马丁·伊登(MARTIN EDEN)第三十一章
大耳朵英语  http://www.bigear.cn  2008-04-17 19:16:09  【打印
Martin had encountered his sister Gertrude by chance on Broadway - as it proved, a most propitious yet disconcerting chance. Waiting on the corner for a car, she had seen him first, and noted the eager, hungry lines of his face and the desperate, worried look of his eyes. In truth, he was desperate and worried. He had just come from a fruitless interview with the pawnbroker, from whom he had tried to wring an additional loan on his wheel. The muddy fall weather having come on, Martin had pledged his wheel some time since and retained his black suit.

"There's the black suit," the pawnbroker, who knew his every asset, had answered. "You needn't tell me you've gone and pledged it with that Jew, Lipka. Because if you have - "

The man had looked the threat, and Martin hastened to cry:-

"No, no; I've got it. But I want to wear it on a matter of business."

"All right," the mollified usurer had replied. "And I want it on a matter of business before I can let you have any more money. You don't think I'm in it for my health?"

"But it's a forty-dollar wheel, in good condition," Martin had argued. "And you've only let me have seven dollars on it. No, not even seven. Six and a quarter; you took the interest in advance."

"If you want some more, bring the suit," had been the reply that sent Martin out of the stuffy little den, so desperate at heart as to reflect it in his face and touch his sister to pity.

Scarcely had they met when the Telegraph Avenue car came along and stopped to take on a crowd of afternoon shoppers. Mrs. Higginbotham divined from the grip on her arm as he helped her on, that he was not going to follow her. She turned on the step and looked down upon him. His haggard face smote her to the heart again.

"Ain't you comin'?" she asked

The next moment she had descended to his side.

"I'm walking - exercise, you know," he explained.

"Then I'll go along for a few blocks," she announced. "Mebbe it'll do me good. I ain't ben feelin' any too spry these last few days."

Martin glanced at her and verified her statement in her general slovenly appearance, in the unhealthy fat, in the drooping shoulders, the tired face with the sagging lines, and in the heavy fall of her feet, without elasticity - a very caricature of the walk that belongs to a free and happy body.

"You'd better stop here," he said, though she had already come to a halt at the first corner, "and take the next car."

"My goodness! - if I ain't all tired a'ready!" she panted. "But I'm just as able to walk as you in them soles. They're that thin they'll bu'st long before you git out to North Oakland."

"I've a better pair at home," was the answer.

"Come out to dinner to-morrow," she invited irrelevantly. "Mr. Higginbotham won't be there. He's goin' to San Leandro on business."

Martin shook his head, but he had failed to keep back the wolfish, hungry look that leapt into his eyes at the suggestion of dinner.

"You haven't a penny, Mart, and that's why you're walkin'. Exercise!" She tried to sniff contemptuously, but succeeded in producing only a sniffle. "Here, lemme see."

And, fumbling in her satchel, she pressed a five-dollar piece into his hand. "I guess I forgot your last birthday, Mart," she mumbled lamely.

Martin's hand instinctively closed on the piece of gold. In the same instant he knew he ought not to accept, and found himself struggling in the throes of indecision. That bit of gold meant food, life, and light in his body and brain, power to go on writing, and - who was to say? - maybe to write something that would bring in many pieces of gold. Clear on his vision burned the manuscripts of two essays he had just completed. He saw them under the table on top of the heap of returned manuscripts for which he had no stamps, and he saw their titles, just as he had typed them - "The High Priests of Mystery," and "The Cradle of Beauty." He had never submitted them anywhere. They were as good as anything he had done in that line. If only he had stamps for them! Then the certitude of his ultimate success rose up in him, an able ally of hunger, and with a quick movement he slipped the coin into his pocket.

"I'll pay you back, Gertrude, a hundred times over," he gulped out, his throat painfully contracted and in his eyes a swift hint of moisture.

"Mark my words!" he cried with abrupt positiveness. "Before the year is out I'll put an even hundred of those little yellow-boys into your hand. I don't ask you to believe me. All you have to do is wait and see."

