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Chapter 9

      “You can just take that back, boy!”

  This order, given by me to Cecil Jacobs, was the beginning of a rather thin time forJem and me. My fists were clenched and I was ready to let fly. Atticus had promised mehe would wear me out if he ever heard of me fighting any more; I was far too old and toobig for such childish things, and the sooner I learned to hold in, the better off everybodywould be. I soon forgot.

  Cecil Jacobs made me forget. He had announced in the schoolyard the day beforethat Scout Finch’s daddy defended niggers. I denied it, but told Jem.

  “What’d he mean sayin‘ that?” I asked.

  “Nothing,” Jem said. “Ask Atticus, he’ll tell you.”

  “Do you defend niggers, Atticus?” I asked him that evening.

  “Of course I do. Don’t say nigger, Scout. That’s common.”

  “‘s what everybody at school says.”

  “From now on it’ll be everybody less one—”

  “Well if you don’t want me to grow up talkin‘ that way, why do you send me to school?”

  My father looked at me mildly, amusement in his eyes. Despite our compromise, mycampaign to avoid school had continued in one form or another since my first day’sdose of it: the beginning of last September had brought on sinking spells, dizziness, andmild gastric complaints. I went so far as to pay a nickel for the privilege of rubbing myhead against the head of Miss Rachel’s cook’s son, who was afflicted with a tremendousringworm. It didn’t take.

  But I was worrying another bone. “Do all lawyers defend n-Negroes, Atticus?”

  “Of course they do, Scout.”

  “Then why did Cecil say you defended niggers? He made it sound like you wererunnin‘ a still.”

  Atticus sighed. “I’m simply defending a Negro—his name’s Tom Robinson. He lives inthat little settlement beyond the town dump. He’s a member of Calpurnia’s church, andCal knows his family well. She says they’re clean-living folks. Scout, you aren’t oldenough to understand some things yet, but there’s been some high talk around town tothe effect that I shouldn’t do much about defending this man. It’s a peculiar case—itwon’t come to trial until summer session. John Taylor was kind enough to give us apostponement…”

  “If you shouldn’t be defendin‘ him, then why are you doin’ it?”

  “For a number of reasons,” said Atticus. “The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold upmy head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tellyou or Jem not to do something again.”

  “You mean if you didn’t defend that man, Jem and me wouldn’t have to mind you anymore?”

  “That’s about right.”

  “Why?”

  “Because I could never ask you to mind me again. Scout, simply by the nature of thework, every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally. Thisone’s mine, I guess. You might hear some ugly talk about it at school, but do one thingfor me if you will: you just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matterwhat anybody says to you, don’t you let ‘em get your goat. Try fighting with your headfor a change… it’s a good one, even if it does resist learning.”

  “Atticus, are we going to win it?”

  “No, honey.”

  “Then why—”

  “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for usnot to try to win,” Atticus said.

  “You sound like Cousin Ike Finch,” I said. Cousin Ike Finch was Maycomb County’ssole surviving Confederate veteran. He wore a General Hood type beard of which hewas inordinately vain. At least once a year Atticus, Jem and I called on him, and I wouldhave to kiss him. It was horrible. Jem and I would listen respectfully to Atticus andCousin Ike rehash the war. “Tell you, Atticus,” Cousin Ike would say, “the MissouriCompromise was what licked us, but if I had to go through it agin I’d walk every step ofthe way there an‘ every step back jist like I did before an’ furthermore we’d whip ‘em thistime… now in 1864, when Stonewall Jackson came around by—I beg your pardon,young folks. Ol’ Blue Light was in heaven then, God rest his saintly brow…”

  “Come here, Scout,” said Atticus. I crawled into his lap and tucked my head under hischin. He put his arms around me and rocked me gently. “It’s different this time,” he said.

  “This time we aren’t fighting the Yankees, we’re fighting our friends. But remember this,no matter how bitter things get, they’re still our friends and this is still our home.”

  With this in mind, I faced Cecil Jacobs in the schoolyard next day: “You gonna takethat back, boy?”

  “You gotta make me first!” he yelled. “My folks said your daddy was a disgrace an‘ thatnigger oughta hang from the water-tank!”

  I drew a bead on him, remembered what Atticus had said, then dropped my fists andwalked away, “Scout’s a cow—ward!” ringing in my ears. It was the first time I everwalked away from a fight.

  Somehow, if I fought Cecil I would let Atticus down. Atticus so rarely asked Jem andme to do something for him, I could take being called a coward for him. I felt extremelynoble for having remembered, and remained noble for three weeks. Then Christmascame and disaster struck.

  Jem and I viewed Christmas with mixed feelings. The good side was the tree andUncle Jack Finch. Every Christmas Eve day we met Uncle Jack at Maycomb Junction,and he would spend a week with us.

  A flip of the coin revealed the uncompromising lineaments of Aunt Alexandra andFrancis.

  I suppose I should include Uncle Jimmy, Aunt Alexandra’s husband, but as he neverspoke a word to me in my life except to say, “Get off the fence,” once, I never saw anyreason to take notice of him. Neither did Aunt Alexandra. Long ago, in a burst offriendliness, Aunty and Uncle Jimmy produced a son named Henry, who left home assoon as was humanly possible, married, and produced Francis. Henry and his wifedeposited Francis at his grandparents’ every Christmas, then pursued their ownpleasures.

  No amount of sighing could induce Atticus to let us spend Christmas day at home. Wewent to Finch’s Landing every Christmas in my memory. The fact that Aunty was a goodcook was some compensation for being forced to spend a religious holiday with FrancisHancock. He was a year older than I, and I avoided him on principle: he enjoyedeverything I disapproved of, and disliked my ingenuous diversions.

  Aunt Alexandra was Atticus’s sister, but when Jem told me about changelings andsiblings, I decided that she had been swapped at birth, that my grandparents hadperhaps received a Crawford instead of a Finch. Had I ever harbored the mysticalnotions about mountains that seem to obsess lawyers and judges, Aunt Alexandrawould have been analogous to Mount Everest: throughout my early life, she was coldand there.

  When Uncle Jack jumped down from the train Christmas Eve day, we had to wait forthe porter to hand him two long packages. Jem and I always thought it funny whenUncle Jack pecked Atticus on the cheek; they were the only two men we ever saw kisseach other. Uncle Jack shook hands with Jem and swung me high, but not high enough:

  Uncle Jack was a head shorter than Atticus; the baby of the family, he was younger thanAunt Alexandra. He and Aunty looked alike, but Uncle Jack made better use of his face:

  we were never wary of his sharp nose and chin.

