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Chapter 38

The novelty of travelling, and the happiness of being with William, soon produced their natural effect on Fanny's spirits, when Mansfield Park was fairly left behind; and by the time their first stage was ended, and they were to quit Sir Thomas's carriage, she was able to take leave of the old coachman, and send back proper messages, with cheerful looks.

Of pleasant talk between the brother and sister there was no end. Everything supplied an amusement to the high glee of William's mind, and he was full of frolic and joke in the intervals of their higher-toned subjects, all of which ended, if they did not begin, in praise of the Thrush, conjectures how she would be employed, schemes for an action with some superior force, which (supposing the first lieutenant out of the way, and William was not very merciful to the first lieutenant) was to give himself the next step as soon as possible, or speculations upon prize-money, which was to be generously distributed at home, with only the reservation of enough to make the little cottage comfortable, in which he and Fanny were to pass all their middle and later life together.

Fanny's immediate concerns, as far as they involved Mr. Crawford, made no part of their conversation. William knew what had passed, and from his heart lamented that his sister's feelings should be so cold towards a man whom he must consider as the first of human characters; but he was of an age to be all for love, and therefore unable to blame; and knowing her wish on the subject, he would not distress her by the slightest allusion.

She had reason to suppose herself not yet forgotten by Mr. Crawford. She had heard repeatedly from his sister within the three weeks which had passed since their leaving Mansfield, and in each letter there had been a few lines from himself, warm and determined like his speeches. It was a correspondence which Fanny found quite as unpleasant as she had feared. Miss Crawford's style of writing, lively and affectionate, was itself an evil, independent of what she was thus forced into reading from the brother's pen, for Edmund would never rest till she had read the chief of the letter to him; and then she had to listen to his admiration of her language, and the warmth of her attachments. There had, in fact, been so much of message, of allusion, of recollection, so much of Mansfield in every letter, that Fanny could not but suppose it meant for him to hear; and to find herself forced into a purpose of that kind, compelled into a correspondence which was bringing her the addresses of the man she did not love, and obliging her to administer to the adverse passion of the man she did, was cruelly mortifying. Here, too, her present removal promised advantage. When no longer under the same roof with Edmund, she trusted that Miss Crawford would have no motive for writing strong enough to overcome the trouble, and that at Portsmouth their correspondence would dwindle into nothing.

With such thoughts as these, among ten hundred others, Fanny proceeded in her journey safely and cheerfully, and as expeditiously as could rationally be hoped in the dirty month of February. They entered Oxford, but she could take only a hasty glimpse of Edmund's college as they passed along, and made no stop anywhere till they reached Newbury, where a comfortable meal, uniting dinner and supper, wound up the enjoyments and fatigues of the day.

The next morning saw them off again at an early hour; and with no events, and no delays, they regularly advanced, and were in the environs of Portsmouth while there was yet daylight for Fanny to look around her, and wonder at the new buildings. They passed the drawbridge, and entered the town; and the light was only beginning to fail as, guided by William's powerful voice, they were rattled into a narrow street, leading from the High Street, and drawn up before the door of a small house now inhabited by Mr. Price.

Fanny was all agitation and flutter; all hope and apprehension. The moment they stopped, a trollopy-looking maidservant, seemingly in waiting for them at the door, stepped forward, and more intent on telling the news than giving them any help, immediately began with, "The Thrush is gone out of harbour, please sir, and one of the officers has been here to--" She was interrupted by a fine tall boy of eleven years old, who, rushing out of the house, pushed the maid aside, and while William was opening the chaise-door himself, called out, "You are just in time. We have been looking for you this half-hour. The Thrush went out of harbour this morning. I saw her. It was a beautiful sight. And they think she will have her orders in a day or two. And Mr. Campbell was here at four o'clock to ask for you: he has got one of the Thrush's boats, and is going off to her at six, and hoped you would be here in time to go with him."

A stare or two at Fanny, as William helped her out of the carriage, was all the voluntary notice which this brother bestowed; but he made no objection to her kissing him, though still entirely engaged in detailing farther particulars of the Thrush's going out of harbour, in which he had a strong right of interest, being to commence his career of seamanship in her at this very time.

Another moment and Fanny was in the narrow entrance-passage of the house, and in her mother's arms, who met her there with looks of true kindness, and with features which Fanny loved the more, because they brought her aunt Bertram's before her, and there were her two sisters: Susan, a well-grown fine girl of fourteen, and Betsey, the youngest of the family, about five--both glad to see her in their way, though with no advantage of manner in receiving her. But manner Fanny did not want. Would they but love her, she should be satisfied.

She was then taken into a parlour, so small that her first conviction was of its being only a passage-room to something better, and she stood for a moment expecting to be invited on; but when she saw there was no other door, and that there were signs of habitation before her, she called back her thoughts, reproved herself, and grieved lest they should have been suspected. Her mother, however, could not stay long enough to suspect anything. She was gone again to the street-door, to welcome William. "Oh! my dear William, how glad I am to see you. But have you heard about the Thrush? She is gone out of harbour already; three days before we had any thought of it; and I do not know what I am to do about Sam's things, they will never be ready in time; for she may have her orders to-morrow, perhaps. It takes me quite unawares. And now you must be off for Spithead too. Campbell has been here, quite in a worry about you; and now what shall we do? I thought to have had such a comfortable evening with you, and here everything comes upon me at once."

Her son answered cheerfully, telling her that everything was always for the best; and making light of his own inconvenience in being obliged to hurry away so soon.

