Thursday, August 14, 2008

William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!

William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!, Vintage International, New York, 1990

From a little after two oclock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that—a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) became latticed with yellow slashes full of dust motes which Quentin thought of as being flecks of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them. 3

…sitting bolt upright in the straight hard chair that was so tall for her that her legs hung straight and rigid as if she had iron shinbones and ankles, clear of the floor with that air of impotent and static rage like children’s feet… 3

…into which came now and then the loud cloudy flutter of the sparrows like a flat limber stick whipped by an idle boy…4

Out of quiet thunderclap he would abrupt (man-horse-demon) upon a scene peaceful and decorous as a school prize water color, faint sulphur-reek still in hair clothes and beard, with grouped behind him his band of wild niggers like beasts half tamed to walk upright like men, in attitudes wild and reposed, and manacled among them the French architect with his air grim, haggard, and tatter-ran. 4

“Because you are going away to attend the college at Harvard they tell me,” she said. “So I don’t imagine you will ever come back here and settle down as a country lawyer in a little town like Jefferson, since Northern people have already seen to it that there is little left in the South for a young man. So maybe you will enter the literary profession as so many Southern gentlemen and gentlewomen too are doing now and maybe some day you will remember this and write about it. You will be married than I expect and perhaps your wife will want a new gown or a new chair for the house and you can write this and submit it to the magazines. Perhaps you will even remember kindly then the old woman who made you spend a whole afternoon sitting indoors and listening while she talked about people and events you were fortunate enough to escape yourself when you wanted to be out among your friends of your own age.” 5

It’s because she wants it told he thought so that people whom she will never see and whose names she will never hear and who have never heard her name nor seen her face will read it and know at last why God let us lose the War: that only through the blood of our men and the tears of our women could He stay this demon and efface his name and lineage from the earth. Then almost immediately he decided that neither was this the reason she had sent the note, and sending it, why to him, since if she had merely wanted it told, written and even printed, she would not have needed to call anybody… 6

…the mere names were interchangeable and almost myriad. His childhood was full of them; his very body was an empty hall echoing with sonorous defeated names; he was not a being, an entity, he was a commonwealth. 7

What it is to me that the land or the earth or whatever it was got tired of him at last and turned and destroyed him? What if it did destroy her family too? It’s going to turn and destroy us all someday, whether our name happens to be Sutpen or Coldfield or not. 7

…this Niobe without tears who had conceived to the demon in a kind of nightmare… 8

Quentin seemed to see them, the four of them arranged into the conventional family group of the period, with formal and lifeless decorum, and seen now as the fading and ancient photograph itself would have been seen enlarged and hung on the wall behind and above the voice and of whose presence there the voice’s owner was not even aware… 9

…and he, fiend blackguard and devil, in Virginia fighting, where the chances of earth’s being rid of him were the best anywhere under the sun, yet Ellen and I both knowing that he would return, that every man in our armies would have to fall before bullet or ball found him… 10

…a man who rode into town out of nowhere with a horse and two pistols and a herd of wild beasts that he had hunted down singlehanded because he was stronger in fear than even they were in whatever heathen place he had fled from… 10

And the very fact that he had had to choose respectability to hide behind was proof enough (if anyone needed further proof) that what he fled from must have been some opposite of respectability too dark to talk about. Because he was too young. He was just twenty-five and a man of twenty-five does not voluntarily undertake the hardship and privation of clearing virgin land and establishing a plantation in a new country just for money; not a young man without any past that he apparently cared to discuss, in Mississippi in 1833… 11

No. I hold no more brief for Ellen than I do for myself. I hold even less for myself, because I had had twenty years in which to watch him, where Ellen had had but five. And not even those five to see him but only to hear at second hand what he was doing, and not even to hear more than half of that since apparently half of what he actually did during those five years nobody at all knew about, and half of the remainder no man would have repeated to a wife, let alone a young girl…12

And most of all, I do not plead myself: a young woman emerging from a holocaust which had taken parents security and all from her, who had seen all that living meant to her fall into ruins about the feet of a few figures with the shapes of men but with the names and statures of heroes;—a young woman I say thrown into daily and hourly contact with one of these men who, despite… 13

