Go Set a Watchman/12


She looked up, and on the porch of Calpurnia's little house stood Negroes in various states of public attire: a couple of women wore their best, one had on a calico apron, one was dressed in her field clothes. Jean Louise identified one of the men as Professor Chester Sumpter, principal of the Mt. Sinai Trade Institute, Maycomb County's largest Negro school. Professor Sumpter was clad, as he always was, in black. The other black-suited man was a stranger to her, but Jean Louise knew he was a minister. Zeebo wore his work clothes.

When they saw her, they stood straight and retreated from the edge of the porch, becoming as one. The men removed their hats and caps, the woman wearing the apron folded her hands beneath it.

"Morning, Zeebo," said Jean Louise.

Zeebo broke the pattern by stepping forward. "Howdy do, Miss Jean Louise. We didn't know you was home."

Jean Louise was acutely conscious that the Negroes were watching her. They stood silent, respectful, and were watching her intently. She said, "Is Calpurnia home?"

"Yessum, Miss Jean Louise, Mamma in the house. Want me to fetch her?"

"May I go in, Zeebo?"


The black people parted for her to enter the front door. Zeebo, unsure of protocol, opened the door and stood back to let her enter. "Lead the way, Zeebo," she said.

She followed him into a dark parlor to which clung the musky sweet smell of clean Negro, snuff, and Hearts of Love hairdressing. Several shadowy forms rose when she entered.

"This way, Miss Jean Louise."

They walked down a tiny hallway, and Zeebo tapped at an unpainted pine door. "Mamma," he said. "Miss Jean Louise here."

The door opened softly, and Zeebo's wife's head appeared around it. She came out into the hall, which was scarcely large enough to contain the three of them.

"Hello, Helen," said Jean Louise. "How is Calpurnia?"

"She taking it mighty hard, Miss Jean Louise. Frank, he never had any trouble before...."

So, it was Frank. Of all her multifarious descendants, Calpurnia took most pride in Frank. He was on the waiting list for Tuskegee Institute. He was a born plumber, could fix anything water ran through.

Helen, heavy with a pendulous stomach from having carried so many children, leaned against the wall. She was barefooted.

"Zeebo," said Jean Louise, "you and Helen living together again?"

"Yessum," said Helen placidly. "He's done got old."

Jean Louise smiled at Zeebo, who looked sheepish. For the life of her, Jean Louise could not disentangle Zeebo's domestic history. She thought Helen must be Frank's mother, but she was not sure. She was positive Helen was Zeebo's first wife, and was equally sure she was his present wife, but how many were there in between?

She remembered Atticus telling of the pair in his office, years ago when they appeared seeking a divorce. Atticus, trying to reconcile them, asked Helen would she take her husband back. "Naw sir, Mr. Finch," was her slow reply. "Zeebo, he been goin' around enjoyin' other women. He don't enjoy me none, and I don't want no man who don't enjoy his wife."

"Could I see Calpurnia, Helen?"

"Yessum, go right in."

Calpurnia was sitting in a wooden rocking chair in a corner of the room by the fireplace. The room contained an iron bedstead covered with a faded quilt of a Double Wedding Ring pattern. There were three huge gilt-framed photographs of Negroes and a Coca-Cola calendar on the wall. A rough mantelpiece teemed with small bright objets d'art made of plaster, porcelain, clay, and milk glass. A naked light bulb burned on a cord swinging from the ceiling, casting sharp shadows on the wall behind the mantelpiece, and in the corner where Calpurnia sat.

How small she looks, thought Jean Louise. She used to be so tall.

Calpurnia was old and she was bony. Her sight was failing, and she wore a pair of black-rimmed glasses which stood out in harsh contrast to her warm brown skin. Her big hands were resting in her lap, and she raised them and spread her fingers when Jean Louise entered.

Jean Louise's throat tightened when she caught sight of Calpurnia's bony fingers, fingers so gentle when Jean Louise was ill and hard as ebony when she was bad, fingers that had performed long-ago tasks of loving intricacy. Jean Louise held them to her mouth.

"Cal," she said.

"Sit down, baby," said Calpurnia. "Is there a chair?"

"Yes, Cal." Jean Louise drew up a chair and sat in front of her old friend.

