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Chapter 18

TILL Elizabeth entered the drawing-room at Netherfield and looked in vain for Mr. Wickham among the cluster of red coats there assembled, a doubt of his being present had never occurred to her. The certainty of meeting him had not been checked by any of those recollections that might not unreasonably have alarmed her. She had dressed with more than usual care, and prepared in the highest spirits for the conquest of all that remained unsubdued of his heart, trusting that it was not more than might be won in the course of the evening. But in an instant arose the dreadful suspicion of his being purposely omitted for Mr. Darcy's pleasure in the Bingleys' invitation to the officers; and though this was not exactly the case, the absolute fact of his absence was pronounced by his friend Mr. Denny, to whom Lydia eagerly applied, and who told them that Wickham had been obliged to go to town on business the day before, and was not yet returned; adding, with a significant smile,
"I do not imagine his business would have called him away just now, if he had not wished to avoid a certain gentleman here."

This part of his intelligence, though unheard by Lydia, was caught by Elizabeth, and as it assured her that Darcy was not less answerable for Wickham's absence than if her first surmise had been just, every feeling of displeasure against the former was so sharpened by immediate disappointment, that she could hardly reply with tolerable civility to the polite inquiries which he directly afterwards approached to make. -- Attention, forbearance, patience with Darcy, was injury to Wickham. She was resolved against any sort of conversation with him, and turned away with a degree of ill humour, which she could not wholly surmount even in speaking to Mr. Bingley, whose blind partiality provoked her.

But Elizabeth was not formed for ill-humour; and though every prospect of her own was destroyed for the evening, it could not dwell long on her spirits; and having told all her griefs to Charlotte Lucas, whom she had not seen for a week, she was soon able to make a voluntary transition to the oddities of her cousin, and to point him out to her particular notice. The two first dances, however, brought a return of distress; they were dances of mortification. Mr. Collins, awkward and solemn, apologising instead of attending, and often moving wrong without being aware of it, gave her all the shame and misery which a disagreeable partner for a couple of dances can give. The moment of her release from him was exstacy.

She danced next with an officer, and had the refreshment of talking of Wickham, and of hearing that he was universally liked. When those dances were over she returned to Charlotte Lucas, and was in conversation with her, when she found herself suddenly addressed by Mr. Darcy, who took her so much by surprise in his application for her hand, that, without knowing what she did, she accepted him. He walked away again immediately, and she was left to fret over her own want of presence of mind; Charlotte tried to console her.

"I dare say you will find him very agreeable."

"Heaven forbid! -- That would be the greatest misfortune of all! -- To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! -- Do not wish me such an evil."

When the dancing recommenced, however, and Darcy approached to claim her hand, Charlotte could not help cautioning her, in a whisper, not to be a simpleton, and allow her fancy for Wickham to make her appear unpleasant in the eyes of a man of ten times his consequence. Elizabeth made no answer, and took her place in the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived in being allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in her neighbours' looks their equal amazement in beholding it. They stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it would be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to talk, she made some slight observation on the dance. He replied, and was again silent. After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time with:

"It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. -- I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples."

He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.

"Very well. -- That reply will do for the present. -- Perhaps by and by I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones. -- But now we may be silent."

"Do you talk by rule then, while you are dancing?"

"Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together, and yet for the advantage of some, conversation ought to be so arranged as that they may have the trouble of saying as little as as possible."

"Are you consulting your own feelings in the present case, or do you imagine that you are gratifying mine?"

"Both," replied Elizabeth archly; "for I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds. -- We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb."

"This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I am sure," said he. "How near it may be to mine, I cannot pretend to say. -- You think it a faithful portrait undoubtedly."

"I must not decide on my own performance."

He made no answer, and they were again silent till they had gone down the dance, when he asked her if she and her sisters did not very often walk to Meryton. She answered in the affirmative, and, unable to resist the temptation, added, "When you met us there the other day, we had just been forming a new acquaintance."

The effect was immediate. A deeper shade of hauteur overspread his features, but he said not a word, and Elizabeth, though blaming herself for her own weakness, could not go on. At length Darcy spoke, and in a constrained manner said,

"Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his making friends -- whether he may be equally capable of retaining them, is less certain."

"He has been so unlucky as to lose your friendship," replied Elizabeth with emphasis, "and in a manner which he is likely to suffer from all his life."

Darcy made no answer, and seemed desirous of changing the subject. At that moment Sir William Lucas appeared close to them, meaning to pass through the set to the other side of the room; but on perceiving Mr. Darcy he stopt with a bow of superior courtesy, to compliment him on his dancing and his partner.

"I have been most highly gratified indeed, my dear Sir. Such very superior dancing is not often seen. It is evident that you belong to the first circles. Allow me to say, however, that your fair partner does not disgrace you, and that I must hope to have this pleasure often repeated, especially when a certain desirable event, my dear Miss Eliza (glancing at her sister and Bingley), shall take place. What congratulations will then flow in! I appeal to Mr. Darcy: -- but let me not interrupt you, Sir. -- You will not thank me for detaining you from the bewitching converse of that young lady, whose bright eyes are also upbraiding me."

The latter part of this address was scarcely, heard by Darcy; but Sir William's allusion to his friend seemed to strike him forcibly, and his eyes were directed with a very serious expression towards Bingley and Jane, who were dancing together. Recovering himself, however, shortly, he turned to his partner, and said,

"Sir William's interruption has made me forget what we were talking of."

"I do not think we were speaking at all. Sir William could not have interrupted any two people in the room who had less to say for themselves. -- We have tried two or three subjects already without success, and what we are to talk of next I cannot imagine."

"What think you of books?" said he, smiling.

"Books -- Oh! no. -- I am sure we never read the same, or not with the same feelings."

"I am sorry you think so; but if that be the case, there can at least be no want of subject. -- We may compare our different opinions."

"No -- I cannot talk of books in a ball-room; my head is always full of something else."

"The present always occupies you in such scenes -- does it?" said he, with a look of doubt.

"Yes, always," she replied, without knowing what she said, for her thoughts had wandered far from the subject, as soon afterwards appeared by her suddenly exclaiming,

"I remember hearing you once say, Mr. Darcy, that you hardly ever forgave, that your resentment once created was unappeasable. You are very cautious, I suppose, as to its being created."

