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中英:月亮和六便士(56)

2006-08-22 21:49

    Chapter LVI

    Then two years more went by, or perhaps three, for time passes imperceptibly in Tahiti, and it is hard to keep count of it; but at last a message was brought to Dr. Coutras that Strickland was dying. Ata had waylaid the cart that took the mail into Papeete, and besought the man who drove it to go at once to the doctor. But the doctor was out when the summons came, and it was evening when he received it. It was impossible to start at so late an hour, and so it was not till next day soon after dawn that he set out. He arrived at Taravao, and for the last time tramped the seven kilometres that led to Ata's house. The path was overgrown, and it was clear that for years now it had remained all but untrodden. It was not easy to find the way. Sometimes he had to stumble along the bed of the stream, and sometimes he had to push through shrubs, dense and thorny; often he was obliged to climb over rocks in order to avoid the hornet-nests that hung on the trees over his head. The silence was intense.

    It was with a sigh of relief that at last he came upon the little unpainted house, extraordinarily bedraggled now, and unkempt; but here too was the same intolerable silence. He walked up, and a little boy, playing unconcernedly in the sunshine, started at his approach and fled quickly away: to him the stranger was the enemy. Dr. Coutras had a sense that the child was stealthily watching him from behind a tree. The door was wide open. He called out, but no one answered. He stepped in. He knocked at a door, but again there was no answer. He turned the handle and entered. The stench that assailed him turned him horribly sick. He put his handkerchief to his nose and forced himself to go in. The light was dim, and after the brilliant sunshine for a while he could see nothing. Then he gave a start. He could not make out where he was. He seemed on a sudden to have entered a magic world. He had a vague impression of a great primeval forest and of naked people walking beneath the trees. Then he saw that there were paintings on the walls.

    " Mon Dieu, I hope the sun hasn't affected me, " he muttered.

    A slight movement attracted his attention, and he saw that Ata was lying on the floor, sobbing quietly.

    "Ata, " he called. "Ata. "

    She took no notice. Again the beastly stench almost made him faint, and he lit a cheroot. His eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, and now he was seized by an overwhelming sensation as he stared at the painted walls. He knew nothing of pictures, but there was something about these that extraordinarily affected him. From floor to ceiling the walls were covered with a strange and elaborate composition. It was indescribably wonderful and mysterious. It took his breath away. It filled him with an emotion which he could not understand or analyse. He felt the awe and the delight which a man might feel who watched the beginning of a world. It was tremendous, sensual, passionate; and yet there was something horrible there, too, something which made him afraid. It was the work of a man who had delved into the hidden depths of nature and had discovered secrets which were beautiful and fearful too. It was the work of a man who knew things which it is unholy for men to know. There was something primeval there and terrible. It was not human. It brought to his mind vague recollections of black magic. It was beautiful and obscene.

    " Mon Dieu, this is genius. "

    The words were wrung from him, and he did not know he had spoken.

    Then his eyes fell on the bed of mats in the corner, and he went up, and he saw the dreadful, mutilated, ghastly object which had been Strickland. He was dead. Dr. Coutras made an effort of will and bent over that battered horror. Then he started violently, and terror blazed in his heart, for he felt that someone was behind him. It was Ata. He had not heard her get up. She was standing at his elbow, looking at what he looked at.

    "Good Heavens, my nerves are all distraught, " he said. "You nearly frightened me out of my wits. "

    He looked again at the poor dead thing that had been man, and then he started back in dismay.

