mockingbird chapter 15


School started. The second grade was as bad as the first, only worse — they still flashed cards at you and didn’t let you read or write. The best thing about the second grade was that this year I had to stay as late as Jem, and we usually walked home together at three o’clock.

As we went home one afternoon, Jem told me, for the first time, how he had found his pants that night. «They were folded across the fence… like they were expectin’ me, and they’d been sewed up.»

«Sewed up?»

«But not like a lady sewed ’em, like somethin’ I’d try to do. It’s almost like-»

«- somebody knew you were cornin’ back for ’em.»

«Like somebody was reading my mind… like somebody knew what I was gonna do.»

When we reached our tree, we saw a ball of gray twine in the knothole.

I said that it was somebody’s hiding place and we shouldn’t take it.

«Okay, you may be right,» said Jem. «Maybe, it’s some little kid’s place — hides his things from the bigger folks.

We went home. Next morning the twine was where we had left it. When it was still there on the third day, Jem pocketed it. From then on, we considered everything we found in the knothole our property.

In October, our knothole stopped us again. Something white was inside this time. I pulled out two small figures made of soap. One was the figure of a boy, the other wore a dress. They were almost perfect miniatures of two children. The boy had on shorts, and a lock of soapy hair fell to his eyebrows. I looked up at Jem. A lock of straight brown hair fell downwards from his part. I had never noticed it before.

Jem looked from the girl-doll to me. The girl-doll wore bangs. So did I.

«These are us,» he said.

«Who did ’em, you reckon?»

Jem stared at me so long I asked what was the matter, but got «Nothing, Scout», for an answer. At home, Jem put the dolls in his trunk. Less than two weeks later, we found a whole package of chewing gum. Jem decided to forget that everything on the Radley Place was poison, and we enjoyed it. Then we found a tarnished medal in the knothole. Jem showed it to Atticus, who said that it, was a spelling medal, that before we were born, the Maycomb County schools had spelling contests and awarded medals to the winners. Jem asked Atticus if he remembered anybody who ever won such medal, and Atticus said no.

Our biggest prize appeared four days later. It was a pocket watch that didn’t work, on a chain with an aluminum knife.

Jem and I decided to write a thank-you letter and put it in the knothole.

«Dear sir,» Jem wrote. «We appreciate everything which you have put into the tree for us. Yours very truly, Jem Finch.» And I signed, «Jean Louise Finch (Scout).»

Next morning on the way to school, we found that someone had filled our knothole with cement.

«Don’t you cry, now, Scout… don’t cry now, don’t you worry-» Jem tried to calm me all the way to school.

When we went home for dinner, Jem stood on the steps of the porch and looked down the street. «Hasn’t passed by yet,» he said when I joined him.

Next day Jem stood on the steps again and was rewarded.

«Hidy do, Mr. Nathan,» he said.

«Morning Jem, Scout,» said Mr. Radley, as he went by. «Mr. Radley, ah — did you put cement in that hole in that tree down yonder?»

«Yes,» Mr. Radley turned around. «I filled it up.»

«Why’d you do it, sir?»

«Tree’s dying. You plug ’em with cement when they’re sick. You ought to know that, Jem.»

As usual, we met Atticus coming home from work that evening. When we were at our steps, Jem said, «Atticus, look down yonder at that tree, please sir.»

«What tree, son?»

«The one on the comer of the Radley lot.»


«Is that tree dyin’?»

«Why no, son, I don’t think so. Look at the leaves, they’re all green and full, no brown patches anywhere-»

«It ain’t even sick?»

«That tree’s as healthy as you are, Jem. Why?»

«Mr. Nathan Radley said it was dyin’.»

«Well maybe it is. I’m sure Mr. Radley knows more about his trees than we do.»

Atticus left us on the porch. Jem stood by a pillar with his back to me for a long time, saying nothing.

I waited for him. When we went in the house, I saw that he had been crying; his face was dirty in the right places.


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