Yes, fatality and curse on the South and on our family as though because some ancestor of ours had elected to establish his descent in a land primed for fatality and already cursed with it, even if it had not rather been our family, our father’s progenitors, who had incurred the curse long years before and had been coerced by Heaven into establishing itself in the land and the time already cursed…I used to wonder what our father or his father could have done before he married our mother that Ellen and I would have to expiate and neither of us alone be sufficient; what crime committed that would leave our family cursed to be instruments not only for that man’s destruction but for our own. 14

…and now, among the musing and decorous wraiths Quentin seemed to watch resolving the figure of a little girl, in the prim skirts and pantalettes, the smooth prim decorous braids, of the dead time. She seemed to stand, to lurk, behind the neat picket fence of a small, grimly middleclass yard or lawn… 15

And though I must have seen Ellen and the children before this, this is the vision of my first sight of them which I shall carry to my grave: a glimpse like the forefront of a tornado, of the carriage and Ellen’s high white face within it and the two replicas of his face in miniature flanking her… 16

I could feel it. It was as though somewhere in that Sunday afternoon’s quiet and peace the screams of that child still existed, lingered, not as sound now but as something for the skin to hear, the hair on the head to hear. 18

I know now that it was simply because since papa had given him respectability through a wife there was nothing else he could want from papa and so not even sheer gratitude, let alone appearances, could force him to forego his own pleasure to the extent of taking a family meal with his wife’s people. 20

…the only difference between now and the time of his bachelorhood being that now they would hitch the teams and saddle horses and mules in the grove beyond the stable and so come up across the pasture as if God or the devil had taken advantage of his very vices in order to supply witnesses to the discharge of our curse not only from among gentlefolks, our own kind, but from the very scum and riffraff who could not have approached the house itself under any other circumstances, not even from the rear. 20

Yes. It seems that on certain occasions, perhaps at the end of the evening, the spectacle, as a grand finale or perhaps as a matter of sheer deadly forethought towards the retention of supremacy, domination, he would enter the ring with one of the negroes himself. Yes. 21

It was a summer of wisteria. The twilight was full of it… 23

…him, on a big hard-ridden roan horse, man and beast looking as though they had been created out of thin air and set down in the bright summer sabbath sunshine… 23-4

…at the time his age could not have been guessed because at that time he looked like a man who had been sick. Not like a man who had been peacefully ill in bed and had recovered to move with a sort of diffident and tentative amazement in a world which he had believed himself on the point of surrendering, which was more than just fever, like an explorer say, who not only had to face the normal hardship of the pursuit which he chose but was overtaken by the added and unforeseen handicap of the fever also and fought through it at enormous cost not so much physical as mental, alone and unaided and not through blind instinctive will to endure and survive but to gain and keep to enjoy it the material prize for which he accepted the original gambit. 24

It was the Chickisaw Indian agent with or through whom he dealt and so it was not until he waked the Country Recorder that Saturday night with the deed, patent, to the land and the gold Spanish coin, that the town learned that he now owned a hundred square miles of some of the best virgin bottom land in the country, though even that knowledge came too late because Sutpen himself was gone, where to again they did not know. 26

...Sutpen would take stand beside a game trail with the pistols and send the negroes in to drive the swamp like a pack of hounds… 27

So he and the twenty negroes worked together, plastered over with mud against the mosquitoes and, as Miss Coldfield told Quentin, distinguishable one from another by his beard and eyes alone and only the architect resembling a human creature because of the French clothes which he wore… 28

Unpainted and unfurnished, without a pane of glass or a doorknob or hinge in it, twelve miles from town and almost that far from any neighbor, it stood for three years more surrounded by its formal gardens and promenades, its slave quarters and stables and smokehouses… 29

…most divorces occur with women who were married by tobacco-chewing j.p.’s in country courthouses or by ministers waked after midnight, with their suspenders showing beneath their coattails and no collar on and a wife or spinster sister in curl papers for witness. 37

…the best possible moral fumigation which Sutpen could have received at the time in the eyes of his fellow citizens was the fact that Mr Coldfield signed his bond… 38

