Chapter 12 A Meeting and the Result

The July sun shone upon the Place de la Trinite, which was almost deserted. Du Roy drew out his watch. It was only three o’clock: he was half an hour too early. He laughed as he thought of the place of meeting. He entered the sacred edifice of La Trinite; the coolness within was refreshing. Here and there an old woman kneeled at prayer, her face in her hands. Du Roy looked at his watch again. It was not yet a quarter past three. He took a seat, regretting that he could not smoke. At the end of the church near the choir; he could hear the measured tread of a corpulent man whom he had noticed when he entered. Suddenly the rustle of a gown made him start. It was she. He arose and advanced quickly. She did not offer him her hand and whispered: “I have only a few minutes. You must kneel near me that no one will notice us.”

She proceeded to a side aisle after saluting the Host on the High Altar, took a footstool, and kneeled down. Georges took one beside it and when they were in the attitude of prayer, he said: “Thank you, thank you. I adore you. I should like to tell you constantly how I began to love you, how I was conquered the first time I saw you. Will you permit me some day to unburden my heart, to explain all to you?”

She replied between her fingers: “I am mad to let you speak to me thus — mad to have come hither — mad to do as I have done, to let you believe that this — this adventure can have any results. Forget it, and never speak to me of it again.” She paused.

He replied: “I expect nothing — I hope nothing — I love you — whatever you may do, I will repeat it so often, with so much force and ardor that you will finally understand me, and reply: ‘I love you too.’”

He felt her frame tremble as she involuntarily repeated: “I love you too.”

He was overcome by astonishment.

“Oh, my God!” she continued incoherently, “Should I say that to you? I feel guilty, despicable — I— who have two daughters — but I cannot — cannot — I never thought — it was stronger than I— listen — listen — I have never loved — any other — but you — I swear it — I have loved you a year in secret — I have suffered and struggled — I can no longer; I love you.” She wept and her bowed form was shaken by the violence of her emotion.

Georges murmured: “Give me your hand that I may touch, may press it.”

She slowly took her hand from her face, he seized it saying: “I should like to drink your tears!”

Placing the hand he held upon his heart he asked: “Do you feel it beat?”

In a few moments the man Georges had noticed before passed by them. When Mme. Walter heard him near her, she snatched her fingers from Georges’s clasp and covered her face with them. After the man had disappeared, Du Roy asked, hoping for another place of meeting than La Trinite: “Where shall I see you to-morrow?”

She did not reply; she seemed transformed into a statue of prayer. He continued: “Shall I meet you to-morrow at Park Monceau?”

She turned a livid face toward him and said unsteadily: “Leave me — leave me now — go — go away — for only five minutes — I suffer too much near you. I want to pray — go. Let me pray alone — five minutes — let me ask God — to pardon me — to save me — leave me — five minutes.”

She looked so pitiful that he rose without a word and asked with some hesitation: “Shall I return presently?”

She nodded her head in the affirmative and he left her. She tried to pray; she closed her eyes in order not to see Georges. She could not pray; she could only think of him. She would rather have died than have fallen thus; she had never been weak. She murmured several words of supplication; she knew that all was over, that the struggle was in vain. She did not however wish to yield, but she felt her weakness. Some one approached with a rapid step; she turned her head. It was a priest. She rose, ran toward him, and clasping her hands, she cried: “Save me, save me!”

He stopped in surprise.

“What do you want, Madame?”

“I want you to save me. Have pity on me. If you do not help me, I am lost!”

He gazed at her, wondering if she were mad.

“What can I do for you?” The priest was a young man somewhat inclined to corpulence.

“Receive my confession,” said she, “and counsel me, sustain me, tell me what to do.”

He replied: “I confess every Saturday from three to six.”

Seizing his arm she repeated: “No, now, at once — at once! It is necessary! He is here! In this church! He is waiting for me.”

The priest asked: “Who is waiting for you?”

“A man — who will be my ruin if you do not save me. I can no longer escape him — I am too weak — too weak,”

She fell upon her knees sobbing: “Oh, father, have pity upon me. Save me, for God’s sake, save me!” She seized his gown that he might not escape her, while he uneasily glanced around on all sides to see if anyone noticed the woman at his feet. Finally, seeing that he could not free himself from her, he said: “Rise; I have the key to the confessional with me.”

* * * * * * *

Du Roy having walked around the choir, was sauntering down the nave, when he met the stout, bold man wandering about, and he wondered: “What can he be doing here?”

The man slackened his pace and looked at Georges with the evident desire to speak to him. When he was near him, he bowed and said politely:

“I beg your pardon, sir, for disturbing you; but can you tell me when this church was built?”

Du Roy replied: “I do not know; I think it is twenty or twenty-five years. It is the first time I have been here. I have never seen it before.” Feeling interested in the stranger, the journalist continued: “It seems to me that you are examining into it very carefully.”

