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Chapter 14

      Although we heard no more about the Finch family from Aunt Alexandra, we heardplenty from the town. On Saturdays, armed with our nickels, when Jem permitted me toaccompany him (he was now positively allergic to my presence when in public), wewould squirm our way through sweating sidewalk crowds and sometimes hear, “There’shis chillun,” or, “Yonder’s some Finches.” Turning to face our accusers, we would seeonly a couple of farmers studying the enema bags in the Mayco Drugstore window. Ortwo dumpy countrywomen in straw hats sitting in a Hoover cart.

  “They c’n go loose and rape up the countryside for all of ‘em who run this countycare,” was one obscure observation we met head on from a skinny gentleman when hepassed us. Which reminded me that I had a question to ask Atticus.

  “What’s rape?” I asked him that night.

  Atticus looked around from behind his paper. He was in his chair by the window. Aswe grew older, Jem and I thought it generous to allow Atticus thirty minutes to himselfafter supper.

  He sighed, and said rape was carnal knowledge of a female by force and withoutconsent.

  “Well if that’s all it is why did Calpurnia dry me up when I asked her what it was?”

  Atticus looked pensive. “What’s that again?”

  “Well, I asked Calpurnia comin‘ from church that day what it was and she said ask youbut I forgot to and now I’m askin’ you.”

  His paper was now in his lap. “Again, please,” he said.

  I told him in detail about our trip to church with Calpurnia. Atticus seemed to enjoy it,but Aunt Alexandra, who was sitting in a corner quietly sewing, put down her embroideryand stared at us.

  “You all were coming back from Calpurnia’s church that Sunday?”

  Jem said, “Yessum, she took us.”

  I remembered something. “Yessum, and she promised me I could come out to herhouse some afternoon. Atticus. I’ll go next Sunday if it’s all right, can I? Cal said she’dcome get me if you were off in the car.”

  “You may not.”

  Aunt Alexandra said it. I wheeled around, startled, then turned back to Atticus in timeto catch his swift glance at her, but it was too late. I said, “I didn’t ask you!”

  For a big man, Atticus could get up and down from a chair faster than anyone I everknew. He was on his feet. “Apologize to your aunt,” he said.

  “I didn’t ask her, I asked you—”

  Atticus turned his head and pinned me to the wall with his good eye. His voice wasdeadly: “First, apologize to your aunt.”

  “I’m sorry, Aunty,” I muttered.

  “Now then,” he said. “Let’s get this clear: you do as Calpurnia tells you, you do as I tellyou, and as long as your aunt’s in this house, you will do as she tells you. Understand?”

  I understood, pondered a while, and concluded that the only way I could retire with ashred of dignity was to go to the bathroom, where I stayed long enough to make themthink I had to go. Returning, I lingered in the hall to hear a fierce discussion going on inthe livingroom. Through the door I could see Jem on the sofa with a football magazine infront of his face, his head turning as if its pages contained a live tennis match.

  “…you’ve got to do something about her,” Aunty was saying. “You’ve let things go ontoo long, Atticus, too long.”

  “I don’t see any harm in letting her go out there. Cal’d look after her there as well asshe does here.”

  Who was the “her” they were talking about? My heart sank: me. I felt the starchedwalls of a pink cotton penitentiary closing in on me, and for the second time in my life Ithought of running away. Immediately.

  “Atticus, it’s all right to be soft-hearted, you’re an easy man, but you have a daughterto think of. A daughter who’s growing up.”

  “That’s what I am thinking of.”

  “And don’t try to get around it. You’ve got to face it sooner or later and it might as wellbe tonight. We don’t need her now.”

  Atticus’s voice was even: “Alexandra, Calpurnia’s not leaving this house until shewants to. You may think otherwise, but I couldn’t have got along without her all theseyears. She’s a faithful member of this family and you’ll simply have to accept things theway they are. Besides, sister, I don’t want you working your head off for us—you’ve noreason to do that. We still need Cal as much as we ever did.”

  “But Atticus—”

  “Besides, I don’t think the children’ve suffered one bit from her having brought themup. If anything, she’s been harder on them in some ways than a mother would havebeen… she’s never let them get away with anything, she’s never indulged them the waymost colored nurses do. She tried to bring them up according to her lights, and Cal’slights are pretty good—and another thing, the children love her.”

  I breathed again. It wasn’t me, it was only Calpurnia they were talking about. Revived,I entered the livingroom. Atticus had retreated behind his newspaper and AuntAlexandra was worrying her embroidery. Punk, punk, punk, her needle broke the tautcircle. She stopped, and pulled the cloth tighter: punk-punk-punk. She was furious.

  Jem got up and padded across the rug. He motioned me to follow. He led me to hisroom and closed the door. His face was grave.

