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德伯家的苔丝 Chapter 44

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By the disclosure in the barn her thoughts were led anew in the direction which they had taken more than once of late - to the distant Emminster Vicarage. It was through her husband's parents that she had been charged to send a letter to Clare if she desired; and to write to them direct if in difficulty. But that sense of her having morally no claim upon him had always led Tess to suspend her impulse to send these notes; and to the family at the Vicarage, therefore, as to her own parents since her marriage, she was virtually non-existent. This self-effacement in both directions had been quite in consonance with her independent character of desiring nothing by way of favour or pity to which she was not entitled on a fair consideration of her deserts. She had set herself to stand or fall by her qualities, and to waive such merely technical claims upon a strange family as had been established for her by the flimsy fact of a member of that family, in a season of impulse, writing his name in a church book beside hers.

But now that she was stung to a fever by Izz's tale there was a limit to her powers of renunciation. Why had her husband not written to her? He had distinctly implied that he would at least let her know of the locality to which he had journeyed; but he had not sent a line to notify his address. Was he really indifferent? But was he ill? Was it for her to make some advance? Surely she might summon the courage of solicitude, call at the Vicarage for intelligence, and express her grief at his silence. If Angel's father were the good man she had heard him represented to be, he would be able to enter into her heart-starved situation. Her social hardships she could conceal.

To leave the farm on a week-day was not in her power; Sunday was the only possible opportunity. Flintcomb-Ash being in the middle of the cretaceous tableland over which no railway had climbed as yet, it would be necessary to walk. And the distance being fifteen miles each way she would have to allow herself a long day for the undertaking by rising early.

A fortnight later, when the snow had gone, and had been followed by a hard black frost, she took advantage of the state of the roads to try the experiment. At four o'clock that Sunday morning she came downstairs and stepped out into the starlight. The weather was still favourable, the ground ringing under her feet like an anvil.

Marian and Izz were much interested in her excursion, knowing that the journey concerned her husband. Their lodgings were in a cottage a little further along the lane, but they came and assisted Tess in her departure, and argued that she should dress up in her very prettiest guise to captivate the hearts of her parents-in-law; though she, knowing of the austere and Calvinistic tenets of old Mr Clare, was indifferent, and even doubtful. A year had now elapsed since her sad marriage, but she had preserved sufficient draperies from the wreck of her then full wardrobe to clothe her very charmingly as a simple country girl with no pretensions to recent fashion; a soft gray woollen gown, with white crape quilling against the pink skin of her face and neck, and a black velvet jacket and hat.

`'Tis a thousand pities your husband can't see 'ee now - you do look a real beauty!' said Izz Huett, regarding Tess as she stood on the threshold between the steely starlight without and the yellow candlelight within. Izz spoke with a magnanimous abandonment of herself to the situation; she could not be - no woman with a heart bigger than a hazel-nut could be - antagonistic to Tess in her presence, the influence which she exercised over those of her own sex being of a warmth and strength quite unusual, curiously overpowering the less worthy feminine feelings of spite and rivalry.

With a final tug and touch here, and a slight brush there, they let her go; and she was absorbed into the pearly air of the fore-dawn. They heard her footsteps tap along the bard road as she stepped out to her full pace. Even Izz hoped she would win, and, though without any particular respect for her own virtue, felt glad that she had been prevented wronging her friend when momentarily tempted by Clare.

It was a year ago, all but a day, that Clare had married Tess, and only a few days less than a year that he had been absent from her. Still, to start on a brisk walk, and on such an errand as hers, on a dry clear wintry morning, through the rarefied air of these chalky hogs'-backs, was not depressing; and there is no doubt that her dream at starting was to win the heart of her mother-in-law, tell her whole history to that lady, enlist her on her side, and so gain back the truant.

In time she reached the edge of the vast escarpment below which stretched the loamy Vale of Blackmoor, now lying misty and still in the dawn. Instead of the colourless air of the uplands the atmosphere down there was a deep blue. Instead of the great enclosures of a hundred acres in which she was now accustomed to toil there were little fields below her of less than half-a-dozen acres, so numerous that they looked from this height like the meshes of a net. Here the landscape was whitey-brown; down there, as in Froom Valley, it was always green. Yet it was in that vale that her sorrow had taken shape, and she did not love it as formerly. Beauty to her, as to all who have felt, lay not in the thing, but in what the thing symbolized.

