Chapter 17 The Final Plot

Three months had elapsed. Georges du Roy’s divorce had been obtained. His wife had resumed the name of Forestier.

As the Walters were going to Trouville on the fifteenth of July, they decided to spend a day in the country before starting.

The day chosen was Thursday, and they set out at nine o’clock in the morning in a large six-seated carriage drawn by four horses. They were going to lunch at Saint-Germain. Bel-Ami had requested that he might be the only young man in the party, for he could not bear the presence of the Marquis de Cazolles. At the last moment, however, it was decided that Count de Latour-Ivelin should go, for he and Rose had been betrothed a month. The day was delightful. Georges, who was very pale, gazed at Suzanne as they sat in the carriage and their eyes met.

Mme. Walter was contented and happy. The luncheon was a long and merry one. Before leaving for Paris, Du Roy proposed a walk on the terrace. They stopped on the way to admire the view; as they passed on, Georges and Suzanne lingered behind. The former whispered softly: “Suzanne, I love you madly.”

She whispered in return: “I love you too, Bel-Ami.”

He continued: “If I cannot have you for my wife, I shall leave the country.”

She replied: “Ask papa. Perhaps he will consent.”

He answered impatiently: “No, I repeat that it is useless; the door of the house would be closed against me. I would lose my position on the journal, and we would not even meet. Those are the consequences a formal proposal would produce. They have promised you to the Marquis de Cazolles; they hope you will finally say ‘yes’ and they are waiting.”

“What can we do?”

“Have you the courage to brave your father and mother for my sake?”

“Yes.”

“Truly?”

“Yes.”

“Well! There is only one way. It must come from you and not from me. You are an indulged child; they let you say anything and are not surprised at any audacity on your part. Listen, then! This evening on returning home, go to your mother first, and tell her that you want to marry me. She will be very much agitated and very angry.”

Suzanne interrupted him: “Oh, mamma would be glad.”

He replied quickly: “No, no, you do not know her. She will be more vexed than your father. But you must insist, you must not yield; you must repeat that you will marry me and me alone. Will you do so?”

“I will.”

“And on leaving your mother, repeat the same thing to your father very decidedly.”

“Well, and then —”

“And then matters will reach a climax! If you are determined to be my wife, my dear, dear, little Suzanne, I will elope with you.”

She clapped her hands, as all the charming adventures in the romances she had read occurred to her, and cried:

“Oh, what bliss! When will you elope with me?”

He whispered very low: “To-night!”

“Where shall we go?”

“That is my secret. Think well of what you are doing. Remember that after that flight you must become my wife. It is the only means, but it is dangerous — very dangerous — for you.”

“I have decided. Where shall I meet you?”

“Meet me about midnight in the Place de la Concorde.”

“I will be there.”

He clasped her hand. “Oh, how I love you! How brave and good you are! Then you do not want to marry Marquis de Cazolles?”

“Oh, no!”

Mme. Walter, turning her head, called out: “Come, little one; what are you and Bel-Ami doing?”

They rejoined the others and returned by way of Chatou. When the carriage arrived at the door of the mansion, Mme. Walter pressed Georges to dine with them, but he refused, and returned home to look over his papers and destroy any compromising letters. Then he repaired in a cab with feverish haste to the place of meeting. He waited there some time, and thinking his ladylove had played him false, he was about to drive off, when a gentle voice whispered at the door of his cab: “Are you there, Bel-Ami?”

“Is it you, Suzanne?”

“Yes.”

“Ah, get in.” She entered the cab and he bade the cabman drive on.

He asked: “Well, how did it all pass off?”

She murmured faintly:

“Oh, it was terrible, with mamma especially.”

“Your mamma? What did she say? Tell me!”

“Oh, it was frightful! I entered her room and made the little speech I had prepared. She turned pale and cried: ‘Never!’ I wept, I protested that I would marry only you; she was like a mad woman; she vowed I should be sent to a convent. I never saw her like that, never. Papa, hearing her agitated words, entered. He was not as angry as she was, but he said you were not a suitable match for me. As they had vexed me, I talked louder than they, and papa with a dramatic air bade me leave the room. That decided me to fly with you. And here I am; where shall we go?”

He replied, encircling her waist with his arm: “It is too late to take the train; this cab will take us to Sevres where we can spend the night, and to-morrow we will leave for La Roche-Guyon. It is a pretty village on the banks of the Seine between Mantes and Bonnieres.”

The cab rolled on. Georges took the young girl’s hand and kissed it respectfully. He did not know what to say to her, being unaccustomed to Platonic affection. Suddenly he perceived that she was weeping. He asked in affright:

“What ails you, my dear little one?”