  “They’ve been fussing, Scout.”

  Jem and I fussed a great deal these days, but I had never heard of or seen anyonequarrel with Atticus. It was not a comfortable sight.

  “Scout, try not to antagonize Aunty, hear?”

  Atticus’s remarks were still rankling, which made me miss the request in Jem’squestion. My feathers rose again. “You tryin‘ to tell me what to do?”

  “Naw, it’s—he’s got a lot on his mind now, without us worrying him.”

  “Like what?” Atticus didn’t appear to have anything especially on his mind.

  “It’s this Tom Robinson case that’s worryin‘ him to death—”

  I said Atticus didn’t worry about anything. Besides, the case never bothered us exceptabout once a week and then it didn’t last.

  “That’s because you can’t hold something in your mind but a little while,” said Jem.

  “It’s different with grown folks, we—”

  His maddening superiority was unbearable these days. He didn’t want to do anythingbut read and go off by himself. Still, everything he read he passed along to me, but withthis difference: formerly, because he thought I’d like it; now, for my edification andinstruction.

  “Jee crawling hova, Jem! Who do you think you are?”

  “Now I mean it, Scout, you antagonize Aunty and I’ll—I’ll spank you.”

  With that, I was gone. “You damn morphodite, I’ll kill you!” He was sitting on the bed,and it was easy to grab his front hair and land one on his mouth. He slapped me and Itried another left, but a punch in the stomach sent me sprawling on the floor. It nearlyknocked the breath out of me, but it didn’t matter because I knew he was fighting, hewas fighting me back. We were still equals.

  “Ain’t so high and mighty now, are you!” I screamed, sailing in again. He was still onthe bed and I couldn’t get a firm stance, so I threw myself at him as hard as I could,hitting, pulling, pinching, gouging. What had begun as a fist-fight became a brawl. Wewere still struggling when Atticus separated us.

  “That’s all,” he said. “Both of you go to bed right now.”

  “Taah!” I said at Jem. He was being sent to bed at my bedtime.

  “Who started it?” asked Atticus, in resignation.

  “Jem did. He was tryin‘ to tell me what to do. I don’t have to mind him now, do I?”

  Atticus smiled. “Let’s leave it at this: you mind Jem whenever he can make you. Fairenough?”

  Aunt Alexandra was present but silent, and when she went down the hall with Atticuswe heard her say, “…just one of the things I’ve been telling you about,” a phrase thatunited us again.

  Ours were adjoining rooms; as I shut the door between them Jem said, “Night, Scout.”

  “Night,” I murmured, picking my way across the room to turn on the light. As I passedthe bed I stepped on something warm, resilient, and rather smooth. It was not quite likehard rubber, and I had the sensation that it was alive. I also heard it move.

  I switched on the light and looked at the floor by the bed. Whatever I had stepped onwas gone. I tapped on Jem’s door.

  “What,” he said.

  “How does a snake feel?”

  “Sort of rough. Cold. Dusty. Why?”

  “I think there’s one under my bed. Can you come look?”

  “Are you bein‘ funny?” Jem opened the door. He was in his pajama bottoms. I noticednot without satisfaction that the mark of my knuckles was still on his mouth. When hesaw I meant what I said, he said, “If you think I’m gonna put my face down to a snakeyou’ve got another think comin’. Hold on a minute.”

  He went to the kitchen and fetched the broom. “You better get up on the bed,” he said.

  “You reckon it’s really one?” I asked. This was an occasion. Our houses had nocellars; they were built on stone blocks a few feet above the ground, and the entry ofreptiles was not unknown but was not commonplace. Miss Rachel Haverford’s excusefor a glass of neat whiskey every morning was that she never got over the fright offinding a rattler coiled in her bedroom closet, on her washing, when she went to hang upher negligee.

  Jem made a tentative swipe under the bed. I looked over the foot to see if a snakewould come out. None did. Jem made a deeper swipe.

  “Do snakes grunt?”

  “It ain’t a snake,” Jem said. “It’s somebody.”

  Suddenly a filthy brown package shot from under the bed. Jem raised the broom andmissed Dill’s head by an inch when it appeared.

  “God Almighty.” Jem’s voice was reverent.

  We watched Dill emerge by degrees. He was a tight fit. He stood up and eased hisshoulders, turned his feet in their ankle sockets, rubbed the back of his neck. Hiscirculation restored, he said, “Hey.”

  Jem petitioned God again. I was speechless.

  “I’m ‘bout to perish,” said Dill. “Got anything to eat?”

  In a dream, I went to the kitchen. I brought him back some milk and half a pan of cornbread left over from supper. Dill devoured it, chewing with his front teeth, as was hiscustom.

  I finally found my voice. “How’d you get here?”

