From a little after two o'clock 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.
There was a wistaria vine blooming for the second time that summer on a wooden trellis before one window, into which sparrows came now and then in random gusts, making a dry vivid dusty sound before going away: and opposite Quentin, Miss Coldfield in the eternal black which she had worn for forty-three years now, whether for sister, father, or nothusband none knew, sitting so 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, and talking in that grim haggard amazed Voice until at last listening would renege and hearing-sense self-confound and the long-dead object of her impotent yet indomitable frustration would appear, as though by outraged recapitulation evoked, quiet inattentive and harmless, out of the biding and dreamy and victorious dust.
Her voice would not cease, it would just vanish. There would be the dim coffin-smelling gloom sweet and oversweet with the twice-bloomed wistaria against the outer wall by the savage quiet September sun impacted distilled and hyperdistilled, into which came now and then the loud cloudy flutter of the sparrows like a flat limber stick whipped by an idle boy, and the rank smell of female old flesh long embattled in virginity while the wan haggard face watched him above the faint triangle of lace at wrists and throat from the too tall chair in which she resembled a crucified child; and the voice not ceasing but vanishing into and then out of the long intervals like a stream, a trickle running from patch to patch of dried sand, and the ghost mused with shadowy docility as if it were the voice which he haunted where a more fortunate one would have had a house. Out of quiet thunderclap he would abrupt (man-horse-demon) upon a scene peaceful and decorous as a schoolprize 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 taller-ran. Immobile, bearded, and hand palm lifted the horseman sat; behind him the wild blacks and the captive architect huddled quietly, carrying in bloodless paradox the shovels and picks and axes of peaceful conquest. Then in the long unamaze Quentin seemed to watch them overrun suddenly the hundred square miles of tranquil and astonished earth and drag house and formal gardens violently out of the soundless Nothing and clap them down like cards upon a table beneath the up-palm immobile and pontific, creating the Sutpen's Hundred, the Be Sutpen's Hundred like the oldentime Be Light. Then hearing would reconcile and he would seem to listen to two separate Quentins now the Quentin Compson preparing for Harvard in the South, the deep South dead since 1865 and people with garrulous outraged baffled ghosts, listening, having to listen, to one of the ghosts which had refused to lie still even longer than most had, telling him about old ghost-times; and the Quentin Compson who was still too young to deserve yet to be a ghost, but nevertheless having to be one for all that, since he was born and bred in the deep South the same as she was the two separate Quentins now talking to one another in the long silence of notpeople, in notlanguage, like this: It seems that this demon — his name was Sutpen (Colonel Sutpen) — Colonel Sutpen. Who came out of nowhere and without warning upon the land with a band of strange niggers and built a plantation — (Tore violently a plantation, Miss Rosa Coldfield says) — tore violently. and married her sister Ellen and begot a son and a daughter which — (without gentleness begot, Miss Rosa Coldfield says) — without gentleness.
Which should have been the jewels of his pride and the shield and comfort of his old age, only — (Only they destroyed him or something or he destroyed them or something And died) — and died. Without regret, Miss Rosa Coldfield says — (Save by her) Yes, save by her. (And by Quentin Compson) Yes. And by Quentin Compson.
'Because you are going away to attend the college at Harvard they tell me,' Miss Coldfield 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 then 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 young friends of your own age." 'Yessum,' Quentin said. Only she don't mean that, he thought. It's because she wants it told. It was still early then. He had yet in his pocket the note which he had received by the hand of a small Negro boy just before noon, asking him to call and see her — the quaint, stiffly formal request which was actually a summons, out of another world almost — the queer archaic sheet of ancient good notepaper written over with the neat faded cramped script which, due to his astonishment at the request from a woman three times his age and whom he had known all his life without having exchanged a hundred words with her or perhaps to the fact that he was only twenty years old, he did not recognize as revealing a character cold, implacable, and even ruthless. He obeyed it immediately after the noon meal, walking the half mile between his home and hers through the dry dusty heat of early September and so into the house. It too was somehow smaller than its actual size — it was of two storeys — unpainted and a little shabby, yet with an air, a quality of grim endurance as though like her it had been created to fit into and complement a world in all ways a little smaller than the one in which it found itself. There in the gloom of the shuttered hallway whose air was even hotter than outside, as if there were prisoned in it like in a tomb all the suspiration of slow heatladen time which had recurred during the forty-five years, the small figure in black which did not even rustle, the wan triangle of lace at wrists and throat, the dim face looking at him with an expression speculative, urgent, and intent, waited to invite him in.
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 slay this demon and efface his name and lineage from the earth. Then almost immediately he decided that neither was this the reason why 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 in anybody — a woman who even in his (Quentin's) father's youth had already established herself as the town's and the county's poetess laureate by issuing to the stern and meager subscription list of the county newspaper poems, ode, eulogy, and epitaph, out of some bitter and implacable reserve of undefeat.
It would be three hours yet before he would learn why she had sent for him because part of it, the first part of it, Quentin already knew.
It was a part of his twenty years' heritage of breathing the same ai? and hearing his father talk about the man Sutpen; a part of the town's — Jefferson's — eighty years' heritage of the same air which the man himself had breathed between this September afternoon in 1909 and that Sunday morning in June in 1833 when he first rode into town out of no discernible past and acquired his land no one knew how and built his house, his mansion, apparently out of nothing and married Ellen Coldfield and begot his two children — the son who widowed the daughter who had not yet been a bride — and so accomplished his allotted course to its violent (Miss Coldfield at least would have said, just) end.
Quentin had grown up with that; 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.
He was a barracks filled with stubborn backlooking ghosts still recovering, even forty-three years afterward, from the fever which had cured the disease, waking from the fever without even knowing that it had been the fever itself which they had fought against and not the sickness, looking with stubborn recalcitrance backward beyond the fever and into the disease with actual regret, weak from the fever yet free of the disease and not even aware that the freedom was that of impotence. ('But why tell me about it?" he said to his father that evening, when he returned home, after she had dismissed him at last with his promise to return for her in the buggy; ' why tell me about it? What is it to me that the land of 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 some day, whether our name happens to be Sutpen or Coldfield or not." 'Ah,' Mr Compson said. 'Years ago we in the South made our women into ladies. Then the War came and made the ladies into ghosts. So what else can we do, being gentlemen, but listen to them being ghosts?" Then he said, 'Do you want to know the real reason why she chose you?" They were sitting on the gallery after supper, waiting for the time Miss Coldfield had set for Quentin to call for her. 'It's because she will need someone to go with her — a man, a gentleman, yet one still young enough to do what she wants, do it the way she wants it done. And she chose you because your grandfather was the nearest thing to a friend Sutpen ever had in this county, and she probably believes that Sutpen may have told your grandfather something about himself and her, about that engagement which did not engage, that troth which failed to plight.
Might even have told your grandfather the reason why at the last she refused to marry him. — And that your grandfather might have told me and I might have told you. And so, in a sense, the affair, no matter what happens out there tonight, will still be in the family; the skeleton (if it be a skeleton) still in the closet. She may believe that if it hadn't been for your grandfather's friendship, Sutpen could never have got a foothold here, and that if he had not got that foothold, he could not have married Ellen. So maybe she considers you partly responsible through heredity for what happened to her and her family through him." Whatever her reason for choosing him, whether it was that or not, the getting to it, Quentin thought, was taking a long time. Meanwhile, as though in inverse ratio to the vanishing voice, the invoked ghost of the man whom she could neither forgive nor revenge herself upon began to assume a quality almost of solidity, permanence.
Itself circumambient and enclosed by its effluvium of hell, its aura of unregeneration, it mused (mused, thought, seemed to possess sentience, as if, though dispossessed of the peace — who was impervious anyhow to fatigue — which she declined to give it, it was still irrevocably outside the scope of her hurt or harm) with that quality peaceful and now harmless and not even very attentive — the ogre-shape which, as Miss Coldfield's voice went on, resolved out of itself before Quentin's eyes the two half-ogre children, the three of them forming a shadowy background for the fourth one. This was the mother, the dead sister Ellen: this Niobe without tears who had conceived to the demon in a kind of nightmare, who even while alive had moved but without life and grieved but without weeping, who — now had an air of tranquil and unwitting desolation, not is if she had either outlived the others or had died first, but as if she had never lived at all. 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, as if she (Miss Coldfield) had never seen this room before — a picture, a group which even to Quentin had a quality strange, contradictory, and bizarre; not quite comprehensible, not (even to twenty) quite right — a group the last member of which had been dead twenty-five years and the first, fifty, evoked now out of the airless gloom of a dead house between an old woman's grim and implacable unforgiving and the passive chafing of a youth of twenty telling himself even amid the voice maybe you have to know anybody awful well to love them but when you have hated somebody for forty-three years you will know them awful well so maybe it's better then, maybe it's fine then because after forty-three years they cant any longer surprise you or make you either very contented or very mad. And maybe it (the voice, the talking, the incredulous and unbearable amazement) had even been a cry aloud once, Quentin thought, long ago when she was a girl of young and indomitable unregret, of indictment of blind circumstance and savage event; but not now: now only the lonely thwarted old female flesh embattled for forty-three years in the old insult, the old unforgiving outraged and betrayed by the final and complete affront which was Sutpen's death: 'He wasn't a gentleman. He wasn't even a gentleman. He came here with a horse and two pistols and a name which nobody ever heard before, knew for certain was his own any more than the horse was his own or even the pistols, seeking some place to hide himself, and Yoknapatawpha County supplied him with it. He sought the guarantee of reputable men to barricade him from the other and later strangers who might come seeking him in turn, and Jefferson gave him that. Then he needed respectability, the shield of a virtuous woman, to make his position impregnable even against the men who had given him protection on that inevitable day and hour when even they must rise against him in scorn and horror and outrage; and it was mine and Ellen's father who gave him that. Oh, I hold no brief for Ellen: blind romantic fool who had only youth and inexperience to excuse her even if that; blind romantic fool, then later blind woman mother fool when she no longer had either youth or inexperience to excuse her, when she lay dying in that house for which she had exchanged pride and peace both and nobody there but the daughter who was already the same as a widow without ever having been a bride and was, three years later, to be a widow sure enough without having been anything at all, and the son who had repudiated the very roof under which he had been born and to which he would return but once more before disappearing for good, and that as a murderer and almost a fratricide; and he, fiend blackguard and devil, in Virginia fighting, where the chances of the 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; and only I, a child, a child, mind you, four years younger than the very niece I was asked to save, for Ellen to turn to and say, "Protect her. Protect Judith at least."
Yes, blind romantic fool, who did not even have that hundred miles of plantation which apparently moved our 'father nor that big house and the notion of slaves underfoot day and night which reconciled, I wont say moved, her aunt. No: just the face of a man who contrived somehow to swagger even on a horse — a man who so far as anyone (including the father who was to give him a daughter in marriage) knew either had no past at all or did not dare reveal it — 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, and that French architect who looked like he had been hunted down and caught in turn by the Negroes — a man who fled here and hid, concealed himself behind respectability, behind that hundred miles of land which he took from a tribe of ignorant Indians, nobody knows how, and a house the size of a courthouse where he lived for three years without a window or door or bedstead in it and still called it Sutpen's Hundred as if it had been a king's grant in unbroken perpetuity from his great grandfather — a home, position: a wife and family which, being necessary: to concealment, he accepted along with the rest of respectability as he would have accepted the necessary discomfort and even pain of the briers and thorns in a thicket if the thicket could have given him the protection he sought. 'No: not even a gentleman. Marrying Ellen or marrying ten thousand Ellens could not have made him one. Not that he wanted to be one, or even be taken for one. No. That was not necessary, since all he would need would be Ellen's and our father's names on a wedding license (or on any other patent of respectability) that people could look at and read just as he would have wanted our father's (or any other reputable man's) signature on a note of hand because our father knew who his father was in Tennessee and who his grandfather had been in Virginia and our neighbors and the people we lived among knew that we knew and we knew they knew we knew and we knew that they would have believed us about whom and where he came from even if we had lied, just as anyone could have looked at him once and known that he would be lying about who and where and why he came from by the very fact that apparently he had to refuse to say at all. — 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 with a river full of steamboats loaded with drunken fools covered with diamonds and bent on throwing away their cotton and slaves before the boat reached New Orleans — not with all this just one night's hard ride away and the only handicap or obstacle being the other blackguards or the risk of being put ashore on a sandbar, and at the remotest, a hemp rope. And he was no younger son sent out from some old quiet country like Virginia or Carolina with the surplus Negroes to take up new land, because anyone could look at those Negroes of his and tell that they may have come (and probably did) from a much older country than Virginia or Carolina but it wasn't a quiet one. And anyone could have looked once at his face and known that he would have chosen the river and even the certainty of the hemp rope, to undertaking what he undertook even if he had known that he would find gold buried and waiting for him in the very land which he had bought.
'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; he came here and set up a raree show which lasted five years and Jefferson paid him for the entertainment by at least shielding him to the extent of not telling their womenfolks what he was doing.
But I had had all my life to watch him in, since apparently and for what reason Heaven has not seen fit to divulge, my life was destined to end on an afternoon in April forty-three years ago, since anyone who even had as little to call living as I had had up to that time would not call what I have had since living. I saw what had happened to Ellen, my sister. I saw her almost a recluse, watching those two doomed children growing up whom she was helpless to save. I saw the price which she had paid' for that house and that pride; I saw the notes of hand on pride and contentment and peace and all to which she had put her signature when she walked into the church that night, begin to fall due in succession. I saw Judith's marriage forbidden without rhyme or reason or shadow of excuse; I saw Ellen die with only me, a child, to turn to and ask to protect her remaining child; I saw Henry repudiate his home and birthright and then return and practically fling the bloody corpse of his sister's sweetheart at the hem of her wedding gown; I saw that man return the evil's source and head which had outlasted all its victims — who had created two children not only to destroy one another and his own line, but my line as well, yet I agreed to marry him.
'No. I hold no brief for myself. I don't plead youth, since what creature in the South since 1861, man woman nigger or mule, had had time or opportunity not only to have been young, but to have heard what being young was like from those who had. I don't plead propinquity: the fact that I, a woman young and at the age for marrying and in a time when most of the young men whom I would have known ordinarily were dead on lost battlefields, that I lived for two years under the same roof with him. I don't plead material necessity: the fact that, an orphan a woman and a pauper, I turned naturally not for protection but for actual food to my only kin: my dead sister's family: though I defy anyone to blame me, an orphan of twenty, a young woman without resources, who should desire not only to justify her situation but to vindicate the honor of a family the good name of whose women has never been impugned, by accepting the honorable proffer of marriage from the man whose food she was forced to subsist on. 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 what he might have been at one time and despite what she might have believed or even known about him, had fought for four honorable years for the soil and traditions of the land where she had been born.
And the man who had done that, villain dyed though he be, would have possessed in her eyes, even if only from association with them, the stature and shape of a hero too, and now he also emerging from the same holocaust in which she had suffered, with nothing to face what the future held for the South but his bare hands and the sword which he at least had never surrendered and the citation for valor from his defeated Commander-in-Chief. Oh, he was brave. I have never gainsaid that. But that our cause, our very life and future hopes and past pride, should have been thrown into the balance with men like that to buttress it — men with valor and strength but without pity or honor.
Is it any wonder that Heaven saw fit to let us lose?" 'No'me,' Quentin said.
'But that it should have been our father, mine and Ellen's father of all of them that he knew, out of all the ones who used to go out there and drink and gamble with him and watch him fight those wild Negroes, whose daughters he might even have won at cards. That it should have been our father. How he could have approached papa, on what grounds; what there could have been besides the common civility of two men meeting on the street, between a man who came from nowhere or dared not tell where and our father; what there could have been between a man like that and papa — a Methodist steward, a merchant who was not rich and who not only could have done nothing under the sun to advance his fortunes or prospects but could by no stretch of the imagination even have owned anything that he would have wanted, even picked up in the road — a man who owned neither land nor slaves except two house servants whom he had freed as soon as he got them, bought them, who neither drank nor hunted nor gambled — what there could have been between a man who to my certain knowledge was never in a Jefferson church but three times in his life — the once when he first saw Ellen, the once when they rehearsed the wedding, the once when they performed it — a man that anyone could look at and see that, even if he apparently had none now, he was accustomed to having money and intended to have it again and would have no scruples about how he got it — that man to discover Ellen inside a church. In church, mind you, as though there were a fatality and curse on our family and God Himself were seeing to it that it was performed and discharged to the last drop and dreg. 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. So that even I, a child still too young to know more than that, though Ellen was my own sister and Henry and Judith my own nephew and niece, I was not even to go out there save when papa or my aunt was with me and that I was not to play with Henry and Judith at all except in the house (and not because I was four years younger than Judith and six years younger than Henry: wasn't it to me that Ellen turned before she died and said "Protect them"?) — even 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." 'Yessum,' Quentin said.
'Yes,' the grim quiet voice said from beyond the unmoving triangle of dim lace; 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, looking out upon the whatever ogre-world of that quiet village street with that air of children born too late into their parents' lives and doomed to contemplate all human behavior through the complex and needless follies of adults — an air Cassandralike and humorless and profoundly and sternly prophetic out of all proportion to the actual years even of a child who had never been young. ' Because I was born too late. I was born twenty-two years too late — a child to whom out of the overheard talk of adults my own sister's and my sister's children's faces had come to be like the faces in an ogre-tale between supper and bed long before I Was old enough or big enough to be permitted to play with them, yet to whom that sister must have to turn at the last when she lay dying, with one of the children vanished and doomed to be a murderer and the other doomed to be a widow before she had even been a bride, and say, "Protect her, at least. At least save Judith." A child, yet whose child's vouchsafed instinct could make that reply which the mature wisdom of her elders apparently could not make: "Protect her? From whom and from what? He has already given them life: he does not need to harm them further. It is from themselves that they need protection." ' It should have been later than it was; it should have been late, yet the yellow slashes of mote-palpitant sunlight were latticed no higher up the impalpable wall of gloom which separated them; the sun seemed hardly to have moved. It (the talking, the telling) seemed (to him, to Quentin) to partake of that logic — and reason-flouting quality of a dream which the sleeper knows must have occurred, stillborn and complete, in a second, yet the very quality upon which it must depend to move the dreamer (verisimilitude) to credulity horror or pleasure or amazement — depends as completely upon a formal recognition of and acceptance of elapsed and yet-elapsing time as music or a printed tale. 'Yes. I was born too late. I was a child who was to remember those three faces (and his, too) as seen for the first time in the carriage on that first Sunday morning when this town finally realized that he had turned that road from Sutpen's Hundred in to the church into a race track. I was three then, and doubtless I had seen them before; I must have. But I do not remember it. I do not even remember ever having seen Ellen before that Sunday.
It was as though the sister whom I had never laid eyes on, who before I was born had vanished into the stronghold of an ogre or a djinn, was now to return through a dispensation of one day only, to the world which she had quitted, and I a child' of three, waked early for the occasion, dressed and curled as if for Christmas, for an occasion more serious than Christmas even, since now and at last this ogre or djinn had agreed for the sake of the wife and the children to come to church, to permit them at least to approach the vicinity of salvation, to at least give Ellen one chance to struggle with him for those children's souls on a battleground where she could be supported not only by Heaven but by her own family and people of her own kind; yes, even for the moment submitting himself to redemption, or lacking that, at least chivalrous for the instant even though still unregenerate.
That is what I expected. This is what I saw as I stood there before the church between papa and our aunt and waited for the carriage to arrive from the twelve-mile drive. 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, and on the front seat the face and teeth of the wild Negro who was driving, and he, his face exactly like the Negro's save for the teeth (this because of his beard, doubtless) — all in a thunder and a fury of wild-eyed horses and of galloping and of dust.
'Oh, there were pleaty of them to abet him, assist him, make a race of it; ten o' clock on Sunday morning, the carriage racing on two wheels up to the very door to the church with that wild Negro in his Christian clothes looking exactly like a performing tiger in a linen duster and a top hat, and Ellen with no drop of blood in her face, holding those two children who were not crying and who did not need to be held, who sat on either side of her, perfectly Still too, with in their faces that infantile enormity which we did not then quite comprehend. Oh, yes, there were plenty to aid and abet him; even he could not have held a horse race without someone to race against. Because it was not even public opinion that stopped him, not even the men who might have had wives and children in carriages to be ridden down and into ditches: it was the minister himself, speaking in the name of the women of Jefferson and Yoknapatawpha County. So he quit coming to church himself; now it would be just Ellen and the children in the carriage on Sunday morning, so we knew now that at least there would be no betting now, since no one could say if it was an actual race or not, since now, with his face absent, it was only the wild Negro's perfectly inscrutable one with the teeth glinting a little, so that now we could never know if it were a race or a runaway, and if there was triumph, it was on the face twelve miles back there at Sutpen's Hundred, which did not even require to see or be present. It was the Negro now, who in the act of passing another carriage spoke to that team too as well as to his own — something without words, not needing words probably, in that tongue in which they slept in the mud of that swamp and brought here out of whatever dark swamp he had found them in and brought them here — the dust, the thunder, the carriage whirling up to the church door while women and children scattered and screamed before it and men caught at the bridles of the other team.
And the Negro would let Ellen and the children out at the door and take the carriage on around to the hitching grove and beat the horses for running away; there was even a fool who tried to interfere once, whereupon the Negro turned upon him with the stick lifted and his teeth showing a little and said, "Marster say; I do. You tell Marster." 'Yes. From them; from themselves. And this time it was not even the minister. It was Ellen. Our aunt and papa were talking and I came in and my aunt said "Go out and play", though even if I could not have heard through the door at all, I could have repeated the conversation for them: "Your daughter, your own daughter" my aunt said; and papa: "Yes. She is my daughter. When she wants me to interfere she will tell me so herself." Because this Sunday when Ellen and the children came out of the front door, it was not the carriage waiting, it was Ellen's phaeton with the old gentle mare which 'she drove and the stableboy that he had bought instead of the wild Negro. And Judith looked once at the phaeton and realized what it meant and began to scream, screaming and kicking while they carried her back into the house and put her to bed. No, he was not present. Nor do I claim a lurking triumphant face behind a window curtain. Probably he would have been as amazed as we were since we would all realize now that we were faced by more than a child's tantrum or even hysteria: that his face had been in that carriage all the time; that it had been Judith, a girl of six, who had instigated and authorized that Negro to make the team run away. Not Henry, mind; not the boy, which would have been outrageous enough; but Judith, the girl.
'As soon as papa and I entered those gates that afternoon and began to go up the drive toward the house, 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. But I did not ask at once. I was just four then; I sat in the buggy beside papa as I had stood between him and our aunt before the church on that first Sunday when I had been dressed to come and see my sister and my nephew and niece for the first time, looking at the house. I had been inside it before too, of course, but even when I saw it for the first time that I could remember I seemed already to know how it was going to look just as I seemed to know how Ellen and Judith and Henry would look before I saw them for the time which I always remember as being the first. No, not asking even then, but just looking at that huge quiet house, saying "What room is Judith sick in, papa?" with that quiet aptitude of a child for accepting the inexplicable, though I now know that even then I was wondering what Judith saw when she came out the door and found the phaeton instead of the carriage, the tame stableboy instead of the wild man; what she had seen in that phaeton which looked so innocent to the rest of us or worse, what she had missed when she saw the phaeton and began to scream.
Yes, a still hot quiet Sunday afternoon like this afternoon; I remember yet the utter quiet of that house when we went in and from which I knew at once that he was absent without knowing that he would now be in the scuppernong arbor drinking with Wash Jones. I only knew, as soon as papa and I crossed the threshold, that he was not there: as though with some almost omniscient conviction, knowing that he did not need to stay and observe his triumph — and that, in comparison with what was to be, this one was a mere trivial business even beneath our notice too. Yes, that quiet darkened room with the blinds closed and a Negro woman sitting beside the bed with a fan and Judith's white face on the pillow beneath a camphor cloth, asleep as I supposed then: possibly it was sleep, or would be called sleep: and Ellen's face white and calm and papa said "Go out and find Henry and ask him to play with you, Rosa" and so I stood just outside that quiet door in that quiet upper hall because I was afraid to go away even from it, because I could hear the sabbath afternoon quiet of that house louder than thunder, louder than laughing even with triumph."
"Think of the children," papa said.
' "Think?" Ellen said. "What else do I do? What else do I lie awake at night and do but think of them?" Neither papa nor Ellen said: Come back home.
No: This occurred before it became fashionable to repair your mistakes by turning your back on them and running. It was just the two quiet voices beyond that blank door which might have been discussing something printed in a magazine; and I, a child standing close beside that door because I was afraid to be there but more afraid to leave it, standing motionless beside that door as though trying to make myself blend with the dark wood and become invisible, like a chameleon, listening to the living spirit, presence, of that house, since some of Ellen's life and breath had now gone into it as well as his, breathing away in a long neutral sound of victory and despair, of triumph and terror too.
' "Do you love this…" papa said.
' "Papa," Ellen said. That was all. But I could see her face then as clearly as papa could have, with that same expression which it had worn in the carriage on that first Sunday and the others. Then a servant came and said our buggy was ready.
'Yes. From themselves. Not from him, not from anybody, just as nobody could have saved them, even himself. Because he now showed us why that triumph had been beneath his notice. He showed Ellen, that is: not me. I was not there; it was six yeas now, during which I had scarcely seen him. Our aunt was gone now and I was keeping house for papa. Perhaps once a year papa and I would go out there and have dinner, and maybe four times a year Ellen and the children would come in and spend the day with us. Not he; that I know of, he never entered this house again after he and Ellen married. I was young then; I was even young enough to believe that this was due to some stubborn coal of conscience, if not remorse, even in him. But I know better now 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 forgo his own pleasure to the extent of taking a family meal with his wife's people. So I saw little of them. I did not have time now to play, even if I had ever had any inclination. I had never learned how and I saw no reason to try to learn now even if I had had the time. ' So it was six years now, though it was actually no secret to Ellen since it had apparently been going on ever since he drove the last nail in the house, 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 unseen from the house. Because there were plenty of them still; it was 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. Yes, Ellen and those two children alone in that house twelve miles from town, and down there in the stable a hollow square of faces in the lantern light, the white faces on three sides, the black ones on the fourth, and in the center two of his wild Negroes fighting, naked, fighting not as white men fight, with rules and weapons, but as Negroes fight to hurt one another quick and bad, Ellen knew that, or thought she did; that was not it.
She accepted that — not reconciled: accepted — as though there is a breathing-point in outrage where you can accept it almost with gratitude since you can say to yourself, thank God, this is all; at least I now know all of it — thinking that, clinging still to that when she ran into the stable that night while the very men who had stolen into it from the rear fell back away from her with at least some grain of decency, and Ellen seeing not the two black beasts she had expected to see but instead a white one and a black one, both naked to the waist and gouging at one another's eyes as if they should not only have been the same color, but should have been covered with fur too.
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 toward the retention of supremacy, domination, he would enter the ring with one of the Negroes himself. Yes.
That's what Ellen saw: her husband and the father of her children standing there naked and panting and bloody to the waist and the Negro just fallen evidently, lying at his feet and bloody too, save that on the Negro it merely looked like grease or sweat — Ellen running down the hill from the house, bareheaded, in time to hear the sound, the screaming, hearing it while she still ran in the darkness and before the spectators knew that she was there, hearing it even before it occurred to one spectator to say, "It's a horse" then "It's a woman" then "My God, it's a child" — ran in, and the spectators falling back to permit her to see Henry plunge out from among the Negroes who had been holding him, screaming and vomiting — not pausing, not even looking at the faces which shrank back away from her as she knelt in the stable filth to raise Henry and not looking at Henry either but up at him as he stood there with even his teeth showing beneath his beard now and another Negro wiping the blood from his body with a towsack.
"I know you will excuse us, gentlemen," Ellen said. But they were already departing, nigger and white, slinking out again as they had slunk in, and Ellen not watching them now either but kneeling in the dirt while Henry clung to her, crying, and he standing there yet while a third nigger prodded his shirt or coat at him as though the coat were a stick and he a caged snake. "Where is Judith, Thomas?" Ellen said.
' "Judith?" he said. Oh, he was not lying; his own triumph had outrun him; he had builded even better in evil than even he could have hoped. "Judith? Isn't she in bed?"
' "Dont lie to me, Thomas," Ellen said. "I can understand your bringing Henry here to see this, wanting Henry to see this; I will try to understand it; yes, I will make myself try to understand it. But not Judith, Thomas. Not my baby girl, Thomas."
' "I don't expect you to understand it," he said. "Because you are a woman.
But I didn't bring Judith down here. I would not bring her down here. I don't expect you to believe that. But I swear to it."
'"I wish I could believe you," Ellen said. "I want to believe you." Then she began to call. "Judith!" she called in a voice calm and sweet and filled with despair: "Judith honey! Time to come to bed."
'But I was not there. I was not there to see the two Sutpen faces this time — once on Judith and once on the Negro girl beside her looking down through the square entrance to the loft."
It was a summer of wistaria. The twilight was full of it and of the smell of his father's cigar as they sat on the front gallery' after supper until it would be time for Quentin to start, while in the deep shaggy lawn below the veranda the fireflies blew and drifted in soft random — the odor, the scent, which five months later Mr Compson's letter would carry up from Mississippi and over the long iron New England snow and into Quentin's sitting-room at Harvard. It was a day of listening too — the listening, the hearing in 1909 mostly about that which he already knew, since he had been born in and still breathed the same air in which the church bells had rung on that Sunday morning in 1833 and, on Sundays, heard even one of the original three bells in the same steeple where descendants of the same pigeons strutted and crooned or wheeled in short courses resembling soft fluid paint-smears on the soft summer sky.
That Sunday morning in June with the bells ringing peaceful and peremptory and a little cacophonous — the denominations in concord though not in tune — and the ladies and children, and house Negroes to carry the parasols and flywhisks, and even a few men (the ladies moving in hoops among the miniature broadcloth of little boys and the pantalettes of little girls, in the skirts of the time when ladies did not walk but floated) when the other men sitting with their feet on the railing of the Holston House gallery looked up, and there the stranger was. He was already halfway across the Square when they saw him, on a big hardridden 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 in the middle of a tired foxtrot face and horse that none of them had ever seen before, name that none of them had ever heard, and origin and purpose which some of them were never to learn. So that in the next four weeks (Jefferson was a village then: the Holston House, the courthouse, six stores, a blacksmith and livery stable, a saloon frequented by drovers and peddlers, three churches and perhaps thirty residences) the stranger's name went back and forth among the places of business and of idleness and among the residences in steady strophe and antistrophe: Sutpen. Sutpen. Sutpen. Sutpen.
That was all that the town was to know about him for almost a month. He had apparently come into town from the South — a man of about twenty-five as the town learned later, because at the time his age could not have been guessed his age could not have been guessed because 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, but like a man who had been through some solitary furnace experience which was more than just fever, like an explorer ay, 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. A man with a big frame but gaunt now almost to emaciation, with a short reddish beard which resembled a disguise and above which his pale eyes had a quality at once visionary and alert, ruthless and reposed in a face whose flesh had the appearance of pottery, of having been colored by that oven's fever either of soul or environment, deeper than sun alone beneath a dead impervious surface as of glazed clay. That was what they saw,' though it was years before the town learned that that was all which he possessed at the time — the strong spent horse and the clothes on his back and a small saddlebag scarcely large enough to contain the spare linen and the razors, and the two pistols of which Miss Coldfield told Quentin, with the butts worn smooth as pickhandles and which he used with the precision of knitting needles; later Quentin's grandfather saw him ride at a canter around a sapling at twenty feet and put both bullets into a playing card fastened to the tree. He had a room in the Holston House but he carried the key with him and each morning he fed and saddled the horse and rode away before daylight, where to the town likewise failed to learn, probably due to the fact that he bore the pistol demonstration on the third day after his arrival. So they had to depend on inquiry to find out what they told about him, which would of necessity be at night, at the supper table in the Holston House dining-room or in the lounge which he would have to cross to gain his room and lock the door again, which he would do as soon as he finished eating. The bar opened into the lounge too, and that would or should have been the place to accost him and even inquire, except for the fact that he did not use the bar. He did not drink at all, he told them. He did not say that he used to drink and had quit, nor that he had never used alcohol. He just said that he would not care for a drink; it was years later before even Quentin's grandfather (he was a young man too then; it would be years yet before he would become General Compson) learned that the reason Sutpen did not drink was that he did not have the money with which to pay his share or return the courtesy; it was General Compson who first realized that at this time Sutpen lacked not only the money to spend for drink and conviviality, but the time and inclination as well: that he was at this time completely the slave of his secret and furious impatience, his conviction gained from whatever that recent experience had been — that fever mental or physical — of a need for haste, of time fleeing beneath him, which was to drive him for the next five years — as General Compson computed it, roughly until about nine months before his son was born. So they would catch him, run him to earth, in the lounge between the supper table and his locked door to give him the opportunity to tell them who he was and where he came from and what he was up to, whereupon he would move gradually and steadily until his back came in contact with something — a post or a wall — and then stand there and tell them nothing whatever as pleasantly and courteously as a hotel clerk. It was the Chickasaw Indian agent with or through whom he dealt and so it was not until he waked the County 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. But he owned land among them now and some of them began to suspect what General Compson apparently knew: that the Spanish coin with which he had paid to have his patent recorded was the last one of any kind which he possessed. So they were certain now that he had departed to get more; there were several who even anticipated in believing (and even in saying aloud, now that he was not present) what Sutpen's future and then unborn sister-in-law was to tell Quentin almost eighty years later: that he had found some unique and practical way of hiding loot and that he had returned to the cache to replenish his pockets, even if he had not actually ridden with the two pistols back to the River and the steamboats full of gamblers and cotton and slave-dealers to replenish the cache. At least some of them were telling one another that when two months later he returned, again without warning and accompanied this time by the covered wagon with a Negro driving it and on the seat with the Negro a small, alertly resigned man with a grim, harried Latin face, in a frock coat and a flowered waistcoat and a hat which would have created no furore on a Paris boulevard, all of which he was to wear constantly for the next two years — the somberly theatric clothing and the expression of fatalistic and amazed determination — while his white client and the Negro crew which he was to advise though not direct went stark naked save for a coating of dried mud. This was the French architect. Years later the town learned that he had come all the way from Martinique on Sutpen's bare promise and lived for two years on venison cooked over a campfire, in an unfloored tent made of the wagon hood, before he so much as saw any color or shape of pay. And until he passed through town on his way back to New Orleans two years later, he was not even to see Jefferson again; he would not come, or Sutpen would not bring him, to town even on the few occasions when Sutpen would be seen there, and he did not have much chance to look at Jefferson on that first day because the wagon did not stop. Apparently it was only by sheer geographical hap that Sutpen passed through town at all, pausing only long enough for someone (not General Compson) to look beneath the wagon hood and into a black tunnel filled with still eyeballs and smelling like a wolfden.
But the legend of Sutpen's wild Negroes was not to begin at once, because the wagon went on as though even the wood and iron which composed it, as well as the mules which drew it, had become imbued by sheer association with him with that quality of gaunt and tireless driving, that conviction for haste and of fleeing time; later Sutpen told Quentin's grandfather that on that afternoon when the wagon passed through Jefferson they had been without food since the previous night and that he was trying to reach Sutpen's Hundred and the river bottom to try to kill a deer before dark, so he and the architect and the Negroes would not have to spend another night without food. So the legend of the wild men came gradually back to town, brought by the men who would ride out to watch what was going on, who began to tell how 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; it was they who told how during that first summer and fall the Negroes did not even have (or did not use) blankets to sleep in, even before the coon-hunter Akers claimed to have walked one of them out of the absolute mud like a sleeping alligator and Screamed just in time. The Negroes could speak no English yet and doubtless there were more than Akers who did not know that the language in which they and Sutpen communicated was a sort of French and not some dark and fatal tongue of their own. There were many more than Akers, though the others were responsible citizens and landowners and so did not have to lurk about the camp at night.
In fact, as Miss Coldfield told Quentin, they would make up parties to meet at the Holston House and go out horseback, often carrying lunch. Sutpen had built a brick kiln and he had set up the saw and planer which he had brought in the wagon — a capstan with a long sapling walking-beam, with the wagon team and the Negroes in shifts and himself too when necessary, when the machinery slowed, hitched to it — as if the Negroes actually were wild men; as General Compson told his son, Quentin's father, while the Negroes were working Sutpen never raised his voice at them, that instead he led them, caught them at the psychological instant by example, by some ascendancy of forbearance rather than by brute fear. Without dismounting (usually Sutpen did not even greet them with as much as a nod, apparently as unaware of their presence as if they had been idle shades) they would sit in a curious quiet clump as though for mutual protection and watch his mansion rise, carried plank by plank and brick by brick out of the swamp where the clay and timber waited — the bearded white man and the twenty black ones and all stark naked beneath the croaching and pervading mud. Being men, these spectators did not realize that the garments which Sutpen had worn when he first rode into Jefferson were the only ones in which they had ever seen him, and few of the women in the county had seen him at all. Otherwise, some of them would have anticipated Miss Coldfield in this too: in divining that he was saving his clothes, since decorum even if not elegance of appearance would be the only weapon (or rather, ladder) with which he could conduct the last assault upon what Miss Coldfield and perhaps others believed to be respectability that respectability which, according to General Compson, consisted in Sutpen's secret mind of a great deal more than the mere acquisition of a chatelaine for his house. 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 constantly with a sort of invincible fatality until the day after the house was completed save for the windowglass and the ironware which they could not make by hand and the architect departed — working in the sun and heat of summer and the mud and ice of winter, with quiet and unflagging fury.
It took him two years, he and his crew of imported slaves which his adopted fellow citizens still looked on as being a good deal more deadly than any beast he could have started and slain in that country.
They worked from sunup to sundown while parties of horsemen rode up and sat their horses quietly and watched, and the architect in his formal coat and his Paris hat and his expression of grim and embittered amazement lurked about the environs of the scene with his air something between a casual and bitterly disinterested spectator and a condemned and conscientious ghost — amazement, General Compson said, not at the others and what they were doing so much as at himself, at the inexplicable and incredible fact of his own presence. But he was a good architect; Quentin knew the house, twelve miles from Jefferson, in its grove of cedar and oak, seventy-five years after it was finished.
And not only an architect as General Compson said, but an artist since only an artist could have borne those two years in order to build a house which he doubtless not only expected but firmly intended never to see again. Not, General Compson said, the hardship to sense and the outrage to sensibility of the two years' sojourn, but Sutpen: that only an artist could have borne Sutpen's ruthlessness and hurry and still manage to curb the dream of grim and castlelike magnificence at which Sutpen obviously aimed, since the place as Sutpen planned it would have been almost as large as Jefferson itself at the time; that the little grim harried foreigner had singlehanded given battle to and vanquished Sutpen's fierce and overweening vanity or desire for magnificence or for vindication or whatever it was (even General Compson did not know yet) and so created of Sutpen's very defeat the victory which, in conquering, Sutpen himself would have failed to gain. So it was finished then, down to the last plank and brick and wooden pin which they could make themselves. 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; wild turkey ranged within a mile of the house and deer came light and colored like smoke and left delicate prints in the formal beds where there would be no flowers for four years yet. Now there began a period, a phase, during which the town and the county watched him with more puzzlement yet.
Perhaps it was because the next step toward that secret end which General Compson claimed to have known but which the town and the county comprehended but dimly or not at all, now required patience or passive time instead of that driving fury to which he had accustomed them; now it was the women who first suspected what he wanted, what the next step would be. None of the men, certainly not those who knew him well enough to call him by name, suspected that he wanted a wife. Doubtless there were some of them, husbands and bachelors both, who not only would have refused to entertain the idea but would even have protested against it, because for the next three years he led what must have been to them a perfect existence. He lived out there, eight miles from any neighbor, in masculine solitude in what might be called the halfacre gunroom of a baronial splendor. He lived in the Spartan shell of the largest edifice in the county, not excepting the courthouse itself, whose threshold no woman had so much as seen, without any feminized softness of window-pane or door or mattress; where there was not only no woman to object if he should elect to have his dogs in to sleep on the pallet bed with him, he did not even need dogs to kill the game which left footprints within sight of the kitchen door but hunted it instead with human beings who belonged to him body and soul and of whom it was believed (or said) that they could creep up to a bedded buck and cut its throat before it could move.
It was at this time that he began to invite the parties of men of which Miss Coldfield told Quentin, out to Sutpen's Hundred to camp in blankets in the naked rooms of his embryonic formal opulence; they hunted, and at night played cards and drank, and on occasion he doubtless pitted his Negroes against one another and perhaps even at this time participated now and then himself-that spectacle which, according to Miss Coldfield, his son was unable to bear the sight of while his daughter looked on unmoved. Sutpen drank himself now, though there were probably others besides Quentin's grandfather who remarked that he drank very sparingly save when he himself had managed to supply some of the liquor. His guests would bring whiskey out with them but he drank of this with a sort of sparing calculation as though keeping mentally, General Compson said, a sort of balance of spiritual solvency between the amount of whiskey he accepted and the amount of running meat which he supplied to the guns.
He lived like that for three years. He now had a plantation; inside of two years he had dragged house and gardens out of virgin swamp, and plowed and planted his land with seed cotton which General Compson loaned him. Then he seemed to quit. He seemed to just sit down in the middle of what he had almost finished, and to remain so for three years during which he did not even appear to intend or want anything more. Perhaps it is not to be wondered at that the men in the county came to believe that the life he now led had been his aim all the time; it was General Compson, who seemed to have known him well enough to offer to lend him seed cotton for his start, who knew any better, to whom Sutpen ever told anything about his past. It was General Compson who knew first about the Spanish coin being his last one, as it was Compson (so the town learned later) who offered to lend Sutpen the money to finish and furnish his house, and was refused. So doubtless General Compson was the first man in the county to tell himself that Sutpen did not need to borrow money with which to complete the house, supply what it yet lacked, because he intended to marry. Not the first person to know: rather the first man, since, according to what Miss Coldfield told Quentin seventy-five years later, the women in the county had been telling one another and their husbands as well that Sutpen did not intend to quit there, that he had already gone to too much trouble, gone through too much privation and hardship to settle down and live exactly as he had lived While the house was being built save that now he had a roof to sleep under in place of an unfloored wagon hood. Probably the women had already cast about among the families of the men who might now be called his friends, for that prospective bride whose dowry might complete the shape and substance of that respectability Miss Coldfield anyway believed to be his aim.
So when, at the expiration of this second phase, three years after the house was finished and the architect departed, and again on Sunday morning and again without warning, the town saw him cross the square, on foot now but in the same garments in which he had ridden into town five years ago and which no one had seen since (he or one of the Negroes had ironed the coat with heated bricks, General Compson told Quentin's father) and enter the Methodist church, only some of the men were surprised. The women merely said that he had exhausted the possibilities of the families of the men with whom he had hunted and gambled and that he had now come to town to find a wife exactly as he would have gone to the Memphis market to buy livestock or slaves. But when they comprehended whom it was that he had apparently come to town and into church to invest with his choice, the assurance of the women became one with the men's surprise, and then even more than that: amazement.
Because the town now believed that it knew him. For two years it had watched him as with that grim and unflagging fury he had erected that shell of a house and laid out his fields, then for three years he had remained completely static, as if he were run by electricity and someone had come along and removed, dismantled the wiring or the dynamo. So that when he entered the Methodist church that Sunday morning in his ironed coat, there were men as well as women who believed that they had only to look around the congregation in order to anticipate the direction his feet would take him, until they became aware that he had apparently marked down Miss Coldfield's father with the same cold and ruthless deliberation with which he had probably marked down the French architect. They watched in shocked amazement while he laid deliberate siege to the one man in the town with whom he could have had nothing in common, least of all, money — a man who obviously could do nothing under the sun for him save give him credit at a little cross-roads store or cast a vote in his favor if he should ever seek ordination as a Methodist minister — a Methodist steward, a merchant not only of modest position and circumstances but who already had a wife and family of his own, let alone a dependent mother and sister, to support out of the proceeds of a business which he had brought to Jefferson ten years ago in a single wagon — a man with a name for absolute and undeviating and even Puritan uprightness in a country and time of lawless opportunity, who neither drank nor gambled nor even hunted. In their surprise they forgot that Mr Coldfield had a marriageable daughter. They did not consider the daughter at all. They did not think of love in connection with Sutpen. They thought of ruthlessness rather than justice and of fear rather than respect, but not of pity or love: besides being too lost in amazed speculation as to just how Sutpen intended or could contrive to use Mr Coldfield to further whatever secret ends he still had. They were never to know: even Miss Rosa Coldfield did not. Because from that day there were no more hunting parties out at Sutpen's Hundred, and when they saw him now it would be in town. But not loafing, idling. The men who had slept and matched glasses with him under his roof (some of them had even come to call him Sutpen without the formal Mister) watched him pass along the street before the Holston House with a single formal gesture to his hat and go on and enter Mr Coldfield's store, and that was all.
