枭河桥记事/鹰河桥事件·An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge(Ambrose Bierce 安布罗斯·比尔斯)英汉双语

Posted by 橙叶 on Thu, May 11, 2017

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

by Ambrose Bierce

Set during the American Civil War, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek" is Bierce's most famous short story. It was first published in the San Francisco Examiner in 1890. It then appeared in Bierce's 1891 collection "Tales of Soldiers and Civilians."


An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge pendulum with escapementA man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man's hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack fell to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon the sleepers supporting the metals of the railway supplied a footing for him and his executioners--two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant who in civil life may have been a deputy sheriff. At a short remove upon the same temporary platform was an officer in the uniform of his rank, armed. He was a captain. A sentinel at each end of the bridge stood with his rifle in the position known as "support," that is to say, vertical in front of the left shoulder, the hammer resting on the forearm thrown straight across the chest--a formal and unnatural position, enforcing an erect carriage of the body. It did not appear to be the duty of these two men to know what was occurring at the center of the bridge; they merely blockaded the two ends of the foot planking that traversed it. Beyond one of the sentinels nobody was in sight; the railroad ran straight away into a forest for a hundred yards, then, curving, was lost to view. Doubtless there was an outpost farther along. The other bank of the stream was open ground--a gentle acclivity topped with a stockade of vertical tree trunks, loopholed for rifles, with a single embrasure through which protruded the muzzle of a brass cannon commanding the bridge. Midway of the slope between the bridge and fort were the spectators--a single company of infantry in line, at "parade rest," the butts of the rifles on the ground, the barrels inclining slightly backward against the right shoulder, the hands crossed upon the stock. A lieutenant stood at the right of the line, the point of his sword upon the ground, his left hand resting upon his right. Excepting the group of four at the center of the bridge, not a man moved. The company faced the bridge, staring stonily, motionless. The sentinels, facing the banks of the stream, might have been statues to adorn the bridge. The captain stood with folded arms, silent, observing the work of his subordinates, but making no sign. Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.

The man who was engaged in being hanged was apparently about thirty-five years of age. He was a civilian, if one might judge from his habit, which was that of a planter. His features were good–a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well-fitting frock coat. He wore a mustache and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark gray, and had a kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck was in the hemp. Evidently this was no vulgar assassin. The liberal military code makes provision for hanging many kinds of persons, and gentlemen are not excluded.

The preparations being complete, the two private soldiers stepped aside and each drew away the plank upon which he had been standing. The sergeant turned to the captain, saluted and placed himself immediately behind that officer, who in turn moved apart one pace. These movements left the condemned man and the sergeant standing on the two ends of the same plank, which spanned three of the cross-ties of the bridge. The end upon which the civilian stood almost, but not quite, reached a fourth. This plank had been held in place by the weight of the captain; it was now held by that of the sergeant. At a signal from the former the latter would step aside, the plank would tilt and the condemned man go down between two ties. The arrangement commended itself to his judgment as simple and effective. His face had not been covered nor his eyes bandaged. He looked a moment at his “unsteadfast footing,” then let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet. A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move, What a sluggish stream!

He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children. The water, touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mists under the banks at some distance down the stream, the fort, the soldiers, the piece of drift–all had distracted him. And now he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking through the thought of his dear ones was a sound which he could neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith’s hammer upon the anvil; it had the same ringing quality. He wondered what it was, and whether immeasurably distant or near by–it seemed both. Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. He awaited each stroke with impatience and–he knew not why–apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer, the delays became maddening. With their greater infrequency the sounds increased in strength and sharpness. They hurt his ear like the thrust of a knife; he feared he would shriek. What he heard was the ticking of his watch.

He unclosed his eyes and saw again the water below him. “If I could free my hands,” he thought, “I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods and get away home. My home, thank God, is as yet outside their lines; my wife and little ones are still beyond the invader’s farthest advance.”

As these thoughts, which have here to be set down in words, were flashed into the doomed man’s brain rather than evolved from it the captain nodded to the sergeant. The sergeant stepped aside.


Peyton Farquhar was a well-to-do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family. Being a slave owner and like other slave owners a politician he was naturally an original secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause. Circumstances of an imperious nature, which it is unnecessary to relate here, had prevented him from taking service with the gallant army that had fought the disastrous campaigns ending with the fall of Corinth, and he chafed under the inglorious restraint, longing for the release of his energies, the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction. That opportunity, he felt, would come, as it comes to all in war time. Meanwhile he did what he could. No service was too humble for him to perform in aid of the South, no adventure too perilous for him to undertake if consistent with the character of a civilian who was at heart a soldier, and who in good faith and without too much qualification assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and war.

