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chapter 21
Mr. Perkins soon saw that his words had had no effect on Philip, and for the rest of the term ignored him. He wrote a report which was vitriolic. When it arrived and Aunt Louisa asked Philip what it was like, he answered cheerfully.

‘Rotten.’

‘Is it?’ said the Vicar. ‘I must look at it again.’

‘Do you think there’s any use in my staying on at Tercanbury? I should have thought it would be better if I went to Germany for a bit.’

‘What has put that in your head?’ said Aunt Louisa.

‘Don’t you think it’s rather a good idea?’

Sharp had already left King’s School and had written to Philip from Hanover. He was really starting life, and it made Philip more restless to think of it. He felt he could not bear another year of restraint.

‘But then you wouldn’t get a scholarship.’

‘I haven’t a chance of getting one anyhow. And besides, I don’t know that I particularly want to go to Oxford.’

‘But if you’re going to be ordained, Philip?’ Aunt Louisa exclaimed in dismay.

‘I’ve given up that idea long ago.’

Mrs. Carey looked at him with startled eyes, and then, used to self-restraint, she poured out another cup of tea for his uncle. They did not speak. In a moment Philip saw tears slowly falling down her cheeks. His heart was suddenly wrung because he caused her pain. In her tight black dress, made by the dressmaker down the street, with her wrinkled face and pale tired eyes, her gray hair still done in the frivolous ringlets of her youth, she was a ridiculous but strangely pathetic figure. Philip saw it for the first time.

Afterwards, when the Vicar was shut up in his study with the curate, he put his arms round her waist.

‘I say, I’m sorry you’re upset, Aunt Louisa,’ he said. ‘But it’s no good my being ordained if I haven’t a real vocation, is it?’

‘I’m so disappointed, Philip,’ she moaned. ‘I’d set my heart on it. I thought you could be your uncle’s curate, and then when our time came—after all, we can’t last for ever, can we?—you might have taken his place.’

Philip shivered. He was seized with panic. His heart beat like a pigeon in a trap beating with its wings. His aunt wept softly, her head upon his shoulder.

‘I wish you’d persuade Uncle William to let me leave Tercanbury. I’m so sick of it.’

But the Vicar of Blackstable did not easily alter any arrangements he had made, and it had always been intended that Philip should stay at King’s School till he was eighteen, and should then go to Oxford. At all events he would not hear of Philip leaving then, for no notice had been given and the term’s fee would have to be paid in any case.

‘Then will you give notice for me to leave at Christmas?’ said Philip, at the end of a long and often bitter conversation.

‘I’ll write to Mr. Perkins about it and see what he says.’

‘Oh, I wish to goodness I were twenty-one. It is awful to be at somebody else’s beck and call.’

‘Philip, you shouldn’t speak to your uncle like that,’ said Mrs. Carey gently.

‘But don’t you see that Perkins will want me to stay? He gets so much a head for every chap in the school.’

‘Why don’t you want to go to Oxford?’

‘What’s the good if I’m not going into the Church?’

‘You can’t go into the Church: you’re in the Church already,’ said the Vicar.

‘Ordained then,’ replied Philip impatiently.

‘What are you going to be, Philip?’ asked Mrs. Carey.

‘I don’t know. I’ve not made up my mind. But whatever I am, it’ll be useful to know foreign languages. I shall get far more out of a year in Germany than by staying on at that hole.’

He would not say that he felt Oxford would be little better than a continuation of his life at school. He wished immensely to be his own master. Besides he would be known to a certain extent among old schoolfellows, and he wanted to get away from them all. He felt that his life at school had been a failure. He wanted to start fresh.

It happened that his desire to go to Germany fell in with certain ideas which had been of late discussed at Blackstable. Sometimes friends came to stay with the doctor and brought news of the world outside; and the visitors spending August by the sea had their own way of looking at things. The Vicar had heard that there were people who did not think the old-fashioned education so useful nowadays as it had been in the past, and modern languages were gaining an importance which they had not had in his own youth. His own mind was divided, for a younger brother of his had been sent to Germany when he failed in some examination, thus creating a precedent but since he had there died of typhoid it was impossible to look upon the experiment as other than dangerous. The result of innumerable conversations was that Philip should go back to Tercanbury for another term, and then should leave. With this agreement Philip was not dissatisfied. But when he had been back a few days the headmaster spoke to him.

‘I’ve had a letter from your uncle. It appears you want to go to Germany, and he asks me what I think about it.’

Philip was astounded. He was furious with his guardian for going back on his word.

‘I thought it was settled, sir,’ he said.

‘Far from it. I’ve written to say I think it the greatest mistake to take you away.’

