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第六卷小比克布斯 第06章小院

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CHAPTER VI THE LITTLE CONVENT



In this enclosure of the Petit-Picpus there were three perfectly distinct buildings,--the Great Convent, inhabited by the nuns, the Boarding-school, where the scholars were lodged; and lastly, what was called the Little Convent. It was a building with a garden, in which lived all sorts of aged nuns of various orders, the relics of cloisters destroyed in the Revolution; a reunion of all the black, gray, and white medleys of all communities and all possible varieties; what might be called, if such a coupling of words is permissible, a sort of harlequin convent.

When the Empire was established, all these poor old dispersed and exiled women had been accorded permission to come and take shelter under the wings of the Bernardines-Benedictines. The government paid them a small pension, the ladies of the Petit-Picpus receiver presence only by the folding seats of the stalls noisily rising and falling.

Abit of her order, which was a white robe with a scarlet scapulary, had piously put it on a little manikin, which she exhibited with complacency and which she bequeathed to the house at her death. In 1824, only one nun of this order remained; to-day, there remains only a doll.

In addition to these worthy mothers, some old society women had obtained permission of the prioress, like Madame Albertine, to retire into the Little Convent. Among the number were Madame Beaufort d'Hautpoul and Marquise Dufresne. Another was never known in the convent except by the formidable noise which she made when she blew her nose. The pupils called her Madame Vacarmini (hubbub).

About 1820 or 1821, Madame de Genlis, who was at that time editing a little periodical publication called l'Intrepide, asked to be allowed to enter the convent of the Petit-Picpus as lady resident. The Duc d'Orleans recommended her. Uproar in the hive; the vocal-mothers were all in a flutter; Madame de Genlis had made romances. But she declared that she was the first to detest them, and then, she had reached her fierce stage of devotion. With the aid of God, and of the Prince, she entered. She departed at the end of six or eight months, alleging as a reason, that there was no shade in the garden. The nuns were delighted. Although very old, she still played the harp, and did it very well.

When she went away she left her mark in her cell. Madame de Genlis was superstitious and a Latinist. These two words furnish a tolerably good profile of her. A few years ago, there were still to be seen, pasted in the inside of a little cupboard in her cell in which she locked up her silverware and her jewels, these five lines in Latin, written with her own hand in red ink on yellow paper, and which, in her opinion, possessed the property of frightening away robbers:--

Imparibus meritis pendent tria corpora ramis:[15] Dismas et Gesmas, media est divina potestas; Alta petit Dismas, infelix, infima, Gesmas; Nos et res nostras conservet summa potestas. Hos versus dicas, ne tu furto tua perdas.

[15] On the boughs hang three bodies of unequal merits: Dismas and Gesmas, between is the divine power. Dismas seeks the heights, Gesmas, unhappy man, the lowest regions; the highest power will preserve us and our effects. If you repeat this verse, you will not lose your things by theft.

These verses in sixth century Latin raise the question whether the two thieves of Calvary were named, as is commonly believed, Dismas and Gestas, or Dismas and Gesmas. This orthography might have confounded the pretensions put forward in the last century by the Vicomte de Gestas, of a descent from the wicked thief. However, the useful virtue attached to these verses forms an article of faith in the order of the Hospitallers.

The church of the house, constructed in such a manner as to separate the Great Convent from the Boarding-school like a veritable intrenchment, was, of course, common to the Boarding-school, the Great Convent, and the Little Convent. The public was even admitted by a sort of lazaretto entrance on the street. But all was so arranged, that none of the inhabitants of the cloister could see a face from the outside world. Suppose a church whose choir is grasped in a gigantic hand, and folded in such a manner as to form, not, as in ordinary churches, a prolongation behind the altar, but a sort of hall, or obscure cellar, to the right of the officiating priest; suppose this hall to be shut off by a curtain seven feet in height, of which we have already spoken; in the shadow of that curtain, pile up on wooden stalls the nuns in the choir on the left, the school-girls on the right, the lay-sisters and the novices at the bottom, and you will have some idea of the nuns of the Petit-Picpus assisting at divine service. That cavern, which was called the choir, communicated with the cloister by a lobby. The church was lighted from the garden. When the nuns were present at services where their rule enjoined silence, the public was warned of their presence only by the folding seats of the stalls noisily rising and falling.



