Go Set a Watchman (To Kill a Mockingbird #2)
Author:Harper Lee

There was no finer young man, said the people of Maycomb, than Henry Clinton. Jean Louise agreed. Henry was from the southern end of the county. His father had left his mother soon after Henry was born, and she worked night and day in her little crossroads store to send Henry through the Maycomb public schools. Henry, from the time he was twelve, boarded across the street from the Finch house, and this in itself put him on a higher plane: he was his own master, free from the authority of cooks, yardmen, and parents. He was also four years her senior, which made a difference then. He teased her; she adored him. When he was fourteen his mother died, leaving him next to nothing. Atticus Finch looked after what little money there was from the sale of the store—her funeral expenses took most of it—he secretly supplemented it with money of his own, and got Henry a job clerking in the Jitney Jungle after school. Henry graduated and went into the Army, and after the war he went to the University and studied law.

Just about that time, Jean Louise’s brother dropped dead in his tracks one day, and after the nightmare of that was over, Atticus, who had always thought of leaving his practice to his son, looked around for another young man. It was natural for him to engage Henry, and in due course Henry became Atticus’s legman, his eyes, and his hands. Henry had always respected Atticus Finch; soon it melded to affection and Henry regarded him as a father.

He did not regard Jean Louise as a sister. In the years when he was away at the war and the University, she had turned from an overalled, fractious, gun-slinging creature into a reasonable facsimile of a human being. He began dating her on her annual two-week visits home, and although she still moved like a thirteen-year-old boy and abjured most feminine adornment, he found something so intensely feminine about her that he fell in love. She was easy to look at and easy to be with most of the time, but she was in no sense of the word an easy person. She was afflicted with a restlessness of spirit he could not guess at, but he knew she was the one for him. He would protect her; he would marry her.

“Tired of New York?” he said.

“No.”

“Give me a free hand for these two weeks and I’ll make you tired of it.”

“Is that an improper suggestion?”

“Yes.”

“Go to hell, then.”

Henry stopped the car. He turned off the ignition switch, slewed around, and looked at her. She knew when he became serious about something: his crew cut bristled like an angry brush, his face colored, its scar reddened.

“Honey, do you want me to put it like a gentleman? Miss Jean Louise, I have now reached an economic status that can provide for the support of two. I, like Israel of Old, have labored seven years in the vineyards of the University and the pastures of your daddy’s office for you—”

“I’ll tell Atticus to make it seven more.”

“Hateful.”

“Besides,” she said, “it was Jacob anyway. No, they were the same. They always changed their names every third verse. How’s Aunty?”

“You know good and well she’s been fine for thirty years. Don’t change the subject.”

Jean Louise’s eyebrows flickered. “Henry,” she said primly, “I’ll have an affair with you but I won’t marry you.”

It was exactly right.

“Don’t be such a damn child, Jean Louise!” Henry sputtered, and forgetting the latest dispensations from General Motors, grabbed for a gearshift and stomped at a clutch. These denied him, he wrenched the ignition key violently, pressed some buttons, and the big car glided slowly and smoothly down the highway.

“Slow pickup, isn’t it?” she said. “No good for city driving.”

Henry glared at her. “What do you mean by that?”

In another minute this would become a quarrel. He was serious. She’d better make him furious, thus silent, so she could think about it.

“Where’d you get that appalling tie?” she said.

Now.

She was almost in love with him. No, that’s impossible, she thought: either you are or you aren’t. Love’s the only thing in this world that is unequivocal. There are different kinds of love, certainly, but it’s a you-do or you-don’t proposition with them all.

She was a person who, when confronted with an easy way out, always took the hard way. The easy way out of this would be to marry Hank and let him labor for her. After a few years, when the children were waist-high, the man would come along whom she should have married in the first place. There would be searchings of hearts, fevers and frets, long looks at each other on the post office steps, and misery for everybody. The hollering and the high-mindedness over, all that would be left would be another shabby little affair à la the Birmingham country club set, and a self-constructed private Gehenna with the latest Westinghouse appliances. Hank didn’t deserve that.

No. For the present she would pursue the stony path of spinsterhood. She set about restoring peace with honor:

“Honey, I’m sorry, truly sorry,” she said, and she was.

“That’s okay,” said Henry, and slapped her knee. “It’s just that I could kill you sometimes.”

“I know I’m hateful.”

Henry looked at her. “You’re an odd one, sweet. You can’t dissemble.”

She looked at him. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, as a general rule, most women, before they’ve got ’em, present to their men smiling, agreeing faces. They hide their thoughts. You now, when you’re feeling hateful, honey, you are hateful.”

“Isn’t it fairer for a man to be able to see what he’s letting himself in for?”

“Yes, but don’t you see you’ll never catch a man that way?”

She bit her tongue on the obvious, and said, “How do I go about being an enchantress?”

Henry warmed to his subject. At thirty, he was an adviser. Maybe because he was a lawyer. “First,” he said dispassionately, “hold your tongue. Don’t argue with a man, especially when you know you can beat him. Smile a lot. Make him feel big. Tell him how wonderful he is, and wait on him.”

She smiled brilliantly and said, “Hank, I agree with everything you’ve said. You are the most perspicacious individual I’ve met in years, you are six feet five, and may I light your cigarette? How’s that?”

“Awful.”

They were friends again.





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