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敞开着的窗户

(2007-07-15 16:39:39)
摘自《读者》 
2007-7-10 17:13:00 作者:陈榕来源:《新东方英语》总第51-52期
“我姑姑很快就会下来,纳托先生,”一位冷静沉着的15岁的年轻女士说道,“您先忍耐一下,还得和我再呆一会儿。”

    弗兰姆顿·纳托绞尽脑汁想找些得体的话来说,盼望既能恰当地奉承眼前的侄女,又不让马上就要下来的姑姑感觉受到轻慢。他私下里不禁怀疑,像这样正式拜访一连串毫不相识的人,究竟对他应该接受的放松神经的治疗能否有所帮助。

    “我知道你会怎么做,”当他打算搬到乡下静养的时候他的姐姐说道,“你会把自己埋起来,不与人交谈,终日无所事事郁郁寡欢只会加重你神经紧张的毛病。我会给那里的旧相识写信,把你引见给他们。我记得他们中的有些人是相当不错的。”

    弗兰姆顿不知道赛普顿夫人,也就是他递上其中一封引见信的女士,是否也属于他姐姐所说的“相当不错”的范围。

    “你在这里认识的人多吗?”侄女认为他们之间已经沉默了足够长的时间,于是问道。

    “几乎谁也不认识,”弗兰姆顿说道,“我的姐姐在这里住过,你知道,大概四年前她住在教区长家。她给我写了引见信,推荐我多认识些人。”从他最后一句话的语气来看,他显然对此类拜访感到后悔。

    “那么你实际上不认识我姑姑,对她也一点都不了解喽?”这位沉着冷静的年轻女士继续问道。

    “只知道她的姓名和地址。”拜访者承认道。他正在想:不知道赛普顿夫人是否已婚,丈夫还在不在世。他有种说不清的感觉,觉得这屋子里像是有男人住的光景。

    “她的悲剧发生在整整三年前,”这个孩子说道,“那应该是您姐姐离开以后的事情了。”

    “她的悲剧?”弗兰姆顿问道。这个乡村宁静祥和,悲剧似乎和这里的环境格格不入。

    “你或许正在奇怪,在十月的下午我们为什么要敞着窗户。”侄女指着一扇敞开的面对草坪的法式落地窗说道。

    “这个时候天气还是比较暖和的,”弗兰姆顿说道,“不过这窗户难道和发生的悲剧有什么关系吗?”

    “在三年前,就是今天这个日子,她的丈夫和两个弟弟穿过那扇窗户出去打猎。他们再也没有回来。要去打鹬鸟的地方,他们得经过一片沼泽地,三个人都陷进了泥沼。你知道,那是个特别潮湿的夏天,平常年头,那地方安全得很,没想到却毫无征兆地出了事。我们没能找到他们的尸体,这是最可怕的一部分。”这个时候,孩子的声音失去了镇定,带上了颤巍巍的同情的调子。“可怜的姑姑总想着他们有一天会回来,他们以及和他们一起消失的褐色西班牙小猎狗,会像平常一样通过那扇窗户走进来。这就是为什么每天傍晚窗户一直都开着,直到暮色降临。可怜的姑姑,她总是跟我唠叨他们出去时的样子。她的丈夫胳膊上罩着白色的防雨服,隆尼,她的小弟弟,唱着‘波蒂,你为什么又蹦又跳?’他常常唱这个曲子来逗她,因为她总说一听这个曲子就会神经紧张。你知道在这样的静得悄无声息的夜晚,我总有种毛骨悚然的感觉,觉得他们会穿过窗子走进来。”

    她突然不说话了,轻轻打了个寒战。听到姑姑进了屋,一路道歉她下来晚了,弗兰姆顿不禁长长松了一口气。

    “你跟维拉聊得还开心吧?”她问道。

    “她很有趣。”弗兰姆顿说道。

    “窗户到现在还开着,希望您别介意,”赛普顿夫人欢快地说道,“我的丈夫和兄弟一起去打猎了,很快要回来,他们经常从这边走。今天他们去沼泽地打鹬鸟去了。所以他们会把我可怜的地毯弄个乱七八糟。你们男人都这样,不是吗?”

