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Chapter 30

AFTER well considering the matter while I was dressing at the Blue Boar in the morning, I resolved to tell my guardian that I doubted Orlick's being the right sort of man to fill a post of trust at Miss Havisham's. `Why, of course he is not the right sort of man, Pip,' said my guardian, comfortably satisfied beforehand on the general head, `because the man who fills the post of trust never is the right sort of man.' It seemed quite to put him into spirits, to find that this particular post was not exceptionally held by the right sort of man, and he listened in a satisfied manner while I told him what knowledge I had of Orlick. `Very good, Pip,' he observed, when I had concluded, `I'll go round presently, and pay our friend off.' Rather alarmed by this summary action, I was for a little delay, and even hinted that our friend himself might be difficult to deal with. `Oh no he won't,' said my guardian, making his pocket-handkerchief-point, with perfect confidence; `I should like to see him argue the question with me.'
As we were going back together to London by the mid-day coach, and as I breakfasted under such terrors of Pumblechook that I could scarcely hold my cup, this gave me an opportunity of saying that I wanted a walk, and that I would go on along the London-road while Mr Jaggers was occupied, if he would let the coachman know that I would get into my place when overtaken. I was thus enabled to fly from the Blue Boar immediately after breakfast. By then making a loop of about a couple of miles into the open country at the back of Pumblechook's premises, I got round into the High-street again, a little beyond that pitfall, and felt myself in comparative security.

It was interesting to be in the quiet old town once more, and it was not disagreeable to be here and there suddenly recognized and stared after. One or two of the tradespeople even darted out of their shops and went a little way down the street before me, that they might turn, as if they had forgotten something, and pass me face to face - on which occasions I don't know whether they or I made the worse pretence; they of not doing it, or I of not seeing it. Still my position was a distinguished one, and I was not at all dissatisfied with it, until Fate threw me in the way of that unlimited miscreant, Trabb's boy.

Casting my eyes along the street at a certain point of my progress, I beheld Trabb's boy approaching, lashing himself with an empty blue bag. Deeming that a serene and unconscious contemplation of him would best beseem me, and would be most likely to quell his evil mind, I advanced with that expression of countenance, and was rather congratulating myself on my success, when suddenly the knees of Trabb's boy smote together, his hair uprose, his cap fell off, he trembled violently in every limb, staggered out into the road, and crying to the populace, `Hold me!I'm so frightened!' feigned to be in a paroxysm of terror and contrition, occasioned by the dignity of my appearance. As I passed him, his teeth loudly chattered in his head, and with every mark of extreme humiliation, he prostrated himself in the dust.

This was a hard thing to bear, but this was nothing. I had not advanced another two hundred yards, when, to my inexpressible terror, amazement, and indignation, I again beheld Trabb's boy approaching. He was coming round a narrow corner. His blue bag was slung over his shoulder, honest industry beamed in his eyes, a determination to proceed to Trabb's with cheerful briskness was indicated in his gait. With a shock he became aware of me, and was severely visited as before; but this time his motion was rotatory, and he staggered round and round me with knees more afflicted, and with uplifted hands as if beseeching for mercy. His sufferings were hailed with the greatest joy by a knot of spectators, and I felt utterly confounded.

I had not got as much further down the street as the post-office, when I again beheld Trabb's boy shooting round by a back way. This time, he was entirely changed. He wore the blue bag in the manner of my great-coat, and was strutting along the pavement towards me on the opposite side of the street, attended by a company of delighted young friends to whom he from time to time exclaimed, with a wave of his hand, `Don't know yah!' Words cannot state the amount of aggravation and injury wreaked upon me by Trabb's boy, when, passing abreast of me, he pulled up his shirt-collar, twined his side-hair, stuck an arm akimbo, and smirked extravagantly by, wriggling his elbows and body, and drawling to his attendants, `Don't know yah, don't know yah, pon my soul don't know yah!' The disgrace attendant on his immediately afterwards taking to crowing and pursuing me across the bridge with crows, as from an exceedingly dejected fowl who had known me when I was a blacksmith, culminated the disgrace with which I left the town, and was, so to speak, ejected by it into the open country.

