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马丁・伊登(MARTIN EDEN)第一章

发表时间:2022-07-06  

The one opened the door with a latch-key and went in, followed by a young fellow who awkwardly removed his cap. He wore rough clothes that smacked of the sea, and he was manifestly out of place in the spacious hall in which he found himself. He did not know what to do with his cap, and was stuffing it into his coat pocket when the other took it from him. The act was done quietly and naturally, and the awkward young fellow appreciated it. "He understands," was his thought. "He'll see me through all right."

He walked at the other's heels with a swing to his shoulders, and his legs spread unwittingly, as if the level floors were tilting up and sinking down to the heave and lunge of the sea. The wide rooms seemed too narrow for his rolling gait, and to himself he was in terror lest his broad shoulders should collide with the doorways or sweep the bric-a-brac from the low mantel. He recoiled from side to side between the various objects and multiplied the hazards that in reality lodged only in his mind. Between a grand piano and a centre-table piled high with books was space for a half a dozen to walk abreast, yet he essayed it with trepidation. His heavy arms hung loosely at his sides. He did not know what to do with those arms and hands, and when, to his excited vision, one arm seemed liable to brush against the books on the table, he lurched away like a frightened horse, barely missing the piano stool. He watched the easy walk of the other in front of him, and for the first time realized that his walk was different from that of other men. He experienced a momentary pang of shame that he should walk so uncouthly. The sweat burst through the skin of his forehead in tiny beads, and he paused and mopped his bronzed face with his handkerchief.

"Hold on, Arthur, my boy," he said, attempting to mask his anxiety with facetious utterance. "This is too much all at once for yours truly. Give me a chance to get my nerve. You know I didn't want to come, an' I guess your fam'ly ain't hankerin' to see me neither."

"That's all right," was the reassuring answer. "You mustn't be frightened at us. We're just homely people - Hello, there's a letter for me."

He stepped back to the table, tore open the envelope, and began to read, giving the stranger an opportunity to recover himself. And the stranger understood and appreciated. His was the gift of sympathy, understanding; and beneath his alarmed exterior that sympathetic process went on. He mopped his forehead dry and glanced about him with a controlled face, though in the eyes there was an expression such as wild animals betray when they fear the trap. He was surrounded by the unknown, apprehensive of what might happen, ignorant of what he should do, aware that he walked and bore himself awkwardly, fearful that every attribute and power of him was similarly afflicted. He was keenly sensitive, hopelessly self-conscious, and the amused glance that the other stole privily at him over the top of the letter burned into him like a dagger- thrust. He saw the glance, but he gave no sign, for among the things he had learned was discipline. Also, that dagger-thrust went to his pride. He cursed himself for having come, and at the same time resolved that, happen what would, having come, he would carry it through. The lines of his face hardened, and into his eyes came a fighting light. He looked about more unconcernedly, sharply observant, every detail of the pretty interior registering itself on his brain. His eyes were wide apart; nothing in their field of vision escaped; and as they drank in the beauty before them the fighting light died out and a warm glow took its place. He was responsive to beauty, and here was cause to respond.

An oil painting caught and held him. A heavy surf thundered and burst over an outjutting rock; lowering storm-clouds covered the sky; and, outside the line of surf, a pilot-schooner, close-hauled, heeled over till every detail of her deck was visible, was surging along against a stormy sunset sky. There was beauty, and it drew him irresistibly. He forgot his awkward walk and came closer to the painting, very close. The beauty faded out of the canvas. His face expressed his bepuzzlement. He stared at what seemed a careless daub of paint, then stepped away. Immediately all the beauty flashed back into the canvas. "A trick picture," was his thought, as he dismissed it, though in the midst of the multitudinous impressions he was receiving he found time to feel a prod of indignation that so much beauty should be sacrificed to make a trick. He did not know painting. He had been brought up on chromos and lithographs that were always definite and sharp, near or far. He had seen oil paintings, it was true, in the show windows of shops, but the glass of the windows had prevented his eager eyes from approaching too near.

He glanced around at his friend reading the letter and saw the books on the table. Into his eyes leaped a wistfulness and a yearning as promptly as the yearning leaps into the eyes of a starving man at sight of food. An impulsive stride, with one lurch to right and left of the shoulders, brought him to the table, where he began affectionately handling the books. He glanced at the titles and the authors' names, read fragments of text, caressing the volumes with his eyes and hands, and, once, recognized a book he had read. For the rest, they were strange books and strange authors. He chanced upon a volume of Swinburne and began reading steadily, forgetful of where he was, his face glowing. Twice he closed the book on his forefinger to look at the name of the author. Swinburne! he would remember that name. That fellow had eyes, and he had certainly seen color and flashing light. But who was Swinburne? Was he dead a hundred years or so, like most of the poets? Or was he alive still, and writing? He turned to the title-page . . . yes, he had written other books; well, he would go to the free library the first thing in the morning and try to get hold of some of Swinburne's stuff. He went back to the text and lost himself. He did not notice that a young woman had entered the room. The first he knew was when he heard Arthur's voice saying:-

"Ruth, this is Mr. Eden."

