Chapter 9

 

Chapter 9

 

            I was ready to punch Cecil Jacobs in the face.  He had announced in the schoolyard the day before the Scout Finch’s daddy defended n*****s, Atticus?”

            I asked Atticus, “Do you defend n*****s, Atticus?”

            Atticus replied, “Of course I do.  Don’t say n****r, Scout.  That’s common.”

            “’s what everybody at school says.”

            “From now on it’ll be everybody less one –“

            “Well if you don’t want me to grow up talkin’ that way, why do you send me to school?”

            Atticus looked at me amused.  Atticus said that he was defending a Negro by the name of Tom Robinson.  He lives in the settlement beyond the town dump.  He goes to Calpurnia’s church and she knows his family well.  She says that they are clean living folk.  There are people who say I shouldn’t defend him.

            “If you shouldn’t be defendin’ him, then why are you doin’ it?”

            “For a number of reasons,” said Atticus.  “The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t even represent this county in legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again.”

            “You mean if you didn’t defend that man, Jem and me wouldn’t have to mind you any more?”

            “That’s about right.”

            “Why?”

            “Because I could never ask you to mind me again.   Scout simply because of the nature of the work, every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally.  This one’s mine, I guess.  You might hear some ugly talk about it at school, but do one thing for me if you will:  you just hold your head high and keep those fists down.  No matter what anybody says to you, don’t let ‘em get your goat.  Try fighting with your head for a change… it’s a good one even if it does resist learning.

            “Atticus, are we going to win it?”

            “No, honey.”

            “Then why –“

            “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win,” Atticus said.

            I tried to keep this in mind when I wanted to fight Cecil Jacobs in the schoolyard.  I knew that if I did fight him, I would be letting Atticus down.

            Christmas was coming and I felt mixed about it.  On the good side, Uncle Jack Finch was coming and he would spend a week with us.  On the bad side, we would have to see Aunt Alexandra and Francis.  We went to Finch’s Landing every Christmas day.  I didn’t like spending time with Francis.  He was a year older than I and I avoided him.

            Aunt Alexandra was Atticus’s sister and Francis was her grandson.  I was sure she was swapped at birth and that my grandparents had gotten the wrong child.  Uncle Jack was the baby of the family.

            We were on our way to pick up Uncle Jack at the train station on Christmas Eve.  He had two packages with him.  I was curious about what they were.  When we got home we decorated the tree until bedtime.  The next morning we dived for the packages.  They were from Atticus.  He had Uncle Jack get them for us.  We had asked for them – air rifles.

            We got to Finch’s Landing.  I asked Francis what he got for Christmas.  “Just what I asked for,” he said.  Francis had requested a pair of knee-pants, a red leather booksack, five shirts and an untied bow tie.

            “That’s nice,” I lied.  “Jem and me got air rifles, and Jem got a chemistry set –“

            “A toy one, I reckon.”

            “No, a real one.”  He’s gonna make me some invisible ink and I’m gonna write to Dill in it.”

            Francis was such a boring child.  He told Aunt Alexandra everything he knew and Aunt Alexandra then told Atticus.  She didn’t like the way I dressed in overalls and that I couldn’t possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches.  Aunt Alexandra’s vision of me involved playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl necklace she gave me when I was born.

            Francis really got me angry.  First he talked bad about Dill and then about Atticus defending Tom Robinson.  “Grandma says it’s bad enough he lets you run wild, but now he’s turned out a n****r-lover we’ll never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb again.  He’s ruinin’ the family, that’s what he’s doin’.”

            I got so mad at him I chased him to the kitchen that is separate from the house.  He kept calling Atticus a “n****r-lover” and I had to punch him in the face.  I got punished by Uncle Jack and told him I hated him.  He didn’t listen to my side of the sotry.  I ran to Atticus for comfort and finally told Uncle Jack my side of the story.  Uncle Jack got real mad at Francis when he found out what he had said about Atticus.  He was going to tell Atticus, but I begged him not to.  I would prefer him to think that Francis and I fought over something else.

            Later when Atticus and Jack were talking, Jack didn’t tell Atticus the specifics of his and my conversation, but he did say that he learned a lot from me today.  He was also upset that Jem and I were going to have to learn about some ugly things in our lives.  Atticus hoped that Jem and I would go to him to get answers about what is going to happen in the trial rather than learning it from the town.