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CHAPTER XX
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Certainly Vernon's story was the most amazing that any girl had ever listened to. Notwithstanding my great joy I could not take it all in at once. The first time of telling seemed to have little or no effect on me, except that it lightened my heart in a most curious manner of a load which was almost insupportable. I sprang suddenly to my feet.
 
"Will you come out with me?" I said. "Shall we go up on the Downs, and will you tell me there the whole story from beginning to end over again?"
 
He smiled and said, in his bright way:
 
"All right, little Heather."
 
I flew upstairs. Aunt Penelope was moving about in her room, but I would not go to her. I felt somehow that I could not meet her just yet, and she, dear old thing, must have guessed my feelings, for she did not attempt to trouble me. I put on my hat and jacket, snatched up my gloves, and ran downstairs. Vernon was waiting for me. How tall he was, and broad, and how splendidly he carried himself!
 
"Oh, Vernon," I said, looking into his face, "I am so proud that you are a soldier!"
 
He laughed.
 
"Thank you very much indeed, little Heather," he said.
 
When we got out he drew my hand through his arm, and we went up to the beautiful Downs. We sat on the heather and he told me the story over again; I took it in much better this time. When it was quite finished I said:
 
 
"And father—what is to become of father?"
 
"I'm afraid he'll have to go on living with Lady Helen," was Vernon's answer. But I shook my head.
 
"No," I said; "not at all. I have a better scheme than that. Lady Helen is very much frightened, isn't she, Vernon?"
 
"A 'blue funk' doesn't even describe her," replied Vernon.
 
"Well, then," I said, "I have a plan in my head. You and I will go up to London to-morrow." "I am quite agreeable, Heather—that is, if it causes you to hurry on our wedding day."
 
"Oh, there's time enough for our wedding day," I said. "We mustn't be selfish, you know, Vernon."
 
"Selfish? By Jove!" he exclaimed. "Little you know about selfishness when you accuse me of it."
 
"Oh, Vernon," I said, "I'm just so happy I scarcely know what to do. But because I am so happy I don't want the one I love best in all the world after yourself to be out in the cold."
 
"What do you mean by that, Heather dear?"
 
"Just what I say. I don't want to leave my own darling father absolutely miserable1."
 
"Jove! you're right there. But what can you do? You can't part a man from his lawful2 wife."
 
"No more I can—that's quite true; but I do want to see him and—I must see Lady Helen, too. Vernon, you'll help me, won't you?"
 
"By all means," he answered. "But now, let us talk of ourselves. How soon do you think we can be married—in a fortnight? Surely a fortnight would be long enough for any reasonable girl."
 
"I am by no means certain of that," I replied. "I will marry you, Vernon, as soon as ever I can put other matters right."
 
"Oh, but I have a voice in this, for I mean to marry you without a moment's delay—that is, I mean that I will give you one fortnight and not an hour beyond. It is the fashion now to be married by banns. Well, we'll have our banns cried on Sunday next and on the following Sunday and the Sunday after, and we can be married on the Monday after that. That's about right, isn't it? That's as it ought to be."
 
"Vernon, you are so—so impulsive3."
 
"Well, little girl, I'm made like that. When I want a thing I generally contrive4 to get it, and that as soon as possible. Jove! I did have work in getting you. If I hadn't thought and thought, and very nearly driven myself distracted, do you imagine for a single moment I'd have ferreted out that secret of Gideon Dalrymple's? So much thinking is exceedingly bad for a fellow, Heather, and the sooner you can set his heart at rest, the better for his general health."
 
"All right," I replied. "I will marry you in a fortnight if father is happy and if Aunt Penelope is satisfied."
 
"You needn't doubt her," said Vernon. "I put the question to her before you entered the drawing-room. When you were upstairs, putting on that pretty frock and tidying your hair, I had the brunt of the business settled with her. She likes sharp work; she told me so. When you appeared on the scene I was quite like an old family man pouring out the tea for her, and all the rest."
 
"There never was anyone like you," I said, and I took his hand timidly in mine.
 
"Come—this is all nonsense! Kiss me, Heather."
 
"No, no, Vernon—I—I can't."
 
"Don't be a dear little goose. I must be paid for what I've done. Kiss me this instant."
 
