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Chapter 3

       Catching Walter Cunningham in the schoolyard gave me some pleasure, but when Iwas rubbing his nose in the dirt Jem came by and told me to stop. “You’re bigger’n heis,” he said.

  “He’s as old as you, nearly,” I said. “He made me start off on the wrong foot.”

  “Let him go, Scout. Why?”

  “He didn’t have any lunch,” I said, and explained my involvement in Walter’s dietaryaffairs.

  Walter had picked himself up and was standing quietly listening to Jem and me. Hisfists were half cocked, as if expecting an onslaught from both of us. I stomped at him tochase him away, but Jem put out his hand and stopped me. He examined Walter withan air of speculation. “Your daddy Mr. Walter Cunningham from Old Sarum?” he asked,and Walter nodded.

  Walter looked as if he had been raised on fish food: his eyes, as blue as Dill Harris’s,were red-rimmed and watery. There was no color in his face except at the tip of hisnose, which was moistly pink. He fingered the straps of his overalls, nervously picking atthe metal hooks.

  Jem suddenly grinned at him. “Come on home to dinner with us, Walter,” he said.

  “We’d be glad to have you.”

  Walter’s face brightened, then darkened.

  Jem said, “Our daddy’s a friend of your daddy’s. Scout here, she’s crazy—she won’tfight you any more.”

  “I wouldn’t be too certain of that,” I said. Jem’s free dispensation of my pledge irkedme, but precious noontime minutes were ticking away. “Yeah Walter, I won’t jump onyou again. Don’t you like butterbeans? Our Cal’s a real good cook.”

  Walter stood where he was, biting his lip. Jem and I gave up, and we were nearly tothe Radley Place when Walter called, “Hey, I’m comin‘!”

  When Walter caught up with us, Jem made pleasant conversation with him. “A hain’tlives there,” he said cordially, pointing to the Radley house. “Ever hear about him,Walter?”

  “Reckon I have,” said Walter. “Almost died first year I come to school and et thempecans—folks say he pizened ‘em and put ’em over on the school side of the fence.”

  Jem seemed to have little fear of Boo Radley now that Walter and I walked besidehim. Indeed, Jem grew boastful: “I went all the way up to the house once,” he said toWalter.

  “Anybody who went up to the house once oughta not to still run every time he passesit,” I said to the clouds above.

  “And who’s runnin‘, Miss Priss?”

  “You are, when ain’t anybody with you.”

  By the time we reached our front steps Walter had forgotten he was a Cunningham.

  Jem ran to the kitchen and asked Calpurnia to set an extra plate, we had company.

  Atticus greeted Walter and began a discussion about crops neither Jem nor I couldfollow.

  “Reason I can’t pass the first grade, Mr. Finch, is I’ve had to stay out ever‘ spring an’

  help Papa with the choppin‘, but there’s another’n at the house now that’s field size.”

  “Did you pay a bushel of potatoes for him?” I asked, but Atticus shook his head at me.

  While Walter piled food on his plate, he and Atticus talked together like two men, tothe wonderment of Jem and me. Atticus was expounding upon farm problems whenWalter interrupted to ask if there was any molasses in the house. Atticus summonedCalpurnia, who returned bearing the syrup pitcher. She stood waiting for Walter to helphimself. Walter poured syrup on his vegetables and meat with a generous hand. Hewould probably have poured it into his milk glass had I not asked what the sam hill hewas doing.

  The silver saucer clattered when he replaced the pitcher, and he quickly put his handsin his lap. Then he ducked his head.

  Atticus shook his head at me again. “But he’s gone and drowned his dinner in syrup,” Iprotested. “He’s poured it all over-”

  It was then that Calpurnia requested my presence in the kitchen.

  She was furious, and when she was furious Calpurnia’s grammar became erratic.

  When in tranquility, her grammar was as good as anybody’s in Maycomb. Atticus saidCalpurnia had more education than most colored folks.

  When she squinted down at me the tiny lines around her eyes deepened. “There’ssome folks who don’t eat like us,” she whispered fiercely, “but you ain’t called on tocontradict ‘em at the table when they don’t. That boy’s yo’ comp’ny and if he wants toeat up the table cloth you let him, you hear?”

  “He ain’t company, Cal, he’s just a Cunningham-”

  “Hush your mouth! Don’t matter who they are, anybody sets foot in this house’s yo‘comp’ny, and don’t you let me catch you remarkin’ on their ways like you was so highand mighty! Yo‘ folks might be better’n the Cunninghams but it don’t count for nothin’ theway you’re disgracin‘ ’em—if you can’t act fit to eat at the table you can just set here andeat in the kitchen!”

  Calpurnia sent me through the swinging door to the diningroom with a stinging smack.

