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茶花女-第17章

时间:2010-07-16 10:07    来源:    作者: 点击:
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THE next day, Marguerite sent me away punctually, saying that the Duke was expected early that morning, and promising to write the moment he left to let me know where we should meet in the evening.

Accordingly, during the day, I received this note:

'Am going to Bougival with the Duke. Be at Prudence's this evening at eight.'

At the appointed time, Marguerite was back and she came to meet me at Madame Duvernoy's.

'Well, it's all arranged, ' she said as she came in.

'The house is taken?' asked Prudence.

'Yes. He agreed at once.'

I did not know the Duke, but I was ashamed to be deceiving him like this.

'But that's not all, ' Marguerite went on.

'There's more?'

'I was worried about where Armand could stay.'

'Not in the same house?' asked Prudence with a laugh.

'No, at the Point du Jour, where the Duke and I had lunch. While he was looking at the view, I asked Madame Arnould ?she is called Madame Arnould, isn't she? I asked her if she had any suitable apartments. And she has one, with a drawing-room, a reception room and a bedroom. That's all we need, I'd say. Sixty francs a month. The whole place furnished in a manner that would take a hypochondriac's mind off his ailments. I took it. Did I do well?'

I flung my arms around Marguerite's neck.

'It'll be lovely, ' she went on. 'You'll have a key to the side door, and I promised the Duke that he shall have a key to the main gate which he won't take since he'll only ever come during the day when he comes at all. Between ourselves, I think he's delighted by this whim of mine, for it'll get me out of Paris for a while and help to shut his family up. Even so, he did ask how it was that I, who love Paris so much, could make up my mind to bury myself in the country. I told him I wasn't well and this way I could rest. He didn't seem to believe me altogether. The poor old thing always seems to have his back against a wall. So we will be very careful, dear Armand, because he'll have me watched there. And he's not done with just renting a house for me: he's also going to have to pay my debts and, unfortunately, I've a few of those. Is all this all right with you?'

'Yes, ' I replied, trying to silence the scruples which this kind of life a wakened from time to time.

'We went over the house from top to bottom, and it will be just perfect for us. The Duke fussed over everything. Ah, my dear, ' she added, kissing me like a mad thing, 'you can't complain, you've got a millionaire to make you bed for you.'

'And when are you thinking of moving down there?' asked Prudence.

'As soon as possible.'

'Will you be taking your carriage and the horses?'

'I shall be taking everything. You can look after the apartment while I'm away.'

A week later, Marguerite had taken possession of the house in the country and I was installed at the Point du Jour.

And so began a life which I could hardly attempt to describe to you.

In the early days of her stay at Bougival, Marguerite was unable to make a complete break with her old ways and, since the house was always in a party mood, all her girlfriends came down to see her. A month went by without a single day when Marguerite did not have eight or ten people sitting round her table. For her part, Prudence invited along everybody she knew and did all the honours of the house, as though the place belonged to her.

The Duke's money paid for it all, as you will have gathered, yet even so Prudence was apt to ask me, from time to time, for the odd thousand- franc note, saying that it was for Marguerite. As you know, I had won some money at the gaming table. So I promptly handed over to Prudence what Marguerite, through her, had asked me for, and, fearing that she might need more than I had, I travelled up to Paris where I borrowed the equivalent of the sum of money which I had borrowed before and had repaid in full.

I thus found myself rich once more to the tune of ten thousand francs or so, in addition to my allowance.

However, the pleasure Marguerite derived from playing host to her women friends slackened off somewhat in view of the expense it involved, and especially in view of the fact that she was on occasion forced to ask me for money. The Duke, who had leased the house so that Marguerite could rest, stopped coming altogether, fearing as always that he would run into a large and high- spirited gathering of people by whom he had no wish to be seen. The reason largely for this was that, turning up one day for a private dinner with Marguerite, he had wandered into the middle of a luncheon party for fifteen which was still going on at a time when he had imagined he would be sitting down to his dinner. When, all unsuspecting, he had opened the dining-room door, his entrance had been greeted by a burst of laughter, and he had been obliged to withdraw hurriedly in the face of the withering glee of the girls who were there.

Marguerite had left the table, caught up with the Duke in the next room and had done everything she could to make him overlook the incident. But the old man's pride had been wounded, and he had taken umbrage: he had told the poor girl quite cruelly that he was tired of footing the bill for the follies of a woman who could not even ensure that he was respected under her roof, and he had left very angry.

