Setting: Maycomb, Alabama, 1930’s Narrator: Jean Louise “Scout” Finch Chapter 1


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Chapter 12

Jem was twelve. He was getting so moody and hard to live with. After Mrs. Dubose had been dead for a couple of weeks, he started changing and telling me what to do. Jem hollered, “It’s time you started bein’ a girl and acting right!” I burst into tears and ran to Calpurnia. Calpurnia told me not to fret, that he was growing up. She even started calling him Mister Jem like he was a grown up. I spend a lot of time with Calpurnia waiting for summer when Dill would come to Maycomb.

Summer came and Dill had not come. Dill sent a letter and said that he had a new father and that he would have to stay in Meridian. The state legislature was called to an emergency session and Atticus left us for two weeks.

One Sunday we went with Calpurnia to her church. She got us all clean and spent time going over our clothes. My dress had so much starch in it, it came up like a tent when I sat down.

“It’s like we were goin’ to Mardi Gras,” said Jem. “What’s all this for, Cal?”

“I don’t want anybody sayin’ I don’t look after my children,” she muttered. “Mister Jem, you absolutely can’t wear that tie with that suit. It’s green.”

Calpurnia took us to First Purchase African M.E. Church. It was called First Purchase because it was paid for from the first earnings of freed slaves. Negroes worshipped in it on Sundays and white men gambled in it on weekdays.

As we entered the churchyard, the men stepped back and took off their hats and the women crossed their arms at their wrists. They made a pathway for us. A woman’s voice came from behind us, “What you up to, Miss Cal?”

“What you want, Lula?” she asked in a tone I had never heard.

“I wants to know why you bringin’ white chillun to a n****r church.”

“They’s my comp’ny,” said Calpurnia. Again I thought her voice was strange: she was talking like the rest of them.

“Yeah, an’ I reckon you’s comp’ny at the Finch house durin’ the week.”

“Don’t you fret,” Calpurnia whispered to me and then said to Lula, “Stop right there, n****r.”

Lula stopped and said, “You ain’t got no business bringing’ white chillun here – they got their church, we got our’n. It is our church, ain’t it, Miss Cal?”

We told Calpurnia that we wanted to go home that we weren’t welcome here. When I looked up Calpurnia had amusement in her eyes and others were coming toward us. Lula was gone and we were surrounded by others. One of them, Zeebo, said to not pay attention to Lula and that they were glad to have us there.

Inside church service was beginning. Reverend Sykes started by making some announcements. I noticed that there were no hymnals and when I went to ask Calpurnia about it, she told me to be quiet. Reverend Sykes said that they would be taking up a collection today and for the next three Sundays for Tom Robinson to help out his wife, Helen, and family.

Reverend Sykes said that we would begin services by singing hymn number two seventy-three. This was too much for me.. “How’re we gonna sing it if there ain’t no hymn books?”

Calpurnia smiled. “Hush baby,” she whispered, “you’ll see in a minute.”

Zeebo cleared this throat and read in a voice like the rumble of distant artillery,

“There’s a land beyond the river.”

Miraculously on pitch, a hundred voices sang out Zeebo’s words. The last syllable, held to a hum, was followed by Zeebo saying, “That we call the sweet forever.”

Music again swelled around us: the last note lingered and Zeebo met it with the next line.

Reverend Sykes went into his sermon and after that came the collection. After the coffee can went around the church, Reverend Sykes emptied the coins into his hand and announced that it was not enough. He said that we must have ten dollars. He even had one of the church members close the doors until we had the ten dollars collected. We put in our dimes. Slowly and painfully the ten dollars was collected.

At the end of service when we were all leaving, Reverend Sykes said to us, “We were ‘specially glad to have you all here,” said Reverend Sykes. “The church has no better friend than your daddy.”

My curiosity got to me and I asked, “Why were you all takin’ up a collection for Tom Robinson’s wife?”

“Didn’t you hear why?” asked Reverend Sykes. “Helen’s got three little’uns and she can’t go out to work—“

“Why can’t she take ‘em with her, Reverend?” I asked. Callpurnia put her hand on my shoulder. On the way home I asked Cal why no one would hire Helen. She told us that it’s because of what folks say Tom’s done. I didn’t know what Tom had done so I asked. Cal sighted, “old Mr. Bob Ewell accused him of rapin’ his girl an’ had him arrested an’ put in jail—“

“Mr. Ewell?” I thought and remembered what Atticus had said that they were absolute trash and I had never heard Atticus talk about anyone like that before. Cal said that I’d have to ask Atticus the questions about this.

