You can just take that back, boy!”
This order, given by me to Cecil Jacobs, was the beginning of a rather thin time forJem and me. My fists were clenched and I was ready to let fly. Atticus had promised mehe would wear me out if he ever heard of me fighting any more; I was far too old and toobig for such childish things, and the sooner I learned to hold in, the better off everybodywould be. I soon forgot.
Cecil Jacobs made me forget. He had announced in the schoolyard the day beforethat Scout Finch’s daddy defended niggers. I denied it, but told Jem.
“What’d he mean sayin‘ that?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Jem said. “Ask Atticus, he’ll tell you.”
“Do you defend niggers, Atticus?” I asked him that evening.
“Of course I do. Don’t say nigger, Scout. That’s common.”
“‘s what everybody at school says.”
“From now on it’ll be everybody less one—”
“Well if you don’t want me to grow up talkin‘ that way, why do you send me to school?”
My father looked at me mildly, amusement in his eyes. Despite our compromise, mycampaign to avoid school had continued in one form or another since my first day’sdose of it: the beginning of last September had brought on sinking spells, dizziness, andmild gastric complaints. I went so far as to pay a nickel for the privilege of rubbing myhead against the head of Miss Rachel’s cook’s son, who was afflicted with a tremendousringworm. It didn’t take.
But I was worrying another bone. “Do all lawyers defend n-Negroes, Atticus?”
“Of course they do, Scout.”
“Then why did Cecil say you defended niggers? He made it sound like you wererunnin‘ a still.”
Atticus sighed. “I’m simply defending a Negro—his name’s Tom Robinson. He lives inthat little settlement beyond the town dump. He’s a member of Calpurnia’s church, andCal knows his family well. She says they’re clean-living folks. Scout, you aren’t oldenough to understand some things yet, but there’s been some high talk around town tothe effect that I shouldn’t do much about defending this man. It’s a peculiar case—itwon’t come to trial until summer session. John Taylor was kind enough to give us apostponement…”
“If you shouldn’t be defendin‘ him, then why are you doin’ it?”
“For a number of reasons,” said Atticus. “The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold upmy head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tellyou or Jem not to do something again.”
“You mean if you didn’t defend that man, Jem and me wouldn’t have to mind you anymore?”
“That’s about right.”
“Because I could never ask you to mind me again. Scout, simply by the nature of thework, every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally. Thisone’s mine, I guess. You might hear some ugly talk about it at school, but do one thingfor me if you will: you just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matterwhat anybody says to you, don’t you let ‘em get your goat. Try fighting with your headfor a change… it’s a good one, even if it does resist learning.”
“Atticus, are we going to win it?”
“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for usnot to try to win,” Atticus said.
“You sound like Cousin Ike Finch,” I said. Cousin Ike Finch was Maycomb County’ssole surviving Confederate veteran. He wore a General Hood type beard of which hewas inordinately vain. At least once a year Atticus, Jem and I called on him, and I wouldhave to kiss him. It was horrible. Jem and I would listen respectfully to Atticus andCousin Ike rehash the war. “Tell you, Atticus,” Cousin Ike would say, “the MissouriCompromise was what licked us, but if I had to go through it agin I’d walk every step ofthe way there an‘ every step back jist like I did before an’ furthermore we’d whip ‘em thistime… now in 1864, when Stonewall Jackson came around by—I beg your pardon,young folks. Ol’ Blue Light was in heaven then, God rest his saintly brow…”
“Come here, Scout,” said Atticus. I crawled into his lap and tucked my head under hischin. He put his arms around me and rocked me gently. “It’s different this time,” he said.
“This time we aren’t fighting the Yankees, we’re fighting our friends. But remember this,no matter how bitter things get, they’re still our friends and this is still our home.”
With this in mind, I faced Cecil Jacobs in the schoolyard next day: “You gonna takethat back, boy?”
“You gotta make me first!” he yelled. “My folks said your daddy was a disgrace an‘ thatnigger oughta hang from the water-tank!”
I drew a bead on him, remembered what Atticus had said, then dropped my fists andwalked away, “Scout’s a cow—ward!” ringing in my ears. It was the first time I everwalked away from a fight.
Somehow, if I fought Cecil I would let Atticus down. Atticus so rarely asked Jem andme to do something for him, I could take being called a coward for him. I felt extremelynoble for having remembered, and remained noble for three weeks. Then Christmascame and disaster struck.
