Chapter 13 Madame De Marelle

Autumn had come. The Du Roys had spent the entire summer in Paris, leading a vigorous campaign in “La Vie Francaise,” in favor of the new cabinet. Although it was only the early part of October, the chamber was about to resume its sessions, for affairs in Morocco were becoming menacing. The celebrated speech made by Count de Lambert Sarrazin had furnished Du Roy with material for ten articles on the Algerian colony. “La Vie Francaise” had gained considerable prestige by its connection with the power; it was the first to give political news, and every newspaper in Paris and the provinces sought information from it. It was quoted, feared, and began to be respected: it was no longer the organ of a group of political intriguers, but the avowed mouthpiece of the cabinet. Laroche- Mathieu was the soul of the journal and Du Roy his speaking-trumpet. M. Walter retired discreetly into the background. Madeleine’s salon became an influential center in which several members of the cabinet met every week. The president of the council had even dined there twice; the minister of foreign affairs was quite at home at the Du Roys; he came at any hour, bringing dispatches or information, which he dictated either to the husband or wife as if they were his secretaries. After the minister had departed, when Du Roy was alone with Madeleine, he uttered threats and insinuations against the “parvenu,” as he called him. His wife simply shrugged her shoulders scornfully, repeating: “Become a minister and you can do the same; until then, be silent.”

His reply was: “No one knows of what I am capable; perhaps they will find out some day.”

She answered philosophically: “He who lives will see.”

The morning of the reopening of the Chamber, Du Roy lunched with Laroche-Mathieu in order to receive instructions from him, before the session, for a political article the following day in “La Vie Francaise,” which was to be a sort of official declaration of the plans of the cabinet. After listening to Laroche-Mathieu’s eloquence for some time with jealousy in his heart, Du Roy sauntered slowly toward the office to commence his work, for he had nothing to do until four o’clock, at which hour he was to meet Mme. de Marelle at Rue de Constantinople. They met there regularly twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays.

On entering the office, he was handed a sealed dispatch; it was from Mme. Walter, and read thus:

“It is absolutely necessary that I should see you to-day. It is

important. Expect me at two o’clock at Rue de Constantinople. I

can render you a great service; your friend until death,”

“VIRGINIE.”

He exclaimed: “Heavens! what a bore!” and left the office at once, too much annoyed to work.

For six weeks he had ineffectually tried to break with Mme. Walter. At three successive meetings she had been a prey to remorse, and had overwhelmed her lover with reproaches. Angered by those scenes and already weary of the dramatic woman, he had simply avoided her, hoping that the affair would end in that way.

But she persecuted him with her affection, summoned him at all times by telegrams to meet her at street corners, in shops, or public gardens. She was very different from what he had fancied she would be, trying to attract him by actions ridiculous in one of her age. It disgusted him to hear her call him: “My rat — my dog — my treasure- -my jewel — my blue-bird”— and to see her assume a kind of childish modesty when he approached. It seemed to him that being the mother of a family, a woman of the world, she should have been more sedate, and have yielded With tears if she chose, but with the tears of a Dido and not of a Juliette. He never heard her call him “Little one” or “Baby,” without wishing to reply “Old woman,” to take his hat with an oath and leave the room.

At first they had often met at Rue de Constantinople, but Du Roy, who feared an encounter with Mme. de Marelle, invented a thousand and one pretexts in order to avoid that rendezvous. He was therefore obliged to either lunch or dine at her house daily, when she would clasp his hand under cover of the table or offer him her lips behind the doors. Above all, Georges enjoyed being thrown so much in contact with Suzanne; she made sport of everything and everybody with cutting appropriateness. At length, however, he began to feel an unconquerable repugnance to the love lavished upon him by the mother; he could no longer see her, hear her, nor think of her without anger. He ceased calling upon her, replying to her letters, and yielding to her appeals. She finally divined that he no longer loved her, and the discovery caused her unutterable anguish; but she watched him, followed him in a cab with drawn blinds to the office, to his house, in the hope of seeing him pass by. He would have liked to strangle her, but he controlled himself on account of his position on “La Vie Francaise” and he endeavored by means of coldness, and even at times harsh words, to make her comprehend that all was at an end between them.

Then, too, she persisted in devising ruses for summoning him to Rue de Constantinople, and he was in constant fear that the two women would some day meet face to face at the door.

On the other hand, his affection for Mme. de Marelle had increased during the summer. They were both Bohemians by nature; they took excursions together to Argenteuil, Bougival, Maisons, and Poissy, and when he was forced to return and dine at Mme. Walter’s, he detested his mature mistress more thoroughly, as he recalled the youthful one he had just left. He was congratulating himself upon having freed himself almost entirely from the former’s clutches, when he received the telegram above mentioned.

He re-read it as he walked along. He thought: “What does that old owl want with me? I am certain she has nothing to tell me except that she adores me. However, I will see, perhaps there is some truth in it. Clotilde is coming at four, I must get rid of the other one at three or soon after, provided they do not meet. What jades women are!”

As he uttered those words he was reminded of his wife, who was the only one who did not torment him; she lived by his side and seemed to love him very much at the proper time, for she never permitted anything to interfere with her ordinary occupations of life. He strolled toward the appointed place of meeting, mentally cursing Mme. Walter.

“Ah, I will receive her in such a manner that she will not tell me anything. First of all, I will give her to understand that I shall never cross her threshold again.”

He entered to await her. She soon arrived and, seeing him, exclaimed: “Ah, you received my dispatch! How fortunate!”

“Yes, I received it at the office just as I was setting out for the Chamber. What do you want?” he asked ungraciously.

She had raised her veil in order to kiss him, and approached him timidly and humbly with the air of a beaten dog.

“How unkind you are to me; how harshly you speak! What have I done to you? You do not know what I have suffered for you!”

He muttered: “Are you going to begin that again?”

She stood near him awaiting a smile, a word of encouragement, to cast herself into his arms, and whispered: “You need not have won me to treat me thus; you might have left me virtuous and happy. Do you remember what you said to me in the church and how you forced me to enter this house? And now this is the way you speak to me, receive me! My God, my God, how you maltreat me!”

He stamped his foot and said violently: “Enough, be silent! I can never see you a moment without hearing that refrain. You were mature when you gave yourself to me. I am much obliged to you; I am infinitely grateful, but I need not be tied to your apron-strings until I die! You have a husband and I a wife. Neither of us is free; it was all a caprice, and now it is at an end!”

She said: “How brutal you are, how coarse and villainous! No, I was no longer a young girl, but I had never loved, never wavered in my dignity.”

He interrupted her: “I know it, you have told me that twenty times; but you have had two children.”

She drew back as if she had been struck: “Oh, Georges!” And pressing her hands to her heart, she burst into tears.

When she began to weep, he took his hat: “Ah, you are crying again! Good evening! Is it for this that you sent for me?”

