The summer after second grade the children decide to expand their horizons. They spend more time going into town, which requires them to pass the house of Miss Dubose, who never misses an opportunity to shout at the children. This infuriates Jem, but Atticus tells him not to get upset. On a particular walk, Miss Dubose makes remarks about Atticus to the children. Jem becomes enraged and on the walk home destroys Miss Dubose's bushes. Atticus sends Jem back to clean up his mess and to work on her shrubs for every weekend. When Jem returns he tells Atticus that Miss Dubose wants him to read to her instead.
The next weekend Jem, accompanied by Scout, goes to read to Miss Dubose. Miss Dubose is very ill and spends most of the afternoon in a fog. After several weekends, they are free of reading to her.
Atticus goes to visit Miss Dubose one weekend. When he returns he announces that she has passed away. Atticus explains to the children that Miss Dubose had become addicted to morphine as a result of her illness and that she had spent the final months of her life freeing herself of the addiction. He tells them that their company helped her keep her mind off her pain. Atticus opens a box with a piece of her shrub in it. It is a gift for Jem, who is angered by the gesture. Atticus tells them what a strong and brave woman Miss Dubose was for fighting her addiction.
As Jem grows older he also grows moodier, leaving Scout to spend more time with Calpurnia. Scout watches Cal and realizes that maybe being a girl isn't so bad.
Atticus has to leave the family to attend an emergency session of the legislature. Calpurnia has to stay with the children and take full care of them in his absence. She is not sure if they should be going to church by themselves and decides that they should come with her on Sunday.
When they arrive at Cal's church, the children cause quite a stir. They are the only white faces in the congregation. One woman seems to resent their presence, but the rest of the congregation welcomes them freely. They know Atticus and have the utmost respect for him. While in attendance, the children overhear things about Tom Robinson and his case. His wife cannot get any work in the town and Tom has been accused of rape. Scout is not sure what rape is, but knows it can't be anything good.
As they walk home from church, Aunt Alexandra is waiting on the porch for them.
Aunt Alexandra notifies them that she has come to stay with them. She immediately makes herself at home. When Atticus returns he explains that Aunt Alexandra is here to teach the children, Scout in particular, something about breeding and refinement. Alexandra is not pleased with the way Atticus is raising the children and feels that she is needed. The kids are not pleased by the news, having no idea that they have been behaving improperly.
Scout asks what rape is. Atticus asks her where she heard the word and Scout explains about the trip to Cal's church. Alex is shocked to hear that the children were in a black church. She tells Atticus in confidence that they should let Calpurnia go, but he is adamant that she is part of the family and will not be leaving anytime soon.
Jem takes Scout aside that evening and tells her that she should do her best not to upset Aunt Alexandra. Scout believes Jem is trying to act superior and starts a brawl with him. She is sent to her room and thinks she hears a snake under her bed. Upon closer inspection, they realize it is not a snake, but a runaway Dill. He confesses that he doesn't like living at home and took the train to Maycomb. Atticus allows Dill to stay with them, but informs Dill's Aunt Rachel about the situation.
Dill's parents allow him to stay in Maycomb. One evening, the sheriff stops by the house with a group of men from town. Atticus talks with them and Scout tries to overhear. They talk about Tom Robinson's case and how Tom is being moved into the Maycomb jail.
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