Nor did she believe. Her incredulity made her uncomfortable, and failing of other expedient, she said:-

"I know you're hungry, Mart. It's sticking out all over you. Come in to meals any time. I'll send one of the children to tell you when Mr. Higginbotham ain't to be there. An' Mart - "

He waited, though he knew in his secret heart what she was about to say, so visible was her thought process to him.

"Don't you think it's about time you got a job?"

"You don't think I'll win out?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"Nobody has faith in me, Gertrude, except myself." His voice was passionately rebellious. "I've done good work already, plenty of it, and sooner or later it will sell."

"How do you know it is good?"

"Because - " He faltered as the whole vast field of literature and the history of literature stirred in his brain and pointed the futility of his attempting to convey to her the reasons for his faith. "Well, because it's better than ninety-nine per cent of what is published in the magazines."

"I wish't you'd listen to reason," she answered feebly, but with unwavering belief in the correctness of her diagnosis of what was ailing him. "I wish't you'd listen to reason," she repeated, "an' come to dinner to-morrow."

After Martin had helped her on the car, he hurried to the post- office and invested three of the five dollars in stamps; and when, later in the day, on the way to the Morse home, he stopped in at the post-office to weigh a large number of long, bulky envelopes, he affixed to them all the stamps save three of the two-cent denomination.

It proved a momentous night for Martin, for after dinner he met Russ Brissenden. How he chanced to come there, whose friend he was or what acquaintance brought him, Martin did not know. Nor had he the curiosity to inquire about him of Ruth. In short, Brissenden struck Martin as anaemic and feather-brained, and was promptly dismissed from his mind. An hour later he decided that Brissenden was a boor as well, what of the way he prowled about from one room to another, staring at the pictures or poking his nose into books and magazines he picked up from the table or drew from the shelves. Though a stranger in the house he finally isolated himself in the midst of the company, huddling into a capacious Morris chair and reading steadily from a thin volume he had drawn from his pocket. As he read, he abstractedly ran his fingers, with a caressing movement, through his hair. Martin noticed him no more that evening, except once when he observed him chaffing with great apparent success with several of the young women.

It chanced that when Martin was leaving, he overtook Brissenden already half down the walk to the street.

"Hello, is that you?" Martin said.

The other replied with an ungracious grunt, but swung alongside. Martin made no further attempt at conversation, and for several blocks unbroken silence lay upon them.

"Pompous old ass!"

The suddenness and the virulence of the exclamation startled Martin. He felt amused, and at the same time was aware of a growing dislike for the other.

"What do you go to such a place for?" was abruptly flung at him after another block of silence.

"Why do you?" Martin countered.

"Bless me, I don't know," came back. "At least this is my first indiscretion. There are twenty-four hours in each day, and I must spend them somehow. Come and have a drink."

"All right," Martin answered.

The next moment he was nonplussed by the readiness of his acceptance. At home was several hours' hack-work waiting for him before he went to bed, and after he went to bed there was a volume of Weismann waiting for him, to say nothing of Herbert Spencer's Autobiography, which was as replete for him with romance as any thrilling novel. Why should he waste any time with this man he did not like? was his thought. And yet, it was not so much the man nor the drink as was it what was associated with the drink - the bright lights, the mirrors and dazzling array of glasses, the warm and glowing faces and the resonant hum of the voices of men. That was it, it was the voices of men, optimistic men, men who breathed success and spent their money for drinks like men. He was lonely, that was what was the matter with him; that was why he had snapped at the invitation as a bonita strikes at a white rag on a hook. Not since with Joe, at Shelly Hot Springs, with the one exception of the wine he took with the Portuguese grocer, had Martin had a drink at a public bar. Mental exhaustion did not produce a craving for liquor such as physical exhaustion did, and he had felt no need for it. But just now he felt desire for the drink, or, rather, for the atmosphere wherein drinks were dispensed and disposed of. Such a place was the Grotto, where Brissenden and he lounged in capacious leather chairs and drank Scotch and soda.

