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Chapter 35

Edmund had determined that it belonged entirely to Fanny to chuse whether her situation with regard to Crawford should be mentioned between them or not; and that if she did not lead the way, it should never be touched on by him; but after a day or two of mutual reserve, he was induced by his father to change his mind, and try what his influence might do for his friend.

A day, and a very early day, was actually fixed for the Crawfords' departure; and Sir Thomas thought it might be as well to make one more effort for the young man before he left Mansfield, that all his professions and vows of unshaken attachment might have as much hope to sustain them as possible.

Sir Thomas was most cordially anxious for the perfection of Mr. Crawford's character in that point. He wished him to be a model of constancy; and fancied the best means of effecting it would be by not trying him too long.

Edmund was not unwilling to be persuaded to engage in the business; he wanted to know Fanny's feelings. She had been used to consult him in every difficulty, and he loved her too well to bear to be denied her confidence now; he hoped to be of service to her, he thought he must be of service to her; whom else had she to open her heart to? If she did not need counsel, she must need the comfort of communication. Fanny estranged from him, silent and reserved, was an unnatural state of things; a state which he must break through, and which he could easily learn to think she was wanting him to break through.

"I will speak to her, sir: I will take the first opportunity of speaking to her alone," was the result of such thoughts as these; and upon Sir Thomas's information of her being at that very time walking alone in the shrubbery, he instantly joined her.

"I am come to walk with you, Fanny," said he. "Shall I?" Drawing her arm within his. "It is a long while since we have had a comfortable walk together."

She assented to it all rather by look than word. Her spirits were low.

"But, Fanny," he presently added, "in order to have a comfortable walk, something more is necessary than merely pacing this gravel together. You must talk to me. I know you have something on your mind. I know what you are thinking of. You cannot suppose me uninformed. Am I to hear of it from everybody but Fanny herself?"

Fanny, at once agitated and dejected, replied, "If you hear of it from everybody, cousin, there can be nothing for me to tell."

"Not of facts, perhaps; but of feelings, Fanny. No one but you can tell me them. I do not mean to press you, however. If it is not what you wish yourself, I have done. I had thought it might be a relief."

"I am afraid we think too differently for me to find any relief in talking of what I feel."

"Do you suppose that we think differently? I have no idea of it. I dare say that, on a comparison of our opinions, they would be found as much alike as they have been used to be: to the point--I consider Crawford's proposals as most advantageous and desirable, if you could return his affection. I consider it as most natural that all your family should wish you could return it; but that, as you cannot, you have done exactly as you ought in refusing him. Can there be any disagreement between us here?"

"Oh no! But I thought you blamed me. I thought you were against me. This is such a comfort!"

"This comfort you might have had sooner, Fanny, had you sought it. But how could you possibly suppose me against you? How could you imagine me an advocate for marriage without love? Were I even careless in general on such matters, how could you imagine me so where your happiness was at stake?"

"My uncle thought me wrong, and I knew he had been talking to you."

"As far as you have gone, Fanny, I think you perfectly right. I may be sorry, I may be surprised--though hardly _that_, for you had not had time to attach yourself--but I think you perfectly right. Can it admit of a question? It is disgraceful to us if it does. You did not love him; nothing could have justified your accepting him."

Fanny had not felt so comfortable for days and days.

"So far your conduct has been faultless, and they were quite mistaken who wished you to do otherwise. But the matter does not end here. Crawford's is no common attachment; he perseveres, with the hope of creating that regard which had not been created before. This, we know, must be a work of time. But" (with an affectionate smile) "let him succeed at last, Fanny, let him succeed at last. You have proved yourself upright and disinterested, prove yourself grateful and tender-hearted; and then you will be the perfect model of a woman which I have always believed you born for."

"Oh! never, never, never! he never will succeed with me." And she spoke with a warmth which quite astonished Edmund, and which she blushed at the recollection of herself, when she saw his look, and heard him reply, "Never! Fanny!-- so very determined and positive! This is not like yourself, your rational self."

"I mean," she cried, sorrowfully correcting herself, "that I _think_ I never shall, as far as the future can be answered for; I think I never shall return his regard."

