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Chapter 37

Mr. Crawford gone, Sir Thomas's next object was that he should be missed; and he entertained great hope that his niece would find a blank in the loss of those attentions which at the time she had felt, or fancied, an evil. She had tasted of consequence in its most flattering form; and he did hope that the loss of it, the sinking again into nothing, would awaken very wholesome regrets in her mind. He watched her with this idea; but he could hardly tell with what success. He hardly knew whether there were any difference in her spirits or not. She was always so gentle and retiring that her emotions were beyond his discrimination. He did not understand her: he felt that he did not; and therefore applied to Edmund to tell him how she stood affected on the present occasion, and whether she were more or less happy than she had been.

Edmund did not discern any symptoms of regret, and thought his father a little unreasonable in supposing the first three or four days could produce any.

What chiefly surprised Edmund was, that Crawford's sister, the friend and companion who had been so much to her, should not be more visibly regretted. He wondered that Fanny spoke so seldom of _her_, and had so little voluntarily to say of her concern at this separation.

Alas! it was this sister, this friend and companion, who was now the chief bane of Fanny's comfort. If she could have believed Mary's future fate as unconnected with Mansfield as she was determined the brother's should be, if she could have hoped her return thither to be as distant as she was much inclined to think his, she would have been light of heart indeed; but the more she recollected and observed, the more deeply was she convinced that everything was now in a fairer train for Miss Crawford's marrying Edmund than it had ever been before. On his side the inclination was stronger, on hers less equivocal. His objections, the scruples of his integrity, seemed all done away, nobody could tell how; and the doubts and hesitations of her ambition were equally got over--and equally without apparent reason. It could only be imputed to increasing attachment. His good and her bad feelings yielded to love, and such love must unite them. He was to go to town as soon as some business relative to Thornton Lacey were completed-- perhaps within a fortnight; he talked of going, he loved to talk of it; and when once with her again, Fanny could not doubt the rest. Her acceptance must be as certain as his offer; and yet there were bad feelings still remaining which made the prospect of it most sorrowful to her, independently, she believed, independently of self.

In their very last conversation, Miss Crawford, in spite of some amiable sensations, and much personal kindness, had still been Miss Crawford; still shewn a mind led astray and bewildered, and without any suspicion of being so; darkened, yet fancying itself light. She might love, but she did not deserve Edmund by any other sentiment. Fanny believed there was scarcely a second feeling in common between them; and she may be forgiven by older sages for looking on the chance of Miss Crawford's future improvement as nearly desperate, for thinking that if Edmund's influence in this season of love had already done so little in clearing her judgment, and regulating her notions, his worth would be finally wasted on her even in years of matrimony.

Experience might have hoped more for any young people so circumstanced, and impartiality would not have denied to Miss Crawford's nature that participation of the general nature of women which would lead her to adopt the opinions of the man she loved and respected as her own. But as such were Fanny's persuasions, she suffered very much from them, and could never speak of Miss Crawford without pain.

Sir Thomas, meanwhile, went on with his own hopes and his own observations, still feeling a right, by all his knowledge of human nature, to expect to see the effect of the loss of power and consequence on his niece's spirits, and the past attentions of the lover producing a craving for their return; and he was soon afterwards able to account for his not yet completely and indubitably seeing all this, by the prospect of another visitor, whose approach he could allow to be quite enough to support the spirits he was watching. William had obtained a ten days' leave of absence, to be given to Northamptonshire, and was coming, the happiest of lieutenants, because the latest made, to shew his happiness and describe his uniform.

He came; and he would have been delighted to shew his uniform there too, had not cruel custom prohibited its appearance except on duty. So the uniform remained at Portsmouth, and Edmund conjectured that before Fanny had any chance of seeing it, all its own freshness and all the freshness of its wearer's feelings must be worn away. It would be sunk into a badge of disgrace; for what can be more unbecoming, or more worthless, than the uniform of a lieutenant, who has been a lieutenant a year or two, and sees others made commanders before him? So reasoned Edmund, till his father made him the confidant of a scheme which placed Fanny's chance of seeing the second lieutenant of H.M.S. Thrush in all his glory in another light.

