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 15
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Chapter 15

Newland Archer arrived at the Chiverses' on Friday evening, and on Saturday went conscientiously through all the rites appertaining to a week-end at Highbank.

In the morning he had a spin in the ice-boat with his hostess and a few of the hardier guests; in the afternoon he "went over the farm" with Reggie, and listened, in the elaborately appointed stables, to long and impressive disquisitions on the horse; after tea he talked in a corner of the firelit hall with a young lady who had professed herself broken-hearted when his engagement was announced, but was now eager to tell him of her own matrimonial hopes; and finally, about midnight, he assisted in putting a gold-fish in one visitor's bed, dressed up a burglar in the bath-room of a nervous aunt, and saw in the small hours by joining in a pillow-fight that ranged from the nurseries to the basement. But on Sunday after luncheon he borrowed a cutter, and drove over to Skuytercliff.

People had always been told that the house at Skuytercliff was an Italian villa. Those who had never been to Italy believed it; so did some who had. The house had been built by Mr. van der Luyden in his youth, on his return from the "grand tour," and in anticipation of his approaching marriage with Miss Louisa Dagonet. It was a large square wooden structure, with tongued and grooved walls painted pale green and white, a Corinthian portico, and fluted pilasters between the windows. From the high ground on which it stood a series of terraces bordered by balustrades and urns descended in the steel-engraving style to a small irregular lake with an asphalt edge overhung by rare weeping conifers. To the right and left, the famous weedless lawns studded with "specimen" trees (each of a different variety) rolled away to long ranges of grass crested with elaborate cast-iron ornaments; and below, in a hollow, lay the four-roomed stone house which the first Patroon had built on the land granted him in 1612.

Against the uniform sheet of snow and the greyish winter sky the Italian villa loomed up rather grimly; even in summer it kept its distance, and the boldest coleus bed had never ventured nearer than thirty feet from its awful front. Now, as Archer rang the bell, the long tinkle seemed to echo through a mausoleum; and the surprise of the butler who at length responded to the call was as great as though he had been summoned from his final sleep.

Happily Archer was of the family, and therefore, irregular though his arrival was, entitled to be informed that the Countess Olenska was out, having driven to afternoon service with Mrs. van der Luyden exactly three quarters of an hour earlier.

"Mr. van der Luyden," the butler continued, "is in, sir; but my impression is that he is either finishing his nap or else reading yesterday's Evening Post. I heard him say, sir, on his return from church this morning, that he intended to look through the Evening Post after luncheon; if you like, sir, I might go to the library door and listen--"

But Archer, thanking him, said that he would go and meet the ladies; and the butler, obviously relieved, closed the door on him majestically.

A groom took the cutter to the stables, and Archer struck through the park to the high-road. The village of Skuytercliff was only a mile and a half away, but he knew that Mrs. van der Luyden never walked, and that he must keep to the road to meet the carriage. Presently, however, coming down a foot-path that crossed the highway, he caught sight of a slight figure in a red cloak, with a big dog running ahead. He hurried forward, and Madame Olenska stopped short with a smile of welcome.

"Ah, you've come!" she said, and drew her hand from her muff.

The red cloak made her look gay and vivid, like the Ellen Mingott of old days; and he laughed as he took her hand, and answered: "I came to see what you were running away from."

Her face clouded over, but she answered: "Ah, well-- you will see, presently."

The answer puzzled him. "Why--do you mean that you've been overtaken?"

She shrugged her shoulders, with a little movement like Nastasia's, and rejoined in a lighter tone: "Shall we walk on? I'm so cold after the sermon. And what does it matter, now you're here to protect me?"

The blood rose to his temples and he caught a fold of her cloak. "Ellen--what is it? You must tell me."

"Oh, presently--let's run a race first: my feet are freezing to the ground," she cried; and gathering up the cloak she fled away across the snow, the dog leaping about her with challenging barks. For a moment Archer stood watching, his gaze delighted by the flash of the red meteor against the snow; then he started after her, and they met, panting and laughing, at a wicket that led into the park.

She looked up at him and smiled. "I knew you'd come!"

