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变形记Metamorphosis(1)

2006-08-19 18:00

    I

    One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections. The bedding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slide off any moment. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, waved about helplessly as he looked.

    "What's happened to me?" he thought. It wasn't a dream. His room, a proper human room although a little too small, lay peacefully between its four familiar walls. A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table - Samsa was a travelling salesman - and above it there hung a picture that he had recently cut out of an illustrated magazine and housed in a nice, gilded frame. It showed a lady fitted out with a fur hat and fur boa who sat upright, raising a heavy fur muff that covered the whole of her lower arm towards the viewer.

    Gregor then turned to look out the window at the dull weather. Drops of rain could be heard hitting the pane, which made him feel quite sad. "How about if I sleep a little bit longer and forget all this nonsense", he thought, but that was something he was unable to do because he was used to sleeping on his right, and in his present state couldn't get into that position. However hard he threw himself onto his right, he always rolled back to where he was. He must have tried it a hundred times, shut his eyes so that he wouldn't have to look at the floundering legs, and only stopped when he began to feel a mild, dull pain there that he had never felt before.

    "Oh, God", he thought, "what a strenuous career it is that I've chosen! Travelling day in and day out. Doing business like this takes much more effort than doing your own business at home, and on top of that there's the curse of travelling, worries about making train connections, bad and irregular food, contact with different people all the time so that you can never get to know anyone or become friendly with them. It can all go to Hell!" He felt a slight itch up on his belly; pushed himself slowly up on his back towards the headboard so that he could lift his head better; found where the itch was, and saw that it was covered with lots of little white spots which he didn't know what to make of; and when he tried to feel the place with one of his legs he drew it quickly back because as soon as he touched it he was overcome by a cold shudder.

    He slid back into his former position. "Getting up early all the time", he thought, "it makes you stupid. You've got to get enough sleep. Other travelling salesmen live a life of luxury. For instance, whenever I go back to the guest house during the morning to copy out the contract, these gentlemen are always still sitting there eating their breakfasts. I ought to just try that with my boss; I'd get kicked out on the spot. But who knows, maybe that would be the best thing for me. If I didn't have my parents to think about I'd have given in my notice a long time ago, I'd have gone up to the boss and told him just what I think, tell him everything I would, let him know just what I feel. He'd fall right off his desk! And it's a funny sort of business to be sitting up there at your desk, talking down at your subordinates from up there, especially when you have to go right up close because the boss is hard of hearing. Well, there's still some hope; once I've got the money together to pay off my parents' debt to him - another five or six years I suppose - that's definitely what I'll do. That's when I'll make the big change. First of all though, I've got to get up, my train leaves at five. "

    And he looked over at the alarm clock, ticking on the chest of drawers. "God in Heaven!" he thought. It was half past six and the hands were quietly moving forwards, it was even later than half past, more like quarter to seven. Had the alarm clock not rung? He could see from the bed that it had been set for four o'clock as it should have been; it certainly must have rung. Yes, but was it possible to quietly sleep through that furniture-rattling noise? True, he had not slept peacefully, but probably all the more deeply because of that. What should he do now? The next train went at seven; if he were to catch that he would have to rush like mad and the collection of samples was still not packed, and he did not at all feel particularly fresh and lively. And even if he did catch the train he would not avoid his boss's anger as the office assistant would have been there to see the five o'clock train go, he would have put in his report about Gregor's not being there a long time ago. The office assistant was the boss's man, spineless, and with no understanding. What about if he reported sick? But that would be extremely strained and suspicious as in fifteen years of service Gregor had never once yet been ill. His boss would certainly come round with the doctor from the medical insurance company, accuse his parents of having a lazy son, and accept the doctor's recommendation not to make any claim as the doctor believed that no-one was ever ill but that many were workshy. And what's more, would he have been entirely wrong in this case? Gregor did in fact, apart from excessive sleepiness after sleeping for so long, feel completely well and even felt much hungrier than usual.

    He was still hurriedly thinking all this through, unable to decide to get out of the bed, when the clock struck quarter to seven. There was a cautious knock at the door near his head. "Gregor", somebody called - it was his mother - "it's quarter to seven. Didn't you want to go somewhere?" That gentle voice! Gregor was shocked when he heard his own voice answering, it could hardly be recognised as the voice he had had before. As if from deep inside him, there was a painful and uncontrollable squeaking mixed in with it, the words could be made out at first but then there was a sort of echo which made them unclear, leaving the hearer unsure whether he had heard properly or not. Gregor had wanted to give a full answer and explain everything, but in the circumstances contented himself with saying: "Yes, mother, yes, thank-you, I'm getting up now. " The change in Gregor's voice probably could not be noticed outside through the wooden door, as his mother was satisfied with this explanation and shuffled away. But this short conversation made the other members of the family aware that Gregor, against their expectations was still at home, and soon his father came knocking at one of the side doors, gently, but with his fist. "Gregor, Gregor", he called, "what's wrong?" And after a short while he called again with a warning deepness in his voice: "Gregor! Gregor!" At the other side door his sister came plaintively: "Gregor? Aren't you well? Do you need anything?"

    Gregor answered to both sides: "I'm ready, now", making an effort to remove all the strangeness from his voice by enunciating very carefully and putting long pauses between each, individual word. His father went back to his breakfast, but his sister whispered: "Gregor, open the door, I beg of you. " Gregor, however, had no thought of opening the door, and instead congratulated himself for his cautious habit, acquired from his travelling, of locking all doors at night even when he was at home.

    The first thing he wanted to do was to get up in peace without being disturbed, to get dressed, and most of all to have his breakfast. Only then would he consider what to do next, as he was well aware that he would not bring his thoughts to any sensible conclusions by lying in bed. He remembered that he had often felt a slight pain in bed, perhaps caused by lying awkwardly, but that had always turned out to be pure imagination and he wondered how his imaginings would slowly resolve themselves today. He did not have the slightest doubt that the change in his voice was nothing more than the first sign of a serious cold, which was an occupational hazard for travelling salesmen.

    It was a simple matter to throw off the covers; he only had to blow himself up a little and they fell off by themselves. But it became difficult after that, especially as he was so exceptionally broad. He would have used his arms and his hands to push himself up; but instead of them he only had all those little legs continuously moving in different directions, and which he was moreover unable to control. If he wanted to bend one of them, then that was the first one that would stretch itself out; and if he finally managed to do what he wanted with that leg, all the others seemed to be set free and would move about painfully. "This is something that can't be done in bed", Gregor said to himself, "so don't keep trying to do it".

    The first thing he wanted to do was get the lower part of his body out of the bed, but he had never seen this lower part, and could not imagine what it looked like; it turned out to be too hard to move; it went so slowly; and finally, almost in a frenzy, when he carelessly shoved himself forwards with all the force he could gather, he chose the wrong direction, hit hard against the lower bedpost, and learned from the burning pain he felt that the lower part of his body might well, at present, be the most sensitive.

    So then he tried to get the top part of his body out of the bed first, carefully turning his head to the side. This he managed quite easily, and despite its breadth and its weight, the bulk of his body eventually followed slowly in the direction of the head. But when he had at last got his head out of the bed and into the fresh air it occurred to him that if he let himself fall it would be a miracle if his head were not injured, so he became afraid to carry on pushing himself forward the same way. And he could not knock himself out now at any price; better to stay in bed than lose consciousness.

