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To Kill A Mockingbird, Chapters 25-31

Author: Harper Lee

Chapter 25

“Don’t do that, Scout. Set him out on the back steps.”

“Jem, are you crazy?...”

“I said set him out on the back steps.”

Sighing, I scooped up the small creature, placed him on the bottom step and went back to my cot. September had come, but not a trace of cool weather with it, and we were still sleeping on the back screen porch. Lightning bugs were still about, the night crawlers and flying insects that beat against the screen the summer long had not gone wherever they go when autumn comes.

A roly-poly had found his way inside the house; I reasoned that the tiny varmint had crawled up the steps and under the door. I was putting my book on the floor beside my cot when I saw him. The creatures are no more than an inch long, and when you touch them they roll themselves into a tight gray ball.

I lay on my stomach, reached down and poked him. He rolled up. Then, feeling safe, I suppose, he slowly unrolled. He traveled a few inches on his hundred legs and I touched him again. He rolled up. Feeling sleepy, I decided to end things. My hand was going down on him when Jem spoke.

Jem was scowling. It was probably a part of the stage he was going through, and I wished he would hurry up and get through it. He was certainly never cruel to animals, but I had never known his charity to embrace the insect world.

“Why couldn’t I mash him?” I asked.

“Because they don’t bother you,” Jem answered in the darkness. He had turned out his reading light.

“Reckon you’re at the stage now where you don’t kill flies and mosquitoes now, I reckon,” I said. “Lemme know when you change your mind. Tell you one thing, though, I ain’t gonna sit around and not scratch a redbug.”

“Aw dry up,” he answered drowsily.

Jem was the one who was getting more like a girl every day, not I. Comfortable, I lay on my back and waited for sleep, and while waiting I thought of Dill. He had left us the first of the month with firm assurances that he would return the minute school was out—he guessed his folks had got the general idea that he liked to spend his summers in Maycomb. Miss Rachel took us with them in the taxi to

Maycomb Junction, and Dill waved to us from the train window until he was out of sight. He was not out of mind: I missed him. The last two days of his time with us, Jem had taught him to swim—

Taught him to swim. I was wide awake, remembering what Dill had told me.

Barker’s Eddy is at the end of a dirt road off the Meridian highway about a mile from town. It is easy to catch a ride down the highway on a cotton wagon or from a passing motorist, and the short walk to the creek is easy, but the prospect of walking all the way back home at dusk, when the traffic is light, is tiresome, and swimmers are careful not to stay too late.

According to Dill, he and Jem had just come to the highway when they saw Atticus driving toward them. He looked like he had not seen them, so they both waved. Atticus finally slowed down; when they caught up with him he said, “You’d better catch a ride back. I won’t be going home for a while.” Calpurnia was in the back seat. Jem protested, then pleaded, and Atticus said, “All right, you can come with us if you stay in the car.”

On the way to Tom Robinson’s, Atticus told them what had happened.

They turned off the highway, rode slowly by the dump and past the Ewell residence, down the narrow lane to the Negro cabins. Dill said a crowd of black children were playing marbles in Tom’s front yard. Atticus parked the car and got out. Calpurnia followed him through the front gate.

Dill heard him ask one of the children, “Where’s your mother, Sam?” and heard Sam say, “She down at Sis Stevens’s, Mr. Finch. Want me run fetch her?”

Dill said Atticus looked uncertain, then he said yes, and Sam scampered off. “Go on with your game, boys,” Atticus said to the children.

A little girl came to the cabin door and stood looking at Atticus. Dill said her hair was a wad of tiny stiff pigtails, each ending in a bright bow. She grinned from ear to ear and walked toward our father, but she was too small to navigate the steps. Dill said Atticus went to her, took off his hat, and offered her his finger. She grabbed it and he eased her down the steps. Then he gave her to Calpurnia.

Sam was trotting behind his mother when they came up. Dill said Helen said, “‘evenin’, Mr. Finch, won’t you have a seat?” But she didn’t say any more.

Neither did Atticus.

“Scout,” said Dill, “she just fell down in the dirt. Just fell down in the dirt, like a giant with a big foot just came along and stepped on her. Just ump—” Dill’s fat foot hit the ground. “Like you’d step on an ant.”

Dill said Calpurnia and Atticus lifted Helen to her feet and half carried, half walked her to the cabin. They stayed inside a long time, and Atticus came out alone. When they drove back by the dump, some of the Ewells hollered at them, but Dill didn’t catch what they said.

Maycomb was interested by the news of Tom’s death for perhaps two days; two days was enough for the information to spread through the county. “Did you hear about?... No? Well, they say he was runnin4 fit to beat lightnin’...” To Maycomb, Tom’s death was typical. Typical of a nigger to cut and run. Typical of a nigger’s mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he saw. Funny thing, Atticus Finch might’ve got him off scot free, but wait—? Hell no. You know how they are. Easy come, easy go. Just shows you, that Robinson boy was legally married, they say he kept himself clean, went to church and all that, but when it comes down to the line the veneer’s mighty thin. Nigger always comes out in ‘em.

A few more details, enabling the listener to repeat his version in turn, then nothing to talk about until The Maycomb Tribune appeared the following Thursday. There was a brief obituary in the Colored News, but there was also an editorial.

Mr. B. B. Underwood was at his most bitter, and he couldn’t have cared less who canceled advertising and subscriptions. (But Maycomb didn’t play that way: Mr. Underwood could holler till he sweated and write whatever he wanted to, he’d still get his advertising and subscriptions. If he wanted to make a fool of himself in his paper that was his business.) Mr. Underwood didn’t talk about miscarriages of justice, he was writing so children could understand. Mr. Underwood simply figured it was a sin to kill cripples, be they standing, sitting, or escaping. He likened Tom’s death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children, and Maycomb thought he was trying to write an editorial poetical enough to be reprinted in The Montgomery Advertiser.

How could this be so, I wondered, as I read Mr. Underwood’s editorial. Senseless killing—Tom had been given due process of law to the day of his death; he had been tried openly and convicted by twelve good men and true; my father had fought for him all the way. Then Mr. Underwood’s meaning became clear: Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men’s hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.

The name Ewell gave me a queasy feeling. May comb had lost no time in getting Mr. Ewell’s views on Tom’s demise and passing them along through that English Channel of gossip, Miss Stephanie Crawford. Miss Stephanie told Aunt Alexandra in Jem’s presence (“Oh foot, he’s old enough to listen.”) that Mr. Ewell said it made one down and about two more to go. Jem told me not to be afraid, Mr. Ewell was more hot gas than anything. Jem also told me that if I breathed a word to Atticus, if in any way I let Atticus know I knew, Jem would personally never speak to me again.

Chapter 26

School started, and so did our daily trips past the Radley Place. Jem was in the seventh grade and went to high school, beyond the grammar-school building; I was now in the third grade, and our routines were so different I only walked to school with Jem in the mornings and saw him at mealtimes. He went out for football, but was too slender and too young yet to do anything but carry the team water buckets. This he did with enthusiasm; most afternoons he was seldom home before dark.

The Radley Place had ceased to terrify me, but it was no less gloomy, no less chilly under its great oaks, and no less uninviting. Mr. Nathan Radley could still be seen on a clear day, walking to and from town; we knew Boo was there, for the same old reason—nobody’d seen him carried out yet. I sometimes felt a twinge of remorse, when passing by the old place, at ever having taken part in what must have been sheer torment to Arthur Radley—what reasonable recluse wants children peeping through his shutters, delivering greetings on the end of a fishing- pole, wandering in his collards at night? And yet I remembered. Two Indian-head pennies, chewing gum, soap dolls, a rusty medal, a broken watch and chain. Jem must have put them away somewhere. I stopped and looked at the tree one afternoon: the trunk was swelling around its cement patch. The patch itself was turning yellow.

We had almost seen him a couple of times, a good enough score for anybody.

But I still looked for him each time I went by. Maybe someday we would see him. I imagined how it would be: when it happened, he’d just be sitting in the swing when I came along. “Hidy do, Mr. Arthur,” I would say, as if I had said it every afternoon of my life. “Evening, Jean Louise,” he would say, as if he had said it every afternoon of my life, “right pretty spell we’re having, isn’t it?” “Yes sir, right pretty,” I would say, and go on.

It was only a fantasy. We would never see him. He probably did go out when the moon was down and gaze upon Miss Stephanie Crawford. I’d have picked somebody else to look at, but that was his business. He would never gaze at us.

“You aren’t starting that again, are you?” said Atticus one night, when I expressed a stray desire just to have one good look at Boo Radley before I died. “If you are, I’ll tell you right now: stop it. I’m too old to go chasing you off the Radley property. Besides, it’s dangerous. You might get shot. You know Mr. Nathan shoots at every shadow he sees, even shadows that leave size-four bare footprints. You were lucky not to be killed.”

I hushed then and there. At the same time I marveled at Atticus. This was the first he had let us know he knew a lot more about something than we thought he knew. And it had happened years ago. No, only last summer—no, summer before last, when... time was playing tricks on me. I must remember to ask Jem.

So many things had happened to us, Boo Radley was the least of our fears.

Atticus said he didn’t see how anything else could happen, that things had a way of settling down, and after enough time passed people would forget that Tom

Robinson’s existence was ever brought to their attention.

Perhaps Atticus was right, but the events of the summer hung over us like smoke in a closed room. The adults in Maycomb never discussed the case with Jem and me; it seemed that they discussed it with their children, and their attitude must have been that neither of us could help having Atticus for a parent, so their children must be nice to us in spite of him. The children would never have thought that up for themselves: had our classmates been left to their own devices, Jem and I would have had several swift, satisfying fist-fights apiece and ended the matter for good. As it was, we were compelled to hold our heads high and be, respectively, a gentleman and a lady. In a way, it was like the era of Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, without all her yelling. There was one odd thing, though, that I never understood: in spite of Atticus’s shortcomings as a parent, people were content to re-elect him to the state legislature that year, as usual, without opposition. I came to the conclusion that people were just peculiar, I withdrew from them, and never thought about them until I was forced to.