  He was one of the few men of science who never terrified me, probably because henever behaved like a doctor. Whenever he performed a minor service for Jem and me,as removing a splinter from a foot, he would tell us exactly what he was going to do,give us an estimation of how much it would hurt, and explain the use of any tongs heemployed. One Christmas I lurked in corners nursing a twisted splinter in my foot,permitting no one to come near me. When Uncle Jack caught me, he kept me laughingabout a preacher who hated going to church so much that every day he stood at hisgate in his dressing-gown, smoking a hookah and delivering five-minute sermons to anypassers-by who desired spiritual comfort. I interrupted to make Uncle Jack let me knowwhen he would pull it out, but he held up a bloody splinter in a pair of tweezers and saidhe yanked it while I was laughing, that was what was known as relativity.

  “What’s in those packages?” I asked him, pointing to the long thin parcels the porterhad given him.

  “None of your business,” he said.

  Jem said, “How’s Rose Aylmer?”

  Rose Aylmer was Uncle Jack’s cat. She was a beautiful yellow female Uncle Jack saidwas one of the few women he could stand permanently. He reached into his coat pocketand brought out some snapshots. We admired them.

  “She’s gettin‘ fat,” I said.

  “I should think so. She eats all the leftover fingers and ears from the hospital.”

  “Aw, that’s a damn story,” I said.

  “I beg your pardon?”

  Atticus said, “Don’t pay any attention to her, Jack. She’s trying you out. Cal says she’sbeen cussing fluently for a week, now.” Uncle Jack raised his eyebrows and saidnothing. I was proceeding on the dim theory, aside from the innate attractiveness ofsuch words, that if Atticus discovered I had picked them up at school he wouldn’t makeme go.

  But at supper that evening when I asked him to pass the damn ham, please, UncleJack pointed at me. “See me afterwards, young lady,” he said.

  When supper was over, Uncle Jack went to the livingroom and sat down. He slappedhis thighs for me to come sit on his lap. I liked to smell him: he was like a bottle ofalcohol and something pleasantly sweet. He pushed back my bangs and looked at me.

  “You’re more like Atticus than your mother,” he said. “You’re also growing out of yourpants a little.”

  “I reckon they fit all right.”

  “You like words like damn and hell now, don’t you?”

  I said I reckoned so.

  “Well I don’t,” said Uncle Jack, “not unless there’s extreme provocation connected with‘em. I’ll be here a week, and I don’t want to hear any words like that while I’m here.

  Scout, you’ll get in trouble if you go around saying things like that. You want to grow upto be a lady, don’t you?”

  I said not particularly.

  “Of course you do. Now let’s get to the tree.”

  We decorated the tree until bedtime, and that night I dreamed of the two longpackages for Jem and me. Next morning Jem and I dived for them: they were fromAtticus, who had written Uncle Jack to get them for us, and they were what we hadasked for.

  “Don’t point them in the house,” said Atticus, when Jem aimed at a picture on the wall.

  “You’ll have to teach ‘em to shoot,” said Uncle Jack.

  “That’s your job,” said Atticus. “I merely bowed to the inevitable.”

  It took Atticus’s courtroom voice to drag us away from the tree. He declined to let ustake our air rifles to the Landing (I had already begun to think of shooting Francis) andsaid if we made one false move he’d take them away from us for good.

  Finch’s Landing consisted of three hundred and sixty-six steps down a high bluff andending in a jetty. Farther down stream, beyond the bluff, were traces of an old cottonlanding, where Finch Negroes had loaded bales and produce, unloaded blocks of ice,flour and sugar, farm equipment, and feminine apparel. A two-rut road ran from theriverside and vanished among dark trees. At the end of the road was a two-storied whitehouse with porches circling it upstairs and downstairs. In his old age, our ancestorSimon Finch had built it to please his nagging wife; but with the porches all resemblanceto ordinary houses of its era ended. The internal arrangements of the Finch house wereindicative of Simon’s guilelessness and the absolute trust with which he regarded hisoffspring.

  There were six bedrooms upstairs, four for the eight female children, one for WelcomeFinch, the sole son, and one for visiting relatives. Simple enough; but the daughters’

  rooms could be reached only by one staircase, Welcome’s room and the guestroomonly by another. The Daughters’ Staircase was in the ground-floor bedroom of theirparents, so Simon always knew the hours of his daughters’ nocturnal comings andgoings.

  There was a kitchen separate from the rest of the house, tacked onto it by a woodencatwalk; in the back yard was a rusty bell on a pole, used to summon field hands or as adistress signal; a widow’s walk was on the roof, but no widows walked there—from it,Simon oversaw his overseer, watched the river-boats, and gazed into the lives ofsurrounding landholders.

  There went with the house the usual legend about the Yankees: one Finch female,recently engaged, donned her complete trousseau to save it from raiders in theneighborhood; she became stuck in the door to the Daughters’ Staircase but wasdoused with water and finally pushed through. When we arrived at the Landing, AuntAlexandra kissed Uncle Jack, Francis kissed Uncle Jack, Uncle Jimmy shook handssilently with Uncle Jack, Jem and I gave our presents to Francis, who gave us a present.

  Jem felt his age and gravitated to the adults, leaving me to entertain our cousin. Franciswas eight and slicked back his hair.

  “What’d you get for Christmas?” I asked politely.

  “Just what I asked for,” he said. Francis had requested a pair of knee-pants, a redleather booksack, five shirts and an untied bow tie.

  “That’s nice,” I lied. “Jem and me got air rifles, and Jem got a chemistry set—”

  “A toy one, I reckon.”

  “No, a real one. He’s gonna make me some invisible ink, and I’m gonna write to Dill init.”

  Francis asked what was the use of that.

  “Well, can’t you just see his face when he gets a letter from me with nothing in it? It’lldrive him nuts.”

  Talking to Francis gave me the sensation of settling slowly to the bottom of the ocean.

  He was the most boring child I ever met. As he lived in Mobile, he could not inform onme to school authorities, but he managed to tell everything he knew to Aunt Alexandra,who in turn unburdened herself to Atticus, who either forgot it or gave me hell,whichever struck his fancy. But the only time I ever heard Atticus speak sharply toanyone was when I once heard him say, “Sister, I do the best I can with them!” It hadsomething to do with my going around in overalls.

  Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope tobe a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn’tsupposed to be doing things that required pants. Aunt Alexandra’s vision of mydeportment involved playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearlnecklace she gave me when I was born; furthermore, I should be a ray of sunshine inmy father’s lonely life. I suggested that one could be a ray of sunshine in pants just aswell, but Aunty said that one had to behave like a sunbeam, that I was born good buthad grown progressively worse every year. She hurt my feelings and set my teethpermanently on edge, but when I asked Atticus about it, he said there were alreadyenough sunbeams in the family and to go on about my business, he didn’t mind memuch the way I was.

  At Christmas dinner, I sat at the little table in the diningroom; Jem and Francis sat withthe adults at the dining table. Aunty had continued to isolate me long after Jem andFrancis graduated to the big table. I often wondered what she thought I’d do, get up andthrow something? I sometimes thought of asking her if she would let me sit at the bigtable with the rest of them just once, I would prove to her how civilized I could be; afterall, I ate at home every day with no major mishaps. When I begged Atticus to use hisinfluence, he said he had none—we were guests, and we sat where she told us to sit.