"I must hope better things. I am aware, more aware than Crawford can be, that the man who means to make you love him (you having due notice of his intentions) must have very uphill work, for there are all your early attachments and habits in battle array; and before he can get your heart for his own use he has to unfasten it from all the holds upon things animate and inanimate, which so many years' growth have confirmed, and which are considerably tightened for the moment by the very idea of separation. I know that the apprehension of being forced to quit Mansfield will for a time be arming you against him. I wish he had not been obliged to tell you what he was trying for. I wish he had known you as well as I do, Fanny. Between us, I think we should have won you. My theoretical and his practical knowledge together could not have failed. He should have worked upon my plans. I must hope, however, that time, proving him (as I firmly believe it will) to deserve you by his steady affection, will give him his reward. I cannot suppose that you have not the _wish_ to love him--the natural wish of gratitude. You must have some feeling of that sort. You must be sorry for your own indifference."

"We are so totally unlike," said Fanny, avoiding a direct answer, "we are so very, very different in all our inclinations and ways, that I consider it as quite impossible we should ever be tolerably happy together, even if I _could_ like him. There never were two people more dissimilar. We have not one taste in common. We should be miserable."

"You are mistaken, Fanny. The dissimilarity is not so strong. You are quite enough alike. You _have_ tastes in common. You have moral and literary tastes in common. You have both warm hearts and benevolent feelings; and, Fanny, who that heard him read, and saw you listen to Shakespeare the other night, will think you unfitted as companions? You forget yourself: there is a decided difference in your tempers, I allow. He is lively, you are serious; but so much the better: his spirits will support yours. It is your disposition to be easily dejected and to fancy difficulties greater than they are. His cheerfulness will counteract this. He sees difficulties nowhere: and his pleasantness and gaiety will be a constant support to you. Your being so far unlike, Fanny, does not in the smallest degree make against the probability of your happiness together: do not imagine it. I am myself convinced that it is rather a favourable circumstance. I am perfectly persuaded that the tempers had better be unlike: I mean unlike in the flow of the spirits, in the manners, in the inclination for much or little company, in the propensity to talk or to be silent, to be grave or to be gay. Some opposition here is, I am thoroughly convinced, friendly to matrimonial happiness. I exclude extremes, of course; and a very close resemblance in all those points would be the likeliest way to produce an extreme. A counteraction, gentle and continual, is the best safeguard of manners and conduct."

Full well could Fanny guess where his thoughts were now: Miss Crawford's power was all returning. He had been speaking of her cheerfully from the hour of his coming home. His avoiding her was quite at an end. He had dined at the Parsonage only the preceding day.

After leaving him to his happier thoughts for some minutes, Fanny, feeling it due to herself, returned to Mr. Crawford, and said, "It is not merely in _temper_ that I consider him as totally unsuited to myself; though, in _that_ respect, I think the difference between us too great, infinitely too great: his spirits often oppress me; but there is something in him which I object to still more. I must say, cousin, that I cannot approve his character. I have not thought well of him from the time of the play. I then saw him behaving, as it appeared to me, so very improperly and unfeelingly--I may speak of it now because it is all over--so improperly by poor Mr. Rushworth, not seeming to care how he exposed or hurt him, and paying attentions to my cousin Maria, which--in short, at the time of the play, I received an impression which will never be got over."

"My dear Fanny," replied Edmund, scarcely hearing her to the end, "let us not, any of us, be judged by what we appeared at that period of general folly. The time of the play is a time which I hate to recollect. Maria was wrong, Crawford was wrong, we were all wrong together; but none so wrong as myself. Compared with me, all the rest were blameless. I was playing the fool with my eyes open."

"As a bystander," said Fanny, "perhaps I saw more than you did; and I do think that Mr. Rushworth was sometimes very jealous."

"Very possibly. No wonder. Nothing could be more improper than the whole business. I am shocked whenever I think that Maria could be capable of it; but, if she could undertake the part, we must not be surprised at the rest."

"Before the play, I am much mistaken if _Julia_ did not think he was paying her attentions."

"Julia! I have heard before from some one of his being in love with Julia; but I could never see anything of it. And, Fanny, though I hope I do justice to my sisters' good qualities, I think it very possible that they might, one or both, be more desirous of being admired by Crawford, and might shew that desire rather more unguardedly than was perfectly prudent. I can remember that they were evidently fond of his society; and with such encouragement, a man like Crawford, lively, and it may be, a little unthinking, might be led on to--there could be nothing very striking, because it is clear that he had no pretensions: his heart was reserved for you. And I must say, that its being for you has raised him inconceivably in my opinion. It does him the highest honour; it shews his proper estimation of the blessing of domestic happiness and pure attachment. It proves him unspoilt by his uncle. It proves him, in short, everything that I had been used to wish to believe him, and feared he was not."

