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Chapter 12

The Avenue de Clichy was crowded at that hour, and a lively fancy might see in the passers-by the personages of many a sordid1 romance. There were clerks and shopgirls; old fellows who might have stepped out of the pages of Honore de Balzac; members, male and female, of the professions which make their profit of the frailties2 of mankind. There is in the streets of the poorer quarters of Paris a thronging4 vitality5 which excites the blood and prepares the soul for the unexpected.

"Do you know Paris well?" I asked.

"No. We came on our honeymoon6. I haven't been since. "

"How on earth did you find out your hotel?"

"It was recommended to me. I wanted something cheap. "

The absinthe came, and with due solemnity we dropped water over the melting sugar.

"I thought I'd better tell you at once why I had come to see you, " I said, not without embarrassment7.

His eyes twinkled. "I thought somebody would come along sooner or later. I've had a lot of letters from Amy. "

"Then you know pretty well what I've got to say. "

"I've not read them. "

I lit a cigarette to give myself a moment's time. I did not quite know now how to set about my mission. The eloquent8 phrases I had arranged, pathetic or indignant, seemed out of place on the Avenue de Clichy. Suddenly he gave a chuckle9.

"Beastly job for you this, isn't it?"

"Oh, I don't know, " I answered.

"Well, look here, you get it over, and then we'll have a jolly evening. "

I hesitated.

"Has it occurred to you that your wife is frightfully unhappy?"

"She'll get over it. "

I cannot describe the extraordinary callousness10 with which he made this reply. It disconcerted me, but I did my best not to show it. I adopted the tone used by my Uncle Henry, a clergyman, when he was asking one of his relatives for a subscription11 to the Additional Curates Society.

"You don't mind my talking to you frankly12?"

He shook his head, smiling.

"Has she deserved that you should treat her like this?"

"No. "

"Have you any complaint to make against her?"

"None. "

"Then, isn't it monstrous13 to leave her in this fashion, after seventeen years of married life, without a fault to find with her?"

"Monstrous. "

I glanced at him with surprise. His cordial agreement with all I said cut the ground from under my feet. It made my position complicated, not to say ludicrous. I was prepared to be persuasive14, touching15, and hortatory, admonitory and expostulating, if need be vituperative16 even, indignant and sarcastic17; but what the devil does a mentor18 do when the sinner makes no bones about confessing his sin? I had no experience, since my own practice has always been to deny everything.

"What, then?" asked Strickland.

I tried to curl my lip.

"Well, if you acknowledge that, there doesn't seem much more to be said. "

"I don't think there is. "

I felt that I was not carrying out my embassy with any great skill. I was distinctly nettled19.

"Hang it all, one can't leave a woman without a bob. "

"Why not?"

"How is she going to live?"

"I've supported her for seventeen years. Why shouldn't she support herself for a change?"

"She can't. "

"Let her try. "

Of course there were many things I might have answered to this. I might have spoken of the economic position of woman, of the contract, tacit and overt21, which a man accepts by his marriage, and of much else; but I felt that there was only one point which really signified.

"Don't you care for her any more?"

"Not a bit, " he replied.

The matter was immensely serious for all the parties concerned, but there was in the manner of his answer such a cheerful effrontery22 that I had to bite my lips in order not to laugh. I reminded myself that his behaviour was abominable23. I worked myself up into a state of moral indignation.

"Damn it all, there are your children to think of. They've never done you any harm. They didn't ask to be brought into the world. If you chuck everything like this, they'll be thrown on the streets.

"They've had a good many years of comfort. It's much more than the majority of children have. Besides, somebody will look after them. When it comes to the point, the MacAndrews will pay for their schooling24. "

"But aren't you fond of them? They're such awfully25 nice kids. Do you mean to say you don't want to have anything more to do with them?"

"I liked them all right when they were kids, but now they're growing up I haven't got any particular feeling for them. "

"It's just inhuman26. "

"I dare say. "

"You don't seem in the least ashamed. "

"I'm not. "

I tried another tack27.

"Everyone will think you a perfect swine. "

"Let them. "

"Won't it mean anything to you to know that people loathe28 and despise you?"

"No. "

His brief answer was so scornful that it made my question, natural though it was, seem absurd. I reflected for a minute or two.

