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第3节 迦太罗尼亚人的村庄 【
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文章摘要:迦太罗尼亚人的村庄 ,双选上菜开咖啡店,信威谓予不信片刻。

那两位朋友一面喝着泛着泡沫的拉玛尔格酒,一面竖着耳朵,留神着百步开外的一个地方。那儿,在一座光秃秃的被风雨无情的侵蚀了的小山的后面,有一个小村庄,就是罗尼亚人居住的地方。很久以前有一群神秘的移民离开西班牙,来到了这块突出在海湾里的地带安居下来了,一直生活到现在,当时没有人知道他们从什么地方来。也没有人能够听懂他们所说的话。移民中的一位首领懂普罗旺斯语,就恳求马赛市政当局把这块荒芜贫瘠的海岬赐给他们,以便他们可以象古代的航海者那样把他们的小船拖到岸上安居下来。当局同意了他们的这个要求。三个月后,在那十四五艘当初运载这些移民渡海而来的小帆船周围,就兴建了一个小小的村庄。这个村庄的建筑风格独树一帜,一半似西班牙风格,一半似摩尔风格,别有情趣,现在的居民就是当初那些人的后代,他们还是说着他们祖先的语言。三四百年来,他们象一群海鸟似的一心一意地依恋在这块小海岬上,与马赛人界限分明,他们族内通婚,保持着他们原有的风俗习惯,犹如保持他们的语言一样。

读者仍请随我穿过这小村子里惟一的一条街,走进其中的一所房子里,这所房子的墙外爬满了颇具乡村风味的藤类植物,阳光普照着那些枯死的叶子,上面涂上了一层美丽的色彩,房子里面是用象西班牙旅馆里那样千篇一律的石灰粉刷的。一个年轻美貌的姑娘正斜靠在壁板上,她的头发黑得象乌玉一般,眼睛象羚羊的眼睛一般温柔,她那富有古希腊雕刻之美的纤细的手指,正在抚弄一束石南花,那花瓣被撕碎了散播在地板上。她的手臂一直裸到肘部,露出了被日光晒成褐色的那部分,美得象维纳斯女神的手一样。她那双柔软好看的脚上穿着纱袜,踝处绣着灰蓝色的小花,由于内心焦燥不安,一只脚正在轻轻地拍打着地面,好象故意要展露出她那丰满匀称小腿似的。离她不远处,坐着一个年约二十二岁的高大青年,他跷起椅子的两条后腿不住地摇晃着,手臂支撑在一张被蛀虫蚀的旧桌子上,他在注视着她,脸上一副烦恼不安的神色。

他在用眼睛询问她,但年轻姑娘以坚决而镇定的目光控制住了他。

“你看,美塞苔丝,”那青年说道,“复活节快要到了,你说,这不正是结婚的好时候吗?”

“我已经对你说过一百次啦,弗尔南多。你再问下去是自寻烦恼了。”

“唉,再说一遍吧,我求求你,再说一遍吧,这样我才会相信!就算说一百遍也好。说你拒绝我的爱。那可是你母亲曾经许诺过,让我进一步了解你不关心我的幸福,对我的死活一点不放在心上,唉!十年来我一直梦想着成为你的丈夫,美塞苔丝,而现在你却使我的希望破灭了,那可是我活在世上惟一的希望啊!”

“可这毕竟不是我让你抱那种希望的,弗尔南多,”美塞苔丝回答说,“你怪不得我,我从未诱惑过你。我一直都对你说,‘我只把你看作我的哥哥,别向我要求超出兄妹之爱的感情,因为我的心早已属于另外一个人了。’我不是一直都对你这样说的吗,弗尔南多?”

“是的,我知道得很清楚,美塞苔丝,”青年回答道。“是的,你对我坦白,这固然很好,但毕竟残酷。你忘记了同族通婚是我们迦太罗尼亚人的一条神圣的法律了吗?”

“你错了,弗尔南多,那不是一条什么法律,只不过是一种风俗罢了。我求你不要靠这种风俗来帮你的忙啦,你已到了服兵役的年龄,目前只是暂时缓征,你随时都可能应征入伍的。旦当了兵,你怎么来安置我呢?我——一个无依无靠的孤儿,没有财产,只有一间快塌了的小屋和一些破烂的渔网,这点可怜的遗产还是我父亲传给我母亲,我母亲又传给我的呢。弗尔南多,你也知道我母亲去世已一年多了,我几乎完全靠着大伙儿救济才得以维持生计,你有时装着要我帮你的忙,好借此让我分享你捕鱼得来的收获,我接受了,弗尔南多,因为你是我的表兄,我们从小一起长大的,更因为,假如我拒绝,会伤了你的心。但我心里很明白,我拿这些鱼去卖,换亚麻纺线——弗尔南多,这和施舍有什么两样呢!”

“那又有什么关系呢?美塞苔丝,尽管你这样孤单穷苦,但你仍然象最骄傲的船主女儿或马赛最有钱的银行家的小姐,完全配得上我的!对我来说,我只要一个忠心的女人和好主妇,可我现在到哪儿才能找到一个在这两方面比你更好的人呢?”

