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第三卷完成他对死者的诺言 第10章弄巧成拙

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CHAPTER X HE WHO SEEKS TO BETTER HIMSELF MAY RENDER HIS SITUATION WORSE



Madame Thenardier had allowed her husband to have his own way, as was her wont. She had expected great results. When the man and Cosette had taken their departure, Thenardier allowed a full quarter of an hour to elapse; then he took her aside and showed her the fifteen hundred francs.

"Is that all?" said she.

It was the first time since they had set up housekeeping that she had dared to criticise one of the master's acts.

The blow told.

"You are right, in sooth," said he; "I am a fool. Give me my hat."

He folded up the three bank-bills, thrust them into his pocket, and ran out in all haste; but he made a mistake and turned to the right first. Some neighbors, of whom he made inquiries, put him on the track again; the Lark and the man had been seen going in the direction of Livry. He followed these hints, walking with great strides, and talking to himself the while:--

"That man is evidently a million dressed in yellow, and I am an animal. First he gave twenty sous, then five francs, then fifty francs, then fifteen hundred francs, all with equal readiness. He would have given fifteen thousand francs. But I shall overtake him."

And then, that bundle of clothes prepared beforehand for the child; all that was singular; many mysteries lay concealed under it. One does not let mysteries out of one's hand when one has once grasped them. The secrets of the wealthy are sponges of gold; one must know how to subject them to pressure. All these thoughts whirled through his brain. "I am an animal," said he.

When one leaves Montfermeil and reaches the turn which the road takes that runs to Livry, it can be seen stretching out before one to a great distance across the plateau. On arriving there, he calculated that he ought to be able to see the old man and the child. He looked as far as his vision reached, and saw nothing. He made fresh inquiries, but he had wasted time. Some passers-by informed him that the man and child of whom he was in search had gone towards the forest in the direction of Gagny. He hastened in that direction.

They were far in advance of him; but a child walks slowly, and he walked fast; and then, he was well acquainted with the country.

All at once he paused and dealt himself a blow on his forehead like a man who has forgotten some essential point and who is ready to retrace his steps.

"I ought to have taken my gun," said he to himself.

Thenardier was one of those double natures which sometimes pass through our midst without our being aware of the fact, and who disappear without our finding them out, because destiny has only exhibited one side of them. It is the fate of many men to live thus half submerged. In a calm and even situation, Thenardier possessed all that is required to make--we will not say to be-- what people have agreed to call an honest trader, a good bourgeois. At the same time certain circumstances being given, certain shocks arriving to bring his under-nature to the surface, he had all the requisites for a blackguard. He was a shopkeeper in whom there was some taint of the monster. Satan must have occasionally crouched down in some corner of the hovel in which Thenardier dwelt, and have fallen a-dreaming in the presence of this hideous masterpiece.

After a momentary hesitation:--

"Bah!" he thought; "they will have time to make their escape."

And he pursued his road, walking rapidly straight ahead, and with almost an air of certainty, with the sagacity of a fox scenting a covey of partridges.

In truth, when he had passed the ponds and had traversed in an oblique direction the large clearing which lies on the right of the Avenue de Bellevue, and reached that turf alley which nearly makes the circuit of the hill, and covers the arch of the ancient aqueduct of the Abbey of Chelles, he caught sight, over the top of the brushwood, of the hat on which he had already erected so many conjectures; it was that man's hat. The brushwood was not high. Thenardier recognized the fact that the man and Cosette were sitting there. The child could not be seen on account of her small size, but the head of her doll was visible.

Thenardier was not mistaken. The man was sitting there, and letting Cosette get somewhat rested. The inn-keeper walked round the brushwood and presented himself abruptly to the eyes of those whom he was in search of.

"Pardon, excuse me, sir," he said, quite breathless, "but here are your fifteen hundred francs."

So saying, he handed the stranger the three bank-bills.

The man raised his eyes.

"What is the meaning of this?"

Thenardier replied respectfully:--

"It means, sir, that I shall take back Cosette."

Cosette shuddered, and pressed close to the old man.

He replied, gazing to the very bottom of Thenardier's eyes the while, and enunciating every syllable distinctly:--

"You are go-ing to take back Co-sette?"

"Yes, sir, I am. I will tell you; I have considered the matter. In fact, I have not the right to give her to you. I am an honest man, you see; this child does not belong to me; she belongs to her mother. It was her mother who confided her to me; I can only resign her to her mother. You will say to me, `But her mother is dead.' Good; in that case I can only give the child up to the person who shall bring me a writing, signed by her mother, to the effect that I am to hand the child over to the person therein mentioned; that is clear."

