The day after Jem turns twelve, he's got a lot of birthday cash to spend. They head down to town for him to lighten his pockets. He wanted to buy a toy steam engine for Jem and a baton for Scout.
On the way to the business district in Maycomb is the house of Mrs. Dubose, an old lady who always shouts at Jem and Scout as they pass by. Atticus warns Jem to be a gentleman to her because she is old and sick. One day she tells the children that Atticus is not any better than the African Americans he works for and Jem loses his temper. Jem takes a baton from Scout and destroys all of Mrs. Dubose’s camellia bushes. As punishment, Jem must go to her house every day for a month and read to her. Scout accompanies him and they endure Mrs. Dubose’s abuse and peculiar fits, which occur at the end of every reading session.
Mrs. Dubose dies. Atticus comes home with a box and an explains her death. Mrs. Dubose was a morphine addict and wanted to kick the habit before she died as a matter of personal pride. By the end of the reading afternoons, she was free of the drug habit. The box Atticus brought home is for Jem. When he opens it he finds a camellia.