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Chapter 12

Sir Thomas was to return in November, and his eldest son had duties to call him earlier home. The approach of September brought tidings of Mr. Bertram, first in a letter to the gamekeeper and then in a letter to Edmund; and by the end of August he arrived himself, to be gay, agreeable, and gallant again as occasion served, or Miss Crawford demanded; to tell of races and Weymouth, and parties and friends, to which she might have listened six weeks before with some interest, and altogether to give her the fullest conviction, by the power of actual comparison, of her preferring his younger brother.

It was very vexatious, and she was heartily sorry for it; but so it was; and so far from now meaning to marry the elder, she did not even want to attract him beyond what the simplest claims of conscious beauty required: his lengthened absence from Mansfield, without anything but pleasure in view, and his own will to consult, made it perfectly clear that he did not care about her; and his indifference was so much more than equalled by her own, that were he now to step forth the owner of Mansfield Park, the Sir Thomas complete, which he was to be in time, she did not believe she could accept him.

The season and duties which brought Mr. Bertram back to Mansfield took Mr. Crawford into Norfolk. Everingham could not do without him in the beginning of September. He went for a fortnight--a fortnight of such dullness to the Miss Bertrams as ought to have put them both on their guard, and made even Julia admit, in her jealousy of her sister, the absolute necessity of distrusting his attentions, and wishing him not to return; and a fortnight of sufficient leisure, in the intervals of shooting and sleeping, to have convinced the gentleman that he ought to keep longer away, had he been more in the habit of examining his own motives, and of reflecting to what the indulgence of his idle vanity was tending; but, thoughtless and selfish from prosperity and bad example, he would not look beyond the present moment. The sisters, handsome, clever, and encouraging, were an amusement to his sated mind; and finding nothing in Norfolk to equal the social pleasures of Mansfield, he gladly returned to it at the time appointed, and was welcomed thither quite as gladly by those whom he came to trifle with further.

Maria, with only Mr. Rushworth to attend to her, and doomed to the repeated details of his day's sport, good or bad, his boast of his dogs, his jealousy of his neighbours, his doubts of their qualifications, and his zeal after poachers, subjects which will not find their way to female feelings without some talent on one side or some attachment on the other, had missed Mr. Crawford grievously; and Julia, unengaged and unemployed, felt all the right of missing him much more. Each sister believed herself the favourite. Julia might be justified in so doing by the hints of Mrs. Grant, inclined to credit what she wished, and Maria by the hints of Mr. Crawford himself. Everything returned into the same channel as before his absence; his manners being to each so animated and agreeable as to lose no ground with either, and just stopping short of the consistence, the steadiness, the solicitude, and the warmth which might excite general notice.

Fanny was the only one of the party who found anything to dislike; but since the day at Sotherton, she could never see Mr. Crawford with either sister without observation, and seldom without wonder or censure; and had her confidence in her own judgment been equal to her exercise of it in every other respect, had she been sure that she was seeing clearly, and judging candidly, she would probably have made some important communications to her usual confidant. As it was, however, she only hazarded a hint, and the hint was lost. "I am rather surprised," said she, "that Mr. Crawford should come back again so soon, after being here so long before, full seven weeks; for I had understood he was so very fond of change and moving about, that I thought something would certainly occur, when he was once gone, to take him elsewhere. He is used to much gayer places than Mansfield."

"It is to his credit," was Edmund's answer; "and I dare say it gives his sister pleasure. She does not like his unsettled habits."

"What a favourite he is with my cousins!"

"Yes, his manners to women are such as must please. Mrs. Grant, I believe, suspects him of a preference for Julia; I have never seen much symptom of it, but I wish it may be so. He has no faults but what a serious attachment would remove."

"If Miss Bertram were not engaged," said Fanny cautiously, "I could sometimes almost think that he admired her more than Julia."

"Which is, perhaps, more in favour of his liking Julia best, than you, Fanny, may be aware; for I believe it often happens that a man, before he has quite made up his own mind, will distinguish the sister or intimate friend of the woman he is really thinking of more than the woman herself Crawford has too much sense to stay here if he found himself in any danger from Maria; and I am not at all afraid for her, after such a proof as she has given that her feelings are not strong."

