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首页 » 经典英文小说 » The Well in the Desert » Chapter Two. Hidden Treasure.
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Chapter Two. Hidden Treasure.

“Who hears the falling of the forest leaf?
Or who takes note of every flower that dies?”
The morning after Blanche and the arras had thus roughly dispelled1 Philippa’s dream, the Lady Alianora sat in her bower2, looking over a quantity of jewellery. She put some articles aside to be reset3, dismissed others as past amendment4, or not worth it, and ordered some to be restored to the coffer whence they had been taken. The Lady Alesia was looking on, and Philippa stood behind with the maids. At last only one ornament5 was left.
“This is worth nothing,” said the Countess, lifting from the table an old bracelet6, partly broken. “Put it with the others—or stay: whence came it?”
“Out of an ancient coffer, an’t like your Ladyship,” said Blanche, “that hath been longer in the castle than I.”
“I should think so,” returned the Countess. “It must have belonged to my Lord’s grandmother, or some yet more ancient dame7. ’Tis worth nothing. Philippa, you may have it.”
Not a very gracious manner of presenting a gift, it must be confessed; but Philippa well knew that nothing of any value was likely to be handed to her. Moreover, this was the first present that had ever been made to her. And lastly, a dim notion floated through her mind that it might have belonged to her mother; and anything connected with that dead and unknown mother had a sacred charm in her eyes. Her thanks, therefore, were readily forthcoming. She put the despised bracelet in her pocket; and as soon as she received her dismissal, ran with a lighter9 step than usual to her turret10-chamber. Without any distinct reason for doing so, she drew the bolt, and sitting down by the window, proceeded to examine her treasure.
It was a plain treasure enough. A band of black enamel11, set at intervals12 with seed-pearl and beryls, certainly was not worth much; especially since the snap was gone, one of the beryls and several pearls were missing, and from the centre ornament, an enamelled rose, a portrait had apparently13 been torn away. Did the rose open? Philippa tried it; for she was anxious to reach the device, if there were one to reach. The rose opened with some effort, and the device lay before her, written in small characters, with faded ink, on a scrap14 of parchment fitting into the bracelet.
Philippa’s one accomplishment15, which she owed to her old friend Alina, was the rare power of reading. It was very seldom that she found any opportunity of exercising it, yet she had not lost the art. Alina had been a priest’s sister, who in teaching her to read had taught her all that he knew himself; and Alina in her turn had thus given to Philippa all that she had to give.
But the characters of the device were so small and faint, that Philippa consumed half an hour ere she could decipher them. At length she succeeded in making out a rude rhyme or measure, in the Norman-French which was to her more familiar than English.
“Quy de cette eaw boyra
Ancor soyf aura;
Mais quy de cette eaw boyra
Que moy luy donneray,
Jamais soif n’aura
A l’éternité.”
Devices of the mediaeval period were parted into two divisions—religious and amatory. Philippa had no difficulty in deciding that this belonged to the former category; and she guessed in a moment that the meaning was a moral one; for she was accustomed to such hidden allegorical allusions17. And already she had advanced one step on the road to that Well; she knew that “whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again.” Ay, from her that weary thirst was never absent. But where was this Well from which it might be quenched18? and who was it that could give her this living water?
Philippa’s memory was a perfect storehouse of legends of the saints, and above all of the Virgin19, who stood foremost in her pantheon of gods. She searched her repertory over and over, but in vain. No saint, and in particular not Saint Mary, had ever, in any legend that she knew, spoken words like these. And what tremendous words they were! “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.”
There were long and earnest prayers offered that night in the little turret-chamber. Misdirected prayers—entreaties to be prayed for, addressed to ears that could not hear, to hands that could not help. But perhaps they reached another Ear that could hear, another Hand that was almighty20. The unclosing of the door is promised to them that ask. Thanks be to God, that while it is not promised, it does sometimes in His sovereign mercy unclose to them that know not how to ask.
The morning after this, as Philippa opened her door, one of the castle lavenders, of washerwomen, passed it on her way down the stairs. She was a woman of about fifty years of age, who had filled her present place longer than Philippa could recollect21.
Throughout the whole of the Middle Ages—for a period of many centuries, closing only about the time of the accession of the House of Hanover—laundress was a name of evil repute, and the position was rarely assumed by any woman who had a character to lose. The daughters of the Lady Alianora were strictly22 forbidden to speak to any lavender; but no one had cared enough about Philippa to warn her, and she was therefore free to converse23 with whom she pleased. And a sudden thought had struck her. She called back the lavender.
