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chapter 14
Then a wave of religiosity passed through the school. Bad language was no longer heard, and the little nastinesses of small boys were looked upon with hostility; the bigger boys, like the lords temporal of the Middle Ages, used the strength of their arms to persuade those weaker than themselves to virtuous courses.

Philip, his restless mind avid for new things, became very devout. He heard soon that it was possible to join a Bible League, and wrote to London for particulars. These consisted in a form to be filled up with the applicant’s name, age, and school; a solemn declaration to be signed that he would read a set portion of Holy Scripture every night for a year; and a request for half a crown; this, it was explained, was demanded partly to prove the earnestness of the applicant’s desire to become a member of the League, and partly to cover clerical expenses. Philip duly sent the papers and the money, and in return received a calendar worth about a penny, on which was set down the appointed passage to be read each day, and a sheet of paper on one side of which was a picture of the Good Shepherd and a lamb, and on the other, decoratively framed in red lines, a short prayer which had to be said before beginning to read.

Every evening he undressed as quickly as possible in order to have time for his task before the gas was put out. He read industriously, as he read always, without criticism, stories of cruelty, deceit, ingratitude, dishonesty, and low cunning. Actions which would have excited his horror in the life about him, in the reading passed through his mind without comment, because they were committed under the direct inspiration of God. The method of the League was to alternate a book of the Old Testament with a book of the New, and one night Philip came across these words of Jesus Christ:

If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig-tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.

And all this, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

They made no particular impression on him, but it happened that two or three days later, being Sunday, the Canon in residence chose them for the text of his sermon. Even if Philip had wanted to hear this it would have been impossible, for the boys of King’s School sit in the choir, and the pulpit stands at the corner of the transept so that the preacher’s back is almost turned to them. The distance also is so great that it needs a man with a fine voice and a knowledge of elocution to make himself heard in the choir; and according to long usage the Canons of Tercanbury are chosen for their learning rather than for any qualities which might be of use in a cathedral church. But the words of the text, perhaps because he had read them so short a while before, came clearly enough to Philip’s ears, and they seemed on a sudden to have a personal application. He thought about them through most of the sermon, and that night, on getting into bed, he turned over the pages of the Gospel and found once more the passage. Though he believed implicitly everything he saw in print, he had learned already that in the Bible things that said one thing quite clearly often mysteriously meant another. There was no one he liked to ask at school, so he kept the question he had in mind till the Christmas holidays, and then one day he made an opportunity. It was after supper and prayers were just finished. Mrs. Carey was counting the eggs that Mary Ann had brought in as usual and writing on each one the date. Philip stood at the table and pretended to turn listlessly the pages of the Bible.

‘I say, Uncle William, this passage here, does it really mean that?’

He put his finger against it as though he had come across it accidentally.

Mr. Carey looked up over his spectacles. He was holding The Blackstable Times in front of the fire. It had come in that evening damp from the press, and the Vicar always aired it for ten minutes before he began to read.

‘What passage is that?’ he asked.

‘Why, this about if you have faith you can remove mountains.’

‘If it says so in the Bible it is so, Philip,’ said Mrs. Carey gently, taking up the plate-basket.

Philip looked at his uncle for an answer.

‘It’s a matter of faith.’

‘D’you mean to say that if you really believed you could move mountains you could?’

‘By the grace of God,’ said the Vicar.

‘Now, say good-night to your uncle, Philip,’ said Aunt Louisa. ‘You’re not wanting to move a mountain tonight, are you?’

Philip allowed himself to be kissed on the forehead by his uncle and preceded Mrs. Carey upstairs. He had got the information he wanted. His little room was icy, and he shivered when he put on his nightshirt. But he always felt that his prayers were more pleasing to God when he said them under conditions of discomfort. The coldness of his hands and feet were an offering to the Almighty. And tonight he sank on his knees; buried his face in his hands, and prayed to God with all his might that He would make his club-foot whole. It was a very small thing beside the moving of mountains. He knew that God could do it if He wished, and his own faith was complete. Next morning, finishing his prayers with the same request, he fixed a date for the miracle.

