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sledgehammer/['sledʒ͵hæmə]/ n. 大锤, 极有分量的事物 a. 强力的, 手下不留情的 ...

第七卷商马第案件 第02章斯戈弗莱尔师父的精明

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CHAPTER II THE PERSPICACITY OF MASTER SCAUFFLAIRE



From the town-hall he betook himself to the extremity of the town, to a Fleming named Master Scaufflaer, French Scaufflaire, who let out "horses and cabriolets as desired."

In order to reach this Scaufflaire, the shortest way was to take the little-frequented street in which was situated the parsonage of the parish in which M. Madeleine resided. The cure was, it was said, a worthy, respectable, and sensible man. At the moment when M. Madeleine arrived in front of the parsonage there was but one passer-by in the street, and this person noticed this: After the mayor had passed the priest's house he halted, stood motionless, then turned about, and retraced his steps to the door of the parsonage, which had an iron knocker. He laid his hand quickly on the knocker and lifted it; then he paused again and stopped short, as though in thought, and after the lapse of a few seconds, instead of allowing the knocker to fall abruptly, he placed it gently, and resumed his way with a sort of haste which had not been apparent previously.

M. Madeleine found Master Scaufflaire at home, engaged in stitching a harness over.

"Master Scaufflaire," he inquired, "have you a good horse?"

"Mr. Mayor," said the Fleming, "all my horses are good. What do you mean by a good horse?"

"I mean a horse which can travel twenty leagues in a day."

"The deuce!" said the Fleming. "Twenty leagues!"

"Yes."

"Hitched to a cabriolet?"

"Yes."

"And how long can he rest at the end of his journey?"

"He must be able to set out again on the next day if necessary."

"To traverse the same road?"

"Yes."

"The deuce! the deuce! And it is twenty leagues?"

M. Madeleine drew from his pocket the paper on which he had pencilled some figures. He showed it to the Fleming. The figures were 5, 6, 8 1/2.

"You see," he said, "total, nineteen and a half; as well say twenty leagues."

"Mr. Mayor," returned the Fleming, "I have just what you want. My little white horse--you may have seen him pass occasionally; he is a small beast from Lower Boulonnais. He is full of fire. They wanted to make a saddle-horse of him at first. Bah! He reared, he kicked, he laid everybody flat on the ground. He was thought to be vicious, and no one knew what to do with him. I bought him. I harnessed him to a carriage. That is what he wanted, sir; he is as gentle as a girl; he goes like the wind. Ah! indeed he must not be mounted. It does not suit his ideas to be a saddle-horse. Every one has his ambition. `Draw? Yes. Carry? No.' We must suppose that is what he said to himself."

"And he will accomplish the trip?"

"Your twenty leagues all at a full trot, and in less than eight hours. But here are the conditions."

"State them."

"In the first place. you will give him half an hour's breathing spell midway of the road; he will eat; and some one must be by while he is eating to prevent the stable boy of the inn from stealing his oats; for I have noticed that in inns the oats are more often drunk by the stable men than eaten by the horses."

"Some one will be by."

"In the second place--is the cabriolet for Monsieur le Maire?"

"Yes."

"Does Monsieur le Maire know how to drive?"

"Yes."

"Well, Monsieur le Maire will travel alone and without baggage, in order not to overload the horse?"

"Agreed."

"But as Monsieur le Maire will have no one with him, he will be obliged to take the trouble himself of seeing that the oats are not stolen."

"That is understood."

"I am to have thirty francs a day. The days of rest to be paid for also--not a farthing less; and the beast's food to be at Monsieur le Maire's expense."

M. Madeleine drew three napoleons from his purse and laid them on the table.

"Here is the pay for two days in advance."

"Fourthly, for such a journey a cabriolet would be too heavy, and would fatigue the horse. Monsieur le Maire must consent to travel in a little tilbury that I own."

"I consent to that."

"It is light, but it has no cover."

"That makes no difference to me."

"Has Monsieur le Maire reflected that we are in the middle of winter?"

M. Madeleine did not reply. The Fleming resumed:--

"That it is very cold?"

