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Chapter 5

On the morning appointed for Admiral and Mrs Croft's seeing Kellynch Hall, Anne found it most natural to take her almost daily walk to Lady Russell's, and keep out of the way till all was over; when she found it most natural to be sorry that she had missed the opportunity of seeing them.

This meeting of the two parties proved highly satisfactory, and decided the whole business at once. Each lady was previously well disposed for an agreement, and saw nothing, therefore, but good manners in the other; and with regard to the gentlemen, there was such an hearty good humour, such an open, trusting liberality on the Admiral's side, as could not but influence Sir Walter, who had besides been flattered into his very best and most polished behaviour by Mr Shepherd's assurances of his being known, by report, to the Admiral, as a model of good breeding.

The house and grounds, and furniture, were approved, the Crofts were approved, terms, time, every thing, and every body, was right; and Mr Shepherd's clerks were set to work, without there having been a single preliminary difference to modify of all that "This indenture sheweth. "

Sir Walter, without hesitation, declared the Admiral to be the best-looking sailor he had ever met with, and went so far as to say, that if his own man might have had the arranging of his hair, he should not be ashamed of being seen with him any where; and the Admiral, with sympathetic cordiality, observed to his wife as they drove back through the park, "I thought we should soon come to a deal, my dear, in spite of what they told us at Taunton. The Baronet will never set the Thames on fire, but there seems to be no harm in him. " reciprocal compliments, which would have been esteemed about equal.

The Crofts were to have possession at Michaelmas; and as Sir Walter proposed removing to Bath in the course of the preceding month, there was no time to be lost in making every dependent arrangement.

Lady Russell, convinced that Anne would not be allowed to be of any use, or any importance, in the choice of the house which they were going to secure, was very unwilling to have her hurried away so soon, and wanted to make it possible for her to stay behind till she might convey her to Bath herself after Christmas; but having engagements of her own which must take her from Kellynch for several weeks, she was unable to give the full invitation she wished, and Anne though dreading the possible heats of September in all the white glare of Bath, and grieving to forego all the influence so sweet and so sad of the autumnal months in the country, did not think that, everything considered, she wished to remain. It would be most right, and most wise, and, therefore must involve least suffering to go with the others.

Something occurred, however, to give her a different duty. Mary, often a little unwell, and always thinking a great deal of her own complaints, and always in the habit of claiming Anne when anything was the matter, was indisposed; and foreseeing that she should not have a day's health all the autumn, entreated, or rather required her, for it was hardly entreaty, to come to Uppercross Cottage, and bear her company as long as she should want her, instead of going to Bath.

"I cannot possibly do without Anne, " was Mary's reasoning; and Elizabeth's reply was, "Then I am sure Anne had better stay, for nobody will want her in Bath. "

To be claimed as a good, though in an improper style, is at least better than being rejected as no good at all; and Anne, glad to be thought of some use, glad to have anything marked out as a duty, and certainly not sorry to have the scene of it in the country, and her own dear country, readily agreed to stay.

This invitation of Mary's removed all Lady Russell's difficulties, and it was consequently soon settled that Anne should not go to Bath till Lady Russell took her, and that all the intervening time should be divided between Uppercross Cottage and Kellynch Lodge.

So far all was perfectly right; but Lady Russell was almost startled by the wrong of one part of the Kellynch Hall plan, when it burst on her, which was, Mrs Clay's being engaged to go to Bath with Sir Walter and Elizabeth, as a most important and valuable assistant to the latter in all the business before her. Lady Russell was extremely sorry that such a measure should have been resorted to at all, wondered, grieved, and feared; and the affront it contained to Anne, in Mrs Clay's being of so much use, while Anne could be of none, was a very sore aggravation.

