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Chapter 6

Mr. Bertram set off for--------, and Miss Crawford was prepared to find a great chasm in their society, and to miss him decidedly in the meetings which were now becoming almost daily between the families; and on their all dining together at the Park soon after his going, she retook her chosen place near the bottom of the table, fully expecting to feel a most melancholy difference in the change of masters. It would be a very flat business, she was sure. In comparison with his brother, Edmund would have nothing to say. The soup would be sent round in a most spiritless manner, wine drank without any smiles or agreeable trifling, and the venison cut up without supplying one pleasant anecdote of any former haunch, or a single entertaining story, about "my friend such a one." She must try to find amusement in what was passing at the upper end of the table, and in observing Mr. Rushworth, who was now making his appearance at Mansfield for the first time since the Crawfords' arrival. He had been visiting a friend in the neighbouring county, and that friend having recently had his grounds laid out by an improver, Mr. Rushworth was returned with his head full of the subject, and very eager to be improving his own place in the same way; and though not saying much to the purpose, could talk of nothing else. The subject had been already handled in the drawing-room; it was revived in the dining-parlour. Miss Bertram's attention and opinion was evidently his chief aim; and though her deportment showed rather conscious superiority than any solicitude to oblige him, the mention of Sotherton Court, and the ideas attached to it, gave her a feeling of complacency, which prevented her from being very ungracious.

"I wish you could see Compton," said he; "it is the most complete thing! I never saw a place so altered in my life. I told Smith I did not know where I was. The approach _now_, is one of the finest things in the country: you see the house in the most surprising manner. I declare, when I got back to Sotherton yesterday, it looked like a prison-- quite a dismal old prison."

"Oh, for shame!" cried Mrs. Norris. "A prison indeed? Sotherton Court is the noblest old place in the world."

"It wants improvement, ma'am, beyond anything. I never saw a place that wanted so much improvement in my life; and it is so forlorn that I do not know what can be done with it."

"No wonder that Mr. Rushworth should think so at present," said Mrs. Grant to Mrs. Norris, with a smile; "but depend upon it, Sotherton will have _every_ improvement in time which his heart can desire."

"I must try to do something with it," said Mr. Rushworth, "but I do not know what. I hope I shall have some good friend to help me."

"Your best friend upon such an occasion," said Miss Bertram calmly, "would be Mr. Repton, I imagine."

"That is what I was thinking of. As he has done so well by Smith, I think I had better have him at once. His terms are five guineas a day."

"Well, and if they were _ten_," cried Mrs. Norris, "I am sure _you_ need not regard it. The expense need not be any impediment. If I were you, I should not think of the expense. I would have everything done in the best style, and made as nice as possible. Such a place as Sotherton Court deserves everything that taste and money can do. You have space to work upon there, and grounds that will well reward you. For my own part, if I had anything within the fiftieth part of the size of Sotherton, I should be always planting and improving, for naturally I am excessively fond of it. It would be too ridiculous for me to attempt anything where I am now, with my little half acre. It would be quite a burlesque. But if I had more room, I should take a prodigious delight in improving and planting. We did a vast deal in that way at the Parsonage: we made it quite a different place from what it was when we first had it. You young ones do not remember much about it, perhaps; but if dear Sir Thomas were here, he could tell you what improvements we made: and a great deal more would have been done, but for poor Mr. Norris's sad state of health. He could hardly ever get out, poor man, to enjoy anything, and _that_ disheartened me from doing several things that Sir Thomas and I used to talk of. If it had not been for _that_, we should have carried on the garden wall, and made the plantation to shut out the churchyard, just as Dr. Grant has done. We were always doing something as it was. It was only the spring twelvemonth before Mr. Norris's death that we put in the apricot against the stable wall, which is now grown such a noble tree, and getting to such perfection, sir," addressing herself then to Dr. Grant.

"The tree thrives well, beyond a doubt, madam," replied Dr. Grant. "The soil is good; and I never pass it without regretting that the fruit should be so little worth the trouble of gathering."

"Sir, it is a Moor Park, we bought it as a Moor Park, and it cost us--that is, it was a present from Sir Thomas, but I saw the bill--and I know it cost seven shillings, and was charged as a Moor Park."

"You were imposed on, ma'am," replied Dr. Grant: "these potatoes have as much the flavour of a Moor Park apricot as the fruit from that tree. It is an insipid fruit at the best; but a good apricot is eatable, which none from my garden are."

"The truth is, ma'am," said Mrs. Grant, pretending to whisper across the table to Mrs. Norris, "that Dr. Grant hardly knows what the natural taste of our apricot is: he is scarcely ever indulged with one, for it is so valuable a fruit; with a little assistance, and ours is such a remarkably large, fair sort, that what with early tarts and preserves, my cook contrives to get them all."

Mrs. Norris, who had begun to redden, was appeased; and, for a little while, other subjects took place of the improvements of Sotherton. Dr. Grant and Mrs. Norris were seldom good friends; their acquaintance had begun in dilapidations, and their habits were totally dissimilar.

After a short interruption Mr. Rushworth began again. "Smith's place is the admiration of all the country; and it was a mere nothing before Repton took it in hand. I think I shall have Repton."

"Mr. Rushworth," said Lady Bertram, "if I were you, I would have a very pretty shrubbery. One likes to get out into a shrubbery in fine weather."

Mr. Rushworth was eager to assure her ladyship of his acquiescence, and tried to make out something complimentary; but, between his submission to _her_ taste, and his having always intended the same himself, with the superadded objects of professing attention to the comfort of ladies in general, and of insinuating that there was one only whom he was anxious to please, he grew puzzled, and Edmund was glad to put an end to his speech by a proposal of wine. Mr. Rushworth, however, though not usually a great talker, had still more to say on the subject next his heart. "Smith has not much above a hundred acres altogether in his grounds, which is little enough, and makes it more surprising that the place can have been so improved. Now, at Sotherton we have a good seven hundred, without reckoning the water meadows; so that I think, if so much could be done at Compton, we need not despair. There have been two or three fine old trees cut down, that grew too near the house, and it opens the prospect amazingly, which makes me think that Repton, or anybody of that sort, would certainly have the avenue at Sotherton down: the avenue that leads from the west front to the top of the hill, you know," turning to Miss Bertram particularly as he spoke. But Miss Bertram thought it most becoming to reply--

"The avenue! Oh! I do not recollect it. I really know very little of Sotherton."

Fanny, who was sitting on the other side of Edmund, exactly opposite Miss Crawford, and who had been attentively listening, now looked at him, and said in a low voice--

"Cut down an avenue! What a pity! Does it not make you think of Cowper? 'Ye fallen avenues, once more I mourn your fate unmerited.'"

He smiled as he answered, "I am afraid the avenue stands a bad chance, Fanny."