"I am," said he, with a firm voice.

"And never allow yourself to be blinded by prejudice?"

"I hope not."

"It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first."

"May I ask to what these questions tend?"

"Merely to the illustration of your character," said she, endeavouring to shake off her gravity. "I am trying to make it out."

"And what is your success?"

She shook her head. "I do not get on at all. I hear such different accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly."

"I can readily believe," answered he gravely, "that report may vary greatly with respect to me; and I could wish, Miss Bennet, that you were not to sketch my character at the present moment, as there is reason to fear that the performance would reflect no credit on either."

"But if I do not take your likeness now, I may never have another opportunity."

"I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours," he coldly replied. She said no more, and they went down the other dance and parted in silence; on each side dissatisfied, though not to an equal degree, for in Darcy's breast there was a tolerable powerful feeling towards her, which soon procured her pardon, and directed all his anger against another.

They had not long separated when Miss Bingley came towards her, and with an expression of civil disdain thus accosted her,

"So, Miss Eliza, I hear you are quite delighted with George Wickham! -- Your sister has been talking to me about him, and asking me a thousand questions; and I find that the young man forgot to tell you, among his other communications, that he was the son of old Wickham, the late Mr. Darcy's steward. Let me recommend you, however, as a friend, not to give implicit confidence to all his assertions; for as to Mr. Darcy's using him ill, it is perfectly false; for, on the contrary, he has been always remarkably kind to him, though George Wickham has treated Mr. Darcy, in a most infamous manner. I do not know the particulars, but I know very well that Mr. Darcy is not in the least to blame, that he cannot bear to hear George Wickham mentioned, and that though my brother thought he could not well avoid including him in his invitation to the officers, he was excessively glad to find that he had taken himself out of the way. His coming into the country at all, is a most insolent thing indeed, and I wonder how he could presume to do it. I pity you, Miss Eliza, for this discovery of your favorite's guilt; but really, considering his descent one could not expect much better."

"His guilt and his descent appear by your account to be the same," said Elizabeth angrily; "for I have heard you accuse him of nothing worse than of being the son of Mr. Darcy's steward, and of that, I can assure you, he informed me himself."

"I beg your pardon," replied Miss Bingley, turning away with a sneer. "Excuse my interference. -- It was kindly meant."

"Insolent girl!" said Elizabeth to herself. -- "You are much mistaken if you expect to influence me by such a paltry attack as this. I see nothing in it but your own wilful ignorance and the malice of Mr. Darcy." She then sought her eldest sister, who had undertaken to make inquiries on the same subject of Bingley. Jane met her with a smile of such sweet complacency, a glow of such happy expression, as sufficiently marked how well she was satisfied with the occurrences of the evening. -- Elizabeth instantly read her feelings, and at that moment solicitude for Wickham, resentment against his enemies and every thing else gave way before the hope of Jane's being in the fairest way for happiness.

"I want to know," said she, with a countenance no less smiling than her sister's, "what you have learnt about Mr. Wickham. But perhaps you have been too pleasantly engaged to think of any third person, in which case you may be sure of my pardon."

"No," replied Jane, "I have not forgotten him; but I have nothing satisfactory to tell you. Mr. Bingley does not know the whole of his history, and is quite ignorant of the circumstances which have principally offended Mr. Darcy; but he will vouch for the good conduct, the probity and honour of his friend, and is perfectly convinced that Mr. Wickham has deserved much less attention from Mr. Darcy than he has received; and I am sorry to say that by his account as well as his sister's, Mr. Wickham is by no means a respectable young man. I am afraid he has been very imprudent, and has deserved to lose Mr. Darcy's regard."

"Mr. Bingley does not know Mr. Wickham himself?"

"No; he never saw him till the other morning at Meryton."

"This account then is what he has received from Mr. Darcy. I am perfectly satisfied. But what does he say of the living?"

"He does not exactly recollect the circumstances, though he has heard them from Mr. Darcy more than once, but he believes that it was left to him conditionally only."

"I have not a doubt of Mr. Bingley's sincerity," said Elizabeth warmly; "but you must excuse my not being convinced by assurances only. Mr. Bingley's defence of his friend was a very able one I dare say, but since he is unacquainted with several parts of the story, and has learnt the rest from that friend himself, I shall venture still to think of both gentlemen as I did before."

She then changed the discourse to one more gratifying to each, and on which there could be no difference of sentiment. Elizabeth listened with delight to the happy, though modest hopes which Jane entertained of Bingley's regard, and said all in her power to heighten her confidence in it. On their being joined by Mr. Bingley himself, Elizabeth withdrew to Miss Lucas; to whose inquiry after the pleasantness of her last partner she had scarcely replied, before Mr. Collins came up to them and told her with great exultation that he had just been so fortunate as to make a most important discovery.

"I have found out," said he, "by a singular accident, that there is now in the room a near relation of my patroness. I happened to overhear the gentleman himself mentioning to the young lady who does the honours of this house the names of his cousin Miss de Bourgh, and of her mother Lady Catherine. How wonderfully these sort of things occur! Who would have thought of my meeting with -- perhaps -- a nephew of Lady Catherine de Bourgh in this assembly! -- I am most thankful that the discovery is made in time for me to pay my respects to him, which I am now going to do, and trust he will excuse my not having done it before. My total ignorance of the connection must plead my apology."

"You are not going to introduce yourself to Mr. Darcy?"

"Indeed I am. I shall intreat his pardon for not having done it earlier. I believe him to be Lady Catherine's nephew. It will be in my power to assure him that her ladyship was quite well yesterday se'nnight."

