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Chapter 29

Catherine was too wretched to be fearful. The journey in itself had no terrors for her; and she began it without either dreading its length or feeling its solitariness. Leaning back in one comer of the carriage, in a violent burst of tears, she was conveyed some miles beyond the walls of the abbey before she raised her head; and the highest point of ground within the park was almost closed from her view before she was capable of turning her eyes towards it. Unfortunately, the road she now travelled was the same which only ten days ago she had so happily passed along in going to and from Woodston; and, for fourteen miles, every bitter feeling was rendered more severe by the review of objects on which she had first looked under impressions so different. Every mile, as it brought her nearer Woodston, added to her sufferings, and when within the distance of five, she passed the turning which led to it, and thought of Henry, so near, yet so unconscious, her grief and agitation were excessive.

The day which she had spent at that place had been one of the happiest of her life. It was there, it was on that day, that the general had made use of such expressions with regard to Henry and herself, had so spoken and so looked as to give her the most positive conviction of his actually wishing their marriage. Yes, only ten days ago had he elated her by his pointed regard -- had he even confused her by his too significant reference! And now -- what had she done, or what had she omitted to do, to merit such a change?

The only offence against him of which she could accuse herself had been such as was scarcely possible to reach his knowledge. Henry and her own heart only were privy to the shocking suspicions which she had so idly entertained; and equally safe did she believe her secret with each. Designedly, at least, Henry could not have betrayed her. If, indeed, by any strange mischance his father should have gained intelligence of what she had dared to think and look for, of her causeless fancies and injurious examinations, she could not wonder at any degree of his indignation. If aware of her having viewed him as a murderer, she could not wonder at his even turning her from his house. But a justification so full of torture to herself, she trusted, would not be in his power.

Anxious as were all her conjectures on this point, it was not, however, the one on which she dwelt most. There was a thought yet nearer, a more prevailing, more impetuous concern. How Henry would think, and feel, and look, when he returned on the morrow to Northanger and heard of her being gone, was a question of force and interest to rise over every other, to be never ceasing, alternately irritating and soothing; it sometimes suggested the dread of his calm acquiescence, and at others was answered by the sweetest confidence in his regret and resentment. To the general, of course, he would not dare to speak; but to Eleanor -- what might he not say to Eleanor about her?

In this unceasing recurrence of doubts and inquiries, on any one article of which her mind was incapable of more than momentary repose, the hours passed away, and her journey advanced much faster than she looked for. The pressing anxieties of thought, which prevented her from noticing anything before her, when once beyond the neighbourhood of Woodston, saved her at the same time from watching her progress; and though no object on the road could engage a moment's attention, she found no stage of it tedious. From this, she was preserved too by another cause, by feeling no eagerness for her journey's conclusion; for to return in such a manner to Fullerton was almost to destroy the pleasure of a meeting with those she loved best, even after an absence such as hers -- an eleven weeks' absence. What had she to say that would not humble herself and pain her family, that would not increase her own grief by the confession of it, extend an useless resentment, and perhaps involve the innocent with the guilty in undistinguishing ill will? She could never do justice to Henry and Eleanor's merit; she felt it too strongly for expression; and should a dislike be taken against them, should they be thought of unfavourably, on their father's account, it would cut her to the heart.

With these feelings, she rather dreaded than sought for the first view of that well-known spire which would announce her within twenty miles of home. Salisbury she had known to be her point on leaving Northanger; but after the first stage she had been indebted to the post-masters for the names of the places which were then to conduct her to it; so great had been her ignorance of her route. She met with nothing, however, to distress or frighten her. Her youth, civil manners, and liberal pay procured her all the attention that a traveller like herself could require; and stopping only to change horses, she travelled on for about eleven hours without accident or alarm, and between six and seven o'clock in the evening found herself entering Fullerton.

