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中英:月亮和六便士(50)

2006-08-22 21:44

    Chapter L

    I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings, but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not. They are strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage. They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known. Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deeprooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history. Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here at last he finds rest.

    I told Tiare the story of a man I had known at St. Thomas's Hospital. He was a Jew named Abraham, a blond, rather stout young man, shy and very unassuming; but he had remarkable gifts. He entered the hospital with a scholarship, and during the five years of the curriculum gained every prize that was open to him. He was made house-physician and house-surgeon. His brilliance was allowed by all. Finally he was elected to a position on the staff, and his career was assured. So far as human things can be predicted, it was certain that he would rise to the greatest heights of his profession. Honours and wealth awaited him. Before he entered upon his new duties he wished to take a holiday, and, having no private means, he went as surgeon on a tramp steamer to the Levant. It did not generally carry a doctor, but one of the senior surgeons at the hospital knew a director of the line, and Abraham was taken as a favour.

    In a few weeks the authorities received his resignation of the coveted position on the staff. It created profound astonishment, and wild rumours were current. Whenever a man does anything unexpected, his fellows ascribe it to the most discreditable motives. But there was a man ready to step into Abraham's shoes, and Abraham was forgotten. Nothing more was heard of him. He vanished.

    It was perhaps ten years later that one morning on board ship, about to land at Alexandria, I was bidden to line up with the other passengers for the doctor's examination. The doctor was a stout man in shabby clothes, and when he took off his hat I noticed that he was very bald. I had an idea that I had seen him before. Suddenly I remembered.

    "Abraham, " I said.

    He turned to me with a puzzled look, and then, recognizing me, seized my hand. After expressions of surprise on either side, hearing that I meant to spend the night in Alexandria, he asked me to dine with him at the English Club. When we met again I declared my astonishment at finding him there. It was a very modest position that he occupied, and there was about him an air of straitened circumstance. Then he told me his story. When he set out on his holiday in the Mediterranean he had every intention of returning to London and his appointment at St. Thomas's. One morning the tramp docked at Alexandria, and from the deck he looked at the city, white in the sunlight, and the crowd on the wharf; he saw the natives in their shabby gabardines, the blacks from the Soudan, the noisy throng of Greeks and Italians, the grave Turks in tarbooshes, the sunshine and the blue sky; and something happened to him. He could not describe it. It was like a thunder-clap, he said, and then, dissatisfied with this, he said it was like a revelation. Something seemed to twist his heart, and suddenly he felt an exultation, a sense of wonderful freedom. He felt himself at home, and he made up his mind there and then, in a minute, that he would live the rest of his life in Alexandria. He had no great difficulty in leaving the ship, and in twenty-four hours, with all his belongings, he was on shore.

    "The Captain must have thought you as mad as a hatter, " I smiled.

    "I didn't care what anybody thought. It wasn't I that acted, but something stronger within me. I thought I would go to a little Greek hotel, while I looked about, and I felt I knew where to find one. And do you know, I walked straight there, and when I saw it, I recognised it at once. "

    "Had you been to Alexandria before?"

    "No; I'd never been out of England in my life. "

    Presently he entered the Government service, and there he had been ever since.

    "Have you never regretted it?"

    "Never, not for a minute. I earn just enough to live upon, and I'm satisfied. I ask nothing more than to remain as I am till I die. I've had a wonderful life. "

    I left Alexandria next day, and I forgot about Abraham till a little while ago, when I was dining with another old friend in the profession, Alec Carmichael, who was in England on short leave. I ran across him in the street and congratulated him on the knighthood with which his eminent services during the war had been rewarded. We arranged to spend an evening together for old time's sake, and when I agreed to dine with him, he proposed that he should ask nobody else, so that we could chat without interruption. He had a beautiful old house in Queen Anne Street, and being a man of taste he had furnished it admirably. On the walls of the diningroom I saw a charming Bellotto, and there was a pair of Zoffanys that I envied. When his wife, a tall, lovely creature in cloth of gold, had left us, I remarked laughingly on the change in his present circumstances from those when we had both been medical students. We had looked upon it then as an extravagance to dine in a shabby Italian restaurant in the Westminster Bridge Road. Now Alec Carmichael was on the staff of half a dozen hospitals. I should think he earned ten thousand a year, and his knighthood was but the first of the honours which must inevitably fall to his lot.

