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Chapter 3

THE next thing I remember is, waking up with a feeling as if I had had a frightful nightmare, and seeing before me a terrible red glare, crossed with thick black bars.

I heard voices, too, speaking with a hollow sound, and as if muffled by a rush of wind or water: agitation, uncertainty, and an all-predominating sense of terror confused my faculties. Ere long, I became aware that some one was handling me; lifting me up and sup worse ailment was an unutterable wretchedness of mind: a wretchedness which kept drawing from me silent tears; no sooner had I wiped one salt drop from my cheek than another followed. Yet, I thought, I ought to have been happy, for none of the Reeds were there, they were all gone out in the carriage with their mama. Abbot, too, was sewing in another room, and Bessie, as she moved hither and thither, putting away toys and arranging drawers, addressed to me every now and then a word of unwonted kindness. This state of things should have been to me a paradise of peace, accustomed as I was to a life of ceaseless reprimand and thankless fagging; but, in fact, my racked nerves were now in such a state that no calm could soothe, and no pleasure excite them agreeably.

Bessie had been down into the kitchen, and she brought up with her a t?;B?of Abbot, for instance, would have been), I scrutinised the face of the gentleman: I knew him; it was Mr. Lloyd, an apothecary, sometimes called in by Mrs. Reed when the servants were ailing: for herself and the children she employed a physician.

'Well, who am I?' he asked.

I pronounced his name, offering him at the same time my hand: he took it, smiling and saying, 'We shall do very well by and by.' Then he laid me down, and addressing Bessie, charged her to be very careful that I was not disturbed during the night. Having given some further directions, and intimated that he should call again the next day, he departed; to my grief: I felt so sheltered and befriended while he sat in the chair near my pillow; and as he closed the door after him, all the room darkened and my heart again sank: inexpressible sadness weighed it down.

'Do you feel as if you should sleep, Miss?' asked Bessie, rather softly.

Scarcely dared I answer her; for I feared the next sentence might  be rough. 'I will try.'

'Would you like to drink, or could you eat anything?'

'No, thank you, Bessie.'

'Then I think I shall go to bed, for it is past twelve o'clock; but you may call me if you want anything in the night.' Wonderful civility this! It emboldened me to ask a question.

'Bessie, what is the matter with me? Am I ill?'

'You fell sick, I suppose, in the red-room with crying; you'll be better soon, no doubt.'

Bessie went into the housemaid's apartment, which was near. I heard her say-

'Sarah, come and sleep with me in the nursery; I daren't for my life be alone with that poor child tonight: she might die; it's such a strange thing she should have that fit: I wonder if she saw anything. Missis was rather too hard.'

Sarah came back with her; they both went to bed; they were whispering together for half an hour before they fell asleep. I caught scraps of their conversation, from which I was able only too distinctly to infer the main subject discussed.

'Something passed her, all dressed in white, and vanished'- 'A great black dog behind him'- 'Three loud raps on the chamber door'- 'A light in the churchyard just over his grave,' etc., etc.

At last both slept: the fire and the candle went out. For me, the watches of that long night passed in ghastly wakefulness; ear, eye, and mind were alike strained by dread: such dread as children only can feel.

No severe or prolonged bodily illness followed this incident of the red-room; it only gave my nerves a shock of which I feel the reverberation to this day. Yes, Mrs. Reed, to you I owe some fearful pangs of mental suffering, but I ought to forgive you, for you knew not what you did: while rending my heart-strings, you thought you were only uprooting my bad propensities.

Next day, by noon, I was up and dressed, and sat wrapped in a shawl by the nursery hearth. I felt physically weak and broken down: but my worse ailment was an unutterable wretchedness of mind: a wretchedness which kept drawing from me silent tears; no sooner had I wiped one salt drop from my cheek than another followed. Yet, I thought, I ought to have been happy, for none of the Reeds were there, they were all gone out in the carriage with their mama. Abbot, too, was sewing in another room, and Bessie, as she moved hither and thither, putting away toys and arranging drawers, addressed to me every now and then a word of unwonted kindness. This state of things should have been to me a paradise of peace, accustomed as I was to a life of ceaseless reprimand and thankless fagging; but, in fact, my racked nerves were now in such a state that no calm could soothe, and no pleasure excite them agreeably.

