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Dark Angle(翻译连载十一)

(2010-01-08 09:15:25)





分类: UNCLE赵&他国际事务部的同事们

I did something I had never done before in my life. I bribed a doorman. Not the doorman who had confronted me the day I arrived, and not the doorman I remembered – he would have retired. No, a new doorman, young, spruce, knowing, and amenable, who eyed me in a way his forevears would never have done.


“They’re not answering.” He replaced the telephone receiver. “I told you. Apartment’s closed up.”


I might have tried flirtation, I suppose; I preferred the twenty-dollar bill. I was expecting rebuff. To my astonishment, it slipped from my palm to his with the greatest of ease and disappeared into a pocket of his smart maroon uniform.


“Okay.” He gave a shrug. “Go right on up. They won’t answer. Fifth floor-“


“I know it’s fifth floor. I used to live here.”


“If anyone asks” – he shrugged-“ you sneaked past, okay? I didn’t see you.”


This is patently ridiculous. This was not the kind of apartment building in which people slipped past the doorman.


“Who else did’t you see today, apart from me?”


“What’s that?”


“Miss Shawcross, for instance. Have you seen her?”


“No way. Not in weeks. I told you-“


I was making him nervous, I could see that. One more question and despite the twenty-dollar bill he might change his mind, refuse to admit me.


I took the elevator to the fifth floor. I walked along quiet red-carpeted corridors. Without a great deal of hope I pressed the bell for Constance’s apartment. To my astonishment the door at once swung back.


I looked in, to my old home, to Constance’s celebrated hall of mirrors. The glass on the right wall reflected the glass on the left; it created an illusory passage of space, reflections to infinitude.


“Count,” Constance had said to me, that first day I came here. “Count. How many Victorias can you see? Seven? Eight? There are more than that – look more closely. You see? They go on forever.”


“Constance,” I said, thirty years later, and stepped forward. “Constance, it’s me, Victoria-”


“No here. No here.”




“没人接电话。” 他放下电话听筒说道:“我说过了,房间里没人。”




“好吧。” 他耸耸肩“上去吧,5楼,但可不会有人在-”






















“数数看。” 当我第一天来到这的时候,Constance曾对我说过。“数数看。看你能看到多少个Victorias?7个?8个?你会看到更多的,再仔细瞧瞧。看到了吗?她们无穷无尽。”









From behind the tall door a figure emerged. A Lilliputian maid, Filipino, dressed in a neat gray uniform. She stared in apparent astonishment, as if she had expected someone else. Then she barred my way with an anxious ferocity.


“No here,” she said again, shaking her head from side to side. “Miss Shawcross – gone away – all closed up – no visitors.” She gave me a tiny push.


“No, look, please – wait,” I began. “I just want to ask, when did Constance leave? Where can I reach her?”


“No number. No address. No visitors-” Another tiny push. “All closed up now. Closed for the… for the summer.”


“Then may I just leave a note? Please? It won’t take a moment. Look, if you’d just let me in, Constance is my…godmother. It’s urgent I see her –”


At the word godmother, clearly misunderstood, the maid’s tiny features became very fierce.


“No children here – never any children here –”

“No, not now – but there used to be. I lived here as a child, with Constance. Look, surely you must have some number, some address-”


“Police.” She gave me a more effective push. “You go right away now, or I call police, call them very quick – look, alarm button, right here –”


She leaned back a little as she spoke. She kept one hand on the doorjamb; the other reached for a small box on the wall.


“Panic button – you see?” The maid drew herself up to her full height, which was, at most, about four feet ten inches. She looked up at me – I am a great deal taller than that – and stamped one diminutive foot.


“Wait,” I began, backing off a little, wondering when Constance (who never kept staff long) had hired this little spitfire. To have backed away was a mistake. A look of triumph came upon the maid’s face. The door slammed shut. There was the sound of bolts, chains, locks being fastened.
































I had come up to the fifth floor in one elevator; I went down in another. As soon as its doors closed upon me, I tensed. Those primitive, residual instincts we all still possess made the skin on the back of my neck prickle.


The elevator was not large, and the air inside it was close. There was a lingering humidity and also a lingering scent. I sniffed a familiar ambiguity: the fresh greenness of ferns with the earthier undertones of civet. Constance’s scent, the one she invariably used. As memorable as her eyes or her voice. I felt a rush of the past to the head.


The descent seemed impossibly slow. I was convinced, even so, that she must have been just ahead of me, descending in the left elevator while I mounted in the right. It was for that reason the maid had answered the door with such alacrity. Constance must have just left, and the maid assumed she had reached the elevator, forgotten something, and returned. A matter of seconds: Constance might still be in the lobby, on the sidewalk outside.


The lobby was empty; the doorman’s eyes were bent upon his desk. I ran out to the heat of the street. I scanned the faces of the passersby. I looked uptown, toward the entrance to the park, the route Constance and I had taken almost daily, all those years before, with Bertie.


I think for one moment I almost expected to see not only Constance but also myself, a child, holding on to Constance’s arm, the two of us laughing, chattering, and Bertie lifting his great head in anticipation as we approached the entrance to the park.















