夏志清譯白先勇的「謫仙記」(3)          1973 3 / 4          
 
 
                                            白先勇
 
 
LI T'UNG: A CHINESE GIRL IN NEW YORK —— Pai Hsien - yung
Translated by the author and C. T. Hsia
 
 
                                                老天!原來鄭裕玲演過電視版《謫仙記》,連李彤她也不放過!
 
 
(continued from part 2)
 
Hui-fen had spent three solid days preparing for the party, and came up with over a dozen Chinese dishes. After dinner we began to play poker and mahjong. Hui-fen asked Chang, Lei, and Li T'ung to join her at the same table to play mahjong so that they might talk about the good old days at the Big Four Club. After one round, however, Li T'ung got up to exchange places with someone at the men's poker table. She said she had not touched mahjong for ages and had forgotten practically all the rules. I wasn't playing that night, busy serving drinks to spare Hui-fen further work. After both tables had warmed to the games, I came to the poker table in the dining room but couldn't find Li T'ung there. The men said she had left the table a while ago for a short recess. After searching everywhere, I finally opened the door separating the living room from the porch and found her asleep in a rattan rocking chair.
 
The porch was dimly lit by a small yellow lamp hanging down from the ceiling. Li T'ung's head inclined to her right shoulder, her hands were on the armrests, her long slender fingers dangling limply. Her long dark red skirt almost touched the floor; in the dim light it appeared dingy, as if it were an old blanket of faded color. Her hair seemed to have grown much longer, covering the whole of her left cheek, flowing down to her chest. The diamond spider was still there, squarting on her left cheek, tierce, shimmering. I had never seen Li T'ung so haggard, so fatigued. No matter where I had seen her before, she had always looked defiantly gay and untamed, as if she would never agree to lie down for a rest. My footsteps woke her. With a start, she sat up, pushed back her hair, and said with a yawn, "Is that you, Ch'en Yin?"
 
"You were asleep, Li Tung." I said.
 
"Oh? I felt a little tired at the table and so I quit. I thought I would just take a little rest here, hut I passed out. Isn't that funny! Thank God, you're here. Get me a drink, will you?"
 
I fixed a bourbon on the rocks and took it to the porch. Li T'ung took a big gulp and heaved a sigh, "Jesus, that was good. I had bad luck tonight. Haven't had a darn hand the whole evening. It bored me to tears watching them playing. I'm getting more and more impatient, I guess. I can't even stand poker any longer."
 
In the living room Hui-fen, Chang Chia-hsing. and Lei Chih-ling were interminably talking and laughing. Chang had a loud voice, and every once in a while she would burst out laughing, drowning out other sounds. The poker players were also quite spirited: the chips kept knocking against the table.
 
"Probably Chang Chia-hsing has made another smashing combination of tiles." Li T'ung remarked, shaking her head in amusement. She looked even thinner than the last time I had seen her, her cheeks sunken a little, but her dark eyes flashed as brightly as before.
 
"Get me another one, will you!" She handed me the empty glass. I got her another bourbon. As we were chatting on the porch, my five-year-old daughter Lili, popped in. bundled up in a white nightgown, a knot of hair tied with a blue ribbon sticking up on r head. She had a round chubby face, clear dark eyes. A real darling. She would never go to bed until I had kissed her good night. I bent down and she, standing on tiptoe, gave me a gentle kiss.
 
"Don't you want to give auntie a kiss, too:" Li T'ung said to Lili. Lili toddled to Li T'ung, bent down her neck with her encircling arms, and smacked her on the forehead. Li T'ung hugged her and put her on her lap.
 
"A perfect copy of Huang Hui-fen," Li T'ung said to me, "she'll turn out to be a real beauty, too."
 
"What's this, auntie?" asked Lili, toying with a big diamond ring on Li T'ung's finger.
 
"It's a Stone."
 
"Let me have it," Lili said with her coaxing voice.
 
"Then it's yours." Li T'ung took the ring from her finger and slipped it on Lili's thumb. Lili raised her hand and swung it so that it glittered against the dim porch light.
 
"Don't let her play with such a valuable thing. It may get lost." I tried to intervene.
 
"It's Lili's now, I mean it." Li T'ung looked up to me, her face wearing a serious expression that came to her rarely. She bowed down and kissed Lili on her chubby face, saying, "Be a good girl. The ring is for your dowry. Get yourself a good husband in the future. Go along now and let Daddy keep it for you."
 
Lili handed the ring to me. Laughing happily, and then left for bed.
 
