“Mr. Cunningham’s basically a good man,” he said. “He just has his blind spots along with the rest of us.”
Jem spoke. “Don’t call that a blind spot. He’d a’ killed you last night when he first went there.”
“He might have hurt me a little,” Atticus conceded, “but son, you’ll understand folks a little better when you’re older. A mob’s always made up of people, no matter what. Mr. Cunningham was part of a mob last night, but he was still a man. Every mob in every little Southern town is always made up of people, you know – doesn’t say much for them, does it?”
“I’ll say not,” said Jem.
“So it took an eight-year-old child to bring ‘em to their senses, didn’t it?” said Atticus. “That proves something --- that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they’re still human. Hmph, maybe we need a police force of children… you children last night made Walter Cunningham stand in my shoes for a minute. That was enough.”
Dill came by and said that it’s all over town how we held off a hundred people with our bare hands. Aunt Alexandra said it was nowhere near a hundred people and that it was just a bunch of drunk and disorderly men.
Miss Maudie was out in her yard. Jem yelled over, “You goin’ to court this morning?”
“I am not,” she said. “I have no business with the court this morning.”
“Aren’t you goin’ down to watch?” asked Dill.
“I am not. It’s morbid, watching a poor devil on trial for his life. Look at all those folks, it’s like a Roman carnival.”
The courthouse square was covered with picnic parties sitting on newspapers, washing down biscuits and syrup with warm milk from fruit jars.
In the far corner of the square, the Negroes sat quietly in the sun, dining on sardines, crackers, and the more vivid flavors of Nehi Cola. Mr. Dophus Raymond sat with them.
“Jem,” said Dill. “He’s drinkin’ out of a sack.”
Mr. Dolphus Raymond was drinking something out of a paper sack with two straws.
Jem giggled, “He’s got a Co-Cola bottle full of whiskey in there. That’s son’s not to upset the ladies. You’ll see him sip it all afternoon, he’ll step out for a while and fill it back up.”
Why’s he sittin’ with the colored folks?”
“Always does. He likes ‘em better’n he likes us, I reckon. Lives by himself way down near the county line. He’s got a colored woman and all sorts of mixed chillun. Show you some of ‘em if we see ‘em.”
“He doesn’t look like trash,” said Dill.
“He’s not, he owns all one side of the riverbank down there, and he’s from a real old family to boot.”
“Then why does he do like that?”
“That’s just his way,” said Jem. “They say he never got over his weddin’. He was supposed to marry one of the – the Spencer ladies, I think. They were gonna have a huge weddin’, but they didn’t – after the rehearsal the bride went upstairs and blew her head off. Shotgun. She pulled the trigger with her toes.”
“Did they ever know why?”
“No,” said Jem. “Nobody ever knew quite why but Mr. Dolphus. They said it was because she found out about his colored woman, he reckoned he could keep her and get married too. He’s been sorta drunk ever since. You know, thought, he’s real good to those chillun—“
“Jem,” I asked. “What’s a mixed child?”
“Half white, half colored. You’ve seen ‘em, Scout. You know that red kinky-headed one that delivers for the drugstore. He’s half white. They’re real sad.”
“Sad, how come?”
“They don’t belong anywhere. Colored folks won’t have ‘em because they’re half white; white folks won’t have ‘em because they’re colored, so they’re just in-between, don’t belong anywhere. But Mr. Dolphus, now, they say he’s shipped two of his up North. They don’t mind ‘em up North. Yonder’s one of ‘em.”
Jem told us, “Around here once you have a drop of Negro blood, that makes you all black.”
“Let’s go in,” said Dill.
“Naw, we better wait till they get in. Atticus might not like it if he sees us,” said Jem.
We knew there would be a crowd but we had not bargained for the multitudes of people. We overheard conversations about my father.
“…thinks he knows what he’s doing,” one said.
“Ohh now, I wouldn’t say that,” another said.
“Lemme tell you somethin’ now, Billy,” a third said, “you know the court appointed him to defend this n****r.”
“Yeah, but Atticus aims to defend him. That’s what I don’t like about it.”