    "But he was blind. "

    "Yes; he had been blind for nearly a year. "

    两年又过去了,也许是三年,因为在塔希提,时间总是不知不觉地流逝过去,没有人费心去计算。但是最后终于有人给库特拉斯医生带来个信儿,说是思特里克兰德很快就要死了。爱塔在路上拦住一辆往帕皮提递送邮件的马车,请求赶车的人立刻到医生那里去一趟。但是消息带到的时候,医生恰巧不在家。直到傍晚他才听到这个信儿。天已经太晚了,他当天无法动身;他是第二天清早才启程去的。他首先到了塔拉窝,然后下车步行;这是他最后一次走七公里的路到爱塔家去。小路几乎已被荒草遮住,看来已经有好几年没有行人的足迹了。路很不好走;有时候他得跋涉过一段河滩;有时候他得分开长满荆棘的茂密的矮树丛。有好几次他不得不从岩石上爬过去,为了躲避挂在头顶树枝上的野蜂窝。密林里万籁无声。

    最后他走到那座没有油漆过的木房子前面时,他长舒了一口气。这所房子现在已经破旧得不成样子,而且一片龌龊,不堪入目。迎接他的仍是一片无法忍受的寂静。他走到阳台上,一个小孩儿正在阳光底下玩儿,一看见他便飞快地跑掉了;在这个孩子的眼睛里,所有陌生人都是敌人。库特拉斯医生意识到孩子正躲在一棵树后面偷偷地看着他。房门敞开着。他叫了一声,但是没有人回答。他走了进去。他在另一扇门上敲了敲,仍然没有回答。他把门柄一扭便走进去。扑鼻而来的一股臭味几乎叫他呕吐出来。他用手帕堵着鼻子,硬逼着自己走进去。屋子里光线非常暗,从外面灿烂的阳光下走进来,一时他什么也看不见。当他的眼睛适应了室内的光线时,他吓了一大跳。他不知道自己走到什么地方来了,仿佛是,他突然走入了一个神奇的世界;矇矇眬眬中,他好象觉得自己正置身于一个原始大森林中,大树下面徜徉着一些赤身裸体的人。过了一会儿他才知道,他看到的是四壁上的巨大壁画。

    “上帝啊①,我不是被太阳晒昏了吧,”他喃喃自语道。

    ①原文为法语

    一个人影晃动了一下,引起他的注意,他发现爱塔正躺在地板上,低声呜咽着。

    “爱塔,”他喊道,“爱塔。”

    她没有理睬他。屋子里的腥臭味又一次差点儿把他熏倒,他点了一支方头雪茄。他的眼睛已经完全适应屋里的朦胧光线了。他凝视着墙上的绘画,心中激荡着无法控制的感情。他对于绘画并不怎么内行,但是墙上的这些画却使他感到激动。四面墙上,从地板一直到天花板,展开一幅奇特的、精心绘制的巨画,非常奇妙,也非常神秘。库特拉斯医生几乎连呼吸都停止了。他心中出现了一种既无法理解、又不能分析的感情。如果能够这样比较的话,也许一个人看到开天辟地之初就是怀着这种欣喜而又畏服的感觉的。这幅画具有压人的气势,它既是肉欲的,又充满无限热情。与此同时它又含着某种令人恐惧的成分,叫人看着心惊肉跳。绘制这幅巨作的人已经深入到大自然的隐秘中,探索到某种既美丽、又可怕的秘密。这个人知道了一般人所不该知道的事物。他画出来的是某种原始的、令人震骇的东西,是不属于人世尘寰的。库特拉斯医生模模糊糊地联想到黑色魔法,既美得惊人,又污秽邪恶。

    “上帝啊①,这是天才。”

    ①原文为法语。

    这句话脱口而出,只是说出来以后他才意识到自己是在下了一个评语。

    后来他的眼睛落在墙角的一张草席上,他走过去,看到了一个肢体残缺、让人不敢正眼看的可怕的东西,那是思特里克兰德。他已经死了。库特拉斯医生运用了极大的意志力,俯身看了看这具可怕的尸骸。他突然吓得跳起来,一颗心差点儿跳到嗓子眼儿上;因为他感到身后边有什么东西。回头一看,原来是爱塔。不知道什么时候,爱塔已经站起来,走到他胳臂肘旁边,同他一起俯视着地上的死人。

    “老天爷,我的神经一定出了毛病了,”他说,“你可把我吓坏了。”

    这个一度曾是活生生的人,现在已经气息全无了;库特拉斯又看了看,便心情沉郁地掉头走开。

    “他的眼睛已经瞎了啊。”

    “是的,他已经瞎了快一年了。”

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