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Chapter 2

      Dill left us early in September, to return to Meridian. We saw him off on the five o’clockbus and I was miserable without him until it occurred to me that I would be starting toschool in a week. I never looked forward more to anything in my life. Hours of wintertimehad found me in the treehouse, looking over at the schoolyard, spying on multitudes ofchildren through a two-power telescope Jem had given me, learning their games,following Jem’s red jacket through wriggling circles of blind man’s buff, secretly sharingtheir misfortunes and minor victories. I longed to join them.

  Jem condescended to take me to school the first day, a job usually done by one’sparents, but Atticus had said Jem would be delighted to show me where my room was. Ithink some money changed hands in this transaction, for as we trotted around thecorner past the Radley Place I heard an unfamiliar jingle in Jem’s pockets. When weslowed to a walk at the edge of the schoolyard, Jem was careful to explain that duringschool hours I was not to bother him, I was not to approach him with requests to enact achapter of Tarzan and the Ant Men, to embarrass him with references to his private life,or tag along behind him at recess and noon. I was to stick with the first grade and hewould stick with the fifth. In short, I was to leave him alone.

  “You mean we can’t play any more?” I asked.

  “We’ll do like we always do at home,” he said, “but you’ll see—school’s different.”

  It certainly was. Before the first morning was over, Miss Caroline Fisher, our teacher,hauled me up to the front of the room and patted the palm of my hand with a ruler, thenmade me stand in the corner until noon.

  Miss Caroline was no more than twenty-one. She had bright auburn hair, pink cheeks,and wore crimson fingernail polish. She also wore high-heeled pumps and a red-and-white-striped dress. She looked and smelled like a peppermint drop. She boardedacross the street one door down from us in Miss Maudie Atkinson’s upstairs front room,and when Miss Maudie introduced us to her, Jem was in a haze for days.

  Miss Caroline printed her name on the blackboard and said, “This says I am MissCaroline Fisher. I am from North Alabama, from Winston County.” The class murmuredapprehensively, should she prove to harbor her share of the peculiarities indigenous tothat region. (When Alabama seceded from the Union on January 11, 1861, WinstonCounty seceded from Alabama, and every child in Maycomb County knew it.) NorthAlabama was full of Liquor Interests, Big Mules, steel companies, Republicans,professors, and other persons of no background.

  Miss Caroline began the day by reading us a story about cats. The cats had longconversations with one another, they wore cunning little clothes and lived in a warmhouse beneath a kitchen stove. By the time Mrs. Cat called the drugstore for an order ofchocolate malted mice the class was wriggling like a bucketful of catawba worms. MissCaroline seemed unaware that the ragged, denim-shirted and floursack-skirted firstgrade, most of whom had chopped cotton and fed hogs from the time they were able towalk, were immune to imaginative literature. Miss Caroline came to the end of the storyand said, “Oh, my, wasn’t that nice?”

  Then she went to the blackboard and printed the alphabet in enormous squarecapitals, turned to the class and asked, “Does anybody know what these are?”

  Everybody did; most of the first grade had failed it last year.

  I suppose she chose me because she knew my name; as I read the alphabet a faintline appeared between her eyebrows, and after making me read most of My FirstReader and the stock-market quotations from The Mobile Register aloud, shediscovered that I was literate and looked at me with more than faint distaste. MissCaroline told me to tell my father not to teach me any more, it would interfere with myreading.

  “Teach me?” I said in surprise. “He hasn’t taught me anything, Miss Caroline. Atticusain’t got time to teach me anything,” I added, when Miss Caroline smiled and shook herhead. “Why, he’s so tired at night he just sits in the livingroom and reads.”

  “If he didn’t teach you, who did?” Miss Caroline asked good-naturedly. “Somebody did.

  You weren’t born reading The Mobile Register.”

  “Jem says I was. He read in a book where I was a Bullfinch instead of a Finch. Jemsays my name’s really Jean Louise Bullfinch, that I got swapped when I was born andI’m really a-”

  Miss Caroline apparently thought I was lying. “Let’s not let our imaginations run awaywith us, dear,” she said. “Now you tell your father not to teach you any more. It’s best tobegin reading with a fresh mind. You tell him I’ll take over from here and try to undo thedamage-”

  “Ma’am?”