"To be sure, I had much rather she had stayed in harbour, that I might have sat a few hours with you in comfort; but as there is a boat ashore, I had better go off at once, and there is no help for it. Whereabouts does the Thrush lay at Spithead? Near the Canopus? But no matter; here's Fanny in the parlour, and why should we stay in the passage? Come, mother, you have hardly looked at your own dear Fanny yet."

In they both came, and Mrs. Price having kindly kissed her daughter again, and commented a little on her growth, began with very natural solicitude to feel for their fatigues and wants as travellers.

"Poor dears! how tired you must both be! and now, what will you have? I began to think you would never come. Betsey and I have been watching for you this half-hour. And when did you get anything to eat? And what would you like to have now? I could not tell whether you would be for some meat, or only a dish of tea, after your journey, or else I would have got something ready. And now I am afraid Campbell will be here before there is time to dress a steak, and we have no butcher at hand. It is very inconvenient to have no butcher in the street. We were better off in our last house. Perhaps you would like some tea as soon as it can be got."

They both declared they should prefer it to anything. "Then, Betsey, my dear, run into the kitchen and see if Rebecca has put the water on; and tell her to bring in the tea-things as soon as she can. I wish we could get the bell mended; but Betsey is a very handy little messenger."

Betsey went with alacrity, proud to shew her abilities before her fine new sister.

"Dear me!" continued the anxious mother, "what a sad fire we have got, and I dare say you are both starved with cold. Draw your chair nearer, my dear. I cannot think what Rebecca has been about. I am sure I told her to bring some coals half an hour ago. Susan, you should have taken care of the fire."

"I was upstairs, mama, moving my things," said Susan, in a fearless, self-defending tone, which startled Fanny. "You know you had but just settled that my sister Fanny and I should have the other room; and I could not get Rebecca to give me any help."

Farther discussion was prevented by various bustles: first, the driver came to be paid; then there was a squabble between Sam and Rebecca about the manner of carrying up his sister's trunk, which he would manage all his own way; and lastly, in walked Mr. Price himself, his own loud voice preceding him, as with something of the oath kind he kicked away his son's port-manteau and his daughter's bandbox in the passage, and called out for a candle; no candle was brought, however, and he walked into the room.

Fanny with doubting feelings had risen to meet him, but sank down again on finding herself undistinguished in the dusk, and unthought of. With a friendly shake of his son's hand, and an eager voice, he instantly began-- "Ha! welcome back, my boy. Glad to see you. Have you heard the news? The Thrush went out of harbour this morning. Sharp is the word, you see! By G--, you are just in time! The doctor has been here inquiring for you: he has got one of the boats, and is to be off for Spithead by six, so you had better go with him. I have been to Turner's about your mess; it is all in a way to be done. I should not wonder if you had your orders to-morrow: but you cannot sail with this wind, if you are to cruise to the westward; and Captain Walsh thinks you will certainly have a cruise to the westward, with the Elephant. By G--, I wish you may! But old Scholey was saying, just now, that he thought you would be sent first to the Texel. Well, well, we are ready, whatever happens. But by G--, you lost a fine sight by not being here in the morning to see the Thrush go out of harbour! I would not have been out of the way for a thousand pounds. Old Scholey ran in at breakfast-time, to say she had slipped her moorings and was coming out, I jumped up, and made but two steps to the platform. If ever there was a perfect beauty afloat, she is one; and there she lays at Spithead, and anybody in England would take her for an eight-and-twenty. I was upon the platform two hours this afternoon looking at her. She lays close to the Endymion, between her and the Cleopatra, just to the eastward of the sheer hulk."

"Ha!" cried William, "_that's_ just where I should have put her myself. It's the best berth at Spithead. But here is my sister, sir; here is Fanny," turning and leading her forward; "it is so dark you do not see her."

With an acknowledgment that he had quite forgot her, Mr. Price now received his daughter; and having given her a cordial hug, and observed that she was grown into a woman, and he supposed would be wanting a husband soon, seemed very much inclined to forget her again. Fanny shrunk back to her seat, with feelings sadly pained by his language and his smell of spirits; and he talked on only to his son, and only of the Thrush, though William, warmly interested as he was in that subject, more than once tried to make his father think of Fanny, and her long absence and long journey.

After sitting some time longer, a candle was obtained; but as there was still no appearance of tea, nor, from Betsey's reports from the kitchen, much hope of any under a considerable period, William determined to go and change his dress, and make the necessary preparations for his removal on board directly, that he might have his tea in comfort afterwards.

As he left the room, two rosy-faced boys, ragged and dirty, about eight and nine years old, rushed into it just released from school, and coming eagerly to see their sister, and tell that the Thrush was gone out of harbour; Tom and Charles. Charles had been born since Fanny's going away, but Tom she had often helped to nurse, and now felt a particular pleasure in seeing again. Both were kissed very tenderly, but Tom she wanted to keep by her, to try to trace the features of the baby she had loved, and talked to, of his infant preference of herself. Tom, however, had no mind for such treatment: he came home not to stand and be talked to, but to run about and make a noise; and both boys had soon burst from her, and slammed the parlour-door till her temples ached.

She had now seen all that were at home; there remained only two brothers between herself and Susan, one of whom was a clerk in a public office in London, and the other midshipman on board an Indiaman. But though she had _seen_ all the members of the family, she had not yet _heard_ all the noise they could make. Another quarter of an hour brought her a great deal more. William was soon calling out from the landing-place of the second story for his mother and for Rebecca. He was in distress for something that he had left there, and did not find again. A key was mislaid, Betsey accused of having got at his new hat, and some slight, but essential alteration of his uniform waistcoat, which he had been promised to have done for him, entirely neglected.