Jem and I viewed Christmas with mixed feelings. The good side was the tree andUncle Jack Finch. Every Christmas Eve day we met Uncle Jack at Maycomb Junction,and he would spend a week with us.
A flip of the coin revealed the uncompromising lineaments of Aunt Alexandra andFrancis.
I suppose I should include Uncle Jimmy, Aunt Alexandra’s husband, but as he neverspoke a word to me in my life except to say, “Get off the fence,” once, I never saw anyreason to take notice of him. Neither did Aunt Alexandra. Long ago, in a burst offriendliness, Aunty and Uncle Jimmy produced a son named Henry, who left home assoon as was humanly possible, married, and produced Francis. Henry and his wifedeposited Francis at his grandparents’ every Christmas, then pursued their ownpleasures.
No amount of sighing could induce Atticus to let us spend Christmas day at home. Wewent to Finch’s Landing every Christmas in my memory. The fact that Aunty was a goodcook was some compensation for being forced to spend a religious holiday with FrancisHancock. He was a year older than I, and I avoided him on principle: he enjoyedeverything I disapproved of, and disliked my ingenuous diversions.
Aunt Alexandra was Atticus’s sister, but when Jem told me about changelings andsiblings, I decided that she had been swapped at birth, that my grandparents hadperhaps received a Crawford instead of a Finch. Had I ever harbored the mysticalnotions about mountains that seem to obsess lawyers and judges, Aunt Alexandrawould have been analogous to Mount Everest: throughout my early life, she was coldand there.
When Uncle Jack jumped down from the train Christmas Eve day, we had to wait forthe porter to hand him two long packages. Jem and I always thought it funny whenUncle Jack pecked Atticus on the cheek; they were the only two men we ever saw kisseach other. Uncle Jack shook hands with Jem and swung me high, but not high enough:
Uncle Jack was a head shorter than Atticus; the baby of the family, he was younger thanAunt Alexandra. He and Aunty looked alike, but Uncle Jack made better use of his face:
we were never wary of his sharp nose and chin.
He was one of the few men of science who never terrified me, probably because henever behaved like a doctor. Whenever he performed a minor service for Jem and me,as removing a splinter from a foot, he would tell us exactly what he was going to do,give us an estimation of how much it would hurt, and explain the use of any tongs heemployed. One Christmas I lurked in corners nursing a twisted splinter in my foot,permitting no one to come near me. When Uncle Jack caught me, he kept me laughingabout a preacher who hated going to church so much that every day he stood at hisgate in his dressing-gown, smoking a hookah and delivering five-minute sermons to anypassers-by who desired spiritual comfort. I interrupted to make Uncle Jack let me knowwhen he would pull it out, but he held up a bloody splinter in a pair of tweezers and saidhe yanked it while I was laughing, that was what was known as relativity.
“What’s in those packages?” I asked him, pointing to the long thin parcels the porterhad given him.
“None of your business,” he said.
Jem said, “How’s Rose Aylmer?”
Rose Aylmer was Uncle Jack’s cat. She was a beautiful yellow female Uncle Jack saidwas one of the few women he could stand permanently. He reached into his coat pocketand brought out some snapshots. We admired them.
“She’s gettin‘ fat,” I said.
“I should think so. She eats all the leftover fingers and ears from the hospital.”
“Aw, that’s a damn story,” I said.
“I beg your pardon?”
Atticus said, “Don’t pay any attention to her, Jack. She’s trying you out. Cal says she’sbeen cussing fluently for a week, now.” Uncle Jack raised his eyebrows and saidnothing. I was proceeding on the dim theory, aside from the innate attractiveness ofsuch words, that if Atticus discovered I had picked them up at school he wouldn’t makeme go.
But at supper that evening when I asked him to pass the damn ham, please, UncleJack pointed at me. “See me afterwards, young lady,” he said.
When supper was over, Uncle Jack went to the livingroom and sat down. He slappedhis thighs for me to come sit on his lap. I liked to smell him: he was like a bottle ofalcohol and something pleasantly sweet. He pushed back my bangs and looked at me.
“You’re more like Atticus than your mother,” he said. “You’re also growing out of yourpants a little.”
“I reckon they fit all right.”
“You like words like damn and hell now, don’t you?”
I said I reckoned so.
“Well I don’t,” said Uncle Jack, “not unless there’s extreme provocation connected with‘em. I’ll be here a week, and I don’t want to hear any words like that while I’m here.
Scout, you’ll get in trouble if you go around saying things like that. You want to grow upto be a lady, don’t you?”
