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中英:月亮和六便士(39)

2006-08-22 21:36

    Chapter XXXIX

    When I left him, after we had buried poor Blanche, Stroeve walked into the house with a heavy heart. Something impelled him to go to the studio, some obscure desire for self-torture, and yet he dreaded the anguish that he foresaw. He dragged himself up the stairs; his feet seemed unwilling to carry him; and outside the door he lingered for a long time, trying to summon up courage to go in. He felt horribly sick. He had an impulse to run down the stairs after me and beg me to go in with him; he had a feeling that there was somebody in the studio. He remembered how often he had waited for a minute or two on the landing to get his breath after the ascent, and how absurdly his impatience to see Blanche had taken it away again. To see her was a delight that never staled, and even though he had not been out an hour he was as excited at the prospect as if they had been parted for a month. Suddenly he could not believe that she was dead. What had happened could only be a dream, a frightful dream; and when he turned the key and opened the door, he would see her bending slightly over the table in the gracious attitude of the woman in Chardin's Benedicite, which always seemed to him so exquisite. Hurriedly he took the key out of his pocket, opened, and walked in.

    The apartment had no look of desertion. His wife's tidiness was one of the traits which had so much pleased him; his own upbringing had given him a tender sympathy for the delight in orderliness; and when he had seen her instinctive desire to put each thing in its appointed place it had given him a little warm feeling in his heart. The bedroom looked as though she had just left it: the brushes were neatly placed on the toilet-table, one on each side of the comb; someone had smoothed down the bed on which she had spent her last night in the studio; and her nightdress in a little case lay on the pillow. It was impossible to believe that she would never come into that room again.

    But he felt thirsty, and went into the kitchen to get himself some water. Here, too, was order. On a rack were the plates that she had used for dinner on the night of her quarrel with Strickland, and they had been carefully washed. The knives and forks were put away in a drawer. Under a cover were the remains of a piece of cheese, and in a tin box was a crust of bread. She had done her marketing from day to day, buying only what was strictly needful, so that nothing was left over from one day to the next. Stroeve knew from the enquiries made by the police that Strickland had walked out of the house immediately after dinner, and the fact that Blanche had washed up the things as usual gave him a little thrill of horror. Her methodicalness made her suicide more deliberate. Her self-possession was frightening. A sudden pang seized him, and his knees felt so weak that he almost fell. He went back into the bedroom and threw himself on the bed. He cried out her name.

    "Blanche. Blanche. "

    The thought of her suffering was intolerable. He had a sudden vision of her standing in the kitchen —— it was hardly larger than a cupboard —— washing the plates and glasses, the forks and spoons, giving the knives a rapid polish on the knife-board; and then putting everything away, giving the sink a scrub, and hanging the dish-cloth up to dry —— it was there still, a gray torn rag; then looking round to see that everything was clean and nice. He saw her roll down her sleeves and remove her apron —— the apron hung on a peg behind the door —— and take the bottle of oxalic acid and go with it into the bedroom.

    The agony of it drove him up from the bed and out of the room. He went into the studio. It was dark, for the curtains had been drawn over the great window, and he pulled them quickly back; but a sob broke from him as with a rapid glance he took in the place where he had been so happy. Nothing was changed here, either. Strickland was indifferent to his surroundings, and he had lived in the other's studio without thinking of altering a thing. It was deliberately artistic. It represented Stroeve's idea of the proper environment for an artist. There were bits of old brocade on the walls, and the piano was covered with a piece of silk, beautiful and tarnished; in one corner was a copy of the Venus of Milo, and in another of the Venus of the Medici. Here and there was an Italian cabinet surmounted with Delft, and here and there a bas-relief. In a handsome gold frame was a copy of Velasquez' Innocent X. , that Stroeve had made in Rome, and placed so as to make the most of their decorative effect were a number of Stroeve's pictures, all in splendid frames. Stroeve had always been very proud of his taste. He had never lost his appreciation for the romantic atmosphere of a studio, and though now the sight of it was like a stab in his heart, without thinking what he was at, he changed slightly the position of a Louis XV. table which was one of his treasures. Suddenly he caught sight of a canvas with its face to the wall. It was a much larger one than he himself was in the habit of using, and he wondered what it did there. He went over to it and leaned it towards him so that he could see the painting. It was a nude. His heart began to beat quickly, for he guessed at once that it was one of Strickland's pictures. He flung it back against the wall angrily —— what did he mean by leaving it there? —— but his movement caused it to fall, face downwards, on the ground. No mater whose the picture, he could not leave it there in the dust, and he raised it; but then curiosity got the better of him. He thought he would like to have a proper look at it, so he brought it along and set it on the easel. Then he stood back in order to see it at his ease.

