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Chapter 8

      For reasons unfathomable to the most experienced prophets in Maycomb County,autumn turned to winter that year. We had two weeks of the coldest weather since 1885,Atticus said. Mr. Avery said it was written on the Rosetta Stone that when childrendisobeyed their parents, smoked cigarettes and made war on each other, the seasonswould change: Jem and I were burdened with the guilt of contributing to the aberrationsof nature, thereby causing unhappiness to our neighbors and discomfort to ourselves.

  Old Mrs. Radley died that winter, but her death caused hardly a ripple—theneighborhood seldom saw her, except when she watered her cannas. Jem and Idecided that Boo had got her at last, but when Atticus returned from the Radley househe said she died of natural causes, to our disappointment.

  “Ask him,” Jem whispered.

  “You ask him, you’re the oldest.”

  “That’s why you oughta ask him.”

  “Atticus,” I said, “did you see Mr. Arthur?”

  Atticus looked sternly around his newspaper at me: “I did not.”

  Jem restrained me from further questions. He said Atticus was still touchous about usand the Radleys and it wouldn’t do to push him any. Jem had a notion that Atticusthought our activities that night last summer were not solely confined to strip poker. Jemhad no firm basis for his ideas, he said it was merely a twitch.

  Next morning I awoke, looked out the window and nearly died of fright. My screamsbrought Atticus from his bathroom half-shaven.

  “The world’s endin‘, Atticus! Please do something—!” I dragged him to the window andpointed.

  “No it’s not,” he said. “It’s snowing.”

  Jem asked Atticus would it keep up. Jem had never seen snow either, but he knewwhat it was. Atticus said he didn’t know any more about snow than Jem did. “I think,though, if it’s watery like that, it’ll turn to rain.”

  The telephone rang and Atticus left the breakfast table to answer it. “That was EulaMay,” he said when he returned. “I quote—‘As it has not snowed in Maycomb Countysince 1885, there will be no school today.’”

  Eula May was Maycomb’s leading telephone operator. She was entrusted with issuingpublic announcements, wedding invitations, setting off the fire siren, and giving first-aidinstructions when Dr. Reynolds was away.

  When Atticus finally called us to order and bade us look at our plates instead of outthe windows, Jem asked, “How do you make a snowman?”

  “I haven’t the slightest idea,” said Atticus. “I don’t want you all to be disappointed, but Idoubt if there’ll be enough snow for a snowball, even.”

  Calpurnia came in and said she thought it was sticking. When we ran to the back yard,it was covered with a feeble layer of soggy snow.

  “We shouldn’t walk about in it,” said Jem. “Look, every step you take’s wasting it.”

  I looked back at my mushy footprints. Jem said if we waited until it snowed some morewe could scrape it all up for a snowman. I stuck out my tongue and caught a fat flake. Itburned.

  “Jem, it’s hot!”

  “No it ain’t, it’s so cold it burns. Now don’t eat it, Scout, you’re wasting it. Let it comedown.”

  “But I want to walk in it.”

  “I know what, we can go walk over at Miss Maudie’s.”

  Jem hopped across the front yard. I followed in his tracks. When we were on thesidewalk in front of Miss Maudie’s, Mr. Avery accosted us. He had a pink face and a bigstomach below his belt.

  “See what you’ve done?” he said. “Hasn’t snowed in Maycomb since Appomattox. It’sbad children like you makes the seasons change.”

  I wondered if Mr. Avery knew how hopefully we had watched last summer for him torepeat his performance, and reflected that if this was our reward, there was somethingto say for sin. I did not wonder where Mr. Avery gathered his meteorological statistics:

  they came straight from the Rosetta Stone.

  “Jem Finch, you Jem Finch!”

  “Miss Maudie’s callin‘ you, Jem.”

  “You all stay in the middle of the yard. There’s some thrift buried under the snow nearthe porch. Don’t step on it!”

  “Yessum!” called Jem. “It’s beautiful, ain’t it, Miss Maudie?”

  “Beautiful my hind foot! If it freezes tonight it’ll carry off all my azaleas!”

  Miss Maudie’s old sunhat glistened with snow crystals. She was bending over somesmall bushes, wrapping them in burlap bags. Jem asked her what she was doing thatfor.

  “Keep ‘em warm,” she said.

  “How can flowers keep warm? They don’t circulate.”

  “I cannot answer that question, Jem Finch. All I know is if it freezes tonight theseplants’ll freeze, so you cover ‘em up. Is that clear?”

  “Yessum. Miss Maudie?”

  “What, sir?”

  “Could Scout and me borrow some of your snow?”

  “Heavens alive, take it all! There’s an old peach basket under the house, haul it off inthat.” Miss Maudie’s eyes narrowed. “Jem Finch, what are you going to do with mysnow?”

  “You’ll see,” said Jem, and we transferred as much snow as we could from MissMaudie’s yard to ours, a slushy operation.

  “What are we gonna do, Jem?” I asked.

  “You’ll see,” he said. “Now get the basket and haul all the snow you can rake up fromthe back yard to the front. Walk back in your tracks, though,” he cautioned.

  “Are we gonna have a snow baby, Jem?”

  “No, a real snowman. Gotta work hard, now.”

  Jem ran to the back yard, produced the garden hoe and began digging quickly behindthe woodpile, placing any worms he found to one side. He went in the house, returnedwith the laundry hamper, filled it with earth and carried it to the front yard.

  When we had five baskets of earth and two baskets of snow, Jem said we were readyto begin.

  “Don’t you think this is kind of a mess?” I asked.