I said not particularly.
“Of course you do. Now let’s get to the tree.”
We decorated the tree until bedtime, and that night I dreamed of the two longpackages for Jem and me. Next morning Jem and I dived for them: they were fromAtticus, who had written Uncle Jack to get them for us, and they were what we hadasked for.
“Don’t point them in the house,” said Atticus, when Jem aimed at a picture on the wall.
“You’ll have to teach ‘em to shoot,” said Uncle Jack.
“That’s your job,” said Atticus. “I merely bowed to the inevitable.”
It took Atticus’s courtroom voice to drag us away from the tree. He declined to let ustake our air rifles to the Landing (I had already begun to think of shooting Francis) andsaid if we made one false move he’d take them away from us for good.
Finch’s Landing consisted of three hundred and sixty-six steps down a high bluff andending in a jetty. Farther down stream, beyond the bluff, were traces of an old cottonlanding, where Finch Negroes had loaded bales and produce, unloaded blocks of ice,flour and sugar, farm equipment, and feminine apparel. A two-rut road ran from theriverside and vanished among dark trees. At the end of the road was a two-storied whitehouse with porches circling it upstairs and downstairs. In his old age, our ancestorSimon Finch had built it to please his nagging wife; but with the porches all resemblanceto ordinary houses of its era ended. The internal arrangements of the Finch house wereindicative of Simon’s guilelessness and the absolute trust with which he regarded hisoffspring.
There were six bedrooms upstairs, four for the eight female children, one for WelcomeFinch, the sole son, and one for visiting relatives. Simple enough; but the daughters’
rooms could be reached only by one staircase, Welcome’s room and the guestroomonly by another. The Daughters’ Staircase was in the ground-floor bedroom of theirparents, so Simon always knew the hours of his daughters’ nocturnal comings andgoings.
There was a kitchen separate from the rest of the house, tacked onto it by a woodencatwalk; in the back yard was a rusty bell on a pole, used to summon field hands or as adistress signal; a widow’s walk was on the roof, but no widows walked there—from it,Simon oversaw his overseer, watched the river-boats, and gazed into the lives ofsurrounding landholders.
There went with the house the usual legend about the Yankees: one Finch female,recently engaged, donned her complete trousseau to save it from raiders in theneighborhood; she became stuck in the door to the Daughters’ Staircase but wasdoused with water and finally pushed through. When we arrived at the Landing, AuntAlexandra kissed Uncle Jack, Francis kissed Uncle Jack, Uncle Jimmy shook handssilently with Uncle Jack, Jem and I gave our presents to Francis, who gave us a present.
Jem felt his age and gravitated to the adults, leaving me to entertain our cousin. Franciswas eight and slicked back his hair.
“What’d you get for Christmas?” I asked politely.
“Just what I asked for,” he said. Francis had requested a pair of knee-pants, a redleather booksack, five shirts and an untied bow tie.
“That’s nice,” I lied. “Jem and me got air rifles, and Jem got a chemistry set—”
“A toy one, I reckon.”
“No, a real one. He’s gonna make me some invisible ink, and I’m gonna write to Dill init.”
Francis asked what was the use of that.
“Well, can’t you just see his face when he gets a letter from me with nothing in it? It’lldrive him nuts.”
Talking to Francis gave me the sensation of settling slowly to the bottom of the ocean.
He was the most boring child I ever met. As he lived in Mobile, he could not inform onme to school authorities, but he managed to tell everything he knew to Aunt Alexandra,who in turn unburdened herself to Atticus, who either forgot it or gave me hell,whichever struck his fancy. But the only time I ever heard Atticus speak sharply toanyone was when I once heard him say, “Sister, I do the best I can with them!” It hadsomething to do with my going around in overalls.
Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope tobe a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn’tsupposed to be doing things that required pants. Aunt Alexandra’s vision of mydeportment involved playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearlnecklace she gave me when I was born; furthermore, I should be a ray of sunshine inmy father’s lonely life. I suggested that one could be a ray of sunshine in pants just aswell, but Aunty said that one had to behave like a sunbeam, that I was born good buthad grown progressively worse every year. She hurt my feelings and set my teethpermanently on edge, but when I asked Atticus about it, he said there were alreadyenough sunbeams in the family and to go on about my business, he didn’t mind memuch the way I was.
At Christmas dinner, I sat at the little table in the diningroom; Jem and Francis sat withthe adults at the dining table. Aunty had continued to isolate me long after Jem andFrancis graduated to the big table. I often wondered what she thought I’d do, get up andthrow something? I sometimes thought of asking her if she would let me sit at the bigtable with the rest of them just once, I would prove to her how civilized I could be; afterall, I ate at home every day with no major mishaps. When I begged Atticus to use hisinfluence, he said he had none—we were guests, and we sat where she told us to sit.
He also said Aunt Alexandra didn’t understand girls much, she’d never had one.
But her cooking made up for everything: three kinds of meat, summer vegetables fromher pantry shelves; peach pickles, two kinds of cake and ambrosia constituted a modestChristmas dinner. Afterwards, the adults made for the livingroom and sat around in adazed condition. Jem lay on the floor, and I went to the back yard. “Put on your coat,”
said Atticus dreamily, so I didn’t hear him.
Francis sat beside me on the back steps. “That was the best yet,” I said.
“Grandma’s a wonderful cook,” said Francis. “She’s gonna teach me how.”
“Boys don’t cook.” I giggled at the thought of Jem in an apron.
“Grandma says all men should learn to cook, that men oughta be careful with theirwives and wait on ‘em when they don’t feel good,” said my cousin.
“I don’t want Dill waitin‘ on me,” I said. “I’d rather wait on him.”
“Yeah. Don’t say anything about it yet, but we’re gonna get married as soon as we’rebig enough. He asked me last summer.”
“What’s the matter with him?” I asked. “Ain’t anything the matter with him.”
“You mean that little runt Grandma says stays with Miss Rachel every summer?”
“That’s exactly who I mean.”
“I know all about him,” said Francis.
“What about him?”
“Grandma says he hasn’t got a home—”
“Has too, he lives in Meridian.”
“—he just gets passed around from relative to relative, and Miss Rachel keeps himevery summer.”
“Francis, that’s not so!”
Francis grinned at me. “You’re mighty dumb sometimes, Jean Louise. Guess youdon’t know any better, though.”
“What do you mean?”
“If Uncle Atticus lets you run around with stray dogs, that’s his own business, likeGrandma says, so it ain’t your fault. I guess it ain’t your fault if Uncle Atticus is a nigger-lover besides, but I’m here to tell you it certainly does mortify the rest of the family—”
“Francis, what the hell do you mean?”
“Just what I said. Grandma says it’s bad enough he lets you all run wild, but now he’sturned out a nigger-lover we’ll never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb agin. He’sruinin‘ the family, that’s what he’s doin’.”
Francis rose and sprinted down the catwalk to the old kitchen. At a safe distance hecalled, “He’s nothin‘ but a nigger-lover!”
“He is not!” I roared. “I don’t know what you’re talkin‘ about, but you better cut it outthis red hot minute!”
I leaped off the steps and ran down the catwalk. It was easy to collar Francis. I saidtake it back quick.
Francis jerked loose and sped into the old kitchen. “Nigger-lover!” he yelled.
When stalking one’s prey, it is best to take one’s time. Say nothing, and as sure aseggs he will become curious and emerge. Francis appeared at the kitchen door. “Youstill mad, Jean Louise?” he asked tentatively.
“Nothing to speak of,” I said.
Francis came out on the catwalk.
“You gonna take it back, Fra—ancis?” But I was too quick on the draw. Francis shotback into the kitchen, so I retired to the steps. I could wait patiently. I had sat thereperhaps five minutes when I heard Aunt Alexandra speak: “Where’s Francis?”
“He’s out yonder in the kitchen.”
“He knows he’s not supposed to play in there.”
Francis came to the door and yelled, “Grandma, she’s got me in here and she won’tlet me out!”
“What is all this, Jean Louise?”
I looked up at Aunt Alexandra. “I haven’t got him in there, Aunty, I ain’t holdin‘ him.”
“Yes she is,” shouted Francis, “she won’t let me out!”
“Have you all been fussing?”
“Jean Louise got mad at me, Grandma,” called Francis.
“Francis, come out of there! Jean Louise, if I hear another word out of you I’ll tell yourfather. Did I hear you say hell a while ago?”
“I thought I did. I’d better not hear it again.”
Aunt Alexandra was a back-porch listener. The moment she was out of sight Franciscame out head up and grinning. “Don’t you fool with me,” he said.
He jumped into the yard and kept his distance, kicking tufts of grass, turning aroundoccasionally to smile at me. Jem appeared on the porch, looked at us, and went away.
Francis climbed the mimosa tree, came down, put his hands in his pockets and strolledaround the yard. “Hah!” he said. I asked him who he thought he was, Uncle Jack?
Francis said he reckoned I got told, for me to just sit there and leave him alone.
“I ain’t botherin‘ you,” I said.
Francis looked at me carefully, concluded that I had been sufficiently subdued, andcrooned softly, “Nigger-lover…”
This time, I split my knuckle to the bone on his front teeth. My left impaired, I sailed inwith my right, but not for long. Uncle Jack pinned my arms to my sides and said, “Standstill!”
Aunt Alexandra ministered to Francis, wiping his tears away with her handkerchief,rubbing his hair, patting his cheek. Atticus, Jem, and Uncle Jimmy had come to the backporch when Francis started yelling.
“Who started this?” said Uncle Jack.
Francis and I pointed at each other. “Grandma,” he bawled, “she called me a whore-lady and jumped on me!”
“Is that true, Scout?” said Uncle Jack.
“I reckon so.”
When Uncle Jack looked down at me, his features were like Aunt Alexandra’s. “Youknow I told you you’d get in trouble if you used words like that? I told you, didn’t I?”
“Yes sir, but—”
“Well, you’re in trouble now. Stay there.”
I was debating whether to stand there or run, and tarried in indecision a moment toolong: I turned to flee but Uncle Jack was quicker. I found myself suddenly looking at atiny ant struggling with a bread crumb in the grass.
“I’ll never speak to you again as long as I live! I hate you an‘ despise you an’ hope youdie tomorrow!” A statement that seemed to encourage Uncle Jack, more than anything. Iran to Atticus for comfort, but he said I had it coming and it was high time we wenthome. I climbed into the back seat of the car without saying good-bye to anyone, and athome I ran to my room and slammed the door. Jem tried to say something nice, but Iwouldn’t let him.
When I surveyed the damage there were only seven or eight red marks, and I wasreflecting upon relativity when someone knocked on the door. I asked who it was; UncleJack answered.
Uncle Jack said if I talked like that he’d lick me again, so I was quiet. When he enteredthe room I retreated to a corner and turned my back on him. “Scout,” he said, “do youstill hate me?”
“Go on, please sir.”
“Why, I didn’t think you’d hold it against me,” he said. “I’m disappointed in you—youhad that coming and you know it.”
“Honey, you can’t go around calling people—”
“You ain’t fair,” I said, “you ain’t fair.”
Uncle Jack’s eyebrows went up. “Not fair? How not?”
“You’re real nice, Uncle Jack, an‘ I reckon I love you even after what you did, but youdon’t understand children much.”
Uncle Jack put his hands on his hips and looked down at me. “And why do I notunderstand children, Miss Jean Louise? Such conduct as yours required littleunderstanding. It was obstreperous, disorderly and abusive—”
“You gonna give me a chance to tell you? I don’t mean to sass you, I’m just tryin‘ totell you.”
Uncle Jack sat down on the bed. His eyebrows came together, and he peered up atme from under them. “Proceed,” he said.
I took a deep breath. “Well, in the first place you never stopped to gimme a chance totell you my side of it—you just lit right into me. When Jem an‘ I fuss Atticus doesn’t everjust listen to Jem’s side of it, he hears mine too, an’ in the second place you told menever to use words like that except in ex-extreme provocation, and Francis provocatedme enough to knock his block off—”
Uncle Jack scratched his head. “What was your side of it, Scout?”
“Francis called Atticus somethin‘, an’ I wasn’t about to take it off him.”
“What did Francis call him?”
“A nigger-lover. I ain’t very sure what it means, but the way Francis said it—tell youone thing right now, Uncle Jack, I’ll be—I swear before God if I’ll sit there and let himsay somethin‘ about Atticus.”
“He called Atticus that?”
“Yes sir, he did, an‘ a lot more. Said Atticus’d be the ruination of the family an’ he letJem an me run wild…”
From the look on Uncle Jack’s face, I thought I was in for it again. When he said,“We’ll see about this,” I knew Francis was in for it. “I’ve a good mind to go out theretonight.”
“Please sir, just let it go. Please.”
“I’ve no intention of letting it go,” he said. “Alexandra should know about this. The ideaof—wait’ll I get my hands on that boy…”
“Uncle Jack, please promise me somethin‘, please sir. Promise you won’t tell Atticusabout this. He—he asked me one time not to let anything I heard about him make memad, an’ I’d ruther him think we were fightin‘ about somethin’ else instead. Pleasepromise…”
“But I don’t like Francis getting away with something like that—”
“He didn’t. You reckon you could tie up my hand? It’s still bleedin‘ some.”
“Of course I will, baby. I know of no hand I would be more delighted to tie up. Will youcome this way?”
Uncle Jack gallantly bowed me to the bathroom. While he cleaned and bandaged myknuckles, he entertained me with a tale about a funny nearsighted old gentleman whohad a cat named Hodge, and who counted all the cracks in the sidewalk when he wentto town. “There now,” he said. “You’ll have a very unladylike scar on your wedding-ringfinger.”
“Thank you sir. Uncle Jack?”
“What’s a whore-lady?”
Uncle Jack plunged into another long tale about an old Prime Minister who sat in theHouse of Commons and blew feathers in the air and tried to keep them there when allabout him men were losing their heads. I guess he was trying to answer my question,but he made no sense whatsoever.
Later, when I was supposed to be in bed, I went down the hall for a drink of water andheard Atticus and Uncle Jack in the livingroom:
“I shall never marry, Atticus.”
“I might have children.”
Atticus said, “You’ve a lot to learn, Jack.”
“I know. Your daughter gave me my first lessons this afternoon. She said I didn’tunderstand children much and told me why. She was quite right. Atticus, she told mehow I should have treated her—oh dear, I’m so sorry I romped on her.”
Atticus chuckled. “She earned it, so don’t feel too remorseful.”
I waited, on tenterhooks, for Uncle Jack to tell Atticus my side of it. But he didn’t. Hesimply murmured, “Her use of bathroom invective leaves nothing to the imagination. Butshe doesn’t know the meaning of half she says—she asked me what a whore-ladywas…”
“Did you tell her?”
“No, I told her about Lord Melbourne.”
“Jack! When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness’ sake. But don’tmake a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker thanadults, and evasion simply muddles ‘em. No,” my father mused, “you had the rightanswer this afternoon, but the wrong reasons. Bad language is a stage all children gothrough, and it dies with time when they learn they’re not attracting attention with it.
Hotheadedness isn’t. Scout’s got to learn to keep her head and learn soon, with what’sin store for her these next few months. She’s coming along, though. Jem’s getting olderand she follows his example a good bit now. All she needs is assistance sometimes.”
“Atticus, you’ve never laid a hand on her.”
“I admit that. So far I’ve been able to get by with threats. Jack, she minds me as wellas she can. Doesn’t come up to scratch half the time, but she tries.”
“That’s not the answer,” said Uncle Jack.
“No, the answer is she knows I know she tries. That’s what makes the difference.
What bothers me is that she and Jem will have to absorb some ugly things pretty soon.
I’m not worried about Jem keeping his head, but Scout’d just as soon jump on someoneas look at him if her pride’s at stake…”
I waited for Uncle Jack to break his promise. He still didn’t.
“Atticus, how bad is this going to be? You haven’t had too much chance to discuss it.”
“It couldn’t be worse, Jack. The only thing we’ve got is a black man’s word against theEwells‘. The evidence boils down to you-did—I-didn’t. The jury couldn’t possibly beexpected to take Tom Robinson’s word against the Ewells’—are you acquainted with theEwells?”
Uncle Jack said yes, he remembered them. He described them to Atticus, but Atticussaid, “You’re a generation off. The present ones are the same, though.”
“What are you going to do, then?”
“Before I’m through, I intend to jar the jury a bit—I think we’ll have a reasonablechance on appeal, though. I really can’t tell at this stage, Jack. You know, I’d hoped toget through life without a case of this kind, but John Taylor pointed at me and said,‘You’re It.’”
“Let this cup pass from you, eh?”
“Right. But do you think I could face my children otherwise? You know what’s going tohappen as well as I do, Jack, and I hope and pray I can get Jem and Scout through itwithout bitterness, and most of all, without catching Maycomb’s usual disease. Whyreasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, issomething I don’t pretend to understand… I just hope that Jem and Scout come to mefor their answers instead of listening to the town. I hope they trust me enough… JeanLouise?”
My scalp jumped. I stuck my head around the corner. “Sir?”
“Go to bed.”
I scurried to my room and went to bed. Uncle Jack was a prince of a fellow not to letme down. But I never figured out how Atticus knew I was listening, and it was not untilmany years later that I realized he wanted me to hear every word he said.