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Chapter 5

The young people were pleased with each other from the first. On each side there was much to attract, and their acquaintance soon promised as early an intimacy as good manners would warrant. Miss Crawford's beauty did her no disservice with the Miss Bertrams. They were too handsome themselves to dislike any woman for being so too, and were almost as much charmed as their brothers with her lively dark eye, clear brown complexion, and general prettiness. Had she been tall, full formed, and fair, it might have been more of a trial: but as it was, there could be no comparison; and she was most allowably a sweet, pretty girl, while they were the finest young women in the country.

Her brother was not handsome: no, when they first saw him he was absolutely plain, black and plain; but still he was the gentleman, with a pleasing address. The second meeting proved him not so very plain: he was plain, to be sure, but then he had so much countenance, and his teeth were so good, and he was so well made, that one soon forgot he was plain; and after a third interview, after dining in company with him at the Parsonage, he was no longer allowed to be called so by anybody. He was, in fact, the most agreeable young man the sisters had ever known, and they were equally delighted with him. Miss Bertram's engagement made him in equity the property of Julia, of which Julia was fully aware; and before he had been at Mansfield a week, she was quite ready to be fallen in love with.

Maria's notions on the subject were more confused and indistinct. She did not want to see or understand. "There could be no harm in her liking an agreeable man-- everybody knew her situation--Mr. Crawford must take care of himself." Mr. Crawford did not mean to be in any danger! the Miss Bertrams were worth pleasing, and were ready to be pleased; and he began with no object but of making them like him. He did not want them to die of love; but with sense and temper which ought to have made him judge and feel better, he allowed himself great latitude on such points.

"I like your Miss Bertrams exceedingly, sister," said he, as he returned from attending them to their carriage after the said dinner visit; "they are very elegant, agreeable girls."

"So they are indeed, and I am delighted to hear you say it. But you like Julia best."

"Oh yes! I like Julia best."

"But do you really? for Miss Bertram is in general thought the handsomest."

"So I should suppose. She has the advantage in every feature, and I prefer her countenance; but I like Julia best; Miss Bertram is certainly the handsomest, and I have found her the most agreeable, but I shall always like Julia best, because you order me."

"I shall not talk to you, Henry, but I know you _will_ like her best at last."

"Do not I tell you that I like her best _at_ _first_?"

"And besides, Miss Bertram is engaged. Remember that, my dear brother. Her choice is made."

"Yes, and I like her the better for it. An engaged woman is always more agreeable than a disengaged. She is satisfied with herself. Her cares are over, and she feels that she may exert all her powers of pleasing without suspicion. All is safe with a lady engaged: no harm can be done."

"Why, as to that, Mr. Rushworth is a very good sort of young man, and it is a great match for her."

"But Miss Bertram does not care three straws for him; _that_ is your opinion of your intimate friend. _I_ do not subscribe to it. I am sure Miss Bertram is very much attached to Mr. Rushworth. I could see it in her eyes, when he was mentioned. I think too well of Miss Bertram to suppose she would ever give her hand without her heart."

"Mary, how shall we manage him?"

"We must leave him to himself, I believe. Talking does no good. He will be taken in at last."

"But I would not have him _taken_ _in_; I would not have him duped; I would have it all fair and honourable."

"Oh dear! let him stand his chance and be taken in. It will do just as well. Everybody is taken in at some period or other."

"Not always in marriage, dear Mary."

"In marriage especially. With all due respect to such of the present company as chance to be married, my dear Mrs. Grant, there is not one in a hundred of either sex who is not taken in when they marry. Look where I will, I see that it _is_ so; and I feel that it _must_ be so, when I consider that it is, of all transactions, the one in which people expect most from others, and are least honest themselves."

"Ah! You have been in a bad school for matrimony, in Hill Street."

"My poor aunt had certainly little cause to love the state; but, however, speaking from my own observation, it is a manoeuvring business. I know so many who have married in the full expectation and confidence of some one particular advantage in the connexion, or accomplishment, or good quality in the person, who have found themselves entirely deceived, and been obliged to put up with exactly the reverse. What is this but a take in?"

