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To Kill A Mockingbird, Chapters 18-24

Chapter 18

But someone was booming again.

“Mayella Violet Ewell —!”

A young girl walked to the witness stand. As she raised her hand and swore that the evidence she gave would be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help her God, she seemed somehow fragile-looking, but when she sat facing us in the witness chair she became what she was, a thick-bodied girl accustomed to strenuous labor.

In May comb County, it was easy to tell when someone bathed regularly, as opposed to yearly lavations: Mr. Ewell had a scalded look; as if an overnight soaking had deprived him of protective layers of dirt, his skin appeared to be sensitive to the elements. Mayella looked as if she tried to keep clean, and I was reminded of the row of red geraniums in the Ewell yard.

Mr. Gilmer asked Mayella to tell the jury in her own words what happened on the evening of November twenty-first of last year, just in her own words, please.

Mayella sat silently.

“Where were you at dusk on that evening?” began Mr. Gilmer patiently.

“On the porch.”

“Which porch?”

“Ain’t but one, the front porch.”

“What were you doing on the porch?”

“Nothin4.”

Judge Taylor said, “Just tell us what happened. You can do that, can’t you?”

Mayella stared at him and burst into tears. She covered her mouth with her hands and sobbed. Judge Taylor let her cry for a while, then he said, ‘That’s enough now. Don’t be ‘fraid of anybody here, as long as you tell the truth. All this is strange to you, I know, but you’ve nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to fear.

What are you scared of?”

Mayella said something behind her hands. “What was that?” asked the judge. “Him,” she sobbed, pointing at Atticus.

“Mr. Finch?”

She nodded vigorously, saying, “Don’t want him doin‘ me like he done Papa, tryin’ to make him out lefthanded.

Judge Taylor scratched his thick white hair. It was plain that he had never been confronted with a problem of this kind. “How old are you?” he asked.

“Nineteen-and-a-half,” Mayella said.

Judge Taylor cleared his throat and tried unsuccessfully to speak in soothing tones. “Mr. Finch has no idea of scaring you,” he growled, “and if he did, I’m here to stop him. That’s one thing I’m sitting up here for. Now you’re a big girl, so you just sit up straight and tell the—tell us what happened to you. You can do that, can’t you?”

I whispered to Jem, “Has she got good sense?”

Jem was squinting down at the witness stand. “Can’t tell yet,” he said. “She’s got enough sense to get the judge sorry for her, but she might be just—oh, I don’t know.”

Mollified, Mayella gave Atticus a final terrified glance and said to Mr. Gilmer, “Well sir, I was on the porch and—and he came along and, you see, there was this old chiffarobe in the yard Papa’d brought in to chop up for kindlin4 — Papa told me to do it while he was off in the woods but I wadn’t feelin’ strong enough then, so he came by-”

“Who is‘he’?”

Mayella pointed to Tom Robinson. “I’ll have to ask you to be more specific, please,” said Mr. Gilmer. “The reporter can’t put down gestures very well.”

“That’n yonder,” she said. “Robinson.”

“Then what happened?”

“I said come here, nigger, and bust up this chiffarobe for me, I gotta nickel for you. He coulda done it easy enough, he could. So he come in the yard an‘ I went in the house to get him the nickel and I turned around an ’fore I knew it he was on me. Just run up behind me, he did. He got me round the neck, cussin‘ me an’ sayin‘ dirt—I fought’n’hollered, but he had me round the neck. He hit me agin an‘ agin—”

Mr. Gilmer waited for Mayella to collect herself: she had twisted her handkerchief into a sweaty rope; when she opened it to wipe her face it was a mass of creases from her hot hands. She waited for Mr. Gilmer to ask another question, but when he didn’t, she said, “-he chunked me on the floor an‘ choked me’n took advantage of me.”

“Did you scream?” asked Mr. Gilmer. “Did you scream and fight back?”

“Reckon I did, hollered for all I was worth, kicked and hollered loud as I could.” ‘Then what happened?”

“I don’t remember too good, but next thing I knew Papa was in the room a’standing over me hollerin‘ who done it, who done it? Then I sorta fainted an’ the next thing I knew Mr. Tate was pullin‘ me up offa the floor and leadin’ me to the water bucket.”

Apparently Mayella’s recital had given her confidence, but it was not her father’s brash kind: there was something stealthy about hers, like a steady-eyed cat with a twitchy tail.

“You say you fought him off as hard as you could? Fought him tooth and nail?” asked Mr. Gilmer.

“1 positively did,” Mayella echoed her father.

“You are positive that he took full advantage of you?”

Mayella’s face contorted, and 1 was afraid that she would cry again. Instead, she said, “He done what he was after.”

Mr. Gilmer called attention to the hot day by wiping his head with his hand. “That’s all for the time being,” he said pleasantly, “but you stay there. 1 expect big bad Mr. Finch has some questions to ask you.”

“State will not prejudice the witness against counsel for the defense,” murmured Judge Taylor primly, “at least not at this time.”

Atticus got up grinning but instead of walking to the witness stand, he opened his coat and hooked his thumbs in his vest, then he walked slowly across the room to the windows. He looked out, but didn’t seem especially interested in what he saw, then he turned and strolled back to the witness stand. From long years of experience, I could tell he was trying to come to a decision about something.

“Miss Mayella,” he said, smiling, “I won’t try to scare you for a while, not yet. Let’s just get acquainted. How old are you?”

“Said I was nineteen, said it to the judge yonder.” Mayella jerked her head resentfully at the bench.

“So you did, so you did, ma’am. You’ll have to bear with me, Miss Mayella, I’m getting along and can’t remember as well as I used to. I might ask you things you’ve already said before, but you’ll give me an answer, won’t you? Good.”

I could see nothing in Mayella’s expression to justify Atticus’s assumption that he had secured her wholehearted cooperation. She was looking at him furiously.

“Won’t answer a word you say long as you keep on mockin‘ me,” she said.

“Ma’am?” asked Atticus, startled.

“Long’s you keep on makin‘ fun o’me.”

Judge Taylor said, “Mr. Finch is not making fun of you. What’s the matter with you?”

Mayella looked from under lowered eyelids at Atticus, but she said to the judge: “Long’s he keeps on callin‘ me ma’am an sayin’ Miss Mayella. I don’t hafta take his sass, I ain’t called upon to take it.”

Atticus resumed his stroll to the windows and let Judge Taylor handle this one. Judge Taylor was not the kind of figure that ever evoked pity, but I did feel a pang for him as he tried to explain. ‘That’s just Mr. Finch’s way,” he told Mayella. “We’ve done business in this court for years and years, and Mr. Finch is always courteous to everybody. He’s not trying to mock you, he’s trying to be polite. That’s just his way.”

The judge leaned back. “Atticus, let’s get on with these proceedings, and let the record show that the witness has not been sassed, her views to the contrary.”

I wondered if anybody had ever called her “ma’am,” or “Miss Mayella” in her life; probably not, as she took offense to routine courtesy. What on earth was her life like? I soon found out.

“You say you’re nineteen,” Atticus resumed. “How many sisters and brothers have you?” He walked from the windows back to the stand.

“Seb’m,” she said, and I wondered if they were all like the specimen I had seen the first day I started to school.

“You the eldest? The oldest?”

“Yes.”

“How long has your mother been dead?”

“Don’t know—long time.”

“Did you ever go to school?”

“Read’n4 write good as Papa yonder.”

Mayella sounded like a Mr. Jingle in a book I had been reading.

“How long did you go to school?”

“Two year—three year—dunno.”

Slowly but surely I began to see the pattern of Atticus’s questions: from questions that Mr. Gilmer did not deem sufficiently irrelevant or immaterial to object to, Atticus was quietly building up before the jury a picture of the Ewells’ home life. The jury learned the following things: their relief check was far from enough to feed the family, and there was strong suspicion that Papa drank it up anyway—he sometimes went off in the swamp for days and came home sick; the weather was seldom cold enough to require shoes, but when it was, you could make dandy ones from strips of old tires; the family hauled its water in buckets from a spring that ran out at one end of the dump—they kept the surrounding area clear of trash —and it was everybody for himself as far as keeping clean went: if you wanted to wash you hauled your own water; the younger children had perpetual colds and suffered from chronic ground-itch; there was a lady who came around sometimes and asked Mayella why she didn’t stay in school—she wrote down the answer; with two members of the family reading and writing, there was no need for the rest of them to learn—Papa needed them at home.

“Miss Mayella,” said Atticus, in spite of himself, “a nineteen-year-old girl like you must have friends. Who are your friends?”

The witness frowned as if puzzled. “Friends?”

“Yes, don’t you know anyone near your age, or older, or younger? Boys and girls? Just ordinary friends?”

Mayella’s hostility, which had subsided to grudging neutrality, flared again. “You makin‘ fun o’me agin, Mr. Finch?”

Atticus let her question answer his

“Do you love your father, Miss Mayella?” was his next.

“Love him, whatcha mean?”

“I mean, is he good to you, is he easy to get along with?”

“He does tollable, ‘cept when—”

“Except when?”

Mayella looked at her father, who was sitting with his chair tipped against the railing. He sat up straight and waited for her to answer.

“Except when nothin4,” said Mayella. “I said he does tollable.”

Mr. Ewell leaned back again.

“Except when he’s drinking?” asked Atticus so gently that Mayella nodded. “Does he ever go after you?”

“How you mean?”

“When he’s—riled, has he ever beaten you?”

Mayella looked around, down at the court reporter, up at the judge. ‘Answer the question, Miss Mayella,” said Judge Taylor.

“My paw’s never touched a hair o’my head in my life,” she declared firmly. “He never touched me.”

Atticus’s glasses had slipped a little, and he pushed them up on his nose. “We’ve had a good visit, Miss Mayella, and now I guess we’d better get to the case. You say you asked Tom Robinson to come chop up a—what was it?”

“A chiffarobe, a old dresser full of drawers on one side.” “Was Tom Robinson well known to you?”

“Whaddya mean?”

“I mean did you know who he was, where he lived?”

Mayella nodded. “I knowed who he was, he passed the house every day.”

“Was this the first time you asked him to come inside the fence?”

Mayella jumped slightly at the question. Atticus was making his slow pilgrimage to the windows, as he had been doing: he would ask a question, then look out, waiting for an answer. He did not see her involuntary jump, but it seemed to me that he knew she had moved. He turned around and raised his eyebrows. “Was—” he began again.

“Yes it was.”

“Didn’t you ever ask him to come inside the fence before?”

She was prepared now. “I did not, I certainly did not.”

“One did not’s enough,” said Atticus serenely. “You never asked him to do odd jobs for you before?”

“I mighta,” conceded Mayella. ‘There was several niggers around.”

“Can you remember any other occasions?”

“No.”

“All right, now to what happened. You said Tom Robinson was behind you in the room when you turned around, that right?”

“Yes.”

“You said he ‘ got you around the neck cussing and saying dirt’—is that right?” “‘t’s right.”

Atticus’s memory had suddenly become accurate. “You say ‘he caught me and choked me and took advantage of me’—is that right?”

“That’s what I said.”

“Do you remember him beating you about the face?”

The witness hesitated.

“You seem sure enough that he choked you. All this time you were fighting back, remember? You ‘kicked and hollered as loud as you could.’ Do you remember him beating you about the face?”

Mayella was silent. She seemed to be trying to get something clear to herself. I thought for a moment she was doing Mr. Heck Tate’s and my trick of pretending there was a person in front of us. She glanced at Mr. Gilmer.

“It’s an easy question, Miss Mayella, so I’ll try again. Do you remember him beating you about the face?” Atticus’s voice had lost its comfortableness; he was speaking in his arid, detached professional voice. “Do you remember him beating you about the face?”

“No, I don’t recollect if he hit me. I mean yes I do, he hit me.”

“Was your last sentence your answer?”

