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Chapter 16

As no objection was made to the young people's engagement with their aunt, and all Mr. Collins's scruples of leaving Mr. and Mrs. Bennet for a single evening during his visit were most steadily resisted, the coach conveyed him and his five cousins at a suitable hour to Meryton; and the girls had the pleasure of hearing, as they entered the drawing-room, that Mr. Wickham had accepted their uncle's invitation, and was then in the house.
When this information was given, and they had all taken their seats, Mr. Collins was at leisure to look around him and admire, and he was so much struck with the size and furniture of the apartment, that he declared he might almost have supposed himself in the small summer breakfast parlour at Rosings; a comparison that did not at first convey much gratification; but when Mrs. Philips understood from him what Rosings was, and who was its proprietor, when she had listened to the description of only one of Lady Catherine's drawing-rooms, and found that the chimney-piece alone had cost eight hundred pounds, she felt all the force of the compliment, and would hardly have resented a comparison with the housekeeper's room.

In describing to her all the grandeur of Lady Catherine and her mansion, with occasional digressions in praise of his own humble abode and the improvements it was receiving, he was happily employed until the gentlemen joined them; and he found in Mrs. Philips a very attentive listener, whose opinion of his consequence increased with what she heard, and who was resolving to retail it all among her neighbours as soon as she could. To the girls, who could not listen to their cousin, and who had nothing to do but to wish for an instrument, and examine their own indifferent imitations of china on the mantlepiece, the interval of waiting appeared very long. It was over at last, however. The gentlemen did approach; and when Mr. Wickham walked into the room, Elizabeth felt that she had neither been seeing him before, nor thinking of him since, with the smallest degree of unreasonable admiration. The officers of the -----shire were in general a very creditable, gentlemanlike set, and the best of them were of the present party; but Mr. Wickham was as far beyond them all in person, countenance, air, and walk, as they were superior to the broad-faced stuffy uncle Philips, breathing port wine, who followed them into the room.

Mr. Wickham was the happy man towards whom almost every female eye was turned, and Elizabeth was the happy woman by whom he finally seated himself; and the agreeable manner in which he immediately fell into conversation, though it was only on its being a wet night, and on the probability of a rainy season, made her feel that the commonest, dullest, most threadbare topic might be rendered interesting by the skill of the speaker.

With such rivals for the notice of the fair, as Mr. Wickham and the officers, Mr. Collins seemed likely to sink into insignificance; to the young ladies he certainly was nothing; but he had still at intervals a kind listener in Mrs. Philips, and was, by her watchfulness, most abundantly supplied with coffee and muffin.

When the card tables were placed, he had an opportunity of obliging her in return, by sitting down to whist.

"I know little of the game, at present," said he, "but I shall be glad to improve myself, for in my situation of life --" Mrs. Philips was very thankful for his compliance, but could not wait for his reason.

Mr. Wickham did not play at whist, and with ready delight was he received at the other table between Elizabeth and Lydia. At first there seemed danger of Lydia's engrossing him entirely for she was a most determined talker; but being likewise extremely fond of lottery tickets, she soon grew too much interested in the game, too eager in making bets and exclaiming after prizes, to have attention for any one in particular. Allowing for the common demands of the game, Mr. Wickham was therefore at leisure to talk to Elizabeth, and she was very willing to hear him, though what she chiefly wished to hear she could not hope to be told, the history of his acquaintance with Mr. Darcy. She dared not even mention that gentleman. Her curiosity however was unexpectedly relieved. Mr. Wickham began the subject himself. He inquired how far Netherfield was from Meryton; and, after receiving her answer, asked in an hesitating manner how long Mr. Darcy had been staying there.

"About a month," said Elizabeth; and then, unwilling to let the subject drop, added, "He is a man of very large property in Derbyshire, I understand."

"Yes," replied Wickham; -- "his estate there is a noble one. A clear ten thousand per annum. You could not have met with a person more capable of giving you certain information on that head than myself -- for I have been connected with his family in a particular manner from my infancy."

Elizabeth could not but look surprised.

"You may well be surprised, Miss Bennet, at such an assertion, after seeing, as you probably might, the very cold manner of our meeting yesterday. -- Are you much acquainted with Mr. Darcy?"

