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Chapter 11

      When we were small, Jem and I confined our activities to the southern neighborhood,but when I was well into the second grade at school and tormenting Boo Radley becamepasse, the business section of Maycomb drew us frequently up the street past the realproperty of Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose. It was impossible to go to town withoutpassing her house unless we wished to walk a mile out of the way. Previous minorencounters with her left me with no desire for more, but Jem said I had to grow up sometime.

  Mrs. Dubose lived alone except for a Negro girl in constant attendance, two doors upthe street from us in a house with steep front steps and a dog-trot hall. She was veryold; she spent most of each day in bed and the rest of it in a wheelchair. It was rumoredthat she kept a CSA pistol concealed among her numerous shawls and wraps.

  Jem and I hated her. If she was on the porch when we passed, we would be raked byher wrathful gaze, subjected to ruthless interrogation regarding our behavior, and givena melancholy prediction on what we would amount to when we grew up, which wasalways nothing. We had long ago given up the idea of walking past her house on theopposite side of the street; that only made her raise her voice and let the wholeneighborhood in on it.

  We could do nothing to please her. If I said as sunnily as I could, “Hey, Mrs. Dubose,”

  I would receive for an answer, “Don’t you say hey to me, you ugly girl! You say goodafternoon, Mrs. Dubose!”

  She was vicious. Once she heard Jem refer to our father as “Atticus” and her reactionwas apoplectic. Besides being the sassiest, most disrespectful mutts who ever passedher way, we were told that it was quite a pity our father had not remarried after ourmother’s death. A lovelier lady than our mother never lived, she said, and it washeartbreaking the way Atticus Finch let her children run wild. I did not remember ourmother, but Jem did—he would tell me about her sometimes—and he went livid whenMrs. Dubose shot us this message.

  Jem, having survived Boo Radley, a mad dog and other terrors, had concluded that itwas cowardly to stop at Miss Rachel’s front steps and wait, and had decreed that wemust run as far as the post office corner each evening to meet Atticus coming fromwork. Countless evenings Atticus would find Jem furious at something Mrs. Dubose hadsaid when we went by.

  “Easy does it, son,” Atticus would say. “She’s an old lady and she’s ill. You just holdyour head high and be a gentleman. Whatever she says to you, it’s your job not to lether make you mad.” Jem would say she must not be very sick, she hollered so. Whenthe three of us came to her house, Atticus would sweep off his hat, wave gallantly to herand say, “Good evening, Mrs. Dubose! You look like a picture this evening.”

  I never heard Atticus say like a picture of what. He would tell her the courthouse news,and would say he hoped with all his heart she’d have a good day tomorrow. He wouldreturn his hat to his head, swing me to his shoulders in her very presence, and we wouldgo home in the twilight. It was times like these when I thought my father, who hatedguns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.

  The day after Jem’s twelfth birthday his money was burning up his pockets, so weheaded for town in the early afternoon. Jem thought he had enough to buy a miniaturesteam engine for himself and a twirling baton for me.

  I had long had my eye on that baton: it was at V. J. Elmore’s, it was bedecked withsequins and tinsel, it cost seventeen cents. It was then my burning ambition to grow upand twirl with the Maycomb County High School band. Having developed my talent towhere I could throw up a stick and almost catch it coming down, I had caused Calpurniato deny me entrance to the house every time she saw me with a stick in my hand. I feltthat I could overcome this defect with a real baton, and I thought it generous of Jem tobuy one for me.

  Mrs. Dubose was stationed on her porch when we went by.

  “Where are you two going at this time of day?” she shouted. “Playing hooky, Isuppose. I’ll just call up the principal and tell him!” She put her hands on the wheels ofher chair and executed a perfect right face.

  “Aw, it’s Saturday, Mrs. Dubose,” said Jem.

  “Makes no difference if it’s Saturday,” she said obscurely. “I wonder if your fatherknows where you are?”

  “Mrs. Dubose, we’ve been goin‘ to town by ourselves since we were this high.” Jemplaced his hand palm down about two feet above the sidewalk.

  “Don’t you lie to me!” she yelled. “Jeremy Finch, Maudie Atkinson told me you brokedown her scuppernong arbor this morning. She’s going to tell your father and then you’llwish you never saw the light of day! If you aren’t sent to the reform school before nextweek, my name’s not Dubose!”

  Jem, who hadn’t been near Miss Maudie’s scuppernong arbor since last summer, andwho knew Miss Maudie wouldn’t tell Atticus if he had, issued a general denial.

  “Don’t you contradict me!” Mrs. Dubose bawled. “And you—” she pointed an arthriticfinger at me—“what are you doing in those overalls? You should be in a dress andcamisole, young lady! You’ll grow up waiting on tables if somebody doesn’t change yourways—a Finch waiting on tables at the O.K. Café—hah!”

  I was terrified. The O.K. Café was a dim organization on the north side of the square. Igrabbed Jem’s hand but he shook me loose.

  “Come on, Scout,” he whispered. “Don’t pay any attention to her, just hold your headhigh and be a gentleman.”

  But Mrs. Dubose held us: “Not only a Finch waiting on tables but one in thecourthouse lawing for niggers!”

  Jem stiffened. Mrs. Dubose’s shot had gone home and she knew it:

  “Yes indeed, what has this world come to when a Finch goes against his raising? I’lltell you!” She put her hand to her mouth. When she drew it away, it trailed a long silverthread of saliva. “Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!”

  Jem was scarlet. I pulled at his sleeve, and we were followed up the sidewalk by aphilippic on our family’s moral degeneration, the major premise of which was that halfthe Finches were in the asylum anyway, but if our mother were living we would not havecome to such a state.

  I wasn’t sure what Jem resented most, but I took umbrage at Mrs. Dubose’sassessment of the family’s mental hygiene. I had become almost accustomed to hearinginsults aimed at Atticus. But this was the first one coming from an adult. Except for herremarks about Atticus, Mrs. Dubose’s attack was only routine. There was a hint ofsummer in the air—in the shadows it was cool, but the sun was warm, which meantgood times coming: no school and Dill.

  Jem bought his steam engine and we went by Elmore’s for my baton. Jem took nopleasure in his acquisition; he jammed it in his pocket and walked silently beside metoward home. On the way home I nearly hit Mr. Link Deas, who said, “Look out now,Scout!” when I missed a toss, and when we approached Mrs. Dubose’s house my batonwas grimy from having picked it up out of the dirt so many times.

  She was not on the porch.

