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Chapter 5

      My nagging got the better of Jem eventually, as I knew it would, and to my relief weslowed down the game for a while. He still maintained, however, that Atticus hadn’t saidwe couldn’t, therefore we could; and if Atticus ever said we couldn’t, Jem had thought ofa way around it: he would simply change the names of the characters and then wecouldn’t be accused of playing anything.

  Dill was in hearty agreement with this plan of action. Dill was becoming something of atrial anyway, following Jem about. He had asked me earlier in the summer to marry him,then he promptly forgot about it. He staked me out, marked as his property, said I wasthe only girl he would ever love, then he neglected me. I beat him up twice but it did nogood, he only grew closer to Jem. They spent days together in the treehouse plottingand planning, calling me only when they needed a third party. But I kept aloof from theirmore foolhardy schemes for a while, and on pain of being called a girl, I spent most ofthe remaining twilights that summer sitting with Miss Maudie Atkinson on her frontporch.

  Jem and I had always enjoyed the free run of Miss Maudie’s yard if we kept out of herazaleas, but our contact with her was not clearly defined. Until Jem and Dill excludedme from their plans, she was only another lady in the neighborhood, but a relativelybenign presence.

  Our tacit treaty with Miss Maudie was that we could play on her lawn, eat herscuppernongs if we didn’t jump on the arbor, and explore her vast back lot, terms sogenerous we seldom spoke to her, so careful were we to preserve the delicate balanceof our relationship, but Jem and Dill drove me closer to her with their behavior.

  Miss Maudie hated her house: time spent indoors was time wasted. She was a widow,a chameleon lady who worked in her flower beds in an old straw hat and men’scoveralls, but after her five o’clock bath she would appear on the porch and reign overthe street in magisterial beauty.

  She loved everything that grew in God’s earth, even the weeds. With one exception. Ifshe found a blade of nut grass in her yard it was like the Second Battle of the Marne:

  she swooped down upon it with a tin tub and subjected it to blasts from beneath with apoisonous substance she said was so powerful it’d kill us all if we didn’t stand out of theway.

  “Why can’t you just pull it up?” I asked, after witnessing a prolonged campaign againsta blade not three inches high.

  “Pull it up, child, pull it up?” She picked up the limp sprout and squeezed her thumb upits tiny stalk. Microscopic grains oozed out. “Why, one sprig of nut grass can ruin awhole yard. Look here. When it comes fall this dries up and the wind blows it all overMaycomb County!” Miss Maudie’s face likened such an occurrence unto an OldTestament pestilence.

  Her speech was crisp for a Maycomb County inhabitant. She called us by all ournames, and when she grinned she revealed two minute gold prongs clipped to hereyeteeth. When I admired them and hoped I would have some eventually, she said,“Look here.” With a click of her tongue she thrust out her bridgework, a gesture ofcordiality that cemented our friendship.

  Miss Maudie’s benevolence extended to Jem and Dill, whenever they paused in theirpursuits: we reaped the benefits of a talent Miss Maudie had hitherto kept hidden fromus. She made the best cakes in the neighborhood. When she was admitted into ourconfidence, every time she baked she made a big cake and three little ones, and shewould call across the street: “Jem Finch, Scout Finch, Charles Baker Harris, comehere!” Our promptness was always rewarded.

  In summertime, twilights are long and peaceful. Often as not, Miss Maudie and I wouldsit silently on her porch, watching the sky go from yellow to pink as the sun went down,watching flights of martins sweep low over the neighborhood and disappear behind theschoolhouse rooftops.

  “Miss Maudie,” I said one evening, “do you think Boo Radley’s still alive?”

  “His name’s Arthur and he’s alive,” she said. She was rocking slowly in her big oakchair. “Do you smell my mimosa? It’s like angels’ breath this evening.”

  “Yessum. How do you know?”

  “Know what, child?”

  “That B—Mr. Arthur’s still alive?”

  “What a morbid question. But I suppose it’s a morbid subject. I know he’s alive, JeanLouise, because I haven’t seen him carried out yet.”

  “Maybe he died and they stuffed him up the chimney.”

  “Where did you get such a notion?”

  “That’s what Jem said he thought they did.”

  “S-ss-ss. He gets more like Jack Finch every day.”

