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中英:月亮和六便士(23)

2006-08-22 21:23

    Chapter XXIII I saw Strickland not infrequently, and now and then played chess with him. He was of uncertain temper. Sometimes he would sit silent and abstracted, taking no notice of anyone; and at others, when he was in a good humour, he would talk in his own halting way. He never said a clever thing, but he had a vein of brutal sarcasm which was not ineffective, and he always said exactly what he thought. He was indifferent to the susceptibilities of others, and when he wounded them was amused. He was constantly offending Dirk Stroeve so bitterly that he flung away, vowing he would never speak to him again; but there was a solid force in Strickland that attracted the fat Dutchman against his will, so that he came back, fawning like a clumsy dog, though he knew that his only greeting would be the blow he dreaded.

    I do not know why Strickland put up with me. Our relations were peculiar. One day he asked me to lend him fifty francs.

    "I wouldn't dream of it, " I replied.

    "Why not?"

    "It wouldn't amuse me. "

    "I'm frightfully hard up, you know. "

    "I don't care. "

    "You don't care if I starve?"

    "Why on earth should I?" I asked in my turn.

    He looked at me for a minute or two, pulling his untidy beard. I smiled at him.

    "What are you amused at?" he said, with a gleam of anger in his eyes.

    "You're so simple. You recognise no obligations. No one is under any obligation to you. "

    "Wouldn't it make you uncomfortable if I went and hanged myself because I'd been turned out of my room as I couldn't pay the rent?"

    "Not a bit. "

    He chuckled.

    "You're bragging. If I really did you'd be overwhelmed with remorse. "

    "Try it, and we'll see, " I retorted.

    A smile flickered in his eyes, and he stirred his absinthe in silence.

    "Would you like to play chess?" I asked.

    "I don't mind. "

    We set up the pieces, and when the board was ready he considered it with a comfortable eye. There is a sense of satisfaction in looking at your men all ready for the fray.

    "Did you really think I'd lend you money?" I asked.

    "I didn't see why you shouldn't. "

    "You surprise me. "

    "Why?"

    "It's disappointing to find that at heart you are sentimental. I should have liked you better if you hadn't made that ingenuous appeal to my sympathies. "

    "I should have despised you if you'd been moved by it, " he answered.

    "That's better, " I laughed.

    We began to play. We were both absorbed in the game. When it was finished I said to him:

    "Look here, if you're hard up, let me see your pictures. If there's anything I like I'll buy it. "

    "Go to hell, " he answered.

    He got up and was about to go away. I stopped him.

    "You haven't paid for your absinthe, " I said, smiling.

    He cursed me, flung down the money and left.

    I did not see him for several days after that, but one evening, when I was sitting in the cafe, reading a paper, he came up and sat beside me.

    "You haven't hanged yourself after all, " I remarked.

    "No. I've got a commission. I'm painting the portrait of a retired plumber for two hundred francs. "[5]

    [5] This picture, formerly in the possession of a wealthy manufacturer at Lille, who fled from that city on the approach of the Germans, is now in the National Gallery at Stockholm. The Swede is adept at the gentle pastime of fishing in troubled waters.

    "How did you manage that?"

    "The woman where I get my bread recommended me. He'd told her he was looking out for someone to paint him. I've got to give her twenty francs. "

    "What's he like?"

    "Splendid. He's got a great red face like a leg of mutton, and on his right cheek there's an enormous mole with long hairs growing out of it. "

    Strickland was in a good humour, and when Dirk Stroeve came up and sat down with us he attacked him with ferocious banter. He showed a skill I should never have credited him with in finding the places where the unhappy Dutchman was most sensitive. Strickland employed not the rapier of sarcasm but the bludgeon of invective. The attack was so unprovoked that Stroeve, taken unawares, was defenceless. He reminded you of a frightened sheep running aimlessly hither and thither. He was startled and amazed. At last the tears ran from his eyes. And the worst of it was that, though you hated Strickland, and the exhibition was horrible, it was impossible not to laugh. Dirk Stroeve was one of those unlucky persons whose most sincere emotions are ridiculous.

