小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 经典英文小说 » Oliver Twist雾都孤儿 » Chapter 1
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Chapter 1

TREATS OF THE PLACE WHERE OLIVER TWIST WAS BORN AND OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES ATTENDING HIS BIRTH

Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.

For a long time after it was ushered into this world of sorrow and trouble, by the parish surgeon, it remained a matter of considerable doubt whether the child would survive to bear any name at all; in which case it is somewhat more than probable that these memoirs would never have appeared; or, if they had, that being comprised within a couple of pages, they would have possessed the inestimable merit of being the most concise and faithful specimen of biography, extant in the literature of any age or country.

Although I am not disposed to maintain that the being born in a workhouse, is in itself the most fortunate and enviable circumstance that can possibly befall a human being, I do mean to say that in this particular instance, it was the best thing for Oliver Twist that could by possibility have occurred. The fact is, that there was considerable difficulty in inducing Oliver to take upon himself the office of respiration,--a troublesome practice, but one which custom has rendered necessary to our easy existence; and for some time he lay gasping on a little flock mattress, rather unequally poised between this world and the next: the balance being decidedly in favour of the latter. Now, if, during this brief period, Oliver had been surrounded by careful grandmothers, anxious aunts, experienced nurses, and doctors of profound wisdom, he would most inevitably and indubitably have been killed in no time. There being nobody by, however, but a pauper old woman, who was rendered rather misty by an unwonted allowance of beer; and a parish surgeon who did such matters by contract; Oliver and Nature fought out the point between them. The result was, that, after a few struggles, Oliver breathed, sneezed, and proceeded to advertise to the inmates of the workhouse the fact of a new burden having been imposed upon the parish, by setting up as loud a cry as could reasonably have been expected from a male infant who had not been possessed of that very useful appendage, a voice, for a much longer space of time than three minutes and a quarter.

As Oliver gave this first proof of the free and proper action of his lungs, the patchwork coverlet which was carelessly flung over the iron bedstead, rustled; the pale face of a young woman was raised feebly from the pillow; and a faint voice imperfectly articulated the words, 'Let me see the child, and die.'

The surgeon had been sitting with his face turned towards the fire: giving the palms of his hands a warm and a rub alternately. As the young woman spoke, he rose, and advancing to the bed's head, said, with more kindness than might have been expected of him:

'Oh, you must not talk about dying yet.'

'Lor bless her dear heart, no!' interposed the nurse, hastily depositing in her pocket a green glass bottle, the contents of which she had been tasting in a corner with evident satisfaction.

'Lor bless her dear heart, when she has lived as long as I have, sir, and had thirteen children of her own, and all on 'em dead except two, and them in the wurkus with me, she'll know better than to take on in that way, bless her dear heart! Think what it is to be a mother, there's a dear young lamb do.'

Apparently this consolatory perspective of a mother's prospects failed in producing its due effect. The patient shook her head, and stretched out her hand towards the child.

The surgeon deposited it in her arms. She imprinted her cold white lips passionately on its forehead; passed her hands over her face; gazed wildly round; shuddered; fell back--and died. They chafed her breast, hands, and temples; but the blood had stopped forever. They talked of hope and comfort. They had been strangers too long.

'It's all over, Mrs. Thingummy!' said the surgeon at last.

'Ah, poor dear, so it is!' said the nurse, picking up the cork of the green bottle, which had fallen out on the pillow, as she stooped to take up the child. 'Poor dear!'

'You needn't mind sending up to me, if the child cries, nurse,' said the surgeon, putting on his gloves with great deliberation. 'It's very likely it _will_ be troublesome. Give it a little gruel if it is.' He put on his hat, and, pausing by the bed-side on his way to the door, added, 'She was a good-looking girl, too; where did she come from?'

'She was brought here last night,' replied the old woman, 'by the overseer's order. She was found lying in the street. She had walked some distance, for her shoes were worn to pieces; but where she came from, or where she was going to, nobody knows.'

The surgeon leaned over the body, and raised the left hand. 'The old story,' he said, shaking his head: 'no wedding-ring, I see. Ah! Good-night!'

The medical gentleman walked away to dinner; and the nurse, having once more applied herself to the green bottle, sat down on a low chair before the fire, and proceeded to dress the infant.

What an excellent example of the power of dress, young Oliver Twist was! Wrapped in the blanket which had hitherto formed his only covering, he might have been the child of a nobleman or a beggar; it would have been hard for the haughtiest stranger to have assigned him his proper station in society. But now that he was enveloped in the old calico robes which had grown yellow in the same service, he was badged and ticketed, and fell into his place at once--a parish child--the orphan of a workhouse--the humble, half-starved drudge--to be cuffed and buffeted through the world--despised by all, and pitied by none.

Oliver cried lustily. If he could have known that he was an orphan, left to the tender mercies of church-wardens and overseers, perhaps he would have cried the louder.


