小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 双语小说 » 纯真年代 The Age of Innocence » Chapter 3
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Chapter 3

It invariably happened in the same way.

Mrs. Julius Beaufort, on the night of her annual ball, never failed to appear at the Opera; indeed, she always gave her ball on an Opera night in order to emphasise her complete superiority to household cares, and her possession of a staff of servants competent to organise every detail of the entertainment in her absence.

The Beauforts' house was one of the few in New York that possessed a ball-room (it antedated even Mrs. Manson Mingott's and the Headly Chiverses'); and at a time when it was beginning to be thought "provincial" to put a "crash" over the drawing-room floor and move the furniture upstairs, the possession of a ball-room that was used for no other purpose, and left for three-hundred-and-sixty-four days of the year to shuttered darkness, with its gilt chairs stacked in a corner and its chandelier in a bag; this undoubted superiority was felt to compensate for whatever was regrettable in the Beaufort past.

Mrs. Archer, who was fond of coining her social philosophy into axioms, had once said: "We all have our pet common people--" and though the phrase was a daring one, its truth was secretly admitted in many an exclusive bosom. But the Beauforts were not exactly common; some people said they were even worse. Mrs. Beaufort belonged indeed to one of America's most honoured families; she had been the lovely Regina Dallas (of the South Carolina branch), a penniless beauty introduced to New York society by her cousin, the imprudent Medora Manson, who was always doing the wrong thing from the right motive. When one was related to the Mansons and the Rushworths one had a "droit de cite" (as Mr. Sillerton Jackson, who had frequented the Tuileries, called it) in New York society; but did one not forfeit it in marrying Julius Beaufort?

The question was: who was Beaufort? He passed for an Englishman, was agreeable, handsome, ill-tempered, hospitable and witty. He had come to America with letters of recommendation from old Mrs. Manson Mingott's English son-in-law, the banker, and had speedily made himself an important position in the world of affairs; but his habits were dissipated, his tongue was bitter, his antecedents were mysterious; and when Medora Manson announced her cousin's engagement to him it was felt to be one more act of folly in poor Medora's long record of imprudences.

But folly is as often justified of her children as wisdom, and two years after young Mrs. Beaufort's marriage it was admitted that she had the most distinguished house in New York. No one knew exactly how the miracle was accomplished. She was indolent, passive, the caustic even called her dull; but dressed like an idol, hung with pearls, growing younger and blonder and more beautiful each year, she throned in Mr. Beaufort's heavy brown-stone palace, and drew all the world there without lifting her jewelled little finger. The knowing people said it was Beaufort himself who trained the servants, taught the chef new dishes, told the gardeners what hot-house flowers to grow for the dinner-table and the drawing-rooms, selected the guests, brewed the after-dinner punch and dictated the little notes his wife wrote to her friends. If he did, these domestic activities were privately performed, and he presented to the world the appearance of a careless and hospitable millionaire strolling into his own drawing-room with the detachment of an invited guest, and saying: "My wife's gloxinias are a marvel, aren't they? I believe she gets them out from Kew."

Mr. Beaufort's secret, people were agreed, was the way he carried things off. It was all very well to whisper that he had been "helped" to leave England by the international banking-house in which he had been employed; he carried off that rumour as easily as the rest--though New York's business conscience was no less sensitive than its moral standard--he carried everything before him, and all New York into his drawing- rooms, and for over twenty years now people had said they were "going to the Beauforts'" with the same tone of security as if they had said they were going to Mrs. Manson Mingott's, and with the added satisfaction of knowing they would get hot canvas-back ducks and vintage wines, instead of tepid Veuve Clicquot without a year and warmed-up croquettes from Philadelphia.

Mrs. Beaufort, then, had as usual appeared in her box just before the Jewel Song; and when, again as usual, she rose at the end of the third act, drew her opera cloak about her lovely shoulders, and disappeared, New York knew that meant that half an hour later the ball would begin.

The Beaufort house was one that New Yorkers were proud to show to foreigners, especially on the night of the annual ball. The Beauforts had been among the first people in New York to own their own red velvet carpet and have it rolled down the steps by their own footmen, under their own awning, instead of hiring it with the supper and the ball-room chairs. They had also inaugurated the custom of letting the ladies take their cloaks off in the hall, instead of shuffling up to the hostess's bedroom and recurling their hair with the aid of the gas-burner; Beaufort was understood to have said that he supposed all his wife's friends had maids who saw to it that they were properly coiffees when they left home.