Anne herself was become hardened to such affronts; but she felt the imprudence of the arrangement quite as keenly as Lady Russell. With a great deal of quiet observation, and a knowledge, which she often wished less, of her father's character, she was sensible that results the most serious to his family from the intimacy were more than possible. She did not imagine that her father had at present an idea of the kind. Mrs Clay had freckles, and a projecting tooth, and a clumsy wrist, which he was continually making severe remarks upon, in her absence; but she was young, and certainly altogether well-looking, and possessed, in an acute mind and assiduous pleasing manners, infinitely more dangerous attractions than any merely personal might have been. Anne was so impressed by the degree of their danger, that she could not excuse herself from trying to make it perceptible to her sister. She had little hope of success; but Elizabeth, who in the event of such a reverse would be so much more to be pitied than herself, should never, she thought, have reason to reproach her for giving no warning.

She spoke, and seemed only to offend. Elizabeth could not conceive how such an absurd suspicion should occur to her, and indignantly answered for each party's perfectly knowing their situation.

"Mrs Clay, " said she, warmly, "never forgets who she is; and as I am rather better acquainted with her sentiments than you can be, I can assure you, that upon the subject of marriage they are particularly nice, and that she reprobates all inequality of condition and rank more strongly than most people. And as to my father, I really should not have thought that he, who has kept himself single so long for our sakes, need be suspected now. If Mrs Clay were a very beautiful woman, I grant you, it might be wrong to have her so much with me; not that anything in the world, I am sure, would induce my father to make a degrading match, but he might be rendered unhappy. But poor Mrs Clay who, with all her merits, can never have been reckoned tolerably pretty, I really think poor Mrs Clay may be staying here in perfect safety. One would imagine you had never heard my father speak of her personal misfortunes, though I know you must fifty times. That tooth of her's and those freckles. Freckles do not disgust me so very much as they do him. I have known a face not materially disfigured by a few, but he abominates them. You must have heard him notice Mrs Clay's freckles. "

"There is hardly any personal defect, " replied Anne, "which an agreeable manner might not gradually reconcile one to. "

"I think very differently, " answered Elizabeth, shortly; "an agreeable manner may set off handsome features, but can never alter plain ones. However, at any rate, as I have a great deal more at stake on this point than anybody else can have, I think it rather unnecessary in you to be advising me. "

Anne had done; glad that it was over, and not absolutely hopeless of doing good. Elizabeth, though resenting the suspicion, might yet be made observant by it.

The last office of the four carriage-horses was to draw Sir Walter, Miss Elliot, and Mrs Clay to Bath. The party drove off in very good spirits; Sir Walter prepared with condescending bows for all the afflicted tenantry and cottagers who might have had a hint to show themselves, and Anne walked up at the same time, in a sort of desolate tranquillity, to the Lodge, where she was to spend the first week.

Her friend was not in better spirits than herself. Lady Russell felt this break-up of the family exceedingly. Their respectability was as dear to her as her own, and a daily intercourse had become precious by habit. It was painful to look upon their deserted grounds, and still worse to anticipate the new hands they were to fall into; and to escape the solitariness and the melancholy of so altered a village, and be out of the way when Admiral and Mrs Croft first arrived, she had determined to make her own absence from home begin when she must give up Anne. Accordingly their removal was made together, and Anne was set down at Uppercross Cottage, in the first stage of Lady Russell's journey.

Uppercross was a moderate-sized village, which a few years back had been completely in the old English style, containing only two houses superior in appearance to those of the yeomen and labourers; the mansion of the squire, with its high walls, great gates, and old trees, substantial and unmodernized, and the compact, tight parsonage, enclosed in its own neat garden, with a vine and a pear-tree trained round its casements; but upon the marriage of the young 'squire, it had received the improvement of a farm-house elevated into a cottage, for his residence, and Uppercross Cottage, with its veranda, French windows, and other prettiness, was quite as likely to catch the traveller's eye as the more consistent and considerable aspect and premises of the Great House, about a quarter of a mile farther on.

