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The Last Leaf最后一片叶子

IIn a little district west of Washington Square the streets have run crazy and broken themselves into small strips called "places." These "places" make strange angles and curves. One Street crosses itself a time or two. An artist once discovered a valuable possibility in this street. Suppose a collector with a bill for paints, paper and canvas should, in traversing this route, suddenly meet himself coming back, without a cent having been paid on account!

So, to quaint old Greenwich Village the art people soon came prowling, hunting for north windows and eighteenth-century gables and Dutch attics and low rents. Then they imported some pewter mugs and a chafing dish or two from Sixth Avenue, and became a "colony."

At the top of a squatty, three-story brick Sue and Johnsy had their studio. "Johnsy" was familiar for Joanna. One was from Maine; the other from California. They had met at the table d'h?te of an Eighth Street "Delmonico's," and found their tastes in art, chicory salad and bishop sleeves so congenial that the joint studio resulted.

That was in May. In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called Pneumonia, stalked about the colony, touching one here and there with his icy fingers.

Over on the east side this ravager strode boldly, smiting his victims by scores, but his feet trod slowly through the maze of the narrow and moss-grown "places."

Mr. Pneumonia was not what you would call a chivalric old gentleman. A mite of a little woman with blood thinned by California zephyrs was hardly fair game for the red-fisted, short-breathed old duffer. But Johnsy he smote; and she lay, scarcely moving, on her painted iron bedstead, looking through the small Dutch window-panes at the blank side of the next brick house.

One morning the busy doctor invited Sue into the hallway with a shaggy, grey eyebrow.

"She has one chance in - let us say, ten," he said, as he shook down the mercury in his clinical thermometer. " And that chance is for her to want to live. This way people have of lining-u on the side of the undertaker makes the entire pharmacopoeia look silly. Your little lady has made up her mind that she's not going to get well.

Has she anything on her mind?"

"She - she wanted to paint the Bay of Naples some day." said Sue.

"Paint? - bosh! Has she anything on her mind worth thinking twice - a man for instance?"

"A man?" said Sue, with a jew's-harp twang in her voice. "Is a man worth - but, no, doctor; there is nothing of the kind."

"Well, it is the weakness, then," said the doctor. "I will do all that science, so far as it may filter through my efforts, can accomplish. But whenever my patient begins to count the carriages in her funeral procession I subtract 50 per cent from the curative power of medicines. If you will get her to ask one question about the new winter styles in cloak sleeves I will promise you a one-in-five chance for her, instead of one in ten."

After the doctor had gone Sue went into the workroom and cried a Japanese napkin to a pulp. Then she swaggered into Johnsy's room with her drawing board, whistling ragtime.

Johnsy lay, scarcely making a ripple under the bedclothes, with her face toward the window. Sue stopped whistling, thinking she was asleep.

She arranged her board and began a pen-and-ink drawing to illustrate a magazine story. Young artists must pave their way to Art by drawing pictures for magazine stories that young authors write to pave their way to Literature.

As Sue was sketching a pair of elegant horseshow riding trousers and a monocle of the figure of the hero, an Idaho cowboy, she heard a low sound, several times repeated. She went quickly to the bedside.

Johnsy's eyes were open wide. She was looking out the window and counting - counting backward.

"Twelve," she said, and little later "eleven"; and then "ten," and "nine"; and then "eight" and "seven", almost together.

Sue look solicitously out of the window. What was there to count? There was only a bare, dreary yard to be seen, and the blank side of the brick house twenty feet away.

An old, old ivy vine, gnarled and decayed at the roots, climbed half way up the brick wall. The cold breath of autumn had stricken its leaves from the vine until its skeleton branches clung, almost bare, to the crumbling bricks.

"What is it, dear?" asked Sue.

"Six," said Johnsy, in almost a whisper. "They're falling faster now. Three days ago there were almost a hundred. It made my head ache to count them. But now it's easy.

There goes another one. There are only five left now."

"Five what, dear? Tell your Sudie."

"Leaves. On the ivy vine. When the last one falls I must go, too. I've known that for three days. Didn't the doctor tell you?"

