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Chapter 24

Henry Crawford had quite made up his mind by the next morning to give another fortnight to Mansfield, and having sent for his hunters, and written a few lines of explanation to the Admiral, he looked round at his sister as he sealed and threw the letter from him, and seeing the coast clear of the rest of the family, said, with a smile, "And how do you think I mean to amuse myself, Mary, on the days that I do not hunt? I am grown too old to go out more than three times a week; but I have a plan for the intermediate days, and what do you think it is?"

"To walk and ride with me, to be sure."

"Not exactly, though I shall be happy to do both, but _that_ would be exercise only to my body, and I must take care of my mind. Besides, _that_ would be all recreation and indulgence, without the wholesome alloy of labour, and I do not like to eat the bread of idleness. No, my plan is to make Fanny Price in love with me."

"Fanny Price! Nonsense! No, no. You ought to be satisfied with her two cousins."

"But I cannot be satisfied without Fanny Price, without making a small hole in Fanny Price's heart. You do not seem properly aware of her claims to notice. When we talked of her last night, you none of you seemed sensible of the wonderful improvement that has taken place in her looks within the last six weeks. You see her every day, and therefore do not notice it; but I assure you she is quite a different creature from what she was in the autumn. She was then merely a quiet, modest, not plain-looking girl, but she is now absolutely pretty. I used to think she had neither complexion nor countenance; but in that soft skin of hers, so frequently tinged with a blush as it was yesterday, there is decided beauty; and from what I observed of her eyes and mouth, I do not despair of their being capable of expression enough when she has anything to express. And then, her air, her manner, her _tout_ _ensemble_, is so indescribably improved! She must be grown two inches, at least, since October."

"Phoo! phoo! This is only because there were no tall women to compare her with, and because she has got a new gown, and you never saw her so well dressed before. She is just what she was in October, believe me. The truth is, that she was the only girl in company for you to notice, and you must have a somebody. I have always thought her pretty--not strikingly pretty--but 'pretty enough,' as people say; a sort of beauty that grows on one. Her eyes should be darker, but she has a sweet smile; but as for this wonderful degree of improvement, I am sure it may all be resolved into a better style of dress, and your having nobody else to look at; and therefore, if you do set about a flirtation with her, you never will persuade me that it is in compliment to her beauty, or that it proceeds from anything but your own idleness and folly."

Her brother gave only a smile to this accusation, and soon afterwards said, "I do not quite know what to make of Miss Fanny. I do not understand her. I could not tell what she would be at yesterday. What is her character? Is she solemn? Is she queer? Is she prudish? Why did she draw back and look so grave at me? I could hardly get her to speak. I never was so long in company with a girl in my life, trying to entertain her, and succeed so ill! Never met with a girl who looked so grave on me! I must try to get the better of this. Her looks say, 'I will not like you, I am determined not to like you'; and I say she shall."

"Foolish fellow! And so this is her attraction after all! This it is, her not caring about you, which gives her such a soft skin, and makes her so much taller, and produces all these charms and graces! I do desire that you will not be making her really unhappy; a _little_ love, perhaps, may animate and do her good, but I will not have you plunge her deep, for she is as good a little creature as ever lived, and has a great deal of feeling."

"It can be but for a fortnight," said Henry; "and if a fortnight can kill her, she must have a constitution which nothing could save. No, I will not do her any harm, dear little soul! only want her to look kindly on me, to give me smiles as well as blushes, to keep a chair for me by herself wherever we are, and be all animation when I take it and talk to her; to think as I think, be interested in all my possessions and pleasures, try to keep me longer at Mansfield, and feel when I go away that she shall be never happy again. I want nothing more."

"Moderation itself!" said Mary. "I can have no scruples now. Well, you will have opportunities enough of endeavouring to recommend yourself, for we are a great deal together."

