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首页 » 经典英文小说 » The Man With the Black Feather28章节 » CHAPTER IX
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It would seem that the Destiny which rules mankind takes a detestable pleasure in making the most serene1 joys come before the worst catastrophes2. Never had the three friends enjoyed a dinner more than the dinner which they had that night at the café Des Trois Etoiles. They dined well, the coffee was excellent, and the cigars which Adolphe had brought with him, and the Russian cigarettes which Marceline smoked, were excellent too. They lingered talking together for a long while after dinner; and their talk, which, under the guidance of Adolphe, never wandered far from the sphere of the occult which now so practically concerned them, was interesting and fascinating, in spite of the fact that that inveterate3 Parisian Theophrastus would now and again jest about his dangerous plight4. At half-past ten they left the restaurant and walked back to the flat in Gerando Street. Adolphe[Pg 117] bade them good-night at the bottom of the stairs.
That flat consisted of a narrow hall, nearly filled, and certainly cramped5, by a chest of polished oak. Into this hall four doors opened, those of the kitchen and dining-room on the left, those of the drawing-room and bedroom, which looked out on to the street, on the right. There was a third window looking out on to the street, that of the tiny room which Theophrastus had made his study. This study had two doors; one of them opened into the bedroom, the other into the dining-room. In this study was a bureau against the wall; and in it were drawers above and below its writing-table. This writing-table let down and shut up, and was fastened by a somewhat elaborate lock at the edge of the bureau's top. When it was locked, all the drawers were locked too. As a rule, Theophrastus used to set a little violet cat on the keyhole of the lock, as much to hide it as for ornament6.
This little violet cat, which had glass eyes, was nothing but an ingenious silk ball which acted as a pen-wiper and pin-cushion. About four feet away from the desk was a very small tea-table.
On entering their flat, Theophrastus and[Pg 118] Marceline, as was their custom, made a careful search in every room for a hidden burglar. Having, as usual, failed to find one, (Heaven alone knows what they would have done with him if they had!) they went to bed with their minds at ease. As the more timid of the two, Theophrastus slept next the wall. They were soon asleep, Theophrastus snoring gently.
Night. Not a carriage in the street. Silence.
The snoring of Theophrastus ceased. Was it that he had sunk into a deeper sleep? No: he sleeps no more. His throat is dry; he stares into the darkness with affrighted eyes; he grips with a cold hand, a hand which fear is freezing, the shoulder of Marceline and awakens7 her.
He says in a low voice, so low that she does not even hear him, "Do you hear?"
Marceline holds her breath; she clutches her husband's icy hand. They strain their ears; and they undoubtedly8 do hear something—in the flat.
In very truth it is nothing to laugh at. The man who can laugh at an inexplicable9 noise, at night, in a flat, has not yet been born! There are brave men, splendidly brave, who will stick at nothing, who will go anywhere at night, into the emptiest streets of the most disreputable[Pg 119] quarters, who would not hesitate to venture, just for the pleasure of it, into lampless blind alleys10. But I tell you, because it is the truth, and you know it is the truth, that the man who can laugh at an inexplicable noise, at night, in a flat, has not yet been born.
We have already seen Theophrastus sleepless11 on the night of the revelation of the dreadful secret which sprang from the stones of the Conciergerie. The anxiety which weighed on his heart that night, terrible as it had been, was as nothing compared with that which was now strangling him, because there was at night, in the flat, an inexplicable noise.
It was truly an odd noise, but beyond all doubting real; it was a long-drawn pur-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r. It came from behind the wall of the next room.
They sat up in bed noiselessly, with bristling12 hair, and beads13 of cold sweat standing14 out on their brows. From the other side of the wall came the strange pur-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r. It was the purring of a cat; they recognised that purring: it was the purring of the little violet cat. Marceline slipped down under the clothes and whispered:
"It's the purring of the violet cat. Go and see what's the matter with it, Theophrastus."
[Pg 120]Theophrastus did not budge15; he would have given a hundred thousand rubber stamps to be walking along the boulevard at mid-day.
"It's not natural that it should be purring like that," she added. "Go and see what's the matter with it. You must, Theophrastus! Get your revolver out of the drawer."
Theophrastus found the strength to say faintly, "You know quite well that it's not loaded."
They listened again; the purring had ceased; Marceline began to hope they had been mistaken. Then Theophrastus groaned16, got out of bed, took the revolver, and quietly opened the door leading into his study. It was bright in a sheet of moonlight; and what Theophrastus saw made him recoil17 with a dull cry, shut the door, and set his back against it as if to bar what he saw from entering the bedroom.
"What is it?" said Marceline hoarsely18.