"As much as I ever wish to be," cried Elizabeth warmly, -- "I have spent four days in the same house with him, and I think him very disagreeable."

"I have no right to give my opinion," said Wickham, "as to his being agreeable or otherwise. I am not qualified to form one. I have known him too long and to well to be a fair judge. It is impossible for me to be impartial. But I believe your opinion of him would in general astonish -- and perhaps you would not express it quite so strongly anywhere else. -- Here you are in your own family."

"Upon my word I say no more here than I might say in any house in the neighbourhood, except Netherfield. He is not at all liked in Hertfordshire. Every body is disgusted with his pride. You will not find him more favourably spoken of by any one."

"I cannot pretend to be sorry," said Wickham, after a short interruption, "that he or that any man should not be estimated beyond their deserts; but with him I believe it does not often happen. The world is blinded by his fortune and consequence, or frightened by his high and imposing manners, and sees him only as he chuses to be seen."

"I should take him, even on my slight acquaintance, to be an ill-tempered man." Wickham only shook his head.

"I wonder," said he, at the next opportunity of speaking, "whether he is likely to be in this country much longer."

"I do not at all know; but I heard nothing of his going away when I was at Netherfield. I hope your plans in favour of the ----shire will not be affected by his being in the neighbourhood."

"Oh! no -- it is not for me to be driven away by Mr. Darcy. If he wishes to avoid seeing me, he must go. We are not on friendly terms, and it always gives me pain to meet him, but I have no reason for avoiding him but what I might proclaim to all the world; a sense of very great ill-usage, and most painful regrets at his being what he is. His father, Miss Bennet, the late Mr. Darcy, was one of the best men that ever breathed, and the truest friend I ever had; and I can never be in company with this Mr. Darcy without being grieved to the soul by a thousand tender recollections. His behaviour to myself has been scandalous; but I verily believe I could forgive him any thing and every thing, rather than his disappointing the hopes and disgracing the memory of his father."

Elizabeth found the interest of the subject increase, and listened with all her heart; but the delicacy of it prevented farther inquiry.

Mr. Wickham began to speak on more general topics, Meryton, the neighbourhood, the society, appearing highly pleased with all that he had yet seen, and speaking of the latter especially, with gentle but very intelligible gallantry.

"It was the prospect of constant society, and good society," he added, "which was my chief inducement to enter the ----shire. I knew it to be a most respectable, agreeable corps, and my friend Denny tempted me farther by his account of their present quarters, and the very great attentions and excellent acquaintance Meryton had procured them. Society, I own, is necessary to me. I have been a disappointed man, and my spirits will not bear solitude. I must have employment and society. A military life is not what I was intended for, but circumstances have now made it eligible. The church ought to have been my profession -- I was brought up for the church, and I should at this time have been in possession of a most valuable living, had it pleased the gentleman we were speaking of just now."

"Indeed!"

"Yes -- the late Mr. Darcy bequeathed me the next presentation of the best living in his gift. He was my godfather, and excessively attached to me. I cannot do justice to his kindness. He meant to provide for me amply, and thought he had done it; but when the living fell, it was given elsewhere."

"Good heavens!" cried Elizabeth; "but how could that be? -- How could his will be disregarded? -- Why did not you seek legal redress?"

"There was just such an informality in the terms of the bequest as to give me no hope from law. A man of honour could not have doubted the intention, but Mr. Darcy chose to doubt it -- or to treat it as a merely conditional recommendation, and to assert that I had forfeited all claim to it by extravagance, imprudence, in short any thing or nothing. Certain it is, that the living became vacant two years ago, exactly as I was of an age to hold it, and that it was given to another man; and no less certain is it, that I cannot accuse myself of having really done any thing to deserve to lose it. I have a warm, unguarded temper, and I may perhaps have sometimes spoken my opinion of him, and to him, too freely. I can recall nothing worse. But the fact is, that we are very different sort of men, and that he hates me."

"This is quite shocking! -- He deserves to be publicly disgraced."

"Some time or other he will be -- but it shall not be by me. Till I can forget his father, I can never defy or expose him."

Elizabeth honoured him for such feelings, and thought him handsomer than ever as he expressed them.

"But what," said she after a pause, "can have been his motive? -- what can have induced him to behave so cruelly?"

