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 5
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Chapter 5

The next evening old Mr. Sillerton Jackson came to dine with the Archers.

Mrs. Archer was a shy woman and shrank from society; but she liked to be well-informed as to its doings. Her old friend Mr. Sillerton Jackson applied to the investigation of his friends' affairs the patience of a collector and the science of a naturalist; and his sister, Miss Sophy Jackson, who lived with him, and was entertained by all the people who could not secure her much-sought-after brother, brought home bits of minor gossip that filled out usefully the gaps in his picture.

Therefore, whenever anything happened that Mrs. Archer wanted to know about, she asked Mr. Jackson to dine; and as she honoured few people with her invitations, and as she and her daughter Janey were an excellent audience, Mr. Jackson usually came himself instead of sending his sister. If he could have dictated all the conditions, he would have chosen the evenings when Newland was out; not because the young man was uncongenial to him (the two got on capitally at their club) but because the old anecdotist sometimes felt, on Newland's part, a tendency to weigh his evidence that the ladies of the family never showed.

Mr. Jackson, if perfection had been attainable on earth, would also have asked that Mrs. Archer's food should be a little better. But then New York, as far back as the mind of man could travel, had been divided into the two great fundamental groups of the Mingotts and Mansons and all their clan, who cared about eating and clothes and money, and the Archer-Newland- van-der-Luyden tribe, who were devoted to travel, horticulture and the best fiction, and looked down on the grosser forms of pleasure.

You couldn't have everything, after all. If you dined with the Lovell Mingotts you got canvas-back and terrapin and vintage wines; at Adeline Archer's you could talk about Alpine scenery and "The Marble Faun"; and luckily the Archer Madeira had gone round the Cape. Therefore when a friendly summons came from Mrs. Archer, Mr. Jackson, who was a true eclectic, would usually say to his sister: "I've been a little gouty since my last dinner at the Lovell Mingotts'--it will do me good to diet at Adeline's."

Mrs. Archer, who had long been a widow, lived with her son and daughter in West Twenty-eighth Street. An upper floor was dedicated to Newland, and the two women squeezed themselves into narrower quarters below. In an unclouded harmony of tastes and interests they cultivated ferns in Wardian cases, made macrame lace and wool embroidery on linen, collected American revolutionary glazed ware, subscribed to "Good Words," and read Ouida's novels for the sake of the Italian atmosphere. (They preferred those about peasant life, because of the descriptions of scenery and the pleasanter sentiments, though in general they liked novels about people in society, whose motives and habits were more comprehensible, spoke severely of Dickens, who "had never drawn a gentleman," and considered Thackeray less at home in the great world than Bulwer--who, however, was beginning to be thought old-fashioned.) Mrs. and Miss Archer were both great lovers of scenery. It was what they principally sought and admired on their occasional travels abroad; considering architecture and painting as subjects for men, and chiefly for learned persons who read Ruskin. Mrs. Archer had been born a Newland, and mother and daughter, who were as like as sisters, were both, as people said, "true Newlands"; tall, pale, and slightly round-shouldered, with long noses, sweet smiles and a kind of drooping distinction like that in certain faded Reynolds portraits. Their physical resemblance would have been complete if an elderly embonpoint had not stretched Mrs. Archer's black brocade, while Miss Archer's brown and purple poplins hung, as the years went on, more and more slackly on her virgin frame.

Mentally, the likeness between them, as Newland was aware, was less complete than their identical mannerisms often made it appear. The long habit of living together in mutually dependent intimacy had given them the same vocabulary, and the same habit of beginning their phrases "Mother thinks" or "Janey thinks," according as one or the other wished to advance an opinion of her own; but in reality, while Mrs. Archer's serene unimaginativeness rested easily in the accepted and familiar, Janey was subject to starts and aberrations of fancy welling up from springs of suppressed romance.

