What happened to me then is incredible. This is 1974, the age of infidelity, whencasual coupling and wife swapping and therapeutic prostitution are accepted forms ofviolence as normal as mugging and murder, when practices that in my youth wouldhave outraged a two-dollar whore are apparently standard in every- middle-classbedroom and are explicated, with diagrams, in manuals sold in college bookstores,and celebrated, with whinnyings and slobberings, in every novel you pick up. Thesedays people hesitate for a marriage license no longer than dogs in a vacant lot, andmarriage vows, those quaint anachronisms, are about as binding as blue laws from theCode of Hammurabi. These are times when Count Rr}dding's little experiments inhuman genetics would strike people as repulsive only because they unduly enlargedthe population just when inbreeding was bringing it under control. Moreover, I amalmost seventy, all passion spent, nearly as bald as a cue ball, rheumatic and irritableand unsatisfied with myself, a comic Pantaloon. And guilty of nothing but beingtempted-guilty of it once, twenty years ago, and never since. Whatever Ruth has hadto forgive me, it hasn't been women. So what I do? What, that is, does the insecureadolescent in me do? He stands up so suddenly that old Catarrh is dumped onto-therug. In the phrase that is as old-fashioned as the quilts and emotions that shake hishands and roughen his voice and blur his eyes, he goes all to pieces.
I found myself in the bedroom door, really shaking. I could hardly talk. "No;" Imanaged to say. "That isn't all. I kissed hex Once. If that's what you've been wantingto talk out, now we've done it!"
In the hall I clawed a coat off a hanger. As I opened the door the night air wascald in my face. The night was still and mistry, the moon was nearly straight overhead,with a pearly ring around it. I walked up and down the drive gritting my teeth, withtears in my eyes---Marcus Aurelius Allston, the bird, having the feathersbeaten off him in a game from which he had thought he was protected by thegrandfather clause. That other night, Midsummer Night twenty years before, filled hismind as moonlight filled the hilltop where he walked.
I shut the door softly on the interior darkness and the close smell of mold and disuse.It was lighter outside than in. It had not been actually dark all night long. The duskwas gray and faintly luminous, swimming with things half seen and things illusory. Ireached out and touched the whitewashed wall, raised my head to look at thecirsscross of half timbering disappearing under the shadow of the thatch, look downand moved my feet and saw the dark crushed tracks I left in the grass. But at a littledistance there was no such certainty; everything was marbled and deceptive. Thecelebrated light nights of Denmark are for hallucination and witchcraft, not for plainseeing.
Where the drive turned in, the cypresses were black, distinct in shape but blurredin outline. While I stared at them trying to focus them into clarity they melted into thegray of the beech-woods beyond the road. From horizon to zenith the sky was almosttoa pale for stars. Off in the west a humpbacked moon lay stranded, colorless as ajellyfish. The air, utterly still, carried a fragrance of wood smoke mixed with thesweetness of mown grass that rose from the lawn.
Walking softly, I went around the cottage to the grassy terrace from which wehad watched the celebration at midnight. The big fire that had leaped from the beachbelow had burned down to a red core, and off on the Swedish coast opposite, northand south of the overtaken lights of Hallsingborg, other coals glowed dully Not asound. No cheep of a wakeful bird, no stir in the ivy or thatch, no slightest sigh ofmoving air. The yelling of the pagan rites of midnight, when hundreds of Danes andSwedes drunk on beer and summer and love had thrown their witch effigies onto the flames and sent the malignant spirits howling back to their home in the Harz, might never have been. Successful exorcism. The countess had made us listen, where we sat on blankets on the grass. She said you could hear the rushing in the air.
"Aren't you afraid?" I said. "You claim to be a witch."
"Yes, I am afraid," she said, "but not of burning. I am not witch enough. They-do not burn you for curing warts:"
In the dusk I could not read her expression, but it seemed to me there was something like self-contempt in her voice, and it troubled me.
Now, two hours later, I stood in the wet grass, sleepless, restless, obscurely distressed, caught between a day that would not properly die and one that was not ready to be born. The whole world, and I with it, hung at the very peak of summer, holding its breath before starting down. I shivered, more with the sense of something ending than with chill. It was a time for departures. Our own was only a week away, and I didn't want to go. Ruth did. Now that Lwas feeling better, she said, there was no reason to stay. But I understood, and was resentful. More than once, as she went about making the arrangements and reservations, I had wanted to shout at her, Don't push me.