Elizabeth tried hard to dissuade him from such a scheme; assuring him that Mr. Darcy would consider his addressing him without introduction as an impertinent freedom, rather than a compliment to his aunt; that it was not in the least necessary there should be any notice on either side, and that if it were, it must belong to Mr. Darcy, the superior in consequence, to begin the acquaintance. -- Mr. Collins listened to her with the determined air of following his own inclination and when she ceased speaking, replied thus,

"My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world of your excellent judgment in all matters within the scope of your understanding, but permit me to say that there must be a wide difference between the established forms of ceremony amongst the laity, and those which regulate the clergy; for give me leave to observe that I consider the clerical office as equal in point of dignity with the highest rank in the kingdom -- provided that a proper humility of behaviour is at the same time maintained. You must therefore allow me to follow the dictates of my conscience on this occasion, which leads me to perform what I look on as a point of duty. Pardon me for neglecting to profit by your advice, which on every other subject shall be my constant guide, though in the case before us I consider myself more fitted by education and habitual study to decide on what is right than a young lady like yourself." And with a low bow he left her to attack Mr. Darcy, whose reception of his advances she eagerly watched, and whose astonishment at being so addressed was very evident. Her cousin prefaced his speech with a solemn bow, and though she could not hear a word of it, she felt as if hearing it all, and saw in the motion of his lips the words "apology," "Hunsford," and "Lady Catherine de Bourgh." -- It vexed her to see him expose himself to such a man. Mr. Darcy was eyeing him with unrestrained wonder, and when at last Mr. Collins allowed him time to speak, replied with an air of distant civility. Mr. Collins, however, was not discouraged from speaking again, and Mr. Darcy's contempt seemed abundantly increasing with the length of his second speech, and at the end of it he only made him a slight bow, and moved another way. Mr. Collins then returned to Elizabeth.

"I have no reason, I assure you," said he, "to be dissatisfied with my reception. Mr. Darcy seemed much pleased with the attention. He answered me with the utmost civility, and even paid me the compliment of saying that he was so well convinced of Lady Catherine's discernment as to be certain she could never bestow a favour unworthily. It was really a very handsome thought. Upon the whole, I am much pleased with him."

As Elizabeth had no longer any interest of her own to pursue, she turned her attention almost entirely on her sister and Mr. Bingley, and the train of agreeable reflections which her observations gave birth to, made her perhaps almost as happy as Jane. She saw her, in idea, settled in that very house, in all the felicity which a marriage of true affection could bestow; and she felt capable, under such circumstances, of endeavouring even to like Bingley's two sisters. Her mother's thoughts she plainly saw were bent the same way, and she determined not to venture near her, lest she might hear too much. When they sat down to supper, therefore, she considered it a most unlucky perverseness which placed them within one of each other; and deeply was she vexed to find that her mother was talking to that one person (Lady Lucas) freely, openly, and of nothing else but of her expectation that Jane would be soon married to Mr. Bingley. -- It was an animating subject, and Mrs. Bennet seemed incapable of fatigue while enumerating the advantages of the match. His being such a charming young man, and so rich, and living but three miles from them, were the first points of self-gratulation; and then it was such a comfort to think how fond the two sisters were of Jane, and to be certain that they must desire the connection as much as she could do. It was, moreover, such a promising thing for her younger daughters, as Jane's marrying so greatly must throw them in the way of other rich men; and lastly, it was so pleasant at her time of life to be able to consign her single daughters to the care of their sister, that she might not be obliged to go into company more than she liked. It was necessary to make this circumstance a matter of pleasure, because on such occasions it is the etiquette, but no one was less likely than Mrs. Bennet to find comfort in staying at home at any period of her life. She concluded with many good wishes that Lady Lucas might soon be equally fortunate, though evidently and triumphantly believing there was no chance of it.

In vain did Elizabeth endeavour to check the rapidity of her mother's words, or persuade her to describe her felicity in a less audible whisper; for to her inexpressible vexation, she could perceive that the chief of it was overheard by Mr. Darcy, who sat opposite to them. Her mother only scolded her for being nonsensical.

"What is Mr. Darcy to me, pray, that I should be afraid of him? I am sure we owe him no such particular civility as to be obliged to say nothing he may not like to hear."

"For heaven's sake, madam, speak lower. -- What advantage can it be to you to offend Mr. Darcy? -- You will never recommend yourself to his friend by so doing."

Nothing that she could say, however, had any influence. Her mother would talk of her views in the same intelligible tone. Elizabeth blushed and blushed again with shame and vexation. She could not help frequently glancing her eye at Mr. Darcy, though every glance convinced her of what she dreaded; for though he was not always looking at her mother, she was convinced that his attention was invariably fixed by her. The expression of his face changed gradually from indignant contempt to a composed and steady gravity.

At length however Mrs. Bennet had no more to say; and Lady Lucas, who had been long yawning at the repetition of delights which she saw no likelihood of sharing, was left to the comforts of cold ham and chicken. Elizabeth now began to revive. But not long was the interval of tranquillity; for when supper was over, singing was talked of, and she had the mortification of seeing Mary, after very little entreaty, preparing to oblige the company. By many significant looks and silent entreaties, did she endeavour to prevent such a proof of complaisance, -- but in vain; Mary would not understand them; such an opportunity of exhibiting was delightful to her, and she began her song. Elizabeth's eyes were fixed on her with most painful sensations; and she watched her progress through the several stanzas with an impatience which was very ill rewarded at their close; for Mary, on receiving amongst the thanks of the table, the hint of a hope that she might be prevailed on to favour them again, after the pause of half a minute began another. Mary's powers were by no means fitted for such a display; her voice was weak, and her manner affected. -- Elizabeth was in agonies. She looked at Jane, to see how she bore it; but Jane was very composedly talking to Bingley. She looked at his two sisters, and saw them making signs of derision at each other, and at Darcy, who continued however impenetrably grave. She looked at her father to entreat his interference, lest Mary should be singing all night. He took the hint, and when Mary had finished her second song, said aloud,

"That will do extremely well, child. You have delighted us long enough. Let the other young ladies have time to exhibit."

Mary, though pretending not to hear, was somewhat disconcerted; and Elizabeth sorry for her, and sorry for her father's speech, was afraid her anxiety had done no good. -- Others of the party were now applied to.

