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Part 3 Chapter 5

In this state of schemes, and hopes, and connivance, June opened upon Hartfield. To Highbury in general it brought no material change. The Eltons were still talking of a visit from the Sucklings, and of the use to be made of their barouche-landau; and Jane Fairfax was still at her grandmother's; and as the return of the Campbells from Ireland was again delayed, and August, instead of Midsummer, fixed for it, she was likely to remain there full two months longer, provided at least she were able to defeat Mrs. Elton's activity in her service, and save herself from being hurried into a delightful situation against her will.

Mr. Knightley, who, for some reason best known to himself, had certainly taken an early dislike to Frank Churchill, was only growing to dislike him more. He began to suspect him of some double dealing in his pursuit of Emma. That Emma was his object appeared indisputable. Every thing declared it; his own attentions, his father's hints, his mother-in-law's guarded silence; it was all in unison; words, conduct, discretion, and indiscretion, told the same story. But while so many were devoting him to Emma, and Emma herself making him over to Harriet, Mr. Knightley began to suspect him of some inclination to trifle with Jane Fairfax. He could not understand it; but there were symptoms of intelligence between them - he thought so at least - symptoms of admiration on his side, which, having once observed, he could not persuade himself to think entirely void of meaning, however he might wish to escape any of Emma's errors of imagination. She was not present when the suspicion first arose. He was dining with the Randalls family, and Jane, at the Eltons'; and he had seen a look, more than a single look, at Miss Fairfax, which, from the admirer of Miss Woodhouse, seemed somewhat out of place. When he was again in their company, he could not help remembering what he had seen; nor could he avoid observations which, unless it were like Cowper and his fire at twilight,

`Myself creating what I saw,'

brought him yet stronger suspicion of there being a something of private liking, of private understanding even, between Frank Churchill and Jane.

He had walked up one day after dinner, as he very often did, to spend his evening at Hartfield. Emma and Harriet were going to walk; he joined them; and, on returning, they fell in with a larger party, who, like themselves, judged it wisest to take their exercise early, as the weather threatened rain; Mr. and Mrs. Weston and their son, Miss Bates and her niece, who had accidentally met. They all united; and, on reaching Hartfield gates, Emma, who knew it was exactly the sort of visiting that would be welcome to her father, pressed them all to go in and drink tea with him. The Randalls party agreed to it immediately; and after a pretty long speech from Miss Bates, which few persons listened to, she also found it possible to accept dear Miss Woodhouse's most obliging invitation.

As they were turning into the grounds, Mr. Perry passed by on horseback. The gentlemen spoke of his horse.

`By the bye,' said Frank Churchill to Mrs. Weston presently, `what became of Mr. Perry's plan of setting up his carriage?'

Mrs. Weston looked surprized, and said, `I did not know that he ever had any such plan.'

`Nay, I had it from you. You wrote me word of it three months ago.'

`Me! impossible!'

`Indeed you did. I remember it perfectly. You mentioned it as what was certainly to be very soon. Mrs. Perry had told somebody, and was extremely happy about it. It was owing to her persuasion, as she thought his being out in bad weather did him a great deal of harm. You must remember it now?'

`Upon my word I never heard of it till this moment.'

`Never! really, never! - Bless me! how could it be? - Then I must have dreamt it - but I was completely persuaded - Miss Smith, you walk as if you were tired. You will not be sorry to find yourself at home.'

`What is this? - What is this?' cried Mr. Weston, `about Perry and a carriage? Is Perry going to set up his carriage, Frank? I am glad he can afford it. You had it from himself, had you?'

`No, sir,' replied his son, laughing, `I seem to have had it from nobody. - Very odd! - I really was persuaded of Mrs. Weston's having mentioned it in one of her letters to Enscombe, many weeks ago, with all these particulars - but as she declares she never heard a syllable of it before, of course it must have been a dream. I am a great dreamer. I dream of every body at Highbury when I am away - and when I have gone through my particular friends, then I begin dreaming of Mr. and Mrs. Perry.'

`It is odd though,' observed his father, `that you should have had such a regular connected dream about people whom it was not very likely you should be thinking of at Enscombe. Perry's setting up his carriage! and his wife's persuading him to it, out of care for his health - just what will happen, I have no doubt, some time or other; only a little premature. What an air of probability sometimes runs through a dream! And at others, what a heap of absurdities it is! Well, Frank, your dream certainly shews that Highbury is in your thoughts when you are absent. Emma, you are a great dreamer, I think?'

