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I COULD have told you the start of the affair in a few lines (Armand said to me), but I wanted you to see for yourself the events and stages by which we reached the point where I agreed to everything Marguerite wanted, and Marguerite conceded that she could live only with me.

It was on the day following the evening when she had come seeking me out that I sent her Manon Lescaut.

From that moment on, since I could not alter my mistress's way of life, I altered mine. More than anything, I wanted to leave my mind with no time to dwell on the role I had just accepted, for, despite myself, I should have been very unhappy with it. And thus my life, normally so calm, suddenly took on an air of riot and chaos. You must not imagine that the love of a kept woman, however disinterested, costs nothing. Nothing costs more than the constant capricious requests for flowers, boxes at the theatre, supper parities, outings to the country which can never be denied a mistress.

As I have told you, I had no real money of my own. My father was, and still is, the District Collector of Taxes for C. He has a wide reputation for loyal service, thanks to which he was able to raise the money for the surety he had to find before taking up the post. The Collectorship brings in forty thousand francs a year and, during the ten years he has held it, he has paid off his bond and set about putting a dowry for my sister to one side. My father is the most honourable man you could hope to meet. When my mother died, she left an income of six thousand francs which he divided between my sister and myself the day he acquired the appointment for which he had canvassed; then, when I was twenty-one, he added to this small income an annual allowance of five thousand francs, and assured me that I could be very happy in Paris on eight thousand francs if, beside this income, I could establish myself in a position at the bar or in medicine. Accordingly, I came to Paris, read law, was called to the bar and, like any number of young men, put my diploma in my pocket and rather let myself drift along on the carefree life of Paris. My expenses were very modest. However, I regularly got through my year's income in eight months, and spent the four summer months at my father's place, which in all gave me twelve thousand a year and a reputation as a good son. And, moreover, I didn't owe anyone a penny.

That was how things stood with me when I met Marguerite.

You will appreciate that, in spite of my wishes, my level of expenditure rose. Marguerite's was a most capricious nature, and she was one of those women who never consider that the countless amusements of which their life is made can be a serious financial drain. As a result, since she wanted to spend as much time with me as possible, she would write me a note in the morning to say that she would have dinner with me, not in her apartment, but in some restaurant either in Paris or in the country. I would collect her, we would dine, go on to the theatre, and often have supper together, and I would spend four or five Louis on the evening. Which came to two thousand five hundred or three thousand francs a month. Which shortened my year to three and a half months, and put me in the position of either having to run up debts or to leave Marguerite.

Now I was prepared to agree to anything, except the latter possibility.

Forgive me for telling you all this in such detail, but, as you shall see, these circumstances were the cause of the events which follow. The story I tell is true and simple, and I have allowed the unvarnished facts to stand and the onward march of events to emerge unobstructed.

I realized therefore that, since nothing in the world could weigh heavily enough with me to make me forget my mistress, I should have to find a way of meeting the expense which she forced me to incur. Furthermore, love had run such riot in me that every moment I spent away from Marguerite seemed like a year, and I felt the need to pass those moments through the flame of some passion or other, and to live them so fast so fast that I would not notice that I was living them at all.

I set about borrowing five or six thousand francs against my small capital and began to play the tables, for since the gambling houses were shut down, people have been gambling everywhere. Time was, when you went to Frascati, you stood a chance of winning a fortune: you played against a bank and, if you lost, you had the consolation of telling yourself you might have won. Whereas nowadays, except in the gaming clubs where you still find they are pretty strict about paying up, you can be fairly sure that if you win a large sum you won't see a penny of if. You will readily understand the reasons why.

Gambling is only for young men who have expensive tastes and not enough money to keep up the kind of lives they lead. So they gamble and, in the natural way of things, this is the result: they may win, and then the losers are expected to foot the bill for these gentlemen's horses and mistresses, which is thoroughly disagreeable. Debts are contracted, and friendships begun around the gaming table end in quarrels from which honour and lives invariably emerge somewhat tattered. And if you are a gentleman, you may find you have been ruined by very gentlemanly young men whose only fault was that they did not have two hundred thousand francs a year.

There is no need for me to tell you about the ones who cheat. One day, you learn that they have had to go away and that ?too late ?judgement has been passed on them.