"If I," said Mr. Collins, "were so fortunate as to be able to sing, I should have great pleasure, I am sure, in obliging the company with an air; for I consider music as a very innocent diversion, and perfectly compatible with the profession of a clergyman. -- I do not mean however to assert that we can be justified in devoting too much of our time to music, for there are certainly other things to be attended to. The rector of a parish has much to do. -- In the first place, he must make such an agreement for tithes as may be beneficial to himself and not offensive to his patron. He must write his own sermons; and the time that remains will not be too much for his parish duties, and the care and improvement of his dwelling, which he cannot be excused from making as comfortable as possible. And I do not think it of light importance that he should have attentive and conciliatory manners towards every body, especially towards those to whom he owes his preferment. I cannot acquit him of that duty; nor could I think well of the man who should omit an occasion of testifying his respect towards any body connected with the family." And with a bow to Mr. Darcy, he concluded his speech, which had been spoken so loud as to be heard by half the room. -- Many stared. -- Many smiled; but no one looked more amused than Mr. Bennet himself, while his wife seriously commended Mr. Collins for having spoken so sensibly, and observed in a half-whisper to Lady Lucas, that he was a remarkably clever, good kind of young man.

To Elizabeth it appeared, that had her family made an agreement to expose themselves as much as they could during the evening, it would have been impossible for them to play their parts with more spirit, or finer success; and happy did she think it for Bingley and her sister that some of the exhibition had escaped his notice, and that his feelings were not of a sort to be much distressed by the folly which he must have witnessed. That his two sisters and Mr. Darcy, however, should have such an opportunity of ridiculing her relations was bad enough, and she could not determine whether the silent contempt of the gentleman, or the insolent smiles of the ladies, were more intolerable.

The rest of the evening brought her little amusement. She was teazed by Mr. Collins, who continued most perseveringly by her side, and though he could not prevail with her to dance with him again, put it out of her power to dance with others. In vain did she entreat him to stand up with somebody else, and offer to introduce him to any young lady in the room. He assured her that as to dancing, he was perfectly indifferent to it; that his chief object was by delicate attentions to recommend himself to her, and that he should therefore make a point of remaining close to her the whole evening. There was no arguing upon such a project. She owed her greatest relief to her friend Miss Lucas, who often joined them, and good-naturedly engaged Mr. Collins's conversation to herself.

She was at least free from the offence of Mr. Darcy's farther notice; though often standing within a very short distance of her, quite disengaged, he never came near enough to speak. She felt it to be the probable consequence of her allusions to Mr. Wickham, and rejoiced in it.

The Longbourn party were the last of all the company to depart; and by a manoeuvre of Mrs. Bennet, had to wait for their carriages a quarter of an hour after every body else was gone, which gave them time to see how heartily they were wished away by some of the family. Mrs. Hurst and her sister scarcely opened their mouths except to complain of fatigue, and were evidently impatient to have the house to themselves. They repulsed every attempt of Mrs. Bennet at conversation, and by so doing, threw a languor over the whole party, which was very little relieved by the long speeches of Mr. Collins, who was complimenting Mr. Bingley and his sisters on the elegance of their entertainment, and the hospitality and politeness which had marked their behaviour to their guests. Darcy said nothing at all. Mr. Bennet, in equal silence, was enjoying the scene. Mr. Bingley and Jane were standing together, a little detached from the rest, and talked only to each other. Elizabeth preserved as steady a silence as either Mrs. Hurst or Miss Bingley; and even Lydia was too much fatigued to utter more than the occasional exclamation of "Lord how tired I am!" accompanied by a violent yawn.

When at length they arose to take leave, Mrs. Bennet was most pressingly civil in her hope of seeing the whole family soon at Longbourn; and addressed herself particularly to Mr. Bingley, to assure him how happy he would make them by eating a family dinner with them at any time, without the ceremony of a formal invitation. Bingley was all grateful pleasure, and he readily engaged for taking the earliest opportunity of waiting on her, after his return from London, whither he was obliged to go the next day for a short time.

Mrs. Bennet was perfectly satisfied; and quitted the house under the delightful persuasion that, allowing for the necessary preparations of settlements, new carriages, and wedding clothes, she should undoubtedly see her daughter settled at Netherfield in the course of three or four months. Of having another daughter married to Mr. Collins, she thought with equal certainty, and with considerable, though not equal, pleasure. Elizabeth was the least dear to her of all her children; and though the man and the match were quite good enough for her, the worth of each was eclipsed by Mr. Bingley and Netherfield.
 

伊丽莎白走进尼日斐花园的会客室,在一群穿着“红制服”的人们里面寻找韦翰先生,找来找去都找不着,这时候她才怀疑他也许不会来了。她本以为他一定会来,虽然想起了过去的种种事情而颇为担心,可是她的信心并没有因此受到影响,她比平常更小心地打扮了一番,高高兴兴地准备要把他那颗没有被征服的心全部征服,她相信在今天的晚会上,一定会让她把他那颗心完全赢到手。但是过了一会儿,她起了一种可怕的怀疑:莫不是彬格莱先生请军官们的时候,为了讨达西先生的好,故意没有请韦翰吗?虽然事实并非如此,不过他缺席的原委马上就由他的朋友丹尼先生宣布了。这是因为丽迪雅迫不及待地问丹尼,丹尼就告诉她们说,韦翰前一天上城里有事去了,还没有回来,又带着意味深长的微笑补充了几句:“我想,他要不是为了要回避这儿的某一位先生,决不会就这么凑巧,偏偏这时候因事缺席。”

他这个消息丽迪雅虽然没有听见,却给伊丽莎白听见了。伊丽莎白因此断定:关于韦翰缺席的原因,虽然她开头没有猜对,却依旧是达西先生一手造成的。她觉得非常扫兴,对达西也就越发起了反感,因此接下来当达西走上前来向她问好的时候,她简直不能好声好气地回答他。要知道,对达西殷勤,宽容,忍耐,就等于伤害韦翰。她决定不跟他说一句话,怏怏不乐地掉过头来就走,甚至跟彬格莱先生说起话来也不大快乐,因为他对达西的盲目偏爱引起了她的气愤。