A heroine returning, at the close of her career, to her native village, in all the triumph of recovered reputation, and all the dignity of a countess, with a long train of noble relations in their several phaetons, and three waiting-maids in a travelling chaise and four, behind her, is an event on which the pen of the contriver may well delight to dwell; it gives credit to every conclusion, and the author must share in the glory she so liberally bestows. But my affair is widely different; I bring back my heroine to her home in solitude and disgrace; and no sweet elation of spirits can lead me into minuteness. A heroine in a hack post-chaise is such a blow upon sentiment, as no attempt at grandeur or pathos can withstand. Swiftly therefore shall her post-boy drive through the village, amid the gaze of Sunday groups, and speedy shall be her descent from it.

But, whatever might be the distress of Catherine's mind, as she thus advanced towards the parsonage, and whatever the humiliation of her biographer in relating it, she was preparing enjoyment of no everyday nature for those to whom she went; first, in the appearance of her carriage -- and secondly, in herself. The chaise of a traveller being a rare sight in Fullerton, the whole family were immediately at the window; and to have it stop at the sweep-gate was a pleasure to brighten every eye and occupy every fancy -- a pleasure quite unlooked for by all but the two youngest children, a boy and girl of six and four years old, who expected a brother or sister in every carriage. Happy the glance that first distinguished Catherine! Happy the voice that proclaimed the discovery! But whether such happiness were the lawful property of George or Harriet could never be exactly understood.

Her father, mother, Sarah, George, and Harriet, all assembled at the door to welcome her with affectionate eagerness, was a sight to awaken the best feelings of Catherine's heart; and in the embrace of each, as she stepped from the carriage, she found herself soothed beyond anything that she had believed possible. So surrounded, so caressed, she was even happy! In the joyfulness of family love everything for a short time was subdued, and the pleasure of seeing her, leaving them at first little leisure for calm curiosity, they were all seated round the tea-table, which Mrs. Morland had hurried for the comfort of the poor traveller, whose pale and jaded looks soon caught her notice, before any inquiry so direct as to demand a positive answer was addressed to her.

Reluctantly, and with much hesitation, did she then begin what might perhaps, at the end of half an hour, be termed, by the courtesy of her hearers, an explanation; but scarcely, within that time, could they at all discover the cause, or collect the particulars, of her sudden return. They were far from being an irritable race; far from any quickness in catching, or bitterness in resenting, affronts: but here, when the whole was unfolded, was an insult not to be overlooked, nor, for the first half hour, to be easily pardoned. Without suffering any romantic alarm, in the consideration of their daughter's long and lonely journey, Mr. and Mrs. Morland could not but feel that it might have been productive of much unpleasantness to her; that it was what they could never have voluntarily suffered; and that, in forcing her on such a measure, General Tilney had acted neither honourably nor feelingly -- neither as a gentleman nor as a parent. Why he had done it, what could have provoked him to such a breach of hospitality, and so suddenly turned all his partial regard for their daughter into actual ill will, was a matter which they were at least as far from divining as Catherine herself; but it did not oppress them by any means so long; and, after a due course of useless conjecture, that "it was a strange business, and that he must be a very strange man," grew enough for all their indignation and wonder; though Sarah indeed still indulged in the sweets of incomprehensibility, exclaiming and conjecturing with youthful ardour. "My dear, you give yourself a great deal of needless trouble," said her mother at last; "depend upon it, it is something not at all worth understanding."

"I can allow for his wishing Catherine away, when he recollected this engagement," said Sarah, "but why not do it civilly?"

"I am sorry for the young people," returned Mrs. Morland; "they must have a sad time of it; but as for anything else, it is no matter now; Catherine is safe at home, and our comfort does not depend upon General Tilney." Catherine sighed. "Well," continued her philosophic mother, "I am glad I did not know of your journey at the time; but now it is all over, perhaps there is no great harm done. It is always good for young people to be put upon exerting themselves; and you know, my dear Catherine, you always were a sad little scatter-brained creature; but now you must have been forced to have your wits about you, with so much changing of chaises and so forth; and I hope it will appear that you have not left anything behind you in any of the pockets."