“Huh? Yes, he hit—I just don’t remember, I just don’t remember... it all happened so quick.”

Judge Taylor looked sternly at Mayella. “Don’t you cry, young woman—” he began, but Atticus said, “Let her cry if she wants to, Judge. We’ve got all the time in the world.”

Mayella sniffed wrathfully and looked at Atticus. “I’ll answer any question you got—get me up here an‘ mock me, will you? I’ll answer any question you got—”

“That’s fine,” said Atticus. ‘There’re only a few more. Miss Mayella, not to be tedious, you’ve testified that the defendant hit you, grabbed you around the neck, choked you, and took advantage of you. I want you to be sure you have the right man. Will you identify the man who raped you?”

“I will, that’s him right yonder.”

Atticus turned to the defendant. “Tom, stand up. Let Miss Mayella have a good long look at you. Is this the man, Miss Mayella?”

Tom Robinson’s powerful shoulders rippled under his thin shirt. He rose to his feet and stood with his right hand on the back of his chair. He looked oddly off balance, but it was not from the way he was standing. His left arm was fully twelve inches shorter than his right, and hung dead at his side. It ended in a small shriveled hand, and from as far away as the balcony I could see that it was no use to him.

“Scout,” breathed Jem. “Scout, look! Reverend, he’s crippled!”

Reverend Sykes leaned across me and whispered to Jem. “He got it caught in a cotton gin, caught it in Mr. Dolphus Raymond’s cotton gin when he was a boy... like to bled to death... tore all the muscles loose from his bones— ”

Atticus said, “Is this the man who raped you?”

“It most certainly is.”

Atticus’s next question was one word long. “How?”

Mayella was raging. “I don’t know how he done it, but he done it—I said it all happened so fast I—”

“Now let’s consider this calmly—” began Atticus, but Mr. Gilmer interrupted with an objection: he was not irrelevant or immaterial, but Atticus was browbeating the witness.

Judge Taylor laughed outright. “Oh sit down, Horace, he’s doing nothing of the sort. If anything, the witness’s browbeating Atticus.”

Judge Taylor was the only person in the courtroom who laughed. Even the babies were still, and I suddenly wondered if they had been smothered at their mothers’ breasts.

“Now,” said Atticus, “Miss Mayella, you’ve testified that the defendant choked and beat you—you didn’t say that he sneaked up behind you and knocked you cold, but you turned around and there he was—” Atticus was back behind his table, and he emphasized his words by tapping his knuckles on it. “—do you wish to reconsider any of your testimony?”

“You want me to say something that didn’t happen?”

“No ma’am, I want you to say something that did happen. Tell us once more, please, what happened?”

“I told’ja what happened.”

“You testified that you turned around and there he was. He choked you then?” “Yes.”

‘Then he released your throat and hit you?”

“I said he did.” “He blacked your left eye with his right fist?”

“I ducked and it—it glanced, that’s what it did. I ducked and it glanced off.” Mayella had finally seen the light.

“You’re becoming suddenly clear on this point. A while ago you couldn’t remember too well, could you?”

“I said he hit me.”

“All right. He choked you, he hit you, then he raped you, that right?”

“It most certainly is.”

“You’re a strong girl, what were you doing all the time, just standing there?”

“I told’ja I hollered’n4kicked’n’fought—”

Atticus reached up and took off his glasses, turned his good right eye to the witness, and rained questions on her. Judge Taylor said, “One question at a time, Atticus. Give the witness a chance to answer.”

“All right, why didn’t you run?”

“I tried...”

“Tried to? What kept you from it?”

“I—he slung me down. That’s what he did, he slung me down’n got on top of me.”

“You were screaming all this time?”

“I certainly was.”

‘Then why didn’t the other children hear you? Where were they? At the dump?” “Where were they?”

No answer.

“Why didn’t your screams make them come running? The dump’s closer than the woods, isn’t it?”

No answer.

“Or didn’t you scream until you saw your father in the window? You didn’t think to scream until then, did you?”

No answer.

“Did you scream first at your father instead of at Tom Robinson? Was that it?”

No answer.

“Who beat you up? Tom Robinson or your father?”

No answer.

“What did your father see in the window, the crime of rape or the best defense to it? Why don’t you tell the truth, child, didn’t Bob Ewell beat you up?”

When Atticus turned away from Mayella he looked like his stomach hurt, but Mayella’s face was a mixture of terror and fury. Atticus sat down wearily and polished his glasses with his handkerchief.

Suddenly Mayella became articulate. “I got somethin4 to say,” she said.

Atticus raised his head. “Do you want to tell us what happened?”

But she did not hear the compassion in his invitation. “I got somethin4 to say an’ then I ain’t gonna say no more. That nigger yonder took advantage of me an4 if you fine fancy gentlemen don’t wanta do nothin’ about it then you’re all yellow stinkin4 cowards, stinkin’ cowards, the lot of you. Your fancy airs don’t come to nothin4 — your ma’amin’ and Miss Mayellerin4 don’t come to nothin’, Mr. Finch

Then she burst into real tears. Her shoulders shook with angry sobs. She was as good as her word. She answered no more questions, even when Mr. Gilmer tried to get her back on the track. I guess if she hadn’t been so poor and ignorant, Judge Taylor would have put her under the jail for the contempt she had shown everybody in the courtroom. Somehow, Atticus had hit her hard in a way that was not clear to me, but it gave him no pleasure to do so. He sat with his head down, and I never saw anybody glare at anyone with the hatred Mayella showed when she left the stand and walked by Atticus’s table.

When Mr. Gilmer told Judge Taylor that the state rested, Judge Taylor said, “It’s time we all did. We’ll take ten minutes.”

Atticus and Mr. Gilmer met in front of the bench and whispered, then they left the courtroom by a door behind the witness stand, which was a signal for us all to stretch. I discovered that I had been sitting on the edge of the long bench, and I was somewhat numb. Jem got up and yawned, Dill did likewise, and Reverend

Sykes wiped his face on his hat. The temperature was an easy ninety, he said.

Mr. Braxton Underwood, who had been sitting quietly in a chair reserved for the Press, soaking up testimony with his sponge of a brain, allowed his bitter eyes to rove over the colored balcony, and they met mine. He gave a snort and looked away.

“Jem,” I said, “Mr. Underwood’s seen us.”

‘That’s okay. He won’t tell Atticus, he’ll just put it on the social side of the Tribune.” Jem turned back to Dill, explaining, I suppose, the finer points of the trial to him, but I wondered what they were. There had been no lengthy debates between Atticus and Mr. Gilmer on any points; Mr. Gilmer seemed to be prosecuting almost reluctantly; witnesses had been led by the nose as asses are, with few objections. But Atticus had once told us that in Judge Taylor’s court any lawyer who was a strict constructionist on evidence usually wound up receiving strict instructions from the bench. He distilled this for me to mean that Judge Taylor might look lazy and operate in his sleep, but he was seldom reversed, and that was the proof of the pudding. Atticus said he was a good judge.

Presently Judge Taylor returned and climbed into his swivel chair. He took a cigar from his vest pocket and examined it thoughtfully. I punched Dill. Having passed the judge’s inspection, the cigar suffered a vicious bite. “We come down sometimes to watch him,” I explained. “It’s gonna take him the rest of the afternoon, now. You watch.” Unaware of public scrutiny from above, Judge Taylor disposed of the severed end by propelling it expertly to his lips and saying, “Fhluck!” He hit a spittoon so squarely we could hear it slosh. “Bet he was hell with a spitball,” murmured Dill.

As a rule, a recess meant a general exodus, but today people weren’t moving.

Even the Idlers who had failed to shame younger men from their seats had remained standing along the walls. I guess Mr. Heck Tate had reserved the county toilet for court officials.

Atticus and Mr. Gilmer returned, and Judge Taylor looked at his watch. “It’s gettin‘ on to four,” he said, which was intriguing, as the courthouse clock must have struck the hour at least twice. I had not heard it or felt its vibrations.

“Shall we try to wind up this afternoon?” asked Judge Taylor. “How ‘bout it,

“I think we can,” said Atticus. “How many witnesses you got?” “One.”

“Well, call him.”

Chapter 19

Thomas Robinson reached around, ran his fingers under his left arm and lifted it. He guided his arm to the Bible and his rubber-like left hand sought contact with the black binding. As he raised his right hand, the useless one slipped off the Bible and hit the clerk’s table. He was trying again when Judge Taylor growled, “That’ll do, Tom.” Tom took the oath and stepped into the witness chair. Atticus very quickly induced him to tell us:

Tom was twenty-five years of age; he was married with three children; he had been in trouble with the law before: he once received thirty days for disorderly conduct.

“It must have been disorderly,” said Atticus. “What did it consist of?”

“Got in a fight with another man, he tried to cut me.”

“Did he succeed?”

“Yes suh, a little, not enough to hurt. You see, I—” Tom moved his left shoulder. “Yes,” said Atticus. “You were both convicted?”

“Yes suh, I had to serve ‘cause I couldn’t pay the fine. Other fellow paid his’n.”

Dill leaned across me and asked Jem what Atticus was doing. Jem said Atticus was showing the jury that Tom had nothing to hide.

“Were you acquainted with Mayella Violet Ewell?” asked Atticus.

“Yes suh, I had to pass her place goin‘ to and from the field every day.”

“Whose field?”

“I picks for Mr. Link Deas.”

“Were you picking cotton in November?”

“No suh, I works in his yard fall an4 wintertime. I works pretty steady for him all year round, he’s got a lot of pecan trees’n things.”

“You say you had to pass the Ewell place to get to and from work. Is there any other way to go?”

“No suh, none’s I know of.”

“Tom, did she ever speak to you?”

“Why, yes suh, I’d tip m’hat when I’d go by, and one day she asked me to come inside the fence and bust up a chiffarobe for her.”

“When did she ask you to chop up the—the chiffarobe?”

“Mr. Finch, it was way last spring. I remember it because it was choppin4 time and I had my hoe with me. I said I didn’t have nothin’ but this hoe, but she said she had a hatchet. She give me the hatchet and I broke up the chiffarobe. She said, ‘I reckon I’ll hafta give you a nickel, won’t I?’ an‘ I said, ’No ma’am, there ain’t no charge.4 Then I went home. Mr. Finch, that was way last spring, way over a year ago.”

“Did you ever go on the place again?”

“Yes suh.”

“When?”

“Well, I went lots of times.”

Judge Taylor instinctively reached for his gavel, but let his hand fall. The murmur below us died without his help.

“Under what circumstances?”

“Please, suh?”

“Why did you go inside the fence lots of times?”

Tom Robinson’s forehead relaxed. “She’d call me in, suh. Seemed like every time

I passed by yonder she’d have some little somethin4 for me to do—choppin’ kindlin4, totin’ water for her. She watered them red flowers every day—”

“Were you paid for your services?”

“No suh, not after she offered me a nickel the first time. I was glad to do it, Mr. Ewell didn’t seem to help her none, and neither did the chillun, and I knowed she didn’t have no nickels to spare.”

“Where were the other children?”

“They was always around, all over the place. They’d watch me work, some of 4em, some of ’em’d set in the window.”

“Would Miss Mayella talk to you?”

“Yes sir, she talked to me.”

As Tom Robinson gave his testimony, it came to me that Mayella Ewell must have been the loneliest person in the world. She was even lonelier than Boo Radley, who had not been out of the house in twenty-five years. When Atticus asked had she any friends, she seemed not to know what he meant, then she thought he was making fun of her. She was as sad, I thought, as what Jem called a mixed child: white people wouldn’t have anything to do with her because she lived among pigs; Negroes wouldn’t have anything to do with her because she was white. She couldn’t live like Mr. Dolphus Raymond, who preferred the company of Negroes, because she didn’t own a riverbank and she wasn’t from a fine old family. Nobody said, ‘That’s just their way,” about the Ewells. May comb gave them Christmas baskets, welfare money, and the back of its hand. Tom Robinson was probably the only person who was ever decent to her. But she said he took advantage of her, and when she stood up she looked at him as if he were dirt beneath her feet.

