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Chapter 8

Fanny's rides recommenced the very next day; and as it was a pleasant fresh-feeling morning, less hot than the weather had lately been, Edmund trusted that her losses, both of health and pleasure, would be soon made good. While she was gone Mr. Rushworth arrived, escorting his mother, who came to be civil and to shew her civility especially, in urging the execution of the plan for visiting Sotherton, which had been started a fortnight before, and which, in consequence of her subsequent absence from home, had since lain dormant. Mrs. Norris and her nieces were all well pleased with its revival, and an early day was named and agreed to, provided Mr. Crawford should be disengaged: the young ladies did not forget that stipulation, and though Mrs. Norris would willingly have answered for his being so, they would neither authorise the liberty nor run the risk; and at last, on a hint from Miss Bertram, Mr. Rushworth discovered that the properest thing to be done was for him to walk down to the Parsonage directly, and call on Mr. Crawford, and inquire whether Wednesday would suit him or not.

Before his return Mrs. Grant and Miss Crawford came in. Having been out some time, and taken a different route to the house, they had not met him. Comfortable hopes, however, were given that he would find Mr. Crawford at home. The Sotherton scheme was mentioned of course. It was hardly possible, indeed, that anything else should be talked of, for Mrs. Norris was in high spirits about it; and Mrs. Rushworth, a well-meaning, civil, prosing, pompous woman, who thought nothing of consequence, but as it related to her own and her son's concerns, had not yet given over pressing Lady Bertram to be of the party. Lady Bertram constantly declined it; but her placid manner of refusal made Mrs. Rushworth still think she wished to come, till Mrs. Norris's more numerous words and louder tone convinced her of the truth.

"The fatigue would be too much for my sister, a great deal too much, I assure you, my dear Mrs. Rushworth. Ten miles there, and ten back, you know. You must excuse my sister on this occasion, and accept of our two dear girls and myself without her. Sotherton is the only place that could give her a _wish_ to go so far, but it cannot be, indeed. She will have a companion in Fanny Price, you know, so it will all do very well; and as for Edmund, as he is not here to speak for himself, I will answer for his being most happy to join the party. He can go on horseback, you know."

Mrs. Rushworth being obliged to yield to Lady Bertram's staying at home, could only be sorry. "The loss of her ladyship's company would be a great drawback, and she should have been extremely happy to have seen the young lady too, Miss Price, who had never been at Sotherton yet, and it was a pity she should not see the place."

"You are very kind, you are all kindness, my dear madam," cried Mrs. Norris; "but as to Fanny, she will have opportunities in plenty of seeing Sotherton. She has time enough before her; and her going now is quite out of the question. Lady Bertram could not possibly spare her."

"Oh no! I cannot do without Fanny."

Mrs. Rushworth proceeded next, under the conviction that everybody must be wanting to see Sotherton, to include Miss Crawford in the invitation; and though Mrs. Grant, who had not been at the trouble of visiting Mrs. Rushworth, on her coming into the neighbourhood, civilly declined it on her own account, she was glad to secure any pleasure for her sister; and Mary, properly pressed and persuaded, was not long in accepting her share of the civility. Mr. Rushworth came back from the Parsonage successful; and Edmund made his appearance just in time to learn what had been settled for Wednesday, to attend Mrs. Rushworth to her carriage, and walk half-way down the park with the two other ladies.

On his return to the breakfast-room, he found Mrs. Norris trying to make up her mind as to whether Miss Crawford's being of the party were desirable or not, or whether her brother's barouche would not be full without her. The Miss Bertrams laughed at the idea, assuring her that the barouche would hold four perfectly well, independent of the box, on which _one_ might go with him.

"But why is it necessary," said Edmund, "that Crawford's carriage, or his _only_, should be employed? Why is no use to be made of my mother's chaise? I could not, when the scheme was first mentioned the other day, understand why a visit from the family were not to be made in the carriage of the family."

"What!" cried Julia: "go boxed up three in a postchaise in this weather, when we may have seats in a barouche! No, my dear Edmund, that will not quite do."

