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嘉莉妹妹(Sister Carrie) 第二十二章

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Chapter 22

THE BLAZE OF THE TINDER: FLESH WARS WITH THE FLESH

 

 

The misfortune of the Hurstwood household was due to the fact that jealousy, having been born of love, did not perish with it. Mrs. Hurstwood retained this in such form that subsequent influences could transform it into hate. Hurstwood was still worthy, in a physical sense, of the affection his wife had once bestowed upon him, but in a social sense he fell short. With his regard died his power to be attentive to her, and this, to a woman, is much greater than outright crime toward another. Our self-love dictates our appreciation of the good or evil in another. In Mrs. Hurstwood it discoloured the very hue of her husband's indifferent nature. She saw design in deeds and phrases which sprung only from a faded appreciation of her presence.

As a consequence, she was resentful and suspicious. The jealousy that prompted her to observe every falling away from the little amenities of the married relation on his part served to give her notice of the airy grace with which he still took the world. She could see from the scrupulous care which he exercised in the matter of his personal appearance that his interest in life had abated not a jot. Every motion, every glance had something in it of the pleasure he felt in Carrie, of the zest this new pursuit of pleasure lent to his days. Mrs. Hurstwood felt something, sniffing change, as animals do danger, afar off.

This feeling was strengthened by actions of a direct and more potent nature on the part of Hurstwood. We have seen with what irritation he shirked those little duties which no longer contained any amusement or satisfaction for him, and the open snarls with which, more recently, he resented her irritating goads. These little rows were really precipitated by an atmosphere which was surcharged with dissension. That it would shower, with a sky so full of blackening thunder-clouds, would scarcely be thought worthy of comment. Thus, after leaving the breakfast table this morning, raging inwardly at his blank declaration of indifference at her plans, Mrs. Hurstwood encountered Jessica in her dressing-room, very leisurely arranging her hair. Hurstwood had already left the house.

"I wish you wouldn't be so late coming down to breakfast," she said, addressing Jessica, while making for her crochet basket. "Now here the things are quite cold, and you haven't eaten."

Her natural composure was sadly ruffled, and Jessica was doomed to feel the fag end of the storm.

"I'm not hungry," she answered.

"Then why don't you say so, and let the girl put away the things, instead of keeping her waiting all morning?"

"She doesn't mind," answered Jessica, coolly.

"Well, I do, if she doesn't," returned the mother, "and, anyhow, I don't like you to talk that way to me. You're too young to put on such an air with your mother."

"Oh, mamma, don't row," answered Jessica. "What's the matter this morning, anyway?"

"Nothing's the matter, and I'm not rowing. You mustn't think because I indulge you in some things that you can keep everybody waiting. I won't have it."

"I'm not keeping anybody waiting," returned Jessica, sharply, stirred out of a cynical indifference to a sharp defence. "I said I wasn't hungry. I don't want any breakfast."

"Mind how you address me, missy. I'll not have it. Hear me now; I'll not have it!"

Jessica heard this last while walking out of the room, with a toss of her head and a flick of her pretty skirts indicative of the independence and indifference she felt. She did not propose to be quarrelled with.

Such little arguments were all too frequent, the result of a growth of natures which were largely independent and selfish. George, Jr., manifested even greater touchiness and exaggeration in the matter of his individual rights, and attempted to make all feel that he was a man with a man's privileges -- an assumption which, of all things, is most groundless and pointless in a youth of nineteen.

Hurstwood was a man of authority and some fine feeling, and it irritated him excessively to find himself surrounded more and more by a world upon which he had no hold, and of which he had a lessening understanding.

Now, when such little things, such as the proposed earlier start to Waukesha, came up, they made clear to him his position. He was being made to follow, was not leading. When, in addition, a sharp temper was manifested, and to the process of shouldering him out of his authority was added a rousing intellectual kick, such as a sneer or a cynical laugh, he was unable to keep his temper. He flew into hardly repressed passion, and wished himself clear of the whole household. It seemed a most irritating drag upon all his desires and opportunities.

For all this, he still retained the semblance of leadership and control, even though his wife was straining to revolt. Her display of temper and open assertion of opposition were based upon nothing more than the feeling that she could do it. She had no special evidence wherewith to justify herself -- the knowledge of something which would give her both authority and excuse. The latter was all that was lacking, however, to give a solid foundation to what, in a way, seemed groundless discontent. The clear proof of one overt deed was the cold breath needed to convert the lowering clouds of suspicion into a rain of wrath.

An inkling of untoward deeds on the part of Hurstwood had come. Doctor Beale, the handsome resident physician of the neighbourhood, met Mrs. Hurstwood at her own doorstep some days after Hurstwood and Carrie had taken the drive west on Washington Boulevard. Dr. Beale, coming east on the same drive, had recognised Hurstwood, but not before he was quite past him. He was not so sure of Carrie -- did not know whether it was Hurstwood's wife or daughter.

