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Chapter 14

Fanny seemed nearer being right than Edmund had supposed. The business of finding a play that would suit everybody proved to be no trifle; and the carpenter had received his orders and taken his measurements, had suggested and removed at least two sets of difficulties, and having made the necessity of an enlargement of plan and expense fully evident, was already at work, while a play was still to seek. Other preparations were also in hand. An enormous roll of green baize had arrived from Northampton, and been cut out by Mrs. Norris (with a saving by her good management of full three-quarters of a yard), and was actually forming into a curtain by the housemaids, and still the play was wanting; and as two or three days passed away in this manner, Edmund began almost to hope that none might ever be found.

There were, in fact, so many things to be attended to, so many people to be pleased, so many best characters required, and, above all, such a need that the play should be at once both tragedy and comedy, that there did seem as little chance of a decision as anything pursued by youth and zeal could hold out.

On the tragic side were the Miss Bertrams, Henry Crawford, and Mr. Yates; on the comic, Tom Bertram, not _quite_ alone, because it was evident that Mary Crawford's wishes, though politely kept back, inclined the same way: but his determinateness and his power seemed to make allies unnecessary; and, independent of this great irreconcilable difference, they wanted a piece containing very few characters in the whole, but every character first-rate, and three principal women. All the best plays were run over in vain. Neither Hamlet, nor Macbeth, nor Othello, nor Douglas, nor The Gamester, presented anything that could satisfy even the tragedians; and The Rivals, The School for Scandal, Wheel of Fortune, Heir at Law, and a long et cetera, were successively dismissed with yet warmer objections. No piece could be proposed that did not supply somebody with a difficulty, and on one side or the other it was a continual repetition of, "Oh no, _that_ will never do! Let us have no ranting tragedies. Too many characters. Not a tolerable woman's part in the play. Anything but _that_, my dear Tom. It would be impossible to fill it up. One could not expect anybody to take such a part. Nothing but buffoonery from beginning to end. _That_ might do, perhaps, but for the low parts. If I _must_ give my opinion, I have always thought it the most insipid play in the English language. _I_ do not wish to make objections; I shall be happy to be of any use, but I think we could not chuse worse."

Fanny looked on and listened, not unamused to observe the selfishness which, more or less disguised, seemed to govern them all, and wondering how it would end. For her own gratification she could have wished that something might be acted, for she had never seen even half a play, but everything of higher consequence was against it.

"This will never do," said Tom Bertram at last. "We are wasting time most abominably. Something must be fixed on. No matter what, so that something is chosen. We must not be so nice. A few characters too many must not frighten us. We must _double_ them. We must descend a little. If a part is insignificant, the greater our credit in making anything of it. From this moment I make no difficulties. I take any part you chuse to give me, so as it be comic. Let it but be comic, I condition for nothing more."

For about the fifth time he then proposed the Heir at Law, doubting only whether to prefer Lord Duberley or Dr. Pangloss for himself; and very earnestly, but very unsuccessfully, trying to persuade the others that there were some fine tragic parts in the rest of the dramatis personae.

The pause which followed this fruitless effort was ended by the same speaker, who, taking up one of the many volumes of plays that lay on the table, and turning it over, suddenly exclaimed--"Lovers' Vows! And why should not Lovers' Vows do for _us_ as well as for the Ravenshaws? How came it never to be thought of before? It strikes me as if it would do exactly. What say you all? Here are two capital tragic parts for Yates and Crawford, and here is the rhyming Butler for me, if nobody else wants it; a trifling part, but the sort of thing I should not dislike, and, as I said before, I am determined to take anything and do my best. And as for the rest, they may be filled up by anybody. It is only Count Cassel and Anhalt."