Calpurnia did explain why they sang hymns the way they did. It’s called linin’ and it’s been done like that for as long as she can remember. Jem thought it would be a good idea to take up a collection to get some hymn-books. Cal said it would do no good since she only knows about four people who can read. Zeebo, who is Calpurnia’s oldest son, was taught by her and Cal was taught by Miss Maudie’s aunt, old Miss Buford.

Another thing I was curious about and had to ask Cal about it was the way she talked around the other colored folks. “Cal,” I asked, “why to you talk n****r-talk to your folks when you know it’s not right?”

“Well, in the first place, I’m black—“

“That doesn’t mean you hafta talk that way when you know better,” said Jem.

“It’s right hard to say,” she said. “Suppose you and Scout talked colored-folks’ talk at home it’d be out of place, wouldn’t it? Now what if I talked white-folks’ talk at church, and with my neighbors? They’d think I was puttin’ on airs to beat Moses.”

“But Cal, you know better,” I said.

“It’s not necessary to tell all you know. It’s not ladylike—in the second place, folks don’t like to have somebody around knowin’ more than they do. It aggravates ‘em. You’re not gonna change any of them by talkin’ right, they’ve go to want to learn themselves, and when they don’t want to learn there’s nothing you can do but keep your mouth shut or talk their language.”

As we approached the house Jem told me to look on the porch. I looked and saw Aunt Alexandra sitting in a rocking chair.

Chapter 13
Aunt Alexandra had Calpurnia put her bags in the front bedroom. The next thing she did was to tell me to stop scratching my head. I asked her if she was just here for a visit and she told us that she and Atticus had decided that she should come stay for awhile. “We decided that it would be best for you to have some feminine influence. It won’t be many years, Jean Louise, before you become interested in clothes and boys—“

I thought many things to myself like the fact that I had Cal and that I wouldn’t be interested in boys for many years and that I would never be interested in clothes. But I kept my mouth shut.

Later that afternoon Atticus came home. He told us that they had decided it was best for Aunt Alexandra to stay with us. I knew that it was more her idea than it was Atticus’s. She had a way of deciding what was best for the family.

Everyone in Maycomb welcomed Aunt Alexandra. Miss Maudie baked a cake, Miss Rachel had her over for coffee, and Mr. Nathan Radley came in the front yard and said he was glad to see her.

Life resumed as if she had always lived with us. Aunt Alexandra never missed a chance to point out the shortcomings of others. Everyone in Maycomb seemed to have a Streak: A Drinking Streak, a Gambling Streak, a Mean Streak, a Funny Streak. She was also very occupied with heredity: who came from what family. I had received the impression the Fine Folks were people who did the best they could with the sense they had, but Aunt Alexandra was of the opinion that the longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was.

Some afternoons Aunty had the Maycomb ladies over. “Jean Louise, come speak to these ladies.”

When I came to the doorway, Aunt Alexandra looked like she almost regretted calling me over because I usually was mud-splattered or dirty.

“Speak to your Cousin Lily,” she said one afternoon, when she had trapped me in the hall.

“Who?” I said.

“Your Cousin Lily Brooke,” said Aunt Alexandra.

“She our cousin? I didn’t know that.”

Aunt Alexandra managed to smile to Cousin Lily that conveyed a gentle apology to her and a firm disapproval to me. I knew I was in for it when Cousin Lily Left.

That night Atticus came into Jem’s room where we both were. He was uncomfortable and tried to tell us something. “Your aunt has asked me to try and impress upon you and Jean Louise that you are not from run-of-the-mill people, that you are the product of several generations gentle breeding –“ Atticus paused. “Gentle bredding,” he continued, “and that you should try to live up to your name—“ Atticus persevered in spite of us: “She asked me to tell you you must try to behave like the little lady and gentleman that you are. She wants to talk to you about the family and what it’s meant to Maycomb County through the years, so you’ll have some idea of who you are, so you might be moved to behave accordingly,” he concluded at a gallop.

Stunned, Jem and I looked at each other and then at Atticus who was very uncomfortable. I started to cry because this was not my father who thought these things. Aunt Alexandra told him to do this. I went to hug him and worried that all this behavin’ was going to change things and I said so. Atticus told me not to worry.

I asked, “You really want us to do all that? I can’t remember everything Finches are supposed to do…”

“I don’t want you to remember it. Forget it.”

