第03章 相认
大耳朵英语  http://www.bigear.cn  2007-07-26 19:24:35  【打印
THE SCARLET LETTER



Chapter 03 THE RECOGNITION









FROM this intense consciousness of being the object of severe and universal observation, the wearer of the scarlet letter was at length relieved, by discerning, on the outskirts of the crowd, a figure which irresistibly took possession of her thoughts. An Indian, in his native garb, was standing there; but the red men were not so infrequent visitors of the English settlements, that one of them would have attracted any notice from Hester Prynne, at such a time; much less would he have excluded all other objects and ideas from her mind. By the Indian's side, and evidently sustaining a companionship with him, stood a white man, clad in a strange disarray of civilised and savage costume.



He was small in stature, with a furrowed visage, which, as yet, could hardly be termed aged. There was a remarkable intelligence in his features, as of a person who had so cultivated his mental part that it could not fail to mould the physical to itself, and become manifest by unmistakable tokens. Although, by a seemingly careless arrangement of his heterogeneous garb, he had endeavoured to conceal or abate the peculiarity, it was sufficiently evident to Hester Prynne, that one of this man's shoulders rose higher than the other. Again, at the first instant of perceiving that thin visage, and the slight deformity of the figure, she pressed her infant to her bosom with so convulsive a force that the poor babe uttered another cry of pain. But the mother did not seem to hear it.



At his arrival in the market-place, and some time before she saw him, the stranger had bent his eyes on Hester Prynne. It was carelessly, at first, like a man chiefly accustomed to look inward, and to whom external matters are of little value and import, unless they bear relation to something within his mind. Very soon, however, his look became keen and penetrative. A writhing horror twisted itself across his features, like a snake gliding swiftly over them, and making one little pause, with all its wreathed intervolutions, in open sight. His face darkened with some powerful emotion, which, nevertheless, he so instantaneously controlled by an effort of his will, that, save at a single moment, its expression might have passed for calmness. After a brief space, the convulsion grew almost imperceptible, and finally subsided into the depths of his nature. When he found the eyes of Hester Prynne fastened on his own, and saw that she appeared to recognise him, he slowly and calmly raised his finger, made a gesture with it in the air, and laid it on his lips.



Then, touching the shoulder of a townsman who stood next to him, he addressed him, in a formal and courteous manner.



"I pray you, good sir," said he, "who is this woman?- and wherefore is she here set up to public shame?"



"You must needs be a stranger in this region, friend," answered the townsman, looking curiously at the questioner and his savage companion, "else you would surely have heard of Mistress Hester Prynne, and her evil doings. She hath raised a great scandal, I promise you, in godly Master Dimmesdale's church."



"You say truly," replied the other. "I am a stranger, and have been a wanderer, sorely against my will. I have met with grievous mishaps by sea and land, and have been long held in bonds among the heathen folk, to the southward; and am now brought hither by this Indian, to be redeemed out of my captivity. Will it please you, therefore, to tell me of Hester Prynne's- have I her name rightly?- of this woman's offences, and what has brought her to yonder scaffold?"



"Truly, friend; and methinks it must gladden your heart, after your troubles and sojourn in the wilderness," said the townsman, "to find yourself, at length, in a land where iniquity is searched out, and punished in the sight of rulers and people; as here in our godly New England. Yonder woman, sir, you must know, was the wife of a certain learned man, English by birth, but who had long dwelt in Amsterdam, whence, some good time agone, he was minded to cross over and cast in his lot with us of the Massachusetts. To this purpose, he sent his wife before him, remaining himself to look after some necessary affairs. Marry, good sir, in some two years, or less, that the woman has been a dweller here in Boston, no tidings have come of this learned gentleman, Master Prynne; and his young wife, look you, being left to her own misguidance-"



"Ah!- aha!- I conceive you," said the stranger, with a bitter smile. "So learned a man as you speak of should have learned this, too, in his books. And who, by your favour, sir, may be the father of yonder babe- it is some three or four months old, I should judge- which Mistress Prynne is holding in her arms?"