"A thorough, determined dislike of me -- a dislike which I cannot but attribute in some measure to jealousy. Had the late Mr. Darcy liked me less, his son might have borne with me better; but his father's uncommon attachment to me, irritated him I believe very early in life. He had not a temper to bear the sort of competition in which we stood -- the sort of preference which was often given me."

"I had not thought Mr. Darcy so bad as this -- though I have never liked him, I had not thought so very ill of him -- I had supposed him to be despising his fellow-creatures in general, but did not suspect him of descending to such malicious revenge, such injustice, such inhumanity as this!"

After a few minutes reflection, however, she continued, "I do remember his boasting one day, at Netherfield, of the implacability of his resentments, of his having an unforgiving temper. His disposition must be dreadful."

"I will not trust myself on the subject," replied Wickham, "I can hardly be just to him."

Elizabeth was again deep in thought, and after a time exclaimed, "To treat in such a manner, the godson, the friend, the favourite of his father!" -- She could have added, "A young man too, like you, whose very countenance may vouch for your being amiable" -- but she contented herself with "And one, too, who had probably been his own companion from childhood, connected together, as I think you said, in the closest manner!"

"We were born in the same parish, within the same park, the greatest part of our youth was passed together; inmates of the same house, sharing the same amusements, objects of the same parental care. My father began life in the profession which your uncle, Mr. Philips, appears to do so much credit to -- but he gave up every thing to be of use to the late Mr. Darcy, and devoted all his time to the care of the Pemberley property. He was most highly esteemed by Mr. Darcy, a most intimate, confidential friend. Mr. Darcy often acknowledged. himself to be under the greatest obligations to my father's active superintendance, and when immediately before my father's death, Mr. Darcy gave him a voluntary promise of providing for me, I am convinced that he felt it to be as much a debt of gratitude to him, as of affection to myself."

"How strange!" cried Elizabeth. "How abominable! -- I wonder that the very pride of this Mr. Darcy has not made him just to you! -- If from no better motive, that he should not have been too proud to be dishonest, -- for dishonesty I must call it."

"It is wonderful," -- replied Wickham, -- "for almost all his actions may be traced to pride; -- and pride has often been his best friend. It has connected him nearer with virtue than any other feeling. But we are none of us consistent; and in his behaviour to me, there were stronger impulses even than pride."

"Can such abominable pride as his, have ever done him good?"

"Yes. It has often led him to be liberal and generous, -- to give his money freely, to display hospitality, to assist his tenants, and relieve the poor. Family pride, and filial pride, for he is very proud of what his father was, have done this. Not to appear to disgrace his family, to degenerate from the popular qualities, or lose the influence of the Pemberley House, is a powerful motive. He has also brotherly pride, which with some brotherly affection, makes him a very kind and careful guardian of his sister; and you will hear him generally cried up as the most attentive and best of brothers."

"What sort of a girl is Miss Darcy,?"

He shook his head. -- "I wish I could call her amiable. It gives me pain to speak ill of a Darcy. But she is too much like her brother, -- very, very proud. -- As a child, she was affectionate and pleasing, and extremely fond of me; and I have devoted hours and hours to her amusement. But she is nothing to me now. She is a handsome girl, about fifteen or sixteen, and, I understand, highly accomplished. Since her father's death, her home has been London, where a lady lives with her, and superintends her education."

After many pauses and many trials of other subjects, Elizabeth could not help reverting once more to the first, and saying,

"I am astonished at his intimacy with Mr. Bingley! How can Mr. Bingley, who seems good humour itself, and is, I really believe, truly amiable, be in friendship with such a man? How can they suit each other? -- Do you know Mr. Bingley?"

"Not at all."

"He is a sweet tempered, amiable, charming man. He cannot know what Mr. Darcy is."

"Probably not; -- but Mr. Darcy can please where he chuses. He does not want abilities. He can be a conversible companion if he thinks it worth his while. Among those who are at all his equals in consequence, he is a very different man from what he is to the less prosperous. His pride never deserts him; but with the rich, he is liberal-minded, just, sincere, rational, honourable, and perhaps agreeable, -- allowing something for fortune and figure."

