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第五卷下坡路 第08章维克杜尼昂夫人为世道人心花了三十五法郎

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CHAPTER VIII MADAME VICTURNIEN EXPENDS THIRTY FRANCS ON MORALITY



When Fantine saw that she was making her living, she felt joyful for a moment. To live honestly by her own labor, what mercy from heaven! The taste for work had really returned to her. She bought a looking-glass, took pleasure in surveying in it her youth, her beautiful hair, her fine teeth; she forgot many things; she thought only of Cosette and of the possible future, and was almost happy. She hired a little room and furnished on credit on the strength of her future work--a lingering trace of her improvident ways. As she was not able to say that she was married she took good care, as we have seen, not to mention her little girl.

At first, as the reader has seen, she paid the Thenardiers promptly. As she only knew how to sign her name, she was obliged to write through a public letter-writer.

She wrote often, and this was noticed. It began to be said in an undertone, in the women's workroom, that Fantine "wrote letters" and that "she had ways about her."

There is no one for spying on people's actions like those who are not concerned in them. Why does that gentleman never come except at nightfall? Why does Mr. So-and-So never hang his key on its nail on Tuesday? Why does he always take the narrow streets? Why does Madame always descend from her hackney-coach before reaching her house? Why does she send out to purchase six sheets of note paper, when she has a "whole stationer's shop full of it?" etc. There exist beings who, for the sake of obtaining the key to these enigmas, which are, moreover, of no consequence whatever to them, spend more money, waste more time, take more trouble, than would be required for ten good actions, and that gratuitously, for their own pleasure, without receiving any other payment for their curiosity than curiosity. They will follow up such and such a man or woman for whole days; they will do sentry duty for hours at a time on the corners of the streets, under alley-way doors at night, in cold and rain; they will bribe errand-porters, they will make the drivers of hackney-coaches and lackeys tipsy, buy a waiting-maid, suborn a porter. Why? For no reason. A pure passion for seeing, knowing, and penetrating into things. A pure itch for talking. And often these secrets once known, these mysteries made public, these enigmas illuminated by the light of day, bring on catastrophies, duels, failures, the ruin of families, and broken lives, to the great joy of those who have "found out everything," without any interest in the matter, and by pure instinct. A sad thing.

Certain persons are malicious solely through a necessity for talking. Their conversation, the chat of the drawing-room, gossip of the anteroom, is like those chimneys which consume wood rapidly; they need a great amount of combustibles; and their combustibles are furnished by their neighbors.

So Fantine was watched.

In addition, many a one was jealous of her golden hair and of her white teeth.

It was remarked that in the workroom she often turned aside, in the midst of the rest, to wipe away a tear. These were the moments when she was thinking of her child; perhaps, also, of the man whom she had loved.

Breaking the gloomy bonds of the past is a mournful task.

It was observed that she wrote twice a month at least, and that she paid the carriage on the letter. They managed to obtain the address: Monsieur, Monsieur Thenardier, inn-keeper at Montfermeil. The public writer, a good old man who could not fill his stomach with red wine without emptying his pocket of secrets, was made to talk in the wine-shop. In short, it was discovered that Fantine had a child. "She must be a pretty sort of a woman." An old gossip was found, who made the trip to Montfermeil, talked to the Thenardiers, and said on her return: "For my five and thirty francs I have freed my mind. I have seen the child."

The gossip who did this thing was a gorgon named Madame Victurnien, the guardian and door-keeper of every one's virtue. Madame Victurnien was fifty-six, and re-enforced the mask of ugliness with the mask of age. A quavering voice, a whimsical mind. This old dame had once been young--astonishing fact! In her youth, in '93, she had married a monk who had fled from his cloister in a red cap, and passed from the Bernardines to the Jacobins. She was dry, rough, peevish, sharp, captious, almost venomous; all this in memory of her monk, whose widow she was, and who had ruled over her masterfully and bent her to his will. She was a nettle in which the rustle of the cassock was visible. At the Restoration she had turned bigot, and that with so much energy that the priests had forgiven her her monk. She had a small property, which she bequeathed with much ostentation to a religious community. She was in high favor at the episcopal palace of Arras. So this Madame Victurnien went to Montfermeil, and returned with the remark, "I have seen the child."

All this took time. Fantine had been at the factory for more than a year, when, one morning, the superintendent of the workroom handed her fifty francs from the mayor, told her that she was no longer employed in the shop, and requested her, in the mayor's name, to leave the neighborhood.

This was the very month when the Thenardiers, after having demanded twelve francs instead of six, had just exacted fifteen francs instead of twelve.

Fantine was overwhelmed. She could not leave the neighborhood; she was in debt for her rent and furniture. Fifty francs was not sufficient to cancel this debt. She stammered a few supplicating words. The superintendent ordered her to leave the shop on the instant. Besides, Fantine was only a moderately good workwoman. Overcome with shame, even more than with despair, she quitted the shop, and returned to her room. So her fault was now known to every one.

She no longer felt strong enough to say a word. She was advised to see the mayor; she did not dare. The mayor had given her fifty francs because he was good, and had dismissed her because he was just. She bowed before the decision.