  Miss Maudie had known Uncle Jack Finch, Atticus’s brother, since they were children.

  Nearly the same age, they had grown up together at Finch’s Landing. Miss Maudie wasthe daughter of a neighboring landowner, Dr. Frank Buford. Dr. Buford’s profession wasmedicine and his obsession was anything that grew in the ground, so he stayed poor.

  Uncle Jack Finch confined his passion for digging to his window boxes in Nashville andstayed rich. We saw Uncle Jack every Christmas, and every Christmas he yelled acrossthe street for Miss Maudie to come marry him. Miss Maudie would yell back, “Call a littlelouder, Jack Finch, and they’ll hear you at the post office, I haven’t heard you yet!” Jemand I thought this a strange way to ask for a lady’s hand in marriage, but then UncleJack was rather strange. He said he was trying to get Miss Maudie’s goat, that he hadbeen trying unsuccessfully for forty years, that he was the last person in the world MissMaudie would think about marrying but the first person she thought about teasing, andthe best defense to her was spirited offense, all of which we understood clearly.

  “Arthur Radley just stays in the house, that’s all,” said Miss Maudie. “Wouldn’t you stayin the house if you didn’t want to come out?”

  “Yessum, but I’d wanta come out. Why doesn’t he?”

  Miss Maudie’s eyes narrowed. “You know that story as well as I do.”

  “I never heard why, though. Nobody ever told me why.”

  Miss Maudie settled her bridgework. “You know old Mr. Radley was a foot-washingBaptist-”

  “That’s what you are, ain’t it?”

  “My shell’s not that hard, child. I’m just a Baptist.”

  “Don’t you all believe in foot-washing?”

  “We do. At home in the bathtub.”

  “But we can’t have communion with you all-”

  Apparently deciding that it was easier to define primitive baptistry than closedcommunion, Miss Maudie said: “Foot-washers believe anything that’s pleasure is a sin.

  Did you know some of ‘em came out of the woods one Saturday and passed by thisplace and told me me and my flowers were going to hell?”

  “Your flowers, too?”

  “Yes ma’am. They’d burn right with me. They thought I spent too much time in God’soutdoors and not enough time inside the house reading the Bible.”

  My confidence in pulpit Gospel lessened at the vision of Miss Maudie stewing foreverin various Protestant hells. True enough, she had an acid tongue in her head, and shedid not go about the neighborhood doing good, as did Miss Stephanie Crawford. Butwhile no one with a grain of sense trusted Miss Stephanie, Jem and I had considerablefaith in Miss Maudie. She had never told on us, had never played cat-and-mouse withus, she was not at all interested in our private lives. She was our friend. How soreasonable a creature could live in peril of everlasting torment was incomprehensible.

  “That ain’t right, Miss Maudie. You’re the best lady I know.”

  Miss Maudie grinned. “Thank you ma’am. Thing is, foot-washers think women are asin by definition. They take the Bible literally, you know.”

  “Is that why Mr. Arthur stays in the house, to keep away from women?”

  “I’ve no idea.”

  “It doesn’t make sense to me. Looks like if Mr. Arthur was hankerin‘ after heaven he’dcome out on the porch at least. Atticus says God’s loving folks like you love yourself-”

  Miss Maudie stopped rocking, and her voice hardened. “You are too young tounderstand it,” she said, “but sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse thana whiskey bottle in the hand of—oh, of your father.”

  I was shocked. “Atticus doesn’t drink whiskey,” I said. “He never drunk a drop in hislife—nome, yes he did. He said he drank some one time and didn’t like it.”

  Miss Maudie laughed. “Wasn’t talking about your father,” she said. “What I meant was,if Atticus Finch drank until he was drunk he wouldn’t be as hard as some men are attheir best. There are just some kind of men who—who’re so busy worrying about thenext world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the streetand see the results.”

  “Do you think they’re true, all those things they say about B—Mr. Arthur?”

  “What things?”

  I told her.

  “That is three-fourths colored folks and one-fourth Stephanie Crawford,” said MissMaudie grimly. “Stephanie Crawford even told me once she woke up in the middle of thenight and found him looking in the window at her. I said what did you do, Stephanie,move over in the bed and make room for him? That shut her up a while.”

  I was sure it did. Miss Maudie’s voice was enough to shut anybody up.