Mother and daughter adored each other and revered their son and brother; and Archer loved them with a tenderness made compunctious and uncritical by the sense of their exaggerated admiration, and by his secret satisfaction in it. After all, he thought it a good thing for a man to have his authority respected in his own house, even if his sense of humour sometimes made him question the force of his mandate.

On this occasion the young man was very sure that Mr. Jackson would rather have had him dine out; but he had his own reasons for not doing so.

Of course old Jackson wanted to talk about Ellen Olenska, and of course Mrs. Archer and Janey wanted to hear what he had to tell. All three would be slightly embarrassed by Newland's presence, now that his prospective relation to the Mingott clan had been made known; and the young man waited with an amused curiosity to see how they would turn the difficulty.

They began, obliquely, by talking about Mrs. Lemuel Struthers.

"It's a pity the Beauforts asked her," Mrs. Archer said gently. "But then Regina always does what he tells her; and BEAUFORT--"

"Certain nuances escape Beaufort," said Mr. Jackson, cautiously inspecting the broiled shad, and wondering for the thousandth time why Mrs. Archer's cook always burnt the roe to a cinder. (Newland, who had long shared his wonder, could always detect it in the older man's expression of melancholy disapproval.)

"Oh, necessarily; Beaufort is a vulgar man," said Mrs. Archer. "My grandfather Newland always used to say to my mother: `Whatever you do, don't let that fellow Beaufort be introduced to the girls.' But at least he's had the advantage of associating with gentlemen; in England too, they say. It's all very mysterious--" She glanced at Janey and paused. She and Janey knew every fold of the Beaufort mystery, but in public Mrs. Archer continued to assume that the subject was not one for the unmarried.

"But this Mrs. Struthers," Mrs. Archer continued; "what did you say SHE was, Sillerton?"

"Out of a mine: or rather out of the saloon at the head of the pit. Then with Living Wax-Works, touring New England. After the police broke THAT up, they say she lived--" Mr. Jackson in his turn glanced at Janey, whose eyes began to bulge from under her prominent lids. There were still hiatuses for her in Mrs. Struthers's past.

"Then," Mr. Jackson continued (and Archer saw he was wondering why no one had told the butler never to slice cucumbers with a steel knife), "then Lemuel Struthers came along. They say his advertiser used the girl's head for the shoe-polish posters; her hair's intensely black, you know--the Egyptian style. Anyhow, he-- eventually--married her." There were volumes of innuendo in the way the "eventually" was spaced, and each syllable given its due stress.

"Oh, well--at the pass we've come to nowadays, it doesn't matter," said Mrs. Archer indifferently. The ladies were not really interested in Mrs. Struthers just then; the subject of Ellen Olenska was too fresh and too absorbing to them. Indeed, Mrs. Struthers's name had been introduced by Mrs. Archer only that she might presently be able to say: "And Newland's new cousin--Countess Olenska? Was SHE at the ball too?"

There was a faint touch of sarcasm in the reference to her son, and Archer knew it and had expected it. Even Mrs. Archer, who was seldom unduly pleased with human events, had been altogether glad of her son's engagement. ("Especially after that silly business with Mrs. Rushworth," as she had remarked to Janey, alluding to what had once seemed to Newland a tragedy of which his soul would always bear the scar.)

There was no better match in New York than May Welland, look at the question from whatever point you chose. Of course such a marriage was only what Newland was entitled to; but young men are so foolish and incalculable--and some women so ensnaring and unscrupulous--that it was nothing short of a miracle to see one's only son safe past the Siren Isle and in the haven of a blameless domesticity.

All this Mrs. Archer felt, and her son knew she felt; but he knew also that she had been perturbed by the premature announcement of his engagement, or rather by its cause; and it was for that reason--because on the whole he was a tender and indulgent master--that he had stayed at home that evening. "It's not that I don't approve of the Mingotts' esprit de corps; but why Newland's engagement should be mixed up with that Olenska woman's comings and goings I don't see," Mrs. Archer grumbled to Janey, the only witness of her slight lapses from perfect sweetness.

