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 16
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Chapter 16

When Archer walked down the sandy main street of St. Augustine to the house which had been pointed out to him as Mr. Welland's, and saw May Welland standing under a magnolia with the sun in her hair, he wondered why he had waited so long to come.

Here was the truth, here was reality, here was the life that belonged to him; and he, who fancied himself so scornful of arbitrary restraints, had been afraid to break away from his desk because of what people might think of his stealing a holiday!

Her first exclamation was: "Newland--has anything happened?" and it occurred to him that it would have been more "feminine" if she had instantly read in his eyes why he had come. But when he answered: "Yes--I found I had to see you," her happy blushes took the chill from her surprise, and he saw how easily he would be forgiven, and how soon even Mr. Letterblair's mild disapproval would be smiled away by a tolerant family.

Early as it was, the main street was no place for any but formal greetings, and Archer longed to be alone with May, and to pour out all his tenderness and his impatience. It still lacked an hour to the late Welland breakfast-time, and instead of asking him to come in she proposed that they should walk out to an old orange-garden beyond the town. She had just been for a row on the river, and the sun that netted the little waves with gold seemed to have caught her in its meshes. Across the warm brown of her cheek her blown hair glittered like silver wire; and her eyes too looked lighter, almost pale in their youthful limpidity. As she walked beside Archer with her long swinging gait her face wore the vacant serenity of a young marble athlete.

To Archer's strained nerves the vision was as soothing as the sight of the blue sky and the lazy river. They sat down on a bench under the orange-trees and he put his arm about her and kissed her. It was like drinking at a cold spring with the sun on it; but his pressure may have been more vehement than he had intended, for the blood rose to her face and she drew back as if he had startled her.

"What is it?" he asked, smiling; and she looked at him with surprise, and answered: "Nothing."

A slight embarrassment fell on them, and her hand slipped out of his. It was the only time that he had kissed her on the lips except for their fugitive embrace in the Beaufort conservatory, and he saw that she was disturbed, and shaken out of her cool boyish composure.

"Tell me what you do all day," he said, crossing his arms under his tilted-back head, and pushing his hat forward to screen the sun-dazzle. To let her talk about familiar and simple things was the easiest way of carrying on his own independent train of thought; and he sat listening to her simple chronicle of swimming, sailing and riding, varied by an occasional dance at the primitive inn when a man-of-war came in. A few pleasant people from Philadelphia and Baltimore were picknicking at the inn, and the Selfridge Merrys had come down for three weeks because Kate Merry had had bronchitis. They were planning to lay out a lawn tennis court on the sands; but no one but Kate and May had racquets, and most of the people had not even heard of the game.

All this kept her very busy, and she had not had time to do more than look at the little vellum book that Archer had sent her the week before (the "Sonnets from the Portuguese"); but she was learning by heart "How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix," because it was one of the first things he had ever read to her; and it amused her to be able to tell him that Kate Merry had never even heard of a poet called Robert Browning.

Presently she started up, exclaiming that they would be late for breakfast; and they hurried back to the tumble-down house with its pointless porch and unpruned hedge of plumbago and pink geraniums where the Wellands were installed for the winter. Mr. Welland's sensitive domesticity shrank from the discomforts of the slovenly southern hotel, and at immense expense, and in face of almost insuperable difficulties, Mrs. Welland was obliged, year after year, to improvise an establishment partly made up of discontented New York servants and partly drawn from the local African supply.

"The doctors want my husband to feel that he is in his own home; otherwise he would be so wretched that the climate would not do him any good," she explained, winter after winter, to the sympathising Philadelphians and Baltimoreans; and Mr. Welland, beaming across a breakfast table miraculously supplied with the most varied delicacies, was presently saying to Archer: "You see, my dear fellow, we camp--we literally camp. I tell my wife and May that I want to teach them how to rough it."

Mr. and Mrs. Welland had been as much surprised as their daughter by the young man's sudden arrival; but it had occurred to him to explain that he had felt himself on the verge of a nasty cold, and this seemed to Mr. Welland an all-sufficient reason for abandoning any duty.

"You can't be too careful, especially toward spring," he said, heaping his plate with straw-coloured griddle- cakes and drowning them in golden syrup. "If I'd only been as prudent at your age May would have been dancing at the Assemblies now, instead of spending her winters in a wilderness with an old invalid."

