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首页 » 经典英文小说 » The Altar of the Dead » CHAPTER V.
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 They fell at last into the way of walking together almost every time they met, though for a long time still they never met but at church.  He couldn’t ask her to come and see him, and as if she hadn’t a proper place to receive him she never invited her friend.  As much as himself she knew the world of London, but from an undiscussed instinct of privacy they haunted the region not mapped on the social chart.  On the return she always made him leave her at the same corner.  She looked with him, as a pretext1 for a pause, at the depressed2 things in suburban3 shop-fronts; and there was never a word he had said to her that she hadn’t beautifully understood.  For long ages he never knew her name, any more than she had ever pronounced his own; but it was not their names that mattered, it was only their perfect practice and their common need.
These things made their whole relation so impersonal4 that they hadn’t the rules or reasons people found in ordinary friendships.  They didn’t care for the things it was supposed necessary to care for in the intercourse5 of the world.  They ended one day—they never knew which of them expressed it first—by throwing out the idea that they didn’t care for each other.  Over this idea they grew quite intimate; they rallied to it in a way that marked a fresh start in their confidence.  If to feel deeply together about certain things wholly distinct from themselves didn’t constitute a safety, where was safety to be looked for?  Not lightly nor often, not without occasion nor without emotion, any more than in any other reference by serious people to a mystery of their faith; but when something had happened to warm, as it were, the air for it, they came as near as they could come to calling their Dead by name.  They felt it was coming very near to utter their thought at all.  The word “they” expressed enough; it limited the mention, it had a dignity of its own, and if, in their talk, you had heard our friends use it, you might have taken them for a pair of pagans of old alluding6 decently to the domesticated7 gods.  They never knew—at least Stransom never knew—how they had learned to be sure about each other.  If it had been with each a question of what the other was there for, the certitude had come in some fine way of its own.  Any faith, after all, has the instinct of propagation, and it was as natural as it was beautiful that they should have taken pleasure on the spot in the imagination of a following.  If the following was for each but a following of one it had proved in the event sufficient.  Her debt, however, of course was much greater than his, because while she had only given him a worshipper he had given her a splendid temple.  Once she said she pitied him for the length of his list—she had counted his candles almost as often as himself—and this made him wonder what could have been the length of hers.  He had wondered before at the coincidence of their losses, especially as from time to time a new candle was set up.  On some occasion some accident led him to express this curiosity, and she answered as if in surprise that he hadn’t already understood.  “Oh for me, you know, the more there are the better—there could never be too many.  I should like hundreds and hundreds—I should like thousands; I should like a great mountain of light.”
Then of course in a flash he understood.  “Your Dead are only One?”
She hung back at this as never yet.  “Only One,” she answered, colouring as if now he knew her guarded secret.  It really made him feel he knew less than before, so difficult was it for him to reconstitute a life in which a single experience had so belittled8 all others.  His own life, round its central hollow, had been packed close enough.  After this she appeared to have regretted her confession9, though at the moment she spoke10 there had been pride in her very embarrassment11.  She declared to him that his own was the larger, the dearer possession—the portion one would have chosen if one had been able to choose; she assured him she could perfectly12 imagine some of the echoes with which his silences were peopled.  He knew she couldn’t: one’s relation to what one had loved and hated had been a relation too distinct from the relations of others.  But this didn’t affect the fact that they were growing old together in their piety13.  She was a feature of that piety, but even at the ripe stage of acquaintance in which they occasionally arranged to meet at a concert or to go together to an exhibition she was not a feature of anything else.  The most that happened was that his worship became paramount14.  Friend by friend dropped away till at last there were more emblems15 on his altar than houses left him to enter.  She was more than any other the friend who remained, but she was unknown to all the rest.  Once when she had discovered, as they called it, a new star, she used the expression that the chapel16 at last was full.
“Oh no,” Stransom replied, “there is a great thing wanting for that!  The chapel will never be full till a candle is set up before which all the others will pale.  It will be the tallest candle of all.”
Her mild wonder rested on him.  “What candle do you mean?”
“I mean, dear lady, my own.”
He had learned after a long time that she earned money by her pen, writing under a pseudonym17 she never disclosed in magazines he never saw.  She knew too well what he couldn’t read and what she couldn’t write, and she taught him to cultivate indifference18 with a success that did much for their good relations.  Her invisible industry was a convenience to him; it helped his contented19 thought of her, the thought that rested in the dignity of her proud obscure life, her little remunerated art and her little impenetrable home.  Lost, with her decayed relative, in her dim suburban world, she came to the surface for him in distant places.  She was really the priestess of his altar, and whenever he quitted England he committed it to her keeping.  She proved to him afresh that women have more of the spirit of religion than men; he felt his fidelity20 pale and faint in comparison with hers.  He often said to her that since he had so little time to live he rejoiced in her having so much; so glad was he to think she would guard the temple when he should have been called.  He had a great plan for that, which of course he told her too, a bequest21 of money to keep it up in undiminished state.  Of the administration of this fund he would appoint her superintendent22, and if the spirit should move her she might kindle23 a taper24 even for him.
“And who will kindle one even for me?” she then seriously asked.