  “No, child,” she said, “that is a sad house. I remember Arthur Radley when he was aboy. He always spoke nicely to me, no matter what folks said he did. Spoke as nicely ashe knew how.”

  “You reckon he’s crazy?”

  Miss Maudie shook her head. “If he’s not he should be by now. The things that happento people we never really know. What happens in houses behind closed doors, whatsecrets-”

  “Atticus don’t ever do anything to Jem and me in the house that he don’t do in theyard,” I said, feeling it my duty to defend my parent.

  “Gracious child, I was raveling a thread, wasn’t even thinking about your father, butnow that I am I’ll say this: Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the publicstreets. How’d you like some fresh poundcake to take home?”

  I liked it very much.

  Next morning when I awakened I found Jem and Dill in the back yard deep inconversation. When I joined them, as usual they said go away.

  “Will not. This yard’s as much mine as it is yours, Jem Finch. I got just as much right toplay in it as you have.”

  Dill and Jem emerged from a brief huddle: “If you stay you’ve got to do what we tellyou,” Dill warned.

  “We-ll,” I said, “who’s so high and mighty all of a sudden?”

  “If you don’t say you’ll do what we tell you, we ain’t gonna tell you anything,” Dillcontinued.

  “You act like you grew ten inches in the night! All right, what is it?”

  Jem said placidly, “We are going to give a note to Boo Radley.”

  “Just how?” I was trying to fight down the automatic terror rising in me. It was all rightfor Miss Maudie to talk—she was old and snug on her porch. It was different for us.

  Jem was merely going to put the note on the end of a fishing pole and stick it throughthe shutters. If anyone came along, Dill would ring the bell.

  Dill raised his right hand. In it was my mother’s silver dinner-bell.

  “I’m goin‘ around to the side of the house,” said Jem. “We looked yesterday fromacross the street, and there’s a shutter loose. Think maybe I can make it stick on thewindow sill, at least.”

  “Jem-”

  “Now you’re in it and you can’t get out of it, you’ll just stay in it, Miss Priss!”

  “Okay, okay, but I don’t wanta watch. Jem, somebody was-”

  “Yes you will, you’ll watch the back end of the lot and Dill’s gonna watch the front ofthe house an‘ up the street, an’ if anybody comes he’ll ring the bell. That clear?”

  “All right then. What’d you write him?”

  Dill said, “We’re askin‘ him real politely to come out sometimes, and tell us what hedoes in there—we said we wouldn’t hurt him and we’d buy him an ice cream.”

  “You all’ve gone crazy, he’ll kill us!”

  Dill said, “It’s my idea. I figure if he’d come out and sit a spell with us he might feelbetter.”

  “How do you know he don’t feel good?”

  “Well how’d you feel if you’d been shut up for a hundred years with nothin‘ but cats toeat? I bet he’s got a beard down to here-” “Like your daddy’s?”

  “He ain’t got a beard, he-” Dill stopped, as if trying to remember.

  “Uh huh, caughtcha,” I said. “You said ‘fore you were off the train good your daddyhad a black beard-”

  “If it’s all the same to you he shaved it off last summer! Yeah, an‘ I’ve got the letter toprove it—he sent me two dollars, too!”

  “Keep on—I reckon he even sent you a mounted police uniform! That’n never showedup, did it? You just keep on tellin‘ ’em, son-”

  Dill Harris could tell the biggest ones I ever heard. Among other things, he had beenup in a mail plane seventeen times, he had been to Nova Scotia, he had seen anelephant, and his granddaddy was Brigadier General Joe Wheeler and left him hissword.

  “You all hush,” said Jem. He scuttled beneath the house and came out with a yellowbamboo pole. “Reckon this is long enough to reach from the sidewalk?”

  “Anybody who’s brave enough to go up and touch the house hadn’t oughta use afishin‘ pole,” I said. “Why don’t you just knock the front door down?”

  “This—is—different,” said Jem, “how many times do I have to tell you that?”

  Dill took a piece of paper from his pocket and gave it to Jem. The three of us walkedcautiously toward the old house. Dill remained at the light-pole on the front corner of thelot, and Jem and I edged down the sidewalk parallel to the side of the house. I walkedbeyond Jem and stood where I could see around the curve.

  “All clear,” I said. “Not a soul in sight.”