Keeping the Vale on her right she steered steadily westward; passing above the Hintocks, crossing at right-angles the high-road from Sherton-Abbas to Casterbridge, and skirting Dogbury Hill and High-Stoy, with the dell between them called `The Devil's Kitchen'. Still following the elevated way she reached Cross-in-Hand, where the stone pillar stands desolate and silent, to mark the site of a miracle, or murder, or both. Three miles further she cut across the straight and deserted Roman road called Long-Ash Lane; leaving which as soon as she reached it she dipped down a hill by a transverse lane into the small town or village of Evershead, being now about half-way over the distance. She made a halt here, and breakfasted a second time, heartily enough - not at the Sow-and-Acorn, for she avoided inns, but at a cottage by the church.

The second half of her journey was through a more gentle country, by way of Benvill Lane. But as the mileage lessened between her and the spot of her pilgrimage, so did Tess's confidence decrease, and her enterprise loom out more formidably. She saw her purpose in such staring lines, and the landscape so faintly, that she was sometimes in danger of losing her way. However, about noon she paused by a gate on the edge of the basin in which Emminster and its Vicarage lay.

The square tower, beneath which she knew that at that moment the Vicar and his congregation were gathered, had a severe look in her eyes. She wished that she had somehow contrived to come on a week-day. Such a good man might be prejudiced against a woman who had chosen Sunday, never realizing the necessities of her case. But it was incumbent upon her to go on now. She took off the thick boots in which she had walked thus far, put on her pretty thin ones of patent leather, and, stuffing the former into the hedge by the gate-post where she might readily find them again, descended the hill; the freshness of colour she had derived from the keen air thinning away in spite of her as she drew near the parsonage.

Tess hoped for some accident that might favour her, but nothing favoured her. The shrubs on the Vicarage lawn rustled uncomfortably in the frosty breeze; she could not feel by any stretch of imagination, dressed to her highest as she was, that the house was the residence of near relations; and yet nothing essential, in nature or emotion, divided her from them: in pains, pleasures, thoughts, birth, death, and after-death, they were the same.

She nerved herself by an effort, entered the swing-gate, and rang the door-bell. The thing was done; there could be no retreat. No; the thing was not done. Nobody answered to her ringing. The effort had to be risen to and made again. She rang a second time, and the agitation of the act, coupled with her weariness after the fifteen miles' walk, led her to support herself while she waited by resting her hand on her hip, and her elbow against the wall of the porch. The wind was so nipping that the ivy-leaves had become wizened and gray, each tapping incessantly upon its neighbour with a disquieting stir of her nerves. A piece of blood-stained paper, caught up from some meat-buyer's dust-heap, beat up and down the road without the gate; too flimsy to rest, too heavy to fly away; and a few straws kept it company.

The second peal had been louder, and still nobody came. Then she walked out of the porch, opened the gate, and passed through. And though she looked dubiously at the house-front as if inclined to return, it was with a breath of relief that she closed the gate. A feeling haunted her that she might have been recognized (though how she could not tell), and orders been given not to admit her.

Tess went as far as the corner. She had done all she could do; but determined not to escape present trepidation at the expense of future distress, she walked back again quite past the house, looking up at all the windows.

Ah - the explanation was that they were all at church, every one. She remembered her husband saying that his father always insisted upon the household, servants included, going to morning service, and, as a consequence, eating cold food when they came home. It was, therefore, only necessary to wait till the service was over. She would not make herself conspicuous by waiting on the spot, and she started to get past the church into the lane. But as she reached the churchyard-gate the people began pouring out, and Tess found herself in the midst of them.

The Emminster congregation looked at her as only a congregation of small country-townsfolk walking home at its leisure can look at a woman out of the common whom it perceives to be a stranger. She quickened her pace, and ascended the road by which she had come, to find a retreat between its hedges till the Vicar's family should have lunched, and it might be convenient for them to receive her. She soon distanced the churchgoers, except two youngish men, who, linked arm-in-arm, were beating up behind her at a quick step.

As they drew nearer she could hear their voices engaged in earnest discourse, and, with the natural quickness of a woman in her situation, did not fall to recognize in those voices the quality of her husband's tones. The pedestrians were his two brothers. Forgetting all her plans, Tess's one dread was lest they should overtake her now, in her disorganized condition, before she was prepared to confront them; for though she felt that they could not identify her she instinctively dreaded their scrutiny. The more briskly they walked the more briskly walked she. They were plainly bent upon taking a short quick stroll before going indoors to lunch or dinner, to restore warmth to limbs chilled with sitting through a long service. Only one person had preceded Tess up the hill - a ladylike young woman, somewhat interesting, though, perhaps, a trifle guindée and prudish. Tess had nearly overtaken her when the speed of her brothers-in-law brought them so nearly behind her back that she could hear every word of their conversation. They `d nothing, however, which particularly interested her till, observing the young lady still further in front, one of them remarked, `There is Mercy Chant. Let us overtake her.'

