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Chapter 18

Everything was now in a regular train: theatre, actors, actresses, and dresses, were all getting forward; but though no other great impediments arose, Fanny found, before many days were past, that it was not all uninterrupted enjoyment to the party themselves, and that she had not to witness the continuance of such unanimity and delight as had been almost too much for her at first. Everybody began to have their vexation. Edmund had many. Entirely against _his_ judgment, a scene-painter arrived from town, and was at work, much to the increase of the expenses, and, what was worse, of the eclat of their proceedings; and his brother, instead of being really guided by him as to the privacy of the representation, was giving an invitation to every family who came in his way. Tom himself began to fret over the scene-painter's slow progress, and to feel the miseries of waiting. He had learned his part--all his parts, for he took every trifling one that could be united with the Butler, and began to be impatient to be acting; and every day thus unemployed was tending to increase his sense of the insignificance of all his parts together, and make him more ready to regret that some other play had not been chosen.

Fanny, being always a very courteous listener, and often the only listener at hand, came in for the complaints and the distresses of most of them. _She_ knew that Mr. Yates was in general thought to rant dreadfully; that Mr. Yates was disappointed in Henry Crawford; that Tom Bertram spoke so quick he would be unintelligible; that Mrs. Grant spoiled everything by laughing; that Edmund was behindhand with his part, and that it was misery to have anything to do with Mr. Rushworth, who was wanting a prompter through every speech. She knew, also, that poor Mr. Rushworth could seldom get anybody to rehearse with him: _his_ complaint came before her as well as the rest; and so decided to her eye was her cousin Maria's avoidance of him, and so needlessly often the rehearsal of the first scene between her and Mr. Crawford, that she had soon all the terror of other complaints from _him_. So far from being all satisfied and all enjoying, she found everybody requiring something they had not, and giving occasion of discontent to the others. Everybody had a part either too long or too short; nobody would attend as they ought; nobody would remember on which side they were to come in; nobody but the complainer would observe any directions.

Fanny believed herself to derive as much innocent enjoyment from the play as any of them; Henry Crawford acted well, and it was a pleasure to _her_ to creep into the theatre, and attend the rehearsal of the first act, in spite of the feelings it excited in some speeches for Maria. Maria, she also thought, acted well, too well; and after the first rehearsal or two, Fanny began to be their only audience; and sometimes as prompter, sometimes as spectator, was often very useful. As far as she could judge, Mr. Crawford was considerably the best actor of all: he had more confidence than Edmund, more judgment than Tom, more talent and taste than Mr. Yates. She did not like him as a man, but she must admit him to be the best actor, and on this point there were not many who differed from her. Mr. Yates, indeed, exclaimed against his tameness and insipidity; and the day came at last, when Mr. Rushworth turned to her with a black look, and said, "Do you think there is anything so very fine in all this? For the life and soul of me, I cannot admire him; and, between ourselves, to see such an undersized, little, mean-looking man, set up for a fine actor, is very ridiculous in my opinion."

From this moment there was a return of his former jealousy, which Maria, from increasing hopes of Crawford, was at little pains to remove; and the chances of Mr. Rushworth's ever attaining to the knowledge of his two-and-forty speeches became much less. As to his ever making anything _tolerable_ of them, nobody had the smallest idea of that except his mother; _she_, indeed, regretted that his part was not more considerable, and deferred coming over to Mansfield till they were forward enough in their rehearsal to comprehend all his scenes; but the others aspired at nothing beyond his remembering the catchword, and the first line of his speech, and being able to follow the prompter through the rest. Fanny, in her pity and kindheartedness, was at great pains to teach him how to learn, giving him all the helps and directions in her power, trying to make an artificial memory for him, and learning every word of his part herself, but without his being much the forwarder.

Many uncomfortable, anxious, apprehensive feelings she certainly had; but with all these, and other claims on her time and attention, she was as far from finding herself without employment or utility amongst them, as without a companion in uneasiness; quite as far from having no demand on her leisure as on her compassion. The gloom of her first anticipations was proved to have been unfounded. She was occasionally useful to all; she was perhaps as much at peace as any.