Catherine hoped so too, and tried to feel an interest in her own amendment, but her spirits were quite worn down; and, to be silent and alone becoming soon her only wish, she readily agreed to her mother's next counsel of going early to bed. Her parents, seeing nothing in her ill looks and agitation but the natural consequence of mortified feelings, and of the unusual exertion and fatigue of such a journey, parted from her without any doubt of their being soon slept away; and though, when they all met the next morning, her recovery was not equal to their hopes, they were still perfectly unsuspicious of there being any deeper evil. They never once thought of her heart, which, for the parents of a young lady of seventeen, just returned from her first excursion from home, was odd enough!

As soon as breakfast was over, she sat down to fulfil her promise to Miss Tilney, whose trust in the effect of time and distance on her friend's disposition was already justified, for already did Catherine reproach herself with having parted from Eleanor coldly, with having never enough valued her merits or kindness, and never enough commiserated her for what she had been yesterday left to endure. The strength of these feelings, however, was far from assisting her pen; and never had it been harder for her to write than in addressing Eleanor Tilney. To compose a letter which might at once do justice to her sentiments and her situation, convey gratitude without servile regret, be guarded without coldness, and honest without resentment -- a letter which Eleanor might not be pained by the perusal of -- and, above all, which she might not blush herself, if Henry should chance to see, was an undertaking to frighten away all her powers of performance; and, after long thought and much perplexity, to be very brief was all that she could determine on with any confidence of safety. The money therefore which Eleanor had advanced was enclosed with little more than grateful thanks, and the thousand good wishes of a most affectionate heart.

"This has been a strange acquaintance," observed Mrs. Morland, as the letter was finished; "soon made and soon ended. I am sorry it happens so, for Mrs. Allen thought them very pretty kind of young people; and you were sadly out of luck too in your Isabella. Ah! Poor James! Well, we must live and learn; and the next new friends you make I hope will be better worth keeping."

Catherine coloured as she warmly answered, "No friend can be better worth keeping than Eleanor."

"If so, my dear, I dare say you will meet again some time or other; do not be uneasy. It is ten to one but you are thrown together again in the course of a few years; and then what a pleasure it will be!"

Mrs. Morland was not happy in her attempt at consolation. The hope of meeting again in the course of a few years could only put into Catherine's head what might happen within that time to make a meeting dreadful to her. She could never forget Henry Tilney, or think of him with less tenderness than she did at that moment; but he might forget her; and in that case, to meet -- ! Her eyes filled with tears as she pictured her acquaintance so renewed; and her mother, perceiving her comfortable suggestions to have had no good effect, proposed, as another expedient for restoring her spirits, that they should call on Mrs. Allen.

The two houses were only a quarter of a mile apart; and, as they walked, Mrs. Morland quickly dispatched all that she felt on the score of James's disappointment. "We are sorry for him," said she; "but otherwise there is no harm done in the match going off; for it could not be a desirable thing to have him engaged to a girl whom we had not the smallest acquaintance with, and who was so entirely without fortune; and now, after such behaviour, we cannot think at all well of her. Just at present it comes hard to poor James; but that will not last forever; and I dare say he will be a discreeter man all his life, for the foolishness of his first choice."

This was just such a summary view of the affair as Catherine could listen to; another sentence might have endangered her complaisance, and made her reply less rational; for soon were all her thinking powers swallowed up in the reflection of her own change of feelings and spirits since last she had trodden that well-known road. It was not three months ago since, wild with joyful expectation, she had there run backwards and forwards some ten times a day, with an heart light, gay, and independent; looking forward to pleasures untasted and unalloyed, and free from the apprehension of evil as from the knowledge of it. Three months ago had seen her all this; and now, how altered a being did she return!

