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The group of men led by Heck Tate came to let Atticus know that Tom Robinson was being moved back to Maycomb. The let him know that they are not comfortable with Tom being back in Maycomb because they know there are men who would like to hang Tom. They also question Atticus about his reasons for defending Tom. They don't agree with him. Tension grows as the group of men question Atticus about his intensions. Jem recognizes the tension and becomes scared for Atticus and quickly calls out "Atticus, the telephone's ringing!" (Lee, ch. 15). This breaks the tension because Atticus laughs and tells Jem to answer it.
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