    He gave a gasp. It was the picture of a woman lying on a sofa, with one arm beneath her head and the other along her body; one knee was raised, and the other leg was stretched out. The pose was classic. Stroeve's head swam. It was Blanche. Grief and jealousy and rage seized him, and he cried out hoarsely; he was inarticulate; he clenched his fists and raised them threateningly at an invisible enemy. He screamed at the top of his voice. He was beside himself. He could not bear it. That was too much. He looked round wildly for some instrument; he wanted to hack the picture to pieces; it should not exist another minute. He could see nothing that would serve his purpose; he rummaged about his painting things; somehow he could not find a thing; he was frantic. At last he came upon what he sought, a large scraper, and he pounced on it with a cry of triumph. He seized it as though it were a dagger, and ran to the picture.

    As Stroeve told me this he became as excited as when the incident occurred, and he took hold of a dinner-knife on the table between us, and brandished it. He lifted his arm as though to strike, and then, opening his hand, let it fall with a clatter to the ground. He looked at me with a tremulous smile. He did not speak.

    "Fire away, " I said.

    "I don't know what happened to me. I was just going to make a great hole in the picture, I had my arm all ready for the blow, when suddenly I seemed to see it. "

    "See what?"

    "The picture. It was a work of art. I couldn't touch it. I was afraid. "

    Stroeve was silent again, and he stared at me with his mouth open and his round blue eyes starting out of his head.

    "It was a great, a wonderful picture. I was seized with awe. I had nearly committed a dreadful crime. I moved a little to see it better, and my foot knocked against the scraper. I shuddered. "

    I really felt something of the emotion that had caught him. I was strangely impressed. It was as though I were suddenly transported into a world in which the values were changed. I stood by, at a loss, like a stranger in a land where the reactions of man to familiar things are all different from those he has known. Stroeve tried to talk to me about the picture, but he was incoherent, and I had to guess at what he meant. Strickland had burst the bonds that hitherto had held him. He had found, not himself, as the phrase goes, but a new soul with unsuspected powers. It was not only the bold simplification of the drawing which showed so rich and so singular a personality; it was not only the painting, though the flesh was painted with a passionate sensuality which had in it something miraculous; it was not only the solidity, so that you felt extraordinarily the weight of the body; there was also a spirituality, troubling and new, which led the imagination along unsuspected ways, and suggested dim empty spaces, lit only by the eternal stars, where the soul, all naked, adventured fearful to the discovery of new mysteries.

    If I am rhetorical it is because Stroeve was rhetorical. (Do we not know that man in moments of emotion expresses himself naturally in the terms of a novelette?) Stroeve was trying to express a feeling which he had never known before, and he did not know how to put it into common terms. He was like the mystic seeking to describe the ineffable. But one fact he made clear to me; people talk of beauty lightly, and having no feeling for words, they use that one carelessly, so that it loses its force; and the thing it stands for, sharing its name with a hundred trivial objects, is deprived of dignity. They call beautiful a dress, a dog, a sermon; and when they are face to face with Beauty cannot recognise it. The false emphasis with which they try to deck their worthless thoughts blunts their susceptibilities. Like the charlatan who counterfeits a spiritual force he has sometimes felt, they lose the power they have abused. But Stroeve, the unconquerable buffoon, had a love and an understanding of beauty which were as honest and sincere as was his own sincere and honest soul. It meant to him what God means to the believer, and when he saw it he was afraid.

    "What did you say to Strickland when you saw him?"

    "I asked him to come with me to Holland. "

    I was dumbfounded. I could only look at Stroeve in stupid amazement.

    "We both loved Blanche. There would have been room for him in my mother's house. I think the company of poor, simple people would have done his soul a great good. I think he might have learnt from them something that would be very useful to him. "

    "What did he say?"

    "He smiled a little. I suppose he thought me very silly. He said he had other fish to fry. "

    I could have wished that Strickland had used some other phrase to indicate his refusal.

    "He gave me the picture of Blanche. "

    I wondered why Strickland had done that. But I made no remark, and for some time we kept silence.

    "What have you done with all your things?" I said at last.

    "I got a Jew in, and he gave me a round sum for the lot. I'm taking my pictures home with me. Beside them I own nothing in the world now but a box of clothes and a few books. "

    "I'm glad you're going home, " I said.

