• 女性短篇小说《TheRevoltof"Mother"》翻译赏析

  • 发布时间:2017-12-16 20:39 浏览:加载中

  •   "Father!" "What is it?" "What are them men diggin' over there in the field for?" There was a sudden dropping and enlarging of the lower part of the old man's face, as if some heavy weight had settled therein; he shut his mouth tight, and went on harnessing the great bay mare49. He hustled the collar50 on to her neck with a jerk51. "Father!" The old man slapped the saddle upon the mare's back. "Look here, father, I want to know what them men are diggin' over in the field for, an' I'm goin' to know." "I wish you'd go into the house, mother, an' 'tend to your own affairs," the old man said then. He ran his words together, and his speech was almost as inarticulate as a growl. But the woman understood; it was her most native tongue. "I ain't goin' into the house till you tell me what them men are doin' over there in the field," said she. Then she stood waiting. She was a small woman, short and straight-waisted like a child in her brown cotton gown. Her forehead was mild and benevolent between the smooth curves of gray hair; there were meek downward lines about her nose and mouth; but her eyes, fixed upon the old man, looked as if the meekness had been the result of her own will, never of the will of another. They were in the barn, standing before the wide open doors. The spring air, full of the smell of growing grass and unseen blossoms, came in their faces. The deep yard in front was littered with farm wagons and piles of wood; on the edges, close to the fence and the house, the grass was a vivid green, and there were some dandelions. The old man glanced doggedly at his wife as he tightened the last buckles on the harness. She looked as immovable to him as one of the rocks in his pastureland, bound to the earth with generations of blackberry vines. He slapped the reins over the horse, and started forth from the barn. "Father! said she. The old man pulled up. "What is it?" "I want to know what them men are diggin' over there in that field for." "They're diggin' a cellar, I s'pose, if you've got to know." "A cellar for what?" "A barn52." "A barn? You ain't goin' to build a barn over there where we was goin' to have a house, father?" The old man said not another word. He hurried the horse into the farm wagon, and clattered out of the yard, jouncing as sturdily on his seat as a boy. The woman stood a moment looking after him, then she went out of the barn across a corner of the yard to the house. The house, standing at right angles with the great barn and a long reach of sheds and out-buildings, was infinitesimal compared with them. It was scarcely as commodious for people as the little boxes under the barn eaves were for doves. A pretty girl's face, pink and delicate as a flower, was looking out of one of the house windows. She was watching three men who were digging over in the field which bounded the yard near the road line. She turned quietly when the woman entered. "What are they diggin' for, mother?" said she. "Did he tell you?" "They're diggin' for -- a cellar for a new barn." "Oh, mother, he ain't goin' to build another barn?" "That's what he says." A boy stood before the kitchen glass combing his hair. He combed slowly and painstakingly, arranging his brown hair in a smooth hillock over his forehead. He did not seem to pay any attention to the conversation. "Sammy, did you know father was goin' to build a new barn?" asked the girl. The boy combed assiduously. "Sammy!" He turned, and showed a face like his father's under his smooth crest of hair. "Yes, I s'pose I did," he said, reluctantly. "How long have you known it?" asked his mother. "'Bout three months, I guess." "Why didn't you tell of it?" "Didn't think 'twould do no good." "I don't see what father wants another barn for," said the girl, in her sweet slow voice. She turned again to the window, and stared out at the digging men in the field. Her tender sweet face was full of a gentle distress. Her forehead was as bald and innocent as a baby's, with the light hair strained back from it in a row of curl-papers. She was quite large, but her soft curves did not look as if they covered muscles. Her mother looked sternly at the boy. "Is he goin' to buy more cows?" said she. The boy did not reply; he was tying his shoes. "Sammy, I want you to tell me if he's goin' to buy more cows." "I s'pose he is." "How many?" "Four, I guess." His mother said nothing more. She went into the pantry53, and there was a clatter of dishes. The boy got his cap from a nail behind the door, took an old arithmetic from the shelf, and started for school. He was lightly built, but clumsy. He went out of the yard with a curious spring in the hips, that made his loose homemade jacket tilt up in the rear. The girl went to the sink, and began to wash the dishes that were piled up there. Her mother came promptly out of the pantry, and shoved her aside. "You wipe 'em," said she; "I'll wash. There's a good many this mornin'." The mother plunged her hands vigorously into the water, the girl wiped the plates slowly and dreamily. "Mother," said she, "don't you think it's too bad father's goin' to build that new barn, much as we need a decent house to live in?" Her mother scrubbed a dish fiercely. "You 'ain't found out yet we're women-folks, Nanny Penn," said she. "You 'ain't seen enough of men-folks yet to. One of these days you'll find it out, an' then you'll know that we know only what men-folks think we do, so far as any use of it goes, an' how we'd ought to reckon men-folks in with Providence an' not complain of what they do any more than we do of the weather." "I don't care; I don't believe George is anything like that, anyhow," said Nanny. Her delicate face flushed pink, her lips pouted softly, as if she were going to cry. "You wait an' see. I guess George Eastman ain't no better than other men. You hadn't ought to judge father, though. He can't help it, 'cause he don't look at things jest the way we do. An' we've been pretty comfortable here, after all. The roof don't leak -- 'ain't never but once -- that's one thing. Father kept it shingled right up." "I do wish we had a parlor." "I guess it won't hurt George Eastman any to come to see you in a nice clean kitchen. I guess a good many girls don't have as good a place as this. Nobody's ever heard me complain." "I 'ain't complained either, mother." "Well, I don't think you'd better, a good father an' a good home as you've got. S'pose your father made you go out an' work for your livin'? Lots of girls have to that ain't no stronger an' better able to than you be." Sarah Penn washed the frying-pan with a conclusive air. She scrubbed the outside of it as faithfully as the inside. She was a masterly keeper of her box of a house. Her one livingroom never seemed to have in it any of the dust which the friction of life with inanimate matter produces. She swept, and there seemed to be no dirt to go before the broom; she cleaned, and one could see no difference. She was like an artist so perfect that he has apparently no art. To-day she got out a mixing bowl and a board, and rolled some pies, and there was no more flour upon her than upon her daughter who was doing finer work. Nanny was to be married in the fall, and she was sewing on some white cambric and embroidery. She sewed industriously while her mother cooked, her soft milk-white hands and wrists showed whiter than her delicate work. "We must have the stove moved out in the shed before long," said Mrs. Penn. "Talk about not havin' things, it's been a real blessin' to be able to put a stove up in that shed in hot weather. Father did one good thing when he fixed that stove-pipe out there." Sarah Penn's face as she rolled her pies had that expression of meek vigor which might have characterized one of the New Testament saints. She was making mince-pies. Her husband, Adoniram Penn, liked them better than any other kind. She baked twice a week. Adoniram often liked a piece of pie between meals. She hurried this morning. It had been later than usual when she began, and she wanted to have a pie baked for dinner. However deep a resentment she might be forced to hold against her husband, she would never fail in sedulous attention to his wants. Nobility of character manifests itself at loop-holes when it is not provided with large doors. Sarah Penn's showed itself today in flaky dishes of pastry. So she made the pies faithfully, while across the table she could see, when she glanced up from her work, the sight that rankled in her patient and steadfast soul -- the digging of the cellar54 of the new barn in the place where Adoniram forty years ago had promised her their new house should stand. The pies were done for dinner. Adoniram and Sammy were home a few minutes after twelve o'clock. The dinner was eaten with serious haste. There was never much conversation at the table in the Penn family. Adoniram asked a blessing, and they ate promptly, then rose up and went about their work. Sammy went back to school, taking soft sly lopes out of the yard like a rabbit. He wanted a game of marbles before school, and feared his father would give him some chores to do. Adoniram hastened to the door and called after him, but he was out of sight. "I don't see what you let him go for, mother," said he. "I wanted him to help me unload that wood." Adoniram went to work out in the yard unloading wood from the wagon. Sarah put away the dinner dishes, while Nanny took down her curl-papers and changed her dress. She was going down to the store to buy some more embroidery and thread. When Nanny was gone, Mrs. Penn went to the door. "Father!" she called. "Well, what is it?" "I want to see you jest a minute, father." "I can't leave this wood nohow. I've got to git it unloaded an' go for a load of gravel afore two o'clock. Sammy had ought to helped me. You hadn't ought to let him go to school so early." "I want to see you jest a minute." "I tell ye I can't, nohow, mother." "Father, you come here." Sarah Penn stood in the door like a queen; she held her head as if it bore a crown; there was that patience which makes authority royal in her voice. Adoniram went. Mrs. Penn led the way into the kitchen, and pointed to a chair. "Sit down, father," said she; "I've got somethin' I want to say to you." He sat down heavily; his face was quite stolid, but he looked at her with restive eyes. "Well, what is it, mother?" "I want to know what you're buildin' that new barn for, father?" "I 'ain't got nothin' to say about it." "It can't be you think you need another barn?" "I tell ye I 'ain't got nothin' to say about it, mother; an' I ain't goin' to say nothin'." "Be you goin' to buy more cows?" Adoniram did not reply; he shut his mouth tight. "I know you be, as well as I want to. Now, father, look here" -- Sarah Penn had not sat down; she stood before her husband in the humble fashion of a Scripture woman -- "I'm goin' to talk real plain to you: I never have sence I married you, but I'm goin' to now. I 'ain't never complained, an' I ain't goin' to complain now, but I'm goin' to talk plain. You see this room here, father; you look at it well. You see there ain't no carpet on the floor, an' you see the