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Chapter 24

      Calpurnia wore her stiffest starched apron. She carried a tray of charlotte. She backedup to the swinging door and pressed gently. I admired the ease and grace with whichshe handled heavy loads of dainty things. So did Aunt Alexandra, I guess, because shehad let Calpurnia serve today.

  August was on the brink of September. Dill would be leaving for Meridian tomorrow;today he was off with Jem at Barker’s Eddy. Jem had discovered with angry amazementthat nobody had ever bothered to teach Dill how to swim, a skill Jem considerednecessary as walking. They had spent two afternoons at the creek, they said they weregoing in naked and I couldn’t come, so I divided the lonely hours between Calpurnia andMiss Maudie.

  Today Aunt Alexandra and her missionary circle were fighting the good fight all overthe house. From the kitchen, I heard Mrs. Grace Merriweather giving a report in thelivingroom on the squalid lives of the Mrunas, it sounded like to me. They put the womenout in huts when their time came, whatever that was; they had no sense of family—Iknew that’d distress Aunty—they subjected children to terrible ordeals when they werethirteen; they were crawling with yaws and earworms, they chewed up and spat out thebark of a tree into a communal pot and then got drunk on it.

  Immediately thereafter, the ladies adjourned for refreshments.

  I didn’t know whether to go into the diningroom or stay out. Aunt Alexandra told me tojoin them for refreshments; it was not necessary that I attend the business part of themeeting, she said it’d bore me. I was wearing my pink Sunday dress, shoes, and apetticoat, and reflected that if I spilled anything Calpurnia would have to wash my dressagain for tomorrow. This had been a busy day for her. I decided to stay out.

  “Can I help you, Cal?” I asked, wishing to be of some service.

  Calpurnia paused in the doorway. “You be still as a mouse in that corner,” she said,“an‘ you can help me load up the trays when I come back.”

  The gentle hum of ladies’ voices grew louder as she opened the door: “Why,Alexandra, I never saw such charlotte… just lovely… I never can get my crust like this,never can… who’d‘ve thought of little dewberry tarts… Calpurnia?… who’da thought it…anybody tell you that the preacher’s wife’s… nooo, well she is, and that other one notwalkin’ yet…”

  They became quiet, and I knew they had all been served. Calpurnia returned and putmy mother’s heavy silver pitcher on a tray. “This coffee pitcher’s a curiosity,” shemurmured, “they don’t make ‘em these days.”

  “Can I carry it in?”

  “If you be careful and don’t drop it. Set it down at the end of the table by MissAlexandra. Down there by the cups’n things. She’s gonna pour.”

  I tried pressing my behind against the door as Calpurnia had done, but the door didn’tbudge. Grinning, she held it open for me. “Careful now, it’s heavy. Don’t look at it andyou won’t spill it.”

  My journey was successful: Aunt Alexandra smiled brilliantly. “Stay with us, JeanLouise,” she said. This was a part of her campaign to teach me to be a lady.

  It was customary for every circle hostess to invite her neighbors in for refreshments,be they Baptists or Presbyterians, which accounted for the presence of Miss Rachel(sober as a judge), Miss Maudie and Miss Stephanie Crawford. Rather nervous, I took aseat beside Miss Maudie and wondered why ladies put on their hats to go across thestreet. Ladies in bunches always filled me with vague apprehension and a firm desire tobe elsewhere, but this feeling was what Aunt Alexandra called being “spoiled.”

  The ladies were cool in fragile pastel prints: most of them were heavily powdered butunrouged; the only lipstick in the room was Tangee Natural. Cutex Natural sparkled ontheir fingernails, but some of the younger ladies wore Rose. They smelled heavenly. Isat quietly, having conquered my hands by tightly gripping the arms of the chair, andwaited for someone to speak to me.

  Miss Maudie’s gold bridgework twinkled. “You’re mighty dressed up, Miss JeanLouise,” she said, “Where are your britches today?”

  “Under my dress.”

  I hadn’t meant to be funny, but the ladies laughed. My cheeks grew hot as I realizedmy mistake, but Miss Maudie looked gravely down at me. She never laughed at meunless I meant to be funny.

  In the sudden silence that followed, Miss Stephanie Crawford called from across theroom, “Whatcha going to be when you grow up, Jean Louise? A lawyer?”

  “Nome, I hadn’t thought about it…” I answered, grateful that Miss Stephanie was kindenough to change the subject. Hurriedly I began choosing my vocation. Nurse? Aviator?

  “Well…”

  “Why shoot, I thought you wanted to be a lawyer, you’ve already commenced going tocourt.”

  The ladies laughed again. “That Stephanie’s a card,” somebody said. Miss Stephaniewas encouraged to pursue the subject: “Don’t you want to grow up to be a lawyer?”

  Miss Maudie’s hand touched mine and I answered mildly enough, “Nome, just a lady.”

  Miss Stephanie eyed me suspiciously, decided that I meant no impertinence, andcontented herself with, “Well, you won’t get very far until you start wearing dresses moreoften.”

  Miss Maudie’s hand closed tightly on mine, and I said nothing. Its warmth wasenough.

  Mrs. Grace Merriweather sat on my left, and I felt it would be polite to talk to her. Mr.

  Merriweather, a faithful Methodist under duress, apparently saw nothing personal insinging, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…” It wasthe general opinion of Maycomb, however, that Mrs. Merriweather had sobered him upand made a reasonably useful citizen of him. For certainly Mrs. Merriweather was themost devout lady in Maycomb. I searched for a topic of interest to her. “What did you allstudy this afternoon?” I asked.

