The-Story-Of-The-Bad-Little-Boy

The Story Of The Bad Little Boy

Once there was a bad little boy whose name was Jim – though, if you will notice, you will find that bad little boys are nearly always called James in your Sunday-school books. It was strange, but still it was true that this one was called Jim.

He didn’t have any sick mother either – a sick mother who was pious and had the consumption, and would be glad to lie down in the grave and be at rest but for the strong love she bore her boy, and the anxiety she felt that the world might be harsh and cold towards him when she was gone. Most bad boys in the Sunday-books are named James, and have sick mothers, who teach them to say, “Now, I lay me down,” etc. and sing them to sleep with sweet, plaintive voices, and then kiss them good-night, and kneel down by the bedside and weep. But it was different with this fellow. He was named Jim, and there wasn’t anything the matter with his mother – no consumption, nor anything of that kind. She was rather stout than otherwise, and she was not pious; moreover, she was not anxious on Jim’s account. She said if he were to break his neck it wouldn’t be much loss. She always spanked Jim to sleep, and she never kissed him good-night; on the contrary, she boxed his ears when she was ready to leave him.

Once this little bad boy stole the key of the pantry, and slipped in there and helped himself to some jam, and filled up the vessel with tar, so that his mother would never know the difference; but all at once a terrible feeling didn’t come over him, and something didn’t seem to whisper to him, “Is it right to disobey my mother? Isn’t it sinful to do this? Where do bad little boys go who gobble up their good kind mother’s jam?” and then he didn’t kneel down all alone and promise never to be wicked any more, and rise up with a light, happy heart, and go and tell his mother all about it, and beg her forgiveness, and be blessed by her with tears of pride and thankfulness in her eyes. No; that is the way with all other bad boys in the books; but it happened otherwise with this Jim, strangely enough. He ate that jam, and said it was bully, in his sinful, vulgar way; and he put in the tar, and said that was bully also, and laughed, and observed “that the old woman would get up and snort” when she found it out; and when she did find it out, he denied knowing anything about it, and she whipped him severely, and he did the crying himself. Everything about this boy was curious – everything turned out differently with him from the way it does to the bad James in the books.

Once he climbed up in Farmer Acorn’s apple-tree to steal apples, and the limb didn’t break, and he didn’t fall and break his arm, and get torn by the farmer’s great dog, and then languish on a sick bed for weeks, and repent and become good. Oh! no; he stole as many apples as he wanted and came down all right; and he was all ready for the dog too, and knocked him endways with a brick when he came to tear him. It was very strange – nothing like it ever happened in those mild little books with marbled backs, and with pictures in them of men with swallow-tailed coats and bell-crowned hats, and pantaloons that are short in the legs, and women with the waists of their dresses under their arms, and no hoops on. Nothing like it in any of the Sunday-school books.

Once he stole the teacher’s pen-knife, and, when he was afraid it would be found out and he would get whipped, he slipped it into George Wilson’s cap – poor Widow Wilson’s son, the moral boy, the good little boy of the village, who always obeyed his mother, and never told an untruth, and was fond of his lessons, and infatuated with Sunday-school. And when the knife dropped from the cap, and poor George hung his head and blushed, as if in conscious guilt, and the grieved teacher charged the theft upon him, and was just in the very act of bringing the switch down upon his trembling shoulders, a white-haired improbable justice of the peace did not suddenly appear in their midst, and strike an attitude and say, “Spare this noble boy – there stands the cowering culprit! I was passing the school-door at recess, and unseen myself, I saw the theft committed!” And then Jim didn’t get whaled, and the venerable justice didn’t read the tearful school a homily and take George by the hand and say such a boy deserved to be exalted, and then tell him to come and make his home with him, and sweep out the office, and make fires, and run errands, and chop wood, and study law, and help his wife to do household labors, and have all the balance of the time to play, and get forty cents a month, and be happy. No; it would have happened that way in the books, but it didn’t happen that way to Jim. No meddling old clam of a justice dropped in to make trouble, and so the model boy George got thrashed, and Jim was glad of it because, you know, Jim hated moral boys. Jim said he was “down on them milk-sops.” Such was the coarse language of this bad, neglected boy.