  In later years, I sometimes wondered exactly what made Jem do it, what made himbreak the bonds of “You just be a gentleman, son,” and the phase of self-consciousrectitude he had recently entered. Jem had probably stood as much guff about Atticuslawing for niggers as had I, and I took it for granted that he kept his temper—he had anaturally tranquil disposition and a slow fuse. At the time, however, I thought the onlyexplanation for what he did was that for a few minutes he simply went mad.

  What Jem did was something I’d do as a matter of course had I not been underAtticus’s interdict, which I assumed included not fighting horrible old ladies. We had justcome to her gate when Jem snatched my baton and ran flailing wildly up the steps intoMrs. Dubose’s front yard, forgetting everything Atticus had said, forgetting that shepacked a pistol under her shawls, forgetting that if Mrs. Dubose missed, her girl Jessieprobably wouldn’t.

  He did not begin to calm down until he had cut the tops off every camellia bush Mrs.

  Dubose owned, until the ground was littered with green buds and leaves. He bent mybaton against his knee, snapped it in two and threw it down.

  By that time I was shrieking. Jem yanked my hair, said he didn’t care, he’d do it againif he got a chance, and if I didn’t shut up he’d pull every hair out of my head. I didn’t shutup and he kicked me. I lost my balance and fell on my face. Jem picked me up roughlybut looked like he was sorry. There was nothing to say.

  We did not choose to meet Atticus coming home that evening. We skulked around thekitchen until Calpurnia threw us out. By some voo-doo system Calpurnia seemed toknow all about it. She was a less than satisfactory source of palliation, but she did giveJem a hot biscuit-and-butter which he tore in half and shared with me. It tasted likecotton.

  We went to the livingroom. I picked up a football magazine, found a picture of DixieHowell, showed it to Jem and said, “This looks like you.” That was the nicest thing Icould think to say to him, but it was no help. He sat by the windows, hunched down in arocking chair, scowling, waiting. Daylight faded.

  Two geological ages later, we heard the soles of Atticus’s shoes scrape the frontsteps. The screen door slammed, there was a pause—Atticus was at the hat rack in thehall—and we heard him call, “Jem!” His voice was like the winter wind.

  Atticus switched on the ceiling light in the livingroom and found us there, frozen still.

  He carried my baton in one hand; its filthy yellow tassel trailed on the rug. He held outhis other hand; it contained fat camellia buds.

  “Jem,” he said, “are you responsible for this?”

  “Yes sir.”

  “Why’d you do it?”

  Jem said softly, “She said you lawed for niggers and trash.”

  “You did this because she said that?”

  Jem’s lips moved, but his, “Yes sir,” was inaudible.

  “Son, I have no doubt that you’ve been annoyed by your contemporaries about melawing for niggers, as you say, but to do something like this to a sick old lady isinexcusable. I strongly advise you to go down and have a talk with Mrs. Dubose,” saidAtticus. “Come straight home afterward.”

  Jem did not move.

  “Go on, I said.”

  I followed Jem out of the livingroom. “Come back here,” Atticus said to me. I cameback.

  Atticus picked up the Mobile Press and sat down in the rocking chair Jem hadvacated. For the life of me, I did not understand how he could sit there in cold blood andread a newspaper when his only son stood an excellent chance of being murdered witha Confederate Army relic. Of course Jem antagonized me sometimes until I could killhim, but when it came down to it he was all I had. Atticus did not seem to realize this, orif he did he didn’t care.

  I hated him for that, but when you are in trouble you become easily tired: soon I washiding in his lap and his arms were around me.

  “You’re mighty big to be rocked,” he said.

  “You don’t care what happens to him,” I said. “You just send him on to get shot atwhen all he was doin‘ was standin’ up for you.”

  Atticus pushed my head under his chin. “It’s not time to worry yet,” he said. “I neverthought Jem’d be the one to lose his head over this—thought I’d have more trouble withyou.”

  I said I didn’t see why we had to keep our heads anyway, that nobody I knew at schoolhad to keep his head about anything.

  “Scout,” said Atticus, “when summer comes you’ll have to keep your head about farworse things… it’s not fair for you and Jem, I know that, but sometimes we have tomake the best of things, and the way we conduct ourselves when the chips are down—well, all I can say is, when you and Jem are grown, maybe you’ll look back on this withsome compassion and some feeling that I didn’t let you down. This case, TomRobinson’s case, is something that goes to the essence of a man’s conscience—Scout,I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man.”

  “Atticus, you must be wrong…”

  “How’s that?”

  “Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong…”

  “They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for theiropinions,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself.

  The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

  When Jem returned, he found me still in Atticus’s lap, “Well, son?” said Atticus. He setme on my feet, and I made a secret reconnaissance of Jem. He seemed to be all in onepiece, but he had a queer look on his face. Perhaps she had given him a dose ofcalomel.

  “I cleaned it up for her and said I was sorry, but I ain’t, and that I’d work on ‘em everSaturday and try to make ’em grow back out.”

  “There was no point in saying you were sorry if you aren’t,” said Atticus. “Jem, she’sold and ill. You can’t hold her responsible for what she says and does. Of course, I’drather she’d have said it to me than to either of you, but we can’t always have our‘druthers.”

  Jem seemed fascinated by a rose in the carpet. “Atticus,” he said, “she wants me toread to her.”

  “Read to her?”

  “Yes sir. She wants me to come every afternoon after school and Saturdays and readto her out loud for two hours. Atticus, do I have to?”

  “Certainly.”

  “But she wants me to do it for a month.”

  “Then you’ll do it for a month.”

  Jem planted his big toe delicately in the center of the rose and pressed it in. Finally hesaid, “Atticus, it’s all right on the sidewalk but inside it’s—it’s all dark and creepy. There’sshadows and things on the ceiling…”

  Atticus smiled grimly. “That should appeal to your imagination. Just pretend you’reinside the Radley house.”

  The following Monday afternoon Jem and I climbed the steep front steps to Mrs.

  Dubose’s house and padded down the open hallway. Jem, armed with Ivanhoe and fullof superior knowledge, knocked at the second door on the left.

  “Mrs. Dubose?” he called.

  Jessie opened the wood door and unlatched the screen door.

  “Is that you, Jem Finch?” she said. “You got your sister with you. I don’t know—”

  “Let ‘em both in, Jessie,” said Mrs. Dubose. Jessie admitted us and went off to thekitchen.

  An oppressive odor met us when we crossed the threshold, an odor I had met manytimes in rain-rotted gray houses where there are coal-oil lamps, water dippers, andunbleached domestic sheets. It always made me afraid, expectant, watchful.