Mrs. Price, Rebecca, and Betsey all went up to defend themselves, all talking together, but Rebecca loudest, and the job was to be done as well as it could in a great hurry; William trying in vain to send Betsey down again, or keep her from being troublesome where she was; the whole of which, as almost every door in the house was open, could be plainly distinguished in the parlour, except when drowned at intervals by the superior noise of Sam, Tom, and Charles chasing each other up and down stairs, and tumbling about and hallooing.

Fanny was almost stunned. The smallness of the house and thinness of the walls brought everything so close to her, that, added to the fatigue of her journey, and all her recent agitation, she hardly knew how to bear it. _Within_ the room all was tranquil enough, for Susan having disappeared with the others, there were soon only her father and herself remaining; and he, taking out a newspaper, the accustomary loan of a neighbour, applied himself to studying it, without seeming to recollect her existence. The solitary candle was held between himself and the paper, without any reference to her possible convenience; but she had nothing to do, and was glad to have the light screened from her aching head, as she sat in bewildered, broken, sorrowful contemplation.

She was at home. But, alas! it was not such a home, she had not such a welcome, as--she checked herself; she was unreasonable. What right had she to be of importance to her family? She could have none, so long lost sight of! William's concerns must be dearest, they always had been, and he had every right. Yet to have so little said or asked about herself, to have scarcely an inquiry made after Mansfield! It did pain her to have Mansfield forgotten; the friends who had done so much--the dear, dear friends! But here, one subject swallowed up all the rest. Perhaps it must be so. The destination of the Thrush must be now preeminently interesting. A day or two might shew the difference. _She_ only was to blame. Yet she thought it would not have been so at Mansfield. No, in her uncle's house there would have been a consideration of times and seasons, a regulation of subject, a propriety, an attention towards everybody which there was not here.

The only interruption which thoughts like these received for nearly half an hour was from a sudden burst of her father's, not at all calculated to compose them. At a more than ordinary pitch of thumping and hallooing in the passage, he exclaimed, "Devil take those young dogs! How they are singing out! Ay, Sam's voice louder than all the rest! That boy is fit for a boatswain. Holla, you there! Sam, stop your confounded pipe, or I shall be after you."

This threat was so palpably disregarded, that though within five minutes afterwards the three boys all burst into the room together and sat down, Fanny could not consider it as a proof of anything more than their being for the time thoroughly fagged, which their hot faces and panting breaths seemed to prove, especially as they were still kicking each other's shins, and hallooing out at sudden starts immediately under their father's eye.

The next opening of the door brought something more welcome: it was for the tea-things, which she had begun almost to despair of seeing that evening. Susan and an attendant girl, whose inferior appearance informed Fanny, to her great surprise, that she had previously seen the upper servant, brought in everything necessary for the meal; Susan looking, as she put the kettle on the fire and glanced at her sister, as if divided between the agreeable triumph of shewing her activity and usefulness, and the dread of being thought to demean herself by such an office. "She had been into the kitchen," she said, "to hurry Sally and help make the toast, and spread the bread and butter, or she did not know when they should have got tea, and she was sure her sister must want something after her journey."

Fanny was very thankful. She could not but own that she should be very glad of a little tea, and Susan immediately set about making it, as if pleased to have the employment all to herself; and with only a little unnecessary bustle, and some few injudicious attempts at keeping her brothers in better order than she could, acquitted herself very well. Fanny's spirit was as much refreshed as her body; her head and heart were soon the better for such well-timed kindness. Susan had an open, sensible countenance; she was like William, and Fanny hoped to find her like him in disposition and goodwill towards herself.

In this more placid state of things William reentered, followed not far behind by his mother and Betsey. He, complete in his lieutenant's uniform, looking and moving all the taller, firmer, and more graceful for it, and with the happiest smile over his face, walked up directly to Fanny, who, rising from her seat, looked at him for a moment in speechless admiration, and then threw her arms round his neck to sob out her various emotions of pain and pleasure.

Anxious not to appear unhappy, she soon recovered herself; and wiping away her tears, was able to notice and admire all the striking parts of his dress; listening with reviving spirits to his cheerful hopes of being on shore some part of every day before they sailed, and even of getting her to Spithead to see the sloop.

The next bustle brought in Mr. Campbell, the surgeon of the Thrush, a very well-behaved young man, who came to call for his friend, and for whom there was with some contrivance found a chair, and with some hasty washing of the young tea-maker's, a cup and saucer; and after another quarter of an hour of earnest talk between the gentlemen, noise rising upon noise, and bustle upon bustle, men and boys at last all in motion together, the moment came for setting off; everything was ready, William took leave, and all of them were gone; for the three boys, in spite of their mother's entreaty, determined to see their brother and Mr. Campbell to the sally-port; and Mr. Price walked off at the same time to carry back his neighbour's newspaper.

Something like tranquillity might now be hoped for; and accordingly, when Rebecca had been prevailed on to carry away the tea-things, and Mrs. Price had walked about the room some time looking for a shirt-sleeve, which Betsey at last hunted out from a drawer in the kitchen, the small party of females were pretty well composed, and the mother having lamented again over the impossibility of getting Sam ready in time, was at leisure to think of her eldest daughter and the friends she had come from.

A few inquiries began: but one of the earliest--"How did sister Bertram manage about her servants?" "Was she as much plagued as herself to get tolerable servants?"-- soon led her mind away from Northamptonshire, and fixed it on her own domestic grievances, and the shocking character of all the Portsmouth servants, of whom she believed her own two were the very worst, engrossed her completely. The Bertrams were all forgotten in detailing the faults of Rebecca, against whom Susan had also much to depose, and little Betsey a great deal more, and who did seem so thoroughly without a single recommendation, that Fanny could not help modestly presuming that her mother meant to part with her when her year was up.