"I wonder if one can live quite comfortably when one's conscious of the disapproval29 of one's fellows? Are you sure it won't begin to worry you? Everyone has some sort of a conscience, and sooner or later it will find you out. Supposing your wife died, wouldn't you be tortured by remorse30?"

He did not answer, and I waited for some time for him to speak. At last I had to break the silence myself.

"What have you to say to that?"

"Only that you're a damned fool. "

"At all events, you can be forced to support your wife and children, " I retorted, somewhat piqued31. "I suppose the law has some protection to offer them. "

"Can the law get blood out of a stone? I haven't any money. I've got about a hundred pounds. "

I began to be more puzzled than before. It was true that his hotel pointed32 to the most straitened circumstances.

"What are you going to do when you've spent that?"

"Earn some. "

He was perfectly33 cool, and his eyes kept that mocking smile which made all I said seem rather foolish. I paused for a little while to consider what I had better say next. But it was he who spoke20 first.

"Why doesn't Amy marry again? She's comparatively young, and she's not unattractive. I can recommend her as an excellent wife. If she wants to divorce me I don't mind giving her the necessary grounds. "

Now it was my turn to smile. He was very cunning, but it was evidently this that he was aiming at. He had some reason to conceal34 the fact that he had run away with a woman, and he was using every precaution to hide her whereabouts. I answered with decision.

"Your wife says that nothing you can do will ever induce her to divorce you. She's quite made up her mind. You can put any possibility of that definitely out of your head. "

He looked at me with an astonishment35 that was certainly not feigned36. The smile abandoned his lips, and he spoke quite seriously.

"But, my dear fellow, I don't care. It doesn't matter a twopenny damn to me one way or the other. "

I laughed.

"Oh, come now; you mustn't think us such fools as all that. We happen to know that you came away with a woman. "

He gave a little start, and then suddenly burst into a shout of laughter. He laughed so uproariously that people sitting near us looked round, and some of them began to laugh too.

"I don't see anything very amusing in that. "

"Poor Amy, " he grinned.

Then his face grew bitterly scornful.

"What poor minds women have got! Love. It's always love. They think a man leaves only because he wants others. Do you think I should be such a fool as to do what I've done for a woman?"

"Do you mean to say you didn't leave your wife for another woman?"

"Of course not. "

"On your word of honour?"

I don't know why I asked for that. It was very ingenuous37 of me.

"On my word of honour. "

"Then, what in God's name have you left her for?"

"I want to paint. "

I looked at him for quite a long time. I did not understand. I thought he was mad. It must be remembered that I was very young, and I looked upon him as a middle-aged38 man. I forgot everything but my own amazement39.

"But you're forty. "

"That's what made me think it was high time to begin. "

"Have you ever painted?"

"I rather wanted to be a painter when I was a boy, but my father made me go into business because he said there was no money in art. I began to paint a bit a year ago. For the last year I've been going to some classes at night. "

"Was that where you went when Mrs. Strickland thought you were playing bridge at your club?"

"That's it. "

"Why didn't you tell her?"

"I preferred to keep it to myself. "

"Can you paint?"

"Not yet. But I shall. That's why I've come over here. I couldn't get what I wanted in London. Perhaps I can here. "

"Do you think it's likely that a man will do any good when he starts at your age? Most men begin painting at eighteen. "

"I can learn quicker than I could when I was eighteen. "

"What makes you think you have any talent?"

He did not answer for a minute. His gaze rested on the passing throng3, but I do not think he saw it. His answer was no answer.

"I've got to paint. "

"Aren't you taking an awful chance?"

He looked at me. His eyes had something strange in them, so that I felt rather uncomfortable.

"How old are you? Twenty-three?"

It seemed to me that the question was beside the point. It was natural that I should take chances; but he was a man whose youth was past, a stockbroker40 with a position of respectability, a wife and two children. A course that would have been natural for me was absurd for him. I wished to be quite fair.

"Of course a miracle may happen, and you may be a great painter, but you must confess the chances are a million to one against it. It'll be an awful sell if at the end you have to acknowledge you've made a hash of it. "

"I've got to paint, " he repeated.

