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Part 3 Chapter 3

This little explanation with Mr. Knightley gave Emma considerable pleasure. It was one of the agreeable recollections of the ball, which she walked about the lawn the next morning to enjoy. - She was extremely glad that they had come to so good an understanding respecting the Eltons, and that their opinions of both husband and wife were so much alike; and his praise of Harriet, his concession in her favour, was peculiarly gratifying. The impertinence of the Eltons, which for a few minutes had threatened to ruin the rest of her evening, had been the occasion of some of its highest satisfactions; and she looked forward to another happy result - the cure of Harriet's infatuation. - From Harriet's manner of speaking of the circumstance before they quitted the ballroom, she had strong hopes. It seemed as if her eyes were suddenly opened, and she were enabled to see that Mr. Elton was not the superior creature she had believed him. The fever was over, and Emma could harbour little fear of the pulse being quickened again by injurious courtesy. She depended on the evil feelings of the Eltons for supplying all the discipline of pointed neglect that could be farther requisite. - Harriet rational, Frank Churchill not too much in love, and Mr. Knightley not wanting to quarrel with her, how very happy a summer must be before her!

She was not to see Frank Churchill this morning. He had told her that he could not allow himself the pleasure of stopping at Hartfield, as he was to be at home by the middle of the day. She did not regret it.

Having arranged all these matters, looked them through, and put them all to rights, she was just turning to the house with spirits freshened up for the demands of the two little boys, as well as of their grandpapa, when the great iron sweep-gate opened, and two persons entered whom she had never less expected to see together - Frank Churchill, with Harriet leaning on his arm - actually Harriet! - A moment sufficed to convince her that something extraordinary had happened. Harriet looked white and frightened, and he was trying to cheer her. - The iron gates and the front-door were not twenty yards asunder; - they were all three soon in the hall, and Harriet immediately sinking into a chair fainted away.

A young lady who faints, must be recovered; questions must be answered, and surprizes be explained. Such events are very interesting, but the suspense of them cannot last long. A few minutes made Emma acquainted with the whole.

Miss Smith, and Miss Bickerton, another parlour boarder at Mrs. Goddard's, who had been also at the ball, had walked out together, and taken a road, the Richmond road, which, though apparently public enough for safety, had led them into alarm. - About half a mile beyond Highbury, making a sudden turn, and deeply shaded by elms on each side, it became for a considerable stretch very retired; and when the young ladies had advanced some way into it, they had suddenly perceived at a small distance before them, on a broader patch of greensward by the side, a party of gipsies. A child on the watch, came towards them to beg; and Miss Bickerton, excessively frightened, gave a great scream, and calling on Harriet to follow her, ran up a steep bank, cleared a slight hedge at the top, and made the best of her way by a short cut back to Highbury. But poor Harriet could not follow. She had suffered very much from cramp after dancing, and her first attempt to mount the bank brought on such a return of it as made her absolutely powerless - and in this state, and exceedingly terrified, she had been obliged to remain.

How the trampers might have behaved, had the young ladies been more courageous, must be doubtful; but such an invitation for attack could not be resisted; and Harriet was soon assailed by half a dozen children, headed by a stout woman and a great boy, all clamorous, and impertinent in look, though not absolutely in word. - More and more frightened, she immediately promised them money, and taking out her purse, gave them a shilling, and begged them not to want more, or to use her ill. - She was then able to walk, though but slowly, and was moving away - but her terror and her purse were too tempting, and she was followed, or rather surrounded, by the whole gang, demanding more.

In this state Frank Churchill had found her, she trembling and conditioning, they loud and insolent. By a most fortunate chance his leaving Highbury had been delayed so as to bring him to her assistance at this critical moment. The pleasantness of the morning had induced him to walk forward, and leave his horses to meet him by another road, a mile or two beyond Highbury - and happening to have borrowed a pair of scissors the night before of Miss Bates, and to have forgotten to restore them, he had been obliged to stop at her door, and go in for a few minutes: he was therefore later than he had intended; and being on foot, was unseen by the whole party till almost close to them. The terror which the woman and boy had been creating in Harriet was then their own portion. He had left them completely frightened; and Harriet eagerly clinging to him, and hardly able to speak, had just strength enough to reach Hartfield, before her spirits were quite overcome. It was his idea to bring her to Hartfield: he had thought of no other place.