Tess knew the name. It was the woman who had been destined for Angel's life-companion by his and her parents, and whom he probably would have married but for her intrusive self. She would have known as much without previous information if she had waited a moment, for one of the brothers proceeded to say: `Ah! poor Angel, poor Angel! I never see that nice girl without more and more regretting his precipitancy in throwing himself away upon a dairymaid, or whatever she may be. It is a queer business, apparently. Whether she has Joined him yet or not I don't know; but she had not done so some months ago when I heard from him.'

`I can't say. He never tells me anything nowadays. His ill-considered marriage seems to have completed that estrangement from me which was begun by his extraordinary opinions.'

Tess beat up the long hill still faster; but she could not outwalk them without exciting notice. At last they outsped her altogether, and passed her by. The young lady still further ahead heard their footsteps and turned. Then there was a greeting and a shaking of hands, and the three went on together.

They soon reached the summit of the hill, and, evidently intending this point to be the limit of their promenade, slackened pace and turned all three aside to the gate whereat Tess had paused an hour before that time to reconnoitre the town before descending into it. During their discourse one of the clerical brothers probed the hedge carefully with his umbrella, and dragged something to light.

`Here's a pair of old boots,' he said. `Thrown away, I suppose, by some tramp or other.'

`Some impostor who wished to come into the town barefoot, perhaps, and so excite our sympathies,' said Miss Chant. `Yes, it must have been, for they are excellent walking-boots - by no means worn out. What a wicked thing to do! I'll carry them home for some poor person.'

Cuthbert Clare, who had been the one to find them, picked them up for her with the crook of his stick; and Tess's boots were appropriated.

She, who had heard this, walked past under the screen of her woollen veil, till, presently looking back, she perceived that the church party had left the gate with her boots and retreated down the hill.

Thereupon our heroine resumed her walk. Tears, blinding tears, were running down her face. She knew that it was all sentiment, all baseless impressibility, which had caused her to read the scene as her own condemnation; nevertheless she could not get over it; she could not contravene in her own defenceless person all these untoward omens. It was impossible to think of returning to the Vicarage. Angel's wife felt almost as if she had been hounded up that hill like a scorned thing by those - to her - super-fine clerics. Innocently as the slight had been inflicted, it was somewhat unfortunate that she had encountered the sons and not the father, who, despite his narrowness, was far less starched and ironed than they, and had to the full the gift of charity. As she again thought of her dusty boots she almost pitied those habiliments for the quizzing to which they had been subjected, and felt how hopeless life was for their owner.

`Ah!' she said, still sighing in pity of herself, `they didn't know that I wore those over the roughest part of the road to save these pretty ones he bought for me - no - they did not know it! And they didn't think that he chose the colour o' my pretty frock - no - how could they? If they had known perhaps they would not have cared, for they don't care much for him, poor thing!'

Then she grieved for the beloved man whose conventional standard of judgment had caused her all these latter sorrows; and she went her way without knowing that the greatest misfortune of her life was this feminine loss of courage at the last and critical moment through her estimating her father-in-law by his sons. Her present condition was precisely one which would have enlisted the sympathies of old Mr and Mrs Clare. Their hearts went out of them at a bound towards extreme cases, when the subtle mental troubles of the less desperate among mankind failed to win their interest or regard. In jumping at Publicans and Sinners they would forget that a word might be said for the worries of Scribes and Pharisees; and this defect or limitation might have recommended their own daughter-in-law to them at this moment as a fairly choice sort of lost person for their love.

Thereupon she began to plod back along the road by which she had come not altogether full of hope, but full of a conviction that a crisis in her life was approaching. No crisis, apparently, had supervened; and there was nothing left for her to do but to continue upon that starve-acre farm till she could again summon courage to face the vicarage. She did, indeed, take sufficient interest in herself to throw up her veil on this return journey, as if to let the world see that she could at least exhibit a face such as Mercy Chant could not show. But it was done with a sorry shake of the head. `it is nothing - it is nothing!' she said. `Nobody loves it; nobody sees it. Who cares about the looks of a castaway like me!'

Her journey back was rather a meander than a march. It had no sprightliness, no purpose; only a tendency. Along the tedious length of Benvill Lane she began to grow tired, and she leant upon gates and paused by milestones.

She did not enter any house till, at the seventh or eighth mile, she descended the steep long hill below which lay the village or townlet of Evershead, where in the morning she had breakfasted with such contrasting expectations. The cottage by the church, in which she again sat down, was almost the first at that end of the village, and while the woman fetched her some milk from the pantry, Tess, looking down the street, perceived that the place seemed quite deserted.

`The people are gone to afternoon service, I suppose?' she said.