paper is all dirty, an' droppin' off the walls. We 'ain't had no new paper on it for ten year, an' then I put it on myself, an' it didn't cost but nine-pence a roll. You see this room, father; it's all the one I've had to work in an' eat in an' sit in sence we was married. There ain't another woman in the whole town whose husband 'ain't got half the means you have but what's got better. It's all the room Nanny's got to have her company in; an' there ain't one of her mates but what's got better, an' their fathers not so able as hers is. It's all the room she'll have to be married in. What would you have thought, father, if we had had our weddin' in a room no better than this? I was married in my mother's parlor, with a carpet on the floor, an' stuffed furniture, an' a mahogany55 card-table. An' this is all the room my daughter will have to be married in. Look here, father!" Sarah Penn went across the room as though it were a tragic stage. She flung open a door and disclosed a tiny bedroom, only large enough for a bed and bureau, with a path between. "There, father," said she -- "there's all the room I've had to sleep in for forty year. All my children were born there -- the two that died, an' the two that's livin'. I was sick with a fever there." She stepped to another door and opened it. It led into the small, ill-lighted pantry. "Here," said she, "is all the buttery I've got -- every place I've got for my dishes to set away my victuals in, an' to keep my milk-pans in. Father, I've been takin' care of the milk of six cows in this place, an' now you're goin' to build a new barn, an' keep more cows, an' give me more to do in it." She threw open another door. A narrow crooked flight of stairs wound upward from it. "There, father!" said she; "I want you to look at the stairs that go up to them two unfinished chambers that are all the places our son an' daughter have had to sleep in all their lives. There ain't a prettier girl in town nor a more ladylike one than Nanny, an' that's the place she has to sleep in. It ain't so good as your horse's stall; it ain't so warm an' tight." Sarah Penn went back and stood before her husband. "Now, father," said she, "I want to know if you think you're doin' right an' accordin' to what you profess. Here, when we was married, forty year ago, you promised me faithful that we should have a new house built in that lot over in the field before the year was out. You said you had money enough, an' you wouldn't ask me to live in no such place as this. It is forty year now, an' you've been makin' more money, an' I've been savin' of it for you ever since, an' you 'ain't built no house yet. You've built sheds, an' cow-houses an' one new barn, an' now you're goin' to build another. Father, I want to know if you think it's right. You're lodgin' your dumb beasts better than you are your own flesh an' blood. I want to know if you think it's right." "I 'ain't got nothin' to say." "You can't say nothin' without ownin' it ain't right, father. An' there's another thing -- I ain't complained; I've got along forty year, an' I s'pose I should forty more, if it wa'n't for that -- if we don't have another house, Nanny she can't live with us after she's married. She'll have to go somewheres else to live away from us, an' it don't seem as if I could have it so, noways, father. She wa'n't ever strong. She's got considerable color, but there wa'n't never any backbone to her. I've always took the heft of everything off her, an' she ain't fit to keep house an' do everything herself. She'll be all worn out inside of a year. Think of her doin' all the washin' an' ironin' an' bakin' with them soft white hands an' arms, an' sweepin'! I can't have it so, noways, father." Mrs. Penn's face was burning; her mild eyes gleamed. She had pleaded her little cause like a Webster; she had ranged from severity to pathos; but her opponent employed that obstinate silence which makes eloquence futile with mocking echoes. Adoniram arose clumsily. "Father, 'ain't you got nothin' to say?" said Mrs. Penn. "I've got to go off after that load of gravel. I can't stan' here talkin' all day." "Father, won't you think it over, an' have a house built there instead of a barn?" "I 'ain't got nothin' to say." Adoniram shuffled out. Mrs. Penn went into her bedroom. When she came out, her eyes were red. She had a roll of unbleached cotton cloth. She spread it out on the kitchen table, and began cutting out some shirts for her husband. The men over in the field had a team to help them this afternoon; she could hear their halloos. She had a scanty pattern for the shirts; she had to plan and piece the sleeves. Nanny came home with her embroidery, and sat down with her needle-work. She had taken down her curl-papers, and there was a soft roll of fair hair like an aureole over her forehead; her face was as delicately fine and clear as porcelain. Suddenly she looked up, and the tender red flamed all over her face and neck. "Mother," said she. "What say?" "I've been thinkin' -- I don't see how we're goin' to have any -- weddin' in this room. I'd be ashamed to have his folks come if we didn't have anybody else." "Mebbe we can have some new paper before then; I can put it on. I guess you won't have no call to be ashamed of your belongin's." "We might have the weddin' in the new barn," said Nanny, with gentle pettishness. "Why, mother, what makes you look so?" Mrs. Penn had started, and was staring at her with a curious expression. She turned again to her work, and spread out a pattern carefully on the cloth. "Nothin'," said she. Presently Adoniram clattered out of the yard in his two-wheeled dump cart, standing as proudly upright as a Roman charioteer. Mrs. Penn opened the door and stood there a minute looking out; the halloos56 of the men sounded louder. It seemed to her all through the spring months that she heard nothing but the halloos and the noises of saws and hammers. The new barn grew fast. It was a fine edifice for this little village. Men came on pleasant Sundays, in their meeting suits and clean shirt bosoms, and stood around it admiringly. Mrs. Penn did not speak of it, and Adoniram did not mention it to her, although sometimes, upon a return from inspecting it, he bore himself with injured dignity. "It's a strange thing how your mother feels about the new barn," he said, confidentially, to Sammy one day. Sammy only grunted after an odd fashion for a boy: he had learned it from his father. The barn was all completed ready for use by the third week in July. Adoniram had planned to move his stock in on Wednesday; on Tuesday he received a letter which changed his plans. He came in with it early in the morning. "Sammy's been to the post-office," said he, "an' I've got a letter from Hiram." Hiram was Mrs. Penn's brother, who lived in Vermont. "Well," said Mrs. Penn, "what does he say about the folks?" "I guess they're all right. He says he thinks if I come up country right off there's a chance to buy jest the kind of a horse I want." He stared reflectively out of the window at the new barn. Mrs. Penn was making pies. She went on clapping the rolling-pin into the crust, although she was very pale, and her heart beat loudly. "I dunno' but what I'd better go," said Adoniram. "I hate to go off jest now, right in the midst of hayin', but the ten-acre lot's cut, an' I guess Rufus an' the others can git along without me three or four days. I can't get a horse round here to suit me, nohow, an' I've got to have another for all that wood-haulin' in the fall. I told Hiram to watch out, an' if he got wind of a good horse to let me know. I guess I'd better go." "I'll get out your clean shirt an' collar," said Mrs. Penn, calmly. She laid out Adoniram's Sunday suit and his clean clothes on the bed in the little bedroom. She got his shaving water and razor ready. At last she buttoned on his collar and fastened his black cravat. Adoniram never wore his collar and cravat except on extra occasions. He held his head high, with a rasped dignity. When he was all ready, with his coat and hat brushed, and a lunch of pie and cheese in a paper bag, he hesitated on the threshold of the door. He looked at his wife, and his manner was defiantly apologetic. "If them cows come to-day, Sammy can drive 'em into the new barn," said he; "an' when they bring the hay up, they can pitch it in there." "Well," replied Mrs. Penn. Adoniram set his shaven face ahead and started. When he had cleared the door-step, he turned and looked back with a kind of nervous solemnity. "I shall be back by Saturday if nothin' happens," said he. "Do be careful, father," returned his wife. She stood in the door with Nanny at her elbow and watched him out of sight. Her eyes had a strange, doubtful expression in them; her peaceful forehead was contracted. She went in, and about her baking again. Nanny sat sewing. Her wedding day was drawing nearer, and she was getting pale and thin with her steady sewing. Her mother kept glancing at her. "Have you got that pain in your side this mornin'?" she asked. "A little." Mrs. Penn's face, as she worked, changed, her perplexed forehead smoothed, her eyes were steady, her lips firmly set. She formed a maxim for herself, although incoherently with her unlettered thoughts. "Unsolicited opportunities are the guideposts of the Lord to the new roads of life," she repeated in effect, and she made up her mind to her course of action. "S'posin' I had wrote to Hiram," she muttered once, when she was in the pantry -- "s'posin' I had wrote, an' asked him if he knew of any horse? But I didn't, an' father's goin' wa'n't none of my doin'. It looks like a Providence." Her voice rang out quite loud at the last. "What you talkin' about, mother?" called Nanny. "Nothin'." Mrs. Penn hurried her baking; at eleven o'clock it was all done. The load of hay from the west field came slowly down the cart track, and drew up at the new barn. Mrs. Penn ran out. "Stop!" she screamed -- "stop!" The men stopped and looked; Sammy upreared from the top of the load, and stared at his mother. "Stop!" she cried out again. "Don't you put the hay in that barn; put it in the old one." "Why, he said to put it in here," returned one of the haymakers, wonderingly. He was a young man, a neighbor's son, whom Adoniram hired by the year to help on the farm. "Don't you put the hay in the new barn; there's room enough in the old one, ain't there?" said Mrs. Penn. "Room enough," returned the hired man, in his thick, rustic tones. "Didn't need the new barn, nohow, far as room's concerned. Well, I s'pose he changed his mind." He took hold of the horses' bridles. Mrs. Penn went back to the house. Soon the kitchen windows were darkened, and a fragrance like warm honey came into the room. Nanny laid down her work. "I thought father wanted them to put the hay into the new barn?" she said, wonderingly. "It's all right," replied her mother. Sammy slid down from the load of hay and came in to see if dinner was ready. "I ain't goin' to get a regular dinner to-day, as long as father's gone," said his mother. "I've let the fire go out. You can have some bread an' milk an' pie. I thought we could get along." She set out some bowls of milk, some bread, and a