She took a step forward in order to bar the way, and drawing a handkerchief from her pocket she wiped her eyes. Her voice grew steadier: “No, I came to — to give you — political news — to give you the means of earning fifty thousand francs — or even more if you wish to.”

Suddenly softened he asked: “How?”

“By chance last evening I heard a conversation between my husband and Laroche. Walter advised the minister not to let you into the secret for you would expose it.”

Du Roy placed his hat upon a chair and listened attentively.

“They are going to take possession of Morocco!”

“Why, I lunched with Laroche this morning, and he told me the cabinet’s plans!”

“No, my dear, they have deceived you, because they feared their secret would be made known.”

“Sit down,” said Georges.

He sank into an armchair, while she drew up a stool and took her seat at his feet. She continued:

“As I think of you continually, I pay attention to what is talked of around me,” and she proceeded to tell him what she had heard relative to the expedition to Tangiers which had been decided upon the day that Laroche assumed his office; she told him how they had little by little bought up, through agents who aroused no suspicions, the Moroccan loan, which had fallen to sixty-four or sixty-five francs; how when the expedition was entered upon the French government would guarantee the debt, and their friends would make fifty or sixty millions.

He cried: “Are you sure of that?”

She replied: “Yes, I am sure.”

He continued: “That is indeed fine! As for that rascal of a Laroche, let him beware! I will get his ministerial carcass between my fingers yet!”

Then, after a moment’s reflection, he muttered: “One might profit by that!”

“You too can buy some stock,” said she; “it is only seventy-two francs.”

He replied: “But I have no ready money.”

She raised her eyes to his — eyes full of supplication.

“I have thought of that, my darling, and if you love me a little, you will let me lend it to you.”

He replied abruptly, almost harshly: “No, indeed.”

She whispered imploringly: “Listen, there is something you can do without borrowing money. I intended buying ten thousand francs’ worth of the stock; instead, I will take twenty thousand and you can have half. There will be nothing to pay at once. If it succeeds, we will make seventy thousand francs; if not, you will owe me ten thousand which you can repay at your pleasure.”

He said again: “No, I do not like those combinations.”

She tried to persuade him by telling him that she advanced nothing — that the payments were made by Walter’s bank. She pointed out to him that he had led the political campaign in “La Vie Francaise,” and that he would be very simple not to profit by the results he had helped to bring about. As he still hesitated, she added: “It is in reality Walter who will advance the money, and you have done enough for him to offset that sum.”

“Very well,” said he, “I will do it. If we lose I will pay you back ten thousand francs.”

She was so delighted that she rose, took his head between her hands, and kissed him. At first he did not repulse her, but when she grew more lavish with her caresses, he said:

“Come, that will do.”

She gazed at him sadly. “Oh, Georges, I can no longer even embrace you.”

“No, not to-day. I have a headache.”

She reseated herself with docility at his feet and asked:

“Will you dine with us to-morrow? It would give me such pleasure,”

He hesitated at first, but dared not refuse.

“Yes, certainly.”

“Thank you, dearest.” She rubbed her cheek against the young man’s vest; as she did so, one of her long black hairs caught on a button; she twisted it tightly around, then she twisted another around another button and so on. When he rose, he would tear them out of her head, and would carry away with him unwittingly a lock of her hair. It would be an invisible bond between them. Involuntarily he would think, would dream of her; he would love her a little more the next day.

Suddenly he said: “I must leave you, for I am expected at the Chamber for the close of the session. I cannot be absent to-day.”

She sighed: “Already!” Then adding resignedly: “Go, my darling, but you will come to dinner tomorrow”; she rose abruptly. For a moment she felt a sharp, stinging pain, as if needles had been stuck into her head, but she was glad to have suffered for him.

“Adieu,” said she.

He took her in his arms and kissed her eyes coldly; then she offered him her lips which he brushed lightly as he said: “Come, come, let us hurry; it is after three o’clock.”

She passed out before him saying: “To-morrow at seven”; he repeated her words and they separated.

Du Roy returned at four o’clock to await his mistress. She was somewhat late because her husband had come home for a week. She asked:

“Can you come to dinner to-morrow? He will be delighted to see you.”

“No; I dine at the Walters. We have a great many political and financial matters to talk over.”

She took off her hat. He pointed to a bag on the mantelpiece: “I bought you some sweetmeats.”

She clapped her hands. “What a darling you are!” She took them, tasted one, and said: “They are delicious. I shall not leave one. Come, sit down in the armchair, I will sit at your feet and eat my bonbons.”

He smiled as he saw her take the seat a short while since occupied by Mme. Walter. She too, called him “darling, little one, dearest,” and the words seemed to him sweet and caressing from her lips, while from Mme. Walter’s they irritated and nauseated him.

Suddenly he remembered the seventy thousand francs he was going to make, and bluntly interrupting Mme. de Marelle’s chatter, he said:

“Listen, my darling; I am going to intrust you with a message to your husband. Tell him from me to buy to-morrow ten thousand francs’ worth of Moroccan stock which is at seventy-two, and I predict that before three months are passed he will have made eighty thousand francs. Tell him to maintain absolute silence. Tell him that the expedition to Tangiers, is decided upon, and that the French government will guarantee the Moroccan debt. It is a state secret I am confiding to you, remember!”

She listened to him gravely and murmured:

“Thank you. I will tell my husband this evening. You may rely upon him; he will not speak of it; he can be depended upon; there is no danger.”

She had eaten all of her bonbons and began to toy with the buttons on his vest. Suddenly she drew a long hair out of the buttonhole and began to laugh.

“See! Here is one of Madeleine’s hairs; you are a faithful husband!” Then growing serious, she examined the scarcely perceptible thread more closely and said: “It is not Madeleine’s, it is dark.”

He smiled. “It probably belongs to the housemaid.”

But she glanced at the vest with the care of a police-inspector and found a second hair twisted around a second button; then she saw a third; and turning pale and trembling somewhat, she exclaimed: “Oh, some woman has left hairs around all your buttons.”

In surprise, he stammered: “Why you — you are mad.”

She continued to unwind the hairs and cast them upon the floor. With her woman’s instinct she had divined their meaning and gasped in her anger, ready to cry:

“She loves you and she wished you to carry away with you something of hers. Oh, you are a traitor.” She uttered a shrill, nervous cry: “Oh, it is an old woman’s hair — here is a white one — you have taken a fancy to an old woman now. Then you do not need me — keep the other one.” She rose.

He attempted to detain her and stammered: “No — Clo — you are absurd — I do not know whose it is — listen — stay — see — stay —”

But she repeated: “Keep your old woman — keep her — have a chain made of her hair — of her gray hair — there is enough for that —”

Hastily she donned her hat and veil, and when he attempted to touch her she struck him in the face, and made her escape while he was stunned by the blow. When he found that he was alone, he cursed Mme. Walter, bathed his face, and went out vowing vengeance. That time he would not pardon. No, indeed.

