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中英:月亮和六便士(55)

2006-08-22 21:49

    Chapter LV

    Mr. Coutras was an old Frenchman of great stature and exceeding bulk. His body was shaped like a huge duck's egg; and his eyes, sharp, blue, and good-natured, rested now and then with self-satisfaction on his enormous paunch. His complexion was florid and his hair white. He was a man to attract immediate sympathy. He received us in a room that might have been in a house in a provincial town in France, and the one or two Polynesian curios had an odd look. He took my hand in both of his —— they were huge —— and gave me a hearty look, in which, however, was great shrewdness. When he shook hands with Capitaine Brunot he enquired politely after Madame et les enfants. For some minutes there was an exchange of courtesies and some local gossip about the island, the prospects of copra and the vanilla crop; then we came to the object of my visit.

    I shall not tell what Dr. Coutras related to me in his words, but in my own, for I cannot hope to give at second hand any impression of his vivacious delivery. He had a deep, resonant voice, fitted to his massive frame, and a keen sense of the dramatic. To listen to him was, as the phrase goes, as good as a play; and much better than most.

    It appears that Dr. Coutras had gone one day to Taravao in order to see an old chiefess who was ill, and he gave a vivid picture of the obese old lady, lying in a huge bed, smoking cigarettes, and surrounded by a crowd of dark-skinned retainers. When he had seen her he was taken into another room and given dinner —— raw fish, fried bananas, and chicken —— que sais-je, the typical dinner of the indigene —— and while he was eating it he saw a young girl being driven away from the door in tears. He thought nothing of it, but when he went out to get into his trap and drive home, he saw her again, standing a little way off; she looked at him with a woebegone air, and tears streamed down her cheeks. He asked someone what was wrong with her, and was told that she had come down from the hills to ask him to visit a white man who was sick. They had told her that the doctor could not be disturbed. He called her, and himself asked what she wanted. She told him that Ata had sent her, she who used to be at the Hotel de la Fleur, and that the Red One was ill. She thrust into his hand a crumpled piece of newspaper, and when he opened it he found in it a hundred-franc note.

    "Who is the Red One?" he asked of one of the bystanders.

    He was told that that was what they called the Englishman, a painter, who lived with Ata up in the valley seven kilometres from where they were. He recognised Strickland by the description. But it was necessary to walk. It was impossible for him to go; that was why they had sent the girl away.

    "I confess, " said the doctor, turning to me, "that I hesitated. I did not relish fourteen kilometres over a bad pathway, and there was no chance that I could get back to Papeete that night. Besides, Strickland was not sympathetic to me. He was an idle, useless scoundrel, who preferred to live with a native woman rather than work for his living like the rest of us. Mon Dieu, how was I to know that one day the world would come to the conclusion that he had genius? I asked the girl if he was not well enough to have come down to see me. I asked her what she thought was the matter with him. She would not answer. I pressed her, angrily perhaps, but she looked down on the ground and began to cry. Then I shrugged my shoulders; after all, perhaps it was my duty to go, and in a very bad temper I bade her lead the way. "

    His temper was certainly no better when he arrived, perspiring freely and thirsty. Ata was on the look-out for him, and came a little way along the path to meet him.

    "Before I see anyone give me something to drink or I shall die of thirst, " he cried out. " Pour l'amour de Dieu, get me a cocoa-nut. "

    She called out, and a boy came running along. He swarmed up a tree, and presently threw down a ripe nut. Ata pierced a hole in it, and the doctor took a long, refreshing draught. Then he rolled himself a cigarette and felt in a better humour.

    "Now, where is the Red One?" he asked.

    "He is in the house, painting. I have not told him you were coming. Go in and see him. "

    "But what does he complain of? If he is well enough to paint, he is well enough to have come down to Taravao and save me this confounded walk. I presume my time is no less valuable than his. "

    Ata did not speak, but with the boy followed him to the house. The girl who had brought him was by this time sitting on the verandah, and here was lying an old woman, with her back to the wall, making native cigarettes. Ata pointed to the door. The doctor, wondering irritably why they behaved so strangely, entered, and there found Strickland cleaning his palette. There was a picture on the easel. Strickland, clad only in a pareo, was standing with his back to the door, but he turned round when he heard the sound of boots. He gave the doctor a look of vexation. He was surprised to see him, and resented the intrusion. But the doctor gave a gasp, he was rooted to the floor, and he stared with all his eyes. This was not what he expected. He was seized with horror.

