柔石《为奴隶的母亲》 -经典散文英译-中英双语赏析

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◎ 柔 石 Rou Shi

为奴隶的母亲

◎ 柔石

她底丈夫是一个皮贩,就是收集乡间各猎户底兽皮和牛皮,贩到大埠上出卖的人。但有时也兼做点农作,芒种 〔1〕  的时节,便帮人家插秧,他能将每行插得非常直,假如有五人同在一个水田内,他们一定叫他站在第一个做标准。然而境况总是不佳,债是年年积起来了。他大约就因为境况的不佳,烟也吸了,酒也喝了,钱也赌起来了。这样,竟使他变做一个非常凶狠而暴躁的男子,但也就更贫穷下去,连小小的移借,别人也不敢答应了。

在穷底结果的病以后,全身便变成枯黄色,脸孔黄的和小铜鼓 〔2〕  一样,连眼白也黄了。别人说他是黄疸病,孩子们也就叫他“黄胖”了。有一天,他向他底妻说:

“再也没有办法了,这样下去,连小锅子也都卖去了。我想,还是从你底身上设法罢。你跟着我挨饿,有什么办法呢?”

“我底身上?……”

他底妻坐在灶后,怀里抱着她底刚满三周岁的男小孩。她讷讷地低声地问。

“你,是呀,”她底丈夫病后的无力的声音,“我已经将你出典了…… 〔3〕  ”

“什么呀?”他底妻几乎昏去似的。

屋内是稍稍静寂了一息。他气喘着说:

“三天前,王狼来坐讨了半天的债回去以后,我也跟着他去,走到了九亩潭边,我很不想要做人了。但是坐在那株爬上去一纵身就可落在潭里的树下,想来想去,终没有力气跳了。猫头鹰在耳朵边不住地啭,我底心被它叫寒起来,我只得回转身,但在路上,遇见了沈家婆,她问我,晚也晚了,在外做什么。我就告诉她,请她代我借一笔款,或向什么人家的小姐借些衣服或首饰去暂时当一当,免得王狼底狼一般的绿眼睛天天在家里闪烁 〔4〕  。可是沈家婆向我笑道:

“‘你还将妻养在家里做什么呢,你自己黄也黄到这个地步了?’

“我低着头站在她面前没有答,她又说:

“‘儿子呢,你只有一个了,舍不得。但妻——’

“我当时想:‘莫非叫我卖去妻子么?’

“而她继续道:

“‘但妻——虽然是结发的,穷了,也没有法,还养在家里做什么呢?’

“这样,她就直说出:‘有一个秀才,因为没有儿子,年纪已经五十岁了,想买一个妾;又因他底大妻不允许,只准他典一个,典三年或五年,叫我物色相当的女人:年纪约三十岁左右,养过两三个儿子的,人要沉默老实,又肯做事,还要对他底大妻肯低眉下首。这次是秀才娘子向我说的,假如条件合,肯出八十元或一百元的身价。我代她寻了好几天,终没有相当的女人。’她说:现在碰到我,想起了你来,样样都对的。当时问我底意见怎样,我一边掉了几滴泪,一边却被她催的答应她了。”

说到这里,他垂下头,声音很低弱,停止了。他底妻简直痴似的,话一句没有。又静寂了一息,他继续说:

“昨天,沈家婆到过秀才底家里,她说秀才很高兴,秀才娘子也喜欢,钱是一百元,年数呢,假如三年养不出儿子,是五年。沈家婆并将日子也拣定了——本月十八,五天后。今天,她写典契去了。”

这时,他底妻简直连腑脏都颤抖,吞吐着问:

“你为什么早不对我说?”

“昨天在你底面前旋了三个圈子,可是对你说不出。不过我仔细想,除出将你底身子设法外,再也没有办法了。”

“决定了么?”妇人战着牙齿问。

“只待典契写好。”

“倒霉的事情呀,我——一点也没有别的方法了么?”

“倒霉,我也想到过,可是穷了,我们又不肯死,有什么办法?今年,我怕连插秧也不能插了。”

“你也想到过春宝么?春宝还只有三岁,没有娘,他怎么好呢?”

“我领他便了。本来是断了奶的孩子。”

他似乎渐渐发怒了。也就走出门外去了。她,却呜呜咽咽地哭起来。

这时,在她过去的回忆里,却想起恰恰一年前的事:那时她生下了一个女儿,她简直如死去一般地卧在床上。死还是整个的,她却肢体分作四碎与五裂:刚落地的女婴,在地上的干草堆上叫:“呱呀,呱呀,”声音很重的,手脚揪缩。脐带绕在她底身上,胎盘落在一边,她很想挣扎起来给她洗好,可是她底头昂起来,身子凝滞在床上。这样,她看见她底丈夫,这个凶狠的男子,绯红着脸,提了一桶沸水到女婴的旁边。她简直用了她一生底最后的力向他喊:“慢!慢……”但这个病前极凶狠的男子,没有一分钟商量的余地,也不答半句话,就将“呱呀,呱呀,”声音很重地在叫着的女儿,刚出世的新生命,用他底粗暴的两手捧起来,如屠户捧将杀的小羊一般,扑通,投下在沸水里了!除出沸水的溅声和皮肉吸收沸水的嘶声以外,女孩一声也不喊。她当时剜去了心一般地昏去了。

想到这里,似乎泪竟干涸了。“唉!苦命呀!”她低低地叹息了一声。这时春宝向他底母亲的脸上看,一边叫:

“妈妈!妈妈!”

在她将离别底前一晚,她拣了房子底最黑暗处坐着。一盏油灯点在灶前,萤火那么的光亮。她,手里抱着春宝,将她底头贴在他底头发上。她底思想似乎浮漂在极远,可是她自己捉摸不定远在哪里。于是慢慢地跑回来,跑到眼前,跑在她底孩子底身上。她向她底孩子低声叫:

“春宝,宝宝!”

“妈妈,”孩子回答。

“妈妈明天要去了……”

“唔,”孩子似不十分懂得,本能地将头钻进他母亲底胸膛。

“妈妈不回来了,三年内不能回来了!”

她擦一擦眼睛,孩子放松口子问:

“妈妈哪里去呢?庙里么?”

“不是,三十里路外,一家姓李的。”

“我也去。”

“宝宝去不得的。”

“呃!”孩子反抗地。

“你跟爸爸在家里,爸爸会照料宝宝的:同宝宝睡,也带宝宝玩,你听爸爸底话好了。过三年……”

她没有说完,孩子要哭似的说:

“爸爸要打我的!”

“爸爸不再打你了,”同时用她底左手抚摸着孩子底右额,在这上,有他父亲在杀死他刚生下的妹妹后第三天,用锄柄敲他,肿起而又平复了的伤痕。

她似要还想对孩子说话;她底丈夫踏进门了。他走到她底面前,一只手放在袋里,掏取着什么,一边说:

“钱已经拿来七十元了。还有三十元要等你到了后十天付。”

停了一息说:“也答应轿子来接。”

又停了一息:“也答应轿夫一早吃好早饭来。”

这样,他离开了她,又向门外走出去了。

这一晚,她和她底丈夫都没有吃晚饭 〔5〕  。

第二天,春雨竟滴滴淅淅地落着。

轿是一早就到了。可是这妇人,她却一夜不曾睡。她先将春宝底几件破衣服都修补好;春将完了,夏将到了,可是她,连孩子冬天用的破烂棉袄都拿出来,移交给他底父亲——实在,他已经在床上睡去了。以后,她坐在他底旁边,想对他说几句语,可是长夜是迟延着过去,她底话一句也说不出。而且,她大着胆向他叫了几声,发了几个听不清楚的音,声音在他底耳外,她也就睡下不说了。

等她朦朦胧胧地刚离开思索将要睡去,春宝又醒了。他就推叫他底母亲,要起来。以后当她给他穿衣服的时候,向他说:

“宝宝好好地在家里,不要哭,免得你爸爸打你。以后妈妈常买糖果来,买给宝宝吃,宝宝不要哭。”

而小孩子竟不知道悲哀是什么一回事,张大口子“唉,唉,”地唱起来了。她在他底唇边吻了一吻,又说:

“不要唱,你爸爸被你唱醒了。”

轿夫坐在门首的板凳上,抽着旱烟,说着他们自己要听的话。一息,邻村的沈家婆也赶到了。一个老妇人,熟悉世故的媒婆,一进门,就拍拍她身上的雨点,向他们说:

“下雨了,下雨了,这是你们家里此后会有滋长的预兆。”

老妇人忙碌似地在屋内旋了几个圈,对孩子底父亲说了几句话,意思是讨酬报。因为这件契约之能订的如此顺利而合算,实在是她底力量。

“说实在话,春宝底爸呀,再加五十元,那老头子可以买一房妾了。”她说。

于是又变向催促她——妇人却抱着春宝,这时坐着不动。老妇人声音很高地:

“轿夫要赶到他们家里吃中饭的,你快些预备走呀!”

可是妇人向她瞧了一瞧,似乎说:

“我实在不愿离开呢!让我饿死在这里罢!”

声音是在她底喉下,可是媒婆懂得了,走近到她前面,迷迷地向她笑说:

“你真是一个不懂事的丫头,黄胖还有什么东西给你呢?那边真是一份有吃有剩的人家,两百多亩田,经济很宽裕,房子是自己底,也雇着长工养着牛。大娘底性子是极好的,对人非常客气,每次看见人总给人一些吃的东西。那老头子——实在并不老,脸是很白白的,也没有留胡子,因为读了书,背有些偻偻的,斯文的模样。可是也不必多说,你一走下轿就看见的,我是一个从不说谎的媒婆。”

妇人拭一拭泪,极轻地:

“春宝……我怎么能抛开他呢!”

