• 女性短篇小说《AJuryofherPeers》翻译赏析

  • 发布时间:2017-12-16 20:37 浏览:加载中

  •   When Martha Hale opened the storm-door and got a cut of the north wind, she ran back for her big woolen scarf. As she hurriedly wound that round her head her eye made a scandalized sweep of her kitchen. It was no ordinary thing that called her away--it was probably further from ordinary than anything that had ever happened in Dickson County12. But what her eye took in was that her kitchen was in no shape for leaving: her bread all ready for mixing, half the flour sifted and half unsifted. She hated to see things half done; but she had been at that when the team from town stopped to get Mr. Hale, and then the sheriff came running in to say his wife wished Mrs. Hale would come too--adding, with a grin, that he guessed she was getting scary and wanted another woman along. So she had dropped everything right where it was. “Martha!” now came her husband’s impatient voice. “Don’t keep folks waiting out here in the cold.” She again opened the storm-door, and this time joined the three men and the one woman waiting for her in the big two-seated buggy13. After she had the robes tucked around her she took another look at the woman who sat beside her on the back seat. She had met Mrs. Peters the year before at the county fair, and the thing she remembered about her was that she didn’t seem like a sheriff’s wife. She was small and thin and didn’t have a strong voice. Mrs. Gorman, sheriff’s wife before Gorman went out and Peters came in, had a voice that somehow seemed to be backing up the law with every word. But if Mrs. Peters didn’t look like a sheriff’s wife, Peters made it up in looking like a sheriff. He was to a dot the kind of man who could get himself elected sheriff14--a heavy man with a big voice, who was particularly genial with the law-abiding, as if to make it plain that he knew the difference between criminals and non-criminals. And right there it came into Mrs. Hale’s mind, with a stab, that this man who was so pleasant and lively with all of them was going to the Wrights’ now as a sheriff. “The country’s not very pleasant this time of year,” Mrs. Peters at last ventured, as if she felt they ought to be talking as well as the men. Mrs. Hale scarcely finished her reply, for they had gone up a little hill and could see the Wright place now, and seeing it did not make her feel like talking. It looked very lonesome this cold March morning. It had always been a lonesome-looking place. It was down in a hollow, and the poplar15 trees around it were lonesome-looking trees. The men were looking at it and talking about what had happened. The county attorney was bending to one side of the buggy, and kept looking steadily at the place as they drew up to it. “I’m glad you came with me,” Mrs. Peters said nervously, as the two women were about to follow the men in through the kitchen door. Even after she had her foot on the door-step, her hand on the knob, Martha Hale had a moment of feeling she could not cross that threshold. And the reason it seemed she couldn’t cross it now was simply because she hadn’t crossed it before. Time and time again it had been in her mind, “I ought to go over and see Minnie Foster”--she still thought of her as Minnie Foster, though for twenty years she had been Mrs. Wright. And then there was always something to do and Minnie Foster would go from her mind. But now she could come. The men went over to the stove16. The women stood close together by the door. Young Henderson, the county attorney, turned around and said, “Come up to the fire, ladies.” Mrs. Peters took a step forward, then stopped. “I’m not--cold,” she said. And so the two women stood by the door, at first not even so much as looking around the kitchen. The men talked for a minute about what a good thing it was the sheriff had sent his deputy out that morning to make a fire for them, and then Sheriff Peters stepped back from the stove, unbuttoned his outer coat, and leaned his hands on the kitchen table in a way that seemed to mark the beginning of official business. “Now, Mr. Hale,” he said in a sort of semi-official voice, “before we move things about, you tell Mr. Henderson just what it was you saw when you came here yesterday morning.” The county attorney was looking around the kitchen.

      “By the way,” he said, “has anything been moved?” He turned to the sheriff. “Are things just as you left them yesterday?” Peters looked from cupboard to sink17; from that to a small worn rocker a little to one side of the kitchen table. “It’s just the same.” “Somebody should have been left here yesterday,” said the county attorney. “Oh--yesterday,” returned the sheriff, with a little gesture as of yesterday having been more than he could bear to think of. “When I had to send Frank to Morris Center for that man who went crazy--let me tell you. I had my hands full yesterday. I knew you could get back from Omaha by today, George, and as long as I went over everything here myself--” “Well, Mr. Hale,” said the county attorney, in a way of letting what was past and gone go, “tell just what happened when you came here yesterday morning.” Mrs. Hale, still leaning against the door, had that sinking feeling of the mother whose child is about to speak a piece. Lewis often wandered along and got things mixed up in a story. She hoped he would tell this straight and plain, and not say unnecessary things that would just make things harder for Minnie Foster. He didn’t begin at once, and she noticed that he looked queer--as if standing in that kitchen and having to tell what he had seen there yesterday morning made him almost sick. “Yes, Mr. Hale?” the county attorney reminded. “Harry and I had started to town with a load of potatoes,” Mrs. Hale’s husband began. Harry was Mrs. Hale’s oldest boy. He wasn’t with them now, for the very good reason that those potatoes never got to town yesterday and he was taking them this morning, so he hadn’t been home when the sheriff stopped to say he wanted Mr. Hale to come over to the Wright place and tell the county attorney his story there, where he could point it all out. With all Mrs. Hale’s other emotions came the fear now that maybe Harry wasn’t dressed warm enough--they hadn’t any of them realized how that north wind did bite. “We come along this road,” Hale was going on, with a motion of his hand to the road over which they had just come, “and as we got in sight of the house I says to Harry, ‘I’m goin’ to see if I can’t get John Wright to take a telephone.’ You see,” he explained to Henderson, “unless I can get somebody to go in with me they won’t come out this branch road except for a price I can’t pay. I’d spoke to Wright about it once before; but he put me off, saying folks talked too much anyway, and all he asked was peace and quiet--guess you know about how much he talked himself. But I thought maybe if I went to the house and talked about it before his wife, and said all the women-folks liked the telephones, and that in this lonesome stretch of road it would be a good thing--well, I said to Harry that that was what I was going to say--though I said at the same time that I didn’t know as what his wife wanted made much difference to John--” Now there he was!--saying things he didn’t need to say. Mrs. Hale tried to catch her husband’s eye, but fortunately the county attorney interrupted with: “Let’s talk about that a little later, Mr. Hale. I do want to talk about that but, I’m anxious now to get along to just what happened when you got here.” When he began this time, it was very deliberately and carefully:“I didn’t see or hear anything. I knocked at the door. And still it was all quiet inside. I knew they must be up--it was past eight o’clock. So I knocked again, louder, and I thought I heard somebody say, ‘Come in.’ I wasn’t sure--I’m not sure yet. But I opened the door--this door,” jerking a hand toward the door by which the two women stood. “and there, in that rocker”--pointing to it--”sat Mrs. Wright.” Everyone in the kitchen looked at the rocker. It came into Mrs. Hale’s mind that that rocker didn’t look in the least like Minnie Foster--the Minnie Foster of twenty years before. It was a dingy red, with wooden rungs 18up the back, and the middle rung was gone, and the chair sagged to one side. “How did she--look?” the county attorney was inquiring.“Well,” said Hale, “she looked--queer.”“How do you mean--queer?”As he asked it he took out a note-book and pencil. Mrs. Hale did not like the sight of that pencil. She kept her eye fixed on her husband, as if to keep him from saying unnecessary things that would go into that note-book and make trouble.Hale did speak guardedly, as if the pencil had affected him too.

      “Well, as if she didn’t know what she was going to do next. And kind of--done up.”“How did she seem to feel about your coming?”“Why, I don’t think she minded--one way or other. She didn’t pay much attention. I said, ‘Ho’ do, Mrs. Wright? It’s cold, ain’t it?’ And she said. ‘Is it?’--and went on pleatin’ at her apron.“Well, I was surprised. She didn’t ask me to come up to the stove, or to sit down, but just set there, not even lookin’ at me. And so I said: ‘I want to see John.’“And then she--laughed. I guess you would call it a laugh.“I thought of Harry and the team outside, so I said, a little sharp, ‘Can I see John?’ ‘No,’ says she--kind of dull like. ‘Ain’t he home?’ says I. Then she looked at me. ‘Yes,’ says she, ‘he’s home.’ ‘Then why can’t I see him?’ I asked her, out of patience with her now. ‘Cause he’s dead’ says she, just as quiet and dull--and fell to pleatin’ her apron. ‘Dead?’ says, I, like you do when you can’t take in what you’ve heard.“She just nodded her head, not getting a bit excited, but rockin’ back and forth.“‘Why--where is he?’ says I, not knowing what to say.“She just pointed upstairs--like this”--pointing to the room above.“I got up, with the idea of going up there myself. By this time I--didn’t know what to do. I walked from there to here; then I says: ‘Why, what did he die of?’“‘He died of a rope around his neck,’ says she; and just went on pleatin’ at her apron.” Hale stopped speaking, and stood staring at the rocker, as if he were still seeing the woman who had sat there the morning before. Nobody spoke; it was as if every one were seeing the woman who had sat there the morning before.“And what did you do then?” the county attorney at last broke the silence. “I went out and called Harry. I thought I might--need help. I got Harry in, and we went upstairs.” His voice fell almost to a whisper. “There he was--lying over the--” “I think I’d rather have you go into that upstairs,” the county attorney interrupted, “where you can point it all out. Just go on now with the rest of the story.” “Well, my first thought was to get that rope off. It looked--” He stopped, his face twitching. “But Harry, he went up to him, and he said. ‘No, he’s dead all right, and we’d better not touch anything.’ So we went downstairs. “She was still sitting that same way. ‘Has anybody been notified?’ I asked. ‘No, says she, unconcerned. “‘Who did this, Mrs. Wright?’ said Harry. He said it businesslike, and she stopped pleatin’ at her apron. ‘I don’t know,’ she says. ‘You don’t know?’ says Harry. ‘Weren’t you sleepin’ in the bed with him?’ ‘Yes,’ says she, ‘but I was on the inside. ‘Somebody slipped a rope round his neck and strangled him, and you didn’t wake up?’ says Harry. ‘I didn’t wake up,’ she said after him. “We may have looked as if we didn’t see how that could be, for after a minute she said, ‘I sleep sound.’