  “Looks messy now, but it won’t later,” he said.

  Jem scooped up an armful of dirt, patted it into a mound on which he added anotherload, and another until he had constructed a torso.

  “Jem, I ain’t ever heard of a nigger snowman,” I said.

  “He won’t be black long,” he grunted.

  Jem procured some peachtree switches from the back yard, plaited them, and bentthem into bones to be covered with dirt.

  “He looks like Stephanie Crawford with her hands on her hips,” I said. “Fat in themiddle and little-bitty arms.”

  “I’ll make ‘em bigger.” Jem sloshed water over the mud man and added more dirt. Helooked thoughtfully at it for a moment, then he molded a big stomach below the figure’swaistline. Jem glanced at me, his eyes twinkling: “Mr. Avery’s sort of shaped like asnowman, ain’t he?”

  Jem scooped up some snow and began plastering it on. He permitted me to coveronly the back, saving the public parts for himself. Gradually Mr. Avery turned white.

  Using bits of wood for eyes, nose, mouth, and buttons, Jem succeeded in making Mr.

  Avery look cross. A stick of stovewood completed the picture. Jem stepped back andviewed his creation.

  “It’s lovely, Jem,” I said. “Looks almost like he’d talk to you.”

  “It is, ain’t it?” he said shyly.

  We could not wait for Atticus to come home for dinner, but called and said we had abig surprise for him. He seemed surprised when he saw most of the back yard in thefront yard, but he said we had done a jim-dandy job. “I didn’t know how you were goingto do it,” he said to Jem, “but from now on I’ll never worry about what’ll become of you,son, you’ll always have an idea.”

  Jem’s ears reddened from Atticus’s compliment, but he looked up sharply when hesaw Atticus stepping back. Atticus squinted at the snowman a while. He grinned, thenlaughed. “Son, I can’t tell what you’re going to be—an engineer, a lawyer, or a portraitpainter. You’ve perpetrated a near libel here in the front yard. We’ve got to disguise thisfellow.”

  Atticus suggested that Jem hone down his creation’s front a little, swap a broom forthe stovewood, and put an apron on him.

  Jem explained that if he did, the snowman would become muddy and cease to be asnowman.

  “I don’t care what you do, so long as you do something,” said Atticus. “You can’t goaround making caricatures of the neighbors.”

  “Ain’t a characterture,” said Jem. “It looks just like him.”

  “Mr. Avery might not think so.”

  “I know what!” said Jem. He raced across the street, disappeared into Miss Maudie’sback yard and returned triumphant. He stuck her sunhat on the snowman’s head andjammed her hedge-clippers into the crook of his arm. Atticus said that would be fine.

  Miss Maudie opened her front door and came out on the porch. She looked across thestreet at us. Suddenly she grinned. “Jem Finch,” she called. “You devil, bring me backmy hat, sir!”

  Jem looked up at Atticus, who shook his head. “She’s just fussing,” he said. “She’sreally impressed with your—accomplishments.”

  Atticus strolled over to Miss Maudie’s sidewalk, where they engaged in an arm-wavingconversation, the only phrase of which I caught was “…erected an absolute morphoditein that yard! Atticus, you’ll never raise ‘em!”

  The snow stopped in the afternoon, the temperature dropped, and by nightfall Mr.

  Avery’s direst predictions came true: Calpurnia kept every fireplace in the house blazing,but we were cold. When Atticus came home that evening he said we were in for it, andasked Calpurnia if she wanted to stay with us for the night. Calpurnia glanced up at thehigh ceilings and long windows and said she thought she’d be warmer at her house.

  Atticus drove her home in the car.

  Before I went to sleep Atticus put more coal on the fire in my room. He said thethermometer registered sixteen, that it was the coldest night in his memory, and that oursnowman outside was frozen solid.

  Minutes later, it seemed, I was awakened by someone shaking me. Atticus’s overcoatwas spread across me. “Is it morning already?”

  “Baby, get up.”

  Atticus was holding out my bathrobe and coat. “Put your robe on first,” he said.

  Jem was standing beside Atticus, groggy and tousled. He was holding his overcoatclosed at the neck, his other hand was jammed into his pocket. He looked strangelyoverweight.

  “Hurry, hon,” said Atticus. “Here’re your shoes and socks.”

  Stupidly, I put them on. “Is it morning?”

  “No, it’s a little after one. Hurry now.”

  That something was wrong finally got through to me. “What’s the matter?”

  By then he did not have to tell me. Just as the birds know where to go when it rains, Iknew when there was trouble in our street. Soft taffeta-like sounds and muffled scurryingsounds filled me with helpless dread.

  “Whose is it?”

  “Miss Maudie’s, hon,” said Atticus gently.

  At the front door, we saw fire spewing from Miss Maudie’s diningroom windows. As ifto confirm what we saw, the town fire siren wailed up the scale to a treble pitch andremained there, screaming.

  “It’s gone, ain’t it?” moaned Jem.

  “I expect so,” said Atticus. “Now listen, both of you. Go down and stand in front of theRadley Place. Keep out of the way, do you hear? See which way the wind’s blowing?”

  “Oh,” said Jem. “Atticus, reckon we oughta start moving the furniture out?”

  “Not yet, son. Do as I tell you. Run now. Take care of Scout, you hear? Don’t let herout of your sight.”

  With a push, Atticus started us toward the Radley front gate. We stood watching thestreet fill with men and cars while fire silently devoured Miss Maudie’s house. “Why don’tthey hurry, why don’t they hurry…” muttered Jem.

