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Chapter 6

Anne had not wanted this visit to Uppercross, to learn that a removal from one set of people to another, though at a distance of only three miles, will often include a total change of conversation, opinion, and idea. She had never been staying there before, without being struck by it, or without wishing that other Elliots could have her advantage in seeing how unknown, or unconsidered there, were the affairs which at Kellynch Hall were treated as of such general publicity and pervading interest; yet, with all this experience, she believed she must now submit to feel that another lesson, in the art of knowing our own nothingness beyond our own circle, was become necessary for her; for certainly, coming as she did, with a heart full of the subject which had been completely occupying both houses in Kellynch for many weeks, she had expected rather more curiosity and sympathy than she found in the separate but very similar remark of Mr and Mrs Musgrove: "So, Miss Anne, Sir Walter and your sister are gone; and what part of Bath do you think they will settle in?" and this, without much waiting for an answer; or in the young ladies' addition of, "I hope we shall be in Bath in the winter; but remember, papa, if we do go, we must be in a good situation: none of your Queen Squares for us!" or in the anxious supplement from Mary, of-- "Upon my word, I shall be pretty well off, when you are all gone away to be happy at Bath!"

She could only resolve to avoid such self-delusion in future, and think with heightened gratitude of the extraordinary blessing of having one such truly sympathising friend as Lady Russell.

The Mr Musgroves had their own game to guard, and to destroy, their own horses, dogs, and newspapers to engage them, and the females were fully occupied in all the other common subjects of housekeeping, neighbours, dress, dancing, and music. She acknowledged it to be very fitting, that every little social commonwealth should dictate its own matters of discourse; and hoped, ere long, to become a not unworthy member of the one she was now transplanted into. With the prospect of spending at least two months at Uppercross, it was highly incumbent on her to clothe her imagination, her memory, and all her ideas in as much of Uppercross as possible.

She had no dread of these two months. Mary was not so repulsive and unsisterly as Elizabeth, nor so inaccessible to all influence of hers; neither was there anything among the other component parts of the cottage inimical to comfort. She was always on friendly terms with her brother-in-law; and in the children, who loved her nearly as well, and respected her a great deal more than their mother, she had an object of interest, amusement, and wholesome exertion.

Charles Musgrove was civil and agreeable; in sense and temper he was undoubtedly superior to his wife, but not of powers, or conversation, or grace, to make the past, as they were connected together, at all a dangerous contemplation; though, at the same time, Anne could believe, with Lady Russell, that a more equal match might have greatly improved him; and that a woman of real understanding might have given more consequence to his character, and more usefulness, rationality, and elegance to his habits and pursuits. As it was, he did nothing with much zeal, but sport; and his time was otherwise trifled away, without benefit from books or anything else. He had very good spirits, which never seemed much affected by his wife's occasional lowness, bore with her unreasonableness sometimes to Anne's admiration, and upon the whole, though there was very often a little disagreement (in which she had sometimes more share than she wished, being appealed to by both parties), they might pass for a happy couple. They were always perfectly agreed in the want of more money, and a strong inclination for a handsome present from his father; but here, as on most topics, he had the superiority, for while Mary thought it a great shame that such a present was not made, he always contended for his father's having many other uses for his money, and a right to spend it as he liked.

As to the management of their children, his theory was much better than his wife's, and his practice not so bad. "I could manage them very well, if it were not for Mary's interference, " was what Anne often heard him say, and had a good deal of faith in; but when listening in turn to Mary's reproach of "Charles spoils the children so that I cannot get them into any order, " she never had the smallest temptation to say, "Very true. "

One of the least agreeable circumstances of her residence there was her being treated with too much confidence by all parties, and being too much in the secret of the complaints of each house. Known to have some influence with her sister, she was continually requested, or at least receiving hints to exert it, beyond what was practicable. "I wish you could persuade Mary not to be always fancying herself ill, " was Charles's language; and, in an unhappy mood, thus spoke Mary: "I do believe if Charles were to see me dying, he would not think there was anything the matter with me. I am sure, Anne, if you would, you might persuade him that I really am very ill--a great deal worse than I ever own. "

