耗时72天读完的这本《Fifty Great Short Stories》,期间伴读都读完了五本其他的书,可见其耐读程度。许多短篇都难以一句两句说清其妙处。于是手痒,译文一篇,在纷繁的并轨工作中间,记录一次阅读的胜利。


译文:

有生,阿兰氏,复姓敖思腾。某日至邳迩街临巷,登暗楼,立某门前良久,视一币悬于门牌前,心甚诧。

复推门而入,非无礼之至,因人言如此。入窄室,环视,唯厨案一,藤椅一,摇椅一。见一隅壁阍墙黄,有阁几架,列瓶罐若干于其上。

有一翁于摇椅上,悠然捧读。兰生默然置贴于翁。翁请上座,曰:“今与弟识,吾心欣然。”

兰生答曰:“甚是,在下得告曰,尊处有药,有奇效,然否?”

翁答曰:“吾所营者甚多,但皆非雄黄地龙之常类,未知所指者何?”

兰生支吾,赧然不能成语。

翁移步阁间,举一瓶曰:“此物无色无味,淡薄如水,可入茶入酒,仵作不可查。”

兰生瘆然问曰:“此剧毒也?”

“非也,可曰还原丹,可曰忘忧散,人生在世,常有追悔莫及之时,欲万事复旧,干净如初,此物可做是用。”

“非我所欲也。”兰生答曰。

“可知其价值几何?一匙之量,价五千金。”

兰生咋舌曰:“尊处所存,皆昂贵如斯否?”

翁答:“非也,有情爱之药,价贱如土。少年穷者,岂有五千金可作此用。倘富贵如斯,要此药作甚?”

兰生欣然。

翁复曰:“吾视此事,仿佛赠美文一篇于客,客读罢喜之则复返而求购之,虽价高而不以为然。”

兰生问曰:“果有此药否?”

翁曰:“若非在架,吾例之何以。售合适之物于所需之人乃吾之道也。”

兰生复言语委婉,踌躇不前,意欲询此药长效否。

翁答:“此物长效,长至终生,绝非一时兴起”

兰生欣喜大呼:“甚好!”

翁复曰:“置此药于清茶甘露,玉液花琼中,或所求佳丽所喜之物中饮之。则佳丽复无他求,唯汝而已。便是身为石女,有磨镜之好者,皆效果如一。”

兰生曰:“不可想!其人甚好欢宴。”

翁答:“则其不复好也,所忧者,唯汝邂逅新姝之嫌。”

兰生将信将疑:“其可妒吾如斯?”

“然也。汝乃其毕生所爱之唯一,无有他想。”

兰生狂喜,振臂欢呼。

翁复曰:“其女欲知汝所事,汝所想,何所喜,何所忧,事无巨细,虽一言不可疏。”

兰生曰:“此真情也!”

翁答:“甚是,彼时,其所欲者,乃汝之起居琐事,衣食住行,事事顾及。若汝外出晚归,将疑汝遭强人所害,又或另结新欢。”

兰生喜答:“无可想象!”

翁曰:“常言道,君子多情,才俊如弟者更甚。佳丽淑女常有,风流韵事在所难免,而服此药者将永谅其罪,虽与浪子结缘而永无微词。”

兰生正色曰:“吾有此女,别无他求。”

翁曰:“然也,但凡事发东墙,此女亦无悔婚之意,可高枕无忧。”

兰生问曰:“奇药如此,价钱几何?”

翁答曰:“若忘忧散者,非五千金不可得,毫厘不差。年少如尊驾者,不易得之,需积年累月方可得。”

兰生复问:“情爱之药者何价?”

翁旋即开厨案之屉,取胆瓶一只,污渍斑驳,托于掌上曰:“一金而已。”

兰生欣喜之情难以言表。

翁注药入瓶,曰:“吾常言,客者,若有朝一日,富贵通达,必将返而购贵重药品。”

言罢,置瓶于兰生。

兰生道谢频频,起身告辞。

翁悠然曰:“后会有期”。

原文:

Alan Austen, as nervous as a kitten, went up certain dark and creaky stairs in the neighborhood of Pell Street, and peered about for a long time on the dime landing before he found the name he wanted written obscurely on one of the doors.

He pushed open this door, as he had been told to do, and found himself in a tiny room, which contained no furniture but a plain kitchen table, a rocking-chair, and an ordinary chair. On one of the dirty buff-colored walls were a couple of shelves, containing in all perhaps a dozen bottles and jars.

An old man sat in the rocking-chair, reading a newspaper. Alan, without a word, handed him the card he had been given. “Sit down, Mr. Austen,” said the old man very politely. “I am glad to make your acquaintance.”