One evening while Farquhar and his wife were sitting on a rustic bench near the entrance to his grounds, a gray-clad soldier rode up to the gate and asked for a drink of water. Mrs. Farquhar was only too happy to serve him with her own white hands. While she was fetching the water her husband approached the dusty horseman and inquired eagerly for news from the front.

“The Yanks are repairing the railroads,” said the man, “and are getting ready for another advance. They have reached the Owl Creek bridge, put it in order and built a stockade on the north bank. The commandant has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels or trains will be summarily hanged. I saw the order.”

“How far is it to the Owl Creek bridge?” Farquhar asked.

“About thirty miles.”

“Is there no force on this side the creek?”

“Only a picket post half a mile out, on the railroad, and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge.”

“Suppose a man–a civilian and student of hanging–should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel,” said Farquhar, smiling, “what could he accomplish?”

The soldier reflected. “I was there a month ago,” he replied. “I observed that the flood of last winter had lodged a great quantity of driftwood against the wooden pier at this end of the bridge. It is now dry and would burn like tow.”

The lady had now brought the water, which the soldier drank. He thanked her ceremoniously, bowed to her husband and rode away. An hour later, after nightfall, he repassed the plantation, going northward in the direction from which he had come. He was a Federal scout.


As Peyton Farquhar fell straight downward through the bridge he lost consciousness and was as one already dead. From this state he was awakened–ages later, it seemed to him–by the pain of a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of suffocation. Keen, poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward through every fiber of his body and limbs. These pains appeared to flash along well-defined lines of ramification and to beat with an inconceivably rapid periodicity. They seemed like streams of pulsating fire heating him to an intolerable temperature. As to his head, he was conscious of nothing but a feeling of fulness–of congestion. These sensations were unaccompanied by thought. The intellectual part of his nature was already effaced; he had power only to feel, and feeling was torment. He was conscious of motion. Encompassed in a luminous cloud, of which he was now merely the fiery heart, without material substance, he swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast pendulum. Then all at once, with terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud splash; a frightful roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark. The power of thought was restored; he knew that the rope had broken and he had fallen into the stream. There was no additional strangulation; the noose about his neck was already suffocating him and kept the water from his lungs. To die of hanging at the bottom of a river!–the idea seemed to him ludicrous. He opened his eyes in the darkness and saw above him a gleam of light, but how distant, how inaccessible! He was still sinking, for the light became fainter and fainter until it was a mere glimmer. Then it began to grow and brighten, and he knew that he was rising toward the surface–knew it with reluctance, for he was now very comfortable. “To be hanged and drowned,” he thought? “that is not so bad; but I do not wish to be shot. No; I will not be shot; that is not fair.”

He was not conscious of an effort, but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him that he was trying to free his hands. He gave the struggle his attention, as an idler might observe the feat of a juggler, without interest in the outcome. What splendid effort!–what magnificent, what superhuman strength! Ah, that was a fine endeavor! Bravo! The cord fell away; his arms parted and floated upward, the hands dimly seen on each side in the growing light. He watched them with a new interest as first one and then the other pounced upon the noose at his neck. They tore it away and thrust it fiercely aside, its undulations resembling those of a water snake. “Put it back, put it back!” He thought he shouted these words to his hands, for the undoing of the noose had been succeeded by the direst pang that he had yet experienced. His neck ached horribly; his brain was on fire; his heart, which had been fluttering faintly, gave a great leap, trying to force itself out at his mouth. His whole body was racked and wrenched with an insupportable anguish! But his disobedient hands gave no heed to the command. They beat the water vigorously with quick, downward strokes, forcing him to the surface. He felt his head emerge; his eyes were blinded by the sunlight; his chest expanded convulsively, and with a supreme and crowning agony his lungs engulfed a great draught of air, which instantly he expelled in a shriek!