  “Your father does not know how to teach. You can have a seat now.”

  I mumbled that I was sorry and retired meditating upon my crime. I never deliberatelylearned to read, but somehow I had been wallowing illicitly in the daily papers. In thelong hours of church—was it then I learned? I could not remember not being able toread hymns. Now that I was compelled to think about it, reading was something that justcame to me, as learning to fasten the seat of my union suit without looking around, orachieving two bows from a snarl of shoelaces. I could not remember when the linesabove Atticus’s moving finger separated into words, but I had stared at them all theevenings in my memory, listening to the news of the day, Bills to Be Enacted into Laws,the diaries of Lorenzo Dow—anything Atticus happened to be reading when I crawledinto his lap every night. Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does notlove breathing.

  I knew I had annoyed Miss Caroline, so I let well enough alone and stared out thewindow until recess when Jem cut me from the covey of first-graders in the schoolyard.

  He asked how I was getting along. I told him.

  “If I didn’t have to stay I’d leave. Jem, that damn lady says Atticus’s been teaching meto read and for him to stop it-”

  “Don’t worry, Scout,” Jem comforted me. “Our teacher says Miss Caroline’sintroducing a new way of teaching. She learned about it in college. It’ll be in all thegrades soon. You don’t have to learn much out of books that way—it’s like if you wantalearn about cows, you go milk one, see?”

  “Yeah Jem, but I don’t wanta study cows, I-”

  “Sure you do. You hafta know about cows, they’re a big part of life in MaycombCounty.”

  I contented myself with asking Jem if he’d lost his mind.

  “I’m just trying to tell you the new way they’re teachin‘ the first grade, stubborn. It’s theDewey Decimal System.”

  Having never questioned Jem’s pronouncements, I saw no reason to begin now. TheDewey Decimal System consisted, in part, of Miss Caroline waving cards at us on whichwere printed “the,” “cat,” “rat,” “man,” and “you.” No comment seemed to be expected ofus, and the class received these impressionistic revelations in silence. I was bored, so Ibegan a letter to Dill. Miss Caroline caught me writing and told me to tell my father tostop teaching me. “Besides,” she said. “We don’t write in the first grade, we print. Youwon’t learn to write until you’re in the third grade.”

  Calpurnia was to blame for this. It kept me from driving her crazy on rainy days, Iguess. She would set me a writing task by scrawling the alphabet firmly across the topof a tablet, then copying out a chapter of the Bible beneath. If I reproduced herpenmanship satisfactorily, she rewarded me with an open-faced sandwich of bread andbutter and sugar. In Calpurnia’s teaching, there was no sentimentality: I seldom pleasedher and she seldom rewarded me.

  “Everybody who goes home to lunch hold up your hands,” said Miss Caroline,breaking into my new grudge against Calpurnia.

  The town children did so, and she looked us over.

  “Everybody who brings his lunch put it on top of his desk.”

  Molasses buckets appeared from nowhere, and the ceiling danced with metallic light.

  Miss Caroline walked up and down the rows peering and poking into lunch containers,nodding if the contents pleased her, frowning a little at others. She stopped at WalterCunningham’s desk. “Where’s yours?” she asked.

  Walter Cunningham’s face told everybody in the first grade he had hookworms. Hisabsence of shoes told us how he got them. People caught hookworms going barefootedin barnyards and hog wallows. If Walter had owned any shoes he would have wornthem the first day of school and then discarded them until mid-winter. He did have on aclean shirt and neatly mended overalls.

  “Did you forget your lunch this morning?” asked Miss Caroline.

  Walter looked straight ahead. I saw a muscle jump in his skinny jaw.

  “Did you forget it this morning?” asked Miss Caroline. Walter’s jaw twitched again.

  “Yeb’m,” he finally mumbled.

  Miss Caroline went to her desk and opened her purse. “Here’s a quarter,” she said toWalter. “Go and eat downtown today. You can pay me back tomorrow.”