The suggestion was generally welcome. Everybody was growing weary of indecision, and the first idea with everybody was, that nothing had been proposed before so likely to suit them all. Mr. Yates was particularly pleased: he had been sighing and longing to do the Baron at Ecclesford, had grudged every rant of Lord Ravenshaw's, and been forced to re-rant it all in his own room. The storm through Baron Wildenheim was the height of his theatrical ambition; and with the advantage of knowing half the scenes by heart already, he did now, with the greatest alacrity, offer his services for the part. To do him justice, however, he did not resolve to appropriate it; for remembering that there was some very good ranting-ground in Frederick, he professed an equal willingness for that. Henry Crawford was ready to take either. Whichever Mr. Yates did not chuse would perfectly satisfy him, and a short parley of compliment ensued. Miss Bertram, feeling all the interest of an Agatha in the question, took on her to decide it, by observing to Mr. Yates that this was a point in which height and figure ought to be considered, and that _his_ being the tallest, seemed to fit him peculiarly for the Baron. She was acknowledged to be quite right, and the two parts being accepted accordingly, she was certain of the proper Frederick. Three of the characters were now cast, besides Mr. Rushworth, who was always answered for by Maria as willing to do anything; when Julia, meaning, like her sister, to be Agatha, began to be scrupulous on Miss Crawford's account.

"This is not behaving well by the absent," said she. "Here are not women enough. Amelia and Agatha may do for Maria and me, but here is nothing for your sister, Mr. Crawford."

Mr. Crawford desired _that_ might not be thought of: he was very sure his sister had no wish of acting but as she might be useful, and that she would not allow herself to be considered in the present case. But this was immediately opposed by Tom Bertram, who asserted the part of Amelia to be in every respect the property of Miss Crawford, if she would accept it. "It falls as naturally, as necessarily to her," said he, "as Agatha does to one or other of my sisters. It can be no sacrifice on their side, for it is highly comic."

A short silence followed. Each sister looked anxious; for each felt the best claim to Agatha, and was hoping to have it pressed on her by the rest. Henry Crawford, who meanwhile had taken up the play, and with seeming carelessness was turning over the first act, soon settled the business.

"I must entreat Miss _Julia_ Bertram," said he, "not to engage in the part of Agatha, or it will be the ruin of all my solemnity. You must not, indeed you must not" (turning to her). "I could not stand your countenance dressed up in woe and paleness. The many laughs we have had together would infallibly come across me, and Frederick and his knapsack would be obliged to run away."

Pleasantly, courteously, it was spoken; but the manner was lost in the matter to Julia's feelings. She saw a glance at Maria which confirmed the injury to herself: it was a scheme, a trick; she was slighted, Maria was preferred; the smile of triumph which Maria was trying to suppress shewed how well it was understood; and before Julia could command herself enough to speak, her brother gave his weight against her too, by saying, "Oh yes! Maria must be Agatha. Maria will be the best Agatha. Though Julia fancies she prefers tragedy, I would not trust her in it. There is nothing of tragedy about her. She has not the look of it. Her features are not tragic features, and she walks too quick, and speaks too quick, and would not keep her countenance. She had better do the old countrywoman: the Cottager's wife; you had, indeed, Julia. Cottager's wife is a very pretty part, I assure you. The old lady relieves the high-flown benevolence of her husband with a good deal of spirit. You shall be Cottager's wife."

"Cottager's wife!" cried Mr. Yates. "What are you talking of? The most trivial, paltry, insignificant part; the merest commonplace; not a tolerable speech in the whole. Your sister do that! It is an insult to propose it. At Ecclesford the governess was to have done it. We all agreed that it could not be offered to anybody else. A little more justice, Mr. Manager, if you please. You do not deserve the office, if you cannot appreciate the talents of your company a little better."

