神秘及幻想故事集
Tales of Mystery and Imagination


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    The Fall of the House of Usher
    The Fall of the House of Usher
    
    It was a grey autumn day and the sky was full of large black clouds.All day I had ridden through flat and uninteresting countryside,but at last,as it began to grow dark,I saw the end of my journey.
    There,in front of me,stood the House of Usher.And at once -I do not know why-a strange feeling of deep gloom came down on me and covered me like a blanket.I looked up at the old house with its high stone walls and narrow windows.I looked around at the thin dry grass and the old dying trees,and an icy hand seemed to take hold of my heart.I felt cold and sick,and could not think of one happy thought to chase away my gloom.
    Why,I wondered,did the House of Usher make me feel so sad?I could find no answer.
    There was a lake next to the house and I rode my horse up to the edge and stopped.Perhaps from here the house would not seem so sad,so full of gloom.I looked down into the mirror of dark,still water,and saw again the empty,eye-like windows of the house and the dying trees all around it.The feeling of gloom was stronger than ever.
    It was in this house that I was going to spend the next few weeks.Its owner,Roderick Usher,had been a good friend of mine when I was a boy.I had not seen him for many years, but recently he had sent me a letter-a sad and terrible letter.He wrote that he was ill,ill in body and ill in mind;that he wanted and needed to see me.I was his only friend,the only person who could help him in his illness.
    Although we had been good friends when we were young,I knew very little about him.He had never spoken much about himself,but I knew that he came from a very old family of which he was the last living man.I also knew that in the Usher family there had never been many children and so for hundreds of years the family name,together with the family home,had passed straight from father to son.
    As I stood by the lake,my feeling of gloom grew and grew.I knew also that underneath my gloom lay fear,and fear does strange things to the mind.I began to imagine that the gloom was not in my mind,but was something real.It was like a mysterious cloud,which seemed to come straight from the dark lake and the dying trees and the old walls of the house.A heavy grey cloud,which carried with it disease and fear.
    This was a dream,I told myself,and I looked more carefully at the building in front of me.It was,indeed,very old and I noticed that every stone had cracks and holes in it.But there was nothing really wrong with the building.No stones were missing.The only thing that I noticed was a very small crack which started at the top of the building and continued all the way down into the dark waters of the lake.
    I went up to the front of the house.A servant took my horse and I stepped into the large hall.Another servant led me silently upstairs.On the walls there were many strange,dark pictures which made me feel nervous.I remembered these pictures from my earlier visits to the house when I was a child.But the feelings that the pictures gave me on this visit were new to me.
    On the stairs we met the family doctor.He had a strange look on his face,a look that I did not like .I hurried on,and finally the servant opened a door and took me into the study.
    The room was large and long,with high narrow windows,which let in only a little light Shadows lay in all the corners of the room and around the dark pieces of furniture.There were-many books and a few guitars,but there was no life,no happiness in the room.Deep gloom filled the air.
    When Usher saw me,he got up and welcomed me warmly.I thought he was just being polite,but as I looked into his face,I could see that he was pleased to see me.We sat down,but he did not speak at first,and for a few moments I watched him in surprise and fear.He had changed so much since our last meeting!He had the same pale thin face,the same eyes,large and clear,and the same thin lips and soft hair.But now his skin was too white,his eyes too large and bright,and he seemed a different man.He frightened me.And his long wild hair looked like a ghostly cloud around his head.
    I noticed that my friend was very nervous and that his feelings changed very quickly.Sometimes he talked a lot,then he suddenly became silent and did not say a word for many hours.At other times he found it difficult to think,and his voice was heavy and slow,like the voice of a man who had drunk too much.
    He told me why he had wanted to see me,and how he hoped to feel better now that I was with him.He had,he explained,a strange illness which had been in his family for a long time.It was a nervous illness which made him feel everything much more strongly than other people.He could only eat food that was almost tasteless.He had to choose his clothes very carefully because most of them hurt his skin.He could not have flowers in his room because their smell was too strong for him.Light hurt his eyes,and most sounds hurt his ears except the soft sound of guitars.
