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马丁・伊登(MARTIN EDEN)第五章

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He awoke next morning from rosy scenes of dream to a steamy atmosphere that smelled of soapsuds and dirty clothes, and that was vibrant with the jar and jangle of tormented life. As he came out of his room he heard the slosh of water, a sharp exclamation, and a resounding smack as his sister visited her irritation upon one of her numerous progeny. The squall of the child went through him like a knife. He was aware that the whole thing, the very air he breathed, was repulsive and mean. How different, he thought, from the atmosphere of beauty and repose of the house wherein Ruth dwelt. There it was all spiritual. Here it was all material, and meanly material.

"Come here, Alfred," he called to the crying child, at the same time thrusting his hand into his trousers pocket, where he carried his money loose in the same large way that he lived life in general. He put a quarter in the youngster's hand and held him in his arms a moment, soothing his sobs. "Now run along and get some candy, and don't forget to give some to your brothers and sisters. Be sure and get the kind that lasts longest."

His sister lifted a flushed face from the wash-tub and looked at him.

"A nickel'd ha' ben enough," she said. "It's just like you, no idea of the value of money. The child'll eat himself sick."

"That's all right, sis," he answered jovially. "My money'll take care of itself. If you weren't so busy, I'd kiss you good morning."

He wanted to be affectionate to this sister, who was good, and who, in her way, he knew, loved him. But, somehow, she grew less herself as the years went by, and more and more baffling. It was the hard work, the many children, and the nagging of her husband, he decided, that had changed her. It came to him, in a flash of fancy, that her nature seemed taking on the attributes of stale vegetables, smelly soapsuds, and of the greasy dimes, nickels, and quarters she took in over the counter of the store.

"Go along an' get your breakfast," she said roughly, though secretly pleased. Of all her wandering brood of brothers he had always been her favorite. "I declare I WILL kiss you," she said, with a sudden stir at her heart.

With thumb and forefinger she swept the dripping suds first from one arm and then from the other. He put his arms round her massive waist and kissed her wet steamy lips. The tears welled into her eyes - not so much from strength of feeling as from the weakness of chronic overwork. She shoved him away from her, but not before he caught a glimpse of her moist eyes.

"You'll find breakfast in the oven," she said hurriedly. "Jim ought to be up now. I had to get up early for the washing. Now get along with you and get out of the house early. It won't be nice to-day, what of Tom quittin' an' nobody but Bernard to drive the wagon."

Martin went into the kitchen with a sinking heart, the image of her red face and slatternly form eating its way like acid into his brain. She might love him if she only had some time, he concluded. But she was worked to death. Bernard Higginbotham was a brute to work her so hard. But he could not help but feel, on the other hand, that there had not been anything beautiful in that kiss. It was true, it was an unusual kiss. For years she had kissed him only when he returned from voyages or departed on voyages. But this kiss had tasted soapsuds, and the lips, he had noticed, were flabby. There had been no quick, vigorous lip-pressure such as should accompany any kiss. Hers was the kiss of a tired woman who had been tired so long that she had forgotten how to kiss. He remembered her as a girl, before her marriage, when she would dance with the best, all night, after a hard day's work at the laundry, and think nothing of leaving the dance to go to another day's hard work. And then he thought of Ruth and the cool sweetness that must reside in her lips as it resided in all about her. Her kiss would be like her hand-shake or the way she looked at one, firm and frank. In imagination he dared to think of her lips on his, and so vividly did he imagine that he went dizzy at the thought and seemed to rift through clouds of rose-petals, filling his brain with their perfume.

In the kitchen he found Jim, the other boarder, eating mush very languidly, with a sick, far-away look in his eyes. Jim was a plumber's apprentice whose weak chin and hedonistic temperament, coupled with a certain nervous stupidity, promised to take him nowhere in the race for bread and butter.

"Why don't you eat?" he demanded, as Martin dipped dolefully into the cold, half-cooked oatmeal mush. "Was you drunk again last night?"

Martin shook his head. He was oppressed by the utter squalidness of it all. Ruth Morse seemed farther removed than ever.

"I was," Jim went on with a boastful, nervous giggle. "I was loaded right to the neck. Oh, she was a daisy. Billy brought me home."

Martin nodded that he heard, - it was a habit of nature with him to pay heed to whoever talked to him, - and poured a cup of lukewarm coffee.

