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Chapter 17

I NOW fell into a regular routine of apprenticeship life, which was varied, beyond the limits of the village and the marshes, by no more remarkable circumstance than the arrival of my birthday and my paying another visit to Miss Havisham. I found Miss Sarah Pocket still on duty at the gate, I found Miss Havisham just as I had left her, and she spoke of Estella in the very same way, if not in the very same words. The interview lasted but a few minutes, and she gave me a guinea when I was going, and told me to come again on my next birthday. I may mention at once that this became an annual custom. I tried to decline taking the guinea on the first occasion, but with no better effect than causing her to ask me very angrily, if I expected more? Then, and after that, I took it.
So unchanging was the dull old house, the yellow light in the darkened room, the faded spectre in the chair by the dressing-table glass, that I felt as if the stopping of the clocks had stopped Time in that mysterious place, and, while I and everything else outside it grew older, it stood still. Daylight never entered the house as to my thoughts and remembrances of it, any more than as to the actual fact. It bewildered me, and under its influence I continued at heart to hate my trade and to be ashamed of home.

Imperceptibly I became conscious of a change in Biddy, however. Her shoes came up at the heel, her hair grew bright and neat, her hands were always clean. She was not beautiful - she was common, and could not be like Estella - but she was pleasant and wholesome and sweet-tempered. She had not been with us more than a year (I remember her being newly out of mourning at the time it struck me), when I observed to myself one evening that she had curiously thoughtful and attentive eyes; eyes that were very pretty and very good.

It came of my lifting up my own eyes from a task I was poring at - writing some passages from a book, to improve myself in two ways at once by a sort of stratagem - and seeing Biddy observant of what I was about. I laid down my pen, and Biddy stopped in her needlework without laying it down.

`Biddy,' said I, `how do you manage it? Either I am very stupid, or you are very clever.'

`What is it that I manage? I don't know,' returned Biddy, smiling.

She managed our whole domestic life, and wonderfully too; but I did not mean that, though that made what I did mean, more surprising.

`How do you manage, Biddy,' said I, `to learn everything that I learn, and always to keep up with me?' I was beginning to be rather vain of my knowledge, for I spent my birthday guineas on it, and set aside the greater part of my pocket-money for similar investment; though I have no doubt, now, that the title I knew was extremely dear at the price.

`I might as well ask you,' said Biddy, `how you manage?'

`No; because when I come in from the forge of a night, any one can see me turning to at it. But you never turn to at it, Biddy.'

`I suppose I must catch it - like a cough,' said Biddy, quietly; and went on with her sewing.

Pursuing my idea as I leaned back in my wooden chair and looked at Biddy sewing away with her head on one side, I began to think her rather an extraordinary girl. For, I called to mind now, that she was equally accomplished in the terms of our trade, and the names of our different sorts of work, and our various tools. In short, whatever I knew, Biddy knew. Theoretically, she was already as good a blacksmith as I, or better.

`You are one of those, Biddy,' said I, `who make the most of every chance. You never had a chance before you came here, and see how improved you are!'

Biddy looked at me for an instant, and went on with her sewing. `I was your first teacher though; wasn't I?' said she, as she sewed.

`Biddy!' I exclaimed, in amazement. `Why, you are crying!'

`No I am not,' said Biddy, looking up and laughing. `What put that in your head?'

What could have put it in my head, but the glistening of a tear as it dropped on her work? I sat silent, recalling what a drudge she had been until Mr Wopsle's great-aunt successfully overcame that bad habit of living, so highly desirable to be got rid of by some people. I recalled the hopeless circumstances by which she had been surrounded in the miserable little shop and the miserable little noisy evening school, with that miserable old bundle of incompetence always to be dragged and shouldered. I reflected that even in those untoward times there must have been latent in Biddy what was now developing, for, in my first uneasiness and discontent I had turned to her for help, as a matter of course. Biddy sat quietly sewing, shedding no more tears, and while I looked at her and thought about it all, it occurred to me that perhaps I had not been sufficiently grateful to Biddy. I might have been too reserved, and should have patronized her more (though I did not use that precise word in my meditations), with my confidence.

`Yes, Biddy,' I observed, when I had done turning it over, `you were my first teacher, and that at a time when we little thought of ever being together like this, in this kitchen.'

