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[生活消费]一个小时的故事

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Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.

It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences, veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. Her husband’s friend Richards was there, too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard’s name leading the list of “killed.” He had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message.

She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.

There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.

She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.

There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled above the other in the west facing her window.

She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams.

She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength. But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.

There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.

Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will-as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been.

When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: “Free, free, free!” The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial.

She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.

There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending her in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.

And yet she had loved him-sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self-assertion, which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

“Free! Body and soul free!” she kept whispering.

Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhole, imploring for admission. “Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door-you will make yourself ill. What are you doing, Louise? For heaven’s sake open the door.”

“Go away. I am not making myself ill.” No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window.

Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.

She arose at length and opened the door to her sister’s importunities. There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister’s waist, and together they descended the stairs. Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom.

Some one was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his gripsack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of accident, and did not even know there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine’s piercing cry; at Richards’ quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.

But Richards was too late.

When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease-of joy that kills.

  一个小时的故事

  大家都知道马兰德夫人的心脏有毛病,所以在把她丈夫的死讯告诉她时都是小心翼翼的,尽可能地温和委婉。

  坏消息是由她姐姐约瑟芬告诉她的,连话都没说成句,只敢遮遮掩掩地向她暗示。她丈夫的朋友理查兹也在场,就在她的身旁。当火车事故的消息传来的时候,理查兹正好在报社里,遇难者名单上布兰特雷?马兰德的名字排在首位。他只等到紧接其后的第二份电报证明了消息的真实性后,就急忙赶在了那些不太心细也不太温柔的朋友之前先把这个不幸的消息带了回来。

  她不像许多别的女人那样,只是带着麻木接受的神情听着这个故事,而是立刻疯狂而绝望地扑倒在姐姐的怀里泪如泉涌。当这暴风雨般的悲伤过去后,她独自回到了自己的房间里,不让任何人跟着她。

  窗户是开着的,对面放着一把舒服的大扶手椅,她筋疲力尽地沉了进去。这种疲惫不仅折磨着她的身体,似乎也浸入了她的灵魂。

  透过窗口,她可以看到屋前广场上的树梢在新春的气息中兴奋地颤抖着。空气中弥漫着芬芳的雨的气息。窗下的街道上,一个小贩正在叫卖他的器皿。远处依稀传来缥缈的歌声,数不清的麻雀也在屋檐下叽叽喳喳地唱个不停。

  对着她窗口西边的天空上,云朵层层叠叠地堆积着,间或露出一绺绺蔚蓝的天空。

  她把头靠在椅背上,非常地平静。除了偶尔会呜咽一两声,使她有点颤抖,就像小孩子哭着睡着了,但在梦中还会继续呜咽一样。

  她还很年青,白皙而安详的脸上的线条,显示着一种压抑甚或说是一种力量。但是现在,她的目光有些阴郁,呆呆地凝望着远处白云间的绺绺蓝天。这并不是匆匆的一瞥,而是一种长久的深思熟虑。
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  有一种感觉正在向她靠近,那正是她带着恐惧等待的。是什么?她不知道。这种感觉太微妙,太难以捉摸,她说不清楚。但她感觉得到,它正在空中蔓延,穿过弥漫于空气中的声音、气味和颜色慢慢地向她靠近。

  现在,她内心骚动不安。她开始认识到那种向她步步进逼并渐渐地控制她的感觉是什么了。她努力地想用自己的意志力把这种感觉打回去――可是她意志就像她那白皙纤弱的双手一样软弱无力。

  当她稍稍放松了抵抗的时候,从她微微张开的双唇间喃喃地溢出一个词。她屏住呼吸一遍又一遍地重复着:“自由,自由,自由!”随着那种感觉而来的茫然的目光和恐惧的神色从她的眼里消失了。现在,她的目光透着机敏,炯炯有神。她的心跳加快,沸腾的热血温暖了身体的每一个部位,使她感到身心完全地放松了。

  她没有停下来问问自己,是不是有一种邪恶的快感在控制着她。一种清清楚楚的、兴奋的感觉让她根本无暇去顾及那些个琐事。

  她知道,当她见到丈夫那双温柔亲切的双手变得僵硬,那张从不会对她吝啬爱意的脸变得毫无表情、灰白如纸的时候,她肯定还会哭的。但在这痛苦之外,她看到了长远的未来,那些只属于她自己的未来岁月。而她张开双臂去迎接那些岁月。

  在未来的岁月里,她不再为了别人而活着,而只为她自己。那时,她不必再盲目地屈从于任何专横的意志。人们总是相信他们有权把个人的意志强加于他人。无论其动机是善良的还是残酷的,她突然感到这种做法绝不亚于犯罪。

  当然,她是爱过他的――有时候是爱他的。但经常是不爱他的。那又有什么关系呢!有了独立的意志――她突然意识到这是她身上最强烈的一种冲动,爱情这未有答案的神秘事物又算得了什么呢!

  “自由了!身心都自由了!”她不住地悄悄低语着。

  约瑟芬跪在紧闭的门外,嘴唇对着锁孔,苦苦地哀求着让她进去。“露易丝,开开门!求求你啦,开开门――你这样会得病的。你干什么哪,露易丝?看在上帝的份儿上,开开门吧!”

  “走开。我不会让自己生病的。”不会的,她正陶醉在窗外那不息的生命里。

  她的想象像脱僵的野马一样狂奔着。她想象着未来的日子,春天的日子,夏天的日子,所有将属于她自己的日子。她快速地祈祷着生命能够更加长久,而就在昨天,一想到生命那么漫长她就瑟瑟发抖。

  她终于站了起来,在她姐姐的强求下,打开了门。她眼睛里充满了胜利的激情,她的举止不知不觉竟像胜利女神一样。她紧搂着姐姐的腰,一起走下楼去。理查兹正站在下面等着她们。

  有人正在用钥匙打开大门。进来的是布兰特雷?马兰德,虽略显旅途劳顿,但泰然自若地提着他的大旅行包和伞。事发当时他离现场很远,甚至根本就不知道发生了车祸。他愣在那儿,对约瑟芬的尖叫感到吃惊,对理查兹快速地把他挡在他妻子的视线外更感到吃惊。

  但是理查兹还是太迟了。

  医生来后,他们说她是死于心脏病――说她是死于极度高兴。

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