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当前位置:主页 > 英国小说 > 德伯家的苔丝 > 第1章 第一阶段 处女 Phase the First. The Maiden
第6节 第六章 【
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苔丝下了山,走到特兰里奇十字路口,漫不经心地在那儿等着搭乘从猎苑回沙斯顿的马车。她上车的时候,车里其他的乘客同她说话,她虽然也回答了他们,但并不知道他们说了些什么;他们乘坐的马车又接着上路了,苔丝一路上沉浸在内心的回忆中,对车外的一切视若无睹。
在和她同乘一辆车的旅客中间,有一个人对她说的话比先前的一些人说的话更直截了当:“唉呀,你简直变成了一束花了!这还在六月初呀,就有这么多好看的玫瑰花了!”
接着,她终于意识到在他们惊异的目光里,她表现出来的是怎样一种滑稽的情形了:胸前戴着玫瑰花;帽子上插着玫瑰花;篮子里也装满了玫瑰花和草莓。她不禁满脸通红,含含糊糊地告诉他们玫瑰花是别人送给她的。在乘客们不再注意她的时候,她就偷偷地把帽子上特别显眼的玫瑰花取下来,放在篮子里,用她的手巾遮盖起来。然后她又陷入了沉思,有一次她低头向下看时,她的下巴被她戴在胸前的玫瑰花刺扎了一下。像布莱克莫尔谷所有的村民一样,苔丝的头脑里充满了无稽的幻想,尽是相信预兆的迷信;她心里想,被玫瑰花刺扎了,这不是一个好兆头——这是那天她注意到的第一个预兆。
她乘坐马车只能坐到沙斯顿,从那个山间小镇走下山谷到马洛特村,还有几英里的路需要步行。她的母亲曾经叮嘱过她,如果她累得走不动了,就在这儿她们熟悉的一个乡村妇女的家里住一个晚上;苔丝那天就在这儿住了一个晚上,第二天下午她才下山回到家。
她进了家,立刻就从她母亲得意洋洋的脸色上看出,在她不在家这段时间里,已经发生了什么事。
“啊,我说得不错吧;我全知道啦!我告诉过你这件事是不会错的,现在不是证实了?”
“是不是我不在家时发生了什么事?又证实了什么事?”苔丝十分厌倦地说。
她的母亲一脸调皮的神气,把女儿上上下下打量了一番,开玩笑地说:“你到底讨得他们的欢心了!”
“你是怎样知道的,母亲?”
“我收到了一封信。”
这时苔丝才想起来,是有时间把信送到这儿。
“他们说——德贝维尔太太说——养鸡是她的爱好,她有一个小小的养鸡场,想让你去照料。不过这只是她的委婉说法,既要你去她那儿,又不激发起你的希望。她是想认你做亲戚呀——这就是她的意思。”
“可是我没有见过她呀。”
“我想你见到过什么人吧?”
“我见到过她的儿子。”
“他认不认你做亲戚呀?”
“哦——他叫我堂妹。”
“我就知道他会叫你堂妹的!杰克——他叫她堂妹啦!”琼对她的丈夫喊道:“对了,他当然对他的母亲说了,他的母亲就要你到她那儿去。”
“可是我不知道我会不会养鸡呀,”心中疑惑的苔丝说。
“那我就不知道谁会养鸡了。你生在一个做小买卖的家庭里,又是做小买卖长大的。生在做小买卖的家里的人,总是比半路出家的人懂得多些。另外,那也不过是表面上做做样子,让你觉得你是在给他们做事,而不会感到欠了别人的情。”
“总而言之,我觉得我不应该去,”苔丝仔细想了想说。“信是谁写的?给我看看好吗?”
“是德贝维尔夫人写的。拿去看吧。”
那封信是用第三人称的口气写的,很简单地告诉德北菲尔德太太说,那位夫人需要她的女儿去工作,帮助那位夫人管理鸡场,如果她能够去的话,还会给她提供一个舒适的房间,并说只要他们满意,工钱是很优厚的。
“哦——就写了这些!”苔丝说。
“你也不能指望她立刻就伸开双臂搂着你、吻你呀。”
苔丝抬头看着窗外。
“我宁肯同你和父亲留在家里,”她说。
“可是为什么呀?”
“我也不想告诉你为什么,母亲;说实话,我也不完全知道为了什么。”
一个星期里,她都在附近的地方寻找一个轻松一点儿的工作,但是她没有找到。一个星期过去了,她在晚上回到家里。她原来的想法是要在夏季里挣一笔钱,再买一匹马。她还没有跨进门,就有一个孩子从屋里跳着跑出来说:“那个绅士到家里来过啦!”
她母亲赶忙向她解释,浑身上下都透露出笑意来。德贝维尔夫人的儿子骑马刚好路过马洛特村,就顺道来拜访他们。他主要是代表他的母亲来的,想问一问苔丝究竟愿不愿意去为老夫人管理鸡场;还说以前为她管鸡的小伙子不可靠。“德贝维尔先生说,从你的模样看起来,你肯定是个好姑娘;他说你身价如金啦。他对你很感兴趣——老实告诉你。”
