SHE WALKED INTO the foyer of the office. She saw Henry still at his desk. She went to him.
“Hello,” he said.
“Seven-thirty tonight?” she said.
As they made a date for their leave-taking, a tide was running, returning, and she ran to meet it. He was a part of her, as timeless as Finch’s Landing, as the Coninghams and Old Sarum. Maycomb and Maycomb County had taught him things she had never known, could never learn, and Maycomb had rendered her useless to him as anything other than his oldest friend.
“That you, Jean Louise?”
Her father’s voice frightened her.
Atticus walked from his office to the foyer and took down his hat and stick from the hat rack. “Ready?” he said.
Ready. You can say ready to me. What are you, that I tried to obliterate and grind into the earth, and you say ready? I can’t beat you, I can’t join you. Don’t you know that?
She went to him. “Atticus,” she said. “I’m—”
“You may be sorry, but I’m proud of you.”
She looked up and saw her father beaming at her.
“I said I’m proud of you.”
“I don’t understand you. I don’t understand men at all and I never will.”
“Well, I certainly hoped a daughter of mine’d hold her ground for what she thinks is right-stand up to me first of all.”
Jean Louise rubbed her nose. “I called you some pretty grim things,” she said.
Atticus said, “I can take anything anybody calls me so long as it’s not true. You don’t even know how to cuss, Jean Louise. By the way, where did you pick up the ring-tailed variety?”
“Right here in Maycomb.”
“Dear goodness, the things you learned.”
Dear goodness, the things I learned. I did not want my world disturbed, but I wanted to crush the man who’s trying to preserve it for me. I wanted to stamp out all the people like him. I guess it’s like an airplane: they’re the drag and we’re the thrust, together we make the thing fly. Too much of us and we’re nose-heavy, too much of them and we’re tail-heavy-it’s a matter of balance. I can’t beat him, and I can’t join him-
“I think I love you very much.”
She saw her old enemy’s shoulders relax, and she watched him push his hat to the back of his head. “Let’s go home, Scout. It’s been a long day. Open the door for me.”
She stepped aside to let him pass. She followed him to the car and watched him get laboriously into the front seat. As she welcomed him silently to the human race, the stab of discovery made her tremble a little. Somebody walked over my grave, she thought, probably Jem on some idiotic errand.
She went around the car, and as she slipped under the steering wheel, this time she was careful not to bump her head.