Emma was out of hearing. She had hurried on before her guests to prepare her father for their appearance, and was beyond the reach of Mr. Weston's hint.

`Why, to own the truth,' cried Miss Bates, who had been trying in vain to be heard the last two minutes, `if I must speak on this subject, there is no denying that Mr. Frank Churchill might have - I do not mean to say that he did not dream it - I am sure I have sometimes the oddest dreams in the world - but if I am questioned about it, I must acknowledge that there was such an idea last spring; for Mrs. Perry herself mentioned it to my mother, and the Coles knew of it as well as ourselves - but it was quite a secret, known to nobody else, and only thought of about three days. Mrs. Perry was very anxious that he should have a carriage, and came to my mother in great spirits one morning because she thought she had prevailed. Jane, don't you remember grandmama's telling us of it when we got home? I forget where we had been walking to - very likely to Randalls; yes, I think it was to Randalls. Mrs. Perry was always particularly fond of my mother - indeed I do not know who is not - and she had mentioned it to her in confidence; she had no objection to her telling us, of course, but it was not to go beyond: and, from that day to this, I never mentioned it to a soul that I know of. At the same time, I will not positively answer for my having never dropt a hint, because I know I do sometimes pop out a thing before I am aware. I am a talker, you know; I am rather a talker; and now and then I have let a thing escape me which I should not. I am not like Jane; I wish I were. I will answer for it she never betrayed the least thing in the world. Where is she? - Oh! just behind. Perfectly remember Mrs. Perry's coming. - Extraordinary dream, indeed!'

They were entering the hall. Mr. Knightley's eyes had preceded Miss Bates's in a glance at Jane. From Frank Churchill's face, where he thought he saw confusion suppressed or laughed away, he had involuntarily turned to hers; but she was indeed behind, and too busy with her shawl. Mr. Weston had walked in. The two other gentlemen waited at the door to let her pass. Mr. Knightley suspected in Frank Churchill the determination of catching her eye - he seemed watching her intently - in vain, however, if it were so - Jane passed between them into the hall, and looked at neither.

There was no time for farther remark or explanation. The dream must be borne with, and Mr. Knightley must take his seat with the rest round the large modern circular table which Emma had introduced at Hartfield, and which none but Emma could have had power to place there and persuade her father to use, instead of the small-sized Pembroke, on which two of his daily meals had, for forty years been crowded. Tea passed pleasantly, and nobody seemed in a hurry to move.

`Miss Woodhouse,' said Frank Churchill, after examining a table behind him, which he could reach as he sat, `have your nephews taken away their alphabets - their box of letters? It used to stand here. Where is it? This is a sort of dull-looking evening, that ought to be treated rather as winter than summer. We had great amusement with those letters one morning. I want to puzzle you again.'

Emma was pleased with the thought; and producing the box, the table was quickly scattered over with alphabets, which no one seemed so much disposed to employ as their two selves. They were rapidly forming words for each other, or for any body else who would be puzzled. The quietness of the game made it particularly eligible for Mr. Woodhouse, who had often been distressed by the more animated sort, which Mr. Weston had occasionally introduced, and who now sat happily occupied in lamenting, with tender melancholy, over the departure of the `poor little boys,' or in fondly pointing out, as he took up any stray letter near him, how beautifully Emma had written it.

Frank Churchill placed a word before Miss Fairfax. She gave a slight glance round the table, and applied herself to it. Frank was next to Emma, Jane opposite to them - and Mr. Knightley so placed as to see them all; and it was his object to see as much as he could, with as little apparent observation. The word was discovered, and with a faint smile pushed away. If meant to be immediately mixed with the others, and buried from sight, she should have looked on the table instead of looking just across, for it was not mixed; and Harriet, eager after every fresh word, and finding out none, directly took it up, and fell to work. She was sitting by Mr. Knightley, and turned to him for help. The word was blunder; and as Harriet exultingly proclaimed it, there was a blush on Jane's cheek which gave it a meaning not otherwise ostensible. Mr. Knightley connected it with the dream; but how it could all be, was beyond his comprehension. How the delicacy, the discretion of his favourite could have been so lain asleep! He feared there must be some decided involvement. Disingenuousness and double dealing seemed to meet him at every turn. These letters were but the vehicle for gallantry and trick. It was a child's play, chosen to conceal a deeper game on Frank Churchill's part.