"Oh, but I love it here, Papa; you know I do. If only Newland could stay I should like it a thousand times better than New York."

"Newland must stay till he has quite thrown off his cold," said Mrs. Welland indulgently; and the young man laughed, and said he supposed there was such a thing as one's profession.

He managed, however, after an exchange of telegrams with the firm, to make his cold last a week; and it shed an ironic light on the situation to know that Mr. Letterblair's indulgence was partly due to the satisfactory way in which his brilliant young junior partner had settled the troublesome matter of the Olenski divorce. Mr. Letterblair had let Mrs. Welland know that Mr. Archer had "rendered an invaluable service" to the whole family, and that old Mrs. Manson Mingott had been particularly pleased; and one day when May had gone for a drive with her father in the only vehicle the place produced Mrs. Welland took occasion to touch on a topic which she always avoided in her daughter's presence.

"I'm afraid Ellen's ideas are not at all like ours. She was barely eighteen when Medora Manson took her back to Europe--you remember the excitement when she appeared in black at her coming-out ball? Another of Medora's fads--really this time it was almost prophetic! That must have been at least twelve years ago; and since then Ellen has never been to America. No wonder she is completely Europeanised."

"But European society is not given to divorce: Countess Olenska thought she would be conforming to American ideas in asking for her freedom." It was the first time that the young man had pronounced her name since he had left Skuytercliff, and he felt the colour rise to his cheek.

Mrs. Welland smiled compassionately. "That is just like the extraordinary things that foreigners invent about us. They think we dine at two o'clock and countenance divorce! That is why it seems to me so foolish to entertain them when they come to New York. They accept our hospitality, and then they go home and repeat the same stupid stories."

Archer made no comment on this, and Mrs. Welland continued: "But we do most thoroughly appreciate your persuading Ellen to give up the idea. Her grandmother and her uncle Lovell could do nothing with her; both of them have written that her changing her mind was entirely due to your influence--in fact she said so to her grandmother. She has an unbounded admiration for you. Poor Ellen--she was always a wayward child. I wonder what her fate will be?"

"What we've all contrived to make it," he felt like answering. "if you'd all of you rather she should be Beaufort's mistress than some decent fellow's wife you've certainly gone the right way about it."

He wondered what Mrs. Welland would have said if he had uttered the words instead of merely thinking them. He could picture the sudden decomposure of her firm placid features, to which a lifelong mastery over trifles had given an air of factitious authority. Traces still lingered on them of a fresh beauty like her daughter's; and he asked himself if May's face was doomed to thicken into the same middle-aged image of invincible innocence.

Ah, no, he did not want May to have that kind of innocence, the innocence that seals the mind against imagination and the heart against experience!

"I verily believe," Mrs. Welland continued, "that if the horrible business had come out in the newspapers it would have been my husband's death-blow. I don't know any of the details; I only ask not to, as I told poor Ellen when she tried to talk to me about it. Having an invalid to care for, I have to keep my mind bright and happy. But Mr. Welland was terribly upset; he had a slight temperature every morning while we were waiting to hear what had been decided. It was the horror of his girl's learning that such things were possible--but of course, dear Newland, you felt that too. We all knew that you were thinking of May."

"I'm always thinking of May," the young man rejoined, rising to cut short the conversation.

He had meant to seize the opportunity of his private talk with Mrs. Welland to urge her to advance the date of his marriage. But he could think of no arguments that would move her, and with a sense of relief he saw Mr. Welland and May driving up to the door.

His only hope was to plead again with May, and on the day before his departure he walked with her to the ruinous garden of the Spanish Mission. The background lent itself to allusions to European scenes; and May, who was looking her loveliest under a wide-brimmed hat that cast a shadow of mystery over her too-clear eyes, kindled into eagerness as he spoke of Granada and the Alhambra.

"We might be seeing it all this spring--even the Easter ceremonies at Seville," he urged, exaggerating his demands in the hope of a larger concession.

"Easter in Seville? And it will be Lent next week!" she laughed.

"Why shouldn't we be married in Lent?" he rejoined; but she looked so shocked that he saw his mistake.

"Of course I didn't mean that, dearest; but soon after Easter--so that we could sail at the end of April. I know I could arrange it at the office."

She smiled dreamily upon the possibility; but he perceived that to dream of it sufficed her. It was like hearing him read aloud out of his poetry books the beautiful things that could not possibly happen in real life.