"My dear child, there must be a little imagination here. I beg your pardon, but I cannot quite believe you. Depend upon it, you see but half. You see the evil, but you do not see the consolation. There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere--and those evil-minded observers, dearest Mary, who make much of a little, are more taken in and deceived than the parties themselves."

"Well done, sister! I honour your _esprit_ _du_ _corps_. When I am a wife, I mean to be just as staunch myself; and I wish my friends in general would be so too. It would save me many a heartache."

"You are as bad as your brother, Mary; but we will cure you both. Mansfield shall cure you both, and without any taking in. Stay with us, and we will cure you."

The Crawfords, without wanting to be cured, were very willing to stay. Mary was satisfied with the Parsonage as a present home, and Henry equally ready to lengthen his visit. He had come, intending to spend only a few days with them; but Mansfield promised well, and there was nothing to call him elsewhere. It delighted Mrs. Grant to keep them both with her, and Dr. Grant was exceedingly well contented to have it so: a talking pretty young woman like Miss Crawford is always pleasant society to an indolent, stay-at-home man; and Mr. Crawford's being his guest was an excuse for drinking claret every day.

The Miss Bertrams' admiration of Mr. Crawford was more rapturous than anything which Miss Crawford's habits made her likely to feel. She acknowledged, however, that the Mr. Bertrams were very fine young men, that two such young men were not often seen together even in London, and that their manners, particularly those of the eldest, were very good. _He_ had been much in London, and had more liveliness and gallantry than Edmund, and must, therefore, be preferred; and, indeed, his being the eldest was another strong claim. She had felt an early presentiment that she _should_ like the eldest best. She knew it was her way.

Tom Bertram must have been thought pleasant, indeed, at any rate; he was the sort of young man to be generally liked, his agreeableness was of the kind to be oftener found agreeable than some endowments of a higher stamp, for he had easy manners, excellent spirits, a large acquaintance, and a great deal to say; and the reversion of Mansfield Park, and a baronetcy, did no harm to all this. Miss Crawford soon felt that he and his situation might do. She looked about her with due consideration, and found almost everything in his favour: a park, a real park, five miles round, a spacious modern-built house, so well placed and well screened as to deserve to be in any collection of engravings of gentlemen's seats in the kingdom, and wanting only to be completely new furnished--pleasant sisters, a quiet mother, and an agreeable man himself--with the advantage of being tied up from much gaming at present by a promise to his father, and of being Sir Thomas hereafter. It might do very well; she believed she should accept him; and she began accordingly to interest herself a little about the horse which he had to run at the B------- races.

These races were to call him away not long after their acquaintance began; and as it appeared that the family did not, from his usual goings on, expect him back again for many weeks, it would bring his passion to an early proof. Much was said on his side to induce her to attend the races, and schemes were made for a large party to them, with all the eagerness of inclination, but it would only do to be talked of.

And Fanny, what was _she_ doing and thinking all this while? and what was _her_ opinion of the newcomers? Few young ladies of eighteen could be less called on to speak their opinion than Fanny. In a quiet way, very little attended to, she paid her tribute of admiration to Miss Crawford's beauty; but as she still continued to think Mr. Crawford very plain, in spite of her two cousins having repeatedly proved the contrary, she never mentioned _him_. The notice, which she excited herself, was to this effect. "I begin now to understand you all, except Miss Price," said Miss Crawford, as she was walking with the Mr. Bertrams. "Pray, is she out, or is she not? I am puzzled. She dined at the Parsonage, with the rest of you, which seemed like being _out_; and yet she says so little, that I can hardly suppose she _is_."

Edmund, to whom this was chiefly addressed, replied, "I believe I know what you mean, but I will not undertake to answer the question. My cousin is grown up. She has the age and sense of a woman, but the outs and not outs are beyond me."