    I felt that his chance was to put all the past behind him. I hoped that the grief which now seemed intolerable would be softened by the lapse of time, and a merciful forgetfulness would help him to take up once more the burden of life. He was young still, and in a few years he would look back on all his misery with a sadness in which there would be something not unpleasurable. Sooner or later he would marry some honest soul in Holland, and I felt sure he would be happy. I smiled at the thought of the vast number of bad pictures he would paint before he died.

    Next day I saw him off for Amsterdam.

    我们那天埋葬了可怜的勃朗什,分手以后,施特略夫怀着一颗沉重的心走进自己的房子。他被什么驱使着向画室走去,也许是被某种想折磨自己的模糊的愿望,尽管他非常害怕他必将感到的剧烈痛苦。他拖着双脚走上楼梯,他的两只脚好象很不愿意往那地方移动。他在画室外面站了很久很久,拼命鼓起勇气来推门进去。他觉得一阵阵地犯恶心,想要呕吐。他几乎禁不住自己要跑下楼梯去把我追回来,求我陪着一起进去。他有一种感觉,仿佛画室里有人似的。他记得过去气喘吁吁地走上楼梯,总要在楼梯口站一两分钟,让呼吸平静一些再进屋子,可是又由于迫不及待想见到勃朗什(心情那么急切多么可笑!)呼吸总是平静不下来。每次见到勃朗什都使他喜不自禁,哪怕出门还不到一个钟头,一想到同她会面也兴奋得无法自持,就象分别了一月之久似的。突然间他不能相信她已经死了。所发生的事只应是一个梦,一个噩梦;当他转动钥匙打开门以后,他会看到她的身躯微俯在桌子上面,同夏尔丹的名画《饭前祷告》里面那个妇女的身姿一样优美。施特略夫一向觉得这幅画精美绝伦。他急忙从口袋里掏出钥匙,把门打开,走了进去。

    房间不象没人住的样子。勃朗什习性整洁,施特略夫非常喜次她这一点。他小时候的教养使他对别人爱好整洁的习惯极富同感。当他看到勃朗什出于天性样样东西都放得井井有条,他心里有一种热呼呼的感觉。卧室看上去象是她离开没有多久的样子:几把刷子整整齐齐地摆在梳妆台上,每一把放在一只梳子旁边;她在画室里最后一夜睡过的床铺不知有谁整理过,铺得平平整整;她的睡衣放在一个小盒子里,摆在枕头上面。真不能相信,她永远也不回这间屋子里来了。

    他感到口渴,走进厨房去给自己弄一点水喝。厨房也整齐有序。她同思特里克兰德吵嘴的那天晚上,晚饭使用的餐具已经摆好在碗架上,而且洗得干干净净。刀叉收好在一只抽屉里。吃剩的一块干酪用一件什么器皿扣起来,一个洋铁盒里放着一块面包。她总是每天上街采购,只买当天最需要的东西,因此从来没有什么东西留到第二天。从进行调查的警察那里施特略夫了解到,那天晚上思特里克兰德一吃过晚饭就离开了这所房子,而勃朗什居然还象通常一样洗碟子刷碗,这真叫人不寒而栗。勃朗什临死以前还这样有条有理地做家务活儿,这说明了她的自杀是周密计划的。她的自制能力让人觉得可怕。突然间,施特略夫感到心如刀绞,两膝发软,几乎跌倒在地上。他回到卧室,一头扎在床上,大声地呼唤着她的名字:

    “勃朗什!勃朗什!”

    想到她受的那些罪孽,施特略夫简直无法忍受。他的脑子里忽然闪现出她的幻影:她正站在厨房里——一间比柜橱大不了多少的厨房——刷洗盘腕,擦拭刀叉,在刀架上把几把刀子飞快地蹭了几下,然后把餐具一一收拾起来。接着她把污水池擦洗了一下,把抹布挂起来——直到现在这块已经磨破的灰色抹布还在那里挂着。她向四边看了看,是否一切都已收拾整齐。他仿佛看见她把卷起的袖口放下来,摘下了围裙——围裙挂在门后边一个木栓上——,然后拿起了装草酸的瓶子,走进了卧室。