"I am persuaded that he does not think, as he ought, on serious subjects."

"Say, rather, that he has not thought at all upon serious subjects, which I believe to be a good deal the case. How could it be otherwise, with such an education and adviser? Under the disadvantages, indeed, which both have had, is it not wonderful that they should be what they are? Crawford's _feelings_, I am ready to acknowledge, have hitherto been too much his guides. Happily, those feelings have generally been good. You will supply the rest; and a most fortunate man he is to attach himself to such a creature-- to a woman who, firm as a rock in her own principles, has a gentleness of character so well adapted to recommend them. He has chosen his partner, indeed, with rare felicity. He will make you happy, Fanny; I know he will make you happy; but you will make him everything."

"I would not engage in such a charge," cried Fanny, in a shrinking accent; "in such an office of high responsibility!"

"As usual, believing yourself unequal to anything! fancying everything too much for you! Well, though I may not be able to persuade you into different feelings, you will be persuaded into them, I trust. I confess myself sincerely anxious that you may. I have no common interest in Crawford's well-doing. Next to your happiness, Fanny, his has the first claim on me. You are aware of my having no common interest in Crawford."

Fanny was too well aware of it to have anything to say; and they walked on together some fifty yards in mutual silence and abstraction. Edmund first began again--

"I was very much pleased by her manner of speaking of it yesterday, particularly pleased, because I had not depended upon her seeing everything in so just a light. I knew she was very fond of you; but yet I was afraid of her not estimating your worth to her brother quite as it deserved, and of her regretting that he had not rather fixed on some woman of distinction or fortune. I was afraid of the bias of those worldly maxims, which she has been too much used to hear. But it was very different. She spoke of you, Fanny, just as she ought. She desires the connexion as warmly as your uncle or myself. We had a long talk about it. I should not have mentioned the subject, though very anxious to know her sentiments; but I had not been in the room five minutes before she began introducing it with all that openness of heart, and sweet peculiarity of manner, that spirit and ingenuousness which are so much a part of herself. Mrs. Grant laughed at her for her rapidity."

"Was Mrs. Grant in the room, then?"

"Yes, when I reached the house I found the two sisters together by themselves; and when once we had begun, we had not done with you, Fanny, till Crawford and Dr. Grant came in."

"It is above a week since I saw Miss Crawford."

"Yes, she laments it; yet owns it may have been best. You will see her, however, before she goes. She is very angry with you, Fanny; you must be prepared for that. She calls herself very angry, but you can imagine her anger. It is the regret and disappointment of a sister, who thinks her brother has a right to everything he may wish for, at the first moment. She is hurt, as you would be for William; but she loves and esteems you with all her heart."

"I knew she would be very angry with me."

"My dearest Fanny," cried Edmund, pressing her arm closer to him, "do not let the idea of her anger distress you. It is anger to be talked of rather than felt. Her heart is made for love and kindness, not for resentment. I wish you could have overheard her tribute of praise; I wish you could have seen her countenance, when she said that you _should_ be Henry's wife. And I observed that she always spoke of you as 'Fanny,' which she was never used to do; and it had a sound of most sisterly cordiality."

"And Mrs. Grant, did she say--did she speak; was she there all the time?"

"Yes, she was agreeing exactly with her sister. The surprise of your refusal, Fanny, seems to have been unbounded. That you could refuse such a man as Henry Crawford seems more than they can understand. I said what I could for you; but in good truth, as they stated the case--you must prove yourself to be in your senses as soon as you can by a different conduct; nothing else will satisfy them. But this is teasing you. I have done. Do not turn away from me."