But unless I had taken the life of Trabb's boy on that occasion, I really do not even now see what I could have done save endure. To have struggled with him in the street, or to have exacted any lower recompense from him than his heart's best blood, would have been futile and degrading. Moreover, he was a boy whom no man could hurt; an invulnerable and dodging serpent who, when chased into a corner, flew out again between his captor's legs, scornfully yelping. I wrote, however, to Mr Trabb by next day's post, to say that Mr Pip must decline to deal further with one who could so far forget what he owed to the best interests of society, as to employ a boy who excited Loathing in every respectable mind.

The coach, with Mr Jaggers inside, came up in due time, and I took my box-seat again, and arrived in London safe - but not sound, for my heart was gone. As soon as I arrived, I sent a penitential codfish and barrel of oysters to Joe (as reparation for not having gone myself), and then went on to Barnard's Inn.

I found Herbert dining on cold meat, and delighted to welcome me back. Having despatched The Avenger to the coffee-house for an addition to the dinner, I felt that I must open my breast that very evening to my friend and chum. As confidence was out of the question with The Avenger in the hall, which could merely be regarded in the light of an ante-chamber to the keyhole, I sent him to the Play. A better proof of the severity of my bondage to that taskmaster could scarcely be afforded, than the degrading shifts to which I was constantly driven to find him employment. So mean is extremity, that I sometimes sent him to Hyde Park Corner to see what o'clock it was.

Dinner done and we sitting with our feet upon the fender, I said to Herbert, `My dear Herbert, I have something very particular to tell you.'

`My dear Handel,' he returned, `I shall esteem and respect your confidence.'

`It concerns myself, Herbert,' said I, `and one other person.'

Herbert crossed his feet, looked at the fire with his head on one side, and having looked at it in vain for some time, looked at me because I didn't go on.

`Herbert,' said I, laying my hand upon his knee, `I love - I adore - Estella.'

Instead of being transfixed, Herbert replied in an easy matter-ofcourse way, `Exactly. Well?'

`Well, Herbert? Is that all you say? Well?'

`What next, I mean?' said Herbert. `Of course I know that.'

`How do you know it?' said I.

`How do I know it, Handel? Why, from you.'

`I never told you.'

`Told me! You have never told me when you have got your hair cut, but I have had senses to perceive it. You have always adored her, ever since I have known you. You brought your adoration and your portmanteau here, together. Told me! Why, you have always told me all day long. When you told me your own story, you told me plainly that you began adoring her the first time you saw her, when you were very young indeed.'

`Very well, then,' said I, to whom this was a new and not unwelcome light, `I have never left off adoring her. And she has come back, a most beautiful and most elegant creature. And I saw her yesterday. And if I adored her before, I now doubly adore her.'

`Lucky for you then, Handel,' said Herbert, `that you are picked out for her and allotted to her. Without encroaching on forbidden ground, we may venture to say that there can be no doubt between ourselves of that fact. Have you any idea yet, of Estella's views on the adoration question?'

I shook my head gloomily. `Oh! She is thousands of miles away, from me,' said I.

`Patience, my dear Handel: time enough, time enough. But you have something more to say?'

`I am ashamed to say it,' I returned, `and yet it's no worse to say it than to think it. You call me a lucky fellow. Of course, I am. I was a blacksmith's boy but yesterday; I am - what shall I say I am - to-day?'

`Say, a good fellow, if you want a phrase,' returned Herbert, smiling, and clapping his hand on the back of mine, `a good fellow, with impetuosity and hesitation, boldness and diffidence, action and dreaming, curiously mixed in him.'

I stopped for a moment to consider whether there really was this mixture in my character. On the whole, I by no means recognized the analysis, but thought it not worth disputing.

`When I ask what I am to call myself to-day, Herbert,' I went on, `I suggest what I have in my thoughts. You say I am lucky. I know I have done nothing to raise myself in life, and that Fortune alone has raised me; that is being very lucky. And yet, when I think of Estella--'

(`And when don't you, you know?' Herbert threw in, with his eyes on the fire; which I thought kind and sympathetic of him.)

` - Then, my dear Herbert, I cannot tell you how dependent and uncertain I feel, and how exposed to hundreds of chances. Avoiding forbidden ground, as you did just now, I may still say that on the constancy of one person (naming no person) all my expectations depend. And at the best, how indefinite and unsatisfactory, only to know so vaguely what they are!' In saying this, I relieved my mind of what had always been there, more or less, though no doubt most since yesterday.