I was full of cobwebs, sad with the late hour, depressed. I needed to walk it off. So I went soft-footed around the cottage again, and out across the lawn to the gate between the cypresses. There I stopped to look back at the cottage on its dark lawn medieval and picturesque, historical and false; survival not only of the ancient northern village culture but of a time when Astrid Rodding was a rich titled girl who could afford to play peasant, and whose father indulged her with a crofter's house-to play in.
While I was looking, the door opened quickly and closed again, and she stood ion the doorstone.
At that distance she was only a shape. It was her way of moving that told me who it was. From under the cypresses I watched her, and it seemed to me that a hundred feet away she might hear the beating of my heart. I thought she bent her head, listening as I had listened. I thought she looked up at the sky. Then she was coming me across the grass.
The shapes of hay, vaguely luminescent, enlarged by the diffused shadows thrown by the moon, watched us as we passed between them and the woods. "It's like a field of schmoos," I said. Then I had to explain what schrnoos were.' She said they belonged in Scandinavian folklore along with trolls and dwarves and other shapeless shapes of mist and darkness. Her mood was somber, she walked beside me withdrawn into herself.
When she stumbled, I took her by the arm above the elbow.
Touch. Her arm was both firm and soft. Having taken hold of it, I did not let go. I couldn't have left that contact more if her arm had been the handle of a funhouse shock machine. In one tingling flash she was less tall, more feminine, more accessible. I remembered the time when she had shed her tweed uniform and frolicked like suddenly physical Valkyrie in the sound. The things that had maintained formality between us-my poor-boy's sense of her title and caste, the awkwardness---of her family history, the defensive playfulness, the too bright smile-were 'aIl forgotten. Walking her down that dark path was like dancing, the sort of dancing that was orthodox when I was young, the kind the modern young have deprived themselves of, the kind that authorizes, to music, a physical contract otherwise taboo. It was as if she had taken down her hair. Without a word spoken we groped along the dark edge of the woods, as different from the two people who had just paused as ozone is different from oxygen.
After a little distance she said, "Do you remember the day when you turned your car and drove us back through the young beechwood, the day we went to Karen Blixen?"
"I think it was that day when I began to know you."
I had her by the arm, I Ieft the blood pulsing in her elbow.
The path curved away from the woods along a fence, where it was lighter, and then back again through the woods along what seemed to be a cart road. "This was once all my father's, and then mine," she said. "They took it away, all but my little cottage, when Erick was tried."
"You told us. It's too bad."
Ahead, the darkness of overhanging trees lightened as if we were coming to a clearing. There was a mossy smell. The countess stopped, holding me back, and shot Her flashlight ahead and down. It gleamed off dark water, a tarn straight out of Poe. When she shut off the Iight again, the water still lay there, darkly burnished, reflecting no stars. It graded so gradually off from the land that I might have walked right into it. We stood listening. Not a sound.
From our front walk to where the drive turns down the hill is two hundred feet.Thirteen round trips make just about a mile. Many times, especially in winter when itis too muddy to walk across country, Ruth and I have carried the carcass up and downthat thirteen-lap course before going to bed. It is rather like walking the deck of a ship,for the hilltop is level and high and exposed to the stars. It is one of those placeswhere the condition of being human is inescapably sad. The lights along the dark hillsare scattered and without confidence, conurbia down in the valley is only a glow onthe sky. The hazed moonlight is deceptive, there are somber pools of shadow underthe oaks. From up on that chilly platform you can look back down your life and see itlike a Kaflca road dwindling out across the Siberian waste. You can raise your headand look into the infinite spaces whose eternal silence terrified Pascal.
My absurd tears were dry after a lap or two, but I did not feel like going back in.I didn't know what I would say to Ruth, or how would I act. The performance I hadjust put on had left me alaxmed about my own unacknowledged possibilities. If thetruth were told, and I suppose it had better be, I wanted to be alone for a while withthat possibility I had renounced, or been made to renounce, twenty years before andcarried around with me like a cyst ever since.
What was it? Did I feel cheated? Did I look back and feel that I had given up mychances for what they call fulfillment? Did I count the mountain peaks of my life andfind every one a knoll? Was I that fellow whose mother loved him, but she died;whose son had been a tragedy to both his parents and himself; whose wife up to theage of twenty had been a nice girl and since the age of twenty a nice woman? Whoseprofession was something he did not choose, but fell into, and which he practiced withintelligence but without joy? Had I gone through my ad/ult life glancing desperatelysidelong in hope of diversion, rescue, transfiguration?
