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首页 » 经典英文小说 » 儿子与情人 Sons and Lovers » Chapter 3 The Casting Off Of Morel-The Taking On Of William
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Chapter 3 The Casting Off Of Morel-The Taking On Of William
DURING the next week Morel's temper was almost unbearable. Like all miners, he was a great lover of medicines, which, strangely enough, he would often pay for himself.

"You mun get me a drop o' laxy vitral," he said. "It's a winder as we canna ha'e a sup i' th' 'ouse."

So Mrs. Morel bought him elixir of vitriol, his favourite first medicine. And he made himself a jug of wormwood tea. He had hanging in the attic great bunches of dried herbs: wormwood, rue, horehound, elder flowers, parsley-purt, marshmallow, hyssop, dandelion, and centaury. Usually there was a jug of one or other decoction standing on the hob, from which he drank largely.

"Grand!" he said, smacking his lips after wormwood. "Grand!" And he exhorted the children to try.

"It's better than any of your tea or your cocoa stews," he vowed. But they were not to be tempted.

This time, however, neither pills nor vitriol nor all his herbs would shift the "nasty peens in his head". He was sickening for an attack of an inflammation of the brain. He had never been well since his sleeping on the ground when he went with Jerry to Nottingham. Since then he had drunk and stormed. Now he fell seriously ill, and Mrs. Morel had him to nurse. He was one of the worst patients imaginable. But, in spite of all, and putting aside the fact that he was breadwinner, she never quite wanted him to die. Still there was one part of her wanted him for herself.

The neighbours were very good to her: occasionally some had the children in to meals, occasionally some would do the downstairs work for her, one would mind the baby for a day. But it was a great drag, nevertheless. It was not every day the neighbours helped. Then she had nursing of baby and husband, cleaning and cooking, everything to do. She was quite worn out, but she did what was wanted of her.

And the money was just sufficient. She had seventeen shillings a week from clubs, and every Friday Barker and the other butty put by a portion of the stall's profits for Morel's wife. And the neighbours made broths, and gave eggs, and such invalids' trifles. If they had not helped her so generously in those times, Mrs. Morel would never have pulled through, without incurring debts that would have dragged her down.

The weeks passed. Morel, almost against hope, grew better. He had a fine constitution, so that, once on the mend, he went straight forward to recovery. Soon he was pottering about downstairs. During his illness his wife had spoilt him a little. Now he wanted her to continue. He often put his band to his head, pulled down the comers of his mouth, and shammed pains he did not feel. But there was no deceiving her. At first she merely smiled to herself. Then she scolded him sharply.

"Goodness, man, don't be so lachrymose."

That wounded him slightly, but still he continued to feign sickness.

"I wouldn't be such a mardy baby," said the wife shortly.

Then he was indignant, and cursed under his breath, like a boy. He was forced to resume a normal tone, and to cease to whine.

Nevertheless, there was a state of peace in the house for some time. Mrs. Morel was more tolerant of him, and he, depending on her almost like a child, was rather happy. Neither knew that she was more tolerant because she loved him less. Up till this time, in spite of all, he had been her husband and her man. She had felt that, more or less, what he did to himself he did to her. Her living depended on him. There were many, many stages in the ebbing of her love for him, but it was always ebbing.

Now, with the birth of this third baby, her self no longer set towards him, helplessly, but was like a tide that scarcely rose, standing off from him. After this she scarcely desired him. And, standing more aloof from him, not feeling him so much part of herself, but merely part of her circumstances, she did not mind so much what he did, could leave him alone.

There was the halt, the wistfulness about the ensuing year, which is like autumn in a man's life. His wife was casting him off, half regretfully, but relentlessly; casting him off and turning now for love and life to the children. Henceforward he was more or less a husk. And he himself acquiesced, as so many men do, yielding their place to their children.

During his recuperation, when it was really over between them, both made an effort to come back somewhat to the old relationship of the first months of their marriage. He sat at home and, when the children were in bed, and she was sewing--she did all her sewing by hand, made all shirts and children's clothing--he would read to her from the newspaper, slowly pronouncing and delivering the words like a man pitching quoits. Often she hurried him on, giving him a phrase in anticipation. And then he took her words humbly.

The silences between them were peculiar. There would be the swift, slight "cluck" of her needle, the sharp "pop" of his lips as he let out the smoke, the warmth, the sizzle on the bars as he spat in the fire. Then her thoughts turned to William. Already he was getting a big boy. Already he was top of the class, and the master said he was the smartest lad in the school. She saw him a man, young, full of vigour, making the world glow again for her.

And Morel sitting there, quite alone, and having nothing to think about, would be feeling vaguely uncomfortable. His soul would reach out in its blind way to her and find her gone. He felt a sort of emptiness, almost like a vacuum in his soul. He was unsettled and restless. Soon he could not live in that atmosphere, and he affected his wife. Both felt an oppression on their breathing when they were left together for some time. Then he went to bed and she settled down to enjoy herself alone, working, thinking, living.

Meanwhile another infant was coming, fruit of this little peace and tenderness between the separating parents. Paul was seventeen months old when the new baby was born. He was then a plump, pale child, quiet, with heavy blue eyes, and still the peculiar slight knitting of the brows. The last child was also a boy, fair and bonny. Mrs. Morel was sorry when she knew she was with child, both for economic reasons and because she did not love her husband; but not for the sake of the infant.

They called the baby Arthur. He was very pretty, with a mop of gold curls, and he loved his father from the first. Mrs. Morel was glad this child loved the father. Hearing the miner's footsteps, the baby would put up his arms and crow. And if Morel were in a good temper, he called back immediately, in his hearty, mellow voice:

"What then, my beauty? I sh'll come to thee in a minute."

And as soon as he had taken off his pit-coat, Mrs. Morel would put an apron round the child, and give him to his father.

"What a sight the lad looks!" she would exclaim sometimes, taking back the baby, that was smutted on the face from his father's kisses and play. Then Morel laughed joyfully.

"He's a little collier, bless his bit o' mutton!" he exclaimed.