And without attempting any farther remonstrance, she left Fanny to her fate, a fate which, had not Fanny's heart been guarded in a way unsuspected by Miss Crawford, might have been a little harder than she deserved; for although there doubtless are such unconquerable young ladies of eighteen (or one should not read about them) as are never to be persuaded into love against their judgment by all that talent, manner, attention, and flattery can do, I have no inclination to believe Fanny one of them, or to think that with so much tenderness of disposition, and so much taste as belonged to her, she could have escaped heart-whole from the courtship (though the courtship only of a fortnight) of such a man as Crawford, in spite of there being some previous ill opinion of him to be overcome, had not her affection been engaged elsewhere. With all the security which love of another and disesteem of him could give to the peace of mind he was attacking, his continued attentions--continued, but not obtrusive, and adapting themselves more and more to the gentleness and delicacy of her character--obliged her very soon to dislike him less than formerly. She had by no means forgotten the past, and she thought as ill of him as ever; but she felt his powers: he was entertaining; and his manners were so improved, so polite, so seriously and blamelessly polite, that it was impossible not to be civil to him in return.

A very few days were enough to effect this; and at the end of those few days, circumstances arose which had a tendency rather to forward his views of pleasing her, inasmuch as they gave her a degree of happiness which must dispose her to be pleased with everybody. William, her brother, the so long absent and dearly loved brother, was in England again. She had a letter from him herself, a few hurried happy lines, written as the ship came up Channel, and sent into Portsmouth with the first boat that left the Antwerp at anchor in Spithead; and when Crawford walked up with the newspaper in his hand, which he had hoped would bring the first tidings, he found her trembling with joy over this letter, and listening with a glowing, grateful countenance to the kind invitation which her uncle was most collectedly dictating in reply.

It was but the day before that Crawford had made himself thoroughly master of the subject, or had in fact become at all aware of her having such a brother, or his being in such a ship, but the interest then excited had been very properly lively, determining him on his return to town to apply for information as to the probable period of the Antwerp's return from the Mediterranean, etc.; and the good luck which attended his early examination of ship news the next morning seemed the reward of his ingenuity in finding out such a method of pleasing her, as well as of his dutiful attention to the Admiral, in having for many years taken in the paper esteemed to have the earliest naval intelligence. He proved, however, to be too late. All those fine first feelings, of which he had hoped to be the exciter, were already given. But his intention, the kindness of his intention, was thankfully acknowledged: quite thankfully and warmly, for she was elevated beyond the common timidity of her mind by the flow of her love for William.

This dear William would soon be amongst them. There could be no doubt of his obtaining leave of absence immediately, for he was still only a midshipman; and as his parents, from living on the spot, must already have seen him, and be seeing him perhaps daily, his direct holidays might with justice be instantly given to the sister, who had been his best correspondent through a period of seven years, and the uncle who had done most for his support and advancement; and accordingly the reply to her reply, fixing a very early day for his arrival, came as soon as possible; and scarcely ten days had passed since Fanny had been in the agitation of her first dinner-visit, when she found herself in an agitation of a higher nature, watching in the hall, in the lobby, on the stairs, for the first sound of the carriage which was to bring her a brother.

It came happily while she was thus waiting; and there being neither ceremony nor fearfulness to delay the moment of meeting, she was with him as he entered the house, and the first minutes of exquisite feeling had no interruption and no witnesses, unless the servants chiefly intent upon opening the proper doors could be called such. This was exactly what Sir Thomas and Edmund had been separately conniving at, as each proved to the other by the sympathetic alacrity with which they both advised Mrs. Norris's continuing where she was, instead of rushing out into the hall as soon as the noises of the arrival reached them.

William and Fanny soon shewed themselves; and Sir Thomas had the pleasure of receiving, in his protege, certainly a very different person from the one he had equipped seven years ago, but a young man of an open, pleasant countenance, and frank, unstudied, but feeling and respectful manners, and such as confirmed him his friend.

It was long before Fanny could recover from the agitating happiness of such an hour as was formed by the last thirty minutes of expectation, and the first of fruition; it was some time even before her happiness could be said to make her happy, before the disappointment inseparable from the alteration of person had vanished, and she could see in him the same William as before, and talk to him, as her heart had been yearning to do through many a past year. That time, however, did gradually come, forwarded by an affection on his side as warm as her own, and much less encumbered by refinement or self-distrust. She was the first object of his love, but it was a love which his stronger spirits, and bolder temper, made it as natural for him to express as to feel. On the morrow they were walking about together with true enjoyment, and every succeeding morrow renewed a _tete-a-tete_ which Sir Thomas could not but observe with complacency, even before Edmund had pointed it out to him.