He was now in full possession of his physical senses. They were, indeed, preternaturally keen and alert. Something in the awful disturbance of his organic system had so exalted and refined them that they made record of things never before perceived. He felt the ripples upon his face and heard their separate sounds as they struck. He looked at the forest on the bank of the stream, saw the individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf–saw the very insects upon them: the locusts, the brilliant-bodied flies, the grey spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig. He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass. The humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the stream, the beating of the dragon flies' wings, the strokes of the water-spiders' legs, like oars which had lifted their boat–all these made audible music. A fish slid along beneath his eyes and he heard the rush of its body parting the water.

He had come to the surface facing down the stream; in a moment the visible world seemed to wheel slowly round, himself the pivotal point, and he saw the bridge, the fort, the soldiers upon the bridge, the captain, the sergeant, the two privates, his executioners. They were in silhouette against the blue sky. They shouted and gesticulated, pointing at him. The captain had drawn his pistol, but did not fire; the others were unarmed. Their movements were grotesque and horrible, their forms gigantic.

Suddenly he heard a sharp report and something struck the water smartly within a few inches of his head, spattering his face with spray. He heard a second report, and saw one of the sentinels with his rifle at his shoulder, a light cloud of blue smoke rising from the muzzle. The man in the water saw the eye of the man on the bridge gazing into his own through the sights of the rifle. He observed that it was a grey eye and remembered having read that grey eyes were keenest, and that all famous marksmen had them. Nevertheless, this one had missed.

A counter-swirl had caught Farquhar and turned him half round; he was again looking into the forest on the bank opposite the fort. The sound of a clear, high voice in a monotonous singsong now rang out behind him and came across the water with a distinctness that pierced and subdued all other sounds, even the beating of the ripples in his ears. Although no soldier, he had frequented camps enough to know the dread significance of that deliberate, drawling, aspirated chant; the lieutenant on shore was taking a part in the morning’s work. How coldly and pitilessly–with what an even, calm intonation, presaging, and enforcing tranquillity in the men–with what accurately measured intervals fell those cruel words:

“Attention, company! . . Shoulder arms! . . . Ready! . . . Aim! . . . Fire!”

Farquhar dived–dived as deeply as he could. The water roared in his ears like the voice of Niagara, yet he heard the dulled thunder of the volley and, rising again toward the surface, met shining bits of metal, singularly flattened, oscillating slowly downward. Some of them touched him on the face and hands, then fell away, continuing their descent. One lodged between his collar and neck; it was uncomfortably warm and he snatched it out.

As he rose to the surface, gasping for breath, he saw that he had been a long time under water; he was perceptibly farther down stream nearer to safety. The soldiers had almost finished reloading; the metal ramrods flashed all at once in the sunshine as they were drawn from the barrels, turned in the air, and thrust into their sockets. The two sentinels fired again, independently and ineffectually.

The hunted man saw all this over his shoulder; he was now swimming vigorously with the current. His brain was as energetic as his arms and legs; he thought with the rapidity of lightning.

The officer," he reasoned, “will not make that martinet’s error a second time. It is as easy to dodge a volley as a single shot. He has probably already given the command to fire at will. God help me, I cannot dodge them all!”

An appalling splash within two yards of him was followed by a loud, rushing sound, diminuendo, which seemed to travel back through the air to the fort and died in an explosion which stirred the very river to its deeps!

A rising sheet of water curved over him, fell down upon him, blinded him, strangled him! The cannon had taken a hand in the game. As he shook his head free from the commotion of the smitten water he heard the deflected shot humming through the air ahead, and in an instant it was cracking and smashing the branches in the forest beyond.

“They will not do that again,” he thought; “the next time they will use a charge of grape. I must keep my eye upon the gun; the smoke will apprise me–the report arrives too late; it lags behind the missile. That is a good gun.”

Suddenly he felt himself whirled round and round–spinning like a top. The water, the banks, the forests, the now distant bridge, fort and men–all were commingled and blurred. Objects were represented by their colors only; circular horizontal streaks of color–that was all he saw. He had been caught in a vortex and was being whirled on with a velocity of advance and gyration that made him giddy and sick. In a few moments he was flung upon the gravel at the foot of the left bank of the stream–the southern bank–and behind a projecting point which concealed him from his enemies. The sudden arrest of his motion, the abrasion of one of his hands on the gravel, restored him, and he wept with delight. He dug his fingers into the sand, threw it over himself in handfuls and audibly blessed it. It looked like diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could think of nothing beautiful which it did not resemble. The trees upon the bank were giant garden plants; he noted a definite order in their arrangement, inhaled the fragrance of their blooms. A strange, roseate light shone through the spaces among their trunks and the wind made in their branches the music of olian harps. He had no wish to perfect his escape–was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken.