    It took just as much effort to get back to where he had been earlier, but when he lay there sighing, and was once more watching his legs as they struggled against each other even harder than before, if that was possible, he could think of no way of bringing peace and order to this chaos. He told himself once more that it was not possible for him to stay in bed and that the most sensible thing to do would be to get free of it in whatever way he could at whatever sacrifice. At the same time, though, he did not forget to remind himself that calm consideration was much better than rushing to desperate conclusions. At times like this he would direct his eyes to the window and look out as clearly as he could, but unfortunately, even the other side of the narrow street was enveloped in morning fog and the view had little confidence or cheer to offer him. "Seven o'clock, already", he said to himself when the clock struck again, "seven o'clock, and there's still a fog like this. " And he lay there quietly a while longer, breathing lightly as if he perhaps expected the total stillness to bring things back to their real and natural state.

    But then he said to himself: "Before it strikes quarter past seven I'll definitely have to have got properly out of bed. And by then somebody will have come round from work to ask what's happened to me as well, as they open up at work before seven o'clock. " And so he set himself to the task of swinging the entire length of his body out of the bed all at the same time. If he succeeded in falling out of bed in this way and kept his head raised as he did so he could probably avoid injuring it. His back seemed to be quite hard, and probably nothing would happen to it falling onto the carpet. His main concern was for the loud noise he was bound to make, and which even through all the doors would probably raise concern if not alarm. But it was something that had to be risked.

    When Gregor was already sticking half way out of the bed - the new method was more of a game than an effort, all he had to do was rock back and forth - it occurred to him how simple everything would be if somebody came to help him. Two strong people - he had his father and the maid in mind - would have been more than enough; they would only have to push their arms under the dome of his back, peel him away from the bed, bend down with the load and then be patient and careful as he swang over onto the floor, where, hopefully, the little legs would find a use. Should he really call for help though, even apart from the fact that all the doors were locked? Despite all the difficulty he was in, he could not suppress a smile at this thought.

    After a while he had already moved so far across that it would have been hard for him to keep his balance if he rocked too hard. The time was now ten past seven and he would have to make a final decision very soon. Then there was a ring at the door of the flat. "That'll be someone from work", he said to himself, and froze very still, although his little legs only became all the more lively as they danced around. For a moment everything remained quiet. "They're not opening the door", Gregor said to himself, caught in some nonsensical hope. But then of course, the maid's firm steps went to the door as ever and opened it. Gregor only needed to hear the visitor's first words of greeting and he knew who it was - the chief clerk himself. Why did Gregor have to be the only one condemned to work for a company where they immediately became highly suspicious at the slightest shortcoming? Were all employees, every one of them, louts, was there not one of them who was faithful and devoted who would go so mad with pangs of conscience that he couldn't get out of bed if he didn't spend at least a couple of hours in the morning on company business? Was it really not enough to let one of the trainees make enquiries - assuming enquiries were even necessary - did the chief clerk have to come himself, and did they have to show the whole, innocent family that this was so suspicious that only the chief clerk could be trusted to have the wisdom to investigate it? And more because these thoughts had made him upset than through any proper decision, he swang himself with all his force out of the bed. There was a loud thump, but it wasn't really a loud noise. His fall was softened a little by the carpet, and Gregor's back was also more elastic than he had thought, which made the sound muffled and not too noticeable. He had not held his head carefully enough, though, and hit it as he fell; annoyed and in pain, he turned it and rubbed it against the carpet.

    "Something's fallen down in there", said the chief clerk in the room on the left. Gregor tried to imagine whether something of the sort that had happened to him today could ever happen to the chief clerk too; you had to concede that it was possible. But as if in gruff reply to this question, the chief clerk's firm footsteps in his highly polished boots could now be heard in the adjoining room. From the room on his right, Gregor's sister whispered to him to let him know: "Gregor, the chief clerk is here. "

    "Yes, I know", said Gregor to himself; but without daring to raise his voice loud enough for his sister to hear him.

    "Gregor", said his father now from the room to his left, "the chief clerk has come round and wants to know why you didn't leave on the early train. We don't know what to say to him. And anyway, he wants to speak to you personally. So please open up this door. I'm sure he'll be good enough to forgive the untidiness of your room. "

    Then the chief clerk called "Good morning, Mr. Samsa".

    "He isn't well", said his mother to the chief clerk, while his father continued to speak through the door. "He isn't well, please believe me. Why else would Gregor have missed a train! The lad only ever thinks about the business. It nearly makes me cross the way he never goes out in the evenings; he's been in town for a week now but stayed home every evening. He sits with us in the kitchen and just reads the paper or studies train timetables. His idea of relaxation is working with his fretsaw. He's made a little frame, for instance, it only took him two or three evenings, you'll be amazed how nice it is; it's hanging up in his room; you'll see it as soon as Gregor opens the door. Anyway, I'm glad you're here; we wouldn't have been able to get Gregor to open the door by ourselves; he's so stubborn; and I'm sure he isn't well, he said this morning that he is, but he isn't. "

    "I'll be there in a moment", said Gregor slowly and thoughtfully, but without moving so that he would not miss any word of the conversation. "Well I can't think of any other way of explaining it, Mrs. Samsa", said the chief clerk, "I hope it's nothing serious. But on the other hand, I must say that if we people in commerce ever become slightly unwell then, fortunately or unfortunately as you like, we simply have to overcome it because of business considerations. " "Can the chief clerk come in to see you now then?", asked his father impatiently, knocking at the door again. "No", said Gregor. In the room on his right there followed a painful silence; in the room on his left his sister began to cry.

    So why did his sister not go and join the others? She had probably only just got up and had not even begun to get dressed. And why was she crying? Was it because he had not got up, and had not let the chief clerk in, because he was in danger of losing his job and if that happened his boss would once more pursue their parents with the same demands as before? There was no need to worry about things like that yet. Gregor was still there and had not the slightest intention of abandoning his family. For the time being he just lay there on the carpet, and no-one who knew the condition he was in would seriously have expected him to let the chief clerk in. It was only a minor discourtesy, and a suitable excuse could easily be found for it later on, it was not something for which Gregor could be sacked on the spot. And it seemed to Gregor much more sensible to leave him now in peace instead of disturbing him with talking at him and crying. But the others didn't know what was happening, they were worried, that would excuse their behaviour. The chief clerk now raised his voice, "Mr. Samsa", he called to him, "what is wrong? You barricade yourself in your room, give us no more than yes or no for an answer, you are causing serious and unnecessary concern to your parents and you fail - and I mention this just by the way - you fail to carry out your business duties in a way that is quite unheard of. I'm speaking here on behalf of your parents and of your employer, and really must request a clear and immediate explanation. I am astonished, quite astonished. I thought I knew you as a calm and sensible person, and now you suddenly seem to be showing off with peculiar whims. This morning, your employer did suggest a possible reason for your failure to appear, it's true - it had to do with the money that was recently entrusted to you - but I came near to giving him my word of honour that that could not be the right explanation. But now that I see your incomprehensible stubbornness I no longer feel any wish whatsoever to intercede on your behalf. And nor is your position all that secure. I had originally intended to say all this to you in private, but since you cause me to waste my time here for no good reason I don't see why your parents should not also learn of it. Your turnover has been very unsatisfactory of late; I grant you that it's not the time of year to do especially good business, we recognise that; but there simply is no time of year to do no business at all, Mr. Samsa, we cannot allow there to be. "

