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Part 3 Chapter 13

The weather continued much the same all the following morning; and the same loneliness, and the same melancholy, seemed to reign at Hartfield - but in the afternoon it cleared; the wind changed into a softer quarter; the clouds were carried off; the sun appeared; it was summer again. With all the eagerness which such a transition gives, Emma resolved to be out of doors as soon as possible. Never had the exquisite sight, smell, sensation of nature, tranquil, warm, and brilliant after a storm, been more attractive to her. She longed for the serenity they might gradually introduce; and on Mr. Perry's coming in soon after dinner, with a disengaged hour to give her father, she lost no time ill hurrying into the shrubbery. - There, with spirits freshened, and thoughts a little relieved, she had taken a few turns, when she saw Mr. Knightley passing through the garden door, and coming towards her. - It was the first intimation of his being returned from London. She had been thinking of him the moment before, as unquestionably sixteen miles distant. - There was time only for the quickest arrangement of mind. She must be collected and calm. In half a minute they were together. The `How d'ye do's' were quiet and constrained on each side. She asked after their mutual friends; they were all well. - When had he left them? - Only that morning. He must have had a wet ride. - Yes. - He meant to walk with her, she found. `He had just looked into the dining-room, and as he was not wanted there, preferred being out of doors.' - She thought he neither looked nor spoke cheerfully; and the first possible cause for it, suggested by her fears, was, that he had perhaps been communicating his plans to his brother, and was pained by the manner in which they had been received.

They walked together. He was silent. She thought he was often looking at her, and trying for a fuller view of her face than it suited her to give. And this belief produced another dread. Perhaps he wanted to speak to her, of his attachment to Harriet; he might be watching for encouragement to begin. - She did not, could not, feel equal to lead the way to any such subject. He must do it all himself. Yet she could not bear this silence. With him it was most unnatural. She considered - resolved - and, trying to smile, began -

`You have some news to hear, now you are come back, that will rather surprize you.'

`Have I?' said he quietly, and looking at her; `of what nature?'

`Oh! the best nature in the world - a wedding.'

After waiting a moment, as if to be sure she intended to say no more, he replied,

`If you mean Miss Fairfax and Frank Churchill, I have heard that already.'

`How is it possible?' cried Emma, turning her glowing cheeks towards him; for, while she spoke, it occurred to her that he might have called at Mrs. Goddard's in his way.

`I had a few lines on parish business from Mr. Weston this morning, and at the end of them he gave me a brief account of what had happened.'

Emma was quite relieved, and could presently say, with a little more composure,

`You probably have been less surprized than any of us, for you have had your suspicions. - I have not forgotten that you once tried to give me a caution. - I wish I had attended to it - but - (with a sinking voice and a heavy sigh) I seem to have been doomed to blindness.'

For a moment or two nothing was said, and she was unsuspicious of having excited any particular interest, till she found her arm drawn within his, and pressed against his heart, and heard him thus saying, in a tone of great sensibility, speaking low,

`Time, my dearest Emma, time will heal the wound. - Your own excellent sense - your exertions for your father's sake - I know you will not allow yourself - .' Her arm was pressed again, as he added, in a more broken and subdued accent, `The feelings of the warmest friendship - Indignation - Abominable scoundrel!' - And in a louder, steadier tone, he concluded with, `He will soon be gone. They will soon be in Yorkshire. I am sorry for her. She deserves a better fate.'

Emma understood him; and as soon as she could recover from the flutter of pleasure, excited by such tender consideration, replied,

`You are very kind - but you are mistaken - and I must set you right. - I am not in want of that sort of compassion. My blindness to what was going on, led me to act by them in a way that I must always be ashamed of, and I was very foolishly tempted to say and do many things which may well lay me open to unpleasant conjectures, but I have no other reason to regret that I was not in the secret earlier.'