  “Oh child, those poor Mrunas,” she said, and was off. Few other questions would benecessary.

  Mrs. Merriweather’s large brown eyes always filled with tears when she consideredthe oppressed. “Living in that jungle with nobody but J. Grimes Everett,” she said. “Not awhite person’ll go near ‘em but that saintly J. Grimes Everett.”

  Mrs. Merriweather played her voice like an organ; every word she said received its fullmeasure: “The poverty… the darkness… the immorality—nobody but J. Grimes Everettknows. You know, when the church gave me that trip to the camp grounds J. GrimesEverett said to me—”

  “Was he there, ma’am? I thought—”

  “Home on leave. J. Grimes Everett said to me, he said, ‘Mrs. Merriweather, you haveno conception, no conception of what we are fighting over there.’ That’s what he said tome.”

  “Yes ma’am.”

  “I said to him, ‘Mr. Everett,’ I said, ‘the ladies of the Maycomb Alabama MethodistEpiscopal Church South are behind you one hundred percent.’ That’s what I said to him.

  And you know, right then and there I made a pledge in my heart. I said to myself, when Igo home I’m going to give a course on the Mrunas and bring J. Grimes Everett’smessage to Maycomb and that’s just what I’m doing.”

  “Yes ma’am.”

  When Mrs. Merriweather shook her head, her black curls jiggled. “Jean Louise,” shesaid, “you are a fortunate girl. You live in a Christian home with Christian folks in aChristian town. Out there in J. Grimes Everett’s land there’s nothing but sin andsqualor.”

  “Yes ma’am.”

  “Sin and squalor—what was that, Gertrude?” Mrs. Merriweather turned on her chimesfor the lady sitting beside her. “Oh that. Well, I always say forgive and forget, forgive andforget. Thing that church ought to do is help her lead a Christian life for those childrenfrom here on out. Some of the men ought to go out there and tell that preacher toencourage her.”

  “Excuse me, Mrs. Merriweather,” I interrupted, “are you all talking about MayellaEwell?”

  “May—? No, child. That darky’s wife. Tom’s wife, Tom—”

  “Robinson, ma’am.”

  Mrs. Merriweather turned back to her neighbor. “There’s one thing I truly believe,Gertrude,” she continued, “but some people just don’t see it my way. If we just let themknow we forgive ‘em, that we’ve forgotten it, then this whole thing’ll blow over.”

  “Ah—Mrs. Merriweather,” I interrupted once more, “what’ll blow over?”

  Again, she turned to me. Mrs. Merriweather was one of those childless adults who findit necessary to assume a different tone of voice when speaking to children. “Nothing,Jean Louise,” she said, in stately largo, “the cooks and field hands are just dissatisfied,but they’re settling down now—they grumbled all next day after that trial.”

  Mrs. Merriweather faced Mrs. Farrow: “Gertrude, I tell you there’s nothing moredistracting than a sulky darky. Their mouths go down to here. Just ruins your day tohave one of ‘em in the kitchen. You know what I said to my Sophy, Gertrude? I said,’Sophy,‘ I said, ’you simply are not being a Christian today. Jesus Christ never wentaround grumbling and complaining,‘ and you know, it did her good. She took her eyesoff that floor and said, ’Nome, Miz Merriweather, Jesus never went around grumblin‘.’ Itell you, Gertrude, you never ought to let an opportunity go by to witness for the Lord.”

  I was reminded of the ancient little organ in the chapel at Finch’s Landing. When I wasvery small, and if I had been very good during the day, Atticus would let me pump itsbellows while he picked out a tune with one finger. The last note would linger as long asthere was air to sustain it. Mrs. Merriweather had run out of air, I judged, and wasreplenishing her supply while Mrs. Farrow composed herself to speak.

  Mrs. Farrow was a splendidly built woman with pale eyes and narrow feet. She had afresh permanent wave, and her hair was a mass of tight gray ringlets. She was thesecond most devout lady in Maycomb. She had a curious habit of prefacing everythingshe said with a soft sibilant sound.

  “S-s-s Grace,” she said, “it’s just like I was telling Brother Hutson the other day. ‘S-s-sBrother Hutson,’ I said, ‘looks like we’re fighting a losing battle, a losing battle.’ I said, ‘S-s-s it doesn’t matter to ’em one bit. We can educate ‘em till we’re blue in the face, wecan try till we drop to make Christians out of ’em, but there’s no lady safe in her bedthese nights.‘ He said to me, ’Mrs. Farrow, I don’t know what we’re coming to downhere.‘ S-s-s I told him that was certainly a fact.”

  Mrs. Merriweather nodded wisely. Her voice soared over the clink of coffee cups andthe soft bovine sounds of the ladies munching their dainties. “Gertrude,” she said, “I tellyou there are some good but misguided people in this town. Good, but misguided. Folksin this town who think they’re doing right, I mean. Now far be it from me to say who, butsome of ‘em in this town thought they were doing the right thing a while back, but allthey did was stir ’em up. That’s all they did. Might’ve looked like the right thing to do atthe time, I’m sure I don’t know, I’m not read in that field, but sulky… dissatisfied… I tellyou if my Sophy’d kept it up another day I’d have let her go. It’s never entered that woolof hers that the only reason I keep her is because this depression’s on and she needsher dollar and a quarter every week she can get it.”

  “His food doesn’t stick going down, does it?”