And these were the happy moments of her life now, when the children included the father in her heart.

Meanwhile William grew bigger and stronger and more active, while Paul, always rather delicate and quiet, got slimmer, and trotted after his mother like her shadow. He was usually active and interested, but sometimes he would have fits of depression. Then the mother would find the boy of three or four crying on the sofa.

"What's the matter?" she asked, and got no answer.

"What's the matter?" she insisted, getting cross.

"I don't know," sobbed the child.

So she tried to reason him out of it, or to amuse him, but without effect. It made her feel beside herself. Then the father, always impatient, would jump from his chair and shout:

"If he doesn't stop, I'll smack him till he does."

"You'll do nothing of the sort," said the mother coldly. And then she carried the child into the yard, plumped him into his little chair, and said: "Now cry there, Misery!"

And then a butterfly on the rhubarb-leaves perhaps caught his eye, or at last he cried himself to sleep. These fits were not often, but they caused a shadow in Mrs. Morel's heart, and her treatment of Paul was different from that of the other children.

Suddenly one morning as she was looking down the alley of the Bottoms for the barm-man, she heard a voice calling her. It was the thin little Mrs. Anthony in brown velvet.

"Here, Mrs. Morel, I want to tell you about your Willie."

"Oh, do you?" replied Mrs. Morel. "Why, what's the matter?"

"A lad as gets 'old of another an' rips his clothes off'n 'is back," Mrs. Anthony said, "wants showing something."

"Your Alfred's as old as my William," said Mrs. Morel.

"'Appen 'e is, but that doesn't give him a right to get hold of the boy's collar, an' fair rip it clean off his back."

"Well," said Mrs. Morel, "I don't thrash my children, and even if I did, I should want to hear their side of the tale."

"They'd happen be a bit better if they did get a good hiding," retorted Mrs. Anthony. "When it comes ter rippin' a lad's clean collar off'n 'is back a-purpose---"

"I'm sure he didn't do it on purpose," said Mrs. Morel.

"Make me a liar!" shouted Mrs. Anthony.

Mrs. Morel moved away and closed her gate. Her hand trembled as she held her mug of barm.

"But I s'll let your mester know," Mrs. Anthony cried after her.

At dinner-time, when William had finished his meal and wanted to be off again--he was then eleven years old--his mother said to him:

"What did you tear Alfred Anthony's collar for?"

"When did I tear his collar?"

"I don't know when, but his mother says you did."

"Why--it was yesterday--an' it was torn a'ready."

"But you tore it more."

"Well, I'd got a cobbler as 'ad licked seventeen--an' Alfy Ant'ny 'e says:


'Adam an' Eve an' pinch-me,

Went down to a river to bade.

Adam an' Eve got drownded,

Who do yer think got saved?'

An' so I says: 'Oh, Pinch-YOU,' an' so I pinched 'im, an' 'e was mad, an' so he snatched my cobbler an' run off with it. An' so I run after 'im, an' when I was gettin' hold of 'im, 'e dodged, an' it ripped 'is collar. But I got my cobbler---"

He pulled from his pocket a black old horse-chestnut hanging on a string. This old cobbler had "cobbled"--hit and smashed--seventeen other cobblers on similar strings. So the boy was proud of his veteran.

"Well," said Mrs. Morel, "you know you've got no right to rip his collar."

"Well, our mother!" he answered. "I never meant tr'a done it--an' it was on'y an old indirrubber collar as was torn a'ready."

"Next time," said his mother, "YOU be more careful. I shouldn't like it if you came home with your collar torn off."

"I don't care, our mother; I never did it a-purpose."

The boy was rather miserable at being reprimanded.

"No--well, you be more careful."

William fled away, glad to be exonerated. And Mrs. Morel, who hated any bother with the neighbours, thought she would explain to Mrs. Anthony, and the business would be over.

But that evening Morel came in from the pit looking very sour. He stood in the kitchen and glared round, but did not speak for some minutes. Then:

"Wheer's that Willy?" he asked.

"What do you want HIM for?" asked Mrs. Morel, who had guessed.

"I'll let 'im know when I get him," said Morel, banging his pit-bottle on to the dresser.

"I suppose Mrs. Anthony's got hold of you and been yarning to you about Alfy's collar," said Mrs. Morel, rather sneering.

"Niver mind who's got hold of me," said Morel. "When I get hold of 'IM I'll make his bones rattle."

"It's a poor tale," said Mrs. Morel, "that you're so ready to side with any snipey vixen who likes to come telling tales against your own children."

"I'll learn 'im!" said Morel. "It none matters to me whose lad 'e is; 'e's none goin' rippin' an' tearin' about just as he's a mind."

"'Ripping and tearing about!'" repeated Mrs. Morel. "He was running after that Alfy, who'd taken his cobbler, and he accidentally got hold of his collar, because the other dodged--as an Anthony would."

"I know!" shouted Morel threateningly.

"You would, before you're told," replied his wife bitingly.

"Niver you mind," stormed Morel. "I know my business."

"That's more than doubtful," said Mrs. Morel, "supposing some loud-mouthed creature had been getting you to thrash your own children."

"I know," repeated Morel.

And he said no more, but sat and nursed his bad temper. Suddenly William ran in, saying:

"Can I have my tea, mother?"

"Tha can ha'e more than that!" shouted Morel.

"Hold your noise, man," said Mrs. Morel; "and don't look so ridiculous."

"He'll look ridiculous before I've done wi' him!" shouted Morel, rising from his chair and glaring at his son.

William, who was a tall lad for his years, but very sensitive, had gone pale, and was looking in a sort of horror at his father.

"Go out!" Mrs. Morel commanded her son.

William had not the wit to move. Suddenly Morel clenched his fist, and crouched.

"I'll GI'E him 'go out'!" he shouted like an insane thing.

"What!" cried Mrs. Morel, panting with rage. "You shall not touch him for HER telling, you shall not!"

"Shonna I?" shouted Morel. "Shonna I?"

And, glaring at the boy, he ran forward. Mrs. Morel sprang in between them, with her fist lifted.

