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惱人的星期三

 

    每個月的第一個星期三都是個極端可怕的日子。你得戰戰兢兢地等著它的到來,硬著頭皮挨過去,又迅速把它忘掉。這一天,地板要光潔照人,椅子一塵不染,床舖不能有半點皺褶,還要把九十七個活蹦亂跳的小孤兒刷洗一遍,梳理整齊,給他們穿上漿好的花格布衣服,並且一一提醒他們注意禮貌,還耍這樣回答理事長先生的問題:「是,先生。」;「不,先生。」

 

    這真是一個令人沮喪的日子。可憐的潔魯莎˙艾博特是孤兒埵~齡最大的,當然就更加倒霉了。這個特殊的星期三,和以往一樣,總算挨過去了。潔魯莎終於從廚房逃了出來,不用再為孤兒院的客人做三明治了。她上樓去做她的日常工作。她負責第六室,那裹有十一個四至七歲的小鬼,和十一張排成一行的小床。潔魯莎把他們集合起來,幫他們整理好揉得皺巴巴的衣服,擦了鼻涕,排成一行,然後帶著這些小鬼到餐廳去。在那裹他們可以幸福地度過半個小時,喝牛奶,吃麵包,再加上梅子布丁。

 

    她疲憊地跌坐在窗戶旁的椅子上,把漲得發疼的太陽穴靠在冰涼的玻璃上。她從早上五點就手腳不停地忙,聽從每個人的吩咐,被神經質的院長李培太太橫加指責,催得暈頭轉向。在私底下,李培太太就不像她在理事伕們或女客人面前那樣,始終保持鎮靜,一副莊重的模樣。潔魯莎的目光掠過孤兒院高高的鐵欄杆外面一片結凍的廣闊草地,望到遠處那起伏的山巒,山上散落著村舍,光禿禿的樹叢中露出了房舍的尖頂。

 

    這一天過去了―她知道大家今天的表現可算是很不錯。理事們和巡視委員會的成員照例巡察了孤兒院,讀了報告書,喂了茶,現在,他們正著急著回家中溫暖的爐火旁。起碼要一個月,才會想起這些他們照管的磨人小鬼。潔魯莎探出身子,帶著一絲渴望,好奇地望著那成隊的馬車和小汽車開出孤兒院大門,她想像自己隨著一輛又一輛車,來到山坡上的一幢幢的大房子裹。她幻想自己穿著皮大衣,戴著有羽毛裝飾的絲絨帽子,靠在車座上,漫不經心地對車夫說:「回家。」但是到了家門口呢,她的想像就模糊了。

 

    潔魯莎喜愛幻想,李培太太告訴她,如果她再這樣子幻想下去,早晚會出問題的;但是不管她的想像力有多麼豐富,都無法帶她進入她想進入的房子裹,只能停留在門廊上。可憐的充滿冒險精神的小潔魯莎,在整整十七年的歲月裹,從未到過任何人的家。她想像不出那些沒有孤兒打擾的人們每天是怎樣生活的。

 

 

    潔魯莎˙艾博特

    辦公室找,

    依我看,你還是

    快點為妙!

 

 

    唱詩班的湯米˙迪倫唱著上了樓,從走廊走向第六室,聲音越來越近,越來越響。潔魯莎聲不得不離開窗口,再次面對人生的煩惱。

 

    她打斷湯米的詠唱,急切地問道:「誰找我?」

 

    李培太太在辦公室,

    我想她快氣瘋了。

    阿門!

 

    湯米仍然虔誠地唱著,他的音調並不帶有惡意。即使是最冷酷的孤兒,也於犯了過錯而被叫刑辦公室去見生氣院長的姊妹,也會有深表同情的,更何況湯米還是滿喜歡潔魯莎的,儘管她有時會使勁扯他的胳臂,幫他洗臉時幾乎把他的鼻子給擦掉了。

 

    潔魯莎一言不發地走去,額上平添了兩道皺紋。她心想:到底出了什麼差錯?三交治切得不夠薄?果仁蛋糕有果殼?還是哪位女人客看見蘇西˙豪桑的長襪上有玻洞?噢,天呀!是不是她管的第六室的天真孩子冒犯了那位理事長?