"Why, as to _that_, my good friend, till I and my company have really acted there must be some guesswork; but I mean no disparagement to Julia. We cannot have two Agathas, and we must have one Cottager's wife; and I am sure I set her the example of moderation myself in being satisfied with the old Butler. If the part is trifling she will have more credit in making something of it; and if she is so desperately bent against everything humorous, let her take Cottager's speeches instead of Cottager's wife's, and so change the parts all through; _he_ is solemn and pathetic enough, I am sure. It could make no difference in the play, and as for Cottager himself, when he has got his wife's speeches, _I_ would undertake him with all my heart."

"With all your partiality for Cottager's wife," said Henry Crawford, "it will be impossible to make anything of it fit for your sister, and we must not suffer her good-nature to be imposed on. We must not _allow_ her to accept the part. She must not be left to her own complaisance. Her talents will be wanted in Amelia. Amelia is a character more difficult to be well represented than even Agatha. I consider Amelia is the most difficult character in the whole piece. It requires great powers, great nicety, to give her playfulness and simplicity without extravagance. I have seen good actresses fail in the part. Simplicity, indeed, is beyond the reach of almost every actress by profession. It requires a delicacy of feeling which they have not. It requires a gentlewoman--a Julia Bertram. You _will_ undertake it, I hope?" turning to her with a look of anxious entreaty, which softened her a little; but while she hesitated what to say, her brother again interposed with Miss Crawford's better claim.

"No, no, Julia must not be Amelia. It is not at all the part for her. She would not like it. She would not do well. She is too tall and robust. Amelia should be a small, light, girlish, skipping figure. It is fit for Miss Crawford, and Miss Crawford only. She looks the part, and I am persuaded will do it admirably."

Without attending to this, Henry Crawford continued his supplication. "You must oblige us," said he, "indeed you must. When you have studied the character, I am sure you will feel it suit you. Tragedy may be your choice, but it will certainly appear that comedy chuses _you_. You will be to visit me in prison with a basket of provisions; you will not refuse to visit me in prison? I think I see you coming in with your basket"

The influence of his voice was felt. Julia wavered; but was he only trying to soothe and pacify her, and make her overlook the previous affront? She distrusted him. The slight had been most determined. He was, perhaps, but at treacherous play with her. She looked suspiciously at her sister; Maria's countenance was to decide it: if she were vexed and alarmed--but Maria looked all serenity and satisfaction, and Julia well knew that on this ground Maria could not be happy but at her expense. With hasty indignation, therefore, and a tremulous voice, she said to him, "You do not seem afraid of not keeping your countenance when I come in with a basket of provisions--though one might have supposed--but it is only as Agatha that I was to be so overpowering!" She stopped--Henry Crawford looked rather foolish, and as if he did not know what to say. Tom Bertram began again--

"Miss Crawford must be Amelia. She will be an excellent Amelia."

"Do not be afraid of _my_ wanting the character," cried Julia, with angry quickness: "I am _not_ to be Agatha, and I am sure I will do nothing else; and as to Amelia, it is of all parts in the world the most disgusting to me. I quite detest her. An odious, little, pert, unnatural, impudent girl. I have always protested against comedy, and this is comedy in its worst form." And so saying, she walked hastily out of the room, leaving awkward feelings to more than one, but exciting small compassion in any except Fanny, who had been a quiet auditor of the whole, and who could not think of her as under the agitations of _jealousy_ without great pity.

A short silence succeeded her leaving them; but her brother soon returned to business and Lovers' Vows, and was eagerly looking over the play, with Mr. Yates's help, to ascertain what scenery would be necessary--while Maria and Henry Crawford conversed together in an under-voice, and the declaration with which she began of, "I am sure I would give up the part to Julia most willingly, but that though I shall probably do it very ill, I feel persuaded _she_ would do it worse," was doubtless receiving all the compliments it called for.

When this had lasted some time, the division of the party was completed by Tom Bertram and Mr. Yates walking off together to consult farther in the room now beginning to be called _the_ _Theatre_, and Miss Bertram's resolving to go down to the Parsonage herself with the offer of Amelia to Miss Crawford; and Fanny remained alone.