With great indignation did he continue to observe him; with great alarm and distrust, to observe also his two blinded companions. He saw a short word prepared for Emma, and given to her with a look sly and demure. He saw that Emma had soon made it out, and found it highly entertaining, though it was something which she judged it proper to appear to censure; for she said, `Nonsense! for shame!' He heard Frank Churchill next say, with a glance towards Jane, `I will give it to her - shall I?' - and as clearly heard Emma opposing it with eager laughing warmth. `No, no, you must not; you shall not, indeed.'

It was done however. This gallant young man, who seemed to love without feeling, and to recommend himself without complaisance, directly handed over the word to Miss Fairfax, and with a particular degree of sedate civility entreated her to study it. Mr. Knightley's excessive curiosity to know what this word might be, made him seize every possible moment for darting his eye towards it, and it was not long before he saw it to be Dixon. Jane Fairfax's perception seemed to accompany his; her comprehension was certainly more equal to the covert meaning, the superior intelligence, of those five letters so arranged. She was evidently displeased; looked up, and seeing herself watched, blushed more deeply than he had ever perceived her, and saying only, `I did not know that proper names were allowed,' pushed away the letters with even an angry spirit, and looked resolved to be engaged by no other word that could be offered. Her face was averted from those who had made the attack, and turned towards her aunt.

`Aye, very true, my dear,' cried the latter, though Jane had not spoken a word - `I was just going to say the same thing. It is time for us to be going indeed. The evening is closing in, and grandmama will be looking for us. My dear sir, you are too obliging. We really must wish you good night.'

Jane's alertness in moving, proved her as ready as her aunt had preconceived. She was immediately up, and wanting to quit the table; but so many were also moving, that she could not get away; and Mr. Knightley thought he saw another collection of letters anxiously pushed towards her, and resolutely swept away by her unexamined. She was afterwards looking for her shawl - Frank Churchill was looking also - it was growing dusk, and the room was in confusion; and how they parted, Mr. Knightley could not tell.

He remained at Hartfield after all the rest, his thoughts full of what he had seen; so full, that when the candles came to assist his observations, he must - yes, he certainly must, as a friend - an anxious friend - give Emma some hint, ask her some question. He could not see her in a situation of such danger, without trying to preserve her. It was his duty.

`Pray, Emma,' said he, `may I ask in what lay the great amusement, the poignant sting of the last word given to you and Miss Fairfax? I saw the word, and am curious to know how it could be so very entertaining to the one, and so very distressing to the other.'

Emma was extremely confused. She could not endure to give him the true explanation; for though her suspicions were by no means removed, she was really ashamed of having ever imparted them.

`Oh!' she cried in evident embarrassment, `it all meant nothing; a mere joke among ourselves.'

`The joke,' he replied gravely, `seemed confined to you and Mr. Churchill.'

He had hoped she would speak again, but she did not. She would rather busy herself about any thing than speak. He sat a little while in doubt. A variety of evils crossed his mind. Interference - fruitless interference. Emma's confusion, and the acknowledged intimacy, seemed to declare her affection engaged. Yet he would speak. He owed it to her, to risk any thing that might be involved in an unwelcome interference, rather than her welfare; to encounter any thing, rather than the remembrance of neglect in such a cause.

`My dear Emma,' said he at last, with earnest kindness, `do you think you perfectly understand the degree of acquaintance between the gentleman and lady we have been speaking of?'

`Between Mr. Frank Churchill and Miss Fairfax? Oh! yes, perfectly. - Why do you make a doubt of it?'

`Have you never at any time had reason to think that he admired her, or that she admired him?'

`Never, never!' she cried with a most open eagerness - `Never, for the twentieth part of a moment, did such an idea occur to me. And how could it possibly come into your head?'

`I have lately imagined that I saw symptoms of attachment between them - certain expressive looks, which I did not believe meant to be public.'