  Walter shook his head. “Nome thank you ma’am,” he drawled softly.

  Impatience crept into Miss Caroline’s voice: “Here Walter, come get it.”

  Walter shook his head again.

  When Walter shook his head a third time someone whispered, “Go on and tell her,Scout.”

  I turned around and saw most of the town people and the entire bus delegationlooking at me. Miss Caroline and I had conferred twice already, and they were looking atme in the innocent assurance that familiarity breeds understanding.

  I rose graciously on Walter’s behalf: “Ah—Miss Caroline?”

  “What is it, Jean Louise?”

  “Miss Caroline, he’s a Cunningham.”

  I sat back down.

  “What, Jean Louise?”

  I thought I had made things sufficiently clear. It was clear enough to the rest of us:

  Walter Cunningham was sitting there lying his head off. He didn’t forget his lunch, hedidn’t have any. He had none today nor would he have any tomorrow or the next day.

  He had probably never seen three quarters together at the same time in his life.

  I tried again: “Walter’s one of the Cunninghams, Miss Caroline.”

  “I beg your pardon, Jean Louise?”

  “That’s okay, ma’am, you’ll get to know all the county folks after a while. TheCunninghams never took anything they can’t pay back—no church baskets and no scripstamps. They never took anything off of anybody, they get along on what they have.

  They don’t have much, but they get along on it.”

  My special knowledge of the Cunningham tribe—one branch, that is—was gainedfrom events of last winter. Walter’s father was one of Atticus’s clients. After a drearyconversation in our livingroom one night about his entailment, before Mr. Cunninghamleft he said, “Mr. Finch, I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to pay you.”

  “Let that be the least of your worries, Walter,” Atticus said.

  When I asked Jem what entailment was, and Jem described it as a condition of havingyour tail in a crack, I asked Atticus if Mr. Cunningham would ever pay us.

  “Not in money,” Atticus said, “but before the year’s out I’ll have been paid. You watch.”

  We watched. One morning Jem and I found a load of stovewood in the back yard.

  Later, a sack of hickory nuts appeared on the back steps. With Christmas came a crateof smilax and holly. That spring when we found a crokersack full of turnip greens, Atticussaid Mr. Cunningham had more than paid him.

  “Why does he pay you like that?” I asked.

  “Because that’s the only way he can pay me. He has no money.”

  “Are we poor, Atticus?”

  Atticus nodded. “We are indeed.”

  Jem’s nose wrinkled. “Are we as poor as the Cunninghams?”

  “Not exactly. The Cunninghams are country folks, farmers, and the crash hit themhardest.”

  Atticus said professional people were poor because the farmers were poor. AsMaycomb County was farm country, nickels and dimes were hard to come by for doctorsand dentists and lawyers. Entailment was only a part of Mr. Cunningham’s vexations.

  The acres not entailed were mortgaged to the hilt, and the little cash he made went tointerest. If he held his mouth right, Mr. Cunningham could get a WPA job, but his landwould go to ruin if he left it, and he was willing to go hungry to keep his land and vote ashe pleased. Mr. Cunningham, said Atticus, came from a set breed of men.

  As the Cunninghams had no money to pay a lawyer, they simply paid us with whatthey had. “Did you know,” said Atticus, “that Dr. Reynolds works the same way? Hecharges some folks a bushel of potatoes for delivery of a baby. Miss Scout, if you giveme your attention I’ll tell you what entailment is. Jem’s definitions are very nearlyaccurate sometimes.”

  If I could have explained these things to Miss Caroline, I would have saved myselfsome inconvenience and Miss Caroline subsequent mortification, but it was beyond myability to explain things as well as Atticus, so I said, “You’re shamin‘ him, Miss Caroline.

  Walter hasn’t got a quarter at home to bring you, and you can’t use any stovewood.”

  Miss Caroline stood stock still, then grabbed me by the collar and hauled me back toher desk. “Jean Louise, I’ve had about enough of you this morning,” she said. “You’restarting off on the wrong foot in every way, my dear. Hold out your hand.”

