To Kill a Mockingbird

Page 91


She stopped shyly at the railing and waited to get Judge Taylor’s attention. She was in a 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 got anything 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 children are 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 in the 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 Reverend Sykes and made our way to the staircase.

Atticus and Calpurnia met us downstairs. Calpurnia looked peeved, but Atticus looked exhausted.

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 with Calpurnia and get your supper—and stay home.”

“Aw, Atticus, let us come back,” pleaded Jem. “Please let us hear the verdict, please sir.”

“The jury might be out and back in a minute, we don’t know—” but we could tell Atticus was relenting. “Well, you’ve heard it all, so you might as well hear the rest. Tell you what, you all can come back when you’ve eaten your supper—eat slowly, now, you won’t miss anything important—and if the jury’s still out, you can wait with us. But I expect 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 I remembered that people got up and left in droves when the jury was out—tonight, they’d overrun the drugstore, the O.K. Café and the hotel, that is, unless they had brought their suppers too.

Calpurnia marched us home: “—skin every one of you alive, the very idea, you children listenin’ to all that! Mister Jem, don’t you know better’n to take your little sister to that 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 passed beneath them. “Mister Jem, I thought you was gettin’ some kinda head on your shoulders—the very idea, she’s your little sister! The very idea, sir! You oughta be perfectly 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 to sort 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 along laughin’—” 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, I will—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 run distracted lookin’ for you—you watch out she don’t ship you back to Meridian first thing in the mornin’.”

Aunt Alexandra met us and nearly fainted when Calpurnia told her where we were. I guess it hurt her when we told her Atticus said we could go back, because she didn’t say a word during supper. She just rearranged food on her plate, looking at it sadly while Calpurnia served Jem, Dill and me with a vengeance. Calpurnia poured milk, dished out potato salad and ham, muttering, “ ’shamed of yourselves,” in varying degrees 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 been gone nearly an hour, and were equally surprised to find the courtroom exactly as we had left it, with minor changes: the jury box was empty, the defendant was gone; Judge Taylor had been gone, but he reappeared as we were seating ourselves.

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.