Then the house had been boldly planned with a ball-room, so that, instead of squeezing through a narrow passage to get to it (as at the Chiverses') one marched solemnly down a vista of enfiladed drawing- rooms (the sea-green, the crimson and the bouton d'or), seeing from afar the many-candled lustres reflected in the polished parquetry, and beyond that the depths of a conservatory where camellias and tree-ferns arched their costly foliage over seats of black and gold bamboo.

Newland Archer, as became a young man of his position, strolled in somewhat late. He had left his overcoat with the silk-stockinged footmen (the stockings were one of Beaufort's few fatuities), had dawdled a while in the library hung with Spanish leather and furnished with Buhl and malachite, where a few men were chatting and putting on their dancing-gloves, and had finally joined the line of guests whom Mrs. Beaufort was receiving on the threshold of the crimson drawing-room.

Archer was distinctly nervous. He had not gone back to his club after the Opera (as the young bloods usually did), but, the night being fine, had walked for some distance up Fifth Avenue before turning back in the direction of the Beauforts' house. He was definitely afraid that the Mingotts might be going too far; that, in fact, they might have Granny Mingott's orders to bring the Countess Olenska to the ball.

From the tone of the club box he had perceived how grave a mistake that would be; and, though he was more than ever determined to "see the thing through," he felt less chivalrously eager to champion his betrothed's cousin than before their brief talk at the Opera.

Wandering on to the bouton d'or drawing-room (where Beaufort had had the audacity to hang "Love Victorious," the much-discussed nude of Bouguereau) Archer found Mrs. Welland and her daughter standing near the ball-room door. Couples were already gliding over the floor beyond: the light of the wax candles fell on revolving tulle skirts, on girlish heads wreathed with modest blossoms, on the dashing aigrettes and ornaments of the young married women's coiffures, and on the glitter of highly glazed shirt-fronts and fresh glace gloves.

Miss Welland, evidently about to join the dancers, hung on the threshold, her lilies-of-the-valley in her hand (she carried no other bouquet), her face a little pale, her eyes burning with a candid excitement. A group of young men and girls were gathered about her, and there was much hand-clasping, laughing and pleasantry on which Mrs. Welland, standing slightly apart, shed the beam of a qualified approval. It was evident that Miss Welland was in the act of announcing her engagement, while her mother affected the air of parental reluctance considered suitable to the occasion.

Archer paused a moment. It was at his express wish that the announcement had been made, and yet it was not thus that he would have wished to have his happiness known. To proclaim it in the heat and noise of a crowded ball-room was to rob it of the fine bloom of privacy which should belong to things nearest the heart. His joy was so deep that this blurring of the surface left its essence untouched; but he would have liked to keep the surface pure too. It was something of a satisfaction to find that May Welland shared this feeling. Her eyes fled to his beseechingly, and their look said: "Remember, we're doing this because it's right."

No appeal could have found a more immediate response in Archer's breast; but he wished that the necessity of their action had been represented by some ideal reason, and not simply by poor Ellen Olenska. The group about Miss Welland made way for him with significant smiles, and after taking his share of the felicitations he drew his betrothed into the middle of the ball-room floor and put his arm about her waist.

"Now we shan't have to talk," he said, smiling into her candid eyes, as they floated away on the soft waves of the Blue Danube.

She made no answer. Her lips trembled into a smile, but the eyes remained distant and serious, as if bent on some ineffable vision. "Dear," Archer whispered, pressing her to him: it was borne in on him that the first hours of being engaged, even if spent in a ball-room, had in them something grave and sacramental. What a new life it was going to be, with this whiteness, radiance, goodness at one's side!

The dance over, the two, as became an affianced couple, wandered into the conservatory; and sitting behind a tall screen of tree-ferns and camellias Newland pressed her gloved hand to his lips.

"You see I did as you asked me to," she said.

"Yes: I couldn't wait," he answered smiling. After a moment he added: "Only I wish it hadn't had to be at a ball."

"Yes, I know." She met his glance comprehendingly. "But after all--even here we're alone together, aren't we?"

"Oh, dearest--always!" Archer cried.

Evidently she was always going to understand; she was always going to say the right thing. The discovery made the cup of his bliss overflow, and he went on gaily: "The worst of it is that I want to kiss you and I can't." As he spoke he took a swift glance about the conservatory, assured himself of their momentary privacy, and catching her to him laid a fugitive pressure on her lips. To counteract the audacity of this proceeding he led her to a bamboo sofa in a less secluded part of the conservatory, and sitting down beside her broke a lily-of-the-valley from her bouquet. She sat silent, and the world lay like a sunlit valley at their feet.

"Did you tell my cousin Ellen?" she asked presently, as if she spoke through a dream.