A whiz and rattle of grapeshot among the branches high above his head roused him from his dream. The baffled cannoneer had fired him a random farewell. He sprang to his feet, rushed up the sloping bank, and plunged into the forest.

All that day he traveled, laying his course by the rounding sun. The forest seemed interminable; nowhere did he discover a break in it, not even a woodman’s road. He had not known that he lived in so wild a region. There was something uncanny in the revelation.

By nightfall he was fatigued, footsore, famishing. The thought of his wife and children urged him on. At last he found a road which led him in what he knew to be the right direction. It was as wide and straight as a city street, yet it seemed untraveled. No fields bordered it, no dwelling anywhere. Not so much as the barking of a dog suggested human habitation. The black bodies of the trees formed a straight wall on both sides, terminating on the horizon in a point, like a diagram in a lesson in perspective. Overhead, as he looked up through this rift in the wood, shone great garden stars looking unfamiliar and grouped in strange constellations. He was sure they were arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance. The wood on either side was full of singular noises, among which–once, twice, and again–he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue.

His neck was in pain and lifting his hand to it found it horribly swollen. He knew that it had a circle of black where the rope had bruised it. His eyes felt congested; he could no longer close them. His tongue was swollen with thirst; he relieved its fever by thrusting it forward from between his teeth into the cold air. How softly the turf had carpeted the untraveled avenue–he could no longer feel the roadway beneath his feet!

Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene–perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forward with extended arms. As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon–then all is darkness and silence!

Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.



一个人站在亚拉巴马州北部一座铁路桥上,眼睛俯视着桥下二十英尺处湍激的河水。这人双手放在身后,手腕用绳子绑着。一根粗索紧紧套住他的脖子,拴在他头顶上方一根结实的横木上面,松弛部分一直垂到齐膝。铺在枕木上面的几块活动木板,给他和他的行刑人一北方联邦军的两名列兵一提供了一个立脚处。指挥这两名列兵的是一个中士,他在地方上或许可当一名副警官。在这个临时刑台不远的地方,站着一位武装军官,他穿着军官制服.他是上尉。,桥的两端各有一个岗哨,他们用称作“持枪”的姿势拿着来福枪站在那里,也就是说,枪身垂直地放在左肩前面,撞针搁在横于胸前的前臂上一这是一种使身体保持笔挺的正规而不自然的姿势。原来他们没有责任去了解桥中心发生什么事,他们的任务仅仅是对铺在桥上的木板人行道两端实行封锁。 在一个哨兵那头,见不到有任何人影。铁路笔直地穿进森林,在一百码开外的地方拐了个弯,就消失不见了。毫无疑问,前面还有一个前哨。河的另一岸是一片空旷地 一个缓缓的斜坡,顶上有一个用直立的树幹筑成的木栅,上面开着枪洞,还有一个炮眼,一门青铜炮的炮口探在外面,居高临下地控制着桥面。在桥与碉堡之间的半坡腰上,站着一队观众 一连排着队的步兵。他们“稍息” 着,枪柄抵在地上,枪筒略略向后倾斜,靠在右肩膀上,两只手交叉着搁在枪身上面。队伍右边站着一名中尉,他把剑端拄在地上,左手覆在右手上面。除了桥心这四个人之外,没有一个人在行动。那连步兵泥塑木雕地站在那儿,目不转腈地凝视着桥面。那两个面孔朝着河岸站立的哨兵,活象是塑在桥头的两尊雕象。上尉两臂交叉放在胸前,站在那里默默地看他的部下工作,然而不打手势。死神是一位达官贵人,当告知他莅临时,应该以正式的隆重仪式去迎接他,即使和他很熟悉的人也不能马虎从事。按照军礼法典,静穆和肃立就是尊敬的仪式。

