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Chapter 7

A very few days more, and Captain Wentworth was known to be at Kellynch, and Mr Musgrove had called on him, and come back warm in his praise, and he was engaged with the Crofts to dine at Uppercross, by the end of another week. It had been a great disappointment to Mr Musgrove to find that no earlier day could be fixed, so impatient was he to shew his gratitude, by seeing Captain Wentworth under his own roof, and welcoming him to all that was strongest and best in his cellars. But a week must pass; only a week, in Anne's reckoning, and then, she supposed, they must meet; and soon she began to wish that she could feel secure even for a week.

Captain Wentworth made a very early return to Mr Musgrove's civility, and she was all but calling there in the same half hour. She and Mary were actually setting forward for the Great House, where, as she afterwards learnt, they must inevitably have found him, when they were stopped by the eldest boy's being at that moment brought home in consequence of a bad fall. The child's situation put the visit entirely aside; but she could not hear of her escape with indifference, even in the midst of the serious anxiety which they afterwards felt on his account.

His collar-bone was found to be dislocated, and such injury received in the back, as roused the most alarming ideas. It was an afternoon of distress, and Anne had every thing to do at once; the apothecary to send for, the father to have pursued and informed, the mother to support and keep from hysterics, the servants to control, the youngest child to banish, and the poor suffering one to attend and soothe; besides sending, as soon as she recollected it, proper notice to the other house, which brought her an accession rather of frightened, enquiring companions, than of very useful assistants.

Her brother's return was the first comfort; he could take best care of his wife; and the second blessing was the arrival of the apothecary. Till he came and had examined the child, their apprehensions were the worse for being vague; they suspected great injury, but knew not where; but now the collar-bone was soon replaced, and though Mr Robinson felt and felt, and rubbed, and looked grave, and spoke low words both to the father and the aunt, still they were all to hope the best, and to be able to part and eat their dinner in tolerable ease of mind; and then it was, just before they parted, that the two young aunts were able so far to digress from their nephew's state, as to give the information of Captain Wentworth's visit; staying five minutes behind their father and mother, to endeavour to express how perfectly delighted they were with him, how much handsomer, how infinitely more agreeable they thought him than any individual among their male acquaintance, who had been at all a favourite before. How glad they had been to hear papa invite him to stay dinner, how sorry when he said it was quite out of his power, and how glad again when he had promised in reply to papa and mamma's farther pressing invitations to come and dine with them on the morrow--actually on the morrow; and he had promised it in so pleasant a manner, as if he felt all the motive of their attention just as he ought. And in short, he had looked and said everything with such exquisite grace, that they could assure them all, their heads were both turned by him; and off they ran, quite as full of glee as of love, and apparently more full of Captain Wentworth than of little Charles.

The same story and the same raptures were repeated, when the two girls came with their father, through the gloom of the evening, to make enquiries; and Mr Musgrove, no longer under the first uneasiness about his heir, could add his confirmation and praise, and hope there would be now no occasion for putting Captain Wentworth off, and only be sorry to think that the cottage party, probably, would not like to leave the little boy, to give him the meeting. "Oh no; as to leaving the little boy, " both father and mother were in much too strong and recent alarm to bear the thought; and Anne, in the joy of the escape, could not help adding her warm protestations to theirs.

Charles Musgrove, indeed, afterwards, shewed more of inclination; "the child was going on so well, and he wished so much to be introduced to Captain Wentworth, that, perhaps, he might join them in the evening; he would not dine from home, but he might walk in for half an hour. " But in this he was eagerly opposed by his wife, with "Oh! no, indeed, Charles, I cannot bear to have you go away. Only think if anything should happen?"

The child had a good night, and was going on well the next day. It must be a work of time to ascertain that no injury had been done to the spine; but Mr Robinson found nothing to increase alarm, and Charles Musgrove began, consequently, to feel no necessity for longer confinement. The child was to be kept in bed and amused as quietly as possible; but what was there for a father to do? This was quite a female case, and it would be highly absurd in him, who could be of no use at home, to shut himself up. His father very much wished him to meet Captain Wentworth, and there being no sufficient reason against it, he ought to go; and it ended in his making a bold, public declaration, when he came in from shooting, of his meaning to dress directly, and dine at the other house.

