• 女性短篇小说《TheOtherTwo》翻译赏析

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  •   ⅠWaythorn, on the drawing-room hearth, waited for his wife to come down to dinner.

      It was their first night under his own roof, and he was surprised at his thrill of boyish agitation. He was not so old, to be sure-his glass gave him little more than the five-and-thirty years to which his wife confessed-but he had fancied himself already in the temperate zone; yet here he was listening for her step with a tender sense of all it symbolized, with some old trail of verse about the garlanded nuptial door-posts floating through his enjoyment of the pleasant room and the good dinner just beyond it.

      They had been hastily recalled from their honeymoon by the illness of Lily Haskett, the child of Mrs. Waythorn’s first marriage. The little girl, at Waythorn’s desire, had been transferred to his house on the day of her mother’s wedding, and the doctor, on their arrival, broke the news that she was ill with typhoid, but declared that all the symptoms59 were favorable. Lily could show twelve years of unblemished60 health, and the case promised to be a light one. The nurse spoke as reassuringly, and after a moment of alarm Mrs. Waythorn had adjusted herself to the situation. She was very fond of Lily-her affection for the child had perhaps been her decisive charm in Waythorn’s eyes - but she had the perfectly balanced nerves which her little girl had inherited, and no woman ever wasted less tissue in unproductive worry. Waythorn was therefore quite prepared to see her come in presently, a little late because of a last look at Lily, but as serene and well-appointed as if her good-night kiss had been laid on the brow of health. Her composure was restful to him; it acted as ballast to his somewhat unstable sensibilities. As he pictured her bending over the child’s bed he thought how soothing her presence must be in illness: her very step would prognosticate61 recovery.

      His own life had been a gray one, from temperament rather than circumstance, and he had been drawn to her by the unperturbed gayety which kept her fresh and elastic at an age when most women’s activities are growing either slack or febrile. He knew what was said about her; for, popular as she was, there had always been a faint undercurrent of detraction. When she had appeared in New York, nine or ten years earlier, as the pretty Mrs. Haskett whom Gus Varick had unearthed somewhere - was it in Pittsburgh or Utica?-society, while promptly accepting her, had reserved the right to cast a doubt on its own discrimination. Inquiry, however, established her undoubted connection with a socially reigning family, and explained her recent divorce as the natural result of a runaway match at seventeen; and as nothing was known of Mr. Haskett it was easy to believe the worst of him.

      Alice Haskett’s remarriage with Gus Varick was a passport to the set whose recognition she coveted, and for a few years the Varicks were the most popular couple in town. Unfortunately the alliance was brief and stormy, and this time the husband had his champions. Still, even Varick’s stanchest supporters admitted that he was not meant for matrimony, and Mrs. Varick’s grievances were of a nature to bear the inspection of the New York courts. A New York divorce is in itself a diploma of virtue, and in the semi-widowhood of this second separation Mrs. Varick took on an air of sanctity, and was allowed to confide her wrongs to some of the most scrupulous ears in town. But when it was known that she was to marry Waythorn there was a momentary reaction. Her best friends would have preferred to see her remain in the role of the injured wife, which was as becoming to her as crape to a rosy complexion62. True, a decent time had elapsed, and it was not even suggested that Waythorn had supplanted his predecessor. Still, people shook their heads over him, and one grudging friend, to whom he affirmed that he took the step with his eyes open, replied oracularly: “Yes - and with your ears shut.”

      Waythorn could afford to smile at these innuendoes. In the Wall Street phrase, he had “discounted” them. He knew that society has not yet adapted itself to the consequences of divorce, and that till the adaptation takes place every woman who uses the freedom the law accords her must be her own social justification. Waythorn had an amused confidence in his wife’s ability to justify herself. His expectations were fulfilled, and before the wedding took place Alice Varick’s group had rallied openly to her support. She took it all imperturbably: she had a way of surmounting obstacles without seeming to be aware of them, and Waythorn looked back with wonder at the trivialities over which he had worn his nerves thin. He had the sense of having found refuge in a richer, warmer nature than his own, and his satisfaction, at the moment, was humorously summed up in the thought that his wife, when she had done all she could for Lily, would not be ashamed to come down and enjoy a good dinner. The anticipation of such enjoyment was not, however, the sentiment expressed by Mrs. Waythorn’s charming face when she presently joined him. Though she had put on her most engaging teagown she had neglected to assume the smile that went with it, and Waythorn thought he had never seen her look so nearly worried.

      “What is it?” he asked. “Is anything wrong with Lily?” ? “No; I’ve just been in and she’s still sleeping.” Mrs. Waythorn hesitated. “But something tiresome has happened.” ? He had taken her two hands, and now perceived that he was crushing a paper between them. ? “This letter?”

      “Yes - Mr. Haskett has written - I mean his lawyer has written.” ? Waythorn felt himself flush uncomfortably. He dropped his wife’s hands. ? “What about?” ? “About seeing Lily. You know the courts ?C ” ? “Yes, yes,” he interrupted nervously. ? Nothing was known about Haskett in New York. He was vaguely supposed to have remained in the outer darkness from which his wife had been rescued, and Waythorn was one of the few who were aware that he had given up his business in Utica and followed her to New York in order to be near his little girl. In the days of his wooing, Waythorn had often met Lily on the doorstep, rosy and smiling, on her way “to see papa.” ? “I am so sorry,” Mrs. Waythorn murmured. ? He roused himself. “What does he want?”

      “He wants to see her. You know she goes to him once a week.”

      “Well - he doesn’t expect her to go to him now, does he?”

      “No - he has heard of her illness; but he expects to come here.”

      “Here?” Mrs. Waythorn reddened under his gaze. They looked away from each other. ? “I’m afraid he has the right. . . . You’ll see. . . .” She made a proffer 63of the letter. Waythorn moved away with a gesture of refusal. He stood staring about the softly lighted room, which a moment before had seemed so full of bridal intimacy. “I’m so sorry,” she repeated. “If Lily could have been moved -- “

      “That’s out of the question,” he returned impatiently. “I suppose so.” ? Her lip was beginning to tremble, and he felt himself a brute. “He must come, of course,” he said. “When is - his day?” ? “I’m afraid-to-morrow.” “Very well. Send a note in the morning.”

      The butler entered to announce dinner. ? Waythorn turned to his wife. “Come - you must be tired. It’s beastly, but try to forget about it,” he said, drawing her hand through his arm. ? “You’re so good, dear. I’ll try,” she whispered back.

      Her face cleared at once, and as she looked at him across the flowers, between the rosy candle-shades, he saw her lips waver back into a smile.

      “How pretty everything is!” she sighed luxuriously. ? He turned to the butler64. “The champagne65 at once, please. Mrs. Waythorn is tired.” In a moment or two their eyes met above the sparkling glasses. Her own were quite clear and untroubled: he saw that she had obeyed his injunction and forgotten. Ⅱ

      Waythorn, the next morning, went down town earlier than usual. Haskett was not likely to come till the afternoon, but the instinct of flight drove him forth. He meant to stay away all day - he had thoughts of dining at his club. As his door closed behind him he reflected that before he opened it again it would have admitted another man who had as much right to enter it as himself, and the thought filled him with a physical repugnance. He caught the “elevated” at the employees’ hour, and found himself crushed between two layers of pendulous humanity. At Eighth Street the man facing him wriggled out and another took his place. Waythorn glanced up and saw that it was Gus Varick. The men were so close together that it was impossible to ignore the smile of recognition on Varick’s handsome overblown face. And after all - why not? They had always been on good terms, and Varick had been divorced before Waythorn’s attentions to his wife began. The two exchanged a word on the perennial grievance of the congested trains, and when a seat at their side was miraculously left empty the instinct of self-preservation made Waythorn slip into it after Varick. The latter drew the stout man’s breath of relief. ? “Lord - I was beginning to feel like a pressed flower.” He leaned back, looking unconcernedly at Waythorn. “Sorry to hear that Sellers is knocked out again.”

      “Sellers?” echoed Waythorn, starting at his partner’s name.Varick looked surprised. “You didn’t know he was laid up with the gout?” “No. I’ve been away - I only got back last night.” Waythorn felt himself reddening in anticipation of the other’s smile. ? “Ah - yes; to be sure. And Sellers’s attack came on two days ago. I’m afraid he’s pretty bad. Very awkward for me, as it happens, because he was just putting through a rather important thing for me.” “Ah?” Waythorn wondered vaguely since when Varick had been dealing in “important things.” Hitherto he had dabbled only in the shallow pools of speculation, with which Waythorn’s office did not usually concern itself. ? It occurred to him that Varick might be talking at random, to relieve the strain of their propinquity. That strain was becoming momentarily more apparent to Waythorn, and when, at Cortlandt Street, he caught sight of an acquaintance, and had a sudden vision of the picture he and Varick must present to an initiated eye, he jumped up with a muttered excuse.

      “I hope you’ll find Sellers better,” said Varick civilly, and he stammered back: “If I can be of any use to you -- “ and let the departing crowd sweep him to the platform. ? At his office he heard that Sellers was in fact ill with the gout, and would probably not be able to leave the house for some weeks. ? “I’m sorry it should have happened so, Mr. Waythorn,” the senior clerk said with affable significance. “Mr. Sellers was very much upset at the idea of giving you such a lot of extra work just now.”