Bessie had been down into the kitchen, and she brought up with her a tart on a certain brightly painted china plate, whose bird of paradise, nestling in a wreath of convolvuli and rosebuds, had been wont to stir in me a most enthusiastic sense of admiration; and which plate I had often petitioned to be allowed to take in my hand in order to examine it more closely, but had always hitherto been deemed unworthy of such a privilege. This precious vessel was now placed on my knee, and I was cordially invited to eat the circlet of delicate pastry upon it. Vain favour! coming, like most other favours long deferred and often wished for, too late! I could not eat the tart; and the plumage of the bird, the tints of the flowers, seemed strangely faded: I put both plate and tart away. Bessie asked if I would have a book: the word book acted as a transient stimulus, and I begged her to fetch Gulliver's Travels from the library. This book I had again and again perused with delight. I considered it a narrative of facts, and discovered in it a vein of interest deeper than what I found in fairy tales: for as to the elves, having sought them in vain among fox-glove leaves and bells, under mushrooms and beneath the ground-ivy mantling old wall-nooks, I had at length made up my mind to the sad truth, that they were all gone out of England to some savage country where the woods were wilder and thicker, and the population more scant; whereas, Lilliput and Brobdingnag being, in my creed, solid parts of the earth's surface, I doubted not that I might one day, by taking a long voyage, see with my own eyes the little fields, houses, and trees, the diminutive people, the tiny cows, sheep, and birds of the one realm; and the corn-fields, forest-high, the mighty mastiffs, the monster cats, the tower-like men and women, of the other.

Yet, when this cherished volume was now placed in my hand- when I turned over its leaves, and sought in its marvellous pictures the charm I had, till now, never failed to find- all was eerie and dreary; the giants were gaunt goblins, the pigmies malevolent and fearful imps, Gulliver a most desolate wanderer in most dread and dangerous regions. I closed the book, which I dared no longer peruse, and put it on the table, beside the untasted tart.

Bessie had now finished dusting and tidying the room, and having washed her hands, she opened a certain little drawer, full of splendid shreds of silk and satin, and began making a new bonnet for Georgiana's doll. Meantime she sang: her song was- 'In the days when we were gipsying, A long time ago.'

I had often heard the song before, and always with lively delight; for Bessie had a sweet voice,- at least, I thought so. But now, though her voice was still sweet, I found in its melody an indescribable sadness. Sometimes, preoccupied with her work, she sang the refrain very low, very lingeringly; 'A long time ago' came out like the saddest cadence of a funeral hymn. She passed into another ballad, this time a really doleful one.

'My feet they are sore, and my limbs they are weary; Long is the way, and the mountains are wild; Soon will the twilight close moonless and dreary Over the path of the poor orphan child. Why did they send me so far and so lonely, Up where the moors spread and grey rocks are piled? Men are hard-hearted, and kind angels only Watch o'er the steps of a poor orphan child. Yet distant and soft the night breeze is blowing, Clouds there are none, and clear stars beam mild, God, in His mercy, protection is showing, Comfort and hope to the poor orphan child.

Ev'n should I fall o'er the broken bridge passing, Or stray in the marshes, by false lights beguiled, Still will my Father, with promise and blessing, Take to His bosom the poor orphan child.

There is a thought that for strength should avail me, Though both of shelter and kindred despoiled; Heaven is a home, and a rest will not fail me; God is a friend to the poor orphan child.'

'Come, Miss Jane, don't cry,' said Bessie as she finished. She might as well have said to the fire, 'don't burn!' but how could she divine the morbid suffering to which I was a prey? In the course of the morning Mr. Lloyd came again.

'What, already up!' said he, as he entered the nursery. 'Well, nurse, how is she?'

Bessie answered that I was doing very well.

'Then she ought to look more cheerful. Come here, Mis Jane: your name is Jane, is it not?'

