Go Set a Watchman/19
"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....
SHE NEVER KNEW how she got the car started, how she held it in the road, how she got home without a serious accident.
I love you. As you please. Had he not said that, perhaps she would have survived. If he had fought her fairly, she could have flung his words back at him, but she could not catch mercury and hold it in her hands.
She went to her room and threw her suitcase onto the bed. I was born right where this suitcase is. Why didn't you throttle me then? Why did you let me live this long?
"Jean Louise, what are you doing?"
Alexandra came to the side of the bed. "You have ten more days with us. Is something wrong?"
"Aunty, leave me alone for Christ's sake!"
Alexandra bridled. "I'll thank you not to use that Yankee expression in this house! What's wrong?"
Jean Louise went to the closet, snatched her dresses from their hangers, returned to the bed, and crammed them into her suitcase.
"That's no way to pack," said Alexandra.
"It's my way."
She scooped up her shoes from beside the bed and threw them in after her dresses.
"What is it, Jean Louise?"
"Aunty, you may issue a communique to the effect that I am going so far away from Maycomb County it'll take me a hundred years to get back! I never want to see it or anybody in it again, and that goes for every one of you, the undertaker, the probate judge, and the chairman of the board of the Methodist Church!"
"You've had a fight with Atticus, haven't you?"
Alexandra sat on the bed and clasped her hands. "Jean Louise, I don't know what it was about, and the way you look it must have been bad, but I do know this. No Finch runs."
She turned to her aunt: "Jesus Christ, don't you go telling me what a Finch does and what a Finch doesn't do! I'm up to here with what Finches do, and I can't take it one second longer! You've been ramming that down my throat ever since I was born--your father this, the Finches that! My father's something unspeakable and Uncle Jack's like Alice in Wonderland! And you, you are a pompous, narrow-minded old--"
Jean Louise stopped, fascinated by the tears running down Alexandra's cheeks. She had never seen Alexandra cry; Alexandra looked like other people when she cried.
"Aunty, please forgive me. Please say it--I hit you below the belt."
Alexandra's fingers pulled tufts of tatting from the bedspread. "That's all right. Don't you worry about it."
Jean Louise kissed her aunt's cheek. "I haven't been on the track today. I guess when you're hurt your first instinct's to hurt back. I'm not much of a lady, Aunty, but you are."
"You're mistaken, Jean Louise, if you think you're no lady," said Alexandra. She wiped her eyes. "But you are right peculiar sometimes."
Jean Louise closed her suitcase. "Aunty, you go on thinking I'm a lady, just for a little while, just until five o'clock when Atticus comes home. Then you'll find out different. Well, goodbye."
She was carrying her suitcase to the car when she saw the town's one white taxi drive up and deposit Dr. Finch on the sidewalk.
Come to me. When you can't stand it any longer, come to me. Well, I can't stand you any longer. I just can't take any more of your parables and diddering around. Leave me alone. You are fun and sweet and all that, but please leave me alone.
From the corner of her eye, she watched her uncle tacking peacefully up the driveway. He takes such long steps for a short man, she thought. That is one of the things I will remember about him. She turned and put a key in the lock of the trunk, the wrong key, and she tried another one. It worked, and she raised the lid.
"I'm gonna get in this car and drive it to Maycomb Junction and sit there until the first train comes along and get on it. Tell Atticus if he wants his car back he can send after it."
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself and listen to me."
"Uncle Jack, I am so sick and damn tired of listening to the lot of you I could yell bloody murder! Won't you leave me alone? Can't you get off my back for one minute?"
She slammed down the trunk lid, snatched out the key, and straightened up to catch Dr. Finch's savage backhand swipe full on the mouth.
Her head jerked to the left and met his hand coming viciously back. She stumbled and groped for the car to balance herself. She saw her uncle's face shimmering among the tiny dancing lights.
"I am trying," said Dr. Finch, "to attract your attention."
She pressed her fingers to her eyes, her temples, to the sides of her head. She struggled to keep from fainting, to keep from vomiting, to keep her head from spinning. She felt blood spring to her teeth, and she spat blindly on the ground. Gradually, the gonglike reverberations in her head subsided, and her ears stopped ringing.
"Open your eyes, Jean Louise."
She blinked several times, and her uncle snapped into focus. His walking stick nestled in his left elbow; his vest was immaculate; there was a scarlet rosebud in his lapel.
He was holding out his handkerchief to her. She took it and wiped her mouth. She was exhausted.
"All passion spent?"
She nodded. "I can't fight them any more," she said.
