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 20
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Chapter 20

Of course we must dine with Mrs. Carfry, dearest," Archer said; and his wife looked at him with an anxious frown across the monumental Britannia ware of their lodging house breakfast-table.

In all the rainy desert of autumnal London there were only two people whom the Newland Archers knew; and these two they had sedulously avoided, in conformity with the old New York tradition that it was not "dignified" to force one's self on the notice of one's acquaintances in foreign countries.

Mrs. Archer and Janey, in the course of their visits to Europe, had so unflinchingly lived up to this principle, and met the friendly advances of their fellow-travellers with an air of such impenetrable reserve, that they had almost achieved the record of never having exchanged a word with a "foreigner" other than those employed in hotels and railway-stations. Their own compatriots-- save those previously known or properly accredited-- they treated with an even more pronounced disdain; so that, unless they ran across a Chivers, a Dagonet or a Mingott, their months abroad were spent in an unbroken tete-a-tete. But the utmost precautions are sometimes unavailing; and one night at Botzen one of the two English ladies in the room across the passage (whose names, dress and social situation were already intimately known to Janey) had knocked on the door and asked if Mrs. Archer had a bottle of liniment. The other lady--the intruder's sister, Mrs. Carfry--had been seized with a sudden attack of bronchitis; and Mrs. Archer, who never travelled without a complete family pharmacy, was fortunately able to produce the required remedy.

Mrs. Carfry was very ill, and as she and her sister Miss Harle were travelling alone they were profoundly grateful to the Archer ladies, who supplied them with ingenious comforts and whose efficient maid helped to nurse the invalid back to health.

When the Archers left Botzen they had no idea of ever seeing Mrs. Carfry and Miss Harle again. Nothing, to Mrs. Archer's mind, would have been more "undignified" than to force one's self on the notice of a "foreigner" to whom one had happened to render an accidental service. But Mrs. Carfry and her sister, to whom this point of view was unknown, and who would have found it utterly incomprehensible, felt themselves linked by an eternal gratitude to the "delightful Americans" who had been so kind at Botzen. With touching fidelity they seized every chance of meeting Mrs. Archer and Janey in the course of their continental travels, and displayed a supernatural acuteness in finding out when they were to pass through London on their way to or from the States. The intimacy became indissoluble, and Mrs. Archer and Janey, whenever they alighted at Brown's Hotel, found themselves awaited by two affectionate friends who, like themselves, cultivated ferns in Wardian cases, made macrame lace, read the memoirs of the Baroness Bunsen and had views about the occupants of the leading London pulpits. As Mrs. Archer said, it made "another thing of London" to know Mrs. Carfry and Miss Harle; and by the time that Newland became engaged the tie between the families was so firmly established that it was thought "only right" to send a wedding invitation to the two English ladies, who sent, in return, a pretty bouquet of pressed Alpine flowers under glass. And on the dock, when Newland and his wife sailed for England, Mrs. Archer's last word had been: "You must take May to see Mrs. Carfry."

Newland and his wife had had no idea of obeying this injunction; but Mrs. Carfry, with her usual acuteness, had run them down and sent them an invitation to dine; and it was over this invitation that May Archer was wrinkling her brows across the tea and muffins.

"It's all very well for you, Newland; you KNOW them. But I shall feel so shy among a lot of people I've never met. And what shall I wear?"

Newland leaned back in his chair and smiled at her. She looked handsomer and more Diana-like than ever. The moist English air seemed to have deepened the bloom of her cheeks and softened the slight hardness of her virginal features; or else it was simply the inner glow of happiness, shining through like a light under ice.

"Wear, dearest? I thought a trunkful of things had come from Paris last week."

"Yes, of course. I meant to say that I shan't know WHICH to wear." She pouted a little. "I've never dined out in London; and I don't want to be ridiculous."

He tried to enter into her perplexity. "But don't Englishwomen dress just like everybody else in the evening?"

"Newland! How can you ask such funny questions? When they go to the theatre in old ball-dresses and bare heads."

"Well, perhaps they wear new ball-dresses at home; but at any rate Mrs. Carfry and Miss Harle won't. They'll wear caps like my mother's--and shawls; very soft shawls."

"Yes; but how will the other women be dressed?"

"Not as well as you, dear," he rejoined, wondering what had suddenly developed in her Janey's morbid interest in clothes.

She pushed back her chair with a sigh. "That's dear of you, Newland; but it doesn't help me much."

He had an inspiration. "Why not wear your wedding- dress? That can't be wrong, can it?"

"Oh, dearest! If I only had it here! But it's gone to Paris to be made over for next winter, and Worth hasn't sent it back."