"Her year!" cried Mrs. Price; "I am sure I hope I shall be rid of her before she has staid a year, for that will not be up till November. Servants are come to such a pass, my dear, in Portsmouth, that it is quite a miracle if one keeps them more than half a year. I have no hope of ever being settled; and if I was to part with Rebecca, I should only get something worse. And yet I do not think I am a very difficult mistress to please; and I am sure the place is easy enough, for there is always a girl under her, and I often do half the work myself."

Fanny was silent; but not from being convinced that there might not be a remedy found for some of these evils. As she now sat looking at Betsey, she could not but think particularly of another sister, a very pretty little girl, whom she had left there not much younger when she went into Northamptonshire, who had died a few years afterwards. There had been something remarkably amiable about her. Fanny in those early days had preferred her to Susan; and when the news of her death had at last reached Mansfield, had for a short time been quite afflicted. The sight of Betsey brought the image of little Mary back again, but she would not have pained her mother by alluding to her for the world. While considering her with these ideas, Betsey, at a small distance, was holding out something to catch her eyes, meaning to screen it at the same time from Susan's.

"What have you got there, my love?" said Fanny; "come and shew it to me."

It was a silver knife. Up jumped Susan, claiming it as her own, and trying to get it away; but the child ran to her mother's protection, and Susan could only reproach, which she did very warmly, and evidently hoping to interest Fanny on her side. "It was very hard that she was not to have her _own_ knife; it was her own knife; little sister Mary had left it to her upon her deathbed, and she ought to have had it to keep herself long ago. But mama kept it from her, and was always letting Betsey get hold of it; and the end of it would be that Betsey would spoil it, and get it for her own, though mama had _promised_ her that Betsey should not have it in her own hands."

Fanny was quite shocked. Every feeling of duty, honour, and tenderness was wounded by her sister's speech and her mother's reply.

"Now, Susan," cried Mrs. Price, in a complaining voice, "now, how can you be so cross? You are always quarrelling about that knife. I wish you would not be so quarrelsome. Poor little Betsey; how cross Susan is to you! But you should not have taken it out, my dear, when I sent you to the drawer. You know I told you not to touch it, because Susan is so cross about it. I must hide it another time, Betsey. Poor Mary little thought it would be such a bone of contention when she gave it me to keep, only two hours before she died. Poor little soul! she could but just speak to be heard, and she said so prettily, 'Let sister Susan have my knife, mama, when I am dead and buried.' Poor little dear! she was so fond of it, Fanny, that she would have it lay by her in bed, all through her illness. It was the gift of her good godmother, old Mrs. Admiral Maxwell, only six weeks before she was taken for death. Poor little sweet creature! Well, she was taken away from evil to come. My own Betsey" (fondling her), "_you_ have not the luck of such a good godmother. Aunt Norris lives too far off to think of such little people as you."

Fanny had indeed nothing to convey from aunt Norris, but a message to say she hoped that her god-daughter was a good girl, and learnt her book. There had been at one moment a slight murmur in the drawing-room at Mansfield Park about sending her a prayer-book; but no second sound had been heard of such a purpose. Mrs. Norris, however, had gone home and taken down two old prayer-books of her husband with that idea; but, upon examination, the ardour of generosity went off. One was found to have too small a print for a child's eyes, and the other to be too cumbersome for her to carry about.

Fanny, fatigued and fatigued again, was thankful to accept the first invitation of going to bed; and before Betsey had finished her cry at being allowed to sit up only one hour extraordinary in honour of sister, she was off, leaving all below in confusion and noise again; the boys begging for toasted cheese, her father calling out for his rum and water, and Rebecca never where she ought to be.

There was nothing to raise her spirits in the confined and scantily furnished chamber that she was to share with Susan. The smallness of the rooms above and below, indeed, and the narrowness of the passage and staircase, struck her beyond her imagination. She soon learned to think with respect of her own little attic at Mansfield Park, in _that_ house reckoned too small for anybody's comfort.

离开曼斯菲尔德庄园越来越远了,旅行的新奇,和威廉在一起的快乐,自然很快激起了范妮的兴致。当走完了第一站,跳下托马斯爵士的马车,向老车夫告别并托他回去代为问好的时候,她已经喜笑颜开了。

兄妹俩一路上谈笑风生。威廉兴高采烈,样样事情都让他开心。他们谈上一阵严肃的话题,他就说上一阵笑话。而他们所谈的严肃话题,不是以夸“画眉”号开始,就是以夸“画眉”号结束。他时而猜测“画眉”号将承担什么任务,时而计划怎样好好地大干一番,以便中尉出了什么事情的时候(威廉对中尉并不是很仁慈),他能尽快再次晋升,时而又琢磨在作战中立功受奖,所得的奖金将慷慨地分赠给父母弟妹们,只留一部分把那座小房子布置得舒舒服服的,他和范妮好在那里度过他们的中年和晚年。

与范妮密切相关的事情,凡是涉及到克劳福德先生的,他们在谈话中只字未提。威廉知道发生了什么事情,妹妹对一个他视为世界上最好的人这么冷漠,他从心里感到遗憾。但是,他现在正处于重视感情的年纪,因而不会责备妹妹。他知道妹妹在这个问题上的心思,便丝毫不提此事,免得惹她烦恼。