    But after all when I look back upon that winter in Paris, my pleasantest recollection is of Dirk Stroeve. There was something very charming in his little household. He and his wife made a picture which the imagination gratefully dwelt upon, and the simplicity of his love for her had a deliberate grace. He remained absurd, but the sincerity of his passion excited one's sympathy. I could understand how his wife must feel for him, and I was glad that her affection was so tender. If she had any sense of humour, it must amuse her that he should place her on a pedestal and worship her with such an honest idolatry, but even while she laughed she must have been pleased and touched. He was the constant lover, and though she grew old, losing her rounded lines and her fair comeliness, to him she would certainly never alter. To him she would always be the loveliest woman in the world. There was a pleasing grace in the orderliness of their lives. They had but the studio, a bedroom, and a tiny kitchen. Mrs. Stroeve did all the housework herself; and while Dirk painted bad pictures, she went marketing, cooked the luncheon, sewed, occupied herself like a busy ant all the day; and in the evening sat in the studio, sewing again, while Dirk played music which I am sure was far beyond her comprehension. He played with taste, but with more feeling than was always justified, and into his music poured all his honest, sentimental, exuberant soul.

    Their life in its own way was an idyl, and it managed to achieve a singular beauty. The absurdity that clung to everything connected with Dirk Stroeve gave it a curious note, like an unresolved discord, but made it somehow more modern, more human; like a rough joke thrown into a serious scene, it heightened the poignancy which all beauty has.

    我常常见到思特里克兰德,有时候同他下下棋。他的脾气时好时坏。有些时候他神思不定地坐在那里,一言不发,任何人都不理;另外一些时候他的兴致比较好,就磕磕巴巴地同你闲扯。他说不出什么寓意深长的话来,但是他惯用恶毒的语言挖苦讽刺,不由你不被打动;此外,他总是把心里想的如实说出来,一点也不隐讳。他丝毫也不理会别人是否经受得住;如果他把别人刺伤了,就感到得意非常。他总是不断刻薄戴尔克。施特略夫,弄得施特略夫气冲冲地走开,发誓再也不同他谈话了。但是在思特里克兰德身上却有一股强大的力量,这位肥胖的荷兰人身不由己地被它吸引着,最终还是跑了回来,象只笨拙的小狗一样向他摇尾巴,尽管他心里一清二楚,迎接他的将是他非常害怕的当头一棒。

    我不知道为什么思特里克兰德对我始终保留着情面。我们两人的关系有些特殊。有一天他开口向我借五十法郎。

    “这真是我连做梦也没想到的事,”我回答说。

    “为什么没有?”

    “这不是一件使我感到有趣的事。”

    “我已经穷得叮当响了,知道吧?”

    “我管不着。”

    “我饿死你也管不着吗?”

    “我为什么要管呢?”我反问道。

    他盯着我看了一两分钟,一面揪着他那乱蓬蓬的胡子。我对他笑了笑。

    “你有什么好笑的?”他说,眼睛里闪现出一丝恼怒的神色。

    “你这人太没心眼了。你从来不懂欠人家的情。谁也不欠你的情。”

    “如果我因为交不起房租被撵了出来,逼得去上了吊,你不觉得心里不安吗?”

    “一点也不觉得。”

    他咯咯地笑起来。

    “你在说大话。如果我真的上了吊你会后悔一辈子的。”

    “你不妨试一试,就知道我后悔不后悔了。”

    他的眼睛里露出一丝笑意,默默地搅和着他的苦艾酒。

    “想不想下棋?”我问他说。

    “我不反对。”

    我们开始摆棋子,摆好以后,他注视着面前的棋盘,带着一副自得其乐的样子。当你看到自己兵马都已进入阵地,就要开始一场大厮杀,总禁不住有一种快慰的感觉。

    “你真的以为我会借钱给你吗?”我问他。

    “我想不出来为什么你会不借给我。”

    “你使我感到吃惊。”

    “为什么?”

