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第三卷完成他对死者的诺言 第05章孤苦伶仃的小女孩

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CHAPTER V THE LITTLE ONE ALL ALONE



As the Thenardier hostelry was in that part of the village which is near the church, it was to the spring in the forest in the direction of Chelles that Cosette was obliged to go for her water.

She did not glance at the display of a single other merchant. So long as she was in Boulanger Lane and in the neighborhood of the church, the lighted stalls illuminated the road; but soon the last light from the last stall vanished. The poor child found herself in the dark. She plunged into it. Only, as a certain emotion overcame her, she made as much motion as possible with the handle of the bucket as she walked along. This made a noise which afforded her company.

The further she went, the denser the darkness became. There was no one in the streets. However, she did encounter a woman, who turned around on seeing her, and stood still, muttering between her teeth: "Where can that child be going? Is it a werewolf child?" Then the woman recognized Cosette. "Well," said she, "it's the Lark!"

In this manner Cosette traversed the labyrinth of tortuous and deserted streets which terminate in the village of Montfermeil on the side of Chelles. So long as she had the houses or even the walls only on both sides of her path, she proceeded with tolerable boldness. From time to time she caught the flicker of a candle through the crack of a shutter--this was light and life; there were people there, and it reassured her. But in proportion as she advanced, her pace slackened mechanically, as it were. When she had passed the corner of the last house, Cosette paused. It had been hard to advance further than the last stall; it became impossible to proceed further than the last house. She set her bucket on the ground, thrust her hand into her hair, and began slowly to scratch her head,--a gesture peculiar to children when terrified and undecided what to do. It was no longer Montfermeil; it was the open fields. Black and desert space was before her. She gazed in despair at that darkness, where there was no longer any one, where there were beasts, where there were spectres, possibly. She took a good look, and heard the beasts walking on the grass, and she distinctly saw spectres moving in the trees. Then she seized her bucket again; fear had lent her audacity. "Bah!" said she; "I will tell him that there was no more water!" And she resolutely re-entered Montfermeil.

Hardly had she gone a hundred paces when she paused and began to scratch her head again. Now it was the Thenardier who appeared to her, with her hideous, hyena mouth, and wrath flashing in her eyes. The child cast a melancholy glance before her and behind her. What was she to do? What was to become of her? Where was she to go? In front of her was the spectre of the Thenardier; behind her all the phantoms of the night and of the forest. It was before the Thenardier that she recoiled. She resumed her path to the spring, and began to run. She emerged from the village, she entered the forest at a run, no longer looking at or listening to anything. She only paused in her course when her breath failed her; but she did not halt in her advance. She went straight before her in desperation.

As she ran she felt like crying.

The nocturnal quivering of the forest surrounded her completely.

She no longer thought, she no longer saw. The immensity of night was facing this tiny creature. On the one hand, all shadow; on the other, an atom.

It was only seven or eight minutes' walk from the edge of the woods to the spring. Cosette knew the way, through having gone over it many times in daylight. Strange to say, she did not get lost. A remnant of instinct guided her vaguely. But she did not turn her eyes either to right or to left, for fear of seeing things in the branches and in the brushwood. In this manner she reached the spring.

It was a narrow, natural basin, hollowed out by the water in a clayey soil, about two feet deep, surrounded with moss and with those tall, crimped grasses which are called Henry IV.'s frills, and paved with several large stones. A brook ran out of it, with a tranquil little noise.

Cosette did not take time to breathe. It was very dark, but she was in the habit of coming to this spring. She felt with her left hand in the dark for a young oak which leaned over the spring, and which usually served to support her, found one of its branches, clung to it, bent down, and plunged the bucket in the water. She was in a state of such violent excitement that her strength was trebled. While thus bent over, she did not notice that the pocket of her apron had emptied itself into the spring. The fifteen-sou piece fell into the water. Cosette neither saw nor heard it fall. She drew out the bucket nearly full, and set it on the grass.