pie on the kitchen table. "You'd better eat your dinner now," said she. "You might jest as well get through with it. I want you to help me afterward." Nanny and Sammy stared at each other. There was something strange in their mother's manner. Mrs. Penn did not eat anything herself. She went into the pantry, and they heard her moving dishes while they ate. Presently she came out with a pile of plates. She got the clothes-basket out of the shed, and packed them in it. Nanny and Sammy watched. She brought out cups and saucers, and put them in with the plates. "What you goin' to do, mother?" inquired Nanny, in a timid voice. A sense of something unusual made her tremble, as if it were a ghost. Sammy rolled his eyes over his pie. "You'll see what I'm goin' to do," replied Mrs. Penn. "If you're through, Nanny, I want you to go up stairs an' pack up your things; an' I want you, Sammy, to help me take down the bed in the bed-room." "Oh, mother, what for?" gasped Nanny. "You'll see." During the next few hours a feat was performed by this simple, pious New England mother which was equal in its way to Wolfe's storming of the Heights of Abraham. It took no more genius and audacity of bravery for Wolfe to cheer his wondering soldiers up those steep precipices, under the sleeping eyes of the enemy, than for Sarah Penn, at the head of her children, to move all her little household goods into the new barn while her husband was away. Nanny and Sammy followed their mother's instructions without a murmur; indeed, they were overawed. There is a certain uncanny and superhuman quality about all such purely original undertakings as their mother's was to them. Nanny went back and forth with her light loads, and Sammy tugged with sober energy. At five o'clock in the afternoon the little house in which the Penns had lived for forty years had emptied itself into the new barn. Every builder builds somewhat for unknown purposes, and is in a measure a prophet. The architect57 of Adoniram Penn's barn, while he designed it for the comfort of four-footed animals, had planned better than he knew for the comfort of humans. Sarah Penn saw at a glance its possibilities. Those great box-stalls, with quilts hung before them, would make better bedrooms than the one she had occupied for forty years, and there was a tight carriage-room. The harness-room, with its chimney and shelves, would make a kitchen of her dreams. The great middle space would make a parlor, by-and-by, fit for a palace. Up stairs there was as much room as down. With partitions and windows, what a house would there be! Sarah looked at the row of stanchions before the allotted space for cows, and reflected that she would have her front entry there. At six o'clock the stove was up in the harness-room, the kettle was boiling, and the table set for tea. It looked almost as home-like as the abandoned house across the yard had ever done. The young hired man milked, and Sarah directed him calmly to bring the milk to the new barn. He came gaping, dropping little blots of foam from the brimming pails on the grass. Before the next morning he had spread the story of Adoniram Penn's wife moving into the new barn all over the little village. Men assembled in the store and talked it over, women with shawls over their heads scuttled into each other's houses before their work was done. Any deviation from the ordinary course of life in this quiet town was enough to stop all progress in it. Everybody paused to look at the staid, independent figure on the side track. There was a difference of opinion with regard to her. Some held her to be insane; some, of a lawless and rebellious spirit. Friday the minister went to see her. It was in the forenoon, and she was at the barn door shelling pease for dinner. She looked up and returned his salutation with dignity, then she went on with her work. She did not invite him in. The saintly expression of her face remained fixed, but there was an angry flush over it. The minister stood awkwardly before her and talked. She handled the pease as if they were bullets. At last she looked up, and her eyes showed the spirit that her meek front had covered for a lifetime. "There ain't no use talkin', Mr. Hersey," said she. "I've thought it all over an' over, an' I believe I'm doin' what's right. I've made it the subject of prayer, an' it's betwixt me an' the Lord an' Adoniram. There ain't no call for nobody else to worry about it." "Well, of course if you have brought it to the Lord in prayer, and feel satisfied that you are doing right, Mrs. Penn," said the minister, helplessly. His thin gray-bearded face was pathetic. He was a sickly man; his youthful confidence had cooled; he had to scourge himself up to some of his pastoral duties as relentlessly as a Catholic ascetic, and then he was prostrated by the smart. "I think it's right jest as much as I think it was right for our forefathers to come over from the old country 'cause they didn't have what belonged to 'em," said Mrs. Penn. She arose. The barn threshold might have been Plymouth Rock from her bearing. "I don't doubt you mean well, Mr. Hersey," said she, "but there are things people hadn't ought to interfere with. I've been a member of the church for over forty year. I've got my own mind an' my own feet, an' I'm goin' to think my own thoughts an' go my own ways, an' nobody but the Lord is goin' to dictate to me unless I've a mind to have him. Won't you come in an' set down? How is Mis' Hersey?" "She is well, I thank you," replied the minister. He added some more perplexed apologetic remarks; then he retreated. He could expound the intricacies of every character study in the Scriptures, he was competent to grasp the Pilgrim Fathers and all historical innovators, but Sarah Penn was beyond him. He could deal with primal cases, but parallel ones worsted him. But, after all, although it was aside from his province, he wondered more how Adoniram Penn would deal with his wife than how the Lord would. Everybody shared the wonder. When Adoniram's four new cows arrived, Sarah ordered three to be put in the old barn, the other in the house shed where the cooking-stove had stood. That added to the excitement. It was whispered that all four cows were domiciled in the house. Toward sunset on Saturday, when Adoniram was expected home, there was a knot of men in the road near the new barn. The hired man had milked, but he still hung around the premises. Sarah Penn had supper all ready. There were brown-bread and baked beans and a custard pie; it was the supper that Adoniram loved on a Saturday night. She had on a clean calico58, and she bore herself imperturbably. Nanny and Sammy kept close at her heels. Their eyes were large, and Nanny was full of nervous tremors. Still there was to them more pleasant excitement than anything else. An inborn confidence in their mother over their father asserted itself. Sammy looked out of the harness-room window. "There he is," he announced, in an awed whisper. He and Nanny peeped around the casing. Mrs. Penn kept on about her work. The children watched Adoniram leave the new horse standing in the drive while he went to the house door. It was fastened. Then he went around to the shed. That door was seldom locked, even when the family was away. The thought how her father would be confronted by the cow flashed upon Nanny. There was a hysterical sob in her throat. Adoniram emerged from the shed and stood looking about in a dazed fashion. His lips moved; he was saying something, but they could not hear what it was. The hired man was peeping around a corner of the old barn, but nobody saw him. Adoniram took the new horse by the bridle and led him across the yard to the new barn. Nanny and Sammy slunk close to their mother. The barn doors rolled back, and there stood Adoniram, with the long mild face of the great Canadian farm horse looking over his shoulder. Nanny kept behind her mother, but Sammy stepped suddenly forward, and stood in front of her. Adoniram stared at the group. "What on airth you all down here for?" said he. "What's the matter over to the house?" "We've come here to live, father," said Sammy. His shrill voice quavered out bravely. "What" -- Adoniram sniffed -- "what is it smells like cookin'?" said he. He stepped forward and looked in the open door of the harness-room. Then he turned to his wife. His old bristling face was pale and frightened. "What on airth does this mean, mother?" he gasped. "You come in here, father," said Sarah. She led the way into the harness-room and shut the door. "Now, father," said she, "you needn't be scared. I ain't crazy. There ain't nothin' to be upset over. But we've come here to live, an' we're goin' to live here. We've got jest as good a right here as new horses an' cows. The house wa'n't fit for us to live in any longer, an' I made up my mind I wa'n't goin' to stay there. I've done my duty by you forty year, an' I'm goin' to do it now; but I'm goin' to live here. You've got to put in some windows and partitions; an' you'll have to buy some furniture." "Why, mother!" the old man gasped. "You'd better take your coat off an' get washed -- there's the wash-basin -- an' then we'll have supper." "Why, mother!" Sammy went past the window, leading the new horse to the old barn. The old man saw him, and shook his head speechlessly. He tried to take off his coat, but his arms seemed to lack the power. His wife helped him. She poured some water into the tin basin, and put in a piece of soap. She got the comb and brush, and smoothed his thin gray hair after he had washed. Then she put the beans, hot bread, and tea on the table. Sammy came in, and the family drew up. Adoniram sat looking dazedly at his plate, and they waited. "Ain't you goin' to ask a blessin', father?" said Sarah. And the old man bent his head and mumbled. All through the meal he stopped eating at intervals, and stared furtively at his wife; but he ate well. The home food tasted good to him, and his old frame was too sturdily healthy to be affected by his mind. But after supper he went out and sat down on the step of the smaller door at the right of the barn, through which he had meant his Jerseys to pass in stately file, but which Sarah designed for her front house door, and he leaned his head on his hands. After the supper dishes were cleared away and the milk-pans washed, Sarah came out to him. The twilight was deepening. There was a clear green glow in the sky. Before them stretched the smooth level of field; in the distance was a cluster of hay-stacks like the huts of a village; the air was very cool and calm and sweet. The landscape might have been an ideal one of peace. Sarah bent over and touched her husband on one of his thin, sinewy shoulders. "Father!" The old man's shoulders heaved: he was weeping. "Why, don't do so, father," said Sarah. "I'll -- put up the -- partitions, an' -- everything you -- want, mother." Sarah put her apron up to her face; she was overcome by her own triumph. Adoniram was like a fortress whose walls had no active resistance, and went down the instant the right besieging tools were used. "Why, mother," he said, hoarsely, "I hadn't no idee you was so set on't as all this comes to."母亲的反抗