  Miss Maudie said it. Two tight lines had appeared at the corners of her mouth. Shehad been sitting silently beside me, her coffee cup balanced on one knee. I had lost thethread of conversation long ago, when they quit talking about Tom Robinson’s wife, andhad contented myself with thinking of Finch’s Landing and the river. Aunt Alexandra hadgot it backwards: the business part of the meeting was blood-curdling, the social hourwas dreary.

  “Maudie, I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” said Mrs. Merriweather.

  “I’m sure you do,” Miss Maudie said shortly.

  She said no more. When Miss Maudie was angry her brevity was icy. Something hadmade her deeply angry, and her gray eyes were as cold as her voice. Mrs. Merriweatherreddened, glanced at me, and looked away. I could not see Mrs. Farrow.

  Aunt Alexandra got up from the table and swiftly passed more refreshments, neatlyengaging Mrs. Merriweather and Mrs. Gates in brisk conversation. When she had themwell on the road with Mrs. Perkins, Aunt Alexandra stepped back. She gave MissMaudie a look of pure gratitude, and I wondered at the world of women. Miss Maudieand Aunt Alexandra had never been especially close, and here was Aunty silentlythanking her for something. For what, I knew not. I was content to learn that AuntAlexandra could be pierced sufficiently to feel gratitude for help given. There was nodoubt about it, I must soon enter this world, where on its surface fragrant ladies rockedslowly, fanned gently, and drank cool water.

  But I was more at home in my father’s world. People like Mr. Heck Tate did not trapyou with innocent questions to make fun of you; even Jem was not highly critical unlessyou said something stupid. Ladies seemed to live in faint horror of men, seemedunwilling to approve wholeheartedly of them. But I liked them. There was somethingabout them, no matter how much they cussed and drank and gambled and chewed; nomatter how undelectable they were, there was something about them that I instinctivelyliked… they weren’t—“Hypocrites, Mrs. Perkins, born hypocrites,” Mrs. Merriweather was saying. “At leastwe don’t have that sin on our shoulders down here. People up there set ‘em free, butyou don’t see ’em settin‘ at the table with ’em. At least we don’t have the deceit to say to‘em yes you’re as good as we are but stay away from us. Down here we just say youlive your way and we’ll live ours. I think that woman, that Mrs. Roosevelt’s lost hermind—just plain lost her mind coming down to Birmingham and tryin’ to sit with ‘em. If Iwas the Mayor of Birmingham I’d—”

  Well, neither of us was the Mayor of Birmingham, but I wished I was the Governor ofAlabama for one day: I’d let Tom Robinson go so quick the Missionary Society wouldn’thave time to catch its breath. Calpurnia was telling Miss Rachel’s cook the other dayhow bad Tom was taking things and she didn’t stop talking when I came into the kitchen.

  She said there wasn’t a thing Atticus could do to make being shut up easier for him, thatthe last thing he said to Atticus before they took him down to the prison camp was,“Good-bye, Mr. Finch, there ain’t nothin‘ you can do now, so there ain’t no use tryin’.”

  Calpurnia said Atticus told her that the day they took Tom to prison he just gave uphope. She said Atticus tried to explain things to him, and that he must do his best not tolose hope because Atticus was doing his best to get him free. Miss Rachel’s cook askedCalpurnia why didn’t Atticus just say yes, you’ll go free, and leave it at that—seemed likethat’d be a big comfort to Tom. Calpurnia said, “Because you ain’t familiar with the law.

  First thing you learn when you’re in a lawin‘ family is that there ain’t any definite answersto anything. Mr. Finch couldn’t say somethin’s so when he doesn’t know for sure it’s so.”

  The front door slammed and I heard Atticus’s footsteps in the hall. Automatically Iwondered what time it was. Not nearly time for him to be home, and on MissionarySociety days he usually stayed downtown until black dark.

  He stopped in the doorway. His hat was in his hand, and his face was white.

  “Excuse me, ladies,” he said. “Go right ahead with your meeting, don’t let me disturbyou. Alexandra, could you come to the kitchen a minute? I want to borrow Calpurnia fora while.”

  He didn’t go through the diningroom, but went down the back hallway and entered thekitchen from the rear door. Aunt Alexandra and I met him. The diningroom door openedagain and Miss Maudie joined us. Calpurnia had half risen from her chair.

  “Cal,” Atticus said, “I want you to go with me out to Helen Robinson’s house—”

  “What’s the matter?” Aunt Alexandra asked, alarmed by the look on my father’s face.

  “Tom’s dead.”

  Aunt Alexandra put her hands to her mouth.

  “They shot him,” said Atticus. “He was running. It was during their exercise period.

  They said he just broke into a blind raving charge at the fence and started climbing over.

  Right in front of them—”

  “Didn’t they try to stop him? Didn’t they give him any warning?” Aunt Alexandra’s voiceshook.

  “Oh yes, the guards called to him to stop. They fired a few shots in the air, then to kill.

  They got him just as he went over the fence. They said if he’d had two good arms he’dhave made it, he was moving that fast. Seventeen bullet holes in him. They didn’t haveto shoot him that much. Cal, I want you to come out with me and help me tell Helen.”

  “Yes sir,” she murmured, fumbling at her apron. Miss Maudie went to Calpurnia anduntied it.

  “This is the last straw, Atticus,” Aunt Alexandra said.

  “Depends on how you look at it,” he said. “What was one Negro, more or less, amongtwo hundred of ‘em? He wasn’t Tom to them, he was an escaping prisoner.”

  Atticus leaned against the refrigerator, pushed up his glasses, and rubbed his eyes.