Philip immediately sat down and wrote a violent letter to his uncle. He did not measure his language. He was so angry that he could not get to sleep till quite late that night, and he awoke in the early morning and began brooding over the way they had treated him. He waited impatiently for an answer. In two or three days it came. It was a mild, pained letter from Aunt Louisa, saying that he should not write such things to his uncle, who was very much distressed. He was unkind and unchristian. He must know they were only trying to do their best for him, and they were so much older than he that they must be better judges of what was good for him. Philip clenched his hands. He had heard that statement so often, and he could not see why it was true; they did not know the conditions as he did, why should they accept it as self-evident that their greater age gave them greater wisdom? The letter ended with the information that Mr. Carey had withdrawn the notice he had given.

Philip nursed his wrath till the next half-holiday. They had them on Tuesdays and Thursdays, since on Saturday afternoons they had to go to a service in the Cathedral. He stopped behind when the rest of the Sixth went out.

‘May I go to Blackstable this afternoon, please, sir?’ he asked.

‘No,’ said the headmaster briefly.

‘I wanted to see my uncle about something very important.’

‘Didn’t you hear me say no?’

Philip did not answer. He went out. He felt almost sick with humiliation, the humiliation of having to ask and the humiliation of the curt refusal. He hated the headmaster now. Philip writhed under that despotism which never vouchsafed a reason for the most tyrannous act. He was too angry to care what he did, and after dinner walked down to the station, by the back ways he knew so well, just in time to catch the train to Blackstable. He walked into the vicarage and found his uncle and aunt sitting in the dining-room.

‘Hulloa, where have you sprung from?’ said the Vicar.

It was very clear that he was not pleased to see him. He looked a little uneasy.

‘I thought I’d come and see you about my leaving. I want to know what you mean by promising me one thing when I was here, and doing something different a week after.’

He was a little frightened at his own boldness, but he had made up his mind exactly what words to use, and, though his heart beat violently, he forced himself to say them.

‘Have you got leave to come here this afternoon?’

‘No. I asked Perkins and he refused. If you like to write and tell him I’ve been here you can get me into a really fine old row.’

Mrs. Carey sat knitting with trembling hands. She was unused to scenes and they agitated her extremely.

‘It would serve you right if I told him,’ said Mr. Carey.

‘If you like to be a perfect sneak you can. After writing to Perkins as you did you’re quite capable of it.’

It was foolish of Philip to say that, because it gave the Vicar exactly the opportunity he wanted.

‘I’m not going to sit still while you say impertinent things to me,’ he said with dignity.

He got up and walked quickly out of the room into his study. Philip heard him shut the door and lock it.

‘Oh, I wish to God I were twenty-one. It is awful to be tied down like this.’

Aunt Louisa began to cry quietly.

‘Oh, Philip, you oughtn’t to have spoken to your uncle like that. Do please go and tell him you’re sorry.’

‘I’m not in the least sorry. He’s taking a mean advantage. Of course it’s just waste of money keeping me on at school, but what does he care? It’s not his money. It was cruel to put me under the guardianship of people who know nothing about things.’

‘Philip.’

Philip in his voluble anger stopped suddenly at the sound of her voice. It was heart-broken. He had not realised what bitter things he was saying.

‘Philip, how can you be so unkind? You know we are only trying to do our best for you, and we know that we have no experience; it isn’t as if we’d had any children of our own: that’s why we consulted Mr. Perkins.’ Her voice broke. ‘I’ve tried to be like a mother to you. I’ve loved you as if you were my own son.’

She was so small and frail, there was something so pathetic in her old-maidish air, that Philip was touched. A great lump came suddenly in his throat and his eyes filled with tears.

‘I’m so sorry,’ he said. ‘I didn’t mean to be beastly.’

He knelt down beside her and took her in his arms, and kissed her wet, withered cheeks. She sobbed bitterly, and he seemed to feel on a sudden the pity of that wasted life. She had never surrendered herself before to such a display of emotion.

‘I know I’ve not been what I wanted to be to you, Philip, but I didn’t know how. It’s been just as dreadful for me to have no children as for you to have no mother.’

Philip forgot his anger and his own concerns, but thought only of consoling her, with broken words and clumsy little caresses. Then the clock struck, and he had to bolt off at once to catch the only train that would get him back to Tercanbury in time for call-over. As he sat in the corner of the railway carriage he saw that he had done nothing. He was angry with himself for his weakness. It was despicable to have allowed himself to be turned from his purpose by the pompous airs of the Vicar and the tears of his aunt. But as the result of he knew not what conversations between the couple another letter was written to the headmaster. Mr. Perkins read it with an impatient shrug of the shoulders. He showed it to Philip. It ran:

Dear Mr. Perkins,

Forgive me for troubling you again about my ward, but both his Aunt and I have been uneasy about him. He seems very anxious to leave school, and his Aunt thinks he is unhappy. It is very difficult for us to know what to do as we are not his parents. He does not seem to think he is doing very well and he feels it is wasting his money to stay on. I should be very much obliged if you would have a talk to him, and if he is still of the same mind perhaps it would be better if he left at Christmas as I originally intended.