She had behaved beautifully--and in beautiful behaviour she was unsurpassed--during the call on Mrs. Welland; but Newland knew (and his betrothed doubtless guessed) that all through the visit she and Janey were nervously on the watch for Madame Olenska's possible intrusion; and when they left the house together she had permitted herself to say to her son: "I'm thankful that Augusta Welland received us alone."

These indications of inward disturbance moved Archer the more that he too felt that the Mingotts had gone a little too far. But, as it was against all the rules of their code that the mother and son should ever allude to what was uppermost in their thoughts, he simply replied: "Oh, well, there's always a phase of family parties to be gone through when one gets engaged, and the sooner it's over the better." At which his mother merely pursed her lips under the lace veil that hung down from her grey velvet bonnet trimmed with frosted grapes.

Her revenge, he felt--her lawful revenge--would be to "draw" Mr. Jackson that evening on the Countess Olenska; and, having publicly done his duty as a future member of the Mingott clan, the young man had no objection to hearing the lady discussed in private--except that the subject was already beginning to bore him.

Mr. Jackson had helped himself to a slice of the tepid filet which the mournful butler had handed him with a look as sceptical as his own, and had rejected the mushroom sauce after a scarcely perceptible sniff. He looked baffled and hungry, and Archer reflected that he would probably finish his meal on Ellen Olenska.

Mr. Jackson leaned back in his chair, and glanced up at the candlelit Archers, Newlands and van der Luydens hanging in dark frames on the dark walls.

"Ah, how your grandfather Archer loved a good dinner, my dear Newland!" he said, his eyes on the portrait of a plump full-chested young man in a stock and a blue coat, with a view of a white-columned country-house behind him. "Well--well--well . . . I wonder what he would have said to all these foreign marriages!"

Mrs. Archer ignored the allusion to the ancestral cuisine and Mr. Jackson continued with deliberation: "No, she was NOT at the ball."

"Ah--" Mrs. Archer murmured, in a tone that implied: "She had that decency."

"Perhaps the Beauforts don't know her," Janey suggested, with her artless malice.

Mr. Jackson gave a faint sip, as if he had been tasting invisible Madeira. "Mrs. Beaufort may not--but Beaufort certainly does, for she was seen walking up Fifth Avenue this afternoon with him by the whole of New York."

"Mercy--" moaned Mrs. Archer, evidently perceiving the uselessness of trying to ascribe the actions of foreigners to a sense of delicacy.

"I wonder if she wears a round hat or a bonnet in the afternoon," Janey speculated. "At the Opera I know she had on dark blue velvet, perfectly plain and flat-- like a night-gown."

"Janey!" said her mother; and Miss Archer blushed and tried to look audacious.

"It was, at any rate, in better taste not to go to the ball," Mrs. Archer continued.

A spirit of perversity moved her son to rejoin: "I don't think it was a question of taste with her. May said she meant to go, and then decided that the dress in question wasn't smart enough."

Mrs. Archer smiled at this confirmation of her inference. "Poor Ellen," she simply remarked; adding compassionately: "We must always bear in mind what an eccentric bringing-up Medora Manson gave her. What can you expect of a girl who was allowed to wear black satin at her coming-out ball?"

"Ah--don't I remember her in it!" said Mr. Jackson; adding: "Poor girl!" in the tone of one who, while enjoying the memory, had fully understood at the time what the sight portended.

"It's odd," Janey remarked, "that she should have kept such an ugly name as Ellen. I should have changed it to Elaine." She glanced about the table to see the effect of this.

Her brother laughed. "Why Elaine?"

"I don't know; it sounds more--more Polish," said Janey, blushing.

"It sounds more conspicuous; and that can hardly be what she wishes," said Mrs. Archer distantly.

"Why not?" broke in her son, growing suddenly argumentative. "Why shouldn't she be conspicuous if she chooses? Why should she slink about as if it were she who had disgraced herself? She's `poor Ellen' certainly, because she had the bad luck to make a wretched marriage; but I don't see that that's a reason for hiding her head as if she were the culprit."