He roused himself, and remembered that he had not done so. Some invincible repugnance to speak of such things to the strange foreign woman had checked the words on his lips.

"No--I hadn't the chance after all," he said, fibbing hastily.

"Ah." She looked disappointed, but gently resolved on gaining her point. "You must, then, for I didn't either; and I shouldn't like her to think--"

"Of course not. But aren't you, after all, the person to do it?"

She pondered on this. "If I'd done it at the right time, yes: but now that there's been a delay I think you must explain that I'd asked you to tell her at the Opera, before our speaking about it to everybody here. Otherwise she might think I had forgotten her. You see, she's one of the family, and she's been away so long that she's rather--sensitive."

Archer looked at her glowingly. "Dear and great angel! Of course I'll tell her." He glanced a trifle apprehensively toward the crowded ball-room. "But I haven't seen her yet. Has she come?"

"No; at the last minute she decided not to."

"At the last minute?" he echoed, betraying his surprise that she should ever have considered the alternative possible.

"Yes. She's awfully fond of dancing," the young girl answered simply. "But suddenly she made up her mind that her dress wasn't smart enough for a ball, though we thought it so lovely; and so my aunt had to take her home."

"Oh, well--" said Archer with happy indifference. Nothing about his betrothed pleased him more than her resolute determination to carry to its utmost limit that ritual of ignoring the "unpleasant" in which they had both been brought up.

"She knows as well as I do," he reflected, "the real reason of her cousin's staying away; but I shall never let her see by the least sign that I am conscious of there being a shadow of a shade on poor Ellen Olenska's reputation."

 

事情还是按老样子进行,一成不变。

在举办一年一度的舞会的这天晚上,朱利叶斯·博福特太太决不会忘记去歌剧院露露面。真的,为了突出她执掌家务的全能与高明,显示她拥有一班有才干的仆人,能够在她不在时安排好招待活动的种种细节,她总是在有歌剧演出的晚上举办舞会。

博福特家的住宅是纽约为数不多的有舞厅的住宅之一(甚至先于曼森,明戈特太太家和黑德利·奇弗斯家)。正当人们开始认为在客厅的地板上“乒乒乓乓”把家具搬到楼上显得“土气”的时候,拥有一个不作他用的舞厅,一年364天把它关闭在黑暗中,镀金的椅子堆在角落里,枝形吊灯装在袋子里——人们觉得,这种无庸置疑的优越性足以补偿博福特历史上任何令人遗憾的事情。

阿切尔太太喜欢将自己的社交哲学提炼成格言,有一次她曾说:“我们全都有自己宠幸的平民——”虽然这句话说得很大胆,但它的真实性却得到许多势利者暗中的承认。不过博福特夫妇并不属于严格意义上的平民,有人说他们比平民还要差。博福特太太确实属于美国最有名望的家族之一,她原本是可爱的里吉纳·达拉斯(属于南卡罗来纳的一个家系),一位分文不名的美人,是由她的表姐、鲁莽的梅多拉·曼森引荐到纽约社交界的,而梅多拉·曼森老是好心做坏事。谁若是与曼森家族和拉什沃斯家族有了亲缘关系,那么谁就会在纽约上流社会取得“公民权”(像西勒顿·杰克逊先生说的那样,他早年经常出人杜伊勒利王宫);但是,有没有人会因为嫁给朱利叶斯·博福特,而不丧失这种公民权呢?

问题在于:博福特究竟是何许人?他被认为是个英国人,彬彬有礼,仪表堂堂,脾气很坏,但却诙谐好客。他原是带着老曼森·明戈特太太那位英国银行家女婿的推荐信来到美国的,并很快在社交界赢得了重要地位;然而他生性放荡,言辞尖刻,而他的履历又很神秘。当梅多拉·曼森宣布她表妹与他订婚的消息时,人们认定,在可怜的梅多拉长长的鲁莽纪录中又增加了一次愚蠢行动。

然而愚蠢与聪明一样,常常会给她带来良好的结果。年轻的博福特太太结婚两年之后,人们已公认她拥有了纽约最引人注目的住宅。没有人知道这一奇迹究竟是怎样发生的。她懒散驯服,刻薄的人甚至称她果笨。但她打扮得像个玩偶,金发碧眼,珠光宝气,变得一年比一年年轻,一年比一年漂亮。她在博福特先生深棕色的石头宫殿里登上宝座,无须抬一抬戴钻戒的小手指便能把整个社交界的名人都吸引到身边。知情的人说,博福特亲自训练仆役,教厨师烹调新的菜肴,吩咐园丁在温室中栽培适宜餐桌与客厅的鲜花。他还亲自挑选宾客,酿制餐后的潘趣酒,并口授妻子写给朋友的便函。假若他果真如此,那么,这些家务活动也都是私下进行的;在社交界面前出现的他,却是一位漫不经心、热情好客的百万富翁,像贵宾一样潇洒地走进自己的客厅,赞不绝口地说:“我妻子的大岩桐真令人叫绝,不是吗?我相信她是从伦敦国立植物园弄来的。”