`No, my dear,'said the old woman. `'Tis too soon for that; the bells hain't strook out yet. They be all gone to hear the preaching in yonder barn. A ranter preaches there between the services - an excellent, fiery, Christian man, they say. But, Lord, I don't go to hear'n! What comes in the regular way over the pulpit is hot enough for I.'

Tess soon went onward into the village, her footsteps echoing against the houses as though it were a place of the dead. Nearing the central part her echoes were intruded on by other sounds; and seeing the barn not far off the road, she guessed these to be the utterances of the preacher.

His voice became so distinct in the still clear air that she could soon catch his sentences, though she was on the closed side of the barn. The sermon, as might be expected, was of the extremest antinomian type; on `justification by faith, as expounded in the theology of St Paul. This fixed idea of the rhapsodist was delivered with animated enthusiasm, in a manner entirely declamatory, for he had plainly no skill as a dialectician. Although tess had not heard the beginning of the address, she learnt what the text had been fro its constant iteration--

'O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?'

Tess was all the more interested, as she stood listening behind, in finding that the preacher's doctrine was a vehement form of the views of Angel's father, and her interest intensified when the speaker began to detail his own spiritual experiences of how he had come by those views. He had, he said, been the greatest of sinners. He had scoffed; he had wantonly associated with the reckless and the lewd. But a day of awakening had come, and, in a human sense, it had been brought about mainly by the influence of a certain clergyman, whom he had at first grossly insulted; but whose parting words had sunk into his heart, and had remained there, till by the grace of Heaven they had worked this change in him, and made him what they saw him.

But more startling to Tess than the doctrine had been the voice, which, impossible as it seemed, was precisely that of Alec d'Urberville. Her face fixed in painful suspense she came round to the front of the barn, and passed before it. The low winter sun beamed directly upon the great double-doored entrance on this side; one of the doors being open, so that the rays stretched far in over the threshing-floor to the preacher and his audience, all snugly sheltered from the northern breeze. The listeners were entirely villagers, among them being the man whom she had seen carrying the red paint-pot on a former memorable occasion. But her attention was given to the central figure, who stood upon some sacks of corn, facing the people and the door. The three o'clock sun shone full upon him, and the strange enervating conviction that her seducer confronted her, which had been gaining ground in Tess ever since she had heard his words distinctly, was at last established as a fact indeed.

 玛丽安在麦仓里透露了克莱尔那件事以后,苔丝的心思又不止一次地集中到了那个地方——远方那个牧师住宅。她的丈夫曾经叮嘱过她,她要是想写信给克莱尔就通过他的父母转,她要是遇到困难就直接去找他们。但是她感到她在道德上已经没有资格做他的妻子了,所以她总是把她想写信给丈夫的冲动压制下来;因此她感到,自从她结婚以来,她对于牧师住宅那一家人来说,就像对她自己的家一样,实质上是不存在的。她在这两个方面的自尊和她的独立的性格是一致的,因此她在对自己应得的待遇经过仔细思考之后,就从来不再去想她在名分上应该得到的同情和帮助了。她决定由自己的品质来决定自己的成功与失败,放弃自己对于一个陌生家庭这种法律上的权力,那不过是那个家庭中有一个成员因为一时的感情冲动,在教堂的名册上把他的名字写在她名字的旁边罢了。

  但是现在伊茨的故事刺激了她,才使她感到她忍耐的程度是有限度的。她的丈夫为什么还没有写信给她?他曾经明确地告诉过她,他至少要让她知道他已经去了什么地方,但是他连一行字的信也没有写给她,没有把他的地址告诉她。他真的对她漠不关心吗?还是他病倒了?自己是不是应该对他主动一些呢?她一定要把自己渴望的勇气鼓起来,到牧师住宅去打听消息,对他的沉默表示自己的悲哀。如果安琪尔的父亲果真是他描述的那样一个好人的话,他一定会理解她的焦渴的心情的。至于她在社会上的艰难,她可以避而不谈。

  不到周末她是不能离开农场的,所以只有礼拜天才是她拜访牧师住宅的机会。燧石山地处白垩质高原的中心,直到现在还没有火车通到这儿,所以她只有靠步行到那儿去。由于来回都是十五英里的路程,所以她得起个大早,用一整天的时间来完成这件事。

  两个礼拜以后,风雪过去了,接着又是一场严酷的霜冻,她就利用道路冻住了的时候去进行这次拜访。礼拜天的早上,她在四点钟就下了楼,在星光里出门上路了。天气仍然很好,她走在路上,地面像铁砧一样,在她的脚下铮铮直响。