听说自己得到一个陌生人如此高的评价,苔丝一时似乎真的高兴起来,因为那时候她自己觉得情绪非常低落。
“谢谢他这样想,”苔丝嘟哝着说;“要是我住在那儿的确感到放心的话,任何时候我都会到那儿去。”
“他是一个聪明漂亮的人啦!”
“我可不这样认为,”苔丝冷冷地说。
“好啦,无论如何,这总是你的一个机会;我敢肯定,他戴的是一个漂亮的钻石戒指!”
“是钻石戒指,”在窗子下面板凳上坐着的小亚伯拉罕快活地说;“我也看见啦!他举手摸胡子的时候,那枚钻石戒指光灿灿的。母亲,我们那个阔绰的亲戚为什么老是用手摸他的胡须呢?”
“听听这孩子说的吧!”德北菲尔德太太带着欣赏的神态大声说。
“大概是炫耀他的钻石戒指吧,”约翰爵士坐在椅子上打瞌睡,嘴里嘟哝着说。
“我得想一想这件事,”苔丝说完就离开了房问。
“好啦,她这一去就把比我们小的一房给征服了,”女主人继续对丈夫说,“她要是不继续往前走,那才是个傻瓜呢。”
“我可不太喜欢我的孩子们离开家,”做小买卖的丈夫说,“我作为一个家族的大房,别人应该到我这儿来。”
“不过还是让她去吧,杰克,”可怜的傻乎乎的妻子劝着丈夫说。“他都叫她小堂妹啦!他很有可能娶了她,让她做一个贵夫人;那时候,她就同她的祖先一模一样了。”
约翰·德北菲尔德的虚荣心比他的精力和健康强得多,所以这个假设很使他高兴。
“哦,也许,那就是年轻的德贝维尔先生的意思,”他承认说:“我敢肯定,他也许真的想同我们大房结亲,以此来改善他们的血统。苔丝真是小淘气鬼!她只是去拜访了他们一次,就真的会带来这种好结果吗?”
这时候,苔丝正在院子里的覆盆子丛中、在王子的坟墓上满腹心事地走着。在她走进房间时,她母亲就追问起她来。
“呃,你打算怎么办呢?”她问。
“我要是那天见到德贝维尔太太就好了,”苔丝说。
“我觉得你应该打定主意了。这样你很快就能够见到她了。”
她的父亲坐在椅子里咳嗽着。
“我简直不知道说什么好!”姑娘心中不安地说,“还是由你作决定吧。既是我把那匹老马弄死了,我想我应该想法再弄一匹新马。可是——可是——我的确很不喜欢那儿的德贝维尔先生!”
孩子们在王子死了以后,一直存了苔丝嫁给他们有钱亲戚的想法(在他们的想象里,那一家人一定是他们的亲戚),并以此作为一种安慰,这时候看见苔丝犹豫着,就开始朝苔丝嚷起来,骂她,埋怨她犹犹豫豫的。
“苔丝不——不——不去啦,不做贵——贵——贵夫人啦!她说她——不——不去啦!”孩子们咧开大嘴哭了起来。“我们不会有漂亮的新马啦,也没有大堆的金钱买礼物啦!苔丝再也没有新衣服穿啦,再也不——不漂亮啦!”
她的母亲也在一边帮腔,唱着同样的调子:她要是不去,那就是把家里的负担无限期地延长了,使家里的负担比原来变得更重了,因此这也加重了她母亲说的话的分量。只有她的父亲保持着中立的态度。
“我去好了,”苔丝终于说。
姑娘同意去了,这又使得她的母亲心里头想到这门亲事的前景。
“这就对了!像你这样一个漂亮的女孩儿,这是一个好机会呀!”
“我希望这只是一个挣钱的机会。这也不是一个什么别的机会,你不要在教区里到处对这件事说傻话了好不好。”
德北菲尔德太太并不答应她。她不敢保证,在那个客人说了那样一番话后,她会不会得意忘形,到处去瞎嚷嚷。
事情就这样决定下来;年轻的姑娘写了回信,同意做好准备,他们需要她哪天去,她就可以动身。接着她就收到回信,告诉她德贝维尔夫人对她的决定感到高兴,并说后天就派一辆轻便马车来,到山谷的坡顶上接她,帮她运行李,要她做好在那个时候动身的准备。德贝维尔夫人来信的笔迹好像很有一些男性化。
“派一辆马车?”琼·德北菲尔德有些怀疑地嘟哝说,“来接她自己的亲戚,应该派一辆大马车呀!”
苔丝终于打定了主意,所以也就不再心神不宁、魂不守舍了,又开始泰然自若地做自己的事情,心里头想着做一份不太劳累的工作,就可以挣到钱再给父亲买一匹马了。她原先希望在小学里当一名教员,但是命运似乎决定要她做另外的事。由于她的思想比她的母亲成熟些,所以她此刻也没有把德北菲尔德太太对她婚姻的希望当做一回事。那个思想浅薄的妇女,几乎从她的女儿出世的那一年开始,就一直在为她寻找一个满意的丈夫了。