'Then one day he quitted Jefferson for the second time,' Mr Compson told Quentin. 'The town should have been accustomed to that by now. Nevertheless, his position had subtly changed, as you will see by the town's reaction to this second return. Because when he came back this time, he was in a sense a public enemy. Perhaps this was because of what he brought back with him this time: the material he brought back this time, as compared to the simple wagonload of wild niggers which he had brought back before. But I don't think so. That is, I think it was a little more involved than the sheer value of his chandeliers and mahogany and rugs. I think that the affront was born of the town's realization that he was getting it involved with himself; that whatever the felony which produced the mahogany and crystal, he was forcing the town to compound it. Heretofore, until that Sunday when he came ' to church, if he had misused or injured anybody, it was only old Ikkemotubbe, from whom he got his land — a matter between his conscience and Uncle Sam and God. But now his position had changed, because when, about three months after he departed, four wagons left Jefferson to go to the River and meet him, it was known that Mr Coldfield was the man who hired and dispatched them. They were big wagons, drawn by oxen, and when they returned the town looked at them and knew, no matter what they might have contained, that Mr Coldfield could not have mortgaged everything that he owned for enough to fill them; doubtless this time there were more men than women even who pictured him during this absence with a handkerchief over his face and the two pistol barrels glinting beneath the candelabra of a steamboat's saloon, even if no worse: if not something performed in the lurking dark of a muddy landing and with a knife from behind. They saw him pass, on the roan horse beside his four wagons; it seems that even the ones who had eaten his food and shot his game and even called him "Sutpen" without the "Mister", didn't accost him now. They just waited while reports and rumors came back to town of how he and his now somewhat tamed Negroes had installed the windows and doors and the spits and pots in the kitchen and the crystal chandeliers in the parlors and the furniture and the curtains and the rugs; it was that same Akers who had blundered onto the mudcouched Negro five years ago who came, a little wild-eyed and considerably slack-mouthed, into the Holston House bar one evening and said, "Boys, this time he stole the whole durn steamboat!"
'So at last civic virtue came to a boil. One day and with the sheriff of the county among them, a party of eight or ten took the road out to Sutpen's Hundred. They did not go all the way because about six miles from town they met Sutpen himself. He was riding the roan horse, in the frock coat and the beaver hat which they knew and with his legs wrapped in a piece of tarpaulin; he had a portmanteau on his pommel and he was carrying a small woven basket on his arm. He stopped the roan (it was April then, and the road was still a quagmire) and sat there in his splashed tarpaulin and looked from one face to the next; your grandfather said that his eyes looked like pieces of a broken plate and that his beard was strong as a curry-comb. That was how he put it: strong as a curry-comb. "Good morning, gentlemen," he said. "Were you looking for me?" 'Doubtless something more than this transpired at the time, though none of the vigilance committee ever told it that I know of. All I ever heard is how the town, the men on the gallery of the Holston House saw Sutpen and the committee ride onto the square together, Sutpen a little in front and the others bunched behind him — Sutpen with his legs and feet wrapped neatly in his tarpaulin and his shoulders squared inside the worn broadcloth coat and that worn brushed beaver cocked a little, talking to them over his shoulder and those eyes hard and pale and reckless and probably quizzical and maybe contemptuous even then.
He pulled up at the door and the Negro hostler ducked out and took the roan's head and Sutpen got down, with his portmanteau and the basket and mounted the steps, and I heard how he turned there kind looked at them again where they huddled on their horses, not knowing what to do exactly. And it might have been a good thing that he had that beard and they could not see his mouth. Then he turned, and he looked at the other men sitting with their feet on the railing and watching him too, men who used to come out to his place and sleep on the floor and hunt with him, and he saluted them with that florid, swaggering gesture to the hat (yes, he was underbred. It showed like this always, your grandfather said, in all his formal contacts with people. He was like John L. Sullivan having taught himself painfully and tediously to do the schottische, having drilled himself and drilled himself in secret until he now believed it no longer necessary to count the music's beat, say. He may have believed that your grandfather or Judge Benbow might have done it a little more effortlessly than he, but he would not have believed that anyone could have beat him in knowing when to do it and how. And besides, it was in his face; that was where his power lay, your grandfather said: that anyone could look at him and say, Given the occasion and the need, this man can and will do anything). Then he went on into the house and commanded a chamber. 'So they sat on their horses and waited for him. I suppose they knew that he would have to come out some time: I suppose they sat there and thought about those two pistols. Because there was still no warrant for him, you see: it was just public opinion in an acute state of indigestion; and now other horsemen rode into the square and became aware of the situation, so that there was quite a posse waiting when he walked out onto the gallery. He wore a new hat now, and a new broadcloth coat, so they knew what the portmanteau had contained. They even knew now what the basket had contained because he did not have that with him now either. Doubtless at the time it merely puzzled them more than ever, because, you see, they had been too busy speculating on just how he was planning to use Mr Coldfield and, since his return, too completely outraged by the belief that they now saw the results even if the means were still an enigma, to remember about Miss Ellen at all.
'So he stopped again doubtless and looked from face to face again, doubtless memorizing the new faces, without any haste, with still the beard to hide whatever his mouth might have shown. But he seems to have said nothing at all this time. He just descended the steps and walked on across the square, the committee (your grandfather said it had grown to almost fifty by now) moving too, following him across the square. They say he did not even look back. He just walked on, erect, with the new hat cocked and carrying in his hand now that which must have seemed to them the final gratuitous insult, with the committee riding along in the street beside him and not quite parallel, and others who did not happen to have horses at the moment joining in and following the committee in the road, and ladies and children and women slaves coming to the doors and windows of the homes as they passed to watch as they went on in grim tableau, and Sutpen, still without once looking back, entered Mr Coldfield's gate and strode on up the brick walk to the door, carrying his newspaper cornucopia of flowers.
'They waited for him again. The crowd was growing fast now other men and a few boys and even some Negroes from the adjacent houses, clotting behind the eight original members of the committee who sat watching Mr Coldfield's door until he emerged. It was a good while and he no longer carried the flowers, and when he returned to the gate, he was engaged to be married. But they did not know this, and as soon as he reached the gate, they arrested him. They took him back to town, with the ladies and children and house niggers watching from behind curtains and behind the shrubbery in the yards and the corners of the houses, the kitchens where doubtless food was already beginning to scorch, and so back to the square where the rest of the able-bodied men left their offices and stores to follow, so that when he reached the courthouse, Sutpen had a larger following than if he actually had been the runaway slave. They arraigned him before a justice, but by that time your grandfather and Mr Coldfield had got there. They signed his bond and late that afternoon he returned home with Mr Coldfield, walking along the same street as of the forenoon, with doubtless the same faces watching him from behind the window curtains, to the betrothal supper with no wine at table and no whiskey before or after.
During none of his three passages that day through that street did his bearing alter — the same unhurried stride to which that new frock coat swung, the same angle to the new hat above the eyes and the beard.
Your grandfather said that some of the faience appearance which the flesh of his face had had when he came to town five years ago was gone now and that his face had an honest sunburn. And he was not fleshier either; your grandfather said that was not it: it was just that the flesh on his bones had become quieter, as though passive after some actual breasting of atmosphere like in running, so that he actually filled his clothes now, with that quality still swaggering but without braggadocio or belligerence, though according to your grandfather the quality had never been belligerence, only watchfulness.
And now that was gone, as though after the three years he could trust his eyes alone to do the watching, without the flesh on his bones standing sentry also. Two months later, he and Miss Ellen were married.
'It was in June of 1838, almost five years to the day from that Sunday morning when he rode into town on the roan horse. It (the wedding) was in the same Methodist church where he saw Ellen for the first time, according to Miss Rosa. The aunt had even forced or nagged (not cajoled: that would not have done it) Mr Coldfield into allowing Ellen to wear powder on her face for the occasion. The powder was to hide the marks of tears, But before the wedding was over the powder was streaked, caked and channelled. Ellen seems to have entered the church that night out of weeping as though out of rain, gone through the ceremony and then walked back out of the church and into the weeping again, the tears again, the same tears even, the same rain. She got into the carriage and departed in it (the rain) for Sutpen's Hundred. 'It was the wedding which caused the tears: not marrying Sutpen.
Whatever tears there were for that, granted there were tears, came later. It was not intended to be a big wedding. That is, Mr Coldfield seems not to have intended it to be. You will notice that 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 coat-tails and no collar on and a wife or spinster sister in curl papers for witness. So is it too much to believe that these women come to long for divorce from a sense not of incompleteness but of actual frustration and betrayal? that regardless of the breathing evidence of children and all else, they still have in their minds the image of themselves walking to music and turning heads, in all the symbolical trappings and circumstances of ceremonial surrender of that which they no longer possess? and why not, since to them the actual and authentic surrender can only be (and has been) a ceremony like the breaking of a banknote to buy a ticket for the train. Of the two men, it was Sutpen who desired the big wedding, the full church and all the ritual.-I have this from something your grandfather let drop one day and which he doubtless had from Sutpen himself in the same accidental fashion, since Sutpen never even told Ellen that he wanted it, and the fact that at the last minute he refused to support her in her desire and insistence upon it accounts partly for the tears. Mr Coldfield apparently intended to use the church into which he had invested a certain amount of sacrifice and doubtless self-denial and certainly actual labor and money for the sake of what might be called a demand balance of spiritual solvency, exactly as he would have used a cotton gin in which he considered himself to have incurred either interest or responsibility, for the ginning of any cotton which he or any member of his family, by blood or by marriage, had raised — that, and no more. Perhaps his wanting a small wedding was due to the same tedious and unremitting husbandry which had enabled him to support mother and sister and marry and raise a family on the proceeds of that store which ten years ago had fitted into a single wagon; or perhaps it was some innate sense of delicacy and fitness (which his sister and daughter did not seem to possess, by the way) regarding the prospective son-in-law whom just two months ago he had been instrumental in getting out of jail. But it was not due to any lack of courage regarding the son-in-law's still anomalous position in the town. Regardless of what their relations before that had been and of what their future relations might be, if Mr Coldfield had believed Sutpen guilty at the time of any crime, he would not have raised a finger to take Sutpen out. He might not have gone out of his way to keep Sutpen in jail, but doubtless 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 ' something he would not have done to save his own good name even though the arrest had been a direct result of the business between himself and Sutpen that affair which, when it reached a point where his conscience refused to sanction it, he had withdrawn from and let Sutpen take all the profit, refusing even to allow Sutpen to reimburse him for the loss which, in withdrawing, he had suffered, though he did permit his daughter to marry this man of whose actions his conscience did not approve. This was the second time he did something like that. 'When they were married, there were just ten people in the church, including the wedding party, of the hundred who had been invited; though when they emerged from the church (it was at night: Sutpen had brought in a half-dozen of his wild Negroes to wait at the door with burning pine knots) the rest of the hundred were there in the persons of boys and youths and men from the drovers' tavern on the edge of town — stock traders and hostlers and such who had not been invited. That was the other half of the reason for Ellen's tears. It was the aunt who persuaded or cajoled Mr Coldfield into the big wedding. But Sutpen wanted it. He wanted, not the anonymous wife and the anonymous children, but the two names, the stainless wife and the unimpeachable father-in-law, on the license, the patent. Yes, patent, with a gold seal and red ribbons too if that had been practicable. But not for himself. She (Miss Rosa) would have called the gold seal and the ribbons vanity. But then, so had vanity conceived that house and built it in a strange place and with little else but his bare hands and further handicapped by the chance and probability of meddling interference arising out of the disapprobation of all communities of men toward any situation which they do not understand. And pride: Miss Rosa had admitted that he was brave; perhaps she even allowed him pride: the same pride which wanted such a house, which would accept nothing less, and drove through to get it at whatever cost. And then he lived in it, alone, on a pallet on the floor for three years until he could furnish it as it should be furnished — not the least of which furniture was that wedding license, She was quite right: It was not just shelter, just anonymous wife and children that he wanted, just as he did not want just wedding. But when the female crisis came, when Ellen and the aunt tried to enlist him on their side to persuade Mr Coldfield to the big wedding, he refused to support them. He doubtless remembered even better than Mr Coldfield that two months ago he had been in jail; that public opinion which at some moment during the five preceding years had 'swallowed him even though he never had quite ever lain quiet on its stomach, and performed one of mankind's natural and violent and inexplicable voltefaces and regurgitated him. And it did not help him any that at least two of the citizens who should have made two of the teeth in the outraged jaw served instead as props to hold the jaw open and impotent while he walked out of it unharmed.
'Ellen and the aunt remembered this too. The aunt did. Being a woman, she was doubtless one of that league of Jefferson women who on the second day after the town saw him five years ago, had agreed never to forgive him for not having any past, and who had remained consistent. Since the marriage was now a closed incident, she probably looked upon it as the one chance not only to secure her niece's future as his wife, but to justify the action of her brother in getting him out of jail and her own position as having apparently sanctioned and permitted the wedding which in reality she could not have prevented.
It may have been for the sake of that big house and the position and state which the women realized long before the men did that he not only aimed at but was going to attain. Or maybe women are even less complex than that and to them any wedding is better than no wedding and a big wedding with a villain preferable to a small one with a saint. 'So the aunt even used Ellen's tears; and Sutpen, who probably knew about what was going to happen, becoming as the time drew near graver and graver.
Not concerned: just watchful, like he must have been from the day when he turned his back upon all that he knew — the faces and the customs — and (he was just fourteen then, he told your grandfather) set out into a world which even in theory he knew nothing about, and 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. Even then he had that same alertness which he had to wear later day and night without changing or laying aside, like the clothing which he had to sleep in as well as live in, and in a country and among a people whose very language he had to learn that unsleeping care which must have known that it could permit itself but one mistake; that alertness for measuring and weighing event against eventuality, circumstance against human nature, his own fallible judgement and mortal clay against not only human but natural forces, choosing and discarding, compromising with his dream and his ambition like you must with the horse which you take across country, over timber, which you control only through your ability to keep the animal from realizing that actually you cannot, that actually it is the stronger.
'His was the curious position now. He was the solitary one. Not Ellen. She not only had the aunt to support her, but the fact that women never plead nor claim loneliness until impenetrable and insurmountable circumstance forces them to give up all hope of attaining the particular bauble which at the moment they happen to want. And not Mr Coldfield. He had not only public opinion but his own disinclination for the big wedding to support it without incongruity or paradox. Then (the tears won; Ellen and the aunt wrote out a hundred invitations — Sutpen brought in one of the wild Negroes who carried them from door to door by hand — and even sent out a dozen more personal ones for the dress rehearsal) when they reached the church for the rehearsal on the night before the wedding and found the church itself empty and a handful of men from the town's purlieus (including two of old Ikkemotubbe's Chickasaws) standing in the shadows outside the door, the tears came down again. Ellen went through the rehearsal, but afterward the aunt took her home in a state very near hysteria, though by the next day it had become just quiet intermittent weeping again.
There was some talk even of putting the wedding off. I don't know who it came from, perhaps from Sutpen. But I know who vetoed it. It was as though the aunt were now bent, no longer on merely thrusting Sutpen down the town's throat, but thrusting the wedding itself. She spent all the next day going from house to house, the invitation list in her hand, in a house dress and a shawl and one of the Coldfield Negroes (they were both women) following her, perhaps for protection, perhaps just sucked along like a leaf in the wake of that grim virago fury of female affront; yes, she came to our house too, though your grandfather had never intended anything else but to attend the wedding: the aunt must have had no doubts about father since father had helped take Sutpen out of jail, though she was probably past all ratiocination by then. 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, and then rushed out again. Mother could not even tell what' wedding she meant at first, and when father came home he found mother in hysterics too, and even twenty years later mother could not tell what actually happened.
There was nothing comic in it to her. Father used to tease her about it, but even twenty years after that day, when he would tease her I have seen her begin to raise her hand (perhaps with the thimble on one finger) as though to protect herself and the same look come into her face that must have been there when Ellen's aunt departed.
'The aunt covered the town that morning. It did not take her long and it was complete; by nightfall the circumstances of the situation had spread not only beyond the town but beneath it, penetrating the livery stable and the drovers' tavern which was to supply the guests who did attend it. Ellen of course was not aware of this, anymore than the aunt herself was, or would have believed what was going to happen even if she had been clairvoyant and could actually have seen the rehearsal of events before time produced them. Not that the aunt would have considered herself insulated against being thus affronted, she simply could not have believed that her intentions and actions of the day could have any result other than the one for which she had surrendered for the time not only all Coldfield dignity but all female modesty as well. Sutpen I suppose could have told her, but doubtless he knew that the aunt would not have believed him. Probably he did not even try: he just did the only thing he could do, which was to send out to Sutpen's Hundred and bring in six or seven more of his Negroes, men on whom he could depend, the only men on whom he could depend, and arm them with the lighted pine knots which they were holding at the door when the carriage came up and the wedding party got out. — And this is where the tears stopped, because now the street before the church was lined with carriages and buggies, though only Sutpen and possibly Mr Coldfield remarked that instead of being drawn up before the door and empty, they were halted across the street and still occupied, and that now the banquette before the church door was a sort of arena lighted by the smoking torches which the Negroes held above their heads, the light of which wavered and gleamed upon the two lines of faces between which the party would have to pass to enter the church. There were no catcalls yet, no jeering; evidently neither Ellen nor the aunt suspected that anything was wrong.
'For a time Ellen walked out of the weeping, the tears, and so into the church. It was empty yet save for your grandfather and grandmother and perhaps a half dozen more who might have come out of loyalty to the Coldfields or perhaps to be close and so miss nothing of that which the town, as represented by the waiting carriages, seemed to have anticipated as well as Sutpen did. It was still empty even after the ceremony started and concluded. Ellen had something of pride too, or at least that vanity which at times can assume the office of pride and fortitude; besides, nothing had happened yet. The crowd outside was quiet yet, perhaps out of respect for the church, out of that aptitude and eagerness of the Anglo-Saxon for complete mystical acceptance of immolated sticks and stones. She seems to have walked out of the church and so into it without any warning whatever. Perhaps she was still moving beneath that pride which would not allow the people inside the church to see her weep. She just walked into it, probably hurrying toward the seclusion of the carriage where she could weep; perhaps her first intimation was the voice shouting, 'Look out! Dont hit her now!" and then the object — dirt, frith, whatever it was passing her, or perhaps the changing light itself as 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, holding his wild Negroes with that one word (there were doubtless pistols in the crowd; certainly knives: the Negro would not have lived ten seconds if he had sprung) while about the wedding party the circle of faces with open mouths and torch-reflecting eyes seemed to advance and waver and shift and vanish in the smoky glare of the burning pine. He retreated to the carriage, shielding the two women with his body, ordering the Negroes to follow with another word. But they threw nothing else. Apparently it was that first spontaneous outburst, though they had come armed and prepared with the ones they did throw. In fact, that seemed to have been the entire business which had come to a head when the vigilance committee followed him to Mr Coldfield's gate that day two months before. Because the men who had composed the mob, the traders and drovers and teamsters, returned, vanished back into the region from which they had emerged for this one occasion like rats; scattered, parted about the country faces which even Ellen was not to remember, seen for the night or the meal or just the drink at other taverns twenty and fifty and a hundred miles further on along nameless roads and then gone from there too; and those who had come in the Carriages and buggies to see a Roman holiday, driving out to Sutpen's Hundred to call and (the men) to hunt his game and eat his food again and on occasions gathering at night in his stable while he matched two of his wild Negroes against one another as men match game cocks or perhaps even entered the ring himself. It blew away, though not out of memory.
He did not forget that night, even though Ellen, I think, did, since she washed it out of her remembering with tears. Yes, she was weeping again now; it did, indeed, rain on that marriage."
If he threw Miss Rosa over, I wouldn't think she would want to tell anybody about it Quentin said. Ah Mr Compson said again. After Mr Coldfield died in '64, Miss Rosa moved out to Sutpen's Hundred to live with Judith. She was twenty then, four years younger than her niece whom, in obedience to her sister's dying request, she set out to save from the family's doom which Sutpen seemed bent on accomplishing, apparently by the process of marrying him. She (Miss Rosa) was born in 1845, with her sister already seven years married and the mother of two children and Miss Rosa born into her parents' middle age (her mother must have been at least forty and she died in that childbed and Miss Rosa never forgave her father for it) and at a time when — granted that Miss Rosa merely mirrored her parents' attitude toward the son-in-law — the family wanted only peace and quiet and probably did not expect and maybe did not even want another child. But she was born, at the price of her mother's life and was never to be permitted to forget it. She was raised by the same spinster aunt who tried to force not only the older sister's bridegroom but the wedding too down the throat of a town which did not want it, growing up in that closed masonry of females to see in the fact of her own breathing not only the lone justification for the sacrifice of her mother's life, not only a living and walking reproach to her father, but a breathing indictment, ubiquitous and even transferable, of the entire male principle (that principle which had left the aunt a virgin at thirty-five). So for the first sixteen years of her life she lived in that grim tight little house with the father whom she hated without knowing it — that queer silent man whose only companion and friend seems to have been his conscience and the only thing he cared about his reputation for probity among his fellow men that man who was later to nail himself in his attic and starve to death rather than look upon his native land in the throes of repelling an invading army — and the aunt who even ten years later was still taking revenge for the fiasco of Ellen's wedding by striking at the town, the human race, through any and all of its creatures brother nieces nephew-in-law herself and all — with the blind irrational fury of a shedding snake. The aunt had taught Miss Rosa to look upon her sister as a woman who had vanished, not only out of the family and the house but out of life too, into an edifice like Bluebeard's and there transmogrified into a mask looking back with passive and hopeless grief upon the irrevocable world, held there not in durance but in a kind of jeering suspension by a man who had entered hers and her family's life before she was born with the abruptness of a tornado, done irrevocable and incalculable damage, and gone on. In a grim mausoleum air of Puritan righteousness and outraged female vindictiveness Miss Rosa's childhood was passed, that aged and ancient and timeless absence of youth which consisted of a Cassandralike listening beyond closed doors, of lurking in dim halls filled with that presbyterian effluvium of lugubrious and vindictive anticipation, while she waited for the infancy and childhood with which nature had confounded and betrayed her to overtake the disapprobation regarding any and every thing which could penetrate the walls of that house through the agency of any man, particularly her father, which the aunt seems to have invested her with at birth along with the swaddling clothes.
Perhaps she saw in her father's death, in the resulting necessity upon her as an orphan and a pauper, to turn to her next of kin for food and shelter and protection — and this kin the niece whom she had been asked to save — perhaps in this she saw fate itself supplying her with the opportunity to observe her sister's dying request.
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 marriagebed. Because until he came back from Virginia in '66 and found her living there with Judith and Clytie (Yes, Clytie was his daughter too: Clytemnestra. He named her himself. He named them all himself: all his own get and all the get of his wild niggers after the country began to assimilate them. 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 perhaps even days. He brought the two women deliberately; he probably chose them with the same care and shrewdness with which he chose the other livestock — the horses and mules and cattle which he bought later on. 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 them. Yes. He named Clytie as he named them all, the one before Clytie and Henry and Judith even, with that same robust and sardonic temerity, naming with his own mouth his own ironic fecundity of dragon's teeth. Only I have always liked to believe that he intended to name Clytie, Cassandra, prompted by some pure dramatic economy not only to beget but to designate the presiding augur of his own disaster, and that he just got the name wrong through a mistake natural in a man who must have almost taught himself to read… When he returned home in '66, Miss Rosa had not seen him a hundred times in her whole life. And what she saw then was just that ogreface of her childhood seen once and then repeated at intervals and on occasions which she could neither count nor recall, like the mask in Greek tragedy, interchangeable not only from scene to scene, but from actor to actor and behind which the events and occasions took place without chronology or sequence, leaving her actually incapable of saying how many separate times she had seen him for the reason that, waking or sleeping, the aunt had taught her to see nothing else. On those guarded and lugubrious and even formal occasions when she and the aunt went out to Sutpen's Hundred to 'spend the day and the aunt would order her to go and play with her nephew and niece exactly as she might have ordered her to play a piece for company on the piano, she would not see him even at the dinner table because the aunt would have arranged the visit to coincide with his absence; and probably Miss Rosa would have tried to avoid meeting him even if he had been there. And on the four or five occasions during the year when Ellen would bring the children in to spend the day at her father's, the aunt (that strong vindictive consistent woman who seems to have been twice the man that Mr Coldfield was and who in very truth was not only Miss Rosa's mother but her father too) cast over these visits also that same atmosphere of grim embattled conspiracy and alliance against the two adversaries, one of whom — Mr Coldfield — whether he could have held his own or not, had long since drawn in his picquets and dismantled his artillery and retired into the impregnable citadel of his passive rectitude: and the other — Sutpen — who' probably could have engaged and even routed them but who did not even know that he was an embattled foe. Because he would not even come to the house to the noon meal.
His reason may have been because of some delicacy for his father-in-law. The true reason for and beginning of the relationship between Mr Coldfield and himself neither aunt, Ellen, or Miss Rosa ever knew, and Sutpen was to divulge to but one man — and that under the pledge of confidence as long as Mr Coldfield lived — out of regard for Mr Coldfield's carefully nurtured name for immaculate morality — and which, your grandfather said, Mr Coldfield himself never divulged for the same reason. Or perhaps the reason was that now since he had got out of his father-in-law all that Mr Coldfield possessed that Sutpen could have used or wanted, he had neither the courage to face his father-in-law nor the grace and decency to complete the ceremonial family group even four times a year. Or perhaps it was the reason which Sutpen gave himself and which the aunt refused to believe because of that very fact: that he did not get to town every day and when he did he preferred to spend it (he used the bar now) with the men who gathered each noon at the Holston House.
That was the face which, when Miss Rosa saw it at all, was across his own dining table — the face of a foe who did not even know that it was embattled.
She was ten now and following the aunt's dereliction (Miss Rosa now kept her father's house as the aunt had done, until the night the aunt climbed out the window and vanished) there was not only no one to make her try to play with her nephew and niece on those days formal and funereal, she did not even have to go out there and breathe the same air which he breathed and where, even though absent, he still remained, lurked, in what seemed to her sardonic and watchful triumph. She went out to Sutpen's Hundred just once a year now when, in their Sunday clothes she and her father drove the twelve miles in a stout battered buggy behind the stout scrubby team, to spend the day. It was now Mr Coldfield who insisted on the visits, who had never gone out with them while the aunt was there, perhaps from a sense of duty, which was the reason he gave and which in this case even the aunt would have believed, perhaps because it was not the true one, since doubtless even Miss Rosa would not have believed the true one: which was that Mr Coldfield wanted to see his grandchildren regarding whom he was in a steadily increasing unease of that day when their father would tell the son at least of that old business between them which Mr Coldfield was not yet sure that his son-in-law had never told. Though the aunt was gone, she still managed to bequeath and invoke upon each of these expeditions something of the old flavor of grim sortie, more than ever now against a foe who did not know that he was at war. Because now that the aunt was gone, Ellen had reneged from that triumvirate of which Miss Rosa tried without realizing it to make two. Now she was completely alone, facing him across the dinner table, without support even from Ellen (at this time Ellen went through a complete metamorphosis, emerging into her next lustrum with the finality of actual re-birth); — facing across the table the foe who was not even aware that he sat there not as host and brother-in-law but as the second party to an armistice. He probably did not even look at her twice as weighed against his own family and children — the small slight child whose feet, even when she would be grown, would never quite reach the floor even from her own chairs — as against Ellen who, though small-boned also, was what is known as fullbodied (and who would have been, if her life had not declined into a time when even men found little enough to eat and the end of her days had been without trouble, fullbodied indeed. Not fat: just rounded and complete, the hair white, the eyes still even young, even a faint bloom yet on what would be dewlaps and not cheeks any longer, the small plump ringed unscarified hands folded in tranquil anticipation of the food, on the damask before the Haviland beneath the candelabra) and against Judith already taller than Ellen, and Henry though not as tall for sixteen as Judith was for fourteen, yet giving promise of someday standing eye to eye with his father; this face which rarely spoke during the meal, with eyes like (as you might put it) pieces of coal pressed into soft dough and prim hair of that peculiar mouse-like shade of hair on which the sun does not often shine, against Judith's and Henry's out-of-doors faces: Judith with her mother's hair and her father's eyes and Henry with his hair halfway between his father's red and Ellen's black and eyes of a bright dark hazel — this small body of Miss Rosa's with its air of curious and paradoxical awkwardness like a costume borrowed at the last moment and of necessity for a masquerade which she did not want to attend: that aura of a creature cloistered now by deliberate choice and still in the throes of enforced apprenticeship to, rather than voluntary or even acquiescent participation in, breathing — this bound maidservant to flesh and blood waiting even now to escape it by writing a schoolgirl's poetry about the also-dead. The face, the smallest face in the company, watching him across the table with still and curious and profound intensity as though she actually had some intimation gained from that rapport with the fluid cradle of events (time) which she had acquired or 'cultivated by listening beyond closed doors not to what she heard there, but by becoming supine and receptive, incapable of either discrimination or opinion or incredulity, listening to the prefever's temperature of disaster, which makes soothsayers and sometimes makes them right, and of the future catastrophe in which the ogre-face of her childhood would apparently vanish so completely that she would agree to marry the late owner of it.
That may have been the last time she saw him. Because they quit going out there. Mr Coldfield quit. There had never been any day set for the visit. One morning he would merely appear at breakfast in the decent and heavy black coat in which he had been married and had worn fifty-two times each year since until Ellen married, and then fiftythree times a year after the aunt deserted them, until he put it on for good the day he climbed to the attic and nailed the door behind him and threw the hammer out the window and so died in it. Then after breakfast Miss Rosa would retire and reappear in the formidable black or brown silk which the aunt had chosen for her years ago and which she continued to wear on Sundays and occasions even after it was worn out, until the day when her father decided that the aunt would not return and permitted Miss Rosa to use the clothing which the aunt had left in the house the night of her elopement. Then they would get into the buggy and depart, Mr Coldfield first docking the two Negroes for the noon meal which they would not have to prepare and (so the town believed) charging them for the crude one of leftovers which they would have to eat. Then one year they did not go. Doubtless Mr Coldfield failed to come to breakfast in the black coat, and more days passed and still he did not, and that was all. Perhaps he felt, now that the grandchildren were grown, that the draft on his conscience had been discharged what with Henry away at the State University at Oxford and Judith gone even further than that — into that transition stage between childhood and womanhood where she was even more inaccessible to the grandfather of whom she had seen but little during her life and probably cared less anyway — that state where, though still visible, young girls appear as though seen through glass and where even the voice cannot reach them; where they exist (this the hoyden who could and did outrun and outclimb, and ride and fight both with and beside her brother) in a pearly lambence without shadows and themselves partaking of it; in nebulous suspension held, strange and unpredictable, even their very shapes fluid and delicate and without substance; 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.
Now the period began which ended in the catastrophe which caused a reversal so complete in Miss Rosa as to permit her to agree to marry the man whom she had grown up to look upon as an ogre. It was not a volte-face of character: that did not change. Even her behavior did not change to any extent. Even if Charles Bon had not died, she would in all probability have gone out to Sutpen's Hundred to live after her father's death sooner or later, and once she had done so she would have probably passed the remainder of her life there. But if Bon had lived and he and Judith had married and Henry had remained in the known world, she would have moved out there only when she was ready to, and she would have lived in her dead sister's family only as the aunt which she actually was. It was not her character that changed: despite the six years or so since she had actually seen him and certainly the four years which she had spent feeding her father secretly at night while he hid from Confederate provost marshals in the attic. At the same time she was writing heroic poetry about the very men from whom her father was hiding and who would have shot him or hung him without trial if they had found him — and incidentally the ogre of her childhood was one of them and (he brought home with him a citation for valor in Lee's own hand) a good one. The face which Miss Rosa carried out there to live for the rest of her life was the same face which had watched him across the dinner table and which he likewise could not have said how many times he had seen, nor when and where, not for the reason that he was unable to forget it but because he could probably not have remembered it enough to have described it ten minutes after looking away, and from behind the face the same woman who had been that child now watched him with that same grim and cold intensity.
Although she was not to see Sutpen again for years, she now saw her sister and niece more often than ever. Ellen was now at the full peak of what the aunt would have called her renegadery. She seemed not only to acquiesce, to be reconciled to her life and marriage, but to be actually proud of it. She had bloomed, as if Fate were crowding the normal Indian summer which should have bloomed gradually and faded gracefully through six or eight years, into three or four, either for compensation for what was to come or to clear the books, pay the check to which Fate's wife, Nature, had signed his name. Ellen was in her late thirties, plump, her face unblemished still. It was as though whatever marks being in the world had left upon it up to the time the aunt vanished had been removed from between the skeleton and the skin, between the sum of experience and the envelope in which it resides, by the intervening years of annealing and untroubled flesh. Her carriage, air, 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 meager possibilities 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; escaped at last into a world of pure illusion in which, safe from any harm, she moved, lived, from attitude to attitude against her background of Chatelaine to the largest, wife to the wealthiest, mother of the most fortunate. When she shopped (there were twenty stores in Jefferson now) she unbent without even getting out of the carriage, gracious and assured' and talking the most complete nonsense, speaking her bright set meaningless phrases out of the part which she had written for herself, of the duchess peripatetic with property soups and medicines among a soilless and uncompelled peasantry — a woman who, if she had had the fortitude to bear sorrow and trouble, might have risen to actual stardom in the role of the matriarch, arbitrating from the fireside corner of a crone the pride and destiny of her family, instead of turning at the last to the youngest member of it and asking her to protect the others.
Often twice and sometimes three times a week the two of them came to town and into the house — the foolish unreal voluble preserved woman now six years absent from the world — the woman who had quitted home and kin on a flood of tears and in a shadowy miasmic region something like the bitter purlieus of Styx had produced two children and then rose like the swamp-hatched butterfly, unimpeded by weight of stomach and all the heavy organs of suffering and experience, into a perennial bright vacuum of arrested sun — and Judith, the young girl dreaming, not living, in her complete detachment and imperviousness to actuality almost like physical deafness. To them, Miss Rosa must not have been anything at all now: not the child who had been the object and victim of the vanished aunt's vindictive unflagging care and attention, and not even the woman which her office as housekeeper would indicate, and certainly not the factual aunt herself. And it would be hard to say which of the two, sister or niece, was the most unreal to Miss Rosa in turn — the adult who had escaped reality into a bland region peopled by dolls, or the young girl who slept waking in some suspension so completely physical as to resemble the state before birth and as far removed from reality's other extreme as Ellen was from hers, driving up to the house twice and three times a week, and one time, in the summer when Judith was seventeen, stopping in on their way overland to Memphis to buy Judith clothes; yes: a trousseau.. That was the summer following Henry's first year at the University, after he had brought Charles Bon home with him for Christmas and then again to spend a week or so of the summer vacation before Bon rode on to the River to take the steamboat home to New Orleans; the summer in which Sutpen himself went away, on business, Ellen said, doubtless unaware, such was her existence then, that she did not know where her husband had gone and not even conscious that she was not curious. No one but your grandfather and perhaps Clytie was ever to know that Sutpen had gone to New Orleans too. They would enter Miss Rosa's house, that dim grim tight little house where even yet, four years after she had left the aunt still seemed to be just beyond any door with her hand already on the knob, and which Ellen would fill with ten or fifteen minutes of shrill uproar and then depart, taking with her the dreamy and volitionless daughter who had not spoken one word; and Miss Rosa who in actual fact was the girl's aunt and who by actual years should have been her sister ignoring the mother to follow the departing and inaccessible daughter with myopic and inarticulate yearning and not one whir of jealousy, projecting upon Judith all the abortive dreams and delusions of her own doomed and frustrated youth, offering Judith the only gift (it was Ellen who told this, with shrieks of amusement, more than once) in her power: she offered to teach Judith how to keep house and plan meals and count laundry, receiving for the offer the blank fathomless stare, the unhearing 'What? What did you say?" while even now Ellen was shrieking with astonished appreciation. Then they were gone — carriage, bundles, Ellen's peacock amusement, the niece's impenetrable dreaming. When they came to town next and the carriage stopped before Mr Coldfield's house, one of the Negresses came out and said that Miss Rosa was not at home.
That summer she saw Henry again too. She had not seen him since the summer before although he had been home Christmas with Charles Bon, his friend from the University, and she had heard about the balls and parties at Sutpen's Hundred during the holidays, but she and her father had not gone out. And when Henry stopped with Bon on the way back to school the day after New Year's to speak to his aunt, she actually was not at home. So she did not see him until the following summer, after a full year. She was downtown, shopping; she was standing on the street talking to your grandmother when he rode past. He didn't see her; he passed on a new mare which his father had given him, in the coat and hat of a man now; your grandmother said he was as tall as his father and that he sat the mare with the same swagger although lighter in the bone than Sutpen, as if his bones were capable of bearing the swagger but were still too light and quick to support the pomposity.
Because Sutpen was acting his role too. He had corrupted Ellen in more ways than one. He was the biggest single landowner and cotton-planter in the county now, attained by the same tactics with which he had built his house — the same singleminded unflagging effort and utter disregard of how his actions which the town could see might look and how the ones which the town could not see must appear to it. There were some among his fellow citizens who believed even yet that there was a nigger in the woodpile somewhere, ranging from the ones who believed that the plantation was just a blind to his actual dark avocation, through the ones who believed that he had found some way to juggle the cotton market itself and so get more per bale for his cotton than honest men could, to those who believed apparently that the wild niggers which he had brought there had the power to actually conjure more cotton per acre from the soil than any tame ones had ever done. He was not liked (which he evidently did not want, anyway) but feared, which seemed to amuse, if not actually please, him. But he was accepted; he obviously had too much money now to be rejected or even seriously annoyed any more. He accomplished this — got his plantation to running smoothly (he had an overseer now; it was the son of that same sheriff who had arrested him at his bride-to-He's gate on the day of the betrothal) within ten years of the wedding, and now he acted his role too a role of arrogant ease and leisure which, as the leisure and ease put flesh on him, became a little pompous. Yes, he had corrupted Ellen to more than renegadery, though, like her, he was unaware that his flowering was a forced blooming too and that while he was still playing the scene to the audience, behind him Fate, destiny, retribution, irony — the stage manager, call him what you will — was already striking the set and dragging on the synthetic and spurious shadows and shapes of the next one. 'There goes — ' your grandmother said. But Miss Rosa had already seen Henry. She was standing there beside your grandmother, her head hardly reaching your grandmother's shoulder, thin, in one of the dresses which the aunt had left in the house and which Miss Rosa had cut down to fit herself, who had never been taught to sew either, just as she had assumed the housekeeping and offered to teach Judith to do the same, who had never been taught to cook nor taught to do anything save listen through closed doors, standing there with a shawl over her head like she might have been fifty instead of fifteen, looking after her nephew and saying, 'Why… he's shaved." Then she stopped seeing Ellen even. That is, Ellen also stopped coming to the house, stopped breaking the carriage's weekly ritual of store to store where, without getting out, Ellen bade merchant and clerk fetch out to her the cloth and the meager fripperies and baubles which they carried and which they knew even better than she that she would not buy but instead would merely finger and handle and disarrange and then reject, all in that flow of bright pettish volubility. Not contemptuous, not even patronizing exactly, but with a bland and even childlike imposition upon the sufferance or good manners or sheer helplessness of the men, the merchants and clerks; then to come to the house and fill it too with that meaningless uproar of vanity, of impossible and foundationless advice about Miss Rosa and her father and the house, about Miss Rosa's clothes and the arrangement of the furniture and how the food was prepared and even the hours at which it was eaten. Because the time now approached (it was 1860, even Mr Coldfield probably admitted that war was unavoidable) when the destiny of Sutpen's family which for twenty years now had been like a lake welling from quiet springs into a quiet valley and spreading, rising almost imperceptibly and in which the four members of it floated in sunny suspension, felt the first subterranean movement toward the outlet, the gorge which would be the land's catastrophe too, and the four peaceful swimmers turning suddenly to face one another, not yet with alarm or distrust but just alert, feeling the dark set, none of them yet at that point where man looks about at his companions in disaster and thinks when will I stop trying to save them and save only myself? and not even aware that that point was approaching.
So Miss Rosa did not see any of them; she had never seen (and was never to see alive) Charles Bon at all; Charles Bon of New Orleans, Henry's friend who was not only some few years older than Henry but actually a little old to be still in college and certainly a little out of place in that one where he was — a small new college in the Mississippi hinterland and even wilderness, three hundred miles from that worldly and even foreign city which was his home — a young man of a worldy elegance and assurance beyond his years, handsome, apparently wealthy and with for background the shadowy figure of a legal guardian rather than any parents — a personage who in the remote Mississippi of that time must have appeared almost phoenix-like, fullsprung from no childhood, born of no woman and impervious to time and, vanished, leaving no bones nor dust anywhere — a man with an ease of manner and a swaggering gallant air in comparison with which Sutpen's pompous arrogance was clumsy bluff and Henry actually a hobble-de-hoy. Miss Rosa never saw him; this was a picture, an image. It was not what Ellen told her: Ellen at the absolute halcyon of her butterfly's summer and now with the added charm of gracious and graceful voluntary surrendering of youth to her blood's and sex's successor, that concurrent attitude and behavior with the engagement's span with which mothers who want to can almost make themselves the brides of their daughters' weddings. Listening to Ellen, a stranger would have almost believed that the marriage, which subsequent events would indicate had not even been mentioned between the young people and the parents, had been actually performed. 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.
She spoke of Bon as if he were three inanimate objects in one, or perhaps one inanimate object for which she and her family would find three concordant uses: a garment which Judith might wear as she would a riding habit or a ball gown, a piece of furniture which would complement and complete the furnishing of her house and position, and a mentor and example to correct Henry's provincial manners and speech and clothing. She seemed to have encompassed time. She postulated the elapsed years during which no honeymoon nor any change had taken place, out of which the (now) five faces looked with a sort of lifeless and perennial bloom like painted portraits hung in a vacuum, each taken at its forewarned peak and smoothed of all thought and experience, the originals of which had lived and died so long ago that their joys and griefs must now be forgotten even by the very boards on which they had strutted and postured and laughed and wept. This, while Miss Rosa, not listening, who had got the picture from the first word, perhaps from the name, Charles Bon; the spinster doomed for life at sixteen, sitting beneath this bright glitter of delusion like it was one of those colored electric beams in cabarets and she there for the first time in her life and the beam filled with a substanceless glitter of tinsel motes darting suddenly upon her, halting for a moment then going on.
She wasn't jealous of Judith. It was not selfpity either, sitting there blinking steadily at her sister, while Ellen talked, in one of those botched-over house dresses (the clothes, castoff sometimes but usually new, which Ellen gave her from time to time were always silk, of course) which the aunt had abandoned when she eloped with the horse-and mule-trader, perhaps in the hope or even the firm intention of never wearing anything like them again.
It was probably just peaceful despair and relief at final and complete abnegation, now that Judith was about to immolate the frustration's vicarious recompense into the living fairy tale. It sounded like a fairy tale when Ellen told it later to your grandmother, only it was a fairy tale written for and acted by a fashionable ladies' club. But to Miss Rosa it must have been authentic, not only plausible but justified: hence the remark which sent Ellen again (she told this too, for the childish joke it was) into shrieks of amused and fretted astonishment. 'We deserve him,' Miss Rosa said. 'Deserve? Him?" Ellen said, probably shrieked too. 'Of course we deserve him — if you want to put it that way. I certainly hope and expect you to feel that the Coldfields are qualified to reciprocate whatever particularly signal honor marriage with anyone might confer upon them." Naturally there is no known rejoinder to this. At least, as far as Ellen ever told, Miss Rosa did not try to make one. She just saw Ellen depart and then set about to make Judith the second only gift in her power. She possessed two now, this one likewise bequeathed to her by the aunt who taught her both to keep house and how to fit clothes by climbing out a window one night, though this second gift developed late (you might say, repercussed) due to the fact that when the aunt left, Miss Rosa was not yet large enough to be able to use the discarded clothing even by cutting the garments down. She set about secretly making garments for Judith's trousseau. She got the cloth from her father's store. She could not have got it anywhere else. Your grandmother told me that at that time Miss Rosa actually could not count money, that she knew the progression of the coins in theory but that apparently she had never had the actual cash to see, touch, experiment and prove with; that on certain days of the week she would go down town with a basket and shop at certain stores which Mr Coldfield had already designated, with no coin nor sum of money changing lip or hand, and that later in the day Mr Coldfield would trace her course by the debits scratched on paper or on walls and counters, and pay them. So she would have to get the material from him, though his stock which had begun as a collection of the crudest necessities and which apparently could not even feed himself and his daughter from its own shelves, had not increased, let alone diversified. 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, let alone what her notion of them would look like when she had finished them unassisted. Nobody knows how she managed to get the material from her father's store. He didn't give it to her. He would have felt it incumbent on him to supply his granddaughter with clothes if she were indecently clad or if she were ragged or cold, but not to marry in. So I believe she stole it. She must have. She must have taken it almost from under her father's nose (it was a small store and he was his own clerk and from any point in it he could see any other point) with that amoral boldness, that affinity for brigandage in women, but more likely, or so I would like to think, by some subterfuge of such bald and desperate transparence concocted by innocence that its very simplicity fooled him.
So she didn't even see Ellen anymore. Apparently Ellen had now served her purpose, completed the bright pointless noon and afternoon of the butterfly's summer and vanished, perhaps not out of Jefferson, but out of her sister's life any way, to be seen but the one time more dying in bed in a darkened room in the house on which fateful mischance had already laid its hand to the extent of scattering the black foundation on which it had been erected and removing its two male mainstays, husband and son — the one into the risk and danger of battle, the other apparently into oblivion. Henry had just vanished.
She heard of that too while she was spending her days (and nights; she would have to wait until her father was asleep) sewing tediously and without skill on the garments which she was making for her niece's trousseau and which she had to keep hidden not only from her father but from the two Negresses, who might have told Mr Coldfield — whipping lace out of raveled and hoarded string and thread and sewing it onto garments while news came of Lincoln's election and of the fall of Sumpter, and she scarce listening, hearing and losing the knell and doom of her native land between two tedious and clumsy stitches on a garment which she would never wear and never remove for a man whom she was not even to see alive.