This scheme was that she should accompany her brother back to Portsmouth, and spend a little time with her own family. It had occurred to Sir Thomas, in one of his dignified musings, as a right and desirable measure; but before he absolutely made up his mind, he consulted his son. Edmund considered it every way, and saw nothing but what was right. The thing was good in itself, and could not be done at a better time; and he had no doubt of it being highly agreeable to Fanny. This was enough to determine Sir Thomas; and a decisive "then so it shall be" closed that stage of the business; Sir Thomas retiring from it with some feelings of satisfaction, and views of good over and above what he had communicated to his son; for his prime motive in sending her away had very little to do with the propriety of her seeing her parents again, and nothing at all with any idea of making her happy. He certainly wished her to go willingly, but he as certainly wished her to be heartily sick of home before her visit ended; and that a little abstinence from the elegancies and luxuries of Mansfield Park would bring her mind into a sober state, and incline her to a juster estimate of the value of that home of greater permanence, and equal comfort, of which she had the offer.

It was a medicinal project upon his niece's understanding, which he must consider as at present diseased. A residence of eight or nine years in the abode of wealth and plenty had a little disordered her powers of comparing and judging. Her father's house would, in all probability, teach her the value of a good income; and he trusted that she would be the wiser and happier woman, all her life, for the experiment he had devised.

Had Fanny been at all addicted to raptures, she must have had a strong attack of them when she first understood what was intended, when her uncle first made her the offer of visiting the parents, and brothers, and sisters, from whom she had been divided almost half her life; of returning for a couple of months to the scenes of her infancy, with William for the protector and companion of her journey, and the certainty of continuing to see William to the last hour of his remaining on land. Had she ever given way to bursts of delight, it must have been then, for she was delighted, but her happiness was of a quiet, deep, heart-swelling sort; and though never a great talker, she was always more inclined to silence when feeling most strongly. At the moment she could only thank and accept. Afterwards, when familiarised with the visions of enjoyment so suddenly opened, she could speak more largely to William and Edmund of what she felt; but still there were emotions of tenderness that could not be clothed in words. The remembrance of all her earliest pleasures, and of what she had suffered in being torn from them, came over her with renewed strength, and it seemed as if to be at home again would heal every pain that had since grown out of the separation. To be in the centre of such a circle, loved by so many, and more loved by all than she had ever been before; to feel affection without fear or restraint; to feel herself the equal of those who surrounded her; to be at peace from all mention of the Crawfords, safe from every look which could be fancied a reproach on their account. This was a prospect to be dwelt on with a fondness that could be but half acknowledged.

Edmund, too--to be two months from _him_ (and perhaps she might be allowed to make her absence three) must do her good. At a distance, unassailed by his looks or his kindness, and safe from the perpetual irritation of knowing his heart, and striving to avoid his confidence, she should be able to reason herself into a properer state; she should be able to think of him as in London, and arranging everything there, without wretchedness. What might have been hard to bear at Mansfield was to become a slight evil at Portsmouth.

The only drawback was the doubt of her aunt Bertram's being comfortable without her. She was of use to no one else; but _there_ she might be missed to a degree that she did not like to think of; and that part of the arrangement was, indeed, the hardest for Sir Thomas to accomplish, and what only _he_ could have accomplished at all.

But he was master at Mansfield Park. When he had really resolved on any measure, he could always carry it through; and now by dint of long talking on the subject, explaining and dwelling on the duty of Fanny's sometimes seeing her family, he did induce his wife to let her go; obtaining it rather from submission, however, than conviction, for Lady Bertram was convinced of very little more than that Sir Thomas thought Fanny ought to go, and therefore that she must. In the calmness of her own dressing-room, in the impartial flow of her own meditations, unbiassed by his bewildering statements, she could not acknowledge any necessity for Fanny's ever going near a father and mother who had done without her so long, while she was so useful to herself And as to the not missing her, which under Mrs. Norris's discussion was the point attempted to be proved, she set herself very steadily against admitting any such thing.

Sir Thomas had appealed to her reason, conscience, and dignity. He called it a sacrifice, and demanded it of her goodness and self-command as such. But Mrs. Norris wanted to persuade her that Fanny could be very well spared--_she_ being ready to give up all her own time to her as requested-- and, in short, could not really be wanted or missed.

