mockingbird chapter 32


«Except when he’s drinking?» asked Atticus so gently that Mayella nodded.

«When he’s drunk, has he ever beaten you?»

Mayella looked around, up at the judge. «Answer the question, Miss Mayella,» said Judge Taylor.

«My pa’s never touched a hair o’my head in my life,» she said firmly. «He never touched me.»

Atticus said, «We’ve had a good visit, Miss Mayella, and now we’d better get to the case. You say you asked Tom Robinson to come chop up a — what was it?»

«An old wardrobe, full of drawers on one side.»

«Did you know who he was, where he lived?»

Mayella nodded. «I knowed who he was, he passed the house every day.»

When Atticus asked if it was the first time that Mayella asked Tom to come inside the fence, she jumped slightly. Atticus repeated the question. «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 calmly. «You never asked him to do any jobs for you before?»

«Maybe,» said 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 and was saying dirt’ — is that right?»

«‘t’s right.»

«Was he beating you about the face?»

Mayella was silent.

«You seem sure enough that he choked you. All this time you were fighting back, remember? You ‘kicked and screamed as loud as you could.’ Was he beating you about the face?» Mayella was silent. She looked at Mr. Gilmer. Atticus repeated the question several times.

«No, I don’t remember 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 fast.»

«Don’t you cry, young woman-» Judge Taylor began, but Atticus said, «Let her cry if she wants to, Judge. We’ve got all the time in the world.»

Mayella sobbed angrily and looked at Atticus. «I’ll answer any question you got-»

«That’s fine,» said Atticus. «There’re only a few more. Miss Mayella, you’ve said that the defendant hit you, grabbed you around the neck, choked you, and took advantage of you. 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?»

When Tom Robinson stood up, we could see that his left arm was fully twelve inches shorter than his right, and hung dead at his side. It ended in a small shriveldy hand, and from as far away as the balcony I could see that it was no use to him.

«Scout,» whispered Jem. «Scout, look! Reverend, he’s crippled!»

Reverend Sykes whispered, «He got it caught in a cotton gin, caught it in Mr. Dolphus Raymond’s cotton gin when he was a boy… 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 furious. «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 said that Atticus was browbeating the witness.

Judge Taylor laughed. «Oh sit down, Horace, he’s doing nothing of the sort. If anything, the witness’s browbeating Atticus.»

Judge Taylor was the only person in the courtroom who laughed. Even the babies were silent.

Atticus said, «Miss Mayella, you’ve testified that the defendant choked and beat you — you didn’t say that he came up behind you and knocked you cold, but you turned around and there he was-» Atticus returned to his table, do you wish to change any of your testimony?»

«You mean to say something that didn’t happen?»

«No ma’am, 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 hit you?»

«I said he did.»

«He blacked your left eye with his right fist?»

«I ducked and it glanced off.» Mayella had finally seen the light.

«You’re 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?»

«It most certainly is.»

«You’re a strong girl, what were you doing all the time, just standing there?»

«I told’ja I screamed’n’kicked’n’fought -»

«All right, why didn’t you run?»

«I tried…»

«Tried to? What kept you from it?»

«I — he knocked me down. That’s what he did, he knocked 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?»

No answer.

«Or you didn’t think to scream until you saw your father in the window then, did you?»

No answer.

«Did you scream first at your father instead of at Tom Robinson? Was that it?»

No answer.

«Who beat you up? Tom Robinson or your father?»

No answer.

«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?»

Atticus sat down. He looked tired and ill. Mayella’s face was a mixture of terror and fury.

Suddenly she started to speak. «I got somethin’ to say,» she said.

Atticus raised his head. «Do you want to tell us what happened?» His voice was full of compassion.

But Mayella did not hear it. «I got somethin’ to say an’ then I ain’t gonna say no more. That nigger 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. Your fancy airs don’t come to nothin’ — your ma’amin’ and Miss Mayellerin’ don’t come to nothin’, Mr. Finch-»

Then she started to cry. Her shoulders shook with angry sobs. Somehow, Atticus had hit her hard, but it gave him no pleasure to do so. When Mayella walked by Atticus’s table, she looked at him with hatred.


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