"Nothing can be going on better than the child, " said he; "so I told my father, just now, that I would come, and he thought me quite right. Your sister being with you, my love, I have no scruple at all. You would not like to leave him yourself, but you see I can be of no use. Anne will send for me if anything is the matter. "

Husbands and wives generally understand when opposition will be vain. Mary knew, from Charles's manner of speaking, that he was quite determined on going, and that it would be of no use to teaze him. She said nothing, therefore, till he was out of the room, but as soon as there was only Anne to hear--

"So you and I are to be left to shift by ourselves, with this poor sick child; and not a creature coming near us all the evening! I knew how it would be. This is always my luck. If there is anything disagreeable going on men are always sure to get out of it, and Charles is as bad as any of them. Very unfeeling! I must say it is very unfeeling of him to be running away from his poor little boy. Talks of his being going on so well! How does he know that he is going on well, or that there may not be a sudden change half an hour hence? I did not think Charles would have been so unfeeling. So here he is to go away and enjoy himself, and because I am the poor mother, I am not to be allowed to stir; and yet, I am sure, I am more unfit than anybody else to be about the child. My being the mother is the very reason why my feelings should not be tried. I am not at all equal to it. You saw how hysterical I was yesterday. "

"But that was only the effect of the suddenness of your alarm-- of the shock. You will not be hysterical again. I dare say we shall have nothing to distress us. I perfectly understand Mr Robinson's directions, and have no fears; and indeed, Mary, I cannot wonder at your husband. Nursing does not belong to a man; it is not his province. A sick child is always the mother's property: her own feelings generally make it so. "

"I hope I am as fond of my child as any mother, but I do not know that I am of any more use in the sick-room than Charles, for I cannot be always scolding and teazing the poor child when it is ill; and you saw, this morning, that if I told him to keep quiet, he was sure to begin kicking about. I have not nerves for the sort of thing. "

"But, could you be comfortable yourself, to be spending the whole evening away from the poor boy?"

"Yes; you see his papa can, and why should not I? Jemima is so careful; and she could send us word every hour how he was. I really think Charles might as well have told his father we would all come. I am not more alarmed about little Charles now than he is. I was dreadfully alarmed yesterday, but the case is very different to-day. "

"Well, if you do not think it too late to give notice for yourself, suppose you were to go, as well as your husband. Leave little Charles to my care. Mr and Mrs Musgrove cannot think it wrong while I remain with him. "

"Are you serious?" cried Mary, her eyes brightening. "Dear me! that's a very good thought, very good, indeed. To be sure, I may just as well go as not, for I am of no use at home--am I? and it only harasses me. You, who have not a mother's feelings, are a great deal the properest person. You can make little Charles do anything; he always minds you at a word. It will be a great deal better than leaving him only with Jemima. Oh! I shall certainly go; I am sure I ought if I can, quite as much as Charles, for they want me excessively to be acquainted with Captain Wentworth, and I know you do not mind being left alone. An excellent thought of yours, indeed, Anne. I will go and tell Charles, and get ready directly. You can send for us, you know, at a moment's notice, if anything is the matter; but I dare say there will be nothing to alarm you. I should not go, you may be sure, if I did not feel quite at ease about my dear child. "

The next moment she was tapping at her husband's dressing-room door, and as Anne followed her up stairs, she was in time for the whole conversation, which began with Mary's saying, in a tone of great exultation--

"I mean to go with you, Charles, for I am of no more use at home than you are. If I were to shut myself up for ever with the child, I should not be able to persuade him to do anything he did not like. Anne will stay; Anne undertakes to stay at home and take care of him. It is Anne's own proposal, and so I shall go with you, which will be a great deal better, for I have not dined at the other house since Tuesday. "

"This is very kind of Anne, " was her husband's answer, "and I should be very glad to have you go; but it seems rather hard that she should be left at home by herself, to nurse our sick child. "