'Yes, sir, Jane Eyre.'

'Well, you have been crying, Miss Jane Eyre; can you tell me what about? Have you any pain?'

'No, sir.'

'Oh! I daresay she is crying because she could not go out with Missis in the carriage,' interposed Bessie.

'Surely not! why, she is too old for such pettishness.'

I thought so too; and my self-esteem being wounded by the false charge, I answered promptly, 'I never cried for such a thing in my life: I hate going out in the carriage. I cry because I am miserable.'

'Oh fie, Miss!' said Bessie.

The good apothecary appeared a little puzzled. I was standing before him; he fixed his eyes on me very steadily: his eyes were small and grey; not very bright, but I daresay I should think them shrewd now: he had a hard-featured yet good-natured looking face. Having considered me at leisure, he said-

'What made you ill yesterday?'

'She had a fall,' said Bessie, again putting in her word.

'Fall! why, that is like a baby again! Can't she manage to walk at her age? She must be eight or nine years old.'

'I was knocked down,' was the blunt explanation, jerked out of me by another pang of mortified pride; 'but that did not make me ill,'

I added; while Mr. Lloyd helped himself to a pinch of snuff.

As he was returning the box to his waistcoat pocket, a loud bell rang for the servants' dinner; he knew what it was. 'That's for you, nurse,' said he; 'you can go down; I'll give Miss Jane a lecture till you come back.'

Bessie would rather have stayed, but she was obliged to go, because punctuality at meals was rigidly enforced at Gates-head Hall.

'The fall did not make you ill; what did, then?' pursued Mr.Lloyd when Bessie was gone.

'I was shut up in a room where there is a ghost till after dark.'

I saw Mr. Lloyd smile and frown at the same time. 'Ghost! What, you are a baby after all! You are afraid of ghosts?'

'Of Mr. Reed's ghost I am: he died in that room, and was laid out there. Neither Bessie nor any one else will go into it at night, if they can help it; and it was cruel to shut me up alone without a candle,- so cruel that I think I shall never forget it.'

'Nonsense! And is it that makes you so miserable? Are you afraid now in daylight?'

'No: but night will come again before long: and besides,- I am unhappy,- very unhappy, for other things.'

'What other thingury Gothic" size="2">it implied a long journey, an entire separation from Gateshead, an entrance into a new life.

'I should indeed like to go to school,' was the audible conclusion of my musings.

'Well, well! who knows what may happen?' said Mr. Lloyd, as he got up. 'The child ought to have change of air and scene,' he added, speaking to himself; 'nerves not in a good state.'

Bessie now returned; at the same moment the carriage was heard rolling up the gravel-walk.

'Is that your mistress, nurse?' asked Mr. Lloyd. 'I should like to speak to her before I go.'

Bessie invited him to walk into the breakfast-room, and led the way our??me up in the red-room.'

Mr. Lloyd a second time produced his snuff-box.

'Don't you think Gateshead Hall a very beautiful house?' asked he. 'Are you not very thankful to have such a fine place to live at?'

'It is not my house, sir; and Abbot says I have less right to be here than a servant.'

'Pooh! you can't be silly enough to wish to leave such a splendid place?'

'If I had anywhere else to go, I should be glad to leave it; but I can never get away from Gateshead till I am a woman.'

'Perhaps you may- who knows? Have you any relations besides Mrs. Reed?'

'I think not, sir.'

'None belonging to your father?'

'I don't know: I asked Aunt Reed once, and she said possibly I might have some poor, low relations called Eyre, but she knew nothing about them.'

'If you had such, would you like to go to them?'

I reflected. Poverty looks grim to grown people; still more so to children: they have not much idea of industrious, working, respectable poverty; they think of the word only as connected with ragged clothes, scanty food, fireless grates, rude manners, and debasing vices: poverty for me was synonymous with degradation.

'No; I should not like to belong to poor people,' was my reply.

'Not even if they were kind to you?'