    Worst of all,he was a prisoner of his own fear.‘I shall die,’he used to say,‘because of this fear,I'm not afraid of danger.What frightens me is fear itself.At the moment I am fighting against fear,but sooner or later I won't be able to fight any more.’
    During long conversations with Usher I learnt more about his strange illness.He was sure that it came from the House of Usher itself.He had not left the house for many years and he had become,he thought,as sad as the house itself.The gloom of its grey walls and its dark silent lake had become his own.
    He also believed that much of his sadness was because his dear sister was seriously ill.He had one sister,Madeleine,the only other person in his family who was still living,but each day she seemed a little nearer to death.
    ‘Her death,’Usher said blackly,‘will leave me alone in the world,the last of all the Ushers.’
    While he was speaking,Madeleine passed slowly through the back of the long room and,without noticing me,disappeared.As I looked at her,my eyes felt heavy with.sleep,and I had a strange feeling of fear.I looked across at Usher.He had covered his face with his hands,but I could see that he had become even paler,and that he was crying silently.
    Lady Madeleine's illness was a mysterious one which no doctor could understand.Every day she became weaker and thinner,and sometimes went into a sleep which was more like death than sleep.For years she had fought bravely against her illness,but on the night of my arrival she went to bed and did not get up from it again.‘You will probably not see her again alive,’Usher said to me,shaking his head sadly.
    During the next few days Usher and I never spoke about his sister.We spent a lot of time painting and reading together,and sometimes he played on his guitar.I tried very hard to help my friend,but I realized that his sadness was too deep.It was a black gloom that covered everything that belonged to his world;sometimes,indeed,he seemed close to the edge of madness.
    He painted strange pictures,and sang mysterious songs with wild words.His ideas,too,were strange,and he had one idea thst seemed more important to him than all the others.He was quite sure that all things,plants,trees,even stones,were able to feel.
    ‘The House of Usher itself,’he told me,‘is like a living thing.When the walls were first built,life went into the stones themselves and year after year it has grown stronger.Even the air around the walls and above the lake has its own life,and belongs to the house.Don't you see,’he cried,‘how the stones and the air have shaped the lives of the Usher family?’
    These ideas were too fantastic for me,and I could not answer him.
    One evening I was reading quietly when my friend told me,in very few words,that the Lady Madeleine had died.He had decided,he said,to keep her body for a fortnight in one of the vaults under the house,before it went to its last resting-place.This was because his sister's illness had been a mysterious one,and her doctors wanted to learn more about it.He asked me to help him and I agreed.
    Together we carried the body in its coffin down to the vaults under the house.The vault that he had chosen was a long way down,but was under the part of the house where I slept.It had once been a prison,and was small,dark,and airless,with a heavy metal door.
    We put the coffin down and then gently lifted up the cover to look at the dead woman for the last time.As I looked down at her face,I realized how much Usher's sister looked like him.My friend then said a few quiet words and I learnt that he and his sister had been born on the same day.Each had known the other's mind without the need for words.
    We could not look at her for long.Her strange illness had left her with a soft pink colour on her face,and that unchanging half-smile on her lips which is so terrible in death.We put back the cover of the coffin,fixed it down well,and after locking the heavy door of the vault,went back upstairs into the gloomy house.
    After some days of deep unhappiness,I saw that my friend's illness of the mind was growing worse.He did not paint or read any more.He moved slowly from room to room,never knowing what to do.His face became paler,the light disappeared from his eyes,and his voice often shook with fear when he spoke.Sometimes I thought he was trying to tell me some terrible secret.At other times I thought he was going mad.He used to sit for hours,looking at nothing,listening to nothing-except the sounds in his own mind.I myself began to know real fear.I felt my friend's terror,his deep gloom,slowly taking hold of my own mind.
