Boo, Radley got to his feet, but his awful cough began, and he had to sit down again. He pulled a handkerchief out of his hip pocket, coughed into it, then he wiped his forehead.
I could hardly believe that he had been sitting beside me all this time. He had not made a sound.
He got to his feet again. He didn’t say a word but nodded toward the front door.
«You’d like to say good night to Jem, wouldn’t you, Mr. Arthur? Come right in.»
I led him to Jem’s room. Aunt Alexandra was sitting by Jem’s bed. «Come in, Arthur,» she said. «He’s still asleep. Dr. Reynolds gave him a heavy sedative.» Aunty said that she needed to speak to Atticus and went out.
Boo had gone to a comer of the room and was looking at Jem from a distance. I took him by the hand (it was surprisingly warm in spite of its whiteness) and led him to Jem’s bed.
Boo looked at Jem from head to foot with an expression of timid curiosity, as though he had never seen a boy before. His hand came up and then dropped to his side.
«You can stroke his head, Mr. Arthur, he’s asleep. You couldn’t if he was awake, though, he wouldn’t let you…» I explained. Boo’s hand came down lightly on Jem’s hair.
I was beginning to understand his body English. He pressed my hand, and I understood that he wanted to leave.
I led him to the front porch. We stopped. He didn’t let my hand out of his.
«Will you take me home?» His whisper was like the voice of a child afraid of the dark.
I put my foot on the top step and stopped. It was all right to lead him through our house, but I could never lead him home.
«Mr. Arthur, bend your arm down here, like that. That’s right, sir.»
He had to bend a little and I slipped my hand through his arm. If Miss Stephanie Crawford was watching from her upstairs window, she would see that Arthur Radley was escorting me down the sidewalk, as any gentleman would do.
We came to the streetlight on the comer, and I remembered how many times Dill had stood there by the pole and waited, and hoped to see Boo. I remembered how many times Jem and I had made this journey, but I entered the Radley front gate for the second time in my life. Boo and I walked up the steps to the porch. He gently let go of my hand, opened the door, went inside, and closed the door behind him. I never saw him again.
Neighbors give one another little presents from time to time. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives. But we had given him nothing in return, and it made me sad.
I turned to go home and saw our neighborhood from the Radley’s porch. There were Miss Maudie’s, Miss Stephanie’s — there was our house, I could see the porch swing — Miss Rachel’s house was beyond us, I could see it well. I could even see Mrs. Dubose’s.
Behind me, to the left of the brown door was a long shuttered window. I walked to it, stood in front of it, and turned around. In daylight, I thought, you could see as far as the post office comer.
I stood there and the night turned to daylight in my imagination… It was daytime and the neighborhood was busy. Miss Stephanie Crawford crossed the street to tell the latest gossip to Miss Rachel. Miss Maudie bent over her azaleas. It was summertime, and two children ran down the sidewalk toward a man in the distance. The man waved, and the children raced each other to him.
It was still summertime, and a boy with a fishing pole came closer. A man watched and waited on the sidewalk, with his hands on his hips. Summertime, and his children and their friend played a strange little drama of their own creation in the front yard.
It was fall, and his children ran to and fro around the comer, the day’s joys and sorrows on their faces. They stopped at an oak tree. They’re puzzled, apprehensive, delighted.
Winter and his children shivered at the front gate, silhouetted against a burning house. Winter and a man walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog.
Summer and he watched his children’s heart break. Autumn again, and Boo’s children needed him.
Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.
I went down the steps and into the street. Fine rain was falling. As I made my way home, I thought about Jem’s reaction tomorrow. He’d be so mad he missed Boo’s visit that he wouldn’t speak to me for days. As I made my way home, I thought Jem and I would grow up, but there wasn’t much else left that we could learn, except possibly algebra.
I entered the house. Aunt Alexandra had gone to bed, and Atticus’s room was dark. I decided to look if Jem was awake. Atticus was sitting by Jem’s bed. He was reading a book. He said that Jem wouldn’t be awake until morning. It was late, and Atticus told me to go to bed, but I wanted to stay with him for a while. I sat on the floor at his feet. As soon as I sat down, I began to feel sleepy.
«Whatcha readin’?» I asked.
Atticus turned the book over. «Something of Jem’s. Called The Gray Ghost.»
I was suddenly awake. «Read it aloud, please, Atticus. It’s real scary.»
«No,» he said. «You’ve had enough scary things for a while.»
I said that Jem and I hadn’t been scared. «Besides, nothin’s real scary except in books.»
Atticus decided not to say anything to that. He opened the book on the first page and read, «The Gray Ghost, by Seckatary Hawkins. Chapter One…»
I tried to stay awake, but the rain was softly falling and the room was warm. I fell asleep.
Seconds later, it seemed, Atticus lifted me to my feet and walked me to my room. He pulled off my overalls and put on my pajamas. I muttered, half asleep, «Heard every word you said, wasn’t sleep at all…» He led me to the bed and sat me down. He lifted my legs and pulled the blanket over me.
«An’ they thought Stoner’s Boy did all those things, an’ they chased him but they didn’t know what he looked like, an’ Atticus, when they finally saw him, he hadn’t done any of those things… Atticus, he was real nice…»
He tucked the blanket around me.
«Many people are, Scout, when you finally see them.»
He switched off the light and went into Jem’s room. When Jem woke up in the morning, his father’d be sitting by his bed.