范妮有理由料想克劳福德先生没有忘记她。克劳福德兄妹俩离开曼斯菲尔德后的三个星期里,她不断收到他妹妹的来信,每封信里他都要附上几行,言词热烈,态度坚定,像他过去口头讲的一样。与克劳福德小姐通信,正像她原来担心的那样,给她带来极大的不快。除了不得不看克劳福德先生的附言之外,克劳福德小姐那活泼、热情的行文风格也给她带来痛苦,因为埃德蒙每次都坚持要听她念完信的主要内容,然后当着她的面赞叹克劳福德小姐语言优美,感情真挚。其实,每封信里都有许多消息、暗示和回忆,都大谈特谈曼斯菲尔德,范妮只能觉得这都是有意写给埃德蒙听的。她发觉自己被迫为这样的目的服务,不得不进行一场通信,让她不爱的男人没完没了地纠缠她,逼着她去忍受自己所爱的男人热恋别人,这是对她残酷的侮辱。就从这一点上看,她现在离开还是有好处的。一旦她不再和埃德蒙住在一起的时候,她相信克劳福德小姐就不会有那么大的动力不辞辛苦地给她写信。等她到了朴次茅斯,她们的通信会越来越少,直至停止。

范妮就这样思绪纷纭,平安而愉快地乘车行驶着,鉴于2月的道路比较泥泞,马车走得还算相当迅速。马车驶进了牛津,但是她对埃德蒙上过的学院,只在路过的时候匆匆瞥了一眼。他们一路往前赶,到了纽伯里才停下来,将正餐和晚饭并在一起,舒舒服服地吃了一顿,结束了一天愉快和疲劳的旅程。

第二天早晨他们又早早地动身了。一路无事,顺利前进,到达朴次茅斯近郊的时候,天还亮着,范妮环顾四周,赞叹那一幢幢的新建筑。他们过了吊桥,进入市区。暮色刚开始降临,在威廉的大声吆喝下,马车隆隆地从大街驶入一条狭窄的街道,在一座小屋的门前停下了。这就是普莱斯先生的住处。

范妮激动不已,心在突突直跳——她满怀希望,又满腹疑虑。马车一停下来,一个模样邋遢的女仆走上前来。她好像是等在门口迎候的,而且与其说是来帮忙的,不如说是来报信的,因而立即说道:“‘画眉’号已经出港了,先生,有一个军官来这儿——”她的话被一个漂亮的个子高高的十一岁男孩打断了,只见他从房子里跑出来,把女仆推开,就在威廉打开车门的时候,他嚷嚷道:“你们到得正是时候。我们已经等了你们半个小时了。今天上午‘画眉’号出港了。我看见了,好美呀。他们料想一两天内就会接到命令。坎贝尔先生是四点钟到的,来找你。他要了一艘‘画眉’号上的小艇,六点钟回舰上去,希望你能及时回来跟他一块走。”

威廉扶范妮下车的时候,这位小弟弟只看了她一两眼,算是自愿给她的关注。范妮吻他的时候,他并没表示反对,只是还在一心一意地详细述说“画眉”号出港的情景。他对“画眉”号感兴趣是理所当然的,因为他这就要到这艘舰上开始他的海员生涯。

又过了一会,范妮已经进入这座房子的狭窄的门廊里,投入了妈妈的怀抱。妈妈以真诚的母爱迎接她,妈妈的容貌让她倍加喜爱,因为看上去使她觉得伯特伦姨妈来到了面前。两个妹妹也来了,苏珊十四岁,已长成一个漂亮的大姑娘,贝齐是最小的孩子,大约五岁——两人都很高兴见到她,只不过还不大懂得迎接客人的礼仪。但是,范妮并不计较礼仪。只要她们爱她,她就心满意足了。

接着,她被引进了一间起居室。这间屋子非常小,她起初还以为只是个小过厅,因此便站了一会,等着把她往好一点的房间里领。可是,当她发现这间屋子没有别的门,而且有住人的迹象,她便打消了自己的想法,责怪起自己来,唯恐他们看出她的心迹。不过,她妈妈没有久留,什么也没有察觉。她又跑到街门口去迎接威廉了。“噢!我亲爱的威廉,见到你真高兴。你听说‘画眉’号的事了吗?它已经出港了,比我们料想的早了三天。我不知道萨姆要带的东西该怎么办,怎么也来不及准备了。说不定明天就会奉命出海。我给弄得措手不及。你还得马上去斯皮特黑德呢。坎贝尔来过了,好为你着急。现在我们该怎么办呢?我原想和你快快活活地聚一个晚上,可现在一下子什么事都叫我遇上了。

儿子兴高采烈地做了回答,跟她说一切总会有个圆满的结果,至于不得不走得这么急,这点不便没有什么大不了的。

“我当然希望它没有离港,那样我就可以和你们欢聚几个小时。不过,既然有一只小艇靠岸,我还是马上走的好,这也是没有办法的事儿。‘画眉’号停在斯皮特黑德什么地方!靠近‘老人星’号吗?不过,没关系——范妮在起居室呢,我们为什么还待在走廊里?来,妈妈,你还没有好好看看你亲爱的范妮呢。”

两人都进来了,普莱斯太太又一次慈爱地吻了吻女儿,说了说她个子长高了,随即便自然而然地关心起他们旅途的劳顿和饥饿。

“可怜的好孩子!你们两个一定累坏了!现在你们想吃什么吧?刚才我都怕你们来不了啦。贝齐和我都等了你们半个小时了。你们什么时候吃的饭?现在想吃什么?我拿不准你们旅途过后是想吃些肉还是想喝点茶,要不然早就给你们准备好了。我还担心坎贝尔就要到了,想给你们做牛排又来不及,再说这附近又没有卖肉的。街上没有卖肉的可真不方便;我们以前住的那栋房子就方便多了。也许等茶一好你们就想喝点茶吧?”