  He also said Aunt Alexandra didn’t understand girls much, she’d never had one.

  But her cooking made up for everything: three kinds of meat, summer vegetables fromher pantry shelves; peach pickles, two kinds of cake and ambrosia constituted a modestChristmas dinner. Afterwards, the adults made for the livingroom and sat around in adazed condition. Jem lay on the floor, and I went to the back yard. “Put on your coat,”

  said Atticus dreamily, so I didn’t hear him.

  Francis sat beside me on the back steps. “That was the best yet,” I said.

  “Grandma’s a wonderful cook,” said Francis. “She’s gonna teach me how.”

  “Boys don’t cook.” I giggled at the thought of Jem in an apron.

  “Grandma says all men should learn to cook, that men oughta be careful with theirwives and wait on ‘em when they don’t feel good,” said my cousin.

  “I don’t want Dill waitin‘ on me,” I said. “I’d rather wait on him.”

  “Dill?”

  “Yeah. Don’t say anything about it yet, but we’re gonna get married as soon as we’rebig enough. He asked me last summer.”

  Francis hooted.

  “What’s the matter with him?” I asked. “Ain’t anything the matter with him.”

  “You mean that little runt Grandma says stays with Miss Rachel every summer?”

  “That’s exactly who I mean.”

  “I know all about him,” said Francis.

  “What about him?”

  “Grandma says he hasn’t got a home—”

  “Has too, he lives in Meridian.”

  “—he just gets passed around from relative to relative, and Miss Rachel keeps himevery summer.”

  “Francis, that’s not so!”

  Francis grinned at me. “You’re mighty dumb sometimes, Jean Louise. Guess youdon’t know any better, though.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “If Uncle Atticus lets you run around with stray dogs, that’s his own business, likeGrandma says, so it ain’t your fault. I guess it ain’t your fault if Uncle Atticus is a nigger-lover besides, but I’m here to tell you it certainly does mortify the rest of the family—”

  “Francis, what the hell do you mean?”

  “Just what I said. Grandma says it’s bad enough he lets you all run wild, but now he’sturned out a nigger-lover we’ll never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb agin. He’sruinin‘ the family, that’s what he’s doin’.”

  Francis rose and sprinted down the catwalk to the old kitchen. At a safe distance hecalled, “He’s nothin‘ but a nigger-lover!”

  “He is not!” I roared. “I don’t know what you’re talkin‘ about, but you better cut it outthis red hot minute!”

  I leaped off the steps and ran down the catwalk. It was easy to collar Francis. I saidtake it back quick.

  Francis jerked loose and sped into the old kitchen. “Nigger-lover!” he yelled.

  When stalking one’s prey, it is best to take one’s time. Say nothing, and as sure aseggs he will become curious and emerge. Francis appeared at the kitchen door. “Youstill mad, Jean Louise?” he asked tentatively.

  “Nothing to speak of,” I said.

  Francis came out on the catwalk.

  “You gonna take it back, Fra—ancis?” But I was too quick on the draw. Francis shotback into the kitchen, so I retired to the steps. I could wait patiently. I had sat thereperhaps five minutes when I heard Aunt Alexandra speak: “Where’s Francis?”

  “He’s out yonder in the kitchen.”

  “He knows he’s not supposed to play in there.”

  Francis came to the door and yelled, “Grandma, she’s got me in here and she won’tlet me out!”

  “What is all this, Jean Louise?”

  I looked up at Aunt Alexandra. “I haven’t got him in there, Aunty, I ain’t holdin‘ him.”

  “Yes she is,” shouted Francis, “she won’t let me out!”

  “Have you all been fussing?”

  “Jean Louise got mad at me, Grandma,” called Francis.

  “Francis, come out of there! Jean Louise, if I hear another word out of you I’ll tell yourfather. Did I hear you say hell a while ago?”

  “Nome.”

  “I thought I did. I’d better not hear it again.”

  Aunt Alexandra was a back-porch listener. The moment she was out of sight Franciscame out head up and grinning. “Don’t you fool with me,” he said.

  He jumped into the yard and kept his distance, kicking tufts of grass, turning aroundoccasionally to smile at me. Jem appeared on the porch, looked at us, and went away.

  Francis climbed the mimosa tree, came down, put his hands in his pockets and strolledaround the yard. “Hah!” he said. I asked him who he thought he was, Uncle Jack?

  Francis said he reckoned I got told, for me to just sit there and leave him alone.

  “I ain’t botherin‘ you,” I said.

  Francis looked at me carefully, concluded that I had been sufficiently subdued, andcrooned softly, “Nigger-lover…”

  This time, I split my knuckle to the bone on his front teeth. My left impaired, I sailed inwith my right, but not for long. Uncle Jack pinned my arms to my sides and said, “Standstill!”

  Aunt Alexandra ministered to Francis, wiping his tears away with her handkerchief,rubbing his hair, patting his cheek. Atticus, Jem, and Uncle Jimmy had come to the backporch when Francis started yelling.

  “Who started this?” said Uncle Jack.

  Francis and I pointed at each other. “Grandma,” he bawled, “she called me a whore-lady and jumped on me!”

  “Is that true, Scout?” said Uncle Jack.

  “I reckon so.”

  When Uncle Jack looked down at me, his features were like Aunt Alexandra’s. “Youknow I told you you’d get in trouble if you used words like that? I told you, didn’t I?”

  “Yes sir, but—”

  “Well, you’re in trouble now. Stay there.”

  I was debating whether to stand there or run, and tarried in indecision a moment toolong: I turned to flee but Uncle Jack was quicker. I found myself suddenly looking at atiny ant struggling with a bread crumb in the grass.

  “I’ll never speak to you again as long as I live! I hate you an‘ despise you an’ hope youdie tomorrow!” A statement that seemed to encourage Uncle Jack, more than anything. Iran to Atticus for comfort, but he said I had it coming and it was high time we wenthome. I climbed into the back seat of the car without saying good-bye to anyone, and athome I ran to my room and slammed the door. Jem tried to say something nice, but Iwouldn’t let him.

  When I surveyed the damage there were only seven or eight red marks, and I wasreflecting upon relativity when someone knocked on the door. I asked who it was; UncleJack answered.

  “Go away!”

  Uncle Jack said if I talked like that he’d lick me again, so I was quiet. When he enteredthe room I retreated to a corner and turned my back on him. “Scout,” he said, “do youstill hate me?”

  “Go on, please sir.”

  “Why, I didn’t think you’d hold it against me,” he said. “I’m disappointed in you—youhad that coming and you know it.”

  “Didn’t either.”

  “Honey, you can’t go around calling people—”

  “You ain’t fair,” I said, “you ain’t fair.”