He left Jem’s room.
Chapter 14
One day I was in town with Jem and I overheard people talking about Atticus and how he was defending Tom Robinson who had been accused of raping a white woman. I went home and asked Atticus what “rape” meant. He said it was carnal knowledge of a female by force and without consent. I didn’t know what he meant by that!

I told him that Calpurnia didn’t tell me what it meant when we went to church. I also told him that Cal said I could go to their house some time to visit her. Aunt Alexandra, who was sitting with us knitting said, “You may NOT!”

I got so mad! I yelled, “I didn’t ask YOU!”

Atticus jumped out of his chair and said, “You apologize to your aunt.”

I argued, “But I didn’t ask her, I asked you.”

Atticus said, “First, apologize to your aunt.”

“I’m sorry, Aunty,” I muttered.

Atticus said, “Now then. Let’s get this clear: you do as Calpurnia tells you, you do as I tell you, and as long as your aunt’s in this house, you will do as she tells you. Understand?”

I nodded and went to the bathroom. But I overheard Atticus and Aunt Alexandra talking after I left. Aunt Alexandra was saying that Atticus better do something about me. I wasn’t acting like a lady at all and that Atticus should fire Calpurnia because they didn’t need her anymore.

Atticus said, “Alexandra, Cal’s not leaving this house until she wants to. You may think otherwise, but we really need her and she is a great person who feels like a member of our family. She’s done a great job of helping me raise the children.”

Later Jem told me to try not to annoy Aunty. I got so mad because he was trying to tell me what to do again. But Jem explained that we shouldn’t do anything that would upset Atticus because he’s got a lot on his mind. He’s worried about the Tom Robinson case. Jem said, “Now I mean it , Scout, you bother Aunty and I’ll – I’ll spank you.”

“You damn morphodite, I’ll kill you!” I yelled. I was so mad that he was treating me like a little kid. We got in a fight and were punching and kicking. Finally Atticus came in and broke up the fight.

Later that night I stepped on something near my bed and thought it was a snake. I went to get Jem to check. When he looked under there, he found DILL!!! He was dirty and hungry. He told this ridiculous story about how he had been tied up with chains in his basement by his new father and was kept alive by peas that a passing farmer would sneak in the window for him. Dill said he had pulled the chains from the wall and escaped. He wandered two miles and found a traveling animal show where he got a job washing a camel. He traveled all over Alabama with the show until his infallible sense of direction told him that he was right near Maycomb. So he walked to Jem and Scout’s house.

Jem knew he was lying so Dill said that really he had taken $13 from his mother’s purse and took a train from Meridian to somewhere near Maycomb. He had walked ten or eleven miles toward Maycomb and then rode the rest of the way, clinging to the back of a wagon. Jem said that Dill’s folks and aunt would be worried about him, so they should tell Atticus.

When Atticus came in the room, Dill said, “Mr. Finch, don’t tell Aunt Rachel, don’t make me go back, PLEASE sir! I’ll run off again --!

Atticus said, “Whoa, son. Nobody’s about to make you go anywhere but to bed pretty soon. I’m just going over to tell Miss Rachel you’re here and ask her if you could spend the night with us – you’d like that , wouldn’t you? And for goodness sake put some of the county back where it belongs, you’ve got so much dirt on you!!”

Later that night I went to talk to Dill. I asked him why he ran away. He said that his parents weren’t really mean to him, it’s just that they weren’t interested in him. They were always out, or if they were home they would be by themselves, not playing with him. Dill said, “They ain’t mean. They buy me everything I want, but then they expect me to just go off by myself and play with the toys they bought. Oh, they ain’t mean. They kiss you and hug you good night and good mornin’ and good-bye and tell you they love you – Scout, let’s get us a baby.”


Dill said there was a man he had heard of who had a boat that he rowed across to a foggy island where all these babies were; you could order one –

I interrupted him by saying, “That’s a lie. Aunty said God drops ‘em down the chimney. At least that’s what I think she said.”

“Well that ain’t so,” said Dill. “you get babies from each other. But there’s this man, too – he has all these babies just waitin’ to wake up, he breathes life into ‘em.”

As we were drifting off to sleelp I said, “Dill, why do you figure Boo Radley has never run away?”