`Emma!' cried he, looking eagerly at her, `are you, indeed?' - but checking himself - `No, no, I understand you - forgive me - I am pleased that you can say even so much. - He is no object of regret, indeed! and it will not be very long, I hope, before that becomes the acknowledgment of more than your reason. - Fortunate that your affections were not farther entangled! - I could never, I confess, from your manners, assure myself as to the degree of what you felt - I could only be certain that there was a preference - and a preference which I never believed him to deserve. - He is a disgrace to the name of man. - And is he to be rewarded with that sweet young woman? - Jane, Jane, you will be a miserable creature.'

`Mr. Knightley,' said Emma, trying to be lively, but really confused - `I am in a very extraordinary situation. I cannot let you continue in your error; and yet, perhaps, since my manners gave such an impression, I have as much reason to be ashamed of confessing that I never have been at all attached to the person we are speaking of, as it might be natural for a woman to feel in confessing exactly the reverse. - But I never have.'

He listened in perfect silence. She wished him to speak, but he would not. She supposed she must say more before she were entitled to his clemency; but it was a hard case to be obliged still to lower herself in his opinion. She went on, however.

`I have very little to say for my own conduct. - I was tempted by his attentions, and allowed myself to appear pleased. - An old story, probably - a common case - and no more than has happened to hundreds of my sex before; and yet it may not be the more excusable in one who sets up as I do for Understanding. Many circumstances assisted the temptation. He was the son of Mr. Weston - he was continually here - I always found him very pleasant - and, in short, for (with a sigh) let me swell out the causes ever so ingeniously, they all centre in this at last - my vanity was flattered, and I allowed his attentions. Latterly, however - for some time, indeed - I have had no idea of their meaning any thing. - I thought them a habit, a trick, nothing that called for seriousness on my side. He has imposed on me, but he has not injured me. I have never been attached to him. And now I can tolerably comprehend his behaviour. He never wished to attach me. It was merely a blind to conceal his real situation with another. - It was his object to blind all about him; and no one, I am sure, could be more effectually blinded than myself - except that I was not blinded - that it was my good fortune - that, in short, I was somehow or other safe from him.'

She had hoped for an answer here - for a few words to say that her conduct was at least intelligible; but he was silent; and, as far as she could judge, deep in thought. At last, and tolerably in his usual tone, he said,

`I have never had a high opinion of Frank Churchill. - I can suppose, however, that I may have underrated him. My acquaintance with him has been but trifling. - And even if I have not underrated him hitherto, he may yet turn out well. - With such a woman he has a chance. - I have no motive for wishing him ill - and for her sake, whose happiness will be involved in his good character and conduct, I shall certainly wish him well.'

`I have no doubt of their being happy together,' said Emma; `I believe them to be very mutually and very sincerely attached.'

`He is a most fortunate man!' returned Mr. Knightley, with energy. `So early in life - at three-and-twenty - a period when, if a man chuses a wife, he generally chuses ill. At three-and-twenty to have drawn such a prize! What years of felicity that man, in all human calculation, has before him! - Assured of the love of such a woman - the disinterested love, for Jane Fairfax's character vouches for her disinterestedness; every thing in his favour, - equality of situation - I mean, as far as regards society, and all the habits and manners that are important; equality in every point but one - and that one, since the purity of her heart is not to be doubted, such as must increase his felicity, for it will be his to bestow the only advantages she wants. - A man would always wish to give a woman a better home than the one he takes her from; and he who can do it, where there is no doubt of her regard, must, I think, be the happiest of mortals. - Frank Churchill is, indeed, the favourite of fortune. Every thing turns out for his good. - He meets with a young woman at a watering-place, gains her affection, cannot even weary her by negligent treatment - and had he and all his family sought round the world for a perfect wife for him, they could not have found her superior. - His aunt is in the way. - His aunt dies. - He has only to speak. - His friends are eager to promote his happiness. - He had used every body ill - and they are all delighted to forgive him. - He is a fortunate man indeed!'

`You speak as if you envied him.'

`And I do envy him, Emma. In one respect he is the object of my envy.'