Mary's declaration was, "I hate sending the children to the Great House, though their grandmamma is always wanting to see them, for she humours and indulges them to such a degree, and gives them so much trash and sweet things, that they are sure to come back sick and cross for the rest of the day. " And Mrs Musgrove took the first opportunity of being alone with Anne, to say, "Oh! Miss Anne, I cannot help wishing Mrs Charles had a little of your method with those children. They are quite different creatures with you! But to be sure, in general they are so spoilt! It is a pity you cannot put your sister in the way of managing them. They are as fine healthy children as ever were seen, poor little dears! without partiality; but Mrs Charles knows no more how they should be treated--! Bless me! how troublesome they are sometimes. I assure you, Miss Anne, it prevents my wishing to see them at our house so often as I otherwise should. I believe Mrs Charles is not quite pleased with my not inviting them oftener; but you know it is very bad to have children with one that one is obligated to be checking every moment; "don't do this, " and "don't do that;" or that one can only keep in tolerable order by more cake than is good for them. "

She had this communication, moreover, from Mary. "Mrs Musgrove thinks all her servants so steady, that it would be high treason to call it in question; but I am sure, without exaggeration, that her upper house-maid and laundry-maid, instead of being in their business, are gadding about the village, all day long. I meet them wherever I go; and I declare, I never go twice into my nursery without seeing something of them. If Jemima were not the trustiest, steadiest creature in the world, it would be enough to spoil her; for she tells me, they are always tempting her to take a walk with them. " And on Mrs Musgrove's side, it was, "I make a rule of never interfering in any of my daughter-in-law's concerns, for I know it would not do; but I shall tell you, Miss Anne, because you may be able to set things to rights, that I have no very good opinion of Mrs Charles's nursery-maid: I hear strange stories of her; she is always upon the gad; and from my own knowledge, I can declare, she is such a fine-dressing lady, that she is enough to ruin any servants she comes near. Mrs Charles quite swears by her, I know; but I just give you this hint, that you may be upon the watch; because, if you see anything amiss, you need not be afraid of mentioning it. "

Again, it was Mary's complaint, that Mrs Musgrove was very apt not to give her the precedence that was her due, when they dined at the Great House with other families; and she did not see any reason why she was to be considered so much at home as to lose her place. And one day when Anne was walking with only the Musgroves, one of them after talking of rank, people of rank, and jealousy of rank, said, "I have no scruple of observing to you, how nonsensical some persons are about their place, because all the world knows how easy and indifferent you are about it; but I wish anybody could give Mary a hint that it would be a great deal better if she were not so very tenacious, especially if she would not be always putting herself forward to take place of mamma. Nobody doubts her right to have precedence of mamma, but it would be more becoming in her not to be always insisting on it. It is not that mamma cares about it the least in the world, but I know it is taken notice of by many persons. "

How was Anne to set all these matters to rights? She could do little more than listen patiently, soften every grievance, and excuse each to the other; give them all hints of the forbearance necessary between such near neighbours, and make those hints broadest which were meant for her sister's benefit.

In all other respects, her visit began and proceeded very well. Her own spirits improved by change of place and subject, by being removed three miles from Kellynch; Mary's ailments lessened by having a constant companion, and their daily intercourse with the other family, since there was neither superior affection, confidence, nor employment in the cottage, to be interrupted by it, was rather an advantage. It was certainly carried nearly as far as possible, for they met every morning, and hardly ever spent an evening asunder; but she believed they should not have done so well without the sight of Mr and Mrs Musgrove's respectable forms in the usual places, or without the talking, laughing, and singing of their daughters.

She played a great deal better than either of the Miss Musgroves, but having no voice, no knowledge of the harp, and no fond parents, to sit by and fancy themselves delighted, her performance was little thought of, only out of civility, or to refresh the others, as she was well aware. She knew that when she played she was giving pleasure only to herself; but this was no new sensation. Excepting one short period of her life, she had never, since the age of fourteen, never since the loss of her dear mother, known the happiness of being listened to, or encouraged by any just appreciation or real taste. In music she had been always used to feel alone in the world; and Mr and Mrs Musgrove's fond partiality for their own daughters' performance, and total indifference to any other person's, gave her much more pleasure for their sakes, than mortification for her own.

The party at the Great House was sometimes increased by other company. The neighbourhood was not large, but the Musgroves were visited by everybody, and had more dinner-parties, and more callers, more visitors by invitation and by chance, than any other family. There were more completely popular.

The girls were wild for dancing; and the evenings ended, occasionally, in an unpremeditated little ball. There was a family of cousins within a walk of Uppercross, in less affluent circumstances, who depended on the Musgroves for all their pleasures: they would come at any time, and help play at anything, or dance anywhere; and Anne, very much preferring the office of musician to a more active post, played country dances to them by the hour together; a kindness which always recommended her musical powers to the notice of Mr and Mrs Musgrove more than anything else, and often drew this compliment;-- "Well done, Miss Anne! very well done indeed! Lord bless me! how those little fingers of yours fly about!"