“不用想到春宝了,”老妇人一手放在她底肩上,脸凑近她和春宝。“有三岁了,古人说:‘三周四岁离娘身’ 〔6〕  ,可以离开你了。只要你底肚子争气些,到那边,也养下一二个来,万事都好了。”

轿夫也在门首催起身了,他们噜 着说:

“又不是新娘子,啼啼哭哭的。”

这样,老妇人将春宝从她底怀里拉去,一边说:

“春宝让我带去罢。”

小小的孩子也哭了,手脚乱舞的,可是老妇人终于给他拉到小门外去。当妇人走进轿门的时候,向他们说:

“带进屋里来罢,外边有雨呢。”

她底丈夫用手支着头坐着,一动没有动,而且也没有话。

两村的相隔有三十里路,可是轿夫的第二次将轿子放下肩,就到了。春天的细雨,从轿子底布篷里飘进,吹湿了她底衣衫。一个脸孔肥肥的,两眼很有心计的约摸五十四五岁的老妇人来迎她,她想:这当然是大娘了。可是只向她满面羞涩地看一看,并没有叫。她很亲昵似地将她牵上沿阶,一个长长的瘦瘦的而面孔圆细的男子就从房里走出来。他向新来的少妇,仔细地瞧了瞧,堆出满脸的笑容来,向她问:

“这么早就到了么?可是打湿你底衣裳了。”

而那位老妇人,却简直没有顾到他底说话,也向她问:

“还有什么在轿里么?”

“没有什么了,”少妇答。

几位邻舍的妇人站在大门外,探头张望的;可是她们走进屋里面了。

她自己也不知道这究竟为什么,她底心老是挂念着她底旧的家,掉不下她的春宝。这是真实而明显的,她应庆祝这将开始的三年的生活——这个家庭,和她所典给他的丈夫,都比曾经过去的要好,秀才确是一个温良和善的人,讲话是那么地低声,连大娘,实在也是一个出乎意料之外的妇人,她底态度之殷勤,和滔滔的一席话:说她和她丈夫底过去的生活之经过,从美满而漂亮的结婚生活起,一直到现在,中间的三十年。她曾做过一次的产,十五六年以前了,养下一个男孩子,据她说,是一个极美丽又极聪明的婴儿,可是不到十个月,竟患了天花死去了。这样,以后就没有再养过第二个。在她底意思中,似乎——似乎——早就叫她底丈夫娶一房妾,可是他,不知是爱她呢,还是没有相当的人——这一层她并没有说清楚;于是,就一直到现在。这样,竟说得这个具着朴素的心地的她,一时酸,一会苦,一时甜上心头,一时又咸的压下去了。最后,这个老妇人并将她底希望也向她说出来了。她底脸是娇红的,可是老妇人说:

“你是养过三四个孩子的女人了,当然,你是知道什么的,你一定知道的还比我多。”

这样,她说着走开了。

当晚,秀才也将家里底种种情形告诉她,实际,不过是向她夸耀或求媚罢了。她坐在一张橱子的旁边,这样的红的木橱,是她旧的家所没有的,她眼睛白晃晃地瞧着它。秀才也就坐到橱子底面前来,问她:

“你叫什么名字呢?”

她没有答,也并不笑,站起来,走到床底前面,秀才也跟到床底旁边,更笑地问她:

“怕羞么?哈,你想你底丈夫么?哈,哈,现在我是你底丈夫了。”声音是轻轻的,又用手去牵着她底袖子。“不要愁罢!你也想你底孩子的,是不是?不过——”

他没有说完,却又哈的笑了一声,他自己脱去他外面的长衫了。

她可以听见房外的大娘底声音在高声地骂着什么人,她一时听不出在骂谁,骂烧饭的女仆,又好像骂她自己,可是因为她底怨恨,仿佛又是为她而发的。秀才在床上叫道:

“睡罢,她常是这么噜噜  的。她以前很爱那个长工,因为长工要和烧饭的黄妈 〔7〕  多说话,她却常要骂黄妈的。”

日子是一天天地过去了。旧的家,渐渐地在她底脑子里疏远了,而眼前,却一步步地亲近她使她熟悉。虽则,春宝底哭声有时竟在她底耳朵边响,梦中,她也几次地遇到过他了。可是梦是一个比一个缥缈,眼前的事务是一天比一天繁多。她知道这个老妇人是猜忌多心的,外表虽则对她还算大方,可是她底嫉妒的心是和侦探一样,监视着秀才对她的一举一动。有时,秀才从外面回来,先遇见了她而同她说话,老妇人就疑心有什么特别的东西买给她了,非在当晚,将秀才叫到她自己底房内去,狠狠地训斥一番不可。“你给狐狸迷着了么?”“你应该称一称你自己底老骨头是多少重 〔8〕  !”像这样的话,她耳闻到不止一次了。这样以后,她望见秀才从外面回来而旁边没有她坐着的时候,就非得急忙避开不可。即使她在旁边,有时也该让开一些,但这种动作,她要做的非常自然,而且不能让旁人看出,否则,她又要向她发怒,说是她有意要在旁人的前面暴露她大娘底丑恶。而且以后,竟将家里的许多杂务都堆积在她底身上,同一个女仆那么样。有时老妇人底换下来的衣服放着,她也给她拿去洗了,虽然她说:

“我底衣服怎么要你洗呢?就是你自己底衣服,也可叫黄妈洗的。”可是接着说:

“妹妹呀,你最好到猪栏里去看一看,那两只猪为什么这样喁喁叫的,或者因为没有吃饱罢,黄妈总是不肯给它吃饱的。”

八个月了,那年冬天,她底胃却起了变化:老是不想吃饭,想吃新鲜的面,番薯等 〔9〕  。但番薯或面吃了两餐,又不想吃,又想吃馄饨,多吃又要呕。而且还想吃南瓜和梅子——这是六月里的东西,真稀奇,向哪里去找呢?秀才是知道在这个变化中所带来的预告了。他镇日地笑微微,能找到的东西,总忙着给她找来。他亲身给她到街上去买橘子,又托便人买了金柑来,他在廊沿下走来走去,口里念念有词的,不知说什么。他看她和黄妈磨过年的粉,但还没有磨了三升,就向她叫:“歇一歇罢,长工也好磨的,年糕是人人要吃的。”

有时在夜里,人家谈着话,他却独自拿了一盏灯,在灯下,读起《诗经》来了:

关关雎鸠,

在河之洲,

窈窕淑女,

君子好逑——

这时长工向他问:

“先生,你又不去考举人,还读它做什么呢?”

他却摸一摸没有胡子的口边,怡悦地说道:

“是呀,你也知道人生底快乐么?所谓:‘洞房花烛夜,金榜挂名时。’你也知道这两句话底意思么?这是人生底最快乐的两件事呀!可是我对于这两件事都过去了,我却还有比这两件更快乐的事呢!”

这样,除出他底两个妻以外,其余的人们都大笑了。

这些事,在老妇人眼睛里是看得非常气恼了。她起初闻到她底受孕也欢喜,以后看见秀才的这样奉承她,她却怨恨她自己肚子底不会还债了。有一次,次年三月了,这妇人因为身体感觉不舒服,头有些痛,睡了三天。秀才呢,也愿她歇息歇息,更不时地问她要什么,而老妇人却着实地发怒了。她说她装娇,噜噜  地也说了三天。她先是恶意地讥嘲她:说是一到秀才底家里就高贵起来了,什么腰酸呀,头痛呀,姨太太的架子也都摆出来了;以前在她自己底家里,她不相信她有这样的娇养,恐怕竟和街头的母狗一样,肚子里有着一肚皮的小狗,临产了,还要到处地奔求着食物。现在呢,因为“老东西”——这是秀才的妻叫秀才的名字——趋奉了她,就装着娇滴滴的样子了。

“儿子,”她有一次在厨房里对黄妈说,“谁没有养过呀?我也曾怀过十个月的孕,不相信有这么的难受。而且,此刻的儿子,还在‘阎罗王的簿里’,谁保的定生出来不是一只癞虾蟆呢?也等到真的‘鸟儿’,从洞里钻出来看见了,才可在我底面前显威风,摆架子,此刻,不过是一块血的猫头鹰,就这么的装腔,也显得太早一点!”

当晚这妇人没有吃晚饭,这时她已经睡了,听了这一番婉转的冷嘲与热骂,她呜呜咽咽地低声哭泣了。秀才也带衣服坐在床上,听到浑身透着冷汗,发起抖来。他很想扣好衣服,重新走起来,去打她一顿,抓住她底头发狠狠地打她一顿,泄泄他一肚皮的气。但不知怎样,似乎没有力量,连指也颤动,臂也酸软了,一边轻轻地叹息着说:

“唉,一向实在太对她好了。结婚了三十年,没有打过她一掌,简直连指甲都没有弹到她底皮肤上过,所以今日,竟和娘娘一般地难惹了。”

同时,他爬过到床底那端,她底身边,向她耳语说:

“不要哭罢,不要哭罢,随她吠去好了 〔10〕  !她是阉过的母鸡 〔11〕  ,看见别人的孵卵是难受的。假如你这一次真能养出一个男孩子来,我当送你两样宝贝——我有一只青玉的戒指,一只白玉的……”

他没有说完,可是他忍不住听下门外的他底大妻底喋喋的讥笑的声音,他急忙地脱去了衣服,将头钻进被窝里去,凑向她底胸膛,一边说:

“我有白玉的……”

肚子一天天地膨胀的如斗那么大,老妇人终究也将产婆雇定了,而且在别人的面前,竟拿起花布来做婴儿用的衣服。

酷热的暑天到了尽头,旧历的六月,他们在希望的眼中过去了。秋天始,凉风也拂拂地在乡镇上吹送。于是有一天,这全家的人们都到了希望底最高潮,屋里底空气完全地骚动起来。秀才底心更是异常地紧张,他在天井上不断地徘徊,手里捧着一本历书,好似要读它背诵那么地念去——“戊辰”,“甲戌”,“壬寅之年”,老是反复地轻轻地说着。有时他底焦急的眼光向一间关了窗的房子望去——在这间房子内是有产母底低声呻吟的声音;有时他向天上望一望被云笼罩着的太阳,于是又走向房门口,向站在房门内的黄妈问:

“此刻如何?”