  By an involved route. Refreshed by food, Dill recited this narrative: having been boundin chains and left to die in the basement (there were basements in Meridian) by his newfather, who disliked him, and secretly kept alive on raw field peas by a passing farmerwho heard his cries for help (the good man poked a bushel pod by pod through theventilator), Dill worked himself free by pulling the chains from the wall. Still in wristmanacles, he wandered two miles out of Meridian where he discovered a small animalshow and was immediately engaged to wash the camel. He traveled with the show allover Mississippi until his infallible sense of direction told him he was in Abbott County,Alabama, just across the river from Maycomb. He walked the rest of the way.

  “How’d you get here?” asked Jem.

  He had taken thirteen dollars from his mother’s purse, caught the nine o’clock fromMeridian and got off at Maycomb Junction. He had walked ten or eleven of the fourteenmiles to Maycomb, off the highway in the scrub bushes lest the authorities be seekinghim, and had ridden the remainder of the way clinging to the backboard of a cottonwagon. He had been under the bed for two hours, he thought; he had heard us in thediningroom, and the clink of forks on plates nearly drove him crazy. He thought Jem andI would never go to bed; he had considered emerging and helping me beat Jem, as Jemhad grown far taller, but he knew Mr. Finch would break it up soon, so he thought it bestto stay where he was. He was worn out, dirty beyond belief, and home.

  “They must not know you’re here,” said Jem. “We’d know if they were lookin‘ foryou…”

  “Think they’re still searchin‘ all the picture shows in Meridian.” Dill grinned.

  “You oughta let your mother know where you are,” said Jem. “You oughta let her knowyou’re here…”

  Dill’s eyes flickered at Jem, and Jem looked at the floor. Then he rose and broke theremaining code of our childhood. He went out of the room and down the hall. “Atticus,”

  his voice was distant, “can you come here a minute, sir?”

  Beneath its sweat-streaked dirt Dill’s face went white. I felt sick. Atticus was in thedoorway.

  He came to the middle of the room and stood with his hands in his pockets, lookingdown at Dill.

  I finally found my voice: “It’s okay, Dill. When he wants you to know somethin‘, he tellsyou.”

  Dill looked at me. “I mean it’s all right,” I said. “You know he wouldn’t bother you, youknow you ain’t scared of Atticus.”

  “I’m not scared…” Dill muttered.

  “Just hungry, I’ll bet.” Atticus’s voice had its usual pleasant dryness. “Scout, we can dobetter than a pan of cold corn bread, can’t we? You fill this fellow up and when I getback we’ll see what we can see.”

  “Mr. Finch, don’t tell Aunt Rachel, don’t make me go back, please sir! I’ll run offagain—!”

  “Whoa, son,” said Atticus. “Nobody’s about to make you go anywhere but to bed prettysoon. I’m just going over to tell Miss Rachel you’re here and ask her if you could spendthe night with us—you’d like that, wouldn’t you? And for goodness’ sake put some of thecounty back where it belongs, the soil erosion’s bad enough as it is.”

  Dill stared at my father’s retreating figure.

  “He’s tryin‘ to be funny,” I said. “He means take a bath. See there, I told you hewouldn’t bother you.”

  Jem was standing in a corner of the room, looking like the traitor he was. “Dill, I had totell him,” he said. “You can’t run three hundred miles off without your mother knowin‘.”

  We left him without a word.

  Dill ate, and ate, and ate. He hadn’t eaten since last night. He used all his money for aticket, boarded the train as he had done many times, coolly chatted with the conductor,to whom Dill was a familiar sight, but he had not the nerve to invoke the rule on smallchildren traveling a distance alone if you’ve lost your money the conductor will lend youenough for dinner and your father will pay him back at the end of the line.

  Dill made his way through the leftovers and was reaching for a can of pork and beansin the pantry when Miss Rachel’s Do-oo Je-sus went off in the hall. He shivered like arabbit.

  He bore with fortitude her Wait Till I Get You Home, Your Folks Are Out of Their MindsWorryin‘, was quite calm during That’s All the Harris in You Coming Out, smiled at herReckon You Can Stay One Night, and returned the hug at long last bestowed upon him.

  Atticus pushed up his glasses and rubbed his face.

  “Your father’s tired,” said Aunt Alexandra, her first words in hours, it seemed. She hadbeen there, but I suppose struck dumb most of the time. “You children get to bed now.”

  We left them in the diningroom, Atticus still mopping his face. “From rape to riot torunaways,” we heard him chuckle. “I wonder what the next two hours will bring.”

  Since things appeared to have worked out pretty well, Dill and I decided to be civil toJem. Besides, Dill had to sleep with him so we might as well speak to him.

