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Chapter 17

ELIZABETH related to Jane the next day, what had passed between Mr. Wickham and herself. Jane listened with astonishment and concern; -- she knew not how to believe that Mr. Darcy could be so unworthy of Mr. Bingley's regard; and yet, it was not in her nature to question the veracity of a young man of such amiable appearance as Wickham. -- The possibility of his having really endured such unkindness, was enough to interest all her tender feelings; and nothing therefore remained to be done, but to think well of them both, to defend the conduct of each, and throw into the account of accident or mistake, whatever could not be otherwise explained.
"They have both," said she, "been deceived, I dare say, in some way or other, of which we can form no idea. Interested people have perhaps misrepresented each to the other. It is, in short, impossible for us to conjecture the causes or circumstances which may have alienated them, without actual blame on either side."

"Very true, indeed; -- and now, my dear Jane, what have you got to say in behalf of the interested people who have probably been concerned in the business? -- Do clear them too, or we shall be obliged to think ill of somebody."

"Laugh as much as you chuse, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion. My dearest Lizzy, do but consider in what a disgraceful light it places Mr. Darcy, to be treating his father's favourite in such a manner, -- one, whom his father had promised to provide for. -- It is impossible. No man of common humanity, no man who had any value for his character, could be capable of it. Can his most intimate friends be so excessively deceived in him? oh! no."

"I can much more easily believe Mr. Bingley's being imposed on, than that Mr. Wickham should invent such a history of himself as he gave me last night; names, facts, every thing mentioned without ceremony. -- If it be not so, let Mr. Darcy contradict it. Besides, there was truth in his looks."

"It is difficult indeed -- it is distressing. -- One does not know what to think."

"I beg your pardon; -- one knows exactly what to think."

But Jane could think with certainty on only one point, -- that Mr. Bingley, if he had been imposed on, would have much to suffer when the affair became public.

The two young ladies were summoned from the shrubbery where this conversation passed, by the arrival of some of the very persons of whom they had been speaking; Mr. Bingley and his sisters came to give their personal invitation for the long expected ball at Netherfield, which was fixed for the following Tuesday. The two ladies were delighted to see their dear friend again, called it an age since they had met, and repeatedly asked what she had been doing with herself since their separation. To the rest of the family they paid little attention; avoiding Mrs. Bennet as much as possible, saying not much to Elizabeth, and nothing at all to the others. They were soon gone again, rising from their seats with an activity which took their brother by surprise, and hurrying off as if eager to escape from Mrs. Bennet's civilities.

The prospect of the Netherfield ball was extremely agreeable to every female of the family. Mrs. Bennet chose to consider it as given in compliment to her eldest daughter, and was particularly flattered by receiving the invitation from Mr. Bingley himself, instead of a ceremonious card; Jane pictured to herself a happy evening in the society of her two friends, and the attention of their brother; and Elizabeth thought with pleasure of dancing a great deal with Mr. Wickham, and of seeing a confirmation of every thing in Mr. Darcy's looks and behaviour. The happiness anticipated by Catherine and Lydia, depended less on any single event, or any particular person, for though they each, like Elizabeth, meant to dance half the evening with Mr. Wickham, he was by no means the only partner who could satisfy them, and a ball was at any rate, a ball. And even Mary could assure her family that she had no disinclination for it.

"While I can have my mornings to myself," said she, "it is enough. -- I think it no sacrifice to join occasionally in evening engagements. Society has claims on us all; and I profess myself one of those who consider intervals of recreation and amusement as desirable for every body."

Elizabeth's spirits were so high on the occasion that, though she did not often speak unnecessarily to Mr. Collins, she could not help asking him whether he intended to accept Mr. Bingley's invitation, and, if he did, whether he would think it proper to join in the evening's amusement; and she was rather surprised to find that he entertained no scruple whatever on that head, and was very far from dreading a rebuke either from the Archbishop, or Lady Catherine de Bourgh, by venturing to dance.

"I am by no means of opinion, I assure you," said he, "that a ball of this kind, given by a young man of character to respectable people, can have any evil tendency; and I am so far from objecting to dancing myself, that I shall hope to be honoured with the hands of all my fair cousins in the course of the evening, and I take this opportunity of soliciting yours, Miss Elizabeth, for the two first dances especially, -- a preference which I trust my cousin Jane will attribute to the right cause, and not to any disrespect for her."