"That, I suppose," said Mr. Jackson, speculatively, "is the line the Mingotts mean to take."

The young man reddened. "I didn't have to wait for their cue, if that's what you mean, sir. Madame Olenska has had an unhappy life: that doesn't make her an outcast."

"There are rumours," began Mr. Jackson, glancing at Janey.

"Oh, I know: the secretary," the young man took him up. "Nonsense, mother; Janey's grown-up. They say, don't they," he went on, "that the secretary helped her to get away from her brute of a husband, who kept her practically a prisoner? Well, what if he did? I hope there isn't a man among us who wouldn't have done the same in such a case."

Mr. Jackson glanced over his shoulder to say to the sad butler: "Perhaps . . . that sauce . . . just a little, after all--"; then, having helped himself, he remarked: "I'm told she's looking for a house. She means to live here."

"I hear she means to get a divorce," said Janey boldly.

"I hope she will!" Archer exclaimed.

The word had fallen like a bombshell in the pure and tranquil atmosphere of the Archer dining-room. Mrs. Archer raised her delicate eye-brows in the particular curve that signified: "The butler--" and the young man, himself mindful of the bad taste of discussing such intimate matters in public, hastily branched off into an account of his visit to old Mrs. Mingott.

After dinner, according to immemorial custom, Mrs. Archer and Janey trailed their long silk draperies up to the drawing-room, where, while the gentlemen smoked below stairs, they sat beside a Carcel lamp with an engraved globe, facing each other across a rosewood work-table with a green silk bag under it, and stitched at the two ends of a tapestry band of field-flowers destined to adorn an "occasional" chair in the drawing- room of young Mrs. Newland Archer.

While this rite was in progress in the drawing-room, Archer settled Mr. Jackson in an armchair near the fire in the Gothic library and handed him a cigar. Mr. Jackson sank into the armchair with satisfaction, lit his cigar with perfect confidence (it was Newland who bought them), and stretching his thin old ankles to the coals, said: "You say the secretary merely helped her to get away, my dear fellow? Well, he was still helping her a year later, then; for somebody met 'em living at Lausanne together."

Newland reddened. "Living together? Well, why not? Who had the right to make her life over if she hadn't? I'm sick of the hypocrisy that would bury alive a woman of her age if her husband prefers to live with harlots."

He stopped and turned away angrily to light his cigar. "Women ought to be free--as free as we are," he declared, making a discovery of which he was too irritated to measure the terrific consequences.

Mr. Sillerton Jackson stretched his ankles nearer the coals and emitted a sardonic whistle.

"Well," he said after a pause, "apparently Count Olenski takes your view; for I never heard of his having lifted a finger to get his wife back."

 

第二天晚上,老西勒顿·杰克逊先生前来与阿切尔一家共进晚餐。

阿切尔太太是位腼腆的女人。她畏避社交界,但对其中的种种活动却喜欢了解得一清二楚。她的老朋友西勒顿·杰克逊善于将收藏家的耐心与博物学家的知识应用于对朋友们私事的调查,而与他同住的胞妹索菲·杰克逊,受到那些无法接触她那位广受欢迎的兄长的人们的款待,则把闲言碎语带回家来,有效地充实他的生动描述。

因此,每有阿切尔太太想了解的事情发生,她便请杰克逊先生前来一聚。由于蒙她邀请的人寥若晨星,由于她与她的女儿詹尼都是极出色的听众,杰克逊先生通常都是亲自赴约,而不是派他的妹妹代劳。假如一切都能由他作主,他会选择纽兰不在家的晚上前来,这并非因为年轻人与他情趣不投(他两人在俱乐部相处甚笃),而是由于这位喜谈轶闻的老人有时候感到,纽兰有一种惦量他的证据的倾向,这在女眷们身上却是绝对见不到的。