Anne was now at hand to take up her own cause, and the sincerity of her manner being soon sufficient to convince him, where conviction was at least very agreeable, he had no farther scruples as to her being left to dine alone, though he still wanted her to join them in the evening, when the child might be at rest for the night, and kindly urged her to let him come and fetch her, but she was quite unpersuadable; and this being the case, she had ere long the pleasure of seeing them set off together in high spirits. They were gone, she hoped, to be happy, however oddly constructed such happiness might seem; as for herself, she was left with as many sensations of comfort, as were, perhaps, ever likely to be hers. She knew herself to be of the first utility to the child; and what was it to her if Frederick Wentworth were only half a mile distant, making himself agreeable to others?

She would have liked to know how he felt as to a meeting. Perhaps indifferent, if indifference could exist under such circumstances. He must be either indifferent or unwilling. Had he wished ever to see her again, he need not have waited till this time; he would have done what she could not but believe that in his place she should have done long ago, when events had been early giving him the independence which alone had been wanting.

Her brother and sister came back delighted with their new acquaintance, and their visit in general. There had been music, singing, talking, laughing, all that was most agreeable; charming manners in Captain Wentworth, no shyness or reserve; they seemed all to know each other perfectly, and he was coming the very next morning to shoot with Charles. He was to come to breakfast, but not at the Cottage, though that had been proposed at first; but then he had been pressed to come to the Great House instead, and he seemed afraid of being in Mrs Charles Musgrove's way, on account of the child, and therefore, somehow, they hardly knew how, it ended in Charles's being to meet him to breakfast at his father's.

Anne understood it. He wished to avoid seeing her. He had inquired after her, she found, slightly, as might suit a former slight acquaintance, seeming to acknowledge such as she had acknowledged, actuated, perhaps, by the same view of escaping introduction when they were to meet.

The morning hours of the Cottage were always later than those of the other house, and on the morrow the difference was so great that Mary and Anne were not more than beginning breakfast when Charles came in to say that they were just setting off, that he was come for his dogs, that his sisters were following with Captain Wentworth; his sisters meaning to visit Mary and the child, and Captain Wentworth proposing also to wait on her for a few minutes if not inconvenient; and though Charles had answered for the child's being in no such state as could make it inconvenient, Captain Wentworth would not be satisfied without his running on to give notice.

Mary, very much gratified by this attention, was delighted to receive him, while a thousand feelings rushed on Anne, of which this was the most consoling, that it would soon be over. And it was soon over. In two minutes after Charles's preparation, the others appeared; they were in the drawing-room. Her eye half met Captain Wentworth's, a bow, a curtsey passed; she heard his voice; he talked to Mary, said all that was right, said something to the Miss Musgroves, enough to mark an easy footing; the room seemed full, full of persons and voices, but a few minutes ended it. Charles shewed himself at the window, all was ready, their visitor had bowed and was gone, the Miss Musgroves were gone too, suddenly resolving to walk to the end of the village with the sportsmen: the room was cleared, and Anne might finish her breakfast as she could.

"It is over! it is over!" she repeated to herself again and again, in nervous gratitude. "The worst is over!"

Mary talked, but she could not attend. She had seen him. They had met. They had been once more in the same room.

Soon, however, she began to reason with herself, and try to be feeling less. Eight years, almost eight years had passed, since all had been given up. How absurd to be resuming the agitation which such an interval had banished into distance and indistinctness! What might not eight years do? Events of every description, changes, alienations, removals--all, all must be comprised in it, and oblivion of the past-- how natural, how certain too! It included nearly a third part of her own life.

Alas! with all her reasoning, she found, that to retentive feelings eight years may be little more than nothing.

Now, how were his sentiments to be read? Was this like wishing to avoid her? And the next moment she was hating herself for the folly which asked the question.

On one other question which perhaps her utmost wisdom might not have prevented, she was soon spared all suspense; for, after the Miss Musgroves had returned and finished their visit at the Cottage she had this spontaneous information from Mary: --

"Captain Wentworth is not very gallant by you, Anne, though he was so attentive to me. Henrietta asked him what he thought of you, when they went away, and he said, `You were so altered he should not have known you again. '"

Mary had no feelings to make her respect her sister's in a common way, but she was perfectly unsuspicious of being inflicting any peculiar wound.

