Atticus allowed us to go over and sit by Miss Rachel’s fish pool with Dill, as this was his last night in Maycomb. «Tell him so long for me, and we’ll see him next summer.»
A gigantic moon was rising behind Miss Maudie’s house. Dill said, «I know what, let’s go for a walk.»
He sounded fishy to me. Nobody in Maycomb just went for a walk. «Whereto, Dill?»
Dill jerked his head in a southerly direction.
When I protested, Jem said sweetly, «You don’t have to come along Angel May.»
«You shouldn’t go. Remember-»
«Scout, we ain’t gonna do anything, we’re just goin’ to the street light and back.» It seemed that Jem only remembered one message from Atticus: the example in the art of cross-examination.
We walked silently down the sidewalk. After a while Jem said, «Why don’t you go on home, Scout?»
«What are you gonna do?»
Dill and Jem were simply going to peep in the window with the loose shutter and see if they could get a look at Boo Radley, and if I didn’t want to go with them I could go straight home and keep my mouth shut, that was all.
«But why did you wait till tonight?»
Because nobody could see them at night, because Atticus would be deep in a book and wouldn’t hear anything, because if Boo Radley killed them they’d miss school instead of vacation, and because it was easier to see inside a dark house in the dark than in the daytime, did I understand?
«Scout, I’m tellin’ you for the last time, shut your mouth or go home. You’re gettin’ more like a girl every day!»
That left me no option. I joined them. We decided that it was better to go under the high wire fence at the back of the Radley lot, we stood less chance of being seen.
Fist Jem held up the bottom wire for Dill and me, then I held up the wire for Jem. It was a tight squeeze for him. «Don’t make a sound,» he whispered.
Stealthily, we came to the gate that divided the garden from the back yard. Jem touched it. The gate squeaked.
«Spit on it,» whispered Dill.
We spat ourselves dry, and Jem opened the gate slowly. We were in the back yard. We crept to the side of the house, around to the window with the hanging shutter. The sill was several inches taller than Jem. We decided to make a saddle for Dill. Jem grabbed his left wrist and my right wrist, I grabbed my left wrist and Jem’s right wrist, we crouched, and Dill sat on our saddle. We raised him and he caught the windowsill.
After we lowered him to the ground, Jem asked, «What’d you see?»
«Nothing. Curtains. There’s a little light way off somewhere, though.»
«Let’s get away from here,» Jem whispered. «Let’s go ’round in back again. Sh-h,» he warned me, as I wanted to protest.
There were two windows on the back porch of the house.
«Let’s try the back window,» Dill said.
«Dill, no,» I said.
Dill stopped and let Jem go ahead. When Jem put his foot on the bottom step, the step squeaked. I le stood still, then slowly tried again. The step was silent. When lie got on the porch, Jem dropped to his knees. He crawled to the window, raised his head and looked in.
Then I saw the shadow. It was the shadow of a man with a hat on. The back porch was bathed in moonlight, and the shadow moved across the porch toward Jem.
Dill saw it next. He put his hands to his face.
When it crossed Jem, Jem saw it. He put his arms over his head and froze.
The shadow stopped, then turned and moved back across Jem, walked along the porch and off the side of the house, returning as it had come.
Jem jumped off the porch and galloped toward us. He opened the gate, and we ran to the wire fence. Suddenly the roar of a shotgun shattered the neighborhood. We all dropped down. «Fence by the schoolyard! — hurry, Scout!» Jem’s voice was breathless.
Jem held the bottom wire; Dill and I rolled through and were halfway to the shelter of the schoolyard’s oak tree when we felt that Jem was not with us. We ran back and saw that his pants got caught in the wire. He kicked his pants off and ran to the oak tree in his shorts.
Jem didn’t let us stay long there: «We gotta get home, they’ll miss us.»
We ran to our back fence and stopped only when we were in our back yard. When our breath became normal, the three of us walked quietly to the front yard. We looked down the street and saw a circle of neighbors at the Radley front gate.
«We better go down there,» said Jem. «They’ll think it’s funny if we don’t show up.»
Mr. Nathan Radley was standing inside his gate, a shotgun in his arm. Atticus was standing beside Miss Maudie and Miss Stephanie Crawford. Miss Rachel and Mr. Avery were nearby. None of them saw us.
We stopped beside Miss Maudie and she looked around. «Where were you all, didn’t you hear the shot?»
«What happened?» asked Jem.
«Mr. Radley shot at a Negro in his chicken patch.»
«Oh. Did he shoot him?»
«No,» said Miss Stephanie. «Shot in the air. Scared him pale, though. Says if anybody sees a white nigger around, that’s the one. Says if he hears another sound in that patch, he won’t aim high, be it dog, nigger, or — Jem Finch!»