"Oh, well--" said Archer, getting up. "Look here-- the fog's lifting. If we made a dash for the National Gallery we might manage to catch a glimpse of the pictures."

The Newland Archers were on their way home, after a three months' wedding-tour which May, in writing to her girl friends, vaguely summarised as "blissful."

They had not gone to the Italian Lakes: on reflection, Archer had not been able to picture his wife in that particular setting. Her own inclination (after a month with the Paris dressmakers) was for mountaineering in July and swimming in August. This plan they punctually fulfilled, spending July at Interlaken and Grindelwald, and August at a little place called Etretat, on the Normandy coast, which some one had recommended as quaint and quiet. Once or twice, in the mountains, Archer had pointed southward and said: "There's Italy"; and May, her feet in a gentian-bed, had smiled cheerfully, and replied: "It would be lovely to go there next winter, if only you didn't have to be in New York."

But in reality travelling interested her even less than he had expected. She regarded it (once her clothes were ordered) as merely an enlarged opportunity for walking, riding, swimming, and trying her hand at the fascinating new game of lawn tennis; and when they finally got back to London (where they were to spend a fortnight while he ordered HIS clothes) she no longer concealed the eagerness with which she looked forward to sailing.

In London nothing interested her but the theatres and the shops; and she found the theatres less exciting than the Paris cafes chantants where, under the blossoming horse-chestnuts of the Champs Elysees, she had had the novel experience of looking down from the restaurant terrace on an audience of "cocottes," and having her husband interpret to her as much of the songs as he thought suitable for bridal ears.

Archer had reverted to all his old inherited ideas about marriage. It was less trouble to conform with the tradition and treat May exactly as all his friends treated their wives than to try to put into practice the theories with which his untrammelled bachelorhood had dallied. There was no use in trying to emancipate a wife who had not the dimmest notion that she was not free; and he had long since discovered that May's only use of the liberty she supposed herself to possess would be to lay it on the altar of her wifely adoration. Her innate dignity would always keep her from making the gift abjectly; and a day might even come (as it once had) when she would find strength to take it altogether back if she thought she were doing it for his own good. But with a conception of marriage so uncomplicated and incurious as hers such a crisis could be brought about only by something visibly outrageous in his own conduct; and the fineness of her feeling for him made that unthinkable. Whatever happened, he knew, she would always be loyal, gallant and unresentful; and that pledged him to the practice of the same virtues.

All this tended to draw him back into his old habits of mind. If her simplicity had been the simplicity of pettiness he would have chafed and rebelled; but since the lines of her character, though so few, were on the same fine mould as her face, she became the tutelary divinity of all his old traditions and reverences.

Such qualities were scarcely of the kind to enliven foreign travel, though they made her so easy and pleasant a companion; but he saw at once how they would fall into place in their proper setting. He had no fear of being oppressed by them, for his artistic and intellectual life would go on, as it always had, outside the domestic circle; and within it there would be nothing small and stifling--coming back to his wife would never be like entering a stuffy room after a tramp in the open. And when they had children the vacant corners in both their lives would be filled.

All these things went through his mind during their long slow drive from Mayfair to South Kensington, where Mrs. Carfry and her sister lived. Archer too would have preferred to escape their friends' hospitality: in conformity with the family tradition he had always travelled as a sight-seer and looker-on, affecting a haughty unconsciousness of the presence of his fellow- beings. Once only, just after Harvard, he had spent a few gay weeks at Florence with a band of queer Europeanised Americans, dancing all night with titled ladies in palaces, and gambling half the day with the rakes and dandies of the fashionable club; but it had all seemed to him, though the greatest fun in the world, as unreal as a carnival. These queer cosmopolitan women, deep in complicated love-affairs which they appeared to feel the need of retailing to every one they met, and the magnificent young officers and elderly dyed wits who were the subjects or the recipients of their confidences, were too different from the people Archer had grown up among, too much like expensive and rather malodorous hot-house exotics, to detain his imagination long. To introduce his wife into such a society was out of the question; and in the course of his travels no other had shown any marked eagerness for his company.

Not long after their arrival in London he had run across the Duke of St. Austrey, and the Duke, instantly and cordially recognising him, had said: "Look me up, won't you?"--but no proper-spirited American would have considered that a suggestion to be acted on, and the meeting was without a sequel. They had even managed to avoid May's English aunt, the banker's wife, who was still in Yorkshire; in fact, they had purposely postponed going to London till the autumn in order that their arrival during the season might not appear pushing and snobbish to these unknown relatives.

"Probably there'll be nobody at Mrs. Carfry's--London's a desert at this season, and you've made yourself much too beautiful," Archer said to May, who sat at his side in the hansom so spotlessly splendid in her sky-blue cloak edged with swansdown that it seemed wicked to expose her to the London grime.