"And yet, in general, nothing can be more easily ascertained. The distinction is so broad. Manners as well as appearance are, generally speaking, so totally different. Till now, I could not have supposed it possible to be mistaken as to a girl's being out or not. A girl not out has always the same sort of dress: a close bonnet, for instance; looks very demure, and never says a word. You may smile, but it is so, I assure you; and except that it is sometimes carried a little too far, it is all very proper. Girls should be quiet and modest. The most objectionable part is, that the alteration of manners on being introduced into company is frequently too sudden. They sometimes pass in such very little time from reserve to quite the opposite--to confidence! _That_ is the faulty part of the present system. One does not like to see a girl of eighteen or nineteen so immediately up to every thing--and perhaps when one has seen her hardly able to speak the year before. Mr. Bertram, I dare say _you_ have sometimes met with such changes."

"I believe I have, but this is hardly fair; I see what you are at. You are quizzing me and Miss Anderson."

"No, indeed. Miss Anderson! I do not know who or what you mean. I am quite in the dark. But I _will_ quiz you with a great deal of pleasure, if you will tell me what about."

"Ah! you carry it off very well, but I cannot be quite so far imposed on. You must have had Miss Anderson in your eye, in describing an altered young lady. You paint too accurately for mistake. It was exactly so. The Andersons of Baker Street. We were speaking of them the other day, you know. Edmund, you have heard me mention Charles Anderson. The circumstance was precisely as this lady has represented it. When Anderson first introduced me to his family, about two years ago, his sister was not _out_, and I could not get her to speak to me. I sat there an hour one morning waiting for Anderson, with only her and a little girl or two in the room, the governess being sick or run away, and the mother in and out every moment with letters of business, and I could hardly get a word or a look from the young lady-- nothing like a civil answer--she screwed up her mouth, and turned from me with such an air! I did not see her again for a twelvemonth. She was then _out_. I met her at Mrs. Holford's, and did not recollect her. She came up to me, claimed me as an acquaintance, stared me out of countenance; and talked and laughed till I did not know which way to look. I felt that I must be the jest of the room at the time, and Miss Crawford, it is plain, has heard the story."

"And a very pretty story it is, and with more truth in it, I dare say, than does credit to Miss Anderson. It is too common a fault. Mothers certainly have not yet got quite the right way of managing their daughters. I do not know where the error lies. I do not pretend to set people right, but I do see that they are often wrong."

"Those who are showing the world what female manners _should_ be," said Mr. Bertram gallantly, "are doing a great deal to set them right."

"The error is plain enough," said the less courteous Edmund; "such girls are ill brought up. They are given wrong notions from the beginning. They are always acting upon motives of vanity, and there is no more real modesty in their behaviour _before_ they appear in public than afterwards."

"I do not know," replied Miss Crawford hesitatingly. "Yes, I cannot agree with you there. It is certainly the modestest part of the business. It is much worse to have girls not out give themselves the same airs and take the same liberties as if they were, which I have seen done. That is worse than anything--quite disgusting!"

"Yes, _that_ is very inconvenient indeed," said Mr. Bertram. "It leads one astray; one does not know what to do. The close bonnet and demure air you describe so well (and nothing was ever juster), tell one what is expected; but I got into a dreadful scrape last year from the want of them. I went down to Ramsgate for a week with a friend last September, just after my return from the West Indies. My friend Sneyd--you have heard me speak of Sneyd, Edmund-- his father, and mother, and sisters, were there, all new to me. When we reached Albion Place they were out; we went after them, and found them on the pier: Mrs. and the two Miss Sneyds, with others of their acquaintance. I made my bow in form; and as Mrs. Sneyd was surrounded by men, attached myself to one of her daughters, walked by her side all the way home, and made myself as agreeable as I could; the young lady perfectly easy in her manners, and as ready to talk as to listen. I had not a suspicion that I could be doing anything wrong. They looked just the same: both well-dressed, with veils and parasols like other girls; but I afterwards found that I had been giving all my attention to the youngest, who was not _out_, and had most excessively offended the eldest. Miss Augusta ought not to have been noticed for the next six months; and Miss Sneyd, I believe, has never forgiven me."