The whist party soon afterwards breaking up, the players gathered round the other table, and Mr. Collins took his station between his cousin Elizabeth and Mrs. Philips. -- The usual inquiries as to his success were made by the latter. It had not been very great; he had lost every point; but when Mrs. Philips began to express her concern thereupon, he assured her with much earnest gravity that it was not of the least importance, that he considered the money as a mere trifle, and begged she would not make herself uneasy.

"I know very well, madam," said he, "that when persons sit down to a card table, they must take their chance of these things, -- and happily I am not in such circumstances as to make five shillings any object. There are undoubtedly many who could not say the same, but thanks to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, I am removed far beyond the necessity of regarding little matters."

Mr. Wickham's attention was caught; and after observing Mr. Collins for a few moments, he asked Elizabeth in a low voice whether her relation were very intimately acquainted with the family of de Bourgh.

"Lady Catherine de Bourgh," she replied, "has very lately given him a living. I hardly know how Mr. Collins was first introduced to her notice, but he certainly has not known her long."

"You know of course that Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lady Anne Darcy were sisters; consequently that she is aunt to the present Mr. Darcy."

"No, indeed, I did not. -- I knew nothing at all of Lady Catherine's connections. I never heard of her existence till the day before yesterday."

"Her daughter, Miss de Bourgh, will have a very large fortune, and it is believed that she and her cousin will unite the two estates."

This information made Elizabeth smile, as she thought of poor Miss Bingley. Vain indeed must be all her attentions, vain and useless her affection for his sister and her praise of himself, if he were already self-destined to another.

"Mr. Collins," said she, "speaks highly both of Lady Catherine and her daughter; but from some particulars that he has related of her ladyship, I suspect his gratitude misleads him, and that in spite of her being his patroness, she is an arrogant, conceited woman."

"I believe her to be both in a great degree," replied Wickham; "I have not seen her for many years, but I very well remember that I never liked her, and that her manners were dictatorial and insolent. She has the reputation of being remarkably sensible and clever; but I rather believe she derives part of her abilities from her rank and fortune, part from her authoritative manner, and the rest from the pride of her nephew, who chuses that every one connected with him should have an understanding of the first class."

Elizabeth allowed that he had given a very rational account of it, and they continued talking together with mutual satisfaction till supper put an end to cards; and gave the rest of the ladies their share of Mr. Wickham's attentions. There could be no conversation in the noise of Mrs. Philips's supper party, but his manners recommended him to every body. Whatever he said, was said well; and whatever he did, done gracefully. Elizabeth went away with her head full of him. She could think of nothing but of Mr. Wickham, and of what he had told her, all the way home; but there was not time for her even to mention his name as they went, for neither Lydia nor Mr. Collins were once silent. Lydia talked incessantly of lottery tickets, of the fish she had lost and the fish she had won, and Mr. Collins, in describing the civility of Mr. and Mrs. Philips, protesting that he did not in the least regard his losses at whist, enumerating all the dishes at supper, and repeatedly fearing that he crouded his cousins, had more to say than he could well manage before the carriage stopped at Longbourn House.
 

年轻的小姐们跟她们姨妈的约会,并没有遭受到反对。柯林斯只觉得来此作客,反而把班纳特夫妇整晚丢在家里,未免有些过意不去,可是他们叫他千万不要放在心上。于是他和他的五个表妹便乘着马车,准时到了麦里屯。小姐们一走进客厅,就听说韦翰先生接受了她们姨爹的邀请,而且已经驾到,觉得很是高兴。

大家听到这个消息之后,便都坐了下来。柯林斯先生悠闲自在地朝四下望望,瞻仰瞻仰一切;屋子的尺寸和里面的家具使他十分惊羡,他说他好象进了咖苔琳夫人在罗新斯的那间消夏的小饭厅。这个比喻开头并不怎么叫主人家满意,可是接下来腓力普太太弄明白了罗新斯是一个什么地方,它的主人是谁,又听他说起咖苔琳夫人的一个会客间的情形,光是一只壁炉架就要值八百英镑,她这才体会到他那个譬喻实在太恭维她了,即使把她家里比作罗新斯管家奶奶的房间,她也不反对了。