"I don't want them to think that we dress like savages," she replied, with a scorn that Pocahontas might have resented; and he was struck again by the religious reverence of even the most unworldly American women for the social advantages of dress.

"It's their armour," he thought, "their defence against the unknown, and their defiance of it." And he understood for the first time the earnestness with which May, who was incapable of tying a ribbon in her hair to charm him, had gone through the solemn rite of selecting and ordering her extensive wardrobe.

He had been right in expecting the party at Mrs. Carfry's to be a small one. Besides their hostess and her sister, they found, in the long chilly drawing-room, only another shawled lady, a genial Vicar who was her husband, a silent lad whom Mrs. Carfry named as her nephew, and a small dark gentleman with lively eyes whom she introduced as his tutor, pronouncing a French name as she did so.

Into this dimly-lit and dim-featured group May Archer floated like a swan with the sunset on her: she seemed larger, fairer, more voluminously rustling than her husband had ever seen her; and he perceived that the rosiness and rustlingness were the tokens of an extreme and infantile shyness.

"What on earth will they expect me to talk about?" her helpless eyes implored him, at the very moment that her dazzling apparition was calling forth the same anxiety in their own bosoms. But beauty, even when distrustful of itself, awakens confidence in the manly heart; and the Vicar and the French-named tutor were soon manifesting to May their desire to put her at her ease.

In spite of their best efforts, however, the dinner was a languishing affair. Archer noticed that his wife's way of showing herself at her ease with foreigners was to become more uncompromisingly local in her references, so that, though her loveliness was an encouragement to admiration, her conversation was a chill to repartee. The Vicar soon abandoned the struggle; but the tutor, who spoke the most fluent and accomplished English, gallantly continued to pour it out to her until the ladies, to the manifest relief of all concerned, went up to the drawing-room.

The Vicar, after a glass of port, was obliged to hurry away to a meeting, and the shy nephew, who appeared to be an invalid, was packed off to bed. But Archer and the tutor continued to sit over their wine, and suddenly Archer found himself talking as he had not done since his last symposium with Ned Winsett. The Carfry nephew, it turned out, had been threatened with consumption, and had had to leave Harrow for Switzerland, where he had spent two years in the milder air of Lake Leman. Being a bookish youth, he had been entrusted to M. Riviere, who had brought him back to England, and was to remain with him till he went up to Oxford the following spring; and M. Riviere added with simplicity that he should then have to look out for another job.

It seemed impossible, Archer thought, that he should be long without one, so varied were his interests and so many his gifts. He was a man of about thirty, with a thin ugly face (May would certainly have called him common-looking) to which the play of his ideas gave an intense expressiveness; but there was nothing frivolous or cheap in his animation.

His father, who had died young, had filled a small diplomatic post, and it had been intended that the son should follow the same career; but an insatiable taste for letters had thrown the young man into journalism, then into authorship (apparently unsuccessful), and at length--after other experiments and vicissitudes which he spared his listener--into tutoring English youths in Switzerland. Before that, however, he had lived much in Paris, frequented the Goncourt grenier, been advised by Maupassant not to attempt to write (even that seemed to Archer a dazzling honour!), and had often talked with Merimee in his mother's house. He had obviously always been desperately poor and anxious (having a mother and an unmarried sister to provide for), and it was apparent that his literary ambitions had failed. His situation, in fact, seemed, materially speaking, no more brilliant than Ned Winsett's; but he had lived in a world in which, as he said, no one who loved ideas need hunger mentally. As it was precisely of that love that poor Winsett was starving to death, Archer looked with a sort of vicarious envy at this eager impecunious young man who had fared so richly in his poverty.

"You see, Monsieur, it's worth everything, isn't it, to keep one's intellectual liberty, not to enslave one's powers of appreciation, one's critical independence? It was because of that that I abandoned journalism, and took to so much duller work: tutoring and private secretaryship. There is a good deal of drudgery, of course; but one preserves one's moral freedom, what we call in French one's quant a soi. And when one hears good talk one can join in it without compromising any opinions but one's own; or one can listen, and answer it inwardly. Ah, good conversation--there's nothing like it, is there? The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing. And so I have never regretted giving up either diplomacy or journalism--two different forms of the same self-abdication." He fixed his vivid eyes on Archer as he lit another cigarette. "Voyez-vous, Monsieur, to be able to look life in the face: that's worth living in a garret for, isn't it? But, after all, one must earn enough to pay for the garret; and I confess that to grow old as a private tutor--or a `private' anything--is almost as chilling to the imagination as a second secretaryship at Bucharest. Sometimes I feel I must make a plunge: an immense plunge. Do you suppose, for instance, there would be any opening for me in America-- in New York?"

