Go Set a Watchman/9

back yard was strewn over with white gravel. How small it looks with no house, no carhouse, no chinaberry trees, she thought. She sat down at a table and put the container of ice cream on it. I've got to think.

It happened so quickly that her stomach was still heaving. She breathed deeply to quieten it, but it would not stay still. She felt herself turning green with nausea, and she put her head down; try as she might she could not think, she only knew, and what she knew was this:

The one human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her; the only man she had ever known to whom she could point and say with expert knowledge, "He is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman," had betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly.


INTEGRITY, HUMOR, AND patience were the three words for Atticus Finch. There was also a phrase for him: pick at random any citizen from Maycomb County and its environs, ask him what he thought of Atticus Finch, and the answer would most likely be, "I never had a better friend."

Atticus Finch's secret of living was so simple it was deeply complex: where most men had codes and tried to live up to them, Atticus lived his to the letter with no fuss, no fanfare, and no soul-searching. His private character was his public character. His code was simple New Testament ethic, its rewards were the respect and devotion of all who knew him. Even his enemies loved him, because Atticus never acknowledged that they were his enemies. He was never a rich man, but he was the richest man his children ever knew.

His children were in a position to know as children seldom are: when Atticus was in the legislature he met, loved, and married a Montgomery girl some fifteen years his junior; he brought her home to Maycomb and they lived in a new-bought house on the town's main street. When Atticus was forty-two their son was born, and they named him Jeremy Atticus, for his father and his father's father. Four years later their daughter was born, and they named her Jean Louise for her mother and her mother's mother. Two years after that Atticus came home from work one evening and found his wife on the floor of the front porch dead, cut off from view by the wisteria vine that made the corner of the porch a cool private retreat. She had not been dead long; the chair from which she had fallen was still rocking. Jean Graham Finch had brought to the family the heart that killed her son twenty-two years later on the sidewalk in front of his father's office.

At forty-eight, Atticus was left with two small children and a Negro cook named Calpurnia. It is doubtful that he ever sought for meanings; he merely reared his children as best he could, and in terms of the affection his children felt for him, his best was indeed good: he was never too tired to play Keep-Away; he was never too busy to invent marvelous stories; he was never too absorbed in his own problems to listen earnestly to a tale of woe; every night he read aloud to them until his voice cracked.

Atticus killed several birds with one stone when he read to his children, and would probably have caused a child psychologist considerable dismay: he read to Jem and Jean Louise whatever he happened to be reading, and the children grew up possessed of an obscure erudition. They cut their back teeth on military history, Bills to Be Enacted into Laws, True Detective Mysteries, The Code of Alabama, the Bible, and Palgrave's Golden Treasury.

Wherever Atticus went, Jem and Jean Louise would most of the time follow. He took them to Montgomery with him if the legislature was in summer session; he took them to football games, to political meetings, to church, to the office at night if he had to work late. After the sun went down, Atticus was seldom seen in public without his children in tow.

Jean Louise had never known her mother, and she never knew what a mother was, but she rarely felt the need of one. In her childhood her father had never misinterpreted her, nor bobbled once, except when she was eleven and came home to dinner from school one day and found that her blood had begun to flow.

She thought she was dying and she began to scream. Calpurnia and Atticus and Jem came running, and when they saw her plight, Atticus and Jem looked helplessly at Calpurnia, and Calpurnia took her in hand.

It had never fully occurred to Jean Louise that she was a girl: her life had been one of reckless, pummeling activity; fighting, football, climbing, keeping up with Jem, and besting anyone her own age in any contest requiring physical prowess.

When she was calm enough to listen, she considered that a cruel practical joke had been played upon her: she must now go into a world of femininity, a world she despised, could not comprehend nor defend herself against, a world that did not want her.

Jem left her when he was sixteen. He began slicking back his hair with water and dating girls, and her only friend was Atticus. Then Dr. Finch came home.

The two aging men saw her through her loneliest and most difficult hours, through the malignant limbo of turning from a howling tomboy into a young woman. Atticus took her air rifle from her hand and put a golf club in it, Dr. Finch taught her--Dr. Finch taught her what he was most interested in. She gave lip service to the world: she went through the motions of complying with the regulations governing the behavior of teenaged girls from good families; she developed a halfway interest in clothes, boys, hairdos, gossip, and female aspirations; but she was uneasy all the time she was away from the security of those who she knew loved her.

Atticus sent her to a women's college in Georgia; when she finished he said it was high time she started shifting for herself and why didn't she go to New York or somewhere. She was vaguely insulted and felt she was being turned out of her own house, but as the years passed she recognized the full value of Atticus's wisdom; he was growing old and he wanted to die safe in the knowledge that his daughter could fend for herself.

She did not stand alone, but what stood behind her, the most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father. She never questioned it, never thought about it, never even realized that before she made any decision of importance the reflex, "What would Atticus do?" passed through her unconscious; she never realized what made her dig in her feet and stand firm whenever she did was her father; that whatever was decent and of good report in her character was put there by her father; she did not know that she worshiped him.

