A Rose for Emily


William Faulkner


WHEN Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant--a combined gardener and cook--had seen in at least ten years.

It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street. But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores. And now Miss Emily had gone to join the representatives of those august names where they lay in the cedar-bemused cemetery among the ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of Jefferson.

Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor--he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron-remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity. Not that Miss Emily would have accepted charity. Colonel Sartoris invented an involved tale to the effect that Miss Emily's father had loaned money to the town, which the town, as a matter of business, preferred this way of repaying. Only a man of Colonel Sartoris' generation and thought could have invented it, and only a woman could have believed it.

When the next generation, with its more modern ideas, became mayors and aldermen, this arrangement created some little dissatisfaction. On the first of the year they mailed her a tax notice. February came, and there was no reply. They wrote her a formal letter, asking her to call at the sheriff's office at her convenience. A week later the mayor wrote her himself, offering to call or to send his car for her, and received in reply a note on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin, flowing calligraphy in faded ink, to the effect that she no longer went out at all. The tax notice was also enclosed, without comment.

They called a special meeting of the Board of Aldermen. A deputation waited upon her, knocked at the door through which no visitor had passed since she ceased giving china-painting lessons eight or ten years earlier. They were admitted by the old Negro into a dim hall from which a stairway mounted into still more shadow. It smelled of dust and disuse--a close, dank smell. The Negro led them into the parlor. It was furnished in heavy, leather-covered furniture. When the Negro opened the blinds of one window, they could see that the leather was cracked; and when they sat down, a faint dust rose sluggishly about their thighs, spinning with slow motes in the single sun-ray. On a tarnished gilt easel before the fireplace stood a crayon portrait of Miss Emily's father.

They rose when she entered--a small, fat woman in black, with a thin gold chain descending to her waist and vanishing into her belt, leaning on an ebony cane with a tarnished gold head. Her skeleton was small and spare; perhaps that was why what would have been merely plumpness in another was obesity in her. She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to another while the visitors stated their errand.

She did not ask them to sit. She just stood in the door and listened quietly until the spokesman came to a stumbling halt. Then they could hear the invisible watch ticking at the end of the gold chain.

Her voice was dry and cold. "I have no taxes in Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris explained it to me. Perhaps one of you can gain access to the city records and satisfy yourselves."

"But we have. We are the city authorities, Miss Emily. Didn't you get a notice from the sheriff, signed by him?"

"I received a paper, yes," Miss Emily said. "Perhaps he considers himself the sheriff . . . I have no taxes in Jefferson."

"But there is nothing on the books to show that, you see We must go by the--"

"See Colonel Sartoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson."

"But, Miss Emily--"

"See Colonel Sartoris." (Colonel Sartoris had been dead almost ten years.) "I have no taxes in Jefferson. Tobe!" The Negro appeared. "Show these gentlemen out."



So SHE vanquished them, horse and foot, just as she had vanquished their fathers thirty years before about the smell.

That was two years after her father's death and a short time after her sweetheart--the one we believed would marry her --had deserted her. After her father's death she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw her at all. A few of the ladies had the temerity to call, but were not received, and the only sign of life about the place was the Negro man--a young man then--going in and out with a market basket.

"Just as if a man--any man--could keep a kitchen properly, "the ladies said; so they were not surprised when the smell developed. It was another link between the gross, teeming world and the high and mighty Griersons.

A neighbor, a woman, complained to the mayor, Judge Stevens, eighty years old.

"But what will you have me do about it, madam?" he said.

"Why, send her word to stop it," the woman said. "Isn't there a law? "

"I'm sure that won't be necessary," Judge Stevens said. "It's probably just a snake or a rat that nigger of hers killed in the yard. I'll speak to him about it."

The next day he received two more complaints, one from a man who came in diffident deprecation. "We really must do something about it, Judge. I'd be the last one in the world to bother Miss Emily, but we've got to do something." That night the Board of Aldermen met--three graybeards and one younger man, a member of the rising generation.

"It's simple enough," he said. "Send her word to have her place cleaned up. Give her a certain time to do it in, and if she don't. .."

"Dammit, sir," Judge Stevens said, "will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?"

So the next night, after midnight, four men crossed Miss Emily's lawn and slunk about the house like burglars, sniffing along the base of the brickwork and at the cellar openings while one of them performed a regular sowing motion with his hand out of a sack slung from his shoulder. They broke open the cellar door and sprinkled lime there, and in all the outbuildings. As they recrossed the lawn, a window that had been dark was lighted and Miss Emily sat in it, the light behind her, and her upright torso motionless as that of an idol. They crept quietly across the lawn and into the shadow of the locusts that lined the street. After a week or two the smell went away.

That was when people had begun to feel really sorry for her. People in our town, remembering how old lady Wyatt, her great-aunt, had gone completely crazy at last, believed that the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were. None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such. We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door. So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the family she wouldn't have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized.

When her father died, it got about that the house was all that was left to her; and in a way, people were glad. At last they could pity Miss Emily. Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized. Now she too would know the old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or less.

The day after his death all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer condolence and aid, as is our custom Miss Emily met them at the door, dressed as usual and with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days, with the ministers calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body. Just as they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her father quickly.

We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.



SHE WAS SICK for a long time. When we saw her again, her hair was cut short, making her look like a girl, with a vague resemblance to those angels in colored church windows--sort of tragic and serene.

The town had just let the contracts for paving the sidewalks, and in the summer after her father's death they began the work. The construction company came with riggers and mules and machinery, and a foreman named Homer Barron, a Yankee--a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face. The little boys would follow in groups to hear him cuss the riggers, and the riggers singing in time to the rise and fall of picks. Pretty soon he knew everybody in town. Whenever you heard a lot of laughing anywhere about the square, Homer Barron would be in the center of the group. Presently we began to see him and Miss Emily on Sunday afternoons driving in the yellow-wheeled buggy and the matched team of bays from the livery stable.

At first we were glad that Miss Emily would have an interest, because the ladies all said, "Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer." But there were still others, older people, who said that even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige- -

without calling it noblesse oblige. They just said, "Poor Emily. Her kinsfolk should come to her." She had some kin in Alabama; but years ago her father had fallen out with them over the estate of old lady Wyatt, the crazy woman, and there was no communication between the two families. They had not even been represented at the funeral.

And as soon as the old people said, "Poor Emily," the whispering began. "Do you suppose it's really so?" they said to one another. "Of course it is. What else could . . ." This behind their hands; rustling of craned silk and satin behind jalousies closed upon the sun of Sunday afternoon as the thin, swift clop-clop-clop of the matched team passed: "Poor Emily."

She carried her head high enough--even when we believed that she was fallen. It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imperviousness. Like when she bought the rat poison, the arsenic. That was over a year after they had begun to say "Poor Emily," and while the two female cousins were visiting her.

