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Chapter 13

It was a crowded night at Wallack's theatre.

The play was "The Shaughraun," with Dion Boucicault in the title role and Harry Montague and Ada Dyas as the lovers. The popularity of the admirable English company was at its height, and the Shaughraun always packed the house. In the galleries the enthusiasm was unreserved; in the stalls and boxes, people smiled a little at the hackneyed sentiments and clap- trap situations, and enjoyed the play as much as the galleries did.

There was one episode, in particular, that held the house from floor to ceiling. It was that in which Harry Montague, after a sad, almost monosyllabic scene of parting with Miss Dyas, bade her good-bye, and turned to go. The actress, who was standing near the mantelpiece and looking down into the fire, wore a gray cashmere dress without fashionable loopings or trimmings, moulded to her tall figure and flowing in long lines about her feet. Around her neck was a narrow black velvet ribbon with the ends falling down her back.

When her wooer turned from her she rested her arms against the mantel-shelf and bowed her face in her hands. On the threshold he paused to look at her; then he stole back, lifted one of the ends of velvet ribbon, kissed it, and left the room without her hearing him or changing her attitude. And on this silent parting the curtain fell.

It was always for the sake of that particular scene that Newland Archer went to see "The Shaughraun." He thought the adieux of Montague and Ada Dyas as fine as anything he had ever seen Croisette and Bressant do in Paris, or Madge Robertson and Kendal in London; in its reticence, its dumb sorrow, it moved him more than the most famous histrionic outpourings.

On the evening in question the little scene acquired an added poignancy by reminding him--he could not have said why--of his leave-taking from Madame Olenska after their confidential talk a week or ten days earlier.

It would have been as difficult to discover any resemblance between the two situations as between the appearance of the persons concerned. Newland Archer could not pretend to anything approaching the young English actor's romantic good looks, and Miss Dyas was a tall red-haired woman of monumental build whose pale and pleasantly ugly face was utterly unlike Ellen Olenska's vivid countenance. Nor were Archer and Madame Olenska two lovers parting in heart-broken silence; they were client and lawyer separating after a talk which had given the lawyer the worst possible impression of the client's case. Wherein, then, lay the resemblance that made the young man's heart beat with a kind of retrospective excitement? It seemed to be in Madame Olenska's mysterious faculty of suggesting tragic and moving possibilities outside the daily run of experience. She had hardly ever said a word to him to produce this impression, but it was a part of her, either a projection of her mysterious and outlandish background or of something inherently dramatic, passionate and unusual in herself. Archer had always been inclined to think that chance and circumstance played a small part in shaping people's lots compared with their innate tendency to have things happen to them. This tendency he had felt from the first in Madame Olenska. The quiet, almost passive young woman struck him as exactly the kind of person to whom things were bound to happen, no matter how much she shrank from them and went out of her way to avoid them. The exciting fact was her having lived in an atmosphere so thick with drama that her own tendency to provoke it had apparently passed unperceived. It was precisely the odd absence of surprise in her that gave him the sense of her having been plucked out of a very maelstrom: the things she took for granted gave the measure of those she had rebelled against.

Archer had left her with the conviction that Count Olenski's accusation was not unfounded. The mysterious person who figured in his wife's past as "the secretary" had probably not been unrewarded for his share in her escape. The conditions from which she had fled were intolerable, past speaking of, past believing: she was young, she was frightened, she was desperate-- what more natural than that she should be grateful to her rescuer? The pity was that her gratitude put her, in the law's eyes and the world's, on a par with her abominable husband. Archer had made her understand this, as he was bound to do; he had also made her understand that simplehearted kindly New York, on whose larger charity she had apparently counted, was precisely the place where she could least hope for indulgence.

To have to make this fact plain to her--and to witness her resigned acceptance of it--had been intolerably painful to him. He felt himself drawn to her by obscure feelings of jealousy and pity, as if her dumbly- confessed error had put her at his mercy, humbling yet endearing her. He was glad it was to him she had revealed her secret, rather than to the cold scrutiny of Mr. Letterblair, or the embarrassed gaze of her family. He immediately took it upon himself to assure them both that she had given up her idea of seeking a divorce, basing her decision on the fact that she had understood the uselessness of the proceeding; and with infinite relief they had all turned their eyes from the "unpleasantness" she had spared them.