      “Harry was going to ask her more questions, but I said maybe that weren’t our business; maybe we ought to let her tell her story first to the coroner19 or the sheriff. So Harry went fast as he could over to High Road--the Rivers’ place, where there’s a telephone.” “And what did she do when she knew you had gone for the coroner?” The attorney got his pencil in his hand all ready for writing. “She moved from that chair to this one over here”--Hale pointed to a small chair in the corner--”and just sat there with her hands held together and lookin down. I got a feeling that I ought to make some conversation, so I said I had come in to see if John wanted to put in a telephone; and at that she started to laugh, and then she stopped and looked at me--scared.” At the sound of a moving pencil the man who was telling the story looked up.

      “I dunno--maybe it wasn’t scared,” he hastened: “I wouldn’t like to say it was. Soon Harry got back, and then Dr. Lloyd came, and you, Mr. Peters, and so I guess that’s all I know that you don’t.” He said that last with relief, and moved a little, as if relaxing. Everyone moved a little. The county attorney walked toward the stair door. “I guess we’ll go upstairs first--then out to the barn and around there.” He paused and looked around the kitchen. “You’re convinced there was nothing important here?” he asked the sheriff. “Nothing that would--point to any motive20?” The sheriff too looked all around, as if to re-convince himself.

      “Nothing here but kitchen things,” he said, with a little laugh for the insignificance of kitchen things. The county attorney was looking at the cupboard--a peculiar, ungainly structure, half closet and half cupboard, the upper part of it being built in the wall, and the lower part just the old-fashioned kitchen cupboard. As if its queerness attracted him, he got a chair and opened the upper part and looked in. After a moment he drew his hand away sticky. “Here’s a nice mess,” he said resentfully. The two women had drawn nearer, and now the sheriff’s wife spoke. “Oh--her fruit,” she said, looking to Mrs. Hale for sympathetic understanding. She turned back to the county attorney and explained: “She worried about that when it turned so cold last night. She said the fire would go out and her jars might burst.” Mrs. Peters’ husband broke into a laugh. “Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder, and worrying about her preserves!”

      The young attorney set his lips. “I guess before we’re through with her she may have something more serious than preserves to worry about.” “Oh, well,” said Mrs. Hale’s husband, with good-natured superiority, “women are used to worrying over trifles.” The two women moved a little closer together. Neither of them spoke. The county attorney seemed suddenly to remember his manners--and think of his future. “And yet,” said he, with the gallantry of a young politician. “for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies?” The women did not speak, did not unbend. He went to the sink and began washing his hands. He turned to wipe them on the roller towel--whirled it for a cleaner place. “Dirty towelsl Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?” He kicked his foot against some dirty pans under the sink. “There’s a great deal of work to be done on a farm,” said Mrs. Hale stiffly. “To be sure. And yet”--with a little bow to her--’I know there are some Dickson County farm-houses that do not have such roller towels21.” He gave it a pull to expose its full length again. “Those towels get dirty awful quick. Men’s hands aren’t always as clean as they might be. “Ah, loyal to your sex, I see,” he laughed. He stopped and gave her a keen look, “But you and Mrs. Wright were neighbors. I suppose you were friends, too.” Martha Hale shook her head. “I’ve seen little enough of her of late years. I’ve not been in this house--it’s more than a year.” “And why was that? You didn’t like her?” “I liked her well enough,” she replied with spirit. “Farmers’ wives have their hands full, Mr. Henderson. And then--” She looked around the kitchen. “Yes?” he encouraged. “It never seemed a very cheerful place,” said she, more to herself than to him. “No,” he agreed; “I don’t think anyone would call it cheerful. I shouldn’t say she had the home-making instinct.” “Well, I don’t know as Wright had, either,” she muttered. “You mean they didn’t get on very well?” he was quick to ask. “No; I don’t mean anything,” she answered, with decision. As she turned a little away from him, she added: “But I don’t think a place would be any the cheerfuller for John Wright’s bein’ in it.” “I’d like to talk to you about that a little later, Mrs. Hale,” he said. “I’m anxious to get the lay of things upstairs now.” He moved toward the stair door, followed by the two men. “I suppose anything Mrs. Peters does’ll be all right?” the sheriff inquired. “She was to take in some clothes for her, you know--and a few little things. We left in such a hurry yesterday.” The county attorney looked at the two women they were leaving alone there among the kitchen things. “Yes--Mrs. Peters,” he said, his glance resting on the woman who was not Mrs. Peters, the big farmer woman who stood behind the sheriff’s wife. “Of course Mrs. Peters is one of us,” he said, in a manner of entrusting responsibility. “And keep your eye out, Mrs. Peters, for anything that might be of use. No telling; you women might come upon a clue to the motive--and that’s the thing we need.” Mr. Hale rubbed his face after the fashion of a showman getting ready for a pleasantry. “But would the women know a clue if they did come upon it?” he said; and, having delivered himself of this, he followed the others through the stair door. The women stood motionless and silent, listening to the footsteps, first upon the stairs, then in the room above them. Then, as if releasing herself from something strange. Mrs. Hale began to arrange the dirty pans under the sink, which the county attorney’s disdainful push of the foot had deranged. “I’d hate to have men comin’ into my kitchen,” she said testily--”snoopin’ round and criticizin’.” “Of course it’s no more than their duty,” said the sheriff’s wife, in her manner of timid acquiescence. “Duty’s all right,” replied Mrs. Hale bluffly; “but I guess that deputy sheriff that come out to make the fire might have got a little of this on.” She gave the roller towel a pull. ‘Wish I’d thought of that sooner! Seems mean to talk about her for not having things slicked up, when she had to come away in such a hurry.” She looked around the kitchen. Certainly it was not “slicked up.” Her eye was held by a bucket of sugar on a low shelf. The cover was off the wooden bucket, and beside it was a paper bag--half full. Mrs. HaIe moved toward it. “She was putting this in there,” she said to herself--slowly. She thought of the flour in her kitchen at home--half sifted, half not sifted. She had been interrupted, and had left things half done. What had interrupted Minnie Foster? Why had that work been left half done? She made a move as if to finish it,--unfinished things always bothered her,--and then she glanced around and saw that Mrs. Peters was watching her--and she didn’t want Mrs. Peters to get that feeling she had got of work begun and then--for some reason--not finished. “It’s a shame about her fruit,” she said, and walked toward the cupboard that the county attorney had opened, and got on the chair, murmuring: “I wonder if it’s all gone.”

      It was a sorry enough looking sight, but “Here’s one that’s all right,” she said at last. She held it toward the light. “This is cherries, too.” She looked again. “I declare I believe that’s the only one.” With a sigh, she got down from the chair, went to the sink, and wiped off the bottle. “She’Il feel awful bad, after all her hard work in the hot weather. I remember the afternoon I put up my cherries last summer. She set the bottle on the table, and, with another sigh, started to sit down in the rocker. But she did not sit down. Something kept her from sitting down in that chair. She straightened--stepped back, and, half turned away, stood looking at it, seeing the woman who had sat there “pleatin’ at her apron.” The thin voice of the sheriff’s wife broke in upon her: “I must be getting those things from the front-room closet.” She opened the door into the other room, started in, stepped back. “You coming with me, Mrs. Hale?” she asked nervously. “You--you could help me get them.” They were soon back--the stark coldness of that shut-up room was not a thing to linger in. “My!” said Mrs. Peters, dropping the things on the table and hurrying to the stove. Mrs. Hale stood examining the clothes the woman who was being detained in town had said she wanted. “Wright was close!” she exclaimed, holding up a shabby black skirt that bore the marks of much making over. “I think maybe that’s why she kept so much to herself. I s’pose she felt she couldn’t do her part; and then, you don’t enjoy things when you feel shabby. She used to wear pretty clothes and be lively--when she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girls, singing in the choir. But that--oh, that was twenty years ago.” With a carefulness in which there was something tender, she folded the shabby clothes and piled them at one corner of the table. She looked up at Mrs. Peters, and there was something in the other woman’s look that irritated her. “She don’t care,” she said to herself. “Much difference it makes to her whether Minnie Foster had pretty clothes when she was a girl.”