  Uncle Jack’s eyebrows went up. “Not fair? How not?”

  “You’re real nice, Uncle Jack, an‘ I reckon I love you even after what you did, but youdon’t understand children much.”

  Uncle Jack put his hands on his hips and looked down at me. “And why do I notunderstand children, Miss Jean Louise? Such conduct as yours required littleunderstanding. It was obstreperous, disorderly and abusive—”

  “You gonna give me a chance to tell you? I don’t mean to sass you, I’m just tryin‘ totell you.”

  Uncle Jack sat down on the bed. His eyebrows came together, and he peered up atme from under them. “Proceed,” he said.

  I took a deep breath. “Well, in the first place you never stopped to gimme a chance totell you my side of it—you just lit right into me. When Jem an‘ I fuss Atticus doesn’t everjust listen to Jem’s side of it, he hears mine too, an’ in the second place you told menever to use words like that except in ex-extreme provocation, and Francis provocatedme enough to knock his block off—”

  Uncle Jack scratched his head. “What was your side of it, Scout?”

  “Francis called Atticus somethin‘, an’ I wasn’t about to take it off him.”

  “What did Francis call him?”

  “A nigger-lover. I ain’t very sure what it means, but the way Francis said it—tell youone thing right now, Uncle Jack, I’ll be—I swear before God if I’ll sit there and let himsay somethin‘ about Atticus.”

  “He called Atticus that?”

  “Yes sir, he did, an‘ a lot more. Said Atticus’d be the ruination of the family an’ he letJem an me run wild…”

  From the look on Uncle Jack’s face, I thought I was in for it again. When he said,“We’ll see about this,” I knew Francis was in for it. “I’ve a good mind to go out theretonight.”

  “Please sir, just let it go. Please.”

  “I’ve no intention of letting it go,” he said. “Alexandra should know about this. The ideaof—wait’ll I get my hands on that boy…”

  “Uncle Jack, please promise me somethin‘, please sir. Promise you won’t tell Atticusabout this. He—he asked me one time not to let anything I heard about him make memad, an’ I’d ruther him think we were fightin‘ about somethin’ else instead. Pleasepromise…”

  “But I don’t like Francis getting away with something like that—”

  “He didn’t. You reckon you could tie up my hand? It’s still bleedin‘ some.”

  “Of course I will, baby. I know of no hand I would be more delighted to tie up. Will youcome this way?”

  Uncle Jack gallantly bowed me to the bathroom. While he cleaned and bandaged myknuckles, he entertained me with a tale about a funny nearsighted old gentleman whohad a cat named Hodge, and who counted all the cracks in the sidewalk when he wentto town. “There now,” he said. “You’ll have a very unladylike scar on your wedding-ringfinger.”

  “Thank you sir. Uncle Jack?”

  “Ma’am?”

  “What’s a whore-lady?”

  Uncle Jack plunged into another long tale about an old Prime Minister who sat in theHouse of Commons and blew feathers in the air and tried to keep them there when allabout him men were losing their heads. I guess he was trying to answer my question,but he made no sense whatsoever.

  Later, when I was supposed to be in bed, I went down the hall for a drink of water andheard Atticus and Uncle Jack in the livingroom:

  “I shall never marry, Atticus.”

  “Why?”

  “I might have children.”

  Atticus said, “You’ve a lot to learn, Jack.”

  “I know. Your daughter gave me my first lessons this afternoon. She said I didn’tunderstand children much and told me why. She was quite right. Atticus, she told mehow I should have treated her—oh dear, I’m so sorry I romped on her.”

  Atticus chuckled. “She earned it, so don’t feel too remorseful.”

  I waited, on tenterhooks, for Uncle Jack to tell Atticus my side of it. But he didn’t. Hesimply murmured, “Her use of bathroom invective leaves nothing to the imagination. Butshe doesn’t know the meaning of half she says—she asked me what a whore-ladywas…”

  “Did you tell her?”

  “No, I told her about Lord Melbourne.”

  “Jack! When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness’ sake. But don’tmake a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker thanadults, and evasion simply muddles ‘em. No,” my father mused, “you had the rightanswer this afternoon, but the wrong reasons. Bad language is a stage all children gothrough, and it dies with time when they learn they’re not attracting attention with it.

  Hotheadedness isn’t. Scout’s got to learn to keep her head and learn soon, with what’sin store for her these next few months. She’s coming along, though. Jem’s getting olderand she follows his example a good bit now. All she needs is assistance sometimes.”

  “Atticus, you’ve never laid a hand on her.”

  “I admit that. So far I’ve been able to get by with threats. Jack, she minds me as wellas she can. Doesn’t come up to scratch half the time, but she tries.”

  “That’s not the answer,” said Uncle Jack.

  “No, the answer is she knows I know she tries. That’s what makes the difference.

  What bothers me is that she and Jem will have to absorb some ugly things pretty soon.

  I’m not worried about Jem keeping his head, but Scout’d just as soon jump on someoneas look at him if her pride’s at stake…”

  I waited for Uncle Jack to break his promise. He still didn’t.

  “Atticus, how bad is this going to be? You haven’t had too much chance to discuss it.”

  “It couldn’t be worse, Jack. The only thing we’ve got is a black man’s word against theEwells‘. The evidence boils down to you-did—I-didn’t. The jury couldn’t possibly beexpected to take Tom Robinson’s word against the Ewells’—are you acquainted with theEwells?”

  Uncle Jack said yes, he remembered them. He described them to Atticus, but Atticussaid, “You’re a generation off. The present ones are the same, though.”

  “What are you going to do, then?”

  “Before I’m through, I intend to jar the jury a bit—I think we’ll have a reasonablechance on appeal, though. I really can’t tell at this stage, Jack. You know, I’d hoped toget through life without a case of this kind, but John Taylor pointed at me and said,‘You’re It.’”

  “Let this cup pass from you, eh?”

  “Right. But do you think I could face my children otherwise? You know what’s going tohappen as well as I do, Jack, and I hope and pray I can get Jem and Scout through itwithout bitterness, and most of all, without catching Maycomb’s usual disease. Whyreasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, issomething I don’t pretend to understand… I just hope that Jem and Scout come to mefor their answers instead of listening to the town. I hope they trust me enough… JeanLouise?”

  My scalp jumped. I stuck my head around the corner. “Sir?”

  “Go to bed.”

  I scurried to my room and went to bed. Uncle Jack was a prince of a fellow not to letme down. But I never figured out how Atticus knew I was listening, and it was not untilmany years later that I realized he wanted me to hear every word he said.