But the strangest thing that ever happened to Jim was the time he went boating on Sunday, and didn’t get drowned, and that other time that he got caught out in the storm when he was fishing on Sunday, and didn’t get struck by lighting. Why, you might look, and look, all through the Sunday-school books from now till next Christmas, and you would never come across anything like this. Oh no; you would find that all the bad boys who go boating on Sunday invariably get drowned; and all the bad boys who get caught out in storms when they are fishing on Sunday infallibly get struck by lightning. Boats with bad boys in them always upset on Sunday, and it always storms when bad boys go fishing on the Sabbath. How this Jim ever escaped is a mystery to me.

This Jim bore a charmed life – that must have been the way of it. Nothing could hurt him. He even gave the elephant in the menagerie a plug of tobacco, and the elephant didn’t knock the top of his head off with his trunk. He browsed around the cupboard after essence of peppermint, and didn’t make a mistake and drink aqua fortis. He stole his father’s gun and went hunting on the Sabbath, and didn’t shoot three or four of his fingers off. He struck his little sister on the temple with his fist when he was angry, and she didn’t linger in pain through long summer days, and die with sweet words of forgiveness upon her lips that redoubled the anguish of his breaking heart. No; she got over it. He ran off and went to sea at last, and didn’t come back and find himself sad and alone in the world, his loved ones sleeping in the quiet churchyard, and the vine-embowered home of his boyhood tumbled down and gone to decay. Ah! no; he came home as drunk as a piper, and got into the station-house the first thing.

And he grew up and married, and raised a large family, and brained them all with an axe one night, and got wealthy by all manner of cheating and rascality; and now he is the infernalist wickedest scoundrel in his native village, and is universally respected, and belongs to the Legislature.

So you see there never was a bad James in the Sunday-school books that had such a streak of luck as this sinful Jim with the charmed life.



 

从前有个坏孩子,名叫吉姆——不过,如果你稍加留意,便可发现,在你的主日学校课本里,几乎所有的坏孩子都叫詹姆斯。虽说奇怪,而事实如此,这一位就叫吉姆。

吉姆也没有一位生病的母亲——也就是他没有一位笃信上帝、身患肺病,倘若不是爱子情深、惟恐自己一死儿子遭人冷落,而宁愿躺进坟墓安息的母亲。然而,主日学校课本里的坏孩子大都叫詹姆斯,并且都有一位生病的母亲。她们都教自己的儿子学说“我要躺下睡觉”等等,都用温柔凄婉的歌声哄孩子入睡,与他们吻别,然后跪在床边流泪。可是,这个小家伙情况不同。他名叫吉姆,他的母亲安然无恙——没生肺病,也没有别的毛病。她不但不虚弱,而且挺健壮,也不敬重上帝;此外,她对吉姆毫无疼爱之情。她常说,即便吉姆折断脖子,对她也没有多大的损害。她总是用打屁股的办法催吉姆睡觉,从来不与他吻别;相反,她要离家的时候,还要赏他几个耳光。

一次,这个吉姆偷出厨房的钥匙,悄悄地溜进厨房,偷吃了果酱,随后又把果酱瓶子装满焦油沥青,好让他母亲看不出破绽;吉姆并没有顿生恐惧,也不觉得仿佛有什么声音悄然对他说,“不听妈妈的话对吗?这么做不是罪过吗?坏孩子们偷吞了自己善良母亲的果酱之后有什么报应呢?”吉姆也没有独自跪倒在地,保证今后不再作恶,然后轻松愉快地站起身来,对母亲告以实情,请求宽恕。而母亲则是泪流满面,满怀欣慰感激之情向他祝福。不。这是课本中其他坏孩子的情况;至于吉姆,完全是另一码事,你说怪不!吉姆偷吃了果酱,还粗俗下流地说真棒;他把焦油沥青装进果酱瓶,也说真棒,还哈哈大笑,说那老太婆发现之后,“必定会气得暴跳如雷,哼哼呀呀地说不出话来”;后来母亲果然发现了,但他矢口否认,硬说不知道,结果挨了一顿臭揍,泪流满面的竟是他自己。吉姆什么事都干得稀奇,与课本上的詹姆斯们迥然不同。