"Of a truth, friend, that matter remaineth a riddle; and the Daniel who shall expound it is yet a-wanting," answered the townsman. "Madam Hester absolutely refuseth to speak, and the magistrates have laid their heads together in vain. Peradventure the guilty one stands looking on at this sad spectacle, unknown of man, and forgetting that God sees him."



"The learned man," observed the stranger, with another smile, "should come himself, to look into the mystery."



"It behooves him well, if he be still in life," responded the townsman. "Now, good sir, our Massachusetts magistracy, bethinking themselves that this woman is youthful and fair, and doubtless was strongly tempted to her fall- and that, moreover, as is most likely, her husband may be at the bottom of the sea- they have not been bold to put in force the extremity of our righteous law against her. The penalty thereof is death. But in their great mercy and tenderness of heart, they have doomed Mistress Prynne to stand only a space of three hours on the platform of the pillory, and then and thereafter, for the remainder of her natural life, to wear a mark of shame upon her bosom."



"A wise sentence!" remarked the stranger, gravely bowing his head. "Thus she will be a living sermon against sin, until the ignominious letter be engraved upon her tombstone. It irks me, nevertheless, that the partner of her iniquity should not, at least, stand on the scaffold by her side. But he will be known!- he will be known!- he will be known!"



He bowed courteously to the communicative townsman, and, whispering a few words to his Indian attendant, they both made their way through the crowd.



While this passed, Hester Prynne had been standing on her pedestal, still with a fixed gaze towards the stranger; so fixed a gaze that, at moments of intense absorption, all other objects in the visible world seemed to vanish, leaving only him and her. Such an interview, perhaps, would have been more terrible than even to meet him as she now did, with the hot, mid-day sun burning down upon her face, and lighting up its shame; with the scarlet token of infamy on her breast; with the sin-born infant in her arms; with a whole people, drawn forth as to a festival, staring at the features that should have been seen only in the quiet gleam of the fireside, in the happy shadow of a home, or beneath a matronly veil, at church. Dreadful as it was, she was conscious of a shelter in the presence of these thousand witnesses. It was better to stand thus, with so many betwixt him and her, than to greet him, face to face, they two alone. She fled for refuge, as it were, to the public exposure, and dreaded the moment when its protection should be withdrawn from her. Involved in these thoughts, she scarcely heard a voice behind her, until it had repeated her name more than once, in a loud and solemn tone, audible to the whole multitude.



"Hearken unto me, Hester Prynne!" said the voice.



It has already been noticed, that directly over the platform on which Hester Prynne stood was a kind of balcony, or open gallery, appended to the meeting-house. It was the place whence proclamations were wont to be made, amidst an assemblage of the magistracy, with all the ceremonial that attended such public observances in those days. Here, to witness the scene which we are describing, sat Governor Bellingham himself, with four sergeants about his chair, bearing halberds, as a guard of honour. He wore a dark feather in his hat, a border of embroidery on his cloak, and a black velvet tunic beneath; a gentleman advanced in years, with a hard experience written in his wrinkles. He was not ill fitted to be the head and representative of a community, which owed its origin and progress, and its present state of development, not to the impulses of youth, but to the stern and tempered energies of manhood, and the sombre sagacity of age; accomplishing so much, precisely because it imagined and hoped so little. The other eminent characters, by whom the chief ruler was surrounded, were distinguished by a dignity of mien, belonging to a period when the forms of authority were felt to possess the sacredness of Divine institutions. They were, doubtless, good men, just, and sage. But, out of the whole human family, it would not have been easy to select the same number of wise and virtuous persons, who should be less capable of sitting in judgment on an erring woman's heart, and disentangling its mesh of good and evil, than the sages of rigid aspect towards whom Hester Prynne now turned her face. She seemed conscious, indeed, that whatever sympathy she might expect, lay in the larger and warmer heart of the multitude; for, as she lifted her eyes towards the balcony, the unhappy woman grew pale and trembled.



