《The French Lieutenant's Woman》的笔记-Chapter61
- 2016-09-27 16:52:11
No. It is as I say. You have not only planted the dagger in my breast, you have delighted in twisting it.” She stood now staring at Charles, as if against her will, but hypnotized, the defiant criminal awaiting sentence. He pronounced it. “A day will come when you shall be called to account for what you have done to me. And if there is justice in heaven—your punishment shall outlast eternity!”He hesitated one last second; his face was like the poised-crumbling walls of a dam, so vast was the weight of anathema pressing to roar down. But as suddenly as she had looked guilty, he ground his jaws shut, turned on his heel and marched towards the door.“Mr. Smithson!”He took a step or two more; stopped, threw her a look back over his shoulder; and then with the violence of a determined unforgivingness, stared at the foot of the door in front of him. He heard the light rustle of her clothes. She stood just behind him.“Is this not proof of what I said just now? That we had better never to have set eyes on each other again?”“Your logic assumes that I knew your real nature. I did not.”“Are you sure?”“I thought your mistress in Lyme a selfish and bigoted woman. I now perceive she was a saint compared to her companion.”“And I should not be selfish if I said, knowing I cannot love you as a wife must, you may marry me?”Charles gave her a freezing look. “There was a time when you spoke of me as your last resource. As your one remaining hope in life. Our situations are now reversed. You have no time for me. Very well. But don’t try to defend yourself. It can only add malice to an already sufficient injury.”It had been in his mind all through: his most powerful, though also his most despicable, argument. And as he said it, he could not hide his trembling, his being at the end of his tether, at least as regards his feeling of outrage. He threw her one last tortured look, then forced himself onward to open the door.“Mr. Smithson!”Again. And now he felt her hand on his arm. A second time he stood arrested, hating that hand, his weakness in letting it paralyze him. It was as if she were trying to tell him something she could not say in words. No more, perhaps, than a gesture of regret, of apology. Yet if it had been that, her hand would surely have fallen as soon as it touched him; and this not only psychologically, but physically detained him. Very slowly he brought his head round and looked at her; and to his shock saw that there was in her eyes, if not about her lips, a suggestion of a smile, a ghost of that one he had received before, so strangely, when they were nearly surprised by Sam and Mary. Was it irony, a telling him not to take life so seriously? A last gloating over his misery? But there again, as he probed her with his own distressed and totally humorless eyes, her hand should surely have dropped. Yet still he felt its pressure on his arm; as if she were saying, look, can you not see, a solution exists?It came upon him. He looked down to her hand, and then up to the face again. Slowly, as if in answer, her cheeks were suffused with red, and the smile drained from her eyes. Her hand fell to her side. And they remained staring at each other as if their clothes had suddenly dropped away and left them facing each other in nakedness; but to him far less a sexual nakedness than a clinical one, one in which the hidden cancer stood revealed in all its loathsome reality. He sought her eyes for some evidence of her real intentions, and found only a spirit prepared to sacrifice everything but itself— ready to surrender truth, feeling, perhaps even all womanly modesty in order to save its own integrity. And there, in that possible eventual sacrifice, he was for a moment tempted. He could see a fear behind the now clear knowledge that she had made a false move; and that to accept her offer of a Platonic —and even if one day more intimate, never consecrated— friendship would be to hurt her most.But he no sooner saw that than he saw the reality of such an arrangement—how he would become the secret butt of this corrupt house, the starched soupirant, the pet donkey. He saw his own true superiority to her: which was not of birth or education, not of intelligence, not of sex, but of an ability to give that was also an inability to compromise. She could give only to possess; and to possess him—whether because he was what he was, whether because possession was so imperative in her that it had to be constantly renewed, could never be satisfied by one conquest only, whether ... but he could not, and would never, know—to possess him was not enough.And he saw finally that she knew he would refuse. From the first she had manipulated him. She would do so to the end.He threw her one last burning look of rejection, then left the room. She made no further attempt to detain him. He stared straight ahead, as if the pictures on the walls down through which he passed were so many silent spectators. He was the last honorable man on the way to the scaffold. He had a great desire to cry; but nothing should wring tears from him in that house. And to cry out. As he came down to the hallway, the girl who had shown him up appeared from a room, holding a small child in her arms. She opened her mouth to speak. Charles’s wild yet icy look silenced her. He left the house.And at the gate, the future made present, found he did not know where to go. It was as if he found himself reborn, though with all his adult faculties and memories. But with the baby’s helplessness—all to be recommenced, all to be learned again! He crossed the road obliquely, blindly, never once looking back, to the embankment. It was deserted; only, in the distance, a trotting landau, which had turned out of sight by the tune he reached the parapet.Without knowing why he stared down at the gray river, now close, at high tide. It meant return to America; it meant thirty-four years of struggling upwards—all in vain, in vain, in vain, all height lost; it meant, of this he was sure, a celibacy of the heart as total as hers; it meant—and as all the things that it meant, both prospective and retrospective, began to sweep down over him ha a black avalanche, he did at last turn and look back at the house he had left. At an open upstairs window a white net curtain seemed to fall back into place.But it was indeed only a seeming, a mere idle movement of the May wind. For Sarah has remained in the studio, staring down at the garden below, at a child and a young woman, the child’s mother perhaps, who sit on the grass engaged in making a daisy chain. There are tears in her eyes? She is too far away for me to tell; no more now, since the windowpanes catch the luminosity of the summer sky, than a shadow behind a light.You may think, of course, that not to accept the offer implicit in that detaining hand was Charles’s final foolishness; that it betrayed at least a certain weakness of purpose in Sarah’s attitude. You may think that she was right: that her battle for territory was a legitimate uprising of the invaded against the perennial invader. But what you must not think is that this is a less plausible ending to their story.For I have returned, albeit deviously, to my original principle: that there is no intervening god beyond whatever can be seen, in that way, in the first epigraph to this chapter; thus only life as we have, within our hazard-given abilities, made it ourselves, life as Marx defined it—the actions of men (and of women) in pursuit of their ends. The fundamental principle that should guide these actions, that I believe myself always guided Sarah’s, I have set as the second epigraph. A modern existentialist would no doubt substitute “humanity” or “authenticity” for “piety”; but he would recognize Arnold’s intent.The river of life, of mysterious laws and mysterious choice, flows past a deserted embankment; and along that other deserted embankment Charles now begins to pace, a man behind the invisible gun carriage on which rests his own corpse. He walks towards an imminent, self-given death? I think not; for he has at last found an atom of faith in himself, a true uniqueness, on which to build; has already begun, though he would still bitterly deny it, though there are tears in his eyes to support his denial, to realize that life, however advantageously Sarah may in some ways seem to fit the role of Sphinx, is not a symbol, is not one riddle and one failure to guess it, is not to inhabit one face alone or to be given up after one losing throw of the dice; but is to be, however inadequately, emptily, hopelessly into the city’s iron heart, endured. And out again, upon the unplumb’d, salt, estranging sea.
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