"Altered beyond his knowledge. " Anne fully submitted, in silent, deep mortification. Doubtless it was so, and she could take no revenge, for he was not altered, or not for the worse. She had already acknowledged it to herself, and she could not think differently, let him think of her as he would. No: the years which had destroyed her youth and bloom had only given him a more glowing, manly, open look, in no respect lessening his personal advantages. She had seen the same Frederick Wentworth.

"So altered that he should not have known her again!" These were words which could not but dwell with her. Yet she soon began to rejoice that she had heard them. They were of sobering tendency; they allayed agitation; they composed, and consequently must make her happier.

Frederick Wentworth had used such words, or something like them, but without an idea that they would be carried round to her. He had thought her wretchedly altered, and in the first moment of appeal, had spoken as he felt. He had not forgiven Anne Elliot. She had used him ill, deserted and disappointed him; and worse, she had shewn a feebleness of character in doing so, which his own decided, confident temper could not endure. She had given him up to oblige others. It had been the effect of over-persuasion. It had been weakness and timidity.

He had been most warmly attached to her, and had never seen a woman since whom he thought her equal; but, except from some natural sensation of curiosity, he had no desire of meeting her again. Her power with him was gone for ever.

It was now his object to marry. He was rich, and being turned on shore, fully intended to settle as soon as he could be properly tempted; actually looking round, ready to fall in love with all the speed which a clear head and a quick taste could allow. He had a heart for either of the Miss Musgroves, if they could catch it; a heart, in short, for any pleasing young woman who came in his way, excepting Anne Elliot. This was his only secret exception, when he said to his sister, in answer to her suppositions:--

"Yes, here I am, Sophia, quite ready to make a foolish match. Anybody between fifteen and thirty may have me for asking. A little beauty, and a few smiles, and a few compliments to the navy, and I am a lost man. Should not this be enough for a sailor, who has had no society among women to make him nice?"

He said it, she knew, to be contradicted. His bright proud eye spoke the conviction that he was nice; and Anne Elliot was not out of his thoughts, when he more seriously described the woman he should wish to meet with. "A strong mind, with sweetness of manner, " made the first and the last of the description.

"That is the woman I want, " said he. "Something a little inferior I shall of course put up with, but it must not be much. If I am a fool, I shall be a fool indeed, for I have thought on the subject more than most men. "

又过了不几天,人们都知道温特沃思上校来到了凯林奇。默斯格罗夫先生去拜访过他,回来后对他赞不绝口。他同克罗夫特夫妇约定,下周末来厄泼克劳斯吃饭。使默斯格罗夫先生大为失望的是,他不能定个更早的日子。他实在有点迫不及待了,想尽早把温特沃思上校请到自己府上,用酒窖里最浓烈、最上等的好酒款待他,借以表达自己的感激之情。但是他还得等待一个星期。可在安妮看来,却仅仅只有一个星期,一个星期过后,他们想必就要见面啦。她马上又兴起了这样的愿望:哪怕能有一个星期的保险期也好。

温特沃思上校早早地回访了默斯格罗夫先生,而在那半个钟头里,安妮也险些同时迈进默斯格罗夫府上。实际上,她和玛丽正动身朝大宅走去,正如她后来所知,她们不可避免地要见到他啦!不料恰在这时,玛丽的长子由于严重摔伤被抱回了家,正好拖住了她俩。见到孩子处于这般情景,两人便完全打消了去大宅的念头。不过,安妮一听说自己逃避了这次会面,又不能不感到庆幸,即使后来为孩子担惊受怕的时候,也是如此。

姊妹俩发现,孩子的锁骨脱位了。孩子肩上受了这么重的伤,怎么能不引起一些万分惊恐的念头!那是个令人忧伤的下午,安妮当即忙碌起来:派这个去喊医生,吩咐那个赶上去通知孩子的父亲,劝慰那做母亲的不要过于悲痛,管束所有的用人,打发走老二,关照抚慰那可怜的受难者。除了这些之外,她又想起大宅的人还不知道,便连忙派人去通知,不想引来一伙子人,帮不了忙不说,还大惊小怪地问个不停。