That done, she perceived that she was worn out with fatigue. She would have liked to set out again at once, but the effort required to fill the bucket had been such that she found it impossible to take a step. She was forced to sit down. She dropped on the grass, and remained crouching there.

She shut her eyes; then she opened them again, without knowing why, but because she could not do otherwise. The agitated water in the bucket beside her was describing circles which resembled tin serpents.

Overhead the sky was covered with vast black clouds, which were like masses of smoke. The tragic mask of shadow seemed to bend vaguely over the child.

Jupiter was setting in the depths.

The child stared with bewildered eyes at this great star, with which she was unfamiliar, and which terrified her. The planet was, in fact, very near the horizon and was traversing a dense layer of mist which imparted to it a horrible ruddy hue. The mist, gloomily empurpled, magnified the star. One would have called it a luminous wound.

A cold wind was blowing from the plain. The forest was dark, not a leaf was moving; there were none of the vague, fresh gleams of summertide. Great boughs uplifted themselves in frightful wise. Slender and misshapen bushes whistled in the clearings. The tall grasses undulated like eels under the north wind. The nettles seemed to twist long arms furnished with claws in search of prey. Some bits of dry heather, tossed by the breeze, flew rapidly by, and had the air of fleeing in terror before something which was coming after. On all sides there were lugubrious stretches.

The darkness was bewildering. Man requires light. Whoever buries himself in the opposite of day feels his heart contract. When the eye sees black, the heart sees trouble. In an eclipse in the night, in the sooty opacity, there is anxiety even for the stoutest of hearts. No one walks alone in the forest at night without trembling. Shadows and trees--two formidable densities. A chimerical reality appears in the indistinct depths. The inconceivable is outlined a few paces distant from you with a spectral clearness. One beholds floating, either in space or in one's own brain, one knows not what vague and intangible thing, like the dreams of sleeping flowers. There are fierce attitudes on the horizon. One inhales the effluvia of the great black void. One is afraid to glance behind him, yet desirous of doing so. The cavities of night, things grown haggard, taciturn profiles which vanish when one advances, obscure dishevelments, irritated tufts, livid pools, the lugubrious reflected in the funereal, the sepulchral immensity of silence, unknown but possible beings, bendings of mysterious branches, alarming torsos of trees, long handfuls of quivering plants,-- against all this one has no protection. There is no hardihood which does not shudder and which does not feel the vicinity of anguish. One is conscious of something hideous, as though one's soul were becoming amalgamated with the darkness. This penetration of the shadows is indescribably sinister in the case of a child.

Forests are apocalypses, and the beating of the wings of a tiny soul produces a sound of agony beneath their monstrous vault.

Without understanding her sensations, Cosette was conscious that she was seized upon by that black enormity of nature; it was no longer terror alone which was gaining possession of her; it was something more terrible even than terror; she shivered. There are no words to express the strangeness of that shiver which chilled her to the very bottom of her heart; her eye grew wild; she thought she felt that she should not be able to refrain from returning there at the same hour on the morrow.

Then, by a sort of instinct, she began to count aloud, one, two, three, four, and so on up to ten, in order to escape from that singular state which she did not understand, but which terrified her, and, when she had finished, she began again; this restored her to a true perception of the things about her. Her hands, which she had wet in drawing the water, felt cold; she rose; her terror, a natural and unconquerable terror, had returned: she had but one thought now,--to flee at full speed through the forest, across the fields to the houses, to the windows, to the lighted candles. Her glance fell upon the water which stood before her; such was the fright which the Thenardier inspired in her, that she dared not flee without that bucket of water: she seized the handle with both hands; she could hardly lift the pail.