柯林斯在讲述咖苔琳夫人和她公馆的富丽堂皇时,偶然还要穿插上几句话,来夸耀他自己的寒舍,说他的住宅正在装璜改善中等,他就这样自得其乐地一直扯到男客们进来为止。他发觉腓力普太太很留心听他的话,她愈听就愈把他看得了不起,而且决定一有空就把他的话传播出去。至于小姐们,实在觉得等得太久了,因为她们不高兴听她们表兄的闲扯,又没事可做,想弹弹琴又不成,只有照着壁炉架上那些瓷器的样子,漫不经心地画些小玩艺儿消遗消遗。等待的时间终于过去了,男客们来了。韦翰先生一走进来,伊丽莎白就觉得,无论是上次看见他的时候也好,从上次见面以来想起他的时候也好,她都没有错爱了他。某某郡的军官们都是一批名誉很好的绅士气派的人物,参加这次宴会的尤其是他们之中的精华。韦翰先生无论在人品上,相貌上,风度上,地位上,都远远超过他们,正如他们远远超过那位姨爹一样──瞧那位肥头大耳,大腹便便的姨爹,他正带着满口葡萄酒味,跟着他们走进屋来。

韦翰先生是当天最得意的男子,差不多每个女人的眼睛都朝着他看;伊丽莎白是当天最得意的女子,韦翰终于在她的身旁坐了下来。他马上就跟她攀谈,虽然谈的只是些当天晚上下雨和雨季可能就要到来之类的话,可是他那么和颜悦色,使她不禁感觉到即使最平凡、最无聊、最陈旧的话,只要说话的人有技巧,还是一样可以说得动听。

说起要博得女性的青眼,柯林斯先生遇到象韦翰先生和军官们这样的劲敌,真变得无足轻重了。他在小姐们眼睛里实在算不上什么,幸亏好心的腓力普太太有时候还听听他谈主,她又十分细心,尽量把咖啡和松饼敬给他吃。

一张张牌桌摆好以后,柯林斯便坐下来一同玩“惠斯脱”,总算有了一个机会报答她的好意。

他说:“我对这玩艺儿简直一窍不通,不过我很愿意把它学会,以我这样的身份来说──”腓力普太太很感激他的好意可是却不愿意听他谈论什么身份地位。

韦翰先生没有玩“惠斯脱”,因为他被小姐们高高兴兴地请到另一张桌子上去玩牌,坐在伊丽莎白和丽迪雅之间。开头的形势很叫人担忧,因为丽迪雅是个十足的健谈家,大有把他独占下来的可能;好在她对于摸奖也同样爱好,立刻对那玩艺儿大感兴趣,一股劲儿下注,得奖之后又大叫大嚷,因此就无从特别注意到某一个人身上去了。韦翰先生一面跟大家应付这玩艺儿,一面从容不迫地跟伊丽莎白谈话。伊丽莎白很愿意听他说话,很想了解一下他和达西先生过去的关系,可是她要听的他未必肯讲。于是她提也不敢提到那位先生。后来出人意料之外,韦翰先生竟自动地谈到那个问题上去了。因此她的好奇心到底还是得到了满足。韦翰先生问起尼日斐花园离开麦里屯有多远。她回答了他以后,他又吞吞吐吐地问起达西先生已经在那儿待了多久。

伊丽莎白说:“大概有一个月了。”为了不愿意让这个话题放松过去,她又接着说:“据我所知,他是德比郡一个大财主。”

“是的,”韦翰回答道。“他的财产很可观──每年有一万镑的净收入。说起这方面,谁也没有我知道得确实,因为我从小就和他家里有特别的关系。”

伊丽莎白不禁显出诧异的神气。

“班纳特小姐,你昨天也许看到我们见面时那种冷冰冰的样子了吧,难怪你听了我的话会觉得诧异。你同达西先生很熟吗?”

