«I think there’s a snake under my bed. Can you come look?»
Jem brought the broom from the kitchen. «You better get up on the bed,» he said. Our houses were built on stone blocks a few feet above the ground, and the entry of reptiles was not unknown. One morning, Miss Rachel Haverford once found a snake in her bedroom closet when she went to hang up her negligee. Ever since that time it was her excuse for a glass of whiskey every morning.
Jem probed with the broom under the bed. No snake came out. Jem probed again.
«Do snakes grunt?»
«It ain’t a snake,» Jem said. «It’s somebody.»
Suddenly Dill’s head appeared from under the bed. He said, «Hey.»
We were speechless.
«Got anything to eat?» asked Dill.
I went to the kitchen and brought him some milk and half a pan of corn bread left over from supper. Dill ate it hungrily. I finally found my voice. «How’d you get here?»
Dill had run away from home. He had taken thirteen dollars from his mother’s purse for the train ticket. But he had to walk ten or eleven miles from the station. He didn’t want to be found by the authorities, so he didn’t walk along the highway, but through the bushes. He said that he had been under the bed for two hours. At first, he had wanted to come out and help me beat Jem, as Jem had grown far taller, but he knew Mr. Finch would break it up soon, so he thought it best to stay where he was. He was tired, very dirty, and home.
«I think you ought to let your mother know where you are,» said Jem. He went to call Atticus.
When Atticus came, Dill’s face went white.
I said, «It’s okay, Dill. He won’t bother you. You ain’t scared of Atticus.»
«I’m not scared…» Dill muttered.
«Just hungry, I’m sure.» Atticus said in his usual voice. «Scout, we can do better than a pan of cold com bread, can’t we?»
«Mr. Finch, don’t tell Aunt Rachel, don’t make me go back, please sir! I’ll run off again…!»
«Whoa, son,» said Atticus. «Nobody’s going to make you go anywhere but to bed pretty soon. I’m just going over to tell Miss Rachel you’re here and ask her if you could spend the night with us — you’d like that, wouldn’t you? And for goodness’ sake put some of the county back where it belongs, the soil erosion’s bad enough as it is.»
Dill stared at my father’s back as Atticus left the room. «He’s tryin’ to be funny,» I said. «He means take a bath. See, I told you he wouldn’t bother you.»
Everything worked out well. Dill was to spend the night with us. When we were back in my room, I asked him why he had run away. He said that his mother and his new father were kind to him, bought him presents, gave him money for picture shows, but they were not interested in him, they didn’t need him, they didn’t want his company.
«They get on a lot better without me, I can’t help them any. They buy me everything I want, but it’s now-you’ve-got-it-go- play-with-it. You’ve got a roomful of things. I-got-you-that- book-so-go-read-it.» Dill tried to deepen his voice. «You’re not a boy. Boys get out and play baseball with other boys, they don’t stay around the house and bother their folks.»
Dill’s voice was his own again: «Oh, they kiss you and hug you good night and good mornin’ and good-bye and tell you they love you — Scout, let’s get us a baby.»
«There is a man who knows of a foggy island where babies sleep. He breathes life into them…»
Dill was slowly talking himself to sleep, but suddenly I remembered a dark house with sad brown doors.
«Why do you reckon Boo Radley has never run off?» Dill sighed a long sigh and turned away from me.
«Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere to run off to…»