The woman stopped, came to Philippa’s door, and louted—the old-fashioned reverence24 which preceded the French courtesy.
“Agnes, how long hast thou been lavender here?”
“Long ere you were born, Lady.”
“Canst thou remember my mother?”
Philippa was amazed at the look of abject25 terror which suddenly took possession of the lavender’s face.
“Hush, Lady, Lady!” she whispered, her voice trembling with fear.
Philippa laid her hand on the woman’s arm.
Wilt26 thou suffer aught if thou tarry?”
Agnes shook her head.
“Then come in hither.” And she pulled her into her own room, and shut the door. “Agnes, there is some strange thing I cannot understand: and I will understand it. What letteth (hinders) thee to speak to me of my mother?”
Agnes looked astonished at Philippa’s tone, as well she might. “It hath been forbidden, Lady.”
“Who forbade it?”
The lavender’s compressed lips sufficiently27 intimated that she did not mean to answer that question.
“Why was it forbidden?”
The continued silence replied.
“When died she? Thou mayest surely tell me so much.”
“I dare not, Lady,” replied Agnes in a scarcely audible whisper.
“How died she?”
“Lady, I dare not answer,—I must not. You weary yourself to no good.”
“But I will know,” said Philippa, doggedly28.
“Not from me, Lady,” answered the lavender with equal determination.
“What does it all mean?” moaned poor Philippa to her baffled self. “Look here, Agnes. Hast thou ever seen this bracelet?”
“Ay, Lady. The Lady Alianora never deigns29 to speak to such as we poor lavenders be, but she did not think it would soil her lips to comfort us when our hearts were sad. I have seen her wear that jewel.”
A terrible fancy all at once occurred to Philippa.
“Agnes, was she an evil woman, that thou wilt not speak of her?”
The lavender’s heart was reached, and her tongue loosed.
“No, no, Lady, no!” she cried, with a fervour of which Philippa had not imagined her capable. “The snow was no whiter than her life, the honey no sweeter than her soul!”
“Then what does it all mean?” said Philippa again, in a tone of more bewilderment than ever.
But the momentary30 fervour had died away, and silence once more settled on the lavender’s tongue. Agnes louted, and walked away; and Philippa knew only one thing more—that the broken bracelet had been her mother’s. But who was she, and what was she, this mysterious mother of whom none would speak to her—the very date of whose death her child was not allowed to know?
“That is too poor for you, Alesia,” said the Lady Alianora.
“’Tis but thin, in good sooth,” observed that young lady.
“I suppose Philippa must have a gown for the wedding,” resumed the Countess, carelessly. “It will do for her.”
It was cloth of silver. Philippa had never had such a dress in her life. She listened in mute surprise. Could it be possible that she was intended to appear as a daughter of the house at Alesia’s marriage?
“You may choose your hood-stuff from chose velvets,” said the Countess condescendingly to Philippa. “I trow you will have to choose your own gowns after you are wedded31, so you may as well begin now.”
“Will Philippa be wed16 when I am?” yawned Alesia.
“The same day,” said the Lady Alianora.
The day was about sixty hours off; and this was the first word that Philippa had heard of her destiny. To whom was she to be handed over after this summary fashion? Would the Countess, of her unspeakable goodness, let her know that? But the Countess could not tell her; she had not yet heard. She thought there were two knights32 in treaty for her, and the last time he had mentioned it, the Earl had not decided33 between them.
As soon as Alesia’s wardrobe was settled, and Philippa was no longer wanted to unfold silks and exhibit velvets, she fled like a hunted deer to her turret-chamber. Kneeling down by her bed, she buried her face in the coverlet, and the long-repressed cry of the sold slave broke forth8 at last.
“O Mother, Mother, Mother!”
The door opened, but Philippa did not hear it.
“Lady, I cry you mercy,” said the voice of Agnes in a compassionate34 tone. “I meant not indeed to pry35 into your privacy; but as I was coming up the stairs, I thought I heard a scream. I feared you were sick.”
Philippa looked up, with a white, woe-begone face and tearless eyes.
“I wish I were, Agnes!” she said in a hopeless tone. “I would I were out of this weary and wicked world.”
“Ah, I have wished that ere now,” responded the lavender. “’Tis an ill wish, Lady. I have heard one say so.”
“One that never felt it, I trow,” said Philippa.
“No did, Lady? Ay, one whose lot was far bitterer than yours.”