“你可以把那句话收回去,小子”
我给塞西尔?雅各布韵这个命令标志着杰姆和我开始了一段不愉快的日子。我已经握紧拳头,就要打出去了。阿迪克斯警告过我,要是再听说我和别人打架,就要打我的屁股。我已经这么大了,不该再千那些小孩子们干的事,还说我越快学会克制自己,就越会使大家都少点麻烦。可是我很快就忘记了这些嘱咐。
是塞西尔?雅各布使我忘记的。前天他在学校公开宣布斯各特?芬奇的爸爸为黑鬼们辩护。我否认了这点,但我告诉了杰姆。
“他说这些是什么意思?”我问。
“没什么意思。”杰姆说,“问阿迪克斯,他会告诉你的。”
“你为黑鬼们辩护吗,阿迪克斯?”那天晚上我问他。
“当然啦。不要叫黑鬼,斯各特,那样叫是粗鄙的。”
“学校里都是这么叫的。”
“但从现在起,这么叫的人中就可以少你一个。”
“如果你不想让我这样叫,为什么还要送我上学呢?”
爸爸很和蔼地看着我,眼里闪着快乐的光芒。尽管我们已经相互妥协,可是从我第一天尝到上学的滋味起,我一直在变换手法,争取不上学。九月份一开始就使我情绪一阵阵低落,头也昏,胃也有点痛。我甚至还出五分钱的镍币,让雷切尔小姐家厨师的儿子同意我用脑袋磨擦他的脑袋。他有一块很大的金钱癣,但我并没传染上。
但是,我还为另一件事担心。“所有的律师都为黑……黑人辩护吗,阿迪克斯?”
“当然,都这样做,斯各梅。”
“那为什么塞西尔说你为黑鬼辩护呢?他i兑起来好象你在千违法的事似的。”
阿迪克斯叹了口气。“我只不过是为一个黑人辩护罢了——他叫汤姆?鲁宾逊,住在镇上的垃圾场那边那闻小屋里。他是卡尔珀尼亚那个教会组织中的成员之一,卡尔珀尼亚很了解他们家,她说他们是安分守己的人。斯各特,你还小,有些事还不懂。我能告诉你的是,最近镇上有些议论,说我不该出力为黑人辩护。这是个特殊的案子——夏季开庭期以前不会审判的。约翰?泰勒挺好,同意延期审判……”
“要是不该为他辩护,为什么你还这样做昵?”
“有几点理由,”阿迪克斯说,“主要理由是,假如我不这样做,在镇上我将抬不起头,在立法机关就不能代表这个县,我甚至不能要求你或者杰姆别再做某种事了。”
“你是说要是你不为那个人辩护,我和杰姆就可以不听你的话了吗?”
“大概是这样。”
“为什么?”
“因为我再不能要求你们听我的话了。斯各特,这种工作酌性质决定了每一个律师在他的一生中总要办一个影响到他本人的案子。我想,这个就是我的案子。在学校你可能会听到一些关于这件事的不堪入耳的议论,但如果你愿意的话,请为我做一件事:这就是抬起头来,放下拳头。不管谁对你说什么,也不要生气,换个方法,用你的脑袋和别人斗……你的脑袋尽管在学习上不大灵,在这方面还是个好脑袋。”
“阿迪克斯,我们会赢吗?”
“不,乖孩子。”
“那为什么……”
“道理很简单,我们不能因为一百年前失败过就不再争取胜利了。”阿迪克斯说。
“你说话有点象堂哥艾克?芬奇。”我说。艾克?芬奇是梅科姆县活下来的唯一的南部联盟的老兵。他留着胡德将军式的胡子,对此他总吹个不停。每年阿迪克斯要带杰姆和我至少去他家玩一次,而每次我都得和他亲嘴,简直太可怕了。我和杰姆总是恭恭敬敬地听阿迪克斯和艾克重新讲述战争时的故事。“跟你说,阿迪克斯,”艾克常常说,“我们败就败在密苏里妥协案,但是,如果我要再一次经历这样的事,我会象以前一样,一步一步走到那儿,再一步一步地退回来。再说,这次该轮到我们打败他们了……到1864年,被人叫作‘石墙’的杰克生将军回来时——请原谅,年轻人,他这个绰号‘蓝光老人’的人当时已在天堂,愿上帝让这位伟人安息吧……”
“过来,斯各特。”阿迪克斯说。我爬到他的膝上,把头伸到他的下巴下面。他用手搂着我轻轻地摇着。“这次不同了,”他说,“这次我们不是和北方佬打仗,而是和朋友较量。但是记住这一点,不管事情变得对我们多么不利,他们仍然是我们的朋友,这里仍是我们的家。”
脑子里记着这一点,我第二天在学校院子里遇见了塞西尔?雅各布:“你准备把那句话收回去吗,小子?”
“我不收回去,你敢把我怎么样?”他叫着说,“我们家的人说你爸爸给我们丢脸,那个黑鬼应该被吊死在储水罐上!”
我的拳头对准他别要打出去,突然记起了阿迪克斯的话,我放下拳头走开了。身后传来了“斯各特是个胆小鬼”的喊声。这是我第一次不战而退。
不管怎么说,如果我打了塞西尔-雅各布,我就辜负了阿迪克斯的教诲。阿迪克斯很少要求我和杰姆为他做事。为了他,我可以忍受别人喊我胆小鬼。因为记住了阿迪克斯的话,我觉得挺自豪的。我只自豪了三个星期。圣诞节到了,灾难降临了。
我和杰姆都带着一种复杂的心情看待圣诞节。好的一面是圣诞树和杰克-芬奇叔叔。每年圣诞节的前一天,我们都去梅科姆站接杰克叔叔,然后他跟我们一道度过一个星期。
向上抛硬币,接落下时的正反面作出抉择的方法,反映了亚历山德拉姑妈和弗朗西斯的不妥睇的特点。
我想应该把亚历山德拉姑妈的丈夫,吉米姑父也算在内,但我长这么大,他从没跟我说过话,只有一次他说了句:“下来,不要爬栅栏。”我从不觉得有必要注意他,亚历山德拉姑妈也是这样想的。很久以前,由于友谊的进发,姑妈和吉米姑父生了个男孩,取名亨利。亨利刚够年龄就离开家里,结了婚,生了弗朗西斯。亨利和他妻子每年圣诞节把弗朗西斯放在爷爷奶奶家里,而他们自己则去寻欢作乐。
无论怎样叹气,阿迪克斯也不会让我们在家里过圣诞节的。在我的记忆中,每年圣诞节我们都去芬奇庄园。姑妈是个好厨师,这倒是弥补了被迫和弗朗西斯一道过节的烦恼。他比我大一岁,我的原则是回避他,因为我不赞成的他都欣赏,而我最喜欢的娱乐活动他都讨厌。