  We saw why. The old fire truck, killed by the cold, was being pushed from town by acrowd of men. When the men attached its hose to a hydrant, the hose burst and watershot up, tinkling down on the pavement.

  “Oh-h Lord, Jem…”

  Jem put his arm around me. “Hush, Scout,” he said. “It ain’t time to worry yet. I’ll letyou know when.”

  The men of Maycomb, in all degrees of dress and undress, took furniture from MissMaudie’s house to a yard across the street. I saw Atticus carrying Miss Maudie’s heavyoak rocking chair, and thought it sensible of him to save what she valued most.

  Sometimes we heard shouts. Then Mr. Avery’s face appeared in an upstairs window.

  He pushed a mattress out the window into the street and threw down furniture until menshouted, “Come down from there, Dick! The stairs are going! Get outta there, Mr.

  Avery!”

  Mr. Avery began climbing through the window.

  “Scout, he’s stuck…” breathed Jem. “Oh God…”

  Mr. Avery was wedged tightly. I buried my head under Jem’s arm and didn’t look againuntil Jem cried, “He’s got loose, Scout! He’s all right!”

  I looked up to see Mr. Avery cross the upstairs porch. He swung his legs over therailing and was sliding down a pillar when he slipped. He fell, yelled, and hit MissMaudie’s shrubbery.

  Suddenly I noticed that the men were backing away from Miss Maudie’s house,moving down the street toward us. They were no longer carrying furniture. The fire waswell into the second floor and had eaten its way to the roof: window frames were blackagainst a vivid orange center.

  “Jem, it looks like a pumpkin—”

  “Scout, look!”

  Smoke was rolling off our house and Miss Rachel’s house like fog off a riverbank, andmen were pulling hoses toward them. Behind us, the fire truck from Abbottsvillescreamed around the curve and stopped in front of our house.

  “That book…” I said.

  “What?” said Jem.

  “That Tom Swift book, it ain’t mine, it’s Dill’s…”

  “Don’t worry, Scout, it ain’t time to worry yet,” said Jem. He pointed. “Looka yonder.”

  In a group of neighbors, Atticus was standing with his hands in his overcoat pockets.

  He might have been watching a football game. Miss Maudie was beside him.

  “See there, he’s not worried yet,” said Jem.

  “Why ain’t he on top of one of the houses?”

  “He’s too old, he’d break his neck.”

  “You think we oughta make him get our stuff out?”

  “Let’s don’t pester him, he’ll know when it’s time,” said Jem.

  The Abbottsville fire truck began pumping water on our house; a man on the roofpointed to places that needed it most. I watched our Absolute Morphodite go black andcrumble; Miss Maudie’s sunhat settled on top of the heap. I could not see her hedge-clippers. In the heat between our house, Miss Rachel’s and Miss Maudie’s, the men hadlong ago shed coats and bathrobes. They worked in pajama tops and nightshirts stuffedinto their pants, but I became aware that I was slowly freezing where I stood. Jem triedto keep me warm, but his arm was not enough. I pulled free of it and clutched myshoulders. By dancing a little, I could feel my feet.

  Another fire truck appeared and stopped in front of Miss Stephanie Crawford’s. Therewas no hydrant for another hose, and the men tried to soak her house with handextinguishers.

  Miss Maudie’s tin roof quelled the flames. Roaring, the house collapsed; fire gushedeverywhere, followed by a flurry of blankets from men on top of the adjacent houses,beating out sparks and burning chunks of wood.

  It was dawn before the men began to leave, first one by one, then in groups. Theypushed the Maycomb fire truck back to town, the Abbottsville truck departed, the thirdone remained. We found out next day it had come from Clark’s Ferry, sixty miles away.

  Jem and I slid across the street. Miss Maudie was staring at the smoking black hole inher yard, and Atticus shook his head to tell us she did not want to talk. He led us home,holding onto our shoulders to cross the icy street. He said Miss Maudie would stay withMiss Stephanie for the time being.

  “Anybody want some hot chocolate?” he asked. I shuddered when Atticus started afire in the kitchen stove.

  As we drank our cocoa I noticed Atticus looking at me, first with curiosity, then withsternness. “I thought I told you and Jem to stay put,” he said.

  “Why, we did. We stayed—”

  “Then whose blanket is that?”

  “Blanket?”

  “Yes ma’am, blanket. It isn’t ours.”

  I looked down and found myself clutching a brown woolen blanket I was wearingaround my shoulders, squaw-fashion.

  “Atticus, I don’t know, sir… I—”

  I turned to Jem for an answer, but Jem was even more bewildered than I. He said hedidn’t know how it got there, we did exactly as Atticus had told us, we stood down by theRadley gate away from everybody, we didn’t move an inch—Jem stopped.

  “Mr. Nathan was at the fire,” he babbled, “I saw him, I saw him, he was tuggin‘ thatmattress—Atticus, I swear…”

  “That’s all right, son.” Atticus grinned slowly. “Looks like all of Maycomb was outtonight, in one way or another. Jem, there’s some wrapping paper in the pantry, I think.

  Go get it and we’ll—”

  “Atticus, no sir!”

  Jem seemed to have lost his mind. He began pouring out our secrets right and left intotal disregard for my safety if not for his own, omitting nothing, knot-hole, pants and all.

  “…Mr. Nathan put cement in that tree, Atticus, an‘ he did it to stop us findin’ things—he’s crazy, I reckon, like they say, but Atticus, I swear to God he ain’t ever harmed us,he ain’t ever hurt us, he coulda cut my throat from ear to ear that night but he tried tomend my pants instead… he ain’t ever hurt us, Atticus—”

  Atticus said, “Whoa, son,” so gently that I was greatly heartened. It was obvious thathe had not followed a word Jem said, for all Atticus said was, “You’re right. We’d betterkeep this and the blanket to ourselves. Someday, maybe, Scout can thank him forcovering her up.”