I was forced to one day in school. Once a week, we had a Current Events period. Each child was supposed to clip an item from a newspaper, absorb its contents, and reveal them to the class. This practice allegedly overcame a variety of evils: standing in front of his fellows encouraged good posture and gave a child poise; delivering a short talk made him word-conscious; learning his current event strengthened his memory; being singled out made him more than ever anxious to return to the Group.

The idea was profound, but as usual, in Maycomb it didn’t work very well. In the first place, few rural children had access to newspapers, so the burden of Current Events was borne by the town children, convincing the bus children more deeply that the town children got all the attention anyway. The rural children who could, usually brought clippings from what they called The Grit Paper, a publication spurious in the eyes of Miss Gates, our teacher. Why she frowned when a child recited from The Grit Paper I never knew, but in some way it was associated with liking fiddling, eating syrupy biscuits for lunch, being a holy-roller, singing Sweetly Sings the Donkey and pronouncing it dunkey, all of which the state paid teachers to discourage.

Even so, not many of the children knew what a Current Event was. Little Chuck Little, a hundred years old in his knowledge of cows and their habits, was halfway through an Uncle Natchell story when Miss Gates stopped him: “Charles, that is not a current event. That is an advertisement.”

Cecil Jacobs knew what one was, though. When his turn came, he went to the front of the room and began, “Old Hitler—”

“Adolf Hitler, Cecil,” said Miss Gates. “One never begins with Old anybody.” “Yes ma’am,” he said. “Old Adolf Hitler has been prosecutin' the—”

“Persecuting Cecil.

“Nome, Miss Gates, it says here—well anyway, old Adolf Hitler has been after the Jews and he’s puttin' ’em in prisons and he’s taking away all their property and he won’t let any of 4em out of the country and he’s washin’ all the feeble­minded and—”

“Washing the feeble-minded?”

“Yes ma’am, Miss Gates, I reckon they don’t have sense enough to wash themselves, I don’t reckon an idiot could keep hisself clean. Well anyway,

Hitler’s started a program to round up all the half-Jews too and he wants to register 4em in case they might wanta cause him any trouble and I think this is a bad thing and that’s my current event.”

“Very good, Cecil,” said Miss Gates. Puffing, Cecil returned to his seat.

A hand went up in the back of the room. “How can he do that?”

“Who do what?” asked Miss Gates patiently.

“I mean how can Hitler just put a lot of folks in a pen like that, looks like the govamint’d stop him,” said the owner of the hand.

“Hitler is the government,” said Miss Gates, and seizing an opportunity to make education dynamic, she went to the blackboard. She printed DEMOCRACY in large letters. “Democracy,” she said. “Does anybody have a definition?”

“Us,” somebody said.

I raised my hand, remembering an old campaign slogan Atticus had once told me about.

“What do you think it means, Jean Louise?”

“‘Equal rights for all, special privileges for none,’” I quoted.

“Very good, Jean Louise, very good,” Miss Gates smiled. In front of DEMOCRACY, she printed WE ARE A. “Now class, say it all together, ‘We are a democracy.’”

We said it. Then Miss Gates said, “That’s the difference between America and Germany. We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship. Dictator-ship,” she said. “Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced. Prejudice,” she enunciated carefully. “There are no better people in the world than the Jews, and why Hitler doesn’t think so is a mystery to me.”

An inquiring soul in the middle of the room said, “Why don’t they like the Jews, you reckon, Miss Gates?”

“I don’t know, Henry. They contribute to every society they live in, and most of all, they are a deeply religious people. Hitler’s trying to do away with religion, so maybe he doesn’t like them for that reason.”

Cecil spoke up. “Well I don’t know for certain,” he said, “they’re supposed to change money or somethin4, but that ain’t no cause to persecute ’em. They’re white, ain’t they?”

Miss Gates said, “When you get to high school, Cecil, you’ll learn that the Jews have been persecuted since the beginning of history, even driven out of their own country. It’s one of the most terrible stories in history. Time for arithmetic, children.”

As I had never liked arithmetic, I spent the period looking out the window. The only time I ever saw Atticus scowl was when Elmer Davis would give us the latest on Hitler. Atticus would snap off the radio and say, “Hmp!” I asked him once why he was impatient with Hitler and Atticus said, “Because he’s a maniac.”

This would not do, I mused, as the class proceeded with its sums. One maniac and millions of German folks. Looked to me like they’d shut Hitler in a pen instead of letting him shut them up. There was something else wrong—I would ask my father about it.

I did, and he said he could not possibly answer my question because he didn’t know the answer.

“But it’s okay to hate Hitler?”

“It is not,” he said. “It’s not okay to hate anybody.”

“Atticus,” I said, “there’s somethin4 I don’t understand. Miss Gates said it was awful, Hitler doin’ like he does, she got real red in the face about it—”

“I should think she would.”

“But-”

“Yes?”

“Nothing, sir.” I went away, not sure that I could explain to Atticus what was on my mind, not sure that I could clarify what was only a feeling. Perhaps Jem could provide the answer. Jem understood school things better than Atticus.

Jem was worn out from a day’s water-carrying. There were at least twelve banana peels on the floor by his bed, surrounding an empty milk bottle. “Whatcha stuffin' for?” I asked.

“Coach says if I can gain twenty-five pounds by year after next I can play,” he said. “This is the quickest way.”

“If you don’t throw it all up. Jem,” I said, “I wanta ask you somethin4.”

“Shoot.” He put down his book and stretched his legs.

“Miss Gates is a nice lady, ain’t she?”

“Why sure,” said Jem. “I liked her when I was in her room.”

“She hates Hitler a lot... ”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Well, she went on today about how bad it was him treatin' the Jews like that. Jem, it’s not right to persecute anybody, is it? I mean have mean thoughts about anybody, even, is it?”

“Gracious no, Scout. What’s eatin4 you?”

“Well, coming out of the courthouse that night Miss Gates was—she was goin4 down the steps in front of us, you musta not seen her— she was talking with Miss Stephanie Crawford. I heard her say it’s time somebody taught ’em a lesson, they were gettin4 way above themselves, an’ the next thing they think they can do is marry us. Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an4 then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home—”

Jem was suddenly furious. He leaped off the bed, grabbed me by the collar and shook me. “I never wanta hear about that courthouse again, ever, ever, you hear me? You hear me? Don’t you ever say one word to me about it again, you hear? Now go on!”

I was too surprised to cry. I crept from Jem’s room and shut the door softly, lest undue noise set him off again. Suddenly tired, I wanted Atticus. He was in the livingroom, and I went to him and tried to get in his lap.

Atticus smiled. “You’re getting so big now, I’ll just have to hold a part of you.” He held me close. “Scout,” he said softly, “don’t let Jem get you down. He’s having a rough time these days. I heard you back there.”

Atticus said that Jem was trying hard to forget something, but what he was really doing was storing it away for a while, until enough time passed. Then he would be able to think about it and sort things out. When he was able to think about it, Jem would be himself again.

Chapter 27

Things did settle down, after a fashion, as Atticus said they would. By the middle of October, only two small things out of the ordinary happened to two Maycomb citizens. No, there were three things, and they did not directly concern us—the Finches—but in a way they did.

The first thing was that Mr. Bob Ewell acquired and lost a job in a matter of days and probably made himself unique in the annals of the nineteen-thirties: he was the only man I ever heard of who was fired from the WPA for laziness. I suppose his brief burst of fame brought on a briefer burst of industry, but his job lasted only as long as his notoriety: Mr. Ewell found himself as forgotten as Tom Robinson. Thereafter, he resumed his regular weekly appearances at the welfare office for his check, and received it with no grace amid obscure mutterings that the bastards who thought they ran this town wouldn’t permit an honest man to make a living. Ruth Jones, the welfare lady, said Mr. Ewell openly accused Atticus of getting his job. She was upset enough to walk down to Atticus’s office and tell him about it. Atticus told Miss Ruth not to fret, that if Bob Ewell wanted to discuss Atticus’s “getting” his job, he knew the way to the office.

The second thing happened to Judge Taylor. Judge Taylor was not a Sunday-night churchgoer: Mrs. Taylor was. Judge Taylor savored his Sunday night hour alone in his big house, and churchtime found him holed up in his study reading the writings of Bob Taylor (no kin, but the judge would have been proud to claim it). One Sunday night, lost in fruity metaphors and florid diction, Judge Taylor’s attention was wrenched from the page by an irritating scratching noise. “Hush,” he said to Ann Taylor, his fat nondescript dog. Then he realized he was speaking to an empty room; the scratching noise was coming from the rear of the house. Judge Taylor clumped to the back porch to let Ann out and found the screen door swinging open. A shadow on the corner of the house caught his eye, and that was all he saw of his visitor. Mrs. Taylor came home from church to find her husband in his chair, lost in the writings of Bob Taylor, with a shotgun across his lap.

The third thing happened to Helen Robinson, Tom’s widow. If Mr. Ewell was as forgotten as Tom Robinson, Tom Robinson was as forgotten as Boo Radley. But Tom was not forgotten by his employer, Mr. Link Deas. Mr. Link Deas made a job for Helen. He didn’t really need her, but he said he felt right bad about the way things turned out. I never knew who took care of her children while Helen was away. Calpumia said it was hard on Helen, because she had to walk nearly a mile out of her way to avoid the Ewells, who, according to Helen, “chunked at her” the first time she tried to use the public road. Mr. Link Deas eventually received the impression that Helen was coming to work each morning from the wrong direction, and dragged the reason out of her. “Just let it be, Mr. Link, please suh,” Helen begged. “The hell I will,” said Mr. Link. He told her to come by his store that afternoon before she left. She did, and Mr. Link closed his store, put his hat firmly on his head, and walked Helen home. He walked her the short way, by the Ewells4. On his way back, Mr. Link stopped at the crazy gate.

