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17

“HANK,” SAID ATTICUS, “why don’t you go have a long look at the roses on the square? Estelle might give you one if you ask her right. Looks like I’m the only one who’s asked her right today.”

Atticus put his hand to his lapel, where was tucked a fresh scarlet bud. Jean Louise glanced toward the square and saw Estelle, black against the afternoon sun, steadily hoeing under the bushes.

Henry held out his hand to Jean Louise, dropped it to his side, and left without a word. She watched him walk across the street.

“You’ve known all that about him?”

“Certainly.”

Atticus had treated him like his own son, had given him the love that would have been Jem’s-she was suddenly aware that they were standing on the spot where Jem died. Atticus saw her shudder.

“It’s still with you, isn’t it?” he said.

“Yes.”

“Isn’t it about time you got over that? Bury your dead, Jean Louise.”

“I don’t want to discuss it. I want to move somewhere else.”

“Let’s go in the office, then.”

Her father’s office had always been a source of refuge for her. It was friendly. It was a place where, if troubles did not vanish, they were made bearable. She wondered if those were the same abstracts, files, and professional impedimenta on his desk that were there when she would run in, out of breath, desperate for an ice cream cone, and request a nickel. She could see him swing around in his swivel chair and stretch his legs. He would reach down deep into his pocket, pull out a handful of change, and from it select a very special nickel for her. His door was never closed to his children.

He sat slowly and swung around toward her. She saw a flash of pain cross his face and leave it.

“You knew all that about Hank?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t understand men.”

“We-ll, some men who cheat their wives out of grocery money wouldn’t think of cheating the grocer. Men tend to carry their honesty in pigeonholes, Jean Louise. They can be perfectly honest in some ways and fool themselves in other ways. Don’t be so hard on Hank, he’s coming along. Jack tells me you’re upset about something.”

“Jack told you—”

“Called a while ago and said-among other things-that if you weren’t already on the warpath you’d soon be. From what I heard, you already are.”

So. Uncle Jack told him. She was accustomed now to having her family desert her one by one. Uncle Jack was the last straw and to hell with them all. Very well, she’d tell him. Tell him and go. She would not argue with him; that was useless. He always beat her: she’d never won an argument from him in her life and she did not propose to try now.

“Yes sir, I’m upset about something. That citizens’ councilin’ you’re doing. I think it’s disgusting and I’ll tell you that right now.”

Her father leaned back in his chair. He said, “Jean Louise, you’ve been reading nothing but New York papers. I’ve no doubt all you see is wild threats and bombings and such. The Maycomb council’s not like the North Alabama and Tennessee kinds. Our council’s composed of and led by our own people. I bet you saw nearly every man in the county yesterday, and you knew nearly every man there.”

“Yes sir, I did. Every man from that snake Willoughby on down.”

“Each man there was probably there for a different reason,” said her father.

No war was ever fought for so many different reasons. Who said that? “Yeah, but they all met for one reason.”

“I can tell you the two reasons I was there. The Federal Government and the NAACP. Jean Louise, what was your first reaction to the Supreme Court decision?”

That was a safe question. She would answer him.

“I was furious,” she said.

She was. She had known it was coming, knew what it would be, had thought she was prepared for it, but when she bought a newspaper on the street corner and read it, she stopped at the first bar she came to and drank down a straight bourbon.

“Why?”

“Well sir, there they were, tellin’ us what to do again—”

Her father grinned. “You were merely reacting according to your kind,” he said. “When you started using your head, what did you think?”

“Nothing much, but it scared me. It seemed all backward-they were putting the cart way out in front of the horse.”

“How so?”

He was prodding her. Let him. They were on safe ground. “Well, in trying to satisfy one amendment, it looks like they rubbed out another one. The Tenth. It’s only a small amendment, only one sentence long, but it seemed to be the one that meant the most, somehow.”

“Did you think this out for yourself?”

“Why, yes sir. Atticus, I don’t know anything about the Constitution…”

“You seem to be constitutionally sound so far. Proceed.”

Proceed with what? Tell him she couldn’t look him in the eye? He wanted her views on the Constitution, then he’d have ’em: “Well, it seemed that to meet the real needs of a small portion of the population, the Court set up something horrible that could-that could affect the vast majority of folks. Adversely, that is. Atticus, I don’t know anything about it-all we have is the Constitution between us and anything some smart fellow wants to start, and there went the Court just breezily canceling one whole amendment, it seemed to me. We have a system of checks and balances and things, but when it comes down to it we don’t have much check on the Court, so who’ll bell the cat? Oh dear, I’m soundin’ like the Actors Studio.”