人们一致认为,博福特先生的秘密在于他成功的处事方法。虽然有传闻说,他是由雇佣他的国际银行“帮助”离开英国的,但他对这一谣言跟对其他谣言一样满不在乎。尽管纽约的商业良心跟它的道德准则一样地敏感,但他搬走了挡在前面的一切障碍,并把全纽约的人搬进了他的客厅。二十多年来,人们说起“要去博福特家”,那口气就跟说去曼森·明戈特太太家一样地心安理得,外加一种明知会享受灰背野鸭与陈年佳酿——而非劣酒与炸丸子——的满足。

于是,跟往常一样,博福特太太在《朱厄尔之歌》开唱之前准时出现在她的包厢里;她又跟往常一样在第三幕结束时站了起来,拉一拉披在她可爱的肩膀上的歌剧斗篷,退场了。全纽约的人都明白,这意味着半小时后舞会即将开始。

博福特的家是纽约人乐于向外国人炫耀的一处住宅,尤其是在举办一年一度的舞会的晚上。博福特夫妇是纽约第一批拥有自己的红丝绒地毯的人。他们在自己的凉棚下面,让自己的男仆把地毯从门阶上铺下来;而不是像预订晚餐和舞厅用的椅子一样从外面租来。他们还开创了让女士们在门厅里脱下斗篷的风习,而不是把斗篷乱堆到楼上女主人的卧室里,再用煤气喷嘴重卷头发。据悉博福特曾经说过,他认为妻子所有的朋友出门时都已由女佣替她们做好了头发。

而且,那幢带舞厅的住宅设计得十分气派,人们不必穿过狭窄的过道(像奇弗斯家那样),便可昂首阔步地从两排相对的客厅(海绿色的、猩红色的。金黄色的)中间走进舞厅。从远处即可看到映在上光镶花地板上的许多蜡烛的光辉。再往远处看,可以望见一座温室的深处,山茶与桫楞的枝叶在黑、黄两色的竹椅上空形成拱顶。

纽兰·阿切尔到达稍微晚了一点,这符合他这样的年轻人的身份。他把大衣交给穿长丝袜的男仆(这些长袜是博福特为数不多的蠢事之一),在挂着西班牙皮革、用工艺品和孔雀石镶嵌装饰的书房里磨赠了一会儿——那儿有几位男子一面闲聊一面戴跳舞的手套——最后才加入到博福特太太在深红色客厅门口迎接的客人之中。

阿切尔显然有些紧张不安。看完歌剧他没有回俱乐部(就像公子哥儿们通常那样),而是趁着美好的夜色沿第五大街向上走了一段,然后才回过头朝博福特家的方向走去。他肯定是担心明戈特家的人可能会走得太远,生怕他们会执行明戈特老太太的命令,把奥兰斯卡伯爵夫人带到舞会上来。

从俱乐部包厢的气氛中,他已经意识到那将是多么严重的错误。而且,虽然他无比坚决地要“坚持到底”,但他觉得,他要保护未婚妻的表姐的豪侠热情,没有在歌剧院与她简短交谈之前那么高涨了。

阿切尔漫步走到金黄色客厅(博福特大胆地在里面挂了一幅引起不少争议的裸体画《得胜的爱神》),只见韦兰太太和她的女儿站在舞厅门口。那边,一对对的舞伴已经在地板上滑步,烛光撒落在旋转的纱裙上,撒落在少女们头上戴的雅致的花环上,撒落在少妇们头上浮华的枝形宝石饰品及装饰物上,撒落在光亮的衬衫前胸与上光的新手套上。

韦兰小姐显然正准备加入跳舞的人群。她呆在门口,手中握着铃兰(她没带别的花),脸色有点苍白,真切的兴奋使她两眼灼灼发光。一群男青年和姑娘聚在她的周围,不少人与她握手,笑着与她寒暄。稍稍站开一点的韦兰太太笑容满面,表达出得体的赞赏。很明显,韦兰小姐正在宣布她的订婚消息,而她母亲则装出一副与这种场合相称的家长们不情愿的模样。