"Cal, I came to tell you--I came to tell you that if there's anything I can do for you, you must let me know."

"Thank you, ma'am," said Calpurnia. "I don't know of anything."

"I want to tell you that Mr. Finch got word of it early this morning. Frank had the sheriff call him and Mr. Finch'll ... help him."

The words died on her lips. Day before yesterday she would have said "Mr. Finch'll help him" confident that Atticus would turn dark to daylight.

Calpurnia nodded. Her head was up and she looked straight before her. She cannot see me well, thought Jean Louise. I wonder how old she is. I never knew exactly, and I doubt if she ever did.

Jean Louise said, "Don't worry, Cal. Atticus'll do his best."

Calpurnia said, "I know he will, Miss Scout. He always do his best. He always do right."

Jean Louise stared open-mouthed at the old woman. Calpurnia was sitting in a haughty dignity that appeared on state occasions, and with it appeared erratic grammar. Had the earth stopped turning, had the trees frozen, had the sea given up its dead, Jean Louise would not have noticed.


She barely heard Calpurnia talking: "Frank, he do wrong ... he pay for it ... my grandson. I love him ... but he go to jail with or without Mr. Finch...."

"Calpurnia, stop it!"

Jean Louise was on her feet. She felt the tears come and she walked blindly to the window.

The old woman had not moved. Jean Louise turned and saw her sitting there, seeming to inhale steadily.

Calpurnia was wearing her company manners.

Jean Louise sat down again in front of her. "Cal," she cried, "Cal, Cal, Cal, what are you doing to me? What's the matter? I'm your baby, have you forgotten me? Why are you shutting me out? What are you doing to me?"

Calpurnia lifted her hands and brought them down softly on the arms of the rocker. Her face was a million tiny wrinkles, and her eyes were dim behind thick lenses.

"What are you all doing to us?" she said.


"Yessum. Us."

Jean Louise said slowly, more to herself than to Calpurnia: "As long as I've lived I never remotely dreamed that anything like this could happen. And here it is. I cannot talk to the one human who raised me from the time I was two years old ... it is happening as I sit here and I cannot believe it. Talk to me, Cal. For God's sake talk to me right. Don't sit there like that!"

She looked into the old woman's face and she knew it was hopeless. Calpurnia was watching her, and in Calpurnia's eyes was no hint of compassion.

Jean Louise rose to go. "Tell me one thing, Cal," she said, "just one thing before I go--please, I've got to know. Did you hate us?"

The old woman sat silent, bearing the burden of her years. Jean Louise waited.

Finally, Calpurnia shook her head.

"ZEEBO," SAID JEAN Louise. "If there's anything I can do, for goodness' sake call on me."

"Yessum," the big man said. "But it don't look like there's anything. Frank, he sho' killed him, and there's nothing nobody can do. Mr. Finch, he can't do nothing about sump'n like that. Is there anything I can do for you while you're home, ma'am?"

They were standing on the porch in the path cleared for them. Jean Louise sighed. "Yes, Zeebo, right now. You can come help me turn my car around. I'd be in the corn patch before long."

"Yessum, Miss Jean Louise."

She watched Zeebo manipulate the car in the narrow confine of the road. I hope I can get back home, she thought. "Thank you, Zeebo," she said wearily. "Remember now." The Negro touched his hatbrim and walked back to his mother's house.

Jean Louise sat in the car, staring at the steering wheel. Why is it that everything I have ever loved on this earth has gone away from me in two days' time? Would Jem turn his back on me? She loved us, I swear she loved us. She sat there in front of me and she didn't see me, she saw white folks. She raised me, and she doesn't care.

It was not always like this, I swear it wasn't. People used to trust each other for some reason, I've forgotten why. They didn't watch each other like hawks then. I wouldn't get looks like that going up those steps ten years ago. She never wore her company manners with one of us ... when Jem died, her precious Jem, it nearly killed her....