"I want some poison," she said to the druggist. She was over thirty then, still a slight woman, though thinner than usual, with cold, haughty black eyes in a face the flesh of which was strained across the temples and about the eyesockets as you imagine a lighthouse-keeper's face ought to look. "I want some poison," she said.

"Yes, Miss Emily. What kind? For rats and such? I'd recom--"

"I want the best you have. I don't care what kind."

The druggist named several. "They'll kill anything up to an elephant. But what you want is--"

"Arsenic," Miss Emily said. "Is that a good one?"

"Is . . . arsenic? Yes, ma'am. But what you want--"

"I want arsenic."

The druggist looked down at her. She looked back at him, erect, her face like a strained flag. "Why, of course," the druggist said. "If that's what you want. But the law requires you to tell what you are going to use it for."

Miss Emily just stared at him, her head tilted back in order to look him eye for eye, until he looked away and went and got the arsenic and wrapped it up. The Negro delivery boy brought her the package; the druggist didn't come back. When she opened the package at home there was written on the box, under the skull and bones: "For rats."



So THE NEXT day we all said, "She will kill herself"; and we said it would be the best thing. When she had first begun to be seen with Homer Barron, we had said, "She will marry him." Then we said, "She will persuade him yet," because Homer himself had remarked--he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks' Club--that he was not a marrying man. Later we said, "Poor Emily" behind the jalousies as they passed on Sunday afternoon in the glittering buggy, Miss Emily with her head high and Homer Barron with his hat cocked and a cigar in his teeth, reins and whip in a yellow glove.

Then some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people. The men did not want to interfere, but at last the ladies forced the Baptist minister--Miss Emily's people were Episcopal-- to call upon her. He would never divulge what happened during that interview, but he refused to go back again. The next Sunday they again drove about the streets, and the following day the minister's wife wrote to Miss Emily's relations in Alabama.

So she had blood-kin under her roof again and we sat back to watch developments. At first nothing happened. Then we were sure that they were to be married. We learned that Miss Emily had been to the jeweler's and ordered a man's toilet set in silver, with the letters H. B. on each piece. Two days later we learned that she had bought a complete outfit of men's clothing, including a nightshirt, and we said, "They are married." We were really glad. We were glad because the two female cousins were even more Grierson than Miss Emily had ever been.

So we were not surprised when Homer Barron--the streets had been finished some time since--was gone. We were a little disappointed that there was not a public blowing-off, but we believed that he had gone on to prepare for Miss Emily's coming, or to give her a chance to get rid of the cousins. (By that time it was a cabal, and we were all Miss Emily's allies to help circumvent the cousins.) Sure enough, after another week they departed. And, as we had expected all along, within three days Homer Barron was back in town. A neighbor saw the Negro man admit him at the kitchen door at dusk one evening.

And that was the last we saw of Homer Barron. And of Miss Emily for some time. The Negro man went in and out with the market basket, but the front door remained closed. Now and then we would see her at a window for a moment, as the men did that night when they sprinkled the lime, but for almost six months she did not appear on the streets. Then we knew that this was to be expected too; as if that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman's life so many times had been too virulent and too furious to die.

When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray. During the next few years it grew grayer and grayer until it attained an even pepper-and-salt iron-gray, when it ceased turning. Up to the day of her death at seventy-four it was still that vigorous iron-gray, like the hair of an active man.

From that time on her front door remained closed, save for a period of six or seven years, when she was about forty, during which she gave lessons in china-painting. She fitted up a studio in one of the downstairs rooms, where the daughters and granddaughters of Colonel Sartoris' contemporaries were sent to her with the same regularity and in the same spirit that they were sent to church on Sundays with a twenty-five-cent piece for the collection plate. Meanwhile her taxes had been remitted.

Then the newer generation became the backbone and the spirit of the town, and the painting pupils grew up and fell away and did not send their children to her with boxes of color and tedious brushes and pictures cut from the ladies' magazines. The front door closed upon the last one and remained closed for good. When the town got free postal delivery, Miss Emily alone refused to let them fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it. She would not listen to them.

Daily, monthly, yearly we watched the Negro grow grayer and more stooped, going in and out with the market basket. Each December we sent her a tax notice, which would be returned by the post office a week later, unclaimed. Now and then we would see her in one of the downstairs windows--she had evidently shut up the top floor of the house--like the carven torso of an idol in a niche, looking or not looking at us, we could never tell which. Thus she passed from generation to generation--dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse.

And so she died. Fell ill in the house filled with dust and shadows, with only a doddering Negro man to wait on her. We did not even know she was sick; we had long since given up trying to get any information from the Negro

He talked to no one, probably not even to her, for his voice had grown harsh and rusty, as if from disuse.

She died in one of the downstairs rooms, in a heavy walnut bed with a curtain, her gray head propped on a pillow yellow and moldy with age and lack of sunlight.



THE NEGRO met the first of the ladies at the front door and let them in, with their hushed, sibilant voices and their quick, curious glances, and then he disappeared. He walked right through the house and out the back and was not seen again.

The two female cousins came at once. They held the funeral on the second day, with the town coming to look at Miss Emily beneath a mass of bought flowers, with the crayon face of her father musing profoundly above the bier and the ladies sibilant and macabre; and the very old men --some in their brushed Confederate uniforms--on the porch and the lawn, talking of Miss Emily as if she had been a contemporary of theirs, believing that they had danced with her and courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is not a diminishing road but, instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the narrow bottle-neck of the most recent decade of years.

Already we knew that there was one room in that region above stairs which no one had seen in forty years, and which would have to be forced. They waited until Miss Emily was decently in the ground before they opened it.

The violence of breaking down the door seemed to fill this room with pervading dust. A thin, acrid pall as of the tomb seemed to lie everywhere upon this room decked and furnished as for a bridal: upon the valance curtains of faded rose color, upon the rose-shaded lights, upon the dressing table, upon the delicate array of crystal and the man's toilet things backed with tarnished silver, silver so tarnished that the monogram was obscured. Among them lay a collar and tie, as if they had just been removed, which, lifted, left upon the surface a pale crescent in the dust. Upon a chair hung the suit, carefully folded; beneath it the two mute shoes and the discarded socks.

The man himself lay in the bed.

For a long while we just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless grin. The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him. What was left of him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had become inextricable from the bed in which he lay; and upon him and upon the pillow beside him lay that even coating of the patient and biding dust.

Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair.

William Faulkner



William Faulkner was born near Oxford, Mississippi, in 1897.  His
great-grandfather, Colonel William Falkner (so-spelt) had been one of
the wild characters of the South.  The author, who had made little
impression at school, was rejected by the U.S.  Army when America
entered the First World War but became a pilot in the Canadian Flying
Corps.  After the war he attended the University of Mississippi for a
time and then for several years did odd jobs of many kinds.  While
working in New Orleans he met Sherwood Anderson, the novelist, who
encouraged him: as a result he wrote his first novel, Soldier's Pay
(1926).  Others followed.  It was in 1929, the year of his marriage,
that he took a job as coal-bearer on night-work at the local power
station and wrote As I lay Dying (193o) between the hours of midnight
and 4 a.m.

during a space of six summer weeks.  He next wrote Sanctuary, intending
it to be sensational enough to attract sales, which had not been good on
his earlier books.  Later he worked on scripts in Hollywood, simply for
the money.

