Go Set a Watchman/7
ddle of the river last night with no clothes on."
"H'rm," said Atticus. He touched his glasses. "I hope you weren't doing the backstroke."
"Atticus!" said Alexandra.
"Sorry, Zandra," said Atticus. "Is that true, Jean Louise?"
"Partly. Have I disgraced us beyond repair?"
"We might survive it."
Alexandra sat down on the bed. "Then it is true," she said. "Jean Louise, I don't know what you were doing at the Landing last night in the first place--"
"--but you do know. Mary Webster told you everything, Aunty. Didn't she tell you what happened afterwards? Throw me my negligee, please sir."
Atticus threw her pajama bottoms at her. She put them on beneath the sheet, kicked the sheet back, and stretched her legs.
"Jean Louise--" said Alexandra, and stopped. Atticus was holding up a rough-dried cotton dress. He put it on the bed and went to the chair. He picked up a rough-dried half slip, held it up, and dropped it on top of the dress.
"Quit tormenting your aunt, Jean Louise. These your swimming togs?"
"Yes sir. Reckon we ought to take 'em through town on a pole?"
Alexandra, puzzled, fingered Jean Louise's garments and said, "But what possessed you to go in with your clothes on?"
When her brother and niece laughed, she said, "It's not funny at all. Even if you did go in with your clothes on, Maycomb won't give you credit for it. You might as well have gone in naked. I cannot imagine what put it in your heads to do such a thing."
"I can't either," said Jean Louise. "Besides, if it's any comfort to you, Aunty, it wasn't that much fun. We just started teasing each other and I dared Hank and he couldn't back out, and then I couldn't back out, and the next thing you know we were in the water."
Alexandra was not impressed: "At your ages, Jean Louise, such conduct is most unbecoming."
Jean Louise sighed and got out of bed. "Well, I'm sorry," she said. "Is there any coffee?"
"There's a potful waiting for you."
Jean Louise joined her father in the kitchen. She went to the stove, poured herself a cup of coffee, and sat down at the table. "How can you drink ice-cold milk for breakfast?"
Atticus gulped. "Tastes better than coffee."
"Calpurnia used to say, when Jem and I'd beg her for coffee, that it'd turn us black like her. Are you worn with me?"
Atticus snorted. "Of course not. But I can think of several more interesting things to do in the middle of the night than pull a trick like that. You'd better get ready for Sunday School."
ALEXANDRA'S SUNDAY CORSET was even more formidable than her everyday ones. She stood in the door of Jean Louise's room enarmored, hatted, gloved, perfumed, and ready.
Sunday was Alexandra's day: in the moments before and after Sunday School she and fifteen other Methodist ladies sat together in the church auditorium and conducted a symposium Jean Louise called "The News of the Week in Review." Jean Louise regretted that she had deprived her aunt of her Sabbath pleasure; today Alexandra would be on the defensive, but Jean Louise was confident that Alexandra could wage a defensive war with little less tactical genius than her forward thrusts, that she would emerge and listen to the sermon with her niece's reputation intact.
"Jean Louise, are you ready?"
"Almost," she answered. She swiped at her mouth with a lipstick, patted down her cowlick, eased her shoulders, and turned. "How do I look?" she said.
"I've never seen you completely dressed in your life. Where is your hat?"
"Aunty, you know good and well if I walked in church today with a hat on they'd think somebody was dead."
The one time she wore a hat was to Jem's funeral. She didn't know why she did it, but before the funeral she made Mr. Ginsberg open his store for her and she picked one out and clapped it on her head, fully aware that Jem would have laughed had he been able to see her, but somehow it made her feel better.
Her Uncle Jack was standing on the church steps when they arrived.
Dr. John Hale Finch was no taller than his niece, who was five seven. His father had given him a high-bridged nose, a stern nether lip, and high cheekbones. He looked like his sister Alexandra, but their physical resemblance ended at the neck: Dr. Finch was spare, almost spidery; his sister was of firmer proportions. He was the reason Atticus did not marry until he was forty--when the time came for John Hale Finch to choose a profession, he chose medicine. He chose to study it at a time when cotton was one cent a pound and the Finches had everything but money. Atticus, not yet secure in his profession, spent and borrowed every nickel he could find to put on his brother's education; in due time it was returned with interest.