The book was closed on his forefinger, and before he turned he was thrilling to the first new impression, which was not of the girl, but of her brother's words. Under that muscled body of his he was a mass of quivering sensibilities. At the slightest impact of the outside world upon his consciousness, his thoughts, sympathies, and emotions leapt and played like lambent flame. He was extraordinarily receptive and responsive, while his imagination, pitched high, was ever at work establishing relations of likeness and difference. "Mr. Eden," was what he had thrilled to - he who had been called "Eden," or "Martin Eden," or just "Martin," all his life. And "MISTER!" It was certainly going some, was his internal comment. His mind seemed to turn, on the instant, into a vast camera obscura, and he saw arrayed around his consciousness endless pictures from his life, of stoke-holes and forecastles, camps and beaches, jails and boozing-kens, fever-hospitals and slum streets, wherein the thread of association was the fashion in which he had been addressed in those various situations.

And then he turned and saw the girl. The phantasmagoria of his brain vanished at sight of her. She was a pale, ethereal creature, with wide, spiritual blue eyes and a wealth of golden hair. He did not know how she was dressed, except that the dress was as wonderful as she. He likened her to a pale gold flower upon a slender stem. No, she was a spirit, a divinity, a goddess; such sublimated beauty was not of the earth. Or perhaps the books were right, and there were many such as she in the upper walks of life. She might well be sung by that chap, Swinburne. Perhaps he had had somebody like her in mind when he painted that girl, Iseult, in the book there on the table. All this plethora of sight, and feeling, and thought occurred on the instant. There was no pause of the realities wherein he moved. He saw her hand coming out to his, and she looked him straight in the eyes as she shook hands, frankly, like a man. The women he had known did not shake hands that way. For that matter, most of them did not shake hands at all. A flood of associations, visions of various ways he had made the acquaintance of women, rushed into his mind and threatened to swamp it. But he shook them aside and looked at her. Never had he seen such a woman. The women he had known! Immediately, beside her, on either hand, ranged the women he had known. For an eternal second he stood in the midst of a portrait gallery, wherein she occupied the central place, while about her were limned many women, all to be weighed and measured by a fleeting glance, herself the unit of weight and measure. He saw the weak and sickly faces of the girls of the factories, and the simpering, boisterous girls from the south of Market. There were women of the cattle camps, and swarthy cigarette-smoking women of Old Mexico. These, in turn, were crowded out by Japanese women, doll-like, stepping mincingly on wooden clogs; by Eurasians, delicate featured, stamped with degeneracy; by full-bodied South-Sea-Island women, flower-crowned and brown-skinned. All these were blotted out by a grotesque and terrible nightmare brood - frowsy, shuffling creatures from the pavements of Whitechapel, gin-bloated hags of the stews, and all the vast hell's following of harpies, vile-mouthed and filthy, that under the guise of monstrous female form prey upon sailors, the scrapings of the ports, the scum and slime of the human pit.

"Won't you sit down, Mr. Eden?" the girl was saying. "I have been looking forward to meeting you ever since Arthur told us. It was brave of you - "

He waved his hand deprecatingly and muttered that it was nothing at all, what he had done, and that any fellow would have done it. She noticed that the hand he waved was covered with fresh abrasions, in the process of healing, and a glance at the other loose-hanging hand showed it to be in the same condition. Also, with quick, critical eye, she noted a scar on his cheek, another that peeped out from under the hair of the forehead, and a third that ran down and disappeared under the starched collar. She repressed a smile at sight of the red line that marked the chafe of the collar against the bronzed neck. He was evidently unused to stiff collars. Likewise her feminine eye took in the clothes he wore, the cheap and unaesthetic cut, the wrinkling of the coat across the shoulders, and the series of wrinkles in the sleeves that advertised bulging biceps muscles.

While he waved his hand and muttered that he had done nothing at all, he was obeying her behest by trying to get into a chair. He found time to admire the ease with which she sat down, then lurched toward a chair facing her, overwhelmed with consciousness of the awkward figure he was cutting. This was a new experience for him. All his life, up to then, he had been unaware of being either graceful or awkward. Such thoughts of self had never entered his mind. He sat down gingerly on the edge of the chair, greatly worried by his hands. They were in the way wherever he put them. Arthur was leaving the room, and Martin Eden followed his exit with longing eyes. He felt lost, alone there in the room with that pale spirit of a woman. There was no bar-keeper upon whom to call for drinks, no small boy to send around the corner for a can of beer and by means of that social fluid start the amenities of friendship flowing.

"You have such a scar on your neck, Mr. Eden," the girl was saying. "How did it happen? I am sure it must have been some adventure."

"A Mexican with a knife, miss," he answered, moistening his parched lips and clearing hip throat. "It was just a fight. After I got the knife away, he tried to bite off my nose."

Baldly as he had stated it, in his eyes was a rich vision of that hot, starry night at Salina Cruz, the white strip of beach, the lights of the sugar steamers in the harbor, the voices of the drunken sailors in the distance, the jostling stevedores, the flaming passion in the Mexican's face, the glint of the beast-eyes in the starlight, the sting of the steel in his neck, and the rush of blood, the crowd and the cries, the two bodies, his and the Mexican's, locked together, rolling over and over and tearing up the sand, and from away off somewhere the mellow tinkling of a guitar. Such was the picture, and he thrilled to the memory of it, wondering if the man could paint it who had painted the pilot- schooner on the wall. The white beach, the stars, and the lights of the sugar steamers would look great, he thought, and midway on the sand the dark group of figures that surrounded the fighters. The knife occupied a place in the picture, he decided, and would show well, with a sort of gleam, in the light of the stars. But of all this no hint had crept into his speech. "He tried to bite off my nose," he concluded.

