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chapter 16
A year passed, and when Philip came to the school the old masters were all in their places; but a good many changes had taken place notwithstanding their stubborn resistance, none the less formidable because it was concealed under an apparent desire to fall in with the new head’s ideas. Though the form-masters still taught French to the lower school, another master had come, with a degree of doctor of philology from the University of Heidelberg and a record of three years spent in a French lycee, to teach French to the upper forms and German to anyone who cared to take it up instead of Greek. Another master was engaged to teach mathematics more systematically than had been found necessary hitherto. Neither of these was ordained. This was a real revolution, and when the pair arrived the older masters received them with distrust. A laboratory had been fitted up, army classes were instituted; they all said the character of the school was changing. And heaven only knew what further projects Mr. Perkins turned in that untidy head of his. The school was small as public schools go, there were not more than two hundred boarders; and it was difficult for it to grow larger, for it was huddled up against the Cathedral; the precincts, with the exception of a house in which some of the masters lodged, were occupied by the cathedral clergy; and there was no more room for building. But Mr. Perkins devised an elaborate scheme by which he might obtain sufficient space to make the school double its present size. He wanted to attract boys from London. He thought it would be good for them to be thrown in contact with the Kentish lads, and it would sharpen the country wits of these.

‘It’s against all our traditions,’ said Sighs, when Mr. Perkins made the suggestion to him. ‘We’ve rather gone out of our way to avoid the contamination of boys from London.’

‘Oh, what nonsense!’ said Mr. Perkins.

No one had ever told the form-master before that he talked nonsense, and he was meditating an acid reply, in which perhaps he might insert a veiled reference to hosiery, when Mr. Perkins in his impetuous way attacked him outrageously.

‘That house in the precincts—if you’d only marry I’d get the Chapter to put another couple of stories on, and we’d make dormitories and studies, and your wife could help you.’

The elderly clergyman gasped. Why should he marry? He was fifty-seven, a man couldn’t marry at fifty-seven. He couldn’t start looking after a house at his time of life. He didn’t want to marry. If the choice lay between that and the country living he would much sooner resign. All he wanted now was peace and quietness.

‘I’m not thinking of marrying,’ he said.

Mr. Perkins looked at him with his dark, bright eyes, and if there was a twinkle in them poor Sighs never saw it.

‘What a pity! Couldn’t you marry to oblige me? It would help me a great deal with the Dean and Chapter when I suggest rebuilding your house.’

But Mr. Perkins’ most unpopular innovation was his system of taking occasionally another man’s form. He asked it as a favour, but after all it was a favour which could not be refused, and as Tar, otherwise Mr. Turner, said, it was undignified for all parties. He gave no warning, but after morning prayers would say to one of the masters:

‘I wonder if you’d mind taking the Sixth today at eleven. We’ll change over, shall we?’

They did not know whether this was usual at other schools, but certainly it had never been done at Tercanbury. The results were curious. Mr. Turner, who was the first victim, broke the news to his form that the headmaster would take them for Latin that day, and on the pretence that they might like to ask him a question or two so that they should not make perfect fools of themselves, spent the last quarter of an hour of the history lesson in construing for them the passage of Livy which had been set for the day; but when he rejoined his class and looked at the paper on which Mr. Perkins had written the marks, a surprise awaited him; for the two boys at the top of the form seemed to have done very ill, while others who had never distinguished themselves before were given full marks. When he asked Eldridge, his cleverest boy, what was the meaning of this the answer came sullenly:

‘Mr. Perkins never gave us any construing to do. He asked me what I knew about General Gordon.’

Mr. Turner looked at him in astonishment. The boys evidently felt they had been hardly used, and he could not help agreeing with their silent dissatisfaction. He could not see either what General Gordon had to do with Livy. He hazarded an inquiry afterwards.

‘Eldridge was dreadfully put out because you asked him what he knew about General Gordon,’ he said to the headmaster, with an attempt at a chuckle.

Mr. Perkins laughed.

‘I saw they’d got to the agrarian laws of Caius Gracchus, and I wondered if they knew anything about the agrarian troubles in Ireland. But all they knew about Ireland was that Dublin was on the Liffey. So I wondered if they’d ever heard of General Gordon.’

