“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.”
I had a feeling that I shouldn’t be here listening to this sinful man who had mixed children and didn’t care who knew it, but he was fascinating. I had never encountered a being who deliberately perpetrated fraud against himself. But why had he entrusted us with his deepest secret? I asked him why.
“Because you’re children and you can understand it,” he said, “and because I heard that one—”
He jerked his head at Dill: “Things haven’t caught up with that one’s instinct yet. Let him get a little older and he won’t get sick and cry. Maybe things’ll strike him as being—not quite right, say, but he won’t cry, not when he gets a few years on him.”
“Cry about what, Mr. Raymond?” Dill’s maleness was beginning to assert itself.
“Cry about the simple hell people give other people—without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they’re people, too.”
“Atticus says cheatin’ a colored man is ten times worse than cheatin’ a white man,” I muttered. “Says it’s the worst thing you can do.”
Mr. Raymond said, “I don’t reckon it’s—Miss Jean Louise, you don’t know your pa’s not a run-of-the-mill man, it’ll take a few years for that to sink in—you haven’t seen enough of the world yet. You haven’t even seen this town, but all you gotta do is step back inside the courthouse.”
Which reminded me that we were missing nearly all of Mr. Gilmer’s cross-examination. I looked at the sun, and it was dropping fast behind the store-tops on the west side of the square. Between two fires, I could not decide which I wanted to jump into: Mr. Raymond or the 5th Judicial Circuit Court. “C’mon, Dill,” I said. “You all right, now?”