黄妈不住地点着头不做声响,一息,答:

“快下来了,快下来了。”

于是他又捧了那本历书,在廊下徘徊起来。

这样的情形,一直继续到黄昏底青烟在地面起来,灯火一盏盏的如春天的野花般在屋内开起,婴儿才落地了,是一个男的。婴儿底声音是很重地在屋内叫,秀才却坐在屋角里,几乎快乐到流出眼泪来了。全家的人都没有心思吃晚饭。

一个月以后,婴儿底白嫩的小脸孔,已在秋天的阳光里照耀了。这个少妇给他哺着奶,邻舍的妇人围着他们瞧 〔12〕  ,有的称赞婴儿底鼻子好,有的称赞婴儿底口子好,有的称赞婴儿底两耳好;更有的称赞婴儿底母亲,也比以前好,白而且壮了。老妇人却正和老祖母那么地吩咐着,保护着,这时开始说:

“够了,不要弄他哭了。”

关于孩子底名字,秀才是煞费苦心地想着,但总想不出一个相当的字来。据老妇人底意见,还是从“长命富贵”或“福禄寿喜”里拣一个字,最好还是“寿”字或与“寿”同意义的字,如“其颐”,“彭祖”等,但秀才不同意,以为太通俗,人云亦云的名字。于是翻开了《易经》,《书经》,向这里面找,但找了半月,一月,还没有恰贴的字。在他底意思:以为在这个名字内,一边要祝福孩子,一边要包含他底老而得子底蕴义,所以竟不容易找。这一天,他一边抱着三个月的婴儿,一边又向书里找名字,戴着一副眼镜,将书递到灯底旁边去。婴儿底母亲呆呆地坐在房内底一边,不知思想着什么,却忽然开口说道:

“我想,还是叫他‘秋宝’罢。”屋内的人们底几对眼睛都转向她,注意地静听着:“他不是生在秋天吗?秋天的宝贝——还是叫他‘秋宝’罢。”

秀才立刻接着说道:

“是呀,我真极费心思了。我年过半百,实在到了人生的秋期,孩子也正养在秋天;‘秋’是万物成熟的季节,秋宝,实在是一个很好的名字呀!而且《书经》里没有么?‘乃亦有秋,’我真乃亦有‘秋’了!”

接着,又称赞了一通婴儿底母亲:说是呆读书实在无用,聪明是天生的。这些话,说的这妇人连坐着都觉得局促不安,垂下头,苦笑地又含泪地想:

“我不过因春宝想到罢了。”

秋宝是天天成长的非常可爱地离不开他底母亲了。他有出奇的大的眼睛,对陌生人是不倦地注视地瞧着,但对他底母亲,却远远地一眼就知道了。他整天地抓住了他底母亲,虽则秀才是比她还爱他,但不喜欢父亲;秀才底大妻呢,表面也爱他,似爱她自己亲生的儿子一样,但在婴儿底大眼睛里,却看她似陌生人,也用奇怪的不倦的视法。可是他的执住他底母亲愈紧,而他底母亲的离开这家的日子也愈近了。春天底口子咬住了冬天底尾巴;而夏天底脚又常是紧随着在春天底身后的;这样,谁都将孩子底母亲底三年快到的问题横放在心头上。

秀才呢,因为爱子的关系,首先向他底大妻提出来了:他愿意再拿出一百元钱,将她永远买下来。可是他底大妻底回答是:

“你要买她,那先给我药死罢!”

秀才听到这句话,气的只向鼻孔放出气,许久没有说;以后,他反而做着笑脸地:

“你想想孩子没有娘……”

老妇人也尖利地冷笑地说:

“我不好算是他底娘么?”

在孩子底母亲的心呢,却正矛盾着这两种的冲突了:一边,她底脑里老是有“三年”这两个字,三年是容易过去的,于是她底生活便变做在秀才底家里底佣人似的了。而且想象中的春宝,也同眼前的秋宝一样活泼可爱,她既舍不得秋宝,怎么就能舍得掉春宝呢?可是另一边,她实在愿意永远在这新的家里住下去,她想,春宝的爸爸不是一个长寿的人,他底病一定是在三五年之内要将他带走到不可知的异国里去的,于是,她便要求她底第二个丈夫,将春宝也领过来,这样,春宝也在她底眼前。

有时,她倦坐在房外的沿廊下,初夏的阳光,异常地能令人昏朦地起幻想,秋宝睡在她底怀里,含着她底乳,可是她觉得仿佛春宝同时也站在她底旁边,她伸出手去也想将春宝抱近来,她还要对他们兄弟两人说几句话,可是身边是空空的。

在身边的较远的门口,却站着这位脸孔慈善而眼睛凶毒的老妇人,目光注视着她。这样,她也恍恍惚惚地敏悟:“还是早些脱离罢,她简直探子一样地监视着我了。”

以后,秀才又将计划修改了一些,他想叫沈家婆来,叫她向秋宝底母亲底前夫去说,他愿否再拿进三十元——最多是五十元,将妻续典三年给秀才。秀才对他底大妻说:

“要是秋宝到五岁,是可以离开娘了。”

他底大妻正是手里捻着念佛珠,一边在念着“南无阿弥陀佛”,一边答:

“她家里也还有前儿在,你也应放她和她底结发夫妇团聚一下罢。”

秀才低着头,断断续续地仍然这样说:

“你想想秋宝两岁就没有娘……”

可是老妇人放下念佛珠说:

“我会养的,我会管理他的,你怕我谋害了他么?”

秀才一听到末一句话,就拔步走开了。老妇人仍在后面说:

“这个儿子是帮我生的,秋宝是我底;绝种虽然是绝了你家底种,可是我却仍然吃着你家底餐饭。你真被迷了,老昏了,一点也不会想了。你还有几年好活,却要拼命拉她在身边?双连牌位,我是不愿意坐的!”

老妇人似乎还有许多刻毒的锐利的话,可是秀才走远开听不见了。

在夏天,婴儿底头上生了一个疮,有时身体稍稍发些热,于是这位老妇人就到处地问菩萨,求佛药,给婴儿敷在疮上,或灌下肚里,婴儿底母亲觉得并不十分要紧,反而使这样小小的生命哭成一身的汗珠,她不愿意,或将吃了几口的药暗地里拿去倒掉了。于是这位老妇人就高声叹息,向秀才说:

“你看,她竟一点也不介意他底病,还说孩子是并不怎样瘦下去。爱在心里的是深的;专疼表面是假的。”

这样,妇人只有暗自挥泪,秀才也不说什么话了。

秋宝一周纪念的时候,这家热闹地排了一天的酒筵,客人也到了三四十,有的送衣服,有的送面,有的送银制的狮 ,给婴儿挂在胸前的,有的送镀金的寿星老头儿,给孩子钉在帽上的。他们祝福着婴儿的飞黄腾达,赞颂着婴儿的长寿永生;主人底脸孔,竟是荣光照耀着,有如落日的云霞反映着在他底颊上似的。

可是在这天,正当他们筵席将举行的黄昏时,来了一个客,从朦胧的暮光中向他们底天井走进,人们都注意他:一个憔悴异常的乡人,衣服补衲的,头发很长,在他底腋下,挟着一个纸包。主人骇异地迎上前去,问他是哪里人,他口吃似地答了,主人一时糊涂的,但立刻明白了,就是那个皮贩。主人更轻轻地说:

“你为什么也送东西来呢?你真不必的呀!”

来客胆怯地向四周看看,一边答说:

“要,要的……我来祝祝这个宝贝长寿千……”

他似没有说完,一边将腋下的纸包打开来了,手指颤动地打开了两三重的纸,于是拿出四只铜制镀银的字,一方寸那么大,是“寿比南山”四字。

秀才底大娘走来了,向他仔细一看,似乎不大高兴。秀才却将他招待到席上,客人们互相私语着。

两点钟的酒与肉,将人们弄得胡乱与狂热了:他们高声猜着拳,用大碗盛着酒互相比赛,闹得似乎房子都被震动了。只有那个皮贩,他虽然也喝了两杯酒,可是仍然坐着不动,客人们也不招呼他。等到兴尽了,于是各人草草地吃了一碗饭,互祝着好话,从两两三三的灯笼光影中,走散了。

而皮贩,却吃到最后,佣人来收拾羹碗了,他才离开了桌,走到廊下的黑暗处。在那里,他遇见了他底被典的妻。

“你也来做什么呢?”妇人问,语气是非常凄惨的。

“我哪里又愿意来,因为没有法子。”

“那未你为什么来的这样晚?”

“我哪里来买礼物的钱呀?!奔跑了一下午,哀求了一上午,又到城里买礼物,走得乏了,饿了,也迟了。”

妇人接着问:

“春宝呢?”

