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Chapter 18

With a mind thus full of happiness, Catherine was hardly aware that two or three days had passed away, without her seeing Isabella for more than a few minutes together. She began first to be sensible of this, and to sigh for her conversation, as she walked along the pump-room one morning, by Mrs. Allen's side, without anything to say or to hear; and scarcely had she felt a five minutes' longing of friendship, before the object of it appeared, and inviting her to a secret conference, led the way to a seat. "This is my favourite place," said she as they sat down on a bench between the doors, which commanded a tolerable view of everybody entering at either; "it is so out of the way."

Catherine, observing that Isabella's eyes were continually bent towards one door or the other, as in eager expectation, and remembering how often she had been falsely accused of being arch, thought the present a fine opportunity for being really so; and therefore gaily said, "Do not be uneasy, Isabella, James will soon be here."

"Psha! My dear creature," she replied, "do not think me such a simpleton as to be always wanting to confine him to my elbow. It would be hideous to be always together; we should be the jest of the place. And so you are going to Northanger! I am amazingly glad of it. It is one of the finest old places in England, I understand. I shall depend upon a most particular description of it."

"You shall certainly have the best in my power to give. But who are you looking for? Are your sisters coming?"

"I am not looking for anybody. One's eyes must be somewhere, and you know what a foolish trick I have of fixing mine, when my thoughts are an hundred miles off. I am amazingly absent; I believe I am the most absent creature in the world. Tilney says it is always the case with minds of a certain stamp."

"But I thought, Isabella, you had something in particular to tell me?"

"Oh! Yes, and so I have. But here is a proof of what I was saying. My poor head, I had quite forgot it. Well, the thing is this: I have just had a letter from John; you can guess the contents."

"No, indeed, I cannot."

"My sweet love, do not be so abominably affected. What can he write about, but yourself? You know he is over head and ears in love with you."

"With me, dear Isabella!"

"Nay, my sweetest Catherine, this is being quite absurd! Modesty, and all that, is very well in its way, but really a little common honesty is sometimes quite as becoming. I have no idea of being so overstrained! It is fishing for compliments. His attentions were such as a child must have noticed. And it was but half an hour before he left Bath that you gave him the most positive encouragement. He says so in this letter, says that he as good as made you an offer, and that you received his advances in the kindest way; and now he wants me to urge his suit, and say all manner of pretty things to you. So it is in vain to affect ignorance."

Catherine, with all the earnestness of truth, expressed her astonishment at such a charge, protesting her innocence of every thought of Mr. Thorpe's being in love with her, and the consequent impossibility of her having ever intended to encourage him. "As to any attentions on his side, I do declare, upon my honour, I never was sensible of them for a moment -- except just his asking me to dance the first day of his coming. And as to making me an offer, or anything like it, there must be some unaccountable mistake. I could not have misunderstood a thing of that kind, you know! And, as I ever wish to be believed, I solemnly protest that no syllable of such a nature ever passed between us. The last half hour before he went away! It must be all and completely a mistake -- for I did not see him once that whole morning."

"But that you certainly did, for you spent the whole morning in Edgar's Buildings -- it was the day your father's consent came -- and I am pretty sure that you and John were alone in the parlour some time before you left the house."

"Are you? Well, if you say it, it was so, I dare say -- but for the life of me, I cannot recollect it. I do remember now being with you, and seeing him as well as the rest -- but that we were ever alone for five minutes -- However, it is not worth arguing about, for whatever might pass on his side, you must be convinced, by my having no recollection of it, that I never thought, nor expected, nor wished for anything of the kind from him. I am excessively concerned that he should have any regard for me -- but indeed it has been quite unintentional on my side; I never had the smallest idea of it. Pray undeceive him as soon as you can, and tell him I beg his pardon -- that is -- I do not know what I ought to say -- but make him understand what I mean, in the properest way. I would not speak disrespectfully of a brother of yours, Isabella, I am sure; but you know very well that if I could think of one man more than another -- he is not the person." Isabella was silent. "My dear friend, you must not be angry with me. I cannot suppose your brother cares so very much about me. And, you know, we shall still be sisters."

"Yes, yes" (with a blush), "there are more ways than one of our being sisters. But where am I wandering to? Well, my dear Catherine, the case seems to be that you are determined against poor John -- is not it so?"

"I certainly cannot return his affection, and as certainly never meant to encourage it."

"Since that is the case, I am sure I shall not tease you any further. John desired me to speak to you on the subject, and therefore I have. But I confess, as soon as I read his letter, I thought it a very foolish, imprudent business, and not likely to promote the good of either; for what were you to live upon, supposing you came together? You have both of you something, to be sure, but it is not a trifle that will support a family nowadays; and after all that romancers may say, there is no doing without money. I only wonder John could think of it; he could not have received my last."

