第16章 林中散步
大耳朵英语  http://www.bigear.cn  2007-07-26 19:59:08  【打印
Chapter 16 A FOREST WALK









HESTER PRYNNE remained constant in her resolve to make known to Mr. Dimmesdale, at whatever risk of present pain or ulterior consequences, the true character of the man who had crept into his intimacy. For several days, however, she vainly sought an opportunity of addressing him in some of the meditative walks which she knew him to be in the habit of taking, along the shores of the peninsula, or on the wooded hills of the neighbouring country. There would have been no scandal, indeed, nor peril to the holy whiteness of the clergyman's good fame, had she visited him in his own study; where many a penitent, ere now, had confessed sins of perhaps as deep a dye as the one betokened by the scarlet letter. But, partly that she dreaded the secret or undisguised interference of old Roger Chillingworth, and partly that her conscious heart imputed suspicion where none could have been felt, and partly that both the minister and she would need the whole wide world to breathe in, while they talked together- for all these reasons, Hester never though of meeting him in any narrower privacy than beneath the open sky.



At last, while attending in a sick-chamber, whither the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale had been summoned to make a prayer, she learnt that he had gone, the day before, to visit the Apostle Eliot, among his Indian converts. He would probably return, by a certain hour, in the afternoon of the morrow. Betimes, therefore, the next day, Hester took little Pearl- who was necessarily the companion of all her mother's expeditions, however inconvenient her presence- and set forth.



The road, after the two wayfarers had crossed from the peninsula to the mainland, was no other than a footpath. It straggled onward into the mystery of the primeval forest. This hemmed it in so narrowly, and stood so black and dense on either side, and disclosed such imperfect glimpses of the sky above, that, to Hester's mind, it imaged not amiss the moral wilderness in which she had so long been wandering. The day was chill and sombre. Overhead was a grey expanse of cloud, slightly stirred, however, by a breeze; so that a gleam of flickering sunshine might now and then be seen at its solitary play along the path. This flitting cheerfulness was always at the farther extremity of some long vista through the forest. The sportive sunlight- feebly sportive, at best, in the predominant pensiveness of the day and scene- withdrew itself as they came nigh, and left the spots where it had danced the drearier, because they had hoped to find them bright.



"Mother," said little Pearl, "the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom. Now, see! There it is, playing, a good way off. Stand you here, and let me run and catch it. I am but a child. It will not flee from me; for I wear nothing on my bosom yet!"



"Nor ever will, my child, I hope," said Hester.



"And why not, mother?" asked Pearl, stopping short just at the beginning of her race. "Will not it come of its own accord, when I am a woman grown?"



"Run away, child," answered her mother, "and catch the sunshine!It will soon be gone."



Pearl set forth, at a great pace, and, as Hester smiled to perceive, did actually catch the sunshine, and stood laughing in the midst of it, all brightened by its splendour, and scintillating with the vivacity excited by rapid motion. The light lingered about the lonely child, as if glad of such a playmate, until her mother had drawn almost nigh enough to step into the magic circle too.



"It will go now," said Pearl, shaking her head.



"See!" answered Hester, smiling. "Now I can stretch out my hand, and grasp some of it."



As she attempted to do so, the sunshine vanished; or, to judge from the bright expression that was dancing on Pearl's features, her mother could have fancied that the child had absorbed it into herself, and would give it forth again, with a gleam about her path, as they should plunge into some gloomier shade. There was no other attribute that so much impressed her with a sense of new and untransmitted vigour in Pearl's nature, as this never-failing vivacity of spirits; she had not the disease of sadness, which almost all children, in these latter days, inherit, with the scrofula, from the troubles of their ancestors. Perhaps this too was a disease, and but the reflex of the wild energy with which Hester had fought against her sorrows, before Pearl's birth. It was certainly a doubtful charm, imparting a hard, metallic lustre to the child's character. She wanted- what some people want throughout life- a grief that should deeply touch her, and thus humanise and make her capable of sympathy. But there was time enough yet for little Pearl.



"Come, my child!" said Hester, looking about her from the spot where Pearl had stood still in the sunshine. "We will sit down a little way within the wood, and rest ourselves."



"I am not aweary, mother," replied the little girl. "But you may sit down, if you will tell me a story meanwhile."



"A story, child!" said Hester. "And about what?"