伊丽莎白天生不大会发脾气,虽然她今天晚上大为扫兴,可是她情绪上并没有不愉快多少时候。她先把满腔的愁苦都告诉了那位一星期没有见面的夏绿蒂·卢卡斯小姐,过了一会儿又自告奋勇地把她表兄奇奇怪怪的情形讲给她听,一面又特别把他指出来给他看。头两场舞重新使他觉得烦恼,那是两场活受罪的跳舞。柯林斯先生又呆笨又刻板,只知道道歉,却不知道小心一些,往往脚步弄错了自己还不知道。他真是个十足叫人讨厌的舞伴,使她丢尽了脸,受尽了罪。因此,从他手里解脱出来,真叫她喜欢欲狂。

她接着跟一位军官跳舞,跟他谈起韦翰的事。听他说,韦翰是个到处讨人喜爱的人,于是她精神上舒服了许多。跳过这几场舞以后,她就回到夏绿蒂·卢卡斯身边,跟她谈话,这时候突然听到达西先生叫她,出其不意地请她跳舞,她吃了一惊,竟然不由自主地答应了他。达西跳过以后便立刻走开了,于是她口口声声怪自己为什么这样没主意。夏绿蒂尽力安慰她。

“你将来一定会发觉他很讨人喜欢的。”

“天不容!那才叫做倒了大的霉呢!下定决心去恨一个人,竟会一下子又喜欢起他来!别这样咒我吧。”

当跳舞重新开始,达西又走到她跟前来请她跳舞的时候,夏绿蒂禁不捉他,问了我一大堆的话。我发觉那年轻的官人虽然把什么事都说给你听了,可就偏偏忘了说他自己是老达西 r佧亲没有回答便下了舞池,她想不到居然会有这样的体面,跟达西先生面对面跳舞,她看见身旁的人们也同样露出了惊奇的目光。他们俩跳了一会儿,一句话也没有交谈。她想象着这两场舞可能一直要沉默到底,开头决定不要打破这种沉默,后来突然异想天开,认为如果逼得她的舞伴不得不说几句话,那就会叫他受更大的罪,于是她就说了几句关于跳舞方面的话。他回答了她的话,接着又是沉默。歇了几分钟,她第二次跟他攀谈:

“现在该轮到你谈谈啦,达西先生。我既然谈了跳舞,你就得谈谈舞池的大小以及有多少对舞伴之类的问题。”

他笑了笑,告诉她说,她要他说什么他就说什么。

“好极了;这种回答眼前也说得过去了。待一忽儿我或许会谈到私人舞会比公共场所的跳舞会来得好;不过,我们现在可以不必作声了。”

“那么说,你跳起舞来照例总得要谈上几句吗?”

“有时候要的。你知道,一个人总得要说些话。接连半个钟头待在一块儿一声不响,那是够别扭的。不过有些人就偏偏巴不得说话愈少愈好,为这些人着想,谈话也不妨安排得少一点。”

“在目前这样的情况下,你是在照顾你自已的情绪呢,还是想要使我情绪上快慰?”

“一举两得,”伊丽莎白油滑地回答道。“因为我老是感觉到我们俩转的念头很相同。你我的性格跟人家都不大合得来,又不愿意多说话,难得开口,除非想说几句一鸣惊人的话,让大家当作格言来流传千古。”

他说:“我觉得你的性格并不见得就是这样,我的性格是否有很近似这方面,我也不敢说。你一定觉得你自己形容得很恰当吧。”

“我当然不能自己下断语。”

他没有回答,他们俩又沉默了,直等到又下池去跳舞,他这才问她是不是常常和姐妹们上麦里屯去溜达。她回答说常常去。她说到这里,实在按捺不住了,便接下去说:“你那天在那儿碰到我们的时候,我们正在结交一个新朋友呢。”

这句话立刻发生了效果。一阵傲慢的阴影罩上了他的脸,可是他一句话也没有说。伊丽莎白说不下去了,不过她心里却在埋怨自己软弱。后来还是达西很勉强地先开口说:

“韦翰先生生来满面春风,交起朋友来得心应手。至于他是不是能和朋友们长久相处,那就不大靠得住了。”

伊丽莎白加重语气回答道:“他真不幸,竟失去了您的友谊,而且弄成那么尴尬的局面,可能会使他一辈子都感受痛苦。”

达西没有回答,好象想换个话题。就在这当儿,威廉·卢卡斯爵士走近他们身边,打算穿过舞池走到屋子的寻一边去,可是一看到达西先生,他就停住了,礼貌周全地向他鞠了一躬,满口称赞他跳舞跳得好,舞伴又找得好。

“我真太高兴了,亲爱的先生,跳得这样一手好舞,真是少见。你毫无问题是属于第一流的人材。让我再唠叨一句,你这位漂亮的舞伴也真配得上你,我真希望常常有这种眼福,特别是将来有一天某一桩好事如愿的时候,亲爱的伊丽莎白小姐。”(他朝着她的姐姐和彬格莱望了一眼)“那时候将会有多热闹的祝贺场面啊。我要求达西先生:──可是我还是别打搅你吧,先生。你正在和这位小姐谈得心醉神迷,如果我耽搁了你,你是不会感激我的,瞧她那了双明亮的眼睛也在责备我呢。”

后半段话达西几乎没有听见。可是威廉爵士提起他那位朋友,却不免叫他心头大受震动,于是他一本正经去望着那正在跳舞的彬格莱和吉英。他马上又镇定了下来,掉转头来对他自己的舞伴说:

“威廉爵士打断了我们的话,我简直记不起我们刚刚谈些什么了。”

“我觉得我们根本就没有谈什么。这屋子里随便哪两个人都不比我们说话说得少的,因此威廉爵士打断不了什么话。我们已经换过两三次话题,总是谈不投机,以后还要谈些什么,我实在想不出了。”

“谈谈书本如何?”他笑着说。

“书本!噢,不;我相信我们读过的书不会一样,我们的体会也各有不同。”

“你会这样想,我真抱歉;假定真是那样,也不见得就无从谈起。我们也可以把不同见解比较一下。”

“不──我无法在舞场里谈书本;我脑子里老是想着些别的事。”

“你老是在为眼前的场合烦神,是不是?”他带着犹疑的眼光问。

“是的,老是这样,”她答道。其实她并不知道自己在说些什么,她的思想跑到老远的地方去了,你且听她突然一下子说出这样的话吧:“达西先生,我记得有一次听见你说,你生来不能原谅别人──你和别人一结下了怨,就消除不掉。我想,你结的时候总该很慎重的吧?”