She was received by the Allens with all the kindness which her unlooked-for appearance, acting on a steady affection, would naturally call forth; and great was their surprise, and warm their displeasure, on hearing how she had been treated -- though Mrs. Morland's account of it was no inflated representation, no studied appeal to their passions. "Catherine took us quite by surprise yesterday evening," said she. "She travelled all the way post by herself, and knew nothing of coming till Saturday night; for General Tilney, from some odd fancy or other, all of a sudden grew tired of having her there, and almost turned her out of the house. Very unfriendly, certainly; and he must be a very odd man; but we are so glad to have her amongst us again! And it is a great comfort to find that she is not a poor helpless creature, but can shift very well for herself."

Mr. Allen expressed himself on the occasion with the reasonable resentment of a sensible friend; and Mrs. Allen thought his expressions quite good enough to be immediately made use of again by herself. His wonder, his conjectures, and his explanations became in succession hers, with the addition of this single remark -- "I really have not patience with the general" -- to fill up every accidental pause. And, "I really have not patience with the general," was uttered twice after Mr. Allen left the room, without any relaxation of anger, or any material digression of thought. A more considerable degree of wandering attended the third repetition; and, after completing the fourth, she immediately added, "Only think, my dear, of my having got that frightful great rent in my best Mechlin so charmingly mended, before I left Bath, that one can hardly see where it was. I must show it you some day or other. Bath is a nice place, Catherine, after all. I assure you I did not above half like coming away. Mrs. Thorpe's being there was such a comfort to us, was not it? You know, you and I were quite forlorn at first."

"Yes, but that did not last long," said Catherine, her eyes brightening at the recollection of what had first given spirit to her existence there.

"Very true: we soon met with Mrs. Thorpe, and then we wanted for nothing. My dear, do not you think these silk gloves wear very well? I put them on new the first time of our going to the Lower Rooms, you know, and I have worn them a great deal since. Do you remember that evening?"

"Do I! Oh! Perfectly."

"It was very agreeable, was not it? Mr. Tilney drank tea with us, and I always thought him a great addition, he is so very agreeable. I have a notion you danced with him, but am not quite sure. I remember I had my favourite gown on."

Catherine could not answer; and, after a short trial of other subjects, Mrs. Allen again returned to -- "I really have not patience with the general! Such an agreeable, worthy man as he seemed to be! I do not suppose, Mrs. Morland, you ever saw a better-bred man in your life. His lodgings were taken the very day after he left them, Catherine. But no wonder; Milsom Street, you know."

As they walked home again, Mrs. Morland endeavoured to impress on her daughter's mind the happiness of having such steady well-wishers as Mr. and Mrs. Allen, and the very little consideration which the neglect or unkindness of slight acquaintance like the Tilneys ought to have with her, while she could preserve the good opinion and affection of her earliest friends. There was a great deal of good sense in all this; but there are some situations of the human mind in which good sense has very little power; and Catherine's feelings contradicted almost every position her mother advanced. It was upon the behaviour of these very slight acquaintance that all her present happiness depended; and while Mrs. Morland was successfully confirming her own opinions by the justness of her own representations, Catherine was silently reflecting that now Henry must have arrived at Northanger; now he must have heard of her departure; and now, perhaps, they were all setting off for Hereford.

凯瑟琳因为过于伤心,也顾不得害怕了。旅行本身倒没有什么可怕的,她启程的时候,既不畏惧路程的遥远,也不感到旅途的孤寂。她靠在马车的一个角角上,泪如泉涌,直到马车驶出寺院好几英里,才抬起头来;直到寺院里的最高点差不多被遮住了,才能回过脸朝它望去。不幸的是,她现在所走的这条路,恰好是她十天前兴高采烈地往返伍德斯顿时所走的那条。沿途十四英里,上次带着迥然不同的心情目睹过的那些景物,这次再看上去,使她心里感到越发难受。她每走近伍德斯顿一英里,心里的痛苦就加重一分。当她经过离伍德斯顿只有五英里的那个岔路口时,一想亨利就在附近,可他又被蒙在鼓里,真使她焦灼万分,悲伤至极。

她在伍德斯顿度过的那天,是她一生中最快活的一天。就在那里,就在那天,将军说及亨利和她的时候,用了那样的字眼,连话带神气都使她百分之百地确信,将军确实希望他们能结成姻缘。是的,仅仅十天前,他那显而易见的好感还使她为之欢欣鼓伍呢-他还用那句意味深长的暗示搞得她心慌意乱!而现在,她究竟做了什么事,或者漏做了什么事,才惹得他改变了态度呢?