阿切尔踌躇了一会儿。订婚消息是按他明确的意愿宣布的,但他的本意却不是这样把自己的幸福公布于众。在拥挤喧闹的舞厅里公布它等于强行剥掉个人秘密的保护层,那本是属于最贴近心灵的东西。他的喜悦非常深沉,所以这种表面的损伤没有触及根本,不过他还是愿意让表面也一样纯洁。令人满意的是,他发现梅·韦兰也有同样的感受。她用眼睛向他投来恳求的目光,仿佛是在说:“别忘记,我们这样做是因为它符合常理。”

任何恳求都不会在阿切尔心中得到比这更快的响应了,然而他仍希望他们之所以必须在此宣布,有一个更充分的理由,而不仅仅是为了可怜的埃伦·奥兰斯卡。韦兰小姐周围的人面带会意的笑容给他让开了路。在接受了对他的那份祝贺之后,他拉着未婚妻走到舞厅中央,把胳膊搭在了她的腰际。

“现在我们用不着非得讲话了,”他望着她那双真诚的眼睛露出笑容说。两人乘着《蓝色多瑙河》柔和的波浪漂流而去。

她没有回话,双唇绽出一丝微笑,但眼神依然淡漠庄重,仿佛正凝神于某种抹不去的幻象。“亲爱的,”阿切尔悄声说,一面用力拉她靠近自己。他坚信,订婚的最初几个小时即使在舞厅里度过,其中也包含着重大与神圣的内容。有这样一位纯洁、美丽、善良的人在身边,将是怎样的一种新生活啊!

舞会结束了,他们俩既然已成了未婚夫妻,便漫步走到温室里;坐在一片桫椤与山茶的屏障后面,纽兰将她戴着手套的手紧紧压在唇上。

“你知道,我是照你的要求做的,”她说。

“是的,我不能再等待了,”他含笑回答。过了一会儿又补充说:“我只是希望不是在舞会上宣布。”

“是的,我知道,”她会意地迎着他的目光说。“不过,毕竟——就是在这儿,我们也是单独在一起,不是吗?”

“哦,最亲爱的——永远!”阿切尔喊道。

显然,她将永远理解他,永远讲得体的话。这一发现使得他乐不可支。他开心地接着说:“最糟糕的是我想吻你却吻不到,”说着,他朝温室四周迅速瞥了一眼,弄清他们暂时处于隐蔽之中,便把她揽在怀里,匆匆地吻了一下她的双唇。为了抵消这一出格举动的影响,他把她带到温室不太隐蔽部分的一个长竹椅上。他在她身边坐下,从她的花束上摘下一朵铃兰。她坐着一语不发,整个世界像阳光灿烂的峡谷横在他们脚下。

“你告诉我的表姐埃伦了吗?”过了一会儿她问,仿佛在梦中说话一样。

他醒悟过来,想起他还没有告诉她。要向那位陌生的外籍女子讲这种事,有一种无法克服的反感使他没有说出到了嘴边的话。

“没——我一直没得到机会,”他急忙扯个小谎说。

“噢,”她看上去很失望,但决意温和地推行她的主张。“那么,你一定要讲,因为我也没讲,我不愿让她以为——”

“当然,不过话说回来,不是该由你去告诉她吗?”

她沉思了一会儿说:“假如早先有适当的时机,我去说也行。不过现在已经晚了,我想你必须向她说明,我在看歌剧时曾经让你告诉她,那可是我们在这儿告诉大家之前呀。否则她会以为我忘记她了。你知道她是家族的一员,又在外面呆了很久,因而她非常——敏感。”

阿切尔满面红光地望着她。“我亲爱的天使!我当然要告诉她的,”他略带忧虑地朝喧闹的舞厅瞥了一眼。“不过我还没见着她呢。她来了吗?”

“没有,她在最后一刻决定不来了。”

“最后一刻?”他重复道,她居然会改变主意,这使他十分惊讶。

“是的,她特别喜欢跳舞,”姑娘坦率地回答说。“可是她突然认定她的衣服在舞会上不够漂亮,尽管我们觉得它很美。所以我舅妈只得送她回家了。”

“噢——”阿切尔无所谓地说。其实,他这时倒是十分快乐。他的未婚妻竭力回避他们俩在其中长大成人的那个“不快”的阴影,这比什么都使他高兴。

“她心里跟我一样明白她表姐避不露面的真正原因,”他心想。“不过我决不能让她看出一点迹象,让她知道我了解可怜的埃伦·奥兰斯卡名誉上的阴影。”



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

鲁ICP备05031204号