    "But Sir", called Gregor, beside himself and forgetting all else in the excitement, "I'll open up immediately, just a moment. I'm slightly unwell, an attack of dizziness, I haven't been able to get up. I'm still in bed now. I'm quite fresh again now, though. I'm just getting out of bed. Just a moment. Be patient! It's not quite as easy as I'd thought. I'm quite alright now, though. It's shocking, what can suddenly happen to a person! I was quite alright last night, my parents know about it, perhaps better than me, I had a small symptom of it last night already. They must have noticed it. I don't know why I didn't let you know at work! But you always think you can get over an illness without staying at home. Please, don't make my parents suffer! There's no basis for any of the accusations you're making; nobody's ever said a word to me about any of these things. Maybe you haven't read the latest contracts I sent in. I'll set off with the eight o'clock train, as well, these few hours of rest have given me strength. You don't need to wait, sir; I'll be in the office soon after you, and please be so good as to tell that to the boss and recommend me to him!" And while Gregor gushed out these words, hardly knowing what he was saying, he made his way over to the chest of drawers - this was easily done, probably because of the practise he had already had in bed - where he now tried to get himself upright. He really did want to open the door, really did want to let them see him and to speak with the chief clerk; the others were being so insistent, and he was curious to learn what they would say when they caught sight of him. If they were shocked then it would no longer be Gregor's responsibility and he could rest. If, however, they took everything calmly he would still have no reason to be upset, and if he hurried he really could be at the station for eight o'clock. The first few times he tried to climb up on the smooth chest of drawers he just slid down again, but he finally gave himself one last swing and stood there upright; the lower part of his body was in serious pain but he no longer gave any attention to it. Now he let himself fall against the back of a nearby chair and held tightly to the edges of it with his little legs. By now he had also calmed down, and kept quiet so that he could listen to what the chief clerk was saying.

    "Did you understand a word of all that?" the chief clerk asked his parents, "surely he's not trying to make fools of us". "Oh, God!" called his mother, who was already in tears, "he could be seriously ill and we're making him suffer. Grete! Grete!" she then cried. "Mother?" his sister called from the other side. They communicated across Gregor's room. "You'll have to go for the doctor straight away. Gregor is ill. Quick, get the doctor. Did you hear the way Gregor spoke just now?" "That was the voice of an animal", said the chief clerk, with a calmness that was in contrast with his mother's screams. "Anna! Anna!" his father called into the kitchen through the entrance hall, clapping his hands, "get a locksmith here, now!" And the two girls, their skirts swishing, immediately ran out through the hall, wrenching open the front door of the flat as they went. How had his sister managed to get dressed so quickly? There was no sound of the door banging shut again; they must have left it open; people often do in homes where something awful has happened.

    Gregor, in contrast, had become much calmer. So they couldn't understand his words any more, although they seemed clear enough to him, clearer than before - perhaps his ears had become used to the sound. They had realised, though, that there was something wrong with him, and were ready to help. The first response to his situation had been confident and wise, and that made him feel better. He felt that he had been drawn back in among people, and from the doctor and the locksmith he expected great and surprising achievements - although he did not really distinguish one from the other. Whatever was said next would be crucial, so, in order to make his voice as clear as possible, he coughed a little, but taking care to do this not too loudly as even this might well sound different from the way that a human coughs and he was no longer sure he could judge this for himself. Meanwhile, it had become very quiet in the next room. Perhaps his parents were sat at the table whispering with the chief clerk, or perhaps they were all pressed against the door and listening.

    Gregor slowly pushed his way over to the door with the chair. Once there he let go of it and threw himself onto the door, holding himself upright against it using the adhesive on the tips of his legs. He rested there a little while to recover from the effort involved and then set himself to the task of turning the key in the lock with his mouth. He seemed, unfortunately, to have no proper teeth - how was he, then, to grasp the key? - but the lack of teeth was, of course, made up for with a very strong jaw; using the jaw, he really was able to start the key turning, ignoring the fact that he must have been causing some kind of damage as a brown fluid came from his mouth, flowed over the key and dripped onto the floor.

    "Listen", said the chief clerk in the next room, "he's turning the key. " Gregor was greatly encouraged by this; but they all should have been calling to him, his father and his mother too: "Well done, Gregor", they should have cried, "keep at it, keep hold of the lock!" And with the idea that they were all excitedly following his efforts, he bit on the key with all his strength, paying no attention to the pain he was causing himself. As the key turned round he turned around the lock with it, only holding himself upright with his mouth, and hung onto the key or pushed it down again with the whole weight of his body as needed. The clear sound of the lock as it snapped back was Gregor's sign that he could break his concentration, and as he regained his breath he said to himself: "So, I didn't need the locksmith after all". Then he lay his head on the handle of the door to open it completely.

    Because he had to open the door in this way, it was already wide open before he could be seen. He had first to slowly turn himself around one of the double doors, and he had to do it very carefully if he did not want to fall flat on his back before entering the room. He was still occupied with this difficult movement, unable to pay attention to anything else, when he heard the chief clerk exclaim a loud "Oh!", which sounded like the soughing of the wind. Now he also saw him - he was the nearest to the door - his hand pressed against his open mouth and slowly retreating as if driven by a steady and invisible force. Gregor's mother, her hair still dishevelled from bed despite the chief clerk's being there, looked at his father. Then she unfolded her arms, took two steps forward towards Gregor and sank down onto the floor into her skirts that spread themselves out around her as her head disappeared down onto her breast. His father looked hostile, and clenched his fists as if wanting to knock Gregor back into his room. Then he looked uncertainly round the living room, covered his eyes with his hands and wept so that his powerful chest shook.

    So Gregor did not go into the room, but leant against the inside of the other door which was still held bolted in place. In this way only half of his body could be seen, along with his head above it which he leant over to one side as he peered out at the others. Meanwhile the day had become much lighter; part of the endless, grey-black building on the other side of the street - which was a hospital - could be seen quite clearly with the austere and regular line of windows piercing its facade; the rain was still falling, now throwing down large, individual droplets which hit the ground one at a time. The washing up from breakfast lay on the table; there was so much of it because, for Gregor's father, breakfast was the most important meal of the day and he would stretch it out for several hours as he sat reading a number of different newspapers. On the wall exactly opposite there was photograph of Gregor when he was a lieutenant in the army, his sword in his hand and a carefree smile on his face as he called forth respect for his uniform and bearing. The door to the entrance hall was open and as the front door of the flat was also open he could see onto the landing and the stairs where they began their way down below.

    "Now, then", said Gregor, well aware that he was the only one to have kept calm, "I'll get dressed straight away now, pack up my samples and set off. Will you please just let me leave? You can see", he said to the chief clerk, "that I'm not stubborn and like I like to do my job; being a commercial traveller is arduous but without travelling I couldn't earn my living. So where are you going, in to the office? Yes? Will you report everything accurately, then? It's quite possible for someone to be temporarily unable to work, but that's just the right time to remember what's been achieved in the past and consider that later on, once the difficulty has been removed, he will certainly work with all the more diligence and concentration. You're well aware that I'm seriously in debt to our employer as well as having to look after my parents and my sister, so that I'm trapped in a difficult situation, but I will work my way out of it again. Please don't make things any harder for me than they are already, and don't take sides against me at the office. I know that nobody likes the travellers. They think we earn an enormous wage as well as having a soft time of it. That's just prejudice but they have no particular reason to think better it. But you, sir, you have a better overview than the rest of the staff, in fact, if I can say this in confidence, a better overview than the boss himself - it's very easy for a businessman like him to make mistakes about his employees and judge them more harshly than he should. And you're also well aware that we travellers spend almost the whole year away from the office, so that we can very easily fall victim to gossip and chance and groundless complaints, and it's almost impossible to defend yourself from that sort of thing, we don't usually even hear about them, or if at all it's when we arrive back home exhausted from a trip, and that's when we feel the harmful effects of what's been going on without even knowing what caused them. Please, don't go away, at least first say something to show that you grant that I'm at least partly right!"