"I was sure Newland would manage it," Mrs. Welland had said proudly of her future son-in-law; and old Mrs. Mingott, who had summoned him for a confidential interview, had congratulated him on his cleverness, and added impatiently: "Silly goose! I told her myself what nonsense it was. Wanting to pass herself off as Ellen Mingott and an old maid, when she has the luck to be a married woman and a Countess!"

These incidents had made the memory of his last talk with Madame Olenska so vivid to the young man that as the curtain fell on the parting of the two actors his eyes filled with tears, and he stood up to leave the theatre.

In doing so, he turned to the side of the house behind him, and saw the lady of whom he was thinking seated in a box with the Beauforts, Lawrence Lefferts and one or two other men. He had not spoken with her alone since their evening together, and had tried to avoid being with her in company; but now their eyes met, and as Mrs. Beaufort recognised him at the same time, and made her languid little gesture of invitation, it was impossible not to go into the box.

Beaufort and Lefferts made way for him, and after a few words with Mrs. Beaufort, who always preferred to look beautiful and not have to talk, Archer seated himself behind Madame Olenska. There was no one else in the box but Mr. Sillerton Jackson, who was telling Mrs. Beaufort in a confidential undertone about Mrs. Lemuel Struthers's last Sunday reception (where some people reported that there had been dancing). Under cover of this circumstantial narrative, to which Mrs. Beaufort listened with her perfect smile, and her head at just the right angle to be seen in profile from the stalls, Madame Olenska turned and spoke in a low voice.

"Do you think," she asked, glancing toward the stage, "he will send her a bunch of yellow roses tomorrow morning?"

Archer reddened, and his heart gave a leap of surprise. He had called only twice on Madame Olenska, and each time he had sent her a box of yellow roses, and each time without a card. She had never before made any allusion to the flowers, and he supposed she had never thought of him as the sender. Now her sudden recognition of the gift, and her associating it with the tender leave-taking on the stage, filled him with an agitated pleasure.

"I was thinking of that too--I was going to leave the theatre in order to take the picture away with me," he said.

To his surprise her colour rose, reluctantly and duskily. She looked down at the mother-of-pearl opera-glass in her smoothly gloved hands, and said, after a pause: "What do you do while May is away?"

"I stick to my work," he answered, faintly annoyed by the question.

In obedience to a long-established habit, the Wellands had left the previous week for St. Augustine, where, out of regard for the supposed susceptibility of Mr. Welland's bronchial tubes, they always spent the latter part of the winter. Mr. Welland was a mild and silent man, with no opinions but with many habits. With these habits none might interfere; and one of them demanded that his wife and daughter should always go with him on his annual journey to the south. To preserve an unbroken domesticity was essential to his peace of mind; he would not have known where his hair-brushes were, or how to provide stamps for his letters, if Mrs. Welland had not been there to tell him.

As all the members of the family adored each other, and as Mr. Welland was the central object of their idolatry, it never occurred to his wife and May to let him go to St. Augustine alone; and his sons, who were both in the law, and could not leave New York during the winter, always joined him for Easter and travelled back with him.

It was impossible for Archer to discuss the necessity of May's accompanying her father. The reputation of the Mingotts' family physician was largely based on the attack of pneumonia which Mr. Welland had never had; and his insistence on St. Augustine was therefore inflexible. Originally, it had been intended that May's engagement should not be announced till her return from Florida, and the fact that it had been made known sooner could not be expected to alter Mr. Welland's plans. Archer would have liked to join the travellers and have a few weeks of sunshine and boating with his betrothed; but he too was bound by custom and conventions. Little arduous as his professional duties were, he would have been convicted of frivolity by the whole Mingott clan if he had suggested asking for a holiday in mid-winter; and he accepted May's departure with the resignation which he perceived would have to be one of the principal constituents of married life.

He was conscious that Madame Olenska was looking at him under lowered lids. "I have done what you wished--what you advised," she said abruptly.

"Ah--I'm glad," he returned, embarrassed by her broaching the subject at such a moment.

"I understand--that you were right," she went on a little breathlessly; "but sometimes life is difficult . . . perplexing. . ."

"I know."

"And I wanted to tell you that I DO feel you were right; and that I'm grateful to you," she ended, lifting her opera-glass quickly to her eyes as the door of the box opened and Beaufort's resonant voice broke in on them.