Here Anne had often been staying. She knew the ways of Uppercross as well as those of Kellynch. The two families were so continually meeting, so much in the habit of running in and out of each other's house at all hours, that it was rather a surprise to her to find Mary alone; but being alone, her being unwell and out of spirits was almost a matter of course. Though better endowed than the elder sister, Mary had not Anne's understanding nor temper. While well, and happy, and properly attended to, she had great good humour and excellent spirits; but any indisposition sunk her completely. She had no resources for solitude; and inheriting a considerable share of the Elliot self-importance, was very prone to add to every other distress that of fancying herself neglected and ill-used. In person, she was inferior to both sisters, and had, even in her bloom, only reached the dignity of being "a fine girl. " She was now lying on the faded sofa of the pretty little drawing-room, the once elegant furniture of which had been gradually growing shabby, under the influence of four summers and two children; and, on Anne's appearing, greeted her with--

"So, you are come at last! I began to think I should never see you. I am so ill I can hardly speak. I have not seen a creature the whole morning!"

"I am sorry to find you unwell, " replied Anne. "You sent me such a good account of yourself on Thursday!"

"Yes, I made the best of it; I always do: but I was very far from well at the time; and I do not think I ever was so ill in my life as I have been all this morning: very unfit to be left alone, I am sure. Suppose I were to be seized of a sudden in some dreadful way, and not able to ring the bell! So, Lady Russell would not get out. I do not think she has been in this house three times this summer. "

Anne said what was proper, and enquired after her husband. "Oh! Charles is out shooting. I have not seen him since seven o'clock. He would go, though I told him how ill I was. He said he should not stay out long; but he has never come back, and now it is almost one. I assure you, I have not seen a soul this whole long morning. "

"You have had your little boys with you?"

"Yes, as long as I could bear their noise; but they are so unmanageable that they do me more harm than good. Little Charles does not mind a word I say, and Walter is growing quite as bad. "

"Well, you will soon be better now, " replied Anne, cheerfully. "You know I always cure you when I come. How are your neighbours at the Great House?"

"I can give you no account of them. I have not seen one of them to-day, except Mr Musgrove, who just stopped and spoke through the window, but without getting off his horse; and though I told him how ill I was, not one of them have been near me. It did not happen to suit the Miss Musgroves, I suppose, and they never put themselves out of their way. "

"You will see them yet, perhaps, before the morning is gone. It is early. "

"I never want them, I assure you. They talk and laugh a great deal too much for me. Oh! Anne, I am so very unwell! It was quite unkind of you not to come on Thursday. "

"My dear Mary, recollect what a comfortable account you sent me of yourself! You wrote in the cheerfullest manner, and said you were perfectly well, and in no hurry for me; and that being the case, you must be aware that my wish would be to remain with Lady Russell to the last: and besides what I felt on her account, I have really been so busy, have had so much to do, that I could not very conveniently have left Kellynch sooner. "

"Dear me! what can you possibly have to do?"

"A great many things, I assure you. More than I can recollect in a moment; but I can tell you some. I have been making a duplicate of the catalogue of my father's books and pictures. I have been several times in the garden with Mackenzie, trying to understand, and make him understand, which of Elizabeth's plants are for Lady Russell. I have had all my own little concerns to arrange, books and music to divide, and all my trunks to repack, from not having understood in time what was intended as to the waggons: and one thing I have had to do, Mary, of a more trying nature: going to almost every house in the parish, as a sort of take-leave. I was told that they wished it. But all these things took up a great deal of time. "

"Oh! well!" and after a moment's pause, "but you have never asked me one word about our dinner at the Pooles yesterday. "

"Did you go then? I have made no enquiries, because I concluded you must have been obliged to give up the party. "

"Oh yes! I went. I was very well yesterday; nothing at all the matter with me till this morning. It would have been strange if I had not gone. "

"I am very glad you were well enough, and I hope you had a pleasant party. "

"Nothing remarkable. One always knows beforehand what the dinner will be, and who will be there; and it is so very uncomfortable not having a carriage of one's own. Mr and Mrs Musgrove took me, and we were so crowded! They are both so very large, and take up so much room; and Mr Musgrove always sits forward. So, there was I, crowded into the back seat with Henrietta and Louise; and I think it very likely that my illness to-day may be owing to it. "

A little further perseverance in patience and forced cheerfulness on Anne's side produced nearly a cure on Mary's. She could soon sit upright on the sofa, and began to hope she might be able to leave it by dinner-time. Then, forgetting to think of it, she was at the other end of the room, beautifying a nosegay; then, she ate her cold meat; and then she was well enough to propose a little walk.