“Ewell?” he called. “I say Ewell!”

The windows, normally packed with children, were empty.

“I know every last one of you’s in there a-layin4 on the floor! Now hear me, Bob Ewell: if I hear one more peep outa my girl Helen about not bein’ able to walk this road I’ll have you in jail before sundown!” Mr. Link spat in the dust and walked home.

Helen went to work next morning and used the public road. Nobody chunked at her, but when she was a few yards beyond the Ewell house, she looked around and saw Mr. Ewell walking behind her. She turned and walked on, and Mr. Ewell kept the same distance behind her until she reached Mr. Link Deas’s house. All the way to the house, Helen said, she heard a soft voice behind her, crooning foul words. Thoroughly frightened, she telephoned Mr. Link at his store, which was not too far from his house. As Mr. Link came out of his store he saw Mr. Ewell leaning on the fence. Mr. Ewell said, “Don’t you look at me, Link Deas, like I was dirt. I ain’t jumped your—”

“First thing you can do, Ewell, is get your stinkin4 carcass off my property. You’re leanin’ on it an4 I can’t afford fresh paint for it. Second thing you can do is stay away from my cook or I’ll have you up for assault—”

“I ain’t touched her, Link Deas, and ain’t about to go with no nigger!”

“You don’t have to touch her, all you have to do is make her afraid, an4 if assault ain’t enough to keep you locked up awhile, I’ll get you in on the Ladies’ Law, so get outa my sight! If you don’t think I mean it, just bother that girl again!”

Mr. Ewell evidently thought he meant it, for Helen reported no further trouble.

“I don’t like it, Atticus, I don’t like it at all,” was Aunt Alexandra’s assessment of these events. “That man seems to have a permanent running grudge against everybody connected with that case. I know how that kind are about paying off grudges, but I don’t understand why he should harbor one—he had his way in court, didn’t he?”

“I think I understand,” said Atticus. “It might be because he knows in his heart that very few people in May comb really believed his and Mayella’s yarns. He thought he’d be a hero, but all he got for his pain was... was, okay, we’ll convict this Negro but get back to your dump. He’s had his fling with about everybody now, so he ought to be satisfied. He’ll settle down when the weather changes.”

“But why should he try to burgle John Taylor’s house? He obviously didn’t know John was home or he wouldn’t4ve tried. Only lights John shows on Sunday nights are on the front porch and back in his den... ”

“You don’t know if Bob Ewell cut that screen, you don’t know who did it,” said Atticus. “But I can guess. I proved him a liar but John made him look like a fool. All the time Ewell was on the stand I couldn’t dare look at John and keep a straight face. John looked at him as if he were a three-legged chicken or a square egg. Don’t tell me judges don’t try to prejudice juries,” Atticus chuckled.

By the end of October, our lives had become the familiar routine of school, play, study. Jem seemed to have put out of his mind whatever it was he wanted to forget, and our classmates mercifully let us forget our father’s eccentricities. Cecil Jacobs asked me one time if Atticus was a Radical. When I asked Atticus, Atticus was so amused I was rather annoyed, but he said he wasn’t laughing at me. He said, “You tell Cecil I’m about as radical as Cotton Tom Heflin.”

Aunt Alexandra was thriving. Miss Maudie must have silenced the whole missionary society at one blow, for Aunty again ruled that roost. Her refreshments grew even more delicious. I learned more about the poor Mrunas’ social life from listening to Mrs. Merriweather: they had so little sense of family that the whole tribe was one big family. A child had as many fathers as there were men in the community, as many mothers as there were women. J. Grimes Everett was doing his utmost to change this state of affairs, and desperately needed our prayers.

Maycomb was itself again. Precisely the same as last year and the year before that, with only two minor changes. Firstly, people had removed from their store windows and automobiles the stickers that said NRA—WE DO OUR PART. I asked Atticus why, and he said it was because the National Recovery Act was dead. I asked who killed it: he said nine old men.

The second change in Maycomb since last year was not one of national significance. Until then, Halloween in Maycomb was a completely unorganized affair. Each child did what he wanted to do, with assistance from other children if there was anything to be moved, such as placing a light buggy on top of the livery stable. But parents thought things went too far last year, when the peace of Miss Tutti and Miss Frutti was shattered.

Misses Tutti and Frutti Barber were maiden ladies, sisters, who lived together in the only Maycomb residence boasting a cellar. The Barber ladies were rumored to be Republicans, having migrated from Clanton, Alabama, in 1911. Their ways were strange to us, and why they wanted a cellar nobody knew, but they wanted one and they dug one, and they spent the rest of their lives chasing generations of children out of it.

Misses Tutti and Frutti (their names were Sarah and Frances), aside from their Yankee ways, were both deaf. Miss Tutti denied it and lived in a world of silence, but Miss Frutti, not about to miss anything, employed an ear trumpet so enormous that Jem declared it was a loudspeaker from one of those dog Victrolas.

With these facts in mind and Halloween at hand, some wicked children had waited until the Misses Barber were thoroughly asleep, slipped into their livingroom (nobody but the Radleys locked up at night), stealthily made away with every stick of furniture therein, and hid it in the cellar. I deny having taken part in such a thing.

“I heard ‘em!” was the cry that awoke the Misses Barber’s neighbors at dawn next morning. “Heard ’em drive a truck up to the door! Stomped around like horses. They’re in New Orleans by now!”

Miss Tutti was sure those traveling fur sellers who came through town two days ago had purloined their furniture. “Da-rk they were,” she said. “Syrians.”

Mr. Heck Tate was summoned. He surveyed the area and said he thought it was a local job. Miss Frutti said she’d know a Maycomb voice anywhere, and there were no Maycomb voices in that parlor last night—rolling their r’s all over her premises, they were. Nothing less than the bloodhounds must be used to locate their furniture, Miss Tutti insisted, so Mr. Tate was obliged to go ten miles out the road, round up the county hounds, and put them on the trail.

Mr. Tate started them off at the Misses Barber’s front steps, but all they did was run around to the back of the house and howl at the cellar door. When Mr. Tate set them in motion three times, he finally guessed the truth. By noontime that day, there was not a barefooted child to be seen in Maycomb and nobody took off his shoes until the hounds were returned.

So the Maycomb ladies said things would be different this year. The high-school auditorium would be open, there would be a pageant for the grown-ups; apple­bobbing, taffy-pulling, pinning the tail on the donkey for the children. There would also be a prize of twenty-five cents for the best Halloween costume, created by the wearer.

Jem and I both groaned. Not that we’d ever done anything, it was the principle of the thing. Jem considered himself too old for Halloween anyway; he said he wouldn’t be caught anywhere near the high school at something like that. Oh well, I thought, Atticus would take me.

I soon learned, however, that my services would be required on stage that evening. Mrs. Grace Merriweather had composed an original pageant entitled Maycomb County: Ad Astra Per Aspera, and I was to be a ham. She thought it would be adorable if some of the children were costumed to represent the county’s agricultural products: Cecil Jacobs would be dressed up to look like a cow; Agnes Boone would make a lovely butterbean, another child would be a peanut, and on down the line until Mrs. Merriweather’s imagination and the supply of children were exhausted.

Our only duties, as far as I could gather from our two rehearsals, were to enter from stage left as Mrs. Merriweather (not only the author, but the narrator) identified us. When she called out, “Pork,” that was my cue. Then the assembled company would sing, “Maycomb County, Maycomb County, we will aye be true to thee,” as the grand finale, and Mrs. Merriweather would mount the stage with the state flag.

My costume was not much of a problem. Mrs. Crenshaw, the local seamstress, had as much imagination as Mrs. Merriweather. Mrs. Crenshaw took some chicken wire and bent it into the shape of a cured ham. This she covered with brown cloth, and painted it to resemble the original. I could duck under and someone would pull the contraption down over my head. It came almost to my knees. Mrs. Crenshaw thoughtfully left two peepholes for me. She did a fine job.

Jem said I looked exactly like a ham with legs. There were several discomforts, though: it was hot, it was a close fit; if my nose itched I couldn’t scratch, and once inside I could not get out of it alone.

When Halloween came, I assumed that the whole family would be present to watch me perform, but I was disappointed. Atticus said as tactfully as he could that he just didn’t think he could stand a pageant tonight, he was all in. He had been in Montgomery for a week and had come home late that afternoon. He thought Jem might escort me if I asked him.

Aunt Alexandra said she just had to get to bed early, she’d been decorating the stage all afternoon and was worn out—she stopped short in the middle of her sentence. She closed her mouth, then opened it to say something, but no words came.

‘“s matter, Aunty?” I asked.

“Oh nothing, nothing,” she said, “somebody just walked over my grave.” She put away from her whatever it was that gave her a pinprick of apprehension, and suggested that I give the family a preview in the livingroom. So Jem squeezed me into my costume, stood at the livingroom door, called out “Po-ork,” exactly as Mrs. Merriweather would have done, and I marched in. Atticus and Aunt Alexandra were delighted.

I repeated my part for Calpumia in the kitchen and she said I was wonderful. I wanted to go across the street to show Miss Maudie, but Jem said she’d probably be at the pageant anyway.

After that, it didn’t matter whether they went or not. Jem said he would take me. Thus began our longest journey together.