"You don't speak to your friends when you meet them out driving, do you?" he said, jocosely, to Mrs. Hurstwood.

"If I see them, I do. Where was I?"

"On Washington Boulevard," he answered, expecting her eye to light with immediate remembrance.

She shook her head.

"Yes, out near Hoyne Avenue. You were with your husband."

"I guess you're mistaken," she answered. Then, remembering her husband's part in the affair, she immediately fell a prey to a host of young suspicions, of which, however, she gave no sign.

"I know I saw your husband," he went on. "I wasn't so sure about you. Perhaps it was your daughter."

"Perhaps it was," said Mrs. Hurstwood, knowing full well that such was not the case, as Jessica had been her companion for weeks. She had recovered herself sufficiently to wish to know more of the details.

"Was it in the afternoon?" she asked, artfully, assuming an air of acquaintanceship with the matter.

"Yes, about two or three."

"It must have been Jessica," said Mrs. Hurstwood, not wishing to seem to attach any importance to the incident.

The physician had a thought or two of his own, but dismissed the matter as worthy of no further discussion on his part at least.

Mrs. Hurstwood gave this bit of information considerable thought during the next few hours, and even days. She took it for granted that the doctor had really seen her husband, and that he had been riding, most likely, with some other woman, after announcing himself as busy to her. As a consequence, she recalled, with rising feeling, how often he had refused to go to places with her, to share in little visits, or, indeed, take part in any of the social amenities which furnished the diversion of her existence. He had been seen at the theatre with people whom he called Moy's friends; now he was seen driving, and, most likely, would have an excuse for that. Perhaps there were others of whom she did not hear, or why should he be so busy, so indifferent, of late? In the last six weeks he had become strangely irritable -- strangely satisfied to pick up and go out, whether things were right or wrong in the house. Why?

She recalled, with more subtle emotions, that he did not look at her now with any of the old light of satisfaction or approval in his eye. Evidently, along with other things, he was taking her to be getting old and uninteresting. He saw her wrinkles, perhaps. She was fading, while he was still preening himself in his elegance and youth. He was still an interested factor in the merry-makings of the world, while she -- but she did not pursue the thought. She only found the whole situation bitter, and hated him for it thoroughly.

Nothing came of this incident at the time, for the truth is it did not seem conclusive enough to warrant any discussion. Only the atmosphere of distrust and ill-feeling was strengthened, precipitating every now and then little sprinklings of irritable conversation, enlivened by flashes of wrath. The matter of the Waukesha outing was merely a continuation of other things of the same nature.

The day after Carrie's appearance on the Avery stage, Mrs. Hurstwood visited the races with Jessica and a youth of her acquaintance, Mr. Bart Taylor, the son of the owner of a local house-furnishing establishment. They had driven out early, and, as it chanced, encountered several friends of Hurstwood, all Elks, and two of whom had attended the performance the evening before. A thousand chances the subject of the performance had never been brought up had Jessica not been so engaged by the attentions of her young companion, who usurped as much time as possible. This left Mrs. Hurstwood in the mood to extend the perfunctory greetings of some who knew her into short conversations, and the short conversations of friends into long ones. It was from one who meant but to greet her perfunctorily that this interesting intelligence came.

"I see," said this individual, who wore sporting clothes of the most attractive pattern, and had a field-glass strung over his shoulder, "that you did not get over to our little entertainment last evening."

"No?" said Mrs. Hurstwood, inquiringly, and wondering why he should be using the tone he did in noting the fact that she had not been to something she knew nothing about. It was on her lips to say, "What was it?" when he added, "I saw your husband."

Her wonder was at once replaced by the more subtle quality of suspicion.

"Yes," she said, cautiously, "was it pleasant? He did not tell me much about it."

"Very. Really one of the best private theatricals I ever attended. There was one actress who surprised us all."

"Indeed," said Mrs. Hurstwood.

"It's too bad you couldn't have been there, really. I was sorry to hear you weren't feeling well."

Feeling well! Mrs. Hurstwood could have echoed the words after him open-mouthed. As it was, she extricated herself from her mingled impulse to deny and question, and said, almost raspingly:

"Yes, it is too bad."

"Looks like there will be quite a crowd here to-day, doesn't it?" the acquaintance observed, drifting off upon another topic.

The manager's wife would have questioned farther, but she saw no opportunity. She was for the moment wholly at sea, anxious to think for herself, and wondering what new deception was this which caused him to give out that she was ill when she was not. Another case of her company not wanted, and excuses being made. She resolved to find out more.

"Were you at the performance last evening?" she asked of the next of Hurstwood's friends who greeted her, as she sat in her box.

"Yes. You didn't get around."

"No," she answered, "I was not feeling very well."

"So your husband told me," he answered. "Well, it was really very enjoyable. Turned out much better than I expected."

"Were there many there?"

"The house was full. It was quite an Elk night. I saw quite a number of your friends -- Mrs. Harrison, Mrs. Barnes, Mrs. Collins."

