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第五卷祖孙俩 第01章在重新见到一棵钉有锌皮的树的地方

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BOOK FIFTH.--GRANDSON AND GRANDFATHER

CHAPTER I IN WHICH THE TREE WITH THE ZINC PLASTER APPEARS AGAIN


Some time after the events which we have just recorded, Sieur Boulatruelle experienced a lively emotion.

Sieur Boulatruelle was that road-mender of Montfermeil whom the reader has already seen in the gloomy parts of this book.

Boulatruelle, as the reader may, perchance, recall, was a man who was occupied with divers and troublesome matters. He broke stones and damaged travellers on the highway.

Road-mender and thief as he was, he cherished one dream; he believed in the treasures buried in the forest of Montfermeil. He hoped some day to find the money in the earth at the foot of a tree; in the meanwhile, he lived to search the pockets of passers-by.

Nevertheless, for an instant, he was prudent. He had just escaped neatly. He had been, as the reader is aware, picked up in Jondrette's garret in company with the other ruffians. Utility of a vice: his drunkenness had been his salvation. The authorities had never been able to make out whether he had been there in the quality of a robber or a man who had been robbed. An order of nolle prosequi, founded on his well authenticated state of intoxication on the evening of the ambush, had set him at liberty. He had taken to his heels. He had returned to his road from Gagny to Lagny, to make, under administrative supervision, broken stone for the good of the state, with downcast mien, in a very pensive mood, his ardor for theft somewhat cooled; but he was addicted none the less tenderly to the wine which had recently saved him.

As for the lively emotion which he had experienced a short time after his return to his road-mender's turf-thatched cot, here it is:

One morning, Boulatruelle, while on his way as was his wont, to his work, and possibly also to his ambush, a little before daybreak caught sight, through the branches of the trees, of a man, whose back alone he saw, but the shape of whose shoulders, as it seemed to him at that distance and in the early dusk, was not entirely unfamiliar to him. Boulatruelle, although intoxicated, had a correct and lucid memory, a defensive arm that is indispensable to any one who is at all in conflict with legal order.

"Where the deuce have I seen something like that man yonder?" he said to himself. But he could make himself no answer, except that the man resembled some one of whom his memory preserved a confused trace.

However, apart from the identity which he could not manage to catch, Boulatruelle put things together and made calculations. This man did not belong in the country-side. He had just arrived there. On foot, evidently. No public conveyance passes through Montfermeil at that hour. He had walked all night. Whence came he? Not from a very great distance; for he had neither haversack, nor bundle. From Paris, no doubt. Why was he in these woods? Why was he there at such an hour? What had he come there for?

Boulatruelle thought of the treasure. By dint of ransacking his memory, he recalled in a vague way that he had already, many years before, had a similar alarm in connection with a man who produced on him the effect that he might well be this very individual.

"By the deuce," said Boulatruelle, "I'll find him again. I'll discover the parish of that parishioner. This prowler of Patron-Minette has a reason, and I'll know it. People can't have secrets in my forest if I don't have a finger in the pie."

He took his pick-axe which was very sharply pointed.

"There now," he grumbled, "is something that will search the earth and a man."

And, as one knots one thread to another thread, he took up the line of march at his best pace in the direction which the man must follow, and set out across the thickets.

When he had compassed a hundred strides, the day, which was already beginning to break, came to his assistance. Footprints stamped in the sand, weeds trodden down here and there, heather crushed, young branches in the brushwood bent and in the act of straightening themselves up again with the graceful deliberation of the arms of a pretty woman who stretches herself when she wakes, pointed out to him a sort of track. He followed it, then lost it. Time was flying. He plunged deeper into the woods and came to a sort of eminence. An early huntsman who was passing in the distance along a path, whistling the air of Guillery, suggested to him the idea of climbing a tree. Old as he was, he was agile. There stood close at hand a beech-tree of great size, worthy of Tityrus and of Boulatruelle. Boulatruelle ascended the beech as high as he was able.

The idea was a good one. On scrutinizing the solitary waste on the side where the forest is thoroughly entangled and wild, Boulatruelle suddenly caught sight of his man.

Hardly had he got his eye upon him when he lost sight of him.