`Now, Handel,' Herbert replied, in his gay hopeful way, `it seems to me that in the despondency of the tender passion, we are looking into our gift-horse's mouth with a magnifying-glass. Likewise, it seems to me that, concentrating our attention on the examination, we altogether overlook one of the best points of the animal. Didn't you tell me that your guardian, Mr Jaggers, told you in the beginning, that you were not endowed with expectations only? And even if he had not told you so - though that is a very large If, I grant - could you believe that of all men in London, Mr Jaggers is the man to hold his present relations towards you unless he were sure of his ground?'

I said I could not deny that this was a strong point. I said it (people often do so, in such cases) like a rather reluctant concession to truth and justice; - as if I wanted to deny it!

`I should think it was a strong point,' said Herbert, `and I should think you would be puzzled to imagine a stronger; as to the rest, you must bide your guardian's time, and he must bide his client's time. You'll be one-and-twenty before you know where you are, and then perhaps you'll get some further enlightenment. At all events, you'll be nearer getting it, for it must come at last.'

`What a hopeful disposition you have!' said I, gratefully admiring his cheery ways.

`I ought to have,' said Herbert, `for I have not much else. I must acknowledge, by-the-bye, that the good sense of what I have just said is not my own, but my father's. The only remark I ever heard him make on your story, was the final one: "The thing is settled and done, or Mr Jaggers would not be in it." And now before I say anything more about my father, or my father's son, and repay confidence with confidence, I want to make myself seriously disagreeable to you for a moment - positively repulsive.'

`You won't succeed,' said I.

`Oh yes I shall!' said he. `One, two, three, and now I am in for it. Handel, my good fellow;' though he spoke in this light tone, he was very much in earnest: `I have been thinking since we have been talking with our feet on this fender, that Estella surely cannot be a condition of your inheritance, if she was never referred to by your guardian. Am I right in so understanding what you have told me, as that he never referred to her, directly or indirectly, in any way? Never even hinted, for instance, that your patron might have views as to your marriage ultimately?'

`Never.'

`Now, Handel, I am quite free from the flavour of sour grapes, upon my soul and honour! Not being bound to her, can you not detach yourself from her? - I told you I should be disagreeable.'

I turned my head aside, for, with a rush and a sweep, like the old marsh winds coming up from the sea, a feeling like that which had subdued me on the morning when I left the forge, when the mists were solemnly rising, and when I laid my hand upon the village finger-post, smote upon my heart again. There was silence between us for a little while.

`Yes; but my dear Handel,' Herbert went on, as if we had been talking instead of silent, `its having been so strongly rooted in the breast of a boy whom nature and circumstances made so romantic, renders it very serious. Think of her bringing-up, and think of Miss Havisham. Think of what she is herself (now I am repulsive and you abominate me). This may lead to miserable things.'

`I know it, Herbert,' said I, with my head still turned away, `but I can't help it.'

`You can't detach yourself?'

`No. Impossible!'

`You can't try, Handel?'

`No. Impossible!'

`Well!' said Herbert, getting up with a lively shake as if he had been asleep, and stirring the fire; `now I'll endeavour to make myself agreeable again!'

So he went round the room and shook the curtains out, put the chairs in their places, tidied the books and so forth that were lying about, looked into the hall, peeped into the letter-box, shut the door, and came back to his chair by the fire: where he sat down, nursing his left leg in both arms.

`I was going to say a word or two, Handel, concerning my father and my father's son. I am afraid it is scarcely necessary for my father's son to remark that my father's establishment is not particularly brilliant in its housekeeping.'

`There is always plenty, Herbert,' said I: to say something encouraging.

`Oh yes! and so the dustman says, I believe, with the strongest approval, and so does the marine-store shop in the back street. Gravely, Handel, for the subject is grave enough, you know how it is, as well as I do. I suppose there was a time once when my father had not given matters up; but if ever there was, the time is gone. May I ask you if you have ever had an opportunity of remarking, down in your part of the country, that the children of not exactly suitable marriages, are always most particularly anxious to be married?'

This was such a singular question, that I asked him in return, `Is it so?'

`I don't know,' said Herbert, `that's what I want to know. Because it is decidedly the case with us. My poor sister Charlotte who was next me and died before she was fourteen, was a striking example. Little Jane is the same. In her desire to be matrimonially established, you might suppose her to have passed her short existence in the perpetual contemplation of domestic bliss. Little Alick in a frock has already made arrangements for his union with a suitable young person at Kew. And indeed, I think we are all engaged, except the baby.'