  I put on my pajamas, read for a while and found myself suddenly unable to keep myeyes open. Dill and Jem were quiet; when I turned off my reading lamp there was nostrip of light under the door to Jem’s room.

  I must have slept a long time, for when I was punched awake the room was dim withthe light of the setting moon.

  “Move over, Scout.”

  “He thought he had to,” I mumbled. “Don’t stay mad with him.”

  Dill got in bed beside me. “I ain’t,” he said. “I just wanted to sleep with you. Are youwaked up?”

  By this time I was, but lazily so. “Why’d you do it?”

  No answer. “I said why’d you run off? Was he really hateful like you said?”

  “Naw…”

  “Didn’t you all build that boat like you wrote you were gonna?”

  “He just said we would. We never did.”

  I raised up on my elbow, facing Dill’s outline. “It’s no reason to run off. They don’t getaround to doin‘ what they say they’re gonna do half the time…”

  “That wasn’t it, he—they just wasn’t interested in me.”

  This was the weirdest reason for flight I had ever heard. “How come?”

  “Well, they stayed gone all the time, and when they were home, even, they’d get off ina room by themselves.”

  “What’d they do in there?”

  “Nothin‘, just sittin’ and readin‘—but they didn’t want me with ’em.”

  I pushed the pillow to the headboard and sat up. “You know something? I was fixin‘ torun off tonight because there they all were. You don’t want ’em around you all the time,Dill—”

  Dill breathed his patient breath, a half-sigh.

  “—good night, Atticus’s gone all day and sometimes half the night and off in thelegislature and I don’t know what—you don’t want ‘em around all the time, Dill, youcouldn’t do anything if they were.”

  “That’s not it.”

  As Dill explained, I found myself wondering what life would be if Jem were different,even from what he was now; what I would do if Atticus did not feel the necessity of mypresence, help and advice. Why, he couldn’t get along a day without me. EvenCalpurnia couldn’t get along unless I was there. They needed me.

  “Dill, you ain’t telling me right—your folks couldn’t do without you. They must be justmean to you. Tell you what to do about that—”

  Dill’s voice went on steadily in the darkness: “The thing is, what I’m tryin‘ to say is—they do get on a lot better without me, I can’t help them any. They ain’t mean. They buyme everything I want, but it’s now—you’ve-got-it-go-play-with-it. You’ve got a roomful ofthings. I-got-you-that-book-so-go-read-it.” Dill tried to deepen his voice. “You’re not aboy. Boys get out and play baseball with other boys, they don’t hang around the houseworryin’ their folks.”

  Dill’s voice was his own again: “Oh, they ain’t mean. They kiss you and hug you goodnight and good mornin‘ and good-bye and tell you they love you—Scout, let’s get us ababy.”

  “Where?”

  There was a man Dill had heard of who had a boat that he rowed across to a foggyisland where all these babies were; you could order one—“That’s a lie. Aunty said God drops ‘em down the chimney. At least that’s what I thinkshe said.” For once, Aunty’s diction had not been too clear.

  “Well that ain’t so. You get babies from each other. But there’s this man, too—he hasall these babies just waitin‘ to wake up, he breathes life into ’em…”

  Dill was off again. Beautiful things floated around in his dreamy head. He could readtwo books to my one, but he preferred the magic of his own inventions. He could addand subtract faster than lightning, but he preferred his own twilight world, a world wherebabies slept, waiting to be gathered like morning lilies. He was slowly talking himself tosleep and taking me with him, but in the quietness of his foggy island there rose thefaded image of a gray house with sad brown doors.

  “Dill?”

  “Mm?”

  “Why do you reckon Boo Radley’s never run off?”

  Dill sighed a long sigh and turned away from me.

  “Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere to run off to…”

