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Chapter 9

Mr. Rushworth was at the door to receive his fair lady; and the whole party were welcomed by him with due attention. In the drawing-room they were met with equal cordiality by the mother, and Miss Bertram had all the distinction with each that she could wish. After the business of arriving was over, it was first necessary to eat, and the doors were thrown open to admit them through one or two intermediate rooms into the appointed dining-parlour, where a collation was prepared with abundance and elegance. Much was said, and much was ate, and all went well. The particular object of the day was then considered. How would Mr. Crawford like, in what manner would he chuse, to take a survey of the grounds? Mr. Rushworth mentioned his curricle. Mr. Crawford suggested the greater desirableness of some carriage which might convey more than two. "To be depriving themselves of the advantage of other eyes and other judgments, might be an evil even beyond the loss of present pleasure."

Mrs. Rushworth proposed that the chaise should be taken also; but this was scarcely received as an amendment: the young ladies neither smiled nor spoke. Her next proposition, of shewing the house to such of them as had not been there before, was more acceptable, for Miss Bertram was pleased to have its size displayed, and all were glad to be doing something.

The whole party rose accordingly, and under Mrs. Rushworth's guidance were shewn through a number of rooms, all lofty, and many large, and amply furnished in the taste of fifty years back, with shining floors, solid mahogany, rich damask, marble, gilding, and carving, each handsome in its way. Of pictures there were abundance, and some few good, but the larger part were family portraits, no longer anything to anybody but Mrs. Rushworth, who had been at great pains to learn all that the housekeeper could teach, and was now almost equally well qualified to shew the house. On the present occasion she addressed herself chiefly to Miss Crawford and Fanny, but there was no comparison in the willingness of their attention; for Miss Crawford, who had seen scores of great houses, and cared for none of them, had only the appearance of civilly listening, while Fanny, to whom everything was almost as interesting as it was new, attended with unaffected earnestness to all that Mrs. Rushworth could relate of the family in former times, its rise and grandeur, regal visits and loyal efforts, delighted to connect anything with history already known, or warm her imagination with scenes of the past.

The situation of the house excluded the possibility of much prospect from any of the rooms; and while Fanny and some of the others were attending Mrs. Rushworth, Henry Crawford was looking grave and shaking his head at the windows. Every room on the west front looked across a lawn to the beginning of the avenue immediately beyond tall iron palisades and gates.

Having visited many more rooms than could be supposed to be of any other use than to contribute to the window-tax, and find employment for housemaids, "Now," said Mrs. Rushworth, "we are coming to the chapel, which properly we ought to enter from above, and look down upon; but as we are quite among friends, I will take you in this way, if you will excuse me."

They entered. Fanny's imagination had prepared her for something grander than a mere spacious, oblong room, fitted up for the purpose of devotion: with nothing more striking or more solemn than the profusion of mahogany, and the crimson velvet cushions appearing over the ledge of the family gallery above. "I am disappointed," said she, in a low voice, to Edmund. "This is not my idea of a chapel. There is nothing awful here, nothing melancholy, nothing grand. Here are no aisles, no arches, no inscriptions, no banners. No banners, cousin, to be 'blown by the night wind of heaven.' No signs that a 'Scottish monarch sleeps below.'"

"You forget, Fanny, how lately all this has been built, and for how confined a purpose, compared with the old chapels of castles and monasteries. It was only for the private use of the family. They have been buried, I suppose, in the parish church. _There_ you must look for the banners and the achievements."

"It was foolish of me not to think of all that; but I am disappointed."

Mrs. Rushworth began her relation. "This chapel was fitted up as you see it, in James the Second's time. Before that period, as I understand, the pews were only wainscot; and there is some reason to think that the linings and cushions of the pulpit and family seat were only purple cloth; but this is not quite certain. It is a handsome chapel, and was formerly in constant use both morning and evening. Prayers were always read in it by the domestic chaplain, within the memory of many; but the late Mr. Rushworth left it off."

"Every generation has its improvements," said Miss Crawford, with a smile, to Edmund.

Mrs. Rushworth was gone to repeat her lesson to Mr. Crawford; and Edmund, Fanny, and Miss Crawford remained in a cluster together.

"It is a pity," cried Fanny, "that the custom should have been discontinued. It was a valuable part of former times. There is something in a chapel and chaplain so much in character with a great house, with one's ideas of what such a household should be! A whole family assembling regularly for the purpose of prayer is fine!"

"Very fine indeed," said Miss Crawford, laughing. "It must do the heads of the family a great deal of good to force all the poor housemaids and footmen to leave business and pleasure, and say their prayers here twice a day, while they are inventing excuses themselves for staying away."

"_That_ is hardly Fanny's idea of a family assembling," said Edmund. "If the master and mistress do _not_ attend themselves, there must be more harm than good in the custom."

"At any rate, it is safer to leave people to their own devices on such subjects. Everybody likes to go their own way--to chuse their own time and manner of devotion. The obligation of attendance, the formality, the restraint, the length of time--altogether it is a formidable thing, and what nobody likes; and if the good people who used to kneel and gape in that gallery could have foreseen that the time would ever come when men and women might lie another ten minutes in bed, when they woke with a headache, without danger of reprobation, because chapel was missed, they would have jumped with joy and envy. Cannot you imagine with what unwilling feelings the former belles of the house of Rushworth did many a time repair to this chapel? The young Mrs. Eleanors and Mrs. Bridgets-- starched up into seeming piety, but with heads full of something very different--especially if the poor chaplain were not worth looking at--and, in those days, I fancy parsons were very inferior even to what they are now."

