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第五卷下坡路 第02章马德兰先生

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CHAPTER II MADELEINE



He was a man about fifty years of age, who had a preoccupied air, and who was good. That was all that could be said about him.

Thanks to the rapid progress of the industry which he had so admirably re-constructed, M. sur M. had become a rather important centre of trade. Spain, which consumes a good deal of black jet, made enormous purchases there each year. M. sur M. almost rivalled London and Berlin in this branch of commerce. Father Madeleine's profits were such, that at the end of the second year he was able to erect a large factory, in which there were two vast workrooms, one for the men, and the other for women. Any one who was hungry could present himself there, and was sure of finding employment and bread. Father Madeleine required of the men good will, of the women pure morals, and of all, probity. He had separated the work-rooms in order to separate the sexes, and so that the women and girls might remain discreet. On this point he was inflexible. It was the only thing in which he was in a manner intolerant. He was all the more firmly set on this severity, since M. sur M., being a garrison town, opportunities for corruption abounded. However, his coming had been a boon, and his presence was a godsend. Before Father Madeleine's arrival, everything had languished in the country; now everything lived with a healthy life of toil. A strong circulation warmed everything and penetrated everywhere. Slack seasons and wretchedness were unknown. There was no pocket so obscure that it had not a little money in it; no dwelling so lowly that there was not some little joy within it.

Father Madeleine gave employment to every one. He exacted but one thing: Be an honest man. Be an honest woman.

As we have said, in the midst of this activity of which he was the cause and the pivot, Father Madeleine made his fortune; but a singular thing in a simple man of business, it did not seem as though that were his chief care. He appeared to be thinking much of others, and little of himself. In 1820 he was known to have a sum of six hundred and thirty thousand francs lodged in his name with Laffitte; but before reserving these six hundred and thirty thousand francs, he had spent more than a million for the town and its poor.

The hospital was badly endowed; he founded six beds there. M. Sur M. is divided into the upper and the lower town. The lower town, in which he lived, had but one school, a miserable hovel, which was falling to ruin: he constructed two, one for girls, the other for boys. He allotted a salary from his own funds to the two instructors, a salary twice as large as their meagre official salary, and one day he said to some one who expressed surprise, "The two prime functionaries of the state are the nurse and the schoolmaster." He created at his own expense an infant school, a thing then almost unknown in France, and a fund for aiding old and infirm workmen. As his factory was a centre, a new quarter, in which there were a good many indigent families, rose rapidly around him; he established there a free dispensary.

At first, when they watched his beginnings, the good souls said, "He's a jolly fellow who means to get rich." When they saw him enriching the country before he enriched himself, the good souls said, "He is an ambitious man." This seemed all the more probable since the man was religious, and even practised his religion to a certain degree, a thing which was very favorably viewed at that epoch. He went regularly to low mass every Sunday. The local deputy, who nosed out all rivalry everywhere, soon began to grow uneasy over this religion. This deputy had been a member of the legislative body of the Empire, and shared the religious ideas of a father of the Oratoire, known under the name of Fouche, Duc d'Otrante, whose creature and friend he had been. He indulged in gentle raillery at God with closed doors. But when he beheld the wealthy manufacturer Madeleine going to low mass at seven o'clock, he perceived in him a possible candidate, and resolved to outdo him; he took a Jesuit confessor, and went to high mass and to vespers. Ambition was at that time, in the direct acceptation of the word, a race to the steeple. The poor profited by this terror as well as the good God, for the honorable deputy also founded two beds in the hospital, which made twelve.

Nevertheless, in 1819 a rumor one morning circulated through the town to the effect that, on the representations of the prefect and in consideration of the services rendered by him to the country, Father Madeleine was to be appointed by the King, mayor of M. Sur M. Those who had pronounced this new-comer to be "an ambitious fellow," seized with delight on this opportunity which all men desire, to exclaim, "There! what did we say!" All M. sur M. was in an uproar. The rumor was well founded. Several days later the appointment appeared in the Moniteur. On the following day Father Madeleine refused.

In this same year of 1819 the products of the new process invented by Madeleine figured in the industrial exhibition; when the jury made their report, the King appointed the inventor a chevalier of the Legion of Honor. A fresh excitement in the little town. Well, so it was the cross that he wanted! Father Madeleine refused the cross.

Decidedly this man was an enigma. The good souls got out of their predicament by saying, "After all, he is some sort of an adventurer."

