It was Jem’s turn to cry. His face was streaked with angry tears as we made our waythrough the cheerful crowd. “It ain’t right,” he muttered, all the way to the corner of thesquare where we found Atticus waiting. Atticus was standing under the street lightlooking as though nothing had happened: his vest was buttoned, his collar and tie wereneatly in place, his watch-chain glistened, he was his impassive self again.
“It ain’t right, Atticus,” said Jem.
“No son, it’s not right.”
We walked home.
Aunt Alexandra was waiting up. She was in her dressing gown, and I could havesworn she had on her corset underneath it. “I’m sorry, brother,” she murmured. Havingnever heard her call Atticus “brother” before, I stole a glance at Jem, but he was notlistening. He would look up at Atticus, then down at the floor, and I wondered if hethought Atticus somehow responsible for Tom Robinson’s conviction.
“Is he all right?” Aunty asked, indicating Jem.
“He’ll be so presently,” said Atticus. “It was a little too strong for him.” Our fathersighed. “I’m going to bed,” he said. “If I don’t wake up in the morning, don’t call me.”
“I didn’t think it wise in the first place to let them—”
“This is their home, sister,” said Atticus. “We’ve made it this way for them, they mightas well learn to cope with it.”
“But they don’t have to go to the courthouse and wallow in it—”
“It’s just as much Maycomb County as missionary teas.”
“Atticus—” Aunt Alexandra’s eyes were anxious. “You are the last person I thoughtwould turn bitter over this.”
“I’m not bitter, just tired. I’m going to bed.”
“Atticus—” said Jem bleakly.
He turned in the doorway. “What, son?”
“How could they do it, how could they?”
“I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’lldo it again and when they do it—seems that only children weep. Good night.”
But things are always better in the morning. Atticus rose at his usual ungodly hour andwas in the livingroom behind the Mobile Register when we stumbled in. Jem’s morningface posed the question his sleepy lips struggled to ask.
“It’s not time to worry yet,” Atticus reassured him, as we went to the diningroom.
“We’re not through yet. There’ll be an appeal, you can count on that. Gracious alive,Cal, what’s all this?” He was staring at his breakfast plate.
Calpurnia said, “Tom Robinson’s daddy sent you along this chicken this morning. Ifixed it.”
“You tell him I’m proud to get it—bet they don’t have chicken for breakfast at the WhiteHouse. What are these?”
“Rolls,” said Calpurnia. “Estelle down at the hotel sent ‘em.”
Atticus looked up at her, puzzled, and she said, “You better step out here and seewhat’s in the kitchen, Mr. Finch.”
We followed him. The kitchen table was loaded with enough food to bury the family:
hunks of salt pork, tomatoes, beans, even scuppernongs. Atticus grinned when he founda jar of pickled pigs’ knuckles. “Reckon Aunty’ll let me eat these in the diningroom?”
Calpurnia said, “This was all ‘round the back steps when I got here this morning.
They—they ’preciate what you did, Mr. Finch. They—they aren’t oversteppin‘themselves, are they?”
Atticus’s eyes filled with tears. He did not speak for a moment. “Tell them I’m verygrateful,” he said. “Tell them—tell them they must never do this again. Times are toohard…”
He left the kitchen, went in the diningroom and excused himself to Aunt Alexandra, puton his hat and went to town.
We heard Dill’s step in the hall, so Calpurnia left Atticus’s uneaten breakfast on thetable. Between rabbit-bites Dill told us of Miss Rachel’s reaction to last night, which was:
if a man like Atticus Finch wants to butt his head against a stone wall it’s his head.
“I’da got her told,” growled Dill, gnawing a chicken leg, “but she didn’t look much liketellin‘ this morning. Said she was up half the night wonderin’ where I was, said she’dahad the sheriff after me but he was at the hearing.”
“Dill, you’ve got to stop goin‘ off without tellin’ her,” said Jem. “It just aggravates her.”
Dill sighed patiently. “I told her till I was blue in the face where I was goin‘—she’s justseein’ too many snakes in the closet. Bet that woman drinks a pint for breakfast everymorning—know she drinks two glasses full. Seen her.”
“Don’t talk like that, Dill,” said Aunt Alexandra. “It’s not becoming to a child. It’s—cynical.”
“I ain’t cynical, Miss Alexandra. Tellin‘ the truth’s not cynical, is it?”
“The way you tell it, it is.”
Jem’s eyes flashed at her, but he said to Dill, “Let’s go. You can take that runner withyou.”
When we went to the front porch, Miss Stephanie Crawford was busy telling it to MissMaudie Atkinson and Mr. Avery. They looked around at us and went on talking. Jemmade a feral noise in his throat. I wished for a weapon.
“I hate grown folks lookin‘ at you,” said Dill. “Makes you feel like you’ve donesomething.”
Miss Maudie yelled for Jem Finch to come there.
Jem groaned and heaved himself up from the swing. “We’ll go with you,” Dill said.