“我也只希望跟他这么熟就够了,”伊丽莎白冒火地叫道。“我和他在一起待了四天,觉得他很讨厌。”

韦翰说:“他究竟讨人喜欢还是讨人厌,我可没有权利说出我的意见。我不便发表意见。我认识他太久,跟他也处得太熟,因此很难做个公正的判断人。我不可能做到大公无私。不过我敢说,你对他的看法大致可以说是骇人听闻的,或许你在别的地方就不会说得这样过火吧。这儿都是你自己人呢。”

“老实说,除了在尼日斐花以外,我到附近任何人家去都会这样说。哈福德郡根本就没有人喜欢他。他那副傲慢的气派,哪一个见了都讨厌。你绝不会听到人家说他一句好话。”

歇了一会儿,韦翰说:“说句问心无愧的话,不管是他也好,是别人也好,都不应该受到人家过分的抬举。不过他这个人,我相信不大会有人过分抬举他的。他的有钱有势蒙蔽了天下人的耳目,他那目空一切、盛气凌人的气派又吓坏了天下人,弄得大家只有顺着他的心意去看待他。”

“我虽然跟他并不太熟,可是我认为他是个脾气很坏的人。”韦翰听了这话,只是摇头。

等到有了说话的机会,他又接下去说:“我不知道他是否打算在这个村庄里多住些时候。”

“我完全不知道;不过,我在尼日斐花园的时候,可没有听说他要走。你既然喜欢某某郡,打算在那里工作,我但愿你不要因为他在附近而影响了你原来的计划。”

“噢,不;我才不会让达西先生赶走呢。要是他不愿意看到我,那就得他走。我们两个人的交情搞坏了,我见到他就不好受,可是我没有理由要避开他,我只是要让大家知道他是怎样亏待了我,他的为人处世怎样使我痛心。班纳特小姐,他那去世的父亲,那位老达西先生,却是天下最好心的人,也是我生平最最真心的朋友;每当我同现在这位达西先生在一起的时候就免不了逗起千丝万缕温存的回忆,从心底里感到苦痛。他对待我的行为真是恶劣万分;可是我千真万确地相信,我一切都能原谅他,只是不能容忍他辜负他先人的厚望,辱没他先人的名声。”

伊丽莎白对这件事越来越感到兴趣,因此听得很专心。但是这件事很蹊跷,她不便进一步追问。

韦翰先生又随便谈了些一般的事情。他谈到麦里屯,谈到四邻八舍和社交之类的事,凡是他所看到的事情,他谈起来都非常欣喜,特别是谈到社交问题的时候,他的谈吐举止更显得温雅殷勤。

他又说:“我所以喜爱某某郡,主要是为了这儿的社交界都是些上等人,又讲交情,我又知道这支部队名声很好,受到大家爱护,加上我的朋友丹尼为了劝我上这儿来,又讲起他们目前的营房是多么好,麦里屯的众对待他们又多么殷勤,他们在麦里屯又结交了多少好朋友。我承认我是少不了社交生活的。我是个失意的人。精神上受不了孤寂。我一定要有职业和社交生活。我本来不打算过行伍生活,可是由于环境所迫,现在也只好去参加军队了。我本应该做牧师的,家里的意思本来也是要培养我做牧师;要是我博得了我们刚刚谈到的这位先生的喜欢,说不定我现在也有一份很可观的牧师俸禄呢。”

“是吗?”

“怎么会不是!老达西先生遗嘱上说明,牧师职位一有了最好的空缺就给我。他是我的教父,非常疼爱我。他待我的好意,我真无法形容。他要使我衣食丰裕,而且他自以为已经做到了这一点,可是等到牧师职位有了空缺的时候,却落到别人名下去了。”

“天哪!”伊丽莎白叫道;“怎么会有那种事情,怎么能够不依照他的遗嘱办事?你干吗不依法申诉?”

“遗嘱上讲到遗产的地方,措辞很含混,因此我未必可以依法申诉。照说,一个要面子的人是不会怀疑先人的意图的;可是达西先生偏偏要怀疑,或者说,他认为遗嘱上也只是说明有条件地提拔我,他硬要说我浪费和荒唐,因此要取消我一切的权利。总而言之,不说则已,说起来样样坏话都说到了。那个牧师位置居然在两年前空出来了,那正是我够年龄掌握那份俸禄的那年,可是却给了另一个人。我实在无从责备我自己犯了什么过错而活该失掉那份俸禄,除非说我性子急躁,心直口快,有时候难免在别人面前说他几句直话,甚至还当面顶撞他。也不过如此而已。只不过我们完全是两样的人,他因此怀恨我。”

“这真是骇人听闻!应该公开地叫他丢丢脸。”

“迟早总会有人来叫他丢脸,可是我决不会去难为他的。除非我对他的先人忘恩负义,我决不会揭发我,跟他作对。”

伊丽莎白十分钦佩他这种见地,而且觉得他把这种同见地讲出来以后,他越发显得英俊了。

歇了一会儿,她又说道:“可是他究竟是何居心?他为什么要这样作践人呢?”

