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Chapter 33

The conference was neither so short nor so conclusive as the lady had designed. The gentleman was not so easily satisfied. He had all the disposition to persevere that Sir Thomas could wish him. He had vanity, which strongly inclined him in the first place to think she did love him, though she might not know it herself; and which, secondly, when constrained at last to admit that she did know her own present feelings, convinced him that he should be able in time to make those feelings what he wished.

He was in love, very much in love; and it was a love which, operating on an active, sanguine spirit, of more warmth than delicacy, made her affection appear of greater consequence because it was withheld, and determined him to have the glory, as well as the felicity, of forcing her to love him.

He would not despair: he would not desist. He had every well-grounded reason for solid attachment; he knew her to have all the worth that could justify the warmest hopes of lasting happiness with her; her conduct at this very time, by speaking the disinterestedness and delicacy of her character (qualities which he believed most rare indeed), was of a sort to heighten all his wishes, and confirm all his resolutions. He knew not that he had a pre-engaged heart to attack. Of _that_ he had no suspicion. He considered her rather as one who had never thought on the subject enough to be in danger; who had been guarded by youth, a youth of mind as lovely as of person; whose modesty had prevented her from understanding his attentions, and who was still overpowered by the suddenness of addresses so wholly unexpected, and the novelty of a situation which her fancy had never taken into account.

Must it not follow of course, that, when he was understood, he should succeed? He believed it fully. Love such as his, in a man like himself, must with perseverance secure a return, and at no great distance; and he had so much delight in the idea of obliging her to love him in a very short time, that her not loving him now was scarcely regretted. A little difficulty to be overcome was no evil to Henry Crawford. He rather derived spirits from it. He had been apt to gain hearts too easily. His situation was new and animating.

To Fanny, however, who had known too much opposition all her life to find any charm in it, all this was unintelligible. She found that he did mean to persevere; but how he could, after such language from her as she felt herself obliged to use, was not to be understood. She told him that she did not love him, could not love him, was sure she never should love him; that such a change was quite impossible; that the subject was most painful to her; that she must entreat him never to mention it again, to allow her to leave him at once, and let it be considered as concluded for ever. And when farther pressed, had added, that in her opinion their dispositions were so totally dissimilar as to make mutual affection incompatible; and that they were unfitted for each other by nature, education, and habit. All this she had said, and with the earnestness of sincerity; yet this was not enough, for he immediately denied there being anything uncongenial in their characters, or anything unfriendly in their situations; and positively declared, that he would still love, and still hope!

Fanny knew her own meaning, but was no judge of her own manner. Her manner was incurably gentle; and she was not aware how much it concealed the sternness of her purpose. Her diffidence, gratitude, and softness made every expression of indifference seem almost an effort of self-denial; seem, at least, to be giving nearly as much pain to herself as to him. Mr. Crawford was no longer the Mr. Crawford who, as the clandestine, insidious, treacherous admirer of Maria Bertram, had been her abhorrence, whom she had hated to see or to speak to, in whom she could believe no good quality to exist, and whose power, even of being agreeable, she had barely acknowledged. He was now the Mr. Crawford who was addressing herself with ardent, disinterested love; whose feelings were apparently become all that was honourable and upright, whose views of happiness were all fixed on a marriage of attachment; who was pouring out his sense of her merits, describing and describing again his affection, proving as far as words could prove it, and in the language, tone, and spirit of a man of talent too, that he sought her for her gentleness and her goodness; and to complete the whole, he was now the Mr. Crawford who had procured William's promotion!

Here was a change, and here were claims which could not but operate! She might have disdained him in all the dignity of angry virtue, in the grounds of Sotherton, or the theatre at Mansfield Park; but he approached her now with rights that demanded different treatment. She must be courteous, and she must be compassionate. She must have a sensation of being honoured, and whether thinking of herself or her brother, she must have a strong feeling of gratitude. The effect of the whole was a manner so pitying and agitated, and words intermingled with her refusal so expressive of obligation and concern, that to a temper of vanity and hope like Crawford's, the truth, or at least the strength of her indifference, might well be questionable; and he was not so irrational as Fanny considered him, in the professions of persevering, assiduous, and not desponding attachment which closed the interview.

It was with reluctance that he suffered her to go; but there was no look of despair in parting to belie his words, or give her hopes of his being less unreasonable than he professed himself.