‘Oh, God, in Thy loving mercy and goodness, if it be Thy will, please make my foot all right on the night before I go back to school.’

He was glad to get his petition into a formula, and he repeated it later in the dining-room during the short pause which the Vicar always made after prayers, before he rose from his knees. He said it again in the evening and again, shivering in his nightshirt, before he got into bed. And he believed. For once he looked forward with eagerness to the end of the holidays. He laughed to himself as he thought of his uncle’s astonishment when he ran down the stairs three at a time; and after breakfast he and Aunt Louisa would have to hurry out and buy a new pair of boots. At school they would be astounded.

‘Hulloa, Carey, what have you done with your foot?’

‘Oh, it’s all right now,’ he would answer casually, as though it were the most natural thing in the world.

He would be able to play football. His heart leaped as he saw himself running, running, faster than any of the other boys. At the end of the Easter term there were the sports, and he would be able to go in for the races; he rather fancied himself over the hurdles. It would be splendid to be like everyone else, not to be stared at curiously by new boys who did not know about his deformity, nor at the baths in summer to need incredible precautions, while he was undressing, before he could hide his foot in the water.

He prayed with all the power of his soul. No doubts assailed him. He was confident in the word of God. And the night before he was to go back to school he went up to bed tremulous with excitement. There was snow on the ground, and Aunt Louisa had allowed herself the unaccustomed luxury of a fire in her bed-room; but in Philip’s little room it was so cold that his fingers were numb, and he had great difficulty in undoing his collar. His teeth chattered. The idea came to him that he must do something more than usual to attract the attention of God, and he turned back the rug which was in front of his bed so that he could kneel on the bare boards; and then it struck him that his nightshirt was a softness that might displease his Maker, so he took it off and said his prayers naked. When he got into bed he was so cold that for some time he could not sleep, but when he did, it was so soundly that Mary Ann had to shake him when she brought in his hot water next morning. She talked to him while she drew the curtains, but he did not answer; he had remembered at once that this was the morning for the miracle. His heart was filled with joy and gratitude. His first instinct was to put down his hand and feel the foot which was whole now, but to do this seemed to doubt the goodness of God. He knew that his foot was well. But at last he made up his mind, and with the toes of his right foot he just touched his left. Then he passed his hand over it.

He limped downstairs just as Mary Ann was going into the dining-room for prayers, and then he sat down to breakfast.

‘You’re very quiet this morning, Philip,’ said Aunt Louisa presently.

‘He’s thinking of the good breakfast he’ll have at school to-morrow,’ said the Vicar.

When Philip answered, it was in a way that always irritated his uncle, with something that had nothing to do with the matter in hand. He called it a bad habit of wool-gathering.

‘Supposing you’d asked God to do something,’ said Philip, ‘and really believed it was going to happen, like moving a mountain, I mean, and you had faith, and it didn’t happen, what would it mean?’

‘What a funny boy you are!’ said Aunt Louisa. ‘You asked about moving mountains two or three weeks ago.’

‘It would just mean that you hadn’t got faith,’ answered Uncle William.

Philip accepted the explanation. If God had not cured him, it was because he did not really believe. And yet he did not see how he could believe more than he did. But perhaps he had not given God enough time. He had only asked Him for nineteen days. In a day or two he began his prayer again, and this time he fixed upon Easter. That was the day of His Son’s glorious resurrection, and God in His happiness might be mercifully inclined. But now Philip added other means of attaining his desire: he began to wish, when he saw a new moon or a dappled horse, and he looked out for shooting stars; during exeat they had a chicken at the vicarage, and he broke the lucky bone with Aunt Louisa and wished again, each time that his foot might be made whole. He was appealing unconsciously to gods older to his race than the God of Israel. And he bombarded the Almighty with his prayer, at odd times of the day, whenever it occurred to him, in identical words always, for it seemed to him important to make his request in the same terms. But presently the feeling came to him that this time also his faith would not be great enough. He could not resist the doubt that assailed him. He made his own experience into a general rule.