"Oh, I never heard of such nonsense," complained Sue, with magnificent scorn. "What have old ivy leaves to do with your getting well? And you used to love that vine so, you naughty girl. Don't be a goosey. Why, the doctor told me this morning that your chances for getting well real soon were - let's see exactly what he said - he said the chances were ten to one! Why, that's almost as good a chance as we have in New York when we ride on the street cars or walk past a new building. Try to take some broth now, and let Sudie go back to her drawing, so she can sell the editor man with it, and buy port wine for her sick child, and pork chops for her greedy self."

"You needn't get any more wine," said Johnsy, keeping her eyes fixed out the window. "There goes another. No, I don't want any broth. That leaves just four. I want to see the last one fall before it gets dark. Then I'll go, too."

"Johnsy, dear," said Sue, bending over her, "will you promise me to keep your eyes closed, and not look out the window until I am done working? I must hand those drawings in by to-morrow. I need the light, or I would draw the shade down."

"Couldn't you draw in the other room?" asked Johnsy, coldly.

"I'd rather be here by you," said Sue. "Beside, I don't want you to keep looking at those silly ivy leaves."

"Tell me as soon as you have finished," said Johnsy, closing her eyes, and lying white and still as fallen statue, "because I want to see the last one fall. I'm tired of waiting. I'm tired of thinking. I want to turn loose my hold on everything, and go sailing down, down, just like one of those poor, tired leaves."

"Try to sleep," said Sue. "I must call Behrman up to be my model for the old hermit miner. I'll not be gone a minute. Don't try to move 'til I come back."

Old Behrman was a painter who lived on the ground floor beneath them. He was past sixty and had a Michael Angelo's Moses beard curling down from the head of a satyr along with the body of an imp. Behrman was a failure in art. Forty years he had wielded the brush without getting near enough to touch the hem of his Mistress's robe.

He had been always about to paint a masterpiece, but had never yet begun it. For several years he had painted nothing except now and then a daub in the line of commerce or advertising. He earned a little by serving as a model to those young artists in the colony who could not pay the price of a professional. He drank gin to excess, and still talked of his coming masterpiece. For the rest he was a fierce little old man, who scoffed terribly at softness in any one, and who regarded himself as especial mastiff-in-waiting to protect the two young artists in the studio above.

Sue found Behrman smelling strongly of juniper berries in his dimly lighted den below. In one corner was a blank canvas on an easel that had been waiting there for twenty-five years to receive the first line of the masterpiece. She told him of Johnsy's fancy, and how she feared she would, indeed, light and fragile as a leaf herself, float away, when her slight hold upon the world grew weaker.

Old Behrman, with his red eyes plainly streaming, shouted his contempt and derision for such idiotic imaginings.

"Vass!" he cried. "Is dere people in de world mit der foolishness to die because leafs dey drop off from a confounded vine? I haf not heard of such a thing. No, I will not bose as a model for your fool hermit-dunderhead. Vy do you allow dot silly pusiness to come in der brain of her? Ach, dot poor leetle Miss Yohnsy."

"She is very ill and weak," said Sue, "and the fever has left her mind morbid and full of strange fancies. Very well, Mr. Behrman, if you do not care to pose for me, you needn't. But I think you are a horrid old - old flibbertigibbet."

"You are just like a woman!" yelled Behrman. "Who said I will not bose? Go on. I come mit you. For half an hour I haf peen trying to say dot I am ready to bose. Gott! dis is not any blace in which one so goot as Miss Yohnsy shall lie sick. Some day I vill baint a masterpiece, and ve shall all go away. Gott! yes."

Johnsy was sleeping when they went upstairs. Sue pulled the shade down to the window-sill, and motioned Behrman into the other room. In there they peered out the window fearfully at the ivy vine. Then they looked at each other for a moment without speaking. A persistent, cold rain was falling, mingled with snow. Behrman, in his old blue shirt, took his seat as the hermit miner on an upturned kettle for a rock.