从那以后,我们再也没听见亚历山德拉姑妈说过有关芬奇家族的事,但我们却从镇子上听了不少。星期六,要是杰姆同意我陪他出去的话(他那时极其讨厌我跟他一起出现在人群中),我们就在口袋里装着几个硬币,慢慢挤过汗流浃背的人群,这时会不时听到“那就是他的孩子”,或者“那边有几个芬奇家的人”。我们转脸去看说话的人,却常常只看到两三个农民在打量梅科姆药房橱窗里的灌肠器袋,要么就是一对又矮又胖的乡下女人头戴草帽坐在一辆胡佛大车上。
“他们可以不受约束,在乡下强奸女人,管这个县的人也不会去管他们。”这一旬含混不清的冷言冷语是一个极瘦的男人经过我们身边时讲的。这使我记起有个问题要问阿迪克斯。
“强奸是怎么回事?”那天晚上我问他。
阿迪克斯从报纸后抬起头来。他正坐在靠窗的椅子上,我和杰姆又长大了一些,知道晚饭后要留三十分钟时间,别去打扰他。
他先叹了一口气,然后说强奸就是不经同意用暴力去跟一个女性发生性的关系。
“那么,如果就是这么一回事,为什么我问卡尔珀尼亚时,她却不回答呢?”
阿迪克斯若有所思地问:“这又是怎么回事?”
“是这样,那天做了礼拜回来时,我问卡尔珀尼亚,但她说要问你。我忘了,此刻才记起来。”
这时,他把报纸放到了膝头上。“说下去。”
我把和卡尔珀尼亚上教堂的事详细说了一遍。阿迪克斯听了以后似乎挺高兴。亚历山德拉姑妈原来一直安静地坐着,在角落里绣花,这时却放下手里的活,眼睛盯着我们。
“那个星期天你们都是从卡尔珀尼亚的教堂回来的?”
杰姆回答:“是的,她把我们带去的。”
我记起了一件事。“对,她还答应我可以在哪个下午到她家玩。阿迪克斯,下星期天没事我就去,行吗?如果你开车出去,卡尔说她就来接我。
“不准去。”
这是亚历山德拉姑妈说的。我十分惊讶,很快转过身,然后又转回来,看见阿迪克斯对她很快使了个眼色。不过我的话已经出口了:“又不是问你。”
阿迪克斯是个大个子,可是他从椅子里站起来或坐下去比谁都快。这时他已经站起来了。“向你姑妈道歉。”他说。
“我不是问她,是问你……”
阿迪克斯扭过头,斜着眼睛盯着我,盯得我退到了墙根,他的声音阴沉得吓人:“先向姑妈道歉!”
“对不起。”我咕噜一声。
“听着,”他说,“来,咱们把话讲明白;卡尔珀尼亚叫你千哈就干啥,我叫你干啥就千啥,姑妈在这几一天,你也得听她一天。懂了吗?”
我说懂了。想了一下,我得出这样一个结论,要想保留已经不多的体面走开,只有上厕所。我在厕所里果了一会,时间长得使他们相信我真的要解手。出来时,我在过厅放慢了脚步,听到客厅里激烈的辩论声,向门里望去,我看见杰姆坐在沙发上,手里捧着本橄榄球杂志在瞎翻,脑袋随着书页侧来侧去,仿佛看的不是书,而是书页里正在进行一场网球赛。
“……你要对她采取措施才行,”姑妈在说,“你让她这样放肆得太久了,阿迪克斯,太久了。”
“我实在看不出让她去那儿有哪点不好。卡尔在那儿会同在这儿一样照看她的。”
他们说的这个“她”是谁?我的心往下一沉:是我啊。我感到身上浆得硬硬的粉红色棉布衣服象是少年教养所里涂了灰浆酌四壁在向我迫近。我平生第二次想到了逃跑。马上就跑。
“阿迪克斯,心肠软一点是好事,你自己是个随和的人,可你还有个女儿要考虑。一个正在长大的女儿。”
“这正是我在考虑的事。”
“别回避这件事。你迟早要正视的,不妨就在今天晚上。我们眼下不再需要她了。”
阿迪克斯的话很平静:“亚历山德拉,我不会让卡尔珀尼亚离开这个家,除非她自己要走。你可以不这样看,但在这些年里,没有她,口了就没法过。她是这个家里忠实的一员。现实是这样的,你就得接受这种现实。另外,妹妹,我并不要你为我们这样操尽了心——你那么千没道理。我们现在仍象过去一样需要卡尔。”
“可是,阿迪克斯……”
“还有就是,我不认为孩子们由她带大有任何不好。要说有的话,那就是她在某些地方比一个亲妈妈还要严格。她从不迁就他们,从不象大多数黑人保姆那样娇纵孩子。她努力按她自己的主意教养他们,而她的主意很不坏一再有一点,就是孩子们爱她。”