They talked. They talked about many things, and now Brissenden and now Martin took turn in ordering Scotch and soda. Martin, who was extremely strong-headed, marvelled at the other's capacity for liquor, and ever and anon broke off to marvel at the other's conversation. He was not long in assuming that Brissenden knew everything, and in deciding that here was the second intellectual man he had met. But he noted that Brissenden had what Professor Caldwell lacked - namely, fire, the flashing insight and perception, the flaming uncontrol of genius. Living language flowed from him. His thin lips, like the dies of a machine, stamped out phrases that cut and stung; or again, pursing caressingly about the inchoate sound they articulated, the thin lips shaped soft and velvety things, mellow phrases of glow and glory, of haunting beauty, reverberant of the mystery and inscrutableness of life; and yet again the thin lips were like a bugle, from which rang the crash and tumult of cosmic strife, phrases that sounded clear as silver, that were luminous as starry spaces, that epitomized the final word of science and yet said something more - the poet's word, the transcendental truth, elusive and without words which could express, and which none the less found expression in the subtle and all but ungraspable connotations of common words. He, by some wonder of vision, saw beyond the farthest outpost of empiricism, where was no language for narration, and yet, by some golden miracle of speech, investing known words with unknown significances, he conveyed to Martin's consciousness messages that were incommunicable to ordinary souls.

Martin forgot his first impression of dislike. Here was the best the books had to offer coming true. Here was an intelligence, a living man for him to look up to. "I am down in the dirt at your feet," Martin repeated to himself again and again.

"You've studied biology," he said aloud, in significant allusion.

To his surprise Brissenden shook his head.

"But you are stating truths that are substantiated only by biology," Martin insisted, and was rewarded by a blank stare. "Your conclusions are in line with the books which you must have read."

"I am glad to hear it," was the answer. "That my smattering of knowledge should enable me to short-cut my way to truth is most reassuring. As for myself, I never bother to find out if I am right or not. It is all valueless anyway. Man can never know the ultimate verities."

"You are a disciple of Spencer!" Martin cried triumphantly.

"I haven't read him since adolescence, and all I read then was his 'Education.'"

"I wish I could gather knowledge as carelessly," Martin broke out half an hour later. He had been closely analyzing Brissenden's mental equipment. "You are a sheer dogmatist, and that's what makes it so marvellous. You state dogmatically the latest facts which science has been able to establish only by E POSTERIORI reasoning. You jump at correct conclusions. You certainly short- cut with a vengeance. You feel your way with the speed of light, by some hyperrational process, to truth."

"Yes, that was what used to bother Father Joseph, and Brother Dutton," Brissenden replied. "Oh, no," he added; "I am not anything. It was a lucky trick of fate that sent me to a Catholic college for my education. Where did you pick up what you know?"

And while Martin told him, he was busy studying Brissenden, ranging from a long, lean, aristocratic face and drooping shoulders to the overcoat on a neighboring chair, its pockets sagged and bulged by the freightage of many books. Brissenden's face and long, slender hands were browned by the sun - excessively browned, Martin thought. This sunburn bothered Martin. It was patent that Brissenden was no outdoor man. Then how had he been ravaged by the sun? Something morbid and significant attached to that sunburn, was Martin's thought as he returned to a study of the face, narrow, with high cheek-bones and cavernous hollows, and graced with as delicate and fine an aquiline nose as Martin had ever seen. There was nothing remarkable about the size of the eyes. They were neither large nor small, while their color was a nondescript brown; but in them smouldered a fire, or, rather, lurked an expression dual and strangely contradictory. Defiant, indomitable, even harsh to excess, they at the same time aroused pity. Martin found himself pitying him he knew not why, though he was soon to learn.

"Oh, I'm a lunger," Brissenden announced, offhand, a little later, having already stated that he came from Arizona. "I've been down there a couple of years living on the climate."

"Aren't you afraid to venture it up in this climate?"

"Afraid?"