The man, without making any reply, fumbled in his pocket, and Thenardier beheld the pocket-book of bank-bills make its appearance once more.

The tavern-keeper shivered with joy.

"Good!" thought he; "let us hold firm; he is going to bribe me!"

Before opening the pocket-book, the traveller cast a glance about him: the spot was absolutely deserted; there was not a soul either in the woods or in the valley. The man opened his pocket-book once more and drew from it, not the handful of bills which Thenardier expected, but a simple little paper, which he unfolded and presented fully open to the inn-keeper, saying:--

"You are right; read!"

Thenardier took the paper and read:--

"M. SUR M., March 25, 1823.

"MONSIEUR THENARDIER:-- You will deliver Cosette to this person. You will be paid for all the little things. I have the honor to salute you with respect, FANTINE."

"You know that signature?" resumed the man.

It certainly was Fantine's signature; Thenardier recognized it.

There was no reply to make; he experienced two violent vexations, the vexation of renouncing the bribery which he had hoped for, and the vexation of being beaten; the man added:--

"You may keep this paper as your receipt."

Thenardier retreated in tolerably good order.

"This signature is fairly well imitated," he growled between his teeth; "however, let it go!"

Then he essayed a desperate effort.

"It is well, sir," he said, "since you are the person, but I must be paid for all those little things. A great deal is owing to me."

The man rose to his feet, filliping the dust from his thread-bare sleeve:--

"Monsieur Thenardier, in January last, the mother reckoned that she owed you one hundred and twenty francs. In February, you sent her a bill of five hundred francs; you received three hundred francs at the end of February, and three hundred francs at the beginning of March. Since then nine months have elapsed, at fifteen francs a month, the price agreed upon, which makes one hundred and thirty-five francs. You had received one hundred francs too much; that makes thirty-five still owing you. I have just given you fifteen hundred francs."

Thenardier's sensations were those of the wolf at the moment when he feels himself nipped and seized by the steel jaw of the trap.

"Who is this devil of a man?" he thought.

He did what the wolf does: he shook himself. Audacity had succeeded with him once.

"Monsieur-I-don't-know-your-name," he said resolutely, and this time casting aside all respectful ceremony, "I shall take back Cosette if you do not give me a thousand crowns."

The stranger said tranquilly:--

"Come, Cosette."

He took Cosette by his left hand, and with his right he picked up his cudgel, which was lying on the ground.

Thenardier noted the enormous size of the cudgel and the solitude of the spot.

The man plunged into the forest with the child, leaving the inn-keeper motionless and speechless.

While they were walking away, Thenardier scrutinized his huge shoulders, which were a little rounded, and his great fists.

Then, bringing his eyes back to his own person, they fell upon his feeble arms and his thin hands. "I really must have been exceedingly stupid not to have thought to bring my gun," he said to himself, "since I was going hunting!"

However, the inn-keeper did not give up.

"I want to know where he is going," said he, and he set out to follow them at a distance. Two things were left on his hands, an irony in the shape of the paper signed Fantine, and a consolation, the fifteen hundred francs.

The man led Cosette off in the direction of Livry and Bondy. He walked slowly, with drooping head, in an attitude of reflection and sadness. The winter had thinned out the forest, so that Thenardier did not lose them from sight, although he kept at a good distance. The man turned round from time to time, and looked to see if he was being followed. All at once he caught sight of Thenardier. He plunged suddenly into the brushwood with Cosette, where they could both hide themselves. "The deuce!" said Thenardier, and he redoubled his pace.

The thickness of the undergrowth forced him to draw nearer to them. When the man had reached the densest part of the thicket, he wheeled round. It was in vain that Thenardier sought to conceal himself in the branches; he could not prevent the man seeing him. The man cast upon him an uneasy glance, then elevated his head and continued his course. The inn-keeper set out again in pursuit. Thus they continued for two or three hundred paces. All at once the man turned round once more; he saw the inn-keeper. This time he gazed at him with so sombre an air that Thenardier decided that it was "useless" to proceed further. Thenardier retraced his steps.