I accordingly threw myself into the fast-moving, bustling, volcanic life which once upon a time had frightened me when I thought of it, and which had now come to be in my eyes the inescapable corollary of my love for Marguerite. What else could I have done?

During the nights I did not spend in the rue d'Antin, I should not have slept if I had spent them alone in my apartment. Jealousy would have kept me awake and heated my thoughts and blood. On the other hand, gambling temporarily beguiled the fever which would otherwise have overrun my heart which was, thereby, diverted towards a passion fascinating enough to absorb me despite myself until the time came for me to go to my mistress. When that hour struck ?and this was how I became aware of how violent my love was ?then, whether I was winning or losing, I would abandon the table without compunction, feeling pity for those I left there who, unlike me, would not find happiness when they came to take their leave.

For most of them, gambling was a necessity; for me, it was a kind of antidote.

When I was cured of Marguerite, I would be cured of gambling.

And so, in the middle of it all, I was able to keep a fairly cool head. I lost only what I could afford, and won only what I could have afforded to lose.

Moreover, luck was on my side. I did not run up debts, and spent three times as much as before I started playing the tables. It was not easy to resist the allurements of a way of life which enabled me to cater for Marguerite's innumerable whims without feeling the pinch. For her part, she still loved me as much, and even more.

As I have told you I began at first by being allowed to stay only between midnight and six in the morning. Then I was allowed into her box at various theatres from time to time. Next, she came and dined with me occasionally. One morning, I did not leave until eight, and there was a day when I did not go until noon.

Pending her moral transformation, a physical transformation had come over Marguerite. I had undertaken to cure her, and the poor girl, guessing what I was about, did everything I told her as a way of showing her gratitude. Without too much trouble or persuasion, I managed to cut her off almost totally from her old habits. My doctor, whom I had arranged for her to meet, had told me that only rest and quiet could keep her in good health, and consequently, for the supper parties and late nights, I succeeded in substituting a healthy diet and regular sleep. Reluctantly at first, Marguerite took to her new life, the beneficial effects of which she could feel. And soon she began to spend odd evenings at home or, if the weather were fine, she would wrap up well in an Indian shawl, cover her face with a veil, and we would set off on foot, like a couple of children, to roam the evening away along the dusky avenues of the Champs-Elysees. She would return weary, take a light supper and retire to bed after playing a little music or reading a few pages, something which had never happened to her before. The coughing fits, which I had found heartrending whenever I heard her racked by them, had almost completely gone.

Within six weeks, there was no further mention of the Count who had been permanently sacrificed. There remained only the Duke to compel me to hide my affair with Marguerite, and even he had often been sent away in my presence on the pretext that Madame was asleep and had left orders that she was not to be disturbed.

As a direct result of the habit of seeing me ?or rather the need to see me ?which Marguerite had contracted, I abandoned gambling at the precise moment when an experienced gambler would also have given up. All in all, with what I had won, I found myself in possession of twelve thousand francs which seemed an inexhaustible capital to me.

The time of year had come round when I normally went off to join my father and my sister, and still I did not go. As a result, I received frequent letters from both of them asking me to come and stay with them.

To all their entreaties, I answered as best I could, repeating that I was well and that I was not short of money, two considerations which, I believed, would go some way to consoling my father for delaying the start of my annual visit.

Meantime, it came about one morning that Marguerite, who had been woken up by bright sunshine, leaped out of bed and asked me if I would like to take her out to the country for the day.

Prudence was sent for and the three of us set out, after Marguerite had left orders with Nanine to tell the Duke that she had wanted to make the most of the weather and had gone to the country with Madame Duvernoy.

Apart from the fact that the presence of la Duvernoy was necessary to set the old Duke's mind at rest, Prudence was the sort of woman who seems expressly cut out for country outings. With her unquenchable high spirits and insatiable appetite, she was quite incapable of allowing anyone she was with to be bored for an instant, and was more than likely to be an old hand at ordering the eggs, cherries, milk, sauted rabbit and all the usual ingredients of the traditional lunch for which the countryside around Paris is known.

All that remained was to decide where we should go.

Once again, it was Prudence who got us out of this difficulty.

