第三卷完成他对死者的诺言 第01章孟费?的用水问题
大耳朵英语  http://www.bigear.cn  2007-07-25 23:52:01  【打印
BOOK THIRD.--ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE PROMISE MADE TO THE DEAD WOMAN



CHAPTER I THE WATER QUESTION AT MONTFERMEIL







Montfermeil is situated between Livry and Chelles, on the southern edge of that lofty table-land which separates the Ourcq from the Marne. At the present day it is a tolerably large town, ornamented all the year through with plaster villas, and on Sundays with beaming bourgeois. In 1823 there were at Montfermeil neither so many white houses nor so many well-satisfied citizens: it was only a village in the forest. Some pleasure-houses of the last century were to be met with there, to be sure, which were recognizable by their grand air, their balconies in twisted iron, and their long windows, whose tiny panes cast all sorts of varying shades of green on the white of the closed shutters; but Montfermeil was none the less a village. Retired cloth-merchants and rusticating attorneys had not discovered it as yet; it was a peaceful and charming place, which was not on the road to anywhere: there people lived, and cheaply, that peasant rustic life which is so bounteous and so easy; only, water was rare there, on account of the elevation of the plateau.



It was necessary to fetch it from a considerable distance; the end of the village towards Gagny drew its water from the magnificent ponds which exist in the woods there. The other end, which surrounds the church and which lies in the direction of Chelles, found drinking-water only at a little spring half-way down the slope, near the road to Chelles, about a quarter of an hour from Montfermeil.



Thus each household found it hard work to keep supplied with water. The large houses, the aristocracy, of which the Thenardier tavern formed a part, paid half a farthing a bucketful to a man who made a business of it, and who earned about eight sous a day in his enterprise of supplying Montfermeil with water; but this good man only worked until seven o'clock in the evening in summer, and five in winter; and night once come and the shutters on the ground floor once closed, he who had no water to drink went to fetch it for himself or did without it.



This constituted the terror of the poor creature whom the reader has probably not forgotten,--little Cosette. It will be remembered that Cosette was useful to the Thenardiers in two ways: they made the mother pay them, and they made the child serve them. So when the mother ceased to pay altogether, the reason for which we have read in preceding chapters, the Thenardiers kept Cosette. She took the place of a servant in their house. In this capacity she it was who ran to fetch water when it was required. So the child, who was greatly terrified at the idea of going to the spring at night, took great care that water should never be lacking in the house.



Christmas of the year 1823 was particularly brilliant at Montfermeil. The beginning of the winter had been mild; there had been neither snow nor frost up to that time. Some mountebanks from Paris had obtained permission of the mayor to erect their booths in the principal street of the village, and a band of itinerant merchants, under protection of the same tolerance, had constructed their stalls on the Church Square, and even extended them into Boulanger Alley, where, as the reader will perhaps remember, the Thenardiers' hostelry was situated. These people filled the inns and drinking-shops, and communicated to that tranquil little district a noisy and joyous life. In order to play the part of a faithful historian, we ought even to add that, among the curiosities displayed in the square, there was a menagerie, in which frightful clowns, clad in rags and coming no one knew whence, exhibited to the peasants of Montfermeil in 1823 one of those horrible Brazilian vultures, such as our Royal Museum did not possess until 1845, and which have a tricolored cockade for an eye. I believe that naturalists call this bird Caracara Polyborus; it belongs to the order of the Apicides, and to the family of the vultures. Some good old Bonapartist soldiers, who had retired to the village, went to see this creature with great devotion. The mountebanks gave out that the tricolored cockade was a unique phenomenon made by God expressly for their menagerie.



On Christmas eve itself, a number of men, carters, and peddlers, were seated at table, drinking and smoking around four or five candles in the public room of Thenardier's hostelry. This room resembled all drinking-shop rooms,--tables, pewter jugs, bottles, drinkers, smokers; but little light and a great deal of noise. The date of the year 1823 was indicated, nevertheless, by two objects which were then fashionable in the bourgeois class: to wit, a kaleidoscope and a lamp of ribbed tin. The female Thenardier was attending to the supper, which was roasting in front of a clear fire; her husband was drinking with his customers and talking politics.



Besides political conversations which had for their principal subjects the Spanish war and M. le Duc d'Angouleme, strictly local parentheses, like the following, were audible amid the uproar:--



"About Nanterre and Suresnes the vines have flourished greatly. When ten pieces were reckoned on there have been twelve. They have yielded a great deal of juice under the press." "But the grapes cannot be ripe?" "In those parts the grapes should not be ripe; the wine turns oily as soon as spring comes." "Then it is very thin wine?" "There are wines poorer even than these. The grapes must be gathered while green." Etc.