  “We had such a good chance,” he said. “I told him what I thought, but I couldn’t in truthsay that we had more than a good chance. I guess Tom was tired of white men’schances and preferred to take his own. Ready, Cal?”

  “Yessir, Mr. Finch.”

  “Then let’s go.”

  Aunt Alexandra sat down in Calpurnia’s chair and put her hands to her face. She satquite still; she was so quiet I wondered if she would faint. I heard Miss Maudie breathingas if she had just climbed the steps, and in the diningroom the ladies chattered happily.

  I thought Aunt Alexandra was crying, but when she took her hands away from herface, she was not. She looked weary. She spoke, and her voice was flat.

  “I can’t say I approve of everything he does, Maudie, but he’s my brother, and I justwant to know when this will ever end.” Her voice rose: “It tears him to pieces. He doesn’tshow it much, but it tears him to pieces. I’ve seen him when—what else do they wantfrom him, Maudie, what else?”

  “What does who want, Alexandra?” Miss Maudie asked.

  “I mean this town. They’re perfectly willing to let him do what they’re too afraid to dothemselves—it might lose ‘em a nickel. They’re perfectly willing to let him wreck hishealth doing what they’re afraid to do, they’re—”

  “Be quiet, they’ll hear you,” said Miss Maudie. “Have you ever thought of it this way,Alexandra? Whether Maycomb knows it or not, we’re paying the highest tribute we canpay a man. We trust him to do right. It’s that simple.”

  “Who?” Aunt Alexandra never knew she was echoing her twelve-year-old nephew.

  “The handful of people in this town who say that fair play is not marked White Only;the handful of people who say a fair trial is for everybody, not just us; the handful ofpeople with enough humility to think, when they look at a Negro, there but for the Lord’skindness am l.” Miss Maudie’s old crispness was returning: “The handful of people inthis town with background, that’s who they are.”

  Had I been attentive, I would have had another scrap to add to Jem’s definition ofbackground, but I found myself shaking and couldn’t stop. I had seen Enfield PrisonFarm, and Atticus had pointed out the exercise yard to me. It was the size of a footballfield.

  “Stop that shaking,” commanded Miss Maudie, and I stopped. “Get up, Alexandra,we’ve left ‘em long enough.”

  Aunt Alexandra rose and smoothed the various whalebone ridges along her hips. Shetook her handkerchief from her belt and wiped her nose. She patted her hair and said,“Do I show it?”

  “Not a sign,” said Miss Maudie. “Are you together again, Jean Louise?”

  “Yes ma’am.”

  “Then let’s join the ladies,” she said grimly.

  Their voices swelled when Miss Maudie opened the door to the diningroom. AuntAlexandra was ahead of me, and I saw her head go up as she went through the door.

  “Oh, Mrs. Perkins,” she said, “you need some more coffee. Let me get it.”

  “Calpurnia’s on an errand for a few minutes, Grace,” said Miss Maudie. “Let me passyou some more of those dewberry tarts. ‘dyou hear what that cousin of mine did theother day, the one who likes to go fishing?…”

  And so they went, down the row of laughing women, around the diningroom, refillingcoffee cups, dishing out goodies as though their only regret was the temporary domesticdisaster of losing Calpurnia. The gentle hum began again. “Yes sir, Mrs. Perkins, that J.

  Grimes Everett is a martyred saint, he… needed to get married so they ran… to thebeauty parlor every Saturday afternoon… soon as the sun goes down. He goes to bedwith the… chickens, a crate full of sick chickens, Fred says that’s what started it all. Fredsays…”

  Aunt Alexandra looked across the room at me and smiled. She looked at a tray ofcookies on the table and nodded at them. I carefully picked up the tray and watchedmyself walk to Mrs. Merriweather. With my best company manners, I asked her if shewould have some.

  After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I.