Henry just vanished: she heard just what the town heard — that on this next Christmas Henry and Bon came home again to spend the holidays, the handsome and wealthy New Orleansian whose engagement to the daughter the mother had been filling the town's ears with for six months now. They came again and now the town listened for the announcement of the actual day. And then something happened. Nobody knew what: whether something between Henry and Bon on one hand and Judith on the other, or between the three young people on one hand and the parents on the other. But anyway, when Christmas day came, Henry and Bon were gone. And Ellen was not visible (she seemed to have retired to the darkened room which she was not to quit until she died two years later) and nobody could have told from either Sutpen's or Judith's faces or actions or behavior, and so the tale came through the Negroes: of how on the night before Christmas there had been a quarrel between, not Bon and Henry or Bon and Sutpen, but between the son and the father and that Henry had formally abjured his father and renounced his birthright and the roof under which he had been born and that he and Bon had ridden away in the night and that the mother was prostrate though, the town believed, not at the upset of the marriage but at the shock of reality entering her life: this the merciful blow of the axe before the beast's throat is cut.
That's what Miss Rosa heard. Nobody knows what she thought. The town believed that Henry's action was just the fiery nature of youth, let alone a Sutpen, and that time would cure it. Doubtless Sutpen's and Judith's behavior toward one another and toward the town had something to do with this. They would be seen together in the carriage in town now and then as though nothing had occurred between them at least, which certainly would not have been the case if the quarrel had been between Bon and the father, and probably not the case if the trouble had been between Henry and his father because the town knew that between Henry and Judith there had been a relationship closer than the traditional loyalty of brother and sister even; a curious relationship: something of that fierce impersonal rivalry between two cadets in a crack regiment who eat from the same dish and sleep under the same blanket and chance the same destruction and who would risk death for one another, not for the other's sake but for the sake of the unbroken front of the regiment itself.
That's all Miss Rosa knew. She could have known no more about it than the town knew because the ones who did know (Sutpen or Judith: not Ellen, who would have been told nothing in the first place and would have forgot, failed to assimilate, it if she had been told Ellen the butterfly, from beneath whom without warning the very sunbuoyed air had been withdrawn, leaving her now with the plump hands folded on the coverlet in the darkened room and the eyes above them probably not even suffering but merely filled with baffled incomprehension) would not have told her anymore than they would have told anyone in Jefferson or anywhere else. Miss Rosa probably went out there, probably once and then no more. And she must have told Mr Coldfield that there was nothing wrong and evidently she believed that herself since she continued to sew on the garments for Judith's wedding.
She was still doing that when Mississippi seceded and when the first Confederate uniforms began to appear in Jefferson where Colonel Sartoris and Sutpen were raising the regiment which departed in '61, with Sutpen, second in command, siding at Colonel Sartoris' left hand, on the black stallion named out of Scott, beneath the regimental colors which he and Sartoris had designed and which Sartoris' womenfolks had sewed together out of silk dresses. He had filled out physically from what he had been not only when he first rode into Jefferson that Sunday in '33, but from what he had been when he and Ellen married. He was not portly yet, though he was now getting on toward fifty-five. The fat, the stomach, came later. It came upon him suddenly, all at once, in the year after whatever it was happened to his engagement to Miss Rosa and she quitted his roof and returned to town to live alone in her father's house and did not ever speak to him again except when she addressed him that one time when they told her that he was dead. The flesh came upon him suddenly, as though what the Negroes and Wash Jones, too, called the fine figure of a man had reached and held its peak after the foundation had given away and something between the shape of him that people knew and the uncompromising skeleton of what he actually was had gone fluid and, earthbound, had been snubbed up and restrained, balloonlike, unstable and lifeless, by the envelope which it had betrayed.
She did not see the regiment depart because her father forbade her to leave the house until it was gone, refusing to allow her to take part in or be present with the other women and girls in the ceremony of its departure, though not because his son-in-law happened to be in it. He had never been an irascible man and before war was actually declared and Mississippi seceded, his acts and speeches of protest had been not only calm but logical and quite sensible. But after the die was cast he seemed to change overnight, just as his daughter Ellen changed her nature a few years before. As soon as troops began to appear in Jefferson he closed his store and kept it closed all during the period that soldiers were being mobilized and drilled, and later, after the regiment was gone, whenever casual troops would bivouac for the night in passing, refusing to sell any goods for any price to the military and, so it was told, to the families not only of soldiers but of men or women who had supported secession and war only in talk, opinion. He refused to permit his sister to come back home to live while her horse-trader husband was in the army, he would not even allow Miss Rosa to look out the window at passing soldiers. He had closed his store permanently and was at home all day now. He and Miss Rosa lived in the back of the house, with the front door locked and the front shutters closed and fastened. He spent the day, the neighbors said, behind one of the slightly opened blinds like a picquet on post, armed not with a musket but with the big family Bible in which his and his sister's birth and his marriage and Ellen's birth and marriage and the birth of his two grandchildren and of Miss Rosa, and his wife's death (but not the marriage of the aunt; it was Miss Rosa who entered that, along with Ellen's death, on the day when she entered Mr Coldfield's own, and Charles Bon's and even Sutpen's) had been duly entered in his neat clerk's hand, until a detachment of troops would pass: whereupon he would open the Bible and declaim in a harsh loud voice even above the sound of the tramping feet, the passages of the old violent vindictive mysticism which he had already marked as the actual picquet would have ranged his row of cartridges along the window sill. Then one morning he learned that his store had been broken into and looted, doubtless by a company of strange troops bivouacked on the edge of town and doubtless abetted, if only vocally, by his own fellow citizens. That night he mounted to the attic with his hammer and his handful of nails and nailed the door behind him and threw the hammer out the window. He was not a coward. He was a man of uncompromising moral strength, coming into a new country with a small stock of goods and supporting five people out of it in comfort and security at least. He did it by close trading, to be' sure: he could not have done it save by close trading or dishonesty; and as your grandfather said, a man who, in a country such as Mississippi was then, would restrict dishonesty to the selling of straw hats and hame strings and salt meat would have been already locked up by his own family as a kleptomaniac. But he was not a coward, even though his conscience may have objected, as your grandfather said, not so much to the idea of pouring out human blood and life, but at the idea of waste: of wearing out and eating up and shooting away material in any cause whatever. Now Miss Rosa's life consisted of keeping life in herself and her father.
Up to the night when it was looted, they had lived out of the store. She would go to the store after dark with a basket and fetch back enough food to last for a day or two. So the stock, not renewed for some time before that, was considerably reduced even before the looting; and soon she, who had never been taught to do anything practical because the aunt had raised her to believe that she was not only delicate but actually precious, was cooking the food which as time passed became harder and harder to come by and poorer and poorer in quality, and hauling it up to her father at night by means of a well pulley and rope attached to the attic window. She did this for three years, feeding in secret and at night and with food which in quantity was scarcely sufficient for one, the man whom she hated. And she may not have known before that she hated him and she may not have known it now even, nevertheless the first of the odes to Southern soldiers in that portfolio which when your grandfather saw it in 1885 contained a thousand or more, was dated in the first year of her father's voluntary incarceration and dated at two oclock in the morning. Then he died. One morning the hand did not come out to draw up the basket.
The old nails were still in the door and neighbors helped her break it in with axes and they found him, who had seen his sole means of support looted by the defenders of his cause, even if he had repudiated it and them, with three days' uneaten food beside his pallet bed as if he had spent the three days in a mental' balancing of his terrestrial accounts, found the result and proved it and then turned upon his contemporary scene of folly and outrage and injustice the dead and consistent impassivity of a cold and inflexible disapproval. Now Miss Rosa was not only an orphan, but a pauper too. The store was just a shell, the deserted building vacated even by rats and containing nothing, not even goodwill since he had irrevocably estranged himself from neighbors, town, and embattled land, all three by his behavior.
Even the two Negresses were gone now — whom he had freed as soon as he came into possession of them (through a debt, by the way, not purchase), writing out their papers of freedom which they could not read and putting them on a weekly wage which he held back in full against the discharge of their current market value — and in return for which they had been among the first Jefferson Negroes to desert and follow the Yankee troops. So when he died, he had nothing, not only saved but kept. Doubtless the only pleasure which he had ever had was not in the meager spartan hoard which he had accumulated before his path crossed that of his future son-in-law — not in the money but in its representation of a balance in whatever spiritual countinghouse he believed would some day pay his sight drafts on self-denial and fortitude. And doubtless what hurt him most in the whole business with Sutpen was not the loss of the 'money but the fact that he had had to sacrifice the hoarding, the symbol of the fortitude and abnegation, to keep intact the spiritual solvency which he believed that he had already established and secured. It was as if he had had to pay the same note twice because of some trifling oversight of date or signature. SO Miss Rosa was both pauper and orphan, with no kin above dust but Judith and the aunt who had been last heard of two years ago while trying to pass the Yankee lines to reach Illinois and so be near the Rock Island prison where her husband, who had offered his talents for horse — and mulegetting to the Confederate cavalry remount corps and had been caught at it, now was. Ellen was dead two years now the butterfly, the moth caught in a gale and blown against a wall and clinging there beating feebly, not with any particular stubborn clinging to life, not in particular pain since it was too light to have struck hard, nor even with very much remembrance of the bright vacuum before the gale, but just in bewildered and uncomprehending amazement the bright trivial shell not even changed to any great extent despite the year of bad food, 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 the tame which was already there, with the same care and for the same purpose 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 so much from the people who breathe or have breathed in them inherent in the wood and brick or begotten upon the wood and brick by the man or men who conceived and built them — in this house an incontrovertible affirmation for emptiness, desertion; an insurmountable resistance to occupancy save when sanctioned and protected by the ruthless and the strong. Ellen had lost some flesh of course, but it was as the butterfly itself enters dissolution by actually dissolving: the area of wing and body decreasing a little, the pattern of the spots drawing a little closer together, but with no wrinkle to show — the same smooth, almost girlish face on the pillow (though Miss Rosa now discovered that Ellen had been dyeing her hair evidently for years), the same almost plump soft (though now unringed) hands on the coverlet, and only the bafflement in the dark uncomprehending eyes to indicate anything of present life by which to postulate approaching death as she asked the seventeen-year-old sister to protect the remaining child. (Henry up to now was just vanished, his birthright voluntarily repudiated; he had not yet returned to play his final part in his family's doom — and this, your grandfather said, spared Ellen too, not that it would have been the crushing and crowning blow but that it would have been wasted on her since the clinging moth, even alive, would have been incapable now of feeling anymore of wind or violence.) So the natural thing would have been for her to go out and live with Judith, the natural thing for her or any Southern woman, gentlewoman. She would not have needed to be asked; no one 'would expect her to wait to be. Because that's what a Southern lady is. Not the fact that, penniless and with no prospect of ever being otherwise and knowing that all who know her know this, yet moving with a parasol and a private chamber pot and three trunks into your home and into the room where your wife uses the hand-embroidered linen, she not only takes command of all the servants who likewise know that she will never tip them, because they know as well as the white folks that she will never have anything to tip them with, but goes into the kitchen and dispossesses the cook and seasons the very food you are going to eat to suit her own palate — it's not this, not this that she is depending on to keep body and soul together: it was as though she were living on the actual blood itself, like a vampire, not with insatiability, certainly not with voracity, but with that serene and idle splendor of flowers abrogating to herself, because it fills her veins also, nourishment from the old blood that crossed uncharted seas and continents and battled wilderness hardships and lurking circumstances and fatalities.
That's what she would have been expected to do. But she didn't.
Yet Judith still had those abandoned acres to draw from, let alone Clytie to help her, keep her company, and Wash Jones to feed her as Wash had fed Ellen before she died. But Miss Rosa didn't go out there at once. Perhaps she never would have gone. Although Ellen had asked her to protect Judith, possibly she felt that Judith did not need protection yet, since if even deferred love could have supplied her with the will to exist, endure for this long, then that same love, even though deferred, must and would preserve Bon until the folly of men would stalemate from sheer exhaustion and he would return from wherever he was and bring Henry with him — Henry, victim too of the same folly and mischance. She must have seen Judith now and then and Judith probably urged her to come out to Sutpen's Hundred to live, but I believe that this is the reason she did not go, even though she did not know where Bon and Henry were and Judith apparently never thought to tell her. Because Judith knew. She may have known for some time; even Ellen may have known. Or perhaps Judith never told her mother either.
Perhaps Ellen did not know before she died that Henry and Bon were now privates in the company which their classmates at the University had organized. The first intimation Miss Rosa had had in four years that her nephew was still alive was the afternoon when Wash Jones, riding Sutpen's remaining mule, stopped in front of the house and began to shout her name. She had seen him before but she did not recognize him — a gaunt gangling man malaria-ridden with pale eyes and a face that might have been any age between twenty-five and sixty, sitting on the saddleless mule in the street before the gate, shouting 'Hello, Hello,' at intervals until she came to the door; whereupon he lowered his voice somewhat, though not much. 'Air you Rosie Coldfield?" he said.
It was still not dark enough for Quentin to start, not yet dark enough to suit Miss Coldfield at least, even discounting the twelve miles out there and the twelve miles back. Quentin knew that. He could almost see her, waiting in one of the dark airless rooms in the little grim house's impregnable solitude. She would have no light burning because she would be out of the house soon, and probably some mental descendant or kinsman of him or her who had told her once that light and moving air carried heat had also told her that the cost of electricity was not in the actual time the light burned but in the retroactive overcoming of primary inertia when the switch was snapped: that that was what showed on the meter.
She would be wearing already the black bonnet with jet sequins; he knew that: and a shawl, sitting there in the augmenting and defunctive twilight; she would have even now in her hand or on her lap the reticule with all the keys, entrance closet and cupboard, that the house possessed which she was about to desert for perhaps six hours; and a parasol, an umbrella too, he thought, thinking how she would be impervious to weather and season since although he had not spoken a hundred words to her in his life before this afternoon, he did know that she had never before tonight quitted that house after sundown save on Sundays and Wednesdays for prayer meeting, in the entire forty-three years probably. 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 below the gallery, where he rose from his chair as Mr Compson, carrying the letter, emerged from the house, snapping on the porch light as he passed. 'You will probably have to go inside to read it,' Mr Compson said.
'Maybe I can read it here all right,' Quentin said.
'Perhaps you are right,' Mr Compson said. 'Maybe even the light of day, let alone this — ' he indicated the single globe stained and bug-fouled from the long summer and which even when clean gave off but little light — 'would be too much for it, for them. Yes, for them: of that day and time, of a dead time; people too as we are, and victims too as we are, but victims of a different circumstance, simpler and therefore, integer for integer, larger, more heroic and the figures therefore more heroic too, not dwarfed and involved but distinct, uncomplex who had the gift of loving once or dying once instead of being diffused and scattered creatures drawn blindly limb from limb from a grab bag and assembled, author and victim too of a thousand homicides and a thousand copulations and divorcements. Perhaps you are right. Perhaps any more light than this would be too much for it ' 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 wistaria 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.
'Because Henry loved Bon. He repudiated blood birthright and material security for his sake, for the sake of this man who was at least an intending bigamist even if not an out and out blackguard, and on whose dead body four years later Judith was to find the photograph of the other woman and the child. So much so that he (Henry) could give his father the lie about a statement which he must have realized that his father could not and would not have made without foundation and proof. Yet he did it, Henry himself striking the blow with his own hand, even though he must have known that what his father told him about the woman and the child was true. He must have said to himself, must have said when he closed the library door for the last time behind himself that Christmas eve and must have repeated while he and Bon rode side by side through the iron dark of that Christmas morning, away from the house where he had been born and which he would see but one time more and that with the fresh blood of the man who now rode beside him, on his hands: I will believe; I will. I will. Even if it is so, even if what my father told me is true and which, in spite of myself, I cannot keep from knowing is true, I will still believe. Because what else could he have hoped to find in New Orleans, if not the truth?
But who knows why a man, though suffering, clings, above all the other well members, to the arm or leg which he knows must come off? Because he loved Bon. I can imagine him and Sutpen in the library that Christmas eve, the father and the brother, percussion and repercussion like a thunderclap and its echo, and as close together; the statement and the giving of the lie, the decision instantaneous and irrevocable between father and friend, between (so Henry must have believed) that where honor and love lay and this where blood and profit ran, even though at the instant of giving the lie he knew that it was the truth. That was why the four years, the probation.
He must have known that it would be vain, even then, on that Christmas eve, not to speak of what he learned, saw with his own eyes in New Orleans. He may even have known Bon that well by then, who had not changed until then and so would in all probability not change later; and he (Henry) who could not say to his friend, I did that for love of you; do this for love of me. He couldn't say that, you see this man, this youth scarcely twenty, who had turned his back upon all that he knew, to cast his lot with the single friend whom, even as they rode away that night, he must have known, as he knew that what his father had told him was true, that he was doomed and destined to kill.
He must have known that just as he knew that his hope was vain, what hope and what for he could not have said; what hope and dream of change in Bon or in the situation, what dream that he could someday wake from and find it had been a dream, as in the injured man's fever dream the dear suffering arm or leg is strong and sound and only the well ones sick.
'It was Henry's probation; Henry holding all three of them in that durance to which even Judith acquiesced up to a certain point. She did not know what happened in the library that night. I don't think she ever suspected, until that afternoon four years later when she saw them again, when they brought Bon's body into the house and she found in his coat the photograph which was not her face, not her child; she just waked the next morning and they were gone and only the letter, the note, remaining, the note written by Henry since doubtless he refused to allow Bon to write — this announcement of the armistice, the probation, and Judith acquiescing up to that point, who would have refused as quickly to obey any injunction of her father as Henry had been to defy him yet who did obey Henry in this matter — not the male relative, the brother, but because of that relationship between them that single personality with two bodies both of which had been seduced almost simultaneously by a man whom at the time Judith had never even seen — she and Henry both knowing that she would observe the probation, give him (Henry) the benefit of that interval, only up to that mutually recognized though unstated and undefined point and both doubtless aware that when that point was reached she would, and with the same calm, the same refusal to accept or give because of any traditional weakness of sex, recall the armistice and face him as a foe, not requiring or even wishing that Bon be present to support her, doubtless even refusing to allow him to intervene if he were, fighting the matter out with Henry like a man first, before consenting to revert to the woman, the loved, the bride. And Bon: Henry would have no more told Bon what his father had told him than he would have returned to his father and told him that Bon denied it, since to do one he would have to do the other and he knew that Bon's denial would be a lie and though he could have borne Bon's lie himself, he could not have borne for either Judith or his father to hear it. Besides, Henry would not need to tell Bon what had happened. 'Bon must have learned of Sutpen's visit to New Orleans as soon as he (Bon) reached home that first summer. He must have known that Sutpen now knew his secret — if Bon, until he saw Sutpen's reaction to it, ever looked upon it as a cause for secrecy, certainly not as a valid objection to marriage with a white woman — a situation in which probably all his contemporaries who could afford it were likewise involved and which it would no more have occurred to him to mention to his bride or wife or to her family than he would have told them the secrets of a fraternal organization which he had joined before he married. In fact, the manner in which his intended bride's family reacted to the discovery of it was doubtless the first and last time when the Sutpen family ever surprised him. He is the curious one to me. He came into that isolated puritan country household almost like Sutpen himself came into Jefferson: apparently complete, without background or past or childhood — a man a little older than his actual years and enclosed and surrounded by a sort of Scythian glitter, who seems to have seduced the country brother and sister without any effort or particular desire to do so, who caused all the pother and uproar, yet from the moment when he realized that Sutpen was going to prevent the marriage if he could, he (Bon) seems to have withdrawn into a mere spectator, passive, a little sardonic, and completely enigmatic. He seems to hover, shadowy, almost substanceless, a little behind and above all the other straightforward and logical, even though (to him) incomprehensible, ultimatums and affirmations and defiances and challenges and repudiations, 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, benighted in a brawling and childish and quite deadly mud-castle household in a miasmic and spirit-ridden forest.
It was as if he found the whole business, not inexplicable of course, just unnecessary; that he knew at once that Sutpen had found out about the mistress and child and he now found Sutpen's action and Henry's reaction a fetish-ridden moral blundering which did not deserve to be called thinking, and which he contemplated with the detached attentiveness of a scientist watching the muscles in an anesthetized frog — watching, contemplating them from behind that barrier of sophistication in comparison with which Henry and Sutpen were troglodytes. Not just the outside, the way he walked and talked and wore his clothes and handed Ellen into the dining-room or into the carriage and (perhaps, probably) kissed her hand and which Ellen envied for Henry, but the man himself — that fatalistic and impenetrable imperturbability with which he watched them while he waited for them to do whatever it would be that they would do, as if he had known all the while that the occasion would arise when he would have to wait and that all he would need to do would be to wait; had known that he had seduced Henry and Judith both too thoroughly to have any fear that he might not marry Judith when he wished to. Not that stupid shrewdness part instinct and part belief in luck, and part muscular habit of the senses and nerves of the gambler waiting to take what he can from what he sees, but a certain reserved and inflexible pessimism stripped long generations ago of all the rubbish and claptrap of people (yes, Sutpen and Henry and the Coldfields too) who have not quite emerged from barbarism, who two thousand years hence will still be throwing triumphantly off the yoke of Latin culture and intelligence of which they were never in any great permanent danger to begin with.
'Because he loved Judith. He would have added doubtless "after his fashion" since, as his intended father-in-law soon learned, this was not the first time he had played this part, pledged what he had pledged to Judith, let alone the first time he would have gone through a ceremony to commemorate it, make what distinction (he was a Catholic of sorts) he might between this one with a white woman and that other.
Because you will see the letter, not the first one he ever wrote to her but at least the first, the only one she ever showed, as your grandmother knew then: and, so we believe now that she is dead, the only one which she kept unless of course Miss Rosa or Clytie destroyed the others after she herself died: and this one here preserved not because Judith put it away to keep but because she brought it herself and gave it to your grandmother after Bon's death, possibly on the same day when she destroyed the others which he had written her (provided of course it was she herself who destroyed them) which would have been when she found in Bon's coat the picture of the octoroon mistress and the little boy. Because he was her first and last sweetheart. She must have seen him in fact with exactly the same eyes that Henry saw him with. And it would be hard to say to which of them he appeared the more splendid — to the one with hope, even though unconscious, of making the image hers through possession; to the other with the knowledge of the insurmountable barrier which the similarity of gender hopelessly intervened — this man whom Henry first saw riding perhaps through the grove at the University on one of the two horses which he kept there or perhaps crossing the campus on foot in the slightly Frenchified cloak and hat which he wore, or perhaps (I like to think this) presented formally to the man reclining in a flowered, almost feminized gown, in a sunny window in his chambers — this handsome elegant and even catlike and too old to be where he was, too old not in years but in experience, with some tangible effluvium of knowledge, surfeit: of actions done and satiations plumbed and pleasures exhausted and even forgotten. So that he must have appeared, not only to Henry but to the entire undergraduate body of that small new provincial college, as a source not of envy, because you only envy whom you believe to be, but for accident, in no way superior to yourself: and what you believe, granted a little better luck than you have had heretofore, you will someday possess not of envy but of despair: that sharp shocking terrible hopeless despair of the young which sometimes takes the form of insult toward and even physical assault upon the human subject of it or, in extreme cases like Henry's, insult toward and assault upon any and all detractors of the subject, as witness Henry's violent repudiation of his father and his birthright when Sutpen forbade the marriage. Yes, he loved Bon, who seduced him as surely as he seduced Judith the country boy born and bred who, with the five or six others of that small undergraduate body composed of other planters' sons whom Bon permitted to become intimate with him, who aped his clothing and manner and (to the extent which they were able) his very manner of living, looked upon Bon as though he were a hero out of some adolescent Arabian Nights who had stumbled upon a talisman or touchstone not to invest him with wisdom or power or wealth, but with the ability and opportunity to pass from the scene of one scarce imaginable delight to the next one without interval or pause or satiety. And the very fact that, lounging before them in the outlandish and almost feminine garments of his sybaritic privacy, the professed satiety only increased the amazement and the bitter and hopeless outrage. Henry was the provincial, the clown almost, given to instinctive and violent action rather than to thinking who may have been conscious that his fierce provincial's pride in his sister's virginity was a false quantity which must incorporate in itself an inability to endure in order to be precious, to exist, and so must depend upon its loss, absence, to have existed at all. In fact, perhaps this is the pure and perfect incest: the brother realizing that the sister's virginity must be destroyed in order to have existed at all, taking that virginity in the person of the brother-in-law, the man whom he would be if he could become, metamorphose into, the lover, the husband; by whom he would be despoiled, choose for despoiler, if he could become, metamorphose into the sister, the mistress, the bride.
Perhaps that is what Went on, not in Henry's mind but in his soul. Because he never thought. He felt, and acted immediately.
He knew loyalty and acted it, he knew pride and jealousy; he loved grieved and killed, still grieving and, I believe, still loving Bon, the man to whom he gave four years of probation, four years in which to renounce and dissolve the other marriage, knowing that the four years of hoping and waiting would be in vain.
' Yes, it was Henry who seduced Judith: not Bon, as witness the entire queerly placid course of Bon's and Judith's courtship — an engagement, if engagement it ever was, lasting for a whole year yet comprising two holiday visits as her brother's guest which Bon seems to have spent either in riding and hunting with Henry or as acting as an elegant and indolent esoteric hothouse bloom, possessing merely the name of a city for origin history and past, about which Ellen preened and fluttered out her unwitting butterfly's Indian summer; he, the living man, was usurped, you see. There was no time, no interval, no niche in the crowded days when he could have courted Judith. You cannot even imagine him and Judith alone together. Try to do it and the nearest you can come is a projection of them while 'the two actual people were doubtless separate and elsewhere — two shades pacing, serene and untroubled by flesh, in a summer garden — the same two serene phantoms who seem to watch, hover, impartial attentive and quiet, above and behind the inexplicable thunderhead of interdictions and defiances and repudiations out of which the rocklike Sutpen and the volatile and violent Henry flashed and glared and ceased — Henry who up to that time had never even been to Memphis, who had never been away from home before that September when he went to the University with his countrified clothes and his saddle horse and Negro groom; the six or seven of them, of an age and background, only in the surface matter of food and clothing and daily occupation any different from the Negro slaves who supported them — the same sweat, the only difference being that on the one hand it went for labor in fields where on the other it went as the price of the spartan and meager pleasures which were available to them because they did not have to sweat in the fields: the hard violent hunting and riding; the same pleasures: the one, gambling for worn knives and brass jewelry and twists of tobacco and buttons and garments because they happened to be easiest and quickest to hand; on the other for the money and horses, the guns and watches, and for the same reason; the same parties: the identical music from identical instruments, crude fiddles and guitars, now in the big house with candles and silk dresses and champagne, now in dirt-floored cabins with smoking pine knots and calico and water sweetened with molasses — it was Henry, because at that time Bon had not even seen Judith. He had probably not paid enough attention to Henry's inarticulate recounting of his brief and conventional background and history to have remembered that Henry had a sister — this indolent man too old to find even companionship among the youths, the children, with whom he now lived; this man miscast for the time and knowing it, accepting it for a reason obviously good enough to cause him to endure it and apparently 'too serious or at least too private to be divulged to what acquaintances he now possessed — this man who later showed the same indolence, almost uninterest, the same detachment when the uproar about that engagement which, so far as Jefferson knew, never formally existed, which Bon himself never affirmed or denied, arose and he in the background, impartial and passive as though it were not himself involved or he acting on behalf of some absent friend, but as though the person involved and interdict were someone whom he had never heard of and cared nothing about. There does not even seem to have been any courtship. Apparently he paid Judith the dubious compliment of not even trying to ruin her, let alone insisting on the marriage either before or after Sutpen forbade it — this, mind you, in a man who had already acquired a name for prowess among women while at the University, long before Sutpen was to find actual proof. No engagement, no courtship even: he and Judith saw one another three times in two years, for a total period of seventeen days, counting the time which Ellen consumed; they parted without even saying good-bye. And yet, four years later, Henry had to kill Bon to keep them from marrying. So it must have been Henry who seduced Judith, not Bon: seduced her along with himself from that distance between Oxford and Sutpen's Hundred, between herself and the man whom she had not even seen yet, as though by means of that telepathy with which as children they seemed at times to anticipate one anothers' actions as two birds leave a limb at the same instant; that rapport not like the conventional delusion of that between twins but rather such as might exist between two people who, regardless of sex or age or heritage of race or tongue, had been marooned at birth on a desert island: the island here Sutpen's Hundred; the solitude, the shadow of that father with whom not only the town but their mother's family as well had merely assumed armistice rather than accepting and assimilating.
'You see? there they are: this girl, this young countrybred girl who sees a man for an average of one hour a day for twelve days during his life and that over a period of a year and a half, yet is bent on marrying him to the extent of forcing her brother to the last resort of homicide, even if not murder, to prevent it, and that after a period of four years during which she could not have been always certain that he was still alive; this father who had seen that man once, yet had reason to make a six hundred mile journey to investigate him and either discover what he already and apparently by clairvoyance suspected, or at least something which served just as well as reason for forbidding the marriage; this brother in whose eyes that sister's and daughter's honor and happiness, granted that curious and unusual relationship which existed between them, should have been more jealous and precious than to the father even, yet who must champion the marriage to the extent of repudiating father and blood and home to become a follower and dependent of the rejected suitor for four years before killing him apparently for the very identical reason which four years ago he quitted home to champion; 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. Yes, granted that, even to the unworldly Henry, let alone the more travelled father, the existence of the eighth part Negro mistress and the sixteenth part Negro son, granted even the morganatic ceremony — a situation which was as much a part of a wealthy young New Orleansian's social and fashionable equipment as his dancing slippers was reason enough, which is drawing honor a little fine even for the shadowy paragons which are our ancestors born in the South and come to man — and womanhood about eighteen sixty or sixty one. It's just incredible. It just does not explain. Or perhaps that's it: they don't explain and we are not supposed to know. We have a few old mouth-to-mouth tales; we exhume from old trunks and boxes and drawers letters without salutation or signature, in which men and women who once lived and breathed are now merely initials or nicknames out of some now incomprehensible affection which sound to us like Sanskrit or Chocktaw; we see dimly people, the people in whose living blood and seed we ourselves lay dormant and waiting, in this shadowy attenuation of time possessing now heroic proportions, performing their acts of simple passion and simple violence, impervious to time and inexplicable Yes, Judith, Bon, Henry, Sutpen: all of them. They are there, yet something is missing; they are like a chemical formula exhumed along with the letters from that forgotten chest, carefully, the paper old and faded and falling to pieces, the writing faded, almost indecipherable, yet meaningful, familiar in shape and sense, the name and presence of volatile and sentient forces; you bring them together in the proportions called for, but nothing happens; you re-read, tedious and intent, poring, making sure that you have forgotten nothing, made no miscalculation; you bring them together again and again nothing happens: just the words, the symbols, the shapes themselves, shadowy inscrutable and serene, against that turgid background of a horrible and bloody mischancing of human affairs.
'Bon and Henry came from the University to spend that first Christmas.
Judith and Ellen and Sutpen saw him for the first time — Judith, the man whom she was to see for an elapsed time of twelve days, yet to remember so that four years later (he never wrote her during that time.
Henry would not let him; it was the probation, you see) when she received a letter from him saying We have waited long enough, she and Clytie should begin at once to fashion a wedding dress and veil out of rags and scraps; Ellen, the esoteric, the almost baroque, the almost epicene objet d'art which with childlike voracity she essayed to include in the furnishing and decoration of her house; Sutpen, the man whom, after seeing once and before any engagement existed anywhere save in his wife's mind, he saw as a potential threat to the (now and at last) triumphant coronation of his old hardships and ambition, 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? You would almost believe that Sutpen's trip to New Orleans was just sheer chance, just a little more of the illogical machinations of a fatality which had chosen that family in preference to any other in the county or the land exactly as a small boy chooses one ant-hill to pour boiling water into in preference to any other, not even himself knowing why. Bon and Henry stayed two weeks and rode back to school, stopping to see Miss Rosa but she was not at home; they passed the long term before the summer vacation talking together and riding and reading (Bon was reading law. He would be, would almost have to, since only that could have made his residence bearable, regardless of what reason he may have brought with him for remaining this, the perfect setting for his dilatory indolence: this digging into musty Blackstone and Coke where, of an undergraduate body still numbered in two figures, the law school probably consisted of six others beside Henry and himself — yes, he corrupted Henry to the law also; Henry changed in midterm) while Henry aped his clothing and speech, caricatured rather, perhaps. And Bon, though he had now seen Judith, was very likely the same lazy and catlike man on whom Henry foisted now the role of his sister's intended, as during the fall term Henry and his companions had foisted upon Bon the role of Lothario; and Ellen and Judith now shopping two and three times a week in town and stopping once to see Miss Rosa while on their way by carriage to Memphis, with a wagon preceding them to fetch back the plunder and an extra nigger on the box with the coachman to stop every few miles and build a fire and re-heat the bricks on which Ellen's and Judith's feet rested, shopping, buying the trousseau for that wedding whose formal engagement existed nowhere yet save in Ellen's mind; and Sutpen, who had seen Bon once and was in New Orleans investigating him when Bon next entered the house: who knows what he was thinking, what waiting for, what moment, day, to go to New Orleans and find what he seems to have known all the while that he would find?
There was no one for him to tell, talk to about his fear and suspicion. He trusted no man nor woman, who had no man's nor woman's love, since Ellen was incapable of love and Judith was too much like him and he must have seen at a glance that Bon, even though the daughter might still be saved from him, had already corrupted the son.
He had been too successful, you see; his was that solitude of contempt and distrust which success brings to him who gained it because he was strong instead of merely lucky.
'Then June came and the end of the school year and Henry and Bon returned to Sutpen's Hundred, Bon to spend a day or two before riding on to the River to take the steamboat home, to New Orleans where Sutpen had already gone. He stayed but two days, yet now if ever was his chance to come to an understanding with Judith, perhaps even to fall in love with her. It was his only chance, his last chance, though of course neither he nor Judith could have known it, since Sutpen, though but two weeks absent from home, had doubtless already found out about the octoroon mistress and the child. So for the first and last time Bon and Judith might have been said to have a free field — might have been, since it was really Ellen who had the free field. I can imagine her engineering that courtship, supplying Judith and Bon with opportunities for trysts and pledges with a coy and unflagging ubiquity which they must have tried in vain to evade and escape, Judith with annoyed yet still serene concern, Bon with that sardonic and surprised distaste which seems to have been the ordinary manifestation of the impenetrable and shadowy character. Yes, shadowy: a myth, a phantom: something which they engendered and created whole themselves; some effluvium of Sutpen blood and character, as though as a man he did not exist at all.
'Yet there was the body which Miss Rosa saw, which Judith buried in the family plot beside her mother. And this: the fact that even an undefined and never-spoken engagement survived, speaking well for the postulation that they did love one another, since during that two days mere romance would have perished, died of sheer saccharinity and opportunity. Then Bon rode on to the River and took the boat. And now this: who knows, perhaps if Henry had gone with him that summer instead of waiting until the next, Bon would not have had to die as he did; if Henry had only gone then to New Orleans and found out then about the mistress and the child; Henry who, before it was too late, might have reacted to the discovery exactly as Sutpen did, as a jealous brother might have been expected to react, since who knows but what it was not the fact of the mistress and child, the possible bigamy, to which Henry gave the lie, but to the fact that it was his father who told him, his father who anticipated him, the father who is the natural enemy of any son and son-in-law of whom the mother is the ally, just as after the wedding the father will be the ally of the actual son-in-law who has for mortal foe the mother of his wife. But Henry did not go this time.
He rode to the River with Bon and then returned; after a time Sutpen returned home too, from where and for what purpose none were to know until the next Christmas, and that summer passed, the last summer, the past summer of peace and content, with Henry, doubtless without deliberate intent, pleading Bon's suit far better than Bon, than that indolent fatalist had ever bothered to plead it himself, and Judith listening with that serenity, that impenetrable tranquillity which a year or so before had been the young girl's vague and pointless and dreamy unvolition but was now already a mature woman's — a mature woman in love — repose. That's when the letters came, and Henry reading them all, without jealousy, with that complete abnegant transference, metamorphosis into the body which was to become his sister's lover.
And Sutpen saying nothing yet about what he had learned in New Orleans but just waiting, unsuspected even by Henry and Judith, waiting for what nobody knows, perhaps in the hope that when Bon learned, as he would be obliged to, that Sutpen had discovered his secret, he (Bon) would realize that the game was up and not even return to school the next year. But Bon did return. He and Henry met again at the University; the letters — from Henry and Bon both now making weekly journeys by the hand of Henry's groom; 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. But this time he waited and it came to him: Christmas, and Henry and Bon rode again to Sutpen's Hundred and even the town convinced now by Ellen that the engagement existed; that twenty-fourth of December, 1860, and the nigger children, with branches of mistletoe and holly for excuses, already lurking about the rear of the big house to shout "Christmas gift" at the white people, the rich city man come to court Judith, and Sutpen saying nothing even yet, not suspected yet unless possibly by Henry who brought the matter to its crisis that same night, and Ellen at the absolute flood's peak of her unreal and weightless life which with the next dawn was to break beneath her and wash her, spent amazed and uncomprehending, into the shuttered room where she died two years later — the Christmas Eve, the explosion, and none to ever know just why or just what happened between Henry and his father and only the cabin-to-cabin whispering of Negroes to spread the news that Henry and Bon had ridden away in the dark and that Henry had formally abjured his home and birthright. 'They went to New Orleans. They rode through the bright cold of that Christmas day, to the River and took the steamboat, Henry still doing the leading, the bringing, as he always did until the very last, when for the first time during their entire relationship Bon led and Henry followed. Henry didn't have to go. He had voluntarily made himself a pauper but he could have gone to his grandfather. No, he didn't have to go. Bon was riding beside him, trying to find out from him what had happened. Bon knew of course what Sutpen had discovered in New Orleans, but he would need to know just what, just how much, Sutpen had told Henry, and Henry not telling him. Doubtless Henry was riding the new mare which he probably knew he would have to surrender, sacrifice too, along with all the rest of his life, inheritance, going fast now and his back rigid and irrevocably turned upon the house, his birthplace and all the familiar scene of his childhood and youth which he had repudiated for the sake of that friend with whom, despite the sacrifice which he had just made out of love and loyalty, he still could not be perfectly frank. Because he knew that what Sutpen had told him was true. He must have known that at the very instant when he gave his father the lie. So he dared not ask Bon to deny it; he dared not, you see. He could face poverty, disinheritance, but he could not have borne that lie from Bon. Yet he went to New Orleans. He went straight there, to the only place, the very place, where he could not help but prove conclusively the very statement which, coming from his father, he had called a lie. He went there for that purpose; he went there to prove it. And Bon, riding beside him, trying to find out what Sutpen had told him — Bon who for a year and a half now had been watching Henry ape his clothing and speech, who for a year and a half now had seen himself as the object of that complete and abnegant devotion which only a youth, never a woman, gives to another youth or a man; who for exactly a year now had seen the sister succumb to that same spell which the brother had already succumbed to, and this with no volition on the seducer's part, without so much as the lifting of a finger, as though it actually were the brother who had put the spell on the sister, seduced her to his own vicarious image which walked and breathed with Bon's body. Yet here is the letter, sent four years afterward, written on a sheet of paper salvaged from a gutted house in Carolina, with stove polish found in some captured Yankee stores; four years after she had had any message from him save the messages from Henry that he (Bon) was still alive. So whether Henry now knew about the other woman or not, he would now have to know. Bon realized that.
I can imagine them as they rode, Henry still in the fierce repercussive flush of vindicated loyalty, and Bon, the wiser, the shrewder even if only from wider experience and a few more years of age, learning from Henry without Henry's being aware of it, what Sutpen had told him. Because Henry would have to know now. And I don't believe it was just to preserve Henry as an ally, for the crisis of some future need. It was because Bon not only loved Judith after his fashion but he loved Henry too and I believe in a deeper sense than merely after his fashion. Perhaps in his fatalism he loved Henry the better of the two, seeing perhaps in the sister merely the shadow, the woman vessel with which to consummate the love whose actual object was the youth this cerebral Don Juan who, reversing the order, had learned to love what he had injured; perhaps it was even more than Judith or Henry either: perhaps the life, the existence, which they represented. Because who knows what picture of peace he might have seen in that monotonous provincial backwater; what alleviation and escape for a parched traveler who had traveled too far at too young an age, in this granitebound and simple country spring.
'And I can imagine how Bon told Henry, broke it to him. I can imagine Henry in New Orleans, who had not yet even been in Memphis, whose entire worldly experience consisted of sojourns at other houses, plantations, almost interchangeable with his own, where he followed the same routine which he did at home — the same hunting and cockfighting, the same amateur racing of horses on crude homemade tracks, horses sound enough in blood and lineage yet not bred to race and perhaps not even' thirty minutes out of the shafts of a trap or perhaps even a carriage; the same square dancing with identical and also interchangeable provincial virgins, to music exactly like that at home, the same champagne, the best doubtless yet crudely dispensed out of the burlesqued pantomime elegance of Negro butlers who (and likewise the drinkers who gulped it down like neat whiskey between flowery and unsubtle toasts) would have treated lemonade the same way. I can imagine him, with his puritan heritage that heritage peculiarly Anglo-Saxon — of fierce proud mysticism and that ability to be ashamed of ignorance and inexperience, in that city foreign and paradoxical, with its atmosphere at once fatal and languorous, at once feminine and steel-hard — this grim humorless yokel out of a granite heritage where even the houses, let alone clothing and conduct, are built in the image of a jealous and sadistic Jehovah, put suddenly down in a place whose denizens had created their All-Powerful and His supporting hierarchy-chorus of beautiful saints and handsome angels in the image of their houses and personal ornaments and voluptuous lives. Yes, I can imagine how Bon led up to it, to the shock: the skill, the calculation, preparing Henry's puritan mind as he would have prepared a cramped and rocky field and planted it and raised the crop which he wanted. It would be the fact of the ceremony, regardless of what kind, that Henry would balk at: Bon knew this. It would not be the mistress or even the child, not even the Negro mistress and even less the child because of that fact, since Henry and Judith had grown up with a Negro half-sister of their own; not the mistress to Henry, certainly not the nigger mistress to a youth with Henry's background, a young man grown up and living in a milieu where the other sex is separated into three sharp divisions, separated (two of them) by a chasm which could be crossed but one time and in but one direction — ladies, women, females — the virgins whom gentlemen someday married, the courtesans to whom they went while on sabbaticals to the cities, the slave girls and women upon whom that first caste rested and to whom in certain cases it doubtless owed the very fact of its virginity — not this to Henry, young, strong-blooded, victim of the hard celibacy of riding and hunting to heat and make importunate the blood of a young man, to which he and his kind were forced to pass time away, with girls of his own class interdict and inaccessible and women of the second class just as inaccessible because of money and distance, and hence only the slave girls, the housemaids heated and cleaned by white mistresses or perhaps girls with sweating bodies out of the fields themselves and the young man rides up and beckons the watching overseer and says Send me Juno or Missylena or Chlory and then rides on into the trees and dismounts and waits. No: it would be the ceremony, a ceremony entered into, to be sure, with a Negro, yet still a ceremony; this is 'what Bon doubtless thought. So I can imagine him, the way he did it: the way in which he took the innocent and negative plate of Henry's provincial soul and intellect and exposed it by slow degrees to this esoteric milieu, building gradually toward the picture which he desired it to retain, accept. I can see him corrupting Henry gradually into the purlieus of elegance, with no foreword, no warning, the postulation to come after the fact, exposing Henry slowly to the surface aspect — the architecture a little curious, a little femininely flamboyant and therefore to Henry opulent, sensuous, sinful; the inference of great and easy wealth measured by steamboat loads in place of a tedious inching of sweating human figures across cotton fields; the flash and glitter of a myriad carriage wheels, in which women, enthroned and immobile and passing rapidly across the vision, appeared like painted portraits beside men in linen a little finer and diamonds a little brighter and in broadcloth a little trimmer and with hats raked a little more above faces a little more darkly swaggering than any Henry had ever seen before: and the mentor, the man for whose sake he had repudiated not only blood and kin but food and shelter and clothing too, whose clothing and walk and speech he had tried to ape, along with his attitude toward women and his ideas of honor and pride too, watching him with that cold and catlike inscrutable calculation, watching the picture resolve and become fixed and then telling Henry, "But that's not it. That's just the base, the foundation. It can belong to anyone": and Henry, "You mean, this is not it? That it is above this, higher than this, more select than this?": and Bon, "Yes.
This is only the foundation. This belongs to anybody.": a dialogue without words, speech, which would fix and then remove without obliterating one line of the picture, this background, leaving the background, the plate prepared innocent again: the plate docile, with that puritan's humility toward anything which is a matter of sense, rather than logic, fact, the man, the struggling and suffocating heart behind it saying I will believe! I will! I will! whether it is true or not, I will believe! waiting for the next picture which the mentor, the corrupter, intended for it: that next picture, following the fixation and acceptance of which the mentor would say again perhaps with words now, still watching the sober and thoughtful face but still secure in his knowledge and trust in that puritan heritage which must show disapproval instead of surprise or even despair and nothing at all rather than have the disapprobation construed as surprise or despair: "But even this is not": and Henry, "You mean, it is still higher than this, still above this?"