"You do acquit me, then, of anything wrong? -- You are convinced that I never meant to deceive your brother, never suspected him of liking me till this moment?"

"Oh! As to that," answered Isabella laughingly, "I do not pretend to determine what your thoughts and designs in time past may have been. All that is best known to yourself. A little harmless flirtation or so will occur, and one is often drawn on to give more encouragement than one wishes to stand by. But you may be assured that I am the last person in the world to judge you severely. All those things should be allowed for in youth and high spirits. What one means one day, you know, one may not mean the next. Circumstances change, opinions alter."

"But my opinion of your brother never did alter; it was always the same. You are describing what never happened."

"My dearest Catherine," continued the other without at all listening to her, "I would not for all the world be the means of hurrying you into an engagement before you knew what you were about. I do not think anything would justify me in wishing you to sacrifice all your happiness merely to oblige my brother, because he is my brother, and who perhaps after all, you know, might be just as happy without you, for people seldom know what they would be at, young men especially, they are so amazingly changeable and inconstant. What I say is, why should a brother's happiness be dearer to me than a friend's? You know I carry my notions of friendship pretty high. But, above all things, my dear Catherine, do not be in a hurry. Take my word for it, that if you are in too great a hurry, you will certainly live to repent it. Tilney says there is nothing people are so often deceived in as the state of their own affections, and I believe he is very right. Ah! Here he comes; never mind, he will not see us, I am sure."

Catherine, looking up, perceived Captain Tilney; and Isabella, earnestly fixing her eye on him as she spoke, soon caught his notice. He approached immediately, and took the seat to which her movements invited him. His first address made Catherine start. Though spoken low, she could distinguish, "What! Always to be watched, in person or by proxy!"

"Psha, nonsense!" was Isabella's answer in the same half whisper. "Why do you put such things into my head? If I could believe it -- my spirit, you know, is pretty independent."

"I wish your heart were independent. That would be enough for me."

"My heart, indeed! What can you have to do with hearts? You men have none of you any hearts."

"If we have not hearts, we have eyes; and they give us torment enough."

"Do they? I am sorry for it; I am sorry they find anything so disagreeable in me. I will look another way. I hope this pleases you" (turning her back on him); "I hope your eyes are not tormented now."

"Never more so; for the edge of a blooming cheek is still in view -- at once too much and too little."

Catherine heard all this, and quite out of countenance, could listen no longer. Amazed that Isabella could endure it, and jealous for her brother, she rose up, and saying she should join Mrs. Allen, proposed their walking. But for this Isabella showed no inclination. She was so amazingly tired, and it was so odious to parade about the pump-room; and if she moved from her seat she should miss her sisters; she was expecting her sisters every moment; so that her dearest Catherine must excuse her, and must sit quietly down again. But Catherine could be stubborn too; and Mrs. Allen just then coming up to propose their returning home, she joined her and walked out of the pump-room, leaving Isabella still sitting with Captain Tilney. With much uneasiness did she thus leave them. It seemed to her that Captain Tilney was falling in love with Isabella, and Isabella unconsciously encouraging him; unconsciously it must be, for Isabella's attachment to James was as certain and well acknowledged as her engagement. To doubt her truth or good intentions was impossible; and yet, during the whole of their conversation her manner had been odd. She wished Isabella had talked more like her usual self, and not so much about money, and had not looked so well pleased at the sight of Captain Tilney. How strange that she should not perceive his admiration! Catherine longed to give her a hint of it, to put her on her guard, and prevent all the pain which her too lively behaviour might otherwise create both for him and her brother.

The compliment of John Thorpe's affection did not make amends for this thoughtlessness in his sister. She was almost as far from believing as from wishing it to be sincere; for she had not forgotten that he could mistake, and his assertion of the offer and of her encouragement convinced her that his mistakes could sometimes be very egregious. In vanity, therefore, she gained but little; her chief profit was in wonder. That he should think it worth his while to fancy himself in love with her was a matter of lively astonishment. Isabella talked of his attentions; she had never been sensible of any; but Isabella had said many things which she hoped had been spoken in haste, and would never be said again; and upon this she was glad to rest altogether for present ease and comfort.