"It's your place——" I began.
 
"All right, if that's how you put it."
 
He clasped his arms round me and drew me close to him and kissed me over and over and over again.
 
"There now," he said; "it's your turn."
 
"But you have kissed me."
 
"Of course, I have. I want you to kiss me. Now begin. Come, Heather, don't be shy."
 
I did kiss him, and after I had kissed him once I kissed him again, and my dark eyes looked into his blue ones, and I seemed to see the steadfast5, bright, honourable6 soul that dwelt within his breast, and I knew that I was the happiest of girls.
 
We went slowly back from the Downs into the more shady part of the little town. We stopped at Aunt Penelope's house. A great deal had been happening in our absence. Buttons was flying about like a creature demented, the parrot was calling in a voice loud enough to deafen7 you: "Stop knocking at the door!" and Aunt Penelope was in her very best cap and in her softest and most stately black silk dress. She wore black silk dresses of the sort which are never seen now. It was thick; it would almost stand by itself; it had a ribby sort of texture8, and in order to enrich the silk it was heavily trimmed with bands of black velvet9 and with a fringe of what they called black bugles10. The effect was at once dull and extremely handsome. It suited Aunt Penelope to a nicety—that and her little cap with the real point lace and the soft mauve ribbons.
 
When I appeared she just nodded to me and said something to Vernon, and he said: "Yes, certainly." I ran upstairs. Presently I heard a tap at my door. I went to open it; Aunt Penelope stood outside.
 
"May I come in, Heather?"
 
"Of course, darling auntie."
 
I took her hand; I drew her into the room.
 
"Heather, I know—it's too wonderful. What a splendid fellow! Heather, I am glad."
 
"Oh, auntie, my heart is bursting with happiness!"
 
"Heather, child, I'm a woman of few words, but if your mother were alive she'd be proud of this day. He has the very soul of honesty in his face; he is better looking than your poor dear father ever was, but he has the same sort of nature, so boyish, so impulsive, so brave. He's a dear—that's all that I can say about him."
 
"And if you weren't a dear for your own sake, you'd be one for calling him one," was my somewhat incoherent answer.
 
"Well, now, that's enough sentiment, child; we must to business. How do you like my dress?"
 
"It's magnificent—and you have put it on in honour of me."
 
"In honour of a captain in His Majesty's army. Child, I do so greatly respect army men."
 
"Oh, yes, I see. Thank you, so do I. Indeed, it's a very handsome dress," I continued.
 
"I think so," she replied. "It was made fifteen years ago, at least. I only wear it on the very best occasions, otherwise it would have got greasy11 ages and ages before now. It's amazing how difficult it is to keep these really good silks from turning greasy; the grease seems to cling to them in some sort of fashion, and you can never get it out, try as you will."
 
"It looks awfully12 nice—it really does, auntie."
 
"I am proud to be wearing it for your sake and for his to-night."
 
"And you have asked him to dinner?"
 
"Yes. I have come to speak of that. It is a real dinner; Jonas and I have concocted13 it between us. You are to know nothing about it; you are just to eat it when it comes on the table, and to be right-down thankful. Now that you are happy you must eat well, for nothing in some ways takes it out of one more than happiness. You have been looking sadly worn out, child, and now you have got to eat and drink and get your pretty, youthful roses back again. Oh, Heather, Vernon agrees with me about the world; he hates fashionable people. He told me, dear boy, that for a short time he was engaged to one of them. I never met anybody so confiding14."
 
"I know all about his engagement," I said. "I saw her once, too; she was very handsome."
 
"Ah, yes; I have no doubt—a society doll. Well, he hasn't chosen badly, when he's elected that your little face and your brown eyes and your warm heart shall accompany him through life. You'd best smarten yourself up a bit for dinner, Heather; I don't want your old aunt to take the shine out of you, my love—and, remember, this dress is uncommonly15 handsome."
 
"Yes, auntie, I know. I shouldn't be surprised if you did take the shine out of me; but I don't think I shall greatly mind."
 