1 pretext 1Qsxi     
  • He used his headache as a pretext for not going to school.他借口头疼而不去上学。
  • He didn't attend that meeting under the pretext of sickness.他以生病为借口,没参加那个会议。
2 depressed xu8zp9     
  • When he was depressed,he felt utterly divorced from reality.他心情沮丧时就感到完全脱离了现实。
  • His mother was depressed by the sad news.这个坏消息使他的母亲意志消沉。
3 suburban Usywk     
  • Suburban shopping centers were springing up all over America. 效区的商业中心在美国如雨后春笋般地兴起。
  • There's a lot of good things about suburban living.郊区生活是有许多优点。
4 impersonal Ck6yp     
  • Even his children found him strangely distant and impersonal.他的孩子们也认为他跟其他人很疏远,没有人情味。
  • His manner seemed rather stiff and impersonal.他的态度似乎很生硬冷淡。
5 intercourse NbMzU     
  • The magazine becomes a cultural medium of intercourse between the two peoples.该杂志成为两民族间文化交流的媒介。
  • There was close intercourse between them.他们过往很密。
6 alluding ac37fbbc50fb32efa49891d205aa5a0a     
提及,暗指( allude的现在分词 )
  • He didn't mention your name but I was sure he was alluding to you. 他没提你的名字,但是我确信他是暗指你的。
  • But in fact I was alluding to my physical deficiencies. 可我实在是为自己的容貌寒心。
7 domesticated Lu2zBm     
adj.喜欢家庭生活的;(指动物)被驯养了的v.驯化( domesticate的过去式和过去分词 )
  • He is thoroughly domesticated and cooks a delicious chicken casserole. 他精于家务,烹制的砂锅炖小鸡非常可口。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • The donkey is a domesticated form of the African wild ass. 驴是非洲野驴的一种已驯化的品种。 来自《简明英汉词典》
8 belittled 39476f0950667cb112a492d64de54dc2     
使显得微小,轻视,贬低( belittle的过去式和过去分词 )
  • She felt her husband constantly belittled her achievements. 她觉得她的丈夫时常贬低她的成就。
  • A poor but honest man is not to be belittled. 穷而诚实的人是不该让人小看的。
9 confession 8Ygye     
  • Her confession was simply tantamount to a casual explanation.她的自白简直等于一篇即席说明。
  • The police used torture to extort a confession from him.警察对他用刑逼供。
10 spoke XryyC     
n.(车轮的)辐条;轮辐;破坏某人的计划;阻挠某人的行动 v.讲,谈(speak的过去式);说;演说;从某种观点来说
  • They sourced the spoke nuts from our company.他们的轮辐螺帽是从我们公司获得的。
  • The spokes of a wheel are the bars that connect the outer ring to the centre.辐条是轮子上连接外圈与中心的条棒。
11 embarrassment fj9z8     
  • She could have died away with embarrassment.她窘迫得要死。
  • Coughing at a concert can be a real embarrassment.在音乐会上咳嗽真会使人难堪。
12 perfectly 8Mzxb     
  • The witnesses were each perfectly certain of what they said.证人们个个对自己所说的话十分肯定。
  • Everything that we're doing is all perfectly above board.我们做的每件事情都是光明正大的。
13 piety muuy3     
  • They were drawn to the church not by piety but by curiosity.他们去教堂不是出于虔诚而是出于好奇。
  • Experience makes us see an enormous difference between piety and goodness.经验使我们看到虔诚与善意之间有着巨大的区别。
14 paramount fL9xz     
  • My paramount object is to save the Union and destroy slavery.我的最高目标是拯救美国,摧毁奴隶制度。
  • Nitrogen is of paramount importance to life on earth.氮对地球上的生命至关重要。
15 emblems db84ab479b9c05c259ade9a2f3414e04     
n.象征,标记( emblem的名词复数 )
  • His emblems are the spear and the burning torch. 他佩带的徽记是长矛和燃烧着的火炬。 来自辞典例句
  • Crystal prize, Crystal gift, Crystal trophy, Champion cup, Emblems. 水晶奖牌、水晶礼品、水晶纪念品、奖杯、金属奖牌。 来自互联网
16 chapel UXNzg     
  • The nimble hero,skipped into a chapel that stood near.敏捷的英雄跳进近旁的一座小教堂里。
  • She was on the peak that Sunday afternoon when she played in chapel.那个星期天的下午,她在小教堂的演出,可以说是登峰造极。
17 pseudonym 2RExP     
  • Eric Blair wrote under the pseudonym of George Orwell.埃里克·布莱尔用乔治·奧威尔这个笔名写作。
  • Both plays were published under the pseudonym of Philip Dayre.两个剧本都是以菲利普·戴尔的笔名出版的。
18 indifference k8DxO     
  • I was disappointed by his indifference more than somewhat.他的漠不关心使我很失望。
  • He feigned indifference to criticism of his work.他假装毫不在意别人批评他的作品。
19 contented Gvxzof     
  • He won't be contented until he's upset everyone in the office.不把办公室里的每个人弄得心烦意乱他就不会满足。
  • The people are making a good living and are contented,each in his station.人民安居乐业。
20 fidelity vk3xB     
  • There is nothing like a dog's fidelity.没有什么能比得上狗的忠诚。
  • His fidelity and industry brought him speedy promotion.他的尽职及勤奋使他很快地得到晋升。
21 bequest dWPzq     
  • In his will he made a substantial bequest to his wife.在遗嘱里他给妻子留下了一大笔遗产。
  • The library has received a generous bequest from a local businessman.图书馆从当地一位商人那里得到了一大笔遗赠。
22 superintendent vsTwV     
  • He was soon promoted to the post of superintendent of Foreign Trade.他很快就被擢升为对外贸易总监。
  • He decided to call the superintendent of the building.他决定给楼房管理员打电话。
23 kindle n2Gxu     
  • This wood is too wet to kindle.这木柴太湿点不着。
  • A small spark was enough to kindle Lily's imagination.一星光花足以点燃莉丽的全部想象力。
24 taper 3IVzm     
  • You'd better taper off the amount of time given to rest.你最好逐渐地减少休息时间。
  • Pulmonary arteries taper towards periphery.肺动脉向周围逐渐变细。


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