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Chapter 28

The weather was unusually warm for the last day of October. We didn’t even need jackets. The wind was growing stronger, and Jem said it might be raining before we got home. There was no moon. The street light on the corner cast sharp shadows on the Radley house. I heard Jem laugh softly. “Bet nobody bothers them tonight,” he said. Jem was carrying my ham costume, rather awkwardly, as it was hard to hold. I thought it gallant of him to do so.

“It is a scary place though, ain’t it?” I said. “Boo doesn’t mean anybody any harm, but I’m right glad you’re along.” “You know Atticus wouldn’t let you go to the schoolhouse by yourself,” Jem said.

“Don’t see why, it’s just around the comer and across the yard.”

“That yard’s a mighty long place for little girls to cross at night,” Jem teased. “Ain’t you scared of haints?”

We laughed. Haints, Hot Steams, incantations, secret signs, had vanished with our years as mist with sunrise. “What was that old thing,” Jem said, “Angel bright, life-in-death; get off the road, don’t suck my breath.”

“Cut it out, now,” I said. We were in front of the Radley Place.

Jem said, “Boo must not be at home. Listen.”

High above us in the darkness a solitary mocker poured out his repertoire in blissful unawareness of whose tree he sat in, plunging from the shrill kee, kee of the sunflower bird to the irascible qua-ack of a bluejay, to the sad lament of Poor Will, Poor Will, Poor Will.

We turned the corner and I tripped on a root growing in the road. Jem tried to help me, but all he did was drop my costume in the dust. I didn’t fall, though, and soon we were on our way again.

We turned off the road and entered the schoolyard. It was pitch black.

“How do you know where we’re at, Jem?” I asked, when we had gone a few steps.

“I can tell we’re under the big oak because we’re passin‘ through a cool spot. Careful now, and don’t fall again.”

We had slowed to a cautious gait, and were feeling our way forward so as not to bump into the tree. The tree was a single and ancient oak; two children could not reach around its trunk and touch hands. It was far away from teachers, their spies,

and curious neighbors: it was near the Radley lot, but the Radleys were not curious. A small patch of earth beneath its branches was packed hard from many fights and furtive crap games.

The lights in the high school auditorium were blazing in the distance, but they blinded us, if anything. “Don’t look ahead, Scout,” Jem said. “Look at the ground and you won’t fall.”

“You should have brought the flashlight, Jem.”

“Didn’t know it was this dark. Didn’t look like it’d be this dark earlier in the evening. So cloudy, that’s why. It’ll hold off a while, though.”

Someone leaped at us.

“God almighty!” Jem yelled.

A circle of light burst in our faces, and Cecil Jacobs jumped in glee behind it. “Ha- a-a, gotcha!” he shrieked. “Thought you’d be comhT along this way!”

“What are you doin‘ way out here by yourself, boy? Ain’t you scared of Boo Radley?”

Cecil had ridden safely to the auditorium with his parents, hadn’t seen us, then had ventured down this far because he knew good and well we’d be coming along. He thought Mr. Finch’d be with us, though.

“Shucks, ain’t much but around the corner,” said Jem. “Who’s scared to go around the corner?” We had to admit that Cecil was pretty good, though. He had given us a fright, and he could tell it all over the schoolhouse, that was his privilege.

“Say,” I said, “ain’t you a cow tonight? Where’s your costume?”

“It’s up behind the stage,” he said. “Mrs. Merriweather says the pageant ain’t comin‘ on for a while. You can put yours back of the stage by mine, Scout, and we can go with the rest of ’em.”

This was an excellent idea, Jem thought. He also thought it a good thing that Cecil and I would be together. This way, Jem would be left to go with people his own age.

When we reached the auditorium, the whole town was there except Atticus and the ladies worn out from decorating, and the usual outcasts and shut-ins. Most of the county, it seemed, was there: the hall was teeming with slicked-up country people. The high school building had a wide downstairs hallway; people milled around booths that had been installed along each side.

“Oh Jem. I forgot my money,” I sighed, when I saw them.

“Atticus didn’t,” Jem said. “Here’s thirty cents, you can do six things. See you later on.”

“Okay,” I said, quite content with thirty cents and Cecil. I went with Cecil down to the front of the auditorium, through a door on one side, and backstage. I got rid of my ham costume and departed in a hurry, for Mrs. Merriweather was standing at a lectern in front of the first row of seats making last-minute, frenzied changes in the script.

“How much money you got?” I asked Cecil. Cecil had thirty cents, too, which made us even. We squandered our first nickels on the House of Horrors, which scared us not at all; we entered the black seventh-grade room and were led around by the temporary ghoul in residence and were made to touch several objects alleged to be component parts of a human being. “Here’s his eyes,” we were told when we touched two peeled grapes on a saucer. “Here’s his heart,” which felt like raw liver. “These are his innards,” and our hands were thrust into a plate of cold spaghetti.

Cecil and I visited several booths. We each bought a sack of Mrs. Judge Taylor’s homemade divinity. I wanted to bob for apples, but Cecil said it wasn’t sanitary. His mother said he might catch something from everybody’s heads having been in the same tub. “Ain’t anything around town now to catch,” I protested. But Cecil said his mother said it was unsanitary to eat after folks. I later asked Aunt Alexandra about this, and she said people who held such views were usually climbers.

We were about to purchase a blob of taffy when Mrs. Merriweather’s runners appeared and told us to go backstage, it was time to get ready. The auditorium was filling with people; the Maycomb County High School band had assembled in front below the stage; the stage footlights were on and the red velvet curtain rippled and billowed from the scurrying going on behind it.

Backstage, Cecil and I found the narrow hallway teeming with people: adults in

homemade three-corner hats, Confederate caps, Spanish-American War hats, and World War helmets. Children dressed as various agricultural enterprises crowded around the one small window.

“Somebody’s mashed my costume,” I wailed in dismay. Mrs. Merriweather galloped to me, reshaped the chicken wire, and thrust me inside.

“You all right in there, Scout?” asked Cecil. “You sound so far off, like you was on the other side of a hill.”

“You don’t sound any nearer,” I said.

The band played the national anthem, and we heard the audience rise. Then the bass drum sounded. Mrs. Merriweather, stationed behind her lectern beside the band, said: “Maycomb County Ad Astra Per Aspera.” The bass drum boomed again. “That means,” said Mrs. Merriweather, translating for the rustic elements, “from the mud to the stars.” She added, unnecessarily, it seemed to me, “A pageant.”

“Reckon they wouldn’t know what it was if she didn’t tell ‘em,” whispered Cecil, who was immediately shushed.

“The whole town knows it,” I breathed.

“But the country folks’ve come in,” Cecil said.

“Be quiet back there,” a man’s voice ordered, and we were silent.

The bass drum went boom with every sentence Mrs. Merriweather uttered. She chanted mournfully about Maycomb County being older than the state, that it was a part of the Mississippi and Alabama Territories, that the first white man to set foot in the virgin forests was the Probate Judge’s great-grandfather five times removed, who was never heard of again. Then came the fearless Colonel Maycomb, for whom the county was named.

Andrew Jackson appointed him to a position of authority, and Colonel Maycomb’s misplaced self-confidence and slender sense of direction brought disaster to all who rode with him in the Creek Indian Wars. Colonel Maycomb persevered in his efforts to make the region safe for democracy, but his first campaign was his last. His orders, relayed to him by a friendly Indian runner, were to move south. After consulting a tree to ascertain from its lichen which way was south, and taking no lip from the subordinates who ventured to correct him, Colonel May comb set out on a purposeful journey to rout the enemy and entangled his troops so far northwest in the forest primeval that they were eventually rescued by settlers moving inland.

Mrs. Merri weather gave a thirty-minute description of Colonel May comb’s exploits. I discovered that if I bent my knees I could tuck them under my costume and more or less sit. I sat down, listened to Mrs. Merriweather’s drone and the bass drum’s boom and was soon fast asleep.

They said later that Mrs. Merri weather was putting her all into the grand finale, that she had crooned, “Po-ork,” with a confidence born of pine trees and butterbeans entering on cue. She waited a few seconds, then called, “Po-ork?” When nothing materialized, she yelled, “Pork!”

I must have heard her in my sleep, or the band playing Dixie woke me, but it was when Mrs. Merri weather triumphantly mounted the stage with the state flag that I chose to make my entrance. Chose is incorrect: I thought I’d better catch up with the rest of them.

They told me later that Judge Taylor went out behind the auditorium and stood there slapping his knees so hard Mrs. Taylor brought him a glass of water and one of his pills.

Mrs. Merriweather seemed to have a hit, everybody was cheering so, but she caught me backstage and told me I had ruined her pageant. She made me feel awful, but when Jem came to fetch me he was sympathetic. He said he couldn’t see my costume much from where he was sitting. How he could tell I was feeling bad under my costume I don’t know, but he said I did all right, I just came in a little late, that was all. Jem was becoming almost as good as Atticus at making you feel right when things went wrong. Almost—not even Jem could make me go through that crowd, and he consented to wait backstage with me until the audience left.

“You wanta take it off, Scout?” he asked.

“Naw, I’ll just keep it on,” I said. I could hide my mortification under it.

“You all want a ride home?” someone asked.

“No sir, thank you,” I heard Jem say. “It’s just a little walk.”

“Be careful of haints,” the voice said. “Better still, tell the haints to be careful of Scout.”

“There aren’t many folks left now,” Jem told me. “Ixt’s go.”

We went through the auditorium to the hallway, then down the steps. It was still black dark. The remaining cars were parked on the other side of the building, and their headlights were little help. “If some of ‘ em were goin’ in our direction we could see better,” said Jem. “Here Scout, let me hold onto your—hock. You might lose your balance.”

“I can see all right.”

“Yeah, but you might lose your balance.” I felt a slight pressure on my head, and assumed that Jem had grabbed that end of the ham. “You got me?”