`Ah, poor thing!' replied Biddy. It was like her self-forgetfulness, to transfer the remark to my sister, and to get up and be busy about her, making her more comfortable; `that's sadly true!'

`Well!' said I, `we must talk together a little more, as we used to do. And I must consult you a little more, as I used to do. Let us have a quiet walk on the marshes next Sunday, Biddy, and a long chat.'

My sister was never left alone now; but Joe more than readily undertook the care of her on that Sunday afternoon, and Biddy and I went out together. It was summer-time, and lovely weather. When we had passed the village and the church and the churchyard, and were out on the marshes and began to see the sails of the ships as they sailed on, I began to combine Miss Havisham and Estella with the prospect, in my usual way. When we came to the river-side and sat down on the bank, with the water rippling at our feet, making it all more quiet than it would have been without that sound, I resolved that it was a good time and place for the admission of Biddy into my inner confidence.

`Biddy,' said I, after binding her to secrecy, `I want to be a gentleman.'

`Oh, I wouldn't, if I was you!' she returned. `I don't think it would answer.'

`Biddy,' said I, with some severity, `I have particular reasons for wanting to be a gentleman.'

`You know best, Pip; but don't you think you are happier as you are?'

`Biddy,' I exclaimed, impatiently, `I am not at all happy as I am. I am disgusted with my calling and with my life. I have never taken to either, since I was bound. Don't be absurd.'

`Was I absurd?' said Biddy, quietly raising her eyebrows; `I am sorry for that; I didn't mean to be. I only want you to do well, and to be comfortable.'

`Well then, understand once for all that I never shall or can be comfortable - or anything but miserable - there, Biddy! - unless I can lead a very different sort of life from the life I lead now.'

`That's a pity!' said Biddy, shaking her head with a sorrowful air.

Now, I too had so often thought it a pity, that, in the singular kind of quarrel with myself which I was always carrying on, I was half inclined to shed tears of vexation and distress when Biddy gave utterance to her sentiment and my own. I told her she was right, and I knew it was much to be regretted, but still it was not to be helped.

`If I could have settled down,' I said to Biddy, plucking up the short grass within reach, much as I had once upon a time pulled my feelings out of my hair and kicked them into the brewery wall: `if I could have settled down and been but half as fond of the forge as I was when I was little, I know it would have been much better for me. You and I and Joe would have wanted nothing then, and Joe and I would perhaps have gone partners when I was out of my time, and I might even have grown up to keep company with you, and we might have sat on this very bank on a fine Sunday, quite different people. I should have been good enough for you; shouldn't I, Biddy?'

Biddy sighed as she looked at the ships sailing on, and returned for answer, `Yes; I am not over-particular.' It scarcely sounded flattering, but I knew she meant well.

`Instead of that,' said I, plucking up more grass and chewing a blade or two, `see how I am going on. Dissatisfied, and uncomfortable, and - what would it signify to me, being coarse and common, if nobody had told me so!'

Biddy turned her face suddenly towards mine, and looked far more attentively at me than she had looked at the sailing ships.

`It was neither a very true nor a very polite thing to say,' she remarked, directing her eyes to the ships again. `Who said it?'

I was disconcerted, for I had broken away without quite seeing where I was going to. It was not to be shuffled off now, however, and I answered, `The beautiful young lady at Miss Havisham's, and she's more beautiful than anybody ever was, and I admire her dreadfully, and I want to be a gentleman on her account.' Having made this lunatic confession, I began to throw my torn-up grass into the river, as if I had some thoughts of following it.

`Do you want to be a gentleman, to spite her or to gain her over?' Biddy quietly asked me, after a pause.

`I don't know,' I moodily answered.

`Because, if it is to spite her,' Biddy pursued, `I should think - but you know best - that might be better and more independently done by caring nothing for her words. And if it is to gain her over, I should think - but you know best - she was not worth gaining over.'

Exactly what I myself had thought, many times. Exactly what was perfectly manifest to me at the moment. But how could I, a poor dazed village lad, avoid that wonderful inconsistency into which the best and wisest of men fall every day?

`It may be all quite true,' said I to Biddy, `but I admire her dreadfully.'

In short, I turned over on my face when I came to that, and got a good grasp on the hair on each side of my head, and wrenched it well. All the while knowing the madness of my heart to be so very mad and misplaced, that I was quite conscious it would have served my face right, if I had lifted it up by my hair, and knocked it against the pebbles as a punishment for belonging to such an idiot.