So passed the first three weeks. Michaelmas came; and now Anne's heart must be in Kellynch again. A beloved home made over to others; all the precious rooms and furniture, groves, and prospects, beginning to own other eyes and other limbs! She could not think of much else on the 29th of September; and she had this sympathetic touch in the evening from Mary, who, on having occasion to note down the day of the month, exclaimed, "Dear me, is not this the day the Crofts were to come to Kellynch? I am glad I did not think of it before. How low it makes me!"

The Crofts took possession with true naval alertness, and were to be visited. Mary deplored the necessity for herself. "Nobody knew how much she should suffer. She should put it off as long as she could;" but was not easy till she had talked Charles into driving her over on an early day, and was in a very animated, comfortable state of imaginary agitation, when she came back. Anne had very sincerely rejoiced in there being no means of her going. She wished, however to see the Crofts, and was glad to be within when the visit was returned. They came: the master of the house was not at home, but the two sisters were together; and as it chanced that Mrs Croft fell to the share of Anne, while the Admiral sat by Mary, and made himself very agreeable by his good-humoured notice of her little boys, she was well able to watch for a likeness, and if it failed her in the features, to catch it in the voice, or in the turn of sentiment and expression.

Mrs Croft, though neither tall nor fat, had a squareness, uprightness, and vigour of form, which gave importance to her person. She had bright dark eyes, good teeth, and altogether an agreeable face; though her reddened and weather-beaten complexion, the consequence of her having been almost as much at sea as her husband, made her seem to have lived some years longer in the world than her real eight-and-thirty. Her manners were open, easy, and decided, like one who had no distrust of herself, and no doubts of what to do; without any approach to coarseness, however, or any want of good humour. Anne gave her credit, indeed, for feelings of great consideration towards herself, in all that related to Kellynch, and it pleased her: especially, as she had satisfied herself in the very first half minute, in the instant even of introduction, that there was not the smallest symptom of any knowledge or suspicion on Mrs Croft's side, to give a bias of any sort. She was quite easy on that head, and consequently full of strength and courage, till for a moment electrified by Mrs Croft's suddenly saying, --

"It was you, and not your sister, I find, that my brother had the pleasure of being acquainted with, when he was in this country. "

Anne hoped she had outlived the age of blushing; but the age of emotion she certainly had not.

"Perhaps you may not have heard that he is married?" added Mrs Croft.

She could now answer as she ought; and was happy to feel, when Mrs Croft's next words explained it to be Mr Wentworth of whom she spoke, that she had said nothing which might not do for either brother. She immediately felt how reasonable it was, that Mrs Croft should be thinking and speaking of Edward, and not of Frederick; and with shame at her own forgetfulness applied herself to the knowledge of their former neighbour's present state with proper interest.

The rest was all tranquillity; till, just as they were moving, she heard the Admiral say to Mary--

"We are expecting a brother of Mrs Croft's here soon; I dare say you know him by name. "

He was cut short by the eager attacks of the little boys, clinging to him like an old friend, and declaring he should not go; and being too much engrossed by proposals of carrying them away in his coat pockets, &c. , to have another moment for finishing or recollecting what he had begun, Anne was left to persuade herself, as well as she could, that the same brother must still be in question. She could not, however, reach such a degree of certainty, as not to be anxious to hear whether anything had been said on the subject at the other house, where the Crofts had previously been calling.

The folks of the Great House were to spend the evening of this day at the Cottage; and it being now too late in the year for such visits to be made on foot, the coach was beginning to be listened for, when the youngest Miss Musgrove walked in. That she was coming to apologize, and that they should have to spend the evening by themselves, was the first black idea; and Mary was quite ready to be affronted, when Louisa made all right by saying, that she only came on foot, to leave more room for the harp, which was bringing in the carriage.

"And I will tell you our reason, " she added, "and all about it. I am come on to give you notice, that papa and mamma are out of spirits this evening, especially mamma; she is thinking so much of poor Richard! And we agreed it would be best to have the harp, for it seems to amuse her more than the piano-forte. I will tell you why she is out of spirits. When the Crofts called this morning, (they called here afterwards, did not they?), they happened to say, that her brother, Captain Wentworth, is just returned to England, or paid off, or something, and is coming to see them almost directly; and most unluckily it came into mamma's head, when they were gone, that Wentworth, or something very like it, was the name of poor Richard's captain at one time; I do not know when or where, but a great while before he died, poor fellow! And upon looking over his letters and things, she found it was so, and is perfectly sure that this must be the very man, and her head is quite full of it, and of poor Richard! So we must be as merry as we can, that she may not be dwelling upon such gloomy things. "

The real circumstances of this pathetic piece of family history were, that the Musgroves had had the ill fortune of a very troublesome, hopeless son; and the good fortune to lose him before he reached his twentieth year; that he had been sent to sea because he was stupid and unmanageable on shore; that he had been very little cared for at any time by his family, though quite as much as he deserved; seldom heard of, and scarcely at all regretted, when the intelligence of his death abroad had worked its way to Uppercross, two years before.