她觉得自己只冒犯了将军一次,但是这事不大可能传进他的耳朵。她对他的那些骇人听闻的疑神疑鬼,只有亨利和她自己知道,她相信亨利会像她自己一样严守秘密。至少,亨利不会有意出卖她。假若出现奇怪的不幸,将军当真得知她那些斗胆的想象和搜索,得知她那些无稽的幻想和有伤体面的检查,任凭他再怎么发怒,凯瑟琳也不会感到惊奇。假若将军得知她曾把他看成杀人凶手,他即使把她驱逐出门,她也不会感到诧异。但是她相信,这件使她十分痛苦的事情,将军是不会知道的。

她虽然心急火燎地在这上面猜来猜去,但是她考虑得最多的,还不是这件事。她还有个更密切的思想,一个更急迫、更强烈的念头。亨利明天回到诺桑觉寺听说她走了之后,他会产生什么想法,什么感觉,什么表情,这是个强有力而又颇有趣的问题,比其他一切间题都重要,一直萦绕在她的脑际,使她时而感到烦恼,时而为之宽慰。有时她害怕他会不声不响地表示默认,有时又美滋滋地相信他一定会感到悔恨和气愤。当然,他不敢责备将军,但是对埃丽诺,有关她凯瑟琳的事情有什么不能跟埃丽诺说的呢?

她心里疑疑惑惑的,反复不停地询间自己,可是哪个问题也不能给她带来片刻的安宁。时间就这么过去了,她没想到一路上会走得这么快。马车驶过伍德斯顿附近以后,满脑子的焦虑悬念使她顾不得去观看眼前的景物,同时也省得她去注视旅途的进程。路旁的景物虽说引不起她片刻的注意,但她始终也不觉得厌倦。她之所以无此感觉,还有另外一个原因:她并不急于到达目的地,因为她虽说离家已有十一个星期之久,但是这样回到富勒顿,根本不可能感到与亲人团聚的欢乐。她说什么话能不使自己丢脸,不让家人痛苦呢?她只要照实一说,便会感到更加悲伤,无谓地扩大怨恨,也许还会不分青红皂白地把有过无过的人纠缠在一起。她永远道不尽亨利和埃丽诺对她的好处:她对此感受之深,简直无法用言语加以形容。假若有人因为他们父亲的缘故而讨厌他们,憎恶他们,那可要叫她伤透了心。

由于有这样的心情,她并不期望看见那个表示她离家只有二十英里的塔尖,相反,她生怕见到它。她原先只知道,自已出了诺桑觉寺以后,下面便是索尔兹伯里,但是第一段旅程走完后,多亏驿站长告诉了她一个个地名,她才知道怎么通向索尔兹伯里。不过她没有遇到什么麻烦和恐惧。她年纪轻轻,待人客气,出手大方,因而赢得了像她这样一个旅客一路上必不可少的种种照顾。车子除了换马以外,一直没有停下来,接连走了十一个钟头,也没发生意外或惊险。傍晚六七点钟左右,便驶进了富勒顿。