    她兴高采烈地谈论着打鸟的事情,告诉弗兰姆顿现在的鸟不多,冬天的野鸭又会如何。弗兰姆顿着实听得毛骨悚然,绝望地想找个不那么鬼气森森的话题来谈谈,不过他并没有完全成功,话题虽然换了,可是他意识到女主人的注意力并不集中,她的眼睛总是不时地掠过他,望着敞开的窗户和远处的草坪。在这个悲剧的周年纪念日来拜访,真是一个不幸的巧合。

   “医生们都认为我应该彻底休息,不能受任何精神刺激,也不能做任何剧烈运动。”弗兰姆顿说道。他和许多人一样,有一种可以谅解的错误意识,以为所有的陌生人和偶遇的朋友都渴望了解自己虚弱的身体和所患的疾病,渴望了解这些疾病的起因以及它们的治疗方式。“至于该选择什么样的饮食,他们并没有形成一致的观点。” 他继续说道。

    “没有形成一致观点?”赛普顿太太硬生生压住了个哈欠,随声附和道。突然她的精神为之一振,注意力集中了起来,不过这可不是冲着弗兰姆顿刚才所说的话。

    “他们终于回来了!”她叫道。“正好赶得上喝茶。他们看起来泥都要没到眼睛了!”

    弗兰姆顿偷偷打了个寒战,望向侄女,想传达一种同情的理解。这孩子正用充满恐惧的被吓呆了的眼神死盯着敞开的窗户。一种莫名的惊慌让弗兰姆顿从椅子上转过身,望向同一个方向。

    在黄昏的迷蒙光线中,三个人影穿过草坪向窗户走了过来。他们胳膊下面夹着枪,其中的一个肩膀上还罩了件白色的雨衣。一只疲惫的褐色西班牙猎犬紧跟着他们。他们无声无息地靠近房子,然后,一个沙哑的年轻声音透过昏暗的光线唱道:“我说,波蒂,你为什么又蹦又跳?”

    弗兰姆顿发疯似地抓起拐杖和帽子。穿过大厅的门、石子路、前大门,他一路跌跌撞撞往外跑。有个人正骑着自行车沿路而下,为了避开他,车子一头撞进了树篱。

    “亲爱的,我们回来了。”穿白色雨衣的人穿过窗户走进来,说道,“泥很多,不过地总的来说干了。刚才我们进来的时候是谁一溜烟地跑出去了?”

    “一个很特别的人,纳托先生,”赛普顿夫人说道,“他翻来覆去说自己身体不好,你来的时候,他连句再见或者客气话都没有说就跑了。别人还以为他看见鬼了呢。”

    “我想他是因为看见了西班牙猎犬,”侄女平静地说道,“他告诉我他特别怕狗。在恒河边上他曾经被一群杂种野狗追到了坟地,不得不在一个新挖的墓穴里呆了一整夜,上面围着一圈嘶吼的露着牙齿吐着白沫的畜生。足以让任何人都神经失常。”

    浪漫故事张口就来,这是她的强项。

 The  Open  Window
“My aunt will be down presently, Mr.Nuttel.”said a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen;“in the meantime you must try and put up with me.”

Framton Nuttel endeavored to say the correct something which should duly flatter the niece of the moment without unduly discounting the aunt that was to come. Privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.

“I know how it will be, ”his sister had said when he was preparing to migrate to this rural retreat; ”you will bury yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be worse than ever from moping. I shall just give you letters of introduction to all the people I know there. Some of them, as far as I can remember, were quite nice.”

Framton wondered whether Mrs.Sappleton, the lady to whom he was presenting one of the letters of introduction came into the nice division.

“Do you know many of the people round here?” asked the niece, when she judged that they had had sufficient silent communion.

“Hardly a soul,” said Framton. “My sister was staying here, at the rectory, you know, some four years ago, and she gave me letters of introduction to some of the people here.”

He made the last statement in a tone of distinct regret.