他们两人表示喝茶比什么都好。“那好,贝齐,亲爱的,快到厨房去,看看丽贝卡有没有把水烧上,叫她尽快把茶具拿来。可惜我们的铃还没修好——不过让贝齐传个话还是很方便的。”

贝齐欢快地走了,得意地想在这位新来的漂亮的姐姐面前显显本事。

“哎呀!”焦灼不安的妈妈接着说,“这炉火一点也不旺,你们俩一定给冻坏了。把椅子挪近一点,亲爱的。丽贝卡这半天不知道干什么去了。半个钟头前我就叫她弄点煤来。苏珊,你该把炉子照料好呀。”

“妈妈,我刚才在楼上搬东西,”苏珊以毫不惧怕、替自己辩护的口气说,让范妮吃了一惊。“你刚才决定的,让范妮姐和我住到另一间屋里,丽贝卡又一点忙也不肯帮。”

由于一片忙乱,她们俩没有争下去。先是赶车的来领钱,接着是萨姆与丽贝卡为往楼上搬姐姐的箱子争执起来,萨姆非要按他的方式搬,最后是普莱斯先生进来了,他人没到声音先到,而且嗓门很高,有点骂骂咧咧地踢着放在走廊里的儿子的旅行包和女儿的纸箱子,叫嚷着要蜡烛。不过,并没有拿来蜡烛,他还是走进了屋里。

范妮怀着犹疑不定的心情站起来去迎接父亲,但觉得在昏暗中父亲并未注意到自己,也没想到自己,便又坐了下来。普莱斯先生亲切地握了握儿子的手,口气热烈地急忙说道:“哈!欢迎你回来了,孩子。见到你很高兴。你听到了消息没有?‘画眉’号今天上午出港了。你看有多紧迫。他妈的,你回来得正是时候。你们的那位军医来找你。他要来了一艘小艇,六点钟离岸去斯皮特黑德,你最好和他一块儿走。我到特纳的铺子里去催你的装备,很快就可以做好。说不定你们明天就会接到命令,木过你们要是往西巡航,遇到这样的风还没法启航。沃尔什舰长认为,你们肯定要和‘大象’号一起去西面巡航。他妈的,我还就希望是这样的。可是肖利老汉刚才说,他认为你们会先被派到‘特克赛尔’号上。反正,不管怎么样,我们已经准备好了。不过,他妈的,你上午不在,没能看上‘画眉’号出港时那个气派劲儿。给我一千英镑我也不愿意失去这个机会。吃早饭的时候,肖利老汉跑进来说,‘画眉’号已经起锚了,就要出港了。我忽地跳起来,两步就跑到平台甲板上。如果说真有哪只船十全十美的话,那就是它了。它就停在斯皮特黑德,不管是哪个英国人,一看就知道,它每小时能航行二十八海里。今天下午我在平台甲板上看了它两个小时。它紧靠‘恩底弥翁’号停着,在‘恩底弥翁’号和‘克娄巴特拉’号之间,就在那大船坞的正东面。”

“哈!”威廉嚷道,“要是我,也会把它停在那里的。那是斯皮特黑德最好的锚位。不过,爸爸,我妹妹在这儿,范妮在这儿。”说着转过身,将范妮往前拉了拉。“光线太暗了,你没看见她。”

普莱斯先生说他都忘了范妮,然后对她表示欢迎。他热情地拥抱了她,说她已经长成大人了,看来很快就要出嫁了,接着似乎又把她忘掉了。

范妮退回到座位上,为父亲的粗鲁语言和满嘴酒味感到痛心。父亲只和儿子说话,只谈“画眉”号。威廉虽然对这个话题很感兴趣,但不止一次地想使父亲想到范妮,想到她多年离家,想到她旅途劳顿。

又坐了一会,才弄来了一支蜡烛。但是茶仍然没有端来,而且据贝齐从厨房得来的情况来看,一时半刻还烧不好,于是威廉决定去更换服装,做好说走就走的准备,然后再从从容容地喝茶。

他走出屋之后,两个脸蛋红润、衣着褴褛、身上肮脏的八九岁男孩跑了进来。他们两个刚刚放学,急匆匆地跑来看姐姐,报告“画眉”号出港的消息。两人一个叫汤姆,一个叫查东斯,查尔斯是范妮走后才生的,但她过去常帮妈妈照顾汤姆,因此这次再见面感到特别高兴。她非常亲切地吻了两个弟弟,不过总想把汤姆拉到自己身边,试图从他的容貌上追忆自己喜爱过的那个婴儿,跟他说他小时候多么喜欢她自己。然而,汤姆并不想让姐姐这样待他,他回家来不是为了站着不动,听别人对自己说话,而是要到处乱跑,吵吵闹闹。两个孩子很快挣脱了她,出门时砰的一声,震得她额头发痛。

现在,在家的人她都见到了,只剩下她和苏珊之间的两个弟弟,一个在伦敦的某个政府机关里当办事员,另一个在一艘来往于英国和印度之间的大商船上做见习船员。不过,她虽说见到了家里所有的人,但是还没有听到他们能喧闹到何种地步。又过了一刻钟,家里越发热闹起来了。威廉在二楼楼梯口大声呼喊他妈妈和丽贝卡。原来,他放在那里的什么东西找不到了,便着急起来。一把钥匙找不到了,贝齐动了他的新帽子,他的制服背心不合身,答应过要给他改的,完全给忘掉了。