For a few moments she was unanswered. Fanny coloured and looked at Edmund, but felt too angry for speech; and he needed a little recollection before he could say, "Your lively mind can hardly be serious even on serious subjects. You have given us an amusing sketch, and human nature cannot say it was not so. We must all feel _at_ _times_ the difficulty of fixing our thoughts as we could wish; but if you are supposing it a frequent thing, that is to say, a weakness grown into a habit from neglect, what could be expected from the _private_ devotions of such persons? Do you think the minds which are suffered, which are indulged in wanderings in a chapel, would be more collected in a closet?"

"Yes, very likely. They would have two chances at least in their favour. There would be less to distract the attention from without, and it would not be tried so long."

"The mind which does not struggle against itself under _one_ circumstance, would find objects to distract it in the _other_, I believe; and the influence of the place and of example may often rouse better feelings than are begun with. The greater length of the service, however, I admit to be sometimes too hard a stretch upon the mind. One wishes it were not so; but I have not yet left Oxford long enough to forget what chapel prayers are."

While this was passing, the rest of the party being scattered about the chapel, Julia called Mr. Crawford's attention to her sister, by saying, "Do look at Mr. Rushworth and Maria, standing side by side, exactly as if the ceremony were going to be performed. Have not they completely the air of it?"

Mr. Crawford smiled his acquiescence, and stepping forward to Maria, said, in a voice which she only could hear, "I do not like to see Miss Bertram so near the altar."

Starting, the lady instinctively moved a step or two, but recovering herself in a moment, affected to laugh, and asked him, in a tone not much louder, "If he would give her away?"

"I am afraid I should do it very awkwardly," was his reply, with a look of meaning.

Julia, joining them at the moment, carried on the joke.

"Upon my word, it is really a pity that it should not take place directly, if we had but a proper licence, for here we are altogether, and nothing in the world could be more snug and pleasant." And she talked and laughed about it with so little caution as to catch the comprehension of Mr. Rushworth and his mother, and expose her sister to the whispered gallantries of her lover, while Mrs. Rushworth spoke with proper smiles and dignity of its being a most happy event to her whenever it took place.

"If Edmund were but in orders!" cried Julia, and running to where he stood with Miss Crawford and Fanny: "My dear Edmund, if you were but in orders now, you might perform the ceremony directly. How unlucky that you are not ordained; Mr. Rushworth and Maria are quite ready."

Miss Crawford's countenance, as Julia spoke, might have amused a disinterested observer. She looked almost aghast under the new idea she was receiving. Fanny pitied her. "How distressed she will be at what she said just now," passed across her mind.

"Ordained!" said Miss Crawford; "what, are you to be a clergyman?"

"Yes; I shall take orders soon after my father's return-- probably at Christmas."

Miss Crawford, rallying her spirits, and recovering her complexion, replied only, "If I had known this before, I would have spoken of the cloth with more respect," and turned the subject.

The chapel was soon afterwards left to the silence and stillness which reigned in it, with few interruptions, throughout the year. Miss Bertram, displeased with her sister, led the way, and all seemed to feel that they had been there long enough.

The lower part of the house had been now entirely shewn, and Mrs. Rushworth, never weary in the cause, would have proceeded towards the principal staircase, and taken them through all the rooms above, if her son had not interposed with a doubt of there being time enough. "For if," said he, with the sort of self-evident proposition which many a clearer head does not always avoid, "we are _too_ long going over the house, we shall not have time for what is to be done out of doors. It is past two, and we are to dine at five."

Mrs. Rushworth submitted; and the question of surveying the grounds, with the who and the how, was likely to be more fully agitated, and Mrs. Norris was beginning to arrange by what junction of carriages and horses most could be done, when the young people, meeting with an outward door, temptingly open on a flight of steps which led immediately to turf and shrubs, and all the sweets of pleasure-grounds, as by one impulse, one wish for air and liberty, all walked out.

"Suppose we turn down here for the present," said Mrs. Rushworth, civilly taking the hint and following them. "Here are the greatest number of our plants, and here are the curious pheasants."

"Query," said Mr. Crawford, looking round him, "whether we may not find something to employ us here before we go farther? I see walls of great promise. Mr. Rushworth, shall we summon a council on this lawn?"

"James," said Mrs. Rushworth to her son, "I believe the wilderness will be new to all the party. The Miss Bertrams have never seen the wilderness yet."

No objection was made, but for some time there seemed no inclination to move in any plan, or to any distance. All were attracted at first by the plants or the pheasants, and all dispersed about in happy independence. Mr. Crawford was the first to move forward to examine the capabilities of that end of the house. The lawn, bounded on each side by a high wall, contained beyond the first planted area a bowling-green, and beyond the bowling-green a long terrace walk, backed by iron palisades, and commanding a view over them into the tops of the trees of the wilderness immediately adjoining. It was a good spot for fault-finding. Mr. Crawford was soon followed by Miss Bertram and Mr. Rushworth; and when, after a little time, the others began to form into parties, these three were found in busy consultation on the terrace by Edmund, Miss Crawford, and Fanny, who seemed as naturally to unite, and who, after a short participation of their regrets and difficulties, left them and walked on. The remaining three, Mrs. Rushworth, Mrs. Norris, and Julia, were still far behind; for Julia, whose happy star no longer prevailed, was obliged to keep by the side of Mrs. Rushworth, and restrain her impatient feet to that lady's slow pace, while her aunt, having fallen in with the housekeeper, who was come out to feed the pheasants, was lingering behind in gossip with her. Poor Julia, the only one out of the nine not tolerably satisfied with their lot, was now in a state of complete penance, and as different from the Julia of the barouche-box as could well be imagined. The politeness which she had been brought up to practise as a duty made it impossible for her to escape; while the want of that higher species of self-command, that just consideration of others, that knowledge of her own heart, that principle of right, which had not formed any essential part of her education, made her miserable under it.

