Chapter 1 Poverty

After changing his five-franc piece Georges Duroy left the restaurant. He twisted his mustache in military style and cast a rapid, sweeping glance upon the diners, among whom were three saleswomen, an untidy music-teacher of uncertain age, and two women with their husbands.

When he reached the sidewalk, he paused to consider what route he should take. It was the twenty-eighth of June and he had only three francs in his pocket to last him the remainder of the month. That meant two dinners and no lunches, or two lunches and no dinners, according to choice. As he pondered upon this unpleasant state of affairs, he sauntered down Rue Notre Dame de Lorette, preserving his military air and carriage, and rudely jostled the people upon the streets in order to clear a path for himself. He appeared to be hostile to the passers-by, and even to the houses, the entire city.

Tall, well-built, fair, with blue eyes, a curled mustache, hair naturally wavy and parted in the middle, he recalled the hero of the popular romances.

It was one of those sultry, Parisian evenings when not a breath of air is stirring; the sewers exhaled poisonous gases and the restaurants the disagreeable odors of cooking and of kindred smells. Porters in their shirt-sleeves, astride their chairs, smoked their pipes at the carriage gates, and pedestrians strolled leisurely along, hats in hand.

When Georges Duroy reached the boulevard he halted again, undecided as to which road to choose. Finally he turned toward the Madeleine and followed the tide of people.

The large, well-patronized cafes tempted Duroy, but were he to drink only two glasses of beer in an evening, farewell to the meager supper the following night! Yet he said to himself: “I will take a glass at the Americain. By Jove, I am thirsty.”

He glanced at men seated at the tables, men who could afford to slake their thirst, and he scowled at them. “Rascals!” he muttered. If he could have caught one of them at a corner in the dark he would have choked him without a scruple! He recalled the two years spent in Africa, and the manner in which he had extorted money from the Arabs. A smile hovered about his lips at the recollection of an escapade which had cost three men their lives, a foray which had given his two comrades and himself seventy fowls, two sheep, money, and something to laugh about for six months. The culprits were never found; indeed, they were not sought for, the Arab being looked upon as the soldier’s prey.

But in Paris it was different; there one could not commit such deeds with impunity. He regretted that he had not remained where he was; but he had hoped to improve his condition — and for that reason he was in Paris!

He passed the Vaudeville and stopped at the Cafe Americain, debating as to whether he should take that “glass.” Before deciding, he glanced at a clock; it was a quarter past nine. He knew that when the beer was placed in front of him, he would drink it; and then what would he do at eleven o’clock? So he walked on, intending to go as far as the Madeleine and return.

When he reached the Place de l’Opera, a tall, young man passed him, whose face he fancied was familiar. He followed him, repeating: “Where the deuce have I seen that fellow?”

For a time he racked his brain in vain; then suddenly he saw the same man, but not so corpulent and more youthful, attired in the uniform of a Hussar. He exclaimed: “Wait, Forestier!” and hastening up to him, laid his hand upon the man’s shoulder. The latter turned, looked at him, and said: “What do you want, sir?”

Duroy began to laugh: “Don’t you remember me?”

“No.”

“Not remember Georges Duroy of the Sixth Hussars.”

Forestier extended both hands.

“Ah, my dear fellow, how are you?”

“Very well. And how are you?”

“Oh, I am not very well. I cough six months out of the twelve as a result of bronchitis contracted at Bougival, about the time of my return to Paris four years ago.”

“But you look well.”

Forestier, taking his former comrade’s arm, told him of his malady, of the consultations, the opinions and the advice of the doctors and of the difficulty of following their advice in his position. They ordered him to spend the winter in the south, but how could he? He was married and was a journalist in a responsible editorial position.

“I manage the political department on ‘La Vie Francaise’; I report the doings of the Senate for ‘Le Salut,’ and from time to time I write for ‘La Planete.’ That is what I am doing.”

Duroy, in surprise, glanced at him. He was very much changed. Formerly Forestier had been thin, giddy, noisy, and always in good spirits. But three years of life in Paris had made another man of him; now he was stout and serious, and his hair was gray on his temples although he could not number more than twenty-seven years.

Forestier asked: “Where are you going?”

Duroy replied: “Nowhere in particular.”

“Very well, will you accompany me to the ‘Vie Francaise’ where I have some proofs to correct; and afterward take a drink with me?”

“Yes, gladly.”

They walked along arm-in-arm with that familiarity which exists between schoolmates and brother-officers.

“What are you doing in Paris?” asked Forestier, Duroy shrugged his shoulders.

“Dying of hunger, simply. When my time was up, I came hither to make my fortune, or rather to live in Paris — and for six months I have been employed in a railroad office at fifteen hundred francs a year.”

Forestier murmured: “That is not very much.”

“But what can I do?” answered Duroy. “I am alone, I know no one, I have no recommendations. The spirit is not lacking, but the means are.”

His companion looked at him from head to foot like a practical man who is examining a subject; then he said, in a tone of conviction: “You see, my dear fellow, all depends on assurance, here. A shrewd, observing man can sometimes become a minister. You must obtrude yourself and yet not ask anything. But how is it you have not found anything better than a clerkship at the station?”

Duroy replied: “I hunted everywhere and found nothing else. But I know where I can get three thousand francs at least — as riding- master at the Pellerin school.”

Forestier stopped him: “Don’t do it, for you can earn ten thousand francs. You will ruin your prospects at once. In your office at least no one knows you; you can leave it if you wish to at any time. But when you are once a riding-master all will be over. You might as well be a butler in a house to which all Paris comes to dine. When you have given riding lessons to men of the world or to their sons, they will no longer consider you their equal.”

He paused, reflected several seconds and then asked:

“Are you a bachelor?”

“Yes, though I have been smitten several times.”

“That makes no difference. If Cicero and Tiberius were mentioned would you know who they were?”

“Yes.”

“Good, no one knows any more except about a score of fools. It is not difficult to pass for being learned. The secret is not to betray your ignorance. Just maneuver, avoid the quicksands and obstacles, and the rest can be found in a dictionary.”