The first use she made of her solitude was to take up the volume which had been left on the table, and begin to acquaint herself with the play of which she had heard so much. Her curiosity was all awake, and she ran through it with an eagerness which was suspended only by intervals of astonishment, that it could be chosen in the present instance, that it could be proposed and accepted in a private theatre! Agatha and Amelia appeared to her in their different ways so totally improper for home representation--the situation of one, and the language of the other, so unfit to be expressed by any woman of modesty, that she could hardly suppose her cousins could be aware of what they were engaging in; and longed to have them roused as soon as possible by the remonstrance which Edmund would certainly make.

看来,范妮原来的估计比埃德蒙预料的要准确。事实证明,人人满意的剧本的确不好找。木匠接受了任务,测量了尺寸,提议并解决了至少两件难办的事,显然得扩大计划,增加费用。他已经动工了,而剧本还没有确定。其他准备工作也已开始。从北安普敦买来一大卷绿绒布,已由诺里斯太太裁剪好(她精心计划,节省了整整四分之三码),并且已由女仆们做成了幕布,而剧本仍然没有找到。就这样过了两三天,埃德蒙不由得生出一线希望:也许他们永远找不到一个合适的剧本。

谈到剧本问题,要考虑那么多因素,要让那么多人个个都满意,剧中必须有那么多出色的人物,尤其棘手的是,这剧本必须既是悲剧又是喜剧。因此,看来事情是很难解决的,就像年轻气盛的人做任何事一样,总是僵持不下。

主张演悲剧的有两位伯特伦小姐、亨利·克劳福德和耶茨先生;主张演喜剧的是汤姆·伯特伦,但他并非完全孤立,因为玛丽·克劳福德虽说出于礼貌没有公开表态,但显然是想要演喜剧。不过汤姆主意已决,加上他是一家之主,因此似乎也不需要同盟。除了这个不可调和的矛盾外,他们还要求剧中的人物要少,每个人物都非常重要,而且要有三个女主角。所有的优秀剧本都考虑过了,没有一本中意的。无论是《哈姆雷特》、《麦克白》、《奥赛罗》,还是《道格拉斯》、《赌徒》①,(译注:①这都是当时深受欢迎的悲剧,前三部的作者是莎士比亚,《道格拉斯》的作者是约翰·霍姆,《赌徒》的作者是埃德华·莫尔。)连几个主张演悲剧的人都不满意;而《情敌》、《造谣学校》、《命运的车轮》、《法定继承人》②,(译注:②这都是当时流行的喜剧,前两部的作者是谢立丹,《命运的车轮》的作者是理查德·坎伯兰德,《法定继承人》的作者是乔治·科尔曼。)以及许多其他剧本,一个一个地遭到了更加激烈的反对。谁只要提出一个剧本,总有人加以非难,不是这方便是那方总要重复这样几句话:“噢!不行,这戏绝对不能演。我们不要演那些装腔作势的悲剧。人物太多了——剧中没有一个像样的女角色——亲爱的汤姆,随便哪个戏都比这个好。我们找不到那么多人来演——谁也不会演这个角色——从头到尾只是讲粗话逗乐而已。要不是有那些下流角色,这戏也许还可以——如果一定要我发表意见,我一向认为这是一本最平淡无味的英语剧本——我可不想表示反对,倒很乐意助一臂之力,不过我还是觉得选哪个剧本都比这本好。”

范妮在一旁看着、听着,眼见他们一个个全都那么自私,却又程度不同地加以掩饰,不免感到有些好笑,心想不知他们会怎么收场。为了图自己快乐,她倒是希望他们能找到个剧本演演,因为她长这么大连半场戏都没看过,但是以更重要的方面考虑,她又不赞成演。