From that day on, we heard nothing more of him. Marguerite sent her guests away and changed her ways, but it did no good: the Duke did not contact her thereafter. I had gained thereby, for my mistress now belonged to me more completely, and my dream was at last coming true. Marguerite could no longer live without me. Without worrying her head about the consequence, she flaunted our affair publicly, and I reached the point where I never left her house. The servants called me ' sir' and regarded me officially as their master.

Of course, Prudence had lectured Marguerite about her new life very sternly, but Marguerite had replied that she loved me, could not live without me and, however it all turned out, would not forgo the joy of having me constantly at her side. And she added that anyone who did not like it was perfectly free to stay away.

I had heard this for myself one day when Prudence told Marguerite that she had something very important to say to her, and I had listened at the door of the bedroom in which they had closeted themselves.

Some days later, Prudence came down to see us again.

I was at the bottom of the garden when she arrived. She did not see me. Judging by the way Marguerite had gone to meet her, I suspected that another conversation like the one I had already overheard was about to take place, and I was no less anxious to hear what was said.

The two women shut themselves in a parlour and I took up my position.

'Well?' asked Marguerite.

'Well now, I saw the Duke.'

'What did he say?'

'He said he was quite ready to forgive that first scene, but he'd found out that you were living openly with Monsieur Armand Duval. He couldn't forgive that.' "If Marguerite leaves this young man," he told me, "I'll give her anything she wants, as in the past. If she doesn't, she can stop asking me for anything."'

'What did you say to that?'

'I said I'd pass on his decision, and I promised I'd make you see sense. Just think, dear girl, of the niche you'll be losing. Armand will never be able to make it up to you. He loves you with all his soul, but he doesn't have the money to pay for everything you need, and some day he's bound to leave you ?when it'll be too late, and the Duke won't want to lend any more helping hands. Do you want me to speak to Armand?'

Marguerite seemed to be thinking, for she did not reply. My heart beat violently as I waited for her answer.

'No, ' she resumed, 'I shall not leave Armand, and I shan't hide myself away so that I can go on living with him. Madness it may be, but I love him, there it is! And anyway, he's got into the habit of loving me without anything standing in his way. It would be much too painful for him to have to leave me for even an hour a day. Besides, I haven't got so much time to live that I can afford to make myself miserable just to please an old man: the very sight of him makes me feel old. Let him keep his money. I'll manage without.'

'But what will you do?'

'I have no idea.'

Prudence was probably about to reply to this, but I burst in, ran across to Marguerite and threw myself at her feet, covering her hands with the tears which the joy of being loved made me shed.

'My life is yours, Marguerite, You don't need this man: am I not here? How could I ever desert you? How could I ever repay the happiness you give me? Away with all constraints, dearest Marguerite! We love each other! What does the rest matter?'

'Oh yes! I do love you, my Armand!' she murmured, circling my neck with both arms, 'I love you as I never believed I could love anybody. We will be happy, we'll live in peace, and I'll say goodbye forever to the old life I'm so ashamed of now. You'll never hold my past against me, will you?'

The tears dimmed my voice. The only answer I could give was to clasp Marguerite to my heart.

'Come, ' she said, turning to Prudence, her voice tinged with emotion, 'you can go and report this scene to the Duke and, while you're at it, tell him we don't need him.'

From that day on, the Duke was never mentioned again. Marguerite was no longer the girl I had met. She avoided anything which might have reminded me of the life she had been leading when I first made her acquaintance. Never did wife or sister show husband or brother such love, such consideration as she showed me. Her state of health left her open to sensation, and made her vulnerable to her feelings. She had broken with her women friends just as she had broken with her old ways; she controlled her language just as she curbed the old extravagance. Had you observed us leave the house for an outing in a delightful little boat I had bought, you would never have thought that this woman in a white dress, wearing a large straw hat and carrying on her arm a simple fur-lined silk coat which would protect her against the chill of the water, was the same Marguerite Gautier who, four months before, had attracted such attention with her extravagant ways and scandalous conduct.

Alas! we made haste to be happy, as though we had sensed that we should not be happy for long.

We had not set foot in Paris for two months. No one had come down to see us, except Prudence and the same Julie Duprat whom I have already mentioned as the person in whose keeping Marguerite would later place the moving story now in my possession.

I spent whole days at my mistress's feet. We would open the windows overlooking the garden and, as we watched the bright summer swoop down and open the flowers and settle under the trees, we would sit side by side and drink in this real, live world which neither Marguerite nor I had understood before.

She reacted with childish wonder to the most trivial things. There were days when she ran round the garden, like a girl of ten, chasing a butterfly or a dragonfly. This courtesan, who had made men spend more on flowers than would be needed to enable a whole family to live without a care, would sometimes sit on the lawn for an hour on end, examining the simple flower whose name she bore.

It was at this time that she read Manon Lescaut so frequently. Many a time, I caught her writing in the margin of the book. And she always said that if a woman is truly in love, then that woman could never do what Manon did.

The Duke wrote to her two or three times. She recognized his writing and gave me his letters unread.

On occasions, the wording of his letters brought tears to my eyes.

He had thought that, by closing his purse to Marguerite, he could make her go back to him. But when he saw how ineffective his stratagem was, he was unable to carry it through. He had written, again asking her, as he had asked in the past, to allow him back to the fold, whatever conditions she chose to set for his return.

I thus had read his pressing, repeated letters and had torn them up, without telling Marguerite what they said or advising her to see the old man again? though a feeling of pity for the poor man's unhappiness did tempt me to do so. But I was afraid that she would see in my urging no more than a wish on my part to see the Duke resume his old visits, and thereby to see him assume responsibility once more for the household expenses. And above all, I feared that she would conclude that her love for me might lead to situations in which I would be capable of repudiating my responsibilities for her existence.

The outcome was that the Duke, continuing to receive no answer, eventually stopped writing, and Marguerite and I continued our life together without a thought for the future.
第二天,玛格丽特很早就打发我走了,她对我说公爵一大早就要来,并答应我公爵一离开就写信通知我像每天晚上那样都要相会的时间和地点。

果然,我在白天就收到了这封信。

我和公爵一起到布吉瓦尔去了;晚上八点到普律当丝家里等我。

玛格丽特准时回来了,并到迪韦尔诺瓦太太家里来会我。

“行啦,一切都安排好了,”她进来的时候说。

“房子租下来了吗?”普律当丝问道。

“租下来了,一说他就同意了。”

我不认识公爵,但是像我这样欺骗他,我感到羞耻。

“不过还没有完哪!”玛格丽特又说。

“还有什么事?”

“我在考虑阿尔芒的住处。”

“不是跟您住在一起吗?”普律当丝笑着问道。

“不,他住在我和公爵一起吃午饭的曙光饭店里。在公爵观赏风景的时候,我问阿尔努太太,她不是叫阿尔努太太吗?我问她有没有合适的房间可供出租,她正好有一套,包括客厅、会客室和卧室。我想,这样就什么都不缺了,六十法郎一个月,房间里的陈设即使一个生忧郁病的人看了也会高兴起来的。我租下了这套房间,我干得好吗?”

我紧紧拥抱玛格丽特。

“这真太妙了,”她继续说,“您拿着小门上的钥匙,我答应把栅栏门的钥匙给公爵,不过他不会要的,因为他即使来也只是在白天。说实在的,我想他对我突然要离开巴黎一段时间的想法一定觉得很高兴,这样也可以使他家里少说些闲话。但是他问我,我这么热爱巴黎,怎么会决定隐居到乡下去的。我告诉他说,因为我身体不好,要到乡下去休养,他似乎不太相信我的话。这个可怜的老头儿经常听到有人说闲话,所以我们要多加小心,我亲爱的阿尔芒。因为他会派人在那儿监视我的,我不单要他为我租一座房子,我还要他替我还债呢,因为倒霉得很,我还欠着一些债。您看这样安排对您合适吗?”

“合适,”我回答说,我对这样的生活安排总觉得不是滋味,但我忍住不说出来。

“我们仔仔细细地参观了这座房子,将来我们住在那里一定非常称心。公爵样样都想到了。啊!亲爱的,”她快乐得像疯了似的搂住我说,“您真福气,有一个百万富翁为您铺床呢。”

“那您什么时候搬过去?”普律当丝问。

“越早越好。”

“您把车马也带去吗?”