He spoke like one who understood human nature, and he smiled as the crowd passed them by. Suddenly he began to cough and stopped to allow the paroxysm to spend itself; then he said in a discouraged tone:

“Isn’t it tiresome not to be able to get rid of this bronchitis? And here is midsummer! This winter I shall go to Mentone. Health before everything.”

They reached the Boulevarde Poissoniere; behind a large glass door an open paper was affixed; three people were reading it. Above the door was printed the legend, “La Vie Francaise.”

Forestier pushed open the door and said: “Come in.” Duroy entered; they ascended the stairs, passed through an antechamber in which two clerks greeted their comrade, and then entered a kind of waiting- room.

“Sit down,” said Forestier, “I shall be back in five minutes,” and he disappeared.

Duroy remained where he was; from time to time men passed him by, entering by one door and going out by another before he had time to glance at them.

Now they were young men, very young, with a busy air, holding sheets of paper in their hands; now compositors, their shirts spotted with ink — carefully carrying what were evidently fresh proofs. Occasionally a gentleman entered, fashionably dressed, some reporter bringing news.

Forestier reappeared arm-in-arm with a tall, thin man of thirty or forty, dressed in a black coat, with a white cravat, a dark complexion, and an insolent, self-satisfied air. Forestier said to him: “Adieu, my dear sir,” and the other pressed his hand with: “Au revoir, my friend.” Then he descended the stairs whistling, his cane under his arm.

Duroy asked his name.

“That is Jacques Rival, the celebrated writer and duelist. He came to correct his proofs. Garin, Montel and he are the best witty and realistic writers we have in Paris. He earns thirty thousand francs a year for two articles a week.”

As they went downstairs, they met a stout, little man with long hair, who was ascending the stairs whistling. Forestier bowed low.

“Norbert de Varenne,” said he, “the poet, the author of ‘Les Soleils Morts,’— a very expensive man. Every poem he gives us costs three hundred francs and the longest has not two hundred lines. But let us go into the Napolitain, I am getting thirsty.”

When they were seated at a table, Forestier ordered two glasses of beer. He emptied his at a single draught, while Duroy sipped his beer slowly as if it were something rare and precious. Suddenly his companion asked, “Why don’t you try journalism?”

Duroy looked at him in surprise and said: “Because I have never written anything.”

“Bah, we all have to make a beginning. I could employ you myself by sending you to obtain information. At first you would only get two hundred and fifty francs a month but your cab fare would be paid. Shall I speak to the manager?”

“If you will.”

“Well, then come and dine with me to-morrow; I will only ask five or six to meet you; the manager, M. Walter, his wife, with Jacques Rival, and Norbert de Varenne whom you have just seen, and also a friend of Mme. Forestier, Will you come?”

Duroy hesitated, blushing and perplexed. Finally he, murmured: “I have no suitable clothes.”

Forestier was amazed. “You have no dress suit? Egad, that is indispensable. In Paris, it is better to have no bed than no clothes.” Then, fumbling in his vest-pocket, he drew from it two louis, placed them before his companion, and said kindly: “You can repay me when it is convenient. Buy yourself what you need and pay an installment on it. And come and dine with us at half past seven, at 17 Rue Fontaine.”

In confusion Duroy picked up the money and stammered: “You are very kind — I am much obliged — be sure I shall not forget.”

Forestier interrupted him: “That’s all right, take another glass of beer. Waiter, two more glasses!” When he had paid the score, the journalist asked: “Would you like a stroll for an hour?”

“Certainly.”

They turned toward the Madeleine. “What shall we do?” asked Forestier. “They say that in Paris an idler can always find amusement, but it is not true. A turn in the Bois is only enjoyable if you have a lady with you, and that is a rare occurrence. The cafe concerts may divert my tailor and his wife, but they do not interest me. So what can we do? Nothing! There ought to be a summer garden here, open at night, where a man could listen to good music while drinking beneath the trees. It would be a pleasant lounging place. You could walk in alleys bright with electric light and seat yourself where you pleased to hear the music. It would be charming. Where would you like to go?”

Duroy did not know what to reply; finally he said: “I have never been to the Folies Bergeres. I should like to go there.”

His companion exclaimed: “The Folies Bergeres! Very well!”

They turned and walked toward the Faubourg Montmartre. The brilliantly illuminated building loomed up before them. Forestier entered, Duroy stopped him. “We forgot to pass through the gate.”

The other replied in a consequential tone: “I never pay,” and approached the box-office.

“Have you a good box?”

“Certainly, M. Forestier.”

He took the ticket handed him, pushed open the door, and they were within the hall. A cloud of tobacco smoke almost hid the stage and the opposite side of the theater. In the spacious foyer which led to the circular promenade, brilliantly dressed women mingled with black-coated men.

Forestier forced his way rapidly through the throng and accosted an usher.

“Box 17?”

“This way, sir.”

The friends were shown into a tiny box, hung and carpeted in red, with four chairs upholstered in the same color. They seated themselves. To their right and left were similar boxes. On the stage three men were performing on trapezes. But Duroy paid no heed to them, his eyes finding more to interest them in the grand promenade. Forestier remarked upon the motley appearance of the throng, but Duroy did not listen to him. A woman, leaning her arms upon the edge of her loge, was staring at him. She was a tall, voluptuous brunette, her face whitened with enamel, her black eyes penciled, and her lips painted. With a movement of her head, she summoned a friend who was passing, a blonde with auburn hair, likewise inclined to embonpoint, and said to her in a whisper intended to be heard; “There is a nice fellow!”

Forestier heard it, and said to Duroy with a smile: “You are lucky, my dear boy. My congratulations!”

The ci-devant soldier blushed and mechanically fingered the two pieces of gold in his pocket.

The curtain fell — the orchestra played a valse — and Duroy said:

“Shall we walk around the gallery?”

“If you like.”

Soon they were carried along in the current of promenaders. Duroy drank in with delight the air, vitiated as it was by tobacco and cheap perfume, but Forestier perspired, panted, and coughed.

“Let us go into the garden,” he said. Turning to the left, they entered a kind of covered garden in which two large fountains were playing. Under the yews, men and women sat at tables drinking.