There was a great deal of needlework to be done, moreover, in which her help was wanted; and that Mrs. Norris thought her quite as well off as the rest, was evident by the manner in which she claimed it--"Come, Fanny," she cried, "these are fine times for you, but you must not be always walking from one room to the other, and doing the lookings-on at your ease, in this way; I want you here. I have been slaving myself till I can hardly stand, to contrive Mr. Rushworth's cloak without sending for any more satin; and now I think you may give me your help in putting it together. There are but three seams; you may do them in a trice. It would be lucky for me if I had nothing but the executive part to do. _You_ are best off, I can tell you: but if nobody did more than _you_, we should not get on very fast"

Fanny took the work very quietly, without attempting any defence; but her kinder aunt Bertram observed on her behalf--

"One cannot wonder, sister, that Fanny _should_ be delighted: it is all new to her, you know; you and I used to be very fond of a play ourselves, and so am I still; and as soon as I am a little more at leisure, _I_ mean to look in at their rehearsals too. What is the play about, Fanny? you have never told me."

"Oh! sister, pray do not ask her now; for Fanny is not one of those who can talk and work at the same time. It is about Lovers' Vows."

"I believe," said Fanny to her aunt Bertram, "there will be three acts rehearsed to-morrow evening, and that will give you an opportunity of seeing all the actors at once."

"You had better stay till the curtain is hung," interposed Mrs. Norris; "the curtain will be hung in a day or two-- there is very little sense in a play without a curtain-- and I am much mistaken if you do not find it draw up into very handsome festoons."

Lady Bertram seemed quite resigned to waiting. Fanny did not share her aunt's composure: she thought of the morrow a great deal, for if the three acts were rehearsed, Edmund and Miss Crawford would then be acting together for the first time; the third act would bring a scene between them which interested her most particularly, and which she was longing and dreading to see how they would perform. The whole subject of it was love-- a marriage of love was to be described by the gentleman, and very little short of a declaration of love be made by the lady.

She had read and read the scene again with many painful, many wondering emotions, and looked forward to their representation of it as a circumstance almost too interesting. She did not _believe_ they had yet rehearsed it, even in private.

The morrow came, the plan for the evening continued, and Fanny's consideration of it did not become less agitated. She worked very diligently under her aunt's directions, but her diligence and her silence concealed a very absent, anxious mind; and about noon she made her escape with her work to the East room, that she might have no concern in another, and, as she deemed it, most unnecessary rehearsal of the first act, which Henry Crawford was just proposing, desirous at once of having her time to herself, and of avoiding the sight of Mr. Rushworth. A glimpse, as she passed through the hall, of the two ladies walking up from the Parsonage made no change in her wish of retreat, and she worked and meditated in the East room, undisturbed, for a quarter of an hour, when a gentle tap at the door was followed by the entrance of Miss Crawford.

"Am I right? Yes; this is the East room. My dear Miss Price, I beg your pardon, but I have made my way to you on purpose to entreat your help."

Fanny, quite surprised, endeavoured to shew herself mistress of the room by her civilities, and looked at the bright bars of her empty grate with concern.

"Thank you; I am quite warm, very warm. Allow me to stay here a little while, and do have the goodness to hear me my third act. I have brought my book, and if you would but rehearse it with me, I should be _so_ obliged! I came here to-day intending to rehearse it with Edmund-- by ourselves--against the evening, but he is not in the way; and if he _were_, I do not think I could go through it with _him_, till I have hardened myself a little; for really there is a speech or two. You will be so good, won't you?"

Fanny was most civil in her assurances, though she could not give them in a very steady voice.

"Have you ever happened to look at the part I mean?" continued Miss Crawford, opening her book. "Here it is. I did not think much of it at first--but, upon my word. There, look at _that_ speech, and _that_, and _that_. How am I ever to look him in the face and say such things? Could you do it? But then he is your cousin, which makes all the difference. You must rehearse it with me, that I may fancy _you_ him, and get on by degrees. You _have_ a look of _his_ sometimes."

"Have I? I will do my best with the greatest readiness; but I must _read_ the part, for I can say very little of it."

