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Chapter 20

Mr. and Mrs. Allen were sorry to lose their young friend, whose good humour and cheerfulness had made her a valuable companion, and in the promotion of whose enjoyment their own had been gently increased. Her happiness in going with Miss Tilney, however, prevented their wishing it otherwise; and, as they were to remain only one more week in Bath themselves, her quitting them now would not long be felt. Mr. Allen attended her to Milsom Street, where she was to breakfast, and saw her seated with the kindest welcome among her new friends; but so great was her agitation in finding herself as one of the family, and so fearful was she of not doing exactly what was right, and of not being able to preserve their good opinion, that, in the embarrassment of the first five minutes, she could almost have wished to return with him to Pulteney Street.

Miss Tilney's manners and Henry's smile soon did away some of her unpleasant feelings; but still she was far from being at ease; nor could the incessant attentions of the general himself entirely reassure her. Nay, perverse as it seemed, she doubted whether she might not have felt less, had she been less attended to. His anxiety for her comfort -- his continual solicitations that she would eat, and his often-expressed fears of her seeing nothing to her taste -- though never in her life before had she beheld half such variety on a breakfast-table -- made it impossible for her to forget for a moment that she was a visitor. She felt utterly unworthy of such respect, and knew not how to reply to it. Her tranquillity was not improved by the general's impatience for the appearance of his eldest son, nor by the displeasure he expressed at his laziness when Captain Tilney at last came down. She was quite pained by the severity of his father's reproof, which seemed disproportionate to the offence; and much was her concern increased when she found herself the principal cause of the lecture, and that his tardiness was chiefly resented from being disrespectful to her. This was placing her in a very uncomfortable situation, and she felt great compassion for Captain Tilney, without being able to hope for his goodwill.

He listened to his father in silence, and attempted not any defence, which confirmed her in fearing that the inquietude of his mind, on Isabella's account, might, by keeping him long sleepless, have been the real cause of his rising late. It was the first time of her being decidedly in his company, and she had hoped to be now able to form her opinion of him; but she scarcely heard his voice while his father remained in the room; and even afterwards, so much were his spirits affected, she could distinguish nothing but these words, in a whisper to Eleanor, "How glad I shall be when you are all off."

The bustle of going was not pleasant. The clock struck ten while the trunks were carrying down, and the general had fixed to be out of Milsom Street by that hour. His greatcoat, instead of being brought for him to put on directly, was spread out in the curricle in which he was to accompany his son. The middle seat of the chaise was not drawn out, though there were three people to go in it, and his daughter's maid had so crowded it with parcels that Miss Morland would not have room to sit; and, so much was he influenced by this apprehension when he handed her in, that she had some difficulty in saving her own new writing-desk from being thrown out into the street. At last, however, the door was closed upon the three females, and they set off at the sober pace in which the handsome, highly fed four horses of a gentleman usually perform a journey of thirty miles: such was the distance of Northanger from Bath, to be now divided into two equal stages. Catherine's spirits revived as they drove from the door; for with Miss Tilney she felt no restraint; and, with the interest of a road entirely new to her, of an abbey before, and a curricle behind, she caught the last view of Bath without any regret, and met with every milestone before she expected it. The tediousness of a two hours' wait at Petty France, in which there was nothing to be done but to eat without being hungry, and loiter about without anything to see, next followed -- and her admiration of the style in which they travelled, of the fashionable chaise and four -- postilions handsomely liveried, rising so regularly in their stirrups, and numerous outriders properly mounted, sunk a little under this consequent inconvenience. Had their party been perfectly agreeable, the delay would have been nothing; but General Tilney, though so charming a man, seemed always a check upon his children's spirits, and scarcely anything was said but by himself; the observation of which, with his discontent at whatever the inn afforded, and his angry impatience at the waiters, made Catherine grow every moment more in awe of him, and appeared to lengthen the two hours into four. At last, however, the order of release was given; and much was Catherine then surprised by the general's proposal of her taking his place in his son's curricle for the rest of the journey: "the day was fine, and he was anxious for her seeing as much of the country as possible."