  I retrieved my plate and finished dinner in the kitchen, thankful, though, that I wasspared the humiliation of facing them again. I told Calpurnia to just wait, I’d fix her: oneof these days when she wasn’t looking I’d go off and drown myself in Barker’s Eddy andthen she’d be sorry. Besides, I added, she’d already gotten me in trouble once today:

  she had taught me to write and it was all her fault. “Hush your fussin‘,” she said.

  Jem and Walter returned to school ahead of me: staying behind to advise Atticus ofCalpurnia’s iniquities was worth a solitary sprint past the Radley Place. “She likes Jembetter’n she likes me, anyway,” I concluded, and suggested that Atticus lose no time inpacking her off.

  “Have you ever considered that Jem doesn’t worry her half as much?” Atticus’s voicewas flinty. “I’ve no intention of getting rid of her, now or ever. We couldn’t operate asingle day without Cal, have you ever thought of that? You think about how much Caldoes for you, and you mind her, you hear?”

  I returned to school and hated Calpurnia steadily until a sudden shriek shattered myresentments. I looked up to see Miss Caroline standing in the middle of the room, sheerhorror flooding her face. Apparently she had revived enough to persevere in herprofession.

  “It’s alive!” she screamed.

  The male population of the class rushed as one to her assistance. Lord, I thought,she’s scared of a mouse. Little Chuck Little, whose patience with all living things wasphenomenal, said, “Which way did he go, Miss Caroline? Tell us where he went, quick!

  D.C.-” he turned to a boy behind him—“D.C., shut the door and we’ll catch him. Quick,ma’am, where’d he go?”

  Miss Caroline pointed a shaking finger not at the floor nor at a desk, but to a hulkingindividual unknown to me. Little Chuck’s face contracted and he said gently, “You meanhim, ma’am? Yessum, he’s alive. Did he scare you some way?”

  Miss Caroline said desperately, “I was just walking by when it crawled out of his hair…just crawled out of his hair-”

  Little Chuck grinned broadly. “There ain’t no need to fear a cootie, ma’am. Ain’t youever seen one? Now don’t you be afraid, you just go back to your desk and teach ussome more.”

  Little Chuck Little was another member of the population who didn’t know where hisnext meal was coming from, but he was a born gentleman. He put his hand under herelbow and led Miss Caroline to the front of the room. “Now don’t you fret, ma’am,” hesaid. “There ain’t no need to fear a cootie. I’ll just fetch you some cool water.” Thecootie’s host showed not the faintest interest in the furor he had wrought. He searchedthe scalp above his forehead, located his guest and pinched it between his thumb andforefinger.

  Miss Caroline watched the process in horrid fascination. Little Chuck brought water ina paper cup, and she drank it gratefully. Finally she found her voice. “What is yourname, son?” she asked softly.

  The boy blinked. “Who, me?” Miss Caroline nodded.

  “Burris Ewell.”

  Miss Caroline inspected her roll-book. “I have a Ewell here, but I don’t have a firstname… would you spell your first name for me?”

  “Don’t know how. They call me Burris’t home.”

  “Well, Burris,” said Miss Caroline, “I think we’d better excuse you for the rest of theafternoon. I want you to go home and wash your hair.”

  From her desk she produced a thick volume, leafed through its pages and read for amoment. “A good home remedy for—Burris, I want you to go home and wash your hairwith lye soap. When you’ve done that, treat your scalp with kerosene.”

  “What fer, missus?”

  “To get rid of the—er, cooties. You see, Burris, the other children might catch them,and you wouldn’t want that, would you?”

  The boy stood up. He was the filthiest human I had ever seen. His neck was darkgray, the backs of his hands were rusty, and his fingernails were black deep into thequick. He peered at Miss Caroline from a fist-sized clean space on his face. No one hadnoticed him, probably, because Miss Caroline and I had entertained the class most ofthe morning.

  “And Burris,” said Miss Caroline, “please bathe yourself before you come backtomorrow.”

  The boy laughed rudely. “You ain’t sendin‘ me home, missus. I was on the verge ofleavin’—I done done my time for this year.”

  Miss Caroline looked puzzled. “What do you mean by that?”

  The boy did not answer. He gave a short contemptuous snort.

  One of the elderly members of the class answered her: “He’s one of the Ewells,ma’am,” and I wondered if this explanation would be as unsuccessful as my attempt. ButMiss Caroline seemed willing to listen. “Whole school’s full of ‘em. They come first dayevery year and then leave. The truant lady gets ’em here ‘cause she threatens ’em withthe sheriff, but she’s give up tryin‘ to hold ’em. She reckons she’s carried out the law justgettin‘ their names on the roll and runnin’ ‘em here the first day. You’re supposed tomark ’em absent the rest of the year…”

  “But what about their parents?” asked Miss Caroline, in genuine concern.

  “Ain’t got no mother,” was the answer, “and their paw’s right contentious.”

