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免费英语学习资料:柔石•《为奴隶的母亲》(双语)

2015-07-28 15:18   类别:   来源:BBS   责编:汪稳稳


她的丈夫是一个皮贩,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。


在穷底的结果的病以后,全身便变成枯黄色,脸孔黄的和小铜鼓一样,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,他向他底妻子说:


“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,怀里抱着她刚满三周岁的男小孩。她讷讷地低声地问。


“你,是呀,”她的丈夫病后的无力的声音,“我已经将你出典了……”


“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在啭,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。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,终于没有相当的女人。’她说:现在碰到我,想起了你来,样样都对的。当时问我底的意见怎样,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?春宝还只有五岁,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,跑到她底孩子底身上。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,本能地将头钻进他的母亲底胸膛。


“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,孩子要哭似地说:


“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,有他父亲在他刚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。


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,想对他说几句话,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为,向他们说:


“下雨了,下雨了,就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,你快些预备呀!”


可是妇人向她瞧了一瞧,似乎说:


“我实在不愿意离开呢!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。”老妇人一手放在她底肩上,脸凑近她和春宝。“有五岁了,古人说:‘三周四岁离娘身’,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,他们噜苏着说:


“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,而且出没有话。


两村相隔有三十里路,可是轿夫的第二次将轿子放下肩,就到了。春天的细雨,从轿子底布蓬里飘进,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,以后就再没有养过第二个。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,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:


“怕羞吗?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,她常是这么噜噜苏苏的。她以前很爱那个长工,因为长工要和烧饭的黄妈多说话,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!”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,也可以叫黄妈洗的。”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,黄妈部是不肯给它吃饱的。”


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。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——这是六月时的东西,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:‘同房花烛夜,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,噜噜苏苏地也说了三天。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,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!她是阉过的母鸡,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,将头钻井被窝里去,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。秋开始,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——在这间房子内是产母底低声呻呤的声音;有时他向天上望一望被云笼罩着的太阳,于是又走向门口,向站在房门内黄妈问:


“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,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“长命宝贵”或“福禄寿喜”里拣一个字,最后还是“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?


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, 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 Chiumous 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 five. 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 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 come 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 carrier 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, has 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 quiet 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 five. 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 have one or two children over there, everything will be quiet 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?”


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 destion 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 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 your 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 kitchen-maid 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 farm-hand very much, and often scolds the kitchen-maid 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 bought 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 kitchen-maid 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 kitchen-maid 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 wonton. 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 on 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 kitchen-maid grinding rice for the Spring Festival. They had hardly started grinding when he said to the young woman, “You’d better have a rest now. We can let the farm-hand do it, since everybody is going to eat the rice 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 farm-hand once asked him,


“Please, sir, what are 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 experience 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 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 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 quiet different before—like a bitch that has to go searching for food even 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 kitchen-maid. “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 cloudy sky, and walk up to the kitchen-maid 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 breastfeeding 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 brain, 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 quiet 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.”


Qiu Bao daily grew handsome and more attached to his mother. His unusually big eyes which started 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.

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