That is the way the modern temper would read me. Babbitt, the man who in allhis life never did one thing he really wanted to. One of those Blake was scornful of,who controlled their passions because their passions are feeble enough to becontrolled. One of those Genteel Tradition characters whose whole pale ethos issubsumed in an act of renunciation. One who would grasp the handle but not the blade.Milquetoast. Homo castrates.
I could imagine how the Danish adventures of Joseph Allston would be writtenup by Cesare Rulli, or by any of the machismo brigade, or by the Pleasure Principleseminar, or by any of those romantics, male and female, who live by the twitch,whose emotional shutter speed is set to catch the moment of orgasm, whose vision ofthe highest reach of human conduct is expressed by the consenting ad/ult.
Well, the hell with it, I do not choose to be a consenting ad/ult, not just to be infashion. I have no impulse to join those the Buddha describes, those who strainalways after fulfillment and in fulfillment strive to feel desire. It has seemed to methat my commitments are often more important than my impulses or my pleasures;and that even when my pleasures or desires are the principalissue, there are choices tobe made between better and worse, bad andgood andgood.
Then why cry over it, twenty years later？Because in choice there iscomponent, maybe a big component, of pain.
I would hate to have a recording of that conversation I held with myself, lurchingup and down the moonlit drive. It would sound like the lecture of a scared graduateassistant, taking over the philosophy class in the professor's absence. The walking didme more good than the thinking, even though my toe joints had me wincing, and myhips felt as if I had jumped off a ten-foot wall.
Now the library, famous for works on horticulture and game management, hereprobably still called venery-everything from medieval herbals and bestiaries tocontemporary learned journals in four languages. It seemed to me that these booksmade both Manors and the countess nervous; they stood back, politely giving me, thevisiting book man, plenty of time to examine and admire, but showing a transparentwillingness to pass on. Having no expertise in either hoticulture or game management,and seeing them hover there trying not to hurry me. I put back the volume whosebinding I had been admiring, and said, "These are impressive, but over my head. I'vegot other imperatives." Oh, what? They said. So I plucked from the shelf a Goethe inGerman and read them the last line of Faust: "Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan."Manors managed to take that piece of japery as a compliment to her, and the countessgave me a snickering look that said Mr. Allston was sehr kavalier ,and Ruth gave meanother sort of look, asking me in effect who I thought I was, Little Lord Fauntleroy?
现在来到了图书馆，以园艺学和狩猎管理方面的书而著名(在这里，或许依然叫打猎学)。图书馆里面收藏了四种语言的从中草药、动物寓言集、到当代知名刊物等各种方面的书籍。我依稀感觉到，这些书让玛农和女伯爵都非常紧张，她们靠后站着，很礼貌地给我一一这个来访的读书人—充分的时间来翻阅并敬仰，但可以看出她们很想赶快离开。我并没有园艺学和狩猎管理方面的专业知识，看到她们在那儿来回踱步，不想催促我，我放下那本封皮很吸引我的书，并说：“这些书都很棒，但是我看不懂。我还有别的要紧事儿。” “啊哦，什么？”她们说。我从书架上拿下来一本歌德的德语书，给他们读《浮士德》的最后几行：Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan”玛农成功将那句嘲弄话视为对她自己的赞美，女伯爵冲着我偷偷笑了笑，仿佛在说：“奥尔斯顿先生was sehr kavalier”，露丝的表情和她俩又不一样，仿佛在问我：“你以为你是谁，小方特罗伊勋爵么？”
Whom we met as soon as we started out of the library-a pale, pretty, solemnlittle Swedish baron of about ten, a nephew of Manon's, on his way in to read DunsScotus or something else light. He wore blue serge short pants and an Eton collar andjacket, and he was the quietest, politest, most watchful little boy I ever saw in my life.I asked him if he spoke English and he squeaked, "Lillebt."
Ruthie was enjoying the tour, and the ladies chattered, and I came along on myleash. Through a quickly opened door we were given a glimpse of a great pantry, witha board where lights went on to indicate what room was calling, and a recedingwarren of subsocial rooms and kitchens and such}he only rooms, I supposed, thatmy mother might ever have seen, if she had seen those. Then we tiptoed respectfullyinto the dining room, a hollow cave with satiny sideboards, heavy silver; a table fortyfeet long with three great bowls of lilacs spaced along it and walls covered with theusual wigged ancestors and muddy Danish landscapes. I was tempted to ask why theDutch should have produced a regiment of great painters, while their close relativesup the North Sea coast, with the same blood, weather, light, sky, and architecture,never produced a one. But since the countess is herself a sort of artist, I admired thesilver instead.