 

    樓下的長廊沒有點燈。她下樓時望見最後一位理事正要離去,他站在通向那扇門口。潔魯莎對他只留下一個短暫的印象―除了身材高挑,別無其他。他向停在彎曲車道上的一輛汽車招手。當車子起動向他直駛而來的剎那,刺眼的車前燈把他的影子投射到大廳的牆上,影子的腿和手臂拉得長長的,很古怪,從地板一直延伸到走廊的牆壁上,就像一隻人們俗稱「長腿叔叔」的搖搖晃晃的大蜘蛛。

 

    潔魯莎的額頭舒展開來,輕快地笑了起來。她的性格開朗,一點小事情都能把她逗笑。從讓人感到壓迫的理事身上發現一點點樂趣,的確是件意外的好事。這件小插曲使她高興了起來。她帶著一張笑臉,走到辦公室去見李培太太。很意外地,潔魯莎發現院長也顯得相當和藹可親,即使她不是真的在笑。她幾乎就像待訪客那樣地滿面喜色。

 

    「潔魯莎,坐下。我有話跟你說。」

    潔魯莎在最靠近她的一張椅子坐下,略微緊張地等待著。一輛汽車駛過窗外,李培太太望著遠去的車子,問道:

 

    「妳有沒有注意到剛才離開的那位先生?」

 

    「我看到他的背影。」

 

    「他是我們最富有的理事之一,捐了很多錢給孤兒院,但他明白表示不願讓人知道,所以我不能透露他的姓名。」

    潔魯莎微微睜大了眼睛。她不習慣被叫到辦公室來跟院長談論理事長們的古怪脾氣。

 

    「這位先生關照過孤兒院的幾個男孩。你記得查爾斯˙本登和亨利˙弗雷茲嗎?他們都是這位呃……理事送去上大學的。兩人都很用功,用良好的成績報答了他的慷慨資助。這位先生不要求其他報償。到目前為止,他只資助男孩,從來也沒辦法使他對女孩留一點心,不管她們有多麼出色。可以告訴妳,他不喜歡女孩。」

 

    「在今天的例會上,有人提起妳的前途。」

 

    李培太太略微停頓了一下,然後又慢條斯理地說下去,這對聽者驟然繃緊的神經更是一種難以忍受的折磨。

 

    「妳知道,一般情況下,孩子倒們到了十六歲就得離開孤兒院,但妳是個例外。妳十四歲讀完孤兒院的課程,成績優良―也不盡然,我得說,妳的操行並非那麼盡理想―我們送妳到本村中學繼續求學,現在妳快畢業了,孤兒院不能再負擔妳的費用。就這樣,妳已經比大多數孩子多受了兩年教育。」

 

    李培太太全然不提在這兩年裹,潔魯莎為了妳的食宿賣力地工作。孤兒院的事情總要毛先做完,才能照顧學業。遇到像今天這樣的日子,她都被留下打掃清潔。

 

    「我剛才就了,有人提出妳的前途問題,會上討論了妳的表現,各方面都談到了。」

 

    李培太太用責備的光盯管被告席上的犯人。犯人看起來一副有罪的樣子,倒不是妳能想起做過什麼壞事,而是覺得李培太太似乎認為妳應當有此表示。

 

    「當然,一般情況下,給妳安排一個工作就行了,但妳有些科目成績不錯,英語甚至可以說非常出色。普利查德小姐是巡視委員會的成員,也是校務委員會的委員。她跟妳的修辭學老師談過,她在會上誇了妳,還讀了妳的一篇作文,題目是<惱人的星期三>。」

 

    這回潔魯莎可真的知罪了。

 

    「我認為妳取笑養育過妳的孤兒院是忘恩負義的。若不是文章寫得俏皮,恐怕妳決不會被原諒。很幸運的,那位先生―剛才離開的那位先生很有幽默感,那篇無禮的文章使他決定送妳去上大學。」

 

    潔魯莎瞪大雙眼:「上大學?」

 

    李培太太點點頭。

 

    「他留下來和我討論了條件,很不尋常的條件。我覺得,這位先生還真有點古怪。他認為妳很有創意,想要培養妳成為作家。」

 

    「成為作家?」潔魯莎的頭腦  木起來,她只能重複李培太太的話。

 