Dr. Finch took her by the arm. "But you can't join 'em, either, can you?" he muttered.
She felt her mouth swelling and she moved her lips with difficulty. "You nearly knocked me cold. I'm so tired."
Silently, he walked her to the house, down the hall, and into the bathroom. He sat her on the edge of the tub, went to the medicine cabinet, and opened it. He put on his glasses, tilted his head back, and took a bottle from the top shelf. He plucked a wad of cotton from a package and turned to her.
"Hold up your mug," he said. He filled the cotton with liquid, turned back to her upper lip, made a hideous face, and dabbed at her cuts. "This'll keep you from giving yourself something. Zandra!" he shouted.
Alexandra appeared from the kitchen. "What is it, Jack? Jean Louise, I thought you--"
"Never mind that. Is there any missionary vanilla in this house?"
"Jack, don't be silly."
"Come on, now. I know you keep it for fruitcakes. Gracious God, Sister, get me some whiskey! Go in the livingroom, Jean Louise."
She walked in her daze to the livingroom and sat down. Her uncle came in carrying in one hand a tumbler three fingersful of whiskey, and in the other a glass of water.
"If you drink all this at once I'll give you a dime," he said.
Jean Louise drank and choked.
"Hold your breath, stupid. Now chase it."
She grabbed for the water and drank rapidly. She kept her eyes closed and let the warm alcohol creep through her. When she opened them she saw her uncle sitting on the sofa contemplating her placidly.
Presently he said, "How do you feel?"
"That's the liquor. Tell me what's in your head now."
She said weakly: "A blank, my lord."
"Fractious girl, don't you quote at me! Tell me, how do you feel?"
She frowned, squeezed her eyelids together, and touched her tender mouth with her tongue. "Different, somehow. I'm sitting right here, and it's just like I'm sitting in my apartment in New York. I don't know--I feel funny."
Dr. Finch rose and thrust his hands into his pockets, drew them out, and cradled his arms behind his back. "We-ll now, I think I'll just go and have myself a drink on that. I never struck a woman before in my life. Think I'll go strike your aunt and see what happens. You just sit there for a while and be quiet."
Jean Louise sat there, and giggled when she heard her uncle fussing at his sister in the kitchen. "Of course I'm going to have a drink, Zandra. I deserve one. I don't go about hittin' women every day, and I tell you if you're not used to it, it takes it out of you ... oh, she's all right ... I fail to detect the difference between drinking it and eatin' it ... we're all of us going to hell, it's just a question of time ... don't be such an old pot, Sister, I'm not lyin' on the floor yet ... why don't you have one?"
She felt that time had stopped and she was inside a not unpleasant vacuum. There was no land around, and no beings, but there was an aura of vague friendliness in this indifferent place. I'm getting high, she thought.
Her uncle bounced back into the livingroom, sipping from a tall glass filled with ice, water, and whiskey. "Look what I got out of Zandra. I've played hell with her fruitcakes."
Jean Louise attempted to pin him down: "Uncle Jack," she said. "I have a definite idea that you know what happened this afternoon."
"I do. I know every word you said to Atticus, and I almost heard you from my house when you lit into Henry."
The old bastard, he followed me to town.
"You eavesdropped? Of all the--"
"Of course not. Do you think you can discuss it now?"
Discuss it? "Yes, I think so. That is, if you'll talk straight to me. I don't think I can take Bishop Colenso now."
Dr. Finch arranged himself neatly on the sofa and leaned in toward her. He said, "I will talk straight to you, my darling. Do you know why? Because I can, now."
"Because you can?"
"Yes. Look back, Jean Louise. Look back to yesterday, to the Coffee this morning, to this afternoon--"
"What do you know about this morning?"
"Have you never heard of the telephone? Zandra was glad to answer a few judicious questions. You telegraph your pitches all over the place, Jean Louise. This afternoon I tried to give you some help in a roundabout way to make it easier for you, to give you some insight, to soften it a little--"
"To soften what, Uncle Jack?"
"To soften your coming into this world."
When Dr. Finch pulled at his drink, Jean Louise saw his sharp brown eyes flash above the glass. That's what you tend to forget about him, she thought. He's so busy fidgeting you don't notice how closely he's watching you. He's crazy, all right, like every fox that was ever born. And he knows so much more than foxes. Gracious, I'm drunk.
"... look back, now," her uncle was saying. "It's still there, isn't it?"
She looked. It was there, all right. Every word of it. But something was different. She sat in silence, remembering.