Not long before his death in July, 1962, William Faulkner moved his home
to Charlottesville, Virginia.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize for
Literature in 1949.  His other books include Light in August (1932), The
Wild Palms (1939), Go down, Moses (1944), Intruder in the Dust (1948),
and Requiem for a qun (1951), all published in Penguins, as well as The
Reivers (1962).



PENGUIN BOOKS Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia First
published in the U.S.A.  1936

Published in Great Britain by Chatto & Windus 937 Published in Penguin
Books 97I · Copyright © William Faulkner, x936

Renewed x964 by Estelle Faulkner and jill Faulkner Summers Copyright,
x95x, by Random House, Inc.

Made and printed in Great Britain by Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press)
Ltd, Bungay, Suffolk Set in Monotype Garamond This book is sold subject
to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise; be
lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the
publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than
that in which it is published and without a similar condition including
this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser


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

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

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

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

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:

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

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

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

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

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 left-overs 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

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

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

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

'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

'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 anti-climax 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

'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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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 cross-roads 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

('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

Then he thought No.  If I had been there I could not have seen it this

'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

'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

'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

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

'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

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

'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

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

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 plan for the design in pursuit of which I had incurred this
negation.  I chose, and I made to the fullest what atonement lay in my
power for whatever injury I might have done in choosing, paying even
more for the privilege of choosing as I chose than I might have been
expected to, or even (by law) required.  Yet I am now faced with a
second necessity to choose, the curious factor of which is not, as you
pointed out and as first appeared to me, that the necessity for a new
choice should have arisen, but that either choice which I might make,
either course which I might choose, leads to the same result: either I
destroy my design with my own hand, which will happen if I am forced to
play my last trump card, or do nothing, let matters take the course
which I know they will take and see my design complete itself quite
normally and naturally and successfully to the public eye, yet to my own
in such fashion as to be a mockery and a betrayal of that little boy who
approached that door fifty years ago and was turned away, for whose
vindication the whole plan was conceived and carried forward to the
moment of this choice, this second choice devolving out of that first
one which in its turn was forced on me as the result of an agreement, an
arrangement which I had entered in good faith, concealing nothing, while
the other party or parties to it concealed from me the one very factor
which would destroy the entire plan and design which I had been working
toward, concealed it so well that it was not until after the child was
born that I discovered that this factor existed" -'

'Your old man,' Shreve said.  'When your grandfather was telling this to
him, he didn't know any more what your grandfather was talking about
than your grandfather knew what the demon was talking about when the
demon told it to him, did he ?  And when your old man told it to you,
you wouldn't have known what anybody was talking about if you hadn't
been out there and seen Clytie.

Is that right?"

'Yes,' Quentin said.  'Grandfather was the only friend he had."

'The demon had?" Quentin didn't answer, didn't move.

It was cold in the room now.  The heat was almost gone out of the
radiators: the cold iron fluting stern signal and admonition for
sleeping, the little death, the renewal.  It had been some time now
since the chimes had rung eleven.  'All right,' Shreve said.

He was hugging himself into the bathrobe now as he had formerly hugged
himself inside his pink naked almost hairless skin.  'He chose.

He chose lechery.  So do I.  But go on." His remark was not intended for
flippancy nor even derogation.

It was born (if from any source) of that incorrigible unsentimental
sentimentality of the young which takes the form of hard and often crass
levity - to which, by the way, Quentin paid no attention whatever,
resuming as if he had never been interrupted, his face still lowered,
still brooding apparently on the open letter upon the open book between
his hands.

'He left for Virginia that night.

Grandfather said how he went to the window and watched him ride across
the square on the gaunt black stallion, erect in his faded gray, the hat
with its broken plume cocked a little yet not quite so much as the
beaver of the old days, as if (Grandfather said) even with his martial
rank and prerogatives he did not quite swagger like he used to do, not
because he was chastened by misfortune or spent or even war-wearied but
as though even while riding he was still bemused in that state in which
he struggled to hold clear and free above a maelstrom of unpredictable
and unreasoning human beings, not his head for breath and not so much
his fifty years of effort and striving to establish a posterity, but his
code of logic and morality, his formula and recipe of fact and deduction
whose balanced sum and product declined, refused to swim or even float.
Grandfather saw him approach the Holston House and saw old Mr McCaslin
and two other old men hobble out and stop him, he sitting the stallion
and talking to them and his voice not raised, Grandfather said, yet the
very sober quality of his gestures and the set of his shoulders
forensic, oratorical.  Then he went on.  He could still reach Sutpen's
Hundred before dark, so it was probably after supper that he headed the
stallion toward the Atlantic Ocean, he and Judith facing one another
again for maybe a full minute, he not needing to say "I will stop it if
I can," she not needing to say "Stop it then if you can" but just
good-bye, the kiss on the brow and no tears; a word to Clytie and to
Wash: master to slave, baron to retainer: "Well, Clytie, take care of
Miss Judith.  Wash, I'll send you a piece of Abe Lincoln's coat tail
from Washington" and I reckon Wash answering like it used to be under
the scuppernongs with the demijohn and the well bucket: "Sho, Kernel;
kill ever one of the varmints!" So he ate the hoecake and drank the
parched acorn coffee and rode away. Then it was '65 and the army
(Grandfather had gone back to it too; he was a brigadier now though I
reckon this was for more reason than because he just had one arm) had
retreated across Georgia and into Carolina and they all knew it wouldn't
be very much longer now.  Then one day Lee sent Johnston some
reinforcements from one of his corps and Grandfather found out that the
Twenty-third Mississippi was one of the regiments.  And he (Grandfather)
didn't know what had happened: whether Sutpen had found out in some way
that Henry had at last coerced his conscience into agreeing with him as
his (Henry's) father had done thirty years ago, whether Judith perhaps
had written her father that she had heard from Bon at last and what she
and Bon intended to do, or if the four of them had just reached as one
person that point where something had to be done, had to happen, he
(Grandfather) didn't know.

He just learned one morning that Sutpen had ridden up to Grandfather's
old regiment's headquarters and asked and received permission to speak
to Henry and did speak to him and then rode away again before midnight."

'So he got his choice made, after all,' Shreve said.  'He played that
trump after all.  And so he came home and found -'

'Wait,' Quentin said.