  Burris Ewell was flattered by the recital. “Been comin‘ to the first day o’ the first gradefer three year now,” he said expansively. “Reckon if I’m smart this year they’ll promoteme to the second…”

  Miss Caroline said, “Sit back down, please, Burris,” and the moment she said it I knewshe had made a serious mistake. The boy’s condescension flashed to anger.

  “You try and make me, missus.”

  Little Chuck Little got to his feet. “Let him go, ma’am,” he said. “He’s a mean one, ahard-down mean one. He’s liable to start somethin‘, and there’s some little folks here.”

  He was among the most diminutive of men, but when Burris Ewell turned toward him,Little Chuck’s right hand went to his pocket. “Watch your step, Burris,” he said. “I’dsoon’s kill you as look at you. Now go home.”

  Burris seemed to be afraid of a child half his height, and Miss Caroline took advantageof his indecision: “Burris, go home. If you don’t I’ll call the principal,” she said. “I’ll haveto report this, anyway.”

  The boy snorted and slouched leisurely to the door.

  Safely out of range, he turned and shouted: “Report and be damned to ye! Ain’t nosnot-nosed slut of a schoolteacher ever born c’n make me do nothin‘! You ain’t makin’

  me go nowhere, missus. You just remember that, you ain’t makin‘ me go nowhere!”

  He waited until he was sure she was crying, then he shuffled out of the building.

  Soon we were clustered around her desk, trying in our various ways to comfort her.

  He was a real mean one… below the belt… you ain’t called on to teach folks like that…them ain’t Maycomb’s ways, Miss Caroline, not really… now don’t you fret, ma’am. MissCaroline, why don’t you read us a story? That cat thing was real fine this mornin‘…Miss Caroline smiled, blew her nose, said, “Thank you, darlings,” dispersed us,opened a book and mystified the first grade with a long narrative about a toadfrog thatlived in a hall.

  When I passed the Radley Place for the fourth time that day—twice at a full gallop—my gloom had deepened to match the house. If the remainder of the school year wereas fraught with drama as the first day, perhaps it would be mildly entertaining, but theprospect of spending nine months refraining from reading and writing made me think ofrunning away.

  By late afternoon most of my traveling plans were complete; when Jem and I racedeach other up the sidewalk to meet Atticus coming home from work, I didn’t give himmuch of a race. It was our habit to run meet Atticus the moment we saw him round thepost office corner in the distance. Atticus seemed to have forgotten my noontime fallfrom grace; he was full of questions about school. My replies were monosyllabic and hedid not press me.

  Perhaps Calpurnia sensed that my day had been a grim one: she let me watch her fixsupper. “Shut your eyes and open your mouth and I’ll give you a surprise,” she said.

  It was not often that she made crackling bread, she said she never had time, but withboth of us at school today had been an easy one for her. She knew I loved cracklingbread.

  “I missed you today,” she said. “The house got so lonesome ‘long about two o’clock Ihad to turn on the radio.”

  “Why? Jem’n me ain’t ever in the house unless it’s rainin‘.”

  “I know,” she said, “But one of you’s always in callin‘ distance. I wonder how much ofthe day I spend just callin’ after you. Well,” she said, getting up from the kitchen chair,“it’s enough time to make a pan of cracklin‘ bread, I reckon. You run along now and letme get supper on the table.”

  Calpurnia bent down and kissed me. I ran along, wondering what had come over her.

  She had wanted to make up with me, that was it. She had always been too hard on me,she had at last seen the error of her fractious ways, she was sorry and too stubborn tosay so. I was weary from the day’s crimes.

  After supper, Atticus sat down with the paper and called, “Scout, ready to read?” TheLord sent me more than I could bear, and I went to the front porch. Atticus followed me.

  “Something wrong, Scout?”

  I told Atticus I didn’t feel very well and didn’t think I’d go to school any more if it was allright with him.

  Atticus sat down in the swing and crossed his legs. His fingers wandered to hiswatchpocket; he said that was the only way he could think. He waited in amiablesilence, and I sought to reinforce my position: “You never went to school and you do allright, so I’ll just stay home too. You can teach me like Granddaddy taught you ‘n’ UncleJack.”

  “No I can’t,” said Atticus. “I have to make a living. Besides, they’d put me in jail if I keptyou at home—dose of magnesia for you tonight and school tomorrow.”

  “I’m feeling all right, really.”

  “Thought so. Now what’s the matter?”

  Bit by bit, I told him the day’s misfortunes. “-and she said you taught me all wrong, sowe can’t ever read any more, ever. Please don’t send me back, please sir.”

  Atticus stood up and walked to the end of the porch. When he completed hisexamination of the wisteria vine he strolled back to me.

  “First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot betterwith all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider thingsfrom his point of view-”

  “Sir?”