Dr. Finch became a bone man, practiced in Nashville, played the stock market with shrewdness, and by the time he was forty-five he had accumulated enough money to retire and devote all his time to his first and abiding love, Victorian literature, a pursuit that in itself earned him the reputation of being Maycomb County's most learned licensed eccentric.
Dr. Finch had drunk so long and so deep of his heady brew that his being was shot through with curious mannerisms and odd exclamations. He punctuated his speech with little "hah"s and "hum"s and archaic expressions, on top of which his penchant for modern slang teetered precariously. His wit was hatpin sharp; he was absentminded; he was a bachelor but gave the impression of harboring amusing memories; he possessed a yellow cat nineteen years old; he was incomprehensible to most of Maycomb County because his conversation was colored with subtle allusions to Victorian obscurities.
He gave strangers the idea that he was a borderline case, but those who were tuned to his wavelength knew Dr. Finch to be of a mind so sound, especially when it came to market manipulation, that his friends often risked lengthy lectures on the poetry of Mackworth Praed to seek his advice. From long and close association (in her solitary teens Dr. Finch had tried to make a scholar of her) Jean Louise had developed enough understanding of his subjects to follow him most of the time, and she reveled in his conversation. When he did not have her in silent hysterics, she was bewitched by his bear-trap memory and vast restless mind.
"Good morning, daughter of Nereus!" said her uncle, as he kissed her on the cheek. One of Dr. Finch's concessions to the twentieth century was a telephone. He held his niece at arm's length and regarded her with amused interest.
"Home for nineteen hours and you've already indulged your predilection for ablutionary excesses, hah! A classic example of Watsonian Behaviorism--think I'll write you up and send you to the AMA Journal."
"Hush, you old quack," whispered Jean Louise between clenched teeth. "I'm coming to see you this afternoon."
"You and Hank mollockin' around in the river--hah!--ought to be ashamed of yourselves--disgrace to the family--have fun?"
Sunday School was beginning, and Dr. Finch bowed her in the door: "Your guilty lover's waitin' within," he said.
Jean Louise gave her uncle a look which withered him not at all and marched into the church with as much dignity as she could muster. She smiled and greeted the Maycomb Methodists, and in her old classroom she settled herself by the window and slept with her eyes open through the lesson, as was her custom.
THERE'S NOTHING LIKE a blood-curdling hymn to make you feel at home, thought Jean Louise. Any sense of isolation she may have had withered and died in the presence of some two hundred sinners earnestly requesting to be plunged beneath a red, redeeming flood. While offering to the Lord the results of Mr. Cowper's hallucination, or declaring it was Love that lifted her, Jean Louise shared the warmness that prevails among diverse individuals who find themselves in the same boat for one hour each week.
She was sitting beside her aunt in the middle pew on the right side of the auditorium; her father and Dr. Finch sat side by side on the left, third row from the front. Why they did it was a mystery to her, but they had sat there together ever since Dr. Finch returned to Maycomb. Nobody would take them for brothers, she thought. It's hard to believe he's ten years older than Uncle Jack.
Atticus Finch looked like his mother; Alexandra and John Hale Finch looked like their father. Atticus was a head taller than his brother, his face was broad and open with a straight nose and wide thin mouth, but something about the three marked them as kin. Uncle Jack and Atticus are getting white in the same places and their eyes are alike, thought Jean Louise: that's what it is. She was correct. All the Finches had straight incisive eyebrows and heavy-lidded eyes; when they looked slant-wise, up, or straight ahead, a disinterested observer would catch a glimpse of what Maycomb called Family Resemblance.
Her meditations were interrupted by Henry Clinton. He had passed one collection plate down the pew behind her, and while waiting for its mate to return via the row she was sitting on, he winked openly and solemnly at her. Alexandra saw him and looked blue murder. Henry and his fellow usher walked up the center aisle and stood reverently in front of the altar.