'- what he must have wanted to find or anyway what he was going to find

'Wait, I tell you!" Quentin said, though still he did not move nor even
raise his voice - that voice with its tense suffused restrained quality:
'I am telling' Am I going to have to hear it all again he thought I am
going to have to hear it all over again I am already hearing it all over
again I am listening to it all over again I shall have to never listen
to anything else but this again forever so apparently not only a man
never outlives his father but not even his friends and acquaintances do
- he came home and found that at least regarding which he should have
needed no word nor warning even if Judith would have sent him one, sent
him acknowledgement that she was beaten, who according to Mr Compson
would no more have sent him acknowledgement that he had beat her than
she waited (whom Miss Coldfield said was not bereaved) and met him on
his return, not with the fury and despair perhaps which he might have
expected even though knowing as little, having learned as little, about
women as Mr Compson said he had, yet certainly with something other than
the icy calm with which, according to Miss Coldfield, she met him - the
kiss again after almost two years, on the brow; the voices, the
speeches, quiet, contained, almost impersonal: "And - ?  ....  Yes.
Henry killed him" followed by the brief tears which ceased on the
instant when they began, as if the moisture consisted of a single sheet
or layer thin as a cigarette paper and in the shape of a human face; the
"Ah, Clytie.

Ah, Rosa.  - Well, Wash.  I was unable to penetrate far enough behind
the Yankee lines to cut a piece from that coat tail as I promised you";
the (from Jones) guffaw, the chortle, the old imbecile stability of the
articulated mud which, Mr Compson said, outlasts the victories and the
defeats both : "Well, Kernel they kilt us but they aint whupped us yit,
air they ?": and that was all.  He had returned. He was home again where
his problem now was haste, passing time, the need to hurry.  He was not
concerned, Mr Compson said, about the courage and the will, nor even
about the shrewdness now.  He was not for one moment concerned about his
ability to start the third time. All that he was concerned about was the
possibility that he might not have time sufficient to do it in, regain
his lost ground in.  He did not waste any of what time he had either.
The will and the shrewdness too he did not waste, though he doubtless
did not consider it to have been either his will or his shrewdness which
supplied waiting to his hand the opportunity, and it was probably less
of shrewdness and more of courage than even will which got him engaged
to Miss Rosa within a period of three months and almost before she was
aware of the fact Miss Rosa, the chief disciple and advocate of that
cult of demon-harrying of which he was the chief object (even though not
victim), engaged to him before she had got accustomed to having him in
the house, yes, more of courage than even will, yet something of
shrewdness too: the shrewdness acquired in excrutiating driblets through
the fifty years suddenly capitulant and retroactive or suddenly
sprouting and flowering like a seed lain fallow in a vacuum or in a
single iron clod.  Because he seemed to perceive without stopping, in
that passage through the house which was an unbroken continuation of the
long journey from Virginia, the pause not to greet his family but merely
to pick up Jones and drag him on out to the brier-choked fields and
fallen fences and clap ax or mattock into his hands, the one weak spot,
the one spot vulnerable to assault in Miss Rosa's embattled
spinsterhood, and to assault and carry this in one stride, with
something of the ruthless tactical skill of his old master (the
Twenty-third Mississippi was in Jackson's corps at one time).

And then the shrewdness failed him again.  It broke down, it vanished
into that old impotent logic and morality which had betrayed him before:
and what day might it have been, what furrow might he have stopped dead
in, on foot advanced, the unsentient plow handles in his instantaneous
unsentient hands, what fence panel held in midair as though it had no
weight by muscles which could not rid it, when he realized that there
was more in his problem than just lack of time, that the problem
contained some superdistillation of this lack: that he was now past
sixty and that possibly he could get but one more son, had at best but
one more son in his loins, as the old cannon might know when it has just
one more shot in its corporeality.

So he suggested what he suggested to her, and she did what he should
have known she would do and would have known probably if he had not
bogged himself again in his morality which had all the parts but which
refused to run, to move.

Hence the proposal, the outrage and unbelief; the tide, the blast of
indignation and anger upon which Miss Rosa vanished from Sutpen's
Hundred, her air-ballooned skirts spread upon the flood, chiplight, her
bonnet (possibly one of Ellen's which she had prowled out of the attic)
clapped fast onto her head rigid and precarious with rage.  And he
standing there with the reins over his arm, with perhaps something like
smiling inside his beard and about the eyes which was not smiling but
the crinkled concentration of furious thinking- the haste, the need for
it; the urgency but not fear, not concern: just the fact that he had
missed that time, though luckily it was just a spotting shot with a
light charge, and the old gun, the old barrel and carriage none the
worse; only next time there might not be enough powder for both a
spotting shot and then a full-sized load- the fact that the thread of
shrewdness and courage and will ran onto the same spool which the thread
of his remaining days ran onto and that spool almost near enough for him
to reach out his hand and touch it.  But this was no grave concern yet
since it (the old logic, the old morality which had never yet failed to
fail him) was already falling into pattern, already showing him
conclusively that he had been right just as he knew he had been, and
therefore what had happened was just a delusion and did not actually

'No,' Shreve said; 'you wait.  Let me play a while now.  Now, Wash.  Him
(the demon) standing there with the horse, the saddled charger, the
sheathed saber, the gray waiting to be laid peaceful away among the
moths and all lost save dishonor: then the voice of the faithful
grave-digger who opened the play and would close it, coming out of the
wings like Shakespeare's very self: "Well, Kernel, they mought have
whupped us but they aint kilt us yit, air they ?" -' This was not
flippancy either.  It too was just that protective coloring of levity
behind which the youthful shame of being moved hid itself, out of which
Quentin also spoke, the reason for Quentin's sullen bemusement, the (on
both their parts) flipness, the strained clowning: the two of them,
whether they knew it or not, in the cold room (it was quite cold now)
dedicated to that best of ratiocination which after all was a good deal
like Sutpen's morality and Miss Coldfield's demonizing - this room not
only dedicated to it but set aside for it and suitably so since it would
be here above any other place that it (the logic and the morality) could
do the least amount of harm - the two of them back to back as though at
the last ditch, saying No to Quentin's Mississippi shade who in life had
acted and reacted to the minimum of logic and morality, who dying had
escaped it completely, who dead remained not only indifferent but
impervious to it, somehow a thousand times more potent and alive.  There
was no harm intended by Shreve and no harm taken, since Quentin did not
even stop.  He did not even falter, taking Shreve up in stride without
comma or colon or paragraph:

'- no reserve to risk a spotting shot with now so he started this one
like you start a rabbit out of a brier patch, with a little chunk of
dried mud thrown by hand.  Maybe it was the first string of beads out of
his and Wash's little store where he would get mad at his customers, the
niggers and the trash and the haggling, and turn them out and lock the
door and drink himself blind.  And maybe Wash delivered the beads
himself, Father said, that was down at the gate when he rode back from
the war that day that after he went away with the regiment would tell
folks that he (Wash) was looking after Kernel's place and niggers until
after a while maybe he even believed it.  Father's mother said how when
the Sutpen niggers first heard about what he was saying, they would stop
him in the road that came up out of the bottom where the old fishing
camp was that Sutpen let him and the granddaughter (she was about eight
then) live in.  There would be too many of them for him to whip them
all, to even try to, risk trying to: and they would ask him why he
wasn't at the war and he would say, "Git outen my road, niggers!" and
then it would be the outright laughing, asking one another (except it
was not one another but him): "Who him, calling us niggers ?" and he
would rush at them with a stick and them avoiding him just enough, not
mad at all, just laughing.  And he was still carrying fish and animals
he killed (or maybe stole) and vegetables up to the house when that was
about all Mrs Sutpen and Judith (and Clytie too) had to live on, and
Clytie would not let him come into the kitchen with the basket even,
saying, "Stop right there, white man Stop right where you is. You aint
never crossed this door while Colonel was here and you aint going to
cross it now." Which was true, only Father said there was a kind of
pride in it: that he had never tried to enter the house, even though he
believed that if he had tried, Sutpen would not have let them repulse
him; like (Father said) he might have said to himself The reason I won't
try it aint that I refuse to give any black nigger the chance to tell me
I cant but because I aint going to force Mister Tom to have to cuss a
nigger or take a cussing from his vile on my account.

But they would drink together under the scuppernong arbor on the Sunday
afternoons, and on the weekdays he would see Sutpen (the fine figure of
the man as he called it) on the black stallion, galloping about the
plantation, and Father said how for that moment Wash's heart would be
quiet and proud both and that maybe it would seem to him that this world
where niggers, that the Bible said had been created and cursed by God to
be brute and vassal to all men of white skin, were better found and
housed and even clothed than he and his granddaughter - that this world
where he walked always in mocking and jeering echoes of nigger laughter,
was just a dream and an illusion and that the actual world was the one
where his own lonely apotheosis (Father said) galloped on the black
thoroughbred, thinking maybe, Father said, how the Book said that all
men were created in the image of God and so all men were the same in
God's eyes anyway, looked the same to God at least, and so he would look
at Sutpen and think A fine proud man.  If God Himself was to come down
and rid the natural earth, that's what He would aim to look like.  Maybe
he even delivered the first string of beads himself, and Father said
maybe each of the ribbons afterward during the next three years while
the girl matured fast like girls of that kind do; or anyway he would
know and recognize each and every ribbon when he saw it on her even when
she lied to him about where and how she got it, which she probably did
not, since she would be bound to know that he had been seeing the
ribbons in the showcase every day for three years and would have known
them as well as he knew his own shoes.

And not only he knew them, but all the other men the customers and the
loungers, the white and the black that would be sitting and squatting
about the store's gallery to watch her pass, not quite defiant and not
quite cringing and not quite flaunting the ribbons and the beads, but
almost; not quite any of them but a little of all: bold, sullen, and
fearful.  But Father said how Wash's heart was probably still quiet even
after he saw the dress and spoke about it, probably only a little grave
now and watching her secret defiant frightened face while she told him
(before he had asked, maybe too insistent, too quick to volunteer it)
that Miss Judith had given it to her, helped her to make it: and Father
said maybe he realized all of a sudden and without warning that when he
passed the men on the gallery they would look after him too and that
they already knew that which he had just thought they were probably
thinking.  But Father said his heart was still quiet, even now, and that
he answered, if he answered at all, stopped the protestations and
disclaimers at all: "Sho, now.

Ef Kernel and Miss Judith wanted to give hit to you, I hope you minded
to thank them." - Not alarmed, Father said: just thoughtful, just grave;
and Father said how that afternoon Grandfather rode out to see Sutpen
about something and there was nobody in the front of the store and he
was about to go out and go up to the house when he heard the voices from
the back and he walked on toward them and so he overheard them before he
could begin to not listen and before he could make them hear him calling
Sutpen's name.  Grandfather couldn't see them yet, he hadn't even got to
where they could hear him yet, but he said he knew exactly how they
would be: Sutpen having already told Wash to get the jug out and then
Wash spoke and Sutpen beginning to turn, realizing that Wash wasn't
getting the jug before he comprehended the import of what Wash was
saying, then comprehending that and still half turned and then all of a
sudden kind of reared back and flinging his head up, looking at Wash and
Wash standing there, not cringing either, in that attitude dogged and
quiet and not cringing, and Sutpen said, "What about the dress ?" and
Grandfather said it was Sutpen's voice that was short and sharp: not
Wash's; that Wash's voice was just flat and quiet, not abject: just
patient and slow: "I have knowed you for going on twenty years now.  I
aint never denied yit to do what you told me to do.  And I'm a man past
sixty.  And she aint nothing but a fifteen-year-old gal."

and Sutpen said, "Meaning that I'd harm the girl ?  I, a man as old as
you are ?" and Wash: "If you was arra other man, I'd say you was as old
as me.  And old or no old, I wouldn't let her keep that dress nor
nothing else that come from your hand.  But you are different."

and Sutpen: "How different ?" and Grandfather said how Wash did not
answer and that he called again now and neither of them heard him; and
then Sutpen said: "So that's why you are afraid of me?" and Wash said,
"I aint afraid.  Because you are brave.  It aint that you were a brave
man at one second or minute or hour of your life and got a paper to show
hit from General Lee.  But you are brave, the same as you are alive and
breathing.  That's where it's different.  Hit don't need no ticket from
nobody to tell me that.  And I know that whatever your hands tech,
whether hit's a regiment of men or a ignorant gal or just a hound dog,
that you will make hit right." Then Grandfather heard Sutpen move,
sudden and sharp, and Grandfather said he reckoned, thought just about
what he imagined Wash was thinking.  But all Sutpen said was, "Get the
jug." - "Sho, Kernel," Wash said.

