I felt her shiver. "I do not like Midsummer Night," she said. "For many people itis a time of celebration and happiness, the freedom of summer. For me it is always sad.It makes me feel that I am dead but have no yet left the body and do not want to leave,but cling to it whimpering and crying. Tonight is the worst. Do you know why I couldnot sleep?"
我感到她在颤抖。“ 我不喜欢仲夏之夜，” 她说，“ 对于很多人来说，这是个庆祝和欢快的场合，也是夏日的自由时刻。对我，它总是个悲伤的时刻。它让我觉得我已经死去，但还没有离开肉身，也不想离开，只能抽泣着依附在肉身之上。今天晚上是最糟糕的，你知道我为什么睡不着么？”
"Why?" I was still holding her by the arm.
“ 为什么？” 我还搂着她的胳膊。
"Because you are soon leaving. The only dear friends I have had for manyyears."
"I’m glad you don't want us to go."
"How could I? I was dead, and you taught me what it would be to be alive again.I understand why you must go, but it makes me very sad."
"Must we go?" I said. "Why must we?"
“ 我们必须离开？” 我说，“ 为什么我们必须离开？”
"Because you have obligations;" she said promptly. "You have work to do."
“ 因为你们都有义务，” 她立即说，“ 你有工作要做。”
"What obligations? What work? I could give all that up tomorrow."
She started moving again down the grassy track along the shore. "You are not thekind who shirks things," she said, as if she knew. Her Left hand came over and pulledat my forgers around her arm until I let go. I must have been griping her painfullyhard.
她又开始朝着岸边那条长满草的小路行进，“ 你不是那种推卸责任的人。” 她这么说，好像她很了解我。她用左手松开了我抓紧她胳膊的手指。我应该是弄疼她了。
We passed out from under the trees crowding close to the shore, and there wasmore light, a wider sky. The obscure became the faintly visible. Dry rushes crackedunderfoot, and the low edge of the sky was scratched with bending lines of tules. Thepath ended at a narrow dock that jutted out into the water. As I followed her out ontothe old felty planks, the colorless moon reappeared doubled, pale in the sky, pale inthe black water. At the end of the dock a rowboat sat absolutely motionless on itsshadow.
For the first time since she had come out her cottage door I saw her eyes clearly,the glint of the moon in them as she stooped to fumble for the boat's painter; tied to the dock post. She squatted there, looking up at me. "Can you row, or shall I?"
"I'll row Where are we going?"
"I want to pay a little visit. Will you mind coming?"
"Of course not. But visit who, at this hour?"
She didn't reply. Pulling on the rope, I felt that the boat was half full of water. It took some straining to haul it onto the dock and tip it. The wooden knockings, the dark sound of pouring, went back into the stillness as if into blotting paper.
When I had the boat back in the water I stood to help the countess down, hoping to re-establish the tingle of touching flesh, but she used my arm as impersonally as she would have used a groom's.
我把小船放回河水中，伸手去拉女伯爵，希望重新激起 “肌肤之亲” 的兴奋感，但她无情地抓住了我的胳膊，就像享受来自马夫的服务。
She shot the flashlight beam past me, moved it around to get her bearings, and then gave me directions from the stern, steering by some dark landmark. I was clumsy at the oars, which seemed to have been whittled out of tree limbs. The boat was water-logged, the left oar kept slipping out of its worn notch so that we lurched in zigzag where the adolescent in me would have liked to skim that old hulk across the pond like a skipping stone. Concentrating, I held the lame oar to its job, carefully swinging it back over its skitter of pale drops until it bit again into the moon.
"We are close," the countess said. "Slowly, it is hard to see exactly" The light shot past me, probed a moment, and went out. "A little on the right oar," she said. "Now pull, both, hard!"
“ 我们就快到了，” 女伯爵说，“ 慢点，这边看不太清。” 灯光越过我，向旁边搜寻了片刻，然后回来，“ 右边桨再划一下，” 她说，“ 现在拔出两边的桨，用力！”
The prow grounded in mud. Before I could ship the oars or stand up, she had squeezed tippily past me and jumped ashore. The boat surged another two feet up the bank as she hauled on the painter. I stepped ashore into mud to my shoe tops and followed her up a brambly bank onto the level.