      Then she looked again, and she wasn’t so sure; in fact, she hadn’t at any time been perfectly sure about Mrs. Peters. She had that shrinking manner, and yet her eyes looked as if they could see a long way into things. “This all you was to take in?” asked Mrs. Hale. “No,” said the sheriffs wife; “she said she wanted an apron. Funny thing to want, “ she ventured in her nervous little way, “for there’s not much to get you dirty in jail, goodness knows. But I suppose just to make her feel more natural. If you’re used to wearing an apron--. She said they were in the bottom drawer of this cupboard. Yes--here they are. And then her little shawl that always hung on the stair door.”She took the small gray shawl from behind the door leading upstairs, and stood a minute looking at it.Suddenly Mrs. Hale took a quick step toward the other woman, “Mrs. Peters!”“Yes, Mrs. Hale?”“Do you think she--did it?’A frightened look blurred the other thing in Mrs. Peters’ eyes.“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, in a voice that seemed to shink away from the subject.“Well, I don’t think she did,” affirmed Mrs. Hale stoutly. “Asking for an apron, and her little shawl. Worryin’ about her fruit.”“Mr. Peters says--.” Footsteps were heard in the room above; she stopped, looked up, then went on in a lowered voice: “Mr. Peters says--it looks bad for her. Mr. Henderson is awful sarcastic in a speech, and he’s going to make fun of her saying she didn’t--wake up.”For a moment Mrs. Hale had no answer. Then, “Well, I guess John Wright didn’t wake up--when they was slippin’ that rope under his neck,” she muttered.“No, it’s strange,” breathed Mrs. Peters. “They think it was such a--funny way to kill a man.”She began to laugh; at sound of the laugh, abruptly stopped.“That’s just what Mr. Hale said,” said Mrs. Hale, in a resolutely natural voice. “There was a gun in the house. He says that’s what he can’t understand.”“Mr. Henderson said, coming out, that what was needed for the case was a motive. Something to show anger--or sudden feeling.”‘Well, I don’t see any signs of anger around here,” said Mrs. Hale, “I don’t--” She stopped. It was as if her mind tripped on something. Her eye was caught by a dish-towel in the middle of the kitchen table. Slowly she moved toward the table. One half of it was wiped clean, the other half messy. Her eyes made a slow, almost unwilling turn to the bucket of sugar and the half empty bag beside it. Things begun--and not finished.After a moment she stepped back, and said, in that manner of releasing herself:“Wonder how they’re finding things upstairs? I hope she had it a little more red up up there. You know,”--she paused, and feeling gathered,--”it seems kind of sneaking: locking her up in town and coming out here to get her own house to turn against her!”“But, Mrs. Hale,” said the sheriff’s wife, “the law is the law.”“I s’pose ‘tis,” answered Mrs. Hale shortly.She turned to the stove, saying something about that fire not being much to brag of. She worked with it a minute, and when she straightened up she said aggressively:“The law is the law--and a bad stove is a bad stove. How’d you like to cook on this?”--pointing with the poker to the broken lining. She opened the oven door and started to express her opinion of the oven; but she was swept into her own thoughts, thinking of what it would mean, year after year, to have that stove to wrestle with. The thought of Minnie Foster trying to bake in that oven--and the thought of her never going over to see Minnie Foster--.She was startled by hearing Mrs. Peters say: “A person gets discouraged--and loses heart.”The sheriff’s wife had looked from the stove to the sink--to the pail of water which had been carried in from outside. The two women stood there silent, above them the footsteps of the men who were looking for evidence against the woman who had worked in that kitchen. That look of seeing into things, of seeing through a thing to something else, was in the eyes of the sheriff’s wife now. When Mrs. Hale next spoke to her, it was gently:“Better loosen up your things, Mrs. Peters. We’ll not feel them when we go out.”Mrs. Peters went to the back of the room to hang up the fur tippet she was wearing. A moment later she exclaimed, “Why, she was piecing a quilt,” and held up a large sewing basket piled high with quilt pieces.Mrs. Hale spread some of the blocks on the table.“It’s log-cabin pattern,” she said, putting several of them together, “Pretty, isn’t it?”They were so engaged with the quilt that they did not hear the footsteps on the stairs. Just as the stair door opened Mrs. Hale was saying:“Do you suppose she was going to quilt it or just knot it?”The sheriff threw up his hands.“They wonder whether she was going to quilt it or just knot it!”There was a laugh for the ways of women, a warming of hands over the stove, and then the county attorney said briskly:“Well, let’s go right out to the barn and get that cleared up.”“I don’t see as there’s anything so strange,” Mrs. Hale said resentfully, after the outside door had closed on the three men--”our taking up our time with little things while we’re waiting for them to get the evidence. I don’t see as it’s anything to laugh about.”“Of course they’ve got awful important things on their minds,” said the sheriff’s wife apologetically.They returned to an inspection of the block for the quilt. Mrs. Hale was looking at the fine, even sewing, and preoccupied with thoughts of the woman who had done that sewing, when she heard the sheriff’s wife say, in a queer tone:“Why, look at this one.”She turned to take the block held out to her.“The sewing,” said Mrs. Peters, in a troubled way, “All the rest of them have been so nice and even--but--this one. Why, it looks as if she didn’t know what she was about!”Their eyes met--something flashed to life, passed between them; then, as if with an effort, they seemed to pull away from each other. A moment Mrs. Hale sat there, her hands folded over that sewing which was so unlike all the rest of the sewing. Then she had pulled a knot and drawn the threads.“Oh, what are you doing, Mrs. Hale?” asked the sheriff’s wife, startled.“Just pulling out a stitch or two that’s not sewed very good,” said Mrs. Hale mildly.“I don’t think we ought to touch things,” Mrs. Peters said, a little helplessly.“I’ll just finish up this end,” answered Mrs. Hale, still in that mild, matter-of-fact fashion.She threaded a needle and started to replace bad sewing with good. For a little while she sewed in silence. Then, in that thin, timid voice, she heard:“Mrs. Hale!”“Yes, Mrs. Peters?”‘What do you suppose she was so--nervous about?”“Oh, I don’t know,” said Mrs. Hale, as if dismissing a thing not important enough to spend much time on. “I don’t know as she was--nervous. I sew awful queer sometimes when I’m just tired.”She cut a thread, and out of the corner of her eye looked up at Mrs. Peters. The small, lean face of the sheriff’s wife seemed to have tightened up. Her eyes had that look of peering into something. But next moment she moved, and said in her thin, indecisive way:‘Well, I must get those clothes wrapped. They may be through sooner than we think. I wonder where I could find a piece of paper--and string.”“In that cupboard, maybe,” suggested to Mrs. Hale, after a glance around.One piece of the crazy sewing remained unripped. Mrs. Peter’s back turned, Martha Hale now scrutinized that piece, compared it with the dainty, accurate sewing of the other blocks. The difference was startling. Holding this block made her feel queer, as if the distracted thoughts of the woman who had perhaps turned to it to try and quiet herself were communicating themselves to her.Mrs. Peters’ voice roused her.“Here’s a bird-cage,” she said. “Did she have a bird, Mrs. Hale?”‘Why, I don’t know whether she did or not.” She turned to look at the cage Mrs. Peters was holding up. “I’ve not been here in so long.” She sighed. “There was a man round last year selling canaries cheap--but I don’t know as she took one. Maybe she did. She used to sing real pretty herself.”Mrs. Peters looked around the kitchen.“Seems kind of funny to think of a bird here.” She half laughed--an attempt to put up a barrier. “But she must have had one--or why would she have a cage? I wonder what happened to it.”“I suppose maybe the cat got it,” suggested Mrs. Hale, resuming her sewing.“No; she didn’t have a cat. She’s got that feeling some people have about cats--being afraid of them. When they brought her to our house yesterday, my cat got in the room, and she was real upset and asked me to take it out.”“My sister Bessie was like that,” laughed Mrs. Hale.The sheriff’s wife did not reply. The silence made Mrs. Hale turn round. Mrs. Peters was examining the bird-cage.“Look at this door,” she said slowly. “It’s broke. One hinge has been pulled apart.”Mrs. Hale came nearer.“Looks as if someone must have been--rough with it.”Again their eyes met--startled, questioning, apprehensive. For a moment neither spoke nor stirred. Then Mrs. Hale, turning away, said brusquely:“If they’re going to find any evidence, I wish they’d be about it. I don’t like this place.”“But I’m awful glad you came with me, Mrs. Hale.” Mrs. Peters put the bird-cage on the table and sat down. “It would be lonesome for me--sitting here alone.”“Yes, it would, wouldn’t it?” agreed Mrs. Hale, a certain determined naturalness in her voice. She had picked up the sewing, but now it dropped in her lap, and she murmured in a different voice: “But I tell you what I do wish, Mrs. Peters. I wish I had come over sometimes when she was here. I wish--I had.”“But of course you were awful busy, Mrs. Hale. Your house--and your children.”“I could’ve come,” retorted Mrs. Hale shortly. “I stayed away because it weren’t cheerful--and that’s why I ought to have come. I”--she looked around--”I’ve never liked this place. Maybe because it’s down in a hollow and you don’t see the road. I don’t know what it is, but it’s a lonesome place, and always was. I wish I had come over to see Minnie Foster sometimes. I can see now--” She did not put it into words.“Well, you mustn’t reproach yourself,” counseled Mrs. Peters. “Somehow, we just don’t see how it is with other folks till--something comes up.”“Not having children makes less work,” mused Mrs. Hale, after a silence, “but it makes a quiet house--and Wright out to work all day--and no company when he did come in. Did you know John Wright, Mrs. Peters?”“Not to know him. I’ve seen him in town. They say he was a good man.”“Yes--good,” conceded John Wright’s neighbor grimly. “He didn’t drink, and kept his word as well as most, I guess, and paid his debts. But he was a hard man, Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of day with him--.” She stopped, shivered a little. “Like a raw wind that gets to the bone.” Her eye fell upon the cage on the table before her, and she added, almost bitterly: “I should think she would’ve wanted a bird!”Suddenly she leaned forward, looking intently at the cage. “But what do you s’pose went wrong with it?”“I don’t know,” returned Mrs. Peters; “unless it got sick and died.”But after she said it she reached over and swung the broken door. Both women watched it as if somehow held by it.“You didn’t know--her?” Mrs. Hale asked, a gentler note in her voice.“Not till they brought her yesterday,” said the sheriff’s wife.“She--come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself. Real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and--fluttery. How--she--did--change.”That held her for a long time. Finally, as if struck with a happy thought and relieved to get back to everyday things, she exclaimed:“Tell you what, Mrs. Peters, why don’t you take the quilt in with you? It might take up her mind.”“Why, I think that’s a real nice idea, Mrs. Hale,” agreed the sheriff’s wife, as if she too were glad to come into the atmosphere of a simple kindness. “There couldn’t possibly be any objection to that, could there? Now, just what will I take? I wonder if her patches are in here--and her things?”They turned to the sewing basket.“Here’s some red,” said Mrs. Hale, bringing out a roll of cloth. Underneath that was a box. “Here, maybe her scissors are in here--and her things.” She held it up. “What a pretty box! I’ll warrant that was something she had a long time ago--when she was a girl.”She held it in her hand a moment; then, with a little sigh, opened it.Instantly her hand went to her nose.“Why--!”Mrs. Peters drew nearer--then turned away.“There’s something wrapped up in this piece of silk,” faltered Mrs. Hale.“This isn’t her scissors,” said Mrs. Peters, in a shrinking voice.Her hand not steady, Mrs. Hale raised the piece of silk. “Oh, Mrs. Peters!” she cried. “It’s--”Mrs. Peters bent closer.“It’s the bird,” she whispered.“But, Mrs. Peters!” cried Mrs. Hale. “Look at it! Its neck--look at its neck! It’s all--other side to.”She held the box away from her.The sheriff’s wife again bent closer.“Somebody wrung its neck,” said she, in a voice that was slow and deep.And then again the eyes of the two women met--this time clung together in a look of dawning comprehension, of growing horror. Mrs. Peters looked from the dead bird to the broken door of the cage. Again their eyes met. And just then there was a sound at the outside door. Mrs. Hale slipped the box under the quilt pieces in the basket, and sank into the chair before it. Mrs. Peters stood holding to the table. The county attorney and the sheriff came in from outside.“Well, ladies,” said the county attorney, as one turning from serious things to little pleasantries, “have you decided whether she was going to quilt it or knot it?”“We think,” began the sheriff’s wife in a flurried voice, “that she was going to--knot it.”He was too preoccupied to notice the change that came in her voice on that last.“Well, that’s very interesting, I’m sure,” he said tolerantly. He caught sight of the bird-cage.“Has the bird flown?”“We think the cat got it,” said Mrs. Hale in a voice curiously even.He was walking up and down, as if thinking something out.“Is there a cat?” he asked absently.Mrs. Hale shot a look up at the sheriff’s wife.“Well, not now,” said Mrs. Peters. “They’re superstitious, you know; they Ieave.”She sank into her chair.The county attorney did not heed her. “No sign at all of anyone having come in from the outside,” he said to Peters, in the manner of continuing an interrupted conversation. “Their own rope. Now let’s go upstairs again and go over it, picee by piece. It would have to have been someone who knew just the--”The stair door closed behind them and their voices were lost.The two women sat motionless, not looking at each other, but as if peering into something and at the same time holding back. When they spoke now it was as if they were afraid of what they were saying, but as if they could not help saying it.“She liked the bird,” said Martha Hale, low and slowly. “She was going to bury it in that pretty box.”When I was a girl,” said Mrs. Peters, under her breath, “my kitten--there was a boy took a hatchet, and before my eyes--before I could get there--” She covered her face an instant. “If they hadn’t held me back I would have”--she caught herself, looked upstairs where footsteps were heard, and finished weakly--”hurt him.”Then they sat without speaking or moving.“I wonder how it would seem,” Mrs. Hale at last began, as if feeling her way over strange ground--”never to have had any children around?” Her eyes made a slow sweep of the kitchen, as if seeing what that kitchen had meant through all the years “No, Wright wouldn’t like the bird,” she said after that--”a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed that too.” Her voice tightened.Mrs. Peters moved uneasily.“Of course we don’t know who killed the bird.”“I knew John Wright,” was Mrs. Hale’s answer.“It was an awful thing was done in this house that night, Mrs. Hale,” said the sheriff’s wife. “Killing a man while he slept--slipping a thing round his neck that choked the life out of him.”Mrs. Hale’s hand went out to the bird cage.“We don’t know who killed him,” whispered Mrs. Peters wildly. “We don’t know.”Mrs. Hale had not moved. “If there had been years and years of--nothing, then a bird to sing to you, it would be awful--still--after the bird was still.”It was as if something within her not herself had spoken, and it found in Mrs. Peters something she did not know as herself.“I know what stillness is,” she said, in a queer, monotonous voice. “When we homesteaded in Dakota, and my first baby died--after he was two years old--and me with no other then--”Mrs. Hale stirred.“How soon do you suppose they’ll be through looking for the evidence?”“I know what stillness is,” repeated Mrs. Peters, in just that same way. Then she too pulled back. “The law has got to punish crime, Mrs. Hale,” she said in her tight little way.“I wish you’d seen Minnie Foster,” was the answer, “when she wore a white dress with blue ribbons, and stood up there in the choir and sang.”The picture of that girl, the fact that she had lived neighbor to that girl for twenty years, and had let her die for lack of life, was suddenly more than she could bear.“Oh, I wish I’d come over here once in a while!” she cried. “That was a crime! Who’s going to punish that?”“We mustn’t take on,” said Mrs. Peters, with a frightened look toward the stairs.“I might ‘a’ known she needed help! I tell you, it’s queer, Mrs. Peters. We live close together, and we live far apart. We all go through the same things--it’s all just a different kind of the same thing! If it weren’t--why do you and I understand? Why do we know--what we know this minute?”She dashed her hand across her eyes. Then, seeing the jar of fruit on the table she reached for it and choked out:“If I was you I wouldn’t tell her her fruit was gone! Tell her it ain’t. Tell her it’s all right--all of it. Here--take this in to prove it to her! She--she may never know whether it was broke or not.”She turned away.Mrs. Peters reached out for the bottle of fruit as if she were glad to take it--as if touching a familiar thing, having something to do, could keep her from something else. She got up, looked about for something to wrap the fruit in, took a petticoat from the pile of clothes she had brought from the front room, and nervously started winding that round the bottle.“My!” she began, in a high, false voice, “it’s a good thing the men couldn’t hear us! Getting all stirred up over a little thing like a--dead canary.” She hurried over that. “As if that could have anything to do with--with--My, wouldn’t they laugh?”Footsteps were heard on the stairs.“Maybe they would,” muttered Mrs. Hale--”maybe they wouldn’t.”“No, Peters,” said the county attorney incisively; “it’s all perfectly clear, except the reason for doing it. But you know juries when it comes to women. If there was some definite thing--something to show. Something to make a story about. A thing that would connect up with this clumsy way of doing it.”In a covert way Mrs. Hale looked at Mrs. Peters. Mrs. Peters was looking at her. Quickly they looked away from each other. The outer door opened and Mr. Hale came in.“I’ve got the team round now,” he said. “Pretty cold out there.”“I’m going to stay here awhile by myself,” the county attorney suddenly announced. “You can send Frank out for me, can’t you?” he asked the sheriff. “I want to go over everything. I’m not satisfied we can’t do better.”Again, for one brief moment, the two women’s eyes found one another.The sheriff came up to the table.“Did you want to see what Mrs. Peters was going to take in?”The county attorney picked up the apron. He laughed.“Oh, I guess they’re not very dangerous things the ladies have picked out.”Mrs. Hale’s hand was on the sewing basket in which the box was concealed. She felt that she ought to take her hand off the basket. She did not seem able to. He picked up one of the quilt blocks which she had piled on to cover the box. Her eyes felt like fire. She had a feeling that if he took up the basket she would snatch it from him.But he did not take it up. With another little laugh, he turned away, saying:“No; Mrs. Peters doesn’t need supervising. For that matter, a sheriff’s wife is married to the law. Ever think of it that way, Mrs. Peters?”Mrs. Peters was standing beside the table. Mrs. Hale shot a look up at her; but she could not see her face. Mrs. Peters had turned away. When she spoke, her voice was muffled.“Not--just that way,” she said.“Married to the law!” chuckled Mrs. Peters’ husband. He moved toward the door into the front room, and said to the county attorney:“I just want you to come in here a minute, George. We ought to take a look at these windows.”“Oh--windows,” said the county attorney scoffingly.“We’ll be right out, Mr. Hale,” said the sheriff to the farmer, who was still waiting by the door.Hale went to look after the horses. The sheriff followed the county attorney into the other room. Again--for one final moment--the two women were alone in that kitchen.Martha Hale sprang up, her hands tight together, looking at that other woman, with whom it rested. At first she could not see her eyes, for the sheriff’s wife had not turned back since she turned away at that suggestion of being married to the law. But now Mrs. Hale made her turn back. Her eyes made her turn back. Slowly, unwillingly, Mrs. Peters turned her head until her eyes met the eyes of the other woman. There was a moment when they held each other in a steady, burning look in which there was no evasion or flinching. Then Martha Hale’s eyes pointed the way to the basket in which was hidden the thing that would make certain the conviction of the other woman--that woman who was not there and yet who had been there with them all through that hour.For a moment Mrs. Peters did not move. And then she did it. With a rush forward, she threw back the quilt pieces, got the box, tried to put it in her handbag. It was too big. Desperately she opened it, started to take the bird out. But there she broke--she could not touch the bird. She stood there helpless, foolish.There was the sound of a knob turning in the inner door. Martha Hale snatched the box from the sheriff’s wife, and got it in the pocket of her big coat just as the sheriff and the county attorney came back into the kitchen.“Well, Henry,” said the county attorney facetiously, “at least we found out that she was not going to quilt it. She was going to--what is it you call it, ladies?”Mrs. Hale’s hand was against the pocket of her coat.“We call it--knot it, Mr. Henderson.”