Archer looked at him with startled eyes. New York, for a young man who had frequented the Goncourts and Flaubert, and who thought the life of ideas the only one worth living! He continued to stare at M. Riviere perplexedly, wondering how to tell him that his very superiorities and advantages would be the surest hindrance to success.

"New York--New York--but must it be especially New York?" he stammered, utterly unable to imagine what lucrative opening his native city could offer to a young man to whom good conversation appeared to be the only necessity.

A sudden flush rose under M. Riviere's sallow skin. "I--I thought it your metropolis: is not the intellectual life more active there?" he rejoined; then, as if fearing to give his hearer the impression of having asked a favour, he went on hastily: "One throws out random suggestions--more to one's self than to others. In reality, I see no immediate prospect--" and rising from his seat he added, without a trace of constraint: "But Mrs. Carfry will think that I ought to be taking you upstairs."

During the homeward drive Archer pondered deeply on this episode. His hour with M. Riviere had put new air into his lungs, and his first impulse had been to invite him to dine the next day; but he was beginning to understand why married men did not always immediately yield to their first impulses.

"That young tutor is an interesting fellow: we had some awfully good talk after dinner about books and things," he threw out tentatively in the hansom.

May roused herself from one of the dreamy silences into which he had read so many meanings before six months of marriage had given him the key to them.

"The little Frenchman? Wasn't he dreadfully common?" she questioned coldly; and he guessed that she nursed a secret disappointment at having been invited out in London to meet a clergyman and a French tutor. The disappointment was not occasioned by the sentiment ordinarily defined as snobbishness, but by old New York's sense of what was due to it when it risked its dignity in foreign lands. If May's parents had entertained the Carfrys in Fifth Avenue they would have offered them something more substantial than a parson and a schoolmaster.

But Archer was on edge, and took her up.

"Common--common WHERE?" he queried; and she returned with unusual readiness: "Why, I should say anywhere but in his school-room. Those people are always awkward in society. But then," she added disarmingly, "I suppose I shouldn't have known if he was clever."

Archer disliked her use of the word "clever" almost as much as her use of the word "common"; but he was beginning to fear his tendency to dwell on the things he disliked in her. After all, her point of view had always been the same. It was that of all the people he had grown up among, and he had always regarded it as necessary but negligible. Until a few months ago he had never known a "nice" woman who looked at life differently; and if a man married it must necessarily be among the nice.

"Ah--then I won't ask him to dine!" he concluded with a laugh; and May echoed, bewildered: "Goodness-- ask the Carfrys' tutor?"

"Well, not on the same day with the Carfrys, if you prefer I shouldn't. But I did rather want another talk with him. He's looking for a job in New York."

Her surprise increased with her indifference: he almost fancied that she suspected him of being tainted with "foreignness."

"A job in New York? What sort of a job? People don't have French tutors: what does he want to do?"

"Chiefly to enjoy good conversation, I understand," her husband retorted perversely; and she broke into an appreciative laugh. "Oh, Newland, how funny! Isn't that FRENCH?"

On the whole, he was glad to have the matter settled for him by her refusing to take seriously his wish to invite M. Riviere. Another after-dinner talk would have made it difficult to avoid the question of New York; and the more Archer considered it the less he was able to fit M. Riviere into any conceivable picture of New York as he knew it.

He perceived with a flash of chilling insight that in future many problems would be thus negatively solved for him; but as he paid the hansom and followed his wife's long train into the house he took refuge in the comforting platitude that the first six months were always the most difficult in marriage. "After that I suppose we shall have pretty nearly finished rubbing off each other's angles," he reflected; but the worst of it was that May's pressure was already bearing on the very angles whose sharpness he most wanted to keep.

 

“当然啦,亲爱的,我们一定得和卡弗莱太太一起吃饭,”阿切尔说。隔着寄宿处早餐桌上那些不朽的不列颠合金餐具,他妻子皱着眉,焦急地望着他。

秋季的伦敦,阴雨绵绵,一片荒凉。在这儿,纽兰·阿切尔夫妇只有两个熟人,也是两个他们一味要躲避的人,因为按照老纽约的惯例,强行使自己引起国外熟人的注意是有失尊严的。

阿切尔太太和詹妮在去欧洲观光的途中,一惯俗守这一原则,她们以令人费解的矜持对待游伴的友好表示,差不多创下一项纪录——除了旅馆和车站的服务员,她们从没和“外国人”讲过一句话。对于自己的同胞——除了那些早已认识或完全信赖的——更是公然地不屑一顾;因而,在国外的几个月里,除了偶尔遇上奇弗斯、达戈内特或明戈特家的一两个人,始终是她们两个人相互厮守。然而智者千虑也难免一失,在波茨思的一个晚上,住在走廊对面的两位英国女士之一(詹妮已详细了解了她们的姓名、衣着和社会地位),上门寻问阿切尔太太是否有一种药,另一位女士——来者的姐姐,卡弗莱太太——突然患了支气管炎;不带全家庭备用药品决不外出旅游的阿切尔太太碰巧能提供她所需的药。