Biddy was the wisest of girls, and she tried to reason no more with me. She put her hand, which was a comfortable hand though roughened by work, upon my hands, one after another, and gently took them out of my hair. Then she softly patted my shoulder in a soothing way, while with my face upon my sleeve I cried a little - exactly as I had done in the brewery yard - and felt vaguely convinced that I was very much ill-used by somebody, or by everybody; I can't say which.

`I am glad of one thing,' said Biddy, `and that is, that you have felt you could give me your confidence, Pip. And I am glad of another thing, and that is, that of course you know you may depend upon my keeping it and always so far deserving it. If your first teacher (dear! such a poor one, and so much in need of being taught herself!) had been your teacher at the present time, she thinks she knows what lesson she would set. But It would be a hard one to learn, and you have got beyond her, and it's of no use now.' So, with a quiet sigh for me, Biddy rose from the bank, and said, with a fresh and pleasant change of voice, `Shall we walk a little further, or go home?'

`Biddy,' I cried, getting up, putting my arm round her neck, and giving her a kiss, `I shall always tell you everything.'

`Till you're a gentleman,' said Biddy.

`You know I never shall be, so that's always. Not that I have any occasion to tell you anything, for you know everything I know - as I told you at home the other night.'

`Ah!' said Biddy, quite in a whisper, as she looked away at the ships. And then repeated, with her former pleasant change; `shall we walk a little further, or go home?'

I said to Biddy we would walk a little further, and we did so, and the summer afternoon toned down into the summer evening, and it was very beautiful. I began to consider whether I was not more naturally and wholesomely situated, after all, in these circumstances, than playing beggar my neighbour by candlelight in the room with the stopped clocks, and being despised by Estella. I thought it would be very good for me if I could get her out of my head, with all the rest of those remembrances and fancies, and could go to work determined to relish what I had to do, and stick to it, and make the best of it. I asked myself the question whether I did not surely know that if Estella were beside me at that moment instead of Biddy, she would make me miserable? I was obliged to admit that I did know it for a certainty, and I said to myself, `Pip, what a fool you are!'

We talked a good deal as we walked, and all that Biddy said seemed right. Biddy was never insulting, or capricious, or Biddy to-day and somebody else to-morrow; she would have derived only pain, and no pleasure, from giving me pain; she would far rather have wounded her own breast than mine. How could it be, then, that I did not like her much the better of the two?

`Biddy,' said I, when we were walking homeward, `I wish you could put me right.'

`I wish I could!' said Biddy.

`If I could only get myself to fall in love with you - you don't mind my speaking so openly to such an old acquaintance?'

`Oh dear, not at all!' said Biddy. `Don't mind me.'

`If I could only get myself to do it, that would be the thing for me.'

`But you never will, you see,' said Biddy.

It did not appear quite so unlikely to me that evening, as it would have done if we had discussed it a few hours before. I therefore observed I was not quite sure of that. But Biddy said she was, and she said it decisively. In my heart I believed her to be right; and yet I took it rather ill, too, that she should be so positive on the point.

When we came near the churchyard, we had to cross an embankment, and get over a stile near a sluice gate. There started up, from the gate, or from the rushes, or from the ooze (which was quite in his stagnant way), Old Orlick.

`Halloa!' he growled, `where are you two going?'

`Where should we be going, but home?'

`Well then,' said he, `I'm jiggered if I don't see you home!'

This penalty of being jiggered was a favourite supposititious case of his. He attached no definite meaning to the word that I am aware of, but used it, like his own pretended Christian name, to affront mankind, and convey an idea of something savagely damaging. When I was younger, I had had a general belief that if he had jiggered me personally, he would have done it with a sharp and twisted hook.

Biddy was much against his going with us, and said to me in a whisper, `Don't let him come; I don't like him.' As I did not like him either, I took the liberty of saying that we thanked him, but we didn't want seeing home. He received that piece of information with a yell of laughter, and dropped back, but came slouching after us at a little distance.

Curious to know whether Biddy suspected him of having had a hand in that murderous attack of which my sister had never been able to give any account, I asked her why she did not like him.

`Oh!' she replied, glancing over her shoulder as he slouched after us, `because I - I am afraid he likes me.'