The voice which had called her attention was that of the reverend and famous John Wilson, the eldest clergyman of Boston, a great scholar, like most of his contemporaries in the profession, and withal a man of kind and genial spirit. This last attribute, however, had been less carefully developed than his intellectual gifts, and was, in truth, rather a matter of shame than self-congratulation with him. There he stood, with a border of grizzled locks beneath his skull-cap; while his grey eyes, accustomed to the shaded light of his study, were winking, like those of Hester's infant, in the unadulterated sunshine. He looked like the darkly engraved portraits which we see prefixed to old volumes of sermons; and had no more right than one of those portraits would have, to step forth, as he now did, and meddle with a question of human guilt, passion, and anguish.



"Hester Prynne," said the clergyman, "I have striven with my young brother here, under whose preaching of the Word you have been privileged to sit"- here Mr. Wilson laid his hand on the shoulder of a pale young man beside him- "I have sought, I say, to persuade this godly youth, that he should deal with you, here in the face of Heaven, and before these wise and upright rulers, and in hearing of all the people, as touching the vileness and blackness of your sin. Knowing your natural temper better than I, he could the better judge what arguments to use, whether of tenderness or terror, such as might prevail over your hardness and obstinacy; insomuch that you should no longer hide the name of him who tempted you to this grievous fall. But he opposes to me (with a young man's over-softness, albeit wise beyond his years) that it were wronging the very nature of woman to force her to lay open her heart's secrets in such broad daylight, and in presence of so great a multitude. Truly, as I sought to convince him, the shame lay in the commission of the sin, and not in the showing of it forth. What say you to it, once again, brother Dimmesdale! Must it be thou, or I, that shall deal with this poor sinner's soul?"



There was a murmur among the dignified and reverend occupants of the balcony; and Governor Bellingham gave expression to its purport, speaking in an authoritative voice, although tempered with respect towards the youthful clergyman whom he addressed.



"Good Master Dimmesdale," said he, "the responsibility of this woman's soul lies greatly with you. It behooves you, therefore, to exhort her to repentance, and to confession, as a proof and consequence thereof."



The directness of this appeal drew the eyes of the whole crowd upon the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale; a young clergyman, who had come from one of the great English universities, bringing all the learning of the age into our wild forest-land. His eloquence and religious fervour had already given the earnest of high eminence in his profession. He was a person of very striking aspect, with a white, lofty, and impending brow, large, brown, melancholy eyes, and a mouth which, unless when he forcibly compressed it, was apt to be tremulous, expressing both nervous sensibility and a vast power of self-restraint. Notwithstanding his high native gifts and scholar-like attainments, there was an air about this young minister- an apprehensive, a startled, a half-frightened look- as of a being who felt himself quite astray and at a loss in the pathway of human existence, and could only be at ease in some seclusion of his own. Therefore, so far as his duties would permit, he trod in the shadowy bypaths, and thus kept himself simple and childlike; coming forth, when occasion was, with a freshness, and fragrance, and dewy purity of thought, which, as many people said, affected them like the speech of an angel.



Such was the young man whom the Reverend Mr. Wilson and the Governor had introduced so openly to the public notice, bidding him speak, in the hearing of all men, to that mystery of a woman's soul, so sacred even in its pollution. The trying nature of his position drove the blood from his cheek, and made his lips tremulous.



"Speak to the woman, my brother," said Mr. Wilson. "It is of moment to her soul, and therefore, as the worshipful Governor says, momentous to thine own, in whose charge hers is. Exhort her to confess the truth!"



The Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale bent his head, in silent prayer, as it seemed, and then came forward.



"Hester Prynne," said he, leaning over the balcony, and looking down steadfastly into her eyes, "thou hearest what this good man says, and seest the accountability under which I labour. If thou feelest it to be for thy soul's peace, and that thy earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer! Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life. What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him- yea, compel him, as it were- to add hypocrisy to sin? Heaven hath granted thee an open ignominy, that thereby thou mayest work out an open triumph over the evil within thee, and the sorrow without. Take heed how thou deniest to him-who, perchance, hath not the courage to grasp it for himself- the bitter, but wholesome, cup that is now presented to thy lips!"