卡尔珀尼亚系着浆得硬邦邦的围裙,手里端着一盘水果糕,转身甩背轻轻把回旋门顶开。她双手端着一盘盘香甜可口的食品时总是这样开门的,她从容文雅,真使我佩服。我想,亚历山德拉姑妈也佩服她吧,所以今天才让她来服侍大家。
八月即将过去,九月就要来临。迪尔明天就要回梅里迪安去。今天他跟杰姆到巴克?埃迪河湾去了。杰姆发现从没有人教过迪尔游泳,既感到惊奇,又显得生气。游泳,在杰姆看来,跟走路同样必要。一连两个下午他们都在河湾里泡着。他们说,他们在那里一丝不挂,所以不让我去。于是,在寂寞中我只好一会儿呆在卡尔珀尼亚身边,一会儿又去跟莫迪小姐聊天。
今天,亚历山德拉姑妈和她的传教团体在家里辩论什么,声音满屋子都听见。我在厨房里听见格雷斯?梅里韦瑟太太在客厅向大家报告,听起来好象是关于叫摩路纳人的悲惨生活。摩路纳人在他们的妇女临产时把她们关在外面的小茅棚里。摩路纳人没有一点儿家庭观念——我知道,这一点会使姑妈感到难过。这种人的孩子刚满十三岁就要经受痛苦的折磨,他们患有皮肤病,身上沾满了玉米虫,在地上到处爬,他们从树上剥下树皮放在嘴里嚼,把渣滓吐在公共的钵子里,然后又喝那钵子里的龌龊液体。
等梅里韦瑟太太讲完,女人们休会到餐室里来吃茶点。
我不知该至Ⅱ餐室里去还是就呆在外面。亚历山德拉姑妈要我和她们一起吃茶点。她说,她们谈正事时我不必参加,因为我会感到枯燥无味。这一天,我穿着平时只有礼拜天才穿的粉红色连衣裙和鞋子,里面还穿了衬裙。我心想,如果衣服溅上了什么东西,卡尔珀尼亚为了让我明天还可以穿,就不得不再洗一遍。她这一天已经忙得够呛了。于是我决定果在外边,不进去了。
“有什么事叫我做吗,卡尔?”我想帮她傲点什么。
卡尔珀尼亚在门口停下来。“你就象老鼠一样呆在那个角落里别动吧,”她说,“我回来时,帮我把糕点放进盘予里。”
她开门进去时,里面那些女人们轻柔的叽叽喳喳的说话声越来越大了:“嗳,亚历山德拉,。我从来没见过这么好的水果糕……真可爱……我从来没做出过这么美观的外表……谁想得到用黑莓做馅饼……卡尔珀尼亚?……谁会想到……有谁告诉你没有,那牧师的妻子又有了……不,不,哦,是的,是有了,她那个大的还不能走呢……”
她们安静下来。我知道一定是她们各自都有了点心。卡尔珀尼亚回到厨房,把我妈妈的银质大咖啡罐放在盘子上。“这个咖啡罐是件珍贵的东西。”她喃喃说,“现在没有哪里生产这种罐子了。”
“让我拿进去好吗?”
“小心一点,别摔坏了。放在桌子一头亚历山德拉小姐身旁,跟琊些杯子碟子放在一起。她会给大家斟上的。’
我象卡尔珀尼亚那样用屁股去顶门,可是那门纹丝不动。卡尔珀尼亚笑着替我把门打开。“当心点啊,很沉呢。不看它,它就不会泼出来。”
我顺利地将咖啡罐放到了桌上,亚历山德拉姑妈笑逐颜开。“就呆在这儿吧,琼-路易斯。”她说。这是她耍把我培养成一个有教养的女子的一部分活动。
按通常的习惯,这个团体的每一位女主人都得邀请邻居来吃点心,无论她的邻居是浸礼会成员还是长老会信徒。所以,雷切尔小姐(她的表情象法官一样严肃)、莫迪小姐和斯蒂芬尼?克劳福德小姐都来了。我感到有点尴尬,在奘迪小姐身旁坐了下来,心里想着为什么女人们总是戴着帽子过大街。跟一群群女人在一起我总是模模糊糊地感到局促不安,总想赶快避开她们。但是这种感觉正是亚厉山德拉姑妈所说的“被宠坏了”。
这些女人穿着颜色清淡柔和的印花布衣,加上大多数部只抹了厚厚的香粉而没涂胭脂,看起来给人一种凉爽之感。房子里惟一的唇膏是天然的桔红色的,她们指甲上大都是涂的天然色的指甲油,不过她们中较年轻的涂的是玫瑰红色的。她们周身散发出浓郁的馨香。我静静地坐着,紧紧抓住椅子的扶手——生怕两只手不听话,等待她们中哪一个来跟我说话。
莫迪小姐的金牙闪闪发亮。“啊,今天打扮得这么漂亮啊?琼?路易斯小姐,”她说,“今天你的裤子哪儿去了?”
“穿在连衣裙下面呢。”
我并没有打算逗乐,但是她们一下子笑开了。我意识到自己的错误,只觉得双颊顿时火辣辣的。只有莫迪小姐一个人严肃地看着我。除非我有意逗乐,她从来不取笑我。
屋里突然沉默下来。这时斯蒂芬尼?克劳福德小姐在对面叫道:“琼?路易斯,你长大了干什么?当律师吗?”
“不……嗯,我还没想过这个问题……”我阐答说,心里感谢她好心把话题岔开了。我急急忙忙地开始选择未来的职业。护士?飞行员?“呃……”
“讲出来吧,我以为你想当律师呢,因为你已经开始去法庭啦。”
女人们又哈哈大笑起来。“斯蒂芬尼还真够滑稽的呢I”有人说了一句。斯蒂芬尼小姐又来劲了,迫问说:“你长大不想当律师吗?”
莫迪小姐把手搭在我的手上。我用很轻很轻的声音回答:“不,我只想当一个有教养的女人。”
斯蒂芬尼小姐用怀疑的眼光打量了我一会儿,确信我没有打算鲁莽无礼,于是心满意足地说,“喂,你成不了有教养的女人,除非你开始更经常地穿连衣裙。”