    痛苦使他一下子从床上跳起来,冲出了屋子。他走进了画室。屋子里很黑,因为大玻璃窗上还挡着窗帘;他一把把窗帘拉开。但是当他把这间他在里面曾经感到那么幸福的房间飞快地看了一眼以后,不禁呜咽出声来。屋子一点也没有变样。思特里克兰德对环境漠不关心,他在别人的这间画室住着的时候从来没有想到把什么东西改换个位置。这间屋子经过施特略夫精心布置很富于艺术趣味,表现出施特略夫心目中艺术家应有的生活环境。墙上悬着几块织锦,钢琴上铺着一块美丽的但光泽已有些暗淡的丝织品,一个墙角摆着美洛斯的维纳斯①的复制品,另一个墙角摆着麦迪琪的维纳斯②复制品。这里立着一个意大利式的小柜橱,柜橱顶上摆着一个德尔夫特③的陶器;那里挂着一块浮雕美术品。一个很漂亮的金框子里镶着委拉斯凯兹的名画《天真的X》的描本,这是施特略夫在罗马的时候描下来的;另外,还有几张他自己的画作,嵌着精致的镜框,陈列得极富于装饰效果。施特略夫一向对自己的审美感非常自豪,对自己这间具有浪漫情调的画室他总是欣赏不够。虽然在目前这样一个时刻,这间屋子好象在他心头戳了一刀,他还是不由自主地把一张路易十五时代的桌子稍微挪动了一下。这张桌子是他的最珍爱的物品之一。突然,他发现有一幅画面朝里地挂在墙上。这幅画的尺寸比他自己通常画的要大得多,他很奇怪为什么屋子里摆着这么一幅画。他走过去把它翻转过来,想看一看上面画的是什么。他发现这是一张裸体的女人像。他的心开始剧烈地跳动起来,因为他马上就猜到这是思特里克兰德的作品。他气呼呼地把它往墙上一摔,——思特里克兰德把画留在这里有什么用意?——因为用力过猛,画掉了下来,面朝下地落到地上。不管是谁画的,他也不能叫它扔在尘土里;他把它捡了起来。这时他的好奇心占了上风,他想要好好地看一看,于是他把这张画拿到画架上摆好,往后退了两步,准备仔细瞅一瞅。

    ①一称“断臂的阿芙罗底德”,1820年在希腊美洛斯发现的古希腊云石雕像,现存巴黎卢佛尔宫。

    ②十七世纪在意大利发掘出的雕像,因长期收藏在罗马麦迪琪宫,故得名,现收藏于佛罗伦萨乌非济美术馆。

    ③德尔夫特系荷兰西部一个小城,以生产蓝白色上釉陶器闻名。

    他倒抽了一口气。画面是一个女人躺在长沙发上,一只胳臂枕在头底下,另一只顺着身躯平摆着,屈着一条腿,另一条伸直。这是一个古典的姿势。施特略夫的脑袋嗡的一下胀了起来。画面的女人是勃朗什。悲痛、忌妒和愤怒一下子把他抓住;他一句完整的话也说不出,只是嘶哑地喊叫了一声。他握紧了拳头对着看不见的敌人摇晃着。他开始扯直了喉咙尖叫起来。他快要发疯了。他实在忍受不了;这简直太过分了。他向四周看了看,想寻找一件器具,把这幅画砍个粉碎,一分钟也不允许它在这个世界上存在。但是身边并没有任何合手的武器,他在绘画用品里翻寻了一遍,不知为什么还是什么也没有找到。他简直发狂了。最后他终于找到了他需要的东西——一把刮油彩用的大刮刀。他一把把刮刀抄起来,发出一声胜利的喊叫,象擎着一把匕首似地向那幅图画奔去。

    施特略夫给我讲这个故事的时候同事情发生的当时一样激动,他把放在我俩中间桌子上的一把餐刀拿起来,拼命挥舞着。他抬起一只胳臂,仿佛要扎下来的样子。接着,突然把手一松,刀子哐啷一声掉在地上。他望着我,声音颤抖地笑了笑,没有再说话。

    “快说啊!”我催他道。

    “我说不清楚自己是怎么回事,正当我要在画上戳个大洞的时候,当我已经抬起胳臂正准备往下扎的时候,突然间我好象看见它了。”

    “看见什么了?”