我松了口气,不是说我,说的只是卡尔珀尼亚。我恢复了常态,又进了客厅。阿迪克斯又举起报纸,亚历山德拉姑妈在忙她的刺绣。“噗,噗,噗,”绣花针穿过绷子响着。她停了一下,把布绷得更紧:“噗一一噗——噗!”她正在火头上。
杰姆起身,轻轻地走过地毯,示意要我跟上。他领我进了他的卧室,把门关上,脸上一本正经。
“刚才他们在吵嘴,斯各特。”
杰姆常跟我吵嘴,但从没听说过也没见过任何人跟阿迪克斯吵嘴。看到这样的事叫人很不舒服。
“斯各特,留心别惹姑妈,听到了吗?”
阿迪克斯刚才的话还使我心里极不舒服,我没听出杰姆的口吻是一种请求,不由火又上来了。“难道要你教我该干什么?”
“不,是这样——即使我们不叫他再多操心,阿迪克斯伤脑筋的事已经够多的了。”
“有什么要操心的?”阿迪克斯似乎并没有什么特别的事使他伤脑筋。
“叫他伤透了脑筋的是那个汤姆?鲁宾逊的案子。”
我说阿迪克斯对什么都不着急。而且除了每星期一次以外,这案子并不再碍Ⅱ自们的事,一下子就完了。
“那是因为你自己脑瓜子里一点事儿也装不了,大人可不是这样。我们……”
这些日子里,杰姆那种令人恼火的自充大人的态度简直叫人无法忍受。他什么也不干,除了看书就是独自行动。不过,他读过的书都传给找看,只是从前是因为他认为我也爱看,而现在却是给我点启蒙和教益。
“呸,杰姆!你以为你是什么人,竟管教起我来了?”
。这回我说话算数,斯各特。你要再惹姑妈,我就……我就打你的屁股。”
一听这话,我发火了。“你这该死的怪家伙!我打死你。”他正坐在床上,我一下抓住他额前的头发,往他嘴上打了一下。他打了我一个耳光,我又用左手去打,但是我肚子上挨了一拳,就四脚朝天地倒在地板上了。我被打得都快没气了。不过没关系,因为我知道他是在打架,是在向我回手。我们的地位还是半斤对八两。
“再不那么了不得了吧?”我尖叫着又冲了上去。他还是在床上,我没法站稳脚跟,便使出全身的力气一头栽了过去,又打又扯,又掐又挖。开始打的时候是拳击,这一下成了一场混战。我们正打得热闹,阿迪克斯把我们拉开了。
“够了,。他说。“你们俩都马上上床去。”
“呸……!”我对杰姆说。在我上床的时候,爸爸也叫杰姆上床了。
“谁先动手的?”阿迪克斯心平气和地问。
“是杰姆。他想教训我该千什么。我才不听他的呢!”
阿迪克斯笑了。“算了吧,他要是有办法叫你断他的话,你就听。这够公平的了吧?”
亚历山德拉姑妈也在场,但没吭气。不过她和阿迪克斯往过厅走时,我们听见她说:“……正是我要和你说的事。”这句话使我和杰姆又重新结盟了。
我们卧室是相邻的,我关门时,杰姆说了声:“晚安,斯各特。”
“晚安。”我低声回答,一边小心摸着走过房问去开灯,经过床边时,我的脚踩到了什么,那东西有热气,有弹性,光溜溜的,不大象块硬橡皮,我觉得那是个活家伙。我还听到了它移动的声音。
我赶忙拉开灯往床前地板上看去。但我踩的那东西不见了,我急忙去敲杰姆韵门。
“什么事?”他说。
“碰着一条蛇有什么感觉?”
“有一点粗糙、冰凉、千千的感觉。怎么啦?”
“我想床下就有一条。能过来看看吗?”
“你在开玩笑吧?”杰姆开了门。他穿着睡裤。我带着几分快意地看到,我的指甲印子还留在他嘴巴上。当他看出我说的是真话时,便说:“你要是以为我会把脑袋朝着一条蛇伸下去,那你就想错了,等一下吧。”
他走到厨房,把扫帚拿来了。“你最好上床去。”他说。
“你认为真是条蛇吗?”我问。这可真希罕。我们家没地窖,房子都建在离地面好几英尺高的石头上。虫子爬进来的时候也有,但不多见。雷切尔?哈弗福特小姐每天要喝一杯纯威士忌酒,她的借口就是在她把睡衣挂到卧室衣橱上去时,害怕洗过的衣服上盘着响尾蛇。
杰姆在床下试着扫了一下,我在床头朝下看是不是会有条蛇钻出来。结果什么也没有。杰姆又往里一扫。
。蛇会发出哼哼的声音吗?”
“不是蛇,。杰姆说,“是人。”
突然,从床下冒出个泥土色的脏包裹。杰姆忙举起扫帚,差一点就砸到迪尔伸出的脑袋瓜上。
“全能的上帝。”杰姆的声音充满虔诚。
我们看着迪尔一点一点地爬出来,他穿着贴身的衣服。站起来后,他松松肩膀,活动活动脚踝骨,又在脖子后面擦了几下。等血液循环恢复后他才说了声“嗨”。