男子沉吟了一息答:

“所以,我是为春宝来的。……”

“为春宝来的?”妇人惊异地回音似地问。

男人慢慢地说:

“从夏天来,春宝是瘦的异样了。到秋天,竟病起来了。我又哪里有钱给他请医生吃药,所以现在病是更厉害了!再不想法救救他,眼见得要死了!”静寂了一刻,继续说:“现在,我是向你来借钱的……”

这时妇人底胸膛内,简直似有四五只猫在抓她,咬她,咀嚼着她底心脏一样。她恨不得哭出来,但在人们个个向秋宝祝颂的日子,她又怎么好跟在人们底声音后面叫哭呢?她吞下她底眼泪,向她底丈夫说:

“我又哪里有钱呢?我在这里,每月只给我两角钱的零用,我自己又哪里要用什么,悉数补在孩子底身上了。现在,怎么好呢?”

他们一时没有话,以后,妇人又问:

“此刻有什么人照顾着春宝呢?”

“托了一个邻舍。今晚,我仍旧想回家,我就要走了。”

他一边说着,一边揩着泪。女的同时哽咽着说:

“你等一下罢,我向他去借借看。”

她就走开了。

三天以后的一天晚上,秀才忽然向这妇人道:

“我给你的那只青玉戒指呢?”

“在那天夜里,给了他了。给了他拿去当了。”

“没有借你五块钱么?”秀才愤怒地。

妇人低着头停了一息答:

“五块钱怎么够呢!”

秀才接着叹息说:

“总是前夫和前儿好,无论我对你怎么样!本来我很想再留你两年的,现在,你还是到明春就走罢!”

女人简直连泪也没有地呆着了。

几天后,他还向她那么地说:

“那只戒指是宝贝,我给你是要你传给秋宝的,谁知你一下就拿去当了!幸得她不知道,要是知道了,有三个月好闹了!”

妇人是一天天地黄瘦了。没有精彩的光芒在她底眼睛里起来,而讥笑与冷骂的声音又充塞在她底耳内了。她是时常记念着她底春宝的病的,探听着有没有从她底本乡来的朋友,也探听着有没有向她底本乡去的便客,她很想得到一个关于“春宝的身体已复原”的消息,可是消息总没有;她也想借两元钱或买些糖果去,方便的客人又没有,她不时地抱着秋宝在门首过去一些的大路边,眼睛望着来和去的路。这种情形却很使秀才底大妻不舒服了,她时常对秀才说:

“她哪里愿意在这里呢,她是极想早些飞回去的。”

有几夜,她抱着秋宝在睡梦中突然喊起来,秋宝也被吓醒,哭起来了。秀才就追逼地问:

“你为什么?你为什么?”

可是女人拍着秋宝,口子哼哼的没有答。秀才继续说:

“梦见你底前儿死了么,那么地喊?连我都被你叫醒了。”

女人急忙地一边答:

“不,不,……好像我底前面有一圹坟呢!”

秀才没有再讲话,而悲哀的幻象更在女人底前面展现开来,她要走向这坟去。

冬末了,催离别的小鸟,已经到她底窗前不住地叫了。先是孩子断了奶,又叫道士们来给孩子度了一个关,于是孩子和他亲生的母亲的别离——永远的别离的命运就被决定了。

这一天,黄妈先悄悄地向秀才底大妻说:

“叫一顶轿子送她去么?”

秀才底大妻还是手里捻着念佛珠说:

“走走好罢,到那边轿钱是那边付的,她又哪里有钱呢,听说她底亲夫连饭也没得吃,她不必摆阔了。路也不算远,我也是曾经走过三四十里路的人,她底脚比我大,半天可以到了。”

这天早晨当她给秋宝穿衣服的时候,她底泪如溪水那么地流下,孩子向她叫:“婶婶,婶婶,”——因为老妇人要他叫她自己是“妈妈”,只准叫她是“婶婶”——她向他咽咽地答应。她很想对他说几句话,意思是:

“别了,我底亲爱的儿子呀!你底妈妈待你是好的,你将来也好好地待还她罢,永远不要再记念我了!”

可是她无论怎样也说不出。她也知道一周半的孩子是不会了解的。

秀才悄悄地走向她,从她背后的腋下伸进手来,在他底手内是十枚双毫角子,一边轻轻说:

“拿去罢,这两块钱。”

妇人扣好孩子底钮扣,就将角子塞在怀内的衣袋里。

老妇人又进来了,注意着秀才走出去的背后,又向妇人说:

“秋宝给我抱去罢,免得你走时他哭。”

妇人不做声响,可是秋宝总不愿意,用手不住地拍在老妇人底脸上。于是老妇人生气地又说:

“那末你同他去吃早饭去罢,吃了早饭交给我。”

黄妈拼命地劝她多吃饭,一边说:

“半月来你就这样了,你真比来的时候还瘦了。你没有去照照镜子。今天,吃一碗下去罢,你还要走三十里路呢。”

她只不关紧要地说了一句:

“你对我真好!”

但是太阳是升的非常高了,一个很好的天气,秋宝还是不肯离开他底母亲,老妇人便狠狠地将他从她底怀里夺去,秋宝用小小的脚踢在老妇人底肚子上,用小小的拳头搔住她底头发,高声呼喊她。妇人在后面说:

“让我吃了中饭去罢。”

老妇人却转过头,汹汹地答 〔13〕  :

“赶快打起你底包袱去罢,早晚总有一次的!”

孩子底哭声便在她底耳内渐渐远去了。

打包裹的时候,耳内是听着孩子底哭声。黄妈在旁边,一边劝慰着她,一边却看她打进什么去。终于,她挟着一只旧的包裹走了。

她离开他底大门时,听见她底秋宝的哭声;可是慢慢地远远地走了三里路了,还听见她底秋宝的哭声。

暖和的太阳所照耀的路,在她底面前竟和天一样无穷止地长。当她走到一条河边的时候,她很想停止她底那么无力的脚步,向明澈可以照见她自己底身子的水底跳下去了。但在水边坐了一会之后,她还得依前去的方向,移动她自己底影子。

太阳已经过午了,一个村里的一个年老的乡人告诉她,路还有十五里;于是她向那个老人说:

“伯伯,请你代我就近叫一顶轿子罢,我是走不回去了!”

“你是有病的么?”老人问。

“是的。”

她那时坐在村口的凉亭里面。

“你从哪里来?”

妇人静默了一时答:

“我是向那里去的;早晨我以为自己会走的。”

老人怜悯地也没有多说话,就给她找了两位轿夫,一顶没篷的轿。因为那是下秧的时节。

下午三四时的样子,一条狭窄而污秽的乡村小街上,抬过了一顶没篷的轿子,轿里躺着一个脸色枯萎如同一张干瘪的黄菜叶那么的中年妇人,两眼朦胧地颓唐地闭着。嘴里的呼吸只有微弱地吐出。街上的人们个个睁着惊异的目光,怜悯地凝视着过去。一群孩子们,争噪地跟在轿后,好像一件奇异的事情落到这沉寂的小村镇里来了。

春宝也是跟在轿后的孩子们中底一个,他还在似赶猪那么地哗着轿走,可是当轿子一转一个弯,却是向他底家里去的路,他却伸直了两手而奇怪了,等到轿子到了他家里的门口,他简直呆似地远远地站在前面,背靠在一株柱子上,面向着轿,其余的孩子们胆怯地围在轿的两边 〔14〕  。妇人走出来了,她昏迷的眼睛还认不清站在前面的,穿着褴褛的衣服,头发蓬乱的,身子和三年前一样的短小,那个六岁的孩子是她底春宝。突然,她哭出来地高叫了:

“春宝呀!”

一群孩子们,个个无意地吃了一惊,而春宝简直吓的躲进屋里他父亲那里去了。

妇人在灰暗的屋内坐了许久许久,她和她底丈夫都没有一句话。夜色降落了,他下垂的头昂起来,向她说:

“烧饭吃罢!”

妇人就不得已地站起来,向屋角上旋转了一周,一点也没有气力地对她丈夫说:

“米缸内是空空的……”

男人冷笑了一声,答说:

“你真在大人家底家里生活过了!米,盛在那只香烟盒子内。”

当天晚上,男子向他底儿子说:

“春宝,跟你底娘去睡!”

而春宝却靠在灶边哭起来了。他底母亲走近他,一边叫:

“春宝,宝宝!”

可是当她底手去抚摸他底时候,他又躲闪开了。男子加上说:

“会生疏得那么快,一顿打呢!”

她眼睁睁地睡在一张龌龊的狭板床上,春宝陌生似地睡在她底身边。在她底已经麻木的脑内,仿佛秋宝肥白可爱地在她身边挣动着,她伸出两手想去抱,可是身边是春宝。这时,春宝睡着了,转了一个身,他底母亲紧紧地将他抱住,而孩子却从微弱的鼾声中,脸伏在她底胸膛上。

沉静而寒冷的死一般的长夜,似无限地拖延着,拖延着……

A Slave Mother

◎ Rou Shi

He was a dealer in animal skins which he bought from hunters in the countryside and sold in town. Sometimes he also worked in the fields; early each summer he turned farm-hand, transplanting rice for other people. As he had learned to transplant the seedlings in wonderfully straight rows, the peasants always asked him to help them. But he never made enough money to support his family and his debts mounted with each passing year. The wretchedness of his life and the hopeless situation he was in caused him to take to smoking, drinking and gambling, and he became vicious and bad-tempered. As he grew poorer and poorer, people stopped lending him money, even in small sums.

