What is the significance about Jem's decision to make a lone, nocturnal return to the Radley Place, and what is the outcome of the return?

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Jem made his solitary late night visit to the Radley house in Chapter Six of To Kill a Mockingbird in order to reclaim his lost pants. He had to remove them when he became caught in the fence after earlier trying to get a peek at Boo from the Radley porch. But a shotgun blast was fired by Mr. Radley, and the three kids had to run for safety. Jem ended up losing his pants, and Dill had to do some fast thinking to explain Jem's loss. They had been playing strip poker, Dill told Atticus. Jem knew that Atticus would probably want to see the pants sooner or later, so he headed back after everyone had gone to bed to recover them. Why did he risk such a dangerous journey?

"I--it's like this, Scout," he muttered. "Atticus ain't ever whipped me since I can remember. I wanta keep it that way."

Jem returned safely, but he was nevertheless in for yet another surprise once he took a good look at his pants.

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