Chapter 28

 

            The weather was warm.  The wind was growing stronger and there was no moon.  As we walked Jem and I talked about ghosts.  We were near the Radley lot.  I was getting scared anyway when we someone suddenly leaped out at us.  “God almighty!” Jem yelled.

            Cecil Jacobs shrieked, “Haa gotcha!”  He was mighty proud of himself.  And he told us so as we walked the rest of the way to the school.

            The auditorium was filling up with people and backstage there were people with all sorts of costumes.  I had some time before I had to be onstage so I curled my knees up and sank down in my costume to rest.  Well, I fell asleep listening to boring Mrs. Meriweather’s long speech about Maycomb’s grand history.  I woke up suddenly to her shrieking “POOORRRKK!” and toddled as fast as I could on stage.  Apparently I was too late because she had already called me a few times.  She was mad at me for ruining her pageant.  Judge Taylor liked it though, and the audience cheered loudly for me.

            I was so embarrassed that I didn’t want to leave right away so we waited for most people to leave, then we began walking home.  It was even darker out.  Em was guiding me along since I still had my ham costume on.  At one point he squeezed the top of my costume too hard.

            “Ahhhh, Jem—“

            “Hush up, Scout.”

            “Whatcha doin’?”

            “Thought I heard something,” he whispered.  We stopped and listened.

            “Ah, it’s probably ole Cecil again, trying to scare us.”

            “It’s not that.  I hear it when we’re walkin’ along.”

            “Are you afraid?” I asked.

            “No.  Think we’re almost to the tree, be real quiet.”  It was difficult to walk in my costume and we couldn’t see anything.  I could hear someone shuffling, and someone’s pants rustling behind us.  Jem was still holding onto me.  We stopped again to listen and now someone was running towards us.

            “Run Scout!  Run!”

            Something crushed me in my costume and I fell to the ground.  I was on the ground floundering around.  I could hear scuffling, kicking sounds, and scraping.  Someone rolled against me and then Jem pulled me up.  We were nearly to the road when I felt Jem jerk backwards.  There was more scuffling and then Jem screamed.  The scuffling noises were dying but I heard someone wheezing.  I head someone moving so I asked, “Jem?”  It seemed like someone else was under the tree now.  I felt around and someone was lying there.  I began walking toward the road and I could see a man walking towards my house, carrying Jem.

            “Call Dr. Reynolds,” Atticus said sharply.  “Where’s Scout?”

            “Here she is,” Aunt Alexandra called, pulling me towards her, working me free of my mangled costume.  Then Atticus called the sheriff, Heck Tate.

            “Is Jem dead?”  I asked Aunt Alexandra.

            “No – no darling, he’s unconscious.  What happened?”

            “I don’t know.”  She left it at that and brought me some overalls to put on.

            When Dr. Reynolds arrived it took him ten forevers to finish checking on Jem, and then I asked him, ”Is Jem dead?”

            “Far from it.”  He talked while looking me over to make sure I was okay.  “He’s got a bump on the head just like yours and a broken arm.  Looks like someone tried to wring his arm off.  We can’t do much tonight except try to make him comfortable.  You don’t feel broke anywhere, do you?”  I smiled.  “Go have a look at him.”  By then Mr. Tate was there so we all went in together.

            Jem was lying on his back.  There was an ugly mark along one side of his face.  His left arm lay out form his body.

            “Jem…?”

            Atticus said, “Let’s not bother him, he needs his rest.”  I retreated from his bed.  Aunt Alexandra was in the rocking chair.  Mr. Tate stood in the doorway.  The man who brought Jem in was in the corner.

            “Heck, did you find anything out there?”  Atticus asked.

            “Sit down, Mr. Finch, he said pleasantly.  “I found Scout’s dress, some funny pieces of muddy cloth.”  He paused.  “And I found Bob Ewell on the ground – he’s dead, Mr. Finch.”