Selected from “Lord Jim” 摘自《吉姆爺》

by Joseph Conrad 約瑟夫・康拉德

 

Six months afterwards my friend (he was a cynical, more than middle-aged bachelor, with a reputation for eccentricity, and owned a rice-mill) wrote to me, and judging, from the warmth of my recommendation, that I would like to hear, enlarged a little upon Jim’s perfections. These were apparently of a quiet and effective sort. “Not having been able so far to find more in my heart than a resigned toleration for any individual of my kind, I have lived till now alone in a house that even in this steaming climate could be considered as too big for one man. I have had him to live with me for some time past. It seems I haven’t made a mistake.” It seemed to me on reading this letter that my friend had found in his heart more than tolerance for Jim—that there were the beginnings of active liking.

六個月後,我的朋友(憤世嫉俗、早已過中年的單身漢,他性格古怪,還開了一座碾米廠)寫信給我,他說從我當初的熱心推薦看來,我會想聽他對吉姆的諸多讚美。顯然吉姆默默地改變了他。「我向來對同儕沒多大好感,頂多只能做到容忍的地步。我現住的房子,即使在如此悶熱的氣候裡,光我一個人,也嫌太大。我叫他搬來住有一段時間了,我這個決定似乎是正確的。」讀了這封信,我覺得我朋友的感覺似乎不僅只包容而已,他開始喜歡吉姆了。

Of course he stated his grounds in a characteristic way. For one thing, Jim kept his freshness in the climate. Had he been a girl—my friend wrote—one could have said he was blooming—blooming modestly—like a violet, not like some of these blatant tropical flowers. He had been in the house for six weeks, and had not as yet attempted to slap him on the back, or address him as “old boy,” or try to make him feel a superannuated fossil. He had nothing of the exasperating young man’s chatter. He was good-tempered, had not much to say for himself, was not clever by any means, thank goodness—wrote my friend. It appeared, however, that Jim was clever enough to be quietly appreciative of his wit, while, on the other hand, he amused him by his naiveness.

當然,他還是以自己一貫的方式表達自己的理由。首先,吉姆讓周遭氣氛變得清爽。他要是個女孩——我朋友這樣寫道——幾乎可以說他像紫羅蘭花一樣,氣質清新,而非一般平庸的熱帶花朵。他來家裡六個星期了,至今還不曾舉止輕率,叫他老傢伙,但也不至於讓他覺得自己像顆老過頭的化石。他不像一般惹人厭的年輕人那樣饒舌,脾氣好,不大說自己的是,而且一點也不耍小聰明,真是謝天謝地哪——我的朋友這樣寫道。不過看起來吉姆還是夠聰明,能安靜欣賞他的機智;另外一方面,他的天真也令他感到有趣。

“The dew is yet on him, and since I had the bright idea of giving him a room in the house and having him at meals I feel less withered myself. The other day he took it into his head to cross the room with no other purpose but to open a door for me; and I felt more in touch with mankind than I had been for years. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Of course I guess there is something—some awful little scrape—which you know all about—but if I am sure that it is terribly heinous, I fancy one could manage to forgive it. For my part, I declare I am unable to imagine him guilty of anything much worse than robbing an orchard. Is it much worse? Perhaps you ought to have told me; but it is such a long time since we both turned saints that you may have forgotten we, too, had sinned in our time? It may be that some day I shall have to ask you, and then I shall expect to be told. I don’t care to question him myself till I have some idea what it is. Moreover, it’s too soon as yet. Let him open the door a few times more for me. . . .” Thus my friend.

「他還保有年輕人的純真,由於我出的好主意,把家裡房間空出來給他住,現在每天跟他一起用餐,我都覺得自己沒那麼枯老了。前幾天,他也沒要幹嘛便自動自發走過整個房間,只是為了替我開門;我已經好久沒感受到這種人性的溫暖了。很可笑,對吧?當然,我猜他身上曾發生過什麼事——或許惹過什麼小麻煩——這些你一定都曉得——但即使是很糟糕的事情,我想我也有辦法原諒。以我而言,我得說自己無法想像他幹過多惡劣的事情,頂多就是偷偷果園罷了吧。難道比這還嚴重嗎?或許你早該告訴我的,但我倆洗心革面已久,你自己可能也忘了,我們年輕時也都幹過壞事,對吧?說不定有朝一日我會問你,屆時希望你告訴我。在我不曉得是什麼事情之前,我不想親口問他。此外,現在時機也還沒到。就讓他多幫我開開門吧……」我的朋友這樣寫道。

I was trebly pleased—at Jim’s shaping so well, at the tone of the letter, at my own cleverness. Evidently I had known what I was doing. I had read characters aright, and so on. And what if something unexpected and wonderful were to come of it? That evening, reposing in a deck-chair under the shade of my own poop awning (it was in Hong-Kong harbour), I laid on Jim’s behalf the first stone of a castle in Spain.