"Besides," said Maria, "I know that Mr. Crawford depends upon taking us. After what passed at first, he would claim it as a promise."

"And, my dear Edmund," added Mrs. Norris, "taking out _two_ carriages when _one_ will do, would be trouble for nothing; and, between ourselves, coachman is not very fond of the roads between this and Sotherton: he always complains bitterly of the narrow lanes scratching his carriage, and you know one should not like to have dear Sir Thomas, when he comes home, find all the varnish scratched off."

"That would not be a very handsome reason for using Mr. Crawford's," said Maria; "but the truth is, that Wilcox is a stupid old fellow, and does not know how to drive. I will answer for it that we shall find no inconvenience from narrow roads on Wednesday."

"There is no hardship, I suppose, nothing unpleasant," said Edmund, "in going on the barouche box."

"Unpleasant!" cried Maria: "oh dear! I believe it would be generally thought the favourite seat. There can be no comparison as to one's view of the country. Probably Miss Crawford will choose the barouche-box herself."

"There can be no objection, then, to Fanny's going with you; there can be no doubt of your having room for her."

"Fanny!" repeated Mrs. Norris; "my dear Edmund, there is no idea of her going with us. She stays with her aunt. I told Mrs. Rushworth so. She is not expected."

"You can have no reason, I imagine, madam," said he, addressing his mother, "for wishing Fanny _not_ to be of the party, but as it relates to yourself, to your own comfort. If you could do without her, you would not wish to keep her at home?"

"To be sure not, but I _cannot_ do without her."

"You can, if I stay at home with you, as I mean to do."

There was a general cry out at this. "Yes," he continued, "there is no necessity for my going, and I mean to stay at home. Fanny has a great desire to see Sotherton. I know she wishes it very much. She has not often a gratification of the kind, and I am sure, ma'am, you would be glad to give her the pleasure now?"

"Oh yes! very glad, if your aunt sees no objection."

Mrs. Norris was very ready with the only objection which could remain--their having positively assured Mrs. Rushworth that Fanny could not go, and the very strange appearance there would consequently be in taking her, which seemed to her a difficulty quite impossible to be got over. It must have the strangest appearance! It would be something so very unceremonious, so bordering on disrespect for Mrs. Rushworth, whose own manners were such a pattern of good-breeding and attention, that she really did not feel equal to it. Mrs. Norris had no affection for Fanny, and no wish of procuring her pleasure at any time; but her opposition to Edmund _now_, arose more from partiality for her own scheme, because it _was_ her own, than from anything else. She felt that she had arranged everything extremely well, and that any alteration must be for the worse. When Edmund, therefore, told her in reply, as he did when she would give him the hearing, that she need not distress herself on Mrs. Rushworth's account, because he had taken the opportunity, as he walked with her through the hall, of mentioning Miss Price as one who would probably be of the party, and had directly received a very sufficient invitation for his cousin, Mrs. Norris was too much vexed to submit with a very good grace, and would only say, "Very well, very well, just as you chuse, settle it your own way, I am sure I do not care about it."

"It seems very odd," said Maria, "that you should be staying at home instead of Fanny."

"I am sure she ought to be very much obliged to you," added Julia, hastily leaving the room as she spoke, from a consciousness that she ought to offer to stay at home herself.

"Fanny will feel quite as grateful as the occasion requires," was Edmund's only reply, and the subject dropt.

Fanny's gratitude, when she heard the plan, was, in fact, much greater than her pleasure. She felt Edmund's kindness with all, and more than all, the sensibility which he, unsuspicious of her fond attachment, could be aware of; but that he should forego any enjoyment on her account gave her pain, and her own satisfaction in seeing Sotherton would be nothing without him.