Fanny supposed she must have been mistaken, and meant to think differently in future; but with all that submission to Edmund could do, and all the help of the coinciding looks and hints which she occasionally noticed in some of the others, and which seemed to say that Julia was Mr. Crawford's choice, she knew not always what to think. She was privy, one evening, to the hopes of her aunt Norris on the subject, as well as to her feelings, and the feelings of Mrs. Rushworth, on a point of some similarity, and could not help wondering as she listened; and glad would she have been not to be obliged to listen, for it was while all the other young people were dancing, and she sitting, most unwillingly, among the chaperons at the fire, longing for the re-entrance of her elder cousin, on whom all her own hopes of a partner then depended. It was Fanny's first ball, though without the preparation or splendour of many a young lady's first ball, being the thought only of the afternoon, built on the late acquisition of a violin player in the servants' hall, and the possibility of raising five couple with the help of Mrs. Grant and a new intimate friend of Mr. Bertram's just arrived on a visit. It had, however, been a very happy one to Fanny through four dances, and she was quite grieved to be losing even a quarter of an hour. While waiting and wishing, looking now at the dancers and now at the door, this dialogue between the two above-mentioned ladies was forced on her--

"I think, ma'am," said Mrs. Norris, her eyes directed towards Mr. Rushworth and Maria, who were partners for the second time, "we shall see some happy faces again now."

"Yes, ma'am, indeed," replied the other, with a stately simper, "there will be some satisfaction in looking on _now_, and I think it was rather a pity they should have been obliged to part. Young folks in their situation should be excused complying with the common forms. I wonder my son did not propose it."

"I dare say he did, ma'am. Mr. Rushworth is never remiss. But dear Maria has such a strict sense of propriety, so much of that true delicacy which one seldom meets with nowadays, Mrs. Rushworth--that wish of avoiding particularity! Dear ma'am, only look at her face at this moment; how different from what it was the two last dances!"

Miss Bertram did indeed look happy, her eyes were sparkling with pleasure, and she was speaking with great animation, for Julia and her partner, Mr. Crawford, were close to her; they were all in a cluster together. How she had looked before, Fanny could not recollect, for she had been dancing with Edmund herself, and had not thought about her.

Mrs. Norris continued, "It is quite delightful, ma'am, to see young people so properly happy, so well suited, and so much the thing! I cannot but think of dear Sir Thomas's delight. And what do you say, ma'am, to the chance of another match? Mr. Rushworth has set a good example, and such things are very catching."

Mrs. Rushworth, who saw nothing but her son, was quite at a loss.

"The couple above, ma'am. Do you see no symptoms there?"

"Oh dear! Miss Julia and Mr. Crawford. Yes, indeed, a very pretty match. What is his property?"

"Four thousand a year."

"Very well. Those who have not more must be satisfied with what they have. Four thousand a year is a pretty estate, and he seems a very genteel, steady young man, so I hope Miss Julia will be very happy."

"It is not a settled thing, ma'am, yet. We only speak of it among friends. But I have very little doubt it _will_ be. He is growing extremely particular in his attentions."

Fanny could listen no farther. Listening and wondering were all suspended for a time, for Mr. Bertram was in the room again; and though feeling it would be a great honour to be asked by him, she thought it must happen. He came towards their little circle; but instead of asking her to dance, drew a chair near her, and gave her an account of the present state of a sick horse, and the opinion of the groom, from whom he had just parted. Fanny found that it was not to be, and in the modesty of her nature immediately felt that she had been unreasonable in expecting it. When he had told of his horse, he took a newspaper from the table, and looking over it, said in a languid way, "If you want to dance, Fanny, I will stand up with you." With more than equal civility the offer was declined; she did not wish to dance. "I am glad of it," said he, in a much brisker tone, and throwing down the newspaper again, "for I am tired to death. I only wonder how the good people can keep it up so long. They had need be _all_ in love, to find any amusement in such folly; and so they are, I fancy. If you look at them you may see they are so many couple of lovers--all but Yates and Mrs. Grant--and, between ourselves, she, poor woman, must want a lover as much as any one of them. A desperate dull life hers must be with the doctor," making a sly face as he spoke towards the chair of the latter, who proving, however, to be close at his elbow, made so instantaneous a change of expression and subject necessary, as Fanny, in spite of everything, could hardly help laughing at. "A strange business this in America, Dr. Grant! What is your opinion? I always come to you to know what I am to think of public matters."

"My dear Tom," cried his aunt soon afterwards, "as you are not dancing, I dare say you will have no objection to join us in a rubber; shall you?" Then leaving her seat, and coming to him to enforce the proposal, added in a whisper, "We want to make a table for Mrs. Rushworth, you know. Your mother is quite anxious about it, but cannot very well spare time to sit down herself, because of her fringe. Now, you and I and Dr. Grant will just do; and though _we_ play but half-crowns, you know, you may bet half-guineas with _him_."

