He bore with fortitude her Wait Till I Get You Home, Your Folks Are Out of Their Minds Worryin’, was quite calm during That’s All the Harris in You Coming Out, smiled at her Reckon You Can Stay One Night, and returned the hug at long last bestowed upon him.
Atticus pushed up his glasses and rubbed his face.
“Your father’s tired,” said Aunt Alexandra, her first words in hours, it seemed. She had been there, but I suppose struck dumb most of the time. “You children get to bed now.“
We left them in the diningroom, Atticus still mopping his face. “From rape to riot to runaways,” we heard him chuckle. “I wonder what the next two hours will bring.“
Since things appeared to have worked out pretty well, Dill and I decided to be civil to Jem. Besides, Dill had to sleep with him so we might as well speak to him.
I put on my pajamas, read for a while and found myself suddenly unable to keep my eyes open. Dill and Jem were quiet; when I turned off my reading lamp there was no strip of light under the door to Jem’s room.
I must have slept a long time, for when I was punched awake the room was dim with the light of the setting moon.
“Move over, Scout.”
“He thought he had to,” I mumbled. “Don’t stay mad with him.”
Dill got in bed beside me. “I ain’t,” he said. “I just wanted to sleep with you. Are you waked up?”
By this time I was, but lazily so. “Why’d you do it?”
No answer. “I said why’d you run off? Was he really hateful like you said?”
“Naw . . .”
“Didn’t you all build that boat like you wrote you were gonna?”
“He just said we would. We never did.”
I raised up on my elbow, facing Dill’s outline. “It’s no reason to run off. They don’t get around to doin’ what they say they’re gonna do half the time. . . .”
“That wasn’t it, he—they just wasn’t interested in me.”
This was the weirdest reason for flight I had ever heard. “How come?”
“Well, they stayed gone all the time, and when they were home, even, they’d get off in a room by themselves.”
“What’d they do in there?”
“Nothin’, just sittin’ and readin’—but they didn’t want me with ’em.”
I pushed the pillow to the headboard and sat up. “You know something? I was fixin’ to run off tonight because there they all were. You don’t want ’em around you all the time, Dill—”
Dill breathed his patient breath, a half-sigh.
“—good night, Atticus’s gone all day and sometimes half the night and off in the legislature and I don’t know what—you don’t want ’em around all the time, Dill, you couldn’t do anything if they were.”
“That’s not it.”
As Dill explained, I found myself wondering what life would be if Jem were different, even from what he was now; what I would do if Atticus did not feel the necessity of my presence, help and advice. Why, he couldn’t get along a day without me. Even Calpurnia couldn’t get along unless I was there. They needed me.
“Dill, you ain’t telling me right—your folks couldn’t do without you. They must be just mean to you. Tell you what to do about that—”
Dill’s voice went on steadily in the darkness: “The thing is, what I’m tryin’ to say is—they do get on a lot better without me, I can’t help them any. They ain’t mean. They buy me everything I want, but it’s now-you’ve-got-it-go-play-with-it. You’ve got a roomful of things. I-got-you-that-book-so-go-read-it.” Dill tried to deepen his voice. “You’re not a boy. Boys get out and play baseball with other boys, they don’t hang around the house worryin’ their folks.”
Dill’s voice was his own again: “Oh, they ain’t mean. They kiss you and hug you good night and good mornin’ and goodbye and tell you they love you—Scout, let’s get us a baby.”
There was a man Dill had heard of who had a boat that he rowed across to a foggy island where all these babies were; you could order one—
“That’s a lie. Aunty said God drops ’em down the chimney. At least that’s what I think she said.” For once, Aunty’s diction had not been too clear.
“Well that ain’t so. You get babies from each other. But there’s this man, too—he has all these babies just waitin’ to wake up, he breathes life into ’em. . . .”