"Where shall we go?" said she, when they were ready. "I suppose you will not like to call at the Great House before they have been to see you?"

"I have not the smallest objection on that account, " replied Anne. "I should never think of standing on such ceremony with people I know so well as Mrs and the Miss Musgroves. "

"Oh! but they ought to call upon you as soon as possible. They ought to feel what is due to you as my sister. However, we may as well go and sit with them a little while, and when we have that over, we can enjoy our walk. "

Anne had always thought such a style of intercourse highly imprudent; but she had ceased to endeavour to check it, from believing that, though there were on each side continual subjects of offence, neither family could now do without it. To the Great House accordingly they went, to sit the full half hour in the old-fashioned square parlour, with a small carpet and shining floor, to which the present daughters of the house were gradually giving the proper air of confusion by a grand piano-forte and a harp, flower-stands and little tables placed in every direction. Oh! could the originals of the portraits against the wainscot, could the gentlemen in brown velvet and the ladies in blue satin have seen what was going on, have been conscious of such an overthrow of all order and neatness! The portraits themselves seemed to be staring in astonishment.

The Musgroves, like their houses, were in a state of alteration, perhaps of improvement. The father and mother were in the old English style, and the young people in the new. Mr and Mrs Musgrove were a very good sort of people; friendly and hospitable, not much educated, and not at all elegant. Their children had more modern minds and manners. There was a numerous family; but the only two grown up, excepting Charles, were Henrietta and Louisa, young ladies of nineteen and twenty, who had brought from school at Exeter all the usual stock of accomplishments, and were now like thousands of other young ladies, living to be fashionable, happy, and merry. Their dress had every advantage, their faces were rather pretty, their spirits extremely good, their manner unembarrassed and pleasant; they were of consequence at home, and favourites abroad. Anne always contemplated them as some of the happiest creatures of her acquaintance; but still, saved as we all are, by some comfortable feeling of superiority from wishing for the possibility of exchange, she would not have given up her own more elegant and cultivated mind for all their enjoyments; and envied them nothing but that seemingly perfect good understanding and agreement together, that good-humoured mutual affection, of which she had known so little herself with either of her sisters.

They were received with great cordiality. Nothing seemed amiss on the side of the Great House family, which was generally, as Anne very well knew, the least to blame. The half hour was chatted away pleasantly enough; and she was not at all surprised at the end of it, to have their walking party joined by both the Miss Musgroves, at Mary's particular invitation.

安妮几乎每天早晨都有散步的习惯。就在约定克罗夫特夫妇来看凯林奇大厦的那天早上,她便自然而然地跑到拉塞尔夫人府上,一直躲到事情完结。不过,后来她却为错过一次拜见客人的机会,又自然而然地感到遗憾。

双方这次会见,结果十分令人满意,当下就把事情谈妥了。两位夫人小姐事先就满心希望能达成协议,因此都发现对方非常和蔼可亲。至于说到两位男主人,将军是那样和颜悦色,那样诚挚大方,这不可能不使沃尔特爵士受到感染。此外,谢泼德先生还告诉他,将军听说沃尔特爵士堪称卓有教养的楷模,更使他受宠若惊,言谈举止变得极其得体,极其优雅。

房屋、庭园和家具都得到了认可,克罗夫特夫妇也得到了认可,时间、条件、一切人、一切事,都不成间题。谢泼德先生的书记员奉命着手工作,整个契约的初稿中,没有一处需要修改。