  “Thank who?” I asked.

  “Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at the fire you didn’t know it when he put theblanket around you.”

  My stomach turned to water and I nearly threw up when Jem held out the blanket andcrept toward me. “He sneaked out of the house—turn ‘round—sneaked up, an’ went likethis!”

  Atticus said dryly, “Do not let this inspire you to further glory, Jeremy.”

  Jem scowled, “I ain’t gonna do anything to him,” but I watched the spark of freshadventure leave his eyes. “Just think, Scout,” he said, “if you’d just turned around,you’da seen him.”

  Calpurnia woke us at noon. Atticus had said we need not go to school that day, we’dlearn nothing after no sleep. Calpurnia said for us to try and clean up the front yard.

  Miss Maudie’s sunhat was suspended in a thin layer of ice, like a fly in amber, and wehad to dig under the dirt for her hedge-clippers. We found her in her back yard, gazingat her frozen charred azaleas. “We’re bringing back your things, Miss Maudie,” saidJem. “We’re awful sorry.”

  Miss Maudie looked around, and the shadow of her old grin crossed her face. “Alwayswanted a smaller house, Jem Finch. Gives me more yard. Just think, I’ll have moreroom for my azaleas now!”

  “You ain’t grievin‘, Miss Maudie?” I asked, surprised. Atticus said her house wasnearly all she had.

  “Grieving, child? Why, I hated that old cow barn. Thought of settin‘ fire to it a hundredtimes myself, except they’d lock me up.”

  “But—”

  “Don’t you worry about me, Jean Louise Finch. There are ways of doing things youdon’t know about. Why, I’ll build me a little house and take me a couple of roomersand—gracious, I’ll have the finest yard in Alabama. Those Bellingraths’ll look plain punywhen I get started!”

  Jem and I looked at each other. “How’d it catch, Miss Maudie?” he asked.

  “I don’t know, Jem. Probably the flue in the kitchen. I kept a fire in there last night formy potted plants. Hear you had some unexpected company last night, Miss JeanLouise.”

  “How’d you know?”

  “Atticus told me on his way to town this morning. Tell you the truth, I’d like to’ve beenwith you. And I’d‘ve had sense enough to turn around, too.”

  Miss Maudie puzzled me. With most of her possessions gone and her beloved yard ashambles, she still took a lively and cordial interest in Jem’s and my affairs.

  She must have seen my perplexity. She said, “Only thing I worried about last nightwas all the danger and commotion it caused. This whole neighborhood could have goneup. Mr. Avery’ll be in bed for a week—he’s right stove up. He’s too old to do things likethat and I told him so. Soon as I can get my hands clean and when StephanieCrawford’s not looking, I’ll make him a Lane cake. That Stephanie’s been after myrecipe for thirty years, and if she thinks I’ll give it to her just because I’m staying with hershe’s got another think coming.”

  I reflected that if Miss Maudie broke down and gave it to her, Miss Stephanie couldn’tfollow it anyway. Miss Maudie had once let me see it: among other things, the recipecalled for one large cup of sugar.

  It was a still day. The air was so cold and clear we heard the courthouse clock clank,rattle and strain before it struck the hour. Miss Maudie’s nose was a color I had neverseen before, and I inquired about it.

  “I’ve been out here since six o’clock,” she said. “Should be frozen by now.” She heldup her hands. A network of tiny lines crisscrossed her palms, brown with dirt and driedblood.

  “You’ve ruined ‘em,” said Jem. “Why don’t you get a colored man?” There was no noteof sacrifice in his voice when he added, “Or Scout’n’me, we can help you.”

  Miss Maudie said, “Thank you sir, but you’ve got a job of your own over there.” Shepointed to our yard.

  “You mean the Morphodite?” I asked. “Shoot, we can rake him up in a jiffy.”

  Miss Maudie stared down at me, her lips moving silently. Suddenly she put her handsto her head and whooped. When we left her, she was still chuckling.

  Jem said he didn’t know what was the matter with her—that was just Miss Maudie.