Emma could say no more. They seemed to be within half a sentence of Harriet, and her immediate feeling was to avert the subject, if possible. She made her plan; she would speak of something totally different - the children in Brunswick Square; and she only waited for breath to begin, when Mr. Knightley startled her, by saying,

`You will not ask me what is the point of envy. - You are determined, I see, to have no curiosity. - You are wise - but I cannot be wise. Emma, I must tell you what you will not ask, though I may wish it unsaid the next moment.'

`Oh! then, don't speak it, don't speak it,' she eagerly cried. `Take a little time, consider, do not commit yourself.'

`Thank you,' said he, in an accent of deep mortification, and not another syllable followed.

Emma could not bear to give him pain. He was wishing to confide in her - perhaps to consult her; - cost her what it would, she would listen. She might assist his resolution, or reconcile him to it; she might give just praise to Harriet, or, by representing to him his own independence, relieve him from that state of indecision, which must be more intolerable than any alternative to such a mind as his. - They had reached the house.

`You are going in, I suppose?' said he.

`No,' - replied Emma - quite confirmed by the depressed manner in which he still spoke - `I should like to take another turn. Mr. Perry is not gone.' And, after proceeding a few steps, she added - `I stopped you ungraciously, just now, Mr. Knightley, and, I am afraid, gave you pain. - But if you have any wish to speak openly to me as a friend, or to ask my opinion of any thing that you may have in contemplation - as a friend, indeed, you may command me. - I will hear whatever you like. I will tell you exactly what I think.'

`As a friend!' - repeated Mr. Knightley. - `Emma, that I fear is a word - No, I have no wish - Stay, yes, why should I hesitate? - I have gone too far already for concealment. - Emma, I accept your offer - Extraordinary as it may seem, I accept it, and refer myself to you as a friend. - Tell me, then, have I no chance of ever succeeding?'

He stopped in his earnestness to look the question, and the expression of his eyes overpowered her.

`My dearest Emma,' said he, `for dearest you will always be, whatever the event of this hour's conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma - tell me at once. Say ``No,'' if it is to be said.' - She could really say nothing. - `You are silent,' he cried, with great animation; `absolutely silent! at present I ask no more.'

Emma was almost ready to sink under the agitation of this moment. The dread of being awakened from the happiest dream, was perhaps the most prominent feeling.

`I cannot make speeches, Emma:' he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing. - `If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. - You hear nothing but truth from me. - I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it. - Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover. - But you understand me. - Yes, you see, you understand my feelings - and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice.'

While he spoke, Emma's mind was most busy, and, with all the wonderful velocity of thought, had been able - and yet without losing a word - to catch and comprehend the exact truth of the whole; to see that Harriet's hopes had been entirely groundless, a mistake, a delusion, as complete a delusion as any of her own - that Harriet was nothing; that she was every thing herself; that what she had been saying relative to Harriet had been all taken as the language of her own feelings; and that her agitation, her doubts, her reluctance, her discouragement, had been all received as discouragement from herself. - And not only was there time for these convictions, with all their glow of attendant happiness; there was time also to rejoice that Harriet's secret had not escaped her, and to resolve that it need not, and should not. - It was all the service she could now render her poor friend; for as to any of that heroism of sentiment which might have prompted her to entreat him to transfer his affection from herself to Harriet, as infinitely the most worthy of the two - or even the more simple sublimity of resolving to refuse him at once and for ever, without vouchsafing any motive, because he could not marry them both, Emma had it not. She felt for Harriet, with pain and with contrition; but no flight of generosity run mad, opposing all that could be probable or reasonable, entered her brain. She had led her friend astray, and it would be a reproach to her for ever; but her judgment was as strong as her feelings, and as strong as it had ever been before, in reprobating any such alliance for him, as most unequal and degrading. Her way was clear, though not quite smooth. - She spoke then, on being so entreated. - What did she say? - Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does. - She said enough to shew there need not be despair - and to invite him to say more himself. He had despaired at one period; he had received such an injunction to caution and silence, as for the time crushed every hope; - she had begun by refusing to hear him. - The change had perhaps been somewhat sudden; - her proposal of taking another turn, her renewing the conversation which she had just put an end to, might be a little extraordinary! - She felt its inconsistency; but Mr. Knightley was so obliging as to put up with it, and seek no farther explanation.

Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken; but where, as in this case, though the conduct is mistaken, the feelings are not, it may not be very material. - Mr. Knightley could not impute to Emma a more relenting heart than she possessed, or a heart more disposed to accept of his.

He had, in fact, been wholly unsuspicious of his own influence. He had followed her into the shrubbery with no idea of trying it. He had come, in his anxiety to see how she bore Frank Churchill's engagement, with no selfish view, no view at all, but of endeavouring, if she allowed him an opening, to soothe or to counsel her. - The rest had been the work of the moment, the immediate effect of what he heard, on his feelings. The delightful assurance of her total indifference towards Frank Churchill, of her having a heart completely disengaged from him, had given birth to the hope, that, in time, he might gain her affection himself; - but it had been no present hope - he had only, in the momentary conquest of eagerness over judgment, aspired to be told that she did not forbid his attempt to attach her. - The superior hopes which gradually opened were so much the more enchanting. - The affection, which he had been asking to be allowed to create, if he could, was already his! - Within half an hour, he had passed from a thoroughly distressed state of mind, to something so like perfect happiness, that it could bear no other name.

Her change was equal. - This one half-hour had given to each the same precious certainty of being beloved, had cleared from each the same degree of ignorance, jealousy, or distrust. - On his side, there had been a long-standing jealousy, old as the arrival, or even the expectation, of Frank Churchill. - He had been in love with Emma, and jealous of Frank Churchill, from about the same period, one sentiment having probably enlightened him as to the other. It was his jealousy of Frank Churchill that had taken him from the country. - The Box Hill party had decided him on going away. He would save himself from witnessing again such permitted, encouraged attentions. - He had gone to learn to be indifferent. - But he had gone to a wrong place. There was too much domestic happiness in his brother's house; woman wore too amiable a form in it; Isabella was too much like Emma - differing only in those striking inferiorities, which always brought the other in brilliancy before him, for much to have been done, even had his time been longer. - He had stayed on, however, vigorously, day after day - till this very morning's post had conveyed the history of Jane Fairfax. - Then, with the gladness which must be felt, nay, which he did not scruple to feel, having never believed Frank Churchill to be at all deserving Emma, was there so much fond solicitude, so much keen anxiety for her, that he could stay no longer. He had ridden home through the rain; and had walked up directly after dinner, to see how this sweetest and best of all creatures, faultless in spite of all her faults, bore the discovery.

He had found her agitated and low. - Frank Churchill was a villain. - He heard her declare that she had never loved him. Frank Churchill's character was not desperate. - She was his own Emma, by hand and word, when they returned into the house; and if he could have thought of Frank Churchill then, he might have deemed him a very good sort of fellow.

 

第二天一上午,天气还像头一天一样,哈特菲尔德似乎依然笼罩在一片孤寂,一片忧伤之中——可是到了下午,天气转晴,风势变小,乌云散开,太阳出来了,夏天回来了。爱玛见天气一好转,心里也憋不住了,便决定尽快出去散散心。暴风雨过后,大自然显得又平静,又温和,又灿烂,那优美的景色,那清新的气息,那宜人的感觉,她从没觉得对她有这么大的吸引力。她很想领略一下这一切渐渐带来的安宁。刚吃完中饭不久,佩里先生来了,没事陪她父亲坐坐,她就趁机匆匆来到小树林。她精神好了些,心里也宽慰了一点,刚在小树林里兜了几圈,就看见奈特利先生穿过花园门朝她走来。她这才知道他从伦敦回来了。她刚才还在寻思,他肯定还在十六英里以外。她只来得及匆匆地理一下思绪。她必须镇定下来。转眼间,两人走到了一起。双方都说了声“你好”,口气又平静又拘谨。女的问起他们共同朋友的情况,男的回答说都挺好。他是什么时候离开他们的?就在那天早上。他准是冒雨骑马来的。是的。爱玛发现,他想陪她一起散步。“我朝餐厅里看了看,那儿用不着我,我还是喜欢到户外来。”爱玛看他那神情,听他那口吻,都觉得他不大快活。她出于担心,首先想到的一个原因,是他把自己的打算告诉了他弟弟,他弟弟的反应导致了他的不痛快。