Immediately after collection, Maycomb Methodists sang what they called the Doxology in lieu of the minister praying over the collection plate to spare him the rigors involved in inventing yet another prayer, since by that time he had uttered three healthy invocations. From the time of Jean Louise's earliest ecclesiastical recollection, Maycomb had sung the Doxology in one way and in one way only:
a rendition as much a tradition of Southern Methodism as Pounding the Preacher. That Sunday, Jean Louise and the congregation were in all innocence clearing their throats to drag it accordingly when out of a cloudless sky Mrs. Clyde Haskins crashed down on the organ
PraiseHimallcreatures He--re Bee--low
PraiseHimaboveye Heav'n--ly Ho--st
PraiseFatherSonand Ho--ly Gho--st!
In the confusion that followed, if the Archbishop of Canterbury had materialized in full regalia Jean Louise would not have been in the least surprised: the congregation had failed to notice any change in Mrs. Haskins's lifelong interpretation, and they intoned the Doxology to its bitter end as they had been reared to do, while Mrs. Haskins romped madly ahead like something out of Salisbury Cathedral.
Jean Louise's first thought was that Herbert Jemson had lost his mind. Herbert Jemson had been music director of the Maycomb Methodist Church for as long as she could remember. He was a big, good man with a soft baritone, who ruled with easy tact a choir of repressed soloists, and who had an unerring memory for the favorite hymns of District Superintendents. In the sundry church wars that were a living part of Maycomb Methodism, Herbert could be counted on as the one person to keep his head, talk sense, and reconcile the more primitive elements of the congregation with the Young Turk faction. He had devoted thirty years' spare time to his church, and his church had recently rewarded him with a trip to a Methodist music camp in South Carolina.
Jean Louise's second impulse was to blame it on the minister. He was a young man, a Mr. Stone by name, with what Dr. Finch called the greatest talent for dullness he had ever seen in a man on the near side of fifty. There was nothing whatever wrong with Mr. Stone, except that he possessed all the necessary qualifications for a certified public accountant: he did not like people, he was quick with numbers, he had no sense of humor, and he was butt-headed.
Because Maycomb's church had for years not been large enough for a good minister but too big for a mediocre one, Maycomb was delighted when, at the last Church Conference, the authorities decided to send its Methodists an energetic young one. But after less than a year the young minister had impressed his congregation to a degree that moved Dr. Finch to observe absently and audibly one Sunday: "We asked for bread and they gave us a Stone."
Mr. Stone had long been suspected of liberal tendencies; he was too friendly, some thought, with his Yankee brethren; he had recently emerged partially damaged from a controversy over the Apostles' Creed; and worst of all, he was thought to be ambitious. Jean Louise was building up an airtight case against him when she remembered Mr. Stone was tone deaf.
Unruffled by Herbert Jemson's breach of allegiance, because he had not heard it, Mr. Stone rose and walked to the pulpit with Bible in hand. He opened it and said, "My text for today is taken from the twenty-first chapter of Isaiah, verse six:
For thus hath the Lord said unto me,
Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth."
Jean Louise made a sincere effort to listen to what Mr. Stone's watchman saw, but in spite of her efforts to quell it, she felt amusement turning into indignant displeasure and she stared straight at Herbert Jemson throughout the service. How dare he change it? Was he trying to lead them back to the Mother Church? Had she allowed reason to rule, she would have realized that Herbert Jemson was Methodist of the whole cloth: he was notoriously short on theology and a mile long on good works.
The Doxology's gone, they'll be having incense next--orthodoxy's my doxy. Did Uncle Jack say that or was it one of his old bishops? She looked across the aisle toward him and saw the sharp edge of his profile: he's in a snit, she thought.
Mr. Stone droned ... a Christian can rid himself of the frustrations of modern living by ... coming to Family Night every Wednesday and bringing a covered dish ... abide with you now and forevermore, Amen.
Mr. Stone had pronounced the benediction and was on his way to the front door when she went down the aisle to corner Herbert, who had remained behind to shut the windows. Dr. Finch was faster on the draw:
"--shouldn't sing it like that, Herbert," he was saying. "We are Methodists after all, D.V."
"Don't look at me, Dr. Finch." Herbert threw up his hands as if to ward off whatever was coming. "It's the way they told us to sing it at Camp Charles Wesley."