"I should like to see Sotherton before it is cut down, to see the place as it is now, in its old state; but I do not suppose I shall."

"Have you never been there? No, you never can; and, unluckily, it is out of distance for a ride. I wish we could contrive it."

"Oh! it does not signify. Whenever I do see it, you will tell me how it has been altered."

"I collect," said Miss Crawford, "that Sotherton is an old place, and a place of some grandeur. In any particular style of building?"

"The house was built in Elizabeth's time, and is a large, regular, brick building; heavy, but respectable looking, and has many good rooms. It is ill placed. It stands in one of the lowest spots of the park; in that respect, unfavourable for improvement. But the woods are fine, and there is a stream, which, I dare say, might be made a good deal of. Mr. Rushworth is quite right, I think, in meaning to give it a modern dress, and I have no doubt that it will be all done extremely well."

Miss Crawford listened with submission, and said to herself, "He is a well-bred man; he makes the best of it."

"I do not wish to influence Mr. Rushworth," he continued; "but, had I a place to new fashion, I should not put myself into the hands of an improver. I would rather have an inferior degree of beauty, of my own choice, and acquired progressively. I would rather abide by my own blunders than by his."

"_You_ would know what you were about, of course; but that would not suit _me_. I have no eye or ingenuity for such matters, but as they are before me; and had I a place of my own in the country, I should be most thankful to any Mr. Repton who would undertake it, and give me as much beauty as he could for my money; and I should never look at it till it was complete."

"It would be delightful to _me_ to see the progress of it all," said Fanny.

"Ay, you have been brought up to it. It was no part of my education; and the only dose I ever had, being administered by not the first favourite in the world, has made me consider improvements _in_ _hand_ as the greatest of nuisances. Three years ago the Admiral, my honoured uncle, bought a cottage at Twickenham for us all to spend our summers in; and my aunt and I went down to it quite in raptures; but it being excessively pretty, it was soon found necessary to be improved, and for three months we were all dirt and confusion, without a gravel walk to step on, or a bench fit for use. I would have everything as complete as possible in the country, shrubberies and flower-gardens, and rustic seats innumerable: but it must all be done without my care. Henry is different; he loves to be doing."

Edmund was sorry to hear Miss Crawford, whom he was much disposed to admire, speak so freely of her uncle. It did not suit his sense of propriety, and he was silenced, till induced by further smiles and liveliness to put the matter by for the present.

"Mr. Bertram," said she, "I have tidings of my harp at last. I am assured that it is safe at Northampton; and there it has probably been these ten days, in spite of the solemn assurances we have so often received to the contrary." Edmund expressed his pleasure and surprise. "The truth is, that our inquiries were too direct; we sent a servant, we went ourselves: this will not do seventy miles from London; but this morning we heard of it in the right way. It was seen by some farmer, and he told the miller, and the miller told the butcher, and the butcher's son-in-law left word at the shop."

"I am very glad that you have heard of it, by whatever means, and hope there will be no further delay."

"I am to have it to-morrow; but how do you think it is to be conveyed? Not by a wagon or cart: oh no! nothing of that kind could be hired in the village. I might as well have asked for porters and a handbarrow."

"You would find it difficult, I dare say, just now, in the middle of a very late hay harvest, to hire a horse and cart?"

"I was astonished to find what a piece of work was made of it! To want a horse and cart in the country seemed impossible, so I told my maid to speak for one directly; and as I cannot look out of my dressing-closet without seeing one farmyard, nor walk in the shrubbery without passing another, I thought it would be only ask and have, and was rather grieved that I could not give the advantage to all. Guess my surprise, when I found that I had been asking the most unreasonable, most impossible thing in the world; had offended all the farmers, all the labourers, all the hay in the parish! As for Dr. Grant's bailiff, I believe I had better keep out of _his_ way; and my brother-in-law himself, who is all kindness in general, looked rather black upon me when he found what I had been at."

"You could not be expected to have thought on the subject before; but when you _do_ think of it, you must see the importance of getting in the grass. The hire of a cart at any time might not be so easy as you suppose: our farmers are not in the habit of letting them out; but, in harvest, it must be quite out of their power to spare a horse."

"I shall understand all your ways in time; but, coming down with the true London maxim, that everything is to be got with money, I was a little embarrassed at first by the sturdy independence of your country customs. However, I am to have my harp fetched to-morrow. Henry, who is good-nature itself, has offered to fetch it in his barouche. Will it not be honourably conveyed?"

Edmund spoke of the harp as his favourite instrument, and hoped to be soon allowed to hear her. Fanny had never heard the harp at all, and wished for it very much.

"I shall be most happy to play to you both," said Miss Crawford; "at least as long as you can like to listen: probably much longer, for I dearly love music myself, and where the natural taste is equal the player must always be best off, for she is gratified in more ways than one. Now, Mr. Bertram, if you write to your brother, I entreat you to tell him that my harp is come: he heard so much of my misery about it. And you may say, if you please, that I shall prepare my most plaintive airs against his return, in compassion to his feelings, as I know his horse will lose."

"If I write, I will say whatever you wish me; but I do not, at present, foresee any occasion for writing."

"No, I dare say, nor if he were to be gone a twelvemonth, would you ever write to him, nor he to you, if it could be helped. The occasion would never be foreseen. What strange creatures brothers are! You would not write to each other but upon the most urgent necessity in the world; and when obliged to take up the pen to say that such a horse is ill, or such a relation dead, it is done in the fewest possible words. You have but one style among you. I know it perfectly. Henry, who is in every other respect exactly what a brother should be, who loves me, consults me, confides in me, and will talk to me by the hour together, has never yet turned the page in a letter; and very often it is nothing more than--'Dear Mary, I am just arrived. Bath seems full, and everything as usual. Yours sincerely.' That is the true manly style; that is a complete brother's letter."

"When they are at a distance from all their family," said Fanny, colouring for William's sake, "they can write long letters."

"Miss Price has a brother at sea," said Edmund, "whose excellence as a correspondent makes her think you too severe upon us."

"At sea, has she? In the king's service, of course?"

Fanny would rather have had Edmund tell the story, but his determined silence obliged her to relate her brother's situation: her voice was animated in speaking of his profession, and the foreign stations he had been on; but she could not mention the number of years that he had been absent without tears in her eyes. Miss Crawford civilly wished him an early promotion.

"Do you know anything of my cousin's captain?" said Edmund; "Captain Marshall? You have a large acquaintance in the navy, I conclude?"

"Among admirals, large enough; but," with an air of grandeur, "we know very little of the inferior ranks. Post-captains may be very good sort of men, but they do not belong to _us_. Of various admirals I could tell you a great deal: of them and their flags, and the gradation of their pay, and their bickerings and jealousies. But, in general, I can assure you that they are all passed over, and all very ill used. Certainly, my home at my uncle's brought me acquainted with a circle of admirals. Of _Rears_ and _Vices_ I saw enough. Now do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat."

