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X. THE GODMOTHER

At Montreux, one of the towns which encircle the northeast part of the lake of Geneva, lived Babette's godmother, the noble English lady, with her daughters and a young relative. They had only lately arrived, yet the miller had paid them a visit, and informed them of Babette's engagement to Rudy. The whole story of their meeting at Interlachen, and his brave adventure with the eaglet, were related to them, and they were all very much interested, and as pleased about Rudy and Babette as the miller himself. The three were invited to come to Montreux; it was but right for Babette to become acquainted with her godmother, who wished to see her very much. A steam-boat started from the town of Villeneuve, at one end of the lake of Geneva, and arrived at Bernex, a little town beyond Montreux, in about half an hour. And in this boat, the miller, with his daughter and Rudy, set out to visit her godmother. They passed the coast which has been so celebrated in song. Here, under the walnut-trees, by the deep blue lake, sat Byron, and wrote his melodious verses about the prisoner confined in the gloomy castle of Chillon. Here, where Clarens, with its weeping-willows, is reflected in the clear water, wandered Rousseau, dreaming of Heloise. The river Rhone glides gently by beneath the lofty snow-capped hills of Savoy, and not far from its mouth lies a little island in the lake, so small that, seen from the shore, it looks like a ship. The surface of the island is rocky; and about a hundred years ago, a lady caused the ground to be covered with earth, in which three acacia-trees were planted, and the whole enclosed with stone walls. The acacia-trees now overshadow every part of the island. Babette was enchanted with the spot; it seemed to her the most beautiful object in the whole voyage, and she thought how much she should like to land there. But the steam-ship passed it by, and did not stop till it reached Bernex. The little party walked slowly from this place to Montreux, passing the sun-lit walls with which the vineyards of the little mountain town of Montreux are surrounded, and peasants' houses, overshadowed by fig-trees, with gardens in which grow the laurel and the cypress.

Halfway up the hill stood the boarding-house in which Babette's godmother resided. She was received most cordially; her godmother was a very friendly woman, with a round, smiling countenance. When a child, her head must have resembled one of Raphael's cherubs; it was still an angelic face, with its white locks of silvery hair. The daughters were tall, elegant, slender maidens.

The young cousin, whom they had brought with them, was dressed in white from head to foot; he had golden hair and golden whiskers, large enough to be divided amongst three gentlemen; and he began immediately to pay the greatest attention to Babette.

Richly bound books, note-paper, and drawings, lay on the large table. The balcony window stood open, and from it could be seen the beautiful wide extended lake, the water so clear and still, that the mountains of Savoy, with their villages, woods, and snow-crowned peaks, were clearly reflected in it.

Rudy, who was usually so lively and brave, did not in the least feel himself at home; he acted as if he were walking on peas, over a slippery floor. How long and wearisome the time appeared; it was like being in a treadmill. And then they went out for a walk, which was very slow and tedious. Two steps forward and one backwards had Rudy to take to keep pace with the others. They walked down to Chillon, and went over the old castle on the rocky island. They saw the implements of torture, the deadly dungeons, the rusty fetters in the rocky walls, the stone benches for those condemned to death, the trap-doors through which the unhappy creatures were hurled upon iron spikes, and impaled alive. They called looking at all these a pleasure. It certainly was the right place to visit. Byron's poetry had made it celebrated in the world. Rudy could only feel that it was a place of execution. He leaned against the stone framework of the window, and gazed down into the deep, blue water, and over to the little island with the three acacias, and wished himself there, away and free from the whole chattering party. But Babette was most unusually lively and good-tempered.

"I have been so amused," she said.

The cousin had found her quite perfect.

"He is a perfect fop," said Rudy; and this was the first time Rudy had said anything that did not please Babette.

The Englishman had made her a present of a little book, in remembrance of their visit to Chillon. It was Byron's poem, "The Prisoner of Chillon," translated into French, so that Babette could read it.

"The book may be very good," said Rudy; "but that finely combed fellow who gave it to you is not worth much."

"He looks something like a flour-sack without any flour," said the miller, laughing at his own wit. Rudy laughed, too, for so had he appeared to him.

 

10.巴贝德的干妈

跟克拉伦斯、维尔纳克斯和克林三个小镇在日内瓦湖的东北部形成一个花环的最近的一个城市是蒙特鲁。巴贝德的干妈——一位英国贵妇人——就带着她的几个女儿和一个年轻的亲戚住在这里。她们到这儿来没有多久,但是磨坊主早已经把女儿的订婚消息告诉她们了。他还把洛狄,那只小鹰以及他到因特尔拉根去的事情也都讲了——总之,他把前前后后的一切经过都说了。她们听了非常高兴,同时对洛狄和巴贝德,甚至对磨坊主都表示关怀,并且还要求他们三个人来看看她们。她们现在就是因为这个缘故才来的。巴贝德希望看看干妈,干妈也希望看看巴贝德。

