It was Aunt Alexandra's turn to host the Missionary Circle of the Maycomb Alabama Methodist Episcopal Church South. Alexandra had invited all of her neighbors to the tea,
... be they Baptists or Presbyterians, which accounted for the presence of Miss Rachel (sober as a judge), Miss Maudie and Miss Stephanie Crawford.
(They were all Baptists.) The main topic of the day concerned the Mruna tribe of Africa, and the women were
... fighting the good fight all over the house.
But during the breaks for refreshments, the women explored other subjects, and many of their remarks were not particularly kind. Miss Stephanie made several jokes at Scout's expense and, surprisingly, Scout (who was dressed in her Sunday finest) held her tongue. Mrs. Merriweather, "the most devout lady in Maycomb," showed great concern about the uncivilized Mrunas, but she soon was leading another discussion about the faults of her "sulky" maid, Sophy. Her friend, Mrs. Farrow, added that no ladyin Maycomb was "safe in her bed these nights," referring to the recent Tom Robinson trial and Negroes in general. When Mrs. Merriweather commented that some people in Maycomb thought they were doing "the right thing... but all they did was stir 'em up"--alluding to Atticus's defense of Tom--Miss Maudie could hold her tongue no longer.
"His food doesn't stick going down, does it?"
she retorted, angry that the woman could be eating Atticus's food and still insult him in his own house.
Atticus made a surprise appearance soon after with some bad news: Tom had been killed trying to escape from prison. He soon left with Calpurnia to break the bad news to Tom's wife, and Alexandra and Maudie composed themselves and returned to passing out refreshments. Their ability to hide their grief so impressed Scout that she followed suit.
After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I.