"I _should_ have thought," said Fanny, after a pause of recollection and exertion, "that every woman must have felt the possibility of a man's not being approved, not being loved by some one of her sex at least, let him be ever so generally agreeable. Let him have all the perfections in the world, I think it ought not to be set down as certain that a man must be acceptable to every woman he may happen to like himself. But, even supposing it is so, allowing Mr. Crawford to have all the claims which his sisters think he has, how was I to be prepared to meet him with any feeling answerable to his own? He took me wholly by surprise. I had not an idea that his behaviour to me before had any meaning; and surely I was not to be teaching myself to like him only because he was taking what seemed very idle notice of me. In my situation, it would have been the extreme of vanity to be forming expectations on Mr. Crawford. I am sure his sisters, rating him as they do, must have thought it so, supposing he had meant nothing. How, then, was I to be-- to be in love with him the moment he said he was with me? How was I to have an attachment at his service, as soon as it was asked for? His sisters should consider me as well as him. The higher his deserts, the more improper for me ever to have thought of him. And, and--we think very differently of the nature of women, if they can imagine a woman so very soon capable of returning an affection as this seems to imply."

"My dear, dear Fanny, now I have the truth. I know this to be the truth; and most worthy of you are such feelings. I had attributed them to you before. I thought I could understand you. You have now given exactly the explanation which I ventured to make for you to your friend and Mrs. Grant, and they were both better satisfied, though your warm-hearted friend was still run away with a little by the enthusiasm of her fondness for Henry. I told them that you were of all human creatures the one over whom habit had most power and novelty least; and that the very circumstance of the novelty of Crawford's addresses was against him. Their being so new and so recent was all in their disfavour; that you could tolerate nothing that you were not used to; and a great deal more to the same purpose, to give them a knowledge of your character. Miss Crawford made us laugh by her plans of encouragement for her brother. She meant to urge him to persevere in the hope of being loved in time, and of having his addresses most kindly received at the end of about ten years' happy marriage."

Fanny could with difficulty give the smile that was here asked for. Her feelings were all in revolt. She feared she had been doing wrong: saying too much, overacting the caution which she had been fancying necessary; in guarding against one evil, laying herself open to another; and to have Miss Crawford's liveliness repeated to her at such a moment, and on such a subject, was a bitter aggravation.

Edmund saw weariness and distress in her face, and immediately resolved to forbear all farther discussion; and not even to mention the name of Crawford again, except as it might be connected with what _must_ be agreeable to her. On this principle, he soon afterwards observed-- "They go on Monday. You are sure, therefore, of seeing your friend either to-morrow or Sunday. They really go on Monday; and I was within a trifle of being persuaded to stay at Lessingby till that very day! I had almost promised it. What a difference it might have made! Those five or six days more at Lessingby might have been felt all my life."

"You were near staying there?"

"Very. I was most kindly pressed, and had nearly consented. Had I received any letter from Mansfield, to tell me how you were all going on, I believe I should certainly have staid; but I knew nothing that had happened here for a fortnight, and felt that I had been away long enough."

"You spent your time pleasantly there?"

"Yes; that is, it was the fault of my own mind if I did not. They were all very pleasant. I doubt their finding me so. I took uneasiness with me, and there was no getting rid of it till I was in Mansfield again."

"The Miss Owens--you liked them, did not you?"

"Yes, very well. Pleasant, good-humoured, unaffected girls. But I am spoilt, Fanny, for common female society. Good-humoured, unaffected girls will not do for a man who has been used to sensible women. They are two distinct orders of being. You and Miss Crawford have made me too nice."

Still, however, Fanny was oppressed and wearied; he saw it in her looks, it could not be talked away; and attempting it no more, he led her directly, with the kind authority of a privileged guardian, into the house.

埃德蒙已经打定主意,提不提范妮与克劳福德之间的事情,完全由范妮决定。范妮要是不主动说,他就绝对不提这件事。但是,双方缄默了一两天之后,在父亲的敦促下,他改变了主意,想利用自己的影响为朋友帮帮忙。

克劳福德兄妹动身的日期定下来了,而且就近在眼前。托马斯爵士觉得,在这位年轻人离开曼斯菲尔德之前,不妨再为他做一次努力,这样一来,他赌咒发誓要忠贞不渝,就有希望维持下去。

托马斯爵士热切地希望克劳福德先生在这方面的人品能尽善尽美。他希望他能成为对爱情忠贞不渝的典范。他觉得,要促其实现的最好办法,是不要过久地考验他。

埃德蒙倒也乐意接受父亲的意见,负责处理这件事。他想知道范妮心里到底是怎么想的。她以往有什么难处,总要找他商量。他那么喜爱她,现在要是不跟他讲心里话,他可受不了。他希望自己能帮帮她的忙,觉得自己一定能帮上她的忙,除他之外,她还能向谁倾诉衷情呢?即使她不需要他出主意,她也肯定需要对他说一说,从中得到宽慰。范妮跟他疏远了,不声不响,不言不语,很不正常。他必须打破这种状态,他心里自然明白,范妮也需要他来打破这种局面。

