mockingbird chapter 28


Next morning, at breakfast, Aunt Alexandra drank coffee and radiated waves of disapproval. Children who went out at night were a disgrace to the family. Atticus said he was very glad his disgraces had come along, but Aunty said, «Nonsense, Mr. Underwood was there all the time.»

«You know, it’s a funny thing about Braxton Underwood,» said Atticus. «He despises Negroes, won’t have one near him.»

Calpumia was serving Aunt Alexandra more coffee. When she returned to the kitchen, Aunty said, «Don’t talk like that in front of Calpurnia. You said Braxton Underwood despises Negroes right in front of her.»

«Well, I’m sure Cal knows it. Everybody in Maycomb knows it. And Calpurnia knows what she means to this family.»

I said, «I thought Mr. Cunningham was a friend of ours. You told me a long time ago he was.»

«He still is.»

«But last night he wanted to hurt you.»

Atticus placed his fork beside his knife and pushed his plate aside. «Mr. Cunningham’s basically a good man,» he said, «last night he was part of a mob, but still a man. Every mob in every little Southern town is always made up of people that you know — doesn’t say much for them, does it?»

Jem agreed: «Not much at all.»

«And an eight-year-old girl brought them to their senses, didn’t she?» said Atticus. «That shows something — that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they’re still human. You children last night made Walter Cunningham stand in my shoes for a minute. That was enough.»

Atticus was going to court. He asked Jem not to go to town, and left the house.

Dill ran into the dining room. «It’s all over town this morning,» he announced, «all about how we held off a hundred folks with our bare hands…»

«It was not a hundred folks,» Aunt Alexandra said, «and nobody held anybody off. It was just a nest of those Cunninghams, drunk and disorderly.»

«Aw, Aunty, that’s just Dill’s way,» said Jem. He signaled us to follow him.

«You all stay in the yard today,» she said, as we went to the front porch.

It was like Saturday. People from the south end of the county passed our house in an unhurried but steady stream. Jem told Dill about people that went by.

A wagonload of unusually stern-faced people appeared. When they pointed to Miss Maudie Atkinson’s yard, full of summer flowers, Miss Maudie herself came out on the porch. The foot-washers expressed their usual disapproval of her flowers.

We stayed at home until noon. Atticus came home to dinner and said that they’d picked the jury in the morning. After dinner, we stopped by for Dill and went to town.

The courthouse square was full of picnic groups. People were sitting on newspapers, eating biscuit and drinking warm milk from fruit jars. Some people were eating cold chicken and cold fried pork chops. There were many children and even babies.

In a far comer of the square, the Negroes sat quietly in the sun. They were dining on sardines, crackers, and Cola. Mr. Dolphus Raymond sat with them. Dill asked Jem why he was sitting with the colored folks.

«Always does. He likes ’em better’n he likes us, I reckon. He’s got a colored woman and all sorts of mixed children.»

«He doesn’t look like trash,» said Dill.

«He’s not, he owns all one side of the riverbank down there, and he’s from a really old family.»

Jem told Dill Mr. Raymond’s story. Mr. Raymond was going to marry one of the white ladies. They were going to have a great wedding, but they didn’t — after the rehearsal the bride went upstairs and shot herself. Nobody ever knew quite why except Mr. Dolphus. They said it was because she found out about his colored woman, he reckoned he could keep her and get married too. He’s been sort of drunk ever since. But he was really good to his children. Half-white, half-colored children don’t belong anywhere. But Mr. Dolphus sent two of his up north. They don’t mind them in the north.

Some signal showed the people on the square that it was time to go into the courthouse. The Negroes and Mr. Dolphus Raymond waited patiently at the doors behind the white families.

There were so many people in the courthouse that we weren’t able to find seats downstairs. Reverend Sykes took us to the balcony. Four Negroes rose and gave us their front-row seats.

The Colored balcony ran along three walls of the courtroom like a second-story veranda, and from it, we could see everything.

The witness stand was to the right of Judge Taylor, and when we got to our seats, Mr. Heck Tate was already on it.

Mr. Tate said, «It was the night of November twenty-first. I was just leaving my office to go home when Mr. Ewell came in, very excited he was, and asked me to go to his house quick, some nigger’d raped his girl.»

«Did you go?»

«Certainly. Got in the car and went out as fast as I could.»

«And what did you find?»

«She was lying on the floor in the middle of the front room. She was pretty well beaten up. I asked her who hurt her and she said it was Tom Robinson.»

Judge Taylor, who had been concentrating on his fingernails, looked up as if he was expecting an objection, but Atticus was quiet.


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