莫迪小姐紧紧地握住了我的手。我再没说一句话。她手上传来的温暖足够使我坦然了。
格雷斯?梅里韦瑟太太坐在我左边,我觉得和她讲讲话会显得很礼貌。她丈夫梅里韦瑟先生被迫成了一个虔诚的卫理公会教徒。他唱着“全能的上帝的慈悲,有多么悦耳的声音,拯救了我这个可怜的人……”,唱的时候显然他不觉得这个颂歌涉及任何个人。然而,梅科姆镇的人普遍认为格雷斯?梅里韦瑟太太使他清醒了,把他改造成了一?个通情达理而又有用的公民。因为,毫无疑问,梅里韦瑟太太是梅科姆最虔诚的女人。我在思索着一个她会感兴趣的话题。“你们今天下午都在说些什么?”我问道。
“哦,孩子,说那些可怜的摩路纳人。”她说了这一句就不再说下去了。没有再问的必要了。
梅里韦瑟太太一想到受苦难的人,她那大大的棕色眼睛就饱噙着泪花。“他们住在丛林里,只有捷?格兰姆斯-埃弗雷特和他们在一起,其他什么人也没有。”她说,“除了圣徒般的捷?格兰姆斯?埃弗雷特,没有一个白人会走近他们。”
梅里韦瑟太太说话象是演奏风琴,每个词都完全符合音乐的节奏。“贫困……黑暗……邪恶……这一切,唯有捷-格兰姆斯?埃弗雷特知遭。教堂派我到野营地时,捷?格兰姆斯?埃弗霄特对我说……”
“他在那里吗,太太?我还以为……”
“他回家休假了。捷?格兰姆斯?埃弗雷特对我说:‘梅里韦瑟太太,您不知遭啊,您不知道我们在那里得和什么作斗争。’他就是这么对我说的。”
“嗯,太太。”
“我对他说:‘埃弗雷特先生,亚拉巴马州梅科姆县的南方卫理公会主教派的妇女百分之百地作您的后盾。’我对他就是这么说的。你们知道,我心里当即立下誓言。我想回去就要把摩路纳人的情况讲给大家听,把捷?格兰姆斯?埃弗雷特的愿望传达给梅科姆县的人民。我现在就是这么做的。”
“嗯,太太。”
梅里韦瑟太太摇了摇头,头上一绺绺的黑色鬈发也随着轻轻摇晃。“琼?路易斯,”她说,“你真是幸运啊。你生长在基督教的城镇,基督敦的家庭,周围都是基督教徒。在那里,捷?格兰姆斯?埃弗雷特工作的地方,除了罪恶和贫困就一无所有啊。”
“嗯,太太。”-“罪恶和贫困…???那是什么,格特鲁德?”梅里韦瑟太太转身看着身旁的那位女人,用动听的声音说,“哦,那个。暖,我总是说宽恕、忘记,宽恕、忘记。教会应该做的是帮助她,让她从现在起,为了孩子,象基督徒一样地生活。这里应该派一些男人去要那个牧师鼓励她。”
“请问,梅里韦瑟太太,”我插嘴问道,“您是在说梅耶拉?尤厄尔吗?”
“梅……?不,孩子。我说的是那黑人的妻子。汤姆的妻子,汤姆……”
“鲁宾逊,太太。”
梅里韦瑟太太叉转过身去对她旁边的女人说。“有一件事我真正相信,格特鲁德,”她继续说,“但是有些人不象我这么看,如果我们干脆让他们知遘我们宽恕他们了,我们不再计较那件事了,那么,整个事情就会过去的。”
“呃,——梅里韦瑟太太,”我又插嘴说,“什么事会过去?”
她又向我转过身来。梅里韦瑟太太无儿无女,与小孩说话时,总觉得有必要采用不同的口吻。“没有什么,琼?路易斯,”她用一种庄重缓慢的语气说,“厨子和地里干活的工人都忿忿不平,不过现在慢慢平息了——审判后第二天他们嘀咕了整整一天。”
梅里韦瑟太太面对着法罗太太。“格特鲁德,我告诉您,最令人心烦意乱的奠过于与一个愠怒的黑人打交道。他们的嘴巴一直耷拉到这里。有个这样的黑人在厨房里,你这一天就别想过得痛快。您知道我怎么对索菲说吗,格特鲁德?我说;‘索菲,你今天简直不是个基督教徒了。耶稣基督可从没有成天喃喃咕咕的啊!’这么一说她果然好些了。她抬起头说:‘是的,梅里韦瑟太太,耶稣基督是从不嘀咕的。’我告诉您,格特鲁德,您决不要白白放过任何一个为上帝作见证的机会。”
她讲话的姿势使我回想起芬奇庄园小教堂里的那个古旧的小风琴。我很小的时候,要是一天到晚都乖的话,阿迪克斯就让我拉那风琴的风箱,而他就用一个指头弹上一支曲子。最后一个音符一直要拖到风箱内没有气时为止。我想,梅里韦瑟太太已经耗尽了肺部的空气。法罗太太镇静下来准备说话时,梅里韦瑟太太正在不断地往肺里充气。
法罗太太体态优美,眼睛是灰色的,有一双秀气的脚。她的头发新近电烫过,还带有一个个灰色的环形发卷。她算得上梅科姆第二个虔诚的女人。她有个奇怪的毛病,说起话来前面总带着轻柔的咝音。
“咝咝咝,格雷斯,”她说,“这正象我那天跟赫得森教友说的那样。我说,‘咝咝——咝,赫得森教友,看来我们这一仗没有希望赢,这是注定要失败的一仗啊。’我说,‘咝——咝咝,这对他们倒无关紧要。我们可以教育他们,直教到我们精疲力竭;我们可以努力使他们皈依基督教,直到我们疲惫不堪地倒下去。但是这些个晚上,没有哪个女人觉得睡在床上安全。’他对我说:‘法罗太太,我不知道我们在这儿会要遭什么殃。’咝咝——咝,我告诉他,事实无疑就是这样。”