The next meeting of the two Mansfield families produced another alteration in the plan, and one that was admitted with general approbation. Mrs. Grant offered herself as companion for the day to Lady Bertram in lieu of her son, and Dr. Grant was to join them at dinner. Lady Bertram was very well pleased to have it so, and the young ladies were in spirits again. Even Edmund was very thankful for an arrangement which restored him to his share of the party; and Mrs. Norris thought it an excellent plan, and had it at her tongue's end, and was on the point of proposing it, when Mrs. Grant spoke.

Wednesday was fine, and soon after breakfast the barouche arrived, Mr. Crawford driving his sisters; and as everybody was ready, there was nothing to be done but for Mrs. Grant to alight and the others to take their places. The place of all places, the envied seat, the post of honour, was unappropriated. To whose happy lot was it to fall? While each of the Miss Bertrams were meditating how best, and with the most appearance of obliging the others, to secure it, the matter was settled by Mrs. Grant's saying, as she stepped from the carriage, "As there are five of you, it will be better that one should sit with Henry; and as you were saying lately that you wished you could drive, Julia, I think this will be a good opportunity for you to take a lesson."

Happy Julia! Unhappy Maria! The former was on the barouche-box in a moment, the latter took her seat within, in gloom and mortification; and the carriage drove off amid the good wishes of the two remaining ladies, and the barking of Pug in his mistress's arms.

Their road was through a pleasant country; and Fanny, whose rides had never been extensive, was soon beyond her knowledge, and was very happy in observing all that was new, and admiring all that was pretty. She was not often invited to join in the conversation of the others, nor did she desire it. Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions; and, in observing the appearance of the country, the bearings of the roads, the difference of soil, the state of the harvest, the cottages, the cattle, the children, she found entertainment that could only have been heightened by having Edmund to speak to of what she felt. That was the only point of resemblance between her and the lady who sat by her: in everything but a value for Edmund, Miss Crawford was very unlike her. She had none of Fanny's delicacy of taste, of mind, of feeling; she saw Nature, inanimate Nature, with little observation; her attention was all for men and women, her talents for the light and lively. In looking back after Edmund, however, when there was any stretch of road behind them, or when he gained on them in ascending a considerable hill, they were united, and a "there he is" broke at the same moment from them both, more than once.

For the first seven miles Miss Bertram had very little real comfort: her prospect always ended in Mr. Crawford and her sister sitting side by side, full of conversation and merriment; and to see only his expressive profile as he turned with a smile to Julia, or to catch the laugh of the other, was a perpetual source of irritation, which her own sense of propriety could but just smooth over. When Julia looked back, it was with a countenance of delight, and whenever she spoke to them, it was in the highest spirits: "her view of the country was charming, she wished they could all see it," etc.; but her only offer of exchange was addressed to Miss Crawford, as they gained the summit of a long hill, and was not more inviting than this: "Here is a fine burst of country. I wish you had my seat, but I dare say you will not take it, let me press you ever so much;" and Miss Crawford could hardly answer before they were moving again at a good pace.

When they came within the influence of Sotherton associations, it was better for Miss Bertram, who might be said to have two strings to her bow. She had Rushworth feelings, and Crawford feelings, and in the vicinity of Sotherton the former had considerable effect. Mr. Rushworth's consequence was hers. She could not tell Miss Crawford that "those woods belonged to Sotherton," she could not carelessly observe that "she believed that it was now all Mr. Rushworth's property on each side of the road," without elation of heart; and it was a pleasure to increase with their approach to the capital freehold mansion, and ancient manorial residence of the family, with all its rights of court-leet and court-baron.

"Now we shall have no more rough road, Miss Crawford; our difficulties are over. The rest of the way is such as it ought to be. Mr. Rushworth has made it since he succeeded to the estate. Here begins the village. Those cottages are really a disgrace. The church spire is reckoned remarkably handsome. I am glad the church is not so close to the great house as often happens in old places. The annoyance of the bells must be terrible. There is the parsonage: a tidy-looking house, and I understand the clergyman and his wife are very decent people. Those are almshouses, built by some of the family. To the right is the steward's house; he is a very respectable man. Now we are coming to the lodge-gates; but we have nearly a mile through the park still. It is not ugly, you see, at this end; there is some fine timber, but the situation of the house is dreadful. We go down hill to it for half a mile, and it is a pity, for it would not be an ill-looking place if it had a better approach."