Edmund again felt grave, and only replied, "It is a noble profession."

"Yes, the profession is well enough under two circumstances: if it make the fortune, and there be discretion in spending it; but, in short, it is not a favourite profession of mine. It has never worn an amiable form to _me_."

Edmund reverted to the harp, and was again very happy in the prospect of hearing her play.

The subject of improving grounds, meanwhile, was still under consideration among the others; and Mrs. Grant could not help addressing her brother, though it was calling his attention from Miss Julia Bertram.

"My dear Henry, have _you_ nothing to say? You have been an improver yourself, and from what I hear of Everingham, it may vie with any place in England. Its natural beauties, I am sure, are great. Everingham, as it _used_ to be, was perfect in my estimation: such a happy fall of ground, and such timber! What would I not give to see it again?"

"Nothing could be so gratifying to me as to hear your opinion of it," was his answer; "but I fear there would be some disappointment: you would not find it equal to your present ideas. In extent, it is a mere nothing; you would be surprised at its insignificance; and, as for improvement, there was very little for me to do-- too little: I should like to have been busy much longer."

"You are fond of the sort of thing?" said Julia.

"Excessively; but what with the natural advantages of the ground, which pointed out, even to a very young eye, what little remained to be done, and my own consequent resolutions, I had not been of age three months before Everingham was all that it is now. My plan was laid at Westminster, a little altered, perhaps, at Cambridge, and at one-and-twenty executed. I am inclined to envy Mr. Rushworth for having so much happiness yet before him. I have been a devourer of my own."

"Those who see quickly, will resolve quickly, and act quickly," said Julia. "_You_ can never want employment. Instead of envying Mr. Rushworth, you should assist him with your opinion."

Mrs. Grant, hearing the latter part of this speech, enforced it warmly, persuaded that no judgment could be equal to her brother's; and as Miss Bertram caught at the idea likewise, and gave it her full support, declaring that, in her opinion, it was infinitely better to consult with friends and disinterested advisers, than immediately to throw the business into the hands of a professional man, Mr. Rushworth was very ready to request the favour of Mr. Crawford's assistance; and Mr. Crawford, after properly depreciating his own abilities, was quite at his service in any way that could be useful. Mr. Rushworth then began to propose Mr. Crawford's doing him the honour of coming over to Sotherton, and taking a bed there; when Mrs. Norris, as if reading in her two nieces' minds their little approbation of a plan which was to take Mr. Crawford away, interposed with an amendment.

"There can be no doubt of Mr. Crawford's willingness; but why should not more of us go? Why should not we make a little party? Here are many that would be interested in your improvements, my dear Mr. Rushworth, and that would like to hear Mr. Crawford's opinion on the spot, and that might be of some small use to you with _their_ opinions; and, for my own part, I have been long wishing to wait upon your good mother again; nothing but having no horses of my own could have made me so remiss; but now I could go and sit a few hours with Mrs. Rushworth, while the rest of you walked about and settled things, and then we could all return to a late dinner here, or dine at Sotherton, just as might be most agreeable to your mother, and have a pleasant drive home by moonlight. I dare say Mr. Crawford would take my two nieces and me in his barouche, and Edmund can go on horseback, you know, sister, and Fanny will stay at home with you."

Lady Bertram made no objection; and every one concerned in the going was forward in expressing their ready concurrence, excepting Edmund, who heard it all and said nothing.

伯特伦先生出发到 B 城去了,克劳福德小姐这可要觉得她们的社交圈子残缺不全了。两家人近来几乎天天聚会,克劳福德小姐这下肯定会由于他的缺席而黯然神伤。汤姆走后不久,大家在庄园里一起吃饭的时候,她仍坐在桌子下首她最喜欢的位置上,做好充分准备去感受由于换了男主人而引起的令人惆怅的变化。她相信,这肯定是一场十分乏味的宴会。与哥哥相比,埃德蒙不会有什么话好说。沿桌分汤的时候,他会无精打采,喝起酒来笑也不笑,连句逗趣的话都不会说,切鹿肉时也不讲起以前一条鹿腿的轶事趣闻,也不会说一个“我的朋友某某人”的逗人故事。她只好通过注视桌子上首的情景,以及观察拉什沃思先生的举动,来寻找乐趣。自从克劳福德家兄妹俩到来之后,拉什沃思先生还是第一次在曼斯菲尔德露面。他刚去邻郡看望过一个朋友,他这位朋友不久前请一位改建专家改建了庭园,拉什沃思先生回来后满脑子都在琢磨这个问题,一心想把自己的庭园也如法炮制一番。虽然很多话说不到点子上,但他还偏爱谈这件事。本来在客厅里已经谈过了,到了餐厅里又提了出来。显然,他的主要目的是想引起伯特伦小姐的注意,听听她的意见。而从伯特伦小姐的神情举止看,虽说她有些优越感,对他毫无曲意逢迎之意,但是一听他提起索瑟顿庄园,加之由此引起了种种联想,她心头不由得涌现出一股得意之感,使她没有表现得过于无礼。

“我希望你们能去看看康普顿,”拉什沃思先生说,“真是完美极啦!我一辈子都没见过哪个庭园变化如此之大。我对史密斯说,变得我一点都认不出来了。如今,通往庭园的路可是乡间最讲究的一条路了。你看那房子令人无比惊奇。我敢说,我昨天回到索瑟顿的时候,它那样子看上去像一座监狱——俨然是一座阴森可怖的旧监狱。”

“胡说八道!”诺里斯太太嚷道。“一座监狱,怎么会呀!索瑟顿庄园是世界上最壮观的乡间古宅了。”

“这座庄园非得改造不可,太太。我这辈子还没见过哪个地方这样需要改造。那副破败不堪的样子,我真不知道怎样改造才好。”

“难怪拉什沃思先生现在会有这个念头,”格兰特太太笑盈盈地对诺里斯太太说。“不过放心好了,索瑟顿会及时得到改造,让拉什沃思先生处处满意。”

“我必须进行一番改造,”拉什沃思先生说,“可又不知道怎么改造法。我希望能有个好朋友帮帮我。”

“我想,”伯特伦小姐平静地说,“你在这方面的最好朋友应该是雷普顿先生①。”(译注:①雷普顿( Humphry Repton,1752-1818),英国园林设计师。)

“我也是这么想的。他给史密斯干得那么好,我想我最好马上就把他请来。他的条件是每天五几尼。”