When Sue awoke from an hour's sleep the next morning she found Johnsy with dull, wide-open eyes staring at the drawn green shade.

"Pull it up; I want to see," she ordered, in a whisper.

Wearily Sue obeyed.

But, lo! after the beating rain and fierce gusts of wind that had endured through the livelong night, there yet stood out against the brick wall one ivy leaf. It was the last one on the vine. Still dark green near its stem, with its serrated edges tinted with the yellow of dissolution and decay, it hung bravely from the branch some twenty feet above the ground.

"It is the last one," said Johnsy. "I thought it would surely fall during the night. I heard the wind. It will fall to-day, and I shall die at the same time."

"Dear, dear!" said Sue, leaning her worn face down to the pillow, "think of me, if you won't think of yourself. What would I do?"

But Johnsy did not answer. The lonesomest thing in all the world is a soul when it is making ready to go on its mysterious, far journey. The fancy seemed to possess her more strongly as one by one the ties that bound her to friendship and to earth were loosed.

The day wore away, and even through the twilight they could see the lone ivy leaf clinging to its stem against the wall. And then, with the coming of the night the north wind was again loosed, while the rain still beat against the windows and pattered down from the low Dutch eaves.

When it was light enough Johnsy, the merciless, commanded that the shade be raised.

The ivy leaf was still there.

Johnsy lay for a long time looking at it. And then she called to Sue, who was stirring her chicken broth over the gas stove.

"I've been a bad girl, Sudie," said Johnsy. "Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me how wicked I was. It is a sin to want to die. You may bring a me a little broth now, and some milk with a little port in it, and - no; bring me a hand-mirror first, and then pack some pillows about me, and I will sit up and watch you cook."

And hour later she said:

"Sudie, some day I hope to paint the Bay of Naples."

The doctor came in the afternoon, and Sue had an excuse to go into the hallway as he left.

"Even chances," said the doctor, taking Sue's thin, shaking hand in his. "With good nursing you'll win." And now I must see another case I have downstairs. Behrman, his name is - some kind of an artist, I believe. Pneumonia, too. He is an old, weak man, and the attack is acute. There is no hope for him; but he goes to the hospital to-day to be made more comfortable."

The next day the doctor said to Sue: "She's out of danger. You won. Nutrition and care now - that's all."

And that afternoon Sue came to the bed where Johnsy lay, contentedly knitting a very blue and very useless woollen shoulder scarf, and put one arm around her, pillows and all.

"I have something to tell you, white mouse," she said. "Mr. Behrman died of pneumonia to-day in the hospital. He was ill only two days. The janitor found him the morning of the first day in his room downstairs helpless with pain. His shoes and clothing were wet through and icy cold. They couldn't imagine where he had been on such a dreadful night. And then they found a lantern, still lighted, and a ladder that had been dragged from its place, and some scattered brushes, and a palette with green and yellow colours mixed on it, and - look out the window, dear, at the last ivy leaf on the wall. Didn't you wonder why it never fluttered or moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, it's Behrman's masterpiece - he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell."