"That may be, sister," was all Lady Bertram's reply. "I dare say you are very right; but I am sure I shall miss her very much."

The next step was to communicate with Portsmouth. Fanny wrote to offer herself; and her mother's answer, though short, was so kind--a few simple lines expressed so natural and motherly a joy in the prospect of seeing her child again, as to confirm all the daughter's views of happiness in being with her--convincing her that she should now find a warm and affectionate friend in the "mama" who had certainly shewn no remarkable fondness for her formerly; but this she could easily suppose to have been her own fault or her own fancy. She had probably alienated love by the helplessness and fretfulness of a fearful temper, or been unreasonable in wanting a larger share than any one among so many could deserve. Now, when she knew better how to be useful, and how to forbear, and when her mother could be no longer occupied by the incessant demands of a house full of little children, there would be leisure and inclination for every comfort, and they should soon be what mother and daughter ought to be to each other.

William was almost as happy in the plan as his sister. It would be the greatest pleasure to him to have her there to the last moment before he sailed, and perhaps find her there still when he came in from his first cruise. And besides, he wanted her so very much to see the Thrush before she went out of harbour--the Thrush was certainly the finest sloop in the service--and there were several improvements in the dockyard, too, which he quite longed to shew her.

He did not scruple to add that her being at home for a while would be a great advantage to everybody.

"I do not know how it is," said he; "but we seem to want some of your nice ways and orderliness at my father's. The house is always in confusion. You will set things going in a better way, I am sure. You will tell my mother how it all ought to be, and you will be so useful to Susan, and you will teach Betsey, and make the boys love and mind you. How right and comfortable it will all be!"

By the time Mrs. Price's answer arrived, there remained but a very few days more to be spent at Mansfield; and for part of one of those days the young travellers were in a good deal of alarm on the subject of their journey, for when the mode of it came to be talked of, and Mrs. Norris found that all her anxiety to save her brother-in-law's money was vain, and that in spite of her wishes and hints for a less expensive conveyance of Fanny, they were to travel post; when she saw Sir Thomas actually give William notes for the purpose, she was struck with the idea of there being room for a third in the carriage, and suddenly seized with a strong inclination to go with them, to go and see her poor dear sister Price. She proclaimed her thoughts. She must say that she had more than half a mind to go with the young people; it would be such an indulgence to her; she had not seen her poor dear sister Price for more than twenty years; and it would be a help to the young people in their journey to have her older head to manage for them; and she could not help thinking her poor dear sister Price would feel it very unkind of her not to come by such an opportunity.

William and Fanny were horror-struck at the idea.

All the comfort of their comfortable journey would be destroyed at once. With woeful countenances they looked at each other. Their suspense lasted an hour or two. No one interfered to encourage or dissuade. Mrs. Norris was left to settle the matter by herself; and it ended, to the infinite joy of her nephew and niece, in the recollection that she could not possibly be spared from Mansfield Park at present; that she was a great deal too necessary to Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram for her to be able to answer it to herself to leave them even for a week, and therefore must certainly sacrifice every other pleasure to that of being useful to them.

It had, in fact, occurred to her, that though taken to Portsmouth for nothing, it would be hardly possible for her to avoid paying her own expenses back again. So her poor dear sister Price was left to all the disappointment of her missing such an opportunity, and another twenty years' absence, perhaps, begun.

Edmund's plans were affected by this Portsmouth journey, this absence of Fanny's. He too had a sacrifice to make to Mansfield Park as well as his aunt. He had intended, about this time, to be going to London; but he could not leave his father and mother just when everybody else of most importance to their comfort was leaving them; and with an effort, felt but not boasted of, he delayed for a week or two longer a journey which he was looking forward to with the hope of its fixing his happiness for ever.

He told Fanny of it. She knew so much already, that she must know everything. It made the substance of one other confidential discourse about Miss Crawford; and Fanny was the more affected from feeling it to be the last time in which Miss Crawford's name would ever be mentioned between them with any remains of liberty. Once afterwards she was alluded to by him. Lady Bertram had been telling her niece in the evening to write to her soon and often, and promising to be a good correspondent herself; and Edmund, at a convenient moment, then added in a whisper, "And _I_ shall write to you, Fanny, when I have anything worth writing about, anything to say that I think you will like to hear, and that you will not hear so soon from any other quarter." Had she doubted his meaning while she listened, the glow in his face, when she looked up at him, would have been decisive.