假如能做到尽善尽美,杰克逊先生还会要求阿切尔太太的饭菜稍加改善。然而那时的纽约上流社会,自人们能记得的时候起就一直分成两大派。一派是明戈特与曼森两姓及其宗族,他们关心吃、穿与金钱;另一派是阿切尔一纽兰一范德卢顿家族,他们倾心于旅游、园艺以及最佳的小说,对粗俗的享乐形式则不屑一顾。

毕竟,一个人不可能好事样样有份。假如你与洛弗尔·明戈特一家共餐,你可以享用灰背野鸭、水龟和陈年佳酿;而在艾德琳·阿切尔家,你却可以高谈阔论阿尔卑斯山的风景和“大理石的半人半羊神像”,而且幸运的是,那位阿切尔·马迪拉曾经游历过好望角。因此,当阿切尔太太发来友好的召唤时,喜欢兼收并蓄的杰克逊先生往往会对妹妹说:“上次在洛弗尔·明戈特家吃饭以后我一直有点痛风——到艾德琳家忌忌口对我会有好处的。”

寡居多年的阿切尔太太与儿子、女儿住在西28街。二楼全部归纽兰专用,两个女人挤在楼下的小房间里。一家人兴趣爱好和谐一致,他们在沃德箱内种蕨类植物,织花边饰带,用亚麻布做毛绣,收藏独立战争时期上釉的器皿,订阅《名言》杂志,并为了追求意大利情调而读韦达的小说。(由于风景描写与情调欢快的缘故,他们更爱读反映农民生活的小说,尽管总体上他们是喜欢描写上流社会人物的作品,因为这些人的动机与习惯容易理解。他们不喜欢狄更斯,因为此人从未刻画过一位绅士。他们还认为,对贵族社会萨克雷不及布尔沃通晓,不过人们已开始觉得后者已经过时。)

阿切尔太太与阿切尔小姐都极爱秀丽的风光,这是她们在偶尔进行的国外旅行中主要的追求与憧憬。她们认为,建筑与绘画是属于男人的课题,而且主要属于那些读过拉斯金著作的有学问的人。阿切尔太太天生是纽兰家的一员,母女俩像姐妹般相像,如人们说的,她们都属于纯正的“纽兰家族”:身材高大,脸色苍白,肩膀略圆,长长的鼻子,甜甜的笑容,还有一种目光低垂的特征,就像雷诺兹某些褪了色的画像里画的那样。不过年迈发福已使阿切尔太太身上的黑色缎服绷得紧而又紧,而阿切尔小姐穿的棕紫色的毛织衣服,却在她那处女的身架上一年比一年宽松。不然的话,她们形体上的相似真可说是维妙维肖了。

就纽兰所知,她们在精神领域的相似却不像她们相同的习性所表现的那样一致。长期的共同生活、相互依存的亲情赋予她们相同的语汇以及开口讲话时相同的习惯。无论哪一位想提出自己的意见时,总是先说“妈妈以为”或“詹尼以为”;但实际上,阿切尔太太却是明显地缺乏想像力,容易满足于公认的事实与熟悉的东西,而詹尼却容易受幻想支配,产生冲动和越轨,那些幻想随时会从压抑的浪漫喷泉中迸发出来。

母女俩相互敬慕,并且都尊重她们的儿子和兄长。而阿切尔也满怀柔情地爱着她们俩,她们对他过分的赞赏使他惴惴不安,他从中得到的内心满足又令他失去鉴别力。他想,一个男人的权威在自己家中受到尊重毕竟是件好事,尽管他的幽默感有时也使他怀疑自己得到的信赖到底有多大威力。

这一次年轻人十分肯定杰克逊先生宁愿让他外出赴宴,然而他有自己的理由不照此办理。

老杰克逊当然是想谈论埃伦·奥兰斯卡的事,阿切尔太太与詹尼当然也想听一听他要讲的内容,三个人都会由于纽兰的在场而略显尴尬:因为他与明戈特家族未来的关系已经公之于众。年轻人饶有兴趣地想看一看,他们将如何解决这一难题。