凯瑟琳心里喜气洋洋的,她简直没有意识到:都过去两三天了,而她同伊莎贝拉的见面时间,总共还不到几分钟。一天早晨,她陪着艾伦太太在矿泉厅溜达,正找不到话说,也听不到艾伦太太说话,这时候她才察觉到这个问题,便渴望同伊莎贝拉聊聊天。她刚渴望了不到五分钟,她那渴望的对象便出现了。她的朋友请她秘密商量点事,把她领到座位上。她们在两道门间的一条长凳上坐下,从这里可以清清楚楚地望见走进两道门的每个人。随后,伊莎贝拉说道:“这是我最喜欢的位置,有多僻静。”

凯瑟琳发现,伊莎贝拉的目光总是注视着这道或那道门,像是急着等人似的。凯瑟琳记起伊莎贝拉以前常常瞎说她狡黠,心想现在何不乘机当真露一手,于是乐呵呵地说道:“不要着急,伊莎贝拉,詹姆斯马上就来。”

“去!我的好宝贝,”伊莎贝拉回道,“别以为我是个傻瓜,总想成天价把他挎在胳臂上。一天到晚粘在一起,有多难看,那真要变成人家的笑料了。这么说,你要去诺桑觉寺啦!这真是好极了。我听说.那是英国最美的古迹之一。我期望听到你最详细的描绘。”

“我一定会尽我的力量详详细细告诉你的。不过你在等谁?是你妹妹要来?”

“我谁也不等。人的眼睛总要看点东西,你知道,当我心里想一百英里以外的时候,我的眼睛总是傻痴痴地盯着某个地方。我心不在焉了。我想我是天下最心不在焉的人。蒂尔尼说,有一种人的思想总是如此。”

“可我本以为,伊莎贝拉,你有件什么事要告诉我吧?”

“哦,是的!我是有件事要告诉你。你瞧我刚才的话不是给印证了吗。我的脑子太不好使了!我把这事全忘了。唔,事情是这样的。我刚收到约翰的信。你能插到他写了些什么。”。

“不,我真猜不到。”

“我的心肝,别那么假惺惺地让人讨厌了。他除了你还会写什么呢?你知道他迷上了你。”

“迷上了我,亲爱的伊莎贝拉?”

“得了,我亲爱的凯瑟琳,这也未免太荒唐了。谦虚那一套本身是很好的,但是稍微坦诚一点有时的确也是很有必要的。我真没想到你会谦虚过头。你这是讨人恭维。约翰那么殷勤备至,连小孩都看得出来。就在他临走前半小时,你还分明在鼓励他。他信上是这么说的。他说他简直等于向你求婚了,你也情恳意切地接受了他的追求。现在,他要我替他求婚,向你多美言美言。所以,你故作不知也没有用。”

凯瑟琳情真意切地表示,她对这种指控感到惊讶,声明她压根儿不知道索普先生爱上了她,因而也不可能有意去怂恿他,“说他对我献殷勤,凭良心说,我一时一刻也没察觉,只知道他来的头天请我和他跳过舞。至于说向我求婚,或者诸如此类的事,那一定出现了莫名其妙的误会。你知道,这类事我是不会看出来的。我郑重声明,同时也希望你能相信我:我们之间只字没说过这类性质的话。他临走前半个小时!这完全是场误会,因为那天早晨

我一次也没见着他。”

“你一定见着他了,因为你整个上午都呆在埃德加大楼。就是你父亲来信表示同意我们订婚的那天,我知道得很清楚,你走之前,有一段时间客厅里只有你和约翰两个人。”

“是吗?既然你这么说了,我想准没错啦。不过,我说什么也记不起来了。我只记得当时和你在一起,见着他也见着别人了。不过,说我们单独在一起呆了五分钟—一然而这是不值得争论的,因为不管他怎么样,你就单凭我毫无记忆这一点,也应该相信,我决没考虑,决没期待,也决没希望他向我求婚。我感到极其不安,他居然会对我有意.不过我实在是完全无心的,我连一丝半点都没想到。请你尽快替他消除误会,告诉他我请他原谅。就是说——我不知道该怎么说——不过请你以最妥当的方式让他明白我的意思。伊莎贝拉,我实在不愿对你哥哥出言不逊,可你十分清楚,我要是对哪个男人特别有意的话,那这个人也不是他。”

伊莎贝拉哑口无言。“我亲爱的朋友,你不要生我的气。我无法想象你哥哥会如此看我。你知道,我们将依然是姑嫂关系。”

“是啊,是啊”(绯红了脸),“我们可以有几种形式成为姐妹呀。不过我都胡思乱想到哪儿去了了,唔,亲爱的凯瑟琳,这样看来,你是决意要拒绝可怜的约翰了,是吧?”

“我当然不能报答地的钟情,当然也从来无心加以怂恿。”

“既然情况如此,我管保不再嘲弄你了。约翰希望我同你谈谈这个问题,所以我谈了。不过说真话,我一读到他的信,就觉得这是件十分愚蠢、十分轻率的事情,对双方都没好处。因为,假定你们结合在丁起,你们依靠什么生活呢?当然,你们两个都有点财产。但是如今靠一点点钱是养不了家的,不管传奇作家怎么说,没有钱是不行的。我只奇怪约翰怎么能兴起这个念头。他可能还没收到我最近那封信。”

“那么,你的确承认我没有错了?你确信我从来不想欺骗你哥哥。在这之前也从来没有发觉他喜欢我吧。”

