外语教育网
您的位置:外语教育网 > 英语文化视窗 > 文学与艺术 > 小说 正文
  • 站内搜索:

The Moon and Sixpence (chapter57)

2006-08-28 21:22

    Chapter LVII

    AT that moment we were interrupted by the appearance of Madame Coutras, who had been paying visits. She came in, like a ship in full sail, an imposing creature, tall and stout, with an ample bust and an obesity girthed in alarmingly by straight-fronted corsets. She had a bold hooked nose and three chins. She held herself upright. She had not yielded for an instant to the enervating charm of the tropics, but contrariwise was more active, more worldly, more decided than anyone in a temperate clime would have thought it possible to be. She was evidently a copious talker, and now poured forth a breathless stream of anecdote and comment. She made the conversation we had just had seem far away and unreal.

    Presently Dr. Coutras turned to me.

    "I still have in my <i bureau> the picture that Strickland gave me," he said. "Would you like to see it?"

    "Willingly."

    We got up, and he led me on to the verandah which surrounded his

    house. We paused to look at the gay flowers that rioted in his garden.

    "For a long time I could not get out of my head the recollection of the extraordinary decoration with which Strickland had covered the walls of his house," he said reflectively.

    I had been thinking of it, too. It seemed to me that here Strickland had finally put the whole expression of himself. Working silently, knowing that it was his last chance, I fancied that here he must have said all that he knew of life and all that he divined. And I fancied that perhaps here he had at last found peace. The demon which possessed him was exorcised at last, and with the completion of the work, for which all his life had been a painful preparation, rest descended on his remote and tortured soul. He was willing to die, for he had fulfilled his purpose.

    "What was the subject?" I asked.

    "I scarcely know. It was strange and fantastic. It was a vision of the beginnings of the world, the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve —— <i que sais-je?> —— it was a hymn to the beauty of the human form, male and female, and the praise of Nature, sublime, indifferent, lovely, and cruel. It gave you an awful sense of the infinity of space and of the endlessness of time. Because he painted the trees I see about me every day, the cocoa-nuts, the banyans, the flamboyants, the alligator-pears, I have seen them ever since differently, as though there were in them a spirit and a mystery which I am ever on the point of seizing and which forever escapes me. The colours were the colours familiar to me, and yet they were different. They had a significance which was all their own. And those nude men and women. They were of the earth, and yet apart from it. They seemed to possess something of the clay of which they were created, and at the same time something divine. You saw man in the nakedness of his primeval instincts, and you were afraid, for you saw yourself."

    Dr. Coutras shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

    "You will laugh at me. I am a materialist, and I am a gross, fat man ——Falstaff, eh? —— the lyrical mode does not become me. I make myself ridiculous. But I have never seen painting which made so deep an impression upon me. <i Tenez>, I had just the same feeling as when I went to the Sistine Chapel in Rome. There too I was awed by the greatness of the man who had painted that ceiling. It was genius, and it was stupendous and overwhelming. I felt small and insignificant. But you are prepared for the greatness of Michael Angelo. Nothing had prepared me for the immense surprise of these pictures in a native hut, far away from civilisation, in a fold of the mountain above Taravao. And Michael Angelo is sane and healthy. Those great works of his have the calm of the sublime; but here, notwithstanding beauty, was something troubling. I do not know what it was. It made me uneasy. It gave me the impression you get when you are sitting next door to a room that you know is empty, but in which, you know not why, you have a dreadful consciousness that notwithstanding there is someone. You scold yourself; you know it is only your nerves —— and yet, and yet…… In a little while it is impossible to resist the terror that seizes you, and you are helpless in the clutch of an unseen horror. Yes; I confess I was not altogether sorry when I heard that those strange masterpieces had been destroyed."

    "Destroyed?" I cried.

    "<i Mais oui>; did you not know?" "How should I know? It is true I had never heard of this work; but I thought perhaps it had fallen into the hands of a private owner. Even now there is no certain list of Strickland's paintings."

    "When he grew blind he would sit hour after hour in those two rooms that he had painted, looking at his works with sightless eyes, and seeing, perhaps, more than he had ever seen in his life before. Ata told me that he never complained of his fate, he never lost courage. To the end his mind remained serene and undisturbed. But he made her promise that when she had buried him —— did I tell you that I dug his grave with my own hands, for none of the natives would approach the infected house, and we buried him, she and I, sewn up in three <i pareos> joined together, under the mango-tree —— he made her promise that she would set fire to the house and not leave it till it was burned to the ground and not a stick remained."

    I did not speak for a while, for I was thinking. Then I said:

    "He remained the same to the end, then."

    "Do you understand? I must tell you that I thought it my duty to dissuade her."

    "Even after what you have just said?"

    "Yes; for I knew that here was a work of genius, and I did not think we had the right to deprive the world of it. But Ata would not listen to me. She had promised. I would not stay to witness the barbarous deed, and it was only afterwards that I heard what she had done. She poured paraffin on the dry floors and on the pandanus-mats, and then she set fire. In a little while nothing remained but smouldering embers, and a great masterpiece existed no longer.