    But the chief clerk had turned away as soon as Gregor had started to speak, and, with protruding lips, only stared back at him over his trembling shoulders as he left. He did not keep still for a moment while Gregor was speaking, but moved steadily towards the door without taking his eyes off him. He moved very gradually, as if there had been some secret prohibition on leaving the room. It was only when he had reached the entrance hall that he made a sudden movement, drew his foot from the living room, and rushed forward in a panic. In the hall, he stretched his right hand far out towards the stairway as if out there, there were some supernatural force waiting to save him.

    Gregor realised that it was out of the question to let the chief clerk go away in this mood if his position in the firm was not to be put into extreme danger. That was something his parents did not understand very well; over the years, they had become convinced that this job would provide for Gregor for his entire life, and besides, they had so much to worry about at present that they had lost sight of any thought for the future. Gregor, though, did think about the future. The chief clerk had to be held back, calmed down, convinced and finally won over; the future of Gregor and his family depended on it! If only his sister were here! She was clever; she was already in tears while Gregor was still lying peacefully on his back. And the chief clerk was a lover of women, surely she could persuade him; she would close the front door in the entrance hall and talk him out of his shocked state. But his sister was not there, Gregor would have to do the job himself.

    And without considering that he still was not familiar with how well he could move about in his present state, or that his speech still might not - or probably would not - be understood, he let go of the door; pushed himself through the opening; tried to reach the chief clerk on the landing who, ridiculously, was holding on to the banister with both hands; but Gregor fell immediately over and, with a little scream as he sought something to hold onto, landed on his numerous little legs. Hardly had that happened than, for the first time that day, he began to feel alright with his body; the little legs had the solid ground under them; to his pleasure, they did exactly as he told them; they were even making the effort to carry him where he wanted to go; and he was soon believing that all his sorrows would soon be finally at an end. He held back the urge to move but swayed from side to side as he crouched there on the floor. His mother was not far away in front of him and seemed, at first, quite engrossed in herself, but then she suddenly jumped up with her arms outstretched and her fingers spread shouting: "Help, for pity's sake, Help!" The way she held her head suggested she wanted to see Gregor better, but the unthinking way she was hurrying backwards showed that she did not; she had forgotten that the table was behind her with all the breakfast things on it; when she reached the table she sat quickly down on it without knowing what she was doing; without even seeming to notice that the coffee pot had been knocked over and a gush of coffee was pouring down onto the carpet.

    "Mother, mother", said Gregor gently, looking up at her. He had completely forgotten the chief clerk for the moment, but could not help himself snapping in the air with his jaws at the sight of the flow of coffee. That set his mother screaming anew, she fled from the table and into the arms of his father as he rushed towards her. Gregor, though, had no time to spare for his parents now; the chief clerk had already reached the stairs; with his chin on the banister, he looked back for the last time. Gregor made a run for him; he wanted to be sure of reaching him; the chief clerk must have expected something, as he leapt down several steps at once and disappeared; his shouts resounding all around the staircase. The flight of the chief clerk seemed, unfortunately, to put Gregor's father into a panic as well. Until then he had been relatively self controlled, but now, instead of running after the chief clerk himself, or at least not impeding Gregor as he ran after him, Gregor's father seized the chief clerk's stick in his right hand (the chief clerk had left it behind on a chair, along with his hat and overcoat), picked up a large newspaper from the table with his left, and used them to drive Gregor back into his room, stamping his foot at him as he went. Gregor's appeals to his father were of no help, his appeals were simply not understood, however much he humbly turned his head his father merely stamped his foot all the harder.

    Across the room, despite the chilly weather, Gregor's mother had pulled open a window, leant far out of it and pressed her hands to her face. A strong draught of air flew in from the street towards the stairway, the curtains flew up, the newspapers on the table fluttered and some of them were blown onto the floor. Nothing would stop Gregor's father as he drove him back, making hissing noises at him like a wild man. Gregor had never had any practice in moving backwards and was only able to go very slowly. If Gregor had only been allowed to turn round he would have been back in his room straight away, but he was afraid that if he took the time to do that his father would become impatient, and there was the threat of a lethal blow to his back or head from the stick in his father's hand any moment. Eventually, though, Gregor realised that he had no choice as he saw, to his disgust, that he was quite incapable of going backwards in a straight line; so he began, as quickly as possible and with frequent anxious glances at his father, to turn himself round. It went very slowly, but perhaps his father was able to see his good intentions as he did nothing to hinder him, in fact now and then he used the tip of his stick to give directions from a distance as to which way to turn.

    If only his father would stop that unbearable hissing! It was making Gregor quite confused. When he had nearly finished turning round, still listening to that hissing, he made a mistake and turned himself back a little the way he had just come. He was pleased when he finally had his head in front of the doorway, but then saw that it was too narrow, and his body was too broad to get through it without further difficulty. In his present mood, it obviously did not occur to his father to open the other of the double doors so that Gregor would have enough space to get through. He was merely fixed on the idea that Gregor should be got back into his room as quickly as possible. Nor would he ever have allowed Gregor the time to get himself upright as preparation for getting through the doorway. What he did, making more noise than ever, was to drive Gregor forwards all the harder as if there had been nothing in the way; it sounded to Gregor as if there was now more than one father behind him; it was not a pleasant experience, and Gregor pushed himself into the doorway without regard for what might happen. One side of his body lifted itself, he lay at an angle in the doorway, one flank scraped on the white door and was painfully injured, leaving vile brown flecks on it, soon he was stuck fast and would not have been able to move at all by himself, the little legs along one side hung quivering in the air while those on the other side were pressed painfully against the ground. Then his father gave him a hefty shove from behind which released him from where he was held and sent him flying, and heavily bleeding, deep into his room. The door was slammed shut with the stick, then, finally, all was quiet.

    一天早晨,格里高尔。萨姆沙从不安的睡梦中醒来,发现自己躺在床上变成了一只巨大的甲虫。他仰卧着,那坚硬的像铁甲一般的背贴着床,他稍稍抬了抬头,便看见自己那穹顶似的棕色肚子分成了好多块弧形的硬片,被子几乎盖不住肚子尖,都快滑下来了。比起偌大的身驱来,他那许多只腿真是细得可怜,都在他眼前无可奈何地舞动着。

    “我出了什么事啦?”他想。这可不是梦。他的房间,虽是嫌小了些,的确是普普通通人住的房间,仍然安静地躺在四堵熟悉的墙壁当中。在摊放着打开的衣料样品——萨姆沙是个旅行推销员——的桌子上面,还是挂着那幅画,这是他最近从一本画报上剪下来装在漂亮的金色镜框里的。画的是一位戴皮帽子围皮围巾的贵妇人,她挺直身子坐着,把一只套没了整个前臂的厚重的皮手筒递给看画的人。

    格里高尔的眼睛接着又朝窗口望去,天空很阴暗——可以听到雨点敲打在窗槛上的声音——他的心情也变得忧郁了。“要是再睡一会儿,把这一切晦气事统统忘掉那该多好。”他想。但是完全办不到,平时他习惯于向右边睡,可是在目前的情况下,再也不能采取那样的姿态了。无论怎样用力向右转,他仍旧滚了回来,肚子朝天。他试了至少一百次,还闭上眼睛免得看到那些拼命挣扎的腿,到后来他的腰部感到一种从未体味过的隐痛,才不得不罢休。