Now she was angry. Some resentment did arise at a perseverance so selfish and ungenerous. Here was again a want of delicacy and regard for others which had formerly so struck and disgusted her. Here was again a something of the same Mr. Crawford whom she had so reprobated before. How evidently was there a gross want of feeling and humanity where his own pleasure was concerned; and alas! how always known no principle to supply as a duty what the heart was deficient in! Had her own affections been as free as perhaps they ought to have been, he never could have engaged them.

So thought Fanny, in good truth and sober sadness, as she sat musing over that too great indulgence and luxury of a fire upstairs: wondering at the past and present; wondering at what was yet to come, and in a nervous agitation which made nothing clear to her but the persuasion of her being never under any circumstances able to love Mr. Crawford, and the felicity of having a fire to sit over and think of it.

Sir Thomas was obliged, or obliged himself, to wait till the morrow for a knowledge of what had passed between the young people. He then saw Mr. Crawford, and received his account. The first feeling was disappointment: he had hoped better things; he had thought that an hour's entreaty from a young man like Crawford could not have worked so little change on a gentle-tempered girl like Fanny; but there was speedy comfort in the determined views and sanguine perseverance of the lover; and when seeing such confidence of success in the principal, Sir Thomas was soon able to depend on it himself.

Nothing was omitted, on his side, of civility, compliment, or kindness, that might assist the plan. Mr. Crawford's steadiness was honoured, and Fanny was praised, and the connexion was still the most desirable in the world. At Mansfield Park Mr. Crawford would always be welcome; he had only to consult his own judgment and feelings as to the frequency of his visits, at present or in future. In all his niece's family and friends, there could be but one opinion, one wish on the subject; the influence of all who loved her must incline one way.

Everything was said that could encourage, every encouragement received with grateful joy, and the gentlemen parted the best of friends.

Satisfied that the cause was now on a footing the most proper and hopeful, Sir Thomas resolved to abstain from all farther importunity with his niece, and to shew no open interference. Upon her disposition he believed kindness might be the best way of working. Entreaty should be from one quarter only. The forbearance of her family on a point, respecting which she could be in no doubt of their wishes, might be their surest means of forwarding it. Accordingly, on this principle, Sir Thomas took the first opportunity of saying to her, with a mild gravity, intended to be overcoming, "Well, Fanny, I have seen Mr. Crawford again, and learn from him exactly how matters stand between you. He is a most extraordinary young man, and whatever be the event, you must feel that you have created an attachment of no common character; though, young as you are, and little acquainted with the transient, varying, unsteady nature of love, as it generally exists, you cannot be struck as I am with all that is wonderful in a perseverance of this sort against discouragement. With him it is entirely a matter of feeling: he claims no merit in it; perhaps is entitled to none. Yet, having chosen so well, his constancy has a respectable stamp. Had his choice been less unexceptionable, I should have condemned his persevering."

"Indeed, sir," said Fanny, "I am very sorry that Mr. Crawford should continue to know that it is paying me a very great compliment, and I feel most undeservedly honoured; but I am so perfectly convinced, and I have told him so, that it never will be in my power--"

"My dear," interrupted Sir Thomas, "there is no occasion for this. Your feelings are as well known to me as my wishes and regrets must be to you. There is nothing more to be said or done. From this hour the subject is never to be revived between us. You will have nothing to fear, or to be agitated about. You cannot suppose me capable of trying to persuade you to marry against your inclinations. Your happiness and advantage are all that I have in view, and nothing is required of you but to bear with Mr. Crawford's endeavours to convince you that they may not be incompatible with his. He proceeds at his own risk. You are on safe ground. I have engaged for your seeing him whenever he calls, as you might have done had nothing of this sort occurred. You will see him with the rest of us, in the same manner, and, as much as you can, dismissing the recollection of everything unpleasant. He leaves Northamptonshire so soon, that even this slight sacrifice cannot be often demanded. The future must be very uncertain. And now, my dear Fanny, this subject is closed between us."

The promised departure was all that Fanny could think of with much satisfaction. Her uncle's kind expressions, however, and forbearing manner, were sensibly felt; and when she considered how much of the truth was unknown to him, she believed she had no right to wonder at the line of conduct he pursued. He, who had married a daughter to Mr. Rushworth: romantic delicacy was certainly not to be expected from him. She must do her duty, and trust that time might make her duty easier than it now was.

She could not, though only eighteen, suppose Mr. Crawford's attachment would hold out for ever; she could not but imagine that steady, unceasing discouragement from herself would put an end to it in time. How much time she might, in her own fancy, allot for its dominion, is another concern. It would not be fair to inquire into a young lady's exact estimate of her own perfections.