Because he (Bon) would be talking now, lazily, almost cryptically, stroking onto the plate himself now the picture which he wanted there; I can imagine how he did it — the calculation, the surgeon's alertness and cold detachment, the exposures brief as to be cryptic, almost staccato, the plate unaware Of what the complete picture would show, scarce seen yet ineradicable — a trap, a riding horse standing before a closed and curiously monastic doorway in a neighborhood a little decadent, even a little sinister, and Bon mentioning the owner's name casually — this, corruption subtly anew by putting into Henry's mind the notion of one man of the world speaking to another, that Henry knew that Bon believed that Henry would know even from a disjointed word what Bon was talking about, and Henry the puritan who must show nothing at all rather than surprise or incomprehension — a facade shuttered and blank, drowsing in steamy morning sunlight, invested by the bland and cryptic voice with something of secret and curious and unimaginable delights. Without his knowing what he saw it was as though to Henry the blank and scaling barrier in dissolving produced and revealed not comprehension to the mind, the intellect which weighs and discards, but striking instead straight and true to some primary blind and mindless 'foundation of all young male living dream and hope — a row of faces like a bazaar of flowers, the supreme apotheosis of chattelry, of human flesh bred of the two races for that sale — a corridor of doomed and tragic flower faces walled between the grim duenna row of old women and the elegant shapes of young men trim predatory and (at the moment) goatlike: this seen by Henry quickly, exposed quickly and then removed, the mentor's voice still bland, pleasant, cryptic, postulating still the fact of one man of the world talking to another about something they both understand, depending upon, counting upon still, the puritan's provincial horror of revealing surprise or ignorance, who knew Henry so much better than Henry knew him, and Henry not showing either, suppressing still that first cry of terror and grief, I will believe! I will! I will! Yes, that brief, before Henry had had time to know what he had seen, but now slowing: now would come the instant for which Bon had builded — a wall, unscalable, a gate ponderously locked, the sober and thoughtful country youth just waiting, looking, not yet asking why? or what? the gate of solid beams in place of the lacelike iron grilling and they passing on, Bon knocking at a small adjacent doorway from which a swarthy man resembling a creature out of an old woodcut of the French Revolution erupts, concerned, even a little aghast, looking first at the daylight and then at Henry and speaking to Bon in French which Henry does not understand and Bon's teeth glinting for an instant before he answers in French: "With him? An American? He is a guest; I would have to let him choose weapons and I decline to fight with axes.
No, no; not that. Just the key." Just the key; and now, the solid gates closed behind them instead of before, no sight or evidence above the high thick walls of the low city and scarce any sound of it, the labyrinthine mass of oleander and jasmine, lantana, and mimosa walling yet again the strip of bare earth combed and curried with powdered shell, raked and immaculate and only the most recent of the brown stains showing now, and the voice — the mentor, the guide standing aside now to watch the grave provincial face — casually and pleasantly anecdotal: "The customary way is to stand back to back, the pistol in your right hand and the corner of the other cloak in your left. Then at the signal you begin to walk and when you feel the cloak tauten you turn and fire. Though there are some now and then, when the blood is especially hot or when it is still peasant blood, who prefer knives and one cloak. They face one another inside the same cloak, you see, each holding the other's wrist with the left hand. But that was never my way" casual, chatty, you see, waiting for the countryman's slow question, who knew already now before he asked it: "What would you they be fighting for?"
'Yes, Henry would know now, or believe that he knew now; anymore he would probably consider anticlimax though it would not be, it would be anything but that, the final blow, stroke, touch, the keen surgeonlike compounding which the now shocked nerves of the patient would not even feel, not know that the first hard shocks were the random and crude. Because there was that ceremony. Bon knew that that would be what Henry would resist, find hard to stomach and retain. Oh he was shrewd, this man whom for weeks now Henry was realizing that he knew less and less, this stranger immersed and oblivious now in the formal, almost ritual, preparations for the visit, finicking almost like a woman over the fit of the new coat which he would have ordered for Henry, forced Henry to accept for this occasion, by means of which the entire impression which Henry was to receive from the visit would be established before they even left the house, before Henry ever saw the woman: and Henry, the countryman, the bewildered, with the subtle tide already setting beneath him toward the point where he must either betray himself and his entire upbringing and thinking, or deny the friend for whom he had already repudiated home and kin and all; the bewildered, the (for that time) helpless, who wanted to believe yet did not see how he could, being carried by the friend, the mentor, through one of those inscrutable and curiously lifeless doorways like that before which he had seen the horse or the trap, and so into a place which to his puritan's provincial mind all of morality was upside down and all of honor perished — a place created for and by voluptuousness, the abashless and unabashed senses, and the country boy with his simple and erstwhile untroubled code in which females were ladies or whores or slaves looked at the apotheosis of two doomed races presided over by its own victim — a woman with a face like a tragic magnolia, the eternal female, the eternal Who-suffers; the child, the boy, sleeping in silk and lace to be sure yet complete chattel of him who, begetting him, owned him body and soul to sell (if he chose) like a calf or puppy or sheep; and the mentor watching again, perhaps even the gambler now thinking Have I won or lost? as they emerged and returned to Bon's rooms, for that while impotent even with talk, shrewdness, no longer counting upon that puritan character which must show neither surprise nor despair, having to count now (on anything) on the corruption itself, the love; he could not even say, "Well? What do you say bout it?" He could only wait, and that upon the absolutely unpredictable actions of a man who lived by instinct and not reason, until Henry should speak, "But a bought woman. A whore": and Bon, even gently now, "Not whore. Dont 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", and perhaps still gently,:.. perhaps now even with something of pity: that pessimistic and '
' sardonic cerebral pity of the intelligent for any human injustice or folly or suffering:'… "'Not whores. And not whores because of us, the thousand. We the thousand, the white men made them, created and produced them; we even made the laws which declare that one eighth of a specified kind of blood shall outweigh seven eighths of another kind. I admit that. But that same white race would have made them slaves too, laborers, cooks, maybe even field hands, if it were not for this thousand, these few men like myself without principles or honor either, perhaps you will say. We cannot, perhaps we do not even want to, save all of them; perhaps the thousand we save are not one in a thousand. But we save that one. God may mark every sparrow, but we do not pretend to be God, you see. Perhaps we do not even want to be God, since no man would want but one of these sparrows. And perhaps when God looks into one of these establishments like you saw tonight, He would not choose one of us to be God either, now that He is old. Though He must have been young once, surely He was young once, and surely someone who has existed as long as He has, who has looked at as much crude and promiscuous sinning without grace or restraint or decorum as He has had to, to contemplate at last, even though the instances are not one in a thousand thousand, the principles of honor, decorum and gentleness applied to perfectly normal human instinct which you Anglo-Saxons insist upon calling lust and in whose service you revert in sabbaticals to the primordial caverns, the fall from what you call grace fogged and clouded by Heaven-defying words of extenuation, and explanation, the return to grace heralded by Heavenplacating cries of satiated abasement and flagellation, in neither of which — the defiance or the placation — can Heaven find interest or even, after the first two or three times, diversion. So perhaps, now that God is an old man, he is not interested in the way we serve what you call lust either, perhaps He does not even require of us that we save this one sparrow, anymore than we save the one sparrow which we do save for any commendation from Him. But we do save that one, who but for us would have been sold to any brute who had the price, not sold to him for the night like a white prostitute, but body and soul for life to him who could have used her with more impunity than he would dare to use an animal, heifer, or mare, and then discarded or sold or even murdered when worn out or when her keep and her price no longer balanced. 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 — a principle apt docile and instinct with strange and ancient curious pleasures of the flesh (which is all: there is nothing else) which her white sisters of a mushroom yesterday flee from in moral and outraged horror — a principle which, where her white sister must needs try to make an economic matter of it like someone who insists upon installing a counter or a scales or a safe in a store or business for a certain percentage of the profits, reigns, wise supine and all-powerful, from the sunless and silken bed which is her throne. No: not whores. Not even courtesans — creatures taken at childhood, culled and chosen and raised more carefully than any white girl, any nun, than any blooded mare even, by a person who gives them the unsleeping care and attention which no mother ever gives. For a price, of course, but a price offered and accepted or declined through a system more formal than any that white girls are sold under since they are more valuable as commodities than white girls, raised and trained to fulfill a woman's sole end and purpose: to love, to be beautiful, to divert; never to see a man's face hardly until brought to the ball and offered to and chosen by some man who in return, not can and not will but must, supply her with the surroundings proper in which to love and be beautiful and divert, and who must usually risk his life or at least his blood for that privilege. No, not whores. Sometimes I believe that they are the only true chaste women, not to say virgins, in America, and they remain true and faithful to that man not merely until he dies or frees them, but until they die. And where will you find whore or lady either whom you can count on to do that?" and Henry, "But you married her. You married her": and Bon — it would be a little quicker now, sharper now, though still gentle, still patient, though still the iron, the steel the gambler not quite yet reduced to his final trump: "Ah. That ceremony. I see. That's it, then. A formula, a shibholeth meaningless as a child's game, performed by someone created by the situation whose need it answered: a crone mumbling in a dungeon lighted by a handful of burning hair, something in a tongue which not even the girls themselves understand anymore, maybe not even the crone herself, rooted in nothing of economics for her or for any possible progeny since the very fact that we acquiesced, suffered the farce, was her proof and assurance of that which the ceremony itself could never enforce; vesting no new rights in no one, denying to none the old — a ritual as meaningless as that of college boys in secret rooms at night, even to the same archaic and forgotten symbols? — you call that a marriage, when the night of a honeymoon and the casual business with a hired prostitute consists of the same suzerainty over a (temporarily) private room, the same order of removing the same clothes, the same conjunction in a single bed? Why not call that a marriage too?" and Henry: "Oh I know. I know. You give me two and two and you tell me it makes five and it does make five. But there is still the marriage.
Suppose i assume an obligation to a man who cannot speak my language, the obligation stated to him in his own and I agree to it: am I any the less obligated because I did not happen to know the tongue in which he accepted me in good faith? No: the more, the mote." and Bon — the trump now, the voice gentle now: "Have you forgot that this woman, this child, are niggers? You, Henry Sutpen of Sutpen's Hundred in Mississippi? You, talking of marriage, a wedding, here?" and Henry the despair now, the last bitter cry of irrevocable undefeat: "Yes. I know. I know that. But it's still there. It's not right. Not even you doing it makes it right. Not even you." 'So that was all. It should have been all; that afternoon four years later should have happened the next day, the four years, the interval, mere anti-climax: an attenuation and prolongation of a conclusion already ripe to happen, by the War by a stupid and bloody aberration in the high (and impossible) destiny of the United States, maybe instigated by that family fatality which possessed, along with all circumstance, that curious lack of economy between cause and effect which is always a characteristic of fate when reduced to using human beings for tools, material. Anyway, Henry waited four years, holding the three of them in that abeyance, that durance, waiting, hoping, for Bon to renounce the woman and dissolve the marriage which he (Henry) admitted was no marriage, and which he must have known as soon as he saw the woman and the child that Bon would not renounce. In fact, as time passed and Henry became accustomed to the idea of that ceremony which was still no marriage, that may have been the trouble with Henry — not the two ceremonies but the two women; not the fact that Bon's intention was to commit bigamy but that it was apparently to make his (Henry's) sister a sort of junior partner in a harem. Anyway, he waited, hoped, for four years. That spring they returned north, into Mississippi. Bull Run had been fought and there was a company organizing at the University, among the student body. Henry and Bon joined it. Probably Henry wrote Judith where they were and what they intended to do. They enlisted together, you see, Henry watching Bon and Bon permitting himself to be watched, the probation, the durance: the one who dared not let the other out of his sight, not from fear that Bon would marry Judith with Henry not there to stop it, but that Bon would marry Judith and then he (Henry) would have to live for the rest of his life with the knowledge that he was glad that he had been so betrayed, with the coward's joy of surrendering without having been vanquished; the other for that same reason too, who could not have wanted Judith without Henry since he must never have doubted but what he could marry Judith when he wished, in spite of brother and father both, because as I said before, it was not Judith who was the object of Bon's love or of Henry's solicitude. She was just the blank shape, the empty vessel in which each of them strove to preserve, not the illusion of himself nor his illusion of the other but what each conceived the other to believe him to be the man and the youth, seducer and seduced, who had known one another, seduced and been seduced, victimized in turn each by the other, conquerer vanquished by his own strength, vanquished conquering by his own weakness, before Judith came into their joint lives even by so much as girlname. And who knows? there was the War now; who knows but what the fatality and the fatality's victims did not both think, hope, that the War would settle the matter, leave free one of the two irreconcilables, since it would not be the first time that youth has taken catastrophe as a direct act of Providence for the sole purpose of solving a personal problem which youth itself could not solve.
'And Judith: how else to explain her but this way? Surely Bon could not have corrupted her to fatalism in twelve days, who not only had not tried to corrupt her to unchastity but not even to defy her father. No: anything but a fatalist, who was the Sutpen with the ruthless Sutpen code of taking what it wanted provided it were strong enough, of the two children as Henry was the Coldfield with the Coldfield cluttering of morality and rules of right and wrong; who while Henry screamed and vomited, looked down from the loft that night on the spectacle of Sutpen fighting halfnaked with one of his halfnaked niggers with the same cold and attentive interest with which Sutpen would have watched Henry fighting with a Negro boy of his own age and weight. Because she could not have known the reason for her father's objection to the marriage. Henry would not have told her, and she would not have asked her father. Because, even if she had known it, it would have made no difference to her. She would have acted as Sutpen would have acted with anyone who tried to cross him: she would have taken Bon anyway. I can imagine her if necessary even murdering the other woman. But she certainly would have made no investigation and then held a moral debate between what she wanted and what she thought was right. Yet she waited. She waited four years, with no word from him save through Henry that he (Bon) was alive. It was the probation, the durance; they all three accepted it; I don't believe there was ever any promise between Henry and Bon demanded or offered. But Judith, who could not have known what happened nor why. — Have you noticed how so often when we try to reconstruct the causes which lead up to the actions of men and women, how with a sort of astonishment we find ourselves now and then reduced to the belief, the only possible belief, that they stemmed from some of the old virtues? the thief who steals not for greed but for love, the murderer who kills not out of lust but pity? Judith, giving implicit trust where she had given love, giving implicit love where she had derived breath and pride: that true pride, not that false kind which transforms what it does not at the moment understand into scorn and outrage and so vents itself in pique and lacerations, but true pride which can say to itself without abasement I love, I will accept no substitute; something has happened between him and my father; if my father was right, I will never see him, again, if wrong he will come or send for me; if happy I can be I will, if suffer I must I can. Because she waited; she made no effort to do anything else; her relations with her father had not altered one jot; to see them together, Bon might never have even existed — the same two calm impenetrable faces seen together in the carriage in town during the next few months after Ellen took to her bed, between that Christmas day and the day when Sutpen rode away with his and Sartoris' regiment. They didn't talk, tell one another anything, you see — Sutpen, what he had learned about Bon; Judith, that she knew where Bon and Henry now were. They did not need to talk. They were too much alike. They were as two people become now and then, who seem to know one another so well or are so much alike that the power, the need, to communicate by speech atrophies from disuse and, comprehending without need of the medium of ear or intellect, they no longer understand one another's actual words. So she did not tell him where Henry and Bon were and he did not discover it until after the University company departed, because Bon and Henry enrolled and then hid themselves somewhere. They must have; they must have paused in Oxford only long enough to enroll before riding on, because no one who knew them either in Oxford or in Jefferson knew that they were members of the company at the time, which would have been almost impossible to conceal otherwise. Because now people — fathers and mothers and sisters and kin and sweethearts of those young men — were coming to Oxford from further away than Jefferson — families with food and bedding and servants, to bivouac among the families, the houses, of Oxford itself, to watch the gallant mimic marching and countermarching of the sons and the brothers, drawn all of them, rich and poor, aristocrat and redneck, by what is probably the most moving mass-sight of all human mass-experience, far more so than the spectacle of so many virgins going to be sacrificed to some heathen Principle, some Priapus — the sight of young men, the light quick bones, the bright gallant deluded blood and flesh dressed in a martial glitter of brass and plumes, marching away to a battle.
And there would be music at night — fiddle and triangle among the blazing candles, the blowing of curtains in tall windows on the April darkness, the swing of crinoline indiscriminate within the circle of plain gray cuff of the soldier or the banded gold of rank, of an army even if not a war of gentlemen, where private and colonel called each other by their given names not as one farmer to another across a halted plow in a field or across a counter in a store laden with calico and cheese and strap oil, but as one man to another above the suave powdered shoulders of women, above the two raised glasses of scuppernong claret or bought champagne music, the nightly repetitive last waltz as the days passed and the company waited to move, the brave trivial glitter against a black night not catastrophic but merely background, the perennial last scented spring of youth; and Judith not there and Henry the romantic not there and Bon the fatalist, hidden somewhere, the watcher and the watched: and the recurrent flower-laden dawns of that April and May and June filled with bugles, entering a hundred windows where a hundred still unbrided widows dreamed virgin unmeditant upon the locks of black or brown or yellow hair and Judith not one of these: and five of the company, mounted, with grooms and body servants in a forage wagon, in their new and unstained gray made a tour of the State with the flag, the company's colors, the segments of silk cut and fitted but not sewn, from house to house until the sweetheart of each man in the company had taken a few stitches in it, and Henry and Bon not of these either, since they did not join the company until after it departed. They must have emerged from whatever place it was that they lurked in, emerging as though unnoticed from the roadside brake or thicket, to fall in as the marching company passed; the two of them — the youth and the man, the youth deprived twice now of his birthright, who should have made one among the candles and fiddles, the kisses and the desperate tears, who should have made one of the color guard itself which toured the State with the unsewn flag; and the man who should not have been there at all, who was too old to be there at all, both in years and experience: that mental and spiritual orphan whose fate it apparently was to exist in some limbo halfway between where his corporeality was and his mentality and moral equipment desired to be — an undergraduate at the University, yet by the sheer accumulation of too full years behind him forced into the extra-academic of a law class containing six members; in the War, by that same force removed into the isolation of commissioned rank. He received a lieutenancy before the company entered its first engagement even. I don't think he wanted it; I can even imagine him trying to avoid it, refuse it. But there it was, he was, orphaned once more by the very situation to which and by which he was doomed — the two of them officer and man now but' still watcher and watched, waiting for something but not knowing what, what act of fate, destiny, what irrevocable sentence of what Judge or Arbiter between them since nothing less would do, nothing halfway or reversible would seem to suffice — the officer, the lieutenant who possessed the slight and authorized advantage of being able to say You go there, of at least sometimes remaining behind the platoon which he directed; the private who carried that officer, shot through the shoulder, on his back while the regiment fell back under the Yankee guns at Pittsburgh Landing, carried him to safety apparently for the sole purpose of watching him for two years more, writing Judith meanwhile that they were both alive, and that was all.
'And Judith. She lived alone now. Perhaps she had lived alone ever since that Christmas day last year and then year before last and then three years and then four years ago, since though Sutpen was gone now with his and Sartoris' regiment and the Negroes — the wild stock with which he had created Sutpen's Hundred — had followed the first Yankee troops to pass through Jefferson, she lived in anything but solitude, what with Ellen in bed in the shuttered room, requiring the unremitting attention of a child while she waited with that amazed and passive uncomprehension to die; and she (Judith) and Clytie making and keeping a kitchen garden of sorts to keep them alive; and Wash Jones, living in the abandoned and rotting fishing camp in the river bottom which Sutpen had built after the first woman — Ellen — entered his house and the last deer and bear hunter went out of it, where he now permitted Wash and his daughter and infant granddaughter to live, performing the heavy garden work and supplying Ellen and Judith and then Judith with fish and game now and then, even entering the house now, who until Sutpen went away, had never approached nearer than the scuppernong arbor behind the kitchen where on Sunday afternoons he and Sutpen would drink from the demijohn and the bucket of spring water which Wash fetched from almost a mile away, Sutpen in the barrel stave hammock talking and Wash squatting against a post, chortling and guffawing.
It was not solitude and certainly not idleness for Judith: the same impenetrable and serene face, only a little older now, a little thinner now, which had appeared in town in the carriage beside her father's within a week after it was learned that her fiance and her brother had quitted the house in the night and vanished. When she came to town now, in the made-over dress which all Southern women now wore, in the carriage still but drawn now by a mule, a plow mule, soon the plow mule, and no coachman to drive it either, to put the mule in the harness and take it out, to join the other women — there were wounded in Jefferson then — in the improvised hospital where (the nurtured virgin, the supremely and traditionally idle) they cleaned and dressed the self-fouled bodies of strange injured and dead and made lint of the window curtains and sheets and linen of the houses in which they had been born; there were none to ask her about brother and sweetheart, while they talked among themselves of sons and brothers and husbands with tears and grief perhaps, but at least with certainty, knowledge.
Judith waiting too, like Henry and Bon, not knowing for what, but unlike Henry and Bon, not even knowing for why. Then Ellen died, the butterfly of a forgotten summer two years defunctive now the substanceless shell, the shade impervious to any alteration of dissolution because of its very weightlessness: no body to be buried: just the shape, the recollection, translated on some peaceful afternoon without bell or catafalque into that cedar grove, to lie in powder light paradox beneath the thousand pounds of marble monument which Sutpen (Colonel Sutpen now, since Sartoris had been deposed at the annual election of regimental officers the year before) brought in the regimental forage wagon from Charleston, South Carolina and set above the faint grassy depression which Judith told him was Ellen's grave.
And then her grandfather died, starved to death nailed up in his own attic, and Judith doubtless inviting Miss Rosa to come out to Sutpen's Hundred to live and Miss Rosa declining, waiting, too, apparently upon this letter, this first direct word from Bon in four years and which, a week after she buried him, too, beside her mother's tombstone, she brought to town herself, in the surrey drawn by the mule which both she and Clytie had learned to catch and harness, and gave to your grandmother, bringing the letter voluntarily to your grandmother, who (Judith) never called on anyone now, had no friends now, doubtless knowing no more why she chose your grandmother to give the letter to than your grandmother knew; not thin now but gaunt, the Sutpen skull showing indeed now through the worn, the Coldfield, flesh, the face which had long since forgotten how to be young and yet absolutely impenetrable, absolutely serene: no mourning, not even grief, and your grandmother saying, "Me? You want me to keep it?"
' "Yes," Judith said. "Or destroy it. As you like. Read it if you like or don't read it if you like. Because you make so little impression, you see. You get born and you try this and you don't know why only you keep on trying it 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 cant matter, you know that, or the Ones that set up the loom would have arranged things a little better, and yet it must matter because you keep on trying or having to keep on trying and then all of a sudden it's all over and all you have left is a block of stone with scratches on it provided there was someone to remember to have the marble scratched and set up or had time to, and it rains on it and the sun shines on it and after a while they don't even remember the name and what the scratches were trying to tell, and it doesn't matter. And so maybe if you could go to someone, the stranger the better, and give them something — a scrap of paper — something, anything, it not to mean anything in itself and them not even to read it or keep it, not even bother to throw it away or destroy it, at least it would be something just because it would have happened, be remembered even if only from passing from one hand to another, one mind to another, and it would be at least a scratch, something, something that might make a mark on something that was once for the reason that it can die someday, while the block of stone cant be is because it never can become was because it cant ever die or perish…" and your grandmother watching her, the impenetrable, the calm, the absolutely serene face, and crying: ' "No!
No! Not that! Think of your — " and the face watching her, comprehending, still serene, not even bitter: ' "Oh. I? No, not that.
Because somebody will have to take care of Clytie, and father, too, soon, who will want something to eat after he comes home because it wont last much longer since they have begun to shoot one another now.
No. Not that. Women don't do that for love. I don't even believe that men do. And not now, anyway. Because there wouldn't be any room now, for them to go to, whereever it is, if it is. It would be full already. Glutted. Like a theater, an opera house, if what you expect to find is forgetting, diversion, entertainment; like a bed already too full if what you want to find is a chance to lie still and sleep and sleep and sleep" — Mr Compson moved. Half rising, Quentin took the letter from him and beneath the dim bug-fouled globe opened it, carefully, as though the sheet, the desiccated square, were not the paper but the intact ash of its former shape and substance: and meanwhile Mr Compson's voice speaking on while Quentin heard it without listening: 'Now you can see why I said that he loved her.
Because there were other letters, many of them, gallant flowery indolent frequent and insincere, sent by hand over that forty miles between Oxford and Jefferson after that first Christmas — the metropolitan gallant's idle and delicately flattering (and doubtless to him, meaningless) gesture to the bucolic maiden — and that bucolic maiden, with that profound and absolutely inexplicable tranquil patient clairvoyance of women against which that metropolitan gallant's foppish posturing was just the jackanape antics of a small boy, receiving the letters without understanding them, not even keeping them, for all their elegant and gallant and tediously contrived turns of form and metaphor, until the next one arrived. But keeping this one which must have reached her out of a clear sky after an interval of four years, considering this one worthy to give to a stranger to keep or not to keep, even to read or not to read as the stranger saw fit, to make that scratch, that undying mark on the blank face of the oblivion to which we are all doomed, of which she spoke — ' Quentin hearing without having to listen as he read the faint spidery script not like something impressed upon the paper by a once-living hand but like a shadow cast upon it which had resolved on the paper the instant before he looked at it and which might fade, vanish, at any instant while he still read: the dead tongue speaking after the four years and then after almost fifty more, gentle sardonic whimsical and incurably pessimistic, without date or salutation or signature: 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, thank God, never reconciled from the old soft feel of soap and clean linen and something between the sole 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 defenseless sutlers' 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. Gallons and gallons and gallons of the best stove polish, not a box of it a year old yet and doubtless still trying to overtake General Sherman with some belated amended field order requiring him to polish the stove before firing the house. How we laughed. Yes, we laughed, because I have learned this at least during these four years that, it really requires an empty stomach to laugh with, that only when you are hungry or frightened do you extract some ultimate essence out of laughing just as the empty stomach extracts the ultimate essence out of alcohol. But at least we have stove polish. We have plenty of it. We have too much, because it does not take much to say what I have to say, as you can see. And so the conclusion and augury which I draw, even though no philosopher, is this.
We have waited long enough. You will notice how I do not insult you either by saying I have waited long enough. And therefore, since I do not insult you by saying that only I have waited, I do not add, expect me. Because I cannot say when to expect me. Because what WAS is one thing, and now it is not because it is dead, it died in 1861, and therefore what IS — (There. They have started firing again. which — to mention it — is redundancy too, like the breathing or the need of ammunition. Because sometimes I think it has never stopped.
It hasn't stopped of course; I don't mean that. I mean, there has never been any more of it, that there was that one fusillade four years ago which sounded once and then was arrested, mesmerized raised muzzle by raised muzzle, in the frozen attitude of its own aghast amazement and never repeated and it now only the loud aghast echo jarred by the dropped musket of a weary sentry or by the fall of the spent body itself, out of the air which lies over the land where that fusillade first sounded and where it must remain yet because no other space under Heaven will receive it. So that means that it is dawn again and that I must stop. Stop what? you will say. (Why, thinking, remembering-remark that do not say, hoping — ; to become once more for a period without boundaries or location in time, mindless and irrational companion and inmate of a body which, even after four years, with a sort of dismal and incorruptible fidelity which is incredibly admirable to me, is still immersed and obliviously bemused in recollections of old peace and contentment the very names of whose scents and sounds I do not know that I remember, which ignores even the presence and threat of a torn arm or leg as though through some secretly incurred and infallible promise and conviction of mortality.
But to finish.) I cannot say when to expect me. Because what IS is something else again because it was not even alive then. 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.
'And that's all,' Mr Compson said. 'She received it and she and Clytie made the wedding gown and the veil from scraps — perhaps scraps intended for, which should have gone for, lint and did not. She didn't know when he would come because he didn't know himself: and maybe he told Henry, showed Henry the letter before he sent it, and maybe he did not; maybe still just the watching and the waiting, the one saying to Henry I have waited long enough and Henry saying to the other Do you renounce then?
Do you renounce? and the other saying I do not renounce. For four years now I have given chance the opportunity to renounce for me, but it seems that I am doomed to live, that she and I both are doomed to live — the defianceeeeee and the ultimatum delivered beside a bivouac fire, the ultimatum discharged before the gate to which the two of them must have ridden side by side almost: the one calm and undeviating, perhaps unresisting even, the fatalist to the last; the other remorseless with implacable and unalterable grief and despair — ' (It seemed to Quentin that he could actually see them, facing one another at the gate. Inside the gate what was once a park now spread, unkempt, in shaggy desolation, with an air dreamy, remote and aghast like the unshaven face of a man just waking from ether, up to a huge house where a young girl waited in a wedding dress made from stolen scraps, the house partaking too of that air of scaling desolation, not having suffered from invasion but a shell marooned and forgotten in a backwater of catastrophe — a skeleton giving of itself in slow driblets of furniture and carpet, linen, and silver, to help to die torn and anguished men who knew, even while dying, that for months now the sacrifice and the anguish were in vain.
They faced one another on the two gaunt horses, two men, young, not yet in the world, not yet breathed over long enough, to be old but with old eyes, with unkempt hair and faces gaunt and weathered as if cast by some spartan and even niggard hand from bronze, in worn and patched gray weathered now to the color of dead leaves, the one with the tarnished braid of an officer, the other plain of cuff, the pistol lying yet across the saddle bow unaimed, the two faces calm, the voices not even raised: Dont you pass the shadow of this post, this branch, Charles; and I am going to pass it, Henry) ' — and then Wash Jones sitting that saddleless mule before Miss Rosa's gate, shouting her name into the sunny and peaceful quiet of the street, saying, "Air you Rosie Coldfield ? Then you better come on out yon. Henry has done shot that durn French feller. Kilt him dead as a beef." '
So they will have told you doubtless already how I told that Jones to take that mule which was not his around to the barn and harness it to our buggy while I put on my hat and shawl and locked the house.
That was all I needed to do since they will have told you doubtless that I would have had no need for either trunk or bag since what clothing I possessed, now that the garments which I had been fortunate enough to inherit from my aunt's kindness or haste or oversight were long since worn out, consisted of the ones which Ellen had remembered from time to time to give me and now Ellen these two years dead; that I had only to lock the house and take my place in the buggy and traverse those twelve miles which I had not done since Ellen died, beside that brute who until Ellen died was not even permitted to approach the house from the front that brute progenitor of brutes whose granddaughter was to supplant me, if not in my sister's house at least in my sister's bed to which (so they will tell you) I aspired — that brute who (brute instrument of that justice which presides over human events which, incept in the individual, runs smooth, less clam than velvet: but which, by man or woman flouted, drives on like fiery steel and overrides both weakly just and unjust strong, both vanquisher and innocent victimized, ruthless for appointed right and truth) brute who was not only to preside upon the various shapes and avatars of Thomas Sutpen's devil's fate but was to provide at the last the female flesh in which his name and lineage should be sepulchered — that brute who appeared to believe that he had served and performed his appointed end by yelling of blood and pistols in the street before my house, who seemed to believe that what further information he might have given me was too scant or too bland and free of moment to warrant the discarding of his tobacco cud, because during the entire subsequent twelve miles he could not even tell me what had happened.
And how I traversed those same twelve miles once more after the two years since Ellen died (or was it the four years since Henry vanished or was it the nineteen years since I saw light and breathed?) knowing nothing, able to learn nothing save this: a shot heard, faint and far away and even direction and source indeterminate, by two women, two young women alone in a rotting house where no man's footstep had sounded in two years — a shot, then an interval of aghast surmise above the cloth and needles which engaged them, then feet, in the hall and then on the stairs, running, hurrying, the feet of man: and Judith with just time to snatch up the unfinished dress and hold it before her as the door burst open upon her brother, the wild murderer whom she had not seen in four years and whom she believed to be (if he was, still lived and breathed at all) a thousand miles away: and then the two of them, the two accursed children on whom the first blow of their devil's heritage had but that moment fallen, looking at one another across the up-raised and unfinished wedding dress.
Twelve miles toward that I rode, beside an animal who could stand in the street before my house and bellow placidly to the populous and listening solitude that my nephew had just murdered his sister's fiance, yet who could not permit himself to force the mule which drew us beyond a walk because 'hit warn't none of mine nor hisn neither and besides hit aint had a decent bait of vittles since the corn give out in February'; who, turning into the actual gate at last, must stop the mule and, pointing with the whip and spitting first, say ' Hit was right yonder." ' What was right there, fool?" I cried, and he: 'Hit was' until I took the whip from him into my own hand and struck the mule.
But they cannot tell you how I went on up the drive, past Ellen's ruined and weed-choked flower beds and reached the house, the shell, the (so I thought) cocoon-casket marriage-bed of youth and grief and found that I had come, not too late as I had thought, but come too soon. Rotting portico and scaling walls, it stood, not ravaged, not invaded, marked by no bullet nor soldier's iron heel but rather as though reserved for something more: some desolation more profound than ruin, as if it had stood in iron juxtaposition to iron flame, to a holocaust which had found itself less fierce and less implacable, not hurled but rather fallen back before the impervious and indomitable skeleton which the flames durst not, at the instant's final crisis, assail; there was even one step, one plank rotted free and tilting beneath the foot (or would have if I had not touched it light and fast) as I ran up and into the hallway whose carpet had long since gone with the bed — and table-linen for lint, and saw the Sutpen face and even as I cried 'Henry! Henry!
What have you done? What has that fool been trying to tell me?" realized that I had come, not too late as I had thought, but come too soon. Because it was not Henry's face. It was Sutpen face enough, but not his; Sutpen coffee-colored face enough there in the dim light, barring the stairs: and I running out of the bright afternoon, into the thunderous silence of that brooding house where I could see nothing at first: then gradually the face, the Sutpen face not approaching, not swimming up out of the gloom, but already there, rocklike and firm and antedating time and house and doom and all, waiting there (oh yes, he chose well; he bettered choosing, who created in his own image the cold Cerberus of his private hell) the face without sex or age because it had never possessed either: the same sphinx face which she had been born with, which had looked down from the loft that night beside Judith's and which she still wears now at seventy-four, looking at me with no change, no alteration in it at all, as though it had known to the second when I was to enter, had waited there during that entire twelve miles behind that walking mule and watched me draw nearer and nearer and enter the door at last as it had known (ay, perhaps decreed, since there is that justice whose Moloch's palate-paunch makes no distinction between gristle bone and tender flesh) that I would enter — The face stopping me dead (not my body: it still advanced, ran on." but I, myself, that deep existence which we lead, to which the movement of limbs is but a clumzy and belated accompaniment like so many unnecessary instruments played crudely and amateurishly out of time to the tune itself) in that barren hall with its naked stair (that carpet gone too) rising into the dim upper hallway where an echo spoke which was not mine but rather that of the lost irrevocable might-have-been which haunts all houses, all enclosed walls erected by human hands, not for shelter, not for warmth, but to hide from the world's curious looking and seeing the dark turnings which the ancient young delusions of pride and hope and ambition (ay, and love too) take. 'Judith!" I said. 'Judith!" 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 judgement whatever) is not even there to hear it. I was crying not to someone, something, but (trying to cry) through something, through that force, that furious yet absolutely rocklike and immobile antagonism which had stopped me — that presence, that familiar coffee-colored face, that body (the bare coffee-colored feet motionless on the bare floor, the curve of the stair rising just beyond her) no larger than my own which, without moving, with no alteration of visual displacement whatever (she did not even remove her gaze from mine for the reason that she was not looking at me but through me, apparently still musing upon the open door's serene rectangle which I had broken) seemed to elongate and project upward something — not soul, not spirit, but something rather of a profoundly attentive and distracted listening to or for something which I myself could not hear and was not intended to hear — a brooding awareness and acceptance of the inexplicable unseen, herited from an older and a purer race than mine, which created postulated and shaped in the empty air between us that which I believed I had come to find (nay, which I must find, else breathing and standing there, I would have denied that I was ever born) — that bedroom long-closed and musty, that sheetless bed (that nuptial couch of love and grief) with the pale and bloody corpse in its patched and weathered gray crimsoning the bare mattress, the bowed and unwived widow kneeling beside it — and I (my body) not stopping yet (yes, it needed the hand, the touch, for that) — I self-mesmered fool who still believed that what must be would be, could not but be, else I must deny sanity as well as breath, running, hurling myself into that inscrutable coffeecolored face, that cold implacable mindless (no, not mindless: anything but mindless: his own clairvoyant will tempered to amoral evil's undeviating absolute by the black willing blood with which he had crossed it) replica of his own which he had created and decreed to preside upon his absence, as you might watch a wild distracted nightbound bird flutter into the brazen and fatal lamp. 'Wait,' she said. 'Dont you go up there." Still I did not stop; it would require the hand; and I still running on, accomplishing those last few feet across which we seemed to glare at one another not as two faces but as the two abstract contradictions which we actually were, neither of our voices raised, as though we spoke to one another free of the limitations and restrictions of speech and hearing. ' What?" I said. 'Dont you go up there, Rosa." That was how she said it: that quiet that still, and again it was as though it had not been she who spoke but the house itself that said the words — the house which he had built, which some suppuration of himself had created about him as the sweat of his body might have produced some (even if invisible) cocoon-like and complementary shell in which Ellen had had to live and die a stranger, in which Henry and Judith would have to be victims and prisoners, or die. Because it was not the name, the word, the fact that she had called me Rosa. As children she had called me that, just as she had called them Henry and Judith; I know that even now she still called Judith (and Henry too when she spoke of him) by her given name. And she might very naturally have called me Rosa still, since to everyone else whom I knew I was still a child. But it was not that. That was not what she meant at all; in fact, during that instant while we stood face to face (that instant before my still advancing body should brush past her and reach the stair) she did me more grace and respect than anyone else I knew; I knew that from the instant I had entered that door, to her of all who knew me I was no child. 'Rosa?" I cried. 'To me? To my face?" Then she touched me, and then I did stop dead. Possibly even then my body did not stop, since I seemed to be aware of it thrusting blindly still against the solid yet imponderable weight (she not owner: instrument; I still say that) of that will to bar me from the stairs; possibly the sound of the other voice, the single word spoken from the stairhead above us, had already broken and parted us before it (my body) had even paused. I do not know. I know only that my entire being seemed to run at blind full tilt into something monstrous and immobile, with a shocking impact too soon and too quick to be mere amazement and outrage at that 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 the devious intricate channels of decorous ordering, which enemies as well as lovers know because it makes them both — touch and touch of that which is the citadel of the central I-Am's private own: not spirit, the liquorish and ungirdled mind is anyone's to take in any darkened hallway of this earthly tenement. But let flesh touch with flesh, and watch the fall of all the eggshell shibholeth of caste and color too. Yes, I stopped dead no woman's hand, no Negro's hand, but bitted bridle-curb to check and guide the furious and unbending will — I crying not to her, to it; speaking to it through the Negro, the woman, only because of the shock which was not yet outrage because it would be terror soon, expecting and receiving no answer because we both new it was not to her I spoke:' Take your hand off me, nigger!" I got none.
We just stood there — I motion the attitude and action of running, she rigid in that furious immobility, the two of us joined by that hand and arm which held us, like a fierce rigid umbilical cord, twin sistered to the fell darkness which had produced her. As a child I had more than once watched her and Judith and even Henry scuffing in the rough games which they (possibly all children; I do not know) played, and (so I have heard) she and Judith even slept together, in the same room but with Judith in the bed and she on a pallet on the floor ostensibly.
But I have heard how on more than one occasion Ellen has found them both on the pallet, and once in the bed together. But not I Even as a child, would not even play with the same objects which she and Judith played with, as though that warped and spartan solitude which I called my childhood, which had taught me (and little else) to listen before I could comprehend and to understand before I even heard, had also taught me not only to instinctively fear her and what she was, but to shun the very objects which she had touched. We stood there so. And then suddenly it was not outrage that I waited for, out of which I had instinctively cried; it was not terror: it was some cumulative overreach of despair itself. I remember how as we stood there joined by that volitionless (yes: it too sentient victim just as she and I were) hand, I cried — perhaps not aloud, not with words (and not to Judith, mind: perhaps I knew already, on the instant I entered the house and saw that face which was at once both more and less than Sutpen, perhaps I knew even then what I could not, would not, must not believe) — I cried 'And you too? And you too, sister, sister?" What did I expect? I, self-mesmered fool, come twelve miles expecting what? Henry perhaps, to emerge from some door which knew his touch, his hand on the knob, the weight of his foot on a sill which knew that weight: and so to find standing in the hall a small plain frightened creature whom neither man nor woman had ever looked at twice, whom he had not seen himself in four years and seldom enough before that but whom he would recognize if only because of the worn brown silk which had once become his mother and because the creature stood there calling him by his given name? Henry to emerge and say 'Why, it's Rosa, Aunt Rosa. wake up, Aunt Rosa; wake up'? — I, the dreamer clinging yet to the dream as the patient clings to the last thin unbearable ecstatic instant of agony in order to sharpen the savor of the pain's surcease, waking into the reality, the more than reality, not to the unchanged and unaltered old time but into a time altered to fit the dream which, conjunctive with the dreamer, becomes immolated and apotheosied: 'Mother and Judith are in the nursery with the children, and Father and Charles are walking in the garden.
Wake up, Aunt Rosa; wake up'? Or not expect perhaps, not even hope; not even dream since dreams don't come in pairs, and had I not come twelve miles drawn not by mortal mule but by some chimera-foal of nightmare's very self? (Ay, wake up, Rosa; wake up — not from what was, what used to be, but from what had not, could not have ever, been; wake, Rosa — not to what should, what might have been, but to what cannot, what must not, be; wake, Rosa, from the hoping, who did believe there is a seemliness to bereavement even though grief be absent; believed there would be need for you to save not love perhaps, not happiness nor peace, but what was left behind by widowing — and found that there was nothing there to save; who hoped to save her as you promised Ellen (not Charles Bon, not Henry: not either one of these from him or even from one another) and now too late, who would have been too late if you had come there from the womb or had been there already at the full strong capable mortal peak when she was born; who came twelve miles and nineteen years to save what did not need the saving, and lost instead yourself) I do not know, except that I did not find it. I found only that dream-state in which you run without moving from a terror in which you cannot believe, toward a safety in which you have no faith, held so not by the shifting and foundationless quicksand of nightmare but by a face which was its soul's own inquisitor, a hand which was the agent of its own crucifixion, until the voice parted us, broke the spell. It said one word: ' Clytie." like that, that cold, that still: not Judith, but the house itself speaking again, though it was Judith's voice. Oh, I knew it well, who had believed in grieving's seemliness; I knew it as well as she — Clytie — knew it.
She did not move; it was only the hand, the hand gone before I realized that it had been removed. I do not know if she removed it or if I ran out from beneath its touch. But it was gone; and this too they cannot tell you: How I ran, fled, up the stairs and found no grieving widowed bride but Judith standing before the closed door to that chamber, in the gingham dress which she had worn each time I had seen her since Ellen died, holding something in one hanging hand; and if there had been grief or anguish she had put them too away, complete or not complete I do not know, along with that unfinished wedding dress. ' Yes, Rosa?" she said, like that again, and I stopped in running's midstride again though my body, blind unsentient barrow of deluded clay and breath, still advanced: And now I saw that what she held in that lax and negligent hand was the photograph, the picture of herself in its metal case which she had given him, held casual and forgotten against her flank as any interrupted pastime book.
That's what I found. Perhaps it's what I expected, knew (even at nineteen knew, I would say if it were not for my nineteen, my own particular kind of nineteen years) that I should find. Perhaps I couldn't even have wanted more than that, couldn't have accepted less, who even at nineteen must have known that living is one constant and perpetual instant when the arras-veil before what-is-to-be hangs docile and even glad to the lightest naked thrust if we had dared, were brave enough (not wise enough: no wisdom needed here) to make the rending gash. Or perhaps it is no lack of courage either: not cowardice which will not face that sickness somewhere at the prime foundation of this factual scheme from which the prisoner soul, miasmal-distillant boils ever upward sunward, tugs its tenuous prisoner arteries and veins and prisoning in its turn that spark, that dream which, as the globy and complete instant of its freedom mirrors and repeats (repeats? creates, reduces to a fragile evanescent iridescent sphere) all of space and time and massy earth, relicts the seething and anonymous miasmal mass which in all the years of time has taught itself no boon of death but only how to recreate, renew; and die, is gone, vanished: nothing — 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 wistaria, sunimpacted on this wall here, distills and penetrates this room as though (lightunimpeded) 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. — See how the sleeping outflung hand, touching the bedside candle, remembers pain, springs back and free while mind and brain sleep on and only make of this adjacent heat some trashy myth of really's escape: or that same sleeping hand, in sensuous marriage with some dulcet surface, is transformed by that same sleeping brain and mind into that same figment-stuff warped out of all experience. Ay, grief goes, fades; we know that — but ask the tear ducts if they have forgotten how to weep.
— Once there was (they cannot have told you this either) a summer of wistaria. It was a pervading everywhere of wistaria (I was fourteen then) as though of all springs yet to capitulate condensed into one spring, one summer: the spring and summertime which is every female's who breathed above dust, beholden of all betrayed springs held over from all irrevocable time, repercussed, bloomed again. It was a vintage year of wistaria: vintage year being that sweet conjunction of root bloom and urge and hour and weather,' and I (I was fourteen) — I will not insist on bloom, at whom no man had yet to look — nor would ever — twice, as not as child but less than even child; as not more child than woman but even as less than any female flesh. Nor do I say leaf — warped bitter pale and crimped half-fledging intimidate of any claim to green which might have drawn to it the tender mayfly childhood sweetheart games or given pause to the male predacious wasps and bees of later lust. But root and urge I do insist and claim, for had I not heired too far all the unsistered Eves since the Snake?
Yes, urge I do: warped chrysalis of what blind perfect seed: for who shall say what gnarled forgotten root might not bloom yet with some globed concentrate more globed and concentrate and heady-perfect because the neglected root was planted warped and lay not dead but merely slept forgot?
