Biddle tried a small laugh, but it didn't quite work. Then he tried it again, and this time it came out a little better. "There's something I want to talk to you about," he said.
"What is it?" the boy asked, taking a half step backward.
"Whatever you do, don't start edging away," Biddle said. "Do you know something? People have been edging away from me all my life. Maybe that's why I'm sitting here in the cell. Maybe that's why I took to drink. They say that edging away will do it to somebody, and maybe that's where all my trouble began, do you suppose?"
"I wouldn't know about that," Loftus said.
"I just want to have a word with you."
"About what?" Loftus said.
"About how you can bring a bottle of Monongahela Rye every night for as long as I'll be around to drink it."
"You know I can't do that," Loftus told him.
"All right, then. Just one bottle the night before they string me up."
"I can't do that, either."
"Why, SURE you can. It'd be EASY!"
"No, I can't. It's not allowed."
"I said you CAN!" Biddle said. "I didn't say it was ALLOWED."
"What are you talking about?" Loftus said, narrowing his eyes the way he always did when he started to get interested, for the distinction Biddle insisted upon verged upon being clever -- especially for a devoted tosspot.
"What I'm talking about is ... I don't think I can face the gallows without whiskey."
"You've got a Bible there."
Loftus frowned. "I know, and I appreciate it. I don't think I could do it without a Bible, either. But I've already GOT the
(Details about the book here)
A great line can get cut off in the middle and still put a smile on your face, and the last line of this page certainly does that. But there’s a lot more to it than the last line. Sentence by sentence, the writing here gives us a terrific picture of the situation. First, Biddle’s difficulty in forcing a laugh tells us that these are unusual circumstances -- and the fact that he’s trying to laugh makes him immediately sympathetic. But then the boy reacts with suspicion when Biddle says he wants to talk. What’s going on?
Well, it turns out that Biddle is in a cell, so perhaps our sympathy was misplaced. Still, it’s hard not to empathize with someone whose troubles may have started with others edging away from him. Plainly, Biddle has lived a hard life and regrets it.
Suddenly, we learn the hard truth: Biddle is not just imprisoned, but scheduled to hang.
And yet he still maintains a sense of humor, making two more wisecracks after he’s raised the specter of the noose. Furthermore, he’s not only funny, but logical. He looks to be arguing Loftus firmly into a corner, despite the boy’s reluctance to smuggle whiskey into the jail.
Your mileage may vary, but by the end of this page, I really want to know why Biddle has been sentenced to death, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want him to get killed. With just a few paragraphs of dialogue to go on, I’m already heavily invested in this character, wanting to know more, wanting to find out what happens.
Situation, character, dialogue, thought -- a great page has them all, and this one does.