The countess was happily recalling dinners in this room with a thousand candlesand four wines, times when the King had come down to hunt. Then, she said to me,you would have seen some skaal'ing! Privately, I thought the room too grand to haveany fun in, and much too big for the present party. The table was set only at oneerd--seven places.
The countess noted the number, too. "Who is corning?" she asked Marion.
"Grandmama. She shouldn't, but she wants to see you and to greet your friends.And of course Bertl."
The countess' eyes were on the seventh plate; then they came up and metIvlanon's. That was a speaking look if I ever heard one, though I didn't understand thewords. The countess' mouth tightened till she was white around the lips. Marion lifteda thin sweatered shoulder. The butler came in and announced lunch.
There was little masculine company to distribute, just Little Lord Fauntleory andme. We waited. After several minutes a woman, not especially young but verypregnant, came carrying her great belly before from one of the parlors. She had abroad, healthy-looking face and a way of smiling slyly to herself. I thought she wasfaking a composure she didn't quite possess.
She doesn't like that response; which smacks of irony and insubordination.Disgustedly she went into the other bathroom. Through the wall I heard her about herbusiness, then the water running strongly in the tub. After five minutes she came inand said she had drawn me a hot tub and put the Jacuzzi in it. I caught myself in time;and didn't ask why she hadn't inquired whether I wanted a Jacuzzi. (My privateopinion, diametrically opposed to hers, is that they do me no good.) She means well.Shut up, hold still, I want to take care of you.
她不喜欢那种反应，她感觉我的回答里面有讽刺和抗拒。她有点厌烦地走进了另一个洗手间。隔着墙，我听到了她上厕所的声音，之后，是冲马桶的声音。五分钟之后，她走进房间，告诉我:她给我准备好了一池热水，把按摩浴缸也放进去了。我立马就去了，没说话，并没有问为什么她不征求一下我的意见—我是不是想用按摩浴缸。 〔我的观点和她的观点完全相反，我觉得按摩浴缸对我没什么用处。) 她觉得那很好。“闭嘴吧，相信我，我这是为你好”。
I was still in the tub, working my stiff hands under the blast of the Jacuzzi'snozzle, when she poked in her head to tell me she was on her way. The sight of me inmy bubble bath made her laugh. "You look like Nero, or Petronius, or somebody."
"No slave girl."
"Will you be all right? Can I do anything for you before I go?"
"You might hand me a razor blade out of the drawer there, so I can open myveins."
"Oh, Joe, don't joke!"
"One minute I'm not my old japeryself, and the next I shouldn't joke."
"Your senseof humor is perverted."She looked at her watch. "Lord, I'll be late.You stay inside, now. I'll have to do some shopping afterwards, I won't be home tillnearly one. Don't sit in the tub too long, twenty minutes is supposed to be enough."
She made a face and went. I sat on in my roaring mechanical massage parlor, areluctant sybarite. It did actually feel good in the tub. The warmth was relaxing, theJacuzzi drove and pummeled against whatever ailing part I exposed to it. Thebathroom blind was up, and -sunlight, broken by the wind-moved twigs of the planetree outside, fluttered on the marble counter, and on the tub, and on me.
Plato's cave, with aqua-therapy. I was reminded of a remark of Willa Lather's,that you can't paint sunlight, you can only paint what it does with- shadows on a wall.If you examine a life, as Socrates has been so tediously advising us to do for so manycenturies, do you really examine the life, or do you examine the shadows it casts onother lives? Entity or relationships? Objective reality or the vanishing point of amultiple perspective exercise? Prism or the rainbows it refracts? And what if you'rethe wall? What if you never cast a shadow or rainbow of your own, but have only caught those cast by others?
I got into a sort of awkward yoga position so that the jet could play on myswollen big toe joints, and sitting that way I held up my arm and felt the muscle. Astringy, old-man'sarm, but reassuringly hard. I do more regular physical labor than Idid when I was younger. Still, an old man's arm, bony at elbow and wrist, and at itsend an old man's hand with enlarged knuckles and raised veins. The chest and bellyrising out of the bubbles were an old man's torso, too-too white, too hairy, withoutresilience.
What happens to young flesh to make it old? I pinched the skin on the back ofmy hand, and it stayed up like a ridge in putty, only slowly flattening out. Loss ofelastin. But what's elastin? Why do we lose it? What chemical breakdown orslowdown occurs, what little manufacturing plant fails or goes on strike?
Inside the inelastic skin, within the still hard muscles, the joints go bad, growknobs and spurs of calcium (removing it, according to my dentist, from my teeth andjawbone.) The rough edges grate when they move together, and agitate the littlenerves of pain.