I shook my head: I could not see how poor people had the means of being kind; and then to learn to speak like them, to adopt their manners, to be uneducated, to grow up like one of the poor women I saw sometimes nursing their children or washing their clothes at the cottage doors of the village of Gateshead: no, I was not heroic enough to purchase liberty at the price of caste.

'But are your relatives so very poor? Are they working people?'

'I cannot tell; Aunt Reed says if I have any, they must be a beggarly set: I should not like to go a-begging.'

'Would you like to go to school?'

Again I reflected: I scarcely knew what school was: Bessie sometimes spoke of it as a place where young ladies sat in the stocks, wore backboards, and were expected to be exceedingly genteel and precise: John Reed hated his school, and abused his master; but John Reed's tastes were no rule for mine, and if Bessie's accounts of school-discipline (gathered from the young ladies of a family where she had lived before coming to Gateshead) were somewhat appalling, her details of certain accomplishments attained by these same young ladies were, I thought, equally attractive. She boasted of beautiful paintings of landscapes and flowers by them executed; of songs they could sing and pieces they could play, of purses they could net, of French books they could translate; till my spirit was moved to emulation as I listened. Besides, school would be a complete change:it implied a long journey, an entire separation from Gateshead, an entrance into a new life.

'I should indeed like to go to school,' was the audible conclusion of my musings.

'Well, well! who knows what may happen?' said Mr. Lloyd, as he got up. 'The child ought to have change of air and scene,' he added, speaking to himself; 'nerves not in a good state.'

Bessie now returned; at the same moment the carriage was heard rolling up the gravel-walk.

'Is that your mistress, nurse?' asked Mr. Lloyd. 'I should like to speak to her before I go.'

Bessie invited him to walk into the breakfast-room, and led the way out. In the interview which followed between him and Mrs. Reed, I presume, from after-occurrences, that the apothecary ventured to recommend my being sent to school; and the recommendation was no doubt readily enough adopted; for as Abbot said, in discussing the subject with Bessie when both sat sewing in the nursery one night, after I was in bed, and, as they thought, asleep, 'Missis was, she dared say, glad enough to get rid of such a tiresome, ill-conditioned child, who always looked as if she were watching everybody, and scheming plots underhand.' Abbot, I think, gave me credit for being a sort of infantine Guy Fawkes.

On that same occasion I learned, for the first time, from Miss Abbot's communications to Bessie, that my father had been a poor clergyman; that my mother had married him against the wishes of her friends, who considered the match beneath her; that my grandfather Reed was so irritated at her disobedience, he cut her off without a shilling; that after my mother and father had been married a year, the latter caught the typhus fever while visiting among the poor of a large manufacturing town where his curacy was situated, and where that disease was then prevalent: that my mother took the infection from him, and both died within a month of each other.

Bessie, when she heard this narrative, sighed and said, 'Poor Miss Jane is to be pitied too, Abbot.'

'Yes,' responded Abbot; 'if she were a nice, pretty child, one might compassionate her forlornness; but one really cannot care for such a little toad as that.'

'Not a great deal, to be sure,' agreed Bessie: 'at any rate, a beauty like Miss Georgiana would be more moving in the same condition.'

'Yes, I doat on Miss Georgiana!' cried the fervent Abbot. 'Little darling!- with her long curls and her blue eyes, and such a sweet colour as she has; just as if she were painted!- Bessie, I could fancy a Welsh rabbit for supper.'

'So could I- with a roast onion. Come, we'll go down.' They went.


我随后记得,醒过来时仿佛做了一场可怕的恶梦,看到眼前闪烁着骇人的红光,被一根根又粗又黑的条子所隔断。我还听到了沉闷的说话声,仿佛被一阵风声或水声盖住了似的。激动不安以及压倒一切的恐怖感,使我神智模糊了。不久,我明白有人在摆弄我,把我扶起来,让我靠着他坐着。我觉得以前从来没有被人这么轻乎轻脚地抱起过,我把头倚在一个枕头上或是一条胳膊上,感到很舒服。