那一年一反常态,秋天变成了冬天,连梅科姆县最有经验的预言家们都不了解其中的原因。有两个星期天气冷得出奇。阿迪克斯说,从1885年以来,天气从没有象那两周那么冷过。艾弗里先生说,埃及的罗塞塔碑上写着,要是小孩不听父母的话,抽烟或者斗殴的话,四季就会变化。杰姆和我心情沉重,感到内疚,因为气候反常和我们有关,使得邻居们不愉快,我们自已也不舒服。
老拉德利太太那年冬天死了。她的死没gf起人们注意——除了她给美人蕉浇水的时间外,左邻右舍们很少看见她。杰姆和我认为布?拉德利终于把她弄死了,但是,阿迪克斯从拉德利家回来时说,她是因年老而死的。这使我们感到扫兴。
“问他。”杰姆小声说。
“你问,你是老大。”
“就是因为你小才应该你问。”
“阿迪克斯,”我说,“你看见亚瑟先生了吗?”
阿迪克斯往一旁挪动一下正在看的报纸,脸色很严峻地看着我们说:“没看见。”
杰姆叫我别再问了。他说阿迪克斯对我们和拉德利家的人还很敏感,再追问他没好处。杰姆总觉得阿迪克斯知道今年夏天那个晚上我们的活动并不仅仅局限于玩输一盘脱一件衣服的扑克牌游戏。杰姆这个想法没有很可靠的根据,他说,这只不过是偶尔的想法罢了。
第二天早上我醒来朝窗外一看,差点没被吓死。我大叫起来。
阿迪克斯的脸刚刮了一半就从盥洗室跑过来。
“世界末日来临了,阿迪克斯!快想点办法吧!”我把他拖到窗前指着窗外说。
。不,不是的,”他说,“这是下雪。”
杰姆问阿迪克斯是否会持续下去。杰姆也没见过雪,但他知道雪是什么。阿迪克斯说他和杰姆一样对雪了解得也不多。“但我想,如果天气象这样有雨意的话,最后会下雨的。’
电话铃响了,阿迪克斯离开饭桌接电话去了。他回来时说:“是尤拉?梅打来的。我传达她的原话:‘因为这是1885年以来梅科姆县第一次下雪,今天学生不上学。”
尤拉?梅是梅科姆县的主要电话接线员。她的职责是向大家传达通知,发结婚邀请,报救火警报,如果雷纳兹医生不在,她还要负责下达急救指示。
阿迪克斯最后喊我们快点吃饭,看着桌上的盘子,别盯着窗外。杰姆接着问:“你知道怎样堆雪人吗?”
“我一窍不通。”阿迪克斯说,“我不想叫你俩失望,但我怀疑这些雪恐怕连滚个雪球都不够。”
卡尔珀尼亚进来了,她说她想雪应该开始积起来了。我们跑到后院时,地上已经薄薄地盖了?层湿雪。
“我们不应该在雪上乱走,”杰姆说,“看,每走一步都糟蹋了一些雪。”
我回头看看身后留下的软糊糊的脚印。杰姆说要是我们等一等,等再下一会儿雪的话,我们可以把雪刮起来堆个雪人。我吐了一下舌头,一大块雪片落在舌头上,舌头感到发烫。
“杰姆,是热的。”
“不,不是的,因为雪太冷,反倒觉得烫人。别吃了,斯各特,你又在糟蹋它。让雪落在地上。”
“我还想在上面走走。”
“我看这样,我们可以到莫迪小姐的院子里去走走。”
杰姆单足跳过前院,积顺着他的脚印跟着跳出去。我们来到莫迪小姐屋前的人行道上时,艾弗里先生走上前来跟我们搭讪。他的脸色粉红,皮带底下的肚子圆鼓鼓的。
“看看你们干的什么好事!”他说,“自从南部联军在阿波马托克斯投降以来,梅科姆县没下过雪。是你们这些淘气的小家伙使得天气变成这样的。”
我不知道艾弗里先生是否知道今年夏天我们是怎样满怀信心地盼望他重复那个表演的。我想如果这天气是对我们的报应的话,这种报应也有好的一面。我当然知道艾弗里先生是从哪儿弄来的气象资料:直接从罗塞塔石碑上得来的。
“杰姆?芬奇,杰姆?芬奇!”
“莫迪小姐在喊你,杰姆。”
“你俩只能在院子中间玩玩,走廊附近的雪底下埋着海石竹,注意别踩着了!”
“知道了,小姐。”杰姆喊着,“真带劲儿,奠迫小姐,您说是吗?”
“带劲个屁!要是今晚上结冰,我的杜鹃花就全完蛋了!”
莫迪小姐酌旧太阳帽上的雪花结晶闪闪发光。她正在一些不太高的花草旁弯着腰用粗麻布袋捆绑着花草。杰姆问把花草包起来干什么。
“保温。”她说。
“花草怎么能保温,它们没有血液循环。”
“我回答不了这个问题,杰姆?芬奇。我就知道如果今晚上冰冻的话,这些花草会冻死,所以,要把它们包起来,明白了吗?”
‘明白了,小姐。莫迪小姐?”
“什么事,老兄?”
“我和斯各特可以借用一些你的雪吗?”
“天啊,全拿去!楼板底下有个装桃子用的旧篮子,用它装雪拖走吧。”莫迪小姐的眼睛眯成了一条缝。“杰姆?芬奇,你们要用我的雪干什么?”
“你会知道的。”杰姆说。随后我们尽最大的力量把莫迪小姐院子里的雪运到我们家的院子,弄得到处是泥,到处是水。
“下一步怎么办,杰姆?”
“一会儿你就知道了。”杰姆说,“现在你拿着篮子去后院把雪都收集起来运到前院。注意,回来时顺着踩过的脚印走。”他提醒莸说。
“我们用雪堆个小娃娃吗,杰姆?”
“不,一个真正的雪人。现在得使劲千了。”