      “Oh, that’s no matter,” said Waythorn hastily. He secretly welcomed the pressure of additional business, and was glad to think that, when the day’s work was over, he would have to call at his partner’s on the way home. ? He was late for luncheon, and turned in at the nearest restaurant instead of going to his club. The place was full, and the waiter hurried him to the back of the room to capture the only vacant table. In the cloud of cigar-smoke Waythorn did not at once distinguish his neighbors; but presently, looking about him, he saw Varick seated a few feet off. This time, luckily, they were too far apart for conversation, and Varick, who faced another way, had probably not even seen him; but there was an irony in their renewed nearness. Varick was said to be fond of good living, and as Waythorn sat despatching his hurried luncheon he looked across half enviously at the other’s leisurely degustation of his meal. When Waythorn first saw him he had been helping himself with critical deliberation to a bit of Camembert at the ideal point of liquefaction, and now, the cheese removed, he was just pouring his cafe double from its little two-storied earthen pot. He poured slowly, his ruddy profile bent above the task, and one beringed white hand steadying the lid of the coffee-pot; then he stretched his other hand to the decanter of cognac at his elbow, filled a liqueur-glass, took a tentative sip, and poured the brandy into his coffee-cup. ? Waythorn watched him in a kind of fascination. What was he thinking of - only of the flavor of the coffee and the liqueur? Had the morning’s meeting left no more trace in his thoughts than on his face? Had his wife so completely passed out of his life that even this odd encounter with her present husband, within a week after her remarriage, was no more than an incident in his day? And as Waythorn mused, another idea struck him: had Haskett ever met Varick as Varick and he had just met? The recollection of Haskett perturbed him, and he rose and left the restaurant, taking a circuitous way out to escape the placid irony of Varick’s nod. ? It was after seven when Waythorn reached home. He thought the footman who opened the door looked at him oddly. ? “How is Miss Lily?” he asked in haste. ? “Doing very well, sir. A gentleman ?C”

      “Tell Barlow to put off dinner for half an hour,” Waythorn cut him off, hurrying upstairs. ? He went straight to his room and dressed without seeing his wife. When he reached the drawing-room she was there, fresh and radiant. Lily’s day had been good; the doctor was not coming back that evening. ? At dinner Waythorn told her of Sellers’s illness and of the resulting complications. She listened sympathetically, adjuring him not to let himself be overworked, and asking vague feminine questions about the routine of the office. Then she gave him the chronicle of Lily’s day; quoted the nurse and doctor, and told him who had called to inquire. He had never seen her more serene and unruffled. It struck him, with a curious pang that she was very happy in being with him, so happy that she found a childish pleasure in rehearsing the trivial incidents of her day. After dinner they went to the library, and the servant put the coffee and liqueurs on a low table before her and left the room. She looked singularly soft and girlish in her rosy pale dress, against the dark leather of one of his bachelor armchairs. A day earlier the contrast would have charmed him. ? He turned away now, choosing a cigar with affected deliberation. ? “Did Haskett come?” he asked, with his back to her. ? “Oh, yes - he came.” ? “You didn’t see him, of course?” ? She hesitated a moment. “I let the nurse see him.” ? That was all. There was nothing more to ask. He swung round toward her, applying a match to his cigar. Well, the thing was over for a week, at any rate. He would try not to think of it. She looked up at him, a trifle rosier than usual, with a smile in her eyes. ? “Ready for your coffee, dear?” ? He leaned against the mantelpiece, watching her as she lifted the coffee-pot. The lamplight struck a gleam from her bracelets and tipped her soft hair with brightness. How light and slender she was, and how each gesture flowed into the next! She seemed a creature all compact of harmonies. As the thought of Haskett receded, Waythorn felt himself yielding again to the joy of possessorship. They were his, those white hands with their flitting motions, the light haze of hair, the lips and eyes. . . .

      She set down the coffee-pot, and reaching for the decanter of cognac, measured off a liqueur-glass and poured it into his cup. ? Waythorn uttered a sudden exclamation. ? “What is the matter?” she said, startled. ? “Nothing; only - I don’t take cognac in my coffee.”

      “Oh, how stupid of me,” she cried. ? Their eyes met, and she blushed a sudden agonized red. Ⅲ

      Ten days later, Mr. Sellers, still house-bound, asked Waythorn to call on his way downtown66. ? The senior partner, with his swaddled foot propped up by the fire, greeted his associate with an air of embarrassment. ? “I’m sorry, my dear fellow; I’ve got to ask you to do an awkward thing for me.” ? Waythorn waited, and the other went on, after a pause apparently given to the arrangement of his phrases: “The fact is, when I was knocked out I had just gone into a rather complicated piece of business for-Gus Varick.” “Well?” said Waythorn, with an attempt to put him at his ease. ? “Well - it’s this way: Varick came to me the day before my attack. He had evidently had an inside tip from somebody, and had made about a hundred thousand. He came to me for advice, and I suggested his going in with Vanderlyn.”

      “Oh, the deuce!” Waythorn exclaimed. He saw in a flash what had happened. The investment was an alluring one, but required negotiation. He listened intently while Sellers put the case before him, and, the statement ended, he said: “You think I ought to see Varick?” ? “I’m afraid I can’t as yet. The doctor is obdurate. And this thing can’t wait. I hate to ask you, but no one else in the office knows the ins and outs of it.” ? Waythorn stood silent. He did not care a farthing for the success of Varick’s venture, but the honor of the office was to be considered, and he could hardly refuse to oblige his partner. ? “Very well,” he said, “I’ll do it.” ? That afternoon, apprised by telephone, Varick called at the office. Waythorn, waiting in his private room, wondered what the others thought of it. The newspapers, at the time of Mrs. Waythorn’s marriage, had acquainted their readers with every detail of her previous matrimonial ventures, and Waythorn could fancy the clerks smiling behind Varick’s back as he was ushered in.

      Varick bore himself admirably. He was easy without being undignified, and Waythorn was conscious of cutting a much less impressive figure. Varick had no head for business, and the talk prolonged itself for nearly an hour while Waythorn set forth with scrupulous precision the details of the proposed transaction.

      “I’m awfully obliged to you,” Varick said as he rose. “The fact is I’m not used to having much money to look after, and I don’t want to make an ass of myself -- “ He smiled, and Waythorn could not help noticing that there was something pleasant about his smile. “It feels uncommonly queer to have enough cash to pay one’s bills. I’d have sold my soul for it a few years ago!” ? Waythorn winced at the allusion. He had heard it rumored that a lack of funds had been one of the determining causes of the Varick separation, but it did not occur to him that Varick’s words were intentional. It seemed more likely that the desire to keep clear of embarrassing topics had fatally drawn him into one. Waythorn did not wish to be outdone in civility. “We’ll do the best we can for you,” he said. “I think this is a good thing you’re in.” ? “Oh, I’m sure it’s immense. It’s awfully good of you -- “ Varick broke off, embarrassed. “I suppose the thing’s settled now - but if ?C ”? “If anything happens before Sellers is about, I’ll see you again,” said Waythorn quietly. He was glad, in the end, to appear the more self-possessed of the two. ? The course of Lily’s illness ran smooth, and as the days passed Waythorn grew used to the idea of Haskett’s weekly visit. The first time the day came round, he stayed out late, and questioned his wife as to the visit on his return. She replied at once that Haskett had merely seen the nurse downstairs, as the doctor did not wish any one in the child’s sick-room till after the crisis.

      The following week Waythorn was again conscious of the recurrence of the day, but had forgotten it by the time he came home to dinner. The crisis of the disease came a few days later, with a rapid decline of fever, and the little girl was pronounced out of danger. In the rejoicing which ensued the thought of Haskett passed out of Waythorn’s mind and one afternoon, letting himself into the house with a latchkey, he went straight to his library without noticing a shabby hat and umbrella in the hall.

      In the library he found a small effaced-looking man with a thinnish gray beard sitting on the edge of a chair. The stranger might have been a piano-tuner, or one of those mysteriously efficient persons who are summoned in emergencies to adjust some detail of the domestic machinery. He blinked at Waythorn through a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles and said mildly: “Mr. Waythorn, I presume? I am Lily’s father.” ? Waythorn flushed. “Oh -- “ he stammered uncomfortably. He broke off, disliking to appear rude. Inwardly he was trying to adjust the actual Haskett to the image of him projected by his wife’s reminiscences67. Waythorn had been allowed to infer that Alice’s first husband was a brute. ? “I am sorry to intrude,” said Haskett, with his over-the- counter politeness. ? “Don’t mention it,” returned Waythorn, collecting himself. “I suppose the nurse has been told?” ? “I presume so. I can wait,” said Haskett. He had a resigned way of speaking, as though life had worn down his natural powers of resistance. Waythorn stood on the threshold, nervously pulling off his gloves. ? “I’m sorry you’ve been detained. I will send for the nurse,” he said; and as he opened the door he added with an effort: “I’m glad we can give you a good report of Lily.” He winced as the we slipped out, but Haskett seemed not to notice it. ? “Thank you, Mr. Waythorn. It’s been an anxious time for me.” ? “Ah, well, that’s past. Soon she’ll be able to go to you.” Waythorn nodded and passed out. ? In his own room, he flung himself down with a groan. He hated the womanish sensibility which made him suffer so acutely from the grotesque chances of life. He had known when he married that his wife’s former husbands were both living, and that amid the multiplied contacts of modern existence there were a thousand chances to one that he would run against one or the other, yet he found himself as much disturbed by his brief encounter with Haskett as though the law had not obligingly removed all difficulties in the way of their meeting. ? Waythorn sprang up and began to pace the room nervously. He had not suffered half so much from his two meetings with Varick. It was Haskett’s presence in his own house that made the situation so intolerable. He stood still, hearing steps in the passage.