杰姆又对上帝呼唤了一声。我一下子说不出话来。
“我简直要死了。”迪尔说,“有吃的吗?”
我象在梦中似的跑到厨房里,带回了晚餐剩下的一点牛奶和半块玉米饼。迪尔狼吞虎咽地全吃了,还是那老习惯,用门牙嚼着。
我好不容易说出了一句话:“你怎么来的?”
他说道路曲折。吃过东西,精神来了,迪尔象背书一样详细地叙述了一遍经过:他的新爸爸不喜欢他,用铁链把他拴在地下室里去等死(梅里迪安的房子都是有地下室的),一个过路的农民听见他喊救命,他就靠这人送的生豌豆偷偷地活了下来(这好心人从通风道里把一蒲式耳的豆荚一个一个地捅进去),并把铁链子从墙里拔出来,解放了自己。他手上戴着手铐,乱走了两英里,出了梅里迪安。后来碰上一次小型的牲畜展览,他马上被雇去洗骆驼。他随着这个展览走遍了密西西比州,直到他那从无误差的方向感告诉他已到了亚拉巴马的艾博特县,同梅科姆只隔着一条河。剩下的路程是走过来的。
“你怎么到的这儿?”杰姆问。
他从妈妈的钱包里拿了十三块钱,上了九点钟从梅里迪安开出的火车,在梅科姆站下车。从那儿到梅科姆镇有十四英里路,他在公路边的灌木林里偷偷地走了十来英里,怕有人找他。最后扒在一辆运棉花车的后挡板上来的。他自己估计,在床下已经果了两个小时。我们在餐厅吃饭时,叉盘的丁当声几乎叫他发狂。他觉得杰姆和我好象永远也不会上床睡觉了。他见杰姆长高了很多很多,想钻出来帮我接杰姆,但是他知道阿渔克斯马上会来拉开我们的,自己最好还是另U动。他累坏了,脏得叫人无法相信,可总算到家了。
“他们肯定不知道你在这儿,”杰姆说,“要是他们找你的话,我们会知道的。”
“我想他们还在梅里迪安所有的电影院里找哩。”迪尔咧嘴笑着说。
“你该让你妈知道你在哪儿,”杰姆说,“你该让她知道你在这里……”
迪尔望着杰姆眨了眨眼,杰姆却看着地下。接着杰姆站起来,打破了我们儿童时代残余的那种准则,走出屋子,向过厅走去。隐隐约约地听见他说:“阿迪克斯,您能上这儿来一下吗?”
迪尔那布满灰尘又被汗水冲得满是道道的脸顿时变得惨自。我只想呕吐。这时,阿迪克斯出现在门口。
他走到屋子中央,手插在口袋里站着,低头望着迪尔。
我好不容易挤出了一句话:“没什么,迪尔。他想让你知道什么就会说什么。”
迪尔望着我。“我的意思是说不要紧,”我说,“你知道他不会找你的麻烦,你知道你是不怕阿迪克斯的。”
“我不害怕……”迪尔小声说。
“我敢断定只是饿了。”阿迪克斯的声音还是平常那样既冷漠而又令人愉快,“斯各特,我们可以用比一盘冷玉米饼更好的东西招待他吧?你先把达伙计的肚子填饱,等我回来再看该怎么办。”
“芬奇先生,别告诉雷切尔姑妈,别叫我回去,求求您,先生!要不,我又会逃跑的……!”
“别走,孩子!”阿迫克斯说道,“除了叫你立刻上床外,谁也不会叫你到哪儿去。我只打算过去告诉雷切尔小姐你在这里,问一下你能不能在这儿和我们一起过夜——你喜欢这样,对不对?还有,千万把这些从乡下带来的脏东西弄到它该去的地方。泥巴的侵蚀作用够糟糕的。”
我爸爸走了,迪尔还呆呆地望着他的背影。
“他故意想说得滑稽一点,”我说,“他的意思是要你去洗个澡,明白了吧。我早就说他不会找你的麻烦的。”
杰姆站在屋角上,一副叛徒模样。他说:
“迪尔,我不得不告诉他,你不该不叫你妈知道,而跑出了三百里地。”
我们一句话也没说,离开了他。
迪尔吃了又吃,吃个没完。从昨夜起他就没吃过东西,钱都买了车票。他象从前一样上了火车,象没事似的坐着跟乘务员闲聊,乘务员对他很熟悉,但是他没有胆量申请享受儿童单独旅行的待遇。这种待遇是:如果丢了钱,你可在乘务员那儿借到足够的钱吃饭,到站后由你爸爸偿付。
迪尔把剩饭剩菜扳销以后,正准备吃那个猪肉蚕豆罐头,只听见雷切尔小姐那“嘟——耶稣啊”的声音从客厅里传来。迪尔浑身抖得象只小兔。
“等着,我得把你送回去。你家里人都要急疯了。”迪尔耐心地听着这些话。“这都是你跑出来的好结果。”迪尔仍然不做声。“我看,你可以在这儿住一个晚上。”迪尔脸上绽开了笑容。最后他终于用拥抱回答姑妈对他的长时间的挪抱。
