Chapter 14

 

            One day I was in town with Jem and I overheard people talking about Atticus and how he was defending Tom Robinson who had been accused of raping a white woman.  I went home and asked Atticus what “rape” meant.  He said it was carnal knowledge of a female by force and without consent.  I didn’t know what he meant by that!

            I told him that Calpurnia didn’t tell me what it meant when we went to church.  I also told him that Cal said I could go to their house some time to visit her.  Aunt Alexandra, who was sitting with us knitting said, “You may NOT!”

            I got so mad!  I yelled, “I didn’t ask YOU!”

            Atticus jumped out of his chair and said, “You apologize to your aunt.”

            I argued, “But I didn’t ask her, I asked you.”

            Atticus said, “First, apologize to your aunt.”

            “I’m sorry, Aunty,” I muttered.

            Atticus said, “Now then.  Let’s get this clear: you do as Calpurnia tells you, you do as I tell you, and as long as your aunt’s in this house, you will do as she tells you.  Understand?”

            I nodded and went to the bathroom.  But I overheard Atticus and Aunt Alexandra talking after I left.  Aunt Alexandra was saying that Atticus better do something about me.  I wasn’t acting like a lady at all and that Atticus should fire Calpurnia because they didn’t need her anymore.

            Atticus said, “Alexandra, Cal’s not leaving this house until she wants to.  You may think otherwise, but we really need her and she is a great person who feels like a member of our family.  She’s done a great job of helping me raise the children.”

            Later Jem told me to try not to annoy Aunty.  I got so mad because he was trying to tell me what to do again.  But Jem explained that we shouldn’t do anything that would upset Atticus because he’s got a lot on his mind.  He’s worried about the Tom Robinson case.  Jem said, “Now I mean it , Scout, you bother Aunty and I’ll – I’ll spank you.”

            “You damn morphodite, I’ll kill you!” I yelled.  I was so mad that he was treating me like a little kid.  We got in a fight and were punching and kicking.  Finally Atticus came in and broke up the fight.

            Later that night I stepped on something near my bed and thought it was a snake.  I went to get Jem to check.  When he looked under there, he found DILL!!!  He was dirty and hungry.  He told this ridiculous story about how he had been tied up with chains in his basement by his new father and was kept alive by peas that a passing farmer would sneak in the window for him.  Dill said he had pulled the chains from the wall and escaped.  He wandered two miles and found a traveling animal show where he got a job washing a camel.  He traveled all over Alabama with the show until his infallible sense of direction told him that he was right near Maycomb.  So he walked to Jem and Scout’s house.

            Jem knew he was lying so Dill said that really he had taken $13 from his mother’s purse and took a train from Meridian to somewhere near Maycomb.  He had walked ten or eleven miles toward Maycomb and then rode the rest of the way, clinging to the back of a wagon.  Jem said that Dill’s folks and aunt would be worried about him, so they should tell Atticus.

            When Atticus came in the room, Dill said, “Mr. Finch, don’t tell Aunt Rachel, don’t make me go back, PLEASE sir!  I’ll run off again --!

            Atticus said, “Whoa, son.  Nobody’s about to make you go anywhere but to bed pretty soon.  I’m just going over to tell Miss Rachel you’re here and ask her if you could spend the night with us – you’d like that , wouldn’t you?  And for goodness sake put some of the county back where it belongs, you’ve got so much dirt on you!!”

            Later that night I went to talk to Dill.  I asked him why he ran away.  He said that his parents weren’t really mean to him, it’s just that they weren’t interested in him.  They were always out, or if they were home they would be by themselves, not playing with him.  Dill said, “They ain’t mean.  They buy me everything I want, but then they expect me to just go off by myself and play with the toys they bought.  Oh, they ain’t mean.  They kiss you and hug you good night and good mornin’ and good-bye and tell you they love you – Scout, let’s get us a baby.”

            “Where?”

            Dill said there was a man he had heard of who had a boat that he rowed across to a foggy island where all these babies were; you could order one –

            I interrupted him by saying, “That’s a lie.  Aunty said God drops ‘em down the chimney.  At least that’s what I think she said.”

            “Well that ain’t so,” said Dill.  “you get babies from each other.  But there’s this man, too – he has all these babies just waitin’ to wake up, he breathes life into ‘em.”

            As we were drifting off to sleelp I said, “Dill, why do you figure Boo Radley has never run away?”

            Dill sighed a long sigh and said, “Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere to run off to…”