  In the corner of the room was a brass bed, and in the bed was Mrs. Dubose. Iwondered if Jem’s activities had put her there, and for a moment I felt sorry for her. Shewas lying under a pile of quilts and looked almost friendly.

  There was a marble-topped washstand by her bed; on it were a glass with a teaspoonin it, a red ear syringe, a box of absorbent cotton, and a steel alarm clock standing onthree tiny legs.

  “So you brought that dirty little sister of yours, did you?” was her greeting.

  Jem said quietly, “My sister ain’t dirty and I ain’t scared of you,” although I noticed hisknees shaking.

  I was expecting a tirade, but all she said was, “You may commence reading, Jeremy.”

  Jem sat down in a cane-bottom chair and opened Ivanhoe. I pulled up another oneand sat beside him.

  “Come closer,” said Mrs. Dubose. “Come to the side of the bed.”

  We moved our chairs forward. This was the nearest I had ever been to her, and thething I wanted most to do was move my chair back again.

  She was horrible. Her face was the color of a dirty pillowcase, and the corners of hermouth glistened with wet, which inched like a glacier down the deep grooves enclosingher chin. Old-age liver spots dotted her cheeks, and her pale eyes had black pinpointpupils. Her hands were knobby, and the cuticles were grown up over her fingernails. Herbottom plate was not in, and her upper lip protruded; from time to time she would drawher nether lip to her upper plate and carry her chin with it. This made the wet movefaster.

  I didn’t look any more than I had to. Jem reopened Ivanhoe and began reading. I triedto keep up with him, but he read too fast. When Jem came to a word he didn’t know, heskipped it, but Mrs. Dubose would catch him and make him spell it out. Jem read forperhaps twenty minutes, during which time I looked at the soot-stained mantelpiece, outthe window, anywhere to keep from looking at her. As he read along, I noticed that Mrs.

  Dubose’s corrections grew fewer and farther between, that Jem had even left onesentence dangling in mid-air. She was not listening.

  I looked toward the bed.

  Something had happened to her. She lay on her back, with the quilts up to her chin.

  Only her head and shoulders were visible. Her head moved slowly from side to side.

  From time to time she would open her mouth wide, and I could see her tongue undulatefaintly. Cords of saliva would collect on her lips; she would draw them in, then open hermouth again. Her mouth seemed to have a private existence of its own. It workedseparate and apart from the rest of her, out and in, like a clam hole at low tide.

  Occasionally it would say, “Pt,” like some viscous substance coming to a boil.

  I pulled Jem’s sleeve.

  He looked at me, then at the bed. Her head made its regular sweep toward us, andJem said, “Mrs. Dubose, are you all right?” She did not hear him.

  The alarm clock went off and scared us stiff. A minute later, nerves still tingling, Jemand I were on the sidewalk headed for home. We did not run away, Jessie sent us:

  before the clock wound down she was in the room pushing Jem and me out of it.

  “Shoo,” she said, “you all go home.”

  Jem hesitated at the door.

  “It’s time for her medicine,” Jessie said. As the door swung shut behind us I sawJessie walking quickly toward Mrs. Dubose’s bed.

  It was only three forty-five when we got home, so Jem and I drop-kicked in the backyard until it was time to meet Atticus. Atticus had two yellow pencils for me and afootball magazine for Jem, which I suppose was a silent reward for our first day’ssession with Mrs. Dubose. Jem told him what happened.

  “Did she frighten you?” asked Atticus.

  “No sir,” said Jem, “but she’s so nasty. She has fits or somethin‘. She spits a lot.”

  “She can’t help that. When people are sick they don’t look nice sometimes.”

  “She scared me,” I said.

  Atticus looked at me over his glasses. “You don’t have to go with Jem, you know.”

  The next afternoon at Mrs. Dubose’s was the same as the first, and so was the next,until gradually a pattern emerged: everything would begin normally—that is, Mrs.

  Dubose would hound Jem for a while on her favorite subjects, her camellias and ourfather’s nigger-loving propensities; she would grow increasingly silent, then go awayfrom us. The alarm clock would ring, Jessie would shoo us out, and the rest of the daywas ours.

  “Atticus,” I said one evening, “what exactly is a nigger-lover?”

  Atticus’s face was grave. “Has somebody been calling you that?”

  “No sir, Mrs. Dubose calls you that. She warms up every afternoon calling you that.

  Francis called me that last Christmas, that’s where I first heard it.”

  “Is that the reason you jumped on him?” asked Atticus.

  “Yes sir…”

  “Then why are you asking me what it means?”

  I tried to explain to Atticus that it wasn’t so much what Francis said that had infuriatedme as the way he had said it. “It was like he’d said snot-nose or somethin‘.”

  “Scout,” said Atticus, “nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t meananything—like snot-nose. It’s hard to explain—ignorant, trashy people use it when theythink somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It’s slipped into usagewith some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to labelsomebody.”

  “You aren’t really a nigger-lover, then, are you?”

  “I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody… I’m hard put, sometimes—baby, it’snever an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you howpoor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you. So don’t let Mrs. Dubose get you down. She hasenough troubles of her own.”

  One afternoon a month later Jem was ploughing his way through Sir Walter Scout, asJem called him, and Mrs. Dubose was correcting him at every turn, when there was aknock on the door. “Come in!” she screamed.

  Atticus came in. He went to the bed and took Mrs. Dubose’s hand. “I was coming fromthe office and didn’t see the children,” he said. “I thought they might still be here.”

  Mrs. Dubose smiled at him. For the life of me I could not figure out how she couldbring herself to speak to him when she seemed to hate him so. “Do you know what timeit is, Atticus?” she said. “Exactly fourteen minutes past five. The alarm clock’s set forfive-thirty. I want you to know that.”

  It suddenly came to me that each day we had been staying a little longer at Mrs.

  Dubose’s, that the alarm clock went off a few minutes later every day, and that she waswell into one of her fits by the time it sounded. Today she had antagonized Jem fornearly two hours with no intention of having a fit, and I felt hopelessly trapped. Thealarm clock was the signal for our release; if one day it did not ring, what would we do?

  “I have a feeling that Jem’s reading days are numbered,” said Atticus.

  “Only a week longer, I think,” she said, “just to make sure…”

  Jem rose. “But—”

  Atticus put out his hand and Jem was silent. On the way home, Jem said he had to doit just for a month and the month was up and it wasn’t fair.