"This is insufferably hot," said Miss Crawford, when they had taken one turn on the terrace, and were drawing a second time to the door in the middle which opened to the wilderness. "Shall any of us object to being comfortable? Here is a nice little wood, if one can but get into it. What happiness if the door should not be locked! but of course it is; for in these great places the gardeners are the only people who can go where they like."

The door, however, proved not to be locked, and they were all agreed in turning joyfully through it, and leaving the unmitigated glare of day behind. A considerable flight of steps landed them in the wilderness, which was a planted wood of about two acres, and though chiefly of larch and laurel, and beech cut down, and though laid out with too much regularity, was darkness and shade, and natural beauty, compared with the bowling-green and the terrace. They all felt the refreshment of it, and for some time could only walk and admire. At length, after a short pause, Miss Crawford began with, "So you are to be a clergyman, Mr. Bertram. This is rather a surprise to me."

"Why should it surprise you? You must suppose me designed for some profession, and might perceive that I am neither a lawyer, nor a soldier, nor a sailor."

"Very true; but, in short, it had not occurred to me. And you know there is generally an uncle or a grandfather to leave a fortune to the second son."

"A very praiseworthy practice," said Edmund, "but not quite universal. I am one of the exceptions, and _being_ one, must do something for myself."

"But why are you to be a clergyman? I thought _that_ was always the lot of the youngest, where there were many to chuse before him."

"Do you think the church itself never chosen, then?"

"_Never_ is a black word. But yes, in the _never_ of conversation, which means _not_ _very_ _often_, I do think it. For what is to be done in the church? Men love to distinguish themselves, and in either of the other lines distinction may be gained, but not in the church. A clergyman is nothing."

"The _nothing_ of conversation has its gradations, I hope, as well as the _never_. A clergyman cannot be high in state or fashion. He must not head mobs, or set the ton in dress. But I cannot call that situation nothing which has the charge of all that is of the first importance to mankind, individually or collectively considered, temporally and eternally, which has the guardianship of religion and morals, and consequently of the manners which result from their influence. No one here can call the _office_ nothing. If the man who holds it is so, it is by the neglect of his duty, by foregoing its just importance, and stepping out of his place to appear what he ought not to appear."

"_You_ assign greater consequence to the clergyman than one has been used to hear given, or than I can quite comprehend. One does not see much of this influence and importance in society, and how can it be acquired where they are so seldom seen themselves? How can two sermons a week, even supposing them worth hearing, supposing the preacher to have the sense to prefer Blair's to his own, do all that you speak of? govern the conduct and fashion the manners of a large congregation for the rest of the week? One scarcely sees a clergyman out of his pulpit."

"_You_ are speaking of London, _I_ am speaking of the nation at large."

"The metropolis, I imagine, is a pretty fair sample of the rest."

"Not, I should hope, of the proportion of virtue to vice throughout the kingdom. We do not look in great cities for our best morality. It is not there that respectable people of any denomination can do most good; and it certainly is not there that the influence of the clergy can be most felt. A fine preacher is followed and admired; but it is not in fine preaching only that a good clergyman will be useful in his parish and his neighbourhood, where the parish and neighbourhood are of a size capable of knowing his private character, and observing his general conduct, which in London can rarely be the case. The clergy are lost there in the crowds of their parishioners. They are known to the largest part only as preachers. And with regard to their influencing public manners, Miss Crawford must not misunderstand me, or suppose I mean to call them the arbiters of good-breeding, the regulators of refinement and courtesy, the masters of the ceremonies of life. The _manners_ I speak of might rather be called _conduct_, perhaps, the result of good principles; the effect, in short, of those doctrines which it is their duty to teach and recommend; and it will, I believe, be everywhere found, that as the clergy are, or are not what they ought to be, so are the rest of the nation."

"Certainly," said Fanny, with gentle earnestness.

"There," cried Miss Crawford, "you have quite convinced Miss Price already."

"I wish I could convince Miss Crawford too."

"I do not think you ever will," said she, with an arch smile; "I am just as much surprised now as I was at first that you should intend to take orders. You really are fit for something better. Come, do change your mind. It is not too late. Go into the law."

"Go into the law! With as much ease as I was told to go into this wilderness."

"Now you are going to say something about law being the worst wilderness of the two, but I forestall you; remember, I have forestalled you."

"You need not hurry when the object is only to prevent my saying a _bon_ _mot_, for there is not the least wit in my nature. I am a very matter-of-fact, plain-spoken being, and may blunder on the borders of a repartee for half an hour together without striking it out."

A general silence succeeded. Each was thoughtful. Fanny made the first interruption by saying, "I wonder that I should be tired with only walking in this sweet wood; but the next time we come to a seat, if it is not disagreeable to you, I should be glad to sit down for a little while."

"My dear Fanny," cried Edmund, immediately drawing her arm within his, "how thoughtless I have been! I hope you are not very tired. Perhaps," turning to Miss Crawford, "my other companion may do me the honour of taking an arm."

"Thank you, but I am not at all tired." She took it, however, as she spoke, and the gratification of having her do so, of feeling such a connexion for the first time, made him a little forgetful of Fanny. "You scarcely touch me," said he. "You do not make me of any use. What a difference in the weight of a woman's arm from that of a man! At Oxford I have been a good deal used to have a man lean on me for the length of a street, and you are only a fly in the comparison."

