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Chapter 40

Fanny was right enough in not expecting to hear from Miss Crawford now at the rapid rate in which their correspondence had begun; Mary's next letter was after a decidedly longer interval than the last, but she was not right in supposing that such an interval would be felt a great relief to herself. Here was another strange revolution of mind! She was really glad to receive the letter when it did come. In her present exile from good society, and distance from everything that had been wont to interest her, a letter from one belonging to the set where her heart lived, written with affection, and some degree of elegance, was thoroughly acceptable. The usual plea of increasing engagements was made in excuse for not having written to her earlier; "And now that I have begun," she continued, "my letter will not be worth your reading, for there will be no little offering of love at the end, no three or four lines _passionnees_ from the most devoted H. C. in the world, for Henry is in Norfolk; business called him to Everingham ten days ago, or perhaps he only pretended to call, for the sake of being travelling at the same time that you were. But there he is, and, by the bye, his absence may sufficiently account for any remissness of his sister's in writing, for there has been no 'Well, Mary, when do you write to Fanny? Is not it time for you to write to Fanny?' to spur me on. At last, after various attempts at meeting, I have seen your cousins, 'dear Julia and dearest Mrs. Rushworth'; they found me at home yesterday, and we were glad to see each other again. We _seemed_ _very_ glad to see each other, and I do really think we were a little. We had a vast deal to say. Shall I tell you how Mrs. Rushworth looked when your name was mentioned? I did not use to think her wanting in self-possession, but she had not quite enough for the demands of yesterday. Upon the whole, Julia was in the best looks of the two, at least after you were spoken of. There was no recovering the complexion from the moment that I spoke of 'Fanny,' and spoke of her as a sister should. But Mrs. Rushworth's day of good looks will come; we have cards for her first party on the 28th. Then she will be in beauty, for she will open one of the best houses in Wimpole Street. I was in it two years ago, when it was Lady Lascelle's, and prefer it to almost any I know in London, and certainly she will then feel, to use a vulgar phrase, that she has got her pennyworth for her penny. Henry could not have afforded her such a house. I hope she will recollect it, and be satisfied, as well as she may, with moving the queen of a palace, though the king may appear best in the background; and as I have no desire to tease her, I shall never _force_ your name upon her again. She will grow sober by degrees. From all that I hear and guess, Baron Wildenheim's attentions to Julia continue, but I do not know that he has any serious encouragement. She ought to do better. A poor honourable is no catch, and I cannot imagine any liking in the case, for take away his rants, and the poor baron has nothing. What a difference a vowel makes! If his rents were but equal to his rants! Your cousin Edmund moves slowly; detained, perchance, by parish duties. There may be some old woman at Thornton Lacey to be converted. I am unwilling to fancy myself neglected for a _young_ one. Adieu! my dear sweet Fanny, this is a long letter from London: write me a pretty one in reply to gladden Henry's eyes, when he comes back, and send me an account of all the dashing young captains whom you disdain for his sake."

There was great food for meditation in this letter, and chiefly for unpleasant meditation; and yet, with all the uneasiness it supplied, it connected her with the absent, it told her of people and things about whom she had never felt so much curiosity as now, and she would have been glad to have been sure of such a letter every week. Her correspondence with her aunt Bertram was her only concern of higher interest.

As for any society in Portsmouth, that could at all make amends for deficiencies at home, there were none within the circle of her father's and mother's acquaintance to afford her the smallest satisfaction: she saw nobody in whose favour she could wish to overcome her own shyness and reserve. The men appeared to her all coarse, the women all pert, everybody underbred; and she gave as little contentment as she received from introductions either to old or new acquaintance. The young ladies who approached her at first with some respect, in consideration of her coming from a baronet's family, were soon offended by what they termed "airs"; for, as she neither played on the pianoforte nor wore fine pelisses, they could, on farther observation, admit no right of superiority.