The teeth of Theophrastus chattered19 as he said, "It has stopped purring; but it has moved!"
"Where is it?"
"On the tea-table."
"The violet cat is on the tea-table?"
[Pg 121]"Are you quite sure it was in its place last night?"
"Quite sure. I stuck my scarf-pin in its head. It was on the bureau, as it always is."
"You must have imagined it. Suppose I lit the light?" said Marceline.
"No, no, we might escape in the darkness ... Suppose I went and opened the door on to the landing, and called the porter?"
"Don't get so terrified," said Marceline, who was little by little recovering her wits, since she no longer heard the violet cat. "The whole thing was an illusion. You changed its place last night; and it didn't purr."
"After all, it's quite possible," said Theophrastus, whose one desire was to get back into bed.
"Go and put it back in its place," said Marceline.
Theophrastus braced20 himself to the effort, went into the study, and with a swift and trembling hand took the cat from the tea-table, set it back on the bureau, and hurried back into bed.
The violet cat was no sooner back on the bureau than he began again his pur-r-r-r-r-r-r-r. That purring only made them smile: they knew what had set it going. A quarter of an[Pg 122] hour had passed; they were almost asleep, when a second fright made them spring up in bed. A third purring struck on their ears. If the first purring had smitten21 them with terror, and the second made them smile, the third purring frightened them out of their lives.
"It's impossible!" said Marceline in a chattering22 whisper. "We're victims of an hallucination! B-B-B-Besides, it's n-n-not really surprising after what happened to you at the Conciergerie!"
The purring once more ceased. This time it was Marceline who rose. She opened the door of the study, turned sharply towards Theophrastus, and said, but in what a faint and dying voice:
"You didn't put the violet cat back on the bureau!"
"But I did!" groaned Theophrastus.
"But it's gone back to the tea-table!"
"Good God!" cried poor Theophrastus; and he buried his head under the bed-clothes.
The violet cat no longer purred. Marceline became persuaded that in his perturbation her husband had left it on the tea-table. She took it up, holding her breath, and set it back on the bureau. The violet cat made its purring heard for the fourth time. Marceline and Theophras[Pg 123]tus heard it with the same equanimity23 with which they had heard the second purring. The fourth purring stopped.
Another quarter of an hour passed: they were not asleep or even sleepy; and then there came a fifth purring.
Then, incredible to relate, Theophrastus leapt from the bed like a tiger, and cried:
"By the throttle24 of Madame Phalaris! This is too much of a good thing! What the deuce is that infernal violet cat up to?"


1 serene PD2zZ     
adj. 安详的,宁静的,平静的
  • He has entered the serene autumn of his life.他已进入了美好的中年时期。
  • He didn't speak much,he just smiled with that serene smile of his.他话不多,只是脸上露出他招牌式的淡定的微笑。
2 catastrophes 9d10f3014dc151d21be6612c0d467fd0     
n.灾祸( catastrophe的名词复数 );灾难;不幸事件;困难
  • Two of history's worst natural catastrophes occurred in 1970. 1970年发生了历史上最严重两次自然灾害。 来自辞典例句
  • The Swiss deposits contain evidence of such catastrophes. 瑞士的遗址里还有这种灾难的证据。 来自辞典例句
3 inveterate q4ox5     
  • Hitler was not only an avid reader but also an inveterate underliner.希特勒不仅酷爱读书,还有写写划划的习惯。
  • It is hard for an inveterate smoker to give up tobacco.要一位有多年烟瘾的烟民戒烟是困难的。
4 plight 820zI     
  • The leader was much concerned over the plight of the refugees.那位领袖对难民的困境很担忧。
  • She was in a most helpless plight.她真不知如何是好。
5 cramped 287c2bb79385d19c466ec2df5b5ce970     
  • The house was terribly small and cramped, but the agent described it as a bijou residence. 房子十分狭小拥挤,但经纪人却把它说成是小巧别致的住宅。