She replied tearfully: “I was thinking that poor mamma could not sleep if she had found out that I was gone!”

* * * * * * *

Her mother indeed was not asleep.

When Suzanne left the room, Mine. Walter turned to her husband and asked in despair: “What does that mean?”

“It means that that intriguer has influenced her. It is he who has made her refuse Cazolles. You have flattered and cajoled him, too. It was Bel-Ami here, Bel-Ami there, from morning until night. Now you are paid for it!”

“I?”

“Yes, you. You are as much infatuated with him as Madeleine, Suzanne, and the rest of them. Do you think that I did not see that you could not exist for two days without him?”

She rose tragically: “I will not allow you to speak to me thus. You forget that I was not brought up like you, in a shop.”

With an oath, he left the room, banging the door behind him.

When he was gone, she thought over all that had taken place. Suzanne was in love with Bel-Ami, and Bel-Ami wanted to marry Suzanne! No, it was not true! She was mistaken; he would not be capable of such an action; he knew nothing of Suzanne’s escapade. They would take Suzanne away for six months and that would end it.

She rose, saying: “I cannot rest in this uncertainty. I shall lose my reason. I will arouse Suzanne and question her.”

She proceeded to her daughter’s room. She entered; it was empty; the bed had not been slept in. A horrible suspicion possessed her and she flew to her husband. He was in bed, reading.

She gasped: “Have you seen Suzanne?”

“No — why?”

“She is — gone! she is not in her room.”

With one bound he was out of bed; he rushed to his daughter’s room; not finding her there, he sank into a chair. His wife had followed him.

“Well?” she asked.

He had not the strength to reply: he was no longer angry; he groaned: “He has her — we are lost.”

“Lost, how?”

“Why, he must marry her now!”

She cried wildly: “Marry her, never! Are you mad?”

He replied sadly: “It will do no good to yell! He has disgraced her. The best thing to be done is to give her to him, and at once, too; then no one will know of this escapade.”

She repeated in great agitation: “Never; he shall never have Suzanne.”

Overcome, Walter murmured: “But he has her. And he will keep her as long as we do not yield; therefore, to avoid a scandal we must do so at once.”

But his wife replied: “No, no, I will never consent.”

Impatiently he returned: “It is a matter of necessity. Ah, the scoundrel — how he has deceived us! But he is shrewd at any rate. She might have done better as far as position, but not intelligence and future, is concerned. He is a promising young man. He will be a deputy or a minister some day.”

Mme. Walter, however, repeated wildly: “I will never let him marry Suzanne! Do you hear — never!”

In his turn he became incensed, and like a practical man defended Bel-Ami. “Be silent! I tell you he must marry her! And who knows? Perhaps we shall not regret it! With men of his stamp one never knows what may come about. You saw how he downed Laroche-Mathieu in three articles, and that with a dignity which was very difficult to maintain in his position as husband. So, we shall see.”

Mme. Walter felt a desire to cry aloud and tear her hair. But she only repeated angrily: “He shall not have her!”

Walter rose, took up his lamp, and said: “You are silly, like all women! You only act on impulse. You do not know how to accommodate yourself to circumstances. You are stupid! I tell you he shall marry her; it is essential.” And he left the room.

Mme. Walter remained alone with her suffering, her despair. If only a priest were at hand! She would cast herself at his feet and confess all her errors and her agony — he would prevent the marriage! Where could she find a priest? Where should she turn? Before her eyes floated, like a vision, the calm face of “Christ Walking on the Water,” as she had seen it in the painting. He seemed to say to her: “Come unto Me. Kneel at My feet. I will comfort and instruct you as to what to do.”

She took the lamp and sought the conservatory; she opened the door leading into the room which held the enormous canvas, and fell upon her knees before it. At first she prayed fervently, but as she raised her eyes and saw the resemblance to Bel-Ami, she murmured: “Jesus — Jesus —” while her thoughts were with her daughter and her lover. She uttered a wild cry, as she pictured them together — alone- -and fell into a swoon. When day broke they found Mme. Walter still lying unconscious before the painting. She was so ill, after that, that her life was almost despaired of.

M. Walter explained his daughter’s absence to the servants by saying to them that she had been sent to a convent for a short time. Then he replied to a long letter from Du Roy, giving his consent to his marriage with his daughter. Bel-Ami had posted that epistle when he left Paris, having prepared it the night of his departure. In it he said in respectful terms that he had loved the young girl a long time; that there had never been any understanding between them, but that as she came to him to say: “I will be your wife,” he felt authorized in keeping her, in hiding her, in fact, until he had obtained a reply from her parents, whose wishes were to him of more value than those of his betrothed.