"Supposing you're never anything more than third-rate, do you think it will have been worth while to give up everything? After all, in any other walk in life it doesn't matter if you're not very good; you can get along quite comfortably if you're just adequate; but it's different with an artist. "

"You blasted fool, " he said.

"I don't see why, unless it's folly41 to say the obvious. "

"I tell you I've got to paint. I can't help myself. When a man falls into the water it doesn't matter how he swims, well or badly: he's got to get out or else he'll drown. "

There was real passion in his voice, and in spite of myself I was impressed. I seemed to feel in him some vehement42 power that was struggling within him; it gave me the sensation of something very strong, overmastering, that held him, as it were, against his will. I could not understand. He seemed really to be possessed43 of a devil, and I felt that it might suddenly turn and rend44 him. Yet he looked ordinary enough. My eyes, resting on him curiously45, caused him no embarrassment. I wondered what a stranger would have taken him to be, sitting there in his old Norfolk jacket and his unbrushed bowler46; his trousers were baggy47, his hands were not clean; and his face, with the red stubble of the unshaved chin, the little eyes, and the large, aggressive nose, was uncouth48 and coarse. His mouth was large, his lips were heavy and sensual. No; I could not have placed him.

"You won't go back to your wife?" I said at last.

"Never. "

"She's willing to forget everything that's happened and start afresh. She'll never make you a single reproach. "

"She can go to hell. "

"You don't care if people think you an utter blackguard? You don't care if she and your children have to beg their bread?"

"Not a damn. "

I was silent for a moment in order to give greater force to my next remark. I spoke as deliberately49 as I could.

"You are a most unmitigated cad. "

"Now that you've got that off your chest, let's go and have dinner. "





























































































