"Uncle Jack," she finally said. "Everything's still there. It happened. It was. But you know, it's bearable somehow. It's--it's bearable."
She was speaking the truth. She had not made the journey through time that makes all things bearable. Today was today, and she looked at her uncle in wonder.
"Thank God," said Dr. Finch quietly. "Do you know why it's bearable now, my darling?"
"No sir. I'm content with things as they are. I don't want to question, I just want to stay this way."
She was conscious of her uncle's eyes upon her, and she moved her head to one side. She was far from trusting him: if he starts on Mackworth Praed and tells me I'm just like him I'll be at Maycomb Junction before sundown.
"You'd eventually figure this out for yourself," she heard him say. "But let me speed it up for you. You've had a busy day. It's bearable, Jean Louise, because you are your own person now."
Not Mackworth Praed's, mine. She looked up at her uncle.
Dr. Finch stretched out his legs. "It's rather complicated," he said, "and I don't want you to fall into the tiresome error of being conceited about your complexes--you'd bore us for the rest of our lives with that, so we'll keep away from it. Every man's island, Jean Louise, every man's watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious."
This was news, coming from him. But let him talk, he would find his way to the nineteenth century somehow.
"... now you, Miss, born with your own conscience, somewhere along the line fastened it like a barnacle onto your father's. As you grew up, when you were grown, totally unknown to yourself, you confused your father with God. You never saw him as a man with a man's heart, and a man's failings--I'll grant you it may have been hard to see, he makes so few mistakes, but he makes 'em like all of us. You were an emotional cripple, leaning on him, getting the answers from him, assuming that your answers would always be his answers."
She listened to the figure on the sofa.
"When you happened along and saw him doing something that seemed to you to be the very antithesis of his conscience--your conscience--you literally could not stand it. It made you physically ill. Life became hell on earth for you. You had to kill yourself, or he had to kill you to get you functioning as a separate entity."
Kill myself. Kill him. I had to kill him to live ... "You talk like you've known this a long time. You--"
"I have. So's your father. We wondered, sometimes, when your conscience and his would part company, and over what." Dr. Finch smiled. "Well, we know now. I'm just thankful I was around when the ructions started. Atticus couldn't talk to you the way I'm talking--"
"Why not, sir?"
"You wouldn't have listened to him. You couldn't have listened. Our gods are remote from us, Jean Louise. They must never descend to human level."
"Is that why he didn't--didn't lam into me? Is that why he didn't even try to defend himself?"
"He was letting you break your icons one by one. He was letting you reduce him to the status of a human being."
I love you. As you please. Where she would have had a spirited argument only, an exchange of ideas, a clash of hard and different points of view with a friend, with him she had tried to destroy. She had tried to tear him to pieces, to wreck him, to obliterate him. Childe Roland to the dark tower came.
"Do you understand me, Jean Louise?"
"Yes, Uncle Jack, I understand you."
Dr. Finch crossed his legs and jammed his hands into his pockets. "When you stopped running, Jean Louise, and turned around, that turn took fantastic courage."
"Oh, not the kind of courage that makes a soldier go across no-man's-land. That's the kind that he summons up because he has to. This kind is--well, it is part of one's will to live, part of one's instinct for self-preservation. Sometimes, we have to kill a little so we can live, when we don't--when women don't, they cry themselves to sleep and have their mothers wash out their hose every day."
"What do you mean, when I stopped running?"
Dr. Finch chuckled. "You know," he said. "You're very much like your father. I tried to point that out to you today; I regret to say I used tactics the late George Washington Hill would envy--you're very much like him, except you're a bigot and he's not."
"I beg your pardon?"
Dr. Finch bit his under lip and let it go. "Um hum. A bigot. Not a big one, just an ordinary turnip-sized bigot."
Jean Louise rose and went to the bookshelves. She pulled down a dictionary and leafed through it. "'Bigot,'" she read. "'Noun. One obstinately or intolerably devoted to his own church, party, belief, or opinion.' Explain yourself, sir."
"I was just tryin' to answer your running question. Let me elaborate a little on that definition. What does a bigot do when he meets someone who challenges his opinions? He doesn't give. He stays rigid. Doesn't even try to listen, just lashes out. Now you, you were turned inside out by the granddaddy of all father things, so you ran. And how you ran.
"You've no doubt heard some pretty offensive talk since you've been home, but instead of getting on your charger and blindly striking it down, you turned and ran. You said, in effect, 'I don't like the way these people do, so I have no time for them.' You'd better take time for 'em, honey, otherwise you'll never grow. You'll be the same at sixty as you a