"That was bad indeed. Poor Miss Sneyd. Though I have no younger sister, I feel for her. To be neglected before one's time must be very vexatious; but it was entirely the mother's fault. Miss Augusta should have been with her governess. Such half-and-half doings never prosper. But now I must be satisfied about Miss Price. Does she go to balls? Does she dine out every where, as well as at my sister's?"

"No," replied Edmund; "I do not think she has ever been to a ball. My mother seldom goes into company herself, and dines nowhere but with Mrs. Grant, and Fanny stays at home with _her_."

"Oh! then the point is clear. Miss Price is not out."

这些年轻人从一开始便相互产生了好感。双方都有不少吸引对方的地方,结识之后,先是依照规矩矜持了一阵,随即便亲热起来。克劳福德小姐的美貌并未引起伯特伦家两位小姐的不快。她们自己就很漂亮,自然不会嫉恨别的女人长得漂亮。一见到她那活泼的黑眼睛,光洁的褐色皮肤,以及整个灵秀模样,她们几乎像两位哥哥一样着迷。她若是人长得高,身姿丰腴,容貌美丽,双方就会更有一番较量。可事实上,她没法与她们相比,她充其量算碍上一个可爱的漂亮姑娘,而她们却是当地最漂亮的青年女子。

她哥哥可不英俊。她们第一次见到他的时候,觉得他真丑,又黑又难看,不过仍不失为一个谦谦君子,言谈挺讨人喜欢。第二次见面时,又发现他不那么很难看了。当然,他确实难看,不过他表情丰富,加上长着一口好牙,身材又那么匀称,大家很快便忘掉了他其貌不扬。等到第三次相会,在牧师住宅一道吃过饭之后,谁也不再说他长得不好看了。事实上,他是两姊妹所见过的最讨人喜欢的年轻人,两人都同样喜欢他。伯特伦小姐订婚以后,他便天公地道地应归朱莉娅。对于这一点,朱莉娅心中十分清楚,小伙子来到曼斯菲尔德还不到一个星期,她就准备跟他坠入爱河了。

玛丽亚对这个问题思想比较混乱,观点也不明确。她也不想去正视,不想搞明确。“我喜欢一个彬彬有礼的人不会有什么妨碍——谁都知道我的情况——克劳福德先生可得把握住自己。”克劳福德先生并非有意铤而走险。两位伯特伦小姐值得他去讨好,也准备接受他的讨好。他起初只有一个目标,就是让她们喜欢他。他并不想让她们深深陷入情网。他虽说有着清醒的头脑,平静的心境,本可以看得清楚一些,心里好受一些,但他却在这两方面给了自己很大的回旋余地。

“姐姐,我非常喜欢两位伯特伦小姐,”那次宴席结束,他把她们送上马车回来时说道。“这两个姑娘很文雅、很可爱。”

“当然是很文雅、很可爱啦。我很高兴听到你这么说。不过你更喜欢朱莉娅。”

“噢!是的,我更喜欢朱莉娅。”

“你真的更喜欢她吗?一般人都认为伯特伦小姐长得更漂亮。”

“我也这么认为。她五官秀丽,我欣赏她的容貌——不过我更喜欢朱莉娅。伯特伦小姐当然更漂亮,我也觉得她更可爱,不过我总会更喜欢朱莉娅,因为你吩咐我这样做的。”

“我不会劝你的,亨利,不过我知道你最后必将更喜欢她。”

“难道我没对你说过,我一开始就更喜欢她吗?”

“况且,伯特伦小姐已经订婚。别忘了这一点,亲爱的弟弟。她已经有主了。”

“是的,我为此而更喜欢她。订了婚的女子总是比没订婚的更可爱。她已经了却了一桩心事,不用再操心了,觉得自己可以无所顾忌地施展全部本事讨得别人的欢心。一个订了婚的小姐是绝对保险的,不会有什么害处。”

“哦,就此而言——拉什沃思先生是个非常好的年轻人,配她绰绰有余。”

“可是伯特伦小姐压根儿不把他放在心上。你就是这样看你这位好朋友的。我可不这样看。我敢说,伯特伦小姐对拉什沃思先生是十分痴情的。谁一提到他的时候,我从她的眼神里看得出来。我觉得伯特伦小姐人很好,既然答应了别人的求婚,就不会是虚情假意的。”

“玛丽,我们该怎么整治他呀?”