"Oh," the girl said, in a faint, far voice, and he noticed the shock in her sensitive face.

He felt a shock himself, and a blush of embarrassment shone faintly on his sunburned cheeks, though to him it burned as hotly as when his cheeks had been exposed to the open furnace-door in the fire- room. Such sordid things as stabbing affrays were evidently not fit subjects for conversation with a lady. People in the books, in her walk of life, did not talk about such things - perhaps they did not know about them, either.

There was a brief pause in the conversation they were trying to get started. Then she asked tentatively about the scar on his cheek. Even as she asked, he realized that she was making an effort to talk his talk, and he resolved to get away from it and talk hers.

"It was just an accident," he said, putting his hand to his cheek. "One night, in a calm, with a heavy sea running, the main-boom-lift carried away, an' next the tackle. The lift was wire, an' it was threshin' around like a snake. The whole watch was tryin' to grab it, an' I rushed in an' got swatted."

"Oh," she said, this time with an accent of comprehension, though secretly his speech had been so much Greek to her and she was wondering what a LIFT was and what SWATTED meant.

"This man Swineburne," he began, attempting to put his plan into execution and pronouncing the I long.

"Who?"

"Swineburne," he repeated, with the same mispronunciation. "The poet."

"Swinburne," she corrected.

"Yes, that's the chap," he stammered, his cheeks hot again. "How long since he died?"

"Why, I haven't heard that he was dead." She looked at him curiously. "Where did you make his acquaintance?"

"I never clapped eyes on him," was the reply. "But I read some of his poetry out of that book there on the table just before you come in. How do you like his poetry?"

And thereat she began to talk quickly and easily upon the subject he had suggested. He felt better, and settled back slightly from the edge of the chair, holding tightly to its arms with his hands, as if it might get away from him and buck him to the floor. He had succeeded in making her talk her talk, and while she rattled on, he strove to follow her, marvelling at all the knowledge that was stowed away in that pretty head of hers, and drinking in the pale beauty of her face. Follow her he did, though bothered by unfamiliar words that fell glibly from her lips and by critical phrases and thought-processes that were foreign to his mind, but that nevertheless stimulated his mind and set it tingling. Here was intellectual life, he thought, and here was beauty, warm and wonderful as he had never dreamed it could be. He forgot himself and stared at her with hungry eyes. Here was something to live for, to win to, to fight for - ay, and die for. The books were true. There were such women in the world. She was one of them. She lent wings to his imagination, and great, luminous canvases spread themselves before him whereon loomed vague, gigantic figures of love and romance, and of heroic deeds for woman's sake - for a pale woman, a flower of gold. And through the swaying, palpitant vision, as through a fairy mirage, he stared at the real woman, sitting there and talking of literature and art. He listened as well, but he stared, unconscious of the fixity of his gaze or of the fact that all that was essentially masculine in his nature was shining in his eyes. But she, who knew little of the world of men, being a woman, was keenly aware of his burning eyes. She had never had men look at her in such fashion, and it embarrassed her. She stumbled and halted in her utterance. The thread of argument slipped from her. He frightened her, and at the same time it was strangely pleasant to be so looked upon. Her training warned her of peril and of wrong, subtle, mysterious, luring; while her instincts rang clarion-voiced through her being, impelling her to hurdle caste and place and gain to this traveller from another world, to this uncouth young fellow with lacerated hands and a line of raw red caused by the unaccustomed linen at his throat, who, all too evidently, was soiled and tainted by ungracious existence. She was clean, and her cleanness revolted; but she was woman, and she was just beginning to learn the paradox of woman.

"As I was saying - what was I saying?" She broke off abruptly and laughed merrily at her predicament.

"You was saying that this man Swinburne failed bein' a great poet because - an' that was as far as you got, miss," he prompted, while to himself he seemed suddenly hungry, and delicious little thrills crawled up and down his spine at the sound of her laughter. Like silver, he thought to himself, like tinkling silver bells; and on the instant, and for an instant, he was transported to a far land, where under pink cherry blossoms, he smoked a cigarette and listened to the bells of the peaked pagoda calling straw-sandalled devotees to worship.

"Yes, thank you," she said. "Swinburne fails, when all is said, because he is, well, indelicate. There are many of his poems that should never be read. Every line of the really great poets is filled with beautiful truth, and calls to all that is high and noble in the human. Not a line of the great poets can be spared without impoverishing the world by that much."

"I thought it was great," he said hesitatingly, "the little I read. I had no idea he was such a - a scoundrel. I guess that crops out in his other books."

"There are many lines that could be spared from the book you were reading," she said, her voice primly firm and dogmatic.

"I must 'a' missed 'em," he announced. "What I read was the real goods. It was all lighted up an' shining, an' it shun right into me an' lighted me up inside, like the sun or a searchlight. That's the way it landed on me, but I guess I ain't up much on poetry, miss."