那个就将被绞死的人看上去大约有三十五岁。如果从他那身种植园主的装束来判断,他是一个平民。他的相貌很端正一直直的鼻梁,坚毅的嘴巴,宽阔的额角,长长的黑发从前额朝后面梳去,从耳根背后一直披泻到那件很合身的大礼服领子上。他蓄着上髭和山羊胡子,但是没有络腮胡子。他有两只深灰色的大眼睛。他神情和蔼,一个脖子上套着绞索的人能如此和蔼,倒是令人意想不到的。显然,他不是寻常的刺客。尺度很宽的军事法典规定可以绞死许多等级的人,绅士先生并不例外。 准备工作就绪之后,那两个列兵就向旁边跨出一步,各自抽掉原先的踏脚板。中士转过身来,向上尉敬了一个礼,随即站到他的身后去《上尉接着朝横里跨了一步。这样一来,就只剩下死囚和中士站在铺在桥面三根枕木上的木板的两端.平民站的那一头伸得相当远,几乎要接到第四根忱木了。这木板原来由上尉的体重压牢在那里,现在则由中士压着。只要上尉发出信号,中士就会跨向一旁,木板就会翘起来,死囚就会从两根枕木之间跌落下去。这种安排在他看来倒是简单而有效的。他的脸没有被蒙住,眼睛上也没有扎东西。他朝自己“不牢靠的立足点”膘了一眼,然后把目光移向脚下奔腾翻滚的河水。一块时起时落的浮木抓住了他的视线,他目送这块浮木向下游漂去。它漂得多么慢呀!这河水流得太不带劲了1 他把眼睛闭起来,以便让最后的心思集中到他的妻子和子女身上,因为被朝阳染成金黄色的河冰,低低地覆盖在远处岸脚边上的迷雾,碉堡,士兵,以及那块浮木,都使他分散注意力。这时候,他开始感到一种新的干扰:在他思念亲人的当儿,他听到一个声音在响。既不能充耳不闻,又感到莫名其妙。那是一种尖厉、清哳、铿锵的打击声,就象铁匠用铁锤在敲打铁砧,声音也是那样的清脆。他不知道那是什么声音爹它远在天边呢,还是近在眼前?好象都是。这声音在有节奏地重复着,但是慢慢象敲丧钟。他焦躁不安地等待每一声敲打,同时不明白为什么还带有一丝恐惧的心理。沉寂的间歇越拉越长,停顿的时间长得令人发疯。随着一声声敲打越来越漫,声音却越来越响,越来越尖。它们象刀子那样刺痛他的耳朵。他担心自己会尖叫出 他听到的是他的手表的滴嗒声。