There was no special emphasis of his repetition of Martin's word. But Martin saw in that ascetic face the advertisement that there was nothing of which it was afraid. The eyes had narrowed till they were eagle-like, and Martin almost caught his breath as he noted the eagle beak with its dilated nostrils, defiant, assertive, aggressive. Magnificent, was what he commented to himself, his blood thrilling at the sight. Aloud, he quoted:-

"'Under the bludgeoning of Chance My head is bloody but unbowed.'"

"You like Henley," Brissenden said, his expression changing swiftly to large graciousness and tenderness. "Of course, I couldn't have expected anything else of you. Ah, Henley! A brave soul. He stands out among contemporary rhymesters - magazine rhymesters - as a gladiator stands out in the midst of a band of eunuchs."

"You don't like the magazines," Martin softly impeached.

"Do you?" was snarled back at him so savagely as to startle him.

"I - I write, or, rather, try to write, for the magazines," Martin faltered.

"That's better," was the mollified rejoinder. "You try to write, but you don't succeed. I respect and admire your failure. I know what you write. I can see it with half an eye, and there's one ingredient in it that shuts it out of the magazines. It's guts, and magazines have no use for that particular commodity. What they want is wish-wash and slush, and God knows they get it, but not from you."

"I'm not above hack-work," Martin contended.

"On the contrary - " Brissenden paused and ran an insolent eye over Martin's objective poverty, passing from the well-worn tie and the saw-edged collar to the shiny sleeves of the coat and on to the slight fray of one cuff, winding up and dwelling upon Martin's sunken cheeks. "On the contrary, hack-work is above you, so far above you that you can never hope to rise to it. Why, man, I could insult you by asking you to have something to eat."

Martin felt the heat in his face of the involuntary blood, and Brissenden laughed triumphantly.

"A full man is not insulted by such an invitation," he concluded.

"You are a devil," Martin cried irritably.

"Anyway, I didn't ask you."

"You didn't dare."

"Oh, I don't know about that. I invite you now."

Brissenden half rose from his chair as he spoke, as if with the intention of departing to the restaurant forthwith.

Martin's fists were tight-clenched, and his blood was drumming in his temples.

"Bosco! He eats 'em alive! Eats 'em alive!" Brissenden exclaimed, imitating the SPIELER of a locally famous snake-eater.

"I could certainly eat you alive," Martin said, in turn running insolent eyes over the other's disease-ravaged frame.

"Only I'm not worthy of it?"

"On the contrary," Martin considered, "because the incident is not worthy." He broke into a laugh, hearty and wholesome. "I confess you made a fool of me, Brissenden. That I am hungry and you are aware of it are only ordinary phenomena, and there's no disgrace. You see, I laugh at the conventional little moralities of the herd; then you drift by, say a sharp, true word, and immediately I am the slave of the same little moralities."

"You were insulted," Brissenden affirmed.

"I certainly was, a moment ago. The prejudice of early youth, you know. I learned such things then, and they cheapen what I have since learned. They are the skeletons in my particular closet."

"But you've got the door shut on them now?"

"I certainly have."

"Sure?"

"Sure."

"Then let's go and get something to eat."

"I'll go you," Martin answered, attempting to pay for the current Scotch and soda with the last change from his two dollars and seeing the waiter bullied by Brissenden into putting that change back on the table.

Martin pocketed it with a grimace, and felt for a moment the kindly weight of Brissenden's hand upon his shoulder.

马丁在大马路碰巧遇见了他的姐姐格特露——后来证明是个非常幸运而又尴尬的巧遇。她是在一个转弯处等车,首先看见了他,并注意到了他脸上那急切的饥饿的皱纹和眼里那绝望的焦急的神色。实际上他的确已是山穷水尽,着急万分。他刚刚和一个当铺的老板谈判下来。他想从他当掉的自行车再挤出几个钱来,却没有成功。泥泞的秋天已经到了,马丁早当掉了自行车,保留了黑色礼服。

“你还有一套黑衣服,”当铺的办事员了解他的家底,回答说,“你别告诉我说你已经当给了犹太人李扑卡。因为你要是去了——”

那人眼里露出威胁,马丁急忙叫道:——

“没有,没有,我没有当。但是要留着办事时穿。”

“行了,”放高利贷的人的口气软了,说,“我要衣服也是办事,拿衣服就给你钱。你以为我借钱给人是为了祝自己健康么?”