“无非是决心要跟我结成不解的怨恨,人认为他这种结怨是出于某种程度上的嫉妒。要是老达西先生对待我差一些,他的儿子自然就会跟我处得好一些。我相信就是因为他的父亲太疼爱我了,这才使他从小就感到所气恼。他肚量狭窄,不能容忍我跟他竞争,不能容忍我比他强。

“我想不到达西先生竟会这么坏。虽说我从来没有对他有过好感,可也不十分有恶感。我只以为他看不起人,却不曾想到他卑鄙到这样的地步──竟怀着这样恶毒的报复心,这样的不讲理,没有人道!”

她思索了一会儿,便接下去说:“我的确记得,有一次他还在尼日斐花园里自鸣得意地说起,他跟人家结下了怨恨就无法消解,他生性就受记仇。他的性格上一定叫人家很厌恶。”

韦翰回答道:“在这件事情上,我的意见不一定靠得住,因为我对他难免有成见。”

伊丽莎白又深思了一会儿,然后大声说道:“你是他父亲的教子,朋友,是他父亲所器重的人,他怎么竟这样作践你!”她几乎把这样的话也说出口来:“他怎么竟如此对待象你这样一个青年,光是凭你一副脸蛋儿就准会叫人喜爱。”不过,她到底还是改说了这样几句话:“何况你从小就和他在一起,而且象你所说的,关系非常密切。”

“我们是在同一个教区,同一个花园里长大的。我们的少年时代部分是在一起过的──同住一幢房子,同在一起玩耍,受到同一个父亲的疼爱。我父亲所干的行业就是您姨爹腓力普先生得心应手的那门行业,可是先父管家有方,使他受惠非浅,因此在先父临终的时候,他便自动提出负担我一切的生活费用。我相信他所以这样做,一方面是对先父感恩,另一方面是为了疼爱我。”

伊丽莎白叫道:“多奇怪!多可恶!我真不明白,这位达西先生既然这样有自尊心,怎么又这样亏待你!要是没有别的更好的理由,那么,他既是这么骄傲,就应该不屑于这样阴险───我一定要说是阴险。”

“的确稀奇,”韦翰回答道:“归根结底来说,差不多他的一切行动都是出于傲慢,傲慢成了他最要好的朋友。照说他既然傲慢,就应该最讲求道德。可是人总免不了有自相矛盾的地方,他对待我就是意气用事多于傲慢。”

“象他这种可恶的傲慢,对他自己有什么好处?”

“有好处;常常使他做起人来慷慨豪爽──花钱不吝啬,待人殷勤,资助佃户,救济贫苦人。他所以会这样,都是因为门第祖先使他感到骄傲,他对于他父亲的为人也很引为骄傲。他主要就是为了不要有辱家声,有违众望,不要失掉彭伯里族的声势。他还具有做哥哥身份的骄傲,这种骄傲,再加上一些手足的情份,使他成了他妹妹的亲切而细心的保护人;你自会听到大家都一致赞他是位体贴入微的最好哥哥。”

“达西小姐是个怎么样的姑娘?”

韦翰摇摇头。“我但愿能够说她一声可爱。凡是达西家里的人,我都不忍心说他们一句坏话。可是她的确太象她的哥哥了──非常非常傲慢。她小时候很亲切,很讨人喜爱,而且特别喜欢我。我常常陪她接连玩上几个钟头。可是现在我可不把她放在心上了。她是个漂亮姑娘,大约十五六岁,而且据我知道,她也极有才干。她父亲去世以后,她就住在伦敦,有位太太陪她住在一起,教她读书。”

他们又东拉西扯地谈了好些别的话,谈谈歇歇,后来伊丽莎白不禁又扯到原来的话题上来。她说:

“我真奇怪,他竟会和彬格莱先生这样知已。彬格莱先生的性情那么好,而且他的为人也极其和蔼可亲,怎么会跟这样一个人交起朋友来?他们怎么能够相处呢?你认识彬格莱先生吗?”