  Jem looked up the sidewalk to Dill, who nodded.

  Jem attached the note to the end of the fishing pole, let the pole out across the yardand pushed it toward the window he had selected. The pole lacked several inches ofbeing long enough, and Jem leaned over as far as he could. I watched him makingjabbing motions for so long, I abandoned my post and went to him.

  “Can’t get it off the pole,” he muttered, “or if I got it off I can’t make it stay. G’on backdown the street, Scout.”

  I returned and gazed around the curve at the empty road. Occasionally I looked backat Jem, who was patiently trying to place the note on the window sill. It would flutter tothe ground and Jem would jab it up, until I thought if Boo Radley ever received it hewouldn’t be able to read it. I was looking down the street when the dinner-bell rang.

  Shoulder up, I reeled around to face Boo Radley and his bloody fangs; instead, I sawDill ringing the bell with all his might in Atticus’s face.

  Jem looked so awful I didn’t have the heart to tell him I told him so. He trudged along,dragging the pole behind him on the sidewalk.

  Atticus said, “Stop ringing that bell.”

  Dill grabbed the clapper; in the silence that followed, I wished he’d start ringing itagain. Atticus pushed his hat to the back of his head and put his hands on his hips.

  “Jem,” he said, “what were you doing?”

  “Nothin‘, sir.”

  “I don’t want any of that. Tell me.”

  “I was—we were just tryin‘ to give somethin’ to Mr. Radley.”

  “What were you trying to give him?”

  “Just a letter.”

  “Let me see it.”

  Jem held out a filthy piece of paper. Atticus took it and tried to read it. “Why do youwant Mr. Radley to come out?”

  Dill said, “We thought he might enjoy us…” and dried up when Atticus looked at him.

  “Son,” he said to Jem, “I’m going to tell you something and tell you one time: stoptormenting that man. That goes for the other two of you.”

  What Mr. Radley did was his own business. If he wanted to come out, he would. If hewanted to stay inside his own house he had the right to stay inside free from theattentions of inquisitive children, which was a mild term for the likes of us. How wouldwe like it if Atticus barged in on us without knocking, when we were in our rooms atnight? We were, in effect, doing the same thing to Mr. Radley. What Mr. Radley didmight seem peculiar to us, but it did not seem peculiar to him. Furthermore, had it neveroccurred to us that the civil way to communicate with another being was by the frontdoor instead of a side window? Lastly, we were to stay away from that house until wewere invited there, we were not to play an asinine game he had seen us playing ormake fun of anybody on this street or in this town-“We weren’t makin‘ fun of him, we weren’t laughin’ at him,” said Jem, “we were just-”

  “So that was what you were doing, wasn’t it?”

  “Makin‘ fun of him?”

  “No,” said Atticus, “putting his life’s history on display for the edification of theneighborhood.”

  Jem seemed to swell a little. “I didn’t say we were doin‘ that, I didn’t say it!”

  Atticus grinned dryly. “You just told me,” he said. “You stop this nonsense right now,every one of you.”

  Jem gaped at him.

  “You want to be a lawyer, don’t you?” Our father’s mouth was suspiciously firm, as ifhe were trying to hold it in line.

  Jem decided there was no point in quibbling, and was silent. When Atticus went insidethe house to retrieve a file he had forgotten to take to work that morning, Jem finallyrealized that he had been done in by the oldest lawyer’s trick on record. He waited arespectful distance from the front steps, watched Atticus leave the house and walktoward town. When Atticus was out of earshot Jem yelled after him: “I thought I wantedto be a lawyer but I ain’t so sure now!”