    “啊,天哪,”他想,“我怎么单单挑上这么一个累人的差使呢!长年累月到处奔波,比坐办公室辛苦多了。再加上还有经常出门的烦恼,担心各次火车的倒换,不定时而且低劣的饮食,而萍水相逢的人也总是些泛泛之交,不可能有深厚的交情,永远不会变成知己朋友。让这一切都见鬼去吧!”他觉得肚子上有点儿痒,就慢慢地挪动身子,靠近床头,好让自己头抬起来更容易些;他看清了发痒的地方,那儿布满着白色的小斑点,他不明白这是怎么回事,想用一条腿去搔一搔,可是马上又缩了回来,因为这一碰使他浑身起了一阵寒颤。

    他又滑下来恢复到原来的姿势。“起床这么早,”他想,“会使人变傻的。人是需要睡觉的。别的推销员生活得像贵妇人。比如,我有一天上午赶回旅馆登记取回定货单时,别的人才坐下来吃早餐。我若是跟我的老板也来这一手,准定当场就给开除。也许开除了倒更好一些,谁说得准呢。如果不是为了父母亲而总是谨小慎微,我早就辞职不干了,我早就会跑到老板面前,把肚子里的气出个痛快。那个家伙准会从写字桌后面直蹦起来!他的工作方式也真奇怪,总是那样居高临下坐在桌子上面对职员发号施令,再加上他的耳朵又偏偏重听,大家不得不走到他跟前去。但是事情也未必毫无转机;只要等我攒够了钱还清了父母欠他的债——也许还得五六年——可是我一定能做到。到那时我就会时来运转了。不过眼下我还是起床为妙,因为火车五点钟就要开了。 ”

    他看了看柜子上滴滴嗒嗒响着的闹钟。天哪!他想到。已经六点半了,而时针还在悠悠然向前移动,连六点半也过了,马上就要七点差一刻了。闹钟难道没有响过吗?从床上可以看到闹钟明明是拨到四点钟的;显然它已经响过了。是的,不过在那震耳欲聋的响声里,难道真的能安宁地睡着吗?嗯,他睡得并不安宁,可是却正说明他睡得不坏。那么他现在该干什么呢?下一班车七点钟开;要搭这一班车他得发疯似的赶才行,可是他的样品都还没有包好,他也觉得自己的精神不甚佳。而且即使他赶上这班车,还是逃不过上司的一顿申斥,因为公司的听差一定是在等候五点钟那班火车,这时早已回去报告他没有赶上了。那听差是老板的心腹,既无骨气又愚蠢不堪。那么,说自己病了行不行呢?不过这将是最不愉快的事,而且也显得很可疑,因为他服务五年以来没有害过一次病。老板一定会亲自带了医药顾问一起来,一定会责怪他的父母怎么养出这样懒惰的儿子,他还会引证医药顾问的话,粗暴地把所有的理由都驳掉,在那个大夫看来,世界上除了健康之至的假病号,再也没有第二种人了。再说今天这种情况,大夫的话是不是真的不对呢?格里高尔觉得身体挺不错,只除了有些困乏,这在如此长久的一次睡眠以后实在有些多余,另外,他甚至觉得特别饿。

    这一切都飞快地在他脑子里闪过,他还是没有下决心起床——闹钟敲六点三刻了——这时,他床头后面的门上传来了轻轻的一下叩门声。“格里高尔,”一个声音说,——这是他母亲的声音——“已经七点差一刻了。你不是还要赶火车吗?”好温和的声音!格里高尔听到自己的回答声时不免大吃一惊。没错,这分明是他自己的声音,可是却有另一种可怕的叽叽喳喳的尖叫声同时发了出来,仿佛是伴音似的,使他的话只有最初几个字才是清清楚楚的,接着马上就受到了干扰,弄得意义含混,使人家说不上到底听清楚没有。格里高尔本想回答得详细些,好把一切解释清楚,可是在这样的情形下他只得简单地说:“是的,是的,谢谢你,妈妈,我这会儿正在起床呢。”隔着木门,外面一定听不到格里高尔声音的变化,因为他母亲听到这些话也满意了,就拖着步子走了开去。然而这场简短的对话使家里人都知道格里高尔还在屋子里,这是出乎他们意料之外的,于是在侧边的一扇门上立刻就响起了他父亲的叩门声,很轻,不过用的却是拳头。“格里高尔,格里高尔,”他喊到,“你怎么啦?”过了一小会儿他又用更低沉的声音催促道:“格里高尔!格里高尔!”在另一侧的门上他的妹妹也用轻轻的悲哀的声音问:“格里高尔,你不舒服吗?要不要什么东西?”他同时回答了他们两个人:“我马上就好了。”他把声音发得更清晰,说完一个字过一会儿才说另一个字,竭力使他的声音显得正常。于是他父亲走回去吃他的早饭了,他妹妹却低声地说:“格里高尔,开开门吧,求求你。”可是他并不想开门,所以暗自庆幸自己由于时常旅行,他养成了晚上锁住所有门的习惯。即使回到家里也是这样。

    首先他要静悄悄地不受打扰地起床,穿好衣服,最要紧的是吃饱早饭,再考虑下一步该怎么办,因为他非常明白,躺在床上瞎想一气是想不出什么名堂来的。他还记得过去也许是因为睡觉姿势不好,躺在床上时往往会觉得这儿那儿隐隐作痛,及至起来,就知道纯属心理作用,所以他殷切地盼望今天早晨的幻觉会逐渐消逝。他也深信,他之所以变声音不是因为别的而仅仅是重感冒的朕兆,这是旅行推销员的职业病。

    要掀掉被子很容易,他只需把身子稍稍一抬被子就自己滑下来了。可是下一个动作就非常之困难,特别是因为他的身子宽得出奇。他得要有手和胳臂才能让自己坐起来;可是他有的只是无数细小的腿,它们一刻不停地向四面八方挥动,而他自己却完全无法控制。他想屈起其中的一条腿,可是他偏偏伸得笔直;等他终于让它听从自己的指挥时,所有别的腿却莫名其妙地乱动不已。“总是呆在床上有什么意思呢。”格里高尔自言自语地说。

    他想,下身先下去一定可以使自己离床,可是他还没有见过自己的下身,脑子里根本没有概念,不知道要移动下身真是难上加难,挪动起来是那样的迟缓;所以到最后,他烦死了,就用尽全力鲁莽地把身子一甩,不料方向算错,重重地撞在床脚上,一阵彻骨的痛楚使他明白,如今他身上最敏感的地方也许正是他的下身。

    于是他就打算先让上身离床,他小心翼翼地把头部一点点挪向床沿。这却毫不困难,他的身驱虽然又宽又大,也终于跟着头部移动了。可是,等到头部终于悬在床边上,他又害怕起来,不敢再前进了,因为,老实说,如果他就这样让自己掉下去,不摔坏脑袋才怪呢。他现在最要紧的是保持清醒,特别是现在;他宁愿继续待在床上。

    可是重复了几遍同样的努力以后,他深深地叹了一口气,还是恢复了原来的姿势躺着,一面瞧他那些细腿在难以置信地更疯狂地挣扎;格里高尔不知道如何才能摆脱这种荒唐的混乱处境,他就再一次告诉自己,待在床上是不行的,最最合理的做法还是冒一切危险来实现离床这个极渺茫的希望。可是同时他也没有忘记提醒自己,冷静地,极其冷静地考虑到最最微小的可能性还是比不顾一切地蛮干强得多。这时节,他竭力集中眼光望向窗外,可是不幸得很,早晨的浓雾把狭街对面的房子也都裹上了,看来天气一时不会好转,这就使他更加得不到鼓励和安慰。“已经七点钟了,”闹钟再度敲响时,他对自己说,“已经七点钟了,可是雾还这么重。”有片刻工夫,他静静地躺着,轻轻地呼吸着,仿佛这样一养神什么都会恢复正常似的。