  I thought she was going to spit in it, which was the only reason anybody in Maycombheld out his hand: it was a time-honored method of sealing oral contracts. Wonderingwhat bargain we had made, I turned to the class for an answer, but the class lookedback at me in puzzlement. Miss Caroline picked up her ruler, gave me half a dozenquick little pats, then told me to stand in the corner. A storm of laughter broke loosewhen it finally occurred to the class that Miss Caroline had whipped me.

  When Miss Caroline threatened it with a similar fate the first grade exploded again,becoming cold sober only when the shadow of Miss Blount fell over them. Miss Blount, anative Maycombian as yet uninitiated in the mysteries of the Decimal System, appearedat the door hands on hips and announced: “If I hear another sound from this room I’llburn up everybody in it. Miss Caroline, the sixth grade cannot concentrate on thepyramids for all this racket!”

  My sojourn in the corner was a short one. Saved by the bell, Miss Caroline watchedthe class file out for lunch. As I was the last to leave, I saw her sink down into her chairand bury her head in her arms. Had her conduct been more friendly toward me, I wouldhave felt sorry for her. She was a pretty little thing.

迪尔九月初离开我们,回到梅里迪安去。莸们乘早上五点钟的公共汽车去送他。少了他,我心里很不是滋味,直到后来想起再过一个星期就要上学了,心情才好转。上学是我的最大愿望。冬天,我在树上的小屋里,一坐就是几个小时,用杰姆给我的放大两倍的望远镜看着校园里一群一群的小学生,学习他们的游戏,在玩捉迷藏游戏的一圈圈蠕动的人群中注视我哥哥杰姆的红上衣,暗自分担他们的不幸,也分享他们小小的胜利。我多么想成为他们中的一员啊!
上学的第一天,杰姆还算赏脸,把我带到学校。这本来是家长的事,但阿迫克斯说杰姆会欢喜带我去找我的教室的。我想,为这事爸爸可能给了他钱,因为走过拉德剩家附近的拐角时,我听见杰姆的口袋里有从没听到过的丁当丁当的钱响。快到学校了,我们放慢脚步,杰姆一再叮嘱我,在学校里别去打扰他,别去要他再演一段《人猿泰山和蚂蚁人》,别谈论他在家里的情况使他丢脸,课间或午问休息时,也别象尾巴一样老跟在他屁股后面。他让我跟一年级的学生去玩,丙他跟五年级的学生在一起。一句话,不让我缠着他。