"That shows you wanted me to," he returned, with a disproportionate joy in their nonsense. The white glitter of the trees filled the air with its own mysterious brightness, and as they walked on over the snow the ground seemed to sing under their feet.

"Where did you come from?" Madame Olenska asked.

He told her, and added: "It was because I got your note."

After a pause she said, with a just perceptible chill in her voice: "May asked you to take care of me."

"I didn't need any asking."

"You mean--I'm so evidently helpless and defenceless? What a poor thing you must all think me! But women here seem not--seem never to feel the need: any more than the blessed in heaven."

He lowered his voice to ask: "What sort of a need?"

"Ah, don't ask me! I don't speak your language," she retorted petulantly.

The answer smote him like a blow, and he stood still in the path, looking down at her.

"What did I come for, if I don't speak yours?"

"Oh, my friend--!" She laid her hand lightly on his arm, and he pleaded earnestly: "Ellen--why won't you tell me what's happened?"

She shrugged again. "Does anything ever happen in heaven?"

He was silent, and they walked on a few yards without exchanging a word. Finally she said: "I will tell you--but where, where, where? One can't be alone for a minute in that great seminary of a house, with all the doors wide open, and always a servant bringing tea, or a log for the fire, or the newspaper! Is there nowhere in an American house where one may be by one's self? You're so shy, and yet you're so public. I always feel as if I were in the convent again--or on the stage, before a dreadfully polite audience that never applauds."

"Ah, you don't like us!" Archer exclaimed.

They were walking past the house of the old Patroon, with its squat walls and small square windows compactly grouped about a central chimney. The shutters stood wide, and through one of the newly-washed windows Archer caught the light of a fire.

"Why--the house is open!" he said.

She stood still. "No; only for today, at least. I wanted to see it, and Mr. van der Luyden had the fire lit and the windows opened, so that we might stop there on the way back from church this morning." She ran up the steps and tried the door. "It's still unlocked--what luck! Come in and we can have a quiet talk. Mrs. van der Luyden has driven over to see her old aunts at Rhinebeck and we shan't be missed at the house for another hour."

He followed her into the narrow passage. His spirits, which had dropped at her last words, rose with an irrational leap. The homely little house stood there, its panels and brasses shining in the firelight, as if magically created to receive them. A big bed of embers still gleamed in the kitchen chimney, under an iron pot hung from an ancient crane. Rush-bottomed arm-chairs faced each other across the tiled hearth, and rows of Delft plates stood on shelves against the walls. Archer stooped over and threw a log upon the embers.

Madame Olenska, dropping her cloak, sat down in one of the chairs. Archer leaned against the chimney and looked at her.

"You're laughing now; but when you wrote me you were unhappy," he said.

"Yes." She paused. "But I can't feel unhappy when you're here."

"I sha'n't be here long," he rejoined, his lips stiffening with the effort to say just so much and no more.

"No; I know. But I'm improvident: I live in the moment when I'm happy."

The words stole through him like a temptation, and to close his senses to it he moved away from the hearth and stood gazing out at the black tree-boles against the snow. But it was as if she too had shifted her place, and he still saw her, between himself and the trees, drooping over the fire with her indolent smile. Archer's heart was beating insubordinately. What if it were from him that she had been running away, and if she had waited to tell him so till they were here alone together in this secret room?

"Ellen, if I'm really a help to you--if you really wanted me to come--tell me what's wrong, tell me what it is you're running away from," he insisted.

He spoke without shifting his position, without even turning to look at her: if the thing was to happen, it was to happen in this way, with the whole width of the room between them, and his eyes still fixed on the outer snow.

For a long moment she was silent; and in that moment Archer imagined her, almost heard her, stealing up behind him to throw her light arms about his neck. While he waited, soul and body throbbing with the miracle to come, his eyes mechanically received the image of a heavily-coated man with his fur collar turned up who was advancing along the path to the house. The man was Julius Beaufort.

"Ah--!" Archer cried, bursting into a laugh.

Madame Olenska had sprung up and moved to his side, slipping her hand into his; but after a glance through the window her face paled and she shrank back.

"So that was it?" Archer said derisively.

"I didn't know he was here," Madame Olenska murmured. Her hand still clung to Archer's; but he drew away from her, and walking out into the passage threw open the door of the house.