杰姆跑到后院,找出把锄头,然后在柴火堆后飞快地挖起来,边挖边把挖到的一些虫都放在一边。他跑进屋里,出来时带了个装脏衣服用的大篮子。他把土装进篮子,然后运到前院。
等我们有了五篮土两篮雪时,杰姆说我们可以开始了。
“你不觉得这会搞得有些乱七八糟吗?”我问。
“暂时看上去一塌糊涂,一会儿就会好的。”他说。
杰姆用铲子铲了一堆土,把土堆在一起拍紧,加一铲土,再加一铲,直到堆出个躯干。
“杰姆,我从没听说过有黑人雪人。”我说。
“过一会几就不黑了。”他哼了一声。
杰姆从后院找来些桃树枝,他把这些树枝编织起来,编成骨架准备往上盖:!。
“他看起来象斯蒂芬尼?克劳福德小姐两手叉着腰,”我说,“身子很胖,两个胳膊很细。”
“我会把胳膊加粗的。”杰姆往泥人身上泼些水,然后又加些土。他仔细对泥人端详了一会儿,然后又在腰下加上个大肚子。杰姆朝我瞥了一眼,眼里闪着喜悦的光芒:“艾弗里先生的体型有点象个雪人,你看是吗?”
杰姆铲了些雪,开始往上糊。他让费只动后面,把正面留给他。艾弗里先生渐渐地变白了。
杰姆用些小木条做眼睛、鼻子、嘴和钮扣,这些加上去后,“艾弗里先生”看上去怒气冲冲的。杰姆最后用一根柴火棍当拐杖,画龙点睛地完成了这个人物形象。杰姆往后退几步,仔细打量着他的创作。
“真带劲儿,杰姆,”我说,“看上去他好象要跟你说话似的。”
“真的吗?”他有点不好意思地说。
我们等不及阿迪克斯回来吃晚饭了。我们打电话告诉他有一样使他吃惊的东西。爸爸在前院看到后院时,看上去似乎感到很意外,说我们干得很出色。“我原来不知道你们打算怎样做,”他对杰姆说,“但是,从现在起,我再不会担心你会怎么样了。孩子,你总是会打主意的。”
听了阿迪克斯的赞扬,杰姆的耳朵根都红了。但见阿迪克斯朝后退去时,他突然仰起头向上看去。阿迪克斯斜着眼看了一会儿雪人。他微微一笑,然后大笑起来。“孩子,我不知道你将来会当什么……是工程师、律师或者是画家。在这个前院你可以说是犯了侮辱他人罪。我们得给这位先生伪装伪装。”
阿迪克斯建议杰姆把他创作的人物的肚子削去一点,用一把扫帚代替柴火棍,再给他加一条围裙。
杰姆解释说如果照他那样办,会把雪人弄得黑糊糊的,那样就不成其为雪人了。
“我不管你们怎么办,反正得改一改,”阿迪克斯说,“你们随意丑化邻居是不行的。”
“不是丑化,”杰姆说,“看上去碰巧跟他一样。”
“艾弗里先生不一定这样看。”
“我有个好主意I”杰姆说。他跑过街道,消失在莫迪小姐的后院。不一会儿他得意洋洋地回来了。杰姆把莫迪小姐的太阳帽扣在雪人头上,把树篱剪刀塞进胳膊的打弯处。阿迪克斯说这倒不错。
莫迪小姐打开前门来到走廊上。她隔着街望着我们。突然,她笑起来。“杰姆?芬奇,”她叫着,“你这个小淘气,把我的太阳帽送回来!”
杰姆抬头看看阿迪克斯,爸爸摇摇头。“她n!『着好玩,”他说,“实际上她很喜欢你的杰作。”
阿迪克斯走到莫迪小姐房前的人行道上,在那儿和莫迪小姐用手比划着热烈地谈起来。我们只听到其中的一句,“…??在那院子里堆了一个地道的阴阳人!阿迪克斯,你可管不了他们了。”
下午雪停了,气温下降。到天黑时,艾弗里先生那最可怕的预言应验了:卡尔珀尼亚把屋里所有的壁炉都点着了,可我们仍然觉得冷。那天晚上阿迪克斯回来时,他说我们要挨冻=r。他问卡尔珀尼亚是否想留下来和我们过夜,卡尔珀尼亚抬头看看高高的天花板,又看看长长的窗子,说她认为她家会暖和一些。阿迪克斯开车送她回去了。
我睡觉前,阿迪克斯往我房间里的炉子又添了些煤。他说温度计上的温度是华氏十六度,这是他知道的最冷的天气。他还说外面我们堆的雪人都冻硬了。
我觉得睡了还没多久就有人把我推醒了。阿迪克斯的大衣盖在我身上。“就天亮了吗?”
“宝贝儿,起来。”
阿迪克斯拿着我的浴衣和外套t“先穿上浴衣。’他说。
杰姆站在阿迪克斯身旁,头发乱蓬蓬的,他一只手用大衣裹着脖子,一只手插在口袋里,好象站不稳似的。他看上去穿得太多了。
“快点,乖孩子。”阿迪克斯说,“给你鞋袜。”
我迷迷糊糊地穿上鞋袜。“天亮了吗?”
“不,一点钟刚过。快点。”
我终于明白出事了。“怎么回事?”
到这时他用不着告诉我了。正如下雨时小鸟知道往哪几去一样,我们这条街出事时我也知道。象塔夫绸摆动时的轻柔声和沉闷急促的脚步声使我不寒而栗。
“谁家出事了?”
“莫迪小姐家,乖孩子。”阿迪克斯轻声地说。
在前门我看到大火从莫迪小姐家餐室的窗口向外喷射。好象要证实我所看见的是真的似的,镇上的火警警报器刺耳地尖叫起来,接着便反反复复地叫个不停。
“火烧得很厉害,是吗?”杰姆伤心地问。
“我想是的。”阿迪克斯说,“你俩听着,下楼去站在拉德利家房前,离火远一点,听见了吗?注意风是往哪个方向刮的。”
