view updated

Analyzing the Evidence

Harper Lee







“ your own words, Mr. Tate,” Mr. Gilmer was saying.


“Well,” said Mr. Tate, touching his glasses and speaking to his knees, “I was called—”


“Could you say it to the jury, Mr. Tate? Thank you. Who called you?”

Mr. Tate said, “I was fetched by Bob—by 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 B—Mr. Ewell came in, very excited he was, and said get








out to his house quick, some nigger’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, who had been concentrating on his fingernails, looked up as if he were expecting an objection, but Atticus was quiet.


“—asked her if he beat her like that, she said yes he had. 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 said, “Any questions, Atticus?”


“Yes,” said my father. He was sitting behind his table; his chair was skewed to one side, his legs were crossed and one arm was resting on the back of his chair.


“Did you call a doctor, Sheriff? Did anybody call a doctor?” asked Atticus. “No sir,” said Mr. Tate.

“Didn’t call a doctor?”

“No sir,” repeated 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 broke in. “He’s answered the question three times, Atticus. He








didn’t call a doctor.”

Atticus said, “I just wanted to make sure, Judge,” and the judge smiled.


Jem’s hand, which was resting on the balcony rail, tightened around it. He drew in his breath suddenly. Glancing below, I saw no corresponding reaction, and wondered if Jem was trying to be dramatic. Dill was watching peacefully, and so was Reverend Sykes beside him.


“What is it?” I whispered, and got a terse, “Sh-h!”


“Sheriff,” Atticus was saying, “you say she was mighty banged up. In what way?”




“Just describe her 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‘.”


“Which eye?”


Mr. Tate blinked and ran his hands through his hair. “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 again, as if something had suddenly been made plain to him. Then he turned his head and looked around at Tom Robinson. As if by instinct, Tom Robinson raised his head.


Something had been made plain to Atticus also, and it brought him to his feet. “Sheriff, please repeat what you said.”



“It was her right eye, I said.”


“No...” Atticus walked to the court reporter’s desk and bent down to the furiously scribbling hand. It stopped, flipped back the shorthand pad, and the court reporter said, “‘Mr. Finch. I remember now she was bunged up on that side of the face.’”


Atticus looked up at Mr. Tate. “Which side again, Heck?”

“The right side, Mr. Finch, but she had more bruises—you wanta hear about ‘em?”


Atticus seemed to be bordering on another question, but he thought better of it and said, “Yes, what were her other injuries?” As Mr. Tate answered, Atticus turned and looked at Tom Robinson as if to say this was something they hadn’t bargained for.


“...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.”


“You would?”


“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.









“Are you the father of Mayella 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 stirred. He turned slowly in his swivel chair and looked benignly at the witness. “Are you the father of Mayella Ewell?” he asked, in a way that made the laughter below us stop suddenly.


“Yes sir,” Mr. Ewell said meekly.


Judge Taylor went on in tones of good will: “This the first time you’ve ever been in court? I don’t recall ever seeing you here.” At the witness’s affirmative nod he continued, “Well, let’s get something straight. There will be no more audibly obscene speculations on any subject from anybody in this courtroom as long as I’m sitting here. Do you understand?”


Mr. Ewell nodded, but I don’t think he did. Judge Taylor sighed and said, “All right, Mr. Gilmer?”


“Thank you, sir. Mr. Ewell, would you tell us in your own words what happened on the evening of November twenty-first, please?”


Jem grinned and pushed his hair back. Just-in-your-own words was Mr. Gilmer’s trademark. We often wondered who else’s words Mr. Gilmer was afraid his witness might employ.


“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 house—”






Here Judge Taylor glanced sharply at the witness and must have decided his