He broke off lamely. He was confused, painfully conscious of his inarticulateness. He had felt the bigness and glow of life in what he had read, but his speech was inadequate. He could not express what he felt, and to himself he likened himself to a sailor, in a strange ship, on a dark night, groping about in the unfamiliar running rigging. Well, he decided, it was up to him to get acquainted in this new world. He had never seen anything that he couldn't get the hang of when he wanted to and it was about time for him to want to learn to talk the things that were inside of him so that she could understand. SHE was bulking large on his horizon.

"Now Longfellow - " she was saying.

"Yes, I've read 'm," he broke in impulsively, spurred on to exhibit and make the most of his little store of book knowledge, desirous of showing her that he was not wholly a stupid clod. "'The Psalm of Life,' 'Excelsior,' an' . . . I guess that's all."

She nodded her head and smiled, and he felt, somehow, that her smile was tolerant, pitifully tolerant. He was a fool to attempt to make a pretence that way. That Longfellow chap most likely had written countless books of poetry.

"Excuse me, miss, for buttin' in that way. I guess the real facts is that I don't know nothin' much about such things. It ain't in my class. But I'm goin' to make it in my class."

It sounded like a threat. His voice was determined, his eyes were flashing, the lines of his face had grown harsh. And to her it seemed that the angle of his jaw had changed; its pitch had become unpleasantly aggressive. At the same time a wave of intense virility seemed to surge out from him and impinge upon her.

"I think you could make it in - in your class," she finished with a laugh. "You are very strong."

Her gaze rested for a moment on the muscular neck, heavy corded, almost bull-like, bronzed by the sun, spilling over with rugged health and strength. And though he sat there, blushing and humble, again she felt drawn to him. She was surprised by a wanton thought that rushed into her mind. It seemed to her that if she could lay her two hands upon that neck that all its strength and vigor would flow out to her. She was shocked by this thought. It seemed to reveal to her an undreamed depravity in her nature. Besides, strength to her was a gross and brutish thing. Her ideal of masculine beauty had always been slender gracefulness. Yet the thought still persisted. It bewildered her that she should desire to place her hands on that sunburned neck. In truth, she was far from robust, and the need of her body and mind was for strength. But she did not know it. She knew only that no man had ever affected her before as this one had, who shocked her from moment to moment with his awful grammar.

"Yes, I ain't no invalid," he said. "When it comes down to hard- pan, I can digest scrap-iron. But just now I've got dyspepsia. Most of what you was sayin' I can't digest. Never trained that way, you see. I like books and poetry, and what time I've had I've read 'em, but I've never thought about 'em the way you have. That's why I can't talk about 'em. I'm like a navigator adrift on a strange sea without chart or compass. Now I want to get my bearin's. Mebbe you can put me right. How did you learn all this you've ben talkin'?"

"By going to school, I fancy, and by studying," she answered.

"I went to school when I was a kid," he began to object.

"Yes; but I mean high school, and lectures, and the university."

"You've gone to the university?" he demanded in frank amazement. He felt that she had become remoter from him by at least a million miles.

"I'm going there now. I'm taking special courses in English."

He did not know what "English" meant, but he made a mental note of that item of ignorance and passed on.

"How long would I have to study before I could go to the university?" he asked.

She beamed encouragement upon his desire for knowledge, and said: "That depends upon how much studying you have already done. You have never attended high school? Of course not. But did you finish grammar school?"

"I had two years to run, when I left," he answered. "But I was always honorably promoted at school."

The next moment, angry with himself for the boast, he had gripped the arms of the chair so savagely that every finger-end was stinging. At the same moment he became aware that a woman was entering the room. He saw the girl leave her chair and trip swiftly across the floor to the newcomer. They kissed each other, and, with arms around each other's waists, they advanced toward him. That must be her mother, he thought. She was a tall, blond woman, slender, and stately, and beautiful. Her gown was what he might expect in such a house. His eyes delighted in the graceful lines of it. She and her dress together reminded him of women on the stage. Then he remembered seeing similar grand ladies and gowns entering the London theatres while he stood and watched and the policemen shoved him back into the drizzle beyond the awning. Next his mind leaped to the Grand Hotel at Yokohama, where, too, from the sidewalk, he had seen grand ladies. Then the city and the harbor of Yokohama, in a thousand pictures, began flashing before his eyes. But he swiftly dismissed the kaleidoscope of memory, oppressed by the urgent need of the present. He knew that he must stand up to be introduced, and he struggled painfully to his feet, where he stood with trousers bagging at the knees, his arms loose- hanging and ludicrous, his face set hard for the impending ordeal.