We have seen that the country owed much to him; the poor owed him everything; he was so useful and he was so gentle that people had been obliged to honor and respect him. His workmen, in particular, adored him, and he endured this adoration with a sort of melancholy gravity. When he was known to be rich, "people in society" bowed to him, and he received invitations in the town; he was called, in town, Monsieur Madeleine; his workmen and the children continued to call him Father Madeleine, and that was what was most adapted to make him smile. In proportion as he mounted, throve, invitations rained down upon him. "Society" claimed him for its own. The prim little drawing-rooms on M. sur M., which, of course, had at first been closed to the artisan, opened both leaves of their folding-doors to the millionnaire. They made a thousand advances to him. He refused.

This time the good gossips had no trouble. "He is an ignorant man, of no education. No one knows where he came from. He would not know how to behave in society. It has not been absolutely proved that he knows how to read."

When they saw him making money, they said, "He is a man of business." When they saw him scattering his money about, they said, "He is an ambitious man." When he was seen to decline honors, they said, "He is an adventurer." When they saw him repulse society, they said, "He is a brute."

In 1820, five years after his arrival in M. sur M., the services which he had rendered to the district were so dazzling, the opinion of the whole country round about was so unanimous, that the King again appointed him mayor of the town. He again declined; but the prefect resisted his refusal, all the notabilities of the place came to implore him, the people in the street besought him; the urging was so vigorous that he ended by accepting. It was noticed that the thing which seemed chiefly to bring him to a decision was the almost irritated apostrophe addressed to him by an old woman of the people, who called to him from her threshold, in an angry way: "A good mayor is a useful thing. Is he drawing back before the good which he can do?"

This was the third phase of his ascent. Father Madeleine had become Monsieur Madeleine. Monsieur Madeleine became Monsieur le Maire.



二 马德兰先生




他是个五十左右的人,神色忧虑而性情和好。我们能说的只是这一点。

由于那种工业经过他的巧妙改造,获得了迅速的发展,滨海蒙特勒伊便成了一个重要的企业中心。销售大量烧料细工品的西班牙每年都到这里来定购大宗产品。滨海蒙特勒伊在这种贸易上几乎和伦敦、柏林处于竞争地位。马德兰伯伯获得了大宗利润,因而能在第二年建造一幢高大的厂房,厂里分两个大车间,一个男车间,一个女车间。任何一个无衣食的人都可以到那里去报名,准有工作和面包。马德兰伯伯要求男工应有毅力,女工应有好作风,无论男女都应当贞洁。他把男女工人分在两个车间,目的是要让姑娘们和妇女们都能安心工作。在这一点上他的态度是一点不动摇的。这是他唯一无可通融的地方。正因为滨海蒙特勒伊是一个驻扎军队的城市,腐化堕落的机会多,他有足够的理由提出这种要求。况且他的来到是件好事,他的出现也是种天意。在马德兰伯伯来到这里以前,地方上的各种事业都是萧条的,现在呢,大家都靠健康的劳动生活。欣欣向荣的气象广被一乡,渗透一切。失业和苦难都已消灭。在这一乡已没有一个空到一文钱也没有的衣袋,也没有一个苦到一点欢乐也没有的人家。

马德兰伯伯雇用所有的人,他只坚持一点:做诚实的男子!做诚实的姑娘!

我们已经说过,马德兰伯伯是这种活动的动力和中枢,他在这一活动中获得他的财富,但是,这仿佛不是他的主要目的,一个简单的商人能这样,是件相当奇特的事。仿佛他为别人想的地方多,为自己想的地方少。一八二○年,大家知道他有一笔六十三万法郎的款子用他个人名义存放在拉菲特①银行里;但是在他为自己留下这六十三万法郎以前,他已为这座城市和穷人用去了一百多万。

①拉菲特(Laffitte,1767-1844),法国大银行家和政治活动家,奥尔良党人,金融资产阶级代表,政府首脑(1830?831)。他所开设的银行叫拉菲特银行。

医院的经费原是不充裕的,他在那里设了十个床位。滨海蒙特勒伊分上下两城,他住的下城只有一个小学校,校舍已经破败,他起造了两幢,一幢为男孩,一幢为女孩。他拿出自己的钱,津贴两个教员,这项津贴竟比他们微薄的薪金多出两倍;一天,他对一个对这件事表示惊讶的人说:“政府最重要的两种公务员,便是乳母和小学教师。”他又用自己的钱创设了一所贫儿院,这种措施当时在法国还几乎是创举,他又为年老和残废的工人创办了救济金。他的工厂成了一个中心,在厂址附近原有许多一贫如洗的人家,到后来,在那一带却出现了一个崭新的区域。他在那里开设了一所免费药房。