Excepting the moments of peculiar delight, which any marked or unlooked-for instance of Edmund's consideration of her in the last few months had excited, Fanny had never known so much felicity in her life, as in this unchecked, equal, fearless intercourse with the brother and friend who was opening all his heart to her, telling her all his hopes and fears, plans, and solicitudes respecting that long thought of, dearly earned, and justly valued blessing of promotion; who could give her direct and minute information of the father and mother, brothers and sisters, of whom she very seldom heard; who was interested in all the comforts and all the little hardships of her home at Mansfield; ready to think of every member of that home as she directed, or differing only by a less scrupulous opinion, and more noisy abuse of their aunt Norris, and with whom (perhaps the dearest indulgence of the whole) all the evil and good of their earliest years could be gone over again, and every former united pain and pleasure retraced with the fondest recollection. An advantage this, a strengthener of love, in which even the conjugal tie is beneath the fraternal. Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connexions can supply; and it must be by a long and unnatural estrangement, by a divorce which no subsequent connexion can justify, if such precious remains of the earliest attachments are ever entirely outlived. Too often, alas! it is so. Fraternal love, sometimes almost everything, is at others worse than nothing. But with William and Fanny Price it was still a sentiment in all its prime and freshness, wounded by no opposition of interest, cooled by no separate attachment, and feeling the influence of time and absence only in its increase.

An affection so amiable was advancing each in the opinion of all who had hearts to value anything good. Henry Crawford was as much struck with it as any. He honoured the warm-hearted, blunt fondness of the young sailor, which led him to say, with his hands stretched towards Fanny's head, "Do you know, I begin to like that queer fashion already, though when I first heard of such things being done in England, I could not believe it; and when Mrs. Brown, and the other women at the Commissioner's at Gibraltar, appeared in the same trim, I thought they were mad; but Fanny can reconcile me to anything"; and saw, with lively admiration, the glow of Fanny's cheek, the brightness of her eye, the deep interest, the absorbed attention, while her brother was describing any of the imminent hazards, or terrific scenes, which such a period at sea must supply.

It was a picture which Henry Crawford had moral taste enough to value. Fanny's attractions increased--increased twofold; for the sensibility which beautified her complexion and illumined her countenance was an attraction in itself. He was no longer in doubt of the capabilities of her heart. She had feeling, genuine feeling. It would be something to be loved by such a girl, to excite the first ardours of her young unsophisticated mind! She interested him more than he had foreseen. A fortnight was not enough. His stay became indefinite.

William was often called on by his uncle to be the talker. His recitals were amusing in themselves to Sir Thomas, but the chief object in seeking them was to understand the reciter, to know the young man by his histories; and he listened to his clear, simple, spirited details with full satisfaction, seeing in them the proof of good principles, professional knowledge, energy, courage, and cheerfulness, everything that could deserve or promise well. Young as he was, William had already seen a great deal. He had been in the Mediterranean; in the West Indies; in the Mediterranean again; had been often taken on shore by the favour of his captain, and in the course of seven years had known every variety of danger which sea and war together could offer. With such means in his power he had a right to be listened to; and though Mrs. Norris could fidget about the room, and disturb everybody in quest of two needlefuls of thread or a second-hand shirt button, in the midst of her nephew's account of a shipwreck or an engagement, everybody else was attentive; and even Lady Bertram could not hear of such horrors unmoved, or without sometimes lifting her eyes from her work to say, "Dear me! how disagreeable! I wonder anybody can ever go to sea."

To Henry Crawford they gave a different feeling. He longed to have been at sea, and seen and done and suffered as much. His heart was warmed, his fancy fired, and he felt the highest respect for a lad who, before he was twenty, had gone through such bodily hardships and given such proofs of mind. The glory of heroism, of usefulness, of exertion, of endurance, made his own habits of selfish indulgence appear in shameful contrast; and he wished he had been a William Price, distinguishing himself and working his way to fortune and consequence with so much self-respect and happy ardour, instead of what he was!