亚历山德拉姑妈是阿迪克斯的妹妹,但是杰姆跟我说过小孩出生时有被人调换的现象。我肯定她生下来时被人掉了包,我爷爷奶奶得到的是克劳福德家的后裔而不是芬奇家的。律师和法官对于山脉似乎老是有些神秘的概念,要是当年我也有他们那些概念的话,我会把亚历山德拉姑妈比作埃非尔士峰了t在我幼小的记忆中,她一直冷冰冰地矗立在那儿,拿她没办法。
圣诞节的前一天,当杰克叔叔从火车上下来时,我们等了他一会儿,直到搬运工人递给他两个长长的包裹。每次杰克叔叔象鸟儿似的在阿迪克斯的脸上啄几下时,杰姆和我朦觉得好笑。他们是我们看到的相互亲吻的唯一的两个男子汉。杰克叔叔和杰姆握握手,把我抱起来在空中高高地转几圈,但不太高:杰克叔叔比阿迪克斯矮一个头。他排行最小,比亚历山德拉姑妈小。他和姑妈长得很相象。但杰克叔叔的脸型好一点,他的尖鼻子、尖下巴一点也不叫我们害怕。
他是那些少数从不让我害怕的科学工作者之一,很可能是因为他的举止从不象个医生。每次他给杰姆或我诊治小毛病,例如拔出脚上的刺时,他都告诉我们他准备干什么,为我们估计会痛到什么程度,并且解释他使用的镊子的用途。有一次过圣诞节时,我躲在一个角落里,脚上扎进一根弯弯的长刺。我不让任何人靠近我。杰克叔叔抓住了我,他给我讲了个牧师的故事,这人最恨去教堂做礼拜,所以每天穿着晨衣,抽着水烟筒,站在大门口,对每一个寻求精神安慰的人他都要作五分钟的说教。听他讲故事时,我一直笑个不停。当我打断他的故事,要他告诉我什么时候把刺拔出来时,他用镊子夹着根血糊糊的刺,说当我捧腹大笑时,他已用力拔出来了,这就是人们所说的相对论。
“包裹里是什么?”我指着搬运工人递给他的包裹问。
“这不关你的事。”他说。
杰姆问:“罗斯?艾莫尔怎么样?”
罗斯?艾莫尔是杰克叔叔喂的猫。那是只漂亮的黄色的雌猫。杰克叔叔说和女人在一起,时间久了他就厌烦,但和这只猫却一直相处得很好。他把手伸进上衣的口袋里,掏出几张快照,我们挺喜欢。
“它越来越肥了。”我说。
“我想是这样。医院里扔掉的手指、耳朵,它都吃。”
“该死曲,说得这么恶心。”我说。
“你说什么?”
阿迪克斯说:“杰克,别理她,她在逗你生气。卡尔说这一个星期她老是骂骂咧咧的。”
杰克叔叔有些惊讶,但什么也没说。除开这些词本身的诱惑力外,我是在试验?种模糊不清的理论,即如果阿迪克斯发现这些字眼是我从学校学来的,就不会让我上学了。
但吃晚饭时,当我请他传给我那该死的火腿时,杰克叔叔指着我说:“饭后过来见我,年轻的小姐。”
晚饭吃完后,杰克叔叔来到客厅坐下。他拍拍大腿让我坐到他的膝头上去。我喜欢闻他身上的味儿:他象一瓶酒似的,身上还有一种令人愉快的香味儿。他用手把我的刘海向后边拂了拂,然后看着我:。你不太象你妈妈,倒很象阿迪克斯。你长大了,裤子也小了点。”
“我觉得裤子正合适。”
“你现在喜欢说‘该死,见鬼去吧’是吗?”
我说是的。
“我可不喜欢,”杰克叔叔说,“除非气愤到了极点时才顺便带一句。我会在这里住一‘个星期,这期问,我不希望再听到那样的字眼。斯各特,如果你到哪儿都用那些字眼,你会惹祸的。你想成为一个有教养的女子,是吗?”
我说不特别想。
“你当然想。走,我们去装饰圣诞树吧。”
我们在那儿一直干到上床的时间。那天晚上,我梦见了给我和杰姆的那两个长包裹。第二天早上,杰姆和我起来就跑去找包裹:是阿迪克斯送的礼物,他写信要杰克叔叔给我们买的,正是我们要的礼物。
“不要在屋里把枪瞄来瞄去。”当杰姆对着墙上的一张画瞄准时,阿迪克斯说。
“你得教他们怎么射击。”杰克叔叔说。
“那是你的事,”阿迪克斯说,“我给他们买这样的礼物实在出于无奈。”
阿迪克斯不得不用在法庭上说话时的大嗓门才把我们从圣诞树旁叫开。
他不同意我们把气枪带到庄园上去(我已开始想要用枪打死弗朗西斯),并且说只要我们出一点差错就把枪收回去,永远不给我们了。
芬奇庄园坐落在河边的陡岸上,从上到下,有三百六十六级阶梯,一直延伸到水中的小码头。顺着河流往下走,地势逐渐平坦,在那儿可以看见从前装卸棉花的地方。在那儿芬奇家的黑奴曾经把大包大包的棉花和其他农产品装上船只,从船上卸下冰块、面粉、糖、农具以及各种女式服装。一条被压出两道车辙印的马车路从河边向外蜿蜒伸展,消失在黑魑魃的树林中。
路的尽头有一幢两层楼的房子,楼上楼下都有走廊围着。很早以前,我们的祖先西蒙?芬奇修建这栋房子是为了满足他那位爱唠叨的妻子的要求。但是,由于有个这样的走廊,这房子与当时的普通房屋的式样大不一样。室内的设计可以说明西蒙的坦率正直和对后代的绝对信任。
楼上有六间卧室,四间是八个女孩子住的,一间是独子威尔卡姆?芬奇住的,还有一间留给作客的亲戚朋友用。卧室都很简朴,但是只有一个楼悌通向女孩子住的卧室,去威尔卡姆的卧室和客人的卧室只能走另一个楼梯。女孩子房间的楼梯是从楼下父母的卧室通上去的,所以,西蒙随时知道女孩子们夜间进出的时间。
厨房和其他房间是隔开的,中间由一条木板钉的狭窄的过道连接,后院的柱子上有一个生了锈的大钟,从前用来召集地里干活的人,有时也用来搬急’屋顶上有个寡妇台回,但没有寡妇去过那儿——从这里,西蒙可以俯瞰他的监工,眺望河里来往的船只,观察附近其他土地所有者的活动。
这所房子还有一段关于那些精明的新英格兰人的传说:芬奇家的一位姑娘刚刚订了婚,为了不让邻近强盗把嫁妆抢去,她把所有的嫁妆都穿在身上,结果在上女孩子住的房间的楼梯时卡在门口,动弹不得,往她身上浇了好一阵水,最后才把她推了过去。我们到了庄园后,亚历山德拉姑妈吻了杰克叔叔,弗朗西斯吻了杰克叔叔,吉米姑父默默无言地和杰克叔叔握了握手,我和杰姆把我们的礼物送给弗朗西斯,他回赠了我们一件礼物。杰姆觉得他自己年纪大一些,被大人们吸引过去了。留下我一个人和弗朗西斯在一起。他八岁了,头发向后梳得光溜溜的。