For this letter she must try to arm herself. That a letter from Edmund should be a subject of terror! She began to feel that she had not yet gone through all the changes of opinion and sentiment which the progress of time and variation of circumstances occasion in this world of changes. The vicissitudes of the human mind had not yet been exhausted by her.

Poor Fanny! though going as she did willingly and eagerly, the last evening at Mansfield Park must still be wretchedness. Her heart was completely sad at parting. She had tears for every room in the house, much more for every beloved inhabitant. She clung to her aunt, because she would miss her; she kissed the hand of her uncle with struggling sobs, because she had displeased him; and as for Edmund, she could neither speak, nor look, nor think, when the last moment came with _him_; and it was not till it was over that she knew he was giving her the affectionate farewell of a brother.

All this passed overnight, for the journey was to begin very early in the morning; and when the small, diminished party met at breakfast, William and Fanny were talked of as already advanced one stage.

克劳福德先生走了,托马斯爵士的下一个目标是让范妮思念他。虽然对于克劳福德先生的百般殷勤,外甥女当时觉得,或者认为是她的不幸,但是现在失去了这样的殷勤之后,做姨父的满怀希望地认为,外甥女会为此感到惆怅。她已经尝到了受人抬举的滋味,而且那种抬举又是以最令人惬意的方式表现出来的。因此,托马斯爵士还真是希望,她会由于不再有人抬举,重又落入无足轻重的境地,心里产生一种非常有益的懊悔之情。他抱着这个想法观察她——但却说不上有多大效果。他几乎看不出她的情绪是否有任何变化。她总是那样文雅怯懦,他无法辨别她的心情如何。他无法了解她,感到自己无法了解她。因此,他请求埃德蒙告诉他,这件事情对范妮的影响如何,她比原来快乐还是不快乐。

埃德蒙没有看出任何懊悔的迹象。他觉得父亲有点不大切合实际,居然指望在三四天里就能看出她的后悔来。

最让埃德蒙感到意外的是,她的朋友和女伴,克劳福德的妹妹,在这里时对她那么好,走后也看不出她有什么懊悔的。他觉得奇怪,范妮很少提到她,也很少主动说起这次别离引起的愁绪。

唉!现在造成范妮不幸的主要祸根,正是克劳福德的这位妹妹,她的这位朋友和女伴。要是她能认为玛丽未来的命运像她哥哥的一样跟曼斯菲尔德没有关系的话,要是她能希望她回到曼斯菲尔德跟她哥哥一样遥远的话,她心里真会感到轻松的。但是,她越回顾往事,越注意观察,就越认为事情正朝着克劳福德小姐嫁给埃德蒙的方向发展。他们两人,男方的愿望更强了,女方的态度更明朗了。他的顾虑,他因为为人正直而产生的顾忌,似乎早已荡然无存——谁也说不准是怎么回事;而她那由于野心而引起的疑虑和犹豫,也同样不复存在了——而且同样看不出是什么原因。这只能归因于感情越来越深。他的美好情感和她的不高尚的情感都向爱情屈服了,这样的爱情必然把他们结合在一起。桑顿莱西的事务一处理完——也许要不了两个星期,他就要到伦敦去。他谈到了要去伦敦,他喜欢讲这件事。一旦和玛丽再度重逢,接下来会发生什么事情,范妮可想而知了。他肯定会向她求婚,她也肯定会接受。然而,这里面还是有些不高尚的情感,使她为未来的前景伤透了心。不过,这伤心与她自己无关——她认为与己无关。

在她们最后一次谈话中,克劳福德小姐虽然产生过一些亲切的感情,有过一些亲热的举动,但她依然是克劳福德小姐,从她的言行中可以看出,她的思想依然处于迷茫困惑之中,而她自己却浑然不觉。她心里是阴暗的,却自以为光明。她可能爱埃德蒙,但是除了爱之外,她没有别的方面配得上他。范妮认为,他们之间再也没有第二个情愫相通之处。她认为克劳福德小姐将来也不可能改,认为埃德蒙在恋爱中尚且改变不了她的看法,制约不了她的思想,那在婚后的岁月里,他那么好一个人最终报废在她身上了。范妮相信,古时的圣贤会原谅她的这些想法的。