  “-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

  Atticus said I had learned many things today, and Miss Caroline had learned severalthings herself. She had learned not to hand something to a Cunningham, for one thing,but if Walter and I had put ourselves in her shoes we’d have seen it was an honestmistake on her part. We could not expect her to learn all Maycomb’s ways in one day,and we could not hold her responsible when she knew no better.

  “I’ll be dogged,” I said. “I didn’t know no better than not to read to her, and she heldme responsible—listen Atticus, I don’t have to go to school!” I was bursting with asudden thought. “Burris Ewell, remember? He just goes to school the first day. Thetruant lady reckons she’s carried out the law when she gets his name on the roll-” “Youcan’t do that, Scout,” Atticus said. “Sometimes it’s better to bend the law a little inspecial cases. In your case, the law remains rigid. So to school you must go.”

  “I don’t see why I have to when he doesn’t.”

  “Then listen.”

  Atticus said the Ewells had been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations.

  None of them had done an honest day’s work in his recollection. He said that someChristmas, when he was getting rid of the tree, he would take me with him and show mewhere and how they lived. They were people, but they lived like animals. “They can goto school any time they want to, when they show the faintest symptom of wanting aneducation,” said Atticus. “There are ways of keeping them in school by force, but it’s sillyto force people like the Ewells into a new environment-”

  “If I didn’t go to school tomorrow, you’d force me to.”

  “Let us leave it at this,” said Atticus dryly. “You, Miss Scout Finch, are of the commonfolk. You must obey the law.” He said that the Ewells were members of an exclusivesociety made up of Ewells. In certain circumstances the common folk judiciously allowedthem certain privileges by the simple method of becoming blind to some of the Ewells’

  activities. They didn’t have to go to school, for one thing. Another thing, Mr. Bob Ewell,Burris’s father, was permitted to hunt and trap out of season.

  “Atticus, that’s bad,” I said. In Maycomb County, hunting out of season was amisdemeanor at law, a capital felony in the eyes of the populace.

  “It’s against the law, all right,” said my father, “and it’s certainly bad, but when a manspends his relief checks on green whiskey his children have a way of crying from hungerpains. I don’t know of any landowner around here who begrudges those children anygame their father can hit.”

  “Mr. Ewell shouldn’t do that-”

  “Of course he shouldn’t, but he’ll never change his ways. Are you going to take outyour disapproval on his children?”

  “No sir,” I murmured, and made a final stand: “But if I keep on goin‘ to school, we can’tever read any more…”

  “That’s really bothering you, isn’t it?”

  “Yes sir.”

  When Atticus looked down at me I saw the expression on his face that always mademe expect something. “Do you know what a compromise is?” he asked.

  “Bending the law?”

  “No, an agreement reached by mutual concessions. It works this way,” he said. “Ifyou’ll concede the necessity of going to school, we’ll go on reading every night just aswe always have. Is it a bargain?”

  “Yes sir!”

  “We’ll consider it sealed without the usual formality,” Atticus said, when he saw mepreparing to spit.

  As I opened the front screen door Atticus said, “By the way, Scout, you’d better notsay anything at school about our agreement.”

  “Why not?”

  “I’m afraid our activities would be received with considerable disapprobation by themore learned authorities.”

  Jem and I were accustomed to our father’s last-will-and-testament diction, and wewere at all times free to interrupt Atticus for a translation when it was beyond ourunderstanding.

  “Huh, sir?”

  “I never went to school,” he said, “but I have a feeling that if you tell Miss Caroline weread every night she’ll get after me, and I wouldn’t want her after me.”

  Atticus kept us in fits that evening, gravely reading columns of print about a man whosat on a flagpole for no discernible reason, which was reason enough for Jem to spendthe following Saturday aloft in the treehouse. Jem sat from after breakfast until sunsetand would have remained overnight had not Atticus severed his supply lines. I hadspent most of the day climbing up and down, running errands for him, providing him withliterature, nourishment and water, and was carrying him blankets for the night whenAtticus said if I paid no attention to him, Jem would come down. Atticus was right.