"Oh, do go on, Newland; I do love your descriptions."

"But why should they be only descriptions? Why shouldn't we make them real?"

"We shall, dearest, of course; next year." Her voice lingered over it.

"Don't you want them to be real sooner? Can't I persuade you to break away now?"

She bowed her head, vanishing from him under her conniving hat-brim.

"Why should we dream away another year? Look at me, dear! Don't you understand how I want you for my wife?"

For a moment she remained motionless; then she raised on him eyes of such despairing dearness that he half-released her waist from his hold. But suddenly her look changed and deepened inscrutably. "I'm not sure if I DO understand," she said. "Is it--is it because you're not certain of continuing to care for me?"

Archer sprang up from his seat. "My God--perhaps--I don't know," he broke out angrily.

May Welland rose also; as they faced each other she seemed to grow in womanly stature and dignity. Both were silent for a moment, as if dismayed by the unforeseen trend of their words: then she said in a low voice: "If that is it--is there some one else?"

"Some one else--between you and me?" He echoed her words slowly, as though they were only half- intelligible and he wanted time to repeat the question to himself. She seemed to catch the uncertainty of his voice, for she went on in a deepening tone: "Let us talk frankly, Newland. Sometimes I've felt a difference in you; especially since our engagement has been announced."

"Dear--what madness!" he recovered himself to exclaim.

She met his protest with a faint smile. "If it is, it won't hurt us to talk about it." She paused, and added, lifting her head with one of her noble movements: "Or even if it's true: why shouldn't we speak of it? You might so easily have made a mistake."

He lowered his head, staring at the black leaf-pattern on the sunny path at their feet. "Mistakes are always easy to make; but if I had made one of the kind you suggest, is it likely that I should be imploring you to hasten our marriage?"

She looked downward too, disturbing the pattern with the point of her sunshade while she struggled for expression. "Yes," she said at length. "You might want-- once for all--to settle the question: it's one way."

Her quiet lucidity startled him, but did not mislead him into thinking her insensible. Under her hat-brim he saw the pallor of her profile, and a slight tremor of the nostril above her resolutely steadied lips.

"Well--?" he questioned, sitting down on the bench, and looking up at her with a frown that he tried to make playful.

She dropped back into her seat and went on: "You mustn't think that a girl knows as little as her parents imagine. One hears and one notices--one has one's feelings and ideas. And of course, long before you told me that you cared for me, I'd known that there was some one else you were interested in; every one was talking about it two years ago at Newport. And once I saw you sitting together on the verandah at a dance-- and when she came back into the house her face was sad, and I felt sorry for her; I remembered it afterward, when we were engaged."

Her voice had sunk almost to a whisper, and she sat clasping and unclasping her hands about the handle of her sunshade. The young man laid his upon them with a gentle pressure; his heart dilated with an inexpressible relief.

"My dear child--was THAT it? If you only knew the truth!"

She raised her head quickly. "Then there is a truth I don't know?"

He kept his hand over hers. "I meant, the truth about the old story you speak of."

"But that's what I want to know, Newland--what I ought to know. I couldn't have my happiness made out of a wrong--an unfairness--to somebody else. And I want to believe that it would be the same with you. What sort of a life could we build on such foundations?"

Her face had taken on a look of such tragic courage that he felt like bowing himself down at her feet. "I've wanted to say this for a long time," she went on. "I've wanted to tell you that, when two people really love each other, I understand that there may be situations which make it right that they should--should go against public opinion. And if you feel yourself in any way pledged . . . pledged to the person we've spoken of . . . and if there is any way . . . any way in which you can fulfill your pledge . . . even by her getting a divorce . . . Newland, don't give her up because of me!"

His surprise at discovering that her fears had fastened upon an episode so remote and so completely of the past as his love-affair with Mrs. Thorley Rushworth gave way to wonder at the generosity of her view. There was something superhuman in an attitude so recklessly unorthodox, and if other problems had not pressed on him he would have been lost in wonder at the prodigy of the Wellands' daughter urging him to marry his former mistress. But he was still dizzy with the glimpse of the precipice they had skirted, and full of a new awe at the mystery of young-girlhood.