The Negroes waited for the white people to go in and then they climbed to the balcony where they were to sit. We couldn’t find a seat anywhere and were going to have to stand by the wall. We ran into Reverend Sykes. He edged his way and told us that there was not a seat anywhere downstairs.
“Do you all reckon it’ll be all right if you all come to the balcony with me?”
“Gosh, yes, “ said Jem. Happily we sped ahead of Reverend Sykes to the staircase. Four Negroes rose and gave us their front-row seats.
The jury sat on the left, under long windows. One or two of the jury looked vaguely like dressed up Cunninghams. Atticus and Tom Robinson sat at tables with their backs to us and there was the prosecutor at the other table. Judge Taylor was at the bench.
Judge Taylor looked like he was sleepy but knew the law and actually ran his courtroom with a firm grip. He had one peculiar habit. He allowed smoking in his courtroom but didn’t smoke himself. However, he did, at times, put a long dry cigar into his mouth and munch it up slowly. Bit by bit the dead cigar would disappear, to reappear some hours later as a flat slick mess, its essence extracted and mingled with Judge Taylor’s digestive juices. I once asked Atticus how Mrs. Taylor stood to kiss him, but Atticus said they didn’t kiss much. By the time we took our seats in the balcony, Sheriff Heck Tate was already taking his seat on the witness stand.
Chapter 17 I asked if those were the Ewells sitting down there, but Jem told me to hush since Heck Tate was testifying.
I saw that Heck Tate had worn a normal suit and looked like every other man.
The solicitor was named Mr. Gilmer and he was not well known to us. He was from Abbottsville and we only saw him when there was a trial. He was anywhere between forty and sixty. We knew that he had a slight cast in one of his eyes which he used to his advantage. He seemed to be looking at a person when he was actually doing notheing of the kind, thus he was hell on juries and witnesses. They thought they were under close scrutiny so they paid attention but so did the witnesses.
Mr. Gilmer was asking questions about what happened on the night he was called to the Ewell’s house.
Mr. Tate said, “I was fetched by Bob—Mr. Bob Ewell yonder, one night –“
“What night, sir?”
Mr. Tate said, “It was the night of November twenty-first. I was just leaving my office to go home when Bob – Mr. Ewell came in, very excited he was, and said to get out to his house quick, some n****r’d raped his girl.”
“Did you go?”
“Certainly. Got in the car and went out as fast as I could.”
“And what did you find?”
“Found her lying on the floor in the middle of the front room, one on the right as you go in. She was pretty well beat up, but I heaved her to her feet and she washed her face in a bucket in the corner and said she was all right. I asked her who hurt her and she said it was Tom Robinson –“
Judge Taylor thought that Atticus was going to object but he didn’t.
“-- asked her if he beat her like that, she said yes he head. Asked her if he took advantage of her and she said yes, he did. So I went down to Robinson’s house and brought him back. She identified him as the one, so I took him in. That’s all there was to it.”
“Thank you,” said Mr. Gilmer.
Judge Taylor asked if Atticus had any questions and he did.
“Did you call a doctor, Sheriff? Did anybody call a doctor?” asked Atticus.
“No, sir,” said Mr. Tate.
“Why not?” There was an edge to Atticus’s voice.
“Well I can tell you why I didn’t. It wasn’t necessary, Mr. Finch. She was mighty banged up. Something sho’ happened, it was obvious.”
“But you didn’t call a doctor? While you were there did anyone send for one, fetch one, carry her to one?”
“No sir –“
Judge Taylor told Atticus that he had already answered the questions and to move on. Atticus wanted to make sure.
“Sheriff,” Atticus was saying, “you say she was mighty banged up. In what way?”
“Just describe the injuries, Heck.”
“Well, she was beaten around the head. There was already bruises comin’ on her arms, and it happened about thirty minutes before—“
“How do you know?”
Mr. Tate grinned. “Sorry, that’s what they said. Anyway, she was pretty bruised up when I got there, and she had a black eye comin’.”
“Let’s see,” he said softly, then he looked at Atticus as if he considered the question childish. “Can’t you remember?” Atticus asked.
