字体设置:

MY father was sitting in my drawing-room in his dressing-gown. He was writing.

I knew at once, from the way he looked up at me as I entered, that serious matters were about to be broached.

I went up to him, however, as though I had no inkling of anything from his expression, and I embraced him.

'When did you arrive, father?'

'Last night.'

'And you're putting up here as usual?'

'Yes.'

'I'm so sorry I wasn't here to welcome you.'

I expected that these words would unleash the lecture which my father's cool expression clearly promised. But he did not answer, sealed the letter he had just written, and gave it to Joseph to post.

When we were alone, my father stood up and, leaning against the mantelpiece, said:

'The two of us, my dear Armand, have serious matters to discuss.'

'I'm listening, father.'

'Will you promise to be frank with me?'

'I'm never anything else.'

'Is it true that you are living with a woman named Marguerite Gautier?'

'Yes.'

'Do you know what sort of woman she was?'

'She was a kept woman.'

'Was it on her account that you neglected to come down to see your sister and me this year?'

'Yes, father, I admit it.'

'So you love this woman very much?'

'You can see I do, father, since she made me forget a sacred duty, for which I now humbly ask your pardon.'

Clearly, my father had not been expecting such plain answers, for he appeared to reflect for a moment before saying:

'You must have know, of course, that you couldn't go on living like this forever?'

'I was afraid it might be so, father, but I knew no such thing.'

'But you must have known, ' my father continued in a slightly sharper tone of voice, 'that I would never allow it.'

'I told myself that, as long as I did nothing to prejudice the respect which I owe to your name and the time- honoured probity of the family, then I could behave as I have ?and this went some way to reassuring me about the fears I had.'

Passion arms us against sentiment. I was ready to fight any battle, even against my father, to keep Marguerite.

'Well, the time has come to behave differently.'

'But why, father?'

'Because you are on the point of committing actions which undermine the respect which you say you have for your family.'

'I don't understand what you're saying.'

'Then I'll explain what I said. If you have a mistress, all well and good. If you pay her like any gentleman pays to be loved by a kept woman, even better. But when you neglect your most sacred obligations on her account; when you allow rumours of your scandalous conduct to travel all the way down to my part of the world and cast the shadow of a stain on the honourable name I have given you, then that is something which cannot continue, nor shall it continue.'

'Allow me to say, father, that whoever told you all this about me was badly informed. I am Marguerite Gautier's lover, I live with her: it's really quite simple. I have not given Mademoiselle Gautier the name I received from you. I spend on her no more than my means permit, I haven't run up any debts and I haven't got myself into any of the predicaments which entitle a father to say to his son what you have just said to me.'

'A father is always entitled to turn his son from the ill-considered path on which he sees him set his foot. You have not done anything wrong as yet, but you will.'

'Really, father!'

'Sir, I know life better than you do. Wholly pure sentiments are to be found only in women who are wholly chaste. Every Manon can turn a man into a Des Grieux, and times and manners have changed. It would be pointless if the world grew older without growing wiser. You will leave your mistress.'

'It distresses me to disobey you, father, but that is out of the question.'

'I shall compel you.'

'Unfortunately, father, there aren't any St-Margaret's Islands nowadays where courtesans can be transported, and, even if there were, I should follow Mademoiselle Gautier there if you managed to have her sent away. I'm sorry, it may be wrong of me, but I can be happy only on the condition that I remain her lover.'

'Come, Armand, open your eyes and see your father who has always loved you and who wants only your happiness. Is it honourable for you to live as man and wife with a woman who's been had by everybody?'

'What does it matter, father, if no one else shall have her again? What does it matter if she loves me, if she has been transformed by the love she has for me and the love I feel for her? What can it possibly matter if there has been a spiritual change in her?'

'And do you think, sir, that the mission of a gentleman is to bring about spiritual changes in courtesans? Do you imagine that God has given life so grotesque a purpose, and that a man's heart must have no other zeal than this? How will this miraculous cure end? And what will you make of what you're saying now, when you're forty? You'll laugh at this affair, if you are still able to laugh, if, that is, it hasn't left an indelible mark on your past. Where would you be now if your father had thought as you do, if he'd surrendered his life to the enticements of love instead of setting it unshakeably upon a belief in honour and integrity? Think, Armand, and stop talking nonsense. Come, you shall leave this woman. Your father begs you to.'

