本文作者罗伯特·潘·华伦（Robert Penn Warren，1905—1989）像这篇小说的主人公一样，是一位英文教授。他是美国肯塔基州人，写过小说、诗、传记和文学评论，最著名的作品是长篇小说《国王的人马》（All the King's Men）（曾改编为电影，中文译名《当代奸雄》）。他的辈分比海明威、福克纳等稍晚（他们是二十年代成名的，他是三十年代成名的），但他已经是美国一个很重要的诗人和小说家了。本篇选自他的短篇小说集The Circus in the Attic（1948）。
Professor Roy Millen had loved his wife devotedly, and now she was dead…. He made his plans to go abroad, to England, to work in the libraries there, as he and his wife had planned. It was what she should have him do, he told himself. And the book would be a kind of monument to her. He would dedicate the book to her. As he walked slowly back from the campus to his house in the late afternoons or early evenings of spring, he would try to compose the dedication, saying the words aloud to himself as he looked up at the paling, peach-colored sky beyond the newly leafed branches. He had decided to sail in June, as soon as he could leave after commencement.
- 第一句had loved的时态表示是在他的妻子故世之前。devotedly：副词，由动词devote（奉献）的过去分词devoted（把自己奉献给）化成。
- 第三句should have him do之间的have=cause to（使得），后随不定词do，should表示虚拟式。（假如她活着的话，“她该会使他这样做的”——到英国图书馆去研究。）
- monument：纪念碑。他的书将用以纪念他的太太，好像是纪念碑，但并非真的是纪念碑，故云a kind of monument。dedicate：献。作家每将其书献给一个他所亲爱或尊敬的人，作为纪念。
- the book would be…，He would dedicate…两句的would表示将来。he would try…的would表示他的习惯。那年夏天，每当黄昏薄暮，他慢慢步行回家的时候，“他总要……”。
- compose：（在心里）拟（稿子）。dedication：（预备刊在卷首的）献词。paling：pale的现在分词，“颜色在淡下去”，形容sky。newly leafed：新长树叶的。嫩芽初绽，树叶新绿，是状“春”也，霞艳似桃，薄瞑徐合，是状“夕”也；用一介词beyond，则天在树外，红绿相映，夕阳春光，各得其所。如易beyond为and，则立刻化立体为平面，化图画为剪贴，文趣索然矣。
"I hear you're going away for a year, Professor Millen," Tom Howell said, standing respectfully before Professor Millen's office desk. Then he added, in a dutiful tone, "To work on your book."
"Yes," Professor Millen said, "to work on my book." Then, as though recollecting himself, he made a little gesture toward the chair in front of the desk, and said, "Won't you have a seat, Howell?"
"Are you going to finish it in a year?" Howell asked, and sat down.
- in a dutiful tone：用恭恭敬敬的语调。dutiful：尽（学生对老师之）责的。To work on your book补充第一句的going away，表示出国的目的。
- recollecting himself：恢复镇定。突然有学生来访，米伦教授忘了该请来客先坐下，然后再同他说话。
"I still have a little research to do. I have to settle a few points—points which can't be settled in libraries in this country. I have to do some work yet in one of the great English libraries." Professor Millen paused, looking over the green lawn outside his office window. "But I'll get it written within the year. Practically everything is in order. Though, of course," he paused, again looking at Tom Howell, who listened respectfully and with what seemed interest, "I'll have to do a good deal of retouching—style and so on, you know—" he waved his hand modestly in the air, "when I get back."
- yet：还有。在美国已经做了不少工作，还有些工作，一定（have to）要到英国图书馆去做。
- practically=almost。in order：有秩序的，安排好了。
- with interest：有兴趣地。with what seemed interest：听者有一种似乎是有兴趣的表情。米伦教授不敢断定那位学生对于他的写作计划真发生兴趣。
- retouching：小小的修改，润饰。到英国去还不能完稿，回国以后，对于文字及其他方面，还要有很多的（a good deal of）修饰。
"I'm hoping—" the boy hesitated, fumbling in his pocket to draw out a folded paper, "I'm hoping to be able to go abroad next year. If I can make it. That's what I wanted to see you about, Professor Millen."
"Anything I can do, I'll be glad to do."