有一次,他爬到农场主阿科恩的苹果树上偷苹果。可是,树枝没有折断,他既没从树上跌下来摔断胳臂,也没有被农场主的大狗咬伤,尔后也没有卧床数周,闭门思过,从此变好。总之,绝没有那回事;吉姆偷够了苹果之后,安然爬下树来;对那条大狗,也早有准备,那条狗一扑过来,他一砖头扔过去,正好击中了它。说也奇怪——这类事情那些文雅的小书里从未写过,那些小书封面上都印着大理石花纹,里面画着一些身穿燕尾服和短腿的马裤、头戴响铃礼帽的男人和腋下夹着无裙环衣裳的女人。吉姆遇到的这种情况,任何一部主日学校的课本都没写过。

有一次,吉姆偷了老师的铅笔刀,但又害怕老师发现了会受到惩罚,于是便把小刀偷偷地塞进乔治•威尔逊的帽子里——乔治是可怜的威尔逊寡妇的儿子,他的品行端正,被公认为村上的好孩子。乔治对母亲的教诲从不违拗,一向诚实,而且勤敏好学,他对主日学校尤为崇信。可是,后来那把小刀竟从帽子里掉了出来,可怜的乔治耷拉着脑袋,羞得无地自容,好像真的自认有罪。而那位伤心的老师认定小刀是他偷的。当老师举起细软的鞭子,准备抽打他那发抖的双肩时,那位纯属杜撰的白发地方治安官并没有突然出现,更没有神气十足地说道:“饶恕这位品德高尚的孩子吧——罪犯正站在那儿发抖呢!休息时间,我正好从校门口路过。虽然没人看到我,而我却看到了偷窃的人!”因此乔治没有挨打,那位可敬的地方治安官也没有给感激涕零的向师生们布道,然后牵着乔治的手,说他这样的孩子值得称赞,领走乔治跟他同住,让他打扫办公室,生火,跑差,劈柴,学法律,帮他内助料理家务,工余时间尽情玩耍,每月领取四角钱的报酬,自行其乐。不;书上会这样写的,但吉姆遇到的却不是这样。那个老不死的法官没有插进来制造麻烦,结果,模范孩子乔治挨了一顿臭揍,吉姆高兴得手舞足蹈,因为,你知道,吉姆恨透了那些模范孩子。吉姆说,他“最瞧不起这些娘娘腔。”这就是那个没教养的坏孩子吉姆所使用的粗俗语言。

但是,发生在吉姆身上奇而又奇的一桩事是:他在一个礼拜天去划船,并没有被淹死①。又一个礼拜天他去钓鱼,虽然遇上了暴风雨,却没有遭雷击,嗨,您不妨翻查主日学校的全部图书,从头至尾,反复阅读,直至下一个圣诞节,您也绝不会发现这种事情。啊,绝对不会;相反,您会发现,所有在礼拜天划船的坏孩子没有一个不淹死的,所有在礼拜天钓鱼又遇上暴风雨的坏孩子都遭雷击。礼拜天载有坏孩子的船只总是翻底,安息日坏孩子去钓鱼定有暴风雨。吉姆为什么总是能避开这些灾难,我也说不清个中的缘由。

①指星期日应该去教堂做礼拜。

吉姆的活动有符咒庇佑——准是有符咒庇佑。任何事儿都伤害不着他。他游动物园时甚至把一捆烟叶塞给大象,那大象也没有甩开长鼻敲碎他的脑壳。他翻遍食厨,却从来没有把硝酸错当成薄荷饮料喝进肚里。在安息日,他偷了父亲的枪出去打猎,也没有崩掉三四个指头。他一时气急,揍在小妹的太阳穴上,小妹也没有头痛不止,过夏就死,临终留下宽恕温柔的话语,令他破碎的心灵倍感痛苦。不;她居然复原了。最后,吉姆终于离家出走,浪迹海洋。但是,当他回来的时候并没有感到景况凄凉、孤苦无助,也没见他亲人长眠于安静的教堂墓地,那座他童年时期墙上爬满青藤的房屋也没有倒塌。啊,不;他跟个浪人似的,喝得酩酊大醉,没进家门就进了警察局。

吉姆成年之后结婚成家,后来又有了许多儿女。一天晚上,他突然抡起板斧砸碎了全家人的脑袋。吉姆采用各种流氓手段,欺诈坑骗而发了大财;现在他横行乡里,成了心毒手狠的坏蛋,然而却受人敬重,选入议会。

诸位请看,主日学校的课本中可从来没有哪一个坏詹姆斯,能像这位有符咒庇佑、无法无天的吉姆这样走运,这样称心如意的。

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