    About seven or eight days after we had put Lady Madeleine's coffin in the vault,I went to bed but could not sleep.Hour after hour I lay there,fighting the fear and gloom that filled my mind.Outside,there was a storm which was growing wilder,and my room was full of shadows and the dark shapes of the gloomy furniture.I tried to calm myself,but I only became more frightened.
    Suddenly,my body shook with a new terror.
    I sat up in bed and listened hard.Yes,I could hear some low sounds,coming not from the storm outside,but from somewhere inside the house.Quickly,I put on my clothes and started walking up and down the room,trying to shake off my terrible fear.
    Then I heard a knock on my door and Usher came in.His face was as white as it had always been,and there was a kind of madness in his eyes.The look on his face frightened me terribly,but at the same time I was pleased not to be alone any more.
    For some moments he looked around without saying a word.Then,suddenly,‘Have you not seen it? No?Then wait.You must see it.’He hurried to the window and opened it.
    The wind from the violent storm outside crashed into the room,nearly knocking us to the floor.It was,indeed,a wild,but strangely beautiful night.The wind seemed to be going in circles around the house,and huge,heavy black clouds chased each other,first this way,then that way.We could see no moon and no stars,but a pale ghostly light lay around the house.
    ‘You mustn't,no,you must not watch this,’I cried to Usher.I pushed him gently away from the window and to a seat.‘It's only a storm,and the cold night air will be dangerous to your health.Let's close the window and read together.Look,here's one of your favourite books.I will read to you,and you can listen,and so we will pass this terrible night together.’
    The book which I had picked up was The Sad,Mad Life of Sir Launcelot Canning.It was not really one of US her's favourite books,but it was the only one that I had near me,so I started to read it.It was a wild,fantastic story,but I hoped that my reading would make Usher calmer and less afraid.He listened to me,indeed,but with a kind of mad seriousness that I found frightening.
    I read for a while and reached the place in the book where Ethelred broke down the door of the old man's house.
    Now Ethelred decided he could wait outside in the storm no longer.He lifted his heavy stick and beat against the wood-en door until he had made a hole.Then with his hands he pulled the door to pieces.The noise of the dry wood cracking and breaking could be heard all through the forest.
    As I finished reading this sentence,I jumped in my seat and then sat very still.I thought that I had heard,from somewhere far away in the house,the same noise of cracking and breaking wood.But I could not hear it clearly,and the noise of the storm was much louder.I continued reading:
    Ethelred entered the house but could not see the old man.Then the house disappeared and he saw a dragon,with fire coming out of its mouth.Ethelred lifted his heavy stick and brought it crashing down on the dragon's head.As the dragon fell dying to the ground,it gave a terrible cry-a long,hard,unnatural scream.
    Here again I stopped suddenly.I was sure that I could hear a cry.It was low and far away,but it was a long screaming sound-just like the one described in the book.
    Although I was feeling so nervous,I tried hard to hide my terror.I was not sure if Usher had heard the sounds that I had heard.In the last few minutes he had moved and was now sitting with his face towards the door.But I could see that his lips were shaking and his body was moving gently from side to side.I continued reading the story:
    And now Ethelred,after he had killed the dragon,turned and saw in front of him a palace of gold with tall gates of shining silver in the walls.Bravely,Ethelred ran towards the palace,but the shining silver gates did not wait for his coming and fell to the ground at his feet with a great and terrible ringing sound.
    As I read these words,I heard clearly the loud,heavy sound of metal falling.I jumped to my feet,but Usher sat in his seat and did not move.I ran towards him.He was looking straight in front of him and his face was like stone.As I placed my hand on his arm,his body began to shake.A sickly smile came over his lips,and he spoke in a low hurried voice.He did not seem to realize that I was there.I put my head close to his to catch his words.