    "You enter without ceremony, " said Strickland. "What can I do for you?"

    The doctor recovered himself, but it required quite an effort for him to find his voice. All his irritation was gone, and he felt —— eh bien, oui, je ne le nie pas —— he felt an overwhelming pity.

    "I am Dr. Coutras. I was down at Taravao to see the chiefess, and Ata sent for me to see you. "

    "She's a damned fool. I have had a few aches and pains lately and a little fever, but that's nothing; it will pass off. Next time anyone went to Papeete I was going to send for some quinine. "

    "Look at yourself in the glass. "

    Strickland gave him a glance, smiled, and went over to a cheap mirror in a little wooden frame, that hung on the wall.

    "Well?"

    "Do you not see a strange change in your face? Do you not see the thickening of your features and a look —— how shall I describe it? —— the books call it lion-faced. Mon pauvre ami, must I tell you that you have a terrible disease?"

    "I?"

    "When you look at yourself in the glass you see the typical appearance of the leper. "

    "You are jesting, " said Strickland.

    "I wish to God I were. "

    "Do you intend to tell me that I have leprosy?"

    "Unfortunately, there can be no doubt of it. "

    Dr. Coutras had delivered sentence of death on many men, and he could never overcome the horror with which it filled him. He felt always the furious hatred that must seize a man condemned when he compared himself with the doctor, sane and healthy, who had the inestimable privilege of life. Strickland looked at him in silence. Nothing of emotion could be seen on his face, disfigured already by the loathsome disease.

    "Do they know?" he asked at last, pointing to the persons on the verandah, now sitting in unusual, unaccountable silence.

    "These natives know the signs so well, " said the doctor. "They were afraid to tell you. "

    Strickland stepped to the door and looked out. There must have been something terrible in his face, for suddenly they all burst out into loud cries and lamentation. They lifted up their voices and they wept. Strickland did not speak. After looking at them for a moment, he came back into the room.

    "How long do you think I can last?"

    "Who knows? Sometimes the disease continues for twenty years. It is a mercy when it runs its course quickly. "

    Strickland went to his easel and looked reflectively at the picture that stood on it.

    "You have had a long journey. It is fitting that the bearer of important tidings should be rewarded. Take this picture. It means nothing to you now, but it may be that one day you will be glad to have it. "

    Dr. Coutras protested that he needed no payment for his journey; he had already given back to Ata the hundred-franc note, but Strickland insisted that he should take the picture. Then together they went out on the verandah. The natives were sobbing violently. "Be quiet, woman. Dry thy tears, " said Strickland, addressing Ata. "There is no great harm. I shall leave thee very soon. "

    "They are not going to take thee away?" she cried.

    At that time there was no rigid sequestration on the islands, and lepers, if they chose, were allowed to go free.

    "I shall go up into the mountain, " said Strickland.

    Then Ata stood up and faced him.

    "Let the others go if they choose, but I will not leave thee. Thou art my man and I am thy woman. If thou leavest me I shall hang myself on the tree that is behind the house. I swear it by God. "

    There was something immensely forcible in the way she spoke. She was no longer the meek, soft native girl, but a determined woman. She was extraordinarily transformed.

    "Why shouldst thou stay with me? Thou canst go back to Papeete, and thou wilt soon find another white man. The old woman can take care of thy children, and Tiare will be glad to have thee back. "

    "Thou art my man and I am thy woman. Whither thou goest I will go, too. "

    For a moment Strickland's fortitude was shaken, and a tear filled each of his eyes and trickled slowly down his cheeks. Then he gave the sardonic smile which was usual with him.

    "Women are strange little beasts, " he said to Dr. Coutras. "You can treat them like dogs, you can beat them till your arm aches, and still they love you. " He shrugged his shoulders. "Of course, it is one of the most absurd illusions of Christianity that they have souls. "

    "What is it that thou art saying to the doctor?" asked Ata suspiciously. "Thou wilt not go?"

    "If it please thee I will stay, poor child. "

    Ata flung herself on her knees before him, and clasped his legs with her arms and kissed them. Strickland looked at Dr. Coutras with a faint smile.