The man replied: “I am not visiting the church; I have an appointment.” He paused and in a few moments added: “It is very warm outside.”

Du Roy looked at him and suddenly thought that he resembled Forestier. “Are you from the provinces?” he asked.

“Yes, I am from Rennes. And did you, sir, enter this church from curiosity?”

“No, I am waiting for a lady.” And with a smile upon his lips, he walked away.

He did not find Mme. Walter in the place in which he had left her, and was surprised. She had gone. He was furious. Then he thought she might be looking for him, and he walked around the church. Not finding her, he returned and seated himself on the chair she had occupied, hoping that she would rejoin him there. Soon he heard the sound of a voice. He saw no one; whence came it? He rose to examine into it, and saw in a chapel near by, the doors of the confessionals. He drew nearer in order to see the woman whose voice he heard. He recognized Mme. Walter; she was confessing. At first he felt a desire to seize her by the arm and drag her away; then he seated himself near by and bided his time. He waited quite awhile. At length Mme. Walter rose, turned, saw him and came toward him. Her face was cold and severe.

“Sir,” said she, “I beseech you not to accompany me, not to follow me and not to come to my house alone. You will not be admitted. Adieu!” And she walked away in a dignified manner.

He permitted her to go, because it was against his principles to force matters. As the priest in his turn issued from the confessional, he advanced toward him and said: “If you did not wear a gown, I would give you a sound thrashing.” Then he turned upon his heel and left the church whistling. In the doorway he met the stout gentleman. When Du Roy passed him, they bowed.

The journalist then repaired to the office of “La Vie Francaise.” As he entered he saw by the clerks’ busy air that something of importance was going on, and he hastened to the manager’s room. The latter exclaimed joyfully as Du Roy entered: “What luck! here is Bel-Ami.”

He stopped in confusion and apologized: “I beg your pardon, I am very much bothered by circumstances. And then I hear my wife and daughter call you Bel-Ami from morning until night, and I have acquired the habit myself. Are you displeased?”

Georges laughed. “Not at all.”

M. Walter continued: “Very well, then I will call you Bel-Ami as everyone else does. Great changes have taken place. The ministry has been overthrown. Marrot is to form a new cabinet. He has chosen General Boutin d’Acre as minister of war, and our friend Laroche- Mathieu as minister of foreign affairs. We shall be very busy. I must write a leading article, a simple declaration of principles; then I must have something interesting on the Morocco question — you must attend to that.”

Du Roy reflected a moment and then replied: “I have it. I will give you an article on the political situation of our African colony,” and he proceeded to prepare M. Walter an outline of his work, which was nothing but a modification of his first article on “Souvenirs of a Soldier in Africa.”

The manager having read the article said: “It is perfect; you are a treasure. Many thanks.”

Du Roy returned home to dinner delighted with his day, notwithstanding his failure at La Trinite. His wife was awaiting him anxiously. She exclaimed on seeing him:

“You know that Laroche is minister of foreign affairs.”

“Yes, I have just written an article on that subject.”

“How?”

“Do you remember the first article we wrote on ‘Souvenirs of a Soldier in Africa’? Well, I revised and corrected it for the occasion.”

She smiled. “Ah, yes, that will do very well.”

At that moment the servant entered with a dispatch containing these words without any signature:

“I was beside myself. Pardon me and come to-morrow at four o’clock to Park Monceau.”

He understood the message, and with a joyful heart, slipped the telegram into his pocket. During dinner he repeated the words to himself; as he interpreted them, they meant, “I yield — I am yours where and when you will.” He laughed.

Madeleine asked: “What is it?”

“Nothing much. I was thinking of a comical old priest I met a short while since.”

* * * * * * *

Du Roy arrived at the appointed hour the following day. The benches were all occupied by people trying to escape from the heat and by nurses with their charges.

He found Mme. Walter in a little antique ruin; she seemed unhappy and anxious. When he had greeted her, she said: “How many people there are in the garden!”

He took advantage of the occasion: “Yes, that is true; shall we go somewhere else?”

“Where?”

“It matters not where; for a drive, for instance. You can lower the shade on your side and you will be well concealed.”

“Yes, I should like that better; I shall die of fear here.”

“Very well, meet me in five minutes at the gate which opens on the boulevard. I will fetch a cab.”

When they were seated in the cab, she asked: “Where did you tell the coachman to drive to?”

Georges replied: “Do not worry; he knows.”

He had given the man his address on the Rue de Constantinople.

Mme. Walter said to Du Roy: “You cannot imagine how I suffer on your account — how I am tormented, tortured. Yesterday I was harsh, but I wanted to escape you at any price. I was afraid to remain alone with you. Have you forgiven me?”

He pressed her hand. “Yes, yes, why should I not forgive you, loving you as I do?”

She looked at him with a beseeching air: “Listen: You must promise to respect me, otherwise I could never see you again.”