“你是说我们以后不能一起玩了吗?”我问。
“在家我们和以前一样,”他说,“但你会明白——学校不一样。”
学校的确大不一样。第一个上午还没完,我们的老师卡罗琳?费希尔小姐就把我拖到教室的前面,用尺打我的手心,然后罚我站壁角,一直站到中午。
卡罗琳小姐不过二十一岁,金棕色的头发,粉红色的面颊,指甲上涂着深红色的指甲油。她脚上穿着一双高跟浅口无带皮鞋,身上穿着有红白条纹的连衣裙,看起来闻起来都象一根有红白条纹的薄荷棒糖。她住在街对面,和我们家斜对门。她住的是楼上的前房,莫迪?阿特金森小姐住在楼下。莫迪小姐介绍我们与她认识时,杰姆给她迷住了,一连好几天都是这样。
卡罗琳小姐把她的姓名用印刷体写在黑板上,然后告诉我们:“这几个字的意思是我是卡罗琳?费希尔小姐。我是亚拉巴马州北部温斯顿县人。”全班都担心地小声议论起来,怕她也有那个地方的人所特有的怪癖(亚拉巴马于1861年1月11日退出合众国时,温斯顿县退出了亚拉巴马州,梅科姆县的每个小孩都知道这件事)。北亚拉巴马有很多大酒商,拖拉机厂,钢铁公司,共和党人,教授以及其他没有什么背景的人。
上课一开始,卡罗琳小姐给我们读了个有关猫的放孰这群猫相互之问交谈了很久,它们都穿着精巧的小衣服,住在炉,灶下面的一问暖和的房子里。她读到猫大妈去杂货店定购巧克力麦芽老鼠时,全班同学象一桶长在葡萄上的虫似地蠕动起来。这些身穿褴楼的斜纹粗布衬衣或面粉口袋布裙子的一年级学生,大部分别会走路时就开始喂猪、摘棉花,对唤起想象力的文学作品毫无接受能力。而卡罗琳小姐对这点一无所知。读完故事后她说:“啊,多好的故事!”
然后,她走到黑板前把字母表的大写字母用印厢8体大个大个地写在黑板上,转过身来问大家:“有谁知道这是什么吗?”
谁都知道。不过前一年的一年级的大部分学生是不知道的。
我想她叫我回答是因为知道我的名字。我朗读字母表时,她的眉宇间出现了一条皱纹。让我读完《我的第一本读物》的大部分和摘自《莫比尔纪事报》的股票市场的行情后,她发现我识字,就用厌恶的眼色望着我。卡罗琳小姐叫我告诉爸爸不要再教我了,否则会影响我读书。
“教我?”我吃惊地晚,“他什么都没教过我,卡罗琳小姐。阿迪克斯没时间教我。”卡罗琳小姐笑着直摇头,我又说了句:“这没有什么好奇怪的,他每天晚上那么累,光坐在房里看书。”
“他没教,那又是谁教你的?”她和蔼地问,“总有谁教过你,你不可能生下来就会读《莫比尔纪事报》。”
“杰姆说我生下来就会。他读过一本书,书里说我是布尔芬奇,而不是芬奇。杰姆说我的真名叫琼?路易斯?布尔芬奇,还说我生下来时被人掉包了,其实我是……”
看得出,卡罗琳小姐以为我在撒谎。“不要想入非非了,亲爱的,”她说,“告诉你爸爸不要再教你了。正式学习以前,最好不要学些不正规的东西。告诉他,我从这儿接手,要把不正规的东西纠正过来……”
“小姐?”
“你爸爸不懂教学方法。你可以坐下了。”
我咕哝着说对不起,然后坐下,开始考虑我到底有什么罪过。我从没有专门学过识字,但有时候的确私自抱着报纸读个不停。我常常上教堂做礼拜——是在那儿学会的吗?我记不起我有过不会读赞美诗的时候。既然被迫考虑这个问题,我觉得识字的能力对我来说是自然而然地获得的,好象不用学习就能不往后看而把连衫裤系好一样,不用学习就能把鞋带打两个蝴蝶结一样。我记不清阿迪克斯移动的手指所指的一行行句子是怎样分为一个个单词的。在我的记忆中,每天晚上我都注意地看着这些字,耳朵听着当天的新闻,如“提案将被通过成为法律”啦,某某人的日记啦,等等。一句话,每天晚上趴在爸爸的膝匕,他读什么我听什么。要不是担心会忘记所听到的词句,我从不爱自己读书。人之所以要呼吸是不得已,我读书也是这样。
