2012-03-14 14:09





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By William Arthur Delaney

王丁玎 选注

We lived in a two-story wooden house in a part of Berkeley[1] where the tall shade trees were as old as the University of California itself.

I was a bookworm, the kind who would read with a flashlight[2] under the covers after he was supposed to be asleep. Occasionally, I would be left alone at night, and I would lie on my stomach with my book propped on my pillow, immersed in fantasy as only an imaginative boy can be immersed in the creations of writers like Robert Louis Stevenson, H. Rider Haggard, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and, of course, Edgar Allan Poe.[3]

My bed lamp hooked over the headboard was the only light on in the entire house, and my bed was like Robinson Crusoe’s island.[4]

Whenever I was home alone like that, I would hope I could enjoy my snug solitude until I heard our car outside, the front door opening downstairs, and had my evening of pleasure capped with a glass of milk and a peanut-butter-and-marmalade sandwich.[5] But sometimes I was disturbed by noises I would try my best to ignore.[6]

One of the noises was an eerie creaking—a prolonged ee-ee-ahh-ahh—which, try as I might, I couldn’t help imagining was the sound of a secret door being opened by a hooded figure who shared the house with us and only came out when he knew I was alone.

There it was again—that ee-ee-ahh-ahh, so much like rusty hinges.[7] And occasionally there was something much worse—the clump[8], clump, clump that seemed to be coming up the stairs. It was no good trying to retreat back into whatever I had been reading. The words under the glaring light bulb became as incomprehensible as hieroglyphics.[9]

The ensuing[10] silence was just as bad, because I kept listening even more intently for the next creak or clump, or imagining that whoever was making those noises had decided to be more careful so as not to alarm me. Then I might only hear a click or a tick ... or a tap.[11]

I suffered through these episodes[12] of terror for several years. But then one night—about the time I was entering puberty[13] —something unexpected came over me, making me feel as if I were a different person. I suddenly became outraged at the thought that I should be trembling there in my own bed imagining creatures that not only had no business trespassing in my house—my house!—but probably didn’t even exist.[14]

I flung aside the covers, jumped out of bed, pulled my door open, and stomped out to the top of the stairway,[15] ready to confront the worst and order it to be gone. “Present fears,” as Shakespeare says, “are less than horrible imaginings.” When we face our fears they shrink in size or turn out to have been nothing but illusions.

The staircase[16] was empty. They were the same familiar, green-carpeted steps I had seen a million times before. With newfound courage, I skipped down to the landing, made a 90-degree turn, and continued to the bottom. Everything looked exactly the same as usual.

Without even switching on any lights, I turned right and walked through the living room with all its shadows and bulky furniture, through the dining room with its oval table surrounded by empty high-backed chairs, across the cold linoleum of our big kitchen in my bare feet, and back into the front hallway, which was furnished only with a little three-legged table and a tall free-standing antique coat rack nobody ever used.[17] Everything was dark but friendly and familiar.

This was my home. All of it was mine. And any intruder had better watch out for me. I had come of age[18].

That house—with its generously proportioned rooms, its superfluous glass-front cabinets, its rows of long bookshelves filled with complete sets of venerable authors like Charles Dickens and Mark Twain as well as the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Harvard Classics, its cozy window seats, and its neighborly front porch—is still standing on the corner.[19] But it has been converted to a rooming house for college students.[20]

I used to see one boy silhouetted against the drawn blind, studying into the wee hours in my former bedroom on the top floor, and I wondered if he was ever troubled by weird sounds while reading something like The Cask of Amontillado or The Fall of the House of Usher.[21] I could have told him they were only the sounds of an old house growing older. The heavy beams[22] could be forgiven for creaking under the weight they were supporting so faithfully. The squeaks and squeals, as I had long since realized, were only the protests of tenacious old iron nails being tugged by weathering lumber.[23]


1. Berkeley: 伯克利,美国加利福尼亚州西部城市。

2. flashlight: 手电筒。

3. 本句中提到的作家依次为英国小说家罗伯特•路易斯•史蒂文森、英国小说家亨利•赖德•哈格德、英国作家阿瑟•柯南•道尔爵士和美国小说家埃德加•爱伦•坡。prop: 支撑;immerse: 沉浸。

4. hook: 钩住,吊住;headboard床头板;Robinson Crusoe:鲁宾逊•克鲁索,是英国18世纪重要作家丹尼尔•笛福(Daniel Defoe)所著小说《鲁滨逊漂流记》中的叙述者和主人公,该作品是一部流传很广、影响很大的文学名著。

5. snug: 温暖而舒适的;solitude: 独处,孤独;be capped with: 为……笼罩;peanut-butter-and-marmalade sandwich: 花生果酱三明治。

6. eerie: 可怕的;creaking: 嘎吱声;hooded: 戴头巾的。

7. rusty: 生锈了的;hinge: 铰链。

8. clump: 笨重的脚步声。

9. 那些单词在电灯泡刺眼的强光下变得如象形文字般难以理解。

10. ensuing: 接下来的。

11. click: 卡嗒声;tick: (钟的)嘀嗒声;tap: 轻敲。

12. episode: 片段,情节。

13. puberty: 青春期。

14. outraged: 愤怒的;trespass: 擅入,侵占。

15. fling: 抛,扔;stomp: 跺脚,重踏。

16. staircase: 楼梯。

17. bulky: 庞大笨重的;oval椭圆形的;high-backed: 高椅背的;linoleum: 油地毯;free-standing: 不需依靠支撑物的;antique: 古旧的;rack: 衣架。

18. come of age: 达到法定年龄。

19. 本句提到的作家和书籍依次为查尔斯•狄更斯、莎士比亚和《不列颠百科全书》和《哈佛经典》。superfluous: 过多的;venerable: 令人尊重的。

20. convert: 改变为;rooming house: 公寓。

21.本句提到的小说为埃德加•爱伦•坡的两部小说《阿芒提拉多的酒桶》和《厄舍古屋的倒塌》。silhouette: 使现出轮廓;blind: 百叶窗;wee: 极小的。

22. beam: 梁,柱。

23. 正如我很早就认识到的,那些吱吱声和尖叫声只不过是顽固的旧铁钉被自然老化的家具猛拉时发出的抗议而已。tenacious: 粘住的,抓牢的。




















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