Georges and Suzanne spent a week at La Roche-Guyon. Never had the young girl enjoyed herself so thoroughly. As she passed for his sister, they lived in a chaste and free intimacy, a kind of living companionship. He thought it wiser to treat her with respect, and when he said to her: “We will return to Paris to-morrow; your father has bestowed your hand upon me” she whispered naively: “Already? This is just as pleasant as being your wife.”

  三个月已经过去。杜·洛瓦同玛德莱娜的夫妻关系终于已在最近正式了结。后者的姓如今仍随前夫,她因而还是叫玛德莱娜·弗雷斯蒂埃。瓦尔特一家定于七月十五日前往特鲁维尔度假,他们决定在动身之前先邀请一两位朋友,去乡下玩上一天。

  日子定在星期四。到了这一天,早上九点,大家便乘坐一辆有六个座位的大型长途马车出发了。马车由四匹马拉着,是向驿站租来的。

  他们将去圣热尔曼的“亨利四世餐馆”吃午饭。在这一行人中,杜·洛瓦自然是不可缺少的一员。他曾希望不要邀请德·卡佐勒侯爵同往,因为侯爵那副面孔时时出现在他面前,他实在受不了。然而到最后一刻,大家决定还是把德·拉图尔—

  伊夫林伯爵也带上。决定是在出发的前一天通知他的。

  马车迅速驶过香榭丽舍大街,然后从布洛涅林苑穿了过去。

  明朗的夏日,天青气爽,又不太热。蔚蓝的天空是那样明净,简直可以看到翱翔的燕子身后留下的一道道弧线。

  三位女士坐在车厢的里侧:两个女孩一边一个,她们的母亲坐在中间。三位男士背朝车头,坐在车厢的外侧:两位客人一边一个,中间坐的是瓦尔特。

  马车驶过塞纳河后,便沿着瓦莱里恩山脚前行,不久到达布吉瓦尔,然后仍沿着这条河一直走到佩克。

  德·拉图尔—伊夫林伯爵年龄稍大。一脸长长的络腮胡子是那样轻柔,微风吹来,轻轻飘拂。杜·洛瓦见了,心中不禁大为感慨:“他这满脸的胡子经风这样一吹,真是好看极了。”伯爵此时正含情脉脉地注视着罗莎,他们已在一个月前正式订婚。

  杜·洛瓦面色苍白,不时目不转睛地看着面色也很苍白的苏珊。他们都心有灵犀,两人的目光一旦相遇,便好像在那里喁喁私语,互相倾诉衷肠,但很快也就慌忙躲开了。瓦尔特夫人神色安然,一副心恬意适的样子。

  午饭吃了很长时间,现在该回巴黎了。动身之前,杜·洛瓦提议在门外的平台上略走一走。

  大家先领略了一下四周的景色,然后沿着胸墙一字儿排开,无不陶醉在眼前一望无际的莽莽原野中。连绵不绝的山岗下,塞纳河像一条卧于绿茵场上的巨蟒,逶迤流向麦松—拉菲特。右侧山顶上,有较小管道伸向四方的马尔里渡槽,像一条其大无比的尺蠖僵卧在那里,在天边留下了巨大身影。山下的马尔里城则消失在一片郁郁葱葱的绿树丛中。

  四周原野辽阔,大小村落星罗棋布。韦济内的几口水塘宛如几块明镜散布于稀疏的树林中。左侧天际,高高耸立的萨特鲁维尔钟楼显得分外夺目。

  看到这里,瓦尔特不由地感叹道:“这美丽的景致真是天下少有,连瑞士恐怕也难以找到。”

  接着,大家慢慢地在平台上走了走,尽情领略这如画的景色。

  杜·洛瓦和苏珊走在后边。同众人拉开一段距离后,杜·洛瓦压低嗓音向苏珊说道:

  “苏珊,我爱你。为了你,我现在已是神魂颠倒。”

  “我也一样,漂亮朋友,”苏珊说。

  “要是我不能把你娶过来,”杜·洛瓦又说,“我想我会离开巴黎,离开这个国家的。”

  “你为何不同我爸爸去说,他或许会同意的。”

  杜·洛瓦作了个不耐烦的动作:

  “我已经对你说过不下十次了,这完全是徒劳。你父亲不仅会将我赶出报馆,而且会从此不许我进你家大门一步。这样一来,我恐怕就再也见不到你了。因此,我若按常规去向你父亲说出我的想法,等待我们的肯定是这种结局。他们已将你许给德·卡佐勒侯爵,就差你点头同意。他们在等待着这一天。”

  “那该怎么办呢?”苏珊问。

  杜·洛瓦从侧面瞟了她一眼,有点吞吞吐吐:

  “你是爱我爱得了不得,什么事也敢去做吗?”