    ‘Don't I hear it?-yes,I hear it,and I have heard it.For many minutes,many hours,many days I have heard it-but I was too frightened,too frightened to speak.We have put her alive into her coffin!Did I not tell you that I could hear even the softest sound?I tell you now that I heard her move in the coffin.I heard the sounds many days ago,but my terror was too great-I could not speak!And now tonight-when you read about Ethelred breaking the old man's door,about the cry of the dragon,and the falling of the gates-it was,in fact,the breaking of her coffin,the scream of metal as she broke open the vault,and the ringing crash as the metal door fell to the floor!Oh,where can I escape to?Is she hurrying towards me at this very minute?Is that her angry footstep that I can hear on the stairs?Can I hear the heavy and terrible beating of her heart?MADMAN!’
    He jumped up and shouted,screaming out his words like a man dying in terror.‘MADMAN!I TELL YOU THAT AT THIS MINUTE SHE Is STANDING OUTSIDE THIS DOOR!’
    AS he screamed these words,the heavy door was thrown open by the strong wind.There,outside the door,dressed in the white clothes of the dead,stood the tall figure of the Lady Madeleine of Usher.There was blood on her hands,her arms,her torn white clothes.Every part of her body showed the marks of her long fight to escape from the coffin.For a moment she stood there shaking,moving slowly from side to side.Then with a low cry she fell heavily onto her brother.And in the moment of her now final death,he fell with her to the floor-a dead man,killed by his own terror.