“正是,”他坚决地说。

“你从来不会受到偏见和蒙蔽吗?”

“我想不会。”

“对于某些坚持已见的人说来,在拿定一个主张的时候,开头应该特别慎重地考虑一下。”

“是否可以允许我请教你一声,你问我这些话用意何在?”

她竭力装出若无其事的神气说:“只不过为了要解释解释你的性格罢了,我想要把你的性格弄个明白。”

“那么你究竟弄明白了没有?”

她摇摇头。“我一点儿也弄不明白。我听到人家对于你的看法极不一致,叫我不知道相信谁的话才好。”

他严肃的答道:“人家对于我的看法极不一致,我相信其中一定大有出入。班纳特小姐,我希望你目前还是不要刻画我的性格,我怕这样做,结果对于你我都没有好处。”

“可是,倘若我现在不了解你一下,以后就没有机会了。”

于是他冷冷地答道:“我决不会打断你的兴头。”她便没有再说下去。他们俩人又跳了一次舞,于是就默默无言地分手了。两个人都怏怏不乐,不过程度上不同罢了。达西心里对她颇有好感,因此一下子就原谅了她,把一肚子气愤都转到另一个人身上去了。

他们俩分手了不多一会儿,彬格莱小姐就走到伊丽莎白跟前来,带着一种又轻藐又客气的神气对她说:

“噢,伊丽莎小姐,我听说你对乔治·韦翰很有好感!你姐姐刚才还跟我谈到他,问了我一大堆的话。我发觉那年轻的官人虽然把什么事都说给你听了,可就偏偏忘了说他自己是老达西先生的账房老韦翰的儿子。他说达西先生待他不好,那完全是胡说,让我站在朋友的立场奉劝你,不要盲目相信他的话。达西先生一直待他太好了,只有乔治·韦翰用卑鄙的手段对待达西先生。详细情形我不清楚,不过这件事我完全知道,一点儿也不应该怪达西先生。达西一听见人家提到乔治·韦翰就受不了。我哥哥这次宴请军官们,本来也很难把他剔开,总算他自己知趣,避开了,我哥哥真高兴。他跑到这个村里来真是太荒谬了,我不懂他怎么竟敢这样做。伊丽莎小姐,我对你不起,揭穿了你心上人的过错。可是事实上你只要看看他那种出身,当然就不会指望他干出什么好事来。”

伊丽莎白生气地说:“照你的说法,他的过错和他的出身好象是一回事啦,我倒没有听到你说他别的不是,只听到他骂他是达西先生的账房的儿子,老实告诉你,这一点他早已亲自跟我讲过了。”

“对不起,请原谅我好管闲事;不过我是出于一片好意。”彬格莱小姐说完这话,冷笑了一下,便走开了。

“无礼的小妞儿!”伊丽莎白自言自语地说。“你可转错了念头啦,你以为这样卑鄙地攻击人家一下,就影响了我对人家的看法吗?你这种攻击,倒叫我看穿了你自己的顽固无知和达西先生的阴险。”她接着便去找她自己的姐姐,因为姐姐也向彬格莱问起过这件事。只见吉英满脸堆笑,容光焕发,这足以说明当天晚会上的种种情景使她多么满意。伊丽莎白顿时就看出了她的心情;于是顷刻之间就把她自己对于韦翰的想念、对于他仇人们的怨愤,以及其他种种感觉,都打消了,一心只希望吉英能够顺利走上幸福的道路。

她也和姐姐同样满面堆笑地说道:“我想问问你,你不没有听到什么有关韦翰先生的事?也许你太高兴了,想不到第三个人身上去吧;果真是那样的话,我一定可以谅解你的。”

“没有的事,”吉英回答道,“我并没有忘记他,可惜我没有什么满意的消息可以告诉你。彬格莱先生并不了解他的全部底细,至于他主要在哪些方面得罪了达西先生,彬格莱先生更是一无所知;不过他可以担保他自己的朋友品行良好,诚实正派,他并且以为达西先生过去对待韦翰先生已经好得过分了。说来遗憾,从他的话和她妹妹的话来看韦翰先生决不是一个正派的青年。我怕他果真是太莽撞,也难怪达西先生不去理睬他。”

“难道彬格莱先生自己不认识韦翰先生吗?”

“不认识,那天上午在麦里屯他还是初次和他见面。”

“那么,他这番话是从达西先生那儿听来的啦。我满意极了。关于那个牧师的职位的问题,他是怎么说的?”

“他只不过听达西先生说起过几次,详细情况他可记不清了,可是他相信,那个职位虽然规定了是给韦翰先生的,可也是有条件的。”

伊丽莎白激动地说:“彬格莱先生当然是个诚实君子喽,可是请你原谅,光凭几句话并不能叫我信服。彬格莱先生袒护他自己朋友的那些话,也许说得很有力;不过,他既然弄不清这件事的某些情节,而且另外一些情节又是听他朋友自己说的,那么,我还是不愿意改变我原来对他们两位先生的看法。”

她于是换了一个话题,使她们俩都能谈得更称心。她们俩在这方面的意见是完全一致的。伊丽莎白高兴地听着吉英谈起,她在彬格莱先生身上虽然不敢存奢望,却寄托着多少幸福的心愿;她于是尽心竭力说了多少话来增加姐姐的信念。一会儿,彬格莱先生走到她们这里来了,伊丽莎白便退到卢卡斯小姐身边去。卢卡斯小姐问她跟刚才那位舞伴跳得是否愉快,她还没有来得及回答,只见柯林斯先生走上前来,欣喜欲狂地告诉她们说,他真幸运,发现了一件极其重要的事。

他说:“这真是完全出于我意料之外,我竟然发现这屋子里有一位是我女施主的至亲。我凑巧听到一位先生跟主人家的那位小姐说,他自己的表妹德·包尔小姐和他的姨母咖苔琳夫人。这些事真是太巧合了!谁想到我会在这次的舞会上碰到咖苔琳·德·包尔夫人的姨侄呢!谢天谢地,我这个发现正是时候,还来得及去问候他吧。我根本就不知道有这门亲戚,因此还有道歉的余地。”

“你打算去向达西先生自我介绍吗?”

