We stopped the game for a while. However, Jem still said that Atticus hadn’t said we couldn’t, therefore we could; and if Atticus ever said we couldn’t, Jem had thought of a way around it: he would simply change the names of the characters and then we couldn’t be accused of playing anything.
Dill was in hearty agreement with this plan of action. Dill was disappointing me anyway, following Jem about. He had asked me earlier in the summer to marry him, then he soon forgot about it. He marked me as his property, said I was the only girl he would ever love, then he neglected me. I beat him up twice but it did no good, he only grew closer to Jem. They .pent days together in the tree house, called me only when they needed a third party. But I stayed away from their more foolish schemes for a while, and after being called a girl, I spent most of I he remaining twilights that summer sitting with Miss Maudie Atkinson on her front porch.
Miss Maudie was a widow. Most of her days she worked with her flowers in her front yard. Until Jem and Dill excluded me from their plans, Miss Maudie was only another lady in the neighborhood, but a kind-hearted person. She allowed us to play on her lawn if we kept out of her azaleas, and we could lively run in her large back yard. We seldom spoke to her, but loin and Dill drove me closer to her with their behavior.
Miss Maudie made the best cakes in the neighborhood.
Every time she baked, she made a big cake and three little ones, and she would call across the street: «Jem Finch, Scout I inch, Charles Baker Harris, come here!» She always called us by all our names.
In summertime, twilights are long and peaceful. Miss Maudie and I often sat silently on her porch. We watched the sunset and birds flying low over the neighborhood and disappearing behind the schoolhouse rooftops.
«Miss Maudie,» I said one evening, «do you think Boo Radley’s still alive?»
«His name’s Arthur and he’s alive,» she said. She was rocking slowly in her big oak chair. «Do you smell my mimosa? It’s like angels’ breath this evening.»
«Yessum. How do you know?»
«Know what, child?»
«That B — Mr. Arthur’s still alive?»
«What a strange question. I know he’s alive, Jean Louise, because I haven’t seen him carried out yet.»
«Maybe he died and they stuffed him up the chimney.»
«Where did you get such an idea?»
«Jem said that he thought so.»
«S-ss-ss. He gets more like Jack Finch every day.»
Miss Maudie and Uncle Jack Finch, Atticus’s brother, were nearly the same age, they had grown up together at Finch’s Landing. Miss Maudie was the daughter of a neighboring landowner, Dr. Frank Buford. Dr. Buford’s profession was medicine and his passion was anything that grew in the ground, so he stayed poor. Uncle Jack Finch satisfied his passion for digging in his window boxes in Nashville and stayed rich. Uncle Jack stayed with us every Christmas, and every Christmas he yelled across the street to Miss Maudie that she should come and marry him. Miss Maudie yelled back, «Call a little louder, Jack Finch, and they’ll hear you at the post office, I haven’t heard you yet!» Jem and I thought this a strange way to ask for a lady’s hand in marriage, but then Uncle Jack was rather strange. He said he was trying to get Miss Maudie’s goat, that he had been trying unsuccessfully for forty years, that he was the last person in the world Miss Maudie would marry but the first person she would tease, and the best defense to her was active offense, all of which we understood clearly.
«Arthur Radley just stays in the house, that’s all,» said Miss Maudie.
«Why doesn’t he want to come out?»
Miss Maudie said, «You know that story as well as I do.»
«But nobody ever told me why.»
Miss Maudie tried to explain. «You know old Mr. Radley was a foot-washing Baptist-»
«But you’re a Baptist too. Don’t you all believe in foot-washing?»
«We do. At home in the bathtub. But foot-washers believe that any pleasure is a sin. Some of them came out of the woods one Saturday and passed by this place and told me that I and my flowers were going to hell.»
«Your flowers, too?»
«Yes ma’am, They’d bum right with me. They thought I spent too much time in God’s outdoors and not enough time inside the house reading the Bible.»
«That ain’t right, Miss Maudie. You’re the best lady I know.»
Miss Maudie smiled. «Thank you ma’am. Thing is, foot- washers think women are a sin by definition. They take the Bible literally, you know. And sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of — oh, of your father.»
I was shocked. «Atticus doesn’t drink whiskey. He said he drank some one time and didn’t like it,» I said.
Miss Maudie laughed. «Wasn’t talking about your father,» she said. «I just wanted to say that if Atticus Finch drank until he was drunk he wouldn’t be as hard as some men are at their best. There are some people who’re so busy worrying about the next world that they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.»