“Did you ever,” Atticus interrupted my meditations, “at any time, go on the Ewell property—did you ever set foot on the Ewell property without an express invitation from one of them?”

“No suh, Mr. Finch, I never did. I wouldn’t do that, suh.”

Atticus sometimes said that one way to tell whether a witness was lying or telling the truth was to listen rather than watch: I applied his test—Tom denied it three times in one breath, but quietly, with no hint of whining in his voice, and I found myself believing him in spite of his protesting too much. He seemed to be a respectable Negro, and a respectable Negro would never go up into somebody’s yard of his own volition.

‘Tom, what happened to you on the evening of November twenty-first of last year?”

Below us, the spectators drew a collective breath and leaned forward. Behind us, the Negroes did the same.

Tom was a black-velvet Negro, not shiny, but soft black velvet. The whites of his eyes shone in his face, and when he spoke we saw flashes of his teeth. If he had been whole, he would have been a fine specimen of a man.

“Mr. Finch,” he said, “I was goin‘ home as usual that evenin’, an‘ when I passed the Ewell place Miss Mayella were on the porch, like she said she were. It seemed real quiet like, an’ I didn’t quite know why. I was studyin4 why, just passin’ by, when she says for me to come there and help her a minute. Well, I went inside the fence an‘ looked around for some kindlin’ to work on, but I didn’t see none, and she says, ‘Naw, I got somethin’ for you to do in the house. Th‘ old door’s off its hinges an’ fall’s comin‘ on pretty fast.’ I said you got a screwdriver, Miss Mayella? She said she sho‘ had. Well, I went up the steps an’ she motioned me to come inside, and I went in the front room an‘ looked at the door. I said Miss Mayella, this door look all right. I pulled it back’n forth and those hinges was all right. Then she shet the door in my face. Mr. Finch, I was wonderin’ why it was so quiet like, an‘ it come to me that there weren’t a chile on the place, not a one of ’em, and I said Miss Mayella, where the chillun?”

Tom’s black velvet skin had begun to shine, and he ran his hand over his face.

“I say where the chillun?” he continued, “an‘ she says—she was laughin’, sort of — she says they all gone to town to get ice creams. She says, ‘took me a slap year to save seb’m nickels, but I done it. They all gone to town.’”

Tom’s discomfort was not from the humidity. “What did you say then, Tom?” asked Atticus.

“I said somethin4 like, why Miss Mayella, that’s right smart o’you to treat ’em. An4 she said, ’You think so?4 I don’t think she understood what I was thinkin’—I meant it was smart of her to save like that, an‘ nice of her to treat em.”

“I understand you, Tom. Go on,” said Atticus.

“Well, I said I best be goin‘, I couldn’t do nothin’ for her, an‘ she says oh yes I could, an’ I ask her what, and she says to just step on that chair yonder an‘ git that box down from on top of the chiffarobe.”

“Not the same chiffarobe you busted up?” asked Atticus.

The witness smiled. “Naw suh, another one. Most as tall as the room. So I done what she told me, an‘ I was just reachin’ when the next thing I knows she—she’d grabbed me round the legs, grabbed me round th‘ legs, Mr. Finch. She scared me so bad I hopped down an’ turned the chair over—that was the only thing, only furniture, ‘ sturbed in that room, Mr. Finch, when I left it. I swear ’fore God.”

“What happened after you turned the chair over?”

Tom Robinson had come to a dead stop. He glanced at Atticus, then at the jury, then at Mr. Underwood sitting across the room.

“Tom, you’re sworn to tell the whole truth. Will you tell it?”

Tom ran his hand nervously over his mouth.

“What happened after that?”

“Answer the question,” said Judge Taylor. One-third of his cigar had vanished.

“Mr. Finch, I got down offa that chair an‘ turned around an’ she sorta jumped on me.”

“Jumped on you? Violently?”

“No suh, she—she hugged me. She hugged me round the waist.”

This time Judge Taylor’s gavel came down with a bang, and as it did the overhead lights went on in the courtroom. Darkness had not come, but the afternoon sun had left the windows. Judge Taylor quickly restored order.

“Then what did she do?”

The witness swallowed hard. “She reached up an‘ kissed me ’side of th‘ face. She says she never kissed a grown man before an’ she might as well kiss a nigger. She says what her papa do to her don’t count. She says, ‘Kiss me back, nigger.’ I say Miss Mayella lemme outa here an‘ tried to run but she got her back to the door an’ I’da had to push her. I didn’t wanta harm her, Mr. Finch, an‘ I say lemme pass, but just when I say it Mr. Ewell yonder hollered through th’ window.”

“What did he say?”

Tom Robinson swallowed again, and his eyes widened. “Somethin4 not fittin’ to say—not fittin4 for these folks’n chillun to hear—”

“What did he say, Tom? You must tell the jury what he said.”

Tom Robinson shut his eyes tight. “He says you goddamn whore, I’ll kill ya.” ‘Then what happened?”

“Mr. Finch, I was runnin4 so fast I didn’t know what happened.”

‘Tom, did you rape Mayella Ewell?”

“I did not, suh.”

“Did you harm her in any way?”

“I did not, suh.”

“Did you resist her advances?”

“Mr. Finch, I tried. I tried to ‘thout bein’ ugly to her. I didn’t wanta be ugly, I didn’t wanta push her or nothin4.”

It occurred to me that in their own way, Tom Robinson’s manners were as good as Atticus’s. Until my father explained it to me later, I did not understand the subtlety of Tom’s predicament: he would not have dared strike a white woman under any circumstances and expect to live long, so he took the first opportunity to run—a sure sign of guilt.

“Tom, go back once more to Mr. Ewell,” said Atticus. “Did he say anything to you?”

“Not anything, suh. He mighta said somethin4, but I weren’t there—”

“That’ll do,” Atticus cut in sharply. “What you did hear, who was he talking to?” “Mr. Finch, he were talkin' and lookin’ at Miss Mayella.”

“Then you ran?”

“I sho4 did, suh.” “Why did you run?” “I was scared, suh.”

“Why were you scared?”

“Mr. Finch, if you was a nigger like me, you’d be scared, too.”

Atticus sat down. Mr. Gilmer was making his way to the witness stand, but before he got there Mr. Link Deas rose from the audience and announced:

“I just want the whole lot of you to know one thing right now. That boy’s worked for me eight years an‘ I ain’t had a speck o’trouble outa him. Not a speck.”

“Shut your mouth, sir!” Judge Taylor was wide awake and roaring. He was also pink in the face. His speech was miraculously unimpaired by his cigar. “Link Deas,” he yelled, “if you have anything you want to say you can say it under oath and at the proper time, but until then you get out of this room, you hear me? Get out of this room, sir, you hear me? I’ll be damned if I’ll listen to this case again!”

Judge Taylor looked daggers at Atticus, as if daring him to speak, but Atticus had ducked his head and was laughing into his lap. I remembered something he had said about Judge Taylor’s ex cathedra remarks sometimes exceeding his duty, but that few lawyers ever did anything about them. I looked at Jem, but Jem shook his head. “It ain’t like one of the jurymen got up and started talking,” he said. “I think it’d be different then. Mr. Link was just disturbin4 the peace or something.”

Judge Taylor told the reporter to expunge anything he happened to have written down after Mr. Finch if you were a nigger like me you’d be scared too, and told the jury to disregard the interruption. He looked suspiciously down the middle aisle and waited, I suppose, for Mr. Link Deas to effect total departure. Then he said, “Go ahead, Mr. Gilmer.”

“You were given thirty days once for disorderly conduct, Robinson?” asked Mr. Gilmer.

“Yes suh.”

“What’d the nigger look like when you got through with him?”

“He beat me, Mr. Gilmer.”

“Yes, but you were convicted, weren’t you?”

Atticus raised his head. “It was a misdemeanor and it’s in the record, Judge.” I thought he sounded tired.

“Witness’ll answer, though,” said Judge Taylor, just as wearily.

“Yes suh, I got thirty days.”

I knew that Mr. Gilmer would sincerely tell the jury that anyone who was convicted of disorderly conduct could easily have had it in his heart to take advantage of Mayella Ewell, that was the only reason he cared. Reasons like that helped.

“Robinson, you’re pretty good at busting up chiffarobes and kindling with one hand, aren’t you?”

“Yes, suh, I reckon so.”

“Strong enough to choke the breath out of a woman and sling her to the floor?”

“I never done that, suh.”

“But you are strong enough to?”

“I reckon so, suh.”

“Had your eye on her a long time, hadn’t you, boy?”

“No suh, I never looked at her.”

“Then you were mighty polite to do all that chopping and hauling for her, weren’t you,boy?”

“I was just tryin‘ to help her out, suh.”

“That was mighty generous of you, you had chores at home after your regular work, didn’t you?”

“Yes suh.”

“Why didn’t you do them instead of Miss Ewell’s?”

“I done ‘em both, suh.”

“You must have been pretty busy. Why?”

“Why what, suh?”

“Why were you so anxious to do that woman’s chores?”

Tom Robinson hesitated, searching for an answer. “Looked like she didn’t have nobody to help her, like I says—”

“With Mr. Ewell and seven children on the place, boy?” “Well, I says it looked like they never help her none—”

“You did all this chopping and work from sheer goodness, boy?”

“Tried to help her, I says.”

Mr. Gilmer smiled grimly at the jury. “You’re a mighty good fellow, it seems— did all this for not one penny?”

“Yes, suh. I felt right sorry for her, she seemed to try more’n the rest of ‘em-”

“You felt sorry for her, you felt sorry for he?” Mr. Gilmer seemed ready to rise to the ceiling.

The witness realized his mistake and shifted uncomfortably in the chair. But the damage was done. Below us, nobody liked Tom Robinson’s answer. Mr. Gilmer paused a long time to let it sink in.

“Now you went by the house as usual, last November twenty-first,” he said, “and she asked you to come in and bust up a chiffarobe?”

“No suh.”

“Do you deny that you went by the house?”

“No suh—she said she had somethin4 for me to do inside the house—”

“She says she asked you to bust up a chiffarobe, is that right?”

“No suh, it ain’t.”

“Then you say she’s lying, boy?”

Atticus was on his feet, but Tom Robinson didn’t need him. “I don’t say she’s lyin4, Mr. Gilmer, I say she’s mistaken in her mind.”

To the next ten questions, as Mr. Gilmer reviewed Mayella’s version of events, the witness’s steady answer was that she was mistaken in her mind.

“Didn’t Mr. Ewell run you off the place, boy?”

“No suh, I don’t think he did.”

“Don’t think, what do you mean?”

“I mean I didn’t stay long enough for him to run me off.”

“You’re very candid about this, why did you run so fast?”

“I says I was scared, suh.” “If you had a clear conscience, why were you scared?”

“Like I says before, it weren’t safe for any nigger to be in a—fix like that.”

“But you weren’t in a fix—you testified that you were resisting Miss Ewell. Were you so scared that she’d hurt you, you ran, a big buck like you?”

“No suh, I’s scared I’d be in court, just like I am now.”

“Scared of arrest, scared you’d have to face up to what you did?”

“No suh, scared I’d hafta face up to what I didn’t do.”

“Are you being impudent to me, boy?”

“No suh, I didn’t go to be.”

This was as much as I heard of Mr. Gilmer’s cross-examination, because Jem made me take Dill out. For some reason Dill had started crying and couldn’t stop; quietly at first, then his sobs were heard by several people in the balcony. Jem said if I didn’t go with him he’d make me, and Reverend Sykes said I’d better go, so I went. Dill had seemed to be all right that day, nothing wrong with him, but I guessed he hadn’t fully recovered from running away.