他们转弯抹角地从勒姆尔·斯特拉瑟斯太太开始谈起。

“遗憾的是博福特夫妇还请了她,”阿切尔太太态度温和地说。“不过话又说回来了,里吉纳总是照他的吩咐办事,而博福特——”

“博福特对细节问题常常是不加留意,”杰克逊先生说,一面仔细审视着盘里的烤河鲱。他第一千次地纳闷,阿切尔太太的厨师为何老是把鱼子给烧成灰渣。(纽兰早就与他持有同样的困惑,且总能够从老人阴沉非难的脸色中看出这一点。)

“嗯,那是自然啰;博福特是个粗人嘛,”阿切尔太太说,“我外公纽兰过去老对我母亲说:‘你干什么都成,可千万别把博福特那个家伙介绍给姑娘们。’可他起码在结交绅士方面已占据了优势;在英国的时候据说也是如此。事情非常神秘——”她瞥了詹尼一眼,收住话头。她与詹尼对博福特的秘密了如指掌,不过在公开场合,阿切尔太太却继续装出这话题不适合未婚女子的样子。

“不过那位斯特拉瑟斯太太,”阿切尔太太接着说,“你说她是干什么的,西勒顿?”

“她来自矿区:或者不如说来自矿井口上一个酒馆。后来跟随‘活蜡像’剧团在新英格兰巡回演出,剧团被警方解散之后,人们说她跟——”这次轮到杰克逊先生朝詹尼瞥了一眼,她的两眼开始从突起的眼睑底下向外膨胀。对她来说,斯特拉瑟斯太太的历史仍有若干空白之处。

“后来,”杰克逊先生接着说(阿切尔发现他正纳闷为什么没有人吩咐仆人决不能用钢刀切黄瓜),“后来勒姆尔·斯特拉瑟斯出现了。人们说,他的广告商用那姑娘的头做鞋油广告画,她的头发漆黑,你知道——是埃及型的。总之他——最后终于——娶了她。”他在给“最后终于”几个字留出的间隔中,隐含着丰富的寓意,每一个音节都作了充分的强调。

“唉,可这——按我们如今面临的尴尬局面来说,也算不了什么,”阿切尔太太冷淡地说、此刻两位女士真正感兴趣的并非斯特拉瑟斯太太,因为埃伦·奥兰斯卡的话题对她们太新鲜、太有魅力了。的确,阿切尔太太之所以提起斯特拉瑟斯太太,只不过为了可以十分便当地说:“还有纽兰那位新表姐——奥兰斯卡伯爵夫人?她也在舞会上吗?”

她提到儿子的时候,话里略带一点讽刺。阿切尔自然听得一清二楚,而且一点也不觉得意外。世间人事很少让她称心如意的阿切尔太太,对儿子的订婚却是一百个高兴。(“特别是在他与拉什沃思太太那桩蠢事之后,”她曾对詹尼这样说。她指的那件事,纽兰曾经视为一场悲剧,将在他灵魂上留下永难磨灭的伤痕。)无论你从何种角度考虑,纽约再也没有比梅·韦兰更好的姑娘了;当然,这样一段姻缘也只有纽兰才能配得上。可年轻男人却都那么傻,那么缺少心计,而有些女人又那样不知羞耻地设置圈套。所以,看到自己惟一的儿子安然无恙地通过莎琳岛,驶进无可挑剔的家庭生活的港湾,这完全是一种奇迹。

这一切阿切尔太太都感觉到了,她儿子也知道她感觉到了。但是,他同时还知道,她被过早宣布他的订婚消息搅得很不安,或者不如说被过早宣布的原因搅得很不安。正是由于这个原因——因为总体上讲他是个极为温情宽容的人——今天晚上他才留在家中。“我并非不赞成明戈特家的集体精神;可为什么要把纽兰的订婚与奥兰斯卡那个女人的事搅在一起,我弄不明白,”阿切尔太太对詹尼抱怨说,后者是她稍欠温柔的惟一见证人。