十 弄巧成拙




德纳第大娘,和往常一样,让她丈夫作主。她一心等待大事发生。那人和珂赛特走了以后,又足足过了一刻钟德纳第才把她引到一边,拿出那一千五百法郎给她看。

“就这!”她说。

自从他们开始组织家庭以来,敢向家长采取批评行动她这还是第一次。

这一挑唆起了作用。

“的确,你说得对,”他说,“我是个笨蛋。去把我的帽子拿来。”

他把那三张银行钞票折好,插在衣袋底里,匆匆忙忙出了大门,但是他搞错了方向,出门后转向右边。他向几个邻居打听以后,才摸清路线,有人看见百灵鸟和那人朝着利弗里方面走去。他接受了这些人的指点,一面迈着大步向前走,一面在自言自语。

“这人虽然穿件黄衣,却显然是个百万富翁,而我,竟是个畜生。他起先给了二十个苏,接着又给了五法郎,接着又是五十法郎,接着又是一千五百法郎,全不在乎。他也许还会给一万五千法郎。我一定要追上他。”

还有那事先替小姑娘准备好的衣包,这一切都很奇怪,这里一定有许多秘密。我们抓住秘密就不该放松。有钱人的隐情是浸满金汁的海绵,应当知道怎样来挤它。所有这些想法都在他的脑子里回旋。“我是个畜生。”他说。

出了孟费?,到了向利弗里去的那条公路的岔路口,人们便能见到那条公路在高原上一直延伸到很远的地方。他到了岔路口,估计一定可以望见那人和小姑娘。他纵目望去,直到他眼力所及之处,可是什么也没看见。他再向旁人打听。这就耽误了时间。有些过路人告诉他,说他所找的那个人和孩子已经走向加尼方面的树林里去了。他便朝那方向赶上去。他们原走在他的前面,但是孩子走得慢,而他呢,走得快。

并且这地方又是他很熟悉的。

他忽然停下来,拍着自己的额头,好象一个忘了什么极重要的东西想转身折回去取的人那样。

“我原该带着我的长枪来的!”他向自己说。

德纳第原是那样一个具有双重性格的人,那种人有时会在我们中蒙混过去,混过去以后也不至于被发现。有许多人便是那样半明半暗度过他们的一生。德纳第在安定平凡的环境中完全可以当一个??我们不说“是”一个??够得上称一声诚实的商人、好士绅那样的人。同时,在某种情况下,当某种动力触动他的隐藏的本性时,他也完全可以成为一个暴徒。这是一个具有魔性的小商人。撒旦偶然也会蹲在德纳第过活的那所破屋的某个角落里并对这个丑恶的代表人物做着好梦的。

在踌躇了一会儿之后,他想:

“唔!他们也许已有足够的时间逃跑了!”

他继续赶他的路,快速向前奔,几乎是极有把握的样子,象一只凭嗅觉猎取鹧鸪的狐狸一样敏捷。

果然,当他已走过池塘,从斜刺里穿过美景大道右方的那一大片旷地,走到那条生着浅草、几乎环绕那个土丘而又延展到谢尔修院的古渠的涵洞上的小径时,他忽然望见有顶帽子从丛莽中露出来,对这顶帽子他早已提过多少疑问,那确是那人的帽子。那丛莽并不高。德纳第认为那人和珂赛特都坐在那里。他望不见那孩子,因为她小,可是他望见了那玩偶的头。

德纳第没有搞错。那人确坐在那里,好让珂赛特休息一下。客店老板绕过那堆丛莽,突然出现在他寻找的那两个人的眼前。

“对不起,请原谅,先生,”他一面喘着气,一面说,“这是您的一千五百法郎。”

他这样说着,同时把那三张钞票伸向那陌生人。

那个人抬起眼睛。

“这是什么意思?”

德纳第恭恭敬敬地回答:

“先生,这意思就是说我要把珂赛特带回去。”

珂赛特浑身战栗,紧靠在老人怀里。

他呢,他的眼光直射到德纳第的眼睛底里,一字一顿地回答:

“你??要??把??珂赛特??带??回??去?”

“是的,先生,我要把她带回去。我来告诉您。我考虑过了。事实上,我没有把她送给您的权利。我是一个诚实人,您知道。这小姑娘不是我的,是她妈的。她妈把她托付给我,我只能把她交还给她的妈。您会对我说:‘可是她妈死了。’好。在这种情况下,我就只能把这孩子交给这样一个人,一个带着一封经她母亲签了字的信,信里还得说明要我把孩子交给他的人。这是显而易见的。”

这人,不回答,把手伸到衣袋里,德纳第又瞧见那个装钞票的皮夹出现在他眼前。

客店老板乐得浑身酥软。

“好了!”他心里想,“站稳脚。他要来腐蚀我了!”