…with a fixed goal in his mind which most men do not set up until the blood begins to slow at thirty or more and then only because the image represents peace and indolence or at least a crowning of vanity, not the vindication of a past affront in the person of a son whose seed is not yet, and would not be for years yet, planted. 40

Father and your grandmother were just married then and Mother was a stranger in Jefferson and I don’t know what she thought except that she would never talk about what happened: about the mad woman whom she had never seen before, who came bursting into the house, not to invite her to a wedding but to dare her not to come…42

…she turned and saw one of the negroes, his torch raised and in the act of springing toward the crowd, the faces, when Sutpen spoke to him in that tongue which even now a good part of the county did not know was a civilized language. That was what she saw, what the others saw from the halted carriages across the street—the bride shrinking into the shelter of his arm as he drew her behind him and he standing there, not moving even after another object (they threw nothing which could actually injure: it was only clods of dirt and vegetable refuse) struck the hat from his head, and a third struck him full in the chest—standing there motionless, with an expression almost of smiling where his teeth showed through the beard… 44

Perhaps she even saw herself as an instrument of retribution: if not in herself an active instrument strong enough to cope with him, at least as a kind of passive symbol of inescapable reminding to rise bloodless and without dimension from the sacrificial stone of the marriage-bed. 48

Miss Rosa didn’t tell you that two of the niggers in the wagon that day were women? / No, sir Quentin said. / Yes. Two of them. And brought here neither by chance nor oversight. He saw to that, who had doubtless seen even further ahead than the two years it actually took him to build his house and show his good intentions to his neighbors until they allowed him to mix his wild stock with their tame, since the difference in tongue between his niggers and theirs could have been a barrier only for a matter of weeks or even days. 48

And he lived out there for almost five years before he had speaking acquaintance with any white woman in the county, just as he had no furniture in his house and for the same reason: he had at the time nothing to exchange for it them or her. 48

…that state where, though still visible, young girls appear…not in themselves floating and seeking but merely waiting, parasitic and potent and serene, drawing to themselves without effort the post-genitive upon and about which to shape, flow into back, breast; bosom, flank, thigh. 52-53

…now was a little regal—she and Judith made frequent trips to town now, calling upon the same ladies, some of whom were now grandmothers, whom the aunt had tried to force to attend the wedding twenty years ago, and, to the meagre possibilites which the town offered, shopping—as though she had succeeded at last in evacuating not only the puritan heritage but reality itself; had immolated outrageous husband and incomprehensible children into shades… 54

Ellen did not once mention love between Judith and Bon. She did not hint around it. Love, with reference to them, was just a finished and perfectly dead subject like the matter of virginity would be after the birth of the first grandchild. 59

Yet this was where she had to go to get the material to make those intimate young girl garments which were to be for her own vicarious bridal—and you can imagine too what Miss Rosa’s notion of such garments would be… 61

…since all of Sutpen’s negroes had deserted also to follow the Yankee troops away’ the wild blood which he had brought into the country and tried to mix, blend, with tame which was already there, with the same care and for the same purpose with which he blended that of the stallion and that of his own. And with the same success: as though his presence alone compelled that house to accept and retain human life; as though houses actually possess a sentience, a personality and character acquired not from the people who breathe or have breathed in them so much as rather inherent in the wood and brick begotten upon the wood and brick by the man or men who conceived and built them—in this one an incontrovertible affirmation of emptiness, desertion; an insurmountable resistance to occupancy save when sanctioned and protected by the ruthless and the strong. 66

Yes, she would have the umbrella. She would emerge with it when he called for her and carry it invincibly into the spent suspiration of an evening without even dew, where even now the only alteration toward darkness was in the soft and fuller random of the fireflies—a fuller and more profound random in the twilight following sixty days without rain and forty-two without even dew… 70-71

…this—” he indicated the single globe stained and bug-fouled from the long summer and which even when clean gave off but little light—“which man had to invent to his need since, relieved of the onus of sweating to live, he is apparently reverting (or evolving) back into a nocturnal animal… 71