      “This way, please,” he heard the nurse say. Haskett was being taken upstairs, then: not a corner of the house but was open to him. Waythorn dropped into another chair, staring vaguely ahead of him. On his dressing-table stood a photograph of Alice, taken when he had first known her. She was Alice Varick then - how fine and exquisite he had thought her! Those were Varick’s pearls about her neck. At Waythorn’s instance they had been returned before her marriage. Had Haskett ever given her any trinkets - and what had become of them, Waythorn wondered? He realized suddenly that he knew very little of Haskett’s past or present situation; but from the man’s appearance and manner of speech he could reconstruct with curious precision the surroundings of Alice’s first marriage. And it startled him to think that she had, in the background of her life, a phase of existence so different from anything with which he had connected her. Varick, whatever his faults, was a gentleman, in the conventional, traditional sense of the term: the sense which at that moment seemed, oddly enough, to have most meaning to Waythorn. He and Varick had the same social habits, spoke the same language, and understood the same allusions. But this other man . . . it was grotesquely uppermost in Waythorn’s mind that Haskett had worn a made-up tie attached with elastic. Why should that ridiculous detail symbolize the whole man

      Waythorn was exasperated by his own paltriness, but the fact of the tie expanded, forced itself on him, became as it were the key to Alice’s past. He could see her, as Mrs. Haskett, sitting in a “front parlor” furnished in plush, with a pianola, and a copy of “Ben Hur” on the centre-table. He could see her going to the theatre with Haskett - or perhaps even to a “Church Sociable” - she in a “picture hat” and Haskett in a black frock-coat, a little creased, with the made-up tie on an elastic. On the way home they would stop and look at the illuminated shop-windows, lingering over the photographs of New York actresses. On Sunday afternoons Haskett would take her for a walk, pushing Lily ahead of them in a white enameled perambulator, and Waythorn had a vision of the people they would stop and talk to. He could fancy how pretty Alice must have looked, in a dress adroitly constructed from the hints of a New York fashion-paper; how she must have looked down on the other women, chafing at her life, and secretly feeling that she belonged in a bigger place. For the moment his foremost thought was one of wonder at the way in which she had shed the phase of existence which her marriage with Haskett implied. It was as if her whole aspect, every gesture, every inflection, every allusion, were a studied negation of that period of her life. If she had denied being married to Haskett she could hardly have stood more convicted of duplicity than in this obliteration of the self which had been his wife.

      Waythorn started up, checking himself in the analysis of her motives. What right had he to create a fantastic effigy of her and then pass judgment on it? She had spoken vaguely of her first marriage as unhappy, had hinted, with becoming reticence, that Haskett had wrought havoc among her young illusions. . . . It was a pity for Waythorn’s peace of mind that Haskett’s very inoffensiveness shed a new light on the nature of those illusions. A man would rather think that his wife has been brutalized by her first husband than that the process has been reversed. Ⅳ

      “Mr Waythorn, I don’t like that French governess of Lily’s.” ? Haskett, subdued and apologetic, stood before Waythorn in the library, revolving his shabby68 hat in his hand. ? Waythorn, surprised in his armchair over the evening paper, stared back perplexedly at his visitor.

      “You’ll excuse my asking to see you,” Haskett continued. “But this is my last visit, and I thought if I could have a word with you it would be a better way than writing to Mrs. Waythorn’s lawyer.” ? Waythorn rose uneasily. He did not like the French governess either; but that was irrelevant.

      “I am not so sure of that,” he returned stiffly; “but since you wish it I will give your message to-my wife.” He always hesitated over the possessive pronoun in addressing Haskett.

      The latter sighed. “I don’t know as that will help much. She didn’t like it when I spoke to her.”

      Waythorn turned red. “When did you see her?” he asked. ? “Not since the first day I came to see Lily-right after she was taken sick. I remarked to her then that I didn’t like the governess.”

      Waythorn made no answer. He remembered distinctly that, after that first visit, he had asked his wife if she had seen Haskett. She had lied to him then, but she had respected his wishes since; and the incident cast a curious light on her character. He was sure she would not have seen Haskett that first day if she had divined that Waythorn would object, and the fact that she did not divine it was almost as disagreeable to the latter as the discovery that she had lied to him. “I don’t like the woman,” Haskett was repeating with mild persistency. “She ain’t straight, Mr. Waythorn-she’ll teach the child to be underhand. I’ve noticed a change in Lily - she’s too anxious to please - and she don’t always tell the truth. She used to be the straightest child, Mr. Waythorn -- “ He broke off, his voice a little thick. “Not but what I want her to have a stylish education,” he ended. ? Waythorn was touched. “I’m sorry, Mr. Haskett; but frankly, I don’t quite see what I can do.”

      Haskett hesitated. Then he laid his hat on the table, and advanced to the hearth-rug, on which Waythorn was standing. There was nothing aggressive in his manner; but he had the solemnity of a timid man resolved on a decisive measure.

      “There’s just one thing you can do, Mr. Waythorn,” he said. “You can remind Mrs. Waythorn that, by the decree of the courts, I am entitled to have a voice in Lily’s bringing up.” He paused, and went on more deprecatingly: “I’m not the kind to talk about enforcing my rights, Mr. Waythorn. I don’t know as I think a man is entitled to rights he hasn’t known how to hold on to; but this business of the child is different. I’ve never let go there-and I never mean to.”

      The scene left Waythorn deeply shaken. Shamefacedly, in indirect ways, he had been finding out about Haskett; and all that he had learned was favorable. The little man, in order to be near his daughter, had sold out his share in a profitable business in Utica, and accepted a modest clerkship in a New York manufacturing house. He boarded in a shabby street and had few acquaintances. His passion for Lily filled his life. Waythorn felt that this exploration of Haskett was like groping about with a dark-lantern in his wife’s past; but he saw now that there were recesses his lantern had not explored. He had never inquired into the exact circumstances of his wife’s first matrimonial rupture. On the surface all had been fair. It was she who had obtained the divorce, and the court had given her the child. But Waythorn knew how many ambiguities such a verdict might cover. The mere fact that Haskett retained a right over his daughter implied an unsuspected compromise. Waythorn was an idealist. He always refused to recognize unpleasant contingencies till he found himself confronted with them, and then he saw them followed by a special train of consequences. His next days were thus haunted, and he determined to try to lay the ghosts by conjuring them up in his wife’s presence. ?When he repeated Haskett’s request a flame of anger passed over her face; but she subdued it instantly and spoke with a slight quiver of outraged motherhood.

      “It is very ungentlemanly of him,” she said. ? The word grated on Waythorn. “That is neither here nor there. It’s a bare question of rights.”

      She murmured: “It’s not as if he could ever be a help to Lily ?C ”? Waythorn flushed. This was even less to his taste. “The question is,” he repeated, “what authority has he over her?”

      She looked downward, twisting herself a little in her seat. “I am willing to see him - I thought you objected,” she faltered.

      In a flash he understood that she knew the extent of Haskett’s claims. Perhaps it was not the first time she had resisted them. ? “My objecting has nothing to do with it,” he said coldly; “if Haskett has a right to be consulted you must consult him.” ? She burst into tears, and he saw that she expected him to regard her as a victim. ? Haskett did not abuse his rights. Waythorn had felt miserably sure that he would not. But the governess was dismissed, and from time to time the little man demanded an interview with Alice. After the first outburst she accepted the situation with her usual adaptability. Haskett had once reminded Waythorn of the piano-tuner, and Mrs. Waythorn, after a month or two, appeared to class him with that domestic familiar. Waythorn could not but respect the father’s tenacity. At first he had tried to cultivate the suspicion that Haskett might be “up to” something, that he had an object in securing a foothold in the house. But in his heart Waythorn was sure of Haskett’s single-mindedness; he even guessed in the latter a mild contempt for such advantages as his relation with the Waythorns might offer. Haskett’s sincerity of purpose made him invulnerable, and his successor had to accept him as a lien on the property. ? Mr. Sellers was sent to Europe to recover from his gout, and Varick’s affairs hung on Waythorn’s hands. The negotiations were prolonged and complicated; they necessitated frequent conferences between the two men, and the interests of the firm forbade Waythorn’s suggesting that his client should transfer his business to another office. ? Varick appeared well in the transaction. In moments of relaxation his coarse streak appeared, and Waythorn dreaded his geniality; but in the office he was concise and clear-headed, with a flattering deference to Waythorn’s judgment. Their business relations being so affably established, it would have been absurd for the two men to ignore each other in society. The first time they met in a drawing-room, Varick took up their intercourse in the same easy key, and his hostess’s grateful glance obliged Waythorn to respond to it. After that they ran across each other frequently, and one evening at a ball Waythorn, wandering through the remoter rooms, came upon Varick seated beside his wife. She colored a little, and faltered in what she was saying; but Varick nodded to Waythorn without rising, and the latter strolled on. In the carriage, on the way home, he broke out nervously: “I didn’t know you spoke to Varick.” ? Her voice trembled a little. “It’s the first time - he happened to be standing near me; I didn’t know what to do. It’s so awkward, meeting everywhere - and he said you had been very kind about some business.” ? “That’s different,” said Waythorn.