The man entered, or rather, glided into, an open glade, at a considerable distance, masked by large trees, but with which Boulatruelle was perfectly familiar, on account of having noticed, near a large pile of porous stones, an ailing chestnut-tree bandaged with a sheet of zinc nailed directly upon the bark. This glade was the one which was formerly called the Blaru-bottom. The heap of stones, destined for no one knows what employment, which was visible there thirty years ago, is doubtless still there. Nothing equals a heap of stones in longevity, unless it is a board fence. They are temporary expedients. What a reason for lasting!

Boulatruelle, with the rapidity of joy, dropped rather than descended from the tree. The lair was unearthed, the question now was to seize the beast. That famous treasure of his dreams was probably there.

It was no small matter to reach that glade. By the beaten paths, which indulge in a thousand teasing zigzags, it required a good quarter of an hour. In a bee-line, through the underbrush, which is peculiarly dense, very thorny, and very aggressive in that locality, a full half hour was necessary. Boulatruelle committed the error of not comprehending this. He believed in the straight line; a respectable optical illusion which ruins many a man. The thicket, bristling as it was, struck him as the best road.

"Let's take to the wolves' Rue de Rivoli," said he.

Boulatruelle, accustomed to taking crooked courses, was on this occasion guilty of the fault of going straight.

He flung himself resolutely into the tangle of undergrowth.

He had to deal with holly bushes, nettles, hawthorns, eglantines,thistles, and very irascible brambles. He was much lacerated.

At the bottom of the ravine he found water which he was obliged to traverse.

At last he reached the Blaru-bottom, after the lapse of forty minutes, sweating, soaked, breathless, scratched, and ferocious.

There was no one in the glade. Boulatruelle rushed to the heap of stones. It was in its place. It had not been carried off.

As for the man, he had vanished in the forest. He had made his escape. Where? in what direction? into what thicket? Impossible to guess.

And, heartrending to say, there, behind the pile of stones, in front of the tree with the sheet of zinc, was freshly turned earth, a pick-axe, abandoned or forgotten, and a hole.

The hole was empty.

"Thief!" shrieked Boulatruelle, shaking his fist at the horizon.


一 在重新见到一棵钉有锌皮的树的地方


在我们叙述的事件不久之后,蒲辣秃柳儿老头遇到一件使人震惊的事。

蒲辣秃柳儿老头是孟费?地方的养路工人,在本书阴暗的部分我们曾多少见到过他。

读者大概还记得,蒲辣秃柳儿是一个干着多种暧昧勾当的人,他打石块,同时在大路上掠夺过往行人。这个人既是挖土工又是强盗,他有一个梦想,他相信在孟费?森林中有人埋藏了财宝,他希望有那么一天能在某棵大树脚下掘到宝藏;目前,他就在行人的口袋里任意搜括。

可是,现在他也小心谨慎了。他不久前刚侥幸脱险。我们知道他和一伙强盗在容德雷特破屋中一同被捕。恶癖也有用处,他的酗酒救了他,始终没有查明他在那儿究竟是抢人的还是被抢的。由于查明伏击的那个夜晚,他处于酒醉状态,命令规定对他不予追究,释放了他,他恢复了自由。他回到从加尼到拉尼的路上,在官方的监督下,替政府铺碎石路基,垂头丧气,十分沉默,这次抢劫几乎断送了他,所以他对抢劫不怎么来劲了,但醉酒也救了他,因此他就更爱酗酒了。

至于他回到养路工的茅棚不久之后碰到的那件使他震惊的事是这样的:

有一天清早,蒲辣秃柳儿照例去干活,也许也是去他的潜伏地点,他在日出以前就出发了,他在树枝中间看见一个人的背影,在这样一段距离和??的曙光中,他发觉这个人的身材对他不是完全陌生的。蒲辣秃柳儿虽是个醉汉,但却有着正确清晰的记忆力,这是一个与合法秩序有点冲突的人所必需具备的自卫武器。

他在暗想:我究竟在什么地方见过这样一个汉子呢?

但是他无法回答自己,除在他记忆中曾有过一个和这人身材相似的模糊印象之外。

蒲辣秃柳儿虽无法回忆起这人是谁,但他作了一些比较和计算。这个汉子不是本地人,他刚来到。他肯定是步行来的。在这个时辰没有公共车经过孟费?,他走了一整夜。他从哪里来的?不远。因为他既无背囊,也没有小包裹。他肯定是从巴黎来的。但为什么到这森林里来呢?为什么要在这时候来?他来干什么呢?