那人用弹簧锁钥匙开门走了进去,后面跟着一个年轻人。年轻人笨拙地脱下了便帽。他穿一身粗布衣服,带着海洋的咸味。来到这宽阔的大汀他显然感到拘束,连帽子也不知道怎么处置。正想塞进外衣口袋,那人却接了过去。接得自然,一声不响,那笨拙的青年心里不禁感激,“他明白我,”他心想,“他会帮我到底的。”

他摇晃着肩膀跟在那人身后走着,两条腿不自觉地叉开,仿佛平坦的地板在随着波涛左右倾侧,上下颠簸,那宽阔的房间似乎装不下他那晃动的脚步。他心里还暗自紧张,怕他那巨大的肩膀会撞上门框或是把矮架上的小摆设拂到地上。他在家具什物之间东躲西闪,原本只存在他心中的恐惧又成倍地增加了。在屋子正中堆满书籍的桌子和钢琴之间分明有可容六个人并行的空间,可他走过时却仍提心吊胆。他的两条粗壮的胳膊松松地挂在身旁,不知道怎么处置。他正在紧张却发现一条胳膊几乎撞到摞在桌面的书上,便如受惊的马一样往旁边一个趔趄,几乎碰翻了琴凳。他望着前面的人轻松自在的步伐,第一次意识到自己走路和别人不同,步履蹒跚,不禁感到难堪,前额上沁出了豆大的汗珠。他停下脚步用手巾擦着晒成青铜色的脸。

“慢着,亚瑟,老兄,”他想说句俏皮话掩饰心中的紧张,“我这次突然来,你家的人肯定受不了。让我定定神吧!你知道我并不想来,我琢磨着你家的人也未必急于见我。”

“别担心,”亚瑟安慰道,“不要为我家的人紧张。我们都是不讲究的人——嗨,我还有一封信呢!”

他回到桌边,拆开信,看了起来,给了客人机会镇定镇定。那客人心里有数,也很感激。他天生善于同情人、理解人。目前在他那惊煌的外表下仍然体察着对方。他擦干前额,摆出平静的样子向四面看了看。眼里却掩饰不住一种野兽害怕陷阱的神气。他从来没有见过的事物包围了他,他害怕发生什么情况,无法应付。他意识到自己脚步难看、举止笨拙,害怕自己所有的属性和能力也出现类似的缺陷。他极为敏感,有着无可奈何的自我意识。那人偏又越过信纸饶有兴味地偷偷打量着他,那目光像匕首一样戳得他生疼。他看得清清楚楚,却不动声色,因为他经受过自我约束的训练。那“匕首”也伤害了他的自尊。他咒骂自己不该来,却也决心既然来了无论出现什么情况也要挺住。他脸上的线条僵住了,眼里闪出拼搏的光,更加满不在乎地打量着四周的一切。他目光敏锐,这漂亮厅堂里的每一个细节都在他脑子里记录下来。他大睁着双眼,目光所及丝毫不漏。目光既痛饮着那内室之美,眼里拼搏的光便渐渐隐敌,泛出几分温暖。他对美敏感,而这里又多的是让他敏感的东西。

一幅油画抓住了他的注意。怒涛澎湃,拍击着一片横空斜出的峭壁;孕育着风暴的黑云低垂,布满天空;浪涛线外一艘领港船正乘风前进,船身倾斜,甲板上的一切都清晰可辨。背景是一个风暴将至的薄暮的天空。那画很美,它无可抗拒地吸引了他。他忘掉了自己难看的步伐,向画幅走去。逼近画幅时,画上的美却消失了。他一脸迷惑,瞠目望着那一片仿佛是胡涂乱抹的色彩退开了。可面上全部的美又立即闪了回来。“玩噱头,”他转身走开,想道,在纷至沓来的众多印象之中却也有时间感到一种义愤:为什么要拿这么多的美来玩噱头?他不懂得画,他平生见过的只有彩色石印和石版画,远看近看总是轮廓分明线条清晰的。他也见过油画,不错,那是在橱窗里,可橱窗玻璃却不让他那双急于看个明白的眼睛靠得太近。

他瞥了一眼在读信的朋友和桌上的书,眼里立即闪出一种期待和渴望的光,有如饥饿的人看到了食物。他冲动地迈出一大步,双肩左右一晃扑到了桌边,急切地翻起书来。他看书名,看作者名,读了些片断,用眼和手爱抚着书卷,只有一次他认出了一本读过的书,别的书他却全都陌生,作者也陌生。他偶然翻起了一本史文朋,开始连续地读,读得脸上闪光。忘了自已在什么地方。他两欢用食指插着合上书看,作者的名字,史文朋!他要记住这个名字。这家伙很有眼光,他肯定把捉住了色彩和闪光。可史文朋是谁?跟大部分诗人一样,已经去世一两百年了呢,还有活着,还在写诗?他翻到书名页……是的,他还写过别的书。对,明天早上第一件事就是去免费图书馆借点史文朋的东西读。他又读起书来,读得忘了自己,没有注意到有个年青女人已经进了屋子。他首先注意到的是亚瑟的声音在说话:

“露丝,这是伊登先生。”

他又插上食指合上书,还没转过身就为第一个崭新的印象所激动。并非因为那姑娘,而是因为她哥哥的话。在他那肌肉鼓突的身体下面是一堆颤颤巍巍的敏感神经。外部世界对他的意识、思想、感受和情绪的最轻微的刺激也能使它像幽幽的火焰一样闪动起来。他异常善于接纳。反映,他的想像力活跃、总在动作,辨析着事物的同与异。是“伊登先生”这个称呼激动了他——这一辈子他都被人叫做“伊登”,“马丁·伊登”或者是“马丁”。可现在却成了“先生!”太妙了!他心里想。他的心灵仿佛立即化作了一具庞大的幻灯机。他在自己意识里看到了数不清的生活场景:锅炉房、水手舱、野营和海滩、监狱和酒吧、高烧病房和贫民窟街道,在各种环境中别人跟他的关系都表现在对他那些称呼上。