Or a miller would call out:--



"Are we responsible for what is in the sacks? We find in them a quantity of small seed which we cannot sift out, and which we are obliged to send through the mill-stones; there are tares, fennel, vetches, hempseed, fox-tail, and a host of other weeds, not to mention pebbles, which abound in certain wheat, especially in Breton wheat. I am not fond of grinding Breton wheat, any more than long-sawyers like to saw beams with nails in them. You can judge of the bad dust that makes in grinding. And then people complain of the flour. They are in the wrong. The flour is no fault of ours."



In a space between two windows a mower, who was seated at table with a landed proprietor who was fixing on a price for some meadow work to be performed in the spring, was saying:--



"It does no harm to have the grass wet. It cuts better. Dew is a good thing, sir. It makes no difference with that grass. Your grass is young and very hard to cut still. It's terribly tender. It yields before the iron." Etc.



Cosette was in her usual place, seated on the cross-bar of the kitchen table near the chimney. She was in rags; her bare feet were thrust into wooden shoes, and by the firelight she was engaged in knitting woollen stockings destined for the young Thenardiers. A very young kitten was playing about among the chairs. Laughter and chatter were audible in the adjoining room, from two fresh children's voices: it was Eponine and Azelma.



In the chimney-corner a cat-o'-nine-tails was hanging on a nail.



At intervals the cry of a very young child, which was somewhere in the house, rang through the noise of the dram-shop. It was a little boy who had been born to the Thenardiers during one of the preceding winters,--"she did not know why," she said, "the result of the cold,"--and who was a little more than three years old. The mother had nursed him, but she did not love him. When the persistent clamor of the brat became too annoying, "Your son is squalling," Thenardier would say; "do go and see what he wants." "Bah!" the mother would reply, "he bothers me." And the neglected child continued to shriek in the dark.











一 孟费?的用水问题









孟费?位于利弗里和谢尔之间,在乌尔克河与马恩河间那片高原的南麓。今天,这已是个相当大的市镇了,全年都一样,粉墙别墅,星期日更有兴高采烈的士绅们。一八二三年的孟费?却没有这样多的粉墙房屋,也没有这样多的得意士绅。那还只是个林木中的乡村。当时零零落落只有几所悦目的房屋,气势轩敞,有盘花铁栏杆环绕着的阳台,长窗上的小块玻璃在紧闭着的白漆的百叶窗上映出深浅不同的绿色,可以看出,那些房屋是前一世纪留下来的。可是孟费?还仍旧只是个村子。倦游的商贾和爱好山林的雅士们还没有发现它。那是一片平静宜人、不在任何交通线上的处所,那里的人都过着物价低廉、生计容易、丰衣足食的乡村生活。美中不足的是地势较高,水源缺乏。



人们取水,就得走一段相当远的路。村里靠近加尼那头的居民要到林里一处幽胜的池塘边才能取到水;住在礼拜堂附近靠谢尔那边的人,必须到离谢尔大路不远、到孟费?约莫一刻钟路程的半山腰里,才能从一处小泉里取得饮水。



因此水的供应对每一家来说都是件相当辛苦的工作。那些大户人家,贵族阶级,也就是德纳第客店所属的那个阶级,通常化一文钱向一个以挑水为业的老汉换一桶水,那老汉在孟费?卖水,每天大致可以赚八个苏;可是他在夏季只工作到傍晚七点,冬季只工作到五点;天黑以后,当楼下的窗子都关上时,谁没有水喝就得自己去取,或者就不喝。



那正是小珂赛特最害怕的事,那个可怜的小妞儿,读者也许还没有忘记吧。我们记得,珂赛特在德纳第夫妇的眼里是有双重用处的:他们既可从孩子的母亲方面得到钱,又可从孩子方面得到劳力。因此,当她母亲完全停止寄钱以后??我们在前几章里已经知道她停止寄款的原因??德纳第夫妇却仍扣留珂赛特。她替他们省下了一个女工。她的地位既是那样,每逢需要水时,她便得去取。那孩子每次想到要在黑夜里摸到泉边取水,便胆战心惊,所以她非常留意,从不让东家缺水。