This was the amount of the whole story, - of his communication and of Harriet's as soon as she had recovered her senses and speech. - He dared not stay longer than to see her well; these several delays left him not another minute to lose; and Emma engaging to give assurance of her safety to Mrs. Goddard, and notice of there being such a set of people in the neighbourhood to Mr. Knightley, he set off, with all the grateful blessings that she could utter for her friend and herself.

Such an adventure as this, - a fine young man and a lovely young woman thrown together in such a way, could hardly fail of suggesting certain ideas to the coldest heart and the steadiest brain. So Emma thought, at least. Could a linguist, could a grammarian, could even a mathematician have seen what she did, have witnessed their appearance together, and heard their history of it, without feeling that circumstances had been at work to make them peculiarly interesting to each other? - How much more must an imaginist, like herself, be on fire with speculation and foresight! - especially with such a groundwork of anticipation as her mind had already made.

It was a very extraordinary thing! Nothing of the sort had ever occurred before to any young ladies in the place, within her memory; no rencontre, no alarm of the kind; - and now it had happened to the very person, and at the very hour, when the other very person was chancing to pass by to rescue her! - It certainly was very extraordinary! - And knowing, as she did, the favourable state of mind of each at this period, it struck her the more. He was wishing to get the better of his attachment to herself, she just recovering from her mania for Mr. Elton. It seemed as if every thing united to promise the most interesting consequences. It was not possible that the occurrence should not be strongly recommending each to the other.

In the few minutes' conversation which she had yet had with him, while Harriet had been partially insensible, he had spoken of her terror, her naivete, her fervour as she seized and clung to his arm, with a sensibility amused and delighted; and just at last, after Harriet's own account had been given, he had expressed his indignation at the abominable folly of Miss Bickerton in the warmest terms. Every thing was to take its natural course, however, neither impelled nor assisted. She would not stir a step, nor drop a hint. No, she had had enough of interference. There could be no harm in a scheme, a mere passive scheme. It was no more than a wish. Beyond it she would on no account proceed.

Emma's first resolution was to keep her father from the knowledge of what had passed, - aware of the anxiety and alarm it would occasion: but she soon felt that concealment must be impossible. Within half an hour it was known all over Highbury. It was the very event to engage those who talk most, the young and the low; and all the youth and servants in the place were soon in the happiness of frightful news. The last night's ball seemed lost in the gipsies. Poor Mr. Woodhouse trembled as he sat, and, as Emma had foreseen, would scarcely be satisfied without their promising never to go beyond the shrubbery again. It was some comfort to him that many inquiries after himself and Miss Woodhouse (for his neighbours knew that he loved to be inquired after), as well as Miss Smith, were coming in during the rest of the day; and he had the pleasure of returning for answer, that they were all very indifferent - which, though not exactly true, for she was perfectly well, and Harriet not much otherwise, Emma would not interfere with. She had an unhappy state of health in general for the child of such a man, for she hardly knew what indisposition was; and if he did not invent illnesses for her, she could make no figure in a message.

The gipsies did not wait for the operations of justice; they took themselves off in a hurry. The young ladies of Highbury might have walked again in safety before their panic began, and the whole history dwindled soon into a matter of little importance but to Emma and her nephews: - in her imagination it maintained its ground, and Henry and John were still asking every day for the story of Harriet and the gipsies, and still tenaciously setting her right if she varied in the slightest particular from the original recital.