With poverty came sickness. He grew sallow: his face took on the sickly colour of a brass drum and even the whites of his eyes became yellow. People said that he had jaundice and urchins nicknamed him “Yellow Fellow”. One day, he said to his wife,

“There’s no way out of it. It looks as if we’ll even have to sell our cooking pot. I’m afraid we have to part. It’s no use both of us going hungry together.”

“We have to part?…” muttered his wife, who was sitting behind the stove with their three-year-old boy in her arms.

“Yes, we have to part,” he answered feebly. “There’s somebody willing to hire you as a temporary wife…”

“What?” she almost lost her senses.

There followed a brief silence. Then the husband continued, falteringly,

“Three days ago, Wang Lang came here and spent a long time pressing me to pay my debt to him. After he had left, I went out. I sat under a tree on the shore of Jiumu Lake and thought of committing suicide. I wanted to climb the tree and dive into the water and drown myself, but, after thinking about it, I lost courage. The hooting of an owl frightened me and I walked away. On my way home, I came across Mrs. Shen, the matchmaker, who asked me why I was out at night. I told her what had happened and asked her if she could borrow some money for me, or some lady’s dresses and ornaments that I could pawn to pay Wang Lang so that he’d no longer be prowling after me like a wolf. But Mrs. Shen only smiled and said,

“‘What do you keep your wife at home for? And you’re so sick and yellow!’

“I hung my head and said nothing. She continued,

“‘Since you’ve got only one son, you might find it hard to part with him. But as for your wife…’

“I thought she meant that I should sell you, but she added,

“‘Of course she is your lawful wife, but you’re poor and you can’t do anything about it. What do you keep her at home for? Starve her to death?’

“Then she said straight out, ‘There’s a fifty-year-old scholar who wants a concubine to bear him a son since his wife is barren. But his wife objects and will only allow him to hire somebody else’s wife for a few years. I’ve been asked to find them a woman. She has to be about thirty years old and the mother of two or three children. She must be honest and hard-working, and obey the scholar’s wife. The scholar’s wife has told me that they are willing to pay from eighty to a hundred dollars for the right sort of woman. I’ve looked around for one for several days, but without any luck. But your wife is just the woman I’ve been looking for.’

“She asked me what I thought about it. It made me cry to think of it, but she comforted me and convinced me that it was all for the best.”

At this point, his voice trailed off, he hung his head and stopped. His wife looked dazed and remained speechless. There was another moment of silence before he continued,

“Yesterday, Mrs. Shen went to see the scholar again. She came back and told me that both the scholar and his wife were very happy about the idea of having you and had promised to pay me a hundred dollars. If you bear them a child they will keep you for three years, if not — for five. Mrs. Shen has fixed the date for you to go — the eighteenth of this month, that is, five days from now. She is going to have the contract drawn up today.”

Trembling all over, the wife faltered,

“Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?”

“Yesterday I went up to you three times, but each time I was afraid to begin. But after thinking it over I’ve come to realize that there’s really nothing to be done but hire you out.”

“Has it all been decided?” asked the wife, her teeth clattering.

“There’s just the contract to be signed.”

“Oh, what a poor wretch I am! Can’t we really do anything else?”

“It’s terrible, I know. But we’re poor and we don’t want to die. What else can we do? I’m afraid this year I won’t even be asked to do any transplanting.”

“Have you thought about Chun Bao? He’s only three. What will become of him without me?”

“I’ll take care of him. You’re not nursing him any longer, you know.”

He became more and more angry with himself and went out. She broke into uncontrolled sobs.

Then, looking back upon the past, she remembered what had just happened one year before: She was lying on her bed more dead than alive after giving birth to a baby girl. The newborn infant was lying on a heap of straw on the ground, crying at the top of her lungs and twitching her little limbs. The umbilical cord was wound round her body and the placenta left by her side. The poor young woman was anxious to get up to wash her baby. But she could only manage to lift her head while her whole body seemed to remain glued to the bed. All of a sudden she saw her husband, fierce and flushed, come up to the baby with a bucket of boiling water. “Stop, stop!…,” she threw what little strength she had into yelling at him. The vicious husband, nevertheless, was uncompromising. Without saying a word, he held up in both hands the baby with her cry of new life and, like a butcher slaughtering a small lamb, splashed her into the boiling water. The baby immediately stopped crying. All was silent except for the sizzling of her flesh in the boiling water. The young woman fainted away at the heart-rending scene.

At the painful recollection, she had no more tears to shed, but sighed faintly, “Oh, what a miserable life!” Chun Bao stared at her, whimpering, “Mummy, mummy!”

On the eve of her departure, she was sitting in the darkest corner of the house. In front of the stove stood an oil lamp, its light flickering like that of a fire-fly. Holding Chun Bao close to her bosom, she pressed her head against his hair. Lost in deep thought, she seemed absolutely dead to the reality surrounding her. Later, she gradually came to, and found herself face to face with the present and her child. Softly she called him,

“Chun Bao, Chun Bao!”

“Yes, mummy!” the child replied.

“I’m going to leave you tomorrow…”

“What?” the child did not quite understand what she meant and instinctively cuddled closer to her.

“I’m not coming back, not for three years!”

She wiped away her tears. The little boy became inquisitive,

“Mummy, where are you going? To the temple?”

“No. I’m going to live with the Li family, about thirty li away.”

“I want to go with you.”

“No, you can’t, darling!”

“Why?” he countered.

“You’ll stay home with daddy, he’ll take good care of you. He’ll sleep with you and play with you. You just listen to daddy. In three years…”

Before she had finished talking the child sadly interrupted her,

“Daddy will beat me!”

“Daddy will never beat you again.” Her left hand was stroking the scar on the right side of the boy’s forehead — a reminder of the blow dealt by her husband with the handle of a hoe three days after he killed the baby girl.

She was about to speak to the boy again when her husband came in. He walked up to her, and fumbling in his pocket, he said,

“I’ve got seventy dollars from them. They’ll give me the other thirty dollars ten days after you get there.”

After a short pause, he added, “They’ve promised to take you there in a sedan-chair.”

After another short pause, he continued, “The chair carriers will come to take you early in the morning as soon as they’ve had breakfast.”

With this he walked out again.

That evening, neither he nor she felt like having supper.

The next day there was a spring drizzle.

The chair carriers arrived at the crack of dawn. The young woman had not slept a wink during the night. She had spent the time mending Chun Bao’s tattered clothes. Although it was late spring and summer was near, she took out the boy’s shabby cotton-padded winter jacket and wanted to give it to her husband, but he was fast asleep. Then she sat down beside her husband, wishing to have a chat with him. But he slept on and she sat there silently, waiting for the night to pass. She plucked up enough courage to mutter a few words into his ear, but even this failed to wake him up. So she lay down too.

As she was about to doze off, Chun Bao woke up. He wanted to get up and pushed his mother. Dressing the child, she said,

“Darling, you mustn’t cry while I’m away or daddy will beat you. I’ll buy sweets for you to eat. But you mustn’t cry any more, darling.”

The boy was too young to know what sorrow was, so in a minute he began to sing. She kissed his cheek and said,

“Stop singing now, you’ll wake up daddy.”

The chair carriers were sitting on the benches in front of the gate, smoking their pipes and chatting. Soon afterwards, Mrs. Shen arrived from the nearby village where she was living. She was an old and experienced matchmaker. As soon as she crossed the threshold, she brushed the raindrops off her clothes, saying to the husband and wife,

“It’s raining, it’s raining. That’s a good omen, it means you will thrive from now on.”

The matchmaker bustled about the house and whispered and hinted to the husband that she should be rewarded for having so successfully brought about the deal.

“To tell you the truth, for another fifty dollars, the old man could have bought himself a concubine,” she said.

Then Mrs. Shen turned to the young woman who was sitting still with the child in her arms, and said loudly,

“The chair carriers have to get there in time for lunch, so you’d better hurry up and get ready to go.”

The young woman glanced at her and her look seemed to say, “I don’t want to leave! I’d rather starve here!”

The matchmaker understood and, walking up to her, said smiling,

“You’re just a silly girl. What can the ‘Yellow Fellow’ give you? But over there, the scholar has plenty of everything. He has more than two hundred mou of land, his own houses and cattle. His wife is good-tempered and she’s very kind. She never turns anybody from her door without giving him something to eat. And the scholar is not really old. He has a white face and no beard. He stoops a little as well-educated men generally do, and he is quite gentlemanly. There’s no need for me to tell you more about him. You’ll see him with your own eyes as soon as you get out of the sedan-chair. You know, as a matchmaker, I’ve never told a lie.”

The young woman wiped away her tears and said softly,

“Chun Bao… How can I part from him?”

“Chun Bao will be all right,” said the matchmaker, patting the young woman on the shoulder and bending over her and the child. “He is already three. There’s a saying, ‘A child of three can move about free.’ So he can be left alone. It all depends on you. If you can have one or two children over there, everything will be quite all right.”

The chair bearers outside the gate now started urging the young woman to set out, murmuring.

“You are really not a bride, why should you cry?” 〔15〕

The matchmaker snatched away Chun Bao from his mother’s arms, saying,

“Let me take care of Chun Bao!”

The little boy began to scream and kick. The matchmaker took him outside. When the young woman was in the sedan-chair, she said,

“You’d better take the boy in, it’s raining outside.”

Inside the house, resting his head on the palm of his hand, sat the little boy’s father, motionless and wordless.

The two villages were thirty li apart, but the chair carriers reached their destination without making a single stop on the way. The young woman’s clothes were wet from the spring raindrops which had been blown in through the sedan-chair screens. An elderly woman, of about fifty-five, with a plump face and shrewd eyes came out to greet her. Realizing immediately that this was the scholar’s wife, the young woman looked at her bashfully and remained silent. As the scholar’s wife was amiably helping the young woman to the door, there came out from the house a tall and thin elderly man with a round, smooth face. Measuring the young woman from head to foot, he smiled and said,

“You have come early. Did you get wet in the rain?”

