“HANK, WHERE’S ATTICUS?”
Henry looked up from his desk. “Hi, sweetie. He’s at the post office. It’s about coffee-time for me. Comin’ along?”
The same thing that compelled her to leave Mr. Cunningham’s and go to the office caused her to follow Henry to the sidewalk: she wished to look furtively at them again and again, to assure herself that they had not undergone some alarming physical metamorphosis as well, yet she did not wish to speak to them, to touch them, lest she cause them to commit further outrage in her presence.
As she and Henry walked side by side to the drugstore, she wondered if Maycomb was planning a fall or winter wedding for them. I’m peculiar, she thought. I cannot get into bed with a man unless I’m in some state of accord with him. Right now I can’t even speak to him. Cannot speak to my oldest friend.
They sat facing each other in a booth, and Jean Louise studied the napkin container, the sugar bowl, the salt and pepper shakers.
“You’re quiet,” said Henry. “How was the Coffee?”
“Yes. She’s about yours and Jem’s age, isn’t she?”
“Yeah, same class. Bill told me this morning she was pilin’ on the warpaint for it.”
“Hank, Bill Sinclair must be a gloomy party.”
“All that guff he’s put in Hester’s head—”
“Oh, the Catholics and the Communists and Lord knows what else. It seems to have run all together in her mind.”
Henry laughed and said, “Honey, the sun rises and sets with that Bill of hers. Everything he says is Gospel. She loves her man.”
“Is that what loving your man is?”
“Has a lot to do with it.”
Jean Louise said, “You mean losing your own identity, don’t you?”
“In a way, yes,” said Henry.
“Then I doubt if I shall ever marry. I never met a man—”
“You’re gonna marry me, remember?”
“Hank, I may as well tell you now and get it over with: I’m not going to marry you. Period and that’s that.”
She had not intended to say it but she could not stop herself.
“I’ve heard that before.”
“Well, I’m telling you now that if you ever want to marry”-was it she who was talking? — “you’d best start looking around. I’ve never been in love with you, but you’ve always known I’ve loved you. I thought we could make a marriage with me loving you on that basis, but—”
“I don’t even love you like that any more. I’ve hurt you but there it is.” Yes, it was she talking, with her customary aplomb, breaking his heart in the drugstore. Well, he’d broken hers.
Henry’s face became blank, reddened, and its scar leaped into prominence. “Jean Louise, you can’t mean what you’re saying.”
“I mean every word of it.”
Hurts, doesn’t it? You’re damn right it hurts. You know how it feels, now.
Henry reached across the table and took her hand. She pulled away. “Don’t you touch me,” she said.
“My darling, what is the matter?”
Matter? I’ll tell you what’s the matter. You won’t be pleased with some of it.
“All right, Hank. It’s simply this: I was at that meeting yesterday. I saw you and Atticus in your glory down there at that table with that-that scum, that dreadful man, and I tell you my stomach turned. Merely the man I was going to marry, merely my own father, merely made me so sick I threw up and haven’t stopped yet! How in the name of God could you? How could you?”
“We have to do a lot of things we don’t want to do, Jean Louise.”
She blazed. “What kind of answer is that? I thought Uncle Jack had finally gone off his rocker but I’m not so sure now!”
“Honey,” said Henry. He moved the sugar bowl to the center of the table and pushed it back again. “Look at it this way. All the Maycomb Citizens’ Council is in this world is-is a protest to the Court, it’s a sort of warning to the Negroes for them not to be in such a hurry, it’s a—”
“—tailor-made audience for any trash who wants to get up and holler nigger. How can you be a party to such a thing, how can you?”
Henry pushed the sugar bowl toward her and brought it back. She took it away from him and banged it down in the corner.
“Jean Louise, as I said before, we have to do—”
“—a lot of things we don’t—”
“—will you let me finish? — we don’t want to do. No, please let me talk. I’m trying to think of something that might show you what I mean… you know the Klan-?”
“Yes I know the Klan.”
“Now hush a minute. A long time ago the Klan was respectable, like the Masons. Almost every man of any prominence was a member, back when Mr. Finch was young. Did you know Mr. Finch joined?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised at anything Mr. Finch ever joined in his life. It figures—”
“Jean Louise, shut up! Mr. Finch has no more use for the Klan than anybody, and didn’t then. You know why he joined? To find out exactly what men in town were behind the masks. What men, what people. He went to one meeting, and that was enough. The Wizard happened to be the Methodist preacher—”
“That’s the kind of company Atticus likes.”
“Shut up, Jean Louise. I’m trying to make you see his motive: all the Klan was then was a political force, there wasn’t any cross-burning, but your daddy did and still does get mighty uncomfortable around folks who cover up their faces. He had to know who he’d be fighting if the time ever came to-he had to find out who they were…”
“So my esteemed father is one of the Invisible Empire.”
“Jean Louise, that was forty years ago—”
“He’s probably the Grand Dragon by now.”
Henry said evenly, “I’m only trying to make you see beyond men’s acts to their motives. A man can appear to be a part of something not-so-good on its face, but don’t take it upon yourself to judge him unless you know his motives as well. A man can be boiling inside, but he knows a mild answer works better than showing his rage. A man can condemn his enemies, but it’s wiser to know them. I said sometimes we have to do—”
Jean Louise said, “Are you saying go along with the crowd and then when the time comes—”
Henry checked her: “Look, honey. Have you ever considered that men, especially men, must conform to certain demands of the community they live in simply so they can be of service to it?