The wish was rather eager than lasting. He was roused from the reverie of retrospection and regret produced by it, by some inquiry from Edmund as to his plans for the next day's hunting; and he found it was as well to be a man of fortune at once with horses and grooms at his command. In one respect it was better, as it gave him the means of conferring a kindness where he wished to oblige. With spirits, courage, and curiosity up to anything, William expressed an inclination to hunt; and Crawford could mount him without the slightest inconvenience to himself, and with only some scruples to obviate in Sir Thomas, who knew better than his nephew the value of such a loan, and some alarms to reason away in Fanny. She feared for William; by no means convinced by all that he could relate of his own horsemanship in various countries, of the scrambling parties in which he had been engaged, the rough horses and mules he had ridden, or his many narrow escapes from dreadful falls, that he was at all equal to the management of a high-fed hunter in an English fox-chase; nor till he returned safe and well, without accident or discredit, could she be reconciled to the risk, or feel any of that obligation to Mr. Crawford for lending the horse which he had fully intended it should produce. When it was proved, however, to have done William no harm, she could allow it to be a kindness, and even reward the owner with a smile when the animal was one minute tendered to his use again; and the next, with the greatest cordiality, and in a manner not to be resisted, made over to his use entirely so long as he remained in Northamptonshire.

(End volume one of this edition. Printed by T. and A. Constable, Printers to Her Majesty at the Edinburgh University Press)

亨利·克劳福德第二天早晨打定了主意,要在曼斯菲尔德再住两个星期。他吩咐人把他的猎马送来,并给海军将军写了封短信做了一番解释。信封好交出去之后,他便同过头来看了看妹妹,见周围没人,便笑微微地说:“你知道我不打猎的时候准备怎么消遣吗,玛丽?我已经不那么年轻了,一星期最多只能打三次猎。不过,我对中间不打猎的日子有一个计划,你知道我准备怎么安排吗?”

“一定是和我一起散步,一起骑马啦。”

“不完全是,尽管我很乐意做这两件事。不过,那只是活动身体,我还要注意我的心灵呢。再说,那只不过是沉湎于娱乐消遣,没有一点需要苦苦开动脑筋的有益因素,我可不喜欢过这种无所事事的生活。不,我的计划是让范妮·普莱斯爱上我。”

“范妮·普莱斯!胡说!不行,不行。有她两位表姐你该满足了。”

“可是没有范妮·普莱斯,不给她心上戳个小洞,我是不会满足的。你似乎没有察觉她有多么可爱。昨天晚上我们谈论她的时候,你们好像谁也没有注意到,在过去六个星期里她的容貌发生了多么奇妙移的变化。你天天见她,因而也就注意不到她在变,不过我可以告诉你,她和秋天时相比真是判若两人。她那时只是一个文静腼腆、不算难看的姑娘,可现在却漂亮极了。我过去觉得她脸色不好看,表情又呆板。不过看看她那柔嫩的皮肤,就像昨天晚上那样,常常泛起一抹红晕,那可真是妩媚极了。再根据我对她的眼睛和嘴的观察,我想在她心有所动的时候,肯定很富于表情。还有——她的神态,她的举止,她的一切全都变了!从10月以来,她至少长高了两英寸。”

“得了!得了!这只是因为没有高个子女人在场和她比,因为她换了件新衣服,你以前从没见她打扮得这么漂亮。你相信我好了,她跟lO月份一模一样。问题在于,当时你身边只有她一个姑娘可以关注,而你总需要有个人和你相好。我一向认为她漂亮——不是十分漂亮——而是人们所说的‘挺漂亮’,是逐渐出落成的一种美。她的眼珠还不够黑,但她笑起来很甜蜜。至于你说的奇妙变化,我想可以归结为衣着得体,你又没有别的人可看。因此,你要是真的想挑逗她,我可决不会相信你是因为她长得美,你只是出于无所事事,百无聊赖而已。”

做哥哥的听了这番批评,只是嫣然一笑。过了一会,他说:“我并不十分清楚范妮小姐是怎样一个人。我不了解她,昨天晚上我不知道她是什么意思。她是什么样的性格。她是不是总爱一本正经的?她是不是挺古怪的?她是不是有点假正经?她为什么要畏畏缩缩,板着脸看我?我简直都没法让她开口。我还从没和一个姑娘在一起待这么长时间——想讨她欢心——却碰了一鼻子灰!我从没遇到一个姑娘这样板着脸对待我!我一定要扭转这个局面。她的神情在说:‘我不喜欢你,我决不会喜欢你。’我要说:我非要让她喜欢不可。”

