mockingbird chapter 38


Jem’s face was wet with angry tears as we walked through the cheerful crowd. «It ain’t right,» he muttered, all the way to the comer of the square where Atticus was waiting. Atticus looked as usual, as if nothing had happened.

«It ain’t right, Atticus,» said Jem.

«No son, it’s not right.»

We walked home.

Aunt Alexandra was waiting up. «I’m sorry, brother,» she murmured. She had never called Atticus «brother» before, and I looked at Jem, but he was not listening. He looked up at Atticus, then down at the floor. Could he think Atticus somehow responsible for Tom Robinson’s conviction?

«Is he all right?» Aunty asked.

«He’ll be soon,» said Atticus. «It was a little too strong for him.» Our father sighed. «I’m going to bed,» he said. «If l don’t wake up in the morning, don’t call me.»

«It wasn’t wise to let them-»

«This is their home, sister,» said Atticus. «We’ve made it this way for them, they might as well learn to cope with it.»

«But they don’t have to go to the courthouse-»

«It’s just as much Maycomb County as missionary teas.»

«Atticus-» Aunt Alexandra’s eyes were worried. «I didn’t think you would turn bitter over this.»

«I’m not bitter, just tired. I’m going to bed.»

Jem stopped him. «Atticus-»

He turned in the doorway. «What, son?»

«How could they do it, how could they?»

«I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it — seems that only children weep. Good night.»

But in the morning Atticus got up early, as usual, and was in the living room behind his newspaper when we came in. He understood the question on Jem’s sleepy face.

«It’s not time to worry yet,» Atticus said, as we went to the dining room. «There’ll be an appeal, you can count on that. Cal, what’s all this?» He was looking at his breakfast plate.

Calpurnia said, «Tom Robinson’s daddy sent you this chicken this morning.»

«Tell him I’m proud to get it — bet they don’t have chicken for breakfast at the White House. What are these?»

«Rolls,» said Calpurnia. «Estelle down at the hotel sent ’em.»

As Atticus looked up at her, puzzled, she said, «You better come and see what’s in the kitchen, Mr. Finch.»

The kitchen table was loaded with hunks of salt pork, tomatoes, beans. Calpurnia said, «This was all ’round the back steps when I got here this morning. They — they appreciate what you did, Mr. Finch. They — they aren’t oversteppin’ themselves, are they?»

Atticus’s eyes filled with tears. He did not speak for a moment. «Tell them I’m very grateful,» he said. «Tell them — tell them they must never do this again. Times are too hard…»

Atticus went to the dining room and excused himself to Aunt Alexandra, put on his hat and went to town.

Dill joined us for breakfast, so Calpurnia left Atticus’s uneaten breakfast on the table. After breakfast, we went to the front porch. Miss Stephanie Crawford was busy talking to Miss Maudie Atkinson and Mr. Avery. They looked around at us and went on talking.

Miss Maudie shouted, «Jem Finch, come here.»

Dill and I went with him. Miss Stephanie was full of curiosity. She wanted to know who gave us permission to go to court. She wanted to know how we felt about our daddy’s defeat.

Miss Maudie stopped her and said she wasn’t going to spend all the morning on the porch. «Jem Finch,» she said, «I want to know if you and your colleagues can eat some cake. I got up at five to make it, so you better say yes. Excuse us, Stephanie. Good morning, Mr. Avery.»

In the kitchen, while we were eating the cake, Miss Maudie sat quietly and watched us.

Suddenly she spoke: «Don’t worry, Jem. Things are never as bad as they seem.»

She paused and we waited.

«I simply want to tell you that there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father’s one of them.»

Jem was looking at his half-eaten cake. «It always seemed to me that Maycomb folks were the best folks in the world.»

Miss Maudie said, «We’re the most protected folks in the world because life so seldom calls us to be Christians, but when it happens, we’ve got men like Atticus to go for us.»

Jem smiled sadly. «I wish there were more people who thought that.»

«You’d be surprised how many of us do.»

«Who?» Jem’s voice rose. «Who in this town did one thing to help Tom Robinson, just who?»

«His colored friends for one thing, and people like us. People like Judge Taylor. People like Mr. Heck Tate. Judge Taylor had his reasons when he named Atticus to defend that boy.»

This was a thought. Defenses appointed by court were usually given to young Maxwell Green, who needed the experience, but not this time.

«You think about that,» Miss Maudie continued. «It was no accident. I was sittin’ there on the porch last night, waiting. I waited and waited to see you all come down the sidewalk, and as I waited I thought, Atticus Finch won’t win, he can’t win, but he’s the only man in these parts who can keep a jury out so long in a case like that. And I thought to myself, well, we’re making a step — it’s just a very little step, but it’s a step.»

When we left Miss Maudie’s house, we saw that Miss Stephanie and Mr. Avery were still in the street, and Miss Rachel was with them. They were all very excited.

Something was wrong. Miss Rachel caught Dill’s shoulder. «You get on in the back yard and stay there,» she said. «There’s danger a’comin’.»

«What’s the matter?» I asked.

«Haven’t you heard yet? It’s all over town-»

At that moment, Aunt Alexandra came to the door and called us, but she was too late. Miss Stephanie had the pleasure to tell us: this morning Mr. Bob Ewell stopped Atticus on the post office corner, spat in his face, and told him he’d get him if it took the rest of his life.


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