      “他爸!”

      “什么事?”

      “那些男的在那边地里在挖什么?”

      老人脸部表情突然很紧张,他的脸的下半部分好象很大的重量压迫它似地;他闭嘴不说话,继续套那匹栗色的大牡马。然后他猛推了一下,把轭具套在马的脖子上。

      “他爸!”

      老人把马鞍子扔到马的背上。

      “你看那边!那些男人们在那边地里挖什么呢?。”

      老人终于回答道:“你进屋子去吧,他妈,去做你自己的事。”他一口气把话说完,口齿不太清楚,就象在嗥叫一样。

      但是女人能听懂了。因为那是她最熟悉的乡音。她说:“你不告诉我他们在地里挖什么,我就不进屋子去。”

      说完后她就站在那儿一动不动的等着。她身材瘦小,个子不高,腰板很直,穿着件棕黄色的棉布长衫,看起来宛似一个小孩的样子。头发分向两边,柔软的发质,有些已经灰白了。她的气质温和慈祥;嘴鼻周围长满柔顺下垂的皱纹;但是从她那双盯着老人的眼睛里可以看出来她的那种柔顺只是出于自己的意愿,而绝非其他屈服。

      男人们正在牲口棚里里,就在大开着的两扇门之间。到处是春的气息,了嫩草的和花芽的芳香轻拂着他们的面颊。前面庭院的深处乱糟糟一片,中间停着一辆辆农庄运输用的车,堆放着木头;靠近篱笆和住房的尽头上,草都鲜绿了,还长着一些蒲公英。

      老人固执地看了他妻子一眼,拉紧了马轭的最后一扣。他看见妻子一动不动,就象她像牧场上那些被的黑莓蔓子牢牢地缚在地上的顽石一样。他把缰绳往马背上一扔,走出了牲口棚。

      “他爸!”她说。

      老人停下来,“有事情?”

      “那些人在那边挖什么?”

      “挖地基,看来你真想知道。”

      “地基?”

      “该牲口棚用的。”

      “牲口棚?你不是在我们要盖房子的那块地上盖牲口棚吧?”

      老人不说话了,他匆忙的把马套在车上。然后坐在座位上摇摇晃晃,象一个男孩子似的一样健壮,卡嗒卡嗒地把大车赶出了庭院。

      老妇人站了一会,从背后望着他。然后走出了牲口棚,穿过庭院的一角,走向住房去。那房子座落在和牲口棚、一长列小棚屋以及库房等成直角的地方。它和这些棚子比较起来,真是太小了。人住在那里面还不如住在牲口棚屋檐下面的小笼子的鸽子里舒服呢!

      有一张美丽的姑娘的脸,漂亮的象一朵粉红色花,正从窗口向外面张望着。她注意到三个男人在一块庭院边上挨近大路的交界处挖着地。老妇人一走进来,她赶快转过身问:

      “妈妈,他们在挖什么?”她说,“爸爸告诉您了吗?”

      “挖地,嗯,挖地窖盖新牲口棚。”

      “噢,母亲,他不会再盖新牲口棚吧?”

      “他说要盖呢!”

      一个男孩正站在厨房的镜子前梳头。他动作缓慢的精心地梳着,似乎要把它的棕色头发在前额上梳出光滑的波浪来。他对刚才母女的对话并不关心。

      “赛米,你知道父亲要盖新牲口棚的事情吗?”女孩子问。

      那男孩子还在专注的梳他的头发。

      “赛米!我在问你话”

      赛米转过身来。柔软的头发已经被梳成的高峰下面,露出了长得像他父亲及象的一张脸庞来。“我好象知道,”他很不耐烦。

      “多久了?”他母亲问。

      “大概有三个月了吧!”

      “你为什么没有跟我说?”