“弗尔南多,”美塞苔丝摇摇头说道,“一个女人能否成为一个好主妇倒很难说,但假如她爱着另外一个人甚于爱她的丈夫,谁还能说她是一个忠心的女人呢?请你满足于我们之间的友谊吧,我对你再说一遍,只能对你许诺这些,我无法许诺我不能给你的东西。”

“我懂了,”弗尔南多回答说,“你可以忍受自己的穷困,却怕我受穷,那么,美塞苔丝,只要有了你的爱,我就会去努力奋斗。你会给我带来好运的,我会发财的,我可以扩大我的渔业,或许还可以找到一个货仓管理员的职位,到时候我就可以成为一个商人了。”

“你是不能去做这种事的,你是个士兵,你之所以还能留在村里,那是因为现在没有战争。所以,你还是做一个渔夫吧。

别胡思乱想了,因为梦想会使你觉得现实更令人难以忍受。就以我的友谊为满足吧,因为我实在不能给你超出这点以外的情感。”

“那么,你说得对,美塞苔丝。既然你鄙视我们祖先传下来的这身衣服,我就脱掉它。去当一名水手,戴一顶闪光的帽子,穿一件水手衫,外加一件蓝色的短外套,纽扣上镶有铁锚。这样一身打扮该讨你喜欢了吧?”

“你这是什么意思?”美塞苔丝忿忿的瞟了他一眼。“——你在胡说些什么?我不懂。”

“我的意思是,美塞苔丝,你之所以对我如此冷酷无情,都是因为你在等一个人,他就是这样一身打扮。不过也许你所等待的这个人是靠不住的,即使他自己可靠,大海对他是否可靠可就难说了。”

“弗尔南多!”美塞苔丝高声喊了起来,“我原以为你是个心地善良的人,现在我才知道我错了!弗尔南多,你祈求上帝降怒来帮助你泄私愤真是太卑鄙了!是的,我不否认,我是在等待着,我是爱你所指的那个人,即使他不回来,我也不相信他会象你所说的那样靠不住,我相信他至死都只会爱我一个人。”

迦太罗尼亚青年显出忿忿的样子。

“我知道你心里怎么想的,弗尔南多,因为我不爱你,所以你对他怀恨在心,你会用你的迦太罗尼亚短刀去同他的匕首决斗的。可那终究又能得到什么结果呢?假如你失败了,你就会失去我的友谊,假如你打败了他,你就会看到我对你的友谊变成了仇恨。相信我,想靠和一个男人去打架来赢得爱那个男人的女人的心,这种方法简直太笨了。不,弗尔南多,你决不能有这种坏念头。无法使我做你的妻子,你还可以把我看作你的朋友和妹妹的。”她的眼睛里已含着泪水,茫然地说,“等着吧,等着吧,弗尔南多!你刚才说海是变幻莫测的,他已经去了四个月了,这四个月中曾有过几次险恶的风暴。”

弗尔南多没有回答,他也不想去擦掉美塞苔丝脸上的泪水,虽然那每一滴眼泪都好象在他的心上在每一滴血一样,但这些眼泪并非是为他恰恰相反是为另一个人流的,他站起身来,在小屋里踱来踱去,然后他突然脸色阴沉地捏紧了拳头在美塞苔丝面前停了下来,对她说,“美塞苔丝,求你再说一遍,这是不是你最后的决定?”

“我爱爱德蒙·唐太斯,”姑娘平静地说,“除了爱德蒙,谁也不能做我的丈夫。”

“你永远爱他吗?”

“我活一天,就爱他一天。”

弗尔南多象一个战败了的战士垂下了头,长长地出了一口气,突然他又抬起头来望着她,咬牙切齿地说:“假如他死——”

“假如他死了,我也跟着死。”

“美塞苔丝!”这时一个声音突然在屋外兴冲冲地叫了起来,“美塞苔丝!”

“啊!”青年女子的脸因兴奋而涨的通红,兴奋地一跃而起,“你看,他没有忘记我,他来了!”她冲到门口,打开门,说,“爱德蒙,我在这儿呢!”

弗尔南多脸色苍白,全身颤抖,象看见了一条赤练蛇的游人一般,他向后缩去,踉踉跄跄地靠在椅子上,一下子坐了下去。爱德蒙和美塞苔丝互相紧紧地拥抱着,马赛耀眼的阳光从开着门的房间走来,把他们照射在光波里面。他们瞬时忘掉了一切。极度地快活仿佛把他们与世隔绝,他们只能断断续续地讲话,这是因为他们高兴地到了极点,当人们极端高兴时,表面看来反象悲伤,突然爱德蒙发现了弗尔南多那张阴沉的脸,这张埋在阴影里的脸带着威胁的神气。那迦太罗尼亚青年不自觉动了一下,下意识地按了按在腰部皮带上的短刀。

“啊,对不起!”唐太斯皱着眉头转过身来说,“我不知道这儿有三个人。”然后他转过身去问美塞苔丝,“这位先生是谁?”

“这位先生将要成为你最好的朋友,唐太斯,因为他是我的朋友,我的堂兄,我的哥哥,他叫弗尔南多——除了你以外,爱德蒙,他就是世界上我最喜爱的人了。你不记得他了吗?”