"Don't you DARE!" she cried.

"What!" he shouted, baffled for the moment. "What!"

She spun round to her son.

"GO out of the house!" she commanded him in fury.

The boy, as if hypnotised by her, turned suddenly and was gone. Morel rushed to the door, but was too late. He returned, pale under his pit-dirt with fury. But now his wife was fully roused.

"Only dare!" she said in a loud, ringing voice. "Only dare, milord, to lay a finger on that child! You'll regret it for ever."

He was afraid of her. In a towering rage, he sat down.

When the children were old enough to be left, Mrs. Morel joined the Women's Guild. It was a little club of women attached to the Co-operative Wholesale Society, which met on Monday night in the long room over the grocery shop of the Bestwood "Co-op". The women were supposed to discuss the benefits to be derived from co-operation, and other social questions. Sometimes Mrs. Morel read a paper. It seemed queer to the children to see their mother, who was always busy about the house, sitting writing in her rapid fashion, thinking, referring to books, and writing again. They felt for her on such occasions the deepest respect.

But they loved the Guild. It was the only thing to which they did not grudge their mother--and that partly because she enjoyed it, partly because of the treats they derived from it. The Guild was called by some hostile husbands, who found their wives getting too independent, the "clat-fart" shop--that is, the gossip-shop. It is true, from off the basis of the Guild, the women could look at their homes, at the conditions of their own lives, and find fault. So the colliers found their women had a new standard of their own, rather disconcerting. And also, Mrs. Morel always had a lot of news on Monday nights, so that the children liked William to be in when their mother came home, because she told him things.

Then, when the lad was thirteen, she got him a job in the "Co-op." office. He was a very clever boy, frank, with rather rough features and real viking blue eyes.

"What dost want ter ma'e a stool-harsed Jack on 'im for?" said Morel. "All he'll do is to wear his britches behind out an' earn nowt. What's 'e startin' wi'?"

"It doesn't matter what he's starting with," said Mrs. Morel.

"It wouldna! Put 'im i' th' pit we me, an' 'ell earn a easy ten shillin' a wik from th' start. But six shillin' wearin' his truck-end out on a stool's better than ten shillin' i' th' pit wi'me, I know."

"He is NOT going in the pit," said Mrs. Morel, "and there's an end of it."

"It wor good enough for me, but it's non good enough for 'im."

"If your mother put you in the pit at twelve, it's no reason why I should do the same with my lad."

"Twelve! It wor a sight afore that!"

"Whenever it was," said Mrs. Morel.

She was very proud of her son. He went to the night school, and learned shorthand, so that by the time he was sixteen he was the best shorthand clerk and book-keeper on the place, except one. Then he taught in the night schools. But he was so fiery that only his good-nature and his size protected him.

All the things that men do--the decent things--William did. He could run like the wind. When he was twelve he won a first prize in a race; an inkstand of glass, shaped like an anvil. It stood proudly on the dresser, and gave Mrs. Morel a keen pleasure. The boy only ran for her. He flew home with his anvil, breathless, with a "Look, mother!" That was the first real tribute to herself. She took it like a queen.

"How pretty!" she exclaimed.

Then he began to get ambitious. He gave all his money to his mother. When he earned fourteen shillings a week, she gave him back two for himself, and, as he never drank, he felt himself rich. He went about with the bourgeois of Bestwood. The townlet contained nothing higher than the clergyman. Then came the bank manager, then the doctors, then the tradespeople, and after that the hosts of colliers. Willam began to consort with the sons of the chemist, the schoolmaster, and the tradesmen. He played billiards in the Mechanics' Hall. Also he danced--this in spite of his mother. All the life that Bestwood offered he enjoyed, from the sixpenny-hops down Church Street, to sports and billiards.

Paul was treated to dazzling descriptions of all kinds of flower-like ladies, most of whom lived like cut blooms in William's heart for a brief fortnight.

Occasionally some flame would come in pursuit of her errant swain. Mrs. Morel would find a strange girl at the door, and immediately she sniffed the air.

"Is Mr. Morel in?" the damsel would ask appealingly.

"My husband is at home," Mrs. Morel replied.

"I--I mean YOUNG Mr. Morel," repeated the maiden painfully.

"Which one? There are several."

Whereupon much blushing and stammering from the fair one.

"I--I met Mr. Morel--at Ripley," she explained.

"Oh--at a dance!"

"Yes."

"I don't approve of the girls my son meets at dances. And he is NOT at home."

Then he came home angry with his mother for having turned the girl away so rudely. He was a careless, yet eager-looking fellow, who walked with long strides, sometimes frowning, often with his cap pushed jollily to the back of his head. Now he came in frowning. He threw his cap on to the sofa, and took his strong jaw in his hand, and glared down at his mother. She was small, with her hair taken straight back from her forehead. She had a quiet air of authority, and yet of rare warmth. Knowing her son was angry, she trembled inwardly.

"Did a lady call for me yesterday, mother?" he asked.

"I don't know about a lady. There was a girl came."

"And why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I forgot, simply."

He fumed a little.

"A good-looking girl--seemed a lady?"

"I didn't look at her."

"Big brown eyes?"

"I did NOT look. And tell your girls, my son, that when they're running after you, they're not to come and ask your mother for you. Tell them that--brazen baggages you meet at dancing-classes."

"I'm sure she was a nice girl."

"And I'm sure she wasn't."

There ended the altercation. Over the dancing there was a great strife between the mother and the son. The grievance reached its height when William said he was going to Hucknall Torkard--considered a low town--to a fancy-dress ball. He was to be a Highlander. There was a dress he could hire, which one of his friends had had, and which fitted him perfectly. The Highland suit came home. Mrs. Morel received it coldly and would not unpack it.

"My suit come?" cried William.

"There's a parcel in the front room."

He rushed in and cut the string.

"How do you fancy your son in this!" he said, enraptured, showing her the suit.

"You know I don't want to fancy you in it."

On the evening of the dance, when he had come home to dress, Mrs. Morel put on her coat and bonnet.