“可那是一部状况良好的自行车,值四十元呢,”马丁争辩过,“你才当给了我七块钱,不,还不到七块钱。六块二毛五,预扣了利息。”

“还要钱就拿衣服来,”打发马丁离开那气闷的洞窟的就是这句回答。他心里的严重绝望反映到了他脸上,姐姐见了不禁难受。

姐弟俩刚见面,电报路的班车就到了,停车上了一批下午的客人。希金波坦太太从他扶着她的胳膊帮她上车的握法感到马丁不打算跟她一起走。她在踏板上转过身来看着他,心里又为他那谁忙的样子难过了。

“你不来么?”她问。

她随即下了车,来到了他的身边。

“我走路,锻炼身体,你知道。”他解释。

“那我也走几段路,”她宣布,“也许对我有好处。我这几天正觉得不清爽呢。”

马丁瞥了她一眼,她那样子证实了她的说法。她衣着邋遢,体态臃肿,两肩搭拉着,脸上的皱纹下垂,显得疲倦;步伐也沉重,缺少弹性——活脱脱是幅对自由快活的步伐的讽刺画。

“你最好就走到这儿,”他说,虽然她到第一个街口就已停了步,“在这儿塔下一班车。”

“天呀!——我怎么就累成这个样!”她喘着气说,“如果我的鞋是你那样的底,我走路也能像你的。可你那鞋底太薄,离北奥克兰很远就会破的。”

“我家里还有一双更好的。”他回答。

“明天出来吃晚饭吧,”她转变话题邀请,“希金波坦先生不在家。他要到圣利安德罗会办事。”

马丁摇摇头,但是他听见吃饭时眼里所流露出的饿狼般的馋相,却无法掩饰。

“你已经腰无半文,马,所以才走路的,还说什么锻炼呢!”她打算嘲笑他,却忍住了,只苦笑了一声。“来,我来看看。”

她在提包里摸了一会,把一个五块钱的金币塞到他手里。“我好像忘了你上次的生日了,马。”她嘟哝出了一个站不住脚的理由。

马丁的手本能地捏住了金币,同时也明白他不该接受,于是犹豫不决,陷入了痛苦。那一块金币意味着食物、生活。身体与头脑的光明,和继续写作的力气,而且说不定能写出点东西来再赚好多个金币呢,谁说得清?他在幻觉里清清楚楚燃烧着他刚完成的两篇文章;他看见它们放在桌下一堆退还的稿件顶上。那是他没有邮票寄出的。他还看见了它们的题目:《奇迹的大祭师》和《美的摇篮》。是还没有寄出去过的。那是他在那个问题上所写出的最佳之作。要是有邮票就好了!此时最后成功的把握在他心里升起,那是饥饿的有力的同盟军。他立即把那块金币塞进了口袋。

“我会还你的,格特露,一百倍地还你,”他大口地喘着气,说。他的喉咙痛苦地抽搐,眼睛也迅速闪出泪光。

“记住我的话!”他突然坚决叫道,“不到一年工夫我一定要拿整整一百个这种小玩意放到你手里。我不求你相信,只要你等着瞧。”

她并不相信。她的怀疑叫她感到内疚。她找不到方便的话讲,只好说道:——

“我知道你肚子饿,马。你满脸饿相,来吃饭吧,什么时候来都可以。希金波坦先生不在我就叫个孩子去叫你。还有,马——”

他等着,虽然他心里秘密知道她会说什么,她的思想过程他看得清清楚楚。

“你不觉得是应该找个工作的时候了么?”