他们一道走着。奈特利先生一声不响。爱玛觉得,他在时不时地瞅着她,想仔细地瞧瞧她的脸,搞得爱玛很不自在。爱玛的这一念头又引起了另一种忧虑。也许他想跟她讲讲他喜爱哈丽特。说不定他在等待,得到她的鼓励后再开口。她觉得这样的话题不该由她先开口,她也没法先开口,而应由他自己来开头。然而,她又禁不住这样的沉默。奈特利先生这样做,也太不寻常了。她寻思了一下——拿定了主意——然后强作笑颜地说道:

“现在你回来了,你会听到一条让你惊讶的消息。”

“是吗?”奈特利先生一边平静地说道,一边望着她。“什么样的消息?”

“哦!天下最好的消息——一桩婚事。”

奈特利先生等了等,仿佛是要拿准她不想再往下说似的,然后答道:

“如果你指的是费尔法克斯小姐和弗兰克·邱吉尔的话,那我已经听说了。”

“怎么可能呢?”爱玛嚷了起来,满脸通红地望着他。她说话的当儿意识到,他也许在回来的途中去过戈达德太太家了。

“今天早上我收到了韦斯顿先生一封谈教区公事的信,末尾简要地说了说这件事。”

爱玛松了一口气,心里稍微平静了一点,立即说道:

“你也许不像我们大家这么吃惊吧,因为你起过疑心。我还记得你有一次告诫过我。我要是听了你的话就好了——可是——”她的声音低了下去,深深地叹了口气,“我好像注定什么也看不清似的。”

两人沉默了一会,爱玛没想到她那话会引起什么特别的兴趣,直至发觉奈特利先生挽起了她的手臂,紧紧贴在他的心口上,只听他用深情的口吻轻声说道:

“时间,最亲爱的爱玛,只有时间会治好创伤。你很有理智——你为父亲尽心竭力——我知道你不会让自己——”他又紧紧挽住爱玛的胳臂,同时用更不连贯、压得更低的声音说道:“最热烈的友情——令人愤慨——可恶的无赖!”最后,他提高了嗓门,以比较镇定的口吻说道:“他快走了。他们就要去约克郡了。我为简感到惋惜。她的命运应该更好一些。”

爱玛明白他的意思。她受到这般爱怜体恤之情的感动,高兴得激动起来,一等平静下来,就答道:

“你真是一片好心——不过你搞错了——我要让你明白是怎么回事。我并不需要那样的怜悯。我看不清眼前发生的事,对他们采取了那样的态度,真要让我羞愧一辈子。我太愚蠢了,鬼使神差地说了那么多傻话,做了那么多傻事,难免要引起人家种种不愉快的猜测。不过,我没有别的事值得懊悔的,只怪我没有早点儿知道这个秘密。”

“爱玛!”奈特利先生大声嚷道,目光热切地望着她,“你真是这样吗?”——但他又抑制住了自己——“不,不,我了解你——请原谅我——你能说出这些话,我也很高兴了。你的确犯不着为他感到惋惜!我希望,过不了多久,你将不只是在理智土认识到这一点。幸亏你在感情上不是陷得很深!说实话,看你那样子,我真摸不透你的心思——我只知道你喜欢他——我认为他根本不值得你喜欢。他败坏了男人的名声。难道他配得上那样一位可爱的姑娘吗?简,简,你要成为一个可怜的人啦。”

“奈特利先生,”爱玛说,想尽量装得轻快些,可实际上却很慌乱,“我处在一个很不寻常的境地。我不能让你继续误会下去。不过,既然我的行为给人家造成了这样的印象,我也就不好意思表白自己根本就没爱过我们所说的那个人,正如任何女人都会自然而然地羞于承认自己爱上了谁一样。不过,我真的从没爱过他。”