  “当然,”苏珊不假思索地说。

  “不管它看来是多么地荒唐?”

  “是的。”

  “不管它看来是多么地违背人之常情?”

  “是的。”

  “这么说,你也敢同你父母对着干?”

  “是的。”

  “真的吗?”

  “当然。”

  “那好,现在唯一的办法是,由你来采取行动,而不是我。他们对你一向非常娇惯,什么都依着你。因此,你若有什么非同寻常之举,他们是不会奇怪的。听着,今晚回去后,你先去你母亲房内,对她说你要嫁给我。她一定会感到意外而大为光火……”

  “哪里,她会同意的,”苏珊打断了他。

  “不,”杜·洛瓦接着说道,“你对她并不了解。她的反应一定比你父亲还要激烈,肯定是坚决反对。你可要顶住,决不让步。你就说,除了我,你谁也不嫁。这一点,你能做到吗?”

  “能做到。”

  “从你母亲房内出来,你再去找你父亲,郑重其事而又非常坚决地把同样的话对他复述一遍。”

  “好的,然后呢?”

  “然后就事关重大了。亲爱的苏珊,要是你确实决心已定,非我不嫁……我打算……带你私奔!”

  “私奔?”苏珊高兴得差点拍起手来,“啊,这该多有意思!

  什么时候私奔呢?”

  转眼之间,她在书上读到过的许多古往今来富于诗意的诱人冒险故事,如夜间出走、乘车远逃和投宿野店,纷纷涌现于她的脑际。这迷人的梦境,如今就要成为现实了。她因而又急切地问道:“我们哪天走呢?”

  “就在……今天晚上,”杜·洛瓦低声答道。

  “咱们去哪儿?”苏珊激动得一阵战栗。

  “这我马上还不能讲。你现在要做的是,对自己的行动好好考虑一下。你应当知道,一旦走出家门,你就只能嫁给我了。除此之外,我们没有别的办法。而且这对你来说……是相当危险的。”

  “我决心已定……”苏珊说,“你就说吧,我去哪儿同你会面?”

  “你能一个人从家里出来吗?”

  “能。有扇小门,我知道怎样开。”

  “那好。午夜时分,待守门人睡下后,你悄悄走出来,到协和广场来找我。我乘坐的马车就停在紧对着海军部的广场上。”

  “好,我一定来。”

  “真的?”

  “当然是真的。”

  杜·洛瓦拿起苏珊的手,紧紧地握着:

  “啊!我是多么地爱你!你真好,也真勇敢,这么说,你是不想嫁给德·卡佐勒先生了?”

  “是的。”

  “你父亲听你说出这个意思时,他是否气得不得了?”

  “我想是的,他说要把我送到修道院办的寄宿学校里去。”

  “你看,这种事情来不得一点心软。”

  “我不会心软的。”

  苏珊两眼看着远处辽阔的天际,心里却被私奔的念头完全占据。她将同他一起……走到比这天际更远的地方……她竟也会私奔!……心里为此而感到无比的荣耀。至于这样做会对她的名声造成怎样可怕的后果,她是不管的,甚至完全懵然无知。

  瓦尔特夫人这时转过身来,向她喊道:

  “到这儿来,小苏珊,你在同漂亮朋友说些什么?”

  他们俩于是赶上了众人,大家在谈论着不久将要去的海滨浴场。

  为了不走同一条路,一行人踏上了经沙图返回巴黎的归程。

  途中,杜·洛瓦始终一言未发。他想,要是苏珊确能拿出一点勇气的话,他是定会成功的。三个月来,为了引诱她,征服她,他一直柔情蜜蜜,对她使出了浑身解数,终于使她爱上了他,而这正是他这位情场得意的老手所擅长的。

  他首先让她拒绝了德·卡佐勒先生的求婚,现在又让她答应和他私奔,因为这是他所能求助的唯一办法。

  他知道,瓦尔特夫人是决不会同意将女儿嫁给他的。她还在爱着他,而且会永远如此,其一片真情,简直难以理论。为遏制她的感情,他对她始终若即若离。他感到,她虽然正为自己的满腔激情无以满足而深深苦恼着,但她决不会就此罢休,更不会让他娶她的女儿苏珊。

  可是他一旦将苏珊从家里弄出来而掌握在自己手中,也就可同她父亲平起平坐,进行谈判了。

  心里想着这些,他对别人此时同他说的话语,自然也就未能听进多少,因此只是哼哼而已。车到巴黎,他才从这沉沉思绪中摆脱出来。

  苏珊也陷入了沉思。耳边时时回荡的马铃声,使她觉得仿佛走在一条漫无尽头的大路上。大地洒满银白的月光,路旁是黑魆魆的丛林和不时出现的乡村客店。马夫们每次更换马匹都是那样匆忙,因为不言而喻,后面必定有人紧紧地追了过来。