"Hallo, Beaufort--this way! Madame Olenska was expecting you," he said.

During his journey back to New York the next morning, Archer relived with a fatiguing vividness his last moments at Skuytercliff.

Beaufort, though clearly annoyed at finding him with Madame Olenska, had, as usual, carried off the situation high-handedly. His way of ignoring people whose presence inconvenienced him actually gave them, if they were sensitive to it, a feeling of invisibility, of nonexistence. Archer, as the three strolled back through the park, was aware of this odd sense of disembodiment; and humbling as it was to his vanity it gave him the ghostly advantage of observing unobserved.

Beaufort had entered the little house with his usual easy assurance; but he could not smile away the vertical line between his eyes. It was fairly clear that Madame Olenska had not known that he was coming, though her words to Archer had hinted at the possibility; at any rate, she had evidently not told him where she was going when she left New York, and her unexplained departure had exasperated him. The ostensible reason of his appearance was the discovery, the very night before, of a "perfect little house," not in the market, which was really just the thing for her, but would be snapped up instantly if she didn't take it; and he was loud in mock-reproaches for the dance she had led him in running away just as he had found it.

"If only this new dodge for talking along a wire had been a little bit nearer perfection I might have told you all this from town, and been toasting my toes before the club fire at this minute, instead of tramping after you through the snow," he grumbled, disguising a real irritation under the pretence of it; and at this opening Madame Olenska twisted the talk away to the fantastic possibility that they might one day actually converse with each other from street to street, or even-- incredible dream!--from one town to another. This struck from all three allusions to Edgar Poe and Jules Verne, and such platitudes as naturally rise to the lips of the most intelligent when they are talking against time, and dealing with a new invention in which it would seem ingenuous to believe too soon; and the question of the telephone carried them safely back to the big house.

Mrs. van der Luyden had not yet returned; and Archer took his leave and walked off to fetch the cutter, while Beaufort followed the Countess Olenska indoors. It was probable that, little as the van der Luydens encouraged unannounced visits, he could count on being asked to dine, and sent back to the station to catch the nine o'clock train; but more than that he would certainly not get, for it would be inconceivable to his hosts that a gentleman travelling without luggage should wish to spend the night, and distasteful to them to propose it to a person with whom they were on terms of such limited cordiality as Beaufort.

Beaufort knew all this, and must have foreseen it; and his taking the long journey for so small a reward gave the measure of his impatience. He was undeniably in pursuit of the Countess Olenska; and Beaufort had only one object in view in his pursuit of pretty women. His dull and childless home had long since palled on him; and in addition to more permanent consolations he was always in quest of amorous adventures in his own set. This was the man from whom Madame Olenska was avowedly flying: the question was whether she had fled because his importunities displeased her, or because she did not wholly trust herself to resist them; unless, indeed, all her talk of flight had been a blind, and her departure no more than a manoeuvre.

Archer did not really believe this. Little as he had actually seen of Madame Olenska, he was beginning to think that he could read her face, and if not her face, her voice; and both had betrayed annoyance, and even dismay, at Beaufort's sudden appearance. But, after all, if this were the case, was it not worse than if she had left New York for the express purpose of meeting him? If she had done that, she ceased to be an object of interest, she threw in her lot with the vulgarest of dissemblers: a woman engaged in a love affair with Beaufort "classed" herself irretrievably.

No, it was worse a thousand times if, judging Beaufort, and probably despising him, she was yet drawn to him by all that gave him an advantage over the other men about her: his habit of two continents and two societies, his familiar association with artists and actors and people generally in the world's eye, and his careless contempt for local prejudices. Beaufort was vulgar, he was uneducated, he was purse-proud; but the circumstances of his life, and a certain native shrewdness, made him better worth talking to than many men, morally and socially his betters, whose horizon was bounded by the Battery and the Central Park. How should any one coming from a wider world not feel the difference and be attracted by it?