卡弗莱太太病情很重,而且是和妹妹单独旅行,所以对阿切尔太太及小姐格外感激,是她们提供了独到的安慰,是她们干练的女佣协助护理病人恢复了健康。

阿切尔母女离开波茨恩的时候,根本没想过会再见到卡弗莱太太和哈尔小姐。阿切尔太太认为,没有比强使自己受到外国人——一个因偶然机会提供过帮助的外国人——的关注更“有失尊严”的事了。然而卡弗莱太太和妹妹对这种观点却一无所知,即便知道也会觉得不可理解。她们对在波茨恩善待她们的“愉快的美国人”产生了感激不尽的情结。她们怀着感人的真诚,抓住每一次机会拜会来大陆旅行的阿切尔太太和詹妮,并在打听两人往返美国途经伦敦的时间方面表现出了超凡的精明。这种亲密关系逐渐变得牢不可破,每当阿切尔太太和詹妮下榻于布朗旅馆时,总会发现两位热情的朋友正等着她们。她们还发现这两位朋友跟自己一样,也在沃德箱里种蕨类植物,缝制流苏花边,阅读邦森男爵夫人的回忆录,并对伦敦主要的专栏作家有自己的看法。正如阿切尔太太所说的,认识卡弗莱太太和哈尔小姐,使“伦敦变了样”。到纽兰订婚时,两家的关系已经牢不可破,以致向两位英国女士发出婚礼邀请成了理所当然的事。她们也回赠了一大束装在玻璃匣里的阿尔卑斯压花。当纽兰和妻子即将赴英时,阿切尔太太在码头上最后叮嘱道:“你务必要带梅去看望卡弗莱太太。”

纽兰和梅本不打算遵命,但卡弗莱太太凭着她惯有的精明找到了他们,并发了请柬请他们吃饭;正是为了这份请柬才使梅面对着茶和松饼紧锁愁眉。

“这对你来说没有什么问题,纽兰,你认识他们。可我在一群从没见过的人中间会很害羞的。而且,我穿什么呢?”

纽兰向后靠在椅背上,对她微笑着。她看上去更漂亮了,也更像狄安娜女神了。英格兰湿润的空气使她的面颊越发红润,稍显刻板的少女面容也柔和了,若不然,就是她内心幸福的喜悦像冰层下的灯光那样显露了出来。

“穿什么?亲爱的,我记得上星期从巴黎运来了一箱子衣服嘛。”

“对,当然啦。我的意思是说不知该穿哪一件。”她噘起了小嘴。“我在伦敦还没出去吃过饭,也不想让人笑话。”

他竭力想为她分忧。“可是,英国的女士晚上不也和其他人穿得一样吗?”

“纽兰,你怎么会问这么可笑的问题?要知道,她们去看戏时是穿旧舞装,而且不戴帽子。”

“哎,也许她们在家穿新舞衣。但无论如何,卡弗莱太太和哈尔小姐不会那样。她们戴我母亲戴的那种帽子——还有披肩,非常柔软的披肩。”

“不错,可别的女子会穿什么呢?”

“不会比你穿得更好,亲爱的,”他回答说,心里纳闷是什么原因使她对衣着产生了詹尼那种病态的兴趣。

她叹口气,向后推了推椅子,说:“你真好,纽兰。但这帮不了我多少忙。”

他灵机一动。“干吗不穿结婚礼服?那决不会出错的,对吗?”

“唉,亲爱的!如果在这儿就好了!可我已把它送到巴黎去改了,预备明年冬天用。沃思还没送回来呢。”

“哦,那么——”阿切尔说话间站了起来。“瞧,雾散了。如果我们抓紧时间去国家画廊,或许还可以看一会儿画。”

经历了3个月的新婚旅行,纽兰·阿切尔夫妇踏上了归途。在给女友的信中,梅把这段时光笼统概括为“快乐至极”。

他们没有去意大利的湖区;阿切尔经过深思熟虑,无法设想妻子在那样一种特殊的环境中会是什么模样。她个人的倾向(与巴黎的裁缝呆了一个月后)是7月份爬山,8月份游泳。他们精确地执行了这项计划,在因特雷肯和格林德沃尔德度过了7月;8月则住在诺曼底海岸一个名叫俄特塔的小地方,那儿素以古雅宁静著称。在山峦之中,有一两次,阿切尔曾指着南面说:“那就是意大利。”梅站在龙胆苗圃中,快活地答道:“明年冬天去那儿也很好啊,但愿到时你不必非呆在纽约不可。”