“我把家里的东西全都搬去,我不在家时您替我看家。”

一星期以后,玛格丽特搬进了乡下那座房子,我就住在曙光饭店。

从此便开始了一段我很难向您描述的生活。

刚在布吉瓦尔住下的时候,玛格丽特还不能完全丢掉旧习惯,她家里天天像过节一样,所有的女朋友都来看她,在整整一个月里面,每天总有十来个人在玛格丽特家里吃饭,普律当丝也把她的相识全带来了,还请他们参观房子,就像房子是她自己的一样。

就像您想象的一样,所有的开销都是公爵支付的,然而普律当丝却不时以玛格丽特的名义向我要一张一千法郎的钞票。您知道我赌钱时赢了一些,我急忙把玛格丽特托她向我要的钱交给她,还生怕我的钱不够她的需要,于是我就到巴黎去借了一笔钱,数目和我过去曾经借过的相同,当然过去那笔钱我早已及时如数还清了。

于是我身边又有了一万左右法郎,我的津贴费还不算在内。

玛格丽特招待朋友的兴致稍稍有点低落,因为这种消遣开支巨大,尤其是因为有时还不得不向我要钱。公爵把这座房子租下来给玛格丽特休养,自己却不再在这里露面了,他总是怕在这里碰到那一大群嘻嘻哈哈的宾客,他是不愿被她们看到的。尤其是因为有一天,他来与玛格丽特两人共进晚餐,却碰到有十四五个人在玛格丽特家里吃午饭,这顿午饭在他觉得可以进晚餐的时候还没有吃完。当他打开饭厅的大门时,一阵哄笑冲他而来,这是他万万意料不到的,在这些姑娘肆无忌惮的欢笑声中,他不得不立即就退了出去。

玛格丽特离开餐桌,来到隔壁房间来找公爵,竭力劝慰,想使他忘记这个不愉快的场面,但是老头儿的自尊心已经受到了损伤,心里十分恼火。他冷酷地对这个可怜的姑娘说,他不愿再拿出钱来给一个女人肆意挥霍,因为这个女人甚至在她家里都不能让他受到应有的尊敬。他怒气冲冲地走了。

从这天起,我们就不再听到他的消息。玛格丽特后来虽然已经杜门谢客,改变了原来的习惯,公爵还是杳无音讯。这样一来倒成全了我,我的情妇完全属于我了,我的梦想终于实现了。玛格丽特再也离不开我,她全然不顾后果如何,公开宣布了我们之间的关系,于是我就待在她家里不走了。仆人们称我为先生,正式把我当作他们的主人。

对这种新的生活,普律当丝曾竭力警告过玛格丽特,但是玛格丽特回答说,她爱我,她生活里不能没有我,不论发生什么事她都不会放弃和我朝夕相处的幸福,还说谁要是看不惯,尽可以不再到这里来。

这些话是有一天普律当丝对玛格丽特说她有一些重要事情要告诉她,她们两人关在房间里窃窃私语,我在房门外面听时听到的。

过了些时候普律当丝又来了。

她进来的时候,我正在花园里,她没有看见我。我看到玛格丽特向她迎上前去的模样,就怀疑有一场跟我上次听到的同样性质的谈话又将开始,我想和上次一样再去偷听。

两个女人关在一间小客厅里,我就在门外听。

“怎么样?”玛格丽特问。

“怎么样?我见到了公爵。”

“他对您说什么了?”

“他原谅您第一件事情,但是他已经知道您公开跟阿尔芒·迪瓦尔先生同居了。这件事是他不能原谅的。他对我说,‘只要玛格丽特离开这个小伙子,那么我就像过去一样,她要什么我就给她什么;否则她就不应该再向我要求任何东西。’”

“您是怎样回答的?”

“我说我会把他的决定告诉您,而且我还答应要让您明白事理。亲爱的孩子,您考虑一下您失去的地位,这个地位阿尔芒是永远也不能给您的。阿尔芒一门心思地爱您,但是他没有足够的财产来满足您的需要,他总有一天要离开您的,到那时候就太晚了。公爵再也不肯为您做什么事了,您要不要我去向阿尔芒说?”

玛格丽特似乎在考虑,因为她没有答复,我的心怦怦乱跳,一面在等待她的回答。

“不,”她接着说,“我决不离开阿尔芒,我也不再隐瞒我和他的同居生活。这样做可能很傻,但是我爱他!有什么办法呢?而且他现在毫无顾虑地爱我已经成了习惯,一天里面哪怕要离开我一小时,他也会觉得非常痛苦。再说我也活不了多久,不愿意再自找苦吃,去服从一个老头子的意志;只要一见他,我觉得自己也会变老。让他把钱留着吧,我不要了。”

“但是您以后怎么办呢?”