在某一个小城,由于诸多原因,对该城的大名还是不提为好,我连假名也不给它取一个。此地和无数大大小小的城镇一样,在那里的公共建筑物之中也有一个古已有之的机构,这就是济贫院。本章题目中提到了姓名的那个人就出生在这所济贫院里,具体日期无需赘述,反正这一点对读者来说无关紧要――至少在目前这个阶段是这样。

    这孩子由教区外科医生领着,来到了这一个苦难而动荡的世界,在很长一段时间里,仍然存在着一件相当伤脑筋的问题,这孩子到底是不是能够有名有姓地活下去。如果是这种情况奥卡姆(WilliamofOccam〔或Ockham〕,约1300―约,本传记很有可能会永无面世之日,或者说,即便能问世也只有寥寥数页,不过倒也有一条无可估量的优点,即成为古往今来世界各国现存文献中最简明最忠实的传记范本。

    我倒也无意坚持说,出生在贫民收容院这件事本身乃是一个人所能指望得到的最美妙、最惹人羡慕的运气,但我的确想指出,此时此刻,对奥立弗退斯特说来,这也许是最幸运的一件事了。不瞒你说,当时要奥立弗自个儿承担呼吸空气的职能都相当困难――呼吸本来就是一件麻烦事,偏偏习惯又使这项职能成了我们维持生存必不可少的事情。好一阵子,他躺在一张小小的毛毯上直喘气,在今生与来世之间摇摆不定,天平决定性地倾向于后者。别的且不说,在这个短暂的时光里,倘若奥立弗的周围是一班细致周到的老奶奶、热心热肠的大娘大婶、经验丰富的护土以及学识渊博的大夫,毫无疑义,他必定一下子就被结果了。幸好在场的只有一个济贫院的老太婆,她已经叫不大容易到手的一点啤酒弄得有些晕乎乎的了,外加一位按合同办理这类事情的教区外科医生。除此之外,没有旁人。奥立弗与造化之间的较量见了分晓了。结果是,几个回合下来,奥立弗呼吸平稳了,打了一个喷嚏,发出一阵高声啼哭,作为一名男婴,哭声之响是可以想见的,要知道他在远远超过三分十五秒的时间里还始终不曾具有嗓门这样一种很有用处的附件。他开始向全院上下公布一个事实:本教区又背上了一个新的包袱。

    奥立弗刚以这一番活动证明自己的肺部功能正常,运转自如,这时,胡乱搭在铁床架上的那张补钉摞补钉的床单飒飒地响了起来,一个年轻女子有气无力地从枕头上抬起苍白的面孔,用微弱的声音不十分清晰地吐出了几个字:“让我看一看孩子再死吧。”

    医生面对壁炉坐在一边,时而烤烤手心,时而又搓搓手,听到少妇的声音,他站起来首倡经世致用之说;永嘉、永康两派反对空谈心性义理,主,走到床头,口气和善得出人意料,说:

    “噢,你现在还谈不上死。”

    “上帝保佑,她可是死不得,死不得。”护士插嘴说,一边慌慌张张地把一只绿色玻璃瓶放进衣袋里,瓶中之物她已经在角落里尝过了,显然十分中意。“上帝保佑,可死不得,等她活到我这把岁数,大夫,自家养上十三个孩子,除开两个,全都得送命,那两个就跟我一块儿待在济贫院里好了,到时候她就明白了,犯不着这样激动,死不得的,寻思寻思当妈是怎么回事,可爱的小羊羔在这儿呢,没错。”

    这番话本来是想用作母亲的前景来开导产妇,但显然没有产生应有的效果。产妇摇摇头,朝孩子伸出手去。

    医生将孩子放进她的怀里,她深情地把冰凉白皙的双唇印在孩子的额头上,接着她用双手擦了擦脸,狂乱地环顾了一下周围,战栗着向后一仰――死了。他们摩擦她的胸部、双手、太阳穴,但血液已经永远凝滞了。医生和护土说了一些希望和安慰的话。希望和安慰已经久违多时了。

    “一切都完了,辛格密太太。”末了,医生说道。

    “呵,可怜的孩子,是这么回事。”护士说着,从枕头上拾起那只绿瓶的瓶塞,那是她弯腰抱孩子的时候掉下来的。“可怜的孩子。”

    “护士,孩子要是哭的话,你尽管叫人来找我,”医生慢条斯理地戴上手套,说道,“小家伙很可能会折腾一气,要是那样,就给他喝点麦片粥。”他戴上帽子,还没走到门口,又在床边停了下来,添上了一句,“这姑娘还挺漂亮,哪儿来的?”

    “她是昨天晚上送来的,”老婆子回答,“有教区贫民救济处长官的吩咐。有人看见她倒在街上。她走了很远的路,鞋都穿成刷子了。要说她从哪儿来,到哪儿去,那可没人知道。”

    医生弯下腰,拿起死者的左手。“又是那种事,”他摇摇头说,“明白了,没带结婚戒指。啊。晚安。”

    懂医道的绅士外出吃晚饭去了,护士本人就着那只绿色玻璃瓶又受用了一番,在炉前一个矮椅子上坐下来,着手替婴儿穿衣服。

    小奥立弗真可以称为人靠衣装的一个杰出典范。他打从一出世唯一掩身蔽体的东西就是裹在他身上的那条毯子,你说他是贵家公子也行,是乞丐的贫儿亦可。就是最自负的外人也很难确定他的社会地位。不过这当儿,他给裹进一件白布旧罩衫里边,由于多次使用,罩衫已经开始泛黄,打上印章,贴上标签,一转眼已经正式到位――成为教区的孩子――济贫院的孤儿――吃不饱也饿不死的苦力――来到世上就要尝拳头,挨巴掌一一个个藐视,无人怜悯。

    奥立弗尽情地哭起来。他要是能够意识到自己成了孤儿,命运如何全得看教区委员和贫民救济处官员会不会发慈悲,可能还会哭得更响亮一些。



欢迎访问英文小说网http://novel.tingroom.com

©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533