我知道我触怒了卡罗琳小姐,就不再没事找事了。我扭过头,盯着窗外直到下课。在院子里,杰姆把我从一年级的小伙伴中找出去,问我怎么样。我把情况告诉了他。
“可以不上学的话,真想离开这里了。杰姆,那该死的小姐硬说阿迪克斯教我读过书,还叫我要地别再教了……”
“别急,斯各特,”杰姆安慰我说,“我们老师说卡罗琳小姐正在弓『进一种新的教学法,她在大学学的,很快就会在每个年级推广。根据这个方法,很多知识不用从书本上学。譬如,想学有关奶牛的知识,你就去挤一次奶,你明白了吗?”
“明白了,杰姆。可我不想学奶牛知识,我……”
“当然得学,你必须了解一些奶牛知识,在梅科姆县生活,少不了奶牛。”
我问杰姆他脑瓜子是不是出了毛病。
“我是想告诉你这是他们教一年级学生的新方法,你真难对付。这种新方法叫做‘杜威十进分类法’。”
杰姆说的话我从来没怀疑过,现在也没有怀疑的必要。杜威教学法的一部分内容就是卡罗琳小姐在课堂上朝我们挥舞卡片,上面写着“这个”、“猫”、“老鼠”、“男人”、“你”等等。好象不要我们作什么回答,全班默默地接受这些印象主义的新启示。我不耐烦了,便给迪尔写信。正写着,卡罗琳小姐发现了。她叫我告诉爸爸别再教我了。“而且,”她说,“一年级学生不学写作,只学写字。你们要到三年级才练习写作。”
这就要怪卡尔珀尼亚了。遇上雨天,她总让我抄写点什么。这样,我就不会给她找麻烦,把她舞得晕头转向的。她一笔一划地把字母表写在一张小桌子上端,从一头写到另一头,然后在下边抄一节《圣经》。我的任务是各抄一遍。抄好后,她满意就奖给我半块带有糖和黄油的三明治面包。她在教我的过程中从不掺杂任何感情:我很难得让她满意,她也很少奖赏我。
“回家吃午饭的同学举起手来。”卡罗琳小姐说。这句话打断了我对卡尔珀尼亚的又一种怨恨。
镇上的学生都举了手,她把我们打量了一遍。
“带了午饭的同学把饭盒放在桌上。”
饭盒不知从什么地方一个接一个地冒了出来。金属盒把阳光反射到天花板上,不停地跳动。卡罗琳小姐在过遭上走了几趟,不时打开盒子看看,盒里的饭菜她看后满意就点点头,否则就皱起眉头。她在沃尔特?坎宁安的桌旁停了下来。“你的午饭呢?”她问。
一年级的学生都能从沃尔特?坎宁安的脸色看出他肚里有钩虫。他没穿鞋,光着两脚,这就告诉我们他的钩虫病是从哪儿来的。光着脚在牲口栏前的地坪上或在猪猡常打滚的洼地里走,就会染上钩虫病。要是沃尔特有鞋子的话,上学的第一天肯定会穿来,然后脱掉,直到隆冬时再穿上。那天,他倒是穿了一件干净衬衣,一条补得挺整齐的背带裤。
“你早上忘记带午饭了吗?”卡罗琳小姐问。沃尔特两眼直直地望着前方。我看见他那瘦削的下巴上的肌肉在抽搐。
“你今天早上忘记了吗?”她问。沃尔特下巴上的肌肉又抽搐了一下。
“是的,小姐。”他最后含含糊糊地回答道。
卡罗琳小姐回到讲桌旁,打开钱包。“这是两角五分钱,”她对沃尔特说,“今天去镇上吃午饭。你可以到明天再把钱还给我。”
沃尔特摇了摇头。“不,谢谢小姐。”他轻轻地、慢腾腾地说了句。
卡罗琳小姐的声音显得有些不耐烦了:“听着,沃尔特,过来拿钱。”
沃尔特再次摇了摇头。
沃尔特第三次摇头时,有的同学低声说:“斯各特,你去跟她讲讲。”
我回过头,看到镇上的大部分学生和乘公共汽车上学的所有的学生都在望着我。我和卡罗琳小姐已经交谈过两次了,大家都望着我,天真地认为熟悉了的人才能互相理解。
为了替沃尔特解围,我彬彬有礼地站起来,“嗯……卡罗琳小姐。”
“什么事,琼?路易斯?”
“卡罗琳小姐,他是坎宁安家的。。
我坐下来。
“什么,琼?路易斯?”
我想我已经把事情说得很清楚了,对其他人来说,这已够明白的了。沃尔特坐着,一个劲地埋着头。他不是忘记了午饭,而是没有午饭。今天没有,明天不会有,后天也不会有。他长到这么大,恐怕还没有一次见过三个两角五分的硬币。