For a moment he could not speak; then he said: "There is no pledge--no obligation whatever--of the kind you think. Such cases don't always--present themselves quite as simply as . . . But that's no matter . . . I love your generosity, because I feel as you do about those things . . . I feel that each case must be judged individually, on its own merits . . . irrespective of stupid conventionalities . . . I mean, each woman's right to her liberty--" He pulled himself up, startled by the turn his thoughts had taken, and went on, looking at her with a smile: "Since you understand so many things, dearest, can't you go a little farther, and understand the uselessness of our submitting to another form of the same foolish conventionalities? If there's no one and nothing between us, isn't that an argument for marrying quickly, rather than for more delay?"

She flushed with joy and lifted her face to his; as he bent to it he saw that her eyes were full of happy tears. But in another moment she seemed to have descended from her womanly eminence to helpless and timorous girlhood; and he understood that her courage and initiative were all for others, and that she had none for herself. It was evident that the effort of speaking had been much greater than her studied composure betrayed, and that at his first word of reassurance she had dropped back into the usual, as a too-adventurous child takes refuge in its mother's arms.

Archer had no heart to go on pleading with her; he was too much disappointed at the vanishing of the new being who had cast that one deep look at him from her transparent eyes. May seemed to be aware of his disappointment, but without knowing how to alleviate it; and they stood up and walked silently home.

 

经人指点,阿切尔沿着圣奥古斯丁的沙面大路走到韦兰先生的住所,他看见梅·韦兰正站在一棵木兰树下,头发上洒满了阳光。这时,他真奇怪自己为什么等了这么久才来。

这儿才是真的,这儿才是现实,这儿才是属于他的生活。而他这个自以为藐视专制羁绊的人,竟然因为害怕别人会以为他偷闲而不敢离开办公桌!

她的第一声呼喊是:“纽兰——出什么事了吗?”他想,假如她立即就从他的眼色中看出他来的原因,那就更像“女人”了。然而,当他回答“是的——我觉得必须见见你”时,她脸上幸福的红晕驱走了惊讶的冷峻。他看出,他会多么轻易地得到家人宽容的谅解;即使莱特布赖先生对他稍有不满,也会很快被他们用微笑加以化解。

因为天色尚早,大街上又只容许礼节性的问候,阿切尔渴望能与梅单独在一起,向她倾吐他的柔情蜜意、他的急不可耐。距韦兰家较晚的早餐时间还有一个小时,她没让他进家,而是提议到市区远处一个古老的桔园去走一走。她刚刚在河中划了一会船,给细浪罩上一层金网的太阳似乎也把她罩在网中了。她那被吹乱了的头发披散在微黑发暖的面颊上,像银丝般熠熠闪光。她的眼睛也显得更亮了,几乎变成灰白色,清澈中透着青春的气息。她迈开大步,走在阿切尔身旁,脸上平静、安详的表情酷似一尊年轻运动员的大理石雕像。

对阿切尔紧张的神经来说,这一形象就像蓝天及缓缓的流水那样令人安慰。他们坐在桔树下的凳子上,他用胳膊搂住她并亲吻她,那滋味就像在烈日下喝冰冷的泉水一般甘甜。不过他拥抱的力量比他预想的大了些,她脸上一红,急忙抽回身来,仿佛被他吓了一跳。

“怎么了?”他笑着问;她惊讶地看着他,说:“没什么。”

他们两人之间多少有点儿尴尬,她把手从他手中抽了出来。除了在博福特家暖房里那次短暂的拥抱之外,这是他惟一一次亲吻她的唇,他看出她有些不安,失去了她那男孩般的镇静。

“告诉我你整天干些什么,”他说,一面把两臂交叉在后翘的头下面,并把帽子向前推了推,挡住日射。让她谈论熟悉、简单的事情是他进行独立思考的最简单的办法,他坐在那儿听她报告简单的流水账:游泳、划船、骑马,偶尔有军舰开来时,到那个老式旅馆参加一场舞会,算是一点变化。从费城和巴尔的摩来的几个有趣的人在客栈举行野餐;因为凯特·梅里得了支气管炎,塞尔弗里奇·梅里一家来这里打算住三个星期。他们计划在沙滩上设一个网球场,但除了凯特和梅,别人谁都没有球拍,多数人甚至都没听说过这项运动。

这些事使她非常繁忙,没有更多的时间,阿切尔上周寄给她的那本羊皮纸小书(《葡萄牙十四行诗》)她只能翻一翻,不过她正在背诵“他们何以把好消息从格恩特传到艾克斯”,因为那是他第一次读给她听的东西;她很高兴能够告诉他,凯特·梅里甚至从未听说过有个叫罗伯特·布朗宁的诗人。