  听说她这趟出门与她的丈夫有关,玛丽安和伊茨都很关心。她们两个住的地方和苔丝在一条街上,和苔丝住的地方隔了一段路,在苔丝动身的时候都来帮助她。她们都劝苔丝穿上她最漂亮的衣服,这样才讨她公婆的欢心;但是苔丝知道老克莱尔先生是一个朴素的加尔文派,对这方面并不在乎,所以她就对她们的建议怀疑起来。自从她不幸的婚姻开始以来,已经过去一年了,但是在当时满满一柜新嫁娘衣服里,现在她保存下来的衣服,还是足够她把自己打扮成一个美丽动人而又不追求时尚的朴素的乡下姑娘。她穿的是一件浅灰色毛料长袍,在长袍的白色镶边的映衬下,她的脸和脖子的粉红色皮肤更加艳丽了。她在长袍的外面套一件黑色的天鹅绒外套,头上戴一顶黑色的天鹅绒帽子。

  “要是你的丈夫现在看见你,一定要万分怜爱你了?你的确是一个大美人呀!”伊茨·休特打量着苔丝说,那时苔丝正站在门口,外面是青蓝色的星光,屋内是昏黄的烛光。伊茨说这句话时,胸怀宽厚,全然不顾贬低了自己;她在苔丝的面前不能

  一个女人的心只要有楱子那样大就不能——同苔丝作对,苔丝对她自己的这些同类,用她非同一般的热情和力量影响了她们,把女人那些嫉妒和仇视的卑鄙感情都压下去了。

  她们在她的身上这儿抻一抻,拍一拍,那儿刷一刷,然后才让她出门,看着她消失在黎明前的晨光里。苔丝迈开大步走了,她们能够听见她走在坚硬的路面上的脚步声。即使是伊茨,她也希望苔丝这次拜访能获得成功,她虽然并不注重自己的道德,但是她想到自己一时受到克莱尔的诱惑而没有做出对不起她朋友的事的时候,心里就感到高兴。

  去年克莱尔同苔丝结婚时到现在整整一年了,只不过差了一天的日子,也就差了几天,克莱尔离开她就一年了。在一个干燥晴朗的冬季早晨,在白垩质山脊上清爽稀薄的空气里,她迈着轻快的步伐赶路;她去完成自己的这样一项任务,心里并没有感到气馁。毫无疑问,她在动身时的梦想就是要讨她婆婆的欢心,把自己的全部历史告诉那位夫人,争取她站到自己一边来,这样她就能把那位逃走了的人弄回来了。

  不久,她走到了那片宽大的斜坡边缘,斜坡下面就是黑荒原谷的大片沃土,现在还隐匿在雾霭里,沉睡在黎明中。这儿和高地无色的空气不同,在山谷里,那儿的大气是一种深蓝色。和她在高地上劳作的田地也不一样,高地上的田地是一百亩一块,而谷里的田地要小得多,不过五六亩一块,这无数块土地从山上望去,就好像网罗一样。这儿风景的颜色是一种浅褐色;再往下就和佛卢姆谷一样了,差不多成了青绿色。可是,她的悲伤就是在那个山谷里形成的,所以她不像以前那样喜欢它了。美在她看来,正如许多深有感触的人一样,并不在美的事物本身,而是在它的象征。

  她沿着山谷的左边坚定地向西走去;从那些欣托克村庄的上方经过,在从谢尔屯通向卡斯特桥的那条大路那儿向右转弯的地方穿过去,又沿着道格布利山和高斯托利走,在道格布利山和高斯托利之间,有一个被称作魔厨的小山谷。她沿着那段上坡路走到手形十字柱那儿,那根石头柱子孤零零地、静悄悄地耸立在那儿,表示一件奇事,或者凶杀案,或者两者都有的发生地点。她再往前走了三英里,从一条小路上穿过那条笔直的、荒凉的叫做长槐路的罗马古道;她一走到古道那儿,就立即从一条岔路上往下走,下了山就进了艾维斯黑德镇或者村,到了那儿,她就走了一半的路了。她在艾维斯黑德休息了一会儿,又吃了一次早饭,吃得又香又甜——她不是在母猪与橡实客栈吃的饭,为了避开客栈,她是在教堂旁边的一家农舍里吃的饭。

  苔丝剩下的后一半路是取道本维尔路,从较为平缓的地区走过去。不过,随着她和她这次要拜访的地点之间距离的缩短,她拜访成功的信心却越来越小了,要实现这次拜访的任务也越来越难了。她的目的如此明确,四周的景物却是如此朦胧,她甚至有时候还有迷路的危险。大约到了中午,她在一处低地边上的栅栏门旁歇了下来,爱敏寺和牧师住宅就在下面的低地里。