The young pastor's voice was tremulously sweet, rich, deep, and broken. The feeling that it so evidently manifested, rather than the direct purport of the words, caused it to vibrate within all hearts, and brought the listeners into one accord of sympathy. Even the poor baby, at Hester's bosom, was affected by the same influence; for it directed its hitherto vacant gaze towards Mr. Dimmesdale, and held up its little arms, with a half-pleased, half-plaintive murmur. So powerful seemed the minister's appeal, that the people could not believe but that Hester Prynne would speak out the guilty name; or else that the guilty one himself, in whatever high or lowly place he stood, would be drawn forth by an inward and inevitable necessity, and compelled to ascend the scaffold.



Hester shook her head.



"Woman, transgress not beyond the limits of Heaven's mercy!" cried the Reverend Mr. Wilson, more harshly than before. "That little babe hath been gifted with a voice, to second and confirm the counsel which thou hast heard. Speak out the name! That, and thy repentance, may avail to take the scarlet letter off thy breast."



"Never!" replied Hester Prynne, looking, not at Mr. Wilson, but into the deep and troubled eyes of the younger clergyman. "It is too deeply branded. Ye cannot take it off. And would that I might endure his agony, as well as mine!"



"Speak, woman!" said another voice, coldly and sternly, proceeding from the crowd about the scaffold. "Speak; and give your child a father!"



"I will not speak!" answered Hester, turning pale as death, but responding to this voice, which she too surely recognized. "And my child must seek a heavenly Father; she shall never know an earthly one!"



"She will not speak!" murmured Mr. Dimmesdale, who, leaning over the balcony, with his hand upon his heart, had awaited the result of his appeal. He now drew back, with a long respiration. "Wondrous strength and generosity of a woman's heart! She will not speak!"



Discerning the impractible state of the poor culprit's mind, the elder clergyman, who had carefully prepared himself for the occasion, addressed to the multitude a discourse on sin, in all its branches, but with continual reference to the ignominious letter. So forcibly did he dwell upon this symbol, for the hour or more during which his periods were rolling over the people's heads, that it assumed new terrors in their imagination, and seemed to derive its scarlet hue from the flames of the infernal pit. Hester Prynne, meanwhile, kept her place upon the pedestal of shame, with glazed eyes, and an air of weary indifference. She had borne, that morning, all that nature could endure; and as her temperament was not of the order that escapes from too intense suffering by a swoon, her spirit could only shelter itself beneath a stony crust of insensibility, while the faculties of animal life remained entire. In this state, the voice of the preacher thundered remorselessly, but unavailingly, upon her ears. The infant, during the latter portion of her rdeal, pierced the air with its wailings and screams; she strove to hush it, mechanically, but seemed scarcely to sympathise with its trouble. With the same hard demeanour, she was led back to prison, and vanished from the public gaze within its iron-clamped portal. It was whispered, by those who peered after her, that the scarlet letter threw a lurid gleam along the dark passage-way of the interior.











第三章 相认









这个身佩红字的人终于从充当众目严历注视的对象的强烈意识中解脱出来,因为她此时注意到人群的外围站着一个身影,那个人立刻不可遏止地占据了她的头脑。一个身着土著装束的印第安人正站在那里,但在这块英国殖民地中,红种人并非鲜见,此时有这么一个人站在那儿,不会引起海丝特·白兰的任何注意,更不会把一切其它形象和思绪一概从她的头脑中排挤出去。在那个印第安人的身边,站着一个身上混穿着文明与野蛮服装的白种人,无疑是那印第安人的同伴。



他身材矮小,满脆皱纹,不过还很难说年事已高。他一望可知是个智慧出众的人,似乎智力上的高度发展不可能不引起形体上的变化,从而在外表上具备了显著的特征。尽管他似乎是漫不经心地随便穿了件土人的衣服,其实是要遮掩或减少身体的怪异之处,但海丝特·白兰仍一眼便看出那个人的两肩并不一般高。她一看到了那人瘦削、多皱的面孔和稍稍变形的躯体,便不由自主地再一次把婴儿紧楼在胸前,直弄得那可怜的孩子义疼得哭出了声。但作母亲的好象对此听而不闻。



