mockingbird chapter 37


Suddenly we saw Calpumia in the courtroom below. She brought an envelope for Atticus. We froze in our seats.

Atticus opened the envelope, read the note, and said, «Judge, I — this note is from my sister. She says my children are missing, haven’t been seen since noon… I… could you-»

«I know where they are, Atticus.» Mr. Underwood spoke up. «They’re right up yonder in the colored balcony — been there since one-eighteen p.m.»

Our father turned around and looked up. «Jem, come down from there,» he called.

When we came downstairs, Jem said excitedly, «We’ve won, haven’t we?»

«I’ve no idea,» said Atticus shortly. He told us to go home with Calpumia and get supper, and stay at home. Jem asked him to let us come back and hear the verdict. Atticus allowed us to return after supper.

«If the jury’s still out, you can wait with us. But I think it’ll be over before you get back.»

«You think they’ll free him that fast?» asked Jem.

Atticus opened his mouth to answer, but shut it and left us.

When we went outside, the streetlights were already on.

Aunt Alexandra met us and nearly fainted when Calpumia told her where we were. I reckon it hurt her when we told her that Atticus allowed us to come back, because she didn’t say a word during supper.

In an hour, we were back. Reverend Sykes had saved our places. The courtroom was exactly as we had left it — full of people, only the jury box was empty, and the defendant was gone. Reverend Sykes told us that Atticus and Mr. Gilmer had done some more talking, then Judge Taylor had talked to the ‘ jury.

«What did he say?» asked Jem.

«Well, he said if you believe this, then you’ll have to return one verdict, but if you believe this, you’ll have to return another one. I thought he was leanin’ a little towards our side.»

Jem was sure that Atticus had won, and he said so to Reverend Sykes.

«Now don’t you be so confident, Mr. Jem. No jury has ever decided in favor of a colored man over a white man…» But Jem began to explain his ideas on the law about rape: it wasn’t rape if she let you, but she had to be eighteen — in Alabama, that is — and Mayella was nineteen. You had to kick and scream, you had to be knocked stone cold. If you were under eighteen, you didn’t have to go through all this. Reverend Sykes reminded Jem of my presence and said that it wasn’t good for little lady’s ears.

Jem stopped and asked, «What time is it, Reverend?»

«Gettin’ on toward eight.»

I looked down. Atticus was walking around with his hands in his pockets: he made a tour of the windows, then walked by the jury box. He looked in it, inspected Judge Taylor on his throne, then went back to where he started. I waved to him. He nodded, and resumed his tour.

Mr. Gilmer was talking to Mr. Underwood at the windows. Bert, the court secretary, was chain-smoking: he sat back with his feet on the table.

But the officers of the court, — Atticus, Mr. Gilmer, Judge Taylor sound asleep, and Bert, were the only ones whose behavior seemed normal. I had never seen a crowded courtroom so still. They sat as if they were in church. In the balcony, the Negroes sat and stood around us with biblical patience.

The old courthouse clock struck eight. When it struck eleven, I was nearly asleep. Dill was sound asleep, his head on Jem’s shoulder, and Jem was quiet.

«Ain’t it a long time?» I asked him.

«Sure is, Scout,» he said happily.

«Well, you say it as if it’s only five minutes.»

Jem raised his eyebrows. «There are things you don’t understand,» he said, and I was too tired to argue.

But I felt suddenly cold and shivered, though the night was hot. The feeling grew until the atmosphere in the courtroom was exactly the same as on a cold February morning, when the mockingbirds were still, and the carpenters had stopped work on Miss Maudie’s new house, and every wood door in the neighborhood was shut as the doors of the Radley Place. A waiting, empty street and the courtroom was full of people. A hot summer night was no different from a winter morning when Mr. Heck Tate said to Atticus, «Take him, Mr. Finch…»

But Mr. Tate, who had entered the courtroom, said, «This court will come to order.» And the heads below us jerked up. Mr. Tate left the room and returned with Tom Robinson. He led Tom to his place beside Atticus, and stood there. Judge Taylor was sitting up straight, looking at the empty jury box.

A jury never looks at a defendant it has convicted, and when this jury came in, not one of them looked at Tom Robinson. The foreman handed a piece of paper to Mr. Tate who handed it to the clerk who handed it to the judge…

I closed my eyes. Judge Taylor was polling the jury: «Guilty… guilty… guilty… guilty…» I looked at Jem: his shoulders jerked at each «guilty». Judge Taylor was saying something. Atticus was pushing papers from the table into his briefcase. He closed it, went to the court secretary and said something, nodded to Mr. Gilmer, and then went to Tom Robinson. He put his hand on Tom’s shoulder and whispered something to him. Then he walked quickly down the middle aisle toward the exit.

«Miss Jean Louise?»

I looked around. All around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall, the Negroes were standing. Reverend Sykes said, «Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.»


next page