`Oh! you amuse me excessively. I am delighted to find that you can vouchsafe to let your imagination wander - but it will not do - very sorry to check you in your first essay - but indeed it will not do. There is no admiration between them, I do assure you; and the appearances which have caught you, have arisen from some peculiar circumstances - feelings rather of a totally different nature - it is impossible exactly to explain: - there is a good deal of nonsense in it - but the part which is capable of being communicated, which is sense, is, that they are as far from any attachment or admiration for one another, as any two beings in the world can be. That is, I presume it to be so on her side, and I can answer for its being so on his. I will answer for the gentleman's indifference.'

She spoke with a confidence which staggered, with a satisfaction which silenced, Mr. Knightley. She was in gay spirits, and would have prolonged the conversation, wanting to hear the particulars of his suspicions, every look described, and all the wheres and hows of a circumstance which highly entertained her: but his gaiety did not meet hers. He found he could not be useful, and his feelings were too much irritated for talking. That he might not be irritated into an absolute fever, by the fire which Mr. Woodhouse's tender habits required almost every evening throughout the year, he soon afterwards took a hasty leave, and walked home to the coolness and solitude of Donwell Abbey.

 

就这样,哈特菲尔德在筹划、期望和默许中迎来了六月。总的说来,这并没给哈特菲尔德带来什么重大变化。埃尔顿夫妇仍在谈论萨克林夫妇的来访,谈论要坐他们的四轮四座大马车。简·费尔法克斯依然住在外婆家。由于坎贝尔夫妇再次推迟了从爱尔兰归来的日期,不在施洗约翰节那天,而推到八月,因此她很可能在这儿再住上整整两个月,只要她至少能挫败埃尔顿太太的帮忙活动,使自己不要被逼着匆匆地接受一个称心的职位。

奈特利先生出于他自己最清楚的原因,的确早就讨厌弗兰克·邱吉尔了,现在只是越发讨厌他了。他开始怀疑,他追求爱玛是耍两面手法。爱玛是他的追逐目标,这看来是毋庸置疑的。种种迹象都表明了这一点:他自己的献殷勤,他父亲的暗示,他继母的小心沉默,全都是一致的;言论也好,行动也罢,不管谨慎还是疏忽,都说明这么回事。可是,就在许多人认为他倾心于爱玛,而爱玛自己把他跟哈丽特扯在一起的时候,奈特利先生却开始怀疑他想玩弄简·费尔法克斯。他琢磨不透这件事,不过他们之间有些心照不宣的迹象——至少他是这么想的——弗兰克确有爱慕的迹象,他一旦有所察觉,就没法认为那是毫无意义的,不过他也许想要避免犯爱玛犯下的那种想当然的错误。他最初起疑心的时候,她爱玛并不在场。当时,他正和兰多尔斯那家人,还有简,在埃尔顿家吃饭。他发现倾心于伍德豪斯小姐的那个人向费尔法克斯小姐瞅了一眼,而且不止瞅了一眼,这似乎有点出格了。后来他再跟他们俩在一起时,不由得又想起了他先前见到的情景。他免不了又要观察,这种观察,除非像暮色中考柏(译注:威廉·考柏(1731-1800):英国诗人,下面一行诗引自他的长诗《任务》中的“冬日黄昏”)待在炉前:我自己创造了我见到的景象。

他因此而越发怀疑弗兰克·邱吉尔和简之间有一种私下的好感,甚至是私下的默契。

有一天晚饭后,他跟往常一样,走到哈特菲尔德,晚上要在那儿度过。爱玛和哈丽特正要出去散步,他便跟她们一道出去了。回来的时候,又遇到一大群人,这群人跟他们三个一样,觉得天好像要下雨了,最好趁早出去散散步。韦斯顿夫妇和他们的儿子,贝茨小姐和她的外甥女,他们也是偶然相遇的。他们全都聚到了一起。等来到哈特菲尔德门口时,爱玛知道他父亲一定会欢迎这些人,便硬要大家进去跟他喝杯茶。兰多尔斯的那伙人立刻同意了。贝茨小姐喋喋不休地唠叨了半天,简直没有什么人听她的,后来也觉得可以接受亲爱的伍德豪斯小姐的盛情邀请。

大家转身往庭园里走时,佩里骑着马过去了。几位男士谈起了他的马。

“顺便问一声,”弗兰克·邱吉尔随即对韦斯顿太太说,“佩里先生打算购置马车的事儿怎么样了?”