      She paused a moment. “I’ll do just as you wish,” she returned pliantly. “I thought it would be less awkward to speak to him when we meet.” ? Her pliancy was beginning to sicken him. Had she really no will of her own - no theory about her relation to these men? She had accepted Haskett - did she mean to accept Varick? It was “less awkward,” as she had said, and her instinct was to evade difficulties or to circumvent them. With sudden vividness Waythorn saw how the instinct had developed. She was “as easy as an old shoe”-a shoe that too many feet had worn. Her elasticity was the result of tension in too many different directions. Alice Haskett-Alice Varick-Alice Waythorn-she had been each in turn, and had left hanging to each name a little of her privacy, a little of her personality, a little of the inmost self where the unknown god abides. ? “Yes-it’s better to speak to Varick,” said Waythorn wearily. Ⅴ

      The winter wore on, and society took advantage of the Waythorns’ acceptance of Varick. Harassed hostesses were grateful to them for bridging over a social difficulty, and Mrs. Waythorn was held up as a miracle of good taste. Some experimental spirits could not resist the diversion of throwing Varick and his former wife together, and there were those who thought he found a zest in the propinquity. But Mrs. Waythorn’s conduct remained irreproachable. She neither avoided Varick nor sought him out. Even Waythorn could not but admit that she had discovered the solution of the newest social problem.

      He had married her without giving much thought to that problem. He had fancied that a woman can shed her past like a man. But now he saw that Alice was bound to hers both by the circumstances which forced her into continued relation with it, and by the traces it had left on her nature. With grim irony Waythorn compared himself to a member of a syndicate69. He held so many shares in his wife’s personality and his predecessors were his partners in the business. If there had been any element of passion in the transaction he would have felt less deteriorated by it. The fact that Alice took her change of husbands like a change of weather reduced the situation to mediocrity. He could have forgiven her for blunders, for excesses; for resisting Hackett, for yielding to Varick; for anything but her acquiescence and her tact. She reminded him of a juggler tossing knives; but the knives were blunt and she knew they would never cut her.

      And then, gradually, habit formed a protecting surface for his sensibilities. If he paid for each day’s comfort with the small change of his illusions, he grew daily to value the comfort more and set less store upon the coin. He had drifted into a dulling propinquity with Haskett and Varick and he took refuge in the cheap revenge of satirizing the situation. He even began to reckon up the advantages which accrued from it, to ask himself if it were not better to own a third of a wife who knew how to make a man happy than a whole one who had lacked opportunity to acquire the art. For it was an art, and made up, like all others, of concessions, eliminations and embellishments; of lights judiciously thrown and shadows skillfully softened. His wife knew exactly how to manage the lights, and he knew exactly to what training she owed her skill. He even tried to trace the source of his obligations, to discriminate between the influences which had combined to produce his domestic happiness: he perceived that Haskett’s commonness had made Alice worship good breeding, while Varick’s liberal construction of the marriage bond had taught her to value the conjugal virtues; so that he was directly indebted to his predecessors for the devotion which made his life easy if not inspiring.

      From this phase he passed into that of complete acceptance. He ceased to satirize himself because time dulled the irony of the situation and the joke lost its humor with its sting. Even the sight of Haskett’s hat on the hall table had ceased to touch the springs of epigram. The hat was often seen there now, for it had been decided that it was better for Lily’s father to visit her than for the little girl to go to his boarding-house. Waythorn, having acquiesced in this arrangement, had been surprised to find how little difference it made. Haskett was never obtrusive, and the few visitors who met him on the stairs were unaware of his identity. Waythorn did not know how often he saw Alice, but with himself Haskett was seldom in contact. ? One afternoon, however, he learned on entering that Lily’s father was waiting to see him. In the library he found Haskett occupying a chair in his usual provisional way. Waythorn always felt grateful to him for not leaning back. “I hope you’ll excuse me, Mr. Waythorn,” he said rising. “I wanted to see Mrs. Waythorn about Lily, and your man asked me to wait here till she came in.”

      “Of course,” said Waythorn, remembering that a sudden leak had that morning given over the drawing-room to the plumbers. ? He opened his cigar-case and held it out to his visitor, and Haskett’s acceptance seemed to mark a fresh stage in their intercourse. The spring evening was chilly, and Waythorn invited his guest to draw up his chair to the fire. He meant to find an excuse to leave Haskett in a moment; but he was tired and cold, and after all the little man no longer jarred on him. ? The two were inclosed in the intimacy of their blended cigar-smoke when the door opened and Varick walked into the room. Waythorn rose abruptly. It was the first time that Varick had come to the house, and the surprise of seeing him, combined with the singular inopportuneness of his arrival, gave a new edge to Waythorn’s blunted sensibilities. He stared at his visitor without speaking. ? Varick seemed too preoccupied to notice his host’s embarrassment.

      “My dear fellow,” he exclaimed in his most expansive tone, “I must apologize for tumbling in on you in this way, but I was too late to catch you down town, and so I thought -- “ He stopped short, catching sight of Haskett, and his sanguine color deepened to a flush which spread vividly under his scant blond hair. But in a moment he recovered himself and nodded slightly. Haskett returned the bow in silence, and Waythorn was still groping for speech when the footman came in carrying a tea-table.

      The intrusion offered a welcome vent to Waythorn’s nerves. “What the deuce are you bringing this here for?” he said sharply.

      “I beg your pardon, sir, but the plumbers are still in the drawing-room, and Mrs. Waythorn said she would have tea in the library.” The footman’s perfectly respectful tone implied a reflection on Waythorn’s reasonableness. ? “Oh, very well,” said the latter resignedly, and the footman proceeded to open the folding tea-table and set out its complicated appointments. While this interminable process continued the three men stood motionless, watching it with a fascinated stare, till Waythorn, to break the silence, said to Varick: “Won’t you have a cigar?” He held out the case he had just tendered to Haskett, and Varick helped himself with a smile. Waythorn looked about for a match, and finding none, proffered a light from his own cigar. Haskett, in the background, held his ground mildly, examining his cigar-tip now and then, and stepping forward at the right moment to knock its ashes into the fire. ? The footman at last withdrew, and Varick immediately began: “If I could just say half a word to you about this business ?C ”

      “Certainly,” stammered Waythorn; “in the dining-room -- ”? But as he placed his hand on the door it opened from without, and his wife appeared on the threshold.

      She came in fresh and smiling, in her street dress and hat, shedding a fragrance from the boa70 which she loosened in advancing. ? “Shall we have tea in here, dear?” she began; and then she caught sight of Varick. Her smile deepened, veiling a slight tremor of surprise. “Why, how do you do?” she said with a distinct note of pleasure.

      As she shook hands with Varick she saw Haskett standing behind him. Her smile faded for a moment, but she recalled it quickly, with a scarcely perceptible side-glance at Waythorn. ? “How do you do, Mr. Haskett?” she said, and shook hands with him a shade less cordially.

      The three men stood awkwardly before her, till Varick, always the most self-possessed, dashed into an explanatory phrase.

      “We - I had to see Waythorn a moment on business,” he stammered, brick-red from chin to nape.

      Haskett stepped forward with his air of mild obstinacy. “I am sorry to intrude; but you appointed five o’clock -- “ he directed his resigned glance to the time-piece on the mantel. ? She swept aside their embarrassment with a charming gesture of hospitality.

      “I’m so sorry - I’m always late; but the afternoon was so lovely.” She stood drawing her gloves off, propitiatory and graceful, diffusing about her a sense of ease and familiarity in which the situation lost its grotesqueness. “But before talking business,” she added brightly, “I’m sure every one wants a cup of tea.”

      She dropped into her low chair by the tea-table, and the two visitors, as if drawn by her smile, advanced to receive the cups she held out.

      She glanced about for Waythorn, and he took the third cup with a laugh.

      另外那两位

      一

      魏生独自一人站在客厅的火炉旁边,他在等着妻子下来一起共进晚餐。

      今晚是他们回到他自己家后的第一个晚上,魏生很惊奇自己竟然有这孩子般的兴奋。他一点也不老,妻子只对外人说自己有三十五岁了,而他看上去也就这样的年纪。但他自己却觉得自己已是人到中年。现在他正站在哪里,期待着等待听到妻子的脚步声,心中满怀着感触,这种感觉如果形容的话就像描述新婚的诗歌:洞房门外挂着鲜花一样绚丽夺目。他正如同这些鲜花一样期待着晚餐。

      他们刚刚从蜜月旅行回家,是提前回来,因为莉丽?赫斯克得(魏生夫人第一次婚姻所生的女儿)病重。由于尊重魏生的愿望,莉丽?赫斯克在她的生母结婚的那一日起已搬入父亲家来住。当魏生夫妻从蜜月旅行赶回家时,医生向他们详细告诉了她的病情,伤寒病,但不严重,对于一个那十二岁的身体来说,仍旧算是健康。孩子的护士也认为孩子的康复是有希望的。魏生夫人刚开始感到很忧虑,现在也放心了。她爱她的孩子,这种母爱也是当初吸引魏生的主要因素,使得她在他眼中更加可爱。她是个精神很稳定的女人,她的女儿也遗传了这一点,她不浪费精神去做无所谓的事情。此时魏生料想她一定在照料孩子入睡,将会迟一些下楼来吃饭,她会很平静地走进屋中,好似孩子健康的一样。她的平静带给他安宁,她是他过敏神经的镇定丸。魏生想象她在孩子睡着时吻着跟孩子晚安,那是个多么让人温暖的场景啊,尤其是对一个病人,她的这种举动简直是病愈的良药。