`Did he ever tell you he liked you?' I asked, indignantly.

`No,' said Biddy, glancing over her shoulder again, `he never told me so; but he dances at me, whenever he can catch my eye.'

However novel and peculiar this testimony of attachment, I did not doubt the accuracy of the interpretation. I was very hot indeed upon Old Orlick's daring to admire her; as hot as if it were an outrage on myself.

`But it makes no difference to you, you know,' said Biddy, calmly.

`No, Biddy, it makes no difference to me; only I don't like it; I don't approve of it.'

`Nor I neither,' said Biddy. `Though that makes no difference to you.'

`Exactly,' said I; `but I must tell you I should have no opinion of you, Biddy, if he danced at you with your own consent.'

I kept an eye on Orlick after that night, and, whenever circumstances were favourable to his dancing at Biddy, got before him, to obscure that demonstration. He had struck root in Joe's establishment, by reason of my sister's sudden fancy for him, or I should have tried to get him dismissed. He quite understood and reciprocated my good intentions, as I had reason to know thereafter.

And now, because my mind was not confused enough before, I complicated its confusion fifty thousand-fold, by having states and seasons when I was clear that Biddy was immeasurably better than Estella, and that the plain honest working life to which I was born, had nothing in it to be ashamed of, but offered me sufficient means of self-respect and happiness. At those times, I would decide conclusively that my disaffection to dear old Joe and the forge, was gone, and that I was growing up in a fair way to be partners with Joe and to keep company with Biddy - when all in a moment some confounding remembrance of the Havisham days would fall upon me, like a destructive missile, and scatter my wits again. Scattered wits take a long time picking up; and often, before I had got them well together, they would be dispersed in all directions by one stray thought, that perhaps after all Miss Havisham was going to make my fortune when my time was out.

If my time had run out, it would have left me still at the height of my perplexities, I dare say. It never did run out, however, but was brought to a premature end, as I proceed to relate.

 

我现在已经陷进了单调刻板的学徒生活,转来转去总不出这个村子和那边的沼泽地,除了在过生日的那天,我重访了郝维仙小姐,根本没有其他值得一提的情况。我发现还是那个莎娜·鄱凯特小姐在门口当差,我还发现郝维仙小姐依然和上次一样,以同样的神情和方法谈起埃斯苔娜,尽管在用词上有所不同。整个会面也只有几分钟,她给了我一块金币,在我临走时告诉我下一次生日时再去。我必须提及的是,这就成了以后每年的习惯。在她第一次给我一块金币时,我就曾向她说我不是为要钱来的,不能接受,可结果无效,反而引她生气,问我是不是想多要些?于是我不得不接受,而且,自此以后我便也习以为常了。

那座沉闷的陈旧宅邸依旧是老样子,没有变化,昏黄的烛光依旧迷漫在黑暗的房间之中,那坐在梳妆台边椅子里的于枯幽灵也依旧不变。我想,也许是由于时钟停止,才使得这神秘所在的时间长存不变。虽然屋外的一切事物和我都可添加岁月,而这里的一切都是静止的。日光永远照射不进屋里,甚至一想到这宅邸,连我的记忆和思维中也都没有一丝阳光。这所宅邸使我迷惑,给我的影响一直使我憎恨我的职业,使我为我的家庭感到羞愧。

然而,我却稍稍察觉了毕蒂身上的变化。她穿的鞋子有后跟了,她的头发变得光亮夺目而且梳得整整齐齐,她的两只手也总是洗得干干净净。她生得不算漂亮,只不过平平常常,当然不好和埃斯苔娜相比,但她是那么活泼可爱、丰满健康、脾气和顺。她来到我们家也不过一年光景,我记得那是在她刚脱掉孝服时,一个晚上我发现她有着一双奇妙的冥思而专注的眼睛,那双眼睛是多么动人,多么善良啊!