      同命人审案

      玛瑟?海尔一打开临街的门,一阵北风就直冲进来,她忙跑回去去自己的羊毛围巾。 她一边匆忙的把围巾围上,一边用生气的眼光看了一看厨房。因为有件事情她不的不走――比狄克生县发生了一件严重的事情。但她看看厨房乱成了这个样子,又不能走开不管:面粉才筛了一半,还等着和。

      她一向不喜欢做事半途而废;但是镇上来找她丈夫的人来时,她手边的事情只忙了一半;其中来的警长跟她说,希望她能跟丈夫一起去,还说,原因是他妻子害怕,来位女性正好作伴。既然这样了,她只好把做了一半的事情放下跟他们一起去了。

      “玛瑟!”丈夫不耐烦的叫她。

      “别让人家等着。外面冷。”

      海尔太太打开房门,走了出去,外面有三个男人、一个女人在一辆双座的大马车里等着她。

      她用外衣紧裹了一下身子,然后又打量了一眼跟她一起坐在马车后座上的女人。前一年,她们还见过面,她是彼得斯太太,但她长的不想是警长的太太。又瘦又小,声音沙哑。彼得斯警长前任的太太的嗓门真大,而且说话时一副维护法律的样子。不过虽然她不像个警长的太太,彼得斯却颇具警长的风范。 他天生就是当警长的模样―身材高大,嗓门洪亮,对人尤其是遵纪守法的人和蔼可亲,看起来似乎知道谁是好人,谁是坏人的样子。这时,海尔太太犯了嘀咕,这样一个高高兴兴、跟大家都很合得来的人竟然要到莱特家里执行任务。