In spite of his intended silence, Sir Thomas found himself once more obliged to mention the subject to his niece, to prepare her briefly for its being imparted to her aunts; a measure which he would still have avoided, if possible, but which became necessary from the totally opposite feelings of Mr. Crawford as to any secrecy of proceeding. He had no idea of concealment. It was all known at the Parsonage, where he loved to talk over the future with both his sisters, and it would be rather gratifying to him to have enlightened witnesses of the progress of his success. When Sir Thomas understood this, he felt the necessity of making his own wife and sister-in-law acquainted with the business without delay; though, on Fanny's account, he almost dreaded the effect of the communication to Mrs. Norris as much as Fanny herself. He deprecated her mistaken but well-meaning zeal. Sir Thomas, indeed, was, by this time, not very far from classing Mrs. Norris as one of those well-meaning people who are always doing mistaken and very disagreeable things.

Mrs. Norris, however, relieved him. He pressed for the strictest forbearance and silence towards their niece; she not only promised, but did observe it. She only looked her increased ill-will. Angry she was: bitterly angry; but she was more angry with Fanny for having received such an offer than for refusing it. It was an injury and affront to Julia, who ought to have been Mr. Crawford's choice; and, independently of that, she disliked Fanny, because she had neglected her; and she would have grudged such an elevation to one whom she had been always trying to depress.

Sir Thomas gave her more credit for discretion on the occasion than she deserved; and Fanny could have blessed her for allowing her only to see her displeasure, and not to hear it.

Lady Bertram took it differently. She had been a beauty, and a prosperous beauty, all her life; and beauty and wealth were all that excited her respect. To know Fanny to be sought in marriage by a man of fortune, raised her, therefore, very much in her opinion. By convincing her that Fanny _was_ very pretty, which she had been doubting about before, and that she would be advantageously married, it made her feel a sort of credit in calling her niece.

"Well, Fanny," said she, as soon as they were alone together afterwards, and she really had known something like impatience to be alone with her, and her countenance, as she spoke, had extraordinary animation; "Well, Fanny, I have had a very agreeable surprise this morning. I must just speak of it _once_, I told Sir Thomas I must _once_, and then I shall have done. I give you joy, my dear niece." And looking at her complacently, she added, "Humph, we certainly are a handsome family!"

Fanny coloured, and doubted at first what to say; when, hoping to assail her on her vulnerable side, she presently answered--

"My dear aunt, _you_ cannot wish me to do differently from what I have done, I am sure. _You_ cannot wish me to marry; for you would miss me, should not you? Yes, I am sure you would miss me too much for that."

"No, my dear, I should not think of missing you, when such an offer as this comes in your way. I could do very well without you, if you were married to a man of such good estate as Mr. Crawford. And you must be aware, Fanny, that it is every young woman's duty to accept such a very unexceptionable offer as this."

This was almost the only rule of conduct, the only piece of advice, which Fanny had ever received from her aunt in the course of eight years and a half. It silenced her. She felt how unprofitable contention would be. If her aunt's feelings were against her, nothing could be hoped from attacking her understanding. Lady Bertram was quite talkative.

"I will tell you what, Fanny," said she, "I am sure he fell in love with you at the ball; I am sure the mischief was done that evening. You did look remarkably well. Everybody said so. Sir Thomas said so. And you know you had Chapman to help you to dress. I am very glad I sent Chapman to you. I shall tell Sir Thomas that I am sure it was done that evening." And still pursuing the same cheerful thoughts, she soon afterwards added, "And will tell you what, Fanny, which is more than I did for Maria: the next time Pug has a litter you shall have a puppy."

这场交谈不像范妮计划的那样短,也不像她设想的那样解决问题。克劳福德先生不是那么容易打发得掉的。他正像托马斯爵士希望的那样百折不挠。他盲目自信,起初非要认为她的确爱他,尽管她本人可能没有意识到。后来,他不得不承认她对她目前的感情还真不含糊,于是便自负地认为,他早晚能让她的感情符合他的心愿。

他坠人了情网,深深地坠入了情网。这种爱,受一种积极、乐观的精神的驱动,表现得热烈有余,深沉不足。正是由于范妮拒绝了他,他把她的感情看得更加可贵,便决计要迫使她爱上自己,这就既荣耀又幸福。