Elizabeth felt herself completely taken in. She had fully proposed being engaged by Wickham for those very dances: -- and to have Mr. Collins instead! her liveliness had been never worse timed. There was no help for it however. Mr. Wickham's happiness and her own was perforce delayed a little longer, and Mr. Collins's proposal accepted with as good a grace as she could. She was not the better pleased with his gallantry from the idea it suggested of something more. -- It now first struck her that she was selected from among her sisters as worthy of being the mistress of Hunsford Parsonage, and of assisting to form a quadrille table at Rosings, in the absence of more eligible visitors. The idea soon reached to conviction, as she observed his increasing civilities toward herself, and heard his frequent attempt at a compliment on her wit and vivacity; and though more astonished than gratified herself by this effect of her charms, it was not long before her mother gave her to understand that the probability of their marriage was exceedingly agreeable to her. Elizabeth, however, did not chuse to take the hint, being well aware that a serious dispute must be the consequence of any reply. Mr. Collins might never make the offer, and till he did, it was useless to quarrel about him.

If there had not been a Netherfield ball to prepare for and talk of, the younger Miss Bennets would have been in a pitiable state at this time, for from the day of the invitation to the day of the ball, there was such a succession of rain as prevented their walking to Meryton once. No aunt, no officers, no news could be sought after; -- the very shoe-roses for Netherfield were got by proxy. Even Elizabeth might have found some trial of her patience in weather which totally suspended the improvement of her acquaintance with Mr. Wickham; and nothing less than a dance on Tuesday, could have made such a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday endurable to Kitty and Lydia.
 

第二天,伊丽莎白把韦翰先生跟她自己说的那些话全告诉了吉英。吉英听得又是惊奇又是关心。她简直不能相信,达西先生会这样地不值得彬格莱先生器重,可是,象韦翰这样一个青年美男子,她实在无从怀疑他说话不诚实。一想到韦翰可能真的受到这些亏待,她就不禁起了怜惜之心;因此她只得认为他们两位先生都是好人,替他们双方辨白,把一切无法解释的事都解释做意外和误会。

吉英说:“我认为他们双方都受了人家的蒙蔽,至于是怎样受到蒙蔽的,我们当然无从猜测,也许是哪一个有关的人从中挑拨是非。简单地说,除非是我们有确确实实的根据可以责怪任何一方面,我们就无从凭空猜想出他们是为了什么事才不和睦的。”

“你这话说得不错。那么,亲爱的吉英,你将替这种有关的人说些什么话呢?你也得替这种人辨白一下呀,否则我们又不得不怪到某一个人身上去了。”

“你受怎么取笑就怎么取笑吧,反正你总不能把我的意见笑掉。亲爱的丽萃,你且想一想,达西先生的父亲生前那样地疼爱这个人,而且答应要瞻养他,如今达西先生本人却这般亏待他,那他简直太不象话了。这是不可能的。一个人只要还有点起码的人道之心,只要多少还尊重自己的人格,就不会做出这种事来。难道他自己的最知已的朋友,竟会被他蒙蔽到这种地步吗?噢!不会的。”

“我还是认为彬格莱先生受了他的蒙蔽,并不认为韦翰先生昨儿晚上跟我说和话是捏造的。他把一个个的人名,一桩桩的事实,都说得很有根有据,毫无虚伪做作。倘若事实并非如此,那么让达西先生自己来辨白吧。你只要看看韦翰那副神气,就知道他没有说假话。”

“这的确叫人很难说───也叫人难受。叫人不知道怎么想法才好。”

“说句你不见怪的话,人家完全知道该怎么样想法。”

吉英只有一桩事情是猜得准的,那就是说,要是彬格莱先生果真受了蒙蔽,那么,一旦真想大白,他一定会万分痛心。

两位年轻的小姐正在矮树林里谈得起劲,忽然家里派人来叫她们回去,因为有客人上门来──事情真凑巧,来的正是她们所谈到的那几位。原来尼日斐花园下星期二要举行一次盼望了好久的舞会,彬格莱先生跟他的姐妹们特地亲自前来邀请她们参加。两位娘儿们和自己要好的朋友重逢,真是非常高兴。她们说,自从分别以来,恍若隔世,又一再地问起吉英别来做些什么。她们对班纳特府上其余的人简直不理不睬。她们尽量避免班纳特太太的纠缠,又很少跟伊丽莎白谈,至于对别的人,那就根本一句话也不说了。她们一会儿告辞了,而且那两个娘儿们出于她们的兄弟彬格莱先生的意料之外,一骨碌从座位上站了起来,拔腿就走,好象急于要避开班纳特太太那些纠缠不清的繁文缛节似的。