    "I've done pretty well, " he said, "but the strange thing is that I owe it all to one piece of luck. "

    "What do you mean by that?"

    "Well, do you remember Abraham? He was the man who had the future. When we were students he beat me all along the line. He got the prizes and the scholarships that I went in for. I always played second fiddle to him. If he'd kept on he'd be in the position I'm in now. That man had a genius for surgery. No one had a look in with him. When he was appointed Registrar at Thomas's I hadn't a chance of getting on the staff. I should have had to become a G. P. , and you know what likelihood there is for a G. P. ever to get out of the common rut. But Abraham fell out, and I got the job. That gave me my opportunity. "

    "I dare say that's true. "

    "It was just luck. I suppose there was some kink in Abraham. Poor devil, he's gone to the dogs altogether. He's got some twopenny-halfpenny job in the medical at Alexandria —— sanitary officer or something like that. I'm told he lives with an ugly old Greek woman and has half a dozen scrofulous kids. The fact is, I suppose, that it's not enough to have brains. The thing that counts is character. Abraham hadn't got character. "

    Character? I should have thought it needed a good deal of character to throw up a career after half an hour's meditation, because you saw in another way of living a more intense significance. And it required still more character never to regret the sudden step. But I said nothing, and Alec Carmichael proceeded reflectively:

    "Of course it would be hypocritical for me to pretend that I regret what Abraham did. After all, I've scored by it. " He puffed luxuriously at the long Corona he was smoking. "But if I weren't personally concerned I should be sorry at the waste. It seems a rotten thing that a man should make such a hash of life. "

    I wondered if Abraham really had made a hash of life. Is to do what you most want, to live under the conditions that please you, in peace with yourself, to make a hash of life; and is it success to be an eminent surgeon with ten thousand a year and a beautiful wife? I suppose it depends on what meaning you attach to life, the claim which you acknowledge to society, and the claim of the individual. But again I held my tongue, for who am I to argue with a knight?

    我认为有些人诞生在某一个地方可以说未得其所。机缘把他们随便抛掷到一个环境中,而他们却一直思念着一处他们自己也不知道坐落在何处的家乡。在出生的地方他们好象是过客;从孩提时代就非常熟悉的浓荫郁郁的小巷,同小伙伴游戏其中的人烟稠密的街衢,对他们说来都不过是旅途中的一个宿站。这种人在自己亲友中可能终生落落寡台,在他们唯一熟悉的环境里也始终孑身独处。也许正是在本乡本土的这种陌生感才逼着他们远游异乡,寻找一处永恒定居的寓所。说不定在他们内心深处仍然隐伏着多少世代前祖先的习性和癖好,叫这些彷徨者再回到他们祖先在远古就已离开的土地。有时候一个人偶然到了一个地方,会神秘地感觉到这正是自己栖身之所,是他一直在寻找的家园。于是他就在这些从未寓目的景物里,从不相识的人群中定居下来,倒好象这里的一切都是他从小就熟稔的一样。他在这里终于找到了宁静。

    我给蒂阿瑞讲了一个我在圣托玛斯医院认识的人的故事。这是个犹太人,姓阿伯拉罕。他是个金黄头发、身体粗壮的年轻人。性格腼腆,对人和气,但是很有才能。他是靠着一笔奖学金入学的,在五年学习期间,任何一种奖金只要他有机会申请就绝对没有旁人的份儿。他先当了住院内科医生,后来又当了住院外科医生。没有人不承认他的才华过人。最后他被选进领导机构中,他的前程已经有了可靠的保证。按照世情推论,他在自己这门事业上肯定会飞黄腾达、名利双收的。在正式上任以前,他想度一次假;因为他自己没有钱,所以在一艘开往地中海的不定期货船上谋了个医生位置。这种货轮上一般是没有医生的,只是由于医院里有一名高级外科医生认识跑这条航线的一家轮船公司的经理,货轮看在经理情面上才录用了阿伯拉罕。