    "In the end they get you, and you are helpless in their hands. White or brown, they are all the same. "

    Dr. Coutras felt that it was absurd to offer expressions of regret in so terrible a disaster, and he took his leave. Strickland told Tane, the boy, to lead him to the village. Dr. Coutras paused for a moment, and then he addressed himself to me.

    "I did not like him, I have told you he was not sympathetic to me, but as I walked slowly down to Taravao I could not prevent an unwilling admiration for the stoical courage which enabled him to bear perhaps the most dreadful of human afflictions. When Tane left me I told him I would send some medicine that might be of service; but my hope was small that Strickland would consent to take it, and even smaller that, if he did, it would do him good. I gave the boy a message for Ata that I would come whenever she sent for me. Life is hard, and Nature takes sometimes a terrible delight in torturing her children. It was with a heavy heart that I drove back to my comfortable home in Papeete. "

    For a long time none of us spoke.

    "But Ata did not send for me, " the doctor went on, at last, "and it chanced that I did not go to that part of the island for a long time. I had no news of Strickland. Once or twice I heard that Ata had been to Papeete to buy painting materials, but I did not happen to see her. More than two years passed before I went to Taravao again, and then it was once more to see the old chiefess. I asked them whether they had heard anything of Strickland. By now it was known everywhere that he had leprosy. First Tane, the boy, had left the house, and then, a little time afterwards, the old woman and her grandchild. Strickland and Ata were left alone with their babies. No one went near the plantation, for, as you know, the natives have a very lively horror of the disease, and in the old days when it was discovered the sufferer was killed; but sometimes, when the village boys were scrambling about the hills, they would catch sight of the white man, with his great red beard, wandering about. They fled in terror. Sometimes Ata would come down to the village at night and arouse the trader, so that he might sell her various things of which she stood in need. She knew that the natives looked upon her with the same horrified aversion as they looked upon Strickland, and she kept out of their way. Once some women, venturing nearer than usual to the plantation, saw her washing clothes in the brook, and they threw stones at her. After that the trader was told to give her the message that if she used the brook again men would come and burn down her house. "

    "Brutes, " I said.

    " Mais non, mon cher monsieur, men are always the same. Fear makes them cruel. . . . I decided to see Strickland, and when I had finished with the chiefess asked for a boy to show me the way. But none would accompany me, and I was forced to find it alone. "

    When Dr. Coutras arrived at the plantation he was seized with a feeling of uneasiness. Though he was hot from walking, he shivered. There was something hostile in the air which made him hesitate, and he felt that invisible forces barred his way. Unseen hands seemed to draw him back. No one would go near now to gather the cocoa-nuts, and they lay rotting on the ground. Everywhere was desolation. The bush was encroaching, and it looked as though very soon the primeval forest would regain possession of that strip of land which had been snatched from it at the cost of so much labour. He had the sensation that here was the abode of pain. As he approached the house he was struck by the unearthly silence, and at first he thought it was deserted. Then he saw Ata. She was sitting on her haunches in the lean-to that served her as kitchen, watching some mess cooking in a pot. Near her a small boy was playing silently in the dirt. She did not smile when she saw him.

    "I have come to see Strickland, " he said.

    "I will go and tell him. "

    She went to the house, ascended the few steps that led to the verandah, and entered. Dr. Coutras followed her, but waited outside in obedience to her gesture. As she opened the door he smelt the sickly sweet smell which makes the neighbourhood of the leper nauseous. He heard her speak, and then he heard Strickland's answer, but he did not recognise the voice. It had become hoarse and indistinct. Dr. Coutras raised his eyebrows. He judged that the disease had already attacked the vocal chords. Then Ata came out again.

    "He will not see you. You must go away. "

    Dr. Coutras insisted, but she would not let him pass. Dr. Coutras shrugged his shoulders, and after a moment's rejection turned away. She walked with him. He felt that she too wanted to be rid of him.

    "Is there nothing I can do at all?" he asked.

    "You can send him some paints, " she said. "There is nothing else he wants. "

    "Can he paint still?"

    "He is painting the walls of the house. "

    "This is a terrible life for you, my poor child. "

    Then at last she smiled, and there was in her eyes a look of superhuman love. Dr. Coutras was startled by it, and amazed. And he was awed. He found nothing to say.

    "He is my man, " she said.