So I put on a pretty white dress, for a few of my dresses had been sent from London, doubtless by my dear father's orders, and ran downstairs. Bless that boy Buttons—he had effected marvels16! The tiny dining room was gay with flowers, the very best old dinner service had been got out for the occasion, the best silver had been polished up, and I, who was accustomed to doing pretty nearly half the work of the house, wasn't allowed to put my hand to anything. I really felt annoyed. I did not like to be at Hill View without attending to its household economy.
 
Vernon came in from his rooms at the little hotel, looking spick and span, as he always did. We three sat down to dinner, and certainly that dinner was a triumph. I have often puzzled myself to wonder how Aunt Penelope contrived17 to manage it. First of all there was soup, the best soup I had ever tasted, and then there was fish, trout18 which had been alive a couple of hours before, and then there was pigeon pie and peas and potatoes, and afterwards strawberries and cream. There was also a bottle of very old port wine, which Aunt Penelope fingered with a trembling hand.
 
"I have had it in the house since long before your mother was married," she said to me. "Vernon, my boy, you will find it worthy19 of even your refined tastes."
 
Vernon immediately begged to be allowed to draw the cork20; he said that such precious old wine as that required most tender handling. Aunt Penelope and I had a little glass each, and Vernon had one or two, and afterwards he told Aunt Penelope something of our plans and how he and I were going to London on the morrow to see my father and Lady Helen.
 
Aunt Penelope nodded her head several times.
 
"I have only one improvement to make on that plan," she said.
 
"Oh, but what improvement can you make, auntie?" was my reply.
 
"I can and I will," she said, with emphasis. "I am quite well now, as well as ever. Now what I mean to do is this; I mean to go with you two good young people. I will never be in your way, never for a moment, but I will guard you from the malicious21 tongue of Mrs. Grundy. She's a nasty old body, and I don't want her to get at you. There's a quiet little hotel in Bloomsbury where Heather and I can have rooms, and where we can stay, and I make not the slightest doubt that I can help Heather very considerably22 in her dealings with Lady Helen Dalrymple."
 
"Oh, you can, you can," I said; "it will be quite splendid!"
 
So the plan was carried out. Jonas was informed that very evening that Miss Penelope and I were going to leave Hill View early on the morrow.
 
"We shall probably be back in a few days," said Aunt Penelope. "In the meantime, Jonas, you must attend to the house cleaning; give it a thorough turn-out. Wash every scrap23 of paint, Jonas; be sure you wash the backs of the shutters24, don't leave a single place with a scrap of dirt in it; remember, I'll find it out if it exists—be certain of that."
 
"Yes, mum; thank you, mum," said Jonas. "I'll be sure to do what you wish, mum."
 
"And Jonas, you understand the garden. You can get the grass into order and remove all the weeds. We may be having a smart time down here by and by, there's no saying, there's no saying at all, but at least remember that you haven't a minute to lose. You are a good boy, Jonas, and you'll work as hard when I am away as though I were at home."
 
"Yes, mum; of course, mum," said Jonas. "Me and the parrot," he added.
 
"Stop knocking at the door!" shouted the parrot.
 
"There! if that bird isn't enough to split one's head," said Aunt Penelope.
 
She went upstairs. Vernon had already gone back to the hotel. Buttons gave me a feeling glance.
 
"Stay below for a minute, missy. Is it true? Is there nuptials25 in this 'ere thing?"
 
"Yes, Jonas."
 
"I thought as much. Didn't I twig26 it when I heard his steps and saw the starty sort of way you got into? I'm a smart boy, I am. Missy, you'll have me at the wedding, won't you?"
 
"I promise you, Jonas, you shall certainly come," I answered rashly.
 
The next day we went up to London. We had no special adventure on our journey to town. We went first-class. I remembered my journey down, and how interesting I had thought the third-class passengers, but now we travelled back in state. Vernon said it would be less tiring for Aunt Penelope. When we got to Paddington we drove to the little hotel that Aunt Penelope knew about; it was a quiet little place at one corner of a small square in Bloomsbury. It was very old-fashioned and not much frequented of late. The proprietor27, however, knew Aunt Penelope quite well. Had he not entertained her and my mother also in the long-ago days when they were young? Aunt Penelope was anxious to secure the same rooms, and, strange as it may seem, she managed to get them. The landlord was very pleased indeed to show them to her, and she told me afterwards that the sight of them brought a prickly sensation into the back of her eyes, and made her feel inclined to cry. The rooms were quiet and clean, and that was the main thing. Vernon did not think much of them, but they pleased Aunt Penelope, and that, of course, was the most important matter of all.
 
Having arranged about the rooms, Vernon now suggested that we should engage a taxi-cab and drive straight to Hanbury Square, but here Aunt Penelope put down her foot.
 
"What sort of cab did you say, my dear boy?"
 
"A taxi-cab, auntie." He called her "auntie" from the very moment we were properly engaged.
 
"I don't like new sorts of cabs," replied my aunt. "I want what in my young days used to be called a 'growler.' I hate hansoms; I wouldn't dare go in one of them."
 
In vain poor Vernon pleaded for the light and swift motion of the cab which was driven by petrol. The old lady held up her hands with horror.
 
"Not for worlds would I go in a motor-cab," she said. "Vernon, I have admired you and stood up for you, but I shall do so no longer if you even mention such a thing to me again."
 
So in the end we three had to drive to my stepmother's in a four-wheeled cab. Aunt Penelope said that it was quite a handsome conveyance28, and not the least like the "growlers" she used to remember in the days when she and her sister were young. We got to the great and beautiful house about noon. We walked up the steps and Vernon rang the bell.
 
"Perhaps they'll be out," I could not help whispering in his ear.
 
"No, I think not," he replied. "I sent a telegram this morning which I imagine will keep them at home. Now, you'll keep up your courage, won't you, darling?"
 
"You needn't be afraid," I replied.
 
He gave my hand a squeeze, and the door was flung open. The automaton29 who opened it could not help becoming flesh and blood when he saw my face. A queer flicker30 went over his countenance31; he coloured, faintly smiled, then, remembering himself, became a wooden man once again.
 
"Is Lady Helen in?" I ventured to say.
 
"Yes, Miss Dalrymple. I'll inquire of her ladyship if she can see you, and——" he glanced at Vernon, he looked with downright suspicion at Aunt Penelope.
 
"It is all right," I said. "We can go into the little sitting-room32 at the left of the hall. Will you please say that I have called, and that Miss Despard and Captain Carbury are with me? Say that we wish to see her ladyship."
 
"And as soon as possible," snapped Aunt Penelope. "Have the goodness further to inform Lady Helen that we are in a considerable hurry, and would be glad if she would make it convenient not to keep us waiting long."
 
"Certainly, madam," replied the man. He disappeared, and we waited in the little room towards the left of the hall.
 
"Aunt Penelope, you are brave," I could not help saying.
 
"I come of a brave stock," said the old lady. "Did not my father die when little more than a boy in the battle of Inkerman, and my grandfather at Waterloo? Yes, I had need to be brave."

点击收听单词发音收听单词发音  

1 miserable g18yk     
adj.悲惨的,痛苦的;可怜的,糟糕的
参考例句:
  • It was miserable of you to make fun of him.你取笑他,这是可耻的。
  • Her past life was miserable.她过去的生活很苦。
2 lawful ipKzCt     
adj.法律许可的,守法的,合法的
参考例句:
  • It is not lawful to park in front of a hydrant.在消火栓前停车是不合法的。
  • We don't recognised him to be the lawful heir.我们不承认他为合法继承人。
3 impulsive M9zxc     
adj.冲动的,刺激的;有推动力的
参考例句:
  • She is impulsive in her actions.她的行为常出于冲动。
  • He was neither an impulsive nor an emotional man,but a very honest and sincere one.他不是个一冲动就鲁莽行事的人,也不多愁善感.他为人十分正直、诚恳。
4 contrive GpqzY     
vt.谋划,策划;设法做到;设计,想出
参考例句:
  • Can you contrive to be here a little earlier?你能不能早一点来?
  • How could you contrive to make such a mess of things?你怎么把事情弄得一团糟呢?
5 steadfast 2utw7     
adj.固定的,不变的,不动摇的;忠实的;坚贞不移的
参考例句:
  • Her steadfast belief never left her for one moment.她坚定的信仰从未动摇过。
  • He succeeded in his studies by dint of steadfast application.由于坚持不懈的努力他获得了学业上的成功。
6 honourable honourable     
adj.可敬的;荣誉的,光荣的
参考例句:
  • I don't think I am worthy of such an honourable title.这样的光荣称号,我可担当不起。
  • I hope to find an honourable way of settling difficulties.我希望设法找到一个体面的办法以摆脱困境。
7 deafen pOXzV     
vt.震耳欲聋;使听不清楚
参考例句:
  • This noise will deafen us all!这种喧闹声将使我们什么也听不见!
  • The way you complain all day long would deafen the living buddha!就凭你成天抱怨,活佛耳朵都要聋了!
8 texture kpmwQ     
n.(织物)质地;(材料)构造;结构;肌理
参考例句:
  • We could feel the smooth texture of silk.我们能感觉出丝绸的光滑质地。
  • Her skin has a fine texture.她的皮肤细腻。
9 velvet 5gqyO     
n.丝绒,天鹅绒;adj.丝绒制的,柔软的
参考例句:
  • This material feels like velvet.这料子摸起来像丝绒。
  • The new settlers wore the finest silk and velvet clothing.新来的移民穿着最华丽的丝绸和天鹅绒衣服。
10 bugles 67a03de6e21575ba3e57a73ed68d55d3     
妙脆角,一种类似薯片但做成尖角或喇叭状的零食; 号角( bugle的名词复数 ); 喇叭; 匍匐筋骨草; (装饰女服用的)柱状玻璃(或塑料)小珠
参考例句:
  • Blow, bugles, blow, set the wild echoes flying. "响起来,号角,响起来,让激昂的回声在空中震荡"。
  • We hear the silver voices of heroic bugles. 我们听到了那清亮的号角。
11 greasy a64yV     
adj. 多脂的,油脂的
参考例句:
  • He bought a heavy-duty cleanser to clean his greasy oven.昨天他买了强力清洁剂来清洗油污的炉子。
  • You loathe the smell of greasy food when you are seasick.当你晕船时,你会厌恶油腻的气味。
12 awfully MPkym     
adv.可怕地,非常地,极端地
参考例句:
  • Agriculture was awfully neglected in the past.过去农业遭到严重忽视。
  • I've been feeling awfully bad about it.对这我一直感到很难受。
13 concocted 35ea2e5fba55c150ec3250ef12828dd2     
v.将(尤指通常不相配合的)成分混合成某物( concoct的过去式和过去分词 );调制;编造;捏造
参考例句:
  • The soup was concocted from up to a dozen different kinds of fish. 这种汤是用多达十几种不同的鱼熬制而成的。
  • Between them they concocted a letter. 他们共同策划写了一封信。 来自《简明英汉词典》
14 confiding e67d6a06e1cdfe51bc27946689f784d1     
adj.相信人的,易于相信的v.吐露(秘密,心事等)( confide的现在分词 );(向某人)吐露(隐私、秘密等)
参考例句:
  • The girl is of a confiding nature. 这女孩具有轻信别人的性格。 来自《现代英汉综合大词典》
  • Celia, though confiding her opinion only to Andrew, disagreed. 西莉亚却不这么看,尽管她只向安德鲁吐露过。 来自辞典例句
15 uncommonly 9ca651a5ba9c3bff93403147b14d37e2     
adv. 稀罕(极,非常)
参考例句:
  • an uncommonly gifted child 一个天赋异禀的儿童
  • My little Mary was feeling uncommonly empty. 我肚子当时正饿得厉害。
16 marvels 029fcce896f8a250d9ae56bf8129422d     
n.奇迹( marvel的名词复数 );令人惊奇的事物(或事例);不平凡的成果;成就v.惊奇,对…感到惊奇( marvel的第三人称单数 )
参考例句:
  • The doctor's treatment has worked marvels : the patient has recovered completely. 该医生妙手回春,病人已完全康复。 来自辞典例句