‘I suppose no one ever has faith enough,’ he said.

It was like the salt which his nurse used to tell him about: you could catch any bird by putting salt on his tail; and once he had taken a little bag of it into Kensington Gardens. But he could never get near enough to put the salt on a bird’s tail. Before Easter he had given up the struggle. He felt a dull resentment against his uncle for taking him in. The text which spoke of the moving of mountains was just one of those that said one thing and meant another. He thought his uncle had been playing a practical joke on him.

 

第十四章

接着,学校里掀起一股笃信宗教的热潮。再听不到有谁骂人、讲粗话,低年级学生的捣蛋行为被视为大逆不道,而大孩子们就像中世纪不居圣职的上院议员那样,依仗自己的膂力迫使弱小者改恶从善。

菲利普的思想本来就比较活跃,渴望探求新事物,这股热潮一来,他变得十分虔诚。不久,他听说有个"圣经联谊会"征收会员,便写信去伦敦询问详情。回信悦,要填一张表格,写上申请人的姓名、年龄和所在学校;还要在一份正式宣誓书上签字,保证自己每天晚上念一节《圣经》,持续念上一年;另外,再缴半个克朗会费--据解释,所以要缴这半个克朗,一方面是为了证明申请者要求加入"圣经联谊会"的诚意,另一方面也是为了分担该会的办公开支。菲利普将表格和钱款及时寄了去,随后收到对方寄来的一本约值一个便士的日历,日历上注明每天规定要念的经文;另外还附了一页纸,纸的一面印着一幅耶稣和羊羔的图画,另一面是一小段框有红线的祈祷词,每天在念《圣经》之前得先吟诵这段祈祷同。

每天晚上,菲利普以最快速度脱去衣服,为的是争取时间,赶在煤气灯熄掉之前完成他的读经任务。他孜孜不倦地阅读经文,就像平时念书一样,那些关于暴虐、欺骗、忘恩负义、不诚实和诡诈的故事,他不加思辨地一一念过去。这般所作所为,要是果真出现在周围的现实生活之中,准会使他惊恐万状,而现在他念到时,却是不置一词地让它们在头脑里一掠而过,因为这些恶行是在上帝的直接授意下干的。"圣经联谊会"的读经办法是交替诵读《旧约》和《新约》中的一个篇章。一天晚上,菲利普看到耶稣基督的这样一段话:

"你们若有信心,不疑惑,不但能行无花果树上所行的事,就是对这座山说,你挪开此地,投在海里,也必成就。

"你们祷告,无论求什么,只要信,就必得着。"

当时,这段话并没有给他留下什么印象。但事有凑巧,就在两三天后的那个星期天,住在任所的教堂牧师会成员,也把这段话作为他布道的内容。照理说,即使菲利普很想洗耳恭听,恐怕也未必能听清楚,因为皇家公学的学生全被安排在唱诗班的座席上,而布道坛又设在教堂的十字式耳堂的角落处,这样,布道人差不多是完全背对着菲利普他们。再说,距离又那么远,布道人要是想让坐在唱诗班座席上的人听清楚自己的话,那么他不但得生就一副响嗓子,还须懂得演说的诀窍才行。但长期以来,挑选坎特伯雷大教堂牧师会成员的主要依据,照例是教士们的学识造诣,而不注重他们是否具备应付大教堂事务的实际才能。或许是因为菲利普不久前刚读过那段经文,因而传到他耳朵里时倒还清晰可闻。不知怎么地,他突然觉得这些话似乎是针对自己讲的。在布道的过程中,菲利普老是想着那段话。晚上一爬上床,立刻翻开福音书,又找到了那段经文。菲利普尽管对书上讲的一同一语向来深信不疑,但现在发觉《圣经》里有时明明说的是一码事,到头来指的却是另一码事,确是够玄乎的。这儿学校里,他乐意请教的人一个也没有,于是他把问题记在心里,等到圣诞节回家度假时,才找了个机会提出来。一天吃过晚饭,刚做完祷告,凯里太太同往常一样在数点玛丽·安拿进屋来的鸡蛋,并在每只上面标上日期。菲利普站在桌旁假装没精打采地翻看《圣经》。

"我说呀,威廉大伯,这儿一段话,真是这个意思吗?"

