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中英:月亮和六便士(11)

2006-08-22 21:08

    Chapter XI

    During the journey I thought over my errand with misgiving. Now that I was free from the spectacle of Mrs. Strickland's distress I could consider the matter more calmly. I was puzzled by the contradictions that I saw in her behaviour. She was very unhappy, but to excite my sympathy she was able to make a show of her unhappiness. It was evident that she had been prepared to weep, for she had provided herself with a sufficiency of handkerchiefs; I admired her forethought, but in retrospect it made her tears perhaps less moving. I could not decide whether she desired the return of her husband because she loved him, or because she dreaded the tongue of scandal; and I was perturbed by the suspicion that the anguish of love contemned was alloyed in her broken heart with the pangs, sordid to my young mind, of wounded vanity. I had not yet learnt how contradictory is human nature; I did not know how much pose there is in the sincere, how much baseness in the noble, nor how much goodness in the reprobate.

    But there was something of an adventure in my trip, and my spirits rose as I approached Paris. I saw myself, too, from the dramatic standpoint, and I was pleased with my role of the trusted friend bringing back the errant husband to his forgiving wife. I made up my mind to see Strickland the following evening, for I felt instinctively that the hour must be chosen with delicacy. An appeal to the emotions is little likely to be effectual before luncheon. My own thoughts were then constantly occupied with love, but I never could imagine connubial bliss till after tea.

    I enquired at my hotel for that in which Charles Strickland was living. It was called the Hotel des Belges. But the concierge, somewhat to my surprise, had never heard of it. I had understood from Mrs. Strickland that it was a large and sumptuous place at the back of the Rue de Rivoli. We looked it out in the directory. The only hotel of that name was in the Rue des Moines. The quarter was not fashionable; it was not even respectable. I shook my head.

    "I'm sure that's not it, " I said.

    The concierge shrugged his shoulders. There was no other hotel of that name in Paris. It occurred to me that Strickland had concealed his address, after all. In giving his partner the one I knew he was perhaps playing a trick on him. I do not know why I had an inkling that it would appeal to Strickland's sense of humour to bring a furious stockbroker over to Paris on a fool's errand to an ill-famed house in a mean street. Still, I thought I had better go and see. Next day about six o'clock I took a cab to the Rue des Moines, but dismissed it at the corner, since I preferred to walk to the hotel and look at it before I went in. It was a street of small shops subservient to the needs of poor people, and about the middle of it, on the left as I walked down, was the Hotel des Belges. My own hotel was modest enough, but it was magnificent in comparison with this. It was a tall, shabby building, that cannot have been painted for years, and it had so bedraggled an air that the houses on each side of it looked neat and clean. The dirty windows were all shut. It was not here that Charles Strickland lived in guilty splendour with the unknown charmer for whose sake he had abandoned honour and duty. I was vexed, for I felt that I had been made a fool of, and I nearly turned away without making an enquiry. I went in only to be able to tell Mrs. Strickland that I had done my best.

    The door was at the side of a shop. It stood open, and just within was a sign: Bureau au premier. I walked up narrow stairs, and on the landing found a sort of box, glassed in, within which were a desk and a couple of chairs. There was a bench outside, on which it might be presumed the night porter passed uneasy nights. There was no one about, but under an electric bell was written Garcon. I rang, and presently a waiter appeared. He was a young man with furtive eyes and a sullen look. He was in shirt-sleeves and carpet slippers.

    I do not know why I made my enquiry as casual as possible.

    "Does Mr. Strickland live here by any chance?" I asked.

    "Number thirty-two. On the sixth floor. "

    I was so surprised that for a moment I did not answer.

    "Is he in?"

    The waiter looked at a board in the bureau.

    "He hasn't left his key. Go up and you'll see. "

    I thought it as well to put one more question.

    "Madame est la?"

    "Monsieur est seul. "

    The waiter looked at me suspiciously as I made my way upstairs. They were dark and airless. There was a foul and musty smell. Three flights up a Woman in a dressing-gown, with touzled hair, opened a door and looked at me silently as I passed. At length I reached the sixth floor, and knocked at the door numbered thirty-two. There was a sound within, and the door was partly opened. Charles Strickland stood before me. He uttered not a word. He evidently did not know me.

    I told him my name. I tried my best to assume an airy manner.