At first he did not reply; a smile lurked beneath his mustache; then he murmured: “I am your slave.”

She told him how she had discovered that she loved him, on learning that he was to marry Madeleine Forestier. Suddenly she ceased speaking. The carriage stopped. Du Roy opened the door.

“Where are we?” she asked.

He replied: “Alight and enter the house. We shall be undisturbed there.”

“Where are we?” she repeated.

“At my rooms; they are my bachelor apartments which I have rented for a few days that we might have a corner in which to meet.”

She clung to the cab, startled at the thought of a tete-a-tete, and stammered: “No, no, I do not want to.”

He said firmly: “I swear to respect you. Come, you see that people are looking at us, that a crowd is gathering around us. Make haste!” And he repeated, “I swear to respect you.”

She was terror-stricken and rushed into the house. She was about to ascend the stairs. He seized her arm: “It is here, on the ground floor.”

When he had closed the door, he showered kisses upon her neck, her eyes, her lips; in spite of herself, she submitted to his caresses and even returned them, hiding her face and murmuring in broken accents: “I swear that I have never had a lover”; while he thought: “That is a matter of indifference to me.”

  骄阳似火,圣三会教堂外广场行人寥寥。七月的巴黎,热浪滚滚。来自天空的灼热气流,沉沉地积压在城市上空,形成火辣辣厚厚的一层,使人感到十分憋闷。

  教堂门外,喷水池喷出的水柱,落下来时,是那样地软弱无力,一副懒洋洋的样子,显得相当地疲惫。漂浮着树叶和纸片的池水已有点发绿,变得稠乎乎的。

  一只狗越过石砌池边,一下跳入池中,在混浊的水中游来游去。教堂门前的林荫下,贴墙放着一排长凳。长凳上坐着的几个人,正带着羡慕的眼光看着这只狗在水中嬉戏。

  杜·洛瓦掏出怀表看了看,现在还才是下午三点。他已提前半小时到达。

  想到今天这场约会,他不禁觉得好笑:

  “对这个女人说来,这教堂的用处可也真大。她不仅可以在这儿同一个犹太人举行婚礼,使自己在心灵上求得慰藉,并因此而显示出自己的政治态度,继续保持其在上流社会应有的地位,而且也可以像今天这样,把教堂作为其同情人幽会的场所。无怪乎有的妇女常将教会当作一把用途广泛的雨伞。如果天晴,便是一根很好的手杖;如果烈日当空,则可用来遮阳;如果下雨,又可用来挡雨。而如果不出门,那就随便把它扔在房内什么地方都可以。这类妇女有几百人之多。她们根本不把上帝放在眼内,但又不许他人对上帝说三道四,必要时仍要借助上帝的威望去干那私会情人的勾当。如果你劝她们干脆去旅馆开个房间,她们会觉得这是奇耻大辱。而在祭坛脚下与相好偷情,她们却认为没有任何不妥。”

  杜·洛瓦在水池边慢慢地走着,抬头看了看教堂的大钟:

  三点零五分,比他的表快两分。

  他觉得还是进到教堂里边为好,于是信步走了进去。

  一进门,便有一股沁人心脾的凉气扑面而来。他深深地吸了口气,感到分外惬意。为熟悉一下环境,他在殿内走了一圈。

  在教堂高耸的拱顶下,他每走一步都会发出很大的声响。这时,在宽大的殿堂深处,也传来了一阵时断时续、很有规律的脚步声。受好奇心驱使,他想看看此人是谁,因此循声走了过去。原来是一位身体很胖、脑袋光秃的先生,只见他手上拿着帽子,正昂着头、倒背着手在那儿悠然自得地走着。

  每隔几排座位,不时可看到一位跪着的老妇,双手捂着脸,在默默地祷告。

  四周一片孤寂、空旷和宁静。透过彩绘玻璃照射进来的阳光,是那样柔和。

  杜·洛瓦油然觉得,这实在是个“绝妙”的去处。

  他回到门边,重新看了看表:才三点一刻。他在中间过道的入口处找了个位置坐了下来,为这里不能抽烟而觉得有点遗憾。那位身材很胖的先生依然在殿堂深处,距唱诗班平素所站位置不远的地方走着,因为其缓慢的脚步声,仍不时传来。

  门外走进一人,杜·洛瓦转过身来,发现是一位身穿粗呢裙、愁容满面的下层妇女。走到第一排座位旁,她便双膝跪倒,两手合在一起,目光向着上苍,带着无比的虔诚,一动不动地祷告起来。

  杜·洛瓦饶有兴味地看着她,不知道她那脆弱的心灵此刻正经受着怎样的忧愁、痛苦和失望。她一贫如洗,这是显而易见的。今日此来可能为的是不断受到丈夫的毒打,也可能是孩子沉疴不起,已是气息奄奄。

  “可怜的生灵!这受苦受难的人该有多少?”杜·洛瓦不觉在心中发起感慨,胸中顿时为这无情的世道而升起一股怒火。他转而又想:“不过这些穷人倒底还有所寄托,认为上苍在照管着他们,他们的名字在天上是登记在案的,他们在尘世间受的苦将会在天上得到补偿。可是天晓得,这‘上苍’究竟在哪里?”