    "I think Strickland knew it was a masterpiece. He had achieved what he wanted. His life was complete. He had made a world and saw that it was good. Then, in pride and contempt, he destroyed, it."

    "But I must show you my picture," said Dr. Coutras, moving on.

    "What happened to Ata and the child?"

    They went to the Marquesas. She had relations there. I have heard that the boy works on one of Cameron's schooners. They say he is very like his father in appearance."

    At the door that led from the verandah to the doctor's consulting-room, he paused and smiled.

    "It is a fruit-piece. You would think it not a very suitable picture for a doctor's consulting-room, but my wife will not have it in the drawing-room. She says it is frankly obscene."

    "A fruit-piece!" I exclaimed in surprise.

    We entered the room, and my eyes fell at once on the picture. I looked at it for a long time.

    It was a pile of mangoes, bananas, oranges, and I know not what. and at first sight it was an innocent picture enough. It would have been passed in an exhibition of the Post- Impressionists by a careless person as an excellent but not very remarkable example of the school; but perhaps afterwards it would come back to his recollection, and he would wonder why. I do not think then he could ever entirely forget it.

    The colours were so strange that words can hardly tell what a troubling emotion they gave. They were sombre blues, opaque like a delicately carved bowl in lapis lazuli, and yet with a quivering lustre that suggested the palpitation of mysterious life; there were purples, horrible like raw and putrid flesh, and yet with a glowing, sensual passion that called up vague memories of the Roman Empire of Heliogabalus; there were reds, shrill like the berries of holly —— one thought of Christmas in England, and the snow, the good cheer, and the pleasure of children —— and yet by some magic softened till they had the swooning tenderness of a dove's breast; there were deep yellows that died with an unnatural passion into a green as fragrant as the spring and as pure as the sparkling water of a mountain brook. Who can tell what anguished fancy made these fruits? They belonged to a Polynesian garden of the Hesperides. There was something strangely alive in them, as though they were created in a stage of the earth's dark history when things were not irrevocably fixed to their forms. They were extravagantly luxurious. They were heavy with tropical odours. They seemed to possess a sombre passion of their own. It was enchanted fruit, to taste which might open the gateway to God knows what secrets of the soul and to mysterious palaces of the imagination. They were sullen with unawaited dangers, and to eat them might turn a man to beast or god. All that was healthy and natural, all that clung to happy relationships and the simple joys of simple men, shrunk from them in dismay; and yet a fearful attraction was in them, and, like the fruit on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they were terrible with the possibilities of the Unknown.

    At last I turned away. I felt that Strickland had kept his secret to the grave.

    "<i Voyons, Rene, mon ami>," came the loud, cheerful voice of Madame Coutras, "what are you doing all this time? Here are the <i aperitifs>. Ask <i Monsieur> if he will not drink a little glass of Quinquina Dubonnet."

    "<i Volontiers>, Madame," I said, going out on to the verandah.

    The spell was broken.

相关热词:文学 小说
栏目相关课程表
科目名称 主讲老师 课时 免费试听 优惠价 购买课程
英语零起点 郭俊霞 30课时 试听 150元/门 购买
综艺乐园 ------ 15课时 试听 100元/门 购买
边玩边学 ------ 10课时 试听 60元/门 购买
情景喜剧 ------ 15课时 试听 100元/门 购买
欢乐课堂 ------ 35课时 试听 150元/门 购买
趣味英语速成 钟 平 18课时 试听 179元/门 购买
剑桥少儿英语预备级 (Pre-Starters) ------ ------ 试听 200元/门 购买
剑桥少儿英语一级 (Starters) ------ ------ 试听 200元/门 购买
剑桥少儿英语二级 (Movers) ------ ------ 试听 200元/门 购买
剑桥少儿英语三级 (Flyers) ------ ------ 试听 200元/门 购买
初级英语口语 ------ 55课时 ------ 350元/门 购买
中级英语口语 ------ 83课时 ------ 350元/门 购买
高级英语口语 ------ 122课时 ------ 350元/门 购买
基础英语辅导课程
郭俊霞 北京语言大学毕业,国内某知名中学英语教研组长,教学标兵……详情>>
郭俊霞:零基础英语网上辅导名师
钟平 北大才俊,英语辅导专家,累计从事英语教学八年,机械化翻译公式发明人……详情>>
钟平:趣味英语速成网上辅导名师

  1、凡本网注明 “来源:外语教育网”的所有作品,版权均属外语教育网所有,未经本网授权不得转载、链接、转贴或以其他方式使用;已经本网授权的,应在授权范围内使用,且必须注明“来源:外语教育网”。违反上述声明者,本网将追究其法律责任。
  2、本网部分资料为网上搜集转载,均尽力标明作者和出处。对于本网刊载作品涉及版权等问题的,请作者与本网站联系,本网站核实确认后会尽快予以处理。本网转载之作品,并不意味着认同该作品的观点或真实性。如其他媒体、网站或个人转载使用,请与著作权人联系,并自负法律责任。
  3、联系方式
  编辑信箱:for68@chinaacc.com
  电话:010-82319999-2371