Time passes. The people on the side walk did not see our ghosts; I did not see Constance. No quick, small figure, no gesturing hands. I had sensed her in the air, and into the air she had evaporated.

The sense of loss was acute. I stood there, staring blindly across at the park. Then, because one sense of loss brought other losses close, I did something else for the first time – something much more foolish than bribing a doorman. I crossed the avenue and began to walk west, toward a street and an apartment block I had been careful to avoid for eight years.

Nothing had changed, which hurt. Seventy-sixth Street between Amsterdam and Columbus, the third building along on the left, heading west: a shabby red-brick, in a neighborhood Constance despised. I used to live there; the man in Conrad Vickers’s photograph used to live there with me. Our apartment was on the top floor; on that fire escape, up there, we used to sit on summer evenings. Manhattan- watching, Manhattan-listening.

I looked up. The fire escape was empty. A dish towel fluttered on an improvised clothesline; someone else would live there now, some other couple.

I turned away. I was shaking. To believe you have cured yourself of the past and then to discover that its ill effects continue, that its pains recur like malaria-that, perhaps, is always a shock.

I went back to the hotel. I locked the door. I splashed water on my face. I watched the faucets weep.

Then I lay down on the bed, to will the past away. It refused to go, of course. It whispered with the air conditioning. It crept closer, then closer still, all the circuitous paths of my life, all of which led back to Constance.

The landscape of my past: It reminded me of home; it reminded me of England. All those paths through the woods. I dreamed of Winterscombe when I slept.



那里竟然没有一点变化,这使我很难受。第七十六街位于阿姆斯特丹和哥伦布之间,沿着街往西走,左手边的第三栋楼房,是一间破旧的红砖屋,Constance以前很看不起的这个街区。我过去就住在那里,Conrad Vickers相片里的人以前就在那里和我一起住。我们的公寓在顶楼;晚上,我们常常坐在走火通道那里,看着曼哈顿,听着曼哈顿。





我看到过去生活的景象:它使我想起家,想起英格兰,所有通向树林的小路。睡觉的时候,我梦见Winterscombe。                                         —— 罗荻飞



Imagine a valley, an English valley, and a clement one. The hills slope gently; the woods are of oak and beech and ash and birch. There is no indication, when you are in that valley, that—just a few miles to the south—the landscape changes abruptly to the chalk downs of Salisbury Plain.


This valley is not windswept; it is a sheltered place. Over the centuries its natural beauties have been refined by man. The course of its river, which abounds in fish, has been diverted, so its waters spill out into a lake, ornamental and felicitous.


On one side of the lake the woods begin. Drives have been cut through them are maintained; they lead to clearing or to eminences, some of which are left to nature, some of which are defined, in pleasing ways, with a statue, an obelisk, or a gazebo.


On the other side of the lake the hand of man is more obvious. There is a park and a small, somewhat ugly church, perched on a hill and endowed by my grandfather. There are lawns and grass tennis courts, herbaceous borders and a rose garden. There are, to one side, the walls of the vegetable garden and a glint of glass, which is the roofs of the hot-houses where the gardeners, diminished now in numbers, still grow black grapes and melons and white peaches, which are rare and easily bruised and must never be picked by children.


You can see woodsmoke, which comes from the houses in the estate village, where some cottages are still occupied; you can see the gleam of the golden cockerel who rides the clock tower in the stables. Turn your eyes to terrace and you will see my grandfather’s house, which he built with my great-grandfather’s money.


Everyone I know complain about that house: My mother says it is too large, that it was built for another world, and is now preposterous. My father says it eats money, because the rooms are so large and their ceilings so high, and the roof leaks and the windows rattle and the plumbing protests and wheezes and whistles. You can see the house eating money if you go down to the cellars and the boiler room and watch Jack Hennessy stoking the boiler with coke. The boiler is huge-it looks big enough to turn the turbines on an ocean liner-and Hennessy says that if he shoveled day and night he still couldn’t satisfy its appetite. In go the shovels of coke-which I see as pound notes, for I’ve been taught to understand about economy-and out comes, upstairs, a wheezing and a rattling from miles of snaking pipes. The pipes are lukewarm; the radiators are lukewarm; the bathwater is lukewarm.




“This is not central heating—it’s peripheral heating,” my father says in a despairing voice; so the fires are lit as well and we all sit next to the fire, with hot fronts and cold backs.

This is how the house happened: My great-great-grandfather made a fortune, first from soap and then from patent bleaches. This fact is regarded as inconvenient by most of my family, especially my grand-aunt Maud, who is grand and old and was once famous for her parties; only my father ever refers to bleaches or soaps, and then only when he wants to tease Aunt Maud or Uncle Steenie. My great –grandfather made even more money from his bleaches and his factories, which were close to those factories, I think, and perhaps he, too, preferred not to be reminded of bleach, because he moved his family south, went into politics, purchased a barony, became the first Lord Callendar, and sent my grandfather, Denton Cavendish, to Eton.

My grandfather Denton was famous for his pheasants and his tempers and his American wife, my grandmother Gwen, who was beautiful but penniless. My grandfather built this house and created these gardens and enlarged these estates, and my father and his there brothers, like me, were born in it.