Mr.. Tate pointed to an invisible person five inches in front of him and said, “Her left.”
“Wait a minute, Sheriff,” said Atticus. “Was it her left facing you or her left looking the same way you were?”
Mr. Tate said, “Oh yes, that’d make it her right. It was her right eye, Mr. Finch. I remember now, she was bunged up on that side of her face…”
Mr. Tate blinked as if something had suddenly been made clear to him. He turned and looked at Tom Robinson and Tom raised his head also.
Something became clear to Atticus as well and he asked the sheriff to repeat what he just said.
“It was her right eye, I said.”
Attticus looked up at Mr. Tate. Which side again, Heck?”
“The right side, Mr. Finch, but she had more bruises – you wanta hear about ‘em?”
“Yes, what were her other injuries?”
“… her arms were bruised, and she showed me her neck. There were definite finger marks on her gullet—“
“All around her throat? At the back of her neck?”
“I’d say they were all around Mr. Finch.”
“Yes sir, she had a small throat, anybody could’a reached around it with—“
“Just answer the question yes or no please, Sheriff,”, said Atticus dryly, and Mr. Tate fell silent.
They were all finished with Mr. Tate as a witness and he stepped down from the witness stand.
Everyone shuffled around a bit, whispering to each other. Dill asked Reverend Sykes what that was all about, but he didn’t know. So far things were utterly dull. There were no arguments from opposing counsel and there was no drama. All were relaxed except Jem.
“Robert E. Lee Ewell!”
In answer to the clerk’s booming voice, a man rose and strutted to the stand, the back of his neck reddening at the sound of his name. When he turned around to take the stand we say that he had wispy hair that stood up from his forehead, a nose that was thin and pointed, and no chin to speak of.
Every town had families like the Ewells. They lived off of welfare, no truant officer could get the children in school, and no health official could free them from diseases that came from their filthy surroundings.
The Ewells lived behind the town garbage dump in what was once a Negro cabin. It’s a square shaped cabin with four small rooms. Its windows were just open spaces in the walls that were covered with greasy cheesecloth in the summer to keep out the varmints. Their yard was dirty and contained the remains of a Model-T Ford, a discarded dentist’s chair, an ancient icebox, plus lesser items: old shoes, worn-out table radios, picture frames, and fruit jars.
One corner of the yard, though, bewildered Maycomb. Against the fence, in a line, were six chipped-enamel slop jars holding brilliant red geraniums, cared for as tenderly as if they belonged to Miss Maudie Atkinson. People said they were Mayella Ewell’s.
Nobody was quite sure how many children were on the place. Some people thought there were six, others said nine. There were always several dirty faced ones at the windows when anyone passed.
“Mr. Robert Ewelll?” asked Mr. Gilmer.
“That’s m’name, Cap’n,” said the witness.
Mr. Gilmer’s back stiffened. “Are you the father of Mayelle Ewell?” was the next question.
“Well, if I ain’t I can’t do nothing about it now, her ma’s dead,” was the answer.
Judge Taylor spoke up in a way that made all the laughter in the courtroom die down, “Are you the Father of Mayella Ewell?”
“Yes sir,” Mr. Ewell said meekly.
Judge Taylor spoke again and informed Mr. Ewell that he will no longer take any obscene speculations on any subject from anybody in this courtroom.
Mr. Gilmer continued, “Thank you, sir. Mr. Ewell, would you tell us in your own words what happened on the evening of November 21st, please?”
“Well, the night of November twenty-one I was comin’ in from the woods with a load o’ kindlin’ and just as I got to the fence I heard Mayella screamin’ like a stuck hog inside the
“What time was it, Mr. Ewell?”
“Just ‘fore sundown. Well, I was sayin’ Mayella was screamin’ fit to beat Jesus—“ another glance from the bench silenced Mr. Ewell.
“Yes? She was screaming?” said Mr. Gilmer.
“Well, Mayella was raisin’ this holy racket so I dropped m’load and run as fast as I could but I run into th’ fence, but when I got distangled I run up to th’ window and I seen—“ Mr. Ewell’s face grew scarlet. He stood up and pointed his finger at Tom Robinson. “I seen that black n****r yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella!”