Madame Olenska, in a burst of irritation, had said to Archer that he and she did not talk the same language; and the young man knew that in some respects this was true. But Beaufort understood every turn of her dialect, and spoke it fluently: his view of life, his tone, his attitude, were merely a coarser reflection of those revealed in Count Olenski's letter. This might seem to be to his disadvantage with Count Olenski's wife; but Archer was too intelligent to think that a young woman like Ellen Olenska would necessarily recoil from everything that reminded her of her past. She might believe herself wholly in revolt against it; but what had charmed her in it would still charm her, even though it were against her will.

Thus, with a painful impartiality, did the young man make out the case for Beaufort, and for Beaufort's victim. A longing to enlighten her was strong in him; and there were moments when he imagined that all she asked was to be enlightened.

That evening he unpacked his books from London. The box was full of things he had been waiting for impatiently; a new volume of Herbert Spencer, another collection of the prolific Alphonse Daudet's brilliant tales, and a novel called "Middlemarch," as to which there had lately been interesting things said in the reviews. He had declined three dinner invitations in favour of this feast; but though he turned the pages with the sensuous joy of the book-lover, he did not know what he was reading, and one book after another dropped from his hand. Suddenly, among them, he lit on a small volume of verse which he had ordered because the name had attracted him: "The House of Life." He took it up, and found himself plunged in an atmosphere unlike any he had ever breathed in books; so warm, so rich, and yet so ineffably tender, that it gave a new and haunting beauty to the most elementary of human passions. All through the night he pursued through those enchanted pages the vision of a woman who had the face of Ellen Olenska; but when he woke the next morning, and looked out at the brownstone houses across the street, and thought of his desk in Mr. Letterblair's office, and the family pew in Grace Church, his hour in the park of Skuytercliff became as far outside the pale of probability as the visions of the night.

"Mercy, how pale you look, Newland!" Janey commented over the coffee-cups at breakfast; and his mother added: "Newland, dear, I've noticed lately that you've been coughing; I do hope you're not letting yourself be overworked?" For it was the conviction of both ladies that, under the iron despotism of his senior partners, the young man's life was spent in the most exhausting professional labours--and he had never thought it necessary to undeceive them.

The next two or three days dragged by heavily. The taste of the usual was like cinders in his mouth, and there were moments when he felt as if he were being buried alive under his future. He heard nothing of the Countess Olenska, or of the perfect little house, and though he met Beaufort at the club they merely nodded at each other across the whist-tables. It was not till the fourth evening that he found a note awaiting him on his return home. "Come late tomorrow: I must explain to you. Ellen." These were the only words it contained.

The young man, who was dining out, thrust the note into his pocket, smiling a little at the Frenchness of the "to you." After dinner he went to a play; and it was not until his return home, after midnight, that he drew Madame Olenska's missive out again and re-read it slowly a number of times. There were several ways of answering it, and he gave considerable thought to each one during the watches of an agitated night. That on which, when morning came, he finally decided was to pitch some clothes into a portmanteau and jump on board a boat that was leaving that very afternoon for St. Augustine.

 

纽兰·阿切尔周五傍晚来到奇弗斯的家,星期六他真心诚意地履行了在海班克度周末的全部礼节。

上午他与女主人及几位勇敢的客人一起划了冰船;下午他同里吉“视察了农场”,并在精心指定的马厩里听取了有关马的颇为感人的专题演讲;下午用过茶点之后,他在炉火映照的客厅一角与一位年轻女士进行了交谈,后者曾声称在他订婚消息宣布之时她伤心欲绝,但现在却迫不及待地要告诉他自己对婚姻的抱负。最后,在午夜时分,他又协助在一位客人床上摆上金鱼,装修好一位胆小的姑妈浴室里的报警器,后半夜又和别人一起观看了一场从育儿室闹到地下室的小争执。然而星期日午餐过后,他却借了一辆单马拉的小雪橇,向斯库特克利夫驶去。