沃尔特爵士毫不迟疑地当众宣布:克罗夫特将军是他见到的最漂亮的水兵,而且竟然把话说到这个地步:假如他自己的贴身男仆当初帮将军把头发修理一下,他陪他走到哪里也不会感到羞愧。再看将军,他乘车穿过庄园往回走时,带着真挚热情的口吻对他夫人说:“亲爱的,尽管我们在汤顿听到些风言风语,可我还是认为我们很快就能达成协议。准男爵是个无所作为的人,不过他似乎也不坏。”俗话说礼尚往来,这大致可以被视为旗鼓相当的恭维话了吧。

克罗夫特夫妇定于米迦勒节(九月二十九日,英国四大结帐日之一,租约多于此日履行)那天住进凯林奇大厦。由于沃尔特爵士提议在前一个月搬到巴思,大家只好抓紧时间做好一切准备工作。

拉塞尔夫人心里有数,沃尔特爵士父女选择住房时,安妮是不会获许有任何发言权的,因此她不愿意这么匆匆地把她打发走,而想暂且让她留下,等圣诞节过后亲自把她送到巴思。可是,鉴于她有自己的事情,必须离开凯林奇几个星期,她又不能尽心如愿地提出邀请。再说安妮,她虽然惧怕巴思九月份的炎炎烈日,不愿抛弃乡下那清凉而宜人的秋天气候,但是通盘考虑一下,她还是不想留下。最恰当、最明智的办法还是同大伙儿一起走,这样做给她带来苦楚最小。

不料发生了一个情况,使她有了一项别的任务。原来,玛丽身上经常有点小毛病,而且她总是把自己的病情看得很重,一有点毛病就要来喊安妮。眼下她又感觉不舒服了。她预感自己整个秋天都不会有一天的好日子,便请安妮去,或者更确切地说,是要求她去,因为让她放着巴思不去,却来厄泼克劳斯乡舍同她作伴,而且要她呆多久就得呆多久,这就很难说是请求了。

“我不能没有安妮,”玛丽申述了情由。伊丽莎白回答说:“那么,安妮当然最好留下啦,反正到了巴思也不会有人需要她。”

被人认为还有些用处,虽说方式不够妥当,至少比让人当作无用之材而遗弃为好。安妮很乐意被人看作还有点用处,很乐意让人给她分派点任务,当然她也很高兴地点就在乡下,而且是她自己可爱的家乡。于是,她爽爽快快地答应留下。

玛丽的这一邀请解除了拉塞尔夫人的重负,因此事情马上说定:安妮先不去巴思,等以后拉塞尔夫人带她一起去。在此期间,安妮就轮流着住在厄泼克劳斯乡舍和凯林奇小屋。

迄今为止,一切都很顺利。谁想到拉塞尔夫人突然发现,凯林奇大厦的计划里有个问题几乎把她吓了一跳。问题就出在克莱夫人身上,她正准备同沃尔特爵士和伊丽莎白一道去巴思,作为伊丽莎白最重要、最得力的助手,协助她料理眼前的事情。拉塞尔夫人觉得万分遗憾,沃尔特爵士父女居然采取了这样的措施,真叫她感到惊讶、悲伤和担忧。克莱夫人如此被重用,而安妮却一点也不受器重,这是对安妮的公然蔑视,怎能不叫人大为恼怒。

安妮本人对这种蔑视已经无动于衷了,但她还是像拉塞尔夫人一样敏锐地感到,这样的安排有些轻率。她凭着自己大量的暗中观察,凭着她对父亲性格的了解(她经常希望自己了解得少一点),可以感觉到:她父亲同克莱夫人的密切关系完全可能给他的家庭带来极其严重的后果。她并不认为她父亲现在已经产生了那种念头。克莱夫人一脸雀斑,长着一颗大龅牙,有只手腕不灵活,为此她父亲一直在背后挖苦她。然而她毕竟年轻,当然也很漂亮,再加上头脑机灵,举止一味讨人喜欢,使她更加富有魅力。这种魅力比起纯粹容貌上的魅力来,不知道要危险多少倍。安妮深深感到这种魅力的危险性,义不容辞地也要让姐姐对此有所察觉。她不大可能成功,不过一旦发生这种不幸,伊丽莎白要比她更加令人可怜,她想必决没有理由指责她事先没有告诫过她。

