第二卷爱潘妮 第03章马白夫公公的奇遇
大耳朵英语  http://www.bigear.cn  2007-10-10 02:12:49  【打印
CHAPTER III APPARITION TO FATHER MABEUF





Marius no longer went to see any one, but he sometimes encountered Father Mabeuf by chance.



While Marius was slowly descending those melancholy steps which may be called the cellar stairs, and which lead to places without light, where the happy can be heard walking overhead, M. Mabeuf was descending on his side.



The Flora of Cauteretz no longer sold at all. The experiments on indigo had not been successful in the little garden of Austerlitz, which had a bad exposure. M. Mabeuf could cultivate there only a few plants which love shade and dampness. Nevertheless, he did not become discouraged. He had obtained a corner in the Jardin des Plantes, with a good exposure, to make his trials with indigo "at his own expense." For this purpose he had pawned his copperplates of the Flora. He had reduced his breakfast to two eggs, and he left one of these for his old servant, to whom he had paid no wages for the last fifteen months. And often his breakfast was his only meal. He no longer smiled with his infantile smile, he had grown morose and no longer received visitors. Marius did well not to dream of going thither. Sometimes, at the hour when M. Mabeuf was on his way to the Jardin des Plantes, the old man and the young man passed each other on the Boulevard de l'Hopital. They did not speak, and only exchanged a melancholy sign of the head. A heart-breaking thing it is that there comes a moment when misery looses bonds! Two men who have been friends become two chance passers-by.



Royal the bookseller was dead. M. Mabeuf no longer knew his books, his garden, or his indigo: these were the three forms which happiness, pleasure, and hope had assumed for him. This sufficed him for his living. He said to himself: "When I shall have made my balls of blueing, I shall be rich, I will withdraw my copperplates from the pawn-shop, I will put my Flora in vogue again with trickery, plenty of money and advertisements in the newspapers and I will buy, I know well where, a copy of Pierre de Medine's Art de Naviguer, with wood-cuts, edition of 1655." In the meantime, he toiled all day over his plot of indigo, and at night he returned home to water his garden, and to read his books. At that epoch, M. Mabeuf was nearly eighty years of age.



One evening he had a singular apparition.



He had returned home while it was still broad daylight. Mother Plutarque, whose health was declining, was ill and in bed. He had dined on a bone, on which a little meat lingered, and a bit of bread that he had found on the kitchen table, and had seated himself on an overturned stone post, which took the place of a bench in his garden.



Near this bench there rose, after the fashion in orchard-gardens, a sort of large chest, of beams and planks, much dilapidated, a rabbit-hutch on the ground floor, a fruit-closet on the first. There was nothing in the hutch, but there were a few apples in the fruit-closet,--the remains of the winter's provision.



M. Mabeuf had set himself to turning over and reading, with the aid of his glasses, two books of which he was passionately fond and in which, a serious thing at his age, he was interested. His natural timidity rendered him accessible to the acceptance of superstitions in a certain degree. The first of these books was the famous treatise of President Delancre, De l'inconstance des Demons; the other was a quarto by Mutor de la Rubaudiere, Sur les Diables de Vauvert et les Gobelins de la Bievre. This last-mentioned old volume interested him all the more, because his garden had been one of the spots haunted by goblins in former times. The twilight had begun to whiten what was on high and to blacken all below. As he read, over the top of the book which he held in his hand, Father Mabeuf was surveying his plants, and among others a magnificent rhododendron which was one of his consolations; four days of heat, wind, and sun without a drop of rain, had passed; the stalks were bending, the buds drooping, the leaves falling; all this needed water, the rhododendron was particularly sad. Father Mabeuf was one of those persons for whom plants have souls. The old man had toiled all day over his indigo plot, he was worn out with fatigue, but he rose, laid his books on the bench, and walked, all bent over and with tottering footsteps, to the well, but when he had grasped the chain, he could not even draw it sufficiently to unhook it. Then he turned round and cast a glance of anguish toward heaven which was becoming studded with stars.



The evening had that serenity which overwhelms the troubles of man beneath an indescribably mournful and eternal joy. The night promised to be as arid as the day had been."Stars everywhere!" thought the old man; "not the tiniest cloud! Not a drop of water!"



And his head, which had been upraised for a moment, fell back upon his breast.



He raised it again, and once more looked at the sky, murmuring:--



"A tear of dew! A little pity!"



He tried again to unhook the chain of the well, and could not.



At that moment, he heard a voice saying:--



"Father Mabeuf, would you like to have me water your garden for you?"



At the same time, a noise as of a wild animal passing became audible in the hedge, and he beheld emerging from the shrubbery a sort of tall, slender girl, who drew herself up in front of him and stared boldly at him. She had less the air of a human being than of a form which had just blossomed forth from the twilight.