在那个不速之客来到市场,海丝特·白兰还没看到他之前,他的目光早已直勾勾地盯上了她。起初,他的目光只是随随便便的,象是一个习惯于洞察他人内心的人,除非外表上的什么东西与内心有关,否则外观便既无价值又不重要。然而,他的目光很快就变得犀利而明察秋毫了。他的面孔上掠过一阵痛苦的恐怖,象是一条蛇在上面迅速蜿蜒,因稍停片刻,而使那盘踞的形体清晰可见。他的脸色由于某种强有力的内心冲动而变得阴暗,不过他人刻用一种意志力控制住,使这种脸色稍纵即逝,换上了一副可以说是平静的表情。仅仅过了瞬间,那种痉挛就几乎消逝得无影无踪,终于沉积在他天性的深渊。当他发现海丝特·白兰的目光与他的目光相遇,并且看来已经认出了他时,他便缓慢而乎落地举起一个手指,在空中做了一个姿势,然后把手指放在自己的嘴唇上。



随后,他碰了碰旁边站着的一个本镇居民的肩膀,礼数周到地开了腔。



“我请问您,好心的先生,”他说,“这位妇女是淮?——为什么要站在这里示众受辱?”



“你大概在这儿人生地不熟,朋友,”那个镇上人一边回答,一边好奇地打量这个发问的人和他的不开化的同伴,“不然的话,你一定会听到过海丝特·白兰太太,还有她干的丑事了。我可以向你保证,她在虔诚的丁梅斯代尔牧师的教堂里已经引起了公愤。”



“您算说对了,”那人接口说。“我是个外地人,一直迫不得已地到处流浪。我在海上和陆上屡遭险衅,在南方不信教的人当中给囚禁了很久;如今又给这个印第安人带到这里来找人赎身。因此,请问您肯不肯告诉我,海丝特·白兰——我把她的名字说对了吗?——这个女人犯了什么过错,给带到那座刑台上呢?”



“真的,朋友,我想,你在人迹罕到的地方历经劫难之后,”那个镇上人说,“终于来到我们这块敬仰上帝的新英格兰,心里一定挺高兴的;这里的一切罪恶都要当众揭发出来,在长官和百姓面前加以惩罚呢。那上边站着的女人嘛,先生,你应该知道,是一个有学问的人的妻子,男人生在英国,但已经长期在阿姆斯特丹定居,不知为了什么,他好久以前想起要飘洋过海,搬到我们马萨诸塞这地方来。为此,他先把他妻子送来,自己留在那边处理那些免不了的事。天啊,好心的光生,在差不多两年的时间里,也许还没那么久呢,这女人一直是我们波士顿这儿的居民,那位学者白兰先生却始终没有一点音讯;而他这位年轻的老婆,你看,就自个儿走上了邪道——”



“啊!——啊哈!——我明白了,”那陌生人苦笑着说。“照您说的,这位饱学之士本应在他的书本中也学到这一点的。那么,您能不能开个思告诉我,先生,谁可能是那婴儿的父亲呢?我看,那孩子——就是白兰太太怀里抱着的,也就有三四个月吧。”



“说实在的,朋友,那件事还是一个谜呢;象但以理①那样聪明的解谜人,我们这儿还没有哪,”那镇上人回答说。“海丝特太太守口如瓶,地方官挖空心思也白费劲。说不定那个犯下罪的人正站在这儿看这个让人伤心的场面呢,可别人还不知道正是他干的,他可忘了上帝正盯着他哪,”



“那个学者,”那陌生人又冷笑着评论说,“应该亲自来调查调查这桩奇案。”



“要是他还活着,是该由他来办的,”那镇上人附和着说。“唉,好心的先生,我们马萨诸塞的当局认为,这个女人年轻漂亮,准是受了极大的诱惑才堕落的——何况,很可能,她的丈夫已经葬身海底——那些当官的不敢大胆地用我们正义的法律强制判她极刑。论罪,她是该处死的。但是,由于他们心肠软,大慈大悲,只判了白兰太太在刑台上站三个小时,以后,在她的有生之年,胸前要永远佩戴一个耻辱的标记。”



“好聪明的判决!”那陌生人沉重地垂下头说。“这样她就成了告诫人们抵制罪恶的活训条了,直到那个耻辱的字母刻到她的墓碑上为止。不过,让我不痛快的是,那个和她通同犯罪的人居然没有在刑台上陪她站着,这本来是最起码的嘛。反正他会让人知道的!——会让人知道的!——他一定会让人知道的!”



