Dill’s mother wrote a long forgiving letter to him and he stayed with Miss Rachel. We spent one usual summer week together. Then a nightmare started.
One evening after supper, Mr. Heck Tate knocked on the front door and said that some men asked Atticus to come out.
In Maycomb, grown men stood outside in the front yard for only two reasons: death and politics. Jem and I went to the front door to learn who had died. But Atticus told us to stay in the house.
Jem turned out the living room lights and pressed his nose to a window screen. Aunt Alexandra protested. «Just for a second, Aunty, let’s see who it is,» he said.
Dill and I went to another window. A crowd of men was standing around Atticus. They were all talking at once. From what they were saying, it was clear that they were afraid of some trouble at Maycomb jail where Tom Robinson was kept.
«This is Saturday,» Atticus said. «Trial’ll probably be Monday. You can keep him one night, can’t you?»
Mr. Link Deas said, «We don’t expect any trouble here. I’m worried about that Old Sarum bunch. You know how they do when they get drunk.»
Then Mr. Link Deas added, «Why did you touch it in the first place? You’re going to lose everything from this, Atticus. I mean everything.»
Atticus said, «Do you really think so? Link, that boy might go to the electric chair, but he’s not going till the truth’s told.» Atticus’s voice was even. «And you know what the truth is.»
A murmur started among the group of men, and they moved nearer to Atticus.
Suddenly Jem screamed, «Atticus, the telephone’s ringing!»
«Well, answer it, son,» called Atticus.
The men laughed and moved away from Atticus; they were people we saw every day: merchants, in-town farmers; Dr. Reynolds was there; so was Mr. Avery.
When Atticus came back, he went to his chair and picked up the evening paper.
«They were after you, weren’t they?» Jem went to him. «They wanted to get you, didn’t they?»
Atticus lowered the paper and said gently, «No son, those were our friends.»
Later in the evening, when we were in Jem’s room, he said, «Scout… I’m scared about Atticus. Somebody might hurt him.»
Next day was Sunday. In the interval between Sunday School and Church when the congregation stretched its legs, I saw that Atticus was standing in the yard with another group of men. Mr. Heck Tate was present, who never went to church. Even Mr. Underwood was there. Mr. Underwood was the owner, editor, and printer of The Maycomb Tribune. His days were spent at his linotype, where he refreshed himself from time to time from an ever-present gallon jug of cherry wine. He seldom gathered news; people brought it to him. It was said that he made up every edition of The Maycomb Tribune out of his own head and wrote it down on the linotype. Something very serious happened if Mr. Underwood had left his house.
In the evening, after supper, Atticus did something that interested us: he came into the living room with a long electrical extension cable. There was a light bulb on the end.
«I’m going out for a while,» he said. «You folks will be in bed when I come back, so I’ll say good night now.»
He put his hat on and went out the back door. He took the car. It was unusual: he never used the car in Maycomb.
Later on, I said good night to my aunt and brother and was reading a book when I heard unusual sounds in Jem’s room. I knew his go-to-bed noises so well that I knocked on his door: «Why ain’t you going to bed?»
«I’m goin’ downtown for a while.» He was changing his pants.
I said that I would go with him. Jem didn’t want to fight me because he didn’t want to antagonize Aunty, so he agreed to take me with him.
When Aunty’s light went out, we walked quietly down the back steps. There was no moon in the sky.
«Dill’ll want a come,» I whispered.
«So he will,» said Jem gloomily.
We went through Miss Rachel’s back yard to Dill’s window. Jem whistled and Dill’s face appeared at the screen. Five minutes later, he was with us. Only when we were on the sidewalk, he asked, «What’s up?» I said that Jem wanted to look around.
«I’ve just got this feeling,» Jem said, «just this feeling.»
We came to the post office corner. The south side of the square was deserted. A light shone in the county toilet, otherwise that side of the courthouse was dark. Atticus’s office was in the courthouse when he began his law practice, but after several years of it, he moved to quieter quarters in the Maycomb Bank building. When we rounded the comer of the square, we saw the car parked in front of the bank. But it was dark inside the building, and the door was locked.
Jem said, «Let’s go up the street. Maybe he’s visitin’ Mr. Underwood.»
Mr. Underwood lived above The Maycomb Tribune office. He just looked out his upstairs window and got all the courthouse and jailhouse news for his paper. The newspaper office building was the last in the row of buildings on the north side of the square, just on the northwest comer of the square, and the second from that comer was the Maycomb jail. It was not on a lonely hill, but stood between Tyndal’s Hardware Store and The Maycomb Tribune office.