He strolled to the boulevard and stopped at a jeweler’s to look at a chronometer he had wanted for some time and which would cost eighteen hundred francs. He thought with joy: “If I make my seventy thousand francs, I can pay for it”— and he began to dream of all the things he would do when he got the money. First of all he would become a deputy; then he would buy the chronometer; then he would speculate on ‘Change, and then, and then — he did not enter the office, preferring to confer with Madeleine before seeing Walter again and writing his article; he turned toward home. He reached Rue Drouot when he paused; he had forgotten to inquire for Count de Vaudrec, who lived on Chaussee d’Antin. He retraced his steps with a light heart, thinking of a thousand things — of the fortune he would make,— of that rascal of a Laroche, and of old Walter.

He was not at all uneasy as to Clotilde’s anger, knowing that she would soon forgive him.

When he asked the janitor of the house in which Count de Vaudrec lived: “How is M. de Vaudrec? I have heard that he has been ailing of late,” the man replied; “The Count is very ill, sir; they think he will not live through the night; the gout has reached his heart.”

Du Roy was so startled he did not know what to do! Vaudrec dying! He stammered: “Thanks — I will call again”— unconscious of what he was saying. He jumped into a cab and drove home. His wife had returned. He entered her room out of breath: “Did you know? Vaudrec is dying!”

She was reading a letter and turning to him asked: “What did you say?”

“I said that Vaudrec is dying of an attack of gout.”

Then he added: “What shall you do?”

She rose; her face was livid; she burst into tears and buried her face in her hands. She remained standing, shaken by sobs, torn by anguish. Suddenly she conquered her grief and wiping her eyes, said: “I am going to him — do not worry about me — I do not know what time I shall return — do not expect me.”

He replied: “Very well. Go.”

They shook hands and she left in such haste that she forgot her gloves. Georges, after dining alone, began to write his article. He wrote it according to the minister’s instructions, hinting to the readers that the expedition to Morocco would not take place. He took it, when completed, to the office, conversed several moments with M. Walter, and set out again, smoking, with a light heart, he knew not why.

His wife had not returned. He retired and fell asleep. Toward midnight Madeleine came home. Georges sat up in bed and asked: “Well?”

He had never seen her so pale and agitated. She whispered: “He is dead!”

“Ah — and — he told you nothing?”

“Nothing. He was unconscious when I arrived.”

Questions which he dared not ask arose to Georges’ lips.

“Lie down and rest,” said he.

She disrobed hastily and slipped into bed.

He continued: “Had he any relatives at his death-bed?”

“Only a nephew.”

“Ah! Did he often see that nephew?”

“They had not met for ten years.”

“Had he other relatives?”

“No, I believe not.”

“Will that nephew be his heir?”

“I do not know.”

“Was Vaudrec very rich?”

“Yes, very.”

“Do you know what he was worth?”

“No, not exactly — one or two millions perhaps.”

He said no more. She extinguished the light. He could not sleep. He looked upon Mme. Walter’s promised seventy thousand francs as very insignificant. Suddenly he thought he heard Madeleine crying. In order to insure himself he asked: “Are you asleep?”

“No.” Her voice was tearful and unsteady.

He continued: “I forgot to tell you that your minister has deceived us.”

“How?”

He gave her a detailed account of the combination prepared by Laroche and Walter. When he concluded she asked: “How did you know that?”

He replied: “Pardon me if I do not tell you! You have your means of obtaining information into which I do not inquire; I have mine which I desire to keep. I can vouch at any rate for the truth of my statements.”

She muttered: “It may be possible. I suspected that they were doing something without our knowledge.”

As she spoke Georges drew near her; she paid no heed to his proximity, however, and turning toward the wall, he closed his eyes and fell asleep.

  转眼已是秋天。杜·洛瓦夫妇整个夏天都是在巴黎度过的。值此议会短暂休假之机,他们在《法兰西生活报》连篇累牍,发表了一篇又一篇支持新政府的文章。

  现在虽然还只是十月初,议会却要复会了。因为摩洛哥事件已变得十分严峻。

  实际上,谁也不相信会向丹吉尔派兵。然而议会休会那天,右翼议员朗贝尔·萨拉辛伯爵,却发表了一篇风趣诙谐、连中间派也鼓掌叫好的演说,说他敢以自己的胡须与政府总理的美髯打赌,新任内阁定会仿效其前任,向丹吉尔派出一支军队,使之同派往突尼斯城的军队彼此对称。这正如一个壁炉,必须左右两边都放上花瓶,方可产生对称效果一样。他还说:“先生们,对法国来说,非洲这块土地恰如一个壁炉。此壁炉不但消耗了我们大量的木柴,且因风门太大,为了能够点着而烧掉了我们许多纸币。

  “你们忽然雅兴不浅,一厢情愿地不惜重金在壁炉的左边放了一尊突尼斯小摆设。既然如此,你们就等着瞧吧,马罗先生现在也会如法炮制,在壁炉的右边放上一尊摩洛哥小摆设。”

  这篇讲话早已家喻户晓。杜·洛瓦便是受其启发而写了十来篇关于阿尔及利亚殖民地的文章,作为他初进报馆时所中断的文章续篇。他在文章中竭力鼓吹出兵,虽然他自己也认为,出兵的可能根本不存在。他在“爱国”的幌子下,大肆煽动人们的情绪,把西班牙视为敌国,对它展开了极其恶毒的攻击。

  《法兰西生活报》因其与政府当局众所周知的密切关系而忽然名噪一时。对于政治方面的消息,它的报道总要先于其他严肃报刊。它并在报道时以这样那样的按语,点出其支持者——各位部长——的意图。因此该报一时成了巴黎和外省各报搜集新闻的场所,成了各类消息的重要来源。人人敬而远之,开始对它刮目相看。它已经不是一群投机政客暗中把持的报刊,而是政府的重要喉舌。报馆的幕后核心,就是拉罗舍—马蒂厄,杜·洛瓦则成了他的发言人。至于瓦尔特老头,这位平时很少发言的众院议员和精于心计的报馆经理,之所以隐而不露,据说在摩洛哥正暗中做着大笔铜矿生意。

  玛德莱娜的客厅业已成为一处很有影响的场所,好几位内阁成员每星期都要来此聚会。连政府总理也已来她家吃过两次晚饭。这些政界要人的女眷,过去轻易不敢跨进她家门槛,如今却以有她这个朋友为荣,而且来访的次数远远超出她对她们的回访。

  当今外交部长在这里随意出入,俨然成了家中的主人。他每天随时会来,而且总带来一些要发的电文、情报或消息,经他口授,由丈夫或妻子笔录下来,好像他们已成为他的秘书。

  每当这位部长大人离去之后,同玛德莱娜面对面独处的杜·洛瓦,总要对这出身卑微的发迹小人火气连天地发泄一通,言语中不仅充满威胁,而且带有恶毒的含沙射影。

  每逢此时,玛德莱娜总是耸耸肩,轻蔑地说道:

  “你若有能耐,也像他一样,混个部长让我看看。到那时,你不也可趾高气扬起来?不过在此之前,劝你还是闭上你的臭嘴为好。”