"It's a scholarship. A French scholarship, and I was hoping you'd recommend me. I have had a lot of work with you, and all. The French Department will recommend me, but I have done my minor in English, you know. What you'd say would count a lot."
- hesitated：吞吞吐吐地说。fumbling：摸索。next year：下学年，可能就是同年秋天。
- If I can make it：假如能走得成的话。这句话没有说完全，意思是跟着上面那一句来的。
- scholarship：奖学金。I was hoping you'd (=you would) recommend me意思比I am hoping you'll recommend me委婉。用现在式显得太迫切，用过去式只是表示“我在来看你之前”或是“知道有这个奖学金的机会的时候，我是这样希望”。现在是不是也这样希望，没有明言，对方如加拒绝，两方都不致太难堪。recommend：推荐。
- and all=and everything else：我曾跟着你学习过，还有别的种种（关系）。这两个字有点含糊，但说话的人恐怕也不想指明什么，含糊一点好。
- The French Department：法语系，是此君的主系（major），英文系是他的辅系（minor）。
- 最后一句用虚拟式，也显得很客气。“我不知道你会不会保荐我，假如你保荐我的话，那么你所说的（what you would say）将很起作用。”
"Howell," Professor Millen said, judicially putting the tips of his fingers together and inspecting the boy, "I've never had a better student than you are. Possibly never one as good. I'll say that in my recommendation. I'll write a strong one." He felt his enthusiasm mounting as he spoke, and a warmth suffused him as though at the prospect of some piece of happiness, some success for himself.
- Possibly never one as good.=Possibly I've never had a student as good as you are.
- a strong one=a strong recommendation：一封强有力的推荐信。
"I certainly appreciate it," the boy said. "This is about the only thing I've got in sight for next year, and I'm graduating. Oh, I reckon I could get a little teaching job or something for a year or two to save up some money to go on. I don't think I ought to ask my family for any more—they've been swell, putting me through college and giving me that trip to France two years back—"
- appreciate=am thankful for。about=almost。
- in sight：现在可以看得到的出路（thing）。I'm graduating：快要毕业，大学四年级下学期。I reckon=I suppose。I could…的实现可能性比I can…小，could是can的虚拟式。to save up：储蓄。to go on：继续下去，指进研究所攻读。
- any more=any more money。swell是俚语（slang）“很好”的意思，这个字二三十年代很常用，大约同北京话的“棒”或上海话的“崭”相仿。
"Yes, yes," Professor Millen said abstractedly, "oh, yes, you did go over one summer, didn't you?"
"Oh, that was just for fun," Howell said, "but this time it would be for work. And when I get back I ought to be able to get a pretty good job so I could save enough to get my Ph.D. quick. Up East."
"A year of study in France will be a fine opportunity,"Professor Millen said. That enthusiasm and warmth which had filled him like a promise of happiness was waning now, he did not know why. He wished the boy would get up and go and leave him alone.
- abstractedly：心不在焉地。go over：到那边去。
- for fun：去玩儿的，同for work（去念书的）相对。那学生还不知道自己能不能去成，只好用虚拟式“it would be…”。
- a pretty good job：相当好的差使。Ph.D.：哲学博士。Up East：到东部去攻读博士学位。他们的大学可能在美国南部，华伦自己曾在南部教书多年。
- 教授认为他去法国留学的可能性很大，故云…will be a fine opportunity（好机会）。
- 刚才教授很兴奋，那种兴奋现在退下去（waning）了。which had filled him like a promise of happiness这一从句形容主语enthusiasm and warmth。promise可以解释作“希望”。
"Oh, it'll be an opportunity," Howell agreed, "and I'm not going to waste it. The work'll be fun, and there ought to be a little fun besides. I was in Paris for two weeks—and you know how Paris is, it sort of knocks you off your feet. You've been there?"
- The work'll be fun：那边念书很有趣。教授用了will be，学生的自信心增加，他也改口不用虚拟式would be了。
- sort of（当副词用）：somewhat，rather，相当的。knocks you off your feet：使你目眩神迷。这里的you泛指一般人，不专指听者。
"Yes, yes," Professor Millen said hurriedly, impersonally, almost impatiently, averting his face from the boy and looking off across the patch of lawn, wondering why he had lied, why he had told the boy he had been to Paris. He watched some students, two boys and a girl, who moved across the sunlit, open space. They moved lingeringly. It seemed that they would never be across that bright, open space of green where the sun was. Then they were gone, hidden by the screen of foliage.