"I am really not tired, which I almost wonder at; for we must have walked at least a mile in this wood. Do not you think we have?"

"Not half a mile," was his sturdy answer; for he was not yet so much in love as to measure distance, or reckon time, with feminine lawlessness.

"Oh! you do not consider how much we have wound about. We have taken such a very serpentine course, and the wood itself must be half a mile long in a straight line, for we have never seen the end of it yet since we left the first great path."

"But if you remember, before we left that first great path, we saw directly to the end of it. We looked down the whole vista, and saw it closed by iron gates, and it could not have been more than a furlong in length."

"Oh! I know nothing of your furlongs, but I am sure it is a very long wood, and that we have been winding in and out ever since we came into it; and therefore, when I say that we have walked a mile in it, I must speak within compass."

"We have been exactly a quarter of an hour here," said Edmund, taking out his watch. "Do you think we are walking four miles an hour?"

"Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch."

A few steps farther brought them out at the bottom of the very walk they had been talking of; and standing back, well shaded and sheltered, and looking over a ha-ha into the park, was a comfortable-sized bench, on which they all sat down.

"I am afraid you are very tired, Fanny," said Edmund, observing her; "why would not you speak sooner? This will be a bad day's amusement for you if you are to be knocked up. Every sort of exercise fatigues her so soon, Miss Crawford, except riding."

"How abominable in you, then, to let me engross her horse as I did all last week! I am ashamed of you and of myself, but it shall never happen again."

"_Your_ attentiveness and consideration makes me more sensible of my own neglect. Fanny's interest seems in safer hands with you than with me."

"That she should be tired now, however, gives me no surprise; for there is nothing in the course of one's duties so fatiguing as what we have been doing this morning: seeing a great house, dawdling from one room to another, straining one's eyes and one's attention, hearing what one does not understand, admiring what one does not care for. It is generally allowed to be the greatest bore in the world, and Miss Price has found it so, though she did not know it."

"I shall soon be rested," said Fanny; "to sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment."

After sitting a little while Miss Crawford was up again. "I must move," said she; "resting fatigues me. I have looked across the ha-ha till I am weary. I must go and look through that iron gate at the same view, without being able to see it so well."

Edmund left the seat likewise. "Now, Miss Crawford, if you will look up the walk, you will convince yourself that it cannot be half a mile long, or half half a mile."

"It is an immense distance," said she; "I see _that_ with a glance."

He still reasoned with her, but in vain. She would not calculate, she would not compare. She would only smile and assert. The greatest degree of rational consistency could not have been more engaging, and they talked with mutual satisfaction. At last it was agreed that they should endeavour to determine the dimensions of the wood by walking a little more about it. They would go to one end of it, in the line they were then in-- for there was a straight green walk along the bottom by the side of the ha-ha--and perhaps turn a little way in some other direction, if it seemed likely to assist them, and be back in a few minutes. Fanny said she was rested, and would have moved too, but this was not suffered. Edmund urged her remaining where she was with an earnestness which she could not resist, and she was left on the bench to think with pleasure of her cousin's care, but with great regret that she was not stronger. She watched them till they had turned the corner, and listened till all sound of them had ceased.

拉什沃思先生站在门口迎接他的漂亮姑娘,并礼仪周到地欢迎了其他人。到了客厅里,拉什沃思太太同样热诚地接待了大家。那母子二人对伯特伦小姐青眼有加,正合小姐心意。宾主见面一应事宜结束之后,首先需要吃饭,于是门霍地开了,客人们通过一两个房间进入指定的餐厅,那里已备好了丰富而讲究的茶点。说了不少应酬话,也吃了不少茶点,一切都很称心。接着讨论当天特意要办的那件事。克劳福德先生想要怎样察看庭园,准备怎么去?拉什沃思先生提出坐他的双轮轻便马车。克劳福德先生提议,最好乘一辆能坐两个人以上的马车。“只有我们两人去,而不让其他人去看看,听听他们的意见,那可能比失去现在的乐趣还要令人遗憾。”

拉什沃思太太建议把那辆轻便马车也驾去,可是这个办法不怎么受欢迎,姑娘们既无笑容,也不做声。她的下一个建议,即让没来过的人参观一下大宅,倒是比较受欢迎,因为伯特伦小姐就喜欢显示一下大宅有多么宏伟,其他人也都高兴有点事干。

于是众人都立起身来,在拉什沃思太太的引导下,参观了不少房间。这些房间全都是高屋子,许多是大房间,都按五十年前的风尚加以装饰,铺着亮光光的地板,布置着坚实的红木家具,有的罩着富丽的织花台布,有的是大理石面,有的镀金,有的刻花,各有各的妙处。有许许多多的画像,其中颇有一些好作品,不过大多是家族的画像,除了拉什沃思太太之外,谁也不知道画的是谁了。拉什沃思太太可是下了一番工夫,才把女管家了解的情况全都学了过来,现在几乎能像女管家一样称职地领人参观大宅。眼下,她主要是在向克劳福德小姐和范妮做介绍。不过,这两人听介绍的心态毫无相似之处。克劳福德小姐见过的高楼大厦不计其数,从不把哪一个放在心上,现在只是出于礼貌,装出用心听的样子,而范妮则觉得样样东西既新奇又有趣,便真挚而热切地倾听拉什沃思太太讲解这个家族的过去,它的兴起,它的荣耀,哪些君主驾临过,多少人为王室立过功。她乐滋滋地把一件件事与学过的历史联系起来,或者用过去的场面来活跃自己的想象。

