Summer was on the way; Jem and I awaited it with impatience. Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the treehouse; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill.
The authorities released us early the last day of school, and Jem and I walked home together. “Reckon old Dill’ll be coming home tomorrow,” I said.
“Probably day after,” said Jem. “Mis’sippi turns ’em loose a day later.”
As we came to the live oaks at the Radley Place I raised my finger to point for the hundredth time to the knot-hole where I had found the chewing gum, trying to make Jem believe I had found it there, and found myself pointing at another piece of tinfoil.
“I see it, Scout! I see it—”
Jem looked around, reached up, and gingerly pocketed a tiny shiny package. We ran home, and on the front porch we looked at a small box patchworked with bits of tinfoil collected from chewing-gum wrappers. It was the kind of box wedding rings came in, purple velvet with a minute catch. Jem flicked open the tiny catch. Inside were two scrubbed and polished pennies, one on top of the other. Jem examined them.
“Indian-heads,” he said. “Nineteen-six and Scout, one of ’em’s nineteen-hundred. These are real old.”
“Nineteen-hundred,” I echoed. “Say—”
“Hush a minute, I’m thinkin’.”
“Jem, you reckon that’s somebody’s hidin’ place?”
“Naw, don’t anybody much but us pass by there, unless it’s some grown person’s—”
“Grown folks don’t have hidin’ places. You reckon we ought to keep ’em, Jem?”
“I don’t know what we could do, Scout. Who’d we give ’em back to? I know for a fact don’t anybody go by there—Cecil goes by the back street an’ all the way around by town to get home.”
Cecil Jacobs, who lived at the far end of our street next door to the post office, walked a total of one mile per school day to avoid the Radley Place and old Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose. Mrs. Dubose lived two doors up the street from us; neighborhood opinion was unanimous that Mrs. Dubose was the meanest old woman who ever lived. Jem wouldn’t go by her place without Atticus beside him.
“What you reckon we oughta do, Jem?”
Finders were keepers unless title was proven. Plucking an occasional camellia, getting a squirt of hot milk from Miss Maudie Atkinson’s cow on a summer day, helping ourselves to someone’s scuppernongs was part of our ethnical culture, but money was different.
“Tell you what,” said Jem. “We’ll keep ’em till school starts, then go around and ask everybody if they’re theirs. They’re some bus child’s, maybe—he was too taken up with gettin’ outa school today an’ forgot ’em. These are somebody’s, I know that. See how they’ve been slicked up? They’ve been saved.”
“Yeah, but why should somebody wanta put away chewing gum like that? You know it doesn’t last.”
“I don’t know, Scout. But these are important to somebody. . . .”
“How’s that, Jem . . .?”
“Well, Indian-heads—well, they come from the Indians. They’re real strong magic, they make you have good luck. Not like fried chicken when you’re not lookin’ for it, but things like long life ’n’ good health, ’n’ passin’ six-weeks tests . . . these are real valuable to somebody. I’m gonna put ’em in my trunk.”
Before Jem went to his room, he looked for a long time at the Radley Place. He seemed to be thinking again.
Two days later Dill arrived in a blaze of glory: he had ridden the train by himself from Meridian to Maycomb Junction (a courtesy title—Maycomb Junction was in Abbott County) where he had been met by Miss Rachel in Maycomb’s one taxi; he had eaten dinner in the diner, he had seen two twins hitched together get off the train in Bay St. Louis and stuck to his story regardless of threats. He had discarded the abominable blue shorts that were buttoned to his shirts and wore real short pants with a belt; he was somewhat heavier, no taller, and said he had seen his father. Dill’s father was taller than ours, he had a black beard (pointed), and he was president of the L & N Railroad.
“I helped the engineer for a while,” said Dill, yawning.
“In a pig’s ear you did, Dill. Hush,” said Jem. “What’ll we play today?”
“Tom and Sam and Dick,” said Dill. “Let’s go in the front yard.” Dill wanted the Rover Boys because there were three respectable parts. He was clearly tired of being our character man.