  “Just one more week, son,” said Atticus.

  “No,” said Jem. “Yes,” said Atticus.

  The following week found us back at Mrs. Dubose’s. The alarm clock had ceasedsounding, but Mrs. Dubose would release us with, “That’ll do,” so late in the afternoonAtticus would be home reading the paper when we returned. Although her fits hadpassed off, she was in every other way her old self: when Sir Walter Scott becameinvolved in lengthy descriptions of moats and castles, Mrs. Dubose would become boredand pick on us:

  “Jeremy Finch, I told you you’d live to regret tearing up my camellias. You regret itnow, don’t you?”

  Jem would say he certainly did.

  “Thought you could kill my Snow-on-the-Mountain, did you? Well, Jessie says thetop’s growing back out. Next time you’ll know how to do it right, won’t you? You’ll pull itup by the roots, won’t you?”

  Jem would say he certainly would.

  “Don’t you mutter at me, boy! You hold up your head and say yes ma’am. Don’t guessyou feel like holding it up, though, with your father what he is.”

  Jem’s chin would come up, and he would gaze at Mrs. Dubose with a face devoid ofresentment. Through the weeks he had cultivated an expression of polite and detachedinterest, which he would present to her in answer to her most blood-curdling inventions.

  At last the day came. When Mrs. Dubose said, “That’ll do,” one afternoon, she added,“And that’s all. Good-day to you.”

  It was over. We bounded down the sidewalk on a spree of sheer relief, leaping andhowling.

  That spring was a good one: the days grew longer and gave us more playing time.

  Jem’s mind was occupied mostly with the vital statistics of every college football playerin the nation. Every night Atticus would read us the sports pages of the newspapers.

  Alabama might go to the Rose Bowl again this year, judging from its prospects, not oneof whose names we could pronounce. Atticus was in the middle of Windy Seaton’scolumn one evening when the telephone rang.

  He answered it, then went to the hat rack in the hall. “I’m going down to Mrs. Dubose’sfor a while,” he said. “I won’t be long.”

  But Atticus stayed away until long past my bedtime. When he returned he wascarrying a candy box. Atticus sat down in the livingroom and put the box on the floorbeside his chair.

  “What’d she want?” asked Jem.

  We had not seen Mrs. Dubose for over a month. She was never on the porch anymore when we passed.

  “She’s dead, son,” said Atticus. “She died a few minutes ago.”

  “Oh,” said Jem. “Well.”

  “Well is right,” said Atticus. “She’s not suffering any more. She was sick for a longtime. Son, didn’t you know what her fits were?”

  Jem shook his head.

  “Mrs. Dubose was a morphine addict,” said Atticus. “She took it as a pain-killer foryears. The doctor put her on it. She’d have spent the rest of her life on it and diedwithout so much agony, but she was too contrary—”

  “Sir?” said Jem.

  Atticus said, “Just before your escapade she called me to make her will. Dr. Reynoldstold her she had only a few months left. Her business affairs were in perfect order butshe said, ‘There’s still one thing out of order.’”

  “What was that?” Jem was perplexed.

  “She said she was going to leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody. Jem,when you’re sick as she was, it’s all right to take anything to make it easier, but it wasn’tall right for her. She said she meant to break herself of it before she died, and that’swhat she did.”

  Jem said, “You mean that’s what her fits were?”

  “Yes, that’s what they were. Most of the time you were reading to her I doubt if sheheard a word you said. Her whole mind and body were concentrated on that alarmclock. If you hadn’t fallen into her hands, I’d have made you go read to her anyway. Itmay have been some distraction. There was another reason—”

  “Did she die free?” asked Jem.

  “As the mountain air,” said Atticus. “She was conscious to the last, almost.

  Conscious,” he smiled, “and cantankerous. She still disapproved heartily of my doings,and said I’d probably spend the rest of my life bailing you out of jail. She had Jessie fixyou this box—”

  Atticus reached down and picked up the candy box. He handed it to Jem.

  Jem opened the box. Inside, surrounded by wads of damp cotton, was a white, waxy,perfect camellia. It was a Snow-on-the-Mountain.

  Jem’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “Old hell-devil, old hell-devil!” he screamed,flinging it down. “Why can’t she leave me alone?”

  In a flash Atticus was up and standing over him. Jem buried his face in Atticus’s shirtfront. “Sh-h,” he said. “I think that was her way of telling you—everything’s all right now,Jem, everything’s all right. You know, she was a great lady.”

  “A lady?” Jem raised his head. His face was scarlet. “After all those things she saidabout you, a lady?”

  “She was. She had her own views about things, a lot different from mine, maybe…son, I told you that if you hadn’t lost your head I’d have made you go read to her. Iwanted you to see something about her—I wanted you to see what real courage is,instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when youknow you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through nomatter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eightpounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. Shewas the bravest person I ever knew.”

  Jem picked up the candy box and threw it in the fire. He picked up the camellia, andwhen I went off to bed I saw him fingering the wide petals. Atticus was reading thepaper.