当时,我正专心致志地完成一件任务,也就是抄写一本书上的段落,以此来改善自己的不足。我想,这是种一箭双雕的上进良策。我抬眼看到毕蒂正在看我做的事,于是放下了笔。毕蒂也停下了针线活,不过没有放下来。

“毕蒂,”我说道,“你是怎么做到的?要么是我太笨,要么就是你十分聪明。”

“我做到了什么?连我自己也不知道。”毕蒂微笑着答道。

她料理全部的家务,而且非常出色。不过,我不是指这一点,虽然这一点使我想要说的更加令人惊叹。

“毕蒂,”我问道,“你是怎么做到学会我所学的一切,而且永远不落后?”我当时觉得我确有了些知识,因为我把每年生日得到的金币都用作了智力投资,而且把大部分积蓄起来的零用钱也都用在智力投资上了。现在想起来,为这点儿知识我已付出了相当昂贵的代价。

“我也正要问你呢,”毕蒂答道,“你是怎么做到的?”

“不要问我了,每天晚上我一离开铁匠铺,大家都看到我在干这个。毕蒂,可是你没有时间来干这个啊。”

“我想你是把学问传染给我了,就像传染感冒咳嗽一样。”毕蒂平静地说着,然后便继续干她的针线活儿。

我背靠在我的木椅上,注视着毕蒂把头斜在一边干着针线活,脑际中泛起了思潮,我开始认为毕蒂真是一位了不起的姑娘。就我现在所能想起的,她对我们打铁这个行业的一切专门术语、活计名称以及各种工具都了如指掌。简单地说吧,凡是我懂得的毕蒂都懂得。从理论上说,她也是一个铁匠了,和我一样,甚至比我强。

“毕蒂,你是一个非常善于利用机会的人,”我说道,“你在来这儿之前没有任何机会,而现在一有机会,看,你进步得多快!”

毕蒂看了我一眼,继续做她的针线活。“可是过去我曾是你的第一个老师呢,是不是?”她一面缝一面说。

“毕蒂!”我茫然地说道,“怎么啦,你正在哭!”

“我没有哭,”毕蒂说道,仰起脸来笑着,“你脑袋里怎么会有那个念头的?”

我脑袋里怎么会有那个念头的?明明一颗亮晶晶的泪珠滴在了她的针线活儿上。我无言而静默地坐在那里,脑中却在回忆着她服侍那位有着很坏生活习惯的沃甫赛先生的姑婆时,任劳任怨地吃尽了苦,要换别人是不肯干的。我的脑中又想起她当时的恶劣环境,一方面要守着那个破破烂烂的小店,另一方面要顾着那个又小又乱又嘈杂的可怜夜校,还要照看那个可怜而又无自理能力的老太婆,把她搀过来背过去。我还想起她身上有一种东西,即使处于逆境的时候也潜藏在她身上,这就是如今已经得到发展的美德。我记得最初我心情不快而且感到不满时,就去找她帮助,这就是明证。毕蒂无言地坐在那里做她的针线活,眼泪已经止住。我凝视着她,思绪起伏,觉得或许是我没有充分报答毕蒂的深情厚意。我是太谨小慎微了。我应该多关怀她,更加地真诚友好(但是在思考时我没有用关怀这个词)。

“是啊,毕蒂,”我再三思考以后说道,“你曾是我的第一个老师,那时候我们根本想不到会像今天这样子一起待在厨房里。”

“噢,可怜的人儿!”毕蒂答道。她就是这种不顾自己的人,又把话锋转向我的姐姐,并且起身忙着去眼侍她,使她休息得更舒服一些。“你说得倒是正确,却令人伤感。”

“那么,”我说道,“我们该像过去一样在一起多谈谈。我也该像过去一样有问题多请你指点指点。我想下个星期天我们到沼泽地上去安安静静地散散步,毕蒂,我们可以多谈谈。”

我姐姐不能单独留下没人照管,好的是在那个星期日下午乔非常乐意留下来照管她,于是毕蒂和我才有机会一起出去。这是一个夏日,天气晴朗宜人。我们出了村庄,经过乡村教堂,走过乡村墓地,便到了沼泽地上。放眼望去,河中的船帆来往不断。一见到这种情景,我不由得触景生情,脑际中又浮现出了郝维仙小姐及埃斯苔娜的身影。我们走向河边,坐在河岸上,微波荡漾的河水在我们脚下轻轻流过,似乎毫无声息,显得一片安静。我想这是多么好的机会,多么好的地点,我应该抓紧时机向毕蒂吐露心声,让她分享我的秘密。

“毕蒂,”我先叫她保守秘密,然后才说道,“我想做一个上流社会的人。”

“哦,如果我是你的话,我可不要做上流社会的人!”她回答道,“我认为上等人也没有什么好的。”

我非常认真地对她说:“毕蒂,我想成为一个上流社会的人是有特别理由的。”

“皮普,你对你自己了解得最为清楚,不过,你认为自己现在还不够快乐吗?”