Before Father Mabeuf, who was easily terrified, and who was, as we have said, quick to take alarm, was able to reply by a single syllable, this being, whose movements had a sort of odd abruptness in the darkness, had unhooked the chain, plunged in and withdrawn the bucket, and filled the watering-pot, and the goodman beheld this apparition, which had bare feet and a tattered petticoat, running about among the flower-beds distributing life around her. The sound of the watering-pot on the leaves filled Father Mabeuf's soul with ecstasy.It seemed to him that the rhododendron was happy now.



The first bucketful emptied, the girl drew a second, then a third. She watered the whole garden.



There was something about her, as she thus ran about among paths, where her outline appeared perfectly black, waving her angular arms, and with her fichu all in rags, that resembled a bat.



When she had finished, Father Mabeuf approached her with tears in his eyes, and laid his hand on her brow.



"God will bless you," said he, "you are an angel since you take care of the flowers."



"No," she replied. "I am the devil, but that's all the same to me."



The old man exclaimed, without either waiting for or hearing her response:--



"What a pity that I am so unhappy and so poor, and that I can do nothing for you!"



"You can do something," said she.



"What?"



"Tell me where M. Marius lives."



The old man did not understand. "What Monsieur Marius?"



He raised his glassy eyes and seemed to be seeking something that had vanished.



"A young man who used to come here."



In the meantime, M. Mabeuf had searched his memory.



"Ah! yes--" he exclaimed. "I know what you mean. Wait! Monsieur Marius--the Baron Marius Pontmercy, parbleu! He lives, --



or rather, he no longer lives,--ah well, I don't know."



As he spoke, he had bent over to train a branch of rhododendron, and he continued:--



"Hold, I know now. He very often passes along the boulevard, and goes in the direction of the Glaciere, Rue Croulebarbe. The meadow of the Lark. Go there. It is not hard to meet him."



When M. Mabeuf straightened himself up, there was no longer any one there; the girl had disappeared.



He was decidedly terrified.



"Really," he thought, "if my garden had not been watered, I should think that she was a spirit."



An hour later, when he was in bed, it came back to him, nd as he fell asleep, at that confused moment when thought, like that fabulous bird which changes itself into a fish in order to cross the sea, little by little assumes the form of a dream in order to traverse slumber, he said to himself in a bewildered way: --



"In sooth, that greatly resembles what Rubaudiere narrates of the goblins. Could it have been a goblin?"







三 马白夫公公的奇遇





马吕斯已不再访问任何人,不过他有时会遇见马白夫公公。



这时,马吕斯正沿着一种阴暗凄凉的梯级慢慢往下走。我们不妨称之为地窨子阶梯的这种梯级,把人们带到那些不见天日、只听到幸福的人群在自己头上走动的地方,当马吕斯这样慢慢往下走时,马白夫先生也同时在他那面往下走。



《柯特雷茨附近的植物图说》已绝对销不出去了。靛青的试种,由于奥斯特里茨的那个小园子里阳光不足,也毫无成绩。马白夫先生在那里只能种些性喜阴湿的稀有植物。但他并不灰心。他在植物园里获得一角光照通风都好的地,用来“自费”试种靛青。为了做这试验,他把《植物图说》的铜版全押在当铺里。他把每天的早餐缩减到两个鸡蛋,其中一个留给他那年老的女仆,他已十五个月没有付给她工资了。他的早餐经常是一天中唯一的一餐。他失去了那种稚气十足的笑声,他变得阴沉了,也不再接待朋友。好在马吕斯也不想去看他。有时,马白夫先生去植物园,老人和那青年会在医院路上迎面走过。他们彼此并不交谈,只愁眉苦眼地相互点个头罢了。伤心啊,贫苦竟能使人忘旧!往日是朋友,于今成路人。



书店老板鲁瓦约尔已经死了。现在马白夫先生认识的仅只是他自己的书籍、他的园子和他的靛青,这是他的幸福、兴趣和希望所呈现的三个形象。这已够他过活了。他常对自己说:“到我把那蓝色团子做成的时候,我便有钱了,我要把我的那些铜版从当铺里赎回来,我要大吹大擂地把我那本《植物图说》推销一番,敲起大鼓,报纸上登上广告,我就可以去买一本皮埃尔·德·梅丁的《航海艺术》了。我知道什么地方能买到,一五五九年版带木刻插图的。”目前,他天天去培植他那方靛青地,晚上回家浇他的园子,读他的书。马白夫先生这时已年近八十了。



一天傍晚,他遇到一件怪事。



那天,大白天他便回了家。体力日渐衰退的普卢塔克妈妈正病倒在床上。晚餐时,他啃了一根还剩有一点点肉的骨头,又吃了一片从厨房桌上找到的面包,出去坐在一条横倒的界石上面,这是他在花园里用来当长凳的。



在这条长凳近旁,按照老式果园的布局,竖着一个高大的圆顶柜,它的木条、木板都已很不完整,下层是兔子窝,上层是果子架。兔子窝里没有兔子,果子架上却还有几个苹果。这是剩余的过冬食物。