He had, in fact, though his sisters were now doing all they could for him, by calling him "poor Richard, " been nothing better than a thick-headed, unfeeling, unprofitable Dick Musgrove, who had never done anything to entitle himself to more than the abbreviation of his name, living or dead.

He had been several years at sea, and had, in the course of those removals to which all midshipmen are liable, and especially such midshipmen as every captain wishes to get rid of, been six months on board Captain Frederick Wentworth's frigate, the Laconia; and from the Laconia he had, under the influence of his captain, written the only two letters which his father and mother had ever received from him during the whole of his absence; that is to say, the only two disinterested letters; all the rest had been mere applications for money.

In each letter he had spoken well of his captain; but yet, so little were they in the habit of attending to such matters, so unobservant and incurious were they as to the names of men or ships, that it had made scarcely any impression at the time; and that Mrs Musgrove should have been suddenly struck, this very day, with a recollection of the name of Wentworth, as connected with her son, seemed one of those extraordinary bursts of mind which do sometimes occur.

She had gone to her letters, and found it all as she supposed; and the re-perusal of these letters, after so long an interval, her poor son gone for ever, and all the strength of his faults forgotten, had affected her spirits exceedingly, and thrown her into greater grief for him than she had know on first hearing of his death. Mr Musgrove was, in a lesser degree, affected likewise; and when they reached the cottage, they were evidently in want, first, of being listened to anew on this subject, and afterwards, of all the relief which cheerful companions could give them.

To hear them talking so much of Captain Wentworth, repeating his name so often, puzzling over past years, and at last ascertaining that it might, that it probably would, turn out to be the very same Captain Wentworth whom they recollected meeting, once or twice, after their coming back from Clifton--a very fine young man--but they could not say whether it was seven or eight years ago, was a new sort of trial to Anne's nerves. She found, however, that it was one to which she must inure herself. Since he actually was expected in the country, she must teach herself to be insensible on such points. And not only did it appear that he was expected, and speedily, but the Musgroves, in their warm gratitude for the kindness he had shewn poor Dick, and very high respect for his character, stamped as it was by poor Dick's having been six months under his care, and mentioning him in strong, though not perfectly well-spelt praise, as "a fine dashing felow, only two perticular about the schoolmaster, " were bent on introducing themselves, and seeking his acquaintance, as soon as they could hear of his arrival.

The resolution of doing so helped to form the comfort of their evening.

安妮并不需要通过这次来访厄泼克劳斯,便能体味到:从一伙人来到另一伙人中间,虽说只有三英里之隔,却往往包含着谈吐、见解和观念上的全面改变。她以前每次来到这里,对此都深有感触,真希望埃利奥特府上的其他成员能有她这样的缘分,亲眼看看在凯林奇大厦看来是沸沸扬扬、众所关注的事情,在这里如何无声无息,无人问津。然而,经过这次访问,她觉得自己应该老老实实地认识到,她必须吸取另外一个教训:人一走出自己的圈子,要对自己的无足轻重有个自知之明;因为她虽说人是来了,却在一门心思想着凯林奇两家人思考了几个星期的那桩事,当然也就期待会引起亲戚朋友的好奇与同情,谁想默斯格罗夫夫妇却先后说出了如此雷同的话:“安妮小姐,这么说沃尔特爵士和你姐姐已经走了。你看他们会在巴思什么地方住下来?”说罢也并不期待安妮回答。两位小姐补充说:“希望今冬咱们也去巴思。不过你要记住,爸爸,我们要是真去的话,必须呆在个好地方,别让我们去你的皇后广场啦!”这时,玛丽焦灼不安地补充道:“听我说吧,等你们都去巴思寻欢作乐的时候,我肯定会大享清福的!”