“Verily, I would give something to see one whose lot were so,” answered the girl, bitterly enough. “I have no mother, and as good as no father; and none would care were I out of the world this night. Not a soul loveth me, nor ever did.”
“She used to say One did love us,” said Agnes in a low voice; “even He that died on the rood. I would I could mind what she told us; but it is long, long ago; and mine heart is hard, and my remembrance dim. Yet I do mind that last time she spake, only the very day before—never mind what. But that which came after stamped it on mine heart for ever. It was the last time I heard her voice; and I knew—we all knew—what was coming, though she did not. It was about water she spake, and he that drank should thirst again; and there was another well some whither, whereof he that should drink should never thirst. And He that died on the rood would give us that better water, if we asked Him.”
“But how shall I get at Him to ask Him?” cried Philippa.
“She said He could hear, if we asked,” replied the lavender.
“Who said?”
“She—that you wot of. Our Lady that used to be.”
“My mother?”
Agnes nodded. “And the water that He should give should bring life and peace. It was a sweet story and a fair, as she told it. But there never was a voice like hers—never.”
Philippa rose, and opened her cherished bracelet. She could guess what that bracelet had been. The ornament was less common in the Middle Ages than in the periods which preceded and followed them; and it was usually a love-token. But where was the love which had given and received this? Was it broken, too, like the bracelet?
She read the device to Agnes.
“It was something like that,” said Agnes. “But she read the story touching36 it, out of a book.”
“What was she like?” asked Philippa in a low tone.
“Look in the mirror, Lady,” answered Agnes.
Philippa began to wonder whether this were the mysterious reason for her bitter lot.
“Dost thou know I am to be wed?”
“Ay, Lady.”
So the very lavenders had known it before herself! But finding Agnes, as she thought, more communicative than before, Philippa returned to her former subject.
“What was her name?”
Agnes shook her head.
“Thou knowest it?”
The lavender nodded in answer.
“Then why not tell it me? Surely I may know what they christened her at the font—Philippa, or Margaret, or Blanche?”
Agnes hesitated a moment, but seemed to decide on replying. She sank her voice so low that Philippa could barely hear her, but she just caught the words.
“The Lady Isabel.”
Philippa sat a minute in silence; but Agnes made no motion to go.
“Agnes, thou saidst her lot was more bitter than mine. How was it more bitter?”
Agnes pointed37 to the window of the opposite turret, where the tiring-women slept, and outside of which was hung a luckless lark38 in a small wicker cage.
“Is his lot sweet, Lady?”
“I trow not, in good sooth,” said Philippa; “but his is like mine.”
“I cry you mercy,” answered the lavender, shaking her head. “He hath known freedom, and light, and air, and song. That was her lot—not yours, Lady.”
Philippa continued to watch the lark. His poor caged wings were beating vainly against the wicker-work, until he wearily gave up the attempt, and sat quietly on the perch39, drooping40 his tired head.
“He is not satisfied,” resumed Agnes in a low tone. “He is only weary. He is not happy—only too worn-out to care for happiness. Ah, holy Virgin! how many of us women are so! And she was wont41 to say that there was happiness in this life, yet not in this world. It lay, she said, in that other world above, where God sitteth; and if we would ask for Him that was meant by the better water, it would come and dwell in our hearts along with Him. Our sweet Lady help us! we seem to have missed it somehow.”
“I have, at any rate,” whispered Philippa, her eyes fixed42 dreamily on the weary lark.