"_None_ of it, I suppose. You are to have the book, of course. Now for it. We must have two chairs at hand for you to bring forward to the front of the stage. There--very good school-room chairs, not made for a theatre, I dare say; much more fitted for little girls to sit and kick their feet against when they are learning a lesson. What would your governess and your uncle say to see them used for such a purpose? Could Sir Thomas look in upon us just now, he would bless himself, for we are rehearsing all over the house. Yates is storming away in the dining-room. I heard him as I came upstairs, and the theatre is engaged of course by those indefatigable rehearsers, Agatha and Frederick. If _they_ are not perfect, I _shall_ be surprised. By the bye, I looked in upon them five minutes ago, and it happened to be exactly at one of the times when they were trying _not_ to embrace, and Mr. Rushworth was with me. I thought he began to look a little queer, so I turned it off as well as I could, by whispering to him, 'We shall have an excellent Agatha; there is something so _maternal_ in her manner, so completely _maternal_ in her voice and countenance.' Was not that well done of me? He brightened up directly. Now for my soliloquy."

She began, and Fanny joined in with all the modest feeling which the idea of representing Edmund was so strongly calculated to inspire; but with looks and voice so truly feminine as to be no very good picture of a man. With such an Anhalt, however, Miss Crawford had courage enough; and they had got through half the scene, when a tap at the door brought a pause, and the entrance of Edmund, the next moment, suspended it all.

Surprise, consciousness, and pleasure appeared in each of the three on this unexpected meeting; and as Edmund was come on the very same business that had brought Miss Crawford, consciousness and pleasure were likely to be more than momentary in _them_. He too had his book, and was seeking Fanny, to ask her to rehearse with him, and help him to prepare for the evening, without knowing Miss Crawford to be in the house; and great was the joy and animation of being thus thrown together, of comparing schemes, and sympathising in praise of Fanny's kind offices.

_She_ could not equal them in their warmth. _Her_ spirits sank under the glow of theirs, and she felt herself becoming too nearly nothing to both to have any comfort in having been sought by either. They must now rehearse together. Edmund proposed, urged, entreated it, till the lady, not very unwilling at first, could refuse no longer, and Fanny was wanted only to prompt and observe them. She was invested, indeed, with the office of judge and critic, and earnestly desired to exercise it and tell them all their faults; but from doing so every feeling within her shrank--she could not, would not, dared not attempt it: had she been otherwise qualified for criticism, her conscience must have restrained her from venturing at disapprobation. She believed herself to feel too much of it in the aggregate for honesty or safety in particulars. To prompt them must be enough for her; and it was sometimes _more_ than enough; for she could not always pay attention to the book. In watching them she forgot herself; and, agitated by the increasing spirit of Edmund's manner, had once closed the page and turned away exactly as he wanted help. It was imputed to very reasonable weariness, and she was thanked and pitied; but she deserved their pity more than she hoped they would ever surmise. At last the scene was over, and Fanny forced herself to add her praise to the compliments each was giving the other; and when again alone and able to recall the whole, she was inclined to believe their performance would, indeed, have such nature and feeling in it as must ensure their credit, and make it a very suffering exhibition to herself. Whatever might be its effect, however, she must stand the brunt of it again that very day.

The first regular rehearsal of the three first acts was certainly to take place in the evening: Mrs. Grant and the Crawfords were engaged to return for that purpose as soon as they could after dinner; and every one concerned was looking forward with eagerness. There seemed a general diffusion of cheerfulness on the occasion. Tom was enjoying such an advance towards the end; Edmund was in spirits from the morning's rehearsal, and little vexations seemed everywhere smoothed away. All were alert and impatient; the ladies moved soon, the gentlemen soon followed them, and with the exception of Lady Bertram, Mrs. Norris, and Julia, everybody was in the theatre at an early hour; and having lighted it up as well as its unfinished state admitted, were waiting only the arrival of Mrs. Grant and the Crawfords to begin.

They did not wait long for the Crawfords, but there was no Mrs. Grant. She could not come. Dr. Grant, professing an indisposition, for which he had little credit with his fair sister-in-law, could not spare his wife.

"Dr. Grant is ill," said she, with mock solemnity. "He has been ill ever since he did not eat any of the pheasant today. He fancied it tough, sent away his plate, and has been suffering ever since".