“哦!说到这个,”伊莎贝拉笑哈哈地答道,“我不想装模作样地来断定你过去有些什么想法和意图。这一切你自己最清楚。有时会发生点并无害处的调情之类的事情,人往往经不住诱惑,怂恿了别人还不愿意承认。不过你尽管放心,我决不会苛责你的。这种事对于年轻气盛的人来说,是情有可原的。你知道,人今天这么打算,明天就会变卦。情况变了,看法也变。”

“可我对你哥哥的看法就从来没有变过,总是老样子。你刚才说的都是从来没有的事。”

“亲爱的凯瑟琳,”伊莎贝拉根本不听她的,继续说道。“我绝对不想催促你稀里糊涂地订下一门婚事。我觉得,我没有权利希望你仅仅为了成全我哥哥,而牺牲你的全部幸福。你知道,要是没有你,他最终可能会同样幸福,因为人们,特别是年轻人,很少知道他们要做什么,他们太变化无常,太用情不专了。我说的是:我为什么要把我哥哥的幸福看得比朋友的幸福更珍贵呢?你知道,我一向很崇尚友谊。不过,亲爱的凯瑟琳,最重要的是,不要匆忙行事。请相信我的,你若是过于匆忙,以后一定会后悔莫及。蒂尔尼说,人最容易受自己感情的蒙骗,我认为他说得很对。啊!他来了。不过不要紧,他肯定看不见我们。”

凯瑟琳抬起头,看见了蒂尔尼上尉。伊莎贝拉一面说话,一面直溜溜地拿眼睛盯住他,马上引起了他的注意。他当即走过来,在伊莎贝拉示意的位子上坐下。他的头一句话把凯瑟琳吓了一跳。虽然话音很低,凯瑟琳还是辨得清楚:“怎么!总要有人监视你,不是亲自出马,就是找个替身。”

“去,胡说八道!”伊莎贝拉答道,声音同样半低不高的。“你跟我说这个干什么?可惜我不信你那一套!——你知道,我的心是不受约束的。”

“但愿你的心灵是没受约束。那对我就足够了。”

“我的心,是的!你跟心有什么关系?你们男人哪个也没有心肝。”

“如果我们没有心肝,我们却有眼睛。这双眼睛却让我们受够了罪。”

“是吗?我感到抱歉。很遗憾,你发现我身上有些不顺眼。我要转过脸去,我希望这样你就称心了。”(转身背对着地)“我希望你的眼睛现在不遭罪了。”

“从来没有比这更遭罪的了,因为你那玉面桃腮还可以看见个边边——既太多,又太少。”

凯瑟琳听见这一切,感到大为困窘,再也听不下去了。她奇怪伊莎贝拉怎么能够容忍,并为她哥哥吃起醋来,不由得立起身,说她要去找艾伦太太,建议伊莎贝拉陪她一起走走。怎奈伊莎贝拉不想去。她累极了,在矿泉厅里散步又太无聊。再说,她若是离开座位,就会见不到妹妹,她在等候她们,她们随时都会来,因此她亲爱的凯瑟琳一定得原谅她,一定得乖乖地再坐下。谁想凯瑟琳也会固执。而且恰在这时,艾伦太太走上前来,建议她们这就回家,凯瑟琳同她一道走出矿泉厅,剩下伊莎贝拉还和蒂尔尼上尉坐在一起。凯瑟琳就这样惴惴不安地离开了他们。在她看来,蒂尔尼上尉像是爱上了伊莎贝拉,伊莎贝拉也在无意中怂恿他。这一定是无意识的,因为伊莎贝拉对詹姆斯的钟情就像她的订婚一样,既是确定无疑的,也是众所皆知的。怀疑她的真情实意是办不到的。然而,她们的整个交谈期间,她的态度却很奇怪。她希望伊莎贝拉说起话来能像往常一样,不要张口闭口都是钱,不要一见到蒂尔尼上尉就那么喜形于色。真奇怪,伊莎贝拉居然没有察觉蒂尔尼上尉爱上了她!凯瑟琳真想给她点暗示,让她留神些,免得她那过于活泼的举止给蒂尔尼上尉和她哥哥带来痛苦。

约翰的多情多意弥补不了他妹妹的缺乏心眼。她简直既不相信,也不希望她哥哥是一片真心,因为她没有忘记,约翰可能弄错了人。他说他提出了求婚,凯瑟琳给以怂恿,这就使她确信,他的错误有时大得惊人。因此,她的虚荣心没有得到满足,她的主要收获是感到惊讶。约翰居然犯得着设想自己爱上了凯瑟琳,真是令人惊讶至极。伊莎贝拉说到她哥哥献殷勤,可她凯瑟琳却从来没有觉察到。伊莎贝拉说了许多话,凯瑟琳希望她是匆忙中说出的,以后决不会再说了。她乐意就想到这里、也好暂时轻松愉快一下。



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