尔附近的阔姐夫,而这位阔姐夫唯一值得骄傲的,是他的住宅和马车。

她坐下后谈的第一个话题是枫园。她姐夫萨克林先生就住在那里——那地方跟哈特菲尔德差不多。哈特菲尔德的庭园比较小,但却整洁漂亮,房子比较现代化,造型优美。埃尔顿太太对房间的大小、房门以及所能看到和想象到的一切,似乎留下了极好的印象。“真的跟枫园太相像了!相像得令我吃惊!这个房间从形状到大小,跟枫园的那间晨室一模一样,我姐姐最喜欢那间晨室啦。”这时,她要求埃尔顿先生为她帮腔:“难道不是相像得令人吃惊吗?我简直以为我待在枫园呢。”

“还有这楼梯呢——你知道,我一进来就发现这楼梯多么相像,放在房里的同一位置。我简直忍不住要感叹啊!说真的,伍德豪斯小姐,在这儿能让我想起枫园这样一个我最最喜爱的地方,我觉得真是高兴。我在那儿愉愉快快地度过了多少个月呀!”说着动情地轻轻叹了口气。“毫无疑问,是个迷人的地方。谁见了都觉得美,可是对我来说,那儿可是我的家呀。伍德豪斯小姐,你要是什么时候像我这样离开了家,看到什么东西跟你撇下的东西有些相似,你会觉得有多高兴啊。我总说这是结婚的一个弊端。”

爱玛尽可能少答话,可是埃尔顿太太觉得已经够多了,她就想一个人喋喋不休地讲下去。

“跟枫园像极啦!不仅房子像——我敢说,照我的观察,那庭园也像极了。枫园的月桂也是这样繁茂,位置也一样——就在草坪对面。我还看见一棵大树,四周围着一条长凳,也勾起了我的联想!我姐姐、姐夫一定会被这地方迷住。自己有宽庭大院的人,总是喜欢类似的庭园。”

爱玛怀疑人们是否真有这样的心理。她倒有个大不一样的见解,认为自己有宽庭大院的人不会喜欢别人的宽庭大院。然而,如此荒谬的错误不值一驳,因此她只是回答说:

“等你在这一带多看些地方以后,你恐怕就会觉得你对哈特菲尔德的评价过高了。萨里到处都很美。”

“哦!是呀,这我很清楚。你知道,那是英格兰的花园。萨里是英格兰的花园啊。”

“是呀,可我们也不能独享这份殊荣。我相信,有许多郡跟萨里一样,被称为英格兰的花园。”

“不,我想没有吧,”埃尔顿太太答道,一面露出非常得意的微笑。“除了萨里以外,我没听说哪个郡有这样的美称。”

爱玛哑口无言。

“我姐姐、姐夫答应春天来看我们,最迟在夏天,”埃尔顿太太接着说道。“那时候我们就可以去游览了。他们来了以后,我们真可以畅游一番啦。他们一定会坐那辆四轮四座大马车来,能宽宽敞敞地坐四个人。因此,压根儿就用不着我们的马车,我们就可以到各个风景区痛痛快快地游览一番。我想,到了那个季节,他们不会坐着两轮双座轻便马车来。真的,等快到春天的时候,我一定叫他们坐四轮四座大马车来,那要好得多。你知道,伍德豪斯小姐,客人来到这种风景优美的地方,我们自然希望他们尽量多看看。萨克林先生特别喜欢游览。去年夏天,他们刚买了那辆四轮四座大马车不久,我们就坐着它去金斯威斯顿游览了两次,玩得开心极啦。伍德豪斯小姐,我想每年夏天有不少人来这儿游玩吧?”

“不,这附近一带倒没有。能吸引你所说的那种游客的风景胜地离我们这儿还很远。我想我们这儿的人都喜欢清静,宁可待在家里,也不愿意出去游玩。”

“啊!真要图舒服,最好还是待在家里。没有比我更恋家的人了。在枫园,我的恋家是尽人皆知的。塞丽娜去布里斯托尔的时候,曾多次说过:‘我真没办法叫这姑娘离开家。我百般无奈,只好一个人出去,尽管我不喜欢一个人闷坐在那辆四轮四座大马车里,连个伴儿也没有。可是,我看奥古斯塔真是好性子,从不肯迈出花园栅栏。’她这样说了好多次,其实我并不主张整天不出门。我认为,关起门来与世隔绝,反倒很不好。跟外界适当地作些交往,既不要太多,也不要太少,则可取多了。不过,我完全理解你的处境,伍德豪斯小姐,”一面朝伍德豪斯先生望望,“你父亲的身体一定是个很大的妨碍。他怎么不去巴思试一试?他真该去试一试。我向你推荐巴思。你放心,我肯定那儿对伍德豪斯先生有好处。”

“我父亲以前试过不止一次了,可是不见什么效果。佩里先生,你对这个名字想必并不生疏吧,他认为现在去也不见得会有什么效果。”