Miss Stephanie’s nose quivered with curiosity. She wanted to know who all gave uspermission to go to court—she didn’t see us but it was all over town this morning that wewere in the Colored balcony. Did Atticus put us up there as a sort of—? Wasn’t it rightclose up there with all those—? Did Scout understand all the—? Didn’t it make us madto see our daddy beat?
“Hush, Stephanie.” Miss Maudie’s diction was deadly. “I’ve not got all the morning topass on the porch—Jem Finch, I called to find out if you and your colleagues can eatsome cake. Got up at five to make it, so you better say yes. Excuse us, Stephanie.
Good morning, Mr. Avery.”
There was a big cake and two little ones on Miss Maudie’s kitchen table. There shouldhave been three little ones. It was not like Miss Maudie to forget Dill, and we must haveshown it. But we understood when she cut from the big cake and gave the slice to Jem.
As we ate, we sensed that this was Miss Maudie’s way of saying that as far as shewas concerned, nothing had changed. She sat quietly in a kitchen chair, watching us.
Suddenly she spoke: “Don’t fret, Jem. Things are never as bad as they seem.”
Indoors, when Miss Maudie wanted to say something lengthy she spread her fingerson her knees and settled her bridgework. This she did, and we waited.
“I simply want to tell you that there are some men in this world who were born to doour unpleasant jobs for us. Your father’s one of them.”
“Oh,” said Jem. “Well.”
“Don’t you oh well me, sir,” Miss Maudie replied, recognizing Jem’s fatalistic noises,“you are not old enough to appreciate what I said.”
Jem was staring at his half-eaten cake. “It’s like bein‘ a caterpillar in a cocoon, that’swhat it is,” he said. “Like somethin’ asleep wrapped up in a warm place. I always thoughtMaycomb folks were the best folks in the world, least that’s what they seemed like.”
“We’re the safest folks in the world,” said Miss Maudie. “We’re so rarely called on tobe Christians, but when we are, we’ve got men like Atticus to go for us.”
Jem grinned ruefully. “Wish the rest of the county thought that.”
“You’d be surprised how many of us do.”
“Who?” Jem’s voice rose. “Who in this town did one thing to help Tom Robinson, justwho?”
“His colored friends for one thing, and people like us. People like Judge Taylor. Peoplelike Mr. Heck Tate. Stop eating and start thinking, Jem. Did it ever strike you that JudgeTaylor naming Atticus to defend that boy was no accident? That Judge Taylor mighthave had his reasons for naming him?”
This was a thought. Court-appointed defenses were usually given to Maxwell Green,Maycomb’s latest addition to the bar, who needed the experience. Maxwell Greenshould have had Tom Robinson’s case.
“You think about that,” Miss Maudie was saying. “It was no accident. I was sittin‘ thereon the porch last night, waiting. I waited and waited to see you all come down thesidewalk, and as I waited I thought, Atticus Finch won’t win, he can’t win, but he’s theonly man in these parts who can keep a jury out so long in a case like that. And Ithought to myself, well, we’re making a step—it’s just a baby-step, but it’s a step.”
“‘t’s all right to talk like that—can’t any Christian judges an’ lawyers make up forheathen juries,” Jem muttered. “Soon’s I get grown—”
“That’s something you’ll have to take up with your father,” Miss Maudie said.
We went down Miss Maudie’s cool new steps into the sunshine and found Mr. Averyand Miss Stephanie Crawford still at it. They had moved down the sidewalk and werestanding in front of Miss Stephanie’s house. Miss Rachel was walking toward them.
“I think I’ll be a clown when I get grown,” said Dill.
Jem and I stopped in our tracks.
“Yes sir, a clown,” he said. “There ain’t one thing in this world I can do about folksexcept laugh, so I’m gonna join the circus and laugh my head off.”
“You got it backwards, Dill,” said Jem. “Clowns are sad, it’s folks that laugh at them.”
“Well I’m gonna be a new kind of clown. I’m gonna stand in the middle of the ring andlaugh at the folks. Just looka yonder,” he pointed. “Every one of ‘em oughta be ridin’
broomsticks. Aunt Rachel already does.”
Miss Stephanie and Miss Rachel were waving wildly at us, in a way that did not givethe lie to Dill’s observation.
“Oh gosh,” breathed Jem. “I reckon it’d be ugly not to see ‘em.”
Something was wrong. Mr. Avery was red in the face from a sneezing spell and nearlyblew us off the sidewalk when we came up. Miss Stephanie was trembling withexcitement, and Miss Rachel caught Dill’s shoulder. “You get on in the back yard andstay there,” she said. “There’s danger a’comin‘.”
“‘s matter?” I asked.
“Ain’t you heard yet? It’s all over town—”
At that moment Aunt Alexandra came to the door and called us, but she was too late.
It was Miss Stephanie’s pleasure to tell us: this morning Mr. Bob Ewell stopped Atticuson the post office corner, spat in his face, and told him he’d get him if it took the rest ofhis life.