Then the horrid fact was disclosed that the new head had a mania for general information. He had doubts about the utility of examinations on subjects which had been crammed for the occasion. He wanted common sense.

Sighs grew more worried every month; he could not get the thought out of his head that Mr. Perkins would ask him to fix a day for his marriage; and he hated the attitude the head adopted towards classical literature. There was no doubt that he was a fine scholar, and he was engaged on a work which was quite in the right tradition: he was writing a treatise on the trees in Latin literature; but he talked of it flippantly, as though it were a pastime of no great importance, like billiards, which engaged his leisure but was not to be considered with seriousness. And Squirts, the master of the Middle Third, grew more ill-tempered every day.

It was in his form that Philip was put on entering the school. The Rev. B. B. Gordon was a man by nature ill-suited to be a schoolmaster: he was impatient and choleric. With no one to call him to account, with only small boys to face him, he had long lost all power of self-control. He began his work in a rage and ended it in a passion. He was a man of middle height and of a corpulent figure; he had sandy hair, worn very short and now growing gray, and a small bristly moustache. His large face, with indistinct features and small blue eyes, was naturally red, but during his frequent attacks of anger it grew dark and purple. His nails were bitten to the quick, for while some trembling boy was construing he would sit at his desk shaking with the fury that consumed him, and gnaw his fingers. Stories, perhaps exaggerated, were told of his violence, and two years before there had been some excitement in the school when it was heard that one father was threatening a prosecution: he had boxed the ears of a boy named Walters with a book so violently that his hearing was affected and the boy had to be taken away from the school. The boy’s father lived in Tercanbury, and there had been much indignation in the city, the local paper had referred to the matter; but Mr. Walters was only a brewer, so the sympathy was divided. The rest of the boys, for reasons best known to themselves, though they loathed the master, took his side in the affair, and, to show their indignation that the school’s business had been dealt with outside, made things as uncomfortable as they could for Walters’ younger brother, who still remained. But Mr. Gordon had only escaped the country living by the skin of his teeth, and he had never hit a boy since. The right the masters possessed to cane boys on the hand was taken away from them, and Squirts could no longer emphasize his anger by beating his desk with the cane. He never did more now than take a boy by the shoulders and shake him. He still made a naughty or refractory lad stand with one arm stretched out for anything from ten minutes to half an hour, and he was as violent as before with his tongue.

No master could have been more unfitted to teach things to so shy a boy as Philip. He had come to the school with fewer terrors than he had when first he went to Mr. Watson’s. He knew a good many boys who had been with him at the preparatory school. He felt more grownup, and instinctively realised that among the larger numbers his deformity would be less noticeable. But from the first day Mr. Gordon struck terror in his heart; and the master, quick to discern the boys who were frightened of him, seemed on that account to take a peculiar dislike to him. Philip had enjoyed his work, but now he began to look upon the hours passed in school with horror. Rather than risk an answer which might be wrong and excite a storm of abuse from the master, he would sit stupidly silent, and when it came towards his turn to stand up and construe he grew sick and white with apprehension. His happy moments were those when Mr. Perkins took the form. He was able to gratify the passion for general knowledge which beset the headmaster; he had read all sorts of strange books beyond his years, and often Mr. Perkins, when a question was going round the room, would stop at Philip with a smile that filled the boy with rapture, and say:

‘Now, Carey, you tell them.’

The good marks he got on these occasions increased Mr. Gordon’s indignation. One day it came to Philip’s turn to translate, and the master sat there glaring at him and furiously biting his thumb. He was in a ferocious mood. Philip began to speak in a low voice.

‘Don’t mumble,’ shouted the master.

Something seemed to stick in Philip’s throat.

‘Go on. Go on. Go on.’

Each time the words were screamed more loudly. The effect was to drive all he knew out of Philip’s head, and he looked at the printed page vacantly. Mr. Gordon began to breathe heavily.

‘If you don’t know why don’t you say so? Do you know it or not? Did you hear all this construed last time or not? Why don’t you speak? Speak, you blockhead, speak!’