“Another glass of beer?” asked Forestier.

“Gladly.”

They took their seats and watched the promenaders. Occasionally a woman would stop and ask with a coarse smile: “What have you to offer, sir?”

Forestier’s invariable answer was: “A glass of water from the fountain.” And the woman would mutter, “Go along,” and walk away.

At last the brunette reappeared, arm-in-arm with the blonde. They made a handsome couple. The former smiled on perceiving Duroy, and taking a chair she calmly seated herself in front of him, and said in a clear voice: “Waiter, two glasses.”

In astonishment, Forestier exclaimed: “You are not at all bashful!”

She replied: “Your friend has bewitched me; he is such a fine fellow. I believe he has turned my head.”

Duroy said nothing.

The waiter brought the beer, which the women swallowed rapidly; then they rose, and the brunette, nodding her head and tapping Duroy’s arm with her fan, said to him: “Thank you, my dear! However, you are not very talkative.”

As they disappeared, Forestier laughed and said: “Tell, me, old man, did you know that you had a charm for the weaker sex? You must be careful.”

Without replying, Duroy smiled. His friend asked: “Shall you remain any longer? I am going; I have had enough.”

Georges murmured: “Yes, I will stay a little longer: it is not late.”

Forestier arose: “Very well, then, good-bye until to-morrow. Do not forget: 17 Rue Fontaine at seven thirty.”

“I shall not forget. Thank you.”

The friends shook hands and the journalist left Duroy to his own devices.

Forestier once out of sight, Duroy felt free, and again he joyously touched the gold pieces in his pocket; then rising, he mingled with the crowd.

He soon discovered the blonde and the brunette. He went toward them, but when near them dared not address them.

The brunette called out to him: “Have you found your tongue?”

He stammered: “Zounds!” too bashful to say another word. A pause ensued, during which the brunette took his arm and together they left the hall.

  乔治·杜洛瓦递给女出纳一枚一百苏的硬币①,接过对方找回的零钱,他也就迈开大步,向餐馆的门边走了过去。

  他相貌英俊,身材修长,又当了两年士官生,更有一种军人的气质。有鉴于此,他不由地挺了挺胸,以军人的熟练动作抚了抚嘴角的那两撇胡髭,同时向那些仍滞留于餐桌用餐的客人迅速地扫了一眼。这像渔网一样撒向四周的目光,正是他这英俊少年所擅长的。

  --------

  ①苏,法国辅币名,一个苏等于二十分之一法郎,因此一百苏也就是五法郎。

  女客们果然已抬起头来,向他这边注视着。其中有三个青年女工,两个随同丈夫前来就餐的女眷,及一位已进入不惑之年的音乐教师。女教师衣履不整,邋里邋遢,身上的衣裙从来都是那样歪歪扭扭,帽子上总也覆盖着一层厚厚的灰尘。她们都是这家大众化餐馆的常客。

  走到餐馆门外,杜洛瓦停下了脚步,心中在思忖着自己下一步该怎么办。今天是六月二十八日,要把这个月过完,他身上只剩下三法郎四十苏了。问题明摆着:剩下的两天,要么只吃晚饭而不吃午饭,要么只吃午饭而不吃晚饭,二者只能择其一。他想,一餐午饭是二十二个苏,而一餐晚饭则要三十苏。如果他只吃午饭,将可省出一法郎二十生丁。用省下的这点钱,他不仅可以在每天的晚餐时分买个夹有香肠的面包来充饥,而且可在大街上喝杯啤酒。须知喝啤酒是他在晚间的一大开销,也是他最难以割舍的一种癖好。这样一想,他也就沿着洛莱特圣母院街的下坡走了下去。

  他走在街上,一如当年戎马倥偬、穿着一身骑兵服的时候,不仅胸膛高高挺起,两腿也微微张开,好像刚刚跳下马鞍一样。街上行人如织,他横冲直撞地往前走着,时而碰了一行人的肩头,时而又将另一个挡道的人一把推开。他把头上那顶已经很旧的高筒礼帽往脑袋一边压了压,脚后跟走在石板地上发出嗵嗵的声响。那神气简直像是在同什么人斗气,恰似一个仪表堂堂的大兵,在他忽然告别军旅生涯而回到市井之中后,对周围的一切——行人、房屋乃至整个城市——都感到格格不入。

  虽然穿了一套仅值六十法郎的衣装,他那身令人刮目的帅气却依然如故。不错,这种“帅气”,未免有点流于一般,但却是货真价实,没有半点虚假。他身材颀长,体格匀称,稍带红棕的金黄色头发天然卷曲,在头顶中央一分为二。上唇两撇胡髭微微向上翘起,仿佛在鼻翼下方“浮起”一堆泡沫。一对蓝色的眼睛显得分外明亮,但镶嵌在眼眶内的瞳子却很小很小。这副模样,同通俗小说中的“坏人”实在毫无二致。

  巴黎的夏夜,天气闷热异常,整个城市像是一间热气蒸腾的浴池。用花岗岩砌成的阴沟口不时溢出阵阵腐臭。设在地下室的伙房,临街窗口刚刚高出地面,从窗口不断飘出的泔水味和残羹剩菜的馊味也令人窒息。

  街道两边的门洞里,早已脱去外套的守门人嘴上叼着烟斗,正骑坐在带有草垫的椅子上纳凉。街上行人已将头上的帽子摘下拿在手里,一个个神色疲惫,无精打采。

  走到圣母院街尽头的林荫大道后,乔治·杜洛瓦又停了下来,不知道自己该往哪里去。他很想取道香榭丽舍大街,到布洛涅林苑的树下去凉快凉快,可是心中又激荡着另一种欲望:希望能在不意中交上一个可心的女友。

  这艳遇何时方会出现?他不得而知。三个月来,他朝思暮想,无时无刻不在默默期待着。这期间,虽然他凭借其漂亮的面庞和魅人的仪表,已经博得不止一个女人的青睐,但皆不理想,他总希望能找个称心如意的。