'Is it the real country you want to go to?' she asked.

'Yes.'

'Well, let's go to Bougival, to the Point du Jour. It's run by a widow named Arnould. Armand, go and hire a barouche.'

An hour and half later we were in the establishment run by the widow Arnould.

Perhaps you know the inn I mean: it is a hotel during the week and pleasure garden on Sundays. From the garden, which is raised and stands as high as an ordinary first floor, you get a magnificent view. On the left, the Marly aqueduct commands the horizon; on the right, the view unfolds across a never-ending succession of hills; the river, which at this point hardly moves at all, stretches away like a wide ribbon of shimmering white silk between the plain of Les Gabillons and the lle de Croissy, and is rocked ceaselessly by the whisper of its tall poplars and the soughing of its willows.

Far off, picked out in a wide swathe of sunlight, rise small white houses with red roofs, and factories which, shorn by distance of their grim, commercial character, complete the landscape in the most admirable way.

And, far off, Paris shrouded in smoke!

As Prudence had told us, it was really the country and, I must say, it was a real lunch we had.

It is not of gratitude for the happiness I have to thank the place for that I'm saying all this. Bougival, in spite of its unattractive name, is one of the prettiest spots you could possibly imagine. I have travelled a great deal and seen great sights, but none more charming than this tiny village cheerfully nestling at the foot of the hill which shelters it.

Madame Arnould offered to arrange for us to take a boat out on the river, and Marguerite and Prudence accepted with alacrity.

The countryside has always been associated with love, and rightly so. Nothing creates a more fitting backdrop to the woman you love than the blue sky, the fragrances, the flowers, the breezes, the solitary splendour of fields and woods. However much you love a woman, however much you trust her, however sure of the future her past life makes you, you are always jealous to some degree. If you have ever been in love, really in love, you must have experienced this need to shut out the world and isolate the person through whom you wished to live your whole life. It is as though the woman you love, however indifferent she may be to her surroundings, loses something of her savour and consistency when she comes into contact with men and things. Now I experienced this more intensely than any other man. Mine was no ordinary love; I was as much in love as mortal creature can be. But I loved Marguerite Gautier, which is to say that in Paris, at every turn, I might stumble across some man who had already been her lover, or would be the next day. Whereas, in the country, surrounded by people we had never seen before who paid no attention to us, surrounded by nature in all her springtime finery, which is her annual gesture of forgiveness, and far from the bustle of the city, I could shelter my love from prying eyes, and love without shame or fear.

There, the courtesan faded imperceptibly. At my side, I had a young and beautiful woman whom I loved, by whom I was loved and whose name was Marguerite: the shapes of the past dissolved and the future was free of clouds. The sun shone on my mistress as brightly as it would have shone on the purest fiancee. Together we strolled through delightful glades which seemed as though they were deliberately designed to remind you of lines by Lamartine and make you hum tunes by Scudo. Marguerite was wearing a white dress. She leaned on my arm. Beneath the starry evening sky, she repeated the words she had said to me the previous night, and in the distance the world went on turning without casting its staining shadow over the happy picture of our youth and love.

Such was the dream which that day's burning sun brought me through the leafy trees and I, lying full-length in the grass of the island where we had landed, free of all human ties which had hitherto bound me, allowed my mind to run free and gather up all the hopes it met with.

Add to this that, from the spot where I lay, I could see, on the bank, a charming little two-storied house which crouched behind a railing in the shape of a semi-circle. Beyond the railing, in front of the house, was a green lawn as smooth as velvet, and, behind the building, a small wood full of mysterious hideaways, where each morning all traces of the previous evening's passage would surely be all mossed over.

Climbing flowers hid the steps leading up to the door of this empty house, and hugged it as far up as the first floor.

Gazing long and hard at the house, I convinced myself in the end that it belonged to me, so completely did it enshrine the dream I was dreaming. I could picture Marguerite and me there together, by day walking in the wood which clothed the hill and, in the evenings, sitting on the lawn, and I wondered to myself if earthly creatures could ever be as happy as we two should be.

'What a pretty house!' said Marguerite, who had been following the direction of my eyes and perhaps my thoughts.

'Where?' said Prudence.

'Over there.' And Marguerite pointed to the house in question.