“Uh huh.”

We began crossing the black schoolyard, straining to see our feet. “Jem,” I said,

“I forgot my shoes, they’re back behind the stage.”

“Well let’s go get ‘em.” But as we turned around the auditorium lights went off. “You can get ’em tomorrow,” he said.

“But tomorrow’s Sunday,” I protested, as Jem turned me homeward.

“You can get the Janitor to let you in... Scout?”

“Hm?”

“Nothing.”

Jem hadn’t started that in a long time. I wondered what he was thinking. He’d tell me when he wanted to, probably when we got home. I felt his fingers press the top of my costume, too hard, it seemed. I shook my head. “Jem, you don’t hafta

“Hush a minute, Scout,” he said, pinching me.

We walked along silently. “Minute’s up,” I said. “Whatcha thinkin4 about?” I turned to look at him, but his outline was barely visible.

“Thought I heard something,” he said. “Stop a minute.”

We stopped.

“Hear anything?” he asked.

“No.”

We had not gone five paces before he made me stop again.

“Jem, are you tryin‘ to scare me? You know I’m too old—”

“Be quiet,” he said, and I knew he was not joking.

The night was still. I could hear his breath coming easily beside me. Occasionally there was a sudden breeze that hit my bare legs, but it was all that remained of a promised windy night. This was the stillness before a thunderstorm. We listened.

“Heard an old dog just then,” I said.

“It’s not that,” Jem answered. “I hear it when we’re walkin‘ along, but when we stop I don’t hear it.”

“You hear my costume rustlin4. Aw, it’s just Halloween got you.

I said it more to convince myself than Jem, for sure enough, as we began walking, I heard what he was talking about. It was not my costume.

“It’s just old Cecil,” said Jem presently. “He won’t get us again. Let’s don’t let him think we’re hurrying.”

We slowed to a crawl. I asked Jem how Cecil could follow us in this dark, looked to me like he’d bump into us from behind.

“I can see you, Scout,” Jem said.

“How? I can’t see you.”

“Your fat streaks are showin4. Mrs. Crenshaw painted ’em with some of that shiny stuff so they’d show up under the footlights. I can see you pretty well, an4 I expect Cecil can see you well enough to keep his distance.”

I would show Cecil that we knew he was behind us and we were ready for him. “Cecil Jacobs is a big wet he-en!” I yelled suddenly, turning around.

We stopped. There was no acknowledgement save he-en bouncing off the distant schoolhouse wall.

“I’ll get him,” said Jem. “He-y!”

Hay-e-hay-e-hay-ey, answered the schoolhouse wall. It was unlike Cecil to hold out for so long; once he pulled a joke he’d repeat it time and again. We should have been leapt at already. Jem signaled for me to stop again.

He said softly, “Scout, can you take that thing off?”

“I think so, but I ain’t got anything on under it much.”

“I’ve got your dress here.”

“I can’t get it on in the dark.”

“Okay,” he said, “never mind.”

“Jem, are you afraid?”

“No. Think we’re almost to the tree now. Few yards from that, an‘ we’ll be to the road. We can see the street light then.” Jem was talking in an unhurried, flat toneless voice. I wondered how long he would try to keep the Cecil myth going.

“You reckon we oughta sing, Jem?”

“No. Be real quiet again, Scout.”

We had not increased our pace. Jem knew as well as I that it was difficult to walk fast without stumping a toe, tripping on stones, and other inconveniences, and I was barefooted. Maybe it was the wind rustling the trees. But there wasn’t any wind and there weren’t any trees except the big oak.

Our company shuffled and dragged his feet, as if wearing heavy shoes. Whoever it was wore thick cotton pants; what I thought were trees rustling was the soft swish of cotton on cotton, wheek, wheek, with every step.

I felt the sand go cold under my feet and I knew we were near the big oak. Jem pressed my head. We stopped and listened.

Shuffle-foot had not stopped with us this time. His trousers swished softly and steadily. Then they stopped. He was running, running toward us with no child’s steps.

“Run, Scout! Run! Run!” Jem screamed.

I took one giant step and found myself reeling: my arms useless, in the dark, I could not keep my balance.

“Jem, Jem, help me, Jem!”

Something crushed the chicken wire around me. Metal ripped on metal and I fell to the ground and rolled as far as I could, floundering to escape my wire prison. From somewhere near by came scuffling, kicking sounds, sounds of shoes and flesh scraping dirt and roots. Someone rolled against me and I felt Jem. He was up like lightning and pulling me with him but, though my head and shoulders were free, I was so entangled we didn’t get very far.

We were nearly to the road when I felt Jem’s hand leave me, felt him jerk backwards to the ground. More scuffling, and there came a dull crunching sound and Jem screamed.

I ran in the direction of Jem’s scream and sank into a flabby male stomach. Its owner said, “Uff!” and tried to catch my arms, but they were tightly pinioned. His stomach was soft but his arms were like steel. He slowly squeezed the breath out of me. I could not move. Suddenly he was jerked backwards and flung on the ground, almost carrying me with him. I thought, Jem’s up.

One’s mind works very slowly at times. Stunned, I stood there dumbly. The scuffling noises were dying; someone wheezed and the night was still again.

Still but for a man breathing heavily, breathing heavily and staggering. I thought he went to the tree and leaned against it. He coughed violently, a sobbing, bone­shaking cough.

“Jem?”

There was no answer but the man’s heavy breathing.

“Jem?”

Jem didn’t answer.

The man began moving around, as if searching for something. I heard him groan and pull something heavy along the ground. It was slowly coming to me that there were now four people under the tree.

“Atticus...?”

The man was walking heavily and unsteadily toward the road.

I went to where I thought he had been and felt frantically along the ground, reaching out with my toes. Presently I touched someone.

“Jem?”

My toes touched trousers, a belt buckle, buttons, something I could not identify, a collar, and a face. A prickly stubble on the face told me it was not Jem’s. I smelled stale whiskey.

I made my way along in what I thought was the direction of the road. I was not sure, because I had been turned around so many times. But I found it and looked down to the street light. A man was passing under it. The man was walking with the staccato steps of someone carrying a load too heavy for him. He was going around the comer. He was carrying Jem. Jem’s arm was dangling crazily in front of him.

By the time I reached the corner the man was crossing our front yard. Light from our front door framed Atticus for an instant; he ran down the steps, and together, he and the man took Jem inside.

I was at the front door when they were going down the hall. Aunt Alexandra was running to meet me. “Call Dr. Reynolds!” Atticus’s voice came sharply from Jem’s room. “Where’s Scout?”

“Here she is,” Aunt Alexandra called, pulling me along with her to the telephone. She tugged at me anxiously. “I’m all right, Aunty,” I said, “you better call.”

She pulled the receiver from the hook and said, “Eula May, get Dr. Reynolds, quick!”

“Agnes, is your father home? Oh God, where is he? Please tell him to come over here as soon as he comes in. Please, it’s urgent!”

There was no need for Aunt Alexandra to identify herself, people in Maycomb knew each other’s voices.

Atticus came out of Jem’s room. The moment Aunt Alexandra broke the connection, Atticus took the receiver from her. He rattled the hook, then said, “Eula May, get me the sheriff, please.”

“Heck? Atticus Finch. Someone’s been after my children. Jem’s hurt. Between here and the schoolhouse. I can’t leave my boy. Run out there for me, please, and see if he’s still around. Doubt if you’ll find him now, but I’d like to see him if you do. Got to go now. Thanks, Heck.”

“Atticus, is Jem dead?” “No, Scout. Look after her, sister,” he called, as he went down the hall.

Aunt Alexandra’s fingers trembled as she unwound the crushed fabric and wire from around me. “Are you all right, darling?” she asked over and over as she worked me free.

It was a relief to be out. My arms were beginning to tingle, and they were red with small hexagonal marks. I rubbed them, and they felt better.

“Aunty, is Jem dead?”

“No—no, darling, he’s unconscious. We won’t know how badly he’s hurt until Dr. Reynolds gets here. Jean Louise, what happened?”

“I don’t know.”

She left it at that. She brought me something to put on, and had I thought about it then, I would have never let her forget it: in her distraction, Aunty brought me my overalls. “Put these on, darling,” she said, handing me the garments she most despised.

She rushed back to Jem’s room, then came to me in the hall. She patted me vaguely, and went back to Jem’s room.

A car stopped in front of the house. I knew Dr. Reynolds’s step almost as well as my father’s. He had brought Jem and me into the world, had led us through every childhood disease known to man including the time Jem fell out of the treehouse, and he had never lost our friendship. Dr. Reynolds said if we had been boil-prone things would have been different, but we doubted it.

He came in the door and said, “Good Lord.” He walked toward me, said, “You’re still standing,” and changed his course. He knew every room in the house. He also knew that if I was in bad shape, so was Jem.

After ten forevers Dr. Reynolds returned. “Is Jem dead?” I asked.

“Far from it,” he said, squatting down to me. “He’s got a bump on the head just like yours, and a broken arm. Scout, look that way—no, don’t turn your head, roll your eyes. Now look over yonder. He’s got a bad break, so far as I can tell now it’s in the elbow. Like somebody tried to wring his arm off... Now look at me.”

“Then he’s not dead?”

“No-o!” Dr. Reynolds got to his feet. “We can’t do much tonight,” he said,

“except try to make him as comfortable as we can. We’ll have to X-ray his arm- looks like he’ll be wearing his arm ‘way out by his side for a while. Don’t worry, though, he’ll be as good as new. Boys his age bounce.”

While he was talking, Dr. Reynolds had been looking keenly at me, lightly fingering the bump that was coming on my forehead. “You don’t feel broke anywhere, do you?”