“What?”

“Nothing. I’m-I’m just trying to say that in trying to do right we’ve left ourselves open for something that could be truly dangerous to our set-up.”

She ran her fingers through her hair. She looked at the rows of brown-and-black bound books, law reports, on the wall opposite. She looked at a faded picture of the Nine Old Men on the wall to the left of her. Is Roberts dead? she wondered. She could not remember.

Her father’s voice was patient: “You were saying-?”

“Yes sir. I was saying that I–I don’t know much about government and economics and all that, and I don’t want to know much, but I do know that the Federal Government to me, to one small citizen, is mostly dreary hallways and waiting around. The more we have, the longer we wait and the tireder we get. Those old mossbacks on the wall up there knew it-but now, instead of going about it through Congress and the state legislatures like we should, when we tried to do right we just made it easier for them to set up more hallways and more waiting—”

Her father sat up and laughed.

“I told you I didn’t know anything about it.”

“Sweet, you’re such a states’ rightist you make me a Roosevelt Liberal by comparison.”

“States’ rightist?”

Atticus said, “Now that I’ve adjusted my ear to feminine reasoning, I think we find ourselves believing the very same things.”

She had been half willing to sponge out what she had seen and heard, creep back to New York, and make him a memory. A memory of the three of them, Atticus, Jem, and her, when things were uncomplicated and people did not lie. But she would not have him compound the felony. She could not let him add hypocrisy to it:

“Atticus, if you believe all that, then why don’t you do right? I mean this, that no matter how hateful the Court was, there had to be a beginning—”

“You mean because the Court said it we must take it? No ma’am. I don’t see it that way. If you think I for one citizen am going to take it lying down, you’re quite wrong. As you say, Jean Louise, there’s only one thing higher than the Court in this country, and that’s the Constitution—”

“Atticus, we are talking at cross-purposes.”

“You are dodging something. What is it?”

The dark tower. Childe Roland to the dark tower came. High school lit. Uncle Jack. I remember now.

“What is it? I’m trying to say that I don’t approve of the way they did it, that it scares me to death when I think about the way they did it, but they had to do it. It was put under their noses and they had to do it. Atticus, the time has come when we’ve got to do right—”

“Do right?”

“Yes sir. Give ’em a chance.”

“The Negroes? You don’t think they have a chance?”

“Why, no sir.”

“What’s to prevent any Negro from going where he pleases in this country and finding what he wants?”

“That’s a loaded question and you know it, sir! I’m so sick of this moral double-dealing I could—”

He had stung her, and she had shown him she felt it. But she could not help herself.

Her father picked up a pencil and tapped it on his desk. “Jean Louise,” he said. “Have you ever considered that you can’t have a set of backward people living among people advanced in one kind of civilization and have a social Arcadia?”

“You’re queering the pitch on me, Atticus, so let’s keep the sociology out of it for a second. Of course I know that, but I heard something once. I heard a slogan and it stuck in my head. I heard ‘Equal rights for all; special privileges for none,’ and to me it didn’t mean anything but what it said. It didn’t mean one card off the top of the stack for the white man and one off the bottom for the Negro, it—”

“Let’s look at it this way,” said her father. “You realize that our Negro population is backward, don’t you? You will concede that? You realize the full implications of the word ‘backward,’ don’t you?”

“Yes sir.”

“You realize that the vast majority of them here in the South are unable to share fully in the responsibilities of citizenship, and why?”

“Yes sir.”

“But you want them to have all its privileges?”

“God damn it, you’re twisting it up!”

“There’s no point in being profane. Think this over: Abbott County, across the river, is in bad trouble. The population is almost three-fourths Negro. The voting population is almost half-and-half now, because of that big Normal School over there. If the scales were tipped over, what would you have? The county won’t keep a full board of registrars, because if the Negro vote edged out the white you’d have Negroes in every county office—”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Honey,” he said. “Use your head. When they vote, they vote in blocs.”

“Atticus, you’re like that old publisher who sent out a staff artist to cover the Spanish-American War. ‘You draw the pictures. I’ll make the war.’ You’re as cynical as he was.”

“Jean Louise, I’m only trying to tell you some plain truths. You must see things as they are, as well as they should be.”