六 小 院




在小比克布斯的花园内,有三个彼此能完全划分开来的院落:修女们住的大院,小学生们住的寄读学校,最后还有所谓小院。那是个带园子和房屋的小院,一些被革命毁了的修院留下来的、原属不同修会的形形色色的老修女都一起住在那里,那是黑色、灰色、白色的杂配,是各种各种的修会团体和五花八门、应有尽有的品种的汇合,我们可以管它叫??如果词儿可以这样联缀的话??什锦院。

从帝国时期起,便已允许所有那些可怜的流离失所的姑娘们到这里来,栖息在伯尔纳-本笃会修女们的翅膀下。政府还发给她们一点点津贴,小比克布斯的修女们热忱地接待了她们。那是一种光怪陆离的杂拌儿。各人遵守着各人的教规。寄读的小学生们有时会得到准许去访问她们,这仿佛是她们的一大乐趣,因此在那些年轻姑娘的记忆里留下了圣巴西尔嬷嬷、圣斯柯拉斯狄克嬷嬷、圣雅各嬷嬷和其他一些嬷嬷的形象。

在那些避难的修女中,有一个认为自己差不多是回到了老家。那是一个圣奥尔会的修女,她是那修会里唯一活着的人。圣奥尔修女们的修院旧址,从十八世纪初起,恰巧是小比克布斯的这所房屋,过后才由玛尔丹·维尔加支系的本笃会修女们接管。那个圣女,过于穷困,穿不起她那修会规定的华美服装:白袍和朱红披肩,便一片诚心地做一套穿在一个小小的人体模型上,欢欢喜喜地摆出来给大家看,临死时,还捐给了修院。那个修会,在一八二四年只留下一个修女,到今天,只留下一个玩偶。

除了这些真正够得上称为嬷嬷的以外,还有几个红尘中的老妇人也和阿尔贝尔丁夫人一样,获得了院长的许可,退隐在那小院里。在那一批人中,有波弗多布夫人和迪费雷纳侯爵夫人。另外还有一个专以擤鼻涕声的洪亮震耳而著名于小院,小学生们都管她叫哗啦啦啦夫人。

将近一八二○或一八二一时,有个让利斯夫人,她当时编辑一本名为《勇士》的期刊,她要求进入小比克布斯修院当一个独修修女。她的介绍人是奥尔良公爵。那修院顿时乱得象一窝蜂,参议嬷嬷们慌到发抖,因为让利斯夫人写过小说。但是她宣布她比任何人都更痛恨小说,并且已经进入勇猛精进的阶段。承上帝庇佑,也承那亲王庇佑,她进了院。六个月或八个月以后她又走了,理由是那园里没有树荫,修女们因而大为高兴。尽管她年纪已经很大,但却仍在弹竖琴,并且弹得相当好。

她离开时,她在她的静室里留下了痕迹。让利斯夫人有些迷信而且还是个拉丁语学者。这两个特点使她的形象相当鲜明。在她的静室里有个小柜,是她平日藏银钱珍宝的地方,几年以前,大家都能看到在那柜子里还贴着一张由她亲笔用红墨水写在黄纸上的这样五句拉丁诗,那些诗句,在她看来,是具有辟盗的魔力的:

三个善恶悬殊的尸体挂在木架上,

狄斯马斯和哲斯马斯,真主在中央,

狄斯马斯升天国,哲斯马斯入地狱,

祈求尊神保护我们和我们的财产,

念了这首诗,你的财宝再不会被盗贼窃夺。

那几句用六世纪的拉丁文写成的诗引起了这样一个问题,那就是我们想知道髑髅地的那两个强盗的名字,究竟是象我们通常所承认的那样,叫狄马斯和哲斯塔斯呢还是叫做狄斯马斯和哲斯马斯。前一世纪的哲斯塔斯子爵自诩是那坏强盗的后代,他如果见了这种写法,也许不大高兴吧。此外,那几句诗所具有的那种有益的魔力是仁爱会修女们所深信的。

那修院的礼拜堂,从方位上说,确是大院和寄读学校之间的间隔,不过它仍是由寄读学校、大院和小院共同使用的。甚至公众也可由一道特设在街旁的大门进去。可是整个布置能使修院的任何女人望不见外界的一张面孔。你想象有个礼拜堂被一只极大的手捏住了它那唱诗台所在的一段,并把它捏变了样??不是变得象一般的礼拜堂那样在祭台后面突出去一段,而是在主祭神甫的右边捏出了一间大厅或是一个黑洞;你再想象那间大厅正如我们在前面已经说过的那样,被一道七尺高的哔叽帷幕所拦住,在帷幕后面的黑影里有一行行的活动坐板椅,你把唱诗的修女们堆在左边,寄读生们堆在右边,勤务嬷嬷和初学生们堆在底里,你对小比克布斯的修女们参与圣祭的情形便有一个概念了。那个黑洞,大家称它为唱诗台,经过一条过道,和修院相通。礼拜堂里的阳光来自园里。修女们参加日课,按照规矩是肃静无声的,外界的人,如果不听见她们椅子上的活动坐板在起落时相撞的声音都不会知道她们在堂里。
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