"Mama gave it to me when I left Shanghai," Li T'ung pointed to the ring in my hand and said. "It was supposed to be part of my dowry."
 
"Since you like Lili so much, why can't you be her god mother." I said.
 
"Oh, come on." Li T'ung got up abruptly, her strange smile again drawing up the left corner of her mouth. "Huang Hui-fen is a wonderful mother and what does Lili need me for? Look at me, am I the motherly type? Let's go in now. I've already lost a great deal. I'm going to win it back."
 
We didn't see much of Li T'ung after that evening, since she rarely attended our parties. One story had it that she was kept by an American millionaire from California on his Westchester estate, while another maintained that she was messily involved with a businessman from South America. On our way to downtown Manhattan one day, we were just entering the East River Freeway when a huge golden Continental convertible dashed past us and someone in it shouted at us in a shrill voice:
 
"Huang . . . Hui . . . fen . ,
 
Hui-fen stuck out her head from the window and heaved a disapproving sigh. "She's given me a real scare!"
 
It was Li T'ung yelling from that open convertible. She was seated next to the driver, but she had turned around to face us, her arms flung wide apart and waving desperately, a huge bright red scarf on her head flapping in the air. The convertible shot forward like a golden dart and carried Li T'ung with it. The man driving the car was a big fellow; he looked Caucasian. That was the last time we saw Li T'ung.
 
Lei Chih-Iing gave birth to a boy during the fourth year of her marriage. When the boy was one month old, the happy parents gave a party in their Riverdale apartment to celebrate. Chang Chia-hsing and her husband didn't show up for dinner that evening, which was rather unusual with them. We had already played a few rounds of poker when they finally arrived. A telegram in her right hand, Chang Chia-hsing waved to us and cried:
 
"Li T'ung is dead! Li T'ung is dead!"
 
"Which Li T'ung?" Lei Chih-ling walked quickly to meet her.
 
"What do you mean 'Which Li T'ung'?" Chang said impatiently.
 
"Nonsense," Lei cut her short, "Li T'ung left for Europe only two weeks ago."
 
"Look at this." Chang forced the telegram into Lei's hand. "I just got it from the Chinese Consulate in Italy. Li T'ung drowned herself in Venice. She didn't even leave a note and didn't have a single relative here. The police must have found my address in her purse and then asked the consulate to wire me. So I went with the police to open up her apartment on Fifth Avenue. Closets and bureaus full of clothes and shoes. I don't know what to do with them."
 
                                                 Li T'ung drowned herself in Venice
 
Chang Chia-hsing and Lei Chih-ling started arguing over why Li T'ung had killed herself. Why? Why? Suddenly both of them became indignant, as though Li T'ung had deceived them by committing suicide. Hui-fen took the telegram and read it in silence; she didn't say anything.
 
"How can one account for it? Why should she kill herself?" cried Chang Chia-hsing. "She earned more money than any - us here-how could she be so fed up with everything?"
 
"1 told her many times to get married and settle down. But she was always mockingly evasive, never taking my words seriously." said Lei Chih-ling.
 
"So many men after her and she spurned them all. Whom to blame' added Chang Chia-hsing.
 
Lei Chih-ling went to her bedroom and took out a picture to show us, saying, "I've forgotten to show you this. I received it only last week-who could have expected her suicide"
 
It was a color picture. Li T'ung was standing there by herself in an unbuttoned black topcoat, her left arm akimbo, her right hand raised high as if she were waving to some people. Her chin tilted, her eyelids lowered, she had that strange arrogant smile on her face. In the background stood a leaning tower, seemingly about to topple on her. Hui-fen held the picture in her hand and looked at it intently. I went over to her side and found her reading the lines written at the back of the picture:
 
Dear members of the Big Four:
This is the Pisa Tower.
China, December, 1960
 
Chang Chia-hsing and Lei Chih-ling continued to argue over the cause of Li T'ung's suicide, Chang saying that it was probably because that American had deserted her and Lei maintaining that she had been suffering from a bad case of nerves. But both agreed that Li T'ung shouldn't have died.
 
"I know," Chang Chia-hsing suddenly broke out, shaking her head as if something had dawned upon her. "Li T'ung shouldn't have gone to Europe by herself. A Chinese should never do that, running around in Europe by herself like the Americans. Her ghost will now be wandering there all alone. She ought to have stayed in New York; at least we could have kept her busy with cards or something.
 
Then she wouldn't have had the time to die."
 
