“It’s not time to worry yet,” Atticus reassured him, as we went to the diningroom. “We’re not through yet. There’ll be an appeal, you can count on that. Gracious alive, Cal, what’s all this?” He was staring at his breakfast plate.
Calpurnia said, “Tom Robinson’s daddy sent you along this chicken this morning. I fixed it.”
“You tell him I’m proud to get it—bet they don’t have chicken for breakfast at the White House. What are these?”
“Rolls,” said Calpurnia. “Estelle down at the hotel sent ’em.”
Atticus looked up at her, puzzled, and she said, “You better step out here and see what’s in the kitchen, Mr. Finch.”
We followed him. The kitchen table was loaded with enough food to bury the family: hunks of salt pork, tomatoes, beans, even scuppernongs. Atticus grinned when he found a jar of pickled pigs’ knuckles. “Reckon Aunty’ll let me eat these in the diningroom?”
Calpurnia said, “This was all ’round the back steps when I got here this morning. They—they ’preciate what you did, Mr. Finch. They—they aren’t oversteppin’ themselves, are they?”
Atticus’s eyes filled with tears. He did not speak for a moment. “Tell them I’m very grateful,” he said. “Tell them—tell them they must never do this again. Times are too hard. . . .”
He left the kitchen, went in the diningroom and excused himself to Aunt Alexandra, put on his hat and went to town.
We heard Dill’s step in the hall, so Calpurnia left Atticus’s uneaten breakfast on the table. Between rabbit-bites Dill told us of Miss Rachel’s reaction to last night, which was: if a man like Atticus Finch wants to butt his head against a stone wall it’s his head.
“I’da got her told,” growled Dill, gnawing a chicken leg, “but she didn’t look much like tellin’ this morning. Said she was up half the night wonderin’ where I was, said she’da had the sheriff after me but he was at the hearing.”
“Dill, you’ve got to stop goin’ off without tellin’ her,” said Jem. “It just aggravates her.”
Dill sighed patiently. “I told her till I was blue in the face where I was goin’—she’s just seein’ too many snakes in the closet. But that woman drinks a pint for breakfast every morning—know she drinks two glasses full. Seen her.”
“Don’t talk like that, Dill,” said Aunt Alexandra. “It’s not becoming to a child. It’s—cynical.”
“I ain’t cynical, Miss Alexandra. Tellin’ the truth’s not cynical, is it?”
“The way you tell it, it is.”
Jem’s eyes flashed at her, but he said to Dill, “Let’s go. You can take that runner with you.”
When we went to the front porch, Miss Stephanie Crawford was busy telling it to Miss Maudie Atkinson and Mr. Avery. They looked around at us and went on talking. Jem made a feral noise in his throat. I wished for a weapon.
“I hate grown folks lookin’ at you,” said Dill. “Makes you feel like you’ve done something.”
Miss Maudie yelled for Jem Finch to come there.
Jem groaned and heaved himself up from the swing. “We’ll go with you,” Dill said.
Miss Stephanie’s nose quivered with curiosity. She wanted to know who all gave us permission to go to court—she didn’t see us but it was all over town this morning that we were in the Colored balcony. Did Atticus put us up there as a sort of—? Wasn’t it right close up there with all those—? Did Scout understand all the—? Didn’t it make us mad to see our daddy beat?
“Hush, Stephanie.” Miss Maudie’s diction was deadly. “I’ve not got all the morning to pass on the porch—Jem Finch, I called to find out if you and your colleagues can eat some cake. Got up at five to make it, so you better say yes. Excuse us, Stephanie. Good morning, Mr. Avery.”
There was a big cake and two little ones on Miss Maudie’s kitchen table. There should have been three little ones. It was not like Miss Maudie to forget Dill, and we must have shown it. But we understood when she cut from the big cake and gave the slice to Jem.
As we ate, we sensed that this was Miss Maudie’s way of saying that as far as she was concerned, nothing had changed. She sat quietly in a kitchen chair, watching us.
Suddenly she spoke: “Don’t fret, Jem. Things are never as bad as they seem.”
Indoors, when Miss Maudie wanted to say something lengthy she spread her fingers on her knees and settled her bridgework. This she did, and we waited.