“毕蒂,”我很不耐烦地大声说道,“我现在根本就不快乐。我非常讨厌我的这一行当,非常讨厌我的生活方式。自从当了学徒,无论这行当或这生活我都极其讨厌。你说的简直太荒唐了。”

“我荒唐吗?”毕蒂平静地扬了扬她的眉毛,说道,“十分抱歉,我并没有你说的那个意思,我所希望的只不过是你能够过得愉快,过得舒适。”

“那就好了,那么干脆就告诉你个明白吧,我永远不会、也不可能舒适,我永远都只能不幸,毕蒂!除非我过一种和现在所过的完全不同的生活。”

“太令人遗憾了!”毕蒂答道,同时带着伤心的样子摇摇头。

其实,我也时常觉得我的这种考虑实在令人遗憾,而且我一直为了这个问题在开展着思想斗争。现在,毕蒂开诚布公地道出了她的感想,同时也点破了我的心思,我内心的烦恼和痛苦简直使我差点淌出眼泪。我对她说她是正确的,我知道我的这种想法是非常令人遗憾的,可是这又有什么办法呢?

“假使我能在铁匠铺待下去,”我拔起我手够得着的地方的小草,这就像过去我在郝维仙小姐家里扯自己的头发并狠命地踢制酒作坊的墙一样,以此来发泄个人的怨气。“假使我能在铁匠铺待下去,假使我对铁匠铺的情感能有儿时好感的一半,我现在的情绪就会大不相同了。你和我和乔就会因什么也不缺乏而知足常乐,也许乔和我会等到我满师之后合伙经营,我再长大后也许就会和你结为终身伴侣,每逢晴朗的星期日我们都会坐在这里的河岸上,那时的一切将会大不相同。毕蒂,我对你来说该是挺理想的,不是吗?”

毕蒂望着河上来来去去的帆影,随即叹了一口气对我答道:“是啊,我是不会过于挑剔的。”听起来她并没有夸奖我,但我了解她的出发点是善意的。

我仍然拔着地上的草,还在嘴巴里嚼着一两片草叶。“然而事实相反,瞧瞧我过的是什么日子,心里很不如意,感觉很不舒适。我的生活是如此的粗俗,是如此的平常,如果过去没有人告诉我这些那有多好!”

毕蒂冷不防地转过脸来望着我的脸,比她刚才望着河上往来的船只更加专心致志。

“这些话是不符合事实的,也不符合礼貌。”她说道,随即又把目光转向过往船只。“这些话是谁说的?”

给她这一问我倒心慌意乱起来,刚才讲话一时大意,就没有想一下说出来的后果会是什么,现在想蒙混过去是不可能了,只有老老实实说道:“这话是郝维仙小姐家一位美丽的年轻小姐说的。她生得比我见到过的任何姑娘都漂亮,我是太崇拜她了。我之所以要做一个上流社会的人就是为了她。”说了这番疯疯癫癫的话之后,我又把拔起来的草丢进河水之中,仿佛我自己也想追随着青草一起跃进河中。

“你想做一个上流社会的人是为了惹她气恼,还是为了讨她喜欢呢?”毕蒂停顿了片刻,用温和平静的口气问我。

“我说不出。”我郁闷地答道。

毕蒂这时说道:“如果你是为了惹她气恼,当然,是不是这样你自己更清楚,那么最好还是干脆不理她的碴儿,表现得更有独立性;如果你是为了讨她喜欢,当然,是不是这样还是你自己更清楚,那么像她这样的人是不值得去讨她喜欢的。”

她所说的这些和我多次想过的竟然完全一致。当时从我的内心来说对这点是知道得很清楚的,可是,我这个茫然迷乱的乡下孩子又怎么能避开内心这些奇妙的自相矛盾呢?即使那些高尚的智者每天也不免坠入其中而不能自拔。

“你所说的也许完全正确,”我对毕蒂说道,“不过我是太崇拜她了。”