    “发现你心里还是人情味十足让我失望。如果你不那么天真,想利用我的同情心来打动我,我会更喜欢你一些。”

    “如果你被我打动,我会鄙视你的。”他回答说。

    “那就好了。”我笑起来。

    我们开始走棋。两个人的精神都被当前的一局棋吸引住。一盘棋下完以后,我对他说:

    “你听我说,如果你缺钱花,让我去看看你的画怎么样?如果有我喜欢的,我会买你一幅。”

    “你见鬼去吧!”他说。

    他站起来准备走,我把他拦住了。

    “你还没有付酒帐呢。”我笑着说。

    他骂了我一句,把钱往桌上一扔就走了。

    这件事过去以后,我有几天没有看见他,但是有一天晚上我正坐在咖啡馆里看报纸的时候,思特里克兰德走了过来,在我身旁边坐下。

    “你原来并没有上吊啊。”我说。

    “没有。有人请我画一幅画。我现在正给一个退休的铅管工画像,可以拿到两百法郎。”①

    ①这幅画原来在里尔的一个阔绰的厂商手里,德国人逼近里尔时他逃赴外地。现在这幅画收藏在斯德哥尔摩国家美术馆。瑞典人是很善于这种混水摸鱼的小把戏的。(作者注)

    “你怎么弄到这笔买卖的?”

    “卖我面包的那个女人把我介绍去的。他同她说过,要找一个人给他画像。我得给她二十法郎介绍费。”

    “是怎样一个人?”

    “太了不起了。一张大红脸象条羊腿。右脸上有一颗大痣,上面还长着大长毛。”

    思特里克兰德这天情绪很好,当戴尔克。施特略夫走来同我们坐在一起时,思特里克兰德马上冷嘲热讽地对他大肆攻击起来。他惯会寻找这位不幸的荷兰人的痛处,技巧的高超实在令我钦佩。他这次用的不是讥刺的细剑,而是谩骂的大棒。他的攻击来得非常突然。施特略夫被打得个措手不及,完全失掉防卫能力。象一只受了惊的小羊,没有目的地东跑西窜,张皇失措,晕头转向。最后,泪珠扑簌簌地从他眼睛里滚出来。这件事最糟糕的地方在于,尽管你非常恼恨思特里克兰德,尽管你感到这出戏很可怕,你还是禁不住要笑起来。有一些人很不幸,即使他们流露的是最真挚的感情也令人感到滑稽可笑,戴尔克。施特略夫正是这样一个人。

    但是尽管如此,在我回顾我在巴黎度过的这个冬天时,戴尔克。施特略夫还是给我留下了最愉快的回忆。他的小家庭有一种魅力,他同他的妻子是一幅叫你思念不置的图画;他对自己妻子的纯真的爱情使人感到是娴雅而高尚的。尽管他的举止还是那么滑稽,但他的感情的真挚却不由你不被感动。我可以理解他的妻子对他的反应,我很高兴她对他也非常温柔体贴。如果她有幽默感的话,看到自己的丈夫这样把她放在宝座上,当作偶像般地顶礼膜拜,她一定也会觉得好笑的;但是尽管她会笑他,一定也会觉得得意,被他感动。他是一个忠贞不渝的爱人,当她老了以后,当她失去了圆润的线条和秀丽的形体以后,她在他的眼睛里仍然会是个美人,美貌一点也不减当年。对他说来,她永远是世界上最美丽的女人。他们的井然有序的生活安详娴雅,令人非常愉快。他们住房只有一个画室,一间卧室和一个小厨房。所有家务事都是施特略夫太太自己做;在戴尔克埋头绘画的当儿,她就到市场上去买东西,做午饭,缝衣服,象勤快的蚂蚁一样终日忙碌着。吃过晚饭,她坐在画室里继续做针线活,而戴尔克则演奏一些我猜想她很难听懂的乐曲。他的演奏有一定的艺术水平,但是常常带着过多的感情,他把自己的诚实的、多情的、充满活力的灵魂完全倾注到音乐里去了。

    他们的生活从某一方面看象是一曲牧歌,具有一种独特的美。戴尔克。施特略夫的一言一行必然会表现出的荒诞滑稽都给予这首牧歌添上一个奇怪的调子,好象一个无法调整的不谐和音,但是这反而使这首乐曲更加现代化,更富于人情味,象是在严肃的场景中插入一个粗俗的打诨,更加激化了美所具备的犀利的性质。

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