“Is it true,” asked Alan, “that you have a certain mixture that has-er-quite extraordinary effects?”

“My dear sir,” replied the old man, “my stock in trade is not very large-I don’t deal in laxatives and teething mixtures-but such as it is, it is varied. I think nothing I sell has effects which could be precisely described as ordinary.”

“Well, the fact is. . .” began Alan.

“Here, for example, “interrupted the old man, reaching for a bottle from the shelf. “Here is a liquid as colorless as water, almost tasteless, quite imperceptible in coffee, wine, or any other beverage. It is also quite imperceptible to any known method of autopsy.”

“Do you mean it is a poison?” cried Alan, very much horrified.
“Call it a glove-cleaner if you like,” said the old man indifferently. “Maybe it will clean gloves. I have never tried. One might call it a life-cleaner. Lives need cleaning sometimes.”

“I want nothing of that sort,” said Alan.

“Probably it is just as well,” said the old man. “Do you know the price of this? For one teaspoonful, which is sufficient, I ask five thousand dollars. Never less. Not a penny less.”

“I hope all your mixtures are not as expensive,” said Alan apprehensively.

“Oh dear, no,” said the old man. “It would be no good charging that sort of price for a love potion, for example. Young people who need a love potion very seldom have five thousand dollars. Otherwise they would not need a love potion.”

“I am glad to hear that,” said Alan.

“I look at it like this,” said the old man. “Please a customer with one article, and he will come back when he needs another. Even if it is more costly. He will save up for it, if necessary.”

“So,” said Alan, “you really do sell love potions?”

“If I did not sell love potions,” said the old man, reaching for another bottle, “I should not have mentioned the other matter to you. It is only when one is in a position to oblige that one can afford to be so confidential.”

“And these potions,” said Alan. “They are not just-just-er-“
“Oh, no,” said the old man. “Their effects are permanent, and extend far beyond the mere casual impulse. But they include it. Oh, yes they include it. Bountifully, insistently. Everlastingly.”

“Dear me!” said Alan, attempting a look of scientific detachment. “How very interesting!”

“But consider the spiritual side,” said the old man.

“I do, indeed,” said Alan.

“For indifference,” said the old man, they substitute devotion.
For scorn, adoration. Give one tiny measure of this to the young lady-its flavour is imperceptible in orange juice, soup, or cocktails-and however gay and giddy she is, she will change altogether. She will want nothing but solitude and you.”

“I can hardly believe it,” said Alan. “She is so fond of parties.”

“She will not like them any more,” said the old man. “She will be afraid of the pretty girls you may meet.”

“She will actually be jealous?” cried Alan in a rapture. “Of me?”

“Yes, she will want to be everything to you.”

“She is, already. Only she doesn’t care about it.”

“She will, when she has taken this. She will care intensely. You will be her sole interest in life.”

“Wonderful!” cried Alan.

“She will want to know all you do,” said the old man. “All that has happened to you during the day. Every word of it. She will want to know what you are thinking about, why you smile suddenly, why your are looking sad.”

“That is love!” cried Alan.

“Yes,” said the old man. “How carefully she will look after you! She will never allow you to be tired, to sit in a draught, to neglect your food. If you are an hour late, she will be terrified. She will think you are killed, or that some siren has caught you.”

“I can hardly imagine Diana like that!” cried Alan, overwhelmed with joy.

“You will not have to use your imagination,” said the old man. “And, by the way, since there are always sirens, if by any chance you should, later on, slip a little, you need not worry. She will forgive you, in the end. She will be terribly hurt, of course, but she will forgive you-in the end.”

“That will not happen,” said Alan fervently.

“Of course not,” said the old man. “But, if it did, you need not worry. She would never divorce you. Oh, no! And, of course, she will never give you the least, the very least, grounds for-uneasiness.”

“And how much,” said Alan, “is this wonderful mixture?”

“It is not as dear,” said the old man, “as the glove-cleaner, or life-cleaner, as I sometimes call it. No. That is five thousand dollars, never a penny less. One has to be older than you are, to indulge in that sort of thing. One has to save up for it.”

“But the love potion?” said Alan.

“Oh, that,” said the old man, opening the drawer in the kitchen table, and taking out a tiny, rather dirty-looking phial. “That is just a dollar.”

“I can’t tell you how grateful I am,” said Alan, watching him fill it.

“I like to oblige,” said the old man. “Then customers come back, later in life, when they are better off, and want more expensive things. Here you are. You will find it very effective.”

“Thank you again,” said Alan. “Good-bye.”

“Au revoir,” said the man.