To Kill a Mockingbird (Page 62)
To the next ten questions, as Mr. Gilmer reviewed Mayella’s version of events, the witness’s steady answer was that she was mistaken in her mind.
“Didn’t Mr. Ewell run you off the place, boy?”
“No suh, I don’t think he did.”
“Don’t think, what do you mean?”
“I mean I didn’t stay long enough for him to run me off.”
“You’re very candid about this, why did you run so fast?”
“I says I was scared, suh.”
“If you had a clear conscience, why were you scared?”
“Like I says before, it weren’t safe for any nigger to be in a—fix like that.”
“But you weren’t in a fix—you testified that you were resisting Miss Ewell. Were you so scared that she’d hurt you, you ran, a big buck like you?”
“No suh, I’s scared I’d be in court, just like I am now.”
“Scared of arrest, scared you’d have to face up to what you did?”
“No suh, scared I’d hafta face up to what I didn’t do.”
“Are you being impudent to me, boy?”
“No suh, I didn’t go to be.”
This was as much as I heard of Mr. Gilmer’s cross-examination, because Jem made me take Dill out. For some reason Dill had started crying and couldn’t stop; quietly at first, then his sobs were heard by several people in the balcony. Jem said if I didn’t go with him he’d make me, and Reverend Sykes said I’d better go, so I went. Dill had seemed to be all right that day, nothing wrong with him, but I guessed he hadn’t fully recovered from running away.
“Ain’t you feeling good?” I asked, when we reached the bottom of the stairs.
Dill tried to pull himself together as we ran down the south steps. Mr. Link Deas was a lonely figure on the top step. “Anything happenin’, Scout?” he asked as we went by. “No sir,” I answered over my shoulder. “Dill here, he’s sick.”
“Come on out under the trees,” I said. “Heat got you, I expect.” We chose the fattest live oak and we sat under it.
“It was just him I couldn’t stand,” Dill said.
“That old Mr. Gilmer doin’ him thataway, talking so hateful to him—”
“Dill, that’s his job. Why, if we didn’t have prosecutors—well, we couldn’t have defense attorneys, I reckon.”
Dill exhaled patiently. “I know all that, Scout. It was the way he said it made me sick, plain sick.”
“He’s supposed to act that way, Dill, he was cross—”
“He didn’t act that way when—”
“Dill, those were his own witnesses.”
“Well, Mr. Finch didn’t act that way to Mayella and old man Ewell when he cross-examined them. The way that man called him ‘boy’ all the time and sneered at him, an’ looked around at the jury every time he answered—”
“Well, Dill, after all he’s just a Negro.”
“I don’t care one speck. It ain’t right, somehow it ain’t right to do ’em that way. Hasn’t anybody got any business talkin’ like that—it just makes me sick.”
“That’s just Mr. Gilmer’s way, Dill, he does ’em all that way. You’ve never seen him get good’n down on one yet. Why, when—well, today Mr. Gilmer seemed to me like he wasn’t half trying. They do ’em all that way, most lawyers, I mean.”
“Mr. Finch doesn’t.”
“He’s not an example, Dill, he’s—” I was trying to grope in my memory for a sharp phrase of Miss Maudie Atkinson’s. I had it: “He’s the same in the courtroom as he is on the public streets.”
“That’s not what I mean,” said Dill.
“I know what you mean, boy,” said a voice behind us. We thought it came from the tree-trunk, but it belonged to Mr. Dolphus Raymond. He peered around the trunk at us. “You aren’t thin-hided, it just makes you sick, doesn’t it?”
“Come on round here, son, I got something that’ll settle your stomach.”
As Mr. Dolphus Raymond was an evil man I accepted his invitation reluctantly, but I followed Dill. Somehow, I didn’t think Atticus would like it if we became friendly with Mr. Raymond, and I knew Aunt Alexandra wouldn’t.
“Here,” he said, offering Dill his paper sack with straws in it. “Take a good sip, it’ll quieten you.”
Dill sucked on the straws, smiled, and pulled at length.
“Hee hee,” said Mr. Raymond, evidently taking delight in corrupting a child.
“Dill, you watch out, now,” I warned.
Dill released the straws and grinned. “Scout, it’s nothing but Coca-Cola.”
Mr. Raymond sat up against the tree-trunk. He had been lying on the grass. “You little folks won’t tell on me now, will you? It’d ruin my reputation if you did.”
“You mean all you drink in that sack’s Coca-Cola? Just plain Coca-Cola?”
“Yes ma’am,” Mr. Raymond nodded. I liked his smell: it was of leather, horses, cottonseed. He wore the only English riding boots I had ever seen. “That’s all I drink, most of the time.”
“Then you just pretend you’re half—? I beg your pardon, sir,” I caught myself. “I didn’t mean to be—”
Mr. Raymond chuckled, not at all offended, and I tried to frame a discreet question: “Why do you do like you do?”
“Wh—oh yes, you mean why do I pretend? Well, it’s very simple,” he said. “Some folks don’t—like the way I live. Now I could say the hell with ’em, I don’t care if they don’t like it. I do say I don’t care if they don’t like it, right enough—but I don’t say the hell with ’em, see?”
Dill and I said, “No sir.”
“I try to give ’em a reason, you see. It helps folks if they can latch onto a reason. When I come to town, which is seldom, if I weave a little and drink out of this sack, folks can say Dolphus Raymond’s in the clutches of whiskey—that’s why he won’t change his ways. He can’t help himself, that’s why he lives the way he does.”
“That ain’t honest, Mr. Raymond, making yourself out badder’n you are already—”
“It ain’t honest but it’s mighty helpful to folks. Secretly, Miss Finch, I’m not much of a drinker, but you see they could never, never understand that I live like I do because that’s the way I want to live.”