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中英:月亮和六便士(26)

2006-08-22 21:26

    Chapter XXVI

    Next day we moved Strickland. It needed a good deal of firmness and still more patience to induce him to come, but he was really too ill to offer any effective resistance to Stroeve's entreaties and to my determination. We dressed him, while he feebly cursed us, got him downstairs, into a cab, and eventually to Stroeve's studio. He was so exhausted by the time we arrived that he allowed us to put him to bed without a word. He was ill for six weeks. At one time it looked as though he could not live more than a few hours, and I am convinced that it was only through the Dutchman's doggedness that he pulled through. I have never known a more difficult patient. It was not that he was exacting and querulous; on the contrary, he never complained, he asked for nothing, he was perfectly silent; but he seemed to resent the care that was taken of him; he received all inquiries about his feelings or his needs with a jibe, a sneer, or an oath. I found him detestable, and as soon as he was out of danger I had no hesitation in telling him so.

    "Go to hell, " he answered briefly.

    Dirk Stroeve, giving up his work entirely, nursed Strickland with tenderness and sympathy. He was dexterous to make him comfortable, and he exercised a cunning of which I should never have thought him capable to induce him to take the medicines prescribed by the doctor. Nothing was too much trouble for him. Though his means were adequate to the needs of himself and his wife, he certainly had no money to waste; but now he was wantonly extravagant in the purchase of delicacies, out of season and dear, which might tempt Strickland's capricious appetite. I shall never forget the tactful patience with which he persuaded him to take nourishment. He was never put out by Strickland's rudeness; if it was merely sullen, he appeared not to notice it; if it was aggressive, he only chuckled. When Strickland, recovering somewhat, was in a good humour and amused himself by laughing at him, he deliberately did absurd things to excite his ridicule. Then he would give me little happy glances, so that I might notice in how much better form the patient was. Stroeve was sublime.

    But it was Blanche who most surprised me. She proved herself not only a capable, but a devoted nurse. There was nothing in her to remind you that she had so vehemently struggled against her husband's wish to bring Strickland to the studio. She insisted on doing her share of the offices needful to the sick. She arranged his bed so that it was possible to change the sheet without disturbing him. She washed him. When I remarked on her competence, she told me with that pleasant little smile of hers that for a while she had worked in a hospital. She gave no sign that she hated Strickland so desperately. She did not speak to him much, but she was quick to forestall his wants. For a fortnight it was necessary that someone should stay with him all night, and she took turns at watching with her husband. I wondered what she thought during the long darkness as she sat by the bedside. Strickland was a weird figure as he lay there, thinner than ever, with his ragged red beard and his eyes staring feverishly into vacancy; his illness seemed to have made them larger, and they had an unnatural brightness.

    "Does he ever talk to you in the night?" I asked her once.

    "Never. "

    "Do you dislike him as much as you did?"

    "More, if anything. "

    She looked at me with her calm gray eyes. Her expression was so placid, it was hard to believe that she was capable of the violent emotion I had witnessed.

    "Has he ever thanked you for what you do for him?"

    "No, " she smiled.

    "He's inhuman. "

    "He's abominable. "

    Stroeve was, of course, delighted with her. He could not do enough to show his gratitude for the whole-hearted devotion with which she had accepted the burden he laid on her. But he was a little puzzled by the behaviour of Blanche and Strickland towards one another.

    "Do you know, I've seen them sit there for hours together without saying a word?"

    On one occasion, when Strickland was so much better that in a day or two he was to get up, I sat with them in the studio. Dirk and I were talking. Mrs. Stroeve sewed, and I thought I recognised the shirt she was mending as Strickland's. He lay on his back; he did not speak. Once I saw that his eyes were fixed on Blanche Stroeve, and there was in them a curious irony. Feeling their gaze, she raised her own, and for a moment they stared at one another. I could not quite understand her expression. Her eyes had in them a strange perplexity, and perhaps —— but why? —— alarm. In a moment Strickland looked away and idly surveyed the ceiling, but she continued to stare at him, and now her look was quite inexplicable.

    In a few days Strickland began to get up. He was nothing but skin and bone. His clothes hung upon him like rags on a scarecrow. With his untidy beard and long hair, his features, always a little larger than life, now emphasised by illness, he had an extraordinary aspect; but it was so odd that it was not quite ugly. There was something monumental in his ungainliness. I do not know how to express precisely the impression he made upon me. It was not exactly spirituality that was obvious, though the screen of the flesh seemed almost transparent, because there was in his face an outrageous sensuality; but, though it sounds nonsense, it seemed as though his sensuality were curiously spiritual. There was in him something primitive. He seemed to partake of those obscure forces of nature which the Greeks personified in shapes part human and part beast, the satyr and the faun. I thought of Marsyas, whom the god flayed because he had dared to rival him in song. Strickland seemed to bear in his heart strange harmonies and unadventured patterns, and I foresaw for him an end of torture and despair. I had again the feeling that he was possessed of a devil; but you could not say that it was a devil of evil, for it was a primitive force that existed before good and ill.