安妮启口了,可似乎只招来了不是。伊丽莎白无法设想她怎么会产生如此荒谬的猜疑,她担保他们双方都是无可指责的,她了解他们的关系。

“克莱夫人,”她激动地说,“从来没有忘记自己的身分。我比你更了解她的心思。我可以告诉你,在婚姻这个问题上,她的观点是十分正确的。克莱夫人比大多数人都更强烈地指责门不当户不对。至于说到父亲,他为了我们一直鳏居,我的确想象不到现在居然要去怀疑他。假若克莱夫人是个美貌不凡的女人,我承认我也许不该老是拉着她。我敢说,无论在什么情况下,父亲一旦受到诱惑,娶了位有辱门庭的女人,他便要陷人不幸。不过,可怜的克莱夫人尽管有不少优点,却决不能被视为长得很漂亮。我的确认为,可怜的克莱夫人呆在这里是万无一失的。人们可能会设想你从未听见父亲说起她相貌上的缺陷,不过我敢肯定你都听过五十次了。她的那颗牙齿,那脸雀斑。我不像父亲那样讨厌雀斑。我认识一个人,脸上有几个雀斑,并不有伤大雅,可他却讨厌得不得了。”

“人不管相貌上有什么缺陷,”安妮回道,“只要举止可爱,总会叫你渐渐产生好感的。”

“我却大不以为然,”伊丽莎白简慢地答道。“可爱的举止可以衬托出漂亮的脸蛋,但是决不能改变难看的面孔。不过,无论如何,在这个问题上最担风险的是我,而不是别的什么人,我看你大可不必来开导我。”

安妮完成了任务。她很高兴事情结束了,而且并不认为自己完全一无所获。伊丽莎白虽然对她的猜疑忿忿不满,但也许会因此而留心些。

那辆驯马马车的最后一趟差事,是把沃尔特爵士、埃利奥特小姐和克莱夫人拉到巴思。这帮人兴高采烈地出发了。沃尔特爵士做好了思想准备,要纤尊降贵地向那些可能得到风声出来迎送他们的寒酸佃户和村民鞠躬致意。而在这同时,安妮却带着几分凄楚的心情,悄悄向凯林奇小屋走去,她要在那里度过第一个星期。

她朋友的情绪并不比她的好。拉塞尔夫人眼见着这个家庭的衰落,心里感到极为难过。她就像珍惜自己的体面那样珍惜他们的体面,珍惜同他们已经形成惯例的一天一次交往。一看见那空空荡荡的庭园,她就感到痛心,而更糟糕的是,这庭园即将落到生人手里。为了逃避村子变迁后引起的寂寞感和忧郁感,为了能在克罗夫特夫妇刚到达时躲得远远的,她决定等安妮要离开她时自己也离家而去。因此,她们一道出发了,到了拉塞尔夫人旅程的头一站,安妮便在厄泼克劳斯乡舍下了车。

厄泼克劳斯是个不大不小的村子,就在几年前,还完全保持着英格兰的古老风格,村上只有两座房子看上去胜过自耕农和雇农的住宅。那座地主庄园高墙大门,古树参天,气派豪华,古色古香,有条不紊的花园里,坐落着紧凑整洁的牧师住宅,窗外一棵梨树修得整整齐齐,窗户周围爬满了藤蔓。但是年轻的绅士一成家,便以农场住宅的格式做了修缮,改建成乡舍供他自己居住。于是,这幢设有游廊、落地长窗和其他漂亮装饰的厄泼克劳斯乡舍,便和大约四分之一英里以外的更协调、更雄伟的大宅一样能够引起行人的注目。