'Oh, it's lovely, ' replied Prudence. 'Do you like it?'

'Very much.'

'Well, then, tell the Duke to rent it for you. He'll rent it for you all right, I'm sure of it. You can leave it all to me if you want.'

Marguerite looked at me, as though to ask what I thought of the suggestion.

My dream had been shattered with these last words of Prudence, and its going had brought me back to reality with such a jolt that I was still dazed by the shock.

'Why, it's an excellent idea, ' I stammered, not knowing what I was saying.

'In that case, I'll arrange it, ' said Marguerite, squeezing my hand and interpreting my words according to her desires. 'Let's go this minute and see if it's to let.'

The house was empty, and to let for two thousand francs.

'Will you be happy here?' she said to me.

'Can I be sure of ever being here?'

'Who would I choose to bury myself here for, if not for you?'

'Listen, Marguerite, let me rent the house myself.'

'You must be mad! It's not only unnecessary, it would be dangerous. You know perfectly well that I can only take money from one man. So don't be difficult, silly boy, and don't say another word.'

'This way, when I've got a couple of days free, I can come down and spend them with you, ' said Prudence.

We left the house and set off back to Paris talking of this latest decision. I held Marguerite in my arms and, by the time we stepped out of the carriage, I was beginning to view my mistress's scheme with a less scrupulous eye.

阿尔芒接下去对我说:“我本来可以把我们结合的起因简单扼要地讲给您听,但是我想让您知道是通过了哪些事件、经历了哪些曲折,我才会对玛格丽特百依百顺,玛格丽特才会把我当作她生活中必不可少的伴侣。”

就在她来找我的那个晚上的第二天,我把《玛侬·莱斯科》送给了她。

从此以后,因为我不能改变我情妇的生活,就改变我自己的生活。首先我不让脑子有时间来考虑我刚才接受的角色,因为一想到这件事,我总是不由自主地感到十分难受。过去我的生活一直是安静清闲的,现在突然变得杂乱无章了。别以为一个不贪图钱财的妓女的爱情,花不了您多少钱。她有千百种嗜好:花束、包厢、夜宵、郊游,这些要求对一个情妇是永远不能拒绝的,而又都是很费钱的。

我对您说过了,我是没有财产的。我父亲过去和现在都是C城的总税务官,他为人正直,名声极好,因此他借到了担任这个职位所必需的保证金。这个职务给他每年带来四万法郎的收入,十年做下来,他已偿还了保证金,并且还替我妹妹攒下了嫁妆。我父亲是一个非常值得尊敬的人。我母亲去世后留下六千法郎的年金,他在谋到他所企求的职务那天就把这笔年金平分给我和我妹妹了。后来在我二十一岁那年,父亲又在我那笔小小的收入上增加了一笔每年五千法郎的津贴费,我就有了八千法郎一年。他对我说,如果在这笔年金收入之外,我还愿意在司法界或者医务界里找一个工作的话,那么我在巴黎的日子就可以过得很舒服。因此我来到了巴黎,攻读法律,得到了律师的资格,就像很多年轻人一样,我把文凭放在口袋里,让自己稍许过几天巴黎那种懒散的生活。我非常省吃俭用,可是全年的收入只够我八个月的花费。夏天四个月我在父亲家里过,这样合起来就等于有一万两千法郎的年金收入,还赢得了一个孝顺儿子的美誉,而且我一个铜子的债也不欠。

这就是我认识玛格丽特时候的景况。

您知道我的日常开销自然而然地增加了,玛格丽特是非常任性的。有些女人把她们的生活寄托在各种各样的娱乐上面,而且根本不把这些娱乐看作是什么了不起的花费。玛格丽特就是这样的女人。结果,为了尽可能跟我在一起多呆些时间,她往往上午就写信约我一起吃晚饭,并不是到她家里,而是到巴黎或者郊外的饭店。我去接她,再一起吃饭,一起看戏,还经常一起吃夜宵,我每天晚上要花上四五个路易,这样我每月就要有二千五百到三千法郎的开销,一年的收入在三个半月内就花光了,我必须借款,要不然就得离开玛格丽特。