“Ain’t you feeling good?” I asked, when we reached the bottom of the stairs.

Dill tried to pull himself together as we ran down the south steps. Mr. Link Deas was a lonely figure on the top step. “Anything happeniiT, Scout?” he asked as we went by. “No sir,” I answered over my shoulder. “Dill here, he’s sick.”

“Come on out under the trees,” I said. “Heat got you, I expect.” We chose the fattest live oak and we sat under it.

“It was just him I couldn’t stand,” Dill said.

“Who, Tom?”

‘That old Mr. Gilmer doin‘ him thataway, talking so hateful to him—”

“Dill, that’s his job. Why, if we didn’t have prosecutors—well, we couldn’t have defense attorneys, I reckon.”

Dill exhaled patiently. “I know all that, Scout. It was the way he said it made me sick, plain sick.”

“He’s supposed to act that way, Dill, he was cross—” “He didn’t act that way when—”

“Dill, those were his own witnesses.”

“Well, Mr. Finch didn’t act that way to Mayella and old man Ewell when he cross- examined them. The way that man called him ‘boy’ all the time an‘ sneered at him, an’ looked around at the jury every time he answered—”

“Well, Dill, after all he’s just a Negro.”

“I don’t care one speck. It ain’t right, somehow it ain’t right to do ‘em that way. Hasn’t anybody got any business talkin’ like that—it just makes me sick.”

“That’s just Mr. Gilmer’s way, Dill, he does ‘em all that way. You’ve never seen him get good’n down on one yet. Why, when—well, today Mr. Gilmer seemed to me like he wasn’t half trying. They do ’em all that way, most lawyers, I mean.”

“Mr. Finch doesn’t.”

“He’s not an example, Dill, he’s—” I was trying to grope in my memory for a sharp phrase of Miss Maudie Atkinson’s. I had it: “He’s the same in the courtroom as he is on the public streets.”

“That’s not what I mean,” said Dill.

“I know what you mean, boy,” said a voice behind us. We thought it came from the tree-trunk, but it belonged to Mr. Dolphus Raymond. He peered around the trunk at us. “You aren’t thin-hided, it just makes you sick, doesn’t it?”

Chapter 20

“Come on round here, son, I got something that’ll settle your stomach.”

As Mr. Dolphus Raymond was an evil man I accepted his invitation reluctantly, but I followed Dill. Somehow, I didn’t think Atticus would like it if we became friendly with Mr. Raymond, and I knew Aunt Alexandra wouldn’t.

“Here,” he said, offering Dill his paper sack with straws in it. ‘Take a good sip, it’ll quieten you.”

Dill sucked on the straws, smiled, and pulled at length.

“Hee hee,” said Mr. Raymond, evidently taking delight in corrupting a child.

“Dill, you watch out, now,” I warned.

Dill released the straws and grinned. “Scout, it’s nothing but Coca-Cola.”

Mr. Raymond sat up against the tree-trunk. He had been lying on the grass. “You little folks won’t tell on me now, will you? It’d ruin my reputation if you did.”

“You mean all you drink in that sack’s Coca-Cola? Just plain Coca-Cola?”

“Yes ma’am,” Mr. Raymond nodded. I liked his smell: it was of leather, horses, cottonseed. He wore the only English riding boots I had ever seen. ‘That’s all I drink, most of the time.”

“Then you just pretend you’re half—? I beg your pardon, sir,” I caught myself. “I didn’t mean to be—”

Mr. Raymond chuckled, not at all offended, and I tried to frame a discreet question: “Why do you do like you do?”

“Wh—oh yes, you mean why do I pretend? Well, it’s very simple,” he said.

“Some folks don’t—like the way I live. Now I could say the hell with ‘em, I don’t care if they don’t like it. I do say I don’t care if they don’t like it, right enough— but I don’t say the hell with ’em, see?”

Dill and I said, “No sir.”

“I try to give ‘em a reason, you see. It helps folks if they can latch onto a reason. When I come to town, which is seldom, if I weave a little and drink out of this sack, folks can say Dolphus Raymond’s in the clutches of whiskey—that’s why he won’t change his ways. He can’t help himself, that’s why he lives the way he does.”

“That ain’t honest, Mr. Raymond, making yourself out badder’n you are already

“It ain’t honest but it’s mighty helpful to folks. Secretly, Miss Finch, I’m not much of a drinker, but you see they could never, never understand that I live like I do because that’s the way I want to live.”

I had a feeling that I shouldn’t be here listening to this sinful man who had mixed children and didn’t care who knew it, but he was fascinating. I had never encountered a being who deliberately perpetrated fraud against himself. But why had he entrusted us with his deepest secret? I asked him why.

“Because you’re children and you can understand it,” he said, “and because I heard that one— ”

He jerked his head at Dill: “Things haven’t caught up with that one’s instinct yet. Let him get a little older and he won’t get sick and cry. Maybe things’ll strike him as being—not quite right, say, but he won’t cry, not when he gets a few years on him.”

“Cry about what, Mr. Raymond?” Dill’s maleness was beginning to assert itself.

“Cry about the simple hell people give other people—without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they’re people, too.”

“Atticus says cheatin' a colored man is ten times worse than cheatin’ a white man,” I muttered. “Says it’s the worst thing you can do.”

Mr. Raymond said, “I don’t reckon it’s—Miss Jean Louise, you don’t know your pa’s not a run-of-the-mill man, it’ll take a few years for that to sink in—you haven’t seen enough of the world yet. You haven’t even seen this town, but all you gotta do is step back inside the courthouse.”

Which reminded me that we were missing nearly all of Mr. Gilmer’s cross­examination. I looked at the sun, and it was dropping fast behind the store-tops on the west side of the square. Between two fires, I could not decide which I wanted to jump into: Mr. Raymond or the 5th Judicial Circuit Court. “C’mon, Dill,” I said. “You all right, now?”

“Yeah. Glad t’ve metcha, Mr. Raymond, and thanks for the drink, it was mighty settlin'.”

We raced back to the courthouse, up the steps, up two flights of stairs, and edged our way along the balcony rail. Reverend Sykes had saved our seats.

The courtroom was still, and again I wondered where the babies were. Judge Taylor’s cigar was a brown speck in the center of his mouth; Mr. Gilmer was writing on one of the yellow pads on his table, trying to outdo the court reporter, whose hand was jerking rapidly. “Shoot,” I muttered, “we missed it.”

Atticus was halfway through his speech to the jury. He had evidently pulled some papers from his briefcase that rested beside his chair, because they were on his table. Tom Robinson was toying with them.

“.. .absence of any corroborative evidence, this man was indicted on a capital charge and is now on trial for his life...”

I punched Jem. “How long’s he been at it?”

“He’s just gone over the evidence,” Jem whispered, “and we’re gonna win, Scout. I don’t see how we can’t. He’s been at it ‘bout five minutes. He made it as plain and easy as—well, as I’da explained it to you. You could’ve understood it, even.”

“Did Mr. Gilmer-?”

“Sh-h. Nothing new, just the usual. Hush now.”

We looked down again. Atticus was speaking easily, with the kind of detachment he used when he dictated a letter. He walked slowly up and down in front of the jury, and the jury seemed to be attentive: their heads were up, and they followed Atticus’s route with what seemed to be appreciation. I guess it was because Atticus wasn’t a thunderer.

Atticus paused, then he did something he didn’t ordinarily do. He unhitched his watch and chain and placed them on the table, saying, “With the court’s permission—”

Judge Taylor nodded, and then Atticus did something I never saw him do before or since, in public or in private: he unbuttoned his vest, unbuttoned his collar, loosened his tie, and took off his coat. He never loosened a scrap of his clothing until he undressed at bedtime, and to Jem and me, this was the equivalent of him standing before us stark naked. We exchanged horrified glances.

Atticus put his hands in his pockets, and as he returned to the jury, I saw his gold collar button and the tips of his pen and pencil winking in the light.

“Gentlemen,” he said. Jem and I again looked at each other: Atticus might have said, “Scout.” His voice had lost its aridity, its detachment, and he was talking to the jury as if they were folks on the post office corner.

“Gentlemen,” he was saying, “I shall be brief, but I would like to use my remaining time with you to remind you that this case is not a difficult one, it requires no minute sifting of complicated facts, but it does require you to be sure beyond all reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant. To begin with, this case should never have come to trial. This case is as simple as black and white.

“The state has not produced one iota of medical evidence to the effect that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place. It has relied instead upon the testimony of two witnesses whose evidence has not only been called into serious question on cross-examination, but has been flatly contradicted by the defendant. The defendant is not guilty, but somebody in this courtroom is.

“I have nothing but pity in my heart for the chief witness for the state, but my pity does not extend so far as to her putting a man’s life at stake, which she has done in an effort to get rid of her own guilt.

“I say guilt, gentlemen, because it was guilt that motivated her. She has committed no crime, she has merely broken a rigid and time-honored code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst as unfit to live with. She is the victim of cruel poverty and ignorance, but I cannot pity her: she is white. She knew full well the enormity of her offense, but because her desires were stronger than the code she was breaking, she persisted in breaking it. She persisted, and her subsequent reaction is something that all of us have known at one time or another. She did something every child has done—she tried to put the evidence of her offense away from her. But in this case she was no child hiding stolen contraband: she struck out at her victim—of necessity she must put him away from her—he must be removed from her presence, from this world. She must destroy the evidence of her offense.

“What was the evidence of her offense? Tom Robinson, a human being. She must put Tom Robinson away from her. Tom Robinson was her daily reminder of what she did. What did she do? She tempted a Negro.

“She was white, and she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man. Not an old Uncle, but a strong young Negro man. No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards.

“Her father saw it, and the defendant has testified as to his remarks. What did her father do? We don’t know, but there is circumstantial evidence to indicate that Mayella Ewell was beaten savagely by someone who led almost exclusively with his left. We do know in part what Mr. Ewell did: he did what any God-fearing, persevering, respectable white man would do under the circumstances—he swore out a warrant, no doubt signing it with his left hand, and Tom Robinson now sits before you, having taken the oath with the only good hand he possesses—his right hand.

“And so a quiet, respectable, humble Negro who had the unmitigated temerity to ‘feel sorry’ for a white woman has had to put his word against two white people’s. I need not remind you of their appearance and conduct on the stand— you saw them for yourselves. The witnesses for the state, with the exception of the sheriff of May comb County, have presented themselves to you gentlemen, to this court, in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption—the evil assumption—that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption one associates with minds of their caliber.

“Which, gentlemen, we know is in itself a lie as black as Tom Robinson’s skin, a lie I do not have to point out to you. You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women—black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire.”

Atticus paused and took out his handkerchief. Then he took off his glasses and wiped them, and we saw another “first”: we had never seen him sweat—he was one of those men whose faces never perspired, but now it was shining tan.

“One more thing, gentlemen, before I quit. Thomas Jefferson once said that all men are created equal, a phrase that the Yankees and the distaff side of the Executive branch in Washington are fond of hurling at us. There is a tendency in this year of grace, 1935, for certain people to use this phrase out of context, to satisfy all conditions. The most ridiculous example I can think of is that the people who run public education promote the stupid and idle along with the industrious—because all men are created equal, educators will gravely tell you, the children left behind suffer terrible feelings of inferiority. We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe —some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they’re born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others—some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of most men.

“But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal—there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. It can be the Supreme Court of the United States or the humblest J.P. court in the land, or this honorable court which you serve. Our courts have their faults, as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal.

“I’m no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system—that is no ideal to me, it is a living, working reality. Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up. I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this defendant to his family. In the name of God, do your duty.”

Atticus’s voice had dropped, and as he turned away from the jury he said something I did not catch. He said it more to himself than to the court. I punched Jem. “What’d he say?”

“‘In the name of God, believe him,’ I think that’s what he said.”

Dill suddenly reached over me and tugged at Jem. “Looka yonder!”