“傻瓜!原来这就是她的魅力所在呀!原来是这么回事——是因为她不喜欢你——你才觉得她皮肤柔嫩,觉得她个子大大长高了,那么妩媚,那么迷人!我真希望你不要给她带来不幸。燃起一点点爱情也许能给她带来生气,带来好处,但是我不允许你让她陷得太深。她可是个很好的小姑娘,感情很丰富。”

“只不过是两个星期,”亨利说,“如果两个星期能要她的命,那她也太弱不禁风了,即使不去招惹她,也是没救了。不,我是不会害她的,可爱的小精灵!我只是想让她亲切地看待我,对我既能脸红又能微笑,不论在什么地方,都在她身边给我留一把椅子,等我坐下来跟她说话的时候,她要兴致勃勃。她还要和我有同样的想法,对我的财产和娱乐饶有兴趣,尽量让我在曼斯菲尔德多住些日子,等我离开的时候,她会觉得自己永远不会再快活了。我的要求仅此而已。”

“要求是不高啊!”玛丽说。“我现在没有顾虑了。好了,你有的是机会讨她的欢心了,因为我们经常在一起。”

她没有进一步表示反对,便丢下范妮不管,任她去接受命运的考验——克劳福德小姐没有料到范妮心里早已有所戒备,不然的话,这命运真会让她招架不住。天下肯定有一些不可征服的十八岁姑娘(不然的话,人们从书里也读不到这样的人物),任凭你再怎么费尽心机,再怎么卖弄风采,再怎么献殷勤,再怎么甜言蜜语,都无法使她们违心地陷入情网,不过我并不认为范妮是这样的姑娘。我觉得她性情这么温柔,又这么富有情趣,要不是心里另有他人的话,遇到克劳福德这样的男人追求她,尽管先前对他的印象不好,尽管追求的时间只有两个星期,她恐怕很难芳心不乱。虽说对另一个人的爱和对他的轻蔑能确保她在受到追逐时仍然心境平静,但是经不住克劳福德持续不断地献殷勤——持续不断却又注意分寸,并且越来越投合她那文雅稳重的性情,要不了多久,她就不会像以前那样讨厌他了。她决没有忘记过去,还依然看不起他,但却感受到了他的魅力。他颇为有趣,言谈举止大有改进,变得客客气气,客气得规规矩矩,无可指摘,她对他也不能不以礼相待。

只消几天工夫便可达到这一步。这几天刚过,就发生了一件让范妮万分高兴的事,乐得她见谁都喜笑颜开,因此也就有利于克劳福德进一步讨她欢心。她的哥哥,她那个久在海外的亲爱的哥哥威廉,又回到了英国。她收到了他的一封信,那是他们的军舰驶入英吉利海峡时他匆匆写下的报喜的信,只有几行。“安特卫普”号军舰在斯皮特黑德抛锚后,他把信交给从舰上放下的第一艘小艇送到了朴次茅斯。克劳福德手拿着报纸走来,原指望给她带来这最新的消息,不想却看到她一边手拿着信高兴得发抖,一边又容光焕发地怀着感激之情,在听姨父泰然自若地口述回信,向威廉发出热情邀请。

克劳福德只是在前一天才了解了这件事的底细,知道她有这样一个哥哥,这个哥哥就在这样一艘军舰上。不过,他当时虽说很感兴趣,也只是适可而止,打算一回伦敦就打听“安特卫普”号可能什么时候从地中海回国。第二天早晨他查阅报纸上的舰艇消息时,恰巧看到了这条消息。真是上天不负有心人,他巧妙地想出了这样一个办法,既赢得了范妮的欢心,又表示了他对海军将军的关切,多年以来,他一直在订阅上边登有海军最新消息的这份报纸。然而,他来迟了。他原想由他来激起范妮那美妙的惊喜之情,不料这种心情早已激发起来了。不过,范妮对他的关心,对他的好意还是表示感激——热情地表示感激,因为她出于对威廉的深情厚爱,已经超脱了平常的羞怯心理。