"Quite a social gathering."

"Indeed it was. My wife enjoyed it very much."

Mrs. Hurstwood bit her lip.

"So," she thought, "that's the way he does. Tells my friends I am sick and cannot come."

She wondered what could induce him to go alone. There was something back of this. She rummaged her brain for a reason.

By evening, when Hurstwood reached home, she had brooded herself into a state of sullen desire for explanation and revenge. She wanted to know what this peculiar action of his imported. She was certain there was more behind it all than what she had heard, and evil curiosity mingled well with distrust and the remnants of her wrath of the morning. She, impending disaster itself, walked about with gathered shadow at the eyes and the rudimentary muscles of savagery fixing the hard lines of her mouth.

On the other hand, as we may well believe, the manager came home in the sunniest mood. His conversation and agreement with Carrie had raised his spirits until he was in the frame of mind of one who sings joyously. He was proud of himself, proud of his success, proud of Carrie. He could have been genial to all the world, and he bore no grudge against his wife. He meant to be pleasant, to forget her presence, to live in the atmosphere of youth and pleasure which had been restored to him.

So now, the house, to his mind, had a most pleasing and comfortable appearance. In the hall he found an evening paper, laid there by the maid and forgotten by Mrs. Hurstwood. In the dining-room the table was clean laid with linen and napery and shiny with glasses and decorated china. Through an open door he saw into the kitchen, where the fire was crackling in the stove and the evening meal already well under way. Out in the small back yard was George, Jr., frolicking with a young dog he had recently purchased, and in the parlour Jessica was playing at the piano, the sound of a merry waltz filling every nook and corner of the comfortable home. Every one, like himself, seemed to have regained his good spirits, to be in sympathy with youth and beauty, to be inclined to joy and merry-making. He felt as if he could say a good word all around himself, and took a most genial glance at the spread table and polished sideboard before going upstairs to read his paper in the comfortable arm-chair of the sitting-room which looked through the open windows into the street. When he entered there, however, he found his wife brushing her hair and musing to herself the while.

He came lightly in, thinking to smooth over any feeling that might still exist by a kindly word and a ready promise, but Mrs. Hurstwood said nothing. He seated himself in the large chair, stirred lightly in making himself comfortable, opened his paper, and began to read. In a few moments he was smiling merrily over a very comical account of a baseball game which had taken place between the Chicago and Detroit teams.

The while he was doing this Mrs. Hurstwood was observing him casually though the medium of the mirror which was before her. She noticed his pleasant and contented manner, his airy grace and smiling humour, and it merely aggravated her the more. She wondered how he could think to carry himself so in her presence after the cynicism, indifference, and neglect he had heretofore manifested and would continue to manifest so long as she would endure it. She thought how she should like to tell him -- what stress and emphasis she would lend her assertions, how she could drive over this whole affair until satisfaction should be rendered her. Indeed, the shining sword of her wrath was but weakly suspended by a thread of thought.

In the meanwhile Hurstwood encountered a humorous item concerning a stranger who had arrived in the city and became entangled with a bunco-steerer. It amused him immensely, and at last he stirred and chuckled to himself. He wished that he might enlist his wife's attention and read it to her.

"Ha, ha," he exclaimed softly, as if to himself, "that's funny."

Mrs. Hurstwood kept on arranging her hair, not so much as deigning a glance.

He stirred again and went on to another subject. At last he felt as if his good-humour must find some outlet. Julia was probably still out of humour over that affair of this morning, but that could easily be straightened. As a matter of fact, she was in the wrong, but he didn't care. She could go to Waukesha right away if she wanted to. The sooner the better. He would tell her that as soon as he got a chance, and the whole thing would blow over.

"Did you notice," he said, at last, breaking forth concerning another item which he had found, "that they have entered suit to compel the Illinois Central to get off the lake front, Julia?" he asked.

She could scarcely force herself to answer, but managed to say "No," sharply.

Hurstwood pricked up his ears. There was a note in her voice which vibrated keenly.

"It would be a good thing if they did," he went on, half to himself, half to her, though he felt that something was amiss in that quarter. He withdrew his attention to his paper very circumspectly, listening mentally for the little sounds which should show him what was on foot.

As a matter of fact, no man as clever as Hurstwood -- as observant and sensitive to atmospheres of many sorts, particularly upon his own plane of thought -- would have made the mistake which he did in regard to his wife, wrought up as she was, had he not been occupied mentally with a very different train of thought. Had not the influence of Carrie's regard for him, the elation which her promise aroused in him, lasted over, he would not have seen the house in so pleasant a mood. It was not extraordinarily bright and merry this evening. He was merely very much mistaken, and would have been much more fitted to cope with it had he come home in his normal state.

After he had studied his paper a few moments longer, he felt that he ought to modify matters in some way or other. Evidently his wife was not going to patch up peace at a word. So he said:

"Where did George get the dog he has there in the yard?"

"I don't know," she snapped.