“我当然打算去。我一定去求他原谅,请他不要怪我没有早些问候他。我相信他是咖苔琳夫人的姨侄。我可以告诉他说,上星期我还见到她老人家,她身体着实健康。”

伊丽莎白竭力劝他不要那么做,她说,他如果不经过人家介绍就去招呼达西先生,达西先生一定会认为他冒昧唐突,而不会认为他是奉承他姨母,又说双方根本不必打交道,即使要打交道,也应该由地位比较高的达西先生来跟他通候。柯林斯先生听她这么说,便显出一副坚决的神气,表示非照着自己的意思去做不可,等她说完了,他回答道:

“亲爱的伊丽莎白小姐,你对于一切的问题都有卓越的见解。我非常敬佩,可是请你听我说一句:俗人的礼节跟教士们的礼节大不相同。请听我说,我认为从尊严方面看来,一个教士的位置可以比得上一个君侯,只要你能同时保持相当的谦虚。所以,这一次你应该让我照着我自己的良心的吩咐,去做好我认为应该做的事情。请原谅我没有领受你的指教,要是在任何其他的问题上,我一定把你的指教当作座右铭,不过对于当前这个问题,我觉得,由于我还算读书明理,平日也曾稍事钻研,由我自己来决定比由你这样一位年轻小姐来决定要合适些;”他深深鞠了一躬,便离开了她,去向达西先生纠缠。于是她迫不及待地望着达西先生怎样对待他这种冒失行为,料想达西先生对于这种问候方式一定要大为惊讶,只见她这位表兄先恭恭敬敬地对达西鞠了一躬,然后再开口跟他说话。伊丽莎白虽然一句也没听到他说些什么,却又好象听到了他所有的话,因为从他那蠕动嘴唇的动作看来,他无非口口声声尽说些“道歉”、“汉斯福”、“咖苔琳·德·包尔夫人”之类的话。她看到表兄在这样的一个人面前出丑,心中好不气恼。达西先生带着毫不掩饰的惊奇目光斜睨着他,等到后来柯林斯先生唠叨够了,达西才带着一副敬而远之的神气,敷衍了他几句。柯林斯先生却并不因此而灰心扫兴,一再开口。等他第二次开口唠叨的时候,达西先生的轻蔑的神气显得更露骨了。他说完以后,达西先生随便拱了拱身子就走开了。柯林斯先生这才回到伊丽莎白跟前来,跟伊丽莎白说:“告诉你,他那样接待我,我实在没有理由感到不满意。达西听到我的殷勤问候,好象十分高兴。他礼貌周全地回答了我的话,甚至恭维我说,他非常佩服咖苔琳夫人的眼力,没有提拔错了人。这的确是个聪明的想法。大体上说,我很满意他。”

伊丽莎白既然对舞会再也没有什么兴味,于是几乎把全部注意力都转移她的姐姐和彬格莱先生身上去了。她把当场的情景都看在眼里,想象出了多少可喜的事情,几乎跟吉英自己感到同样的快活。她想象着姐姐做了这幢房子里的主妇,夫妇之间恩爱弥笃,幸福无比。她觉得如果真有这样一天,那么,连彬格莱的两个姐妹,她也可以尽量对她们发生好感。她看见她母亲也明明正在转着同样的念头,因此她决定不要冒险走到母亲跟前去,免得又要听她唠叨个没完。因此当大家坐下来吃饭的时候,她看到母亲的座位跟他隔得那么近,她觉得真是受罪。只见母亲老是跟那个人(卢卡斯太太)在信口乱说,毫无忌讳,而且尽谈些她怎样盼望吉英马上跟彬格莱先生结婚之类的话,这叫伊丽莎白越发气恼。她们对这件事越谈越起劲,班纳特太太一个劲儿数说着这门姻缘有多少多少好处。首先彬格莱先生是那么漂亮的一个青年,那么有钱,住的地方离她们只有三英里路,这些条件是令人满意的。其次,他的两个姐妹非常喜欢吉英,一定也象她一样地希望能够结成这门亲,这一点也很令人快慰。再其次,吉英的亲事既然攀得这么称心如意,那么,几个小女儿也就有希望碰上别的阔人。最后再说到她那几个没有出嫁的女儿,关于她们的终身大事,从此也可以委托给大女儿,不必要她自己再为她们去应酬交际了,于情于理,这都是一件值得高兴的事,怎奈班纳特太太生平就不惯于守在家里。她又预祝卢卡斯太太马上也会有同样的幸运,其实也明明是在趾高气扬地料定她没有这个福份。

伊丽莎白一心想要挫挫她母亲的谈锋,便劝她谈起得意的事情来要放得小声小气一点,因为达西先生就坐在她们对面,可见得大部份的话都让他听到了。可是劝也无用,她的母亲只顾骂她废话,她真是说不出的气恼。

“我倒请问你,达西先生与我有什么关系,我干吗要怕他?我没有理由要在他面前特别讲究礼貌,难道他不爱听的话我就不能说吗?”

“看老天份上,妈妈,小声点儿说吧。你得罪了达西先生有什么好处?你这样做,他的朋友也不会看得起你的。”

不过,任凭她怎么说都没有用。她的母亲偏偏要大声发表高见。伊丽莎白又羞又恼,脸蛋儿红了又红。她禁不住一眼眼望着达西先生,每望一眼就越发证实了自己的疑虑,因为达西虽然并没有老是瞧着她的母亲,可是他一直目不转睛地在望着伊丽莎白。他脸上先是显出气愤和厌恶的表情,慢慢地变得冷静庄重,一本正经。