Miss Crawford was not slow to admire; she pretty well guessed Miss Bertram's feelings, and made it a point of honour to promote her enjoyment to the utmost. Mrs. Norris was all delight and volubility; and even Fanny had something to say in admiration, and might be heard with complacency. Her eye was eagerly taking in everything within her reach; and after being at some pains to get a view of the house, and observing that "it was a sort of building which she could not look at but with respect," she added, "Now, where is the avenue? The house fronts the east, I perceive. The avenue, therefore, must be at the back of it. Mr. Rushworth talked of the west front."

"Yes, it is exactly behind the house; begins at a little distance, and ascends for half a mile to the extremity of the grounds. You may see something of it here-- something of the more distant trees. It is oak entirely."

Miss Bertram could now speak with decided information of what she had known nothing about when Mr. Rushworth had asked her opinion; and her spirits were in as happy a flutter as vanity and pride could furnish, when they drove up to the spacious stone steps before the principal entrance.

就在第二天,范妮又开始骑马了。这是个清新宜人的早晨,天气没有前几天那么热,因此埃德蒙心想,表妹在健康和玩乐方面的损失很快便会得到补偿。范妮走后,拉什沃思先生陪着他母亲来了。他母亲是为礼貌而来的,特别是来显示一下她多么讲究礼貌。本来,两个星期前就提出了去索瑟顿游玩的计划,可后来由于她不在家,计划一直搁置到现在。她这次来就是催促大家执行计划的。诺里斯太太和她的两位外甥女听到又重新提出这项计划,心里不胜欢喜,于是大家都同意早日动身,并且确定了日期,就看克劳福德先生能否抽出身来。姑娘们并没有忘记这个前提。虽然诺里斯太太很想说克劳福德先生抽得出身来,但她们既不想让她随便做主,自己也不愿冒昧乱说。最后,经伯特伦小姐提示,拉什沃思先生发现,最妥当的办法是由他直接到牧师府上去面见克劳福德先生,问一问礼拜三对他是否合适。

拉什沃思先生还没回来,格兰特太太和克劳福德小姐便进来了。她们俩出去了一阵,回来时跟拉什沃思先生走的不是一条路,因而没有遇见他。不过她们安慰众人说,拉什沃思先生会在牧师府上见到克劳福德先生的。当然,大家又谈起了索瑟顿之行。实际上,别的话题也很难插进来,因为诺里斯太太对索瑟顿之行兴致勃勃,而拉什沃思太太又是个心肠好、懂礼貌、套话多、讲排场的女人,只要是与她自己和她儿子有关的事情,她都很看重,因而一直在不懈地劝说伯特伦夫人,要她和大家一起去。伯特伦夫人一再表示不想去,但她拒绝起来态度比较温和,拉什沃思太太依然认为她想去,后来还是诺里斯太太提高嗓门讲的一席话,才使她相信伯特伦夫人讲的是实话。

“我妹妹受不了那份劳累,请相信我,亲爱的拉什沃思太太,她一点也受不了。你知道,一去十英里,回来又是十英里。这一次你就不要勉强我妹妹了,就让两个姑娘和我自己去,她就免了吧。索瑟顿是唯一能激起她的欲望,肯跑那么远去看一看的地方,可她实在去不了呀。你知道,她有范妮·普莱斯和她做伴,因此丝毫不会有什么问题。至于埃德蒙,他人不在没法表达自己的意见,我可以担保他非常乐意和大家一起去。你知道,他可以骑马去。”

拉什沃思太太只能感到遗憾,不得不同意伯特伦夫人留在家里。“伯特伦夫人不能跟着一起去,这是莫大的欠缺。普莱斯小姐要是也能去的话,我会感到无比高兴,她还从来没有去过索瑟顿,这次又不能去看看那地方,真遗憾。”