      “说了没有好处。”

      “父亲还要个牲口棚干什么。”那女孩子甜蜜而缓慢的说到。她转身朝向窗子,注视着那些正在挖地的人们。温柔、甜蜜的脸蛋上有了丝许淡淡的忧郁。她的前额光光的,看起来象一个男孩子的额头。一头浅色头发紧紧地向后面梳过去,卷在一排发纸里。她个头很高,但是她身上曲线看来倒不象遮盖着多少肌肉。

      母亲一脸严肃地看着那男孩说:“他还要买牛吗?”

      男孩子没有回答,他正在穿鞋呢!

      “赛米,你告诉我,他是不是还要买?。”

      “我想是。”

      “多少?”

      “四头。”

      母亲不再说什么了。她走进食品房去,菜盘子叮叮当当的响起来。男孩子从门后面的钉子上摘下帽子,从书架上拿了一本旧数学书,上学去了。他身材瘦小,很笨拙。走出庭院的时候,他屁股后面奇怪地高耸了一下,使他那件自己家里做的上衣背后翘了起来。

      女孩子走到碗池边上开始洗堆在那里的盘子。她母亲急忙从食品间里出来,把她推到一边,说:“我来洗,你擦干。今天早上要洗的多着哩!”

      母亲将双手放进水里用力洗了起来。姑娘缓慢地,神情恍惚地擦着盘子。她跟母亲说说:“爸爸又要盖一个牲口棚,而我们更需要的是有一所象样的房子,他这样做非常糟糕。”

      母亲狠狠地擦净了一只盘子。“你还不懂得我们是女人呢!南妮?潘,我的女儿”她说,“你还没有真正见识过男人呢!总有一天你要懂得的。到时候你就知道,我们只能懂得男人们以为我们懂得的东西,再多了也没用;你会知道我们得把男人和上帝的安排同等看待。那么也就象不能埋怨天气那样,不再埋怨男人所做的事了。”

      “我不在乎,反正我不相信乔治也会那样,”南妮说。这时候她粉嫩的脸上泛起一阵红晕,她的双唇温柔地撅起来,看着好像是快要哭出来了。

      “着看吧!我猜想乔治?伊斯特曼也不会比别的男人好。可是你不该评判你爸爸。他改不了。他对事情的看法和咱们女人不一样。他认为毕竟我们在这里住的也很舒服。屋顶又不漏――只漏过一次――,就一回,他马上用瓦补上了。”

      “我很希望我们有一间客厅。”

      “我想乔治?伊斯特曼能在一件想现在我家这样一间舒适、干净的厨房里和你会见,你也该知足了。不少姑娘还没有这么好的一个地方呢!谁也没有听见我抱怨过。”

      “我不是抱怨,母亲。”

      “好罢,有这么好的父亲和这么好的房子,你还是不要抱怨。要是你父亲叫你出去干活养活自己你怎么办呢?不少不比你身子骨壮实,也不比你能干的姑娘,人家还得出去干活呢!”

      萨拉?潘摆出一副到此为止的神气洗完了煎锅。她把锅外面和锅里面擦得非常干净。她是这个小屋子里的能干管家。居室里永远没有尘埃。她打扫的地方一尘不染;擦拭完了的屋子窗明几净。她就好象一个艺术家,作品非常完美,因而也就显不出是艺术来了。今天她拿出碗和面板来,擀了几块饼。全身上下不沾一点面粉,跟正在做着精细活儿的女儿身上一样干净。南妮秋天就要结婚了。她正在一块白色的麻纱上缝着花。在她母亲做饭的时候,她勤奋地缝着。她那柔软的,白得象牛奶似的双手和手腕显得比她那精细的活儿还要白。

      潘太太说:“我们必须快点把炉子挪到外面那小棚屋里去。你尽说没这缺那,其实大热天有那么个棚屋放炉子可真是福气。父亲做了一件好事,在那小棚屋外面安上一个烟囱。”

      在擀着饼的时候,萨拉?潘的脸部有一种柔顺的表情,就象新约中的圣徒。她正在做肉饼。她丈夫阿多尼拉姆最爱吃这种饼。她每星期做两次。阿多尼拉姆经常喜欢在两顿饭之间吃上那么一块。她今天早上很紧张,因此比平常开始得晚了一点。她要做一块饼做午饭。不管她多么恼恨她的丈夫,她也从来不停止耐心而周到地满足他的日常生活需要。

      萨拉?潘性格的高尚今天就在薄薄的糕点上表现出来了。她耐心的地做着饼。偶尔在她干活儿的时候一抬眼看见就能看见让她激怒的景象;人们在给一个新的牲口棚挖地基。挖的那块地正是阿多尼拉姆早在四十年多前就答应过她要盖新房子的那个地方。

      午餐饼做好了。阿多尼拉姆和赛米十二点过几分钟回到家。午餐在严肃而匆忙中吃完。潘家的饭桌上从来没有什么交谈。阿多尼拉姆做完了饭前的祈祷他们就立刻开始吃饭。吃完了之后他站起来就走,去干他的活儿去。

      赛米回到学校里去,兔子似的,轻轻的大步跑出了庭院。他要在上课以前弹一会儿球,他很害怕生怕父亲给他家务活儿干。阿多尼拉姆急忙追到大门口叫他,可是这时他已经跑得没有影儿了。

      “为什么让他走,他妈,”他说,“我还想叫他帮着我卸木头呢!”

      阿多尼拉姆到庭院里从马车上卸木头去了。萨拉撤去了盘盏。南妮摘下卷发纸来,换上衣裳。她要去商店去买点花样子和绣花线。

      南妮走了以后,潘太太走到门口叫声“他爸。”

      “什么?”

      “有事”

      “可是这些木头!”

      “他爸,你过来。”萨拉?潘站在门口,就象一个女王;头那么抬着,好象戴着个王冠似的;忍耐使得她说话时流露出一种国王所有的权威。阿多尼拉姆走过来了。

      潘太太带路走进了厨房。她指着一张椅子说:“坐下,他爸。我有点事要和你商量。”

      他坐了下来。脸色铁青。但是眼神却很一种不安:“好罢,什么事?”

      “你盖那个新牲口棚干什么?”

      “我没有话可说。”

      “你认为我们还需要一个牲口棚吗?”

      “我告诉你,我什么也不想说。”

      “你还要买牛吗?”

      阿多尼拉姆不回答。

      “你要买,我知道。现在,他爸,你看,”萨拉??潘站在丈夫面前,神色谦恭,好象一个圣妇。她说:“我对你直说。从我们结婚以来,我从未直说过,可是现在我要直说。我从未埋怨过,现在我要埋怨了。你看看这间屋子:你仔细看看。你看,地上没有地毯。糊墙纸也都脏了,从墙上脱落了。十年没有糊过新纸,我只好自己买纸糊,九便士一捆。你看看这间屋子,就是这么一间屋。我从结婚以来就在这儿干活,吃饭,在这儿坐着,全城没有哪一个女人的丈夫不是只有你一半的钱就过得比咱们好。这儿就是咱们的女儿南妮能够会见朋友的唯一的一间房子。她的女伴儿没有一个不比她的境况好的。而她们的父亲哪个也不如她的父亲能干。这是她唯一能在里面结婚的屋子,你可该怎么想呢?我是在我母亲的客厅里结的婚,地上有地毯,摆满家俱,还有一张红木牌桌。可是这儿就是我闺女办喜事的地方。你再看看罢,他爸!”