  • working in cramped conditions 在拥挤的环境里工作
6 ornament u4czn     
  • The flowers were put on the table for ornament.花放在桌子上做装饰用。
  • She wears a crystal ornament on her chest.她的前胸戴了一个水晶饰品。
7 awakens 8f28b6f7db9761a7b3cb138b2d5a123c     
v.(使)醒( awaken的第三人称单数 );(使)觉醒;弄醒;(使)意识到
  • The scene awakens reminiscences of my youth. 这景象唤起我年轻时的往事。 来自《现代英汉综合大词典》
  • The child awakens early in the morning. 这个小孩早晨醒得早。 来自辞典例句
8 undoubtedly Mfjz6l     
  • It is undoubtedly she who has said that.这话明明是她说的。
  • He is undoubtedly the pride of China.毫无疑问他是中国的骄傲。
9 inexplicable tbCzf     
  • It is now inexplicable how that development was misinterpreted.当时对这一事态发展的错误理解究竟是怎么产生的,现在已经无法说清楚了。
  • There are many things which are inexplicable by science.有很多事科学还无法解释。
10 alleys ed7f32602655381e85de6beb51238b46     
胡同,小巷( alley的名词复数 ); 小径
  • I followed him through a maze of narrow alleys. 我紧随他穿过一条条迂迴曲折的窄巷。
  • The children lead me through the maze of alleys to the edge of the city. 孩子们领我穿过迷宫一般的街巷,来到城边。
11 sleepless oiBzGN     
  • The situation gave her many sleepless nights.这种情况害她一连好多天睡不好觉。
  • One evening I heard a tale that rendered me sleepless for nights.一天晚上,我听说了一个传闻,把我搞得一连几夜都不能入睡。
12 bristling tSqyl     
  • "Don't you question Miz Wilkes' word,'said Archie, his beard bristling. "威尔克斯太太的话,你就不必怀疑了。 "阿尔奇说。他的胡子也翘了起来。
  • You were bristling just now. 你刚才在发毛。
13 beads 894701f6859a9d5c3c045fd6f355dbf5     
n.(空心)小珠子( bead的名词复数 );水珠;珠子项链
  • a necklace of wooden beads 一条木珠项链
  • Beads of perspiration stood out on his forehead. 他的前额上挂着汗珠。
14 standing 2hCzgo     
  • After the earthquake only a few houses were left standing.地震过后只有几幢房屋还立着。
  • They're standing out against any change in the law.他们坚决反对对法律做任何修改。
15 budge eSRy5     
  • We tried to lift the rock but it wouldn't budge.我们试图把大石头抬起来,但它连动都没动一下。
  • She wouldn't budge on the issue.她在这个问题上不肯让步。
16 groaned 1a076da0ddbd778a674301b2b29dff71     
v.呻吟( groan的过去式和过去分词 );发牢骚;抱怨;受苦
  • He groaned in anguish. 他痛苦地呻吟。
  • The cart groaned under the weight of the piano. 大车在钢琴的重压下嘎吱作响。 来自《简明英汉词典》
17 recoil GA4zL     
  • Most people would recoil at the sight of the snake.许多人看见蛇都会向后退缩。
  • Revenge may recoil upon the person who takes it.报复者常会受到报应。
18 hoarsely hoarsely     
  • "Excuse me," he said hoarsely. “对不起。”他用嘶哑的嗓子说。
  • Jerry hoarsely professed himself at Miss Pross's service. 杰瑞嘶声嘶气地表示愿为普洛丝小姐效劳。 来自英汉文学 - 双城记
19 chattered 0230d885b9f6d176177681b6eaf4b86f     
(人)喋喋不休( chatter的过去式 ); 唠叨; (牙齿)打战; (机器)震颤
  • They chattered away happily for a while. 他们高兴地闲扯了一会儿。
  • We chattered like two teenagers. 我们聊着天,像两个十多岁的孩子。
20 braced 4e05e688cf12c64dbb7ab31b49f741c5     
adj.拉牢的v.支住( brace的过去式和过去分词 );撑牢;使自己站稳;振作起来
  • They braced up the old house with balks of timber. 他们用梁木加固旧房子。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • The house has a wooden frame which is braced with brick. 这幢房子是木结构的砖瓦房。 来自《简明英汉词典》
21 smitten smitten     
猛打,重击,打击( smite的过去分词 )
  • From the moment they met, he was completely smitten by her. 从一见面的那一刻起,他就完全被她迷住了。
  • It was easy to see why she was smitten with him. 她很容易看出为何她为他倾倒。
22 chattering chattering     
n. (机器振动发出的)咔嗒声,(鸟等)鸣,啁啾 adj. 喋喋不休的,啾啾声的 动词chatter的现在分词形式
  • The teacher told the children to stop chattering in class. 老师叫孩子们在课堂上不要叽叽喳喳讲话。
  • I was so cold that my teeth were chattering. 我冷得牙齿直打战。
23 equanimity Z7Vyz     
  • She went again,and in so doing temporarily recovered her equanimity.她又去看了戏,而且这样一来又暂时恢复了她的平静。
  • The defeat was taken with equanimity by the leadership.领导层坦然地接受了失败。
24 throttle aIKzW     
  • These government restrictions are going to throttle our trade.这些政府的限制将要扼杀我们的贸易。
  • High tariffs throttle trade between countries.高的关税抑制了国与国之间的贸易。


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