    From that room,and from that house,I ran in horror.Out-side,the storm was still violent and as I ran past the lake,a sudden wild light shone around me.I turned to see where this strange light was coming from.It was the moon,a full,blood-red moon,shining through a narrow crack in the walls of the house.It was the crack which started at the roof of the building and went right down to the ground.As I watched,the crack grew larger,the wind grew wilder-now I could see the full circle of the blood-red moon,and the great walls of the house breaking and falling.There was a long shouting sound,like the voice of a thousand waters,and the deep dark lake closed over the broken pieces of the House of Usher.
    
    鄂榭府崩溃记
    
    这是秋日里灰蒙蒙的一天,空中积满了大团大团的乌云。整整一天,我骑着马从平淡、乏味的乡野间驰过;不过,到天色开始变得昏暝的时候,我终于望见了此行的目的地。
    在我眼前,兀然立着鄂榭府。一看见它——不知何故——一种阴悒至极的怪异感觉便降临在我身上,像一张毯子一样罩住了我。我抬头仰望这座有着高大的石墙和狭小的窗户的古旧府第,又环顾四周稀疏的枯草和垂死的老树,这时,仿佛有一只冰冷的手抓住了我的心。我觉得奇寒彻骨,浑身乏力,怎么也想不起一件乐事来驱散心头的阴悒。
    我真奇怪,为什么鄂榭府会令我感觉如此之差?我百思不得其解。
    紧挨着宅子有一个湖,我骑马来到湖边停住。也许从这个角度看上去,宅子就不显得那样黯淡、那样阴悒了。我低头朝幽暗、凝止的湖水望去,在倒影中再一次看见了房子上面空荡的、眼睛似的窗户,以及四周那些垂死的树。阴悒的感觉愈发强烈起来。
    我将在这座府邸里盘桓几个星期。府邸的主人罗德里克·鄂榭,是我孩提时代的一个好友,我已有好多年没有见到他了;可是最近他给我来了一封信——一封透着悲哀与恐怖的信。他在信中说他患了病,身体和精神都不正常,还说他急切地要见我。我是他惟一的朋友,只有我能够帮助他摆脱疾病的折磨。
    虽说我们年少的时候是挚友,但我对他了解得非常少。他极少谈及他自己,不过我知道他来自一个历史特别悠久的世家,而他是这个世家最后一位活在人间的男性。我还知道,在鄂榭家族史上还从未有过子息繁盛的时候,于是,数百年来,家族的姓氏连同家族的宅第均是由父及于由子及孙一脉单传。
    我站在湖边,心头阴悒的感觉一刻强似一刻。我同样清楚,这阴悒之情的下面暗伏着恐惧,而恐惧又以古怪的方式作用于我的头脑。我开始猜测这阴悒并不在我头脑中,而是某种真实的东西。它宛如一团神秘的云气,似乎是从幽暗的湖水、垂死的树和宅子破旧的墙垣中间径直升腾而起的。那是团沉重的铅云,饱含着疾病与恐怖。
    我告诉自己这是个梦,又更加仔细地打量眼前的这栋建筑。的确,它已经非常破旧了,我注意到每一块石头上都有裂隙和孔洞。但是建筑本身又没有真正的残损,它一块石头也不缺。惟一引起我注意的是一道非常细小的裂缝,它从房子的顶部开始出现,然后一路向下延伸,直插入幽暗的湖水之中。
    我来到宅子的正面。一个仆人牵走了我的坐骑,我跨进了大厅。另一个仆人默默地领着我上了楼。墙壁上挂着许多幅怪异、晦暗的画,让我十分紧张。我记得当年我还是个孩子、来这座府第里做客时就见过这些画,但是这次来访,它们给我的感觉却是前所未有的。