“我不知道。”

普律当丝大概还想说什么话,可是我突然冲了进去,扑倒在玛格丽特的脚下,眼泪沾湿了她的双手,这些眼泪是因为我听到她这么爱我而高兴得流出来的。

“我的生命是属于你的,玛格丽特,你不再需要那个老公爵了,我不是在这儿吗?难道我会抛弃你吗?你给我的幸福难道我能报答得了吗?不再有约束了,我的玛格丽特,我们相亲相爱!其余的事跟我们有什么相干?”

“啊!是呀,我爱你,我的阿尔芒!”她用双臂紧紧地搂着我的脖子,柔声说道,“我爱你爱得简直连我自己都不能相信。我们会幸福的,我们要安静地生活,我要和那种使我现在感到脸红的生活告别。你一定不会责备我过去的生活的,是吗?”

我哭得话也讲不出来了,我只能把玛格丽特紧紧地抱在怀里。

“去吧,”她转身向普律当丝颤声说道,“您就把这一幕情景讲给公爵听,再跟他说我们用不着他了。”

从这一天起,公爵已经不成问题,玛格丽特不再是我过去认识的姑娘了。凡是会使我想起我当时遇到她时她所过的那种生活的一切,她都尽量避免。她给我的爱是任何一个做妻子的都比不上的,她给我的关心是任何一个做姐妹的所没有的。她体弱多病,容易动感情。她断绝了朋友来往,改变了过去的习惯,她的谈吐变了样,也不像过去那样挥金如土了。人们看到我们从屋里出来,坐上我买的那只精巧的小船去泛舟游河,谁也不会想到这个穿着白色长裙,头戴大草帽,臂上搭着一件普通的用来抵御河上寒气的丝绸外衣的女人就是玛格丽特·戈蒂埃。就是她,四个月以前曾因奢侈糜烂而名噪一时。

天哪!我们忙不迭地享乐,仿佛已经料到我们的好日子是长不了的一样。

我们甚至有两个月没有到巴黎去了。除了普律当丝和我跟您提到过的那个朱利·迪普拉,也没有人来看过我们。现在在我这儿的那些令人心碎的日记,就是玛格丽特后来交给朱利的。

我整天整天地偎依在我情妇的身旁。我们打开了面向花园的窗子,望着鲜花盛开的夏景,我们在树荫下并肩享受着这个不论是玛格丽特还是我,都从来也没有尝到过的真正的生活。

这个女人对一些很小的事情都会表现出孩子般的好奇。有些日子她就像一个十岁的女孩子那样,在花园里追着一只蝴蝶或者蜻蜓奔跑。这个妓女,她过去花在鲜花上的钱比足以维持一个家庭快快活活地过日子的钱还要多。有时候她就坐在草坪上,甚至坐上整整一个小时,凝望着她用来当作名字①的一朵普通的花。

①法语中“玛格丽特”是雏菊花的意思。

就在那段日子里,她经常阅读《玛侬·莱斯科》。我好几次撞见她在这本书上加注,而且老是跟我说,一个女人在恋爱的时候肯定不会像玛侬那样做的。

公爵写了两三封信给她,她认出是公爵的笔迹,连看也不看就把信交给了我。

有几次信里的措辞使我流下了眼泪。

公爵原来以为,把玛格丽特的财源掐断以后,就会使她重新回到他的身边。但是当他看到这个办法毫无用处的时候,就坚持不下去了,他一再写信,要求她像上次一样同意他回来,不论什么条件他都可以答应。

我看完这些翻来覆去、苦苦哀求的信以后,便把它们全撕了,也不告诉玛格丽特信的内容,也不劝她再去看看那位老人。尽管我对这个可怜的人的痛苦怀着怜悯的感情,但是我怕再劝玛格丽特仍旧像以前那样接待公爵的话,她会以为我是希望公爵重新负担这座房子的开销,不管她的爱情会给我带来什么样的后果,我都会对她的生活负责的,我最怕的就是她以为我也许会逃避这个责任。

最后公爵因收不到回信也就不再来信了。玛格丽特和我照旧在一起生活,根本不考虑以后怎么办。




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