但实际上,她对旅行的兴趣比阿切尔预料的还要小。她认为(一旦定做了衣服)旅行仅仅是增加了散步、骑马、游泳和尝试迷人的新运动——草坪网球——的机会而已。他们最后回到伦敦时(他们将在这儿过两个星期,定做他的衣服),她不再掩饰对航海的渴望。

在伦敦,除了剧院和商店,别的她一概没有兴趣。她发现,这儿的剧院还不及巴黎咖啡馆中的演唱令人兴奋。在爱丽舍大街鲜花盛开的七叶树下,她领略了一种新的阅历——从餐馆阳台上观看下面的一群“风尘女子”,并让丈夫尽量给她解释他认为适合新娘听的歌曲。

阿切尔又恢复了他所继承的有关婚姻的老观念。遵循传统,完全像朋友们对待妻子那样对待梅,这比设法实施他做自由的单身汉时期那些轻率的理论要容易得多。企图解放一位丝毫没有不自由感的妻子是毫无意义的;他早已看出,梅认为自己拥有的那份自由惟一的用途就是摆在妇道的祭坛上。她内心深处的尊严总是阻止她滥用这份天赋,即使有一天(如上次那样),她鼓起勇气全部将它收回,也只是因为她认为对他有益。然而,她对婚姻的理解十分简单淡漠,所以那种危机只潜伏于他个人不可容忍的行为中,她对他的似水柔情使那种情形成为不可能。他知道,无论发生什么情况,她永远都是忠诚的、勇敢的、无怨无悔的,这也保证了他信守同样的美德。

所有这一切都有助于把他拉回熟悉的思想习惯。假如她的单纯意味着只关心那种琐碎无聊的小事,这或许会惹他发火,令他厌恶;然而她的性格特点尽管少得可怜,却都像她的面容那般姣好,因而,她便成了他所熟悉的那些传统与崇尚的守护之神。

这些品质,虽然使她成为一个轻松愉快的伴侣,却不能给国外的旅行带来生气;但他很快就明白了它们在适当的时机会如何各司其职。他不惧怕因此受到压抑,因为他可以像以往一样,于家庭生活之外继续追求他的艺术与知识;而且家庭生活也并不琐碎沉闷——回到妻子身边决不会像在户外散步后走进一间闷热的屋子那样。而且,等他们有了孩子,两个人那些空虚的角落都会被填满的。

在从梅弗尔到卡弗莱姐妹居住的南肯星顿这段漫长迟缓的行程中,阿切尔满脑子想的尽是这些事。他本来也愿意避开朋友的盛情接待——按家族传统,他一贯以观光客和旁观者的身份旅行,摆出一副目中无人的架式。仅仅有一次,刚从哈佛毕业之后,他在佛罗伦斯和一伙奇怪的欧化美国人度过了快活的几周。在豪华旅馆里和有封号的贵族女子整夜地跳舞,在时髦的俱乐部里与花花公子们一赌就是半天;那一切对他来说,显然是世上最快乐的事,但却像狂欢节一样不真实。那些以四海为家的古怪女子,总是深深陷在错综复杂的桃色事件中,她们好像需要向遇到的每一个男人兜售她们的爱情;而那些英俊魁梧的年轻军官和染了头发的老才子,则是她们推心置腹的对象或接受者。这些人与他成长过程中接触的人相距太远,酷似温室里价格昂贵却气味难闻的外来品种,所以无法长久吸引他的想像力。把妻子介绍到那样的群体中是根本不可能的事,而且在那些旅行过程中,也没有人明显表示出渴望与他交往的迹象。

到达伦敦不久,阿切尔就遇到了圣奥斯特雷公爵。公爵立刻认出了他,而且热诚地与他打了招呼:“来看我好吗?”——但没有一个精神正常的美国人会把这句话当真,于是会见也就没了下文。他们甚至设法避开了梅的英国姨妈——那位仍住在约克郡的银行家的妻子。实际上,他们用心良苦地把去伦敦的时间推迟到秋季,就是为了避免让些不相识的亲戚误认为他们在社交季节到达有趋炎附势的意思。

“大概卡弗莱太太家没有什么人——这个季节伦敦是座荒城。你打扮得太美了,”阿切尔对坐在身边的梅说。在双座马车上,梅披着天鹅绒镶边的天蓝色斗篷,那样光彩照人,完美无暇,以致把她暴露在伦敦的尘垢中也好像是一种罪过。