    He was still too weak to paint, and he sat in the studio, silent, occupied with God knows what dreams, or reading. The books he liked were queer; sometimes I would find him poring over the poems of Mallarme, and he read them as a child reads, forming the words with his lips, and I wondered what strange emotion he got from those subtle cadences and obscure phrases; and again I found him absorbed in the detective novels of Gaboriau. I amused myself by thinking that in his choice of books he showed pleasantly the irreconcilable sides of his fantastic nature. It was singular to notice that even in the weak state of his body he had no thought for its comfort. Stroeve liked his ease, and in his studio were a couple of heavily upholstered arm-chairs and a large divan. Strickland would not go near them, not from any affectation of stoicism, for I found him seated on a three-legged stool when I went into the studio one day and he was alone, but because he did not like them. For choice he sat on a kitchen chair without arms. It often exasperated me to see him. I never knew a man so entirely indifferent to his surroundings.

    第二天我们就去给思特里克兰德搬家。劝说他搬到施特略夫家里来需要绝大的毅力和更多的耐心,幸而思特里克兰德病得实在太重,对于施特略夫的央求和我的决心都做不出有效的抵抗了。在他的软弱无力的咒骂声中,我们给他穿好衣服,扶着他走下楼梯,安置在一辆马车里,最后终于把他弄到施特略夫的画室里。当我们到达以后,他已经一点气力也没有了,只好一言不发地由我们把他放在一张床上。他的病延续了六个星期。有一段日子看上去他连几个钟头也活不过去了,我毫不怀疑,他之所以能够活下来完全要归功这位荷兰画家任劳任怨的护理。我从来也没有见到过比他更难伺候的病人。倒不是说他挑剔、抱怨;恰恰相反,他从来也不诉苦,从来不提出什么要求,他躺在那里一语不发。但是他似乎非常厌恨你对他的照顾;谁要是问一问他觉得怎么样、有什么需要,他轻则挖苦你一句,重则破口大骂。我发现这个人实在让人厌恶,他刚一脱离危险,我就把我的想法告诉了他。

    “见鬼去吧,你,”他一点不客气地回敬了我一句。

    戴尔克。施特略夫把自己的工作全部撂下,整天服侍病人,又体贴,又关切。他的手脚非常利索,把病人弄得舒舒服服。大夫开了药,他总是连哄带骗地劝病人按时服用,我从来没想到他的手段这么巧妙。无论做什么事他都不嫌麻烦。尽管他的收入一向只够维持夫妻两人的生活,从来就不宽裕,现在他却大手大脚,购买时令已过、价钱昂贵的美味,想方设法叫思特里克兰德多吃一点东西(他的胃口时好时坏,叫人无法捉摸)。我什么时候也忘不了他劝说思特里克兰德增加营养的那种耐心和手腕。不论思特里克兰德对他多么没礼貌,他也从来不动火。如果对方只是郁闷懊丧,他就假装看不到;如果对方顶撞他,他只是一笑置之。当思特里克兰德身体好了一些,情绪高起来,嘲笑他几句开开心,他就做出一些滑稽的举动来,故意给对方更多讥笑的机会。他会高兴地递给我几个眼色,叫我知道病人已经大有起色了。施特略夫实在是个大好人。

    但是更使我感到吃惊的还是勃朗什。她证明了自己不仅是一个能干的、而且是一个专心致志的护士。你再也不会想到她曾一度激烈地反对过自己的丈夫,坚决不同意把思特里克兰德带回到家里来。病人需要照料的地方很多,她坚持要尽到自己一部分责任。她整理病人的床铺,尽量做到在撤换床单时不惊扰病人。她给病人洗浴。当我称赞她的能干时,她脸上露出惯有的微笑,告诉我她曾经在一家医院做过一段事。她丝毫不让人看出来,她曾经那样讨厌过思特里克兰德。她同他说话不多,但是不管他有什么需要,她都很快地就能知道。有两个星期思特里克兰德整夜都需要有人看护,她就和她丈夫轮班守夜。我真想知道,在她坐在病床旁边度过漫漫长夜时心里在想些什么。思特里克兰德躺在床上,样子古怪怕人,他的身躯比平常更加削瘦,红色的胡子乱成一团,眼睛兴奋地凝视着半空;因为生病,他的眼睛显得非常大,炯炯发光,但那光亮显得很不自然。

    “夜里他跟你说过话吗?”有一次我问她。

    “从来没有。”

    “你还象过去那样不喜欢他吗?”