过去人们一直听说斯库特克利夫那所宅院是一座意大利别墅。未去过意大利的人信以为真,有些去过的人也无异议。那房子是范德卢顿先生年轻时候建造的,那时他刚结束“伟大的旅行”归来,期待着与路易莎·达戈内特小姐行将举办的婚事。那是个巨大的方形木制建筑物,企口接缝的墙壁涂成淡绿色和白色,一道科林斯式的圆柱门廊,窗与窗之间是刻有四槽的半露柱。从宅院所在的高地下来是一个接一个的平台,平台边缘都有扶栏和蕨壶树,钢板雕刻似地一级级下降,通向一个形状不规则的小湖,湖的沿岸铺了沥青,岸边悬垂着珍稀垂枝针叶树。左右两侧是没有杂草的一流草坪,其间点缀着“标本”树(每一株都属不同品种),一直起伏绵延至漫长的草地,草地最高处装有精心制作的铸铁装饰。下面一块谷地中有一幢四居室的石头宅院,是第一位大庄园主1612年在封赐给他的土地上建造的。

笼罩在冬季灰蒙蒙的天空与一片皑皑白雪之间的这座意大利别墅显得相当阴郁,即使在夏季它也保持几分冷淡,连最无拘无束的锦紫苏苗也不敢越雷池半步,始终与别墅威严的前沿保持在30英尺开外的距离。此刻阿切尔摁响了门铃,拖长的丁零声好像经过一座陵墓反转回来,终于反应过来的管家无比惊讶,仿佛从长眠中被唤醒一般。

值得庆幸的是阿切尔属于家族成员,因此,尽管他的光临十分唐突,但仍有资格被告知奥兰斯卡伯爵夫人不在家,她在三刻钟前与范德卢顿太太一起乘车去做下午的礼拜了。

“范德卢顿先生在家,”管家接着说,“不过我想,他现在要么刚要从午睡中醒来,要么正在阅读昨天的《晚邮报》。上午他从教堂回来时,大人,我听他说要在午饭后浏览一下《晚邮报》;如果你乐意,大人,我可以到图书室门口去听一听——”

然而阿切尔却谢绝了他,说他愿去迎一迎夫人们。管家显然松了口气,对着他庄严地把门关上了。

一名马夫把小雪橇赶到马厩里,阿切尔穿过停车场到了大路上。斯库特克利夫村离这儿只有一英里半远,可他知道范德卢顿太太决不会步行,他必须盯在大路上才能看见马车。然而不久,在与大路交叉的人行小道上,他瞥见一个披红斗篷的苗条身影,一条大狗跑在前面。他急忙赶上前去,奥兰斯卡夫人猛然停住脚步,脸上露出欢迎的笑容。

“啊,你来啦!”她说着,从手筒里抽出手来。

红斗篷使她显得活泼愉快,很像从前那位埃伦·明戈特。他笑着抓起她的手,回答说:“我来是要看一看你在逃避什么。”

她脸上掠过一片阴云,不过却回答道:“哦——很快你就明白了。”

她的回答令他困惑不解。“怎么——你是说你遇到了意外?”

她耸了耸肩膀,外加一个很像娜斯塔西娅的小动作,用比较轻松的语气说:“我们往前走走好吗?听过讲道之后我觉得特别冷。现在有你在这儿保护我,还怕什么呢?”

热血涌上了他的额头,他抓住她斗篷的一条褶说:“埃伦——是什么事?你一定得告诉我。”

“啊,现在——咱们先来一次赛跑,我的脚冻得快要不能走了,”她喊着说,一面抓起斗篷,在雪地上跑开了。那条狗在她身旁跳跃着,发出挑战的吠声。一时间,阿切尔站在那儿注目观看,雪野上那颗闪动的红色流星令他赏心说目。接着他拔腿追赶,在通向停车场的栅门处赶上了她,两人一边喘息一边笑。

她抬眼望着他,嫣然一笑说:“我知道你会来的!”

“这说明你希望我来,”他回答道,对他们的嘻闹显得兴奋异常。银白色的树木在空中闪着神秘的光亮。他们踏雪向前行进,大地仿佛在他们脚下欢唱。

“你是从哪儿来的?”奥兰斯卡夫人问道。

他告诉了她,并补充说:“因为我收到了你的信。”

停了一会儿,她说:“原来是梅要求你照顾我的。”声音里明显带着几分扫兴。

“我用不着谁来要求。”

“你是说——我明摆着是孤立无助?你们一定都把我想得太可怜了!不过这儿的女人好像并不——好像决不会有这种需要,一点儿也不需要。”

他放低了声音问:“什么样的需要?”

