Chapter 15 Summary

Mr. and Mrs. Hines had moved to Mottstown thirty years previously. Mr. Hines lived there only one weekend a month; the rest of the time he was in Memphis, where he worked. After five or six years, however, he moved back permanently to Mottstown. He did odd jobs for several years, though he and his wife never connected to any of the townsfolk. Eventually, having moved to a house on the edge of the black community, Mr. Hines became an iterant preacher among the black churches. The people of Mottstown looked on him with forbearance, though they would have crucified him if he had been a younger man. While the white people ignored the Hineses, the black people quietly provided them with food and necessities.

On the day Joe Christmas is captured in Mottstown, Mr. Hines (called “Uncle Doc”) overhears the name and joins excitedly in the conversations about the capture of the murderer from Jefferson. He sees Christmas being held by the police and breaks through the crowd to beat him with his stick, calling out, “Kill him!” Two men take Mr. Hines, having succumbed with the excitement, back home. When the men mention Christmas’s name, Mrs. Hines stops and asks them to repeat it. She asks for a description, and the men tell her that he looks white but is said to be partially black. When she is alone with her husband, Mrs. Hines asks him what he did with Milly’s baby.

The next day, the people of Mottstown discuss the facts of the case and what they should do with Christmas. They also discuss Mr. Hines’s unusual reaction. Perhaps, they think, Hines should be put in jail with Christmas. Mrs. Hines brings Mr. Hines back into town and sets him in a chair outside the store. Then she proceeds to the jail, requesting to see Joe Christmas. She is unable to locate him, so she wanders around town. In the meantime, the officers from Jefferson arrive at the jail. A crowd forms and many people call for Joe Christmas to be lynched. As Joe is being led to the police car to be taken back to Jefferson, Mrs. Hines pushes her way through, looks Joe carefully in the face, and then turns to rent a car to go to Jefferson. When she finds that too expensive, they sit outside the courthouse until the evening. Then they go to the train station to buy two tickets to Jefferson, only to learn that the train leaves at two o’clock in the morning. They sit in the waiting room and Mr. Hines falls asleep. He awakens, bellowing, “Bitchery and abomination! Abomination and bitchery!”