I made no reply.

'Armand, ' continued my father, 'in the name of your saintly mother, listen to me: give up this way of life. You will forget it far more quickly than you think and, in any case, you are kept chained to it by a philosophy which is quite absurd. You are twenty-four: think of the future. You won't always be in love with this woman, nor will she love you forever. You have both exaggerated what you feel for each other. You're shutting all the doors to a career. Take one more step, and you'll never be able to get off the path you're on, and you'll regret your misspent youth for the rest of your life. Leave now. Come and stay for a month or two with your sister. Rest and devoted family love will soon cure you of this infatuation, for it is nothing else.

'Meanwhile, your mistress will get over it. She'll take another lover and then, when you see what kind of person almost made you quarrel with your father and forfeit his affection, you will say I was quite right to come and fetch you, and you will bless me for having done so.

'So you will come away, won't you, Armand?'

I felt that my father was right about women in general, but I was convinced that he was wrong about Marguerite. However, he spoke these last words so gently, so beseechingly, that I dared not answer.

'Well?' he said, in a voice heavy with emotion.

'Look, father, I can't promise anything, ' I said at length. 'What you are asking is more than I can do. Please believe me, ' I continued, seeing him stir impatiently, 'you're making too much of the consequences of this affair. Marguerite isn't the kind of girl you think she is. Far from setting me on the wrong road, this love of ours, on the contrary, has the power to nurture the finest sentiments in me. True love always makes a man finer, whatever sort of woman inspires it. If you knew Marguerite, you'd see that there's no risk to me. She is as noble as the noblest women. She is as disinterested as the others are grasping.'

'Though that hasn't stopped her pocketing all your money, for the sixty thousand francs your mother left you, which you want to give her, represents ?and take note of what I'm saying ?all the money you have.'

In all likelihood, my father had kept this peroration as a threat intended to undermine my last defences.

I felt stronger against his threats than against his entreaties.

'Who told you that I was to make the money over to her?' I went on.

'My solicitor. Would any honourable man have drawn up a deed of that kind without letting me know first? Well, it was to prevent you beggaring yourself for the benefit of some loose woman that brought me to Paris. When your mother died, she left you enough to live on decently, but not enough for you to go giving it away to your mistresses.'

'I swear to you, father, Marguerite knew nothing of this deed of gift.'

'Why did you have it drawn up, then?'

'Because Marguerite, the woman you've slandered and want me to give up, has sacrificed everything she owns to live with me.'

'And you have accepted this sacrifice? What sort of man are you, sir, that you will allow a Mademoiselle Marguerite Gautier to make sacrifices for you? But, enough. You will leave this woman. A little while ago, I asked you to; now, I order you to. I will not have such obscenities in my family. Pack your trunks and get ready to come with me.'

'Forgive me, father, ' I said, 'but I shall not leave here.'

'Why not?'

'Because I am now at an age when I don't have to obey orders any more.'

At this, my father turned pale.

'Very well, sir, ' he went on, 'I am clear in my mind what remains to be done.'

He rang.

Joseph appeared.

'Have my trunks sent round to the Hotel de Paris, ' he told my servant. And with these words, he went into his bedroom where he finished dressing.

When he emerged, I went up to him.

'Will you promise me, father, ' I said, 'that you won't do anything to distress Marguerite?'

My father paused, gave me a look of contempt, and merely said:

'I do believe you've taken leave of your senses.'

Thereupon, he stormed out, slamming the door violently behind him.

Then I too left, took a cab and set off for Bougival.

Marguerite was waiting for me at the window.

我父亲穿着晨衣,坐在我的客厅里写信。

从他抬起眼睛看我进去的神情,我立即就知道了他要谈的问题是相当严重的。

但是我装作没有看到,走上前去抱吻了他。

“您是什么时候来的,爸爸?”

“昨天晚上。”

“您还是像过去一样,一下车就到我这里来的吗?”