那陌生人在打开皮夹以前,先向四周望了一望。那地方是绝对荒凉的。树林里和山谷里都不见一个人影。那人打开皮夹,可是他从那里抽出来的,不是德纳第所期望的那一叠钞票,而是一张简单的小纸,他把那张纸整个儿打开来,送给客店老板看,并且说:

“您说得有理。念吧。”

德纳第拿了那张纸,念道:

德纳第先生:

请将珂赛特交来人。一切零星债款,我负责偿还。此颂大安。

芳汀

滨海蒙特勒伊,一八二三年三月二十五日

“您认得这签字吧?”那人又说。

那确是芳汀的签字。德纳第也认清了。

没有什么可以反驳的了。他感到两种强烈的恚恨,恨自己必须放弃原先期望的腐蚀,又恨自己被击败。那人又说:

“您可以把这张纸留下,好卸责任。”

德纳第向后退却,章法却不乱。

“这签字摹仿得相当好,”他咬紧牙咕哝着,“不过,让它去吧!”

接着,他试图作一次无望的挣扎。

“先生,”他说,“这很好。您既然就是来人。但是那‘一切零星债款’得照付给我。这笔债不少呢。”

那个人立起来了,他一面用中指弹去他那已磨损的衣袖上的灰尘,一面说:

“德纳第先生,她母亲在一月份计算过欠您一百二十法郎,您在二月中寄给她一张五百法郎的账单,您在二月底收到了三百法郎,三月初又收到三百法郎。此后又讲定数目,十五法郎一月,这样又过了九个月,共计一百三十五法郎。您从前多收了一百法郎,我们只欠您三十五法郎的尾数,刚才我给了您一千五百法郎。”①德纳第感受到的,正和豺狼感到自己已被捕兽机的钢牙咬住钳住时的感受一样。

“这人究竟是个什么鬼东西?”他心里想。

他和豺狼一样行动起来。他把身体一抖。他曾用蛮干的办法得到过一次成功。

这次,他把恭敬的样子丢在一边了,斩钉截铁地说:“无??名??无??姓的先生,我一定要领回珂赛特,除非您再给我一千埃居②。”

①此处数字和前面叙述芳汀遭难时欠款数字不完全相符,原文如此,照译。

②埃居(écu),法国古钱币名,因种类较多,故折合的价值不一。 

这陌生人心平气和地说:

“来,珂赛特。”

他用左手牵着珂赛特,用右手从地上拾起他的那根棍棒。

德纳第望着那根粗壮无比的棍棒和那一片荒凉的地方。

那人带着珂赛特深入到林中去了,把那呆若木鸡的客店老板丢在一边。

正当他们越走越远时,德纳第一直望着他那两只稍微有点伛偻的宽肩膀和他的两个大拳头。

随后,他的眼睛折回到自己身上,望着自己的两条干胳膊和瘦手。“我的确太蠢了,”他想道,“我既然出来打猎,却又没把我的那支长枪带来!”

可是这客店老板还不肯罢休。

“就要知道他去什么地方。”他说。于是他远远地跟着他们。他手里只捏着两件东西,一件是讽刺,芳汀签了字的那张破纸,另一件是安慰,那一千五百法郎。

那人领着珂赛特,朝着利弗里和邦迪的方向走去。他低着头,慢慢走,这姿态显示出他是在运用心思,并且感到悲伤。入冬以后,草木都已凋零,显得疏朗,因此德纳第虽然和他们相隔颇远,但不至于望不见他们。那个人不时回转头来,看看是否有人跟他。忽然,他瞧见了德纳第。他连忙领着珂赛特转进矮树丛里,一下子两人全不见了。“见鬼!”德纳第说。他加紧脚步往前追。

树丛的密度迫使他不得不走近他们。那人走到枝桠最密的地方,把身子转了过来。德纳第想藏到树枝里去也枉然,他没有办法不让他看见。那人带着一种戒备的神情望了他一眼,摇了摇头,再往前走。客店老板仍旧跟着他。突然一下,那人又回转身来。他又瞧见了客店老板。他这一次看人的神气这样阴沉,以致德纳第认为“不便”再跟上去了。德纳第这才转身回家。
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经典名著 四六级考试 IELTS雅思 听说读写能力 在线语法词典 行业英语一 行业英语二 生活英语 轻松英语 专题英语
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