    「這是他的願望,能否成真,以後自然就會明白。他給妳一筆很大的津貼,對一個從未理財過的女孩來說,似乎是太大了。他安排得很周全,我也不便說什麼。這個夏天妳留在這裹,普利查德小姐慷慨解囊答應幫妳添置衣裝。妳的學費和食宿費由那位先生直接付給校方,在校四年期間,妳每月還會收到三十五元的零用錢,這足夠讓妳躋身其他學生之間。他的私人祕書我個月會把錢匯給妳,而妳每個月收到錢後也要寫信給他,不是感謝他給妳的錢,他不想讓人提起這件事,而是詳細敘述妳的學習情況和日常生活,就好像如果妳父母親還在世,妳會寫信給他們那樣。」

 

    「信寫給約翰˙史密斯先生,由祕書轉交,這不是他的真名,他寧願隱姓埋名。他對妳永遠只能是約翰˙史密斯。他要妳寫信,因為他認為這是培養文學素養的最佳途徑。因為妳沒有家庭,他希望妳這樣寫信給他,而且他也希望能隨時知道妳有沒有進步。他不會回信,也不會特別去注意妳的信。他不喜歡寫信,不希望妳成為他的負擔。如有事急需要他答覆―比方說,妳被開除學籍,我想這不會發生―妳可以寫信給他的祕書格里格斯先生。每個月寫一封信是妳的義務,這是史密斯先生要求的唯一報償。因此,妳必須按時寫信,就像按時付款一樣。我希望妳在信上永遠保持謙恭,表現妳所受到的良好教養。妳要牢記妳的信是寫給格利爾之家的一位理事的。」

 

    潔魯莎的眼睛轉向房門。她興奮得有些暈頭轉向了,她巴不得儘快逃脫李培太太的這番絮叨,她需要思索一下。她起身試探著退了一步。李培太太舉手示意她留下來,這麼好的宣講機會怎能隨便放過呢?

 

    「我相信妳對這憑空而來的好運一定感恩不盡。像妳這樣的女孩很少能有機會出人頭地,妳必須要永遠牢記……

 

    「我……是的,太太。謝謝妳,如果沒有其他事情,我想我該去給費萊迪˙波金斯補褲子了。」

 

    潔魯莎帶上房門走了。李培太太目瞪口呆地望著房門,她的長篇大論剛說到興頭上呢。

 

 

 

 

 

“Blue Wednesday”

 

     The first Wednesday in every month was a Perfectly Awful Daya day to be awaited with dread, endured with courage, and forgotten with haste.  Every floor must be spotless, every chair dustless, and every bed without a wrinkle.  Ninety-seven squirming little orphans must be scrubbed and combed and buttoned into freshly starched ginghams: and all ninety-seven reminded of their manners, and told to say “Yes, sir,” ”No, sir,” whenever a trustee spoke.

     It was a distressing time; and poor Jerusha Abbott, being the oldest orphan, had to bear the brunt of it[首當其衝]  But this particular first Wednesday, like its predecessors, finally dragged itself to a close.  Jerusha escaped from the pantry where she had been making sandwoches for the asylum’s guuests, and turned upstairs to accomplish her regular work.  Her special car was room F, where eleven little tots, from four to seven, occupied eleven little cots set in a row.  Jerusha assembled her charges, straightened their rumpled frocks. Wiped their noses, and started them in an orderly and willing line toward the dining room to engage themselves for a blessed half hour with bread and prune pudding.

     Then she dropped down [迅速低下身體;倒下。] on the window seat and leaned throbbing temples against the cool glass.  She had been on her feet since five that morning doing everybody’s bidding[命令;受某人的指使], scolded and hurried by a nervous matron.  Mrs. Lippett, behind the scenes, did not always maintain that calm and pompous dignity with which she faced an audience of trustees and lady visitors.  Jerusha gazed out across a broad stretch of frozen lawn beyond the tall iron paling that marked the confines of the asylum, down undulation ridges sprinkled with country estates, to the spires of the village rising form the midst of bare trees. 

     The day was endedquite successfully, so far as she knew.  The trustees and the visiting committee had made their rounds, and read their reports, and drunk their tea, and now were hurrying home to their own cheerful firesides, to forget their bothersome little charges for another month.  Jerusha leaned forward watching with curiosityand a touch of wistfulness [一點渴望之情。] the stream of carriages and automobiles that rolled out of the asylum gates.  In imagination she followed first one equipage then another to the big houses dotted along the hillside.  She pictured herself in a fur coat and velvet hat trimmed with feathers leaning back in the seat and nonchalantly murmuring “Home” to the driver.  But on the doorsill of here home the picture grew blurred.