"Aren't you going to stop and see me, mother?" he asked.

"No; I don't want to see you," she replied.

She was rather pale, and her face was closed and hard. She was afraid of her son's going the same way as his father. He hesitated a moment, and his heart stood still with anxiety. Then he caught sight of the Highland bonnet with its ribbons. He picked it up gleefully, forgetting her. She went out.

When he was nineteen he suddenly left the Co-op. office and got a situation in Nottingham. In his new place he had thirty shillings a week instead of eighteen. This was indeed a rise. His mother and his father were brimmed up with pride. Everybody praised William. It seemed he was going to get on rapidly. Mrs. Morel hoped, with his aid, to help her younger sons. Annie was now studying to be a teacher. Paul, also very clever, was getting on well, having lessons in French and German from his godfather, the clergyman who was still a friend to Mrs. Morel. Arthur, a spoilt and very good-looking boy, was at the Board school, but there was talk of his trying to get a scholarship for the High School in Nottingham.

William remained a year at his new post in Nottingham. He was studying hard, and growing serious. Something seemed to be fretting him. Still he went out to the dances and the river parties. He did not drink. The children were all rabid teetotallers. He came home very late at night, and sat yet longer studying. His mother implored him to take more care, to do one thing or another.

"Dance, if you want to dance, my son; but don't think you can work in the office, and then amuse yourself, and THEN study on top of all. You can't; the human frame won't stand it. Do one thing or the other--amuse yourself or learn Latin; but don't try to do both."

Then he got a place in London, at a hundred and twenty a year. This seemed a fabulous sum. His mother doubted almost whether to rejoice or to grieve.

"They want me in Lime Street on Monday week, mother," he cried, his eyes blazing as he read the letter. Mrs. Morel felt everything go silent inside her. He read the letter: "'And will you reply by Thursday whether you accept. Yours faithfully---' They want me, mother, at a hundred and twenty a year, and don't even ask to see me. Didn't I tell you I could do it! Think of me in London! And I can give you twenty pounds a year, mater. We s'll all be rolling in money."

"We shall, my son," she answered sadly.

It never occurred to him that she might be more hurt at his going away than glad of his success. Indeed, as the days drew near for his departure, her heart began to close and grow dreary with despair. She loved him so much! More than that, she hoped in him so much. Almost she lived by him. She liked to do things for him: she liked to put a cup for his tea and to iron his collars, of which he was so proud. It was a joy to her to have him proud of his collars. There was no laundry. So she used to rub away at them with her little convex iron, to polish them, till they shone from the sheer pressure of her arm. Now she would not do it for him. Now he was going away. She felt almost as if he were going as well out of her heart. He did not seem to leave her inhabited with himself. That was the grief and the pain to her. He took nearly all himself away.

A few days before his departure--he was just twenty--he burned his love-letters. They had hung on a file at the top of the kitchen cupboard. From some of them he had read extracts to his mother. Some of them she had taken the trouble to read herself. But most were too trivial.

Now, on the Saturday morning he said:

"Come on, Postle, let's go through my letters, and you can have the birds and flowers."

Mrs. Morel had done her Saturday's work on the Friday, because he was having a last day's holiday. She was making him a rice cake, which he loved, to take with him. He was scarcely conscious that she was so miserable.

He took the first letter off the file. It was mauve-tinted, and had purple and green thistles. William sniffed the page.

"Nice scent! Smell."

And he thrust the sheet under Paul's nose.

"Um!" said Paul, breathing in. "What d'you call it? Smell, mother."

His mother ducked her small, fine nose down to the paper.

"I don't want to smell their rubbish," she said, sniffing.

"This girl's father," said William, "is as rich as Croesus. He owns property without end. She calls me Lafayette, because I know French. 'You will see, I've forgiven you'--I like HER forgiving me. 'I told mother about you this morning, and she will have much pleasure if you come to tea on Sunday, but she will have to get father's consent also. I sincerely hope he will agree. I will let you know how it transpires. If, however, you---'"

"'Let you know how it' what?" interrupted Mrs. Morel.

"'Transpires'--oh yes!"

"'Transpires!'" repeated Mrs. Morel mockingly. "I thought she was so well educated!"

William felt slightly uncomfortable, and abandoned this maiden, giving Paul the corner with the thistles. He continued to read extracts from his letters, some of which amused his mother, some of which saddened her and made her anxious for him.

"My lad," she said, "they're very wise. They know they've only got to flatter your vanity, and you press up to them like a dog that has its head scratched."

"Well, they can't go on scratching for ever," he replied. "And when they've done, I trot away."

"But one day you'll find a string round your neck that you can't pull off," she answered.

"Not me! I'm equal to any of 'em, mater, they needn't flatter themselves."

"You flatter YOURSELF," she said quietly.

Soon there was a heap of twisted black pages, all that remained of the file of scented letters, except that Paul had thirty or forty pretty tickets from the corners of the notepaper--swallows and forget-me-nots and ivy sprays. And William went to London, to start a new life.

接下来的这个星期中,莫瑞尔的脾气简直让人不能忍受。像所有的矿工一样,他非常喜欢吃药。更令人奇怪的是,他常常自己掏腰包买药吃。

“你给我带一剂芳香酸。奇怪,家里竟然一口药也喝不上。”

于是,莫瑞尔太太给他买了他最喜欢喝的芳香酸,他给自己煮了一罐苦艾茶。阁楼上挂了成捆的干草药:有苦艾、芸香、夏至草、接骨木花、芜萎菜、蜀葵草、牛膝草、蒲公英和矢车菊。平常炉边铁架子上总是放着一罐他要喝的药汁。

“好极了!”他说。喝完了苦艾茶之后咂着嘴唇说。“好极了!”他还怂恿孩子们尝一尝。

“这比你们任何一种茶和可可都好喝。”他发誓说。但孩子们没有尝。

然而这次他得的是脑炎。无论药片、药酒,还是草药,都无法治好“他讨厌的头疼”。自从那次他和杰里去诺丁汉途中在野外睡了一觉后,他就一直不舒服。从那时起他就一直喝酒,发脾气,现在他觉得病入膏盲。莫瑞尔太太只好护理他这个最难侍候的病人。不管怎么样,她从来没有想让他去死。除去他能挣钱养家之外,她内心深处还是对他有一丝眷恋的。