马白夫先生戴着眼镜,手里捧着两本心爱的书在翻翻念念,这两本书不但是他心爱的,对他那样年纪的人来说,更严重的是那两本书常使他心神不安。他那怯懦的生性原已使他在某种程度上接受了一些迷信思想。那两本书之一是德朗克尔院长的有名著作,《魔鬼的多变》,另一本是米托尔·德·拉鲁博提埃尔的四开本,《关于沃维尔的鬼怪和皮埃弗的精灵》。他的园子在从前正是精灵不时出没的地方,因而那后一本书更使他感到兴趣。暮色的残晖正开始把上面的东西变白,下面的东西变黑。马白夫公公一面阅读,一面从他手里的书本上望着他的那些花木,其中给他最大安慰的是一株绚烂夺目的山踯躅,四天的干旱日子刚过去,热风,烈日,不见一滴雨,枝头下垂了,花骨朵儿蔫了,叶子落了,一切都需要灌溉,那棵山踯躅尤其显得憔悴多愁。和某些人一样,马白夫公公也认为植物是有灵魂的。老人在他那块靛青地里工作了一整天,已精疲力竭了,可他仍站起来,把他的两本书放在条凳上,弯着腰,摇摇晃晃,一直走到井边,但他抓住铁链想把它提起一点,以便从钉子上取下来也做不到了。他只好转回来,凄凄惨惨,抬头望着星光闪烁的天空。



暮色有那么一种静穆的气象,它能把人的苦痛压倒在一种无以名之的凄凉和永恒的喜悦下。这一夜,看来又将和白天一样干燥。



“处处是星!”那老人想道,“一丝云彩也不见!没有一滴水!”



他的头,抬起了一会儿,又落在了胸前。



他继又把头抬起,望着天空嘟囔:



“下点露水吧!怜惜怜惜众生吧!”



他又试了一次,要把井上的铁链取下来,但是他气力不济。



正在这时,他听见一个人的声音说道:



“马白夫公公,要我来替您浇园子吗?”



同时,篱笆中发出一种声响,仿佛有什么野兽穿过似的,他看见从杂草丛里走出一个瘦长的大姑娘,站在他跟前,大胆地望着他。这东西,与其说象个人,倒不如说是刚从暮色中显现出来的一种形象。



马白夫公公原很容易受惊,并且,我们说过,很容易害怕的,他一个字还没有来得及回答,那个神出鬼没的生灵已在黑暗中取下铁链,把吊桶垂下去,随即又提起来,灌满了浇水壶,老人这才看见那影子是赤着脚的,穿一条破烂裙子,在花畦中来回奔跑,把生命洒向她的四周。从莲蓬头里喷出来的水洒在叶子上,使马白夫公公心里充满了快乐。他仿佛觉得现在那棵山踯躅感到幸福了。



第一桶完了,那姑娘又汲取第二桶,继又第三桶。她把整个园子全浇遍了。



她那浑身全黑的轮廓在小道上这样走来走去,两条骨瘦如柴的长胳臂上飘着一块丝丝缕缕的破烂披肩,望上去,真说不出有那么一股蝙蝠味儿。



当她浇完了水,马白夫公公含着满眶眼泪走上前去,把手放在她的额头上说:



“天主保佑您。您是一个天使,您能这样爱惜花儿。”



“不,”她回答说,“我是鬼,做鬼,我并不在乎。”



那老人原就没有等她答话,也没听见她的回答,便又大声说:



“可惜我太不成了,太穷了,对您一点也不能有所帮助!”



“您能帮助我。”她说。



“怎样呢?”



“把马吕斯先生的住址告诉我。”



老人一点也不懂。



“哪个马吕斯先生?”



他翻起一双白蒙蒙的眼睛,仿佛在搜索什么消失了的往事。



“一个年轻人,早些日子常到这儿来的。”



马白夫先生这才回忆起来。



“啊!对……”他大声说,“我懂了您的意思。等等!马吕斯先生……男爵马吕斯·彭眉胥,可不是!他住在……他已不住在……真糟,我不知道。”



他一面说,一面弯下腰去理那山踯躅的枝子,接着又说道:



“有了,我现在想起来了。他经常走过那条大路,朝着冰窖那面走去。落须街。百灵场。您到那一带去找。不难遇见他。”



等马白夫先生直起身子,什么人也没有了,那姑娘不见了。



他确有点儿害怕。



“说真话,”他想,“要是我这园子没有浇过水,我真会当是遇见鬼了呢。”



一个钟头过后,他躺在床上,这念头又回到他的脑子里,他就要入睡了,也就是思想象寓言中所说的、为过海而变成鱼的鸟似的,渐渐化为梦境,进入模糊的睡乡,这时,在朦胧中他对自己说:



“确实,这很象拉鲁博提埃尔谈到的那种精灵。真是个精灵吗?”

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