That was the miscast summer of my barren youth which (for that short time, that short brief unreturning springtime of the female heart) I lived out not as a woman, a girl, but rather as the man which I perhaps should have been. I was fourteen then, fourteen in years if they could have been called years while in that unpaced corridor which I called childhood, which was not living but rather some projection of the lightless womb itself; I gestate and complete, not aged, just overdue because of some caesarean lack, some cold head-nuzzling forceps of the savage time which should have torn me free, 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; I like that blind subterranean fish, that insulated spark whose origin the fish no longer remembers, which pulses and beats at its crepuscular and lethargic tenement with the old unsleeping itch which has no words to speak with other than ' This was called light', that' smell', that' touch', that other something which has bequeathed not even name for sound of bee or bird or flower's scent or light or sun or love — yes, not even growing and developing, beloved by and loving light, but equipped only with that cunning, that inverted canker-growth of solitude which substitutes the omnivorous and unrational hearingsense for all the others: so that instead of accomplishing the processional and measured milestones of the childhood's time I lurked, unapprehended as though, shod with the very damp and velvet silence of the womb, I displaced no air, gave off no betraying sound, from one closed forbidden door to the next and so acquired all I knew of that light and space in which people moved and breathed as I (that same child) might have gained conception of the sun from seeing it through a piece of smoky glass — fourteen, four years younger than Judith, four years later than Judith's moment which only virgins know: when the entire delicate spirit's bent is one anonymous climaxless epicene and unravished nuptial — not that widowed and nightly violation by the inescapable and scornful deed which is the need of twenty and thirty and forty, but a world filled with living marriage like the light and air which she breathes. But it was no summer of a virgin's itching discontent; no summer's caesarean lack which should have torn me, dead flesh or even embryo, from the living: or else, by friction's ravishing of the male-furrowed meat, also weaponed and panoplied as a man instead of hollow woman.
It was the summer after that first Christmas that Henry brought him home, the summer following the two days of that June vacation which he spent at Sutpen's Hundred before he rode on to the River to take the steamboat home, that summer after my aunt left and papa had to go away on business and I was sent out to Ellen (possibly my father chose Ellen as a refuge for me because at that time Thomas Sutpen was also absent) to stay so that she could take care of me, who had been born too late, born into some curious disjoint of my father's life and left on his (now twice) widowed hands, 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 too valuable to be left alone. I had never seen him (I never saw him. I never even saw him 'dead. I heard a name, I saw a photograph, I helped to make a grave: and that was all) though he had been in my house once, that first New Year's Day when Henry brought him from nephew duty to speak to me on their way back to school and I was not at home. Until then I had not even heard his name, did not know that he existed. Yet on the day when I went out there to stay that summer, it was as though that casual pause at my door had left some seed, some minute virulence in this cellar earth of mine quick not for love perhaps (I did not love him; how could I? I had never even heard his voice, had only Ellen's word for it that there was such a person) and quick not for the spying which you will doubtless call it, which during the past six months between that New Year's and that June gave substance to that shadow with a name emerging from Ellen's vain and garrulous folly, that shape without even a face yet because I had not even seen the photograph then, reflected in the secret and bemused gaze of a young girl: because I who had learned nothing of love, not even parents' love — that fond dear constant violation of privacy, that stultification of the burgeoning and incorrigible I which is the need and due of all mammalian meat, became not mistress, not beloved, but more than even love; I became all polymath love's androgynous advocate. ' There must have been some seed he left, to cause a child's vacant fairy-tale to come alive in that garden. Because I was not spying when I would follow her. I was not spying, though you will say I was And even if it was spying, it was not jealousy, because I did not love him. (How could I have, when I had never seen him?) And even if I did, not as women love, as Judith loved him, or as we thought she did. If it was love (and I still say, How could it be?) it was the way that mothers love when, punishing the child she strikes not it but through it strikes the neighbor boy whom it has just whipped or been whipped by; caresses not the rewarded child but rather the nameless man or woman who have the palm-sweated penny. But not as women love. Because I asked nothing of him, you see. And more than that: I gave nothing, which is the sum of loving. Why, I didn't even miss him. I don't know even now if I was ever aware that I had seen nothing of his face but that photograph, that shadow, that picture in a young girl's bedroom: a picture casual and framed upon a littered dressing table yet bowered and dressed (or so I thought) with all the maiden and invisible lily roses, because even before I saw the photograph I could have recognized, nay, described, the very face. But I never saw it. I do not even know of my own knowledge that Ellen ever saw it, that Judith ever loved it, that Henry slew it: so who will dispute me when I say, Why did I not invent, create it? — And I know this: if I were God I would invent out of this seething turmoil we call progress something (a machine perhaps) which would adorn the barren mirror altars of every plain girl who breathes with such as this — which is so little since we want so little — this pictured face. It would not even need a skull behind it; almost anonymous, it would only need vague inference of some walking flesh and blood desired by someone else even if only in some shadow-realm of make-believe. — A picture seen by stealth, by creeping (my childhood taught me that instead of love and it stood me in good stead; in fact, if it had taught me love, love could not have stood me so) into the deserted midday room to look at it. Not to dream, since I dwelt in the dream, but to renew, rehearse, the part as the faulty though eager amateur might steal wingward in some interim of the visible scene to hear the prompter's momentary voice. And if jealousy, not man's jealousy, the jealousy of the lover, not even the lover's self who spies from love, who spies to watch, taste, touch that maiden revery of solitude which is the first thinning of that veil we call virginity; not to spring out, force that shame which is such a part of love's declaring, but to gloat upon the rich instantaneous bosom already rosy with the flushy sleep though shame itself does not yet need to wake. No, it was not that; I was not spying, who would walk those raked and sanded garden paths and think ' This print was his save for this obliterating rake, that even despite the rake it is still there and hers beside it in that slow and mutual rhythm wherein the heart, the mind, does not need to watch the docile (ay, the willing) feet'; would think 'What suspiration of the twinning souls have the murmurous myriad ears of this secluded vine or shrub listened to? what vow, what promise, what rapt biding fire has the lilac rain of this wistaria, this heavy rose's dissolution, crowned?" But best of all, better far than this, the actual living and the dreamy flesh itself. Oh no, I was not spying while I dreamed in the lurking harborage of my own shrub or vine as I believed she dreamed upon the nooky seat which held invisible imprint of his absent thighs just as the obliterating sand, the million finger-nerves of frond and leaf, the very sun and moony constellations which had looked down at him, the circumambient air, held somewhere yet his foot, his passing shape, his face, his speaking voice, his name: Charles Bon, Charles Good, Charles Husband-soon-to-be. No, not spying, not even hiding, who was child enough not to need to hide, whose presence would have been no violation even though he sat with her, yet woman enough to have gone to her entitled to be received (perhaps with pleasure, gratitude) into that maiden shameless confidence where young girls talk of love. Yes, child enough to go to her and say 'Let me sleep with you'; woman enough to say' Let us lie in bed together while you tell me what love is,' yet who did not do it because I should have had to say ' Dont talk to me of love but let me tell you, who know already more of love than you will ever know or need." Then my father returned and came for me and took me home and I became again that nondescript too long a child yet too short a woman, in the fitless garments which my aunt had left behind, keeping a fitless house, who was not spying, hiding, but waiting, watching, for no reward, no thanks, who did not love him in the sense we mean it because there is no love of that sort without hope; who (if it were love) loved with that sort beyond the compass of glib books: that love which gives up what it never had that penny's modicum which is the donor's all yet whose infinitesimal weight adds nothing to the substance of the loved — and yet I gave it.
And not to him, to her; it was as though I said to her, 'Here, take this too. You cannot love him as he should be loved, and though he will no more feel this giving's weight than he would ever know its lack, yet there may come some moment in your married lives when he will find this atom's particle as you might find a cramped small pallid hidden shoot in a familiar flower bed and pause and say, "where did this come from?"; you need only answer, "I don't know." ' 4nd then I went back home and stayed five years, heard an echoed shot, ran up a nightmare flight of stairs, and found why, a woman standing calmly in a gingham dress before a closed door which she would not allow me to enter — a woman more strange to me than to any grief for being so less its partner — a woman saying ' Yes, Rosa?" calmly into the midstride of my running which (I know it now) had begun five years ago, since he had been in my house too, and had left no more trace than he had left in Ellen's, where he had been but a shape, a shadow: not of a man, a being, but of some esoteric piece of furniture — vase or chair or desk — which Ellen wanted, as though his very impression (or lack of it) on Coldfield or Sutpen walls held portentous prophecy of what was to be Yes, running out of that first year (that year before the war) during which Ellen talked to me of trousseau (and it my trousseau), of all the dreamy panoply of surrender which was my surrender, who had so little to surrender that it was all I had because there is that might-have-been which is the single rock we cling to above the maelstrom of unbearable reality — The four years while I believed she waited as I waited, while the stable world we had been taught to know dissolved in fire and smoke until peace and security were gone, and pride and hope, and there was left only maimed honor's veterans, and love. Yes, there should, there must, be love and faith: these left with us by fathers, husbands, sweethearts, brothers, who carried the pride and the hope of peace in honor's vanguard as they did the flags; there must be these, else what do men fight for? what else worth dying for? Yes, dying not for honor's empty sake, nor pride nor even peace, but for that love and faith they left behind. Because he was to die; I know that, knew that, as both pride and peace were: else how to prove love's immortality? But not love, not faith itself, themselves. Love without hope perhaps, faith with little to be proud with: but love and faith at least above the murdering and the folly, to salvage at least from the humbled indicted dust something anyway of the old lost enchantment of the heart. — Yes, found her standing before that closed door which I was not to enter (and which she herself did not enter again to my knowledge until Jones and the other 'man carried the coffin up the stairs) with the photograph hanging at her side and her face absolutely calm, looking at me for a moment and just raising her voice enough to be heard in the hall below: 'Clytie. Miss Rosa will be here for dinner; you had better get out some more meal': then 'Shall we go down stairs?
I will have to speak to Mr Jones about some planks and nails." That was all. Or rather, not all, since there is no all, no finish; it's not the blow we suffer from but the tedious repercussive anticlimax of it, the rubbishy aftermath to clear away from off the very threshold of despair. You see, I never saw him. I never even saw him dead. I heard an echo, but not the shot; I saw a closed door but did not enter it." I remember how that afternoon when we carried the coffin from the house (Jones and another white man which he produced, exhumed, from somewhere made it of boards torn from the carriage house; I remember how while we ate the food which Judith yes, Judith, the same face calm, cold and tranquil above the stove had cooked, ate it in the very room which he lay over, we could hear them hammering and sawing in the backyard, and how I saw Judith once, in a faded gingham sunbonnet to match the dress, giving them directions about making it; I remember how during all that slow and sunny afternoon they hammered and sawed right under the back parlor window — the slow, maddening rasp, rasp, rasp, of the saw, the flat deliberate hammer blows that seemed as though each would be the last but was not, repeated and resumed just when the dulled attenuation of the wearied nerves, stretched beyond all resiliency, relaxed to silence and then had to scream again: until at last I went out there (and saw Judith in the barnlot in a cloud of chickens, her apron cradled about the gathered eggs) and asked them why? why there? why must it be just there? and they both stopped long and more than long enough for Jones to turn and spit again and say, ' Because hit wouldn't be so fur to tote the box': and how before my very back was turned he — one of them — added further, out of some amazed and fumbling ratiocination of inertia, how 'Hit would be simpler yit to fetch him down and nail the planks around him, only maybe Missus Judy wouldn't like hit.") — 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 pallbearers, yet I could not, would not believe something which I knew could not but be so. Because I never saw him.
You see? There are some things which happen to us which the intelligence and the senses refuse just as the stomach sometimes refuses what the palate has accepted but which digestion cannot compass — occurrences which stop us dead as though by some impalpable intervention, like a sheet of glass through which we watch all subsequent events transpire as though in a soundless vacuum, and fade, vanish; are gone, leaving us immobile, impotent, helpless; fixed, until we can die. That was I. I was there; something of me walked in measured cadence with the measured tread of Jones and his companion, and Theophilus McCaslin who had heard the news somehow back in town, and Clytie as we bore the awkward and unmanageable box past the stair's close turning while Judith, following, steadied it from behind, and so down and out to the wagon; something of me helped to raise that which it could not have raised alone yet which it still could not believe, into the waiting wagon; something of me stood beside the gashy earth in the cedars' somber gloom and heard the clumsy knell of clods upon the wood and answered No when Judith at the grave's wounded end said, ' He was a Catholic. Do any of you all know how Catholics — ' and Theophilus McCaslin said, 'Catholic be damned,' he was a soldier. And I can pray for any Confedrit soldier' and then cried in his old man's shrill harsh loud cacophonous voice: 'Yaaaay, Forrest! Yaaaay, John Sartoris! Yaaaaaay!" And something walked with Judith and Clytie back across that sunset field and answered in some curious serene suspension to the serene quiet voice which talked of plowing corn and cutting winter wood, and in the lamplit kitchen helped this time to cook the meal and helped to eat it too within the room beyond whose ceiling he no longer lay, and went to bed (yes, took a candle from that firm untrembling hand and thought 'She did not even weep' and then in a lamp-gloomed mirror saw my own face and thought 'Nor did you either') within that house where he had sojourned for another brief (and this time final) space and left no trace of him, not even tears. Yes. One day he was not. Then he was. Then he was not. It was too short, too fast, too quick; six hours of a summer afternoon saw it all — a space too short to leave even the imprint of a body on a mattress, and blood can come from anywhere — if there was blood, since I never saw him. For all I was allowed to know, we had no corpse; we even had no murderer (we did not even speak of Henry that day, not one of us; I did not say — the aunt, the spinster — ' Did he look well or ill?" I did not say one of the thousand trivial things with which the indomitable woman-blood ignores the man's world in which the blood kinsman shows the courage or cowardice, the folly or lust or fear, for which his fellows praise or crucify him) who came and crashed a door and cried his crime and vanished, who for the fact that he was still alive was just that much more shadowy than the abstraction which we had nailed into a box — a shot heard only by its echo, a strange gaunt half-wild horse, bridled and with empty saddle, the saddle bags containing a pistol, a worn clean shirt, a lump of iron-like bread, captured by a man four miles away and two days later while trying to force the crib door in his stable. Yes, more than that: he was absent, and he was; he returned, and he was not; three women put something into the earth and covered it, and he had never been.
Now you will ask me why I stayed there. I could say, I do not know, could give ten thousand paltry reasons, all untrue, and be believed-that I stayed for food, who could have combed ditchbanks and weed-beds, made and worked a garden as well at my own home in town as here, not to speak of neighbors, friends whose alms I might have accepted, since necessity has a way of obliterating from our conduct various delicate scruples regarding honor and pride; that I stayed for shelter, who had a roof of my own in fee simple now indeed; or that I stayed for company, who at home could have had the company of neighbors who were at least of my own kind, who had known me all my life and even longer in the sense that they thought not only as I thought but as my forbears thought, while here I had for company one woman whom, for all she was blood kin to me, I did not understand and, if what my observation warranted me to believe was true, I did not wish to understand, and another who was so foreign to me and to all that I was that we might have been not only of different races (which we were), not only of different sexes (which we were not), but of different species, speaking no language which the other understood, the very simple words with which we were forced to adjust our days to one another being even less inferential of thought or intention than the sounds which a beast and a bird might make to each other. But I don't say any of these. I stayed there and waited for Thomas Sutpen to come home. Yes. You will say (or believe) that I waited even then to become engaged to him; if I said I did not, you would believe I lied.
But I do say I did not. I waited for him exactly as Judith and Clytie waited for him: because now he was all we had, all that gave us any reason for continuing to exist, to eat food and sleep and wake and rise again: knowing that he would need us, knowing as we did (who knew him) that he would begin at once to salvage what was left of Sutpen's Hundred and restore it. Not that we would or did need him. (I had never for one instant thought of marriage, never for one instant imagined that he would look at me, see me, since he never had. You may believe me, because I shall make no bones to say so when the moment comes to tell you when I did think of it.) No. It did not even require the first day of the life we were to lead together to show us that we did not need him had not the need for any man so long as Wash Jones lived or stayed there — I who had kept my father's house and he alive for almost four years, Judith who had done the same out here, and Clytie who could cut a cord of wood or run a furrow better (or at least quicker) than Jones himself. — And this the sad fact, one of the saddest: that weary tedium which the heart and spirit feel when they no longer need that to whose need they (the spirit and the heart) are necessary. No. We did not need him, not even vicariously, who could not even join him in his furious (that almost mad intention which he brought home with him, seemed to project, radiate ahead of him before he even dismounted) desire to restore the place to what it had been that he had sacrificed pity and gentleness and love and all the soft Virtues for — if he had ever had them to sacrifice, felt their lack, desired them of others. Not even that. Neither Judith nor I wanted that. Perhaps it was because we did not believe it could be done, but I think it was more than that: that we now existed in an apathy which was almost peace, like that of the blind unsentient earth itself which dreams after no flower's stalk nor bud, envies not the airy musical solitude of the springing leaves it nourishes.
So we waited for him. We led the 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 white, 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 or the still opposable thumbs for old climbing. We kept the house, what part of it we lived in, used; we kept the room which Thomas Sutpen would return to — not that one which he left, a husband, but the one to which he should return a sonless widower, barren of that posterity which he doubtless must have wanted who had gone to the trouble and expense of getting children and housing them among imported furniture beneath crystal chandeliers, just as we kept Henry's room, as Judith and Clytie kept it that is, as if he had not run up the stairs that summer afternoon and then ran down again; we grew and tended and harvested with our own hands the food we ate, made and worked that garden just as we cooked and ate the food which came out of it: with no distinction among the three of us of age or color but just as to who could build this fire or stir this pot or weed this bed or carry this apron full of corn to the mill for meal with least cost to the general good in time or expense of other duties. It was as though we were one being, interchangeable and indiscriminate, which kept that garden growing, spun thread and wove the cloth we wore, hunted and found and rendered the meager ditch-side herbs to protect and guarantee what spartan compromise we dared or had the time to make with illness, harried and nagged that Jones into working the corn and cutting the wood which was to be our winter's warmth and sustenance the three of us, three women." I drafted by circumstance at too soon an age into a pinchpenny housewifery which might have existed just as well upon a lighthouse rock, which had not even taught me how to cultivate a bed of flowers, let alone a kitchen garden, which had taught me to look upon fuel and meat as something appearing by its own volition in a woodbox or on a pantry shelf; Judith created by circumstance (circumstance? a hundred years of careful nurturing, perhaps not by blood, not even Coldfield blood, but certainly by the tradition in which Thomas Sutpen' s ruthless will had carved a niche) to pass through the soft insulated and unscathed cocoon stages: bud, served prolific queen, then potent and soft-handed matriarch of old age's serene and welllived content — Judith handicapped by what in me was a few years' ignorance but which in her was ten generations of iron prohibition, who had not learned that first principle of penury which is to scrimp and save for the sake of scrimping and saving, who (and abetted by Clytie) would cook twice what we could eat and three times what we could afford and give it to anyone, any stranger in a land already beginning to fill with straggling soldiers who stopped and asked for it; and (but not least) Clytie.
Clytie, not inept, anything but inept: perverse inscrutable and paradox: free, yet incapable of freedom who had never once called herself a slave, holding fidelity to none like the indolent and solitary wolf or bear (yes, wild: half untamed black, half Sutpen blood: and if 'untamed' be synonymous with 'wild', then ' Sutpen' is the silent unsleeping viciousness of the tamer's lash) whose false seeming holds it docile to fear's hand but which is not, which if this be fidelity, fidelity only to the prime fixed principle of its own savageness; — Clytie who in the very pigmentation of her flesh represented that debacle which had brought Judith and me to what we were and which had made of her (Clytie) that which she declined to be just as she had declined to be that from which its purpose had been to emancipate her, as though presiding aloof upon the new, she deliberately remained to represent to us the threatful portent of the old.
We were three strangers. I do not know what Clytie thought, what life she led which the food we raised and cooked in unison, the cloth we spun and wove together, nourished and sheltered. But I expected that because she and I were open, ay honorable, enemies. But I did not even know what Judith thought and felt. We slept in the same room, the three of us (this for more than to conserve the firewood which we had to carry in ourselves. We did it for safety. It was winter soon and already soldiers were beginning to come back the stragglers, not all of them tramps, ruffians, but men who had risked and lost everything, suffered beyond endurance and had returned now to a ruined land, not the same men who had marched away, but transformed — and this the worst, the ultimate degradation to which war brings the spirit, the soul into the likeness of that man who abuses from very despair and pity the beloved wife or mistress who in his absence has been raped. We were afraid. We fed them; we gave them what and all we had and we would have assumed their wounds and left them whole again if we could.
But we were afraid of them.), we waked and fulfilled the endless tedious obligations which the sheer holding to life and breath entailed; we would sit before the fire after supper, the three of us in that state where the very bones and muscles are too tired to rest, when the attenuated and invincible spirit has changed and shaped even hopelessness into the easy obliviousness of a worn garment, and talk, talk of a hundred things — the weary recurrent trivia of our daily lives, of a thousand things but not of one. We talked of him, Thomas Sutpen, of the end of the war (we could all see it now) and when he would return, of what he would do: how begin the Herculean task which we knew he would set himself, into which (oh yes, we knew this too) he would undoubtedly sweep us with the old ruthlessness whether we would or no; we talked of Henry, quietly — that normal useless impotent woman-worrying about the absent male — as to how he fared, if he were cold or hungry or not, just as we talked of his father, as if both they and we still lived in that time which that shot, those running mad feet, had put a period to and then obliterated, as though that afternoon had never been. But not once did we mention Charles Bon.
There were two afternoons in the late fall when Judith was absent, returning at supper time serene and calm. I did not ask and I did not follow her, yet I knew and I knew that Clytie knew that she had gone to clear that grave of dead leaves and the sere brown refuse of the cedars that wound vanishing slowly back into the earth, beneath which we had buried nothing. No, there had been no shot. That sound was merely the sharp and final clap-to of a door between us and all that was, all that might have been — a retroactive severance of the stream of event, a forever crystallized instant in imponderable time accomplished by three weak yet indomitable women which, preceding the accomplished fact which we declined, refused, robbed the brother of the prey, reft the murderer of a victim for his very bullet. That was how we lived for seven months. And then one afternoon in January Thomas Sutpen came home; someone looked up where we were preparing the garden for another year's food and saw him riding up the drive. And then one evening I became engaged to marry him. It took me just three months. (Do you mind that I don't say he, but I?) Yes, I, just three moths, who for twenty years had looked on him (when I did — had to too — look) as an ogre, some beast out of a tale to frighten children with; who had seen his own get upon my dead sister's body already begin to destroy one another, yet who must come to him like a whistled dog at that first opportunity, that noon when he who had been seeing me for twenty years should first raise his head and pause and look at me. Oh, I hold no brief for myself who could (and would; ay, doubtless have already) give you a thousand specious reasons good enough for women, ranging from woman's natural inconsistency to the desire (or even hope) for possible wealth, position, or even the fear of dying manless which (so they will doubtless tell you) old maids always have, or for revenge. No. I hold no brief for me. I could have gone home and I did not. Perhaps I should have gone home. But I did not. As Judith and Clytie did, I stood there before the rotting portico and watched him ride up on that gaunt and jaded horse on which he did not seem to sit but rather seemed to project himself ahead like a mirage, in some fierce dynamic rigidity of impatience which the gaunt horse, the saddle, the boots, the leaf-colored and threadbare coat with its tarnished and flapping braid containing the sentient though nerveless shell, which seemed to precede him as he dismounted and out of which he said 'Well, daughter' and stooped and touched his beard to Judith's forehead, who had not, did not, move, who stood rigid and still and immobile of face, and within which they spoke four sentences, four sentences of simple direct words behind beneath above which I felt that same rapport of communal blood which I had sensed that day while Clytie held me from the stairs: 'Henry's not — ?" 'No. He's not here." — Ah. And — ?" ' Yes.
Henry killed him." And then burst into tears. Yes, burst, who had not wept yet, who had brought down the stairs that afternoon and worn ever since that cold, calm face which had stopped me in midrunning at that closed door; yes, burst, as if that entire accumulation of seven months were erupting spontaneously from every pore in one incredible evacuation (she not moving, not moving a muscle) and then vanishing, disappearing as instantaneously as if the very fierce and arid aura which he had enclosed her in were drying the tears faster than they emerged: and still standing with his hands on her shoulders and looked at Clytie and said, 'Ah, Clytie' and then at me — the same face which he'd last seen, only a little thinner, the same ruthless eyes, the hair grizzled a little now, and no recognition in the face at all until Judith said, ' It's Rosa. Aunt Rosa. She lives here now. ' That was all. He rode up the drive and into our lives again and left no ripple save those instantaneous and incredible tears. Because he himself was not there, not in the house where we spent our days, had not stopped there.
The shell of him was there, using the room which we had kept for him and eating the food which we produced and prepared as if it could neither feel the softness of the bed nor make distinction between the viands either as to quality or taste.
Yes. He wasn't there. Something ate with us; we talked to it and it answered questions; it sat with us before the fire at night and, rousing without any roaming from some profound and bemused complete inertia, talked, not to us, the six ears, the three minds capable of listening, but to the air, the waiting grim decaying presence, spirit, of the house itself, talking that which sounded like the bombast of a madman who creates within his very coffin walls his fabulous immeasurable Camelots and Carcassonnes. Not absent from the place, the arbitrary square of earth which he had named Sutpen's Hundred: not that at all. He was absent only from the room, and that because he had to be elsewhere, a part of him encompassing each ruined field and fallen fence and crumbling wall of cabin or cotton house or crib; himself diffused and in solution held by that electric furious immobile urgency and awareness of short time and the need for haste as if he had just drawn breath and looked about and realized that he was old (he was fifty-nine) and was concerned (not afraid: concerned) not that old age might have left him impotent to do what he intended to do, but that he might not have time to do it in before he would have to die. We were right about what he would intend to do: that he would not even pause for breath before undertaking to restore his house and plantation as near as possible to what it had been. We did not know how he would go about it, nor I believe did he. He could not have known, who came home with nothing, to nothing, to four years less than nothing. But it did not stop him, intimidate him. His was that cold alert fury of the gambler who knows that he may lose anyway but that with a second's flagging of the fierce constant will he is sure to: and who keeps suspense from ever quite crystallizing by sheer fierce manipulation of the cards or dice until the ducts and glands of luck begin to flow again. He did not pause, did not take that day or two to let the bones and flesh of fifty-nine recuperate — the day or two in which he might have talked, not about us and what we had been doing, but about himself, the past four years (for all he ever told us, there might not have been any war at all, or it on another planet and no stake of his risked on it, no flesh and blood of his to suffer by it) that natural period during which bitter though unmaimed defeat might have exhausted itself to something like peace, like quiet in the raging and incredulous recounting (which enables man to bear with living) of that feather's balance between victory and disaster which makes that defeat unbearable which, turning against him, yet declined to slay him who, still alive, yet cannot bear to live with it.
We hardly ever saw him. He would be gone from dawn until dark, he and Jones and another man or two that he had got from somewhere and paid with something, perhaps the same coin in which he had paid that foreign architect — cajolery, promise, threat and at last force. That was the winter when we began to learn what carpetbagger meant and people — women — locked doors and windows at night and began to frighten each other with tales of Negro uprisings, when the ruined, the four years' fallow and neglected land lay more idle yet while men with pistols in their pockets gathered daily at secret meeting places in the towns. He did not make one of these; I remember how one night a deputation called, rode out through the mud of early March and put him to the point of definite yes or no, with them or against them, friend or enemy: and he refused, declined, offered them (with no change of gaunt ruthless face nor level voice) defiance if it was defiance they wanted, telling them that if every man in the South would do as he himself was doing, would see to the restoration of his own land the general land and South would save itself: and ushered them from the room and from the house and stood plain in the doorway holding the lamp above his head while their spokesman delivered his ultimatum: 'There be war, Sutpen,' and answered, 'I am used to it." Oh yes, I watched him, watched his old man's solitary fury fighting now not with the stubborn yet slowly tractable earth as it had done before, but now against the ponderable weight of the changed new time itself as though he were trying to dam a river with his bare hands and a shingle: and this for the same spurious delusion of reward which had failed (failed? betrayed: and would this time destroy) him once; I see the analogy myself now: the accelerating circle's fatal curving course of his ruthless pride, his lust for vain magnificence, though I did not then.
And how could I? turned twenty true enough yet still a child, still living in that womb-like corridor where the world came not even as living echo but as dead incomprehensible shadow, where with the quiet and unalarmed amazement of a child I watched the miragy antics of men and women — my father, my sister, Thomas Sutpen, Judith, Henry, Charles Bon — called honor, principle, marriage, love, bereavement, death; the child who watching him was not a child but one of that triumvirate mother-woman which we three, Judith, Clytie, and I made, which fed and clothed and warmed the static shell and so gave vent and scope to the fierce vain illusion and so said, 'at last my life is worth something, even though it only shields and guards the antic fury of an insane child." 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 which they had not troubled to begin to take away from him yet, perhaps not even at this point or at that point but diffused (not attenuated to thinness but enlarged, magnified, encompassing as though in a prolonged and unbroken instant of tremendous effort embracing and holding intact that ten-mile square while he faced from the brink of disaster, invincible and unafraid, what he must have known would be the final defeat) but instead of that standing there in the path looking at me with something curious and strange in his face as if the barnlot, the path at the instant when he came in sight of me had been a swamp out of which he' had emerged without having been forewarned that he was about to enter light, and then went on — the face, the same face: it was not love; I do not say that, not gentleness or pity: just a sudden over-burst of light, illumination, who had been told that his son had done murder and vanished and said 'Ah. — well, Clytie." He went on to the house. But it was not love: I do not claim that; I hold no brief for myself, I do not excuse it. I could have said that he had needed, used me; why should I rebel now, because he would use me more? but I did not say it; I could say this time, I do not know, and I would tell the truth.
Because I do not know. He was gone; I did not even know that either since there is a metabolism of the spirit as well as of the entrails, in which the stored accumulations of long time burn, generate, create, and break some maidenhead of the ravening meat; ay in a second's time — yes, lost all the shibholeth erupting of cannot, will not, never will in one red instant's fierce obliteration. This was my instant, who could have fled then and did not, who found that he had gone on and did not remember when he had walked away, who found my okra bed finished without remembering the completing of it, who sat at the supper table that night with the familiar dream-cloudy shell which we had grown used to (he did not look at me again during the meal; I might have said then, To what deluded sewer-gush of dreaming does the incorrigible flesh betray us: but I did not) and then before the fire in Judith's bedroom sat as we always did until he came in the door and looked at us and said, 'Judith, you and Clytie — ' and ceased, still entering, then said, ' No, never mind. Rosa will not mind if you both hear it too, since we are short for time and busy with what we have of it' and came and stopped and put his hand on my head and (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 do 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 exchanged 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 in the bland stone which pediments a forgotten and nameless effigy. I do not excuse it. I claim no brief, no pity, who did not answer 'I will' not because I was not asked, because there was no place, no niche, no interval for reply. Because I could have made one. I could have forced that niche myself if I had willed to — a niche not shaped to fit mild ' Yes' but some blind desperate)male weapon's frenzied slash whose very gaping wound had cried' No! No!" and' Help!" and' Save me!" No, no brief, no pity, who did not even move, who sat beneath that hard oblivious childhood ogre's hand and heard him speak to Judith now, heard Judith's feet, saw Judith's hand, not Judith — that palm in which I read as from a printed chronicle the orphaning, the hardship, the bereave of love; the four hard barren years of scoriating loom, of axe and hoe and all the other tools decreed for men to use: and upon it lying the ring which he gave Ellen in the church almost thirty years ago. Yes, analogy and paradox and madness too. I sat there and felt, not watched, him slip the ring onto my finger in my turn (he was sitting now also, in the chair which we called Clytie's while she stood just beyond the firelight's range beside the chimney) and listened to his voice as Ellen must have listened in her own spirit's April thirty years ago: he talking not about me or love or marriage, not even about himself and to no sane mortal listening nor out of any sanity, but to the very dark forces of fate which he had evoked and dared, out of that wild braggart dream where an intact Sutpen's Hundred which no more had actual being now (and would never have again) than it had when Ellen first heard it, as though in the restoration of that ring to a living finger he had turned all time back twenty years and stopped it, froze it. Yes. 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: and I mad too, for I will acquiesce, succumb; abet him and plunge down." No, I hold no brief, ask no pity. If I was saved that night (and I was saved; mine was to be some later, colder sacrifice when we — I — should be free of all excuse of the surprised importunate traitorous flesh) it was no fault, no doing of my own but rather because, once he had restored the ring, he ceased to look at me save as he had looked for the twenty years before that afternoon, as if he had reached for the moment some interval of sanity such as the mad know, just as the sane have intervals of madness to keep them aware that they are sane. It was more than that even. For three months now he had seen me daily though he had not looked at me since I merely made one of that triumvirate who received his gruff unspoken man's gratitude for the spartan ease we supplied, not to his comfort perhaps but at least to the mad dream he lived in. But for the next two months he did not even see me. Perhaps the reason was the obvious one: he was too busy; that having accomplished his engagement (granted that was what he wanted) he did not need to see me. Certainly he did not: there was not even any date set for the wedding. It was almost as though that very afternoon did not exist, had never happened. I might not have even been there in the house.
Worse: I could have gone, returned home, and he would not have missed me. I was (whatever it was he wanted of me — not my being, my presence: just my existence, whatever it was that Rosa Coldfield or any young female no blood kin to him represented in whatever it was he wanted-because I will do him this credit: he had never once thought about what he asked me to do until the moment he asked it because I know that he would not have waited two months or even two days to ask it) — my presence was to him only the absence of black morass and snarled vine and creeper to that man who had struggled through a swamp with nothing to guide or drive him — no hope, no light: only some incorrigibility of undefeat — and blundered at last and without warning onto dry solid ground and sun and air — if there could have been such thing as sun to him, if anyone or anything could have competed with the white glare of his madness. Yes, mad, yet not so mad. Because there is a practicality to viciousness: the thief, the liar, the murderer even, has faster rules than virtue ever has; why not madness to? If he was mad, it was only his compelling dream which was insane and not his methods: it was no madman who bargained and cajoled hard manual labor out of men like Jones; it was no madman who kept clear of the sheets and hoods and night-galloping horses with which men who were once his acquaintances even if not his friends discharged the canker suppuration of defeat; it was no madman's plan or tactics which gained him at the lowest possible price the sole woman available to wive him, and by the one device which could have gained his point — not madman, no: since surely there is something in madness, even the demoniac, which Satan flees, aghast at his own handiwork, and which God looks on in pity — some spark, some crumb to leaven and redeem that articulated flesh, that speech sight hearing taste and being which we call human man. But no matter. I will tell you what he did and let you be the judge. (Or try to tell you, because there are some things for which three words are three too many, and three thousand words that many words too less, and this is one of them. It can be told; I could take that many sentences, repeat the bold blank naked and outrageous words just as he spoke them, and bequeath you only that sane aghast and outraged unbelief I knew when I comprehended what he meant; or take three thousand sentences and leave you only that Why? Why? and Why? that I have asked and listened to for almost fifty years.) But I will let you be the judge and let you tell me if I was not right.
You see, I was that sun, or thought I was who did believe there was that spark, that crumb in madness which is divine, though madness knows no word itself for terror or for pity. There was an ogre of my childhood which before my birth removed my only sister to its grim ogre-bourne and produced two half phantom children whom I was not encouraged, and did not desire, to associate with as if my lateborn solitude had taught me presentiment of that fateful intertwining, warned me of that fatal snarly climax before I knew the name for murder — and I forgave it; there was a shape which rode away beneath a flag and (demon or no) courageously suffered — and I did more than just forgive: I slew it, because the body, the blood, the memory which that ogre had dwelt in returned five years later and held out its hand and said 'Come' as you might say it to a dog, and I came. Yes, the body, the face, with the right name and memory, even the correct remembering of what and whom (except myself: and was that not but further proof?) it had left behind and returned to: but not the ogre; villain true enough, but a mortal fallible one less to invoke fear than pity: but no ogre; mad true enough, but I told myself, why should not madness be its own victim also? or, Why may it be not even madness but solitary despair in titan conflict with the lonely and foredoomed and indomitable iron spirit: but no ogre, because it was dead, vanished, consumed somewhere in flame and sulphur-reek perhaps among the lonely craggy peaks of my childhood's solitary remembering — or forgetting; I was that sun, who believed that he (after that evening in Judith's room) was not oblivious of me but only unconscious and receptive like the swamp-freed pilgrim feeling earth and tasting sun and light again and aware of neither but only of darkness' and morass' lack — who did believe there was that magic in unkin blood which we call by the pallid name of love that would be, might be sun for him (though I the youngest, weakest) where Judith and Clytie both would cast no shadow; yes, I the youngest there yet potently without measured and measurable age since I alone of them could say, 'O furious mad old man, I hold no substance that will fit your dream but I can give you airy space and scope for your delirium." And then one afternoon — oh there was a fate in it: afternoon and afternoon and afternoon: do you see? the death of hope and love, the death of pride and principle, and then the death of everything save the old outraged and aghast unbelieving which has lasted for forty-three years — he returned to the house and called me, shouting from the back gallery until I came down; oh I told you he had not thought of it until that moment, that prolonged moment which contained the distance between the house and wherever it was he had been standing when he thought of it: and this too coincident: it was the very day on which he knew definitely and at last exactly how much of his hundred square miles he would be able to save and keep and call his own on the day when he would have to die, that no matter what happened to him now, he would at least retain the shell of Sutpen's Hundred even though a better name for it would now be Sutpen's One — called, shouted for me until I came down. He had not even waited to tether his horse; he stood with the reins over his arm (and no hand on my head now) and spoke the bald outrageous words exactly as if he were consulting with Jones or with some other man about a bitch dog or a cow or mare.
They will have told you how I came back home. Oh yes, I know: 'Rosie Coldfield, lose him, weep him; caught a man but couldn't keep him' — Oh yes, I know (and kind too; they would be kind): Rosa Coldfield, warped bitter orphaned country stick called Rosa Coldfield, safely engaged at last and so Off the town, the country; they will have told you: How I went out there to live for the rest of my life, seeing in my nephew's murdering an act of God enabling me ostensibly to obey my dying sister's request that I save at least one of the two children which she had doomed by conceiving them but actually to be in the house when he returned who, being a demon, would therefore be impervious to shot and shell and so would return; I waiting for him because I was young still (who had buried no hopes to bugles, beneath a flag) and ripe for marrying in this time and place where most of the young men were dead and all the living ones either old or already married or tired, too tired for love; he my best, my only chance in this: an environment where at best and even lacking war my chances would have been slender enough since I was not only a Southern gentlewoman but the very modest character of whose background and circumstances must needs be their own affirmation since had I been the daughter of a wealthy planter I could have married almost anyone but being the daughter merely of a small store-keeper I could even afford to accept flowers from almost no one and so would have been doomed to marry at last some casual apprentice-clerk in my father's business — Yes, they will have told you: who was young and had buried hopes only during that night which was four years long when beside a shuttered and unsleeping candle she embalmed the War and its heritage of suffering and injustice and sorrow on the backsides of the pages within an old account book, embalming blotting from the breathable air the poisonous secret effluvium of lusting and hating and killing — they will have told you: daughter of an embusque who had to turn to a demon, a villain: and therefore she had been right in hating her father since if he had not died in that attic she would not have had to go out there to find food and protection and shelter and if she had not had to depend on his food and clothing (even if she did help to grow and weave it) to keep her alive and warm, until simple justice demanded that she make what return for it he might require of her commensurate with honor, she would not have become engaged to him and if she had not become engaged to him she would not have had to lie at night asking herself why and Why and Why as she has done for forty-three years: as if she had been instinctively right even as a child in hating her father and so these forty-three years of impotent and unbearable outrage were the revenge on her of some sophisticated and ironic sterile nature for having hated that which gave her life. — Yes, Rosa Coldfield engaged at last who, lacking the fact that her sister had bequeathed her at least something of shelter and kin, might have become a charge upon the town: and now Rosie Coldfield, lose him, weep him; found a man but failed to keep him; Rosa Coldfield who would be right, only being right is not enough for women, who had rather be wrong than just that; who want the man who was wrong to admit it. And that's what she cant forgive him for: not for the insult, not even for having jilted him: but for being dead. Oh yes, I know, I know. How two months later they learned that she had packed up her belongings (that is, put on the shawl and hat again) and come back to town, to live alone in the house where her parents were dead and gone and where Judith would come now and then and bring her some of what food they had out at Sutpen's Hundred and which only dire necessity, the brute inexplicable flesh's stubborn will to live, brought her (Miss Coldfield) to accept. And it dire indeed: because now the town — farmers passing, Negro servants going to work in white kitchens — would see her before sun-up gathering greens along garden fences, pulling them through the fence since she had no garden of her own, no seed to plant one with, no tools to work it with herself, even if she had known completely how, who had had only the freshman year at gardening and doubtless would not have worked it if she had known; reaching through the garden fence and gathering vegetables though she would have been welcome to enter the garden and get them, and they would have even done the gathering and sent them to her, since there were more people than Judge Benbow who would leave baskets of provisions on her front porch at night. But she would not permit them and would not even use a stick to reach through the fence and draw the vegetables to where she could grasp them, the reach of her unaided arm being the limit of brigandage which she never passed.
It was not to keep from being seen stealing that sent her forth before the town was awake, because if she had had a nigger she would have sent him forth in broad daylight to forage, where, she would not have cared, exactly as the cavalry heroes whom she wrote verse about would have sent their men. — Yes, Rosie Coldfield, lose him, weep him; caught a beau but couldn't keep him; (oh yes, they will tell you) found a beau and was insulted, something heard and not forgiven, not so much for the saying of it but for having thought it about her so that when she heard it she realized like thunderclap that it must have been in his mind for a day, a week, even a month maybe, he looking at her daily with that in his mind and she not even knowing it. But I forgave him.
They will tell you different, but I did. Why shouldn't I? I had nothing to forgive; I had not lost him because I never owned him: a certain segment of rotten mud walked into my life, spoke that to me which I had never heard before and never shall again, and then walked out; that was all. I never owned him; certainly not in that sewer sense which you would mean by that and maybe think (but you are wrong) I mean. That did not matter. That was not even the nub of the insult. 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. He was a walking shadow. He was the lightblinded batlike image of his own torment cast by the fierce demoniac lantern up from beneath the earth's crust and hence in retrograde, reverse; from abysmal and chaotic dark to eternal and abysmal dark completing his descending (do you mark the gradation?) ellipsis, clinging, trying to cling with vain unsubstantial hands to what he hoped would hold him, save him, arrest him — Ellen (do you mark them?), myself, then last of all that fatherless daughter of Wash Jones' only child who, so I heard once, died in a Memphis brothel-to find severence (even if not rest and peace) at last in the stroke of a rusty scythe. I was told, informed of that too, though not by Jones this time but by someone else kind enough to turn aside and tell me he was dead. 'Dead?" I cried. 'Dead? You? You lie; you're not dead; heaven cannot, and hell dare not, have you!" But Quentin was not listening, because there was also something which he too could not pass — that door, the running feet on the stairs beyond it almost a continuation of the faint shot, the two women, the Negress and the white girl in her underthings (made of flour sacking when there had been flour, of window curtains when not) pausing, looking at the door, the yellowed creamy mass of old intricate satin and lace spread carefully on the bed and then caught swiftly up by the white girl and held before he as the door crashed in and the brother stood there, hatless, with his shaggy bayonet-trimmed hair, his gaunt worn unshaven face, his patched and faded gray tunic, the pistol still hanging against his flank: the two of them, brother and sister, curiously alike as if the difference in sex had merely sharpened the common blood to a terrific, an almost unbearable, similarity, speaking to one another in short brief staccato sentences like slaps, as if they stood breast to breast striking one another in turn neither making any attempt to guard against the blows.
Now you cant marry him. Why cant I marry him? Because he's dead. Dead? Yes. I killed him.
He (Quentin) couldn't pass that. He was not even listening to her; he said, 'Ma'am? What's that? What did you say?" 'There's something in that house." 'In that house? It's Clytie. Dont she — '
'No. Something living in it. Hidden in it. It has been out there for four years, living hidden in that house."
There was snow on Shreve's overcoat sleeve, his ungloved blond square hand red and raw with cold, vanishing. Then on the table before Quentin, lying on the open text book beneath the lamp, the white oblong of envelope, the familiar blurred mechanical Jefferson Jan 10 1910 Miss and then, opened, the My dear son in his father's sloped fine hand out of that dead dusty summer where he had prepared for Harvard so that his father's hand could lie on a strange lamplit table in Cambridge; that dead summer twilight — the wistaria, the cigar-smell, the fireflies — attenuated up from Mississippi and into this strange room, across this strange iron New England snow: My dear son, Miss Rosa Coldfield was buried yesterday. She remained in the coma for almost two weeks and two days ago she died without regaining consciousness and without pain they say, and whatever they mean by that since it has always seemed to me that the only painless death must be that which takes the intelligence by violent surprise and from the rear so to speak, since if death be anything at all beyond a brief and peculiar emotional state of the bereaved it must be a brief and likewise peculiar state of the subject as well. And if aught can be more painful to any intelligence above that of a child or an idiot than a slow and gradual confronting with that which over a long period of bewilderment and dread it has been taught to regard as an irrevocable and unplumable finality, I do not know it. And if there can be either access of comfort or cessation of pain in the ultimate escape from a stubborn and dreaded outrage which over a period of forty-three years has been companionship and bread and fire and all, I do not know that either — the letter bringing with it that very September evening itself (and he soon needing, required, to say 'No, neither aunt, cousin, nor uncle, Rosa. Miss Rosa Coldfield, an old lady that died young of outrage in 1866 one summer' and then Shreve said, 'You mean she was no kin to you, no kin to you at all, that there was actually one Southern Bayard or Guinevere who was no kin to you? then what did she die for?" and that not Shreve's first time, nobody's first time in Cambridge since September: Tell about the South. What's it like there.