`Then you are?' said I.

`I am,' said Herbert; `but it's a secret.'

I assured him of my keeping the secret, and begged to be favoured with further particulars. He had spoken so sensibly and feelingly of my weakness that I wanted to know something about his strength.

`May I ask the name?' I said.

`Name of Clara,' said Herbert.

`Live in London?'

`Yes. perhaps I ought to mention,' said Herbert, who had become curiously crestfallen and meek, since we entered on the interesting theme, `that she is rather below my mother's nonsensical family notions. Her father had to do with the victualling of passenger-ships. I think he was a species of purser.'

`What is he now?' said I.

`He's an invalid now,' replied Herbert.

`Living on - ?'

`On the first floor,' said Herbert. Which was not at all what I meant, for I had intended my question to apply to his means. `I have never seen him, for he has always kept his room overhead, since I have known Clara. But I have heard him constantly. He makes tremendous rows - roars, and pegs at the floor with some frightful instrument.' In looking at me and then laughing heartily, Herbert for the time recovered his usual lively manner.

`Don't you expect to see him?' said I.

`Oh yes, I constantly expect to see him,' returned Herbert, `because I never hear him, without expecting him to come tumbling through the ceiling. But I don't know how long the rafters may hold.'

When he had once more laughed heartily, he became meek again, and told me that the moment he began to realize Capital, it was his intention to marry this young lady. He added as a self-evident proposition, engendering low spirits, `But you can't marry, you know, while you're looking about you.'

As we contemplated the fire, and as I thought what a difficult vision to realize this same Capital sometimes was, I put my hands in my pockets. A folded piece of paper in one of them attracting my attention, I opened it and found it to be the playbill I had received from Joe, relative to the celebrated provincial amateur of Roscian renown. `And bless my heart,' I involuntarily added aloud, `it's to-night!'

This changed the subject in an instant, and made us hurriedly resolve to go to the play. So, when I had pledged myself to comfort and abet Herbert in the affair of his heart by all practicable and impracticable means, and when Herbert had told me that his affianced already knew me by reputation and that I should be presented to her, and when we had warmly shaken hands upon our mutual confidence, we blew out our candles, made up our fire, locked our door, and issued forth in quest of Mr Wopsle and Denmark.

 

次日清晨,我在蓝野猪饭店梳洗之时,仔细考虑了一番,决定要和我的监护人谈一谈奥立克的为人,说我十分怀疑他是否合适在郝维仙小姐家中被委以如此重任。 “唔,皮普,自然他是不合适的,”我的监护人早就有他自己的想法,所以胸有成竹地说道,“因为凡是被委以重任的人都是不合适的。”从他的语气中可以窥见,奥立克并不例外地也是不合适的这一点使他很高兴。于是我便据己所知,把奥立克的为人处世向他述说了一遍,他听得很满意。“皮普,你说得很好,”他对我的话作了评论,然后得出结论道,“我马上就去把这位老兄打发走。”他这种立竿见影的行动令我吃了一惊,我倒有些迟疑起来,甚至还对他暗示,说这位老兄是很难对付的。“噢,不难对付,”我的监护人摆弄起他的那块手帕,非常有信心地说道,“我倒想看看他会怎么和我争辩。”

我和贾格斯先生已决定乘中午的一斑马车一起回伦敦。因为我吃早饭时一直担心着彭波契克会在什么时候冒出来,以致连拿杯子的力气都要没有了,于是趁这个机会我便对他说,既是他要出去办事,我也准备出去散散步。我告诉他我想沿着到伦敦去的大路走,一旦马车赶上来,请他让马车夫停一下,好让我上车。于是,我一吃过早饭便溜出了蓝野猪饭店。我兜了一个两英里路的大圈子,绕到彭波契克住宅后面的旷野,再转上大街,摆脱了那个陷讲,才感到有些安全。

又一次漫步在这个安静古老的小镇上,我感到十分欣慰,这里走走,那里逛逛,倒也自觉得意。有时冒出一些人认出了我,甚至睁大眼目送我远去。也有一两位生意人特意从他们的店铺中冲出来,在我前面走上几步路,然后突然回过头来,装作忘掉什么东西似的,和我迎面而过。每遇这种场合,我真不知道究竟谁演得差劲:他们装成若无其事的样子,我则装作没有注意到的样子。由于我的特殊身份,我感到十分满意自在。可是命运总在捉弄人,偏偏让我碰上特拉布裁缝的小伙计,那个作恶多端的小坏蛋。