蒲辣秃柳儿想到了财宝。由于苦思苦想,他模糊地想起来了,几年前也曾有过类似的相遇,他觉得那个人很可能就是这个汉子。

他一边想,沉思的重负使他低下了头,这是自然的现象,但太不机灵了。当他再抬头时,已经什么也看不见了。那人已在光线??的森林中失去了踪迹。

“见鬼,”蒲辣秃柳儿想,“我会再找到他的。我会找到这个教民所属的教区。这个夜游神一定有他的原因,我迟早会知道。在我的森林中的秘密,不会没有我的份。”

他拿起他那锐利的十字镐。

“就用这个家伙,”他嘟囔着,“既可掘地又可搜身①。”

就象把一根线索接到另一根上那样,他走进了密林。尽量跟着那条汉子可能走的路线走着。

当他跨出百步左右以后,开始亮了的天色帮助了他。沙土上这儿那儿发现有鞋印,践踏过的草丛,踩断的灌木,倒在荆棘中的嫩树枝优美地在慢慢恢复原状,好象一个刚醒过来的漂亮女人伸懒腰时的手臂,对他来说这些都是线索。他跟着这些踪迹,但又失去了。过了一段时间之后,他更深入密林,到了一个高丘地带。一个清晨从远处小径路过的、嘴里吹着吉约利②曲调的猎人使他想起要爬上树去。他虽然年老,但还灵活。那儿有一棵高大的山毛榉,对蒂蒂尔③和蒲辣秃柳儿正合适,蒲辣秃柳儿尽量爬到最高处。

①“掘地”和“搜身”在法语中是同一个词fouiller。

②吉约利(Cuillery),民歌中的英雄。

③蒂蒂尔(Tityre),维吉尔诗歌中牧羊人的名字。

这个主意不错,正当他极目搜索密林中杂乱荒僻的那部分时,猛然间他看见了那汉子。

可刚一瞥见,又不见了。

那汉子走进,或者说得更恰当些,溜进了林中相当远的一块空地里,这空地被一些大树隐蔽着,但蒲辣秃柳儿很熟悉,因为他曾注意到,在一大堆磨石旁边,有一棵有病的栗树,被一块钉在树皮上的锌牌围绕着。这块空地以前叫布拉于矿地。这堆石块,不知作何用途,在三十年前就有了,肯定现在还在那里。除木栅栏外,再没有比石堆的寿命更长的了。本是暂时堆放,有什么理由久存呢!

蒲辣秃柳儿高兴得迅速从树上连爬带滚而下。兽窟已经找到,问题是要捉住那野兽。那梦想的财宝肯定就在那儿了。

要走到那矿地并不简单。如果走小路,就得绕过无数恼人的弯路,得走上足足一刻钟。走直路要经过这里相当茂密多刺并且伤人的荆棘丛,要走大半个钟头才能到达。蒲辣秃柳儿不懂这一点,这是他的错误。他相信走直路好,这种眼力的幻觉是可贵的,但使很多人失败,荆棘尽管多刺,他却认为是捷径。

“走狼的里沃利路过去。”他说。

蒲辣秃柳儿本来就习惯走弯路,这回他却错误地向前直走。

他果断地钻进了缠手绊脚的荆棘丛。

他得和灌木、荨麻、出楂、野蔷薇、飞廉和一触即怒的黑莓打交道。他被扎得非常厉害。

在一个溪谷谷底,他遇到了不得不越过的河流。四十分钟后,他淌着汗,全身湿透,喘着气,满身是伤,恶狠狠地赶到了布拉于矿地。

矿地里没有人影。

蒲辣秃柳儿跑到石堆跟前。它仍堆在原处,并没有人把它搬走。

至于那汉子,已在林中消失了。他逃跑了。跑到哪里去了呢?往哪边?钻进了哪一个荆棘丛?这就无法猜测了。

而最使人痛心的是,在那堆石块后面,钉有锌牌的树脚下,有刚刚翻动过的泥土,留下的是一把被遗忘或被抛弃了的十字镐,还有一个土穴。

这土穴是空的。

“强盗!”蒲辣秃柳儿大叫起来,两拳向天高举着。
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