      萨拉?潘从屋子的这头走到那一头,就象在舞台上走步一样。她打开一扇门,露出一间很小的卧室,小得只能放下一张床和一个写字桌。床和桌子中间只有狭小的一条路。她说:“他爸,这里就是我睡了四十年的地方。孩子们都在这儿出生的。两个死了的,两个活着的。我在这儿还得过一场高烧。”

      然后,她又走到另一扇门前,打开门。那里头是一间阴暗的食品间。“这里是,”她说,“是我仅有的唯一的贮藏餐具的地方。盘子、食物,还有奶锅,放在这里。这里要存放六个奶牛的奶。可是现在你又要盖一个牲口棚了,那我要养更多的奶牛了,但是你却让我在这块小地方干更多的活儿。”

      她又打开另一扇门。这里有一个窄小的曲折的楼梯可以通到楼上。“他爸,”她说,“看看这个楼梯,它的尽头是两间没有修好的小屋,那儿就是女儿和儿子生下以来住的屋子。全城再也没有一个女孩子比南妮长得更好,比她更有派头了的姑娘了。而这就是她睡觉的屋子。它连你的马棚都不如,还不如马棚暖和严实。”

      萨拉?潘走回去站在她丈夫面前。她说:“他爸,你自己觉得你做得对吗?四十年前,我们刚结婚的时候,你诚恳地答应我说,不到一年你就在那边那块空地上盖一所新房子。你说等有足够的钱,就再不能叫我住在这样狭小的地方。现在四十年过去了了。你也赚了很多的钱。我也一直省钱。可是你至今还没有盖起房子来。你不断地盖小棚屋、牛棚、一座新牲口棚,现在又要再盖一座。他爸,你认为这样做对不对?畜牲住得比你的家人住得还要好。你想想这样做是不是对。”

      “我不想说。”

      “你是不对的,再说,――我不是抱怨,我已这样过了四十年了。我想我还能照样挺过四十年,要不是――,要不是我们没有一所房子,南妮结婚后就不能和我们住在一起。她就得离开我们到别的什么地方去住。那我不放心,那绝对不行。她身体不好。虽然她看起来气色不错,可是她自来身体不好。所以我总是不叫她干重活儿。她可不适合自己管理家务,什么都干。要叫她那样,不到一年她就得累垮了。想一下她用那双雪白的手臂去洗东西,熨衣服,烤食物,还得打扫卫生。我可不放心。”

      潘太太面红耳赤;她温柔的眼睛也发出光来。她好象大法官似的,为她的小案件申辩。她的语气从严肃变成了哀婉;但是她的对手竟然那么顽强地沉默着。这种沉默的嘲笑式的反应使得一场雄辩毫无效果。阿多尼拉姆笨拙地站起身来。

      “他爸,你没话可说么?”潘太太问。

      “我赶着去看砂砾装车呢!我不能在这儿说上一天的话呀!”

      “他爸,你好好想一想,那儿不盖牲口棚行吗?”

      “我不想说。”

      阿多尼拉姆拖拉着脚步走出去了。潘太太回到卧室里去。她出来的时候,眼圈红了。她拿出一卷本色白布来,铺在厨房桌子上,开始给她丈夫裁衬衫了。地里的那些男人们,今天下午有一堆人来帮他们的忙,她能听见他们打夯的声音。她有一个能节省布的衬衫样子。她得计算着怎么拼接两只袖子才好。

      南妮已经买了绣花样子回来了,她坐下来做针线。她已经把卷发纸拿下来了,一头柔软的卷发象光环一样覆盖在前额上。她的面庞优美,细腻,洁白。突然间她抬起头来,一阵柔和的红晕布满她的脸儿和脖子。“妈妈,”她说。

      “什么?”

      “我想了――我看在这间屋子――怎么也不能举行婚礼。不说别的客人吧,就是他家的人来,我也会感到丢人。”

      “也许在办喜事以前,咱们能糊上点新纸。我想你不至于为自己的亲人感到丢脸。”

      “我们也许能在新的牲口棚里举行婚礼吧?”南妮发了点斯文的脾气。“妈妈,怎么了?您怎么这个模样儿?”

      满太太吃了一惊。然后用一种奇异的表情看着她。她又做她的活了,把纸样子小心地铺在布上,回答说:“没什么。”

      这时,阿多尼拉姆把它的双轮大货车卡嗒卡嗒地赶出了庭院,他直立在车上,象古罗马的武士。潘太太打开门,在门口站了一会儿,向外面看看。那些打声音更大地基的人的声音更大了。

      她似乎觉得整个春天的几个月她没有听见过别的声音,就只有打夯、拉锯,和斧头砍东西的声音。新牲口棚盖得很快。它是在这小小的村庄里一个很可观的大建筑物。人们在星期天天气好的时候到这儿来,穿着做礼拜的衣服,白色的衬衫前胸干干净净,欣赏着。潘太太从来不谈它。阿多尼拉姆也从来没有对她提起过它。可是有时候他视察工程回来时带着一种受了损害的尊严。

      有一天,他自信的对赛米说:“你妈妈对新牲口棚的看法真有点奇怪。”

      赛米咕哝了两声。这个样子对一个孩子说来是很奇怪的。他是跟他父亲学的。

      七月的第三周,这个牲口棚彻底完工了。可以使用了。阿多尼拉姆计划着把他的牲口棚在星期三搬过去。星期二这天他接到一封信,把他的计划改变了。一清早他就来说:“赛米到过了邮局。我收到海拉姆的一封信。”海拉姆是潘太太的兄弟,住在佛蒙特州。

      潘太太说:“好呀!他信上说家里人都怎么样?”

      “我想都好吧。他说要是我马上到乡下去,那儿有机会买得到正是我想买的那种马呢!”他沉思着,向窗外望了牲口棚一眼。

      潘太太正在擀饼,他继续用擀面杖擀着面包屑。可是她的脸色刷地一下白了,心里嘣嘣地直跳。

      “我最好是去一下,”阿多尼拉姆说,“我真不愿意去,现在正在割草的时候。不过那十亩一块的已经割完了。就是我走个三、四天,鲁福他们也能干得了。这儿弄不到一匹适合我用的好马来。整个秋收拖运的活儿还需要一匹好马。我告诉过海拉姆给我留点心,能弄到好马给我来封信。我想,我最好还是去。”

      “我去把你的干净衬衫和一条硬领子拿出来。”潘太太安详地说。

      她把阿多尼拉姆星期天穿的好西服和他的干净内衣拿出来,放在小卧室的床上。她给他准备好刮脸的热水和剃胡子刀。最后,为他扣上了领子,扎上了黑色的领带。

      阿多尼拉姆除不平常的场合外,是从来不带硬领子和扎领带的。他把头高高的昂起来,摆出了一副急躁的尊严。他准备好了以后,刷了刷衣服和帽子,装上一纸袋饼和干酪当午饭,在门槛上踌躇了一下。他以抱歉的态度看了看他的妻子。“假如新买的牛今天送来,赛米会把它们赶进新棚里去的,”他说,“他们把新草收起来以后,他们也会把草给叉到那里面去。”

      “好啊”潘太太回答。

      阿多尼拉姆往前伸出他刮得光光的脸,走了。当他下了门口前面的二级台阶以后,他又回过头来往后面看了看,以一种紧张而严肃的口吻说:“要是没有什么特殊的事,我星期六就回来。”

      “注意安全。”他妻子回答。

      她站在门口,南妮在她旁边。她看着她丈夫走出去,直到看不见了。她眼睛里有一种奇怪的,令人可以的表情。她安详地皱起眉头来,走回屋里去接着烙饼。南妮坐下来做针线。她的婚期一天近似一天了。她为缝纫操劳得人都瘦下来了,她母亲不时地望望她。

      “你今天用力的那一侧还那么疼吗?”她问。

      “有一点。”

      潘太太正在干活,脸色一变,她的愁额舒展开来,眼神坚定,双唇紧紧闭着。她把不成文的思想编出一句箴言,“不谋而来的机会正是上帝给新的生活道路竖的指路标。”她心里一再重复这句箴言,决心开始采取行动。

      “我给海拉姆写过信,”她突然在食品间里自言自语地说,“我写过信,问他知不知道有卖马的呢?不过我没有写。孩子他爸出门和我没有关系。看来倒象是天意呢!”她终于大声音说出来了。

      南妮叫道:“妈妈!您在说什么呀?”

      “没有什么。”

      潘太太急急忙忙地烙饼。十一点钟,一切都做好了。从西边地里运干草的车慢慢地沿着马路拉过来,停在新牲口棚那里。潘太太跑了出来,喊着:“停!停!”