    可是接着他又对自己说:“七点一刻前我无论如何非得离开床不可。到那时一定会有人从公司里来找我,因为不到七点公司就开门了。”于是他开始有节奏地来回晃动自己的整个身子,想把自己甩出床去。倘若他这样翻下床去,可以昂起脑袋,头部不至于受伤。他的背似乎很硬,看来跌在地毯上并不打紧。他最担心的还是自己控制不了的巨大响声,这声音一定会在所有的房间里引起焦虑,即使不是恐惧。可是,他还是得冒这个险。

    当他已经半个身子探到床外的时候——这个新方法与其说是苦事,不如说是游戏,因为他只需来回晃动,逐渐挪过去就行了——他忽然想起如果有人帮忙,这件事该是多么简单。两个身强力壮的人——他想到了他的父亲和那个使女——就足够了;他们只需把胳臂伸到他那圆鼓鼓的背后,抬他下床,放下他们的负担,然后耐心地等他在地板上翻过身来就行了,一碰到地板他的腿自然会发挥作用的。那么,姑且不管所有的门都是锁着的,他是否真的应该叫人帮忙呢?尽管处境非常困难,想到这一层,他却禁不住透出一丝微笑。

    他使劲地摇动着,身子已经探出不少,快要失去平衡了,他非得鼓足勇气采取决定性的步骤了,因为再过五分钟就是七点一刻——正在这时,前门的门铃响了起来。“是公司里派什么人来了。”他这么想,身子就随之而发僵,可是那些细小的腿却动弹得更快了。一时之间周围一片静默。“他们不愿开门。”格里高尔怀着不合常情的希望自言自语道。可是使女当然还是跟往常一样踏着沉重的步子去开门了。格里高尔听到客人的第一声招呼就马上知道这是谁——是秘书主任亲自出马了。真不知自己生就什么命,竟落到给这样一家公司当差,只要有一点小小的差错,马上就会招来最大的怀疑!在这一个所有的职员全是无赖的公司里,岂不是只有他一个人忠心耿耿吗?他早晨只占用公司两三个小时,不是就给良心折磨得几乎要发疯,真的下不了床吗?如果确有必要来打听他出了什么事,派个学徒来不也够了吗——难道秘书主任非得亲自出马,以便向全家人,完全无辜的一家人表示,这个可疑的情况只有他自己那样的内行来调查才行吗?与其说格里高尔下了决心,倒不如说他因为想到这些事非常激动,因而用尽全力把自己甩出了床外。砰的一声很响,但总算没有响得吓人。地毯把他坠落的声音减弱了几分,他的背也不如他所想象的那么毫无弹性,所以声音很闷,不惊动人。只是他不够小心,头翘得不够高,还是在地板上撞了一下;他扭了扭脑袋,痛苦而忿懑地把头挨在地板上磨蹭着。

    “那里有什么东西掉下来了。”秘书主任在左面房间里说。格里高尔试图设想,今天他身上发生的事有一天也让秘书主任碰上了;谁也不敢担保不会出这样的事。可是仿佛给他的设想一个粗暴的回答似的,秘书主任在隔壁的房间里坚定地走了几步,他那漆皮鞋子发出了吱嘎吱嘎的声音。从右面的房间里,他妹妹用耳语向他通报消息:“格里高尔,秘书主任来了。”“我知道了。”格里高尔低声嘟哝道;但是没有勇气提高嗓门让妹妹听到他的声音。

    “格里高尔,”这时候,父亲在左边房间里说话了,“秘书主任来了,他要知道为什么你没能赶上早晨的火车。我们也不知道怎么跟他说。另外,他还要亲自和你谈话。所以,请你开门吧。他度量大,对你房间里的凌乱不会见怪的。”“早上好,萨姆沙先生,”与此同时,秘书主任和蔼地招呼道。“他不舒服呢,”母亲对客人说,这时他父亲继续隔着门在说话,“他不舒服,先生,相信我吧。他还能为了什么原因误车呢!这孩子只知道操心公事。他晚上从来不出去,连我瞧着都要生气了;这几天来他没有出差,可他天天晚上都守在家里。他只是安安静静地坐在桌子旁边,看看报,或是把火车时刻表翻来覆去地看。他唯一的消遣就是做木工活儿。比如说,他花了两三个晚上刻了一个小镜框;您看到它那么漂亮一定会感到惊奇;这镜框挂在他房间里;再过一分钟等格里高尔打开门您就会看到了。您的光临真叫我高兴,先生;我们怎么也没法使他开门;他真是固执;我敢说他一定是病了,虽然他早晨硬说没病。”——“我马上来了,”格里高尔慢吞吞地小心翼翼地说,可是却寸步也没有移动,生怕漏过他们谈话中的每一个字。“我也想不出有什么别的原因,太太,”秘书主任说,“我希望不是什么大病。虽然另一方面我不得不说,不知该算福气还是晦气,我们这些做买卖的往往就得不把这些小毛病当作一回事,因为买卖嘛总是要做的。”——“喂,秘书主任现在能进来了吗?”格里高尔的父亲不耐烦地问,又敲起门来了。“不行。”格里高尔回答。这声拒绝以后,在左面房间里是一阵令人痛苦的寂静;右面房间里他妹妹啜泣起来了。

    他妹妹为什么不和别的人在一起呢?她也许是刚刚起床,还没有穿衣服吧。那么,她为什么哭呢?是因为他不起床让秘书主任进来吗,是因为他有丢掉差使的危险吗,是因为老板又要开口向他的父母讨还旧债吗?这些显然都是眼前不用担心的事情。格里高尔仍旧在家里,丝毫没有弃家出走的念头。的确,他现在暂时还躺在地毯上,知道他的处境的人当然不会盼望他让秘书主任走进来。可是这点小小的失礼以后尽可以用几句漂亮的辞令解释过去,格里高尔不见得马上就给辞退。格里高尔觉得,就目前来说,他们与其对他抹鼻子流泪苦苦哀求,还不如别打扰他的好。可是,当然啦,他们的不明情况使他们大惑不解,也说明了他们为什么有这样的举动。

    “萨姆沙先生,”秘书主任现在提高了嗓门说,“您这是怎么回事?您这样把自己关在房间里,光是回答‘是’和‘不是’,毫无必要地引起您父母极大的忧虑,又极严重地疏忽了——这我只不过顺便提一句——疏忽了公事方面的职责。我现在以您父母和您经理的名义和您说话,我正式要求您立刻给我一个明确的解释。我真没想到,我真没想到。我原来还认为您是个安分守己、稳妥可靠的人,可您现在却突然决心想让自己丢丑。经理今天早晨还对我暗示您不露面的原因可能是什么——他提到了最近交给您管的现款——我还几乎要以自己的名誉向他担保这根本不可能呢。可是现在我才知道您真是执拗得可以,从现在起,我丝毫也不想袒护您了。您在公司里的地位并不是那么稳固的。这些话我本来想私下里对您说的,可是既然您这样白白糟蹋我的时间,我就不懂为什么您的父母不应该听到这些话了。近来您的工作叫人很不满意;当然,目前买卖并不是旺季,这我们也承认,可是一年里整整一个季度一点儿买卖也不做,这是不行的,萨姆沙先生,这是完全不应该的。”