“阿迪克斯,你看我们要把家具搬出去吗?”杰姆问。
“还用不着,孩子。按我说的办,快跑吧。看好斯各特,你听见吗?别把她丢了。”
说着阿迪克斯把我们朝拉德利家的前门推出去。我们站着观看挤满了人和车子的街道。烈火无声地吞噬着莫迪小姐的房子。“他们为什么不快点,为什么不快点……”杰姆喃喃地说。
我们明白了为什么。耶辆旧的救火车水箱冻住了,发动不起来,正由一群人从镇上推过来。当那些人把水管套在消防龙头上时,水管被冲爆了,水向上直射,水管丁当一声落在地上。
“天啊,杰姆……”
杰姆伸出手搂住我。“别叫,斯各特,”他说,“还没到担心的时候,到时候我会告诉你的。”
梅科姆镇上所有的男子,身上穿得五花八门的,有的穿着外衣,有的穿着内衣,他们都在从莫迪小姐家往外搬家具,搬出来都放在街对面的一块空地上。我看见阿迪克斯背着莫迪小姐的笨重的橡木摇椅,我觉得他抢救她最珍惜的东西,是明智的。
有时候我们听到喊声。这时,艾弗里先生的面孔在楼上的窗口出现了。他把床垫从窗口推下街来,然后扔下家具,直到有人喊他:“快从那儿下来,迪克I楼梯要塌了!快离开那儿,艾弗里先生!”
艾弗里先生开始从窗口向外爬。
“斯各特,他被卡住了……”杰姆急促地说,“哎呀,天啊……”
艾弗里先生给死死地卡住了。我把头埋在杰姆的胳膊下不敢抬头看,直到杰姆喊:“出来了,斯各特!他没事!”
我抬起头,看见艾弗里先生正穿过楼上的走廊。他一抬脚跨过栏杆,顺着柱子往下滑,突然,他手一松摔了下来,大叫一声掉在莫迪小姐家的灌木丛中。
接着我看到人们开始从莫迪小姐的房子往后退,人们朝我们移过来。他们不再抢救家具了。火已上了二楼,火舌正向屋顶舔去。黑越越的窗框映衬着鲜艳的橘色火球。
“杰姆,看上去象个大南瓜。”
“斯各特,看!”
我们家和雷切尔小姐家的房子上浓烟滚滚而过,就象蒸腾大雾滚过河岸。人们开始朝这边拽水管。在我们身后,从阿波兹维尔开来的救火车呼啸着开过拐弯处,停在我家屋前。
“那本书……”我说。
“什么?”杰姆问。
“那本《托姆?斯威夫特》,那不是我的,是迪尔的……”
“别急,斯各特,还没到急的时候。”杰姆说。他用手一指,“看那边。’
阿迪克斯站在一群人中,两手揣在口袋里,好象在看足球赛似的。莫迪小姐站在他身旁。
“看那边,他都没着急。”杰姆说。
“他怎么不到餍顶上去?”
“他年纪大了,那样做会摔死的。”
“你看,我们应该要他把我们的东西搬出来吗?”
“我们别去打扰他,他知道什么时候动手。”杰姆说。
从阿波兹维尔来的救火车开始往我家的房上喷水。有卟人站在屋顶上指挥若哪儿最需要水。我眼睁睁地看着我们的阴阳人变黑,然后垮掉了。莫迪小姐的太阳帽还扣在那堆土上,可我没看见那把剪刀。在我们这几家之间的热浪中,救火的人早就脱去了外衣和浴衣,他们忙碌着,睡衣塞进裤腰里,可我站在那儿却渐渐地感到冷得发抖。杰姆想帮我暖和暖和,可他的手不大起作用。我推开他的胳膊,用自己的双手紧紧搂住肩膀。我跳了一会儿,脚才有了知觉。
叉来了辆救火车,停在斯蒂芬尼?克劳福德小姐门前。有水管,可是没有消防龙头了。救火的人企图用手提灭火器灭掉房子上的火。
莫迪小姐的铁皮屋顶止住了火苗。随着一阵呼啸,房子倒塌了。满地都是火苗,随后便是一阵阵毯子的扑打声。人们在邻近的房顶上拍打火星和烧着了的一块块的木头。
一直到天亮,人们才渐渐离去,先是一个个走开,后来是成群地离去。他们把梅科姆的救火车推回镇上,从阿波兹维尔来的车回去了,第三辆车留了下来。第二天,我们才知道这辆车是从六十英里以外的克拉克渡口开来的。
我和杰姆走到街对面。莫迪小姐呆呆地看着院子里还在冒烟的黑洞。阿迪克斯向我们摇摇头,意思是莫迪小姐现在不想说话。他搂着我俩的肩膀,穿过街道,把我俩领回家。他说莫迪小姐暂时会和斯蒂芬尼小姐住在一块儿。
“谁要热巧克力吗?”爸爸问。当爸爸在厨房的炉子里生起一炉火时,我打了个冷颤。
喝可可茶H、j,我发现阿迪克斯在看着我,先是好奇地看着,后来变得严肃起来。“我想我告诉了你和杰姆,要你们站在那儿别动。”
“是啊,我们是没动。我们站在……”
“那么这是谁的毯子?”
“毯子?”
“是的,小姐,毯子。这不是我们家的。”
我低头一看,发现自己正紧紧抓着披在身上的一条棕色的羊毛毯子,象印第安女人似的。
“阿迪克斯,我不知道,爸爸……我……”
我朝杰姆看去,希望他能解答,但杰姆比我还迷惑不解。他说他不知道毯子怎么到我身上来的,说我们是按阿迪克斯的要求办的。我们站在拉德利家的大门口,离大家远远的,我们站在那儿一步都没动……杰姆住了口。
。内森先生当时在火场上。”他含糊不清地又说起来,“我看见他了,我看见他了,他当时正在拖床垫……阿迪克斯,我发誓……”