  杜·洛瓦乜斜着眼看着她,抚了抚嘴角的胡髭,说道:“我有什么能耐,现在也还无人知晓。也许总有一天,大家会发现的。”

  “那好,”玛德莱娜捺住性子说道,“我们就等着看你什么时候会有这一天。”

  两院复会那天早晨,尚未起床的玛德莱娜,向正在穿衣的杜·洛瓦作了反复叮咛。因为丈夫就要去拉罗舍—马蒂厄家吃午饭,想在开会之前,就《法兰西生活报》第二天要发表的一篇政论文章听听他的意见。不言而喻,此文应是内阁真实意图的一种半官方表露。

  “特别是,”玛德莱娜说道,“别忘了问问他,贝龙克勒将军是否确像外界所传已被派往奥兰。如果确已派去,其意义可就非同一般了。”

  “你能否少罗唆了两句,”杜·洛瓦不耐烦地说道,“让我安静一会儿。此去该问些什么,难道我自己还不清楚?”

  “那可不见得,亲爱的,”玛德莱娜依然和颜悦色地说道,“每次你去部长家,我给你交办的事,你总要忘掉一半。”

  “那是因为,”杜·洛瓦气哼哼地说,“你这位部长大人是个蠢货,我很讨厌他。”

  “这是什么话?”玛德莱娜的语调仍旧十分平静,“他既不是我的部长,也不是你的部长。不过他对你比对我要更为有用。”

  杜·洛瓦稍稍转过身,向她发出一声冷笑:

  “对不起,他并未向我献殷勤。”

  “对我也没有呀,”玛德莱娜不慌不忙地说,“别忘了,我们的前程可全都仰仗着他。”

  杜·洛瓦一时语塞,过了一会儿,又说道:

  “如果问我,在你的崇拜者中我喜欢谁,我倒还是倾向于沃德雷克那个老傻瓜。这家伙近来怎样?我已有一星期没见着他了。”

  “他病了,”玛德莱娜说,神态分外镇定。“他给我写了封信,说他因关节炎发作而起不了床。你应当去看看他。你知道,他很喜欢你,你若去了,他一定会很高兴的。”

  “是的,我一会儿就去,”杜·洛瓦说。

  他已穿戴整齐,戴上帽子后又查了查,看有没有落下什么。见一切都已妥贴,他也就走到床边,亲了亲妻子的前额,说道:

  “回头见,亲爱的。我晚上七点以前回不来。”

  说完,他出了家门。拉罗舍—马蒂厄先生正在恭候他的光临。由于内阁须赶在议会复会之前的正午开会,他今天的午餐定于十点开始。

  鉴于女主人不愿改变她的用餐习惯,饭桌上只坐了他们两人及部长的私人秘书。刚一落座,杜·洛瓦便谈了谈他那篇文章及其梗概,并不时地看了看匆匆写在几张名片上的笔记。“亲爱的部长先生,”他最后问道,“您看有没有什么不妥之处?”

  “大体上还可以,亲爱的朋友。只是对于摩洛哥问题,语气或许稍嫌肯定。文章应将出兵的道理说得头头是道,同时又让人感到最终是不会出兵的,你自己就绝不相信。总之要让读者从字里行间感到,我们不会在这件事情上陷得太深。”

  “好极了,我已明白您的意思,并将努力在文章中将此点充分反映出来。对了,我妻子要我问您,会不会将贝龙克勒将军派往奥兰,听了您刚才的话,我认为不会派。”

  “是的,”部长说。

  话题随后转到议会当天的复会。拉罗舍一马蒂厄侃侃而谈,显然在对自己几小时后在议会的发言会产生怎样的效果,作仔细的推敲。他的右手时而拿着叉子或刀子,时而拿着一小块面包,不断地挥舞着,好像已站在议会的讲坛上,不但语言铿锵,而且词藻华美,赛似清醇无比的美酒。他形质丰伟,衣冠楚楚,嘴角两撮短髭微微向上翘起,看去酷似竖着两条蝎子的尾巴。此外,他头发梳得油光可鉴,在头顶中央一分为二,围着两鬓贴了一圈,如同自命风流的外乡子弟。不过,虽然风华正茂,他却已有点大腹便便,凸起的肚子把上身穿的背心撑得鼓鼓的。他的私人秘书一直默然无语地吃着,喝着,对他这唾沫横飞的夸夸其谈,显然已习以为常。对他人的平步青云艳羡不已的杜·洛瓦,心里恨得什么似的,不由地在心中骂道:

  “你这发迹小人有什么了不起的?当今政客哪个不是碌碌庸才?”

  他把自己的才华同这位巧言令色的部长比了比,心中嘀咕道:

  “他妈的,我若有十万法郎,去我美丽的家乡卢昂参加竞选,让我那些诺曼底同乡,不管机灵与否,都参加到滑稽透顶的选举中来,我不也会成为一名政治家?我在各个方面都一定会非常出色,岂是这些目光短浅的鼠辈所能比拟?”

  拉罗舍—马蒂厄滔滔不绝,一直说到仆人送来咖啡。他一见时候已经不早,立即按了按铃,叫人备车,同时向杜·洛瓦伸过手来:

  “都清楚了吗,我亲爱的朋友?”

  “清楚了,部长先生,请尽管放心。”

  杜·洛瓦于是不慌不忙地向报馆走去,打算动手写那篇文章。因为在下午四点之前,他没有什么事可做。只是到四点钟,他要去君士坦丁堡街与德·马莱尔夫人相会。他们的会面每星期两次——星期一和星期五,如今已是刻板成章。

  可是他刚走进编辑部,便有人递给他一封快信。信是瓦尔特夫人寄来的,内容如下:

  我今天一定要见到你,事情至关重要。请于午后两点在君士坦丁堡街等我。我这回可要给你帮个大忙。

  你至死不渝的朋友——维吉妮

  “他妈的,来的可真是时候!”杜·洛瓦愤怒不已,随口骂了一句。由于情绪太糟,他已无法工作,因而立即出了报馆。

  一个半月来,他一直试图同瓦尔特夫人断绝往来,可是她却仍旧死死缠着他。

  那天失身之后,她曾懊悔万分,在随后一连三次会面中对杜·洛瓦责备不休,骂声不绝。杜·洛瓦被这骂骂咧咧的场面弄得心如死灰,且对这徐娘半老、喜怒无常的女人早已失去兴趣,因此决定疏远她,希望这小小的插曲能因而很快过去。不想她忽然回心转意,对他一片痴情,不顾一切地沉溺于这条爱河中。那样子,简直像是往脖颈上拴块石头跳入河中一样。杜·洛瓦软了下来,出于对她的爱怜和照拂,只得处处随着她。可是她的情思是那样炽烈,弄得他心力交瘁,难于招架,备受折磨。