- hurriedly：匆忙地。impersonally：好像同他个人没有关系似的。avert：转过去。the patch of lawn：那片草地。
- sunlit：为阳光所照着的。lingeringly：慢慢地，好像舍不得走开似的。他们在阳光底下走得很慢，好像（It seemed）永远不会走过去似的。春天的阳光和青年男女——这种景象小说家不是随便放进去的，那位教授当时正感到“惭愧”，窗外的景致能使他感觉到轻松一点吗？
- Then they were gone…：米伦教授毕竟看他们走过去了。这一段时间里，室内两人哑然无言。screen of foliage：树叶遮蔽，犹如屏风。米伦教授看不见他们那三个人了，才把头转过来。
Professor Millen turned and brought his gaze to rest again on the boy. The boy was leaning forward, his face smiling. Professor Millen saw, as if for the first time, the blond, crisp hair combed back from the square forehead, the confident gaze of the blue eyes, the comfortable, confident way the coat hung from the good shoulders.
- leaning forward：身往前倾（坐的姿势）。as if for the first time：这个学生本来是个熟人，在这屋子里坐了也该有好些分钟了。但是米伦教授从惘然若失的态度中醒回来，好像是第一次看见他似的。
- 这个学生的头发是金色的（blond），硬而细（crisp），从方正的前额往后梳；他的眼睛是蓝色的，看人的时候，显得很有自信；外套穿在身上，也显得潇洒自得。saw的宾语是hair、gaze和way；the coat…shoulders是adjective clause，形容way，从句前面省了in which两字。
The boy stood up. "I've stayed too long. I know you've got a lot of work to do."
"No," Professor Millen said.
"And I certainly appreciate your recommendation. The address of the scholarship committee is on here," he said, and laid a printed sheet on the desk. "That's the circular, and all the information."
"I'll attend to it right away," Professor Millen said.
"Thank you," the boy said, and was gone.
- you've got=you have，got在这里并没有“得到”的意义。
- attend to=pay attention to。right away=at once。
For a few minutes Professor Millen sat there, his eyes on the bare wall opposite his desk. Then he read the circular. He laid it back on the desk and pressed a button. When the secretary came in, he handed her the printed sheet. "The address is on that," he said, and waited while she copied it. Then he said, "I'll give you the letter." He studied the wall for a moment, then began.
- button：电铃之按钮。I'll give you the letter：他读信稿，由秘书速记下来。studied：细细地看。
"Gentlemen. I can truthfully say that I take the most sincere pleasure in recommending to you Mr. Thomas Howell. In my long career as a teacher I have never had a better student. He has an acute and penetrating intelligence, and, as is so often not the case with young men of his capacity, the patience and honesty of a true scholar. I am sure that if he is appointed to—" He hesitated, looking at the wall. "I am sure that—" he said at last, then stopped.
- In my long career as a teacher：自我任教以来。career as a teacher：担任教书这项职业。
- 此句and以后，意思又进一层：聪明人每无恒，巧慧者鲜笃实，唯此君则“智者”、“仁者”兼于一身。patience和honesty，仍为has之宾语。as为关系代词=which fact，所代者即为(he has) the patience and honesty of a true scholar一从句。case：情形。capacity：才力。so=very。
- I am sure之后似应跟着“如能出国深造，必能百尺竿头，更进一步”这一类的话。他用了appointed（勉强可解作“获选”）一字之后，句子很难往下做，故而停顿。学生的名字，前面是Tom，这里是Thomas，Tom是Thomas的较亲密的叫法，犹中国人的学名与小名之别。
The secretary, her pencil poised above her pad, waited while Professor Millen seemed to withdraw, to sink within himself. Her foot made a slight reproachful scraping sound as she changed her position in the chair. She, too, began to look out the window, where Professor Millen's gaze now was fixed.
"That's all—all for the present," Professor Millen said, suddenly. "Just hold that and I'll finish later. I've just thought—" he managed to look direct at her, "of something else I've got to do. There's something else."