“我跟她谈谈,父亲。我一有机会就跟她单独谈谈。”这是他做了如上考虑的结果。托马斯爵士告诉他说,眼下她正一个人在灌木林里散步,他马上便找她去了。

“我是来陪你散步的,范妮,”他说。“可以吗?(挎起了她的胳膊)我们很久没在一起舒心地散散步了。”

范妮用神情表示同意,但没有说话。她情绪低落。

“不过,范妮,”埃德蒙马上又说,“要想舒心地散散步,光在这砾石路上踱步还不行,还必须做点别的什么事。你得和我谈谈。我知道你有心事。我知道你在想什么。你不要以为没有人告诉我。难道我只能听大家对我讲,唯独不能听范妮本人给我讲讲吗?”

范妮既激动又悲伤,回答说:“既然你听大家对你讲了,表哥,那我就没有什么可讲的了。”

“不是讲事情的经过,而是讲你的想法,范妮。你的想法只有你能告诉我。不过,我不想强迫你。如果你不想说,我就不再提了。我原以为,你讲出来心里能轻松一些。”

“我担心我们的想法完全不同,我就是把心里话说出来,也未必能感到轻松。”

“你认为我们的想法不同吗?我可不这样看。我敢说,如果把我们的想法拿来比较一下,我们会发现它们像过去一样是相似的。现在就谈正题——我认为只要你能接受克劳福德的求婚,这门亲事非常有利,也非常难得。我认为全家人都希望你能接受,这是很自然的事情。不过,我同样认为,既然你不能接受,你在拒绝他时所做的一切也完全是理所应该的。我这样看,我们之间会有什么不一致的看法吗?”

“噢,没有!我原以为你要责备我。我原以为你在反对我。这对我是莫大的安慰。”

“如果你寻求这一安慰的话,你早就得到了。你怎么会设想我在反对你呢?你怎么会认为我也主张没有爱情的婚姻呢?即使我通常不大关心这类事情,但是在你的幸福受到威胁的情况下,你怎么能想得出我会不闻不问呢?”

“姨父认为我不对,而且我知道他和你谈过了。”

“就你目前的情况而言,范妮,我认为你做得完全对。我可能感到遗憾,我可能感到惊奇——也许连这都不会,因为你还来不及对他产生感情。我觉得你做得完全对。难道这还有什么可争议的吗?争议对我们也没有什么光彩的。你并不爱他——那就没有什么理由非要让你接受他的爱。”

范妮多少天来从没这样心情舒畅过。

“迄今为止你的行为是无可指摘的,谁想反对你这样做,那就大错特错了。但是事情并没有到此结束。克劳福德的求爱与众不同,他锲而不舍,想树立过去未曾树立的好形象。我们知道,这不是一天两天能办得到的。不过(亲切地一笑),让他最后成功,范妮,让他最后成功。你已经证明你是正直无私的,现在再证明你知恩图报,心肠软。这样你就成了一个完美的妇女典型,我总认为你生来就要成为这种典型。”

“噢!绝对不会,绝对不会,绝对不会。他决不会在我这里得逞。”范妮说得非常激动,埃德蒙大吃一惊。她稍加镇静之后验也红了。这时她看到了他的神色,听见他在说:“绝对不会,范妮,话说得这么武断,这么绝!这不像你说的话,不像通情达理的你说的话。”

“我的意思是,”范妮伤心地自我纠正,嚷道,“只要我可以为未来担保,我认为我绝对不会——我认为我绝对不会回报他的情意。”

“我应该往好处想。我很清楚,比克劳福德还清楚,他想让你爱他(你已经充分看清了他的意图),这谈何容易,你以往的感情、以往的习惯都在严阵以待。他要想赢得你的心,就得把它从牢系着它的有生命、无生命的事物上解脱开来,而这些牵系物经过这么多年已变得非常牢固,眼下一听说要解开它们,反而拴得紧多了。我知道,你担心会被迫离开曼斯菲尔德,在一段时间里,这个顾虑会成为你拒绝他的理由。他要是还没对你说他有什么追求就好了。他要是像我一样了解你就好了,范妮。跟你私下里说一句,我心想我们可能会让你回心转意。我的理论知识和他的实践经验加在一起,不会不起作用。他应该按照我的计划行事。不过我想,他以坚定不移的感情向你表明他值得你爱,长此下去,总会有所收获。我料想,你不会没有爱他的愿望——那种由于感激而产生的自然愿望。你一定会有这种类似的心情。你一定为自己的冷漠态度感到内疚。”