    "Where is your other child?" he asked. "When I was here last you had two. "

    "Yes; it died. We buried it under the mango. "

    When Ata had gone with him a little way she said she must turn back. Dr. Coutras surmised she was afraid to go farther in case she met any of the people from the village. He told her again that if she wanted him she had only to send and he would come at once.

    库特拉斯医生是一个又高又胖的法国人,已经有了一把年纪。他的体型好象一只大鸭蛋,一对蓝眼睛的的逼人,却又充满了善意,时不时地带着志满意得的神情落在自己鼓起的大肚皮上。他的脸色红扑扑的,配着一头白发,让人一看见就发生好感。他接见我们的地方很象在法国小城市里的一所住宅,两件波利尼西亚的摆设在屋子里显得非常刺眼。库特拉斯医生用两只手握住我的手——他的手很大——,亲切地看着我;但是从他的眼神我却可以看出他是个非常精明的人。在他同布吕诺船长握手的时候,他很客气地问候夫人和孩子①。我们寒暄了几句。又闲扯了一会儿本地的各种新闻,今年椰子和香草果的收成等等。这以后谈话转到我这次来访的本题。

    ①原文为法语

    我现在只能用自己的语言把库特拉斯给我讲的故事写下来;他当时给我叙述时,绘声绘色,他的原话经我一转述就要大为减色,他的嗓音低沉,带着回音,同他魁梧的体格非常相配。他说话时很善于表演。听他讲话,正象一般人爱用的一个譬喻,就象在观看戏剧,而且比大多数戏演得更为精彩。

    事情的经过大概是这样的。有一次库特拉斯医生到塔拉窝去给一个生病的女酋长看病。库特拉斯把这位女酋长淋漓尽致地描写了一番。女酋长生得又胖又蠢,躺在一张大床上抽着纸烟,周围站着一圈乌黑皮肤的侍从。看过病以后,医生被请到另一间屋子里,被招待了一顿丰盛的饭食——生鱼、炸香蕉、小鸡,还有一些他不知名的东西①,这是当地土著②的标准饭菜。吃饭的时候,他看见人们正在把一个眼泪汪汪的年轻女孩子从门口赶走。他当时并没有注意,但在他吃完饭,正准备上马车启程回家的时候,他又看见她在不远的地方站着。她凄凄惨惨地望着他,泪珠从面颊上淌下来。医生问了问旁边的人,这个女孩儿是怎么回事。他被告知说,女孩子是从山里面下来的,想请他去看一个生病的白人。他们已经告诉她,医生没有时间管她的事。库特拉斯医生把她叫过来,亲自问了一遍她有什么事。她说她是爱塔派来的,爱塔过去在鲜花旅馆干活儿,她来找医生是因为“红毛”病了。她把一块揉皱了的旧报纸递到医生手里,医生打开一看,里面是一张一百法郎的钞票。

    ①②原文为法语。

    “谁是‘红毛’?”医生问一个站在旁边的人。

    他被告诉说,“红毛”是当地人给那个英国人,一个画家起的外号儿。这个人现在同爱塔同居,住在离这里七公里远的山丛中的一条峡谷里。根据当地人的描述,他知道他们说的是思特里克兰德。但是要去思特里克兰德住的地方,只能走路去;他们知道他去不了,所以就把女孩子打发走了。

    “说老实话,”医生转过头来对我说,“我当时有些踌躇。在崎岖不平的小路上来回走十四公里路,那滋味着实不好受,而且我也没法当夜再赶回帕皮提了。此外,我对思特里克兰德也没有什么好感。他只不过是个游手好闲的懒汉,宁愿跟一个土著女人姘居,也不想象别人似地自己挣钱吃饭。我的上帝①,我当时怎么知道,有一天全世界都承认他是个伟大天才呢?我问了问那个女孩子,他是不是病得很厉害,不能到我那儿去看病。我还问她,思特里克兰德得的是什么病。但是她什么也不说。我又叮问了她几句,也许还对她发了火,结果她眼睛看着地,扑簌簌地掉起眼泪来。我无可奈何地耸了耸肩膀。不管怎么说,给病人看病是医生的职责,尽管我一肚子闷气,还是跟着她去了。”