韦斯顿太太显得很惊讶,便说:“我还不知道他有过这样的计划呢。”

“怪了,我还是听你说的呢。三个月前你写信给我提到的。”

“我!不可能!”

“真是你说的。我记得清清楚楚。照你的说法,好像马上就要购置。佩里太太告诉过什么人,因为这件事高兴得不得了。那还是她的主意呢,因为她觉得佩里先生风里来雨里去的,怕身体受不了。你现在该记起来了吧?”

“说实话,在这之前我还从没听说过。”

“从没听说!真的从没听说!天哪!这怎么可能呢?那我一定是做梦做到的——不过我想一定有这事儿吧——史密斯小姐,看你走路的样子,你像是累了,回到家里就好了。”

“什么?什么?”韦斯顿先生嚷道,“佩里要买马车?佩里要购置马车吗,弗兰克?他置得起马车,我很高兴。你是听他自己说的吗?”

“不,爸爸,”儿子笑着答道,“我好像从没听什么人说过。真奇怪呀!我的确记得几个月以前,韦斯顿太太写给恩斯库姆的一封信里提到了这件事,谈到了所有这些细节——可是现在她却声称以前压根儿没听说过这件事,那当然就是个梦了。我这个人很会做梦。我不在海伯里的时候,会梦见这儿的每一个人——特别要好的朋友都梦见过以后,就开始梦见佩里夫妇。”

“这事儿还真奇怪,”他父亲说,“你居然会经常梦见你在恩斯库姆不大可能想到的一些人。佩里要购置马车!还是他太太出于对他身体的关心,劝他购置的——我毫不怀疑,总有一天会办到的,只是还早了点。有时候梦也有可能会应验呢!有时候却纯属荒诞无稽!嗯,弗兰克,你的梦确实说明,你不在这儿的时候,心里还想着海伯里。爱玛,我想你也很会做梦吧?”

爱玛没有听见。她已赶在客人前面,匆匆跑去告诉她父亲,让他准备迎接客人,因而没听见韦斯顿先生的话。

“咳,说实话,”贝茨小姐大声说道,她刚才就想要人家听她说话,可惜没人听她的,“如果非要让我在这个问题上说几句话,那就不可否认,弗兰克·邱吉尔先生也许——我不是说他没梦见——我有时候确实也做些最稀奇古怪的梦——不过,要是有人问起我这件事的话,我得承认今年春天他们是有过这么个想法。佩里太太亲口对我妈妈提起过,科尔夫妇跟我们一样,也知道这件事——不过那完全是个秘密,别人都不知道,只酝酿了三天光景。佩里太太急于想让丈夫有辆马车,有天早上兴高采烈地来找我妈,她以为她已经说服了佩里先生。简,难道你不记得我们回到家里外婆就告诉我们了吗?我不记得我们上哪儿去了——很可能是兰多尔斯。是的,我想是兰多尔斯。佩里太太一向特别喜欢我妈妈——我还真不知道有谁不喜欢我妈妈的——她悄悄告诉了我妈妈,当然不反对我妈妈告诉我们,可是不能再外传了。从那天到现在,我从没向哪个熟人说起过。不过,我不敢担保我从没露过口风,因为我知道,我有时会不知不觉地说漏嘴。你们知道我爱说话,非常爱说话,时不时地要冒出一句不该说的话。我不像简,要像她就好了。我敢说,她可从不透露一丁点的事。她哪儿去了?哦!就在后面。我清清楚楚地记得佩里太太来过。真是个奇特的梦啊!”