Her light darted ahem across a clearing overgrown with high grass and vines. "Come:" Her hand groped and found mine. Touch again: her hand was cold ad smooth. In the middle of the clearing she stopped, holding the light at her feet. Quickly she crouched and brushed the grass away from a square stone as she might have brushed hair back from a face. I read the inscription: Landgreve Aage Redding, 1874-1938.
她的灯光扫过一片林间空地，然后又照见杂草丛生和藤蔓植物密布的林地。“ 来吧，” 她的手摸索了一阵，牵到了我的手。肢体再次接触:她的手很凉，很滑。走到林间空地的中央，她停下了，向脚下投射灯光。很快，她蹲下身，拨开一块方形石碑的草，就像把头发从脸上撩开那样。我读了上面的文字：Landgreve Aage Rodding，1874-1938。
"This is where he is buried," the countess said. "This is where he came to shoot himself.”
“ 这是他埋葬的地方，” 女伯爵说，“ 这是他开枪自杀的地方。”
I could feel her resistance, or reluctance, in her forgers. There I stood holding her cold hand, running my thumb over the smooth knuckles as if I had rights in her skin, and yet feeling how remote she was, lost in some medieval curse or spell, hypnotized by duty or obedience or noblesse oblige or whatever it was. I smelled the faint mildewed odor of her sweater; and it made me angry that she should have to wear such things, worn out, left over.
All at once I couldn't stand at more. I couldn't stand to see her go back into the moldy cellar of her life, I couldn't stand to have her at once so warm and so cold, so sympathetic and so without initiative or hope. I dropped her hand, I took her by both shoulders, I brought her face close to mine. Her eyes had no more light in them than her pale skin.
"Listen!" I said. "Listen! You don't deserve any more punishment. You've paid your debt, ten times over. You can't stay here, scratching out just enough for yogurt and cheese. You can't g on sharing the only things you have left with strangers. You shouldn't have to take in lodgers! You can't let it all settle back on you, it'll smother you. You can't let that man work on you. He made his bed, let him lie in it. You're coming with us, you understand that? I can make a job for you, or find you one somewhere else if you'd rather. There aren't ten people in New York with your capacity in German, French, English, the Scandinavian languages, art, the whole business. You don't have to grind out wallpaper designs for Illums. You can be an illustrator, or a translator, or or an agent, or anything you want. You can't stay here and mold. You're too special."
“ 听着！” 我说，“ 听着，你不该受到任何惩罚。你已经数以十倍还清了你的债。你不能待在这儿勉强度日。你不能继续和陌生人分享你仅存的生存空间了。你不该再接受寄宿人了。你不能独自承受这一切，它会让你窒息的。你不该让那个男人继续纠缠你了。他自己做的孽，就让他自己承担。你和我们一起走吧，你理解么？我可以为你找份工作，或者，你愿意的话，再帮你从别的地方找个丈夫；你精通德语、法语、英语、斯堪的纳维亚语、艺术、等等，在纽约，像你这样才华横溢的人屈指可数。你不必为伊卢姆的墙纸设计做苦力。你可以去做插图画家、翻译、代理人或你想做的任何职业。你不能待在这儿一直等到发霉。你如此特别。”
Utterly unresponsive, she hung in my hands. I turned her so that the moon, almost blurred out in the ground mist, would fall on her face and in her eyes. Her face was pale and sad, her eyes without brightness, her body without elasticity or response, without even resistance.
"Do you think I have not dreamed of such a thing?" she said. "It is not so easy as it was for your mother, even. It must be very wonderful to have the freedom of the poor."