He put his paper down on his knees and gazed idly out of the window. He did not propose to lose his temper, but merely to be persistent and agreeable, and by a few questions bring around a mild understanding of some sort.

"Why do you feel so bad about that affair of this morning?" he said, at last. "We needn't quarrel about that. You know you can go to Waukesha if you want to."

"So you can stay here and trifle around with some one else?" she exclaimed, turning to him a determined countenance upon which was drawn a sharp and wrathful sneer.

He stopped as if slapped in the face. In an instant his persuasive, conciliatory manner fled. He was on the defensive at a wink and puzzled for a word to reply.

"What do you mean?" he said at last, straightening himself and gazing at the cold, determined figure before him, who paid no attention, but went on arranging herself before the mirror.

"You know what I mean," she said, finally, as if there were a world of information which she held in reserve -- which she did not need to tell.

"Well, I don't," he said, stubbornly, yet nervous and alert for what should come next. The finality of the woman's manner took away his feeling of superiority in battle.

She made no answer.

"Hmph!" he murmured, with a movement of his head to one side. It was the weakest thing he had ever done. It was totally unassured.

Mrs. Hurstwood noticed the lack of colour in it. She turned upon him, animal-like, able to strike an effectual second blow.

"I want the Waukesha money to-morrow morning," she said.

He looked at her in amazement. Never before had he seen such a cold, steely determination in her eye -- such a cruel look of indifference. She seemed a thorough master of her mood -- thoroughly confident and determined to wrest all control from him. He felt that all his resources could not defend him. He must attack.

"What do you mean?" he said, jumping up. "You want! I'd like to know what's got into you to-night."

"Nothing's got into me," she said, flaming. "I want that money. You can do your swaggering afterwards."

"Swaggering, eh! What! You'll get nothing from me. What do you mean by your insinuations, anyhow?"

"Where were you last night?" she answered. The words were hot as they came. "Who were you driving with on Washington Boulevard? Who were you with at the theatre when George saw you? Do you think I'm a fool to be duped by you? Do you think I'll sit at home here and take your 'too busys' and 'can't come,' while you parade around and make out that I'm unable to come? I want you to know that lordly airs have come to an end so far as I am concerned. You can't dictate to me nor my children. I'm through with you entirely."

"It's a lie," he said, driven to a corner and knowing no other excuse.

"Lie, eh!" she said, fiercely, but with returning reserve; "you may call it a lie if you want to, but I know."

"It's a lie, I tell you," he said, in a low, sharp voice. "You've been searching around for some cheap accusation for months, and now you think you have it. You think you'll spring something and get the upper hand. Well, I tell you, you can't. As long as I'm in this house I'm master of it, and you or any one else won't dictate to me -- do you hear?"

He crept toward her with a light in his eye that was ominous. Something in the woman's cool, cynical, upper-handish manner, as if she were already master, caused him to feel for the moment as if he could strangle her.

She gazed at him -- a pythoness in humour.

"I'm not dictating to you," she returned; "I'm telling you what I want."

The answer was so cool, so rich in bravado, that somehow it took the wind out of his sails. He could not attack her, he could not ask her for proofs. Somehow he felt evidence, law, the remembrance of all his property which she held in her name, to be shining in her glance. He was like a vessel, powerful and dangerous, but rolling and floundering without sail.

"And I'm telling you," he said in the end, slightly recovering himself, "what you'll not get."

"We'll see about it," she said. "I'll find out what my rights are. Perhaps you'll talk to a lawyer, if you won't to me."

It was a magnificent play, and had its effect. Hurstwood fell back beaten. He knew now that he had more than mere bluff to contend with. He felt that he was face to face with a dull proposition. What to say he hardly knew. All the merriment had gone out of the day. He was disturbed, wretched, resentful. What should he do?

"Do as you please," he said, at last. "I'll have nothing more to do with you," and out he strode.

第二十二章

战火突起:家庭和肉欲之战

 

 


赫斯渥家的不幸在于源于爱情的妒忌并没有随着爱情的消失而消失。赫斯渥太太的妒忌心特别重,后来发生的事情把这种妒忌又变成了仇恨。从身体上说,赫斯渥仍然值得他太太以往的眷恋。但是从两人共同生活的意义上说,他已经令她感到不满了。随着他的爱情消失,他不再能够对她体贴入微。而这一点对于女人来说,简直比杀人放火的暴行还要恶劣。我们往往从利己心出发来决定我们对别人的看法。赫斯渥太太的利己心使她戴上有色眼镜来看待她丈夫的冷漠的性格。那些只是出于夫妻感情淡漠的话和行为,在她看来就成了别有用心了。

这么一来,她变得满腹怨恨和疑心重重。妒忌心使她注意到他在夫妻关系上的每个疏忽不尽职;同样的,妒忌心使她注意到他在生活中仍是那么轻松优雅。他对个人修饰打扮非常讲究细心,从中可以看出他对生活的兴趣丝毫没有减弱。他的每个动作,每个目光都流露出他对嘉莉的喜爱,流露出这新的追求带给他的生活乐趣。赫斯渥太太感觉到了什么,她嗅出了他身上的变化,就像一头动物隔了老远就能嗅出危险。