众人在往客厅里走。奈特利先生比贝茨小姐先瞟了简一眼。他先看见了弗兰克·邱吉尔,觉得他脸上有一种强作镇静或强颜欢笑的困窘神情,随即便将目光转到简脸上。简就走在后面,正在摆弄她的披巾。韦斯顿先生已经走进去了,另外两位先生站在门旁,让简先进。奈特利先生怀疑,弗兰克·邱吉尔决计要引起简的注意——他似乎在目不转睛地盯着她——然而,即使他真想这样做,那也是白费心思——简从他们两人中间走进客厅,对谁也没看一眼。

没有时间再议论、再解释了,那梦只好搁在心里,奈特利先生只好跟众人一起,在新式的大圆桌边坐下。这张大圆桌是爱玛搞到哈特菲尔德的,除了爱玛,谁也没本事把它摆在那儿,并且说服她父亲舍弃那张小折叠桌,而来使用它。四十年来,他一天两餐在那张小折叠桌上吃饭,上面总是摆得满满的。大家高高兴兴地喝完了茶,好像谁也不急于走。

“伍德豪斯小姐,”弗兰克·邱吉尔看了看身后那张他坐着就能够到的桌子,说道,“你外甥把他们那些字母——他们那盒字母拿走了吗?以前就放在这儿。现在哪儿去了?今晚天有点阴沉,不像夏天,倒像冬天。有一天早上,我们玩那些字母玩得很有意思。我想再让你猜猜。”

爱玛很喜欢这主意,于是便拿出盒子,桌上立即摆满了字母,别人似乎谁也不像他们俩这么起劲。他们俩迅速排出字来让对方猜,或者让其他愿猜的人猜。他们安安静静地玩着游戏,特别中伍德豪斯先生的心意。韦斯顿先生曾偶尔搞过些吵吵闹闹的游戏,往往闹得他心烦意乱。这一次,伍德豪斯先生快活地坐在那里,带着慈爱的伤感,哀叹“可怜的小家伙”都走了,要不就拿起一张跑到他跟前的字母卡,满怀深情地说爱玛的字写得多美。

弗兰克·邱吉尔把一个字放在费尔法克斯小姐跟前。她往桌子四周扫了一眼,随即便用心琢磨起来。弗兰克坐在爱玛旁边,简坐在他们两人对面——奈特利先生坐的地方可以看见他们三个。他就想仔细察看一番,表面上又装着漫不经心。简猜出了那个字,笑吟吟地把字推开了。如果她想把这个字马上跟别的字混在一起,不让别人看见,她就该看着桌面而不是桌对面,其实这个字没给混起来。哈丽特每见到一个新字都想猜,可是一个也猜不出来,于是拿起这个字,苦苦思索起来。她就坐在奈特利先生旁边,便求他帮忙。那个字是“错”。哈丽特欣喜若狂地说了出来,简顿时脸红了,这就给这个字赋予了一种隐匿的意味。奈特利先生将它与梦联系起来,可是又搞不清这究竟是怎么回事。他所喜爱的人(译注:指爱玛)的敏感与谨慎都跑到哪里去了!他担心她与此一定有所牵连。他似乎处处都看到诡诈和伪装。这些字母仅仅是献殷勤和耍花招的手段而已。这本是孩子的游戏,弗兰克·邱吉尔却用来掩饰他那不可告人的把戏。

奈特利先生怀着极大的愤慨继续观察他,同时怀着极大的惊诧和怀疑观察他那两个蒙在鼓里的伙伴。他看到他为爱玛摆了个字母较少的字,带着一副狡黠、假正经的神情让她猜。他见爱玛一下就猜出来了,并且觉得很有趣,不过她又觉得应该指责一下那个字,因为她说了一声:“无聊!真丢脸!”他又见弗兰克·邱吉尔瞟了简一眼,只听他说:“我把这给她——行吗?”他同样清楚地听爱玛一边笑,一边竭力表示反对:“不,不,你不该给她,真不能给她。”

然而还是给了她。这个爱献殷勤的年轻人想恋爱又无真情,想讨好又不谦恭,马上把这个字交给了费尔法克斯小姐,带着一本正经而又特别客气的神情,请她来琢磨。奈特利先生觉得很好奇,就想知道那是个什么字,便尽可能抓住一切时机,将目光瞅向那个字,不久就发现是“迪克逊”(译注:迪克逊:系坎贝尔上校的女婿,爱玛怀疑他有意于简·费尔法克斯。该词的英文有5个字母Dixon)。简·费尔法克斯似乎跟他同时看到了。对于五个如此排列的字母,她自然更容易理解其内在的含义、巧妙的意图。她显然不大高兴,抬起头来见有人在望着她,脸涨得比以往什么时候都红,只说了一句:“我不知道还会叫我猜别人的姓氏。”随即,甚至气乎乎地把字母推到一边,看样子像是打定了主意,不管再让她猜什么字,她都不猜。她掉过头去,背对着那些捉弄她的人,面朝着她姨妈。