All she knew was that she felt sorry for the people her age who railed against their parents for not giving them this and cheating them out of that. She felt sorry for middle-aged matrons who after much analysis discovered that the seat of their anxiety was in their seats; she felt sorry for persons who called their fathers My Old Man, denoting that they were raffish, probably boozy ineffective creatures who had disappointed their children dreadfully and unforgivably somewhere along the line.

She was extravagant with her pity, and complacent in her snug world.


JEAN LOUISE GOT up from the yard chair she was sitting in, walked to the corner of the lot, and vomited up her Sunday dinner. Her fingers caught the strands of a wire fence, the fence that separated Miss Rachel's garden from the Finch back yard. If Dill were here he would leap over the fence to her, bring her head down to his, kiss her, and hold her hand, and together they would take their stand when there was trouble in the house. But Dill had long since gone from her.

Her nausea returned with redoubled violence when she remembered the scene in the courthouse, but she had nothing left to part with.

If you had only spat in my face ...

It could be, might be, still was, a horrible mistake. Her mind refused to register what her eyes and ears told it. She returned to her chair and sat staring at a pool of melted vanilla ice cream working its way slowly to the edge of the table. It spread, paused, dribbled and dripped. Drip, drip, drip, into the white gravel until, saturated, it could no longer receive and a second tiny pool appeared.

You did that. You did it as sure as you were sitting there.

"Guessed my name yet? Why looka yonder, you've wasted your ice cream."

She raised her head. The man in the shop was leaning out the back window, less than five feet from her. He withdrew and reappeared with a limp rag. As he wiped the mess away he said, "What's my name?"


"Oh, I am sorry." She looked at the man carefully. "Are you one of the cee-oh Coninghams?"

The man grinned broadly. "Almost. I'm one of the cee-you's. How'd you know?"

"Family resemblance. What got you out of the woods?"

"Mamma left me some timber and I sold it. Put up this shop here."

"What time is it?" she asked.

"Gettin' on to four-thirty," said Mr. Cunningham.

She rose, smiled goodbye, and said she would be coming back soon. She made her way to the sidewalk. Two solid hours and I didn't know where I was. I am so tired.

She did not return by town. She walked the long way round, through a schoolyard, down a street lined with pecan trees, across another schoolyard, across a football field on which Jem in a daze had once tackled his own man. I am so tired.

Alexandra was standing in the doorway. She stepped aside to let Jean Louise pass. "Where have you been?" she said. "Jack called ages ago and asked after you. Have you been visiting out of the family Like That?"

"I--I don't know."

"What do you mean you don't know? Jean Louise, talk some sense and go phone your uncle."

She went wearily to the telephone and said, "One one nine." Dr. Finch's voice said, "Dr. Finch." She said softly, "I'm sorry. See you tomorrow?" Dr. Finch said, "Right."

She was too tired to be amused at her uncle's telephone manners: he viewed such instruments with deep anger and his conversations were monosyllabic at best.

When she turned around Alexandra said, "You look right puny. What's the matter?"

Madam, my father has left me flopping like a flounder at low tide and you say what's the matter. "Stomach," she said.

"There's a lot of that going around now. Does it hurt?"

Yes it hurts. Like hell. It hurts so much I can't stand it. "No ma'am, just upset."

"Then why don't you take an Alka-Seltzer?"

Jean Louise said she would, and the day dawned for Alexandra: "Jean Louise, did you go to that meeting with all those men there?"


"Like That?"


"Where did you sit?"

"In the balcony. They didn't see me. I watched from the balcony. Aunty, when Hank comes tonight tell him I'm ... indisposed."


She could not stand there another minute. "Yes, Aunty. I'm gonna do what every Christian young white fresh Southern virgin does when she's indisposed."

"And what might that be?"

"I'm takin' to my bed."

Jean Louise went to her room, shut the door, unbuttoned her blouse, unzipped the fly of her slacks, and fell across her mother's lacy wrought-iron bed. She groped blindly for a pillow and pushed it under her face. In one minute she was asleep.

Had she been able to think, Jean Louise might have prevented events to come by considering the day's occurrences in terms of a recurring story as old as time: the chapter which concerned her began two hundred years ago and was played out in a proud society the bloodiest war and harshest peace in modern history could not destroy, returning, to be played out again on private ground in the twilight of a civilization no wars and no peace could save.

Had she insight, could she have pierced the barriers of her highly selective, insular world, she may have discovered that all her life she had been with a visual defect which had gone unnoticed and neglected by herself and by those closest to her: she was born color blind.



THERE WAS A time, long ago, when the only peaceful moments of her existence were those from the time she opened her eyes in the morning until she attained full consciousness, a matter of seconds until when finally roused she entered the day's wakeful nightmare.

She was in the sixth grade, a grade memorable for the things she learned in class and out. That year the small group of town children were swamped temporarily by a collection of elderly pupils shipped in from Old Sarum because somebody had set fire to the school there. The oldest boy in Miss Blunt's sixth grade was nearly nineteen, and he had three contemporaries. There were several girls of sixteen, voluptuous, happy creatures who thought school something of a holiday from chopping cotton and feeding livestock. Miss Blunt was equal to them all: she was as tall as the tallest boy in the class and twice as wide.