1 dispelled 7e96c70e1d822dbda8e7a89ae71a8e9a     
v.驱散,赶跑( dispel的过去式和过去分词 )
  • His speech dispelled any fears about his health. 他的发言消除了人们对他身体健康的担心。
  • The sun soon dispelled the thick fog. 太阳很快驱散了浓雾。 来自《简明英汉词典》
2 bower xRZyU     
  • They sat under the leafy bower at the end of the garden and watched the sun set.他们坐在花园尽头由叶子搭成的凉棚下观看落日。
  • Mrs. Quilp was pining in her bower.奎尔普太太正在她的闺房里度着愁苦的岁月。
3 reset rkHzYJ     
  • As soon as you arrive at your destination,step out of the aircraft and reset your wristwatch.你一到达目的地,就走出飞机并重新设置手表时间。
  • He is recovering from an operation to reset his arm.他做了一个手臂复位手术,正在恢复。
4 amendment Mx8zY     
  • The amendment was rejected by 207 voters to 143.这项修正案以207票对143票被否决。
  • The Opposition has tabled an amendment to the bill.反对党已经就该议案提交了一项修正条款。
5 ornament u4czn     
  • The flowers were put on the table for ornament.花放在桌子上做装饰用。
  • She wears a crystal ornament on her chest.她的前胸戴了一个水晶饰品。
6 bracelet nWdzD     
  • The jeweler charges lots of money to set diamonds in a bracelet.珠宝匠要很多钱才肯把钻石镶在手镯上。
  • She left her gold bracelet as a pledge.她留下她的金手镯作抵押品。
7 dame dvGzR0     
  • The dame tell of her experience as a wife and mother.这位年长妇女讲了她作妻子和母亲的经验。
  • If you stick around,you'll have to marry that dame.如果再逗留多一会,你就要跟那个夫人结婚。
8 forth Hzdz2     
  • The wind moved the trees gently back and forth.风吹得树轻轻地来回摇晃。
  • He gave forth a series of works in rapid succession.他很快连续发表了一系列的作品。
9 lighter 5pPzPR     
  • The portrait was touched up so as to make it lighter.这张画经过润色,色调明朗了一些。
  • The lighter works off the car battery.引燃器利用汽车蓄电池打火。
10 turret blPww     
  • This ancient turret has attracted many visitors.这座古老的塔楼吸引了很多游客。
  • The soldier scaled the wall of the fortress by turret.士兵通过塔楼攀登上了要塞的城墙。
11 enamel jZ4zF     
  • I chipped the enamel on my front tooth when I fell over.我跌倒时门牙的珐琅质碰碎了。
  • He collected coloured enamel bowls from Yugoslavia.他藏有来自南斯拉夫的彩色搪瓷碗。
12 intervals f46c9d8b430e8c86dea610ec56b7cbef     
n.[军事]间隔( interval的名词复数 );间隔时间;[数学]区间;(戏剧、电影或音乐会的)幕间休息
  • The forecast said there would be sunny intervals and showers. 预报间晴,有阵雨。
  • Meetings take place at fortnightly intervals. 每两周开一次会。
13 apparently tMmyQ     
  • An apparently blind alley leads suddenly into an open space.山穷水尽,豁然开朗。
  • He was apparently much surprised at the news.他对那个消息显然感到十分惊异。
14 scrap JDFzf     
  • A man comes round regularly collecting scrap.有个男人定时来收废品。
  • Sell that car for scrap.把那辆汽车当残品卖了吧。
15 accomplishment 2Jkyo     
  • The series of paintings is quite an accomplishment.这一系列的绘画真是了不起的成就。
  • Money will be crucial to the accomplishment of our objectives.要实现我们的目标,钱是至关重要的。
16 wed MgFwc     
  • The couple eventually wed after three year engagement.这对夫妇在订婚三年后终于结婚了。
  • The prince was very determined to wed one of the king's daughters.王子下定决心要娶国王的其中一位女儿。
17 allusions c86da6c28e67372f86a9828c085dd3ad     
暗指,间接提到( allusion的名词复数 )
  • We should not use proverbs and allusions indiscriminately. 不要滥用成语典故。
  • The background lent itself to allusions to European scenes. 眼前的情景容易使人联想到欧洲风光。
18 quenched dae604e1ea7cf81e688b2bffd9b9f2c4     
解(渴)( quench的过去式和过去分词 ); 终止(某事物); (用水)扑灭(火焰等); 将(热物体)放入水中急速冷却
  • He quenched his thirst with a long drink of cold water. 他喝了好多冷水解渴。
  • I quenched my thirst with a glass of cold beer. 我喝了一杯冰啤酒解渴。
19 virgin phPwj     
  • Have you ever been to a virgin forest?你去过原始森林吗?