  因此,他虽然囊空如洗,但心头的欲望却分外炽烈。每当他碰到在街头徜徉的姑娘向他进言:“漂亮的小伙子,去我家坐坐?”,他便热血沸腾,难以自制。但他终究还是不敢贸然前往,因为他身无分文。况且他所企盼的是另一种情味别具、不太庸俗的亲吻。

  不过他喜爱光顾妓女出没的场所,如她们常去的舞场、咖啡馆及她们踯躅待客的街头。他喜欢在她们身边消磨时光,同她们拉扯几句,亲昵地对她们以“你”相称;喜欢闻一闻她们身上那荡人心魄的异香,喜欢在她们身边盘桓终日。因为她们毕竟是女人,即能够让人消魂的女人。他不像那些出身高贵的子弟,对她们有一种天生的蔑视。

  他转了个弯,跟着因热浪的裹挟而精神萎靡的人流,向玛德莱纳教堂走了过去。各大咖啡馆全部爆满,不但如此,在强烈耀眼的灯光下,各咖啡馆门前的人行道上也摆起了一排排桌椅,坐满不耐暑热的客人。在一张张方形或圆形小桌上,客人面前的玻璃杯内盛着的饮料呈现出各种各样的颜色,有红的、黄的,绿的以及深褐色的。长颈大肚瓶内,清澈的饮水中漂浮着硕大的圆柱体透明冰块。

  杜洛瓦不觉放慢了脚步,因为喉间这时已升起一种干渴之感。

  夏日之夜出现的这种干渴,现已弄得他五内沸然,心中不由地想着现在若能有杯清凉的饮料滋润丹田,该是多么惬意。可是他今晚那怕只要喝上两杯啤酒,明晚再简单不过的面包夹香肠也就吃不上了。每逢月底便如此捉襟见肘,个中滋味他可真是尝够了。

  因此他强忍着在心中嘀咕道:“他妈的,这口渴竟是这样地难熬!不过我无论如何也得等到十点钟才到那家叫做‘美洲人’的咖啡馆去喝上一杯。”他不觉又向那些坐在路边小桌旁随意畅饮的客人看了看,一边迈着轻快的步伐,若无其事地从一家家咖啡馆门前走过,一边以目光就客人们的神色和衣着对他们身上会带有多少钱做了一番估量。这样一想,面对那些正悠然自得地坐在那里的客人,一股无名火不禁涌上他的心头:他们的衣兜里一定装看金巾和银币,平均算来每人至少有两个路易。而一家咖啡馆至少有上百号客人,加起来就是四千法郎!“这些混蛋!”他低声骂了一句,依旧带着一副倜傥不羁的神情,悠悠晃晃地继续向前走着。要是此时他在哪条街的昏暗角落遇上其中一个,他定会毫不手软地扭断他的脖颈,如同他在部队举行大规模演习时对待农民的鸡鸭那样。

  这样,他又想起了在非洲的两年军旅生涯,想起了他驻守南部哨卡时如何勒索阿拉伯人的情景。一天,他与几个同伴偷偷逃出哨卡,去乌莱德—阿拉纳部落走了一趟,在那里抢了二十只鸡、两只羊及一些金银财宝,并杀了三个人。同伴们对这次肆无忌惮的放荡行为足足笑了半年之久。现在,一想起当年的情景,他的嘴角又浮起了一丝凶狠而又快乐的微笑。

  他们从未被人抓着过,况且也没有人认真查究:阿拉伯人横遭士兵的掠夺,这早已成为司空见惯的事了。

  可是巴黎的情况就不同了。腰间挎着刺刀,手上握着短枪,毫无顾忌地抢劫他人的钱财而不受到法律的制裁,能够逍遥自在,这是不可能的了。他感到自己天生有一种下级军官在被征服的国度里为所欲为的狂放禀性,因此对大漠的两年军旅生涯未免有点留恋之情。他未能在那边留下来,实在是一件憾事。然而他之所以回来,还不是为了能够有个理想的前程?

  现在呢……他此刻的处境可真是一言难尽!

  他把舌头往上颚舔了舔,微微地发出一声咯嗒声,仿佛想看看自己是否真的是那样干渴。

  四周行人个个疲惫不堪,步履缓慢。他在心里又骂了一句:“这些畜生,别看他们蠢得要命,衣袋里可定会装着钱!”接着便嘴上哼起欢快的小调,又在人群中横冲直撞起来。几位被挤撞的男士回过头来,向他发出低声埋怨,女人们则大声嚷道:“这家伙是怎么啦?竟然如此无礼!”

  走过滑稽歌舞剧场,他在“美洲人咖啡馆”门前停了下来,不知道是否现在就应把自己已经决定开销的那杯啤酒喝掉,因为他实在渴得有点受不了了。他没有马上走上前去,而是举目向耸立在街头的明亮大钟看了看:此时才九点一刻。他知道,现在只要有满满一杯啤酒放在他面前,他立刻就会一饮而尽。问题是下面的时间还很长,要是再渴怎么办?

  他因而还是怏怏走开了,心中想道:“我不如姑且走到玛德莱纳教堂再说,然后再慢慢走回来。”

  到达歌剧院广场的拐角处,迎面走来一个胖胖的年轻人。

  他依稀记得此人他似乎在哪儿见过。

  他于是跟了上去,一边努力思索,一边不停地嘀咕道:“见鬼!此人我分明认识,怎么就想不起来是在哪儿见过的呢?”

  他搜尽枯肠,仍一无所获。不想就在这时,他心中忽然一亮:这不就是当年在骑兵团服役的弗雷斯蒂埃吗?没有想到他现在已是一副大腹便便的样子了。杜洛瓦于是跨上一步,拍了拍他的肩头,向他喊了一声:

  “喂,弗雷斯蒂埃!”

  对方转过身,直视着他,半晌说道:

  “先生叫我,不知有何贵干?”

  杜洛瓦笑了起来:

  “怎么啦,你不认识我了?”

  “不认识。”

  “我是骑兵六营的乔治·杜洛瓦。”

  弗雷斯蒂埃向他伸出两手:

  “哎呀,原来是你!过得好吗?”

  “很好,你呢?”