Dill sighed a long sigh and said, “Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere to run off to…”
Chapter 15

It was decided that Dill would stay after much pleading. We had a week of peace together. I minded Aunty, Jem had outgrown the treehouse, and Dill had a plan of putting lemon drops leading from Boo’s house out in order to make Boo come out of his house. There was a knock on the front door and it was Mr. Heck Tate. Here were some men outside as well and wanted Atticus to come outside. There were only two reasons why men in Maycomb stayed outside and that was because there was a death or to talk politics. Atticus went outside and we pressed our faces to the window to see and hear what was going on. We heard, “…movin’ him to the county jail tomorrow,” Mr. Tate was saying. “I don’t look for any trouble, but I can’t guarantee there won’t be any…”

“Don’t be foolish, Heck,” Atticus said. “This is Maycomb.”

“… said I was just uneasy.”

There was more talk. Mr. Link Deas wanted to know if there was a chance that the trial could be held in another town for safety reasons. Mr. Deas is nervous about a crowd coming together when they’re drunk and causing trouble for Tom. He continued, “—don’t know why you touched it in the the first place. You’ve got everything to lose from this, Atticus. I mean everything.”

“Do you really think so? … Link, that boy might go to the chair, but he’s not going till the truth’s told.” Atticus’s voice was even. “And you know what the truth is.”

There was a murmur from the group of men. In the crowd there were merchants, in-town farmers, Dr. Reynolds, and Mr. Avery. Jem yelled out nervously, “Atticus, the telephone’s ringing!” Even though it wasn’t. Atticus told him to answer the phone and it made everyone in the group laugh.

When Atticus came in he went to his chair and picked up the paper to read. I walked home with Dill and returned in time to overhear a conversation between Atticus and Aunty. I found Jem in his bedroom. “Have they been at it?” I asked.

“Sort of. She won’t let him alone about Tom Robinson. She almost said Atticus was disgracing the family. Scout… I’m scared.”

“Scared ‘a what?”

“Scared about Atticus. Somebody might hurt him.”

The next day was Sunday and Tom Robinson had just been moved to the Maycomb jail. The Sunday was quiet. Atticus went to his office, Aunt Alexandra went for a two hour nap, and Jem in his old age went to his room with a stack of football magazines. So Dill and I went out to the pasture to kick around the football.

After supper, Atticus did something that interested us. He came into the living room carrying a long extension cord. There was a light bulb at the end.

I’m going out for a while,” he said. “You folks’ll be in bed when I come back, so I’ll say good night now.”

He put on his hat and went out the back door. We noticed that he took the car. One of our father’s peculiarities was that he liked to walk so taking the car was peculiar.

Later on I said good night to Aunty and while I was in my room I heard Jem rattling around in his room. I went in and asked him what he was doing.

I’m goin’ downtown for a while.” He was changing his pants.

“Why it’s almost ten o’clock, Jem. I’m goin’ with you. If you say no you’re not, I’m goin’ anyway, hear?”

I dressed quickly and Jem gave in with little grace. I said that Dill would probably want to come so we stopped at Dill’s window at Miss Rachel’s. “What’s up?” Dill said.

“Jem’s got the look-arounds.”

“I’ve just got this feeling,” Jem said, “just this feeling.”

We looked at Atticus’s office but it was dark inside. We decided to go up the street thinking he was visiting with Mr. Underwood, editor and writer of The Maycomb Tribune. He not only ran the newspaper, he lived about the office. On the way to the newspaper office we would have to go past the jail. There sitting in front of the jail was Atticus with the light and extension cord. I was going to run to him but Jem stopped me. He said that Atticus would not like us being here. We were turning to leave and saw four cars moving slowly in line stop in front of the jail. Atticus seemed to have been expecting them.

In ones and twos, men got out of the cars. Atticus remained where he was. The men hid from view.

“He in there, Mr. Finch?” a man said.

“He is,” we heard Atticus answer, “and he’s asleep. Don’t wake him up.”

The men talked in near-whispers.

“You know what we want,” another man said. “Get aside from the door, Mr. Finch.”

“You can turn around and go home again, Walter,” Atticus said pleasantly. “Heck Tate’s around somewhere.”

“The hell he is,” said another man. “Heck’s bunch’s so deep in the woods they won’t get out till mornin’.”

“Indeed? Why do?”

“Called ’em off on a snipe hunt,” was the succinct answer. “Didn’t you think a’ that, Mr. Finch?”

“Thought about it, but didn’t believe it. Well then,” my father’s voice was still the same, “that changes things, doesn’t it?”

“It do,” another deep voice said. Its owner was a shadow.

“Do you really think so?”

I broke away from Jem and ran to Atticus as fast as I could. I pushed my way through the dark smelly bodies and burst into the circle of light.

“H’ey Atticus!”