“啊,一点不错,亲爱的,”简一声不响,她姨妈却大声嚷道,“我本来也想这么说呢。我们真该走了。天色不早了,外婆要等我们了。亲爱的先生,你真太好了。我们真该告辞了。”

简动作迅速,证明她就像她姨妈预料的那样急于回家。她连忙起身,想从桌边走开,无奈好多人都想走,她走不掉了。奈特利先生觉得,他又看见弗兰克急急忙忙地把一组字母推到她跟前,可她连看也不看就一把推开了。随后她就四处找披巾——弗兰克·邱吉尔也在找——天越来越暗,屋里一片混乱。大家是怎么分手的,奈特利先生就不得而知了。

别人走了后,他还待在哈特菲尔德,脑子里尽想着刚才见到的情景。他尽想着这些事,等拿来蜡烛的时候,他作为一个朋友——一个焦急的朋友——不得不——是的,的确不得不——提醒一下爱玛,问她一个问题。他不能眼见她陷入危险的境地,而不救她一把。他有这个责任。

“请问,爱玛,”他说,“我是否可以问一声:让你和费尔法克斯小姐猜的最后一个字有什么好玩的,又有什么值得气愤的?我看见那个字了,觉得很奇怪,怎么会使你们一个人感到那么有趣,使另一个人感到那么气恼。”

爱玛顿时慌了。她还不便把真正的原因告诉他。虽说她心巾的猜疑还没有完全打消,但她又为自己泄露了秘密而羞愧不已。

“哦!”她显然十分尴尬,嚷道,“这没什么,只是彼此之间开个玩笑罢了。”

“那玩笑,”奈特利先生一本正经地答道,“似乎只局限于你和邱吉尔先生吧。”

他本希望爱玛再说话,可她却没有说。让她做什么都可以,就是不想说话。奈特利先生满腹狐疑地坐了一会,脑海里闪过种种不祥的念头。干预——徒劳的干预。爱玛的慌张,那直言不讳的亲密关系,似乎都表明她已有了意中人。然而,他还是要说话。他对她负有责任,宁可冒险卷入不受欢迎的干预,也不能让她受到损害,宁可遭遇什么不测,也不要在将来后悔自己失职。

“亲爱的爱玛,”他终于恳切地说,“你认为你非常了解我们所谈的那位先生和那位小姐之间的关系吗?”

“你是说弗兰克·邱吉尔先生和费尔法克斯小姐之间吗?哦!是的,非常了解。你为什么要怀疑这一点呢?”

“难道你从来就没觉得他们两个你爱慕我、我爱慕你吗?”

“从来没有,从来没有!”爱玛带着坦率热切的口吻嚷道。“我有生以来压根儿就不曾有过这样的想法。你怎么会这样想呢?”

“我近来觉得看到了他们彼此有意的迹象——一些眉目传情的举动,我想那是不打算让别人知道的。”

“哦!你真让我觉得太好笑了。我感到很高兴,你居然会胡思乱想起来——不过,这可不行——很抱歉,你刚开始尝试就叫我扫了兴——不过,这的确不行。他们两人并没有意思,你放心好了。你所看到的现象是某些特定情况引起的——是~种性质全然不同的情感。这不可能解释清楚。这里面有不少无聊的成分—-不过,那可以解释的合理的成分是,世界上没有哪两个人比他们俩更不相亲更不相爱了。这就是说,我相信那女方是这样,我担保那男方也是这样。我敢说那位先生完全无心。”

爱玛说这话时,那自信的口吻使奈特利先生大为震惊,那得意的神气又使他无言以对。她兴致勃勃,还想继续谈下去,听听他如何猜疑的细枝末节,听听他们如何眉目传情,以及她感兴趣的每件事的来龙去脉,不想他的兴致却没她的那么高。他觉得自己帮不上什么忙,情绪受了刺激又不想说话。伍德豪斯先生已经养成了习惯,一年到头几乎天天晚上都要生起火炉,奈特利先生怕待在炉火旁边,给烤得心里也冒起火来,过了不多久便匆匆告辞,回去感受当维尔寺的冷清和寂寞。



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