The master seized the arms of his chair and grasped them as though to prevent himself from falling upon Philip. They knew that in past days he often used to seize boys by the throat till they almost choked. The veins in his forehead stood out and his face grew dark and threatening. He was a man insane.

Philip had known the passage perfectly the day before, but now he could remember nothing.

‘I don’t know it,’ he gasped.

‘Why don’t you know it? Let’s take the words one by one. We’ll soon see if you don’t know it.’

Philip stood silent, very white, trembling a little, with his head bent down on the book. The master’s breathing grew almost stertorous.

‘The headmaster says you’re clever. I don’t know how he sees it. General information.’ He laughed savagely. ‘I don’t know what they put you in his form for ‘Blockhead.’

He was pleased with the word, and he repeated it at the top of his voice.

‘Blockhead! Blockhead! Club-footed blockhead!’

That relieved him a little. He saw Philip redden suddenly. He told him to fetch the Black Book. Philip put down his Caesar and went silently out. The Black Book was a sombre volume in which the names of boys were written with their misdeeds, and when a name was down three times it meant a caning. Philip went to the headmaster’s house and knocked at his study-door. Mr. Perkins was seated at his table.

‘May I have the Black Book, please, sir.’

‘There it is,’ answered Mr. Perkins, indicating its place by a nod of his head. ‘What have you been doing that you shouldn’t?’

‘I don’t know, sir.’

Mr. Perkins gave him a quick look, but without answering went on with his work. Philip took the book and went out. When the hour was up, a few minutes later, he brought it back.

‘Let me have a look at it,’ said the headmaster. ‘I see Mr. Gordon has black-booked you for ‘gross impertinence.’ What was it?’

‘I don’t know, sir. Mr. Gordon said I was a club-footed blockhead.’

Mr. Perkins looked at him again. He wondered whether there was sarcasm behind the boy’s reply, but he was still much too shaken. His face was white and his eyes had a look of terrified distress. Mr. Perkins got up and put the book down. As he did so he took up some photographs.

‘A friend of mine sent me some pictures of Athens this morning,’ he said casually. ‘Look here, there’s the Akropolis.’

He began explaining to Philip what he saw. The ruin grew vivid with his words. He showed him the theatre of Dionysus and explained in what order the people sat, and how beyond they could see the blue Aegean. And then suddenly he said:

‘I remember Mr. Gordon used to call me a gipsy counter-jumper when I was in his form.’

And before Philip, his mind fixed on the photographs, had time to gather the meaning of the remark, Mr. Perkins was showing him a picture of Salamis, and with his finger, a finger of which the nail had a little black edge to it, was pointing out how the Greek ships were placed and how the Persian.

第十六章

转眼间,一年过去了。当菲利普升入皇家公学时,那些老学究依然守着各自的地盘;尽管他们百般阻挠,学校里还是出现了不少变化。说实在的,他们暗地里的那股顽固劲儿,一点也不因为表面上随声附和新上司的主张就更容易对付些。现在,低年级学生的法语课仍由级任老师上,但是学校里另外延聘了一位教师,他一面教高年级的法语课,一面还给那些不喜欢学希腊语的学生开德语课。这位新教师曾在海德堡大学获得语言学博士的学位,并在法国某中学里执教过三年。学校还请了一位数学教师,让他比较系统地讲授数学,而过去一向是认为无须如此大动干戈的。两位新教师都是未就圣职的文士。这真是一场名副其实的重大变革,所以当这两位刚来校执教时,前辈教师都对他们侧目而视,觉得他们靠不住。学校辟建了实验室,还设置了军训课。教师们议论纷纷:学校这一下可兜底变啦!天晓得珀金斯先生那颗乱七八糟的脑袋瓜里,还在盘算些什么新花样!皇家公学同一般的公学一样,校舍狭小,最多只能收二百个寄宿生,而且学校挤缩在大教堂的边上,没法再扩大;教堂周围的那一圈之地,除了有一幢教师宿舍,差不多全让大教堂的教士们给占了,根本别想找到一块扩建校舍的空地。然而,珀金斯先生精心构思了一项计划,如能付诸实施,足以将现有的学校规模扩大一倍。他想把伦敦的孩子吸引过来。他觉得让伦敦孩子接触接触肯特郡的少年,未尝没有好处,也可以使这儿一些不见世面的乡村才子得到磨练。

"这可完全违背了本校的老传统,""常叹气"听了珀金斯先生的提议之后说,"我们对伦敦的孩子,一向倍加防范,不让他们败坏我们学校的风气。"

"嘿,简直是瞎扯淡!"