于是他转过身来,看到了那姑娘。一见到她他脑海里的种种幻影便全没有了。她是个轻盈苍白的人,有一对超凡脱俗的蓝眼睛,大大的,还有满头丰密的金发。他不知道她的穿着如何,只觉得那衣服跟人一样美好。他把她比作嫩枝上的一朵淡淡的金花。不,她是一个精灵,一个仙子,一个女神;她那升华过的美不属于人间。说不定书本是对的,在上流社会真有许多像她这样的人。史文朋那家伙大约就善于歌唱她。在桌上那本书里他描述伊素特姑娘的时候也许心里就有像她这样一个人。尽管林林总总的形象、感觉、思想猛然袭来,在现实中他的行动却并未中断。他见她向他伸出手来,握手时像个男人一样坦然地望着他的眼睛。他认识的女人却不这样握手,实际上她们大多数并不跟谁握手。一阵联想的浪潮袭来,他跟妇女们认识的各种方式涌入了他的心里,几乎要淹没了它。可他却摆脱了这些印象,只顾看着她。他从没见过这样的女人。唉!他以前认识的那些女人呀!她们立即在那姑娘两旁排列开来。在那永恒的刹那他已站在以她为中心的一道肖像画廊里。她的周围出现了许多妇女。以她为标准一衡量,那些妇女的分量和尺寸转瞬之间便一清二楚。他看见工厂女工们菜色的衰弱的脸,市场南面的妇女们痴笑的喧嚣的脸,还有游牧营他的妇女,老墨西哥抽烟的黧黑的妇女。这些形象又为穿木展、走碎步、像玩偶一样的日本妇女所代替,为面目姣好却带着堕落痕迹的欧亚混血妇女所代替,为戴花环、褐皮肤的南海诸岛的妇女形象所代替;而她们又被一群噩梦般的奇形怪状的妇女所代替,白教堂大路边慢吞吞臭烘烘的女人,窑子里酗酒的浮肿的妓女,还有一大群从地狱出来的女鬼,她们满嘴粗话,一身肮脏,乔装成妇女模样,掳掠着水手,搜索着海港的垃圾和贫民窟的残渣。

“伊登先生,请坐!”那姑娘说话了,“自从亚瑟告诉我们之后我就一直希望见到你。你很勇敢……”

他不以为然地挥挥手,含糊地说那算不了什么,别人也会那样做的。她注意到他那挥动的手上有还不曾愈合的新伤,再看那只松垂的手也有伤口未愈。再迅速打量了一眼,又见他面颊上有个伤疤,还有一个伤疤则从额前的发际露出,而第三个疤则穿到浆硬的领子里去了。她看到他晒成青铜色的脖子被浆硬的领子磨出的红印时差点笑了出来。他显然不习惯于硬领。同样,她那双女性的眼睛也一眼便看透了他那身衣服,那廉价的缺乏品味的剪裁,外衣肩上的褶皱和袖子上那一连串皱纹,仿佛在为他那鼓突的二头肌做广告。

他一面含混地表示他做的事不值一提,一面也按她的希望打算坐下,也还有时间欣赏她坐下时的优美轻松。等到在她对面的椅子上坐了下来,又意识到自己形象的笨拙,感到狼狈。这一切于他都是全新的经验。他一辈子也没注意过外表的潇洒或笨拙;他心里从没有过这种自我意识。他在椅子边上小心翼翼地坐了下来,却为两只手十分担心,因为它们不论放在什么地方都仿佛碍事。此时亚瑟又离开了屋子,马丁·伊登很不情愿地望着他走了。让他一个人在屋子里跟一个仙女一样的苍白女人坐在一起,他感到不知所措。这地方没有可以吩咐送饮料来的酒吧老板,没有可以打发到街角去买啤酒的小孩,无法用社交的饮料唤起愉快的友谊交流。

“你的脖子上有那样一个疤痕,伊登先生,”姑娘说,“那是怎么来的?我相信那是一次冒险。”

“是个墨西哥佬用刀子扎的,小姐,”他回答,舔了舔焦渴的嘴唇,清了清嗓子,“打了一架。我把他刀子弄掉后他还想咬掉我的鼻子呢。”

话虽说得不好,他眼前却浮现出萨莱纳克鲁兹那个炎热的星夜的丰富景象。狭长的海滩的白影,港口运糖船的灯光,远处喝醉了酒的水手们的哈喝,熙熙攘攘的码头苦力,墨西哥人那满脸的怒气,他的眼睛在星光下闪出野兽一般的凶光,钢铁在自己脖于上的刺痛和热血的流淌。人群,惊呼,他和墨西哥人躯体扭结,滚来滚去,踢起了沙尘。而在辽远的某个地点却有柔美的吉他声珍珍珠综传来。那景象便是如此,至今想起仍令他激动。他不知道画出墙上那幅领港船的画家是否能把那场面画下来。那白色的沙滩、星星、运糖船的灯火,还有在沙滩上围观打斗的黑越越的人群,若是画了出来一定棒极了,他想。刀子在画里要占个地位,他又决定,要是在星星下带点闪光准保好看。可这一切他丝毫不曾用言语透露。“他还想咬掉我的鼻子!”他结束了回答。

