Chapter 28 The weather was warm. The wind was growing stronger and there was no moon. As we walked Jem and I talked about ghosts. We were near the Radley lot. I was getting scared anyway when we someone suddenly leaped out at us. “God almighty!” Jem yelled.
Cecil Jacobs shrieked, “Haa gotcha!” He was mighty proud of himself. And he told us so as we walked the rest of the way to the school.
The auditorium was filling up with people and backstage there were people with all sorts of costumes. I had some time before I had to be onstage so I curled my knees up and sank down in my costume to rest. Well, I fell asleep listening to boring Mrs. Meriweather’s long speech about Maycomb’s grand history. I woke up suddenly to her shrieking “POOORRRKK!” and toddled as fast as I could on stage. Apparently I was too late because she had already called me a few times. She was mad at me for ruining her pageant. Judge Taylor liked it though, and the audience cheered loudly for me.
I was so embarrassed that I didn’t want to leave right away so we waited for most people to leave, then we began walking home. It was even darker out. Em was guiding me along since I still had my ham costume on. At one point he squeezed the top of my costume too hard.
“Ah, it’s probably ole Cecil again, trying to scare us.”
“It’s not that. I hear it when we’re walkin’ along.”
“Are you afraid?” I asked.
“No. Think we’re almost to the tree, be real quiet.” It was difficult to walk in my costume and we couldn’t see anything. I could hear someone shuffling, and someone’s pants rustling behind us. Jem was still holding onto me. We stopped again to listen and now someone was running towards us.
“Run Scout! Run!”
Something crushed me in my costume and I fell to the ground. I was on the ground floundering around. I could hear scuffling, kicking sounds, and scraping. Someone rolled against me and then Jem pulled me up. We were nearly to the road when I felt Jem jerk backwards. There was more scuffling and then Jem screamed. The scuffling noises were dying but I heard someone wheezing. I head someone moving so I asked, “Jem?” It seemed like someone else was under the tree now. I felt around and someone was lying there. I began walking toward the road and I could see a man walking towards my house, carrying Jem.
“Call Dr. Reynolds,” Atticus said sharply. “Where’s Scout?”
“Here she is,” Aunt Alexandra called, pulling me towards her, working me free of my mangled costume. Then Atticus called the sheriff, Heck Tate.
“Is Jem dead?” I asked Aunt Alexandra.
“No – no darling, he’s unconscious. What happened?”
“I don’t know.” She left it at that and brought me some overalls to put on.
When Dr. Reynolds arrived it took him ten forevers to finish checking on Jem, and then I asked him, ”Is Jem dead?”
“Far from it.” He talked while looking me over to make sure I was okay. “He’s got a bump on the head just like yours and a broken arm. Looks like someone tried to wring his arm off. We can’t do much tonight except try to make him comfortable. You don’t feel broke anywhere, do you?” I smiled. “Go have a look at him.” By then Mr. Tate was there so we all went in together.
Jem was lying on his back. There was an ugly mark along one side of his face. His left arm lay out form his body.
Atticus said, “Let’s not bother him, he needs his rest.” I retreated from his bed. Aunt Alexandra was in the rocking chair. Mr. Tate stood in the doorway. The man who brought Jem in was in the corner.
“Heck, did you find anything out there?” Atticus asked.
“Sit down, Mr. Finch, he said pleasantly. “I found Scout’s dress, some funny pieces of muddy cloth.” He paused. “And I found Bob Ewell on the ground – he’s dead, Mr. Finch.”
Chapter 29 Aunt Alexandra stood right up and gasped.
“Are you sure?” Atticus said weakly.
“He won’t hurt these children again,” Mr. Tate said.
He turned to me. “Scout, can you tell us what happened out there? Did you see him following you?”
“We started home. It was dark. Jem said, ‘Hush a minute.’ We thought it was Cecil Jacobs; he scared us once tonight. I could hear the footsteps too, then. They walked when we walked and stopped when we stopped. When we got under the tree, all of a sudden something’ grabbed me an’ mashed my costume. I heard them tusslin’. Jem grabbed me and pulled me toward the road. Some – Mr. Ewell yanked him down. There there was a noise – Jem hollered. Mr. Ewell was trying to squeeze me to death, I reckon… then somebody yanked Mr. Ewell down. Jem must have got up. Somebody was staggerin’ around and coughin’. I thought it was Jem but it was him.” I half pointed to the man in the corner.
His arms were folded across his chest. He had sickly white hands that had never seen the sun. He face was white too; his cheeks were thin. His gray eyes were so colorless I thought he was blind. I gazed at him in wonder and his lips parted into a timid smile. Our neighbor’s image blurred with my sudden tears.
“Hey, Boo,” I said.
“Mr. Arthur, honey,” Atticus corrected me. He then suggested that we go out on the porch. I led Boo to a chair.
Atticus rubbed his head and said, “Well Heck, it was a clear cut self-defense, Jem is almost thirteen but it will go to trial in county court.”
“Mr. Finch – Jem didn’t stab Bob Ewell,” said Heck Tate. “Bob Ewell fell on his knife. He killed himself.” Atticus looked like he didn’t believe Mr. Tate. Mr. Tate kept glancing at Boo. They went back and forth a few times, and they seemed to disagree. Mr. Tate told Atticus that if he told the town exactly what happened tonight the whole town would talk about it, and all the women would want to bring Boo cakes for helping Jem and me. “To take the one man who’s done you and this town a service and draggin’ him with his shy ways into the limelight is a sin.”
Mr. Tate stomped off the porch, and Atticus slowly turned to me.
“Scout, Mr. Ewell fell on his knife. Can you possibly understand?”
I hugged him and said, “Yes,sir. Mr. Tate was right, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird.”
Atticus rubbed my head and then walked across the porch to Boo. “Thank you for my children, Arthur.”
Boo Radley shuffled to his feet. He made uncertain moves. I took him to see Jem one last time. He leaned forward and an expression of curiousity was on his face, as though he had never seen a boy before. His hand came down lightly on Jem’s hair.
“Will you take me home?” he whispered. I took his arm so that it looked like he was escorting me like a lady down the walk. When we got to his door, he gently released my hand, opened the door, and went inside. I never saw him again.
I turned around on his front porch and looked at the neighborhood from Boo’s view. I thought about all of the things he might have seen: Dill, Jem, and I getting scolded for playing near his yard: the night of the fire: Atticus shooting the dog. He had been with us through all of it. Atticus said you never really knew a man until you stand in his shoes. He was right.
As I walked home I thought about all that Jem and I had learned. There wasn’t much left, except maybe algebra.
Atticus was sitting up reading in Jem’s room. I asked if I could sit with him and he agreed. He was reading a book, so I asked him to read it aloud. I was falling asleep so he took me to my room. I told him the story was good, but the man in the story was misunderstood. People thought he was bad. But when they finally saw him “he hadn’t done anything… he was real nice.”
“Most people are Scout, when you finally see them.”
He tucked the covers under my chin, turned out the light , and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and when Jem woke up in the morning.