写书人总喜欢这样详细描述故事的结局:女主角快结束自己的生涯时,胜利地挽回了声誉,满举着伯爵夫人的体面尊严回到了乡里,后面跟着一长串的贵族亲戚,分坐在好几辆四轮敞篷马车里,还有一辆四马拉的旅行马车,里面坐着三位侍女。的确,这种写法给故事的结局增添了光彩,写书人如此慷慨落笔,自己也一定沾光不少。但是我的故事却大不相同。我让我的女主角孤孤单单、面目无光地回到家乡,因此我也提不起精神来详细叙述了。让女主角坐在出租驿车上,实在有煞风景,再怎么描写壮观或是悲怆场面,也是挽回不了的。因此,车夫要把车子赶得飞快,在星期日一群群人的众目睽睽之下,一溜烟似地驶进村庄,女主角也飞快地跳下马车。凯瑟琳就这样向牧师住宅前进时,不管她心里有多么痛苦,不管她的做传人叙述起来有多惭愧,她却在给家里人准备着非同寻常的喜悦:先是出现马车,继而出现她本人。旅行马车在富勒顿是不常见的,全家人立刻跑到窗口张望。看见马车停在大门口,个个都喜形于色,脑子里也在想入非非。除了两个小家伙以外,谁也没料到会有这等喜事,而那两个小家伙呢,一个男孩六岁,一个女孩四岁,每次看见马车都盼望是哥哥姐姐回来了。头一个发现凯瑟琳的有多高兴啊!报告这一发现的声音有多兴奋啊!但是这个快活究竟属于乔治还是属于哈里特,却是无从得知了。

凯瑟琳的父亲、母亲、萨拉、乔治和哈里特,统统聚在门口,亲切而热烈地欢迎她,凯瑟琳见此情景心里感到由衷的高兴。她跨下马车,把每个人都拥抱了一遍,没想到自已会觉得这么轻松。大家围着她,抚慰她,甚至使她感到幸福!顷刻间,因为沉浸在亲人团聚的喜悦之中,一切悲伤都被暂时压抑下去。大家一见凯瑟琳都很高兴,也顾不得平心静气地加以盘问,便围着茶桌坐下来。莫兰太太急急忙忙地沏好茶,以便让那远道而归的可怜人儿解解渴。谁想没过多久,还没等有人直截了当地向凯瑟琳提出任何需要明确作答的间题,做母亲的便注意到,女儿脸色苍白,神情疲惫。

凯瑟琳勉勉强强、吞吞吐吐地开口了,她的听众听了半个钟头以后,出于客气,也许可能管这些话称作解释。可是在这其间,他们压根儿听不明白她究竟为何原因突然回来,也搞不清事情的详情细节。他们这家子决不是爱动肝火的人,即使受人侮辱,反应也很迟钝,更不会恨之人骨。但是,凯瑟琳把整个事情说明以后,他们觉得这样的侮辱不容忽视,而且在头半个钟头还觉得不能轻易宽恕。莫兰夫妇想到女儿这趟漫长孤单的旅行时,虽然没有因为胡思乱想而担惊受怕,但是也不由得感到这会给女儿带来很多不快,他们自己决不会情愿去受这种罪。蒂尔尼将军把女儿逼到这步田地,实在太不光彩,太没心肠,既不像个有教养的人,也不像个有儿有女的人。他为什么要这样做,什么事情惹得他如此怠慢客人,他原来十分宠爱他们的女儿,为什么突然变得这么反感,这些间题他们至少像凯瑟琳一样莫名其妙。不过他们并没为此而苦恼多久,胡乱猜测了一阵之后,便这样说道:"真是件怪事,他一定是个怪人。"这句话也足以表达出他们全部的气愤和惊讶。不过萨拉仍然沉浸在甜蜜的莫名其妙之中,只管带着年轻人的热情,大声地惊叫着,猜测着。"乖孩子,你不必去自寻那么多烦恼,"她母亲最后说道,"放心吧,这件事压根儿不值得伤脑筋。"

"他想起了那个约会就想让凯瑟琳走,这点是可以谅解的,"萨拉说,"但他为什么不做得客气一些呢?''