“你相信我会成功么?”他问。

她摇摇头。

“谁都对我没有信心,格特露,除了我自己之外。”他的口气很激动,很反抗,“我已经写出了很好的东西。而且很多,早晚会卖出去的。”

“你咋知道你的东西就好?”

“因为——”他犹豫了。整个广袤无边的文学和文学史天地在他的头脑里悸动,它告诉他不可能跟她说清他为什么会有信心。“因为在杂志上发表的东西百分之九十九都不如它们。”

“我希望你能听得进道理,”她说话声音虽小,信念却不动摇。她相信自己对他那病的诊断。“有道理的话我希望你听得进,”她又说了一遍,“明儿个来吃晚饭!”

马丁帮助她上了车,便匆匆忙忙赶到邮局,那五块钱他用三块买了邮票;然后,在那天晚些时候去莫尔斯家的路上在邮局呆了很久,把一大堆厚重的长信封称了重量,贴上了全部的邮票,只剩下了三张两分的。

那天晚上对马丁很为重要,因为他晚饭后遇见了罗司·布里森登。布里森登是怎么偶然到那儿去的,是谁的朋友,是什么熟人带去的,他全不知道,也没有兴趣去向露丝打听。简单地说,布里森登给马丁的印象是贫血,没有头脑,而且马上就把他忘掉了。一个小时以后他又觉得布里森登是个粗野汉子。那多少是因为他一间房一间房地乱逛,瞪大了眼睛看着画,或是从桌上、书架上乱抓书籍杂志,然后把鼻子伸进去。尽管他在这屋里是个生人,最后却缩到一张巨大的莫里斯安乐椅上,让自己脱离人群一心一意读起一本他从自己口袋里抽出的小册子。他读得出神,手指头在头发里揉来操去。那个晚上马丁没有再留心他。只有一回注意到他踉几个年轻妇女开着玩笑,显然非常成功。

马丁离开时却偶然赶上了布里森登,他已经走了通向大街的便道的一半。

“啊,是你呀?”马丁说。

对方不客气地哼了一声,算是回答,却转身过来和他一起走。马丁没有再努力搭腔,两人一声不响走完了几段路。

“神气十足的老笨蛋!”

那一声叫喊又突然又刻薄,把马丁吓了一大跳。他忍俊不禁,更加不喜欢那人了。

“你到这地方去干什么?”又走了一段路,那人突然向他抛出了这么一句话。

“你呢?”马丁反击。

“上帝保佑,我不知道,”回答是,“至少这是我第一次粗心大意。每天有二十四小时,总得很过去的。跟我来喝点什么吧。”

“好的,”马丁回答。

他随即感到为难了,怎么会答应得那么痛快。家里还有几小时的下锅之作等着他在睡觉前完成,躺上床还要读一卷惠斯曼,更不要说斯宾塞自传了。他觉得那自传充满浪漫情节,不亚于任何惊险小说。他干吗要和一个他并不喜欢的火舌浪费时间呢?他想。但叫他同意的并不是那人、饮料。或与饮料有关的一切,而是那明亮的灯光、镜子、一排排耀眼的玻璃杯,还有温暖快活的面孔和热烈的喧闹。是的,是人的声音,乐观的人,呼吸着成功的人,像男人一样花钱买饮料的人。他感到寂寞,他看中的是这一切。因此,他一听见邀请就同意了,像条连钩上的白布条也想咬的红鱼。自从在雪莉温泉和乔对饮之后马丁除了跟杂货店的葡萄牙老板喝过之外就再也没有在酒店喝过酒。脑力劳动不像体力劳动,疲倦了并不渴望喝酒。他不曾想过喝酒。可刚才他却想喝酒了,确切地说,是渴望着那传林连盏、豪饮浅酌的气氛。“洞窟酒吧”就是这样一个地方,布里森登和他此刻就躺在“洞窟”的大皮椅上喝着威士忌苏打。

