To Kill a Mockingbird

Page 81

“Whaddya mean?”

“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?”

Mayella jumped slightly at the question. Atticus was making his slow pilgrimage to the windows, as he had been doing: he would ask a question, then look out, waiting for an answer. He did not see her involuntary jump, but it seemed to me that he knew she had moved. He turned around and raised his eyebrows. “Was—” he began again.

“Yes it was.”

“Didn’t you ever ask him to come inside the fence before?”

She was prepared now. “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 niggers 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 cussing and saying dirt’—is that right?”

“’t’s right.”

Atticus’s memory had suddenly become accurate. “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?”

The witness hesitated.

“You seem sure enough that he choked you. All this time you were fighting back, remember? You ‘kicked and hollered as loud as you could.’ Do you remember him beating you about the face?”

Mayella was silent. She seemed to be trying to get something clear to herself. I thought for a moment she was doing Mr. Heck Tate’s and my trick of pretending there was a person in front of us. She glanced at Mr. Gilmer.

“It’s an easy question, Miss Mayella, so I’ll try again. Do you remember him beating you about the face?” Atticus’s voice had lost its comfortableness; he was speaking in his arid, detached 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 looked sternly at Mayella. “Don’t you cry, young woman—” he began, but Atticus said, “Let her cry if she wants to, Judge. We’ve got all the time in the world.”

Mayella sniffed wrathfully and looked at Atticus. “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 the defendant. “Tom, stand up. Let Miss Mayella have a good long look at you. Is this the man, Miss Mayella?”

Tom Robinson’s powerful shoulders rippled under his thin shirt. He rose to his feet and stood with his right hand on the back of his chair. He looked oddly off balance, but it was not from the way he was standing. 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.

“Scout,” breathed Jem. “Scout, look! Reverend, he’s crippled!”

Reverend Sykes leaned across me and whispered to Jem. “He got it caught in a cotton gin, caught it in Mr. Dolphus Raymond’s cotton gin when he was a boy . . . like to bled to death . . . tore all the muscles loose from his bones—”

Atticus said, “Is this the man who raped you?”

“It most certainly is.”

Atticus’s next question was one word long. “How?”

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, but Mr. Gilmer interrupted with an objection: he was not irrelevant or immaterial, but Atticus was browbeating the witness.

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