“What’d you get for Christmas?” I asked politely.
“Just what I asked for,” he said. Francis had requested a pair of knee-pants, a redleather booksack, five shirts and an untied bow tie.
“That’s nice,” I lied. “Jem and me got air rifles, and Jem got a chemistry set—”
“A toy one, I reckon.”
“No, a real one. He’s gonna make me some invisible ink, and I’m gonna write to Dill init.”
Francis asked what was the use of that.
“Well, can’t you just see his face when he gets a letter from me with nothing in it? It’lldrive him nuts.”
Talking to Francis gave me the sensation of settling slowly to the bottom of the ocean.
He was the most boring child I ever met. As he lived in Mobile, he could not inform onme to school authorities, but he managed to tell everything he knew to Aunt Alexandra,who in turn unburdened herself to Atticus, who either forgot it or gave me hell,whichever struck his fancy. But the only time I ever heard Atticus speak sharply toanyone was when I once heard him say, “Sister, I do the best I can with them!” It hadsomething to do with my going around in overalls.
Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope tobe a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn’tsupposed to be doing things that required pants. Aunt Alexandra’s vision of mydeportment involved playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearlnecklace she gave me when I was born; furthermore, I should be a ray of sunshine inmy father’s lonely life. I suggested that one could be a ray of sunshine in pants just aswell, but Aunty said that one had to behave like a sunbeam, that I was born good buthad grown progressively worse every year. She hurt my feelings and set my teethpermanently on edge, but when I asked Atticus about it, he said there were alreadyenough sunbeams in the family and to go on about my business, he didn’t mind memuch the way I was.