小时候,我和杰姆的活动范围只限于这个镇的南边一带。但是当我上了二年级,烦扰布-拉德利己成为往事时,我们常常经过亨利?拉斐特?杜博斯太太的房子和土地,来到镇北边的商业区。到镇上去不经过她家是不可能的,除非我们愿意绕道多走一英里路。前几次和她的小冲突使我不想再遇到类似事件,但杰姆说我还得长大一点才能绕道走。
杜博斯太太独居在一栋房子里,和我们家只隔两家。房前有很陡的台阶,里面有很长的过厅。家里只有个黑人姑娘常年照顾她。她已是老态龙钟了。白天,大部分时问躺在床上,其余时间坐在轮椅上。有人说她有一枝南部联邦军用过的手枪,藏在她那数不清的披肩和围巾里。
我和杰姆都恨她。我们经过她家时,她如果在走廊上,就耍怒气冲冲地瞪着我们,凶恶地问我们干过什么坏事没有,还要令人意气消沉地预言我们长大后会干些什么,当然是说我们毫无出息。我们早就决定不从她家对面的街道上走,因为这一来她反而会把嗓门提高,使得左右邻居都听得到。
我们干什么都无法博得她的欢心。要是我兴高采烈地对她说:“嘿,杜博斯太太。”我们会得到这样的回答:“别跟我嘿呀嘿的,丑丫头!你应该说下午好,杜博斯太太!”
她坏透了。一次她听见杰姆叫“阿迪克斯”,她的反应就好象中风发作似的。她说我们是经过她家门口的人中最粗鲁最无礼的小杂种。除此之外,她还对我们说我妈妈死后,爸爸没再给我们找个妈妈真是太遗憾了。她说比我妈妈更可爱的女人从来没有过,阿迪克斯这样不管教孩子,让我们胡作非为,真叫人伤心。我不记得妈妈了,但杰姆记得——有时他跟我讲起妈妈——杜博斯太太跟我们说这话时,杰姆的脸都气得发青。
杰姆曾经从布?拉德利手里死里逃生,又经历了疯狗和其他可怕的事,现在得出结论说,站在雷切尔小姐家门前的台阶那儿等爸爸太胆小了。他宣布,每天傍晚,我们要跑到邮局拐弯处接爸爸下班。很多次,阿迪克斯看见杰姆气冲冲的,因为杜博斯太太在我们路过她家时说了些话。
“不要紧,孩子。”阿迫克斯常常说,“她老了,又有病。你应该抬起头,做个有教养的人。不管她说什么,都不要生她的气。”
杰姆通常说她的病肯定不重,是故意叫得那么厉害。我们三个人路过她那儿时,阿迪克斯总是摘下帽子和悦地朝她一挥,嘴里说:“晚上好,杜博斯太太!今天晚上,您看上去象一幅画一样。”
我从没听阿迪克斯说她象一幅什么画。他常常告诉她一些法院的新闻,并且衷心祝愿她第二天愉快,然后戴上帽子,当着她的面把我扛在肩膀上,在暮色中走回家去。每逢这样的时候,我认为我爸爸是世界上从没有过的最勇敢的人,尽管他憎恨武器,从没有参加过战争。
杰姆十二岁生日的第二天,他的钱在口袋里放不住了,所以下午我们早早地朝镇上走去。杰姆认为他的钱足够为自己买个小型蒸汽机,再给我买根指挥棒。
我早就看中那根指挥棒了;是埃尔默商店的,上面装饰着金属片和金属丝,价格一角七分。当时我的野心是长大以后指挥梅科姆县中学的乐队。我常常向上抛棍子,下来时再抓住,我的这个本领越来越娴熟。这一来,每次卡尔珀尼亚看见我手上有棍子就不让我进屋。我觉得如果有根真指挥棒,这个毛病就会改掉的。我想杰姆肯为我买根指挥棒,真是够大方的了。
我们路过杜博斯太太家时,她正在走廊上。
“这个时候你们俩去哪儿啊?”她喊道,“我看是逃学,我要打电话给校长。”她把手放在椅子下面的轮子上,表情十分严峻。
“今天是星期六,杜博斯太太,”杰姆说。
“星期六也没什么区别,”她含糊不清地说,“我不知道你们的爸爸是否知道你们在哪儿?”
“杜博斯太太,我们从这么高起就自己到镇上去了。”杰姆用手在离地面两英尺高的地方比了一下。
“别跟我撒谎!”她叫起来,“杰里米?芬奇,莫迪?阿特金森告诉我,今天早上,你把她的葡萄架给勇倒了。她要告诉你爸爸,那时候你就会后悔不该活在世上了。如果下个星期以前不把你们送到教养院去,我就不叫杜博斯!”
杰姆去年夏天以后就没到莫迪小姐的葡萄架那儿去过。他说根本没那回事儿。他知道即使他弄倒了葡萄架,莫迪小姐也不会告诉阿迪克斯的。
“别跟我顶嘴!”杜博斯太太叫起来,“还有你……”她用关节变了形的手指朝我一指……“你穿那背带裤干什么?你应该穿连衣裙,里面衬背心,年轻的小姐!如果没人管教你的话,长大了你得去饭馆跑堂——芬奇家的人在O.K.咖啡馆跑堂——哈哈!”
我吓坏了。o.K.咖啡馆是广场北面的一个面目不清的组织。我抓住杰姆的手,但他把我甩开了。
“算了,斯各特,。他轻声说,“别理她,抬起头,做个有教养的人。”
可是杜博斯太太缠住我们不放:“芬奇家不光有人跑堂,还有人在法院为黑鬼辩护。”
杰姆愣住了。杜博斯太太击中了我们的痛处,她自己也知道。
“真的,芬奇家的人和自己人作对时,人家会得出什么样的结论呢?我告诉你!”她把手放到嘴上,抽开时,手上拖了条长长的白色的唾沫。“你们的爸爸和他为之卖力的那些黑鬼以及其他混蛋是一丘之貉!”
杰姆脸色通红。我拉拉他的袖子,一边在人行道上走,一边听到后边传来的恶言恶语,说我们家道德败坏,其大前提是,不管怎么说,芬奇家有一半人有神经病,但如果我们的妈妈还在的话,我们是不会堕落到这种地步的。
我不敢肯定杰姆最恨什么,但我最气愤的是杜博斯太太说我们家韵人思想不干净。昕别人侮辱阿迪克斯对我来说己是习以为常了。但这是第一次出自大人之口。除了咒骂阿迪克斯的话外,杜博斯太太对我们的攻击都是老一套。
空气中有夏天的迹象了——在树荫下挺凉快,太阳下却有些热了,这意味着好玩的时候到了:不上学,还有迪尔。
杰姆买了蒸汽机后,我们去埃尔默商店买我的指挥棒。杰姆买了蒸汽机,却并不高兴。他把它律口袋里一塞,和我默默地朝家里走去。路上我不停地把指挥棒向上抛,有一次没接到,差点打在林克?迪斯身上。“看着点,斯各特。”他说。等我们走近杜博斯太太家时,我的指挥棒因为多次掉到地上,已经很脏了。