“你心肠真好,好极了,亲爱的太太,”诺里斯太大嚷道。“不过说到范妮,她有的是机会去索瑟顿。她来日方长,只是这次不能去。伯特伦夫人离不开她。”

“噢!是呀——我还真离不开范妮。”

拉什沃思太太满心以为人人都想去索瑟顿看看,于是下一步便想把克劳福德小姐加入被邀请之列。格兰特太太虽然在拉什沃思太太来到这一带之后,还一直没有去拜访过她,但她还是客客气气地谢绝了对她本人的邀请,不过她倒乐于为妹妹赢得快乐的机会。经过一番劝说和鼓动,玛丽没过多久便接受了邀请。拉什沃思先生从牧师府上凯旋而归。埃德蒙回来得正是时候,恰好获悉礼拜三之行已经谈妥,同时可以把拉什沃思太太送到车前,然后陪格兰特太太姐妹二人走了庭园的一半路程。

埃德蒙回到早餐厅时,诺里斯太太正在琢磨克劳福德小姐跟着一块去好还是不好,她哥哥的四轮马车再加上她是否坐得下。两位伯特伦小姐笑她过虑了,对她安慰说,四轮马车不算赶车人的座位,可以宽宽余余地坐四个人,而赶车人的座位上,还可以再坐一个人。

“不过,”埃德蒙说,“为什么要用克劳福德的车,为什么只用他的车?为什么不用我母亲的车?几天前第一次提到这个计划时,我就不明白自家人外出为什么不坐自家的车?”

“什么!”朱莉娅嚷道,“这么热的天,四轮马车里有空位不坐,却叫我们三人挤在驿车里!不,亲爱的埃德蒙,那可不成。”

“再说,”玛丽亚说,“我知道,克劳福德先生一心想让我们坐他的车。根据当初商量的结果,他会认为这已是说定的事情。”

“亲爱的埃德蒙,”诺里斯太太补充说,“一辆车坐得下却要用两辆车,真是多此一举。咱们私下里说句话,车夫不喜欢这儿与索瑟顿之间的路,他总是气呼呼地抱怨那些狭窄的乡间小道两边的篱笆刮坏了他的车。你知道,谁也不愿意亲爱的托马斯爵士回来发现车上的漆都刮掉了。”

”这不是要用克劳福德先生的马车的正当理由,”玛丽亚说。“其实呀,威尔科克斯是个笨头笨脑的老家伙,根本不会赶车。我敢担保,礼拜三我们不会因为路窄遇到什么麻烦。”

“我想,坐在赶车人的座位上,”埃德蒙说,“也没有什么苦的,没有什么不舒服的。”

“不舒服!”玛丽亚嚷道。“噢!我相信人人都认为那是最好的座位。要看沿途的风景,哪个座位都比不上它。很有可能克劳福德小姐自己就挑那个座位。”

“那就没有理由不让范妮跟你们一起去。车上不会没有范妮的位子。”

“范妮!”诺里斯太太重复了一声。“亲爱的埃德蒙,我们压根儿没考虑她跟我们去。她留下来陪二姨妈。我对拉什沃思太太说过了,都知道她不去。”

“妈妈,”埃德蒙对他母亲说道,“你除了为你自己,为你自己的舒适以外,我想不出还会有什么理由不愿让范妮和我们一起去。如果你离得开她的话,就不会想要把她留在家里吧?”

“当然不会,可我真离不开她。”

“如果我留在家里陪你的话,你就离得开她了。我打算留下来。”

众人一听都发出一声惊叫。“是的,”埃德蒙接着说,“我没有必要去,我打算留在家里。范妮很想去索瑟顿看看。我知道她非常想去。她并不常有这样的快乐,我相信,妈妈,你一定会乐意让她享受这次的乐趣吧?”