他不肯绝望,不肯罢休。他有充分的理由不屈不挠地去爱她。他知道她人品好,能满足他对持久幸福的强烈愿望。她现在说她不愿意,说明她既不贪心,性情又那么娴淑(这是他认为最难得的品质),更加激发了他的愿望,坚定了他的决心。他不知道他要征服的这颗心早已另有所属。他丝毫没往这方面猜疑。他认为她很少想过这种事情,因而决不会有这样的危险。他觉得她还是个情窦未开的少女,清纯的心灵像妙丽的姿容一样招人喜爱。他还认定她只是因为生性腼腆,才没有领会他的百般殷勤,他的求婚来得太突然,太出乎她的意料,她一时不知所措,根本想象不到事情有多么奇妙。

一旦他被理解,他岂不是就会成功吗?他完全相信这一点。像他这样的人,不管爱上谁,只要坚持下去,必然会得到回报,而且为期不会远。一想到不久就会让她爱上他,他不禁满怀喜悦,她眼下不爱他也没有什么值得遗憾的。对于亨利·克劳福德来说,有点小小的困难要克服倒不是什么坏事。他会因此更来劲。他以前赢得别的姑娘的心都太容易了,现在第一次遇到这样的情况,越发激起了他的精神。

然而,范妮长了这么大还没遇到过什么顺心事,因而并不觉得这件事有什么令人愉快的地方,只觉得这一切不可思议。她发现他执意要坚持下去。但是,她被迫说出那番话之后,他怎么还那么死乞白赖,真叫她无法理解。她对他说过,她不爱他,不能爱他,肯定永远不会爱他:这是绝对不可能改变的,这件事使她感到极为痛苦,她求他永远不要再提这个问题,让她马上离开他,这件事就算彻底了结了。当对方进一步催逼的时候,她又补充说,她认为他们的性情完全不同,彼此不可能相爱,无论从性格、教养,还是从习惯来看,他们俩都不相配。这些话她都说过了,而且说得情真意切,然而还是无济于事,对方连忙否认两人的性情有什么不合的,两人的境况有什么不配的。他明确地宣布:他仍然要爱,仍然抱有希望!

范妮很清楚自己的意思,但是对自己的举止却拿不准。她的举止过于文雅,真是不可救药。她不知道她的文雅举止如何大大掩盖了她的矢志不移。她的羞怯、感恩、温柔使她每次表示回绝的时候,好像是在自我克制,至少让人觉得,她弄得自己几乎像他一样痛苦。克劳福德先生已经不是原来的那位克劳福德先生。原来的那位克劳福德先生是玛丽亚·伯特伦偷偷摸摸的、阴险狡诈的、用情不专的恋人,她厌恶他,不愿见到他,也不愿搭理他,认为他身上没有一点好品质,即使他能讨人喜欢,她也不承认他有任何讨人喜欢之处。他现在成了这样一位克劳福德先生:他怀着炽热无私的爱向她求起婚来;他的感情看来变得真挚赤诚,他的幸福观完全建立在为了爱情而结婚的基础上;他滔滔不绝地述说起他所意识到的她身上的种种优点,一而再、再而三地描述他对她的感情,搜肠刮肚地用言语,用他这么一个才华出众的人的语言、腔调和神情向她证明,他所以追求她是因为她温柔,因为她贤良,而尤为重要的是,他现在是帮助威廉晋升的克劳福德先生呀!

这就起了变化啦!这就欠下了人情,势必要影响她如何抉择。她本来可以像在索瑟顿庭园和曼斯菲尔德剧场里那样,以维护贞洁的尊严愤然地蔑视他,可他现在来找她就有权要求她另眼相待。她必须对他谦恭有礼,必须对他怜悯有加。她必须有一种受宠若惊的感觉,无论看在自己的分上还是看在哥哥的分上,她都必须有感恩戴德之心。这样一来,她的表现充满了怜悯和焦虑,她回绝他的话里夹杂着许多感激和关切之词,这对克劳福德这样盲目自信的人来说,她的拒绝的真实性,至少是坚定程度,就颇为值得怀疑。他在谈话结束时,所以会一再宣称要锲而不舍、再接再厉、不屈不挠地追求下去,并不像范妮认为的那样荒诞无稽。

克劳福德很不情愿她让她走了,但是临别时,从他的神情上看,他丝毫没有绝望,他说话并非心口不一,她也不要指望他会变得理智一些。

范妮现在恼火了。见他如此自私、狭隘地胡搅蛮缠,她不禁有点怨艾。这又是先前令她吃惊、令她厌恶的那种不体谅他人,不尊重他人。这又是先前令她不屑一顾的那个克劳福德先生的德行。只要自己快活,他可以全然没有人情,不讲人道——唉!一个没有情意的人,是不会有什么道义准则的,这岂不是历来如此吗?她的感情若不是另有所属——也许本不该另有所属——他也永远休想得到。