首先使安妮感到欣慰的是,她妹夫回来了。他可以好好地照料妻子。第二个福音则是医生的到来。直至他来检查了孩子之前,大家因为不明了孩子的病情,一个个都吓得要命。他们猜想伤势很重,可又不晓得伤在哪里。现在可好,锁骨这么快就给复位了,尽管罗宾逊先生摸了又摸,揉了又揉,看上去非常严肃,同孩子的父亲和姨妈说起话来声音很低,大家还是充满了希望,可以放心地散去吃晚饭。就在大家分手之前,两个小姑姑竟然抛开了侄子的病情,报告了温特沃思上校来访的消息。她们等父母亲走后又逗留了五分钟,尽力说明她们如何喜爱他,他有多么漂亮,多么和蔼可亲,她们觉得自己的男朋友中没有一个比得上他的,即使过去最喜欢的男朋友也远远比不上他。她们听见爸爸请他留下来吃饭,心里大为高兴。不料上校说实在无能为力,她们又不胜遗憾。后来经不住爸爸妈妈恳切邀请,他答应第二天再来和他们共进晚餐——实际上就是明日,她们又感到高兴至极。他答应的时候态度那么和悦,好像他感到了他们盛意邀请的全部动机,当然他照理也应该感到。总而言之,他的整个神态,他的一言一语是那样的温文尔雅,她们可以向大家保证:她们两人完全被他迷住了。她们说罢扭身就走,心里充满了钟情,也充满了喜悦。显然,她们一味想着温特沃思上校,并没把小查尔斯放在心上。

黄昏的时候,两位小姐伴随父亲过来探问,又把那个故事和她们大喜若狂的心情重新述说了一番。默斯格罗夫先生不再像先前那样为孙子担忧,他现在也跟着称赞起上校来。他认为现在没有理由推迟对温特沃思上校的宴请,只是觉得很遗憾,乡舍一家人可能不愿丢下那小家伙来参加他们的宴会。孩子的父母亲刚才还惊恐万状的,岂能忍心撇下孩子:“哦!不,决不能丢下那小家伙!”安妮一想到自己可以逃脱赴宴,感到十分高兴,便情不自禁地在一旁跟着帮腔,强烈反对丢下小家伙不管。

后来,查尔斯·默斯格罗夫还真有点动心,只听他说:“孩子的情况良好,我还真想去结识一下温特沃思上校。也许我晚上可以去参加一会儿。我不想在那里吃饭,不过我可以进去坐上半个钟头。”但是,他在这点上遭到了妻子的激烈反对,她说:“哦!不,查尔斯,我的确不能放你走。你只要想一想,要是出了什么事儿可怎么办?”

孩子一夜安然无恙,第二天情况仍然良好。看来,要确定脊柱没受损伤,还必须经过一段时间的观察。不过,罗宾逊先生没有发现可以进一步引起惊恐的症候,因而,查尔斯·默斯格罗夫觉得没有必要再守在家里。孩子要躺在床上,有人陪着他逗趣,还要尽量保持安静,可是一个做父亲的能做些什么呢?这完全是女人家的事情,他在家里起不到任何作用,再把他关在屋里岂不是荒唐至极。他父亲很希望他见见温特沃思上校,既然没有理由不去,那他就应该去一趟。结果,当他打猎回来的时候,他毅然公开宣称:他准备马上换装,去大宅赴宴。

“孩子的情况好得不能再好了,”他说。“所以我刚才告诉父亲说我要去,他认为我做得很对。亲爱的,有你姐姐和你在一起,我就毫无顾虑啦。你自己不愿意离开孩子,可你瞧我又帮不上忙。要是有什么情况,安妮会打发人去叫我的。”

做夫妻的一般都懂得什么时候提出反对意见是徒劳无益的。玛丽从查尔斯的说话态度看得出来,他是打定主意非去不可的,你想强拦也拦不住。所以她一声不吭,直到他走出屋去。可是,一旦只剩下安妮听她说话……