"You aren't going to take something like that lying down, are you? Who told you to do that?" Dr. Finch screwed up his under lip until it was almost invisible and released it with a snap.
"The music instructor. He taught a course in what was wrong with Southern church music. He was from New Jersey," said Herbert.
"He did, did he?"
"What'd he say was wrong with it?"
Herbert said: "He said we might as well be singing 'Stick your snout under the spout where the Gospel comes out' as most of the hymns we sing. Said they ought to ban Fanny Crosby by church law and that Rock of Ages was an abomination unto the Lord."
"He said we ought to pep up the Doxology."
"Pep it up? How?"
"Like we sang it today."
Dr. Finch sat down in the front pew. He slung his arm across the back and moved his fingers meditatively. He looked up at Herbert.
"Apparently," he said, "apparently our brethren in the Northland are not content merely with the Supreme Court's activities. They are now trying to change our hymns on us."
Herbert said, "He told us we ought to get rid of the Southern hymns and learn some other ones. I don't like it--ones he thought were pretty don't even have tunes."
Dr. Finch's "Hah!" was crisper than usual, a sure sign that his temper was going. He retrieved it sufficiently to say, "Southern hymns, Herbert? Southern hymns?"
Dr. Finch put his hands on his knees and straightened his spine to an upright position.
"Now, Herbert," he said, "let us sit quietly in this sanctuary and analyze this calmly. I believe your man wishes us to sing the Doxology down the line with nothing less than the Church of England, yet he reverses himself--reverses himself--and wants to throw out ... Abide with Me?"
"Lyte, sir. Lyte. What about When I Survey the Wondrous Cross?"
"That's another one," said Herbert. "He gave us a list."
"Gave you a list, did he? I suppose Onward, Christian Soldiers is on it?"
"At the top."
"Hur!" said Dr. Finch. "H. F. Lyte, Isaac Watts, Sabine Baring-Gould."
Dr. Finch rolled out the last name in Maycomb County accents: long a's, i's, and a pause between syllables.
"Every one an Englishman, Herbert, good and true," he said. "Wants to throw them out, yet tries to make us sing the Doxology like we were all in Westminster Abbey, does he? Well, let me tell you something--"
Jean Louise looked at Herbert, who was nodding agreement, and at her uncle, who was looking like Theobald Pontifex.
"--your man's a snob, Herbert, and that's a fact."
"He was sort of a sissy," said Herbert.
"I'll bet he was. Are you going along with all this nonsense?"
"Heavens no," said Herbert. "I thought I'd try it once, just to make sure of what I'd already guessed. Congregation'll never learn it. Besides, I like the old ones."
"So do I, Herbert," said Dr. Finch. He rose and hooked his arm through Jean Louise's. "I'll see you this time next Sunday, and if I find this church risen one foot off the ground I'll hold you personally responsible."
Something in Dr. Finch's eyes told Herbert that this was a joke. He laughed and said, "Don't worry, sir."
Dr. Finch walked his niece to the car, where Atticus and Alexandra were waiting. "Want a lift?" she said.
"Of course not," said Dr. Finch. It was his habit to walk to and from church every Sunday, and this he did, undeterred by tempests, boiling sun, or freezing weather.
As he turned to go, Jean Louise called to him. "Uncle Jack," she said. "What does D.V. mean?"
Dr. Finch sighed his you-have-no-education-young-woman sigh, raised his eyebrows, and said: "Deo volente. 'God willin',' child. 'God willin'.' A reliable Catholic utterance."
WITH THE SAME suddenness that a barbarous boy yanks the larva of an ant lion from its hole to leave it struggling in the sun, Jean Louise was snatched from her quiet realm and left alone to protect her sensitive epidermis as best she could, on a humid Sunday afternoon at precisely 2:28 P.M. The circumstances leading to the event were these:
After dinner, at which time Jean Louise regaled her household with Dr. Finch's observations on stylish hymn-singing, Atticus sat in his corner of the livingroom reading the Sunday papers, and Jean Louise was looking forward to an afternoon's hilarity with her uncle, complete with teacakes and the strongest coffee in Maycomb.<