Yours very truly,  William Carey.

Philip gave him back the letter. He felt a thrill of pride in his triumph. He had got his own way, and he was satisfied. His will had gained a victory over the wills of others.

‘It’s not much good my spending half an hour writing to your uncle if he changes his mind the next letter he gets from you,’ said the headmaster irritably.

Philip said nothing, and his face was perfectly placid; but he could not prevent the twinkle in his eyes. Mr. Perkins noticed it and broke into a little laugh.

‘You’ve rather scored, haven’t you?’ he said.

Then Philip smiled outright. He could not conceal his exultation.

‘Is it true that you’re very anxious to leave?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Are you unhappy here?’

Philip blushed. He hated instinctively any attempt to get into the depths of his feelings.

‘Oh, I don’t know, sir.’

Mr. Perkins, slowly dragging his fingers through his beard, looked at him thoughtfully. He seemed to speak almost to himself.

‘Of course schools are made for the average. The holes are all round, and whatever shape the pegs are they must wedge in somehow. One hasn’t time to bother about anything but the average.’ Then suddenly he addressed himself to Philip: ‘Look here, I’ve got a suggestion to make to you. It’s getting on towards the end of the term now. Another term won’t kill you, and if you want to go to Germany you’d better go after Easter than after Christmas. It’ll be much pleasanter in the spring than in midwinter. If at the end of the next term you still want to go I’ll make no objection. What d’you say to that?’

‘Thank you very much, sir.’

Philip was so glad to have gained the last three months that he did not mind the extra term. The school seemed less of a prison when he knew that before Easter he would be free from it for ever. His heart danced within him. That evening in chapel he looked round at the boys, standing according to their forms, each in his due place, and he chuckled with satisfaction at the thought that soon he would never see them again. It made him regard them almost with a friendly feeling. His eyes rested on Rose. Rose took his position as a monitor very seriously: he had quite an idea of being a good influence in the school; it was his turn to read the lesson that evening, and he read it very well. Philip smiled when he thought that he would be rid of him for ever, and it would not matter in six months whether Rose was tall and straight-limbed; and where would the importance be that he was a monitor and captain of the eleven? Philip looked at the masters in their gowns. Gordon was dead, he had died of apoplexy two years before, but all the rest were there. Philip knew now what a poor lot they were, except Turner perhaps, there was something of a man in him; and he writhed at the thought of the subjection in which they had held him. In six months they would not matter either. Their praise would mean nothing to him, and he would shrug his shoulders at their censure.

Philip had learned not to express his emotions by outward signs, and shyness still tormented him, but he had often very high spirits; and then, though he limped about demurely, silent and reserved, it seemed to be hallooing in his heart. He seemed to himself to walk more lightly. All sorts of ideas danced through his head, fancies chased one another so furiously that he could not catch them; but their coming and their going filled him with exhilaration. Now, being happy, he was able to work, and during the remaining weeks of the term set himself to make up for his long neglect. His brain worked easily, and he took a keen pleasure in the activity of his intellect. He did very well in the examinations that closed the term. Mr. Perkins made only one remark: he was talking to him about an essay he had written, and, after the usual criticisms, said:

‘So you’ve made up your mind to stop playing the fool for a bit, have you?’

He smiled at him with his shining teeth, and Philip, looking down, gave an embarrassed smile.

The half dozen boys who expected to divide between them the various prizes which were given at the end of the summer term had ceased to look upon Philip as a serious rival, but now they began to regard him with some uneasiness. He told no one that he was leaving at Easter and so was in no sense a competitor, but left them to their anxieties. He knew that Rose flattered himself on his French, for he had spent two or three holidays in France; and he expected to get the Dean’s Prize for English essay; Philip got a good deal of satisfaction in watching his dismay when he saw how much better Philip was doing in these subjects than himself. Another fellow, Norton, could not go to Oxford unless he got one of the scholarships at the disposal of the school. He asked Philip if he was going in for them.

‘Have you any objection?’ asked Philip.

It entertained him to think that he held someone else’s future in his hand. There was something romantic in getting these various rewards actually in his grasp, and then leaving them to others because he disdained them. At last the breaking-up day came, and he went to Mr. Perkins to bid him good-bye.

‘You don’t mean to say you really want to leave?’

Philip’s face fell at the headmaster’s evident surprise.

‘You said you wouldn’t put any objection in the way, sir,’ he answered.

‘I thought it was only a whim that I’d better humour. I know you’re obstinate and headstrong. What on earth d’you want to leave for now? You’ve only got another term in any case. You can get the Magdalen scholarship easily; you’ll get half the prizes we’ve got to give.’

Philip looked at him sullenly. He felt that he had been tricked; but he had the promise, and Perkins would have to stand by it.

‘You’ll have a very pleasant time at Oxford. You needn’t decide at once what you’re going to do afterwards. I wonder if you realise how delightful the life is up there for anyone who has brains.’