M. Madeleine preserved silence.

Master Scaufflaire continued:--

"That it may rain?"

M. Madeleine raised his head and said:--

"The tilbury and the horse will be in front of my door to-morrow morning at half-past four o'clock."

"Of course, Monsieur le Maire," replied Scaufflaire; then, scratching a speck in the wood of the table with his thumb-nail, he resumed with that careless air which the Flemings understand so well how to mingle with their shrewdness:--

"But this is what I am thinking of now: Monsieur le Maire has not told me where he is going. Where is Monsieur le Maire going?"

He had been thinking of nothing else since the beginning of the conversation, but he did not know why he had not dared to put the question.

"Are your horse's forelegs good?" said M. Madeleine.

"Yes, Monsieur le Maire. You must hold him in a little when going down hill. Are there many descends between here and the place whither you are going?"

"Do not forget to be at my door at precisely half-past four o'clock to-morrow morning," replied M. Madeleine; and he took his departure.

The Fleming remained "utterly stupid," as he himself said some time afterwards.

The mayor had been gone two or three minutes when the door opened again; it was the mayor once more.

He still wore the same impassive and preoccupied air.

"Monsieur Scaufflaire," said he, "at what sum do you estimate the value of the horse and tilbury which you are to let to me,-- the one bearing the other?"

"The one dragging the other, Monsieur le Maire," said the Fleming, with a broad smile.

"So be it. Well?"

"Does Monsieur le Maire wish to purchase them or me?"

"No; but I wish to guarantee you in any case. You shall give me back the sum at my return. At what value do you estimate your horse and cabriolet?"

"Five hundred francs, Monsieur le Maire."

"Here it is."

M. Madeleine laid a bank-bill on the table, then left the room; and this time he did not return.

Master Scaufflaire experienced a frightful regret that he had not said a thousand francs. Besides the horse and tilbury together were worth but a hundred crowns.

The Fleming called his wife, and related the affair to her. "Where the devil could Monsieur le Maire be going?" They held counsel together. "He is going to Paris," said the wife. "I don't believe it," said the husband.

M. Madeleine had forgotten the paper with the figures on it, and it lay on the chimney-piece. The Fleming picked it up and studied it. "Five, six, eight and a half? That must designate the posting relays." He turned to his wife:--

"I have found out."

"What?"

"It is five leagues from here to Hesdin, six from Hesdin to Saint-Pol, eight and a half from Saint-Pol to Arras. He is going to Arras."

Meanwhile, M. Madeleine had returned home. He had taken the longest way to return from Master Scaufflaire's, as though the parsonage door had been a temptation for him, and he had wished to avoid it. He ascended to his room, and there he shut himself up, which was a very simple act, since he liked to go to bed early. Nevertheless, the portress of the factory, who was, at the same time, M. Madeleine's only servant, noticed that the latter's light was extinguished at half-past eight, and she mentioned it to the cashier when he came home, adding:--

"Is Monsieur le Maire ill? I thought he had a rather singular air."

This cashier occupied a room situated directly under M. Madeleine's chamber. He paid no heed to the portress's words, but went to bed and to sleep. Towards midnight he woke up with a start; in his sleep he had heard a noise above his head. He listened; it was a footstep pacing back and forth, as though some one were walking in the room above him. He listened more attentively, and recognized M. Madeleine's step. This struck him as strange; usually, there was no noise in M. Madeleine's chamber until he rose in the morning. A moment later the cashier heard a noise which resembled that of a cupboard being opened, and then shut again; then a piece of furniture was disarranged; then a pause ensued; then the step began again. The cashier sat up in bed, quite awake now, and staring; and through his window-panes he saw the reddish gleam of a lighted window reflected on the opposite wall; from the direction of the rays, it could only come from the window of M. Madeleine's chamber. The reflection wavered, as though it came rather from a fire which had been lighted than from a candle. The shadow of the window-frame was not shown, which indicated that the window was wide open. The fact that this window was open in such cold weather was surprising. The cashier fell asleep again. An hour or two later he waked again. The same step was still passing slowly and regularly back and forth overhead.