“瞧,你我又给撇下来,轮换着看守这可怜的小病人了。整个晚上不会有一个人来接近我们!我早就知道会有这个结果。我总是命该如此。一遇到不愉快的事情,男人们总要溜之大吉,查尔斯就像别的男人一样坏。真是冷酷无情!我认为,他抛下他可怜的小家伙自己跑了,真是冷酷无情。他还说什么他的情况良好呢!他怎么晓得他的情况良好,他怎么晓得半个钟头以后不会出现突然变化?我原来以为他不至于会这么冷酷无情。现在可好,他要去啦,去自我享乐,而我可怜巴巴的就因为是做母亲的,便只好关在家里一动不准动。然而我敢说,我比任何人都不适于照料孩子。我是孩子的母亲,这就是我的感情经受不住打击的原因。我压根儿经受不了。你曾见到我昨天歇斯底里发作的情形。”

“可那仅仅是你突然受惊的结果——受到震惊的结果。你不会歇斯底里再发作了。我想我们不会再有令人烦恼的事情了。我完全懂得罗宾逊先生的诊断,一点儿也不担心。玛丽,我的确无法对你丈夫的行为感到惊奇。看孩子不是男人的事,不是男人的本分。生病的孩子总是母亲的财产:这种情况一般都是母亲自己的感情造成的。”

“我希望我像别的母亲一样喜欢自己的孩子,可是我知道我在病室里像查尔斯一样无能为力,因为孩子病得可怜,我总不能老是责骂他、逗弄他吧。你今天早晨看见了,我要是叫他安静些,他却非要踢来踢去不可。我的神经经受不了这样的事情。”

“不过,你一个晚上扔下这可怜的孩子,自己能安心吗?”

“当然能。你瞧他爸爸能,我于吗不能?杰米玛是个细心人,她可以随时派人向我们报告孩子的情况。我真希望查尔斯当初告诉他父亲我们都去。对于小查尔斯,我现在并不比查尔斯更担惊受怕。昨天可把我吓坏了,不过今天的情况就大不一样了。”

“唔,你要是觉得还来得及通知,你索性和你丈夫一起去。把小查尔斯交给我照料。有我守着他,默斯格罗夫夫妇不会见怪的。”

“你这话当真吗?”玛丽眼睛一亮,大声嚷了起来。“哎呀!这可是个好主意啊,真是好极了。的确,我还是去的好,因为我在家里不起作用——对吧?那只会让我心烦意乱。你还没有做母亲的感受,留下来是再合适不过了。小查尔斯你叫他干啥他就于啥,他对你总是唯命是听。这比把他交给杰米玛一个人好多了。哦!我当然要去啦。就像查尔斯一样,我要是能去的话,当然应该去,因为他们都极想让我结识一下温特沃思上校,而我知道你又不介意一个人留在家里。安妮,你的想法真妙。我去告诉查尔斯,马上做好准备。你知道,要是出了什么事儿,你可以派人来喊我们,随喊随到。不过我敢担保,不会出现让你担惊受怕的事情。你尽管相信,我假使对我的小宝贝不很放心的话,我也不会去的。”

转瞬间,玛丽便跑去敲丈夫化妆室的门。当安妮随后跟到楼上的时候,正好赶上听到他们的全部谈话内容,只听玛丽带着欣喜若狂的口气,开门见山地说:

“查尔斯,我想和你一起去,因为跟你一样,我在家里也帮不了忙。即使让我一直关在家里守着孩子,我也不能说服他去做他不愿做的事情。安妮要留下,她同意留在家里照料孩子。这是她自己提出来的,所以我要跟你一起去。这样就好多了,因为我自星期二以来,还没去婆婆家吃过饭呢。”

“安妮真好,”她丈夫答道,“我倒很乐意让你一起去。不过叫她一个人留在家里,照料我们那生病的孩子,似乎太无情了。”

