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当前位置:主页 > 英国小说 > 德伯家的苔丝 > 第3章 新生 The Rally
第11节 第二十二章 【
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第二天早晨,她们起床下楼时都打着呵欠;但是她们撇奶油和挤牛奶的工作依然照常进行,干完了就进屋吃早饭。她们看见奶牛场老板克里克先生在屋子里直跺脚,原来是他收到了一位顾客的来信,信中抱怨他生产的黄油带有一股怪味。
“哎呀,天啦,真有一股怪味呀!”老板说,左手拿着一块木片,木片上沾了一块黄油。“是有一股怪味儿——不信你们自己尝尝吧!”
有几个人围到他的身边;克莱尔先生尝了尝,苔丝尝了尝,屋子里其他几个挤奶的姑娘尝了尝,还有几个挤奶的男工也尝了尝,克里克太太在屋子外面摆桌子,所以她是最后尝的一个人。黄油里肯定有一股怪味儿。
奶牛场老板聚精会神地在那儿品味着黄油的味道,想分辨出造成这种怪异味道的是一种什么莠草,过了一会儿他突然大声说——
“是大蒜!我原来以为那片草场里一片蒜叶也没有了呢!”
于是所有的老工人也想起来了,近来有几头牛跑到了一块干草地里,在好几年前,也是因为一些牛跑进了那块地里而弄坏了黄油。那一次老板没有能够把那股味道分辨出来,还以为是巫术弄坏了黄油。
“我们一定要把那块草场再彻底地搜一遍,”老板接着说;“这种事可不能再有了。”
所有的人手里都拿上了一把旧尖刀,把自己武装起来,一起出了门。由于长在草场里的那种对黄油有害的植物平常看不见,那一定是非常细小的,因此要把它们从他们面前这片繁茂的草地里找出来,几乎是没有希望的。但是由于事关重大,他们就都过来帮忙,一起排成一排搜查;克莱尔先生也自动过来帮忙,奶牛场老板就和他站在上边的开头;排在他们后面的是苔丝、玛丽安、伊茨·休特和莱蒂;再往后就是比尔·洛威尔、约纳森,还有已经结了婚住在各自房舍里的女工们——里面有贝克·尼布斯,她长了一头黑色的鬈发和一双滴溜溜直转的大眼睛;还有一个长着亚麻色头发的法兰西斯,她因为水草场上冬季的湿气而染上了肺病。
他们的眼睛盯着地面,慢慢地从草场上搜索过去,把这一生物场搜索完了,就再用同样的方法往回搜索过去,当他们这样搜索完以后,就没有一寸牧草能够逃过他们的眼睛了。这是一种最乏味的事,在整个草场里,总共就发现了五六颗蒜苗;不过就是这种气味辛辣的植物,一头牛要是碰巧吃了一口,就足以使当天奶牛场出产的牛奶变味了。
他们这一群人的天性变异极大,性情也大不相同,但是他们都弯着腰,排成整齐得让人感到奇怪的一排——他们都是一声不响地自动地排在一起的;这时候如果有一个外来人从附近的小路上走过,看见了他们,很有可能会把这群人都叫做“霍吉”的。他们一路搜索的时候,腰弯得低低的,以便看得见地上的蒜苗,阳光照射在毛茛上,从上面反射出来的柔和的黄色光线投射在他们背朝阳光的脸上,使他们看上去有些像在月光照射下的虚无缥缈的样子,尽管此时的太阳正在用中午的全部力量把光线照射在他们的背上。