“噢!是的,非常乐意,只要你大姨妈没意见就行。”

诺里斯太太马上就端出了她仅剩的一条反对理由,即她们已向拉什沃思太太说定范妮不能去,如果再带范妮去会让人感到不可思议,她觉得事情很难办。这会让人感到再奇怪不过啦!这样做太唐突无礼,简直是对拉什沃思太太的不敬,而拉什沃思太太是富有教养和讲究礼貌的典范,她确实难以接受这样的做法。诺里斯太太并不喜玫范妮,什么时候都不想为她寻求快乐,不过这次她之所以反对埃德蒙的意见,主要因为事情是她安排的,她可偏爱她自己安排的计划啦。她觉得她把一切安排得十分妥帖,任何改变都不如原来的安排。埃德蒙趁姨妈愿意听他讲话的机会告诉她,她无须担心拉什沃思太太会有什么意见,他送拉什沃思太太走过前厅时,曾趁机向她提出普莱斯小姐可能跟大家一起去,并当即替表妹接到了正式邀请。这时,诺里斯太太大为气恼,不肯好声好气地认输,只是说:“挺好,挺好,你想怎么着就怎么着,由你看着办吧,我想我也不在意啦。”

“我觉得很奇怪,”玛丽亚说,“不让范妮留在家里,你却要留在家里。”

“我想她一定非常感激你,”朱莉娅加了一句,一边匆匆离开房间,因为她意识到范妮应主动提出自己留在家里。

“范妮需要感激的时候自然会感激的,”埃德蒙只回答了这么一句,这件事便撇下不提了。

范妮听了这一安排之后,其实心里的感激之情要大大超过喜悦之情。埃德蒙的这番好意使她万分感动,埃德蒙因为没有察觉她对他的依恋之情,便也体会不到她会如此铭感之深。不过,埃德蒙为了她而放弃自己的游乐,又使她感到痛苦。埃德蒙不跟着一起去,她去索瑟顿也不会有什么意思。

曼斯菲尔德这两户人家下次碰面的时候,对原来的计划又做了一次更动,这次更动得到了大家的一致赞同。格兰特太太主动提出,到那天由她代替埃德蒙来陪伴伯特伦夫人,格兰特先生来和她们共进晚餐。伯特伦夫人对这一安排非常满意,姑娘们又兴高采烈起来。就连埃德蒙也甚感庆幸,因为这样一来,他又可以和大家一起去了。诺里斯太太说,她认为这是个极好的计划.她本来一直想说的,刚要提出来的时候,格兰特太太先说出了。

星期三这天天气晴朗,早饭后不久四轮马车就到了,克劳福德先生赶着车,车里坐着他的两个姐妹。人人都已准备停当,再没有什么要办的事情,只等格兰特太太下车,大家就座。那个最好的位置,那个人人眼红的座位,那个雅座,还没定下谁坐。谁会有幸坐上这个位置呢?两位伯特伦小姐表面上装得很谦让,而心里却在揣摩怎样把它捞到手。恰在这时,这个问题让格兰特太太解决了,她下车时说:“你们一共五个人,最好有一个人和亨利坐在一起。朱莉娅,你最近说过希望自己会赶车,我想这是你学习的好机会。”

好快活的朱莉娅!好可怜的玛丽亚!前者转眼间已坐上驾驶座,后者则垂头丧气、满腹委屈地坐进了车里。随着不去的两位太太的告别声和女主人怀里哈巴狗的汪汪吠声,马车驶走了。

这一路经过一片令人心旷神怡的乡野。范妮骑马从未往远处跑过,因此没过多久,车子已来到她认不出的地方,看着种种新奇的景色,欣赏着种种旖旎的风光,心里不胜高兴。别人讲话也不怎么邀她参加,她也不愿意参加。她自己的心思和想法往往是她最好的伴侣。她在观察乡野风貌、道路状况、土质差异、收割情形、村舍、牲畜、孩子们时,感到兴味盎然,假如埃德蒙坐在身旁,听她说说心里的感受,那可真要快乐到极点。这是她和邻座的那位小姐唯一相像的地方。除了敬重埃德蒙之外,克劳福德小姐处处都与她不同。她没有范妮那种高雅的情趣、敏锐的心性、细腻的情感。她眼看着自然,无生命的自然,而无所察觉。她关注的是男人和女人,她的天资表现在轻松活泼的生活上。然而,每当埃德蒙落在她们后面一段距离,或每当埃德蒙驱车爬长坡快要追土她们的时候,她们就会拧成一股绳,异口同声地喊叫“他在那儿”,而且不止一次。