在孟费?,一八二三年的圣诞节过得特别热闹。初冬天气温和,没有冰冻,也还没有下雪。从巴黎来了几个耍把戏的人,他们得了乡长先生的许可,在村里的大街上搭起了板棚,同时还有一帮走江湖的商贩,也得到同样的通融,在那礼拜堂前面的空坪上搭了一些临时铺面,并且一直延伸到面包师巷里,我们也许还记得,德纳第的客店正是在那条巷子里。所有的客店和酒店都挤满了人,给这清静的小地方带来了一片热闹欢腾的气象。还有一件事,我们应当提到,这才不失为忠实的话古者。陈列在空坪上的那些光怪陆离的东西中,有个动物陈列馆,那里有几个小丑,真不知道那些人是从什么地方来的,衣服破烂,相貌奇丑,他们在一八二三年便已拿着一头巴西产的那种吓人的秃鹫给孟费?的乡民看,那种秃鹫的眼睛恰象一个三色帽徽①,王家博物馆直到一八四五年才弄到那样一只。自然科学家称那种鸟为,我想是,卡拉卡拉·波利波鲁斯,属于猛禽类,鹰族。村里有几个善良的退伍老军人,波拿巴的旧部,走去看了那只鸟,恋主之情油然而起。耍把戏的人宣称那三色帽徽式的眼睛是一种独一无二的现相,是慈悲的天主特为他们那动物陈列馆创造出来的。



就在圣诞节那天晚上,有好些人,几个赶车的和货郎,正在德纳第客店的那间矮厅里围着桌上的四五支蜡烛,坐着喝酒。那间厅,和所有酒食店的厅堂一样,有桌子、锡酒罐、玻璃瓶、喝酒的人、吸烟的人,烛光暗淡,语声喧杂。可是一八二三那一年,在有产阶级的桌子上,总少不了两件时髦东西:一个万花筒和一盏闪光白铁灯。德纳第大娘正在一只火光熊熊的烤炉前准备晚餐,德纳第老板陪着他的客人喝酒,谈政治。



那些谈话的主要内容是关于西班牙战争和昂古莱姆公爵先生的,从那一片喧杂的人声中也会传出一两段富有地方色彩的谈论,例如:



“靠楠泰尔和叙雷讷②一带,酒的产量相当高。原来估计只有十成的,却产了十二成。榨里流出的汁水非常多。”“可是葡萄不见得熟吧?”“那些地方的葡萄不到熟就得收。要是收熟的,一到春天,酒就要起垢。”“那么,那些酒都是淡酒了?”“比此地的酒还淡。葡萄还绿的时候就得摘……”



①三色帽徽,法国革命军的徽志。



②叙雷讷(SureDne,即Suresnes),巴黎圣德尼区地名。 



或是一个磨坊工人喊着说:



“口袋里的东西我们负得了责吗?那里全是小颗小颗的杂种,没法去壳,我们没法开那种玩笑,只好把它们一同送进磨子里去,里面有稗籽、茴香籽、瞿麦籽、鸠豆、麻籽、嘉福萝籽、狐尾草籽,还有一大堆其他的玩意儿,还不算有些麦子里的小石子,尤其是在布列塔尼地方的麦子里,特别多。我真不爱磨布列塔尼麦子,好象锯木板的工人不爱锯有钉子的方料一样。您想想那样磨出来的灰渣子吧。可是人家还老埋怨说面粉不好。他们不了解情况。那种面粉不是我们的错误。”



在两个窗口间,有一个割草工人和一个场主坐在桌旁,正在商量来春草场的工作问题,那割草工人说:



“草湿了,一点坏处也没有,反而好割。露水是种好东西,先生。没有关系,那草,您的草,还嫩着呢,不好办。还是那样软绵绵的,碰着刀口就低头……”



珂赛特待在她的老地方,她坐在壁炉旁一张切菜桌子下面的横杆上。她穿的是破衣,赤着脚,套一双木鞋,凑近炉火的微光,在替德纳第家的小姑娘织绒线袜。有一只小小猫儿在椅子下游戏。可以听到隔壁屋子里有两个孩子的清脆的谈笑声,这是爱潘妮和阿兹玛。



壁炉角上,挂着一根皮鞭。



有个很小的孩子的哭声不时从那房里的某处传到餐厅,在那片嘈杂声中显得高而细。那是德纳第大娘前两年冬天生的一个小男孩,她常说:“不知为什么,这是天冷的影响。”那小男孩已经三岁刚过一点,母亲喂他奶,但是不爱他。当那小把戏的急叫使人太恼火时,德纳第便说:“你的儿子又在鬼哭神号了,去看看他要什么。”妈妈回答说:“管他!讨厌的东西。”那没人管的孩子继续在黑暗中叫喊。

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