  马车驰进府邸大院后,主人要杜·洛瓦吃了饭再走,他谢绝了。

  回到住所后,他随便吃了点东西,把身份证找了出来,好像要出远门似的。接着,他整理了一下同各个方面的往来书信,把一些与己不利的信付之一炬,其他的信则藏了起来。将这一切都办妥后,他坐下来给朋友写了几封信。

  这当儿,他不时地往墙上的挂钟瞟上一眼,心下想道:“那边一定闹得不可开交了。”想到这里,他又有点不安起来,不知道自己的苦心孤诣最后会不会以失败而告终。可是一转念,他又觉得没什么可担心的。天无绝人之路,即使失败,他杜·洛瓦总会有办法对付的。不过话虽如此,今晚这场冒险实在非同寻常。

  十一点左右,他出了家门,在马路上溜达了一会儿,便叫了辆出租马车,到了协和广场,在距海军部门外拱廊不远的地方停了下来。

  每隔一会儿,他便划根火柴看看表。时间已临近午夜,他越来越坐立不安,不时将头伸向车窗外张望。

  远处一座大钟敲了十二下,接着是近处的一座隆隆作响。不想此钟的钟声刚落,又有两座同时响了起来。最后则是很远很远的一座又响了一阵。现在,钟声已全部停息,杜·洛瓦不由地心想:“完了,她没有来,也不会来了。”

  他决心等下去,哪怕是等到天明。决不可在这时候匆匆离去。

  不久,耳际传来钟打十二点一刻的声响,接着是十二点半和十二点三刻。到一点钟时,各处的大钟又像刚才报告午夜已到时那样,相继敲了一下。此时此刻,杜·洛瓦对苏珊的到来是不抱任何希望了,虽然他仍坐在那里,绞尽脑汁猜想她可能会遇到的情况。不想就在这时,车门边突然伸进一个女人的脑袋,向里边问道:“是你吗,漂亮朋友?”

  杜·洛瓦猛的一惊,半晌说不出话来:

  “苏珊,是你?”

  “对,是我。”

  他拧了半天,才将门把拧开,说道:“啊!……你来了……

  你来了……快上来。”

  苏珊跳上车,一下扑在他的怀内。他随即向车夫喊了一声,车子也就启动了。

  苏珊仍在喘息,没有言语。

  “来,把经过情况给我讲讲,”杜·洛瓦说。

  “啊!可怕极了,特别是在我妈那里,”苏珊气弱声嘶。

  “是吗?你妈怎么啦?她说了些什么?快告诉我。”杜·洛瓦慌乱不已,周身颤抖。

  “啊!真是太可怕了。我走进她的房内,把准备好的那番话对她讲了讲。她立刻脸色煞白,向我嚷道:‘不行,绝对不行!’我哭了起来,气愤得很,说我非嫁你不可。我看她那样子,马上就会动手打我,简直像疯了一样。她说明天就将我送进寄宿学校,那气势汹汹的样子,我从未见过。这时候,爸爸来了,听她说了许多颠三倒四的话,爸爸倒没有像她那样发火,不过他说,你同我家是不相宜的。

  “见他们如此反对,我也发起火来,叫的比他们还响。爸爸于是叫我出去,样子凶极了,同他的身份毫不相称。既然如此,我也就决心跟你远走高飞,所以我就来了。我们现在去哪儿?”

  杜·洛瓦一直温柔地搂着苏珊的身腰,对她的话一字也没漏过,心房怦怦直跳。他不觉对这两人恨得咬牙切齿。不过他们的女儿此刻已在他手中,他们就等着瞧吧。他因而答道:“现已太晚,火车是赶不上了。我们就坐这辆车,到塞夫勒去暂且过一夜,明天去拉罗舍—吉昂。那是一个美丽的村子,位于芒特和博尼埃之间的塞纳河畔。”

  “可是我没带衣物,身边一无所有,”苏珊说。

  “这有什么?到了那边总有办法的。”杜·洛瓦漫不经心地笑了笑。

  马车在街上走着。杜·洛瓦拿起苏珊的一只手,恭恭敬敬地在上面轻轻亲了一下。他对这种柏拉图式的爱情还不太习惯,因此一时不知应同她说些什么。不想这时,他发现她哭了,立时慌了手脚:

  “你怎么啦,我亲爱的?”

  苏珊已哭得泪人一般:“我可怜的妈妈要是发现我已离家出走,她这时候是不可能睡安稳觉的。”

  瓦尔特夫人此时确实没有睡。

  苏珊走出她的房间后,房内便只剩下她和她丈夫了。

  只见她带着万分的沮丧,疯也似地向丈夫问道:

  “天哪!这究竟是怎么回事?”