五分钟后,心头的疑云消散了。我完全明白我在自己的床上,那红光是保育室的炉火。时候是夜间,桌上燃着蜡烛。贝茵端着脸盆站在床脚边,一位老先生坐在我枕边的椅子上,俯身向着我。

我知道房间里有一个生人,一个不属于盖茨黑德府、也不与里德太太拈亲带故的人。这时,我感到了一种难以言表的宽慰,一种确徐堂啊,永远是归宿和安息之所,上帝是可怜孤儿的朋友。

“来吧,简小姐,别哭了,”贝茜唱完了说。其实,她无异于对火说“你别燃烧!”不过,她怎么能揣度出我被极度的痛苦所折磨?早上劳埃德先生又来了。

“怎么,己经起来了!”他一进保育室就说,“嗨,保姆、她怎么样了?”

贝茜回答说我情况很好。

“那她应该高兴才是。过来、简小姐,你的名字叫简,是不是?”

“是,先生,叫简.爱。”

“瞧,你一直在哭,简.爱小姐,你能告诉我为什么吗?哪儿疼吗?”

“不疼,先生。”

“啊,我想是因为不能跟小姐们一起坐马车出去才哭的,”贝茜插嘴说。

“当然不是罗!她那么大了,不会为这点小事闹别扭的。”

这恰恰也是我的想法。而她这么冤枉我伤了我的自尊,所以我当即回答,“我长得这么大从来没有为这种事哭过,而且我又讨厌乘马车出去。我是因为心里难受才哭的。”

“嘿,去去,小姐!”贝茜说。
P葸o嗝幢虮蛴欣癜。∮谑俏掖笞诺ㄗ游柿烁鑫侍狻?br>
“贝茜,我怎啦?病了吗?”

“你是病了,猜想是在红房子里哭出病来的,肯定很快就会好的。”

贝茵走进了附近佣人的卧房。我听见她说:

“萨拉,过来同我一起睡在保育室吧,今儿晚上,就是要我命,我也不敢同那个可怜孩子单独过夜了。她说不定会死的。真奇怪她竟会昏过去。不知道她看见了什么没有。里德太太也太狠心了。”

萨拉跟着她回来了,两人都上了床,嘁嘁喳喳讲了半个小时才睡着。我只听到了片言只语,但我可以清楚地推断出她们讨论的主题。

“有个东西从她身边经过,一身素装,转眼就不见了”——“一条大黑狗跟在后面”——“在房门上砰砰砰”敲了三下——“墓地里一道白光正好掠过他坟墓”等等等等。

最后,两人都睡着了,炉火和烛光也都熄灭。我就这么可怕地醒着挨过了漫漫长夜,害怕得耳朵、眼睛和头脑都紧张起来,这种恐俱是只有儿童才能感受到的,

红房子事件并没有给我身体留下严重或慢性的后遗症,它不过使我的神经受了惊吓,对此我至今记忆犹新。是的,里德太太,你让我领受了可怕的精神创伤,但我应当原谅你、因为你并不明白自己干了些什么,明明是在割断我的心弦,却自以为无非是要根除我的恶习。

第二天中午,我起来穿好衣服,裹了块浴巾,坐在保育室壁炉旁边。我身体虚弱,几乎要垮下来。但最大的痛楚却是内心难以言传的苦恼,弄得我不断地暗暗落泪。才从脸颊上抹去一滴带咸味的泪水,另一滴又滚落下来。不过,我想我应当高兴,因为里德一家人都不在,他们都坐了车随妈妈出去了。艾博特也在另一间屋里做针线活。而贝茵呢,来回忙碌着,一面把玩具收拾起来,将抽屉整理好,一面还不时地同我说两句少有的体贴话。对我来说,过惯了那种成天挨骂、辛辛苦苦吃力不讨好的日子后,这光景该好比是平静的乐园。然而,我的神经己被折磨得痛苦不堪,终于连平静也抚慰不了我,欢乐也难以使我兴奋了。