尼日斐花园要举行舞会,这一件事使这一家太太小姐都高兴到极点。班纳特太太认为这次舞会是为了恭维她的大女儿才开的,而且这次舞会由彬格莱先生亲自登门邀请,而不是发请贴来请,这叫她更加高兴。吉英心里只是想象着,到了那天晚上,便可以和两个好朋友促膝谈心,又可以受到他们兄弟的殷勤待候;伊丽莎白得意地想到跟韦翰先生痛痛快快地狂跳一下,又可以从达西先生的神情举止中把事情的底细看个水落石出。至于咖苔琳和丽迪雅,她们可不把开心作乐寄托于某一件事或某一个人身上,虽然她们俩跟伊丽莎白一样,想要和韦翰先生跳上大半夜,可是跳舞会上能够使她们跳个痛快的舞伴决不止他一个人,何况跳舞会究竟是跳舞会。甚至连曼丽也告诉家里人说,她对于这次舞会也不是完全不感到兴趣。

曼丽说:“只要每天上午的时间能够由我自己支配就够了。我认为偶然参加参加晚会并不是什么牺牲。我们大家都应该有社交生活。我认为谁都少不了要不些消遣和娱乐。”

伊丽莎白这会儿真太高兴了;她虽然本来不大跟柯林斯先生多话,现在也不禁问他是不是愿意上彬格莱先生那儿去作客,如果愿意,参加晚会是不是合适。出乎伊丽莎白的意料之外,柯林斯先生对于作客问题毫无犹豫,而且还敢跳舞,一点不怕大主教或咖苔琳·德·包尔夫人的指责。

他说:“老实告诉你,这样的舞会,主人是一个品格高尚的青年,宾客又是些体面人,我决不认为会有什么不好的倾向。我非但不反对自己跳舞,而且希望当天晚上表妹们都肯赏脸。伊丽莎白小姐,我就利用这次机会请你陪我跳头两场舞,我相信吉英表妹一定还会怪我对她有什么失礼吧,因为我这样尽先尽后有正当的理由。”

伊丽莎白觉得自己完全上了当。她本来一心要跟韦翰跳开头几场,如今却来了个柯林斯先生从中作梗!她从来没有象现在这样扫兴过,不过事到如今,已无法补救。韦翰先生的幸福跟她自己的幸福不得不耽搁一下了,她于是极其和颜悦色地答应了柯林斯先生的请求。她一想到柯林斯此番殷勤乃是别有用心,她就不太乐意。她首先就想到他已经在她的几个姐妹中间看中了她自己,认为她配做汉斯福牧师家里的主妇,而且当罗新斯没有更适当的宾客时,打起牌来要是三缺一,她也可以凑凑数。她这个想法立该得到了证实,因为她观察到他对她越来越殷勤,只听得他老是恭维她聪明活泼。虽然从这场风波足以想见她的诱人的魅力,她可并不因此得意,反而感到惊奇,她的母亲不久又跟她说,他们俩是可能结婚的,这叫她做母亲的很喜欢。伊丽莎白对母亲这句话只当作没有听见,因为她非常明白,只要跟母亲搭起腔来,就免不了要大吵一场。柯林斯先生也许不会提出求婚,既然他还没有明白提出,那又何必为了他争吵。

自从尼日斐花园邀请班纳特家几位小姐参加跳舞的那天起,到开舞会的那天为止,雨一直下个不停,弄得班家几个年纪小的女儿们没有到麦里屯去过一次,也无从去看望姨母,访问军官和打听新闻,要不是把参加舞会的事拿来谈谈,准备准备,那她们真要可怜死了。她们连蹯鞋上要用的玫瑰花也是叫别人去代买的。甚至伊丽莎白也对这种天气厌恶透了,就是这种天气弄得她和韦翰先生的友谊毫无进展。总算下星期二有个跳舞会,这才使吉蒂和丽迪雅熬过了星期五,星期六,星期日和星期一。



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