  “问题明摆着,”瓦尔特狂怒道,“苏珊被这精于心计的家伙迷住了心窍。她拒绝同卡佐勒成婚,就是他捣的鬼。他自然是看上了她非同一般的嫁资。”

  接着,他愤怒地在房内走来走去,又说道:

  “你也是,老招他来,不断地恭维他,奉承他,把他宠得简直不成样子。一天到晚,左一个漂亮朋友,右一个漂亮朋友。现在好了,遭到这样的报应。”

  “你说是我……我招他来的?”瓦尔特夫人面如死灰,嗫嚅着说。

  “是的,就是你!”瓦尔特冲着她吼道,“你、苏珊、马莱尔的妻子及其他几个人,都被他迷得像是着了魔。只要有两天没见他来,你就像掉了魂似的坐立不安,你以为我看不出来?”

  她挺直身子,神态庄重地说道:

  “不许你这样同我说话。我可不像你,不是在店铺里长大的。”

  瓦尔特一惊,呆呆地愣了一会儿,忿忿地骂了声“他妈的”,便开了门走了出去,同时将门砰的一声带上。

  丈夫走后,瓦尔特夫人下意识地走到镜子前照了照,似乎想看看自己是不是在梦中,因为眼前这一切实在太可怕,简直令人不可思议。苏珊爱上了漂亮朋友,而漂亮朋友竟也愿意娶她!不,这不是真的,一定是她弄错了。他长得那样帅,女儿一时迷上他,想得到一位这样的丈夫,是很自然的。这不过是一时的冲动。问题是他,他总不致于会同她串通起来吧?瓦尔特夫人想来想去,越想越糊涂,如同一个人遇到巨大不幸时所常有的。不,苏珊的一时头脑发热,漂亮朋友不可能知道。

  就这样,她一会儿觉得杜·洛瓦可能为人奸诈,什么都做得出来,一会儿又觉得他可能并不知情。翻来覆去,想了很久。要是这件事是他的主谋,他这个人也就太鲜廉寡耻了。结果会如何呢?就她所看到的来说,这将会造成多大的危险,带来多少难以想像的痛苦。

  要是他什么也不知道,事情倒还有挽回的余地。他们夫妇俩带着苏珊去外面呆上半年,一切也就会过去的。可是这样一来,她以后还能再见到他吗?因为迄今为止,她还在爱着他。这爱情的箭矢已深深地扎进她的心坎里,要想把它拔掉,是不可能了。

  没有他,她一天也活不了,还不如死了干净。

  她思前想后,不禁忧虑重重,没了主意。同时头也开始疼起来,脑海中思绪如麻,昏昏沉沉,使她感到非常难受。她越想越急躁,越想越为自己弄不清事情的原委而恼火。她看了看墙上的挂钟:一点已过,心下不由地想道:“我不能一个人在这儿苦思冥想,否则会发疯的。还是去叫醒苏珊,问问她,把事情弄清楚。”

  为了不弄出声响,她光着脚,手上拿着蜡烛,到了女儿房间门口,轻轻打开门,走了进去。床上被褥纹丝未动,她起初有点摸不着头脑,以为女儿还在同她父亲理论。但一转念,觉得情况不对,于是慌忙向丈夫的房间跑去。等她一股劲冲到那里时,她已经是面色苍白,气喘吁吁了。丈夫已经躺下,但还在看书。

  见她这副模样,他不由地一惊:

  “怎么回事儿?你这是怎么啦?”

  她嗫嚅着说:

  “看到苏珊没有?”

  “我?没有呀,发生什么事了?”

  “她已经……走了,我没在她的房内……找到她。”

  瓦尔特一下跳下床,穿上拖鞋,连睡裤也没来得及穿,只披了件睡衣,便向女儿的房间奔了过去。

  他向房内扫了一眼,一切不言自明:苏珊已离家出走。

  他将手上的灯随手放在地上,颓丧地倒在一把扶手椅上。

  他妻子此时已赶了上来,问道:

  “怎么样?”

  他已无力回答,连火也懒得发了,只是叹了一声:

  “完了,苏珊已在他手里,我们完了。”

  妻子未明白他的意思:

  “怎么,完了?”

  “唉!自然完了。现在唯一的办法是将苏珊嫁给他。”

  妻子歇斯底里发出一声吼叫:

  “嫁给他?没门儿。你难道疯了?”

  “你嚷也没用,”瓦尔特凄然地答道,“苏珊既已被他拐走,名声已受到玷污。如果将她嫁给他,也还是个万全之计。只要好好解决,这件丑事也就不会张扬出去。”

  妻子暴跳如雷,一个劲地喊道:

  “不行,绝对不行!他这是痴心妄想。我决不同意!”