  她看见了教堂的四方形塔楼,她知道这个时候牧师和他的教民正聚集在塔楼的下面,因此在她的眼里是一种肃穆的神气。她心里想,要是设法在平时到这儿来就好了。像牧师这种好人,也许对选择在礼拜天到这儿来的女人有一些偏见,而不知道她的情形的紧迫性。事到如今,她也不能不往前走了。她已经走了这样远的路,穿的是一双笨重的靴子,于是就把脚上的靴子脱下来,换上一双漂亮的黑漆轻便靴子,把脱下来的靴子塞到门柱旁边回来时容易找到的树篱里,这才往山下走去;在她走近那座牧师住宅的时候,她的脸刚才被冷空气冻红了的颜色也慢慢地消褪了。

  苔丝希望能出现一件有利于她的事情,但是什么事情也没有发生。牧师住宅草坪上的灌木,在寒风中瑟瑟发抖;她用尽了自己的想象,而且也尽可能把自己打扮漂亮了,但是想象不出那就是他的近亲住的屋子;可是无论在天性还是在感情方面,都没有什么本质上的东西把她和他们分开,他们在痛苦、快乐、思想、出生、死前和死后都是一样的。

  她鼓起勇气走进牧师住宅的栅栏门,按了门铃。事情已经做了,就不能后退了。不,事情还没有做完,没有人出来为她开门。她得鼓起勇气再做一次。她又第二次按了门铃。她按门铃引起的激动,加上走了十五英里路后的劳累,因此她在等人开门的时候,不得不一手撑着腰,用胳膊肘撑着门廊的墙壁歇着。寒风刺骨,长春藤的叶子被风吹得枯萎了、枯黄了,不停地互相拍打着,把她的神经刺激得烦躁不安。一张带有血迹的纸,被风从一户买肉人家的垃圾堆里吹了起来,在门外的路上飞舞着;要落下来又显得太轻,要飞走又显得太重;陪着它一起飞舞的还有几根枯草。

  她把第二次门铃按得更响,但仍然没人出来开门。于是她就走出门廊,打开栅栏门走了出来。尽管她心有不甘地盯着房子的前面,仿佛要回去似的,但还是把栅栏门关上了,这时才松了一口气。有一种感觉在她的心里反复出现,他们也许认出她了(但是她不知道是怎样认出来的),所以才吩咐不要为她开门。

  苔丝走到拐角的地方,能做的她都做了;但是她决心不要因为自己一时的动摇而给将来留下悔恨,所以就又走回屋前,把所有的窗户都看了一遍。

  啊——原来是他们都去了教堂,所有的人都去了。她记得她的丈夫说过,他的父亲坚持要全家人,包括所有的仆人在内,都要去教堂作礼拜晨祷,回家时总是吃冷饭。因此,她必须等到晨祷结束他们才能回来。她不愿等在屋子的前面,免得引起别人注意,所以就绕过教堂,向一条篱路里走去。但是就在她走到教堂院子门口时,教堂里面的人已经开始涌出来,苔丝自己也裹在了人群当中。

  她在爱敏寺的教民眼里,就和在一个信步回家的乡村小镇的教民眼里一样,是一个外来的女人,是一个他们不认识的人。她加快了自己走路的步伐,走上了她刚才来的那条篱路,想在树篱中间找一个躲藏的地点,等到牧师一家人吃完了饭,在他们方便接见她的时候再出来。不久她就同从教堂里面出来的人隔得远了,只有两个年轻的男子胳膊挽着胳膊,快步从后面跟了上来。

  在他们走近了的时候,她听出他们正在用最热切的语气说话,一个女人在这种情形里是十分敏感的,因此她听出来他们说话的声音和她丈夫说话的声音有相同的特点。那两个走路的人正是她丈夫的两个哥哥。苔丝把她的一切计划都忘掉了,心里唯恐在这种混乱的时刻,在她还没有准备好同他们见面之前,让他们给追上了;虽然她觉得他们不会认出她来,但是她在本能上害怕他们注意她。她在前面走得越急,他们在后面追得越快。他们显然是要在回家吃午饭之前,先作一次短时间的快速散步,把他们坐在教堂里作礼拜冻了半天的脚暖和过来。

  在上山的路上,只有一个人走在苔丝的前面——一位小姐模样的姑娘,虽然她也许有一种故作高傲和过分拘谨的样子,但还是有几分惹人注意。苔丝在差不多赶上那位小姐的时候,她的两位大伯子也差不多追到了她的背后,近得她都能把他们说话的每一个字听清楚了。但直到那时,他们说的话都没有什么引起她的特别注意。他们注意到前面走着的那位小姐,其中有一个说,“那不是梅茜·羌特吗,我们追她去吧。”