"Oh, a story about the Black Man," answered Pearl, taking hold of her mother's gown, and looking up, half earnestly, half mischievously, into her face. "How he haunts this forest, and carries a book with him- a big, heavy book, with iron clasps; and how this ugly Black Man offers his book and an iron pen to everybody that meets him here among the trees; and they are to write their names with their own blood. And then he sets his mark on their bosoms! Didst thou ever meet the Black Man, mother?"



"And who told you this story, Pearl?" asked her mother, recognising a common superstition of the period.



"It was the old dame in the chimney-corner, at the house where you watched last night," said the child. "But she fancied me asleep while she was talking of it. She said that a thousand and a thousand people had met him here, and had written in his book, and have his mark on them. And that ugly-tempered lady, old Mistress Hibbins, was one. And, mother, the old dame said that this scarlet letter was the Black Man's mark on thee, and that it glows like a red flame when thou meetest him at midnight, here in the dark wood. Is it true, mother? And dost thou go to meet him in the night-time?"



"Didst thou ever awake, and find thy mother gone?" asked Hester.



"Not that I remember," said the child. "If thou fearest to leave me in our cottage, thou mightest take me along with thee. I would very gladly go! But, mother, tell me now! Is there such a Black Man? And didst thou ever meet him? And is this his mark?"



"Wilt thou let me be at peace if I once tell thee?" asked her mother.



"Yes, if thou tellest me all," answered Pearl.



"Once in my life I met the Black Man!" said her mother. "This scarlet letter is his mark!"



Thus conversing, they entered sufficiently deep into the wood to secure themselves from the observation of any casual passenger along the forest track. Here they sat down on a luxuriant heap of moss; which, at some epoch of the preceding century, had been a gigantic pine, with its roots and trunk in the darksome shade, and its head aloft in the upper atmosphere. It was a little dell where they had seated themselves, with a leaf-strewn bank rising gently on either side, and a brook flowing through the midst, over a bed of fallen and drowned leaves. The trees impending over it had flung down great branches, from time to time, which choked up the current, and compelled it to form eddies and black depths at some points; while, in its swifter and livelier passages, there appeared a channel-way of pebbles, and brown, sparkling sand. Letting the eyes follow along the course of the stream, they could catch the reflected light from its water, at some short distance within the forest, but soon lost all traces of it amid the bewilderment of tree-trunks and underbrush, and here and there a huge rock covered over with grey lichens. All these giant trees and boulders of granite seemed intent on making a mystery of the course of this small brook; fearing, perhaps, that, with its never-ceasing loquacity, it should whisper tales out of the heart of the old forest whence it flowed, or mirror its revelations on the smooth surface of a pool. Continually, indeed, as it stole onward, the streamlet kept up a babble, kind, quiet, soothing, but melancholy, like the voice of a young child that was spending its infancy without playfulness, and knew not how to be merry among sad acquaintance and events of sombre hue.



"O brook! O foolish and tiresome little brook!" cried Pearl, after listening awhile to its talk. "Why art thou so sad? Pluck up a spirit, and do not be all the time sighing and murmuring!"



But the brook, in the course of its little lifetime among the forest-trees, had gone through so solemn an experience that it could not help talking about it, and seemed to have nothing else to say. Pearl resembled the brook inasmuch as the current of her life gushed from a well-spring as mysterious, and had flowed through scenes shadowed as heavily with gloom. But, unlike the little stream, she danced and sparkled, and prattled airily along her course.



"What does this sad little brook say, mother?" inquired she.



"If thou hadst a sorrow of thine own, the brook might tell thee of it," answered her mother, "even as it is telling me of mine! But now, Pearl, I hear a footstep along the path, and the noise of one putting aside the branches. I would have thee betake thyself to play, and leave me to speak with him that comes yonder."



"Is it the Black Man?" asked Pearl.



"Wilt thou go and play, child?" repeated her mother. "But do not stray far into the wood. And take heed that thou come at my first call."



"Yes, mother," answered Pearl. "But if it be the Black Man, wilt thou not let me stay a moment, and look at him, with his big book under his arm?"



"Go, silly child!" said her mother impatiently. "It is no Black Man! Thou canst see him now, through the trees. It is the minister!"



"And so it is!" said the child. "And, mother, he has his hand over his heart! Is it because, when the minister wrote his name in the book, the Black Man set his mark in that place? But why does he not wear it outside his bosom, as thou dost, mother?"



"Go now, child, and thou shalt tease me as thou wilt another time," cried Hester Prynne. "But do not stray far. Keep where thou canst hear the babble of the brook."