Archer stood up, and left the box and the theatre.

Only the day before he had received a letter from May Welland in which, with characteristic candour, she had asked him to "be kind to Ellen" in their absence. "She likes you and admires you so much--and you know, though she doesn't show it, she's still very lonely and unhappy. I don't think Granny understands her, or uncle Lovell Mingott either; they really think she's much worldlier and fonder of society than she is. And I can quite see that New York must seem dull to her, though the family won't admit it. I think she's been used to lots of things we haven't got; wonderful music, and picture shows, and celebrities--artists and authors and all the clever people you admire. Granny can't understand her wanting anything but lots of dinners and clothes--but I can see that you're almost the only person in New York who can talk to her about what she really cares for."

His wise May--how he had loved her for that letter! But he had not meant to act on it; he was too busy, to begin with, and he did not care, as an engaged man, to play too conspicuously the part of Madame Olenska's champion. He had an idea that she knew how to take care of herself a good deal better than the ingenuous May imagined. She had Beaufort at her feet, Mr. van der Luyden hovering above her like a protecting deity, and any number of candidates (Lawrence Lefferts among them) waiting their opportunity in the middle distance. Yet he never saw her, or exchanged a word with her, without feeling that, after all, May's ingenuousness almost amounted to a gift of divination. Ellen Olenska was lonely and she was unhappy.

 

这天晚上华莱剧院十分拥挤。

上演的剧目是《肖兰》,戴思·鲍西考尔特担任同名男主角,哈里·蒙塔吉和艾达·戴斯扮演一对情人。这个受人赞赏的英国剧团正处于鼎盛时期,《肖兰》一剧更是场场爆满。顶层楼座观众的热情袒露无遗;在正厅前座和包厢里,人们对陈腐观念与哗众取宠的场面报之一笑,他们跟顶层楼座的观众一样欣赏此剧。

剧中有一个情节对楼上楼下的观众都特别有吸引力。那是哈里·蒙塔古与戴斯小姐告别的伤心场面,两人简短的对话之后,他向她道别,转身要走。站在壁炉近旁、低头望着炉火的女演员穿的开司米连衣裙没有流行的环形物。连衣裙紧贴她高挑的身体,在她的脚部飘垂下来,形成了长长的曲线。她脖颈上围了一条窄窄的黑丝带,丝带的两端垂在背后。

她的求婚者转身离开她之后,她把两臂支在壁炉台上,低头用双手捂住了脸。他在门口停下来看她,接着又偷偷回来,抓起丝带,吻了一下,离开了屋子,而她却没听见他的动静,也没有改变姿势。帷幕就在静悄悄的分手场面中徐徐降下了。

阿切尔一直都是为这一特殊的场景去看《肖兰》这个剧的。他觉得,蒙塔古与艾达·戴斯所演的告别这一幕大美了,比他在巴黎看过的克罗塞特与布雷森特的表演、或在伦敦所看的马奇·罗伯逊与肯德尔的表演一点也不逊色。这一场面的含蓄、其无言的悲哀,比那些最著名的戏剧道白更使他感动。

这天晚上,这一小小的场面由于使他回想起——他不知为什么——他对奥兰斯卡夫人的告别而愈发感人。那是发生在大约一周之前,他们两人经过推心置腹的交谈之后。

两个场面之间很难找到相似之处,相关人物的容貌也毫无共同点。纽兰·阿切尔不敢妄称自己与那位仪表堂堂、年轻浪漫的英国演员有一点儿相像,而戴斯小姐是位身材高大的红发女子,她那张苍白可爱的丑脸也完全不同于埃伦·奥兰斯卡楚楚动人的颜容。阿切尔与奥兰斯卡夫人更不是在心碎的无言中分手的情人,他们是委托人与律师,经过交谈之后分手,而且交谈又使得律师对委托人的情况产生了最糟糕的印象。那么,两者之间有何相似之处,能使年轻人回想时激动得如此怦然心跳呢?原因似乎在于奥兰斯卡夫人那种神秘的天赋:她能让人联想到日常经验之外种种动人的悲剧性的东西。她几乎从来没说过一句会使他产生这种印象的话;这是她的一种内在气质——不是她神秘的异国背景的投影,便是她身上一种非同寻常的、感人肺腑的内在精神的外化。阿切尔一向倾向于认为,对于人们的命运而言,与逆来顺受的性格倾向相比,机遇与环境所起的作用是很小的。这种倾向他从一开始就在奥兰斯卡夫人身上察觉到了,那位沉静的、几乎是消沉的年轻女子给他的印象恰恰就是那种必定会发生不幸的人,不论她怎样退缩,怎样特意回避。有趣的是她曾经生活在戏剧性非常浓烈的氛围之中,以致使她自己那种引发戏剧性事件的性情却隐而不现了。正是她那种处变不惊的态度使他意识到她曾经受过大风大浪:她现在视为理所当然的那些事物就能说明她曾经反抗过的东西。