But he did not give Quentin the letter at once. He sat again, Quentin sitting again too, and took up the cigar from the veranda rail, the coal glowing again, the wisteria colored smoke drifting again unwinded across Quentin’s face as Mr Compson raised his feet once more to the railing, the letter in his hand and the hand looking almost as dark as a negro’s against his linen leg. 70

Because what else could he have hoped to find in New Orleans, if not the truth, if not what his father had told him… 72

He is the curious one to me. 74

…with an air of sardonic and indolent detachment like that of a youthful Roman consul making the Grand Tour of his day among the barbarian hordes which his grandfather conquered… 74

…lounging before them in the outlandish and almost feminine garments of his sybaritic privacy, he professed satiety but increased not only the amazement but the bitter and hopeless outrage… 76

…as though by means of that telepathy with which as children they seemed at times to anticipate one another’s actions as two birds leave a limb at the same instant… 79

…and this lover who apparently without volition or desire became involved in an engagement which he seems neither to have sought nor avoided, who took his dismissal in the same passive and sardonic spirit, yet four years later was apparently so bent upon the marriage to which up to that time he had been completely indifferent as to force the brother who had championed it to kill him to prevent it. 79-80

…of which threat he was apparently sure enough to warrant a six hundred mile journey to prove it—this in a man who might have challenged and shot someone whom he disliked or feared but who would not have made even a ten mile journey to investigate him. You see? 80

…and Sutpen still waiting, certainly no one could say for what now, incredible that he should wait for Christmas, for the crisis to come to him—this man of whom it was said that he not only went out to meet his troubles, he sometimes went out and manufactured them. 84

‘Not whore. Don’t say that. In fact, never refer to one of them by that name in New Orleans: otherwise you may be forced to purchase that privilege with some of your blood from probably a thousand men’… 91

Yes: a sparrow which God Himself neglected to mark. Because though men, white men, created her, God did not stop it. He planted the seed which brought her to flower—the white blood to give the shape and pigment of what the white man calls female beauty, to a female principle which existed, queenly and complete, in the hot equatorial groin of the world long before that white one of ours came down from trees and lost its hair and bleached out… 92

…and you are born at the same time with a lot of other people, all mixed up with them, like trying to, having to, move your arms and legs with strings only the same strings are hitched to all the other arms and legs and the others all trying and they don’t know why either except that the strings are all in one another’s way like five or six people all trying to make a rug on the same loom only each one wants to weave his own pattern into the rug; and it can’t matter, you know that…100-101

You will notice how I insult neither of us by claiming this to be a voice from the defeated even, let alone from the dead. In fact, if I were a philosopher I should deduce and derive a curious and apt commentary on the times and augur of the future from this letter which you now hold in your hands—a sheet of notepaper with, as you can see, the best of French watermarks dated seventy years ago, salvaged (stolen if you will) from the gutted mansion of a ruined aristocrat; and written upon in the best of stove polish manufactured not twelve months ago in a New England factory. Yes. Stove polish. We captured it: a story in itself. Imagine us, an assortment of homogeneous scarecrows, I wont say hungry because to a woman, lady or female either, below Mason’s and Dixon’s in this year of grace 1865, that word would be sheer redundancy, like saying that we were breathing. And I won’t say ragged or even shoeless, since we have been both long enough to have grown accustomed to it, only, thank God (and this restores my faith not in human nature perhaps but at least in man) that he really does not become inured to hardship and privation: it is only the mind, the gross omnivorous carrion-heavy soul which becomes inured; the body itself, linen and something between the soul of the foot and the earth to distinguish it from the foot of a beast. So say we merely needed ammunition. And imagine us, the scarecrows with one of those concocted plans of scarecrow desperation which not only must but do work, for the reason that there is absolutely no room for alternative before man or heaven, no niche on earth or under it for failure to find space either to pause or breathe or be graved and sepulchered; and we (the scarecrows) bringing it off with a great deal of elan, not to say noise; imagine, I say, the prey and prize, the ten plump defenceless sutler’s wagons, the scarecrows tumbling out box after beautiful box after beautiful box stenciled each with that U. and that S. which for four years now has been to us the symbol of the spoils which belong to the vanquished, of the loaves and the fishes as was once the incandescent Brow, the shining nimbus of the Thorny Crown; and the scarecrows clawing at the boxes with stones and bayonets and even with bare hands and opening them at last and finding—What? Stove polish. 102-103