In this manner she advanced a dozen paces, but the bucket was full; it was heavy; she was forced to set it on the ground once more. She took breath for an instant, then lifted the handle of the bucket again, and resumed her march, proceeding a little further this time, but again she was obliged to pause. After some seconds of repose she set out again. She walked bent forward, with drooping head, like an old woman; the weight of the bucket strained and stiffened her thin arms. The iron handle completed the benumbing and freezing of her wet and tiny hands; she was forced to halt from time to time, and each time that she did so, the cold water which splashed from the pail fell on her bare legs. This took place in the depths of a forest, at night, in winter, far from all human sight; she was a child of eight: no one but God saw that sad thing at the moment.

And her mother, no doubt, alas!

For there are things that make the dead open their eyes in their graves.

She panted with a sort of painful rattle; sobs contracted her throat, but she dared not weep, so afraid was she of the Thenardier, even at a distance: it was her custom to imagine the Thenardier always present.

However, she could not make much headway in that manner, and she went on very slowly. In spite of diminishing the length of her stops, and of walking as long as possible between them, she reflected with anguish that it would take her more than an hour to return to Montfermeil in this manner, and that the Thenardier would beat her. This anguish was mingled with her terror at being alone in the woods at night; she was worn out with fatigue, and had not yet emerged from the forest. On arriving near an old chestnut-tree with which she was acquainted, made a last halt, longer than the rest, in order that she might get well rested; then she summoned up all her strength, picked up her bucket again, and courageously resumed her march, but the poor little desperate creature could not refrain from crying, "O my God! my God!"

At that moment she suddenly became conscious that her bucket no longer weighed anything at all: a hand, which seemed to her enormous, had just seized the handle, and lifted it vigorously. She raised her head. A large black form, straight and erect, was walking beside her through the darkness; it was a man who had come up behind her, and whose approach she had not heard. This man, without uttering a word, had seized the handle of the bucket which she was carrying.

There are instincts for all the encounters of life.

The child was not afraid.





五 孤苦伶仃的小女孩




德纳第客店在那村里的地点既在礼拜堂附近,珂赛特就得向谢尔方面那片树林中的泉边取水。

她不再看任何商贩陈列的物品了。只要她还走在面包师巷和礼拜堂左近一带地方,总还有店铺里的烛光替她照路,可是最后一个摊子的最后一点微光也终于消逝了。那可怜的孩子便到了黑暗中。她还得走向黑暗的更深处。她向着黑暗更深处走去。只是,因为她的心情已经有些紧张,所以她一面走,一面竭力摇着那水桶的提梁。那样她就有一种声音和她作伴。

她越往前走,四周也越黑。街上行人已经绝迹。可是她还遇到一个妇人,那妇人停下来,转身望着她走过去,嘴里含含糊糊地说:“这孩子究竟有什么地方可去呢?难道她是个小狼精吗?”随后,那妇人认出了是珂赛特,又说:“嘿,原来是百灵鸟!”

珂赛特便那样穿过了孟费?村靠谢尔一面的那些弯曲、荒凉,迷宫似的街道。只要她还看见有人家,只要她走的路两旁还有墙,她走起来总还相当大胆。有时,她从一家人家的窗板缝里望见一线烛光,那也就是光明,也就是生命,说明那里还有人,她的心也就安了。可是她越往前走,她的脚步好象会自然而然地慢下来。珂赛特,当她过了最后那所房子的墙角,就忽然站住不动了。越过最后那家店铺已经不容易,要越过最后那所房子再往前去,那是不可能的了。她把水桶放在地上,把只手伸进头发,慢慢地搔着头,那是孩子在惊慌到失去主张时特有的姿态。那已不是孟费?,而是田野了。在她面前的是黑暗荒凉的旷地。她心惊胆颤地望着那漆黑一片、没有人、有野兽、也许还有鬼怪的地方。她仔细看,她听到了在草丛里行走的野兽,也清清楚楚看见了在树林里移动的鬼影。于是她又提起水桶,恐怖给了她勇气:“管他的!”她说,“我回她说没有水就完了!”她坚决转身回孟费?。