“唉,你别问我!我和你们没有共同语言,”她任性地顶撞他道。

这回答给了他当头一棒,他默然地站在小路上,低头望着她。

“如果我和你没有共同语言,我来这儿是干什么呢?”

“唉,我的朋友——!”她把手轻轻放在他的臂上。他恳切地请求道:“埃伦——你为什么不告诉我发生了什么事?”

她又耸了耸肩膀。“难道真的会有什么事发生吗?”

他沉默了。他们一声不吭地向前走了几英尺。她终于说道:“我会告诉你的——可在哪儿,在哪儿告诉你呢?在大温床一样的家里,独自呆一分钟也办不到,所有的门都开着,老是有仆人送茶,送取暖的木柴,送报纸!美国的家庭中难道没有个人的独处之地吗?你们那么怕见人,又那么无遮无掩。我老觉得仿佛又进了修道院 ——或者上了舞台,面对着一群彬彬有礼却决不会鼓掌的可怕观众。”

“哦,你不喜欢我们!”阿切尔大声说。

他们正走过老庄园主的那栋住宅,它那低矮的墙壁与方形的小窗密集分布在中央烟筒周围。百叶窗全开着,透过一个新刷过的窗口,阿切尔瞥见了炉火的亮光。

“啊——这房子开着呢!”他说。

她站着不动。“不;只是今天才打开。我想要看看它,范德卢顿先生就让人把炉火生着,把窗子打开了,以便我们上午从教堂回来的路上可以在里面歇歇脚。”她跑上门阶,试着推了推门。“门还没有锁——大幸运了!进来吧,我们可以安静地谈一谈了。范德卢顿太太乘车去莱因贝克看她老姑去了,我们在这房子里再呆一小时也不会有人惦念的。”

他跟随她走进狭窄的过道。他刚才听了她那几句话,情绪有些低落,这时却又无端地高涨起来。这所温馨的小房子就在眼前,里面的镶板与铜器在炉火映照下烟烟生辉,就像是魔术师变出来迎接他们的。在厨房的壁炉里,炉底的余烬还在发着微光,上方一个旧式吊钩上挂着一把铁壶。两把灯心草根做的扶手椅面对面摆在铺了瓷砖的壁炉地面两侧,靠墙的架子里是一排排德尔夫特生产的陶瓷盘子。阿切尔弯下身,往余烬上扔了一块木柴。

奥兰斯卡夫人放下斗篷,坐在一把扶手椅里,阿切尔倚在壁炉上,眼睛看着她。

“你现在笑了,可给我写信的时候却很不愉快,”他说。

“是啊,”她停顿一会儿又说:“可你在这儿我就不会觉得不愉快了。”

“我在这儿呆不多久,”他答道,接着闭紧双唇,努力做到适可而止。

“是的,我知道。不过我目光短浅:我只图一时快乐。”

他渐渐领悟到这些话的诱惑性,为了阻止这种感受,他从炉边挪开,站在那儿凝视外面白雪映衬下的黑树干。然而她仿佛也变换了位置,在他与那些树之间,他仍然看见她低头朝着炉火,脸上带着懒洋洋的微笑。阿切尔的心激烈跳动着,不肯就范。假如她逃避的原来是他,假如她是特意等他们单独到这间密室告诉他这件事,那该怎么办?

“埃伦,假如我真的对你能有所帮助——假如你真的想让我来——那么请告诉我,你究竟在逃避什么?”他坚持地问。

他讲话时没有改换姿势,甚至没有转身看她:假如那种事情要发生,就让它这样发生好了。整个房间的宽度横在他们中间,他的眼睛仍然盯着外面的雪景。

很长一段时间她默然无语;其间阿切尔想象着——几乎是听见了——她从后面悄悄走上来,要伸开轻盈的双臂,搂住他的脖子。他等待着,正在为这一奇迹的即将来临而身心激动时,他的目光无意间落到一个穿厚外套的人影上,那人皮领立起,正沿着小路朝住宅这边走来——原来是朱利叶斯,博福特。