    “比以前更厉害了。”

    她用一双安详的、灰色的眼睛望着我。她的神色非常恬静,我很难相信她居然能象那次我看到的那样大发脾气。

    “你替他做了这么多事,他谢过你吗?”

    “没有。”她笑了笑说。

    “这人真不通人情。”

    “简直太可恶了。”

    施特略夫对她自然非常满意。她这样把他撂给她的挑子担了过来,而且全心全意地履行自己的职责,他无论怎样做也无法表示对她的感激。但是他对勃朗什同思特里克兰德彼此的关系又有些不解。

    “你知道,我看见过他们在一起坐了好几个钟头,谁也一句话不说。”

    有一次我和这一家人一同坐在画室里,这时思特里克兰德的身体已经快好了,再过一两天就要起床了。戴尔克同我闲聊。施特略夫太太在缝补什么;她缝的东西我是认得的,那是思特里克兰德的一件衬衣。思特里克兰德仰面躺着,一句话也不说。有一次我看到他的目光停在勃朗什。施特略夫身上,带着一种奇怪的嘲弄神情。勃朗什感到他正在看自己,抬起眼睛,他们俩彼此凝视了一会儿。我不知道为什么她脸上会有这样的表情。她的目光里有一种奇怪的困惑,也许是——但为什么啊?——惊惧的神色。思特里克兰德马上把眼睛移开了,开始悠闲地打量起天花板来;但是她却一直注视着他,脸上的神情更加不可解释了。

    几天以后,思特里克兰德就下地了。他瘦得只剩下皮包骨头,衣服穿在身上就象稻草人披着一件破褂子似的。他的胡须凌乱,头发很长,鼻子眼睛本来就生得比一般人大,因为害过这场病,更显得大了一号;他的整个外表非常奇特,因为太古怪了,反而不显得那么丑陋。他的笨拙的形体给人以高大森严之感。我真不知道该如何确切地表达他给我的印象。最触目的一点倒不一定是他的裸露无遗的精神世界(虽然屏蔽着他精神的肉体几乎象是透明的),而是他脸上的那种蛮野的欲念。说来也许荒谬,这种肉欲又好象是空灵的,使你感到非常奇异。他身上散发着一种原始性;希腊人曾用半人半兽的形象,象生着马尾的森林之神啊,长着羊角、羊腿的农牧神啊,来表现大自然的这种神秘的力量,思特里克兰德身上就有这样一种力量。他使我想到马尔塞亚斯①,因为他居然敢同大神比赛音乐,所以被活剥了皮。思特里克兰德的心里好象怀着奇妙的和弦同未经探索过的画面。我预见到他的结局将是遭受痛苦的折磨和绝望。我心里又产生了一种他被魔鬼附体的感觉;但你却不能说这是邪恶的魔鬼,因为这是在宇宙混沌、善恶未分之前就存在的一种原始的力量。

    ①马尔塞亚斯是古代小亚细亚弗里吉亚国的一个吹笛人,同阿波罗比赛吹笛失败,被大神杀死。

    他身体仍然很弱,不能作画。他沉默不语地坐在画室里,天晓得脑子里在想什么。有时候他也看书。他喜欢看的书都很怪;有时候我发现他在阅读马拉美②的诗。他读书的样子就象小孩子一样,动着嘴唇一个字一个字地拼读。我很想知道那些精巧的韵律和晦涩的诗句给他一些什么奇怪的感情。另外一些时候我发现他浸沉在嘉包里奥③的侦探小说里。我想,他对书的选择表现出组成他怪诞性格的不可调和的方面;我对自己的这个想法感到很有趣。尽管他的身体很弱,但是仍象往常一样,从不讲求舒适,这真是他奇怪的个性。施特略夫喜欢把起居环境弄得舒服一些,画室里摆着一对非常柔软的扶手椅和一张长沙发椅。思特里克兰德从来不坐这些椅子;他并不是矫揉造作,故意表示甘于艰苦,而是因为不喜欢它们。有一次我来看他,画室里只有他一个人,我发现他正坐在一只三脚凳上。如果叫他选择的话,他会喜欢不带扶手的硬背椅。他的这种习性常常叫我很恼火。我从来没有见过哪个人这么不关心周围的生活环境的。

    ②斯台凡。马拉美(1842—1898),法国象征派诗人。

    ③艾米尔。嘉包里奥(1835—1873),法国最早的侦探小说家。

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