We followed his finger with sinking hearts. Calpurnia was making her way up the middle aisle, walking straight toward Atticus.

Chapter 21

She stopped shyly at the railing and waited to get Judge Taylor’s attention. She was in a fresh apron and she carried an envelope in her hand.

Judge Taylor saw her and said, “It’s Calpurnia, isn’t it?”

“Yes sir,” she said. “Could I just pass this note to Mr. Finch, please sir? It hasn’t got anything to do with—with the trial.”

Judge Taylor nodded and Atticus took the envelope from Calpurnia. He opened it, read its contents and said, “Judge, I—this note is from my sister. She says my children are missing, haven’t turned up since noon... I... could you— ”

“I know where they are, Atticus.” Mr. Underwood spoke up. “They’re right up yonder in the colored balcony—been there since precisely one-eighteen P.M.”

Our father turned around and looked up. “Jem, come down from there,” he called. Then he said something to the Judge we didn’t hear. We climbed across Reverend Sykes and made our way to the staircase.

Atticus and Calpurnia met us downstairs. Calpurnia looked peeved, but Atticus looked exhausted.

Jem was jumping in excitement. “We’ve won, haven’t we?”

“I’ve no idea,” said Atticus shortly. “You’ve been here all afternoon? Go home with Calpurnia and get your supper—and stay home.”

“Aw, Atticus, let us come back,” pleaded Jem. “Please let us hear the verdict, please sir.”

“The jury might be out and back in a minute, we don’t know—” but we could tell Atticus was relenting. “Well, you’ve heard it all, so you might as well hear the rest. Tell you what, you all can come back when you’ve eaten your supper—eat slowly, now, you won’t miss anything important—and if the jury’s still out, you can wait with us. But I expect it’ll be over before you get back.”

“You think they’ll acquit him that fast?” asked Jem.

Atticus opened his mouth to answer, but shut it and left us.

I prayed that Reverend Sykes would save our seats for us, but stopped praying when I remembered that people got up and left in droves when the jury was out- tonight, they’d overrun the drugstore, the O.K. Cafe and the hotel, that is, unless they had brought their suppers too.

Calpurnia marched us home: “—skin every one of you alive, the very idea, you children listenin' to all that! Mister Jem, don’t you know better’n to take your little sister to that trial? Miss Alexandra’ll absolutely have a stroke of paralysis when she finds out! Ain’t fittin’ for children to hear...”

The streetlights were on, and we glimpsed Calpurnia’s indignant profile as we passed beneath them. “Mister Jem, I thought you was gettin4 some kinda head on your shoulders—the very idea, she’s your little sister! The very idea, sir! You oughta be perfectly ashamed of yourself—ain’t you got any sense at all?”

I was exhilarated. So many things had happened so fast I felt it would take years to sort them out, and now here was Calpurnia giving her precious Jem down the country—what new marvels would the evening bring?

Jem was chuckling. “Don’t you want to hear about it, Cal?”

“Hush your mouth, sir! When you oughta be hangin4 your head in shame you go along laughin’ — ” Calpurnia revived a series of rusty threats that moved Jem to little remorse, and she sailed up the front steps with her classic, “If Mr. Finch don’t wear you out, I will—get in that house, sir!”

Jem went in grinning, and Calpurnia nodded tacit consent to having Dill in to supper. “You all call Miss Rachel right now and tell her where you are,” she told him. “She’s run distracted lookin' for you—you watch out she don’t ship you back to Meridian first thing in the mornin’.”

Aunt Alexandra met us and nearly fainted when Calpurnia told her where we were. I guess it hurt her when we told her Atticus said we could go back, because she didn’t say a word during supper. She just rearranged food on her plate, looking at it sadly while Calpurnia served Jem, Dill and me with a vengeance. Calpurnia poured milk, dished out potato salad and ham, muttering, “‘shamed of yourselves,” in varying degrees of intensity. “Now you all eat slow,” was her final command.

Reverend Sykes had saved our places. We were surprised to find that we had been gone nearly an hour, and were equally surprised to find the courtroom exactly as we had left it, with minor changes: the jury box was empty, the defendant was gone; Judge Taylor had been gone, but he reappeared as we were seating ourselves.

“Nobody’s moved, hardly,” said Jem.

“They moved around some when the jury went out,” said Reverend Sykes. “The menfolk down there got the womenfolk their suppers, and they fed their babies.”

“How long have they been out?” asked Jem.

‘“bout thirty minutes. Mr. Finch and Mr. Gilmer did some more talkin’, and Judge Taylor charged the jury.”

“How was he?” asked Jem.

“What say? Oh, he did right well. I ain’t complainin‘ one bit—he was mighty fair- minded. He sorta said if you believe this, then you’ll have to return one verdict, but if you believe this, you’ll have to return another one. I thought he was leanin’ a little to our side—” Reverend Sykes scratched his head.

Jem smiled. “He’s not supposed to lean, Reverend, but don’t fret, we’ve won it,” he said wisely. “Don’t see how any jury could convict on what we heard—”

“Now don’t you be so confident, Mr. Jem, I ain’t ever seen any jury decide in favor of a colored man over a white man...” But Jem took exception to Reverend Sykes, and we were subjected to a lengthy review of the evidence with Jem’s ideas on the law regarding rape: it wasn’t rape if she let you, but she had to be eighteen—in Alabama, that is—and Mayella was nineteen. Apparently you had to kick and holler, you had to be overpowered and stomped on, preferably knocked stone cold. If you were under eighteen, you didn’t have to go through all this.

“Mr. Jem,” Reverend Sykes demurred, “this ain’t a polite thing for little ladies to hear...”

“Aw, she doesn’t know what we’re talkin‘ about,” said Jem. “Scout, this is too old for you, ain’t it?” “It most certainly is not, I know every word you’re saying.” Perhaps I was too convincing, because Jem hushed and never discussed the subject again.

“What time is it, Reverend?” he asked.

“Gettin‘ on toward eight.”

I looked down and saw Atticus strolling around with his hands in his pockets: he made a tour of the windows, then walked by the railing over to the jury box. He looked in it, inspected Judge Taylor on his throne, then went back to where he started. I caught his eye and waved to him. He acknowledged my salute with a nod, and resumed his tour.

Mr. Gilmer was standing at the windows talking to Mr. Underwood. Bert, the court reporter, was chain-smoking: he sat back with his feet on the table.

But the officers of the court, the ones present—Atticus, Mr. Gilmer, Judge Taylor sound asleep, and Bert, were the only ones whose behavior seemed normal. I had never seen a packed courtroom so still. Sometimes a baby would cry out fretfully, and a child would scurry out, but the grown people sat as if they were in church.

In the balcony, the Negroes sat and stood around us with biblical patience.

The old courthouse clock suffered its preliminary strain and struck the hour, eight deafening bongs that shook our bones.

When it bonged eleven times I was past feeling: tired from fighting sleep, I allowed myself a short nap against Reverend Sykes’s comfortable arm and shoulder. I jerked awake and made an honest effort to remain so, by looking down and concentrating on the heads below: there were sixteen bald ones, fourteen men that could pass for redheads, forty heads varying between brown and black, and— I remembered something Jem had once explained to me when he went through a brief period of psychical research: he said if enough people—a stadium full, maybe—were to concentrate on one thing, such as setting a tree afire in the woods, that the tree would ignite of its own accord. I toyed with the idea of asking everyone below to concentrate on setting Tom Robinson free, but thought if they were as tired as I, it wouldn’t work.

Dill was sound asleep, his head on Jem’s shoulder, and Jem was quiet.

“Ain’t it a long time?” I asked him.

“Sure is, Scout,” he said happily.

“Well, from the way you put it, it’d just take five minutes.”

Jem raised his eyebrows. “There are things you don’t understand,” he said, and I was too weary to argue.

But I must have been reasonably awake, or I would not have received the impression that was creeping into me. It was not unlike one I had last winter, and I shivered, though the night was hot. The feeling grew until the atmosphere in the courtroom was exactly the same as a cold February morning, when the mockingbirds were still, and the carpenters had stopped hammering on Miss Maudie’s new house, and every wood door in the neighborhood was shut as tight as the doors of the Radley Place. A deserted, waiting, empty street, and the courtroom was packed with people. A steaming summer night was no different from a winter morning. Mr. Heck Tate, who had entered the courtroom and was talking to Atticus, might have been wearing his high boots and lumber jacket. Atticus had stopped his tranquil journey and had put his foot onto the bottom rung of a chair; as he listened to what Mr. Tate was saying, he ran his hand slowly up and down his thigh. I expected Mr. Tate to say any minute, ‘Take him, Mr. Finch...”

But Mr. Tate said, “This court will come to order,” in a voice that rang with authority, and the heads below us jerked up. Mr. Tate left the room and returned with Tom Robinson. He steered Tom to his place beside Atticus, and stood there. Judge Taylor had roused himself to sudden alertness and was sitting up straight, looking at the empty jury box.

What happened after that had a dreamlike quality: in a dream I saw the jury return, moving like underwater swimmers, and Judge Taylor’s voice came from far away and was tiny. I saw something only a lawyer’s child could be expected to see, could be expected to watch for, and it was like watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a rifle to his shoulder and pull the trigger, but watching all the time knowing that the gun was empty.

A jury never looks at a defendant it has convicted, and when this jury came in, not one of them looked at Tom Robinson. The foreman handed a piece of paper to Mr. Tate who handed it to the clerk who handed it to the judge...

I shut my eyes. Judge Taylor was polling the jury: “Guilty... guilty... guilty... guilty...” I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each “guilty” was a separate stab between them.

Judge Taylor was saying something. His gavel was in his fist, but he wasn’t using it. Dimly, I saw Atticus pushing papers from the table into his briefcase. He snapped it shut, went to the court reporter and said something, nodded to Mr. Gilmer, and then went to Tom Robinson and whispered something to him. Atticus put his hand on Tom’s shoulder as he whispered. Atticus took his coat off the back of his chair and pulled it over his shoulder. Then he left the courtroom, but not by his usual exit. He must have wanted to go home the short way, because he walked quickly down the middle aisle toward the south exit. I followed the top of his head as he made his way to the door. He did not look up.

Someone was punching me, but I was reluctant to take my eyes from the people below us, and from the image of Atticus’s lonely walk down the aisle.

“Miss Jean Louise?”

I looked around. They were standing. All around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall, the Negroes were getting to their feet. Reverend Sykes’s voice was as distant as Judge Taylor’s:

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin‘.”

Chapter 22

It was Jem’s turn to cry. His face was streaked with angry tears as we made our way through the cheerful crowd. “It ain’t right,” he muttered, all the way to the comer of the square where we found Atticus waiting. Atticus was standing under the street light looking as though nothing had happened: his vest was buttoned, his collar and tie were neatly in place, his watch-chain glistened, he was his impassive self again.

“It ain’t right, Atticus,” said Jem.

“No son, it’s not right.”

We walked home.

Aunt Alexandra was waiting up. She was in her dressing gown, and I could have sworn she had on her corset underneath it. “I’m sorry, brother,” she murmured. Having never heard her call Atticus “brother” before, I stole a glance at Jem, but he was not listening. He would look up at Atticus, then down at the floor, and I wondered if he thought Atticus somehow responsible for Tom Robinson’s conviction.

“Is he all right?” Aunty asked, indicating Jem.

“He’ll be so presently,” said Atticus. “It was a little too strong for him.” Our father sighed. “I’m going to bed,” he said. “If I don’t wake up in the morning, don’t call me.”

“I didn’t think it wise in the first place to let them—”

“This is their home, sister,” said Atticus. “We’ve made it this way for them, they might as well leam to cope with it.”

“But they don’t have to go to the courthouse and wallow in it—”

“It’s just as much Maycomb County as missionary teas.”