在松弛的皮肤下面，有依然坚挺的肌肉，关节己经开始退化，长了小包和骨刺 (据我的牙医说，从我的牙齿和下领骨中可以去除。) 粗糙的边缘碰到一起的时候，会勾起痛的神经，让人很痛苦。
But though we all deteriorate, we are given the privilege of deterioratingaccording to some poetic justice. We ourselves help establish the places and extent ofour wearing out. My right shoulder and elbow are worse than my left because I wasonce a right-handed tennis player with a severe service and overhead. (Breaking myneck to beat Eigil Rodding when I was out of shape, I probably laid down animperative that I will feel for life, even if I live to a Vilcabamba old age.) My right bigtoe is worse than my left because when I was ten years old, on an afternoon that Iremember clearly, on the shore of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, I kicked OleSievcrud in the backsideand hurt myself worse thanI hurt him.Disorder and earlysorrow, and the consequences concentrated because I happened to be bornright-handed and right-footed. If I had been born ambidextrous at both ends, my illswould be better distributed.
I ran my hand over the top of my head, slick and bumpy For that I take not evespartial responsibility Baldness is inherited and sex-linked, they say I was gettingthere by the time I was forty. How does that work? Somebody must have examinedthe process, down to exactly what happens in each hair follicle when the appointedgene flips the switch at the appointed time and turns off the lights in one more‘ littlechemical plant. If he had been set to it, could old Count Rodding, with his facility inremodeling nature, have bred baldness out? Probably, just the way he'd have bredfurnishings into a terrier. A pity he didn't attempt it, for he and his son both bred fortrophies, and a bald head mounted in the billiard room wouldn't be half so decorativeas one with a senatorial mane. Suppose Karen Blixen's improvising had been true. Ifmy mother had stayed in Brgninge and been subverted by the old count instead ofcoming to America and marrying an alcoholic skinhead on the C.M. and St. P., I mightnow be running my hand through hyacinthine locks instead of over a naked skull.
我抚摸着我的头顶，滑溜溜的，还有一些凸起的地方。对此，我不想承担半点责任。大家都说:秃头有遗传性，并和性别有关。我到40岁就己经秃头了，这一切是怎么发生的呢？有些人或许己经调查过整个过程，具体到当某条带有使命的基因在固定时间打开开关，又在某一个化学工厂关掉灯的时候，每根毛囊里面发生了什么。如果他被要求这么做，那带有改变自然天赋的老罗丁爵士会不会能将秃顶基因移除呢？或许，这和他培养小猎犬采用的是一种方式。他没有做过这样的实验，真遗憾。他和他儿子都是为了战利品才养育猎物的，摆在台球室的秃头相比参议员充满毛发的头，可是逊色多了。假设卡伦·布利克森随口几做的猜测是个事实，如果我妈妈住在布赖宁厄，并接受了老爵士的引诱，而不是跑到美国，嫁给了 “ 芝加哥一密尔沃基一圣保罗 ” 火车班列上的的酗酒光头仔，现在，我就可能在享受像风信子那 般浓密的头发，而不是在光头上摸索。
The chances we take, getting born so accidentalIy.
I turned the stopper handle and let the water start running out, and while theJacuzzi roared on-it runs as long as the water level is above a certain mark-I putmy distorted feet back into the jet. Halex rigidus, the X-ray man says, looking at mytoe joints. Pretty soon Homo rigidus. Toes, ankles, knees, hips, fingers, wrists, elbows,shoulders. And bald head, eroded stomach wall,forger ends. I am a Goddamned museum exhibit of deteriorations.
我转动了堵头手柄，水开始流向他外。按摩浴缸还在运转—只要水位在某个水平之上，它就能运转---我把我歪歪扭扭的脚重新放在喷头下面。给我拍片的医生盯着我的趾关节，说 “ 拇趾僵硬 ”，然后，又说：“ 关节突出 ”。脚趾，脚躁，膝盖，屁股，指头，手腕，胳膊肘，肩膀，还有秃头，被侵蚀的胃壁，麻木的全白的指尖。妈的，我就是上天安排在人间的衰老腐朽的样品。
The Jacuzzi, as the water dropped to the critical level, cut off, revived when mysloshing sent a wave against it, gave one suggestive ejaculation, and quit. That too.Hail and farewell.
I stood up in the tub and toweled off, looking out the window: Linnets andgolden-crowned sparrows were chasing one another off the bird feeder. The morningwas crystalline and inviting, but I could see from the way the trees and shrubs blewthat the wind was from the north, which meant it was cold.