“Then why didn’t you show me things as they are when I sat on your lap? Why didn’t you show me, why weren’t you careful when you read me history and the things that I thought meant something to you that there was a fence around everything marked ‘White Only’?”

“You are inconsistent,” said her father mildly.

“Why so?”

“You slang the Supreme Court within an inch of its life, then you turn around and talk like the NAACP.”

“Good Lord, I didn’t get mad with the Court because of the Negroes. Negroes slapped the brief on the bench, all right, but that wasn’t what made me furious. I was ravin’ at what they were doing to the Tenth Amendment and all the fuzzy thinking. The Negroes were—”

Incidental to the issue in this war… to your own private war.

“You carry a card these days?”

“Why didn’t you hit me instead? For God’s sake, Atticus!”

Her father sighed. The lines around his mouth deepened. His hands with their swollen joints fumbled with his yellow pencil.

“Jean Louise,” he said, “let me tell you something right now, as plainly as I can put it. I am old-fashioned, but this I believe with all my heart. I’m a sort of Jeffersonian Democrat. Do you know what that is?”

“Huh, I thought you voted for Eisenhower. I thought Jefferson was one of the great souls of the Democratic Party or something.”

“Go back to school,” her father said. “All the Democratic Party has to do with Jefferson these days is put his picture up at banquets. Jefferson believed full citizenship was a privilege to be earned by each man, that it was not something given lightly nor to be taken lightly. A man couldn’t vote simply because he was a man, in Jefferson’s eyes. He had to be a responsible man. A vote was, to Jefferson, a precious privilege a man attained for himself in a-a live-and-let-live economy.”

“Atticus, you are rewriting history.”

“No I’m not. It might benefit you to go back and have a look at what some of our founding fathers really believed, instead of relying so much on what people these days tell you they believed.”

“You might be a Jeffersonian, but you’re no Democrat.”

“Neither was Jefferson.”

“Then what are you, a snob or something?”

“Yes. I’ll accept being called a snob when it comes to government. I’d like very much to be left alone to manage my own affairs in a live-and-let-live economy, I’d like for my state to be left alone to keep house without advice from the NAACP, which knows next to nothing about its business and cares less. That organization has stirred up more trouble in the past five years—”

“Atticus, the NAACP hasn’t done half of what I’ve seen in the past two days. It’s us.”

“Us?”

“Yes sir, us. You. Has anybody, in all the wrangling and high words over states’ rights and what kind of government we should have, thought about helping the Negroes?

“We missed the boat, Atticus. We sat back and let the NAACP come in because we were so furious at what we knew the Court was going to do, so furious at what it did, we naturally started shouting nigger. Took it out on them, because we resented the government.

“When it came we didn’t give an inch, we just ran instead. When we should have tried to help ’em live with the decision, it was like Bonaparte’s retreat we ran so fast. I guess it’s the first time in our history that we ever ran, and when we ran we lost. Where could they go? Who could they turn to? I think we deserve everything we’ve gotten from the NAACP and more.”

“I don’t think you mean what you’re saying.”

“I mean every word of it.”

“Then let’s put this on a practical basis right now. Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?”

“They’re people, aren’t they? We were quite willing to import them when they made money for us.”

“Do you want your children going to a school that’s been dragged down to accommodate Negro children?”

“The scholastic level of that school down the street, Atticus, couldn’t be any lower and you know it. They’re entitled to the same opportunities anyone else has, they’re entitled to the same chance—”

Her father cleared his throat. “Listen, Scout, you’re upset by having seen me doing something you think is wrong, but I’m trying to make you understand my position. Desperately trying. This is merely for your own information, that’s all: so far in my experience, white is white and black’s black. So far, I’ve not yet heard an argument that has convinced me otherwise. I’m seventy-two years old, but I’m still open to suggestion.

“Now think about this. What would happen if all the Negroes in the South were suddenly given full civil rights? I’ll tell you. There’d be another Reconstruction. Would you want your state governments run by people who don’t know how to run ’em? Do you want this town run by-now wait a minute-Willoughby’s a crook, we know that, but do you know of any Negro who knows as much as Willoughby? Zeebo’d probably be Mayor of Maycomb. Would you want someone of Zeebo’s capability to handle the town’s money? We’re outnumbered, you know.

“Honey, you do not seem to understand that the Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people. You should know it, you’ve seen it all your life. They’ve made terrific progress in adapting themselves to white ways, but they’re far from it yet. They were coming along fine, traveling at a rate they could absorb, more of ’em voting than ever before. Then the NAACP stepped in with its fantastic demands and shoddy ideas of government-can you blame the South for resenting being told what to do about its own people by people who have no idea of its daily problems?