“Atticus—” Aunt Alexandra’s eyes were anxious. “You are the last person I thought would turn bitter over this.”

“I’m not bitter, just tired. I’m going to bed.”

“Atticus—” said Jem bleakly.

He turned in the doorway. “What, son?”

“How could they do it, how could they?”

“I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it—seems that only children weep. Good night.”

But things are always better in the morning. Atticus rose at his usual ungodly hour and was in the livingroom behind the Mobile Register when we stumbled in.

Jem’s morning face posed the question his sleepy lips struggled to ask.

“It’s not time to worry yet,” Atticus reassured him, as we went to the diningroom. “We’re not through yet. There’ll be an appeal, you can count on that. Gracious alive, Cal, what’s all this?” He was staring at his breakfast plate.

Calpurnia said, ‘Tom Robinson’s daddy sent you along this chicken this morning. I fixed it.”

“You tell him I’m proud to get it—bet they don’t have chicken for breakfast at the White House. What are these?”

“Rolls,” said Calpurnia. “Estelle down at the hotel sent ‘em.”

Atticus looked up at her, puzzled, and she said, “You better step out here and see what’s in the kitchen, Mr. Finch.”

We followed him. The kitchen table was loaded with enough food to bury the family: hunks of salt pork, tomatoes, beans, even scuppernongs. Atticus grinned when he found a jar of pickled pigs’ knuckles. “Reckon Aunty’ll let me eat these in the diningroom?”

Calpurnia said, “This was all ‘round the back steps when I got here this morning. They—they ’predate what you did, Mr. Finch. They—they aren’t oversteppin‘ themselves, are they?”

Atticus’s eyes filled with tears. He did not speak for a moment. ‘Tell them I’m very grateful,” he said. ‘Tell them—tell them they must never do this again.

Times are too hard... ”

He left the kitchen, went in the diningroom and excused himself to Aunt Alexandra, put on his hat and went to town.

We heard Dill’s step in the hall, so Calpurnia left Atticus’s uneaten breakfast on the table. Between rabbit-bites Dill told us of Miss Rachel’s reaction to last night, which was: if a man like Atticus Finch wants to butt his head against a stone wall it’s his head.

“I’da got her told,” growled Dill, gnawing a chicken leg, “but she didn’t look much like tellin‘ this morning. Said she was up half the night wonderin’ where I was, said she’da had the sheriff after me but he was at the hearing.”

“Dill, you’ve got to stop goin‘ off without tellin’ her,” said Jem. “It just aggravates her.”

Dill sighed patiently. “I told her till I was blue in the face where I was goin‘ — she’s just seein’ too many snakes in the closet. Bet that woman drinks a pint for breakfast every morning—know she drinks two glasses full. Seen her.”

“Don’t talk like that, Dill,” said Aunt Alexandra. “It’s not becoming to a child. It’s —cynical.”

“I ain’t cynical, Miss Alexandra. Tellin‘ the truth’s not cynical, is it?”

“The way you tell it, it is.”

Jem’s eyes flashed at her, but he said to Dill, “Let’s go. You can take that runner with you.”

When we went to the front porch, Miss Stephanie Crawford was busy telling it to Miss Maudie Atkinson and Mr. Avery. They looked around at us and went on talking. Jem made a feral noise in his throat. I wished for a weapon.

“I hate grown folks lookin4 at you,” said Dill. “Makes you feel like you’ve done something.”

Miss Maudie yelled for Jem Finch to come there.

Jem groaned and heaved himself up from the swing. “We’ll go with you,” Dill said.

Miss Stephanie’s nose quivered with curiosity. She wanted to know who all gave us permission to go to court—she didn’t see us but it was all over town this morning that we were in the Colored balcony. Did Atticus put us up there as a sort of—? Wasn’t it right close up there with all those—? Did Scout understand all the — ? Didn’t it make us mad to see our daddy beat?

“Hush, Stephanie.” Miss Maudie’s diction was deadly. “I’ve not got all the morning to pass on the porch—Jem Finch, I called to find out if you and your colleagues can eat some cake. Got up at five to make it, so you better say yes. Excuse us, Stephanie. Good morning, Mr. Avery.”

There was a big cake and two little ones on Miss Maudie’s kitchen table. There should have been three little ones. It was not like Miss Maudie to forget Dill, and we must have shown it. But we understood when she cut from the big cake and gave the slice to Jem.

As we ate, we sensed that this was Miss Maudie’s way of saying that as far as she was concerned, nothing had changed. She sat quietly in a kitchen chair, watching us.

Suddenly she spoke: “Don’t fret, Jem. Things are never as bad as they seem.”

Indoors, when Miss Maudie wanted to say something lengthy she spread her fingers on her knees and settled her bridgework. This she did, and we waited.

“I simply want to tell you that there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father’s one of them.”

“Oh,” said Jem. “Well.”

“Don’t you oh well me, sir,” Miss Maudie replied, recognizing Jem’s fatalistic noises, “you are not old enough to appreciate what I said.”

Jem was staring at his half-eaten cake. “It’s like bein‘ a caterpillar in a cocoon, that’s what it is,” he said. “Like somethin’ asleep wrapped up in a warm place. I always thought Maycomb folks were the best folks in the world, least that’s what they seemed like.”

“We’re the safest folks in the world,” said Miss Maudie. “We’re so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are, we’ve got men like Atticus to go for us.”

Jem grinned ruefully. “Wish the rest of the county thought that.”

“You’d be surprised how many of us do.”

“Who?” Jem’s voice rose. “Who in this town did one thing to help Tom Robinson, just who?”

“His colored friends for one thing, and people like us. People like Judge Taylor. People like Mr. Heck Tate. Stop eating and start thinking, Jem. Did it ever strike you that Judge Taylor naming Atticus to defend that boy was no accident? That Judge Taylor might have had his reasons for naming him?”

This was a thought. Court-appointed defenses were usually given to Maxwell Green, Maycomb’s latest addition to the bar, who needed the experience.

Maxwell Green should have had Tom Robinson’s case.

“You think about that,” Miss Maudie was saying. “It was no accident. I was sittin‘ there on the porch last night, waiting. I waited and waited to see you all come

down the sidewalk, and as I waited I thought, Atticus Finch won’t win, he can’t win, but he’s the only man in these parts who can keep a jury out so long in a case like that. And I thought to myself, well, we’re making a step—it’s just a baby- step, but it’s a step.”

‘“t’s all right to talk like that—can’t any Christian judges an’ lawyers make up for heathen juries,” Jem muttered. “Soon’s I get grown—”

‘That’s something you’ll have to take up with your father,” Miss Maudie said.

We went down Miss Maudie’s cool new steps into the sunshine and found Mr. Avery and Miss Stephanie Crawford still at it. They had moved down the sidewalk and were standing in front of Miss Stephanie’s house. Miss Rachel was walking toward them.

“I think I’ll be a clown when I get grown,” said Dill.

Jem and I stopped in our tracks.

“Yes sir, a clown,” he said. “There ain’t one thing in this world I can do about folks except laugh, so I’m gonna join the circus and laugh my head off.”

“You got it backwards, Dill,” said Jem. “Clowns are sad, it’s folks that laugh at them.”

“Well I’m gonna be a new kind of clown. I’m gonna stand in the middle of the ring and laugh at the folks. Just looka yonder,” he pointed. “Every one of ‘em oughta be ridin’ broomsticks. Aunt Rachel already does.”

Miss Stephanie and Miss Rachel were waving wildly at us, in a way that did not give the lie to Dill’s observation.

“Oh gosh,” breathed Jem. “I reckon it’d be ugly not to see ‘em.”

Something was wrong. Mr. Avery was red in the face from a sneezing spell and nearly blew us off the sidewalk when we came up. Miss Stephanie was trembling with excitement, and Miss Rachel caught Dill’s shoulder. “You get on in the back yard and stay there,” she said. ‘There’s danger a’comin‘.”

“‘ s matter?” I asked.

“Ain’t you heard yet? It’s all over town—”

At that moment Aunt Alexandra came to the door and called us, but she was too late. It was Miss Stephanie’s pleasure to tell us: this morning Mr. Bob Ewell stopped Atticus on the post office corner, spat in his face, and told him he’d get him if it took the rest of his life.

Chapter 23

“I wish Bob Ewell wouldn’t chew tobacco,” was all Atticus said about it.

According to Miss Stephanie Crawford, however, Atticus was leaving the post office when Mr. Ewell approached him, cursed him, spat on him, and threatened to kill him. Miss Stephanie (who, by the time she had told it twice was there and had seen it all—passing by from the Jitney Jungle, she was)—Miss Stephanie said Atticus didn’t bat an eye, just took out his handkerchief and wiped his face and stood there and let Mr. Ewell call him names wild horses could not bring her to repeat. Mr. Ewell was a veteran of an obscure war; that plus Atticus’s peaceful reaction probably prompted him to inquire, ‘Too proud to fight, you nigger-lovin‘ bastard?” Miss Stephanie said Atticus said, “No, too old,” put his hands in his pockets and strolled on. Miss Stephanie said you had to hand it to Atticus Finch, he could be right dry sometimes.

Jem and I didn’t think it entertaining.

“After all, though,” I said, “he was the deadest shot in the county one time. He could-”

“You know he wouldn’t carry a gun, Scout. He ain’t even got one—” said Jem. “You know he didn’t even have one down at the jail that night. He told me havin‘ a gun around’s an invitation to somebody to shoot you.”

“This is different,” I said. “We can ask him to borrow one.”

We did, and he said, “Nonsense.”

Dill was of the opinion that an appeal to Atticus’s better nature might work: after all, we would starve if Mr. Ewell killed him, besides be raised exclusively by Aunt Alexandra, and we all knew the first thing she’d do before Atticus was under the ground good would be to fire Calpurnia. Jem said it might work if I cried and flung a fit, being young and a girl. That didn’t work either. But when he noticed us dragging around the neighborhood, not eating, taking little interest in our normal pursuits, Atticus discovered how deeply frightened we were. He tempted Jem with a new football magazine one night; when he saw Jem flip the pages and toss it aside, he said, “What’s bothering you, son?”

Jem came to the point: “Mr. Ewell.”

“What has happened?”

“Nothing’s happened. We’re scared for you, and we think you oughta do something about him.”

Atticus smiled wryly. “Do what? Put him under a peace bond?”

“When a man says he’s gonna get you, looks like he means it.”

“He meant it when he said it,” said Atticus. “Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with. The man had to have some kind of comeback, his kind always does. So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that’s something I’ll gladly take. He had to take it out on somebody and I’d rather it be me than that houseful of children out there. You understand?”

Jem nodded.

Aunt Alexandra entered the room as Atticus was saying, “We don’t have anything to fear from Bob Ewell, he got it all out of his system that morning.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that, Atticus,” she said. “His kind’d do anything to pay off a grudge. You know how those people are.”

“What on earth could Ewell do to me, sister?”

“Something furtive,” Aunt Alexandra said. “You may count on that.”

“Nobody has much chance to be furtive in May comb,” Atticus answered.

After that, we were not afraid. Summer was melting away, and we made the most of it. Atticus assured us that nothing would happen to Tom Robinson until the higher court reviewed his case, and that Tom had a good chance of going free, or at least of having a new trial. He was at Enfield Prison Farm, seventy miles away in Chester County. I asked Atticus if Tom’s wife and children were allowed to visit him, but Atticus said no.

“If he loses his appeal,” I asked one evening, “what’ll happen to him?”

“He’ll go to the chair,” said Atticus, “unless the Governor commutes his sentence. Not time to worry yet, Scout. We’ve got a good chance.”

Jem was sprawled on the sofa reading Popular Mechanics. He looked up. “It ain’t right. He didn’t kill anybody even if he was guilty. He didn’t take anybody’s life.”

“You know rape’s a capital offense in Alabama,” said Atticus.