Judge Taylor used his gavel for five full minutes before the courtroom came to order.
Reverend Sykes leaned across Dill and told Jem that he ought to take me home.
Jem turned his head. “Scout, go home. Dill, you’n Scout go home.”
“You gotta make me first,” I said, remembering Atticus’s promise.
“I think it’s okay, Reverend, she doesn’t understand it.”
I was offended. “I most certainly do, I c’n understand anything you can.”
Reverend Sykes got nervous. “Mr. Finch know you all are here? This ain’t fit for Miss Jean Louise or you boys either.”
Jem shook his head. “He can’t see us this far away. It’s alright, Reverend.”
Jem won. He got us to stay.
Judge Taylor finally got the courtroom back under control and Bob Ewell looked mighty pleased at what he had caused. Judge Taylor threatened to clear all the spectators out of the courtroom if there were more outbursts.
“Proceed Mr. Gilmer.” Judge Taylor stated.
“Mr. Ewell, did you see the defendant having sexual intercourse with your daughter?”
“Yes, I did.”
“You say you were at the window?” asked Mr. Gilmer.
“How far is it from the ground?”
“’Bout three foot.”
“Did you have a clear view?”
“How did the room look?”
“Well, it was all slung about, like there was a fight.”
“What did you do when you saw the defendant?”
“Well, I run around the house to get in, but he ran out the front door just ahead of me. I sawed who he was, all right. I was too distracted about Mayella to run after ‘im. I run in the house and she was lyin’ on the floor squallin’—“
“Then what did you do?”
“Why I run for Tate quick as I could. I knowed who it was, all right, lived down yonder in that n****r-nest, passed the house every day. Jedge, I’ve asked this county for fifteen years to clean out that nest down yonder, they’re dangerous to live around ‘sides devaluin’ my prop-erty—“
“Thank you, Mr. Ewell,” said Mr. Gilmer hurriedly.
Bob Ewell made a hasty retreat form the witness stand, but Atticus had also risen to ask a few questions. Mr. Ewell backed up to the witness stand and the crowd laughed at him.
“Mr. Ewell,” Atticus began, “folks were doing a lot of running that night. Let’s see, you say you ran to the house, you ran to the window, you ran inside, you ran to Mayella, you ran for Mr. Tate. Did you, during all this running, run for a doctor?”
“Wadn’t no need to. I seen what happened.”
“But there’s one thing I don’t understand,” said Atticus. “Weren’t you concerned with Mayella’s condition?”
“I most positively was,” said Mr. Ewell. “I seen who done it.”
“No, I mean her physical condition. Did you not think the nature of her injuries warranted immediate medical attention?”
“Didn’t you think she should have had a doctor, immediately?”
Mr. Ewell in all of his life would never have thought to call on a doctor. It would have cost him five dollars.
Atticus asked him if he heard Mr. Heck Tate’s testimony and he said that he did.
Atticus asked, “Do you agree with his description of Mayella’s injuries?”
“Mr. Tate testified that her right eye was blackened, that she was beaten around the –“
“Oh yeah,” said the witness. “I hold with everything Tate said.”
“You do? I just want to make sure… ‘Which eye her left? Oh yes that’d make it her right, it was her right eye…’ ”
“I holds with Tate. Her eye was blacked and she was mighty beat up.” Mr. Ewell answered.
“Mr. Ewell, can you read and write?”
“I most positively can.”
“Will you write your name and show us?”
“I most positively will. How do you think I sign my relief checks?”
Mr. Ewell wrote his name.
“What’s so interestin’?” he asked.
“You’re left-handed, Mr. Ewell,” said Judge Taylor. Mr. Ewell got angry and didn’t see what being left-handed had to do with it.
Mr. Gilmer asked him one more question. “About your writing with your left hand… are you ambidextrous, Mr. Ewell?”
“I most positively am not, I can use one hand good as the other. One hand good as the other,” he added, glaring at the defense table.
Jem got excited, “We’ve got him.”