    在楼梯上我遇见了家庭医生,他脸上现出一副刁钻古怪的神情,这神情我很不喜欢。我急忙走了上去;终于,仆人打开门,引我走进了书房。
    房间又大又长,窗户又高又窄,只能容许一点点天光射入,屋子的所有角落以及一件件深色的家具四周都是阴影。屋里摆放着好多书籍和几把吉他,但是毫无生气,毫无快乐可言。空气中满是浓重的阴悒氛围。
    鄂榭一看见我,便起身热情洋溢地表示欢迎。我起初还以为他这只不过是做出来的殷勤态度,可是待我朝他脸上望去,才知道他见到我是真心欢喜。我们坐了下来,但他一开始并未开口讲话;有几分钟我就这样看着他,心里既吃惊又害怕。从我们上一次见面到现在,他已经发生了多么大的变化呀!他的脸颊还是那样苍白、瘦削,眼睛还是那样大而清澈,嘴唇还是那样薄,头发还是那样柔软。但是现在,他的皮肤变得太惨白,眼睛变得太大太亮;他看上去已经完全是另一个人了。他把我吓坏了。还有他那一头乱糟糟的长发,好似幽灵般的愁云一样缭绕在他脑袋上。
    我发现我的朋友极度神经质,情绪变化无常。有时他长篇大论地讲话,而后就会突然间变得沉默寡言,几个小时一语不发。还有的时候他觉得想问题特别困难,于是他说话的声音就变得粗重、迟缓,好像是一个饮酒过量的人发出来的。
    他向我讲述了他为何急于见到我,以及他如何希望现在有我相陪伴,他的情况会好转些。他解释道,他得的是一种怪病,这种病已经在他的家族中肆虐好久了。这种神经过敏症搞得他对一切事物都比其他人敏感得多。他只能吃那些几乎完全寡淡无味的食物,只能万分小心地挑选衣物,因为大多数面料都会伤害他的皮肤。他不能忍受屋里摆放花卉,因为花卉的香气对他来说太浓烈了。光线会刺伤他的眼睛,大部分声音会刺伤他的耳朵——只有柔和的吉他弹奏声他还能接受。
    最糟糕的是,他成了自己的恐惧的囚徒。“我要死了,”他常常说,“死于这种恐惧。我并不害怕危险。令我丧胆的是恐惧本身。此刻我在同恐惧搏斗,但迟早我会丧失这奋力搏斗的能力。”
    在与鄂榭的长谈中,我对他的怪病有了更多的了解。他坚信这个病症来自鄂榭府本身。他已有多年未离开这座宅子了,于是他想,他已经变得跟宅子自身一样悲哀了。它那灰色的石墙与暗黑、凝止的湖水间所蕴藏的阴悒业已化作他个人的愁苦心绪。
    他还相信他身染怪病在很大程度上是由于他亲爱的妹妹病得十分严重。他有一个妹妹,名叫玛德琳,是他家族中另一位仅存于阳世间的成员,然而似乎每过一天,她就要朝着死神迈近一小步。
    “她这一死,”鄂榭闷闷不乐地说道,“就将把我,鄂榭家族的末代孑遗,独自撇在这世界上了。”
    他正说着,玛德琳从这长长的房间的远端缓缓走了过去,她并没有注意到我,便不见了影子。我盯着她,两眼昏昏欲睡,然后心头涌起一阵莫名其妙的惶恐。我再转脸看鄂榭,只见他已用双手掩面,不过我仍能看到他的脸色变得更加苍白,而且他正在无声地哭泣。
    玛德琳小姐的病症极为古怪,哪个医生都瞧不出个名堂来。她一天比一天衰弱,一天比一天单薄,有时候一觉睡去,与其说是睡着了,还不如说是死掉了更形象。多年以来她同病魔进行了勇敢的斗争,谁知就在我到来的那天夜里,她上了床,并且就此卧床不起。“你可能再也不会见到她活着了,”鄂榭悲哀地摇着头,对我说。
    此后的数日内鄂榭和我一直绝口不提他的妹妹。我们花了好多时间一起画画,一起读书,有时他还操起吉他弹上一曲。我尽了极大的努力去帮助我的朋友,但是却发现悲哀在他心中已如此根深蒂固。那黑魆魆的阴悒笼罩着属于他的世界的每一样东西;说实在的,有时候他似乎已接近了疯狂的边缘。
    他画了一些古怪的画,唱了一些神秘的歌曲,歌词中尽是些狂野的字眼儿。还有,他脑子里的念头也很古怪,其中有一个想法好像比其他想法对他来说更重要。他相当肯定地认为,万事万物,花草,树木,甚至石头,都是有感知能力的。