他睁开眼睛,又一次见到了脚下的河水。“要是我能脱双手,”他思忖着,“我就可以甩掉绞索,跳到河里去。我可以用扎猛子来躲避子弹,使劲  游水,登上河岸,奔进森林,逃回家去。我的家园,谢谢上帝,总算还在他们的战线外面。侵略军的先头都队还没有挺进到我的妻子和小家伙们那里 这里只能借用文字来表达的这些念头,与其说是死囚脑子里浮现出来的,还不如说是从外面一下子闪进他的脑子里去的。就在它们闪进去的时候,上尉朝中士点了一下头》中士朝旁边跨出了一步。 佩顿·法夸示是一个富裕的种植主,出身于 亚拉巴马州的一个名门贵族。他是一价奴隶主,并且象其他奴隶主那样,也是一个政客,因此他自然是一个天生的脱离主义者.,满腔热忱地献身于南方的事业。他为某种身不由己的情况所逼(在此不必细加叙述),没有能够加入英勇的军队参加战斗》这支军队一直在吃败仗,直到科林思失守才彻底结束.他因受到这种丢脸的牵累而忿懑恼怒,渴望英雄有用武之地,渴望领略一下粗犷豪放的戎马生涯,渴望有机会一举成名。他认为这种机会是会来的,因为在战争期间,人人都会碰上这种机会。与此同时,他做着力所能及的事情。为了支援南方,他愿效犬马之劳,甘冒天大危险,只要这种冒险符合这一位骨子里是军人的平民的性格,这位平民对于“在情场上和战场上可以不择手段”这样一条赤裸裸地邪恶的信条,至少有一部分是真心实意赞成的。 一天傍晚,法夸示和他的妻子坐在他们庄园大门口一条粗糙的长凳上,一个穿灰军装@的士兵骑马来到门前讨水喝。法夸示太太能用自己白嫩的双手为他效劳,感到十分高兴。她取水去了,她的丈夫走近那位风尘仆仆的骑兵,热切地打听前方的消息。 “北方佬正在修铁路,”那个人说,“他们在准备发动又一次进攻。他们已到了枭河桥,把桥修好了,还在河北岸筑了一个碉堡。指挥官下了通令,到处都张贴着,宣称任何平民,凡是破坏铁路、桥梁、隧道或者车辆,一被抓获,立即处绞。我见到过这个通令。” “枭河桥离这儿多远?”法夸尔打听。 “大约三十英里。” “河这边有没有部队?” “只有一个前哨岗,它在半英里外面铁路线上。 桥这头只有一名步哨。 “假如一个人一一个乐意领教绞刑滋味的平民一悄悄溜过了前哨岗,说不定再战胜了那个步哨的话他又能做些什么呢?”法夸尔含笑问他。 那个士兵思索了一阵子。“一个月之前我到过那里。”他回答说,“我发现去年冬天的山洪把许多浮木冲积在这边木头桥墩下面,现在都干透了,烧起来象麻屑一样来劲。 这时候,太太已把水取来,那个士兵喝了水,彬彬有礼地谢了她,并且朝她的丈夫了一个躬,然后骑马扬长而去了。一小时后,天黑了下来,他再次从这个种植场经过,按他来时方向朝北驰去。 他是联邦军的一名探子。 佩顿·法夸尔笔直地从桥上掉下去,失去了知觉,就象是一个死人。后来一他以为是好几个世纪之后一喉咙口的剧烈卡痛以及随之而来的窒息感使他从这种状态中苏醒了过来。尖锐而剧烈的痛苦似乎从脖子向下射到躯体和四肢的每一条筋肉。这疼痛好象沿着一条条细管子迸射,并且以高得难以想象的频率在跳动。它们宛似一股搏动的火焰,炙得他热不可耐。至于他的头颅,他只感到有一种充实一拥塞一的感觉·仅仅是感觉而已,并不伴有思想。天性中的颖悟部分已经被抹去了,他只剩有感知的能力,然而感知是一种折磨。他感到自己在运动。他被围在一团闪光发亮的彩云中间,自己成为这团彩云的炽热的中心,毫无实感,而是象一只硕大无朋的钟摆那样,以不可思议的弧度来回摆荡。蓦地,他周围的这些亮光忽然向上飞升,同时发出一声洪亮的溅泼声,耳朵里响起了可怖的轰鸣接着,一切又变成冰冷漆黑。思想能力恢复过来了,他知道吊索已经断掉,他已跌进河里。他没有感到格外闷气,因为脖子上的绞索已经勒得他透不过气来,同时使河水也不可能注入他的肺部.竟被绞死在河底里!他认为这个情况颇荒唐可笑。他在黑暗中睁开眼睛,瞥见上方有一点亮光,但是这亮光多么遥远,真是可望而不可及。他还在向下沉,因为那亮光变成越来越微弱了,最后只剩下一点矇胧的微光。接着它开始变亮起来,他知道自己浮上水面来了一一.他是不情愿知道这一点的,因为他现在感到挺舒服。“绞死加淹死倒不怎么糟糕, 他想,“我就是不愿被枪决。