Part 2

 

Chapter 12

            Jem was twelve.  He was getting so moody and hard to live with.  After Mrs. Dubose had been dead for a couple of weeks, he started changing and telling me what to do.  Jem hollered, “It’s time you started bein’ a girl and acting right!”  I burst into tears and ran to Calpurnia.  Calpurnia told me not to fret, that he was growing up.  She even started calling him Mister Jem like he was a grown up.  I spend a lot of time with Calpurnia waiting for summer when Dill would come to Maycomb.

            Summer came and Dill had not come.  Dill sent a letter and said that he had a new father and that he would have to stay in Meridian.  The state legislature was called to an emergency session and Atticus left us for two weeks.

            One Sunday we went with Calpurnia to her church.  She got us all clean and spent time going over our clothes.  My dress had so much starch in it, it came up like a tent when I sat down.

            “It’s like we were goin’ to Mardi Gras,” said Jem.  “What’s all this for, Cal?”

            “I don’t want anybody sayin’ I don’t look after my children,” she muttered.  “Mister Jem, you absolutely can’t wear that tie with that suit.  It’s green.”

            Calpurnia took us to First Purchase African M.E. Church.  It was called First Purchase because it was paid for from the first earnings of freed slaves.  Negroes worshipped in it on Sundays and white men gambled in it on weekdays.

            As we entered the churchyard, the men stepped back and took off their hats and the women crossed their arms at their wrists.  They made a pathway for us.  A woman’s voice came from behind us, “What you up to, Miss Cal?”

            “What you want, Lula?” she asked in a tone I had never heard.

            “I wants to know why you bringin’ white chillun to a n****r church.”

            “They’s my comp’ny,” said Calpurnia.  Again I thought her voice was strange: she was talking like the rest of them.

            “Yeah, an’ I reckon you’s comp’ny at the Finch house durin’ the week.”

            “Don’t you fret,” Calpurnia whispered to me and then said to Lula, “Stop right there, n****r.”

            Lula stopped and said, “You ain’t got no business bringing’ white chillun here – they got their church, we got our’n.  It is our church, ain’t it, Miss Cal?”

            We told Calpurnia that we wanted to go home that we weren’t welcome here.  When I looked up Calpurnia had amusement in her eyes and others were coming toward us.  Lula was gone and we were surrounded by others.  One of them, Zeebo, said to not pay attention to Lula and that they were glad to have us there.

            Inside church service was beginning.  Reverend Sykes started by making some announcements.  I noticed that there were no hymnals and when I went to ask Calpurnia about it, she told me to be quiet.  Reverend Sykes said that they would be taking up a collection today and  for the next three Sundays for Tom Robinson to help out his wife, Helen, and family.

            Reverend Sykes said that we would begin services by singing hymn number two seventy-three.  This was too much for me.. “How’re we gonna sing it if there ain’t no hymn books?”

            Calpurnia smiled.  “Hush baby,” she whispered, “you’ll see in a minute.”

            Zeebo cleared this throat and read in a voice like the rumble of distant artillery,

            “There’s a land beyond the river.”

            Miraculously on pitch, a hundred voices sang out Zeebo’s words.  The last syllable, held to a hum, was followed by Zeebo saying, “That we call the sweet forever.”

            Music again swelled around us:  the last note lingered and Zeebo met it with the next line.

            Reverend Sykes went into his sermon and after that came the collection.  After the coffee can went around the church, Reverend Sykes emptied the coins into his hand and announced that it was not enough.  He said that we must have ten dollars.  He even had one of the church members close the doors until we had the ten dollars collected.  We put in our dimes.  Slowly and painfully the ten dollars was collected.

            At the end of service when we were all leaving, Reverend Sykes said to us, “We were ‘specially glad to have you all here,” said Reverend Sykes.  “The church has no better friend than your daddy.”

            My curiosity got to me and I asked, “Why were you all takin’ up a collection for Tom Robinson’s wife?”

            “Didn’t you hear why?” asked Reverend Sykes.  “Helen’s got three little’uns and she can’t go out to work—“

            “Why can’t she take ‘em with her, Reverend?”  I asked.  Callpurnia put her hand on my shoulder.  On the way home I asked Cal why no one would hire Helen.  She told us that it’s because of what folks say Tom’s done.  I didn’t know what Tom had done so I asked.  Cal sighted, “old Mr. Bob Ewell accused him of rapin’ his girl an’ had him arrested an’ put in jail—“

            “Mr. Ewell?”  I thought and remembered what Atticus had said that they were absolute trash and I had never heard Atticus talk about anyone like that before.  Cal said that I’d have to ask Atticus the questions about this.

            Calpurnia did explain why they sang hymns the way they did.  It’s called linin’ and it’s been done like that for as long as she can remember.  Jem thought it would be a good idea to take up a collection to get some hymn-books.  Cal said it would do no good since she only knows about four people who can read.  Zeebo, who is Calpurnia’s oldest son, was taught by her and Cal was taught by Miss Maudie’s aunt, old Miss Buford.

            Another thing I was curious about and had to ask Cal about it was the way she talked around the other colored folks.  “Cal,” I asked, “why to you talk n****r-talk to your folks when you know it’s not right?”

            “Well, in the first place, I’m black—“

            “That doesn’t mean you hafta talk that way when you know better,” said Jem.

            “It’s right hard to say,” she said.  “Suppose you and Scout talked colored-folks’ talk at home it’d be out of place, wouldn’t it?  Now what if I talked white-folks’ talk at church, and with my neighbors? They’d think I was puttin’ on airs to beat Moses.”

            “But Cal, you know better,” I said.

            “It’s not necessary to tell all you know.  It’s not ladylike—in the second place, folks don’t like to have somebody around knowin’ more than they do.  It aggravates ‘em.  You’re not gonna change any of them by talkin’ right, they’ve go to want to learn themselves, and when they don’t want to learn there’s nothing you can do but keep your mouth shut or talk their language.”

            As we approached the house Jem told me to look on the porch.  I looked and saw Aunt Alexandra sitting in a rocking chair.