The remembrance of Mr. Allen's opinion, respecting young men's open carriages, made her blush at the mention of such a plan, and her first thought was to decline it; but her second was of greater deference for General Tilney's judgment; he could not propose anything improper for her; and, in the course of a few minutes, she found herself with Henry in the curricle, as happy a being as ever existed. A very short trial convinced her that a curricle was the prettiest equipage in the world; the chaise and four wheeled off with some grandeur, to be sure, but it was a heavy and troublesome business, and she could not easily forget its having stopped two hours at Petty France. Half the time would have been enough for the curricle, and so nimbly were the light horses disposed to move, that, had not the general chosen to have his own carriage lead the way, they could have passed it with ease in half a minute. But the merit of the curricle did not all belong to the horses; Henry drove so well -- so quietly -- without making any disturbance, without parading to her, or swearing at them: so different from the only gentleman-coachman whom it was in her power to compare him with! And then his hat sat so well, and the innumerable capes of his greatcoat looked so becomingly important! To be driven by him, next to being dancing with him, was certainly the greatest happiness in the world. In addition to every other delight, she had now that of listening to her own praise; of being thanked at least, on his sister's account, for her kindness in thus becoming her visitor; of hearing it ranked as real friendship, and described as creating real gratitude. His sister, he said, was uncomfortably circumstanced -- she had no female companion -- and, in the frequent absence of her father, was sometimes without any companion at all.

"But how can that be?" said Catherine. "Are not you with her?"

"Northanger is not more than half my home; I have an establishment at my own house in Woodston, which is nearly twenty miles from my father's, and some of my time is necessarily spent there."

"How sorry you must be for that!"

"I am always sorry to leave Eleanor."

"Yes; but besides your affection for her, you must be so fond of the abbey! After being used to such a home as the abbey, an ordinary parsonage-house must be very disagreeable."

He smiled, and said, "You have formed a very favourable idea of the abbey."

"To be sure, I have. Is not it a fine old place, just like what one reads about?"

"And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as 'what one reads about' may produce? Have you a stout heart? Nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry?"

"Oh! yes -- I do not think I should be easily frightened, because there would be so many people in the house -- and besides, it has never been uninhabited and left deserted for years, and then the family come back to it unawares, without giving any notice, as generally happens."

"No, certainly. We shall not have to explore our way into a hall dimly lighted by the expiring embers of a wood fire -- nor be obliged to spread our beds on the floor of a room without windows, doors, or furniture. But you must be aware that when a young lady is (by whatever means) introduced into a dwelling of this kind, she is always lodged apart from the rest of the family. While they snugly repair to their own end of the house, she is formally conducted by Dorothy, the ancient housekeeper, up a different staircase, and along many gloomy passages, into an apartment never used since some cousin or kin died in it about twenty years before. Can you stand such a ceremony as this? Will not your mind misgive you when you find yourself in this gloomy chamber -- too lofty and extensive for you, with only the feeble rays of a single lamp to take in its size -- its walls hung with tapestry exhibiting figures as large as life, and the bed, of dark green stuff or purple velvet, presenting even a funereal appearance? Will not your heart sink within you?"

"Oh! But this will not happen to me, I am sure."

"How fearfully will you examine the furniture of your apartment! And what will you discern? Not tables, toilettes, wardrobes, or drawers, but on one side perhaps the remains of a broken lute, on the other a ponderous chest which no efforts can open, and over the fireplace the portrait of some handsome warrior, whose features will so incomprehensibly strike you, that you will not be able to withdraw your eyes from it. Dorothy, meanwhile, no less struck by your appearance, gazes on you in great agitation, and drops a few unintelligible hints. To raise your spirits, moreover, she gives you reason to suppose that the part of the abbey you inhabit is undoubtedly haunted, and informs you that you will not have a single domestic within call. With this parting cordial she curtsies off -- you listen to the sound of her receding footsteps as long as the last echo can reach you -- and when, with fainting spirits, you attempt to fasten your door, you discover, with increased alarm, that it has no lock."

"Oh! Mr. Tilney, how frightful! This is just like a book! But it cannot really happen to me. I am sure your housekeeper is not really Dorothy. Well, what then?"