    "You don't remember me. I had the pleasure of dining with you last July. "

    "Come in, " he said cheerily. "I'm delighted to see you. Take a pew. "

    I entered. It was a very small room, overcrowded with furniture of the style which the French know as Louis Philippe. There was a large wooden bedstead on which was a billowing red eiderdown, and there was a large wardrobe, a round table, a very small washstand, and two stuffed chairs covered with red rep. Everything was dirty and shabby. There was no sign of the abandoned luxury that Colonel MacAndrew had so confidently described. Strickland threw on the floor the clothes that burdened one of the chairs, and I sat down on it.

    "What can I do for you?" he asked.

    In that small room he seemed even bigger than I remembered him. He wore an old Norfolk jacket, and he had not shaved for several days. When last I saw him he was spruce enough, but he looked ill at ease: now, untidy and ill-kempt, he looked perfectly at home. I did not know how he would take the remark I had prepared.

    "I've come to see you on behalf of your wife. "

    "I was just going out to have a drink before dinner. You'd better come too. Do you like absinthe?"

    "I can drink it. "

    "Come on, then. "

    He put on a bowler hat much in need of brushing.

    "We might dine together. You owe me a dinner, you know. "

    "Certainly. Are you alone?"

    I flattered myself that I had got in that important question very naturally.

    "Oh yes. In point of fact I've not spoken to a soul for three days. My French isn't exactly brilliant. "

    I wondered as I preceded him downstairs what had happened to the little lady in the tea-shop. Had they quarrelled already, or was his infatuation passed? It seemed hardly likely if, as appeared, he had been taking steps for a year to make his desperate plunge. We walked to the Avenue de Clichy, and sat down at one of the tables on the pavement of a large cafe.

    旅途中,我仔细考虑了一下这次去巴黎的差事,不觉又有些疑虑。现在我的眼睛已经看不到思特里克兰德太太一副痛楚不堪的样子,好象能够更冷静地考虑这件事了。我在思特里克兰德太太的举动里发现一些矛盾,感到疑惑不解。她非常不幸,但是为了激起我的同情心,她也很会把她的不幸表演给我看。她显然准备要大哭一场,因为她预备好大量的手帕;她这种深思远虑虽然使我佩服,可是如今回想起来,她的眼泪的感人力量却不免减低了。我看不透她要自己丈夫回来是因为爱他呢,还是因为怕别人议论是非;我还怀疑使她肠断心伤的失恋之痛是否也搀杂着虚荣心受到损害的悲伤(这对我年轻的心灵是一件龌龊的事);这种疑心也使我很惶惑。我那时还不了解人性多么矛盾,我不知道真挚中含有多少做作,高尚中蕴藏着多少卑鄙,或者,即使在邪恶里也找得着美德。

    但是我这次到巴黎去是带着一定冒险成分的,当我离目的地越来越近的时候,我的情绪也逐渐高起来。我也从做戏的角度看待自己,对我扮演的这个角色——一个受人衷心相托的朋友把误入歧途的丈夫带回给宽恕的妻子——非常欣赏。我决定第二天晚上再去找思特里克兰德,因为我本能地觉得,必须细致盘算,并选定这一时间。如果想从感情上说动一个人,在午饭以前是很少会成功的。在那些年代里,我自己就常常遐想一些爱情的事,但是只有吃过晚茶后我才能幻想美好婚姻的幸福。

    我在自己落脚的旅馆打听了一个查理斯。思特里克兰德住的地方。他住的那家旅馆名叫比利时旅馆。我很奇怪,看门人竟没听说过这个地方。我从思特里克兰德太太那里听说,这家旅馆很大、很阔气,坐落在利渥里路后边。我们查了一下旅馆商号指南。叫这个名字的旅馆只有一家,在摩纳路。这不是有钱人居住的地区,甚至不是一个体面的地方。我摇了摇头。

    “绝对不是这一家。”我说。

    看门人耸了耸肩膀。巴黎再没有另一家叫这个名字的旅馆了。我想起来,思特里克兰德本来是不想叫别人知道他行踪的。他给他的合股人这个地址也许是在同他开玩笑。不知道为什么,我暗想这很合思特里克兰德的幽默感,把一个怒气冲冲的证券交易人骗到巴黎一条下流街道上的很不名誉的房子里去,出尽洋相。虽然如此,我觉得我还是得去看一看。第二天六点钟左右我叫了一辆马车,到了摩纳街。我在街角上把车打发掉,我想我还是步行到旅馆,先在外面看看再进去。这一条街两旁都是为穷人开设的小店铺,路走了一半,在我拐进来的左面,就是比利时旅馆。我自己住的是一家普普通通的旅馆,可是同这家旅馆比起来简直宏伟极了。这是一座破烂的小楼,多年没有粉刷过,龌龌龊龊,相形之下,两边的房子倒显得又干净又整齐。肮脏的窗子全部关着。查理斯。思特里克兰德同那位勾引他丢弃了名誉和职责的美女显然不会在这样一个地方寻欢作乐,享受他们罪恶而豪华的生活。我非常恼火,觉得自己分明是被耍弄了。我差一点连问都不问就扭头而去。我走进去只是为了事后好向思特里克兰德太太交待,告诉她我已经尽了最大的努力。