Here was disappointment! Mrs. Grant's non-attendance was sad indeed. Her pleasant manners and cheerful conformity made her always valuable amongst them; but _now_ she was absolutely necessary. They could not act, they could not rehearse with any satisfaction without her. The comfort of the whole evening was destroyed. What was to be done? Tom, as Cottager, was in despair. After a pause of perplexity, some eyes began to be turned towards Fanny, and a voice or two to say, "If Miss Price would be so good as to _read_ the part." She was immediately surrounded by supplications; everybody asked it; even Edmund said, "Do, Fanny, if it is not _very_ disagreeable to you."

But Fanny still hung back. She could not endure the idea of it. Why was not Miss Crawford to be applied to as well? Or why had not she rather gone to her own room, as she had felt to be safest, instead of attending the rehearsal at all? She had known it would irritate and distress her; she had known it her duty to keep away. She was properly punished.

"You have only to _read_ the part," said Henry Crawford, with renewed entreaty.

"And I do believe she can say every word of it," added Maria, "for she could put Mrs. Grant right the other day in twenty places. Fanny, I am sure you know the part."

Fanny could not say she did _not_; and as they all persevered, as Edmund repeated his wish, and with a look of even fond dependence on her good-nature, she must yield. She would do her best. Everybody was satisfied; and she was left to the tremors of a most palpitating heart, while the others prepared to begin.

They _did_ begin; and being too much engaged in their own noise to be struck by an unusual noise in the other part of the house, had proceeded some way when the door of the room was thrown open, and Julia, appearing at it, with a face all aghast, exclaimed, "My father is come! He is in the hall at this moment."

现在,一切都进展顺利:剧场在布置,演员在练习,服装在赶制。但是,虽然没有遇到什么大问题,范妮没过多久就发现,班子里的人并不是一直都高高兴兴。她起初看到他们全都兴高采烈的,简直有些受不了,可这种局面没有持续下去。他们一个个都有了自己的烦恼。埃德蒙就有许多烦心事。他们根本不听从他的意见,就从伦敦请来一个绘景师,已经开始工作,这就大大增加了开支,而且更糟糕的是,事情闹得沸沸扬扬。他哥哥没有遵照他的意见不请外人,反倒向与他有来往的每家人都发出了邀请。汤姆本人则为绘景师进度慢而感到焦躁,等得很不耐烦。他早就背熟了他的角色的台词——应该说他所有角色的台词——因为他把能与男管家合并的小角色全都承担了下来,因此,他迫不及待地想演出了。这样无所事事地每过一天,他会越发觉得他所担任的角色全都没有意思,后悔怎么没选个别的戏。

范妮总是谦恭有礼地听别人讲话,加上那些人身边往往只有她一个听他们说话,因此他们差不多都要向她抱怨诉苦。她就听说:大家都认为耶茨先生大声嚷嚷起来非常可怕;耶茨先生对亨利·克劳福德感到失望;汤姆·伯特伦说话太快,台下会听不懂;格兰特太太爱笑,煞尽了风景;埃德蒙还没有背会他的台词;拉什沃思先生处处让人为难,每次开口都得给他提台词。她还听说,可怜的拉什沃思先生很难找到人和他一起排练;而他呢,也会向她诉苦,向其他人诉苦。她两眼看得分明,表姐玛丽亚在躲避他,并且没有必要地常和克劳福德先生一起排演他俩共演的第一场,因此她马上又担心拉什沃思先生会有别的抱怨。她发现,那伙人远不是人人满意、个个高兴,而都想得到点自己没有的东西,并给别人带来不快。每个人不是嫌自己的戏长就是嫌自己的戏短,谁都不能按时到场,谁都不去记自己从哪边出场——一个个只知埋怨别人,谁也不肯服从指导。