    在华盛顿广场西边的一个小区里,街道都横七竖八地伸展开去,又分裂成一小条一小条的“胡同”。这些“胡同”稀奇古怪地拐着弯子。一条街有时自己本身就交叉了不止一次。有一回一个画家发现这条街有一种优越性:要是有个收帐的跑到这条街上,来催要颜料、纸张和画布的钱,他就会突然发现自己两手空空,原路返回,一文钱的帐也没有要到!
    所以,不久之后不少画家就摸索到这个古色古香的老格林尼治村来,寻求朝北的窗户、18世纪的尖顶山墙、荷兰式的阁楼,以及低廉的房租。然后,他们又从第六街买来一些蜡酒杯和一两只火锅,这里便成了“艺术区”。
    苏和琼西的画室设在一所又宽又矮的三层楼砖房的顶楼上。“琼西”是琼娜的爱称。她俩一个来自缅因州,一个是加利福尼亚州人。她们是在第八街的“台尔蒙尼歌之家”吃份饭时碰到的,她们发现彼此对艺术、生菜色拉和时装的爱好非常一致,便合租了那间画室。
    那是5月里的事。到了11月,一个冷酷的、肉眼看不见的、医生们叫做“肺炎”的不速之客,在艺术区里悄悄地游荡,用他冰冷的手指头这里碰一下那里碰一下。在广场东头,这个破坏者明目张胆地踏着大步,一下子就击倒几十个受害者,可是在迷宫一样、狭窄而铺满青苔的“胡同”里,他的步伐就慢了下来。
    肺炎先生不是一个你们心目中行侠仗义的老的绅士。一个身子单薄,被加利福尼亚州的西风刮得没有血色的弱女子,本来不应该是这个有着红拳头的、呼吸急促的老家伙打击的对象。然而,琼西却遭到了打击;她躺在一张油漆过的铁床上,一动也不动,凝望着小小的荷兰式玻璃窗外对面砖房的空墙。
    一天早晨,那个忙碌的医生扬了扬他那毛茸茸的灰白色眉毛,把苏叫到外边的走廊上。
    “我看,她的病只有十分之一的恢复希望,”他一面把体温表里的水银柱甩下去,一面说,“这一分希望就是她想要活下去的念头。有些人好像不愿意活下去,喜欢照顾殡仪馆的生意,简直让整个医药界都无能为力。你的朋友断定自己是不会痊愈的了。她是不是有什么心事呢?”
    “她——她希望有一天能够去画那不勒斯的海湾。”苏说。
    “画画?——真是瞎扯!她脑子里有没有什么值得她想了又想的事——比如说,一个男人?”
    “男人?”苏像吹口琴似的扯着嗓子说,“男人难道值得——不,医生,没有这样的事。”
    “能达到的全部力量去治疗她。可要是我的病人开始算计会有多少辆马车送她出丧,我就得把治疗的效果减掉百分之五十。只要你能想法让她对冬季大衣袖子的时新式样感到兴趣而提出一两个问题,那我可以向你保证把医好她的机会从十分之一提高到五分之一。”
    医生走后,苏走进工作室里,把一条日本餐巾哭成一团湿。后来她手里拿着画板,装做精神抖擞的样子走进琼西的屋子,嘴里吹着爵士音乐调子。
    琼西躺着,脸朝着窗口,被子底下的身体纹丝不动。苏以为她睡着了,赶忙停止吹口哨。
    她架好画板,开始给杂志里的故事画一张钢笔插图。年轻的画家为了铺平通向艺术的道路,不得不给杂志里的故事画插图,而这些故事又是年轻的作家为了铺平通向文学的道路而不得不写的。
    苏正在给故事主人公,一个爱达荷州牧人的身上,画上一条马匹展览会穿的时髦马裤和一片单眼镜时,忽然听到一个重复了几次的低微的声音。她快步走到床边。
    琼西的眼睛睁得很大。她望着窗外,数着……倒过来数。
    “12”,她数道,歇了一会又说“11”,然后是“10”和“9”,接着几乎同时数着“8”和“7”。
    苏关切地看了看窗外。那儿有什么可数的呢?只见一个空荡阴暗的院子,20英尺以外还有一所砖房的空墙。一棵老极了的长春藤,枯萎的根纠结在一块,枝干攀在砖墙的半腰上。秋天的寒风把藤上的叶子差不多全都吹掉了,几乎只有光秃的枝条还缠附在剥落的砖块上。
