When Jem and Scout see Atticus head out late one Sunday evening with an extension cord in his hand--and driving the car instead of walking--they know something is up. So they gather Dill and head to to the town square to investigate. What they don't know is that Atticus has been warned that there might be trouble at the jail, where Tom Robinson is left unguarded. Sure enough, several carloads of men soon appear, bent on taking Tom from the jail and lynching him. Atticus intends to defend Tom alone, but the arrival of the children seem to make a bad situation even worse. However, when Scout begins making small talk with Mr. Cunningham, he soon begins to crumble: Scout's innocent conversation shames Cunningham into leaving, saving Tom from a hanging and Atticus from a possible beating.
"So it took an eight-year-old child to bring 'em to their senses, didn't it?... Hmp, maybe we need a police force of children... you children made Walter Cunningham stand in my shoes a minute. That was enough." (Chapter 16)