  • There are vast expanses of virgin land in the remote regions.在边远地区有大片大片未开垦的土地。
20 almighty dzhz1h     
  • Those rebels did not really challenge Gods almighty power.这些叛徒没有对上帝的全能力量表示怀疑。
  • It's almighty cold outside.外面冷得要命。
21 recollect eUOxl     
  • He tried to recollect things and drown himself in them.他极力回想过去的事情而沉浸于回忆之中。
  • She could not recollect being there.她回想不起曾经到过那儿。
22 strictly GtNwe     
  • His doctor is dieting him strictly.他的医生严格规定他的饮食。
  • The guests were seated strictly in order of precedence.客人严格按照地位高低就座。
23 converse 7ZwyI     
  • He can converse in three languages.他可以用3种语言谈话。
  • I wanted to appear friendly and approachable but I think I gave the converse impression.我想显得友好、平易近人些,却发觉给人的印象恰恰相反。
24 reverence BByzT     
  • He was a bishop who was held in reverence by all.他是一位被大家都尊敬的主教。
  • We reverence tradition but will not be fettered by it.我们尊重传统,但不被传统所束缚。
25 abject joVyh     
  • This policy has turned out to be an abject failure.这一政策最后以惨败而告终。
  • He had been obliged to offer an abject apology to Mr.Alleyne for his impertinence.他不得不低声下气,为他的无礼举动向艾莱恩先生请罪。
26 wilt oMNz5     
  • Golden roses do not wilt and will never need to be watered.金色的玫瑰不枯萎绝也不需要浇水。
  • Several sleepless nights made him wilt.数个不眠之夜使他憔悴。
27 sufficiently 0htzMB     
  • It turned out he had not insured the house sufficiently.原来他没有给房屋投足保险。
  • The new policy was sufficiently elastic to accommodate both views.新政策充分灵活地适用两种观点。
28 doggedly 6upzAY     
  • He was still doggedly pursuing his studies.他仍然顽强地进行着自己的研究。
  • He trudged doggedly on until he reached the flat.他顽强地、步履艰难地走着,一直走回了公寓。
29 deigns 1059b772013699e876676d0de2cae304     
v.屈尊,俯就( deign的第三人称单数 )
  • She scarcely deigns a glance at me. 她简直不屑看我一眼。 来自辞典例句
30 momentary hj3ya     
  • We are in momentary expectation of the arrival of you.我们无时无刻不在盼望你的到来。
  • I caught a momentary glimpse of them.我瞥了他们一眼。
31 wedded 2e49e14ebbd413bed0222654f3595c6a     
adj.正式结婚的;渴望…的,执著于…的v.嫁,娶,(与…)结婚( wed的过去式和过去分词 )
  • She's wedded to her job. 她专心致志于工作。
  • I was invited over by the newly wedded couple for a meal. 我被那对新婚夫妇请去吃饭。 来自《简明英汉词典》
32 knights 2061bac208c7bdd2665fbf4b7067e468     
骑士; (中古时代的)武士( knight的名词复数 ); 骑士; 爵士; (国际象棋中)马
  • stories of knights and fair maidens 关于骑士和美女的故事
  • He wove a fascinating tale of knights in shining armour. 他编了一个穿着明亮盔甲的骑士的迷人故事。
33 decided lvqzZd     
  • This gave them a decided advantage over their opponents.这使他们比对手具有明显的优势。
  • There is a decided difference between British and Chinese way of greeting.英国人和中国人打招呼的方式有很明显的区别。
34 compassionate PXPyc     
  • She is a compassionate person.她是一个有同情心的人。
  • The compassionate judge gave the young offender a light sentence.慈悲的法官从轻判处了那个年轻罪犯。
35 pry yBqyX     
  • He's always ready to pry into other people's business.他总爱探听别人的事。
  • We use an iron bar to pry open the box.我们用铁棍撬开箱子。
36 touching sg6zQ9     
  • It was a touching sight.这是一幅动人的景象。
  • His letter was touching.他的信很感人。
37 pointed Il8zB4     
  • He gave me a very sharp pointed pencil.他给我一支削得非常尖的铅笔。
  • She wished to show Mrs.John Dashwood by this pointed invitation to her brother.她想通过对达茨伍德夫人提出直截了当的邀请向她的哥哥表示出来。
38 lark r9Fza     
  • He thinks it cruel to confine a lark in a cage.他认为把云雀关在笼子里太残忍了。
  • She lived in the village with her grandparents as cheerful as a lark.她同祖父母一起住在乡间非常快活。
39 perch 5u1yp     
  • The bird took its perch.鸟停歇在栖木上。
  • Little birds perch themselves on the branches.小鸟儿栖歇在树枝上。
40 drooping drooping     
adj. 下垂的,无力的 动词droop的现在分词
  • The drooping willows are waving gently in the morning breeze. 晨风中垂柳袅袅。
  • The branches of the drooping willows were swaying lightly. 垂柳轻飘飘地摆动。
41 wont peXzFP     
  • He was wont to say that children are lazy.他常常说小孩子们懒惰。
  • It is his wont to get up early.早起是他的习惯。
42 fixed JsKzzj     
  • Have you two fixed on a date for the wedding yet?你们俩选定婚期了吗?
  • Once the aim is fixed,we should not change it arbitrarily.目标一旦确定,我们就不应该随意改变。


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