  “啊,我可不太好。你知道,我的肺部现在相当糟糕,一年之中总有半年咳嗽不止。回巴黎那年,我在布吉瓦尔得了气管炎,四年来一直未能治愈。”

  “是吗?不过你看上去倒还不错。”

  弗雷斯蒂埃于是挽起他这位旧友的手臂,向他谈了谈自己的病情,包括他如何求医问药,医生们提出了哪些看法和建议。可是鉴于他目前的处境,这些建议他又不便采纳。比如医生劝他去南方过冬,但他走得了吗?须知他现在已经有了妻室,又当了个记者,混得很有点名堂了。

  “我现在负责《法兰西生活报》的政治栏目,并为《救国报》采写有关参议院的新闻;此外,隔三岔五还要给《行星报》的文学专栏撰稿。你看,我已经混出个样子来了。”

  杜洛瓦带着惊异的目光看着他。他显然变多了,也显得相当成熟了。从他的衣着和言谈举止可以看出,他已成为一个老成持重、充满自信的男子汉,而且已显出一副大腹便便的样子,说明平素的饮食很是不错。想当初,他是那样干瘦,完全是个细高条,但为人机灵好动,又常常丢三拉四,成天叽叽喳喳,总是一副乐呵呵的样子。在巴黎呆了短短三年,他竟已变了个人,不但身体发福,言谈稳重,鬓角也出现了几许白发,可是他今年还不到二十七岁呢!

  弗雷斯蒂埃随后向他问道:

  “你此刻要去哪里?”

  杜洛瓦答道:

  “哪儿也不去,只是在回去睡觉之前随便走走。”

  “既然如此,你不妨陪我去《法兰西生活报》走一趟,我有几份校样要看一下,然后我们便去喝杯啤酒,你看怎样?”

  “可以,我跟你走。”

  他们于是手挽着手,带着今日在同窗学友和在同一团队服役的兵士之间仍可见到的那种一触即发的热呼劲,迈开了大步。

  “你现在在巴黎做什么?”弗雷斯蒂埃问了一句。

  杜洛瓦耸了耸肩:

  “不怕你笑话,我现在已到了饿饭的地步。服役期一满,我便想到这儿来……碰碰运气,说得确切一点,来尝尝巴黎的生活滋味。这样,六个月前,我在北方铁路局找了个差事,年薪一千五百法郎,除此之外,什么外快也没有。”

  弗雷斯蒂埃叹了一声:

  “天哪,这点钱能够得上什么?”

  “说的是呀,可是我能有什么办法?我在这里举目无亲,一个人也不认识,什么门路也没有。我连做梦都在想着能找点事做做,可是无人引荐。”

  弗雷斯蒂埃从头到脚向他打量了一眼,那样子简直像是一个注重实际的人在审视一个外乡来客。接着,他以十分肯定的语气说道:

  “老弟,你难道没有看出来,这里一切全靠自己去闯。一个人只要脑子灵活一点,便完全可以当个部长,岂止是区区科长的问题?因此重要的是自己找上门去,而不是求人推荐。像你这样一个人,怎么就找不到比在北方铁路局供职更好的差事呢?”

  杜洛瓦答道:

  “我哪儿都去了,但处处碰壁。不过最近总算有了个像样的机会,佩勒兰驯马场正需要一名骑术教官,有人推荐我去,每年至少可有三千法郎的收入。”

  弗雷斯蒂埃突然停下脚步:

  “这一行可不是你干的,你不能去,即使能挣一万法郎你也别去。否则你的前程将会彻底葬送。你现在呆在办公室里,至少不必抛头露面,谁也不认识你。如果你有能耐,随时可以离开,去另寻高就。而一旦当上骑术教官,你也就完了。这同你到一家餐馆去当个领班一样,这种地方巴黎什么样的人都会光顾。你要是给上流社会那些阔佬或其子弟上骑术课,久而久之,他们是不会以平等眼光来看待你的。”

  说到这里,他停了下来,思考片刻后又向他问道:

  “中学毕业会考你通过了吗?”

  “没有,我考了两次皆未通过。”

  “这没关系,不管怎样,该学的课程你都学完了。要是有人同你谈起西塞罗①或蒂贝尔②,你能接人家的话茬说上几句吗?”

  --------

  ①西塞罗(公元前一○六—前四三),古罗马政治家,哲学家和杰出演说家。

  ②蒂贝尔,公元前四二年至公元三七年的古罗马皇帝。

  “可以,大概说上几句总还是可以的。”

  “很好。对于这两个人,除了二十来个只知钻故纸堆、毫无生活常识的冬烘先生外,谁也说不出更多的东西。所以,要让人认为你知识渊博,并不是什么难事,关键在于自己的无知别让人当场识破。要是碰上什么难题或自己所不了解的,要善于用点心计,设法绕开。而对于别人,则应借助字典旁证博引,把他难住。别以为人家有多强,其实人人都蠢得要命,知识少得可怜。”

  他慢条斯理,侃侃而谈,俨然是一副城府很深、洞穿一切的腔调。接着,他微微一笑,抬头自身边的过往行人看了看。不想这时他忽然咳了起来,只好停下脚步,待这猛烈的阵咳过去。随后,他又说道,语气中带着沮丧:

  “我这劳什子病总也好不了,真够烦人的。现在是盛夏,今年冬天我可要到芒通去好好治一治。其他的事只好暂且搁下了,身体第一嘛。”

  他们此时已走到普瓦索尼埃大街的一扇大玻璃门前,玻璃门背面贴着一份打开的报纸。有三个人正站在那里阅读。

  玻璃门上方是一排由煤气灯光焰组成的几个大字——《法兰西生活报》,十分引人注目。行人一走进这几个耀眼的大字所照亮的地方,立刻像是往白天一样,整个身体显得那样清楚、明晰、一目了然,随后便又回到了黑暗中。

  弗雷斯蒂埃推开门,向杜洛瓦说了声“请进”。杜洛瓦进去后,随即登上一个从街上可看得一清二楚、建造考究但肮脏不堪的楼梯,接着便到了一间大厅里,两个练习生向弗雷斯蒂埃道了声晚安。最后,他们在一间类似候见室的房间里停了下来。房内陈设相当破旧,到处布满灰尘,绿色的仿天鹅绒帷幔已经褪色发黄,而且污迹斑斑,许多地方已烂成一个个窟窿,像被老鼠咬过似的。