“我看还是不要去管他。说也没有用。他最后会上当的。”

“可我不愿意让他上当,我不愿意让他受骗。我要把事情搞得清清白白、堂堂正正。”

“噢!亲爱的——由他自己去,让他上当去吧。上上当也好。我们人人都会卜当,只不过是早晚而已。”

“并不总是在婚姻问题上,亲爱的玛丽。”

“尤其是在婚姻问题上。就现今有幸结婚的人们而言,亲爱的格兰特太太,不管是男方还是女方,结婚时不上当的,一百个人中连一个也没有。我不管往哪儿瞧,发现都是如此。我觉得必然是如此,因为照我看来,在各种交易中,唯有这种交易,要求于对方的最多,而自己却最不诚实。”

“啊!你在希尔街住久了,在婚姻这个问题上没受过什么好的影响吧.。”

“我可怜的婶婶肯定没有什么理由喜欢自己婚后的状况。不过,根据我的观察,婚姻生活是要使心计耍花招的。我知道有许多人婚前满怀期望,相信和某人结婚会有某种好处,或者相信对方有德或有才,到头来发现自己完全受骗了,不得不忍受适得其反的结果!这不是上当是什么呢?”

“亲爱的姑娘,你的话肯定有点不符合事实的地方。请原谅,我不大能相信。我敢说,你只看到了事情的一半。你看到了坏处,但却没有看到婚姻带来的欣慰。到处都有细小的摩擦和不如意,我们一般容易要求过高。不过,如果追求幸福的一招失败了,人们自然会另打主意。如果第一招不灵,就把第二招搞好一些。我们总会找到安慰的。最亲爱的玛丽,那些居心不良的人尽会小题大做,要说上当受骗,他们比当事人自己有过之无不及。”

“说得好,姐姐!我敬佩你这种精诚团结的精神。我要是结了婚,也要这样忠贞不渝。我希望我的朋友们都能如此。这样一来,我就不会一次次的伤心。”

“玛丽,你和你哥哥一样坏。不过,我们要把你们俩挽救过来。曼斯菲尔德能把你们俩挽救过来——而且决不让你们上当。住到我们这里,我们会把你们挽救过来。”

克劳福德兄妹虽然不想让别人来挽救他们,但却非常愿意在这里住下。玛丽乐意目前以牧师住宅为家,亨利同样愿意继续客居下去。他刚来的时候,打算只住几天就走,但他发现曼斯菲尔德可能有利可图,再说别处也没有什么事非要他去不可。格兰特太太能把他们两个留在身边,心里自然很高兴,而格兰特博士对此也感到非常满意。对于一个懒散成性、不愿出门的男人来说,能有克劳福德小姐这样伶牙俐齿的年轻美貌女子做伴,总会感到很愉快,而有克劳福德先生在家做客,就可以有理由天天喝红葡萄酒。

两位伯特伦小姐爱慕克劳福德先生,这是克劳福德小姐感到比什么都高兴的事。不过她也承认,两位伯特伦先生都是很出色的青年,像这样的青年人,即使在伦敦,也很少能在一处碰到两个,况且两人颇有风度,而老大更是风度翩翩。他在伦敦住过很久,比埃德蒙活泼、风流,因此要挑就最好挑他。当然,他身为长子构成了另一个有利条件。克劳福德小姐早就预感到,她理应更喜欢老大。她知道她该这样做。