八 维克杜尼昂夫人为世道人心花了三十五法郎




芳汀看到自己能够生活,也就有了暂时的快乐。能够老老实实地自食其力,那真是天幸!她确实又有了爱好劳动的心情。她买了一面镜子,欣赏自己的青春、美丽的头发和美丽的牙齿,忘了许多事情,只惦念她的珂赛特和可能有的前途,她几乎成了快乐的人了。她租了一间小屋子,又以将来的工资作担保,买了些家具,这是她那种轻浮习气的残余。

她不能对人说她结过婚,因此她避免谈到她的小女儿,这是我们已经约略提到过的。

起初,我们已经看见,她总按时付款给德纳第家。因为她只知道签名,就不得不找一个代写书信的人写信给他们。

她时常寄信。这就引起旁人的注意。在女车间里,大家开始叽叽喳喳谈论起来了,说芳汀“天天寄信”,说她有一些“怪举动”。

天地间的怪事莫过于侦察别人的一些和自己绝不相干的事了。“为什么那位先生老去找那个棕发姑娘呢?”“为什么某先生到了星期四总不把他的钥匙挂在钉子上呢?”“他为什么总走小街呢?”“为什么那位太太总在到家以前就下马车呢?”

“她的信笺匣盛满了信笺,为什么还要派人去买一扎呢?”诸如此类的话。世间有许多人为了揭开谜底,尽管和他们绝不相干,却肯花费比做十桩善事还要多的金钱、时光和心血。并且,做那种事,不取报酬,只图一时快意,为好奇而好奇。他们可以从早到晚,一连几天地尾随这个男人或那个女人,在街角上、胡同里的门洞下面,在黑夜里冒着寒气冒着雨,窥伺几个钟头,买通眼线,灌醉马车夫和仆役,收买女仆,串通看门人。究竟是为了什么目的?毫无目的,纯粹是一种要看见、要知道、要洞悉隐情的欲望,纯粹是由于要卖弄一下自己那颗消息灵通的心。一旦隐情识破,秘密公开,疑团揭穿,跟着就发生许多祸害、决斗、破产、倾家、生路断绝,而其实这些事对他们来说毫无利害关系,纯粹出自本能,他们只为“发觉了一切”而感到极大的快乐。这是多么痛心的事。

某些人仅仅为了饶舌的需要就不惜刻薄待人。他们的会话,客厅里的促膝谈心,候见室里的飞短流长都好象是那种费柴的壁炉,需要许多燃料,那燃料,便是他们四邻的人。

大家对芳汀注意起来了。

此外,许多妇女还嫉妒她的金发和玉牙。

确实有人看见她在车间里和大家一道时常常转过头去揩眼泪。那正是她惦念她孩子的时刻,也许又同时想起了她爱过的那个人。

摆脱旧恨的萦绕确是一种痛苦的过程。

确实有人发现她每月至少要写两封信,并且老是一个地址,写了还要贴邮票,有人把那地址找来了:“孟费?客店主人德纳第先生”。那个替她写字的先生是一个不吐尽心中秘密便不能把红酒灌满肚子的老头儿,他们把他邀到酒店里来闲谈。简单地说,他们知道芳汀有个孩子。“她一定是那种女人了。”恰巧有个长舌妇到孟费?去走了一趟,和德纳第夫妇谈了话,回来时她说:“花了我三十五法郎,我心里畅快了。我看见了那孩子。”

做这件事的长舌妇是个叫维克杜尼昂夫人的母夜叉,她是所有一切人的贞操的守卫和司阍。维克杜尼昂夫人有五十六岁,不但老,而且丑。嗓子颤抖,心思诡戾。那老婆子却有过青春,这真是怪事。在她的妙龄时期,正当九三年,她嫁给一个从隐修院里逃出来的修士,这修士戴上红帽子,从圣伯尔纳的信徒一变而为雅各宾派①。他给她受过不少折磨,她守寡以来,虽然想念亡夫,为人却是无情、粗野、泼辣、锋利、多刺而且几乎有毒。她是一棵受过僧衣挨蹭的荨麻。到复辟时代,她变得很虔诚,由于她信仰上帝的心非常热烈,神甫们也就不再追究她那修士而原谅了她。她有一份小小的财产,已经大吹大擂地捐给一个宗教团体了。她在阿拉斯主教教区里很受人尊敬。这位维克杜尼昂夫人到孟费?去了一趟,回来时说:“我看见了那孩子。”

①雅各宾(Jacobin),法国资产阶级革命时期最能团结革命群众、保卫劳动人民利益并和国王及大资本家进行坚决斗争的一派。 

这一切经过很费了些时日。芳汀在那厂里已经一年多了。

一天早晨,车间女管理员交给她五十法郎,说是市长先生交来的,还向她说,她已不是那车间里的人了,并且奉市长先生之命,要她离开孟费?。

恰巧这又是德纳第妈妈在要求她从六法郎加到十二法郎以后,又强迫她从十二法郎加到十五法郎的那个月。

芳汀窘极了。她不能离开那地方,她还欠了房租和家具费。五十法郎不够了清债务。她吞吞吐吐说了一些求情的话。那女管理员却叫她立刻离开车间。芳汀究竟还只是一个手艺平凡的工人。她受不了那种侮辱,失业还在其次,她只得离开车间,回到自己的住处。她的过失,到现在已是众所周知的了。

她觉得自己连说一个字的勇气都没有。有人劝她去见市长先生,她不敢。市长先生给了她五十法郎,是因为他为人厚道,撵她走是因为他正直。她在这项决定下屈服了”。
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