  比如她一天也不能见不着他,每天随时随刻都会给他寄来一封快信,约他立即去街头、商店或公园相会。

  及至见了面,她又总是那几句话,说她是多么地爱他,在心里将他奉若神明。等到离去,也总免不了一番赌咒发誓:“今日见到你,真不知有多高兴。”

  至于其他方面,也与杜·洛瓦的想象截然不同。为了博得杜·洛瓦的欢心,她常常做出一些与其年龄极不相称、令人喷饭的可笑动作。这贤良文静,年已四十的女人,多年来始终恪守妇道,她那圣洁的心灵,从无任何非分之想,更不知男女偷情为何物。可如今,她却像是在经过一个寒冷夏天之后所出现的阳光惨淡的秋天,或像是在花草孱弱、蓓蕾夭折的暮春,突然萌发出了一种少女般的奇异情思。虽然姗姗来迟,这股爱却分外地热烈,并带着一片天真。其难以逆料的冲动和不时发出的轻声叫唤,恰如情窦初开的少女。但毕竟青春已逝,这娇媚不断的惺惺作态,只能使人倒胃。一天之中,她可以给杜·洛瓦写上十来封情书,但情书所透出的狂热,却只会让人哑然失笑。情书的文笔更是怪诞,常常无缘无故诗兴大发,不能给人以任何感染。此外,信中还学做印地安人的样子,通篇充斥飞禽走兽的名字。

  每当他们在一起时,一旦没有外人,她便会拖着她那胖胖的身躯,努起难看的嘴唇,走过来温情脉脉地亲吻他,胸衣下两只沉甸甸的乳房因步履的迅疾而不停地抖动。尤其让杜·洛瓦难以忍受的,是她对他各种各样令人作呕的亲昵称呼。一会儿唤他“我的小耗子”,“我的小狗”,“我的小猫”,一会儿又唤他“我的小宝贝”,“我的小青鸟”,“我的小心肝”。而且每次同他床第相就,总要有一番忸忸怩怩,半推半就,并自以为妩媚动人,故意装出一副天真无邪、担惊受怕的样子,同行为不轨的女学生做的那些小动作十分类似。

  “我现在要吻谁呢?”她常会问道。如果杜·洛瓦没有马上回答“吻我”,她便会没完没了地问下去,直到杜·洛瓦气白了脸为止。

  杜·洛瓦觉得,她本应懂得,谈情说爱,需要的是把握分寸,相机行事,一言一行都要十分谨慎而又恰到好处;她作为一个芳龄已逝、已有两个女儿的女人,又是一名上流社会的贵妇,既已委身于他,就应行事庄重,严于律己,善于克制内心的冲动。这时的她可能还会流下眼泪,但此眼泪决不应像正当豆蔻年华的朱丽叶①所流下的,而应像狄多②所流下的。

  --------

  ①朱丽叶,莎士比亚所著《罗密欧与朱丽叶》一剧中的女主角。

  ②狄多,希腊传说中推罗国王穆顿之女。

  她不停地向他唠叨:“我是多么地爱你,我的小乖乖。你也一样爱我吗,我的小宝贝?”

  杜·洛瓦每听到她喊他“我的小乖乖”或“我的小宝贝”,真想叫她一声“我的老太婆”。

  “我自己也不敢想象怎么就顺从了你,”她常这样说道,“不过我并不后悔。爱情原来是这样的美好!”

  她说的这些话,杜·洛瓦听了,觉得它是那样地刺耳。“爱情原来是这样的美好!”这句话从她嘴里说出来,简直像是一个天真无邪的少女在舞台上背诵的台词。

  此外,她在拥抱杜·洛瓦时,那生硬的动作也令他深为不悦。一接触到这位美男子的嘴唇,她便周身热血奔涌,欲火如炽,因而其拥抱往往显得异常认真,那笨手笨脚的样子让杜·洛瓦直想笑。因为这情景分明同一些目不识丁的老人,到了行将就木之际,忽然心血来潮,想学几个字一样。

  她使出全身力气,紧紧地将他搂在怀内,其热辣辣的目光是那样炽烈,令人望而生畏,正是某些年华已逝,但床第兴致依然不减当年的女人所常有的。她双唇颤抖,默然无语地使劲吻着他,同时那温暖、臃肿、已经力不从心但仍不知足的身躯,则紧紧地贴着他。这时,她常会像一个情窦初开的少女,有意扭动身躯,嗲声嗲气地对他说:“小宝贝,我是多么地爱你!我是多么地爱你!现在来让你的小女人,好好地痛快一下!”

  每当此时,杜·洛瓦真想痛骂她几句,然后拿起帽子,拂袖而去。

  他们最初的几次幽会,是在君士坦丁堡街进行的。但每次见面,杜·洛瓦总是提心吊胆,生怕会遇上德·马莱尔夫人。

  因此到后来,他也就想出种种借口,不让她来这里。

  他现在几乎每天都去她家,或是去吃午饭,或是去吃晚饭。她则不放过任何机会同他亲昵,有时在桌子下面和他拉拉手,有时在门背后和他偷吻。然而杜·洛瓦却更希望同苏珊呆在一起,因为她的小样儿是那样有趣。不想这长着一张娃娃脸的少女,为人却相当机灵、狡黠,常常说出一些叫人意想不到的诡诈话语,像集市上见到的小木偶,总喜欢炫耀自己。她对身边的一切及所有的人都看不上眼,而且观察敏锐,出语犀利。杜·洛瓦常常挑逗她,让她对什么都采取一种玩世不恭的态度。二人因而情投意合,十分默契。

  苏珊对他如今是张口“漂亮朋友”闭口“漂亮朋友”地叫个不停。

  一听到她的叫喊,杜·洛瓦立刻便会离开她母亲而向她跑过去。苏珊这时常会在他耳边嘀咕两句尖刻的话语,两人于是发出一阵哈哈大笑。

  这样,杜·洛瓦既已对这位母亲的爱感到索然寡味,现在也就对她厌烦透了。只要一看到她,听到她的声音,甚至是想起她,便怒气冲天。因此,他已不再去她家,对她的来信或召唤,也不予理睬了。

  瓦尔特夫人现在终于明白,杜·洛瓦已不爱她了,因此心中备感痛苦。但她并未死心,仍在时时注视着他的一举一动,甚至坐在窗帘放下的马车里,在报馆或他家的门前,或他可能经过的路旁等着他。

  杜·洛瓦真想毫不客气地骂她一通,甚至狠狠地揍她一顿,直截了当地对她说:“滚开,你总这样缠着我,真让我烦透了。”可是鉴于《法兰西生活报》的关系,他们不想把事情做得太绝,希望通过他的冷漠和软硬兼施,以及不时说出的尖锐话语,而使她最终明白,他们之间的关系该结束了。