"Nothing further to alarm perhaps may occur the first night. After surmounting your unconquerable horror of the bed, you will retire to rest, and get a few hours' unquiet slumber. But on the second, or at farthest the third night after your arrival, you will probably have a violent storm. Peals of thunder so loud as to seem to shake the edifice to its foundation will roll round the neighbouring mountains -- and during the frightful gusts of wind which accompany it, you will probably think you discern (for your lamp is not extinguished) one part of the hanging more violently agitated than the rest. Unable of course to repress your curiosity in so favourable a moment for indulging it, you will instantly arise, and throwing your dressing-gown around you, proceed to examine this mystery. After a very short search, you will discover a division in the tapestry so artfully constructed as to defy the minutest inspection, and on opening it, a door will immediately appear -- which door, being only secured by massy bars and a padlock, you will, after a few efforts, succeed in opening -- and, with your lamp in your hand, will pass through it into a small vaulted room."

"No, indeed; I should be too much frightened to do any such thing."

"What! Not when Dorothy has given you to understand that there is a secret subterraneous communication between your apartment and the chapel of St. Anthony, scarcely two miles off? Could you shrink from so simple an adventure? No, no, you will proceed into this small vaulted room, and through this into several others, without perceiving anything very remarkable in either. In one perhaps there may be a dagger, in another a few drops of blood, and in a third the remains of some instrument of torture; but there being nothing in all this out of the common way, and your lamp being nearly exhausted, you will return towards your own apartment. In repassing through the small vaulted room, however, your eyes will be attracted towards a large, old-fashioned cabinet of ebony and gold, which, though narrowly examining the furniture before, you had passed unnoticed. Impelled by an irresistible presentiment, you will eagerly advance to it, unlock its folding doors, and search into every drawer -- but for some time without discovering anything of importance -- perhaps nothing but a considerable hoard of diamonds. At last, however, by touching a secret spring, an inner compartment will open -- a roll of paper appears -- you seize it -- it contains many sheets of manuscript -- you hasten with the precious treasure into your own chamber, but scarcely have you been able to decipher 'Oh! Thou -- whomsoever thou mayst be, into whose hands these memoirs of the wretched Matilda may fall' -- when your lamp suddenly expires in the socket, and leaves you in total darkness."

"Oh! No, no -- do not say so. Well, go on."

But Henry was too much amused by the interest he had raised to be able to carry it farther; he could no longer command solemnity either of subject or voice, and was obliged to entreat her to use her own fancy in the perusal of Matilda's woes. Catherine, recollecting herself, grew ashamed of her eagerness, and began earnestly to assure him that her attention had been fixed without the smallest apprehension of really meeting with what he related. "Miss Tilney, she was sure, would never put her into such a chamber as he had described! She was not at all afraid."

As they drew near the end of their journey, her impatience for a sight of the abbey -- for some time suspended by his conversation on subjects very different -- returned in full force, and every bend in the road was expected with solemn awe to afford a glimpse of its massy walls of grey stone, rising amidst a grove of ancient oaks, with the last beams of the sun playing in beautiful splendour on its high Gothic windows. But so low did the building stand, that she found herself passing through the great gates of the lodge into the very grounds of Northanger, without having discerned even an antique chimney.

She knew not that she had any right to be surprised, but there was a something in this mode of approach which she certainly had not expected. To pass between lodges of a modern appearance, to find herself with such ease in the very precincts of the abbey, and driven so rapidly along a smooth, level road of fine gravel, without obstacle, alarm, or solemnity of any kind, struck her as odd and inconsistent. She was not long at leisure, however, for such considerations. A sudden scud of rain, driving full in her face, made it impossible for her to observe anything further, and fixed all her thoughts on the welfare of her new straw bonnet; and she was actually under the abbey walls, was springing, with Henry's assistance, from the carriage, was beneath the shelter of the old porch, and had even passed on to the hall, where her friend and the general were waiting to welcome her, without feeling one awful foreboding of future misery to herself, or one moment's suspicion of any past scenes of horror being acted within the solemn edifice. The breeze had not seemed to waft the sighs of the murdered to her; it had wafted nothing worse than a thick mizzling rain; and having given a good shake to her habit, she was ready to be shown into the common drawing-room, and capable of considering where she was.

An abbey! Yes, it was delightful to be really in an abbey! But she doubted, as she looked round the room, whether anything within her observation would have given her the consciousness. The furniture was in all the profusion and elegance of modern taste. The fireplace, where she had expected the ample width and ponderous carving of former times, was contracted to a Rumford, with slabs of plain though handsome marble, and ornaments over it of the prettiest English china. The windows, to which she looked with peculiar dependence, from having heard the general talk of his preserving them in their Gothic form with reverential care, were yet less what her fancy had portrayed. To be sure, the pointed arch was preserved -- the form of them was Gothic -- they might be even casements -- but every pane was so large, so clear, so light! To an imagination which had hoped for the smallest divisions, and the heaviest stone-work, for painted glass, dirt, and cobwebs, the difference was very distressing.