    “鄂榭府本身,”他对我说道,“就好像是一个活物。当墙壁最初被垒起来的时候,生命便进入了这些石头,此后年复一年,逐渐成长壮大。哪怕是围绕着石墙、聚集在湖面上的空气,也有它自己的生命,它是属于这宅子的。你难道没看见吗,”他嚷道,“那石头、那空气是如何塑造了鄂榭家族的众多生灵的?”
    这些看法对我来说简直太离奇了,我都不知该怎么回答他才好。
    一天傍晚,我正在安安静静地看书,我的朋友非常简短地告诉我,玛德琳小姐已经故去了。他说,他已经决定在宅子下面的一间地窖里停尸两个星期,然后再将其送往最后的长眠之地,理由是他妹妹的病很古怪,医生们还想再研究研究。他请求我帮忙料理一下,我答应了。
    我们两个一起抬着盛了尸体的棺材,向下来到房子底部的地窖里。他选定的那间地窖要向下走很长一段才到,但它的正上方恰巧是我的寝室那一带。它从前曾经做过牢房,又小又黑,叫人透不过气来,还装着一扇沉重的铁门。
    我们把棺材放下,然后轻轻地掀开棺盖,想最后看一眼死者。我低头朝鄂榭的妹妹脸上望去,这才发现他们兄妹二人是多么相像。然后我的朋友沉着地说了几句话,我终于得知他们二人是同日出生的孪生兄妹,彼此间无须言语交流便能心意相通。
    我们对死者不敢久看。她的怪病使得她脸上微微泛出一抹粉红,嘴唇上挂着一丝若有若无、凝定不变的微笑;这笑容出现在死人脸上,可真叫人毛骨悚然。我们将棺盖重新盖上,仔细钉牢,又锁好了地窖那沉甸甸的屋门,才爬上楼梯,回到阴悒的宅子里。
    无比沉痛的几天过去,我发现我的朋友精神错乱的病情有所加重。他不再画画,也不再读书,只是在一个又一个房间里徘徊,脚步迟缓,漫无目的。他的脸色更加苍白了,光芒已从他眼中消失,一说起话来,他的声音便常常因恐惧而发抖。有时候我想他是企图向我透露什么可怕的秘密,有时候我以为他要发疯了。他往往一坐就是几个小时,什么也没在看,什么也没在听——听的只是他自己头脑里的声音。我自己开始体会到真正的恐惧了。我感到我的朋友的惶恐,他那致命的阴悒,正在慢慢攫住我的心。
    我们把玛德琳小姐的棺材抬到地窖以后,时间过了大约有七八天。这天晚上我上了床,却无法入眠,就一个钟头一个钟头地躺在那儿,同自己满脑子的恐惧和阴悒作着斗争。窗外风雨大作,并且愈发狂放不羁;我的卧室内则满是影子以及阴森森的家具暗黑的轮廓。我尽量使自己平静下来,谁知却越来越心惊肉跳。
    突然间,我的身体由于新的一波恐惧袭来而打起了寒战。
    我从床上坐起,努力地谛听着周围的响动。是的,我能听见某种低沉的声音,不是来自外面的暴风雨,而是从宅子内部的什么地方发出来的。我迅速地穿上衣服,开始在房间里来来回回地踱步,希望以此摆脱掉我那不可救药的恐惧。
    接着我听见敲门声,鄂榭走了进来。他的脸上一如既往地泛着惨白,眼里有一种疯狂的神色。他的这副尊容把我吓得要死,但与此同时,我又庆幸不必一个人待着了。
    他一语不发,四下里看了一阵子,然后突然说道:“你难道没有看到?没有?那就等着吧。你准会看到的。”他急匆匆地走到窗前,把窗子打开。
    一股劲风从外面大逞淫威的雷暴中吹出,轰地一声撞进房间里面,差点儿将我们掀翻在地。说老实话,这可真是一个狂暴而又美丽异常的夜啊。狂风似乎打着旋儿在宅子四周肆虐,一团团硕大的、沉重的乌云相互追逐着,忽而这里,忽而那里。我们看不到月亮也看不到星星,只见一片鬼样的惨白光辉浮动在宅子周围。
    “不,你不能,你不能看这个!”我朝鄂榭嚷道,并将他从窗子旁轻轻推开,推到椅子上坐下。“这只不过是一场暴风雨而已。再说,夜里的冷空气对你的身体是有害的。咱们把窗子关上,一道读读书吧,瞧,这书就是你最爱读的一本。我来给你念,你光听着就成;这样我们就可以一道打发掉这恐怖的夜晚了。”
    我随手拾起的这本书是兰斯洛特·坎宁爵士的《悲惨、疯狂的一生》。它其实并不是鄂榭最爱读的一本书,然而,它是我在手边唯一能找到的书,于是我便开始念了起来。书里讲的是一个疯狂、离奇的故事,不过我希望我这么一念会让鄂榭平静些,不再害怕。的确,他倒是在听我念书,然而我发现他听的时候带着一股疯狂的一本正经的劲头,吓死人了。