最初,他开始那样做时,有些头脑单纯的人都说:“这是个财迷。”过后,别人看见他在替自己找钱以前却先繁荣地方,那几个头脑单纯的人又说:“这是个野心家。”那种看法好象很对头,因为他信宗教,并且在一定程度上还遵守教规,这在当时是很受人尊敬的。每逢礼拜日,他必按时去参加一次普通弥撒。当地的那位议员,平日一向随时随地留意是否有人和他竞争,因而他立刻对那种宗教信仰起了戒心。那议员在帝国时代当过立法院的成员,他的宗教思想,和一个叫富歇①的经堂神甫(奥特朗托公爵)的思想是一样的。他是那神甫提拔的人,也是他的朋友。他常在人后偷偷嘲笑上帝。但是当他看见这位有钱的工厂主马德兰去做七点钟的普通弥撒时,就仿佛见了一个可能做议员候选人的人,便下定决心要赛过他,于是他供奉一个耶稣会教士做他的忏悔教士,还去做大弥撒和晚祷。野心在当时完全是一种钟楼赛跑②。穷人和慈悲的上帝都受到他们那种恐慌的实惠,因为那位光荣的议员也设了两个床位,一共成了十二个。

①富歇(Fouché,1759-1820),国民公会代表,曾参与颠覆罗伯斯庇尔,继又帮助拿破仑政变,任帝国政府的警务大臣,受封为公爵。拿破仑失败后投降复辟王朝。

②钟楼赛跑是一种以钟楼为目标的越野赛跑。

但是在一八一九年的一天早晨,城里忽然有人说马德兰伯伯由于省长先生的保荐和他在地方上所起的积极作用,不久就会由国王任命为滨海蒙特勒伊市长了。从前说过这新来的人是“野心家”的那些人听到这个符合大家愿望的消息时,也抓住机会,得意洋洋地喊道:“是吧!我们曾说过什么的吧?”整个滨海蒙特勒伊都轰动了。这消息原来是真的。几天过后,委任令在《通报》上刊出来了。第二天,马德兰伯伯推辞不受。

还是在这一八一九年,用马德兰发明的方法制造出来的产品在工业展览会里陈列出来了,通过评奖委员的报告,国王以荣誉勋章授予这位发明家。在那小城里又有过一番新的轰动。“呵!他要的原来是十字勋章!”马德兰伯伯又推辞了十字勋章。

这人真是个谜。头脑单纯的人,无可奈何,只得说:“总而言之,这是个想往上爬的家伙。”

我们把这人看清楚了,地方受到他许多好处,穷人更是完全依靠他;他是一个那样有用的人,结果大家非尊敬他不可;他又是一个那样和蔼可亲的人,结果大家非爱他不可;尤其是他的那些工人特别爱他,他却用一种郁郁寡欢的庄重态度接受那种敬爱。当他被证实是富翁时,一般“社会贤达”都向他致敬,在城里,大家还称他为马德兰先生,他的那些工人和一般孩子却仍叫他马德兰伯伯,那是一件使他最高兴的事。他的地位越来越高,请帖也就雨一般地落在他的头上了。“社会”要他。滨海蒙特勒伊的那些装腔作势的小客厅的门,当初在他还是个手艺工人时,当然是对他关着的,现在对这位百万富翁,却大开特开了。他们千方百计地笼络他。但他却不为所动。

但这样仍堵不住那些头脑单纯的人的嘴。“那是个无知识的人,一个没受过高尚教育的人。大家都还不知道他是从什么地方钻出来的呢。他不知道在交际场中应当怎么办。他究竟识字不识字,也还没有证明。”

当初别人看见他赚了钱,就说他是“商人”;看见他施舍他的钱,又说他是“野心家”;看见他推谢光荣,说他是个“投机的家伙”;现在,他谢绝社交,大家说:“那是个莽汉。”

一八二○年,是他到滨海蒙特勒伊的第五年,他在那地方所起的积极作用是那样显著,当地人民的期望是那样一致,以致国王又派他做那地方的市长。他仍旧推辞,但是省长不许他推辞,所有的重要人物也都来劝驾,人民群集街头向他请愿,敦促的情况太热烈了,他只好接受。有人注意到当时使他作出决定的最大力量,是人民中一个老妇人所说的一句气愤话。她当时立在他门口,几乎怒不可遏,对他喊道:“一个好市长,就是一个有用的人。在能办好事时难道可以退却吗?”

这是他上升的第三阶段。马德兰伯伯早已变成马德兰先生。马德兰先生现在又成为市长先生了。
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