  “请在此坐一会儿,我马上就来,”弗雷斯蒂埃说。

  此房间有三扇门与外边相通。说着,他从其中一扇走了出去。

  房间里弥漫着一种难以描述的奇异气味——编辑部所特有的气味。杜洛瓦一动不动地坐在那里,心中未免有点胆怯,但更多的是惊奇。不时有人带着小跑从他身边走过。他们从一扇门进来,在他还未看清他们的面孔之前便已从另一扇门边消失了。

  在这些来来往往的人中,有的是乳臭未干的年轻后生,一副忙碌不堪的样子,手上拿着的纸片因其步履迅疾而微微飘动;有的是排字工人,身上用作工装的长外套墨迹斑斑,但里边的雪白衬衣领却清晰可见,下身则穿着呢料裤子,同上流社会所见相仿。他们小心翼翼地捧着一摞摞印好的纸张及一些墨迹未干的校样。除这两种人外,还有一位身材矮小、穿着入时的男士进入房内;由于追求时髦,其上身套着的外套是那样紧,下身的两条裤管也是瘦得紧紧地绑在身上,脚上的皮鞋更是尖得出奇。这显然是某个负责采访社交场合的记者,赶回来提供当晚的有关新闻了。

  除此之外,还有一些人进入这间房内。他们神态庄重,气度不凡,头上戴着一顶高筒宽边礼帽,仿佛要将自己同众人区别开来。

  这时,弗雷斯蒂埃走了进来,手上挽着一位身材颀长的先生,此人约四十来岁光景,身穿黑礼服,胸前系着白色的领带,头发呈红棕色,嘴角的两撇卷曲的胡髭高高翘起,一副自以为是、傲视一切的神态。

  只听弗雷斯蒂埃向他说道:

  “那就再见了,先生。”

  对方握了握他的手,说道:

  “再见,亲爱的。”接着便臂膊挂着手杖,嘴上吹着口哨下楼去了。

  杜洛瓦于是问道:

  “此人是谁?”

  “这就是大名鼎鼎的专栏作家、喜爱决斗的雅克·里瓦尔,他刚刚看完一篇校样。他同加兰、蒙泰尔合称当今巴黎三个最为出色的专栏作家。其文章妙趣横生,饱含时代风尚。他每周撰写两篇专稿,一年所得为三万法郎。”

  说着,两位旧友开始向外走去。这时,从楼下上来一位又矮又胖的先生,只见他衣履不整,蓄着长发,一副气喘吁吁的样子。

  弗雷斯蒂埃低声向他打了个招呼,然后说道:

  “他叫诺贝尔·德·瓦伦,是个诗人,长诗《死亡的太阳》就是他写的。他也是一个一字值千金的家伙。报馆每收到他一篇小东西,便要付他三百法郎,而且每篇最长不过二百行。我们还是快到‘那不勒斯咖啡馆’去喝一杯吧,我已经渴得不行了。”

  在咖啡馆一落座,弗雷斯蒂埃便向堂倌喊了一声:

  “请来两杯啤酒。”

  待啤酒一送上来,他立刻便将自己的那杯一饮而尽。杜洛瓦则在那里小口小口地啜饮着,似乎在品尝珍贵无比的琼浆玉液。

  弗雷斯蒂埃一言未发,好像在思考着什么,随后,他突然问道:

  “你何不试试记者这一行呢?”

  杜洛瓦瞠目以对,半晌说道:

  “可是……因为……我一篇东西也未写过。”

  “这有什么?万事总有个开头嘛。我想,我可以聘请你作我的帮手,为我去各处走走,拜访一些人,搜集点资料。你在开始的时候每月可有二百五十法郎薪酬,车费由报馆支付。你若愿意,我便去找经理谈谈。”

  “我当然愿意啦。”

  “这样的话,你明晚先到我家来吃餐便饭。客人不多,不过五六个人。有我的老板瓦尔特先生和他太太,以及你刚才见到的雅克·里瓦尔和诺贝尔·德·瓦伦,再就是我妻子的一位女友。你觉得怎样?”

  杜洛瓦面红耳赤,神慌意乱,迟疑良久,终于说道:

  “叫我怎么说呢?……我连一件像样的衣服也没有。”

  弗雷斯蒂埃惊愕不已,说道:

  “是吗?他妈的,这可非同小可。你注意到没有,在巴黎即使没有栖身之地,也不能没有一套像样的衣服。”

  说着,他把手伸进里边背心的衣袋,取出数枚金币,挑了两个金路易,放到杜洛瓦面前,然后带着一股古道热肠、侠义感人的腔调向他说道:

  “这钱你先拿去,以后什么时候方便,什么时候还我。你姑且去租一套,或者以分期付款的方式去买一套,以应急需。抓紧时间去办吧。明天的晚饭定在七点半,请准时来。我家就住在泉水街十七号。”

  杜洛瓦激动不已,一边拿起桌上的钱,一边结结巴巴地说道:

  “非常感谢,你对我真是没得说。对于你的仗义相助,我是不会忘怀的……”

  弗雷斯蒂埃立刻打断了他:

  “瞧你,别说了。要不要再来一杯?”

  接着,他转过头喊了一声:

  “堂倌,请再来两杯啤酒。”

  待这两杯啤酒喝完后,弗雷斯蒂埃问道:

  “咱们到外面去走走,你看怎样?”