赫斯渥的行为直接有力地强化了这种感觉。我们已看到在为家庭效力时,他不耐烦地推诿搪塞,因为那些事已经不能给他带来愉快和满足。对于她那些恼人的催逼,他最近曾大发雷霆。这些小吵小闹其实是由充满不和的气氛造成的。一片乌云密布的天空会下雷阵雨,这一点是不言而喻的。由于他公开挑明对她的计划不感兴趣,因此当赫斯渥太太今早离开饭桌时,她内心怒火中烧。在梳妆间里她看到杰西卡还在慢条斯理地梳头。赫斯渥已经离开了家。

“我希望你不要这么迟迟不下去吃早饭,”她一边走过去拿她的钩针篮,一边对杰西卡说,“饭菜都凉了,可你还没有吃。”她今天由于发脾气失去了往日的平和,所以该杰西卡倒霉,要遭池鱼之灾。

“我不饿,”她回答。

“那你为什么不早说,让女仆把东西收拾掉,害得她等一个上午?”“她不会有意见的,”杰西卡冷冷地说。

“哼,她没意见,我可有意见,”她妈反驳说,“再说,我也不喜欢你用这种态度对我说话,跟你妈耍态度,你还嫌嫩着点呢。”“哎,妈妈,别吵架吧,”杰西卡说,“今天早上究竟出了什么事啊?”“什么事也没有,我也没有跟你吵架。你别以为我在一些事上纵容你,你就可以让别人等你了。我不允许你这样。”“我并没有要任何人等我,”杰西卡针锋相对地说。她的态度从原先的讽嘲和冷漠变成尖锐的反驳:“我说过我不饿,我不要吃早饭。”“注意一点你对我说话的态度,小姐。我不许你这样。你听清楚了,我不许!”没等赫斯渥太太说完,杰西卡就朝门外走。她把头一扬,又把漂亮的裙子一掸,流露出独立不羁和满不在乎的自我感觉。她可不想和谁吵架。

这样的小争论是家常便饭。这是独立自私的天性发展的结果。小乔治在所有涉及个人权利的事上,显示出更大的敏感和过份。他企图让所有的人感到他是一个男子汉,享有男子汉的特权--对一个19岁的青年来说,这实在是狂妄得太没根据,太没道理了。

赫斯渥是个惯于发号施令,又有一点美好情感的人。他发现自己对于周围的人越来越失去控制,对他们越来越不理解,这使他非常恼火。

现在,像这种提早去华克夏之类的小事提出来时,他清楚地看出了自己在家中的地位。现在不是他来发号施令,他只是跟在他们后头转。他们不仅向他耍威风,把他排挤出权威的地位,而且还要加上令人恼火的精神上的打击,如轻蔑的讥诮或者嘲讽的冷笑,他的脾气再也忍不住了。他几乎不加克制地大发雷霆,但愿自己和这个家一刀两断。对于他的情欲和机会,这个家似乎构成了最令人烦恼的障碍。

尽管如此,尽管他的妻子竭力反叛,他仍然保持着一家之主的外表。她发脾气,公开和他唱反调,其实并没有什么根据,只是感觉到她可以这么做。她并没有什么具体的证据,证明自己这么做有理--并没有掌握什么把柄可以作为凭证或者借口。但是现在所缺的就是借口。只要有了借口,她这似乎无根据的怨气就有了牢靠的根据。怀疑的阴云已经密布,只等一件确凿证据提供冷风,愤怒的暴风雨就要倾盆而下了。

现在终于让她得知了一点赫斯渥行为不轨的消息。就在赫斯渥和嘉莉在华盛顿林荫大道往西兜风这事发生不久,附近的住院医生,漂亮的比尔大夫,在赫斯渥家门口碰到了赫斯渥太太。他那天在同一条大道上朝东走,认出了赫斯渥,不过只是在他过去以后才认出他。他并没看清楚嘉莉--不能肯定那是赫斯渥太太还是他们的女儿。

“你出去兜风时,见到老朋友也不理睬,是不是?”他开玩笑地对赫斯渥太太说。

“如果我看到他们,我总是打招呼的。那是在哪里啊?”“在华盛顿大道,”他回答,期待她的眼光会因为想起来这事而发亮。

她摇了摇头。

“没错,就在靠近荷恩路的地方,你和你丈夫在一起。”“我猜想是你搞错了,”她回答。接着她想起这件事里有她丈夫,她马上生出许多新的怀疑,但是她表面上没有露出自己的疑心。

“我敢肯定我见到你丈夫了,”他继续说,“不过我不敢肯定另一个人是你。也有可能是你女儿。”“也许是吧,”赫斯渥太太说,心里却肯定不是那么回事,因为杰西卡好几个星起来都和她在一起。她竭力掩饰自己的情绪,以便打听更多的细节。