    ①原文为法语。

    库特拉斯医生走到目的地的时候,脾气一点儿也不比出发的时候好,他走得满身大汗,又渴又累。爱塔正在焦急地等着,还走了一段路来接他。

    “在我给任何人看病以前,先让我喝点儿什么,不然我就渴死了,”医生喊道,“看在上帝份儿上②,给我摘个椰子来。”

    ②原文为法语。

    爱塔喊了一声,一个男孩子跑了过来,噌噌几下就爬上一棵椰子树,扔下一只成熟的椰子来。爱塔在椰子上开了一个洞,医生痛痛快快地喝了一气,这以后,他给自己卷了一很纸烟,情绪比刚才好多了。

    “红毛在什么地方啊?”他问道。

    “他在屋子里画画儿呢。我没有告诉他你要来。你进去看看他吧。”

    “他有什么不舒服?要是他还画得了画儿,就能到塔拉窝走一趟。叫我走这么该死的远路来看他,是不是我的时间不如他的值钱?”

    爱塔没有说话,她同那个男孩子一起跟着走进屋子。把医生找来的那个女孩儿这时在阳台上坐下来;阳台上还躺着一个老太婆,背对着墙,正在卷当地人吸的一种纸烟。医生感到这些人的举止都有些奇怪,心里有些气恼。走进屋子以后,他发现思特里克兰德正在清洗自己的调色板。画架上摆着一幅画。思特里克兰德扎着一件帕利欧,站在画架后面,背对着门。听到有脚步声,他转过身来。他很不高兴地看了医生一眼。他有些吃惊;他讨厌有人来打搅他。但是真正感到吃惊的是医生;库特拉斯一下子僵立在那里,脚下好象生了根,眼睛瞪得滚圆。他看到的是他事前绝没有料到的。他吓得胆战心惊。

    “你怎么连门也不敲就进来了,”思特里克兰德说,“有什么事儿?”

    医生虽然从震惊中恢复过来,但还是费了很大劲儿才能开口说话。他来时的一肚子怒气已经烟消云散;他感到——哦,对,我不能否认。①——他感到从心坎里涌现出一阵无限的怜悯之情。

    ①原文为法语。

    “我是库特拉斯医生。我刚才到塔拉窝去给女酋长看病,爱塔派人请我来给你看看。”

    “她是个大傻瓜。最近我身上有的地方有些痛,有时候有点儿发烧,但这不是什么大病。过些天自然就好了。下回有人再去帕皮提,我会叫他带些金鸡纳霜回来的。”

    “你还是照照镜子吧。”

    思特里克兰德看了他一眼,笑了笑,走到挂在墙上的一面小镜子前头。这是那种价钱很便宜的镜子,镶在一个小木框里。

    “怎么了?”

    “你没有发现你的脸有什么变化吗?你没有发现你的五官都肥大起来,你的脸——我该怎么说呢?——你的脸已经成了医书上所说的‘狮子脸’了。我可怜的朋友①,难道一定要我给你指出来,你得了一种可怕的病了吗?”

    ①原文为法语。

    “我?”

    “你从镜子里就可以看出来,你的脸相都是麻风病的典型特征。”

    “你是在开玩笑么?”思特里克兰德说。

    “我也希望是在开玩笑。”

    “你是想告诉我,我害了麻风病么?”

    “非常不幸,这已经是不容置疑的事了。”

    库特拉斯医生曾经对许多人宣判过死刑,但是每一次都无法克服自己内心的恐怖感。他总是想,被宣判死刑的病人一定拿自己同医生比较,看到医生身心健康、享有生活的宝贵权利,一定又气又恨;病人的这种感情每次他都能感觉到。但是思特里克兰德却只是默默无言地看着他,一张已经受这种恶病蹂躏变形的脸丝毫也看不出有任何感情变化。

    “他们知道吗?”最后,思特里克兰德指着外面的人说;这些人这时静悄悄地坐在露台上,同往日的情景大不相同。

    “这些本地人对这种病的征象是非常清楚的,”医生说,“只是他们不敢告诉你罢了。”

    思特里克兰德走到门口,向外面张望了一下。他的脸相一定非常可怕,因为外面的人一下子都哭叫、哀号起来,而且哭声越来越大。思特里克兰德一句话也没说。他愣愣地看了他们一会儿,便转身走回屋子。

    “你认为我还能活多久?”