我沿街道而行,随意放目测览,忽然在街道的一处看到特拉布的小伙计从前面走来,手中拿着一只空空的天蓝色口袋拍打着自己。我暗自思忖,如果我装作泰然自若毫不介意的样子看到他,于我会大为有利,也不至于使他萌生恶念。我便装成这种神情前行,心中暗自庆幸,这一招可望成功。可就在这时,特拉布小伙计的两只膝盖相互打着颤撞在了一起,头发也倒竖起来把帽子顶得掉在了地上。他四肢抖动,跌跌冲冲地走到路中间,向过往行人发出求救的呼声:“扶我一下,吓死我了!” 他装得好像被我的庄严高贵吓得魂不附体,悔悟不及,变成了精神病。我从他身旁经过时,他满嘴牙齿上下打战,格格的响个不停,还趴在地上的尘埃之中,表现出一副彻底的奴才相。

这使我难以忍受,但比起下面的事来还根本不算什么。我向前走了还不到两百码,又看到特拉布的小伙计向我走来,使我感到无可名状的恐惧、惊奇和气愤。他是绕过一处拐角来的。他把蓝袋子搭在肩头,眼中闪着诚恳和勤俭的光辉,神色愉快活泼,正朝着特拉布裁缝铺的方向走去。他一发现我在前面吃了一惊,于是又像刚才遇到我时那样发作起来,不过这次他的情感发作是旋转式的。他跌跌冲冲地围着我转,两个膝盖碰撞着直打晃,两只手高高举起,仿佛在祈求上苍保佑。他那受折磨的样子引得一群路过看热闹的人高兴非凡,而我却感到十分尴尬。

我继续向前还没有走到邮局,这时又看到特拉布的小伙计穿进了一条后街小巷。这一次,他又变换了他的方法,把蓝色的袋子披在身上,像我穿大衣一样,沿着石铺路摆出四方步从对面的人行道出发向我走过来。有一群快乐的少年伙伴围在他左右,他一次一次地对他们挥着手并且呼喊着:“不认识你啊!”特拉布的小伙计对我恶意发泄、激怒和伤害的程度是无法用语言来形容的。这时他走过我的身边,把领子拉高,一手拧着鬓发,一手插在腰上,脸上露出装出来的嘻嘻假笑,把胳膊肘及腰身都扭动起来,对跟着他的一群人拉长了语调叫道:“不认识你,不认识你,的的确确不认识你!”他一直跟着我,不断地羞辱我,追着我嘴里格格格地叫着,那声音就像我当铁匠时常听到的一只大公鸡惨败后的凄鸣。他一直把我赶过了桥,使我痛苦得无地自容。总之,我被他逐出了这个小镇,进入乡野,他才悻悻地离去。

处在如此场合,对待特拉布的小伙计,我要么亲手结束他的性命,要么就只有这样,任他摆布,逆来顺受。我若是在大街上和他相斗,也只能给他些颜色作一点儿惩罚,并不能要他的命,那么这样不但无益,反而羞辱自己,给别人留下笑柄。何况这是一个谁都没有办法的混小子,是一条沿来游去伤害不着的蛇,被捕蛇者追到了墙角,又从捕蛇者的裤裆下窜走,还自以为得意地发出轻蔑的狂叫。不过,第二天我还是为此事给特拉布发了一封信,告诉他维护社会公益是人人的责任,而特拉布忘掉了自己的责任,竟雇用了一名对体面人士有所损害的讨厌的伙计,为此我不得不和他断绝业务上的往来。

贾格斯先生所乘坐的马车及时赶到,我便登上车厢,一路无事,平安抵达伦敦,不过,内心却并不平静,因为我的心已经飞走。一到伦敦,我就想到没去乔那里是我的不对,为忏悔此事,便买了些鳕鱼和一桶牡蛎捎给乔,然后口到了巴纳德旅馆。

一进去便看到赫伯特正吃着冻肉,见到我回来,非常高兴。我叫讨债鬼到咖啡店去再买一份晚餐,觉得当晚必须和我的心腹好友一抒情怀。既然是知已之间的知心话,无疑,把讨债鬼留在厅堂中是不合适的(我所谓的厅堂是指和我们仅隔一壁的地方,那里可以从钥匙洞里听到谈话),所以叫他到戏院去看戏。我时常都是这样被逼得要给他找些活干,而且要换些花样,结果证明他是反仆为主,我却由主变奴了。有时我简直黔驴技穷,甚至让他跑到海德公园广场去对一对时间。