我實在開心極了——因為吉姆的狀況很好,因為友人來鴻的語調,也為自己的好主意深感得意。顯然我明白自己在幹什麼,看人的眼光也沒錯,諸如此類的理由。這件事可能會有什麼意想不到的好結果也說不定?那天晚上躺在船艉甲板頂棚下的折疊椅上休息(船正停靠在香港),我為吉姆幻想未來,砌下夢中城堡的第一塊礎石。

I made a trip to the northward, and when I returned I found another letter from my friend waiting for me. It was the first envelope I tore open. “There are no spoons missing, as far as I know,” ran the first line; “I haven’t been interested enough to inquire. He is gone, leaving on the breakfast-table a formal little note of apology, which is either silly or heartless. Probably both—and it’s all one to me. Allow me to say, lest you should have some more mysterious young men in reserve, that I have shut up shop, definitely and for ever. This is the last eccentricity I shall be guilty of. Do not imagine for a moment that I care a hang; but he is very much regretted at tennis-parties, and for my own sake I’ve told a plausible lie at the club. . . .”

我去了北部一趟,回來後發現吾友又來了一封信在等著我。我拆開了第一封信。「據我所知,連湯匙都沒掉。」信中第一句話便這樣說道。「我也沒興趣查看。他走了,在早餐桌上留了張正式的小紙條道歉,這麼做真不知道是愚蠢或無情。說不定兩者皆然——對我來說也都一樣。先講明了,你若有其他來路不明的年輕人要推介的,我這邊已經關門大吉,不歡迎,我再也不自討苦吃了。千萬別以為我在乎,只是打網球時大夥兒都覺得可惜,我還得自己編個說得過去的藉口,騙俱樂部裡的人……」

I flung the letter aside and started looking through the batch on my table, till I came upon Jim’s handwriting. Would you believe it? One chance in a hundred! But it is always that hundredth chance! That little second engineer of the Patna had turned up in a more or less destitute state, and got a temporary job of looking after the machinery of the mill. “I couldn’t stand the familiarity of the little beast,” Jim wrote from a seaport seven hundred miles south of the place where he should have been in clover. “I am now for the time with Egstrom & Blake, ship-chandlers, as their—well—runner, to call the thing by its right name. For reference I gave them your name, which they know of course, and if you could write a word in my favour it would be a permanent employment.” I was utterly crushed under the ruins of my castle, but of course I wrote as desired. Before the end of the year my new charter took me that way, and I had an opportunity of seeing him.

我將信扔到一旁,開始翻起桌上那疊郵件,這時我看到了吉姆的字跡。有誰料得到呢?這簡直是百中一遇的機緣哪!但事情總是這麼巧合!當年帕特娜號上的大管輪出現了,一貧如洗的他找到了照料工廠機械的臨時活兒。「那討厭的傢伙一副跟你很熟的樣子,我受不了。」本應逍遙過活的吉姆,此時人在南方相距七百哩的海港。「我目前在船具商埃格斯頓與布萊克這裡——呃——簡單來說,就是幫他們跑腿。我推薦人就寫了你的名字,他們當然認識你,要是你能幫我美言幾句的話,我就能轉正職了。」那夢想的城堡垮了,我心裡好不舒服,但當然我還是照他說的寫了封信去。在那年年底之前,我剛好因為新的船班去了那一帶,因此有機會與他碰面。

He was still with Egstrom & Blake, and we met in what they called “our parlour” opening out of the store. He had that moment come in from boarding a ship, and confronted me head down, ready for a tussle. “What have you got to say for yourself?” I began as soon as we had shaken hands. “What I wrote you—nothing more,” he said stubbornly. “Did the fellow blab—or what?” I asked. He looked up at me with a troubled smile. “Oh, no! He didn’t. He made it a kind of confidential business between us. He was most damnably mysterious whenever I came over to the mill; he would wink at me in a respectful manner—as much as to say ‘We know what we know.’ Infernally fawning and familiar—and that sort of thing . . .” He threw himself into a chair and stared down his legs.

