What does the quote "Jem’s free dispensation of my pledge irked me, but precious noontime minutes were ticking away" mean?

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mrshh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During the lunch break on the first day of school, Scout beats up Walter Cunningham until Jem breaks up the fight. Walter had not brought any lunch to school, so Jem invites him over to the Finch house to share a meal with them. Walter seems hesitant. After all, Scout had just been beating him up. Sharing a meal with her so soon after seems to be a concerning prospect. Jem sees Walter's hesitation, and he tells him that Scout is crazy. He also assures him that Scout will not beat him up again. Scout is not pleased with what Jem has just told Walter:

"I wouldn't be too certain of that," I said. Jem's free dispensation of my pledge irked me, but precious noontime minutes were ticking away. "Yeah Walter, I won't jump on you again. Don't you like butterbeans? Our Cal's a real good cook" (Chapter 3).

Scout does not want to make any promises about not fighting Walter. She also realizes they are wasting time that could be spent eating at home. She caves and relents. She promises not to beat up Walter again and tells him about the delicious food he would be eating at their house.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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