“你得到的圣诞节礼物是什么?”我彬彬有礼地问。
“正是我要的东西。”他说。弗朗西斯要了一条齐膝盖长的裤子,一个红色的皮革书包,五件衬衣,还有一副没有打结的蝶形领带。
“真带劲儿。”我言不由衷地说,“我和杰姆一人得了把气枪,杰姆还得了一套化学器皿……”“我知道,是玩具器皿。”
“不是玩具,是真的。他准备给我制造一种显影墨水,我还要用这种墨水给迪尔写信呢。”弗朗西斯问那有什么用。
“告诉你吧,他收到我的一封上面什么都没有的信时,你能猜想他的面部表情会怎么样吗?他会奠名其妙的。”
与弗朗西斯谈话给我一种慢慢地沉入海底的感觉。他是我见过的最叫人讨灰的小孩。凶为他住在奠比尔,没法去学校告我的状,可他想方设法把他知道的都告诉了亚历山德拉姑妈,而姑妈又全说给阿迪克斯听。阿迪克斯有时听后就忘记了,有时要抓我猛训一顿,这要看他的兴致怎样。但是我所昕到的他说话最严厉的一次是:“妹妹,我对他们尽了最大的努力!”这与我穿着背带裤到处走有关。
亚历山德拉姑妈对我的衣着总唠叨不停。说什么如果我总穿条长裤,就绝对不可能成为一个有教荠的女子。我说穿了连衣裙就什么不能干了。她却说没人要求我做那些只有穿长裤才能干的活。在她的眼里,我应该玩小火炉、茶具,应该佩带我出生时她送给我的可往上加珠子的项圈。另外,我应该是爸爸寂寞生活中的一束阳光。我说穿长裤一样可以是一束阳光,但她说一个人的举止要象一个活泼快乐的孩子一样。还说我生下来的时候很好,现在却一年不如一年了。她的话很伤我的心,气得我直咬牙。可是我问阿迪克斯时,他说家里的阳光够充足的了,叫我继续玩我的去,他对我的举止衣着没有苛求。
吃圣诞晚宴时,我坐在餐室里的一张小桌旁。杰姆和弗朗西斯帮大人一起在大饭桌上吃饭。他俩早就升上犬桌,姑妈还在继续孤立我。我时常猜想她以为我会干什么,会站起来把什么东西扔掉吗?有时候我想问问她,能不能让我和其他人一样在大桌上吃一回饭,我将向她证明找是很懂规矩的。不管怎么说,我在家天天吃饭,也没闻过什么大祸。我请求阿迪克斯施加影响,他说他不能——我们是客人,她让我们坐哪儿就坐哪儿。他还说亚历山德拉姑妈不太了解女孩子,她自己从来没有女孩。
她的烹调手艺弥补了一切:兰种肉食,食品室内菜架上的夏季疏菜,腌制的桃子,两种蛋糕,还有一些美味佳肴,所有这些构成了圣诞节这顿朴素的宴会。饭后,大人们来到客厅,晕晕呼呼地围着坐下。杰姆躺到地板上,我来到后院。“穿上你的上衣。”阿迪克斯迷迷糊糊地说,所以我没听清他的话。
在屋后的台阶上,弗朗西斯和我并排坐着。“这是我吃过的最好的饭菜。”我说。
“我奶奶是个了不起的厨师,”弗朗西斯说,“她准备教我。’
“男孩子不做饭莱。”想到杰姆系着条围裙的样子,我格格地笑起来。
“奶奶说,所有的男子都应该学会做饭莱,说男的应该体谅妻子,妻子不舒服的时候要眼侍她。”弗朗西斯说。
“我不愿让迪尔服侍我,”我说,“我倒宁愿服侍他。”
“迪尔?”
。是的,暂时先别谈论这个,但是我们准备一到年龄就结婚。今年夏天他向我求婚来着。”
弗朗西斯带着看不起的神气哼了一声。
“他怎么的?”我问,“他没什么不好。”
“你是说奶奶提到过的每年在雷切尔小姐家过夏天的那个小矮个吗?”
“正是他。”
“他的事我都知道。”弗朗西斯说。
“什么事?”
“奶奶说他没有家……”
“当然有家,他住在梅里遭安。”
“……他总是轮流在他的亲戚家住,每年夏天轮到雷切尔小姐家。”
“弗朗西斯,不是那么回事!”
他笑着对我说:“有时候你太笨了,琼-路易斯。我看你还不知道。”.
“什么意思?”
“如果阿迪克斯让你和野狗一起四处乱跑,那是他的事,正象奶奶说的,那不是你的错。我想如果阿迪克斯为黑鬼帮腔那也不是你的错,但是我告诉你,他这样搞会给家里其他人丢脸……”
“弗朗西斯,见鬼去吧,你这话到底是什么意思?”
“就是我刚才说的。奶奶说,他让你们这样没人管教,太不象话了,现在他竟然为黑鬼帮起腔来,我们再段脸在梅科姆街上走了。他把这一家人的名誉都搞坏了,这是他正在干的事。”
弗朗西斯站起来,从那狭窄的过道上拼命跑向旧厨房。跑到安全距离后,他喊道:“阿迪克斯为黑鬼帮腔!”
“不是的!”我大吼一声,“我不知道你在讲什么,不过在我的气头上,你最好立刻住嘴!”
我跳下台阶,跑副过道上,轻而易举地抓住了他的衣领。我要他把话收回去。
弗朗西斯猛地一下挣脱了,跑进旧厨房。“为黑鬼帮腔I”他叫起来。
追踪猎物时最好要沉着,什么话也不说,他肯定会感到奇怪而走出来的。弗朗西斯在厨房门口出现了。“你还生气吗,琼?路易斯?”他试探性地问。
“没什么可说的,”我说。
弗期西斯走出来,来到过道上。
“你准备收回你的话不?弗一~朗西钎?”我太不沉着了。他又钻进厨房,所以我回到台阶上。我可以耐心地等待。坐了大约五分钟,我听到亚历山德拉姑妈在问;“弗朗西斯在哪儿?”
“他在那边的厨房里。”
“他知道他是不许在那儿玩的。”
弗朗西斯来到门日叫起来:“奶奶,她把我追到这儿的,她不让我出来。”
“这是怎么回事,琼?路易斯?”
我抬头看看亚历山德拉姑妈,“我没把他追到那儿,又不是我不让他出来。”
“是的,是她。”弗朗西斯叫起来,“她不让我出来!”
。你们是闹着玩的吗?”
“琼?路易斯跟我翻脸了,奶奶。”弗朗西斯大声说。
“弗朗西斯,出来,离开那儿!琼-路易斯,要是我再听见你说一句话,就告诉你爸爸。刚才你是不是又说‘见鬼去吧’?”
“没有。”
“我想我听到了。我最好别再听见。”
亚厉山德拉姑妈最能偷听别人的话。她刚一走,弗朗西斯就趾高气扬地走出来。“别想拿我开心。”他说。