这幢房子由于地势不好,从哪个房间都看不到多少景色,因此,就在范妮等人跟着拉什沃思太太参观,听她讲解介绍的时候,亨利·克劳福德板着副面孔,冲着一个个窗口直摇头。从西部正面的每一个房间望出去,都是一片草地,再往前去是高高的铁栏杆和大门,大门外边是林荫道的起点。

众人又看了许多房间.这些房间你想象不出有什么用场,只不过是多贡献些窗户税①(译注:①英国在1851年以前,曾对城镇房屋的窗户或透光孔征过税。),让女仆们有活可干罢了。这时,拉什沃思太太说道:“我们来到了礼拜堂,按规矩我们应该从上边往里进,由上往下看。不过我们都是自己人,你们要是不见怪,我就从这里带你们进去。”

大家走了进去。范妮原来想象这该是个宏伟庄严的去处,不料却只是一个长方形的大房间,根据做礼拜的需要做了些布置——除了到处都是红木摆设,楼上廊台家族的座位上铺着深红色的天鹅绒垫子,再也没有什么比较惹眼、比较庄严的东西了。“我感到失望,”她悄悄地对埃德蒙说。“我想象中的礼拜堂不是这样的。这儿没有什么令人望而生畏的,没有什么令人忧从中来的,没有什么庄严的感觉。没有过道,没有拱形结构,没有碑文,没有旗帜。表哥,没有旗帜让‘天国的夜风吹动’。没有迹象表明一位‘苏格兰国君安息在下边’。①”(译注:①两行诗均引自英国诗人司各特(1771-1832)的长诗《最后一个吟游诗人之歌》。)

“你忘记了,范妮,这都是近代建造的,与城堡、寺院里的古老礼拜堂相比,用途又非常有限。这只是供这个家族私人使用的。我想,那些先人都葬在教区的教堂墓地。你要看他们的旗号,了解他们的业绩,应该到那儿去找。”

“我真傻,没考虑到这些情况,不过我还是感到失望。”

拉什沃思太太开始介绍了。“这个礼拜堂是詹姆斯二世②(译注:②詹姆斯二世(1633-1701),英国国王(1685 -1688),被“光荣革命”所推翻。)时期布置成现在这个样子的。据我所知,在那之前,只是用壁板当座位,而且有理由设想,讲台和家族座位的衬里和垫子都不过是紫布,不过这还不是很有把握。这是一座很美观的礼拜堂,以前总是早上晚上不停地使用。许多人都还记得,家庭牧师常在里边念祷文。但是,已故的拉什沃思先生把它给废除了。”

“每一代都有所改进,”克劳福德小姐笑吟吟地对埃德蒙说。

拉什沃恩太太去向克劳福德先生把她刚才那番话再说一遍,埃德蒙、范妮和克劳福德小姐还仍然呆在一起。

“真可惜,”范妮嚷道,“这一风习居然中断了。这是过去很可贵的一个习俗。有一个礼拜堂,有一个牧师,这对于一座大宅来说,对于人们想象中这种人家应有的气派来说,是多么的协调啊!一家人按时聚在一起祈祷,这有多好啊!”

“的确很好啊!”克劳福德小姐笑着说道。“这对主人们大有好处,他们可以强迫可怜的男仆女佣全都丢下工作和娱乐,一天到这里做两次祈祷,而他们自己却可以找借口不来。”

“范妮所说的一家人聚在一起祈祷可不是这个意思,”埃德蒙说。“如果男女主人自己不参加,这样的做法只能是弊大于利。”

“不管怎么说,在这种事情上,还是让人们自行其是为好。谁都喜欢独自行动——自己选择表达虔诚的时间和方式。被迫参加,拘泥形式,局促刻板,每次又花那么长时间——总之是件可怕的事情,谁都反感的事情。过去那些跪在廊台上打呵欠的虔诚的人们,要是能预见终久会有这么一天,男男女女们头昏脑涨地醒来后还可以在床上躺上十分钟,也不会因为没有去礼拜堂而受人责备,他们会又高兴、又嫉妒地跳起来。拉什沃思世家从前的美人们如何不情愿地一次次来到这座礼拜堂,你难道想象不出来吗?年轻的埃丽诺太太们和布里杰特太太们,一本正经地装出虔诚笃信的样子,但脑子里却尽是别的念头——尤其是可怜的牧师不值一瞧的时候——我想.在那个年代,牧师甚至远不如今天的牧师有地位。”

这番话说过之后,好久没有人搭理。范妮脸红了,两眼盯着埃德蒙,气得说不出话来。埃德蒙稍微镇静了一下,才说:“你的头脑真活跃,即使谈论严肃的问题也严肃不起来。你给我们描绘了一幅有趣的图画,就人之常情而言,这幅画不能说是不真实。我们每个人有时候都会感到难于像我们希望的那样集中思想,但你若是认为这种现象经常发生,也就是说,由于疏忽的缘故,这种弱点变成了习惯,那么这些人独自做祈祷时又会怎么样呢?难道你认为一个放任自流的人,在礼拜堂里可以胡思乱想,到了私人祈祷室里就会集中思想吗?”