“Then you know practically nothing about my aunt?” pursued the self-possessed young lady.

“Only her name and address,” admitted the caller, He was wondering whether Mrs.Sappleton was in the married or widowed state. An undefinable something about the room seemed to suggest masculine habitation.

“Her great tragedy happened just three years ago,” said the child; “that would be since your sister’s time.”

“Her tragedy?” asked Framton; somehow in this restful country spot tragedies seemed out of place.

“You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon,,” said the niece, indicating a large French window that opened on to a lawn.

“It is quite warm for the time of the year,” said Framton; “but has that window got anything to do with the tragedy?”

“Out through that window, three years ago today, her husband and her two young brothers went off for their day’s shooting. They never came back.. In crossing the moor to their favorite snipe-shooting ground they were all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog. It had been that dreadful wet summer, you know, and places that were safe in other years gave way suddenly without warning. Their bodies were never recovered. That was the dreadful part of it.” Here the child’s voice lost its self-possessed note and became falteringly human. “Poor aunt always thinks that they will come back someday, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at that window just as they used to do. That is why the window is kept open every evening till it is quite dusk. Poor dear aunt, she has often told me how they went out, her husband with his white waterproof coat over his arm, and Ronnie, her youngest brother, singing‘Bertie, why do you bound?’as he always did to tease her, because she said it got on her nerves. Do you know, sometimes on still, quiet evenings like this, I almost get a creepy feeling that they will all walk in through that window—”

She broke off with a little shudder. It was a relief to Framton when the aunt bustled into the room with a whirl of apologies for being late in making her appearance.

“I hope Vera has been amusing you?” she said.

“She has been very interesting,” said Framton.

“I hope you don’t mind the open window,” said Mrs.Sappleton briskly; “my husband and brothers will be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way. They’ve been out for snipe in the marshes today, so they’ll make a fine mess over my poor carpets. So like you menfolk, isn’t it?”

She rattled on cheerfully about the shooting and the scarcity of birds, and the prospects for duck in the winter. To Framton it was all purely horrible. He made a desperate but only partially successful effort to turn the talk on to a less ghastly topic; he was conscious that his hostess was giving him only a fragment of her attention, and her eyes were constantly straying past him to the open window and the lawn beyond. It was certainly an unfortunate coincidence that he should have paid his visit on this tragic anniversary.

“The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise,” announced Framton, who labored under the tolerably widespread delusion that total strangers and chance acquaintances are hungry for the least detail of one’s ailments and infirmities, their cause and cure. “On the matter of diet they are not so much in agreement,” he continued.

“No?” said Mrs.Sappleton, in a voice which only replaced a yawn at the last moment. Then she suddenly brightened into alert attention—but not to what Framton was saying.

“Here they are at last!”she cried.“Just in time for tea, and don’t they look as if they were muddy up to the eyes!”

Framton shivered slightly and turned towards the niece with a look intended to convey sympathetic comprehension. The child was staring out through the open window with a dazed horror in her eyes. In a chill shock of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat and looked in the same direction.

In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window, they all carried guns under their arms, and one of them was additionally burdened with a white coat hung over his shoulders. A tired brown spaniel kept close at their teels. Noiselessly they neared the house, and then a hoarse young voice chanted out of the dusk: “I said, Bertie, why do you bound?”

Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall door, the gravel drive, and the front gate were dimly noted stages in his headlong retreat. A cyclist coming along the road had to run into the hedge to avoid imminent collision.

“Here we are, my dear,” said the bearer of the white mackintosh, coming in through the window, “fairly muddy, but most of it’s dry. Who was that who bolted out as we came up?”

“A most extraordinary man, a Mr.Nuttel,” said Mrs.Sappleton; “could only talk ablut his illnesses, and dashed off without a word of good-bye or aplolgy when you arrived. One would think he had seen a ghost.”

“I expect it was the spaniel,” said the niece calmly; ”he hold me he had a horror of dogs. He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs, and had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him. Enouht to make anyone lose their nerve.”
Romance at short notice was her speciality.

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