阿切尔离开她的时候深信奥兰斯基伯爵的指责并非没有根据,那个在他妻子过去的生活中扮演“秘书”角色的神秘人物,在帮助她逃亡后大概不会得不到报偿。她逃离的那种环境是不堪忍受的,难以形容、难以置信的。她年纪轻轻,吓坏了,绝望了——还有什么比感激救援者更顺理成章的呢?遗憾的是,在法律与世人的眼中,她的感激却将她置于与她可恶的丈夫同等的地位。阿切尔已经按照他的职责让她明白了这一点,他还让她明白了,心地单纯而又善良的纽约上流社会——她显然对它的仁爱抱了过高的期望——恰恰是一个她休想得到丝毫宽容的地方。

被迫向她讲明这一事实—— 而且目睹她决然地加以接受——曾使他感到痛苦不堪。他觉得自己被一种难以名状的妒忌与同情引向她一边,仿佛她默认的错误将她置于他的掌握之中,既贬低了她,却又使她让人喜爱。他很高兴她是向他披露了她的秘密,而不是面对莱特布赖先生冷冰冰的盘问,或者家人尴尬的众目睽睽。他紧接着便履行了自己的职责,向双方保证,她已经放弃了谋求离婚的主意,而她做出这一决定的原因是,她认识到那样做徒劳无益。他们听后感到无限欣慰,便不再谈论她本来可能给他们带来的那些“不愉快”的事。

“我早就相信纽兰会处理好这件事的,”韦兰太太得意地夸奖她未来的女婿说。而召他密谈的老明戈特太太对他的聪明能干表示热烈祝贺,然后又不耐烦地说:“蠢东西!我亲自告诉过她那纯粹是胡闹。当她有幸做已婚女子与伯爵夫人的时候,却想去冒充老处女埃伦·明戈特!”

这些事使年轻人想起与奥兰斯卡最后一次谈话的情形历历在目,以致在两位演员分手、幕布徐徐落下时,他眼睛里涌出了泪水。他站起来要离开剧院。

他走的时候,先转向身后面那一侧,结果却发现他思念着的那位夫人正坐在一个包厢里,跟博福特夫妇、劳伦斯·莱弗茨夫妇及另外一两个男人在一起。自从那天晚上分手之后,他还没有单独跟她讲过话,并且一直设法避免和她在一起。然而现在他们的目光相遇了,与此同时,博福特太太也认出了他,并懒懒地做了个邀请的表示;他不进她的包厢是不可能了。

博福特与莱弗茨为他让出地方,与博福特太太敷衍了几句——她一向喜欢保持优美的神态,而不愿多讲话——他坐在了奥兰斯卡夫人的身后。包厢里除了西勒顿·杰克逊先生别无他人,他正神秘兮兮地小声对博福特太太讲上星期天莱姆尔·斯特拉瑟斯太太招待会的事(有人报道说那儿曾经跳舞)。博福特太太面带完美的笑容听他的详尽叙述,她的头摆得角度恰到好处,使正厅前座那边能看到她的侧影。在这种掩护之下,奥兰斯卡夫人转过身来,低声开了口。

“你认为,”她说,一面朝舞台瞥了一眼,“明天早上他会送她一束黄玫瑰吗?”

