Chapter 21

 

Chapter 21

 

            Calpurnia stopped shyly at the railing and waited for Judge Taylor’s attention.

            He saw her and said, “It’s Calpurnia, isn’t it?”

            “Yes, sir,” she said.  “Could I just pass this note to Mr. Finch, please sir?  It hasn’t got anything to do with – with the trial.”

            Atticus read the note and it was from Aunt Alexandra.  It said that his children were missing.

            Mr. Underwood spoke up and said, “I know where they are, Atticus.  They’re right up yonder in the colored balcony – been there since precisely one-eighteen p.m.”

            Our father said, “Jem, come down from there.”  We made our way down the balcony.  Atticus and Calpurnia met us at the bottom.

            Jem was jumping with excitement.  “We’ve won, haven’t we?”

            “I’ve no idea,” said Atticus shortly.  “You’ve been here all afternoon?  Go home with Calplurnia and get your supper – and stay home.”

            “Aw, Atticus, let us come back,” pleaded Jem.  “Please let us hear the verdict, please sir.”

            “The jury might be out and back in a minute, we don’t know.  Well, you’ve heard it all, so you might as well hear the rest.  Tell you what, you all can come back when you’ve eaten your supper – eat slowly, now, you won’t miss anything important – and if the jury’s still out, you can wait with us.  But I expect it’ll be over before you get back.”

            “You think they’ll acquit him that fast?” asked Jem.

            Atticus opened his mouth to say something and closed it again.

            Calpurnia marched us home and was very angry with us.  She was upset that we were missing and that we were at the trial listening to all that was going on.  She didn’t think it was fitting for children to hear.

            “Mister Jem, I thought you was getting’ some kinda head on your shoulders – the very idea– she’s your little sister!  The very idea, sir!  You oughta be perfectly ashamed of yourself – ain’t you got any sense at all”

            Jem was chuckling, “Don’t you want to hear about it, Cal?”

            “Hush your mouth, sir!  When you oughta be hangin’ your head in shame you go along laughin’ –“ Calpurnia scolded.

            Jem was still grinning.  Calpurnia agreed that we could have Dill over for supper.

            Aunt Alexandra met us and almost fainted when Calpurnia told her where we were.

            Reverend Sykes had saved our places.  We were surprised to see that we had been gone an hour.

            “Nobody’s moved hardly,” said Jem.

            The jury had been out for about thirty minutes.

            Jem smiled, “Don’t fret, we’ve won it,” he said wisely.  “Don’t see how any jury could convict on what we heard –“

            “Now don’t you be so confident, Mr. Jem,” warned the Reverend.  “I ain’t never seen any jury decide in favor of a colored man over a white man…”

            Jem spoke for awhile on his ideas on the law regarding rape.  Time had passed and it was getting close to eight.  Atticus was walking around the jury box area and Mr. Gilmer was standing at the windows talking to Mr. Underwood.  The courtroom was so still.

            I was past tired.  When the clock had bonged eleven times, I allowed myself a short nap.  I jerked awake and made an effort to remain so.  I looked around and saw the people sitting below.  Dill was sound asleep, his head on Jem’s shoulder and Jem was quiet.  The courtoom reminded me of the day when Atticus shot the rabid dog.

            Mr. Heck Tate came in and said,” This court will come to order,” in a voice that rang with authority.  Mr. Heck Tate left the room and returned with Tom Robinson.

            What happened after that had a dreamlike quality: in a dream I saw the jury return, moving like underwater swimmers, and Judge Taylor’s voice came form far away and was tiny.

            A jury never looks at a defendant it has convicted, and when this jury came in, not one of them looked at Tom Robinson.  The foreman handed a piece of paper to the judge.

            I shut my eyes.  Judge Taylor was poling the jury:  “Guilty… guilty…guilty…”  I peeked at Jem and his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each “guilty” were a separate stab between them.

            Someone was punching me, but I was reluctant to take my eyes from the people below us and from the image of Atticus’s lonely walk down the aisle.

            “Miss Jean Louise?”

            I looked.  All around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall, the Negroes were getting to their feet.  Reverend Sykes’s voice was as distant as Judge Taylor’s:  

            “Miss Jean Louise, stand up.  Your father’s passin’.”