  “可是苏珊已在他手中,”瓦尔特颓丧地说,“这一手,他做得很漂亮。我们一天不让步,他就一天不会放苏珊回来。因此要想不把事情闹大,必须马上作出让步。”

  妻子有口难言,痛不欲生,只是不停地说道:

  “不!不行!我决不同意!”

  “事情已没有商量的余地,只能这样,”瓦尔特有点不耐烦了。“啊,这个恶棍,他狠狠地把我们捉弄了一番……不过话说回来,此人到底非同一般。我们这样的家庭,要找个出身高贵的人并不难,难的是找个精明强干而有出息的人。他可是前程远大,用不了多久,就会当上议员和部长的。”

  “不……你听到没有……我决不同意把苏珊嫁给他!”妻子仍在歇斯底里地叫喊。

  “住嘴……”瓦尔特不禁心头火起,并作为一个注重实际的人而开始替漂亮朋友说话了。“再说一遍,我们现在只能如此……也必须如此。以后的事,谁能说得清?也许我们将来不会为将女儿嫁给他而感到后悔。他这样的人将来究竟会怎样,谁也拿不准。你也看到了,他只写了三篇文章,就把拉罗舍—马蒂厄这个蠢货从部长座位上拉了下来。事情做得干净利落,一点不失体面,这对他这个做丈夫的来说,是很不容易的。因此对于他,我们还是应当往前看。不管怎样,我们现在的情况是,木已成舟,无法改变了。”

  她真想扑在地上打滚,一边大喊大叫,一边揪自己的头发,狠狠地发泄一通。因此口中仍在吼叫:

  “不要把苏珊给他……我……不……同……意!”

  瓦尔特站起身,提起放在地上的灯,说道:

  “唉!同其他娘儿们一样,你的脑筋也死得很。你们这些人不管遇到什么事,总爱感情用事,不知道按情况的需要而有所退让……真是愚蠢得很。我可是对你说了,苏珊必须嫁给他……我们只能这样。”

  他趿着拖鞋走出了房间。穿着睡衣的身影活像一个滑稽可笑的幽灵,在这万籁俱寂的深宅大院中慢慢地走过那宽阔的走廊,悄然无声地回到自己的房间里。

  他妻子仍茫然地站在那里,心中经受着难以言状的煎熬。再说,她还是没有弄懂这究竟是怎么回事儿,只是感到自己的心在滴血。过了一会儿,她觉得自己不能总这样僵立在这里等待天明。她感到自己非常想逃离这里,非常想迈开大步往前飞奔,去寻求他人的帮助。此时此刻,她实在太需要他人来搭救一把。

  她想了想,自己可向谁求助,什么人能来拉她一把,但未想出。神甫!对,神甫!身边此时若有一位神甫,她定会扑到他的脚下,向他倾诉一切,把自己的过失和苦恼向他和盘托出。神甫听了后,定会明白为何不能将苏珊嫁给那丧尽天良的家伙,并设法加以阻止。

  因此她必须马上找个神甫。可是深更半夜上哪儿去找?然而她又不能就这样呆着。

  不想她的眼前随即出现了一个幻影:基督正神色安详地立在水面上。这影像是如此清晰,同她在画上见到的一模一样。他好像在喊她,对她说:“来,跪到我的脚下来。我会给你以安慰,并告诉你该怎样做。”

  她于是拿起蜡烛,走出房间,往楼下的花房走去。《基督凌波图》已改放在花房尽头的一间门上镶着玻璃的小屋里,以免花房内的潮气把画弄坏。

  这间小屋因而也就像是一座小教堂立在那里,门外树影婆娑,到处长着奇花异草。

  瓦尔特夫人进入花房后心头不禁一怔,因为以前每次来这里,举目所见处处光亮耀眼,而今天这里却笼罩在一片深沉的黑暗中。空气中弥漫着枝叶繁茂的热带植物发出的浓郁气息。由于通向花园的各扇大门早已关上,这积存于玻璃拱顶下的花草气息因而变得相当闷浊。不过,它虽使人感到呼吸困难,头晕目眩,仿佛处于一种死气沉沉的沉闷状态中,但也在人的肌肤上激起一种荡人心魄的快感,令人心向往之。

  可怜的瓦尔特夫人在黑暗里踽踽独行,心中不禁十分惶恐,因为借着手中摇曳不定的烛光,那些来自南国的树木看去是那样奇特,有的酷似面目狰狞的魔鬼,有的却像是一个个人站在那里。