简短地说吧,我说到这里便转过身去趴在地上,两手抓起头上的头发,向两边狠命地扯着。此时此刻,我心中知道,我的心已被扰乱,完全是鬼迷心窍,对人的爱与恨都错了位。我非常清楚,当时即使我抓住头发,把自己的头拎起来,再把它狠狠地朝着鹅卵石砸去,以示惩罚,那也是罪有应得,因为它长在了一个白痴的身上。

毕蒂是最聪明最体贴人微的姑娘,这时她再不和我讲理论了。她把手放在我的手上,虽然她的手由于日夜操劳而变得粗糙,可又是多么温柔舒适啊。她那么温和地把我的手一只一只地从头上拉下来,然后又柔和地拍着我的肩膀,以此来安慰我,而我则用袖子造着脸伤心地哭了一会儿,和制酒作坊院子里的那次一样——恍惚觉得受了什么人的委屈,抑或是受了每一个人的委屈,我也说不出个究竟。

“有一件事情我十分高兴,”毕蒂对我说道,“皮普,那就是你已经感到你可以对我吐露心中的秘密。还有一件事也使我高兴,那就是你告诉我心中之事,相信我能为你保守秘密,并认为这永远是对的。假使你的第一个老师能做你现在的老师,那么她知道该给你上一堂什么样的课了。(天啦!这个可怜的人儿,她更需要别人来教她呢!)不过,这一课是很难学的,而且你已懂得比她还多,唉,现在来说学这一课已经无用了。”于是,毕蒂轻轻地为我叹了一口气,接着便从河岸上站起来,用活泼快乐的语调对我说道:“我们再散一会儿步呢,还是回家?”

“毕蒂,”我叫了一声便站起来,搂住她的颈子,吻了她一下,“我永远把心中的话告诉你。”

“你成为上流社会的人以后就不会再告诉我了。”毕蒂说道。

“你知道我不会成为上流社会的人,所以我永远会告诉你我心中的事。当然这不是因为我有必要告诉你什么,其实我懂的事你也都懂,这一点那个晚上在家中我就跟你说过了。”

毕蒂转过脸去看着来往的帆船,然后轻轻地说了一个字“啊!”接着,依然用刚才那快乐的声调重复了已说过的话:“我们再散一会儿步呢,还是回家?”

我对毕蒂说我们还是再散一会儿步吧,于是我们便继续散步。这时,夏日午后慢慢地变成了夏日黄昏,周围的一切显得凉爽而美丽。我开始思考,在如此宜人的环境中,我和大自然拥抱在一起,身心感到健康,远远胜过在那时间永远停止的房间里,在昏暗的烛光下和永远轻视我的埃斯苔娜一起玩牌。我思忖着,如果我能从自己头脑中把埃斯苔娜和有关的一切回忆、一切幻想都抛开,而专心致志地工作,精益求精,坚持不懈,那对我来说,才是最好的。我们心自问,如果此时在我身边的是埃斯苔娜,而不是毕蒂,情况又会怎样呢?我能肯定她必然会给我带来不幸吗?可是我又不得不承认她一定会带给我不幸。我在心中暗暗责备自己:“皮普,你是多么愚蠢啊!”

我们一面散步,一面谈了许多。毕蒂说的一切似乎都是正确的。毕蒂从来没有伤过我的心,从来不三心二意,从来不会今天这样明天又变了一个样;她不会使我痛苦,因为使我痛苦的结果也会使她痛苦,而决不会是快乐;她宁愿自己心碎,也不会使我心碎。可是为什么在她们两人之中我偏偏喜欢埃斯苔娜而不是她呢?

“毕蒂,”我们踏着回家的归途时,我说道,“但愿你使我走一条正路。”

“但愿我能!”毕蒂答道。

“要是我能使自己只爱上你那该多好啊!我如此坦率地向你表白,你不会介意吧?你可是我的一个老朋友啊。”

“哦,亲爱的,我不会介意的!”毕蒂说道,“你也不要介意我才是。”

“如果我能使自己那么做,那会是我的福分。”

“你明白,你是永远做不到的。”毕蒂说道。

其实,就那个傍晚看来,这事倒不见得一定不可能,但如果早几个小时谈这个问题那就不一样了。所以我说,关于这个问题我也吃不准。但是毕蒂却说她能吃得准,而且说得那么坚定。在心中,我相信她说的是对的,但是她把问题说得那么肯定而不留余地,也使我颇为不快。

我们缓步来到了教堂墓地,从这里我们必须通过一道堤坝,还要翻过一道闸门,跨过栅栏。就在这时突然跳出了老奥立克,真不知道他究竟是从闸门里跳出来的,还是从灯芯草丛中跳出来的,抑或是从污泥地里跳出来的?不过,从他那污浊不堪的样子来看,说从污泥地里跳出来的倒差不多。

他大声吼道:“喂!你们两个人到哪里去?”