她不在走廊上。
我们长大以后,我有时候百恩不得其解,不知究竟是什么原因使杰姆当时那么干,使他破侧违反了“傲个有教养韵人”的嘱咐和他刚学会的要自觉地做到为人正直的观点。杰姆受到的对阿迪克斯为黑鬼辩护的非难和我昕到的大概一样多,也一样忍受了。我认为他头脑冷静是理所当然的——他的性格本来就很稳重,不容易大发雷霆。我想对他的举动的唯一解释是,在那几分钟内,他简直发疯了。
阿迪克斯曾经说过不要和令人讨厌的老太太一般见识,要是没有他的禁令的话,杰姆干的那事我肯定会干。我们刚走到她的大门前,杰姆突然夺过我的指挥棒,猛地冲过台阶,进了杜博斯太太的前院,把阿迪克斯的话都忘了,也忘了杜博斯太太的围巾里有枝枪,忘了假如她打不准,她的女佣人杰西可能会打中。
直到把杜博斯太太的山茶花全部打断,地面上铺满了绿叶和蓓蕾,他才平静下来。他把我的指挥棒朝膝盖上一磕,折成两截,扔到地上。
这时我叫起来了。杰姆抓住我的头发,说他什么也不怕,有机会还要干。还说要是我不住嘴,他要拔光我的头发。我没住嘴,他踢了我一脚,我站不稳,脸朝下摔在地上。杰姆粗鲁地一把抓起我,但看上去似乎挺难过。后来就没说什么了。
那天晚上,我们不想去接阿迪克斯下班,躲在厨房里,直到卡尔珀尼亚把我们撵出来。卡尔珀尼亚好象凭什么巫术,知道我们所做的一切了,所以不可能给我们什么慰藉,但她给了杰姆一块涂了黄油曲热饼子。杰姆把饼掰成两半,绐我一半。我吃起来象嚼棉花一样。
我们来到客厅。我拿起本橄榄球杂志,发现一张迫克西?豪厄尔的照片,我递给杰姆说;“这个看上去象你。”这是我想到的能对他说的最好的恭维话,但没有用。他坐在窗边,缩在描椅里,皱着眉头等待着。天渐渐黑了。
好象过了两个地质年代,我才听到阿迪克斯的鞋底擦着前面台阶的声音。纱门砰地一声关上了,静了一会儿——阿迪克斯到了过厅的帽架前——一会儿,我们听到他喊“杰姆”,声音象冬天的风一样。
阿迪克斯打开客厅上面的灯,看见我们在那儿,象冻僵_,似的。他一只手拿着我的指挥棒,那上面弄脏了的黄色流苏拖在地毯上。他伸出另一只手,手上是些丰满的山茶花蓓蕾。
“杰姆,”他说,“这是你千的吗?”
“是的,爸爸。”
“为什么这样千?”
杰姆轻声地说:“她说您为黑鬼辩护。”
“你这样干就是因为她这么说了吗?”
杰姆的嘴唇动了动,他说,“是的,爸爸,”声音几乎听不到。
“孩子,我不怀疑你为了你的同学们指责我为黑鬼辩护而恼火,你自己也是这么说的,但这样对待一个身体有病的老人是不能原谅的。我非常希望你能去和杜博斯太太说清楚,然后立刻回来。”
杰姆没动。
“我说你快点儿去。”
我跟着杰姆走出客厅。“回来!”阿迪克斯对我说。我退了回来。
阿迪壳斯拿起“莫比尔纪事报》,坐在杰姆刚刚坐过的椅子上。我无论如何不能理解,当他的唯一的儿子面临着被人用南部联邦军用过的手枪打死的危硷时,他怎么能忍心坐在那儿看搬。尽管杰姆有时候使我实在难以容忍,我恨不得杀了他,但他真要死了,我又觉得他是我的一切。阿迪克斯好象没意识到这点,或者说,意识到了,但不在乎。
我很恨爸爸这一点,但是人不顺心就容易疲劳:不一会儿,我就坐在他的膝上,埋在他的怀里,他用手搂着我。
“你太火了,摇不动了。”他说。
“你不在乎他会出什么事,”我说,“他那么干都是为了你,而你却让他出去遭人枪击。”
阿迪克斯把我的脑袋按到他下巴下面。“还不是担心的时候。我从没料到杰姆会在这样的问题上失去理智——原以为会给我找更多麻烦的是你。”
我说我不明白我们为什么要保持冷静,学校里我认识的人中没有谁要为什么事保持冷静。
“斯各特,”阿迪克斯说,“到了夏天会有更糟糕的事,那时,你更要冷静……我知道这在你和杰姆看来是不公平的,但有时候,我们要善处逆境,而且在紧要关头我们的行为应该是——好吧,这方面我不多说了,我能够说的是,等你和杰姆长大后,可能会带着怜悯的心情和某种感情来回顾这件事,你们会觉得我没有辜负你们的心愿。这个案子,这个汤姆?鲁宾逊的案子触及到人的天良——斯各特,如果我不尽力帮助那个人,我就没有脸去教堂做礼拜。”
“阿迪克斯,一定是你错了……”
“怎么我错了?”
“啾,大多数人好象认为他们是对的,你是错的……”
“他们当然有权这样认为,他们的看法有权受到尊重,”阿迪克斯说,“但是,在处理好与他人的关系之前,我首先得处理好与自己的关系。大多数人公认的准则是应当遵守的,但如果这样做违背了一个人的良心,就不应当遵守。只有在这种情况下才可以不遵守。”
杰姆回来时我还在阿迪克斯的膝上。“怎么样,孩子?”阿迪克斯问。他放下我。我暗暗地把杰姆上下打量了一番,看来他虽安然无恙,脸上的表情却挺奇怪。可能是杜博斯太太给他吃了一剂甘汞吧。
“我替她打扫干净了,说了对不起,但心里并不这样认为,我还说每个星期六我会去照看那些山茶花,让它们尽快恢复原样。”
“如果你心里不通,嘴里说对不起是没用的。”阿迪克斯说,“杰姆,她老了,又有病。她说什么,做什么,你都不该计较。当然,我宁愿她对我说那些话,而不是对你们俩蜕,但是我们不可能事事如意。”
杰姆好象被地毯上的一朵玫瑰花迷住了似的。“阿迪克斯,”他说,“她叫我读书给她听。”
“读书给她听?”
“是的,爸爸,她要我每天下午放学后和星期六过去为她大声读两个小时的书。阿迪克斯,我得去吗?”
“当然。”
“可她要我读一个月。”
“那你就读一个月嘛。”