  不想她仍不识事务地想出种种理由,一定要他去君士坦丁堡街同她见面,而一想到两个女人总有一天会在门前相遇,杜·洛瓦便感到不寒而栗。

  说到这另一个女人,即德·马莱尔夫人,在这一年的夏天,他对她的爱却越来越深了。杜·洛瓦常叫她“我的淘气鬼”。不言而喻,他喜欢的是她。由于他们都是玩世不恭的风流人儿和在社交场中追欢买笑的浪荡男女,两人的性情是如此相投,连他们自己也未想到,他们竟与街头那些生活放荡之徒毫无二致。

  因此整个夏天,他们是在卿卿我我的热恋中度过的,常常像两个寻欢作乐的大学生,特意偷偷离开家,跑到阿让特伊、布吉瓦尔、麦松和普瓦西去共进午餐或晚餐,并久久地在河上泛舟,采摘岸边的花草。德·马莱尔夫人所瞩目的是塞纳河炸鱼、白葡萄酒烩肉和洋葱烧鱼,以及酒肆门前的凉棚和艄公喊出的号子。杜·洛瓦则喜欢在大晴天同她一起坐在郊区列车的顶层上,说说笑笑,饱览巴黎郊外的景色,虽然市民们在这里建的一幢幢别墅大都十分简陋,并无多少魅人之处。

  有的时候,杜·洛瓦不得不赶回城里,去瓦尔特夫人家吃晚饭。他此时对死死缠着他的老东西真是恨得咬牙切齿,一心惦念着刚刚和他分手的德·马莱尔夫人,因为在河边的草丛里,这年轻的女人已使他的欲望得到满足,他的心已被她完全占据。

  现在,他以为自己已终于大体摆脱老东西的纠缠,因为他已非常明确,甚至直截了当地向她表明,他不想让他们之间的关系继续下去了。不想一走进报馆,竟又收到了她的快信,要他下午两点去君士坦丁堡街相见。

  他一边走一边将信又读了一遍,只写上面写道:“我今天一定要见到你,事情至关重要。请于午后两点在君士坦丁堡街等我。我这回可要给你帮个大忙。你至死不渝的朋友——维吉妮。”

  “老东西今天又要见我,”杜·洛瓦在心里嘀咕道,“不知为的是什么?我敢打赌,除了没完没了地向我唠叨,她是怎样地爱我,一定又是什么话也没有。不过她在信中谈到事情至关重要,又说要给我帮个大忙,这或许是真的,因此须看看再说,问题是,克洛蒂尔德四点就到,我无论如何得在三点之前把老东西打发走。唉!这两个女人可真烦人,但愿她们不要碰在一起!”

  他不由地想起自己的妻子。实在说来,也只有她从未给他带来任何烦恼。她有自己的生活,似乎也很爱他,这在他们共度良宵时表现得尤其明显。总之,她平素的生活有条不紊,几乎一成不变,决不许人轻易打乱。

  这样,杜·洛瓦迈着缓慢的步伐,向他那用作同女人幽会的住所走了过去,心里对老东西恨得什么似的:

  “哼,她这次要是什么事儿也没有,看我会怎样对待她!我可不会像康布罗纳①那样温文尔雅。相反,作为第一步,我将对她说,从今之后再也不会跨进她家的门坎。”

  --------

  ①康布罗纳(一七七○—一八四二),拿破仑时代著名将领。

  他于是走进房内,等待瓦尔特夫人的到来。

  她几乎立刻就来了,一见到他便说道:

  “啊!看来你收到我的信了,真是太好了。”

  杜·洛瓦没好气地答道:

  “是的,信送到报馆时,我正要去众议院。你今天找我来,又有什么事?”

  为了亲吻他,她已摘去头上的面纱,像一条被打怕的狗,一副胆怯而又温顺的样子,向他走了过去,一边说道:

  “你对我为何这样狠?……说话总是夹枪带棒的……我做了什么对不起你的事?你也不想想,这样做会给我造成多大的痛苦?”

  “收起你那一套!”杜·洛瓦向她嘟哝道。

  瓦尔特夫人紧挨着他站着,只要他微微一笑,或做个什么手势,便会立即投入他的怀抱。

  “我原是一个多么规矩而又幸福的女人,”她又说道,“不想被你勾引而误入歧途,今天你竟又这样对我。你当初在教堂里是怎样对我说来着,后来又怎样硬把我拉到这间房里,你总还没有忘记吧?可是现在,你一见到我,竟是这样一副样子,这样一种腔调!上帝!上帝!你对我为何如此凶狠?”

  杜·洛瓦跺了跺脚,变得更加声色俱厉了:

  “别说了,你这些话我实在听够了。一见到你,就是这没完没了的唠叨。好像我当初追求你时,你还是个孩子,什么也不懂,完全是个天使。不,亲爱的,事实不容否认,你当时并不是一名无知无识的幼女,因此根本谈不上拐骗。你是作为一个成年妇女,投入我的怀抱的。对此,我一直深深地铭感于怀,但我总不能就这样一辈子围着你转。你有丈夫,我也有妻子,都是有家的人,再也不能胡闹了。是的,我们曾相爱过,不过时间短暂,无人知晓,现在该结束了。”

  “啊!”瓦尔特夫人说道,“瞧瞧你这些话是多么地狠毒,多么地龌龊,多么地无情无义!是的,我当时已确实不再是冰清玉洁的少女,可是我从未爱过别人,从未失过身……”

  “这些我全知道,”杜·洛瓦打断她的话,“况且你已说过不下二十次了。不过你应知道,你当时已有两个孩子……因此已不是一名处女……”

  她惊愕不已,不由地倒退一步:

  “啊!乔治,你要这样想,那就太不像话了!……”

  与此同时,她双手按住胸口,喉间喘着粗气,眼看就要放声痛哭。

  杜·洛瓦见她的眼泪已经下来,顺手拿起放在壁炉上的帽子,向她说道:

  “既然你要哭,我就走了,再见。你今天让我来,原来是要我看这场表演!”

  她往前一步,拦住了他,同时从兜里抽出一块手绢,迅速擦了擦眼泪。神色已终于镇定下来,但说出的话语仍因气噎喉堵而断断续续:

  “不……我今天来……是要告诉你一个消息……一个政治方面的消息……如果你愿意……可以趁此机会赚上五万法郎……甚至更多。”

  “什么?你说的是什么?”杜·洛瓦的语气突然缓和了下来。

  “昨天晚上,我偶尔听了几句我丈夫和拉罗舍的谈话。再说,他们平时谈什么,倒也不怎么背着我。我只听我丈夫要拉罗舍对你保守秘密,因为怕你会把事情泄露出去。”

  杜·洛瓦已将帽子放在椅子上,神情十分紧张:

  “那么,他们说了什么呢?”