安妮只能横下决心,将来不要这么自欺欺人,并且怀着更加深切的感激之情,庆幸自己能有一个像拉塞尔夫人那样真正富有同情心的朋友。

默斯格罗夫父子俩要护猎,狩猎,养马,喂狗,看报;女眷们则让其它通常的家务事忙得不可开交,什么管理家务呀,与邻居来往呀,添置服装呀,跳舞唱歌呀。她承认,每一个社会小团体都有权决定自已的谈话内容。她希望,她不久能成为她现在加人的这个小团体的一个合格的成员。她预期要在厄泼克劳斯至少呆两个月,因此她理所当然地应该使自己的想象、记忆和种种念头,尽可能地不要脱离厄泼克劳斯。

她并不担心这两个月。玛丽不像伊丽莎白那样令人反感,那样没有姐妹情,也不像伊丽莎白那样全然不听她的话。乡舍里的其他成员也没有任何令人不快的地方。她同妹夫一向很要好。两个孩子对她几乎像对母亲一样喜爱,但却比对母亲尊敬得多,他们给她带来了兴趣和乐趣,使她有了用武之地。

查尔斯·默斯格罗夫为人谦和客气。他在理智与性情上无疑胜过他的妻子,但他缺乏才干,不善辞令,没有风度,回想起过去(因为他们过去有过联系),不会产生任何危险。不过,安妮和拉塞尔夫人都这样认为:他若是娶个更加匹配的妻子,兴许会有很大的长进;若是有个真正有见识的女人,他的身分兴许会变得更加举足轻重一些,他的行为和爱好也许会变得更有价值,更有理智,更加优雅。其实,他除了游乐活动之外,于什么都不热衷,时光都白白浪费掉了,也不看点书,或是干点别的有益的事情。他是个乐呵呵的人,从来不受妻子情绪时高时低的影响,玛丽再不讲道理,他都能忍耐,有时真让安妮感到钦佩。总的来说,虽然他们经常有点小的争执(由于受到双方的恳求,她自己有时也身不由己地给卷了进去),他们还是可以被看作幸福的一对。他们在要钱这一点上总是十分合拍,很想从他父亲那里捞到一份厚礼。不过像在大多数问题上一样,查尔斯在这个问题上占了上风。当玛丽把他父亲不送礼视为一大耻辱时,他总是替父亲分辩,说他的钱还有许多其他用场,他有权爱怎么花就怎么花。

至于说到管教孩子,他的理论比他妻子的高明得多,而且他的做法也不赖。安妮经常听他说:“要不是玛丽从中干预,我会把孩子管得服服帖帖的。”安妮也十分相信他这话。反过来,她又听玛丽责怪说:“查尔斯把孩子惯坏了,我都管教不住了。”她听了这话从来不想说声“的确如此”。

她住在这里最不愉快的一件事情,就是他们各方对她太倾心诉胆,两房的牢骚话她听得太多。大家都知道她对她妹妹有些办法,便一再不切实际地请求她,至少是暗示她施加点影响。“我希望你能劝劝玛丽,不要总是想象自己身体不爽。”这是查尔斯的话。于是,玛丽便悻悻地说道:“我相信,查尔斯即使眼看着我快死了,也会认为我没有什么大病。当然啦,安妮,你要是肯帮忙的话,就请你告诉他,我的确病得很厉害——比我说的历害得多。”

玛丽宣称:“虽然做奶奶的总想见见孙子,我可不愿意把孩子送到大宅,因为她对他们过于娇惯,过于迁就,给他们吃那么多杂食、甜食,以至孩子们回来后,这后半天准是又吐又闹。”等默斯格罗夫太太一得到机会单独和安妮呆在一起,她便会趁机说道:“哦!安妮小姐,要是查尔斯夫人对那些孩子多少有点你的办法,那就好啦。他们在你面前个个都判若两人!当然啦,总的来说,他们都给宠坏了!真遗憾,你不能帮你妹妹学会管教孩子。这些孩子既漂亮又健康,跟谁比都不差,好可怜的小宝贝啊!这可不是我偏心眼。查尔斯夫人压根儿不晓得如何管教孩子!天哪!他们有时候真能烦人。实话对你说吧,安妮小姐,这就使我不大愿意在自己家里见到他们,不然的话,我会多见见他们的。我想,查尔斯夫人见我不常请他们来,一定不太高兴。不过你知道,跟那些你随时都得阻阻挡挡的孩子在一起,可真够令人讨厌的。什么‘别做这个’啦,‘别干那个’啦。你要是想让他们老实些,只能多给他们吃点糕点,尽管这对他们没有好处。”