“噢——!”阿切尔喊了一声,猛地大笑起来。

奥兰斯卡夫人早已跃身而起,来到他身边,把手伸到他的手里;但她从窗口瞥了一眼,脸色立即白了,赶忙缩了回去。

“原来是这么回事!”阿切尔嘲笑地说。

“我并不知道他在这儿,”奥兰斯卡夫人慑儒道。她的手仍然抓着阿切尔的手,但他把手抽了出去,走到外面的过道里,把大门推开。

“你好,博福特——到这边来!奥兰斯卡夫人正等着你呢,”他说。

第二天上午回纽约的途中,阿切尔带着倦意回顾起他在斯库特克利夫的最后那段时光。

尽管博福特发现他跟奥兰斯卡夫人在一起显然很心烦,但他跟往常一样专横地处理这种局面。他根本不理睬那些妨碍了他的人,他那副样子使对方产生一种无形的、不存在的感觉——如果他对此敏感的话。他们三人溜达着穿过停车场的时候,阿切尔就产生了这种奇怪的失去形体的感觉。这虽然使他的虚荣心受到屈辱,同时也鬼使神差地给了他观察看不到的东西的便利。

博福特带着惯常的悠然自信走进那所小房子,但他的笑容却抹不掉眉心那道垂直的皱纹。很明显奥兰斯卡夫人事先并不知道他要来,尽管她对阿切尔的话中暗示过这种可能性。不管怎样,她离开纽约的时候显然没告诉他去哪儿,她未加说明地离走激怒了他。他出现在这儿的公开理由是前一天晚上发现了一所“理想的小房子”(还未出售),房子确实正适合她,她若是不买,马上就会被别人抢走。他还为舞会的事大声地假装责备她:他刚找到地方她就把他带走了。

“假如那种通过导线交谈的新玩意儿再完善一点,我就从城里告诉你这件事了。这个时候我就会在俱乐部的火炉前烤脚,用不着踩着雪迫你了,”他抱怨地说,装出真的为此而生气的样子。面对这个开场白,奥兰斯卡夫人巧妙地把话题转向那种荒诞的可能性:有一大,他们也许真的可以在两条不同的街上,甚至——像神奇的梦想般——在两个不同的城市互相对话。她的话使他们三人都想到了埃伦·坡与儒尔·凡尔纳,以及那些聪明人在消磨时间、谈论新发明——过早地相信它会显得天真——时脱口而出的那些老生常谈。有关电话的谈论把他们安全地带回到大院子里。

范德卢顿太太还没有回来。阿切尔告辞去取他的小雪橇,博福特则跟随奥兰斯卡伯爵夫人到屋里去了。由于范德卢顿太太不喜欢鼓励未经通报的拜访,他也许可以指望她请他吃顿晚饭,然后便送他回车站去赶9点钟的火车;但也只能如此而已,因为在范德卢顿夫妇看来,一位不带行李旅行的绅士若是想留下过夜,那简直不可思议。他们决不会乐意向博福特这样一位与他们的友谊十分有限的人提这种建议的。

这一切博福特都很明白,而且一定已经预料到了。他为了这么一个小小的报偿而长途跋涉,足见他的急不可耐。无庸讳言他是在追求奥兰斯卡伯爵夫人;而博福特追求漂亮女人只有一个目的。他没有子女,沉闷无聊的家庭生活早已令他厌倦,除了长久性的慰藉之外,他总是按自己的口味寻求艳遇。他就是奥兰斯卡夫人声言要逃避的那个人——问题是,她的逃避是因为被他的纠缠所触怒呢,还是因为她不完全相信自己能抵御那些纠缠——除非她所说的逃避实际上是个挡箭牌,她离开纽约不过是玩的一个花招。

阿切尔对此并不真的相信。尽管他与奥兰斯卡夫人实际见面不多,他却开始认为自己可以从她的脸色——也可以从她的声音——看清她的内心,而她的脸色与声音都对博福特的突然出现流露出厌烦,甚至是惊愕。可话又说回来,假如情况果真如此,那么,她专为会见他而离开纽约不是更糟吗?如果是这样,她就不再是个令人感兴趣的目标了,她就是把自己的命运交给了最卑鄙的伪君子:一个与博福特发生桃色事件的女人,她已经无可救药地把自己“归了类”。

不!假如她能看透博福特,或许还瞧不起他,却仍然因为他有优于她周围其他男人的那些条件被他所吸引——他在两个大陆和两个社会的生活习惯,他与艺术家、演员及那些出头露面的人物的密切关系,以及他对狭隘偏见的冷漠轻蔑——那么,情况更要糟一万倍!博福特粗俗、没教养、财大气粗,但他的生活环境、他的生性机灵使他比许多道德上以及社会地位上比他强的人更有谈趣,后者的视野仅局限于巴特利与中央公园。一个来自广阔天地的人怎么会感觉不到这种差别,怎么会不受其吸引呢?