His wife, completely ignoring what he was saying, asked the young woman,

“Have you left anything in the sedan-chair?”

“No, nothing,” answered the young woman.

Soon they were inside the house. Outside the gate, a number of women from the neighbourhood had gathered and were peeping in to see what was happening.

Somehow or other, the young woman could not help thinking about her old home and Chun Bao. As a matter of fact, she might have congratulated herself on the prospects of spending the next three years here, since both her new home and her temporary husband seemed pleasant. The scholar was really kind and soft-spoken. His wife appeared hospitable and talkative. She talked about her thirty years of happy married life with the scholar. She had given birth to a boy some fifteen years before — a really handsome and lively child, she said — but he died of smallpox less than ten months after his birth. Since then, she had never had another child. The elderly woman hinted she had long been urging her husband to get a concubine but he had always put it off — either because he was too much in love with his wedded wife or because he couldn’t find a suitable woman for a concubine. This chatter made the young woman feel sad, delighted and depressed by turns. Finally, the young woman was told what was expected of her. She blushed when the scholar’s wife said,

“You’ve had three or four children. Of course you know what to do. You know much more than I do.”

After this, the elderly woman went away.

That evening, the scholar told the young woman a great many things about his family in an effort to show off and ingratiate himself with her. She was sitting beside a red-lacquered wooden wardrobe — something she had never had in her old home. Her dull eyes were focused upon it when the scholar came over and sat in front of it, asking,

“What’s you name?”

She remained silent and did not smile. Then, rising to her feet, she went towards the bed. He followed her, his face beaming.

“Don’t be shy. Still thinking about your husband? Ha, ha, I’m your husband now!” he said softly, touching her arm. “Don’t worry! You’re thinking about your child, aren’t you? Well…”

He burst out laughing and took off his long gown.

The young woman then heard the scholar’s wife scolding somebody outside the room. Though she could not make out just who was being scolded, it seemed to be either the kitchenmaid or herself. In her sorrow, the young woman began to suspect that it must be herself, but the scholar, now lying in bed, said loudly,

“Don’t bother. She always grumbles like that. She likes our farmhand very much, and often scolds the kitchenmaid for chatting with him too much.”

Time passed quickly. The young woman’s thoughts of her old home gradually faded as she became better and better acquainted with what went on in her new one. Sometimes it seemed to her she heard Chun Bao’s muffled cries, and she dreamed of him several times. But these dreams became more and more blurred as she became occupied with her new life. Outwardly, the scholar’s wife was kind to her, but she felt that, deep inside, the elderly woman was jealous and suspicious and that, like a detective, she was always spying to see what was going on between the scholar and her. Sometimes, if the wife caught her husband talking to the young woman on his return home, she would suspect that he had bought her something special. She would call him to her bedroom at night to give him a good scolding. “So you’ve been seduced by the witch!” she would cry. “You should take good care of your old carcase.” These abusive remarks the young woman overheard time and again. After that, whenever she saw the scholar return home, she always tried to avoid him if his wife was not present. But even in the presence of his wife, the young woman considered it necessary to keep herself in the background. She had to do all this naturally so that it would not be noticed by outsiders, for otherwise the wife would get angry and blame her for purposely discrediting her in public. As time went on, the scholar’s wife even made the young woman do the work of a maidservant. Once the young woman decided to wash the elderly woman’s clothes.

“You’re not supposed to wash my clothes,” the scholar’s wife said. “In fact you can have the kitchenmaid wash your own laundry.” Yet the next moment she said,

“Sister dear, you’d better go to the pigsty and have a look at the two pigs which have been grunting all the time. They’re probably hungry because the kitchenmaid never gives them enough to eat.”

Eight months had passed and winter came. The young woman became fussy about her food. She had little appetite for regular meals and always felt like eating something different — noodles, potatoes and so on. But she soon got tired of noodles and potatoes, and asked for meat dumplings. When she ate a little too much she got sick. Then she felt a desire for pumpkins and plums — things that could only be had in summer. The scholar knew what all this meant. He kept smiling all day and gave her whatever was available. He went to town himself to get her tangerines and asked someone to buy her some oranges. He often paced up and down the veranda, muttering to himself. One day, he saw the young woman and the kitchenmaid grinding rice for the New Year festival. They had hardly started grinding when he said to the young woman, “You’d better have a rest now. We can let the farmhand do it, since everybody is going to eat the cakes.”

Sometimes in the evening, when the rest of the household were chatting, he would sit alone near an oil lamp, reading the Book of Songs:

“Fair, fair,” cry the ospreys

On the island in the river.

Lovely is the good lady,

Fit bride for our lord.

……

The farmhand once asked him,

“Please, sir, what are you reading this book for? You’re not going to sit for a higher civil service examination, are you?”

The scholar stroked his beardless chin and said in a gay tone,

“Well, you know the joys of life, don’t you? There’s a saying that the greatest joy of life is either to spend the first night in the nuptial chamber or to pass a civil service examination. As for me, I’ve already experienced both. But now there’s a still greater blessing in store for me.”

His remark set the whole household laughing — except for his wife and the young woman.

To the scholar’s wife all this was very annoying. When she first heard of the young woman’s pregnancy, she was pleased. Later, when she saw her husband lavishing attentions on the young woman, she began to blame herself for being barren. Once, the following spring, it happened that the young woman fell ill and was laid up for three days with a headache. The scholar was anxious that she take a rest and frequently asked what she needed. This made his wife angry. She grumbled for three whole days and said that the young woman was malingering.

“She has been spoiled here and become stuck-up like a real concubine,” she said, sneering maliciously, “always complaining about headaches or backaches. She must have been quite different before — like a bitch that has to go searching for food even when she is going to bear a litter of puppies! Now, with the old man fawning on her, she puts on airs!”

“Why so much fuss about having a baby?” said the scholar’s wife one night to the kitchenmaid. “I myself was once with child for ten months, I just can’t believe she’s really feeling so bad. Who knows what she’s going to have? It may be just a little toad! She’d better not try to bluff me, throwing her weight around before the little thing is born. It’s still nothing but a clot of blood! It’s really a bit too early for her to make such a fuss!”

The young woman who had gone to bed without supper was awakened by this torrent of malicious abuse and burst into convulsive sobs. The scholar was also shocked by what he heard — so much so that he broke into a cold sweat and shook with anger. He wanted to go to his wife’s room, grab her by the hair and give her a good beating so as to work off his feelings. But, somehow or other, he felt powerless to do so; his fingers trembled and his arms ached with weariness. Sighing deeply, he said softly, “I’ve been too good to her. In thirty years of married life, I’ve never slapped her face or given her a scratch. That’s why she is so cocky.”

Then, crawling across the bed, he whispered to the young woman beside him,

“Now, stop crying, stop crying, let her cackle! A barren hen is always jealous! If you manage to have a baby boy this time, I’ll give you two precious gifts — a blue jade ring and a white jade…” leaving the last sentence unfinished, he turned to listen to his wife’s jeering voice outside the room. He hastily took off his clothes, and, covering his head with the quilt and nestling closer to the young woman, he said,

“I’ve a white jade…”

The young woman grew bigger and bigger around the waist. The scholar’s wife made arrangements with a midwife, and, when other people were around, she would busy herself making baby’s clothes out of floral prints.

The hot summer had ended and the cool autumn breeze was blowing over the village. The day finally came when the expectations of the whole household reached their climax and everybody was agog. His heart beating faster than ever, the scholar was pacing the courtyard, reading about horoscopes from an almanac in his hand as intently as if he wanted to commit the whole book to memory. One moment he would look anxiously at the room with its windows closely shut whence came the muffled groans of the expectant mother. The next, he would look at the cloudy sky, and walk up to the kitchenmaid at the door to ask,

“How is everything now?”

Nodding, the maid would reply after a moment’s pause,

“It won’t be long now, it won’t be long now.”

He would resume pacing the courtyard and reading the almanac.

The suspense lasted until sunset. Then, when wisps of kitchen smoke were curling up from the roofs and lamps were gleaming in the country houses like so many wild flowers in spring, a baby boy was born. The newborn baby cried at the top of his voice while the scholar sat in a corner of the house, with tears of joy in his eyes. The household was so excited that no one cared about supper.

A month later, the bright and tender-faced baby made his debut in the open. While the young woman was breast-feeding him, womenfolk from the neighbourhood gathered around to feast their eyes upon the boy. Some liked his nose; others, his mouth; still others, his ears. Some praised his mother, saying that she had become whiter and healthier. The scholar’s wife, now acting like a granny, said,

“That’s enough! You’ll make the baby cry!”

As to the baby’s name, the scholar racked his brains, but just could not hit upon a suitable one. His wife suggested that the Chinese character shou, meaning longevity, or one of its synonyms, should be included in his name. But the scholar did not like it — it was too commonplace. He spent several weeks looking through Chinese classics like the Book of Changes and the Book of History in search of suitable characters to be used as the baby’s name. But all his efforts proved fruitless. It was a difficult problem to solve because he wanted a name which should be auspicious for the baby and would imply at the same time that he was born to him in old age. One evening, while holding the three-month-old baby in his arms, the scholar, with spectacles on, sat down near a lamp and again looked into some book in an effort to find a name for the boy. The baby’s mother, sitting quietly in a corner of the room, appeared to be musing. Suddenly she said.