1 sordid PrLy9     
  • He depicts the sordid and vulgar sides of life exclusively.他只描写人生肮脏和庸俗的一面。
  • They lived in a sordid apartment.他们住在肮脏的公寓房子里。
2 frailties 28d94bf15a4044cac62ab96a25d3ef62     
n.脆弱( frailty的名词复数 );虚弱;(性格或行为上的)弱点;缺点
  • The fact indicates the economic frailties of this type of farming. 这一事实表明,这种类型的农业在经济上有其脆弱性。 来自辞典例句
  • He failed therein to take account of the frailties of human nature--the difficulties of matrimonial life. 在此,他没有考虑到人性的种种弱点--夫妻生活的种种难处。 来自英汉文学 - 嘉莉妹妹
3 throng sGTy4     
  • A patient throng was waiting in silence.一大群耐心的人在静静地等着。
  • The crowds thronged into the mall.人群涌进大厅。
4 thronging 9512aa44c02816b0f71b491c31fb8cfa     
v.成群,挤满( throng的现在分词 )
  • Architects from around the world are thronging to Beijing theacross the capital. 来自世界各地的建筑师都蜂拥而至这座处处高楼耸立的大都市——北京。 来自互联网
  • People are thronging to his new play. 人们成群结队地去看他那出新戏。 来自互联网
5 vitality lhAw8     
  • He came back from his holiday bursting with vitality and good health.他度假归来之后,身强体壮,充满活力。
  • He is an ambitious young man full of enthusiasm and vitality.他是个充满热情与活力的有远大抱负的青年。
6 honeymoon ucnxc     
  • While on honeymoon in Bali,she learned to scuba dive.她在巴厘岛度蜜月时学会了带水肺潜水。
  • The happy pair are leaving for their honeymoon.这幸福的一对就要去度蜜月了。
7 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。
8 eloquent ymLyN     
  • He was so eloquent that he cut down the finest orator.他能言善辩,胜过最好的演说家。
  • These ruins are an eloquent reminder of the horrors of war.这些废墟形象地提醒人们不要忘记战争的恐怖。
9 chuckle Tr1zZ     
  • He shook his head with a soft chuckle.他轻轻地笑着摇了摇头。
  • I couldn't suppress a soft chuckle at the thought of it.想到这个,我忍不住轻轻地笑起来。
10 callousness callousness     
  • He remembered with what callousness he had watched her. 他记得自己以何等无情的态度瞧着她。 来自辞典例句
  • She also lacks the callousness required of a truly great leader. 她还缺乏一个真正伟大领袖所应具备的铁石心肠。 来自辞典例句
11 subscription qH8zt     
  • We paid a subscription of 5 pounds yearly.我们按年度缴纳5英镑的订阅费。
  • Subscription selling bloomed splendidly.订阅销售量激增。
12 frankly fsXzcf     
  • To speak frankly, I don't like the idea at all.老实说,我一点也不赞成这个主意。
  • Frankly speaking, I'm not opposed to reform.坦率地说,我不反对改革。
13 monstrous vwFyM     
  • The smoke began to whirl and grew into a monstrous column.浓烟开始盘旋上升,形成了一个巨大的烟柱。
  • Your behaviour in class is monstrous!你在课堂上的行为真是丢人!
14 persuasive 0MZxR     
  • His arguments in favour of a new school are very persuasive.他赞成办一座新学校的理由很有说服力。
  • The evidence was not really persuasive enough.证据并不是太有说服力。
15 touching sg6zQ9     
  • It was a touching sight.这是一幅动人的景象。
  • His letter was touching.他的信很感人。
16 vituperative Lh4w4     
  • He is often the victim of vituperative remarks concerning his wealth.他经常因为富有而受到辱骂。
  • I was really taken aback by their vituperative animosity toward the Soviet Union.他们对苏联如此深恶痛绝,着实令我吃惊。
17 sarcastic jCIzJ     
  • I squashed him with a sarcastic remark.我说了一句讽刺的话把他给镇住了。
  • She poked fun at people's shortcomings with sarcastic remarks.她冷嘲热讽地拿别人的缺点开玩笑。
18 mentor s78z0     
  • He fed on the great ideas of his mentor.他以他导师的伟大思想为支撑。
  • He had mentored scores of younger doctors.他指导过许多更年轻的医生。
19 nettled 1329a37399dc803e7821d52c8a298307     
  • My remarks clearly nettled her. 我的话显然惹恼了她。
  • He had been growing nettled before, but now he pulled himself together. 他刚才有些来火,但现在又恢复了常态。 来自英汉文学 - 金银岛
20 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。
21 overt iKoxp     
  • His opponent's intention is quite overt.他的对手的意图很明显。
  • We should learn to fight with enemy in an overt and covert way.我们应学会同敌人做公开和隐蔽的斗争。
22 effrontery F8xyC     
  • This is a despicable fraud . Just imagine that he has the effrontery to say it.这是一个可耻的骗局. 他竟然有脸说这样的话。
  • One could only gasp at the sheer effrontery of the man.那人十足的厚颜无耻让人们吃惊得无话可说。
23 abominable PN5zs     
  • Their cruel treatment of prisoners was abominable.他们虐待犯人的做法令人厌恶。
  • The sanitary conditions in this restaurant are abominable.这家饭馆的卫生状况糟透了。
24 schooling AjAzM6     
  • A child's access to schooling varies greatly from area to area.孩子获得学校教育的机会因地区不同而大相径庭。