不一会儿她跳了起来,嚷着他们要耽误早饭了。两人急忙赶回那所破旧的房子。门廊没有粉刷,茉莉与粉色天竺葵的树篱也没有修剪。韦兰一家就住在这里过冬。韦兰先生对家务事十分敏感,他畏惧这个邋遢的南方旅馆里种种的不舒服,韦兰太太面对几乎无法克服的困难,不得不付出极大的代价,年复一年地拼凑仆从人员—— 一部分由心怀不满的纽约的仆人组成,一部分从当地非洲人供应站吸收。

“医生们要求我丈夫要感觉跟在自己家中一样,否则他会很难过,气候对他也无益了,”一个冬天又一个冬天,她向那些富有同情心的费城人和巴尔的摩人解释说。韦兰先生正眉开眼笑地看着餐桌上奇迹般摆上的最丰盛的菜肴,见到阿切尔马上说:“你瞧,亲爱的,我们是在野营——真正的野营。我告诉妻子和梅我要教教她们怎样受苦。”

对于年轻人的突然来临,韦兰先生与太太原本与女儿一样感到意外,不过,他事先想好了理由,说他感觉就要得一场重感冒,而在韦兰先生看来,有了这个理由,放弃任何职责都是理所当然。

“你怎样小心都不过分,尤其在临近冬天的时候,”他说,一面往他的盘子里堆烤饼,并把它们泡在金色的糖浆里。“假如我在你这个年纪就知道节俭的话,梅现在就会去州议会的舞场上跳舞,而用不着在这个荒凉的地方陪着一个老病号过冬了。”

“哎,可我喜欢这里的生活,爸爸,你知道我喜欢。如果纽兰能留下来,那我喜欢这儿胜过纽约一千倍。”

“纽兰必须呆在这儿,直到彻底治好感冒,”韦兰太太疼爱地说。年轻人笑了,并说他认为一个人的职业还是要考虑的。

然而,与事务所交换几封电报之后,他设法使他的“感冒”延续了一周时间。莱特布赖先生之所以表现得宽容大度,一部分原因是由于他的这位聪明的年轻合伙人圆满解决了奥兰斯基棘手的离婚问题,阿切尔对此不由感到一点儿讽刺的意味。莱特布赖先生已经通知韦兰太太,阿切尔先生为整个家族“做出了不可估量的贡献”,曼森·明戈特老太太特别高兴。有一天,梅与父亲坐着当地惟一一辆马车外出时,韦兰太太趁机提起了她一向在女儿面前回避的话题。

“我看埃伦的想法跟我们根本不同,梅多拉·曼森带她回欧洲的时候,她还不满18岁。你还记得她身穿黑衣服,初进社交界时在舞会上那个兴奋劲儿吗?又是梅多拉的一个怪念头——这一次真像是预言的一样!那至少是12年前的事了,从那以后埃伦从未到过美国。难怪她完全欧化了呢。”

“但欧洲上流社会也不喜欢离婚的:奥兰斯卡伯爵夫人认为要求个人自由符合美国的思想。”自从离开斯库特克利夫后,年轻人这是第一次提她的名字,他感觉脸上泛起一阵红晕。

韦兰太太露出同情的笑容。“这正像外国人对我们那些离奇的杜撰一样。他们以为我们两点钟吃晚饭,并且纵容离婚!所以说,他们来纽约的时候,我还招待他们,真有点傻。他们接受我们的款待,然后回到家再重复同样的蠢话。”

阿切尔对此未加评论,韦兰太太接下去说:“不过,你说服埃伦放弃了那个念头,我们的确非常赞赏。她祖母和她叔叔拉弗尔对她毫无办法。两人都写信说她的转变完全是由于你的影响——实际上她对祖母也是这样说的。她对你无限崇拜。可怜的埃伦——她过去一直是个任性的孩子。不知她的命运会怎样呢?”

“会是我们大家刻意制造的那种结果,”他在心里回答她说。“假如你们愿意让她做博福特的情妇,而不是某个正派人的妻子,那么,你们肯定是做对了。”

假如他真的说出了这些话,而不仅仅是在心里叨咕,不知韦兰太太会说什么。他能够想象她那沉静的面孔会因为惊慌而突然失色——终生掌管琐碎事务使得她脸上带有一种装腔作势的神态。她的脸上还残存着女儿脸上那种姣好的痕迹;他心想,梅的脸庞是否注定也会渐渐变化,不可避免地成为这样愚钝的中年妇女形象呢?