“我和他完全不同,”范妮避免直接回答,“我们的爱好,我们的为人都大不相同,我想,即使我能喜欢他,我们在一起也不可能怎么幸福。绝没有哪两个人比我们俩更不相同了。我们的情趣没有一点是一致的。我们在一起会很痛苦的。”

“你说错了,范妮。你们的差异并没有那么大。你们十分相像。你们有共同的情趣。你们有共同的道德观念和文学修养。你们都有热烈的感情和仁慈的心肠。我说范妮,那天晚上,谁听了他朗诵莎士比亚的剧本,又看到你在一边听,会认为你们不适合做伴侣呢?你自己忘记了。我承认,你们在性情上有明显的差异。他活泼,你严肃。不过,这反倒更好,他可以提高你的兴致。你的心情容易沮丧,你容易把困难看得过大。他的开朗能对此起到点抵消作用。他从不把困难放在眼里,他的欢快和风趣将是你永远的支柱。范妮,你们两人有巨大差异并不意味你们俩在一起不会幸福。你不要那样想。我倒认为这是个有利因素。我极力主张,两人的性情最好不一样。我的意思是说,兴致高低不一样,风度上不一样,愿跟人多交往还是少交往上不一样,爱说话还是不爱说话上不一样,严肃还是欢快上不一样。我完全相信,在这些方面彼此有些不同,倒有利于婚后的幸福。当然,我不赞成走极端。在这些方面双方过分相像,就极有可能导致极端。彼此不断地来点温和的中和,这是对行为举止的最好保障。”

范妮完全能猜到他现在的心思。克劳福德小姐又恢复了她的魅力。从他走进家门的那一刻起,他就在兴致勃勃地谈论她。他对她的回避已告结束。头一天他刚在牧师府上吃过饭。

范妮任他沉湎于幸福的遐想,好一阵工夫没说话,后来觉得该把话题引回到克劳福德先生身上,便说道:“我认为他和我完全不合适,还不只是因为性情问题,虽说在这方面,我觉得我们两人的差别太大,大到不能再大的程度。他的精神劲经常让我受不了——不过他还有更让我反感的地方。表哥,跟你说吧,我看不惯他的人品。从演戏的那个时候起,我就一直对他印象不好。那时我就觉得他行为不端,不替别人着想——我现在可以说了,因为事情已经过去了——他太对不起可怜的拉什沃思先生了,似乎毫不留情地出他的丑,伤害他的自尊心,一味地向玛丽亚表姐献殷勤,这使我——总而言之,在演戏的时候给我的印象,我永远也忘不掉。”

“亲爱的范妮,”埃德蒙没听她说完就答道,“我们不要用大家都在胡闹的那个时候的表现来判断我们的为人,对谁都不能这样判断。我们演戏的时候,是我很不愿意回顾的一个时期。玛丽亚有错,克劳福德有错,我们大家都有错,但是错误最大的是我。比起我来,别人都不算错。我是睁大了眼睛干蠢事。”

“作为一个旁观者,”范妮说,“我也许比你看得更清楚。我觉得拉什沃思先生有时候很妒忌。”

“很可能。这也难怪。整个事情太不成体统了。一想到玛丽亚能做出这种事来,我就感到震惊。不过,既然她都担任了那样的角色,其余的也就不足为奇了。”

“在演戏之前,如果朱莉娅认为他不在追求她,那就算我大错特错。”

“朱莉娅!我曾听谁说过他爱上了朱莉娅,可我一点也看不出来。范妮,虽然我不愿意贬低我两个妹妹的品质,但我认为她们中的一个希望,或者两个都希望受到克劳福德的爱慕,可能是由于不够谨慎的缘故,流露出了这种愿望。我还记得,她们显然都喜欢和他来往。受到这样的鼓励,一个像克劳福德这样活泼的人,就可能有欠考虑,就可能被引上——这也没有什么了不起的,现在看得很清楚,他对她们根本无意,而是把心交给了你。跟你说吧,正因为他把心交给了你,他才大大提高了他在我心目中的地位。这使我对他无比敬重。这表明他非常看重家庭的幸福和纯洁的爱情。这表明他没有被他叔叔教坏。总而言之,这表明他正是我所希望的那种人,全然不是我所担心的那种人。”