她刚走上百来步,又停下来,搔着自己的头。现在出现在她眼前的是德纳第大娘,那样青面獠牙、眼里怒火直冒的德纳第大娘。孩子眼泪汪汪地望望前面,又望望后面。怎么办?会有什么下场?往哪里走?在她前面有德纳第大娘的魔影,在她后面有黑夜里在林中出没的鬼怪。结果她在德纳第大娘的面前退缩了。她再走上往泉边去的那条路,并且跑起来。她跑出村子,跑进了林子,什么也不再望,什么也不再听,直到气喘不过来时才不跑,但也不停步。她只顾往前走,什么全不知道了。

她一面赶路,一面想哭出来。

在夜间,森林的簌簌声把她整个包围起来了。她不再想,也不再看。无边的黑夜竟敌视那小小的生命,一方面是整个黑暗的天地,一方面是一粒原子。

从林边走到泉边,只须七八分钟。珂赛特认识那条路,因为这是她在白天常走的。说也奇怪,她当时并没有迷路。多少有些残存的本能在引导她。她的眼睛既不向右望,也不向左望,惟恐看到树枝和草丛里有什么东西。她便那样到达了泉边。

那是从粘土里流出后汇聚而成的一个狭窄的天然水潭,二尺来深,周围生着青苔和一种有焦黄斑痕、名为“亨利四世的细布皱领”的草本植物,还铺了几块大石头。水从潭口潺潺流出,形成一条溪流。

珂赛特不想歇下来喘气。当时四周漆黑,但是她有来这泉边的习惯。她伸出左手,在黑暗中摸索一株斜在水面上的小槲树,那是她平日用作扶手的,她摸到了一根树枝,攀在上面,弯下腰,把水桶伸入水中。她心情异常紧张,以致力气登时增加三倍。当她那样俯身取水时,她没有注意围裙袋里的东西落在潭里了。那枚值十五个苏的钱落下去了。珂赛特既没有看见也没有听见它落下去。她提起那水桶,放在草地上,几乎是满满一桶水。

在这以后,她才觉得浑身疲乏,一点力气也没有了。她很想立刻回去,但是她灌那桶水时力气已经用尽了,她一步也走不动了。她不得不坐下来。她让自己落在草地上,蹲在那儿动不了。

她闭上眼睛,继又睁开,她自己也不知道是为了什么,却又非那样做不可。

桶里的水,在她旁边荡出一圈圈的波纹,好象是些白火舌。

天空中乌云滚滚,有如煤烟,罩在她头上。黑夜那副悲惨面孔好象对着那孩子在眈眈垂视。

木星正卧在天边深处。

那孩子不认识那颗巨星,她神色仓皇地注视着它,感到害怕。那颗行星当时离地平线确是很近,透过一层浓雾,映出一种骇目的红光。浓雾呈惨黯的紫色,扩大了那个星的形象,好象是个发光的伤口。

原野上吹来一阵冷风。树林里一片深黑,绝无树叶触擦的声音,也绝无夏夜那种半明半昧的清光。高大的杈桠狰狞张舞。枯萎丛杂的矮树在林边隙地上簌簌作声。长高的野草在寒风中象鳗鲡似的蠕蠕游动。榛莽屈曲招展,有如伸出长臂张爪攫人。一团团的干草在风中急走,好象大祸将至,仓皇逃窜似的。四面八方全是凄凉寥廓的旷地。

黑暗使人见了心悸。人非有光不可。任何人进入无光处都会感到心焦。眼睛见到黑暗时心灵也就失去安宁。当月蚀时,夜里在乌黑的地方,即使是最顽强的人也会感到不安。黑暗和树林是两种深不可测的东西。我们的幻想常以为在阴暗的深处有现实的东西。有种无可捉模的事物会在你眼前几步之外显得清晰逼真。我们时常见到一种若隐若现、可望而不可及、缥缈如卧花之梦的景象在空间或我们自己的脑海中浮动。天边常会有一些触目惊心的形象。我们常会嗅到黑暗中太空的气息。我们会感到恐惧并想朝自己的后面看。黑夜的空旷,凶恶的物形,悄立无声走近去看时却又化为乌有的侧影,错杂散乱的黑影,摇曳的树丛,色如死灰的污池,鬼域似的阴惨,坟墓般的寂静,可能有的幽灵,神秘的树枝的垂拂,古怪骇人的光秃树身,临风瑟缩的丛丛野草,对那一切人们是无法抗拒的,胆壮的人也会战栗,也会有祸在眉睫之感。人们会惴惴不安,仿佛觉得自己的灵魂已和那黑暗凝固在一起。对一个孩子来说,黑暗的那种侵袭会使他感到一种无可言喻的可怕。