“我不想让他们觉得我穿得像个野蛮人。”她那轻蔑的态度足以使波卡洪塔斯愤怒;阿切尔又一次感到震惊:就连一个不谙世事的美国妇女对穿着的社交优势也推崇备至。

“这是她们的盔甲,”他想,“是她们对陌生人的防范,也是对他们的挑衅。”他第一次理解了这种热诚,受其驱使,那个不会在头发上系缎带来取悦他的梅,已经完成了挑选、订制大批服装的隆重议式。

果然不出他所料,卡弗莱太太家的宴会规模很小。在冷冷清清的长客厅里,除了女主人和她妹妹,他们只见到一位技围巾的夫人和她的丈夫——和蔼的教区牧师,一个被卡弗莱夫人称为侄子的沉默寡言的少年和一位两眼有神、皮肤黝黑的小个子绅士,当卡弗莱太太介绍说是她侄子的家庭教师时,他报了个法国名字。

走进朦胧灯光下面容模糊的人群,梅·阿切尔像一只游弋的天鹅,身上洒满落日的余辉;在她丈夫的眼里,她比任何时候都显得高大、美丽,衣服的窸窣声也格外响。阿切尔意识到,这红润的面颊和窸窣的响声正是她极度幼稚羞怯的标志。

“他们究竟想要我说什么呢?”她那双无助的眼睛向他乞求地说。此时此刻,她那引起惶惑的幽灵也唤起在座的人内心同样的不安。然而,即使在对自己失去信心的时候,美貌仍能唤醒男人心中的信任,牧师和那位法国名字的教师很快就明白表示,他们希望梅不必拘束。

然而,尽管他们使尽浑身解数,宴会仍是索然无味。阿切尔注意到,他妻子为了显示在外国人面前的轻松自如,所谈的话题反而变得越来越生硬狭隘,以致尽管她的风韵令人艳羡,她的谈吐却令人扫兴。牧师不久便放弃了努力,但那位家庭教师却操着最完美流畅的英语继续殷勤地对她滔滔不绝,直到女士们上楼去了客厅,才使所有的人明显得到了解脱。

喝了一杯红葡萄酒后,牧师不得不匆匆去赴一个约会;那个貌似有病的害羞的侄子也被打发去睡了,而阿切尔和家庭教师仍坐着对饮。猛然间,阿切尔发现自己从最后一次与内德·温塞特交流之后还从没这般畅谈过。原来,卡弗莱太太的侄子因受到肺痨的威胁,不得不离开哈罗公学去了瑞士,在气候温和的雷曼湖畔呆了两年。因为他是个小书呆子,所以委托给里维埃先生照料,后者把他带回英国,并将一直陪伴他到来年春天进入牛津大学;里维埃先生坦率地补充说,到那时他只好另谋高就了。

阿切尔想,像他这样兴趣广泛、博学多艺的人,不可能找不到工作。他大约30岁,一张瘦削难看的脸(梅一定会称他相貌平平)把他的想法一览无余地展示出来,但他活泼的天性中却没有轻浮。卑贱的成分。

他早逝的父亲原是个职位低下的外交官,本打算要他子承父业,但对文学的痴迷却使这位年轻人投身于新闻界,继而又献身创作(显然没有成功),最后——经历了他对听者省略掉的其他尝试与变故——他当上了在瑞士教英国少年的家庭教师。但在此之前,他多年住在巴黎,经常出没于龚古尔的阁楼,莫泊桑曾建议他不要再尝试写作(阿切尔觉得这也异常荣耀了),他还多次在他母亲家与梅里美交谈。他显然一直极端贫困,忧患重重(因为要供养母亲和未嫁的妹妹),而且他的文学抱负显然也已成泡影。老实说,他的处境看来并不比内德·温塞特更光明;然而正如他说的,在他生活的世界里,没有哪个爱思想的人精神上会感到饥饿。可怜的温塞特正是为了这种爱好快要饿死了,阿切尔也如临其境地怀着羡慕之心看着这个热情洋溢的穷青年,他在贫困中活得是那样富足。

“您知道,先生,为了保持心智的自由,不使自己的鉴赏力和批判个性受压抑,是可以不惜代价的,对吗?正是为了这个原因,我才离开了新闻界,干起了更枯燥的差事:家庭教师和私人秘书。这种工作当然非常单调辛苦,但却可以保持精神上的自由——在法语里我们叫做 ‘自重’。当你听到高雅的谈论时,你可以参加进去,发表自己的意见而不必折衷;或者只是倾听,在心里默默抗辩。啊——高雅的言论——那真是无与伦比啊,对吗?精神食粮才是我们的惟一需要。所以我从不为放弃外交和新闻而后悔——那只是放弃自我的两种不同形式罢了。”当阿切尔点燃又一支烟时,里维埃目光炯炯地盯着他说:“您瞧,先生,为了能够正视生活,即使住在阁楼也值得,对吗?可话又说回来,毕竟你要挣钱付阁楼的房租;我承认干一辈子私人教师——或者别的 ‘私人’什么——几乎跟在布加勒斯特做二等秘书一样令人寒心。有时候,我觉得必须去冒险:去冒大险。比如,在美国,你看有没有适合我的机会呢——在纽约?”