“我不认识。”

“他的确是个和蔼可亲的好性子的人。他根本不会明白达西先生是怎样一个人。”

“也许不明白;不过达西先生讨人欢喜的时候,他自有办法。他的手腕很高明。只要他认为值得跟人家攀谈,他也会谈笑风生。他在那些地位跟他相等的人面前,在那些处境不及他的人面前,完全是两个人。他处处傲慢,可是跟有钱的阔人在一起的时候,他就显得胸襟磊落、公正诚实、讲道理、要面子、也许还会和和气气,这都是看在人家的身价地位的份上。”

“惠斯脱”牌散场了,玩牌的人都围到另一张桌子上来,柯林斯先生站在他的表妹伊丽莎白和腓力普太太之间。腓力普太太照例问他赢了没有。他没有赢,他完全输了。腓力普太太表示为他惋惜,于是他慎重其事地告诉她说,区区小事何必摆在心上,因为他根本不看重钱,请她不要觉得心里不安。

他说:“我很明白,太太,人只要坐上了牌桌,一切就得看自己的运气了,幸亏我并不把五个先令当作一回事。当然好些人就不会象我这样说法,也是多亏咖苔琳·德·包尔夫人,有了她,我就不必为这点小数目心痛了。”

这话引起了韦翰先生的注意。韦翰看了柯林斯先生几眼,便低声问伊丽莎白,她这位亲戚是不是同德·包尔家很相熟。

伊丽莎白回答道:“咖苔琳·德·包尔夫人最近给了他一个牧师职位。我简直不明白柯林斯先生是怎么受到她常识的,不过他一定没有认识她多久。”

“想你一定知道咖苔琳·德·包尔夫人和安妮·达西夫人是姐妹吧。咖苔琳夫人正是现在这位达西先生的姨母呢。”

“不知道,我的确不知道。关于咖苔琳夫人的亲戚,我半点儿都不知道。我还是前天才晓得有她这个人的。”

“她的女儿德·包尔小姐将来会承受到一笔很大的财产,大家都相信她和她的姨表兄将来会把两份家产合并起来。”

这话不禁叫伊丽莎白笑了起来,因为这使她想起了可怜的彬格莱小姐。要是达西果真已经另有心上人,那么,彬格莱小姐的百般殷勤都是枉然,她对达西妹妹的关怀以及对达西本人的赞美,也完全白费了。

“柯林斯先生对咖苔琳夫人母女俩真是赞不绝口,可是听他讲起那位夫人来,有些地方真叫我不得不怀疑他说得有些过分,对她感激得迷住了心窍。尽管她是他的恩人,她仍然是个既狂妄又自大的女人。”

“我相信她这两种毛病都很严重,”韦翰回答道。“我有多少年没见过她了,可是我刻我自己一向讨厌她,因为她为人处世既专横又无礼。大家都说她非常通情达理;不过我总以为人家所以夸她能干,一方面是因为她有钱有势,一方面因为她盛气凌人,加上她又有那么了不起的一个姨侄,只有那些具有上流社会教养的人,才巴结上他。”

伊丽莎白承认他这番话说得很有理。他们俩继续谈下去,彼此十分投机,一直谈到打牌散场吃晚饭的时候,别的小姐们才有机会分享一点韦翰先生的殷勤。腓力普太太宴请的这些客人们正在大声喧哗,简直叫人无法谈话,好在光凭他的举止作风,也就足以博得每个人的欢心了。他一言一语十分风趣,一举一动非常温雅。伊丽莎白临走时,脑子里只想到他一个人。她在回家的路上一心只想到韦翰先生,想到他跟她说过的那些话,可是一路上丽迪雅和柯林斯先生全没有住过嘴,因此她连提到他名字的机会也没有。丽迪雅不停地谈到抓彩票,谈到她哪一次输了又哪一次赢了;柯林斯先生尽说些腓力普先生和腓力普太太的殷勤款待,又说打“惠斯脱”输了几个钱他毫不在乎,又把晚餐的菜肴一盘盘背出来,几次三番地说是怕自己挤了表妹们。他要说的话太多,当马车停在浪博恩的屋门口时,他的话还没有说完。



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