菲利普用手指按着那段经文,装作无意之间读到的样子。

凯里先生抬起眼睛,从眼镜框的上方望着菲利普。他正拿着份《布莱克斯泰勃时报》,凑在炉火前面烘烤。那天晚上送来的报纸,油墨还未干透,牧师总要把报纸烘上十分钟,然后才开始看。

"是哪一节?"

"嗯,是讲只要心诚,大山也能搬掉的那一节。"

"假如《圣经》里这么说的,那当然就是这个意思了,菲利普,"凯里太太语调柔和地说,一面顺手操起餐具篮。

菲利普望着大伯,等他回答。

"这里有个心诚不诚的问题。"

"您的意思是说,只要心诚,就一定能把大山搬掉,是这样吗?"

"要靠心诚感化上帝,"牧师说。

"好了,该向你大伯道晚安了,菲利普,"路易莎伯母说。"你总不至于今晚就想去报大山吧?"

菲利普让大伯在自己额头上亲了一下,然后走在凯里太太前头,上楼去了。他想要打听的,已经打听到了。小房间像座冰窖似的,他在换睡衣时,禁不住直打哆嗦。然而菲利普总觉得在艰苦的条件下做祷告,更能博得上帝的欢心。他手脚的冰凉麻木,正是奉献给全能之主的祭品。今晚,他跪倒在地,双手掩面,整个身心都在向上帝祈祷,恳求上帝能使他的跛足恢复正常。同搬走大山相比,这简直是件不费吹灰之力的小事。他知道,上帝只要愿意,一举手就能办到;而就他自己来说,内心一片至诚。第二天早晨菲利普结束祷告时,又提出了同样的请求,同时心中还为这项奇迹了出现规定了个日期。

"哦,上帝,假如仁慈与怜悯乃是您的意愿,就请您赐仁慈与怜悯于我,在我回学校的前一天晚上,把我的跛足治好吧。"

菲利普高兴地把他的祈求编成一套固定词儿。后来在餐室里祷告时又重复了一遍。牧师在念完祷告之后,往往要静默片刻才站起身子,而菲利普就是趁这当儿默诵的。晚上睡觉前,他身穿睡衣,浑身哆嗦着又默告了一遍。他的心不可谓不诚。他一度甚至巴不得假期早点结束。他想到大伯见到自己竟一步三级地飞奔下楼,该是多么惊讶;早餐后,自己和路易莎伯母又得怎么赶着出门去买一双新靴子……想着,想着,他不禁失声笑了出来。还有学校里的那些同学,见了不惊得目瞪口呆才怪呢!

"喂,凯里,你的脚怎么好啦?"

"噢,好了就好了呗,"他就这么漫不经心地随口应上一句,似乎这本来是世界上最自然不过的事。

这一来,菲利普尽可以踢足球了。他仿佛见到自己在撒开腿跑呀,跑呀,跑得比谁都快,想到这儿他的心止不住突突猛跳。到复活节学期结束时,学校要举行运动会,他可以参加各种田径赛;他甚至想象到自己飞步跨栏的情景。他可以同正常人完全一样,那些新来的学生,再不会因发现自己的生理缺陷而不胜好奇地一个劲儿打量自己;夏天去浴场洗澡,也不必在脱衣服时战战兢兢,百般防范,然后赶紧把脚藏到水里了--这一切,实在妙不可言。

菲利普将心灵的全部力量,都倾注在自己的祈祷里。他没有一丝一毫的怀疑,对上帝的言词无限信仰。在返校前的那天晚上,他上楼就寝时激动得浑身颤抖不止。户外地面积了一层白雪;甚至路易莎伯母也忍痛破格在自己的卧房里生了火,而菲利普的小房间里冷森森的,连手指也冻麻了。他好不容易才把领扣解开。牙齿不住格格打战。菲利普忽然心生一念:他得以某种异乎寻常的举动来吸引上帝的注意。于是,他把床前的小地毯挪开,好让自己跪在光秃秃的地板上;他又突然想到,自己身上的睡衣太柔软了,可能会惹造物主不快,所以索性把睡衣也脱了,就这么赤裸着身子作祷告。他钻到床上,身子冰凉冰凉,好一阵子都睡不着。可是一旦入睡后,睡得又香又沉,到第二天早晨玛丽·安进屋给他送热水来时,竟不得不把他摇醒。玛丽·安一边拉开窗帘,一边跟他说话。但菲利普不吭声,因为他一醒来马上就记起,奇迹应该就在今晨出现。他心中充满了喜悦和感激之情。他第一个本能动作,就是想伸手去抚摸那只现在已经完好无缺的下肢。但这么做,似乎是对上帝仁慈的怀疑。他知道自己的脚已经健全了。最后他拿定主意,就单用右脚脚趾碰了碰左脚。接着他赶紧伸手摸去。

就在玛丽·安进餐室准备作晨祷的时候,菲利普一瘸一拐地下了楼,在餐桌旁坐下用早餐。

"今儿个早上你怎么一句话也不说呀,菲利普,"少顷,路易莎伯母说。

"这会儿他呀,正在想明天学校给他吃的那顿丰盛早餐哪,"牧师说。

菲利普应答的话,显然跟眼前的事儿毫不相干,这种答非所问的情况常惹他大伯生气。他大伯常斥之为"心不在焉的环习惯"。

"假定你请求上帝做某件事,"菲利普说,"而且也真心相信这种事儿一定会发生,噢,我指的是搬走大山之类的事,而且心也够诚的,结果事。清却没发生,这说明什么呢?"

"真是个古怪孩子!"路易莎伯母说。"两三个星期之前,你就问过搬走大山的事啦。"

"那正说明你心不诚哪,"威廉大伯回答说。

菲利普接受了这种解释。心诚则灵嘛,要是上帝没把他医治好,原因只能是自己心还不够诚。可他没法明白,究竟怎样才能使自己进一步加深自己的诚意。说不定是没给上帝足够的时间吧,他给上帝的限期只有十九天嘛。过了一两天,他又开始祷告了。这一回,他把日期定在复活节。那是上帝的圣子光荣复活的日子,说不定上帝沉浸在幸福之中,会越发慈悲为怀的吧。菲利普但求如愿以偿,又加用了其他一些办法:每当他看到一轮新月或者一匹有斑纹的马,他就开始为自己祝愿;他还留神天上的流星。有一回他假日回来,正碰上家里吃鸡,他同路易莎伯母一块儿扯那根如愿骨时,他又表示了自己的心愿。每一回,他都祈祷自己的跛足能恢复正常。不知不觉间,他竟祈求起自己种族最早信奉的诸神抵来,这些神抵比以色列信奉的上帝具有更悠远的历史。白天,只要有空,只要他记起来,就一遍又一遍地向全能的主祈祷,总是一成不变的那几句话。在他看来,用同样的言词向上帝请求,是至关重要的。但过了不久,他又隐隐约约感到这一回他的信念也还不够深。他无法抵御向他阵阵袭来的疑虑。他把自己的切身体验归纳成这样一条规律:

"依我看,谁也没法心诚到那种地步,"他说。

这就像他保姆过去常对他说起的盐的妙用一样。她说:不管是什么乌,只要你往它尾巴上撒点盐,就能轻而易举地将它逮住。有一次,菲利普真的带着一小袋盐,进了肯辛顿花园。但是他怎么也没法挨近小鸟,以便能把盐撒在它尾巴上。他没到复活节,就放弃了这种努力。他对他大伯暗暗生出一股怨气,觉得自己上了大伯的当。《圣经》里讲的搬走大山的事,正是属于这种情况:说的是一码事,指的又是另一码事。他觉得他大伯一直在耍弄自己哩。


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