03 - 09کتاب: واشینگتون سیاه / فصل 28
03 - 09
- زمان مطالعه 10 دقیقه
- سطح خیلی سخت
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
این فصل را میتوانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید
متن انگلیسی فصل
WE SETTLED THE ANIMALS in a row of tin buckets filled with sea water just behind the Goffs’ little blue house, then went inside to eat.
I entered the dark dining room to discover that even here was an explosion of papers and pickling jars and specimen cases. A tiny squid had dried to a brown tangle on the table’s bare surface. Goff swept it aside, onto the crumb-strewn floor.
“We took the house furnished, and added to it our own disarray,” he grumbled.
“I do hope you like fried mackerel,” called Tanna from the next room. She appeared in the doorway, her smile curiously anxious, as though she feared my disappointment. I did not understand her strange, tentative manner all this day. But it did seem to me now that in her father’s allowing me into their home, she saw the possibility of his acceptance of me.
“Modest food for modest people,” Goff grunted, scratching at the side of his nose.
“Is that what we are?” said Tanna.
“It smells wonderfully fresh, thank you.” I sat on a pine chair, and it shivered unsteadily under my weight. Despite the mess I thought the room charming, with its long mahogany sideboard overhung with rows of tiny oil portraits in rusted gilt frames.
“Are these yours?” I gestured, turning to Tanna.
“That depends,” she said vaguely, taking my plate to serve me. “Do you like them?”
Suddenly the plate snapped in half, and she fumbled to catch the pieces. She managed to grab one, the second half clattering unharmed to the floor. “Truly?” she said, flustered. “The hardwood floor is soft enough, but my hands too hard?”
I half-rose from my seat. “You are hurt?”
“Oh, for god’s sake,” she said. “Life is not a Venetian opera, Mister Black.” I did not understand her meaning, but I could see she had a cut on the inside of her wrist, and that she was embarrassed. She went alone to the scullery to patch it up.
“Your daughter is a fine painter,” I said to Goff, who all this time had sat silently. I stared boldly at his face, awaiting his reaction to the compliment. When he said nothing, I continued, “One of her many charms.”
“You seem to have taken a great interest in her charms,” he said, his black eyes steady.
I felt my heart in my throat. I knew I was being too forward, but I was filled with an impulsive irritation and could not help myself. I moistened my lips. “She is an admirable woman.”
“She is no woman. She is a girl.”
“She is twenty.”
“She is twenty.”
I could see now a strange sheen on his hardened eyes, like a second darkness, so that I stopped abruptly, as though I had reached a rocky precipice. “Well, then,” I murmured, letting my voice taper off.
Goff took a deep sip of his wine, and I could see he was relieved I had stopped. He turned the stem of the glass in his hands. “Life has been more difficult for Tanna than I ever imagined it would be,” he said softly. “You would never know it—she is so self-possessed. But she has never been accepted in English society, and this has wounded her deeply. I will say she does not make things easier on herself by being always drawn to strangeness. Mark me—you put twelve people in a room and Tanna will always gravitate towards the most eccentric of them. Even as a child she was this way. It is touching, and big-hearted of her, but it has rarely served her well. I would not wish her any more hardship.”
He peered softly across at me, and I understood then that what he feared for her, for us both, was social disdain. He seemed to be saying that had circumstances been different, he would certainly have accepted me.
He cleared his throat. “Her drawings, yes. Well, Tanna does try. But your own paintings, Mister Black—now those are things of beauty. I have never seen an artist be so meticulous and still bring life to it.”
The praise was not new; Goff had often commented on the grace and elegance of my line.
“You are too kind,” I said.
“We both know I am not.” He flashed a dry, crooked smile. “But I have been meaning to ask you for some days now—would you do me the honour of illustrating my new tract?”
I felt my cheeks warm with embarrassment. “You tease me?”
“It does not appeal to you?”
“It would be an absolute pleasure, sir.” Despite all that lay between us he was still a legend to me, and I saw this for the deep honour that it was.
He frowned. “What’s that? Speak louder.”
Tanna returned with a chipped, gold-rimmed white plate. When she set it down before me, a wet-eyed ginger cat oozed from beneath the table and leapt directly onto it.