Jean Louise took to the Old Sarum newcomers immediately. After holding the class's undivided attention by deliberately introducing Gaston B. Means into a discussion on the natural resources of South Africa, and proving her accuracy with a rubberband gun during recess, she enjoyed the confidence of the Old Sarum crowd.

With rough gentleness the big boys taught her to shoot craps and chew tobacco without losing it. The big girls giggled behind their hands most of the time and whispered among themselves a great deal, but Jean Louise considered them useful when choosing sides for a volleyball match. All in all, it was turning out to be a wonderful year.

Wonderful, until she went home for dinner one day. She did not return to school that afternoon, but spent the afternoon on her bed crying with rage and trying to understand the terrible information she had received from Calpurnia.

The next day she returned to school walking with extreme dignity, not prideful, but encumbered by accoutrements hitherto unfamiliar to her. She was positive everybody knew what was the matter with her, that she was being looked at, but she was puzzled that she had never heard it spoken of before in all her years. Maybe nobody knows anything about it, she thought. If that was so, she had news, all right.

At recess, when George Hill asked her to be It for Hot-Grease-in-the-Kitchen, she shook her head.

"I can't do anything any more," she said, and she sat on the steps and watched the boys tumble in the dust. "I can't even walk."

When she could bear it no longer, she joined the knot of girls under the live oak in a corner of the schoolyard.

Ada Belle Stevens laughed and made room for her on the long cement bench. "Why ain'tcha playin'?" she asked.

"Don't wanta," said Jean Louise.

Ada Belle's eyes narrowed and her white brows twitched. "I bet I know what's the matter with you."


"You've got the Curse."

"The what?"

"The Curse. Curse o' Eve. If Eve hadn't et the apple we wouldn't have it. You feel bad?"

"No," said Jean Louise, silently cursing Eve. "How'd you know it?"

"You walk like you was ridin' a bay mare," said Ada Belle. "You'll get used to it. I've had it for years."

"I'll never get used to it."

It was difficult. When her activities were limited Jean Louise confined herself to gambling for small sums behind a coal pile in the rear of the school building. The inherent dangerousness of the enterprise appealed to her far more than the game itself; she was not good enough at arithmetic to care whether she won or lost, there was no real joy in trying to beat the law of averages, but she derived some pleasure from deceiving Miss Blunt. Her companions were the lazier of the Old Sarum boys, the laziest of whom was one Albert Coningham, a slow thinker to whom Jean Louise had rendered invaluable service during six-weeks' tests.

One day, as the taking-in bell rang, Albert, beating coal dust from his breeches, said, "Wait a minute, Jean Louise."

She waited. When they were alone, Albert said, "I want you to know I made a C-minus this time in geography."

"That's real good, Albert," she said.

"I just wanted to thank you."

"You're welcome, Albert."

Albert blushed to his hairline, caught her to him, and kissed her. She felt his wet, warm tongue on her lips, and she drew back. She had never been kissed like that before. Albert let her go and shuffled toward the school building. Jean Louise followed, bemused and faintly annoyed.

She only suffered a kinsman to kiss her on the cheek and then she secretly wiped it off; Atticus kissed her vaguely wherever he happened to land; Jem kissed her not at all. She thought Albert had somehow miscalculated, and she soon forgot.

As the year passed, often as not recess would find her with the girls under the tree, sitting in the middle of the crowd, resigned to her fate, but watching the boys play their seasonal games in the schoolyard. One morning, arriving late to the scene, she found the girls giggling more surreptitiously than usual and she demanded to know the reason.

"It's Francine Owen," one said.

"Francine Owen? She's been absent a couple of days," said Jean Louise.

"Know why?" said Ada Belle.


"It's her sister. The welfare's got 'em both."

Jean Louise nudged Ada Belle, who made room for her on the bench.

"What's wrong with her?"

"She's pregnant, and you know who did it? Her daddy."

Jean Louise said, "What's pregnant?"

A groan went up from the circle of girls. "Gonna have a baby, stupid," said one.

Jean Louise assimilated the definition and said, "But what's her daddy got to do with it?"

Ada Belle sighed, "Her daddy's the daddy."

Jean Louise laughed. "Come on, Ada Belle--"

"That's a fact, Jean Louise. Betcha the only reason Francine ain't is she ain't started yet."

"Started what?"

"Started ministratin'," said Ada Belle impatiently. "I bet he did it with both of 'em."

"Did what?" Jean Louise was now totally confused.

The girls shrieked. Ada Belle said, "You don't know one thing, Jean Louise Finch. First of all you--then if you do it after that, after you start, that is, you'll have a solid baby."

"Do what, Ada Belle?"

Ada Belle glanced up at the circle and winked. "Well, first of all it takes a boy. Then he hugs you tight and breathes real hard and then he French-kisses you. That's when he kisses you and opens his mouth and sticks his tongue in your mouth--"

A ringing noise in her ears obliterated Ada Belle's narrative. She felt the blood leave her face. Her palms grew sweaty and she tried to swallow. She would not leave. If she left they would know it. She stood up, trying to smile, but her lips were trembling. She clamped her mouth shut and clenched her teeth.

"--an' that'