  苔丝知道这个名字。正是这个女人,她的父母和克莱尔的父母要把她选作克莱尔的终身伴侣,要不是她自己从中插了进去,大概她已经和克莱尔结婚了。要是她再等一会儿,即使她以前不知道,她现在也会明白的,因为那两个哥哥中有一个说:“唉!可怜的安琪尔,可怜的安琪尔!我一看见这个漂亮的姑娘,我就要埋怨安琪尔太轻率,不娶这个漂亮小姐,而要去找一个挤牛奶的姑娘,或是一个干其它什么活儿的人。那分明是一件怪事。也不知道现在她是不是找到他了;几个月前我听到过安琪尔的消息,她还没有去找他。”

  “我也不知道。现在他什么也不告诉我了。他那场不幸的婚姻似乎完全使他和我们疏远了,自从他有了那些离奇的思想后,这种疏远就开始了。”

  苔丝加快了脚步,向漫长的山上走去;但是她硬要走在他们的前面,就难免不引起他们的注意。后来,他们赶上了她,从她的身边走过去。远远走在前面的那位年轻小姐听见了他们的脚步声,转过身来。接着,他们互相打了招呼,握了手,就一块往前走。

  他们很快就走到了小山的顶上。显然,看他们的意思这个地点是他们散步的终点,所以他们就放慢了脚步,三个人一起拐到了栅栏门的旁边,就在一个小时以前,苔丝在还没有下山进镇的时候,也曾经在那个栅栏旁休息过。在他们谈话的时候,两位牧师兄弟中有一个用他的雨伞在树篱中仔细地搜寻着,拨拉出来一样什么东西。

  “一双旧靴子!”他说。“我想是某个骗子或者什么人扔掉的。”

  “也许是某个想赤着脚到镇上去的骗子,想用这种方法引起我们的同情,”梅茜小姐说。“不错,一定是的,因为这是很好的走路穿的靴子——一点儿也没有磨破。干这种事的人真坏呀!我们把靴子拿回家去送给穷人吧。”

  找到靴子的那个人是卡斯伯特·克莱尔,他用手中的伞把勾起靴子,递给梅茜小姐,苔丝的靴子就这样被别人拿走了。

  这些话苔丝都听见了,她戴着毛织的面纱从他们身边走过去,又立即回头去看,看见那一行教民带着她的靴子离开了栅栏门,又走回山下去了。

  因此我们这位女主角又开始了她的行程。眼泪,使她双眼感到模糊的眼泪,从她的脸上流淌下来。她也知道,完全是她的多愁善感和毫无根据的敏感,才导致她把看见的一幕当成对自己的谴责;尽管如此,她还是无法从中摆脱出来。她是一个不能保护自己的人,不能违背所有这些对她不利的预兆。再想回到牧师住宅是不可能了。安棋尔的妻子差不多感到,她仿佛是一个被侮弄的东西,被那些在她看来极其高雅的牧师赶到了山上。她是在无意中受到伤害的,她的运气也有些不好,她遇到的不是那个父亲,而是他的儿子,父亲尽管狭隘,但不似儿子们严厉刻薄,并且天性慈爱。她又想起了她的那些带着泥土的靴子,这双靴子无故受了一番嘲弄,她不仅可怜它们,而且她还感到,靴子主人的命运是多么绝望啊。

  “唉!”她自卑自怜地叹气说,“他们一点儿也不知道,为了把他为我买的这双漂亮靴子省着穿,最粗糙的一段路是我穿着那双旧靴子走的啊——不——他们是不会知道的!他们也不会想到,我穿的这件袍子的颜色还是他挑选的呢——不——他们哪里会知道呢?即使他们知道,他们也不会放在心上的,因为他们并不太关心他呀,可怜的人啊!”

  她接着又可怜起她心爱的人来,其实她所有的这些苦恼,都是由他判断事物的传统标准引起的;她在路上走着,却不知道她一生中最大的不幸,就是因为她在最后的关键时刻,用她看见的儿子去判断他们的父亲,丧失了妇女的勇气。她现在的情形,正好可以引起克莱尔先生和克莱尔太太的同情心。他们遇见特别的事情,就最容易引发他们的恻隐之心,而那些未曾陷入绝境的人,他们轻微的精神苦恼却很难引起他们的关切和关注。他们在拯救税吏和罪人的时候,实在不该忘记为文士和法利赛人的痛苦说几句话①;他们这种见解狭隘的缺点,在这个时候倒应该运用到他们的儿媳身上,把她完全当成一个落难的人,向她表示他们的爱心。

  

  ①见《圣经·马太福音》第九章、第二十一章;《圣经·马可福音》第二章。

  因此,她又开始沿着来路往回跋涉,她来的时候本来就没有抱太大的希望,而只是深信在她的人生中又出现了一次危机。显然,什么危机也没有发生;现在她只好再回到那块饥饿的土地上的农场里去谋生了,去等待她再次聚集勇气面对牧师住宅的时候了,除此而外,她已经没有什么好做的了,在回家的路上,她确实对自己产生了足够的兴趣,掀开了脸上的面纱,仿佛是要让世界看一看,她至少可以展示出梅茜·羌特展示不出来的容貌。但是她在掀开脸上的面纱的时候,又难过地摇了摇头。“这不算什么——这不算什么!”她说。“谁还爱这副容貌呢,谁还看这副容貌呢。像我这样一个被遗弃的人,还有谁在乎她的容貌啊!”