邻居们对她也非常好,偶尔有人会叫孩子们去吃饭,有人替她干些楼下的家务活,也有人会照看一天婴儿。但不管怎么样,这个病也是个大累赘。邻居们也不是每天都来帮忙的。那样,她就得同时照顾小孩和丈夫。收拾屋子,做饭,什么都得干。她筋疲力尽。但她还是尽自己所能地干。

钱也只是刚够全家用度。她每星期从俱乐部里得到17先令。每个星期五,巴克和其他朋友们会均出来一份钱给莫瑞尔的妻子。而且,邻居们给她煮肉汤,给她鸡蛋,以及类似的零用品。如果这段时间没有他们的慷慨帮助,莫瑞尔太太只好借债,那会把她拖垮的。

八个星期过去了,几乎没有希望的莫瑞尔病情有了好转,他的体质很好。因此,一旦好转,很快就会复原的。不久,他就能在楼下活动了。他生病期间,妻子有一点宠惯他。现在他希望她能继续那样,他常摸着脑袋,撇着嘴。装出头疼的样子。但这些骗不了她。起初她只是暗自好笑,后来就很不客气地骂他。

“上帝啊。别这样哭哭啼啼的!”

这有一点伤害他。但他仍继续装病。

“我不是一个好哄的小娃娃。”他的妻子简短地说。

为此,他生气了,像个孩子似的低声骂着。后来,他不得不恢复他的正常语调,不再嘀咕。

不过,家里这一段时间比较太平。莫瑞尔太太对他多了份容忍,为此他喜不自禁。而他像个孩子似的依赖她,他们俩彼此都没意识到,她对他的宽容是因为她对他的爱在渐渐消失。不管怎么样,在这之前,她的心目中,他仍是她的丈夫,仍是她的男人。她多少还有点同甘共苦的感觉,她的生活依靠着他。这种爱的凋零是潜移默化不易察觉的,但爱情毕竟在衰退。

随着第三个孩子的出生,她不再与他无谓地争执。对他的爱就像不会再涨的潮水离他而去。此后,她几乎不再想他了。而且离他远远的。不再觉得他是她生活中很重要的一部分,只是她周围环境的一部分。她不再计较他的言行,完全让他自生自灭。

接下来的这一年,他们之间的感情处于无可奈何,怅然若失的境地,就像人生的秋季。妻子抛弃了他。虽然感到有缺憾,但是还是毫不犹豫地抛弃了他,把爱情和生活都寄托在孩子身上。他象个无价值的苦壳。像许多男人一样,他或多或少接受了这种现象,把位置让给了孩子们。

在他恢复期间,俩人都曾努力重温他们的婚后头几个月的温情。实际上,他俩的情感已经烟消云散了。孩子们已经上了床后,他坐在家里,她在做衬衣,要做孩子们的衣服。每逢这时,他就给她念报,慢条斯理地读着,象一个人在扔铁环似的。她常催他快点,预先告诉他下面估计是什么字。而他总是谦恭地接过她的话继续往下读。

他们之间的沉默很特别,会听到她的针发出轻快的嗖嗖声。他吸烟时嘴唇发出的很响的“啪啪”声,还有他往火里吐唾沫时炉子冒热气的声音。于是,他开始想威廉,他已经是个大男孩子。在班里是拔萃的,老师说他是学校里最聪明的孩子。他想象他成为一个男子汉。年轻、充满活力。这给她的生活燃起了一缕希望之火。

莫瑞尔孤孤单单地坐在那儿,没有什么可想的,隐隐感到不自在。他在内心盲目与她交流,或发现她已离他远去,他体验到空虚,内心深处一片空白,一片渺茫。他坐也不是,站也不是。不久,他在这种气氛中再呆不下去了,他的这种情绪也影响了他的妻子。他俩都觉得他们单独在一起时,连他们的呼吸都有一种压力。于是,他上床睡觉了。而她乐得独自一人,边干活,边思考,边消磨时间。

此时,另一个孩子出生了。这是当时正在疏远的父母在短暂的和平日子的结晶。这个小孩出生时,保罗才十七个月,是一个白白胖胖的小孩。有一双深蓝色的好奇的眼睛,微微皱着眉头。最小的这个孩子仍是个漂亮而健康的男孩。莫瑞尔太太知道自己怀孕后,感到非常为难。一方面由于经济原因,另一方面因为她不再爱她的丈夫了。不过,对孩子倒没什么可后悔的。

他们叫这个小孩亚瑟。他很漂亮,满头金色的卷发。而且,生来就喜欢他的父亲。莫瑞尔太太对此很高兴,听到这个矿工的脚步声,孩子就会伸出小手摇摇摆摆地欢呼。如果莫瑞尔心情好,他就会立刻用热情、柔和的声音回答。

“怎么了,我的宝贝。我马上来。”

他一脱下工作服。莫瑞尔太太就会用围裙把孩子裹好。然后递给他爸爸。

有时候,父亲的吻和逗弄,给孩子脸上沾满煤灰。当她抱回孩子时,不禁惊呼:“小家伙成什么样子了!”这时,莫瑞尔就会开心地大笑。

“他是一个小矿工。上帝保佑这个小家伙。”他大声说。

当心里有着孩子和丈夫时,她仿佛觉得生活充满欢乐。

威廉长得更高更壮了,也更活泼了。而保罗十分文弱安静,愈加清瘦,如影子般地跟着妈妈。平时,他也好动,也对别的东西非常好奇,有时他意气消沉闷闷不乐。这时,母亲就会发现这个三、四岁的男孩在沙发上流泪。

“怎么啦?”她问。却没有回答。

“怎么啦?”她有点生气她追问着。

“不知道。”孩子抽咽地说。

母亲又哄又劝地安慰他,但没用,这让她忍无可忍。这时父亲总是不耐烦地从椅子上跳起来大喊:“他要再哭,我就打得他住口。”

“这不关你的事。”母亲冷冷地说。然后,把孩子领到园子里,把他重重地放在椅子上,说:“现在哭吧,苦命的家伙。”

落在黄叶上的蝴蝶吸引了他,或者他自己哭着睡了。保罗的忧郁症不常发生,但在莫瑞尔太太心里投下了一块阴影。因此她在保罗身上操的心更多一些。

一天早晨,她朝河川区巷道张望着等待卖酵母的人。突然,她听到一个声音在喊她,原来是瘦小的安东尼太太,她穿着一身棕色丝绒衣服。

“嗨,莫瑞尔太太,我要给你说说威廉的事。”

“噢,是吗?”莫瑞尔太太回答。“怎么啦,发生了什么事?”

