Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose was not Jem's and Scout's favorite neighbor, and they were nearly as frightened of her as they were of Boo Radley. The old woman spent most of her days sitting on her porch with an old Confederate pistol hidden in her shawl.
Jem and I hated her... She was vicious.
At one point the children tried avoiding her by walking on the other side of the street, but
... that only made her raise her voice and let the whole neighborhood in on it.
She often called out angrily to the children, referring to Scout as "ugly," but Atticus treated her with great respect; and when Atticus would tip his hat to her and tell Mrs. Dubose that she "looked like a picture,"
... I thought my father... was the bravest man who ever lived.
But one day Mrs. Dubose lived up to her billing of being "plain hell" when she hurled insults about Atticus at the children. She began by insulting Scout, claiming that she would end up working at the O. K. Cafe; then she claimed that Atticus was "lawing for niggers" and "no better than the niggers and trash he works for." Jem could contain his anger no longer, and he returned to Mrs. Dubose's house wielding Scout's baton and destroyed the old lady's prize camellias. Jem's punishment? Atticus forced him to spend a month of afternoons reading to Mrs. Dubose. In the end, Jem also discovered that Mrs. Dubose's later life had been one of plain hell as she struggled to break the morphine addiction that had plagued her for so many years.