两人闲谈着,谈了许多问题。两人轮换着叫酒,一会儿是布里森登,一会儿是马丁。马丁酒量大,对方的酒量却也叫他绝倒。而对方的谈吐更不时地叫他吃惊,停杯谛听。没有多久马丁就发现市里森登无所不知,是他所遇见的第二个有思想的人。他还意识到布里森登有着考德威尔教授所缺少的东西——火焰,炽亮闪光的洞见力,蓬勃燃烧的无法抑制的天才。鲜活的语言从他口里伯伯奔流,他那薄薄的嘴唇像机器上的冲模,冲出的话又犀利又惊人。有时他又温柔地咂起嘴来,抚弄着日里刚清晰吐出的声音。她那薄薄的嘴唇发送出温柔的、天鹅绒般的声音,美在那微光融融、强光煜煜的词句之上萦绕徘徊,那是震响着生命的神秘和奥妙的成熟的词句。他那薄薄的嘴唇却又像支号角,宇宙的撞击与骚乱在其间震响,词句像银子一样清脆,星空一样灿烂,概括了科学的终极理论却又有余不尽——那是诗人的语言,超脱的真理,捉摸不定,难以言传,却仍然为他的微妙的几乎难以理解的平常词句所委婉表达了出来。他以某种想像力的奇迹看到了经验主义最辽远的前沿以外,那是没有语言可以表达的,可是他靠了他辉煌的语言奇迹,赋予了熟知的词语以崭新的意义,从而把一般的灵魂难以领悟的意义送进了马丁的意识。

马丁忘却了他最初的讨厌印象。书本知识的精华在这地变作了现实。这儿就是个智慧的精灵,一个值得他崇拜的凡人。“我在你脚下的泥污之中。”马丁心里一再这样说。

“你研究过生物学,”马丁别有所指地大声说。

出乎他意料之外,布里森登摇了摇头。

“可你讲的真理却是只有生物学才能充分证明的,”马丁坚持,对方却茫然地瞪了他一眼。“你的结论总得和你读过的书一致吧。”

“我很高兴听见这话,”回答是,“我这一点知识能让我找到了通向真理的捷径,真叫人安慰。至于我自己,我从来不在乎我自己对还是不对。因为对不对都全无价值。人类是永远不会知道终极真理的。”

“你是个斯宾塞的信徒!”马丁得意地叫道。

“我从少年以后就再也没有读过斯宾塞了,当初我也只读过他的《教育论》。”

“我希望也能像你一样漫不经心地吸取知识,”马丁半小时以后插嘴道。他一直在仔细分析着布里森登的知识结构。“你是个完全武断的人,因此非常神奇。你武断地提出的东西是科学靠演绎推理新近才确认的道理。你是跳进正确的结论的。你肯定是拼命找寻着捷径,靠某种超理智的程序,以光的速度摸索着真理的。”

“是的,约瑟夫神甫和达顿修土也准是为此烦恼过的,”布里森登回答,“啊不,”他接下去,“我算不上什么。只是命运的幸运的拨弄送我上了一个天主教神学院去接受了教育。你的知识是从什么地方来的?”

马丁回答时也打量着布里森登,从他那贵族味的瘦长的脸、下垂的双肩直到放在旁边椅子上的大衣、大衣口袋里鼓鼓囊囊塞满了的书。布里森登的脸和细长的双手都叫太阳晒黑了——太黑了,马丁想,黑得叫马丁纳闷。布里森登显然不是在户外干活的人。那他为什么叫太阳晒得那么厉害?那晒黑的皮肤上有某种病态的东西,令人纳闷,马丁回头再研究他的面部时想。那脸瘦瘦的,颧骨隆起,面颊凹陷,配上一个马丁从没有见过的那类精致漂亮的鹰钩鼻,眼睛的大小毫不奇特。不大,也不小,一种难以描述的棕红色,其中燃烧着一种火焰,更准确地说是隐藏了一种双重的表情,矛盾得出奇。挑战的,不屈的,甚至极其粗野的,却又引人怜悯的表情。不知为什么,马丁已经怜悯起他来,不过他马上就明白了。

“哦,我有肺病,”惊里森登先说他从亚利桑纳州来,接着便顺带宣布说,“我到那儿过了两年,靠那儿的气候养病。”

“你到这种气候里来不怕冒险么?”