    “谁说得准?有时候染上这种病的人能活二十年,如果早一些死倒是上帝发慈悲呢。”

    思特里克兰德走到画架前面,沉思地看着放在上面的画。

    “你到这里来走了很长一段路。带来重要消息的人理应得到报酬。把这幅画拿去吧。现在它对你不算什么,但是将来有一天可能你会高兴有这样一幅画的。”

    库特拉斯医生谢绝说,他到这儿来不需要报酬,就是那一百法郎他也还给了爱塔。但是思特里克兰德却坚持要他把这幅画拿走。这以后他们俩一起走到外面阳台上。几个本地人仍然在非常哀痛地呜咽着。

    “别哭了,女人。把眼泪擦干吧,”思特里克兰德对爱塔说。“没有什么大了不起的。我不久就要离开你了。”

    “他们不会把你弄走吧?”她哭着说。

    当时在这些岛上还没有实行严格的隔离制度。害麻风病的人如果自己愿意,是可以留在家里的。

    “我要到山里去。”思特里克兰德说。

    这时候爱塔站起身,看着他的脸说:

    “别人谁愿意走谁就走吧。我不离开你。你是我的男人,我是你的女人。要是你离开了我,我就在房子后面这棵树上上吊。我在上帝面前发誓。”

    她说这番话时,神情非常坚决。她不再是一个温柔、驯顺的土人女孩子,而是一个意志坚定的妇人。她一下子变得谁也认不出来了。

    “你为什么要同我在一起呢?你可以回到帕皮提去,而且很快地你还会找到另一个白人。这个老婆子可以给你看孩子,蒂阿瑞会很高兴地再让你重新给她干活儿的。”

    “你是我的男人,我是你的女人。你到哪儿去我也到哪儿去。”

    有那么一瞬间,思特里克兰德的铁石心肠似乎被打动了,泪水涌上他的眼睛,一边一滴,慢慢地从脸颊上流下来。但是他的脸马上又重新浮现出平日惯有的那种讥嘲的笑容。

    “女人真是奇怪的动物,”他对库特拉斯医生说,“你可以象狗一样地对待她们,你可以揍她们揍得你两臂酸痛,可是到头来她们还是爱你。”他耸了耸肩膀。“当然了,基督教认为女人也有灵魂,这实在是个最荒谬的幻觉。”

    “你在同医生说什么?”爱塔有些怀疑地问他,“你不走吧?”

    “如果你愿意的话,我就不走,可怜的孩子。”

    爱塔一下子跪在他的脚下,两臂抱紧他的双腿,拼命地吻他。思特里克兰德看着库特拉斯医生,脸上带着一丝微笑。

    “最后他们还是要把你抓住,你怎么挣扎也白费力气。白种人也好,棕种人也好,到头来都是一样的。”

    库特拉斯医生觉得对于这种可怕的疾病说一些同情的话是很荒唐的,他决定告辞。思特里克兰德叫那个名叫塔耐的男孩子给他领路,带他回村子去。说到这里,库特拉斯医生停了一会儿。最后他对我说:

    “我不喜欢他,我已经告诉过你,我对他没有什么好感。但是在我慢慢走回塔拉窝村的路上,我对他那种自我克制的勇气却不由自主地产生了敬佩之情。他忍受的也许是一种最可怕的疾病。当塔耐和我分手的时候,我告诉他我会送一些药去,对他的疾病也许会有点儿好处。但是我也知道,思特里克兰德是多半不肯服我送去的药的,至于这种药——即使他服了——有多大效用,我就更不敢希望了。我让那孩子给爱塔带了个话,不管她什么时候需要我,我都会去的。生活是严酷的,大自然有时候竟以折磨自己的儿女为乐趣,在我坐上马车驶回我在帕皮提的温暖的家庭时,我的心是沉重的。”