      男人们站住了,看着。赛米从草堆上欠起身来看他的母亲。

      “停下来!”她又喊了一声,“不要把干草放到新牲口棚里去,放进旧棚里来”。

      “什么?是你丈夫叫放在这里的。”一个正在干活的人感到奇怪。他是一个年轻人,是邻居家的孩子。阿多尼拉姆按年算钱雇他来帮忙的。

      “你别把干草放到新棚里。老棚还装得下呢。”潘太太说。

      “是装得下,”那个雇工用他那庄稼人的沙哑嗓子回答,“要论地方嘛,一点也用不着新棚。好吧,我想他是改了主意了。”他抓住了马缰绳。

      潘太太回到房子里去。不一会,厨房窗户里的灯熄了。一阵象热蜜糖似的香味飘进了屋子里。南妮放下了活计。“我以为父亲是要他们把草放进新棚里哩?”她感到奇怪的说。

      “没问题。”母亲回答。

      赛米从草堆上出溜下来,进屋看看午饭做好了没有。

      “父亲不在家,我今天不做正餐了,”母亲说,“我把火关了。你们可以吃一点面包、牛奶和饼。我想我们这样就行。”她端出几碗奶、一些面包和一块饼来,放在厨房里的桌子上,“你们最好现在就吃饭,”她说,“你们快点吃完饭,等会儿我还要你们帮我忙呢!”

      南妮和赛米互相看了看。他们的母亲态度有点奇怪。潘太太自己什么都没有吃。她走进食品间去。他们吃饭的时候听见她搬动盘子的声音。不一会儿,她拿出一叠盘子。她从架子上拿下一个盛衣服的篮子来,把盘子都装了进去。南妮和赛米望着她。她搬出杯子、碟子来,把它们和盘子一起放了进去。

      南妮很小心的问:“妈妈,您干什么呀?”一种什么不寻常的事要来了的感觉使得她发抖,好像见了鬼似的。赛米两只钉在饼上的眼珠子的溜溜地转动。

      “你们一会儿就会知道的,”潘太太回答,“你要是吃完了,我要你到楼上去收拾一下你的东西。你,赛米,我要你帮我把床从卧室里搬下来。”

      “唉呀,妈妈!为什么?”南妮气喘吁吁地问。

      “你会知道的。”

      在以后的几个小时里,这位单纯、热诚的新英格兰母亲完成了一件功绩。他可以与沃尔夫在亚伯拉罕高地上的猛烈进攻相比。沃尔夫鼓舞他的士兵在敌人的睡眼底下去爬悬崖陡壁也不比萨拉?潘太太趁她丈夫不在家带领她孩子们把全家的家当搬进新牲口棚所需要的雄才和胆略,或者说是勇气更大一些。

      南妮和赛米一声不响地按照母亲的指示做着;说真的,他们吓坏了。在他们看来,他们母亲的这一独出心裁的举动有着某种神秘的,超人的性质。

      南妮来来回回地搬着轻巧的东西,赛米认真卖力地搬着重家什。

      下午五点钟,潘家搬进了新牲口棚。这个住了四十年的小房子都搬空了。

      每一个建筑家是常常不明确自己的设计图的目的,但又在某种意义上是先知的。给阿多尼拉姆?潘盖这个新牲口棚的建筑师为牲畜的舒适而设计的这个建筑出乎意料地适合于人住,而且人住起来更舒适一些。萨拉?潘一眼就看到了它的可能性。那些大的没有窗户的隔栏前面挂上棉门帘,比她四十年来所住得卧室都好。此外还有一个严实的车房。马具房里有烟囱,还有放东西的架子,可以做一个她曾梦寐以求的厨房。当中的空地方可以做一个客厅。可以弄得像豪华的宫殿一样。楼上和楼下的空间一样多。有隔间、有窗户。这是怎样一所好房子呀!萨拉望着放牛的空场前面一排柱子,想到她要把这里做她的门厅。

      六点钟的时候,马具房里的炉子升起来了。锅开了。吃茶的桌子摆起来。这里和庭院对面那所搬空了的住房同样地有家庭气氛,年轻的雇工挤了牛奶。萨拉安静的指挥他拿到新牲口棚来。他气喘吁吁地拿过来,草地上洒了一些从桶里流出来的泡沫点。第二天一清早,他就把阿多尼拉姆的妻子搬到新牲口棚里的事在整个小村子里传遍了。男人们聚集在店里面谈论着;女人们头上围着围巾,活都没干完就走家串巷唠叨这件事。在这个安静的小城里任何一件不寻常的事都会使城中一切进程停顿。人人都在观望这个走上叉道德,沉着而独立自主的人物。关于她,人们有不同的看法。有些人认为她疯了,有些人认为她有一种无法无天的叛逆精神。

      星期五,牧师来看她。那是在下午,她正在牲口棚门前剥豆子,准备晚饭。她抬头看了一眼,庄严地对他还礼,然后就继续干她的活儿。她没有请牧师到屋里坐。那种圣徒似的表情依然滞留在她的脸上,但又泛起一阵忿怒的红潮。

      牧师手足无措地站在她面前说起话来。她拨弄豆子就象在拨弄枪弹。最后她抬起头来,眼睛里露出那种被她的温顺的态度遮盖了一辈子的神情。

      “说也没有用,赫尔西先生,”她说,“我已经是想了又想啦,我相信我做的是对的。我曾经把这件事作为我祈祷的内容。而它又是我和上帝以及阿多尼拉姆之间的事情。别人没有必要为它操心。”

      “好吧!当然了。要是你已经把这件事在祈祷中对上帝说了,并且自信你是做对了的话,潘太太。”牧师无可奈何的说。他的瘦瘦的,留着白胡子的脸上露出了一副可怜相。他的生气勃勃的信心冷了下来。他不得不痛苦地鞭策自己去承担教区的责任,就象一个天主教的禁欲主义者一样。而这种苦恼又使他瘫痪无力。

      “我坚信这是对的,正象我们的祖先从故国来到这里是对的一样。因为他们得不到他们分内应得的。”潘太太说着站了起来,从她的神气看,这个牲口棚的门槛在她简直就是普利茅斯的岩石了。“我不怀疑你的心是好的,赫尔西先生,”她说,“但是有些事情人们不该干涉。我是教堂的成员已经四十年了。可是我自己有脑子,有两只脚,我要自己去想,走自己的路。除了上帝谁也不能叫我干什么,除非我愿意听。您不进来坐坐吗?赫尔西太太好吗?”

      “她很好,谢谢您,”牧师回答。他又含含糊糊的说了几句道歉的话,就告辞了。

      他能解释圣经中每一个人物的复杂的特点,他知道是早来美国殖民的英国清教徒以及一个历史上的革新者,但是不能理解萨拉?潘。他能够处理基本的问题,但是在并发的问题上他就失败了。不过,说到最后,尽管与他的本职无关,他倒是对阿多尼拉姆?潘怎么对付他老婆比上帝怎么对付她更感兴趣,阿多尼拉姆的四头新牛来了,萨拉吩咐把三头放进老牲口棚里,还有一头放进原来放炉子的那个小棚屋里。这件事引起更多的议论来。人们窃窃私语,说是四头牛都被放在原来的住房里面了。

      星期六太阳下上的时候,阿多尼拉姆快回来了。一群人挤在靠近牲口棚的路上。雇工已经挤完了奶,可是还在房子周围转悠。萨拉?潘把晚餐都准备好了。有面包屑和烤豆子,还有一个奶冻儿饼,这是阿多尼拉姆最喜欢当周末晚饭吃的东西,她穿着一件干净的印花布衣服,态度冷静,沉着。南妮和赛米紧紧跟在她身后。他们睁大了眼睛。南妮精神上很激动。可是他们兴高采烈的心情超过了一切。内心都坚信他们的母亲是要战胜他们的父亲的。

      赛米从马具房的窗户往外面看。“他来了,”他低声宣布。他和南妮从门框向外窥视。潘太太继续干她的活。孩子们看见阿多尼拉姆走到原来的住房门前,任那匹新马站在道上。住房的门上了锁了。他又到小棚屋里去。小棚屋的门就是在全家都出去的时候也是很少上锁的。南妮一下子想到她父亲看到那头牛的时候该是什么样子。她的嗓子里不由得歇斯底里的哽住了。阿多尼拉姆从小棚屋里出来,站着,茫然地四下观看。他的嘴唇动了动。他正在说什么话呢!可是他们听不见他说什么。雇工在老牲口棚的拐角附近偷看,没有人看得见他。

      阿多尼拉姆拿起那匹新马的缰绳,牵着它走过了庭院,到新牲口棚这边来。南妮和赛米溜到母亲身边。棚门开了,阿多尼拉姆站在那里。那匹加拿大种的耕马的温和的长脸从他的肩膀上面往里看。

      南妮还躲在母亲身后。可是赛米突然走向前面,站在父亲面前。

      阿多尼拉姆看着这些人,说:“你们在这儿干什么?家里怎么的了?”