What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all) that very September evening when Mr Compson stopped talking at last, he (Quentin) walked out of his father's talking at last because it was now time to go, not because he had heard it all because he had not been listening, since he had something which he still was unable to pass: that door, that gaunt tragic dramatic self-hypnotized youthful face like the tragedian in a college play, an academic Hamlet waked from some trance merit of the curtain's falling and blundering across the dusty stage from which the rest of the cast had departed last Commencement, the sister facing him across the wedding dress which she was not to use, not even to finish, 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.
And she (Miss Coldfield) had on the shawl, as he had known she would, and the bonnet (black once but faded now to that fierce muted metallic green of old peacock feathers) and the black reticule almost as large as a carpet-bag containing all the keys which the house possessed: cupboard closet and door, some of which would not even turn in locks which, shot home, could be solved by any child with a hairpin or a wad of chewing gum, some of which no longer even fitted the locks they had been made for like old married people who no longer have anything in common, to do or to talk about, save the same general weight of air to displace and breathe and general oblivious biding earth to bear their weight — 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, heavy with sixty days of dust, the roadside undergrowth coated with heat-vulcanized dust and, seen through the dustcloud in which the horse and buggy moved, appeared like masses straining delicate and rigid and immobly upward at perpendicular's absolute in some old dead volcanic water refined to the oxygenless first principle of liquid, the dustcloud in which the buggy moved not blowing away because it had been raised by no wind and was supported by no air but evoked, materialized about them, instantaneous and eternal, cubic foot for cubic foot of dust to cubic foot for cubic foot of horse and buggy, peripatetic beneath the branch-shredded vistas of flat black fiercely and heavily starred sky, the dust cloud moving on, enclosing them with not threat exactly but maybe warning, bland, almost friendly, warning, as if to say, Come on if you like. But I will get there first; accumulating ahead of you I will arrive first, lifting, sloping gently upward under hooves and wheels so that you will find no destination but will merely abrupt gently onto a plateau and a panorama of harmless and inscrutable night and there will be nothing for you to do but return and so I would advise you not to go, to turn back now and let what is, be; he (Quentin) agreeing to this, sitting in the buggy beside the implacable doll-sized old woman clutching her cotton umbrella, smelling the heatdistilled old woman-flesh, the heat-distilled camphor in the old fold-creases of the shawl, feeling exactly like an electric bulb, blood and skin, since the buggy disturbed not enough air to cool him with motion, created not enough motion within him to make his skin sweat, thinking Good Lord yes, let's don't find him or it, try to find him or it, risk disturbing him or it: (then Shreve again, 'Wait. Wait.
You mean that this old gal, this Aunt Rosa — '
'Miss Rosa,' Quentin said.
'All right all right. — that this old dame, this Aunt Rosa 'Miss Rosa, I tell you." 'All right all right all right. — that this old this Aunt R-All right all right all right all right. — that hadn't been out there, hadn't set foot 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?" 'Yes,' Quentin said.
'That this old dame that grew up in a household like an overpopulated mausoleum, with no call or claim on her time but the hating of her father and aunt and her sister's husband in peace and comfort and waiting for the day when they would prove not only to themselves but to everybody else that she had been right, So one night the aunt slid down the rainpipe with a horse trader, and she was right about the aunt so that fixed that: then her father nailed himself up in the attic to keep from being drafted into the Rebel army and starved to death, so that fixed that except for the unavoidable possibility that when the moment came for him to admit to himself that she had been right he may not have been able to speak or may not have had anyone to tell it to: so she was right about the father too, since if he hadn't made General Lee and Jeff Davis mad he wouldn't have had to nail himself up and die and if he hadn't died he wouldn't have left her an orphan and a pauper and so situated, left susceptible to a situation where she could receive this mortal affront: and right about the brother-in-law because if he hadn't been a demon his children wouldn't have needed protection from him and she wouldn't have had to go out there and be betrayed by the old meat and find instead of a widowed Agamemnon to her Cassandra an ancient stiff-jointed Pyramus to her eager though untried Thisbe who could approach her in this unbidden April's compounded demonry and suggest that they breed together for test and sample and if it was a boy they would marry; would not have had to be blown back to town on the initial blast of that horror and outrage to eat of gall and wormwood stolen through paling fences at dawn. So this was not fixed at all and forever because she couldn't even tell it because of who her successor was, not because he found a successor by just turning around, and no day's loss of time even, but because of who the successor was, that she might conceivably have ever suffered a situation where she could or would have to decline any office which her successor could have been deemed worthy, even by a demon, to fill; this not fixed at all since when the moment came for him to admit he had been wrong she would have the same trouble with him she had with her father, he would be dead too since she doubtless foresaw the scythe if for no other reason than that it would be the final outrage and affront like the hammer and nails in her father's business that scythe, symbolic laurel of a caesar's triumph — that rusty scythe loaned by the demon himself to Jones more than two years ago to cut the weeds away from the shanty doorway to smooth the path for rutting — that rusty blade garlanded with each successive day's gaudy ribbon or cheap bead for the (how did she put it? slut wasn't all, was it?) to walk in — that scythe beyond whose symbolic shape he, even though dead, even when earth itself declined any longer to bear his weight, jeered at her?" 'Yes,' Quentin said.
'That this Faustus, this demon, this Beelzebub fled hiding from some momentary flashy glare of his Creditor's outraged face exasperated beyond all endurance, hiding, scuttling into respectability like a jackal into a rockpile, so she thought at first, 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 next time for good and all — this Faustus who appeared suddenly one Sunday with two pistols and twenty subsidiary demons and skulldugged a hundred miles of land out of a poor ignorant Indian and built the biggest house on it you ever saw and went away with six wagons and came back with the crystal tapestries and the Wedgwood chairs to furnish it and nobody knew if he had robbed another steamboat or had just dug up a little more of the old loot, who hid horns and tail beneath human raiment and a beaver hat and chose (bought her, outswapped his father-in-law, wasn't it) a wife after three years to scrutinize, weigh, and compare, not from one of the local ducal houses but from the lesser baronage whose principality was so far decayed that there would be no risk of his wife bringing him for dowry delusions of grandeur before he should be equipped for it, yet not so far decayed but that she might keep them both from getting lost among the new knives and forks and spoons that he had bought — a wife who not only would consolidate the hiding but could would and did breed him two children to fend and shield both in themselves and in their progeny the brittle bones and tired flesh of an old man against the day when the Creditor would run him to earth for the last time and he couldn't get away: and so sure enough the daughter fell in love, the son the agent for the providing of that living bulwark between him (the demon) and the Creditor's bailiff hand until the son should marry and thus insure him doubled and compounded and then the demon must turn square around and run not only the fiance out of the house and not only the son out of the house but so corrupt, seduce, and mesmerize the son that he (the son) should do the office of the outraged father's pistolhand when fornication threatened: so that the demon should return from the War five years later and find accomplished and complete the situation he had been working for: son fled for good now with a noose behind him, daughter doomed to spinsterhood — and then almost before his foot was out of the stirrup he (the demon) set out and got himself engaged again in order to replace that progeny the hopes of which he had himself destroyed?" 'Yes,' Quentin said.
'Came back home and found his chances of descendants gone where his children had attended to that, and his plantation ruined, fields fallow except for a fine stand of weeds, and taxes and levies and penalties sowed by United States marshals and such and all his niggers gone where the Yankees had attended to that, and you would have thought he would have been satisfied: yet before his foot was out of the stirrup he not only set out to try to restore his plantation to what it used to be, like maybe he was hoping to fool the Creditor by illusion and obfuscation by concealing behind the illusion that time had not elapsed and change occurred the fact that he was now almost sixty years old, until he could get himself a new batch of children to bulwark him, but chose for this purpose the last woman on earth he might have hoped to prevail on, this Aunt R — all right all right all right. — that hated him, that had always hated him, yet choosing her with a kind of outrageous bravado as if a kind of despairing conviction of his irresistibility or invulnerability were a part of the price he had got for whatever it was he had sold the Creditor, since according to the old dame he never had had a soul; proposed to her and was accepted then three months later, with no date ever set for the wedding and marriage itself not mentioned one time since, and on the very day when he established definitely that he would be able to keep at least some of his land and how much, he approached her and suggested they breed a couple of dogs together, inventing with fiendish cunning the thing which husbands and fiances have been trying to invent for ten million years: the thing that without harming her or giving her grounds for civil or tribal action would not only blast the little dream-woman out of the dovecote but leave her irrevocably husbanded (and himself, husband or fiance, already safely cuckolded before she can draw breath) with the abstract carcass of outrage and revenge. He said it and was free now, forever more now of threat or meddling from anyone since he had at last eliminated the last member of his late wife's family, free now: son fled to Texas or California or maybe even South America, daughter doomed to spinsterhood to live until he died, since after that it wouldn't matter, in that rotting house, caring for him and feeding him, raising chickens and peddling the eggs for the clothes she and Clytie couldn't make: so that he didn't even need to be a demon now but just mad impotent old man who had realized at last that his dream of restoring his Sutpen's Hundred was not only vain but that what he had left of it would never support him and his family and so running his little crossroads store with a stock of plowshares and hame strings and calico and kerosene and cheap beads and ribbons and a clientele of freed niggers and (what is it? the words? white what? — Yes, trash) with Jones for clerk and who knows maybe what delusions of making money out of the store to rebuild the plantation; who had escaped twice now, got himself into it and been freed by the Creditor who set his children to destroying one another before he had posterity, and he decided that maybe he was wrong in being free and so got into it again and then decided that he was wrong in being unfree and so got out of it again and then turned right around and bought his way back into it with beads and calico and striped candy out of his own showcase and off his shelves?" 'Yes,' Quentin said. He sounds just like father he thought, glancing (his face quiet, reposed, curiously almost sullen) for a moment at Shreve leaning forward into the lamp, his naked torso pink-gleaming and baby-smooth, cherubic, almost hairless, the twin moons of his spectacles glinting against his moonlike rubicund face, smelling (Quentin) the cigar and the wistaria, seeing the fireflies blowing and winking in the September dusk. Just exactly like father if father had known as much about it the night before I went out there as he did the day after I came back thinking Mad impotent old man who realized at last that there must be some limit even to the capabilities of a demon for doing harm, who must have seen his situation as that of the show girl, the pony, who realizes that the principle tune she prances comes not from horn and fiddle and drum but from a clock and calendar, must have seen himself as the old wornout cannon which realizes that it can deliver just one more fierce shot and crumble to dust in its own furious blast and recoil, who looked about upon the scene which was still within his scope and compass and saw son gone, vanished, more insuperable to him now than if the son were dead since now (if the son still lived) his name would be different and those to call him by it strangers, and whatever dragon's outcropping of Sutpen blood the son might sow on the body of whatever strange woman would therefore carry on the tradition, accomplish the hereditary evil and harm under another name and upon and among people who will never have heard the right one; daughter doomed to spinsterhood who had chosen spinsterhood already before there was anyone named Charles Bon since the aunt who came to succor her in bereavement and sorrow found neither but instead that calm absolutely impenetrable face between a homespun dress and sunbonnet seen before a closed door and again in a cloudy swirl of chickens while Jones was building the coffin and which she wore during the next year while the aunt lived there and the three women wove their own garments and raised their own food and cut the wood they cooked it with (excusing what help they had from Jones who lived with his granddaughter in the abandoned fishing camp with its collapsing roof and rotting porch against which the rusty scythe which Sutpen was to lend him, make him borrow to cut away the weeds from the door — at last forced him to use though not to cut weeds, at least not vegetable weeds — would lean for war years) and wore still after the aunt's indignation had swept her back to town to live on stolen garden truck and out of anonymous baskets left on her front steps at night, the three of them, the two daughters Negro and white and the aunt twelve miles away watching from her distance as the two daughters watched from theirs the old demon, the ancient varicose and despairing Faustus fling his final main now with the Creditor's hand already on his shoulder, running his little country store now for his bread and meat, haggling tediously over nickels and dimes with rapacious and poverty-stricken whites and Negroes, who at one time could have galloped for ten miles in any direction without crossing his own boundary, using out of his meager stock the cheap ribbons and beads and the stale violently colored candy with which even an old man can seduce a fifteen-year-old country girl, to ruin the granddaughter of his partner, this Jones — this gangling malaria-ridden white man whom he had given permission fourteen years ago to squat in the abandoned fishing camp with the year-old grandchild — Jones, partner porter and clerk who at the demon's command removed with his own hand (and maybe delivered too) from the showcase the candy beads and ribbons, measured the very cloth from which Judith (who had not been bereaved and did not mourn) helped the granddaughter to fashion a dress to walk past the lounging men in, the sidelooking and the tongues, until her increasing belly taught her embarrassment — or perhaps fear — Jones who before '62 had not even been allowed to approach the front of the house and who during the next four years got no nearer than the kitchen door and that only when he brought the game and fish and vegetables on which the seducer-to-He's wife and daughter (and Clytie too, the one remaining servant, Negro, the one who would forbid him to pass the kitchen door with what he brought) depended on to keep life in them, but who now entered the house itself on the (quite frequent now) afternoons when the demon would suddenly curse the store empty of customers and lock the door and repair to the rear and in the same tone in which he used to address his orderly or even his house servants when he had them (and in which he doubtless ordered Jones to fetch from the showcase the ribbons and beads and candy) direct Jones to fetch the jug, the two of them (and Jones even sitting now who in the old days, the old dead Sunday afternoons of monotonous peace which they spent beneath the scuppernong arbor in the backyard, the demon lying in the hammock while Jones squatted against a post, rising from time to time to pour for the demon from the demijohn and the bucket of spring water which he had fetched from the spring more than a mile away then squatting again, chortling and chuckling and saying 'Sho, Mister Tawm' each time the demon paused) — the two of them drinking turn and turn about from the jug and the demon not lying down now nor even sitting but reaching after the third or second drink that old man's state of impotent and furious undefeat in which he would rise, swaying and plunging and shouting for his horse and pistols to ride single-handed into Washington and shoot Lincoln (a year or so too late here) and Sherman both, shouting, 'Kill them! Shoot them down like the dogs they are!" and Jones."
Sho, Kernel; sho now' and catching him as he fell and commandeering the first passing wagon to take him to the house and carry him up the front steps and through the pointless formal door beneath its fanlight imported pane by pane from Europe which Judith held open for him to enter with no change, no alteration in that calm frozen face which she had worn for four years now, and on up the stairs and into the bedroom and put him to bed like a baby and then lie down himself on the floor beside the bed though not to sleep since before dawn the man on the bed would stir and groan and Jones would say, ' Hyer I am, Kernel. Hit's all right. They aint whupped us yit, air they?" — this Jones who after the demon rode away with the regiment when the granddaughter was only eight years old would tell people that he 'was looking after Major's place and niggers' even before they had time to ask him why he was not with the troops and perhaps in time came to believe the lie himself, who was among the first to greet the demon when he returned, to meet him at the gate and say, ' Well, Kernel, they kilt us but they aint whupped us yit, air they?" who even worked, labored, sweat at the demon's behest during that first furious period while the demon believed he could restore by sheer indomitable willing the Sutpen's Hundred which he remembered and had lost, labored with no hope of pay or reward who must have seen long before the demon did (or would admit it) that the task was hopeless — blind Jones who apparently saw still in that furious lecherous wreck the old fine figure of the man who once galloped on the black thoroughbred about that domain two boundaries of which the eye could not see from any point. 'Yes,' Quentin said.
So that Sunday morning came and the demon up and away before dawn, Judith thinking she knew why since that morning the black stallion which he rode to Virginia and led back had a son born on his wife Penelope, only it was not that foal which the demon had got up early to look at and it was almost a week before they caught, found, the old Negress, the midwife who was squatting beside the quilt pallet that dawn while Jones sat on the porch where the rusty scythe had leaned for two years, so that she could tell how she heard the horse and then the demon entered and stood over the pallet with the riding whip in his hand and looked down at the mother and the child and said, ' Well, Milly, too bad you're not a mare like Penelope. Then I could give you a decent stall in the stable' and turned and went out and the old Negress squatted there and heard them, the voices, he and Jones: 'Stand back.
Don't you touch me, Wash'. 'I'm going to tech you, Kernel' and she heard the whip too though not the scythe, no whistling air, no blow, nothing since always that which merely consummates punishment evokes a cry while that which evokes the last silence occurs in silence. And that night they finally found him and fetched him home in a wagon and carried him, quiet and bloody and with his teeth still showing in his parted beard (which was hardly grizzled although his hair was almost white now) in the light of the lanterns and the pine torches, up the steps where the tearless and stone-faced daughter held the door open for him too who used to like to drive fast to church and who rode fast there this time, only when it was all over he had never reached the church, since the daughter decided that he should be driven into that same Methodist Church in town where he had married her mother, before returning to the grave in the cedar grove. Judith was a woman of thirty now and looking older, not as the weak grow old, either enclosed in a static ballooning of already lifeless flesh or through a series of stages of gradual collapsing whose particles adhere, not to some iron and still impervious framework but to one another, as though in some communal and oblivious and mindless life of their own like a colony of maggots, but as the demon himself had grown old: with a kind of condensation, an anguished emergence of the primary indomitable ossification which the soft color and texture, the light electric aura of youth, had merely temporarily assuaged but never concealed. The spinster in homemade and shapeless clothing, with hands which could either transfer eggs or hold a plow straight in furrow, borrowed two half-wild young mules to pull the wagon: so he rode fast toward church as far as he went, in his homemade coffin, in his regimentals and saber and embroidered gauntlets, until the young mules bolted and turned the wagon over and tumbled him, saber plumes and all, into a ditch from which the daughter extricated him and fetched him back to the cedar grove and read the service herself. And no tears, no bereavement this time too, whether or not it was because she had no time to mourn she ran the store herself now until she found a buyer for it, not keeping it open but carrying the keys to it in her apron pocket, hailed from the kitchen or the garden or even from the field since she and Clytie now did all the plowing which was done, now that Jones was gone too. He had followed the demon within twelve hours on that same Sunday (and maybe to the same place; maybe They would even have a scuppernong vine for them there and no compulsions now of bread or ambition of fornication or vengeance, and maybe they wouldn't even have to drink, only they would miss this now and then without knowing what it was that they missed but not often; serene, pleasant, unmarked by time or change of weather, only just now and then something, a wind, a shadow, and the demon would stop talking and Jones would stop guffawing and they would look at one another, groping, grave, intent, and the demon would say, 'What was it, Wash?
Something happened. What was it?" and Jones looking at the demon, groping too, sober too, saying, 'I don't know, Kernel whut?" each watching the other. Then the shadow would fade, the mind die away until at last Jones would say, serene, not even triumphant: ' They mought have kilt us, but they aint whupped us yit, air they?") She would be hailed by women and children with pails and baskets, whereupon she or Clytie would go to the store, unlock it, serve the customer, lock the store and return: until she sold the store at last and spent the money for a tombstone. ('How was it?" Shreve said. 'You told me; how was it? you and your father shooting quail, the gray day after it had rained all night and the ditch the horses couldn't cross so you and your father got down and gave the reins to what was his name? the nigger on the mule? Luster. — Luster to lead them around the ditch') and he and his father crossed just as the rain began to come down again gray and solid and slow, making no sound, Quentin not aware yet of just where they were because he had been riding with his head lowered against the drizzle, until he looked up the slope before them where the wet yellow sedge died upward into the rain like melting gold and saw the grove, the clump of cedars on the crest of the hill dissolving into the rain as if the trees had been drawn in ink on a wet blotter — the cedars beyond which, beyond the ruined fields beyond which, would be the oak grove and the gray huge rotting deserted house half a mile away. Mr Compson had stopped to look back at Luster on the mule, the towsack he had been using for saddle now wrapped around his head, his knees drawn up under it, leading the horses on down the ditch to find a place to cross.
'Better get on out of the rain,' Mr Compson said. 'He's not going to come within a hundred yards of those cedars anyway." They went on up the slope. They could not see the two dogs at all, only the steady furrowing of the sedge where, invisible, the dogs quartered the slope until one of them flung up his head to look back. Mr Compson gestured with his hand toward the trees, he and Quentin following. It was dark among the cedars, the light more dark than gray even, the quiet rain, the faint pearly globules, materializing on the gun barrels and the five headstones like drops of not-quite-congealed meltings from cold candles on the marble: the two flat heavy vaulted slabs, the other three headstones leaning a little awry, with here and there a carved letter or even an entire word momentary and legible in the faint light which the raindrops brought particle by particle into the gloom and released; 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. Both the flat slabs were cracked across the middle by their own weight (and vanishing into the hole where the brick coping of one vault had fallen in was a smooth faint path worn by some small animal — possum probably — by generations of some small animal since there could have been nothing to eat in the grave for a long time) though the lettering was quite legible: Ellen Coldfield Sutpen. Born October 9, 1817. Died January 23, 1863 and the other: Thomas Sutpen, Colonel, 3rd Mississippi Infantry, C.S.A.
Died August 12, 1869: this last, the date, added later, crudely with a chisel, who even dead did not divulge where and when he had been born.
Quentin looked at the stones quietly, thinking Not beloved wife of.
No. Ellen Coldfield Sutpen 'I wouldn't have thought they would have had any money to buy marble with in 1869,' he said.
'He bought them himself,' Mr Compson said. 'He bought the two of them while the regiment was in Virginia, after Judith got word to him that her mother was dead. He ordered them from Italy, the best, the finest to he had — his wife's complete and his with the date left blank: and this while on active service with an army which had not only the highest mortality rate of any before or since but which had a custom of electing a new set of regimental officers each year (and by which system he was at the moment entitled to call himself colonel, since he had been voted in and Colonel Sartoris voted out only last summer) so that for all he could know, before his order could be filled or even received he might be already under ground and his grave marked (if at all) by a shattered musket thrust into the earth, or lacking that he might be a second lieutenant or even a private — provided of course that his men would have the courage to demote him — yet he not only ordered the stones and managed to pay for them, but stranger still he managed to get them past a seacoast so closely blockaded that the incoming runners refused any cargo except ammunition — ' It seemed to Quentin that he could actually see them: the ragged and starving troops without shoes, the gaunt powder-blackened faces looking backward over tattered shoulders, the glaring eyes in which burned some indomitable desperation of undefeat watching that dark interdict ocean across which a grim lightless solitary ship fled with in its hold two thousand precious pounds-space containing not bullets, not even something to eat, but that much bombastic and inert carven rock which for the next year was to be a part of the' regiment, to follow it into Pennsylvania and be present at Gettysburg, moving behind the regiment in a wagon driven by the demon's body servant through swamp and plain and mountain pass, the regiment moving no faster than the wagon could, with starved gaunt men and gaunt spent horses knee deep in icy mud or snow, sweating and cursing it through bog and morass like a piece of artillery, speaking of the two stones as 'Colonel' and 'Mrs Colonel'; then through the Cumberland Gap and down through the Tennessee mountains, traveling at night to dodge Yankee patrols, and into Mississippi in the late fall of '64, where the daughter waited whose marriage he had interdict and who was to be a widow the next summer though apparently not bereaved, where his wife was dead and his son self-excommunicated and — banished, and put one of the stones over his wife's grave and set the other upright in the hall of the house, where Miss Coldfield possibly (maybe doubtless) looked at it every day as though it were his portrait, possibly (maybe doubtless here too) reading among the lettering more of maiden hope and virgin expectation than she ever told Quentin about, since she never mentioned the stone to him at all, and (the demon) drank the parched corn coffee and ate the hoe cake which Judith and Clytie prepared for him and kissed Judith on the forehead and said, 'Well, Clytie' and returned to the war, all in twenty-four hours; he could see it; he might even have been there.
Then he thought No. If I had been there I could not have seen it this plain.
'But that don't explain the other three,' he said. 'They must have cost something too." 'Who would have paid for them?" Mr Compson said.
Quentin could feel him looking at him. 'Think." Quentin looked at the three identical headstones with their faint identical lettering, slanted a little in the soft loamy decay of accumulated cedar needles, these decipherable too when he looked close, the first one: Charles Bon. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Died at Sutpen's Hundred, Mississippi, May 3, 1856. Aged 33 years and 5 months. He could feel his father watching him.
'She did it,' he said. 'With that money she got when she sold the store." 'Yes,' Mr Compson said.
Quentin had to stoop and brush away some of the cedar needles to read the next one. As he did so one of the dogs rose and approached him, thrusting its head in to see what he was looking at like a human being would, as if from association with human beings it had acquired the quality of curiosity which is an attribute only of men and apes.
'Get away,' he said, thrusting the dog back with one hand while with the other he brushed the cedar needles away, smoothing with his hand into legibility the faint lettering, the grayed words: Charles Etienne Saint-Valery Bon .1859-1884 feeling his father watching him, remarking before he rose that the third stone bore that same date, 1884. 'It couldn't have been the store this time,' he said. 'Because she sold the store in '70, and besides 1884 is the same date that's on hers' thinking how it would have been terrible for her sure enough if she had wanted to put Beloved Husband of on that first one.
'Ah,' Mr Compson said. 'That was the one your grandfather attended to.
Judith came into town one day and brought him the money, some Of it, where she got it from he never knew, unless it was what she had left out of the price of the store which he sold for her; brought the money in with the inscription (except the date of death of course) all written out as you see it, during that three weeks while Clytie was in New Orleans finding the boy to fetch him back, though your grandfather of course did not know this, money and inscription not for herself but for him."
'Oh,' Quentin said.
'Yes. They lead beautiful lives — women. Lives not only divorced from, but irrevocably excommunicated from, all reality. That's why although their deaths, the instant of dissolution, are of no importance to them since they have a courage and fortitude in the face of pain and annihilation which would make the most spartan man resemble a pulling boy, yet to them their funerals and graves, the little puny affirmations of spurious immortality set above their slumber, are of incalculable importance. You had an aunt once (you do not remember her because I never saw her myself but only heard the tale) who was faced with a serious operation which she became convinced she would not survive, at a time when her nearest female kin was a woman between whom and herself there had existed for years one of those bitter inexplicable (to the man mind) amicable enmities which occur between women of the same blood, whose sole worry about departing this world was to get rid of a certain brown dress which she owned and knew that the kinswoman knew she had never liked, which must be burned, not given away but burned in the back yard beneath the window where, by being held up to the window (and suffering excrutiating pain) she could see it burned with her own eyes, because she was convinced that after she died the kinswoman, the logical one to take charge, would bury her in it."
'And did she die?" Quentin said.
'No. As soon as the dress was consumed she began to mend. She stood the operation and recovered and outlived the kinswoman by several years. Then one afternoon she died peacefully of no particular ailment and was buried in her wedding gown."
'Oh,' Quentin said. 'Yes. But there was one afternoon in the summer of '70 when one of these graves (there were only three here then) was actually watered by tears. Your grandfather saw it; that was the year Judith sold the store and your grandfather attended to it for her and he had ridden' out to see her about the matter and he witnessed it: the interlude, the ceremonial widowhood's bright dramatic pageantry. He didn't know at the time how the octoroon came to be here, how Judith could even have known about her to write her where Bon was dead. But there she was, with the eleven-year-old boy who looked more like eight. It must have resembled a garden scene by the Irish poet, Wilde: the late afternoon, the dark cedars with the level sun in them, even the light exactly right and the graves, the three pieces of marble (your grandfather had advanced Judith the money to buy the third stone with against the price of the store) looking as though they had been cleaned and polished and arranged by scene shifters who with the passing of twilight would return and strike them and carry them, hollow fragile and without weight, back to the warehouse until they should be needed again; the pageant, the scene, the act, entering upon the stage — the magnolia-faced woman a little plumper now, a woman created of by and for darkness whom the artist Beardsley might have dressed, in a soft flowing gown designed not to infer bereavement or widowhood but to dress some interlude of slumbrous and fatal insatiation, of passionate and inexorable hunger of the flesh, walking beneath a lace parasol and followed by a bright gigantic Negress carrying a silk cushion and leading by the hand the little boy whom Beardsley might not only have dressed but drawn — a thin delicate child with a smooth ivory sexless face who, after his mother handed the Negress the parasol and took the cushion and knelt beside the grave and arranged her skirts and wept, never released the Negress' apron but stood blinking quietly who, having been born and lived all his life in a kind of silken prison lighted by perpetual shaded candles, breathing for air the milklike and absolutely physical lambence which his mother's days and hours emanated, had seen little enough of sunlight before, let alone out-of-doors, trees and grass and earth; and last of all, the other woman, Judith (who, not bereaved, did not need to mourn Quentin thought, thinking Yes, I have had to listen too long) who stood just inside the cedars, in the calico dress and the sunbonnet to match it, both faded and shapeless — the calm face, the hands which could plow or cut wood and cook or weave cloth folded before her, standing in the attitude of an indifferent guide in a museum, waiting, probably not even watching. Then the Negress came and handed the octoroon a crystal bottle to smell and helped her to rise and took up the silk cushion and gave the octoroon the parasol and they returned to the house, the little boy still holding to the Negress' apron, the Negress supporting the woman with one arm and Judith following with that face like a mask or like marble, back to the house, across the tall scaling portico and into the house where Clytie was cooking the eggs and the corn bread on which she and Judith lived.
'She stayed a week. She passed the rest of that week in the one remaining room in the house whose bed had linen sheets, passed 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 between trips to the door to receive the trays which Clytie carried up the stairs Clytie, who did that fetching and carrying as Judith made her, who must have perceived whether Judith told her or not that it was another Negro whom she served, yet who served the Negress just as she would quit the kitchen from time to time and search the rooms downstairs until she found that little strange lonely boy sitting quietly on a straight hard chair in the dim and shadowy library or parlor, with his four 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 gave him not teacakes but the coarsest cornbread spread with as coarse molasses (this surreptitiously, not that the mother or the duenna might object, but because the household did not have food for eating between meals), gave it to him, thrust it at him with restrained savageness, and who found him one afternoon playing with a Negro boy about his own size in the road outside the gates and cursed the Negro child out of sight with level and deadly violence and sent him, the other, back to the house in a voice from which the very absence of vituperation or rage made it seem just that much more deadly and cold.
'Yes, Clytie, who stood impassive beside the wagon on that last day, following the second ceremonial to the grave with the silk cushion and the parasol and the smelling-bottle, when mother and child and duenna departed for New Orleans. And your grandfather never knew if it was Clytie who watched, kept in touch by some means, waited for the day, the moment, to come, the hour when the little boy would be an orphan, and so went herself to fetch him; or if it was Judith who did the waiting and the watching and sent Clytie for him that winter, that December of 1871 — Clytie who had never been further from Sutpen's Hundred than Jefferson in her life, yet who made that journey alone to New Orleans and returned with the child, the boy of twelve now and looking ten, in one of the outgrown Fauntleroy suits but with a new oversize overall jumper coat which Clytie had bought for him (and made him wear, whether against the cold or whether not your grandfather could not say either) over it and what else he owned tied up in a bandanna handkerchief — this child who could speak no English as the woman could speak no French, who had found him, hunted him down, in a French city and brought him away, this child with a face not old but without age, as if he had had no childhood, not in the sense that Miss Rosa Coldfield says she had no childhood, but as if he had not been human born but instead created without agency of man or agony of woman and orphaned by no human being. Your grandfather said you did not wonder what had become of the mother, you did not even care: death or elopement or marriage: she would not grow from one metamorphosis dissolution or adultery — to the next carrying along with her all the old accumulated rubbish-years which we call memory, the recognizable I, but changing from phase to phase as the butterfly changes once the cocoon is cleared, carrying nothing of what was into what is, leaving nothing of what is behind but eliding complete and intact and unresisting into the next avatar as the overblown rose or magnolia elides from one rich June to the next, leaving no bones, no substance, no dust of whatever dead pristine soulless rich surrender anywhere between sun and earth. The boy had been produced complete and subject to no microbe in that cloyed and scented maze of shuttered silk as if he were the delicate and perverse spiritsymbol, immortal page of the ancient immortal Lilith, entering the actual world not at the age of one second but of twelve years, the delicate garments of his pagehood already half concealed beneath that harsh and shapeless denim cut to an iron pattern and sold by the millions — that burlesque uniform and regalia of the tragic burlesque of the sons of Ham — a slight silent child who could not even speak English, picked suddenly up out of whatever debacle the only life he knew had disintegrated into, by a creature whom he had seen once and learned to dread and fear yet could not flee, held helpless and passive in a state which must have been some incredible compound of horror and trust, since although he could not even talk to her (they made, they must have made, that week's journey by steamboat among the cotton bales on the freight deck, eating and sleeping with Negroes, where he could not even tell his companion when he was hungry or when he had to relieve himself) and so could have only suspected, surmised, where she was taking him, could have known nothing certainly except that all he had ever been familiar with was vanishing about him like smoke. Yet he made no resistance, returning quietly and docilely to that decaying house which he had seen one time, where the fierce brooding woman who had come and got him lived with the calm white one who was not even fierce, who was not anything except calm, who to him did not even have a name yet, but who was somehow so closely related to him as to be the owner of the one spot on earth where he had ever seen his mother weep. He crossed that strange threshold, that irrevocable demarcation, not led, not dragged, but driven and herded by that stern implacable presence, into that gaunt and barren household where his very silken remaining clothes, his delicate shirt and stockings and shoes which still remained to remind him of what he had once been, vanished, fled from arms and body and legs as if they had been woven of chimeras or of smoke. — Yes, sleeping in the trundle bed beside Judith's, beside that of the woman who looked upon him and treated him with a cold unbending detached gentleness more discouraging than the fierce ruthless constant guardianship of the Negress who, with a sort of invincible spurious humility slept on a pallet on the floor, the child lying there between them unasleep in some hiatus of passive and hopeless despair aware of this, aware of the woman on the bed whose every look and action toward him, whose every touch of the capable hands seemed at the moment of touching his body to lose all warmth and become imbued with cold implacable antipathy, and the woman on the pallet upon whom he had already come to look as might some delicate talonless and fangless wild beast crouched in its cage in some hopeless and desperate similitude of ferocity look upon the human creature who feeds it (and your grandfather said, "Suffer little children to come unto Me": and what did He mean by that? how, if He meant that little children should need to be suffered to approach Him, what sort of earth had He created; that if they had to suffer in order to approach Him, what sort of Heaven did He have?) who fed him, thrust food which he himself could discern to be the choicest of what they had, food which he realized had been prepared for him by deliberate sacrifice, with that curious blend of savageness and pity, of yearning and hatred; 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 tinge from his skin as you might watch a child scrubbing at a wall long after the epithet, the chalked insult, has been obliterated lying there unsleeping in the dark between them, feeling them unasleep too, feeling them thinking about him, projecting about him and filling the thunderous solitude of his despair louder than speech could: You are not up here in this bed with me, where through no fault nor willing of your own you should be, and you are not down here on this pallet floor with me, where through no fault nor willing of your own you must and will be, not through any fault or willing of our own who would not what we cannot.
'And your grandfather did not know either just which of them it was who told him that he was, must be, a Negro. He could neither have heard yet nor recognized the term "nigger," who even had no word for it in the tongue he knew who had been born and grown up in a padded silken vacuum cell which might have been suspended on a cable a thousand fathoms in the sea, where pigmentation had no more moral value than the silk walls and the scent and the rose-colored candle shades, where the very abstractions which he might have observed — monogamy and fidelity and decorum and gentleness and affection were as purely rooted in the flesh's offices as the digestive process. Your grandfather did not know if he was sent from the trundle bed at last or if he quitted it by his own wish and will; if when the time came when his loneliness and grief became calloused, he retired himself from Judith's bedroom or was sent from it, to sleep in the hall (where Clytie had likewise moved her pallet) though not on a pallet like her but on a cot, elevated still and perhaps not by Judith's decree either but by the Negress' fierce inexorable spurious humility. And then the cot was moved in the attic, and the few garments hanging behind a curtain contrived of a piece of old carpet nailed across a corner, the rags of the silk and broadcloth in which he had arrived, the harsh jeans and homespun which the two women bought and made for him, he accepting them with no thanks, no comment, accepting his garret room in the same way, asking for and making no alteration in its spartan arrangements that they knew of until that second year when he was fourteen and one of them, Clytie or Judith, found hidden beneath his mattress the shard of broken mirror: and who to know what hours of amazed and tearless grief he might have spent before it, examining himself in the delicate and outgrown tatters in which he perhaps could not even remember himself, with quiet and incredulous incomprehension. And Clytie sleeping in the hall below, barring the foot of the attic stairs, guarding his escape or exit as inexorably as a Spanish duenna, teaching him to chop wood and to work the garden and then to plow as his strength increased. His resiliency rather, since he would never be other than light in the bone and almost delicate — the boy with his light bones and womanish hands struggling with what anonymous avatar of intractable Mule, whatever tragic and barren clown was his bound fellow and complement beneath his first father's curse, getting the hang of it gradually and the two of them, linked by the savage steel-and-wood male symbol, ripping from the prone rich female earth corn to feed them both. While Clytie watched, never out of sight of him, with that brooding fierce unflagging jealous care, hurrying out whenever anyone white or black stopped in the road as if to wait for the boy to complete the furrow and pause long enough to be spoken to, sending the boy on with a single quiet word or even gesture a hundred times more fierce than the level murmur of vituperation with which she drove the passerby on. So he (your grandfather) believed that it was neither of them Who was responsible for his going with Negroes. Not Clytie, who guarded him as if he were a Spanish virgin, who even before she could have even suspected that he would ever come there to live, had interrupted his first contact with a nigger and sent him back to the house; not Judith who could have refused at any time to let him sleep in that white child's bed in her room, who even if she could not have reconciled herself to his sleeping on the floor could have forced Clytie to take him into another bed with her, who would have made a monk, a celibate, of him, perhaps yet not a eunuch, who may not have permitted him to pass himself for a foreigner, yet who certainly would not have driven him to consort with Negroes. Your grandfather didn't know, even though he did know more than the town, the countryside, knew, which was that there was a strange little boy living out there who had apparently emerged from the house for the first time at the age of about twelve years, whose presence was not even unaccountable to the town and county since they now believed they knew why Henry had shot Bon. They wondered only where and how Clytie and Judith had managed to keep him concealed all the time, believing now that it had been a widow who had buried Bon, even though she had no paper to show for it, and only the incredulous (and shocked) speculation of your grandfather (who, though he had that hundred dollars and the written directions in Judith's hand for this fourth tombstone in his safe at the time, had not yet associated the boy with the child he had seen two years ago when the octoroon came there to weep at the grave), to believe that the child might be Clytie's got by its father on the body of his own daughter. A boy seen always near the house with Clytie always nearby, then a youth learning to plow and Clytie somewhere nearby too and it soon well known with what grim and unflagging alertness she discovered and interrupted any attempt to speak to him, and there was only your grandfather to couple at last the boy, the youth, with the child who had been there three or four years ago to visit that grave.
'It was your grandfather to whose office Judith came that afternoon five years later, and he could not remember when he had seen her in Jefferson before — the woman of forty now, in the same shapeless calico and faded sunbonnet, who would not even sit down, who despite the impenetrable mask which she used for face emanated a terrible urgency, who insisted that they walk on toward the courthouse while she talked, toward the crowded room where the justice's court sat, the crowded room which they entered and where your grandfather saw him, the boy (only a man now) handcuffed to an officer, his other arm in a sling and his head bandaged since they had taken him to the doctor first, your grandfather gradually learning what had happened or as much of it as he could since the court itself couldn't get very much out of the witnesses, the ones who had fled and sent for the sheriff, the ones (excepting that one whom he had injured too badly to be present) with whom he had fought. It had happened at a Negro ball held in a cabin a few miles from Sutpen's Hundred and he there, present and your grandfather never to know how often he had done this before, whether he had gone there to engage in the dancing or for the dice game in progress in the kitchen where the trouble started, trouble which he and not the Negroes started according to the witnesses and for no reason, for no accusation of cheating, nothing. And he made no denial, saying nothing, refusing to speak at all, sitting here in court sullen, pale and silent: so that at this point all truth, evidence vanished into a moiling clump of Negro backs and heads and black arms and hands clutching sticks of stove wood and cooking implements and razors, the white man the focal point of it and using a knife which he had produced from somewhere, clumsily, with obvious lack of skill and practice, yet with deadly earnestness and a strength which his slight build denied, a strength composed of sheer desperate will and imperviousness to the punishment, the blows and slashes which he took in return and did not even seem to feel. There had been no cause, no reason for it; none to ever know exactly what happened, what curses and ejaculations which might have indicated what it was that drove him, and there was only your grandfather to fumble, grope, grasp the presence of that furious protest, that indictment of heaven's ordering, that gage flung into the face of what is with a furious and indomitable desperation which the demon himself might have shown, as if the child and then the youth had acquired it from the walls in which the demon had lived, the air which he had once walked in and breathed until that moment when his own fate which he had dared in his turn struck back at him; only your grandfather to sense that protest, because the justice and the others present did not recognize him, did not recognize this slight man with his bandaged head and arm, his sullen impassive (and now bloodless) olive face, who refused to answer any questions, make any statement: so that the justice (Jim Hamblett it was) was already making his speech of indictment when your grandfather entered, utilizing opportunity and audience to orate, his eyes already glazed with that cessation of vision of people who like to hear themselves talk in public: "At this time, while our country is struggling to rise from beneath the iron heel of a tyrant oppressor, when the very future of the South as a place bearable for our women and children to live in depends on the labor of our own hands, when the tools which we have to use, to depend on, are the pride and integrity and forbearance of black men and the pride and integrity and forbearance of white; that you, I say, a white man, a white — " and your grandfather trying to reach him, stop him, trying to push through the crowd, saying "Jim. Jim. Jim!" and it already too late, as if Hamblett's own voice had waked him at last or as if someone had snapped his fingers under his nose and waked him, he looking at the prisoner now but saying "white" again even while his voice died away as if the order to stop the voice had been shocked into short circuit, and every face in the room turned toward the prisoner as Hamblett cried, "What are you? Who and where did you come from?" ' Your grandfather got him out, quashed the indictment and paid the fine and brought him back to his office and talked to him while Judith waited in the anteroom. "You are Charles Bon's son," he said.
"I don't know," the other answered, harsh and sullen. "You don't remember?" your grandfather said. The other did not answer. Then your grandfather told him he must go away, disappear, giving him money to go on: "What ever you are, once you are among strangers, people who don't know you, you can be whatever you will. I will make it all right; I will talk to — to — What do you call her?" And he had gone too far now, but it was too late to stop; he sat there and looked at that still face which had no more expression than Judith's, nothing of hope nor pain: just sullen and inscrutable and looking down at the calloused womanish hands with their cracked nails which held the money while your grandfather thought how he could not say "Miss Judith," since that would postulate the blood more than ever. Then he thought I don't even know whether he wants to hide it or not. So he said Miss Sutpen. "I will tell Miss Sutpen, not where you are going of course, because I won't know that myself. But just that you are gone and that I knew you were going and that you will be all right."
'So he departed, and your grandfather rode out to tell Judith, and Clytie came to the door and looked full and steadily at his face and said nothing and went to call Judith, and your grandfather waited in that dim shrouded parlor and knew that he would not have to tell either of them. He did not have to.
Judith came presently and stood and looked at him and said, "I suppose you wont tell me." — "Not wont, cant," your grandfather said.
"But not now because of any promise I made him. But he has money; he will be — " and stopped, with that forlorn little boy invisible between them who had come there eight years ago with the overall jumper over what remained of his silk and broadcloth, who had become the youth in the uniform — the tattered hat and the overalls — of his ancient curse, who had become the young man with a young man's potence, yet was still that lonely child in his parchment-and-denim hairshirt, and your grandfather speaking the lame vain words, the specious and empty fallacies which we call comfort, thinking Better that he were dead, better that he had never lived: then thinking what vain and empty recapitulation that would be to her if he were to say it, who doubtless had already said it, thought it, changing only the person and the number. He returned to town. And now, next time, he was not sent for; he learned it as the town learned it: by that country grapevine whose source is among Negroes, and he, Charles Etienne Saint-Valery Bon, already returned (not home again; returned) before your grandfather learned how he had come back, appeared, with a coal black and ape-like woman and an authentic wedding license, brought back by the woman since he had been so severely beaten and mauled recently that he could not even hold himself on the spavined and saddleless mule on which he rode while his wife walked beside it to keep him from falling off; rode up to the house and apparently flung the wedding license in Judith's face with something of that invincible despair with which he had attacked the Negroes in the dice game. And none ever to know what incredible tale lay behind that year's absence which he never referred to and which the woman, who, even a year later and after their son was born, still existed in that aghast and automatonlike state in which she had arrived, did not, possibly could not, recount but which she seemed to exude gradually and by a process of terrific and incredulous excretion like the sweat of fear or anguish: how he had found her, dragged her out of whatever two dimensional backwater (the very name of which, town or village, she either had never known or the shock of her exodus from it had driven the name forever from her mind and memory) her mentality had been capable of coercing food and shelter from, and married her, held her very hand doubtless while she made the laborious cross on the register before she even knew his name or knew that he was not a white man (and this last none knew even now if she knew for certain, even after the son was born in one of the dilapidated slave cabins which he rebuilt after renting his parcel of land from Judith); how there followed something like a year composed of a succession of periods of utter immobility like a broken cinema film, which the whitecolored man who had married her spent on his back recovering from the last mauling he had received, in frowzy stinking rooms in places — towns and cities — which likewise had no names to her, broken by other periods, intervals, of furious and incomprehensible and apparently reasonless moving, progression — a maelstrom of faces and bodies through which the man thrust, dragging her behind him, toward or from what, driven by what fury which would not let him rest, she did not know, each one to end, finish, as the one before it had so that it was almost a ritual.