The reflection was still visible on the wall, but now it was pale and peaceful, like the reflection of a lamp or of a candle. The window was still open.

This is what had taken place in M. Madeleine's room.




二 斯戈弗莱尔师父的精明




从市政府出来,他走到城尽头一个佛兰德人的家里。那人叫斯戈弗拉爱,变成法文便是斯戈弗莱尔,他有马匹出租。车子也可以随意租用。

去那斯戈弗莱尔家,最近的路,是走一条行人稀少的街,马德兰先生住的那一区的本堂神甫的住宅便在那条街上。据说,那神甫为人正直可敬,善于决疑。正当马德兰先生走到那神甫住宅门前时,街上只有一个行人,那行人看见了这样一件事:市长先生走过那神甫的住宅以后,停住脚,立了一会,又转回头,直走到神甫住宅的那扇不大不小、有个铁锤的门口。他连忙提起铁锤,继又提着不动,突然停顿下来,仿佛在想什么,几秒钟过后,他又把那铁锤轻轻放下,不让它发出声音,再循原路走去,形状急促,那是他以前不曾有过的情形。

马德兰先生找着了斯戈弗莱尔师父,他正在家修补?具。

“斯戈弗莱尔师父,”他问道,“您有匹好马吗?”

“市长先生,”那个佛兰德人说,“我的马全是好的。您所谓好马是怎样的好马呢?”

“我的意思是说一匹每天能走二十法里的马。”

“见鬼!”那个佛兰德人说,“二十法里!”

“是的。”

“要套上车吗?”

“要的。”

“走过以后,它有多少时间休息?”

“它总应当能够第二天又走,如果必要的话。”

“走原来的那段路程吗?”

“是的。”

“见鬼!活见鬼!是二十法里吗?”

马德兰先生从衣袋里把他用铅笔涂了些数字的那张纸拿出来。他把它递给那佛兰德人看。那几个数字是5,6,812。

“您看,”他说,“总共是十九又二分之一,那就等于二十。”

“市长先生,”佛兰德人又说,“您的事,我可以办到。我的那匹小白马,有时您应当看见它走过的。那是一匹下布洛涅种的小牲口。火气正旺。起初,有人想把它当成一匹坐骑。呀!它发烈性,它把所有的人都摔在地上。大家都把它当个坏种,不知道怎么办。我把它买了来。叫它拉车。先生,那才是它愿意干的呢,它简直和娘儿们一样温存,走得象风一样快。呀!真的,不应当骑在它的背上。它不愿意当坐骑。各有各的志愿。拉车,可以,骑,不行;我们应当相信它对自己曾说过那样的话。”

“它能跑这段路吗?”

“您那二十法里,一路小跑,不到八个钟头便到了。但是我有几个条件。”

“请说。”

“第一,您一定要让它在半路上吐一个钟头的气;它得吃东西,它吃东西时,还得有人在旁边看守,免得客栈里的用人偷它的荞麦;因为我留心过,客栈里那些佣人吞没了的荞麦比马吃下去的还多。”

“一定有人看守。”

“第二……车子是给市长先生本人坐吗?”

“是的。”

“市长先生能驾车吗?”

“能。”

“那么,市长先生不可以带人同走,也不可以带行李,免得马受累。”

“同意。”

“但是市长先生既不带人,那就非自己看守荞麦不可啊。”

“说到做到。”

“我每天要三十法郎。停着不走的日子也一样算。少一文都不行,并且牲口的食料也归市长先生出。”

马德兰先生从他的钱包里拿出三个拿破仑放在桌子上。

“这儿先付两天。”

“第四,走这样的路程,篷车太重了,马吃不消。市长先生必须同意,用我的那辆小车上路。”

“我同意。”

“轻是轻的,但是敞篷的呢。”

“我不在乎。”

“市长先生考虑过没有?我们是在冬季里呀。”

马德兰先生不作声。那佛兰德人接着又说:

“市长先生想到过天气很冷吗?”

马德兰先生仍不开口。斯戈弗莱尔接着说:

“又想到过天可能下雨吗?”