The first solid consolation which Fanny received for the evils of home, the first which her judgment could entirely approve, and which gave any promise of durability, was in a better knowledge of Susan, and a hope of being of service to her. Susan had always behaved pleasantly to herself, but the determined character of her general manners had astonished and alarmed her, and it was at least a fortnight before she began to understand a disposition so totally different from her own. Susan saw that much was wrong at home, and wanted to set it right. That a girl of fourteen, acting only on her own unassisted reason, should err in the method of reform, was not wonderful; and Fanny soon became more disposed to admire the natural light of the mind which could so early distinguish justly, than to censure severely the faults of conduct to which it led. Susan was only acting on the same truths, and pursuing the same system, which her own judgment acknowledged, but which her more supine and yielding temper would have shrunk from asserting. Susan tried to be useful, where _she_ could only have gone away and cried; and that Susan was useful she could perceive; that things, bad as they were, would have been worse but for such interposition, and that both her mother and Betsey were restrained from some excesses of very offensive indulgence and vulgarity.

In every argument with her mother, Susan had in point of reason the advantage, and never was there any maternal tenderness to buy her off. The blind fondness which was for ever producing evil around her she had never known. There was no gratitude for affection past or present to make her better bear with its excesses to the others.

All this became gradually evident, and gradually placed Susan before her sister as an object of mingled compassion and respect. That her manner was wrong, however, at times very wrong, her measures often ill-chosen and ill-timed, and her looks and language very often indefensible, Fanny could not cease to feel; but she began to hope they might be rectified. Susan, she found, looked up to her and wished for her good opinion; and new as anything like an office of authority was to Fanny, new as it was to imagine herself capable of guiding or informing any one, she did resolve to give occasional hints to Susan, and endeavour to exercise for her advantage the juster notions of what was due to everybody, and what would be wisest for herself, which her own more favoured education had fixed in her.

Her influence, or at least the consciousness and use of it, originated in an act of kindness by Susan, which, after many hesitations of delicacy, she at last worked herself up to. It had very early occurred to her that a small sum of money might, perhaps, restore peace for ever on the sore subject of the silver knife, canvassed as it now was continually, and the riches which she was in possession of herself, her uncle having given her 10 at parting, made her as able as she was willing to be generous. But she was so wholly unused to confer favours, except on the very poor, so unpractised in removing evils, or bestowing kindnesses among her equals, and so fearful of appearing to elevate herself as a great lady at home, that it took some time to determine that it would not be unbecoming in her to make such a present. It was made, however, at last: a silver knife was bought for Betsey, and accepted with great delight, its newness giving it every advantage over the other that could be desired; Susan was established in the full possession of her own, Betsey handsomely declaring that now she had got one so much prettier herself, she should never want _that_ again; and no reproach seemed conveyed to the equally satisfied mother, which Fanny had almost feared to be impossible. The deed thoroughly answered: a source of domestic altercation was entirely done away, and it was the means of opening Susan's heart to her, and giving her something more to love and be interested in. Susan shewed that she had delicacy: pleased as she was to be mistress of property which she had been struggling for at least two years, she yet feared that her sister's judgment had been against her, and that a reproof was designed her for having so struggled as to make the purchase necessary for the tranquillity of the house.

Her temper was open. She acknowledged her fears, blamed herself for having contended so warmly; and from that hour Fanny, understanding the worth of her disposition and perceiving how fully she was inclined to seek her good opinion and refer to her judgment, began to feel again the blessing of affection, and to entertain the hope of being useful to a mind so much in need of help, and so much deserving it. She gave advice, advice too sound to be resisted by a good understanding, and given so mildly and considerately as not to irritate an imperfect temper, and she had the happiness of observing its good effects not unfrequently. More was not expected by one who, while seeing all the obligation and expediency of submission and forbearance, saw also with sympathetic acuteness of feeling all that must be hourly grating to a girl like Susan. Her greatest wonder on the subject soon became--not that Susan should have been provoked into disrespect and impatience against her better knowledge-- but that so much better knowledge, so many good notions should have been hers at all; and that, brought up in the midst of negligence and error, she should have formed such proper opinions of what ought to be; she, who had had no cousin Edmund to direct her thoughts or fix her principles.