The general, perceiving how her eye was employed, began to talk of the smallness of the room and simplicity of the furniture, where everything, being for daily use, pretended only to comfort, etc.; flattering himself, however, that there were some apartments in the Abbey not unworthy her notice -- and was proceeding to mention the costly gilding of one in particular, when, taking out his watch, he stopped short to pronounce it with surprise within twenty minutes of five! This seemed the word of separation, and Catherine found herself hurried away by Miss Tilney in such a manner as convinced her that the strictest punctuality to the family hours would be expected at Northanger.

Returning through the large and lofty hall, they ascended a broad staircase of shining oak, which, after many flights and many landing-places, brought them upon a long, wide gallery. On one side it had a range of doors, and it was lighted on the other by windows which Catherine had only time to discover looked into a quadrangle, before Miss Tilney led the way into a chamber, and scarcely staying to hope she would find it comfortable, left her with an anxious entreaty that she would make as little alteration as possible in her dress.

艾伦夫妇为失去自己的年轻朋友感到惋惜。凯瑟琳脾气好,性情愉快,使她成为一个难能可贵的伙伴。艾伦夫妇在促进她快乐的过程中,也大大增加了自己的乐趣。不过,她乐意跟蒂尔尼小姐一起去,他们也不好表示反对。再说,他们自己在巴思也只准备再呆一周,凯瑟琳现在离开他们,他们也不会寂寞多久。艾伦先生把凯瑟琳送到米尔萨姆街去吃早饭,眼见着她坐到新朋友中间,受到最热烈的欢迎。凯瑟琳发现自己已成为蒂尔尼家的一员,不觉激动万分,提心吊胆地就怕自己举止不当,不能保住他们对她的好感,在最初五分钟的尴尬当儿,她简直就想跟着艾伦先生回到普尔蒂尼街。

蒂尔尼小姐礼貌周全,亨利笑容满面,凯瑟琳的尴尬心情很快便给打消了几分,但她仍然很不自在,就是将军本人不停地款待她,也还不能使她完全安下心。尽管这似乎有些不近情理,但她还是怀疑:假如将军能少关心她一点,她是否会感到随便一些。他为她的安适担忧,不断地请她吃这吃那,虽然她从未见过如此丰盛的早餐,他却一再表示恐怕这些菜肴不合口味,反倒使她一刻也忘不了自己是客人。她觉得自己完全不配受到这般尊重,因此不知道如何回答是好。将军不耐烦地等大儿子出来,最后当蒂尔尼上尉终于出现时,气得直说他懒惰,这一来,凯瑟琳心里更难平静了。使她感到十分痛苦的是,做父亲的责骂得太狠,这似乎与儿子的过失很不相称。当她发现这场训斥主要是为了她,蒂尔尼上尉主要是因为对她不敬才挨骂时,她越发感到忧心忡忡。这使她处于一种局促不安的境地。她虽然十分同情蒂尔尼上尉,但是上尉并不会对她存有好感了。

蒂尔尼上尉闷声不响地听着父亲训斤,一句嘴也不回,这就证实了她的一个担心:上尉晚起的真正原因,可能是让伊莎贝拉搅得心神不安,夜里久久不能入睡。凯瑟琳这是第一次真正同他相处,她希望现在能看看他是个怎样的人。怎奈他父亲呆在屋里时。她几乎就没听他说过话。即使后来,由于他的情绪受到极大的影响,她也辨不清他讲了些什么,只听他小声对埃丽诺说道:“你们都走了我该多高兴啊!”