"Goin' to the Lotus Club dance to-night?" Jim demanded. "They're goin' to have beer, an' if that Temescal bunch comes, there'll be a rough-house. I don't care, though. I'm takin' my lady friend just the same. Cripes, but I've got a taste in my mouth!"

He made a wry face and attempted to wash the taste away with coffee.

"D'ye know Julia?"

Martin shook his head.

"She's my lady friend," Jim explained, "and she's a peach. I'd introduce you to her, only you'd win her. I don't see what the girls see in you, honest I don't; but the way you win them away from the fellers is sickenin'."

"I never got any away from you," Martin answered uninterestedly. The breakfast had to be got through somehow.

"Yes, you did, too," the other asserted warmly. "There was Maggie."

"Never had anything to do with her. Never danced with her except that one night."

"Yes, an' that's just what did it," Jim cried out. "You just danced with her an' looked at her, an' it was all off. Of course you didn't mean nothin' by it, but it settled me for keeps. Wouldn't look at me again. Always askin' about you. She'd have made fast dates enough with you if you'd wanted to."

"But I didn't want to."

"Wasn't necessary. I was left at the pole." Jim looked at him admiringly. "How d'ye do it, anyway, Mart?"

"By not carin' about 'em," was the answer.

"You mean makin' b'lieve you don't care about them?" Jim queried eagerly.

Martin considered for a moment, then answered, "Perhaps that will do, but with me I guess it's different. I never have cared - much. If you can put it on, it's all right, most likely."

"You should 'a' ben up at Riley's barn last night," Jim announced inconsequently. "A lot of the fellers put on the gloves. There was a peach from West Oakland. They called 'm 'The Rat.' Slick as silk. No one could touch 'm. We was all wishin' you was there. Where was you anyway?"

"Down in Oakland," Martin replied.

"To the show?"

Martin shoved his plate away and got up.

"Comin' to the dance to-night?" the other called after him.

"No, I think not," he answered.

He went downstairs and out into the street, breathing great breaths of air. He had been suffocating in that atmosphere, while the apprentice's chatter had driven him frantic. There had been times when it was all he could do to refrain from reaching over and mopping Jim's face in the mush-plate. The more he had chattered, the more remote had Ruth seemed to him. How could he, herding with such cattle, ever become worthy of her? He was appalled at the problem confronting him, weighted down by the incubus of his working-class station. Everything reached out to hold him down - his sister, his sister's house and family, Jim the apprentice, everybody he knew, every tie of life. Existence did not taste good in his mouth. Up to then he had accepted existence, as he had lived it with all about him, as a good thing. He had never questioned it, except when he read books; but then, they were only books, fairy stories of a fairer and impossible world. But now he had seen that world, possible and real, with a flower of a woman called Ruth in the midmost centre of it; and thenceforth he must know bitter tastes, and longings sharp as pain, and hopelessness that tantalized because it fed on hope.

He had debated between the Berkeley Free Library and the Oakland Free Library, and decided upon the latter because Ruth lived in Oakland. Who could tell? - a library was a most likely place for her, and he might see her there. He did not know the way of libraries, and he wandered through endless rows of fiction, till the delicate-featured French-looking girl who seemed in charge, told him that the reference department was upstairs. He did not know enough to ask the man at the desk, and began his adventures in the philosophy alcove. He had heard of book philosophy, but had not imagined there had been so much written about it. The high, bulging shelves of heavy tomes humbled him and at the same time stimulated him. Here was work for the vigor of his brain. He found books on trigonometry in the mathematics section, and ran the pages, and stared at the meaningless formulas and figures. He could read English, but he saw there an alien speech. Norman and Arthur knew that speech. He had heard them talking it. And they were her brothers. He left the alcove in despair. From every side the books seemed to press upon him and crush him.

He had never dreamed that the fund of human knowledge bulked so big. He was frightened. How could his brain ever master it all? Later, he remembered that there were other men, many men, who had mastered it; and he breathed a great oath, passionately, under his breath, swearing that his brain could do what theirs had done.