    几个星期以后,医院领导人收到一份辞呈,阿伯拉罕声明他决定放弃这个人人嫉羡的位置。这件事使人们感到极其惊诧,千奇百怪的谣言不胫而走。每逢一个人干出一件出人意料的事,他的相识们总是替他想出种种最令人无法置信的动机。但是既然早就有人准备好填补他留下的空缺,阿伯拉罕不久也就被人遗忘了。以后再也没人听到他的任何消息。这个人就这样从人们的记忆里消失了。

    大约十年之后,有一次我乘船去亚历山大港①。即将登陆之前,一天早上,我被通知同其他旅客一起排好队,等待医生上船来检查身体。来的医生是个衣履寒酸、身体肥硕的人。当他摘下帽子以后,我发现这人的头发已经完全秃了。我觉得仿佛过去在什么地方见过他。忽然,我想起来了。

    ①在埃及。

    “阿伯拉罕。”我喊道。

    他转过头来,脸上显出惊奇的神色。愣了一会儿,他也认出我来,立刻握住我的手。在我们两人各自惊叹了一番后,他听说我准备在亚历山大港过夜,便邀请我到英侨俱乐部去吃晚饭。在我们会面以后,我再次表示在这个地方遇到他实在出乎我的意料之外。他现在的职务相当低微,他给人的印象也很寒酸。这以后他给我讲了他的故事。在他出发到地中海度假的时候,他一心想的是再回伦敦去,到圣。托玛斯医院去就职。一天早晨,他乘的那艘货轮在亚历山大港靠岸,他从甲板上看着这座阳光照耀下的白色城市,看着码头上的人群。他看着穿着褴褛的轧别丁衣服的当地人,从苏丹来的黑人,希腊人和意大利人成群结队、吵吵嚷嚷,土耳其人戴着平顶无檐的土耳其小帽,他看着阳光和碧蓝的天空。就在这个时候,他的心境忽然发生了奇异的变化,他无法描述这是怎么一回事。事情来得非常突兀,据他说,好象晴天响起一声霹雳;但他觉得这个譬喻不够妥当,又改口说好象得到了什么启示。他的心好象被什么东西揪了一下。突然间,他感到一阵狂喜,有一种取得无限自由的感觉。他觉得自己好象回到了老家,他当时当地就打定主意,今后的日子他都要在亚历山大度过了。离开货轮并没有什么困难;二十四小时以后,他已经带着自己的全部行李登岸了。

    “船长一定会觉得你发疯了。”我笑着说。

    “别人爱怎么想就怎么想,我才不在乎呢。做出这件事来的不是我,是我身体里一种远比我自己的意志更强大的力量。上岸以后,我四处看了看,想着我要到一家希腊人开的小旅馆去;我觉得我知道在哪里能找到这家旅馆。你猜怎么着?我一点儿也没有费劲儿就走到这家旅馆前边,我一看见这地方马上就认出来了。”

    “你过去到过亚历山大港吗?”

    “没有。在这次出国前我从来没有离开过英国。”

    不久以后,他就在公立医院找到个工作,从此一直待在那里。

    “你从来没有后悔过吗?”