‘I’ve made all my arrangements now to go to Germany, sir,’ said Philip.

‘Are they arrangements that couldn’t possibly be altered?’ asked Mr. Perkins, with his quizzical smile. ‘I shall be very sorry to lose you. In schools the rather stupid boys who work always do better than the clever boy who’s idle, but when the clever boy works—why then, he does what you’ve done this term.’

Philip flushed darkly. He was unused to compliments, and no one had ever told him he was clever. The headmaster put his hand on Philip’s shoulder.

‘You know, driving things into the heads of thick-witted boys is dull work, but when now and then you have the chance of teaching a boy who comes half-way towards you, who understands almost before you’ve got the words out of your mouth, why, then teaching is the most exhilarating thing in the world.’ Philip was melted by kindness; it had never occurred to him that it mattered really to Mr. Perkins whether he went or stayed. He was touched and immensely flattered. It would be pleasant to end up his school-days with glory and then go to Oxford: in a flash there appeared before him the life which he had heard described from boys who came back to play in the O.K.S. match or in letters from the University read out in one of the studies. But he was ashamed; he would look such a fool in his own eyes if he gave in now; his uncle would chuckle at the success of the headmaster’s ruse. It was rather a come-down from the dramatic surrender of all these prizes which were in his reach, because he disdained to take them, to the plain, ordinary winning of them. It only required a little more persuasion, just enough to save his self-respect, and Philip would have done anything that Mr. Perkins wished; but his face showed nothing of his conflicting emotions. It was placid and sullen.

‘I think I’d rather go, sir,’ he said.

Mr. Perkins, like many men who manage things by their personal influence, grew a little impatient when his power was not immediately manifest. He had a great deal of work to do, and could not waste more time on a boy who seemed to him insanely obstinate.

‘Very well, I promised to let you if you really wanted it, and I keep my promise. When do you go to Germany?’

Philip’s heart beat violently. The battle was won, and he did not know whether he had not rather lost it.

‘At the beginning of May, sir,’ he answered.

‘Well, you must come and see us when you get back.’

He held out his hand. If he had given him one more chance Philip would have changed his mind, but he seemed to look upon the matter as settled. Philip walked out of the house. His school-days were over, and he was free; but the wild exultation to which he had looked forward at that moment was not there. He walked round the precincts slowly, and a profound depression seized him. He wished now that he had not been foolish. He did not want to go, but he knew he could never bring himself to go to the headmaster and tell him he would stay. That was a humiliation he could never put upon himself. He wondered whether he had done right. He was dissatisfied with himself and with all his circumstances. He asked himself dully whether whenever you got your way you wished afterwards that you hadn’t.

 

第二十一章

没多久珀金斯先生就明白了,自己的那席话对菲利普不起什么作用,因而那学期就再也没去理他。学期终了,珀金斯先生给他写了份措词辛辣的报告单。学校报告单寄到家里时,路易莎伯母问菲利普报告单上怎么说的,菲利普嬉皮笑脸地答道:

"糟透了。"

"是吗?"牧师说,"那我得再看一下。"

"您觉得我在坎特伯雷呆下去真有好处?我早该想到,还是去德国果一阵于的好。"

"你怎么会生出这么个念头来的?"路易莎伯母说。

"您不觉得这是个挺好的主意吗?"

夏普已经离开了皇家公学,并从汉诺威给菲利普写过信。他才是真正挪开了生活的步子呐,菲利普每想到这点,就越发坐立不安。要他再在学校的樊笼里熬上一年,真觉得受不了。

"那你就拿不到奖学金啦。"

"反正我已经没指望了,再说,我觉得自己也不怎么特别想进牛津念书。"

"可你将来不是要当牧师的吗,菲利普?"路易莎伯母惊叫起来。

"我早就不做那个梦了。"

凯里太太瞪着双惊愕的眼睛,愣愣地望着菲利普,不过她惯于自我克制,旋即转身给菲利普的大伯又倒了一杯茶。伯侄二人全都沉默不语。顷刻,菲利普看见眼泪沿着伯母的双颊缓缓淌下。他的心猛地一抽,因为他给她带来了痛苦。她穿着街那头的成衣匠给她缝制的黑色紧身外衣,脸上布满了皱纹,眼神暗淡而倦怠,那一头灰发仍按年轻时的发式梳理成一圈圈轻佻的小发卷,她的整个儿模样,既引人发笑,又不知怎么叫人觉着怪可怜的。菲利普还是头一回注意到这一点。

后来,等牧师进了书房,关起门同副牧师在里面谈心的时候,菲利普伸出条胳臂一把搂住他伯母的腰。

"唉,路易莎伯母,真对不起,我使您伤心了,"他说。"但是,如果我秉性不宜当牧师,即使勉强当了,也不会有什么出息的,您说呢?"