“行了,孩子,”阿迪克斯稍微笑了笑,“看来梅科姆镇上的人今晚上都出来了,只是出来的方式不同。杰姆,我想食品室里有些包装纸,去拿来,我们……”
“阿迪克斯,不,爸爸!”
杰姆好象发疯了似的。他把我们的秘密一古脑儿全都倒了出来。他不怕受处分,也完全把我置之度外。他一点都没保留,什么树洞啦,裤子啦,全都说了。
“……内森先生把树洞里塞进水泥是为了不让我们再找到东西……我想,正如大伙说的那样,他有砦古怪,但我向上帝发誓,他从没伤过我们,从没害过我们。那天晚上他本来可以把找打死,可相反,他却帮我补了裤予……他真的从没害过我们,阿迪克斯。”
阿迪克斯说:“好了,孩子。”他说得那样和气,我这才松了口气。很明显,他根本没听杰姆在说什么,因为阿迪克斯只说了句:“你说得对,这件事和毯子的事只有我们知道就行了。可能有一天,斯各特可以向他表示谢意,谢他把毯子披在她肩上。”
“谢谢谁?”我问。
“布?拉德利。你光顾看火去了,他把毯子披在你身上,你都没注意。”
我的五脏六腑顿时象变成了一滩水似的。杰姆拿着毯子朝我走过来时,我差点呕出来。他说,“布?拉德利……溜出房间……转过弯……偷偷走过来,这样走的。”
阿迪克斯冷冷地说:“不要因为这个而洋洋得意,再去干那些自以为荣耀的事,杰里米。”
杰姆不高兴了。“我又不会去惹他。”我注意到他眼里刚刚出现的进行新的冒险的光芒消失了。“想一想,新各特,”他说,“当时你只要转过身,就看见他了。”
卡尔珀尼亚中午才把我们喊醒。阿迪克斯已经说了,我们那天用不着上学,一晚上没睡觉,上学也学不了什么。卡尔珀尼亚叫我们把前院打扫干净。
奥迫小姐的太阳帽外面冻了一层薄薄的冰,就象琥珀中的一只苍蝇似的。我们不得不在土堆里挖找她的剪刀,我们看见她在后院,呆呆地凝视着她那冰冻了的被烧焦的杜鹃花。
“我们马上把您的东西还给您,莫迪小姐,”杰姆说,。我们真为您难过。”’
莫迪小姐转过身来,脸上露出了常见的笑容。“一直想要个小点的房子。想一想,院子再大一点,我就有更多的地方种杜鹃花了。”
“您并不伤心,莫迪小姐?”我惊讶地问了句。阿迪克斯说她的房子几乎是她所拥有的一切。
“伤心,孩子?哎呀,我恨透了那间旧牛棚,我想过不知多少次了,自己点把火把它烧掉吧;要不是担心他们会拘留我的话,我早就动手了。”
“可是……”
“别为我担心,琼?路易斯?芬奇。有些办法你还不知道。我呀,我要建一栋小房子,找几个房客……对了,我要有一个亚拉巴马最高级的院子。等我动起手来,贝林格雷思那些院子就会显得太渺小了。”
杰姆和我互相看了看。“火是怎么着起来的,莫迪小姐?”他问。
“我不知道,杰姆。可能是厨房里的烟道引起的。昨晚上我把栽在盆里的花放在那儿,生了一炉火。琼?路易斯小姐,听说昨晚上你们碰到一位没预料到的伙伴。”
“您怎么知道的?”
“阿迪克斯早上到镇上去的时候告诉我的。告诉你们实话,我要是跟你们在一块儿就好了。要是我在的话,一定会感觉到并转过身去的。”
莫迫小姐使我莫名其妙。她的大部分财产都已化为灰烬,她那可爱的院子已变为废墟,可她对杰姆和我的活动还这么感兴趣,她还是这么活泼热情。
她一定看出我有些迷惑不解。她说:“昨天晚上我唯一酌担心是这场火引起的混乱和危险。这条街上所有的房子都有可能被烧掉。艾弗里先生得在床上躺一个星期——他年纪太大了,不能干那样的事。我跟他这么讲了。等我手头韵事一做完,斯蒂芬尼?克劳福德又不在旁边看着时,我要给他做个‘莱恩’饼。三十年来,那个斯蒂芬尼一直想学会我的制作方法,要是她以为我和她住在一起就会告诉她这个方法,那她就想错了。”
我想,即使莫迪小姐改变主意,把制作方法告诉她,斯蒂芬尼小姐也是学不会的。莫迪小姐有一次做这种饼子时让我看见了:除了其他配料外,这个方法需要一大杯糖。
这一天十分寂静。空气又寒冷又清新。法院大钟在报时前发出的丁当声和乐曲声都能听清楚。莫迪小姐的鼻子的颜色是我从没见过的。我问了问她。
“从早上六点钟起我就在外边,”她说,“我现在一定冻伤了。”她举起手,手掌上布满了细细的线条,那是棕色的脏东西和凝固的血浆构成的。
“您把手弄成这样,”杰姆说,“您为什么不叫个黑人?”又说,“为什么不找我和斯各特?我们可以帮忙的。”他说最后一句话时,并没有要做出牺牲的口气。
莫迪小姐说:“谢谢你,孩子。可你们那边有你们自己的事。”她朝我家院子一指。
“您是说那个阴阳人吗?”我问,“那没有什么!我们一下就可以把它堆起来。”
莫迪小姐的目光低下来盯着我,嘴唇动了动没出声。突然,她抱着脑袋大叫起来。我们离开她时,她还在抿着嘴轻声地笑。
杰姆说不知道她怎么了——莫遒小姐就是_那么个人。



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