Jean Louise remembered going to Calpurnia's house late one afternoon two years ago. She was sitting in her room, as she was today, her glasses down on her nose. She had been crying. "Always so easy to fix for," Calpurnia said. "Never a day's trouble in his life, my boy. He brought me a present home from the war, he brought me an electric coat." When she smiled Calpurnia's face broke into its million wrinkles. She went to the bed, and from under it pulled out a wide box. She opened the box and held up an enormous expanse of black leather. It was a German flying officer's coat. "See?" she said. "It turns on." Jean Louise examined the coat and found tiny wires running through it. There was a pocket containing batteries. "Mr. Jem said it'd keep my bones warm in the wintertime. He said for me not to be scared of it, but to be careful when it was lightning." Calpurnia in her electric coat was the envy of her friends and neighbors. "Cal," Jean Louise had said. "Please come back. I can't go back to New York easy in my mind if you aren't there." That seemed to help: Calpurnia straightened up and nodded. "Yes ma'am," she said. "I'm coming back. Don't you worry."

Jean Louise pressed the drive button and the car moved slowly down the road. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Catch a nigger by his toe. When he hollers let him go ... God help me.



ALEXANDRA WAS AT the kitchen table absorbed in culinary rites. Jean Louise tiptoed past her to no avail.

"Come look here."

Alexandra stepped back from the table and revealed several cut-glass platters stacked three-deep with delicate sandwiches.

"Is that Atticus's dinner?"

"No, he's going to try to eat downtown today. You know how he hates barging in on a bunch of women."

Holy Moses King of the Jews. The Coffee.

"Sweet, why don't you get the livingroom ready. They'll be here in an hour."

"Who've you invited?"

Alexandra called out a guest list so preposterous that Jean Louise sighed heavily. Half the women were younger than she, half were older; they had shared no experience that she could recall, except one female with whom she had quarreled steadily all through grammar school. "Where's everybody in my class?" she said.

"About, I suppose."

Ah yes. About, in Old Sarum and points deeper in the woods. She wondered what had become of them.

"Did you go visiting this morning?" asked Alexandra.

"Went to see Cal."

Alexandra's knife clattered on the table. "Jean Louise!"

"Now what the hell's the matter?" This is the last round I will ever have with her, so help me God. I have never been able to do anything right in my life as far as she's concerned.

"Calm down, Miss." Alexandra's voice was cold. "Jean Louise, nobody in Maycomb goes to see Negroes any more, not after what they've been doing to us. Besides being shiftless now they look at you sometimes with open insolence, and as far as depending on them goes, why that's out.

"That NAACP's come down here and filled 'em with poison till it runs out of their ears. It's simply because we've got a strong sheriff that we haven't had bad trouble in this county so far. You do not realize what is going on. We've been good to 'em, we've bailed 'em out of jail and out of debt since the beginning of time, we've made work for 'em when there was no work, we've encouraged 'em to better themselves, they've gotten civilized, but my dear--that veneer of civilization's so thin that a bunch of uppity Yankee Negroes can shatter a hundred years' progress in five....

"No ma'am, after the thanks they've given us for looking after 'em, nobody in Maycomb feels much inclined to help 'em when they get in trouble now. All they do is bite the hands that feed 'em. No sir, not any more--they can shift for themselves, now."

She had slept twelve hours, and her shoulders ached from weariness.

"Mary Webster's Sarah's carried a card for years--so's everybody's cook in this town. When Calpurnia left I simply couldn't be bothered with another one, not for just Atticus and me. Keeping a nigger happy these days is like catering to a king--"

My Sainted Aunt is talking like Mr. Grady O'Hanlon, who left his job to devote his full time to the preservation of segregation.

"--you have to fetch and tote for them until you wonder who's waiting on who. It's just not worth the trouble these days--where are you going?"

"To get the livingroom ready."

She sank into a deep armchair and considered how all occasions had made her poor indeed. My aunt is a hostile stranger, my Calpurnia won't have anything to do with me, Hank is insane, and Atticus--something's wrong with me, it's something about me. It has to be because all these people cannot have changed.

Why doesn't their flesh creep? How can they devoutly believe everything they hear in church and then say the things they do and listen to the things they hear without throwing up? I thought I was a Christian but I'm not. I'm something else and I don't know what. Everything I have ever taken for right and wrong these people have taught me--these same, these very people. So it's me, it's not them. Something has happened to me.

They are all trying to tell me in some weird, echoing way that it's all on account of the Negroes ... but it's no more the Negroes than I can fly and God knows, I might fly out the window any time, now.