亲爱的威廉很快就要来到他们中间了。毫无疑问他会马上请到假的,因为他还只是个海军候补少尉。父母就住在当地,肯定已经见到了他,也许天天能见到他。按理说,他一请好假就会立即来看妹妹和姨父。在七年的时间里,妹妹给他写的信最多,姨父也在尽最大努力帮助他,为他寻求晋升。因此,范妮给哥哥写的回信很快得到了回信,哥哥确定了日期,要尽快到这里来。从范妮第一次心情激动地在外边做客吃饭那天起,过了还不到十天,她就迎来了一个心情更加激动的时刻——在门厅里,在门廊下,在楼梯上,等候倾听哥哥马车到来的声响。

马车在她的企盼中欢快地来到了。既没有什么虚礼,也没有什么可怕的事来耽搁相见的时刻,威廉一走进屋来,范妮便扑到他身边。最初时刻那强烈的感情流露既没有人打断,也没有人看见,如果说有人的话,也只是那些小心翼翼就怕开错门的仆人。这种场面正是托马斯爵士和埃德蒙不谋而合安排好的,他们不约而同地欣然劝说诺里斯太太待在原地,不要一听到马车到达的声音,就往门厅里跑。

过了不久,威廉和范妮就来到了大家面前。托马斯爵士高兴地发现,他七年前给装备起来的这位被保护人现在完全变了样子,已经出挑成了一个开朗和悦、诚挚自然、情真意切、彬彬有礼的青年,使他越发认定可以做他的朋友了。

范妮在最后三十分钟的期待和最初三十分钟见面时的激动喜悦之情,过了很久才平静下来。甚至过了很久,她的这种喜悦之情才可以说使她真正感到欣喜,她那由于见到的已非原来的威廉而产生的失落感才逐渐消失,她才从他身上见到了原来的威廉,才能像她多年来所企盼的那样与他交谈。不过,由于威廉的感情和她的一样热烈,也由于他不那样讲究文雅和欢乏自信,这样的时刻还是渐渐来到了。她是威廉最爱的人,只不过他现在意气更高昂,性情更刚强,因而爱得坦然,表达得也很自然。第二天他们一起在外边散步的时候,才真正体会到重逢的喜悦,以后两人天天都在一起谈心。托马斯爵士没等埃德蒙告诉他就已看出来了,心里感到颇为得意。

除了在过去几个月中,埃德蒙对她的一些明显的、出乎意料的体贴给她带来的特大快乐外,范妮还从未领受过这次与哥哥加朋友的这种无拘无束、平等无忧的交往带来的莫大幸福。威廉向她敞开了心扉,对她讲述了他为那向往已久的提职,如何满怀希望,如何忧心忡忡,如何为之筹划,如何翘首以盼,喜事来之不易,理当倍加珍惜。他对她讲了他亲眼见到的爸爸、妈妈、弟弟、妹妹们的详细情况,而她过去很少听到他们的消息。威廉兴致勃勃地听妹妹讲她在曼斯菲尔德的情况,讲她在这里过的舒适生活,遇到的种种不愉快的小事——他赞成妹妹对这家人每个成员的看法,只是在谈到诺里斯姨妈时,他比妹妹更无所顾忌,责骂起来声色俱厉。两人一起回忆小时候表现得乖不乖(这也许是他们最喜欢谈论的话题),一起缅怀以往共同经历过的痛苦和欢乐。两人越谈越亲密,这种兄妹之情甚至胜过夫妻之爱。来自同一家庭,属于同一血缘,幼年时有着同样的经历、同样的习惯,致使兄弟姐妹在一起感到的那种快乐,在夫妻亲朋关系中很难感受到。只有出现了长期的、异乎寻常的疏远,关系破裂后又未能重修旧好,儿时留下的珍贵情谊才会被彻底忘却。唉,这种事情屡见不鲜呀!骨肉之情有时胜过一切,有时一文不值。但是,对威廉兄妹来说,这种感情依然又热烈又新鲜,没有受到利害冲突的损害,没有因为各有所恋而变得冷漠,长久的分离反而使这感情越来越深。