“The NAACP doesn’t care whether a Negro man owns or rents his land, how well he can farm, or whether or not he tries to learn a trade and stand on his own two feet-oh no, all the NAACP cares about is that man’s vote.

“So, can you blame the South for wanting to resist an invasion by people who are apparently so ashamed of their race they want to get rid of it?

“How can you have grown up here, led the kind of life you’ve led, and can only see someone stomping on the Tenth Amendment? Jean Louise, they’re trying to wreck us-where have you been?”

“Right here in Maycomb.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I grew up right here in your house, and I never knew what was in your mind. I only heard what you said. You neglected to tell me that we were naturally better than the Negroes, bless their kinky heads, that they were able to go so far but so far only, you neglected to tell me what Mr. O’Hanlon told me yesterday. That was you talking down there, but you let Mr. O’Hanlon say it. You’re a coward as well as a snob and a tyrant, Atticus. When you talked of justice you forgot to say that justice is something that has nothing to do with people-

“I heard you on the subject of Zeebo’s boy this morning… nothing to do with our Calpurnia and what she’s meant to us, how faithful she’s been to us-you saw nigger, you saw NAACP, you balanced the equities, didn’t you?

“I remember that rape case you defended, but I missed the point. You love justice, all right. Abstract justice written down item by item on a brief-nothing to do with that black boy, you just like a neat brief. His cause interfered with your orderly mind, and you had to work order out of disorder. It’s a compulsion with you, and now it’s coming home to you—”

She was on her feet, holding the back of the chair.

“Atticus, I’m throwing it at you and I’m gonna grind it in: you better go warn your younger friends that if they want to preserve Our Way of Life, it begins at home. It doesn’t begin with the schools or the churches or anyplace but home. Tell ’em that, and use your blind, immoral, misguided, nigger-lovin’ daughter as your example. Go in front of me with a bell and say, ‘Unclean!’ Point me out as your mistake. Point me out: Jean Louise Finch, who was exposed to all kinds of guff from the white trash she went to school with, but she might never have gone to school for all the influence it had on her. Everything that was Gospel to her she got at home from her father. You sowed the seeds in me, Atticus, and now it’s coming home to you—”

“Are you finished with what you have to say?”

She sneered. “Not half through. I’ll never forgive you for what you did to me. You cheated me, you’ve driven me out of my home and now I’m in a no-man’s-land but good-there’s no place for me any more in Maycomb, and I’ll never be entirely at home anywhere else.”

Her voice cracked. “Why in the name of God didn’t you marry again? Marry some nice dim-witted Southern lady who would have raised me right? Turned me into a simpering, mealy-mouthed magnolia type who bats her eyelashes and crosses her hands and lives for nothing but her lil’ole hus-band. At least I would have been blissful. I’d have been typical one hundred per cent Maycomb; I would have lived out my little life and given you grandchildren to dote on; I would have spread out like Aunty, fanned myself on the front porch, and died happy. Why didn’t you tell me the difference between justice and justice, and right and right? Why didn’t you?”

“I didn’t think it necessary, nor do I think so now.”

“Well, it was necessary and you know it. God! And speaking of God, why didn’t you make it very plain to me that God made the races and put the black folks in Africa with the intention of keeping them there so the missionaries could go tell them that Jesus loved ’em but meant for ’em to stay in Africa? That us bringing ’em over here was all a bad mistake, so they’re to blame? That Jesus loved all mankind, but there are different kinds of men with separate fences around ’em, that Jesus meant that any man can go as far as he wants within that fence—”

“Jean Louise, come down to earth.”

He said it so easily that she stopped short. Her wave of invective had crashed over him and still he sat there. He had declined to be angry. Somewhere within her she felt that she was no lady but no power on earth would prevent him from being a gentleman, yet the piston inside drove her on:

“All right, I’ll come down to earth. I’ll land right in the livingroom of our house. I’ll come down to you. I believed in you. I looked up to you, Atticus, like I never looked up to anybody in my life and never will again. If you had only given me some hint, if you had only broken your word with me a couple of times, if you had been bad-tempered or impatient with me-if you had been a lesser man, maybe I could have taken what I saw you doing. If once or twice you’d let me catch you doing something vile, then I would have understood yesterday. Then I’d have said that’s just His Way, that’s My Old Man, because I’d have been prepared for it somewhere along the line—”

Her father’s face was compassionate, almost pleading. “You seem to think I’m involved in something positively evil,” he said. “The council’s our only defense, Jean Louise—”

“Is Mr. O’Hanlon our only defense?”

