Happy Birthday, Harper Lee…
It was impossible to go to town without passing [Mrs. Dubose’s] house unless we wished to walk a mile out of the way… Jem and I hated her. If she was on the porch when we passed, we would be raked by her wrathful gaze, subjected to ruthless interrogation regarding our behavior, and given a melancholy prediction on what we would amount to when we grew up, which was always nothing….
Countless evenings Atticus would find Jem furious at something Mrs. Dubose had said when we went by.
“Easy does it, son,” Atticus would say, “She’s an old lady and she’s ill. You just hold your head high and be a gentleman. Whatever she says to you, it’s your job not to let her make you mad.”
…When the three of us came to her house, Atticus would sweep off his hat, wave gallantly to her and say, “Good evening, Mrs. Dubose! You look like a picture this evening.”
I never heard Atticus say like a picture of what. He would tell her the courthouse news, and would say he hoped with all his heart she’d have a good day tomorrow. He would return his hat to his head, swing me to his shoulders in her very presence, and we would go home in the twilight. It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird