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中英:月亮和六便士(32)

2006-08-22 21:30

    Chapter XXXII

    I did not see Strickland for several weeks. I was disgusted with him, and if I had had an opportunity should have been glad to tell him so, but I saw no object in seeking him out for the purpose. I am a little shy of any assumption of moral indignation; there is always in it an element of self-satisfaction which makes it awkward to anyone who has a sense of humour. It requires a very lively passion to steel me to my own ridicule. There was a sardonic sincerity in Strickland which made me sensitive to anything that might suggest a pose.

    But one evening when I was passing along the Avenue de Clichy in front of the cafe which Strickland frequented and which I now avoided, I ran straight into him. He was accompanied by Blanche Stroeve, and they were just going to Strickland's favourite corner.

    "Where the devil have you been all this time?" said he. "I thought you must be away. "

    His cordiality was proof that he knew I had no wish to speak to him. He was not a man with whom it was worth while wasting politeness.

    "No, " I said; "I haven't been away. "

    "Why haven't you been here?"

    "There are more cafes in Paris than one, at which to trifle away an idle hour. "

    Blanche then held out her hand and bade me good-evening. I do not know why I had expected her to be somehow changed; she wore the same gray dress that she wore so often, neat and becoming, and her brow was as candid, her eyes as untroubled, as when I had been used to see her occupied with her household duties in the studio.

    "Come and have a game of chess, " said Strickland.

    I do not know why at the moment I could think of no excuse. I followed them rather sulkily to the table at which Strickland always sat, and he called for the board and the chessmen. They both took the situation so much as a matter of course that I felt it absurd to do otherwise. Mrs. Stroeve watched the game with inscrutable face. She was silent, but she had always been silent. I looked at her mouth for an expression that could give me a clue to what she felt; I watched her eyes for some tell-tale flash, some hint of dismay or bitterness; I scanned her brow for any passing line that might indicate a settling emotion. Her face was a mask that told nothing. Her hands lay on her lap motionless, one in the other loosely clasped. I knew from what I had heard that she was a woman of violent passions; and that injurious blow that she had given Dirk, the man who had loved her so devotedly, betrayed a sudden temper and a horrid cruelty. She had abandoned the safe shelter of her husband's protection and the comfortable ease of a well-provided establishment for what she could not but see was an extreme hazard. It showed an eagerness for adventure, a readiness for the hand-to-mouth, which the care she took of her home and her love of good housewifery made not a little remarkable. She must be a woman of complicated character, and there was something dramatic in the contrast of that with her demure appearance.

    I was excited by the encounter, and my fancy worked busily while I sought to concentrate myself on the game I was playing. I always tried my best to beat Strickland, because he was a player who despised the opponent he vanquished; his exultation in victory made defeat more difficult to bear. On the other hand, if he was beaten he took it with complete good-humour. He was a bad winner and a good loser. Those who think that a man betrays his character nowhere more clearly than when he is playing a game might on this draw subtle inferences.

    When he had finished I called the waiter to pay for the drinks, and left them. The meeting had been devoid of incident. No word had been said to give me anything to think about, and any surmises I might make were unwarranted. I was intrigued. I could not tell how they were getting on. I would have given much to be a disembodied spirit so that I could see them in the privacy of the studio and hear what they talked about. I had not the smallest indication on which to let my imagination work.

    我有好几个星期没有见到思特里克兰德。我非常厌恶他,如果有机会的话,我会当着面把我对他的看法告诉他,但是我也犯不上为了这件事特地到处去找他。我不太愿意摆出一副义愤填膺的架势来,这里面总有某种自鸣得意的成分,会叫一个有幽默感的人觉得你在装腔作势。除非我真的动起火来,我是不肯让别人拿自己当笑话看的。思特里克兰德惯会讽刺挖苦、不讲情面,在他面前我就更要小心戒备,绝不能让他觉得我是在故作姿态。

    但是一天晚上,正当我经过克利舍路一家咖啡馆门前的时候(我知道这是思特里克兰德经常来的一家咖啡馆,最近一段时间我总是尽量躲着这个地方),我却和思特里克兰德撞了个满怀。勃朗什。施特略夫同他在一起,两人正在走向思特里克兰德最喜欢坐的一个角落去。

    “你这么多天跑到哪儿去了?”他问我说,“我还以为你到外地去了呢。”

    他对我这样殷勤正表示他知道得很清楚,我不愿意理他。但是你对思特里克兰德这种人根本不需要讲客套。

    “没有,”我直截了当地说,“我没有到外地去。”

    “为什么老没到这儿来了?”

    “巴黎的咖啡馆不是只此一家,在哪儿不能消磨时间啊?”

    勃朗什这时伸出手来同我打招呼。不知道为什么我本来认为她的样子一定会发生一些变化,但是我现在看到她仍然是老样子:穿的是过去经常穿的一件灰衣服,前额光洁明净,眼睛里没有一丝忧虑和烦恼,正象我过去看到她在施特略夫画室里操持家务时一模一样。

    “来下盘棋吧。”思特里克兰德说。

    我不懂为什么当时我会没想出一个借口回绝了他。我怀着一肚子闷气跟在他们后面,走到思特里克兰德的老座位前边。他叫侍者取来了棋盘和棋子。他们两个人对这次不期而遇一点也没有大惊小怪,我自然也只能装出一副若无其事的样子,不然就显得我太不通人情了。施特略夫太太看着我们下棋,从她脸上的表情丝毫也猜不透她心里想的是什么。她什么话也没说,但她根本就不是爱说话的人。我看着她的嘴,希望看到一个能使我猜测出她真实感情的神态;我打量着她的眼睛,寻找某种泄露她内心隐秘的闪光,表示惶惑或者痛苦的眼神;我打量着她的前额,看那上面会不会偶然出现一个皱纹,告诉我她正在衰减的热情。但她的面孔宛如一副面具,我在那上面丝毫也看不出她的真实思想。她的双手一动不动地摆在膝头上,一只手松松地握着另一只。从我所听到的一些事,我知道她的性情很暴烈,戴尔克那么全心全意地爱着她,她却狠狠地打了他一巴掌,这说明了她翻脸无情,心肠非常冷酷。她抛弃了自己丈夫庇护下的安乐窝,抛弃了温饱舒适的优裕生活,甘愿承担她自己也看得非常分明的风险患难。这说明了她喜欢追求冒险,肯于忍饥耐劳;后一种性格从她过去辛勤操理家务、热心家庭主妇的职责看来倒也不足为奇。看来她一定是一个性格非常复杂的女人,这同她那端庄娴静的外表倒构成了极富于戏剧性的对比。

    这次与思特里克兰德和勃朗什不期而遇使我非常激动,勾起我无数奇思遐想。但是我还是拼命把精神集中在走棋上,使出全副本领,一定要把思特里克兰德击败。他非常看不起那些败在他手下的人;如果叫他取胜,他那种洋洋自得的样子简直叫你无地自容。但是在另一方面,如果他下输了,他倒也从来不发脾气。换言之,思特里克兰德只能输棋,不能赢棋。有人认为只有下棋的时候才能最清楚地观察一个人的性格,这倒是可以从思特里克兰德这人的例子取得一些微妙的推论。

    下完棋以后,我把侍者叫来,付了酒账,便离开了他们。这次会面实在没有什么值得记述的地方,没有一句话可以使我追思、玩味,如果我有任何臆测,也毫无事实根据。但这反而更引起了我的好奇心。我实在摸不透这两人的关系。如果灵魂真能出窍的话,不论出什么代价我也得试一次;只有这样我才能在画室里看到他俩私下如何过活,才能听到他们交谈些什么。总之一句话,我没有可以供我的幻想力发挥作用的最小依据。

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