      魏生的生活是灰暗惨淡的,这主要是因为他的性格所造成的,而不是由于他的环境。他时常被被她愉快安详的性格所吸引,这种性格使她看起来永远充满活力,温和可亲,一般女人到了她这个年龄,在生活上就会懒散松懈,神智也走下坡路。当然他也听到一些关于她的传言,她在社交上时很受欢迎的,不过人们对她也有些轻微的议论。九、十年前,当她出现在纽约的社交场合上,她是格斯?梵吕克新发现的前赫斯克得太太,是他在匹斯科比城或在于笛卡的什么地方发现的。在社交上,她一出现即刻受到欢迎,可是社会对她作有宽量容人的态度,也有它刻薄的一面。人们打听倒她背景后,结论是确实是她与一世家有关联,还有她的离婚情况,说这是十七岁就嫁人的不良早婚的结果,并且没有任何人知道赫斯克得先生的底细,因此也容易听信关于这位先生并不是一位好丈夫类似的坏话。

      艾丽斯?赫斯克得与格斯?梵吕克的婚姻给了她社交护照,这正是她所急切渴求的。多年来她们是社交场合上最受欢迎的一对夫妇,不幸他们的婚姻很快的结束。对于他们的离婚,梵吕克有站在他一边的一群朋友,可他们竟然也承认梵吕克的性格太不适合做丈夫。梵吕克夫人对丈夫进行了离婚指控。在纽约打官司赢得离婚,这证明她在婚姻上无辜,这让离婚后她“半居孀”的情况让她的生活蒙上了尊严气氛,因此她向一些言行谨慎的人士们坦言婚姻状况并诉怨。可当她与魏生的婚事传出去时,社会上产生了一番舆论。她的好友们希望她维持一个被伤害的角色的样子,这样人们看她会更好一些,如同绸缎最适合粉红的肤色一样。她的再婚经过一番时间过程之后,人们不再应怀疑魏生过早的取代她前夫的原因。在另一反面,一般人听到婚事后都为魏生的婚事摇头,魏生却自我辩护着:我是睁开两只眼睛去走这条路,说明自己已经想明白了。但朋友却不赞成地回答:可是你是遮掩着两只耳朵去走这条路。

      魏生对这些闲话付之一笑,并不在意。用华尔街的话来说,他“无须考虑”这些闲话。他知道社会对离婚还不能完全接受,而在这之前,每个行使法权离了婚的女人只能靠自己去取得社会对她的认可。魏生对他妻子取得这种认可的能力抱有乐观的信心。同时他还兑现了对她的信任;在他们结婚前夕,她的朋友完全支持她的新婚。她却平静的去对待一切,她常常轻而易举的,不知不觉的对付生活中的困难,并且取得成功。每一次魏生回想当时的多虑就觉得是多么无谓。他很有远见的将自己寄托给一个感情比他丰富的配偶,他在此刻很自信地期待:当他妻子安置好孩子的睡眠后,她一定会泰然自若的地下楼来跟他一起共享晚餐。

      可是,当魏生夫人来到他面前时,她的样子表达的心绪并不是他所期望看到的,她穿着一身引人注目的茶会衣裙,她没有向以往一样微笑,魏生从未看到她如此忧虑的面目。

      “怎么啦?”他问:“是不是莉丽的情况不好?”

      “很好,我刚看过她,她睡了”,魏生夫人犹豫着。“但是有件很头疼的事!”

      他拉起她的手,感到他的手掌碰抵着一张纸。

      “信?”

      “是――赫斯克得先生写的――我的意思是指他的律师写的”。

      魏生显有不安。他放下妻子的手。

      “为什么?”

      “关于莉丽,你知道法庭――”

      “是,是。”他打断了她,很紧张。

      在纽约,没有人知道赫斯克得。他处于毫无名望的社交圈子,可是他的前妻却被拯救出来。魏生还有极少的几个朋友听说赫斯克得放弃了他在于迪卡城的事业,专门迁入纽约来接近他的小女儿。魏生追求他妻子的时后,他经常在门槛上遇到莉丽,她那粉红小脸蛋带着微笑正走出门去看她的爸爸。

      “对不起!”魏生夫人喃喃地说。

      他激动地说:“他究竟要什么?”

      “女儿,你知道她每周都要去看望她父亲一次。”

      “但是――他不能期望她现在也去看他,是吗?”

      “不,他听说她病了,他要来这里看她”

      “这里?”

      魏生夫人在他凝视下脸面了,他们即刻避免彼此的目光。

      “抱歉,他有这权力――因为你知道――”她把信递给他。

      魏生将身体后退一步,拒绝看信的内容。他站在那儿,用眼睛扫视着暗色灯光的房间。几分钟前,这房间还是充满了新婚的和睦气氛。

      “对不起”她又说,“莉丽可以搬出……”

      “不行,那不行。”他说的很急躁。

      “我也这么想”。

      她的嘴唇开始抖,他感到自己简直是个懦夫。

      “他当然可以来来”他说。“他哪一天来?”

      “明天”

      “好吧!明早带个信去。”

      男仆进来请她俩吃晚餐。

      魏生把头转向他的妻子。“过来――你一定很累了。这件事太头痛,但是试着把它忘掉吧!”他说,他将她的手拉挽过来,搭着自己手臂。“太好了,亲爱的,我一定要努力忘记这事。”她低声的答复。

      她的面容又开朗了,她走过桌上摆饰的花,在红色烛台间瞥见他。他也看到她的双唇犹豫地勾成一笑容。

      “生活太美好了”她说着,深深的叹息。

      他转向男仆。“请把香槟酒拿来,夫人累了。”

      马上,他们俩的双目在闪光的酒杯间相瞥,她的眼睛明亮的而安静。他觉得她已听从他的劝告,忘记了那件头疼的事。

      二

      第二天早上,魏生很早就下楼。赫斯克得要等到下午才来,可是魏生潜意识力想的尽早离开家。他准备整天都呆在外面,晚餐也不在家里吃,而该在俱乐部吃。当他关上家门时,想到在他重又开此扇门以前,会有一个男人来到自己的家里,而那个男人与他同样有进入这扇门的权力,这个想法令他充满一种生理上的反感。

      他是在下班时间赶上高峰时期,他觉得他被两层摇摆的乘客压挤着。在第八街,他对面的乘客被挤出下车了,另一乘客却立刻占据了这空隙。魏生向上一看,发现这位新挤上来的乘客是格斯?梵吕克。他们两人站的很近,他不可避免瞧见梵吕克那张英俊而满经风霜的脸,在对他带笑的招呼。又为什么不呢?他们一向关系不错,梵吕克离婚之后,魏生才开始与他的前妻接近。他们两人交换了惯常对挤车的抱怨。当魏生发现他们旁边出奇的有了空位,他本能的让他跟着梵吕克抢着坐下。

      梵吕克身材魁梧,他深深叹口气,“天――我开始觉得自己变成了一片压花”他向后靠了靠,然后漫不经心的望着魏生。“邵勒病了,我很担心!”

      “邵勒?”魏生重复着,听到他的伙伴的名字而感到惊讶。

      梵吕克也表示惊奇,“你不知道他犯脚气风湿?”

      “不知道,我不在家,我昨晚刚从外地回来。”他觉得自己脸发热,感到有些难堪,想到梵吕克会嘲笑自己。

      “啊――当然!邵勒两天前才生的病,情况很糟糕,我很担心,因为他正在帮我处理一件重要事务。”

      “是吗?”魏生开始悄悄的纳闷:自从哪一天开始,梵吕克也竟然会干些重要的事务?他一向在做一些低级的的投机活动,玩玩股票,魏生的公司一向不参与这些事。他不屑于参与。

      忽然他想起梵吕克也许只是随便谈谈,为了调节一下两人身体如此相近的尴尬事。他挪动身子,含糊地向梵吕克道歉。

      “希望邵勒不久会恢复!”他很有礼貌的回应。然后他又结结巴巴的说道:“如果我可以帮你的忙――”没有等他说完这句话,他已经被人拥上月台。

      在他的办公室里,他听到的消息邵勒确实是病了――并且已经有几星期都没有去上班。

      “对不起,事情就是这样,魏生先生”一个资格较老的职员和气而意味深长地说。“邵勒先生因为在这时加重你工作负担,很觉对不起你。”

      “嗯!没什么”魏生忙回答,他暗自高兴有了更多的工作。他也高兴,当下班以后,他回家以前,他还必须去看一下他们的合伙人。

      因为已经错过了吃中午饭的时间,他赶不及去他的俱乐部,只好在附近的餐馆用午饭,那个馆子已坐满客人。茶房急忙领着他去屋里面最后的一张桌子。在一片雪茄的缭绕烟雾中,他左右张望了一下,魏生看不清他邻近的座客们,但是在几尺以外,他却看到了梵吕克。幸而他们坐的距离不便说话,梵吕克也许没有看见他,他正朝另一方向看去,可是他们又碰在一起,这真是奇妙的事情。

      梵吕克很讲究生活,魏生忙乱的吃着午餐,心中十分羡慕梵吕克从容用餐的姿态。他看见梵吕克仔细的切开恰到适度的一片康百板特干酪,等到干酪被移去,他举起双层陶瓷壶,倒出他的双份咖啡。他满满的倒倾着,他的胳膊斜弯着,另一支带有指环、嫩白皮肤的手紧按着咖啡壶盖,然后伸出另一支手去拾放在肘下的白兰地酒瓶,倒满一酒杯,先吮了一口,然后将白兰地倒进咖啡杯。

