Dill was off again. Beautiful things floated around in his dreamy head. He could read two books to my one, but he preferred the magic of his own inventions. He could add and subtract faster than lightning, but he preferred his own twilight world, a world where babies slept, waiting to be gathered like morning lilies. He was slowly talking himself to sleep and taking me with him, but in the quietness of his foggy island there rose the faded image of a gray house with sad brown doors.
“Why do you reckon Boo Radley’s never run off?”
Dill sighed a long sigh and turned away from me.
“Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere to run off to. . . .”
After many telephone calls, much pleading on behalf of the defendant, and a long forgiving letter from his mother, it was decided that Dill could stay. We had a week of peace together. After that, little, it seemed. A nightmare was upon us.
It began one evening after supper. Dill was over; Aunt Alexandra was in her chair in the corner, Atticus was in his; Jem and I were on the floor reading. It had been a placid week: I had minded Aunty; Jem had outgrown the treehouse, but helped Dill and me construct a new rope ladder for it; Dill had hit upon a foolproof plan to make Boo Radley come out at no cost to ourselves (place a trail of lemon drops from the back door to the front yard and he’d follow it, like an ant). There was a knock on the front door, Jem answered it and said it was Mr. Heck Tate.
“Well, ask him to come in,” said Atticus.
“I already did. There’s some men outside in the yard, they want you to come out.”
In Maycomb, grown men stood outside in the front yard for only two reasons: death and politics. I wondered who had died. Jem and I went to the front door, but Atticus called, “Go back in the house.”
Jem turned out the livingroom lights and pressed his nose to a window screen. Aunt Alexandra protested. “Just for a second, Aunty, let’s see who it is,” he said.
Dill and I took another window. A crowd of men was standing around Atticus. They all seemed to be talking at once.
“. . . 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.”
“Heck, we’ve gotten one postponement of this case just to make sure there’s nothing to be uneasy about. This is Saturday,” Atticus said. “Trial’ll probably be Monday. You can keep him one night, can’t you? I don’t think anybody in Maycomb’ll begrudge me a client, with times this hard.”
There was a murmur of glee that died suddenly when Mr. Link Deas said, “Nobody around here’s up to anything, it’s that Old Sarum bunch I’m worried about . . . can’t you get a—what is it, Heck?”
“Change of venue,” said Mr. Tate. “Not much point in that, now is it?”
Atticus said something inaudible. I turned to Jem, who waved me to silence.
“—besides,” Atticus was saying, “you’re not scared of that crowd, are you?”
“. . . know how they do when they get shinnied up.”
“They don’t usually drink on Sunday, they go to church most of the day . . .” Atticus said.
“This is a special occasion, though. . . .” someone said.
They murmured and buzzed until Aunty said if Jem didn’t turn on the livingroom lights he would disgrace the family. Jem didn’t hear her.
“—don’t see why you touched it in the first place,” Mr. Link Deas was saying. “You’ve got everything to lose from this, Atticus. I mean everything.”
“Do you really think so?”
This was Atticus’s dangerous question. “Do you really think you want to move there, Scout?” Bam, bam, bam, and the checkerboard was swept clean of my men. “Do you really think that, son? Then read this.” Jem would struggle the rest of an evening through the speeches of Henry W. Grady.
“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 among the group of men, made more ominous when Atticus moved back to the bottom front step and the men drew nearer to him.
Suddenly Jem screamed, “Atticus, the telephone’s ringing!”
The men jumped a little and scattered; they were people we saw every day: merchants, in-town farmers; Dr. Reynolds was there; so was Mr. Avery.