The intimacy thus begun between them was a material advantage to each. By sitting together upstairs, they avoided a great deal of the disturbance of the house; Fanny had peace, and Susan learned to think it no misfortune to be quietly employed. They sat without a fire; but that was a privation familiar even to Fanny, and she suffered the less because reminded by it of the East room. It was the only point of resemblance. In space, light, furniture, and prospect, there was nothing alike in the two apartments; and she often heaved a sigh at the remembrance of all her books and boxes, and various comforts there. By degrees the girls came to spend the chief of the morning upstairs, at first only in working and talking, but after a few days, the remembrance of the said books grew so potent and stimulative that Fanny found it impossible not to try for books again. There were none in her father's house; but wealth is luxurious and daring, and some of hers found its way to a circulating library. She became a subscriber; amazed at being anything _in_ _propria_ _persona_, amazed at her own doings in every way, to be a renter, a chuser of books! And to be having any one's improvement in view in her choice! But so it was. Susan had read nothing, and Fanny longed to give her a share in her own first pleasures, and inspire a taste for the biography and poetry which she delighted in herself.

In this occupation she hoped, moreover, to bury some of the recollections of Mansfield, which were too apt to seize her mind if her fingers only were busy; and, especially at this time, hoped it might be useful in diverting her thoughts from pursuing Edmund to London, whither, on the authority of her aunt's last letter, she knew he was gone. She had no doubt of what would ensue. The promised notification was hanging over her head. The postman's knock within the neighbourhood was beginning to bring its daily terrors, and if reading could banish the idea for even half an hour, it was something gained.

克劳福德小姐现在的来信没有当初那么勤了,这一点没有出乎范妮的预料。显然,玛丽下次来信间隔的时间比上次长得多。但是,来信间隔长对她并不是个很大的安慰,这一点却是她未曾料到的。这是她心理发生的又一个奇怪的变化啊!她接到来信的时候,还真感到高兴。她眼下被逐出了上流社会,远离了她一向感兴趣的一切事物,在这种情况下,能收到她心仪的那个圈子里的某个人的一封来信,而且信又写得那么热情,还有几分文采,这自然是件十分称心的事。信里总是用应酬越来越多作托词,解释为什么没能早来信。“现在动起笔来,”玛丽继续写道,“就怕我的信不值得你一读,因为信的末尾没有了世上最痴情的H.C.①(译注:①Henry Crawford(亨利·克劳福德)的开头字母。)的爱的致意和三四行热情的话语,因为亨利到诺福克去了。十天前,他有事去了埃弗灵厄姆,也许是假装有事,其实是想趁你外出旅行的时机,也去旅行一趟。不过,他现在的确在埃弗灵厄姆。顺便提一句,做妹妹的信写得少完全是因为他不在身边的缘故,因而听不到这样的催促:‘喂,玛丽,你什么时候给范妮写信呀?你还不该给范妮写信吗?’经过多次的努力,我终于见到了你的两位表姐:‘亲爱的朱莉娅和最亲爱的拉什沃思太太。’她们昨天来的时候我正在家里,我们很高兴能够重逢。我们好像很高兴能彼此相见,我倒真觉得我们有点高兴。我们有许多话要说。要不要我告诉你当提到你的名字时拉什沃思太太脸上的表情?我一向认为她还比较沉稳,但是昨天她却有些沉不住气了。总的说来,朱莉娅的脸色好看一些,至少在说起你以后是这样。从我讲到‘范妮’,并且以小姑子的口气讲到你的时候,那副面孔就一直没有恢复正常。不过,拉什沃思太太满面春风的日子就要到来了,我们已经接到了请帖,她要在28日举行第一次舞会。到时候她会美不可言,因为她要展示的是温普尔街最气派的一幢大宅。两年前我去过那里,当时是拉塞尔斯夫人住在里面,我觉得这幢房子比我在伦敦见过的哪一幢都好。到时候她肯定会觉得——借用一句俗话说——她这是物有所值。亨利不可能给她提供这样一幢房子。我希望她能记住这一点,满足于做一个王后住着一座宫殿,虽说国王最好待在后台。我不愿意刺激她,决不会再当着她的面硬提你的名字。她会渐渐冷静下来。从我听到的情况看,再根据我的猜测,维尔登海姆男爵①(译注:①系《山盟海誓》中的人物,由耶茨先生扮演,见本书第一卷第十四章。)仍在追求朱莉娅,叮我拿不准他是否受过认真的鼓励。她应该挑一个更合适的人。一个可怜的贵族头衔顶不了什么用,我想象不出他有什么可爱的,除了夸夸其谈,这位可怜的男爵一无所有。一字之差会造成多大的差异啊!他要是不光讲起话来‘叫呱呱’,收起租来也‘顶呱呱’就好了!你埃德蒙表哥还迟迟没来,可能是让教区的事务绊住了。也许是桑顿莱西的哪个老太婆需要他劝说皈依。我不愿意设想他是因为某个年轻女人而不把我放在心上。再见,我亲爱的甜蜜的范妮,这是从伦敦写给你的一封长信,给我好好地回一封信,让亨利回来一睹为快——还要给我讲一讲你为了他鄙弃了多少漂亮的年轻舰长。”