过去,还从未有谁当着这位老夫子的面说他瞎扯淡,他打算反唇相讥,回敬他一句,不妨在话里点一下布料衣裤之类的事儿,捅捅他的老底。可就在他苦思冥想、搜索枯肠的当儿,那位出言不逊的珀金斯先生又肆无忌惮地冲着他发话了:

"教堂园地里的那所房子--只要您结了婚,我就设法让牧师会在上面再加高两层,我们可以用那几间屋作宿舍和书室,而您太太还可以照顾照顾您。"

这位上了年纪的牧师倒抽了一口凉气。结婚?干吗呢?已经五十七岁啦。哪有人到了五十七岁还结婚的呢!总不见得到这把年纪再来营巢筑窝吧。他压根儿不想结婚。如果非要他在结婚与乡居这两者之间作出抉择,他宁可告老退隐。他现在只求太太平平安度晚年。

"我可没转过结婚的念头哟,"他嘟哝了一句。

珀金斯先生用那双烟烟闪亮的黑眼睛,打量着对方,即使他眸子在调皮地忽闪忽闪,可怜的"常叹气"先生也决不会有所察觉的。

"多可惜!您就不能帮我个忙,结婚安家算了?这样,我在主任牧师和牧师会面前建议将你房子翻造加高时,就更好说话了。"

然而,珀金斯先生最不得人心的一项革新,还是他搞的那套不定期同别的教师换班上课的新规矩。他嘴上说得挺客气,请对方行个方便,实际上这个方便却是非提供不可的。这种做法照"柏油"先生,也就是特纳先生的说法,双方都有失尊严。珀金斯先生往往事先也不打个招呼,晨祷刚结束,就突然对某位教师说:

"请您今天上午十一点替我上六年级的课,不知尊意如何?我们换个班上上,行吗?"

教师们不知道其他学校是否也兴这套做法,不过在这儿坎特伯雷肯定是前所未有的。就上课的效果来说,也让人莫名其妙。首当其冲的是特纳先生,他把消息事先透露给班里的学生,说这天的拉丁文课将由校长先生来上,同时,借口学生们兴许要问他一两个问题,特地在历史课下课前留出一刻钟时间,把规定那天要学的利维的一段文章给学生逐句讲解了一遍,免得他们到时候目瞪口呆、出足洋相。然而,等他回到班上,看到珀金斯先生的打分记录,不觉一惊:他班上的两名拔尖学生看来很不争气,而另外几个一向中不溜儿的学生却得了满分。他问自己班上最聪明的孩子埃尔德里奇究竟是怎么回事,孩子绷着脸回答说:

"珀金斯先生根本没要我们解释课文,他问我关于戈登将军知道点什么。"

特纳先生惊愕地望着埃尔德里奇。孩子们显然都觉得受了委屈,他禁不住对孩子们敢怒不敢言的情绪产生共鸣。他也看不出戈登将军同利维有何相于。后来他鼓起勇气旁敲侧击地探问了一下。

"您问埃尔德里奇关于戈登将军知道些什么,这一问可真把他问懵啦,"他强作笑颜对校长说。

珀金斯先生纵声大笑。

"我见他们已学到凯斯·格拉胡斯的土地法,所以很想知道他们对爱尔兰的土地纠纷是否有所了解。谁知他们对爱尔兰的了解,仅止于都柏林位于利菲河畔这一点。所以我再问了一下他们是否听说过戈登将军。"