When my grandfather Denton built it, it was the acme of fashion. It was finished in the 1890s, when Queen Victoria was still on the throe, but in spirit and in design it was an Eswardian house. There it is, huge, crenellated, opulent, and absurd, made for the long summer days before the first war, made for a procession of house parties, made for billiards and bridge-playing, for croquet matches, for shooting weekends, and the discreet diversions of leisured adultery: Winterscombe, my home. I never cared if it ate money, and neither, I suspect, in their heart of hearts, did my father and my mother. They loved it; I loved it; I loved them. When I think of it now, it is always autumn; there is always a mist over the lake( which needs dredging); there is always woodsomke; I am always happy. Naturally.


When I was older, and I went to live with Constance in New York, I learned to love a faster life. I learned to value the charms of caprice and the pleasures of whim; I learned the luxury of carelessness.




这房子是怎么来的:我的曾曾祖父先从肥皂然后又从专利漂白剂那发了财。虽然家里的大多数人认为这造成了他们的困扰,尤其是我那地位高、老,并且一度以她办的那些聚会出名的大姑婆Maud。只有我的父亲对漂白剂或肥皂感兴趣。我的曾祖父从漂白产业和他的工厂中挣到了更多的钱,但是我想,也许他也不愿提起漂白剂这档子事。因为后来他把全家搬到南部,开始从政,买了一个爵位成为第一任Callendar大人,并把我的祖父Denton Cavendish送到了伊顿。



我的祖父Denton造这所房子时,这里可以算作是时尚的尖端。房子于19世纪90年代完工,当时维多利亚女王仍然在痛苦时期,但从灵魂和设计方面,这是一个Eswardian房子。这里是巨大的,锯齿形,华丽的,荒谬的。我的家Winterscombe,它为第一次世界大战前的漫长夏日,为家庭聚会,为台球和桥梁,为槌球比赛,为周末的拍摄,以及谨慎的转移私通而建造。我从来不关心,这里是不是花了大把的钱,我怀疑,在内心深处,我父亲和我的母亲他们很喜欢这样,我也很喜欢这样,我很爱这样的生活。现在回忆起来,想起的都是这里秋天,湖面上总是泛着薄雾;总有wood somke,我总是本能的开心着。



At Winterscombe I never experienced such things, and I loved their opposites. Others might judge our family life dull; I liked the safeness of its rituals, and the sure knowledge when I went to bed that the next day would be almost precisely the same as the day before. Like my parents, I was, I suppose, very English.


In the mornings, I woke at seven, when Jenna, who was my nurse, brought up the copper jug of hot water and a boiled washcloth. She scrubbed my face and my neck and the back of my ears until my skin glowed, and then she brushed my hair, which was red and curly-I hated it –for exactly fifty strokes. Then it was plaited into neat tight braids in an effort to subdue it, and fastened with elastic bands and ribbons, which were changed every day to match the blouse I was wearing. It was Jenna’s religion to be orderly.


My clothes used to arrive twice a year, in white boxes from London; they were sensible and they never varied. In summer I wore sea island cotton undershirts and, in winter, woolen ones with sleeves. I wore long socks or woolen stockings in winter, and short cotton socks in summer. I had three kinds of shoes: stout brown lace-ups, stout brown sandals, and flat pumps, made of bronze kid, which were reserved for parties, although I went to very few parties. In summer I wore cotton frocks and cardigans Jenna Knitted; in winter I wore gray flannel pleated skirts and gray flannel jackets. I had a succession of Harris tweed overcoats with velveteen collars, all of which were identical; a succession of identical pudding –basin hats that clipped under the chin with elastic. I hated the scratchy winter vests, but apart from that, I never thought about my clothes a great deal, except when I went to visit my great-aunt Maud in London.








Aunt Maud did not like my clothes and she said so, roundly. “The child looks drab,” she would pronounce, fixing me with a stern eye. ”I shall take her to Harrods. She has…possibilities.”

I wasn’t sure what those possibilities were. When I peered in my looking glass I could see that I was tall and skinny. I had big feet, which looked even larger in the brown lace-up shoes, which Jenna polished until they shone like chestnuts. I had freckles, of which I was very ashamed. I had eyes of an indeterminate green. I had that horrible curly red hair, which reached halfway down my back, when all I wanted was to have short straight black hair and tempestuous blue eyes like the heroines in Aunt Maud’s favorite novels.

No possibilities there that I could see, and the often-promised visits to Harrods never seemed to materialize. I think Aunt Maud, who was old by then and somewhat vague, may simply have forgotten; on the other hand, my mother, who found fashion frivolous, may have intervened. “I love Maud dearly,” She used to say, “but she can go too far. One has to put one’s foot down.”

It is true that on one of my birthdays-my seventh-Aunt Maud did, as she would say, push the boat out. Aunt Maud’s finances were a mystery, but as far as I could understand, she lived off paintings: a collection of paintings once given her by a very dear friend. Most of these paintings had been sold some years before, but a few had been kept in reserve-“For a rainy day,” Maud said.












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