    “那幅画。一件珍贵的艺术品。我不能碰它。我害怕了。”

    施特略夫又停顿下来,直勾勾地盯着我,张着嘴,一对又蓝又圆的眼珠似乎都要凸出来了。

    “那真是一幅伟大的、奇妙的绘画。我一下子被它震骇住了。我几乎犯了一桩可怕的罪行。我移动了一下身体,想看得更清楚一些,我的脚踢在刮刀上。我打了个冷战。”

    激动着施特略夫的那种感情我确实体会到了;他说的这些话奇怪地把我打动了。我好象突然被带进一个全部事物的价值都改变了的世界里。我茫然不知所措地站在一旁,好象一个到了异乡的陌生人,在那里,一个人对于他所熟悉的事物的各种反应都与过去的不同了。施特略夫尽量想把他见到的这幅画描述给我听,但是他说得前言不搭后语,许多意思都只能由我猜测。思特里克兰德已经把那一直束缚着的桎梏打碎了。他并没有象俗话所说的“寻找到自己”,而是寻找到一个新的灵魂,一个具有意料不到的巨大力量的灵魂。这幅画之所以能显示出这样强烈、这样独特的个性,并不只是因为它那极为大胆的简单的线条,不只是因为它的处理方法(尽管那肉体被画得带有一种强烈的、几乎可以说是奇妙的欲情),也不只是因为它给人的实体感,使你几乎奇异地感觉到那肉体的重量,而且还因为它有一种纯精神的性质,一种使你感到不安、感到新奇的精神,把你的幻想引向前所未经的路途,把你带到一个朦胧空虚的境界,那里为探索新奇的神秘只有永恒的星辰在照耀,你感到自己的灵魂一无牵挂,正经历着各种恐怖和冒险。

    如果我在这里有些舞文弄墨,使用了不少形象比喻,这是因为施特略夫当时就是这么表达他自己的。(估量大家都知道,一旦感情激动起来,一个人会很自然地玩弄起文学词藻来的。)施特略夫企图表达的是一种他过去从来没经历过的感觉,如果用一般的言语,他简直不知道该如何说出口来。他象是一个神秘主义者费力地宣讲一个无法言传的道理。但是有一件事我还是清楚的:人们动不动就谈美,实际上对这个词并不理解;这个词已经使用得太滥,失去了原有的力量;因为成千上万的琐屑事物都分享了“美”的称号,这个词已经被剥夺掉它的崇高的含义了。一件衣服,一只狗,一篇布道词,什么东西人们都用“美”来形容,当他们面对面地遇到真正的美时,反而认不出它来了。他们用以遮饰自己毫无价值的思想的虚假夸大使他们的感受力变得迟钝不堪。正如一个假内行有时也会感觉到自己是在无中生有地伪造某件器物的精神价值一样,人们已经失掉了他们用之过滥的赏识能力。但是施特略夫,这位本性无法改变的小丑,对于美却有着真挚的爱和理解,正象他的灵魂也是诚实、真挚的一样。对他说来,美就象虔诚教徒心目中的上帝一样;一旦他见到真正美的事物,他变得恐惧万分。

    “你见到思特里克兰德的时候,对他说什么了?”

    “我邀他同我一起到荷兰去。”

    我愣在那里,一句话也说不出来,目瞪口呆地直勾勾地望着他。

    “我们两人都爱勃朗什。在我的老家也有地方给他住。我想叫他同贫寒、淳朴的人们在一起,对他的灵魂是有好处的。我想他也许能从这些人身上学到一些对他有用的东西。”

    “他说什么?”

    “他笑了笑。我猜想他一定觉得我这个人非常蠢。他说他没有那么多闲工夫。”

    我真希望思特里克兰德用另一种措词拒绝施特略夫的邀请。

    “他把勃朗什的这幅画送给我了。”

    我很想知道思特里克兰德为什么要这样做,但是我什么也没有说。好大一会儿,我们两人都没有说话。

    “你那些东西怎么处置了?”最后我问道。

    “我找了一个收旧货的犹太人,他把全部东西都买了去,给了我一笔整钱。我的那些画我准备带回家去。除了画以外,我还有一箱子衣服,几本书,此外,在这个世界上我什么财产也没有了。”

    “我很高兴你回老家去。”我说。

    我觉得他还是有希望让过去的事成为过去的。我希望随着时间的流逝,现在他觉得无法忍受的悲痛会逐渐减轻,记忆会逐渐淡薄;老天是以慈悲为怀的!他终究会再度挑起生活的担子来的。他年纪还很轻,几年以后再回顾这一段惨痛遭遇,在悲痛中或许不无某种愉悦的感觉。或迟或早,他会同一个朴实的荷兰女人结婚,我相信他会生活得很幸福的。想到他这一辈子还会画出多少幅蹩脚的图画来,我的脸上禁不住浮现出笑容。

    第二天我就送他启程回阿姆斯特丹去了。

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