  “好的。”

  他们于是出了咖啡馆,向玛德莱纳教堂走了过去。

  “咱们到哪儿去呢?”弗雷斯蒂埃问道。“有人说,巴黎人散步都有着明确的目的,这可不对。我就不是这样,我每晚出来散步,就不知道往哪儿走。如果有个女人陪伴,去布洛涅林苑转上一圈倒也有点意思,可是不会每次都能遂愿。我常去买药的那家药房老板和他的妻子,喜欢光顾音乐茶座,我可没有这种兴致。我们现在去哪儿呢?实在没有什么地方可去。附近有个花园,叫蒙梭公园,夏天夜间开放。人们可以坐在树下,一边喝着清凉的饮料,一边听着悠扬的乐曲。不过此公园可不是个娱乐场所,而是供清闲之辈消遣漫步的地方,因此门票很贵,以便招徕美貌的女士。人们既可以在闪耀着电灯光的沙土小径徜徉,也可以或远或近地坐下来听听音乐。我们过去在缪萨尔也有个类似场所,不过格调太低,舞曲太多,且地方不大,也没有多少浓荫和幽暗的角落。只有大的花园方有这种条件,那才荡人心魄呢!你说咱们去哪儿呢?”

  杜洛瓦诚惶诚恐,一时竟无言以对。但后来终于还是嘣出一句:

  “‘风流牧羊女娱乐场’我至今尚未去过,我想去那边看看。”

  弗雷斯蒂埃不禁叫了起来:

  “‘风流牧羊女娱乐场’,天哪,现在去那儿还不会烤成肉饼?行,就去那儿。那地方总还有点意思。”

  两人于是转过身,向蒙玛特关厢街走去。

  在强烈的灯光下,戏园的门面一片明亮,把在此交汇的四条街映照得如同白昼。出口处排着一长排出租马车。

  弗雷斯蒂埃径直往里走去,杜洛瓦从后面拉了他一把:

  “我们还没有买票。”

  弗雷斯蒂埃郑重其事地答道:

  “不必,我来这儿从来不用买票。”

  走到检票处,三个检票员向他欠了欠身。站在中间的一位并将手向他伸了过来。我们这位记者就便向他问道:

  “有没有位置较好的包厢?”

  “当然有,弗雷斯蒂埃先生。”

  接过对方递过来的包厢号,他也就推开包着绒垫并装有铜闩的门,同杜洛瓦一起进到了剧场里。

  场内烟雾缭绕,使得舞台和入口部分及较远的地方似乎笼罩在一片薄雾之中。座位上的人几乎都在吸烟,有的抽雪茄,有的抽香烟,从这些雪茄和香烟升起的一缕缕细小烟柱,近于白色,薄如蝉翼,轻飘飘直达天花板顶部,聚集于宽大的拱顶下方、吊灯周围和坐满观众的二层看台上面,形成灰蒙蒙一片。

  剧场四周是个圆形甬道,入口处尤其宽敞,平素是打扮得花枝招展的姑娘们在黑压压的男士间川流不息的地方。墙边立着三个柜台,每个柜台里边都站着一个青春已谢但依然浓妆艳抹的女人,她们在出售饮料的同时也兼售色相。现在,其中一个柜台前正站着一群姑娘在等候来客。

  她们的身后立着几面高大的镜子,从镜子里可以看到她们的袒露背脊和过往男士的面孔。

  弗雷斯蒂埃分开众人,快步往前走着,俨然一副非同寻常人物的神态。

  只见他走到一位女招待身边,向她问道:

  “请问十七号包厢在哪里?”

  “请随我来,先生。”

  他们很快被带到一间用木板围成的包厢里,包厢很小,没有顶篷,地上铺着红色的地毯,四把座椅也是红色的,彼此间间隔很小,客人刚好从中通过。两位异地相逢的好友于是坐了下来。左右两边,沿着一条直达舞台的弧线,立着一连串类似的木格子,每个格子里也都坐了人,但只能看到其脑袋和胸部。

  台上此时有三个年轻男子在轮流作吊杠表演,其中一高一矮,另一个为中等身材。他们都穿着紧身运动衫。

  接着,个儿最高者迈着细小而又迅疾的步伐,首先走到台前。他微微一笑,向观众挥了一下手臂,好似投去一个飞吻。

  紧身衣下,其胳膊和腿上的肌肉清晰可见。他挺了挺胸,以便把太为凸出的腹部往里缩缩。他看去很像一个年轻的理发师,因为头上的头发在正中央截然分明地一分为二。只见他纵身一跃握住吊杠,然后以两手悬在上面,将整个身体像迅速转动的车轮一样,围着吊杠翻转。随后,他两臂绷紧,身躯笔直,一动不动地在空中作了个平卧势,完全靠两只手的腕力握住吊杠。

  从杠上下来后,他在前排观众的掌声中微笑着再度向众人致意,接着便走到布幕边站着,每走一步都要显示一下他那腿部的发达肌肉。

  现在轮到第二个人,即个儿比前者要矮,但身体更为粗壮的人了。他走到前台,作了同样的表演。第三个人也做的是同样的动作,但观众的掌声却要更为热烈。

  不过台上的表演,杜洛瓦并没有怎么看,他不时回转头,向身后的回廊张望着,因为那里站满了男士和姑娘们。

  弗雷斯蒂埃向他说道:

  “你看看池座,里面全是些带着老婆孩子专门来看表演的市井之徒,一些十足的蠢货。包厢里坐的是爱逛剧院的人,内中也有几个搞艺术的,还有几个二流妓女。而我们身后,则是巴黎最耐人寻味的乌合之众。他们都是些什么人呢?你好好看看吧。真是什么人都有,各行各业,哪个阶层都有,但地痞无赖占压倒多数。比如有银行职员、商店店员、政府各部的办事人员,以及外勤记者,妓院老鸨、穿着便服的军官和衣冠楚楚的绔绔子弟。他们有的刚在饭馆吃过晚饭,有的刚刚看完一场歌剧,马上还要去意大利剧场。其余的人便属于不三不四、行踪诡谲一类的了,一眼就可看出。至于那些女人,则清一色都是晚间在‘美洲人咖啡馆’打尖的那种人。这些女人只需一两个路易便可跟你走,因此整天在接肯出五路易的外乡来客,同时一有空便会通知老主顾前来相会。她们在这一带操此营生已有六年之久,一年之中除了有时在圣拉扎或卢西纳医院接受治疗,每天晚上都出没于同样的地方。”