And so he wandered on, alternating between depression and elation as he stared at the shelves packed with wisdom. In one miscellaneous section he came upon a "Norrie's Epitome." He turned the pages reverently. In a way, it spoke a kindred speech. Both he and it were of the sea. Then he found a "Bowditch" and books by Lecky and Marshall. There it was; he would teach himself navigation. He would quit drinking, work up, and become a captain. Ruth seemed very near to him in that moment. As a captain, he could marry her (if she would have him). And if she wouldn't, well - he would live a good life among men, because of Her, and he would quit drinking anyway. Then he remembered the underwriters and the owners, the two masters a captain must serve, either of which could and would break him and whose interests were diametrically opposed. He cast his eyes about the room and closed the lids down on a vision of ten thousand books. No; no more of the sea for him. There was power in all that wealth of books, and if he would do great things, he must do them on the land. Besides, captains were not allowed to take their wives to sea with them.

Noon came, and afternoon. He forgot to eat, and sought on for the books on etiquette; for, in addition to career, his mind was vexed by a simple and very concrete problem: WHEN YOU MEET A YOUNG LADY AND SHE ASKS YOU TO CALL, HOW SOON CAN YOU CALL? was the way he worded it to himself. But when he found the right shelf, he sought vainly for the answer. He was appalled at the vast edifice of etiquette, and lost himself in the mazes of visiting-card conduct between persons in polite society. He abandoned his search. He had not found what he wanted, though he had found that it would take all of a man's time to be polite, and that he would have to live a preliminary life in which to learn how to be polite.

"Did you find what you wanted?" the man at the desk asked him as he
was leaving.

"Yes, sir," he answered. "You have a fine library here."

The man nodded. "We should be glad to see you here often. Are you a sailor?"

"Yes, sir," he answered. "And I'll come again."

Now, how did he know that? he asked himself as he went down the stairs.

And for the first block along the street he walked very stiff and straight and awkwardly, until he forgot himself in his thoughts, whereupon his rolling gait gracefully returned to him.

第二天早上他从玫瑰色的梦境中醒来,屋子已是水气蒙蒙,带着肥皂泡和脏衣服的气味,全属都在艰苦生活的碰撞和嘈杂里震颤着。他一走出屋子便听见泼啦泼啦的水声,然后便是一声尖叫,一个响亮的耳光,那是姐姐心请不好在拿她众多的儿女之一发闷气。孩子的嚎叫像刀子一样扎在他心里。整个情况都叫他烦恼、抵触,连呼吸的空气也都如此。跟露丝家那美丽宁静的气氛有多么不同呀!他想。那儿一切都那么高雅,这儿却只有庸俗,低级的庸俗。

“来,阿弗瑞德,”他对哭号的孩子叫道,伸手进了裤子口袋。他的钱总装在口袋里,随随便便,跟他的生活方式一样。他把一个二角五的硬币塞进小家伙手里,抱着他哄了一会儿。“现在快跑,买糖去,别忘了分点给哥哥姐姐弟弟妹妹。买最经吃的,记住。”

姐姐从洗衣盆抬起红脸膛望着他。

“给他五分就够了,”她说,“跟你一样,不知道金钱的贯重。会吃坏肚子的。”

“没事儿,姐姐,”他快活地回答,“钱用了又会来的。你要不是忙着,我倒想亲亲你,向你问好呢!”

他这姐姐好,他想对她表示爱意。他知道她也以她的方式喜欢他。可是,不知怎么这些年来她越来越不像原来的她,也越来越不好理解了。他认为是因为工作太重,孩子太多,丈夫又太唠叨。他突然产生一种幻觉,她的天性似乎也变了,变得像陈腐的蔬菜、难闻的肥皂泡沫和她在商店柜台上收进的油腻腻的一角、五分。二角五的硬币工。

“去去,吃早饭去,”她嘴上虽凶,心里却暗自高兴。在她这一群四海为家的哥哥弟弟之中她最喜欢的一向是他。“我说,我就要亲亲怀。”她说,心里突然激动起来。

她叉开拇指和食指抹掉了一条胳膊上的肥皂沫,又抹了另一条。他用双手搂住她那巨大的腰,吻了吻她那潮湿的带水汽的嘴唇。她眼里涌出了泪珠——与其说是由于感情的强烈,倒不如说是由于长期劳动过度的软弱。她推开了他,可他们瞥见了在她眼里闪耀的泪花。

“早饭在炉子里,”她匆匆地说,“吉姆现在该起来了。我不得不提早起来洗衣服。好了,赶快收拾,早点出去。今天怕是不好过,汤姆不干了,伯纳德得去顶班开货车。”

