A Sailor's Christmas Gift
by William J. Lederer
My wife ordered our meal in French. The waiter brought us the wrong thing, I scolded my wife for being stupid. She began to cry. The boys defended her, and I felt even worse. Then at the table with the French family, on our left, the father slapped one of his children for some minor infraction, and the boy began to cry. On our right, the German wife began berating her husband. All of us were interrupted by an unpleasant blast of cold air. Through the front door came an old French flower woman. She wore a dripping, tattered overcoat and shuffled along slowly. "Flowers, monsieur? Only one franc." No one bought any. Wearily she sat down at a table between the sailor and us. To the waiter she said, "A bowl of soup. I haven't sold a flower all afternoon." To the piano player she said hoarsely, "Can you imagine, Joseph, soup on Christmas Eve?" He pointed to his empty tipping plate. The young sailor finished his meal and got up to leave. Putting on his coat, he walked over to the flower woman's table. "Happy Christmas!" he said, smiling, and picking out two corsages, "How much are they?" "Two francs, monsieur." Pressing one of the small corsages flat, he put it into the letter he had written, then handed the woman a 20-franc note.
我的妻子给我们叫来了法国式的饭菜，而服务员给我们端来的却是别的东西。我斥责妻子尽干些蠢事，她哭了起来。孩子们一个个都护着他们的妈妈，于是我的情绪变得更加糟糕。 继而，坐在我们左侧餐桌上的那家法国人父亲因为一点鸡毛蒜皮的小事动手打了他的一个孩子一记耳光，那个小男孩哇哇大哭起来。在我的右边，那个德国妇女不知因何缘故开始喋喋不休地数落、责骂起她的丈夫来。 我们大家都被一阵令人不快、死灰复燃的陈规陋习弄得心烦意乱。这时，从前门进来一个卖花的法国老妪。她浑身湿透，衣衫褴褛，脚穿一双水淋淋的破鞋，手里提着花篮，沿桌叫卖。 “买花吗，先生？一束才一个法郎哩。” 谁也没有答理她。 她疲惫不堪，在水手和我们之间的那张餐桌旁边坐了下来，对服务员说："请来碗汤吧。整整一下午，我连一朵花也不曾脱手。"接着，她转向那位钢琴师，用嘶哑的声音问，"在圣诞节前夕喝碗汤，约瑟夫，你能设想这种滋味吗？" 钢琴师指了指身旁的那只空空如也的"放小费的盘子"。 那位年轻的海员已用罢晚餐，欠起身来准备离开餐馆。他披上外套，走到卖花老妪的桌前。 "祝您圣诞快乐！"说着，他笑嘻嘻地从花篮里挑出两束专供妇女佩带在前胸的鲜，"多少钱？" "两个法郎，先生。" 他把其中的一束花压平，放进一封已经写好的笺里，然后将一张20法郎面额的钞票递给了老妪。