“是在下午吧?”她狡猾地问道,装出一副知道内情的神气。

“是啊,大约两三点钟。”

“那一定是杰西卡,”赫斯渥太太说。她不愿意让人家看出她对这事情很在意。

那医生有一点自己的看法,但是没有说出来。至少就他而言,他认为这事情不值得继续讨论下去了。

接下来几小时乃至几天里,赫斯渥太太对这个消息详加推敲。她认为医生看到她丈夫这一点是确切无疑的。她丈夫很有可能在和别的女人坐马车兜风,对她却说自己“很忙”。于是她越来越生气地回忆其他怎么经常拒绝和她一起出去,拒绝一起去拜访朋友,事实上,拒绝带她去参加任何社交娱乐活动,而这些是她生活中的基本乐趣。有人看见他在戏院里,和他称之为莫埃的朋友们在一起。现在又有人看见他坐马车兜风。很可能,他对这件事又会有借口。也许还有她不知道的旁的人。不然的话,他为什么最近这么忙,对她这么冷淡呢?在最近六个星期里,他变得出奇地爱发脾气,出奇地喜欢拿起东西往外跑,不管家里有事没事。为什么呢?

她以更微妙的情感,想起他现在不再用往日那种满意或者赞赏的目光看她了。很明显,除了别的原因,他还认为她现在人老珠黄没有趣味了。也许他看到了她脸上的皱纹。她已显老,而他却仍然打扮成翩翩佳公子。他还是饶有兴味地去寻欢作乐的场所消遣。而她却--这一点她没有继续往下想。她只是感到整个情况太令人愤慨,因此对他恨之入骨。

这事情她当时并没有声张,因为事实上这件事并不肯定,没有必要提出来。只是猜忌和反感的气氛更浓了,不时地引起一些毛毛雨般的小吵小闹。这些小吵往往因为怒气勃发而变成大吵。华克夏度假一事只是这类事情的延续而已。

嘉莉在阿佛莱会堂登台的第二天,赫斯渥太太带了杰西卡去看赛马。同去的还有杰西卡认识的一个小伙子巴德·泰勒先生,当地家俱店老板的儿子。他们坐了马车,很早就出门了。碰巧遇到了好几个赫斯渥的朋友,他们都是兄弟会的会员,其中有两个前一晚去看了演出。本来看戏这个话题可能根本就不会提起,可是杰西卡的年轻朋友对她大献殷勤,占去了大部分时间。杰西卡的注意力被他吸引去了,于是闲得无聊的赫斯渥太太在和熟人应酬性地打了招呼以后,又开始朋友间的简短聊天,这简短的聊天又延长到长时间的聊天。从一个和她随便打一声招呼的人那里她听到了这个有趣的消息。

“我知道,”那个身上穿着件图案极其漂亮的运动衫,肩上挎着个望远镜的人说道,“昨晚你没有来看我们的小演出。”“没有吗?”赫斯渥太太询问地说,很奇怪他怎么用这口气par提起一场她听都没有听说过的演出。她正想问:“是什么演出?"那人补充说:“我看到你丈夫了。”她的惊奇马上被更微妙的疑心代替了。

“是啊,”她小心地说,“演得还好吗?他没有告诉我这一点。”“好极了,这是我看到过的业余演出中最出色的一常有一个女演员让我们大家都大吃一惊。”“是吗?”赫斯渥太太说。

“是啊,你没有去实在太可惜了。听说你身体不舒服,我真为你惋惜。”“不舒服!”赫斯渥太太几乎要脱口而出重复这几个字了。

但是她克制了自己想否认和质问的复杂冲动,用几乎刺耳的口气说道:“是啊,真太遗憾了。”“看起来,今天来看赛马的人不少,是不是?”这熟人评论说,话题就转到别的事情上去了。

经理太太还想多问些情况,苦于找不到机会。她一时间还茫无头绪,急于自己琢磨琢磨,他究竟又在玩什么骗局,为什么她没有病却放空气说她有玻这是又一个例子说明他不愿意带她出去,还找了借口掩饰,她下决心要打听出更多的事情来。

“你昨晚去看演出了吗?”当她坐在专座上,又有一个赫斯渥的朋友向她打招呼时,她就这样问道。

“去了,可你没有去。”

“是啊,”她答道,“我当时身体有点不舒服。”“我听你丈夫说了,”他回答说。“噢,戏演得很有味,比我原来估计的要好多了。”“有很多人去了吗?”“戏院客满了。真是我们兄弟会的盛会。我看到好几个你的朋友,有哈里生太太,巴恩斯太太,还有柯林斯太太。”“那么这是个社交聚会了。”“不错,是这样。我太太玩得很开心。”赫斯渥太太咬住了嘴唇。