“是的,很有可能。至少有两个有利条件。一是来自外面的分散注意力的事情比较少,二是不会把祈祷的时间拖得那么长。”

“依我看,一个人在一种环境下不能约束自己,在另一种环境下也会分散注意力。由于环境的感染,别人虔诚祷告的感染,你往往会产生比一开始更虔诚的情感。不过我承认,做礼拜的时间拖得越长,人的注意力有时越难以集中。人们都希望不要这样——不过我离开牛津还不算久,还记得礼拜堂做祷告的情形。”

就在这当儿,其余的人分散到了礼拜堂各处,朱莉娅便让克劳福德先生注意她姐姐,对他说:“快看拉什沃思先生和玛丽亚,两人肩并肩地站在那里,好像就要举行结婚典礼似的。难道不是不折不扣地像是要举行结婚典礼的样子吗?”

克劳福德先生笑了笑表示默认,一边走到玛丽亚跟前,说了一声:“我不愿意看见伯特伦小姐离圣坛这么近。”①(译注:①这是一句双关语。按西方风俗,婚礼是在教堂圣坛前举行。)说话声只有她一个人可以听到。

这位小姐吓了一跳,本能地挪开了一两步,不过很快又镇静下来,强作笑颜地问:要是他愿意把她交给新郎呢?②(译注:②按西方风俗,在婚礼上,新娘由其亲人将其手放在新郎手里,意思是把新娘交给新郎照管。)说话声比克劳福德先生大不了多少。

“让我来交,我恐怕会搞得很尴尬的,”克劳福德先生答道,脸上露出意味深长的神情。

这时朱莉娅来到他们跟前,把这个玩笑继续开下去。

“说实话,不能马上举行婚礼实在遗憾。要是有一张正式的结婚证就好了,因为我们大家都在这儿,真是再恰当、再有趣不过了。”朱莉娅毫无顾忌地又说又笑,拉什沃思先生和他母亲也听出了她话里的意思,拉什沃思先生便悄声对她姐姐讲起了温情细语,拉什沃思太太面带恰到好处的微笑和得体的尊严说:不管什么时候举行,她都觉得这是一件极其快乐的事情。

“要是埃德蒙当上牧师就好了!”朱莉娅大声说道,一边朝埃德蒙、克劳福德小姐和范妮站的地方跑去。“亲爱的埃德蒙,假如你现在就是牧师,你可以马上主持婚礼了。真遗憾,你还没有接受圣职,拉什沃思先生和玛丽亚已经万事俱备了。”

朱莉娅说话的时候,在一个不偏不倚的旁观者看来,克劳福德小姐的神色还满有意思的。她听到这从未想到过的事情后,差不多给吓呆了。范妮对她怜悯起来,心想:“她听到朱莉娅刚才说的话,心里该有多难受啊!”

“接受圣职!”克劳福德小姐说。“怎么,你要当牧师?”

“是的,等我父亲回来,我很快就会担任圣职——可能在圣诞节。”

克劳福德小姐镇定了一番,恢复了平常的神态,只回答了一句:“我要是早点知道这件事,刚才讲到牧师的时候会更尊敬一些。”随即便转入别的话题。

过了不久,大家都出来了,礼拜堂又恢复了它那长年很少受人干扰的一片寂静。伯特伦小姐生她妹妹的气,最先走开了,其余的人似乎觉得在那里待得够久了。

大宅的第一层全让客人看过了,拉什沃思太太做起这件事来从来不会厌倦,要不是她儿子怕时间来不及,中途阻止了,她还要奔向主楼梯,领客人参观楼上的所有房间。拉什沃思先生提议说:“我们看房子用的时间太长了,就没有时间去户外参观了。现在已经两点多了,五点钟要吃饭。”这是明摆着的事,凡是头脑比较清醒的人,免不了都会提出来。

拉什沃思太太接受了儿子的意见。关于参观庭园的问题,包括怎样去,哪些人去,可能引起更激烈的争论。诺里斯太太已开始筹划用什么马套什么车最好。这时候,年轻人已来到通向户外的门口,门外下了台阶便是草地和灌木林,以及富有种种乐趣的游乐场,而且门开着在引诱他们,大家好像心里一冲动,都想换换空气,自由活动一番,便一起走了出去。

“我们就从这里下去吧,”拉什沃思太太说道,颇为客气地顺从了众人的意思,跟着走了出去。“我们的大多数花木都在这里,这里有珍奇的野鸡。”

“请问,”克劳福德先生环顾左右说,“我们是否可以看看这里有没有什么地方需要改造,然后再往前走?我看这些墙上便可大做文章。拉什沃思先生,我们就在这块草地上开个会怎么样?”

“詹姆斯,”拉什沃思太太对儿子说,“我想那片荒地会让大家觉得很新鲜。两位伯特伦小姐还没看过那片荒地呢。”

没有人提出异议,可是有好一阵子,大家似乎既不想按什么计划行动,也不想往什么地方去。一个个从一开始就被花木或野鸡吸引住了,喜气洋洋而又独立自主地四处走散了。克劳福德先生第一个向前走去,想看看房子这头可以有什么作为。草地的四周有高墙围着,第一块花木区过去是草地滚木球场,过了滚木球场是一条长长的阶径,再过去是铁栅栏,越过栅栏可以看到毗邻的荒地上的树梢。这是个给庭园找缺陷的好地方。克劳福德先生刚到不久,伯特伦小姐和拉什沃思先生便跟上来了,随后其他人也分别结合在一起。这当儿,埃德蒙、克劳福德小姐和范妮走在一起似乎是很自然的事,他们来到阶径的时候,只见那三个人在那里热烈地讨论着,听他们表示了一番惋惜、列举了种种困难之后,便离开他们,继续往前走。其余三个人,拉什沃思太太、诺里斯太太和朱莉娅,还远远地落在后面。朱莉娅不再吉星高照了,不得不寸步不离地走在拉什沃思太太身边,极力抑制住自己急不可待的脚步,来适应这位太太慢吞吞的步伐。而她姨妈又碰到女管家出来喂野鸡,也慢吞吞地走在后面跟她聊天。可怜的朱莉娅,九个人中只有她一个人不大满意自己的境遇,眼下完全处于一种赎罪状态,与先前坐在驾驶座上的朱莉娅简直判若两人。她从小受到对人要讲礼貌的教育,因此她又不能逃走。而她又缺乏更高的涵养,缺乏公正地为别人着想的胸怀,缺乏对自己心灵的自知之明,缺乏明辨是非的原则,这在她过去所受的教育中没有占过重要的位置,因而让她陪着拉什沃思太太,心里又觉得委屈。