临走的那阵忙乱是不愉快的。时钟鼓了十一点箱子才搬下来,而按照将军的安排,这时应该走出了米尔萨姆街。他的大衣给拿下来了,但不是让他当即穿上,而是铺在他同儿子乘坐的双轮轻便马车上。那辆四轮轻便马车虽说要坐三个人,可中间的凳子还没拉出来,他女儿的女仆在车里堆满了大包小包,莫兰小姐连坐的地方都没有了。蒂尔尼将军扶她上车时深感不安,莫兰小姐好不容易才保住了自己新买的写字台,没给扔到街上。最后,三位女子坐的车总算关上了门,马匹迈着从容的步伐出发了,一个绅士的四匹膘满肉肥的骏马要走三十英里路的时候,通常用的就是这种步伐。从巴思到偌桑觉寺恰好是三十英里,现在要平分成两段。马车一出门,凯瑟琳的精神又振作起来,因为和蒂尔尼小姐在一起,她感到无拘无束。她对这条完全陌生的路、对前面的寺院、后面的双轮马车都充满了兴趣、毫不遗憾地望了巴思最后一眼,不知不觉地看见了一块块里程碑。接着,令人厌倦地在小法兰西等了两个钟头,实在无事可做,只能吃吃逛逛,虽然肚子并不饿,周围也没有什么好看的。本来,她十分羡慕他们的旅行派头,羡慕这辆时髦的四马四轮马车,穿着漂亮号衣的左马御手在鞍蹬上很有规律地起伏着,许多侍从端端正正地坐在马上。可是,由于这种排场带来很多麻烦,她的羡慕也随着减少了几分。假如大家都亲亲热热的,这场耽搁也算不了什么,谁想蒂尔尼将军虽说十分讨人喜欢,可似乎使他两个孩子打不起精神,几乎只听到他一个人在说话。凯瑟琳见他对客店里的一切都不满意,对侍者一不耐烦就发火,因而越来越敬畏他,两个钟头长得好像四个钟头一样。不过,最后终于下达了出发令。剩下的路,将军提议让凯瑟琳换他坐在他儿子的马车里,这叫凯瑟琳大为吃惊。“天气真好,我很想让你尽量多看看乡下的景色。”。

蒂尔尼将军一提出这个计划,凯瑟琳便记起了艾伦先生对年轻人乘坐敞篷马车的看法,不觉涨红了脸。她最初想拒绝,可是再转念一想,她十分尊重蒂尔尼将军的见解,他不会给她出坏主意的。因此,不到几分钟工夫,她便坐进了亨利的双轮轻便马车,心里觉得比什么人都快活。坐了一小段之后,她确实认识到双轮轻便马车是世界上最好的马车,四马四轮马车走起来固然很威武。但终归是个笨重、麻烦的玩艺儿,她不会轻易忘记它在小法兰西

歇了两个钟头。双轮轻便马车只要歇一半的时间就足够了。它那轻快的小马直想放开步子奔跑,若不是将军执意要让自己的马车打头的话,它们可以在半分钟之内,轻而易举地就超过去。然而,双轮轻便马车的优点还不仅仅在于马好,亨利赶车的技术也实在高超,平平稳稳的,一点不出乱子、既不向小姐自我吹嘘,也不对马破口大骂。他和凯瑟琳唯一能拿来相比的那位绅士驭手,真有天壤之别!还有他那顶帽子,戴在头上十分合适,他大衣上那数不完的披肩,看上去既神气又相称!坐在他的车上,仅次于同他跳舞,无疑是世界上最痛快的事。除了别的快乐之外,她还高高兴兴地听他赞扬自己,至少替他妹妹感谢她肯来作客,认为她能来实在是够朋友,实在令人感激不尽。他说他妹妹处境孤寂,家里没有女伴,加之父亲常常不在家,她有时压根儿没人作伴。

“那怎么可能呢?”凯瑟琳说,“难道你不和她在一起?”

“诺桑觉寺只不过是我的半个家,我在伍德斯顿那里有自己的家,离我父亲这边将近二十英里,我有一部分时间需要呆在那里。”

“你为此一定感到很难过!”

“我离开埃丽诺总是感到很难过。”

“是呀。不过,你除了爱你妹妹之外,一定十分喜爱这所寺院!住惯了诺桑觉寺这样的家,再来到一座普普通通的牧师住宅,一定觉得很别扭。”

亨利笑笑说:“你对这座寺院已经有了很好的印象。”

“那当然啦,难道它不是个优雅的古刹,就像人们在书上看到的一样?”

“‘书上看到的’这类建筑物里,可发生过许多恐怖事件,难道你准备见识见识?你有勇气吗?你有胆量见到那些滑动嵌板和挂毯吗?”