我唠叨不停,杰姆终于让步了。我就知道他会让步的。我们放慢了节目的速度,我这才松了口气。但是他坚持认为阿迪克斯并没说我们不能演,因此我们可以演。即使阿迪克斯说了我们不能演,杰姆已经想好了应付的办法t只需把人物的姓名改一下,别人就没什么可责备我们的了。
迪尔衷心拥护这个行动计射。他变得越来越讨厌了,老跟在杰姆屁股后边转。夏天开始时他曾经提出要和我结婚,说完就忘了。他把我当作他的财产,说他永远只爱我一个人,可叉把我抛下不管。我狠狠打过他两次,没用,他反而跟杰姆跟得更紧了。他们整天呆在树上的小屋里挖空心思,制定计划,只是在需要第三者时才把我叫上去。好一段时间我对他们敬而远之,不参加他们的那些越来越愚蠢的计戈!I。为了免遭太女孩子气的指责,那个夏天剩下的傍晚我干脆和莫迪?阿特金森小姐一起,天天坐在她的前廊上。
只要我们不动莫迪小姐的杜鹃花,杰姆和我就可以在她的院子里任意玩耍。但是我们和她的接触并没有明确规定下来。在杰姆和迪怨没有把我从他们的计戈!!中排除之前,她不过是邻近的一位小姐,仅仅是比较平易近人罢了。
我们和她心照不宣的协定是,我们可以在她的草坪上玩;可以吃她的葡萄,但不能跳到葡萄架上去;可以在她屋后的空旷地上自由活动。这些条件慷慨得很,我们很少跟她讲什么话,小心翼翼地维护我们关系巾的微妙的平衡。可是杰姆和迪尔的所作所为迫使我与莫迪小姐更接近了。
莫迪小姐恨死了她的屋子:呆在屋甩就是浪费时问。她是个寡妇,象变色龙一般,白天戴顶旧草帽,穿件男式工作服在花园里忙碌。五点钟洗过澡后她出现在前廊上,却打扮得花枝招展,街上没有哪个女人比得上她。
她热爱生长在大地上的每一样东西,连草她都喜欢。只有一种草例外。要是她在院子里看见一片莎草叶,接着而来的便是象马恩河地区的第二次会战:她会操起喷雾器朝小革扑去,把农药喷在草的根部。她说那农药有剧毒,如果我们不站远一点,我们都会被毒死。
“您为什么不把草拔出来?”目睹她对这高不足三英寸的小草大动干戈,发起长时间的进攻后,我问道。
“拔出来,孩子,拔出来?”她掐下小草萎软了的嫩芽,用大拇指使劲推挤那小小的茎杆,很小很小的草籽掉了出来。“为什么?一蔸莎草会毁掉整个园子。你看,一到秋天这些东西干了,风一吹就会传遍整个梅科姆县!”从莫迪小姐的面部表情来看,这就象《圣经?旧约》里描写的瘟疫一样。
在梅科姆镇上,她说话算是干脆的。她直呼我们的名字,笑时嘴里锈出两个夹在上颚犬牙上的金牙。当我表示赞赏并且希望我也能有几颗金牙时她说:“看这里。”她舌头一动,吐出假牙,这个友好的动作加深了我们的友谊。
杰姆和迪尔的活动停下来时,莫迪小姐对他们也很好。她有一种过去没让我们知道过的本领,给了我们很大好处。在附近的邻居中,她的蛋糕做得最好。和毪们交了朋友后,她每次做蛋糕都做一个大的,三个小的,然后隔着街喊:“杰姆?芬奇,斯各特?芬奇,查尔斯-贝克?哈里斯,过来I’我们从没有自跑过。
夏天,傍晚的时间又长又宁静。莫迪小姐和我常常默默地坐在她的前廊上,看着太阳落山时天空由黄色变成粉红色,看着燕子在附近低飞,最后消失在学校屋顶的后面。
“莫迪小姐,”有天晚上我问道,“你说布?拉德利还活着吗?”
“他叫亚瑟,还活着。”她一边说一边坐在很大的橡木椅子里慢慢地摇着。“你闻到我的含羞草的香味吗?今天晚上的气味真好,象天使的呼吸一样。”
“闻到了,你怎么知道?”
“知道什么,孩子?”
“布……亚瑟先生还活着?”
“多么可怕的问题。我认为这是个令人毛骨悚然的问题。琼-路易斯,我知道他还活着是因为我没看见谁抬他出去。”
“可能是他死了,他们把他塞进了烟囱。”