兄妹之间如此相亲相爱,使每一个珍惜美好事物的人都更加敬重他们。亨利·克劳福德也像其他人一样深受感动。他赞赏年轻水手对妹妹的一片深情和毫不掩饰的爱,于是便把手伸向范妮的头,一边说道:“你知道吧,我已经喜欢上了这种奇怪的发型,虽说我最初听说英国有人梳这样的发型时,我简直不敢相信。当布朗太太和别的女人都梳着这种发型来到驻直布罗陀长官家里的时候,我认为她们都疯了。不过,范妮能让我对什么都看得惯。”做哥哥的出海这么多年,自然遇到过不少突如其来的危险和蔚为壮观的景致,范妮一听他描述起这样的事情,就不由得容光焕发,两眼晶亮,兴致勃勃,精神贯注,克劳福德不禁异常羡慕。

这是亨利·克劳福德从道德的角度颇为珍惜的一幅情景。范妮的吸引力增加了——增加了两倍——因为多情本身就很富有魅力,使她气色俊秀,容颜焕发。他不再怀疑她会情意绵绵。她有感情,有纯真的感情。能得到这样一位姑娘的爱,能让她那年轻纯朴的心灵产生初恋的激情,这该是多么难能可贵的事情啊!他对她的兴趣超出了他的预想。两个星期还不够。他要不定期地住下去。

姨父常常要威廉给大家讲他的见闻。托马斯爵士觉得他讲的事情很有趣,不过他要他讲的主要目的是要了解他,是要通过听经历来了解这个年轻人。他听他简单明了、生气勃勃地叙述他的详细经历,感到十分满意——从这些经历中,可以看出他为人正派,熟谙业务,有活力,有勇气,性情开朗——这一切确保他应该受到重用,也能受到重用。威廉尽管年轻,却已经有了丰富的阅历。他到过地中海,到过西印度群岛,再回到地中海。舰长喜欢他,每到一地,常把他带上岸。七年当中,他经历了大海和战争给他带来的种种危险。他有这么多不平凡的经历,讲起来自然值得一听。就在他叙述海难或海战的时候,尽管诺里斯太太走来走去,一个劲儿地打扰别人,时而向这个要两根线,时而向那个要一粒衬衫扣子,但其他人都在聚精会神地听。连伯特伧夫人听到这些可怕的事也为之震惊,有时停下手里的活计抬眼说道:“天哪!多可怕呀。我不明白怎么会有人去当水手。”

亨利·克劳福德听后却不这样想。他巴不得自己也当过水手,有过这么多见识,做过这么多事情,受过这么多苦难。他心潮澎湃,浮想联翩,对这个还不到二十岁就饱尝艰难困苦、充分显示出聪明才智的小伙子感到无比敬佩。在他的英勇无畏、为国效劳、艰苦奋斗、吃苦耐劳光辉精神的比照下,他只顾自己吃喝玩乐简直是卑鄙无耻。他真想做威廉·普莱斯这样一个人,满怀自尊和欢快的热忱,靠自己奋斗来建功立业,而不是现在这样!

这种愿望来得迫切,去得也快。埃德蒙问他第二天的打猎怎样安排,把他从回顾往事的梦幻和由此而来的悔恨中惊醒。他觉得做一个有马车马夫的有钱人同样不错。在某种意义上,这还要更好,因为你想施惠于人的时候,倒有条件这样做。威廉对什么事都兴致勃勃,无所畏惧,欲求一试,因此表示也想去打猎。对克劳福德来说,给威廉准备一匹打猎的坐骑可以说是不费吹灰之力,他只需要打消托马斯爵士的顾虑——他比外甥更了解欠别人人情的代价,还需要说服范妮不必担心。范妮对威廉不放心。威廉对她讲了他在多少国家骑过马,参加过哪些爬山活动,骑过多少脾气暴烈的骡子和马,摔过多少次都没摔死,但她依然不相信他能驾驭一匹膘肥体壮的猎马在英国猎狐。而且,不等哥哥平安无事地打猎回来,她会一直认为不该冒这样的险,也不会感激克劳福德借马给哥哥,尽管克劳福德原本就想求得她的感激。不过,事实证明威廉没有出事,她这才感到这是一番好意。马的主人提出让威廉下次再骑,接着又极其热情、不容推辞地把马完全交给了威廉,叫他在北安普敦郡做客期间尽管骑用。这时,范妮甚至向克劳福德报以微笑。



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