另外,她还听见玛丽这样说:“默斯格罗夫太太认为自己的用人都很踏实可靠,谁要是对此有所怀疑,便是大逆不道。但是我可以毫不夸张地说,她的上房女仆和洗衣女工压根儿不干活,一天到晚在村里闲逛。我走到哪里就在哪里碰见她们。我敢说,我每去两次保育室就能见到她们一次。假如杰米玛不是世界上最踏实可靠的用人,那就准会让她们给带坏了;她告诉我说,她们总是诱惑她和她们一起散步。”而到了默斯格罗夫太太嘴里,话却是这样说的:“我给自己定下了一条规矩,决不干涉儿媳的任何事情,因为我知道这使不得。不过,安妮小姐,你或许能帮助解决些问题,所以我要告诉你,我对查尔斯夫人的保姆没有好感。我听到她的一些怪事,她总是游游荡荡的。就我所知,我敢说她是个讲究穿戴的女人,任何用人接近她都会被带坏。我知道,查尔斯夫人极其信赖她。我只是提醒你一下,好让你留心注意。你要是有什么看不惯的,要敢于提出来。”

玛丽还抱怨说,大宅里请人家吃饭的时候,默斯格罗夫太太连她应该享有的优先权都不给她。她不知道他们为什么待她如此随随便便,致使她有失自己的地位。一天,安妮正在和两位默斯格罗夫小姐散步,她们其中的一位谈起了地位、有地位的人和人们对地位的嫉妒,她说:“我可以毫无顾忌地对你说,有的人真够荒唐的,死抱住自己的地位不放,因为大家都知道你对地位想得开,不计较。但是我希望有人能向玛丽进一言,假如她不是那么顽固不化,特别是不一要总是盛气凌人地抢母亲的位置,那就好多了。谁也不怀疑她比母亲有优先权(玛丽是准男爵的女儿,所以地位在其婆婆之上,在社交场合应该享有优先权),但是她倘若不是那么时刻坚持的话,倒会更得体一些。这并不是说母亲对此有所计较,可我知道有许多人注意到了这个问题。”

安妮如何帮助解决这些问题呢?她充其量只能耐心地听着,为种种苦衷打打圆场,替双方都开脱开脱。她暗示说大家挨得这么近,相互间应该包涵着点才是,而且把送给她妹妹的暗示说得更加明白易懂。

从其他各方面来看,她的访问开始得很顺利,进行得也很顺利。由于改变了住所和话题,搬到离凯林奇三英里远的地方,她的情绪也随之好转。玛丽朝夕有人作伴,病情有所好转。她们同大宅一家人的日常交往,因为乡舍的人既没有什么真挚的感情要流露,又没有什么贴心的话儿要倾诉,也没有什么事情要干,反倒成了好事。当然,这种酬酢交往几乎有点过分,因为她们每天早上都要聚到一起,晚上几乎从不分离。不过安妮觉得,假若不能在往常的地方看到默斯格罗夫夫妇可敬的身影,假若听不见他们的女儿谈唱嘻笑的声音,她们姊妹俩也不会过得这么愉快。

她的钢琴比两位默斯格罗夫小姐弹得出色得多,但她嗓音不好,不会弹竖琴,也没有慈爱的父母坐在旁边自得其乐。她心里很清楚,她的演奏并不受欢迎,只不过出于礼貌,或是给别人提提神罢了。她知道,当她弹琴的时候,只有她自己从中得到快乐。不过,这已经不是什么新鲜感觉了。她自十四岁失去亲爱的母亲以来,生平除了一段很短的时间以外,从未感受过被人洗耳恭听的幸福,从未受到过真正的赞赏和鼓励。在音乐这个天地里,她历来总是感到孤苦伶仃的。默斯格罗夫夫妇只偏爱自己两个女儿的演奏,对别人的演奏却完全似听非听,这与其说使她为自己感到羞辱,不如说使她为默斯格罗夫家小姐感到高兴。

有时,大宅里还要增加些别的客人。厄泼克劳斯地方不大,但是人人都来默斯格罗夫府上拜访,因此默斯格罗夫府上举行的宴会、接待的客人(应邀的和偶尔来访的)比谁家的都多。 他们真是吃香极了。

默斯格罗夫家小姐对跳舞如醉如狂,因此晚会末了偶尔要安排一次计划外的小型舞会。离厄泼克劳斯不远有一家表亲,家境不那么富裕,全靠来默斯格罗夫家娱乐娱乐。他们随时随刻都能来,帮助弹弹琴,跳跳舞,真是无可不可。安妮宁肯担任伴奏的任务,也不愿意干那蹦蹦跳跳的事情,于是便整小时地为大家弹奏乡下圆舞曲。她的这种友好举动总要博得默斯格罗夫夫妇的欢心,使她们比任何时候都更赏识她的音乐才能,而且经常受到这样的恭维:“弹得好啊,安妮小姐!真是好极啦!天哪!你的那些小指头动得多欢啊!”