    “从来没有。一分钟也没有后悔过。我挣的钱刚够维持生活,但是我感到心满意足。我什么要求也没有,只希望这样活下去,直到我死。我生活得非常好。”

    第二天我就离开了亚历山大港,直到不久以前我才又想起阿伯拉罕的事。那是我同另外一个行医的老朋友,阿莱克。卡尔米凯尔一同吃饭的时候。卡尔米凯尔回英国来短期度假,我偶然在街头上遇见了他。他在大战中工作得非常出色,荣获了爵士封号。我向他表示了祝贺。我们约好一同消磨一个晚上,一起叙叙旧。我答应同他一起吃晚饭,他建议不再约请别人,这样我俩就可以不受干扰地畅谈一下了。他在安皇后街有一所老宅子,布置很优雅,因为他是一个很富于艺术鉴赏力的人。我在餐厅的墙上看到一幅贝洛托①的画,还有两幅我很羡慕的佐范尼②的作品。当他的妻子,一个穿着金色衣服、高身量、样子讨人喜欢的妇女离开我们以后,我笑着对他说,他今天的生活同我们在医学院做学生的时代相比,变化真是太大了。那时,我们在威斯敏斯特桥大街一家寒酸的意大利餐馆吃一顿饭都认为是非常奢侈的事。现在阿莱克。卡尔米凯尔在六七家大医院都兼任要职,据我估计,一年可以有一万镑的收入。这次受封为爵士,只不过是他迟早要享受到的第一个荣誉而已。

    ①贝尔纳多。贝洛托(1720—1780),意大利威尼斯派画家。

    ②约翰。佐范尼(1733—1810),出生于德国的英国画家。

    “我混得不错,”他说,“但是奇怪的是,这一切都归功于我偶然交了一个好运。”

    “我不懂你说的是什么意思?”

    “不懂?你还记得阿伯拉罕吧?应该飞黄腾达的本该是他。做学生的时候,他处处把我打得惨败。奖金也好,助学金也好,都被他从我手里夺去;哪次我都甘拜下风。如果他这样继续下去,我现在的地位就是他的了。他对于外科手术简直是个天才。谁也无法同他竞争。当他被指派为圣。托玛斯附属医学院注册员的时候,我是绝对没有希望进入领导机构的。我只能开业当个医生,你也知道,一个普通开业行医的人有多大可能跳出这个槽槽去。但是阿伯拉罕却让位了,他的位子让我弄到手了。这样就给了我步步高升的机会了。”

    “我想你说的话是真的。”

    “这完全是运气。我想,阿伯拉罕这人心理一定变态了。这个可怜虫,一点儿救也没有了。他在亚历山大港卫生部门找了个小差事——检疫员什么的。有人告诉我,他同一个丑陋的希腊老婆子住在一起,生了半打长着瘰疬疙瘩的小崽子。所以我想,问题不在于一个人脑子聪明不聪明,真正重要的是要有个性。阿伯拉罕缺少的正是个性。”

    个性?在我看来,一个人因为看到另外一种生活方式更有重大的意义,只经过半小时的考虑就甘愿抛弃一生的事业前途,这才需要很强的个性呢。贸然走出这一步,以后永不后悔,那需要的个性就更多了。但是我什么也没说。阿莱克。卡尔米凯尔继续沉思着说:

    “当然了,如果我对阿伯拉罕的行径故作遗憾,我这人也就太虚伪了。不管怎么说,正因为他走了这么一步,才让我占了便宜。”他吸着一支长长的寇罗纳牌哈瓦那雪茄烟,舒适地喷着烟圈。“但是如果这件事同我个人没有牵连的话,我是会为他虚掷才华感到可惜的。一个人竟这样糟蹋自己实在太令人心痛了。”

    我很怀疑,阿伯拉罕是否真的糟蹋了自己。做自己最想做的事,生活在自己喜爱的环境里,淡泊宁静、与世无争,这难道是糟蹋自己吗?与此相反,做一个著名的外科医生,年薪一万镑,娶一位美丽的妻子,就是成功吗?我想,这一切都取决于一个人如何看待生活的意义,取决于他认为对社会应尽什么义务,对自己有什么要求。但是我还是没有说什么;我有什么资格同一位爵士争辩呢?

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