“哎,哪怕一天十几尼,”诺里斯太太嚷道,“我看你也不必在意。费用不该成为问题。我要是你的话,就不去考虑花钱多少。我要样样都按最好的样式来做,而且尽量搞得考究些。像索瑟顿这样的庄园,什么高雅的东西都应该有,需要多少钱都应该花。你在那儿有充足的空间可以改造,还有能给你带来丰厚报酬的庭园。就我来说,假如我有索瑟顿五十分之一的那么一块地方,我就会不停地种花植树,不停地改建美化,因为我天生就酷爱这些事情。我现在住的地方只有微不足道的半英亩,如果想在那里有所作为,那未免太可笑了。那样做也太滑稽了。不过,要是地盘大一些,我会兴致勃勃地加以改造,种花植树。我们住在牧师住宅的时候,就做过不少这样的事情,使它跟我们刚住进去时相比,完全变了个样。你们年轻人恐怕不大记得它原来的样子。要是亲爱的托马斯爵士在场的话,他会告诉你们我们都做了哪些改进。要不是因为可怜的诺里斯先生身体不好,我们还会再做些大量的改进。他真可怜,都不能走出房门欣赏外边的风光。这样一来,有几件事托马斯爵士和我本来说过要干的,我也心灰意冷地不去干了。要不是由于这个缘故,我们会把花园的墙继续砌下去,在教堂墓地周围种满树木,就像格兰特博士那样。实际上,我们总在不停地做点改进。就在诺里斯先生去世一年前的那个春天,我们挨近马厩墙种下了那棵杏树,现在长成了一棵大树,越来越枝繁叶茂了,先生,”诺里斯太太这时是对着格兰特博士说的。

“那棵树的确长得很茂盛,太太,”格兰特博士答道。“土质好。只是那杏子不值得去采摘,我每次从树旁走过时都为此感到遗憾。”

“这是一棵摩尔庄园杏,我们是当做摩尔庄园杏买的,花了——就是说,这棵树是托马斯爵士送我们的礼物,不过我看到了账单,知道是用七先令买来的,也就是一棵摩尔庄园杏的价钱。”

“你们上当了,太太,”格兰特博士答道。“那棵树上结的果子所含有的摩尔庄园杏的味道,跟这些土豆所含有的摩尔庄园杏的味道差不多。说它没味道还是往好里说呢。好杏子是能吃的,可我园子里的杏子没一个是可以吃的。”

“其实呀,太太,”格兰特太太隔着桌子对诺里斯太太装做窃窃私语地说,“格兰特博士也不大知道我们的杏子是个什么味道。他简直连尝都没尝过一个,因为这种杏子稍微一加工,就成了非常贵重的果品,而我们的杏子长得又大又漂亮,还没等长熟,我们的厨子就全给摘下来做了果馅饼和果饯。”

诺里斯太太本来脸都红起来了,一听这话心里觉得好受了些。就这样,索瑟顿的改造被别的话题打断了一阵。格兰特博士和诺里斯太太素来不和,两人刚一认识就发生龃龉,而且习惯又截然不同。

原先的话题给打断了一阵之后,拉什沃思先生又重新拾了起来。“史密斯的庄园在当地是人人羡慕的对象。在雷普顿没有接手改造之前,那地方一点都不起眼。我看我要把雷普顿请来。”

“拉什沃思先生,”伯特伦夫人说,“我要是你的话,就种一片漂亮的灌木林。风和日暖的时候,人们都喜欢到灌木林里去走走。”

拉什沃思先生很想向夫人表白愿意听从她的意见,并且趁势对她说点恭维话。但他心里却颇为矛盾,既想表示愿意接受夫人的意见,又想说他自己一直就想这么做,此外还想向所有的太太小姐卖乖讨好,同时表明他最想博得其中一个人的欢心,因此他不知如何是好。埃德蒙建议喝一杯,想以此打断他的话。然而,拉什沃恩先生虽说平时话不多,现在谈起这个心爱的话题,倒是还有话要说。“史密斯的庄园总共不过一百英亩多一点,算是够小的了,可令人越发吃惊的是,他居然把它改造得这么好。而在索瑟顿,我们足足有七百英亩地,还不包括那些水甸。因此我在想,既然雷普顿能做出这样的成绩,我们就用不着灰心。有两三棵繁茂的老树离房子太近,就给砍掉了,景色大为开阔。于是我就想,雷普顿或他这行的随便哪个人,肯定要把索瑟顿林荫道两边的树木砍去,就是从房子西面通到山顶的那条林荫道,这你是知道的,”他说这话时,特意把脸转向伯特伦小姐。可伯特伦小姐觉得,最好还是这样回答他:

“那条林荫道!噢!我记不得了。我对索瑟顿还真不怎么了解。”

范妮坐在埃德蒙的另一边,恰好和克劳福德小姐相对。她一直在专心听人讲话,这时眼望着埃德蒙,低声说道:

“把林荫道旁的树砍去!多可惜啊!这难道不会使你想起考珀①(译注:①考珀( William Cowper,1731-1800),英国诗人。)的诗句吗?‘你倒下的荫路大树啊,我又一次为你们无辜的命运悲伤。”’

埃德蒙含笑答道:“这些树木恐怕要遭殃了,范妮。”

“我想在树木没有砍掉之前看看索瑟顿,看看那地方现在的样子,看看它那古雅的旧貌。不过,看来我是看不成了。”

“你从没去过索瑟顿吗?是的,你不可能去过。遗憾的是,那地方太远了,又不可能骑马去。希望能想出个办法来。”

“噢!没关系。我以后不管什么时候见到了,你给我讲讲哪些地方是变了样的就行了。”

“我记得听人说,”克劳福德小姐说,“索瑟顿是座古老的宅子,很有些气派。是属于哪种特别式样的建筑呢?”

“那座房子是在伊丽莎白时代建造的,是一座高大周正的砖砌建筑——厚实而壮观,有许多舒适的房间。地点选得不大好,盖在庄园地势最低的地方。这样一来,就不利于改造了。不过,树林倒挺美,还有一条小河,这条小河倒可以很好地利用。拉什沃思先生想把它装扮得富有现代气息.我想是很有道理的,而且毫不怀疑一切会搞得非常好。”

克劳福德小姐恭恭敬敬地听着,心想:“他倒是个很有教养的人,这番话说得真好。”

“我并不想让拉什沃思先生受我的影响,”埃德蒙接着说。“不过,假如我有一座庄园要更新的话,我就不会听任改建师一手包办。我宁愿改建得不那么华丽,也要自己做主,一步一步地改进。我宁愿自己做错了,也不愿让改建师给我做错了。”

“你当然知道该怎么办——可我就不行了。我对这种事既没有眼力,又没有主意,除非现成的东西放在我眼前。假如我在乡下有一座庄园,我还真巴不得有个雷普顿先生能揽过去,收了我多少钱就能给它增加多少美,在没有完工之前,我看都不看它一眼。”