"Haven't you done the livingroom?" Alexandra was standing in front of her.

Jean Louise got up and did the livingroom.

THE MAGPIES ARRIVED at 10:30, on schedule. Jean Louise stood on the front steps and greeted them one by one as they entered. They wore gloves and hats, and smelled to high heaven of attars, perfumes, eaus, and bath powder. Their makeup would have put an Egyptian draftsman to shame, and their clothes--particularly their shoes--had definitely been purchased in Montgomery or Mobile: Jean Louise spotted A. Nachman, Gayfer's, Levy's, Hammel's, on all sides of the livingroom.

What do they talk about these days? Jean Louise had lost her ear, but she presently recovered it. The Newlyweds chattered smugly of their Bobs and Michaels, of how they had been married to Bob and Michael for four months and Bob and Michael had gained twenty pounds apiece. Jean Louise crushed the temptation to enlighten her young guests upon the probable clinical reasons for their loved ones' rapid growth, and she turned her attention to the Diaper Set, which distressed her beyond measure:

When Jerry was two months old he looked up at me and said ... toilet training should really begin when ... he was christened he grabbed Mr. Stone by the hair and Mr. Stone ... wets the bed now. I broke her of that the same time I broke her from sucking her finger, with ... the cu-utest, absolutely the cutest sweatshirt you've ever seen: it's got a little red elephant and "Crimson Tide" written right across the front ... and it cost us five dollars to get it yanked out.

The Light Brigade sat to the left of her: in their early and middle thirties, they devoted most of their free time to the Amanuensis Club, bridge, and getting one-up on each other in the matter of electrical appliances:

John says ... Calvin says it's the ... kidneys, but Allen took me off fried things ... when I got caught in that zipper I like to have never ... wonder what on earth makes her think she can get away with it ... poor thing, if I were in her place I'd take ... shock treatments, that's what she had. They say she ... kicks back the rug every Saturday night when Lawrence Welk comes on ... and laugh, I thought I'd die! There he was, in ... my old wedding dress, and you know, I can still wear it.

Jean Louise looked at the three Perennial Hopefuls on her right. They were jolly Maycomb girls of excellent character who had never made the grade. They were patronized by their married contemporaries, they were vaguely felt sorry for, and were produced to date any stray extra man who happened to be visiting their friends. Jean Louise looked at one of them with acid amusement: when Jean Louise was ten, she made her only attempt to join a crowd, and she asked Sarah Finley one day, "Can I come to see you this afternoon?" "No," said Sarah, "Mamma says you're too rough."

Now we are both lonely, for entirely different reasons, but it feels the same, doesn't it?

The Perennial Hopefuls talked quietly among themselves:

longest day I ever had ... in the back of the bank building ... a new house out on the road by ... the Training Union, add it all up and you spend four hours every Sunday in church ... times I've told Mr. Fred I like my tomatoes ... boiling hot. I told 'em if they didn't get air-conditioning in that office I'd ... throw up the whole game. Now who'd want to pull a trick like that?

Jean Louise threw herself into the breach: "Still at the bank, Sarah?"

"Goodness yes. Be there till I drop."

Um. "Ah, what ever happened to Jane--what was her last name? You know, your high school friend?" Sarah and Jane What-Was-Her-Last-Name were once inseparable.

"Oh her. She got married to a right peculiar boy during the war and now she rolls her ah's so, you'd never recognize her."

"Oh? Where's she living now?"

"Mobile. She went to Washington during the war and got this hideous accent. Everybody thought she was puttin' on so bad, but nobody had the nerve to tell her so she still does it. Remember how she used to walk with her head way up, like this? She still does."

"She does?"

"Uh hum."

Aunty has her uses, damn her, thought Jean Louise when she caught Alexandra's signal. She went to the kitchen and brought out a tray of cocktail napkins. As she passed them down the line, Jean Louise felt as if she were running down the keys of a gigantic harpsichord:

I never in all my life ... saw that marvelous picture ... with old Mr. Healy ... lying on the mantelpiece in front of my eyes the whole time ... is it? Just about eleven, I think ... she'll wind up gettin' a divorce. After all, the way he ... rubbed