“是的,记得,”爱德蒙说道,他并没有放开美塞苔丝的手,用一只手握着美塞苔丝,另一只手亲热地伸给了那个迦太罗尼亚人。但弗尔南多对这个友好的表示毫无反映,依旧象一尊石像似的一动也不动。爱德蒙于是拿回手,仔细看了看这边正在焦急为难的美塞苔丝,又看了看那边怀着阴郁敌意的弗尔南多。这一看他全明白了,他脸色立刻变了,有点发怒了。

“我如此匆忙地赶来,重庆时时彩五星定胆:想不到在这儿会遇到一个对头。”

“一个对头!”美塞苔丝愤怒地扫了她堂兄一眼,喊道,“你说什么,爱德蒙,我家里有一个对头?假如果真如此,我就要挽起你的胳膊,我们一同到马赛去,离开这个家,永远不回来了。”

弗尔南多的眼里几乎射出火来。

“要是你遭到什么不幸,亲爱的爱德蒙,”姑娘继续镇静地说下去,使弗尔南多觉得她已洞悉他心底深处的坏念头,“要是你真的遭到不幸,我就爬到莫尔吉翁海角的岩石上去,从那儿跳下去,永远葬身海底。”

弗尔南多脸色惨白,象死人一样。

“你弄错啦,爱德蒙,”她又说,“这儿没有你的对头——这儿只有我的哥哥弗尔南多,他会象一个老朋友那样跟你握手的。”

年轻姑娘说完最后这句话,便把她那威严的眼光盯住迦太罗尼亚人弗尔南多,后者则象被那睛光催眠了一样,慢慢地向爱德蒙走来,伸出了他的手。他的仇恨象一个来势汹猛却又无力的浪头,被美塞苔丝所说的一番话击得粉碎。刚一触到爱德蒙的手,他就觉得再也无法忍受了,于是便一下子冲出屋子去了。

“噢!噢!”他喊着,象个疯子似的狂奔着,双手狠狠地猛抓自己的头发,——“噢!谁能帮我除掉这个人?我真是太不幸了!”

“喂,迦太罗尼亚人!喂弗尔南多!你到哪儿去?”一个声音传来。

那青年突然停了下来,环顾四周,看见卡德鲁斯和腾格拉尔在一个凉棚里对桌而坐。

“喂,”卡德鲁斯说,“你怎么不过来呀?难道你就这么连向你的老朋友打声招呼的时间都没有了吗?”

“尤其是当他们面前还放着满满一瓶洒的时候。”腾格拉尔接上一句。

弗尔南多带着一种恍恍惚惚的眼神望着他们,什么也没说。

“他看上去不大对头,”腾格拉尔碰碰卡德鲁斯的膝盖说。

“别是我们弄错了,唐太斯得胜了吧?”

“唔,我们来问个明白吧,”卡德鲁斯说着,就转过身去对那青年说道,“喂,迦太罗尼亚人,你拿定主意了吗?”

弗尔南多擦了擦额头上的冷汗,慢慢地走入凉棚,在那凉棚中,荫凉似乎使他平静了些,清爽的空气使他那精疲力尽的身体重新振作了一些。

“你们好!”他说道,“是你们叫我吗?”说着他便重重地在桌子旁边的椅子上坐了下来,象瘫下来似的。

“我看你象个疯子似的乱跑,就叫了你一声,怕你去跳海,”卡德鲁斯大笑着说。“见鬼!一个人有了朋友,不但得请他喝酒,还得劝阻他不要没事找事地去喝三四品顺水!”

(法国旧时一种液体容量单位,“一品顺”等于零点九三升。)

弗尔南多象是在呻吟似的叹了一口气,一下子伏在了桌子上,把脸埋在两只手掌里。

“咦,我说,弗尔南多,”卡德鲁斯一开头就戳到了对方痛处,这种小市民气的人由于好奇心竟忘记了说话的技巧,“你的脸色看上去很不对劲,象是失恋了似的。”说完便爆发出一阵粗鲁的大笑。

“得了罢!”腾格拉尔说,“象他那样棒的青年小伙子怎么会在情场上吃败仗呢。卡德鲁斯,你别开他的玩笑了!”

“不,”卡德鲁斯答道,“你只要听听他叹息的声音就知道了!得了,得了,弗尔南多把头抬起来,跟我们说说看。朋友们可是最关心你的健康,你不回答我们可不太好呀。”

“我很好,没生什么玻”弗尔南多紧握双拳,头依然没抬起来说。“啊!你看,腾格拉尔,”卡德鲁斯对他的朋友使了个眼色,说道,“是这么回事,现在在你眼前的弗尔南多,他是一个勇敢的迦太罗尼亚人,是马赛首屈一指的渔夫。他爱上了一位非常漂亮的姑娘,芳名叫美塞苔丝,不幸得很,那位漂亮姑娘却偏偏爱着法老号上的大副,今天法老号到了——你该明白这其中的奥妙了吧!”

“不,我不明白。”腾格拉尔说。

“可怜的弗尔南多,竟然被人家姑娘给拒绝了。”卡德鲁斯补充说。

“是的,可这又怎么样?”弗尔南多猛地抬起头来,眼睛直盯着卡德鲁斯,象要找谁来出气似的。“谁管得着美塞苔丝?她要爱谁就爱谁,不是吗?”