"这太叫我失望了,菲利普,"她呻吟着说。"我早就存了这份心思。我想你将来可以成为你大伯的副手,万一我们有个三长两短--我们毕竟不可能长生不老的,是不--你就。可以接替你大伯的位置。"

菲利普惊慌失措,心儿怦怦直跳,浑身像筛糠般抖动,好似误人罗网的鸽子在不停地扑打翅膀。伯母把头靠在他肩上,抽抽搭搭地呜咽起来。

"希望您能劝劝威廉大伯,放我离开坎特伯雷算了。那地方我讨厌透了。"

然而,要那位布莱克斯泰勃的教区牧师改变主意,谈何容易。根据原来的打算,菲利普得在皇家公学呆到十八岁,随后进牛津深造。关于菲利普这时想退学的事儿,他说什么也听不进去,因为事先没有通知过学校,这学期的学费不管怎样还得照付不误。

"那您是不是通知一下学校,说我圣诞节要离开学校?"经过长时间舌剑唇枪的争论,菲利普最后这么说。

"好吧,我就写信给珀金斯先生,告诉他这件事,看看他有什么意见。"

"上帝哟,但愿我现在就满二十一岁了。干什么都得要别人点头,真憋气!"

"菲利普,你不该这么对你大伯说话啊,"凯里太太温和地说。

"难道你不知道珀金斯先生是不会放我走的吗?他恨不得把每个学生部攥在手心里呢。"

"你为什么不想上牛津念书?"

"既然我将来不打算当牧师,进牛津又有什么意思?"

"什么打算不打算当牧师,你已经是教会里的人啦!"牧师说。

"这么说,已经是牧师罗,"菲利普不耐烦地顶了一句。

"那你打算干什么呢,菲利普?"凯里太太问。

"我也说不上。我还没打定主意。不过将来不管干什么,学点外语总是有用的。在德国住上一年,要比继续呆在那个鬼地方强多了。"

菲利普觉得进牛津无非还是他学校中涯的继续,并不比现在强,不过他不愿意这么直说。他满心希望能主宰自己的命运。况且,一些老同学多多少少知道他这个人,而他就是想远远避开他们。他觉得他的求学生涯完全失败了。他要改弦易辙,开始新的生活。

说来也凑巧,菲利普想去德国的念头,正好和最近布莱克斯泰勃人们议沦的某些主张不谋而合。有时候,医生家有些朋友来访小住,他们谈到外界发生的新鲜事儿;八月里来海滨消夏的那此游人,也自有一套独特的观察事物的方式。牧师也听说过,有人认为老式教育目前已不及过去那么管用,他年轻时不为人重视的各种现代语,现在却日见重要。连他自己也感到有点无所适从。他的一个弟弟有回考试设及格,后来被送去德国念书,由此开创了个先例。但是既然后来他患伤寒死于异国他乡,就只能说明这样的试验实在危险得很。伯侄俩不知磨了多少嘴皮子,最后总算谈妥了:菲利普再回坎特伯雷读一学期,然后就离开那儿。对这样的解决办法,菲利普并不怎么满意。哪知他回学校几天之后校长就对他说:

"我收到你伯父的一封来信。看来你是想要去德国,他问我对这件事有什么看法。"

菲利普惊得目瞪口呆。他的保护人竟然说话不算数,这不能不使他人冒三丈。

"我认为事情已经定啦,先生,"他说。

"远非如此。我已经写信告诉你伯父,我认为让你中途退学是莫大的错误。"

菲利普立刻坐下来,给他大伯写了一封措词激烈的信。他也顾不上斟词酌句。那天晚上,他气得连党也睡不着,一直到深夜还在想这件事;一早醒来,又在细细琢磨他们耍弄自己的手法。菲利普心急如焚地等着回信。过了两三天回信来了,是路易莎伯母写的,写得很婉转,字里行间充满了痛苦,说菲利普不该对他大伯说那种话,搞得他大伯伤心透了,说他不懂得体谅人,没有基督徒的宽容精神;他得知道,他们为他费尽了心血,况且他们年纪比他大得多,究竟什么对他有利,想必更能作出判断。菲利普把拳头捏得紧紧的。这种话他听得多了,真不明白为什么有人将此奉为金科玉律。他们并不像他自己那样了解实际情况,他们凭哪点可以这么想当然,认为年长必定智高睿深呢?那封信的结尾还提到,凯里先谁已经撤回了他给学校的退学通知。

菲利普满腔怒火,一直憋到下个星期的半休日。学校的半休日一般放在星期二和星期四,因为星期六下午他们都得去大教堂做礼拜。那天上完课,六年级学生都散了,只有菲利普待着不走。

"先生,今天下午我想回布莱克斯泰勃,可以吗?"他问。

"不行,"校长回答得很干脆。

"我有要紧事同我大伯商量。"

"你没听到我说'不行'吗?'