    “可是,先生,”格里高尔喊道,他控制不住了,激动得忘记了一切,“我这会儿正要来开门。一点儿小小的不舒服,一阵头晕使我起不了床。我现在还躺在床上呢。不过我已经好了。我现在正要下床。再等我一两分钟吧!我不像自己所想的那样健康。不过我已经好了,真的。这种小毛病难道就能打垮我不成!我昨天晚上还好好儿的,这我父亲母亲也可以告诉您,不,应该说我昨天晚上就感觉到了一些预兆。我的样子想必已经不对劲了。您要问为什么我不向办公室报告!可是人总以为一点点不舒服一定能顶过去,用不着请假在家休息。哦,先生,别伤我父母的心吧!您刚才怪罪于我的事都是没有根据的;从来没有谁这样说过我。也许您还没有看到我最近兜来的定单吧。至少,我还能赶上八点钟的火车呢,休息了这几个钟点我已经好多了。千万不要因为我而把您耽搁在这儿,先生;我马上就会开始工作的,这有劳您转告经理,在他面前还得请您多替我美言几句呢!”

    格里高尔一口气说着,自己也搞不清楚自己说了些什么,也许是因为有了床上的那些锻炼,格里高尔没费多大气力就来到柜子旁边,打算依靠柜子使自己直立起来。他的确是想开门,的确是想出去和秘书主任谈话的;他很想知道,大家这么坚持以后,看到了他又会说些什么。要是他们都大吃一惊,那么责任就再也不在他身上,他可以得到安静了。如果他们完全不在意,那么他也根本不必不安,只要真的赶紧上车站去搭八点钟的车就行了。起先,他好几次从光滑的柜面上滑下来,可是最后,在一使劲之后,他终于站直了;现在他也不管下身疼得像火烧一般了。接着他让自己靠向附近一张椅子的背部,用他那些细小的腿抓住了椅背的边。这使他得以控制自己的身体,他不再说话,因为这时候他听见秘书主任又开口了。

    “你们听得懂哪个字吗?”秘书主任问,“他不见得在开我们的玩笑吧?”“哦,天哪,”他母亲声泪俱下地喊道,“也许他病害得不轻,倒是我们在折磨他呢。葛蕾特!葛蕾特!”接着她嚷道。“什么事,妈妈?”他妹妹打那一边的房间里喊道。她们就这样隔着格里高尔的房间对嚷起来。“你得马上去请医生。格里高尔病了。去请医生,快点儿。你没听见他说话的声音吗?”“这不是人的声音。”秘书主任说,跟母亲的尖叫声一比他的嗓音显得格外低沉。“安娜!安娜!”他父亲从客厅向厨房里喊道,一面还拍着手,“马上去找个锁匠来!”于是两个姑娘奔跑得裙子飕飕响地穿过了客厅——他妹妹怎能这么快就穿好衣服的呢?——接着又猛然大开了前门,没有听见门重新关上的声音;她们显然听任它洞开着,什么人家出了不幸的事情就总是这样。

    格里高尔现在倒镇静多了。显然,他发出来的声音人家再也听不懂了,虽然他自己听来很清楚,甚至比以前更清楚,这也许是因为他的耳朵变得能适应这种声音了。不过至少现在大家相信他有什么地方不太妙,都准备来帮助他了。这些初步措施将带来的积极效果使他感到安慰。他觉得自己又重新进入人类的圈子,对大夫和锁匠都寄于了莫大的希望,却没有怎样分清两者之间的区别。为了使自己在即将到来的重要谈话中声音尽可能清晰些,他稍微嗽了嗽嗓子,他当然尽量压低声音,因为就连他自己听起来,这声音也不像人的咳嗽。这时候,隔壁房间里一片寂静。也许他的父母正陪了秘书主任坐在桌旁,在低声商谈,也许他们都靠在门上细细谛听呢。

    格里高尔慢慢地把椅子推向门边,接着便放开椅子,抓住了门来支撑自己——他那些细腿的脚底上倒是颇有粘性的——他在门上靠了一会儿,喘过一口气来。接着他开始用嘴巴来转动插在锁孔里的钥匙。不幸的是,他并没有什么牙齿——他得用什么来咬住钥匙呢?——不过他的下颚倒好像非常结实;靠着这下颚总算转动了钥匙,他准是不小心弄伤了什么地方,因为有一股棕色的液体从他嘴里流出来,淌过钥匙,滴到地上。“你们听,”门后的秘书主任说,“他在转动钥匙了。”这对格里高尔是个很大的鼓励;不过他们应该都来给他打气,他的父亲母亲都应该喊:“加油,格里高尔。”他们应该大声喊道:“坚持下去,咬紧钥匙!”他相信他们都在全神贯注地关心自己的努力,就集中全力死命咬住钥匙。钥匙需要转动时,他便用嘴巴衔着它,自己也绕着锁孔转了一圈,好把钥匙扭过去,或者不如说,用全身的重量使它转动。终于屈服的锁发出响亮的卡嗒一声,使格里高尔大为高兴。他深深地舒了一口气,对自己说:“这样一来我就不用锁匠了。”接着就把头搁在门柄上,想把门整个打开。门是向他自己这边拉的,所以虽然已经打开,人家还是瞧不见他。他得慢慢地从对开的那半扇门后面把身子挪出来,而且得非常小心,以免背脊直挺挺地跌倒在房间里。他正在困难地挪动自己,顾不上作任何观察,却听到秘书主任“哦!”的一声大叫——发出来的声音像一股猛风——现在他可以看见那个人了,他站得靠近门口,一只手遮在张大的嘴上,慢慢地往后退去,仿佛有什么无形的强大压力在驱逐他似的。格里高尔的母亲——虽然秘书主任在场,她的头发仍然没有梳好,还是乱七八糟地竖着——她先是双手合掌瞧瞧他父亲,接着向格里高尔走了两步,随即倒在地上,裙子摊了开来,脸垂到胸前,完全看不见了。他父亲握紧拳头,一副恶狠狠的样子,仿佛要把格里高尔打回到房间里去,接着他又犹豫不定地向起坐室扫了一眼,然后把双手遮住眼睛,哭泣起来,连他那宽阔的胸膛都在起伏不定

    格里高尔没有接着往起坐室走去,却靠在那半扇关紧的门的后面,所以他只有半个身子露在外面,还侧着探在外面的头去看别人。这时候天更亮了,可以清清楚楚地看到街对面一幢长得没有尽头的深灰色的建筑——这是一所医院——上面惹眼地开着一排排呆板的窗子;雨还在下,不过已成为一滴滴看得清的大颗粒了。大大小小的早餐盆碟摆了一桌子,对于格里高尔的父亲,早餐是一天里最重要的一顿饭,他一边看各式各样的报纸,一边吃,要吃上好几个钟头,在格里高尔正对面的墙上挂着一幅他服兵役时的照片,当时他是少尉,他的手按在剑上,脸上挂着无忧无虑的笑容,分明要人家尊敬他的军人风度和制服。前厅的门开着,大门也开着,可以一直看到住宅前的院子和最下面的几级楼梯。