  “他们要占领摩洛哥。”

  “这是哪儿的话?我刚才还在拉罗舍家,同他一起吃了饭。

  内阁打算怎样做,他基本上都已对我讲了。”

  “不,亲爱的,他们骗了你。他们的事不想让任何人知道。”

  “你坐下来说,”杜·洛瓦对她说道。

  他自己随即在一张扶手椅上坐了下来,瓦尔特夫人则从地上拉过一个小板凳,放在杜·洛瓦两腿之间,一屁股坐在上面。接着,她十分温存地说道:

  “我因为时时想着你,现在对我身边的人所悄悄议论的话题,也很留意。”

  她告诉杜·洛瓦,一个时期来,她发现他们一直在背着他搞什么秘密勾当。他们对他是既想利用,又不太放心。

  “你知道,”她说,“一个人在有了心上人后,是变得特别精明的。”

  到了来此见他的头一天,她终于弄明白是怎么回事。原来他们正在偷偷地谋划一笔很大很大的交易。她为自己的机灵而感到高兴,脸上不禁露出了笑容。她越说越激动,出言吐语完全是一副金融家内眷的神情,非常熟悉交易所里所玩弄的各种花招和证券市场的急剧变化。证券行情的这种大起大落,常会使成千上万的小资产者和微薄年金收入者,在一两小时内便倾家荡产。因为这些人以其积蓄所购股票,大都是以一些政治家或银行家的响亮名声为后盾的。

  “他们这一手,”瓦尔特夫人反复说道,“干得可真漂亮,实在天衣无缝。再说整个事情是我丈夫一手策划的,他对此非常内行,简直是得心应手。”

  杜·洛瓦对她这没完没了的情况介绍,实在听得不耐烦了,说道:

  “究竟是怎么回事,你倒是快说呀。”

  “好吧,事情是这样的:向丹吉尔出兵一事,早在拉罗舍当上外交部长之日,他们便已决定了。这期间,他们一步步地,把降到六十四法郎或六十五法郎的摩洛哥股票全部收了进来,而且收进的手段极其巧妙,全都是委托名声欠佳的经纪人代为办理,以免引起他人怀疑。他们甚至瞒过了罗契尔德家族的银行。该行虽曾对不断有人购进摩洛哥股票感到不解,但得到的答复是,收购者全系声名狼藉、濒于破产的中间人,因而也就未予深究。现在,出兵一事很快就将付诸实施,一旦我们的军队到达那边,国家就会对此股票提供担保。这样一来,我丈夫他们便可稳赚五、六千万。你听明白没有?他们为何对谁也不放心,生怕走漏一点风声,不也就再清楚不过了吗?”

  瓦尔特夫人感到,她在杜·洛瓦心中的地位,现已变得重要起来,因此将两手放在他的膝盖上,上身紧紧地贴着他的胸膛。为了博得他的一笑和他对她的爱抚,现在不论要她做什么,她也会在所不辞。

  “情况确实吗?”杜·洛瓦问。

  “绝无问题,”瓦尔特夫人充满自信。

  “这一手确实漂亮,”杜·洛瓦说,“至于拉罗舍这个混蛋,到时候,我可要给他一点厉害。啊,这个恶棍!他最好还是小心点……最好还是小心点……他那部长职位已完全掌握在我手里!”

  他想了想,自言自语道:

  “不过这个机会倒不可放过。”

  “这种股票,”她说,“你现在要买也还可以,每股才七十二法郎。”

  “是呀,可是我手头没有现钱。”

  瓦尔特夫人抬起头来看着他,目光中充满央求:

  “此点我已想到,我的小猫咪。你若能听我的话,对我好一点,所需的钱可由我来借给你。”

  “这个嘛,就算了吧,”杜·洛瓦断然回绝。

  “听我说,”瓦尔特夫人又哀求道,“我还想了个办法,无须你借一个铜子。我本想买一万法郎这种股票,以便积攒一点私房。这样吧,既然你无现金购买,我就买他两万,其中有一半算你的。你知道,这笔钱我不必还我丈夫。因此你现在一分钱也不用出。如果事情成功,你可得七万法郎。如果不能成功,你欠我的一万法郎,什么时候归还都可以。”

  “不,”杜·洛瓦仍不同意,“这种做法我不太喜欢。”

  瓦尔特夫人于是又摆出一大堆理由来说服他,说他实际上只是凭一句话而参加一万法郎的认购,因此也是承担着一定风险的。其次,她也不必为他垫一分钱,因为所需款项将从她丈夫的银行透支。

  此外,她还向他阐明,这件事若能成功,将完全归功于他在《法兰西生活报》从政治方面所进行的努力,若不加以利用,就未免太愚蠢了。

  杜·洛瓦依然犹豫不决,瓦尔特夫人又说道:

  “你应当这样想:这一万法郎,实际上是我丈夫替你垫的,你替他办的事所应得到的报酬,远远不止这些。”

  “好吧,那就这样办,”杜·洛瓦终于说,“你认购的股票中算我一半。如果将来本金全亏,我便给你一万法郎。”

  瓦尔特夫人欣喜万状,她站起身,双手扶着他的头,吻了又吻。

  杜·洛瓦起初未予制止。不想她更加大胆,到后来竟紧紧搂着他,在他脸上到处吻着。他想另一位就要来了,如果他心一软,势必会消耗他一些时间,况且他与其在老东西怀内耗费精力,还不如留待年轻的德·马莱尔夫人到来。

  他于是轻轻将她推开,说道:

  “好了好了,不要再这样了。”

  “啊,乔治!”瓦尔特夫人痛苦地看着他,“我现在连吻吻你也不行了。”

  “今天不行,我有点头疼。总是这样,我会受不了的。”杜·洛瓦说。

  瓦尔特夫人只得顺从地在他的两腿间重新坐下,说道:“明晚来我家吃饭好吗?你若能来,我将不知有多高兴。”

  他沉吟良久,最终还是不敢拒绝,说道:

  “好呀,我一定来。”

  “真是太感谢了,亲爱的。”

  激动不已的她,不禁温柔地将她的面颊在他的胸膛上慢慢地蹭来蹭去。不料她的一根乌黑的长发,在不知不觉中缠在了他上身背心的钮扣上。

  她发现后心中忽发奇想,这种纯属迷信的奇想,正是女人们在考虑问题时所常有的。她于是索性把那根头发绕在那个扣子上。接着又在另一个扣子上绕了一根。如此接二连三,她在杜·洛瓦上身背心的所有扣子上,都绕了根自己的头发。

  待会儿,杜·洛瓦一站起来,势必会将这些头发扯断,从而给她造成疼痛。然而对她说来,这将是多大的幸事!她的一小绺头发,即她身上的一些东西,将因而被他带走。这类信物,他还从来没有跟她索要过。而现在,这一根根头发将像一种无形的纽带,神不知鬼不觉地把她紧紧同他连结在一起,是她留在他身上的一件法宝。总之,杜·洛瓦将会不由自主地想着她,思念她。他对她的爱或许明天就会变得强烈一些。

  “我要走了,”杜·洛瓦这时突然说道,“因为我要在众院会议结束之前赶去见两个人,今天不能不去。”

  “是吗?这样快就走?”瓦尔特夫人叹息一声,但接着便隐忍道:“好,你走吧,不过明天可一定要来吃晚饭。”