    “什么呀,亲爱的?”苏问道。
    “6”,琼西几乎用耳语低声说道,“它们现在越落越快了,三天前还有差不多一百片。我数得头都疼了,但是现在好数了。又掉了一片,只剩下五片了。”
    “五片什么呀,亲爱的。告诉你的苏娣吧。”
    “叶子。长春藤上的。等到最后一片叶子掉下来,我也就该去了。这件事我三天前就知道了。难道医生没有告诉你?”
    “哼,我从来没听过这种傻话,”苏十分不以为然地说,“那些破长春藤叶子和你的病好不好有什么关系?你以前不是很喜欢这棵树吗?你这个淘气孩子。不要说傻话了。瞧,医生今天早晨还告诉我,说你迅速痊愈的机会是,——让我一字不改地照他的话说吧——他说有九成把握。噢,那简直和我们在纽约坐电车或者走过一座新楼房的把握一样大。喝点汤吧,让苏娣去画她的画,好把它卖给编辑先生,换了钱来给她的病孩子买点红葡萄酒,再给她自己买点猪排解解馋。”
    “你不用买酒了,”琼西的眼睛直盯着窗外说道,“又落了一片。不,我不想喝汤。只剩下四片了。我想在天黑以前等着看那最后一片叶子掉下去。然后我也要去了。”
    “琼西,亲爱的,”苏俯着身子对她说,“你答应我闭上眼睛,不要瞧窗外,等我画完,行吗?明天我非得交出这些插图。我需要光线,否则我就拉下窗帘了。”
    “你不能到那间屋子里去画吗?”琼西冷冷地问道。
    “我愿意呆在你跟前,”苏说,“再说,我也不想让你老看着那些讨厌的长春藤叶子。”
    “你一画完就叫我,”琼西说着,便闭上了眼睛。她脸色苍白,一动不动地躺在床上,就像是座横倒在地上的雕像。“因为我想看那最后一片叶子掉下来,我等得不耐烦了,也想得不耐烦了。我想摆脱一切,飘下去,飘下去,像一片可怜的疲倦了的叶子那样。”
    “你睡一会吧,”苏说道,“我得下楼把贝尔门叫上来,给我当那个隐居的老矿工的模特儿。我一会儿就回来的。不要动,等我回来。”
    老贝尔门是住在她们这座楼房底层的一个画家。他年过60,有一把像米开朗琪罗的摩西雕像那样的大胡子,这胡子长在一个像半人半兽的森林之神的头颅上,又鬈曲地飘拂在小鬼似的身躯上。贝尔门是个失败的画家。他操了四十年的画笔,还远没有摸着艺术女神的衣裙。他老是说就要画他的那幅杰作了,可是直到现在他还没有动笔。几年来,他除了偶尔画点商业广告之类的玩意儿以外,什么也没有画过。他给艺术区里穷得雇不起职业模特儿的年轻画家们当模特儿,挣一点钱。他喝酒毫无节制,还时常提起他要画的那幅杰作。除此以外,他是一个火气十足的小老头子,十分瞧不起别人的温情,却认为自己是专门保护楼上画室里那两个年轻女画家的一只看家狗。
    苏在楼下他那间光线黯淡的斗室里找到了嘴里酒气扑鼻的贝尔门。一幅空白的画布绷在个画架上,摆在屋角里,等待那幅杰作已经25年了,可是连一根线条还没等着。苏把琼西的胡思乱想告诉了他,还说她害怕琼西自个儿瘦小柔弱得像一片叶子一样,对这个世界的留恋越来越微弱,恐怕真会离世飘走了。
    老贝尔门两只发红的眼睛显然在迎风流泪,他十分轻蔑地嗤笑这种傻呆的胡思乱想。
    “什么,”他喊道,“世界上真会有人蠢到因为那些该死的长春藤叶子落掉就想死?我从来没有听说过这种怪事。不,我才不给你那隐居的矿工糊涂虫当模特儿呢。你干吗让她胡思乱想?唉,可怜的琼西小姐。”
    “她病得很厉害很虚弱,”苏说,“发高烧发得她神经昏乱,满脑子都是古怪想法。好,贝尔门先生,你不愿意给我当模特儿,就拉倒,我看你是个讨厌的老——老罗唆鬼。”