“怕?”

他重复马丁这话并不特别着重,但马丁看出那张苦行僧式的脸上标明了并无畏惧。说那话时他眼睛咪细得像鹰隼一样,鹰钩鼻子鼻翼张开,带着蔑视、自信。咄咄逼人的神态,马丁一见,几乎连大气也不敢出。气派,马丁在心里评价;一见他那样子自己的血液也沸腾了。他大声引用了两句诗;——“‘尽管遭到无常的棍棒的打击,我的头并未低下,虽然鲜血淋漓。’”

“你喜欢读亨雷;”布里森登说,他的表情立刻变得宽厚慈祥,和蔼可亲了。“当然,我对你不会期望别的。啊,亨雷!勇敢的英雄!他在同时代凑韵的人——在杂志上凑韵的人当中崭露头角,有如站在一群阉人中的格斗士。”

“你不喜欢杂志介马丁温和地责难他。

“你喜欢么?”回答气势汹汹而且武断,吓了他一跳。

“我——我写东西,或者说试着给杂志写点东西。”马丁犹豫着回答。

“那还好,”口气缓和了些,“你试着写过,但是没有成功。我尊重也佩服你的失败。我知道你写的东西。我半睁一只眼也能看见。它们被关在杂志大门之外了,其中有一个因素,就是内容。你那种特别的商品杂志是无法派用场的。它们要的是没盐没味、无病呻吟的东西,无知道,那些东西它们能弄到,可不是从你那儿。”

“我写的也不过是下锅之作。”马丁辩解说。

“相反,”布里森登住了嘴,不客气地打量了一眼马丁那明显的贫穷。从旧领带到锯齿状的衣领,到磨光了的外衣肘部,再到有一处已经绽线的袖日,到未了又细细打量了一下马丁那凹陷的双颊。“相反,下锅之作你是写不出来的。它大高,你永远望尘莫及。你看,老兄,我只须说请你吃饭,你准会生气!”

马丁脸上发起烧来,只觉得血往上涌。布里森登胜利地哈哈大笑。

“肚子吃饱了的人是不会因为这种邀请生气的。”那是他的结论。

“你是个魔鬼!”马丁气冲冲地叫了起来。

“我毕竟没有请你吃饭。”

“你怕是不敢。”

“啊,这我倒还不知道。我现在就请你好了。”

布里森登说话时半欠起了身子,好像打算马上去餐厅。

马丁捏紧了拳头,太阳穴里血液腾腾地乱跳。

“哇噻!活嚼了!活嚼了!”布里森登学着当地一个有名的吹捧吃蛇表演的牛皮匠大叫起来。

“我可真能把你活嚼了!”马丁说,回报的眼光也不客气,他打量着对手那病怄诉的身子。

“只不过是因为我不够资格么?”

“相反,”马丁思考着,“是因为这东西还不够资格叫你给吃掉。”他哈哈大笑,很痛快,很真诚。“我承认上了你一当,布里森登。我饿了,叫你感觉到了,这也是平常现象,说不上侮辱。你看,我嘲笑着人群里的这些琐碎的道德信条,可是你一来,说了一句尖刻的真话,我立即成了那些小气琐碎的道德信条的奴隶。”

“你觉得是受了侮辱。”布里森登肯定。

“确实如此,不过已经过去。那是早年的偏见,你知道。我是在那时学到这类东西的,它们使我以后学到的东西贬值,是我的一种思想包袱。”

“那包袱你现在卸掉了没有?”

“肯定卸掉了。”

“真的?”

“真的。”

“那咱俩就去吃点东西。”

“我请客,”马丁回答,他打算用那找补下的两块钱付眼前的威士忌苏打帐,却眼看着布里森登气势汹汹地逼着传者把那钱放回到桌上。

马丁苦笑了一下,把钱收回了腰包,感到布里森登的手亲切地按在他的肩头上。

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