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A Gathering of Old Men

Ernest J. Gaines

Chapter 8: Louis Alfred Dimoulin, aka Lou Dimes

Chapters 6 and 7

Chapter 8: Louis Alfred Dimoulin, aka Lou Dimes, page 2

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Lou Dimes narrates this chapter. He has sped crazily to the plantation after he got Candy's message. Upon reaching Mathu's house, he sees approximately eighteen old black men with shotguns. He immediately speaks to Candy, who tells him that she murdered Beau. The presence of the armed black men and Candy's confession send a shiver of panic down his spine. Lou walks around the house and starts speaking to the men. The first one he addresses immediately confesses to the crime. The second one does the same. Finally, Lou sees the Reverend Jameson and asks him what is going on. The Reverend refers Lou back to Candy.

Lou tells Candy that she is lying about shooting Beau. Candy becomes furious. She explains that she shot Beau after Beau beat Charlie, threatened Mathu, and insisted on walking on Mathu's property. Candy had warned Beau not to approach Mathu but when he did anyway, she shot him. Lou tells Candy that Fix is going to demand the blood of a black person for this crime no matter what she says. She grows increasingly angry and tells him to go back to Baton Rouge if he cannot deal with it. Suddenly the road fills with dust as Sheriff Mapes arrives.

Sheriff Mapes is a physically large man in his late sixties. He does not speak as he gets out of the car, but takes in the situation. He then instructs his deputy Griffin to turn off the tractor that is still running, to call and have Fix kept away from the plantation, and to finally arrange for the removal of the body. Mapes remarks to Lou about the number of armed men. When Mapes looks at Candy, she immediately confesses to killing Beau. Mapes does not respond. He orders his deputy, Griffin, to bring one of the men over to him for questioning.

The deputy brings Billy Washington over, one of the oldest men there. Mapes refers to him as Uncle Billy. When Billy confesses to shooting Beau, Mapes slaps him in the face. After Mapes asks more questions and Billy confesses again, Mapes slaps him once more. Since he is getting nowhere with Billy, Mapes tells Griffin to bring up another man. The deputy brings up Gable. As did Billy, Gable also immediately claims to be the murderer. When Gable persists in his confession, Mapes slaps him also. Gable responds sarcastically to being hit, which prompts another blow. All the surrounding black men grin with Gable's attitude and Lou reflects that the Sheriff will get nowhere by hitting people.

Next Griffin brings up Reverend Jameson. Reverend Jameson looks scared and nervously tells the Sheriff that he has nothing to say. When the Reverend fails to say more, Mapes hits him as well. In response to the blow, the Reverend falls to the ground. As he gets up slowly, the other men form a line in front of Mapes so that he can question and hit them all. Candy stands at the front of the line. Mapes moves away and talks to Lou. Mapes tells Lou that he believes that Mathu killed Beau, as the only other possible suspect is Charlie, but Charlie is too cowardly. With so many confessions, however, Mapes can arrest no one. Furthermore, Mapes knows that Candy arranged for charade. Mapes asks Lou why Lou does not better control his girlfriend. Lou reflects and realizes that Mapes does not think that he is much of a man.

The coroner arrives. The sight of the armed black men surprises him and his assistant, but Mapes instructs them to just move the body and not to ask questions. The coroner places the time of death as around noon. Mapes tells the coroner not to tell anyone in town that Beau is dead. After the hearse leaves, Mapes orders everyone to move but no one complies. Billy Washington then grows excited and yells to the Sheriff that he killed Beau. The Sheriff follows up to Billy's assertion by questioning him deeply. Mapes points out that Billy could not have killed Beau because Billy does not even live at Marshall and he is too old to shoot straight. Billy tells Sheriff Mapes that he killed Beau because Beau crippled Billy's son in a beating many years before, so that Billy's son now lives in a mental hospital. Mapes listens but dismisses Billy's confession, before summoning Mathu over to him.


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