mockingbird chapter 45


By the middle of October things were back to usual in Maycomb, as Atticus said they would. Only three things out of the ordinary happened, and they did not directly concern us — the Finches — but in a way, they did.

The first thing was that Mr. Bob Ewell got and lost a job during a few days. He was probably unique in the history of the nineteen-thirties: he was the only man who was fired from the WPA (Works Projects Administration, US, 1935-1943) for laziness. I think his short period of fame brought on a shorter period of labor effort, but his job lasted only as long as his ill fame: Mr. Ewell was forgotten just as Tom Robinson. He again went to the welfare office for his check every week, and each time when he received, he muttered that the bastards who thought they ran this town didn’t permit an honest man to make a living. Ruth Jones, the welfare lady, said that Mr. Ewell openly accused Atticus of getting his job. She was so upset that she walked down to Atticus’s office and told him about it. Atticus told Miss Ruth not to worry, that if Bob Ewell wanted to discuss Atticus’s «getting» his job, he knew the way to the office.

The second thing happened to Judge Taylor. Judge Taylor liked to spend his Sunday nights in his study while his wife went to church. One Sunday night, when he was reading his favorite book, he heard a scratching noise. «Hush,» he said to Ann Taylor, his dog. But the dog wasn’t in the room; the scratching noise was coming from the back of the house. Judge Taylor went to the back porch to let Ann out and saw that the screen door was open. He didn’t see anybody, only a shadow on the comer of the house. When Mrs. Taylor came home from church, her husband was reading his favorite book and there was a shotgun across his lap.

The third thing happened to Helen Robinson, Tom’s widow. Mr. Link Deas, Tom’s employer, didn’t forget Tom. He gave Helen a job. Mr. Link Deas didn’t really need her, but he said he felt right bad about the way things turned out. Calpumia said it was hard on Helen, because she could not use the public road, which ran past the Ewells’ place, and had to walk nearly a mile out of her way. The first time she tried to use the public road, the Ewells, according to Helen, threw «chunks» at her. Mr. Link Deas finally saw that Helen was coming to work each morning from the wrong direction, and dragged the reason out of her. He told her to come by his store that afternoon before she left. She did, and Mr. Link closed his store and walked Helen home. He walked her the short way, by the Ewells. On his way back, Mr. Link stopped at their gate. There was nobody in the yard, and the windows, normally full of children, were empty.

«Ewell!» Mr. Link called, «I know you’re all there on the floor! Now hear me, Bob Ewell: if I hear once more that my girl Helen isn’t able to walk this road, I’ll have you in jail before sundown!» Mr. Link spat in the dust and walked home.

Helen went to work next morning and used the public road. Nobody chunked at her, but when she passed Ewell house, she looked around. Mr. Ewell was walking behind her. He was saying dirty words. Helen was frightened. When she reached Mr. Link’s house, she telephoned Mr. Link at his store, which was not too far from his house. Mr. Link came out of his store and saw that Mr. Ewell was leaning on the fence. Mr. Ewell said, «Don’t you look at me, Link Deas, like I was dirt. I ain’t jumped your-»

«First, Ewell, get your stinkin’ carcass off my property. You’re leanin’ on it an’ I can’t afford fresh paint for it. Second, stay away from my cook or I’ll have you in jail for assault-»

«I ain’t touched her. Link Deas, and ain’t going to touch no nigger!»

«You don’t have to touch her, it’s enough to make her afraid, an’ if assault ain’t enough, I’ll get you in jail on the Ladies’ Law, so get outa my sight! If you don’t think that I mean it, just trouble that girl again!»

Helen reported no further trouble.

Aunt Alexandra was seriously worried by these events. «That man hates everybody connected with that case. I don’t understand why he has so much hatred — he had his way in court, didn’t he?»

«I think I understand,» said Atticus. «It might be because he knows in his heart that very few people in Maycomb really believed his and Mayella’s tales. He thought he’d be a hero, but he only got this: okay, we’ll convict this Negro but get back to your dump. He’s expressed his feelings to nearly everybody now, so he ought to be satisfied. He’ll calm down when the weather changes.»

«But why should he try to burgle John Taylor’s house?»

Atticus smiled. «But I can guess. I proved him a liar but John made him look like a fool. John looked at him as if he were a three-legged chicken or a square egg. Don’t tell me judges don’t try to influence juries.»

By the end of October, Maycomb was itself again. Just the same as last year and the year before that. But parents decided to make Halloween an organized event.

Until then, Halloween in Maycomb was a completely unorganized affair. Each child did what he wanted to do. If a child needed help, other children helped. But parents thought things went too far last year, when Miss Tutti and Miss Frutti were troubled.


next page