Dr. Reynolds’s small joke made me smile. “Then you don’t think he’s dead, then?”

He put on his hat. “Now I may be wrong, of course, but I think he’s very alive. Shows all the symptoms of it. Go have a look at him, and when I come back we’ll get together and decide.”

Dr. Reynolds’s step was young and brisk. Mr. Heck Tate’s was not. His heavy boots punished the porch and he opened the door awkwardly, but he said the same thing Dr. Reynolds said when he came in. “You all right, Scout?” he added.

“Yes sir, I’m goin‘ in to see Jem. Atticus’n’them’s in there.”

“I’ll go with you,” said Mr. Tate.

Aunt Alexandra had shaded Jem’s reading light with a towel, and his room was dim. Jem was lying on his back. There was an ugly mark along one side of his face. His left arm lay out from his body; his elbow was bent slightly, but in the wrong direction. Jem was frowning.

“Jem...?”

Atticus spoke. “He can’t hear you, Scout, he’s out like a light. He was coming around, but Dr. Reynolds put him out again.”

“Yes sir.” I retreated. Jem’s room was large and square. Aunt Alexandra was sitting in a rocking-chair by the fireplace. The man who brought Jem in was standing in a corner, leaning against the wall. He was some countryman I did not know. He had probably been at the pageant, and was in the vicinity when it happened. He must have heard our screams and come running.

Atticus was standing by Jem’s bed.

Mr. Heck Tate stood in the doorway. His hat was in his hand, and a flashlight bulged from his pants pocket. He was in his working clothes.

“Come in, Heck,” said Atticus. “Did you find anything? I can’t conceive of anyone low-down enough to do a thing like this, but I hope you found him.”

Mr. Tate sniffed. He glanced sharply at the man in the corner, nodded to him, then looked around the room—at Jem, at Aunt Alexandra, then at Atticus.

“Sit down, Mr. Finch,” he said pleasantly.

Atticus said, “Let’s all sit down. Have that chair, Heck. I’ll get another one from the livingroom.”

Mr. Tate sat in Jem’s desk chair. He waited until Atticus returned and settled himself. I wondered why Atticus had not brought a chair for the man in the corner, but Atticus knew the ways of country people far better than I. Some of his rural clients would park their long-eared steeds under the chinaberry trees in the back yard, and Atticus would often keep appointments on the back steps. This one was probably more comfortable where he was.

“Mr. Finch,” said Mr. Tate, “tell you what I found. I found a little girl's dress— it’s out there in my car. That your dress, Scout?”

“Yes sir, if it's a pink one with smockin4,” I said. Mr. Tate was behaving as if he were on the witness stand. He liked to tell things his own way, untrammeled by state or defense, and sometimes it took him a while.

“I found some funny-looking pieces of muddy-colored cloth—"

“That’s m’costume, Mr. Tate."

Mr. Tate ran his hands down his thighs. He rubbed his left arm and investigated Jem’s mantelpiece, then he seemed to be interested in the fireplace. His fingers sought his long nose.

“What is it, Heck?” said Atticus.

Mr. Tate found his neck and rubbed it. "Bob Ewell’s lyin‘ on the ground under that tree down yonder with a kitchen knife stuck up under his ribs. He’s dead, Mr. Finch.”

Chapter 29

Aunt Alexandra got up and reached for the mantelpiece. Mr. Tate rose, but she declined assistance. For once in his life, Atticus’s instinctive courtesy failed him: he sat where he was.

Somehow, I could think of nothing but Mr. Bob Ewell saying he’d get Atticus if it took him the rest of his life. Mr. Ewell almost got him, and it was the last thing he did.

“Are you sure?” Atticus said bleakly.

“He’s dead all right,” said Mr. Tate. “He’s good and dead. He won’t hurt these children again.”

“I didn’t mean that.” Atticus seemed to be talking in his sleep. His age was beginning to show, his one sign of inner turmoil, the strong line of his jaw melted a little, one became aware of telltale creases forming under his ears, one noticed not his jet-black hair but the gray patches growing at his temples.

“Hadn’t we better go to the livingroom?” Aunt Alexandra said at last.

“If you don’t mind,” said Mr. Tate, “I’d rather us stay in here if it won’t hurt Jem any. I want to have a look at his injuries while Scout... tells us about it.”

“Is it all right if I leave?” she asked. “I’m just one person too many in here. I’ll be in my room if you want me, Atticus.” Aunt Alexandra went to the door, but she stopped and turned. “Atticus, I had a feeling about this tonight—I—this is my fault,” she began. “I should have—”

Mr. Tate held up his hand. “You go ahead, Miss Alexandra, I know it’s been a shock to you. And don’t you fret yourself about anything—why, if we followed our feelings all the time we’d be like cats chasin‘ their tails. Miss Scout, see if you can tell us what happened, while it’s still fresh in your mind. You think you can? Did you see him following you?”

I went to Atticus and felt his arms go around me. I buried my head in his lap. “We started home. I said Jem, I’ve forgot m’shoes. Soon’s we started back for ‘em the

lights went out. Jem said I could get ’em tomorrow..

“Scout, raise up so Mr. Tate can hear you,” Atticus said. I crawled into his lap.

“Then Jem said hush a minute. I thought he was thinkin4 — he always wants you to hush so he can think—then he said he heard somethin’. We thought it was Cecil.”

“Cecil?”

“Cecil Jacobs. He scared us once tonight, an‘ we thought it was him again. He had on a sheet. They gave a quarter for the best costume, I don’t know who won it

“Where were you when you thought it was Cecil?”

“Just a little piece from the schoolhouse. I yelled somethin4 at him—”

“You yelled, what?”

“Cecil Jacobs is a big fat hen, I think. We didn’t hear nothin4 — then Jem yelled hello or somethin’ loud enough to wake the dead—”

“Just a minute, Scout,” said Mr. Tate. “Mr. Finch, did you hear them?”

Atticus said he didn’t. He had the radio on. Aunt Alexandra had hers going in her bedroom. He remembered because she told him to turn his down a bit so she could hear hers. Atticus smiled. “I always play a radio too loud.”

“I wonder if the neighbors heard anything...” said Mr. Tate.

“I doubt it, Heck. Most of them listen to their radios or go to bed with the chickens. Maudie Atkinson may have been up, but I doubt it.”

“Go ahead, Scout,” Mr. Tate said.

“Well, after Jem yelled we walked on. Mr. Tate, I was shut up in my costume but I could hear it myself, then. Footsteps, I mean. They walked when we walked and stopped when we stopped. Jem said he could see me because Mrs. Crenshaw put some kind of shiny paint on my costume. I was a ham.”

“How’s that?” asked Mr. Tate, startled.

Atticus described my role to Mr. Tate, plus the construction of my garment. “You should have seen her when she came in,” he said, “it was crushed to a pulp.”

Mr. Tate rubbed his chin. “I wondered why he had those marks on him, His sleeves were perforated with little holes. There were one or two little puncture marks on his arms to match the holes. Let me see that thing if you will, sir.”

Atticus fetched the remains of my costume. Mr. Tate turned it over and bent it around to get an idea of its former shape. “This thing probably saved her life,” he said. “Look.”

He pointed with a long forefinger. A shiny clean line stood out on the dull wire. “Bob Ewell meant business,” Mr. Tate muttered.

“He was out of his mind,” said Atticus.

“Don’t like to contradict you, Mr. Finch—wasn’t crazy, mean as hell. Low-down skunk with enough liquor in him to make him brave enough to kill children. He’d never have met you face to face.”

Atticus shook his head. “I can’t conceive of a man who’d—”

“Mr. Finch, there’s just some kind of men you have to shoot before you can say hidy to ‘em. Even then, they ain’t worth the bullet it takes to shoot ’em. Ewell ‘as one of ’em.”

Atticus said, “I thought he got it all out of him the day he threatened me. Even if he hadn’t, I thought he’d come after me.”

“He had guts enough to pester a poor colored woman, he had guts enough to pester Judge Taylor when he thought the house was empty, so do you think he’da met you to your face in daylight?” Mr. Tate sighed. “We’d better get on. Scout, you heard him behind you— ”

“Yes sir. When we got under the tree—”

“How’d you know you were under the tree, you couldn’t see thunder out there.” “I was barefooted, and Jem says the ground’s always cooler under a tree.”

“We’ll have to make him a deputy, go ahead.”

“Then all of a sudden somethin4 grabbed me an’ mashed my costume... think I ducked on the ground... heard a tusslin4 under the tree sort of... they were bammin’ against the trunk, sounded like. Jem found me and started pullin4 me toward the road. Some—Mr. Ewell yanked him down, I reckon. They tussled some more and then there was this funny noise—Jem hollered...” I stopped. That was Jem’s arm.

"Anyway, Jem hollered and I didn't hear him any more an‘ the next thing—Mr. Ewell was tryin' to squeeze me to death, I reckon... then somebody yanked Mr. Ewell down. Jem must have got up, I guess. That's all I know.

"And then?” Mr. Tate was looking at me sharply.

"Somebody was staggerin‘ around and pantin’ and—coughing fit to die. I thought it was Jem at first, but it didn't sound like him, so I went lookin' for Jem on the ground. I thought Atticus had come to help us and had got wore out—”

•‘Who was it?”

“Why there he is, Mr. Tate, he can tell you his name.”

As I said it, I half pointed to the man in the corner, but brought my arm down quickly lest Atticus reprimand me for pointing. It was impolite to point.

He was still leaning against the wall. He had been leaning against the wall when I came into the room, his arms folded across his chest. As I pointed he brought his arms down and pressed the palms of his hands against the wall. They were white hands, sickly white hands that had never seen the sun, so white they stood out garishly against the dull cream wall in the dim light of Jem's room.