  因教堂里的寂然无声而陷入无边遐想的杜·洛瓦,因而对创世之说下了个断语,低声嘟哝道:“这一切真是愚蠢之至!”

  耳际传来一阵衣裙窸窣声,他浑身一哆嗦:是她来了。

  他站起身,抢步迎了上去。她没有向他伸过手来,只是低声说道:

  “我时间不多,马上就要回去。您就跪在我身边吧,免得引起人家注意。”

  她在殿堂里一直往前走着,想找个比较隐蔽的地方,看来对这儿的情况很是熟悉。她头上戴着厚厚的面纱,脚步很轻,几乎没有一点声响。

  走到祭坛附近,她回过头来,以在教堂里说话惯用的神秘语调,低声说道:

  “还是在两侧过道旁找个地方为好,这儿太招眼。”

  说着,她向主祭坛上的圣体柜深深鞠了一躬,接着又行了个屈膝礼。然后向右转,回到距大门不远的地方,终于下定决心,拿了个祷告用的小木凳,跪了下来。

  杜·洛瓦随即在她身旁的小凳上也跪了下来。待两人都跪好以后,他装出一副祷告的样子,低声说道:

  “谢谢,谢谢。我对您的爱是多么地强烈。我希望能将这天天对您讲一遍,告诉您,我是如何爱上您的,如何在第一次见到您的时候便对您萌发了爱慕之情……我真希望能在哪一天对您掏出我的心里话,把一切都告诉您。”

  表面上,瓦尔特夫人在默默地沉思,似乎什么也没听到;实际上,她在静静地听着。这时,只见她隔着那双合在一起的手说道:

  “我让您对我说这些,实在是疯了。我不该到这儿来,不该做出这种事来,让您以为,好像我们这种……关系会有什么结果似的。您就忘掉这些吧,您必须这样,再也不要同我谈起。”

  她想听听杜·洛瓦会作何反应。杜·洛瓦本想说几句果断而又充满激情的话语,但怎么也想不起来,最后竟愣在那里。后来,他总算又开口了:

  “什么结果不结果,我并没有期待什么……也没有怀抱任何希望。我只知道我爱您。不管您怎样对我,我都要满怀热情,不厌其烦地反复向您讲述,使您最终明白这一点。我要日复一日,逐字逐句地把我对您的情思印在您的脑海里,使之深深地扎根于您的心底,像清醇无比的美酒,一滴一滴地浸透您的肌体,使您受到触动而逐渐回心转意,过一段时候不得不对我说:‘我也爱您’。”

  他感到,她那靠着他的肩头在索索发抖,胸脯疾速起伏。就在这时,她忽然冒出了这样一句:“是的,我也爱您。”

  杜·洛瓦像是头上受到猛烈的一击,浑身为之一震,叹道:“啊,上帝!……”

  “可是,”瓦尔特夫人又上气不接下气地说道,“这种话是我这样的人能够说出的吗?我已经是……有两个孩子的人了……不是不知道自己这样做罪孽深重,可鄙可憎……可是我又不能……我不能……我简直不敢相信……连想也不敢想……我没有办法……实在没办法。您听我说……听我说……我在心里……偷偷地爱着您,已经有一年了。除了您……我谁也没有爱过。啊!我受了多少苦,进行了多么激烈的斗争,最后还是不行,因为我爱您……”她双手捂着脸,呜呜咽咽。整个身子因伤心不已,而不停地颤抖。

  “把您的手给我,”杜·洛瓦呐呐地说,“让我摸一摸,握一握……”

  她慢慢地将手从脸上放了下来。杜·洛瓦看到她泪流满面,眼内噙着泪花。

  他拿起她的手,使劲捏了捏:

  “啊,我真想把您脸上的泪舔干。”

  “不要坏了我干净的身子……”瓦尔特夫人气弱声嘶,近于呻吟。“我这下完了。”

  杜·洛瓦不禁想笑,他在这种地方又能对她怎样?他已说不出什么温情脉脉的话语,因此将她的手放到他的胸前,说道:

  “您看我的心跳得多厉害?”