后来班纳特太太说完了,卢卡斯太太听她谈得那样志得意满,自己又没个份儿,早已呵欠连连,现在总算可以来安心享受一点冷肉冷鸡了。伊丽莎白现在也算松了口气。可惜她耳朵里并没有清净多久,因为晚饭一吃完,大家就谈起要唱歌。伊丽莎白眼看着曼丽经不起人家稍微怂恿一下就答应了大家的请求,觉得很难受。她曾经频频向曼丽递眼色,又再三地默默劝告她,竭力叫她不要这样讨好别人,可惜终于枉费心机。曼丽毫不理会她的用意。这种出风头的机会她是求之不得的,于是她就开始唱起来了。伊丽莎白极其苦痛地把眼睛盯在她身上,带着焦虑的心情听她唱了几节,等到唱完了,她的焦虑丝毫没有减轻,因为曼丽一听到大家对她称谢,还有人隐约表示要她再赏他们一次脸,于是歇了半分钟以后,她又唱起了另一支歌。曼丽的才力是不适宜于这种表演的,因为她嗓子细弱,态度又不自然。伊丽莎白真急得要命。她看了看吉英,看看她是不是受得了,只见,吉英正在安安静静地跟彬格莱先生谈天。她又看见彬格莱的两位姐妹正在彼此挤眼弄眉,一面对着达西做手势,达西依旧面孔铁板。她最后对自己的父亲望了一眼,求他老人家来拦阻一下,免得曼丽通宵唱下去。父亲领会了她的意思,他等曼丽唱完了第二支歌,便大声说道:

“你这样尽够啦,孩子。你使我们开心得够久啦。留点时间给别的小姐们表演表演吧。“

曼丽虽然装做没听见,心里多少有些不自在。伊丽莎白为她感到不好受,也为她爸爸的那番话感到不好受,生怕自己一片苦心完全白费。好在这会儿大家请别人来唱歌了。

只听得柯林斯先生说:“假如我侥幸会唱歌,那我一定乐意给大家高歌一曲;我认为音乐是一种高尚的娱乐,和牧师的职业丝毫没有抵触。不过我并不是说,我们应该在音乐上花上太多的时间,因为的确还有许多别的事情要做。负责一个教区的主管牧师在多少事要做啊,首先他得制订什一税的条例,既要订得于自己有利,又要不侵犯地主的利益。他得自己编写讲道辞,这一来剩下的时间就不多了。他还得利用这点儿时间来安排教区里的事务,照管和收拾自己的住宅──住宅总少不了要尽量弄得舒舒服服。还有一点我认为也很重要;他对每一个人都得殷勤和蔼,特别是那些提拔他的人。我认为这是他应尽的责任。再说,遇到施主家的亲友,凡是在应该表示尊敬的场合下,总得表示尊敬,否则是不象话的。”他说到这里,向达西先生鞠了一躬,算是结束了他的话。他这一席话说得那么响亮,半个屋子里的人都听得见。多少人看呆了,多少人笑了,可是没有一个人象班纳特先生那样听得有趣,他的太太却一本正经地夸奖柯林斯先生的话真说得合情合理,她凑近了卢卡斯太太说,他显然是个很聪明优秀的青年。

伊丽莎白觉得她家里人好象是约定今天晚上到这儿来尽量出丑,而且可以说是从来没有那样起劲,从来没有那样成功。她觉得姐姐和彬格莱先生真幸运,有些出丑的场面没有看到,好丰彬格莱先生即使看到了一些可笑的情节,也不会轻易感到难受。不过他的两个姐妹和达西先生竟抓住这个机会来嘲笑她家里人,这已经是够难堪的了,那位先生的无声的蔑视和两个娘儿们的无礼的嘲笑,究竟哪一样更叫人难堪,她可不能断定。

晚会的后半段时间也没有给她带来什么乐趣。柯林斯先生还是一直不肯离开她身边,和她打趣。虽然他无法请她再跟他跳一次舞,可是却弄得她也无法跟别人跳。她要求他跟别人去跳,并且答应给他介绍一位小姐,可是他不肯。他告诉她说,讲到跳舞,他完全不发生兴趣,他的主要用意就是要小心等候她,她博得她的欢心,因此他打定主意整个晚上待在她身边。无论怎样跟解释也没用。多亏她的朋友卢卡斯小姐常常来到他们身边,好心好意地和柯林斯先生攀谈攀谈,她才算觉得好受一些。

至少达西先生可以不再来惹她生气了。他虽然常常站得离她很近,边上也没有人,却一直没有走过来跟她说话。她觉得这可能是因为她提到了韦翰先生的缘故,她因此不禁暗暗自喜。

在全场宾客中,浪博恩一家人最后走,而且班纳特太太还用了点手腕,借口等候马车,一直等到大家走完了,她们一家人还多待了一刻钟。她们在这一段时间里看到主人家有些人非常指望她们赶快走。赫斯脱太太姐妹俩简直不开口说话,只是嚷着疲倦,显然是在下逐客令了。班纳特太太一开口想跟她们攀谈,就被她们拒绝了,弄得大家都没精打采。柯林斯先生尽管在发表长篇大论,恭维彬格莱先生和他的姐妹们,说他们家的宴席多么精美,他们对待客人多么殷勤有礼,可是他的话也没有能给大家增加一些生气。达西一句话也没有说。班纳特先生同样没做声,站在那儿袖手旁观。彬格莱和吉英站得离大家远一些,正在亲亲密密地交谈。伊丽莎白象赫斯脱太太和彬格莱小姐一样,始终不开口。连丽迪雅也觉得太疲乏了,没有说话,只是偶然叫一声:“天啊,我多么疲倦!”接着便大声打了一个呵欠。

后来她们终于起身告辞了,班纳特太太恳切务至地说,希望在最短时间以内,彬格莱先生阖府都到浪博恩去玩,又特别对彬格莱先生本人说,要是那天他能上她们家去吃顿便饭,也不要正式下请帖,那她们真是荣幸之至。彬格莱先生欣喜异常,连忙说,他明天就要动身到伦敦去待一个短时期,等他回来以后,一有机会就去拜望她。

班纳特太太满意极了,走出屋来,一路打着如意算盘;不出三四个月光景,她就可以看到自己的女儿在尼日斐花园找到归宿了,她少不了要准备一些财产、嫁妆和新的马车。她同样相信另一个女儿一定会嫁给柯林斯先生,对这门亲事她虽然没有对那门亲事那样高兴,可也相当高兴。在所有的女儿里面,她最不喜欢伊丽莎白。尽管姑爷的人品和门第,配她已经绰绰有余,可是比起彬格莱先生和尼日斐花园来,就显得黯然失色了。



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