安妮以前经常在这里盘桓。她熟悉厄泼克劳斯这个地方,就像熟悉凯林奇一样。他们两家人本来一直不停地见面,养成了随时随刻你来我往的习惯;现在见到玛丽孤单单的一个人,安妮不禁大吃一惊。不过,在孤零零一个人的情况下,她身上不爽、精神不振乃是理所当然的事情。虽然她比她姐姐富有,但她却不具备安妮的见识和脾气。她在身体健康、精神愉快、有人妥当照顾的时候,倒能兴致勃勃,眉开眼笑的。可是一有点小灾小病,便顿时垂头丧气。她没有忍受孤单生活的本领。她在很大程度上继承了埃利奥特家族的妄自尊大,很喜欢在一切烦恼之外,再加上自以为受冷落、受虐待的烦恼。从容貌上看,她比不上两个姐姐,即使在青春妙龄时期,充其量也不过是被人们誉为“好看”而已。眼下,她呆在漂亮的小客厅里,正躺在那褪了色的长沙发上。经过四个春秋和两个孩子的折腾,屋里一度十分精致的家具逐渐变得破败起来。玛丽一见安妮走进屋,便向她表示欢迎:

“哦,你终于来了!我还以为永远见不到你呢。我病得几乎连话都不能说了。整个上午没见到一个人!”

“见你身体不好我很难过,”安妮回答说。“你星期四寄来的信里还把自己说得好好的。”

“是的,我尽量往好里说。我总是如此。可我当时身体一点也不好。我想我生平从来没有像今天早晨病得这么厉害,当然不宜于让我一个人呆着啦。假使我突然病得不行了,铃也不能拉,那可怎么办?拉塞尔夫人连车都不肯下。我想她今年夏天来我们家还不到三次呢。”

安妮说了些合乎时宜的话,并且问起她丈夫的情况。“埃!查尔斯出去打猎了。我从七点钟起一直没见过他的面。我告诉他我病得很厉害,可他一定要走。他说他不会在外面呆得很久,可他始终没有回来,现在都快一点钟了。实话对你说吧,整整一个上午我就没见过一个人。”

“小家伙一直和你在一起吧?”

“是的,假使我能忍受他们吵吵闹闹的话。可惜他们已经管束不住了,对我只有坏处没有好处。小查尔斯一句话也不听我的,沃尔特变得同他一样坏。”

“唔,你马上就会好起来的,”安妮高兴地答道。“你知道,我每次来都能治好你的病。你们大宅里的邻居怎么样啦?”

“我无法向你介绍他们的情况。我今天没见过他们一个人,当然,除了默斯格罗夫先生,他也只是停在窗外跟我说了几句话,没有下马。虽然我对他说我病得很厉害,他们一个也不肯接近我。我想,两位默斯格罗夫小姐又恰恰没有这个心思,她们是决不会给自己增添麻烦的。”

“也许不等上午结束,你还会见到她们的。时间还早。”

“实话对你说吧,我决不想见到她们。她们总是说说笑笑的,叫我无法忍受。唉!安妮,我身体这么坏!你星期四没来,真不体谅人。”

“我亲爱的玛丽,你回想一下,你在寄给我的信里把自己写得多么舒适惬意啊!你用极端轻快的笔调,告诉我你安然无恙,不急于让我来;既然情况如此,你一定明白我很想同拉塞尔夫人一起呆到最后。除了为她着想之外,我还确实很忙,有许多事情要做,因此很不方便,不能早点离开凯林奇。”

“天哪,你还能有什么事情要做?”

“告诉你吧,事情可多啦,多得我一时都想不起来了。不过我可以告诉你一些。我在给父亲的图书、图画复制一份目录。我陪麦肯齐去了几趟花园,想搞清楚并且让麦肯齐也搞清楚:伊丽莎白的哪些花草是准备送给拉塞尔夫人的。我还有自己的一些琐事需要安排,一些图书和琴谱需要分门别类地清理,再加上要收拾自己的箱子,因为我没有及时搞清楚马车准备什么时刻出发。我还有一件尴尬的事情要办:几乎跑遍教区的各家各户,算是告别吧。我听说他们有这个希望。这些事情花了我好多时间。”