“啊,”那姑娘说,声音低而辽远。他在她敏感的脸上看出了震惊的表情。

他自己也震惊了。他那为太阳晒黑的脸上露出了狼狈不安的淡淡红晕,其实他已燥热得仿佛暴露在锅炉间的烈火面前。在小姐面前谈这类打架动刀子的事显然有失体统。在书本里,像她那圈子里的人是绝不会谈这类事的——甚至根本就不知道。

双方努力所引起的话头告一段落。于是她试探着问起他脸上的伤疤。刚一问起他就明白她是在引导他谈他的话题,便决心撇开它,去谈她的话题。

“那不过是一次意外,”他说,用手摸摸面颊,“有天晚上没有一丝风,却遇上了凶险的海流,主吊杠的吊索断了,接着复滑车也坏了。吊索是根钢缆,像蛇一样抽打着。值班水手都想抓住它,我一扑上去就(炎欠)地挨了一鞭。”

“啊!”她说,这次带着理解的口气,虽然心里觉得他说的简直像外国话。她不懂得“吊索”是什么东西,“(炎欠)地”是什么意思。

“这个史崴朋,”他说,试图执行自己的计划,却把史文朋读作了史崴朋。

“谁呀?”

“史崴朋,”他重复道,仍然念错了音,“诗人。”

“史文朋,”她纠正他。

“对,就是那家伙,”他结结巴巴地说,脸又发热了,“他死了多久了?”

“怎么,我没听说他死了,”她莫名其妙地望着他,“你在哪儿知道他的、’

“我没见过他,”他回答,“只是在你进来之前在桌上的书里读到了他的诗。你喜欢他的诗么?”

于是她便就他提起的话题轻松地谈了开来。他感到好过了一点,从椅子边沿往后靠了靠,同时两手紧抓住扶手,仿佛怕它挣脱,把地摔到地上。他要引导她谈她的话题的努力已经成功。她侃侃而谈,他尽力跟上。他为她那美丽的脑袋竟装了那么多知识感到惊讶,同时也饱餐看她那苍白的面庞的秀色。他倒是跟上了她的话,虽然从她唇边漫不经心地滚出的陌生词汇和评论术语和他从不知道的思路都叫他感到吃力。可这也正好刺激了他的思维,使他兴奋。这就叫智力的生活,他想,其中有美,他连做梦也不曾想到过的、温暖人心的、了不起的美。他听得忘了情,只用饥渴的眼睛望着她。这儿有为之而生活、奋斗、争取的东西——是的,为之牺牲生命的东西。书本是对的。世界上确有这样的女人。她只是其中之一。她给他的想像插上了翅膀,巨大而光辉的画幅在他眼前展开,画幅上出现了爱情、浪漫故事和为妇女而创造的英雄业迹的模糊的、巨大的形象——为一个苍白的妇女,一朵黄金的娇花。他穿过那摇晃的搏动的幻景有如穿过仙灵的海市蜃楼望着坐在那儿大谈其文学艺术的现实中的女人。他听着,不知不觉已是目不转睛地采望着她。此时他天性中的阳刚之气在他的目光中情烟闪耀。她对于男性世界虽然所知极少,但作为女人也敏锐地觉察到了他那燃烧的目光。她从没见过男人这样注视自己,不禁感到巩促,说话给巴了,迟疑了,连思路也中断了。他叫她害怕,而同时,他这样的呆望也叫她出奇地愉快。她的教养警告她出现了危险,有了不应有的、微妙的、神秘的诱惑。可她的本能却发出了嘹亮的呐喊,震动了她全身,迫使她超越阶级、地位和得失扑向这个从另一个世界来的旅人,扑向这个手上有伤、喉头叫不习惯的衬衫磨出了红印的粗鲁的年轻人。非常清楚,这人已受到并不高雅的生活的污染,而她却是纯洁的,她的纯洁对他感到抵触。可她却是个女人,一个刚开始觉察到女人的矛盾的女人。

“我刚才说过——我在说什么?”她突然住了嘴,为自己的狼狈处境快活地笑了。

‘你在说史文朋之所以没有成为伟大的诗人是因为——你正说到这儿,小姐,”他提醒她。这时他内心似乎感到一种饥渴。她那笑声在他脊梁上唤起了上下闪动的阵阵酸麻。多么清脆,他默默地想道,像一串叮叮当当的银铃。转瞬之间他已到了另一个辽远的国度,并停留了片刻,他在那儿的樱花树下抽着烟,谛听着有层层飞檐的宝塔上的铃声,铃声召唤穿着芒(革奚)的善男信女去膜拜神道。

“不错,谢谢你,”她说,“归根到底史文朋的失败是由于他不够敏感。他有许多诗都不值一读。真正伟大的诗人的每一行诗都应充满美丽的真理,向人世一切心胸高尚的人发出召唤。伟大诗人的诗一行也不能删掉,每删去一行都是对全人类的一份损失。”