菲利普二话不说,掉头出了教室。他羞愧难当,心里直想吐。他蒙受了双重羞辱,先是不得不启口求人,继而又被一口回绝。现在他痛恨这位校长。这种极端蛮不讲理的专横作风,真使菲利普揪心。他怒火中烧,什么也顾不上了,一吃过午饭,便抄一条自己很熟悉的小路走到火车站,正好赶上开往布莱克斯泰勃的班车。他走进牧师公馆,看见大伯和伯母正坐在餐室内。

"嘿,你打哪儿冒出来的?"牧师说。

很明显,他并不怎么高兴见到菲利普,看上去还有点局促不安。

"我来是要找您谈谈我离校的事。上回我在这儿的时候,您明明亲口答应了,谁知一星期后又突然变卦了,我想搞清楚你这么出尔反尔究竟是什么意思。"

菲利普不免对自己的大胆微微感到吃惊,但是自己究竟要说些什么他反正已拿定了主意,所以尽管心头小鹿猛撞不已,还是逼着自己一吐为快。

"你今天下午来这儿,学校准你假了?"

"没有。我向珀金斯先生请假,被他一口拒绝了。要是你高兴,不妨写信告诉他我来过这儿了,包管可以让我挨一顿臭骂呢。"

凯里太太坐在一旁做编结活,手不住地颤颤抖抖。她看不惯别人争吵,此刻伯侄俩剑拔弩张的场面,使她如坐针毡。

"要是我真的写信告诉他,你挨骂也是活该,"凯里先生说。

"你要是想当个道地的告密者,那也成嘛,反正你已经给珀金斯先生写过信了,这种事你内行着呢。"

菲利普说这些个话实在不高明,正好给了牧师一个求之不得的脱身机会。

"我可不想再坐在这儿,仕你冲着我满口胡言,"他气宇轩昂地说。

他站起身,阔步走出餐室,进了书房。菲利普听见他砰地关上了房门,而且还上了锁。

"唉,上帝,但愿我现在满二:十一岁就好了。像这样受人钳制糟糕透了。"

路易莎伯母低声抽泣起来。

"噢,菲利普,你可不该用这种态度对你伯父说话,快去给他赔个不是。"

"我可没什么要赔不是的。明明是他在要弄我嘛。让我继续留在那儿念书,还不是白白浪费金钱,但他在乎什么呢?反正又不是他的钱。让一些什么也不懂的人来做我的监护人,真够残忍的。"

"菲利普"

菲利普正口若悬河,发泄着心头怨气,听到她这一声叫唤,猛地闭上了嘴。那是声悲痛欲绝的凄叫。他没意识到自己说的话有多刻薄。

"菲利普,你怎么可以这么没有心肝?你要知道我们费尽心血无非是为了你好。我们知道自己没有经验,这可不比我们自己有过孩子,所以我们只得写信去请教珀金斯先生。"她声音发抖,一时说不下去。"我尽量像母亲那样对待你。我爱你,把你看作自己的亲生儿子。"

她小不丁点的个儿,风也吹得倒似的,在她老处女似的神态里,含带着几分凄迷的哀怨,菲利普的心被打动了。他喉咙口突然一阵梗塞,热泪夺眶而出。

"真对不起,"他说,"我不是存心要伤您老的心哪。"

他在她身旁跪下,张开胳膊将她抱住,吻着她那老泪纵横、憔悴的双颊。她伤心地低声饮泣;菲利普似乎油然生出一股怜悯之情,可怜她的一生就这么白白虚度了。她从来未像现在这样淋漓尽致地流露自己的情感。

"我知道,我一直不能按我心里想的那样对待你,菲利普,也不知道怎么才能把我的心掏给你。我膝下无儿,就像你幼年丧母一样,够寒心的。"

菲利普忘却了自己的满腔怒火,忘却了自己的重重心事,只想着怎么让她宽心,他结结巴巴地好言相劝,一边用小手笨拙地抚摸着她的身子。这时,时钟敲响了。他得立即动身去赶火车,只有赶上这趟车,才能及时返回坎特伯雷参加晚点名。当他在火车车厢的一角坐定,这才明白过来,门自己么也没干成,白跑了一趟。他对自己的懦弱无能感到气愤。牧师旁若无人的傲态,还有他伯母的几滴眼泪,竟搞得自己晕头转向,忘了回家是干什么来的了,真窝囊。然而,在他走后,也不知道那老两口于是怎么商量的,结果又有一封信写给了校长。珀金斯先生看到后,不耐烦地耸了耸肩。他把信让菲利普看了。上面这样写道:

亲爱的珀金斯先生:

