Chapter 5

 

Chapter 5

            So, I thought we should stop playing “Boo Radley” because Atticus had warned us not to.  Jem said we should just change the names of the characters and then nobody would know!  Dill agreed. Dill, by the way, was being annoying.  He had asked me earlier in the summer to marry him, then he promptly forgot about it.  He had said I was the only girl he would ever love, but then he ignored me.  I beat him up twice but it did no good, he kept becoming better friends with Jem. 

            Since Dill and Jem were becoming so close, I was beginning to feel left out.  So I spent some time becoming friendly with Miss Maudie Atkinson.  Miss Maudie was a nice lady who lived across the street.  She had always let us play in her yard, but we had never really been close to her. Now Maudie hated being indoors.  She thought that time spent indoors was time wasted.  She was a widow who worked in her garden wearing an old straw hat and men’s overalls.  She was pretty cool.  She was honest, treated us with respect, and didn’t like gossip.

            One day I noticed that Miss Maudie had two minute gold prongs clipped to her eyeteeth.  When I admired them and hoped I would have some eventually, she said, “Look here.”  With a click of her tongue she thrust out her dentures.  Cool!  I think that was her way of letting me know that she really considered me a friend!

            Miss Maudie made the best cakes in the neighborhood.  She would yell, “Jem Finch, Scout Finch, Charles Baker Harris, come here!”  That meant that she had baked some small cakes for us, and we went running!

            One evening I asked, “Miss Maudie, do you think Boo Radley’s still alive?”

            “His name’s Arthur and he’s alive,” she said.

            “How do you know?”

            “What a morbid question.  I know he’s alive, Jean Louise, because I haven’t seen anyone carry out a body!”

            “Jem said that maybe he died and they stuffed him up in the chimney”, I added.

            Miss Maudie said, “Tsk. Tsk. Jem gets more like Jack Finch every day.  They’re both such wise-guys!”

            Jack Finch was my uncle, Atticus’s brother, and Miss Maudie had known him since they were children.  Miss Maudie had grown up near Finch’s Landing and used to play with Jack.  Uncle Jack visited our house every Christmas, and every Christmas he yelled across the street for Miss Maudie to come marry him.  He was such a jokester!  Miss Maudie would call back, “Call a little louder, Jack Finch, and they’ll hear you at the post office!”

            Miss Maudie continued her answer about Boo Radley.  “Arthur Radley just stays in the house, that’s all.  Wouldn’t you stay in the house if you didn’t want to come out?”

            “Yessum, but I’d wanta come out.  Why doesn’t he?”

            Miss Maudie explained that Mr. Radley was a “foot-washing Baptist” which means that he believes anything that’s a pleasure is a sin.  She said that some of those Baptists even passed by her house once and told her that she and her flowers were going to hell.  They thought that Miss Maudie spent too much time outdoors and not enough time inside the house reading the Bible.

            Miss Maudie said that these people were taking the Bible too literally.  She said, “Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of – oh, of someone like your father.”  She also said that “there are just some kind of men who—who’re so busy worrying about the next world that they’ve never learned to enjoy this one.  Like the Radleysv.”

            Miss Maudie said that all the stories about Boo were gossip – from people like Stephanie Crawford, who was always in everybody’s business.  She said that she remembered Arthur as a really nice boy.

            The next day I caught Jem and Dill planning something.  They finally told me what it was.  They were going to try to get a note to Boo Radley!!  They were going to put the note on the end of a fishing pole and stick it through the shutters.  If anyone came along the street, Dill would ring the bell to warn Jem.  Dill explained what the note said, “We’re askin’ him real politely to come out sometimes, and tell us what he does in there – we said we wouldn’t hurt him and we’d buy him an ice cream.”  I told Dill that he and jem were crazy and that Boo would kill us!

            I was watching Jem try to get the note in the window, when all of a sudden we heard Dill ringing his bell!  I thought I would turn around to see Boo Radley with bloody fangs; instead, I saw Dill ringing the bell with all his might in Atticus’s face.  Uh, oh!

            When Atticus found out what we were trying to do, he told Jem to stop tormenting Arthur Radley.  He continued on, saying that what Arthur did was his own business, not ours.  If he wanted to come out, he would, and if he didn’t, he had a right to stay inside without inquisitive children harassing him.  He ended by saying that he did not want to see us playing the asinine game he had seen us playing or make fun of anybody on this street or in this town!!

            Jem said, “We weren’t making fun of him, we were just…”

            “So that WAS what you were doing, wasn’t it?  You were acting out the Radley’s life story as I suspected!” said Atticus accusingly.

            Jem got flustered and realized that Atticus had tricked him into admitting that the “game” they had been playing was really us acting out the gossip we had heard about the Radley family.  When Atticus said, “You want to be a lawyer, don’t you,” Jem realized that Atticus had used the oldest lawyer’s trick on him!  Atticus had pretended he knew we were playing Boo Radley, when really he only suspected it, and then Jem confessed without realizing!