范妮坐在楼上,一边琢磨炉火给她带来的过于奢侈的享受,一边想着刚才的事情。她想的都是不折不扣的真情实事,心里觉得十分悲哀。她对过去和现在都感到惊诧,她在猜想下一步又该出什么事。在紧张不安之中,她什么都想不出个究竟,只知道她无论如何都不会爱克劳福德先生,加上有一炉火供她坐在那里取暖,让她左思右想,倒也觉得颇为快乐。

托马斯爵士只好或者说甘愿等到第二天,再了解两个年轻人交谈的结果。到了第二天,他见到了克劳福德先生,听了他的述说。他先是感到失望。他本来希望情况会好一些。他原以为,像克劳福德先生这样一个年轻人,对范妮这样一个性情温柔的姑娘恳求一个钟头。是不会徒劳无功的。但是,一看到这位求婚者态度那么坚决,满怀信心地定要坚持下去,他又很快得到了安慰。眼见当事人那副稳操胜券的样子,他也很快放下心来。

他从礼貌,到赞扬,到关照,凡是有助于促成这桩好事的,他是样样在所不辞。他赞赏了克劳福德先生的坚定不移,称赞了范妮,认为这两人的结合仍然是世上最美满的事情。曼斯菲尔德庄园随时欢迎克劳福德先生的到来。无论现在还是将来,他想多长时间来一次,完全由他决定,全看他兴之所在。对于他外甥女的家人和朋友来说,大家在这件事上只有一个想法,一个心愿,凡是爱她的人都得朝一个目标努力。

凡是能起鼓励作用的话全都说到了,每一句鼓励的话都给喜不自禁、感激不尽地接受了,两位先生分别时成了最好的朋友。

眼见着这件事已经有了个极其妥当、极有希望的基础,托马斯爵士感到颇为得意,便决定不再强求外甥女,不再去公开干涉。范妮有那样的性情,他觉得要影响她的最好办法,就是关心她。恳求只能来自一个方面。她很清楚一家人的心愿,一家人若是能宽容一些,就会最有效地促成这件事。因此,基于这个原则,托马斯爵士利用第一次和她说话的机会,为了能够打动她,以温和而严肃的口吻说:“范妮,我又见到了克劳福德先生,从他那里了解到你们之间的确切情况。他是一个很不一般的年轻人,不管这件事情怎么样,你应该意识到他的情意非同寻常。不过,你还年轻,不知道一般人的爱情短暂多变,不大牢靠,因此,对于他碰了钉子还锲而不舍,你就不像我那样觉得令人惊叹。对他来说,这完全是从感情出发,他这样做没有什么好称道的,或许也不值得称道。不过,由于他做出了这么如意的选择,他的坚定不移也就显得非常可贵了。如果他选择的对象不是这么无可指摘,我就会责怪他不该这么锲而不舍。”

“说实话,姨父,”范妮说,“我感到很遗憾,克劳福德先生居然还要继续——我知道这是给我很大的面子,我觉得自己完全不配受到这样的抬举。可我深知,也对他说过了,我永远不能——”

“亲爱的,”托马斯爵士打断了她的话,“没有必要说这些。我完全了解你的想法,你也必然了解我的愿望和遗憾。没有必要再说什么,再做什么。从此时此刻起,我们再不谈这件事了。你没有什么好担心的,也没有什么好心神不安的。你可不要以为我会劝你违背自己的意愿嫁人。我所考虑的只是你的幸福和利益,我对你没有别的要求,只求你在克劳福德先生来劝你,说你们的幸福和利益并不矛盾的时候,你能容忍他说下去。他这样做有什么后果,那是咎由自取,完全无损于你。我已经答应他,他无论什么时候来,你都见见他,就像以前没发生这件事时那样。你和我们大家一起见他,态度还和过去一样,尽量忘记一切不愉快的事情。他很快就要离开北安普敦郡,就连这点小小的委屈也不会常要你来承受。将来如何很难说。现在嘛,范妮,这件事在我们之间算是了结了。”