贝茜下楼去了一趟厨房,端上来一个小烘饼,放在一个图案鲜艳的瓷盘里,图案上画的是一只极乐鸟,偎依在一圈旋花和玫瑰花苞上。这幅画曾激起我热切的羡慕之情。我常常恳求让我端一端这只盘子,好仔细看个究竟,但总是被认为不配享受这样的特权。此刻,这只珍贵的器皿就搁在我膝头上,我还受到热诚邀请,品尝器皿里一小圈精美的糕点。徒有虚名的垂爱啊!跟其他久拖不予而又始终期待着的宠爱一样,来得太晚了!我已无意光顾这烘饼,而且那鸟的羽毛和花卉的色泽也奇怪地黯然无光了。我把盘子和烘饼挪开。贝茜问我是否想要一本书。“书”字产生了瞬间的刺激,我求她去图书室取来一本《格列佛游记》。我曾兴致勃动地反复细读过这本书,认为书中叙述的都实有其事,因而觉得比童话中写的有趣。至于那些小精灵们,我在毛地黄叶子与花冠之间,在蘑菇底下和爬满老墙角落的长春藤下遍寻无着之后,终于承认这悲哀的事实:他们都己逃离英国到某个原始的乡间去了,那儿树林更荒凉茂密,人口更为稀少。而我虔信,小人国和大人国都是地球表面实实在在的一部份。我毫不怀疑有朝一日我会去远航,亲眼看一看一个王国里小小的田野、小小的房子、小小的树木;看一看那里的小人、小牛、小羊和小鸟们;目睹一下另一个王国里如森林一般高耸的玉米地、硕大的猛犬、巨大无比的猫以及高塔一般的男男女女。然而,此刻当我手里捧着这本珍爱的书,一页页翻过去,从精妙的插图中寻觅以前每试必爽的魅力时,我找到的只是怪异和凄凉。巨人成了憔悴的妖怪,矮子沦为恶毒可怖的小鬼,而格列佛则已是陷身于险境的孤独的流浪者了。我不敢往下看了,合上书,把它放在桌上一口未尝的小烘饼旁边。

我以前常听这首歌,而且总觉得它欢快悦耳,因为贝茜的嗓子很甜,至少我认为如此。而此刻,虽然她甜蜜的嗓子依旧,但歌里透出了一种难以言喻的悲哀。有时,她干活出了神,把迭句唱得很低沉,拖得很长。一句“很久很久以前”唱出来,如同挽歌中最哀伤的调子。她接着又唱起一首民谣来,这回可是真的哀怨凄恻了。

我的双脚酸痛啊四肢乏力,前路漫漫啊大山荒芜。没有月光啊天色阴凄,暮霭沉沉啊笼罩着可怜孤儿的旅途。

为什么要让我孤苦伶丁远走他乡,流落在荒野连绵峭岩重叠的异地。人心狠毒啊,唯有天使善良,关注着可怜孤儿的足迹。

从远处吹来了柔和的夜风,晴空中繁星闪烁着温煦的光芒。仁慈的上帝啊,你赐福于万众,可怜的孤儿得到了保护、安慰和希望。

哪怕我走过断桥失足坠落,或是在迷茫恍惚中误入泥淖。天父啊,你带着祝福与许诺,把可怜的孤儿搂入你怀抱。

哪怕我无家可归无亲无故,一个给人力量的信念在我心头。天堂啊,永远是归宿和安息之所,上帝是可怜孤儿的朋友。

“来吧,简小姐,别哭了,”贝茜唱完了说。其实,她无异于对火说“你别燃烧!”不过,她怎么能揣度出我被极度的痛苦所折磨?早上劳埃德先生又来了。

“怎么,己经起来了!”他一进保育室就说,“嗨,保姆、她怎么样了?”

贝茜回答说我情况很好。

“那她应该高兴才是。过来、简小姐,你的名字叫简,是不是?”

“是,先生,叫简.爱。”

“瞧,你一直在哭,简.爱小姐,你能告诉我为什么吗?哪儿疼吗?”