杰姆的大脚趾轻轻踩在玫瑰花的中间,往下压。最后他说:“阿迪克斯,在人行道上没关系,但是屋里面——黑乎乎的,怪吓人的。天花板上有些影子和舄IJ的东西……”
阿迪克斯严厉地一笑。“那可会激发你的想象力。就假设你们是在拉德利家嘛。”
星期一下午,我和杰姆爬上杜博斯太太门前的台阶,穿过她家的过厅。杰姆手里拿本※艾凡赫",脑子里装着深奥的知识。他敲敲左边的第二扇门。
“杜博斯太太?”他喊道。
杰西打开木门然后开开纱门。
“是杰姆?芬奇吗?”她问,“你和妹妹一起来,我不知道……”
“让他俩都进来,杰西。”杜博斯太太说。杰西让我们进来后,就到厨房去了。
我们跨过门槛,一股难闻的气味扑鼻而来。这种气味我在那种被雨水冲洗过多次的旧房子里闻到过,那种房里常有煤油灯,舀水的勺子,没漂白的家织被单。一闻到这种气味我就害怕,就特别警惕,老想着会出事。
墙角上有张钢床,床上是杜博斯太太。我不知道是不是杰姆把她气得卧床不起的。突然问,我有点同情她了。她身上盖了几层被子,看上去似乎还友好。
床边有个大理石面的洗脸架。上面有个玻璃杯,里面有只茶匙,架上还有个红色的洗耳器,一盒脱脂棉花,一个有三条小腿的闹钟。
“看样子你把那个不讲卫生的妹妹带来了,是吗?”这是她的第一句话。
杰姆轻轻地说:“我妹妹讲卫生,我也不怕你了。”可我看见杰姆的膝盖在颤抖。
我想杜博斯太太会唠叨一阵,但她只说了旬:。你可以读了,杰里米。
杰姆坐在一把藤椅上,打开《艾凡赫》。我拖过另一把藤椅,在他边上坐下来。
“坐近点,”杜博斯太太说,“到床边上来。”
我们把椅子移上前去。我从没有跟她挨得这么近过,实在想把椅子往后移。’
她很吓人。脸是脏枕套的颜色,嘴角因为有唾沫而发亮,唾液象冰川似的顺着下巴上深深的皱纹慢慢流动。脸上布满了老年斑,灰白的眼睛里有针尖大的黑色的瞳孔。手上有很多疙瘩,指甲上长了一层薄膜。她没戴下面的假牙,上嘴唇向外突出。隔一会儿,下嘴唇和下巴就要一起向上动一动,这一来,唾沫流动得更快。
我只在不得已时才看她一下。杰姆又一次打开书,开始读起来。我想跟着他看,但他读得太快。杰姆遇到不认识的字就跳过去,但杜博斯太太听得出,让他停下来把那个字拼出来。杰姆读了大约有二十分钟,这期间,我时而看看煤烟熏黑的壁炉,时而看看窗外,反正不看她就行。我发现杰姆越往下读,杜博斯太太纠正的错误越少,杰姆有时甚至省去了一整句没念。她早不在听了。
我朝床上看去。
她有些不正常。仰面躺着,被子一直盖到下巴上,只能看见头和肩膀。头缓慢地从一边倒向另一边。隔一会儿,嘴就要张得大大的,我可以模糊地看见她的舌头在微微地起伏。嘴唇上不一会儿就堆起了一条条的唾液,她暖进去,然后再张开嘴。她的嘴好象有独立的生命,能和身体内外的其他器官分开工作,就象落潮时的蛤蜊一样。偶尔,她嘴里发出扑哧声,好象什么粘东西正在开始沸腾。
我拉拉杰姆的袖子。
他看看我,再看看床上。杜博斯太太的脑袋有规律地不时摆向我们一边。杰姆说:“杜博斯太太,您不舒服吗?”杜博斯太太没听见。
突然,闹钟响起来了,把我们吓呆了。不一会儿,我们已经在人行道上往家里走了,神经还绷得紧紧的。我们不是逃出来的,是杰西打发我们走的:闹钟声还没停,她就到了屋里,把我和杰姆往外推。
“嘘!”她说,“你俩都回去吧。”
杰姆在门口犹豫了一下。
“她该吃药了。”杰西说。门关上时,我看见杰西很快朝杜博斯太太床边走去。
我们到家时才三点四十五分,所以我们在后院踢了一会儿球,才去接爸爸下班。阿迪克斯给我两支黄色铅笔,给杰姆一本橄榄球杂志。我想这是对我们和杜博斯太太第一次约会的不加说明的奖励。
杰姆跟他讲了在那儿的经过。
“她吓着你了吗?”阿迪克斯问。
“没有,爸爸,”杰姆说,“可是太Hq人作呕了。她好象一阵阵发病似的,老吐唾沫。”
“她也是没办法。病人的样子有时候是不讨人喜欢的。”
“她可把我吓坏了。”我说。’
阿迪克斯从眼镜上面看看我。“你用不着跟杰姆去嘛。”
在杜博斯太太家的第二天下午跟第一天一样,第三天也一样。渐渐地出现了一个固定的程序:开始一切正常——就是说,她首先和杰姆谈一阵她喜欢的话题,她的山茶花啦,我们爸爸为黑鬼帮腔的怪癖啦,她的话逐渐减少,然后不和我们说话了。接着闹钟响起来,杰西把我们“嘘”出去。剩下的时间就是我们的了。
“阿迪克斯,”一天晚上我问,“什么叫为黑鬼帮腔?”
阿迪克斯脸色阴沉。“有谁这佯说你吗?”
“没有,爸爸,杜博斯太太这样说你。这是她每天下午的开场白。去年圣诞节弗朗西斯这样说我,那是我第一次听到。”
“你是为这个揍他吗?”阿迪克斯问。
“是的,爸爸……”
“那为什么还问我这是什么意思?”
我对阿迪克斯解释说,把我惹火的与其说是他说话的内容,不如说是他说话的神态。“好象他在说我们很下贱似的。”
“斯各特,”阿迪克斯说,“说人家为黑鬼帮腔和说人家下贱一样,是一种毫无意义的话。这是很难解释的。没有知识的、下贱的人,认为有人站在黑人一边反对他们时,就这样说。他们要找一个粗鄙的、难听的说法来污蔑某人时,这种说法就是指我们这种人。”
“你并不真的喜欢黑人,是吗?”
“我当然真的喜欢。我尽最大的努力爱每一个人……我有时处境不利……孩子,被人加上有人认为是很难听的称号并不是侮辱。这只说明那个人太可怜了,对你并无损害。所以,别对杜博斯太太发火。她本身的麻烦已经够多的了。”
一个月以后的一天下午,杰姆正吃力地读着沃尔特?斯各特爵士(这是杰姆的叫法)的作品,杜博斯太太每次都要纠正他。这时,有人敲门。“进来!”她尖叫一声。
进来的是阿迪克斯。他走列床边,拉起杜博斯太太的手。“我刚从事务所来,没见列孩子,我猜想他们会在这儿。”