“是的。”

“我很抱歉没有去接您。”

讲了这几句话以后我就等着父亲的训导,这从他冷冰冰的脸上是看得出来的。但是他什么也不说,封上他刚写好的那封信,交给约瑟夫去寄掉。

当屋子里只剩下我们两人时,父亲站起来,靠在壁炉上对我说:

“亲爱的阿尔芒,我有些严肃的事情要跟你谈谈。”

“我听着,爸爸。”

“你答应我说老实话吗?”

“我从来不说假话。”

“你在跟一个叫做玛格丽特·戈蒂埃的女人同居,这是真的吗?”

“真的。”

“你知道这是一个什么样的女人吗?”

“一个妓女。”

“就是为了她,你今年才忘了来看你妹妹和我两个人吗?”

“是的,爸爸,我承认。”

“那么你很爱这个女人罗?”

“这您看得很清楚,爸爸,正是由于她才使我没有尽到一个神圣的义务,所以我今天来向您请罪。”

我父亲无疑没有料到我会这样爽快地回答他,因为他似乎考虑了一会儿,后来他对我说:

“你难道真不知道你是不能一直这样生活下去的吗?”“我曾经有过这样的担心,爸爸,但是我不知道为什么。”

“可是你应该知道,”我父亲用一种比较生硬的语气继续说,“我是不会允许你这样做的。”

“我想只要我不败坏门风,玷辱家誉,我就可以像我现在这样过日子,正是这些想法才使我稍许安心了些。”

爱情在和感情作激烈的对抗,为了保住玛格丽特,我准备反抗一切,甚至反抗我父亲。

“那么现在是改变你生活方式的时候了。”

“啊,为什么呢?爸爸。”

“因为你正在做一些败坏你家庭名声的事,而且你也认为是应该保持这个名声的。”

“我不明白您这些话的意思。”

“我马上跟你解释。你有一个情妇,这很好,你像一个时髦人那样养着一个妓女,这也无可非议;但是为了她你忘记了最最神圣的职责,你的丑闻一直传到了我们外省的家乡,玷辱了我家的门楣,这是不行的,以后不准这样。”

“请听我说,爸爸,那些把我的事情告诉您的人不了解情况。我是戈蒂埃小姐的情人,我和她同居,这些事极其普通。我并没有把从您那儿得到的姓氏给戈蒂埃小姐,我在她身上花的钱是我的收入允许的。我没有欠债,总之我的行动没有任何一点值得一个做父亲的向他儿子说您刚才对我说的这番话。”

“看到儿子不走正道,做父亲的总是有权把他拉回来的。

你还没有做什么坏事,但你以后会做的。”

“爸爸!”

“先生,对于人生我总比您有经验些。只有真正贞洁的女人才谈得上真正纯洁的爱情。任何一个玛侬都会有一个德·格里欧的。现在时代和风尚都不同了,人要是年纪大了仍不长进,那他也只能算是虚度岁月了。您必须离开您的情妇。”

“很遗憾我不能听从您,爸爸,这是不可能的。”

“我要强迫您同意。”

“不幸的是,爸爸,放逐妓女的圣玛格丽特岛已经没有了,而且即使它还存在,您又能把她发送到那里去的话,我也会随着戈蒂埃小姐一起去的。您说怎么办?也许是我错了,但是我只有在做这个女人的情人时才感到有幸福。”

“啊,阿尔芒,您要睁大眼睛看看清楚,您得承认您父亲一直在爱着您,他一心盼望您得到幸福。您像做丈夫似的跟一个和大家都睡过的姑娘同居,难道不觉得羞耻吗?”

“只要她以后不再跟别人睡,爸爸,那又有什么关系?只要这个姑娘爱我,只要她由于我们相互的爱情而得到新生,总之,只要她已经改邪归正,那又有什么关系!”