     Jerusha had an imaginationan imagination, Mrs. Lippett told her, that would get her into trouble if she didn’t take carebut keen as it was, it could not carry her beyond the front porch of the houses she would enter.  Poor, eager, adventurous little Jerusha, in all her seventeen years, had never stepped inside an ordinary house; she could not picture the daily routine of those other human beings who carried on their lives undiscommoded by orphans.

 

            Je-ru-sha Ab-bott

            You are wan-ted

            In the of-fice,

            And I think you’d

            Better hurry up!

 

    Tommy Dillon, who had joined the choir, came singing up the stairs and down the corridor, his chant growing louder as he approached room F.   Jerusha wrenched herself from the window and refaced the troubles of life. 

     “Who wants me?” she cut into Tommy’s chant with a note of sharp anxiety.

 

Mrs.Lippett in the office,

And I think she’s mad.

Ah-a-mem

[阿門,基督教祈禱或聖歌的結束語。]

 

     Tommy piously intoned, but his accent was not entirely malicious.  Even the most hardened little orphan felt sympathy for an erring sister who was summoned to the office to face an annoyed matron; and Tommy liked Jerusha even if she did sometimes jerk him by the arm and nearly scrub his nose off.[使勁擦他的鼻子。]

     Jerusha went without comment, but with two parallel lines[此處指兩道皺紋。] on her brow. What could have gone wrong[出問題。]?  Were there shells in the nut cakes?  Had a lady visitor seen the hold in Susie Hawthorn’s stocking?  Hadoh, horrors!one of the cherubic little babes in her own room F “sassed” a trustee?

     The long lower hall had not been lighted, and as she came downstairs, a last trustee stood, on the point of departure, in the open door that led to the porte-cochere.  Jerusha caught only a fleeting impression[轉瞬即逝的印象。] of the man and the impression consisted entirely of tallness.  He was waving his arm toward an automobile waiting in the curved drive.  As it sprang into motion and approached, head on for an instant, the glaring headlights threw his shadow sharply against the wall inside.  The shadow pictured grotesquely elongated legs and arms that ran along the floor and up the wall of he corridor.  It looked, for all the world, like a huge, wavering daddy-long-legs.

     Jerusha’s anxious frown gave place to[原意讓位給,此處是變為。] quick laughter.  She was by nature a sunny soul, and had always snatched the tiniest excuse to be amused.  If one could derive any sort of entertainment out of the oppressive fact of a trustee, it was something unexpected to the good.  She advanced to the office quite cheered by the tiny episode, and presented a smiling face to Mrs. Lippett.  To her surprise the matron was also, if not exactly smiling, at least appreciably affable; she wore an expression almost as pleasant as the one she donned[don an expression 臉上掛著...表情。] for visitors.

     “Sit down, Jerusha, I have something to say to you.”

     Jerusha dropped into the nearest chair and waited with a touch of breathlessness.  An automobile flashed past the window; Mrs. Lippett glanced after it.

     “Did you notice the gentleman who has just gone?”

     “I saw his back.”

     “ He is one of our most affluential trustees, and has given large sums of money toward the asylum’s support.  I am not at liberty to mention his name; he expressly stipulated that he was to remain unknown.”

     Jerusha’s eyes widened slightly; she was not accustomed to being summoned to the office to discuss the eccentricities of trustees with the matron. 

     “This gentleman has taken an interest in several of your boys.  You remember Charles Benton and Henry Freize?  They were both sent through co-lege by Mr. erthis trustee, and both have repaid with hard work and success the money that was so generously expended.  Other payment the gentleman does not wish.  Heretofore his philanthropies have been directed solely toward the boys; I have never been able to interest him in the slightest degree in any of he girls in the institution, no matter how deserving.  He does not, I may tell you, care for girls.”

     “no, ma’am,” Jerusha murmured, since some reply seemed to be expected at this point.

     “Today at the regular meeting, the question of your future was brought up.”

     Mrs. Lippett allowed a moment of silence to fall, then resumed in a slow, placid manner extremely trying to her hearer’s suddenly tightened nerves.   

     “Usually, as you know, the children are not kept after they are sixteen, but an exception was made in your case.  You had finished our school at fourteen, and having done so well in your studies not always, I must say, in your conductit was determined to let you go on in the village high school.  Now you are finishing tat, and of course the asylum cannot be responsible any longer for your support.  As it is, you have had two years more than most.”