I looked from his hands to his sand-stained khaki pants; my eyes traveled up his thin frame to his torn denim shirt. His face was as white as his hands, but for a shadow on his jutting chin. His cheeks were thin to hollowness; his mouth was wide; there were shallow, almost delicate indentations at his temples, and his gray eyes were so colorless I thought he was blind. His hair was dead and thin, almost feathery on top of his head.

When I pointed to him his palms slipped slightly, leaving greasy sweat streaks on the wall, and he hooked his thumbs in his belt. A strange small spasm shook him, as if he heard fingernails scrape slate, but as I gazed at him in wonder the tension slowly drained from his face. His lips parted into a timid smile, and our neighbor's image blurred with my sudden tears.

"Hey, Boo,” I said.

Chapter 30

“Mr. Arthur, honey,” said Atticus, gently correcting me. “Jean Louise, this is Mr. Arthur Radley. I believe he already knows you.”

If Atticus could blandly introduce me to Boo Radley at a time like this, well—that was Atticus.

Boo saw me run instinctively to the bed where Jem was sleeping, for the same shy smile crept across his face. Hot with embarrassment, I tried to cover up by covering Jem up.

“Ah-ah, don’t touch him,” Atticus said.

Mr. Heck Tate sat looking intently at Boo through his horn-rimmed glasses. He was about to speak when Dr. Reynolds came down the hall.

“Everybody out,” he said, as he came in the door. “Evenin4, Arthur, didn’t notice you the first time I was here.”

Dr. Reynolds’s voice was as breezy as his step, as though he had said it every evening of his life, an announcement that astounded me even more than being in the same room with Boo Radley. Of course... even Boo Radley got sick sometimes, I thought. But on the other hand I wasn’t sure.

Dr. Reynolds was carrying a big package wrapped in newspaper. He put it down on Jem’s desk and took off his coat. “You’re quite satisfied he’s alive, now? Tell you how I knew. When I tried to examine him he kicked me. Had to put him out good and proper to touch him. So scat,” he said to me.

“Er—” said Atticus, glancing at Boo. “Heck, let’s go out on the front porch.

There are plenty of chairs out there, and it’s still warm enough.”

I wondered why Atticus was inviting us to the front porch instead of the livingroom, then I understood. The livingroom lights were awfully strong.

We filed out, first Mr. Tate—Atticus was waiting at the door for him to go ahead of him. Then he changed his mind and followed Mr. Tate.

People have a habit of doing everyday things even under the oddest conditions. I

was no exception: “Come along, Mr. Arthur,” I heard myself saying, “you don’t know the house real well. I’ll just take you to the porch, sir.”

He looked down at me and nodded.

I led him through the hall and past the livingroom.

“Won’t you have a seat, Mr. Arthur? This rocking-chair’s nice and comfortable.”

My small fantasy about him was alive again: he would be sitting on the porch... right pretty spell we’re having, isn’t it, Mr. Arthur?

Yes, a right pretty spell. Feeling slightly unreal, I led him to the chair farthest from Atticus and Mr. Tate. It was in deep shadow. Boo would feel more comfortable in the dark.

Atticus was sitting in the swing, and Mr. Tate was in a chair next to him. The light from the livingroom windows was strong on them. I sat beside Boo.

“Well, Heck,” Atticus was saying, “I guess the thing to do—good Lord, I’m losing my memory...” Atticus pushed up his glasses and pressed his fingers to his eyes. “Jem’s not quite thirteen... no, he’s already thirteen—I can’t remember. Anyway, it’ll come before county court—”

“What will, Mr. Finch?” Mr. Tate uncrossed his legs and leaned forward.

“Of course it was clear-cut self defense, but I’ll have to go to the office and hunt up-”

“Mr. Finch, do you think Jem killed Bob Ewell? Do you think that?”

“You heard what Scout said, there’s no doubt about it. She said Jem got up and yanked him off her—he probably got hold of Ewell’s knife somehow in the dark... we’ll find out tomorrow.”

“Mis-ter Finch, hold on,” said Mr. Tate. “Jem never stabbed Bob Ewell.”

Atticus was silent for a moment. He looked at Mr. Tate as if he appreciated what he said. But Atticus shook his head.

“Heck, it’s mighty kind of you and I know you’re doing it from that good heart of yours, but don’t start anything like that.”

Mr. Tate got up and went to the edge of the porch. He spat into the shrubbery, then thrust his hands into his hip pockets and faced Atticus. “Like what?” he said.

“I’m sorry if I spoke sharply, Heck,” Atticus said simply, “but nobody’s hushing this up. I don’t live that way.”

“Nobody’s gonna hush anything up, Mr. Finch.”

Mr. Tate’s voice was quiet, but his boots were planted so solidly on the porch floorboards it seemed that they grew there. A curious contest, the nature of which eluded me, was developing between my father and the sheriff.

It was Atticus’s turn to get up and go to the edge of the porch. He said, “H’rm,” and spat dryly into the yard. He put his hands in his pockets and faced Mr. Tate.

“Heck, you haven’t said it, but I know what you’re thinking. Thank you for it.

Jean Louise—” he turned to me. “You said Jem yanked Mr. Ewell off you?”

“Yes sir, that’s what I thought... I—”

“See there, Heck? Thank you from the bottom of my heart, but I don’t want my boy starting out with something like this over his head. Best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open. Let the county come and bring sandwiches. I don’t want him growing up with a whisper about him, I don’t want anybody saying, ‘Jem Finch... his daddy paid a mint to get him out of that.’ Sooner we get this over with the better.”

“Mr. Finch,” Mr. Tate said stolidly, “Bob Ewell fell on his knife. He killed himself.”

Atticus walked to the corner of the porch. He looked at the wisteria vine. In his own way, I thought, each was as stubborn as the other. I wondered who would give in first. Atticus’s stubbornness was quiet and rarely evident, but in some ways he was as set as the Cunninghams. Mr. Tate’s was unschooled and blunt, but it was equal to my father’s.

“Heck,” Atticus’s back was turned. “If this thing’s hushed up it’ll be a simple denial to Jem of the way I’ve tried to raise him. Sometimes I think I’m a total failure as a parent, but I’m all they’ve got. Before Jem looks at anyone else he looks at me, and I’ve tried to live so I can look squarely back at him... if I connived at something like this, frankly I couldn’t meet his eye, and the day I can’t do that I’ll know I’ve lost him. I don’t want to lose him and Scout, because they’re all I’ve got.” “Mr. Finch.” Mr. Tate was still planted to the floorboards. “Bob Ewell fell on his knife. I can prove it.”

Atticus wheeled around. His hands dug into his pockets. “Heck, can’t you even try to see it my way? You’ve got children of your own, but I’m older than you. When mine are grown I’ll be an old man if I’m still around, but right now I’m—if they don’t trust me they won’t trust anybody. Jem and Scout know what happened. If they hear of me saying downtown something different happened— Heck, I won’t have them any more. I can’t live one way in town and another way in my home.”

Mr. Tate rocked on his heels and said patiently, “He’d flung Jem down, he stumbled over a root under that tree and—look, I can show you.”

Mr. Tate reached in his side pocket and withdrew a long switchblade knife. As he did so, Dr. Reynolds came to the door. “The son—deceased’s under that tree, doctor, just inside the schoolyard. Got a flashlight? Better have this one.”

“I can ease around and turn my car lights on,” said Dr. Reynolds, but he took Mr. Tate’s flashlight. “Jem’s all right. He won’t wake up tonight, I hope, so don’t worry. That the knife that killed him, Heck?”

“No sir, still in him. Looked like a kitchen knife from the handle. Ken oughta be there with the hearse by now, doctor, ‘night.”

Mr. Tate flicked open the knife. “It was like this,” he said. He held the knife and pretended to stumble; as he leaned forward his left arm went down in front of him. “See there? Stabbed himself through that soft stuff between his ribs. His whole weight drove it in.”

Mr. Tate closed the knife and jammed it back in his pocket. “Scout is eight years old,” he said. “She was too scared to know exactly what went on.”

“You’d be surprised,” Atticus said grimly.

“I’m not sayin‘ she made it up, I’m sayin’ she was too scared to know exactly what happened. It was mighty dark out there, black as ink. ‘d take somebody mighty used to the dark to make a competent witness.

“I won’t have it,” Atticus said softly.

“God damn it, I’m not thinking of Jem!"

Mr. Tate’s boot hit the floorboards so hard the lights in Miss Maudie’s bedroom went on. Miss Stephanie Crawford’s lights went on. Atticus and Mr. Tate looked across the street, then at each other. They waited.

When Mr. Tate spoke again his voice was barely audible. “Mr. Finch, I hate to fight you when you’re like this. You’ve been under a strain tonight no man should ever have to go through. Why you ain’t in the bed from it I don’t know, but I do know that for once you haven’t been able to put two and two together, and we’ve got to settle this tonight because tomorrow’ll be too late. Bob Ewell’s got a kitchen knife in his craw.”

Mr. Tate added that Atticus wasn’t going to stand there and maintain that any boy Jem’s size with a busted arm had fight enough left in him to tackle and kill a grown man in the pitch dark.

“Heck,” said Atticus abruptly, “that was a switchblade you were waving. Where’d you get it?”

“Took it off a drunk man,” Mr. Tate answered coolly.

I was trying to remember. Mr. Ewell was on me... then he went down... Jem must have gotten up. At least I thought...

“Heck?”

“I said I took it off a drunk man downtown tonight. Ewell probably found that kitchen knife in the dump somewhere. Honed it down and bided his time... just bided his time.”

Atticus made his way to the swing and sat down. His hands dangled limply between his knees. He was looking at the floor. He had moved with the same slowness that night in front of the jail, when I thought it took him forever to fold his newspaper and toss it in his chair.