奈特利先生一声不响地听着。爱玛希望他说话,可他就是不说。爱玛心想,她必须再费些口舌,才能赢得他的宽容。然而,她也不能让他瞧不起。不过,她还是往下说了:

“我对自己的行为没有什么好说的。我让他的献殷勤给迷惑住了,显出一副很得意的样子。这也许是老掉牙的事——平平常常的事——只不过是成百上千的女人都有过的事。然而,这种事出在一个自以为很有头脑的人身上,那就没有什么好原谅的。有好多情况促使我受到了诱惑。他是韦斯顿先生的儿子——经常在这儿——我总觉得他很讨人喜欢——总而言之,”说着叹了口气,“我把理由说得再怎么动听,最后还要集中到这一点——他迎合了我的虚荣心,我就听任他向我献殷勤。可是,到了后来——确实有一段时间——我觉得他那样做并没有什么意思。我认为他是出于习惯,是耍花招,我用不着去当真。他欺骗了我,但是没有伤害我。我从来没有爱过他。现在,我总算可以理解他的行为了。他从来没有想讨我喜欢。他不过是为了遮人耳目,想掩饰他跟另一个人的真实关系。他的意图是要遮掩周围所有人的耳目,我敢肯定,谁也不像我那样容易受蒙骗——不过,我还是没有受骗——那是我的运气——总之,不管怎么说,我没上他的当。”

说到这里,她指望对方能回答——听他说一声她的行为至少是可以理解的。可是他却沉默不语,而且据她断定,他在沉思。最后,他总算用平常的口吻说话了:

“我对弗兰克·邱吉尔的印象一向不是很好,我想我还可能低估了他。我跟他很少接触。即使我没有低估他,他以后兴许还是会变好的。跟这样一个女人在一起,他还是有希望的。我没有必要咒他倒霉——简的幸福与他的品行息息相关,看在她的分上,我当然希望他好。”

“我不怀疑他们会幸福地生活在一起,”爱玛说。“我相信他们是真心相爱的。”

“他这个人太有福气啦!”奈特利先生起劲地答道。“这么年轻——才二十三岁——一个人在这样的年龄选择妻子,一般都选不好。二十三岁就选中了这么一个好妻子啊!人们尽可以想象,这个人一辈子会过得多么幸福啊!他有这样一个女人爱他——纯真无私的爱,因为简·费尔法克斯有那样的性情,确保了她的纯真无私。一切都对他有利。境况相当——我是指出身和主要的习惯与举止。他们俩处处都旗鼓相当,除了一点以外——而那一点,由于她的心地无疑是纯洁的,必定会使他更加幸福,因为她唯一的不足之处将由他来弥补。男人总希望给妻子安排一个比她娘家更好的家。只要女方一片真心,但凡能做到这一点的男人,我想一定是天下最快活的人。弗兰克·邱吉尔的确是命运的宠儿,事事都很如意。他在海滨遇到一位姑娘,赢得了她的喜爱,甚至连怠慢都没使她厌倦——哪怕他和他家里人跑遍全世界要给他找一个十全十美的妻子,也找不到一个比她更强的。他的舅妈阻挠他,可是已经去世了。他只要开口说一声,他的朋友都愿促成他的幸福。他对不起每~个人——而大家都乐意原谅他。他真是个有福气的人!”

“听你说话,好像你羡慕他似的。”

“我还真羡慕他,爱玛。他有一点值得我羡慕。”

爱玛再也说不出话来。他们似乎再说半句就要扯到哈丽特了,她当即感到应该尽可能避开这个话题。她想了一个办法,要谈点别的事情——布伦斯威克广场的孩子们。她刚要等喘口气再开始说,不料奈特利先生讲出了下面的话,让她吃了一惊:

“你不想问我羡慕他什么。我知道,你是决计不想问的。你很明智——可是我却明智不了。爱玛,我非要把你不想问的事告诉你,虽说我可能马上就会后悔不该说。”

“哦!那就不要说,不要说啦,”爱玛急忙嚷道。“别着急,想一想,不要勉强自己。”