      魏生出神的看着这一切。梵吕克正在想什么?是否只想着酒和咖啡的味道。早上两人的巧遇难道就没有留中一些印象?他的面部也看不出来。难道他的前妻已经彻底走出了他的生活了吗?早上遇到前妻的现任丈夫刚和前妻度过蜜月旅行归来,这对他仅仅是无关紧要的事情吗吗?正当魏生心中纳闷的时候,他忽然想到赫斯克得,赫斯克得有没有碰到过梵吕克,象梵吕克刚才碰见他那样呢?这是他感到一阵不安,便起身绕路走出餐厅,主要是为了避免梵吕克向他点头招呼带来的轻微尴尬。

      七点钟后魏生才回到家,他觉察男仆开门时用奇异的目光看着他。

      “莉丽小姐怎样?”他急忙问。

      “很好,先生,有一位绅士――”

      “叫巴鲁比平常晚半小时开饭”魏生打断了他的话,匆匆上楼去。

      他直接到了他的房间更衣,没去见他的妻子。当他下到客厅,妻子已坐在那里,穿过极为艳丽。看样子莉丽今天过得不错,医生晚上不必再来。

      吃晚饭时,魏生告诉她邵勒的病状和可能加重的病情,她关心的听着并劝他工作不要太过烦累,还问了女人爱问的日常琐事。她也告诉他莉丽这天的经过,医生和护士所说过的话,他某些朋友的电话慰问。她如此平静安宁。他恍然悟到她和他在一起会如此幸福,甚至于向他诉述极其琐碎的事也使得她孩子般的快乐。

      晚饭后他们俩进入书房,仆人进来后把咖啡和酒放在她面前的低茶几上,然后离去。她靠坐在他独身时用的黑皮沙发上,身穿一身粉红色衣裙,显出少女般的温柔丰姿。如果是一天前,这种对衬的景色会引他入迷,无法自拔。

      魏生转过身,故意细心的选了一支雪茄烟。

      “赫斯克得来过吗?”他问,背向着她。

      “哦,是的,他来过”

      “你没有看到他,是不?”

      她犹豫了一阵。“我让护士见了他。”

      就是这样,没有更多的问题。他转向她,点起一支火柴。无论如何,这件事情结束了,他不必再去想它,直到一星期后。她点头望他,面上闪着红晕,双眼带着微笑。

      “喝咖啡吧,亲爱的?”

      他靠着火炉台,看着她倒咖啡。在灯光下,她戴的手镯散发着光辉,一头柔发也更家富有光泽。她看起来是那么苗条,每一举止象水似的流动。在每个方面,她都做的和谐而自然。当他忘记赫斯克得时,魏生重又感到拥有她的幸福。这些和谐和自然都是属于他,这一双白嫩的手,灵活的举动,那淡棕色的头发,还有那双眼和唇。

      她放下咖啡壶,然后又拿起酒瓶,用量酒杯量了一下酒,然后倒酒入杯。

      魏生惊呼一声。

      “怎么啦?”她惊奇的说。

      “没事,不过我一向喝咖啡的时候不放白兰地酒。”

      “啊,我真糊涂”她叫道。

      他们两人的目光相对,她面上现出尴尬的神色。

      三

      过了十天,邵勒仍旧卧病在床,无法上班,他要求魏生进城路过他家一下。

      邵勒比他年长,现在脚上绑着一支纱布,脚高高的放着。当他看到魏生时,神色有几分慌张。

      “对不起,我亲爱的,我必须请你帮我解决一个棘手的难题。”

      邵勒说到这里时停住了说话,好象在考虑怎样去组织词句。魏生在一旁等着他说话的内容。“实际上,我病倒时,我正在为梵吕克处理一件困难事务。”

      “怎么回事!”魏生口气尽量使他感到自在。

      “是这样的,梵吕克在我生病前来看过我,他得到一点内幕消息,赚了一笔钱,大约十万元左右吧!他问我怎样处理这笔钱。我劝他要和范德林合股。”

      “哦!这样!”魏生当场叫道。他这道了到这件事的底细。这是一个极其诱人的投资,但还需要经过无数次谈判。他静静的听邵勒对这件事情的描述,等邵勒说完后,他又问:“你觉得我应该去见见梵吕克?”

      “糟糕,我现在不能去见他,我的医生很固执,他不让我出门,但是时间很紧迫,我不想给你填麻烦,可是我们公司里没有其他人人懂得这件事的操作。”

      魏生站着,一句话也不说,他一点也不关心梵吕克的投资,可是他要考虑自己公司的名声。他不能拒绝他的合伙人的要求。

      “好吧!”他说,“我来做这事。”

      下午,梵吕克接到魏生的电话,便到他的办公室。魏生在他的私人办公室等待,心中纳闷办公室对这次的会晤将有什么看法。他和魏生夫人的婚姻,报上已有登载,也详细报告魏生夫人的两次前婚。魏生可以预想当梵吕克进入办公司时,其他的职员也许会在背后暗笑。

      梵吕克的举止令人赞赏不已。他很随和但不失去尊严。魏生的风度相比之下就自叹不如。梵吕克在商业上没有经验,他们谈了相近一小时,魏生给他仔细解释投资的细节。

      “十分感激。”梵吕克站立起身。“我不习惯处理这么大数目,给我这么多钱去花,我振怕自己吃亏。”他微笑的说,魏生发现他笑容亲切。“也许几年前,我会为它将自己的灵魂卖出去!”

      听到这暗喻,魏生感到很惊愕。他曾听人说梵吕克与妻子分居的原因之一是经济困难。可是他相信梵吕克不是有意的说这句话。他说这句话只是想避免谈到令人难堪的话题。魏生也不愿显得自己无理。

      “我会尽力为你服务。”他说。“我觉得你的投资是对的。”

      “是的,我想这是一件大事,多亏了你――”梵吕克害羞的中断这句话。“我想现在这事已办定了,可是――”

      “如果在邵勒病好以前,有什么问题,我再和你约会。”魏生低声的说。在两人的言行之间,他认为自己表现的比梵吕克更落落大方,他为此感到非常自信。

      莉丽的病况很快好战,魏生也习惯了赫斯克得每周的探望。每次轮到探亲的那天,他就刻意躲避了,整天在外面度过,回来后他向妻子询问情况。他妻子回答:赫斯克得与护士在楼下谈话,因为在未渡过危险阶段以前,医生不准任何人去病房探问孩子。

      到了第二个星期,魏生又意识到到当天赫斯克得的来访得日子。可是等到他回家用晚餐时却忘记了这件事。莉丽数天后便过了危机,温度度也降低了。医生认为她已进入痊愈阶段,魏生自然也十分高兴,尤其是想到赫斯克得不会再来打扰他们。一天下午,他开锁回家,直冲到书房,也没看见走廊里挂放的一顶旧帽子。

      在书房里他发现一个看来极其腼腆的陌生人坐在一张椅子上的前沿,留着稀少的灰色胡子。这个陌生人可能是来调准钢琴的,或者是一个特别能干的修理人员临时被叫来修理家用机器。陌生人透过他金丝眼镜向魏生眨了一下眼,极其柔和问到:“您是魏生先生吗?我是莉丽的父亲。”

      魏生顿时感到不安,面带微红的答应了一声:“哦”,立刻又不说话了,因为他不想自己表现的太冒失。看着眼前的情形,他正在心里对比着他妻子为他描绘的赫斯克得的形象和眼前的这个现实的赫斯克得。从妻子口里听来的印象,他以为赫斯克得是个粗鲁的人。

      “对不起,这样打扰您” 赫斯克得坦荡有礼。

      “不要这样说。”魏生答道,设法镇定自己。“护士知道您来了吗?”

      “是吧!我在等,”他说。他说话很谦让,好象他已经满经风霜,所有的抵抗都已经被剥去了。

      魏生站在门槛上,紧张的脱下手套。

      “不好意思,耽误了你,我去叫护士。”他说。他去开门时又很勉强加了一句:“我很高兴我们可以向你说些关于莉丽康复的好消息。”他畏缩的说着“我们”两个字,赫斯克得对这个却完全没有察觉到。

      “谢谢你,魏生先生,我也很紧张。”

      “哦,一切都会好起来的。她不久便可以去看你。”魏生点点头,便离开了房间。

      在他自己的屋子里,他呻吟的坐下。他恨敏感,这让他对生命上的奇怪遭遇感到特别痛苦。他和妻子结婚时,他全了解她两位前夫都健在。生活在摩登式社会交际场合中,与这两位前夫的邂遇机会只有千分之一。可是他觉得他和赫斯克得的遇见令他失去安宁,好象忘记了,法律已经除掉他们相遇的障碍。