可是我什么都可以接受,就是不能接受这后一种可能性。

请原谅我把这么许多琐碎的细节都讲给您听,可是您下面就会看到这些琐事和以后即将发生的事情之间的关系。我讲给您听的是一个真实而简单的故事,我就让这个故事保持它朴实无华的细节和它简单明了的发展过程。

因此我懂得了,由于世界上没有任何东西可以使我忘掉我的情妇,我必须找到一个方法来应付我为她而增加的花费。而且,这个爱情已使我神魂颠倒,只要我离开玛格丽特,我就度日如年,我感到需要投身于某种情欲来消磨这些时间,要让日子过得异常迅速来使我忘却时间的流逝。

我开始在我的小小的本金中挪用了五六千法郎,我开始赌钱了。自从赌场被取缔以后,人们到处都可以赌钱。从前人们一走进弗拉斯卡第赌场,就有发财的机会。大家赌现钱,输家可以自我安慰地说他们也有赢的机会;而现在呢,除了在俱乐部里,输赢还比较认真以外,换了在别的地方,如果赢到一大笔钱,几乎肯定是拿不到的。原因很容易理解。

赌钱的人,总是那些开支浩大又没有足够的钱维持他们所过的生活的年轻人;他们赌钱的结果必然是这样的:如果他们赢了,那么输家就替那些先生的车马和情妇付钱,这是很难堪的。于是债台高筑,赌桌绿台布周围建立起来的友谊在争吵中宣告破裂,荣誉和生命总要受到些损伤;如果您是一个诚实的人,那么您就会被一些更加诚实的年轻人搞得不名一文,这些年轻人没有别的错误,只不过是少了二十万利弗尔的年金收入。

至于那些在赌钱时做手脚的人,我也不必跟您多说了,他们总有一天会混不下去,迟早会得到惩罚。

我投身到这个紧张、混乱和激烈的生活中去了,这种生活我过去连想想都觉得害怕,现在却成了我对玛格丽特爱情的不可缺少的补充,叫我有什么办法呢?

如果哪天夜晚我不去昂坦街,一个人呆在家里的话,我是睡不着的。我妒火中烧,无法入睡,我的思想和血液如同在燃烧一般,而赌博可以暂时转移我心中燃烧着的激情,把它引向另一种热情,我不由自主地投身到里面去了,一直赌到我应该去会我情妇的时间为止。因此,从这里我就看到了我爱情的强烈,不管是赢是输,我都毫不留恋地离开赌桌,并为那些仍旧留在那里的人感到惋惜,他们是不会像我一样在离开赌桌的时候带着幸福的感觉的。

对大部分人来说,赌博是一种需要,对我来说却是一服药剂。

如果我不爱玛格丽特,我也不会去赌博。

因此,在赌钱的过程中,我能相当冷静,我只输我付得出的钱,我只赢我输得起的钱。

而且,我赌运很好。我没有欠债,但花费却要比我没有赌钱以前多三倍。这样的生活可以让我毫无困难地满足玛格丽特成千种的任性要求,但要维持这种生活却是不容易的。就她来说,她一直跟以前一样地爱我,甚至比以前更爱我了。

我刚才已经跟您说过,开始的时候她只在半夜十二点到第二天早晨六点之间接待我,接着她允许我可以经常进入她的包厢,后来她有时还来跟我一起吃晚饭。有一天早晨我到八点钟才离开她,还有一天我一直到中午才走。

在期待着玛格丽特精神上的转变时,她的肉体已经发生了变化。我曾经设法替她治病,这个可怜的姑娘也猜出了我的意图,为了表示她的感谢就听从了我的劝告。我没有费什么周折就使她几乎完全放弃了她的老习惯。我让她去找的那一位医生对我说,只有休息和安静才能使她恢复健康,于是我对她的夜宵订出了合乎卫生的饮食制度,对她的睡眠规定了一定的时间。玛格丽特不知不觉地习惯了这种新的生活方式,她自己也感到这种生活方式对她的健康有益。有几个晚上她开始在自己家里度过,或者遇到好天气的时候,就裹上一条开司米披肩,罩上面纱,我们像两个孩子似的在香榭丽舍大街昏暗的街道上漫步。她回来的时候有些疲劳,稍许吃一些点心,弹一会儿琴,或者看一会儿书便睡觉了。这样的事她过去是从来未曾有过的。从前我每次听到都使我感到心痛的那种咳嗽几乎完全消失了。