“谢谢,”奈特利先生以十分委屈的口气说道,随即便一声不吭了。

爱玛不忍心委屈他。他想跟她说说心里话——也许请她出出主意。不管要她付出什么代价,她还是想听听。她也许可以帮他拿定主意,或者帮他打消顾虑。她还可以把哈丽特恰如其分地赞赏一番,或者跟他说他可以独立自主,让他不要踌躇不决,他若是三心二意的话,那比什么都叫人难以容忍。这时,他们走到了房子跟前。

“我想你要进去了吧?”奈特利先生说。

“不,”爱玛答道——见他说话时情绪还那么低沉,她越发坚定了自己的想法。“我想再兜一圈。佩里先生还没走。”走了几步以后,她又说:“刚才我很不客气地打断了你,奈特利先生,恐怕惹你不高兴了。不过,如果你希望像朋友那样跟我开诚相见,或者就你正在考虑的问题征求我的意见——那你作为朋友,尽管吩咐好了。不管你想说什么,我都乐意听,还会把我的想法如实地告诉你。”

“作为朋友!”奈特利先生重复了一声。“爱玛,恐怕那个字眼——不,我不希望——慢着,是呀,我为什么要踌躇不决呢?我已经表现得很露骨了,掩盖不住了。爱玛,我接受你的说法——尽管你这说法看来很不寻常,我还是愿意接受,并把自己当成你的朋友。那就请告诉我,难道我没有成功的希望吗?”

他停住脚步,眼中显出急切询问的神色,那眼神让爱玛不知所措。

“我最亲爱的爱玛,”他说,“因为,不管这次谈话的结果如何,你永远都是我最亲爱的,我最亲最爱的爱玛——请马上告诉我。如果要说‘不’的话,你就说吧。”爱玛真的说不出话来。“你不吭声,”奈特利先生兴奋不已地嚷道。“一声不吭!那我也不再问了。”

一时间,爱玛激动得差一点倒下去。她此时此刻的心情,也许最怕自己从这最甜蜜的美梦中醒来。

“我不善于辞令,爱玛,”奈特利先生随即又说话了,口气中带着明显的、真挚的、毫不含糊的柔情,听起来不容怀疑。“如果我不是这么爱你,也许还能多说一些。可是你了解我是怎样一个人。我对你说的都是真话。我责备过你,教训过你,要是换一个别的女人,谁也不会像你那样忍受下来。最亲爱的爱玛,我现在要跟你讲的实话,你就像以前那样忍受下来吧。从我的态度看,你也许不大相信我说的是实话。天知道,我是个不露声色的情人。不过你了解我。是的,你知道,你了解我的情意——如果可能的话,还会报答我这情意。眼下,我只想再听听,再听一次你的声音。”

他说话的时候,爱玛的脑子在转个不停,但尽管她的思路转得奇快,她还是能够——而且一字不漏地——抓住并领悟那全部的真情,发觉哈丽特所抱的希望毫无根据,仅仅是个误会,是个错觉,跟她自己犯的错误一样,完全是个错觉——他心里根本没有哈丽特,而只有她爱玛。她所说的有关哈丽特的话,全都被理解成她自己心灵的语言。她的激动,她的疑虑,她的勉强,她的沮丧,全都被理解成发自她内心的沮丧。她不仅来得及认识到这一切,心里伴随着一股暖融融的甜蜜感,而且还能庆幸自己没把哈丽特的秘密泄露出去,她断定这秘密不必泄露,也不该泄露。现在,她对她那可怜的朋友,只能做到这个分上了,因为她没有那种侠义心肠,可以激励她央求奈特利先生不要爱她,而去爱哈丽特,哈丽特比她合适得多——她也没有那种比较纯朴的崇高精神,下定决心干脆拒绝他了事,也不说明任何理由,仅仅因为他不能娶她们两个,她爱玛就不能嫁给他。她同情哈丽特,感到又痛心又懊悔。但是,她没有慷慨到头脑发热的地步,完全置可能性和合理性于不顾。她把她的朋友引入了歧途,她将永远为此责备自己。但是,无论在感情上,还是在理智上,她都一如既往地坚决反对他娶哈丽特这样的人作妻子,认为他们一点都不般配,只能降低他的身份。她的道路是明确的,虽然并非平平坦坦。经不住对方一再恳求,她终于说话了。说了些什么呢?当然是该说的话。女人总是这样。她向他表明没有必要失望——还要他再说.说。刚才他还真是失望过,对方叫他小心不要开口,一时间使他万念俱灰。爱玛刚开始时还不肯听他说话。这次的变化也许有些突然。她提议再兜一圈,重新扯起了被她打断的话题,这也许真有点异乎寻常!她觉得这样做有些前后矛盾,可奈特利先生却挺能包涵的,没叫她再解释。