“他从后面抓住了我的孩子,撕了他的衣服。”安东尼太太说:“这还了得。”

“你家的阿尔弗雷德和威廉一样大呀。”莫瑞尔太太说。

“是一样大。但那也不能扭着别人的孩子,撕人家的衣服。”

“好。”莫瑞尔太太说:“我不会打孩子的。即使打他们,我也要让他们说明原因。”

“发生这样的事,应该好好教训他们一顿才是。”安东尼太太反驳道。

“我相信他不是故意的。”莫瑞尔太太说。

“你的意思是我在说谎?!”安东尼太太喊了起来。

莫瑞尔太太走了,把门也关上了。她端着杯酵母的手在发抖。

“我要告诉你当家的。”安东尼太太在身后喊道。

午饭时,威廉吃完饭又想走——他已经11岁了——他妈妈问话了。

“你为什么撕坏了阿尔弗雷德·安东尼的衣领?”

“我啥时撕了他的衣领?”

“我不知道啥时,他妈妈说你撕了。”

“噢——是昨天。那个领子早已破了。”

“但你把它撕得更破了。”

“是这样。我的砸果,赢了他17个——于是阿尔弗雷德·安东尼就喊:‘亚当夏娃掐人精,河里去干坏事情,亚当夏娃淹死啦,猜猜是谁得救啦?’

我就说:‘好,掐你一下。’我就掐了他一下。他像疯子一样抢了我的“砸果”就跑了。我就在后面追,抓住了他的时候,他一躲,就把领子给撕破了,但我抢回了我的砸果……”

他从口袋里掏出用根绳子串上的七叶树果,黑色陈旧的老“砸果”——击碎了其它十七颗挂在同样绳子上的砸果,因此这个男孩对自己百战不败的功臣感到骄傲。

“得了,”莫瑞尔太太说:“你应该明白你不应该撕别人的领子。”

“唉,妈妈呀!他回答:“我不是故意那么做的——再说,那只是一个旧的橡胶领子,而且早就破了。”

“下次,”他妈妈说:“你应该小心些,如果你回家时领子也被撕破了,我也会不高兴的。”

“我不在乎,妈妈,我不是有意撕的。”

小男孩子挨了训,表情很可怜。

“得了——你得加小心。”

威廉庆幸妈妈饶了他,飞也似地跑了。一向讨厌跟邻居闹纠葛的莫瑞尔太太,觉得她应该给安东尼太太解释一下,平息了这场风波。

但是,那天晚上,莫瑞尔从矿井回来,看上去怒气冲冲。他站在厨房里,四下瞅着,好几分钟没吭声,然后说:“威廉去哪儿了?”

“你找他干什么?”莫瑞尔太太心里揣测着问道。

“我找到他后,他就知道了,”莫瑞尔说着,“砰”地把他的井下喝水的瓶子摔在碗柜上。

“安东尼太太找你,胡扯阿尔弗雷德领子的事吧?”莫瑞尔太太冷笑着说。

“别管谁找我。”莫瑞尔说:“我找到他,把他的骨头揍扁。”

“真滑稽,”莫瑞尔太太说:“你竟相信别人的胡扯,想和母老虎站在一起冤枉你儿子。”

“我要教训他,”莫瑞尔说:“我不管谁的孩子,他不能随便去撕别人的衣服。”

“随便撕别人的衣服!”莫瑞尔太太重复了一遍,“阿尔弗雷德抢走了他的‘砸果’,他就去追,无意中抓住了他的领子,那个孩子一躲闪——安东尼家的孩子都会这么做。”

“我知道!”莫瑞尔恐吓地喝道。

“你知道,别人告诉你之前,你就知道。”他的妻子挖苦地回敬道。

“你别管,”莫瑞尔咆哮着,“我知道该怎么办。”

“可不一定,”莫瑞尔太太说:“假如有的长舌妇挑拨你去打你的儿子怎么办?”

“我知道。”莫瑞尔重复。

他不再说话,坐在那里生闷气。突然间,威廉跑了进来,说道:“妈妈,我可以吃茶点吗?”

“我让你吃个够!”莫瑞尔太太说:“看你丑态百出的样子。”

“我如果不收拾他,他岂止丑态百出。”莫瑞尔从椅子上站起身,瞪着儿子。

在威廉的这个年龄,他算是身材够高大的了,但他非常敏感,这时已脸色苍白,惶恐地看着父亲。

“出去!”莫瑞尔太太命令儿子。

威廉傻傻地没动。突然,莫瑞尔捏起拳头,弯下腰。

“我要凑他‘出去’!”他像失去理智似地喊。

“什么!”莫瑞尔太太喊道,气得呼呼地喘:“你不能只听她的话就打他,你不能!”

“我不能?”莫瑞尔喊着,“我不能?”

他瞪着孩子,向前冲去,莫瑞尔太太跳起身来拦在他们中间,举着拳头。

“你敢!”她大喊。

“什么?”他喊道,愣了一会,“什么?”