经验告诉我们,对于这种境况中的年轻人不能过于悲观,公正而论,克劳福德小姐虽说性情如此,还不能因此认为她就没有女人的那种普遍的天性,有了这样的天性,她也会接受她所喜爱、所敬重的男人的意见,将之视为自己的意见。不过,范妮有她自己的想法,这些想法给她带来了很大的痛苦,她一提到克劳福德小姐就伤心。

与此同时,托马斯爵士依然抱着希望,依然在观察,并根据自己对人类天性的理解,依然觉得他会看到由于不再有人迷恋,不再有人青睐,外甥女的心情会受到影响,追求者以前的百般殷勤,使她渴望再遇到这种殷勤。过了不久,他得以把没有完全地、清楚地观察出上述迹象的原因,归之于另一个客人要来。他认为这位客人的即将到来,足以抚慰外甥女的心情。威廉请了十天假到北安普敦郡来,好显示一下他的快乐,描述一下他的制服。他是天下最快乐的海军少尉,因为他是刚刚晋升的。

威廉来了。他本来也很想来这里显示一下他的制服,可惜制度严格,除非是值勤,否则不准穿军服。因此,军服给撂在朴次茅斯了。埃德蒙心想,等范妮有机会看到的时候,不管是制服的鲜艳感,还是穿制服人的新鲜感,都早已不复存在了。这套制服会成为不光彩的标记。一个人要是当了少尉,一两年还没升官,眼看着别人一个个提成了校官,在这种情况下,还有什么比少尉的制服更难看、更寒伧呢?埃德蒙是这样考虑的,后来他父亲向他提出了一个方案,让范妮通过另外一种安排,看看皇家海军“画眉”号军舰上的少尉身穿光彩夺目的军装。

根据这个方案,范妮要随哥哥回到朴次茅斯,跟父母弟妹共度一段时间。托马斯爵士是在一次郑重思考时想出了这个主意,觉得这是一个恰当而又理想的举措。不过,他在下定决心之前,先征求了儿子的意见。埃德蒙从各方面做了考虑,觉得这样做完全妥当。这件事本身就很得当,选择这个时机也再好不过,他料想范妮一定非常高兴。这足以使托马斯爵士下定了决心,随着一声果断的“那就这么办”,这件事就算暂时告一段落了。托马斯爵士有点洋洋得意地回房去了,心想这样做的好处还远不止是他对儿子说的,因为他要把范妮打发走的主要动机,并不是为了叫她去看父母,更不是为了让她快活快活。他无疑希望她乐意回去,但同样无疑的是,他希望还没等她探亲结束,她就会深深厌恶自己的家。让她脱离一段曼斯菲尔德庄园优越奢侈的生活,会使她头脑清醒一些,能比较正确地估价人家给她提供的那个更加长久、同样舒适的家庭的价值。

托马斯爵士认为外甥女现在肯定是头脑出了毛病,这便是他给她制定的治疗方案。在丰裕富贵人家住了八九年,使她失去了比较和鉴别好坏的能力。她父亲住的房子完全可能使她明白有钱是多么重要。他深信,他想出这个试验,会让范妮这辈子变得更聪明,更幸福。

如果范妮有狂喜之习惯的话,她一听明白姨父的打算,定会感到欣喜若狂。姨父建议她去看看她离别几乎半生的父母弟妹,一路上有威廉保护和陪伴,回到她幼年生长的环境中,住上一两个月,而且一直可以看到威廉,直到他出海为止。如果她有什么时候能纵情高兴的话,那就应该是这个时候,因为她是很高兴,不过她那是属于一种不声不响的、深沉的、心潮澎湃的高兴。她向来话不多,在感受最强烈的时候,总是默默不语。在这种时候,她只会道谢,表示接受。后来,对这突如其来的想象中的快乐习以为常之后,她才能把自己的感受对威廉和埃德蒙大体说一说。但是,还有一些微妙的感情无法用言语表达——童年的欢乐,被迫离家的痛苦,这种种回忆涌上了她的心头,好像回家一趟能医治好由于分离而引起的种种痛苦似的。回到这样一伙人当中,受到那么多人的爱,大家对她的爱超过了她以往受到的爱,可以无忧无虑、无拘无束地感受人间的爱,觉得自己和周围的人是平等的,不用担心谁会提起克劳福德兄妹俩,不用担心谁会为了他们而向她投来责备的目光!这是她怀着柔情憧憬着的前景,不过这种柔情只能说出一半。