“哦!如果你偏要这么说,可就是另一回事了!”卡德鲁斯说。“我以为你是个真正的迦太罗尼亚人呢,人家告诉我说,凡是迦太罗尼亚人是绝不会让对手夺去一样东西的。人家甚至还对我说,尤其是弗尔南多,他的报复心可重了。”

弗尔南多凄然微笑了一下,“一个情人是永远不会使人害怕的!”他说。

“可怜的人!”腾格拉尔说,他假装感动得同情起这个青年来。“唉,你看,他没料到唐太斯会这样突然地回来。他正以为他已经在海上死了,或碰巧移情别恋了!突然发生了这种事,的确是很令人难受的。”

“唉,真的,但无论如何,”卡德鲁斯一面说话,一面喝酒,这时拉马尔格酒的酒劲已开始在发作了,——“不管怎么说,这次唐太斯回来可是交了好运了,受打击的不只是弗尔南多一个人,腾格拉尔?”

“哦,你的话没错,不过要我说他自己也快要倒霉了!”

“嗯,别提了,”卡德鲁斯说,他给弗尔南多倒了一杯酒,也给自己倒了一杯,这已是他喝的也不知是第八杯还是第九杯了,而腾格拉尔始终只是抿一下酒杯而已。没关系你就等着看他是怎样娶那位可爱的美塞苔丝吧,——他这次回来就是来办这件事的。”

腾格拉尔这时以锐利的目光盯着那青年,卡德鲁斯的话字字句句都融进了那青年的心里。

“他们什么结婚时候?”他问。

“还没决定!”弗尔南多低声地说。

“不过,快了,”卡德鲁斯说,“这是肯定的,就象唐太斯肯定就要当法老号的船长一样。呃,对不对。腾格拉尔?”

腾格拉尔被这个意外的攻击吃了一惊,他转身向卡德鲁斯,细察他的脸部的表情,看看他是不是故意的,但他在那张醉醉醺醺的脸上看到了嫉妒。

“来吧,”他倒满三只酒杯说:“我们来为爱德蒙·唐太斯船长,为美丽的迦太罗尼亚女人的丈夫干一杯!”

卡德鲁斯哆嗦着的手把杯子送到嘴边,咕咚一声一饮而进。弗尔南多则把酒杯掉在了地上,杯子碎了。

“呃,呃,呃,”卡德鲁斯舌头发硬的说。“迦太罗尼亚人村那边,小山岗上那是什么东西呀?看弗尔南多!你的眼睛比我好使。我一点也看不清楚。你知道酒是骗人的家伙,但我敢说那是一对情人,正手挽手地在那儿并肩散步。老天爷!他们不知道我们能看见他们,这会儿他们正在拥抱呢!”

腾格拉尔当然不会放过让弗尔南多更加痛苦的机会。

“你认识他们吗,弗尔南多先生?”他说。

“认识,”那青年低声回答。“那是爱德蒙先生和美塞苔丝小姐!”

“啊!看那儿,喏!”卡德鲁斯说,“人怎么竟认不出他们呢!喂,唐太斯,喂,美丽的姑娘!到这边来,告诉我们,你们什么时候举行婚礼,因为弗尔南多先生就是不告诉我们!”

“你别嚷好吗?”腾格拉尔故意阻止卡德鲁斯,后者却要说下去的样子带着醉鬼的拗性,已把头探出了凉棚。“为人要公道一点,让那对情人安安静静地去谈情说爱吧。看咱们的弗尔南多先生,向人家学习一下吧,人家这才叫通情达理!”

弗尔南多已被腾格拉尔挑逗得忍无可忍了,他象一头被激怒的公牛,忽地一下站了起来,好象憋足了一股劲要向他的敌人冲去似的。正在这时,美塞苔丝带着微笑优雅地抬起她那张可爱的脸,闪动着她那对明亮的眸子。一看到这对眼睛,弗尔南多就想起她曾发出的威胁,便又沉重地跌回了他的座位上了。腾格拉尔对这两个人,看看这个又看看那个,一个在发酒疯,另一个却完全被爱征服了。

“我跟这个傻瓜打交道是搞不出什么名堂来的,”他默默地自语道,“我竟在这儿夹在了一个是醉鬼,一个是懦夫中间,这真让我不安,可这个迦太罗尼亚人那闪光的眼睛却象西班牙人、西西里人和卡拉布兰人,而他不仅将要娶到一位漂亮的姑娘,而且又要做船长,他可以嘲笑我们这些人,除非——”腾格拉尔的嘴边浮起一个阴险的微笑——“除非我来做点什么干涉一下。”他加上了一句。

“喂!”卡德鲁斯继续喊道,并用拳头撑住桌子,抬起了半个身子——“喂,爱德蒙!你竟究是没看见你的朋友呢,还是春风得意不愿和他们讲话?”

“不是的,我的亲爱的朋友,”唐太斯回答,“我不是什么骄傲,只是我太快活了,而想快活是比骄傲更容易使人盲目的。”

“呀,这倒是一种说法!”卡德鲁斯说。“噢,您好唐太斯夫人!”

美塞苔丝庄重地点头示意说:“现在请先别这么称呼我,在我的家乡,人们说,对一个未结婚的姑娘,就拿她未婚夫的姓名称呼她,是会给她带来恶运的。所以,请你还是叫我美塞苔丝吧。”

“我们得原谅这位好心的卡德鲁斯邻居,”唐太斯说,“他不小心说错话了。”

“那么,就赶快举行婚礼呀,唐太斯先生。”腾格拉尔向那对年青人致意说。

“我也是想越快越好,腾格拉尔先生。今天先到我父亲那儿把一切准备好,明天就在这儿的瑞瑟夫酒家举行婚礼。我希望我的好朋友都能来,也就是说,请您也来,腾格拉尔先生,还有你,卡德鲁斯。”

“弗尔南多呢,”卡德鲁斯说完便格格地笑了几声,“也请他去吗?”