     Mrs. Lippett overlooked the fact that Jerusha had worked hard for her board during those two years, that the convenience of he asylum had come first and her education second; that on days like the present she was kept at home to scrub.

     “As I say, the question of your future was brought up and your record was discussedthoroughly discussed.”

     Mrs. Lippett brought accusing eyes to bear upon[以責備的眼光看著我。] the prisoner in the dock[在被告席上的犯人。], and the prisoner looked guilty because it seemed to be expectednot because she could remember any strikingly black pages in her record.

     “Of course the usual disposition of one in your place would be to put you in a position where you could begin to work, but you have done well in school in certain branches; it seems that your work in English has even been brilliant.  Miss Pritchard, who is on our visiting committee, is also o9on the school board; she has been talking with you rhetoric teacher, and made a speech in your favor[贊許你的。].  She also read aloud and essay tat you had written entitled ‘Blue Wednesday.’”

     Jerusha’s guilty expression this time was not assumed.

     “It seemed to me that you showed little gratitude in holding up to ridicule[暴露出來並加以嘲笑。] the institution that has done so much for you.  Had you not managed to be funny I doubt if you would have been forgiven.  But fortunately for you, Mr.that is, the gentleman who has just goneappears to have an immoderate sense of humor.  On the strength of[憑、靠著。] that impertinent paper, he has offered to send you to college.”

     “To college?” Jerusha’s eyes grew big.

     Mrs. Lippett nodded.

     “He waited to discuss the terms with me.  They are unusual.  The gentleman, I may say, is erratic.  He believes that you have originality, and he is planning to educate you to become a writer.”

     “A writer?” Jerusha’s mind was numbed.  She could only repeat Mrs. Lippett’s words.

     “That is his wish.  Whether anything will come of it, future will show.  He is giving you a very liberal allowance, almost for a girl who has never had any experience in taking care of money, too liberal.  But he planned the matter in detail, and I did not feel free to[不認為有這種自由。] make any suggestions.  You are to remain here through he summer, and Miss Pritchard has kindly offered to superintend your outfit.  Your board and tuition will be paid directly to the college, and you will receive in addition during the four years you are there, and allowance of thirty-five dollars a month.  This will enable you to enter on the same standing[地位相同] as the other students.  The money will be sent to you by the gentleman’s private secretary once a month, and in return, you will write a letter of acknowledgment once a month.  That isyou are not to thank him for the money; he doesn’t care to have that mentioned, but you are to write a letter telling of the progress in your studies and the details of your daily life.  Just such a letter as you would write to your parents if they were living. 

     “These letters will be addressed to Mr. John Smith and will be sent in care of he secretary.  The gentleman’s name is not John Smith, but he prefers to remain unknown.  To you he will never be anything but[永不會是只會] John Smith.  His reason in requiring the letters is that he thinks nothing so fosters facility in literary expression[文學表現能力] as letter writing.  Since you have no family with whom to correspond, he keep track of your progress.  He will never answer your letters, nor in the slightest particular rake any notice of them.  He detests letter writing, and does not wish you to become a burden.  If any point should ever arise where an answer would seem to be imperativesuch as in the event of your being expelled, which I trust will not occuryou may correspond with Mr. Griggs, his secretary.  These monthly letters are absolutely obligatory on your part; they are the only payment that Mr. Smith requires, so you must be as punctilious in sending them as thought it were a bill that you were pay8ing.  I hope that they will always be respectful in tone and will reflect credit on your training.  You must remember that you are writing to a trustee of the John Grier Home.”

     Jerusha’s eyes longingly sought the door.  Her head was in a whorl of excitement, and she wished only to escape from Mrs. Lippett’s platitudes, and think.  She rose and took a tentative step backward.  Mrs. Lippett detained her with a gesture; it was and oratorical opportunity not to be slighted.

     “I trust that you are properly grateful for this very rare good fortune that has befallen you?  Not many girls in your position ever have such an opportunity to rise in the world.  You must always remember

     “I yes, ma’am , thank you.  I think, if that’s all, I must go and sew a patch on Freddie Perkins’s trousers.”

     The door closed behind her, and Mrs. Lippett watched it with dropped jaw, her peroration in midair.