玛丽顿了片刻,然后说道:“哎呀!我们昨天到普尔家吃的晚饭,对此你还只字没问过我呢。”

“这么说你去啦?我之所以没有问你,是因为我断定你一准因病放弃了。”

“哦,哪里!我去啦。我昨天身体挺好,直到今天早晨,我一直安然无恙。我要是不去,岂不成了咄咄怪事。”

“我很高兴你当时情况良好,希望你们举行了个愉快的晚宴。”

“不过如此。你总是事先就知道宴席上吃什么,什么人参加。而且自己没有马车,那可太不舒服啦。默斯格罗夫夫妇带我去的,真挤死人啦!他们两个块头那么大,占去那么多地方。默斯格罗夫先生总是坐在前面,这样一来我就跟亨丽埃塔和路易莎挤在后座上。我想,我今天的病八成就是这么挤出来的。”

安妮继续耐着性子,强露着笑颜,几乎把玛丽的病给治好了。过了不久,她就可以挺直身子坐在沙发上,并且希望吃晚饭的时候能离开沙发。随即,她又把这话抛到了脑后,走到屋子对面,摆弄起了花束。接着,她吃起了冷肉,以后又没事儿似地建议出去散散步。

两人准备好以后,她又说:“我们到哪儿去呢?我想你不会愿意赶在大宅里的人来看望你之前,先去拜一访他们吧?”

“这我丝毫没有什么不愿意的,”安妮答道。“对于默斯格罗夫太太和两位默斯格罗夫小姐那样的熟人,我决不会在礼仪上斤斤计较。”

“唔!他们应该尽早地来看望你。你是我的姐姐,他们应该懂得对你的礼貌。不过,我们还是去和他们坐一会儿吧,坐完之后再去尽兴地散我们的步。”

安妮一向认为这种交往方式过于冒失。不过她又不想加以阻止,因为她觉得,虽说两家总是话不投机,可是免不了要你来我往的,因此,她们走到大宅,在客厅里坐了足足半个小时。那是间老式的方形客厅,地上铺着一块小地毯,地板闪闪发亮,住在家里的两位小姐在四面八方摆设了大钢琴、竖琴、花架和小桌子,使整个客厅渐渐呈现出一派混乱景象。噢!但愿护壁板上的真迹画像能显显神通,让身着棕色天鹅绒的绅士和身穿蓝色绸缎的淑女能看到这些情形,觉察到有人竟然如此地不要秩序,不要整洁!画像本身似乎在惊讶地凝视着。

默斯格罗夫一家人和他们的房屋一样,正处于变化之中,也许是向好里变吧。两位做父母的保持着英格兰的旧风度,几位年轻人都染上了新派头。默斯格罗夫夫妇是一对大好人,殷勤好客,没受过多少教育,丝毫也不高雅。他们子女的思想举止倒还时髦一些。原来他们家里子女众多,可是除了查尔斯之外,只有两个长大成人,一位是二十岁的亨丽埃塔小姐,一位是十九岁的路易莎小姐。她们在埃克塞特念过书,学到了该学的东西,如今就像数以千计的年轻小姐一样,活着就是为了赶赶时髦,图个欢乐和痛快。她们穿戴华丽,面孔俊俏,兴致勃勃,举止大方,在家里深受器重,到外面受人宠爱。安妮总是把她们视为她所结识的朋友中最为幸福的两个尤物。然而,正像我们大家都有一种惬意的优越感,以致谁都不愿与人对调,安妮也不想放弃自己那更优雅、更有教养的心灵,而去换取她们的所有乐趣。她只羡慕她们表面上能相互谅解,相互疼爱,和颜悦色,十分融洽,而她和自己的姐妹却很少能有这样的感情。

她们受到了非常热情的接待。大宅一家人礼节周到;安妮心里清楚,她们在这方面一般是无可指摘的。大伙愉快地交谈着,半个钟头一晃就过去了。最后,经玛丽特意邀请,两位默斯格罗夫小姐也加入了散步的行列,对此,安妮丝毫也不感到惊奇。



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