  殿堂里又传来了那位先生不紧不慢的脚步声。他在祭坛前转了一圈,现在又从殿堂右侧走了过来,这至少已经是第二次了。眼看他就要走到她所藏身的大柱旁,瓦尔特夫人立刻将手从杜·洛瓦手中抽了回来,捂住了脸。

  就这样,他们一动不动地跪在那儿,仿佛两个人一起在向苍天作虔诚的祷告。那位在殿堂漫步的先生从他们身旁走了过去,漫不经心地看了他们一眼,便向门边走去了,双手始终倒背着,手上提着帽子。

  “我们明天在哪儿见?”杜·洛瓦希望下次见面能换个地方。

  她毫无反应,似乎灵魂已经升天,在祷告中变成了一尊雕像。

  “我们明天可否改去蒙梭公园?”杜·洛瓦又问。

  她向他转过头来,捂着脸的双手已经放下,露出一张因万分痛苦而变得铁青的面庞。只见她结结巴巴地说道:

  “您能不能走开……走开一会儿……我要……我要一个人在这儿……静一静。您在这儿……我太痛苦……我要静下心来……祷告一会儿……求上帝宽恕我……拯救我……让我一个人呆在这儿……几分钟就行……”

  杜·洛瓦见她神色大变,痛苦万状,只得默默地站了起来,沉吟片刻,问道:

  “我待会儿再来?”

  她没有回答,只是点了点头。他也就往祭坛那边走了过去。

  瓦尔特夫人于是努力将自己的思绪转移到祷告上来,开始一片虔诚地祈祷上苍,带着一副失魂落魄、战战兢兢的样子,向上帝发出了绝望的呐喊:“请可怜可怜我吧!”

  为了不再看到这刚刚走开的年轻人,她狂怒地闭上了眼,努力把他从脑海深处撵走,拼命地不去想他。可是在这痛苦绝望之际,她眼前所浮现的,并不是她所期待的上帝,而仍然是他那撮卷曲的胡髭。

  她受此煎熬,算来已整整一年了。在此期间,无论是白天还是夜晚,他的身影无时无刻不在她心头盘旋,而且越来越明晰,弄得她坐立不安,夜不能寐。她觉得自己像一只陷入罗网的母兽,被捆绑着扔到这头雄兽的身前。而这头雄兽只是凭嘴角的一撮胡髭和明亮的瞳子,就将她征服了,使她无从反抗。

  现在,虽然在教堂里,在上帝的身旁,她却比在家里感到更加虚弱,更加孤立无依,无力自拔。她根本祷告不了,心心念念总想着他。他一走,她便已感到五内俱焚。不过,尽管身处绝境,她仍在搏斗着,反抗着,顽强地希望上帝能搭救她。她这个人从未有过软弱的表现,宁愿死去也不愿就此沉沦。然而话虽如此,她嘴里在心意至诚地祷告,耳内听到的却是杜·洛瓦在殿堂里逐渐远去的脚步声。

  她意识到自己是彻底完了,任何反抗都将无济于事。不过她仍然不想就此屈服。由于精神过度紧张,她突然一阵昏眩。女人们在这时常会栽倒在地,四肢抽搐,大喊大叫,身躯扭曲。浑身颤抖的她,感到自己就要轰然倒下,喊叫着在座椅间滚成一团了。

  恰在这时,一个人快步走了过来。她转过头,见是一位神甫。她于是站起身,伸开双臂,一下冲了过去,向他喊道:

  “啊,请您救救我,救救我!”

  神甫停下脚步,惊异地看着她:

  “夫人,您怎么啦?”

  “我要您救救我。请可怜可怜我,帮我一把,否则我就完了。”

  “我能为您做点什么呢?”神甫凝视着她,不知她是否疯了。

  这是一位年轻神甫,个儿很高,身体微胖。饱满的腮帮直往下坠,脸颊因胡子刮得干干净净而有点发青。一看便知是在城里或富人街区为家中殷实的女教徒做忏悔的堂区助理司铎。

  “我要向您忏悔,”瓦尔特夫人说,“请帮帮我,给我指点一下,告诉我该怎么做?”

  “我每星期六下午三点至六点在此听忏悔,”神甫说。

  “不!不!不!”瓦尔特夫人一把抓住他的手臂,连声说道,“您得马上就听,马上就听。我已等不得了,他就在这儿,在教堂里,正等着我。”

  “谁在等你?”神甫问。

  “一个男人……您若不搭救我,我将被他毁了……我将被他缠住……我已无法逃脱他……我的心太软……心太软……

  对付不了他……”

  说着,她在神甫面前扑通一声跪了下来,声泪俱下:“啊,神甫,请可怜可怜我,看在天主的份上,救救我,救救我!”