“这样可不行,”汤姆·伯特伦最后说道。“我们这是浪费时间,令人厌恶至极。我们必须定下一个剧本。不管是什么剧本,只要定下来就好。我们不能那么挑剔。多几个人物用不着害怕。我们可以一个人演两个角色。我们得把标准降低一点。如果哪个角色不起眼儿,我们演得好就更显得有本事。从现在起,我可不再作梗了。你们叫我演什么我就演什么,只要是喜剧。我们就演喜剧吧,我只提这一个条件。”

接着,他差不多是第五次提出要演《法定继承人》,唯一拿不定主意的是,他自己究竟是演杜伯利勋爵好,还是演潘格劳斯博士好。他情恳意切地想让别人相信,在他挑剩的人物中,有几个出色的悲剧人物,可是谁也不信他的。

在这番无效的劝说之后,是一阵沉默,而打破沉默的,还是那同一位讲话人。他从桌上那许多剧本中拿起了一本,翻过来一看,突然叫道:“《山盟海誓》!雷文肖家能演《山盟海誓》,我们为什么不能演呢?我们怎么一直没想到它呀?我觉得非常适合我们演。你们觉得怎么样?两个棒极了的悲剧人物由耶茨和克劳福德演,那个爱做打油诗的男管家就由我来演——如果别人不想演的话——一个无足轻重的角色,不过我倒愿意演这种角色。我刚才说过,我已打定主意叫我演什么我就演什么,并且尽最大努力。至于其他人物,谁愿意演都可以。只有卡斯尔伯爵和安哈尔特。”

这个建议受到了众人的欢迎。事情总这么迟疑不决,大家都感到厌倦了,听到这个建议后,人人都立即意识到,先前提出的那些剧本没有一本像这本这样适合每个人。耶茨先生尤其高兴。他在埃克尔斯福德的时候,就不胜翘企地想演男爵,雷文肖勋爵每次朗诵台词都使他感到嫉妒,他不得不跑到自己房里也从头到尾朗诵一遍。通过演维尔登海姆男爵来大露一手,这是他演戏的最大愿望。他已能背下一半场数的台词,有了这一有利条件,便急不可待地想要扮演这个角色。不过,说句公道话,他并不是非演这个角色不可——他记得弗雷德里克也有一些非常出色的、慷慨激昂的台词,因此他表示同样愿意扮演这个角色。亨利·克劳福德也是哪个角色都愿意演。耶茨先生不论挑剩了哪一个,他都会心满意足地接受,接着两人互相谦让了一番。伯特伦小姐对演剧中的阿加莎甚感兴趣,便主动替他们做裁决。她对耶茨先生说,在分配角色的时候,应该考虑身高和身材的因素,鉴于耶茨先生个子比较高,似乎让他演男爵最为合适。众人认为她说得很对,两位先生也接受了自己的角色,她为弗雷德里克有了合适的人选而放心了。已有三人给派了角色,另有拉什沃思先生,他总是由玛丽亚做主,什么角色都可以演。朱莉娅和姐姐一样,也想演阿加莎,便以克劳福德小姐为幌子,提出了意见。

“这样做对不在场的人不公平,”她说。“这个剧里女性角色不多。阿米丽亚和阿加莎可以由玛丽亚和我来演,但是你妹妹就没有角色可演了,克劳福德先生。”

克劳福德先生希望大家不要为此事担忧。他认为他妹妹肯定不想演戏,只是希望为大家尽点力,在这出戏里她是不会让大家考虑她的。但是,汤姆·伯特伦立即对此表示反对。他毅然决然地说,阿米丽亚这个角色,如果克劳福德小姐愿意接受的话,从各方面考虑都应该由她来演。“就像阿加莎要由我的一个妹妹来演一样,”他说,“阿米丽亚理所当然要分派给克劳福德小姐。对于我两个妹妹来说,这也没有什么吃亏的,因为这个角色带有很强的喜剧色彩,”