“Yessir, but the jury didn’t have to give him death—if they wanted to they could’ve gave him twenty years.”

“Given,” said Atticus. ‘Tom Robinson’s a colored man, Jem. No jury in this part of the world’s going to say, ‘We think you’re guilty, but not very,’ on a charge like that. It was either a straight acquittal or nothing.”

Jem was shaking his head. “I know it’s not right, but I can’t figure out what’s wrong—maybe rape shouldn’t be a capital offense.

Atticus dropped his newspaper beside his chair. He said he didn’t have any quarrel with the rape statute, none what ever, but he did have deep misgivings when the state asked for and the jury gave a death penalty on purely circumstantial evidence. He glanced at me, saw I was listening, and made it easier. “—I mean, before a man is sentenced to death for murder, say, there should be one or two eye-witnesses. Some one should be able to say, ‘Yes, I was there and saw him pull the trigger.’”

“But lots of folks have been hung—hanged—on circumstantial evidence,” said Jem.

“I know, and lots of ‘em probably deserved it, too—but in the absence of eye­witnesses there’s always a doubt, some times only the shadow of a doubt. The law says ’reasonable doubt,4 but I think a defendant’s entitled to the shadow of a doubt. There’s always the possibility, no matter how improbable, that he’s innocent.”

‘Then it all goes back to the jury, then. We oughta do away with juries.” Jem was adamant.

Atticus tried hard not to smile but couldn’t help it. “You’re rather hard on us, son. I think maybe there might be a better way. Change the law. Change it so that only judges have the power of fixing the penalty in capital cases.”

‘Then go up to Montgomery and change the law.”

“You’d be surprised how hard that’d be. I won’t live to see the law changed, and if you live to see it you’ll be an old man.”

This was not good enough for Jem. “No sir, they oughta do away with juries. He wasn’t guilty in the first place and they said he was.”

“If you had been on that jury, son, and eleven other boys like you, Tom would be a free man,” said Atticus. “So far nothing in your life has interfered with your reasoning process. Those are twelve reasonable men in everyday life, Tom’s jury, but you saw something come between them and reason. You saw the same thing that night in front of the jail. When that crew went away, they didn’t go as reasonable men, they went because we were there. There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads—they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life.”

“Doesn’t make it right,” said Jem stolidly. He beat his fist softly on his knee.

“You just can’t convict a man on evidence like that—you can’t.”

“You couldn’t, but they could and did. The older you grow the more of it you’ll see. The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it— whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”

Atticus was speaking so quietly his last word crashed on our ears. I looked up, and his face was vehement. “There’s nothing more sickening to me than a low- grade white man who’ll take advantage of a Negro’s ignorance. Don’t fool yourselves—it’s all adding up and one of these days we’re going to pay the bill for it. I hope it’s not in you children’s time.”

Jem was scratching his head. Suddenly his eyes widened. “Atticus,” he said, “why don’t people like us and Miss Maudie ever sit on juries? You never see anybody from Maycomb on a jury—they all come from out in the woods.”

Atticus leaned back in his rocking-chair. For some reason he looked pleased with Jem. “I was wondering when that’d occur to you,” he said. “There are lots of reasons. For one thing, Miss Maudie can’t serve on a jury because she’s a woman

“You mean women in Alabama can’t—?” I was indignant.

“I do. I guess it’s to protect our frail ladies from sordid cases like Tom’s.

Besides,” Atticus grinned, “I doubt if we’d ever get a complete case tried—the ladies’d be interrupting to ask questions.”

Jem and I laughed. Miss Maudie on a jury would be impressive. I thought of old Mrs. Dubose in her wheelchair— “Stop that rapping, John Taylor, I want to ask this man something.” Perhaps our forefathers were wise.

Atticus was saying, “With people like us—that’s our share of the bill. We generally get the juries we deserve. Our stout Maycomb citizens aren’t interested, in the first place. In the second place, they’re afraid. Then, they’re—”

“Afraid, why?” asked Jem.

“Well, what if—say, Mr. Link Deas had to decide the amount of damages to award, say, Miss Maudie, when Miss Rachel ran over her with a car. Link wouldn’t like the thought of losing either lady’s business at his store, would he? So he tells Judge Taylor that he can’t serve on the jury because he doesn’t have anybody to keep store for him while he’s gone. So Judge Taylor excuses him. Sometimes he excuses him wrathfully.”

“What’d make him think either one of ‘em’d stop trading with him?” I asked.

Jem said, “Miss Rachel would, Miss Maudie wouldn’t. But a jury’s vote’s secret, Atticus.”

Our father chuckled. “You’ve many more miles to go, son. A jury’s vote’s supposed to be secret. Serving on a jury forces a man to make up his mind and declare himself about something. Men don’t like to do that. Sometimes it’s unpleasant.”

“Tom’s jury sho‘ made up its mind in a hurry,” Jem muttered.

Atticus’s fingers went to his watchpocket. “No it didn’t,” he said, more to himself than to us. “That was the one thing that made me think, well, this may be the shadow of a beginning. That jury took a few hours. An inevitable verdict, maybe, but usually it takes ‘em just a few minutes. This time—” he broke off and looked at us. “You might like to know that there was one fellow who took considerable wearing down—in the beginning he was rarin’ for an outright acquittal.”

“Who?” Jem was astonished.

Atticus’s eyes twinkled. “It’s not for me to say, but I’ll tell you this much. He was one of your Old Sarum friends... ”

“One of the Cunninghams?” Jem yelped. “One of—I didn’t recognize any of ‘em... you’re jokin’.” He looked at Atticus from the corners of his eyes.

“One of their connections. On a hunch, I didn’t strike him. Just on a hunch. Could’ve, but I didn’t.”

“Golly Moses,” Jem said reverently. “One minute they’re tryin‘ to kill him and the next they’re tryin’ to turn him loose... I’ll never understand those folks as long as I live.”

Atticus said you just had to know ‘em. He said the Cunninghams hadn’t taken anything from or off of anybody since they migrated to the New World. He said the other thing about them was, once you earned their respect they were for you tooth and nail. Atticus said he had a feeling, nothing more than a suspicion, that they left the jail that night with considerable respect for the Finches. Then too, he said, it took a thunderbolt plus another Cunningham to make one of them change his mind. “If we’d had two of that crowd, we’d’ve had a hung jury.”

Jem said slowly, “You mean you actually put on the jury a man who wanted to kill you the night before? How could you take such a risk, Atticus, how could you?”

“When you analyze it, there was little risk. There’s no difference between one man who’s going to convict and another man who’s going to convict, is there? There’s a faint difference between a man who’s going to convict and a man who’s a little disturbed in his mind, isn’t there? He was the only uncertainty on the whole list.”

“What kin was that man to Mr. Walter Cunningham?” I asked.

Atticus rose, stretched and yawned. It was not even our bedtime, but we knew he wanted a chance to read his newspaper. He picked it up, folded it, and tapped my head. “Let’s see now,” he droned to himself. “I’ve got it. Double first cousin.”

“How can that be?”

“Two sisters married two brothers. That’s all I’ll tell you—you figure it out.”

I tortured myself and decided that if I married Jem and Dill had a sister whom he married our children would be double first cousins. “Gee minetti, Jem,” I said, when Atticus had gone, “they’re funny folks, ‘d you hear that, Aunty?”

Aunt Alexandra was hooking a rug and not watching us, but she was listening.

She sat in her chair with her workbasket beside it, her rug spread across her lap. Why ladies hooked woolen rugs on boiling nights never became clear to me.

“I heard it,” she said.

I remembered the distant disastrous occasion when I rushed to young Walter Cunningham’s defense. Now I was glad I’d done it. “Soon’s school starts I’m gonna ask Walter home to dinner,” I planned, having forgotten my private resolve to beat him up the next time I saw him. “He can stay over sometimes after school, too. Atticus could drive him back to Old Sarum. Maybe he could spend the night with us sometime, okay, Jem?”

“We’ll see about that,” Aunt Alexandra said, a declaration that with her was always a threat, never a promise. Surprised, I turned to her. “Why not, Aunty? They’re good folks.”

She looked at me over her sewing glasses. “Jean Louise, there is no doubt in my mind that they’re good folks. But they’re not our kind of folks.”

Jem says, “She means they’re yappy, Scout.”

“What’s a yap?”

“Aw, tacky. They like fiddlin4 and things like that.”

“Well I do too-” “Don’t be silly, Jean Louise,” said Aunt Alexandra. “The thing is, you can scrub Walter Cunningham till he shines, you can put him in shoes and a new suit, but he’ll never be like Jem. Besides, there’s a drinking streak in that family a mile wide. Finch women aren’t interested in that sort of people.”

“Aun-ty,” said Jem, “she ain’t nine yet.”

“She may as well learn it now.”

Aunt Alexandra had spoken. I was reminded vividly of the last time she had put her foot down. I never knew why. It was when I was absorbed with plans to visit Calpurnia’s house—I was curious, interested; I wanted to be her “company,” to see how she lived, who her friends were. I might as well have wanted to see the other side of the moon. This time the tactics were different, but Aunt Alexandra’s aim was the same. Perhaps this was why she had come to live with us—to help us choose our friends. I would hold her off as long as I could: “If they’re good folks, then why can’t I be nice to Walter?”

“I didn’t say not to be nice to him. You should be friendly and polite to him, you should be gracious to everybody, dear. But you don’t have to invite him home.”

“What if he was kin to us, Aunty?”

“The fact is that he is not kin to us, but if he were, my answer would be the same.”

“Aunty,” Jem spoke up, “Atticus says you can choose your friends but you sho‘ can’t choose your family, an’ they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ‘em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don’t.”

“That’s your father all over again,” said Aunt Alexandra, “and I still say that Jean Louise will not invite Walter Cunningham to this house. If he were her double first cousin once removed he would still not be received in this house unless he comes to see Atticus on business. Now that is that.”

She had said Indeed Not, but this time she would give her reasons: “But I want to play with Walter, Aunty, why can’t I?”

She took off her glasses and stared at me. “I’ll tell you why,” she said. “Because— he—is—trash, that’s why you can’t play with him. I’ll not have you around him, picking up his habits and learning Lord-knows-what. You’re enough of a problem to your father as it is.”

I don’t know what I would have done, but Jem stopped me. He caught me by the shoulders, put his arm around me, and led me sobbing in fury to his bedroom. Atticus heard us and poked his head around the door, ‘“s all right, sir,” Jem said gruffly, “’s not anything.” Atticus went away.

“Have a chew, Scout.” Jem dug into his pocket and extracted a Tootsie Roll. It took a few minutes to work the candy into a comfortable wad inside my jaw.

Jem was rearranging the objects on his dresser. His hair stuck up behind and down in front, and I wondered if it would ever look like a man’s—maybe if he shaved it off and started over, his hair would grow back neatly in place. His eyebrows were becoming heavier, and I noticed a new slimness about his body.

He was growing taller. When he looked around, he must have thought I would start crying again, for he said, “Show you something if you won’t tell anybody.” I said what. He unbuttoned his shirt, grinning shyly.

“Well what?”

“Well can’t you see it?”

“Well no.”

“Well it’s hair.”

“Where?”

“There. Right there.”

He had been a comfort to me, so I said it looked lovely, but I didn’t see anything. “It’s real nice, Jem.”

“Under my arms, too,” he said. “Goin‘ out for football next year. Scout, don’t let Aunty aggravate you.”

It seemed only yesterday that he was telling me not to aggravate Aunty.

“You know she’s not used to girls,” said Jem, “leastways, not girls like you. She’s trying to make you a lady. Can’t you take up sewin‘ or somethin’?”

“Hell no. She doesn’t like me, that’s all there is to it, and I don’t care. It was her callin4 Walter Cunningham trash that got me goin’, Jem, not what she said about being a problem to Atticus. We got that all straight one time, I asked him if I was a problem and he said not much of one, at most one that he could always figure out, and not to worry my head a second about botherin4 him. Naw, it was Walter— that boy’s not trash, Jem. He ain’t like the Ewells.”