他向和他谈话的那镇上人恭恭敬敬地鞠了一躬,又跟他的印第安随从耳语了几句,便双双穿过人群按到前边去了。



在这段时间里,海丝特·白兰一直站在高台上,牢牢盯视着那陌生人;她的注意力完全集中到他身上,那一阵子,她的视界内的一切目标全都从她眼前消失了,只剩下了他和她两个人。或许,在另外一种场合同他邂逅要益发可怕。如今呢,她那本来只该在壁炉旁恬静的柔光中b在家中幸福的暗处或在教堂的庄严气氛笼罩下才能看到的姿容,却在聚拢来的全镇人面前,被大家象看热闹似的死盯着:炎炎的午日烧灼着她的面孔,照亮了脸上的耻辱,她胸前佩着丑陋的鲜红标记,怀中抱着因罪孽而生下的婴儿。此情此景虽然可怕,但她却感到这数以千计的旁观者的存在倒是一种庇护。她这样站着,在她和他之间隔着这么多入,总比只有他们俩面面相溯要好受一些。她确实向这种示众场面寻求着避难之所,唯恐这项保护伞会从她身边撤掉。她的脑际充满了这种种念头,对于她身后传来的话语竟然充耳不闻y直到后来那严肃的话音越来越高地一再重复她的名字,使得在场的所有的人都听得一清二楚了。



“听我说,海丝特·白兰!”那声音喊道。



前面已经提及,就在海丝特·白兰站立的高台的正上方.有一处阳台,或者说是露天走廊,是从议事厅延伸出来的。当年,在地方陡官开会中间如果要发布什么公告,需要镇民都来出席聆听时,就在这里举行种种仪式。今天,为了目睹我们上面所描写的场面,贝灵汉总督亲自坐阵,椅子后面站着四个持朝的警卫充当仪仗。他帽子上插着一支黑羽毛,大氅上绣着花边,里面衬着的是黑丝绒紧身衣;他是一位中长的绅士,皱纹中印下了他的艰苦的经历。他出任这一地区的首脑和代表很适当,因为这一殖民地的起源和发展及其现状,并非取决于青春的冲动,而有赖于成年的严厉和老练,以及老中的权谋和手腕;他们所以能成就颇多,恰恰因为他们的幻想和希望有限。环绕着这位总督的其他显要,一个个都威风凛凛,因为他们所属的时代,官方机构被公认为具有神权制度的仲圣性。不消说,他们都是为人圣洁、主持正义的好人。然而,要从整个人类大家庭中遴选出同等数量的英明贤德之士绝非易举,假如让这种人坐下来审判一个犯了罪的女人的心灵,并分清善与恶的交错盘结,比起海丝特·白兰此时转过身来面对着的这伙表情倡滞的圣人们,不一定高明多少。确实,她似乎深知这一点,不管她期待着什么样的同情,只能到人群中的博大及温暖曲胸怀中去寻求,因此,当她始眼朝阳台上望去时,这个不幸的女人立时面色苍白,周身战栗了。