“我倒乐意看到整个工程的进展情况,”范妮说。

“啊——你有这方面的素养,我却没受过这方面的教育。我唯一的一次经历,不是由我喜欢的设计师给的,有了这个经历之后,我就把亲自参加改造看做最讨厌不过的事情。三年前,那位海军将军,也就是我那位受人尊敬的叔叔,在特威克纳姆①(译注:①位于伦敦郊区。)买了一座乡舍,让我们都去那里度夏。我和婶婶欢天喜地地去了,那地方真是美丽极了,可是我们马上就发现必须加以改造。于是接连三个月,周围到处是尘土,到处乱七八糟,没有一条砂砾路可走,没有一条椅子可坐。我希望乡下样样东西应有尽有,什么灌木林啦、花园啦,还有不计其数的粗木椅。不过,建造这一切的时候,必须不用我操心。亨利与我不同,他喜欢亲自动手。”

埃德蒙本来对克劳福德小姐颇有几分倾慕之情,现在听她如此随便地议论她叔叔,心里不免有些不高兴。他觉得她这样做不懂礼数,于是便沉闷不语,直至对方再度露出融融笑脸和勃勃生气,他才把这事暂时搁置一边。

“伯特伦先生,”克劳福德小姐又说,“我终于得到有关我那把竖琴的消息了。我听说完好无损地放在北安普敦。可能在那里已经放了十天了,尽管常常听人一本正经地说是还没到。”埃德蒙表示既高兴又惊讶。“其实呀,我们打听得太直截了当了。先派仆人去,然后我们又亲自去。离伦敦七十英里,那样做是不行的——可今天早上,我们通过正常的途径打听到了。是一个农民看见的,他告诉了磨坊主,磨坊主又告诉了屠户,屠户的女婿传到了那家商店。”

“不管通过什么途径,你总算得到消息了,我感到很高兴。希望别再耽搁下去了。”

“我明天就能收到。不过,你觉得怎么运来好呢?大小马车都不行——噢!不行,村子里雇不到这类的车。我还不如雇搬运夫和手推车呢。”

“今年的草收割得晚,眼下正是大忙的时候,你恐怕很难雇到马和车。”

“我感到惊讶,这件事给搞得多么难啊!要说乡下缺少马和马车,这似乎是不可能的,因此我吩咐女仆马上去雇一辆。我每次从梳妆室里往外看,总会看到一个农家场院,每次在灌木林里散步,都会经过另一个农家场院,所以我心想这马车是一下就能雇到的,只为不能让家家捞到这份好处而感到难过。当我发现我想要的居然是世界上最不合理、最要不到的东西,而且惹得所有的农场主、所有的劳工、所有的教民生气的时候,你猜猜我多么感到意外。至于格兰特博士家的那位管家,我想我最好躲得远远的。而我姐夫那个人,虽然平常对谁都挺和蔼的,但一听说我要雇马车,便对我板起脸来。”

“你以前不可能考虑过这个问题,不过你要是真考虑过了,你会看到收草多么要紧。不管什么时候雇马车,都不会像你想的那么容易。我们的农民没有把马车租出去的习惯。而到了收割的时候,更是一匹马也租不出去的。”

“我会逐渐了解你们的风俗习惯的。可我刚来的时候,心里有一条人人信奉的伦敦格言:有钱没有办不成的事。而你们乡下的风俗是那样顽强,我有点迷惑不解。不过,我明天要把我的竖琴取来。亨利乐于助人,提出驾着他的四轮马车去取。这样运来不是很体面吗?”

埃德蒙说他最喜欢竖琴,希望不久能让他一饱耳福。范妮从未听过竖琴演奏,也非常想听。

“我将不胜荣幸地弹给你们两人听,”克劳福德小姐说。“至少你们愿听多长时间我就弹多长时间,也许弹的时间比你们愿听的时间长得多,因为我非常喜欢音乐,而且一旦遇到知音,弹琴的人总是感到庆幸,心里有说不尽的高兴。伯特伦先生,你给你哥哥写信的时候,请转告他我的竖琴已经运到了,他听我为竖琴的事诉了不少的苦。如果可以的话,还请你告诉他,我会为他归来准备好最悲伤的曲子,以表示对他的同情,因为我料定他的马要输掉。”

“如果我写信的话,我定会悉数照你的意愿来写,不过我眼下还看不出有写信的必要。”

“是呀,我看有这个可能。即使他离家外出一年,要是做得到的话,你会一直不给他写信,他也不给你写信。这就永远看不出有写信的必要。兄弟俩是多怪的人啊!除非到了万分紧急的时候,你们是谁也不给准写信。等到了不得不提笔告诉对方哪匹马病了,或者哪个亲戚死了,写起来也是寥寥数语,短得不能再短。你们这些人全是一个风格,我再清楚不过了。亨利在其他各方面完全像个哥哥,他爱我,有事跟我商量,能对我推心置腹,跟我一谈就是一个小时,可是写起信来从来写不满一张信纸,往往只是这么点内容:‘亲爱的玛丽,我刚刚到达。巴斯似乎到处都是人,一切如常。谨此。’这就是不折不扣的男子汉的风格,这就是做哥哥的写给妹妹的一封完完整整的信。”

“他们远离家人的时候,”范妮说,因为想为威廉辩护,不由得脸红了,“就会写很长的信。”

“普莱斯小姐的哥哥在海上,”埃德蒙说,“他就很善于写信,因此普莱斯小姐觉得你对我们过于尖刻了。”

“她哥哥在海上?当然是在皇家海军啦。”

范妮本想让埃德蒙来介绍哥哥的情况的,但是见他决意沉默不语,只好自己来述说。她说到哥哥的职业以及他到过的外国军港时,声音有些激越,但是说到哥哥已经离家多年时,禁不住两眼泪汪汪的。克劳福德小姐彬彬有礼地祝他早日晋升。

“你了解我表弟的舰长吗?”埃德蒙说。“马歇尔舰长?我想你在海军里有很多熟人吧?”