随即是一阵短暂的沉默。姐妹俩都神色不安,都觉得阿加莎应由自己来演,盼着别人推荐自己。这时候,亨利·克劳福德拿起了剧本,好像漫不经心地翻了翻第一幕,很快便把这件事定下来了。“我要恳请朱莉娅·伯特伦小姐,”他说,“不要演阿加莎,否则我就严肃不起来了。你不能演,的确不能演——(转向她)。你装扮成一副悲伤惨淡的面容,我看了会承受不住的。我们在一起总是嘻嘻哈哈的,我怎么也抹不掉这个印象,弗雷德里克只能无奈地背着背包跑下台去。”

这番话说得既谦恭又风趣,但朱莉娅注重的不是说话人的态度,而是这番话的内容。她看到克劳福德先生说话的时候瞥了玛丽亚一眼,这就证实他们在有意损害她的利益。这是耍阴谋——搞诡计。她受到了冷落,受抬举的是玛丽亚。玛丽亚极力想压抑她那得意的微笑,足以证明她充分领会这番用意。没等朱莉娅镇静下来开口说话,她哥哥又给了她当头一棒,只听他说:“啊!是呀,必须让玛丽亚演阿加莎。虽然朱莉娅自以为喜欢演悲剧,可我不相信她能演好悲剧。她身上没有一点悲剧的气质。她的样子就不像。她的脸就不是演悲剧的脸,她走路太快,说话太快,总是忍不住笑。她最好演那乡村老太婆,那村民婆子。的确,朱莉娅,你最好演这个角色。你听我说,村民婆子是个很好的角色。这位老太太满腔热情地接替她丈夫所做的善事,非常了不起。你就演这村民婆子吧。”

“村民婆子!”耶茨大声嚷道。“你在说什么呀?那是个最卑微、最低贱、最无聊的角色,平庸至极——自始至终没有一段像样的台词。让你妹妹演这个角色!提这个建议就是一种侮辱。在埃克尔斯福德,是由家庭女教师扮演这个角色的。当时我们大家都一致认为,这个角色不能派给其他任何人。总管先生,请你公正一点。如果你对你戏班子里的人才不能妥当安排,你就不配当这个总管。”

“啊,至于我是否能妄排妥当,我的好朋友,在我的戏班子没有演出之前,谁也说不准。不过,我并非有意贬低朱莉娅。我们不能要两个阿加莎,我们必须有一个村民婆子。我自己情愿演老管家,这无疑给她树立了一个遇事谦让的榜样。如果说这个角色无足轻重,她能演好就更说明她了不起。如果她坚决不要幽默的东西,那就让她说村民的台词,而不说村民婆子的台词,把角色彻底换一换。我敢说,那村民可是够忧郁、够可悲的了。这对整个戏没什么影响。至于那村民,他的台词改成他妻子的台词后,我还真愿意担当他这个角色。”

“尽管你喜爱村民婆子这个角色,”亨利·克劳福德说,“你也不可能把她说得适合你妹妹演,我们不能因为你妹妹脾气好,就把这个角色强加给她。我们不能硬让她接受这个角色。我们不能欺负她好说话。演阿米丽亚就需要她的天才。阿米丽亚这个人物甚至比阿加莎还难演好。我认为整个剧本中,阿米丽亚是最难演的人物。要想把她演得既活泼纯真,而又不过分,那可需要很高的演技,还得准确把握。我见过一些优秀的演员都没演好。的确,几乎所有的职业演员都不善于展示人物的纯真。这需要细腻的情感,而她们却没有。这需要一位大家闺秀来演——需要朱莉娅·伯特伦这样一个人。我想你是愿意承担的吧?”一面带着急切恳求的神情转向朱莉娅,使她心里好受了一点。可是,就在她犹豫不决,不知道说什么好的时候,她哥哥又插嘴说,克劳福德小姐更适合演这个角色。