 

跟奈特利先生作过这番简短的交谈之后,爱玛感到非常快活。这是这次舞会留下的美好回忆之一,第二天早上她在草坪上散步时还在尽情地回味。她感到十分高兴,他们在埃尔顿夫妇的问题上完全达成了谅解,对那夫妇俩的看法非常相似,而奈特利先生对哈丽特的称赞,对她的认可,尤其使她感到满意。埃尔顿夫妇的傲慢无礼,昨晚有一阵差一点扫尽她的兴致,后来却导致了令人极其满意的结果。她还期待着另一个美好的结果——治好哈丽特的一片痴情。从离开舞厅前哈丽特说起那件事的神态来看,希望还是很大的。她仿佛突然睁开了眼睛,看清了埃尔顿先生并不是她料想的那种杰出人物。狂热已经过去了,爱玛不必担心再有什么有害的殷勤,惹得她加速脉搏的跳动。她相信埃尔顿夫妇出于恶意,必定还会故意怠慢哈丽特,而哈丽特可能还需要这样的刺激。哈丽特头脑清醒了,弗兰克·邱吉尔没有深深地爱上她,奈特利先生又不想跟她争吵,爱玛觉得今年可以过上一个多么快活的夏天啊!

今天早上她见不到弗兰克·邱吉尔。他告诉过她,他中午要赶回家,因而不能在哈特菲尔德停留。爱玛对此并不感到遗憾。

爱玛把这些事都清理了一遍,考虑了一番,妥善解决之后,便兴高采烈地回到屋里,去照看两个小外甥和他们的外祖父。恰在这时,大铁门打开了,走进来两个人,她怎么也想不到会看见他们两个在一起——弗兰克·邱吉尔扶着哈丽特——确实是哈丽特!爱玛一看就知道,准是出了什么事。哈丽特脸色苍白,神情惊慌,弗兰克在安慰她。铁门离前门不到二十码。不一会工夫,他们三人就进到门厅里,哈丽特立刻倒在一张椅子上,晕了过去。

年轻小姐晕过去,总得救醒过来。事情总得问一问,受惊的缘由总得说个明白。这种事很令人好奇,可是谜底也不会迟迟解不开。过了不久,爱玛就知道了事情的全部经过。

史密斯小姐和戈达德太太学校里另一个也参加了舞会的寄宿生比克顿小姐一道出去散步,沿着去里士满的路往前走。这条路来往的人多,看上去挺安全,可是却让她们受了惊。在海伯里过去大约半英里的地方,路突然转了个弯,两边都是榆树,浓阴遍地,有一大段比较僻静。两位小姐沿这段路走了一阵,突然发现前面不远的地方,就在路边的一大片草地上,有一群吉普赛人。一个望风的男孩走过来向她们讨钱。比克顿小姐吓坏了,发出一声尖叫,一边呼喊哈丽特跟她一起跑,一边冲上一个陡坡,跳过坡顶的一道小树篱,拼命地奔跑,抄一条近路回到了海伯里。但是,可怜的哈丽特却跟不上她。她跳舞后抽过筋,刚才第一次往坡上奔时,腿又抽筋了,一点也跑不动了——在这种状况下,加上惊恐万分,她只得待在原地不动。

假如两位小姐再勇敢一些,那些游民会如何对待她们,那是很难预料的。但是,眼见这样一个任人攻击的小姐,他们自然不会错过机会。哈丽特马上遭到了五六个孩子的围攻,为首的是一个壮女人和一个大孩子,一伙人全都吵吵嚷嚷,虽然嘴里没有恶言恶语,脸上却是一副凶相。哈丽特越来越害怕,马上答应给他们钱。她拿出钱包,给了他们一个先令,恳求他们别再要了,也别欺负她。这时她能走路了,尽管走得很慢,还是要走开——可是她的惊恐和钱包有着极大的诱惑力,那伙人全都跟着她,或者不如说围着她,还要跟她要钱。

弗兰克·邱吉尔就是在这般景况下遇见她的:她在哆哆嗦嗦地跟他们讲条件,他们却大喊大叫,蛮横无理。幸亏他在海伯里给耽搁了一下,才赶上在这紧急关头来解救她。那天早上天气宜人,他不由得想步行,让马在海伯里过去一两英里的另一条路上等他——凑巧头一天晚上他向贝茨小姐借了一把剪刀,忘了还给她,只得送到她家,进去坐了一会,因此比原来打算的迟了一点。由于是步行去的,他都快走到跟前了,那伙人才发现他。原先是那女人和男孩吓得哈丽特害怕,现在却轮到他们自己害怕了。弗兰克把他们吓得胆战心惊,哈丽特紧紧地抓住他,简直连话都说不出来,硬撑着往回走,一到哈特菲尔德精神就垮了。是弗兰克想把她送到哈特菲尔德的,他没想到别的地方。