阿切尔用惊讶的目光望着他。纽约,一个经常与龚古尔兄弟和福楼拜见面、并认为只有精神生活才是真正生活的年轻人要去纽约!他继续困惑地盯着里维埃先生,不知该如何告诉他,他的这些优势与擅长肯定会成为他成功的障碍。

“纽约——纽约——可一定得是纽约吗?”阿切尔结结巴巴地说,他根本想不出他生活的城市能给一个视高雅谈论为惟一需要的年轻人提供什么赚钱机会。

里维埃先生灰黄的脸上突然泛起一片红润。“我——我想那是你所在的大城市:那儿的精神生活不是更活跃吗?”他答道。然后,仿佛害怕给听者留下求助的印象似的,他急忙接着说:“只不过随便说说而已——主要是自己的想法。实际上,我并不是着眼于眼前——”他站起来,毫无拘束地补充说:“不过卡弗莱太太会觉得我该把你带到楼上去了。”

回家的路上,阿切尔深深思考着这段插曲,和里维埃先生的交谈有如给他的双肺注入了新鲜空气。他最初的冲动是第二天邀请他吃饭;不过他已经渐渐明白,已婚男人为什么不总能够立即顺从自己最初的冲动。

“那个年轻教师很有趣:饭后我们围绕书和一些问题谈得很投机,”他在马车里试探地说。

梅从梦境般的沉默中苏醒过来。6个月前他面对这种沉默会浮想联翩,但婚后这段生活使他掌握了它的秘诀。

“你说那个小法国人?他不是很普通的吗?”她漠然答道;他猜想她心中正暗自感到失望,因为在伦敦被邀请去见一个牧师和一个法国教师而失望。这种失望并非缘于通常称为势利的那种感情,而是出自老纽约的一种意识——当尊严在国外受到威胁时的反应。假如让梅的父母在第五大街款待卡弗莱一家,他们会引荐比牧师和家庭教师更有分量的人物。

但阿切尔心中不快,便跟她对上了。

“普通——他哪里普通?”他质问道。而她的回答也格外麻利:“怎么啦,处处都很普通,除了在他的教室里。这些人在社交界总是很尴尬。不过,”她为了缓和空气又补充说,“他如果聪明一点的话,我想我就不会知道了。”

阿切尔对她用“普通”一词感到反感,对她用“聪明”一词几乎是同样反感。不过他开始害怕去细想她身上那些令他反感的东西。毕竟,她的观点向来是一成不变的,与他成长过程中接触的人完全一致。以前他总认为这种观点是必然的,但却无关紧要。直到几个月之前,他还不曾认识一位对生活持有不同观点的“好”女人;男人一结婚,就必然遇上好女人。

“啊——既然这样,我就不请他吃饭了!”他笑着下结论说。梅大惑不解地答道:“我的天——请卡弗莱家的家庭教师吃饭?”

“唔,不是与卡弗莱姐妹在同一天。如果你不愿意,就算了。但我确实很想再和他谈谈,他正打算到纽约找份工作。”

她益发吃惊也益发冷淡:他几乎认为她在怀疑他沾染了“异国情调”。

“在纽约找工作?什么样的工作?人们不需要法语教师,他想干什么呢?”

“我想,首先是能享受高雅的交谈,”丈夫故意作对地回嘴说。她爆发出一阵赞赏的笑声。“哎哟,纽兰,真有趣!这不是太法国化了吗?”

总的说来,梅拒绝认真考虑他邀请里维埃先生吃饭的要求而使事情这样了结,他感到高兴。否则,再在饭后谈一次,就很难不说到纽约的问题了。阿切尔越想越觉得难以使里维埃先生与他熟悉的纽约社会的任何一个画面相调和。

一阵寒心的直觉使他认识到,将来的许多问题都会这样子给他否决。然而,当他支付了车费,尾随妻子长长的裙据走进屋里时,他又从一句令人宽慰的俗语中寻得了慰藉:前6个月是婚姻生活中最艰难的时期。“在这之后,我想我们差不多会把彼此的棱角完全磨去的,”他心里想。但糟糕的是,梅的压力正对准了他最想保留的那些棱角。



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