  她将身子闪了开来,头上猛的一阵短暂而剧烈的疼痛,好像针扎一样。她的心跳得厉害,为自己被他稍稍弄疼而感到十分高兴。

  “那就再见了,”她说。

  杜·洛瓦似笑非笑地将她搂在怀内,冷冷地亲了亲她的两眼。

  她被这亲吻顿时弄得心醉神迷,又叹息了一声:“这样快就要走了!”哀求的目光始终盯着房门大开的卧房。

  杜·洛瓦将她轻轻推开,脸上一副焦急的样子:

  “我得走了,再要耽搁,就赶不上了。”

  她于是凑过嘴唇,杜·洛瓦在上面随便碰了碰,一面将她遗忘的雨伞递给她,说道:

  “快走,快走,现在已经三点多了。”

  她先他一步走了出去,嘴里仍在不停地说道:“明晚七点,可别忘了。”

  “明晚七点,我不会忘的。”杜·洛瓦说。

  他们随即分了手,一个往右,一个往左。

  杜·洛瓦一直走到环城大街,然后又沿着马勒泽布大街慢慢走了回来。走到一家食品店门前,他发现玻璃缸里装着糖炒栗子,心想这是克洛蒂尔德特别爱吃的,于是走去买了一袋。四点整,他回到君士坦丁堡街,恭候其年轻情妇的光临。

  德·马莱尔夫人今天来得较晚,因为她丈夫又从外地回来了,要住上一星期。

  “你明天能来我家吃晚饭吗?我丈夫见到你一定会很高兴的。”她问杜·洛瓦。

  “不行,我明天要去老板家吃晚饭。我们有许多政治方面和金融方面的事情要商量。”

  她已摘去帽子,现在正忙着脱下绷得太紧的胸衣。

  “我给你买了点糖炒栗子,”杜·洛瓦指了指放在壁炉上的纸袋。

  “是吗?”她拍起了手,“你真是太好了。”

  她走去拿起栗子,挑了一个尝了尝,说道:

  “这玩艺儿真不错,我想我会把它全都吃光的。”

  她神采飞扬,深情地看着他:

  “我的毛病很多,看来不论哪一方面,都未使你感到讨厌。”

  她慢慢地吃着栗子,并不时往袋内了上一眼,看里边是否还有。

  “来,”她这时说道,“你来坐在这椅子上,我就坐在你两腿之间吃我的栗子。那一定很是惬意。”

  杜·洛瓦笑了笑,随即坐下并张开两腿,让她坐在中间,同瓦尔特夫人刚才坐的地方一样。

  她仰起头,嘴里塞得满满的,向他说道:

  “告诉你,亲爱的,我梦见了你,梦见咱们俩骑着一头骆驼作长途跋涉。那是一头双峰驼,我们每人骑在一个驼峰上,穿过一片沙漠,身边带着三明治和葡萄酒。三明治用纸包着,酒则装在玻璃瓶内。我们的饭就在驼峰上吃。可是没过多久,我便觉得乏味了,因为其他的事,什么也做不了,我们之间隔的距离又太大。因此我想下来。”

  “我也想下来,”杜·洛瓦打趣道。

  他哈哈大笑,觉得这个故事很是开心,因此怂恿她继续说这说那,即情侣们在一起常说的那种天真烂漫、柔情依依的“疯话”。这无所顾忌的笑谈,出自德·马莱尔夫人之口,他觉得是那样情趣盎然,而如果由瓦尔特夫人说出来,则定会使他大为扫兴。

  克洛蒂尔德现在对他是左一个“我的小宝贝”,右一个“我的小猫咪”地叫个不停,他听了心里美滋滋的,毫无不悦之感;而刚才瓦尔特夫人这样叫他,他却感到十分刺耳,很不舒服。这毫不足怪,同样的情话出自不同的人之口,效果也全然不同。

  不过杜·洛瓦在为这荡人心魄的欢声笑语所陶醉的同时,心里却想的是他即将赚到的七万法郎。因此他忽然以手指在德·马莱尔夫人的头上敲了两下,打断了她的喁喁絮语,说道:

  “听我说,我的小猫咪。替我给你丈夫捎句话。就说我说的,让他明天去买一万法郎摩洛哥股票。此股票的现价是每股七十二法郎。不出三个月,我保证他能赚六万至八万法郎。你可要叫他严守秘密,就说是我讲的,政府已决定向丹吉尔出兵,国家将为摩洛哥股票提供担保。至于别的人,你就不用管了。我对你讲的这些,可是国家机密。”

  克洛蒂尔德的神情已变得十分严肃,说道:

  “谢谢你的关照。我今晚就告诉我丈夫。对于他,你尽可放心,他不会说的。他这个人嘴很紧,绝不会有问题。”

  她这时已将栗子全部吃完,因而将纸袋在手里揉了揉,扔进壁炉里,说道:“咱们上床吧。”说罢开始给杜·洛瓦解上身背心的钮扣。

  然而她并未解下去,而是手上拿着一根从扣眼上抽出的长发笑了起来:

  “瞧,你可真是个忠实的丈夫,身上还带着玛德莱娜的头发。”

  接着,她又变得严肃起来,对着这被她发现、几乎看不见的头发琢磨了很久,说道:

  “这头发是褐色的,不可能是玛德莱娜的。”

  “或许是女佣的吧,”杜·洛瓦笑道。

  克洛蒂尔德认真地在背心上仔细查了查,结果从另一只钮扣上又抽出了一根长发,随后又找出一根。她忽然脸色煞白,身子微微颤抖,大声喊道:

  “好呀!你一定同哪个女人睡了觉,她把头发缠在了你的纽扣上。”

  “这是哪儿的话?你在胡说什么……”杜·洛瓦惊讶不已,结结巴巴地说道。

  他想了想,很快便明白了过来。虽然有点尴尬,但他立刻便讪笑着矢口否认,对克洛蒂尔德怀疑他另有新欢并无任何不悦之意。

  然而克洛蒂尔德仍在寻找,不断地把她在其他扣子上找到的头发,一一迅速解开,扔到地毯上。

  这究竟是怎么回事,天性机灵的她一眼就看了出来。因此,她顿时气得七窍生烟,狂怒不已,早已泣不成声了:

  “这个女人一定爱着你……她分明是想让你时时带着她身上的某些东西……啊!你这无情无义的东西……”

  她忽然一阵欣喜,神经质地发出一声尖叫:

  “啊!……啊!……这是一根白发……原来是个上了年纪的女人!……好啊!你现在竟同老的也睡起觉来了……她们一定给了你不少钱吧?……说,你收了她们多少钱?……没有想到,你同什么人都可以……既然如此,也就用不着我了……

  你还是同那个人好吧……”

  她站起身,跑去拿起刚才扔在椅子上的胸衣,迅速地穿了起来。

  杜·洛瓦满脸羞愧,走过去想挽留她:

  “不要这样……克洛……别犯傻了……我的确不知道这是怎么回事……听我说……别走……千万别走……”

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