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To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee

THE STORY

PART TWO

CHAPTER 28

On Halloween night Scout and Jem head for the high school and find themselves thinking about Boo Radley. It has been a long time since either of them was really scared of Boo, but the mood of Halloween calls up all their old fears and superstitions about the Radley place.

Remembering an old chant that was supposed to ward off spooks, Jem intones: "Angel bright, life-in-death; get off the road, don't suck my breath."

Moments later as they pass the great oak by the Radley property, someone leaps out of the darkness at them.

"God amighty!" Jem yells.

But it is only Cecil Jacobs, a boy from school, playing a joke on them.

After this scare, the Halloween pageant itself is disappointingly tame. Even Scout is too old to be impressed by the House of Horrors, a darkened room where the children are supposed to be scared into thinking that objects like cold liver and spaghetti are really the insides of a dead body.

Scout is so bored, in fact, that she falls asleep during the pageant and misses her cue to go onstage. When she finally wakes up and makes her entrance, the appearance of a ham onstage during the most solemn moment of the pageant strikes the audience as hilarious. Scout is so embarrassed by her mistake that she decides to hurry home in her costume rather than get dressed at the school and have to face everyone who laughed at her.


Jem and Scout are heading home down an unlighted street when they hear footsteps following behind them. At first, they think it is only Cecil Jacobs trying to scare them again. But when they reach the great oak tree, Jem sees that the person stalking them is not Cecil at all. He screams for Scout to run as fast as she can.

Unfortunately, it is impossible for Scout to move very fast in her bulky costume. As she struggles to regain her balance after almost tripping, the pursuer catches up to her and shatters the heavy wire frame of her costume with a savage blow. The next thing Scout knows, a fight is going on, and she can sense in the darkness that there are now four people struggling under the oak tree- herself, Jem, their pursuer, and someone else. Trying to get away, Scout stumbles over a man's body lying on the ground. Then, in the glow of the streetlight at the end of the lane, she sees another man carrying Jem slung over his shoulder.

The man carries Jem in the direction of the Finch house, and Scout follows as quickly as she can. Inside the house, Atticus and Aunt Alexandra have already put Jem to bed, and are calling the doctor.

Scout feels sure that Jem must be dead. He looked so limp when she saw him being carried into the house, and his arm was hanging in front of him at a strange angle. She waits in fear until Dr. Reynolds emerges from the bedroom and announces that Jem is very much alive. However, his arm is badly broken.

Scout goes to check on Jem for herself, and she and Atticus are standing by his bedside when Sheriff Heck Tate comes in to report on what he has found at the scene of the attack: Bob Ewell is lying dead under the big oak, stabbed with a kitchen knife.  

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