She stopped shyly at the railing and waited to get Judge Taylor’s attention. She was ina fresh apron and she carried an envelope in her hand.
Judge Taylor saw her and said, “It’s Calpurnia, isn’t it?”
“Yes sir,” she said. “Could I just pass this note to Mr. Finch, please sir? It hasn’t gotanything to do with—with the trial.”
Judge Taylor nodded and Atticus took the envelope from Calpurnia. He opened it,read its contents and said, “Judge, I—this note is from my sister. She says my childrenare missing, haven’t turned up since noon… I… could you—”
“I know where they are, Atticus.” Mr. Underwood spoke up. “They’re right up yonder inthe colored balcony—been there since precisely one-eighteen P.M.”
Our father turned around and looked up. “Jem, come down from there,” he called.
Then he said something to the Judge we didn’t hear. We climbed across ReverendSykes and made our way to the staircase.
Atticus and Calpurnia met us downstairs. Calpurnia looked peeved, but Atticus lookedexhausted.
Jem was jumping in excitement. “We’ve won, haven’t we?”
“I’ve no idea,” said Atticus shortly. “You’ve been here all afternoon? Go home withCalpurnia and get your supper—and stay home.”
“Aw, Atticus, let us come back,” pleaded Jem. “Please let us hear the verdict, pleasesir.”
“The jury might be out and back in a minute, we don’t know—” but we could tell Atticuswas relenting. “Well, you’ve heard it all, so you might as well hear the rest. Tell youwhat, you all can come back when you’ve eaten your supper—eat slowly, now, youwon’t miss anything important—and if the jury’s still out, you can wait with us. But Iexpect it’ll be over before you get back.”
“You think they’ll acquit him that fast?” asked Jem.
Atticus opened his mouth to answer, but shut it and left us.
I prayed that Reverend Sykes would save our seats for us, but stopped praying when Iremembered that people got up and left in droves when the jury was out—tonight, they’doverrun the drugstore, the O.K. Café and the hotel, that is, unless they had brought theirsuppers too.
Calpurnia marched us home: “—skin every one of you alive, the very idea, youchildren listenin‘ to all that! Mister Jem, don’t you know better’n to take your little sister tothat trial? Miss Alexandra’ll absolutely have a stroke of paralysis when she finds out!
Ain’t fittin’ for children to hear…”
The streetlights were on, and we glimpsed Calpurnia’s indignant profile as we passedbeneath them. “Mister Jem, I thought you was gettin‘ some kinda head on yourshoulders—the very idea, she’s your little sister! The very idea, sir! You oughta beperfectly ashamed of yourself—ain’t you got any sense at all?”
I was exhilarated. So many things had happened so fast I felt it would take years tosort them out, and now here was Calpurnia giving her precious Jem down the country—what new marvels would the evening bring?
Jem was chuckling. “Don’t you want to hear about it, Cal?”
“Hush your mouth, sir! When you oughta be hangin‘ your head in shame you go alonglaughin’—” Calpurnia revived a series of rusty threats that moved Jem to little remorse,and she sailed up the front steps with her classic, “If Mr. Finch don’t wear you out, Iwill—get in that house, sir!”
Jem went in grinning, and Calpurnia nodded tacit consent to having Dill in to supper.
“You all call Miss Rachel right now and tell her where you are,” she told him. “She’s rundistracted lookin‘ for you—you watch out she don’t ship you back to Meridian first thingin the mornin’.”
Aunt Alexandra met us and nearly fainted when Calpurnia told her where we were. Iguess it hurt her when we told her Atticus said we could go back, because she didn’tsay a word during supper. She just rearranged food on her plate, looking at it sadlywhile Calpurnia served Jem, Dill and me with a vengeance. Calpurnia poured milk,dished out potato salad and ham, muttering, “‘shamed of yourselves,” in varyingdegrees of intensity. “Now you all eat slow,” was her final command.
Reverend Sykes had saved our places. We were surprised to find that we had beengone nearly an hour, and were equally surprised to find the courtroom exactly as we hadleft it, with minor changes: the jury box was empty, the defendant was gone; JudgeTaylor had been gone, but he reappeared as we were seating ourselves.
“Nobody’s moved, hardly,” said Jem.
“They moved around some when the jury went out,” said Reverend Sykes. “Themenfolk down there got the womenfolk their suppers, and they fed their babies.”
“How long have they been out?” asked Jem.
“‘bout thirty minutes. Mr. Finch and Mr. Gilmer did some more talkin’, and JudgeTaylor charged the jury.”
“How was he?” asked Jem.
“What say? Oh, he did right well. I ain’t complainin‘ one bit—he was mighty fair-minded. He sorta said if you believe this, then you’ll have to return one verdict, but if youbelieve this, you’ll have to return another one. I thought he was leanin’ a little to ourside—” Reverend Sykes scratched his head.
Jem smiled. “He’s not supposed to lean, Reverend, but don’t fret, we’ve won it,” hesaid wisely. “Don’t see how any jury could convict on what we heard—”
“Now don’t you be so confident, Mr. Jem, I ain’t ever seen any jury decide in favor of acolored man over a white man…” But Jem took exception to Reverend Sykes, and wewere subjected to a lengthy review of the evidence with Jem’s ideas on the lawregarding rape: it wasn’t rape if she let you, but she had to be eighteen—in Alabama,that is—and Mayella was nineteen. Apparently you had to kick and holler, you had to beoverpowered and stomped on, preferably knocked stone cold. If you were undereighteen, you didn’t have to go through all this.