“在海军将官中,是有不少熟人。可是嘛,”克劳福德小姐摆出一副卓然不凡的气派,“级别低一些的军官,我们就不怎么了解了。战舰的舰长可能是很好的人,但是跟我们没什么来往。至于海军的将官,我倒能给你介绍很多情况:关于他们本人,他们的旗舰,他们的薪水等级,他们之间的纠葛与猜忌。不过,总的说来,我可以告诉你,那些人都不受重视,常受虐待。我住在叔叔家里,自然结识了一帮海军将官。少讲(将)呀,中奖(将)呀,我都见得够多的了。啊,我求你别怀疑我在用双关语①。”(译注:①在英语中,rear admlral是海军少将,vice admiral是海军中将,克劳福德小姐故意用rears和vices来指称“海军少将”和“海军中将”,而这两个词又分别有“尾部”和“罪恶”的意思,故沾沾自喜地称为“双关语”。)

埃德蒙心情又低沉下来,只回答了一句:“这是令高尚的职业。”

“是的,这一行业在两个情况下是不错的:一是发财,二是不乱花钱。不过,一句话说到底,我不喜欢这一行。我对这行从未产生过好感。”

埃德蒙又把话题扯回到竖琴上,又一次说他非常高兴,即将听克劳福德小姐弹琴。

与此同时,其他人还在谈论改造庄园的事。格兰特太太禁不住还要跟弟弟说话,虽然这样做转移了弟弟对朱莉娅·伯特伦小姐的注意力:“亲爱的亨利,你就没什么话要说吗?你就改造过自己的庄园,从我听到的情况来看,埃弗灵厄姆可以与英国的任何庄园比美。我敢说,它的自然景色非常优美。在我看来,埃弗灵厄姆过去一直都很美。那么一大片错落有致的土地,那么漂亮的树林!我多想再去看看啊!”

“听到你有这样的看法,我感到无比高兴,”亨利回答道。“不过,我担心你会感到失望。你会发现它不是你现在想象的那样。就面积而言,它真是不起眼——你会奇怪它怎么这样微不足道。说到改造,我能做的事情太少了,真是太少了——我倒希望有更多的事情让我干。”

“你喜欢干这类事情吗?”朱莉娅问道。

“非常喜欢。不过,由于那地方天然条件好,就连小孩子也能看出,只需做出一些小小的改造,加上我后来确实做了些改进,我成年后还不到三个月,埃弗灵厄姆就变成现在这个样子了。我的计划是在威斯敏斯特制订的——或许在剑桥读书时做了点修改,动工是在我二十一岁的时候。我真羡慕拉什沃思先生还有那么多的乐趣,我可把自己的乐趣一日吞光了。”

“眼光敏锐的人,决心下得快,动作来得快,”朱莉娅说。“你是决不会没事干的。你用不着羡慕拉什沃思先生,而应该帮他出出主意。”

格兰特太太听见了这段话的后半截,竭力表示支持,并且说谁也比不上她弟弟的眼力。伯特伦小姐对这个主意同样很感兴趣,也全力给予支持,还说在她看来,找朋友和与己无关的人商量商量,要比把事情立即交到一个专业人员手里不知强多少。拉什沃思先生非常乐意请克劳福德先生帮忙,克劳福德先生对自己的才能恰如其分地谦虚了一番之后,表示一定尽力效劳。于是拉什沃思先生提出,请克劳福德先生赏光到索瑟顿来,在那里住下来。这时,诺里斯太太仿佛看出两个外甥女不大情愿让人把克劳福德先生从她们身边拉走,因而便提出了一个修正方案。“克劳福德先生肯定会乐意去,可是我们为什么不多去一些人呢?我们为什么不组织一个小型聚会呢?亲爱的拉什沃思先生,这里有许多人对你的改造工程感兴趣,他们想到现场听听克劳福德先生的高见,也可以谈谈自己的看法,说不定对你多少有些帮助。就我个人来说,我早就想再次看望你妈妈,只是因为我没有马,才一直没有去成。现在我可以去跟你妈妈坐上几个钟头,你们就四处察看,商定怎么办,然后我们大家一起回来,吃一顿晚点的正餐,要不就在索瑟顿吃饭,你妈妈也许最喜欢大家在那里进餐。吃完饭后,我们再驱车赶回,做一次愉快的月夜旅行。我敢说,克劳福德先生会让我的两个外甥女和我坐他的四轮马车。妹妹.你知道吧,埃德蒙可以骑马去,范妮就留在家里陪你。”

伯特伦夫人未加反对,每一个想去的人都争相表示欣然同意,只有埃德蒙例外,他从头听到尾,却一言未发。 Mr. Bertram set off for--------, and Miss Crawford was prepared to find a great chasm in their society, and to miss him decidedly in the meetings which were now becoming almost daily between the families; and on their all dining together at the Park soon after his going, she retook her chosen place near the bottom of the table, fully expecting to feel a most melancholy difference in the change of masters. It would be a very flat business, she was sure. In comparison with his brother, Edmund would have nothing to say. The soup would be sent round in a most spiritless manner, wine drank without any smiles or agreeable trifling, and the venison cut up without supplying one pleasant anecdote of any former haunch, or a single entertaining story, about "my friend such a one." She must try to find amusement in what was passing at the upper end of the table, and in observing Mr. Rushworth, who was now making his appearance at Mansfield for the first time since the Crawfords' arrival. He had been visiting a friend in the neighbouring county, and that friend having recently had his grounds laid out by an improver, Mr. Rushworth was returned with his head full of the subject, and very eager to be improving his own place in the same way; and though not saying much to the purpose, could talk of nothing else. The subject had been already handled in the drawing-room; it was revived in the dining-parlour. Miss Bertram's attention and opinion was evidently his chief aim; and though her deportment showed rather conscious superiority than any solicitude to oblige him, the mention of Sotherton Court, and the ideas attached to it, gave her a feeling of complacency, which prevented her from being very ungracious.

"I wish you could see Compton," said he; "it is the most complete thing! I never saw a place so altered in my life. I told Smith I did not know where I was. The approach _now_, is one of the finest things in the country: you see the house in the most surprising manner. I declare, when I got back to Sotherton yesterday, it looked like a prison-- quite a dismal old prison."

"Oh, for shame!" cried Mrs. Norris. "A prison indeed? Sotherton Court is the noblest old place in the world."

"It wants improvement, ma'am, beyond anything. I never saw a place that wanted so much improvement in my life; and it is so forlorn that I do not know what can be done with it."

"No wonder that Mr. Rushworth should think so at present," said Mrs. Grant to Mrs. Norris, with a smile; "but depend upon it, Sotherton will have _every_ improvement in time which his heart can desire."

"I must try to do something with it," said Mr. Rushworth, "but I do not know what. I hope I shall have some good friend to help me."

"Your best friend upon such an occasion," said Miss Bertram calmly, "would be Mr. Repton, I imagine."

"That is what I was thinking of. As he has done so well by Smith, I think I had better have him at once. His terms are five guineas a day."