这封信里有不少东西可供她回味,个中的滋味多半使她感到不快。然而,尽管读过之后感到诸多不安,但这封信却把她和远在他乡的人联系了起来,讲到了她近来特别想了解的人和事,她倒很愿意每星期都收到这样一封信。她和伯特伦姨妈之间的通信是她唯一更感兴趣的事情。

朴次茅斯的社交活动,并不能弥补她家庭生活的缺陷。不论是她父亲的圈里人还是她母亲的圈里人,没有一个能给她带来丝毫的快乐。她对她见到的人都没有好感,怕见他们,不愿和他们说话。她觉得这里的男人个个粗鲁,女人个个唐突,男男女女没有一个不缺乏教养。无论是和老相识还是和新相识应酬,她都不满意,人家也同样不满意。年轻姑娘们起初觉得她是从一位男爵家来的,便带着几分敬意来接近她,但是很快就对她们所谓的“气派”看不顺眼了——因为她既不肯弹钢琴,又没穿考究的皮外衣,经过进一步观察,认为她没有什么比她们优越的。

家里处处不称心,范妮得到的第一个实在的安慰,第一个她衷心欢迎而又可能持久的安慰,是她对苏珊有了进一步的了解,而且有可能对她有所帮助。苏珊对她倒是一直很好,但她为人处事的泼辣劲儿曾使她感到震惊,至少过了两个星期,她才开始对这个与自己性情完全不同的姑娘有所了解。苏珊对家里的很多事情看不惯,想要加以纠正。一个十四岁的姑娘,在无人帮助的情况下,仅仅凭着自己的理智,要改变家庭的这些状况,在方式方法上有些不当是不足为奇的。她这么小的年纪就能明辨是非,范妮很快就开始欣赏她的天赋和智慧,而不去苛求她做法上的不当。苏珊遵循的正是她自己认同的原则,追寻的正是她自己认可的秩序,只不过她自己性格比较软弱,有些畏缩不前,不敢坚持罢了。苏珊能站出来管事,而她只会躲在一边去哭。她看得出来,苏珊还是起到了作用;如果不是苏珊出面干预,本来已经很糟的事情恐怕会变得更糟;由于苏珊的干预,她妈妈和贝齐那种令人难以容忍的过分放纵、过于粗俗的行为才受到一些约束。

苏珊每次和妈妈辩论,都是苏珊有理,而做妈妈的从来没有用母爱的柔情来感化她。那种造成种种不良后果的盲目溺爱,她可从来没有领受过。她过去没被疼爱过,现在也不受人疼爱,因此就没有什么感恩之心,也不会容忍对别人的过分溺爱。

这一切逐渐明白了,苏珊也便逐渐成了姐姐同情和钦佩的对象。然而,她的态度不好,有时候还很不好——她的举措往往失当,不合时宜,她的神情和语言常常不可原谅,这一切范妮依然感觉得到,不过她开始希望会有所改变。她发现苏珊挺敬重她,希望得到她的指教。范妮虽然从未起过权威作用,从未设想自己能指导别人,但她决计偶尔给她些指点,并且利用自己受过的较好教育,让她更好地理解人应该怎样待人接物,她怎样做才最聪明。