在对韦兰太太的拜访中,她一直是举止优雅的;而她的优雅举止是无与伦比的。不过纽兰明白(他的未婚妻无疑也猜得出),在整个拜访过程中,她和詹尼都紧张地提防着奥兰斯卡夫人的闯入;当他们一起离开那所住宅时,她不加掩饰地对儿子说:“我很高兴奥古斯塔·韦兰单独接待了我们。”

这些内心不安的暗示更加让阿切尔感动,以致他也觉得明戈特家走得有点太远了。但是,母亲与儿子之间谈论心中刚生的念头,是完全违背他们的道德规范的,所以他只是回答说:“唉,一个人订婚后总要参加一系列的家族聚会,这种活动结束得越快越好。”听了这话,他母亲只是隔着从饰有霜冻葡萄的灰丝绒帽上垂下的网状面纱撇了撇嘴。

他觉得,她的报复——她的合法的报复——就是要在今晚从杰克逊先生口中“引出”奥兰斯卡伯爵夫人的事。年轻人既然已经当众尽了明戈特家族未来成员的义务,他并不反对听一听对那位夫人的私下议论——只不过这话题已经开始让他感到厌烦。

杰克逊先生吃了一片那位脸色阴沉的男仆带着跟他相同的怀疑目光递给他的半冷不热的鱼片。他用让人难以觉察的动作嗅了嗅蘑菇浇头,拒绝了它。他脸色沮丧,样子很饿。阿切尔心想,他很可能要靠谈论埃伦·奥兰斯卡来充饥了。

杰克逊先生在椅子里向后靠了靠,抬眼看了看烛光下挂在昏暗墙壁上深色相框里的阿切尔们、纽兰们,以及范德卢顿们。

“唉,你的祖父阿切尔多么喜爱丰盛的晚餐啊,亲爱的纽兰!”他说,眼睛盯着一位胖胖的胸部饱满的年轻人的画像,那人打着宽领带,穿一件蓝外套,身后是一所带白色圆柱的乡间别墅。“可——可——可不知他会如何看待这些异国婚姻!”

阿切尔太太没有理睬他有关老祖母的菜肴的话,杰克逊先生从容地接下去说:“不,她没到舞会上去。”

“噢——”阿切尔太太低声说,那口气仿佛是说:“她总算还知礼。”

“也许博福特夫妇不认识她,”詹尼带着不加掩饰的敌意推测说。

杰克逊先生轻轻呷了一口,仿佛是在想象中品尝马德拉葡萄酒。“博福特太太可能不认识,但博福特却肯定认识,因为今天下午全纽约的人都看见她和他一起沿第五大街散步。”

“我的天——”阿切尔太太痛苦地呻吟道。她显然明白,想把外国人的这种行径与高雅的概念挂上钩简直是徒劳。

“不知下午她戴的是圆檐帽还是软帽,”詹尼猜测说。“我知道她在着歌剧时穿的是深蓝色天鹅绒,普普通通的,就像睡衣一样。”

“詹尼!”她母亲说;阿切尔小姐脸一红,同时想装出无所顾忌的样子。

“不管怎么说,她没有去舞会,总算是知趣的了,”阿切尔太太接着说。

一种乖僻的情绪,使做儿子的接腔道:“我认为这不是她知趣不知趣的问题。梅说她本来是打算去的,只是后来又觉得你们刚刚说到的那身衣服不够漂亮而已。”

阿切尔太太见儿子用这样的方式证实她的推断,仅仅报之一笑。“可怜的埃伦,”她只这么说了一句,接着又同情地补充道:“我们什么时候都不能忘记,梅多拉·曼森对她进行了什么稀奇古怪的培养教育。在进入社交界的舞会上,居然让她穿黑缎子衣服,你又能指望她会怎样呢?”