梅里韦瑟太太心领神会地点了点头。她提高嗓门,声音压过咖啡杯的碰撞声,压过女人咀嚼点心发出的象牛咀嚼饲料般的声音。“格特鲁德,”她说,“我告诉你,这个镇上有些好人,但是他们误入歧途了。他们人好,但误入歧途。我说的是镇上那些自以为坐得正站得直的人。我当然不敢冒昧说谁是这种人,但是,这城里确实有些人自以为不久前他们做的事情是对的,其实,他们只不过是引起骚乱,除了引起骚乱,他们什么也没做。当时来看,他们或许做得不错,不过究竟怎样,我当然不知道。在这一方面,我一无所知,但是,愠怒……不满……告诉你,要是索菲第二天还是那样,我就会打发她走。她从来也不想一想,我留用她是因为目前还没有度过经济危机,她还需要靠做工每周挣一块二角五分钱。”
“赫得森教友是个道貌岸然的伪君子,不是吗?”
这是莫迪小姐说的。她的嘴角上出现了两根绷得紧紧的皱纹。她一直坐在我旁边,一声不吭,咖啡杯平稳地放在膝盖上。从她们停止谈论汤姆?鲁宾逊的妻子那会儿起,我对他们的谈话就感到奠名其妙了,话题只是回忆芬奇庄园和那条河流。亚历山德拉姑妈弄反了:谈正经事的时候令人毛骨悚然,闲谈的时侯令人郁闷。
“莫迪,我一定还没理解你的意思。”梅里韦瑟太太说。
“你一定理解了。”莫迪小姐简慢地回答。
莫迪小姐没再说什么。她恼怒时说话简慢,冷冰冰的。不知什么事情使她这会几十分恼怒,她灰色的眼睛象她的声音一样冷冰冰的。梅里韦瑟太太满脸绯红,瞥了我一下,又把目光瞟开了。法罗太太脸色如何我没看见。
亚历山德拉姑妈起身迅速取来一些点心,然后与梅里韦瑟太太和盖茨太太活跃地谈了起来。一会儿她又使她俩与珀金斯太太谈得火热,自己却缄默起来。她向莫迪小姐丢了一个衷心感激的眼色。女人的天地真使我感到莫名其妙。亚所山德拉姑妈与莫迪小姐从来没什么深交,但这当儿姑妈却默默地为什么事感激地。究竟为了什么,我不知道。亚历山德拉姑妈有时也会感动得对别人的帮助表示谢意,这一点使我感到惬意。毫无疑问,我不久就得进入这个天地。在这个天地里,从表面上看来香气扑鼻的女人们慢慢地摆着身子,轻轻地摇着扇子,喝着清凉的水。
但是,在父亲的天地里,我感到自由自在一些。象赫克?塔特先生这样的人不会问一些幼稚的问题来开你的玩笑。即使杰姆也不怎么挑毛病,除非你硬是说了些蠢话。女人似乎有些惧怕男人,似乎不愿意全心全意地赞同他们的行为,但是我喜欢他们。无论他们多么喜欢咒骂,喜欢喝酒,喜欢赌博,喜欢嚼烟,无论他们多么不讨人喜欢,他们身上总有一种气质,总有一种我本能地喜欢的东西……他们不是……
“伪君子,珀金斯太太,是天生的伪君子。”梅里韦瑟正说荇,“在我们南方,我们身上没有这种罪恶。北方人让黑人自由,但你没见过那里的自人和黑人同坐一桌。至少,我们不会虚伪地说,是的,你们和我们一样好,但是你们不要和我们呆在一起。在这里,我们只是说,你们过你们的日子,我们过我们的日子。我看,那个女人——就是那个罗斯福太太,丧失了理智,完全丧失了理智,她到伯明翰来开会,想和黑人坐到一块,要是我是伯明翰的市长,我就要……”
可惜,我们中没有谁是伯明翰的市长。我倒希望自己能当一天亚拉巴马州州长,那么我就要立即释放汤姆,使得传教团体松口气的时候都没有。前几天,卡尔珀尼亚跟雷切尔小姐家的厨子说,汤姆一点儿也不乐观。我进了厨房她们也没停止谈话。她说,阿迪克斯无法使汤姆在牢房里过得安心些;他们把他押送监驶之前,他与阿迪克斯告别说:“再见,芬奇先生,现在您也没办法了,不必再作任何努力了。”卡尔珀尼亚说,阿迪克斯告诉他,他们把汤姆押送监狱的那天,汤姆完全绝望了。她说,阿迪克斯反复把情况解释给他听,要他尽最大的努力别放弃希望,因为阿迪克斯会尽最大的努力使他出狱。雷切尔小姐家的厨子问卡尔珀尼亚,为什么阿迪克斯不干脆肯定地说,赴的,他一定会被释放,不要担心,那样汤姆不是可以获得巨大的安慰吗?卡尔珀尼亚说:“因为你对法律不熟悉。在一个律师家庭里,你知道的第一件事就是任何事情都没有定准。芬奇先生不能说某件事将怎么样,因为他自己也不敢肯定事情真会怎么样。”
砰的一声传来前门关闭的声音。我听见过厅里响起了阿迪克斯的脚步声。我不由自主地揣度着这会儿是什么时候了,离他回家的时间还早呢。在传教团体的活动日子里,不到天黑一般他不会回家。
他在门口停下来。手里拿着帽子,脸上没有一点儿血色。
“请原谅,女士们,”他说,“你们继续开会吧,可别让我打扰你们了。亚历山德拉,你到厨房来一下好吗?我想叫卡尔珀尼亚去办点事。”
他没有走过餐室,而是沿着过道,从后门进了厨房。我和亚历山德拉姑妈迎上去。餐室门又开了,莫迪小姐也来到厨房。卡尔珀尼亚从椅予上正在站起来。