他還在埃格斯頓與布萊克那裡工作,他們公司店裡有個接待室,我們就在那裡見面。當時他剛登船後回來,一進門毫不客氣就與我直接講開了。「你打算怎樣跟我解釋呢?」我們握手時我便說了。「就我信上說的那些,沒別的了。」他的口氣強硬。「那傢伙是會到處亂講還是怎樣?」我問他。他苦笑看著我。「噢,沒有!他不會亂講。整件事他不希望有別人知道。我每次到工廠時,他就一副神祕兮兮的模樣;他會恭敬地對我眨眼睛——彷彿在說『這一切只有你知我知』,態度親暱巴結得令人生厭——事情就是那樣子……」他重重地坐入椅中,眼睛盯著自己雙腿。

“One day we happened to be alone and the fellow had the cheek to say, ‘Well, Mr. James’—I was called Mr. James there as if I had been the son—‘here we are together once more. This is better than the old ship—ain’t it?’ . . . Wasn’t it appalling, eh? I looked at him, and he put on a knowing air. ‘Don’t you be uneasy, sir,’ he says. ‘I know a gentleman when I see one, and I know how a gentleman feels. I hope, though, you will be keeping me on this job. I had a hard time of it too, along of that rotten old Patna racket.’ Jove! It was awful. I don’t know what I should have said or done if I had not just then heard Mr. Denver calling me in the passage. It was tiffin-time, and we walked together across the yard and through the garden to the bungalow. He began to chaff me in his kindly way . . . I believe he liked me . . .”

「有一天工廠剛好只有我們兩個人在,那傢伙居然厚顏無恥地說:『我說啊,詹姆斯先生——』我在那裡被叫做詹姆斯先生,彷彿我是老闆兒子一樣——『沒想到咱們倆又碰頭了。這兒實在比那艘船上好,可不是嗎?』……呃,這真叫人受不了。我看著他,他擺出一副心裡了然的姿態。『先生,您千萬別覺得不自在。』他說。『我看得出來您是個正人君子,我知道您是怎麼想的。不過呢,我希望您能幫我保住這份工作。我自己也過得很辛苦哪,都怪帕特娜那樁船難惹的禍。』天哪!真是糟透了。我真不知道自己該怎樣回應,幸好當時丹佛先生馬上就叫我過去了。那會兒剛好是午餐時間,我們一起走過整座工廠、庭園,然後到屋裡去。他開始親切地揶揄著我……我相信他是喜歡我的……」

Jim was silent for a while.

‘“I know he liked me. That’s what made it so hard. Such a splendid man! . . . That morning he slipped his hand under my arm. . . . He, too, was familiar with me.” He burst into a short laugh, and dropped his chin on his breast. “Pah! When I remembered how that mean little beast had been talking to me,” he began suddenly in a vibrating voice, “I couldn’t bear to think of myself . . . I suppose you know . . .” I nodded. . . . “More like a father,” he cried; his voice sank. “I would have had to tell him. I couldn’t let it go on—could I?” “Well?” I murmured, after waiting a while. “I preferred to go,” he said slowly; “this thing must be buried.”

吉姆沉默了一會兒。

「我知道他喜歡我。正因為如此才會那麼難過。他真是個大好人!……那天早上,他走路還挽著我胳膊……簡直把我當自家人。」他乾笑了一聲,然後整顆頭垂了下去。「哼!每當我想起那個混蛋對我說話時的神情,」他聲音突然開始顫抖:「我沒辦法忍受自己曾經……我想你應該知道的……」我點點頭……「他彷彿就像父親一樣。」他聲音一沉哭了出來。「我得告訴他才行。我不能讓事情這樣繼續下去——可以嗎?」「怎樣呢?」頓了一會兒後我低聲回應。「我情願離開。」他緩緩說道。「這件事不能讓人知道。」

 

Translated by Chen Yihsuan 陳逸軒譯