刚才呼喊她注意的声音发自德高望重的约翰·威尔逊牧师,他是波士顿神职人员中年事最高的一位,如同当年从事这一职业的他的同辈人一样,他也是一位大学者,此外,他还是个亲切和蔼的人。不过,他的这种待人亲切和蔼的心肠,并没有象他那聪明才智的头脑一样得到仔细认真的栽培,老实讲,于他来说,这种好心肠与其值得自我庆幸,不如视作一种耻辱。他站在那里,便帽下面露出一绺灰白的假发;他那双习惯于他的书斋中朦胧光线的灰色眼睛,在这纤变不染的阳光中,也象海丝特的婴儿的眼睛一样眨着。他那副样子就象我们在古旧的经书扉页上看到的黑色木刻肖像;而当他此时迈步向前,干与人类的罪孽、情欲和苦恼时,他的权力也并不比那些肖像为多。“海丝特·白兰,”那牧师说道,“我已经同我这里这位年轻的兄弟争论过,而你正是有幸坐听他布道的,”——此时威尔逊先生把手放在身边一个脸色苍白的年轻人的肩头——“我说,我曾经试图说服这位虔诚的青年,要由他面对苍天,在这些英明而正直的长官面前,在全体人民的旁听之下,来处理你的问题,触及你罪孽中邪恶而阴暗的一面。由于他比我更了解你的秉性,他应该是个更合格的法官,他更清楚应该选用什么样的刚柔相济的辞令,来克服你的桀骜不驯;以使你不再隐瞒那个诱惑你如此堕落的人的姓名。然而,尽管他的才华超出了他的年龄,却仍有年轻人的优柔,他同我争辩说,强制一个妇女在光天化日之下和大庭广众之中,敞开自己内心的隐私,是和妇女的本性格格不入的。确实,我试图说服他,耻辱在于苟且罪孽的当时,面不在于袒露罪孽的事后。你再说一遍吧,丁梅斯代尔兄弟,你对此看法如何?到底该由你呢还是由我,来探究这可怜的罪人的灵魂呢?”



阳台上那些道貌岸然、可尊可敬的先生们彼此一阵交头接耳,贝灵汉总督表达了这阵窃窃私语的主旨,他说话时语气庄重威严,不过仍含有对他招呼着的那年轻牧师的尊敬。



“善心的了梅斯代尔牧师先生,”他说,“你对这女人的灵魂负有极大的责任。因此,应该由你来规劝她悔过和招供,以证明你尽职尽责并非枉然。”



这番直截了当的要求把整个人群的目光都吸引到了丁彻斯代尔牧师的身上;他是毕业于英国—所名牌大学的年轻牧师,把当时的全部学识都梢到我们这片荒野密林曲地带来了。他那雄辩的口才和宗教的热情早已预示了他在自己的职业中将要飞黄腾达。他的外貌颇员舱力,有着高箕、白哲的额头和一双忧郁的褐色大眼,至于他的嘴唇,如果不是紧紧闭着,就会易于颤抖,表明了他既有神经质的敏感又有极大的自制力。尽管他有极高的天赋和学者般的造诣,这位年轻的牧师身上却流露出一种忧心仲仲和惊慌失措的神色,恰似一个人在人生道路上偏离了方向,颇有迷惘之感,只有把自己封闭起来才觉得安然。因此,只要他的职责允许,他就在浓荫密布的小径上漫步,借以保持他自己的纯真和稚气;必要时,便会带着清新馥郁和露水般晶莹纯洁的思想迈步走出来,正如许多人所说,使他们感受到天使般的言辞。



威尔逊牧师先生和总督大人作了公开介绍并引起大家注意的,正是这样一个年轻人。他们要他在众人当场路听的情况下,来盘诘那个女人灵魂中的秘密——而她的灵魂虽然受到玷污,依然神圣不可侵犯。他被置于随她的境地,直通得他面颊上失去血色,双唇不停地颤抖。



“跟这个女人谈谈吧,我的兄弟,”威尔逊先生说。“这是她灵魂的关键时刻,而正如令人崇敬的总督大人所说,由于你对她的灵魂负有职责,因此,这对你自己的灵魂也同样是关键时刻。劝诫她招认真情吧!”