在学校的院子里我抓住沃尔特?坎宁安来开心。我正抓着他的脑袋在泥土里擦他的鼻子时,杰姆过来了,叫我住手。“你比他大,”他说。
“他差不多跟你一样大昵,”我说,“都怪他,我一开头就倒霉。”
“放开他,斯各特,这是为了什么?”
“他没吃午饭。”我说,然后把我卷入他的吃饭问题的经过告诉了杰姆。
沃尔特站起来,在一旁悄悄地听着我俩说话,拳头半握着,好象准备我俩的拳头一起朝他打去似的。我跺着脚想把他赶走,杰姆伸手拦住我。他仔细打量了沃尔特一番。“你爸爸沃尔特?坎宁安先生是萨勒姆地方的人吧2”他问。沃尔特点点头。
沃尔特看上去好象是吃鱼食长大的。眼睛和迪尔?哈里斯的一样蓝,水汪汪的,眼眶通红。脸上没有血色,只有鼻尖有点潮乎乎的红色。他用手摸着背带裤的背带,神情紧张地把上面的金属钩拨个不停。
杰姆突然朝他笑了笑:“走,跟我们回去吃午饭,沃尔特,”他说,“跟你在一起我们很高兴。”
沃尔特脸上露出了喜色,但马上又消逝了。
杰姆说:“我们的爸爸是你爸爸的朋友。斯各特只是一时发火——她不会再打你了。”
“我才不下保证呢,”我说。杰姆用我的保证送人情,我挺恼火。但宝贵的中午时间在一分一分地过去。“好吧,沃尔特,我以后不把你按在地上了。你爱吃利马豆吗?我家的卡尔做得可好吃呢。”
祆尔特站着没动,咬着嘴唇。我和杰姆干脆不劝他了。可等我们一块走到拉德利家门前时,沃尔特突然喊了一声:“嘿,我来了。”
沃尔特赶上我们,杰姆跟他愉快地说个不停。“那儿住着个鬼,”他兴致勃勃地说,手指着拉德利家的房子,“听说过他没有,沃尔特?”
“好象听说过。我第一年来上学时,吃了他家树上掉下来的核桃,差点儿死掉。大人们说他把核桃涂上毒药,然后扔到学校校园里。”
有我和沃尔特在身边,杰姆现在好象不太怕布?拉德利似的。真的,他开始吹起牛来:“有一次,我一个人走到房子边上。”他对沃尔特说。
“谁要是到过房子边上一次,就不应该每次一到这儿仍然撒腿就跑。”我抬起头对着天上的云彩说。
“谁跑了?请问你这个不受人欢迎的小姐。’
“是你,没人陪着你时你就跑。”
到了我家房前的台阶时,沃尔特已经忘记他是坎宁安家的人了。杰姆跑进厨房,告诉卡尔珀尼亚多准备个盘子,说我们有个小伙伴。阿迪克斯和沃尔特打了招呼,然后跟他谈起地里的庄稼}他们说的事,我和杰姆都听不懂。
“芬奇先生,我老上不了二年级,就是因为每年春天都得离开学校,帮爸爸劈柴。现在家里请了一个人,他个子高大得很。”
“你们付给他一蒲式耳土豆吗?”我问,但阿迪克斯对我摇了摇头。
沃尔特一边往盘子里堆菜,一边象个大人似的跟阿迪克斯谈个不停。我和杰姆感到不可理解。阿迪克斯正在谈农业问题时,沃尔特突然插话,问家里有没有糖蜜。阿迪克斯喊了卡尔珀尼亚一声,她把糖蜜罐拿来了。她站在一旁等着沃尔特自己舀糖。沃尔特拿起罐子往下就倒,蔬菜上倒完了又往肉上倒,大方得很。要不是我问他怎么搞的,恐怕还会倒进他的牛奶杯里。
他把罐子放下时,桌上的银茶托咣地响了一声,他立刻把手放在膝头上,然后低下了脑袋。
阿迪克斯又朝我摇了摇头。“他把饭菜都用糖蜜泡起来了,”我反驳说,“他弄得到处都是。”
这时,卡尔珀尼亚喊我到厨房去。
她气势汹汹,每逢这种情况,她的语法就不讲究了。心情平静时,她的语法不比梅科姆县的任何人差。阿迪克斯说,卡尔珀尼亚比大多数黑人都多受了些教育。
她斜着眼睛望着我时,两眼周围的皱纹更深了。“有些人家的吃法跟我们不一样,”她气呼呼地说,“没人叫你在吃饭时对他们的吃法表示不满。人家是你的客人,他即使要把桌布吃掉,你也让他吃好了,昕见了没有?”
。他不是客人,卡尔,他只不过是个坎宁安家的人……”
“你给我住嘴,不管他是谁,只要进了这扇门,就是你的客人。告诉你,别让我再听见你责怪人家怎么样怎么样,好象你自己多高贵,多了不起似的。你们家的人可能比坎宁安家的人强一点,但你不能因为这个就可以侮辱人家——如果你不适宜在桌上吃饭的话,你可以坐在这儿,在厨房吃!”