      “这个季节去乡下真是不好。”彼得斯太太终于开口说话了,好像她觉得她们也应该像男人们一样聊天似的。

      海尔太太还没有把话说完,马车已经到了山上,课的搭建莱特的房子了,她就没有再说话。在三月清晨寒冷的天气里,这个地方看起来无比荒凉。房子盖在洼地上,周围种着杨树,更加荒凉了。男人们瞧了一样这地方,谈论案件的情况。县里来的律师弯着身子靠着马车旁,眼睛盯着这所房子,直到到达。

      两个女人随着他们正要踏进厨房的时候,彼得斯太太紧张不安的说:”谢谢您啊,能陪我一起。”

      玛瑟?海尔登上台阶,手搭在门把上,突然她觉得有种力量让她不能跨过门槛。理由很简单,因为她从来没有来过这个地方。她以前心里常想: “我应该去看看米妮?福斯特”,但是虽然米妮做了莱特的太太已经二十年,可她总是忙,一忙就忘了去看米妮?福斯特的事情,现在,她终于来了。

      男人们围到炉子前面。两个女人一起站在门口。律师和年轻的汉斯转过身来对她们说:”来,过来烤会火吧。”

      彼得斯太太向前走了一步,又停下来,顿了一下说:”我,我不冷。”

      就这样,她们俩就在门口站着,都没有环视一眼厨房。

      男人们谈了几句,有人说警长早晨提前派人来生炉子,真是明智。接着彼得斯警长退后一步,解开外套的扣子,手扶着厨房的桌子,一副说公事的样子:”海尔先生,”他很正式的说: “趁我们还没有挪动东起,你把昨天早晨发生在这里的,你看到的实际情形告诉汉特森先生。”

      律师环视这厨房。

      “等一下,”,律师说道,”东西动过吗?”他问警长。”你确认昨天离开时就是这个样子?”

      警长从柜子看到水槽,又从水槽看到放到桌子边上的旧椅子。

      “就是这个样子。”

      “昨天应该派人看守这个地方。”律师说道。

      “啊,是啊,昨天,”警长说这句话时手动了一下,似乎 “昨天”两个字眼让他受不了。”我得派弗兰克到莫里斯中心处理那个疯子―告诉你们吧,昨天,我太忙了。我知道你今天才能从奥马哈赶回来,乔治,只要我亲自来这里处理事情―”

      “好吧,海尔先生,”律师说,”你把昨天早上在这里亲眼看到的情况说一说吧。”

      海尔太太靠在门上,心里一沉,好像自己是一位母亲在瞧这孩子准备发言似的。她丈夫路易斯长城忘事情,说起事情来也是毫无头绪。现在她只求他的表达能够干净利索,不要说些无用的废话,别还得米妮?福斯特更难受。只见路易斯并没有开口说话,而是神色古怪,仿佛是他是不得不站在这里,报告昨天早上这里的情形似的,十分的不情愿。

      “快点,海尔先生。”律师提醒到。

      “哈里和我准备动身到镇上去,我们装了一大堆土豆。”他终于开口说到。

      哈里是海尔太太的大儿子。他今天不在,就是因为昨天没有能把土豆运到镇上,所以今天早上哈里又接着送去了。因此警长来的时候并不在家。警长只好叫海尔先生去莱特家里去,把情况讲讲。这时侯,海尔太太的心情很复杂,忽然害怕哈里的衣服穿的太少―没有想到北风这样的冷。

      “我们沿着路走过来的,”海尔边说边用手指着他们刚刚经过的那条路,”一看到这所房子,我就跟哈里说’我去看看莱特,问他要不要装个电话。’因为”海尔向汉特森解释到: “要是没有人同我一起装电话,他们就不愿一开通这条线路,我们一家人又装不起。以前我跟莱特谈过这个事情,但是他总是推说说哈太多,而他只爱和平安静―我想你们知道他是个很爱说话的人。可是我想我也许去他家跟他妻子好好谈谈,你知道,女人都喜欢电话,尤其是在这个人烟稀少的地方,还是有个电话好―我就是要告诉他们这个意思―不过我还跟哈里说,我不知道他的妻子还有什么要求,莱特对这些事情都不做主的――”

      又开始??嗦,海尔太太给丈夫递了个眼色,让他不要说那些不要紧的话,幸好这时律师打断了他的话。

      “海尔先生,您现在说得我们一会再说,我也想知道这方面的情况,但我更急于了解您到这里以后看到的情况。”

      海尔先生这次开口很谨慎。

      “我什么也没有看见,什么也没有听见。我敲了门,屋里没有声音。可是我断定他们已经起床了―都过了八点了。所以,我又敲了敲门,这次敲的很重。似乎屋里有人说’请进’,我到现在也拿不准到底当时听见这两个字没有。虽然拿不准,我还是推门进去,就这扇门。”他抬起手指了指,正是海尔太太和警长太太身后的那扇门。”莱特太太,―他指着一把摇椅―”就是哪儿,她正坐在那把椅子上。”

      大家一时间都在看那把摇椅。海尔太太觉得要把那把摇椅同米妮?福斯特联系起来很吃力,它们一点也不相称―主要是与二十年前的她不相称。那是一把暗红色的摇椅,椅背上有木质的横档,因为中间的横档没有了,所以椅子有些榻向另一边。

      “那么,她的神色如何?”律师问道。

      “神色嘛,”海尔回答道,”古怪,神色很古怪。”

      “你说古怪?什么意思?”

      律师拿出记录本和笔来。海尔太太一看见笔就紧张。她两眼盯着丈夫,生怕他说了不必要的话,如果那样写上去,会惹来麻烦。

      海尔说话也谨慎了很多,似乎他也意识到了笔的威力。

      “嗯,她似乎不知道该如何是好。好像,好像很累的样子。”

      “那你进们后,她的反应怎样?”

      “哦,我感觉她毫不在意我进来。我向她问候’您好,莱特太太,今天可真冷啊,是吧?’她说道 ‘冷?’然后又接着织围裙。

      “当时我也觉得奇怪。她也没有叫我去炉子边烤烤火,也没有示意我坐下,还瞧也不瞧我一眼。我只好说’我要见见约翰。’”

      “但是,但是她听到后却笑起来。”

      “我想哈里和马车在外面还在等,就又大声的说了一遍:’我能见见约翰吗?’她说’不行’,说这句话时她的样子有些迟钝。我又问道’那他在家吗?’她看了我一眼,说’在,他在家 ‘。这时我不耐烦了,问她’那你为什么不让我见他?’她说道’因为他已经死了。’她说这句话时神色平静,还很迟钝。说完又接着织她没有织完的围裙。’死了?’我又问了一句,似乎没有对她说的话反应过来。”

      “她点点头,很平静,坐在椅子上前前后后的晃动这身体。”

      “‘他现在在哪里?’我问道,霎那间我不知道说什么好。”

      “她指指楼上,就想我现在这样。”说完,海尔指了指楼上。

      “我马上站起来,想自己上楼看看。这时,我又不知道该怎么办。又从这头走向那头,又问了一下她:’他真的死了?’”

      “ ‘对,勒死的。’她说到,然后又自己织围裙。”

      海尔说到这里停下来,他站在那里一动不动瞧着那把椅子,似乎那把椅子上现在坐着昨天早上坐着这里的那个女人。周围的人都在盯着那把椅子看。

      “那后来呢?”律师终于打破了屋里的沉默。

      “后来我就出去叫哈里,也许那时我觉得自己需要帮手。我叫哈里进屋来,跟我一起上楼。”海尔说话的声音越来越低。”我上来时,那就躺着,在―”

      “这样吧,楼上你看到的地点待会我们一起到楼上去。”律师打断海尔的话。”这样你就可以只给我们看,现在你说点别的吧。”

      “好吧,我看到莱特时脑子里第一个想法就是要把他脖子上的绳子拿开。那绳子看起来―”

      海尔说着停下来,脸上的肌肉在抽动。

      “但是,这时哈里跟我说,”您别动,他已经死了,我们最好什么也不要鹏。”这样我听了他的劝告,就一起又下楼了。

      “我们下楼的时候,莱特太太还是保持原来的姿势在椅子上坐着。我问她’报警了吗?’她说’没有’一副无动于衷的样子。”

      “哈里问她’莱特太太,这是谁干的?’哈里问的很严肃,她放下手中的围裙,说道 ‘我不知道”你不知道?’哈里又问道。’你们不是在一起吗?”是啊’,她说道,’可是我一直睡在里面。”有人把绳子套在你丈夫的脖子上,把他勒死,你不知道?,你没有醒吗?’哈里又问道。她回答到’没有。’”

      “也许是因为看出了我们心存顾及,她又说道’我睡着了。’”

      “哈里还想问她一些问题,但我觉得这不是我们该管的事情。我们觉得她应该把经过报告给警察或者验尸官。所以,哈里就赶到大路上的瑞福斯家,他家里有电话。”

      “莱特太太知道您们去找验尸官,她有什么反应?”律师边说边把铅笔握在说上,准备把话记下来。“她从椅子上站起来,坐到这儿。”海尔指了指墙角的一把椅子。”她就坐在那里,双手交叉,眼睛看着地面。我当时觉得自己应该说点什么,就问她约翰要不要装电话;她听完后笑了起来,接着又收起了笑容看着我,翘起来一副很害怕的样子。

      海尔说这些时突然听到了铅笔记录时沙沙作响的声音,不禁抬起头来。

      “我也不确定,可能不是因为害怕。”他纠正到。”我看不出她的害怕。过了会哈里回来了,劳亦德医生也来了,还有你彼得斯先生,我知道的也就这么多了。”

      海尔说完最后一句话后,松了一口气,然后又挪了一下身体,似乎完成了一项任务。这时每个人都挪了挪地方。律师朝着上楼梯的门走去。

      “我们先上楼看看吧,然后再去牲口棚,都转转。”

      他走到厨房时停了一下,朝厨房看了一眼。

      “你确信这里没有重要东西?”律师转头问警长。”有没有什么能说明犯罪动机的东西?”