不管怎样,她还真该觉得汤姆·伯特伦挺可爱。他属于人人喜欢的那种年轻人,他的讨人喜欢比某些更高一级的天赋更易于被人们赏识,因为他举止潇洒,兴致勃勃,交际广泛,还很健谈。他对曼斯菲尔德庄园和准男爵爵位的继承权,决不会有损于这一切。克劳福德小姐不久便意识到,他这个人及条件足够了。经过通盘考虑,她觉得他的条件几乎样样都不错——一座庄园,一座方圆五英里的名副其实的庄园,一幢宽敞的现代修建的房子,位置相宜,林木深掩,完全可以选入王国乡绅宅邸的画集,唯一不足的是家具需要全部更新——两个可爱的妹妹,一个安详的母亲,他自己又那么讨人喜欢——再加上两个有利条件,一是他曾向父亲保证过,眼下不能多赌博;二是他以后将成为托马斯爵士。这都是很理想的,她认为她应该接受他。于是,她便对他那匹将要参加 B 城赛马会的马感起兴趣来。

他们结识后不久,汤姆就得去参加赛马会。家里人根据他平常的行为判断,他一去就得好几个星期才能回来,因此,他是否倾心于克劳福德小姐,很快就能表露出来。他大谈赛马会,引诱她去参加,而且带着悠然神往的热切心情,准备策划一大帮人一起去,不过到头来都是口头说说而已。.

再说范妮,在此期间她在干些什么,想些什么呢?她对两个新来的人是怎么看的呢?天下十八岁的姑娘当中,稂少有像范妮这样的,没有人肯来征求她的意见。她低声细气地、不引入注意地赞赏起克劳福德小姐的美貌来。至于克劳福德先生,虽然两位表姐一再夸赞他相貌堂堂,但她依然觉得他其貌不扬,因此对他绝口不提。她自己引起人们对她的注意,可以从下面的议论中看出个大概。“我现在开始了解你们每个人了,就是不了解普莱斯小姐,”克劳福德小姐和两位伯特伦先生一起散步时说。“请问,她进入社交界了,还是没有进入?我捉摸不透。她和你们一起到牧师住宅来赴宴,似乎是在参加社交活动,然而又那么少言寡语,我觉得又不像在参加社交活动。”

这番话主要是讲给埃德蒙听的,于是埃德蒙答道:“我想我明白你的意思——可是我不想由我来回答这个问题。我表妹已经不再是孩子了。她在年龄和见识上,都已经是大人了,至于社交不社交,我可回答不了。”

“不过总的说来,这比什么都容易判断。两者之间的差别非常明显。人的外貌及言谈举止,一般说来是截然不同的。直到如今,我一直认为对于一个姑娘是否进入社交界,是不可能判断错误的。一个没有进入社交界的姑娘,总是那身打扮,比如说,戴着一顶贴发无边小圆软帽,样子非常娴静,总是一声不响。你尽管笑好了——不过我向你担保,事实就是如此——她们这样做有时未免过分了些,但总的来说是非常恰当的。姑娘就应该文静庄重。最让人看不惯的是,刚被引进社交界就换个派头,这往往太突然了。时常在极短的时间里从拘谨沉默一下来个一百八十度大转弯——变得无所顾忌!这可是眼下风气中的缺陷所在。人们不愿意看到一个十八九岁的姑娘一下子就无所不能了——也许你去年见到她时,她简直都不会说话。伯特伦先生,你有时大概见过这样的变化吧。”

“我想我见过。不过你这样说不见得公正。我知道你的用心何在。你是在拿我和安德森小姐开玩笑。”

“才不是呢。安德森小姐!我不知道你指的是谁,说的是什么意思。我一点也不明白。不过,你要是肯告诉我是怎么回事,我也要非常高兴地和你开开玩笑。”