“啊!有的。我想我不会轻易害怕的,因为房里有的是人。何况,这房子也不是一直空着,不是多年役人住,而且你们也不像一般情形一样,事先没通知就突然回到府上。”

“当然是啦。我们用不着摸着道走进一间被柴火余烬照得半暗不明的大厅,也犯不着在地板上搭铺,房子里没窗没门没家具。不过你应该知道,一位年轻小姐无论被用什么方式引进这样一所住主,她总得同家里成员分开住。当大家舒舒适适地回到自己所住的一端时,她由老管家多萝西①郑重其事地引上另一节楼梯,顺着一道道阴暗的走廊,走进一间屋子。自从有位亲戚大约二十年前死在里面以来,这间屋子一直没人住过。你能受得了这样的招待吗?你发现自己置身于这样一个阴森森的房间,觉得它太高太大,整个屋里只有一盏孤灯发出点朦朦的亮光,墙壁四周的挂毯上画着跟真人一般大小的人像,床上的被褥都是深绿色的呢绒。或紫红色的天鹅绒,简直和出殡的情形一样,这时你心里不发毛吗?”

“哦!可我肯定碰不上这种事。”

“你会如何惶恐不安地审视你房里的家具呀?你会发现什么呢?没有桌子、梳妆台、衣柜或是橱柜,只在一边也许有一把破琵琶,另一边有一只怎么用力也打不开的大立柜,壁炉上方有一位英俊的武士画像,他的容貌使你莫名其妙地着了迷,你的眼睛无法从画像上移开。这当儿,多萝西同样被你脸上的神色所吸引,惴惴不安地凝视着你,给你几个捉摸不透的暗示。此外,为了使你打起精神,她还说了些话,使你推想在寺院你住的这边肯定是闹鬼的。她还告诉你,在你附近没有一个家仆。说完这些令人毛骨惊然的话以后,她就施礼出去了,你听着她的脚步声越来越远,直至听到最后一个回声。当你怯生生地想去扣门时,越发惊恐地发现门上设锁。”

“哦!蒂尔尼先生,多可怕呀!这真像是一本书,不过我不会真碰上这种事。你们的女管家决不会是多萝西。好了,后来呢?”

“也许头一天夜里没有更多可惊恐的。你克服了对那张床铺压抑不住的恐惧之后,便上床休息,惊扰不安地睡了几个钟头。但是,就在你到达后的第二天夜里,或者最迟是第三天夜里,你很可能会遇上一场暴风雨。一声声响雷在附近山里隆隆轰呜,仿佛要把整个大厦都给震塌。伴随着雷声,刮来一阵阵可怕的劲风,这时候你的灯还没熄灭,你很可能觉得自己发现挂毯上有一处比别处动得厉害。这是最让你好奇的时候,你当然无法压抑这种好奇心,便立即从床上爬起来,匆匆披上晨衣,开始查找其中的奥秘。稍查了一会之后,你会发现挂毯上有一处织得相当巧妙。怎么细心也不容易看得出来。一打开这块地方,马上出现了一扇门,门上只有几根粗条和一把挂锁,你使了几下劲便打开了。你提着灯穿过门,走进一间拱顶的小屋。”

“不、决不会的。我吓都吓死了,哪会干这种事。”

“什么!当多萝西告诉你,在你的房间与二英里以外的圣安东尼教堂之间有一条秘密通道之后,你也不干?这么简单的冒险,你都畏缩不前?不,不会的。你会走进这间拱顶的小屋,通过这间小屋,再走进另外几间这样的小屋,都没发觉任何奇异的东西。也许,在一间屋里会有一把匕首,在另一间屋里会有几滴血,在第三间屋里会有一种刑具的残骸,但是这一切都没有什么异乎寻常的地方。你的灯即将熄灭,你要回到自己的房间。然而,再走过那间拱顶小屋时,你的眼睛会注意到另一只老式的乌木镶金大立柜。你先前虽然仔细地查看过家具,但是这只柜子却被你忽略过去了。你怀着一种不可压抑的预感,急火火地朝柜子走去,打开折门上的锁,搜查着每一个抽屉。但是,搜了半天,没有发现任何有价值的东西,也许只找到一大堆钻石。不过,最后你碰到了暗簧,打开了里面的抽屉,露出了一卷纸,你一把抓了过来——里面有许多张手稿。你如获至宝,急急忙忙地跑回自己房里,谁想你刚刚辨认出这样一句:‘哦,你呀,不管你是谁,一旦薄命的马蒂尔达的这些记事录落入你的手中,' 你的灯突然熄灭了,使你 陷入一团漆黑之中。”

