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chapter 25
The oddest of Philip’s masters was his teacher of French. Monsieur Ducroz was a citizen of Geneva. He was a tall old man, with a sallow skin and hollow cheeks; his gray hair was thin and long. He wore shabby black clothes, with holes at the elbows of his coat and frayed trousers. His linen was very dirty. Philip had never seen him in a clean collar. He was a man of few words, who gave his lesson conscientiously but without enthusiasm, arriving as the clock struck and leaving on the minute. His charges were very small. He was taciturn, and what Philip learnt about him he learnt from others: it appeared that he had fought with Garibaldi against the Pope, but had left Italy in disgust when it was clear that all his efforts for freedom, by which he meant the establishment of a republic, tended to no more than an exchange of yokes; he had been expelled from Geneva for it was not known what political offences. Philip looked upon him with puzzled surprise; for he was very unlike his idea of the revolutionary: he spoke in a low voice and was extraordinarily polite; he never sat down till he was asked to; and when on rare occasions he met Philip in the street took off his hat with an elaborate gesture; he never laughed, he never even smiled. A more complete imagination than Philip’s might have pictured a youth of splendid hope, for he must have been entering upon manhood in 1848 when kings, remembering their brother of France, went about with an uneasy crick in their necks; and perhaps that passion for liberty which passed through Europe, sweeping before it what of absolutism and tyranny had reared its head during the reaction from the revolution of 1789, filled no breast with a hotter fire. One might fancy him, passionate with theories of human equality and human rights, discussing, arguing, fighting behind barricades in Paris, flying before the Austrian cavalry in Milan, imprisoned here, exiled from there, hoping on and upborne ever with the word which seemed so magical, the word Liberty; till at last, broken with disease and starvation, old, without means to keep body and soul together but such lessons as he could pick up from poor students, he found himself in that little neat town under the heel of a personal tyranny greater than any in Europe. Perhaps his taciturnity hid a contempt for the human race which had abandoned the great dreams of his youth and now wallowed in sluggish ease; or perhaps these thirty years of revolution had taught him that men are unfit for liberty, and he thought that he had spent his life in the pursuit of that which was not worth the finding. Or maybe he was tired out and waited only with indifference for the release of death.

One day Philip, with the bluntness of his age, asked him if it was true he had been with Garibaldi. The old man did not seem to attach any importance to the question. He answered quite quietly in as low a voice as usual.

‘Oui, monsieur.’

‘They say you were in the Commune?’

‘Do they? Shall we get on with our work?’

He held the book open and Philip, intimidated, began to translate the passage he had prepared.

One day Monsieur Ducroz seemed to be in great pain. He had been scarcely able to drag himself up the many stairs to Philip’s room: and when he arrived sat down heavily, his sallow face drawn, with beads of sweat on his forehead, trying to recover himself.

‘I’m afraid you’re ill,’ said Philip.

‘It’s of no consequence.’

But Philip saw that he was suffering, and at the end of the hour asked whether he would not prefer to give no more lessons till he was better.

‘No,’ said the old man, in his even low voice. ‘I prefer to go on while I am able.’

Philip, morbidly nervous when he had to make any reference to money, reddened.

‘But it won’t make any difference to you,’ he said. ‘I’ll pay for the lessons just the same. If you wouldn’t mind I’d like to give you the money for next week in advance.’

Monsieur Ducroz charged eighteen pence an hour. Philip took a ten-mark piece out of his pocket and shyly put it on the table. He could not bring himself to offer it as if the old man were a beggar.

‘In that case I think I won’t come again till I’m better.’ He took the coin and, without anything more than the elaborate bow with which he always took his leave, went out.

‘Bonjour, monsieur.’

Philip was vaguely disappointed. Thinking he had done a generous thing, he had expected that Monsieur Ducroz would overwhelm him with expressions of gratitude. He was taken aback to find that the old teacher accepted the present as though it were his due. He was so young, he did not realise how much less is the sense of obligation in those who receive favours than in those who grant them. Monsieur Ducroz appeared again five or six days later. He tottered a little more and was very weak, but seemed to have overcome the severity of the attack. He was no more communicative than he had been before. He remained mysterious, aloof, and dirty. He made no reference to his illness till after the lesson: and then, just as he was leaving, at the door, which he held open, he paused. He hesitated, as though to speak were difficult.

‘If it hadn’t been for the money you gave me I should have starved. It was all I had to live on.’

He made his solemn, obsequious bow, and went out. Philip felt a little lump in his throat. He seemed to realise in a fashion the hopeless bitterness of the old man’s struggle, and how hard life was for him when to himself it was so pleasant.