她的影响,或者说,至少她意识到了自己的影响并在利用自己的影响,是从她对苏珊的一次友好行为开始的。对于这件事,她起初有所顾虑,经过多次犹豫,最后才鼓足了勇气。她早就想到,虽说为了那把银刀不断发生争吵,但是也许用不了多少钱,就能在这个敏感的问题上永远恢复安宁。她姨父临别时给了她十英镑,她手里有了这笔钱,就不光想要大方,而且也大方得起。但是,除了对很穷的人,她从来没有施恩于谁。对于与她同等的人,她从来没有纠正过谁的不良行为,也没有对谁施过恩惠。她就怕别人觉得她想摆出一副大家闺秀的架势,来提高自己在家里的地位,因此考虑了许久还不能决定,赠这么个礼品对她来说是否合适。不过,她最后还是送了礼品。她给贝齐买了一把银刀,贝齐喜不自禁地接受了。这是把新刀,怎么看都比那把旧的好。这样一来,苏珊就完全恢复了对她那把旧刀的所有权,贝齐也慷慨地宣称,她现在有了一把漂亮得多的刀子,也就决不会再要那一把了。范妮本来担心妈妈会为此感到羞愧,不过看来她丝毫没有这样的感觉,反倒同样为之高兴。这件事完全收到了应有的效果。家庭纠纷的一个根源给彻底消除了,苏珊从此向她敞开了心扉,她也就多了一个可以喜爱、可以关心的人。苏珊表明她心眼也很细。她争了至少两年,现在成了这把银刀的主人,心里自然十分高兴,然而她又怕姐姐对自己印象不好,怕姐姐怨她那样争来争去,不买上一把家里就不得安宁。

她是个襟怀坦荡的人,向姐姐承认了自己的顾虑,责怪自己不该那样去争。从这时起,范妮了解了她可爱的性情,意识到她多么想听她的意见,请她指点,于是做姐姐的又感到了亲情的幸福,希望能对一个如此需要帮助,而又应该得到帮助的人有所帮助。她给她提意见,意见提得合情合理,但凡头脑清楚,就无法反对。意见还提得又温和又体贴,即使脾气坏一点,听了也不会生气。她眼见着自己的意见屡屡产生良好的效果,心里感到很高兴。她看到她明白了做人的道理,明白了自身的利害关系,因而能接受她的意见,进行自我克制,但也深为体谅地看出,对于苏珊这样一个姑娘来说,这也是个难咽的苦果。因此,她对她没有更高的要求。过了不久,她发现这件事最让她感到惊奇的——不是苏珊对她的好的见解不尊重,听不进去——而是她本来就有那么多好的见解,好的观点。她是在无人管教、没有规矩的环境中长大的——也没有个埃德蒙表哥指导她的思想,灌输为人的准则,她居然形成了这么多正确的见解。

两人之间如此开始的亲密关系对两人都有很大的好处。她们一起坐在楼上,也就避开了许多家中的吵吵闹闹。范妮得到了安静,苏珊也懂得了不声不响地做活的乐趣。她们的房里没有生火。不过,就连范妮对这种艰苦也习以为常,由于联想到了东屋,她反倒觉得没有什么苦的。这间屋子与东屋只有在这一点上是相像的。两者之间在大小、光线、家具和窗外景色方面,没有任何相似之处。她每次想起她在东屋的书籍、箱子和各种各样舒适的用品,免不了唉声叹气。渐渐地,两个姑娘都在楼上度过上午的大部分时间,起初只是做活、聊天,可是几天后,范妮越来越想念刚才提到的那些书籍,在这种情绪的刺激下,忍不住又想找些书来看。她父亲的这个家里没有书,但是人有了钱就会大手大脚,无所顾忌——她的一些钱就流到了一家流通图书馆。她成了一个订阅者——为自己成为这样一个人感到惊讶,为自己的所作所为感到惊讶,她居然成了一个租书者,一个挑选图书的人!而且由她选书来提高别人!可事实就是如此。苏珊什么都没读过,范妮想让她分享一下她自己的首要乐趣,激励她喜欢她自己所喜欢的传记和诗歌。

另外,她还希望通过读书抛开她对曼斯菲尔德的一些回忆。如果她只是手指在忙,这些回忆势必会萦绕于心。尤其在这个时候,她觉得读书有助于转移她的思想,不要胡思乱想地跟着埃德蒙去伦敦,因为从姨妈的上封信来看,她知道他去了那里。她毫不怀疑会产生什么结果。埃德蒙曾说过到时候会将情况写信告诉她,现在这可怕的事情已经临头了。每天连邮差在左邻右舍的敲门声,都让她感到惊恐——要是读书能让她把这件事哪怕只忘掉半个小时,对她来说也是个不小的收获。



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