“我妻子的兄长也是我的兄长,”爱德蒙说,“假如这种场合他不在,美塞苔丝和我就会感到很遗憾。”

弗尔南多张开嘴想说话,但话到嘴边又止住了。

“今天准备,明天举行婚礼!你也太急了点吧,船长!”

“腾格拉尔,”爱德蒙微笑着说,“我也要像美塞苔丝刚才对卡德鲁斯所说的那样对你说一遍,请不要把还不属于我的头衔戴到我的头上,那样或许会使我倒霉的。”

“对不起,”腾格拉尔回答,“我只不过是说你太匆忙了点。我们的时间还很多——法老号在三个月内是不会再出海的。”

“人总是急于得到幸福的,腾格拉尔先生,因为我们受苦的时间太长了,实在不敢相信天下会有好运这种东西。我之所以这么着急,倒也并非完全为了我自己,我还得去巴黎去一趟。”

“去巴黎?真的!你是第一次去那儿吧?”

“是的。”

“你去那儿有事吗”?

“不是我的私事,是可怜的莱克勒船长最后一次差遣。你知道我指的是什么,腾格拉尔,这是我应尽的义务,而且,我去只要不长的时间就够了。”

“是,是,我知道,”腾格拉尔说,然后他又低声对自己说,“到巴黎去,一定是去送大元帅给他的信。嗯!这封信倒使我有了一个主意!一个好主意唉,唐太斯,我的朋友,你还没有正式任命为法老号上的第一号人物呢。”于是他又转向那正要离去的爱德蒙大声喊到。“一路顺风!”

“谢谢。”爱德蒙友好地点一下头说。于是这对情人便又平静而又欢喜地继续走他们的路去了。

BEYOND A BARE, weather-worn wall, about a hundred paces from the spot where the two friends sat looking and listening as they drank their wine, was the village of the Catalans. Long ago this mysterious colony quitted Spain, and settled on the tongue of land on which it is to this day. Whence it came no one knew, and it spoke an unknown tongue. One of its chiefs, who understood Proven?al, begged the commune of Marseilles to give them this bare and barren promontory, where, like the sailors of old, they had run their boats ashore. The request was granted; and three months afterwards, around the twelve or fifteen small vessels which had brought these gypsies of the sea, a small village sprang up. This village, constructed in a singular and picturesque manner, half Moorish, half Spanish, still remains, and is inhabited by descendants of the first comers, who speak the language of their fathers. For three or four centuries they have remained upon this small promontory, on which they had settled like a flight of seabirds, without mixing with the Marseillaise population, intermarrying, and preserving their original customs and the costume of their mother-country as they have preserved its language.
Our readers will follow us along the only street of this little village, and enter with us one of the houses, which is sunburned to the beautiful dead-leaf color peculiar to the buildings of the country, and within coated with whitewash, like a Spanish posada. A young and beautiful girl, with hair as black as jet, her eyes as velvety as the gazelle's, was leaning with her back against the wainscot, rubbing in her slender delicately moulded fingers a bunch of heath blossoms, the flowers of which she was picking off and strewing on the floor; her arms, bare to the elbow, brown, and modelled after those of the Arlesian Venus, moved with a kind of restless impatience, and she tapped the earth with her arched and supple foot, so as to display the pure and full shape of her well-turned leg, in its red cotton, gray and blue clocked, stocking. At three paces from her, seated in a chair which he balanced on two legs, leaning his elbow on an old worm-eaten table, was a tall young man of twenty, or two-and-twenty, who was looking at her with an air in which vexation and uneasiness were mingled. He questioned her with his eyes, but the firm and steady gaze of the young girl controlled his look.

"You see, Mercédès," said the young man, "here is Easter come round again; tell me, is this the moment for a wedding?"

"I have answered you a hundred times, Fernand, and really you must be very stupid to ask me again."

"Well, repeat it,--repeat it, I beg of you, that I may at last believe it! Tell me for the hundredth time that you refuse my love, which had your mother's sanction. Make me understand once for all that you are trifling with my happiness, that my life or death are nothing to you. Ah, to have dreamed for ten years of being your husband, Mercédès, and to lose that hope, which was the only stay of my existence!"

"At least it was not I who ever encouraged you in that hope, Fernand," replied Mercédès; "you cannot reproach me with the slightest coquetry. I have always said to you, 'I love you as a brother; but do not ask from me more than sisterly affection, for my heart is another's.' Is not this true, Fernand?"

"Yes, that is very true, Mercédès," replied the young man, "Yes, you have been cruelly frank with me; but do you forget that it is among the Catalans a sacred law to intermarry?"