"Well, and if they were _ten_," cried Mrs. Norris, "I am sure _you_ need not regard it. The expense need not be any impediment. If I were you, I should not think of the expense. I would have everything done in the best style, and made as nice as possible. Such a place as Sotherton Court deserves everything that taste and money can do. You have space to work upon there, and grounds that will well reward you. For my own part, if I had anything within the fiftieth part of the size of Sotherton, I should be always planting and improving, for naturally I am excessively fond of it. It would be too ridiculous for me to attempt anything where I am now, with my little half acre. It would be quite a burlesque. But if I had more room, I should take a prodigious delight in improving and planting. We did a vast deal in that way at the Parsonage: we made it quite a different place from what it was when we first had it. You young ones do not remember much about it, perhaps; but if dear Sir Thomas were here, he could tell you what improvements we made: and a great deal more would have been done, but for poor Mr. Norris's sad state of health. He could hardly ever get out, poor man, to enjoy anything, and _that_ disheartened me from doing several things that Sir Thomas and I used to talk of. If it had not been for _that_, we should have carried on the garden wall, and made the plantation to shut out the churchyard, just as Dr. Grant has done. We were always doing something as it was. It was only the spring twelvemonth before Mr. Norris's death that we put in the apricot against the stable wall, which is now grown such a noble tree, and getting to such perfection, sir," addressing herself then to Dr. Grant.

"The tree thrives well, beyond a doubt, madam," replied Dr. Grant. "The soil is good; and I never pass it without regretting that the fruit should be so little worth the trouble of gathering."

"Sir, it is a Moor Park, we bought it as a Moor Park, and it cost us--that is, it was a present from Sir Thomas, but I saw the bill--and I know it cost seven shillings, and was charged as a Moor Park."

"You were imposed on, ma'am," replied Dr. Grant: "these potatoes have as much the flavour of a Moor Park apricot as the fruit from that tree. It is an insipid fruit at the best; but a good apricot is eatable, which none from my garden are."

"The truth is, ma'am," said Mrs. Grant, pretending to whisper across the table to Mrs. Norris, "that Dr. Grant hardly knows what the natural taste of our apricot is: he is scarcely ever indulged with one, for it is so valuable a fruit; with a little assistance, and ours is such a remarkably large, fair sort, that what with early tarts and preserves, my cook contrives to get them all."

Mrs. Norris, who had begun to redden, was appeased; and, for a little while, other subjects took place of the improvements of Sotherton. Dr. Grant and Mrs. Norris were seldom good friends; their acquaintance had begun in dilapidations, and their habits were totally dissimilar.

After a short interruption Mr. Rushworth began again. "Smith's place is the admiration of all the country; and it was a mere nothing before Repton took it in hand. I think I shall have Repton."

"Mr. Rushworth," said Lady Bertram, "if I were you, I would have a very pretty shrubbery. One likes to get out into a shrubbery in fine weather."

Mr. Rushworth was eager to assure her ladyship of his acquiescence, and tried to make out something complimentary; but, between his submission to _her_ taste, and his having always intended the same himself, with the superadded objects of professing attention to the comfort of ladies in general, and of insinuating that there was one only whom he was anxious to please, he grew puzzled, and Edmund was glad to put an end to his speech by a proposal of wine. Mr. Rushworth, however, though not usually a great talker, had still more to say on the subject next his heart. "Smith has not much above a hundred acres altogether in his grounds, which is little enough, and makes it more surprising that the place can have been so improved. Now, at Sotherton we have a good seven hundred, without reckoning the water meadows; so that I think, if so much could be done at Compton, we need not despair. There have been two or three fine old trees cut down, that grew too near the house, and it opens the prospect amazingly, which makes me think that Repton, or anybody of that sort, would certainly have the avenue at Sotherton down: the avenue that leads from the west front to the top of the hill, you know," turning to Miss Bertram particularly as he spoke. But Miss Bertram thought it most becoming to reply--

"The avenue! Oh! I do not recollect it. I really know very little of Sotherton."

Fanny, who was sitting on the other side of Edmund, exactly opposite Miss Crawford, and who had been attentively listening, now looked at him, and said in a low voice--

"Cut down an avenue! What a pity! Does it not make you think of Cowper? 'Ye fallen avenues, once more I mourn your fate unmerited.'"

He smiled as he answered, "I am afraid the avenue stands a bad chance, Fanny."

"I should like to see Sotherton before it is cut down, to see the place as it is now, in its old state; but I do not suppose I shall."

"Have you never been there? No, you never can; and, unluckily, it is out of distance for a ride. I wish we could contrive it."

"Oh! it does not signify. Whenever I do see it, you will tell me how it has been altered."

"I collect," said Miss Crawford, "that Sotherton is an old place, and a place of some grandeur. In any particular style of building?"

"The house was built in Elizabeth's time, and is a large, regular, brick building; heavy, but respectable looking, and has many good rooms. It is ill placed. It stands in one of the lowest spots of the park; in that respect, unfavourable for improvement. But the woods are fine, and there is a stream, which, I dare say, might be made a good deal of. Mr. Rushworth is quite right, I think, in meaning to give it a modern dress, and I have no doubt that it will be all done extremely well."

Miss Crawford listened with submission, and said to herself, "He is a well-bred man; he makes the best of it."

"I do not wish to influence Mr. Rushworth," he continued; "but, had I a place to new fashion, I should not put myself into the hands of an improver. I would rather have an inferior degree of beauty, of my own choice, and acquired progressively. I would rather abide by my own blunders than by his."

"_You_ would know what you were about, of course; but that would not suit _me_. I have no eye or ingenuity for such matters, but as they are before me; and had I a place of my own in the country, I should be most thankful to any Mr. Repton who would undertake it, and give me as much beauty as he could for my money; and I should never look at it till it was complete."

"It would be delightful to _me_ to see the progress of it all," said Fanny.

"Ay, you have been brought up to it. It was no part of my education; and the only dose I ever had, being administered by not the first favourite in the world, has made me consider improvements _in_ _hand_ as the greatest of nuisances. Three years ago the Admiral, my honoured uncle, bought a cottage at Twickenham for us all to spend our summers in; and my aunt and I went down to it quite in raptures; but it being excessively pretty, it was soon found necessary to be improved, and for three months we were all dirt and confusion, without a gravel walk to step on, or a bench fit for use. I would have everything as complete as possible in the country, shrubberies and flower-gardens, and rustic seats innumerable: but it must all be done without my care. Henry is different; he loves to be doing."

Edmund was sorry to hear Miss Crawford, whom he was much disposed to admire, speak so freely of her uncle. It did not suit his sense of propriety, and he was silenced, till induced by further smiles and liveliness to put the matter by for the present.

"Mr. Bertram," said she, "I have tidings of my harp at last. I am assured that it is safe at Northampton; and there it has probably been these ten days, in spite of the solemn assurances we have so often received to the contrary." Edmund expressed his pleasure and surprise. "The truth is, that our inquiries were too direct; we sent a servant, we went ourselves: this will not do seventy miles from London; but this morning we heard of it in the right way. It was seen by some farmer, and he told the miller, and the miller told the butcher, and the butcher's son-in-law left word at the shop."

"I am very glad that you have heard of it, by whatever means, and hope there will be no further delay."