"我替那两个青年人感到难过,"莫兰太太应道,"他们一定很伤心。至于别的事情,现在不必管了。凯瑟琳已经平安到家,我们的安适又不靠蒂尔尼将军来决定。"凯瑟琳叹了口气。"唔,"她那位豁达的母亲说道,"幸亏我当时不知道你走在路上。不过事情都过去了,也许没有什么多大的坏处。让青年人自己去闯闯总是有好处的。你知道,我的好凯瑟琳,你一向是个浮浮躁躁的小可怜虫,可是这回在路上换了那么多次车呀什么的,你就不得不变得机灵一些。我希望你千万别把什么东西拉在车上的口袋里。"

凯瑟琳也希望如此,并且试图对自己的长进感点兴趣,不想她已经完全精疲力竭了。不久,她心里唯一的希望是想独自清静一下,当母亲劝她早些休息的时候,她立刻答应了。她父母认为,她的面容憔悴和心情不安只不过是心里感到屈辱的必然结果,也是旅途过分劳顿的必然结果,因此临别的时候,相信她睡一觉马上就会好的。第二天早晨大家见面时,虽说她没有恢复到他们希望的程度,可是他们仍然丝毫也不疑心这里面会有什么更深的祸根。一个十七岁的大姑娘,第一次出远门归来,做父母的居然一次也没有想到她的心,真是咄咄怪事!

刚吃完早饭,凯瑟琳便坐下来实践她对蒂尔尼小姐的诺言。蒂尔尼小姐相信,时间和距离会改变这位朋友的心情,现在她这信念还真得到了应验,因为凯瑟琳已经在责怪自己离别埃丽诺时表现得大冷淡。同时,她还责怪自己对埃丽诺的优点和情意一向重视不够,昨天她剩下一个人时那么痛苦,却没引起自己足够的同情。然而,感情的力量并没帮助她下笔成文,她以前动笔从没像给埃丽诺·蒂尔尼写信来得这么困难。这封信既要恰如其分地写出她的感情,又要恰如其分地写出她的处境,要能表达感激而不谦卑懊悔,要谨慎而不冷淡,诚挚而不怨恨;这封信,埃丽诺看了要不让她感到痛苦,而尤其重要的是,假如让亨利碰巧看到,她自己也不至于感到脸红;这一切吓得她实在不敢动笔。茫然不知所措地思忖了半夭,最后终于决定,只有写得十分简短才能确保不出差失。于是,她把埃丽诺垫的钱装进信封以后,只写了几句表示感谢和衷心祝愿的话。

"这段交情真奇怪,"等凯瑟琳写完信,莫兰太太说道,"结交得快,了结得也快。出这样的事真叫人遗憾,因为艾伦太太认为他们都是很好的青年。真不幸,你跟你的伊莎贝拉也不走运。唉!可怜的詹姆斯!也罢,人要经一事长一智,希望你以后交朋友可要交些更值得器重的。"

凯瑟琳急红了脸,激动地答道:"埃丽诺就是一个最值得器重的朋友。"

"要是这样,好孩子,我相信你们迟早会再见面的,你不要担心。十有八九,你们在几年内还会碰到一起的。那时候该有多么高兴啊!''

莫兰太太安慰得并不得法。她希望他们几年内再见面,这只能使凯瑟琳联想到:这几年内发生的变化也许会使她害怕再见他们。她永远也忘不了亨利·蒂尔尼,她将永远像现在这样温柔多情地想念他,但是他会忘掉她的,在这种情况下再去见面!凯瑟琳想象到要如此重新见面,眼眶里不觉又充满了泪水。做母亲的意识到自己的婉言劝慰没产生好效果,便又想出了一个恢复精神的权宜之计,提议她们一起去拜访艾伦太太。

两家相距只有四分之一英里。路上,莫兰太太心急口快地说出了她对詹姆斯失恋的全部看法。"我们真替他难过,"她说。"不过,除此而外,这门亲事吹了也没什么不好的。一个素不相识的姑娘,一点嫁妆也没有,和她订婚不会是什么称心如意的事。再说她又做出这种事,我们压根儿就看不上她。眼下可怜的詹姆斯是很难过,.但是这不会长久。我敢说,他头一次傻乎乎地选错了人,一辈子都会做个谨慎人。"

凯瑟琳勉强听完了母亲对这件事的扼要看法,再多说一句话就可能惹她失去克制,作出不理智的回答,因为她的整个思想马上又回忆起:自从上次打这条熟悉的路上走过以来,自己在心情和精神上起了哪些变化。不到三个月以前,她还欣喜若狂地满怀着希望,每天在这条路上来来去去地跑上十几趟,心里轻松愉快,无纠无羁。她一心期待着那些从未尝试过的纯真无瑕的乐趣,一点也不害怕恶运,也不知道什么叫恶运。她三个月前还是这个样子,而现今呢,回来以后简直判若两人!