Tess went down the hill to Trantridge Cross, and inattentively waited to take her seat in the van returning from Chaseborough to Shaston. She did not know what the other occupants said to her as she entered, though she answered them; and when they had started anew she rode along with an inward and not an outward eye.

One among her fellow-travellers addressed her more pointedly than any had spoken before: `Why, you be quite a posy! And such roses in early June!'

Then she became aware of the spectacle she presented to their surprised vision: roses at her breast; roses in her hat; roses and strawberries in her basket to the brim. She blushed, and said confusedly that the flowers had been given to her. When the passengers were not looking she stealthily removed the more prominent blooms from her hat and placed them in the basket, where she covered them with her handkerchief. Then she fell to reflecting again, and in looking downwards a thorn of the rose remaining in her breast accidentally pricked her chin. Like all the cottagers in Blackmoor Vale, Tess was steeped in fancies and prefigurative superstitions; she thought this an ill omen - the first she had noticed that day.

The van travelled only so far as Shaston, and there were several miles of pedestrian descent from that mountain town into the vale to Marlott. Her mother had advised her to stay here for the night, at the house of a cottage woman they knew, If she should feel too tired to come on; and this Tess did, not descending to her home till the following afternoon.

When she entered the house she perceived in a moment from her mother's triumphant manner that something had occurred in the interim.

`Oh yes; I know all about it! I told 'ee it would be all right, and now 'tis proved!'

`Since I've been away? What has?' said Tess rather wearily.

Her mother surveyed the girl up and down with arch approval, and went on banteringly: `So you've brought 'em round!'

`How do you know, mother,'

`I've had a letter.'

Tess then remembered that there would have been time for this.

`They say - Mrs d'Urberville says - that she wants you to look after a little fowl-farm which is her hobby. But this is only her artful way of getting 'ee there without raising your hopes. She's going to own 'ee as kin - that's the meaning o'.'

`But I didn't see her.'

`You zid somebody, I suppose?'

`I saw her son.'

`And did he own 'ee?'

`Well - he called me Coz.'

`An' I knew it! Jacky he called her Coz!' cried Joan to her husband. `Well, he spoke to his mother, of course, and she do want 'ee there.'

`But I don't know that I am apt at tending fowls,' said the dubious Tess.

`Then I don't know who is apt. You've been born in the business, and brought up in it. They that be born in a business always know more about it than any 'prentice. Besides, that's only just a show of something for you to do, that you midn't feel beholden.'

`I don't altogether think I ought to go,' said Tess thoughtfully.

`Who wrote the letter? Will you let me look at it?'

`Mrs d'Urberville wrote it. Here it is.'

The letter was in the third person, and briefly informed Mrs Durbeyfield that her daughter's services would be useful to that lady in the management of her poultry farm, that a comfortable room would be provided for her if she could come, and that the wages would be on a liberal scale if they liked her.

`Oh - that's all!' said Tess.

`You couldn't expect her to throw her arms round 'ee, an' to kiss and to coll 'ee all at once.'

Tess looked out of the window.

`I would rather stay here with father and you,' she said.

`But why?'

`I'd rather not tell you why, mother; indeed, I don't quite know why.'