“哦,别、别!你别这么说。唔,往下讲啊。”

但是亨利被他激起的兴趣逗乐了,无法再讲下去。他从内容到口吻,再也不能装作一本正经的样子了。他不得不恳求她在阅读马蒂尔达的不幸遭遇时,要发挥自己的想象力。凯瑟琳一冷静下来,便为自己的迫不及待感到害羞,诚挚地对他说,她聚精会神地听他讲,丝毫也不害怕真正遇到他说的那些事。她敢断定,蒂尔尼小姐决不会把她安置在像他说的那样一间屋于里。她丝毫也不害怕。

凯瑟琳想见诺桑觉寺的急切心情,因为亨利谈起别的事情而中止了一阵子。当旅途临近终点时,她又变得急不可待了。每到拐弯处,她都带着肃然起敬的心情,期待看到它那砌着灰色石块的厚墙,屹立在古老的栎树丛中,太阳的余辉映着它那哥特式的长窗,显得十分壮丽。谁曾想,那座房子是那样低矮,她穿过号房的大门。进入诺桑觉寺的庭园时,发觉自己连个古老的烟囱也没看见。

她知道她不应该感到惊奇,但她如此这般地驶进门,当然有些出乎她的意料。穿过两排具有现代风貌的号房,发现自己如此方便地进入寺院的领域,马车疾驶在光滑平坦的石子路上,没有障碍,没有惊恐,没有任何庄重的气息,委实使她感到奇怪和有失协调。但是,她没有多少工夫来想这些事。突然,迎面刮来一阵急雨,使她不能再看这看那了,一心只顾得保护她那顶新草帽。其实,她已经来到寺院的墙根底下,由亨利搀着跳下马车,躲到旧门廊下面,甚至跑进了大厅,她的朋友和将军正在等着欢迎她,而她对自己未来的痛苦却没有任何可怕的预感,丝毫也不疑心过去在这幢肃穆的大厦里,出现过什么恐怖情景。微风似乎还没刮来杀人犯的悲叹,只不过给她送来了一阵蒙蒙细雨。她使劲抖了抖衣服,准备给领进共用客厅,同时也好思量一下她来到了什么地方。

一座寺院!是呀,能亲临其境有多高兴啊!但是,她朝屋里环顾了一下,不禁怀疑她见到的东西是否给她带来这样的感觉。满屋子富丽堂皇的家具,完全是现代格调。再说那个壁炉,她本来期待见到大量刻板的古代雕刻,谁想它完全是朗福德式的,用朴素而美观的云石板砌成,上面摆着十分漂亮的英国瓷器。她带着特别信赖的目光朝那些窗子望去,因为她先前听将军说过,他出自敬重的心情,注意保留了它们的哥特式样,可是仔细一瞧,与她想象的相距甚远。诚然,尖拱是保留了,形式也是哥特式的,甚至也有窗扉,但是每块玻璃都太大,太清晰,太明亮!在凯瑟琳的想象中,她希望见到最小的窗格、最笨重的石框,希望见到彩色玻璃、泥垢和蜘蛛网。对她来说.这种改变是令人痛心的。

将军察觉她的目光在四下张望,便谈起了屋子小,家具简陋,一切都是日常用品,仅仅为了舒适起见,如此等等。不过他又自鸣得意地说,诺桑觉寺也有几间屋子值得她看一看,下面正要特别提一提那间奢华的镀金屋子时,不想他掏出表,突然煞住了话头,惊奇地宣布:再过二十分钟就到五点!这句话好像是解散的命令,凯瑟琳发现蒂尔尼小姐在催她快走,那副样子使她确信:在诺桑觉寺,必须极其严格地遵守家庭作息时间。

大家穿过宽敞高大的大厅,登上宽阔油亮的栎木楼梯,过了许多节楼梯和拐弯处,来到一条又宽又长的走廊上。走廊的一侧是一溜门,另一侧是一排窗户,把走廊照得通亮。凯瑟琳刚看出窗外是个四方院,蒂尔尼小姐领进一个房间,蒂尔尼小姐仅仅说了声希望她会觉得舒适,便匆匆地离开了,临走时急切地恳求凯瑟琳尽量少换衣服。



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