卡尔珀尼亚重重地拍了我一下,打发我出门到餐室里去。我把盘子端出来,在厨房把饭吃完。也好,免受再和他们在一起的折磨。我嘀嘀咕咕地对卡尔珀尼亚说,等着瞧吧,我要报复:哪一一天她不注意时,我就跑出去,跑到巴克?埃迪河湾投水自杀,那时她就要后悔了.另外,我还说,因为她,今天我已经倒霉了,她教过我写字,都怪她。“你给我住嘴I”她说。
杰姆和沃尔特比我早回学校:我一个人留在后边的话,就得飞快地跑过拉德利家的房子,可我要在阿迪克斯面前告卡尔珀尼娅的状,说她不公平。这样,留下来还是值得的。“不管怎么说,她更喜欢杰姆些。”我最后说,并且建议阿迪克斯立即把她解雇。
“你想过没有,杰姆没你一半淘气。”阿迪克斯的口气很坚决,“我没有撵走她的想法,现在没有,永远也不会有。没有她,我们连一天都没法过,你想过没有?想想她为你做了多少事,要听她的话,听见了吗?”
我回到了学校,越想越恨卡尔珀尼亚。突然,一声尖叫打断了我的怨恨。一抬头,看到卡罗琳小姐站在教室中间,脸上浮现出惊恐的神色。很明显,她已从上午的疲倦中恢复过来,又来上课了。
“是活的!”她尖叫一声。
全班的男同学一起冲上去帮助她。天啊,我想着,她一定是被一只老鼠吓成这样。对小动物最有耐心的名叫小查克?利特尔的同学问:“往哪儿跑了,卡罗琳小姐,告诉我们它跑到哪儿去了,快说呀!狄西……”他回过头对一个男同学喊了一声,“狄西,关上门就可以抓住了。快说,小姐,它往哪儿跑了?”
卡罗琳小姐颤抖的手指既没指地板也没指课桌,却指着一个我不认识的大块头学生。小查克?利特尔的脸皱了起来,很斯文地说:“您说的是他,老师?是啊,他是活着。他怎么吓着你了?”
卡罗琳小姐声嘶力竭地说,。我正好从他身边走过,看见那东西从他头发里爬出来……从他头发里爬出来的?:…?”
小查克-利特尔咧嘴笑起来。“虱子有什么可怕的,老师。您从来没见过?别害怕,现在回到讲桌去,继续教我们吧。”
小查克?利特尔是学生中又一个吃了上顿没有下顿饭的,可他是个天生的有教养的人。他用手托着卡罗琳小姐的、肘部把她领到教室前面。“别害怕了,老师,”他说,“虱子没什么可怕的。我给您倒杯冷开水来压压惊。”
虱子的主人对臼已引起的这场风波毫不感兴趣。他在头顶上摸着,找到了他的那个客人,然后用大拇指和食指把它掐死。
卡罗琳小姐又惊讶又好奇地看着整个过程。小查克?剩特尔用一个纸杯子端来一杯冷开水,她很感激地把水喝了。最后,总算开口了:“你叫什么名字,孩子?”她柔和地问。
那男孩子眨了眨眼:‘谁,我?”卡罗琳小姐点点头。
“伯利斯?尤厄尔。”
卡罗琳小姐查了查她的花名册。“这儿有个尤厄尔,只有姓,没有名……请把你的名字拼写出来。”
“不会。在家里他们叫我伯科斯。”
“好吧,伯利斯,”卡罗琳小姐说,“我想,今天下午你回去算了。我要你回去把头发洗一洗。”
她从桌上拿起一本厚书,翻到要找的页码,读了一会儿。“这儿有个特效偏方……伯利斯,我让你回去用碱性肥皂洗洗头发。洗完后用煤油把头皮治疗一下。”
“为什么,老师?”
“去掉……呃……虱子。听着,伯利斯,其他孩子也会染上虱子的,可你并不想让他们都有虱子,对吗?’
那男孩子站起来。我从来没见过他这样脏的人。他的脖子是深灰色,手背是铁锈色,指甲前面的很长一节是黑色的,脸上只有拳头大的一块干净点。他望着卡罗琳小姐。上午很可能没有谁注意他,因为大部分时间都是我和卡罗琳小姐在表演。
“伯利斯,”卡罗琳小姐说,“明天来校以前请洗个澡。”
那男孩子粗鲁地笑起来。“用不着你打发我回去,小姐,我正要走呢。今年,我在学校的时间已经过完了。”
卡罗琳小姐迷惑不解地望着:“你说这话是什么意思?”
那男孩没有网答,只是不屑一顾地哼了一声。
班上一个年龄大一点的同学回答说:“他是尤厄尔家的孩子,小姐。”我不知道这个解释会不会跟我的解释一样不起作用。卡罗琳小姐看上去好象愿意听似的。“学校有很多这样的人,每年开学的第一天他们来报个到,以后就不来了。那位监管逃学的太太把他们弄来。她威胁他们,说要不来就带他们去见司法官。可她也放弃了把他们留在学校里的打算。她认为只要把他们的名字写在花名册上,开学的第一天把他们弄到学校来,她就算执行了规章制度。从明天起,您尽管给他们打缺席就是了……”
“可是他们的父母是怎么看的?”卡罗琳小姐问,语气中流露出真正的关切。