The man apparently hunting out situations in order to flaunt and fling the ape-like body of his charcoal companion in the faces of all and any who would retaliate: the Negro stevedores and deckhands on steamboats or in city honky-tonks who thought he was a white man and believed it only the more strongly when he denied it; the whitemen who, when he said he was a Negro, believed that he lied in order to save his skin, or worse: from sheer besotment of sexual perversion; in either case the result the same: the man with body and limbs almost as light and delicate as a girl's giving the first blow, usually unarmed and heedless of the numbers opposed to him, with that same fury and implacability and physical imperviousness to pain and punishment, neither cursing nor panting, but laughing.
' So he showed Judith the license and took his wife, already far gone with the child, to the ruined cabin which he had chosen to repair and installed her, kenneled her with a gesture perhaps, and returned to the house. And there was nobody to know what transpired that evening between him and Judith, in whatever carpetless room furnished with whatever chairs and such which they had not had to chop up and burn to cook food or for warmth or maybe to heat water for illness from time to time — between the woman who had been widowed before she had been a bride, and the son of the man who had bereaved her and a hereditary Negro concubine, who had not resented his black blood so much as he had denied the white, and this with a curious and outrageous exaggeration in which was inherent its own irrevocability, almost exactly as the demon himself might have done it. (Because there was love Mr Compson said There was that letter she brought and gave to your grandmother to keep. He (Quentin) could see it, as plainly as he saw the one open upon the open text book on the table before him, white in his father's dark hand against his linen leg in the September twilight where the cigar-smell, the wistaria-smell, the fireflies drifted, thinking Yes. I have heard too much, I have been told too much; I have had to listen to too much, too long thinking Yes, Shreve sounds almost exactly like father: that letter. And who to know what moral restoration she might have contemplated in the privacy of that house, that room, that night, what hurdling of iron old traditions since she had seen almost everything else she had learned to call stable vanish like straws in a gale — she sitting there beside the lamp in a straight chair, erect, in the same calico save that the sunbonnet would be missing now, the head bare now, the once coal-black hair streaked with gray now while he faced her, standing. He would not have sat; perhaps she would not even have asked him to, and the cold level voice would not be much louder than the sound of the lamp's flame: "I was wrong. I admit it. I believed that there were things which still mattered just because they had mattered once. But I was wrong. Nothing matters but breath, breathing, to know and to be alive. and the child, the license, the paper. What about it? That paper is between you and one who is inescapably Negro; it can be put aside, no one will anymore dare bring it up than any other prank of a young man in his wild youth, and as for the child, all right. Didn't my own father beget one? and he none the worse for it? We will even keep the woman and the child if you wish; they can stay here and Clytie will…" watching him, staring at him yet not moving, immobile, erect, her hands folded motionless on her lap, hardly breathing as if he were some wild bird or beast which might take flight at the expansion and contraction of her nostrils or the movement of her breast: "No: I. I will. I will raise it, see that it… It does not need to have any name; you will neither have to see it again nor to worry. We will have General Compson sell some of the land; he will do it, and you can go. Into the North, the cities, where it will not matter even if-But they will not. They will not dare. I will tell them that you are Henry's son and who could or would dare to dispute — " and he standing there, looking at her or not looking at her she cannot tell since his face would be lowered the still expressionless thin face, she watching him, not daring to move, her voice murmuring, clear enough and full enough yet hardly reaching him: "Charles": and he: "No, Miss Sutpen": and she again, still without moving, not stirring so much as a muscle, as if she stood on the outside of the thicket into which she had cajoled the animal which she knew was watching her though she could not see it, not quite cringing, not in any terror or even alarm but in that restive light incorrigibility of the free which would leave not even a print on the earth which lightly bore it and she not daring to put out the hand with which she could have actually touched it but instead just speaking to it, her voice soft and swooning, filled with that seduction, that celestial promise which is the female's weapon: "Call me aunt Judith, Charles") Yes, who to know if he said anything or nothing, turning, going out, she still sitting here, not moving, not stirring, watching him, still seeing him, penetrating walls and darkness too to watch him walk back down the weedy lane between the deserted collapsed cabins toward that one where his wife waited, treading the thorny and flint-paved path toward the Gethsemane which he had decreed and created for himself, where he had crucified himself and come down from his cross for a moment and now returned to it. 'Not your grandfather. He knew only what the town, the county, knew: that the strange little boy whom Clytie had used to watch and had taught to farm, who had sat, a grown man, in the justice's court that day with his head bandaged and one arm in a sling and the other in a handcuff, who had vanished and then returned with an authentic wife resembling something in a zoo, now farmed on shares a portion of the Sutpen plantation, farmed it pretty well, with solitary and steady husbandry within his physical limitations, the body and limbs which still looked too light for the task which he had set himself, who lived like a hermit in the cabin which he rebuilt and where his son was presently born, who consorted with neither white nor black (Clytie did not watch him now; she did not need to) and who was not seen in Jefferson but three times during the next four years and then to appear, be reported by the Negroes who seemed to fear either him or Clytie or Judith, as being either blind or violently drunk in the Negro store district on Depot Street, where your grandfather would come and take him away (or if he were too drunk, had become violent, the town officers) and keep him until his wife, the black gargoyle, could hitch the team back into the wagon and come, with nothing alive about her but her eyes and hands, and load him into it and take him home. So they did not even miss him from town at first; it was the County Medical Officer who told your grandfather that he had yellow fever and, that Judith had had him moved into the big house and was nursing him and now Judith had the disease too, and your grandfather told him to notify Miss Coldfield and he (your grandfather) rode out there one day. He did not dismount; he sat his horse and called until Clytie looked down at him from one of the upper windows and told him "they didn't need nothing." Within the week your grandfather learned that Clytie had been right, or was right, now anyway, though it was Judith who died first."
'Oh,' Quentin said — Yes he thought Too much, too long remembering how he had looked at the fifth grave and thought how 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, thinking Father won't have to say "think" this time because he knew who had ordered and bought that headstone before he read the inscription on it, thinking about, imagining what careful printed directions Judith must have roused herself (from delirium possibly) to write down for Clytie when she knew that she was going to die; and how Clytie must have lived during the next twelve years while she raised the child which had been born in the old slave cabin and scrimped and saved the money to finish paying out for the stone on which Judith had paid his grandfather the hundred dollars twenty-four years ago and which, when his grandfather tried to refuse it, she (Clytie) set the rusty can full of nickels and dimes and frayed paper money on the desk and walked out of the office without a word. He had to brush the clinging cedar needles from this one also to read it, watching these letters also emerge beneath his hand, wondering quietly how they could have clung there, not have been blistered to ashes at the instant of contact with the harsh and unforgiving threat: Judith Coldfield Sutpen. Daughter of Ellen Coldfield. Born October 3, 1841. Suffered the Indignities and Travails of this world for 24 Years, 4 Months, 9 Days, and went to Rest at Last February 12, 1884.
Pause, Mortal; Remember vanity and Folly and Beware thinking (Quentin) Yes. I didn't need to ask who invented that, put that one up thinking Yes, too much, too long. I didn't need to listen then but I had to hear it and now I am having to hear it all over again because he sounds just like father: Beautiful lives women live — women do. In very breathing they draw meat and drink from some beautiful attenuation of unreality in which the shades and shapes of facts — of birth and bereavement, of suffering and bewilderment and despair — move with the substanceless decorum of lawn party charades, perfect in gesture and without significance or any ability to hurt. Miss Rosa ordered that one. She decreed that headstone of Judge Benbow. He had been the executor of her father's estate, appointed by no will since Mr Coldfield left neither will nor estate except the house and the rifled shell of the store. So he appointed himself, elected himself probably out of some conclave of neighbors and citizens who came together to discuss her affairs and what to do with her after they realized that nothing under the sun, certainly no man nor committee of men, would ever persuade her to go back to her niece and brother-in-law — the same citizens and neighbors who left baskets of food on her doorstep at night, the dishes (the plate containing the food, the napkins which covered it) from which she never washed but returned soiled to the empty basket and set the basket back on the same step where she had found it as to carry completely out the illusion that it had never existed or at least that she had never touched, emptied, it, had not come out and taken the basket up with that air which had nothing whatever of furtiveness in it nor even defiance, who doubtless tasted the food, criticized its quality or cooking, chewed and swallowed it and felt it digest yet still clung to that delusion, that calm incorrigible insistence that that which all incontrovertible evidence tells her is so does not exist, as women can — that same self deluding which declined to admit that the liquidation of the store had left her something, that she had been left anything but a complete pauper, she would not accept the actual money from the sale of the store from Judge Benbow yet would accept the money's value (and after a few years, over-value) in a dozen ways: would use casual Negro boys who happened to pass the house, stopping them and commanding them to rake her yard and they doubtless as aware as the town was that there would be no mention of pay from her, that they would not even see her again though they knew she was watching them from behind the curtains of a window, but that Judge Benbow would pay them.
She would enter the stores and command objects from the shelves and showcases exactly as she commanded that two hundred dollar headstone from Judge Benbow, and walk out of the store with them — and with the same aberrant cunning which would not wash the dishes and napkins from the baskets she declined to have any discussion of her affairs with Benbow since she must have known that the sums which she had received from him must have years ago over-balanced (he, Benbow, had in his office a portfolio, a fat one, with Estate of Goodhue Coldfield. Private written across it in indelible ink. After the Judge died his son Percy opened it. It was filed with racing forms and cancelled betting tickets on horses whose very bones were no man knew where now, which had won and lost races on the Memphis track forty years ago, and a ledger, a careful tabulation in the Judge's hand, each entry indicating the date and the horse's name and his wager and whether he won or lost; and another one showing how for forty years he had put each winning and an amount equal to each loss, to that mythical account) whatever the store had brought.
But you were not listening, because you knew it all already, had learned, absorbed it already without the medium of speech somehow from having been born and living beside it, with it, as children will and do: so that what your father was saying did not tell you anything so much as it struck, word by word, the resonant strings of remembering.
You had been here before, seen these graves more than once in the rambling expeditions of boyhood whose aim was more than the mere hunting of game, just as you had seen the old house too, been familiar with how it would look before you even saw it, became large enough to go out there one day with four or five other boys of your size and age and dare one another to evoke the ghost, since it would have to be haunted, could not but be haunted although it had stood there empty and unthreatening for twenty-six years and nobody to meet or report any ghost, until the wagon full of strangers moving from Arkansas tried to stop and spend the night in it and something happened before they could begin to unload the wagon even. What it was they did not or could not or would not tell but it had them back in the wagon, and the mules going back down the drive at a gallop, all in about ten minutes, not to stop until they reached Jefferson. You have seen the rotting shell of the house with its sagging portico and scaling walls, its sagging blinds and plank-shuttered windows, set in the middle of the domain which had reverted to the state and had been bought and sold and bought and sold again and again and again. No, you were not listening; you didn't have to: then the dogs stirred, rose; you looked up and sure enough, just as your father had said he would, Luster had halted the mule and the two horses in the rain about fifty yards from the cedars, sitting there with his knees drawn up under the towsack and enclosed by the cloudy vapor of the streaming animals as though he were looking at you and your father out of some lugubrious and painless purgatory.
"Come on in out of the rain, Luster," your father said. "I won't let the old Colonel hurt you" — "Yawl come on and less go home," Luster said. "Aint no more hunting today"
"We'll get wet," your father said.
"I'll tell you what: we'll ride on over to that old house. We can keep good and dry there." But Luster didn't budge, sitting there in the rain and inventing reasons not to go to the house — that the roof would leak or that you would all three catch cold with no fire or that you would all get so wet before you reached it that the best thing to do would be to go straight home: and your father laughing at Luster but you not laughing so much because even though you were not black like Luster was, you were not any older, and you and Luster had both been there that day when the five of you, the five boys all of an age, began daring on another to enter the house long before you reached it, coming up from the rear, into the old street of the slave quarters — a jungle of sumach and persimmon and briers and honeysuckle, and the rotting piles of what had once been log walls and stone chimneys and shingle roofs among the undergrowth except one, that one; you coming up to it; you didn't see the old woman at all at first because you were watching the boy, the Jim Bond, the hulking slack-mouthed saddle-colored boy a few years older and bigger than you were, in patched and faded yet quite clean shirt and overalls too small for him, working in the garden patch beside the cabin: so you didn't even know she was there until all of you started and whirled as one and found her watching you from a chair tilted back against the cabin wall — a little dried-up woman not much bigger than a monkey and who might have been any age up to ten thousand years, in faded voluminous skirts and an immaculate headrag, her bare coffee-colored feet wrapped around the chair rung like monkeys do, smoking a clay pipe and watching you with eyes like two shoe buttons buried in the myriad wrinkles of her coffee-colored face, who just looked at you and said without even removing the pipe and in a voice almost like a white woman's: "What do you want?" and after a moment one of you said "Nothing" and then you were all running without knowing which of you began to run first nor why since you were not scared, back across the fallow and rain-gutted and brier-choked old fields until you came to the old rotting snake fence and crossed it, hurled yourselves over it, and then the earth, the land, the sky and trees and woods, looked different again, all right again. 'Yes,' Quentin said.
'And that was the one Luster was talking about now,' Shreve said.
'And your father watching you again because you hadn't heard the name before, hadn't even thought that he must have a name that day when you saw him in the vegetable patch, and you said, "Who? Jim what?" and Luster said, "Das him.
Bright-colored boy whut stay wid dat ole woman" and your father still watching you and you said, "Spell it" and Luster said, "Dat's a lawyer word. Whut dey puts you under when de Law ketches you. I des spells readin' words." And that was him, the name was Bond now, and he wouldn't care about that, who had inherited what he was from his mother and only what he could never have been from his father. And if your father had asked him if he was Charles Bon's son he not only would not have known either, he wouldn't have cared: and if you had told him he was, it would have touched and then vanished from what you (not he) would have had to call his mind long before it could have set up any reaction at all, either of pride or pleasure, anger or grief?" 'Yes,' Quentin said.
'And he lived in that cabin behind the haunted house for twenty-six years, he and the old woman who must be more than seventy now yet who had no white hair under that headrag, whose flesh had not sagged but looked instead like she had grown old up to a certain point just like normal people do, then had stopped, and instead of turning gray and soft she had begun to shrink so that the skin of her face and hands broke into a million tiny cross-hair wrinkles and her body just grew smaller and smaller like something being shrunk in a furnace, like the Bornese do their captured heads — who might well have been the ghost if one was ever needed, if anybody ever had so little else to do as to prowl around the house, which there was not; if there could have been anything in it to protect from prowlers, which there was not; if there had been any one of them left to hide or need concealment in it, which there was not. And yet this old gal, this Aunt Rosa, told you that someone was hiding out there and you said it was Clytie or Jim Bond and she said No and you said it would have to be because the demon was dead and Judith was dead and Bon was dead and Henry gone so far he hadn't even left a grave: and she said No and so you went out there, drove the twelve miles at night in a buggy and you found Clytie and Jim Bond both in it and you said You see? and she (the Aunt Rosa) still said No and so you went on: and there was?" ' Yes."
'Wait then,' Shreve said. 'For God's sake wait."
There was no snow on Shreve's arm now, no sleeve on his arm at all now: only the smooth cupid-fleshed forearm and hand coming back into the lamp and taking a pipe from the empty coffee can where he kept them, filling it and lighting it. So it is zero outside, Quentin thought; soon he will raise the window and do deep-breathing in it, clench-fisted and naked to the waist, in the warm and rosy orifice above the iron quad. But he had not done so yet, and now the moment, the thought, was an hour past and the pipe lay smoked out and overturned and cold, with a light sprinkling of ashes about it, on the table before Shreve's crossed pink bright-haired arms while he watched Quentin from behind the two opaque and lampglared moons of his spectacles. ' So he just wanted a grandson,' Shreve said. 'That was all he was after. Jesus, the South is fine, isn't it.
It's better than the theater, isn't it. It's better than Ben Hur, isn't it. No wonder you have to come away now and then, isn't it." Quentin did not answer. He sat quite still, facing the table, his hands lying on either side of the open text book on which the letter rested: the rectangle of paper folded across the middle and now open, three quarters open, whose bulk had raised half itself by the leverage of the old crease in weightless and paradoxical levitation, lying at such an angle that he could not possibly have read it, deciphered it, even without this added distortion.
Yet he seemed to be looking at it, or as near as Shreve could tell, he was, his face lowered a little, brooding, almost sullen. 'He told Grandfather about it,' he said. 'That time when the architect escaped, tried to escape into the river bottom and go back to New Orleans or wherever it was, and he — ' ('The demon, hey?" Shreve said.
Quentin did not answer him, did not pause, his voice level, curious, a little dreamy yet still with that overtone of sullen bemusement, of smoldering outrage: so that Shreve, still too, resembling in his spectacles and nothing else (from the waist down the table concealed him; so anyone entering the room would have taken him to be stark naked) a baroque effigy created out of colored cake dough by someone with a faintly nightmarish affinity for the perverse, watched him with thoughtful and intent curiosity.) ' — and he sent word in to Grandfather,' Quentin said, 'and some others and got his dogs and his wild niggers out and hunted the architect down and made him take earth in a cave under the river bank two days later. That was in the second summer, when they had finished all the brick and had the foundations laid and most of the big timbers cut and trimmed, and one day the architect couldn't stand it anymore or he was afraid he would starve or that the wild niggers (and maybe Colonel Sutpen too) would run out of grub and eat him or maybe he got homesick or maybe he just had to go ('Maybe he had a girl,' Shreve said. 'Or maybe he just wanted a girl.
You said the demon and the niggers didn't have but two." Quentin did not answer this either; again he might not have heard, talking in that curious repressed calm voice as though to the table before him or the book upon it or the letter upon the book or his hands lying on either side of the book.) ' — and so he went. He seemed to vanish in broad daylight, right out from the middle of twenty-one people. Or maybe it was just Sutpen's back that was turned, and that the niggers saw him go and didn't think it needed mentioning; that being wild men they probably didn't know what Sutpen himself was up to and him naked in the mud with them all day. So I reckon the niggers never did know what the architect was there for, supposed to do or had done or could do or was, so maybe they thought Sutpen had sent him, told him to go away and drown himself, go away and die, or maybe just go away. So he did, jumped up in broad daylight, in his embroidered vest and Fauntleroy tie and a hat like a Baptist congressman and probably carrying the hat in his hand, and ran into the swamp and the niggers watched him out of sight and then went back to work and Sutpen didn't even miss him until night, suppertime probably, and the niggers told him and he declared a holiday tomorrow because he would have to get out and borrow some dogs.
Not that he would have needed dogs, with his niggers to trail, but maybe he thought that the guests, the others, would not be used to trailing with niggers and would expect dogs. And Grandfather (he was young then too) brought some champagne and some of the others brought whiskey and they began to gather out there a little after sundown, at Sutpen's house that didn't even have walls yet, that wasn't anything yet but some lines of bricks sunk into the ground but that was all right because they didn't go to bed anyhow, Grandfather said. They just sat around the fire with the champagne and the whiskey and a quarter of the last venison Sutpen had killed, and about midnight the man with the dogs came.
Then it was daylight and the dogs had a little trouble at first because some of the wild niggers had run out about a mile of the trail just for fun. But they got the trail straightened out at last, the dogs and the niggers in the bottom and most of the men riding along the edge of it where the going was good. But Grandfather and Colonel Sutpen went with the dogs and the niggers because Sutpen was afraid the niggers might catch the architect before he could reach them. He and Grandfather had to walk a good deal, sending one of the niggers to lead the horses on around the bad places until they could ride again.
Grandfather said it was fine weather and the trail lay pretty good but Sutpen said it would have been fine if the architect had just waited until October or November. And so he told Grandfather something about himself.
'Sutpen's trouble was innocence. All of a sudden he discovered, not what he wanted to do but what he just had to do, had to do it whether he wanted to or not, because if he did not do it he knew that he could never live with himself for the rest of his life, never live with what all the men and women that had died to make him had left inside of him for him to pass on, with all the dead ones waiting and watching to see if he was going to do it right, fix things right so that he would be able to look in the face not only the old dead ones but all the living ones that would come after him when he would be one of the dead. And that at the very moment when he discovered what it was, he found out that this was the last thing in the world he was equipped to do because he not only had not known that he would have to do this, he did not even know that it existed to be wanted, to need to be done, until he was almost fourteen years old. Because he was born in West Virginia, in the mountains — ' ('Not in West Virginia,' Shreve said. — 'What?" Quentin said. ' Not in West Virginia,' Shreve said.
' Because if he was twenty-five years old in Mississippi in 1833, he was born in 1808. And there wasn't any West Virginia in 1808 because — '
'All right,' Quentin said. ' — West Virginia wasn't admitted-'
'All right all right,' Quentin said. ' — into the United States until — '
'All right all right all right,' Quentin said.) ' — he was born where what few other people he knew lived in log cabins boiling with children like the one he was born in — men and grown boys who hunted or lay before the fire on the floor while the women and older girls stepped back and forth across them to reach the fire to cook, where the only colored people were Indians and you only looked down at them over your rifle sights, where he had never even heard of, never imagined, a place, a land divided neatly up and actually owned by men who did nothing but ride over it on fine horses or sit in fine clothes on the galleries of big houses while Other people worked for them; he did not even imagine then that there was any such way to live or to want to live, or that there existed all the objects to be wanted which there were, or that the ones who owned the objects not only could look down on the ones that didn't, but could be supported in the down-looking not only by the others who owned objects too but by the very ones that were looked down on that didn't own objects and knew they never would.
Because where he lived the land belonged to anybody and everybody and so the man who would go to the trouble and work to fence off a piece of it and say "This is mine" was crazy; and as for objects, nobody had any more of them than you did because everybody had just what he was strong enough or energetic enough to take and keep, and only that crazy man would go to the trouble to take or even want more than he could eat or swap for powder and whiskey. So he didn't even know there was a country all divided and fixed and neat with a people living on it all divided and fixed and neat because of what color their skins happened to be and what they happened to own, and where a certain few men not only had the power of life and death and barter and sale over others, but they had living human men to perform the endless repetitive personal offices, such as pouring the very whiskey from the jug and putting the glass into a man's hand or pulling off his boots for him to go to bed, that all men have had to do for themselves since time began and would have to do until they died and which no man ever has or ever will like to do, but which no man that he knew had ever thought of evading anymore than he had thought of evading the effort of chewing and swallowing and breathing.
When he was a child he didn't listen to the vague and cloudy tales of Tidewater splendor that penetrated even his mountains because then he could not understand what the people who told about it meant, and when he became a boy he didn't listen to them because there was nothing in sight to compare and gauge the tales by and so give the words life and meaning, and no chance that he ever would understand what they meant because he was too busy doing the things that boys do; and when he got to be a youth and curiosity itself exhumed the tales which he did not know he had heard and speculated on, he was interested and would have liked to see the places once, but without envy or regret, because he just thought that some people were spawned in one place and some in another, some spawned rich (lucky, he may have called it) and some not, and that (so he told Grandfather) the men themselves had little to do with the choosing and less of the regret because it had never once occurred to him that any man should take any such blind accident as that as authority or warrant to look down at others, any others. So he had hardly heard of such a world until he fell into it.
'That's how it was. They fell into it, the whole family, returned to the coast from which the first Sutpen had come (when the ship from the Old Bailey reached Jamestown probably), tumbled head over heels back to Tidewater by sheer altitude, elevation, and gravity, as if whatever slight hold the family had had on the mountain had broken. He said something to Grandfather about his mother dying about that time and how his pap said she was a fine wearying woman and that he would miss her; and something about how it was the wife that had got his father even that far West. And now the whole passel of them from the father through the grown daughters down to one that couldn't even walk yet, slid back down out of the mountains, skating in a kind of accelerating and sloven and inert coherence like a useless collection of flotsam on a flooded river, moving by some perverse automotivation such as inanimate objects sometimes show, backward against the very current of the stream, across the Virginia plateau and into the slack lowlands about the mouth of the James River. He didn't know why they moved, or didn't remember the reason if he ever knew it — whether it was optimism, hope in his father's breast or nostalgia, since he didn't know just where his father had come from, whether from the country to which they returned or not, or even if his father knew, remembered, wanted to remember and find it again. He didn't know whether somebody, some traveler, had told him of some easy place or time, some escape from the hardship of getting food and keeping warm in the mountain way, or if perhaps somebody his father knew once or who knew his father once and remembered him, happened to think about him, or someone kin to him who had tried to forget him and couldn't quite do it, had sent for him and he had obeyed, going not for the promised job but for the ease, having faith perhaps in the blood kinship to evade the labor, if it was kinship and in his own inertia and in whatever gods had watched over him this far if it were not. But all he remembered — ' (' The demon,' Shreve said) 'was that one morning the father rose and told the older girls to pack what food they had, and somebody wrapped up the baby and somebody else threw water on the fire and they walked down the mountain to where roads existed. They had a lopsided two-wheeled cart and two spavined oxen now. He told Grandfather he did not remember just where nor when nor how his father had got it. He was ten then; the two older boys had left home some time before and had not been heard of since.
He drove the oxen, since almost as soon as they got the cart his father began the practice of accomplishing that part of the translation devoted to motion flat on his back in the cart, oblivious among the quilts and lanterns and well buckets and bundles of clothing and children, snoring with alcohol. That was how he told it. He didn't remember if it was weeks or months or a year they traveled, except that one of the older girls who had left the cabin unmarried was still unmarried when they finally stopped, though she had become a mother before they lost the last blue mountain range. He didn't remember whether it was that winter and then spring and then summer that overtook and passed them on the road, or whether they overtook and passed in slow succession the seasons as they descended, or whether it was the descent itself that did it, and they not progressing parallel in time but descending perpendicularly through temperature and climate — a (you couldn't call it a period because as he remembered it or as he told Grandfather he did, it didn't have either a definite beginning or a definite ending. Maybe attenuation is better) — an attenuation from a kind of furious inertness and patient immobility, while they sat in the cart outside the doors of doggeries and taverns and waited for the father to drink himself insensible, to a sort of dreamy and destinationless locomotion after they had got the old man out of whatever shed or outhouse or barn or ditch and loaded him into the cart again, and during which they did not seem to progress at all but just to hang suspended while the earth itself altered, flattened and broadened out of the mountain cove where they had all been born, mounting, rising about them like a tide in which the strange harsh rough faces about the doggery doors into which the old man was just entering or was just being carried or thrown out (and this one time by a huge bull of a nigger, the first black man, slave, they had ever seen, who emerged with the old man over his shoulder like a sack of meal and his — the nigger's — mouth loud with laughing and full of teeth like tombstones) swam up and vanished and were replaced; the earth, the world, rising about them and flowing past as if the cart moved on a treadmill. And it was now spring and now summer and they still were moving on toward a place they had never seen and had no conception of, let alone wanted to go to; and from a place, a little lost spot on the side of a hill back to which probably not one of them could have led the way — excepting possibly the usually insensible father who made one stage of the journey accompanied by the raspberry-colored elephants and snakes which he seems to have been hunting — bringing into and then removing from their sober static country astonishment the strange faces and places, both faces and places — doggeries and taverns now become hamlets, hamlets now become 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 (so that now they began to make really pretty good time) and no laughter and jeers to the ejecting now, even if the laughter and jeers had been harsh and without much gentleness in them.
'That's the way he got it. He had learned the difference not only between white men and black ones, but he was learning that there was a difference between white men and white men, not to be measured by lifting anvils or gouging eyes or how much whiskey you could drink then get up and walk out of the room. He had begun to discern that without being aware of it yet. He still thought that that was just a matter of where you were spawned and how; whether you were lucky or not lucky; and that the lucky ones would be even slower and loather than the unlucky to take any advantage of it or credit for it, or to feel that it gave them anything more than the luck; and he still thought that they would feel if anything more tender toward the unlucky than the unlucky would ever need to feel toward them. He was to find all that out later. He remembered when he found it out, because that was the same second when he discovered his innocence. It was not the second, the moment, that he was long about: it was the getting to it: the moment when they must have realized, believed at last that they were no longer traveling, moving, going somewhere — not the being still at last and in a fashion settled, because they had done that before on the road; he remembered how one time the gradual difference in comfort between the presence and absence of shoes and warm clothing occurred in one place: a cowshed where the sister's baby was born and, as he told Grandfather, for all he could remember, conceived too. Because they were stopped now at last. He didn't know where they were. For a time, during the first days or weeks or months, the woodsman's instinct which he had acquired from the environment where he grew up or that maybe had been bequeathed him by the two brothers who had vanished, one of whom had been as far West as the Mississippi River one time — the instinct bequeathed him along with the worn-out buckskin garments and such which they left in the cabin when they departed the last time for good, and which he had sharpened by boy's practice at small game and such — kept him oriented so that he could have (so he said) found his way back to the mountain cabin in time. But that was past now, behind him the moment when he last could have said exactly where he had been born. He was now weeks and months, maybe a year, since he became confused about his age and was never able to straighten it out again, so that he told Grandfather that he did not know within a year on either side just how old he was. So he knew neither where he had come from nor where he was nor why. He was just there, surrounded by the faces, almost all the faces which he had ever known (though the number of them was decreasing, thinning out, despite the efforts of the unmarried sister who pretty soon, so he told Grandfather, and still without any wedding had another baby, decreasing because of the climate, the warmth, the dampness) living in a cabin that was almost a replica of the mountain one except that it didn't sit up in the bright wind but sat instead beside a big flat river that sometimes showed no current at all and even sometimes ran backward, where his sisters and brothers seemed to take sick after supper and die before the next meal, where regiments of niggers with white men watching them planted and raised things that he had never heard of.
The old man did something besides drink now, at least, he would leave the cabin after breakfast and return sober to supper, and he fed them somehow. And the man was there who owned all the land and the niggers and apparently the white men who superintended the work, and who lived in the biggest house he had ever seen and who 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.
And he (he was eleven or twelve or thirteen now because this was where he realized that he had irrevocably lost count of his age) would lie there all afternoon while the sisters would come from time to time to the door of the cabin two miles away and scream at him' for wood or water, watching that man who not only had shoes in the summertime too, but didn't even have to wear them. 'But he still didn't envy the man he was watching. He coveted the shoes, and probably he would have liked for his father to have a broadcloth monkey to hand him the jug and to carry the wood and water into the cabin for his sisters to wash and cook with and keep the house warm so that he himself would not have to do it. Maybe he even realized, understood the pleasure it would have given his sisters for their neighbors (other whites like them, who lived in other cabins not quite as well built and not at all as well kept and preserved as the ones the nigger slaves lived in but still imbued with freedom's bright aura, which the slave quarters were not for all their sound roofs and whitewash) to see them being waited on. Because he had not only not lost the innocence yet, he had not yet discovered that he possessed it. He no more envied the man than he would have envied a mountain man who happened to own a fine rifle. He would have coveted the rifle, but he would himself have supported and confirmed the owner's pride and pleasure in its ownership because he could not have conceived of the owner taking such crass advantage of the luck which gave the rifle to him rather than to another as to say to other men: Because I own his rifle, my arms and legs and blood and bones are superior to yours except as the victorious outcome of a fight with rifles: and how in the world could a man fight another man with dressed-up niggers and the fact that he could lie in a hammock all afternoon with his shoes off? and what in the world would he be fighting for if he did? He didn't even know he was innocent that day when his father sent him to the big house with the message. He didn't remember (or did not say) what the message was, apparently he still didn't know exactly just what his father did (or maybe was supposed to do), what work the old man had in relation to the plantation. He was a boy either thirteen or fourteen, he didn't know which, in garments his father had got from the plantation commissary and had worn out and which one of the sisters had patched and cut down to fit him, and he was no more conscious of his appearance in them or of the possibility that anyone else would be than he was of his skin, following the road and turning into the gate and following the drive up past where still more niggers with nothing to do all day but plant flowers and trim grass were working, and so to the house, the portico, the front door, thinking how at last he was going to see the inside of it, see what else a man was bound to own who could have a special nigger to hand him his liquor and pull off his shoes that he didn't even need to wear, never for one moment thinking but what the man would be as pleased to show him the balance of his things as the mountain man would have been to show the powder horn and bullet mold that went with the rifle.
Because he was still innocent. He knew it without being aware that he did; he told Grandfather how, before the monkey nigger who came to the door had finished saying what he said, he seemed to kind of dissolve and a part of him turn and rush back through the two years they had lived there, like when you pass through a room fast and look at all the objects in it and you turn and go back through the room again and look at all the objects from the other side and you find out you had never seen them before, rushing back through those two years and seeing a dozen things that had happened and he hadn't even seen them before: the certain flat level silent way his older sisters and the other white women of their kind had of looking at niggers, not with fear or dread but with a kind of speculative antagonism not because of any known fact or reason but inherited, by both white and black, the sense, effluvium of it passing between the white women in the doors of the sagging cabins and the niggers in the road and which was not quite explainable by the fact that the niggers had better clothes, and which the niggers did not return as antagonism or in any sense of dare or taunt but through the very fact that they were apparently oblivious of it, too oblivious of it. You knew that you could hit them, he told Grandfather, and they would not hit back or even resist. But you did not want to, because they (the niggers) were not it, not what you wanted to hit; that you knew when you hit them you would just be hitting a child's toy balloon with a face painted on it, a face slick and smooth and distended and about to burst into laughing, and so you did not dare strike it because it would merely burst and you would rather let it walk on out of your sight than to have stood there in the loud laughing. He remembered talk at night before the fire when they had company or had themselves gone visiting after supper to another cabin, the voices of the women sober enough, even calm, yet filled with a quality dark and sullen and only some man, usually his father in drink, to break out into harsh recapitulation of his own worth, the respect which his own physical prowess commanded from his fellows, and the boy of either thirteen or fourteen or maybe twelve knowing that the men and the women were talking about the same thing though it had never once been mentioned by name, as when people talk about privation without mentioning the siege, about sickness without ever naming the epidemic. He remembered one afternoon when he and his sister were walking along the road and he heard the carriage coming up behind them and stepped off the road and then realized that his sister was not going to give way to it, that she still walked in the middle of the road with a sort of sullen implacability in the very angle of her head and he shouted at her: and then it was all dust and rearing horses and glinting harness buckles and wheel spokes; he saw two parasols in the carriage and the nigger coachman in a plug hat shouting: "Hoo dar, gal! Git outen de way dar?" and then it was over, gone: the carriage and the dust, the two faces beneath the parasols glaring down at his sister: then he was throwing vain clods of dirt after the dust as it spun on. He knew now, while the monkey-dressed nigger butler kept the door barred with his body while he spoke, that it had not been the nigger coachman that he threw at at all, that it was the actual dust raised by the proud delicate wheels, and just that vain. He thought of one night late when his father came home, blundered into the cabin; he could smell the whiskey even while still dulled with broken sleep, hearing that same fierce exultation, vindication, in his father's voice: "We whupped one of Pettibone's niggers tonight" and he roused at that, waked at that, asking which one of Pettibone's niggers and his father said he did not know, had never seen the nigger before: and he asked what the nigger had done and his father said, "Hell fire, that goddam son of a bitch Pettibone's nigger." He must have meant the question the same way his father meant the answer without knowing it then, since he had not yet discovered innocence: no actual nigger, living creature, living flesh to feel pain and writhe and cry out. He could even seem to see them: the torch-disturbed darkness among trees, the fierce hysterical faces of the white men, the balloon face of the nigger. Maybe the nigger's hands would be tied or held but that would be all right because they were not the hands with which the balloon face would struggle and writhe for freedom, not the balloon face: it was just poised among them, levitative and slick with paper-thin distension. Then someone would strike the balloon one single desperate and despairing blow and then he would seem to see them fleeing, running, with all about them, overtaking them and passing and going on and then returning to overwhelm them again, the roaring waves of mellow laughter meaningless and terrifying and loud. 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. He 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 had time to say what he came for, never to come to that front door again but to go around to the back.
'He didn't even remember leaving. All of a sudden he found himself running and already some distance from the house, and not toward home. He was not crying, he said. He wasn't even mad. He just had to think, so he was going to where he could be quiet and think, and he knew where that place was. He went into the woods. He says he did not tell himself where to go: that his body, his feet, just went there — a place where a game trail entered a canebrake and an oak tree had fallen across it and made a kind of cave where he kept an iron griddle that he would cook small game on sometimes. He said he crawled back into the cave and sat with his back against the uptorn roots, and thought.
Because he couldn't get it straight yet. He couldn't even realize yet that his trouble, his impediment, was innocence because he would not be able to realize that until he got it straight. So he was seeking among what little he had to call experience for something to measure it by, and he couldn't find anything. He had been told to go around to the back door even before he could state his errand, who had sprung from a people whose houses didn't have back doors but only windows and anyone entering or leaving by a window would be either hiding or escaping, neither of which he was doing. In fact, he had actually come on business, in the good faith of business which he had believed that all men accepted. Of course he had not expected to be invited in to eat a meal since time, the distance from one cooking pot to the next, did not need to be measured in hours or days; perhaps he had not expected to be asked into the house at all. But he did expect to be listened to because he had come, been sent, on some business which, even though he didn't remember what it was and maybe at the time (he said) he might not even have comprehended, was certainly connected somehow with the plantation that supported and endured that smooth white house and that smooth white brass-decorated door and the very broadcloth and linen and silk stockings the monkey nigger stood in to tell him to go around to the back before he could even state the business. It was like he might have been sent with a lump of lead or even a few molded bullets so that the man who owned the fine rifle could shoot it, and the man came to the door and told him to leave the bullets on a stump at the edge of the woods, not even letting him come close enough to look at the rifle. ' Because he was not mad. He insisted on that to Grandfather. He was just thinking, because he knew that something would have to be done about it; he would have to do something about it in order to live with himself for the rest of his life and he could not decide what it was because of that innocence which he had just discovered he had, which (the innocence, not the man, the tradition) he would have to compete with. He had nothing to compare and gauge it by but the rifle analogy, and it would not make sense by that. He was quite calm about it, he said, sitting there with his arms around his knees in his little den beside the game trail where more than once when the wind was right he had seen deer pass within ten feet of him, arguing with himself quietly and calmly while both debaters agreed that if there were only someone else, some older and smarter person to ask. But there was not, there was only himself, the two of them inside that one body, arguing quiet and calm: But I can shoot him. (Not the monkey nigger. It was not the nigger anymore than it had been the nigger that his father had helped to whip that night.
The nigger was just another balloon face slick and distended with that mellow loud and terrible laughing so that he did not dare to burst it, looking down at him from within the halfclosed door during that instant in which, before he knew it, something in him had escaped and — he unable to close the eyes of it — was looking out from within the balloon face just as the man who did not even have to wear the shoes he owned, whom the laughter which the balloon held barricaded and protected from such as he, looked out from whatever invisible place he (the man) happened to be at the moment, at the boy outside the barred door in his patched garments and splayed bare feet, looking through and beyond the boy, he himself seeing his own father and sisters and brothers as the owner, the rich man (not the nigger) must have been seeing them all the time — as cattle, creatures heavy and without grace, brutely evacuated into a world without hope or purpose for them, who would in turn spawn with brutish and vicious prolixity, populate, double treble and compound, fill space and earth with a race whose future would be a succession of cut-down and patched and made-over garments bought on exorbitant credit because they were white people, from stores where niggers were given the garments free, with for sole heritage that expression on a balloon face bursting with laughter which had looked out at some unremembered and nameless progenitor who had knocked at a door when he was a little boy and had been told by a nigger to go around to the back): But I can shoot him: he argued with himself and the other: No. That wouldn't do no good: and the first: What shall we do then? and the other: I don't know: and the first: But I can shoot him. I could slip right up there through them bushes and lay there until he come out to lay in the hammock and shoot him: and the other: No. That wouldn't do no good: and the first: Then what shall we do? and the other: I don't know.
'Now he was hungry. It was before dinner when he went to the big house, and now there was no sun at all where he crouched though he could still see sun in the tops of the trees around him. But his stomach had already told him it was late and that it would be later still when he reached home. And then he said he began to think Home.
Home and that he thought at first that he was trying to laugh and that he kept on telling himself it was laughing even after he knew better; home, as he came out of the woods and approached it, still hidden yet, and looked at it — the rough partly rotten log walls, the sagging roof whose missing shingles they did not replace but just set pans and buckets under the leaks, the lean-to room which they used for kitchen and which was all right because in good weather it didn't even matter that it had no chimney since they did not attempt to use it at all when it rained, and his sister pumping rhythmic up and down above a washtub in the yard, her back toward him, shapeless in a calico dress and a pair of the old man's shoes unlaced and flapping about her bare ankles and broad in the beam as a cow, the very labor she was doing brutish and stupidly out of all proportion to its reward: the very primary essence of labor, toil, reduced to its crude absolute which only a beast could and would endure; and now (he said) the thought striking him for the first time as to what he would tell his father when the old man asked him if he had delivered the message, whether he would lie or not, since if he did lie he would be found out maybe at once, since probably the man had already sent a nigger down to see why whatever it was his father had failed to do was not done, and had sent the excuse for — granted that that was what his errand to the house had been, which (granted his old man) it probably was. But it didn't happen at once because his father was not at home yet. So it was only the sister, as if she had been waiting not for the wood but just for him to return, for the opportunity to use her vocal cords, nagging at him to fetch the wood and he not refusing, not objecting, just not hearing her, paying any attention to her because he was still thinking.
Then the old man came and the sister told on him and the old man made him fetch the wood: and still nothing said about the errand while they ate supper nor when he went and lay down on the pallet where he slept and where he went to bed by just lying down, only not to sleep now, just lying there with his hands under his head and still nothing said about it, and he still not knowing if he was going to lie or not. Because, he said to Grandfather, the terrible part of it had not occurred to him yet, he just lay there while the two of them argued inside of him, speaking in orderly turn, both calm, even leaning backward to be calm and reasonable and unrancorous: But I can kill him.
No. That wouldn't do no good — Then what shall we do about it? — I don't know: and he just listening, not especially interested, he said, hearing the two of them without listening. Because what he was thinking about now he hadn't asked for. It was just there, natural in a boy, a child, and he not paying any attention to it either because it was what a boy would have thought, and he knew that to do what he had to do in order to live with himself he would have to think it out straight as a man would, thinking The nigger never give me a chance to tell him what it was and so he (not the nigger now either) wont know it and whatever it is wont get done and he wont know it aint done until too late so he will get paid back that much for what he set that nigger to do and if it only was to tell him that the stable, the house, was on fire and the nigger wouldn't even let me tell him, warn him.
And then he said that all of a sudden it was not thinking, it was something shouting it almost loud enough for his sisters on the other pallet and his father in the bed with the two youngest and filling the room with alcohol snoring, to hear too: He never even give me a chance to say it: it too fast, too mixed up to be thinking, it all kind of shouting at him at once, boiling out and over him like the nigger laughing: He never give me a chance to say it and Pap never asked me if I told him or not and so he cant even know that Pap sent him any message and so whether he got it or not cant even matter, not even to Pap; I went up to that door for that nigger to tell me never to come to that front door again and I not only wasn't doing any good to him by telling it or any harm to him by not telling it, there aint any good or harm either in the living world that I can do to him. It was like that, he said, like an explosion — a bright glare that vanished and left nothing, no ashes nor refuse; just a limitless flat plain with the severe shape of his intact innocence rising from it like a monument; that innocence instructing him as calm as the others had ever spoken, using his own rifle analogy to do it with, and when it said them in place of he or him, it meant more than all the human puny mortals under the sun that might lie in hammocks all afternoon with their shoes off: He thought "If you were fixing to combat them that had the fine rifles, the first thing you would do would be to get yourself the nearest thing to a fine rifle you could borrow or steal or make, wouldn't it?" and he said Yes. "But this aint a question of rifles. So to combat them you have got to have what they have that made them do what the man did. You got to have land and niggers and a fine house to combat them with.
You see?" and he said Yes again. He left that night. He waked before day and departed just like he went to bed: by rising from the pallet and tiptoeing out of the house. He never saw any of his family again.
'He went to the West Indies." Quentin had not moved, not even to raise his head from its attitude of brooding bemusement upon the open letter which lay on the open textbook, his hands lying on the table before him on either side of the book and the letter, one half of which slanted upward from the transverse crease without support, as if it had learned half the secret of levitation. 'That was how Sutpen said it. He and Grandfather were sitting on a log now because the dogs had faulted. That is, they had treed — a tree from which he (the architect) could not have escaped yet which he had undoubtedly mounted because they found the sapling pole with his suspenders still knotted about one end of it that he had used to climb the tree, though at first they could not understand why the suspenders, and 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) found where he had come down.
So he and Grandfather, sat on the log and talked, and one of the wild niggers went back to camp for grub and the rest of the whiskey and they blew the other men in with horns and they ate, and he told Grandfather some more of it while they waited.
'He went to the West Indies. That's how Sutpen said it: not how he managed to find where the West Indies were nor where ships departed from to go there, not how he got to where the ships were and got in one, nor how he liked the sea, nor about the hardships of a sailor's life and it must have been hardship indeed for him, a boy of fourteen or fifteen who had never seen the ocean before, going to sea in 1823.