I didn’t think so. I knew Atticus was trying to show that since Mayella was mostly beaten on her right side, it had to be a left-handed person who did it. But Tom Robinson could easily be left-handed too.
The booming voice for the clerk range out, “Mayella Violet Ewell!”
A young girl walked to the witness stand and raised her hand to be sworn in as a witness. She was a thick-bodied girl who was accustomed to strenuous labor.
It was also clear that Mayella tried to keep clean and I was reminded of the red geraniums in the Ewell yard.
Mr. Gilmer asked Mayella to tell the jury in her own words what happened on the evening of November twenty-first of last year.
Mayella sat silently.
“Where were you at dusk on that evening” began Mr. Gilmer patiently.
“On the porch.”
“Ain’t but one, the front porch.”
“What were you doing on the porch?”
Judge Taylor said, “Just tell us what happened. You can do that, can’t you?”
Mayella stared at him and then burst into tears. Judge Taylor let her cry for a bit and then said, “That’s enough now. Don’t be ‘fraid of anybody here, as long as you tell the truth. All this is strange to you, I know, but you’ve nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to fear. What are you scared of?”
Mayella said something behind her hands and the judge had to ask her to repeat.
“Him,” she sobbed, pointing to Atticus.
She nodded saying, “Don’t want him doin’ me like he done Papa, tryin’ to make him out lefthanded…”
Judge Taylor looked at a loss as to what to. He asked, “How old are you?
“Nineteen-and-a-half,” Mayella said.
The judge spoke in soothing tones. “Mr. Finch has no idea of scaring you: he growled, “and if he did, I’m here to stop him. That’s one thing I’m sitting up here for. Now you’re a big girl, so you just sit up straight and tell the – tell us what happened to you. You can do that, can’t you?
Up in the balcony, I wondered if she had good sense.
Mayella answered Mr. Gilmer’s question. “Well sir, I was on the porch and – an dhe came along and, you see, there was this old chiffarobe in the yard Papa’d brought to chop up for kindlin’ – Papa told me to do it while he was off in the woods but I wadn’t feelin’ strong enough then, so he came by –“
“Who is ‘he’?”
Mayella pointed to Tom Robinson.
“Then what happened?”
“I said, ‘Come here, n****r, and bust up this chiffarobe for me.’ I gotta nickel and I turned around and ‘fore I knew it he was on me. Just run up behind me, he did. He got me round the neck cussin’ me an’ sayin’ dirt – I fought n’ hollered, but he had me round the neck. He hit me agin an’ agin –“
Mr. Gilmer waited for Mayella to get ahold of herself. She then waited for Mr. Gilmer to ask another question and when he didn’t she said, “He chunked me on the floor an’ choked me n’ took advantage of me.”
“Did you scream?” asked Mr. Gilmer “Did you scream and fight back?”
“Reckon I did, hollered for all I was worth, kicked and hollered loud as I could.”
“Then what happened?”
“I don’t remember too good, but next thing I knew Papa was in the room a’standing over me hollerin’, ‘Who done it, who done it?’ Then I sorta fainted an’ the next thing I knew Mr. Tate was pullin’ me up offa the floor and leadin’ me to the water bucket.”
“You say you fought him off as hard as you could? Fought him tooth and nail?” asked Mr. Gilmer
“I positively did,” Mayella echoed her father.
“You are positive that he took full advantage of you?”
Mayella’s face scrunched up and I thought she was going to cry again but didn’t and said, “He done what he was after.”
Mr. Gilmer was finished and Atticus got up to ask some questions of Mayella.
“Miss Mayella,” he said, smiling. “I won’t try to scare you for a while, not yet. Let’s just get acquainted. How old are you?”
“Said I was nineteen, said it to the judge yonder.”
“So you did, so you did, ma’am. You’ll have to bear with me, Miss Mayella, I’m getting along and can’t remember as well as I used to. I might ask you a thing you’ve already said before, but you’ll give me an answer, won’t you? Good.”
She didn’t look like Atticus had gotten her full cooperation. She was looking at him like she was mad as hell.
“Won’t answer a word you say long as you keep on mockin’ me,” she said.
“Ma’am?” asked Atticus, startled.
“Long’s you keep on makin’ fun o’ me.”
Judge Taylor said, “Mr. Finch is not making fun of you. What’s the matter with you?”
Mayella said to the judge, “Long’s he keeps on callin’ me ma’am and sayin’ Miss Mayella. I don’t hafta take his sass, I ain’t called upon to take it.”
The judge tried to explain. “That’s just Mr. Finch’s way. We’ve done business in court for years, and Mr. Finch is always courteous to everybody. He’s not trying to mock you, he’s trying to be polite. That’s just his way. Atticus, let’s get on with these proceedings, and let the record show that the witness has not been sassed, her views to the contrary.”
I wondered if anybody had ever called Mayella “ma’am” or “Miss Mayella”; probably not. She probably took offense to routine courtesy. I wondered what her life had been like.
“You say you’re nineteen,” Atticus resumed. “How many sisters and brothers have you?”
“Seb’m” she said.
“You the eldest? The oldest?”
“How long has your mother been dead?”
“Don’t know – long time.”
“Did you ever go to school?”
“Read n’ write good as Papa yonder.”
“How long did you go to school?”
“Two year… three year… dunno.”
These questions were to give the jury a picture of the Ewell’s home life, I realized. The jury learned that the welfare check was not enough to feed the family, Papa went off into the swamp for days and came home sick, you could make shoes out of strips of tires and that the family carries water in buckets from a spring to their house.
“Miss Mayella,” said Atticus, “a nineteen-year-old girl like you must have friends. Who are your friends?”
The witness looked puzzled. “Friends?”
“Yes, don’t you know anyone near your age, or older or younger? Boys and girls? Just ordinary friends?”
“You makin’ fun o’ me agin, Mr. Finch?”
“Do you love your father, Miss Mayella?” was his next question.
“Love him, whatcha mean?”
“I mean, is he good to you, is he easy to get along with?”
“He does tollable, ‘cept when –“
Mayella looked at her father and he sat up straight and waited for her to answer.
“Except when nothin’,” said Mayella. “I said he does tollable.”
Mr. Ewell leaned back in his chair again.
“Except when he’s drinking?” asked Atticus so gently that Mayella nodded. “Does he ever go after you?”
“How do you mean?”
“When he’s – riled, has he ever beaten you?”
Mayella looked at the court reporter. Judge Taylor told her to answer the question.
“My paw’s never touched a hair o’ my head in my life,” she declared firmly. “He never touched me.”
“We’ve had a good visit, Miss Mayella, and now I guess we’d better get to the case. You say you asked Tom Robinson to come chop up a – what was it?”
“A chiffarobe, a old dresser full of drawers on one side.”
“Was Tom Robinson well known to you?”
“I mean did you know who he was, where he lived?”
Mayella nodded. “I knowed who he was, he passed the house every day.”
“Was this the first time you asked him to come inside the fence?”
She didn’t answer the questions right away so Atticus started to ask it again, but she answered, “Yes, it was.”
“Didn’t you ever ask him to come inside the fence before?”
She was prepared now for this question. “I did not, I certainly did not.”
“One did not’s enough,” said Atticus serenely. “You never asked him to do odd jobs for you before?”
“I mighta,” conceded Mayella. “There was several n****s around.”
“Can you remember any other occasions?”
“All right, now to what happened. You said Tom Robinson was behind you in the room when you turned around, that right?”
“You said he ‘got you around the neck cussin and saying dirt’ – is that right?”
“You say ‘he caught me and choked me and took advantage of me’ – is that right?”
“That’s what I said”
“Do you remember him beating you about the face?”
Mayella was silent. She seemed to be trying to get something clear to herself.
“It’s an easy question, Miss Mayella, so I’ll try again. Do you remember him beating you about the face?” Atticus was speaking in a professional voice. “Do you remember him beating you about the face?”
“No, I don’t recollect if he hit me. I mean, yes I do, he hit me.”
“Was your last sentence your answer?”
“Huh? Yes, he hit – I just don’t remember, I just don’t remember… it all happened so quick.”
Judge Taylor told her not to cry again but Atticus said to let her cry all she wants. They’ve all the time in the world.