“我认为,他对严肃的问题缺乏认真的思考。”

“不如说,他对严肃的问题就根本没有思考过。我觉得这才是他的真实情况。他受的是那种教育,又有那么个人给他出主意,他怎么能不这样呢?他们两人都受着不良环境的影响,在那种不利的条件下,他们能变成这个样子,有什么可惊奇的呢?我认为,迄今为止,克劳福德一直被他的情感所左右。历幸的是,他的情感总的说来是健康的,余下的要靠你来弥补。他非常幸运,爱上了这样一位姑娘——这位姑娘在行为准则上坚如磐石,性格上又那么温文尔雅,完全可以使他受到熏陶。他在选择对象的问题上真是太有福气了。他会使你幸福,范妮,我知道他会使你幸福。不过,你会使他要怎么好就怎么好。”

“我才不愿承担这样的任务呢,”范妮以畏缩的口气嚷道。“我才不愿承担这么大的责任呢!”

“你又像平常一样,认为自己什么都不行!认为自己什么都胜任不了!好吧,我改变不了你的看法,但我相信你是会改变的。说实话,我衷心地盼望你能改变。我非常关心克劳福德的幸福。范妮,除了你的幸福之外,我最关心的就是他的幸福。你也知道,我对克劳福德非常关心。”

范妮对此十分清楚,无话可说。两人向前走了五十来码,都在默默不语地想着各自的心思。又是埃德蒙先开的口:

“玛丽昨天说起这件事时的样子让我非常高兴,让我特别高兴,因为我没想到她对样样事情都看得那么妥当。我早就知道她喜欢你,可我又担心她会认为你配不上她哥哥,担心她会为她哥哥没有挑一个有身份、有财产的女人而遗憾。我担心她听惯了那些世俗的伦理,难免会产生偏见。不过,实际情况并非如此。她说起你的时候,范妮,话说得入情入理。她像你姨父或我一样希望这门亲事能成。我们对这个问题谈了好久。我本来并不想提起这件事,虽说我很想了解一下她的看法。我进屋不到五分钟,她就以她那特有的开朗性格,亲切可爱的神态,以及纯真的感情,向我说起了这件事。格兰特太太还笑她迫不及待呢。”

“那格兰特太太也在屋里啦?”

“是的,我到她家的时候,看到她们姐妹俩在一起。我们一谈起你来,范妮,就谈个没完,后来克劳福德和格兰特先生就进来了。”

“我已经有一个多星期没看到克劳福德小姐了。”

“是的,她也为此感到遗憾,可她又说,这样也许更好。不过,她走之前,你会见到她的。她很生你的气,范妮,你要有个精神准备。她自称很生气,不过你可以想象她是怎么生气法。那不过是做妹妹的替哥哥感到遗憾和失望。她认为她哥哥无论想要什么,都有权利马上弄到手。她的自尊心受到了伤害,假若事情发生在威廉身上,你也会这样的。不过,她全心全意地爱你,敬重你。”

“我早就知道她会很生我的气。”

“我最亲爱的范妮,”埃德蒙紧紧夹住她的胳膊,嚷道,“不要听说她生气就感到伤心。她只是嘴上说说,心里未必真生气。她那颗心生来只会爱别人,善待别人,不会记恨别人。你要是听到她是怎样夸奖你的,在她说到你应该做亨利的妻子的时候,再看到她脸上那副喜滋滋的样子,那就好了。我注意到,她说起你的时候,总是叫你‘范妮’,她以前可从没这样叫过。像是小姑子称呼嫂子,听起来极其亲热。”

“格兰特太太说什么——她说话没有——她不是一直在场吗?”