“除掉回家还能到什么地方去呢?”

“唔,好吧,”他说道,“看来我只有送你们回家喽,否则我可就该杀了!”

他的这一句“该杀了”是他最喜欢用的口头禅。我很了解,他说出这话并没有什么确定的含义,就和他瞎说个教名一样,只不过以它冒犯他人的尊严,表达某种恶意伤害的意愿。我记得还在我很小的时候,就有个想法,如果他真的亲自动手“该杀”我了,他一定会用一根锋利的弯钩一下子就把我的头割掉。

毕蒂非常不愿意让他和我们一起走,于是低低地对我耳语:“不要让他跟我们走,我不喜欢这个人。”其实我也不喜欢他,于是便不客气地对他说我们谢谢他,但是我们不要他送我们回家。他听了我的话后发出一声大笑,然后退了回去,但是却一直隔了一小段路在后面尾随着我们。

我很好奇为什么毕蒂不喜欢奥立克,也许是因为我姐姐被谋害这件事至今尚未水落石出,而毕蒂怀疑奥立克插手了此事,所以我就要把情况问清楚。

“噢!你问这个,”她答道,同时掉过头去看看那个拖拖拉拉走在后面的奥立克,“因为我——我担心他喜欢上我了。”

“他难道对你说过他喜欢你吗?”我愤愤地说道。

“没有,”毕蒂说道,又把头掉过去看看,“他从来没有对我说过。不过,他一看到我就会装模作样、嬉皮笑脸。”

她所说的他喜欢上她的证据不仅那么新奇,而且也那么特殊,但是我不怀疑她这话的真实性。老奥立克竟然敢喜欢上她,这可把我给气炸了,好像这是对我的凌辱一样。

“你要知道,这件事和你是无关的。”毕蒂用平静的语气说道。

“是的,毕蒂,这件事是和我无关,可我就是不喜欢这件事,我也不赞成这件事。”

“我也不赞成,”毕蒂说道,“你不必去管它,它和你是无关的。”

“确实无关,”我说道,“但是我要告诉你,毕蒂,如果你默认他的装模作样和嬉皮笑脸,那我可就认为是你不好了。”

从那天晚上开始,我就对奥立克提高警惕,只要他一乘机有意对毕蒂装模作样、嬉皮笑脸,我便插在他们之间,挡住他的戏法。要不是我姐姐突然对他产生了好感,他仍然可以留在乔的铁匠铺里,否则我早就设法把他辞退了。他十分了解我的这番善意,并且还报于我。以后,我是会知道的。

好像从前我心神紊乱得还很不够似的,现在又变本加厉起来,起码多了五万倍的混乱。在有些时候,我便会清楚地意识到毕蒂远远胜过埃斯苔娜,其程度不可计量,同时会想到从我的出身看,过一种诚实而平凡的劳动生活本无可非议、正大光明,应该感到自尊自豪,应当引以为幸福骄傲。在这种情况下,我的思想是坚决的,我绝对不会和老朋友乔以及铁匠铺断情绝义。一巳我长大成人,艺成满师,就和乔合伙经营,而且和毕蒂结成良缘,组家立业,又何乐而不为呢?然而,正在兴致勃勃想得天花乱坠时,糊涂观念顿起,昔日郝维仙小姐家中的情景又在脑中浮起,好像一枚毁灭性的飞弹炸得我心神四处分散,失去了正常理智。神智既乱,要收回重整就得很费番工夫。而且往往当我心思正趋向于稳定时,突然心念一动,整个心思又四面八方分散开去。这个心念不是别的,而是郝维仙小姐在我满师之后是不是会造就我的远大前程呢?

即使我艺成满师,我敢说我的心未必能够收敛,一定仍然处于困惑茫然之中。但是,还没有等到我艺成师满,我却提前结束了学徒生活,详情将在下文中交待。



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