  • Backward children need a special kind of schooling.天赋差的孩子需要特殊的教育。
25 awfully MPkym     
  • Agriculture was awfully neglected in the past.过去农业遭到严重忽视。
  • I've been feeling awfully bad about it.对这我一直感到很难受。
26 inhuman F7NxW     
  • We must unite the workers in fighting against inhuman conditions.我们必须使工人们团结起来反对那些难以忍受的工作条件。
  • It was inhuman to refuse him permission to see his wife.不容许他去看自己的妻子是太不近人情了。
27 tack Jq1yb     
  • He is hammering a tack into the wall to hang a picture.他正往墙上钉一枚平头钉用来挂画。
  • We are going to tack the map on the wall.我们打算把这张地图钉在墙上。
28 loathe 60jxB     
  • I loathe the smell of burning rubber.我厌恶燃着的橡胶散发的气味。
  • You loathe the smell of greasy food when you are seasick.当你晕船时,你会厌恶油腻的气味。
29 disapproval VuTx4     
  • The teacher made an outward show of disapproval.老师表面上表示不同意。
  • They shouted their disapproval.他们喊叫表示反对。
30 remorse lBrzo     
  • She had no remorse about what she had said.她对所说的话不后悔。
  • He has shown no remorse for his actions.他对自己的行为没有任何悔恨之意。
31 piqued abe832d656a307cf9abb18f337accd25     
v.伤害…的自尊心( pique的过去式和过去分词 );激起(好奇心)
  • Their curiosity piqued, they stopped writing. 他们的好奇心被挑起,停下了手中的笔。 来自辞典例句
  • This phenomenon piqued Dr Morris' interest. 这一现象激起了莫里斯医生的兴趣。 来自辞典例句
32 pointed Il8zB4     
  • He gave me a very sharp pointed pencil.他给我一支削得非常尖的铅笔。
  • She wished to show Mrs.John Dashwood by this pointed invitation to her brother.她想通过对达茨伍德夫人提出直截了当的邀请向她的哥哥表示出来。
33 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。
34 conceal DpYzt     
  • He had to conceal his identity to escape the police.为了躲避警方,他只好隐瞒身份。
  • He could hardly conceal his joy at his departure.他几乎掩饰不住临行时的喜悦。
35 astonishment VvjzR     
  • They heard him give a loud shout of astonishment.他们听见他惊奇地大叫一声。
  • I was filled with astonishment at her strange action.我对她的奇怪举动不胜惊异。
36 feigned Kt4zMZ     
  • He feigned indifference to criticism of his work. 他假装毫不在意别人批评他的作品。
  • He accepted the invitation with feigned enthusiasm. 他假装热情地接受了邀请。
37 ingenuous mbNz0     
  • Only the most ingenuous person would believe such a weak excuse!只有最天真的人才会相信这么一个站不住脚的借口!
  • With ingenuous sincerity,he captivated his audience.他以自己的率真迷住了观众。
38 middle-aged UopzSS     
  • I noticed two middle-aged passengers.我注意到两个中年乘客。
  • The new skin balm was welcome by middle-aged women.这种新护肤香膏受到了中年妇女的欢迎。
39 amazement 7zlzBK     
  • All those around him looked at him with amazement.周围的人都对他投射出惊异的眼光。
  • He looked at me in blank amazement.他带着迷茫惊诧的神情望着我。
40 stockbroker ihBz5j     
  • The main business of stockbroker is to help clients buy and sell shares.股票经纪人的主要业务是帮客户买卖股票。
  • My stockbroker manages my portfolio for me.我的证券经纪人替我管理投资组合。
41 folly QgOzL     
  • Learn wisdom by the folly of others.从别人的愚蠢行动中学到智慧。
  • Events proved the folly of such calculations.事情的进展证明了这种估计是愚蠢的。
42 vehement EL4zy     
  • She made a vehement attack on the government's policies.她强烈谴责政府的政策。
  • His proposal met with vehement opposition.他的倡导遭到了激烈的反对。
43 possessed xuyyQ     
  • He flew out of the room like a man possessed.他像着了魔似地猛然冲出房门。
  • He behaved like someone possessed.他行为举止像是魔怔了。
44 rend 3Blzj     
  • Her scrams would rend the heart of any man.她的喊叫声会撕碎任何人的心。
  • Will they rend the child from his mother?他们会不会把这个孩子从他的母亲身边夺走呢?
45 curiously 3v0zIc     
  • He looked curiously at the people.他好奇地看着那些人。
  • He took long stealthy strides. His hands were curiously cold.他迈着悄没声息的大步。他的双手出奇地冷。
46 bowler fxLzew     
  • The bowler judged it well,timing the ball to perfection.投球手判断准确,对球速的掌握恰到好处。
  • The captain decided to take Snow off and try a slower bowler.队长决定把斯诺撤下,换一个动作慢一点的投球手试一试。
47 baggy CuVz5     
  • My T-shirt went all baggy in the wash.我的T恤越洗越大了。
  • Baggy pants are meant to be stylish,not offensive.松松垮垮的裤子意味着时髦,而不是无礼。
48 uncouth DHryn     
  • She may embarrass you with her uncouth behavior.她的粗野行为可能会让你尴尬。
  • His nephew is an uncouth young man.他的侄子是一个粗野的年轻人。
49 deliberately Gulzvq     
  • The girl gave the show away deliberately.女孩故意泄露秘密。
  • They deliberately shifted off the argument.他们故意回避这个论点。


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