就这样,前三个星期过去了,米迦勒节来临了。现在,安妮心里又该思恋凯林奇了。一个可爱的家让给了别人。那些可爱的房间和家具,迷人的树林和庭园景色,就要受到别人的观赏,为别人所利用!九月二十九日那天,安妮无法去想别的心思。到了晚上,她听见玛丽说了一句触动悲怀的话。当时,玛丽一有机会记起当天的日期,便惊讶地说道:“哎呀,克罗夫特夫妇不就是今天要来凯林奇吗?好在我先前没想起这件事。这事真叫我伤心啊!”

克罗夫特夫妇以不折不扣的海军作风,雷厉风行地搬进了凯林奇大厦,而且等着客人光临。玛丽也有登门拜访之必要,为此她甚感懊恼。“谁也不晓得我心里会有多么难受。我要尽量往后推延。”可是她又心神不定,后来硬是劝说丈夫早早用车把她送了过去,回来时那副神气活现、怡然自得的激动神情,简直无法形容。安妮没有车不能去,为此她感到由衷的高兴。不过,她还是想见见克罗夫特夫妇,所以,当他们回访的时候,她很高兴自己就在屋里。他们光临了,可惜房主人不在家,只有这姊妹俩呆在一起。说来也巧,克罗夫特夫人同安妮坐到了一块儿,而海军少将则坐在玛丽旁边,他乐呵呵地逗着她的小家伙玩,显得非常和蔼可亲,而安妮恰好可以在一旁观察,看看姐弟俩有什么相似之处,即使在容貌上发现不了,也能在声音、性情或谈吐中捕捉得到。

克罗夫特夫人虽说既不高也不胖,但她体态丰盈,亭亭玉立,富有活力,使她显得十分精神。她的眼睛乌黑透亮,牙齿洁白整齐,脸上和颜悦色。不过,她在海上的时间几乎和她丈夫一样多,面孔晒得又红又黑,这就使她看上去比她的实际年龄三十八岁要大上几岁。她举止坦然,大方,果断,不像是个缺乏自信的人,一举一动都不含糊。然而她既不失之粗俗,又不缺乏风趣但凡牵涉到凯林奇的事情,她总是十分照顾安妮的情绪,这真使安妮为之赞叹,也使她感到高兴,特别是在头半分钟里,甚至就在介绍的当儿,她便满意地发现,克罗夫特夫人没有露出知情或是疑心的丝毫迹象,不可能产生何形式的偏见。在这一点上,安妮非常放心,因此充满了力量和勇气,直到后来克罗夫特夫人突然冒出一句话,才使她像触电似的为之一惊:

“我发现,我弟弟呆在这一带的时候,荣幸地结识了你,而不是你姐姐。”

安妮希望自己已经跨过了羞怯的年龄,但她肯定没有跨过容易冲动的年龄。

“你也许还没听说他结婚了吧?”克罗夫特夫人接着说道。

现在,安妮可以该怎么回答就怎么回答啦。原来,当克罗夫特夫人接下来的话说明她在谈论温特沃思先生时,安妮高兴地感到,她所说的每一句话对她的两个弟弟都适用。她当即认识到,克罗夫特夫人心里想的、嘴里说的很可能是爱德华,而不是弗雷德里克。她为自己的健忘而感到羞愧,便带着相宜的兴趣,倾听克罗夫特夫人介绍她们那位过去的邻居的目前情况。

余下的时间平平静静地过去了。最后,正当客人起身告辞的时候,她听见海军少将对玛丽说:

“我们正在期待克罗夫特夫人的一位弟弟,他不久要来此地。你想必听说过他的名字吧?”

他的话头被两个孩子打断了,他们一拥而上,像老朋友似的缠住他,扬言不让他走。他的注意力完全被他们的种种建议吸引住了,什么要他把他们装进上衣口袋里带走呀,不一而足,闹得他无暇把话说完,甚至也记不起自己说到哪儿了。于是,安妮只能尽量劝慰自己:他说的一定还是那同一个弟弟。不过,她还没达到十拿九稳的地步,急切地想打听一下克罗夫特夫妇有没有在大宅里说起这件事,因为他们是先去那里走访的。