奥兰斯卡夫人虽然是出于激愤,才对阿切尔说她与他没有共同语言,但年轻人明白这话在某些方面不无道理。然而博福特却通晓她的语言,而且讲起来驾轻就熟。他的处世态度、情调、看法,与奥兰斯基伯爵那封信中流露的那些东西完全相同,只是稍显粗俗而已。面对奥兰斯基伯爵的妻子,这可能对他不利;但阿切尔大聪明了,他认为像埃伦·奥兰斯卡这样的年轻女子未必会畏惧任何使她回想起过去的东西。她可能以为自己已完全背叛了过去,然而过去诱惑过她的东西现在对她仍然会有诱惑力,即使这违背她的心愿。

就这样,年轻人以一种充满痛苦的公正态度,为博福特、为博福特的牺牲品理清了来龙去脉。他强烈地渴望开导她。他不时想到,她的全部需要就是让人开导。

这天晚上他打开了从伦敦寄来的书,满箱子都是他急切等待的东西:赫伯特·斯宾塞的一部新作,多产作家阿尔冯斯·都德又一卷精品故事集,还有一本据评论界说是十分有趣的小说,名叫《米德尔马奇》。为了这一享受,他已经谢绝了三次晚宴的邀请,然而,尽管他怀着爱书人的审美乐趣翻阅这些书,但却不知道自己读的是什么,书一本接一本地从他手里丢下来。突然,他眼睛一亮,从中发现了一本薄薄的诗集,他订购此书是因为它的书名吸引了他:《生命之家》。他拿起来读,不知不觉沉浸在一种与过去他对书籍的任何感受都不相同的气氛中。它是那样强烈,那样丰富,又那样说不出的温柔,它赋予人类最基本的感情一种新鲜的、缠绵不绝的美。整个通宵他透过那些迷人的篇章追踪一位女子的幻影,那幻影有一张埃伦·奥兰斯卡的脸庞。然而翌晨醒来,他望着街对面一所所棕石的住宅,想起莱特布赖事务所他的办公桌,想到格雷斯教堂里他们家的座位,他在斯库特克利夫园林中度过的那几个小时却变得像夜间的幻影一样虚无飘渺。

“天哪,你脸色多苍白呀,纽兰!”早饭喝咖啡时詹尼说。他母亲补充道:“亲爱的纽兰,最近我注意到你老是咳嗽,我希望你不是劳累过度了吧?”因为两位女士都深信,在那几位资深合伙人的专制统治之下,年轻人的精力全部消耗在职业的俗务中了——而他却从未想到过有必要让她们了解真相。

接下来两三天过得特别慢。按部就班的俗套使他觉得味同嚼蜡,有时他觉得自己仿佛被前途活埋了一样。他没有听到奥兰斯卡伯爵夫人或那所理想的小房子的任何消息,尽管他在俱乐部遇见过博福特,但他们仅仅隔着几张牌桌互相点了点头而已。直到第四天傍晚他回到家时,才发现有一封便函等着他。“明天傍晚过来:我一定要给你解释。埃伦。”信中只有这几个字。

年轻人要外出吃饭,他把信塞进口袋,对“给你”这种法语味微微一笑。饭后他去看了一场戏,直到午夜过后他回到家才把奥兰斯卡夫人的信又取了出来,慢慢重读了几遍。复信可以用好几种方式,在激动不安的不眠之夜,他对每一种都做了一番考虑。时至清晨,他最后的决定是把几件衣服扔进旅行箱,去乘当天下午起锚驶往圣奥古斯丁的轮船。



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