姨父说克劳福德先生即将离去,这是范妮唯一感到不胜高兴的事。不过,姨父的好言好语和克制包涵,虽然令她为之感动,但她头脑还很清醒。当她考虑有多少真相不为他所明了时,她觉得他会采取现有的方针是明摆着的事情。他把自己的一个女儿嫁给了拉什沃思先生,你就千万别指望他会异想天开地体贴什么儿女之情。她必须尽到自己的本分,希望随着时间的推移,她的尽本分会比现在容易一些。

她虽说只有十八岁,却料想克劳福德先生对她的爱不会持久不变。她设想,只要她坚持不懈地让他碰壁,这件事迟早总会结束的。至于她设想要为此花费多少时间,这是值得关心的另一个问题。我们不便去探究一个年轻姑娘如何确切地估价自己的种种丽质。

托马斯爵士本想绝口不谈这件事,但不得不又一次向外甥女提了出来,想在告知两位姨妈之前,让她略有个思想准备。但凡有可能,他还不想让她们知道,但是,既然克劳福德先生对保密完全不以为然,他现在必须告诉她们。克劳福德先生根本无意遮掩。这事在牧师府上已是尽人皆知,因为他就喜欢跟姐姐妹妹谈论他的未来,喜欢把他情场得意的消息随时报告两位有见识的见证人。托马斯爵士听说之后,感到必须马上把这件事告诉妻子和大姨子,虽说替范妮着想,他几乎像范妮一样害怕诺里斯太太知道这件事的后果。他不赞成她好心总要做错事的热情。这时,托马斯爵士的确把诺里斯太太划归为心肠好却总是做出错误的、令人讨厌的事情的人。

不过,诺里斯太太这次让他放心了。他要求她对外甥女一定要宽容,不要多嘴多舌。她不仅答应了,而且照办了,只是脸上显得越发恶狠狠的。她很气愤,简直有点怒不可遏。不过,她所以生范妮的气,主要是因为克劳福德先生这样一个人居然会向她求婚,而不是因为她拒绝了他的求婚。这是对朱莉娅的伤害和侮辱,按理说克劳福德先生应该追求她才是。此外,她也不喜欢范妮,因为范妮怠慢过她。她不想让一个她一直想压制的人受此抬举。

托马斯爵士以为她在这件事上变得谨慎起来了,还赞扬了她。范妮愿意感谢她,只因为她给了她脸色看,而没有责骂她。

伯特伦夫人的态度有所不同。她一直是个美人,而且是个有钱的美人。唯有美貌和有钱能激起她的敬重。因此,得知范妮被一个有钱人追求,大大提高了范妮在她心目中的地位。这件事使她意识到范妮是很漂亮(她以前对此一直有所怀疑),还要攀上一门很好的亲事。这时,她觉得能有这样一个外甥女,脸上也平添了几分光彩。

“喂,范妮,”一剩下她们两人时她便说,她这次还真有点迫不及待地想单独和她在一起,说话的时候,脸上的表情特有生气:“喂,范妮,今天上午我听说了一件让我大为惊喜的事情。我一定要说上一次。我对托马斯爵士说我一定要说一次,然后就再也不提了。我向你道喜,亲爱的外甥女。”一边洋洋得意地望着范妮,补充道:“哼——我们绝对是个漂亮的家族。”

范妮脸红了,起初不知道说什么好。后来想到可以攻击她的弱点,便马上答道:

“亲爱的姨妈,我相信,你是不会希望我不要这样做的。你是不会希望我结婚的。不然你会想我的,对吧?是的,你肯定会想我的,不会希望我结婚。”

“不,亲爱的,当你遇到这样一门好亲事的时候,我不该考虑想不想你。如果你能嫁给一个像克劳福德先生那样家道富足的人,我没有你完全可以。你要明白,范妮,像这样一个无可挑剔的对象来求婚,哪个年轻女人都应该接受。”

在八年半中,这几乎是范妮从二姨妈那里听到的唯一的一条行为准则,唯一的一条建议。她哑口无言了。她深知争论不会有什么好处。如果二姨妈不同意她的意见,她和她辩论也不会有什么结果。这时伯特伦夫人话还真多。

“你听我说,范妮,”二姨妈说,“我敢肯定他是在那次舞会上爱上你的,我敢肯定是那天晚上惹下的事。你那天晚上真好看。人人都这么说。托马斯爵士也这么说。你知道,你有查普曼太太帮你打扮。我很高兴我打发她去帮助你。我要告诉托马斯爵士,这件事肯定是那天晚上惹下的。”此后不久,她仍然顺着这愉快的思路,说道:“你听我说,范妮,下次哈巴狗下仔,我送你一条小狗——我连玛丽亚都没有送呢。”



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