A week afterwards she came in one evening from an unavailing search for some light occupation in the immediate neighbourhood. Her idea had been to get together sufficient money during the summer to purchase another horse. Hardly had she crossed the threshold before one of the children danced across the room, `The gentleman's been here!' saying,

Her mother hastened to explain, smiles breaking from every inch of her person. Mrs d'Urberville's son had called on horseback, having been riding by chance in the direction of Marlott. He had wished to know, finally, in the name of his mother, if Tess could really come to manage the old lady's fowl farm or not; the lad who had hitherto superintended the birds having proved untrustworthy. `Mr d'Urberville says you must be a good girl if you are at all as you appear; he knows you must be worth your weight in gold. He is very much interested in 'ee - truth to tell.' Tess seemed for the moment really pleased to hear that she had won such high opinion from a stranger when, in her own esteem, she had sunk so low.

`It is very good of him to think that,' she murmured; `and if I was quite sure how it would be living there, I would go any-when.'

`He is a mighty handsome man!'

`I don't think so,' said Tess coldly.

`Well, there's your chance, whether or no; and I'm sure he wears a beautiful diamond ring!'

`Yes,' said little Abraham, brightly, from the window bench; `and I seed it! and it did twinkle when he put his hand up to his mistarshers. Mother, why did our grand relation keep on putting his hand up to his mistarshers?'

`Hark at that child!' cried Mrs Durbeyfield, with parenthetic admiration.

`Perhaps to show his diamond ring,' murmured Sir John, dreamily, from his chair.

`I'll think it over,' said Tess, leaving the room.

`Well, she's made a conquest o' the younger branch of us, straight off,' continued the matron to her husband, `and she's a fool if she don't follow it up.'

`I don't quite like my children going away from home,' said the haggler. `As the head of the family, the rest ought to come to me.'

`But do let her go, Jacky,' coaxed his poor witless wife. `He's struck wi' - her you can see that. He called her Coz! He'll marry her, most likely, and make a lady of her; and then she'll be what her forefathers was.'

John Durbeyfield had more conceit than energy or health, and this supposition was pleasant to him.

`Well, perhaps, that's what young Mr d'Urberville means,' he admitted; `and sure enough he mid have serious thoughts about improving his blood by linking on to the old line. Tess, the little rogue! And have she really paid 'em a visit to such an end as this?' Meanwhile Tess was walking thoughtfully among the gooseberry bushes in the garden, and over Prince's grave. When she came in her mother pursued her advantage.

`Well, what be you going to do?' she asked.

`I wish I had seen Mrs d'Urberville,' said Tess.

`I think you mid as well settle it. Then you'll see her soon enough.'

Her father coughed in his chair.

`I don't know what to say!' answered the girl restlessly. `It is for you to decide. I killed the old horse, and I suppose I ought to do something to get ye a new one. But - but - I don't quite like Mr d'Urberville being there!'

The children, who had made use of this idea of Tess being taken up by their wealthy kinsfolk (which they imagined the other family to be) as a species of dolorifuge after the death of the horse, began to cry at Tess's reluctance, and teased and reproached her for hesitating.

`Tess won't go-o-o and be made a la-a-dy-of - !no, she says she won't!' they walled with square mouths. `And we shan't have a nice new horse, and lots o' golden money to buy fairlings! And Tess won't look pretty in her best cloze no mo-o-ore!'

Her mother chimed in to the same tune: a certain way she had of making her labours in the house seem heavier than they were by prolonging them indefinitely, also weighed in the argument. Her father alone preserved an attitude of neutrality.

`I will go,' said Tess at last.

Her mother could not repress her consciousness of the nuptial Vision conjured up by the girl's consent.

`That's right! For such a pretty maid as 'tis, this is a fine chance!'

Tess smiled crossly.

`I hope it is a chance for earning money. It is no other kind of chance. You had better say nothing of that silly sort about parish.'

Mrs Durbeyfield did not promise. She was not quite sure that she did not feel proud enough, after the visitor's remarks, to say a good deal.

Thus it was arranged; and the young girl wrote, agreeing to be ready to set out on any day on which she might be required. She was duly informed that Mrs d'Urberville was glad of her decision, and that a spring-cart should be sent to meet her and her luggage at the top of the Vale on the day after the morrow, when she must hold herself prepared to start. Mrs d'Urberville's handwriting seemed rather masculine.

`A cart?' murmured Joan Durbeyfield doubtingly. `It might have been a carriage for her own kin!'

Having at last taken her course Tess was less restless and abstracted, going about her business with some self assurance in the thought of acquiring another horse for her father by an occupation which would not be onerous. She had hoped to be a teacher at the school, but the fates seemed to decide otherwise. Being mentally older than her mother she did not regard Mrs Durbeyfield's matrimonial hopes for her in a serious aspect for a moment. The light minded woman had been discovering good matches for her daughter almost from the year of her birth.