范妮虽然不参加演出,但却觉得自己从中获得了同样的乐趣。亨利·克劳福德演得很好,范妮悄悄走进剧场观看排练第一幕,尽管她对玛丽亚的某些台词有些反感,她还是感到很愉快。她觉得玛丽亚也演得很好——太好了。经过一两次排练之后,观众席上只剩下范妮一个人,有时给演员提词,有时在一边旁观——常常很有用处。在她看来,克劳福德先生绝对是最好的演员:他比埃德蒙有信心,比汤姆有判断力,比耶茨先生有天赋和鉴赏力。她不喜欢他这个人,但不得不承认他是最好的演员。在这一点上,没有多少人跟她看法不同。不错,耶茨先生对他有看法,说他演得枯燥乏味。终于有一天,拉什沃思先生满脸阴沉地转过身对她说:“你觉得他有哪点演得好的?说实话,我不欣赏他。咱俩私下说句话,这样一个又矮又小、其貌不扬的人被捧成好演员,我觉得实在令人好笑。”

从这时起,他以前的嫉妒心又复发了。玛丽亚由于比以前更想得到克劳福德,也就不去管他嫉妒不嫉妒。这样一来,拉什沃思先生那四十二段台词就更难背熟了。除了他妈妈以外,谁也不指望他能把台词背得像个样。而他那个妈妈,甚至认为她儿子应该演个更重要的角色。她要等多排练一阵之后才来到曼斯菲尔德,好把她儿子要演的每一场都看一看。但其他人都只希望他能记住上场的接头语,记住他每段台词的头一句,其余的话能提一句说一句。范妮心肠软,怜悯他,花了很大力气教他背,尽可能从各方面帮助他,启发他,想变着法子帮他记忆,结果她把他的每句台词都背会了,而他却没有多大长进。

她心里的确有许多不安、焦灼、忧心的想法。但是有这么多事,而且还有其他事要她操心,要她花工夫,她觉得自己在他们中间绝不是无事可干,没有用处,绝不是一个人坐立不安,也绝不是没有人要占用她的闲暇,求得她的怜悯。她原先担心自己会在忧郁中度日,结果发现并非如此。她偶尔对大家都有用处,她心里也许和大家一样平静。

而且,有许多针线活需要她帮忙。诺里斯太太觉得她跟大家一样过得挺快活,这从她的话里可以听得出来。“来,范妮,”她叫道,“这些天你倒挺快活的。不过,你不要总是这样自由自在地从这间屋子走到那间屋子,尽在一旁看热闹。我这儿需要你。我一直在累死累活地干,人都快站不住了,就想用这点缎子给拉什沃思先生做斗篷,我看你可以给我帮个忙拼凑拼凑。只有三条缝,你一下子就能缝好。我要是光管管事,那就算运气了。我可以告诉你,你是最快活不过了。要是人人都像你这么清闲,我们的进展不会很怏。”

范妮也不想为自己辩护,一声不响地把活接了过来,不过她那位比较心善的伯特伦姨妈替她说话了。

“姐姐,范妮应该觉得快活,这也没什么好奇怪的。你知道,她从没见过这样的场面。你和我以前都喜欢看演戏——我现在还喜欢看。一等到稍微闲一点,我也要进去看看他们排练。范妮,这出戏是讲什么的?你可从没给我说过呀。”

“噢!妹妹,请你现在不要问她。范妮可不是那种嘴里说话手里还能干活的人。那戏讲的是情人的誓言。”

“我想,”范妮对伯特伦姨妈说,“明天晚上要排练三幕,你可以一下子看到所有的演员。”

“你最好等幕布挂上以后再去,”诺里斯太太插嘴说。“再过一两天幕布就挂好了。演戏没有幕布没有看头——我敢肯定,幕布一拉就会呈现非常漂亮的褶子。”

伯特伦夫人似乎很愿意等待。范妮可不像姨妈那样处之泰然。她很关切明天的排练。如果明天排练三幕,埃德蒙和克劳福德小姐就要第一次同台演出。第三幕有一场是他们两人的戏,范妮特别关注这场戏,既想看又怕看他们两人是怎么演的。整个主题就是谈情说爱——男的大讲建立在爱情基础上的婚姻,女的差不多在倾诉爱情。