    我念了一会儿,就到了书中描述艾特尔瑞德破门而入、硬闯老人住处的那一段。
    现在艾特尔瑞德打定主意,他再也不能站在门外、淋着大雨等下去了。他举起重重的大棒子朝木门砸去,最后砸出一个洞。然后他用双手一拽,屋门即成碎片。干木头噼里啪啦碎裂的声音响遍了整个树林。
    我念完这个句子后,在座位上跳了一下,然后又稳稳地坐定了。我觉得自己听见了这座府邸远处呆个地方传来一阵与那木头噼里啪啦的碎裂声完全相同的声音;但我听得不是太真切,况且暴风雨的声音要大得多。我继续念道:
    艾特尔瑞德进了那房子,却不见老人的踪影。然后,房子消失,他看见一条恶龙,口中喷吐着火舌。艾特尔瑞德举起大棒子朝恶龙头上砰地一声砸去。恶龙倒在地上,垂死之际发出一声哀嚎——这声长嚎尖厉刺耳,惨绝人寰。
    到这里我再一次戛然而止。我敢肯定我听见了一声嚎叫。叫声很低,离得很远,但那的确是一声长长的尖叫——就像书中写到的那声哀嚎一样。
    虽然我感到极度紧张,但我还是尽力掩饰住自己的惊恐。我拿不准鄂榭是否听到了我听到的那些声音。在过去的几分钟里,他已经有所动作,现在正面对房门坐着。但我仍能看见他的嘴唇在发抖,他的身体左一下右一下地微微摇摆着。我接着念那个故事:
    杀掉恶龙以后,现在艾特尔瑞德转过身来,看见他面前立着一座金子的宫殿,宫墙上嵌着一扇扇光闪闪的银质大门。艾特尔瑞德勇敢地向宫殿跑去,但还没等他跑近,那些闪光的银质大门便倒在他脚边的地上,发出巨大的、可怖的、钟磬齐鸣般的轰响。
    我念到这些词句时,清晰地听见金属器物倒地的沉重的巨响。我一跃而起,但鄂榭坐在座位上一动不动。我朝他奔过去。他正直勾勾地瞪视着前方,脸庞好像石头一样。我把一只手放在他胳膊上,这时他的身体开始发抖,一丝惨淡的笑容出现在他的嘴唇上。然后他开口了,声音又低又急,似乎没有意识到我的存在。我低头凑近他的脑袋,去捕捉那些词句。
    “我没听见?——不,我听见了,我早就听见了。我听见好几分钟,好几个钟头,好几天了——但是我太害怕了,害怕得不敢说出来。我们把她活着装进了棺材!我难道没有告诉过你,哪怕最轻微的声音我也听得见?现在我告诉你,我听见她在棺材里动弹的声音,那是好几天以前的事,可是我太害怕了——我不敢说!到了今天晚上——当你念到艾特尔瑞德打破老人的家门,念到恶龙一声哀嚎,念到大门纷纷倒地的时候——实际上,那是她打破了棺材,是她打开地窖时铁门发出的尖叫声,是那铁门倒在地上发出的钟鸣般轰的一响!噢,我能逃到哪儿去?这一刻她是不是正在急匆匆地赶来找我?我听见在楼梯上响起的是不是她那愤怒的脚步声?我能否听见她那沉重的、可怕的心跳声?疯子!”
    他跳起身叫嚷着,像一个在恐惧中奄奄一息的人那样尖声喊出来:“疯子!我告诉你,这一刻她就站在这扇门外!”
    正当他尖叫着这几句话的时候,沉重的屋门被一阵强风吹开了。在门外,立着鄂榭府的玛德琳小姐的高大身躯,她身穿雪白的尸衣,满手、满胳膊以及撕破的白色尸衣上都是血污。她浑身上下处处都显露出她为了逃出棺材而长时间苦苦挣扎的痕迹。她在那里站了片刻,颤抖着,身体慢慢地左摇右晃,然后低嚎一声,重重地摔倒在她哥哥身上。就在她现在终于一命呜呼的一刹那,他同她一起摔倒在地——一个死人,一个死于自己的恐惧的人。
    我惊恐万状,马上逃出那间屋子,逃出那座宅邸。外面,风暴依旧猖獗;我跑过湖水,一道怪异的光芒突然照射到我身上。我回过头,看那古怪的光是从哪儿来的。是月亮,一轮血红的满月,正透过宅子墙壁上一道狭窄的裂缝闪耀着光辉。那道裂缝便是自建筑顶部开始、向下一直延伸到地面的那一道。待我望去,那道裂缝变得更宽,风也刮得更大了——现在我可以看到整个血红的满月。宅邸高大的石墙正在碎裂、倒塌;一阵长长的呼号声传来,宛如千股洪流齐泻;然后,那幽深、晦暗的湖水便吞没了鄂榭府的一切残砖碎瓦。
    

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