To Kill a Mockingbird (Page 83)
“Heck? Atticus Finch. Someone’s been after my children. Jem’s hurt. Between here and the schoolhouse. I can’t leave my boy. Run out there for me, please, and see if he’s still around. Doubt if you’ll find him now, but I’d like to see him if you do. Got to go now. Thanks, Heck.”
“Atticus, is Jem dead?”
“No, Scout. Look after her, sister,” he called, as he went down the hall.
Aunt Alexandra’s fingers trembled as she unwound the crushed fabric and wire from around me. “Are you all right, darling?” she asked over and over as she worked me free.
It was a relief to be out. My arms were beginning to tingle, and they were red with small hexagonal marks. I rubbed them, and they felt better.
“Aunty, is Jem dead?”
“No—no, darling, he’s unconscious. We won’t know how badly he’s hurt until Dr. Reynolds gets here. Jean Louise, what happened?”
“I don’t know.”
She left it at that. She brought me something to put on, and had I thought about it then, I would have never let her forget it: in her distraction, Aunty brought me my overalls. “Put these on, darling,” she said, handing me the garments she most despised.
She rushed back to Jem’s room, then came to me in the hall. She patted me vaguely, and went back to Jem’s room.
A car stopped in front of the house. I knew Dr. Reynold’s step almost as well as my father’s. He had brought Jem and me into the world, had led us through every childhood disease known to man including the time Jem fell out of the treehouse, and he had never lost our friendship. Dr. Reynolds said if we had been boil-prone things would have been different, but we doubted it.
He came in the door and said, “Good Lord.” He walked toward me, said, “You’re still standing,” and changed his course. He knew every room in the house. He also knew that if I was in bad shape, so was Jem.
After ten forevers Dr. Reynolds returned. “Is Jem dead?” I asked.
“Far from it,” he said, squatting down to me. “He’s got a bump on the head just like yours, and a broken arm. Scout, look that way—no, don’t turn your head, roll your eyes. Now look over yonder. He’s got a bad break, so far as I can tell now it’s in the elbow. Like somebody tried to wring his arm off . . . now look at me.”
“Then he’s not dead?”
“No-o!” Dr. Reynolds got to his feet. “We can’t do much tonight,” he said, “except try to make him as comfortable as we can. We’ll have to X-ray his arm—looks like he’ll be wearing his arm ’way out by his side for a while. Don’t worry, though, he’ll be as good as new. Boys his age bounce.”
While he was talking, Dr. Reynolds had been looking keenly at me, lightly fingering the bump that was coming on my forehead. “You don’t feel broke anywhere, do you?”
Dr. Reynolds’s small joke made me smile. “Then you don’t think he’s dead, then?”
He put on his hat. “Now I may be wrong, of course, but I think he’s very alive. Shows all the symptoms of it. Go have a look at him, and when I come back we’ll get together and decide.”
Dr. Reynolds’s step was young and brisk. Mr. Heck Tate’s was not. His heavy boots punished the porch and he opened the door awkwardly, but he said the same thing Dr. Reynolds said when he came in. “You all right, Scout?” he added.
“Yes sir, I’m goin’ in to see Jem. Atticus’n’them’s in there.”
“I’ll go with you,” said Mr. Tate.
Aunt Alexandra had shaded Jem’s reading light with a towel, and his room was dim. Jem was lying on his back. There was an ugly mark along one side of his face. His left arm lay out from his body; his elbow was bent slightly, but in the wrong direction. Jem was frowning.
“Jem . . .?”
Atticus spoke. “He can’t hear you, Scout, he’s out like a light. He was coming around, but Dr. Reynolds put him out again.”
“Yes sir.” I retreated. Jem’s room was large and square. Aunt Alexandra was sitting in a rocking-chair by the fireplace. The man who brought Jem in was standing in a corner, leaning against the wall. He was some countryman I did not know. He had probably been at the pageant, and was in the vicinity when it happened. He must have heard our screams and come running.
Atticus was standing by Jem’s bed.
Mr. Heck Tate stood in the doorway. His hat was in his hand, and a flashlight bulged from his pants pocket. He was in his working clothes.
“Come in, Heck,” said Atticus. “Did you find anything? I can’t conceive of anyone low-down enough to do a thing like this, but I hope you found him.”
Mr. Tate sniffed. He glanced sharply at the man in the corner, nodded to him, then looked around the room—at Jem, at Aunt Alexandra, then at Atticus.
“Sit down, Mr. Finch,” he said pleasantly.
Atticus said, “Let’s all sit down. Have that chair, Heck. I’ll get another one from the livingroom.”
Mr. Tate sat in Jem’s desk chair. He waited until Atticus returned and settled himself. I wondered why Atticus had not brought a chair for the man in the corner, but Atticus knew the ways of country people far better than I. Some of his rural clients would park their long-eared steeds under the chinaberry trees in the back yard, and Atticus would often keep appointments on the back steps. This one was probably more comfortable where he was.
“Mr. Finch,” said Mr. Tate, “tell you what I found. I found a little girl’s dress—it’s out there in my car. That your dress, Scout?”
“Yes sir, if it’s a pink one with smockin’,” I said. Mr. Tate was behaving as if he were on the witness stand. He liked to tell things his own way, untrammeled by state or defense, and sometimes it took him a while.
“I found some funny-looking pieces of muddy-colored cloth—”
“That’s m’costume, Mr. Tate.”
Mr. Tate ran his hands down his thighs. He rubbed his left arm and investigated Jem’s mantelpiece, then he seemed to be interested in the fireplace. His fingers sought his long nose.
“What is it, Heck?” said Atticus.
Mr. Tate found his neck and rubbed it. “Bob Ewell’s lyin’ on the ground under that tree down yonder with a kitchen knife stuck up under his ribs. He’s dead, Mr. Finch.”
Aunt Alexandra got up and reached for the mantelpiece. Mr. Tate rose, but she declined assistance. For once in his life Atticus’s instinctive courtesy failed him: he sat where he was.