  她在回去的路上,与其说是在毫目的地前进,不如说是在毫无目的地飘荡。她没有活力,没有目的;只有一种倾向。她沿着漫长乏味的本维尔路走着,渐渐感到疲乏了,就靠在栅栏门上或是里程碑上歇一歇。她又走了七八英里的路,沿着一座又陡又长的小山走下去,山下有一个叫做艾维斯黑德的村庄,也可以说是小镇,这时候她才走进一所屋子。就在这个小镇里,她早晨在这儿吃过早饭,心里满怀着希望。这座小屋在教堂的旁边,差不多是村子尽头的第一家,在这所屋子的主妇到食品间为苔丝拿牛奶的时候,她向街上看去,发现街上似乎空荡荡的。

  “所有的人都作晚祷去了吧,是不是?”她说。

  “不,亲爱的,”那个年老的妇人说。“现在作晚祷还早了些;作晚祷的钟声现在还没有敲响呐。人们都到麦仓那边听人讲道去了。晨祷和晚祷之间,有一个卫理公会牧师在那儿讲道——他们说他是一个杰出的、火热的基督徒。可是,天啦,我是不去听他讲道的!在那边教堂里的定期讲道对我已经够多的了。”

  苔丝不久走进了村子,她的脚步声传到两边房子的墙上再反射回来,仿佛这儿是一个死人的国度。靠近村子正中的地方,她的脚步的回声掺杂了一些其它的声音;她看见路边不远处有一个麦仓,就猜想那些声音是讲道人的声音了。

  在寂静晴朗的天气里,讲道人的声音十分清楚,虽然苔丝还在麦仓的另一边,但是不久她就能把他讲的每一句话都听清楚了。正如可以想象得到的那样,那篇讲演词是极端唯信仰论那一类的;这在圣保罗的神学理论中已经得到阐述:只要信仰基督就可以释罪。那位狂热讲道人的一成不变的理论,是用狂热的情绪讲出来的,讲道的态度完全是一种慷慨激昂的态度,很明显完全不懂得辩证的技巧。苔丝虽然没有听到开头的讲道,她也能从他不断反复的念叨中听出那一篇讲道词是什么——

  无知的加太人哪,耶稣基督钉死在十字架上的时候,已经活画在你们眼前,谁又迷惑了你们,叫你们

  不信真理呢?①

  

  ①见《圣经·加拉太书》第三章第一节。

  苔丝站在后面听着,越来越感兴趣了,因为她发现那个讲道人的主义,和安琪尔的父亲是一派的,属于形式热烈的一种,当讲道人开始细讲他信仰这些观点的精神历程时,苔丝的兴趣更浓了。他说他是一个罪恶深重的人。他曾经嘲笑过宗教,结交过放荡淫秽的人。但是后来有一天他醒悟了,他之所以能够醒悟,主要是受到当初曾被他粗暴地侮辱过的一个牧师的影响;那位牧师在离开时说了几句话,那几句话刻在了他的心里,叫他永远不忘,后来凭借上帝的恩惠,他就转变过来了,变成了他们现在看见的样子了。

  还有比那种主义更让苔丝吃惊的了,那就是讲道人的声音,尽管似乎不可能,那声音居然和阿历克·德贝维尔的声音一模一样。她一阵痛苦疑惑,脸也变得呆滞起来;她转到麦仓的前门那儿,从那儿走过去。低沉的冬日直射着这边有着双层大门的入口处;一扇大门已经打开,外面的阳光照进里面的打麦场,落在讲道人的身上,也落在听讲道的人身上,他们都暖暖和和地站在麦仓里,麦仓挡住了北边的寒风。在那儿听讲道的人全是村里的村民,在那些村民中间,有一个是她在从前那个难忘的时刻见过的提着红油漆桶写格言的人。不过她注意的还是站在麦仓中间的那个人,他站在几个麦袋子上面,面对着听讲的人和麦仓的大门。三点钟的太阳照在他的身上,把他照得清清楚楚;诱奸她的人就站在她的面前,自从清楚地听见他的声音以来,她就感到奇怪,感到沮丧,现在不能不相信了,不错,事实终于得到了确认。
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