六个星期以后,伯爵已经不成问题,被完全抛在脑后了,只是对公爵我不得不继续隐瞒我跟玛格丽特的关系;然而当我在玛格丽特那里的时候,公爵还是经常被打发走的,借口是夫人在睡觉,不准别人叫醒她。

结果是养成了玛格丽特需要和我待在一起的习惯,这甚至变成了一种需要,因此我能正好在一个精明的赌徒应该滑脚的时候离开赌台。总之,因为总是赢钱,我发现手里已有万把法郎,这笔钱对我来说似乎是一笔取之不尽的财产。

习惯上我每年要去探望父亲和妹妹的时间来到了,但是我没有去,因此我经常收到他们两人要我回家的信。

对这些催我回家的来信,我全都婉转得体地一一答复,我总是说我身体很好,我也不缺钱花。我认为这两点或许能使父亲对我迟迟不回家探亲稍许得到些安慰。

在这期间,一天早上,玛格丽特被强烈的阳光照醒了,她跳下床来问我愿不愿意带她到乡下去玩一天。

我们派人去把普律当丝找来,玛格丽特嘱咐纳尼娜对公爵说,她要趁这阳光明媚的天气跟迪韦尔诺瓦太太一起到乡下去玩。随后我们三人就一起走了。

有迪韦尔诺瓦在场,可以使老公爵放心,除此之外,普律当丝好像生来就是一个专门参加郊游的女人。她整天兴致勃勃,加上她永远满足不了的胃口,有她作伴决不会有片刻烦闷,而且她还精通怎样去订购鸡蛋、樱桃、牛奶、炸兔肉以及所有那些巴黎郊游野餐必不可少的传统食物。

我们只要知道上哪儿去就行了。

这个使我们踌躇不决的问题又是普律当丝替我们解决了。

“你们是不是想到一个名副其实的乡下去呀?”她问。

“是的。”

“那好,我们一起去布吉瓦尔①,到阿尔努寡妇的曙光饭店去。阿尔芒,去租一辆四轮马车。”

①布吉瓦尔:巴黎西部的一个小村镇。

一个半小时以后,我们到了阿尔努寡妇的饭店。

您也许知道这个饭店,它一个星期有六天是旅馆,星期天是咖啡馆。它有一个花园,有一般二层楼那么高,在那里远眺,风景非常优美。左边是一望无际的马尔利引水渠,右边是连绵不断的小山岗;在加皮荣平原和克罗瓦西岛之间,有一条银白色的小河,它在这一带几乎是停滞的,像一条宽大的白色波纹缎带似的向两面伸展开去。两岸高大的杨树在随风摇曳,柳树在喃喃细语,不停地哄着小河入睡。

远处矗立着一片红瓦白墙的小房子,还有些工厂,它们在灿烂的阳光照耀下,更增添了一层迷人的色彩。至于这些工厂枯燥无味的商业化特点,由于距离较远就无法看清了。

极目远眺,是云雾笼罩下的巴黎。

就像普律当丝对我们讲的那样,这是一个真正的乡村,而且,我还应该这样说,这是一顿真正的午餐。

倒不是因为我感谢从那里得到了幸福才这样说的。可是布吉瓦尔,尽管它的名字难听,还是一个理想的风景区。我旅行过不少地方,看见过很多壮丽的景色,但是没有看到过比这个恬静地坐落在山脚下的小乡村更优美的地方了。