当天晚上,大宅一家人要来乡舍做客。因为眼下时令太晚,此类拜访不宜徒步进行,主人们便等着听马车的声音。恰在这时,默斯格罗夫家二小姐走了进来。众人见此情景,首先产生了一个绝望的念头,认为她是来道歉的,这一晚上他们只好自己消磨啦。玛丽已经做好了忍受屈辱的充分准备,不想路易莎令人释然地说道:只有她一个人是走来的,为的是给竖琴让地方,因为竖琴也装在车子里拉来了。

“我要告诉你们我们为什么要这样做,”她补充说道,“原原本本地告诉你们。我过来告诉你们一声,我爸爸妈妈今晚情绪不好,特别是我妈妈。她在苦苦思念可怜的理查德!我们大家一致认为,最好带上竖琴,因为竖琴似乎比钢琴更能使她开心。我要告诉你们她为什么情绪不好。克罗夫特夫妇上午来访的时候(他们后来拜访了这里,是吧?),他们偶然提到,克罗夫特夫人的兄弟温特沃思上校刚刚回到英国,或者是被休役了什么的,眼下就要来看望他们。极为不幸的是,他们走了之后,妈妈不由得想起,可怜的理查德一度有个舰长,就姓温特沃思,或者与此很相似的一个姓。我不知道那是在什么时候,什么地方,不过远在他去世之前,可怜的家伙!妈妈查了查他的书信遗物,发现确实如此,她百分之百地断定,这就是那个人。她满脑子都在想着这件事,想着可怜的理查德!所以,我们必须尽量高高兴兴的,以便不要老是想着如此伤心的事情。”

这段叫人心酸的家史的真实情况是这样的:默斯格罗夫夫妇不幸有个令人烦恼、无可救药的儿子,但是幸运的是,他还不到二十岁便离开了人世。原来,他因为禀性愚蠢,在岸上管束不住,便被送到海上。他始终得不到家人的关照,不过他也根本不配得到关照。他几乎查无音讯,也没有人感到遗憾,谁想两年前,噩耗传到厄泼克劳斯,说他死在海外。

尽食他妹妹现在拼命地可怜他,把他称作“可怜的理查德”,可在事实上,他一向只不过是个愚笨、冷酷、无用的迪克·默斯格罗夫(“迪克”就是“理查德”的筒称),因为他投有积下什么德,可以使他有权享有比这简称更高的称呼,无论是生前还是死后。

他在海上服了几年役。在这期间,他像所有的海军候补生一样、特别是像那些每个舰长都不想要的海军候补生一徉,总是被调来调去,其中包括在弗雷德里克·温特沃思上校的护卫舰拉科尼亚号上呆了六个月。经过舰长做工作,他从拉科尼正号上给父母亲写了两封信,这是他整个离家期间他们收到的仅有的两封信。也就是说:仅有的两封不图私利的信。共余的信全是来要钱的。

他在两封信中都称赞了他的舰长。然而,他的父母向来不大注意这种事,对人名舰名压根儿不留心,也不感兴趣,所以当时没有留下什么印象。有时人会产生灵感,默斯格罗夫太太那天突然想起温特沃思的名字,把它同她儿子挂上钩,似乎就是一种异乎寻常的灵感。

她去看信,发现同她想象的一模一样,虽然时间隔了很久,她儿子已经永远离开了人世,他的过失已被人们淡忘,但是如今重读这两封信,却使她极为动情。真比最初听到噩耗时还悲痛万分,默斯格罗夫先生同样大动感情,只是程度上比不上他太太。他们来到乡舍之后,起先显然想要大伙倾听他们重新絮叨这件事,后来又需要兴高采烈的众人对他们进行劝慰。

他们俩滔滔不绝地谈论着温特沃思上校,一而再再而三地重复着他的名字,对过去的岁月感到困感不解,最后断定他兴许,也可能就是他们从克利夫顿回来后,记得见过一两次的温特沃思上校——一个很好的年轻人——但是他们说不上究竟是七年前还是六年前。听他们这么说着,对安妮的神经不啻是一种新的磨砺。不过她觉得,她必须使自己习惯于这磨砺。既然温特沃思真的要来乡下,她必须告诫自已在这种问题上不要神经过敏。现在看来,问题不仅仅是温特沃思很快要来,而且默斯格罗夫夫妇由于十分感激他对可怜的迪克的好意关照,十分尊重他的人格〔迪克受到他六个月的关照,曾用热烈而夹有错别字的言词称赞他是个“帅气的好小伙子,只是对教练太苛刻”,这些都足以显示出他的人格)。便一门心思在想,当他们一听说他的到来,就向他自我介绍,与他交个朋友。

两人打定这样的主意,不觉给晚会带来了几分愉快的气息。



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