杜博斯太太朝他笑了笑。她看起来那么恨他,我真不知道这时她怎么有脸跟他说话。“你知道几点了吗,阿迪克斯?”她问,“五点十四分。闹钟五点三十分响,我想让你知道这一点。”
我突然想起我们在杜博斯大太家的时间一天比一天长,闹钟每天都比前一天晚几分钟响。前一段,到铃响时,她已痉挛了一次。今天,她已跟杰姆罗嗦了差不多两个小时,还没有要痉挛的迹象。我觉得上当了。闹钟是我们离开的信号,如果哪一天钟不响了,我们可怎么办呢?
“我觉得你约好杰姆读书的时间要完了。”阿迪克斯说。
“我想只延长一个星期。”她说,“目的是为了保证……”
杰姆站起来说:“可是…“一”
阿迪克斯伸手拦住他,杰姆不做声了。回家的路上杰姆说,原来讲好只读一个月,一个月已经过去了,太不讲理了。
“再读一个星期,孩子。”阿迪克斯说。
“不。”杰姆说。
“要读。”阿迪克斯说。
下一个星期,我们仍旧每天去杜博斯太太家。闹钟已经不响了。等杜博斯太太说“够了’时,我们才可以回去。所以,我们到家时阿迪克斯已在看报了。尽管她不再痉挛了,但在其他方面还是老样子:每当沃尔特?斯科特开始较长地描写护城沟和城堡时,杜博斯太太就不耐烦了,就开始挑我们的岔子。
“杰里米?芬奇,我说过你捣坏我的山茶花会后悔的。你现在后悔了吧?”
杰姆也就说他当然后悔了。
。你以为会把我的‘银边翠’弄死吗?杰西说你捣坏的山茶花又长起来了。下次你会知道怎么办了,对吧?你会连根拔掉,是吗?”
杰姆想说他当然会。
“你这小子别跟我吞吞吐吐的!抬起头说是的,太太。可我想,因为你爸爸是那么个人,你会感到抬不起头。”
杰姆就抬起下巴,毫无恶意地看着杜博斯太太。几周来,杰姆学会了一种彬彬有礼、漫不经心的表情,来回答她的那些听了使人血都会凝固的凭空的捏造。
总算熬到头了。一天下午,杜博斯太太说“够了”后,又加了一句“到此结束了,再见”。
终于结束了。我们高兴地连蹦带跳来到人行道上,边跑边叫,好象卸下个大包袱。
那年春天挺合我们心意:白天越来越长,我们玩的时间越来越多。杰姆在忙着收集全国各高等院校橄榄球队队员的主要资料。每天晚上阿迪克斯都给我们读报上的体育消息。从亚拉巴马州球队队员候选人来看,亚拉巴马今年可能又会去参加加州玫瑰杯大学橄榄球赛,这些候选队员的名字我们一个都不会读。一天晚上,阿迪克斯刚读了一半温迪?西顿的专栏文章,突然电话响了。
他接完电话后,走到过厅内的帽架前说:“我去杜博斯太太家看看,用不了多久,一会儿就回来。”
可他去了很久,我上床睡觉的时问早过了,他还没回。他回来时带回、一盒糖果。他在客厅内坐下来,盒子放在椅子边的地上。
“她叫你去干什么?”杰姆问。
我们已有一个月没看见杜博斯太太了。我们路过她家时,她从不在走廊上。
“她死了,孩子,几分钟前死的。”阿迪克斯说。
“噢,”杰姆说,“好。”‘
“死了是好,”阿迪克斯说,“免得多受罪。她病了很久,孩子,你知道她一阵阵痉挛是什么原因吗?”
杰姆摇摇头。
“杜博斯太太用吗啡上了瘾。”阿迪克斯说,“她把吗啡当止痛药用了好几年,医生让她用的,她本来可以用吗啡一直到死,而且不致死得那么痛苦,可她太固执了……”
“爸爸,是怎么一回事?”杰姆间。
阿迪克斯说:“就在你那次恶作剧之前,她喊我去立遗嘱。雷纳兹医生告诉她只剩下几个月了。当时她的生意情况很好,但她说:‘还有一件事不正常。”’
“什么事?”杰姆迷惑不解地问。
“她说她离开这个世界酌时候要不托任何事的福,不叨任何人的光。杰姆,如果你象她那样重病在身,也许会认为只要能减轻痛苦,不管用什么药都是无可指责的。但她不这样认为。她说要在死之前戒掉吗啡,她说到做到了。”
杰姆问:“你是说她一阵阵痉挛就是这么回事吗?”
“是韵。你给她读书的大部分时间,我怀疑她一个宇都没听。她的全部精力和身体都集中在那个闹钟上。即使你没落在她手里,我也会让你们去给她读书的。。读书也许可以分散她的注意力。还有一个原因……”
“她死时无忧无虑吗?”
“象山上的空气一样自由自在。”阿迪克斯说,“差不多直劲最后一刻她都是清醒的。是清醒的,”他笑了笑,“脾气还很坏。她从心眼里反对我的一些做法,还说我很可能要花我一生剩下的时问不断地把你从牢狱里保释出来。她叫杰西绐你准备了这个盒子……”
阿迪克斯伸手拾起那个糖果盒子交给杰姆。
杰姆打开盒子,里边用湿棉花围着朵又完好又水灵的白色山茶花。这是朵“银边翠”。
杰姆气得几乎眼睛都瞪出来了。“老鬼,老鬼,”他叫着把花扔到地上,“她为什么总不放过我?”
阿迪克斯很快站起来,杰姆把头埋在阿迪克斯衬衣的前襟里。“嘘,”阿迪克斯说,“我看她是用这种方式来告诉你……现在一切都好了,杰姆,现在一切都好了。你知道她真是个了不起的有教养的女人。”
“有教养的女人?”杰姆抬起头。他的脸红了,“她说了你那么多坏话,还是个有教养的女人?”
“她是的。她对事情有自己的独特见解,和我的看法很不一样,可能……孩子,我跟你说了,如果你没千那件冒失事的话,我也会叫你去给她读书的。我想让你了解了解她,让你见识见识真正的勇敢是什么,而不要总认为男子手里拿支枪才是勇敢。真正的勇敢是,在行动之前就知道要失败,但还是要行动,不管怎样,要进行到底。你往往失败,但有时候你也能取得胜利。杜博斯太太胜利了,这个只有九十八磅的小老太太。根据她的观点,她死时不托任何事的福,不叨任何人的光。她是我知道的最勇敢的人。”
杰姆拾起糖果盒扔进火里。他又拾起山茶花,我去睡觉时,见他在抚弄那宽大的花瓣。阿迪克斯在看报。



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