阿迪克斯朝上推了推眼镜,又擦擦脸。
“你们的父亲累了,”亚历山德拉姑妈说。几个小时里,她好象才说了这一旬话。她一直在那儿,但是我想她几乎惊得不会说话了。“你们这些孩子现在都上床去。”
我们都走了,大人们留在餐室里。阿迪克斯仍然在抹肴脸。“从强奸到暴乱再到潜逃,”只听见他格格直笑。“真不知下两个小时里还会有些什么。”
既然情况看来都相当不错,迪尔和我决定对杰姆还是以礼相待。而且迪尔还要跟他睡一个床,所以我们不妨跟他和解算了。
我穿上睡衣,看了一会儿书,突然觉得眼皮打架了。迪尔和杰姆都很安静,我关上台灯时,杰姆房问的门下一丝光都没有。
我一定睡了很久,因为我被推醒时,只见屋子里残月腺胧。
“睡过去点,斯各特。”
“他想他不得不那样。”我咕噜一声,“别再生他的气。’
迪尔上床爬到我身边。“我没生气,”他说,“我只想和你一起睡。你醒了吗?”
这时我真醒了,不过懒洋洋的,“你为什么这么千?”
没有回答,“我问你为什么跑出来?他真象你说的那样可恨吗?”
“不……”
“你们没修船吗?你信上说要修。”
“他只是说要修,我们从没动手。”
我用手肘支起身体,面对着迪尔的身影。“这不足跑出来的理由。人们多半并不真正会千他们说过要干的事……”
“不是因为那个,他……他们不喜欢我。”
我从没听说过这种从家里跑出去的离奇的理由。“怎么回事呢?”
“唔,他们老是不在家。就是回来了,也是两个人躲在屋子里。”
“他们在屋子里干啥?”
“啥都不千,只是坐着看书。但是他们不愿我和他们在一起。”
我把枕头推到床头坐了起来。“你知道吗?今天晚上我倒因为他们都在那儿而打算跑掉的,你不会喜欢他们老是围着你转,迪尔……”
迪尔慢吞吞地吐了一口气,一半是叹息。
“……真是莫名其妙!阿迪克斯整天都在外头,有时半夜里才回来。我不知他在那个立法机关有什么事——你不愿他们老围着你,迪尔,如果他们在身边,你什么事也千不了。”
“我看不是这样。”
迪尔在一旁解释着,我却发现自己一边听一边想象着如果杰姆不是这样,哪怕仅仅不是象现在这样,生活会是什么样子;如果阿迪克斯不需要我在身边,不需要我们的帮助和建议,我又会于出什么来。啊,没有我,他一天也没法过。甚至卡尔珀尼亚也没法过下去,除非有我在。他们都需要我。
“迪尔,你说得不对——你家没你不行。他们一定是舍不得为你花钱。我告诉你该怎么对付……”
迪尔在黑暗中一口气说了下去:“事实是,我想说的是——没有我他们好得多,我一点也帮不了他们。他们并不小气,我要什么他们给买什么。但都是为了支开我。总是说:‘既然买了就拿出去玩;都有一屋子玩具了;给你买了那本书,到一边看去。”迪尔使劲装出一副粗嗓门说话。“你不象个男孩。男孩都出门跟别酌男孩一起玩棒球,他们不象你,老是在这屋里转,缠着家里人。”
迪尔又改成了自己原来的声音:“真的,他们不小气。说早安、晚安和再见时,他们都吻你、抱你,还告诉你他们爱你……斯各特,我们要个孩子吧。”
“上哪儿要?”
迪尔听人说过,只要有条船,划过一条河,到达一个烟雾蒙蒙的岛上,小孩都在那儿,你可以买上一个……
“那不是真的,亚历山德拉姑妈说,是上帝把他们从烟囱里扔下来的。至少,我想她是这么说的。”就在这一次,姑妈的措辞不太明朗。
“不,不是的。两个人凑在一起才会有孩子。但是也有这么个人——那些孩子都等着他去弄醒,他用气把他们吹活过来……”
迪尔又出神了。美妙的事物总在他一直做着梦的脑袋里乱翻。我看一本书他能看两本,但他更欣赏他的个人创造所具有的魔力。他演算加减法比闪电还快,但他却喜欢自己的朦胧的世界。这个世界里小孩们在睡觉,象清晨的百合花,等着人们去采集。他慢慢把自己说进了梦乡,还带上了我。但是,在那烟雾蒙蒙的、岛的寂静里,出现了一幅已不很明晰的画面:一幢灰色的房子和景象凄凉的褐色门扉。
“迪尔?”
“嗯。”
“你说布?拉德利为什么不从家里逃跑呢?”
迪尔长长地叹了一口气,从我旁边转过身去.
“可能他没什么地方可逃……”



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