“你哪来这么个想法?”
“杰姆是这样认为的。”
“咝——咝——咝,他越来越象杰克?芬奇了,”
莫迪小姐从小就认识阿迪克斯的弟弟杰克?芬奇。因为年龄相似,他们在芬奇庄园上一起长大。莫迪小姐是附近一个土地所有者弗兰克?布福德医生的女儿。布福德医生的职业是行医,可他对地里长着的东西入迷,所以一生清贫。杰克?芬奇叔叔的爱好只是在窗槛花箱方面,在纳什维尔一直挺富裕。每逢圣诞节我们便能见到他。每次,他隔着街大喊,要莫迪小姐嫁给他。莫迪小姐也会喊着回答:“再大声一点,杰克?芬奇,让邮局的人也能听见,我还没听到你喊什么呢!”杰姆和我认为这是向女子求婚的一种奇怪方式。杰克叔叔本来就是个古怪的人。他说他只不过想惹她发火罢了。但是他试了四十年都没成功。他还说莫迪小姐最不愿和他这种入结婚,但最愿拿他开心。对奥迪小姐来说,最好的防御办法就是勇猛的攻击。这些我们心里都明白。
“亚瑟?拉德利只是呆在家里,没别的什么。”莫迪小姐说,“如果你不愿意出来,你不也会呆在家里吗?”
“是的,小姐,可我愿意出来,他为什么不愿意出来?”
莫迪小姐的眼睛眯成了一条缝。“关于他的事你和我一样清楚。”
“可我从来没听说过是为什么,没有准告诉过我。”
莫迪小姐装好了假牙说:“你知道老拉德利先生是个在礼拜前行洗脚礼的浸礼会教徒……”
“你也是的,是吗?”
“我没那样保守,我只不过是个浸礼会教徒。”
“你们不都相信在做礼拜前该举行洗脚礼吗?”
“我们是洗脚的,只是在家里的澡盆里。”
“可是我们不能跟你们一起屹圣餐……”
很明显,莫迪小姐觉得给原始的浸礼会教堂的浸礼池下定义此给只限于一部分人能参加的圣餐下定义容易一些,予是她说。“行洗脚礼的浸礼会教徒认为享乐就是罪恶。有一个星期六,他们中的一些人从林子里走出来经过这里时,告诉我说,我和我的花草都要下地狱,你听说过吗?”
“你的花草也要下地狱吗?”
“是的,姑娘。花草将和我一同被烧毁。他们认为我在外边的时间太长,在室内读《圣经》的时间太少。”
一想到莫迪小姐在基督教新教徒的各种地狱中会要受煎熬的情景,我们对布道坛上所宣传的福音就越来越不相信了。莫迪小姐嘴尖舌利,这是真的,她不象斯蒂芬尼?克劳福德小姐那样常为左邻右舍做些好事,可是,稍有头脑韵人都信不过斯蒂芬尼小姐,而我和杰姆对莫迪小姐却相当信任。她从不告我们的状;从不象猫追老鼠似的追赶我们;从不过问我们的活动;她是我们的朋友。这样通情达理的人竟要遭受永久的折磨,实在不可理解。
“太不合理了,莫迪小姐。您是我认识的最好的妇女。”
莫迪小姐露齿一笑。“谢谢你,姑娘。问题是那些礼拜前行洗脚礼的浸礼会教徒认为女人本身就是罪恶。他们按照字面上的意义理解《圣经》,你知道吗?”
“亚瑟就是为这个呆在家里,为了躲开女人吗?”
“我不清楚。”
“我实在想不通。如果亚瑟想进天堂的话,他起码会走到前廊上。阿迪克斯说上帝爱世人,就象你爱你自己一样。”
莫迪小姐停止了摇椅子,她的声音变得坚定了:“你太小了,还不懂。但是,有时候,某个人手中的《圣经》比……噢,比你父亲手中的……威士忌洒瓶还要糟糕。
我大吃一惊。“阿迪克斯不喝威士忌酒,”我谎,“他一辈子一口酒都没喝过……不,他喝过,他说他喝过一一次,但他并不喜欢。。
莫迪小姐大笑起来。“我并没谈论你爸爸,”她说,“我的意思是即使阿迪克斯喝得酩酊火醉,也不会象那些最清醒的人那样凶暴。总有那么些人,他们时刻为来生的事情烦恼,却从没有学习过怎样在这个世界上生活。你可以朝街上看一看,看看结果。”
“你认为邪些事是真的吗?那些关于布……亚瑟先生的事?”
“什么事?”