“啊!你还真会应对呀,不过我才不会上那个当呢。你刚才说一个姑娘变了,一定是指安德森小姐。你形容得分毫不差,一听就知道是她。一点不错。贝克街的安德森那家人。你知道吗,我们几天前还谈起他们呢。埃德蒙,你听我跟你说起过查尔斯·安德森。事情的确像这位小姐所说的那样。大约两年前,安德森把我介绍给他一家人的时候,他妹妹还没有进入社交界,我都没法让她开口。一天上午我在他们家等安德森,坐了一个钟头,屋里只有安德森小姐和一两个小姑娘——家庭女教师病了或是逃走了,那做母亲的拿着联系事务的信件不断地进进出出。我简直没法让那位小姐跟我说一句话,看我一眼——没有一点客气的表示——她紧绷着嘴,神气地背对着我!后来,我有一年没有再见到她。那期间她进入了社交界。我在霍尔福德太太家遇见了她——可是记不起她了。她走到我跟前,说是认识我,两眼盯着我把我看得直发窘,还边说边笑,弄得我两眼不知道往哪里看是好。我觉得,当时我一定成了满屋子人的笑柄——显然,克劳福德小姐听说过这件事。”

“这确实是个很有趣的故事,我敢说,这种事情绝非只是发生在安德森小姐一个人身上。这种不正常的现象太普遍了。做母亲的对女儿的管教肯定不得法。我说不准错在哪里。我不敢妄自尊大去纠正别人,不过我的确发现她们往往做得不对。”

“那些以身作则向人们表明女性应该怎样待人接物的人,”伯特伦先生阿谀逢迎地说,“对于纠正她们的错误起着巨大的作用。”

“错在哪里是显而易见的,”不那么会逢迎的埃德蒙说,“这些女孩子没有受过良好的教育。她们从一开始就给灌输了错误的观念:她们的一举一动都是出于虚荣心——她们行为中真正羞涩忸怩的成分,在公开场合抛头露面之前并不比抛头露面之后来得多些。”

“这我可拿不准,”克劳福德小姐犹豫不决地答道。“不,我不能同意你的这种说法。那当然是最羞涩忸怩的表现啦。要是女孩子没有进入社交界之前,就让她们像是已经进入社交界那样神气,那样随随便便,那就要糟糕得多。我就见过这种现象。这比什么都糟糕——实在令人厌恶!”

“不错,这的确会带来麻烦,”伯特伦先生说。“这会让人误入歧途,不知所措。你形容得一点不差的贴发无边小圆软帽和忸怩的神态(形容得再恰当不过了),让你一见就知道该怎么办。去年,有个姑娘就因为缺少你所形容的这两个特征,我被搞得非常尴尬。去年9月——就在我刚从西印度群岛回来——我和一位朋友到拉姆斯盖特去了一个星期。我的这位朋友姓斯尼德——你曾听我说起过斯尼德,埃德蒙。他父亲、母亲和姐姐妹妹都在那里,我跟他们都是第一次见面。我到达阿尔比恩他们的住地时,他们都不在家,便出去寻找,在码头上找到了他们。斯尼德太太,两位斯尼德小姐,还有她们的几个熟人。我按照礼仪鞠了个躬,由于斯尼德太太身边围满了男人,我只好凑到她的一个女儿跟前,回去的路上一直走在她身旁,尽可能地讨得她的好感。这位小姐态度非常随和,既爱听我说话,也爱自己说话。我丝毫不觉得我有什么做得不妥当的地方。两位小姐看上去没什么差别,穿着都很讲究,像别的姑娘一样戴着面纱,拿把阳伞。可后来我才发现,我一直在向小女儿献殷勤,她还没有进入社交界,惹得大女儿极为恼火。奥古斯塔小姐还要等六个月才能接受男人的青睐,我想斯尼德小姐至今还不肯原谅我。”

“这的确很糟糕。可怜的斯尼德小姐!我虽说没有妹妹,但是能体谅她的心情。午纪轻轻就让人看不上眼,一定十分懊丧。不过,这完全是她妈妈的过错。奥古斯塔小姐应该由家庭女教师陪着。这种不加区别一视同仁的做法绝对不行。不过,我现在想知道的是普莱斯小姐的情况。她参加舞会吗?她除了到我姐姐家赴宴以外,还到别处赴宴吗?”

“没有,”埃德蒙答道,“我想她从未参加过舞会。我母亲自己就不好热闹,除了去格兰特太太家以外,从不去别处吃饭,范妮便待在家里陪她。”

“噢!这么说,问题就清楚了。普莱斯小姐还没进入社交界。”



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