她转过身来对着儿子。

“出去!”她生气地命令他。

男孩好象中了她的魔法似的,突然转身跑了。莫瑞尔冲到门口,但已晚了。他转回身来,尽管他的脸满是煤灰,仍然气得发白。但现在他的妻子更是怒火冲天。

“你敢!”她声音响亮地说:“你敢碰这个孩子一指头,老爷,我让你后悔一辈子。”

他害怕她,只好生气地坐下。

孩子们长大了,不再让人操心。莫瑞尔太太参加了妇女协会。这个协会是附属于批发合作社的小型妇女俱乐部,协会每星期一晚上在贝斯伍德合作社的杂货铺楼上的一间长屋里聚会,妇女可以在那里讨论合作社的好处和其他一些社会问题。有时候,莫瑞尔太太也看看报。孩子们每每惊奇地看到整天忙着家务的妈妈坐着时而奋笔疾书,时而凝神沉思,时而批阅书册,然后继续书写,不禁对母亲怀有深深的敬意。

不过,他们很喜欢这个协会,只有在这件事上他们没有埋怨它抢走了他们的母亲——一半因为母亲从中享受到快乐,一半因为他们受到一些优待。一些心怀敌意的大丈夫们称这个协会是“咭咭呱呱”店,即说闲话的店,他们感觉妻子们太独立了。从这个协会的宗旨上说,这种感觉也许是正确的,女人们应该审视一下她们的家庭,她们的生活条件,从而发现生活有许多缺憾。矿工们发现他们的妻子有了自己新价值标准,感到非常恐慌。莫瑞尔太太在星期一的晚上总是带来很多新闻,因此,孩子们希望母亲回来的时候,威廉在家,因为她会毫无保留地告诉他很多事。

威廉十三岁时,她给他在合作社办公室里找到一份工作。他是一个很聪明的孩子,坦率真诚,相貌粗犷,长一双北欧海盗般的蓝眼睛。

“为什么让他去坐冷板凳?”莫瑞尔问,“他只会把裤子磨破,什么也挣不到,刚去多少钱?”

“开始挣多少没关系。”莫瑞尔太太说。

“不行!”让他跟我去下井,一开始我可以轻松地每周挣十个先令。不过,我知道,在凳子上磨破裤子挣六先令,还是比跟我下井挣十先令好。”

“他不能去下井,”莫瑞尔太太说,“再别提这件事了。”

“我下井没关系,他下井就不行啦?”

“你母亲让你十二岁下井,这并不意味着我让我的孩子也这么做。”

“十二岁?还没到十二岁呢!”

“管你几岁!”莫瑞尔太太说。

她以有这样的儿子而骄傲。他去了夜校,学会速记,到他十六岁时,除了另外一个人,他已经是当地最好的速记员和簿记员了。后来,他在一家夜校教书。但他的脾气大暴躁,要不是因为他的热心肠、大块头保护着他,真不堪设想。

所有男人干的事——好事——威廉都会。他跑起来快得像风,十二岁时,他在一次比赛中荣获一等奖,一个铁砧形状的玻璃墨水瓶,神气地摆在碗柜上,这给莫瑞尔太太莫大的喜悦。孩子是为她而跑的,他拿着那个奖品飞奔回家,气喘吁吁地说:“看,妈妈!”这是他给她的第一件真正的礼物,她像皇后一样接过了它。

“真漂亮!”她惊叹。

于是,他开始雄心勃勃,想把所有的钱都给了母亲。他每星期挣到十四先令,她给他两先令。由于他从不喝酒,他觉得自己很富有,便和贝斯伍德的中产阶级有了来往。小镇上地位最高的是牧师,然后是银行经理、医生、商人,还有煤矿老板。威廉相交的有药剂师的儿子、中学校长、商人。他在技工礼堂打弹子,竟然不顾母亲的反对去跳舞。他沉迷于贝斯伍德所有的活动,教堂街六便士的便宜舞会、体育运动、打弹子,无不躬亲。

保罗常听威廉描述那花枝招展的少女们,但大部分就像摘下的花朵一样,在威廉心中只活上短短两星期。

偶尔,也有情人来找她那行踪不定的情郎。莫瑞尔太太发现一个陌生的女孩站在门口,立刻嗅出了不对劲。

“莫瑞尔先生在吗?”年轻的女人用一种动人的神情问道。

“我丈夫在。”莫瑞尔太太回答。

“我——我是说,年轻的莫瑞尔。”少女费力地重复了一遍。

“哪一个?这里有好几个呢。”

于是,女孩脸色绯红,说话也结巴了。

“我——我是在舞会上碰到莫瑞尔先生的——在里普斯。”她解释着。

“哦——在舞会上!”

“是的。”

“我不喜欢儿子在舞会上结识的女孩,而且,他也不在家。”

他回家后,为母亲如此不礼貌地赶走了那个姑娘大为恼火。他是粗心大意,性情热烈的小伙子,时而昂首阔步,时而蹙额皱眉,常常喜欢把帽子扣到后脑勺上。此刻,他皱着眉头走了进来,把帽子扔到了沙发上,平托着下巴瞪着母亲。她身材矮小,头发朝后梳着。她平静,又让人敬畏,然而又非常亲切。知道儿子生气了,她内心有点不安。

“昨天有位小姐来找我吗,妈妈?”他问。

“我不知道什么小姐,倒是一位姑娘来过。”

“为什么你不告诉我?”

“因为我忘了。”

他有点激动。

“一个漂亮的女孩——看上去不像一位小姐?”

“我没看她。”

“褐色的大眼睛?”

