mockingbird chapter 24


We were on the sidewalk by the Radley Place. Jem pointed to our porch. «Look yonder!»

I looked down the street. Aunt Alexandra was sitting in a rocking chair on our porch exactly as if she had sat there every day of her life.

Aunt Alexandra said that she had come to stay with us for a while. «For a while» in Maycomb meant anything from three days to thirty years. Jem and I exchanged glances.

«Your father and I decided that it would be best for you to have some feminine influence,» she said to me.

I had an idea, however, that Aunt Alexandra’s appearance on the scene was not so much Atticus’s decision as hers. Aunty always knew What Is Best For The Family, and I think her arrival was in that category.

Maycomb welcomed her. Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a cake; Miss Stephanie Crawford came for long visits with Aunt Alexandra, and Aunt Alexandra made most of the talking. Miss Rachel had Aunty over for coffee in the afternoons, and Mr. Nathan Radley even came into the front yard and said he was glad to see her.

Aunt Alexandra joined all ladies’ Societies and Clubs in Maycomb and actively participated in the life of the county. She was sure of her family superiority over all and everyone, always knew what is right and what is wrong. She disapproved of my and Jem’s behavior and said that it was our father’s fault: he hadn’t taught us to be proud of the Finch Family.

One evening before bedtime, Atticus came to Jem’s room where we were sitting and said, «Your aunt has asked me to tell you and Jean Louise that you are not from run-of-the-mill people, that you are the product of several generations’ gentle breeding and you must try to behave like the little lady and gentleman that you are.»

Jem and I looked at each other in silence. For no reason I began to cry. This was not my father. My father never thought these thoughts. My father never spoke so. Aunt Alexandra had made him do this, somehow.

«Atticus, is all this behavin’ an’ stuff gonna make things different? I mean are you-?»

Atticus put his hand on my head. «Don’t you worry about anything,» he said. «It’s not time to worry.»

We didn’t hear about the Finch family from Aunt Alexandra anymore, but as we went to town on Saturdays, we sometimes heard, «There’s his chillun,» or, «Yonder’s some Finches.» One evening, when we all were in the living room, I told Atticus about our visit to First Purchase Church and asked him if I could come out to Calpurnia’s house some afternoon. «Atticus, I’ll go next Sunday if it’s all right, can I?»

«You may not,» Aunt Alexandra said.

«I didn’t ask you!» I said.

Atticus said very sternly, «Apologize to your aunt.» After I said «I’m sorry, Aunty,» Atticus said, «Let’s get this clear: you do as Calpumia tells you, you do as I tell you, and as long as your aunt’s in this house, you will do as she tells you. Understand?»

I understood, turned and left the living room as if I wanted to go to the bathroom. I stayed there some time. On the way, back I stopped in the hall. In the living room, an angry discussion was going on. According to Aunt Alexandra, Calpumia’s influence was not good for us, and especially for me. She said, «We don’t need her now.»

Atticus said calmly, «Alexandra, Calpumia’s not leaving this house until she wants to. We still need Cal as much as we ever did.» He also said that she was a faithful member of our family and that her standards of upbringing were pretty good.

«And another thing,» Atticus said, «the children love her.» Atticus had returned to his newspaper and Aunt Alexandra was angrily pushing her needle through her embroidery when I entered the living room. Jem got up and led me from the living room to his room. He closed the door. His face was very serious.

Jem asked me not to antagonize Aunty because Atticus had enough problems without domestic troubles. But I didn’t understand him. I got mad because I thought he was telling me what to do.

«You tryin’ to tell me what to do? Who do you think you are?»

«Now I mean it, Scout, you antagonize Aunty and I’ll — I’ll spank you.»

That was too much. «You damn morphodite, I’ll kill you!» My fist landed on his mouth. And the fight started. We were still struggling when Atticus separated us.

«That’s all,» he said. «Both of you go to bed right now.»

«Taah!» I said at Jem. He was being sent to bed at my bedtime.

«Who started it?» asked Atticus.

«Jem did. He was tryin’ to tell me what to do. I don’t have to obey him now, do I?»

Atticus smiled. «Let’s leave it at this: you obey Jem whenever he can make you. Fair enough?»

Aunt Alexandra was present but silent, and when she went down the hall with Atticus we heard her words «… just what I’ve been telling you about.» That united us again.

As I closed the door between our rooms, Jem said, «Night, Scout.»

«Night,» I answered and went across the room to turn on the light. As I passed the bed, I stepped on something warm and springy. When I switched on the light and looked at the floor by the bed, that something was not there. I called Jem.


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