阿切尔脸红了,他的心惊跳了一下。他一共拜访过奥兰斯卡夫人两次,每一次他都给她送去一盒黄玫瑰,每一次都没放名片。她以前从未提及过那些花,他以为她决不会想到送花人是他。现在,她突然夸奖那礼物,且把它与舞台上情意浓浓的告别场面联系起来,不由使他心中充满了激动与快乐。

“我也正想这件事——为了把这画面随身带走,我正要离开剧院,”他说。

令他意外的是,她脸上泛起一阵红晕,那红晕来得很不情愿且很忧郁。她低头看着她手套戴得齐齐整整的手上那架珍珠母的观剧望远镜,停了一会儿说:“梅不在的时候你干什么呢?”

“我专心工作,”他回答说,对这问题有点不悦。

遵循确立已久的习惯,韦兰一家人上周动身到圣奥古斯丁去了。考虑到韦兰先生有可能发生支气管过敏,他们总是到那儿度过冬末。韦兰先生是个温厚寡言的人,凡事没有主张,却有许多习惯。这些习惯任何人不得干扰,习惯之一就是要求妻子和女儿要永远陪他进行一年一度的南方旅行。保持家庭乐趣的连续不断对他心灵的平静是至关重要的,假如韦兰太太不在身边提醒,他会不知道发刷放在什么地方,不知道怎样往信封上贴邮票。

由于家庭成员间相敬相爱,还由于韦兰先生是他们偶像崇拜的中心,妻子和梅从来没有让他独身一人去过圣奥古斯丁。他的两个儿子都从事法律工作,冬季不能离开纽约,一贯是在复活节前去与他汇合,然后一起返回。

阿切尔要想评论梅陪伴父亲的必要性是根本不可能的。明戈特家家庭医生的声誉主要建立在治疗肺炎病方面,而韦兰先生却从未患过此病,因此他坚持去圣奥古斯丁的主张是不可动摇的。本来,梅的订婚消息是打算等她从佛罗里达回来后再宣布的,但提前公布的事实也不能指望韦兰先生改变他的计划。阿切尔倒是乐于加入旅行者的队伍,与未婚妻一起呆上几个星期,晒晒太阳,划划船。但他同样受到风俗习惯的束缚,尽管他职业上任务并不重,可假如他在仲冬季节请求度假,整个明戈特家族会认为他很轻浮。于是他听天由命地接受了梅的出行,并认识到,这种屈从必将成为他婚后生活的重要组成部分。

他觉察到奥兰斯卡夫人透过低垂的眼帘在看他。“我已经按你希望的——你建议的做了,”她突然说。

“哦——我很高兴,”他回答说,因为她在这样的时刻提这个话题而觉得尴尬。

“我明白——你是正确的,”她有点喘息地接着说。“可有时候生活很艰难……很复杂。”

“我知道。”

“我当时想告诉你,我确实觉得你是对的;我很感激你,”她打住了话头。这时包厢的门被打开,博福特洪亮的声音打断了他们,她迅速把观剧望远镜举到眼睛上。

阿切尔站起来,离开包厢,离开了剧院。

他前一天刚收到梅·韦兰的一封来信,在信中,她以特有的率直要求他在他们不在时“善待埃伦”。“她喜欢你,崇拜你——而你知道,虽然她没有说,她仍然非常孤单、不快。我想外婆是不理解她的,洛弗尔·明戈特舅舅也不理解她,他们确实以为她比她实际上更世故,更喜欢社交。我很明白,她一定觉得纽约很沉闷,虽然家里人不承认这一点。我觉得她已经习惯了许多我们没有的东西:美妙的音乐、画展,还有名人——艺术家、作家以及你崇拜的所有聪明人。除了大量的宴会、衣服,外婆不理解她还需要别的什么东西——但我看得出,在纽约,差不多只有你一个人能跟她谈谈她真正喜欢的东西。”

他的贤慧的梅——他因为这封信是多么爱她!但他却没打算按信上说的去做:首先,他太忙;而且作为已经订婚的人,他不愿大显眼地充当奥兰斯卡夫人的保护人。他认为,她知道怎样照顾自己,这方面的能力远远超出了天真的梅的想象。她手下有博福特,有范德卢顿先生像保护神似地围着她转,而且中途等待机会的候选人(劳伦斯·莱弗茨便是其中之一)要多少有多少。然而,没有哪一次见着她、哪一次跟她交谈不让他感觉到,梅的真诚坦率几乎称得上是一种未卜先知的天赋。埃伦·奥兰斯卡的确很孤单,而且很不快活。



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