    “你简直太婆婆妈妈了!”贝尔门喊道,“谁说我不愿意当模特儿?走,我和你一块去。我不是讲了半天愿意给你当模特儿吗?老天爷,琼西小姐这么好的姑娘真不应该躺在这种地方生病。总有一天我要画一幅杰作,我们就可以都搬出去了。一定的!”
    他们上楼以后,琼西正睡着觉。苏把窗帘拉下,一直遮住窗台,做手势叫贝尔门到隔壁屋子里去。他们在那里提心吊胆地瞅着窗外那棵长春藤。后来他们默默无言,彼此对望了一会。寒冷的雨夹杂着雪花不停地下着。贝尔门穿着他的旧的蓝衬衣,坐在一把翻过来充当岩石的铁壶上,扮作隐居的矿工。
    第二天早晨,苏只睡了一个小时的觉,醒来了,她看见琼西无神的眼睛睁得大大地注视拉下的绿窗帘。
    “把窗帘拉起来,我要看看。”她低声地命令道。
    苏疲倦地照办了。
    然而,看呀!经过了漫长一夜的风吹雨打,在砖墙上还挂着一片藤叶。它是长春藤上最后的一片叶子了。靠近茎部仍然是深绿色,可是锯齿形的叶子边缘已经枯萎发黄,它傲然挂在一根离地二十多英尺的藤枝上。
    “这是最后一片叶子。”琼西说道,“我以为它昨晚一定会落掉的。我听见风声的。今天它一定会落掉,我也会死的。”
    “哎呀,哎呀,”苏把疲乏的脸庞挨近枕头边上对她说,“你不肯为自己着想,也得为我想想啊。我可怎么办呢?”
    可是琼西不回答。当一个灵魂正在准备走上那神秘的、遥远的死亡之途时,她是世界上最寂寞的人了。那些把她和友谊及大地联结起来的关系逐渐消失以后,她那个狂想越来越强烈了。
    白天总算过去了,甚至在暮色中她们还能看见那片孤零零的藤叶仍紧紧地依附在靠墙的枝上。后来,夜的到临带来了呼啸的北风,雨点不停地拍打着窗子,雨水从低垂的荷兰式屋檐上流泻下来。
    天刚蒙蒙亮,琼西就毫不留情地吩咐拉起窗帘来。
    那片藤叶仍然在那里。
    琼西躺着对它看了许久。然后她招呼正在煤气炉上给她煮鸡汤的苏。
    “我是一个坏女孩子,苏娣,”琼西说,“天意让那片最后的藤叶留在那里,证明我是多么坏。想死是有罪过的。你现在就给我拿点鸡汤来,再拿点掺葡萄酒的牛奶来,再——不,先给我一面小镜子,再把枕头垫垫高,我要坐起来看你做饭。”
    过了一个钟头,她说道:“苏娣,我希望有一天能去画那不勒斯的海湾。”
    下午医生来了,他走的时候,苏找了个借口跑到走廊上。
    “有五成希望。”医生一面说,一面把苏细瘦的颤抖的手握在自己的手里,“好好护理你会成功的。现在我得去看楼下另一个病人。他的名字叫贝尔门——听说也是个画家。也是肺炎。他年纪太大,身体又弱,病势很重。他是治不好的了;今天要把他送到医院里,让他更舒服一点。”
    第二天,医生对苏说:“她已经脱离危险,你成功了。现在只剩下营养和护理了。”
    下午苏跑到琼西的床前,琼西正躺着,安详地编织着一条毫无用处的深蓝色毛线披肩。苏用一只胳臂连枕头带人一把抱住了她。
    “我有件事要告诉你,小家伙,”她说,“贝尔门先生今天在医院里患肺炎去世了。他只病了两天。头一天早晨,门房发现他在楼下自己那间房里痛得动弹不了。他的鞋子和衣服全都湿透了,冻凉冰凉的。他们搞不清楚在那个凄风苦雨的夜晚,他究竟到哪里去了。后来他们发现了一盏没有熄灭的灯笼,一把挪动过地方的梯子,几支扔得满地的画笔,还有一块调色板,上面涂抹着绿色和黄色的颜料,还有——亲爱的,瞧瞧窗子外面,瞧瞧墙上那最后一片藤叶。难道你没有想过,为什么风刮得那样厉害,它却从来不摇一摇、动一动呢?唉,亲爱的,这片叶子才是贝尔门的杰作——就是在最后一片叶子掉下来的晚上,他把它画在那里的。”



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