 

第二十五章

在菲利普的这些私人教师中,最古怪的要数法语教帅了。这位迪克罗先生是位日内瓦的公民,一个高个儿老头,肤色蜡黄,双颊凹陷,头发灰白,又稀又长。他衣履寒伧,穿一身黑,上衣的肘部已露出破洞,裤于也已磨损。内衣很脏,菲利普还从没见他的衣领有过干净的时候。他不爱多说话,教课时一丝不苟,就是没有什么热情:准时到达,按点离去,分秒不差。收取的教课费微乎其微。他沉默寡言;而有关他的一些情况,菲利普全是从别人那儿打听到的。据说他曾在反对罗马教皇的斗争中同加里波迪工并肩战斗过。等他清楚地看到为自由--所谓"自由"就是指建立共和国--所作的一切努力无非是换一副枷锁而已,便怀着厌恶的心情离开了意大利;后来不知在政治上犯了什么罪,被驱逐出日内瓦。看到这样一个人物,菲利普又困惑又惊奇,他和自己脑子里的革命者形象大相径庭。迪克罗先生说起话来声音低沉,待人接物特别彬彬有礼;别人不请他坐,他就一直站着;有时偶然在大街上遇到菲利普,他免不了要摘下帽子,行个很道地的手势礼;他从来没有出声笑过,甚至脸上从未浮现过一丝笑意。假使有人比菲利普具有更完善的想象力,就会把当年的迪克罗想象成一位前程似锦的青年,因为他想必是在一八四八年开始进入成年时期的。那个年头,国王们想到他们法国兄弟的下场,便如有芒刺在背,惶惶然四处奔走;也许,那股席卷了整个欧洲的渴求自由的热浪,以摧枯拉朽之势,荡涤着横在它面前的污秽杂物-一那些在一七八九年革命之后的反动逆流中死而复燃的专制主义和暴政残灰--在每一个胸膛内点燃了一把更炽热的烈火。人们不妨还可以这样想象:他热烈地信奉各种有关人类平等和人权的理论,同别人探讨、争论,在巴黎街垒后面挥戈战斗,在米兰的奥地利骑兵面前疾驰飞奔:一会儿在这儿锒铛下狱,一会儿又在那儿遭到放逐。他总是希望满怀。"自由"这个字眼,这个似乎具有无限魔力的字眼,始终赋予他支撑的力量。直到最后,他被疾病、饥饿、衰老压垮了,除了给几个穷学生上这么几节课以外,再无其他谋生糊口的手段了。而且他还发现自己置身于这座外表整洁的小城镇,备受专制独裁暴政的蹂躏,其肆虐程度,更甚于欧洲其他城市。也许在他沉默寡言的外表之下,隐伏着对人类的蔑视,因为他的同类,已背弃了他年轻时代所憧憬的那些伟大的理想,沉湎于碌碌无为的怡适之中。说不定三十年来的革命已经使他懂得,人类是不配享有自由的,他醒悟过来,自己一生孜孜以求的目标原来并不值得探求。再不然就是他已精疲力竭,正冷漠地等待从死亡中得到解脱。

一天,菲利普带着他那种年纪所特有的愣劲,问起他过去是否真的同加里波迪在一起呆过。那老头似乎一点儿没把这个问题当作一回事。他用平日里的那种低沉声调,十分平静地应答了一声:

"Oui Monsieur."

"听别人说,你参加过公社。"

"别人这么说的吗?让我们开始上课吧,呃"

他把书本翻开,菲利普战战兢兢地开始翻译那段他已准备好的课文。

有一天,迪克罗先生好像受到巨大的疼痛折磨,几乎连那几级楼梯也爬不动,一进菲利普的屋就沉沉地往椅子上一坐,想歇歇喘口气,那张灰黄色的脸歪扭着,额头上沁出一颗颗汗珠。

"恐怕您病了吧,"菲利普说。

"没关系。"

但是菲利普看得出他病得不轻,等上完课、菲利普问他是否最好歇几天,等身体好些再继续上课。

"不,"老头说,声调还是那么平稳、低沉,"我身体还行,我愿意继续教下去。"

菲利普在不得不提及钱的事儿时,心里总是紧得发慌,这会儿他脸涨得通红。

"但这反正对您没什么影响,"菲利普说,"我课金还是照付不误。要是您不介意,我想现在就把下星期的课金预付给您。"

迪克罗先生的课金,一小时十八个便士。菲利普从口袋里掏出一枚十马克的硬币,很难为情地把它放在桌子上。他怎么能把钱塞到老头手里呢,好像他是个乞丐似的。

"既然这样,我想我就等身体好些再来吧。"他收下了那枚硬币,还是问往常一样,向菲利普一躬到底之后就走了出去,再没有什么别的表示。

"Bonjour,Monsieur."

菲利普隐隐感到有点失望。想想自己如此慷慨解囊,迪克罗先生总该对他千恩万谢,感激涕零吧,哪知这位年迈的教师,收下这笔赠金就像是理所当然似的,菲利普颇感意外。他年纪还轻,不懂得人情世故。实际上,受惠者的知恩报答心理,要比施惠者的施恩图报心理淡薄得多。五六大之后,迪克罗先生又来了,步履越发踉跄,身体显得很衰弱,不过重病一场现在总算挺过来了。他仍旧像过去那样沉默寡言,还是那么神秘、孤僻、邋遢。一直等到上完了课,他才提到自己生病的事。接着,他起身告辞,就在他打开房门的时候,突然在门口刹住了脚。他犹豫着,仿佛有什么难言之隐似的。

"要不是您给我的那点钱,我早就饿死了。我全靠那点钱过日子。"

他庄重而巴结地鞠了一躬,走出房去。菲利普一阵心酸,喉咙口哽住了。他似乎多少有点明白过来,这位老人是在绝望的痛苦中挣扎着,就在菲利普觉着生活如此美好的时候,生活对这位老人来说却是多么艰难。


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