这就是事情的来龙去脉,有的是弗兰克讲的,有的是哈丽特清醒后讲的。弗兰克见她神志恢复正常,就不敢再耽搁了。经过这几番耽搁,他连一分钟也不能再延误了。爱玛说她一定告诉戈达德太太哈丽特平安无事,通知奈特利先生附近有一群吉普赛人,随即又为朋友和自己向弗兰克表示感谢和祝福,弗兰克便带着这感谢和祝福走了。

这真是一场奇遇——一个漂亮的小伙子和一个可爱的姑娘就这样相遇了,即使最冷漠的心灵和最冷静的头脑,也不会不产生一些想法。至少爱玛是这么想的。假如一位语言学家、一位语法家、甚至一位数学家看见了她所看到的情景,目睹了他们俩一起出现,听见了他们述说事情的经过,难道不觉得机遇在促使他们彼此间产生特别的好感吗?一个像她那样富于幻想的人,该会怎样想入非非、猜测不已啊!何况她的脑子里早已动过这样的念头。

这真是件极不寻常的事!在爱玛的记忆中,当地的年轻小姐从没遇到过类似的事,没有这样的机遇,也没有这样的惊吓。现在,偏偏有这样一个人,在这样一个时刻,遇到这样一件事,而另一个人又恰巧打那地方路过,把她救了出来!确实是极不寻常啊!爱玛知道两人这时处于有利的心理状态,因而更觉得情况如此。弗兰克希望能克制住他对爱玛的爱,而哈丽特则在渐渐打消对埃尔顿先生的一片痴情。看来好像一切都凑到一起了,要促成一桩最美满的好事。这件事不可能不使他们两心相悦。

哈丽特处于半昏迷状态时,爱玛跟弗兰克交谈了几分钟。弗兰克兴致勃勃地谈到哈丽特紧紧抓住他的胳臂,脸上流露出又惊慌、又天真、又热切的神情。后来哈丽特自己讲述了事情的经过以后,他又对比克顿小姐可恶的愚蠢表示愤慨,言词极其激烈。然而,一切只能听其自然,既不用推波,也不必助澜。爱玛不会做出什么举动,也不会透露一点口风。不,她已经尝够了多管闲事的苦头。搞一个计划,一个消极的计划,总不会有什么坏处吧。那只不过是个心愿而已,她决不会越雷池一步。

爱玛起初决定不让父亲获悉这件事,她知道那会引起他的惊恐不安。但她很快又意识到,要瞒是瞒不住的。不到半小时工夫,这事就传遍了海伯里。那些多嘴多舌的人,特别是年轻人和下层人,对这种事最津津乐道。转眼间,当地的年轻人和仆人全都沉浸在这可怕消息带来的欢乐之中。昨晚的舞会似乎给抛到了脑后,取而代之的是吉普赛人。可怜的伍德豪斯先生坐在那里直打哆嗦,而且正如爱玛所预料的,非要她们答应以后决不走过矮树丛,他才方肯罢休。这一天余下的时间里,许多人都来问候史密斯小姐,也来问候他和伍德豪斯小姐(邻居们知道,他就喜欢别人问候),他觉得很是欣慰。他有幸回答说,他们的身体状况都很差——这话虽说并非事实,因为她爱玛身体挺好,哈丽特也不差,但是爱玛并不想插嘴。作为这样一个人的孩子,她的身体状况总是不会好的,尽管她简直没生过什么病。加入做父亲的不给她想出点病来.她也就不会惹人注目了。

吉普赛人并没等待法律的制裁,二十匆匆逃跑了。海伯里的年轻小姐们几乎还没开始惊慌,就又可以平平安安地出去散步了。整个事情很快就被人们遗忘了。只有爱玛和她的小外甥没有忘。这件事还依然盘踞在爱玛的脑海里,亨利和约翰还是每天要她讲哈丽特和吉普赛人的故事,要是她在哪个细枝末节上讲得跟第一次讲的有一丁点出入,他们就会毫不含糊地纠正她。



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