“不行,不行,朱莉娅不能演阿米丽亚。这个角色根本不适合她演。她不会喜欢这个角色。她演不好。她人太高,也太壮。阿米丽亚应该是个娇小、轻盈、有些稚气的、蹦蹦跳跳的人物。这个人物适合克劳福德小姐来演,而且只适合克劳福德小姐来演。她看上去就像这个角色,我相信她会演得惟妙惟肖。”

亨利·克劳福德没有理会这番话,仍在继续恳求朱莉娅。“你一定要帮帮这个忙,”他说,“的确,一定要帑这个忙。你研究了这个人物以后,肯定会觉得适合你演。你可能选择悲剧,不过当然实际情况是:喜剧选择了你。你将挎着一篮子吃的到监狱里来探望我。你不会拒绝到监狱里来探望我吧?我觉得我看见你挎着篮子进来了。

他的声音产生的威力可以感受出来。朱莉娅动摇了。可他是否只是想安慰安慰她,使她不再介意刚才受到的侮辱呢?她不相信他。他刚才对她的冷落是再明显不过了。也许他是不怀好意地拿她开心。她怀疑地看了看姐姐,从玛丽亚的神情中可以找到答案,如果她感到气恼和吃惊的话——然而玛丽亚一副安详自得的样子,朱莉娅心里很清楚,在这种情况下,除非是她受到捉弄,否则玛丽亚是不会高兴的。因此,她当即勃然大怒,声音颤抖地对亨利·克劳福德说:“看来,你并不怕我挎着一篮子吃的进来时你会忍不住笑——虽说别人认为你会忍不住笑的——不过我只有演阿加莎才会有那么大的威力!”她不往下说了。亨利·克劳福德露出傻呆呆的神气,好像不知道说什么是好。汤姆·伯特伦又开口说话了:

“克劳福德小姐一定要演阿米丽亚。她会演得很出色的。”

“不要担心我想演这个角色,”朱莉娅气冲冲地说。“我要是不能演阿加莎,那就肯定什么都不演。至于阿米丽亚,这是世界上我最讨厌的角色。我太厌恶她了。一个唐突无礼、矫揉造作、厚颜无耻、令人作呕的又矮又小的女子。我从来就不喜欢喜剧,而这又是最糟糕的喜剧。”说罢,便匆匆走出房去,使在座的人不止一个感到局促不安,但除了范妮外,谁也不同情她。范妮刚才一直在静静地听,眼见她被嫉妒搅得如此心烦意乱,不禁对她甚为怜悯。

朱莉娅走后,大家沉默了一阵。但是,她哥哥很快又谈起了正事和《山盟海誓》,急切地翻看剧本,在耶茨先生的帮助下,决定需要些什么样的布景。与此同时,玛丽亚和亨利·克劳福德在一起悄悄地说话,玛丽亚开口就声称:“本来,我肯定会心甘情愿把这个角色让给朱莉娅的。但是,虽说我可能演不好,可我相信她会演得更糟糕。”毫无疑问,她这番话理所当然地受到了恭维。

这番情景持续了一段时间之后,几个人便散开了,汤姆·伯特伦和耶茨先生一起来到现已改叫“剧场”的那间屋子进一步商量,伯特伦小姐决定亲自到牧师府上邀请克劳福德小姐演阿米丽亚,而范妮则一个人留了下来。

她在孤寂中做的第一件事,就是拿起留在桌上的那本书,看一看他们一直谈论的那个剧本。她的好奇心被逗引起来了,她急不可耐地从头读到了尾,只在吃惊的时候才稍有停顿。她感到惊讶的是,居然选上了这么个剧本——居然有人建议私立剧场演这样的剧,而且居然有人接受!她觉得,阿加莎和阿米丽亚这两个人物完全不适合在家里演,而且各有各的原因——一个的处境,另一个的语言,都不适合正派的女人来表演。她几乎不敢想象,她的表姐们是否知道她们要演的是什么。埃德蒙肯定会出面反对的,她盼望他能尽快使她们醒悟过来。



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