      警长朝里面环顾了一圈,肯定的点了点头。

      “这里面没有什么,都是些厨房用具。”警长笑了笑,似乎很看不上这些用品。

      律师进去看了看碗柜,这个碗柜的样子很难看,一半放着碗碟,一半放着菜。上半部分镶嵌在墙里面,下半部分却是老式的碗柜,看起来非常奇怪。律师对橱柜的样子很好奇,就顺势踩在椅子上,打开碗柜往里面看了看。看了会他把手收了回来,手上粘了些黏黏呼呼的东西。

      “太脏了。”律师抱怨道。

      这时,旁边的海尔太太和彼得斯太太围上来,彼得斯太太说话了。

      “啊,这是她的果酱。”她边说话边看着海尔太太,似乎想缺的海尔太太的认同。然后,她转过身来,对律师说道:”有可能她担心果酱,昨天晚上天很冷。她说怕火灭了,果酱瓶子会裂掉。”

      彼得斯太太的丈夫听完他太太的发言笑了起来。

      “哎呀,你们女人真是了解女人,她都因为谋杀自己的丈夫被关起来了,哪里还有心思关心果酱啊。”

      年轻的律师听完这句话咬了咬嘴唇。

      “我看没等我们审完,她门会想到比果酱更严重的问题了。”

      “你们看,”海尔太太的丈夫用一种居高临下的口气温和的说道:”女人嘛,总是操心小事情。”

      两位太太听完这句话,相互靠近了些,但是谁也没有说话。这时候,律师突然很官僚的说了一句话。

      “不过,”他的语气让他的话语听起来似乎像一个年轻且充满前途的政治家。”虽然她们操心小事情,但是我们没有女士怎么行呢?”

      两位太太依旧没有说话。律师走到水池边洗手。洗完后他转身在旁边的滚轴毛巾上擦擦手,然后转身,想找个干净的地方站住。

      “毛巾真脏,她太不会管家了,是不是啊,太太们?”

      这时他踢了踢水池下面的几个脏锅。

      “也许对太特太太来说,农场里需要忙的事情太多了。”海尔太太的理由有点生硬。

      “是啊,不过”律师向海尔太太点了点头,”我知道迪克生县有些农场的房子里还没有这种滚轴毛巾呢。”说完他又拉了拉毛巾,把毛巾拉直了。

      “这种毛巾很容易脏,你们男人的手总是不干净。”海尔太太说道。

      “啊,你说的对,我明白。”律师笑了笑。笑完后他用锋利的眼神看了一眼海尔太太,说道:”你跟莱特太太是邻居,你们也是朋友吧。”

      玛瑟?海尔摇头否定。

      “这几年我不常看到她,我没有来这里已经很久了,有一年多了。”

      “为什么呢?你们有矛盾吗?”

      “我很喜欢她,”海尔太太说道这句话时很兴奋。”给农民当老婆不是件简单的事情,忙的很,还有,”她看了看四周。

      “怎么啦?”律师示意她把话说完。

      “我呆在这个厨房里总觉的很别扭,”她说道,似乎这句话是在说给自己在听。

      “是有点别扭,”律师表示同意,”这地方太乱了,莱特太太管家的本领太差了。”

      “嗯,我看不仅仅是莱特太太的问题,莱特先生也没有。”海尔太太嘟囔道。

      “你的意思是他们夫妻俩关系不好?”律师马上接话问道。

      “不是,我没有任何意思。”海尔太太果断的否决掉律师的疑问。然后她转身过去的时候又加了一句:”我的意思是只要有约翰?莱特的地方都不会有好事。”

      “你说的这个问题我一会儿要跟你谈谈。”律师说道。”但是现在我要赶快上楼把楼上的情况好好了解一下。”

      律师说完朝着上楼的门走去,彼得斯警长何海尔先生跟在他后面。

      “我想,让我太太她们做点事情,”警长说道,”莱特太太被带走时只穿了很少的衣服,我们得给她拿点衣服,你们知道,我们昨天带她走时太匆忙了。”

      律师看了看还呆在厨房里的两位太太。

      “当然可以,彼得斯太太,”他说道。眼睛却没有看彼得斯太太,而是盯着警长太太身后那位身材高大的农民的妻子。”彼得斯太太是自己人。”他说着话时有点托付责任的味道。”彼得斯太太,你要多留神,留意有用的东西。没准儿,你们能发现能说明罪犯动机的线索呢,这正是我们需要的。”

      海尔先生这时象主持马戏节目的主持人一样,摸了一下脸。

      “可是,就算她们发现了线索,能知道这是线索吗?”海尔先生说完这句话,随着律师何彼得斯警长就上楼了。

      两位太太在楼下厨房里一动不动,也一言不发,三个男人的脚步声显示上楼,然后进到她们头上的房间里。

      接着海尔提案太似乎想摆脱这种尴尬的局面,她开始动手整理水池下面的脏锅,律师刚才用脚把锅都踢乱了。

      “我不喜欢男人进厨房,”海尔太太边整理脏锅边生气的说道,”男人进厨房总是评头论足的。”

      “是啊,这不是他们应该做的事情。’警长太太说道,语气里有似胆怯,也有默认。

      “事情不事情的到没什么,”海尔太太很坦率的回答道。”那个律师把这里弄的太乱了。”她拉了一下滚轴上的毛巾。”我早该想到这一点,莱特太太走的那么匆忙,还责怪她没有收拾好厨房!”

      海尔太太看了一圈厨房。厨房里面很明显是没有收拾干净。她看到下面架子上有一桶糖。不同的盖子开着,旁边放着一只纸质的口袋,口袋只被装了一半。

      她走了过去。

      “看来莱特太太是想把糖装进去。”海尔太太慢慢说道,似乎还是在对自己说话。

      她突然想起自己家厨房里的面粉,才筛了一半,还有一半没有筛,后来她被打断了,事情只是做了一半。 不知道米妮?福斯特是被什么打断的呢?装糖的事情怎么就做了一半呢?想到这些,海尔太太挪动了一下身体,似乎想帮莱特太太把这件事情昨完。每次她看到半途而废的事情都有种想马上做完的冲动。这时她回过头来,她看到彼得斯太太正在盯着她看。海尔太太很别扭,她不愿意对方这种眼神看着她。但事实是,莱特太太事情只做了一半,由于某种原因她没有做完,事情被搁置了。

      “她的果酱装的真不像话。”她说道,然后走到律师打开的碗柜前面,站住椅子上,嘴里嘟嘟囔囔的说着:”不知道果酱是不是全漏掉了。”

      还真是漏的挺厉害的,后来她终于找到一瓶装的还可以的果酱。她把这瓶果酱拿到亮出看了看。”这时樱桃果酱。”然后她又看了看。”我看也就剩下这瓶果酱还可以。”

      海尔太太叹了口气,从椅子上下来,走到水池边把果酱瓶子擦干净。

      “莱特太太心里一定不好受,大热天的她忙的厉害。我还记的我去年夏天装樱桃果酱时受得苦。”

      她把果酱又放回原处,又叹了一口气,想坐到旁边的那把摇椅上。可是她并没有坐下去。似乎有什么东西不叫她坐似的。她站起来,后退一步,又转过半个身体来,站住那里瞧着那把椅子。 似乎看见上面作者正在编制围裙的莱特太太。

      这时,警长太太打断了她的幻觉,她低声说道:”我要去前房的橱柜里面拿东西去。”她说完走出厨房,进到屋里,又退回来。”海尔太太,你能跟我一起来吗?”彼得斯太太看起来有点紧张。”你,你跟我一起去拿吧。”

      两位太太进去又一次退出来,关着的前房屋里有一股阴气,冷的让人无法进去。

      “天哪!”彼得斯太太把自己手上的东西一扔,赶紧到炉边烤火。

      海尔太太站在那里,看着被拘留在镇上的莱特太太需要的东西。

      “莱特太小气了。”海尔太太嚷道,一边拿起那条被改了很多次的破旧的黑裙。”我想这就是莱特太太为什么变得少言寡语的原因。她觉得自己活的身不由己;要知道,一个人如果天天穿的破破烂烂的,她是无法高兴起来的。米妮?福斯特还是个姑娘的时候,天真活泼,那时候,她参加唱诗班,能歌善舞,唉,一转眼都是二十年前的事情了。”

      海尔太太把莱特太太的裙子叠起来,动作充满了对莱特太太的感情。然后她把裙子放着桌子上,抬起头看了看彼得斯太太。但彼得斯太太的表情让她很反感。

      “也无所谓的,”彼得斯太太说道,”米妮?福斯特还是个姑娘时,我也没有见她穿过什么漂亮衣服啊。我想衣服对她来说无所谓。”

      海尔太太看了彼得斯太太一眼,她对彼得斯太太的为人有点迷茫了,实际上,她从来没有那准过彼得斯太太是什么样的人。她总是抱着畏缩的态度,但从她的眼神里来看,她似乎把这件事情看的又很深。

      “这些衣服你都要拿去吗?”海尔太太问道。

      “不,”警长太太说道,”她就说要一条围裙。真奇怪。”警长太太说话时很紧张。”监狱里没有什么会弄脏的,系围裙干什么呢?天知道,要么她是为了自己系围裙感觉自在点。你知道,要是系惯了围裙,很难放下。她说它们放在这个出资的最后一格的抽屉里。对,就在这里,还有那条老挂在楼梯门上的小围巾。”

      她过去把楼梯门后面的小灰围巾取下来,站在那里看着。

      突然,海尔太太朝彼得斯太太匆匆走去。

      “彼得斯太太!”

      “怎么啦?海尔太太?”

      “你认为是她干的吗?”