于是,这个可怕的事实赫然公诸于众:这位新来的上司原来是个"常识迷"。他颇怀疑目前通行的学科考试有何用处,学生们死记硬背无非是为了应付这些考试。他注重的是常识。

时间一个月一个月过去,"常叹气"越来越忧心忡忡。他设法排遣这样的念头:珀金斯先生一定会逼他把结婚日期确定下来;此外,他还十分恼恨这位上司对古典文学所持的态度。毋庸置疑,珀金斯先生是位造诣很深的学者,眼下正忙于写一篇完全符合正统的论著--一篇有关拉丁文学谱系的论文,但是他平时谈论起古典文学来,口气相当轻率,就像是在谈论某种无关宏旨的类似弹子的娱乐一般,似乎它只是供茶余饭后助兴的话题,无须严肃对待。再说到三年级中班的教师"水枪"先生,此公脾气也是一天坏似一天。

菲利普进皇家公学之后,就被安排在他班上。这位B·B·戈登牧师先生,就其性情来说,似乎并不适宜做教师:既无耐心,肝火又旺。再加上长期以来无人过问他的教学,接触的又尽是些年幼学生,他可以为所欲为,自制力早已丧失殆尽。他上起课来,往往以大发雷霆开始,以暴跳如雷结束。他个子不高也不矮,胖墩墩的,一头黄中带红的短发已开始染上白霜,唇上蓄着一撮又短又硬的小胡子。此公其貌不扬,大脸盘上长着一对小小的蓝眼睛,脸色红扑扑的,可脾气一发作立时转成猪肝色,而他这个人又是动辄发火的。手上的指甲由于经常咬呀,咬呀,连肉也包不住了:只要有哪个学生解释课文时打哆嗦,他就怒从心头起,坐在讲台边直发抖,同时狠咬自己的指甲。关于他虐待学生的丑事,师生中传得沸沸扬扬,其中免不了也有夸大其词的地方。两年前有件事,曾在学校里轰动一时。据说,有位学生家长常扬言要向法院起诉,因为这位老夫子拿起一本书,狠命揍了一个名叫沃尔特斯的孩子的耳光,结果孩子的听觉受到严重影响,不得不中途辍学。孩子的父亲就住在坎特伯雷,城里好些人为之愤愤不平,当地报纸还报道过这件事。然而,沃尔特斯先生毕竟只是区区一酿酒商,所以别人对他的同情也无形中打了个折扣。至于班上其余的孩子,尽管很讨厌这位老夫子,但出于他们自己最清楚不过的考虑,在这件事情上,还是站在教师这一边,不但对外界于涉校内事务表示愤慨,甚至还百般刁难继续留在学校的沃尔特斯的弟弟。不过,戈登先生险些儿被撵到乡下去苟度余生,此后再不敢揍学生了。教师们随之丧失了打学生手心的权利,"水枪"也再不能用教鞭抽打讲台来发泄心头的盛怒了,现在至多不过是抓住学生的肩膀,使劲操他两下。不过对于调皮捣蛋,或是犟头倔脑的孩子,他们照旧要给予处罚,让他们空悬着一条胳膊,在那儿站上十分钟到半小时,而骂起学生来,依然像过去一样没遮拦。

对于像菲利普这样生性胆怯的学生来说,恐怕再也找不到比"水枪"更糟糕的教师了。菲利普这次进皇家公学,比起第一回见沃森先生时,胆子总算大了些。这儿有好多孩子他都认识,是预科的老同学。他觉得自己不再是小孩子了,他本能地意识到,周围同学越多,他的残疾就越少惹人注目。然而进校第一天,戈登先生就使他诚惶诚恐;这位夫子一眼就能看出哪些学生怕他,同时似乎也单凭这点,就此特别讨厌那些学生。过去,菲利普听老师讲课总觉得津津有味,可现在每到上课就胆战心惊,度时如年。教师提问时,他宁叶呆头呆脑地坐着,一声不响,生怕回答错了,挨老师一顿臭骂;每回轮到他站起来解释课文,他总是战战兢兢,脸色煞白,像害了大病似的。他也有快乐的时候,那就是珀金斯先生前来代课的时候。对这位有常识癖的校长,菲利普颇能投其所好,供成年人阅读的各种奇书异卷,菲利普都有所涉猎。珀金斯先生上课常出现这样的情况:他提出的问题先在学生中兜了一圈,谁也回答不出,最后总是留待菲利普来回答。珀金斯先生朝菲利普微微一笑--这一笑使得菲利普心花怒放--然后说:

"好,凯里,请你给大家说说吧!"

