Chapter 7

 

Chapter 7

            I left Jem alone when he got back from the Radley’s.  I tried to do as Atticus taught me and walk around in Jem’s skin.  I tried to imagine what it would have been like to go back to the Radley’s in the middle of the night.  I would have been terrified so I let Jem alone.

 

            I started school again:  the 2nd grade.  It was just as bad as the first grade.  I was still not allowed to read, but one good thing was that I stayed as late as Jem and we walked home together.  On our way home one afternoon, Jem told me what happened that night.

            “When I went back for my breeches – they were all in a tangle when I was getting’ out of ‘em, I couldn’t get them loose.  When I went back-“  Jem took a deep breath.  “When I went back, they were folded across the fence… like they were expectin’ me.”

            “Across—“

            “And something else – “Jem’s voice was flat.  “Show you when we get home.  They’d been sewed up.  Not like a lady sewed ‘em, like somethin’ I’d try to do.  All crooked.  It’s almost like –“

            “—somebody knew you were comin’ back for ‘em.”

            Jem shuddered.  “Like somebody was readin’ my mind… like somebody could tell what I was gonna do.  Can’t anybody tell what I’m gonna do lest they live in the house with you, and even I can’t tell sometimes.”

            We kept walking and noticed in the knot-hole of the tree that there was a ball of gray twine.  I didn’t think we should take it ‘cuz it’s probably someone’s hiding place.  Jem and I decided to leave it there for a few days and if it was still there then we’d take it.  The next day it was still there so we considered anything else we found there was ours to take from then on.

            Second grade was not great.  Jem told me that you don’t learn anything of value until 6th grade which is what he was in.  He was learning about Egyptians and thought they were the smartest since they invented all kinds of great things.

            One day in October we were walking by the tree in the Radley’s yard and noticed something white in the knot-hole.  I pulled out two small images carved in soap.  One was the figure of a boy and the other was in a crude dress.  Jem told me that he had never seen anything as good as these before.  As I looked closer, the boy figure was wearing shorts and this hair fell to his eyebrows.  I gazed up at Jem and noticed his hair parted down to his eyebrows too.  Jem looked from the girl-doll to me.  The goril-doll wore bangs.  So did I.

            “These are us,” he said.

            “Who did ‘em, you reckon?”

            “Who do we know around here who whittles?” he asked.

            “Mr. Avery.”

            “Mrs. Avery just does like this.  I mean carves.”

            We took the figures home and Jem put them in his trunk.  We didn’t’ know who could have done these carvings.

            A week or so later we found a whole package of chewing gum in the knot-hole, which we enjoyed.  The following week we found a tarnished medal.  We showed it to Atticus and he said it was a spelling medal, that before we were born the Maycomb County schools had spelling contests and awarded medals to the winners.  Atticus told us that someone must have lost it but he didn’t remember anybody who had ever won one.

            The biggest treasure we found in the knot-hole came four days later.  We found a pocket watch that wouldn’t run, on a chain with an aluminum knife.  Atticus thought it would probably be worth ten dollars.

            Jem thought it would be a good idea if we wrote a letter to whoever’s leaving these things.  I thought that would be a nice idea to thank ‘em.

            “I don’t get it, I just don’t get it – I don’t know why, Scout…” He looked toward the living room.  “I’ve gotta good mind to tell Atticus – no, I reckon not.”

            “He had been on the verge of telling me something all evening; his fact would brighten and he would lean toward me, then he would change his mind.  He changed it again.

            The next morning we took our letter to the knot-hole and were shocked to see it filled with cement.

            “Don’t you cry, now, Scout…don’t cry now, don’t worry –“ he muttered at me all the way to school.

            The next day we finally saw Mr. Radley.

            “Hidy do, Mr. Nathan,“ he said.

            “Morning Jem, Scout,” said Mr. Radley, as he went by.

            “Mr. Radley,” said Jem.

            Mr. Radley turned around.

            “Mr. Radley, ah – did you put cement in that hole in that tree down yonder?”

            “Yes,” he said.  “I filled it up.”

            “Why’d you do it, sir?”

            “Tree’s dying.  You plug ‘em with cement when they’re sick.  You ought to know that, Jem.”

            We went on to school not saying a thing.  After school we ran into Atticus and Jem asked him, “Atticus, look down yonder at that tree please, sir.”

            “What tree, son?”

            “The one on the corner of the Radley lot comin’ from school.”

            “Yes?”

            “Is that tree dyin’?”

            “Why no, son, I don’t think so.  Look at the leaves, they’re all green and full, no brown patches anywhere—”

            “It ain’t even sick?”

            “That tree’s as healthy as you are, Jem. Why?”

            “Mr. Nathan Radley said it was dyin’.”

            “Well maybe it is.  I’m sure Mr. Radley knows more about his trees that we do.”

            Atticus left us then and eventually I told Jem to come on inside.  He told me he would after a while.

            He stood there until nightfall and I noticed when he came in he had been crying, but I thought it odd that I had not heard him.