      彼得斯太太眼睛里闪过恐惧的神色。

      “啊,我不知道啊。”彼得斯太太似乎在回避这个问题。

      “我觉得不是她干的。”海尔太太说这句话时语气很坚定。”她要围巾,围裙,在监狱里还担心果酱。”

      “彼得斯先生说,”海尔太太听见了楼上的脚步声,就没有再说下去,她朝楼上看了一眼,压低声音说:”彼得斯先生说,她的情况不好,律师先生说话很刁,还说莱特太太看其来没有睡醒。”

      海尔太太顿了一下,过了一会儿又说道:”嗯,我想,应该是莱特没有睡醒,他们把绳子套在他头上的时候他还没有睡醒。”海尔太太嘟囔着。

      “太奇怪了。”彼得斯太太说道,”用这样的方法杀人太奇怪了,真是怪事一桩。”

      说完她开始笑起来,可是当她听到自己的笑声时,她突然停下来。

      “海尔先生也这么说,”海尔太太坚定而自然的说到:”房间里有枪,他说这就是他不明白的地方。”

      “律师先生出来的时候说,这个案件侦破的关键是动机。能说明她生气,或者是让她情绪突然激烈或者失控的东西。”

      “我在这儿没有看到能让莱特太太情绪失控的东西。”海尔太太说道。”我还真没有”

      她好像想到了什么似的不说话了。她看到了厨房桌子的中央放着一碗菜。她走过去看了看,菜碗里的菜只吃了一半,还有一半没有动。海尔太太把目光慢慢的,几乎不情愿的移向了那一桶糖何边上只装了一半的口袋上。事情的确都是只做了一半,都没有做完。

      过了一会儿,她超后走去,好像要缓和气氛似的说道:

      “不知道他们三个人在楼上找的怎么样了,希望她把楼上收拾的干净整洁。你知道,”她停了一下,又接着说,”我们好像偷偷摸摸似的,把她关在镇子上,然后又跑到她家里来找罪证。”

      “可是,海尔太太,”警长太太说到,”这就是法律。”

      “是啊。”海尔太太很简洁的回答到。

      然后,她走到炉子前面,抱怨着说炉火太不好了,捅了捅炉子,直起身体来大胆的说道:

      “法律终归是法律,炉子终归是炉子。不好的炉子怎么做饭?”她用拨火棍敲了敲炉膛,打开炉门,想说说她对炉子的评论,想想年复一年跟炉子打交道是什么感觉。一想到米妮?福斯特居然在这种劣质炉子里烤面包,而自己却从来没有来看多她。

      然后她听见彼得斯太太的话,心里明白了些许:”一个人,如果或者没有希望,就全完了。”

      警长太太从炉子到水池,仔细的看着,她还注意到那只从门外提进来的水桶。两位太太静静的站着。这时候,楼上传来了脚步声,他们在寻找这个房子女主人的罪证。彼得斯太太眼睛里流露出一种洞察的神色。而海尔太太这时用很温和的声音对她说:

      “彼得斯太太,你去宽宽衣服,我们待会儿出去,不然会凉。”

      彼得斯太太走到房间的后面,把她的皮质披肩穿上,过了会,她冲海尔太太叫道:”你快来看,你看被面!”说着她拿起一格放针线的篓子,里面装满了被撕成一缕一缕的被面。

      海尔太太把几块撕碎的被面放着桌子上。

      “这个图像是被面上房子,”她边说边把被面拼在一起。”拼好后很好看,是不是?

      两位太太忙着看被面,没有听到从楼上下来的脚步声。当楼梯门打开的时候,海尔太太正在说这句话。

      “你们看,她在拼图呢,能补起来吗?”

      警长举起双手。

      “她们是在研究呢?还是想把她补起来呢?”

      三个男人嘲笑着二位太太的举动,然后走到炉边去烤手。接着律师爽朗的说道:

      “我们去牲口棚看看吧。”

      “这里没有什么可看的。”三个男人边说边关门出去。海尔太太对这种样子很不满意,她说:”我们这么忙的找东西,还被嘲笑。”

      “他们也许想的是更重要的事情。”警长太太替他们辩解到。

      接着她俩又继续研究被面上的图案。海尔太太看着优美均匀的被面上的针脚,不禁怀念起莱特太太来。这时只听见警长太太用很奇怪的声音说道:

      “来,快过来,看看这个。”

      她转过身来,看彼得斯太太递过来的那块被面。

      “这个活儿,”彼得斯太太带着不解的神情说道:”你看别的地方缝的都挺好的,都挺均匀的,可是你看这儿,好像缝的时候她都不知道自己在干什么。”

      两人目光看完被面对视的一霎那,似乎双方都明白了什么。海尔太太坐着看着那一片缝的与其他地方不太相同的地方,接着解开一个接头,抽出线来。

      “哎呀,海尔太太,你在干什么啊?”警长太太对她的举动很是吃惊。

      “我想把一两条缝的不好的线抽出来。”海尔太太温和的说。

      “我们最好还是不要动她的东西。”彼得斯太太说的有点有气无力。

      “把这个头缝好就可以啦,”海尔太太回答道,还是一种温和平淡的语气。

      她穿上线,用好针脚代替坏针脚,一声不响的缝了一会儿。然后,她听到彼得斯太太用胆怯细小的声音说道:

      “海尔太太!”

      “什么事?彼得斯太太?”

      “你说她紧张,是什么意思?”

      “这,我也不知道,”海尔太太说道,好像在打发一桩很微小的事情一样。”她为什么紧张,我也不知道。我累的时候,也缝不好东西。”

      说完海尔太太剪断一根线,用眼角瞟了彼得斯太太一眼。警长太太那张瘦小的脸绷的紧紧的。眼里透露着看透事物的神情。过了一会儿,她又用温和细小的声音说道:

      “好吧,我把衣服就包起来。他们可能很快就从牲口棚回来了。我得找些纸还有绳子,不知道哪里有?”

      “也许橱子里有。”海尔太太环顾四周后说道。

      还有一条缝歪了的线没有拆掉,海尔太太仔细的研究着这快布。彼得斯太太背对着她。与被面上别的地方精巧秀丽的针脚相比,这里缝的非常奇怪,好像是一个女人胡思乱想的时候缝的针线活。

      海尔太太正沉醉于自己的想法中,彼得斯太太打断了她的思维。

      “这里还有一只鸟笼子,”她说。”她养鸟吗?”

      “我不知道。”海尔太太转过头去,看着彼得斯太太手里的鸟笼子。”我也很久没有来她家了。”她叹了一口气。”好像是去年,有个男的来这一带卖金丝雀,很便宜,我不知道她买没买。也许买了吧,她唱歌很好的。”

      彼得斯太太环视了一下厨房。

      “在这里养鸟真是太有意思了。”彼得斯太太似笑非笑的说,似乎不想让别人猜透她的心思。”她一定养了一只,不然怎么会买鸟笼呢?也知道后来怎么样了?”

      “可能被猫吃掉了吧,”海尔太太说道,接着又继续缝活儿。

      “不会的,她没有猫。她跟很多人一样怕猫。昨天他们把她带到我家里,我家那只猫进屋来的时候,她表现的很不安,让我把猫赶走。”

      “我妹妹贝西也这样。”海尔太太笑着说。

      警长太太没有说话。海尔太太转过头来,看见彼得斯太太正在研究鸟笼。

      “你看这个笼子的门,”她慢慢的说。”有点坏了,一个链条掉了。”

      海尔太太走过去看。

      “看样子是有人拽过这个链子。”

      她俩相互看了对方一眼,眼里充满了惊慌和疑问,还有担忧。好一阵过去了, 两个人谁也不说话,也不动。 后来海尔太太转过头去,突然说道:

      “他们去找证据,应该差不多了。我不太喜欢这个屋子。”

      “很高兴你能跟我一起来,海尔太太。”彼得斯太太把手里的鸟笼子放在桌子上,然后坐下来。”我怕一个人太孤单了。”

      “是啊,孤单,这时很孤单。”海尔太太很同意。她手里原来拿着针线活,可现在摊在膝盖上,用不安的语气咕嘟着说,”但是我告诉你,我想的是什么,我想如果她还在这里的时候,我来看看她多好,我应该早点来看她的,如果那样的话,就好了。”

      “可是你很忙啊,海尔太太,你要照顾家,还有孩子。”

      “我还是可以来的,”海尔太太简短的回答到。”我不来,是因为这里让人不愉快,这就是我为什么不来的原因。我”说着她朝四周看了看,”我一直不喜欢这个地方。也许是因为这个房子建在洼地上,在屋里你看不到路。不知道是什么原因,我觉得这儿太过于荒凉。我要早来看她几次就好了。可我现在才明白。”海尔太太不说话了。

      “你不要责怪自己,”彼得斯太太劝她:”有时候,别人的事情,我们总是不明白,等出了事才会知道。”

      “没有孩子,事情少多了,”海尔太太若有所思,过了一会儿,她又说:”这个家太清净了,莱特整天在外面干活,他不在家,莱特太太连个作伴的人都没有。你认识莱特吗?彼得斯太太?”

      “不认识,只是镇上见过,大家都说他人不错。”

      “是,好。”海尔太太冷冷的说。”他不喝酒,说话算数,欠债准还。不过他还冷酷无情,跟他过日子,”海尔太太停了一下,哆嗦这说:”跟他过日子,就是是跟阴风过日子,骨头都发冷。”她抬头看了看桌子上的鸟笼子,很怨恨的补充着:”她真是跟鸟一样。”

      海尔太太突然俯下身子,目不转睛的看着鸟笼。”但,你说鸟是怎么回事?”

      “我不知道,”彼得斯太太说:”要么鸟就是生病死的。”

      她说完这句话,伸出手去,摇摇那扇破门。两个人这时后都看着这扇门,都被它吸引住了。

      “你不认识她吗?”海尔太太温和的问道。

      “昨天他们把她带到我家来我才认识她的。”警长太太说道。

      “你想想看,她自己跟小鸟似的,又漂亮又年轻,又可爱,就是胆子小,还有点心急。怎么会变成了这个样子?”

      海尔太太沉思了一会儿,然后她好象想出了一个注意,叫道:

      “彼得斯太太,我跟你说,你为什么不把这条被面给她呢?这样她也有点事情可做。”

      “是啊,海尔太太,你的主意可真好啊。”彼得斯太太表示同意,还想她很喜欢现在这种善良温和的气氛。”不会有人反对的,是不是?那,我应该带些什么呢?不知道她那些零碎的布头在不在这里?还有针线什么的,我都帮她带去。”

      两个人又一起去翻莱特太太的针线篓子。

      “这时红的,”海尔太太说着,她拿起一卷布。底下有个盒子。”这可能是剪刀,还有别的。”她拿起盒子,”这盒子多好看啊!我敢说她好长时间都在用这个盒子,从她还是个故娘时她就一直在用。”

      她把盒子拿在手上,过了一会儿,叹了口气,然后把盒子打开。

      突然,就在她打开盒子的那一瞬间,她把手举到了鼻子上。

      “啊!”