“卡尔,”阿迪克斯说,“我想要你跟我一道去海伦?鲁宾逊家……”
“出了什么事?”亚历山德拉姑妈问道,父亲的脸色使她感到惊慌。
。汤姆死了。”
亚厉山德拉姑妈双手仲向嘴巴。
“他们用枪打死了他,”阿迪克斯说。“做操时他想越狱。据说,他突然没命地向栅栏狂跑,想翻越过去。就在他们的面前……”
“他们没有制止他吗?没有警告他吗?”亚历山德拉姑妈说话时声音颤抖。
“嗯,警卫命令他站住。他们首先朝天放了几枪,然后朝他开了枪。他正好翻过栅栏就被击毙。他们说,如果他有两只听使唤的胳膊,他就跑脱了。他的动作可快啦。身上有十七个弹孔。他们没有必要开这么多枪。卡尔,我想要你跟我一起去,帮我把这事告诉海伦。”
“好的,先生。”她喃喃地说,手在围裙上乱摸。莫迪小姐走拢来帮她解开围裙。
“这一下,他们再没法忍受了,阿迪克斯。”亚历山德拉姑妈说。
“看你如何去看,”他说,“监狱里有两百多个黑人,死一个算得了什么?对看守来说,他不是汤姆,他是个仓图越狱的犯人。”
阿迪克斯靠着电冰箱,把眼镜往上推了推,揉了一下眼睛。“本来我们很有希望的,”他说,“我告诉了他我的想法,但我不能肯定地把事情说得更乐观。我想,汤姆对白人总是受到偏袒感到十分厌恶,决定铤而走险。准备好了吗,卡尔?”
“好了,芬奇先生。”
“那我们走吧。”
亚历山德拉姑妈一屁股坐在卡尔珀尼亚的椅子上,双手捂着脸。静静地坐着,静得吓人,我担心她会昏过去。我听见莫迪小姐在大口大口地喘气,好象刚刚爬过一些阶梯似的。餐室里,女人们仍在悠然自得地闲聊。
我以为亚历山德拉姑妈在哭泣,但她捂着面部的手拿开时并没有哭的迹象。她显得疲惫,说话时声音低沉。
“我不能说我赞成他做的一切,莫迪。但是他是我哥哥。所以我只想知道这件事情究竟要多久才能了结。”她提高了嗓门,“这事把他的心隶!I要撕碎了。表面上不大看得出来,实际上他心都要给撕碎了。我曾经看见过他的这种表现,那时……他们还想找他要什么,莫迪,还想找他耍什么?”
“谁找他要什么,亚历山德拉?”莫迪小姐问。
“我说的是这个镇上的人。他们倒非常愿意让他做他们自己怕得不敢做的事情,因为这样他们就可以万无一失。让他做他们不敢做的事情,让他搞垮自己的身体,他们侧非常愿意,他们……”
“小声点,她们会听见的。”莫迪小姐说,“亚历山德拉,您这样想过吗?无论梅科姆的人知不知道您说的这一点,我们对他的赞颂是再高也没有了。我们希望他伸张正义。问题十分简单。”
“您指的是谁?”亚历山德拉姑妈不知道自己是在重复十二岁的侄儿问过的问题。
“这镇上那部分认为公平合理不能光对白人而言的人;那部分认为不仅是对我们而且对所有的人都要实行公平审判的人j那部分看见黑人就谦卑地想到没有上帝的慈悲就没有自己的人。”莫迪小姐又和以前一样爽快了:“这镇上那部分有门第的人,这就是我指的那些人。”
我要是认真听,就可以使杰姆关于门第的定义得到充实,但是我发现自己浑身颤抖,控制不住。我见过恩菲尔德劳改农场,阿迪克斯曾指着那个犯人操场给我看,那操场与橄榄球场一般大小。
“不要这样颤抖,”莫迪小姐命令道。我果真不颤抖了。“起来吧,亚历山德拉,我们离开餐室够久了。”
亚历山德拉姑妈起身抚平裙子上各式各样的鲸须般的褶子,从腰带里抽出小手帕擦擦鼻子,又轻轻拍了拍头发,问道:“看得出来吗?”
“没有一点痕迹。”莫迪小姐说,“一道去吗?琼?路易斯?”
“好吧,小姐。”
“那就让我们一起进去吧。”她严峻地说。
真迪小姐打开门走入餐室时,那些女人的声音加大了。亚历山德拉姑妈走在我前面,我看见她进门时把头朝上一扬。
“噢,珀金斯太太,”她说,“您还要些咖啡吧。来,让我来给你斟上。”
“卡尔珀尼亚有事出去几分钟,格雷斯。”莫迪小姐说,。‘让我给您拿些黑莓馅饼吧。您听说我那个表哥前几天干了什么吗,就是那个喜欢钓鱼的表哥?……”
于是她俩招呼着这一桌谈笑风生的女人,在餐室里来来往往,斟咖啡的斟咖啡,端甜饼的端甜饼。暂时失去卡尔珀尼亚是一个小小不便,而她们唯一遗憾的似乎仅仅就是这一点。
轻柔的叽叽瞳喳的讲话声又开始了:“是的,珀金斯太太,捷?格兰姆斯?埃弗旨特是个受难的圣徒,他……得赶快结婚,所以他们就跑……每星期六下午跑到美容院去……太阳一下山他就睡觉……小鸡,满满一柳条箱的小鸡全生病了,弗雷德说,他就是从这种境况中开始的。弗雷德还说……”
亚历山德拉姑妈坐在我对面看着我一笑。她看看桌上的一盘甜饼,向我丢了个眼色。我小心翼翼地端起那个盘子,落落大方地走到梅里韦瑟太太身旁,彬彬有礼地询问她是不是要一些甜饼。不管怎么说,只要姑妈在这种场合能象一个有教养的女子那样言谈举止,那我也同样做得到。



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