还有埃德蒙——离开他两个月(也许她会被允许去三个月),一定会对她有好处。离得远一些,不再感受他的目光或友爱,不再因为了解他的心,又想避而不听他的心事,而觉得烦恼不断,她也许能使自己的心境变得平静一些,可以想到他在伦敦做种种安排,而并不感到自己可怜。她在曼斯菲尔德忍受不了的事,到了朴次茅斯就会变成小事一桩。

唯一的问题是,她走后不知是否会给伯特伦姨妈带来不便。她对别人都没有什么用处。但是对于伯特伦姨妈,她不在会造成一定的不便,这是她不忍心去想的。她不在的时候如何安排伯特伦姨妈,这是让托马斯爵士最感棘手的,然而也只有他可以做安排。

不过,他毕竟是一家之主。他要是真打定主意要做什么事,总是要坚持到底的。现在,他就这个问题和妻子谈了很久,向她讲解范妮有义务时而去看看自己的家人,终于说服妻子同意放她去。不过,伯特伦夫人与其说是心服,不如说是屈服,因为她觉得,只不过是托马斯爵士认为范妮应该去,所以她就必须去。等她回到寂静的梳妆室,在不受丈夫那似是而非的理由的影响的情况下,不带偏见地好好琢磨一下这个问题。她认为,范妮离开父母这么久了,实在没有必要去看他们,而她自己却那么需要她。至于范妮走后不会带来什么不便,诺里斯太太发表了一通议论,倒是想证明这一点,但伯特伦夫人坚决不同意这种说法。

托马斯爵士诉诸她的理智、良心和尊严。他说这叫自我牺牲,要求她行行好,自我克制一下。而诺里斯太太则要让她相信,范妮完全离得开(只要需要,她愿意拿出自己的全部时间来陪她),总而言之,范妮的确不是不可缺少的。

“也许是这样的,姐姐,”伯特伦夫人答道。“我想你说得很对,不过我肯定会很想她的。”

下一步是和朴次茅斯联系。范妮写信表示要回去看看,母亲的回信虽短,但却非常亲切,短短的几行表达了母亲在即将见到自己久别的孩子时那种自然的、慈母的喜悦,证明女儿的看法不错,与母亲在一起会无比快乐,并且使女儿相信,以前不怎么疼爱她的“妈妈”,现在一定会是一位热烈而亲切的朋友。至于过去的问题,她很容易想到那都怪她自己,或者是自己过于敏感。她也许是由于胆小无助,焦虑不安,而没去博得她的爱,要不就是她不懂道理,在那么多需要母爱的孩子中间,想比别人多得到一点爱。现在,她已经知道了怎样有益于人,怎样克制忍让,她母亲也不再受满屋的孩子没完没了的牵累,既有闲暇又有心情来寻求各种乐趣,在这种情况下,她们母女之间很快就会恢复应有的母女情意。

威廉对这个计划几乎像妹妹一样高兴。范妮要在朴次茅斯住到他出海前的最后时刻,也许他初次巡航回来仍能见到她,他将为此而感到无比的快乐!另外,他也很想让她在“画眉”号出港之前看看它(“画眉”号无疑是正在服役的最漂亮的轻巡洋舰)。海军船坞也做了几处修缮,他也很想领她看看。

他还毫不犹豫地加了一句:她回家住上一阵对大家都大有好处。

“我不知道怎么会这样想,”他说,”不过,家里似乎需要你的一些良好习惯,需要你的有条不紊。家里总是乱七八糟。我相信,你会把样样东西都整理得好一些。你可以告诉妈妈应该怎样做,你可以帮助苏珊,你可以教教贝齐,让弟弟们爱你、关心你。这一切该有多好,多令人高兴啊!”