"You mistake, Fernand; it is not a law, but merely a custom, and, I pray of you, do not cite this custom in your favor. You are included in the conscription, Fernand, and are only at liberty on sufferance, liable at any moment to be called upon to take up arms. Once a soldier, what would you do with me, a poor orphan, forlorn, without fortune, with nothing but a half-ruined hut and a few ragged nets, the miserable inheritance left by my father to my mother, and by my mother to me? She has been dead a year, and you know, Fernand, I have subsisted almost entirely on public charity. Sometimes you pretend I am useful to you, and that is an excuse to share with me the produce of your fishing, and I accept it, Fernand, because you are the son of my father's brother, because we were brought up together, and still more because it would give you so much pain if I refuse. But I feel very deeply that this fish which I go and sell, and with the produce of which I buy the flax I spin,--I feel very keenly, Fernand, that this is charity."

"And if it were, Mercédès, poor and lone as you are, you suit me as well as the daughter of the first shipowner or the richest banker of Marseilles! What do such as we desire but a good wife and careful housekeeper, and where can I look for these better than in you?"

"Fernand," answered Mercédès, shaking her head, "a woman becomes a bad manager, and who shall say she will remain an honest woman, when she loves another man better than her husband? Rest content with my friendship, for I say once more that is all I can promise, and I will promise no more than I can bestow."

"I understand," replied Fernand, "you can endure your own wretchedness patiently, but you are afraid to share mine. Well, Mercédès, beloved by you, I would tempt fortune; you would bring me good luck, and I should become rich. I could extend my occupation as a fisherman, might get a place as clerk in a warehouse, and become in time a dealer myself."

"You could do no such thing, Fernand; you are a soldier, and if you remain at the Catalans it is because there is no war; so remain a fisherman, and contented with my friendship, as I cannot give you more."

"Well, I will do better, Mercédès. I will be a sailor; instead of the costume of our fathers, which you despise, I will wear a varnished hat, a striped shirt, and a blue jacket, with an anchor on the buttons. Would not that dress please you?"

"What do you mean?" asked Mercédès, with an angry glance,--"what do you mean? I do not understand you?"

"I mean, Mercédès, that you are thus harsh and cruel with me, because you are expecting some one who is thus attired; but perhaps he whom you await is inconstant, or if he is not, the sea is so to him."

"Fernand," cried Mercédès, "I believed you were good-hearted, and I was mistaken! Fernand, you are wicked to call to your aid jealousy and the anger of God! Yes, I will not deny it, I do await, and I do love him of whom you speak; and, if he does not return, instead of accusing him of the inconstancy which you insinuate, I will tell you that he died loving me and me only." The young girl made a gesture of rage. "I understand you, Fernand; you would be revenged on him because I do not love you; you would cross your Catalan knife with his dirk. What end would that answer? To lose you my friendship if he were conquered, and see that friendship changed into hate if you were victor. Believe me, to seek a quarrel with a man is a bad method of pleasing the woman who loves that man. No, Fernand, you will not thus give way to evil thoughts. Unable to have me for your wife, you will content yourself with having me for your friend and sister; and besides," she added, her eyes troubled and moistened with tears, "wait, wait, Fernand; you said just now that the sea was treacherous, and he has been gone four months, and during these four months there have been some terrible storms."

Fernand made no reply, nor did he attempt to check the tears which flowed down the cheeks of Mercédès, although for each of these tears he would have shed his heart's blood; but these tears flowed for another. He arose, paced a while up and down the hut, and then, suddenly stopping before Mercédès, with his eyes glowing and his hands clinched,--"Say, Mercédès," he said, "once for all, is this your final determination?"

"I love Edmond Dantès," the young girl calmly replied, "and none but Edmond shall ever be my husband."

"And you will always love him?"

"As long as I live."

Fernand let fall his head like a defeated man, heaved a sigh that was like a groan, and then suddenly looking her full in the face, with clinched teeth and expanded nostrils, said,--"But if he is dead"--

"If he is dead, I shall die too."

"If he has forgotten you"--

"Mercédès!" called a joyous voice from without,--"Mercédès!"

"Ah," exclaimed the young girl, blushing with delight, and fairly leaping in excess of love, "you see he has not forgotten me, for here he is!" And rushing towards the door, she opened it, saying, "Here, Edmond, here I am!"

Fernand, pale and trembling, drew back, like a traveller at the sight of a serpent, and fell into a chair beside him. Edmond and Mercédès were clasped in each other's arms. The burning Marseilles sun, which shot into the room through the open door, covered them with a flood of light. At first they saw nothing around them. Their intense happiness isolated them from all the rest of the world, and they only spoke in broken words, which are the tokens of a joy so extreme that they seem rather the expression of sorrow. Suddenly Edmond saw the gloomy, pale, and threatening countenance of Fernand, as it was defined in the shadow. By a movement for which he could scarcely account to himself, the young Catalan placed his hand on the knife at his belt.

"Ah, your pardon," said Dantès, frowning in his turn; "I did not perceive that there were three of us." Then, turning to Mercédès, he inquired, "Who is this gentleman?"

"One who will be your best friend, Dantès, for he is my friend, my cousin, my brother; it is Fernand--the man whom, after you, Edmond, I love the best in the world. Do you not remember him?"

"Yes!" said Dantès, and without relinquishing Mercédès hand clasped in one of his own, he extended the other to the Catalan with a cordial air. But Fernand, instead of responding to this amiable gesture, remained mute and trembling. Edmond then cast his eyes scrutinizingly at the agitated and embarrassed Mercédès, and then again on the gloomy and menacing Fernand. This look told him all, and his anger waxed hot.