人们在透露秘密的时候,极少有和盘托出的,也很少有丝毫不掩饰、丝毫不被误解的。可是在这件事情上,虽然行动上产生了误会,但是感情上却没造成误解,那就没什么大不了的了。奈特利先生不敢指望爱玛会多么宽容,心甘情愿地接受他的情意。

实际上,他丝毫没有料到自己会有那么大的影响。他跟她走进小树林时,并没想到要试一试。他急急忙忙跑来,是想看看爱玛听到弗兰克·邱吉尔订婚的消息有什么反应,并没有什么自私的想法,甚至没有任何想法,只想如果她给他机会的话,就安慰安慰她,或者劝劝她。后来的事都是他听了她说的话,心里当即作出的反应。她说她对弗兰克·邱吉尔丝毫没有意思,说她根本没有把他放在心上,真让他感到高兴,给他带来了一个希望:到头来,也许是他自己赢得了她的爱。但这并不是眼前的希望——他只是一时冲动,头脑发热,想让她告诉他,她并不反对他试图讨她欢心。这渐渐展现的更高希望显得越发美妙。他一直在请求让他培育的那种感情(如果允许他培育的话),已经为他所拥有啦!不到半小时工夫,他的心境就从万念俱灰变成了近乎万分幸福,简直无法用别的字眼来形容。

爱玛也经历了同样的变化。在这半个小时中,两人都难能可贵地认识到他们彼此在相爱,双方打消了同等程度的误会、嫉妒和猜疑。奈特利先生已经嫉妒了很长时间,早在弗兰克·邱吉尔来到的时候,甚至在听说他要来的时候,就开始了。大约就从那个时候起,他爱上了爱玛,嫉妒起弗兰克·邱吉尔来,也许是一种感情导致了另一种感情。他是因为嫉妒弗兰克·邱吉尔才离开乡下的。博克斯山之行使他打定主意一走了之。一方听任、甚至鼓励另一方献殷勤,这种情景他再也看不下去了。他走是为了让感情淡漠下来,不想却投错了地方。他弟弟家充满了天伦之乐,女人在那里显得极其和蔼可亲。伊莎贝拉太像爱玛了——所不同的只是在某些地方显然不如爱玛,而这些地方总使爱玛在他眼里显得更加光彩夺目,因此他待得越久,心里只会越发痛苦。不过,他还是硬撑着一天又一天地待下去了,直至今天上午接到一封信,得知了简·费尔法克斯订婚的消息。当时,他理所当然地感到万分高兴,而且毫不顾忌地感到万分高兴,因为他一向认为弗兰克·邱吉尔根本配不上爱玛。他太关怀爱玛了,为她担心着急,再也待不住了。他骑着马冒雨赶回家,吃过中饭便匆匆走过来,看看这个最可爱、最出色、虽有缺点但又完美无缺的人,听到这一消息有何反应。

他发觉她又激动又沮丧。弗兰克·邱吉尔真是个无赖。他听她说她从未爱过他。弗兰克·邱吉尔还不是个无可救药的人。他们回到屋里的时候,她已经成了他的爱玛,答应嫁给他。如果这时他能想起弗兰克·邱吉尔,他也许会认为他是个蛮不错的人。



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