“Ah,” said Goff, swatting at it. “You’re in her seat, that’s what.” He clapped his hands sharply. “Away with you, Medusa.”
“You see the state we live in,” said Tanna.
Goff puffed air through his lips, as though this was nothing to apologize for. Then he began to gobble up his fish in quick, rabbit-like bites, his eyes always on his plate.
“I said I would be honoured to do it, sir,” I said. “How is the writing proceeding?”
“Do what?” said Tanna.
“Ah, the writing,” Goff grumbled, and shook his head, the flesh of the mackerel flashing in his small, bright teeth.
“Illustrate the new book,” I said, turning to Tanna.
She glanced at her father. “I see.” She took her seat across from us, and the candles shuddered as she bumped the table, grey shadows passing like moths over the pale fabric of her dress. She looked at her fork some moments, then raised her face with a smile. “It will be beautiful, I have no doubt.”
Goff continued to eat heartily. “I would do it myself, but the eyesight, you know. In any case, I grow rather less and less interested in drawing these days. In writing, even. The exhibition—that is the thing.”
I had not intended to mention it, and yet all that had come to me on the dive rose now to mind, and I felt I must speak or lose the opportunity. “Have you given any thought to making your exhibition a live one?”
Goff frowned at me. “A live one, Mister Black?”
I paused, going on only when I had their full attention. “Imagine a large hall, a gallery, but filled not with benches. There are instead large tanks holding all manner of aquatic life. Enormous tanks. Perhaps there are open-air terrariums with toads and turtles and lizards. And people could come and press their faces right against the glass. Learn the habits of the animals first-hand. It could be permanent, like an indoor park.”
“A menagerie of the sea,” murmured Tanna.
Goff gave a flustered grunt, shoving some boiled potatoes into his mouth, but I could see he was interested. “Such a thing is not possible.”
I peered quietly at him. “Nothing is possible, sir, until it is made so.”
He studied me, his expression softening. “Well, it would be a marvel, son.”
“But how?” said Tanna, and I could see she too was giving it serious thought. “The tanks would need to be sealed utterly, leak-proof over the long term, and yet—”
“The animals would be in ready need of oxygen,” said I.
“Precisely. And how would you begin to house such a collection? It is one thing to organize a temporary exhibition of dead specimens, and quite another to nurture living organisms over a period of years. Would one be able to repurpose a building for such a use, which might prove less costly, or must a building be specifically designed for the purpose?”
“It is a fascinating conundrum, in any case,” Goff grunted.
We began to speak at length of the problems of balancing carbonic acid and oxygen, of the decay of vegetation and the temperamental acidity of water. It was bracing, and intimate, the three of us weighing each other’s words with true enthusiasm and consideration. So absorbed were we in our talk that when finally I rose to go out to the water closet, long shadows had deepened across the table.
I returned to find Goff staring thoughtfully at his gravy-stained plate; something was just now occurring to him. I expected some new point on oxygen levels, but he only said, gruffly, “I will have to leave you two to sort out the crinoids next Saturday. I am travelling up the coast, to a little hamlet some thirty miles from here. Seems a fisherman there caught a white-skinned fish with wings. They say it is a strange and alien thing, not of this world. Who knows if this is not some exaggeration—if it is a common-enough genus that has suffered a trauma altering its externals. But perhaps it truly is something rare, something new. In any case, shouldn’t take but a day or two. I will take a room, and I hope to be back the following evening.”
Tanna looked calmly, coolly at him. “This is the first I’m hearing of this.”
I lowered my eyes, took an uneasy sip of my water.
“You are upset I have not asked you to accompany me, my dear,” said Goff. “It will not be a pleasant journey. I did not think you would mind.”
“Do what you must,” said Tanna.
And she stood and began to clear the table in silence, leaving in a clatter of clinking dishes, her dress rustling.
Goff turned to me, unruffled. “Will you take a port, son?”
مشارکت کنندگان در این صفحه
تا کنون فردی در بازسازی این صفحه مشارکت نداشته است.
🖊 شما نیز میتوانید برای مشارکت در ترجمهی این صفحه یا اصلاح متن انگلیسی، به این لینک مراجعه بفرمایید.