在日内瓦湖的尽头,有一艘汽船停在维也奴乌小镇下边。汽船从这儿开半个钟点就可以到维尔纳克斯——离蒙特鲁不远。这湖滨经常是诗人们歌颂的对象。拜伦曾经在这深绿的湖畔的胡桃树下坐过,还写过和谐的诗篇,叙述被监禁在黑暗的锡雍石牢里的囚徒①。水上有一处映着隐在垂柳中的克拉伦斯;卢梭就常在这附近散步,酝酿着他的《新哀洛绮丝》②。伦河在沙伏依州的雪山下面流着;离它流入湖的出口处不远有一个小岛。从岸上看,这岛小得简直像一条船。事实上它是一个石礁。在一个世纪以前,有一位贵妇人把它的周围填上了土,接着在它上面又盖了一层土。岛上现在长了三棵槐树,把整个的岛都遮住了。巴贝德非常喜欢这块小地方。在她看来,这是她全部旅行中所到的最可爱的一个处所。

她说大家应该上去看看。她认为在这个小岛上散散步一定是非常愉快的。但是轮船却在它旁边开过去了;照一般惯例,轮船只有到维尔纳克斯才停下来。

这一小队旅客在阳光下的围墙之间走着,这些围墙把蒙特鲁这个小山城面前的许多葡萄园都围了起来。许多无花果树在农家的茅舍面前洒下阴影;花园里有许多月桂树和柏树。

半山腰有一个旅馆;那位英国贵妇人就住在里面。

主人的欢迎是诚恳的。干妈是一个高大、和善的女人;她的圆脸蛋老带着笑容。她小时一定跟拉斐尔③所刻的安琪儿差不多。她的头现在还像一个安琪儿的头,不过老了许多,头发全白了。她的几个女儿都是美丽、文雅、又高又苗条的女子。跟她们在一道的表哥穿的是一身白衣服。他的头发是金黄的;他的一脸黄络腮胡子就是分给三个人还够用。他对巴贝德立刻表示出极大的好感。

大桌子上堆着许多装帧精美的书籍、乐谱和图画。阳台上的门是开着的;他们可以望见外面那个美丽而广阔的湖。这湖非常莹清平静,沙伏依州的山、小镇、树林和雪峰全都映在里面。

洛狄本来是一个非常直爽、活泼和随便的人。现在他却感到非常拘束起来。他走起路来简直像踩着铺在光滑的地板上的豌豆似的。他觉得时间过得真慢!他觉得好像他在踩着踏车④。他们还要到外面去散步!这也是同样地慢,同样地叫人感到腻烦!洛狄如果向前走两步,必须再退后一步才能跟大家看齐。他们向石岛上的阴暗的锡雍古堡走去,为的是要看看那里面的刑具、地牢、挂在墙上的锈链子、死刑犯所坐的石凳、地板门——死刑犯就是从这门被扔到水里的铁桩上去的。

他们认为看这些东西是一桩愉快的事!这是一个执行死刑的地点;拜伦的歌把它提升到诗的世界。不过洛狄仍然觉得它是一个行刑的场所。他把头伸出石窗,望着深沉的绿水和那个长着三棵槐树的小岛。他希望他现在就在那个岛上,不跟这批喋喋不休的朋友在一起。不过巴贝德的兴致非常高。她后来说,这次出游使她感到非常愉快;她还认为那位表哥是一个不折不扣的绅士。

“一个不折不扣的牛皮大王!”洛狄说。这是洛狄第一次说出使她不高兴的话。

这位英国人送她一本小书,作为游历锡雍的纪念。这就是拜伦的诗《锡雍的囚徒》的法译本——为的是使巴贝德便于阅读。

“这可能是一本好书,”洛狄说,“但是我不喜欢这个油头粉面的家伙。他送你这本书,并不能讨得我的欢心。”

“他的样子像一个没有装面粉的面粉袋,”磨坊主说,同时对自己的笑话大笑起来。

洛狄也大笑起来,称赞这话说得非常好,非常正确。

①这是指拜伦在1816年发表的长诗《锡雍的囚徒》(Prisoner Of Chillon),内容描写日内瓦的圣·维克多寺院的副住持博尼瓦尔因为与爱国志士共谋推翻萨伏依公爵的统治,而两次被囚禁在锡雍石牢里的故事。

②《新哀洛绮丝》(La Nouvelleh Eloise)是卢梭在1761年发表的小说。这小说是他1756年在巴黎写成的。

③拉斐尔(Santi Raphael,1483-1520)是意大利罗马学派的一个伟大艺术家。

④这是英国一个叫做古比特(Sir William Cubitt)的爵士在1818年所“发明”的一种苦役劳动。踏车是一种木轮子;犯人用手支在两边的栏杆上,不停地用脚踩着这轮子,使它像现代的发动机似的发出动力。