啊——不,他不愿让梅变得那样愚钝,那会封杀头脑的想像力,封杀心灵的感受力!

“我确实相信,”韦兰太太继续说,“假如那桩讨厌的事在报纸上公布出来,会给我丈夫带来致命的打击。详情我一点也不了解,我只是要求她别那样干。埃伦想对我谈时,我就是这样对她说的。我有个病人要照顾,必须保持心情愉快。但韦兰先生还是被弄得心烦意乱,我们等着听有什么结果时,他每天上午总要发低烧。他怕女儿知道还会有这种事情——亲爱的纽兰,你当然也有同感。我们都知道你心里想的是梅。”

“我永远都想着梅,”年轻人回答说,他站起来准备中断这场交谈。

他本想抓住与韦兰太太私下交谈的机会,劝说她把他的结婚日期提前,但他想不出可以打动她的理由。见韦兰先生与梅乘车到了门口,他不觉松了一口气。

他惟一的希望就是再次恳求梅。在他动身的前一天,他与她到西班牙传教馆荒废的花园里散步,这儿的背景使人联想起欧洲的景观。梅戴的宽边草帽给她那双过分明澈的眼睛蒙上一层神秘的阴影,使她显得异常可爱。他讲到格拉纳达与阿尔罕布拉时,她兴奋得两眼灼灼发光。

“我们本来今年春天就可以见到这一切了——甚至可以看到塞维利亚的复活节庆典,”他强调说,夸大其辞地阐述他的请求,以期得到她更大的让步。

“塞维利亚的复活节?下个星期就是四句节了!”她笑了一声说。

“我们干吗不可以在四旬节结婚呢?”他回答;但她看样子十分震惊,使他认识到了自己的错误。

“当然,我并不是真想四句节结婚,亲爱的;而是想在复活节后不久——这样我们可以在四月底扬帆航行。我知道我能在事务所做好安排。”

对于这种可能,她像做梦般露出了笑容。但他看得出,梦想一番她就满足了。这就像听他大声朗诵他的诗集一样,那些美好的事情在现实生活中是不可能发生的。

“啊,请讲下去,纽兰,我真喜欢你描绘的情景。”

“可那情景为什么只能是描绘呢?我们为什么不把它变成现实?”

“我们当然会的,亲爱的,到明年,”她慢腾腾地说。

“你不想让它早一些变成现实吗?难道我无法说服你改变主意吗?”

她低下了头,借助帽沿躲开了他的视线。

“我们干吗要在梦中再消磨一年呢?看着我,亲爱的!难道你不明白我多想让你做我的妻子吗?”

一时间她呆着一动不动,然后抬起头看着他,眼中失望的神情一览无余,他不觉松开了搂在她腰间的双手。但她的神色突然变得深不可测。“我不敢肯定自己是否真的明白,”她说。“是否——这是否是因为你没有把握会继续喜欢我呢?”

阿切尔从座位上跳起来。“我的天——也许吧——我不知道,”他勃然大怒地喊道。

梅·韦兰也站了起来,他们俩面对面地站着,她那女性的气度与尊严仿佛增强了。两人一时都默然无语,仿佛被他们话语问始料未及的一种倾向给惊呆了。接着,她低声地说:“是不是——是不是还有另外一个人?”

“另外一个人——你说你我之间?”他慢腾腾地重复着她的话,仿佛它还不够明了,他需要时间对自己重复一遍这个问题。她似乎捕捉到他话音里的不确定性,语调更加深沉地继续说:“我们坦率地谈谈吧,纽兰。有时候我感觉到你身上有一种变化,尤其是在我们的订婚消息公布之后。”

“天哪——你说什么疯话呀!”他清醒过来后喊道。

她以淡淡的笑容回答他的抗议。“如果是那样,我们谈论一下也无妨。”她停了停,又用她那种高尚的动作抬起头来补充说:“或者说,即使真有其事,我们干吗不可以说开呢?你可能轻易地就犯了个错误。”

他低下头,凝视着脚下洒满阳光的小路上黑色的叶形图案。“犯错误是容易的;不过,假如我已经犯了你说的那种错误,我还有可能求你加快我们的婚事吗?”