“他们没有妈妈,”有人回答说,“他们最爱打架。”
听到这些,伯利斯?尤厄尔洋洋得意,滔滔不绝地说:“一年级的第一天我已来过三次了,要是今年我表现好的话,我想他们会让我进二年级的……”
卡罗琳小姐打断他的话说:“请坐下,伯利斯。”她一插话,我知道她犯了一个严重的错误。邪男孩给老师一点面子的态度变成了气愤。
“小姐,你试试,看能让我坐下不。”
小查克?利特尔站起来。“老师,让他走,”他说,“他是个老油条,油得要命。他可能要闹事,这儿有些很小的孩子呢。”
他是男孩中墩矮小的。伯利斯?尤厄尔转过身看着他时,小查克?利特尔立即把手放进口袋。“小心点儿,伯利斯,”他说,“我宁肯宰了你也不愿看你一眼。回家去。”
伯利斯好象对这样一个只有他一半高的小孩也感到害怕。卡罗琳小姐趁他犹豫不决时说:“伯利斯,回去n巴。不然的话我去喊校长来。”她说,“不管怎么说,我得把这件事向上面汇报。”
那男孩又哼了哼,没精打采地朝门边走去。
觉得安全了,他回过头大叫起来:“汇报去吧!见鬼去吧!流鼻涕的肮脏女老师从来拿我没办法!你赶不走我。小姐,你记住,你赶不走我!”
他等了一会儿,直到肯定那女老师在哭,才拖着步子离开这幢房子。
我们立刻围到她桌边,用各种方法安慰她。他是个大坏蛋……他真坏……您不是教这样的学生的……卡罗琳小姐,位是梅科姆县的败类……老师,别怕,给我们讲一段故事吧!上午您讲的那个猫的故事可好听啦……
卡罗琳小姐笑了,她持了擤鼻子,然后说,“亲爱的孩子们,谢谢你们。”她叫我们回到座位上,她自己打开书,读了一段很长的关于一只住在大厅里的蟾蜍的故事。
那一天,我第四次经过拉德利家时(其中有两次是飞快跑过去的),我变得跟那座房子一样忧郁了。要是以后在学校的日子都象第一天有那么多小插曲的话,学校生活也还好玩,但一想到九个月不能看书写字,我就想逃跑。
太阳快落山时,我要去的地方都去过了,我和杰姆两人在人行道上争先恐后地跑着去接阿迪克斯下班时,我跑不过他。一看见阿迪克斯在远处的邮局门口的拐弯处就跑去接他,这是我们的习惯。阿迪克斯好象忘记了我中午的不礼貌的行为。他一个劲地打听学校的情况,我只简单地回答“是’或“不是’。他也没追问得那么详细。
卡尔珀尼亚看出来我这一天过得不痛快。她让我看她傲晚饭。“闭上眼睛张开嘴,我要让你吃一惊。”她说。
她很少做香脆面包,说她没时间。可今天我俩都上学去了,她也轻松多了。她知道我爱吃香脆面包。
“我今天怪想你韵,”她说,“一个人在家太寂寞了,两点钟我就打开了收音机。”
“为什么?只要不下雨,我和杰姆总是不在家呀。”
“知道,”她说,。可是你俩总有一个一喊就到。我不知道每天花多少时间跟在你们后边喊你们。好吧,”她说着从小靠椅上站起来,“我想我们有足够时间做一盘香脆面包吃。你走开,让我把晚饭摆在桌上。”
卡尔珀尼亚弯腰吻了我。我边走边想,她这是怎么了。她想跟我言归于好,对了,是这样。她一直对我太苛刻了。她终于认识了自己的错误,承认有时太暴躁了。她知道自己不对,但又固执,不愿说出来。我这一天尽犯过错,这时感到疲倦了。
晚饭后,阿迪克斯手拿报纸坐下来,然后喊道:“斯各特,准备读报吧?”我简直再也无法忍受,一下冲到前廊上。阿迪克斯跟着我出来了。
“什么事不高兴,斯各特?”
我说我不太舒服,还说要是他没意见的话,我不愿意再上学了。
阿迪克斯在悬椅上坐下来,跷起二郎腿,伸手在表袋里摸了一摸。他说上学是他能想到的唯一办法!说完后他耐心而慈祥地等待我回答。我想进一步强调我的态度:“你从来没有上过学,千得也挺好,所以,我也要留在家里。你可以教我,就象爷爷教你和杰克叔叔那样。”
“不行,我不能教你。”阿迪克斯说,“我得挣钱维持生活,另外,如果我把你留在家里,他们会把我关进监狱的……今晚上吃点药,明天上学去。”
“我没病,真的。”
“我猜你也没有病。那到底是怎么回事?”
我把当天的不幸一点儿一点儿地告诉了他。“她说你教给我的都错了,所以,我们不能再读报了,永远不能了。请您别把我送回去了。”
阿迪克斯站起来,走到前廊的尽头。在那儿看了一会儿紫藤树,又走了回来。