“哼,”她想,“原来他就是这么干的。跟我的朋友们说我有病,来不了。”她猜度着他为什么要单独去。这里面一定有鬼。她挖空心思要找出他的动机来。

这一天琢磨下来,到晚上赫斯渥回家时,她已经满腔怒气,急于要他解释,急于向他报复了。她想要知道他这么做是出于什么目的。她敢肯定事情并不像她听到的那么简单,里面肯定另有名堂。恶意的好奇、猜疑,加上早上的余怒,使她活活就像一触即发的灾难的化身。她在屋里踱来踱去,眼角聚集起越来越深的阴影,嘴角边的冷酷的线条透着野蛮人的残忍。

另一方面,我们很有理由相信,经理回家时满面春风,心情好到无以复加。和嘉莉的谈话以及和她的约定使他兴高采烈,高兴得简直想唱起来。他沾沾自喜,为自己的成功得意,也为嘉莉骄傲。他现在对任何人都抱着友善的态度,对他妻子也不存芥蒂。他愿意和颜悦色,忘记她的存在,生活在他重新焕发的青春和欢乐的气氛中。

因此,眼下这个家在他看来非常令人愉快,非常舒适惬意。在门厅里他看到一份晚报,是女仆放在那里的,赫斯渥太太忘了拿的。在饭厅里饭桌已经摆好了,铺着台布,摆好了餐巾,玻璃器皿和彩色瓷器熠熠生辉。隔着打开的门,他看到厨房里柴火在炉子里噼啪燃烧,晚饭已经快烧好了。在小后院里,小乔治正在逗弄一条他新买的狗。客厅里,杰西卡正在弹钢琴,欢快的华尔兹舞曲声传到这舒适的家中的各个角落。在他看来,仿佛人人像他一样,恢复了好心情,倾心于青春和美丽,热衷于寻欢作乐。对周围的一切,他都想赞上两句。他满意地打量了一眼铺好的餐桌和晶亮的餐柜之后才上楼去,准备到窗子临街的起居间去,舒舒服服地坐在扶手椅里看报。但是当他走进去时,他发现他妻子正在用刷子梳理头发,一边刷,一边在沉思。

他心情轻松地走了进去,准备说上两句好话,作些允诺,好让他妻子消消气。但是他太太一言不发。他在那把大椅子里坐了下来,微微挪动一下身子,使自己坐得更舒服些,然后打开报纸看了起来。没过多久,看见一则芝加哥棒球队和底特律棒球队比赛的有趣报道,他脸上露出愉快的微笑。

他在看报时,他太太通过面前的镜子不经意地打量着他。

她注意到他那快乐满足的神气,轻松潇洒的举止,和乐不可支的心情,这使得她更加怒气冲冲。她真弄不懂他在对她加以讥嘲冷漠和怠慢之后,怎么竟会当着她的面,拿出这样的神气来。如果她加以容忍,他还会继续这样做的。她心里想着该怎么对他说,怎么强调她的要求,怎么来谈这件事,才能彻底发泄她心头的怒气。事实上,就像悬在达漠克利斯头上的宝剑只维系于一根发丝一样,她的怒气也只是由于还待措辞才暂时没有爆发。

与此同时,赫斯渥正读到一则有趣的新闻,讲的是一个初到芝加哥的陌生人如何被赌场骗子引诱上当的消息。他觉得这消息非常有趣,就移动了一下身子,一个人笑了起来。他很希望这能引起他妻子的注意,好把这段新闻读给她听。

“哈哈,”他轻声叫了起来,像是在自言自语,“这太让人发笑了。”赫斯渥太太继续梳理着头发,甚至不屑朝他瞅一眼。

他又动了一下身子,接着看另一则消息。终于他感到该让他的好心情宣泄一下了。朱利亚也许还在对早上的事情耿耿于怀,不过这事情不难解决。事实上是她不对,不过他并不介意。如果她愿意的话,她可以马上去华克夏,越早越好。这一点他一有机会就会告诉她,这样这件事就会过去了。

“你注意到这则新闻没有,朱利亚?”他看到另一则消息时,终于忍不住开口说,“有人对伊利诺州中央铁路公司提起诉讼,不准他们在湖滨区修铁路。”她不想搭理他,但是终于勉强自己说道:“没有。”口气非常尖锐。

赫斯渥竖起了耳朵。她说话的口气在他脑中敲响了警钟。

“如果他们真这么做的话,那倒不错,”他继续说道,半自言自语,半对着她说,不过他已经感到他老婆今天有点不对劲。他非常警觉地把注意力又转向报纸,心里却在留神她的动静,想弄明白究竟出了什么事。

其实,要不是他心里在想别的事,像赫斯渥这样乖巧的人--善于察言观色,对于各种气氛特别敏感,特别是对于那些属于他思想水准以内的气氛非常敏感--本来不会犯这样大的错误,竟然会看不出他妻子正满腔怒气。嘉莉对他的眷顾和许诺使他兴奋异常,神不守舍。不然的话,他不会觉得家里的气氛那么可爱的。今晚的气氛实在没有什么欢乐兴奋之处,是他看走了眼。如果他回家时的心情和往日一样,他本来可以更好地应付眼前的局面的。

