To Kill a Mockingbird

Page 88


I ran up the steps and into the house. Aunt Alexandra had gone to bed, and Atticus’s room was dark. I would see if Jem might be reviving. Atticus was in Jem’s room, sitting by his bed. He was reading a book.

“Is Jem awake yet?”

“Sleeping peacefully. He won’t be awake until morning.”

“Oh. Are you sittin’ up with him?”

“Just for an hour or so. Go to bed, Scout. You’ve had a long day.”

“Well, I think I’ll stay with you for a while.”

“Suit yourself,” said Atticus. It must have been after midnight, and I was puzzled by his amiable acquiescence. He was shrewder than I, however: the moment I sat down I began to feel sleepy.

“Whatcha readin’?” I asked.

Atticus turned the book over. “Something of Jem’s. Called The Gray Ghost.”

I was suddenly awake. “Why’d you get that one?”

“Honey, I don’t know. Just picked it up. One of the few things I haven’t read,” he said pointedly.

“Read it out loud, please, Atticus. It’s real scary.”

“No,” he said. “You’ve had enough scaring for a while. This is too—”

“Atticus, I wasn’t scared.”

He raised his eyebrows, and I protested: “Leastways not till I started telling Mr. Tate about it. Jem wasn’t scared. Asked him and he said he wasn’t. Besides, nothin’s real scary except in books.”

Atticus opened his mouth to say something, but shut it again. He took his thumb from the middle of the book and turned back to the first page. I moved over and leaned my head against his knee. “H’rm,” he said, “The Gray Ghost, by Seckatary Hawkins. Chapter One . . .”

I willed myself to stay awake, but the rain was so soft and the room was so warm and his voice was so deep and his knee was so snug that I slept.

Seconds later, it seemed, his shoe was gently nudging my ribs. He lifted me to my feet and walked me to my room. “Heard every word you said,” I muttered. “. . . wasn’t sleep at all, ’s about a ship an’ Three-Fingered Fred ’n’ Stoner’s Boy. . . .”

He unhooked my overalls, leaned me against him, and pulled them off. He held me up with one hand and reached for my pajamas with the other.

“Yeah, an’ they all thought it was Stoner’s Boy messin’ up their clubhouse an’ throwin’ ink all over it an’ . . .”

He guided me to the bed and sat me down. He lifted my legs and put me under the cover.

“An’ they chased him ’n’ never could catch him ’cause they didn’t know what he looked like, an’ Atticus, when they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done any of those things . . . Atticus, he was real nice. . . .”

His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me.

“Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.


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