Lei Chih-ling seemed to agree with Chang Chia-hsing's conclusion and stopped arguing. A moment of silence fell. The two of them sat facing each other, lost in their thoughts. Hui-fen, her head lowered, kept turning the picture in her hand. The men at the card table were either fiddling with the chips or smoking quietly. When the silence was getting oppressive, a lusty cry from Lei's baby broke out in the bedroom. Lei jumped up with a start and said, "Come on, people, let's get back to our game. No use talking further."
 
She herded us back to the card table and poker was resumed. Somehow the game got wild and our bets grew bigger and bigger. Chang Chia-hsing was heard repeatedly shouting, "Show your hand!
 
Show your hand!" She had her sleeves rolled back and bet a pile of chips for each hand. Lei Chih-ling followed suit, and even Hui-fen, usually a cautious poker player, seemed to have been infected with their frenzy and pushed heaps of her chips into the pool recklessly. Even with their better self-control, the men also played with abandon since the game had already got out of hand. Chips of all colors kept rolling back and forth from one player to another. Each time Chang Chia-hsing won, she threw her arms across the table and swept the chips to her side, shouting and laughing until she came to tears. Lei Chih-ling had a small voice. but she tried to vie with Chang by raising it to a pitiable screech. Round after round went on. We didn't realize it was already morning until Lei Chih-ling's husband went to draw aside the curtains and a flood of dazzling sunlight pouted through the windows. We all averted our faces and narrowed our eyes. Chang Chia-hsing threw her cards on the table and covered her face with her hands. We stopped the game and Lei Chih-ling left for the kitchen to make coffee for us. It turned out that both Hui-fen and I were big losers.
 
When Hui-fen and I walked out of the apartment building, we found it had snowed during the night. There on the street patches of frozen mud partially covered with a thin layer of fluffy snow looked as if they had gotten moldy overnight. The apartment houses on this Riverdale Street all looked the same: tall, old buildings a stale brown color. It was Sunday and there was nobody on the street. People were apparently still in bed since yellow curtains were drawn across their windows. From opposing sides of the street these windows stared at one another like huge vacant eyes with their pupils removed. The sun had risen above the buildings and lit up the whole street, but the air was still freezing.
 
Hui-fen walked in front of me, her overcoat huddled around her shoulders. Her head was bent in order better to watch her steps and avoid the muddy patches of snow. The hair that had been tied into a bun now fell over the collar of her coat in an unkempt fashion. I had forgotten to wear my gloves to the party; now my hands were thrust inside my overcoat pockets, still feeling stiff and cold. The chill morning air made my eyes smart, and since I had drunk too much coffee last night, my throat also felt very dry. Our car was frozen, too, and it was some time before I got it started. When we got to Broadway, Hui-fen opened the window on her side. The cold air blew in, making me very uncomfortable.
 
"Close the window, Hui-fen," I said.
 
"I want to get some fresh air," she said.
 
"Close the window, will you?" I said. My hands on the wheel were getting numb with cold. Hui-fen turned to the other side, her chin resting on the window ledge, without saying a word.
 
"Close the window, did you hear me?" I suddenly found myself shouting at her in a fit of annoyance. It was as if the cold wind had pumped up some suppressed irritation inside me, like stomach acid.
 
Hui-fen turned around and closed the window quietly. When our car got near Times Square, I suddenly found that Hui-fen was weeping. She was sitting stiffly beside me, looking blankly in front of her. Tears kept rolling down her cheeks; she didn't even try to wipe them away and let them fallen her chest. I had never before seen Hui-fen so pale, so haggard. As a proud person, she rarely showed emotion before people. Even when she was alone with me, she would not show on her face that she was troubled or unhappy. But now I could feel a kind of profound and yet strangely hollow grief that came to Inc through her weeping. Sob followed convulsive sob, each as hat and as monotonous as the other. All of a sudden 1 felt I could fully understand her profound and yet hollow grief. I knew that no words could allay it and all she needed was privacy. I turned my head away and didn't look at her any more. When we got to Forty-Second Street I speeded up. The neon lights on both sides of the street were still on hut they looked dim and weak in the sunlight. There weren't many cars on the street and very few pedestrians. I had never suspected that one of the busiest streets in New York could he so empty and deserted on a Sunday morning.
 
Iowa City. 1965
 
相關參考﹕電視版《謫仙記》- enjoy鄭裕玲演李彤,在此劇她們不是去美國,而是去香港留學!(土豆)