mockingbird chapter 23



That summer Jem changed a lot and very quickly. He didn’t want to play with me and often told me to leave him alone. When I complained to Atticus and Calpumia, they just said that Jem was growing and I was to be patient with him and not to disturb him. Then I received a letter from Dill. He had a new father, and they planned to build a fishing boat, so he wasn’t going to come to Maycomb. I felt very sad about it for two days.

The state legislature session began in Montgomery, and Atticus left us for two weeks. The Governor was worried by the situation in the state; there were sit-down strikes in Birmingham; bread lines in the cities grew longer, people in the country grew poorer. But these events were far from the world of Jem and me.

On Saturday, Calpumia said that as our father was not at home and couldn’t take us to church on Sunday, she was going to take us to her church with her.

First Purchase African Church was outside the southern town limits. It was called First Purchase because it was paid for from the first earnings of freed slaves. Negroes worshiped in it on Sundays and white men gambled in it on weekdays.

The churchyard was full of brightly dressed Negroes. When they saw Jem and me with Calpumia, they parted and made a small pathway to the church door for us. But one woman behind us said that white children had no place in the Negro church.

Calpumia said, «It’s the same God, ain’t it?»

Jem said, «Let’s go home, Cal, they don’t want us here-» But one of the men stepped from the crowd. It was Zeebo, the garbage collector. «Mister Jem,» he said, «we’re mighty glad to have you all here.» Calpumia led us to the church door where Reverend Sykes greeted us and led us to the front row.

Reverend Sykes said, «Brethren and sisters, we are especially glad to have company with us this morning. Mister and Miss Finch. You all know their father. Before I begin I will make an announcement.» He said, «You all know of Brother Tom Robinson’s trouble. He has been a faithful member of First Purchase since he was a boy. Today’s collection and the collections for the next three Sundays will go to Helen — his wife, to help her out at home.»

Then the church started. The surprising thing was: they didn’t have any hymn-books in the church. Zeebo had an old hymnbook and he read lines from it. A hundred voices repeated line for line after him. (Calpumia told us afterwards that most Negroes couldn’t read, so there was no need for hymn-books.)

After hymns, Reverend Sykes made his sermon. It was not different from our church practice. When Reverend Sykes closed his sermon, he said it was time for morning collection. That procedure was strange for Jem and me. The congregation, one by one, came up to the table where Reverend stood and put their nickels and dimes into a coffee can. We had our dimes, but Calpumia told us to keep them and gave us the money from her purse. We dropped the dimes into the can and received a soft, «Thank you, thank you.»

To our surprise, Reverend Sykes turned the can over onto the table, counted the coins, and said, «This is not enough, we must have ten dollars. You know that Helen can’t leave her children and go to work while Tom’s in jail. If everybody gives one more dime, we’ll have it»

The congregation didn’t move. Reverend Sykes told someone in the back of the church. «Alec, shut the doors. Nobody leaves here till we have ten dollars.»

Calpumia wanted to give us more money but Jem whispered that we would put our dimes.

Reverend Sykes said again, «Those, who haven’t got children, make a sacrifice and give one more dime. Then we’ll have it.»

It took some time, but finally, the ten dollars was collected.

On the way back home, I asked Calpurnia why Helen couldn’t find work while Tom Robinson was in jail.

Calpumia said, «Folks don’t want to — to have anything to do with any of his family because of what folks say Tom’s done.»

When I wanted to know just what he had done, Calpumia sighed.

«Old Mr. Bob Ewell said that Tom had raped his daughter an’ had him arrested an’ put in jail-»

I remembered that Atticus called the Ewells absolute trash. He never said so about anybody else.

«Well, if everybody in Maycomb knows what kind of folks the Ewells are, they’d be glad to give Helen work… what’s rape, Cal?»

«It’s somethin’ you’ll have to ask Mr. Finch about,» she said. «He can explain it better than I can.»

Jem said, «We know that you can read, Cal. Where’d you go to school?»

«Let’s see now, who taught me my letters? It was Miss Maudie Atkinson’s aunt, old Miss Buford.»

«Cal, did you teach Zeebo?»

«Yeah, Mister Jem. There wasn’t a school even when he was a boy. I made him learn, though.»

Zeebo was Calpurnia’s eldest son.

I said, «Cal, can I come to see you sometimes?»

She looked down at me. «See me, honey? You see me every day.»

«Out to your house,» I said. «Sometimes after work? Atticus can get me.»

«Any time you want to,» she said. «We’d be glad to have you.»


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