  • Nevertheless he revels in a catalogue of marvels. 可他还是兴致勃勃地罗列了一堆怪诞不经的事物。 来自辞典例句
17 contrived ivBzmO     
adj.不自然的,做作的;虚构的
参考例句:
  • There was nothing contrived or calculated about what he said.他说的话里没有任何蓄意捏造的成分。
  • The plot seems contrived.情节看起来不真实。
18 trout PKDzs     
n.鳟鱼;鲑鱼(属)
参考例句:
  • Thousands of young salmon and trout have been killed by the pollution.成千上万的鲑鱼和鳟鱼的鱼苗因污染而死亡。
  • We hooked a trout and had it for breakfast.我们钓了一条鳟鱼,早饭时吃了。
19 worthy vftwB     
adj.(of)值得的,配得上的;有价值的
参考例句:
  • I did not esteem him to be worthy of trust.我认为他不值得信赖。
  • There occurred nothing that was worthy to be mentioned.没有值得一提的事发生。
20 cork VoPzp     
n.软木,软木塞
参考例句:
  • We heard the pop of a cork.我们听见瓶塞砰的一声打开。
  • Cork is a very buoyant material.软木是极易浮起的材料。
21 malicious e8UzX     
adj.有恶意的,心怀恶意的
参考例句:
  • You ought to kick back at such malicious slander. 你应当反击这种恶毒的污蔑。
  • Their talk was slightly malicious.他们的谈话有点儿心怀不轨。
22 considerably 0YWyQ     
adv.极大地;相当大地;在很大程度上
参考例句:
  • The economic situation has changed considerably.经济形势已发生了相当大的变化。
  • The gap has narrowed considerably.分歧大大缩小了。
23 scrap JDFzf     
n.碎片;废料;v.废弃,报废
参考例句:
  • A man comes round regularly collecting scrap.有个男人定时来收废品。
  • Sell that car for scrap.把那辆汽车当残品卖了吧。
24 shutters 74d48a88b636ca064333022eb3458e1f     
百叶窗( shutter的名词复数 ); (照相机的)快门
参考例句:
  • The shop-front is fitted with rolling shutters. 那商店的店门装有卷门。
  • The shutters thumped the wall in the wind. 在风中百叶窗砰砰地碰在墙上。
25 nuptials 9b3041d32e2bfe31c6998076b06e2cf5     
n.婚礼;婚礼( nuptial的名词复数 )
参考例句:
  • Their nuptials were performed by the local priest. 他们的婚礼由当地牧师主持。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • If he married, when the nuptials would take place, and under what circumstances? 如果他结婚,那么什么时候举行婚礼?在什么情况下举行婚礼? 来自辞典例句
26 twig VK1zg     
n.小树枝,嫩枝;v.理解
参考例句:
  • He heard the sharp crack of a twig.他听到树枝清脆的断裂声。
  • The sharp sound of a twig snapping scared the badger away.细枝突然折断的刺耳声把獾惊跑了。
27 proprietor zR2x5     
n.所有人;业主;经营者
参考例句:
  • The proprietor was an old acquaintance of his.业主是他的一位旧相识。
  • The proprietor of the corner grocery was a strange thing in my life.拐角杂货店店主是我生活中的一个怪物。
28 conveyance OoDzv     
n.(不动产等的)转让,让与;转让证书;传送;运送;表达;(正)运输工具
参考例句:
  • Bicycles have become the most popular conveyance for Chinese people.自行车已成为中国人最流行的代步工具。
  • Its another,older,usage is a synonym for conveyance.它的另一个更古老的习惯用法是作为财产转让的同义词使用。
29 automaton CPayw     
n.自动机器,机器人
参考例句:
  • This is a fully functional automaton.这是一个有全自动功能的机器人。
  • I get sick of being thought of as a political automaton.我讨厌被看作政治机器。
30 flicker Gjxxb     
vi./n.闪烁,摇曳,闪现
参考例句:
  • There was a flicker of lights coming from the abandoned house.这所废弃的房屋中有灯光闪烁。
  • At first,the flame may be a small flicker,barely shining.开始时,光辉可能是微弱地忽隐忽现,几乎并不灿烂。
31 countenance iztxc     
n.脸色,面容;面部表情;vt.支持,赞同
参考例句:
  • At the sight of this photograph he changed his countenance.他一看见这张照片脸色就变了。
  • I made a fierce countenance as if I would eat him alive.我脸色恶狠狠地,仿佛要把他活生生地吞下去。
32 sitting-room sitting-room     
n.(BrE)客厅,起居室
参考例句:
  • The sitting-room is clean.起居室很清洁。
  • Each villa has a separate sitting-room.每栋别墅都有一间独立的起居室。


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