我又说了一遍:“沃尔特是坎宁安家的,卡罗琳小姐。”
“对不起,请再说一遍,琼?路易斯。”
“好的,小姐,过一段时间你就会了解这个镇上所有的人。坎宁安家的人从不接受他们无法偿还的东西——不要教堂的救济物,也不要政府发放的救济款。从不用任何人的任何东西。自己有什么就用什么,就吃什么。他们的东西并不多,但就靠那些东西凑合着过日子。”
我对坎宁安家族的特殊知识是去年冬天学到的。沃尔特的爸爸是阿迪克斯的当事人之一。一天晚上,他和爸爸就限定继承权问题在我家谈了很久,临走时,坎宁安先生说:“芬奇先生,我不知什么时候才有钱付您酬劳。”
“这件事您尽可以不放在心上,沃尔特。”阿迪克斯说。
我问杰姆什么是限定继承权,他把它描绘成把尾巴夹在缝隙中的窘境,我问阿迪克斯,坎宁安先生会不会付钱给我们。
“不会付现钱,”阿迪克斯说,“但是,在今年年内,我们会得到报酬的,等着瞧吧。”
我们一直在等着瞧。一天早上,我和杰姆在后院发现一搁干柴。后来,在屋后的台阶上出现了一袋山核桃。圣诞节时,又来了一箱菝葜和圣诞节装饰用的冬青类树枝。今年春天,我们发现一袋萝卜菜时,阿迪克斯说坎宁安家给我们的东西已经超过了应该付的钱。
“他为啥这样付欠款?。我问。
“因为这是他能付欠款的唯一方式,他没有钱。”
“我们也穷吗,阿迪克斯?”
阿迪克斯点点头。“我们确实也穷。”
杰姆的鼻子皱起来。“我们跟坎宁安家一样穷吗?”
“不完全一样。坎宁安家的人都住在乡下,他们是农民,经济危机对他们打击擐大。”
阿迪克斯说,医生和律师之所以穷是因为农民穷。梅科姆县是以农业为主的县,医生、牙医、律师很难收到现金。限定继承权只是坎宁安先生苦恼的一部分。那些没有限定继承人的土地全部被用来当抵押物,得来的一点点钱又全都付了利息。如果开口韵话,坎宁安先生本来可以在工程规划署找个工作做做,可是他一走,土地就要荒了,于是他宁愿挨饿种地,自由一些。阿迪克斯说坎宁安先生属于那种性情固执的人。
因为没有钱,坎宁安家的人干脆有什么就给什么。阿迪克斯说:“你们知道吗,雷纳兹医生的收费方式也一样。接生一次,他向农户要一蒲式耳土豆。斯各特小姐,要是你用心听的话,我就告诉你什么是限定继承权。有时,杰姆的定义下得还比较准确。”
要是我把这些话早讲给卡罗琳小姐听的话,我就不会有什么麻烦了,卡罗琳小姐随后也就不会丢面子了。可是我不能象阿迪克斯一样地解释清楚,所以我说:“您这是在为难他,卡罗琳小姐。沃尔特家没有两角五分钱还给您,而您又不能用干柴。”
卡罗琳小姐站在那儿象根木棍一样,一动也不动。突然,她一把抓住我的衣领,把我拖到讲桌前。“琼?路易斯,今天上午你已终让我够受的了,”她说,“一开始你就处处捣蛋,我亲爱的。伸出手来!”
我还以为她要朝我手里吐唾沫呢,因为梅科姆镇上的人伸手都是为了这个:这是个由来已久的签定口头合同的方法。我不明白我们做了什么交易,迷惑不解地把眼睛转向全班同学,想寻找答案,可他们也同样迷惑不解地望着我。卡罗琳小姐拿起尺,很快地在我手心上打了五六下,然后,罚我站壁角。最后,大家弄明白是卡罗琳小姐打了我一顿时,全班顿时哄堂大笑。
卡罗琳小姐又用同样的下场威胁大家,全班又大笑起来。直等到布朗特小姐的影子落在他们身上时才一个个闭上嘴巴,收敛起笑容。布朗特小姐是一位还不了解新教学方法秘密的土生土长的梅科姆县人,她两手叉腰,出现在教室门口,大声喝道:“要是再听到这个教室里有声音,我就把里边的人统统烧死。卡罗琳小姐,你这儿太吵闹了,六年级学生无法集中注意力听讲金字塔。”
我在墙角站酌时间不长,下课铃解救了我。卡罗琳小姐望着学生一个一个走出去吃午饭。我是最后一个出去的,看见她朝椅子上坐下去,头伏在胳膊上。要是她对我好一点儿的话,我也许会同情她。她是个漂亮的年轻姑娘呢。



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