'So that Sunday came, a year after that day and three years after he had
suggested to Miss Rosa that they try it first and if it was a boy and
lived, they would be married.  It was before daylight and he was
expecting his mare to foal to the black stallion, so when he left the
house before day that morning Judith thought he was going to the stable.
What Judith knew and how much about her father and Wash's granddaughter
nobody knew, how much she could not have helped but know from what
Clytie must have known (may have or may not have told her, whether or
no) since everybody else white or black in the neighborhood knew who had
ever seen the girl in the ribbons and beads which they all recognized,
how much she may have refused to discover during the fitting and sewing
of that dress (Father said Judith actually did this; this was no lie
that the girl told Wash: the two of them alone all day long for about a
week in the house: and what they must have talked about, what Judith
must have talked about while the girl stood around in what she possessed
to call underclothes, with her sullen defiant secret watchful face,
answering what, telling what that Judith may or may not have tried to
shut her eyes to, nobody knew).  So it was not until he failed to return
at dinner time that she went or sent Clytie to the stable and found that
the mare had foaled in the night but that her father was not there.  And
it was not until midafternoon that she found a half-grown boy and paid
him a nickel to go down to the old fish camp and ask Wash where Sutpen
was, and the boy walked whistling around the corner of the rotting cabin
and saw maybe the scythe first, maybe the body first lying in the weeds
which Wash had not yet cut, and as he screamed he looked up and saw Wash
in the window, watching him.  Then about a week later they caught the
nigger, the midwife, and she told how she didn't know that Wash was
there at all that dawn when she heard the horse and then Sutpen's feet
and he came in and stood over the pallet where the girl and the baby
were and said, "Penelope -" (that was the mare) "- foaled this morning.
A damned fine colt.  Going to be the spit and image of his daddy when I
rode him North in '61.  Do you remember?" and the old nigger said she
said, "Yes, Marster" and that he jerked the riding whip toward the
pallet and said, "Well ?  Damn your black hide: horse or mare ?" and
that she told him and that he stood there for a minute and he didn't
move at all, with the riding whip against his leg and the lattices of
sunlight from the unchinked wall falling upon him, across his white hair
and his beard that hadn't turned at all yet, and she said she saw his
eyes and then his teeth inside his beard and that she would have run
then only she couldn't, couldn't seem to make her legs bear to get up
and run: and then he looked at the girl on the pallet again and said,
"Well, Milly; too bad you're not a mare too.  Then I could give you a
decent stall in the stable" and turned and went out.  Only she could not
move even yet, and she didn't even know that Wash was outside there; she
just heard Sutpen say, "Stand back, Wash.

Don't you touch me," and then Wash, his voice soft and hardly loud
enough to reach her: "I'm going to tech you, Kernel": and Sutpen again:
"Stand back, Wash!" sharp now, and then she heard the whip on Wash's
face but she didn't know if she heard the scythe or not because now she
found out that she could move, get up, run out of the cabin and into the
weeds, running -'

'Wait,' Shreve said; 'wait.  You mean that he had got the son at last
that he wanted, yet still he -'

'- walked the three miles and back before midnight to fetch the old
nigger, then sat on the sagging gallery until daylight came and the
granddaughter stopped screaming inside the cabin and he even heard the
baby once, waiting for Sutpen.  And Father said his heart was quiet then
too, even though he knew what they would be saying in every cabin about
the land by nightfall, just as he had known what they were saying during
the last four or five months while his granddaughter's condition (which
he had never tried to conceal) could no longer be mistaken: Wash Jones
has fixed old Sutpen at last.  It taken him twenty years to do it, but
he has got a holt of old Sutpen at last where Sutpen will either have to
tear meat or squeal That's what Father said he was thinking while he
waited outside on the gallery where the old nigger had sent him, ordered
him out, standing there maybe by the very post where the scythe had
leaned rusting for two years, while the granddaughter's screams came
steady as a clock now but his own heart quiet, not at all concerned nor
alarmed; and Father said that maybe while he stood befogged in his
fumbling and groping (that morality of his that was a good deal like
Sutpen's, that told him he was right in the face of all fact and usage
and everything else) which had always been somehow mixed up and involved
with galloping hoofs even during the old peace that nobody remembered,
and in which during the four years of the war which he had not attended
the galloping had been only the more gallant and proud and thunderous -
Father said that maybe he got his answer; that maybe there broke free
and plain in midgallop against the yellow sky of dawn the fine proud
image of the man on the fine proud image of the stallion and that the
fumbling and the groping broke clear and free too, not in justification
or explanation or extenuation or excuse, Father said, but as the
apotheosis lonely, explicable, beyond all human fouling: He is bigger
than all them Yankees that killed us and ourn, that killed his wife and
widowed his daughter and druv his son from home, that stole his niggers
and ruined his land; bigger than this whole county that he fit for and
in payment for which has brung him to keeping a little country store for
his bread and meat; bigger than the scorn and denial which hit helt to
his lips like the bitter cup in the Book.  And how could I have lived
nigh to him for twenty years without being touched and changed by him?
Maybe I am not as big as he is and maybe I did not do any of the
galloping.  But at least I was drug along where he went.  And me and him
can still do hit and will ever so, if so be he will show me what he aims
for me to do; and maybe still standing there and holding the stallion's
reins after Sutpen had entered the cabin, still hearing the galloping,
watching the proud galloping image merge and pass, galloping through
avatars which marked the accumulation of years, time, to the fine climax
where it galloped without weariness or progress, forever and forever
immortal beneath the brandished saber and the shot-torn flags rushing
down a sky in color like thunder; stood there and heard Sutpen inside
the house speak his single sentence of salutation, inquiry and farewell
to the granddaughter, and Father said that for a second Wash must not
have felt the very earth under this feet while he watched Sutpen emerge
from the house, the riding whip in his hand, thinking quietly, like in a
dream: I kaint have heard what I know I heard.  I just know I kaint
thinking That was what got him up.

It was that colt.  It aint me or mine either.  It wasn't even his own
that got him out of bed maybe feeling no earth, no stability, even yet,
maybe not even hearing his own voice when Sutpen saw his face (the face
of the man who in twenty years he had no more known to make any move
save at command than he had the stallion which he rode) and stopped:
"You said if she was a mare you could give her a decent stall in the
stable," maybe not even hearing Sutpen when he said, sudden and sharp:
"Stand back.  Dont you touch me" only he must have heard that because he
answered it: "I'm going to tech you, Kernel" and Sutpen said "Stand
back, Wash" again before the old woman heard the whip.  Only there were
two blows with the whip; they found the two welts on Wash's face that
night.  Maybe the two blows even knocked him down; maybe it was while he
was getting up that he put his hand on the scythe -'

'Wait,' Shreve said; 'for Christ's sake wait.  You mean that he -'

' -sat there all that day in the little window where he could watch the
road; probably laid the scythe down and went straight into the house
where maybe the granddaughter on the pallet asked querulously what it
was and he answered, "Whut?  Whut racket, honey?" and maybe he tried to
persuade her to eat too - the side meat he had probably brought home
from the store Saturday night or maybe the candy, trying to tempt her
with it maybe - the nickel's worth of stale jellified glue out of a
striped sack, and maybe ate and then sat at the window where he could
look out above the body and the scythe in the weeds below, and watch the

Because he was sitting there when the half-grown boy came around the
corner of the house whistling and saw him.  And Father said he must have
realized then that it would not be much after dark when it would happen;
that he must have sat there and sensed, felt them gathering with the
horses and dogs and guns - the curious and the vengeful men of Sutpen's
own kind, who used to eat at his table with him back when he (Wash) had
yet to approach nearer the house than the scuppernong arbor - men who
had led the way, shown the other and lesser ones how to fight in
battles, who might also possess signed papers from the generals saying
that they were among the first and foremost of the brave - who had
galloped also in the old days arrogant and proud on the fine horses
about the fine plantations - symbol also of admiration and hope,
instruments too of despair and grief; these it was whom he was expected
to run from and it seeming to him probably that he had no less to run
from than he had to run to; that if he ran he would be fleeing merely
one set of bragging and evil shadows for another, since they (men) were
all of a kind throughout all of earth which he knew, and he old, too old
to run far even if he were to run who could never escape them, no matter
how much or how far he ran; a man past sixty could not expect to run
that far, far enough to escape beyond the boundaries of earth where such
men lived, set the order and the rule of living: and Father said that
maybe for the first time in his life he began to comprehend how it had
been possible for Yankees or any other army to have whipped them the
gallant, the proud, the brave; the acknowledged and chosen best among
them all to bear the courage and honor and pride.  It would probably be
about sunset now and probably he could feel them quite near now; Father
said it probably seemed to him that he could even hear them: all the
voices, the murmuring of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow beyond the
immediate fury: Old Wash Jones come a tumble at last.  He thought he had
Sutpen, but Sutpen fooled him.  He thought he had him, but old Wash
Jones got fooled and then maybe even saying it aloud, shouting it Father
said: "But I never expected that, Kernel !