Mr. Tate clumped softly around the porch. “It ain’t your decision, Mr. Finch, it’s all mine. It’s my decision and my responsibility. For once, if you don’t see it my way, there’s not much you can do about it. If you wanta try, I’ll call you a liar to your face. Your boy never stabbed Bob Ewell,” he said slowly, “didn’t come near a mile of it and now you know it. All he wanted to do was get him and his sister safely home.”

Mr. Tate stopped pacing. He stopped in front of Atticus, and his back was to us. “I’m not a very good man, sir, but I am sheriff of Maycomb County. Lived in this town all my life an‘ I’m goin’ on forty-three years old. Know everything that’s happened here since before I was born. There’s a black boy dead for no reason, and the man responsible for it’s dead. Let the dead bury the dead this time, Mr. Finch. Let the dead bury the dead.”

Mr. Tate went to the swing and picked up his hat. It was lying beside Atticus. Mr. Tate pushed back his hair and put his hat on.

“I never heard tell that it’s against the law for a citizen to do his utmost to prevent a crime from being committed, which is exactly what he did, but maybe you’ll say it’s my duty to tell the town all about it and not hush it up. Know what’d happen then? All the ladies in Maycomb includin4 my wife’d be knocking on his door bringing angel food cakes. To my way of thinkin’, Mr. Finch, taking the one man who’s done you and this town a great service an‘ draggin’ him with his shy ways into the limelight—to me, that’s a sin. It’s a sin and I’m not about to have it on my head. If it was any other man, it’d be different. But not this man, Mr. Finch.”

Mr. Tate was trying to dig a hole in the floor with the toe of his boot. He pulled his nose, then he massaged his left arm. “I may not be much, Mr. Finch, but I’m still sheriff of Maycomb County and Bob Ewell fell on his knife. Good night, sir.”

Mr. Tate stamped off the porch and strode across the front yard. His car door slammed and he drove away.

Atticus sat looking at the floor for a long time. Finally he raised his head.

“Scout,” he said, “Mr. Ewell fell on his knife. Can you possibly understand?”

Atticus looked like he needed cheering up. 1 ran to him and hugged him and kissed him with all my might. “Yes sir, 1 understand,” I reassured him. “Mr. Tate was right.”

Atticus disengaged himself and looked at me. “What do you mean?”

“Well, it’d be sort of like shootin4 a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”

Atticus put his face in my hair and rubbed it. When he got up and walked across the porch into the shadows, his youthful step had returned. Before he went inside

the house, he stopped in front of Boo Radley. “Thank you for my children, Arthur,” he said.

Chapter 31

When Boo Radley shuffled to his feet, light from the livingroom windows glistened on his forehead. Every move he made was uncertain, as if he were not sure his hands and feet could make proper contact with the things he touched. He coughed his dreadful raling cough, and was so shaken he had to sit down again. His hand searched for his hip pocket, and he pulled out a handkerchief. He coughed into it, then he wiped his forehead.

Having been so accustomed to his absence, I found it incredible that he had been sitting beside me all this time, present. He had not made a sound.

Once more, he got to his feet. He turned to me and nodded toward the front door.

“You’d like to say good night to Jem, wouldn’t you, Mr. Arthur? Come right in.”

I led him down the hall. Aunt Alexandra was sitting by Jem’s bed. “Come in, Arthur,” she said. “He’s still asleep. Dr. Reynolds gave him a heavy sedative.

Jean Louise, is your father in the livingroom?”

“Yes ma’am, I think so.”

“I’ll just go speak to him a minute. Dr. Reynolds left some...” her voice trailed away.

Boo had drifted to a corner of the room, where he stood with his chin up, peering from a distance at Jem. I took him by the hand, a hand surprisingly warm for its whiteness. I tugged him a little, and he allowed me to lead him to Jem’s bed.

Dr. Reynolds had made a tent-like arrangement over Jem’s arm, to keep the cover off, I guess, and Boo leaned forward and looked over it. An expression of timid curiosity was on his face, as though he had never seen a boy before. His mouth was slightly open, and he looked at Jem from head to foot. Boo’s hand came up, but he let it drop to his side.

“You can pet him, Mr. Arthur, he’s asleep. You couldn’t if he was awake, though, he wouldn’t let you...” I found myself explaining. “Go ahead.”

Boo’s hand hovered over Jem’s head.

“Go on, sir, he’s asleep.”

His hand came down lightly on Jem’s hair.

I was beginning to learn his body English. His hand tightened on mine and he indicated that he wanted to leave.

I led him to the front porch, where his uneasy steps halted. He was still holding my hand and he gave no sign of letting me go.

“Will you take me home?”

He almost whispered it, in the voice of a child afraid of the dark.

I put my foot on the top step and stopped. I would lead him through our house, but I would never lead him home.

“Mr. Arthur, bend your arm down here, like that. That’s right, sir.”

I slipped my hand into the crook of his arm.

He had to stoop a little to accommodate me, but if Miss Stephanie Crawford was watching from her upstairs window, she would see Arthur Radley escorting me down the sidewalk, as any gentleman would do.

We came to the street light on the corner, and I wondered how many times Dill had stood there hugging the fat pole, watching, waiting, hoping. I wondered how many times Jem and I had made this journey, but I entered the Radley front gate for the second time in my life. Boo and I walked up the steps to the porch. His fingers found the front doorknob. He gently released my hand, opened the door, went inside, and shut the door behind him. I never saw him again.

Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.

I turned to go home. Street lights winked down the street all the way to town. I had never seen our neighborhood from this angle. There were Miss Maudie’s, Miss Stephanie’s—there was our house, I could see the porch swing—Miss Rachel’s house was beyond us, plainly visible. I could even see Mrs. Dubose’s.

I looked behind me. To the left of the brown door was a long shuttered window. I walked to it, stood in front of it, and turned around. In daylight, I thought, you could see to the postoffice corner.

Daylight... in my mind, the night faded. It was daytime and the neighborhood was busy. Miss Stephanie Crawford crossed the street to tell the latest to Miss Rachel. Miss Maudie bent over her azaleas. It was summertime, and two children scampered down the sidewalk toward a man approaching in the distance. The man waved, and the children raced each other to him.

It was still summertime, and the children came closer. A boy trudged down the sidewalk dragging a fishingpole behind him. A man stood waiting with his hands on his hips. Summertime, and his children played in the front yard with their friend, enacting a strange little drama of their own invention.

It was fall, and his children fought on the sidewalk in front of Mrs. Dubose’s. The boy helped his sister to her feet, and they made their way home. Fall, and his children trotted to and fro around the corner, the day’s woes and triumphs on their faces. They stopped at an oak tree, delighted, puzzled, apprehensive.

Winter, and his children shivered at the front gate, silhouetted against a blazing house. Winter, and a man walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog.

Summer, and he watched his children’s heart break. Autumn again, and Boo’s children needed him.

Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.

The street lights were fuzzy from the fine rain that was falling. As I made my way home, I felt very old, but when I looked at the tip of my nose I could see fine

misty beads, but looking cross-eyed made me dizzy so I quit. As I made my way home, I thought what a thing to tell Jem tomorrow. He’d be so mad he missed it he wouldn’t speak to me for days. As I made my way home, I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn’t much else left for us to learn, except possibly algebra.

I ran up the steps and into the house. Aunt Alexandra had gone to bed, and Atticus’s room was dark. I would see if Jem might be reviving. Atticus was in Jem’s room, sitting by his bed. He was reading a book.

“Is Jem awake yet?”

“Sleeping peacefully. He won’t be awake until morning.”

“Oh. Are you sittin‘ up with him?”

“Just for an hour or so. Go to bed, Scout. You’ve had a long day.”

“Well, I think I’ll stay with you for a while.”

“Suit yourself,” said Atticus. It must have been after midnight, and I was puzzled by his amiable acquiescence. He was shrewder than I, however: the moment I sat down I began to feel sleepy.

“Whatcha readin‘ ?” I asked.

Atticus turned the book over. “Something of Jem’s. Called The Gray Ghost.”

I was suddenly awake. “Why’d you get that one?”

“Honey, I don’t know. Just picked it up. One of the few things I haven’t read,” he said pointedly.

“Read it out loud, please, Atticus. It’s real scary.”

“No,” he said. “You’ve had enough scaring for a while. This is too—”

“Atticus, I wasn’t scared.”

He raised his eyebrows, and I protested: “Leastways not till I started telling Mr. Tate about it. Jem wasn’t scared. Asked him and he said he wasn’t. Besides, nothin’s real scary except in books.”

Atticus opened his mouth to say something, but shut it again. He took his thumb from the middle of the book and turned back to the first page. I moved over and leaned my head against his knee. “H’rm,” he said. "The Gray Ghost, by Seckatary

Hawkins. Chapter One...”

I willed myself to stay awake, but the rain was so soft and the room was so warm and his voice was so deep and his knee was so snug that I slept.

Seconds later, it seemed, his shoe was gently nudging my ribs. He lifted me to my feet and walked me to my room. “Heard every word you said,” I muttered. “... wasn’t sleep at all, ‘s about a ship an’ Three-Fingered Fred ‘n’ Stoner’s Boy.

He unhooked my overalls, leaned me against him, and pulled them off. He held me up with one hand and reached for my pajamas with the other.

“Yeah, an‘ they all thought it was Stoner’s Boy messin’ up their clubhouse an‘ throwin’ ink all over it an‘... ”

He guided me to the bed and sat me down. He lifted my legs and put me under the cover.

“An‘ they chased him ’n‘ never could catch him ’cause they didn’t know what he looked like, an‘ Atticus, when they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done any of those things... Atticus, he was real nice...”

His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me.

“Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.

DMU Timestamp: December 19, 2018 18:14