她也低下了头,用阳伞的尖部打乱了地上的图案,一面费力地斟酌措辞。“是的,”她终于说道。“你可能想——一劳永逸——解决这个问题,这也是一种办法。”

她的镇定清醒令他吃惊,但却并未误使他认为她冷漠无情。他从帽沿底下看到她灰白色的半张脸,坚毅的双唇上方的鼻孔在微微抖动。

“是吗——?”他问道,一面又坐到凳子上,抬头看着她,并努力装出开玩笑的样子皱起眉头。

她坐回座位上接着说:“你可不要认为一位姑娘像她父母想象得那样无知,人家有耳朵,有眼睛——有自己的感情和思想。当然,在你说喜欢我很久以前,我就知道你对另一个人感兴趣;两年前,纽波特人人都议论那件事。有一次在舞会上我还见到过你们一起坐在阳台上——她回到屋里时脸色很悲伤,我为她感到难过。后来我们订婚时我还记得。”

她的声音低沉下去,几乎变成了喃喃自语,坐在那儿,两手一会握住、一会又松开阳伞的把手。年轻人把手放在她的手上,轻轻按了一下;他的心放松下来,感到一种说不出的宽慰。

“我亲爱的——你说的是那件事呀!你要知道真情就好了!”

她迅速抬起头来。“这么说,还有一段真情我不知道?”

他仍然按着她的手说:“我是说,你讲的那段往事的真情。”

“可我就是想知道真情,纽兰——我应当了解。我不能把我的幸福建立在对别人的侵害——对别人的不公平上。而且我要确认,你也是这种看法。否则,在那样的基础上,我们能建立一种什么样的生活呢?”

她脸上呈现出一副十分悲壮的神色,使他直想拜倒在她的脚下。“我想说这件事想了很久了,”她接着说。“我一直想告诉你,只要两个人真心相爱,我认为在某些情况下,即使他们的做法会——会违背公众舆论,那也可能是对的。假如你觉得对……对所说的那人有任何许诺的话……假如有什么办法……你能够履行你的诺言……甚至通过让她离婚……纽兰,你不要因为我而抛弃她!”

发现她的担心原来贯注在他与索利·拉什沃斯太太完全属于过去的一段已经很遥远的桃色事件上,他竟顾不得惊讶,反而对她的慷慨大度大为叹服。这种置传统全然不顾的态度表现出一种超乎寻常的东西,若不是其他问题压着他,他会沉缅于惊异之中,对韦兰夫妇的女儿敦促他与以前的情妇结婚的奇事细细品味了。然而他仍然被他们刚刚避开的险情弄得头晕目眩,并且对年轻姑娘的神秘性充满一种新的敬畏。

一时间他竟无从开口;后来他说:“根本没有你想的那种诺言——没有任何义务。这种事情并不总是——出现得像……那么简单……不过没关系……我喜欢你的宽宏大度,因为对这类事情,我跟你的看法一样……我觉得对每一种情况都要分别对待,分清是非曲直……不管愚蠢的习俗怎样……我是说,每个女人都有权得到自由 ——”他急忙止住自己,为他思绪的转折吃了一惊。他笑脸看着她,接下去说:“亲爱的,既然你明白这么多事,那么你不能再前进一步,明白我们顺从同样愚蠢的习俗的另一种形式是没有意义的吗?如果没有人插在我们中间,我们没有任何芥蒂,那么,我们争来争去不就是为了快一点儿结婚、还是再拖一拖的问题吗?”

她高兴得涨红了脸,抬头望着他,他低下头,发现她两眼充满了幸福的泪水。不过一会功夫,她那女性的权威好像又退缩成胆小无助的小姑娘气了。他知道她的勇气与主动精神都是为别人而发的,轮到她自己,却荡然无存了。显然,为了讲那番话所做的努力远比她表面的镇静所表现的要大。一听到他的安慰话,她便恢复了正常,就像一个冒险过度的孩子回到母亲怀抱中寻求庇护一样。

阿切尔已无心再恳求她,那位新人的消失太令他失望,她那双明澈的眼睛给了他深沉的一瞥便转瞬即逝了。梅似乎觉察到他的失望,但却不知如何抚慰他。他们站起来,默默无语地走回家去。



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