You know I never ?" until maybe the granddaughter stirred and spoke
querulously again and he went and quieted her and returned to talk to
himself again but careful now, quiet now since Sutpen was close enough
to hear him easy, without shouting: "You know I never.  You know I never
expected or asked or wanted nothing from any living man but what I
expected from you.  And I never asked that.

I didn't think hit would need: I just said to myself I don't need to.

What need has a fellow like Wash Jones to question or doubt the man that
General Lee himself said in a hand-wrote ticket that he was brave ?
Brave" (and maybe it would be loud again, forgetting again) "Brave!

Better if narra one of them had ever rid back in '65" thinking Better if
his kind and mine too had never drawn the breath of life on this earth.
Better that all who remain of us be blasted from the face of it than
that another Wash Jones should see his whole life shredded from him and
shrivel away like a dried shuck thrown onto the fire Then they rode up.
He must have been listening to them as they came down the road, the dogs
and the horses, and seen the lanterns since it was dark now.  And Mayor
de Spain who was sheriff then got down and saw the body, though he said
he did not see Wash nor know that he was there until Wash spoke his name
quietly from the window almost in his face: "That you, Mayor?" De Spain
told him to come on out and he said how Wash's voice was quite quiet
when he said he would be out in just a minute; it was too quiet, too
calm; so much too quiet and calm that de Spain said he did not realize
for a moment that it was too calm and quiet: "In just a minute.  Soon as
I see about my granddaughter."

"We'll see to her," de Spain said.  "You come on out."

"Sho, Mayor," Wash said, "In just a minute." So they waited in front of
the dark house, and the next day Father said there were a hundred that
remembered about the butcher knife that he kept hidden and razor-sharp -
the one thing in his sloven life that he was ever known to take pride in
or care of - only by the time they remembered all this it was too late.
So they didn't know what he was about.  They just heard him moving
inside the dark house, then they heard the granddaughter's voice,
fretful and querulous: "Who is it ?  Light the lamp, Grandpaw" then his
voice: "Hit wont need no light, honey.  Hit wont take but a minute" then
de Spain drew his pistol and said, "You, Wash!  Come out of there!"

and still Wash didn't answer, murmuring still to the granddaughter:
"Wher air you ?" and the fretful voice answering, "Right here.  Where
else would I be ?

What is -" then de Spain said, "Jones?" and he was already fumbling at
the broken steps when the granddaughter screamed; and now all the men
there claimed that they heard the knife on both the neckbones, though de
Spain didn't.  He just said he knew that Wash had come out onto the
gallery and that he sprang back before he found out that it was not
toward him Wash was running but toward the end of the gallery, where the
body lay, but that he did not think about the scythe: he just ran
backward a few feet when he saw Wash stoop and rise again and now Wash
was running toward him.  Only he was running toward them all, de Spain
said, running into the lanterns so that now they could see the scythe
raised above his head; they could see his face, his eyes too, as he ran
with the scythe above his head, straight into the lanterns and the gun
barrels, making no sound, no outcry while de Spain ran backward before
him, saying, "Jones!  Stop!  Stop, or I'll kill you.  Jones!  Jones!

'Wait,' Shreve said.  'You mean that he got the son he wanted, after all
that trouble, and then turned right around and -'

'Yes.  Sitting in Grandfather's office that afternoon, with his head
kind of flung back a little, explaining to Grandfather like he might
have been explaining arithmetic to Henry back in the fourth grade: "You
see, all I wanted was just a son.  Which seems to me, when I look about
at my contemporary scene, no exorbitant gift from nature or circumstance
to demand -" '

'will you wait?" Shreve said.  '- that with the son he went to all that
trouble to get lying right there behind him in the cabin, he would have
to taunt the grandfather into killing first him and then the child too

'- What?" Quentin said.  'It wasn't a son.  It was a girl."

'Oh,' Shreve said.

'- Come on.  Let's get out of this damn icebox and go to bed."


THERE would be no deep breathing tonight.  The window would remain
closed above the frozen and empty quad beyond which the windows in the
opposite wall were, with two or three exceptions, already dark; soon the
chimes would ring for midnight, the notes melodious and tranquil, faint
and clear as glass in the fierce (it had quit snowing) still air.

'So the old man sent the nigger for Henry,' Shreve said.  'And Henry
came in and the old man said "They cannot marry because he is your
brother" and Henry said "You lie" like that, that quick: no space, no
interval, no nothing between like when you press the button and get
light in the room.  And the old man just sat there, didn't even move and
strike him and so Henry didn't say "You lie" again because he knew now
it was so; he just said "It's not true," not "I don't believe it" but
"It's not true" because he could maybe see the old man's face again now
and demon or no it was a kind of grief and pity, not for himself but for
Henry, because Henry was just young while he (the old man) knew that he
still had the courage and even all the shrewdness too -' Shreve stood
beside the table, facing Quentin again though not seated now.  In the
overcoat buttoned awry over the bathrobe he looked huge and shapeless
like a disheveled bear as he stared at Quentin (the Southerner, whose
blood ran quick to cool, more supple to compensate for violent changes
of temperature perhaps, perhaps merely nearer the surface) who sat
hunched in his chair, his hands thrust into his pockets as if he were
trying to hug himself warm between his arms, looking somehow fragile and
even wan in the lamplight, the rosy glow which now had nothing of
warmth, coziness, in it, while both their breathing vaporized faintly in
the cold room where there was now not two of them but four, the two who
breathed not individuals now yet something both more and less than
twins, the heart and blood of youth.