"I should be most happy," replied he aloud, and jumping up with alacrity, "it would give me the greatest pleasure; but that I am this moment going to dance." Come, Fanny, taking her hand, "do not be dawdling any longer, or the dance will be over."

Fanny was led off very willingly, though it was impossible for her to feel much gratitude towards her cousin, or distinguish, as he certainly did, between the selfishness of another person and his own.

"A pretty modest request upon my word," he indignantly exclaimed as they walked away. "To want to nail me to a card-table for the next two hours with herself and Dr. Grant, who are always quarrelling, and that poking old woman, who knows no more of whist than of algebra. I wish my good aunt would be a little less busy! And to ask me in such a way too! without ceremony, before them all, so as to leave me no possibility of refusing. _That_ is what I dislike most particularly. It raises my spleen more than anything, to have the pretence of being asked, of being given a choice, and at the same time addressed in such a way as to oblige one to do the very thing, whatever it be! If I had not luckily thought of standing up with you I could not have got out of it. It is a great deal too bad. But when my aunt has got a fancy in her head, nothing can stop her."

托马斯爵士将于11月回家,他的大儿子有事需要提前赶回。快到9月时,伯特伦先生发来了消息,先是猎场看守人收到他的来信,接着埃德蒙也收到一封。到8月底,他人就回来了。每逢合适场合,或克劳福德小姐要求的时候,他还会兴冲冲地讨好献殷勤,谈赛马和韦茅斯,谈他参加过的舞会和结交的朋友。要是在六个星期以前,克劳福德小姐也许还会感到几分兴趣,现在经过实际比较,她毫不含糊地意识到她更喜欢他弟弟。

这是很苦恼的事,她为此深感愧疚,不过事已如此。她现在已不想嫁给老大了,甚至不想取悦于他,只不过觉得自己姿色美丽,稍微向他施展几分就行了。他离开曼斯菲尔德这么久,只知道寻欢作乐,遇事从不和她商量,这一清二楚地表明,他根本没有把她放在心上。她的态度比他的还要冷漠,她相信,即使他这就当上他迟早要当的曼斯菲尔德庄园的主人,成为不折不扣的托马斯爵士,她也不愿嫁给他。

伯特伦先生为了赶上这个时令的活动回到了曼斯菲尔德,而克劳福德先生为了赶这个时令的活动去了诺福克。到了9月初,埃弗灵厄姆是缺不了克劳福德先生的。他一去就是两个星期。对于两位伯特伦小姐来说,这两个星期真是百无聊赖,她们俩本该因此而有所警觉,朱莉娅虽说在跟姐姐争风吃醋,却意识到他的甜言蜜语完全不可轻信,并且希望他不要回来。在这两个星期中,除了打猎、睡觉之外,克劳福德先生还有充足的闲暇,如果善于反省自己的动机,考虑一下他一味无聊地图慕虚荣究竟为的哪一桩,他就会翻然醒悟过来,意识到不该急着回去。但是,由于受优裕生活和坏榜样的影响,他变得又愚钝又自私,只顾眼前利益,没有长远打算。那姊妹俩聪明美丽,对他情意绵绵,给他那颗厌腻的心带来一点欢愉。他觉得在诺福克一点也没有在曼斯菲尔德和姑娘们厮混快活,因此便在说定的时间满心欢喜地回来了,而他再来与之厮混的对象们也同样满心欢喜地迎候他的到来。

克劳福德先生没回来之前,玛丽亚身边只有拉什沃思先生一人围着她转,耳边听到的尽是他翻来覆去地絮叨他白天打猎的事情,什么尽兴还是扫兴啦,他的猎犬有多棒啦,妒忌他的邻居啦,怀疑他们的资格啦,追踪偷猎者啦——谈这样的话题,除非说话人巧于辞令,听话人有几分情意,否则是拨不动小姐心弦的。因此,玛丽亚非常想念克劳福德先生。而朱莉娅既没订婚又无事可干,觉得更有权利想念他。姐妹俩都认为自己才是他的意中人。朱莉娅的想法可以从格兰特太太的话音里找到依据,该太太对此事的看法正合小姐的心意。玛丽亚的依据则是克劳福德先生自己露出的口风。一切又都回到了他离开以前的轨道上,他对她们两人都兴致勃勃、和颜悦色,没有失去任何一个的欢心,不过倒能把握分寸,既没有锲而不舍、频繁来往,也没有关怀备至、难舍难分,免得引起大家注意。