“是的,她完全同意她妹妹的意见。你的拒绝,范妮,似乎使她们感到万分惊奇。你居然会拒绝亨利·克劳福德这样一个人,她们似乎无法理解。我尽量替你解释,不过说实话,正像她们说的那样——你必须尽快改变态度,证明你十分理智,不然她们是不会满意的。不过,我这是跟你开玩笑。我说完了,你可不要不理我。”

“我倒认为,”范妮镇静了一下,强打精神说,“女人们个个都会觉得存在这种可能:一个男人即使人人都说好,至少会有某个女人不答应他,不爱他。即使他把世界上的可爱之处都集中在他一个人身上,我想他也不应该就此认为,他自己想爱谁谁就一定会答应他。即便如此,就算克劳福德先生真像他的两个姐妹想象的那么好,我怎么可能一下子跟他情愫相通呢?他使我大为骇然。我以前从没想到他对我的行为有什么用意。我当然不能因为他对我似理非理的,就自作多情地去喜欢他。我处于这样的地位,如果还要去打克劳福德先生的主意,那岂不是太没有自知之明了。我敢断定,他若是无意于我的话,他的两个姐妹把他看得那么好,她们肯定会认为我自不量力,没有自知之明。那我怎么能——怎么能他一说爱我,我就立即去爱他呢?我怎么能他一要我爱他,我就马上爱上他呢?他的姐妹为他考虑,也应该替我想一想。他的条件越是好,我就越不应该往他身上想。还有,还有——如果她们认为一个女人会这么快就接受别人的爱——看来她们就是这样认为的,那我和她们对于女性天性的看法就大不相同了。”

“我亲爱的,亲爱的范妮,现在我知道真情了。我知道这是真情。你有这样的想法真是极其难得。我以前就是这样看你的。我以为我能了解你。你刚才所做的解释,跟我替你向你的朋友和格兰特太太所做的解释完全一样,她们两人听了都比较想得通,只不过你那位热心的朋友由于喜欢亨利的缘故,还有点难以平静。我对她们说,你是一个最受习惯支配、最不求新奇的人,克劳福德用这么新奇的方式向你求婚,这对他没有好处。那么新奇,那么新鲜,完全于事无补。凡是你不习惯的,你一概受不了。我还做了许多其他的解释,让她们了解你的性格。克劳福德小姐述说了她鼓励哥哥的计划,逗得我们大笑起来。她要鼓励亨利不屈不挠地追求下去,怀着迟早会被接受的希望,希望他在度过大约十年的幸福婚姻生活之后,他的求爱才会被十分乐意地接受。”

范妮勉强地敷衍一笑。她心里非常反感。她担心自己做错了事,话说得过多,超过了自己认为必须警惕的范围,为了提防一个麻烦,却招来了另一个麻烦①(译注:① “提防一个麻烦”,系指小心不要泄露她对埃德蒙的感情;“招来另一个麻烦”,系指让埃德蒙觉得她有可能跟克劳福德好。),惹得埃德蒙在这样的时刻,借着这样的话题,硬把克劳福德小姐的玩笑话学给她听,真让她大为恼火。

埃德蒙从她脸上看出了倦怠和不快,立即决定不再谈这个问题,甚至不再提起克劳福德这个姓,除非与她肯定爱听的事情有关。本着这个原则,他过了不久说道:“他们星期一走。因此,你不是明天就是星期天定会见到你的朋友。他们真是星期一走啊!我差一点同意在莱辛比待到这一天才回来!我差一点答应了。那样一来问题就大了。要是在莱辛比多待五六天,我一辈子都会感到遗憾。”

“你差一点在那儿待下去吗?”

“差一点。人家非常热情地挽留我,我差一点就同意了。我要是能收到一封曼斯菲尔德的来信,告诉我你们的情况,我想我肯定会待下去。但是,我不知道两个星期来这里发生了什么,觉得我在外边住的时间够长了。”

“你在那里过得愉快吧。”

“是的。就是说,如果不愉快的话,那要怪我自己。他们都很讨人喜欢。我怀疑他们是否觉得我也讨人喜欢。我心里不大自在,而且怎么都摆脱不了,回到曼斯菲尔德才好起来。”

“欧文家的几位小姐——你喜欢她们吧?”

“是的,非常喜欢。可爱、和善、纯真的姑娘。不过,范妮,我已经给宠坏了,和一般的姑娘合不来了。对于一个和聪慧的女士们交往惯了的男人来说,和善、纯真的姑娘是远远不够的。她们属于两个不同的等级。你和克劳福德小姐使我变得过于挑剔了。”

然而,范妮依然情绪低沉,精神倦怠。埃德蒙从她的神情中看得出来,劝说是没有用的。他不打算再说了,便以一个监护人的权威,亲切地领着她径直进了大宅。



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