马丁心情沉重地走进厨房。她那红通通的脸膛和道里遍遇的样子像酸素一样侵蚀着他的心。她要是有时间是可能对他表示爱的,他断定。但是她却累得要死。伯纳德·希金波坦真是个禽兽,竟叫她这么辛苦。可是从另一方面看他也不得不承认她那一吻不算美妙。不错,这一吻不平常。多少年来她已只在地出海或回家时才吻他了。但是这一吻却带有肥皂泡沫,而且地发现那嘴唇松弛,缺乏应有的迅速有力的接触。她那吻是个疲倦的妇女的吻。她劳累得太久,已经不知道怎么亲吻了。他还记得她做姑娘的时候。那时她还没有结婚,在洗衣店系了一天还要跟最好的小伙子通宵跳舞,根本没把跳完舞还要上班子一整天重活放在心上。他又想起了露丝,露丝的嘴唇一定跟她全身一样,清凉芬芳。她的吻一定像她的握手,或是她看人时的神态:坚定而坦然。他放开胆子在想像中看到了她的唇吻着自己的唇。他想得很生动,想得脑袋晕眩,仿佛从玫瑰花瓣的雾窗之中穿过,任花瓣的馨香在他脑海中洋溢。

他在厨房见到了另一个房客吉姆,那人正在懒洋洋地吃着玉米粥,眼里泛出厌烦的、心不在焉的神气。吉姆是个水暖工学徒,不善言词,贪图享受,还加上某些神经过敏的傻气,在抢饭碗的竞争中前途暗淡。

“你怎么不吃呢?”他见马丁阴郁地戳着煮得半熟的燕麦粥,问,“昨几晚上又喝醉了?”

马丁摇摇头。整个环境的肮脏通通令他难受。露丝·莫尔斯跟他的距离比任何时候都大了。

“玩得痛快极了,”吉姆神经质地格格一笑,夸张地说,“啊,她可是朵雏菊花儿呢。是比尔送我回来的。”

马丁点点头表示听见了——谁跟他说话地都认真听,他这习惯出自天性——然后倒了一杯温热的咖啡。

“今天晚上去荷花俱乐部参加舞会么?”吉姆问,“供应啤酒,若是泰默斯柯那帮人来,会闹翻天的。不过我不在乎。我照常带我的女朋友去。耶稣!我嘴里有什么味儿!”

他做了个鬼脸,打算用咖啡把那怪味地冲下去。

“你认识朱莉娜吗?”

马丁摇摇头。

“是我女朋友,”吉姆解释,“好一只仙桃儿,我要介绍你认识她,只有你才能叫她高兴。我不知道姑娘们喜欢你什么,说实话,我不知道。可你把姑娘们从别人手里抢走,那叫人恶心。”

“我并没从你手上抢走过谁,”马丁淡淡地说。早饭总得要吃完的,

“你抢走过的,”对方激动地肯定,“玛姬就是。”

“我跟她毫无关系。除了那天晚上以外我没跟她跳过舞。”

“对,可就那一回就出了问题,”吉姆叫道,“你跟她跳了跳舞,看了看她,就坏了事。你当然没起什么心,我却再也没指望了。她看也不肯看我一眼。老问起你。若是你愿意,她是会乐意跟你幽会亲热的。”

“可是我不愿意。”

“你用不着,可我给晾到一边了。”吉姆羡慕地望着他,“不过,你是怎么叫她们入迷的,马?”

“不理她们,”他回答。

“你是说装作对她们不感兴趣?”吉姆着急地问。

马丁考虑了一会儿,回答道:“也许那就够了,不过我觉得我的情况不一样。我从来就不大感兴趣。你要是能装出满不在乎的样子,那就行了,八九不离十。”

“昨天晚上你应该到莱利家的仓库去的,”吉姆换了个话题,告诉他;“好多人都戴上手套打过几拳,从西奥克兰来了个好角色,人家叫他‘耗子’,手脚麻利,谁都挨不上他的边。我们都希望你在那儿。可你到哪儿去了?”

“下奥克兰去了,”马丁回答。

“看表演去了?”