      魏生跳起来,在房间踱步,他和梵吕克两次的会见没给于他现在所感到的一半困恼。赫斯克得来到他的房子是极难令人接受的事实。他静立着,听见屋外走廊里的脚步声。

      “这边走!”他听见护士说。赫斯克得被引上楼来,这样,他更是被禁闭于自己室内,不便走出自己门外。他又重新坐下,无目的向前凝视。他的柜上放着一张艾丽斯的照片。这张照片还是他们初遇时拍摄的。她那时是艾丽斯?梵吕克――他曾经是多么甜蜜柔情地渴望她。她颈上带着梵吕克赠送她的珍珠项链。魏生坚持她退还这项链给梵吕克。赫斯克得曾经给过她什么礼物?这些礼物又放在哪里?他纳闷着,他发现他一点也不熟悉赫斯克得的过去和现状,但从这人的外表和现状可准确的臆测到艾丽斯第一次婚姻的情况。他惊奇着她生命中有一段日子是和他想象的她完全异样。梵吕克,不论他有什么缺点,从传统观念或世俗来讲,是一位绅士。在这时刻,这一点对魏生很重要。他和梵吕克有共同语言,同样的社交习惯,理解同样的暗喻,可是这另一个人――赫斯克得,魏生荒谬地特别觉察到他戴一条假领带,用橡皮圈套住。为什么这无聊的细节能够代表整个人?魏生为自己的卑琐感到烦恼,可是这领带的重要性在他脑中扩大,逼迫他去思想,是否这一点就是艾丽斯过去历史的关键线索。他可想象赫斯克得夫人,坐在“前屋客厅”,家俱装饰着软缎子,放着一架小钢琴和一本“卞?赫”。小说放在中间茶几上。他看到她与她丈夫去剧院看戏,或者甚至于去一个教堂晚会,她头戴一顶“时髦帽”,他身穿一件黑色上衣,有些皱,戴的是用橡皮圈套住的假领带。他们在返家的路途上,停望灯亮的店窗,恋恋不舍地观赏纽约女演员的相片。星期日下午赫斯克得与她去散步,推着莉丽坐卧的白色搪瓷小车。魏生在脑海中看到他们遇见的一些路人和停留着与路人交谈的情景。他想到艾丽斯看去将是多么可爱,穿着一件经过巧妙仿制的纽约时装画报所载的衣服样式。她是多么藐视身边的妇女,憎厌她的生活,暗自感到她在社会上应该有更高的地位。

      在这一刻,令他最惊叹的是她怎样的脱离了她与赫斯克得的夫妻生活所意味的一切,好似她的整幅面貌,每一举动,声调暗示,都是在精心地去否定她从前的生活。她完全抹杀了作为赫斯克得太太的旧我,就是她现在否认曾跟他结过婚,也不会更象是双重人格了。

      魏生惊奇的站起身来,怀疑自己作这一番分析的动机。他没有权利去伪造自己妻子的形象和如此的判断她。她婉和地暗示过,也曾提起过自己第一次婚姻的不幸,赫斯克得毁坏了自己年轻的幻想……。从赫斯克得的畏缩不侵犯人的行态可探索出艾丽斯曾经有过的幻想,这发觉很不幸的扰乱了魏生的安宁。一个男人情愿相信他妻子曾经受过前夫的虐待,而不是相反的事实。

      四

      “魏生先生,我不喜欢莉丽的法国保姆”。

      在书房内,赫斯克得抱着歉意,规规矩矩地站在魏生面前,不停的转着手里的一顶旧帽。

      魏生坐在扶手沙发内正在看报,听到这句话,吃惊的呆望着来访者。

      “请原谅我要求来看你,”赫斯克得继续说着。“可是这是我最后一次来访,我想我可以和你谈谈,这比写信给魏生夫人的律师要方便些”。

      魏生不安的立起身,他也不喜欢那位法国保姆,可是这不相干。

      “我不清楚。”他呆板的答复:“不过如果你愿意,我将把这意思传给――我妻子。”他和赫斯克得说话时总是在“我妻子”这“所有”的代词上踌躇。

      赫斯克得叹了一口气。“我不知道那样做法是否能解决问题。当我告诉她时,她并不高兴。”

      魏生面色转红。“你什么时候见到她?”

      “第一次到这里时,以后再没见到。我当时便告诉了她我不喜欢这个法国保姆。”

      魏生没有回答。她记得很清楚,他曾问过他妻子关于赫斯克得的第一次来访。他也曾问过她是不是也见到她前夫,她欺骗了他,可是她以后却遵守了她丈夫的愿望。这件事也反映了他妻子的性格。如果她能够猜想到魏生的愿望,她第一次便不会与前夫见面;她不会自动的想到魏生的愿望,比起她对他的欺骗,更令他感到失望。

      “我不喜欢那女人,”赫斯克得轻轻地坚持。“她不正直,魏生先生,她会教坏了孩子。我觉察出孩子开始变了,她力求讨人欢心,也不诚实。她本来是最直爽的孩子。魏生先生――”他中断了言语,他喉咙有些低沉。“当然我并不是不要她有一个优良的教育。”他结束他的话。

      魏生被感动了。“对不起,坦白地说,赫斯克得先生,我不能帮助你。”

      赫斯克得踌躇了一下,他将帽子放在桌子上,走到火炉旁的地毯上,走近魏生所站立的地方。他在礼貌上没有冲撞,可是却有着胆小者去追求既定目的的庄严。

      “有一件事你可做,魏生先生,”他说。“你可以提醒魏生夫人,法庭曾经判定我也有权教管孩子。”他停了一下,然后有些烦恼的继续说:“我并不是要强行行使我的权利,魏生先生,一个人得不到自己的权利时,谈不上如何行使,可是关于孩子,我从没有放弃这权利的意思。”

      这件事使魏生大为震动。他很惭愧,在各方面,他都发觉赫斯克得这个人不错。这是一个弱小的人,为了靠近他女儿,卖去他在于迪卡城很赚钱的一份小生意。现在他在纽约一个制造公司做小职员,住在一条小街上,也没有多少朋友,他对莉丽的爱占满了他整个生命。当魏生掘发赫斯克得的底细时,他好似提了一盏灯搜索着他妻子的过去。他发觉这盏灯不能照亮的阴影,他从未追究他妻子是怎样与她前夫分裂的。在表面上,好象一切是公平合理的。是她要求离婚,法庭也判定孩子归于她。可是魏生明白法庭判案的经过中会牵扯多少不分明的因素呀!赫斯克得赢得管教女儿的权利便说明这是一折衷办法。魏生是个理想主义者,他常常拒绝承认有令人不愉快的一面,直到他无法去避免它,然后他会看到一些不良的效果。为这件事,他一直感到不安宁,他决定面对他的妻子摊出真相。

      当他在妻子面前重复赫斯克得的要求时,他妻子顿时感到恼怒,可是她立刻忍下去,“这个,他不象是个绅士。”她颤抖的口音显示她是一个被触犯的因素。

      这句话也冒冲了魏生:“不是这样说,这是他的权利。”

      她喃喃说:“他对莉丽毫无帮助。”

      魏生面红了,他更感到他妻子的不对。“问题是,”他重复着,“他对孩子的权利”

      她垂下头,不安的在椅子上转动身体。“我愿意见他,只是我以为你反对。”她失声的说。

      一霎那间,他明白了他妻子对前夫的权利是清楚的,也许这不是第一次她想抵制她前夫。

      “我的反对与这事无关。”他冷冷的说:“如果赫斯克得有权利过问他的孩子,你必须和他商量。”

      她的眼泪流出来,他知道她希望他认为她是一个受害者。

      赫斯克得并没有滥用她的权利,魏生很难堪的这样相信。法国保姆就此被解雇,弱小的赫斯克得也不时要求与艾丽丝面谈。经过第一次的不快,她也逐渐适应了这不可避免的处境,她一向有这适应能力,魏生曾经以为赫斯克得是一个钢琴调准者,魏生夫人不久也将赫斯克得归纳到那类似的地位,认为是家中常来的服务人员。魏生却尊敬一个做父亲的恒心。首先,他曾经多心的怀疑过赫斯克得有什么不良的动机,对他这家庭有谋求。可是他心底里明白赫斯克得的专一。他猜测赫斯克得也许有些瞧不起与他这种地位的家庭来往所带来的利益。赫斯克得的意志专一使他不可战胜,他必须接受赫斯克得常常出现他家的必要,好似是他财产事业的一部分。

      邵勒先生去欧洲养病了,梵吕克的事务便掉在魏生手里,由于这方面谈判的复杂性,他们两人必须不时面谈。为了照顾公司的利益,魏生也不能建议梵吕克将事务转到别家公司。

      梵吕克在事情过程上表现得很好,可是当情况松懈的时刻,他粗率的一面也露出来,魏生很不喜欢他对自己的亲切,但是在办公室内,他一向用词准确,头脑清醒,并尊敬魏生的判断见解。他们的公事关系如此平稳的建立起,他们的社交关系也不可避免了。他们第一次坐在客厅时,梵吕克很自在的随便谈话,女主人感激的目光逼视魏生,是他不得不应酬这场合,以后他们常遇见,有一晚在舞宴上,魏生漫步转入舞堂的内室,发现梵吕克坐在他妻子身旁,她看到他,即刻面红,说话也不自在,梵吕克向他点头招呼,并没有站起来,魏生也没有止步。

      在归途的马车上,他紧张的问道:“我不知道你与梵吕克先生也谈过话。”

      她的声音有些颤动,“这是头一次――他碰巧站在我旁边。我不知道怎么好,很尴尬呢,到处碰到他,你对他的事务很热心。”

      “那是另一回事”。魏生说。

      她停顿了一下。“我要遵守你的愿望”她软柔的回答。“我认为如果遇见他,与他交谈可以减少彼此的难堪。”