The child went singing away, following up the current of the brook, and striving to mingle a more lightsome cadence with its melancholy voice. But the little stream would not be comforted, and still kept telling its unintelligible secret of some very mournful mystery that had happened- or making a prophetic lamentation about something that was yet to happen- within the verge of the dismal forest. So Pearl, who had enough of shadow in her own little life, chose to break off all acquaintance with this repining brook. She set herself, therefore, to gathering violets and wood-anemones, and some scarlet columbines that she found growing in the crevices of a high rock.



When her elf-child had departed, Hester Prynne made a step or two towards the track that led through the forest, but still remained under the deep shadow of the trees. She beheld the minister advancing along the path, entirely alone, and leaning on a staff which he had cut by the wayside. He looked haggard and feeble, and betrayed a nerveless despondency in his air, which had never so remarkably characterised him in his walks about the settlement, nor in any other situation where he deemed himself liable to notice. Here it was woefully visible, in this intense seclusion of the forest, which of itself would have been a heavy trial to the spirits. There was a listlessness in his gait; as if he saw no reason for taking one step farther, nor felt any desire to do so, but would have been glad, could he be glad of anything, to fling himself down at the root of the nearest tree, and lie there passive, for evermore. The leaves might bestrew him, and the soil gradually accumulate and form a little hillock over his frame, no matter whether there were life in it or no. Death was too definite an object to be wished for, or avoided.



To Hester's eye, the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale exhibited no symptom of positive and vivacious suffering, except that, as little Pearl had remarked, he kept his hand over his heart.











第十六章 林中散步









海丝特·白兰不管眼下有什么痛苦或日后有什么结果,也甘冒风险,一心要对丁梅斯代尔先生揭示那个钻到他身边的人的真实身分。她知道他有一个习惯,喜欢沿着半岛的岸边或邻近的乡间的山林中边散步边思考,但接连好几天,她都没能趁着这个时间找个机会同他交谈。当然,她就是到他自己的书斋去拜访,也不会引起谣言,更不会对牧师那圣洁的名声有什么影响,因为原本就有许多人到他的书斋中去仟侮,他们所招认的罪孽之深重,或许不亚于红字所代表的那种。然而,一来她担心老罗杰·齐灵渥斯会暗中或公然搅扰;一来她自己心里疑神疑鬼,虽说别人并不会猜测;一来她和牧师谈话时,两人都需要整个旷野来呼吸空气——出于这一切原因,海丝特从来没想过不在光天化日之下面在什么狭窄的私下场所去见他。



后来,她到一家病人的房中去帮忙,而丁梅斯代尔牧师先生先前也曾应邀去作道祈祷,她才在那里听说他已经在前一天就走了——到他的印第安信徒中拜访使徒艾略特去了。他可能要在第二天下午的某个时刻回来。于是,到了次日那个钟点,海丝特就带上珠儿出发了——只要母亲外出,不管带着她方便与否,她反正总是必不可少的伴侣。



这两个行路人穿过半岛踏上大陆之后,脚下便只有一条人行小径可走了。这条小路婉蜒伸入神秘的原始森林之中。树木紧紧夹位窄窄的小路,耸立在两旁,浓密蔽荫,让人举目难见青天。在海丝特看来,这恰是她多年来徘徊其中的道德荒野的写照。天气阴沉面寒冷。头上是灰蒙蒙的云天,时而被微风轻拂;因而不时可见缕缕阳光,孤寂地在小径上闪烁跳跃。这种转瞬即逝的欢快,总是闪现在森林纵深的远端。在天气和景色的一片阴霾中,那嬉戏的阳光——充其量不过是微弱的闪跃——在她们走近时就退缩了,她们原本希望阳光闪跃过的地方会明亮些,但走到跟前倒显得益发阴暗了。



“妈妈,”小珠儿说,“阳光并不爱你。它跑开躲起来了,因为它害怕你胸口的什么东西。你瞧嘛!它在那儿跳呢,远远地。你站在这儿,让我跑过去抓住它。我只不过是个孩子。它不会逃避我的,因为我胸前还什么都没戴呢!”



“我的孩子,我但愿你一辈子也别戴吧,”海丝特说。



“于嘛不戴呢,妈妈?”珠儿问道,她刚要拔腿朝前跑,忽地停下了脚步。“等我长成大人,难道它不会自然就来了吗?”