“我没看。孩子,告诉你的那些姑娘们,她们想追求你时,不要到你妈妈这儿来找你。告诉那些你在跳舞班认识的厚颜无耻的女人。”

“我肯定她是一个好女孩。”

“我肯定她不是。”

这次争吵结束。关于跳舞,母子之间发生过一次唇枪舌剑的冲突。有一次,威廉说要去哈克诺?特米德——被认为是下等小镇的地方——参加一次化妆舞会,两人之间的不满到了高潮。他要扮成一个苏格兰高地人,就去租朋友的那套非常合适他穿的衣服。高地人服装送到家时,莫瑞尔太太冷冷地接下它,连包都没打开。

“我的衣服到了吗?”威廉喊道。

“前屋里有一个包裹。”

他冲进去,剪断了包上的绳子。

“你儿子穿这个怎么样?”他说着,欣喜若狂地给她看那套衣服。

“你知道我不喜欢你穿那身衣服。”

舞会那天傍晚,他回家来换衣服,莫瑞尔太太已经穿上大衣,戴上帽子。

“你不等一会看我吗?妈妈。”他问。

“不,我不想看到你。”她回答。

她苍白的面孔板得很紧。她害怕儿子重蹈他父亲的覆辙。他犹豫了一会,心里还是火烧火燎。突然,他看到那顶装饰着彩带的苏格兰高地的帽子,拿起帽子,高兴得忘乎所以,把母亲抛到九霄云外去了。

他十九岁时,突然离开了合作社办公室,在诺丁汉找到了一个差使。在新地方,他可以每周挣30先令而不再是18先令了。这确实是个飞跃。父母都很得意,人人交口称赞威廉,好象他会很快飞黄腾达。莫瑞尔太太希望,他能帮帮他的两个弟弟,安妮正在念师范;保罗,也相当聪明,成绩不错,正跟着那位当牧师的教父学法语和德语。牧师仍是莫瑞尔太太的好朋友。亚瑟是个倍受宠爱的漂亮男孩,正上公立小学,有人说他正在争取进诺丁汉中学的奖学金。

威廉在诺丁汉的新职位上呆了一年。他学习刻苦,人也严肃起来了,似乎有什么事使他烦恼。他仍然出去参加舞会和河边派对,他滴酒不沾。几个孩子都是绝对戒酒主义者。他晚上回来很晚,但还要坐在那里学习很长时间。母亲恳切地嘱咐他保重身体,不要急于求成,想干这,又想干那。

“要想跳舞就跳吧,我的孩子,不要以为自己既能工作,又能学习,还是可以玩的。不要样样想干——或者好好玩,或者学习拉丁语,但别同时兼顾两件事,人的身子骨是支撑不住的。”

后来,他在伦敦找到一份工作,年薪一百二十镑。这确实是很大一笔收入。他母亲不知道是喜是悲。

“他们让我星期一去莱姆大街,妈妈,”他喊道,他念信的时候,眼睛泛着光。莫瑞尔太太觉得内心一片沉寂。他念着信:“‘无论您接受与否,请予星期四之前做出答复。您的忠实的×××。’他们要我了,妈妈,一年一百一十镑,甚至不要求面试。我告诉过你,我会成功的!想想吧,我要去伦敦了!我可以每年给你二十镑,妈妈。我们都会有很多的钱。”

“我们会的,我的孩子。”她感伤地回答。

他从没料到,在母亲的心里,母子分别的感伤远远甚于儿子成功的喜悦。

随着他动身的日子的迫近,她越来越感到绝望伤心。她多么爱他呀!而且,她对他的希望多大呀!他是她生活的动力,她喜欢为他做事,喜欢给他端一杯茶,喜欢给他熨衣服。因为当地没有洗衣房。看着他穿上领口挺括的衣服那种自豪的神情时,她内心洋溢着喜悦。她常常用一个凸肚的小熨斗把衣领熨得干干净净,甚至在领口上用力摸出光泽来。如今,他要离开了,她再不能为他做这些了,她仿佛觉得他将要离开她的心。似乎他并没有想让她和他住在一起的意思,这更让她悲痛,他彻彻底底地走了,带走了所有的一切。

他出发前几天——只有二十岁的他——焚烧了他所有的情书。这些情书夹在文夹里,放在碗柜上面,有些他曾摘要似的给母亲读过,有些她不厌其烦地亲自读过。不过大多数信写得无聊浅薄。

到了星期六,他说:“快来,圣徒保罗,我们一起翻翻我的信,信封上的花鸟给你。”

莫瑞尔太太把星期六的活在星期五就干完了。因为这是威廉在家的最后一个休息天。她给他做了一块他很爱吃的米糕让他带走。他几乎一点儿没有察觉她内心的痛苦。

他从文件夹里拿出一封信,信封是淡紫色,上面印着紫色和绿色的蓟草。

威廉嗅了嗅信纸。“好香啊,闻闻!”

他把信递到保罗鼻子下。

“哦,”保罗说着,吸了一口气,“什么味儿,闻一闻,妈妈。”

母亲把她那小巧的鼻子匆匆凑近纸张。

“我才不想闻她们那些垃圾呢。”说着,她吸了吸鼻子。

“这女孩儿的父亲,”威廉说:“和克利苏斯一样富有,他有无数的财产。她叫我拉法耶特,因为我懂法语。‘你会明白,我已经原谅了你’——我很高兴她原谅了我。‘我今天早晨把你的事告诉母亲了,如果星期天你能来喝茶,她会很高兴的,不过她还需要征得父亲的同意。我衷心地希望他能同意。有结果,我会告诉你的。但是,如果你——’”

“‘告诉你’什么呀?”莫瑞尔太太打断他。

“‘结果’”——是的!”

“‘结果’”莫瑞尔太太挖苦地重复一遍。“我以为她接受过良好的教育呢。”

威廉觉得有点儿尴尬,就丢开了这姑娘的信,把信角上的花送给了保罗。他继续念着信中段落,其中的有些话逗乐了母亲;有些使她不快,让她为他而担心。

“我的孩子,”她说,“她们聪明透顶。她们知道只需说几句恭维话来满足你的虚荣心,你就会像一只被搔过头的小狗一样紧紧地跟着她们。”

“得了吧,她们不能永远这么搔下去,”他回答道,“等她们搔完了,我就走开。”

“但是有一天你会发现有一根绳子套着你的脖子,你会扯也扯不掉的。”

“我不会的!妈妈。我和她们中的任何人都一样,她们用不着恭维自己。”

“你在恭维你自己。”她平静地说。

一会儿,那文件夹里带香味的情书变成一堆黑色的灰烬。除了保罗从信封角上剪下来三、四十张漂亮的信花——有燕子,有勿忘我,还有常春藤。威廉去了伦敦,开始了新生活。



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