"I am to have it to-morrow; but how do you think it is to be conveyed? Not by a wagon or cart: oh no! nothing of that kind could be hired in the village. I might as well have asked for porters and a handbarrow."

"You would find it difficult, I dare say, just now, in the middle of a very late hay harvest, to hire a horse and cart?"

"I was astonished to find what a piece of work was made of it! To want a horse and cart in the country seemed impossible, so I told my maid to speak for one directly; and as I cannot look out of my dressing-closet without seeing one farmyard, nor walk in the shrubbery without passing another, I thought it would be only ask and have, and was rather grieved that I could not give the advantage to all. Guess my surprise, when I found that I had been asking the most unreasonable, most impossible thing in the world; had offended all the farmers, all the labourers, all the hay in the parish! As for Dr. Grant's bailiff, I believe I had better keep out of _his_ way; and my brother-in-law himself, who is all kindness in general, looked rather black upon me when he found what I had been at."

"You could not be expected to have thought on the subject before; but when you _do_ think of it, you must see the importance of getting in the grass. The hire of a cart at any time might not be so easy as you suppose: our farmers are not in the habit of letting them out; but, in harvest, it must be quite out of their power to spare a horse."

"I shall understand all your ways in time; but, coming down with the true London maxim, that everything is to be got with money, I was a little embarrassed at first by the sturdy independence of your country customs. However, I am to have my harp fetched to-morrow. Henry, who is good-nature itself, has offered to fetch it in his barouche. Will it not be honourably conveyed?"

Edmund spoke of the harp as his favourite instrument, and hoped to be soon allowed to hear her. Fanny had never heard the harp at all, and wished for it very much.

"I shall be most happy to play to you both," said Miss Crawford; "at least as long as you can like to listen: probably much longer, for I dearly love music myself, and where the natural taste is equal the player must always be best off, for she is gratified in more ways than one. Now, Mr. Bertram, if you write to your brother, I entreat you to tell him that my harp is come: he heard so much of my misery about it. And you may say, if you please, that I shall prepare my most plaintive airs against his return, in compassion to his feelings, as I know his horse will lose."

"If I write, I will say whatever you wish me; but I do not, at present, foresee any occasion for writing."

"No, I dare say, nor if he were to be gone a twelvemonth, would you ever write to him, nor he to you, if it could be helped. The occasion would never be foreseen. What strange creatures brothers are! You would not write to each other but upon the most urgent necessity in the world; and when obliged to take up the pen to say that such a horse is ill, or such a relation dead, it is done in the fewest possible words. You have but one style among you. I know it perfectly. Henry, who is in every other respect exactly what a brother should be, who loves me, consults me, confides in me, and will talk to me by the hour together, has never yet turned the page in a letter; and very often it is nothing more than--'Dear Mary, I am just arrived. Bath seems full, and everything as usual. Yours sincerely.' That is the true manly style; that is a complete brother's letter."

"When they are at a distance from all their family," said Fanny, colouring for William's sake, "they can write long letters."

"Miss Price has a brother at sea," said Edmund, "whose excellence as a correspondent makes her think you too severe upon us."

"At sea, has she? In the king's service, of course?"

Fanny would rather have had Edmund tell the story, but his determined silence obliged her to relate her brother's situation: her voice was animated in speaking of his profession, and the foreign stations he had been on; but she could not mention the number of years that he had been absent without tears in her eyes. Miss Crawford civilly wished him an early promotion.

"Do you know anything of my cousin's captain?" said Edmund; "Captain Marshall? You have a large acquaintance in the navy, I conclude?"

"Among admirals, large enough; but," with an air of grandeur, "we know very little of the inferior ranks. Post-captains may be very good sort of men, but they do not belong to _us_. Of various admirals I could tell you a great deal: of them and their flags, and the gradation of their pay, and their bickerings and jealousies. But, in general, I can assure you that they are all passed over, and all very ill used. Certainly, my home at my uncle's brought me acquainted with a circle of admirals. Of _Rears_ and _Vices_ I saw enough. Now do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat."

Edmund again felt grave, and only replied, "It is a noble profession."

"Yes, the profession is well enough under two circumstances: if it make the fortune, and there be discretion in spending it; but, in short, it is not a favourite profession of mine. It has never worn an amiable form to _me_."

Edmund reverted to the harp, and was again very happy in the prospect of hearing her play.

The subject of improving grounds, meanwhile, was still under consideration among the others; and Mrs. Grant could not help addressing her brother, though it was calling his attention from Miss Julia Bertram.

"My dear Henry, have _you_ nothing to say? You have been an improver yourself, and from what I hear of Everingham, it may vie with any place in England. Its natural beauties, I am sure, are great. Everingham, as it _used_ to be, was perfect in my estimation: such a happy fall of ground, and such timber! What would I not give to see it again?"

"Nothing could be so gratifying to me as to hear your opinion of it," was his answer; "but I fear there would be some disappointment: you would not find it equal to your present ideas. In extent, it is a mere nothing; you would be surprised at its insignificance; and, as for improvement, there was very little for me to do-- too little: I should like to have been busy much longer."

"You are fond of the sort of thing?" said Julia.

"Excessively; but what with the natural advantages of the ground, which pointed out, even to a very young eye, what little remained to be done, and my own consequent resolutions, I had not been of age three months before Everingham was all that it is now. My plan was laid at Westminster, a little altered, perhaps, at Cambridge, and at one-and-twenty executed. I am inclined to envy Mr. Rushworth for having so much happiness yet before him. I have been a devourer of my own."

"Those who see quickly, will resolve quickly, and act quickly," said Julia. "_You_ can never want employment. Instead of envying Mr. Rushworth, you should assist him with your opinion."

Mrs. Grant, hearing the latter part of this speech, enforced it warmly, persuaded that no judgment could be equal to her brother's; and as Miss Bertram caught at the idea likewise, and gave it her full support, declaring that, in her opinion, it was infinitely better to consult with friends and disinterested advisers, than immediately to throw the business into the hands of a professional man, Mr. Rushworth was very ready to request the favour of Mr. Crawford's assistance; and Mr. Crawford, after properly depreciating his own abilities, was quite at his service in any way that could be useful. Mr. Rushworth then began to propose Mr. Crawford's doing him the honour of coming over to Sotherton, and taking a bed there; when Mrs. Norris, as if reading in her two nieces' minds their little approbation of a plan which was to take Mr. Crawford away, interposed with an amendment.

"There can be no doubt of Mr. Crawford's willingness; but why should not more of us go? Why should not we make a little party? Here are many that would be interested in your improvements, my dear Mr. Rushworth, and that would like to hear Mr. Crawford's opinion on the spot, and that might be of some small use to you with _their_ opinions; and, for my own part, I have been long wishing to wait upon your good mother again; nothing but having no horses of my own could have made me s



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