“啊!那太遗憾了。我向你担保,伍德豪斯小姐,只要水土适宜的话,就会产生奇妙的效果。我在巴思的时候,就见过多起这样的例子啊!那是个让人心旷神怡的地方,我看伍德豪斯先生有时心情低沉,去那儿定会有好处。至于对你会有什么好处,我就不必多费口舌了。巴思对年轻人的好处是尽人皆知的。你一直过着深居简出的生活,介绍你进入那儿的社交界该有多美呀,我马上就能给你介绍几个上流社会的人。只消我一封信,就能让你结识好几个朋友。我在巴思的时候,一直跟帕特里奇太太住在一起,她是我特别要好的朋友,一定乐意尽心关照你的,由她陪着你进入那儿的社交界,再合适不过了。”

爱玛真是忍了又忍,才没有变得失礼。试想一想,居然要承蒙埃尔顿太太给她作所谓的介绍——要仰仗埃尔顿太太的一个朋友把她带进社交界,而这位朋友说不定是个庸俗放荡的寡妇,要靠招徕一个搭伙的房客才能勉强维持生计!伍德豪斯小姐的尊严,哈特菲尔德的尊严,真是一落千丈了!

然而她还是忍住了,本想责怪的话一概没说,只是冷漠地向埃尔顿太太道了谢。“我们去巴思是根本不可能的。我相信,那地方对我父亲不合适,对我也不合适。”接着,为了免得再生气发火,她立即转了话题:

“埃尔顿太太,我不用问你是否喜欢音乐。遇到这种事,新娘人还没到,名声就传开了。海伯里早就听说你琴弹得很出色。”

“哦!哪儿的话。我要说没有这回事。琴弹得很出色!实话跟你说,差远了。你想想告诉你这话的人太有失偏颇了。我特别喜欢音乐——喜欢得发狂了。我的朋友都说我也并非毫无鉴赏力。至于别的方面,说实话,我的琴弹得差劲极了。我很清楚,你伍德豪斯小姐弹得很好听。说真的,听说能跟喜欢音乐的人在一起,我感到极为得意,极为欣慰,极为高兴。我绝对离不开音乐。音乐是我生活中必不可少的内容。不管是在枫园还是在巴思,我总是习惯于跟酷爱音乐的人在一起,没有了音乐将是最大的牺牲。当初埃先生说起我未来的家,担心我受不了这儿的冷清,我就老老实实地对他这样说过。他知道我以前住惯了什么房子,当然还怕我嫌这儿的房子差呢。他那么说的时候,我老老实实地跟他讲,我可以放弃社交活动——包括宴会、舞会、看戏——因为我不怕冷清。我有的是办法消遣,社交活动对我来说并不是必不可少的。没有也完全可以。对于没有办法自己消遣的人,那就是另一回事了。可我有的是办法,完全不用依赖别人。至于房间比我以前住的小,我压根儿就不会在意。我相信,这种牺牲根本算不了什么。不错,我在枫园过惯了奢华的生活,可我跟他说过,要让我过得幸福,不一定要有两辆马车,也不一定要有宽敞的房间。‘但是,’我说,‘说实话,要是周围没有喜欢音乐的人,我想我是没法生活的。’我不提别的条件,可是没有了音乐,生活对我来说是空虚的。”

“可以料想,”爱玛笑吟吟地说,“埃尔顿先生一定会对你说,海伯里有一些非常喜欢音乐的人。考虑到他的动机,希望你不要以为他言过其实,不可原谅。”

“的确如此,我对此毫不怀疑。我很高兴,能置身这样一个环境。希望我们能一起多举行几次美妙的小型音乐会。我想,伍德豪斯小姐,你我应该组织一个音乐俱乐部,每周在你们家或我们家聚会一次。难道这计划不好吗?只要我们尽力而为,我想不久就会有人支持的。这种情况对我尤其有好处,可以激励我经常练琴。你知道,对于结了婚的女人,人们一般有个不好的说法。她们太容易放弃音乐了。”

“可是你那么酷爱音乐——当然不会有这个危险啦。”

“但愿不会。可是看看周围的熟人,我真有些不寒而栗。塞丽娜完全放弃了音乐——现在碰也不碰钢琴了——尽管以前弹得那么好。杰弗里斯太太——就是以前的克拉拉·帕特里奇——两位米尔曼小姐,就是现在的伯德太太和詹姆斯-库珀太太,还有些举不胜举的人,情况也是这样。说真的,真够叫人害怕的。我以前很气塞丽娜,现在却开始明白了,结了婚的女人有许多事情要做。我想,今天早上我跟管家谈家里的事就花了半个小时。”

“不过这种事情,”爱玛说,“很快就会走上正轨的——”

“嗯,”埃尔顿太太笑着说,“我们等着瞧吧。”

爱玛见她坚定地要放弃音乐,也就无话可说了。隔了一会,埃尔顿太太又选了个话题。

“我们到兰多尔斯去了,”她说,“发现男女主人都在家。两人好像都很和蔼可亲,我非常喜欢他们。韦斯顿先生似乎是个很出色的人——实话跟你说吧,已经成了我最喜欢的人了。他太太看上去还真好——一副慈母般的仁慈心肠,使人一见面就会产生好感。我想她是你的家庭教师吧?”