“啊!先生,那么您认为一个有身分的男人,他的任务就是使妓女改邪归正吗?难道您相信天主赋予人生的竟是这么一个怪诞的使命吗?一个人心里就不该有其他方面的热情吗?到您四十岁的时候,这种神乎其神的治疗将会得到什么样的结果呢?您将对您今天讲的话又会有些什么想法?如果这种爱情在您已经度过的岁月中还没有留下太深的痕迹,如果到时候您还笑得出来的话,您自己也会对这种爱情感到可笑的。如果您父亲过去也跟您一样想法,听任他的一生被这类爱情冲动所摆布,而不是以荣誉和忠诚的思想去成家立业的话,您现在又是怎么样的一个人呢?您想一想吧,阿尔芒,别再讲这些蠢话了。好吧,离开这个女人吧,您的父亲恳求您。”

我什么也不回答。

“阿尔芒,”我父亲继续说,“看在您圣洁的母亲份上,相信我,放弃这种生活,您马上会把它丢到脑后的,比您现在想象的还要快些。您对待这种生活的理论是行不通的。您已经二十四岁,想想您的前途吧。您不可能永远爱这个女人,她也不会永远爱您的。你们两个都把你们的爱情夸大了。您断送了一生的事业。再走一步您就会陷入泥坑不能自拔,一辈子都会为青年时期的失足而后悔。走吧,到您妹妹那里去,过上一两个月。休息和家庭的温暖很快就会把您这种狂热医好,因为这只不过是一种狂热而已。

“在这段时间里,您的情妇会想通的,她会另外找一个情人,而当您看到您差一点为了这样一个女人跟您父亲闹翻,失去他的慈爱,您就会对我说,我今天来找您是很有道理的,您就会感谢我的。

“好吧,阿尔芒,你会离开她的,是吗?”

我觉得我父亲的话对所有其他的女人来说是对的,但是我深信他的话对玛格丽特来说却是错的。然而他跟我说最后几句话的语气是那么温柔,那么恳切,我都不敢回答他。

“怎么样?”他用一种激动的声音问我。

“怎么样,爸爸,我什么也不能答应您。”我终于说道,“您要求我做的事超出了我的能力范围,请相信我,”我看见他作了一个不耐烦的动作,我继续说道,“您把这种关系的后果看得过于严重了。玛格丽特并不是您想象中的那种姑娘。这种爱情非但不会把我引向邪路,相反能在我身上发展成最最崇高的感情。真正的爱情始终是使人上进的,不管激起这种爱情的女人是什么人。如果您认识玛格丽特,您就会明白我没有任何危险。她像最高贵的女人一样高贵。别的女人身上有多少贪婪,她身上就有多少无私。”

“这倒并不妨碍她接受您全部财产,因为您把从母亲那儿得到的六万法郎全都给了她。这六万法郎是您仅有的财产,您要好好记住我对您讲的话。”

我父亲很可能有意把这句威胁的话留在最后讲,当作对我的最后一击。

我在威胁面前比在婉言恳求面前更加坚强。

“谁对您说我要把这笔钱送给玛格丽特的?”我接着说。

“我的公证人。一个上流社会有教养的人能不通知我就办这样一件事吗?好吧,我就是为了不让您因一个姑娘而做败家子才到巴黎来的。您母亲在临死的时候给您留下的这笔钱是让您规规矩矩地过日子,而不是让您在情妇面前摆阔气的。”

“我向您发誓,爸爸,玛格丽特根本不知道这回事。”

“那您为什么要这样做呢?”

“因为玛格丽特,这个受到您污蔑的女人,这个您要我抛弃的女人,为了和我同居牺牲了她所有的一切。”

“而您接受了这种牺牲?那么您算是什么人呢?先生,您竟同意一位玛格丽特小姐为您牺牲什么东西吗?好了,够了。您必须抛弃这个女人。刚才我是请求您,现在我是命令您。我不愿意在我家里发生这样的丑事。把您的箱子收拾好,准备跟我一起走。”

“请原谅我,爸爸,”我说,“我不走。”

“为什么?”

“因为我已经到了可以不再服从一个命令的年龄了。”

听到这个回答,我父亲的脸色都变白了。

“很好,先生,”他又说,“我知道我该怎么办。”

他拉铃。

约瑟夫走了进来。

“把我的箱子送到巴黎旅馆去,”他对我的仆人说,一面走进他的卧室里去穿衣服。

他出来时,我向他迎了上去。

“爸爸,”我对他说,“别做什么会使玛格丽特感到痛苦的事,您能答应我吗?”

我父亲站定了,轻蔑地看着我,只是回答我说:

“我想您是疯了。”

讲完他就走了出去,把身后的门使劲地关上了。

我也跟着下了楼,搭上一辆双轮马车回布吉瓦尔去了。

玛格丽特在窗口等着我。