  她死死抓住神甫的黑袍,不让他离去。神甫为难地向四周看了看,看是否有什么正人君子或心怀叵测之徒在看着这一幕。

  “好吧,请站起来,我身上正带着忏悔室的钥匙,”神甫意识到自己现在是根本走不脱了,只好随着她。他在兜里摸了摸,掏出一串钥匙,挑出其中一把,然后快步向一排用木板隔成的忏悔室走了过去。这每一间斗室简直就是一个灵魂的垃圾箱,是信徒们倾倒其所犯罪恶的场所。

  神甫走进中间一间,随即将门关上。瓦尔特夫人于是冲进旁边一间,怀着一片虔诚和满腔希望,激动地说道:

  “我是一个有罪之人,望天主保佑。”

  杜·洛瓦在祭坛前转了一圈,然后沿殿堂的左侧往门边走去。到了殿堂中部,同那位仍在殿内安然漫步的秃顶先生不期而遇,心中不由地感到纳闷:

  “这家伙在这儿没完没了地转悠,不知想干什么?”

  对方此时也放慢了脚步,并不时地看着杜·洛瓦,显然想同他攀谈两句。果然,走到面前后,他向杜·洛瓦欠了欠身,很有礼貌地问道:

  “先生,对不起,打扰一下。请问这座教堂建了多少年了?”

  “天哪,我也不太清楚。”杜·洛瓦说,“我想总有二十至二十五年了吧。我今天是第一次来。”

  “我也是,以前从未来过。”

  杜·洛瓦不觉兴致大增,随即说道:

  “您好像看得很仔细,对细节问题也很注意。”

  “哪里,我不是来参观的,”对方感到啼笑皆非。“我在等我的妻子,她约我在此会面,可她到现在还没来。”

  他没有再说下去,过了一会又说道:

  “外面热得真让人受不了。”

  杜·洛瓦看了看他,觉得他倒也和蔼可亲,且突然感到他很像弗雷斯蒂埃,于是问道:

  “您是外省人吧?”

  “是的,我是雷恩①人。您呢;先生?您是出于好奇,才进来转转的吗?”

  --------

  ①雷恩,巴黎西部一城市,布列塔尼省省会。

  “不,我在等一位女士。”杜·洛瓦向他欠了欠身,微笑着走了开去。

  走到大门边,他见刚才那个穷苦女人仍跪在那里祷告,心中不由地嘀咕道:“真他妈的见鬼,这祷告还有完没有?”这样,他原先对她的一点同情和怜悯也就不翼而飞了。

  他从这女人身边一径走了过去,然后又沿着殿堂右侧,慢慢地往回走,去找瓦尔特夫人。

  他远远地向他刚才同瓦尔特夫人呆的地方看了看,不禁一惊,因为瓦尔特夫人已不在那里了。他以为自己把刚才那根柱子弄错了,于是又向前走去,直到最后一根柱子,接着又折返回来:哪儿也没有她的踪影!她难道走了?他觉得很是惊奇,心头油然升起一股怒火。但转念一想,她也许正在找他,便在殿堂里又转了一圈。可是仍然不见她的踪影,他索性在她刚才坐的椅子上坐了下来,希望她会来找他。因此决定在此等一等。

  过了一会儿,一阵低声细语引起了他的注意。然而奇怪的是,教堂的这一部分,一个人也未见,这悄悄的说话声会来自何处?他站起身看了看,发现殿堂旁边有一排忏悔室。其中一间门外露出一个裙角,拖在地上。他走过去一看,里面呆着的女人正是她,她在忏悔!……

  他很想冲过去,一把将她拖出来,但转而又想:“何必呢?别看她今日向神甫忏悔,明天就会对我服服帖帖。”他于是在忏悔室对面悠然地坐了下来,耐心等着。想起眼前这种事儿,他心里不觉好笑。

  他等了很久。后来,瓦尔特夫人终于站了起来。她转过身,看到他后,即向他走了过来,但面色阴冷,十分严肃。

  “先生,”她说,“请不要送我,不要跟着我,更不要再单独一人到我家来,我不会接待您的。再见。”

  说完,她板着脸,一径走了出去。

  杜·洛瓦没有拦她,因为他的原则是,凡事不可硬来,神甫这时也从他那间斗室走了出来,神情有点恍惚。杜·洛瓦走上去,盯着他的两眼,冲着他骂道:

  “要不是看你穿着这身长袍,我一定给你这张猪脸两记耳光。”

  骂完之后,他一转身,吹着口哨扬长而去。

  刚才那位胖胖的先生,头上戴着帽子,两手倒背在身后,仍不耐烦地在门廊下等着。两眼紧紧盯着门外的广场和四周的街道。

  杜·洛瓦走到他身边时,两人又互相客气了一番。

  瓦尔特夫人既已离去,杜·洛瓦也就到了报馆里。一进门,他便从仆役们紧张的神色上看出,一定发生了什么异乎寻常的事情。于是大步走进经理室。

  瓦尔特老头正满头大汗地站在那里,一句一句地口授一篇文章,并一边口授,一边向身边的外勤记者布置任务,或是对布瓦勒纳交待两句,再或是拆阅手边的信函。

  看到杜·洛瓦进来,他高兴地叫了起来:

  “啊,好极了,漂亮朋友来了!”