“快跑吧,孩子,”她母亲回答,“去抓住阳光!它会转眼就跑掉的。”



珠儿拔腿飞快地跑去,海丝特微笑着看到,她还真的抓住了阳光,并且站在阳光中放声大笑,全身披着的灿烂的彩晖,还随着她快速移动的活跃激荡着而闪闪发亮。那光亮依傍在孤独的孩子身边,似是因为有了这样一个玩伴而兴高采烈,一直到她母亲差不多也要迈步进入那充满魔力的光圈为止。



“这下它要走了,”珠儿摇着头说。



“瞧!”海丝特微笑着回答。“现在我可以伸出手来,抓住一些阳光了。”



就在她打算这么做时,阳光又消失了;或者,从珠儿脸上闪跃着的焕发的容光来判断,她母亲也可能想象是孩子把阳光吞了进去,单等她们步入更幽暗的地方时,再放出来照亮她们的小径。在珠儿的秉性中,这种永不衰竭的精神活力带有一种蕴含着的崭新精力的感觉,给她的印象最为深刻;珠儿没有忧郁症——如今几乎所有的孩子都从他们先辈的烦恼中,把这种症状同瘟病一起继承了下来。也许这种活泼同样是一种疾病,不过是珠儿降生之前海丝特用来遏制自己的忧伤的那种野性的反映。这种活力在孩子的性格上增加了一种坚硬的金属般的光泽,其魅力甚属可疑。她需要——一些人终生都需要一些东西——一种阴郁来源源地触动她,以便增加她的人性,并使她能够同情。好在对小珠儿来说,还有的是时间呢。



“过来,我的孩子!”海丝特一边说着,士边从珠儿刚刚在阳光中站着不动的地方向四下望着。“我们要在林子里坐下来,休息一下。”



“我还不累呢,妈妈,”那小姑娘回答说。“不过,你要是愿意借这个机会给我讲个故事的话,倒是可以坐下来。”



“讲个故事,孩子!”海丝特说。“关于什么的故事呢?”



“噢,讲个关于黑男人的故事吧,”珠儿回答着,一边攥住她母亲的袍子,一边又真诚又调皮地抬头盯着母亲的面孔。“讲讲他怎么在这座林子里走动,还随身带着一本书——一本又大又重的册子,上面还有铁箍;讲讲这个长得挺丑的黑男人怎么向在这林子里遇到的每一个人拿出他的册子和一支铁笔;让他们用自己的血写下他们的名字。然后他就在他们的胸前打上他的记号!你以前遇到过这个黑男人吗,妈妈?”



“谁给你讲的这个故事,珠儿?”她母亲这样问着,心里明白这是当时的一种普遍的迷信。



“就是昨天夜里你照看的那家的老太婆,她在屋角的炉灶那儿讲的,”那孩子说。“不过她讲的时候,还以为我睡着了呢。她说,有成千成千的人在这儿遇见过他,在他的册子上写下了名字,身上也让他打了记号。那个脾气挺坏的西宾斯老太太就是一个。还有,妈妈,那个老太婆说,这个红字就是黑男人打在你身上的记号,夜里在这黑林子里遇见他时,红字就会家红色火苗一样闪闪发光。这是真的吗,妈妈?你是在夜里去见他的吗?”



“你夜里醒来时,可曾发现你妈妈出去了?”海丝特问。



“我不记得有过,”孩子说。“要是你害怕把我一个人留在咱们的小屋里,你可以带我一块儿去那儿嘛。我可高兴去呢!不过,妈妈,现在就告诉我吧!有没有这么一个黑男人?你到底见过他没有?这红字是不是他的记号?”



“要是我告诉你,你肯不肯让我安静安静?”她母亲问。



“成,你可得全告诉我,”珠儿回答。



“我活这么大就见过那黑男人一次!”她母亲说。“这个红字就是他的记号!”



