“I wants to know why you bringin’ white chillun to nigger church.”
“They’s my comp’ny,” said Calpurnia. Again I thought her voice strange: she was talking like the rest of them.
“Yeah, an’ I reckon you’s comp’ny at the Finch house durin’ the week.”
A murmur ran through the crowd. “Don’t you fret,” Calpurnia whispered to me, but the roses on her hat trembled indignantly.
When Lula came up the pathway toward us Calpurnia said, “Stop right there, nigger.”
Lula stopped, but she said, “You ain’t got no business bringin’ white chillun here—they got their church, we got our’n. It is our church, ain’t it, Miss Cal?”
Calpurnia said, “It’s the same God, ain’t it?”
Jem said, “Let’s go home, Cal, they don’t want us here—”
I agreed: they did not want us here. I sensed, rather than saw, that we were being advanced upon. They seemed to be drawing closer to us, but when I looked up at Calpurnia there was amusement in her eyes. When I looked down the pathway again, Lula was gone. In her place was a solid mass of colored people.
One of them stepped from the crowd. It was Zeebo, the garbage collector. “Mister Jem,” he said, “we’re mighty glad to have you all here. Don’t pay no ’tention to Lula, she’s contentious because Reverend Sykes threatened to church her. She’s a troublemaker from way back, got fancy ideas an’ haughty ways—we’re mighty glad to have you all.”
With that, Calpurnia led us to the church door where we were greeted by Reverend Sykes, who led us to the front pew.
First Purchase was unceiled and unpainted within. Along its walls unlighted kerosense lamps hung on brass brackets; pine benches served as pews. Behind the rough oak pulpit a faded pink silk banner proclaimed God Is Love, the church’s only decoration except a roto-gravure print of Hunt’s The Light of the World. There was no sign of piano, organ, hymn-books, church programs—the familiar ecclesiastical impedimenta we saw every Sunday. It was dim inside, with a damp coolness slowly dispelled by the gathering congregation. At each seat was a cheap cardboard fan bearing a garish Garden of Gethsemane, courtesy Tyndal’s Hardware Co. (You-Name-It-We-Sell-It).
Calpurnia motioned Jem and me to the end of the row and placed herself between us. She fished in her purse, drew out her handkerchief, and untied the hard wad of change in its corner. She gave a dime to me and a dime to Jem. “We’ve got ours,” he whispered. “You keep it,” Calpurnia said, “you’re my company.” Jem’s face showed brief indecision on the ethics of withholding his own dime, but his innate courtesy won and he shifted his dime to his pocket. I did likewise with no qualms.
“Cal,” I whispered, “where are the hymn-books?”
“We don’t have any,” she said.
“Sh-h,” she said. Reverend Sykes was standing behind the pulpit staring the congregation to silence. He was a short, stocky man in a black suit, black tie, white shirt, and a gold watch-chain that glinted in the light from the frosted windows.
He said, “Brethren and sisters, we are particularly glad to have company with us this morning. Mister and Miss Finch. You all know their father. Before I begin I will read some announcements.”
Reverend Sykes shuffled some papers, chose one and held it at arm’s length. “The Missionary Society meets in the home of Sister Annette Reeves next Tuesday. Bring your sewing.”
He read from another paper. “You all know of Brother Tom Robinson’s trouble. He has been a faithful member of First Purchase since he was a boy. The collection taken up today and for the next three Sundays will go to Helen—his wife, to help her out at home.”
I punched Jem. “That’s the Tom Atticus’s de—”
I turned to Calpurnia but was hushed before I opened my mouth. Subdued, I fixed my attention upon Reverend Sykes, who seemed to be waiting for me to settle down. “Will the music superintendent lead us in the first hymn,” he said.
Zeebo rose from his pew and walked down the center aisle, stopping in front of us and facing the congregation. He was carrying a battered hymn-book. He opened it and said, “We’ll sing number two seventy-three.”
This was too much for me. “How’re we gonna sing it if there ain’t any hymn-books?”
Calpurnia smiled. “Hush baby,” she whispered, “you’ll see in a minute.”