阿尔努夫人建议我们去泛舟游河,玛格丽特和普律当丝高兴地接受了。

人们总是把乡村和爱情联系起来,这是很有道理的。没有比这明亮的田野或者寂静的树林里的蓝天、芳草、鲜花和微风更能和您心爱的女人相配了。不论您多么爱一个女人,不论您多么信任她,不论她过去的行为可以保证她将来的忠实,您多少总会有些妒意的。如果您曾经恋爱过,认认真真地恋爱过,您一定会感到必须把您想完全独占的人与世界隔绝。不管您心爱的女人对周围的人是如何冷若冰霜,只要她跟别的男人和事物一接触,似乎就会失去她的香味和完整。这是我比别人体会更深的。我的爱情不是一种普通的爱情,我像一个普通人恋爱时所能做的那样恋爱着,但是我爱的是玛格丽特·戈蒂埃,这就是说在巴黎,我每走一步都可能碰到一个曾经做过她情人的人,或者是即将成为她情人的人。至于在乡下,我们完全置身于那些我们从来没有遇到过、也不关心我们的人中间,在这一年一度春意盎然的大自然怀抱中,在远离城市的喧闹声的地方,我可以倾心相爱,而用不到带着羞耻、怀着恐惧地去爱。

妓女的形象在这里渐渐消失了。我身旁是一个叫做玛格丽特的年轻美貌的女人,我爱她,她也爱我,过去的一切已经没有痕迹,未来是一片光明。太阳就像照耀着一个最纯洁的未婚妻那样照耀着我的情妇。我们双双在这富有诗意的地方散步,这些地方仿佛造得故意让人回忆起拉马丁①的诗句和斯居杜②的歌曲。玛格丽特穿一件白色的长裙,斜依在我的胳臂上。晚上,在繁星点点的苍穹下,她向我反复絮叨着她前一天对我说的话。远处,城市仍在继续它喧闹的生活,我们的青春和爱情的欢乐景象丝毫不受它的沾染。

①拉马丁(1790—1869):法国十九世纪浪漫主义诗人。

②斯居杜(1806—1864):法国十九世纪作曲家、音乐理论家。

这就是那天灼热的阳光穿过树叶的空隙给我带来的梦境。我们的游船停在一个孤岛上,我们躺在小岛的草地上,割断了过去的一切人间关系,我听任自己思潮起伏,憧憬着未来。

从我所在的地方,我还看到岸边有一座玲珑可爱的三层楼房屋,外面有一个半圆形的铁栅栏,穿过这个栅栏,在房屋前面有一块像天鹅绒一样平整的翠绿色的草地,在房子后面有一座神秘莫测的幽静的小树林。这块草地上,头天被踏出的小径,第二天就被新长出来的苔藓淹没了。

一些蔓生植物的花朵铺满了这座空房子的台阶,一直延伸到二楼。

我凝望着这座房子,最后我竟以为这座房子是属于我的了,因为它是多么符合我的梦想啊。我在这座房子里看到了玛格丽特和我两人,白天在这座山岗上的树林之中,晚上一起坐在绿草地上,我心里在想,这个世界上难道还有什么人能像我们这样幸福的吗?

“多么漂亮的房子!”玛格丽特对我说,她已经随着我的视线看到了这座房子,可能还有着和我同样的想法。

“在哪里?”普律当丝问。

“那边。”玛格丽特指着那所房子。

“啊!真美,”普律当丝接着说,“您喜欢它吗?”

“非常喜欢。”

“那么,对公爵说要他把房子给您租下来,我肯定他会同意的,这件事我负责。如果您愿意的话,让我来办。”

玛格丽特望着我,似乎在征求我对这个意见的看法。

我的梦想已经随着普律当丝最后几句话破灭了,我突然一下子掉落在现实之中,被摔得头晕眼花。

“是啊,这个主意真妙,”我结结巴巴地说,也不知道自己在说些什么。

“那么,一切由我来安排,”玛格丽特握着我的手说,她是依着自己的愿望来理解我的话的,“快去看看这座房子是不是出租。”

房子空着,租金是两千法郎。

“您高兴到这里来吗?”她问我说。

“我肯定能到这儿来吗?”

“如果不是为了您,那么我躲到这儿来又是为了谁呢?”

“好吧,玛格丽特,让我自己来租这座房子吧。”

“您疯了吗?这不但没有好处,而且还有危险,您明知道我只能接受一个人的安排,让我来办吧,傻小子,别多说了。”

“这样的话,如果我一连有两天空闲,我就来和你们一起住。”普律当丝说。

我们离开这座房子,踏上了去巴黎的道路,一面还在谈着这个新的计划。我把玛格丽特搂在怀里,以致在我下车的时候,已经能稍许平心静气地来考虑我情妇的计划了。