不行,我不能被枪决,那样做不公平!” 他没有意识到自己已作了一番努力,但是他手腕上的剧痛却使他知道,他正在试图挣脱双手。他开始注意这种挣扎来了,就象一个无所事事的人在看魔术师的表演,对其结果并不感到兴趣。多么卓绝的努力一多么雄伟、多么超人的力量!啊,真是了不起的壮举!好啊,绳子脱落了,两臂松开了,朝上浮了,在渐渐变亮的光线中可以隐隐约约地看见两侧的手了。他怀着新奇的兴趣,观看两只手先后向脖子上的套索猛扑过去。两手扯下了套索,把它猛摔一旁,套索象水蛇一样在游动。“把它重新套上去!把它重新套上去!”他知道自己在对两只手这样大声吼叫,因为随着绞索的解除,他感到了一阵前所未有的剧痛。他的脖子痛得吓人,头颅在燃烧,那颗原先只是微弱地搏动的心脏,现在却猛然一跳,企图从嘴巴里跳出来。他的全身似乎在承受酷刑的极度折磨,痛得无法忍受。可是那两只不听使唤的手,却对这道命令不理不睬,只是一股劲地朝下按水,迫使他浮向水面。他感到头部已经露出水面了,眼睛被阳光耀得发花,胸膛在抽搐膨胀。他怀着极大的痛苦,把一大口空气吸进肺里去,随即又一声嘶叫,把它吐了出来。 他现在已完全恢复了各种感官的功能。它们的确异乎寻常地敏感和机灵。在器官系统受到可怕的干扰中,有某种东西使这些官能达到了出神入化的程度,以致它们能够记录过去从来不能感知的东西。他感到涟漪扑面,听到水波潺潺。他朝着岸上的森林遥望,看得见一棵棵树木,一张张树叶,以及每片树叶的脉络,甚至看得见树叶上的昆虫、蝉儿、金苍蝇,还有那些枝柯间牵丝织网的灰蜘蛛。 他观察到成千上万张草叶子上面露珠映出的虹彩。蚊蚋在河水的漩涡上空嗡嗡飞舞,蜻蜓在鼓动翅膀,水螅的长腿象船桨划船那样从水面划过一这一切都变成了有声的音乐。一条鱼从他眼面前游过去,他听到了鱼身体劈水而过的声音。 他已经浮上水面,面孔向着下游。顷刻之间,这个可见的世界好象以他为轴心,开始慢慢地旋转起来,他看见了桥梁、碉堡、桥上的士兵、上尉、中士以及他的行刑人一那两个列兵。他们背衬蓝天,呈现出一个个黑魃魃的剪影。他们指他大喊大瞓,比比划划,上尉拔出手枪,可是没有射击,其会的人没有武器。他们的动作显得滑稽可笑,令人汗毛涔涔他们的身形显得异常高大。 突然他听到一声清脆的枪声。在离开他脑袋只有几寸远的地方,有一个东西击入水中,溅得他满脸是水。他听到了第二声,并且看见一名步哨把枪端在肩膀前面,枪口还在冒着缕缕白烟。水里的人瞧见桥上那人正从瞄准孔里与他对视,他观察到那只眼睛是灰色的》他记得书上曾说过,灰眼睛最尖锐,有名的射手都有一双灰眼睛。但是不管怎么说,这一枪毕竟没有命中。 一个逆转的漩涡把法夸尔卷了进去,把他旋了半个圈§于是他又望见了碉堡对岸的森林。这时候,一阵激越高亢的声音从他身后响起,它象单调的歌声,清晰地掠过水面,穿透并且压倒了其它声音,甚至他耳畔涟漪的扑击声。他虽然不是军人,可是他经常出入兵营,因此他明白这种从容不迫、慢条斯理发出的唏嘘歌声的可怕含义爹岸上的中尉也加入到今天上午的工作中来了。他十分冷酷无情地用平稳沉着的语调,一词一顿地发出了下面那个既带有预告、又能使士兵保持镇定的残忍命令 “全连立正!一持枪!一预备! 准!一射击!, 法夸尔向水下潜去一.潜得尽可能地深。河水象尼亚加拉瀑布一样在他耳朵里咆哮,但是他还是听到了一阵沉浊的排枪齐射声音。他重新浮向水面时,碰到了一块块扁平得出奇的发光金属片。它们摇摇晃晃地沉下去身有些碎片碰到了他的脸和手,然后又掉下去,继续下沉。有一块卡在他的脖子与衣领之间,烫得他难受,他赶快把它取了出来。 他升到水面,喘过气来,发觉自己在水下已经呆了好久。他显然已经顺着水流游得相当远了 离开安全更近了。士兵们几乎已经重新装好子弹 他们把金属通条从枪筒里抽出来,在空中倒了个头,它们在阳光下发出一道道闪光,然后又被重新放回插销。两个士兵再一次射击,是分头进行的,都没打中。 这位被追捕的人是掉过脸去看见这一切的。现在他正在使劲划水,顺流向下。他的头脑也和他的手脚一样充满活力,正在以闪电般的速度进行思考。 “那位军官不会再犯严明的军纪官的错误了,”他在推断,“躲避排枪跟躲避单射一样容易。