晚饭吃罢,我们坐定下来,脚都放在炉栅上,我对赫伯特说道:“我亲爱的赫伯特,我想和你谈些贴心话。”

他答道:“我亲爱的汉德尔,你对我如此看重,我是很感激的。”

“赫伯特,是我自己的事情,”我说道,“但和另一个人有关。”

赫伯特一条腿放在另一条腿上,歪着头看炉火,茫然地看了一会儿后,又转过头来看我,因为我没有再讲下去。

“赫伯特,”我把手搁在他的膝盖上说道,“我爱——我崇拜——埃斯苔娜。”

赫伯特听了我的话后并未感到大吃一惊,相反却理所当然、从容不迫地说道:“确实如此,怎么呢?”

“哎呀,赫伯特。这就是你全部的回答吗?就是‘怎么呢’这三个字?”

“我是要你说下去,你的下文是什么?”赫伯特说道,“当然,我是知道这件事的。”

“你怎么会知道的?”我问道。

“汉德尔,我怎么会知道?你忘了,都是你亲口告诉我的。”

“我从来没有告诉过你啊。”

“你没有告诉过我!就说你要去理发吧,你没有告诉我,但是我已经意识到你要去理发,再说你崇拜她,自从我认识你的第一天开始,就知道你一直爱她。你把手提箱拎到这里来,其实你已经把对她的爱也一起拎到这里来了。你没有告诉过我吗?怎么,你整天整天地在告诉我,你明明白白地告诉我你从看到她的第一天开始就爱上她了,尽管当时你还很小哩!”

“你说得太好了,那么,”听了他的新鲜见解,感到他对此也很有兴趣,我说道,“我告诉你,我一直在崇拜着她。她现在已从国外归来,出落得秀丽无比,真可谓天生佳丽。昨天我在那儿见到了她。过去我崇拜她,今天我更加倍地崇拜她了。”

“汉德尔,你太幸运了,”赫伯特说道,“你已经被选中了,你的命运已安排给她了。如果下面所谈的话不至于触动你的隐私,我敢斗胆提醒你慎思一下。其实这在我们之间是公开的事实。你了解埃斯苔娜对于爱情抱有什么看法吗?”

我忧郁地摇摇头,说:“她和我之间还相隔甚远呢。”

“要沉着耐心,我亲爱的汉德尔,会有时间的,会有时间的。你还有什么话要说吗?”

“我真是不好意思,”我答道,“不过,既有所思,还是把所想的说出来为好。你称我为幸运儿,当然,我是幸运的,因为昨天我是个打铁的孩子,而今天,我该说我是什么样的人呢?”

“如果你想找个词,就叫你好小子吧!”赫伯特微笑着说,用一只手拍着我的后背,“所以叫你好小子,是因为你既急躁又犹豫不决,既大胆又胆小羞怯,既注重实际,又耽于梦想,一切奇怪的矛盾在你身上都兼而有之。”

我由于思考在我身上是不是具有这种奇怪的矛盾组合,所以停了一会儿没有言语。总的说来,我不承认他的分析,不过又觉得他所说的也不值得反驳。

于是我说道:“赫伯特,我问你我今天该算个什么样的人时,其实是想到了自己的看法。你说我很幸运,我知道,我的平步青云不是靠自己的能力,而是靠幸运之神的力量。这的确是幸运的。不过,只要我一想起埃斯苔娜——”

“你知道你不会不想她的!”赫伯特双眼盯住炉火,打断了我的话头;我想他所说的话是善意的,是对我的同情。

“只要我一想起埃斯苔娜,亲爱的赫伯特,我好像就失去了自主性,对一切感到迷惘,任何机会都把握不住。我又能告诉你什么呢?正如你所说,我们撇开隐私不谈,我认为我的远大前程全取决于一个人,可不知道此人是谁,而且此人能否永远对我如此呢?从好的方面来说,这前程也是不能确定的,让人无法安心,一切都是迷迷糊糊的!”我说了这些,心中的疑虑总算吐尽、虽然我早就有或多或少的疑虑积压在心头,不过昨天我才感到这疑虑压得万分沉重。