森林就是鬼宫,在它那幽寂阴森的穹窿下,一只小鸟的振翅声也会令人毛骨悚然。

珂赛特并不了解她所感受的是什么,她只觉得自己被宇宙的那种无边的黑暗所控制。她当时感受的不止是恐怖,而是一种比恐怖更可怕的东西。她打着寒噤。寒噤使她一直冷到心头,没有言语能表达那种奇怪的滋味。她愕然睁着一双眼睛。她仿佛觉得明天晚上的此时此刻她还必须再来此地。

于是,由于一种本能,为了摆脱那种她所不了解而又使她害怕的处境,她高声数着一、二、三、四,一直到十,数完以后,重又开始。她那样做,可使自己对四周的事物有个真实的感觉。她开始感到手冷,那是先头在取水时弄湿的。她站起来。她又恐惧起来了,那是一种自然的、无法克制的恐惧。她只有一个念头:逃走,拔腿飞奔,穿过林子,穿过田野,逃到有人家、有窗子、有烛光的地方。她低头看到了水桶。她不敢不带那桶水逃,德纳第大娘的威风太可怕了。她双手把住桶上的提梁,她用尽力气才提起那桶水。

她那样大致走了十多步,但是那桶水太满,太重,她只得把它重又放下来。她喘了口气,再提起水桶往前走,这回比较走得久一些。可是她又非再停下不可。休息了几秒钟后,她再走。她走时,俯着身子,低着头,象个老太婆,水桶的重量把她那两条瘦胳膊拉得又直又僵,桶上的铁提梁也把她那双湿手冻木了。她不得不走走停停,而每次停下来时,桶里的水总有些泼在她的光腿上。那些事是在树林深处,夜间,冬季,人的眼睛见不到的地方发生的,并且发生在一个八岁的孩子的身上。

当时只有上帝见到那种悲惨的经过。

也许她的母亲也看见了,咳!

因为有些事是会使墓中的死者睁开眼来的。

她带着痛苦的喘气声呻吟,一阵阵哭泣使她喉头哽塞,但她不敢哭,她太怕那德纳第大娘了,即使她离得很远。她常想象德纳第大娘就在她的附近,那已成了她的习惯。

可是她那样并走不了多远,并且走得很慢。她妄想缩短停留的时间,并尽量延长行走的时间。她估计那样走法,非一个钟头到不了孟费?,一定会挨德纳第大娘的一顿打,她心中焦灼万分。焦灼又和独自一人深夜陷在林中的恐怖心情绞成一团。她已困惫不堪,但还没有走出那林子。她走到一株熟悉的老槲树旁,作最后一次较长的停顿,以便好好休息一下,随后她又集中全部力气,提起水桶,鼓足勇气往前走。可是那可怜的伤心绝望的孩子不禁喊了出来:

“呵!我的天主!我的天主!”

就在那时,她忽然觉得她那水桶一点也不重了。有一只手,在她看来粗壮无比,抓住了那提梁,轻轻地就把那水桶提起来了。她抬头望。有个高大直立的黑影,在黑暗中陪着她一同往前走。那是一个从她后面走来而她没有发现的汉子。那汉子,一声不响,抓住了她手里的水桶的提梁。

人有本能适应各种不同的遭遇。那孩子并不怕。
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