范妮满怀苦涩、满怀惶惑的心情,把这一场读了一遍又一遍,揪心地想着这件事,就等着看他们演出,忍不住要看个究竟。她相信他们还没有排练过,也没在私下排练过。

第二天来到了,晚上的计划没有变。范妮一想到晚上的排练,心里依然焦躁不安。在大姨妈的指挥下,她勤勤勉勉地做着活,但是勤勉不语掩饰了她的心神不安和心不在焉。快到中午的时候,她拿着针线活逃回了东屋,因为她听到亨利·克劳福德提出要排练第一幕,而她对此不感兴趣,觉得完全没有必要再去排练这一幕,她只想一个人清静清静,同时也避免看到拉什沃思先生。她经过门厅的时候,看到两位女士从牧师住宅走来,这时她仍然没有改变要回房躲避的念头。她在东屋一边做活,一边沉思,周围没有任何干扰。过了一刻钟,只听有人轻轻敲门,随即克劳福德小姐进来了。

“我没走错门吧?没错,这就是东屋。亲爱的普莱斯小姐,请你原谅,我是特意来求你帮忙的。”

范妮大为惊讶,不过为了显示自己是屋主人,还是客气了一番,随即又不好意思地望望空炉栅上发亮的铁条。

“谢谢你——我不冷,一点也不冷。请允许我在这儿待一会儿,给我帮帮忙,听我背第三幕台词。我把剧本带来了,你要是愿意和我一起排练,我会不胜感激!我今天到这儿来,本想和埃德蒙一起排练的——我们自己先练练——为晚上做个准备,可我没碰到他。即使碰到他,我恐怕也不好意思和他一起练,直等到我把脸皮练厚一点,因为那里面真有一两段——你会帮助我的,对吧?”

范妮非常客气地答应了,不过语气不是很坚决。

“你有没有看过我所说的那一段?”克劳福德小姐接着说,一面打开剧本。“就在这儿。起初我觉得没什么了不起的——可是,说实在话——瞧,你看看这段话,还有这段,还有这段。我怎么能两眼瞅着他说出这样的话来?你说得出吗?不过他是你表哥,这就大不一样了。你一定要和我练一练,我好把你想象成他,慢慢习惯起来。你的神情有时候真像他。”

“我像吗?我非常乐意尽力而为——不过我只能念,背不出来。”

“我想你一句也背不出。当然要给你剧本。现在就开始吧。我们身边要有两把椅子,你好往台子前边拿。那儿有——用来上课倒挺好,可能不大适合演戏。比较适合小姑娘坐在上边踢腾着脚学习功课。你们的家庭女教师和你姨父要是看到我们用这椅子来演戏,不知道会说什么?要是托马斯爵士这当儿看见了我们,非把他气坏不可,我们把他家到处变成了排练场。耶茨在餐厅里大喊大叫。我是上楼时听见的,占着剧场的肯定是那两个不知疲倦的排练者:阿加莎和弗雷德里克。他们要是演不好,那才怪呢。顺便告诉你,我五分钟前进去看他们,恰好他们在克制自己不要拥抱,拉什沃思先生就在我身边。我觉得他脸色不对,就想尽量把事情岔开,低声对他说:‘我们将有一个很好的阿加莎,她的一举一动很有几分母性的韵味,她的声音和神情更是母性韵味十足。’我表现得不错吧?他一下子高兴起来。现在我练独白吧。”

克劳福德小姐开始了。范妮帮她练的时候,一想到自己代表埃德蒙,便不禁变得谨慎稳重起来,但她的神情、声音完全是女性的,因而不是个很好的男人形象。不过,面对这样一个安哈尔特,克劳福德小姐倒也挺有勇气,两人刚练完半场,听到有人敲门,便停了下来。转眼间,埃德蒙进来了,排练完全停止了。

这次不期而遇使得三人个个又惊又喜,又觉尴尬。埃德蒙来这里的目的和克劳福德小姐完全一样,因此他们俩的喜悦之情是不会转瞬即逝的。他也带着剧本来找范妮,要她陪他先演练一下,帮他为晚上的排练做准备,却没想到克劳福德小姐就在大宅里。两人就这样碰到了一起,互相介绍了自己的计划,同声赞扬范妮好心帮忙,真是高兴之至,兴奋不已。