"I did not know, when I came with such haste to you, that I was to meet an enemy here."

"An enemy!" cried Mercédès, with an angry look at her cousin. "An enemy in my house, do you say, Edmond! If I believed that, I would place my arm under yours and go with you to Marseilles, leaving the house to return to it no more."

Fernand's eye darted lightning. "And should any misfortune occur to you, dear Edmond," she continued with the same calmness which proved to Fernand that the young girl had read the very innermost depths of his sinister thought, "if misfortune should occur to you, I would ascend the highest point of the Cape de Morgion and cast myself headlong from it."

Fernand became deadly pale. "But you are deceived, Edmond," she continued. "You have no enemy here--there is no one but Fernand, my brother, who will grasp your hand as a devoted friend."

And at these words the young girl fixed her imperious look on the Catalan, who, as if fascinated by it, came slowly towards Edmond, and offered him his hand. His hatred, like a powerless though furious wave, was broken against the strong ascendancy which Mercédès exercised over him. Scarcely, however, had he touched Edmond's hand than he felt he had done all he could do, and rushed hastily out of the house.

"Oh," he exclaimed, running furiously and tearing his hair--"Oh, who will deliver me from this man? Wretched--wretched that I am!"

"Hallo, Catalan! Hallo, Fernand! where are you running to?" exclaimed a voice.

The young man stopped suddenly, looked around him, and perceived Caderousse sitting at table with Danglars, under an arbor.

"Well", said Caderousse, "why don't you come? Are you really in such a hurry that you have no time to pass the time of day with your friends?"

"Particularly when they have still a full bottle before them," added Danglars. Fernand looked at them both with a stupefied air, but did not say a word.

"He seems besotted," said Danglars, pushing Caderousse with his knee. "Are we mistaken, and is Dantès triumphant in spite of all we have believed?"

"Why, we must inquire into that," was Caderousse's reply; and turning towards the young man, said, "Well, Catalan, can't you make up your mind?"

Fernand wiped away the perspiration steaming from his brow, and slowly entered the arbor, whose shade seemed to restore somewhat of calmness to his senses, and whose coolness somewhat of refreshment to his exhausted body.

"Good-day," said he. "You called me, didn't you?" And he fell, rather than sat down, on one of the seats which surrounded the table.

"I called you because you were running like a madman, and I was afraid you would throw yourself into the sea," said Caderousse, laughing. "Why, when a man has friends, they are not only to offer him a glass of wine, but, moreover, to prevent his swallowing three or four pints of water unnecessarily!"

Fernand gave a groan, which resembled a sob, and dropped his head into his hands, his elbows leaning on the table.

"Well, Fernand, I must say," said Caderousse, beginning the conversation, with that brutality of the common people in which curiosity destroys all diplomacy, "you look uncommonly like a rejected lover;" and he burst into a hoarse laugh.

"Bah!" said Danglars, "a lad of his make was not born to be unhappy in love. You are laughing at him, Caderousse."

"No," he replied, "only hark how he sighs! Come, come, Fernand," said Caderousse, "hold up your head, and answer us. It's not polite not to reply to friends who ask news of your health."

"My health is well enough," said Fernand, clinching his hands without raising his head.

"Ah, you see, Danglars," said Caderousse, winking at his friend, "this is how it is; Fernand, whom you see here, is a good and brave Catalan, one of the best fishermen in Marseilles, and he is in love with a very fine girl, named Mercédès; but it appears, unfortunately, that the fine girl is in love with the mate of the Pharaon; and as the Pharaon arrived to-day--why, you understand!"

"No; I do not understand," said Danglars.

"Poor Fernand has been dismissed," continued Caderousse.

"Well, and what then?" said Fernand, lifting up his head, and looking at Caderousse like a man who looks for some one on whom to vent his anger; "Mercédès is not accountable to any person, is she? Is she not free to love whomsoever she will?"

"Oh, if you take it in that sense," said Caderousse, "it is another thing. But I thought you were a Catalan, and they told me the Catalans were not men to allow themselves to be supplanted by a rival. It was even told me that Fernand, especially, was terrible in his vengeance."

Fernand smiled piteously. "A lover is never terrible," he said.

"Poor fellow!" remarked Danglars, affecting to pity the young man from the bottom of his heart. "Why, you see, he did not expect to see Dantès return so suddenly--he thought he was dead, perhaps; or perchance faithless! These things always come on us more severely when they come suddenly."

"Ah, ma foi, under any circumstances," said Caderousse, who drank as he spoke, and on whom the fumes of the wine began to take effect,--"under any circumstances Fernand is not the only person put out by the fortunate arrival of Dantès; is he, Danglars?"

"No, you are right--and I should say that would bring him ill-luck."

"Well, never mind," answered Caderousse, pouring out a glass of wine for Fernand, and filling his own for the eighth or ninth time, while Danglars had merely sipped his. "Never mind--in the meantime he marries Mercédès--the lovely Mercédès--at least he returns to do that."

During this time Danglars fixed his piercing glance on the young man, on whose heart Caderousse's words fell like molten lead.

"And when is the wedding to be?" he asked.

"Oh, it is not yet fixed!" murmured Fernand.

"No, but it will be," said Caderousse, "as surely as Dantès will be captain of the Pharaon--eh, Danglars?"