  杜洛瓦对他的这些话已经没有心思听了,因为此时已有一个这样的妓女将胳肘靠在他们的包厢上,正在目不转睛地看着他。这是一个胖胖的褐发女人,脸部因抹了一层脂粉而显得很白,在两条描得很粗的浓眉下有一双黑黑的眼睛,眼角也描得长长的,显得更为突出。两只丰满的乳房,把深色的丝绸长裙在胸前高高隆起。涂了口红的双唇酷似鲜血淋漓的伤口,显示出一种过分热烈的野性,但却能唤起人们心头的欲望。

  她向一位由身边经过的女友——一个把金发染成红色、也长得很胖的女人——点头示意,把她叫了过来,以谁都能听得见的声音向她说道:

  “瞧,一个好漂亮的小伙子。他若肯出十路易要我,我是不会拒绝的。”

  弗雷斯蒂埃回过头来,微笑着在杜洛瓦的大腿上拍了一下:

  “这话是说给你听的,她已看上你了。亲爱的,请接受我的祝贺。”

  杜洛瓦顿时满脸通红,下意识地用手指摸了摸放有背心口袋里的两枚金币。

  台上的大幕已经落下,乐队奏起了华尔兹舞曲。

  杜洛瓦乘机向弗雷斯蒂埃说道:

  “咱们要不要出去过过风儿?”

  “走。”

  他们于是出了包厢,立刻卷进了走廊里的滚滚人流中。他们被人推着,挤着,身边一点回旋的余地也没有,忽而往东忽而往西。眼前所见是男人们戴着的清一色高筒礼帽。至于那些妓女,她们则两个两个地贴着男人们的胳肘、胸膛和背脊,在他们当中穿过来穿过去,无拘无束,随心所欲,如同在自己家里一样。她们的步履是那样地轻盈、敏捷,酷似水中的游鱼,在这股由男士汇集而成的激流中时隐时现。

  杜洛瓦心神荡漾,任凭自己随着人流往前走着。周围的空气已被烟草味、汗酸味和女人们身上的香水味弄得污浊不堪,但杜洛瓦吸入体内,竟是那样地如痴如醉。然而弗雷斯蒂埃已经不行了,只见他大汗淋漓,气喘吁吁,且又咳了起来,只得说道:

  “咱们快到外面去吧!”

  他们向左一拐,到了一个搭有凉篷的院落中,两个设计粗糙的大水池,使得院内的空气显得格外清爽宜人。花盆里栽着紫杉和侧柏,近旁的小桌边已坐了一些男女。

  “再来一杯啤酒?”弗雷斯蒂埃问道。

  “好的。”

  他们坐了下来,两眼看着三三两两的人从身边走过。

  不时有个在院内游荡的女人走近前来,笑容可掬地向他们问道:

  “先生,能让我也喝点什么吗?”

  弗雷斯蒂埃答道:

  “可以,一杯水池里的清水。”

  “去你的,真是没有教养。”搭讪的姑娘嘟哝着悻悻走开了。

  刚才依偎在他们包厢后面的褐发女人这时又走了过来。她手上挽着那个肥胖的金发女友,目光中透出傲慢的神情。这两人可真是天生的一对,无论哪一方面都十分般配。

  见到杜洛瓦,她嫣然一笑。刹那间,两人的眼神似乎已将各自的内心隐秘告知对方。她拉过一把椅子,安然地在他对面坐了下来。与此同时,她让身边的女友也坐了下来。接着,她以清脆的嗓音喊了一声:

  “堂倌,请来两杯石榴露。”

  弗雷斯蒂埃不免一惊,说道:

  “你怎么这样放肆?”

  “我所倾心的是你的这位朋友,他可真是仪表堂堂。为了他,我恐怕什么事都做得出来!”

  杜洛瓦怯生生地坐在那里,一句话也说不出来。他一脸憨笑,抚了抚嘴角卷曲的胡髭。

  堂倌此时将她刚才要的两杯果子露送了来,她们俩随即一饮而尽。然后,她们站了起来,只见那个金发女人向杜洛瓦亲切地微微点了一下头,用扇子在他手臂上轻轻打了一下,对他说道:

  “谢谢,我的小猫咪,你可真是金口难开呀。”

  说完之后,她们便扭着身腰,一步三摇地走了。

  弗雷斯蒂埃发出一阵哈哈大笑:

  “老弟,看到没有,你对于女人有一种天生的魅力,望你好自为之,日后定会大有好处。”

  说到这里,他停了片刻,接着又若有所思地自言自语道:“一个人要想平步青云,通过她们才是最为省力的捷径。”

  见杜洛瓦一直笑而不语,他又说道:

  “你是不是再呆一会儿?我可是不想再呆,这就回去了。”

  杜洛瓦喃喃地应道:

  “好吧,我再坐一会儿,时间还早。”

  弗雷斯蒂埃站了起来:

  “这样的话,就恕不奉陪了。明晚的事可别忘了,泉水街十七号,时间是七点半。”

  “一言为定,明天见,谢谢。”

  他们握了握手,弗雷斯蒂埃于是扬长而去。

  他一走,杜洛瓦顿时感到,自己现在是无所羁绊了。他再度兴致勃勃地摸了摸口袋里的两枚金路易,随即站起身,走进人群,用目光在四周不停地搜索着。

  不久,刚才那两个女人终于被他找到。她们仍带着傲慢的神色,在拥挤不堪的男人堆里挤来挤去,希望能找到一个遂愿的嫖客。

  他径直向她们走了过去,但及至到了跟前,他又胆怯了。

  褐发女人首先开言:

  “你现在能开口了吗?”

  “当然,”他结结巴巴地应了一句,此后便一句话也说不出来。

  他们三人站在那里,既不得前进,又堵住了走廊里的人流,身边因而很快聚集起一大帮人。

  褐发女人乘机突然向他问道:

  “想去我家坐坐吗?”

  垂涎已久的他现在是五内沸然,难以自制了,因而不假思索地答道:

  “想倒是想,不过我身上只有一路易。”

  她漫不经心地笑了笑:

  “这没关系。”

  说着,她伸过手来挽上杜洛瓦的胳臂,表示他今晚是她的人了。

  他们于是往外走去。杜洛瓦心里在想,用所剩的二十法郎为明晚的约会租一套晚礼服,是绝无问题的。

推荐阅读: