Chapters 19-20 Summary
Antoine Christophe (Dirty Red) is the narrator; he and Charlie are in a ditch and the other men are scattered all around. Charlie asks for a cigarette. Lou calls out and suggests that he let the men turn themselves in, warning him that it will be murder now. When Charlie replies that it was murder before, Lou points out that it was an act of self-defense, to which Candy will swear in a court of law. Charlie insists that now that he is a man, he will stand. He tells Dirty Red that life is sweet when you know you aren’t a coward any more. Dirty Red asks Charlie what he saw in the swamps that gave him such courage. Charlie replies that Dirty Red, along with the other men, also saw it.
When Lou tells Charlie that he is coming out, Charlie gets up and starts walking toward the tractor. A shot rings out, and Charlie is hit in the stomach, but he keeps on walking. He keeps firing at the tractor until he slowly falls. Everyone begins shooting for about a minute, than all becomes quiet. Luke Will is also dead. Everyone gathers around Charlie’s body. Dirty Red touches him, hoping to get whatever it was that Charlie got in the swamp. All of the other people do the same. Aunt Glo has her grandchildren also come up to touch Charlie.
Lou Dimes narrates. Three funerals are held two days later; the trial takes place the following week. Candy hires a lawyer for her people while the Klan defends the Cajuns. Everyone washes up and wears suits for the trial, which lasts three days. The courthouse is packed with spectators from all over the South as well as people from the local and national media. As the trial proceeds, a comic atmosphere prevails; each of the witnesses refers to the others by their nicknames—Clabber, Dirty Red, Coot, Chimley, Rooster—which causes the crowd to laugh. The media think the whole situation is astonishing but not too serious. The high point comes when the judge questions why Mapes was not in control of the situation. Reluctantly, Mapes admits that he was sitting on the walk the whole time.
The jury deliberates for three hours. The two principal participants, Charlie and Luke Will, are dead, so the judge can pass no judgment on them except to hope they rest in peace. As for the others, they are placed on probation for five years, during which time they are not to carry guns or get within ten feet of anyone carrying a gun. As Candy and Lou leave the courtroom, Candy reaches her hand for Lou’s.