“听我说,汉德尔,”赫伯特仍然兴高采烈地答道,“在我看来,这不过是情感方面的失意而已,我们因此都会拿着放大镜对别人尽情挑剔。同样,在我看来,我们集中于审视挑剔的方面,恰巧忽视一个重大的优点。你不是曾对我说过,你的监护人贾格斯先生一开始就告诉过你,你能得到的不仅仅是遗产,是吗?即使他还没有告诉过你,不过,这件事是关系重大的。我看,你也会知道,在伦敦那么多人当中,贾格斯先生是个举足轻重的人物,如果他没有可靠的把握,会和你建立如此的关系吗?”

我说我无法否认这是一个很有力的理由。不过,我的口气似乎只是因为既成事实,也就不容反对而已(人们通常都是这样),倒好像想要否定它才是。

“依我看这理由不仅仅是有力,” 赫伯特说道,“你根本想不出比这更为有力的看法;至于别的问题,你只有等待你的监护人在适当的时候给你讲清楚,他也只有等待他的客户在适当时候给予他指示。从年龄说,你即将二十一岁了,那时你会更弄清些眉目。总而言之,你会慢慢地了解,最后,终究会真相大白的。”

“你真是乐观主义的天性!”我非常钦佩他这种爽快乐观的处事方法。

赫伯特说道:“我有的就是乐观天性,除掉乐观天性我一无所有。我必须向你说明,我刚才所说的这些话并不是我自己的,而是我父亲的话。他谈到你的事情时,我只听到他最后一句话:‘这件事办得非常稳妥,要么贾格斯先生是不会插手介人的。’现在,且不论我父亲和我自己。你既把诚心给我,我也该报你以诚心,但良药苦口,忠言必定逆耳,这会儿我打算让你对我讨厌至极、怨恨不已。”

“我看你不会成功的。”我说道。

“噢,我会的,一定成功!”他答道,“一、二、三,我开始说了。汉德尔,我的好朋友,”他说话的语气十分轻松,可态度是非常认真的。“从我们把脚放在炉格上开始谈话起,我就一直思忖着,埃斯苔娜这件事,只要你的监护人没有和你提起过,她肯定不是你接受遗产的一个附加条件。从你和我的谈话中,我知道贾格斯先生,无论直接或间接,都没有提到过这件事,是不是?举例来说吧,他从来没有向你暗示过说你的恩主对你的婚姻大事自有看法,对吗?”

“没有暗示过。”

“那好,汉德尔,我可对天发誓,我绝不是吃不到葡萄就说葡萄是酸的。既然你与她一无牵连,难道就不能趁早和她罢手么?我这样说,肯定是不中听的。”

我把面孔转向一边,一阵难过,就好像一阵从大海吹来的风,飘过沼泽地,直向我的心窝扑来。当年的那个早晨,我离开铁匠铺,在慢慢消去的雾气中,把手放在村庄的指路牌上,突然一种相同的难以抑制的情感也曾使我伤心痛苦。我们相对无言了一会儿。

“问题明摆着是这样,不过,亲爱的汉德尔,”赫伯特好像没有感到当时的沉默,继续说下去,“你还是个孩子,在你的心胸中所蕴藏的本性和环境结合在一起,便形成了强烈的、根深蒂固的罗曼蒂克幻想,这就是问题的严重所在。你不妨想一下,埃斯苔娜是如何教养的,想一下郝维仙小姐是一个怎么样的人,以及她目前的处境。当然我这席话是讨人嫌的,你会把我恨之入骨的,但我以为,你这样下去将走向自毁之路。”

“赫伯特,我心中明白,”我的面孔依然没对着他,说道,“可就是没有办法。”

“你真的不能和她罢手?”

“我不可能和她罢手。”

“汉德尔,你难道不能试一下?”

“不能试,不可能试。”

“好吧!”赫伯特说着站起身来,灵活地抖动了一下身子,仿佛他刚刚睡醒似的,把火又拨旺了一些。“现在我改变方针,该说些你中意的话了!”