艾伦夫妇一向疼爱她,眼下突然见她不期而来,自然要亲切备至地接待她。他们听了凯瑟琳的遭遇,不禁大吃一惊,气愤至极,虽然莫兰太太讲述时并没有添枝加叶,也没故意引他们生怒。"昨天晚上,凯瑟琳把我们吓了一大跳,"莫兰太太说道。"她一路上一个人坐着驿车回来的,而且直到星期六晚上才知道要走。蒂尔尼将军不知道什么思想作怪,突然厌烦她呆在那里,险些把她赶出去,真不够朋友。他一定是个怪人。不过,我们很高兴她又回到我们中间!见她很有办法,不是个窝窝囊囊的可怜虫,真是个莫大的安慰。"

这当儿,艾伦先生作为一个富有理智的朋友,很有分寸地表示了自己的愤慨。艾伦太太觉得丈夫的措词十分得当,立即跟着重复了一遍。接着,她又把他的惊奇、推测和解释都一一照说了一遍。每逢说话偶尔接不上茬时,她只是加上自己这么一句话:"我实在忍受不了这位将军。"艾伦先生走出屋去以后,她把这话又说了两遍,当时气还没消,话也没大离题。等说第三遍,她的话题就扯得比较远了。等说第四遍,便立即接着说道:"好孩子,你只要想一想,我离开巴思以前,居然补好了我最喜欢的梅赫伦花边①上那一大块开线的地方,补得好极了,'简直看不出补在什么地方。哪天我一定拿给你瞧瞧。凯瑟琳,巴思毕竟是个好地方。说实话,我真不想回来。索普太太在那儿给了我们很大的方便,对不?要知道,我们两个最初孤苦伶仃的十分可怜。"

"是啊,不过那没持续多久,"凯瑟琳说道,一想到她在巴思的生活最初是如何焕发出生气的,眼睛就又亮闪起来。

"的确,我们不久就遇见了索普太太,然后就什么也不缺了。好孩子,你看我这副丝手套有多结实?我们头一次去下舞厅时我是新戴上的,以后又戴了好多次。你记得那天晚上吗?"

"我记得吗?噢,一清二楚。"

"真令人愉快,是吧?蒂尔尼先生跟我们一块喝茶,我始终认为有他参加真有意思,他是那样讨人喜欢。我好像记得你跟他跳舞了,不过不太肯定。我记得我穿着我最喜爱的长裙。" 凯瑟琳无法回答。艾伦太太略转了几个话题以后,又回过头来说道:"我实在忍受不了那位将军!看样子,他倒像是个讨人喜欢、值得器重的人哪!莫兰太太,我想你一辈子都没见过像他那样有教养的人。凯瑟琳,他走了以后,那座房子就给人租去了。不过这也难怪。你知道吧,米尔萨姆街。"

回家的路上,莫兰太太极力想让女儿认识到:她能交上艾伦夫妇这样好心可靠的朋友真是幸运,既然她还能得到这些老朋友的器重和疼爱,像蒂尔尼家那种交情很浅的人怠慢无礼,她就不该把它放在心上。这些话说得很有见识,但是人的思想在某些情况下是不受理智支配的。莫兰太太几乎每提出一个见解,凯瑟琳都要产生几分抵触情绪。目前,她的全部幸福就取决于这些交情很浅的朋友对她采取什么态度。就在莫兰太太用公正的陈述成功地印证自己的见解时,凯瑟琳却在默默地思索着:亨利现在一定回到了诺桑觉寺;他现在定听说她走了;也许他们现在已经动身去赫里福德了。



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