“I simply want to tell you that there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father’s one of them.”
“Oh,” said Jem. “Well.”
“Don’t you oh well me, sir,” Miss Maudie replied, recognizing Jem’s fatalistic noises, “you are not old enough to appreciate what I said.”
Jem was staring at his half-eaten cake. “It’s like bein’ a caterpillar in a cocoon, that’s what it is,” he said. “Like somethin’ asleep wrapped up in a warm place. I always thought Maycomb folks were the best folks in the world, least that’s what they seemed like.”
“We’re the safest folks in the world,” said Miss Maudie. “We’re so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are, we’ve got men like Atticus to go for us.”
Jem grinned ruefully. “Wish the rest of the county thought that.”
“You’d be surprised how many of us do.”
“Who?” Jem’s voice rose. “Who in this town did one thing to help Tom Robinson, just who?”
“His colored friends for one thing, and people like us. People like Judge Taylor. People like Mr. Heck Tate. Stop eating and start thinking, Jem. Did it ever strike you that Judge Taylor naming Atticus to defend that boy was no accident? That Judge Taylor might have had his reasons for naming him?”
This was a thought. Court-appointed defenses were usually given to Maxwell Green, Maycomb’s latest addition to the bar, who needed the experience. Maxwell Green should have had Tom Robinson’s case.
“You think about that,” Miss Maudie was saying. “It was no accident. I was sittin’ there on the porch last night, waiting. I waited and waited to see you all come down the sidewalk, and as I waited I thought, Atticus Finch won’t win, he can’t win, but he’s the only man in these parts who can keep a jury out so long in a case like that. And I thought to myself, well, we’re making a step—it’s just a baby-step, but it’s a step.”
“’t’s all right to talk like that—can’t any Christian judges an’ lawyers make up for heathen juries,” Jem muttered. “Soon’s I get grown—”
“That’s something you’ll have to take up with your father,” Miss Maudie said.
We went down Miss Maudie’s cool new steps into the sunshine and found Mr. Avery and Miss Stephanie Crawford still at it. They had moved down the sidewalk and were standing in front of Miss Stephanie’s house. Miss Rachel was walking toward them.
“I think I’ll be a clown when I get grown,” said Dill.
Jem and I stopped in our tracks.
“Yes sir, a clown,” he said. “There ain’t one thing in this world I can do about folks except laugh, so I’m gonna join the circus and laugh my head off.”
“You got it backwards, Dill,” said Jem. “Clowns are sad, it’s folks that laugh at them.”
“Well I’m gonna be a new kind of clown. I’m gonna stand in the middle of the ring and laugh at the folks. Just looka yonder,” he pointed. “Every one of ’em oughta be ridin’ broomsticks. Aunt Rachel already does.”
Miss Stephanie and Miss Rachel were waving wildly at us, in a way that did not give the lie to Dill’s observation.
“Oh gosh,” breathed Jem. “I reckon it’d be ugly not to see ’em.”
Something was wrong. Mr. Avery was red in the face from a sneezing spell and nearly blew us off the sidewalk when we came up. Miss Stephanie was trembling with excitement, and Miss Rachel caught Dill’s shoulder. “You get on in the back yard and stay there,” she said. “There’s danger a’comin’.”
“ ’s matter?” I asked.
“Ain’t you heard yet? It’s all over town—”
At that moment Aunt Alexandra came to the door and called us, but she was too late. It was Miss Stephanie’s pleasure to tell us: this morning Mr. Bob Ewell stopped Atticus on the post office corner, spat in his face, and told him he’d get him if it took the rest of his life.
“I wish Bob Ewell wouldn’t chew tobacco,” was all Atticus said about it. According to Miss Stephanie Crawford, however, Atticus was leaving the post office when Mr. Ewell approached him, cursed him, spat on him, and threatened to kill him. Miss Stephanie (who, by the time she had told it twice was there and had seen it all—passing by from the Jitney Jungle, she was)—Miss Stephanie said Atticus didn’t bat an eye, just took out his handkerchief and wiped his face and stood there and let Mr. Ewell call him names wild horses could not bring her to repeat. Mr. Ewell was a veteran of an obscure war; that plus Atticus’s peaceful reaction probably prompted him to inquire, “Too proud to fight, you nigger-lovin’ bastard?” Miss Stephanie said Atticus said, “No, too old,” put his hands in his pockets and strolled on. Miss Stephanie said you had to hand it to Atticus Finch, he could be right dry sometimes.