枕告诉了她。
“那些事有四分之三是黑人说的,四分之一是斯蒂芬尼?克劳福德说的。”莫迪小姐严肃地说,“斯蒂芬尼-克劳福德甚至告诉我说,有天晚上她半夜醒来,看见亚瑟透过窗子看着她。我问她,‘你怎么办,斯蒂芬尼,你在床上移到另一边给他让地方吗?’这句话问得她一时哑口无言。”
我相信这一点。莫迪小姐的声音是足以使别人不再多说什么的。
“不是那样的,孩子。”她说,“那是座不幸的房子。我还记得孩提时代的亚瑟?拉德利。不管别人说他千了什么,他总是彬彬有礼地跟我说话。他说话确实很有礼貌。”
“你认为他疯了吗?”
莫迪小姐摇摇头。“即使原来不疯现在也疯了。有些人的事情税们永远不会真正知道的。在关闭着的大门后面的房间星所发生曲事情,那些秘密……”
“阿迪克斯在院予壁不做的事,住房间里也不对杰姆和我做。”我觉得为爸爸辩解是我的责任。
“多懂事的孩子。我刚才在解一个线头,并没想到你爸爸,现在既然想到了,我要说阿迪克斯在家和在公共场所一。个样。你愿意带点新做的磅饼回去吗?”
我最爱吃这种饼子。
第二天早晨醒来时,我发现杰姆和迪尔在后院谈得正起劲儿。象平时一样,等我走近时他们叫我走开。
“就不,这个院子有你的份也有我的份,杰姆?芬奇。种你一样,我也有权利在这儿玩。”
迪尔和杰姆很快地咬了一下耳朵,然后警告我:“要是不愿走开就得按我们的要求办。”
“哎呀,”我说,“这是谁一下于变得这么趾高气扬的?”
“要是你不保证按我们的要求办,什么都不告诉你。”迪尔说。
“看架势你好象一晚上长了十英寸似的!好吧,千什么?”
杰姆心平气和地说:“我们要送给布?拉德利一个纸条。”
“怎么给?”我极力想抑制心中不由自主的恐惧。虽然莫迪小姐说布?拉德利没什么可怕,可她年纪大,又是舒适地躺在前廊上,而我们可不一样。
杰姆的办法是把纸条放在钓鱼竿的末端,然后把它插进百叶窗。要是有人走过,迪尔就摇铃。
迪尔举起右手。这是我妈妈使用过的银质餐铃。
“我要绕到房子侧面,”杰姆说,“昨天,我隔若街道看见百叶窗上有一块叶板松了,我想我们起码可以把纸条贴在窗台上。”
“杰姆……”
“既然你卷入了这件事,就别想退出了。你只有坚持到底,不受人欢迎的小姐。”
“可以,当然可以,可我不想当望风的。杰姆,有人……”
“你必须望风。你要望着空地的后面,迪尔望着房子的前面和街上,有人来他就摇铃,明白了吗?”
“好吧。你写了些什么给他?”
迪尔说:“我们很有礼貌地请他在什么时候出来一下,告诉我们他在那儿千什么……我们说不会伤害他,还要给他买冰淇淋。”
“你们俩都疯了,他会杀了我们的。”
迪尔说;“是我的主意。我想要是他出来和我们坐一会儿,他会觉得好一些的。”
“你怎么知道他现在觉得不好?”
“好吧,要是你被关了一百年,除了吃猫,没别的可吃,你会怎么样?我想他的胡子已经长到这儿了……”
“跟你爸爸的一样?”
“我爸爸没胡子,他……”迪尔不说下去了,好象在回忆。
“哈哈,露馅了,”我说,“你说你下火车前看见了你爸爸有黑胡子……”
“如果你觉得无所谓的话,他是去年夏天刮了胡子的。对了,我有信为证……他还寄给我两块钱呢。”
“说下去……我看他还送了你骑警服吧!我们从来没见过,对吧?伙计,你老是光凭嘴讲……”,
占,
迪尔?哈里斯尽挑我没听说过的大事情吹牛。比如,他坐过十七次邮政飞机,到过诺瓦斯科夏,看过大象,他爷爷是陆军准将乔?惠勒,还把他的剑留给他。
“都住嘴!”杰姆说,然后很快钻进楼板和地面之问的空隙处拿出一根黄竹竿。“你们看从人行道上伸过去够长了吗?”
“淮要是去过并且还摸过那栋房子,就不该用钓竿,”我说,“你为什么不走过去敲敲前边的门呢?”