在头七英里的旅程中,伯特伦小姐心里并不舒服,她的视线总是落在克劳福德先生兄妹俩身上,他俩并排坐着不断地说说笑笑。一看到克劳福德先生微笑地转向朱莉娅时那富于表情的半边脸,或是一听到朱莉娅放声大笑,她总要感到恼火,只是害怕有失体统,才勉强没有形诸声色。朱莉娅每次回过头来,总是喜形于色,每次说起话来,总是兴高采烈。“我这儿看到的风光真是迷人,我多么希望你们都能看见呀。”如此等等。可她只提出过一次跟别人换座位,那是马车爬上一个长坡顶上的时候,她向克劳福德小姐提出的,而且只是一番客套话:“这儿突然出现一片美丽的景色。你要是坐在我的位置上就好了,不过我敢说你不会想要我这个位置,我还是劝你快换吧。”克劳福德小姐还没来得及回答,马车又飞快地往前走了。

等马车驶入索瑟顿的势力范围之后,伯特伦小姐的心情比先前好些了。可以说,她是一把弓上拉着两根弦。她的情肠一半属于拉什沃思先生,一半属于克劳福德先生,来到索瑟顿的地域之后,前一种情肠产生了更大的效应。拉什沃思先生的势力就是她的势力。她时而对克劳福德小姐说:“这些树林是索瑟顿的。”时而又漫不经心地来一句:“我相信,这路两边的一切都是拉什沃思先生的财产。”说话的时候,她心里总是得意洋洋。越是接近那座可终身保有的庄园大宅,那座拥有庄园民事法庭和庄园刑事法庭权力的家族宅第,她越发喜不自胜。

“现在吗,克劳福德小姐,不会再有高低不平的路了,艰难的路途结束了,剩下的路都挺好。拉什沃思先生继承了这份房地产以后,把路修好了。村子从这里开始。那些村舍实在寒碜。人们都觉得教堂的那个尖顶很漂亮。令人高兴的是,一般在古老的庄园里,教堂往往紧挨着宅第,可这座教堂离大宅不是很近。教堂的钟声搅得人实在必烦。那儿是牧师住宅,房子显得很整洁,据我所知,牧师和他的妻子都是正派人。那是救济院,是这个家族的什么人建造的。右边是管家的住宅,这位管家是个非常体面的人。我们就快到庄园的大门了,不过还得走将近一英里才能穿过庄园。你瞧,这里的风景还不错的,这片树林挺漂亮的,不过大宅的位置很糟糕。我们下坡走半英里才能到,真可惜呀,要是这条路好一些,这地方倒不难看。”

克劳福德小姐也很会夸奖。她猜透了伯特伦小姐的心思,觉得从颜面上讲自己有责任促使她高兴到极点。诺里斯太太满心欢喜,说个不停,就连范妮也称赞几句,听上去让人飘飘然。她以热切的目光欣赏着所能看到的一切,并在好不容易看到了大宅之后,说道:“这样的房子我一看见就会肃然起敬。”接着又说:“林荫道呢?我看得出来,这房子向东。因此,林荫道一定是在房子后面。拉什沃思先生说过在西边。”

“是的,林荫道确实在房子后面。从房后不远的地方开始,沿坡往上走半英里到达庭园的尽头。你从这里可以看到一点——看到远处的树。都是橡树。”

伯特伦小姐现在讲起来对情况比较了解,不像当初拉什沃思先生征求她的意见时,她还是了无所知。当马车驶到正门前的宽阔石阶时,她的心情由于受虚荣和傲慢的驱使,已经高兴得飘飘欲飞了。



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