范妮可没有他们那样的兴致。在他们兴高采烈之际,她的情绪却低落下来。她觉得对他们俩来说,她变得近乎微不足道了,尽管他们都是来找她的,她并不因此感到安慰。他们现在要一起排练了。埃德蒙先提出来,又敦促,又恳求——小姐起初并非很不愿意,后来也就不再拒绝——范妮的用处只是给他们提提词,看他们排练。那两人还真给她赋予了在一旁评判、提意见的使命,恳切地希望她行使职权,给他们指出每一个缺点。但她对此抱有一种畏怯心理,还不能、不愿、也不敢这样做。即使她有资格提意见,她的良心也不让她贸然提出批评。她觉得这件事整个让她心里觉得不是滋味,具体的意见不会客观可靠。给他们提提词已经够她干的了,有时候她还未必能干得好,因为她不能时时刻刻都把心用在剧本上。她看他们排练的时候会要走神。眼见埃德蒙越来越起劲,她感到焦灼不安,有一次正当他需要提词的时候,她却把剧本合了起来,转过身去。她解释说是由于疲倦的缘故,倒是个很正当的理由。他们感谢她,怜悯她。但是,他们怎么也猜不到她该得到他们多大的怜悯。这一场终于练完了,那两人互相夸奖,范妮也强打精神把两人都称赞了一番。等那两人走后,她把前后的情景想了想,觉得他们演得情真意切,肯定会赢得好评,但却会给她带来巨大的痛苦。不论结果如何,那一天她还得再忍受一次这沉重的打击。

晚上肯定要进行前三幕的第一次正规排练。格兰特太太、克劳福德兄妹已经约定吃过晚饭就来参加,其他有关的人也急切地盼着晚上到来。这期间,人们似乎个个喜笑颜开。汤姆为大功即将告成而高兴,埃德蒙因为上午的那场练习而兴高采烈,人们心里的小小烦恼似乎一扫而光。人人都急不可待,女士们马上就起身了,男士们也立即跟上去,除了伯特伦夫人、诺里斯太太和朱莉娅以外,都提前来到了剧场。这时点燃了蜡烛,照亮了尚未竣工的舞台,就等格兰特太太和克劳福德兄妹到来,排练就要开始。

没等多久克劳福德兄妹就来了,但格兰特太太却没露面。她来不成了。格兰特博士说他不舒服,不放他太太来,可他那漂亮的小姨子不相信他有什么病。

“格兰特博士病了,”克劳福德小姐装出一副一本正经的样子说道。“他一直不舒服,今天的野鸡一点也没吃。他说没烧烂——把盘子推到了一边——一直不舒服。”

真煞风景啊!格兰特太太来不了真令人遗憾。她那讨人喜欢的仪态与随和快乐的性情一向使她深受众入欢迎——今天更是绝对离不开她。她不来,大家就演不好,排练不好。整个晚上的乐趣会丧失殆尽。怎么办呢?汤姆是演村民的,一筹莫展。惶惑了一阵之后,有几双眼睛转向范妮,有一两个人说:“不知道普莱斯小姐肯不肯给念念她那个角色的台词。”顿时,恳求声从四面八方袭来,人人都在求她,连埃德蒙都说:“来吧,范妮,如果你不觉得很反感的话。”

但范妮仍然踌躇不前。她不敢想象这样的事。他们为什么不去求克劳福德小姐呢?她明知自己房里最安全,为什么不早点回房去,却要来看排练?她早就知道来这里看排练会上火生气——早就知道自己不该来。她现在是活该受惩罚。

“你只要念念台词就行了,”亨利·克劳福德又一次恳求说。

“我相信她会背每一句话,”玛丽亚补充说,“那天她纠正了格兰特太太二十处错误。范妮,我想你肯定背得出这个角色的台词。”

范妮不敢说她背不出——大家都在执意恳求——埃德蒙又求了她一次,而且带着亲切依赖的神情,相信她会玉成此事。这时她不得不服从,只好尽力而为。大家都满意了,一个个都在准备开始,而她那颗心还在惶恐地急剧跳动。

排练正式开始了。大家只顾得闹哄哄地演戏,没注意从大宅的另一端传来一阵不寻常的嘈杂声。接着,门豁地开了,朱莉娅立在门口,大惊失色地嚷道:“我父亲回来了!眼下就在门厅里。”



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