He just said, "So I went to the West Indies," sitting there on the log with Grandfather while the dogs still bayed the tree where they believed the architect was because he would have to be there saying it just like that day thirty years later when he sat in Grandfather's office (in his fine clothes now, even though they were a little soiled and worn with three years of war, with money to rattle in his pocket and his beard at its prime too: beard, body and intellect at that peak which all the different parts that make a man reach, where he can say I did all that I set out to do and I could stop here if I wanted to and no man to chide me with sloth, not even myself — and maybe this the instant which Fate always picks out to blackjack you, only the peak feels so sound and stable that the beginning of the falling is hidden for a little while — saying it with his head flung up a little in that attitude that nobody ever knew exactly who he had aped it from or if he did not perhaps learn it too from the same book out of which he taught himself the words, the bombastic phrases with which Grandfather said he even asked you for a match for his cigar or offered you the cigar — and there was nothing of vanity, nothing comic in it either Grandfather said, because of that innocence which he had never lost, because after it finally told him what to do that night he forgot about it and didn't know that he still had it) and he told Grandfather — told him, mind; not excusing, asking for no pity; not explaining, asking for no exculpation: just told Grandfather how he had put his first wife aside like eleventh — and twelfth-century kings did: "I found that she was not and could never be, through no fault of her own, adjunctive or incremental to the design which I had in mind, so I provided for her and put her aside." — telling Grandfather in that same tone while they sat on the log waiting for the niggers to come back with the other guests and the whiskey: "So I went to the West Indies. I had had some schooling during a part of one winter, enough to have learned something about them, to realize that they would be most suitable to the expediency of my requirements." He didn't remember how he came to go to the school. That is, why his father decided all of a sudden to send him, what nebulous vision or shape might have evolved out of the fog of alcohol and nigger-beating and scheming to avoid work which his old man called his mind — the image not of ambition nor glory, not to see his son better himself for his own sake, probably not even some blind instant of revolt against that same house whose roof had leaked on probably a hundred families like his which had come and lived beneath it and vanished and left no trace, nothing, not even rags and broken crockery, but was probably mere vindictive envy toward one or two men, planters, whom he had to see every now and then. Anyway, he was sent to school for about three months one winter — an adolescent boy of thirteen or fourteen in a room full of children three or four years younger than he and three or four years further advanced, and he not only probably bigger than the teacher (the kind of teacher that would be teaching a one-room country school in a nest of Tidewater plantations) but a good deal more of a man, who probably brought into the school with him along with his sober watchful mountain reserve a good deal of latent insubordination that he would not be aware of any more than he would be aware at first that the teacher was afraid of him. It would not be intractability and maybe you couldn't call it pride either, but maybe just the self-reliance of mountains and solitude, since some of his blood at least (his mother was a mountain woman, a Scottish woman who, so he told Grandfather, never did quite learn to speak English) had been bred in mountains, but which, whatever it was, was that which forbade him to condescend to memorize dry sums and such but which did permit him to listen when the teacher read aloud. — Sent to school, "where," he told Grandfather, "I learned little save that most of the deeds, good and bad both, incurring opprobium or plaudits or reward either, within the scope of man's abilities, had already been performed and were to be learned about only from books. So I listened when he would read to us. I realize now that on most of these occasions he resorted to reading aloud only when he saw that the moment had come when his entire school was on the point of rising and leaving the room. But whatever the reason, he read to us and I anyway listened, though I did not know that in that listening I was equipping myself better for what I should later design to do than if I had learned all the addition and subtraction in the book. That was how I learned of the West Indies. Not where they were, though if I had known at the time that that knowledge would someday serve me, I would have learned that too. What I learned was that there was a place called the West Indies to which poor men went in ships and became rich, it didn't matter how, so long as that man was clever and courageous: the latter of which I believed that I possessed, the former of which I believed that, if it were to be learned by energy and will in the school of endeavor and experience, I should learn. I remember how I remained one afternoon when school was out and waited for the teacher, waylaid him; he was a smallish man who always looked dusty, as if he had been born and lived all his life in attics and store rooms. I recall how he started back when he saw me and how I thought at the time that if I were to strike him there would be no resulting outcry but merely the sound of the blow and a puff of dust in the air as when you strike a rug hanging from a line. 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, starting 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; although I had been attending the school for almost three months, I daresay I knew no more than I did when I entered the schoolroom for the first time. But I had to know, you see. Perhaps a man builds for his future in more ways than one, builds not only toward the body which will be his tomorrow or next year, but toward actions and the subsequent irrevocable courses of resultant action which his weak senses and intellect cannot forsee but which ten or twenty or thirty years from now he will take, will have to take in order to survive the act. Perhaps it was that instinct and not I who grasped one of his arms as he drew back (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 lacked 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) glaring at me and beginning to struggle, and I holding him and saying — I was quite calm, quite calm; I just had to know saying, 'Suppose I went there and found out that it was not so?" and he shrieking now, shouting ' Help! Help!" so that I let him go. So when the time came when I realized that to accomplish my design I should need first of all and above all things money in considerable quantities and in the quite immediate future, I remembered what he had read to us and I went to the West Indies."
'Then the other guests began to ride up, and after a while the niggers came back with the coffee pot and a deer haunch and the whiskey (and one bottle of champagne which they had overlooked, Grandfather said) and Sutpen stopped talking for a while. He didn't tell anymore of it until they had eaten and were sitting around smoking while the niggers and the dogs made casts in all directions. 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 the dogs smelled that made them wild. The niggers and the dogs were getting further and further away until just before sundown one of the niggers whooped and he (he hadn't spoken for some time, Grandfather said, lying there on one elbow, in the fine boots and the only pants he had and the shirt he had put on when he came out of the mud and washed himself off after he realized that he would have to hunt the architect down himself if he wanted him back alive probably, not talking himself and maybe not even listening while the men talked about cotton and politics, just smoking the cigar Grandfather had given him and looking at the fire embers and maybe making that West Indian voyage again that he had made when he was fourteen and didn't even know where he was going or if he would ever get there or not, no more way of knowing whether the men who said the ship was going there were lying or not than he had of knowing whether or not the school teacher was telling the truth about what was in the book. And he never told whether the voyage was hard or not, how much he must have had to endure to make it.
But then he believed that all that was necessary was courage and shrewdness and the one he knew he had and the other he believed he could learn if it were to be taught, and it probably was the hardship of the voyage which comforted him and that the men who said the ship was going to the West Indies had not lied to him, because at that time, Grandfather said, he probably could not have believed in anything that was easy) he said, "There it is" and got up and they all went on and found where the architect had come back to the ground again, with a gain of almost three hours. So they had to go fast now and there wasn't much time to talk, or at least, Grandfather said, he did not appear to intend to resume. Then the sun went down and the other men had to start back to town; they all went except Grandfather, because he wanted to listen some more. So he sent word in by one of the others (he was not married then either) that he would not be home, and he and Sutpen went on until the light failed. Two of the niggers (they were thirteen miles from Sutpen's camp then) had already gone back to get blankets and more grub. Then it was dark and the niggers began to light pine knots and they went on for a little while yet, gaining what they could now since they knew that the architect would have had to den soon after dark to keep from traveling in a circle. That was how Grandfather remembered it: he and Sutpen leading their horses (he would look back now and then and see the horses' eyes shining in the torch light and the horses' heads tossing and the shadows slipping along their shoulders and flanks) and the dogs and the niggers (the niggers mostly still naked except for a pair of pants here and there) with the pine torches smoking and flaring above them and the red light on their round heads and arms and the mud they wore in the swamp to keep the mosquitoes off dried hard and shiny, glinting like glass or china and the shadows they cast taller than they were at one moment then gone the next and even the trees and brakes and thickets there one moment and gone the next though you knew all the time that they were still there because you could feel them with your breathing, as though, invisible, they pressed down and condensed the invisible air you breathed. And he said how Sutpen was talking about it again, telling him again before he realized that this was some more of it, and he said how he thought there was something about a man's destiny (or about the man) that caused the destiny to shape itself to him like his clothes did, like the same coat that new might have fitted a thousand men, yet after one man has worn it for a while it fits no one else and you can tell it anywhere you see it even if all you see is a sleeve or a lapels: so that his — ' ('the demon's,' Shreve said) 'destiny had fitted itself to him, to his innocence, his pristine aptitude for platform drama and childlike heroic simplicity, just as the fine broad-cloth uniform which you could have seen on ten thousand men during those four years, which he wore when he came in the office on that afternoon thirty years later, had fitted itself to the swaggering of all his gestures and to the forensic verbiage in which he stated calmly, with that frank innocence which we call "of a child" except that a human child is the only living creature that is never either frank or innocent, the most simple and the most outrageous things. He was telling some more of it, was leading into what he was telling yet still without telling how he got to where he was, nor even how what he was now involved in came to occur (he was obviously at least twenty years old at the time he was telling about, crouching behind a window in the dark and firing the muskets through it which someone else loaded and handed to him), getting himself and Grandfather both into that besieged Haitian room as simply as he got himself to the West Indies by saying that he decided to go to the West Indies and so he went there.
This anecdote was no deliberate continuation of the other one but was merely called to his mind by the picture of the niggers and torches in front of them; he not telling how he got there, what had happened during the six years between that day when he had decided to go to the West Indies and become rich, and this night when, overseer or foreman or something to a French sugar planter, he was barricaded in the house with the planter's family. And now Grandfather said there was the first mention — a shadow that almost emerged for a moment and then faded again but not completely away — of the — ' ('It's a girl,' Shreve said. 'Dont tell me. Just go on.") ' — woman whom he was to tell Grandfather thirty years afterward he had found unsuitable to his purpose and so put aside, though providing for her and there were a few frightened half-breed servants with them who he would have to turn from the window from time to time and kick and curse into helping the girl load the muskets which he and the planter fired through the windows.
And I reckon Grandfather was saying "Wait, wait for God's sake wait" about like you are, until he finally did stop and back up and start over again with at least some regard for cause and effect even if none for logical sequence and continuity. Or maybe it was the fact that they were sitting again now, having decided that they had gone far enough for that night, and the niggers had made camp and cooked supper and they (he and Grandfather) drank some of the whiskey and ate and then sat before the fire drinking some more of the whiskey and he telling it all over and still it was not absolutely clear — the how and the why he was there and what he was — since he was not talking about himself. He was telling a story. He was not bragging about something he had done; he was just telling a story about something a man named Thomas Sutpen had experienced, which would still have been the same story if the man had had no name at all, if it had been told about any man or no man over whiskey at night.
'That may have been what slowed him down. But it was not enough to clarify the story much. He still was not recounting to Grandfather the career of somebody named Thomas Sutpen. Grandfather said the only mention he ever made to those six or seven years which must have existed somewhere, must have actually occurred, was about the patois he had to learn in order to oversee the plantation, and the French he had to learn, maybe not to get engaged to be married, but which he would certainly need to be able to repudiate the wife after he had already got her — how, so he told Grandfather, he had believed that courage and shrewdness would be enough but found that he was wrong and how sorry he was that he had not taken the schooling along with the West Indian lore when he discovered that all people did not speak the same tongue and realized that he would not only need courage and skill, he would have to learn to speak a new language, else that design to which he had dedicated himself would die still-born. 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 and learn it the easy way and Grandfather said how he sat here 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, and if I were to try to explain it you would disbelieve me more than ever. So I will only say that that too was a part of the design which I had in my mind" and Grandfather said, "Why shouldn't I believe it?" and he looking at Grandfather still with that quiet bright expression about the eyes, saying, "But do you? Surely you don't hold me in such small contempt as to believe that at twenty I could neither have suffered temptation nor offered it?" and Grandfather said, "You're right. I shouldn't believe it. But I do."
So it was no tale about women, and certainly not about love: the woman, the girl, just that shadow which could load a musket but could not have been trusted to fire one out the window that night (or the seven or eight nights while they huddled in the dark and watched from the windows the barns or granaries or whatever it is you harvest sugar into, and the fields too, blazing and smoking: he said how you could smell it, you could smell nothing else, the rank sweet rich smell as if the hatred and the implacability, the thousand secret dark years which had created the hatred and implacability, had intensified the smell of the sugar: and Grandfather said how he remembered then that he had seen Sutpen each time decline sugar for his coffee and so he (Grandfather) knew why now but he asked anyway to be sure and Sutpen told him it was true; that he had not been afraid until after the fields and barns were all burned and they had even forgot about the smell of the burning sugar, but that he had never been able to bear sugar since) — the girl just emerging for a second of the telling, in a single word almost, so that Grandfather said it was like he had just seen her too for a second by the flash of one of the muskets — a bent face, a single cheek, a chin for an instant beyond a curtain of fallen hair, a white slender arm raised, a delicate hand clutching a ramrod, and that was all. No more detail and information about that than about how he got from the field, his overseeing, into the besieged house when the niggers rushed at him with their machetes, than how he got from the rotting cabin in Virginia to the fields he oversaw: and this, Grandfather said, was more incredible to him than the getting there from Virginia, because that did infer time, a space the getting across which did indicate something of leisureliness since time is longer than any distance, while the other, the getting from the fields into the barricaded house, seemed to have occurred with a sort of violent abrogation which must have been almost as short as his telling about it — a very condensation of time which was the gauge of its own violence, and he telling it in that pleasant faintly forensic anecdotal manner apparently just as he remembered it, was impressed by it through detached and impersonal interest and curiosity which even fear (that once when he mentioned fear by that same inverse process of speaking of a time when he was not afraid, before he became afraid, he put it) failed to leaven very much.
Because he was not afraid until after it was all over, Grandfather said, because that was all it was to him — a spectacle, something to be watched because he might not have a chance to see it again, since his innocence still functioned and he not only did not know what fear was until afterward, he did not even know that at first he was not terrified; did not even know that he had found the place where money was to he had quick 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 mortality was concomitant with the money and the sheen on the dollars was not from gold but from blood — a spot of earth which might have been created and set aside by Heaven itself, Grandfather said, as a theater for violence and injustice and bloodshed and all the satanic lusts of human greed and cruelty, for the last despairing fury of all the pariah-interdict and all the doomed — a little island set in a smiling and fury-lurked and incredible indigo sea, which was the halfway point between what we call the jungle and what we call civilization, halfway between the dark inscrutable continent from which the black blood, the black bones and flesh and thinking and remembering and hopes and desires, was ravished by violence, and the cold known land to which it was doomed, the civilized land and people which had expelled some of its own blood and thinking and desires that had become too crass to be faced and borne longer, and set it homeless and desperate on the lonely ocean a little lost island in a latitude which would require ten thousand years of equatorial heritage to bear its climate, a soil manured with black blood from two hundred years of oppression and exploitation until it sprang with an incredible paradox of peaceful greenery and crimson flowers and sugar cane sapling size and three times the height of a man and a little bulkier of course but valuable pound for pound almost with silver ore, as if nature held a balance and kept a book and offered a recompense for the torn limbs and outraged hearts even if man did not, the planting of nature and man too watered not only by the wasted blood but breathed over by the winds in which the doomed ships had fled in vain, out of which the last taller of sail had sunk into the blue sea, along which the last vain despairing cry of woman or child had blown away the planting of men too; the yet intact bones and brains in which the old unsleeping blood that had vanished into the earth they trod still cried out for vengeance. And he overseeing it, riding peacefully about on his horse while he learned the language (that meager and fragile thread, Grandfather said, by which the little surface corners and edges of men's secret and solitary lives may be joined for an instant now and then before sinking back into the darkness where the spirit cried for the first time and was not heard and will cry for the last time and will not be heard then either), not knowing that what he rode upon was a volcano, hearing the air tremble and throb at night with the drums and the chanting and not knowing that it was the heart of the earth itself he heard, who believed (Grandfather said) that earth was kind and gentle and that darkness was merely something you saw, or could not see in; overseeing what he oversaw and not knowing that he was overseeing it, making his daily expeditions from an armed citadel until the day itself came. And he not telling that either, how that day happened, the steps leading up to it because Grandfather said he apparently did not know, comprehend, what he must have been seeing every day because of that innocence — 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, and he did not know until the planter told him that the stains on the rag were neither dirt nor grease but blood, nor what he took to be the planter's gallic rage was actually fear, terror, and he just curious and quite interested because he still looked upon the planter and the daughter both as foreigners. He told Grandfather how until that first night of the siege he had not once thought that he did not know the girl's Christian name, whether he had ever heard it or not. He also told Grandfather, dropped this into the telling as you might flick the joker out of a pack of fresh cards without being able to remember later whether you had removed the joker or not, that the old man's wife had been a Spaniard, and so it was Grandfather and not Sutpen who realized that until that first night of the attack he had possibly not seen the girl as much as a dozen times. The body of one of the half-breeds was found at last; Sutpen found it, hunted for it for two days without even knowing that what he was meeting was a blank wall of black secret faces, a wall behind which almost anything could be preparing to happen and, as he learned later, almost anything was, and on the third day he found the body where he could not possibly have missed it during the first hour of the first day if it had been there. All the time he was speaking he was sitting on the log, Grandfather said, telling it, making the gestures to tell it with, the man Grandfather himself had seen fight naked chest to chest with one of his wild niggers by the light of the camp fire while his house was building and who still fought with them by lantern light in the stable after he had got at last that wife who would be adjunctive to the forwarding of that design he had in mind, and no bones made about the fighting either, no handshaking and gratulations while he washed the blood off and donned his shirt because at the end of it the nigger would be flat on his back with his chest heaving and another nigger throwing water on him. He was sitting there on the log telling Grandfather how at last he found the half-breed, or what used to be the half-breed, and so began to comprehend that the situation might become serious; then the house, the barricade, the five of them — the planter, the daughter, two women servants and himself — shut up in it and the air filled with the smoke and smell of burning cane and the glare and smoke of it on the sky and the air throbbing and trembling with the drums and the chanting — the little lost island beneath its down-cupped bowl of alternating day and night like a vacuum into which no help could come, where not even winds from the outer world came but only the trades, the same weary winds blowing back and forth across it and burdened still with the weary voices of murdered women and children homeless and graveless about the isolating and solitary sea — while the two servants and the girl whose Christian name he did not yet know loaded the muskets which he and the father fired at no enemy but at the Haitian night itself, lancing their little vain and puny flashes into the brooding and blood-weary and throbbing darkness: and it the very time of year, the season between hurricanes and any hope of rain. And he told how on the eighth night the water gave out and something had to be done so he put the musket down and went out and subdued them. That was how he told it: he went out and subdued them, and when he returned he and the girl became engaged to marry and Grandfather saying "Wait wait" sure enough now, saying, "But you didn't even know her; you told me that when the siege began you didn't even know her name" and he looked at Grandfather and said, "Yes. But you see, it took me some time to recover." Not how he did it. He didn't tell that either, that of no moment to the story either; he just put the musket down and had someone unbar the door and then bar it behind him, and walked out into the darkness and subdued them, maybe by yelling louder, maybe by standing, bearing more than they believed any bones and flesh could or should (should, yes: that would be the terrible thing: to find flesh to stand more than flesh should be asked to stand); maybe at last they themselves turning in horror and fleeing from the white arms and legs shaped like theirs and from which blood could be made to spurt and flow as it could from theirs and containing an indomitable spirit which should have come from the same primary fire which theirs came from but which could not have, could not possibly have. He showed Grandfather the scars, one of which, Grandfather said, came pretty near leaving him that virgin for the rest of his life too. And then daylight came with no drums in it for the first time in eight days, and they emerged (probably the man and the daughter) and walked across the burned land with the bright sun shining down on it as if nothing had happened, walking now in what must have been an incredible desolate solitude and peaceful quiet, and found him and brought him to the house: and when he recovered he and the girl were engaged. Then he stopped." 'All right,' Shreve said. 'Go on." 'I said he stopped,' Quentin said.
'I heard you. Stopped what? How got engaged and then stopped, yet still had a wife to repudiate later? You said he didn't remember how he got to Haiti, and then he didn't remember how he got into the house with the niggers surrounding it. Now are you going to tell me he didn't even remember getting married? That he got engaged and then he decided he would stop, only one day he found out he hadn't stopped but on the contrary he was married? And all you called him was just a virgin?" 'He stopped talking, telling it,' Quentin said. He had not moved, talking apparently (if to anything) to the letter lying on the open book on the table between his hands. Opposite him Shreve had filled the pipe and smoked it out again. It lay again overturned, a scattering of white ashes fanning out from the bowl, onto the table before his crossed naked arms with which he appeared at the same time both to support and hug himself, since although it was only eleven o'clock the room was beginning to cool toward that point where about midnight there would be only enough heat in the radiators to keep the pipes from freezing, though (he would not perform his deep-breathing in the open window tonight at all) he had yet to go to the bedroom and return first with his bathrobe on and next with his overcoat on top of the bathrobe and Quentin's overcoat on his arm. 'He just said that he was now engaged to be married' Quentin said, 'and then he stopped telling it. He just stopped, Grandfather said, flat and final like that, like that was all there was, all there could be to it, all of it that made good listening from one man to another over whiskey at night.
Maybe it was." His (Quentin's) face was lowered. He spoke still in that curious, that almost sullen flat tone which had caused Shreve to watch him from the beginning with intent detached speculation and curiosity, to watch him still from behind his (Shreve's) expression of cherubic and erudite amazement which the spectacles intensified or perhaps actually created. 'Sutpen just got up and looked at the whiskey bottle and said, "No more tonight. We'll get to sleep; we want to get an early start tomorrow. Maybe we can catch him before he limbers up."
'But they didn't. It was late afternoon before they caught him the architect I mean — and then only because he had hurt his leg trying to architect himself across the river. But he made a mistake in the calculation this time so the dogs and the niggers bayed him and the niggers making the racket now as they hauled him out.
Grandfather said how maybe the niggers believed that by fleeing the architect had voluntarily surrendered his status as interdict meat, had voluntarily offered the gambit by fleeing, which the niggers had accepted by chasing him and won by catching him, and that now they would be allowed to cook and eat him, both victors and vanquished accepting this in the same spirit of sport and sportsmanship and no rancor or hard feelings on either side. All the men who had started the race yesterday had come back except three, and the ones that returned had brought others, so there were more of them now than when the race started, Grandfather said. So they hauled him out of his cave under the river bank: a little man with one sleeve missing from his frock coat and his flowered vest ruined by water and mud where he had fallen in the river and one pants leg ripped down so they could see where he had tied up his leg with a piece of his shirt tail and the rag bloody and the leg swollen, and his hat was completely gone. They never did find it so Grandfather gave him a new hat the day he left when the house was finished. It was in Grandfather's office and Grandfather said the architect took the new hat and looked at it and burst into tears — a little harried wild-faced man with a two-days' stubble of beard, who came out of the cave fighting like a wildcat, hurt leg and all, with the dogs barking and the niggers whooping and hollering with deadly and merry anticipation, like they were under the impression that since the race had lasted more than twenty-four hours the rules would be automatically abrogated and they would not have to wait to cook him until Sutpen waded in with a short stick and beat niggers and dogs all away, leaving the architect standing there, not scared worth a damn either, just panting a little and Grandfather said a little sick in the face where the niggers had mishandled his leg in the heat of the capture, and making them a speech in French, a long one and so fast that Grandfather said probably another Frenchman could not have understood all of it. But it sounded fine; Grandfather said even he — all of them — could tell that the architect was not apologizing; it was fine, Grandfather said, and he said how Sutpen turned toward him but he (Grandfather) was already approaching the architect, holding out the bottle of whiskey already uncorked. And Grandfather saw the eyes in the gaunt face, the eyes desperate and hopeless but indomitable too, invincible too, not beaten yet by a damn sight Grandfather said, and all that fifty-odd hours of dark and swamp and sleeplessness and fatigue and no grub and nowhere to go and no hope of getting there: just a will to endure and a foreknowing of defeat but not beat yet by a damn sight: and he took the bottle in one of his little dirty coon-like hands and raised the other hand and even fumbled about his head for a second before he remembered that the hat was gone, then flung the hand up in a gesture that Grandfather said you simply could not describe, that seemed to gather all misfortune and defeat that the human race ever suffered into a little pinch in his fingers like dust and fling it backward over his head, and raised the bottle and bowed first to Grandfather then to all the other men sitting their horses in a circle and looking at him, and then he took not only the first drink of neat whiskey he ever took in his life but the drink of it that he could no more have conceived himself taking than the Brahmin can believe that that situation can conceivably arise in which he will eat dog." Quentin ceased. At once Shreve said,' All right. Dont bother to say he stopped talking now; just go on." But Quentin did not continue at once — the flat, curiously dead voice, the downcast face, the relaxed body not stirring except to breathe; the two of them not moving except to breathe, both young, both born within the same year: the one in Alberta, the other in Mississippi; born half a continent apart yet joined, connected after a fashion in a sort of geographical transubstantiation by that Continental Trough, that River which runs not only through the physical land of which it is the geologic umbilical, not only runs through the spiritual lives of the beings within its scope, but is very Environment itself which laughs at degrees of latitude and temperature, though some of these beings, like Shreve, have never seen it the two of them who four months ago had never laid eyes on one another yet who since had slept in the same room and eaten side by side of the same food and used the same books from which to prepare to recite in the same freshman courses, facing one another across the lamplit table on which lay the fragile pandora's box of scrawled paper which had filled with violent and unratiocinative djinns and demons this snug monastic coign, this dreamy and heatless alcove of what we call the best of thought. 'Just don't bother,' Shreve said. 'Just get on with it." 'That would take thirty years,' Quentin said. 'It was thirty years before Sutpen told Grandfather any more of it. Maybe he was too busy. All his time for spare talking taken up with furthering that design which he had in mind, and his only relaxation fighting his wild niggers in the stable where the men could hitch their horses and come up from the back and not be seen from the house because he was already married now, his house finished and he already arrested for stealing it and freed again so that was all settled, with a wife and two children — no, three — in it and his land cleared and planted with the seed Grandfather loaned him and him getting rich good and steady now — '
'Yes,' Shreve said; ' Mr Coldfield: what was that?" 'I don't know,' Quentin said. 'Nobody ever did know for certain. It was something about a bill of lading, some way he persuaded Mr Coldfield to use his credit: one of those things that when they work you were smart and when they don't you change your name and move to Texas: and Father said how Mr Coldfield must have sat back there in his little store and watched his wagonload of stock double maybe every ten years or at least not lose any ground and seen the chance to do that very same thing all the time, only his conscience (not his courage: Father said he had plenty of that) wouldn't let him.
Then Sutpen came along and offered to do it, he and Mr Coldfield to divide the loot if it worked, and he (Sutpen) to take all the blame if it didn't. And Mr Coldfield let him. Father said it was because Mr Coldfield did not believe it would work, that they would get away with it, only he couldn't quit thinking about it, and so when they tried it and it failed he (Mr Coldfield) would be able to get it out of his mind then; and that when it did fail and they were caught, Mr Coldfield would insist on taking his share of the blame as penance and expiation for having sinned in his mind all those years. Because Mr Coldfield never did believe it would work, so when he saw that it was going to work, had worked, the least thing he could do was to refuse to take his share of the profits; that when he saw that it had worked it was his conscience he hated, not Sutpen — his conscience and the land, the country which had created his conscience and then offered the opportunity to have made all that money to the conscience which it had created, which could do nothing but decline; hated that country so much that he was even glad when he saw it drifting closer and closer to a doomed and fatal war; that he would have joined the Yankee army, Father said, only he was not a soldier and knew that he would either be killed or die of hardship, and so he would not be present on that day when the South would realize that it was now paying the price for having erected its economic edifice not on the rock of stern morality but on the shifting sands of opportunism and moral brigandage. So he chose the only gesture he could think of to impress his disapproval on those who should outlive the fighting and so participate in the remorse — '
'Sure,' Shreve said. 'That's fine. But Sutpen. The design. Get on, now." 'Yes,' Quentin said. 'The design. — Getting richer and richer. It must have looked fine and clear ahead for him now: house finished, and even bigger and whiter than the one he had gone to the door of that day and the nigger came in his monkey clothes and told him to go to the back, and he with his own brand of niggers even, which the man who lay in the hammock with his shoes off didn't have, to cull one from and train him to go to the door when his turn came for a little boy without any shoes on and with his pap's cutdown pants for clothes to come and knock on it. Only Father said that that wasn't it now, that when he came to Grandfather's office that day after the thirty years, and not trying to excuse now anymore than he had tried in the bottom that night when they ran the architect, but just to explain now, trying hard to explain now because now he was old and knew it, knew it was being old that he had to talk against: time shortening ahead of him that could and would do things to his chances and possibilities even if he had no more doubt of his bones and flesh than he did of his will and courage, telling Grandfather that the boy-symbol at the door wasn't it because the boy-symbol was just the figment of the amazed and desperate child; that now he would take that boy in where he would never again need to stand on the outside of a white door and knock at it: and not at all for mere shelter but so that that boy, that whatever nameless stranger, could shut that door himself forever behind him on all that he had ever known, and look ahead along the still undivulged light rays in which his descendants who might not even ever hear his (the boy's) name, waited to be born without even having to know that they had once been riven forever free from brutehood just as his own (Sutpen's) children were — '
'Dont say it's just me that sounds like your old man,' Shreve said. 'But go on. Sutpen's children. Go on." 'Yes,' Quentin said.
'The two children' thinking Yes. Maybe we are both Father. Maybe nothing ever happens once and is finished. Maybe happen is never once but like ripples maybe on water after the pebble sinks, the ripples moving on, spreading, the pool attached by a narrow umbilical water-cord to the next pool which the first pool feeds, has fed, did feed, let this second pool contain a different temperature of water, a different molecularity of having seen, felt, remembered, reflect in a different tone the infinite unchanging sky, it doesn't matter: that pebble's watery echo whose fall it did not even see moves across its surface too at the original ripple-space, to the old ineradicable rhythm thinking Yes, we are both Father. Or maybe Father and I are both Shreve, maybe it took Father and me both to make Shreve or Shreve and me both to make Father or maybe Thomas Sutpen to make all of us.
'Yes, the two children, the son and the daughter by sex and age so glib to the design that he might have planned that too, by character mental and physical so glib to it that he might have culled them out of the celestial herd of seraphs and cherubim like he chose his twenty niggers out of whatever swapping there must have been when he repudiated that first wife and that child when he discovered that they would not be adjunctive to the forwarding of the design. And Grandfather said there was no conscience about that, that Sutpen sat in the office that afternoon after thirty years and told him how his conscience had bothered him somewhat at first but that he had argued calmly and logically with his conscience until it was settled, just as he must have argued with his conscience about his and Mr Coldfield's bill of lading (only probably not as long here, since time here would be pressing) until that was settled — how he granted that by certain lights there was injustice in what he did but that he had obviated that as much as lay in his power by being aboveboard in the matter; that he could have simply deserted her, could have taken his hat and walked out, but he did not: and that he had what Grandfather would have to admit was a good and valid claim, if not to the whole place which he alone had saved, as well as the lives of all the white people on it, at least to that portion of it which had been specifically described and deeded to him in the marriage settlement which he had entered in good faith, with no reservations as to his obscure origin and material equipment, while there had been not only reservation but actual misrepresentation on their part and misrepresentation of such a crass nature as to have not only voided and frustrated without his knowing it the central motivation of his entire design, but to have made an ironic delusion of all that he had suffered and endured in the past and all that he could ever accomplish in the future toward that design — which claim he had voluntarily relinquished, taking only the twenty niggers out of all he might have claimed and which many another man in his place would have insisted upon keeping and (in which contention) would have been supported by both legal and moral sanction even if not the delicate one of conscience: and Grandfather not saying "Wait wait" now because it was that innocence again, that innocence which believed that the ingredients of morality were like the ingredients of pie or cake and once you had measured them and balanced them and mixed them and put them into the oven it was all finished and nothing but pie or cake could come out. — Yes, sitting there in Grandfather's office trying to explain with that patient amazed recapitulation, not to Grandfather and not to himself because Grandfather said that his very calmness was indication that he had long since given up any hope of ever understanding it, but trying to explain to circumstance, to fate itself, the logical steps by which he had arrived at a result absolutely and forever incredible, repeating the clear and simple synopsis of his history (which he and Grandfather both now knew) as if he were trying to explain it to an intractible and unpredictable child: ' "You see, I had a design in my mind. Whether it was a good or a bad design is beside the point; the question is, Where did I make the mistake in it, what did I do or misdo in it, whom or what injure by it to the extent which this would indicate. I had a design. To accomplish it I should require money, a house, a plantation, slaves, a family — incidentally of course, a wife. I set out to acquire these, asking no favor of any man. I even risked my life at one time, as I told you, though as I also told you I did not undertake this risk purely and simply to gain a wife, though it did have that result. But that is beside the point also: suffice that I had the wife, accepted her in good faith, with no reservations about myself, and I expected as much from them. I did not even demand, mind, as one of my obscure origin might have been expected to do (or at least be condoned in the doing) out of ignorance of gentility in dealing with gentleborn people.
I did not demand; I accepted them at their own valuation while insisting on my own part upon explaining fully about myself and my progenitors: yet they deliberately withheld from me the one fact which I have reason to know they were aware would have caused me to decline the entire matter, otherwise they would not have withheld it from me — a fact which I did not learn until after my son was born. And even then I did not act hastily. I could have reminded them of these wasted years, these years which would now leave me behind with my schedule not only the amount of elapsed time which their number represented, but that compensatory amount of time represented by their number which I should now have to spend to advance myself once more to the point I had reached and lost. But I did not. I merely explained how this new fact rendered it impossible that this woman and child be incorporated in my design, and following which, as I told you, I made no attempt to keep not only that which I might consider myself to have earned at the risk of my life but which had been given to me by signed testimonials, but on the contrary I declined and resigned all right and claim to this in order that I might repair whatever injustice I might be considered to have done by so providing for the two persons whom I might be considered to have deprived of anything I might later possess: and this was agreed to, mind; agreed to between the two parties. And yet, and after more than thirty years, more than thirty years after my conscience had finally assured me that if I had done an injustice, I had done what I could to rectify it — " and Grandfather not saying "Wait" now but saying, hollering maybe even: "Conscience? Conscience? Good God, man, what else did you expect? Didn't the very affinity and instinct for misfortune of a man who had spent that much time in a monastery even, let alone one who had lived that many years as you lived them, tell you better than that? didn't the dread and fear of females which you must have drawn in with the primary mammalian milk teach you better? What kind of abysmal and purblind innocence could that have been which someone told you to call virginity? what conscience to trade with which would have warranted you in the belief that you could have bought immunity from her for no other coin but justice?"
It was at this point that Shreve went to the bedroom and put on the bathrobe. He did not say Wait, he just rose and left Quentin sitting before the table, the open book and the letter, and went out and returned in the robe and sat again and took up the cold pipe, though without filling it anew or lighting it as it was. 'All right,' he said. 'So that Christmas Henry brought him home, into the house, and the demon looked up and saw the face he believed he had paid off and discharged twenty-eight years ago. Go on." 'Yes,' Quentin said. 'Father said he probably named him himself. Charles Bon.
Charles Good. He didn't tell Grandfather that he did, but Grandfather believed he did, would have. That would have been a part of the cleaning up, just as he would have done his share toward cleaning up the exploded caps and musket cartridges after the siege if he hadn't been sick (or maybe engaged); he would have insisted on it maybe, the conscience again which could not allow her and the child any place in the design even though he could have closed his eyes and, if not fooled the rest of the world as they had fooled him, at least have frightened any man out of speaking the secret aloud — the same conscience which would not permit the child, since it was a boy, to bear either his name or that of its maternal grandfather, yet which would also forbid him to do the customary and provide a quick husband for the discarded woman and so give his son an authentic name. He chose the name himself, Grandfather believed, just as he named them all — the Charles Goods and the Clytemnestras and Henry and Judith and all of them — that entire fecundity of dragons' teeth as father called it. And Father said — '
'Your father,' Shreve said. 'He seems to have got an awful lot of delayed information awful quick, after having waited forty-five years. If he knew all this, what was his reason for telling you that the trouble between Henry and Bon was the octoroon woman?" 'He didn't know it then. Grandfather didn't tell him all of it either, like Sutpen never told Grandfather quite all of it." 'Then who did tell him?" 'I did." Quentin did not move, did not look up while Shreve watched him. 'The day after we — after that night when we — '
'Oh,' Shreve said.
'After you and the old aunt. I see. Go on. And father said — '
' — said how he must have stood there on the front gallery that afternoon and waited for Henry and the friend Henry had been writing home about all fall to come up the drive, and that maybe after Henry wrote the name in the first letter Sutpen probably told himself it couldn't be, that there was a limit even to irony beyond which it became either just vicious but not fatal horseplay or harmless coincidence, since Father said that even Sutpen probably knew that nobody yet ever invented a name that somebody didn't own now or hadn't owned once: and they rode up at last and Henry said, "Father, this is Charles" and he — ' ('the demon,' Shreve said) ' — saw the face and knew that there are situations where coincidence is no more than the little child that rushes out onto a football field to take part in the game and the players run over and around the unscathed head and go on and shock together, and in the fury of the struggle for the facts called gain or loss nobody even remembers the child nor saw who came and snatched it back from dissolution — that he stood there at his own door, just as he had imagined, planned, designed, and sure enough and after fifty years the forlorn nameless and homeless lost child came to knock at it and no monkeydressed nigger anywhere under the sun to come to the door and order the child away; and Father said that even then, even though he knew that Bon and Judith had never laid eyes on one another, he must have felt and heard the design — house, position, posterity and all come down like it had been built out of smoke, making no sound, creating no rush of displaced air and not even leaving any debris. And he not calling it retribution, no sins of the father come home to roost; not even calling it bad luck, but just a mistake: that mistake which he could not discover himself and which he came to Grandfather, not to excuse but just to review the facts for an impartial (and Grandfather said he believed, a legally trained) mind to examine and find and point out to him. Not moral retribution you see: just an old mistake in fact which a man of courage and shrewdness (the one of which he now knew he possessed, the other of which he believed hat he had now learned, acquired) could still combat if he could only find out what the mistake had been. Because he did not give up. He never did give up; Grandfather said that his subsequent actions (the fact that for a time he did nothing and so perhaps helped to bring about the very situation which he dreaded) were not the result of any failing of courage or shrewdness or ruthlessness, but were the result of his conviction that it had all come from a mistake and until he discovered what that mistake had been he did not intend to risk making another one.
'So he invited Bon into the house, and for the two weeks of the vacation (only it didn't take that long; Father said that probably Mrs Sutpen had Judith and Bon already engaged from the moment she saw Bon's name in Henry's first letter) he watched Bon and Henry and Judith, or watched Bon and Judith rather because he would have already known about Henry and Bon from Henry's letters about him from the school; watched them for two weeks, and did nothing. Then Henry and Bon went back to school and now the nigger groom that fetched the mail back and forth each week between Oxford and Sutpen's Hundred brought letters to Judith now that were not in Henry's hand (and that not necessary either, Father said, because Mrs Sutpen was already covering the town and county both with news of that engagement that Father said didn't exist yet) and still he did nothing. He didn't do anything at all until spring was almost over and Henry wrote that he was bringing Bon home with him to stay a day or two before Bon went home. Then Sutpen went to New Orleans. Whether he chose that time to go in order to get Bon and his mother together and thrash the business out for good and all or not, nobody knows, just as nobody knows whether he ever saw the mother or not while he was there, if she received him or refused to receive him; or if she did and he tried once more to come to terms with her, buy her off maybe with money now, since Father said that a man who could believe that a scorned and outraged and angry woman could be bought off with formal logic would believe that she could be placated with money too, and it didn't work; or if Bon was there and it was Bon himself who refused the offer, though nobody ever did know if Bon ever knew Sutpen was his father or not, whether he was trying to revenge his mother or not at first and only later fell in love, only later succumbed to the current of retribution and fatality which Miss Rosa said Sutpen had started and had doomed all his blood to, black and white both.
But it didn't work evidently, and the next Christmas came and Henry and Bon came to Sutpen's Hundred again and now Sutpen saw that there was no help for it, that Judith was in love with Bon and whether Bon wanted revenge or was just caught and sunk and doomed too, it was all the same. So it seems that he sent for Henry that Christmas eve just before supper time (Father said that maybe by now, after his New Orleans trip, he had learned at last enough about women to know it wouldn't do any good to go to Judith first) and told Henry. And he knew what Henry would say and Henry said it and he took the lie from his son and Henry knew by his father taking the lie that what his father had told him was true; and Father said that he (Sutpen) probably knew what Henry would do too and counted on Henry doing it because he still believed that it had been only a minor tactical mistake. So he was like a skirmisher who is outnumbered yet cannot retreat who believes that if he is just patient enough and clever enough and calm enough and alert enough he can get the enemy scattered and pick them off one by one. And Henry did it. And he (Sutpen) probably knew what Henry would do next too, that Henry too would go to New Orleans to find out for himself. Then it was '61 and Sutpen knew what they would do now, not only what Henry would do but what he would force Bon to do; maybe (being a demon — though it would not require a demon to foresee war now) he even foresaw that Henry and Bon would join that student company at the University; he may have had some way of watching, knowing the day their names appeared on the roster, some way of knowing where the company was even before Grandfather became colonel of the regiment the company was in until he got hurt at Pittsburgh Landing (where Bon was wounded) and came home to get used to not having any right arm and Sutpen came home in '64 with the two tombstones and talked to Grandfather in the office that day before both of them went back to the war. Maybe he knew all the time where Henry and Bon were, that they had been all the time in Grandfather's regiment where Grandfather could look after them in a fashion even if Grandfather didn't know that he was doing it — even if they needed watching, because Sutpen must have known about the probation too, what Henry was doing now: holding all three of them himself and Judith and Bon in that suspension while he wrestled with his conscience to make it come to terms with what he wanted to do just like his father had that time more than thirty years ago, maybe even turned fatalist like Bon now and giving the war a chance to settle the whole business by killing him or Bon or both of them (but with no help, no fudging, on his part because it was him that carried Bon to the rear after Pittsburgh Landing) or maybe he knew that the South would be whipped and then there wouldn't be anything left that mattered that much, worth getting that heated over, worth protesting against or suffering for or dying for or even living for. That was the day he came to the office, his — ' ('the demon's,' Shreve said) ' — one day of leave at home, came home with his tombstones. Judith was there and I reckon he looked at her and she looked at him and he said, "You know where he is" and Judith didn't lie to him, and (he knew Henry) he said, "But you have not heard from him yet" and Judith didn't lie about that either and she didn't cry either because both of them knew what would be in the letter when it came so he didn't have to ask, "When he writes you that he is coming, you and Clytie will start making the wedding dress" even if Judith would have lied to him about that, which she would not have: so he put one of the stones on Ellen's grave and set the other one up in the hall and came in to see Grandfather, trying to explain it, seeing if Grandfather could discover that mistake which he believed was the sole cause of his problem, sitting there in his worn and shabby uniform, with his worn gauntlets and faded sash and (he would have had the plume by all means. He might have had to discard his saber, but he would have had the plume) the plume in his hat broken and frayed and soiled, with his horse saddled and waiting in the street below and a thousand miles to ride to find his regiment, yet he sitting there on the one afternoon of his leave as though he had a thousand of them, as if there were no haste nor urgency anywhere under the sun and that when he departed he had no further to go than the twelve miles out to Sutpen's Hundred and a thousand days or maybe even years of monotony and rich peace, and he, even after he would become dead, still there, still watching the fine grandsons and great-grandsons springing as far as eye could reach; he still, even though dead in the earth, that same fine figure of a man that Wash Jones called him, but not now. Now fog-bound by his own private embattlement of personal morality: that picayune splitting of abstract hairs while (Grandfather said) Rome vanished and Jericho crumbled, that this would be right if or that would be wrong but of slowing blood and stiffening bones and arteries that Father says men resort to in senility who while young and supple and strong reacted to a single simple Yes and a single simple No as instantaneous and complete and unthinking as the snapping on and off of electricity, sitting there and talking and now Grandfather not knowing what he was talking about because now Grandfather said he did not believe that Sutpen himself knew because even yet Sutpen had not quite told him all of it. And this that morality again, Grandfather said: that morality which would not permit him to malign or traduce the memory of his first wife, or at least the memory of the marriage even though he felt that he had been tricked by it, not even to an acquaintance in whose confidence and discretion he trusted enough to wish to justify himself, not even to his son by another marriage in order to preserve the status of his life's attainment and desire, except as a last resort. Not that he would hesitate then, Grandfather said: but not until then.
He had been tricked by it himself, but he had extricated himself without asking or receiving help from any man; let anyone else who might be so imposed upon do the same. — Sitting there and moralizing on the fact that, no matter which course he chose, the result would be that that design and plan to which he had given fifty years of his life had just as well never have existed at all by almost exactly fifty years, and Grandfather not knowing what choice he was talking about even, what second choice he was faced with until the very last word he spoke before he got up and put on his hat and shook Grandfather's left hand and rode away; this second choice, need to choose, as obscure to Grandfather as the reason for the first, the repudiation, had been: so that Grandfather did not even say "I don't know which you should choose" not because that was all he could have said and so to say that would be less than no answer at all, but that anything he might have said would have been less than no answer at all since Sutpen was not listening, did not expect an answer, who had not come for pity and there was no advice that he could have taken, and justification he had already coerced from his conscience thirty years ago. And he still knew that he had courage, and though he may have come to doubt lately that he had acquired that shrewdness which at one time he believed he had, he still believed that it existed somewhere in the world to be learned and that if it could be learned he would yet learn it — and maybe even this, Grandfather said: if shrewdness could not extricate him this second time as it had before, he could at least depend on the courage to find him will and strength to make a third start toward that design as it had found him to make the second with — who came into the office not for pity and not for help because Grandfather said he had never learned how to ask anybody for help or anything else and so he would not have known what to do with the help if Grandfather could have given it to him, but came just with that sober and quiet bemusement, hoping maybe (if he hoped at all, if he were doing anything but just thinking out loud at all) that the legal mind might perceive and clarify that initial mistake which he still insisted on, which he himself had not been able to find: "I was faced with condoning a fact which had been foisted upon me without my knowledge during the process of building toward my design, which meant the absolute and irrevocable negation of the design; or in holding to my original