母女俩一边这么谈着,就走进了树林挺深的地方,在这儿她们很安全,绝不会被任何随便走过林中小径的路人看到。她们这时在一堆繁茂的青苔上坐了下来,这地方在一百多年以前,曾经长过一棵巨松,树冠高耸入云,树根和树干遮在浓荫之中。她们所坐的地方是一个小小的山谷,两侧的缓坡上铺满树叶,中间流着一条小溪,河底淹没着落时。悬在溪上的树木常年来投下的大树枝,阻逼了溪流,在一些地方形成了漩涡和深潭;而在溪水畅通、流得欢快的地段,则露出河底的石子和闪光的褐砂。她们放眼沿河道望去,可以看见在林中不远的地方水面粼粼的反光,但没多久,就在盘错的树干和灌木中失去了踪迹,而不时为一些长满灰色地衣的巨石遮住视线。所有这些大树和巨石似乎有意为这条小小的溪流蒙上一层神秘的色彩;或许是害怕它那喋喋不休的多嘴多舌会悄悄道出它所流经的古老树林的内心秘密,或者是害怕它那流过池塘时的光滑水面会映出其隐衷。确实,当小溪不停地偷偷向前流动时,一直在潺潺作响,那声音和蔼、平静又亲切,但总带点忧郁,就象一个婴儿时期没有玩痛快的小孩子,仍然不知如何在伤心的伙伴和阴暗的事件中自得其乐。



“啊,小河啊!啊,蠢得烦人的小河啊!”珠儿聆听了一阵儿流水的谈话后这样叫着人“你为什么这样伤心?打起点精神来,别总是哀声叹气的!”



但在林间流过它短短生命的溪水,其经历是那样地肃穆,不可能不把它讲出来,而且看来也别无其它可说。珠儿与那溪水就有点相似,她的生命也是涌自一个神秘之泉,并流经同样阴沉的暗景。但同溪水不同的是,她是一路蹦蹦跳跳地走过来的,她容光焕发,谈吐轻快。



“这条伤心的小河都说些什么啊;妈妈?”她询问道。



“如果你有自己的忧伤,那么小溪也可以跟你把它说出来的,”她母亲回答,“就象它在对我谈我的忧伤一样!不过,珠儿,这会儿我听到有脚步声沿着小路走来,—还有拨开树枝的声音。我想让你自己去玩一会儿,留下我和走来的那人谈一谈。”



“是那个黑男人吗?”珠儿问。



“你去玩儿好吗,孩子?”她母亲又说了一遍。“可是别在林子里走得太远。留点心,我一叫你就回来。”



“好的,妈妈,”珠儿回答说。“不过,要是那个黑男人,你就让我稍稍呆上一会儿,看上他一眼,他还挟着那本大册子呢,不是吗?”



“走吧,傻孩子!”她母亲不耐烦地说。“他不是黑男人!你现在就能看到他,正在穿过林子走来。那是牧师!”



“原来是他!”孩子说。“妈妈,他用手捂着心口呢!是不是因为牧师在册子上写下名字的时候,黑男人在那地方打下了记号?可是他干嘛不象你一样,把记号戴在胸口外面呢,妈妈?”



“现在快走吧,孩子,过一会儿再来缠我,‘”海丝特·白兰叫喊着。“不过别走远。就在能听到流水声的地方好了。”



那孩子沿着溪流唱着走开了,她想把更明快的歌声融进溪水的忧郁腔调中。但那小溪并没有因此而得到安慰,仍然不停地唠叨着在这阴森的树林中已经发生的一些十分哀伤的故事——或是预言某些将要发生的事情的伤心之处——诉说着其中莫测的隐秘。于是,在她小小的生命中已经有了太多的阴影的珠儿,便放弃了这条如泣如诉的小溪,不再和它交往。因此,她就一心采集紫罗兰和木莲花,以及她发现长在一块高大石头的缝隙中的一些腥红的耧斗菜。



海丝特·白兰等她的小精灵孩子走远之后,便向那穿过森林的小径上走了一两步,但仍遮在树木的暗影之中。她看到牧师正沿着小径走来,他只身一人,只是手中接着一根从路边砍下的手杖。他样子憔悴无力,露出一种失魂落魄的沮丧神情,这是他在居民区周围或其它他认为显眼的地方散步时,从来在他身上看不到的。但在这里,在这与世隔绝的密林中,在这密林本身就使人深感精神压力的地方,他这种沮丧神情却暴露无遗,令人目不忍睹。他无精打采,举步维艰;仿佛他不明所以,不肯向前,也根本不想再迈一步,如果他还有什么可高兴的,大概就是巴不得在最近的一棵树下躺倒,无所事事地躺上一辈子。树叶会撒落在他身上,泥土会逐渐堆积,从而在他身上形成一个小土丘,无需过问他的躯体内还有无生命。死亡这个十分明确的目标,是不必巴望,也不必回避的。



在海丝特的眼中,丁梅斯代尔牧师先生除去象小珠儿曾经说过的那样,总用手捂着心口之外,没有表现出显面易见的受折磨的征候。

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