  话一出口,他不禁有点尴尬,立刻停了下来,解释道:“对不起,这样称呼你实在很冒味。我今天真是忙昏了头。我是因为听我妻子和女儿一天到晚这样叫你,也就跟着叫起来了。你不会介意吧?”

  “哪儿会?”杜·洛瓦笑道,“再说这个绰号并无任何让人不快之意。”

  “很好,”瓦尔特老头接着说,“这么说,我就同大家一样叫你漂亮朋友了。来,我来对你讲一讲,今天发生了一件大事。内阁已经倒台,议会的投票结果是三百一十票对一百零二票。我们的假期又要往后推了,什么时候可以开始,谁也说不上,而今天已是七月二十八日。西班牙对有关摩洛哥的安排十分不满,是杜朗·德·莱纳及其一伙倒台的根本原因。由于陷得很深,现在已是进退两难。马罗已奉命组阁。他提名布丹·达克勒将军为国防部长,我们的朋友拉罗舍—马蒂厄为外交部长,他自己则除任总理外,还兼任内政部长。这样一来,我们的报纸将会具有半官方性质。我正在写一篇带有指导意义的文章,就一些原则问题发表一点看法,给几位部长指明道路。”

  说到这里,他笑了笑,又接着说道:

  “当然这条路,也正是他们自己打算走的。因此围绕摩洛哥问题,我现在必须能够拿出既饶有兴味,又具有现实意义的东西,也就是发表一篇能产生效果、引起轰动的专题文章。具体要求,我也说不太清楚,大概就是这个意思吧。希望你来给我动动脑筋。”

  “这件事您就交给我吧,”杜·洛瓦寻思片刻说道,“我国在非洲的殖民地,地域辽阔,分左中右三块。中间为阿尔及利亚,左右两边分别为突尼斯和摩洛哥。我可以给您写一篇文章,谈谈此殖民地的政治状况及其土著居民的历史。此外,文章还将介绍一点沿摩洛哥边界到著名绿洲菲居伊的有关情况。这块绿洲,其他欧洲人至今尚未去过,这次冲突就是因为它而引起的。您觉得这样写怎样?”

  “好极了!”瓦尔特老头叫了起来,“文章打算用什么题目?”

  “从突尼斯城到丹吉尔①。”

  “真是再好没有。”

  --------

  ①突尼斯城,北非国家突尼斯首都。丹吉尔,摩洛哥一港口城市。

  杜·洛瓦于是走去翻了翻往日的《法兰西生活报》,把他的处女作《非洲服役散记》找了出来。由于这篇文章通篇谈的是殖民政策以及阿尔及利亚的土著居民和在奥兰省的所见所闻,他只须用打字机打下来,稍加改动,重新换个标题,便完全可以应付当前的需要。

  不到一小时,经他粗粗一改,文章也就算是定下来了。不但与当前形势紧密结合,而且还对新成立的内阁称赞了几句。

  瓦尔特读后大加赞扬:

  “很好……很好……非常好。看来你是一位难得的人才,实在可喜可贺。”

  晚饭时分,杜·洛瓦回到家中,为今天的意外收获备觉欣喜。圣三会教堂的约会虽然未能遂愿,但他感到,这场较量他已是胜券在握。

  她妻子正焦灼地等待他的归来,因此一见到他,便大声喊道:

  “知道吗,拉罗舍已当上外交部长?”

  “知道了。我刚才就这个问题写了一篇关于阿尔及利亚的文章。”

  “什么文章?”

  “这篇文章你知道,就是我们第一次合写的那一篇:《非洲服役散记》。我根据当前的需要,把它重新改了改。”

  “不错,此文对当前确实很适用,”玛德莱娜笑道。她想了想,又说道:“我在想,这篇文章的续篇,你当时应当把它写完,而你却……中途放下了。我们现在若能把它写出来,那将是一组很能对味的文章。”

  “完全对,”杜·洛瓦一边在餐桌前坐下,一边说道:“弗雷斯蒂埃这个龟公既已作古,我们现在来写这几篇文章,也就没什么碍事的了。”

  玛德莱娜觉得很不入耳,立即正色道:

  “这种玩笑很是无聊,能否就此打住?你怎么总将它挂在嘴边?”

  杜·洛瓦正想反唇相讥,仆人忽然走来递给他一封快信。

  快信没有署名,只写了一句话:

  “我一时昏了头,请予原谅。明日午后四时,请来蒙梭公园。”

  一切不言自明,他心中一阵狂喜,随手将快信放入衣袋,向他妻子说道:

  “亲爱的,我不会再同你开这种玩笑了。我承认,这不太好。”

  他开始吃饭。

  一边吃,一边又将快信的寥寥数语默诵了一遍:“我一时昏了头,请予原谅。明日午后四时,请来蒙梭公园。”这表明,她已让步,分明在说:“我听您的,在哪儿见面,什么时候见面,全由您定。”

  他笑了起来,玛德莱娜问道:

  “你怎么啦?”