“Mr. Jem,” Reverend Sykes demurred, “this ain’t a polite thing for little ladies tohear…”
“Aw, she doesn’t know what we’re talkin‘ about,” said Jem. “Scout, this is too old foryou, ain’t it?”
“It most certainly is not, I know every word you’re saying.” Perhaps I was tooconvincing, because Jem hushed and never discussed the subject again.
“What time is it, Reverend?” he asked.
“Gettin‘ on toward eight.”
I looked down and saw Atticus strolling around with his hands in his pockets: he madea tour of the windows, then walked by the railing over to the jury box. He looked in it,inspected Judge Taylor on his throne, then went back to where he started. I caught hiseye and waved to him. He acknowledged my salute with a nod, and resumed his tour.
Mr. Gilmer was standing at the windows talking to Mr. Underwood. Bert, the courtreporter, was chain-smoking: he sat back with his feet on the table.
But the officers of the court, the ones present—Atticus, Mr. Gilmer, Judge Taylorsound asleep, and Bert, were the only ones whose behavior seemed normal. I hadnever seen a packed courtroom so still. Sometimes a baby would cry out fretfully, and achild would scurry out, but the grown people sat as if they were in church. In thebalcony, the Negroes sat and stood around us with biblical patience.
The old courthouse clock suffered its preliminary strain and struck the hour, eightdeafening bongs that shook our bones.
When it bonged eleven times I was past feeling: tired from fighting sleep, I allowedmyself a short nap against Reverend Sykes’s comfortable arm and shoulder. I jerkedawake and made an honest effort to remain so, by looking down and concentrating onthe heads below: there were sixteen bald ones, fourteen men that could pass forredheads, forty heads varying between brown and black, and—I rememberedsomething Jem had once explained to me when he went through a brief period ofpsychical research: he said if enough people—a stadium full, maybe—were toconcentrate on one thing, such as setting a tree afire in the woods, that the tree wouldignite of its own accord. I toyed with the idea of asking everyone below to concentrateon setting Tom Robinson free, but thought if they were as tired as I, it wouldn’t work.
Dill was sound asleep, his head on Jem’s shoulder, and Jem was quiet.
“Ain’t it a long time?” I asked him.
“Sure is, Scout,” he said happily.
“Well, from the way you put it, it’d just take five minutes.”
Jem raised his eyebrows. “There are things you don’t understand,” he said, and I wastoo weary to argue.
But I must have been reasonably awake, or I would not have received the impressionthat was creeping into me. It was not unlike one I had last winter, and I shivered, thoughthe night was hot. The feeling grew until the atmosphere in the courtroom was exactlythe same as a cold February morning, when the mockingbirds were still, and thecarpenters had stopped hammering on Miss Maudie’s new house, and every wood doorin the neighborhood was shut as tight as the doors of the Radley Place. A deserted,waiting, empty street, and the courtroom was packed with people. A steaming summernight was no different from a winter morning. Mr. Heck Tate, who had entered thecourtroom and was talking to Atticus, might have been wearing his high boots andlumber jacket. Atticus had stopped his tranquil journey and had put his foot onto thebottom rung of a chair; as he listened to what Mr. Tate was saying, he ran his handslowly up and down his thigh. I expected Mr. Tate to say any minute, “Take him, Mr.
But Mr. Tate said, “This court will come to order,” in a voice that rang with authority,and the heads below us jerked up. Mr. Tate left the room and returned with TomRobinson. He steered Tom to his place beside Atticus, and stood there. Judge Taylorhad roused himself to sudden alertness and was sitting up straight, looking at the emptyjury box.
What happened after that had a dreamlike quality: in a dream I saw the jury return,moving like underwater swimmers, and Judge Taylor’s voice came from far away andwas tiny. I saw something only a lawyer’s child could be expected to see, could beexpected to watch for, and it was like watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a rifle tohis shoulder and pull the trigger, but watching all the time knowing that the gun wasempty.
A jury never looks at a defendant it has convicted, and when this jury came in, not oneof them looked at Tom Robinson. The foreman handed a piece of paper to Mr. Tate whohanded it to the clerk who handed it to the judge…I shut my eyes. Judge Taylor was polling the jury: “Guilty… guilty… guilty… guilty…” Ipeeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shouldersjerked as if each “guilty” was a separate stab between them.
Judge Taylor was saying something. His gavel was in his fist, but he wasn’t using it.
Dimly, I saw Atticus pushing papers from the table into his briefcase. He snapped itshut, went to the court reporter and said something, nodded to Mr. Gilmer, and thenwent to Tom Robinson and whispered something to him. Atticus put his hand on Tom’sshoulder as he whispered. Atticus took his coat off the back of his chair and pulled itover his shoulder. Then he left the courtroom, but not by his usual exit. He must havewanted to go home the short way, because he walked quickly down the middle aisletoward the south exit. I followed the top of his head as he made his way to the door. Hedid not look up.
Someone was punching me, but I was reluctant to take my eyes from the peoplebelow us, and from the image of Atticus’s lonely walk down the aisle.
“Miss Jean Louise?”
I looked around. They were standing. All around us and in the balcony on the oppositewall, the Negroes were getting to their feet. Reverend Sykes’s voice was as distant asJudge Taylor’s:
“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”