A flash of plain fear was in his eyes and Jem and Dill wriggled into the light too. There was a smell of stale whiskey and pigpen. I looked around and did not notice these men. These men were not the same men as the other night. Atticus got up from his chair.

“Go home, Jem,” he said. “Take Scout and Dill home.”

The way Jem was standing he was not thinking of budging.

“Go home, I said.”

Jem shook his head.

“Son, I said go home.”

Jem shook his head agin.

“I’ll send him home,” a burly man said, and grabbed Jem roughly by the collar. He yanked Jem nearly off his feet.

“Don’t you touch him!” I kicked the man swiftly. I was surprised to see him fall back in real pain. I intended to kick his shin, but aimed too high.

Atticus told me that will do and said that I shouldn’t kick folks.

“All right, Mr. Finch, get ‘em outta here,” someone growled. “You got fifteen seconds to get ‘em outta here.”

I looked around and saw that most of the men were dressed in overalls and denim shirts buttoned up to the collars even though it was a summer’s night. I sought once more for a familiar face. I found one.

“Hey, Mr. Cunningham.”

The man did not hear me, it seemed.

“Hey, Mr. Cuningham. How’s your entailment getting’ along?”

Mr. Walter Cunningham’s legal affairs were well known to me since Atticus had once described them to me at length. The big man blinked at me and hooked his thumbs in his overall straps. He looked away. My friendly overture had fallen flat.

“Don’t you remember me, Mrs. Cunningham? I’m Jean Louise Finch. You brought us some hickory nuts one time, remember?” I began to sense the futility one feels when unacknowledged by a chance acquaintance.

“I go to school with Walter,” I began again. “He’s your boy, ain’t he? Ain’t he sir?”

Mr. Cunningham was moved to a faint nod. He did know me after all.

“He’s in my grade,” I said, “and he does right well. He’s a good boy,” I added, “a real nice boy. We brought him home for dinner one time. Maybe he told you about me, I beat him up one time but he was real nice about it. Tell him hey for me, won’t you?”

Atticus had always told me to be polite and to talk to people about things they were interested in. The men were all looking at me. I wondered what idiocy I had committed. I began to feel sweat gathering at the edges of my hair.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

Mr. Cunningham did a peculiar thing. He squatted down and took me by both shoulders.

“I’ll tell him you said hey, little lady,” he said.

Then he straightened up and waved a big paw. “Let’s clear out,” he called. “Let’s get going, boys.”

The men shuffled back into their cars and were gone.

I turned to Atticus. “Can we go home now?” He nodded.

“Mr. Finch? They gone?”

“They’ve gone,” he said. “Get some sleep, Tom. They won’t bother you anymore.”

From a different direction, another voice cut crisply through the night: “You’re damn tootin’ they won’t. Had you covered all the time, Atticus.”

Mr. Underwood and a double-barrelled shotgun were leaning out the window. We started to walk home. Atticus and Jem were ahead of me and Dill. I thought Atticus would give Jem hell for not going home, but I was wrong. Atticus reached out and massaged Jem’s hair, his one gesture of affection.

Chapter 16
Atticus drove us home and killed the engine as we approached the house so we wouldn’t wake Aunty. We went to our rooms without a word. I was very tired. I was drifting to sleep when the events of the night hit me and I started crying. Jem came to me and he was awfully nice to me.

In the morning, Aunty, who knew about what happened last night, said that children who slipped out at night were a disgrace to the family. Aunty also said that Mr. Underwood was there the whole time and nothing bad would have happened.

“You know, it’s a funny thing about Braxton (Mr. Underwood),” said Atticus. “He despises Negroes, won’t have one near him.”

Aunty took offense to Atticus saying this comment about Mr. Underwood in front of Calpurnia. “Don’t talk like that in front of them.”

“Talk like what in front of whom?” he asked.

“Like that in front of Calpurnia. You said Braxton Underwood despises Negroes right in front of her.”

“Well, I’m sure Cal knows it. Everybody in Maycomb knows it. Anything fit to say at the table’s fine to say in front of Calpurnia. She knows what she means to this family.”

“I don’t think it’s a good habit, Atticus. It encourages them. You know how they talk among themselves. Everything that happens in this town’s out to the Quarters before sundown.”

“I don’t know of any law that says they can’t talk. Maybe if we didn’t give them so much to talk about they’d be quiet.”

I was playing with my spoon and asked, “I thought Mr. Cunningham was a friend of ours. You told me a long time ago he was.”

“He still is.”

“But last night he wanted to hurt you.”

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