Danglars shuddered at this unexpected attack, and turned to Caderousse, whose countenance he scrutinized, to try and detect whether the blow was premeditated; but he read nothing but envy in a countenance already rendered brutal and stupid by drunkenness.

"Well," said he, filling the glasses, "let us drink to Captain Edmond Dantès, husband of the beautiful Catalane!"

Caderousse raised his glass to his mouth with unsteady hand, and swallowed the contents at a gulp. Fernand dashed his on the ground.

"Eh, eh, eh!" stammered Caderousse. "What do I see down there by the wall, in the direction of the Catalans? Look, Fernand, your eyes are better than mine. I believe I see double. You know wine is a deceiver; but I should say it was two lovers walking side by side, and hand in hand. Heaven forgive me, they do not know that we can see them, and they are actually embracing!"

Danglars did not lose one pang that Fernand endured.

"Do you know them, Fernand?" he said.

"Yes," was the reply, in a low voice. "It is Edmond and Mercédès!"

"Ah, see there, now!" said Caderousse; "and I did not recognize them! Hallo, Dantès! hello, lovely damsel! Come this way, and let us know when the wedding is to be, for Fernand here is so obstinate he will not tell us."

"Hold your tongue, will you?" said Danglars, pretending to restrain Caderousse, who, with the tenacity of drunkards, leaned out of the arbor. "Try to stand upright, and let the lovers make love without interruption. See, look at Fernand, and follow his example; he is well-behaved!"

Fernand, probably excited beyond bearing, pricked by Danglars, as the bull is by the bandilleros, was about to rush out; for he had risen from his seat, and seemed to be collecting himself to dash headlong upon his rival, when Mercédès, smiling and graceful, lifted up her lovely head, and looked at them with her clear and bright eyes. At this Fernand recollected her threat of dying if Edmond died, and dropped again heavily on his seat. Danglars looked at the two men, one after the other, the one brutalized by liquor, the other overwhelmed with love.

"I shall get nothing from these fools," he muttered; "and I am very much afraid of being here between a drunkard and a coward. Here's an envious fellow making himself boozy on wine when he ought to be nursing his wrath, and here is a fool who sees the woman he loves stolen from under his nose and takes on like a big baby. Yet this Catalan has eyes that glisten like those of the vengeful Spaniards, Sicilians, and Calabrians, and the other has fists big enough to crush an ox at one blow. Unquestionably, Edmond's star is in the ascendant, and he will marry the splendid girl--he will be captain, too, and laugh at us all, unless"--a sinister smile passed over Danglars' lips--"unless I take a hand in the affair," he added.

"Hallo!" continued Caderousse, half-rising, and with his fist on the table, "hallo, Edmond! do you not see your friends, or are you too proud to speak to them?"

"No, my dear fellow!" replied Dantès, "I am not proud, but I am happy, and happiness blinds, I think, more than pride."

"Ah, very well, that's an explanation!" said Caderousse. "How do you do, Madame Dantès?"

Mercédès courtesied gravely, and said--"That is not my name, and in my country it bodes ill fortune, they say, to call a young girl by the name of her betrothed before he becomes her husband. So call me Mercédès, if you please."

"We must excuse our worthy neighbor, Caderousse," said Dantès, "he is so easily mistaken."

"So, then, the wedding is to take place immediately, M. Dantès," said Danglars, bowing to the young couple.

"As soon as possible, M. Danglars; to-day all preliminaries will be arranged at my father's, and to-morrow, or next day at latest, the wedding festival here at La Rèserve. My friends will be there, I hope; that is to say, you are invited, M. Danglars, and you, Caderousse."

"And Fernand," said Caderousse with a chuckle; "Fernand, too, is invited!"

"My wife's brother is my brother," said Edmond; "and we, Mercédès and I, should be very sorry if he were absent at such a time."

Fernand opened his mouth to reply, but his voice died on his lips, and he could not utter a word.

"To-day the preliminaries, to-morrow or next day the ceremony! You are in a hurry, captain!"

"Danglars," said Edmond, smiling, "I will say to you as Mercédès said just now to Caderousse, 'Do not give me a title which does not belong to me'; that may bring me bad luck."

"Your pardon," replied Danglars, "I merely said you seemed in a hurry, and we have lots of time; the Pharaon cannot be under weigh again in less than three months."

"We are always in a hurry to be happy, M. Danglars; for when we have suffered a long time, we have great difficulty in believing in good fortune. But it is not selfishness alone that makes me thus in haste; I must go to Paris."

"Ah, really?--to Paris! and will it be the first time you have ever been there, Dantès?"

"Yes."

"Have you business there?"

"Not of my own; the last commission of poor Captain Leclere; you know to what I allude, Danglars--it is sacred. Besides, I shall only take the time to go and return."

"Yes, yes, I understand," said Danglars, and then in a low tone, he added, "To Paris, no doubt to deliver the letter which the grand marshal gave him. Ah, this letter gives me an idea--a capital idea! Ah; Dantès, my friend, you are not yet registered number one on board the good ship Pharaon;" then turning towards Edmond, who was walking away, "A pleasant journey," he cried.

"Thank you," said Edmond with a friendly nod, and the two lovers continued on their way, as calm and joyous as if they were the very elect of heaven. 
 



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