      彼得斯太太走过来,看了一眼,又转过身去。

      “这里面包着东西,”海尔太太说话有点结巴了。

      “不是剪刀,一看就不是剪刀。”彼得斯太太有点胆怯的说。

      海尔太太拿起包着的东西,手不停的哆嗦。”哎呀,彼得斯太太!”她喊着。”这是”

      彼得斯太太转过身来。

      “是那只鸟。”她轻声说道。

      “是啊,是鸟,彼得斯太太。”海尔太太尖叫到。”你看,他的脖子,都歪了。”

      她把盒子拿开。

      警长太太又凑过来。

      “有人把它的脖子拧断了。”她用缓慢而低沉的声音说道。

      这时候,他们俩的目光又聚焦在一起,她俩逐渐明白了一些事情,也同时不约而同的害怕起来。彼得斯太太看看死鸟,再看看鸟笼子的破门,她俩一言不发。这时候,门外传来说话的声音。

      海尔太太把盒子塞在漏字下面的被面底下,然后往篓子前面的椅子上一坐。彼得斯太太站在那里,双手扶着桌子。律师和警长还有海尔先生从门外走进来。

      “你们好,太太们。”律师说着,似乎为了摆脱严肃的气氛,项幽默一把。”你们看得怎样啊? 她是想要缝衣服?还是想要打结?”

      “我们看,”彼得斯太太慌张地说,”她是想要打结。”

      律师在想别的事情,没有注意到彼得斯太太说话语气的变化。

      “啊,这样的话,是很有意思的。”律师用宽容的语气说道。然后他一眼就看到了鸟笼子。“鸟飞了吗?”

      “我们想是猫把鸟吃掉了。”海尔太太很镇定的回答道。

      律师来回走着,在思考着什么。

      “这家里有猫吗?”

      海尔太太用眼角瞟了彼得斯太太一眼。

      “啊,现在没有了。”彼得斯太太说道。“猫很迷信,你知道,这样的屋子它们是不会来的。”

      她坐在椅子里。

      律师没有把这番话听进去。“这里根本没有外人进来的迹象。”他对彼得斯警长说道。从他说话的样子来看,他们是在继续刚才被中断了的谈话。“绳子是他们自己的。现在咱们上楼去,在一件一件的仔细看看。没准会知道……”

      说着他们上了楼,上楼梯的门关上了,听不见他们在里面说什么。

      两位太太坐在那里一动不动,互不想看,好像同时在压制着什么似的。似乎怕什么,但又情不自禁的说起来。

      “她很喜欢这只鸟,”海尔压低了声音,慢慢的说道:“所以她把这只鸟藏在了这个漂亮的盒子里。”

      “当我还是个姑娘的时候,”彼得斯太太轻轻说道,“我有个小猫,有个小男孩拿了个小斧头砍了我的猫,站在我的面前,我没有及时制止他”彼得斯太太捂住脸。“要不是有当时有人拉住我,我一定会……”她停住了,抬头看看楼上,上面传来了脚步声,彼得斯太太无力的接着说:“我一定会伤害他的。”

      然后,她们俩又坐在那里,一言不发,也一动不动。

      “我不知道,”海尔太太开口说道,她终于开口说话了,语气如同在陌生的地方在摸索着前进的方向。“周围要是没有一个小孩拦住你会怎么样呢?”她的目光慢慢的看着厨房,似乎想要感觉出呆在这个厨房里是什么滋味。“莱特不喜欢这只鸟,”她说着,“莱特不喜欢唱歌的东西。她以前很喜欢唱歌,他把她的爱好扼杀了。” 海尔太太的语气紧张起来。

      彼得斯太太不安的动了动。

      “当然,我们还不知道谁杀了这只鸟。”

      海尔太太回答到:“我很了解莱特。”

      “那天晚上这件屋子里发生了很可怕的事情,海尔太太,”警长太太说道。“趁他睡着的时候把他杀了,绳子就套在他脖子上,然后他断了气。”

      海尔太太伸手去摸鸟笼子。

      “他的脖子,有人让小鸟断了气。”

      “我们不知道谁杀的小鸟,”彼得斯太太的压低了声音急切的说着。“我们不知道。”

      海尔太太没有动。“如果年复一年的生活,没有任何变化,也没有乐趣,养了一只小鸟来唱唱歌,小鸟被杀是很难受的事情。”

      说这句话的时候海尔太太似乎不是在说莱特太太,而是自己的心声。这番话又正好说在彼得斯太太的心坎上。

      “我了解孤独的滋味。”彼得斯太太用古怪而单调的声音说着。“我们安家之后,我门的第一个孩子没了,那年他才两岁,自此以后我再没有过孩子。”

      海尔太太动了动。

      “他们多久能够找到证据呢?”

      “我了解孤独,”彼得斯太太仍然说着。接着她醒悟过来,“法律终究是法律,海尔太太,”她很紧张。

      “你见过米妮?福斯特吗?”海尔太太说道,“年轻的时候她穿着白色衣服,佩着蓝色的丝带,在唱诗班里唱过歌。”

      海尔太太想起米妮?福斯特年轻时的样子,想起她们在未出嫁时做过二十年的邻居。现在她竟然因为孤独而受罪,海尔太太觉得自己承受不了这个事实。

      “唉,我要是早点来这里就好了。”她喊道。“真是罪过啊,我有罪啊。”

      “我们没有什么责任。”彼得斯太太说着,一边惊恐的看着楼梯。

      “我想如果我来就会知道她的处境,了解她的需要!我跟你讲,彼得斯太太,真是奇怪,我们住的这样近,却离的那么远。我们的经历都是同样的,只是个人差异不同!要不,为什么你刚才有同感呢?为什么我们都了解此刻的情况呢?”

      海尔太太抬起手,她看见了桌子上的果酱瓶子,伸手拿了过来。然后有点哽咽的说:

      “我要是你,就不会跟她说果酱坏了,跟她说没事,都挺好的。你把这瓶完好的果酱拿给她看。她永远也不会知道果酱坏了的事情。”

      然后海尔太太转过身去。

      彼得斯太太伸手把果酱拿过来,好像去拿一件自己很熟悉的东西。她站起来,卡了看周围,想找个东西包瓶子,与是就从前房拿的一堆衣服里面拿了一件裙子,动手把瓶子包了起来,动作有点紧张。

      作品点评苏珊?格拉斯佩尔(Susan Glaspell) 是美国知名女作家。她的短篇小说《同命人审案》是一篇女权主义小说, 而且也是女权主义的经典之作。这位第二次世界大战前后活跃在文坛上的作家因这篇小说赢得盛名。

      《同命人审案》这篇短篇小说改编于作者早期的戏剧《琐事》。农妇米妮?福斯特因为涉嫌谋杀自己的丈夫约翰?莱特而被捕。她的邻居,也是她儿时一起长大的好友海尔太太陪同警长的夫人彼得斯太太一起来到她家为她哪些随身的物品。同行来的还有律师、警长和海尔先生,律师和警长想获取一些米妮?福斯特犯罪的动机证据,可他们却一无所获。但是海尔太太和彼得斯太太却在无意中发现了米妮?福斯特杀死自己丈夫的蛛丝马迹。她们俩推断是因为米妮?福斯特太过于寂寞,在家里养了一只金丝雀,丈夫莱特却残暴的拧断了金丝雀的脖子,因此,她决定为金丝雀讨回公道,最终导致了悲剧的发生。米妮?福斯特悲惨的生活引起了了海尔太太和彼得斯太太的共鸣,她俩设身处地的为米妮?福斯特着想,推断她的不自由、窒息的生活,最后她俩决定将这些犯罪证据藏起来。

      故事中的米妮?福斯特代表了千千万万囚在男性偏紧所编制成的婚姻牢笼中的女性,作者委婉的通过她的命运表达了女性只有团结起来才可以改变自身命运的观点。

      尤多拉?威尔蒂 (Eudora Welty)

      尤多拉?韦尔蒂( Eudora Welty) (1909 - 2001) 出生于密西西比河的杰克逊市,是美国最受欢迎和重视的作家之一。她一生著作颇丰, 包括长篇小说《强盗新郎》、《三角洲婚礼》、《正在失去的战斗》、《乐观者的女儿》。短篇小说《绿帘》、《我为什么住在邮局里》、《克莱蒂》、《一则新闻》、《搭车》、《寒笛》、《印象》、《金苹果》和《和英尼斯法伦号上的新娘》等等。她获得三次美国最佳短篇小说奖, 六次欧?亨利小说奖,并以长篇小说《乐观者的女儿》获得普利策大奖。韦尔蒂的作品还获得过美国图书评论家奖、美国全国图书奖、美国文学金质奖章、国家艺术金质奖等美国文学界的重要荣誉。韦尔蒂的成就使她成为美国当代文坛令人瞩目的人物,人们还常把她与俄罗斯作家契诃夫相提并论。

      尤多拉?韦尔蒂的作品往往以美国南部密西西比河附近的州的小镇和农村为背景, 因此, 她被称为南方作家或地方作家。她与其同乡威廉? 福克纳同属世纪美国“ 南方文艺复兴” 的头一批代表人物。尤多拉?韦尔蒂小说中的人物,大多是30 年代密西西比州的小镇居民,所在地区也十分偏僻落后,但韦尔蒂从这些普通人身上,发掘出喜怒哀乐背后的含义。小说中,平淡无奇的人物常常挂着含泪的微笑,发人深省的事件却出自日复一日的琐事。她的笔下,既有令人忍俊不禁的场景,又有让人不忍回顾的哀痛。她就是这样用朴实、幽默的手法讲述了一个个动人的悲喜剧,向读者展现了一个真实的南方社会。
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