丁梅斯代尔牧师先生低下头去,象是在默默祈祷,然后便迈步向前。



“海丝特·白兰,”他俯身探出阳台,坚定地朝下凝视着她的眼睛说着,“你已经听到了这位好心的先生所讲的话,也已经看到了我所肩负的重任。如果你感到这样做了可以使你的灵魂得以平静,使你现世所受的惩罚可以更有效地拯救你的灵魂,那么我就责令你说出同你一起犯罪的同伙和同你一起遭罪的难友!不要由于对他抱有错误的怜悯和温情而保持沉默吧;因为,请你相信我的话,海丝特,虽然那样一来,他就要从高位上走下来,站到你的身边,和你同受示众之辱,但总比终生埋藏着一颗罪恶的心灵要好受得多。你的沉默对他能有何用?无非是诱引他——明,事实上是迫使他——在罪孽上再蒙以虚伪!上天已经赐给你一个当众受辱的机会,你就该借以光明磊落地战胜你内心的邪恶和外表的悲伤。现在呈献到你唇边的那杯辛辣而有益的苦酒,那人或许缺乏勇气去接过来端给自己,可我要提请你注意,不要阻止他去接受吧!”



青年牧师的话音时断时续,听起来甜美、丰润而深沉,实在撼人心肺。那明显表达出来的感情,要比言词的直接涵义更能拨动每个人的心弦,因此博得了听众一致的同情。甚至海丝特怀中那可怜的婴儿都受到了同样的感染:因为她此时正转动始终还是空泛的视线,盯向丁梅斯代尔先生,还举起两条小胳膊,发出一阵似忧似喜的声音。牧师的规劝实在具有说服力,以致在场的所有的人都相信,海丝特·白兰就要说出那罪人的姓名了;否则,那个犯罪的男人自己,不资此时站在高处或低位,也会在内心必然的推动之下,走上前来,被迫登上刑台。



海丝特摇了摇头。



“女人,你违背上天的仁慈,可不要超过限度!”威尔逊牧师先生更加严厉地嚷道。“你那小小的婴儿都用她那天赐的声音,来附和并肯定你所听到的规劝了。把那人的姓名说出来吧!那样,再加上你的悔改,将有助于从你胸前取下那红字。”



“我永远不会说的!”海丝特·白兰回答说,她的眼睛没有去看威尔逊先生,而是凝视着那年轻牧师的深沉而忧郁的眼睛。“这红字烙得太深了。你是取不下来的。但愿我能在忍受我的痛苦的同时,也忍受住他的痛苦!”



“说吧,女人!”从刑台附近的人群中发出的另一个冷酪的声音说。“说出来吧:让你的孩子有一个父亲!”



“我不说!”海丝特回答着,她的脸色虽然变得象死人一样惨白,但还是对那个她确认无疑的声音作出了答复。“我的孩子应该寻求一个上天的父亲!她将永远不会知道有一个世俗的父亲的!”



“她不肯说!”丁梅斯代尔先生嗫嘘着。他一直俯身探出阳台,一只手捂住心口,特候着听他呼吁的结果,这时他长长吐了一口气,缩回了身体。“一个女人的心胸是多么坚强和宽阔啊!她不肯说!”



那年长的牧师看出来这可怜的罪人一意孤行,他对此早已成竹在胸,便对人群发表了一通论述罪恶的演讲,他列举了形形色色的罪过,并且时时涉及那不光彩的字母。他在长达一个多小时的演讲中,详尽地叙述着这个标记,他那强有力的言辞在人们的耳际反复轰鸣,在他们的心头引起了新的恐惧,似乎把这个标记用炼狱之火染得通红。与此同时,海丝特·白兰始终带着一种疲惫的淡然神情,在她的耻辱台上凝眸端立。那天早晨,她忍受了人性所能承担的一切;由于她的气质决定了她不会以昏厥来逃避过于强烈的苦难,她的精神只能躲藏在麻木的石质硬壳下,而令动物生命助机能依然无损。因此,那位布道者的声音虽在她耳畔残酷无情地响如雷鸣,但却无济于事。在她备受折磨的这后一段时间,那婴儿的尖声哭号直贯云霄;她虽下意识地想哄着孩子安静下来,但似乎对婴儿的不安无动于衷。她就这样木雕泥塑般地又给带回监狱,从众人眼前捎失在钉满铁钉的牢门后面。那些目光随着她身影窥视的人耳语着说,她胸前的红字在中内黑漆漆的通路上投下了一道血红的闪光。



①据传为《旧约·但以理书》的作者,被视为最贤明的裁判者。





 

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