“I’ll answer any question you got --- get me up here an’ mock me, will you? I’ll answer any question you got—“
“That’s fine,” said Atticus. “There’re only a few more. Miss Mayella, not to be tedious, you’ve testified that the defendant hit you, grabbed you around the neck, choked, you, and took advantage of you. I want you to be sure you have the right man. Will you identify the man who raped you?”
“I will, that’s him right yonder.”
Atticus turned to Tom and said, “Tom, stand up. Let Miss Mayella have a good long look at you. Is this the man, Miss Mayella?”
Tom Robinson stood up. Strong powerful shoulder muscles showed under his thin shirt. He looked off balance though. His left arm was fully twelve inches shorter than his right, and hung dead at his side. It ended in a small shriveled hand, and from as far away as the balcony I could see that it was no use to him.
Reverend Sykes explained to us that Tom got his arm caught in Mr. Dolphus Raymond’s cotton gin when he was a boy. He almost bled to death and the machine had tore the muscles loose from his bones.
“Is this the man who raped you?” asked Atticus.
“It most certainly is.”
Mayella was raging. “I don’t know how he done it, but he done it – I said it all happened so fast I—“
“Now let’s consider this calmly—“ began Atticus. “…Miss Mayella, you’ve testified that the defendant choked and beat you – you didn’t say that he sneaked up behind you and knocked you out cold, but you turned around and there he was – do you wish to reconsider any of your testimony?”
“You want me to say something that didn’t happen?”
“No ma’am, I want you to say something that did happen. Tell us once more, please, what happened?”
“I told’ja what happened.”
“You testified that you turned around and there he was. He choked you then?”
“Then he released your throat and hit you?”
“I said he did.”
“He blacked your left eye with his right fist?”
“I ducked and it – it glanced, that’s what it did. I ducked and it glanced off.” Mayella had finally seen the light.
“You’re becoming suddenly clear on this point. A while ago you couldn’t remember too well, could you?”
“I said he hit me.”
“All right. He choked you, he hit you, then he raped you, that right?”
“I—he slung me down. That’s what he did, he slung me down n’ got on top of me.”
“You were screaming all this time?”
“I certainly was.”
“Then why didn’t the other children hear you? Where were they? At the dump? Where were they?”
“Why didn’t your screams make them come running? The dump’s closer than the woods, isn’t it?”
“Or didn’t you scream until you saw your father in the window? You didn’t think to scream until then, did you?”
“Did you scream first at your father instead of at Tom Robinson? Was that it?
“Who beat you up? Tom Robinson or your father?”
“What did your father see in the window, the crime of rape or the best defense to it? Why don’t you tell the truth child, didn’t Bob Ewell beat you up?”
Suddenly Mayella became articulate. “I got somethin’ to say,” she said.
“Do you want to tell us what happened?” Atticus said compassionately.
“I got somethin’ to say an’ then I ain’t gonna say no more. That n****r yonder took advantage of me an’ if you fine fancy gentlemen don’t wanta do nothin’ about it then you’re all yellow stinkin’ cowards, stinkin’ cowards, the lot of you. Your fancy airs don’t come to nothin’ – your ma’amin’ and Miss Mayellerin’ don’t come to nothin’, Mr. Finch –“
Then she burst into real tears. She answered no more questions. I guess if she hadn’t been so poor and ignorant, Judge Taylor would have put her in jail for not answering anymore questions.
Mr. Gilmer told the judge that the state was through with their case. Judge Taylor said that everyone could take a ten minute break.
Atticus and Mr. Gilmer met with the judge behind closed doors. We all got up and stretched. The temperature was about 90 degrees and we were all very hot.
Mr. Underwood was getting information for the newspaper. He looked around and saw us up in the balcony.
“Jem,” I said, “Mr. Underwood’s seen us.”
“That’s okay. He won’t tell Atticus, he’ll just put it on the social side of the Tribune.”
Judge Taylor returned and climbed into this chair. “It’s gettin’ on to four,” he said, “Shall we try to wind up this afternoon? How ‘bout it, Atticus?”