“可我读到的那几段,”他迟疑地说,“我倒觉得棒极了。可没想到他是那么一个——蹩脚货。我估计那是在他别的书里。”

“你读的那本书里也有许多诗行可以删去的,”她说,口气一本正经而且武断。

“我一定是没读到,”他宣布,“我读到的可全是好样的,光辉,闪亮,一直照进我心里,照透了它,像太阳,像探照灯。我对他的感觉就是这样。不过我看我对诗知道得不多,小姐。”

他讪讪地住了嘴,但方寸已乱,因为自己笨嘴拙舌很感到难为情。他在他读到的诗行里感到了伟大和光辉,却辞不达意,表达不出自己的感受。他在心里把自已比作在漆黑的夜里登上一艘陌生船只的水手,在不熟悉的运转着的索具中摸索。好,他作出了判断:要熟悉这个新环境得靠自己的努力。他还从没遇见过他想要找到它的窍门而找不到的东西。现在已是他学会谈谈自己熟悉的东西让她了解的时候了。她在他的地平线上越来越高大了。

“现在,朗费罗……”她说。

“啊,我读过,”他冲动地插嘴说,急于表现自己,炫耀自己那一点书本知识,让她知道他并不完全是个白痴。“《生命礼赞》,《精益求精》,还有……我估计就这些。”

她点头微笑了,他不知怎么觉得那微笑透着宽容,一种出于怜悯的宽容。他像那样假充内行简直是个傻瓜。朗费罗那家伙很可能写了无数本诗集呢。

“请原谅我像那样插嘴,小姐。我看事实是,我对这类东西知道得不多。我不内行。不过我要努力变成内行。”

这话像是威胁。他的口气坚定,目光凌厉,面部的线条僵直。在她眼里他那下腭已棱角毕露,开合时咄咄逼人。同时一股强烈的生命之力似乎从他身上磅礴喷出,向她滚滚扑来。

“我认为你是可以成为——内行的,”她以一笑结束了自己的话,“你很坚强。”

她的目光在那肌肉发达的脖子上停留了片刻,那脖子被太阳晒成了青铜色,筋位突出,洋溢着粗糙的健康与强力,几乎像公牛。他虽只红着脸腼腆地坐在那儿,她却再一次感到了他的吸引力。一个放肆的念头在她心里闪过,叫她吃了一惊。她觉得若是她能用双手接住他的脖子,那力量便会向她流注。这念头令她大为惊讶,似乎向她泄露了她某种连做梦也不曾想到的低劣天性。何况在她心里育力原是粗鲁野蛮的东西,而她理想的男性美一向是修长而潇洒。刚才那念头仍然索绕着她。她竟然渴望用双手去楼那胞成青铜色的脖子,这叫她惶惑。事实是她自己一点也不健壮,她的身体和心灵都需要强力,可她并不知道。她只知道以前从没有男人对她产生过像眼前这人一样的影响,而这人却多次用他那可怕的语法令她震惊。

“是的,我身子骨不坏,”他说,“日子难过的时候我是连碎铁也能消化的。不过我刚才知消化不良,你说的话我大部分没听懂。从没受过那种训练,你看。我喜欢书,喜欢诗,有功夫就读,可从没像你那样掂量过它们。我像个来到陌生的海上却没有海图或罗盘的海员。现在我想找到自己的方向,也许你能给我校准。你谈的这些东西是从哪儿学来的?”

“我看是读书,学习,”她回答。

“我小时候也上过学的,”他开始反驳。

“是的,可我指的是中学,听课,还有大学。”

“你上过大学?”他坦然地表示惊讶,问道。他感到她离他更辽远了,至少有一百万英里。

“我也要上学。我要专门学英文。”

他并不知道“英文”是什么意思,可他心里记下了自己知识上的缺陷,说了下去。

“我要学多少年才能上大学?”他问。

对他求知的渴望她以微笑表示鼓励,同时说:“那得看你已经学过了多少。你从没上过中学吧?当然没上过。但是你小学毕业没有?”

“还差两年毕业就停学了,”他回答,“可我在学校却总是因为成绩优良受到奖励。”

他马上为这吹嘘生起自己的气来,死命地攥紧了扶手,攥得指尖生疼。这时他意识到又一个女人走进了屋子。他看见那姑娘离开椅子向来人轻盈地跑去,两人互相亲吻,然后彼此搂着腰向他走来。那一定是她母亲,他想。那是个高个儿的金发妇女,苗条、庄重、美丽。她的长袍是他估计会在这儿见到的那种,线条优美,他看了感到舒服。她和她的衣着让他想起舞台上的女演员。于是他回忆起曾见过类似的仕女名媛穿着类似的衣服进入伦敦的戏院,而他却站在那儿张望,被警察推到雨篷以外的蒙蒙细雨中去。他的心随即又飞到了横滨的大酒店,在那儿的阶沿上他也见过许多阔人家妇女。于是横滨市和横滨港以其千姿百态在他眼前闪过。可他立即国目前的急需驱走了万花筒一样的回忆。他知道自己得起立接受介绍,便笨拙地站起身子。此时他的裤子膝部鼓了起来,两臂也可笑地松垂,板起了面孔准备迎接即将到来的考验。


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