请原谅我为菲利普的事儿再次冒昧打扰您。这个受我监护的孩子,实

在让我和内人焦虑不安。看来他急切希望离开学校,他伯母也觉得他愁苦

不开心。我们不是他的生身父母,究竟该如何处置,我们委实一筹莫展。

他似乎认为自己的学业不甚理想,觉得继续留在学校纯属浪费金钱。要是

您能同他恳谈一次,我们将感激不尽;倘若他不愿回心转意,也许还是按

我原先的打算让他在圣诞节离校为好。

您的非常忠实的

威廉·凯里

菲利普把信还给校长,一阵胜利的自豪感涌上心头。他毕竟如愿以偿,争取到了自行其事的权利,他的意志战胜了他人的意志。

"你大伯收到你下一封信,说不定又要改变主意了,我犯不着花半个钟头来复他的信,"校长不无恼怒地说。

菲利普默然不语,尽管他脸上一点声色不露,却无法掩饰眸子里的灼灼闪光。珀金斯先生觉察到了他的眼神,呵呵地笑了起来。

"你算得胜了,是吗?"他说。

菲利普坦然地莞尔一笑。他掩饰不住内心的狂喜。

"你真的急于想离开吗?"

"是的,先生。"

"你觉得在这儿心情不舒畅?"

菲利普涨红了脸,他本能地讨厌别人刺探他内心深处的情感。

"哦,我说不上来,先生。"

珀金斯光生慢条斯理地捋着下巴上的胡子,若有所思地打量着菲利普看来,他仿佛是在自言自语。

"当然罗,学校是为智力平常的学生而设的。反正就是这些个圆孔儿,管你木桩是方是圆,都得楔进去呆在那儿。谁也没时间去为那些智力出众的学生劳神费心。"接着,他猝然冲着菲利普发话:"听着,我倒有个建议,你不妨听听。这学期反正没多少日子了,再待上一个学期,不见得会要你的命吧。假如你真想去德国,最好等过了复活节,别一过圣诞节就走。春日出门远比隆冬舒服嘛。要是等到下学期结束,你仍坚持要走,我就不阻拦你了。你觉得怎么样?"

"多谢您了,先生。"

菲利普满心喜悦,总算争取到了那最后三个月的时间,多呆一个学期也不在乎了。想到在复活节前就可以得到永久的解脱,学校似乎也减却了几分樊笼的气氛。菲利普心花怒放。那天晚上在学校小教堂里,他环顾周围那些规规矩矩站在年级队列里的同学,想到自己要不了多久就再见不着他们了,禁不住窃窃自喜。他几乎怀着友好的情意打量他们。他的目光落在了罗斯身上。罗斯一丝不苟地履行着班长的职责;他这个人一心想成为学校里有影响的模范学生。那天晚上,正轮到他朗读经文,他念得很生动。菲利普想到自己将与他永远分道扬镳,脸上绽出一缕笑纹。再过六个月,管他罗斯身材怎么高大,四肢怎么健全,都于他毫无关系了;罗斯当班长也罢,当耶稣十一个门徒的头头也罢,又有什么了不起呢?菲利普凝神注视那些身穿教士服的老夫子。戈登已经作古,两年前中风死的。其余的全都齐集一堂。菲利普现在明白他们是多么可怜的一群,也许特纳算得上个例外。他身上多少还有点人的气味。他想到自己竞一直受着这些人的管束,不觉感到痛心。再过六个月,也不用再买他们的帐了。他们的褒奖对他再没有什么意义,至于他们的训斥,尽可耸耸肩膀一笑了之。

菲利普已学会克制自己的感情,做到喜怒不形于色。尽管他仍为自己的扭。怩羞怯感到苦恼,然而就精神状态来说,倒往往是热烈而高昂的。他拐着条腿,带着淡漠的神情,沉默而拘谨地踽踽决独行,但他内心却洋溢着欢乐,在大声欢呼。在他自己看来,似乎觉得步履也轻松了。脑子里万念丛生,遐想联翩,简直难以捕捉。然而它们来而复往,给他留下了喜不自胜的满腔激情。现在,他心情开朗,叶以专心致志地刻苦攻读了。他决心在本学期剩余的几个星期里,把荒废多时的学业再补起来。他资质聪慧,脑子灵活,以激发自己的才智为人生一大快事。在期终考试时,他取得了优异的成绩。对此,珀金斯先生只简单评论了一句,那是他给菲利普评讲作文时说的。珀金斯先生作了一般性的评讲之后,说:

"看来你已下定决心不再做傻事了,是吗?"

他对菲利普微微一笑,露出一口皓齿,而菲利普则双目下垂,局促不安地回以一笑。

有五六个学生,一心希望明年夏季学期结束时,能把学校颁发的各种奖品和奖学金全都给包了,他们早已把菲利普排除在劲敌之外,现在却不得不对他刮目相看,且有点惴惴不安。菲利普将在复活节离校,所以根本谈不上是什么竞争对手,可是他在同学中间半点口风不露,任他们整日价提心吊胆。他知道,罗斯曾在法国度过两三个假期,自以为在法语方面胜人一筹;此外还希望能把牧师会教长颁发的英语作文奖拿到手。但罗斯现在发现,菲利普在这两门科目上远远胜过了自己,不免有些泄气;菲利普则冷眼相看,暗暗感到极大的满足。还有一个叫诺顿的同窗,要是拿不到学校的奖学金就没法进牛津念书。他问菲利普是否在争取奖学金。

"你有意见怎么的?"菲利普反诘了一句。

菲利普想到别人的前途竞操在自己手心里,觉得怪有趣的。这样的做法真有几分浪漫色彩--一先把各种各样的奖赏尽数抓在自己的掌心里,然后,因为自己不稀罕这些劳什子才让别人沾点便宜。冬去春来,预定分千的日子终于到了,菲利普前去同珀金斯先生告别。

"总不见得你当真要离开这儿吧?"