“Baby, Mr. O’Hanlon’s not, I’m happy to say, typical of the Maycomb County council membership. I hope you noticed my brevity in introducing him.”

“You were sort of short, but Atticus, that man—”

“Mr. O’Hanlon’s not prejudiced, Jean Louise. He’s a sadist.”

“Then why did you all let him get up there?”

“Because he wanted to.”

“Sir?”

“Oh yes,” said her father vaguely. “He goes about addressing citizens’ councils all over the state. He asked permission to speak to ours and we gave it to him. I rather think he’s paid by some organization in Massachusetts—”

Her father swung away from her and looked out the window. “I’ve been trying to make you see that the Maycomb council, at any rate, is simply a method of defense against—”

“Defense, hell! Atticus, we aren’t on the Constitution now. I’m trying to make you see something. You now, you treat all people alike. I’ve never in my life seen you give that insolent, back-of-the-hand treatment half the white people down here give Negroes just when they’re talking to them, just when they ask ’em to do something. There’s no get-along-there-nigger in your voice when you talk to ’em.

“Yet you put out your hand in front of them as a people and say, ‘Stop here. This is as far as you can go!’”

“I thought we agreed that—”

Her voice was heavy with sarcasm: “We’ve agreed that they’re backward, that they’re illiterate, that they’re dirty and comical and shiftless and no good, they’re infants and they’re stupid, some of them, but we haven’t agreed on one thing and we never will. You deny that they’re human.”

“How so?”

“You deny them hope. Any man in this world, Atticus, any man who has a head and arms and legs, was born with hope in his heart. You won’t find that in the Constitution, I picked that up in church somewhere. They are simple people, most of them, but that doesn’t make them subhuman.

“You are telling them that Jesus loves them, but not much. You are using frightful means to justify ends that you think are for the good of the most people. Your ends may well be right-I think I believe in the same ends-but you cannot use people as your pawns, Atticus. You cannot. Hitler and that crowd in Russia’ve done some lovely things for their lands, and they slaughtered tens of millions of people doing ’em…”

Atticus smiled. “Hitler, eh?”

“You’re no better. You’re no damn better. You just try to kill their souls instead of their bodies. You just try to tell ’em, ‘Look, be good. Behave yourselves. If you’re good and mind us, you can get a lot out of life, but if you don’t mind us, we will give you nothing and take away what we’ve already given you.’

“I know it’s got to be slow, Atticus, I know that full well. But I know it’s got to be. I wonder what would happen if the South had a ‘Be Kind to the Niggers Week’? If just for one week the South would show them some simple, impartial courtesy. I wonder what would happen. Do you think it’d give ’em airs or the beginnings of self-respect? Have you ever been snubbed, Atticus? Do you know how it feels? No, don’t tell me they’re children and don’t feel it: I was a child and felt it, so grown children must feel, too. A real good snub, Atticus, makes you feel like you’re too nasty to associate with people. How they’re as good as they are now is a mystery to me, after a hundred years of systematic denial that they’re human. I wonder what kind of miracle we could work with a week’s decency.

“There was no point in saying any of this because I know you won’t give an inch and you never will. You’ve cheated me in a way that’s inexpressible, but don’t let it worry you, because the joke is entirely on me. You’re the only person I think I’ve ever fully trusted and now I’m done for.”

“I’ve killed you, Scout. I had to.”

“Don’t you give me any more double-talk! You’re a nice, sweet, old gentleman, and I’ll never believe a word you say to me again. I despise you and everything you stand for.”

“Well, I love you.”

“Don’t you dare say that to me! Love me, huh! Atticus, I’m getting out of this place fast, I don’t know where I’m going but I’m going. I never want to see another Finch or hear of one as long as I live!”

“As you please.”

“You double-dealing, ring-tailed old son of a bitch! You just sit there and say ‘As you please’ when you’ve knocked me down and stomped on me and spat on me, you just sit there and say ‘As you please’ when everything I ever loved in this world’s-you just sit there and say ‘As you please’-you love me! You son of a bitch!

“That’ll do, Jean Louise.”

That’ll do, his general call to order in the days when she believed. So he kills me and gives it a twist… how can he taunt me so? How can he treat me so? God in heaven, take me away from here… God in heaven, take me away…


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