马德兰先生抬起头来说:

“这小车和马在明天早晨四点半钟一定要在我的门口等。”

“听见了,市长先生,”斯戈弗莱尔回答,一面又用他大拇指的指甲刮着桌面上的一个迹印,一面用佛兰德人最善于混在他们狡猾里的那种漠不关心的神气说:“我现在才想到一件事。市长先生没有告诉我要到什么地方去。市长先生到什么地方去呢?”

从交谈一开始,他就没有想到过旁的事,但是他不知道他以前为什么不敢问。

“您的马的前腿得力吗?”马德兰先生说。

“得力,市长先生。在下坡时,您稍微勒住它一下。您去的地方有许多坡吗?”

“不要忘记明天早晨准四点半钟在我的门口等。”马德兰先生回答说。

于是他出去了。

那佛兰德人,正象他自己在过了些时候说的,“傻得和畜生似的”楞住了。

市长先生走后两三分钟,那扇门又开了,进来的仍是市长先生。

他仍旧有那种心情缭乱而力自镇静的神气。

“斯戈弗莱尔师父,”他说,“您租给我的那匹马和那辆车子,您估计值多少钱呢,车子带马的话?”

“马带车子,市长先生。”那佛兰德人呵呵大笑地说。

“好吧。值多少钱呢?”

“难道市长先生想买我的车和马吗?”

“不买。但是我要让您有种担保,以备万一有危险。我回来时,您把钱还我就是了。依您估价车和马值多少钱呢?”

“五百法郎,市长先生。”

“这就是。”

马德兰先生放了一张钞票在桌子上,走了,这次却没有再回头。

斯戈弗莱尔深悔没有说一千法郎。实际上,那匹马和那辆车子总共只值三百法郎。

佛兰德人把他的妻唤来,又把经过告诉了她。市长先生可能到什么鬼地方去呢?他们讨论起来。“他要去巴黎。”那妇人说。“我想不是的。”丈夫说。马德兰先生把写了数字的那张纸忘在壁炉上了。那佛兰德人把那张纸拿来研究。“五,六,八又二分之一?这应当是记各站的里程的。”他转身向着他的妻。

“我找出来了。”“怎样呢?”“从此地到爱司丹五法里,从爱司丹到圣波尔六法里,从圣波尔到阿拉斯八法里半。他去阿拉斯。”

这时,马德兰先生已经到了家。

他从斯戈弗莱尔师父家回去时,走了一条最长的路,仿佛那神甫住宅的大门对他是一种诱惑,因而要避开它似的。他上楼到了自己屋子里,关上房门,那是件最简单不过的事,因为他平日素来乐于早睡。马德兰先生唯一的女仆便是这工厂的门房,当晚,她看见他的灯在八点半钟便熄了,出纳员回厂,她把这情形告诉他说:

“难道市长先生害了病吗?我觉得他的神色有点不正常。”

那出纳员恰恰住在马德兰先生下面的房间里。他丝毫没有注意那门房说的话,他睡他的,并且睡着了。

快到半夜时,他忽然醒过来;他在睡梦中听见在他头上有响声。他注意听。好象有人在他上面屋子里走路,是来回走动的步履声。他再仔细听,便听出了那是马德兰先生的脚步。他感到诧异,平日在起身以前,马德兰先生的房间里素来是没有声音的。过了一会,那出纳员又听见一种开橱关橱的声音。随后,有人搬动了一件家具,一阵寂静之后,那脚步声又开始了。出纳员坐了起来,完全醒了,张开眼睛望,他通过自己的玻璃窗看见对面墙上有从另一扇窗子里射出的红光。从那光线的方向,可以看出那只能是马德兰先生的卧室的窗子。墙上的反光还不时颤动,好象是一种火焰的反射,而不是光的反射。窗格的影子没有显出来,这说明那扇窗子是完全敞开的。当时天气正冷,窗子却开着,真是怪事。出纳员又睡去了。一两个钟头过后,他又醒过来。同样缓而匀的步履声始终在他的头上来来去去。

反光始终映在墙上,不过现在比较黯淡平稳,好象是一盏灯或一支烛的反射了。窗子却仍旧开着。

下面便是当晚在马德兰先生房间里发生的事。
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