“不疼,先生。”

“啊,我想是因为不能跟小姐们一起坐马车出去才哭的,”贝茜插嘴说。

“当然不是罗!她那么大了,不会为这点小事闹别扭的。”

这恰恰也是我的想法。而她这么冤枉我伤了我的自尊,所以我当即回答,“我长得这么大从来没有为这种事哭过,而且我又讨厌乘马车出去。我是因为心里难受才哭的。”

“嘿,去去,小姐!”贝茜说。

好心的药剂师似乎有些莫明其妙。我站在他面前,他目不转睛地看着我。他灰色的小眼睛并不明亮,但现在想来也许应当说是非常锐利的。他的面相既严厉而又温厚,他从从容容地打量了我一番后说:

“昨天你怎么得病的呢?”

“她跌了一跤。”贝茜又插嘴了。

“跌交:又耍娃娃脾气了!她这样年纪还不会走路?八九岁总有了吧。”

“我是被人给打倒的,”我脱口而出。由于自尊心再次受到伤害,引起了一阵痛楚,我冒昧地作了这样的辩解。“但光那样也不会生病。”我趁劳埃德先生取了一撮鼻烟吸起来时说。

他把烟盒放入背心口袋。这时,铃声大作,叫佣人们去吃饭。他明白是怎么回事。“那是叫你的,保姆,”他说,“你可以下去啦,我来开导开导简小姐,等着你回来,”

贝茜本想留着,但又不得不走,准时吃饭是盖茨黑德府的一条成规。

“你不是以为跌了跤才生病吧?那么因为什么呢?”贝茜一走,劳埃德先生便追问道。

“他们把我关在一间闹鬼的房子里,直到天黑。”

我看到劳埃德先生微微一笑,同时又皱起眉头来,“鬼?瞧,你毕竟还是个娃娃!你怕鬼吗?”

里德先生的鬼魂我是怕的,他就死在那同房子里,还在那里停过棂。无论贝茜,还是别人,能不进去,是不在夜里进那房间的。多狠心呀,把我一个人关在里面,连支蜡烛也不点。心肠那么狠,我一辈子都忘不了。”

“瞎说!就因为这个使你心里难受,现在大白天你还怕吗?”

“现在不怕,不过马上又要到夜里了。另外,我不愉快,很不愉快,为的是其他事情。”

“其他什么事?能说些给我听听吗?”

我多么希望能原原本本回答这个问题!要作出回答又何其困难:孩子们能够感觉,但无法分析自己的情感,即使部分分折能够意会,分析的过程也难以言传。但是我又担心失去这第一次也是唯一一次吐苦水的机会。所以局促不安地停了一停之后,便琢磨出一个虽不详尽却相当真实的回答。

“一方面是因为我没有父母,没有兄弟姐妹的缘故。”

“可是你有一位和蔼可亲的舅母,还有表兄妹们。”

我又顿了顿,随后便笨嘴笨舌地说:

“可是约翰.里德把我打倒了,而舅妈又把我关在红房子里。”

劳埃德先生再次掏出了鼻烟盒。

“你不觉得盖茨黑德府是座漂亮的房子吗?”他问,“让你住那么好一个地方,你难道不感激?”

“这又不是我的房子,先生。艾博特还说我比这儿的佣人还不如呢。”

“去!你总不至于傻得想离开这个好地方吧。”

“要是我有地方去,我是乐意走的。可是不等到长大成人我休想摆脱盖茨黑德。”

“也许可以——谁知道?除了里德太太,你还有别的亲戚吗?”

“我想没有了,先生。”

“你父亲那头也没有了吗?”

“我不知道,有一回我问过舅妈,她说可能有些姓爱的亲戚,人又穷,地位又低,她对他们的情况一无所知。”

“要是有这样的亲戚,你愿意去吗?”

我陷入了沉思,在成年人看来贫困显得冷酷无情,孩子则尤其如此。至于勤劳刻苦、令人钦敬的贫困,孩子们不甚了了。在他们心目中,这个字眼始终与衣衫槛褴褛、食品匿乏、壁炉无火、行为粗鲁以及低贱的恶习联系在一起。对我来说,贫困就是堕落的别名。

“不,我不愿与穷人为伍,”这就是我的回答。

“即使他们待你很好也不愿意?”