And since because within this sheet of paper you now hold the best of the old South which is dead, and the words you read were written upon it with the best (each box said, the very best of the new North which has conquered and which therefore, whether it likes it or not, will have to survive, I now believe that you and I are, strangely enough, included among those who are doomed to live. 104-105

There was no answer. I had expected none; possibly even then I did not expect Judith to answer, just as a child, before the full instant of comprehended terror, calls on the parent whom it actually knows (this before the terror destroys all judgment whatever) is not even there to hear it. 110

…black arresting and untimorous hand on my white woman’s flesh. Because there is something in the touch of flesh with flesh which abrogates, cuts sharp and straight across devious intricate channels of decorous ordering, which enemies as well as lovers know because it makes them both… 111-112

…but is that true wisdom which can comprehend that there is a might-have-been which is more true than truth, from which the dreamer, waking, says not ‘Did I but dream?’ but rather says, indicts high heaven’s very self with: ‘Why did I wake since waking I shall never sleep again?’/ Once there was—Do you mark how the wisteria, sun-impacted on this wall here, distills and penetrates this room as though (light-unimpeded) by secret and attritive progress from mote to mote of obscurity’s myriad components? That is the substance of remembering—sense, sight, smell: the muscles with which we see and hear and feel—not mind, not thought: there is no such thing as memory: the brain recalls just what the muscles grope for: no more, no less: and its resultant sum is usually incorrect and false and worthy only of the name of dream… 115

…I waited not for light but for that doom which we call female victory which is: endure and then endure, without rhyme or reason or hope of reward—and then endure…so that instead of accomplishing the processional and measured milestones of the normal childhood’s time I lurked… 116

…I competent enough to reach a kitchen shelf, count spoons and hem a sheet and measure milk into a churn yet good for nothing else, yet still to valuable to be left alone. 117

…I remember how as we carried him down the stairs and out to the waiting wagon I tried to take the full weight of the coffin to prove to myself that he was really in it. And I could not tell. I was one of his pall bearers, yet I could not, would not believe something which I knew could not but be so. Because I never saw him. You see? 122

So we waited for him. We led busy eventless lives of three nuns in a barren and poverty-stricken convent: the walls we had were safe, impervious enough, even if it did not matter to the walls whether we ate or not. And amicably, not as two white women and a negress, not as three negroes or three whites, not even as three women, but merely as three creatures who still possessed the need to eat but took no pleasure in it, the need to sleep but from no joy in weariness or regeneration, and in whom sex was some forgotten atrophy like the rudimentary gills we call the tonsils… 124-125

That was the winter when we began to learn what carpet-bagger meant and people—women—locked doors and windows at night and begun to frighten each other with tales of negro uprisings, when the ruined, the four years’ fallow and neglected land lay more idle… 130

And then one afternoon (I was in the garden with a hoe, where the path came up from the stable lot) I looked up and saw him looking at me. He had seen me for twenty years, but now he was looking at me; he stood there in the path looking at me, in the middle of the afternoon. That was it: that it should have been in the middle of the afternoon, when he should not have been anywhere near the house at all but miles away and invisible somewhere among his hundred square miles… 131

…(I do not know what he looked at while he spoke, save that by the sound of his voice it was not at us nor at anything in that room) said, ‘You may think I made your sister Ellen no very good husband. You probably think so. But even if you will not discount the fact that I am older now, I believe I can promise that I shall do no worse at least for you.’ / That was my courtship. That minute’s exchange look in a kitchen garden, that hand upon my head in his daughter’s bedroom; a ukase, a decree, a serene and florid boast like a sentence (ay, and delivered in the same attitude) not to be spoken and heard but to be read carved… 132

I sat there and listened to his voice and told myself, ‘Why, he is mad. He will decree this marriage for tonight and perform his own ceremony, himself both groom and minister; pronounce his own wild benediction on it with the very bedward candle in his hand… 133

…warned me of that fatal snarly climax before I knew the name for murder… 135

I mean that he was not owned by anyone or anything in this world, had never been, would never be, not even by Ellen, not even by Jones’ granddaughter. Because he was not articulated in this world. 139