马丁推开盘子站了起来。

“今儿晚上去舞会么?”吉姆还在对他身后问。

“不,不去,”他回答。

他下了楼,出了屋,来到街上便大口大口吸气。那学徒的唠叨快把他通疯了。那气氛几乎叫他窒息。他好几次都很不得把吉姆那脸按到玉米粥盘子里,却好不容易才忍住了。他越是唠叨露丝就似乎离他越远。跟这样的货色打交道,怎么能配得上露丝呢!眼前面临的问题叫他恐怖了。他那工人阶级的处境像梦宽一样压着他。一切都在把他往下拽——他姐姐,姐姐的屋子和家庭,学徒吉姆,他认得的每个人,每一种人际关系。在他嘴里活着的滋味很不美好,在此之前他一直认为活着是好事,一直生活在周围的一切里、除了读书的时候之外地从不曾怀疑过它。不过书本毕竟是书本,只是关于一个更加美好却并不可能的世界的童活。叶是现在他却看到了那个世界,可能而且现实,它的核心是一个花朵般的女人.叫露丝;从此以后他就得品尝种种苦味,品尝像痛苦一样尖锐的相思,品尝绝望的滋味,那绝望靠希望哺育,可望而不可即。

他在伯克利和奥克兰的两家免费图书馆之间作了选择,决定去奥克兰,因为露丝住在奥克兰。图书馆是她最可能去的地方,说不定会在那儿遇上她。谁能说得准?他不懂图书馆藏书办法,便在无穷无尽的小说书架边穿行,最后还是个面目较好的像个法国人的姑娘告诉他参考书部在楼上(她好像是负责人)。他也不知道到借书台去咨询,径自在哲学部跑来跑去。他听说过哲学书,却没想到会有那么多。塞满了大部头著作的巍巍然的书架使他自惭渺小,却也刺激了他。这里可是他脑子的用武之地。他在数学类发现了三角,例览了一番,却只好对着那些莫名其妙的公式和图像发呆。英文他能读,但他在那儿看见的却是一种陌生的语言。诺尔曼和亚瑟懂得这种语言。他听见他俩使用过。而他们是她的弟弟。他绝望地离开了数学部。书本仿佛从四面八方向他压了过来,要压垮地。他从没想到人类知识的积蓄竟会如此汗牛充栋。他害怕了。这么多东西他的脑子能全掌握吗?却又立即想起,有许多人是掌握了的。他压低嗓门满怀热情地发下宏誓大愿,别人的脑子能办到的,他的脑子电准能办到。

他就像这样遇来退去,望着堆满了智慧的书架,时而蔫头搭脑,时而斗志昂扬。在杂学类地遇见了一本《诺瑞著作提要》。他肃然起敬,翻了翻。那书的语言跟他接近。它谈海洋,而他是海上人。然后他找到一本鲍迪齐的著作,几本雷基与马夏尔合著的书。要找的找到了。他要自学航海术,要戒掉酒,鼓起劲,以后当个船长。在那一瞬间露丝似乎跟他近在咫尺了。他做了船长就要娶她(若是她愿意的话)。但若是她不愿意,那么——为了她的缘故他就打算在男人世界过正派的生活,酒是无论如何不喝了。可他又想起了股东和船主,那是船长必须伺候的两个老板,哪个老板都能管住他,也想管住他,而股东跟船主却有针锋相对的利害冲突。他扫视了一眼全屋,闭目想了想这一万本书,不,他不想下海了,在这丰富的藏书里存在着力量,他既要干大事,就得在陆地上干,何况船长出海是不准带太太的。

正午到了,然后是下午。他忘了吃饭,仍然在书丛里寻找社会礼仪的书一因为在事业之外他心里还为一个很简单具体的问题烦恼:你遇见一位年青小姐,而她又要你去看她,你该在多久以后才去?(这是他给自己的问题的措辞。)可是等他找对了书架,答案却仍然渺茫。那座社会礼仪的大厦之高大叫他恐怖,他在礼仪社会之间的名片交往的迷宫里迷了路,终于放弃了寻找。要找的东西虽没找到,却找到一条道理:要想会礼貌得学一辈子,而他呢,若要学会礼貌还得先同一辈子作准备。

“找到要找的书了吧?”借书处的人在他离开时间他。

“找到了,先生,”他回答,“你们图书馆藏书很丰富。”

那人点点头。“欢迎你常来,你是个水手吧?”

“是的,先生,”他回答,“我还要来。”

他是怎么知道的呢?他下楼时问自己。

走在第一段街道上时他把背挺得笔直,僵硬,不自然,然后由于想着心事,忘掉了姿势,他那摇摇摆摆的步子又美妙地回来了。


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