安琪尔·克莱尔决心遵守一条原则,什么事都和大家一起干,他不时地抬起头来看。他就走在苔丝的旁边,当然这并不是偶然的。
“喂,你好吗?”他低声问。
“我很好,谢谢你,先生,”她庄重地说。
仅仅在半点钟以前,他们已经讨论过许多有关个人的问题了,现在他们这种客套似乎有点儿多余。不过当时他们没有多说别的话,他们弯着腰不停地搜寻着,苔丝的裙边正好碰到克莱尔的绑腿,克莱尔的胳膊肘有时也碰着了苔丝的胳膊。跟在后面的奶牛场老板终于累得受不了啦。
“这样弯着腰,真是把人给累死了,我的背差不多快要断了!”他大声嚷着说,一面皱着眉头慢慢地伸着腰,最后终于把腰完全伸直了。“还有你,苔丝姑娘,一两天前你不是感到不舒服吗——这样会让你的脑袋疼啊!要是你感到脑袋发晕,你就别干了吧;把剩下的活儿留给别人吧。”
奶牛场老板从搜索的队伍中退了出来,接着苔丝也退出来了。克莱尔先生也从搜寻的一排人中退了出来,开始四下胡乱地搜寻着。苔丝发现他走到了自己的身边,就为昨天夜里她听到的谈话而紧张起来,于是先开口说了话。
“她们长得很漂亮是不是?”她说
“谁?”
“伊茨·休特和莱蒂呀。”
苔丝原是痛苦地下了决心,她们两个无论谁都能成为农场主的好妻子,她应该推荐她们,而且还要贬低自己不幸的姿色。
“漂亮吗?哦,不错——她们都是漂亮的姑娘——水灵灵的样子,我也是经常这样想的。”
“可是,亲爱的姑娘们,漂亮是不会持久的呀!”
“啊,是不能持久的,真是不幸得很。”
“她们都是最优秀的奶牛场里的女工呢。”
“不错;不过和你比起来,她们还是要差一些。”
“她们撇奶油比我干得好呀。”
“真的吗?”
克莱尔仍然在观察着她们——她们也并不是没有观察他。
“她的脸慢慢地红了呢,”苔丝勇敢地说。
“谁呀?”
“莱蒂·普里德尔呀。”
“哦!为什么脸红呀?”
“因为你老是看着她呀。”
苔丝心里也许是一种自我牺牲的精神,但是她做不到再进一步而大声对他说,“如果你真的不想娶一个小姐而只想娶一个奶牛场里的女工做妻子,就在她们中间挑选一个吧;千万不要想到娶我!”她跟在奶牛场老板克里克的后面走了,看见克莱尔仍然还留在那儿,心里感到了一种悲哀的满足。
从这一天开始,她就努力强迫自己躲开他——即使他们完全是偶然地碰到了一起,她也不让自己像从前那样在他的身边呆得太久。她要把机会留给她们三个人。
从她们三个女孩子的表白中,苔丝作为一个女人,完全认识到她们三个人的名誉都掌握在克莱尔的手中,但是她也看见克莱尔小心翼翼地回避着她们,丝毫不作有损她们将来幸福的事,这也使苔丝对他生出温柔的敬重来,因此,无论她想得对还是不对,她都认为克莱尔表现出一种自我克制的责任感,她从来没有想到会在男人的身上发现这种品质,如果缺少了这种品质,那么和他在同一个奶牛场里的心地单纯的女工们,也许就不止一个要哭着走完人生的路了。

They came downstairs yawning next morning; but skimming and milking were proceeded with as usual, and they went indoors to breakfast. Dairyman Crick was discovered stamping about the house. He had received a letter, in which a customer had complained that the butter had a twang.

`And begad, so 't have!' said the dairyman, who held in his left hand a wooden slice on which a lump of butter was stuck. `Yes - taste for yourself!'

Several of them gathered round him; and Mr Clare tasted, Tess tasted, also the other indoor milkmaids, one or two of the milking-men, and last of all Mrs Crick, who came out from the waiting breakfast-table. There certainly was a twang.

The dairyman, who had thrown himself into abstraction to better realize the taste, and so divine the particular species of noxious weed to which it appertained, suddenly exclaimed--

`'Tis garlic! and I thought there wasn't a blade left in that mead!'

Then all the old hands remembered that a certain dry mead, into which a few of the cows had been admitted of late, had, in years gone by, spoilt the butter in the same way. The dairyman had not recognized the taste at that time, and thought the butter bewitched.

`We must overhaul that mead,' he resumed; `this mustn't continny!'

All having armed themselves with old pointed knives they went out together. As the inimical plant could only be present in very microscopic dimensions to have escaped ordinary observation, to find it seemed rather a hopeless attempt in the stretch of rich grass before them. However, they formed themselves into line, all assisting, owing to the importance of the search; the dairyman at the upper end with Mr Clare, who had volunteered to help; then Tess, Marian, Izz Huett, and Retty; then Bill Lewell, Jonathan, and the married dairywomen - Beck Knibbs, with her woolly black hair and rolling eyes; and flaxen Frances, consumptive from the winter damps of the water-meads - who lived in their respective cottages.

With eyes fixed upon the ground they crept slowly across a strip of the field, returning a little further down in such a manner that, when they should have finished, not a single inch of the pasture but would have fallen under the eye of some one of them. It was a most tedious business, not more than half a dozen shoots of garlic being discoverable in the whole field; yet such was the herb's pungency that probably one bite of it by one cow had been sufficient to season the whole dairy's produce for the day.

Differing one from another in natures and moods so greatly as they did, they yet formed, bending, a curiously uniform row - automatic, noiseless; and an alien observer passing down the neighbouring lane might well have been excused for massing them as `Hodge'. As they crept along, stooping low to discern the plant, a soft yellow gleam was reflected from the buttercups into their shaded faces, giving them an elfish, moonlit aspect, though the sun was pouring upon their backs in all the strength of noon.

Angel Clare, who communistically stuck to his rule of taking part with the rest in everything, glanced up now and then. It was not, of course, by accident that he walked next to Tess.

`Well, how are you?' he murmured.

`Very well, thank you, sir,' she replied demurely.

As they had been discussing a score of personal matters only half-an-hour before, the introductory style seemed a little superfluous. But they got no further in speech just then. They crept and crept, the hem of her petticoat just touching his gaiter, and his elbow sometimes brushing hers. At last the dairyman, who came next, could stand it no longer.

`Upon my soul and body, this here stooping do fairly make my back open and shut!' he exclaimed, straightening himself slowly with an excruciated look till quite upright. `And you, maidy Tess, you wasn't well a day or two ago - this will make your head ache finely! Don't do any more, if you feel fainty; leave the rest to finish it.'

Dairyman Crick withdrew, and Tess dropped behind. Mr Clare also stepped out of line, and began privateering about for the weed. When she found him near her, her very tension at what she had heard the night before made her the first to speak.

`Don't they look pretty?' she said.

`Who?'

`Izzy Huett and Retty.'

Tess had moodily decided that either of these maidens would make a good farmer's wife, and that she ought to recommend them, and obscure her own wretched charms.

`Pretty? Well, yes - they are pretty girls - fresh looking. I have often thought so.'

`Though, poor dears, prettiness won't last long!'

`O no, unfortunately.'

`They are excellent dairywomen.'

`Yes: though not better than you.'

`They skim better than I.'

`Do they?'

Clare remained observing them - not without their observing him.

`She is colouring up,' continued Tess heroically.

`Who?'

`Retty Priddle.'

`Oh! Why is that?'

`Because you are looking at her.'

Self-sacrificing as her mood might be Tess could not well go further and cry, `Marry one of them, if you really do want a dairywoman and not a lady; and don't think of marrying me!' She followed Dairyman Crick, and had the mournful satisfaction of seeing that Clare remained behind.

From this day she forced herself to take pains to avoid him - never allowing herself, as formerly, to remain long in his company, even if their juxtaposition were purely accidental. She gave the other three every chance.

Tess was woman enough to realize from their avowals to herself that Angel Clare had the honour of all the dairymaids in his keeping, and her perception of his care to avoid compromising the happiness of either in the least degree bred a tender respect in Tess for what she deemed, rightly or wrongly, the self-controlling sense of duty shown by him, a quality which she had never expected to find in one of the opposite sex, and in the absence of which more than one of the simple hearts who were his housemates might have gone weeping on her pilgrimage.