    旅馆的入口在一家店铺的旁边,门开着,一进门便有一块牌子:账房在二楼①。我沿着狭窄的楼梯走上去,在楼梯平台上看到一间用玻璃门窗隔起来的小阁子,里面摆着一张办公桌和两三把椅子。阁子外面有一条长凳,晚上守门人多半就在这里过夜。附近没有一个人影,但是我在一个电铃按钮下面看到有侍者②字样。我按了一下,马上从什么地方钻出一个人来。这人很年轻,贼眉鼠眼,满脸丧气,身上只穿一件衬衫,趿拉着一双毡子拖鞋。

    ①②原文为法语

    我自己不知道为什么我向他打听思特里克兰德时要装出一副漫不经心的样子。

    “这里住没住着一位思特里克兰德先生?”我问。

    “三十二号,六楼。”

    我大吃一惊,一时没有答出话来。

    “他在家吗?”

    侍者看了看账房里的一块木板。

    “他的钥匙不在这里。自己上去看看吧。”

    我想不妨再问他一个问题。

    “太太也在这里吗③?”

    ③原文为法语。

    “只有先生一个人④。”

    ④原文为法语。

    当我走上楼梯的时候,侍者一直怀疑地打量着我。楼梯又闷又暗,一股污浊的霉味扑鼻而来。三层楼梯上面有一扇门开了,我经过的时候,一个披着睡衣、头发蓬松的女人一声不吭地盯着我。最后,我走到六楼,在三十二号房门上敲了敲。屋里响动了一下,房门开了一条缝。查理斯。思特里克兰德出现在我面前。他一语不发地站在那里,显然没有认出我是谁来。

    我通报了姓名。我尽量摆出一副大大咧咧的样子。

    “你不记得我了。今年六月我荣幸地在你家吃过饭。”

    “进来吧,”他兴致很高地说,“很高兴见到你。坐下。”

    我走进去。这是一间很小的房间,几件法国人称之为路易。菲力浦式样的家具把屋子挤得转不过身来。有一张大木床,上面堆放着一床鼓鼓囊囊的大红鸭绒被,一张大衣柜,一张圆桌,一个很小的脸盆架,两把软座椅子,包着红色棱纹平布。没有一件东西不是肮脏、破烂的。麦克安德鲁上校煞有介事地描述的那种浪荡浮华这里连一点儿影子也看不到。思特里克兰德把乱堆在一把椅子上的衣服扔到地上,叫我坐下。

    “你来找我有事吗?”他问。

    在这间小屋子里他好象比我记忆中的更加高大。他穿着一件诺弗克式的旧上衣,胡须有很多天没有刮了。我上次见到他,他修饰得整齐干净,可是看去却不很自在;现在他邋里邋遢,神态却非常自然。我不知道他听了我准备好的一番话以后会有什么反应。

    “我是受你妻子的嘱托来看你的。”

    “我正预备在吃晚饭以前到外边去喝点什么。你最好同我一起去。你喜欢喝苦艾酒?”

    “可以喝一点儿。”

    “那咱们就走吧”

    他戴上一顶圆顶礼帽;帽子也早就该刷洗了。

    “我们可以一起吃饭。你还欠我一顿饭呢,你知道。”

    “当然了。你就一个人吗?”

    我很得意,这样重要的一个问题我竟极其自然地提了出来。

    “啊,是的。说实在的,我已经有三天没有同人讲话了。我的法文很不高明。”

    当我领先走下楼梯的时候,我想起茶点店的那位女郎来,我很想知道她出了什么事了。是他们已经吵架了呢,还是他迷恋的热劲儿已经过去了?从我见到的光景看,很难相信他策划了一年只是为了这样没头没脑地窜到巴黎来。我们步行到克里舍林荫路,在一家大咖啡馆摆在人行道上的许多台子中拣了一张坐下。

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