他跳下台阶,来到院子,始终和我保持一定距离,脚踢着草丛,不时回过头来朝我笑一笑。杰姆出现在走廊上,看了看我们就走开了。弗朗西斯爬上含羞树,又下来,两手揣在口袋里,在院子里来回溜达。“哈哈I”他叫了一声。我问他以为他自己是谁,杰克叔叔?弗朗西斯说他想有人刚刚警告过我,叫我坐在那儿别惹他。
“我叉没惹你。”我说。
弗朗西斯仔细打量了我,确信我已被制服,然后轻轻地哼着:。为黑鬼帮腔……”
这回我挥起拳头朝他的门牙一顿猛击,我的左手打伤了,换右手再打。但没打凡下,杰克叔叔把我的两个胳膊紧紧地夹在身体两侧,他说:“站着别动!”
亚历山德拉姑妈走过来照颐弗朗西斯,用手绢擦去弗朗西斯的眼泪,拂拂他的头发,摸摸他的脸蛋儿。弗朗西斯一州,阿迪克斯、杰姆、吉米姑夫都来到后面的走廊上。
“谁挑起的?”杰克叔叔问。
弗朗西斯和我互相指着。“奶奶,”他大哭起来,“她骂我是婊子婆,还打了我。”
“是这么回事吗?”杰克叔叔问。
“我想是的。”我回答。
杰克叔叔低头看我时,他的表情和亚历山德拉姑妈的一样。“我强你说过,如果再用那样的字眼。你会闯祸的。我告诉了你没有?”
“说过,叔叔。可是……”
“好吧,你闯祸了。呆在这儿别动。”
我在犹豫是站着还是跑开,因为半天拿不定主意耽误了时间。我转身就跑,但杰克叔叔更快。我突然看到草地上一只小小的蚂蚁正在拼命地抱着块面包屑。
“只要我活着,永远不跟你说话了!我恨你,看不起你,希望你明天就死!”这句话好象比别的东西都更使杰克叔叔受到鼓舞。我跑向阿迪克斯,想从他那儿得到安慰,但他说我是自作自受,我们该回家了。我爬进汽车,坐到后排座位上,没对任何人说再见。一到家,我便冲进自己的房间,砰地一声关上门。杰姆想说几旬好话,可我不让他说。
我看看我受的伤,只有七八条红印子。我正在想着相对论时,有人敲门了。我问是谁。杰克叔叔回答了我。
“走开!”
杰克叔叔说如果我这样说话,他还要揍我,所以我不做声了。他进来后,我退到一个墙角上,转过身背对着他。“斯各特,你还恨我吗?”
“请说下去,叔叔。”
“我以为你不会怪我,”他说,“你使我很失望——你自作自受,你自己知道。”’
“我也以为你不会怪我。”
“乖孩子,你不该到哪儿都喊人家……”
“你不公平,”我说,“你不公平。”
杰克叔叔感到吃惊,“不公平,怎么不公平?”
“你确实很好,杰克叔叔,我想尽管你这样对待我,我还是喜欢你,但你并不太理解小孩。’
杰克叔叔两手叉着腰,低头看着我。“为什么说我不理解小孩,琼?路易斯小姐?象你这样的行为用不着什么理解,脾气倔强,不守规矩,开口骂人……”
“你不想给我说话的机会吗?我并不是对你顶嘴,只是要告诉你。”
杰克叔叔坐在床上。他的眉毛皱在一块儿,他从眉毛下面看着我。“说吧。”他说。
我深深地吸了一口气。“我说,第一,你从不停下来给我机会申述我的理由——就只知道训我。杰姆和我吵架时,阿迪克斯从来不只听杰姆的一面之词,他也听我说;第二,你告诉我不要再用那样冉句字眼.除非特别特别气愤的时候。弗朗西斯这样向我挑衅,完全有理由让他吃点苦头……”
杰克叔叔搔搔脑袋。“你的理由是什么,斯各特?”
“弗朗西斯骂爸爸,我才不让他呢。”
“弗朗西斯骂你爸爸什么?”
“为黑鬼帮腔。我不太清楚这是什么意思,但他说话的样子……现在我老实对你说,杰克叔叔,如果我再坐在那儿,让他骂爸爸的话,那我就是个混……我向上帝发誓。”
“他是那样骂你爸爸的吗?”
“是的,叔叔,他是那样骂的,还有别的。他说全家人的脸都让阿迪克斯丢尽了,还说他不管教我和杰姆,让我们胡作非为……”
从杰克叔叔的表情可以看出我又要倒霉了。然而,他说,“我会把事情弄清楚的,”这时我知道要倒霉的是弗朗西斯。“我决定今晚去那儿一趟。”他说。
“叔叔,请求你,让这件事过去算了。”
“我不想让这件事就这样过去,”他说,“亚历山德拉应该知道这件事。哎呀,真是岂有此……等着,等我找了弗朗西斯再说……”
“杰克权叔,请向我保证一件事,请求你保证不把这件事告诉阿迪克斯。他……他有一次告诉我,不管听到别人怎样议论他,我都不要发火,我宁愿他以为我们为别的事打架。请求你保证……”
“但是找不能让弗朗西斯说出这样的话而不受到处罚。”
“他已经受到了处罚。你可以帮我把手包扎一下吗?还在流血呢。”
“当然可以,孩子。为你包扎好手是我最乐意干的事。到这儿来好吗?”
杰克叔叔殷勤地带我去盥洗室。他一边清洗、包扎伤口,一边给我讲故事:一个近视眼老头很滑稽,他喂了只猫,取名叫。乡下佬”。他进城时把人行道上∞裂缝全数了一遍。“这下好了,”他说,“你这个戴结婚戒指的手指上将留下一道与贵妇身分完全不相称的伤疤。”
“谢谢你。杰克叔叔?”
“嗯,姑娘?”
“什么是婊子婆?”
杰克叔叔又开始了一个很长的故事。说的是一位首相,坐在众议院内往空中吹羽毛,还想让羽毛停在空中永远不落下来,而他周围的人都慌得不知所措。我猜想他在绕弯回答我的问题,但故事跟问题毫不相干。
后来,当我该上床睡觉时,我到过厅去喝水,听到阿迪克斯和杰克叔叔在客厅里谈话:
“阿迪克斯,我永远不结婚。”
“为什么?”
“我怕有孩子。”
阿迪克斯说:“你还有很多东西要学啊,杰克。”
“我知道。你女儿今天下午给我上了第一课。她说我不太理解小孩,并且讲了为什么。她说得很对。阿迪克斯,她告诉我本来应该怎样对待她……唉!我对她发火,太对不起她了。”
阿迪克斯抿着嘴轻声笑起来。“她自找的,你用不着那么懊悔。”
我提心吊胆



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