…the two of them slashing at one another with twelve or fourteen words and most of these the same words repeated two or three times so that when you boiled it down they did it with eight or ten. 142

…that evening, the twelve miles behind the fat mare in the moonless September dust, the trees along the road not rising soaring as trees should but squatting like huge fowl, their leaves ruffled and heavily separate like the feathers of panting fowls… 143

…hadn’t been out there, hadn’t set food in the house even in forty-three years, yet who not only said there was somebody hidden in it but found somebody that would believe her, would drive that twelve miles out there in a buggy at midnight to see if she was right or not? 144

…until she realized that he was not hiding, did not want to hide, was merely engaged in one final frenzy of evil and harm-doing before the Creditor overtook him this next time for good and all;—this Faustus who appeared suddenly one Sunday with two pistols and twenty subsidiary demons and skuldugged a hundred miles of land out of a poor ignorant Indian… 145

…now the two dogs came in, drifted in like smoke, their hair close-plastered with damp, and curled down in one indistinguishable and apparently inextricable ball for warmth. 153

Bon was dead…She stayed a week. She passed the rest of that week in one remaining room in the house whose bed had linen sheets, passes it in bed, in the new lace and silk and satin negligees subdued to the mauve and lilac of mourning—that room airless and shuttered, impregnated behind the sagging closed blinds with the heavy fainting odor of her flesh, her days, her hours, her garments, of eau-de-cologne from the cloth upon her temples, of the crystal phial which the negress alternated with the fan as she sat beside the bed… 157-158

…that strange lonely little boy sitting quietly on a straight hard chair in the dim and shadowy library or parlor, with his hour names and his sixteenth-part black blood and his expensive esoteric Fauntleroy clothing who regarded with an aghast fatalistic terror the grim coffee-colored woman who would come on bare feet to the door and look in at him…who dressed him and washed him, thrust him into tubs of water too hot or too cold yet against which he dared make no outcry, and scrubbed him with harsh rags and soap, sometimes scrubbing at him with repressed fury as if she were trying to wash the smooth faint olive tinge from his skin as you might watch a child scrubbing at a wall long after the epithet, the chalked insult, has been obliterated… 158-161

…whoever had buried Judith must have been afraid that the other dead would contract the disease from her, since her grave was at the opposite side of the enclosure, as far from the other four as the enclosure would permit… 170

He told grandfather he did not remember just where nor when nor how his father had got it, and he (he was ten then; the two older boys had left home some time before and had not been heard of since) driving the oxen… 181

…hamlets now became villages, villages now towns and the country flattened out now with good roads and fields and niggers working in the fields while white men sat fine horses and watched them, and more fine horses and men in fine clothes, with a different look in the face from mountain men about the taverns where the old man was not even allowed to come in by the front door and from which his mountain drinking manners got him ejected before he would have time to get drunk good… 182-183

…and the man who owned all the land and niggers and apparently the white men who superintended the work, lived in the biggest house he had ever seen and spent most of the afternoon (he told how he would creep up among the tangled shrubbery of the lawn and lie hidden and watch the man) in a barrel stave hammock between two trees, with his shoes off and a nigger who wore every day better clothes than he or his father and sisters had ever owned and ever expected to, who did nothing else but fan him and bring him drinks… 184

And now he stood there before that white door with the monkey nigger barring it and looking down at him in his patched made-over jeans clothes and no shoes and I don’t reckon he had even ever experimented with a comb because that would be one of the things that his sisters would keep hidden good—who had never thought about his own hair or clothes or anybody else’s hair or clothes until he saw that monkey nigger, who through no doing of his own happened to have had the felicity of being housebred in Richmond maybe, looking—” (“Or maybe even in Charleston,” Shreve breathed.) “—at them and he never even remembered what the nigger said, how it was the nigger told him, even before he had time to say what he came for, never to come to that front door again but to go around to the back. 188