“ 你觉得我没有梦想过这样的日子？” 她说，“ 我做这件事儿，没有你妈妈那么容易。能拥有穷人的自由，一定很开心。”
I didn't try to hold her. I couldn't look at her. I turned and looked instead at thespread of still water: My eyes were hot. Blinking, grinding my teeth, I concentrated onthe lake, the dim rushes, the dreary almost-light. Day had sneaked up on us. I couldsee the tangled grass, the running blackberry vines. If anything had been watching ourridiculous, scalding, hopeless embrace in that sui/cide's clearing, it had withdrawn intothe woods.
Without looking back, giving her the same chance I needed myself, I went downto the boat and pulled it around until I had it pointed out. Then I did look back. Shestood where I had left her. I think she had been watching me all the time I had myback to her. In the imperceptibly lightening grayness of dawn she looked as forlorn asa beggar woman.
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 1e$ 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 with that possibility I had renounced, or been made to renounce, twenty years before and carried 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 my chances for what they call fulfillment? Did I count the mountain peaks of my life and find 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 the age of twenty had been a nice girl and since the age of twenty a nice woman? Whose profession was something he did not choose, but fell into, and which he practiced with intelligence but without joy? Had I gone through my a/dult life glancing desperately sidelong in hope of diversion, rescue, transfiguration?
That is the way the modern temper would read me. Babbitt, the man who in all his 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 be controlled. One of those Genteel Tradition characters whose whole pale ethos is subsumed 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 written up by Cesare Rulli, or by any of the machismo brigade, or by the Pleasure Principle seminar, 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 of the highest reach of human conduct is expressed by the consenting a/dult.
Well, the hell it, I do not choose to be a consenting a/dult, not just to be in fashion. I have no impulse to join those the Buddha describes, those always after fulfillment and in fulfillment strive to feel desire. It has seemed to me that my commitments are often more important than my impulses or my pleasures and that even when my pleasures or desires are the principal issue, there are choices to be made between better and worse, bad and better, good and good.
Then why cry over it, twenty years later? Because in every choice there is component, maybe a big component, of pain:
I would hate to have a recording of that conversation I held with myself, lurching up and down the moonlit drive. It would sound like the lecture of a scared graduate assistant, taking over the philosophy class in the professor's absence. The walking did me more good than the thinking, even though my toe joints had me wincing, and my hips felt as if I had jumped off a ten-foot wall.
There are two big live oaks along that two-hundred-foot stretch, one in the corner above the turn and the other where the drive widens into the parking area. Between them is open meadow in which, last fall, I sowed two hundred daffodils by throwing the bulbs broadcast and digging them in where they fell. Every time I turned at the top of the hill and started back toward the house, I was looking across them toward the moon. There was not enough light for them to show yellow; their bowing heads gleamed palest silver-gilt above the pale grass. When I came back, moving out of the shadow of the oak, individual blossoms grew luminous, like big exhausted fireflies.
I kept on walking, lap a$er lap, leaving my shadow behind me as I turned at one end, fording it still with me when I turned at the other: My feet hurt me sa that I hobbled, on my head fell dew as insubstantial and chilly as moonlight. I must have been on at least my fortieth lap when, turning at the far end, I heard heels on the asphalt back by the house, and saw Ruth's shadow coming toward me as if through silvery, settling dust.
We walked back toward the house, and through the dark up-welling of Juniperthat borders the walk, and under the three birch trees, their trunks slim and white andtheir twigs, against the light-filled sky, lacy with the first tiny formings of leaves. Theentrance was damp, and sweet with the smell of daphne; Two young people with quitea lot the matter with us, we stood for a moment, breathing it in.
The truest vision of life I know is that bird in the Venerable Bede that fluttersfrom the dark into a lighted hall, and after a while flutters out again into the dark. ButRuth is right. It is something-it can be everything-to have found a fellow bird withwhom you can sit among the rafters while the drinking and boasting and reciting andfighting go on below; a fellow bird whom you can look after and find bugs and seedsfor; one who will patch your bruises and straighten your ruffled feathers and mournover your hurts when you accidentally fly into something you can't handle.
"I wonder how it is on the other side of the house?" Ruth said. "Remember thatnight when we came home from a party, a night like this, moonlight, with a groundmist, and when we walked out on the terrace there was a lunar rainbow arched clearacross the valley?"