Jem kicked off his shoes and swung his feet to the bed. He propped himself against a pillow and switched on the reading light. “You know something, Scout? I’ve got it all figured out, now. I’ve thought about it a lot lately and I’ve got it figured out. There’s four kinds of folks in the world. There’s the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there’s the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes.”

“What about the Chinese, and the Cajuns down yonder in Baldwin County?”

“I mean in Maycomb County. The thing about it is, our kind of folks don’t like the Cunninghams, the Cunninghams don’t like the Ewells, and the Ewells hate and despise the colored folks.”

I told Jem if that was so, then why didn’t Tom’s jury, made up of folks like the Cunninghams, acquit Tom to spite the Ewells?“

Jem waved my question away as being infantile.

“You know,” he said, “I’ve seen Atticus pat his foot when there’s fiddlin4 on the radio, and he loves pot liquor better’n any man I ever saw—”

“Then that makes us like the Cunninghams,” I said. “I can’t see why Aunty—”

“No, lemme finish—it does, but we’re still different somehow. Atticus said one time the reason Aunty’s so hipped on the family is because all we’ve got’s background and not a dime to our names.”

“Well Jem, I don’t know—Atticus told me one time that most of this Old Family stuff’s foolishness because everybody’s family’s just as old as everybody else’s. I said did that include the colored folks and Englishmen and he said yes.”

“Background doesn’t mean Old Family,” said Jem. “I think it’s how long your family’s been readirf and writin’. Scout, I’ve studied this real hard and that’s the only reason I can think of. Somewhere along when the Finches were in Egypt one of ‘ em must have learned a hieroglyphic or two and he taught his boy.” Jem laughed. “Imagine Aunty being proud her great-grandaddy could read an’ write- ladies pick funny things to be proud of.”

“Well I’m glad he could, or who’da taught Atticus and them, and if Atticus couldn’t read, you and me’d be in a fix. I don’t think that’s what background is,

“Well then, how do you explain why the Cunninghams are different? Mr. Walter can hardly sign his name, I’ve seen him. We’ve just been readin‘ and writin’ longer’n they have.”

“No, everybody’s gotta leam, nobody’s born knowin‘. That Walter’s as smart as he can be, he just gets held back sometimes because he has to stay out and help his daddy. Nothin’s wrong with him. Naw, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”

Jem turned around and punched his pillow. When he settled back his face was cloudy. He was going into one of his declines, and I grew wary. His brows came together; his mouth became a thin line. He was silent for a while.

‘That’s what I thought, too,” he said at last, “when I was your age. If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I’m beginning to understand something. I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all this time... it’s because he wants to stay inside.”

Chapter 24

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

August was on the brink of September. Dill would be leaving for Meridian tomorrow; today he was off with Jem at Barker’s Eddy. Jem had discovered with angry amazement that nobody had ever bothered to teach Dill how to swim, a

skill Jem considered necessary as walking. They had spent two afternoons at the creek, they said they were going in naked and I couldn’t come, so I divided the lonely hours between Calpurnia and Miss Maudie.

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

Immediately thereafter, the ladies adjourned for refreshments.

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

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

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

The gentle hum of ladies’ voices grew louder as she opened the door: “Why, Alexandra, I never saw such charlotte... just lovely... I never can get my crust like this, never can... who’d‘ve thought of little dewberry tarts... Calpurnia?... who’da thought it... anybody tell you that the preacher’s wife’s... nooo, well she is, and that other one not walkin’ yet...”

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

“Can I carry it in?”

“If you be careful and don’t drop it. Set it down at the end of the table by Miss

Alexandra. Down there by the cups’n things. She’s gonna pour.”

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

My journey was successful: Aunt Alexandra smiled brilliantly. “Stay with us,

Jean Louise,” she said. This was a part of her campaign to teach me to be a lady.

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

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

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

“Under my dress.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Grace Merriweather sat on my left, and I felt it would be polite to talk to her. Mr. Merriweather, a faithful Methodist under duress, apparently saw nothing personal in singing, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me... ” It was the general opinion of Maycomb, however, that Mrs. Merriweather had sobered him up and made a reasonably useful citizen of him. For certainly Mrs. Merriweather was the most devout lady in Maycomb. I searched for a topic of interest to her. “What did you all study this afternoon?” I asked.

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

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

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

“Was he there, ma’am? I thought—”

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

“I said to him, ‘Mr. Everett,’ I said, ‘the ladies of the Maycomb Alabama Methodist Episcopal Church South are behind you one hundred percent.’ That’s what I said to him. And you know, right then and there I made a pledge in my heart. I said to myself, when I go home I’m going to give a course on the Mrunas and bring J. Grimes Everett’s message to Maycomb and that’s just what I’m doing.”

“Yes ma’am.”

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

“Yes ma’am.”

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

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

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

“Robinson, ma’am.”

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

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

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

Mrs. Merriweather faced Mrs. Farrow: “Gertrude, I tell you there’s nothing more distracting than a sulky darky. Their mouths go down to here. Just ruins your day to have one of ‘em in the kitchen. You know what I said to my Sophy, Gertrude? I said, ’Sophy,4 I said, ’you simply are not being a Christian today. Jesus Christ never went around grumbling and complaining,4 and you know, it did her good. She took her eyes off that floor and said, ’Nome, Miz Merriweather, Jesus never went around grumblin'.’ I tell you, Gertrude, you never ought to let an opportunity go by to witness for the Lord.”

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

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

“S-s-s Grace,” she said, “it’s just like I was telling Brother Hutson the other day. 4S-s-s Brother Hutson,’ I said, ‘looks like we’re fighting a losing battle, a losing battle.’ I said,4 S-s-s it doesn’t matter to ’em one bit. We can educate 'em till we’re blue in the face, we can try till we drop to make Christians out of ’em, but there’s no lady safe in her bed these nights.4 He said to me, ’Mrs. Farrow, I don’t know what we’re coming to down here.4 S-s-s I told him that was certainly a fact.”

Mrs. Merriweather nodded wisely. Her voice soared over the clink of coffee cups and the soft bovine sounds of the ladies munching their dainties. “Gertrude,” she said, “I tell you there are some good but misguided people in this town. Good, but misguided. Folks in this town who think they’re doing right, I mean. Now far be it from me to say who, but some of 'em in this town thought they were doing the right thing a while back, but all they did was stir ’em up. That’s all they did.

Might’ve looked like the right thing to do at the time, I’m sure I don’t know, I’m not read in that field, but sulky... dissatisfied... I tell you if my Sophy’d kept it up another day I’d have let her go. It’s never entered that wool of hers that the only reason I keep her is because this depression’s on and she needs her dollar and a quarter every week she can get it.”

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

Miss Maudie said it. Two tight lines had appeared at the corners of her mouth.

She had been sitting silently beside me, her coffee cup balanced on one knee. I had lost the thread of conversation long ago, when they quit talking about Tom Robinson’s wife, and had contented myself with thinking of Finch’s Landing and the river. Aunt Alexandra had got it backwards: the business part of the meeting was blood-curdling, the social hour was dreary.

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

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

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

Aunt Alexandra got up from the table and swiftly passed more refreshments, neatly engaging Mrs. Merriweather and Mrs. Gates in brisk conversation. When she had them well on the road with Mrs. Perkins, Aunt Alexandra stepped back. She gave Miss Maudie a look of pure gratitude, and I wondered at the world of women. Miss Maudie and Aunt Alexandra had never been especially close, and here was Aunty silently thanking her for something. For what, I knew not. I was content to learn that Aunt Alexandra could be pierced sufficiently to feel gratitude for help given. There was no doubt about it, I must soon enter this world, where on its surface fragrant ladies rocked slowly, fanned gently, and drank cool water.

But I was more at home in my father’s world. People like Mr. Heck Tate did not trap you with innocent questions to make fun of you; even Jem was not highly critical unless you said something stupid. Ladies seemed to live in faint horror of men, seemed unwilling to approve wholeheartedly of them. But I liked them. There was something about them, no matter how much they cussed and drank and gambled and chewed; no matter how undelectable they were, there was something about them that I instinctively liked... they weren’t—

“Hypocrites, Mrs. Perkins, born hypocrites,” Mrs. Merriweather was saying. “At least we don’t have that sin on our shoulders down here. People up there set ‘em free, but you don’t see ’em settin‘ at the table with ’em. At least we don’t have the deceit to say to ‘em yes you’re as good as we are but stay away from us. Down here we just say you live your way and we’ll live ours. I think that woman, that Mrs. Roosevelt’s lost her mind—just plain lost her mind coming down to Birmingham and tryin’ to sit with ‘em. If I was the Mayor of Birmingham I’d—”

Well, neither of us was the Mayor of Birmingham, but I wished I was the Governor of Alabama for one day: I’d let Tom Robinson go so quick the Missionary Society wouldn’t have time to catch its breath. Calpurnia was telling Miss Rachel’s cook the other day how bad Tom was taking things and she didn’t stop talking when I came into the kitchen. She said there wasn’t a thing Atticus could do to make being shut up easier for him, that the last thing he said to Atticus before they took him down to the prison camp was, “Good-bye, Mr.

Finch, there ain’t nothin4 you can do now, so there ain’t no use tryin’.” Calpurnia said Atticus told her that the day they took Tom to prison he just gave up hope. She said Atticus tried to explain things to him, and that he must do his best not to lose hope because Atticus was doing his best to get him free. Miss Rachel’s cook asked Calpurnia why didn’t Atticus just say yes, you’ll go free, and leave it at that — seemed like that’d be a big comfort to Tom. Calpurnia said, “Because you ain’t familiar with the law. First thing you learn when you’re in a lawin‘ family is that there ain’t any definite answers to anything. Mr. Finch couldn’t say somethin’s so when he doesn’t know for sure it’s so.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tom’s dead.”

Aunt Alexandra put her hands to her mouth.

“They shot him,” said Atticus. “He was running. It was during their exercise period. They said he just broke into a blind raving charge at the fence and started climbing over. Right in front of them— ”

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

“Oh yes, the guards called to him to stop. They fired a few shots in the air, then to kill. They got him just as he went over the fence. They said if he’d had two good arms he’d have made it, he was moving that fast. Seventeen bullet holes in him. They didn’t have to shoot him that much. Cal, I want you to come out with me and help me tell Helen.”

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

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

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

Atticus leaned against the refrigerator, pushed up his glasses, and rubbed his eyes. “We had such a good chance,” he said. “I told him what I thought, but I couldn’t in truth say that we had more than a good chance. I guess Tom was tired of white men’s chances and preferred to take his own. Ready, Cal?”

“Yessir, Mr. Finch.” ‘Then let’s go.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The handful of people in this town who say that fair play is not marked White Only; the handful of people who say a fair trial is for everybody, not just us; the handful of people with enough humility to think, when they look at a Negro, there but for the Lord’s kindness am 1.” Miss Maudie’s old crispness was returning: “The handful of people in this town with background, that’s who they are.”

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

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

Aunt Alexandra rose and smoothed the various whalebone ridges along her hips.

She took her handkerchief from her belt and wiped her nose. She patted her hair and said, “Do I show it?”

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

“Yes ma’am.”

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

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

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

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

And so they went, down the row of laughing women, around the diningroom, refilling coffee cups, dishing out goodies as though their only regret was the temporary domestic disaster of losing Calpurnia. The gentle hum began again. “Yes sir, Mrs. Perkins, that J. Grimes Everett is a martyred saint, he... needed to get married so they ran... to the beauty parlor every Saturday afternoon... soon as the sun goes down. He goes to bed with the... chickens, a crate full of sick chickens, Fred says that’s what started it all. Fred says...”

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

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

DMU Timestamp: December 19, 2018 18:14