    很长一段时间,我们谁都没有说话。

    “但是爱塔并没有叫我去,”医生最后继续说,“我凑巧也有很长时间没有机会到那个地区去。关于思特里克兰德我什么消息也没听到。有一两次我听说爱塔到帕皮提来买绘画用品,但是我都没有看见她。大约过了两年多,我才又去了一趟塔拉窝,仍然是给那个女酋长看病。我问那地方的人,他们听到过思特里克兰德的什么消息没有。这时候,思特里克兰德害了麻风病的事已经到处都传开了。首先是那个男孩子塔耐离开了他们住的地方,不久以后,老太婆带着她的孙女儿也走了。后来只剩下思特里克兰德、爱塔和他们的孩子了。没有人走近他们的椰子园。当地的土人对这种病怕得要命,这你是知道的;在过去的日子里,害麻风病的人一被发现就被活活儿打死。但是有时候村里的小孩到山上去玩,偶然会看到这个留着大红胡子的白人在附近游荡。孩子们一看见他就象吓掉了魂儿似地没命地跑掉。有时候爱塔半夜到村子里来,叫醒开杂货店的人买一些她需要的东西。她知道村子里的人对她也同样又害怕又厌恶,正象对待思特里克兰德一样,因此她总是避开他们。又有一次有几个女人奓着胆子走到他们住的椰子园附近,这次她们走得比哪次都近,看见爱塔正在小溪里洗衣服,她们向她投掷了一阵石块。这次事件发生以后,村里的杂货商就被通知给爱塔传递一个消息:以后如果她再用那条溪水,人们就要来把她的房子烧掉。”

    “这些混帐东西。”我说。

    “别这么说,我亲爱的先生①,人们都是这样的。恐惧使人们变得残酷无情……我决定去看看思特里克兰德。当我给女酋长看好病以后,我想找一个男孩子给我带路,但是没有一个人肯陪我去,最后还是我一个人摸索着去了。”

    ①原文为法语。

    库特拉斯医生一走进那个椰子园,就有一种忐忑不安的感觉。虽然走路走得浑身燥热,却不由得打了个寒战。空气中似乎有什么敌视他的东西,叫他望而却步;他觉得有一种看不见的势力阻拦着他,许多只看不见的手往后拉他。没有人再到这里来采摘椰子,椰果全都腐烂在地上,到处是一片荒凉破败的景象。低矮的树丛从四面八方侵入这个种植园,看来人们花费了无数血汗开发出的这块土地不久就又要被原始森林重新夺回去了。库特拉斯医生有一种感觉,仿佛这是痛苦的居留地。他越走近这所房子,越感到这里寂静得令人心神不安。开始他还以为房子里没有人了呢,但是后来他看见了爱塔。她正蹲在一间当厨房用的小棚子里,用锅子煮东西,身旁有一个小男孩,一声不出地在泥土地上玩儿。爱塔看见医生的时候,脸上并没有笑容。

    “我是来看思特里克兰德的。”他说。

    “我去告诉他。”

    爱塔向屋子走去,登上几层台阶,走上阳台,然后进了屋子。库特拉斯医生跟在她身后,但是走到门口的时候却听从她的手势在外边站住。爱塔打开房门以后,他闻到一股腥甜气味;在麻风病患者居住的地方总是有这种令人作呕的气味。他听见爱塔说了句什么,以后他听见思特里克兰德的语声,但是他却一点儿也听不出这是思特里克兰德的声音。这声音变得非常沙哑、模糊不清。库特拉斯医生扬了一下眉毛。他估计病菌已经侵袭了病人的声带了。过了一会儿,爱塔从屋子里走出来。

    “他不愿意见你。你快走吧。”

    库特拉斯医生一定要看看病人,但是爱塔拦住他,不叫他进去。库特拉斯医生耸了耸肩膀;他想了一会儿,便转身走去。她跟在他身边。医生觉得,她也希望自己马上离开。

    “有没有什么事我可以替你做的?”他问。

    “你可以给他送点儿油彩来,”她说。“别的什么他都不要。”

    “他还能画画儿吗?”

    “他正在往墙上画壁画儿。”

    “你的生活真不容易啊,可怜的孩子。”

    她的脸上终于露出了笑容,眼睛里放射出一种爱的光辉,一种人世上罕见的爱情的光辉。她的目光叫库特拉斯医生吓了一跳。他感到非常惊异,甚至产生了敬畏之感。他不知道自己该说什么。

    “他是我的男人。”她说。

    “你们的那个孩子呢?”医生问道,“我上次来,记得你们是有两个小孩儿的。”

    “是有两个。那个已经死了。我们把他埋在芒果树底下了。”

    爱塔陪着医生走了一小段路以后,就对医生说,她得回去了。库特拉斯医生猜测,她不敢往更远里走,怕遇见村子里的人。他又跟她说了一遍,如果她需要他,只要捎个话去,他一定会来的。

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