他又看了几分钟报纸,随后感到他应该想个什么法子缓和一下矛盾。显然他妻子不打算轻易和他和解。于是他问:“乔治在院里玩的那只狗是从哪里弄来的?”“我不知道,”她气势汹汹地说。

他把报纸放在膝盖上,心不在焉地看着窗外。他不打算发脾气,只想保持和颜悦色,希望藉问这问那达成某种温和的谅解。

“早上那件事,你何必那么生气呢?”他终于说道,“这事情不值得吵架。你知道,如果你真想去华克夏,你去好了。”“你好一个人留下来,跟别人调情,是不是?”她转过身来对他嚷道,铁板着的脸上露出尖刻愤怒的讥嘲。

他像被人打了一个耳光,一下僵住了。他的劝说和解的态度立刻消失了,他迅速转入守势,可是一时间不知道该如何回答。

“你是什么意思?”他终于打起精神问道,目光注视着眼前这个冷酷坚决的女人。她却不加理会,继续在镜子前打扮。

“我是什么意思,你自己心里明白,”她终于说道,好像她手里掌握了大量的证据却不屑于说似的。

“不,我不明白,”他固执地说,但心里却很紧张,提防着下一步的攻势。这女人那种最后摊牌的神气使他在争吵中感到处于劣势。

她没有回答。

“哼!”他把头一歪轻轻哼了一声。这是他最无力的举动,口气中一点也没有把握。

赫斯渥太太注意到了他的话苍白无力,于是像个野兽一样回过身来面对着他,准备再来一下有力的打击。

“到华克夏去的钱,我明天早上就要,”她说道。

他吃惊地看着她。他从来没有见过她的目光露出这么冰冷坚决的表情--这么满不在乎的残酷表情。她似乎镇定自若--充满着自信和决心要从他手中夺去一切控制权。他感到自己的一切机智谋略在她面前无能为力无法自卫。他必须进行反击。

“你是什么意思?”他跳起来说道,“你要!我想知道你今晚中了什么邪?”“我没中邪,”她怒火直冒,“我就是要那笔钱,你拿出钱以后再摆你的臭架子吧。”“摆臭架子?哼!你别想从我手里拿到钱,你那些含沙射影的话是什么意思?”“昨晚你去哪里了?”她回击道,她的话听上去非常激烈。

“你在华盛顿大道和谁一起坐马车兜风?乔治那晚看到你时,你和谁在一起看戏?你以为我是个傻瓜,会让你蒙了吗?你以为我会坐在家里,相信你那些'太忙''来不了'的鬼话吗?我会听任你在外面造谣放风说我来不了?我要你放明白一点,你那种老爷派头对我来说已经用不上了。你别再想对我或者孩子们指手划脚了。我和你之间的关系已经彻底完了。”“你说谎,”他说道,他被逼得走投无路,想不出什么别的借口辩解。

“说谎?哼!”她激烈地说,但随后又恢复了克制,“你爱说这是谎话你就去说好了,反正我心里明白。”“这是谎话,我告诉你,”他用低沉严厉的口气说道。“好几个月来,你就在四处打听,想找出什么罪名来。现在你以为你找到了。你以为你可以突然发难,爬到我的头上来了。哼!我告诉你这办不到。只要我在这房子里,我就是一家之主。不管你还是别的什么人都别想对我发号施令,你听到没有?"他眼冒凶光,一步步朝她逼去。看到这女人那种冷静讥讽,胜券在握,好像她已经是一家之主的神气,一时间他恨不得把她气死。

她直视着他--活脱脱一个女巫的神气。

“我并没有朝你发号施令,”她回答。“我只是告诉你我要什么。”她说得那么冷静,那么勇气十足,使他不知怎么泄了气。

他无法对她反击,无法要她拿出证据来。不知怎么,他感到她的闪烁的目光好像在表明证据和在她那一边,也使他想其他的全部财产在她名下。他就像一艘战船,强大而有威慑力,就是没有风帆,只好在海上摇摆挣扎。

“我要告诉你的是,”他终于略微恢复了一点镇静说道,“哪些东西你别想得到手。”“那就走着瞧好了,”她说。“我会弄明白我有些什么权利。

本 文内容摘 自WWW.EDuzHAi.neT中国 教育文 摘 

如果你不想和我谈,也许你会乐意和我的律师谈。”她这一手玩得真漂亮,马上奏了效。赫斯渥被击败了,只好退却。他现在已经意识到她并不是在装模作样地恫吓,自己面临的是一个不容乐观的难题了。他几乎不知道应该说些什么。这一天的欢乐情绪如今已消失得无影无踪,他又不安又恼火。怎么办呢?

“随你的便吧,”他终于说道,“我不想和你再吵了。”他说着大步走出了房间。




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