      她的随和开始使他感到不悦,难道她没有自己的愿望吗!难道她对这些男人没有自己的看法?她接待了赫斯克得――她是否也将接待梵吕克。她说“减少彼此的难堪”,她的潜意识便是逃避困难,绕道逃避困难,魏生忽然很兴奋的发现这种潜意识的来源。她如同一双旧鞋一样随和许多人穿过的旧鞋。她的伸缩性是因为各方面都有拉力。艾丽斯?赫斯克得――艾丽斯?梵吕克――艾丽斯?魏生――她轮流都任过,每一任都剥去一点她的个人生活,她的性格,她的内心――那里有不知名的主宰。

      “是的――最好还是跟梵吕克说话。”魏生疲倦地说。

      五

      仍旧是冬天,社交圈子很感激魏生能够从容大方的去接受梵吕克,这样解决了许多做女主人的困难。魏生夫人被大家认为是一个好榜样,有些人甚至好奇地将他们三人请到一处宴会,他们认为这种局面特别新鲜有趣。魏生夫人一直保持她的优美姿态,她不故意和梵吕克谈话,也不避免他。魏生也不得不承认,她对这个社交新难题找到了解决方式。

      当他与她结婚时,她没有考虑过这社交问题,他以为一个女人可以脱离过去如同男人一样容易。可是他看到艾丽斯仍被她的过去纠缠,一来是形势造就,二来也是由于过去在她性格上留下的痕迹。魏生以严酷的嘲讽,自比是一个拥有他的妻子的合股公司的股东之一,他妻子的前夫们也是这公司的股东。如果在料理公司事务上有些感情成份,他也许不会感到如此堕落,可是艾丽斯更换丈夫好象天气的变化那样自然,使得这整个情况变的很庸俗。他可以原谅艾丽斯的错误,言行过份,或是为抵制赫斯克得,或是为将就梵吕克,他可以原谅她任何行为,可是他不能原谅她现在的默许和巧妙敷衍的手腕。她使他联想到变戏法者轮流抛丢的刀剑,这些刀剑是迟钝的,不可能伤害她。

      逐渐的,习惯为他的敏感筑起了一个保护层。为了获得每日的安宁,他付出的代价是他逐渐消失的理想。他日渐珍贵他的安宁,他的理想价值也日渐减低。他与赫斯克得和梵吕克混在一起的枯燥无聊,使他不时用讽刺幽默来为自己作廉价的报复。他甚至于承认现有情况的好处。他自问,仅能占有一个会讨好丈夫的妻子的三分之一,比一个完整但没有机会学会讨好本领的妻子,难道不强一些吗?怎样使丈夫幸福是一个艺术,如同其它艺术一样,它是要经过妥协,淘汰和装饰,要配有合适的光泽和巧妙的柔化阴影。他的妻子懂得怎样去设计舞台灯光,他也清楚她是从什么地方学来的。他甚至于仔细去追溯他幸福之源泉,去分辨各方面的影响如何形成他今日家庭的幸福。他了解赫斯克得的平凡使得艾丽斯崇拜优越的出身,梵吕克的自由作风使她学到珍惜夫妇间的贞操,因此必得归功于她的两位前夫,他今天的婚姻生活如此安逸,虽然有些乏味。

      从此他完全接受了他的婚姻,他也停止讽刺自己,因为时间磨淡了情况的荒诞,笑柄也失去了幽默的刺。当他看到赫斯克得的帽子放在走廊上,也不会带给他创作讽刺短诗的灵感。他常常看到那顶帽子,因为现在决定父亲来看访女儿比女儿到父亲租住的一间房屋要方便。魏生同意这安排,还惊奇地发现这新安排并没带来麻烦。赫斯克得从来不干扰人,也没有多少来访者猜出他到底是谁。魏生不知道他见过艾丽斯没有,他自己却很少和赫斯克得见面。

      一天下午,他从外回家,仆人通知他莉丽的父亲等着见他。在书房内,赫斯克得坐在椅子的前一半,魏生很高兴他没靠着椅背坐。

      “原谅我,魏生先生,”他站起来,“我为莉丽的事想找魏生夫人,你的仆人让我到这里来坐。”

      “是的,是的,”魏生说,他记起客厅漏水,正有人来修理。

      他打开雪茄烟匣,递给客人,赫斯克得也接受了一支雪茄烟,因此他们的关系进入了新阶段。春天的夜晚有些凉,魏生邀请他的来宾坐近火炉。他原想找个借口离弃他的客人,可是他又累又冷,并且赫斯克得已经不再令他感到不自在。

      他们两个人坐在一起,两个人的烟雾也混合在一起。突然,门打开了,梵吕克走进来。魏生立刻起立,这是第一次梵吕克到家来。这位不速之客碰巧这个时候来访,又摩擦到魏生的已稍迟钝的敏感。他凝视着新客人,一时说不出话。

      梵吕克因为满怀心事,也没注意到主人的难堪。

      “亲爱的朋友们!”他用他的大嗓子叫着,“我请你原谅我的莽撞,我在城里找你已太迟了,因此我以为――”

      他停止了,忽然看到赫斯克得,他本来充满血色的脸,更加转红,这红色弥漫在他稀疏的金黄头发以下,可是他又即刻镇定了自己,稍向另外的来宾点头。赫斯克得也安静的回礼,当魏生仍是不知所措,男仆送来茶点。

      男仆的来临给予了魏生紧张神经一条出路。“你为什么送茶进来?”他尖锐地说。

      “对不起,老爷,装修水管的人仍旧在客厅,魏生夫人叫我送到这屋里来,她说她到这里来用茶。”男仆毕恭毕敬,反衬出魏生的不通情达理。

      “哦,好吧!”他无能为力地说,男仆开始打开折叠茶桌,摆上茶具。男仆正在进行准备待茶,他们三人都痴呆地坐在一旁,着了迷似的凝视着男仆的举动。直到魏生打破了沉寂,他问梵吕克:“你要支雪茄烟吗?”

      他递过雪茄烟盒,如同方才递给赫斯克得一样,梵吕克微笑着选择了一支。魏生找着火柴,找不到时,他将自己的烟递去给梵吕克。赫斯克得安静地站在背后,不时审看自己手上的烟头,到适当的一刻,他走上前将烟灰撒入火炉。

      男仆终于退出,梵吕克立刻说:“我可以与你谈谈吗?”

      “自然,”魏生结结巴巴地回答:“到饭厅去吧!”

      可是他正要去开门时,门从外面被打开了,他的妻子出现在门槛上。她带着微笑走入屋来,穿着上街的衣帽,带进来一阵刚才脱掉的皮巾上的馨香。

      “我们在这里用茶吧,亲爱的。”她开始说,然后她瞥见梵吕克,她的笑容更深,企图掩盖感到的震惊。

      “哦,你好?”她说,声音里流露出兴奋。

      当她与梵吕克握手时,她看到赫斯克得站在身后。她的微笑消失了,可是她又立刻镇定自己,暗暗地向赫斯克得斜瞥。“你好,赫斯克得先生?”她说,也与他稍敷衍地握了手。

      这三个人尴尬地站在她身旁,直到梵吕克,最镇定的一个,开始了他的一番解释。

      “我们――我必须来找魏生谈谈公事。”他口吃地说,从下巴红到颈后。

      赫斯克得也走上前,用他斯文而坚持的态度说:“对不起,打扰了,可是你约好五点钟――”他把无可奈何的眼光投向火炉台上的种。

      她极其妩媚地招待大家,立刻使他们驱走了先前的那种不安。

      “对不起――我时常迟到,可是下午是这么明媚。”她说着,敏捷文雅地退脱她的手套,她雍容又平易的作风,散弥了整个屋子,也松懈了僵局。“在谈公事之前,”她轻快地说:“我想大家喝杯茶吧!”

      她坐在茶几旁的低矮沙发上,两位访客也被她的微笑吸引,前来接过茶杯,她回头去找魏生,他接过第三杯茶,笑出声来。

      作品点评

      伊迪斯?沃尔顿的《另外那两位》描写了一个结过三次婚的女人魏生,在一次很巧合的情况下,她的两位前夫都不约而同的来到她的家里,当时她现任的丈夫魏生先生也在场,这时一个非常尴尬的场面。可是她却巧妙应对,举止大方。最后她的丈夫突然发现,她无论是做谁的妻子都是在扮演一种角色,做妻子无非只是她生活中的一个角色而已。

      沃尔顿用这个故事巧妙的于是了她所处的时代女性文学中提出来的家庭主妇的“自我”问题。

      威廉姆?福克纳 (William Faulkner)

      威廉?福克纳(1897―1962),生于1897年9月25日,出身名门望族,全名威廉?卡斯伯特?福克纳。福克纳是公认的美国南方文学的领袖, 南方文艺复兴最重要的代表。他的作品反映了南方社会200 年的历史变迁、各阶层人物的命运沉浮,揭示了社会转型期的矛盾和冲突,被称为南方社会的“百科全书”。

      福克纳一生著述甚丰,共创作出了19部长篇小说和75部短篇小说。代表作有《八月之光》、《我弥留之际》、《押沙龙,押沙龙》等小说。绝大多数故事都发生在约克纳帕塔法县,称为约克纳帕塔法世系。其主要脉络是这个县杰弗逊镇及其郊区的属于不同社会阶层的若干个家族的几代人的故事,时间从1800年起直到第二次世界大战以后。世系中共600多个有名有姓的人物在各个长篇、短篇小说中穿插交替出现。其中最有代表性的作品是《喧哗与骚动》。
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