“热得让人受不了,”当众人在阶径上踱了一个来回,第二次走近通向荒地的中门时,克劳福德小姐说。“我们中间不会有人反对舒适一下吧?这片小树林真不错,我们要是能进去就好了。要是门没上锁该有多快活呀!不过,门当然是锁上了,因为在这样的大庄园里,只有园丁可以随意四处走动。”

然而,其实那门并没有锁,大家一齐兴高采烈地出了门,避开了那炽热的阳光,下了一段长长的台阶,来到了荒地上。达是一片两英亩左右的人工培植的树林,虽然种的主要是落叶松和月桂树,山毛榉已被砍倒,虽然布局过于齐整,但与滚木球场及阶径相比,这里一片阴凉,呈现一种自然美。大家都感到一阵爽快,便一边漫步,一边欣赏。过了一会,克劳福德小姐开口问道:“这么说你要当牧师了,伯特伦先生。这让我感到意外。”

“怎么会让你感到意外呢?你应该想到我总该有个职业,而且可能已经看出我既不是律师,也不是军人,又不是水手。”

“一点不错。不过,总而言之,我没想到你要当牧师。你要知道,做叔伯的或做爷爷的往往会给第二个儿子留下一笔财产。”

“这种做法很值得赞赏,”埃德蒙说,“但却不是很普遍。我就是一个例外,正因为我是个例外,我就得为自己做点事儿。”

“可你为什么要当牧师呢?我原以为那只是小儿子所走的路子,前面有好多哥哥把路子都挑完了。”

“那你认为从来没有人选择教会这条路啦?”

“说从来没有未免有些绝对。不过也可以这么说吧,人们常说的从来没有往往是不常有的意思,就此而言,我的确认为从来没有人选择过。到教会里能干出什么名堂呢?男人都喜欢出人头地,干其他任何哪一行都可能出人头地,但在教会里就做不到。牧师是无足轻重的。”

“我想,人们常说的无足轻重也和从来没有一样有程度上的区别。牧师不可能威风凛凛,衣着华丽。他不能做群众的领袖,也不能带头穿时装。但是,我不能把这种职位称做无足轻重,因为这种职位所担负的责任,对人类来说,不管是从个人来考虑还是从整体来考虑,不管是从眼前来看还是从长远来看,都有极其重要的意义——这一职位负责维护宗教和道德,并因此也维护受宗教和道德影响而产生的言行规范。谁也不会把这一职务说成无足轻重。如果一个担任这一职务的人真的无足轻重,那是由于他玩忽职守,忽略了这一职务的重要意义,背弃自己的身份,不像一个真正的牧师。”

“你可把牧师的作用看得过重了,谁也没听说过牧师这么重要,我也不大能理解。人们在社会上不大看到这种影响和重要性,既然牧师都难得见到,又怎么会产生影响和重要性呢?一个牧师一星期布道两次,即使他讲的值得一听,即使他头脑清醒,觉得自己比得上布莱尔的布道①,(译注:①布莱尔(Hugh Blair,1718-1800),苏格兰修辞学教授,以善于布道而闻名于世,著有五卷布道集。)那他的两次布道就能像你说的那样起作用?能在本周其余的几天里管得住广大教徒的行为,使他们的言谈举止合乎规范吗?牧师只是在布道坛上布道,人们很少在别的地方看见他。”

“你说的是伦敦,我说的是全国的整个情况。”

“我想,京城理应是全国各地的样板。”

“我想,就善与恶的比例而言,京城并不能代表全国。我们并不到大城市里去寻找最高的道德风尚。不管是哪个教派中德高望重的人士,他们的大德大善都不是在大城市里行施的;牧师们的影响也不是在大城市里最能察觉得到。优秀的牧师受到人们的拥护和爱戴。但是,一个好的牧师所以能在他的教区和邻近一带起到有益的作用,并不仅仅因为他讲道讲得好,还因为他的教区和邻近一带范围有限,人们能了解他的个人品德,看得到他的日常行为,而在伦敦就很少有这种情况。在伦敦,牧师给淹没在不计其数的教民之中。大多数人只知道他们是牧师而已。至于说牧师可以影响公众的言谈举止,克劳福德小姐不要误解我的意思,不要以为我把他们称做良好教养的裁决人,谦恭文雅的规定者,精通生活礼仪的大师。我所说的言谈举止,更确切地说,也许可以叫做行为,是正当原则的产物,简而言之,是他们的职责应该传授宣扬的那些信条产生的效杲。我相信,你走到哪里都会发现牧师有恪尽职守或不恪尽职守的,全国其他地方的情况也都一样。”

“当然是这样的,”范妮温文而郑重地说。

“瞧,”克劳福德小姐嚷道,“你已经把普莱斯小姐说得心服口服了。”

“但愿我也能把克劳福德小姐说服了。”

