Chapter 18 Summary
Byron stands outside the courthouse, observing the crowd that is waiting for the Grand Jury to try Joe Christmas for the murder of Miss Burden. He reflects that he has wasted time taking care of another man’s woman who is bearing another man’s child. He goes back to his boarding house and pays Mrs. Beard his rent due. Mrs. Beard has already packed up his belongings for him. She expresses her contempt for Lena Grove as well as for Byron for getting involved with her.
Byron goes to see the sheriff and requests that he let Lucas Burch out of jail to see Lena and his newborn son. The sheriff predicts that Lucas will be set free and might even be given the thousand-dollar reward, so he sees no harm in letting him visit Lena at the cabin. He asks Byron what he intends to do now, and Byron replies that he might go to Memphis. He thanks the sheriff for agreeing to his request and leaves.
At four o’clock, Byron hides in the bushes near Lena’s cabin and waits as the sheriff brings Lucas to see his family. After they go inside, Byron turns, mounts his mule, and leaves. At the top of the hill, he turns and looks at the cabin below. As he watches, a man bursts out of the back door and takes off running. Byron cannot believe that he has gone to all this trouble only to have Lucas take off and desert Lena and his son.
As Joe Brown (Lucas Burch) sat in jail, he was surprised when the deputy came to tell him that he was going to visit someone. Brown objected that he knows no one in Jefferson. He then believed they were taking him to give him the reward money. The deputy said he was taking Brown to the place where he would indeed get the reward he deserves. At the cabin, the sheriff pushes Brown through the door. When he sees Lena, he covers his surprise by telling her that he had sent her money to come to him but the messenger had been untrustworthy. Lena tells him that she knows a preacher who, she implies, will marry them as Brown had promised. Brown tells her that someone is waiting for him outside. He leaves out the back and begins to run. He stops at a black woman’s cabin and pays her to deliver a letter to town for him. The letter tells the sheriff to give the reward money to the bearer of the letter, to be delivered back to him.
Byron follows Joe Brown’s trail; he still feels astonished that Brown escaped. He encounters Brown, and the two men fight. Byron is no match for Brown, who is larger than he is. As Brown leaves, Byron decides to move on. He meets a man coming back from town, who tells him Joe Christmas has just been killed.