这时安妮就在近前,可以亲自解释。她的态度那样诚恳,很快就把查尔斯说服了(因为这种说服本身至少是令人愉快的)。他不再对她一个人留在家里吃晚饭感到良心不安了,不过他仍然希望安妮晚上能去,到那时孩子也许睡着了。他恳请安妮让他来接她,不想她是无论如何也说不通。情况既然如此,夫妻俩不久便兴高采烈地一起动身了,安妮见了也很高兴。她希望他们去了能感到快乐,不管这种快乐说来有多么令人不可思议。至于她自己,她被留在家里也许比任何时候都感到欣慰。她知道孩子最需要她。在这种情况下,即便弗雷德里克·温特沃思就在半英里地之外,正在尽力取悦他人,那与她又有什么关系?

她倒很想知道他想不想见她。他也许无所谓,如果在这种情况下可以做到无所谓的话。不是无所谓,就是不愿意,一定如此。假使他还想重新见到她,他大可不必拖到今天。他会采取行动,去做她认为自己若是处在他的地位早就该做的事情,因为他原先唯一缺乏的是维持独立生活的收入,后来时过境迁,他早就获得了足够的收入。

她妹夫妹妹回来以后,对他们新结识的朋友和整个聚会都很满意。晚会上乐曲悠扬,歌声僚亮,大家有说有笑,一切都令人极其愉快。温特沃思上校风度迷人,既不羞怯,也不拘谨。大家似乎一见如故。他准备第二天早晨来和查尔斯一道去打猎。他要来吃早饭,但不在乡舍里吃,虽然查尔斯夫妇最初提出过这样的建议。后来默斯格罗夫夫妇硬要他去大宅用餐,而他似乎考虑到乡舍里孩子有病,怕给查尔斯·默斯格罗夫夫人增添麻烦,于是,不知怎么的(大家简直不晓得是怎么回事),最后决定由查尔斯到父亲屋里同他共进早餐。

安妮明白这其中的奥妙。他想避而不见她。她发现,他曾经以过去泛泛之交的身分,打听过她的情况,似乎也承认她所承认的一些事实。他之所以要这样做,或许也是出于同样的动机,等到将来相遇时好回避介绍。

乡舍早晨的作息时间向来比大宅的要晚。第二天早晨,这种差别显得格外大:玛丽和安妮刚刚开始吃早饭,查尔斯便跑进来说,他们就要出发,他是来领猎犬的,他的两个妹妹要跟着温特沃思上校一起来。他妹妹打算来看看玛丽和孩子,温特沃思上校提出,若是没有不便的话,他也进来坐几分钟,拜会一下女主人。虽然查尔斯担保说孩子的情况并不那么严重,不会引起什么不便,可是温特沃思上校非要让他先来打个招呼不可。

玛丽受到这样的礼遇,不由得十分得意,高高兴兴地准备迎接客人。不想安妮这时却思绪万千,其中最使她感到欣慰的是,事情很快就会结束。事情果真很快结束了。查尔斯准备了两分钟,其他人便出现了,一个个来到了客厅。安妮的目光和温特沃思上校的目光勉强相遇了,两人一个鞠了个躬,一个行了个屈膝礼。安妮听到了他的声音,他正在同玛丽交谈,说的话句句都很有分寸。他还同两位默斯格罗夫小姐说了几句,足以显示出他们那无拘无束的关系。屋里似乎满满当当的,宾主济济一堂,一片欢声笑语,但是过了几分钟,这一切便都完结了。查尔斯在窗外打招呼,一切准备就绪,客人鞠了个躬就告辞而去。两位默斯格罗夫小姐也告辞了,她们突然打定主意,要跟着两位游猎家走到村头。屋里清静了,安妮可以吃完早饭啦。

“事情过去了!事情过去了!”她带着紧张而感激的心情,一再对自己重复说道。“最糟糕的事情过去了!”