“我看你永远也说服不了我,”克劳福德小姐面带调皮的笑容说。“我还和刚听说时一样,对你想当牧师感到意外。你还真适合干个好一点的差事。得啦,改变主意吧。现在还不算太晚。去搞法律吧。”

“去搞法律!你说得好轻巧啊,就像是劝我来到这片荒地上一样。”

“你是想说法律比这荒地还要荒芜,不过我替你先说出来了。记住,我替你先说出来了。”

“你只不过是怕我说出俏皮话,那就不必着急,因为我丝毫没有说俏皮话的天赋。我是个一是一二是二、实话实说的人,想做个巧妙的回答,但却搜肠刮肚半个小时也搜刮不出来。”

接着是一片沉默。人人都在思索。范妮首先打破了沉默,说道:“真奇怪,只是在这清爽宜人的树林里走走,居然会感觉累。再碰到座位的时候,你们要是不反对的话,我倒想坐一会儿。”

“亲爱的范妮,”埃德蒙立即挽住她的胳臂,说道,“我多不会体谅人哪!希望你不是很累。也许,”说着转向克劳福德小姐,“我的另一个伙伴会给我点面子,让我挽着她。”

“谢谢,不过我一点也不累。”克劳福德小姐嘴里这么说,手却挽住了他的胳膊。埃德蒙见她照他的意思做了,并第一次感受到与她这样接触,心里一高兴,便有点忘记了范妮。“你没怎么抓住我呀,”他说。“你根本没让我派上用场。女人胳膊的分量和男人的是多么不同啊!我在牛津上学的时候,经常让一个小伙子靠在身上行走,一走就是一条街那么远。比较起来,你就像只飞蝇那么轻。”

“我真的不累,我也觉得有点奇怪。我们在这个林子里至少走了一英里。难道你不认为有这么远吗?”

“半英里都不到。”埃德蒙果决地答道。他还没有爱得晕头转向,衡量起距离或时间来,倒不会像女人那样漫无边际。

“噢!你没考虑我们转了多少弯儿。我们走的这条路弯弯曲曲的,这片林子从这边到那边的直线距离肯定有半英里,我们离开第一条大路到现在,还望不见树林的尽头。”

“可是你该记得,我们离开那第一条大路之前,就能一眼看到林子的尽头。我们顺着那狭长的空地望过去,看到了林子尽头的铁门,至多也不过一浪①地远。”(译注:①浪( furlong),长度单位,等于八分之一英里,或201. 17米。)

“噢!我不懂你说的一浪有多远,不过我敢肯定这片树林非常长,而且我们走进林子以后一直转来转去,因此我说我们已经走了一英里,肯定没有言过其实。”

“我们来这里刚好一刻钟,”埃德蒙取出表来,说道。“你认为我们一小时能走四英里吗?”

“噢!不要拿你的表来压我。表往往不是快就是慢。我可不能让表来支配我。”

大家又往前走了几步,出了树林来到他们刚才说的小道的尽头。路边的林荫下有一条宽大的长凳,从那里可以越过隐篱②(译注:②隐篱 ha-ha,系造在沟界中不阻挡视线的篱、墙等建筑,也称暗墙。)观看庄园。于是,他们便都坐了下来。

“恐怕你很累了吧,范妮,”埃德蒙一边打量她一边说。“你为什么不早点说呢?要是把你累坏了,那你今天的游玩就没有意义了。克劳福德小姐,她除了骑马以外,不论做什么活动,很快就会疲劳的。”

“那你上星期让我把她的马整整占用了一个星期,这有多么可恶呀!我替你害臊也为自己害臊,不过以后再也不会出这种事儿了。”

“你对她这么关心体贴,使我越发感到自己照顾不周。由你来关照范妮,看来比我要稳妥些。”

“不过,她现在感到劳累,我觉得不足为奇。我们今天上午搞的这些活动比干什么都累人——参观了一座大宅,从这个房间磨蹭到另一个房间——看得眼困神乏——听一些自己听不懂的事——赞赏一些自己并不喜欢的东西。人们普遍认为,这是世界上最令人厌倦的事情,普莱斯小姐也有同感,只是她过去没有经历过。”

“我很快就缓过劲儿来了,”范妮说。“大晴天里坐在树荫下,观赏这一片葱葱郁郁的草地,真让人心旷神怡。”

坐了一会之后,克劳福德小姐又站了起来。“我必须活动活动,”她说,“我越休息越累。隔着这堵隐篱往那边看,都把我看厌倦了。我要去隔着铁门看那片景色,想能好好地看一看。”

埃德蒙也离开了座位。“克劳福德小姐,你要是顺着这条小路望去,就会觉得这条路不会有半英里长,也不会有半个半英里长。”

“这条路可是长得很哪,”克劳福德小姐说。“我一眼就看出长得很。”

埃德蒙还在与她争论,但是无济于事。她不肯计算,也不肯比较。她光是笑,光是固执己见。这种行径倒比坚持以理服人还要迷人,因此两人谈得非常愉快。最后双方说定,再在林子里走一走,好确定它究竟有多大。他们想沿着正在走的路线(因为在隐篱的一边,顺着树林还有一条直直的绿荫小道),向林子的一头走去,如果需要的话,也许朝别的方向稍微拐一拐,过一阵就回来。范妮说她休息好了,也想活动活动,但是没得到许可。埃德蒙恳切地劝她不要动,这番好意她难以违拗,便一个人坐在凳子上,想到表哥这样关心自己,心里感到乐滋滋的,但又为自己身体不够强健而深感遗憾。她望着他们,直到他们转过弯去。她听着他们边走边谈,直到听不见为止。



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