Interview With The Vampire 《夜访吸血鬼》（二）
"You weren't always a vampire, were you?" he began.
"No," answered the vampire. "I was a twenty-five year-old man when I became a
vampire, and the year was seventeen ninety-one."
The boy was startled by the preciseness of the date and he repeated it before he asked,
"How did it come about?"
"There's a simple answer to that. I don't believe I want to give simple answers," said the vampire. "I think I want to tell the real story. . . '
"Yes," the boy said quickly. He was folding his handkerchief over and over and wiping his lips now with it again.
"There was a tragedy . . ." the vampire started. "It was my younger brother . . . . He died."
And then he stopped, so that the boy cleared his throat and wiped at his face again before stuffing the handkerchief almost impatiently into his pocket.
"It's not painful, is it?" he asked timidly.
"Does it seem so?" asked the vampire. "No." He shook his head. "It's simply that I've only told this story to one other person. And that was so long ago. No, it's not pa'
"We were living. in Louisiana then. We'd received a land grant and settled two indigo plantations on the Mississippi very near New Orleans . . . ."
"Ah, that's the accent . . ." the boy said softly.
For a moment the vampire stared blankly. "I have an accent?" He began to laugh.
And the boy, flustered, answered quickly. "I no tired it in the bar when I asked you what you did for a living. It's just a slight sharpness to the consonants, that's all. I never guessed it was French."
"It's all right," the vampire assured him. "ran not as shocked as I pretend to be. It's only that I forget it from time to time. But let me go on. . . . '
"Please . . " said the boy.
"I was talking about the plan tations. They had a great deal to do with it, really, my becoming a vampire. But I'll come to that. Our life there was both luxurious and primitive. And we ourselves found it extremely attractive. You see, we lived far better there than we could have ever lived in France. Perhaps the sheer wilderness of Louisiana only made it seem so, but seeming so, it was. I remember the imported furniture that cluttered the house." The vampire smiled. "And the harpsichord; that was lovely. My sister used to play it. On summer evenings, sh e would sit at the keys with her back to the open French windows. And I can still remember that thin, rapid music and the vision of the swamp rising beyond her, the moss-hung cypresses floating against the sky. And there were the sounds of the swamp, a chorus of creatures, the cry of the birds. I think we loved it. It made the rosewood furniture all the more precious, the music more delicate and desirable. Even when the wisteria tore the shutters oft the attic windows and worked its tendrils right into the whitewashed brick in less than a year . . . . Yes, we loved it. All except my brother. I don't think I ever h eard him complain of anything, but I knew how he felt. My father was dead then, and I was head of the family and I had to defend him constantly from my mother and sister. They wanted to take him visiting, and to New Orleans for parties, but he hated these things . I think he stopped going altogether before he was twelve: Prayer was what mattered to him, prayer and his leather-bound lives of the saints.
"Finally I built him an oratory removed from the house, and he began to spend most of every day there and often the early evening. It was ironic, really. He was so different from us, so different from everyone, and I was so regular! There was nothing extraordinary about me whatsoever." The vampire smiled.
"Sometimes in the evening I would go out to him and find him in the garden near the oratory, sitting absolutely composed on a stone bench there, and I'd tell him my troubles, the difficulties I had with the slaves, how I distrusted the overseer or the weather or my brokers . . . all the problems that made up the length and breadth of my existence. And he would listen, making only a few comments, always sympathetic, so that when I left him I had the distinct impression he bad solved everything for me. I didn't think I could deny him anything, and I vowed that no matter how it would break my heart to lose him, he could enter the priesthood when the time came. Of course, I was wrong." The vampire stopped.
For a moment the boy only gazed at him and then he started as if awakened from deep thought, and he floundered, as if he could not find the right words. "Ali . he didn't want to be a priest?" the boy asked. The vampire studied him as if trying to discern the meaning of his expression. Then he said:
"I meant that I was wrong about myself, a bout my not denying him anything." His eyes moved over the far wall and fixed on the panes of the window. "He began to see visions."
"Real visions?" the boy asked, but again there was hesitation, as if he were thinking of something else.
"I didn't think so," the vampire answered. It happened when he was fifteen. He was very handsome then. He had the smoothest skin and the largest blue eyes. He was robust, not thin as I am now and was then . . . but his eyes . . . it was as if when I looked into his eyes I was standing alone on the edge of the world . . . on a windswept ocean beach. There was nothing but the soft roar of the waves. Well," he said, his eyes still fixed on the window panes, "he began to see visions. He only hinted at this at first, and he stopped taking his meals altogether. He lived in the oratory. At any hour of day or night, I could find him on the bare flagstones kneeling before the altar. And the oratory itself was neglected. He stopped tending the candles or changing the altar cloths or even sweeping out the leaves. One night I became really alarmed when I stood in the rose arbor watching him for one solid hour, during which he never moved from his knees and never once lowered his arms, which he held outstretched in the form of a cross. The slaves all thought he was mad." The vampire raised his eyebrows in wonder. "I was convinced that he was only. . . overzealous. That in his love for God, he had perhaps gone too far. Then he told me about the visions. Both St. Dominic and the Blessed Virgin Mary had come to him in the oratory. They had told him he was to sell all our property in Louisiana, everything we owned, and use the money to do God's work in France. My brother was to be a great religious leader, to return the country to its form er fervor, to turn the tide against atheism and the Revolution. Of course , he had no money of his own. I was to sell the plantations and our town houses in New Orleans and give the money to him."