mockingbird chapter 40


Jem said, «Tom’s jury surely made up its mind in a hurry.»

«No it didn’t,» Atticus, said, «That jury took a few hours. An inevitable verdict, maybe, but usually it takes ’em just a few minutes.» He smiled and looked at us. «There was one fellow on the jury who wanted to let Tom go free. It took a long time to make him change his decision.»

«But a jury’s vote’s secret,» Jem said.

Atticus smiled again. «Yes, I can’t tell you who he was, but I’ll tell you this much. He was one of your Old Sarum friends…»

«One of the Cunninghams?» Jem was surprised. «I didn’t see any of’em on the jury… you’re jokin’.» Atticus said it was one the Cunninghams’ relatives.

Jem said, «One minute they’re tryin’ to kill him and the next they’re tryin’ to let him go… I’ll never understand those folks as long as I live.»

Atticus said you just had to know ’em. He said the Cunninghams hadn’t taken anything from anybody since they migrated to the New World. He also said that if you had their respect, they were on your side. Atticus said he had a feeling that they left the jail that night with considerable respect for the Finches.

Atticus went to his room to read his newspaper. Aunt Alexandra was making a rug and not watching us, but she was listening.

I remembered the incident with young Walter Cunningham at school and said, «Soon’s school starts. I’m gonna ask Walter home to dinner. He can stay over sometimes after school, too. Atticus could drive him back to Old Sarum. Maybe he could spend the night with us sometime, okay, Jem?»

«We’ll see about that,» Aunt Alexandra said. Those words were always a threat, never a promise. I turned to her. «Why not, Aunty? They’re good folks.»

She looked at me over her glasses. «Jean Louise, there is no doubt in my mind that they’re good folks. But they’re not our kind of folks. Finch women aren’t interested in that sort of people.»

«Aun-ty,» said Jem, «she ain’t nine yet.»

«She may as well learn it now.»

I thought that perhaps Aunt Alexandra had come to live with us because she wanted to help us choose our friends. I decided to argue: «If they’re good folks, then why can’t I be nice to Walter?»

«I didn’t say not to be nice to him. You should be friendly and polite to him, you should be polite to everybody, dear. But you don’t have to invite him home.»

«But I want to play with Walter, Aunty, why can’t I?»

She took off her glasses and looked at me. «I’ll tell you why,» she said. «Because — he — is — trash, that’s why you can’t play with him. I’ll not let you pick up his habits and learn Lord-knows what. Besides, they are fond of drinking in that family.»

I got furious and started cry. Jem led me to his bedroom and gave me a chewing gum.

«Scout, don’t let Aunty antagonize you.»

It seemed only yesterday that he was telling me not to antagonize Aunty.

«She doesn’t know girls, not girls like you,» said Jem, «She’s trying to make you a lady. Can’t you learn to sew or somethin’?»

«Hell no. She just doesn’t like me, and I don’t care. I cried because of Walter Cunningham. That boy’s not trash, Jem. He ain’t like the Ewells.»

Jem switched on the reading light, sat on his bed and told me what he thought. His idea was that there are four kinds of folks in Maycomb County: the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes. Our kind of folks don’t like the Cunninghams, the Cunninghams don’t like the Ewells, and the Ewells hate and despise the colored folks.»

I said, «Tom’s jury was made up of folks like the Cunninghams. Why then didn’t they let Tom go because of their dislike of the Ewells?»

Instead of the answer, Jem said that Atticus liked pot liquor better’n any man he had ever seen.

«Then that makes us like the Cunninghams,» I said. «I can’t see why Aunty-»

«No, we’re still different somehow. Atticus said one time that Aunty thinks so much of the family because all we’ve got is background and not a dime to our names.»

I remembered that Atticus had told me one time that all that talk about Old Family was foolish because everybody’s family’s just as old as everybody else’s. Jem thought that background didn’t mean Old Family. He said that background was how long your family had known how to read and write. I didn’t think so.

«Well then, how do you explain why the Cunninghams are different? Mr. Walter can hardly sign his name, I’ve seen him. We’ve just been readin’ and writin’ longer’n they have.»

«No, everybody has to learn, nobody is born knowin’ how to write and read. That Walter is clever, he lags behind sometimes because he has to miss school and help his daddy. No, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.»

Jem was silent for a while. Then he said, «If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? Why do they despise each other? Scout, I think I’m beginning to understand that Boo Radley’s stayed in the house all this time because he wants to stay inside.»


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