“首先,”他说,“要是你稍为灵活一点,斯各特,你和所有的人都能搞好关系。要了解一个人,就必须设身处地从他的角度去考虑问题,否则,你就不可能真正了解他。。
“是吗?”
“除非你设身处地站在别人的立场上。”
阿迪克斯说我今天学了不少东西,卡罗琳小姐也学了不少。比方说,她学会了不要把东西给坎宁安家的人。但是,如果我和沃尔特站在她的立场上,我们就会发现她犯的是一个诚实的错误。我们不应该要求她一天之内把梅科姆的风俗习惯都学会,她不知道时,我们不能责怪她。
“我不会让步的,”我说,“我不知道不能在她面前读书,她却怪我……爸爸,告诉你,我不一定非上学不可!”我突然有了个主意,“伯利斯?尤厄尔,记得吗?他只在第一天去报个到。那位监管逃学的太太认为只要花名册上有他的名字,她就执行了法律。”
“你不能那样做,斯各特。”阿迪克斯说,“在特殊情况下,法律可以稍微灵活一点儿。就你这种情况说,法律不容违反。所以,学一定要上!”
“他可以不上,我不知道我为什么非上不可。”
“那就听着。”
阿迫克斯说尤厄尔家连续三代都是梅科姆的败类。就他所知,他们家没有一个人老老实实干过一天活。他说,等过圣诞节他处理圣诞树时会带我去看看他们住在哪儿,是怎样生活的。他们也是人,但象动物一样生活。“只要他们愿意,随时可以上学,只要他们有半点儿想要接受教育的心思,就可以上学。”阿迪克斯说,“用强制手段要人上学的方法是有的,但是强迫象尤厄尔家这样的人去一个新环境是愚蠢的……”
“如果我明天不去上学,你就要强迫我去罗。”
“我们把语说到这里,”阿迪克斯冷冰冰地说,“你,斯各特?芬奇小姐属于一般正常的人,必须遵守法律。”他说尤厄尔家族是由尤厄尔家的人组成的一群特殊的人。在某些情况下,正常的人在法律上允许给他们一定的特权,方法很简单,就是对尤厄尔家的人的一些行为视而不见。他们可以不上学,这是他们的特权之一。另一个特权是伯利斯的爸爸,鲍勃-尤厄尔,可以不分季节地打猜,设陷阱。
“阿迪克斯,那可不好。”我说。在梅科姆县,打猎不分季节,根据法律应判轻罪,在一般人跟中,这是可处死刑的重罪。
“是的,这是违法的,”爸爸说,“这当然不好,但是,一个人用救济金买威士忌酒,他的孩子们却饿得哇哇直叫,在这种情况下,我不知道这里有哪个土地所有者会舍不得让那位爸爸打几只他能打到的小猎物给孩子们吃。”
“尤厄尔先生不该那么做……’
“当然不应该,可是他恶习难改,你要对他的孩子们发泄你的不满吗?”
“不,爸爸。”我喃喃地说,并且最后表示:“可是如果我上学的话,我们不能一起读书了……”
“这使你很恼火,是吗?”
“是的,爸爸。”
他低头看我时,我看见他脸上出现了那种预示着有个新主意的表情。
“你知道什么叫妥协吗?”
“让法律灵活一点儿。”
“不足,妥协就是双方都让步后达成的协议。就这么办吧,”他说,“如果你答应上学,每天晚上我们就象以前一样,继续在一起读书。这个协议怎么样?”、“行,爸爸。”
“我们这就算说定了,平常那套手续就免了吧。”阿迪克斯看见我准备往手心吐唾沫时这么说。
我打开前面的纱门时阿迪克斯说:“斯各特,顺便说一句,在学校里你最好别提我们达成的侨议。”
“为什么不能提?”
“我怕我们的活动会受到那些更有学问的权威人士的指责。”
我和杰姆习惯了父亲的遗嘱般的措辞,所以,有不懂的地方我们随时可以打断他的谈话,请他解释。
“什么?”
“我从没上过学,”他说,“我觉得如果你告诉卡罗琳小姐我们每天晚上一起读书,她会找我的麻烦,我不愿意她找我的麻烦。”
那天晚上,阿迪克斯一直逗得我们笑个不停。他很严肃地读了一篇专栏故事,说的是一个没什么明白理由就去坐在旗杆上的人。这给杰姆下一个星期六高高地坐在树上的小屋里提供了理由。他从早饭后一直坐到太阳落山。要不是阿迪克斯切断了他的“供给线”的话,可能还要在那儿过夜。我一会儿爬上一会儿爬下,替他跑腿,给他送文学读物,送吃的送喝的。我正要给他送毯子过夜时,阿迪克斯对我说如果我不理他,杰姆就会下来的。阿迪克斯说对了。



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