菲利普在这种场合取得的好分数,更增添了戈登先生胸中的不平。一天,轮到菲利普做翻译练习,老夫子坐在那儿,一面恶狠狠地瞪着菲利普,一面气呼呼地咬着大拇指。他正在火头上呢!菲利普开始轻声低语。

"别咕咕哝哝的!"老师吼叫了一声。

菲利普喉咙里像被什么异物堵住似的。

"说下去!说下去!说下去!"

他一连尖叫三声,一次比一次响,结果把菲利普原来学到的东西全都吓跑了,菲利普只是望着书页发愣。戈登先生直喘粗气。

"你要是不懂,干吗不明说呢?你到底懂不懂?上次解释课文的时候,你究竟听进去了没有?干吗不开口?说啊,你这个笨蛋!说啊!"

老夫子抓住坐椅的扶手,紧紧抓着,似乎生怕自己会朝菲利普猛扑上去。学生们都知道,过去他常一把掐住学生的脖子,差不多要把学生掐个半死才放手。这会儿戈登先生额上青筋毕露,脸色阴沉可怕。他简直成了个疯子。

菲利普前一天已把那段课文全搞懂了,但此刻却什么也记不起来。

"我不懂,"他气喘吁吁地说。

"你怎么会不懂呢?好吧,让咱们逐字逐句解释,你究竟是不是在装蒜,马上就能见分晓。"

菲利普站着不吭声,面如土色,浑身微微打颤,脑袋耷拉着,差不多碰到了课本。老夫子的鼻孔呼呼直响,简直像在打呼噜。

"校长说你很聪明,真不知道他是怎么看出来的。普通常识!"他粗野地大笑起来。"我不明白他们干吗要把你安排到这个班上来。笨蛋!"

他对这个词儿很欣赏,拉开嗓门一连重复了几声。

"笨蛋!笨蛋!一个瘸腿大笨蛋!"

戈登先生这么发泄一通,火气总算消了几分。他瞧见菲利普的脸倏地涨得通红。他叫菲利普去把记过簿拿来。菲利普放下手里的《恺撒纪事》,悄然无声地走出教室。记过簿是个浅黑封面的本儿,专门用来登录顽皮学生的越轨行为。哪个学生的大名在本子上出现三次,他就要挨一顿鞭答。菲利普走到校长的住处,敲敲他的书房门。珀金斯先生正坐在桌旁。

"先生,我可以拿记过簿吗?"

"就在那儿,"珀金斯先生随口应了一句,同时朝放记过簿的地方点一点头。"你干了什么不该干的事啦?"

"我不知道,先生。"

珀金斯先生朝菲利普瞥了一眼,但没再说什么,继续忙自己的事儿。菲利普拿起本子,出了书房。几分钟后,菲利普又把记过簿送回来。

"让我看一下,"校长说。"哦,戈登先生把你的名字记进了记过簿,说你'放肆无礼,究竟是怎么回事啊?"

"我不知道,先生。戈登先生说我是个瘸腿笨蛋。"

珀金斯先生又望了菲利普一眼,他很想知道这孩子回答的话里是否暗含讥讽之意,只见这孩子惊魂未定,脸色苍白,目光里流露出惊恐、痛苦的神色。珀金斯先生站起身,放下记过簿,顺手拿起几张照片。

"今天上午,我的一位朋友给我寄来了几张雅典地方的风景照,"他口气随便地说。"瞧,这是雅典卫城。"

他把照片上的古迹细细解释给菲利普听。经他这么一说,画面上的残垣废墟顿时变得栩栩如生。他还把狄俄尼索斯露天剧场指给菲利普看,讲解当时观众按等级就座的情况,又讲到观众打哪边极目远眺,可以看见蔚蓝色的爱琴海。接着,他突然话题一转:

"我记得过去在戈登先生班上念书的时候,他常常叫我'站柜台的吉卜赛人'。"

菲利普的注意力全集中在那些照片上,他还没来得及领会这句话的含义,珀金斯先生又拿出一张萨拉米斯岛的图片,还用手指--那手指的指甲尖还有一道黑边--点给他看当年希腊、波斯两国战舰的阵容部署。


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