玛丽跟她说话,可她却听不进去。她见到他了。他们见了面啦。他们又一次来到同一间屋里。

然而,她马上又开始开导自己,不要那么多情善感。自从他们断绝关系以来,八年,几乎八年过去了。时间隔了这么久,激动不安的心情已经变成了陈迹,变成了模糊不清的概念,现在居然要重新激动起来,那是何等的荒谬!八年中什么情况不会出现?各种各样的事情,变化,疏远,搬迁——这一切的一切都会发生,还要忘却过去——这是多么自然,多么确定无疑!这八年几乎构成了她生命的三分之一。

唉!她尽管这样开导自己,却还是发现:对于执着的感情来说,八年可能是无足轻重的。

再者,应该如何理解他的思想感情呢?像是想躲避她?转念间她又痛恨自己问出这样的傻问题。

还有一个问题,也许任凭她再怎么理智,她也无法避而不想,不过她在这上面的悬念很快便给统统打消了;因为,当两位默斯格罗夫小姐回来看过他们之后,玛丽主动向她提供了这样的情况:

“安妮,温特沃思上校虽说对我礼数周全,对你却不怎么殷勤。亨丽埃塔和他们走出去以后问他对你有什么看法,他说你变得都让他认不出来了。”

玛丽缺乏感情,不可能像常人那样敬重她姐姐的感情,不过她丝毫也没想到,这会给安妮的感情带来任何特别的伤害。

“变得他都认不出来了。”安妮羞愧不语,心里完全认可了。情况无疑是这样的,而且她也无法报复,因为他没有变,或者说没有往差里变。她已经向自己承认了这一点,不能再有别的想法,让他对她爱怎么想就怎么想吧。不,岁月虽然毁掉了她的青春与美貌,却使他变得更加容光焕发,气度不凡,落落大方,无论从哪个方面看,他身上的优点长处都是有增无减。她看到了依然如故的弗雷德里克·温特沃思。

“变得都让他认不出来了!”这句话不可能不嵌在她的脑海里。然而,她马上又为自己听到这句话而感到高兴。这句话具有令人清醒的作用,可以消除激动不安的心情。它使安妮镇静下来,因而也准会使她感到更愉快。

弗雷德里克·温特沃思说了这话,或者诸如此类的话,可他没想到这话会传到安妮的耳朵里。他觉得她变得太厉害了,所以,当别人一问到他,他便把自己的感觉如实地说了出来。他并没有宽恕安妮·埃利奥特。她亏待了他,抛弃了他,使他陷入绝望。更糟糕的是,她这样做还显出了她性格的儒弱,这同他自己那果决、自信的性情是格格不入的。她是听了别人的话才抛弃他的。那是别人极力劝导的结果,也是她自己懦弱胆怯的表现。

他对她曾一度情意绵绵,后来见到的女子,他觉得没有一个及得上她的。不过,他除了某种天生的好奇心之外,并不想再见到她。她对他的那股魅力已经永远消失了。

他现在的目标是要娶位太太。他腰里有了钱,又给转到了岸上,满心打算一见到合适的女子,就立即成家。实际上,他已经在四处物色了,准备凭借他那清楚的头脑和灵敏的审美力,以最快的速度堕入情网。他对两位默斯格罗夫小姐都有情意,就看她们能不能得手啦。总而言之,他对于他所遇到的动人姑娘,除了安妮·埃利奥特以外,都有情意。安妮是他回答他姐姐的提名时,私下提出来的唯一例外。

“是的,索菲娅,我来这里就想缔结一门荒诞的亲事。从十五岁到三十岁之间的任何女人,只要愿意,都可以做我的妻子。但凡有点姿色,有几分笑容,对海军能说几句恭维话,那我就算是被俘虏了。我是个水兵,在女人当中没有什么交往,本来就不能挑肥拣瘦的,有了这样的条件岂不足够了?”

做姐姐的知道,他说这话是希望受到批驳。他那双炯炯有神的眼睛表明,他深信自己是挑剔的,并为此而感到洋洋得意。而且,当他一本正经地描述他想找个什么样的女人时,安妮·埃利奥特并没有被他置诸脑后。“头脑机灵,举止温柔,”构成了他所描述的全部内容。

“这就是我要娶的女人,”他说。“稍差一点我当然可以容忍,但是不能差得太多。如果说我傻,我倒还真够傻的,因为我在这个问题上比多数人考虑得都多。”



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