在这些人中,只有范妮觉得有点看不惯。自从去索瑟顿那天以来,她每逢见到克劳福德先生和两姐妹中的哪一个在一起,都会不由自主地留心观察,常常感到迷惑不解,或是觉得不对头。如果她对自己的判断像在别的问题上那样充满自信,如果她能断定自己看得清楚,判断公正,也许她早就郑重其事地告诉了她通常无话不谈的那个人。可事实上,她只鼓起勇气暗示了一下,而对方又没领会她的暗示。“我感到很奇怪,”她说,“克劳福德先生在这儿住了这么久,足足有七个礼拜,怎么这么快又回来了。我早就听说他很喜欢变换环境,喜欢四处游逛,于是便以为他一离开这儿,肯定会有什么事儿把他吸引到别处去。他习惯于比曼斯菲尔德热闹得多的地方。”

“他能按时回来还是好的,”埃德蒙答道。“我敢说这会使他妹妹感到高兴。他妹妹不喜欢他东游西荡的习性。”

“我的两个表姐多么喜欢他呀!”

“不错,他对女士们礼貌周到,肯定会讨人欢喜。我认为,格兰特太太料想他看中了朱莉娅。我还没有看到多少迹象,不过我但愿如此。他只要真心爱上一个人,他的那些毛病是会改掉的。”

“假如伯特伦小姐还没订婚的话,”范妮小心谨慎地说,“我有时几乎觉得他爱慕她胜过爱慕朱莉娅。”

“这也许更能说明他更喜欢朱莉娅,只是你范妮没意识到罢了。我想往往有这样的情况:男人在打定主意爱一个女人之前,对她的姐妹或密友,比对她本人还要好。克劳福德是个明智人,如果他觉得自己有爱上玛丽亚的危险,他就不会待在这儿。从玛丽亚迄今的表现来看,我也不用为她担心,她的感情并不很热烈。”

范妮心想一定是自己搞错了,决定以后改变看法。但是,尽管她力求接受埃德蒙的看法,尽管她时而从别人的神情和话音里察觉,他们也认为克劳福德先生中意的是朱莉娅,她却始终不知道怎样看才对。一天晚上,她听到了诺里斯姨妈在这个问题上私下表示的心愿和想法,也听到了拉什沃思太太私下对类似问题表示的想法。她一边听,一边不由得感到惊奇。她并不希望坐在那里听她们讲话,可这时候其他年轻人都在跳舞,而她却极不情愿地陪几位年长的太太坐在炉边,巴望大表哥再进来,大表哥是她唯一能指望的舞伴。这是范妮的第一次舞会,可并不像许多小姐的第一次舞会那样准备充分,富丽堂皇。舞会是当天下午才想起要举行的,支撑场面的是仆从室新来的一位提琴手,以及包括格兰特太太和刚到来的伯特伦先生新结交的密友在内的五对舞伴。然而,这场舞会还是让范妮感到很高兴,她一连跳了四场舞,甚至轮空一刻钟都感到很遗憾。就在等候企盼,时而瞧瞧跳舞者,时而瞅瞅门口的当儿,她无意间听到了上述两位太太的对话。

“我想,太太,”诺里斯太太说——目光注视着拉什沃思先生和玛丽亚,他们在第二次结伴跳舞——“现在我们又可以看到幸福的笑脸了。”

“是的,太太,一点不错,”拉什沃思太太答道,一边持重地假笑一下。“现在坐在一边看才让人高兴呢,刚才眼见他们被拆开了,我心里真不是滋味。处在他们这种境况的年轻人,没有必要死守那些老规矩。我不明白我儿子为什么不邀请她。”

“我敢说他邀请了。拉什沃思先生是决不会怠慢人的。不过,拉什沃思太太,亲爱的玛丽亚严守规矩,如今很少有人像她那样端庄稳重,不想让人觉得自己对舞伴挑挑拣拣啊!亲爱的太太,你只要看看比时此刻她那张面孔——与刚才和别人跳那两场舞时是多么不同啊!”