说不定他已下令任意射击。愿上帝保佑,我可无法将他们一一躲过哪:” 在离他不到两码远的地方发生了一声吓人的溅泼声,接着是一声响亮的呼啸。呼啸声逐渐减弱下去,好象穿过空气又返回到碉堡那边,接着是一声爆炸,震得河底都在顱。一片直立的水浪向他猛扑过来,落在他身上,打得他睁不开眼睛,喘不过气来。那门大炮也加入到这场游戏中来啦!当他摆动脑袋,钻出激荡的水浪时,他听见斜飞的弹片从他前面的空气中呼啸而过,眨眼之间打得那边林中的枝条謭哩啪啦断落下来。 “他们不会再这什千了,”他想,“下一次他们就要使用葡萄弹啦。我可得盯着那门炮,一见硝烟我就有数一要等到听见声音就太迟啦,它落在飞弹的后面。这门炮可是管用的哪!” 突然,他觉得自己滴溜溜地旋转起来一转得象一只陀螺.疴水、两岸、森林、如今已很遥远的桥梁、碉堡和士兵一这一切统统混在一起,变得一片模糊。各种物体只呈现出各种不同的颜色,这些颜色构成了一环环水平的彩色圆一这便是他所见到的一切。他被卷在一个漩涡里,令人晕眩欲吐的速度向前飞旋。隔了片刻,他被抛到左岸也即南岸岸脚下的砂砾上,处在一个突出部分的背后,未被敌人发现。由于运动猝然终止,他的一只手在砂砾上狠狠地擦了一下,这使他的神志又清醒了过来。他高兴得哭起来了,他把手指头挖进砂里,将砂子一捧捧往身上撒去,一边喃喃地祝祷赞美。这些砂子看上去就象是一颗颗钻石、红宝石和绿宝石,他简直想象不出它们跟哪一种美好的东西不能媲美》岸上长的是高大的庭园植物,他注意到它们排列得井井有条’他呼吸着它们的花朵散发出来的芬芳.从树幹之闾射过来一道道奇异的玫瑰色光线,风在枝桠中间弹奏着风鸣琴的乐曲。他不想继续逃跑了,他甘愿呆在这个迷人的地方,直到重新被抓走。 葡萄弹在他头顶上空呼啸,打得树枝嘮啪作响,把他从梦中惊醒过来。迷惘的炮手瞎打一炮,算是与他告别。他一跃而起,冲上倾斜的河岸,钻进了林。 那天,他追随太阳奔走了整整一天。森林好象漫无边际似的,不知道哪里是尽头。甚至连樵夫的小径都没有。真没想到,他居住的地方原来竟是如 此荒无人烟》这个发现叫他感到有点蹊跷。 黑夜降临时,他感到劳累了,脚又疼,肚子又 饿。可是一想起妻子儿女,他又继续赶路了。最后他于找到了一条道路,把他引上了他知道是正确的方向。这条路又宽又直,犹如城市中的街道,可是好象从来没有人走过。路的两边没有田野,一路上也见不到一间房舍。也听不到一声犬吠,以表明尚有人烟。黑魈魁的树幹在路的两边筑起两堵笔直的高墙,最后就象透视学课堂上的图解那样,在地平线的尽头汇合成一点。他透过这道林间缝隙抬头仰望,看到头顶上空闪烁着金光灿烂的巨大星辰。这些星辰都非常陌生,它们构成的星座也是特里特别的。他断定这些星辰的排列次序含有一种神秘而凶险的意义。两旁的森林里充满了稀奇古怪的声音,在这些声音中间,他一而再,再而三地清楚听到有人用一种不熟悉的语言在切切私语。 他的颈子在发痛,伸手一摸,发觉它肿得骇人。他知道被绳子勒过的地方有一道黑圈。他感到眼睛发肿,·再也无法闭拢。他的舌头也因千渴而发肿,他把舌头伸出齿缝,让它在清凉的空气中散散热。这条无人走过的大道上,草皮是多么柔软啊》他已感觉不到脚底下面的路面了。 含管他饱受痛苦,他走着走着还是睡熟了,这是毫无疑问的,因为他现在见到了另一番景象 或者是他仅仅从昏迷中醒了过来。他现在站在自己的家门口,一切都跟他离开时一样,沐浴着早晨的阳光,显得明亮而美丽。他突然地跑了整整一夜!当他推开大门、踏上宽阔的白色过道时,他看到女人的外衣在飘拂。他的妻子正走下门廊来迎接他。她显得神采奕奕,沉静而迷人。他等候在台阶下面,满脸笑容,心里说不出的高兴,仪态无比地优雅端庄。啊,她多么美丽啊!他张开两臂向前跃去。当他快要抱到她时,他感到自己的颈项后面被猛击了一下,四周升腾起一道令人目眩的白光,伴着炮轰似的一声巨响一接着是一片漆黑的沉寂。 佩顿。法夸尔死去了,他那折断了脖子的尸体,悬挂在枭河桥的横木下面,在来回微微摆荡。

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