“I suppose you could call him ‘Qiu Bao’.” Those in the room turned to look at the young woman and listened intently as she continued, “Qiu means autumn and Bao means treasure. So since he was born in autumn, you’d better call him ‘Qiu Bao’.”

The scholar was silent for a brief moment and then exclaimed,

“A wonderful idea! I’ve wasted a lot of time looking for a name for the baby! As a man of over fifty, I’ve reached the autumn of my life. The boy too was born in autumn. Besides, autumn is the time when everything is ripe and the time for harvesting, as the Book of History says. ‘Qiu Bao’ is really a good name for the child.”

Then he began to praise the young woman, saying that she was born clever and that it was quite useless to be a bookworm like himself. His remarks made the young woman feel ill at ease. Lowering her head and forcing a smile, she said to herself with tears in her eyes,

“I suggested ‘Qiu Bao’ simply because I was thinking of my elder son Chun Bao.” 〔16〕

Qiu Bao daily grew handsomer and more attached to his mother. His unusually big eyes which stared tirelessly at strangers would light up joyfully when he saw his mother, even when she was a long distance away. He always clung to her. Although the scholar loved him even more than his mother did, Qiu Bao did not take to him. As to the scholar’s wife, although outwardly she showed as much affection for Qiu Bao as if he were her own baby, he would stare at her with the same indefatigable curiosity as he did at strangers. But the more the child grew attached to his mother, the closer drew the time for their separation. Once more it was summer. To everybody in the house, the advent of this season was a reminder of the coming end of the young woman’s three-year stay.

The scholar, out of his love for Qiu Bao, suggested to his wife one day that he was willing to offer another hundred dollars to buy the young woman so that she could stay with them permanently. The wife, however, replied curtly,

“No, you’ll have to poison me before you do that!”

This made the scholar angry. He remained silent for quite a while. Then, forcing himself to smile, he said,

“It’s a pity that our child will be motherless…” His wife smiled wryly and said in an icy and cutting tone,

“Don’t you think that I might be a mother to him?”

As to the young woman, there were two conflicting ideas in her mind. On the one hand, she always remembered that she would have to leave after the three years were up. Three years seemed a short time and she had become more of a servant than a temporary wife. Besides, in her mind her elder son Chun Bao had become as sweet and lovely a child as Qiu Bao. She could not bear to remain away from either Qiu Bao or Chun Bao. On the other hand, she was willing to stay on permanently in the scholar’s house because she thought her own husband would not live long and might even die in four or five years. So she longed to have the scholar bring Chun Bao into his home so that she could also live with her elder son.

One day, as she was sitting wearily on the veranda with Qiu Bao sleeping at her breast, the hypnotic rays of the early summer sun sent her into a daydream and she thought she saw Chun Bao standing beside her; but when she stretched out her hand to him and was about to speak to her two sons, she saw that her elder boy was not there.

At the door at the other end of the veranda the scholar’s wife, with her seemingly kind face but fierce eyes, stood staring at the young woman. The latter came to and said to herself,

“I’d better leave here as soon as I can. She’s always spying on me!”

Later, the scholar changed his plan a little; he decided he would send Mrs. Shen on another mission: to find out whether the young woman’s husband was willing to take another thirty dollars — or fifty dollars at most — to let him keep the young woman for another three years. He said to his wife,

“I suppose Qiu Bao’s mother could stay on until he is five.”

Chanting “Buddha preserve me” with a rosary in her hand, the scholar’s wife replied,

“She has got her elder son at home. Besides, you ought to let her go back to her lawful husband.”

The scholar hung his head and said brokenly,

“Just imagine, Qiu Bao will be motherless at two…”

Putting away the rosary, his wife snapped,

“I can take care of him, I can manage him. Are you afraid I’m going to murder him?”

Upon hearing the last sentence, the scholar walked away hurriedly. His wife went on grumbling,

“The child has been born for me. Qiu Bao is mine. If the male line of your family came to an end, it would affect me too. You’ve been bewitched by her. You’re old and pigheaded. You don’t know what’s what. Just think how many more years you may live, and yet you’re trying to do everything to keep her with you. I certainly don’t want another woman’s tablet put side by side with mine in the family shrine!”

It seemed as if she would never stop pouring out the stream of venomous and biting words, but the scholar was too far away to hear them.

Every time Qiu Bao had a pimple on his head or a slight fever, the scholar’s wife would go around praying to Buddha and bring back Buddha’s medicine in the form of incense ash which she applied to the baby’s pimple or dissolved in water for him to drink. He would cry and perspire profusely. The young woman did not like the idea of the scholar’s wife making so much fuss when the baby fell slightly ill, and always threw the ash away when she was not there. Sighing deeply, the scholar’s wife once said to her husband,

“You see, she really doesn’t care a bit about our baby and says that he’s not getting thinner. Real love needs no flourishes; she is only pretending that she loves our baby.”

The young woman wept when alone, and the scholar kept silent.

On Qiu Bao’s first birthday, the celebration lasted the whole day. About forty guests attended the party. The birthday presents they brought included baby clothes, noodles, a silver pendant in the shape of a lion’s head to be worn on the baby’s chest and a gold-plated image of the God of Longevity to be sewn to the baby’s bonnet. The guests wished the baby good luck and a long life. The host’s face flushed with joy as if reflecting the reddening glow of the setting sun.

Late in the afternoon, just before the banquet, there came into the courtyard from the deepening twilight outside an uninvited guest, who attracted the attention of all the others. He was an emaciated-looking peasant, dressed in patched clothes and with unkempt hair, carrying under his arm a paper-parcel. Greatly astonished and puzzled, the host went up to inquire where he hailed from. While the newcomer was stammering, it suddenly occurred to the host that this was none other than the skin dealer — the young woman’s husband. Thereupon, the host said in a low voice,

“Why do you bring a gift? You really shouldn’t have done this!”

The newcomer looked timidly about, saying,

“I… I had to come… I’ve come to wish the baby a long life…”

Before he had finished speaking, he began to open the package he had brought. Tearing off three paper wrappings with his quivering fingers, he took out four bronze-cast and silver-plated Chinese characters, each about one square inch in size, which said that the baby would live as long as the South Mountain.

The scholar’s wife appeared on the scene, and looked displeased when she saw the skin dealer. The scholar, however, invited the skin dealer to the table, where the guests sat whispering about him.

The guests wined and dined for two hours and everybody was feeling happy and excited. They indulged in noisy drinking games and plied one another with big bowls of wine. The deafening uproar rocked the house. Nobody paid any attention to the skin dealer who sat silently after drinking two cups of wine. Having enjoyed their wine, the guests each hurriedly took a bowl of rice; and, bidding one another farewell, they dispersed in twos and threes, carrying lighted lanterns in their hands.

The skin dealer sat there eating until the servants came to clear the table. Then he walked to a dark corner of the veranda where he found his wife.

“What did you come for?” asked the young woman with an extremely sad note in her voice.

“I didn’t want to come, but I just couldn’t help it.”

“Then why did you come so late?”

“I couldn’t get any money to buy a birthday gift. I spent the whole morning begging for a loan and then I had to go to town to buy the gift. I was tired and hungry. That’s why I came late.”

The young woman asked, “How’s Chun Bao?”

Her husband reflected for a moment and then answered,

“It’s for Chun Bao’s sake that I’ve come…”

“For Chun Bao’s sake!” she echoed in surprise. He went on slowly,

“Since this summer Chun Bao has grown very skinny. In the autumn, he fell sick. I haven’t been able to do anything for him because I haven’t had any money. So his illness is getting more serious. I’m afraid he won’t live unless we try to save him!” He continued after a short pause, “I’ve come to borrow some money from you…”

Deep inside her, the young woman had the feeling that wild cats were scratching and biting her, gnawing at her very heart. She was on the verge of bursting into tears, but on such an occasion when everybody was celebrating Qiu Bao’s birthday she knew she had to keep her emotions under control. She made a brave effort to keep back her tears and said to her husband,

“How can I get hold of any money? They give me twenty cents a month as pocket money here, but I spend every cent of it on my baby. What can we do now?”

Both were speechless for a while, then the young woman asked again,

“Who is taking care of Chun Bao while you’re here?”

“One of the neighbours. I’ve got to go back home tonight. In fact I ought to be going now,” he answered, wiping away his tears.

“Wait a moment,” she told him tearfully, “let me go and try to borrow some money from him.”

And with this she left him.

Three days later, in the evening, the scholar suddenly asked the young woman,

“Where’s the blue jade ring I gave you?”

“I gave it to him the other night. He pawned it.”

“Didn’t I lend you five dollars?” countered the scholar irritably.

The young woman, hanging her head, answered after a moment’s pause,

“Five dollars wasn’t enough!”

The scholar sighed deeply at this and said, “No matter how good I try to be to you, you still love your husband and your elder son more. I wanted to keep you for another couple of years, but now I think you’d better leave here next spring!”

The young woman stood there silent and tearless.

Several days later, the scholar again reproached her, “That blue jade ring is a treasure. I gave it to you because I wanted Qiu Bao to inherit it from you. I didn’t’ think you would have it pawned! It’s lucky my wife doesn’t know about it, otherwise she would make scenes for another three months.”

After this the young woman became thinner and paler. Her eyes lost their lustre; she was often subjected to sneers and curses. She was forever worrying about Chun Bao’s illness. She was always on the lookout for some acquaintance from her home village or some traveller going there. She hoped she could hear about Chun Bao’s recovery, but there was no news. She wished she could borrow a couple of dollars or buy sweets for some traveller to take to Chun Bao, but she could find no one going to her home village. She would often walk outside the gate with Qiu Bao in her arms, and there, standing by the roadside, she would gaze with melancholy eyes at the country paths. This greatly annoyed the scholar’s wife who said to her husband,

“She really doesn’t want to stay here any longer. She’s anxious to get back home as soon as she can.”