伯特伦小姐的确是满面春风,两眼喜形于色,说起话来兴致勃勃,因为朱莉娅和她的舞伴克劳福德先生离她很近,大家都挤在一块。朱莉娅先前脸上是个什么表情,范妮也没有印象,因为她当时在和埃德蒙跳舞,对她不曾留意。

诺里斯太太接着说道:“太太,看到年轻人这么快活,这么般配,这么时髦,真令人高兴啊!我不由得想起托马斯爵士的快活心情。你觉得会不会再来一对,太太?拉什沃思先生已经做出了好榜样,这种事情是很有传染力的。”

拉什沃思太太心里只有她儿子,因此压根儿不明白对方在问什么。“上面那一对,太太。你没看出他们之间的迹象吗?”

“啊呀!朱莉娅小姐和克劳福德先生。不错,的确是非常般配的一对。克劳福德先生有多少财产?”

“一年四千英镑。”

“还不错。没有更多财产的人,只能有多少满足于多少。一年四千英镑是一笔数目可观的财产,加上他看上去又是个很有教养、很稳重的青年,我想朱莉娅小姐会非常幸福。”

“太太,这件事儿还没定下来。我们只是朋友间私下说说而已。不过,我毫不怀疑这件事儿会定下来的。他献殷勤真是无法再专一了。”

范妮无法再听下去了。不仅听不下去,还中断了思索,因为伯特伦先生又来到了屋里。虽然她觉得他能请她跳舞将是莫大的面子,她心想他一定会请她。他朝他们一小伙人走来,但却没有请她跳舞,而是拉了把椅子坐到她跟前,向她述说了一匹病马目前的病情,以及他刚从马夫那里来时听到的马夫的看法。范妮意识到他不会邀请自己跳舞了,但她生性谦恭,立即觉得自己不该那样指望。伯特伦先生讲完马的事情之后,从桌上拿起一张报纸,从报纸上方望着她,慢吞吞地说:“范妮,你要是想跳舞的话,我陪你跳。”范妮谢绝了他,话说得比他还要客气。她不想跳舞。“我为此感到高兴,”伯特伦先生以比刚才活跃得多的口气说,随即把报纸又撂到桌上。“我都快累死了。我真不明白,这些人怎么能跳这么久。他们一定是全都坠入了情网,不然不会对这种蠢事感兴趣。我想他们就是坠人了情网。你要是仔细瞧一瞧,就会发觉他们是一对一对的情人——除耶茨和格兰特太太以外都是。咱俩私下里说说,格兰特太太好可怜啊!她一定像其他人一样需要有个情人。她跟博士在一起,生活一定非常乏味。”伯特伦先生一边说,一边朝格兰特博士的座椅使了个鬼脸,不料博士就坐在他旁边,他不得不立即改变了口气,换了个话题,范妮尽管有好多不如意的事,还是禁不住要笑出来。“美洲的事情真怪,格兰特博士!你认为怎么样?我总是向你请教如何看待国家大事。”

“亲爱的汤姆,”不久他姨妈叫道,“你既然现在不跳舞,我想和我们一起打一局牌没问题吧?”随即离开了座位,走到伯特伦先生跟前进一步鼓动,对他悄悄说道:“你要知道,我们想给拉什沃思太太凑够一桌。你母亲倒是很想打,可她在织围巾,没有工夫参加。现在有了你、我和格兰特博士,刚好凑齐一桌。尽管我们只玩半克朗①,(译注:①半克朗:英币,值二先令六便士。)你和格兰特博士可以赌半几尼。”

“我非常乐意,”伯特伦先生大声答道,一边霍地跳了起来,“我感到万分高兴——不过现在我要去跳舞。来,范妮,”说着抓住了她的手——“别再闲坐着,舞会就要结束了。”

范妮心甘情愿地给领走了,但她对大表哥并没有多少感激之情,也弄不清楚究竟是大表哥自私还是大姨妈自私,而大表哥对此却是十分清楚的。

“真给我分派了一个好差事呀!”那表兄妹俩定开时,伯特伦先生愤然说道。“想把我捆在牌桌上陪伴她、格兰特博士和那爱管闲事的老太婆,她和格兰特博士一直争吵不休,而那老太婆根本不会打惠斯特。我希望我姨妈稍微安静一点!居然这样要求我!当着众人的面,一点都不客气,让我根本无法拒绝!我最痛恨的就是这一套。表面上装做在求你,给你个选择余地,实际上是非叫你照她的意思去办不可——不管是做什么事吧,这让我比什么都气愤!要不是我幸好想起和你跳舞,我就逃脱不掉了。这太糟糕了。不过,我姨妈一旦起了什么念头,她不达目的是决不肯罢休的。”



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