我摇了摇头,不明白穷人怎么会有条件对人仁慈,更不说我还得学他们的言谈举止,同他们一样没有文化,长大了像有时见到的那种贫苦女人一样,坐在盖茨黑德府茅屋门口,奶孩子或者搓洗衣服。不,我可没有那样英雄气概,宁愿抛却身份来换取自由。

“但是你的亲戚就那么穷,都是靠干活过日子的么?”

“我说不上来。里德舅妈说,要是我有亲戚,也准是一群要饭的,我可不愿去要饭。”

“你想上学吗?”

我再次沉思起来。我几乎不知道学校是什么样子。光听贝茜有时说起过,那个地方,年轻女子带足枷坐着,戴着脊骨矫正板,还非得要十分文雅和规矩才行。约翰.里德对学校恨之入骨,还大骂教师。不过他的感受不足为凭。如果贝茜关于校纪的说法(她来盖茨黑德之前,从她主人家一些年轻小姐那儿收集来的)有些骇人听闻,那么她细说的关于那些小姐所学得的才艺,我想也同样令人神往。她绘声绘色地谈起了她们制作的风景画和花卉画;谈起了她们能唱的歌,能弹的曲,能编织的钱包,能翻译的法文书,一直谈得我听着听着就为之心动,跃跃欲试。更何况上学也是彻底变换环境,意味着一次远行,意味着同盖茨黑德完全决裂,意味着踏上新的生活旅程。

“我真的愿意去上学,”这是我三思之后轻声说出的结论。

“唉,唉,谁知道会发生什么呢?”劳埃德先生立起身来说。“这孩子应当换换空气,换换地方,”他自言自语地补充说,“神经不很好。”

这时,贝茜回来了,同时听得见砂石路上响起了滚滚而来的马车声。

“是你们太太吗,保姆?”劳埃德先生问道。“走之前我得跟她谈一谈。”

贝茜请他进早餐室,并且领了路。从以后发生的情况推测,药剂师在随后与里德太太的会见中,大胆建议送我进学校。无疑,这个建议被欣然采纳了。一天夜里,艾博特和贝茜坐在保育室里,做着针钱活儿,谈起了这件事。那时,我已经上床,她们以为我睡着了。艾博特说:“我想太太一定巴不得摆脱这样一个既讨厌、品质又不好的孩子,她那样子就好像眼睛老盯着每个人,暗地里在搞什么阴谋似的。”我想艾博特准相信我是幼年的盖伊.福克斯式人物了。

就是这一回,我从艾博特与贝茜的文谈中第一次获悉,我父亲生前是个牧师,我母亲违背了朋友们的意愿嫁给了他,他们认为这桩婚事有失她的身份。我的外祖父里德,因为我母亲不听话而勃然大怒,一气之下同她断绝了关系,没留给她一个子儿。我父母亲结婚才一年,父亲染上了斑疹伤寒,因为他奔走于副牧师供职地区、一个大工业城镇的穷人中间,而当时该地流行着斑疹伤寒。我母亲从父亲那儿染上了同一疾病,结果父母双双故去,前后相距下到一个月。

贝茜听了这番话便长叹一声说:“可怜的简小姐也是值得同情呐,艾博特。”

“是呀,”艾博特回答,“她若是漂亮可爱,人家倒也会可怜她那么孤苦伶仃的,可是像她那样的小东西,实在不讨人喜欢。”

“确实不大讨人喜欢,”贝茜表示同意,“至少在同样处境下,乔治亚娜这样的美人儿会更惹人喜爱。”

“是呀,我就是喜欢乔治亚娜小姐!”狂热的艾博特嚷道,“真是个小宝贝——长长的卷发,蓝蓝的眼睛,还有那么可爱的肤色,简直像画出来的一股!——贝茜,晚餐我真想吃威尔士兔子。”

“我也一样——外加烤洋葱。来吧,我们下楼去。”她们走了。



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