    “好吧,”格里高尔说,他完全明白自己是唯一多少保持着镇静的人,“我立刻穿上衣服,等包好样品就动身,您是否还容许我去呢?您瞧,先生,我并不是冥顽不化的人,我很愿意工作;出差是很辛苦的,但我不出差就活不下去。您上哪儿去,先生? 去办公室?是吗? 我这些情形您能如实地反映上去吗?人总有暂时不能胜任工作的时候,不过这时正需要想起他过去的成绩。而且还要想到以后他又恢复了工作能力的时候,他一定会干得更勤恳更用心。我一心想忠诚地为老板做事,这您也很清楚。何况,我还要供养我的父母和妹妹。我现在景况十分困难,不过我会重新挣脱出来的。请您千万不要火上加油。在公司里请一定帮我说几句好话。旅行推销员在公司里不讨人喜欢,这我知道。大家以为他们赚的是大钱,过的是逍遥自在的日子。这种成见也犯不着去纠正。可是您呢,先生,比公司里所有的人看得都全面,是的,让我私下里告诉您,您比老板本人还全面,他是东家,当然可以凭自己的好恶随便不喜欢哪个职员。您知道得最清楚,旅行推销员几乎长年不在办公室,他们自然很容易成为闲话、怪罪和飞短流长的目标。可他自己却几乎完全不知道,所以防不胜防。直待他精疲力竭地转完一个圈子回到家里,这才亲身体验到连原因都无法找寻的恶果落到了自己身上。先生,先生,您不能不说我一句好话就走啊,请表明您觉得我至少还有几分是对的呀!”

    可是格里高尔才说头几个字,秘书主任就已经踉跄倒退,只是张着嘴唇,侧过颤抖的肩膀直勾勾地瞪着他。格里高尔说话时,他片刻也没有站定,却偷偷地向门口踅去,眼睛始终盯紧了格里高尔,只是每次只移动一寸,仿佛存在某项不准离开房间的禁令一般。好不容易退入了前厅,他最后一步跨出起坐室时动作好猛,真像是他的脚跟刚给火烧着了。他一到前厅就伸出右手向楼梯跑去,好似那边有什么神秘的救星在等待他。

    格里高尔明白,如果要保住他在公司里的职位,不想砸掉饭碗,那就决不能让秘书主任抱着这样的心情回去。他的父母对这一点不太了然;多年以来,他们已经深信格里高尔在这家公司里要待上一辈子的,再说,他们的心里已经完全放在当前的不幸事件上,根本无法考虑将来的事。可是格里高尔却考虑到了。一定得留住秘书信任,安慰他,劝告他,最后还要说服他;格里高尔和他一家人的前途全系在这上面呢!只要妹妹在场就好了!她很聪明;当格里高尔还安静地仰在床上的时候她就已经哭了。总是那么偏袒女性的秘书主任一定会乖乖地听她的话;她会关上大门,在前厅里把他说得不再惧怕。可是她偏偏不在。格里高尔只得自己来应付当前的局面。他没有想到自己的身体究竟有什么活动能力,也没有想一想他的话人家仍旧很可能听不懂,而且简直根本听不懂,就放开了那扇门,挤过门口,迈步向秘书主任走去,而后者正可笑地用两只手抱住楼梯的栏杆;格里高尔刚要摸索可以支撑的东西,忽然轻轻喊了一声,身子趴了下来,他那许多只腿着了地。还没等全部落地,他的身子已经获得了安稳的感觉,从早晨以来,这还是第一次;他脚底下现在是结结实实的地板了;他高兴地注意到,他的腿完全听众指挥;它们甚至努力地把他朝他心里所想的任何方向带去;他简直要相信,他所有的痛苦总解脱的时候终于快来了。可是就在这一刹那间,当他摇摇摆摆一心想动弹的时候,当他离开母亲不远,躺在她对面地板上的时候,本来似乎已经完全瘫痪的母亲,这时却霍地跳了起来,伸直两臂,张开了所有的手指,喊道:“救命啊,老天爷,救命啊!”一面又低下头来,仿佛想把格里高尔看得更清楚些,同时又偏偏身不由已地一直往后退,根本没顾到她后面有张摆满了食物的桌子;她撞上桌子,又糊里糊涂倏地坐了上去,似乎全然没有注意她旁边那把大咖啡壶已经打翻,咖啡也汩汩地流到了地毯上。

    “妈妈,妈妈。”格里高尔低声地说道,抬起头来看着她。这时候已经完全把秘书主任撇在脑后;他的嘴却忍不住咂巴起来,因为他看到了淌出来的咖啡。这使他母亲再一次尖叫起来。她从桌子旁边逃开,倒在急忙来扶她的父亲的怀抱里。可是格里高尔现在顾不得他的父母;秘书主任已经在走下楼梯了,他的下巴探在栏杆上扭过头来最后回顾了一眼。格里高尔急走几步,想尽可能追上他;可是秘书主任一定是看出了他的意图,因为他往下蹦了几级,随即消失了;可是还在不断地叫嚷“噢!”回声传遍了整个楼梯。不幸得很,秘书主任的逃走仿佛使一直比较镇定的父亲也慌乱万分,因为他非但自己不去追赶那人,或者至少别去阻拦格里高尔去追逐,反而右手操起秘书主任连同帽子和大衣一起留在一张椅子上的手杖,左手从桌子上抓起一张大报纸,一面顿脚,一面挥动手杖和报纸,要把格里高尔赶回到房间里去。格里高尔的请求全然无效,事实上别人根本不理解;不管他怎样谦恭地低下头去,他父亲反而把脚顿得更响。另一边,他母亲不顾天气寒冷,打开了一扇窗子,双手掩住脸,尽量把身子往外探。一阵劲风从街上刮到楼梯,窗帘掀了起来,桌上的报纸吹得拍达拍达乱响,有几张吹落在地板上。格里高尔的父亲无情地把他往后赶,一面嘘嘘叫着,简直像个野人。可是格里高尔还不熟悉怎么往后退,所以走得很慢。如果有机会掉过头,他能很快回进房间的,但是他怕转身的迟缓会使他父亲更加生气,他父亲手中的手杖随时会照准他的背上或头上给以狠狠的一击的,到后来,他竟不知怎么办才好,因为他绝望地注意到,倒退着走连方向都掌握不了;因此,他一面始终不安地侧过头瞅着父亲,一面开始掉转身子,他想尽量快些,事实上却非常迂缓。也许父亲发现了他的良好意图,因此并不干涉他,只是在他挪动时远远地用手杖尖拨拨他。只要父亲不再发出那种无法忍受的嘘嘘声就好了。这简直要使格里高尔发狂。他已经完全转过去了,只是因为给嘘声弄得心烦意乱,甚至转得过了头。最后他总算对准了门口,可是他的身体又偏巧宽得过不去。但是在目前精神状态下的父亲,当然不会想到去打开另外半扇门好让格里高尔得以通过。他父亲脑子里只有一件事,尽快把格里高尔赶回房间。让格里高尔直立起来,侧身进入房间,就要做许多麻烦的准备,父亲是绝不会答应的。他现在发出的声音更加响亮,他拼命催促格里高尔往前走,好像他前面没有什么障碍似的;格里高尔听到他后面响着的声音不再像是父亲一个人的了;现在更不是闹着玩的了,所以格里高尔不顾一切狠命向门口挤去。他身子的一边拱了起来,倾斜地卡在门口,腰部挤伤了,在洁白的门上留下了可憎的斑点,不一会儿他就给夹住了,不管怎么挣扎,还是丝毫动弹不得,他一边的腿在空中颤抖地舞动,另一边的腿却在地上给压得十分疼痛——这时,他父亲从后面使劲地推了他一把,实际上这倒是支援,使他一直跌进了房间中央,汩汩地流着血。在他后面,门砰的一声用手杖关上了,屋子里终于恢复了寂静。

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