普莱斯太太、丽贝卡和贝齐都跑到楼上为自己辩护,几个人一齐唧唧喳喳,就数丽贝卡叫得最响,都说这活要赶紧做出来,还要尽量做好。威廉想把贝齐赶到楼下,让她不要妨碍别人,但是徒劳无益。由于房里的每道门都敞开着,楼上的喧闹声在起居室里听得清清楚楚,只是不时地要被萨姆、汤姆和查尔斯的吵闹声盖过,他们楼上楼下地追逐着,跌跌撞撞,大喊大叫。

范妮给吵得头昏脑涨。由于房子小、墙壁薄,这一切都好像发生在身边,再加上旅途的劳顿,以及近来的种种烦恼,她简直不知道如何承受这一切。屋内倒是一片寂静,因为苏珊很快也跟他们去了,只剩下了父亲和她,父亲掏出了一张报纸——这报纸经常是从邻居家借来的,看了起来,似乎忘记了她还在屋里。他把那唯一的一支蜡烛擎在他和报纸之间,毫不顾及她是否需要光亮。不过,她也没有什么事要做,倒乐意他把烛光遮住,照不着她那疼痛的头。她茫然地坐在那里,陷入了断断续续的、黯然神伤的沉思之中。

她回到家了。可是,唉!这样一个家,她受到这样的接待,真让她——她不让自己再想下去。她这样想不合情理。她有什么权利要家里人对她另眼相看?她这么长久不见踪影,根本没有这个权利!家里人最关心的应该是威廉——一向都是如此——他完全有这个权利。然而,对她却没有什么好谈的,丝毫没人过问——也没有人问及曼斯菲尔德!他们忘记了曼斯菲尔德,忘记了给他们那么多帮助的朋友们——那些极其亲爱的朋友们,真让她痛心啊!但是现在,有一个话题盖过了其他所有话题。也许应该如此。“画眉”号的动向现在所引起的关注势必压倒一切。一两天后情况就会有所不同。事情只能怪她。然而她又觉得,若在曼斯菲尔德,情况就不会这样。不会的,在她姨父家里,就会审时度势,凡事都有定规,讲究分寸,关心每一个人,可这里却不是这样。

她就这样左思右想了将近半个小时之久,才让父亲突然给打断了,不过父亲倒不是为了安慰她。走廊里的脚步声和喊叫声实在太吵了,他便大声嚷道:“你们这些该死的小狗杂种!你们要闹翻天啊!嗨,萨姆的声音比谁的都大!这小子适合当水手长。喂——你听着——萨姆——别扯着你的尖嗓子乱叫了,不然看我不揍你。”

显然,这番威胁被置若罔闻。虽然五分钟内三个孩子都跑进房里坐了下来,但是范妮认为这并不能说明任何问题,只不过是因为他们一时累了,这从他们个个满头大汗、气喘吁吁就能看得出来——而且他们还在父亲的眼皮底下,你踢我的腿,我踩你的脚,并且又马上突然吆喝起来。

门又一次打开的时候,送来了较为受人欢迎的东西:茶具。她几乎开始绝望了,觉得那天晚上不会送茶具来了。苏珊和一个侍女送来了吃茶点需要的东西。范妮从这个侍女的外表可以看出,她先前见到的那位女仆原来是个管家。苏珊把茶壶放在炉火上,看了姐姐一眼,那神情似乎有两重意思:一是因为显示了自己的勤快能干而洋洋得意;二是担心干了这样的活在姐姐眼里降低了自己的身份。“我到厨房去催萨莉,”她说,“帮她烤面包片,涂黄油——不然的话,我真不知道什么时候才能吃上茶点——我敢断定,姐姐经过一路的奔波一定想吃点东西。”

范妮非常感激。她不得不承认自己很想喝点茶,苏珊立即动手沏茶,似乎很乐意独自来做这件事。她有点故作忙碌,不分青红皂白地说上弟弟们几句,尽量帮助维持秩序,让人觉得她表现出色。范妮从身体到精神都得到了恢复。由于受到这般及时的关照,她的头不那么痛了,心里也好受些了。苏珊面容坦率,通情达理。她长得像威廉。范妮希望她性情上也像威廉,并且像威廉一样对她好。

在这比较平静的气氛中,威廉又进来了,后面跟着妈妈和贝齐。他整整齐齐地穿上了他的少尉军服,看上去、走起路来都显得更魁梧,更笔挺,更风度翩翩。他满面春风地径直走向范妮。范妮站了起来,怀着赞赏的目光,默默地看了看他,然后张开双臂搂住他的脖子,悲喜交集地哭了起来。

她不愿意让人觉得自己有什么不高兴的,很快便镇静下来。她擦干了眼泪,威廉那身服装每一处光彩夺目的地方,她都看得出来,也能加以赞赏。她还精神振奋地听他兴高采烈地说起:在起航之前,他可望每天抽出一定时间上岸来,甚至把她带到斯皮特黑德去看看这艘轻巡洋舰。

门再次打开的时候,“画眉”号的医生坎贝尔先生进来了。他是个品行端正的年轻人,是专门来叫他的朋友的。由于座位拥挤,好不容易才给他摆了张椅子,年轻的沏茶姑娘赶忙给他洗了一只杯子和一只茶碟。两位青年情真意切地谈了一刻钟,这时家里闹上加闹,乱上加乱,大人小孩一齐动了起来,两人动身的时刻到了。一切准备就绪,威廉告辞了,男人们全走了——三个男孩不听妈妈劝告,非要把哥哥和坎贝尔先生送到军舰的出入口,普莱斯先生这时要去给邻居还报纸。