等收到普莱斯太太的回信时,可以在曼斯菲尔德逗留的时间已经没有几天了。其中有一天,两位年轻的旅客为他们旅行的事大吃一惊。原来,在谈论到路上怎么走的时候,诺里斯太太发现自己想给妹夫省钱完全是白操心,尽管她希望并暗示让范妮乘坐便宜些的交通工具,但他们两人却要乘驿车去。她甚至看见托马斯爵士把乘驿车的钱交给了威廉,这时她才意识到车里可以坐下第三个人,便突然心血来潮要和他们一起去,好去看看她那可怜的亲爱的普莱斯妹妹。她表明了自己的想法。她要说她很想和两个年轻人一起去。这对她来说是件难得的开心事,她已经有二十多年没见过她那可怜的亲爱的普莱斯妹妹了。她年纪大有经验,年轻人在路上也好有个照应。有这么好的机会她再不去,她认为她那可怜的亲爱的普莱斯妹妹定会觉得她太不讲情意了。

威廉和范妮被她这个念头吓坏了。

他们这次愉快旅行的全部乐趣将会一下子破坏殆尽。他们满面愁容,你看看我,我看看你。他们提心吊胆地过了一两个小时。谁也没有表示欢迎,谁也没有表示劝阻,事情由诺里斯太太自己去决定。后来,她又想起曼斯菲尔德庄园目前还离不开她,托马斯爵士和伯特伦夫人都十分需要她,她连一个星期都走不开,因此只能牺牲其他乐趣,一心为他们帮忙。外甥和外甥女一听,真是喜不自胜。

其实,她突然想起,尽管到朴次茅斯去不用花钱,但回来的时候却免不了要自出路费。于是,只能任她那位可怜的亲爱的普莱斯妹妹为她错过这次机会而失望吧。说不定要见面还要再等二十年。

埃德蒙的计划受到了范妮这次外出去朴次茅斯的影响。他像他姨妈一样得为曼斯菲尔德庄园做点牺牲。他本来打算这个时候去伦敦,但是最能给父母带来安慰的人就要走了,他不能在这个时候也离开他们。他觉得要克制一下,但却没有声张,就把他盼望中的可望确定他终身幸福的伦敦之行,又推迟了一两个星期。

他把这件事告诉了范妮。既然那么多事情都让她知道了,索性把什么都告诉她吧。他又向她推心置腹地谈了一次克劳福德小姐的事。范妮心里越发不是滋味,觉得这是他们两人之间最后一次比较随意地提到克劳福德小姐的名字了。后来有一次,他转弯抹角地提到了她。晚上,伯特伦夫人嘱咐外甥女一去就给她来信,而且要常来信,她自己也答应常给外甥女写信。这时,埃德蒙看准一个时机,悄声补充了一句:“范妮,等我有什么事情值得告诉你,有什么事情我觉得你会想要知道,而从别人那里不会很快听到的时候,我会给你写信的。”假若她还听不出他的弦外之音,等她抬起眼来看他的时候,从他那容光焕发的脸上就能看得清清楚楚了。

她必须做好思想准备,以承受这样一封信的打击。埃德蒙给她来信,竟然会成为一件可怕的事!她开始感觉到,在这多变的人世间,时间的推移和环境的变迁在人们身上引起的思想感情的变化,她还得继续去感受。她还没有饱尝人心的变化无常。

可怜的范妮呀!尽管她心甘情愿、迫不及待地要走,但在曼斯菲尔德庄园的最后一个夜晚,她还是忧心忡忡。她心里充满了离恨别愁。她为大宅里的每一个房间落泪,尤其为住在大宅里的每一个亲爱的人落泪。她紧紧抱住了姨妈,因为她走后会给她带来不便;她泣不成声地吻了吻姨父的手,因为她惹他生过气;至于埃德蒙,最后轮到向他道别时,她既没说话,也没看他,也没想什么。最后,她只知道他以兄长的身份向她满怀深情地道别。

这些都是头天晚上的事,两人第二天一早就要起程。当这家子所剩不多的几个人聚到一起吃早饭的时候,他们议论说,威廉和范妮已经走了一站路了。



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