…it was three hours before they comprehended that the architect had used architecture, physics, to elude them as a man always falls back upon what he knows best in a crisis—the murderer upon murder, the thief thieving, the liar lying. He (the architect) knew about the wild negroes even if he couldn’t have known that Sutpen would get dogs; he had chosen that tree and hauled that pole up after him and calculated stress and distance and trajectory and had crossed a gap to the next nearest tree that a flying squirrel could not have crossed and traveled from there on from tree to tree for almost half a mile before he put foot on the ground again. It was three hours before one of the wild niggers (the dogs wouldn’t leave the tree; they said he was in it) fouind where he had come down. So he and grandfather sat on the log and talked…they had to drag the dogs away from the tree, but especially away from the sapling pole with the architect’s suspenders tied to it, as if it was not only that the pole was the last thing the architect had touched but it was the thing his exultation had touched when he saw another chance to elude them, and so it was not only the man but the exultation too which to dogs smelled that made them wild…193-197

I asked him if it were true, if what he had read us about the men who got rich in the West Indies were true. “Why not?” he answered, staring back. “Didn’t you hear me read it from the book?” –“How do I know that what you read was in the book?” I said. I was that green, that countrified, you see. I had not then learned to read my own name…I did not actually doubt him. I think that even then, even at my age, I realized that he could not have invented it, that he laked that something which is necessary in a man to enable him to fool even a child by lying. But you see, I had to be sure, had to take whatever method that came to my hand to make sure. And there was nothing else to hand except him. 196

So he learned the language just like he learned to be a sailor, I reckon, because Grandfather asked him why he didn’t get himself a girl to live with an learn it the easy way and Grandfather said how he sat there with the firelight on his face and the beard and his eyes quiet and sort of bright, and said—and Grandfather said it was the only time he ever knew him to say anything quiet and simple: ‘On this night I am speaking of (and until my first marriage, I might add) I was still a virgin. You will probably not believe that… 200

…if you were courageous and shrewd (he did not mean shrewdness, Grandfather said. What he meant was unscrupulousness only he didn’t know that word because it would not have been in the book from which the school teacher read. Or maybe that was what he meant by courage, Grandfather said) but where high morality was concomitant with money… 201

…a little lost island in a latitude which would require ten thousand years of equatorial heritage to bear its climate… 202

…a pig’s bone with a little rotten flesh still clinging to it, a few chicken feathers, a stained dirty rag with a few pebbles tied up in it found on the old man’s pillow one morning and none knew (least of all, the planter himself who had been asleep on the pillow) how it had come there because they learned at the same time that all the servants, the half breeds, were missing… 203

…the (from Jones) guffaw, the chortle, the old imbecile stability of the articulated mud which, Mr Compson said, outlasts the victories and the defeats both… 223

…suggested to Miss Rosa that they try it first and if it was a boy and lived, they would be married. 228

…getting snatched every day or so from whatever harmless pursuit in which you were not bothering anybody or even thinking about them, by someone because that someone was biggern than you, stronger than you, and being held for a minute or five minutes under a kind of busted water pipe of incomprehensible fury and fierce yearning and vindictiveness and jealous rage was a part of childhood which all mothers of children had received in turn from their mothers and from their mothers in turn from that Porto Rico or Haiti or wherever it was we all came from but none of us ever lived in… 239

…some obscure ancient general affronting and outraging which the actual livng articulate meat had not even suffered but merely inherited… 240

“Then he got older and got out from under the apron despite her(him too maybe; maybe the both of them) and he didn’t even care. He found out that she was up to something and he not only didn’t care, he didn’t even care that he didn’t know what it was; got older and found out that she had been shaping and tempering him to be the instrument for whatever it was her hand was implacable for, maybe came to believe (or saw) that she had tricked him into receiving the shape and temper, and didn’t care about that too because probably by that time he had learned that there were three things and no more: breathing, pleasure, darkness… 240

And as for a little matter like a spot of negro blood—’ not needing to talk much, say much either, not needing to say I seem to have been born into this world with so few fathers that I have too many brothers to outrage and shame while alive and hence too many descendents to bequeath my little portion of hurt and harm to, dead; not that, just ‘a little spot of negro blood—’ … 247