现在可以指望清静一点了。因此,丽贝卡遵命撤去茶具,普莱斯太太到处找一只衬衫袖子,忙活了半天,最后由贝齐从厨房的一个抽屉里给找了出来。接着,这伙女人就变得相当安静了。妈妈又为无法给萨姆赶做出行装叹惜了一阵之后,才有闲暇想起她的大女儿及其曼斯菲尔德的朋友们。

她向范妮问起了几个问题,最先问到的是:“我伯特伦姐姐是怎样管教仆人们的?她是不是像我一样苦于找不到像点样的仆人?”一提到仆人,她的思绪便离开了北安普敦郡,一心想着自己家里的苦楚,朴次茅斯的仆人们全都品质恶劣,她觉得自己的两个仆人尤为糟糕。她只顾数落丽贝卡的缺点,完全忘了伯特伦一家人。苏珊也列举了丽贝卡的大量不是,小贝齐举的例子更多,她们把丽贝卡说得一无是处,范妮猜想,她妈妈是想在丽贝卡干满一年后辞掉她。

“干满一年!”普莱斯太太嚷道。“我真想不等她干满一年就辞掉她,因为她要到11月才干满一年。亲爱的,朴次茅斯的仆人可真不好办,要是谁用仆人能用过半年,那就算出了奇迹。我不敢指望能找到合适的人,我要是辞掉丽贝卡,再找一个只可能更糟。不过,我想我不是个很难伺候的主人——再说她在这里也真够轻松的,因为总是有个丫头听她使唤,何况我自己常常把活干掉一半。”

范妮默默不语,这倒不是因为她认为这种弊端已经没有办法补救了。这时她坐在那里望着贝齐,情不自禁地想起了另一个妹姝。那个小妹妹长得很漂亮,当年她离家去北安普敦郡的时候,她比现在的贝齐小不了多少,她走了几年后她就死掉了。她特别招人喜爱。那时候,她喜爱她胜过喜爱苏珊。她死去的消息最后传到曼斯菲尔德的时候,她一度非常悲伤。看到贝齐不由得又想起了小玛丽,但她说什么也不愿提起她,免得惹妈妈伤心。就在她抱着这样的想法打量贝齐的当儿,贝齐在离她不远的地方拿着一个什么东西让她看,同时又挡着不让苏珊看见。

“你手里拿的什么,亲爱的?”范妮说。“来给我看看。”

原来是把银刀。苏珊忽地跳起来,扬言是她的,想要夺过去。贝齐跑到妈妈跟前寻求保护,苏珊在一旁责备她,言词还很激烈,显然是想博得范妮的同情。“这是我的刀子,不给我太不像话。是小玛丽姐姐临死的时候留给我的,早就应该归我所有了。可是妈妈不肯给我,总是让贝齐拿着玩。到头来,就让贝齐抢去了,变成她自己的,尽管妈妈曾向我保证不会交给贝齐。”

范妮感到大为震惊。妹妹的这番话和妈妈的回答,完全违背了她心目中对母女之间应有的情义、敬重和相亲相爱的概念。

“我说,苏珊哪,”普莱斯太太以抱怨的口吻嚷道,“你怎么脾气这么坏呀?你总是为这把刀争吵。你别这么吵来吵去就好了。可怜的小贝齐,苏珊对你多凶啊!不过,亲爱的,我叫你到抽屉里去取东西,你不该把刀拿出来。你要知道,我对你说过,叫你不要碰它,因为苏珊一见你拿就要冒火。贝齐,下一次我要把它藏起来。可怜的玛丽临死前两个钟头把它交给我保存,她万万没想到你们像狗抢骨头一样抢这把刀。可怜的小家伙!我只是勉勉强强能听见她说的话,那话真让人感动:‘妈妈,等我死了埋掉以后,把我的刀送给苏珊妹妹。’可怜的小宝贝啊!她好喜欢这把刀,范妮,她卧床不起的时候,一直把它放在身边。这是她的好教毋马克斯韦尔将军的太太送给她的,那时她离死只有六个礼拜了。可怜的小亲亲啊!也好,她死了,免得受我们遭的罪。我的贝齐(抚摸着她),你可没有她的好运气,没有这么个好教母。诺里斯姨妈离我们太远了,不会想到你这样的小人儿。”

范妮确实没有从诺里斯姨妈那里捎来任何礼物,只带来了她的口信,希望她的教女做个好孩子,好好念书。有一次,她曾在曼斯菲尔德庄园的客厅里听到窃窃私语,说是要送贝齐一本祈祷书,但是以后再也没听到说起这件事。不过,诺里斯太太还是抱着这个念头回到家里,取下了她丈夫用过的两本祈祷书,可是拿到手里一琢磨,那股慷慨的劲头也就烟消云散了。她觉得一本书的字太小,不利于孩子的眼睛,另一本太笨重,不便于孩子带来带去。

范妮又累得不行了,一听说请她就寝去,她便不胜感激地接受了。看在姐姐回来的分上,贝齐获许比平时晚睡一个小时,一个小时到了仍然不肯去睡,还要哭哭闹闹,没等她哭闹完,范妮就起身上楼了,只听楼下又吵吵闹闹,一片混乱:男孩子们要面包加奶酪,父亲吆喝着要加水朗姆酒,而丽贝卡总是不能让大家满意。

她要和苏珊共住的这间卧室又狭小,又没有什么装饰,根本提不起她的兴致。楼上楼下房间这么小,走廊楼梯这么窄,都超出了她的想象。她在曼斯菲尔德庄园住的那间阁楼,本是人人嫌小不愿住的地方,现在想起来倒觉得蛮阔气了。



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