  这时,她蓦地看到画上的基督,于是打开小屋的门,走进去跪了下来。

  她立刻便狂热地祷告起来,口中喃喃自语,说着美好的祝福话语,一片痴心而又带着分外的绝望,祈求基督的保佑。这之后,随着她激动的心绪逐渐平息下来,她举目向基督看了看,不由地感到深深地骇异。因为在她脚下那昏暗的烛光照耀下,基督的相貌同漂亮朋友竟是如此相像,她现在所看到的简直不是这位神明,而是她的情夫。这眼神,这宽宽的前额,这冷漠而又傲慢的面部表情,分明都是她的情夫乔治的!“基督!基督!基督!”她仍在一个劲地祷告着,但“乔治”两字却在不知不觉中涌到了嘴边。她忽然想起,此时此刻杜·洛瓦也许已占有她女儿。他们现在一定呆在某个地方的一间房间里。他和苏珊在一起!

  “基督!……基督!”她不停地祷告着,但心里却想的是他们……想的是她女儿和她的情夫!他们正单独呆在一间房间里……而现在已是深夜。她看到了他们,而且非常清楚,他们就呆在她面前这放油画的地方。他们相视而笑,互相拥抱。房内很暗,床幔露出一条缝隙。她站起身向他们走去,想揪住女儿的头发,把她从杜·洛瓦的怀内拖出来。她要掐住她的喉咙,把她活活掐死。她恨死了她女儿,因为她竟然同这个人睡在一起。她已经碰到了她……不想她的手所接触到的,却是那幅油画,却是基督的脚。

  她大叫一声,仰面倒了下去。放在地上的蜡烛随即被碰翻,很快熄灭了。

  后来怎样呢?她久久地沉陷于梦幻中,梦见许多古怪而又可怕的事情。眼前总浮现着紧紧搂在一起的乔治和苏珊,站在一旁的耶稣基督,在为他们的可恶爱情祝福。

  她隐约感到自己并不是躺在房间里。她想站起身,离开这地方,但周身麻木,手脚瘫软,怎么也动不了,只有头脑还较为清醒,但也充斥着许多荒诞离奇、虚无缥缈的可怕梦幻。来自南国的植物,因形状古怪,香味浓郁而常会使人昏昏欲睡,做出这种颠三倒四,甚至危及生命的恶梦来。

  天亮后,人们在《基督凌波图》前发现她时,她已是人事不知,气息奄奄了。她的身体状况是那样糟,谁都担心她是活不了多久了。不想第二天,她又恢复了知觉,且一醒过来便呜咽不止。

  关于苏珊的失踪,对仆人说的是,已临时决定将她送到一所寄宿学校去了。这期间,瓦尔特先生收到了杜·洛瓦一封长信。他立刻作了回复,同意将女儿嫁给他。

  杜·洛瓦这封长信是在他离开巴黎时投入邮筒的,因为他在动身前的头天晚上就写好了。这封信言辞殷殷,说他早就对姑娘产生爱慕之心了,不过他们之间并未山盟海誓,私订终身。只是在她主动跑来对他说,定要与他终身相伴时,他才觉得有必要将她留下来,甚至藏起来,直到她父母给予正式答复。虽然他觉得,他们的结合主要取决于姑娘本人的意愿,但父母的同意却可使之具有合法性。

  他要瓦尔特先生把信寄到邮局,他的一位朋友会设法转寄给他。

  现在,他终于如愿得偿,因此将苏珊带回巴黎,送到了她父母身边。他自己则打算过一段时候再露面。

  他们俩在塞纳河边的一个名叫拉罗舍—吉昂的地方呆了六天。

  苏珊从未像这次外出玩得那样痛快,完全是一副无忧无虑牧羊女的样子。由于在外人面前,杜·洛瓦一直把她说成是自己的妹妹,两人的相处因而亲密无间,无拘无束,很有一点纯洁初恋的味道。因为杜·洛瓦觉得,自己对她还是以不操之过急为好。他们到达那里的第二天,苏珊便买了些内衣和村姑穿的衣服,走到河边钓起鱼来,头上戴着顶大草帽,草帽上插着几朵野花。她觉得这地方真是美极了,且有一座年代久远的钟楼和一座古堡,古堡内陈列着精致的壁毯。

  杜·洛瓦穿着一件在当地一家商店买的短上装,不时带着苏珊在河边漫步,或在水上泛舟。他们情爱甚笃,时时相拥,激动得浑身发颤。在她,完全是一副天真烂漫的心态,而他却有点难以自持了。不过他终究不是那种一时冲动,便忘乎所以的人。因此当他对苏珊说:“你父亲已同意把你嫁给我,我们明天就回巴黎”,苏珊竟有点恋恋不舍:“这样快就走?做你的妻子可真有意思!”

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