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中英:月亮和六便士(16)

2006-08-22 21:18

    Chapter XVI

    What followed showed that Mrs. Strickland was a woman of character. Whatever anguish she suffered she concealed. She saw shrewdly that the world is quickly bored by the recital of misfortune, and willingly avoids the sight of distress. Whenever she went out —— and compassion for her misadventure made her friends eager to entertain her —— she bore a demeanour that was perfect. She was brave, but not too obviously; cheerful, but not brazenly; and she seemed more anxious to listen to the troubles of others than to discuss her own. Whenever she spoke of her husband it was with pity. Her attitude towards him at first perplexed me. One day she said to me:

    "You know, I'm convinced you were mistaken about Charles being alone. From what I've been able to gather from certain sources that I can't tell you, I know that he didn't leave England by himself. "

    "In that case he has a positive genius for covering up his tracks. "

    She looked away and slightly coloured.

    "What I mean is, if anyone talks to you about it, please don't contradict it if they say he eloped with somebody. "

    "Of course not. "

    She changed the conversation as though it were a matter to which she attached no importance. I discovered presently that a peculiar story was circulating among her friends. They said that Charles Strickland had become infatuated with a French dancer, whom he had first seen in the ballet at the Empire, and had accompanied her to Paris. I could not find out how this had arisen, but, singularly enough, it created much sympathy for Mrs. Strickland, and at the same time gave her not a little prestige. This was not without its use in the calling which she had decided to follow. Colonel MacAndrew had not exaggerated when he said she would be penniless, and it was necessary for her to earn her own living as quickly as she could. She made up her mind to profit by her acquaintance with so many writers, and without loss of time began to learn shorthand and typewriting. Her education made it likely that she would be a typist more efficient than the average, and her story made her claims appealing. Her friends promised to send her work, and took care to recommend her to all theirs.

    The MacAndrews, who were childless and in easy circumstances, arranged to undertake the care of the children, and Mrs. Strickland had only herself to provide for. She let her flat and sold her furniture. She settled in two tiny rooms in Westminster, and faced the world anew. She was so efficient that it was certain she would make a success of the adventure.

    以后发生的事说明思特里克兰德太太是一个性格坚强的女人。不论她心里委屈多大,她都没有显露出来。她很聪明,知道老是诉说自己的不幸,人们很快就会厌烦,总是摆着一副可怜相也不会讨人喜欢。每逢她外出作客的时候——因为同情她的遭遇,很多朋友有意地邀请她——,她的举止总是十分得体。她表现得很勇敢,但又不露骨;高高兴兴,但又不惹人生厌;她好象更愿意听别人诉说自己的烦恼而不想议论她自己的不幸。每逢谈到自己丈夫的时候,她总是表示很可怜他。她对他的这种态度最初使我感到困惑。有一天她对我说:

    “你知道,你告诉我说查理斯一个人在巴黎,你肯定是弄错了。根据我听到的消息——我不能告诉你这消息的来源——,我知道他不是独自离开英国的。”

    “要是这样的话,他真可以说是不露行迹,简直是个天才了。”

    思特里克兰德太太的目光避开了我,脸有些发红。

    “我的意思是说,如果有人同你谈论这件事,要是说他是同哪个女人私奔的话,你用不着辩驳。”

    “当然我不辩驳。”

    她改换了话题,好象刚才说的是一件无关紧要的小事。不久我就发现,在她的朋友中间流传着一个奇怪的故事。她们说查理斯。思特里克兰德迷恋上一个法国女舞蹈家,他是在帝国大剧院看芭蕾舞首次见到这个女人的,后来就同她一起去巴黎了。我无法知道这个故事怎么会流传起来,但是奇怪的是,它为思特里克兰德太太赚得了人们不少同情,同时也使她的名望增加了不少。这对她决定今后从事的行业很有一些好处。麦克安德鲁上校当初说她手头分文不名并没有夸大。她需要尽快地找一条谋生之道。她决定利用一下她认识不少作家这一有利地位,一点儿没耽搁时间就开始学起速记和打字来。她受的教育会使她从事这一行业高于一般打字人员,她的遭遇也能为她招徕不少主顾。朋友们都答应给她拿活儿来,而且还要尽心把她推荐给各自的相识。

    麦克安德鲁夫妇没有子女,生活条件又很优裕,就担当下抚养着她子女的事,思特里克兰德太太只需要维持自己一个人的生活就够了。她把住房租了出去,卖掉了家具,在威斯敏斯特附近找了两间小房安置下来。她重新把生活安排好。她非常能干,她决心兴办的这个买卖一定会成功的。

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