      “我们到这里来住,”赛米勇敢地用颤抖着的尖嗓子说。

      “什么,”阿多尼拉姆闻了闻,说,“哪儿来的饭菜味儿?”他往前走过去,从开着的马具房的门往里看。然后他转身向着他的妻子。他那老年人的,胡子拉茬的脸苍白了,露出恐怖的神色。“孩子他妈,这是要干什么呀?”他气喘吁吁地说。

      “你进来,孩子他爸,”萨拉说,她带路走进马房,然后把门关上。“孩子他爸,”她说,“你不用害怕,我没有发疯。没有什么叫你不安的事情。只不过是我们到这儿来住,我们就要在这儿住下去了。我们正和新马、新牛同样的有权利到这儿来住。那个住房我们再也住不下去了。我就决定到这儿来住。我向你尽义务尽了四十年。现在也是一样。我要住在这里。你得开几扇窗户,隔出几间屋子来。还得买一些家俱。”

      老人气喘吁吁地说:“为什么呢?”

      “你最好脱了衣服,洗个脸。那边有脸盘。然后吃饭。”

      “为什么呀,孩子他妈?”

      赛米从窗户走过去了,他把新马牵到旧牲口棚里去。老人看着他,无言的摇摇头。他试着脱下衣服,可是他的膀子好象没有劲了。他妻子帮着他脱了下来。她往盆里倒了些水,拿了一块肥皂。她拿出梳子和刷子来,等他洗完了以后给他把灰白头发梳理一下。然后她把豆子、热面包、茶摆在桌子上。赛米进来了,全家人凑在一起。阿多尼拉姆昏昏然然坐下来,眼睛看着自己的盘子。他们都等着。

      “你不祈祷么?”萨拉问。

      老人低下头嘟囔起来。

      一顿饭中他不一会就停下来偷看他妻子一眼。可是还是吃得很好。他以为家里的饭是好吃的。他年老的身躯很健康,不受思绪不安的影响。但是饭后她走出去了,坐在牲口棚右侧小门前的石头台阶上。这扇门他原来打算要让他的泽西种奶牛排着队,庄严地通过的。而如今萨拉要把它设计成她的前门了。他用两只手捧住自己的头。

      把晚餐的杯盘收拾完了,奶锅也洗好了以后,萨拉走出来找他。夕阳渐渐暗下去了。天空呈现出清澈的紫色。在他们面前展开一片光滑,平坦的大地。远处是一连串的干草垛,宛似村中的小草房。空气凉爽,平静和甜蜜。眼前的景色是和平的理想景色。

      萨拉弯下身来,抚摸一下他丈夫的干瘦但是强壮的肩头:“孩子他爸!”

      老人双肩起伏:他正在哭呢!

      “喂,别这样,他爸!”萨拉说。

      “隔出间屋子来,摆上一切你想要的一切东西,他妈!”

      萨拉撂起围裙角来捂住脸。她竟被自己的胜利给吓坏了。

      阿多尼拉姆象一个四堵墙都失去有效的抵抗力的堡垒。只要用合适的攻城武器一攻,它马上就得倒塌。“怎么,他妈,”他声音嘶哑地说,“我哪里知道你是这样一个心眼儿地要得到这一切!”

      作品点评

      玛丽?威尔金斯?弗里曼的短篇小说《母亲的反抗》讲述的就是一位传统的新英格兰妇女―――莎拉的反抗故事。莎拉是一个传统家庭妇女,在日常生活中她恪尽本分,宽容忍让,并精于治家,把家里安排的井井有条。同时,为了维护和谐的夫妻关系和家庭生活,她还表现出女性的宽容和隐忍,并且经常不无自豪地向女儿展示自己的忍耐力。然而,莎拉却并没有因此而放弃对自己独立精神的追求,没有放弃实现自己意愿的女性抗争之旅。莎拉夫妻结婚四十年来一直和家人住在拥挤不堪的破旧棚屋里,丈夫阿多尼拉早就向她许诺要盖新房改善家里的居住环境,最后他却宁愿修建新仓库也不愿履行诺言。女儿南妮马上要嫁人了,莎拉希望女儿能从新房子里体面的出嫁,不断跟丈夫交涉,要求盖新房子。多次被无视后,她趁着丈夫外出买马的机会,把家搬进了新仓库里。丈夫回来后也只得作罢。莎拉抗争的手段不是偏激的正面冲突,而是巧妙的利用自己的语言以及丈夫的缺席来间接地实现了自己的愿望。

      莎拉的反抗是这部小说的主题。女性主义者认为,长期以来,妇女一直遭受着父权制中心文化的压迫。女性抗争的目的就是为了解构男性中心主义思想中普遍存在的二元对立(男人―女人) ,而消除二元对立的途径之一就是在男性世界中通过建构女性的话语权来挑战、解构、颠覆男性中心主义,从而谋得自身解放。弗里曼早在女性主义运动兴起半个多世纪之前,就已经借她笔下人物莎拉之口,喊出了作为生活在男性中心制社会边缘的女性的独立宣言。同时,她笔下女性人物寻求自我解放的抗争方式也暗中契合了已经步入成熟理性的女性主义者所提倡的非压迫性的,不偏激的抗争方式。因此,在这个意义上,我们可以说《, 母亲的反抗》是当代女性主义者在维护两性和谐的基础上,寻求自我解放的抗争之旅的完美诠释。

      伊迪斯?沃尔顿(Edith Wharton)

      伊迪丝?华顿(1862-1937)生于1862年的1月24日。是纽约名门望族琼斯家的女儿。她在家中接受了良好的教育,后来多次出国旅行。1885年她和一个比她大13岁的有钱的波士顿人爱德华?华顿结了婚。此人性格虽好,但他们却很少共同之处,几年以后,爱德华患了精神病,最终导致了他们的离婚,从此以后,伊迪丝长住巴黎,直到1937年去世,葬在凡尔赛。伊迪丝?华顿起初是为了排遣上流社会家庭生活的苦闷而开始写作的。她从1880年开始发表小说,1889年第一部短篇小说集问世,获得了意外的成功。1905年长篇小说《快乐之家》出版,使她成了20世纪前20年最受欢迎的美国作家。1920年出版的《纯真年代》为她获得了普利策奖。她一共写了19部中长篇小说,出版过11本短篇小说集,还有大量的非小说作品。伊迪丝?华顿作品集包括有作品《译序》、假曙光》、《老处女》、《火花》、《元旦》、《小女孩》、《石榴籽》、《一瓶毕雷矿泉水》和《亨利?詹姆斯》。

      迪丝?华顿就曾十分推崇詹姆斯的风格,经常同他讨论自己的创作,并受到他的积极影响。与詹姆斯一样,华顿在创作实践中严肃认真、一丝不苟,逐渐形成了她个人的独特风格―――结构精妙、思想深邃、细节真实、语言朴素无华而又熟练优美,成为美国著名的文体家之一。与詹姆斯以及其他同时代主流作家所不同的是,华顿以其细腻的笔触刻画了19世纪末20世纪初的“老纽约”上流社会及她本阶级的女性,在机智且略带嘲讽的叙述中潜藏着对女性社会地位、传统婚姻制度等问题的严肃思考与探究。她写父权制社会对妇女的禁锢和压制,写她们本性的扭曲和凋零―――也写她们当中渐渐而起的反抗声音和各自在追求幸福婚姻过程中觉醒的女性自我意识。正因如此,华顿被认为是美国现实主义文学运动的主要作家之一和风俗小说作家以及“女性主义先知”

      
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