爱玛大吃一惊,简直答不上话来。不过,埃尔顿太太并没等她说声“是的”,便又继续往下讲。

“虽然早就有所耳闻,但是见她如此雍容大度,我还真是大为吃惊呢!她是个真正有教养的女人。”

“韦斯顿太太的仪态,”爱玛说,“总是十分得体。又端庄,又朴实,又优雅,足可成为年轻女子最稳妥的榜样。”

“我们在那儿的时候,你猜谁来了?”

爱玛大为茫然。听LJ气像是一个老朋友,那她怎么能猜得着呢?

“奈特利!”埃尔顿太太接着说道。“就是奈特利呀!不是很巧吗?他那天来的时候我不在家,因此一直没见过他。当然,他是埃先生特别要好的朋友,我也就特别想见见他。我经常听埃先生提到‘我的朋友奈特利’,便急不可待地想见见他。我得为我的caro sposo说句公道话,他不必为他的朋友害臊。奈特利是个真正的绅士,我很喜欢他。我觉得他确实是个很有绅士风度的人。”

幸亏到了客人该走的时候。埃尔顿夫妇走了,爱玛可以松口气了。

“这女人真叫人受不了!”她立即感慨道。“比我想象的还不如。实在叫人受不了!奈特利!我简直不敢相信。奈特利!以前从没见过人家,就管人家叫奈特利!还说发现他是个绅士呢!一个自命不凡、庸俗不堪的微不足道的家伙,开口她的埃先生,闭口她的caro sposo(译注:西班牙语:亲爱的丈夫),吹嘘自己有的是办法,摆出一副骄横无礼的自负神气,炫耀她那俗不可耐的故作优雅。居然发现奈特利先生是个绅士!我怀疑奈特利先生是不是会反过来恭维她,认为她是个淑女。我简直不敢相信!还叫我和她一道组织一个音乐俱乐部!人家还以为我们是知心朋友呢!还有韦斯顿太太哪!见把我带大的人是个大家闺秀,也要大惊小怪!真是越来越不像话。我从没见过像她这样的人。万万没有想到。拿她跟哈丽特相比,那是对哈丽特的污辱。唁!弗兰克·邱吉尔要是在这儿,会对她怎么说呢?他会多么气愤,又会觉得多么好笑啊!哎!又来了——一下子又想到了他。总是首先想到他!我又抓住了自己的弱点!弗兰克·邱吉尔总要时不时地往我脑子里钻!”

这些念头从她脑际很快闪过,等埃尔顿夫妇告辞忙乱了一阵之后,伍德豪斯先生安静下来准备说话的时候,爱玛总算能够静心听他说了。

“哎,亲爱的,”做父亲的从容不迫地说,“我们以前从没见过她,看样子是个非常漂亮的年轻太太。我看她很喜欢你。她说话有点太快,声音一急促,就有点刺耳朵。可是,我恐怕也太挑剔了,不喜欢听陌生人的声音,谁说话也没有你和可怜的泰勒小姐好听。不过,她似乎是个非常热情、非常端庄的年轻女士,肯定会成为埃尔顿先生的好太太。但是依我看,他还是不结婚为好。这次办喜事,我没去向他和埃尔顿太太道喜,我已经表示了真诚的歉意,说夏天一定会去。不过我早该去了,不去向新娘道喜总是不大妥当。唉!从这事就可以看出,我可怜巴巴的身体有多不好!可我真不喜欢牧师住宅巷的那个拐角。”

“我敢说,爸爸,他们相信你的道歉是真诚的。埃尔顿先生是了解你的。”

“是呀。可是,对于一位年轻女士——一位新娘——只要有可能,我还是应该去恭贺一番的。不去是很失礼的。”

“爸爸,你一向不赞成女人出嫁,怎么会急于去恭贺一个新娘呢?你不见得会觉得这是什么好事吧。你要是搞得很认真,岂不是鼓励人家结婚。”

“不,亲爱的,我从没鼓励任何人结婚,可我总希望对女士要有适当的礼貌——特别是对新娘,更是怠慢不得。对新娘一定要礼貌周到才行。你知道,亲爱的,不管跟你在一起的还有些什么人,新娘总是第一位的。”

“哦,爸爸,如果这还算不上鼓励别人结婚的话,我真不知道什么是鼓励了。我没想到你也会鼓励可怜的年轻小姐想人非非啊。”

“亲爱的,你误解了我的意思。这只是一般的礼貌问题,教养有素的表现,根本谈不上鼓励别人结婚。”

爱玛闭口不语了。做父亲的又有点神经质了,也没法理解爱玛。爱玛又想起了埃尔顿太太的那些气人的话,久久不能释怀。



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