…he was never worried about what Bon would do when he found out; he had probably a long time ago paid Bon that compliment of thinking that even if he was too dull or indolent to suspect or find out about his father himself, he wasn’t fool enough not to be able to take advantage of it once somebody showed him the proper move; maybe if the thought had ever occurred to him that because of love or honor or anything else under heaven or jurisprudence either, Bon would not, would refuse to, he (the lawyer) would even have furnished proof that he no longer breathed… 248

…‘Then you don’t recommend the law as a vocation?’ and now for just a moment the lawyer would stop, but not long; maybe not long enough or perceptible enough for you to call it pause: and he would be looking at Bon too: ‘It hadn’t occurred to me that the law might appeal to you’ and Bon: ‘Neither did practicing with a rapier appeal to me while I was doing it. But I can recall at least one occasion in my life when I was glad I had’… 249

Oh, he had seen her all right, he had plenty of opportunity for that; he could not have helped but that because Mrs Sutpen would have seen to it—ten days of that kind of planned and arranged and executed privacies like the campaigns of dead generals in the text books, in libraries and parlors and drives in the buggy in the afternoons… 257

Because, though the lawyer belived him to be rather a fool than dull or dense, yet even he (the lawyer) never for one moment believed that even Bon was going to be the kind of fool he was going to be. 265

…so that maybe he stopped and faced her, with something in his face that was smiling now, and took her by the elbows and turned her, easy and gentle, until she faced the house, and said ‘Go. I wish to be alone to think about love.’… 266

So it was four of them who rode the two horses through that night and then across the bright frosty North Mississippi Christmas day, in something very like pariah-hood passing the plantation houses with sprigs of holly thrust beneath the knockers on the doors and mistletoe hanging from the chandeliers and bowls of eggnog and toddy on tables in the halls and the blue unwinded wood smoke stading above the plastered chimneys of the slave quarters, to the River and the steamboat. There would be Christmas on the boat too: the same holly and mistletoe, the same eggnog and toddy; perhaps, doubtless, a Christmas supper and a ball, but not for them… 267

…‘Do you know that you are a very fortunate young man? With most of us, even when we are lucky enough to get our revenge, we must pay for it, sometimes in actual dollars. While you are not only in a position to get your revenge, clear your mother’s name, but the balm with which you will assuage her injury will have a collateral value which can be translated into the things which a young man needs, which are his due and which, whether we like it or not, may be had only in exchange for hard dollars—’… 270

…‘But Judith. Our sister. Think of her’ and Bon: ‘All right. Think of her. Then what?’ because they both knew what Judith would do when she found it out because they both knew that women will show pride and honor about almost anything except love… 272

‘It isn’t yours nor his nor the Pope’s hell that we are all going to: it’s my mother’s and her mother’s and father’s and their mothers’ and fathers’ hell, and it isn’t you who are going there, but we, the three—no: four of us. And so at least we will all be together where we belong, since even if only we went there we would still have to be there too since the three of us are just illusions that he begot, and your illusions are a part of you like your bones and flesh and memory. 277

At first, in bed in the dark, it seemed colder than ever, as if there had been some puny quality of faint heat in the single light bulb before Shreve turned it off and that now the iron and impregnable dark had become one with the iron and icelike bedclothing lying upon the flesh slacked and thin-clad for sleeping. Then the darkness seemed to breathe, to flow back… 288

…the girl who had been a child when he saw her last, who doubtless used to watch him from window or door as he passed unaware of her as she would have looked at God probably, since everything else within her view belonged to him too. 291

…“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.” (‘I do,’ he thought. ‘Go back to town and go to bed.’) But he did not say it. He looked at the two huge rotting gate posts in the starlight, between which no gates swung now, wondering what had cast the shadow which Bon was not to pass alive; if some living tree which still lived and bore leaves and shed or if some tree gone, vanished, burned for warmth and food years ago now or perhaps just gone… 291

“Then I’ll tell you. I think that in time the Jim Bonds are going to conquer the western hemisphere. Of course it won’t quite be in our time and of course as they spread towards the poles they will bleach out again like the rabbits and the birds do, so they won’t show up so sharp against the snow. But it will still be Jim Bond; and so in a few thousand years, I who regard you will also have sprung from the loins of African kings. 302


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