Sometimes at night, sleeping with Qiu Bao at her bosom, she would suddenly wake up from her dreams and scream until the child too would awake and start crying. Once, the scholar asked her,

“What’s happened? What’s happened?”

She patted the child without answering. The scholar continued,

“Did you dream your elder son had died? How you screamed! You woke me up!”

She hurriedly answered, “No, no… I thought I saw a new grave in front of me!”

He said nothing, but the morbid hallucination continued to loom before her — she saw herself approaching the grave.

Winter was drawing to a close and the birds began twittering at her window, as if urging her to leave quickly. The child was weaned, and her separation from her son — permanent separation — was already a foregone conclusion.

On the day of her departure, the kitchenmaid quietly asked the scholar’s wife,

“Shall we hire a sedan-chair to take her home?”

Fingering the rosary in her hand, the scholar’s wife said, “Better let her walk. Otherwise she will have to pay the fare herself. And where will she get the money? I understand her husband can’t even afford to have three meals a day. She shouldn’t try to be showy. It’s not very far from here, and I myself have walked some forty li a day. She’s more used to walking than I am, so she ought to be able to get there in half a day.”

In the morning, as the young woman was dressing Qiu Bao, tears kept streaming down her cheeks. The child called, “Auntie, auntie” (the scholar’s wife had made him call herself “mummy”, and his real mother, “auntie”). The young woman could not answer for weeping. She wanted so much to say to the child,

“Good-bye, darling! Your ‘mummy’ has been good to you, so you should be good to her in the future. Forget about me forever!” But these words she never uttered. The child was only one and a half years old, and she knew that he would never understand what she wanted to say.

The scholar walked up quietly behind her, and put ten twenty-cent silver coins into her palm, saying softly,

“Here are two dollars for you.”

Buttoning up the child’s clothes, she put the ten silver coins into her pocket.

The scholar’s wife also came in, and, staring hard at the back of the retreating scholar, she turned to the young woman, saying,

“Give me Qiu Bao, so that he won’t cry when you leave.”

The young woman remained silent, but the child was unwilling to leave his mother and kept striking the scholar’s wife’s face with his little hands. The scholar’s wife was piqued and said,

“You can keep him with you until you’ve had breakfast.”

The kitchenmaid urged the young woman to eat as much as possible, saying,

“You’ve been eating very little for a fortnight. You are thinner than when you first came here. Have you looked at yourself in the mirror? You have to walk thirty li today, so finish this bowl of rice!”

The young woman said listlessly, “You’re really kind to me!”

It was a fine day and the sun was high in the sky. Qiu Bao continued to cling to his mother. When the scholar’s wife angrily snatched him away from her, he yelled at the top of his voice, kicking the elderly woman in the belly and pulling at her hair. The young woman, standing behind, pleaded,

“Let me stay here until after lunch.”

The scholar’s wife replied fiercely over her shoulder,

“Hurry up with your packing. You’ve got to leave sooner or later!”

From then on, Qiu Bao’s cries gradually receded from the young woman’s hearing.

While she was packing, she kept listening to his crying. The kitchenmaid stood beside her, comforting her and watching what she was putting into her parcel. The young woman then left with the same old parcel she had brought with her when she first came.

She heard Qiu Bao crying as she walked out of the gate, and his cries rang in her ears even after she had plodded a distance of three li.

Stretching before her lay the sun-bathed country road which seemed to be as long as the sky was boundless. As she was walking along the bank of a river, whose clear water reflected her like a mirror, she thought of stopping there and putting an end to her life by drowning herself. But, after sitting for a while on the bank, she resumed her journey.

It was already afternoon, and an elderly villager told her that she still had fifteen li to go before she would reach her own village. She said to him,

“Grandpa, please hire a litter for me. I’m too tired to walk.”

“Are you sick?” asked the old man.

“Yes, I am.” She was sitting in a pavilion outside a village.

“Where have you walked from?”

She answered after a moment’s hesitation,

“I’m on my way home; this morning I thought I would be able to walk the whole way.”

The elder lapsed into sympathetic silence and finally hired a litter for her.

It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when the litter carriers entered a narrow and filthy village street. The young woman, her pale face shrunken and yellowed like an old vegetable leaf, lay with her eyes closed. She was breathing weakly. The villagers eyed her with astonishment and compassion. A group of village urchins noisily followed the litter, the appearance of which stirred the quiet village.

One of the children chasing after the litter was Chun Bao. The children were shouting like they were driving little pigs when the litter carriers suddenly turned into the lane leading to Chun Bao’s home. Chun Bao stopped in surprise. As the litter stopped in front of his home, he leaned dazed against a post and looked at it from a distance. The other children gathered around and craned their necks timidly. When the young woman descended from the litter, she felt giddy and at first did not realize that the shabbily dressed child with dishevelled hair standing before her was Chun Bao. He was hardly any taller than when she had left three years before and just as skinny. Then, she blurted out in tears,

“Chun Bao!”

Startled, the children dispersed. Chun bao, also frightened, ran inside the house to look for his father.

Inside the dingy room, the young woman sat for a long, long while. Both she and her husband were speechless. As night fell, he raised his head and said,

“You’d better prepare supper!”

She rose reluctantly, and, after searching around the house, said in a weak voice,

“There’s no rice left in the big jar…”

Her husband looked at her with a sickly smile,

“You’ve got used to living in a rich man’s house all right. We keep our rice in a cardboard box.”

That night, the skin dealer said to his son,

“Chun Bao, you go to bed with your mother!”

Chun Bao, standing beside the stove, started crying. His mother walked up to him and called,

“Chun Bao, Chun Bao!” But when she tried to caress him, the boy shunned her. His father hissed,

“You’ve forgotten your own mother. You ought to get a good beating for that!”

The young woman lay awake on the narrow, dirty plankbed with Chun Bao lying, like a stranger, beside her. Her mind in a daze, she seemed to see her younger son Qiu Bao — plump, white and lovely — curled up beside her, but as she stretched out her arms to embrace him, she saw it was Chun Bao, who had just fallen asleep. The boy was breathing faintly, his face pressed against his mother’s breast. She hugged him tightly.

The still and chilly night seemed to drag on endlessly…

作家柔石(1902—1931),浙江宁海人,为现代杰出小说家,中共党员,1931年在上海惨遭国民党杀害,年仅29。《为奴隶的母亲》是他于1930年写成的最优秀的短篇小说。作品揭露当时浙东一带农村典妻制度的野蛮和残酷,对农村劳动妇女的苦难表示了极大的同情。

注释

〔1〕 “芒种”为中国24节气之一,约在每年6月上、中旬,该时农村多忙于夏收夏种。如英译为Mangzhong或wheat in the ear,势必借助脚注,详加说明,否则外国读者无法理解。现结合上下文干脆把它译为early each summer。

〔2〕 “小铜鼓”译为a brass drum。注意brass和bronze、copper在颜色上的区别。三者之中,仅brass是浅黄色。

〔3〕 “我已经将你出典了……”如逐字直译为I’ve pawned you或I’ve hired you out,均欠达意。现以增词释义的办法译为There’s somebody willing to hire you as a temporary wife,可较清楚地交代原意。

〔4〕 “免得王狼底狼一般的绿眼睛天天在家里闪烁”译为so that he’d no longer be prowling after me like a wolf,用prowling after(潜行觅食)代替原文中有关比喻,同样传神。

〔5〕 “这一晚,她和她底丈夫都没有吃晚饭。”意即夫妇两人都不想吃饭,故译为That evening, neither he nor she felt like having supper。如按字面直译为That evening, both husband and wife did not eat supper,就未能表达原句含义。

〔6〕 “三周四岁离娘身”译为A child of three can move about free,有节奏,有韵律,易于上口。

〔7〕 “烧饭的黄妈”即在厨房干活的女仆,可简译为the kitchenmaid。

〔8〕 “你应该称一称你自己底老骨头是多少重”意即“你应该珍惜自己的身子”,故译为You should take good care of your old carcase,其中carcase本作“死尸”解,指活人的“身躯”时,是带有轻蔑或嘲笑口气的用语。

〔9〕 “想吃新鲜的面,番薯等”意即“想换别的东西吃,如面、番薯等”,故全句译为always felt like eating something different — noodles, potatoes and so on。

〔10〕 “随她吠去好了”译为let her cackle,其中cackle本指母鸡下蛋后的咯咯声,现在的意思是“胡说八道”。此句如直译为let her bark也可,但因和文中母鸡的比喻连用,就不如前者合适。

〔11〕 “阉过的母鸡”实为“不产蛋的母鸡”,故译为a barren hen。不能把它译为a capon,因那是阉过的公鸡。

〔12〕 “邻舍的妇人围着他们瞧”译为womenfolk from the neighbourhood gathered around to feast their eyes upon the boy,其中to feast their eyes upon是成语,作“尽情地欣赏”解。

〔13〕 “老妇人却转过头,汹汹地答”译为The scholar’s wife replied fiercely over her shoulder,其中over her shoulder是习语,作“回头”解。

〔14〕 “其余的孩子胆怯地围在轿的两边”译为The other children gathered and craned their necks timidly,其中craned their necks(伸长脖子张望)是添加成分,原文虽无其词而有其意。

〔15〕 In old China, a bride usually cried before leaving her family.

〔16〕 Meaning “Spring Treasure”.

未经允许不得转载:帕布莉卡 » 柔石《为奴隶的母亲》 -经典散文英译-中英双语赏析

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