  “没什么。我刚才碰到一位神甫,他那张脸很是有趣。”

  第二天,杜·洛瓦准时到达约会地点。公园的长凳上坐满不耐暑热的市民。孩子们在沙质小径上玩耍,看守他们的保姆,迷迷瞪瞪,似乎在凳子上做着美好的梦。

  瓦尔特夫人已出现在一处流水潺潺的古代废墟旁,正满面愁容,惶惶不安地围着那一小圈圆柱转悠。

  杜·洛瓦刚走过去同她寒暄两句,她便说道:

  “这公园里的人可是真多!”

  杜·洛瓦立即趁机进言:

  “完全对,要不要换个地方?”

  “去哪儿?”

  “随便哪儿,比如坐在马车里也行呀。您可将身边的窗帘放下,谁也不会看见您的。”

  “那倒不错。这个地方可真让我害怕。”

  “那好,我去找车。五分钟后,咱们在对着环城大街的那个门边相见。”

  他飞快地走了。少顷,她在杜·洛瓦所说的门前,同他一起登上了他叫来的马车。待她将身边的窗帘放下后,劈面第一句话便是:

  “您对车夫说了吗,我们去哪儿?”

  “这您就不用管了,”杜·洛瓦说,“他已经知道。”

  他对车夫说的地方是君士坦丁堡街。

  “为了您,”瓦尔特夫人又说道,“我受了多少苦,经受了怎样的折磨和煎熬,您是不可能知道的。我昨天在教堂里表现得很不冷静,当时是一定要离开您,非常害怕同您单独呆在一起。您能原谅我吗?”

  “这还用说?”杜·洛瓦紧紧地握着她的手,“我是这样地爱您,有什么不能原谅呢?”

  “听我说,”瓦尔特夫人的目光近于央求,“您可不能对我胡来……不能……不能……否则我是不会再见您的。”

  杜·洛瓦起先没有答理,嘴角只是挂着一丝令女人芳心激荡的狡黠微笑。后来还是喃喃地说了一句:

  “一切都听您的,还不行吗?”

  瓦尔特夫人于是向他讲了讲,她在得知他要娶玛德莱娜·弗雷斯蒂埃时,如何发现自己已经深深地爱上他。她讲得很详细,连具体日期和她当时的内心活动,也说得很清楚。

  她忽然收住自己的话语,因为车子此时已停了下来。杜·洛瓦一把打开了车门。

  “这是什么地方?”她问。

  “这里有间房子,”杜·洛瓦回道,“您就下来,去里边坐坐吧。这儿的环境要更为安静。”

  “到底是什么地方?”

  “我结婚前住的房子,我把它又租了下来……只是暂用几天而已……这样我们可以有个僻静的地方说说话。”

  一想到自己马上要同他关进这间房内,瓦尔特夫人不禁吓得魂飞魄散,死死地抓住车上的座垫:

  “不行,不行,我不去!我不去!”

  杜·洛瓦的声音已变得严厉起来:

  “我向您发誓,绝对不会碰您的。您瞧,有人在看着我们,这儿很快就会聚起一堆人。快……快……快点下来。”

  他又说了一遍:“我向您发誓,绝对不会碰您。”

  一酒店老板此时正站在店门口好奇地看着他们。瓦尔特夫人慌乱不已,赶紧跳下车,冲进楼里。

  她正要上楼,杜·洛瓦一把抓住她的胳臂:

  “不,在这儿,就在一楼。”

  他一下将她推到了房内。

  房门一关上,他便像老鹰抓小鸡一样,一把将她搂到怀里。她拼命挣扎着,反抗着,话也说不出来:“啊,上帝!……上帝!……”

  杜·洛瓦不顾一切地吻着她的脖颈、眼睛和嘴唇,同时疯狂地在她身上乱摸,她怎么也躲不开。到后来,一直没命地推搡他,回避其嘴唇的瓦尔特夫人,却情不自禁地把嘴唇向他凑了过去。

  她的挣扎也就突然停了下来。被征服了的她,现在是一切听任摆布,任他给她宽衣解带。在将她身上的衣服一件件脱下来时,杜·洛瓦的手同使女一样灵巧,敏捷。

  瓦尔特夫人从他手上一把夺过胸衣,将脸捂了起来,任其肌肤玉骨赤裸着呆在那里,脚下到处扔着脱下的衣裙。只有脚上的鞋,他未给她脱去。就这样,一把将她抱起,往床边走去。这时,她俯耳向他说了一句,声音有点异样:“向您发誓,我这一生从未有过情人。”那语气很像一个年轻姑娘在说:“向您发誓,我是贞洁的。”

  “这有什么?”杜·洛瓦心想,“我才不在乎这些呢!”

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