看到校长明显的惊讶神色,菲利普沉下脸来。

"您说过到时候不会横加阻拦的,先生,"菲利普回答道。

"我当时想,你不过是一时心血来潮,还是暂时迁就一下的好。现在看来你这个人脾气既固执,又刚愎自用。你倒说说,你现在急着要走究竟为的什么?不管怎么说,至多也只有一个学期了。你可以轻而易举地获得马格达兰学院的奖学金;我们学校颁发的各种奖品,你可以稳稳拿到一半

菲利普噘嘴望着珀金斯先生,觉得自己又被人捉弄了。不过珀金斯先生既然向自己许下了愿,他非得兑现不可。

"在牛津你会过得很顺心的。到了那儿不必立即决定今后要干什么。不知你是否了解,对于任何一个有头脑的人来说,那儿的生活有多愉快。"

"眼下我已经作好去德国的一切安排,先生,"菲利普说。

"安排好了就不能改变吗?"珀金斯先生问,嘴角上挂着嘲弄的浅笑。"失去你这样的学生,我很惋惜。学校里死啃书本的笨学生,成绩往往比偷懒的聪明学生要好,不过要是学生既聪明又肯用功,那会怎么样呢--会取得像你这学期所取得的成绩。"

菲利普满脸绯红。他不习惯听别人的恭维话,在这之前,还没有人夸过他聪明呐。校长把手按在菲利普的肩头上。

"你知道,要把知识硬塞到笨学生的脑瓜于里去,实在是件乏味的苦差事。要是不时有机会遇上个心有灵犀的聪明孩子,你只须稍加点拨,他就豁然贯通了。嘿,这时候呀,世上再没有比教书更快人心意的事儿了。"

校长的一片好意,使菲利普的心软了下来。他压根儿没想到珀金斯先生对于自己的去留这么在乎。他被打动了,心里有种说不出的甜美滋味。要是极其光彩地结束中学时代的学习生活,然后再进牛津深造,那该有多好呢。霎时间,他眼前闪现出一幕幕大学的生活场景。这些情况有的是从回校参加O.K.S.比赛的校友们的谈话中了解到的,有的是从同学们在书室里朗读的校友来信里听到的。但是他感到惭愧,假如他现在打起退堂鼓来,那他在自己眼里也是个十足的大傻瓜;他大伯会为校长的诡计得逞而暗暗窃笑。他本不把学校那些奖品放在眼里,因而打算颇有戏剧性地放弃这些唾手可得的东西,现在如果突然也像普通人一样去明争暗夺,这种前据后恭的态度岂不贻笑于他人。其实在这时候,只需有人从旁再规劝菲利普几句,给足他面子,他就会完全按珀金斯先生的愿望去做了。不过此时他声色不改,一点儿也没流露出他内心情感的冲突,怏怏不乐的脸上,显得很平静。

"我想还是离开的好,先生,"他说。

珀金斯先生也像许多惯于凭借个人影响处理事情的人那样,见到自己花的气力不能立时奏效,便有点不耐烦了。他要办的事情多着呢,总不能净把时间浪费在一个在他看来似乎是冥顽不化的疯孩子身上呀。

"好吧,我说过要是你执意要走,就放你走。我泺恪守的己的诺言。你你什么时候去德国?"菲利普的心剧烈搏动。这一仗算是打赢了反倒更好呢,他说不上来。

"五月初就走,先生,"菲利普回答说。

"嗯,你回来以后,务必来看看我们。"

他伸出了手。假如他再给菲利普一次机会,菲利普是会回心转意的,但是他觉得木已成舟,断无挽回的余地了。菲利普走出屋子。他的中学生涯就此结束了。他自由了。可是以前一直翘首期待的那种欣喜若狂的激情,这时却不知了去向。他在教堂园地里踟躇逡巡,心头沉甸甸的,感到无限压抑。现在,他懊悔自己不该这么愚蠢。他不想走了,但是,他知道他无论如何也不会再跑到校长跟前,说自己愿意留下来。他永远也不会让自己蒙受这等羞辱。他拿不准自己做得究竟对不对。他对自己,对自己周围的一切都感到忿忿不满。他怅们地问自己:这是不是人之常情呢,好不容易达到了目的,事后反倒希望自己功败垂成呢!


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