于是他在房间里转个圈子,拉起窗帘,把椅子搬到原位,整理一下放得乱七八糟的书籍,看了一下厅堂,又看一看信箱中有什么东西,然后关上门,又回到炉边的椅子上,坐好后,用两臂抱着他的左腿,说道:

“汉德尔,我来说几句我父亲和我的事。当然,恐怕一个做儿子的没有必要评论父亲的所作所为,不过我认为我父亲对家庭事务的管理特别不在行。”

“赫伯特,你们家不是一向丰衣足食嘛。”我说着,用意是振奋他的精神。

“哦,也许是这样吧!我看,只有清道夫会赞成,只有那个在后街上开旧船具店的老板会赞成吧。汉德尔,我们还是规规矩矩地来谈这件事吧,不必说假的,对我家的情况你和我一样知道得清清楚楚。我想我父亲早年时并没有想过要自暴自弃,如果有过这个时候,那也早已成为历史了。现在我有一个问题想问你一下,你在你们乡间有没有注意过这样一种家庭,由于父母的婚姻不如意,所以子女们却特别想着要早早成亲?”

这个问题太稀奇了,我也回答不出,只有再反问他:“真有这种事吗?”

“正因为我不知道,才问你呢,”赫伯特说道,“因为这个问题和我的家有千丝万缕的联系。我那不到十四岁就死了的可怜妹妹夏绿蒂就是一个例子,而且是明显的例子。现在那个小珍妮也是这样。夏绿蒂一心一意想着婚姻大事,追求家庭的幸福,可却这样草草地结束了短促的一生。现在就连穿着童装的小阿里克斯也已经在伦敦西郊的国家植物园里找到个小对象。我看,我们家中除了那个吃奶的婴儿外,全都订婚了。”

“那就是说,你也订婚了?”我问道。

赫伯特答道:“我也订婚了,不过,这还是个秘密。”

我向他保证,一定为他保守秘密。当然,我请他让我有幸了解其中详情。他在评论我的弱点时说得有理有节,头头是道,这次我倒想了解一下他的阳刚何在。

“可以问一问她的名字吗?”我说道。

“她叫克拉娜。”赫伯特答道。

“她的家在伦敦吗?”

“在伦敦。或许我应该提一下,”我们一谈到这个有趣的问题,赫伯特便显然表现出奇怪的沮丧和恭顺,说道,“要按照我母亲那种毫无意义的门第观念,她的出身是很卑微的。她的父亲在一条客轮上管理伙食什么的,我想,该是事务长这类的职务。”

“她父亲现在干什么?”我问道。

“现在他生病在家。”赫伯特答道。

“那么生活呢——?”

“他在二楼。”赫伯特答道,完全所答非所问,因为我是问他依靠什么生活,“我从来没有见到过他,因为自从我认识克拉娜以来,他总是把自己关在楼上的房间中。不过,我常常听到他的声音。他有时大吵大闹、大喊大叫,甚至用一根可怕的东西猛烈地乱敲地板。”他说着望着我,然后又开心地大笑起来,这时又恢复了他通常那种活泼生动的神气。

“你不想见见他吗?”我问道。

“噢,当然了,我常常期望见到他。”赫伯特答道,“只要一听到他的声音,我就由不得要想到他就快把天花板跌破摔下来了。但是,我不知道这些横梁还能支撑多久。”

这时他又开心地笑起来,然后又一次显出恭顺的样子,并且告诉我,只要一赚到了钱,他就准备和这位年轻的姑娘结婚,接着又用一条不证自明的真理补充他的想法,却反而使他情绪低落了。“人所皆知,正在观望形势的人是不可能结婚的。”

我们傍着火炉坐着,默默无语。我也在思忖,要得到一笔资本真是难以实现的幻影。我无意中把手伸进口袋,发现有一张折起的报纸,一时发生兴趣,便掏出来打开一看,原来是一张戏报,正是乔上次给我的。戏报是关于一个著名地方演员来伦敦演出的新闻,而且这个演员据说可以和罗西乌齐名。我一看不由得大叫起来:“我的天啦,就是今天晚上演出!”

这一来我们的话题立刻改变,匆忙决定要到戏院去欣赏演出。我这时没有忘记向赫伯特作出保证,不管实际上可能还是不可能,对于他的婚事我一定做到大力帮忙。赫伯特也告诉我,他的未婚妻已经久闻我的大名,并表示要约请我去她家做客。于是我和赫伯特两人热情地握着手,以表示两人内心的相互真诚。然后,我们吹灭蜡烛,给炉火加添了燃料,锁上门,离家去寻访沃甫赛先生并游览哈姆莱特的丹麦王国去了。



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