- her pencil poised above her pad：是nominative absolute。poised（过去分词）：悬空握在手里。above所表示的关系：笔不靠在纸上（否则要用on）；笔是悬空的，但也并不正在纸的上面（否则要用over）。pad：记速记用的拍纸簿。withdraw原意是“退出”，这里只是指“出神”。to sink within himself：陷入深思。
- scraping sound：皮鞋底与地板的摩擦声。reproachful：声音中似带“责备”，不耐久候也。managed to look：似乎不愿或不敢看她，结果还是提起精神，对她直视。
After the secretary had left the office, closing the door softly behind her, he did not move some time. Then he again looked out the window. The shadows were lengthening over the smooth lawn. The faintest premonitory flush was touching the puffs of white cloud visible toward the top of his window. Before long now he would be going home. He picked up the circular. He read it again, very carefully, dwelling on it almost painfully, as though he were an illiterate trying to extort some secret from the words. He lifted his eyes from the sheet to look at the chair where the boy had sat leaning forward, the pleasure shining on his clear, handsome face, the good coat riding easy on his shoulders, saying, "—you know how. Paris is, it sort of knocks you off your feet. You've been there?"
- The shadows were lengthening：影子拉长，时间更晚。flush：霞光。faintest：极淡的。premonitory：预示的（预示黑夜来临）。
- puffs of white cloud：朵朵白云。霞光自地平线上发出，照到在天空中的白云。toward=near。
- he would be going home比he would go home更强调go的动作。
- dwelling on it：长时间地想它。painfully：痛苦地。这字前面加了副词almost，分量已大为减轻。但是作者为什么要用“痛苦地”这样一个字呢？本段末一句中，隐约说明。illiterate：文盲。他并非文盲，故动词用虚拟式的were。extort：用力逼出来或找出来。
- the pleasure shining on his…face和the good coat riding…on his shoulders都是nominative absolute phrase。riding on=hanging from，但用riding更见活泼。
Professor Millen let the circular slip from his lap to the floor. Then, decisively, he reached into the drawer of his desk and took out a sheet of paper. He wrote rapidly in his large, firm script:
I have been asked to recommend Mr. Thomas Howell to you for a scholarship for study in France. As you will observe from a transcript of his academic record, with which no doubt you have been provided, he has made the grade of A in all of his work in the English department of this institution, and I understand that his grades in French (his major subject) have been very high. This achievement, of course, deserves consideration, but candor compels me to say that a superficial facility and cleverness seem to characterize his mind. I do not wish to prejudice the committee against his case, and I may be wrong in my estimate; certainly, I hope that the committee will consider him very carefully. But I do feel that he lacks solidity of character, the spirit of patient inquiry, and what might be termed the philosophical bent.
Very respectfully yours,
Professor of English.
- have been asked：被动语态，可不必明言是谁托他写这封信的。
- academic record：成绩单。transcript：重抄的副本，正本留校。with which no doubt you have been provided：成绩单谅必业已达览。with which应该连到provided后面去，“无疑人家已经把那个东西给你们了”。institution：指该大学。
- This achievement：这种成就，指成绩皆列入甲等。deserves consideration：值得考虑。candor=honesty in giving one's opinion，相当于中文的“良心”。compels me：迫使我。superficial：肤浅的。facility：做事太容易，不肯认真。cleverness：此字本来有坏的意义，指“小聪明”。characterize his mind=be the characteristics（特征）of his mind。
- solidity of character：性格上的稳重。the spirit of patient inquiry：耐心探求的精神。最后一个noun clause的意思是：他还缺一种素质。这种素质，无以名之，姑名之曰philosophical bent：研究哲理的倾向（或兴趣）。
Without looking up, he addressed an envelope hurriedly, the pen making a dry, scratching sound. Then he blotted and stamped the envelope, inserted the sheet, put the letter into his pocket, picked up his hat, and left the office. He would, he remembered, pass a postbox on his way home.
- addressed：写地址。dry：墨水不足故干。scratching sound：笔尖抓纸的声音。blotted：用吸水纸（blotting-paper）来吸。stamped：贴上邮票。inserted：将（信纸）放入信封。