“这个不同,”杰姆说,“我要告诉你多少次才成?”
迪尔从口袋里掏出张纸递给杰姆。我们三人小心翼翼地朝房子走去。迪尔在前面拐弯处的电杆旁停下来,杰姆和我慢慢地顺着与房子侧面平行的人行道走下去。我从杰姆身边再往前走,站在我能看见的有人拐弯的地方。
“平安无事,’我说,“没有一个人。”
杰姆朝人行道上的迪尔看了看,迪尔点点头。
杰姆把纸条牯在钓竿头上,把钓竿伸出去,穿过院子,然后朝选好的窗子推去。钓竿短了几英寸,不够长,杰姆的身予使劲向前倾。我看着他用钓竿向前捅了很久,我就离开了自己的岗位来到他身边。
“纸条还在竿子上,”他小声说,“即使脱开竿子也不能弄到窗子上去。回到街上去,斯各特,”
我回到原地,在拐弯的地方目不转睛地看着空无一人的大道。偶尔回过头看看杰姆,他正耐心地企图把纸条弄到窗台上。纸条不时飘到地上,杰姆又一次次把它捅上去。我突然想起即使布?拉德利先生收到了纸条他也看不清上面的字了。我正往街上望着,突然铃响了。
我耸起肩膀转过身去,我以为会看见布?拉德利和他那沾满血污的獠牙。可定睛一看,却肴到迪尔在阿迪克斯面前拼命摇铃。
杰姆吓得面无人色,我不忍心对他说我早就叫他别这么干。他拖着钓鱼竿一步一步地挪了回来。
阿迪克斯说:“别摇铃了。”
迪尔抓住铃舌。在随即而来的沉默中,我真希望他把铃再摇起来。阿迪克斯把帽子向后推了推,双手叉着腰,“杰姆,你们在干什么?”
“什么都没干,爸爸。”
“我不希望你这样回答。告诉我。”
“我……我们想送点东西给拉德刹先生。”
“你们想给他什么?”
“就不过一封信。”
“给我看看。”’
杰姆递过一张弄脏了的纸。阿迪克斯接过去看起来。“你们为什么要拉德利先生出来?”
迪尔说:“我们想他会愿意和我们一起玩的……”阿迪克斯看他一眼,他不讲了。
“孩子,”他对杰姆说,“你听我说,而且只说这一次:不要去打扰那个人。这话你们另外两个也要记住。”
拉德利先生千什么是他自已的事。他想出来就会出来的。要是他愿意呆在这个屋子里,他就有这个权利。那些好打听别人事情的孩子(这是指我们这些小孩的委婉的说法)不要管他。如果我们晚上在自己房间里,阿迪克斯不敲门就闯进来,我们会怎么想。事实上,我们对拉德利先生的做法和这是一个道理。在我们看来拉德利先生的做法的确看起来反常,但在他自己看来却不是反常的。再说,难道我们没有想过,要和别人打交道,有礼貌的方法是通过前门,而不是通过房子侧面的窗子!最后,他还说除非被邀请,否则我们不要到这儿来。我们不要再玩他看见我们玩过的这种愚蠢的游戏了,不要嘲笑这条街或是这个镇上的任何人了……
“我们并没有跟他开玩笑,我们没有嘲笑他。”杰姆说,“我们只不过……”
“你们是那么干的,不是吗?”
“跟他开玩笑?”
“不,”阿迪克斯说,“你们把他的经历排成戏来启发街坊。”
杰姆好象有些激动。“我也没说过我们是那样做的,我没说过。”
阿迪克斯冷冷一笑。“你刚才就告诉了我。”他说,“你们马上停止这些乱七八糟的东西,你们几个都听着。”
杰姆目瞪口呆地望着他。
“你想当个律师,是吗?”阿迪克斯装得很严肃的样子。
杰姆觉得跟他磨嘴皮子没意思,不再做声了。爸爸走进屋子取出上午上班忘记带去的卷宗时,杰姆终于明白他上了有史以来最大的律师的当。他等在离前面台阶很远的地方望着阿迪克斯离开家里朝镇上走去。等阿迪克斯走远了,听不见他的声音时,杰姆朝他喊起来;“我以前想过要当律师,现在可不一定了!”



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