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To Kill A Mockingbird, Chapters 25-31

Author: Harper Lee

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Chapter 25

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

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Mar 5
Addy Bonesso (Mar 05 2020 2:30PM) : One September evening, Jem makes Scout put a pill bug outside rather than squish it.
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“Jem, are you crazy?...”

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“Why couldn’t I mash him?” I asked.

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

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“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.”

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“Aw dry up,” he answered drowsily.

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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

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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—

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Mar 5
Addy Bonesso (Mar 05 2020 2:32PM) : Scout starts thinking of Dill
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Taught him to swim. I was wide awake, remembering what Dill had told me.

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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.

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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.”

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

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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.

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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?”

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

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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.

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Mar 5
Addy Bonesso (Mar 05 2020 2:35PM) : Imagery
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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.

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Neither did Atticus.

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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Mar 5
Addy Bonesso (Mar 05 2020 2:38PM) : metaphor
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Mar 5
Addy Bonesso (Mar 05 2020 2:40PM) : that statement I feel is very powerful

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.

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Chapter 26

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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.

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Addy Bonesso (Mar 05 2020 2:42PM) : School starts. Scout seldom sees Jem, since he’s in 7th grade and stays out late carrying water for the football team.
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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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Mar 6
Addy Bonesso (Mar 06 2020 9:43AM) : Boo is the least of Scout’s worries, however, since classmates still taunt Scout and Jem about Atticus’s role in Tom’s case.
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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.

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

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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

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Robinson’s existence was ever brought to their attention.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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

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

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“Persecuting Cecil.

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“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—”

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“Washing the feeble-minded?”

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“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,

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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.”

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

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

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“Who do what?” asked Miss Gates patiently.

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“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.

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“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?”

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“Us,” somebody said.

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

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

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

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“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.’”

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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.”

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

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“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.”

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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?”

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Addy Bonesso (Mar 06 2020 9:43AM) : One week during Scout’s current events period, Cecil Jacobs brings in an article about how Hitler is persecuting Jewish and disabled people in Germany.
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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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

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“But it’s okay to hate Hitler?”

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

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“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—”

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“I should think she would.”

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“But-”

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“Yes?”

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“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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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“She hates Hitler a lot... ”

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Addy Bonesso (Mar 06 2020 9:44AM) : She seeks out Jem and notes that Miss Gates hates Hitler, but she also heard Miss Gates after the trial saying that the black folks in Maycomb are getting above themselves.
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“What’s wrong with that?”

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“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?”

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

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“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—”

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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!”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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Chapter 27

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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.

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Addy Bonesso (Mar 06 2020 9:44AM) : Just as Atticus promised, things settle down in October. Three things happen, however: first, Mr. Ewell gets a job with the WPA, but they fire him within days.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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“Ewell?” he called. “I say Ewell!”

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The windows, normally packed with children, were empty.

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“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.

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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—”

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“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—”

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

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“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!”

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

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“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?”

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“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.”

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“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... ”

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“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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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!”

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Addy Bonesso (Mar 06 2020 10:31AM) : One more stern conversation with Mr. Deas makes Mr. Ewell stop
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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Addy Bonesso (Mar 06 2020 10:32AM) : This makes Aunt Alexandra nervous, and she doesn’t understand why Mr. Ewell is behaving this way when he won in court.
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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.

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‘“s matter, Aunty?” I asked.

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“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.

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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.

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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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Contents - Prev / Next

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Chapter 28

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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.

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Addy Bonesso (Mar 06 2020 10:33AM) : The weather is unusually warm, but there’s no moon
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“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.

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

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

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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.”

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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,

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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.

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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.”

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Mar 6
Addy Bonesso (Mar 06 2020 10:33AM) : Scout and Jem are no longer afraid of Boo Radley, but they laugh about the silly superstitions they used to believe in
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“You should have brought the flashlight, Jem.”

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“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.”

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Someone leaped at us.

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“God almighty!” Jem yelled.

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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!”

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

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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.

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“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.

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

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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

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

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“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.

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“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.

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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.

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