“哎呀——她穿的那身衣服我还记得呢!”杰克逊先生说。他接着又补一句:“可怜的姑娘!”那口气既表明他记着那件事,又表明他当时就充分意识到那光景预兆着什么。

“真奇怪,”詹尼说,“她竞一直沿用埃伦这么个难听的名字。假若是我早就改成伊莱恩了。”她环顾一眼餐桌,看这句话产生了什么效果。

她哥哥失声笑了起来。“为什么要叫伊莱恩?”

“不知道,听起来更——更有波兰味,”詹尼涨红了脸说。

“这名字听起来太引人注意,她恐怕不会乐意,”阿切尔太太漠然地说。

“为什么不?”儿子插言道,他突然变得很爱争论。“如果她愿意,为什么就不能引人注意?她为什么就该躲躲闪闪,仿佛自己给自己丢了脸似的?她当然是‘可怜的埃伦’,因为她不幸结下了倒霉的婚姻。但我不认为她因此就得像罪犯一样躲起来。”

“我想,”杰克逊先生沉思地说,“这正是明戈特家的人打算采取的立场。”

年轻人脸红了。“我可没有必要等他们家的暗示——如果你是这个意思的话,先生。奥兰斯卡夫人经历了一段不幸的生活,这不等于她无家可归。”

“外面有些谣传,”杰克逊先生开口说,瞥了詹尼一眼。

“噢,我知道:是说那个秘书,”年轻人打断他的话说。“没关系,母亲,詹尼是大人了。人们不就是说,”他接下去讲,“是那个秘书帮她离开了把她当囚犯看待的那个畜牲丈夫吗?哎,是又怎么样?我相信,我们这些人遇到这种情况,谁都会这么干的。”

杰克逊先生从肩头斜视了一眼那位脸色阴沉的男仆说:“也许……那个佐料……就要一点,总之——”他吃了一口又说:“我听说她在找房子,打算住在这儿。”

“我听说她打算离婚,”詹尼冒失地说。

“我希望她离婚!”阿切尔大声地说。

这话像一块炸弹壳落在了阿切尔家高雅、宁静的餐厅里,阿切尔太太耸起她那优雅的眉毛,那根特殊的曲线表示:“有男仆——”而年轻人自己也意识到公开谈论这类私事有伤风雅,于是急忙把话题岔开,转而去讲他对明戈特老太太的拜访。

晚餐之后,按照自古以来的习惯,阿切尔太太与詹尼拖着长长的绸裙到楼上客厅里去了。当绅士们在楼下吸烟的时候,她们在一台带搂刻灯罩的卡索式灯旁,面对面地在一张黄檀木缝纫桌两边坐下,桌底下挂一个绿色丝绸袋,两人在一块花罩毯两端缝缀起来。那以鲜花铺底的罩毯是预定用来装饰小纽兰·阿切尔太太的客厅里那把“备用”椅子的。

这一仪式在客厅里进行的同时,在那间哥特式的图书室里,阿切尔正让杰克逊先生坐进火炉近处的一把扶手椅,并递给他一支雪茄。杰克逊先生舒舒服服坐在椅子里,信心十足地点着了雪茄(这是纽兰买的)。他把瘦削的脚踝朝煤炉前伸了伸,说:“你说那个秘书仅仅是帮她逃跑吗。亲爱的?可一年之后他仍然在继续帮助她呢。有人在洛桑亲眼看见他们住在一起。”

纽兰脸红了。“住在一起?哎,为什么不可以?假如她自己没有结束她的人生,又有谁有权去结束呢?把她这样年轻的女子活活葬送,而她的丈夫却可以与娼妓在一起鬼混。我痛恨这种伪善的观点。”

他打住话头,气愤地转过身去点着雪茄。“女人应当有自由——跟我们一样的自由,”他断然地说。他仿佛有了一种新的发现,而由于过分激动,还无法估量其可怕的后果。

西勒顿·杰克逊先生把脚踝伸得离炉火更近一些,嘲讽地打了一个唿哨。

“嗯,”他停了一下说,“奥兰斯卡伯爵显然和你持相同的观点;因为我从未听说他动过一根指头去把妻子弄回来。”



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