“Maycomb County’s home to me, honey. It’s the best place I know to live in. I’ve built up a good record here from the time I was a kid. Maycomb knows me, and I know Maycomb. Maycomb trusts me, and I trust Maycomb. My bread and butter comes from this town, and Maycomb’s given me a good living.
“But Maycomb asks certain things in return. It asks you to lead a reasonably clean life, it asks that you join the Kiwanis Club, to go to church on Sunday, it asks you to conform to its ways—”
Henry examined the salt shaker, moving his thumb up and down its grooved sides. “Remember this, honey,” he said. “I’ve had to work like a dog for everything I ever had. I worked in that store across the square-I was so tired most of the time it was all I could do to keep up with my lessons. In the summer I worked at home in Mamma’s store, and when I wasn’t working there I was hammering in the house. Jean Louise, I’ve had to scratch since I was a kid for the things you and Jem took for granted. I’ve never had some of the things you take for granted and I never will. All I have to fall back on is myself—”
“That’s all any of us have, Hank.”
“No it isn’t. Not here.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean there are some things I simply can’t do that you can.”
“And why am I such a privileged character?”
“You’re a Finch.”
“So I’m a Finch. So what?”
“So you can parade around town in your dungarees with your shirttail out and barefooted if you want to. Maycomb says, ‘That’s the Finch in her, that’s just Her Way.’ Maycomb grins and goes about its business: old Scout Finch never changes. Maycomb’s delighted and perfectly ready to believe you went swimming in the river buck naked. ‘Hasn’t changed a bit,’ it says. ‘Same old Jean Louise. Remember when she-?’”
He put down the salt shaker. “But let Henry Clinton show any signs of deviatin’ from the norm and Maycomb says, not ‘That’s the Clinton in him,’ but ‘That’s the trash in him.’”
“Hank. That is untrue and you know it. It’s unfair and it’s ungenerous, but more than anything in this world it’s just not true!”
“Jean Louise, it is true,” said Henry gently. “You’ve probably never even thought about it—”
“Hank, you’ve got some kind of complex.”
“I haven’t got anything of the kind. I just know Maycomb. I’m not in the least sensitive about it, but good Lord, I’m certainly aware of it. It says to me that there are certain things I can’t do and certain things I must do if I—”
“If you what?”
“Well, sweetie, I would really like to live here, and I like the things other men like. I want to keep the respect of this town, I want to serve it, I want to make a name for myself as a lawyer, I want to make money, I want to marry and have a family—”
“In that order, I suppose!”
Jean Louise got up from the booth and marched out of the drugstore. Henry followed on her heels. At the door he turned and yelled he’d get the check in a minute.
“Jean Louise, stop!”
“Honey, I’m only trying to make you see—”
“I see all right!” she said. “I see a scared little man; I see a little man who’s scared not to do what Atticus tells him, who’s scared not to stand on his own two feet, who’s scared not to sit around with the rest of the red-blooded men—”
She started walking. She thought she was walking in the general direction of the car. She thought she had parked it in front of the office.
“Jean Louise, will you please wait a minute?”
“All right, I’m waiting.”
“You know I told you there were things you’d always taken for granted—”
“Hell yes, I’ve been taking a lot of things for granted. The very things I’ve loved about you. I looked up to you like God knows what because you worked like hell for everything you ever had, for everything you’ve made yourself. I thought a lot of things went with it, but they obviously aren’t there. I thought you had guts, I thought—”
She walked down the sidewalk, unaware that Maycomb was looking at her, that Henry was walking beside her pitifully, comically.
“Jean Louise, will you please listen to me?”
“God damn you, what?”
“I just want to ask you one thing, one thing-what the hell do you expect me to do? Tell me, what the hell do you expect me to do?”
“Do? I expect you to keep your gold-plated ass out of citizens’ councils! I don’t give a damn if Atticus is sitting across from you, if the King of England’s on your right and the Lord Jehovah’s on your left-I expect you to be a man, that’s all!”
She drew in her breath sharply. “I-you go through a goddamned war, that’s one kind of being scared, but you get through it, you get through it. Then you come home to be scared the rest of your life-scared of Maycomb! Maycomb, Alabama-oh brother!”
They had come to the door of the office.
Henry grabbed her shoulders. “Jean Louise, will you stop one second? Please? Listen to me. I know I’m not much, but think one minute. Please think. This is my life, this town, don’t you understand that? God damn it, I’m part of Maycomb County’s trash, but I’m part of Maycomb County. I’m a coward, I’m a little man, I’m not worth killing, but this is my home. What do you want me to do, go shout from the housetops that I am Henry Clinton and I’m here to tell you you’re all wet? I’ve got to live here, Jean Louise. Don’t you understand that?”
“I understand that you’re a goddamned hypocrite.”
“I am trying to make you see, my darling, that you are permitted a sweet luxury I’m not. You can shout to high heaven, I cannot. How can I be of any use to a town if it’s against me? If I went out and-look, you will admit that I have a certain amount of education and a certain usefulness in Maycomb-you admit that? A millhand can’t do my job. Now, shall I throw all that down the drain, go back down the county to the store and sell people flour when I could be helping them with what legal talent I have? Which is worth more?”
“Henry, how can you live with yourself?”
“It’s comparatively easy. Sometimes I just don’t vote my convictions, that’s all.”
“Hank, we are poles apart. I don’t know much but I know one thing. I know I can’t live with you. I cannot live with a hypocrite.”
A dry, pleasant voice behind her said, “I don’t know why you can’t. Hypocrites have just as much right to live in this world as anybody.”
She turned around and stared at her father. His hat was pushed back on his head; his eyebrows were raised; he was smiling at her.