Shreve was nineteen, a few months younger than Quentin.  He looked
exactly nineteen; he was one of those people whose correct age you never
know because they look exactly that and so you tell yourself that he or
she cannot possibly be that because he or she looks too exactly that not
to take advantage of the appearance: so you never believe implicitly
that he or she is either that age which they claim or that which in
sheer desperation they agree to or which someone else reports them to
be, strong enough, and willing enough for two, for two thousand, for
all.  Not two of them in a New England college sitting-room but one in a
Mississippi library sixty years ago, with holly and mistletoe in vases
on the mantel or thrust behind, crowning and garlanding with the season
and time the pictures on the walls, and a sprig or so decorating the
photograph, the group - mother and two children - on the desk, behind
which the father sat when the son entered; and they - Quentin and Shreve
- thinking how after the father spoke and before what he said stopped
being shock and began to make sense, Henry would recall later how he had
seen through the window beyond his father's head the sister and the
lover in the garden, pacing slowly, the sister's head bent with
listening, the lover's head leaned above it while they paced slowly on
in that rhythm which not the eyes but the heart marks and calls the beat
and measure for, to disappear slowly beyond some bush or shrub starred
with white bloom - jasmine, spiraea, honeysuckle, perhaps myriad
scentless unpickable Cherokee roses - names, blooms which Shreve
possibly had never heard and never seen although the air had blown over
him first which became tempered to nourish them.  It would not matter
here in Cambridge that the time had been winter in that garden too, and
hence no bloom nor leaf even if there had been someone to walk there and
be seen there since, judged by subsequent events, it had been night in
the garden also.  But that did not matter because it had been so long
ago.  It did not matter to them (Quentin and Shreve) anyway, who could
without moving, as free now of flesh of the father who decreed and
forbade, the son who denied and repudiated, the lover who acquiesced,
the beloved who was not bereaved, and with no tedious transition from
hearth and garden to saddle, who could be already clattering over the
frozen ruts of that December night and that Christmas dawn, that day of
peace and cheer, of holly and goodwill and logs on the hearth; not two
of them there and then either but four of them riding the two horses
through the iron darkness, and that not mattering either: what faces and
what names they called themselves and were called by so long as the
blood coursed - the blood, the immortal brief recent intransient blood
which could hold honor above slothy unregret and love above fat and easy

'And Bon didn't know it,' Shreve said.  'The old man didn't move and
this time Henry didn't say "You lie," he said "It's not true" and the
old man said, "Ask him.  Ask Charles then" and then Henry knew that that
was what his father had meant all the time and that that was what he
meant himself when he told his father he lied, because what the old man
said wasn't just "He is your brother" but "He has known all the time
that he is yours and your sister's brother." But Bon didn't know.

Listen, don't you remember how your father said it, that not one time
did he - the old guy, the demon - ever seem to wonder how the other wife
managed to find him, track him down, had never once seemed to wonder
what she might have been doing all that time, the thirty years since
that day when he paid his bill with her and got it receipted, so he
thought, and saw with his own eyes that it was (so he thought)
destroyed, torn up, and thrown to the wind; never once wondered about
this but only that she had done it, could have and would have wanted to
track him down ?  So it wasn't her that told Bon.  She wouldn't have
wanted to, maybe for the reason that she knew he - the demon would
believe she had.  Or maybe she didn't get around to telling him.  Maybe
she just never thought that there could be anyone as close to her as a
lone child out of her own body who would have to be told how she had
been scorned and suffered.  Or maybe she was already telling it before
he was big enough to know words and so by the time he was big enough to
understand what was being told him she had told it so much and so hard
that the words didn't make sense to her anymore either because they
didn't have to make sense to her, and so she had got to the point where
when she thought she was saying it she was quiet, and when she thought
she was quiet it was just the hate and the fury and the unsleeping and
the unforgetting.  Or maybe she didn't intend for him to know it then.
Maybe she was grooming him for that hour and moment which she couldn't
foresee but that she knew would arrive some day because it would have to
arrive or else she would have to do like the Aunt Rosa and deny that she
had ever breathed - the moment when he (Bon) would stand side by side
(not face to face) with his father where fate or luck or justice or
whatever she called it could do the rest (and it did, better than she
could have invented or hoped or even dreamed, and your father said how
being a woman she probably wasn't even surprised) - grooming him
herself, bringing him on by hand herself, washing and feeding and
putting him to bed and giving him the candy and the toys and the other
child's fun and diversion and needs in measured doses like medicine with
her own hand: not because she had to, who could have hired a dozen or
bought a hundred to do it for her with the money, the jack that he (the
demon) had voluntarily surrendered, repudiated to balance his moral
ledger: but like the millionaire who could have a hundred hostlers and
handlers but who has just the one horse, the one maiden, the one moment,
the one matching of heart and muscle and will with the one instant: and
himself (the millionaire) patient in the overalls and the sweat and the
stable muck, and the mother bringing him along to the moment when she
would say "He is your father.

He cast you and me aside and denied you his name.  Now go" and then sit
down and let God finish it: pistol or knife or rack; destruction or
grief or anguish: God to call the shot or turn the wheel.  Jesus, you
can almost see him: a little boy already come to learn, to expect,
before he could remember having learned his own name or the name of the
town where he lived or how to say either of them, that every so often he
would be snatched up from playing and held, gripped between the two
hands fierce with (what passed at least with him for it) love, against
the two fierce rigid knees, the face that he remembered since before
remembering began as supervising all the animal joys of palate and
stomach and entrails, of warmth and pleasure and security, swooping down
at him in a kind of blazing immobility: he taking the interruption as a
matter of course, as just another natural phenomenon of existence; the
face filled with furious and almost unbearable unforgiving almost like
fever (not bitterness and despair: just implacable will for revenge) as
just another manifestation of mammalian love and he not knowing what in
hell it was all about.  He would be too young to curry any connected
fact out of the fury and hate and the tumbling speed; not comprehending
or caring: just curious, creating for himself (without help since who to
help him) his own notion of that Porto Rico or Haiti or wherever it was
he understood vaguely that he had come from, like orthodox children do
of Heaven or the cabbage patch or wherever it was that they came from,
except that his was different in that you were not supposed (your mother
didn't intend to, anyway) to ever go back there (and maybe when you got
as old as she was you would be horrified too, every time you found
hidden in your thoughts anything that just smelled or tasted like it
might be a wish to go back there).  You were not supposed to know when
and why you left but only that you had escaped, that whatever power had
created the place for you to hate it had likewise got you away from the
place so you could hate it good and never forgive it in quiet and
monotony (though not exactly in what you would call peace); that you
were to thank God you didn't remember anything about it yet at the same
time you were not to, maybe dared not to, ever forget it - he not even
knowing maybe that he took it for granted that all kids didn't have
fathers too and that getting snatched every day or so from whatever
harmless pursuit in which you were not bothering anybody or even
thinking about them, by someone because that someone was bigger than
you, stronger than you, and being held for a minute or five minutes
under a kind of busted water pipe of incomprehensible fury and fierce
yearning and vindictiveness and jealous rage was part of childhood which
all mothers of children had received in turn from their mothers and from
their mothers in turn from that Porto Rico or Haiti or wherever it was
we all came from but none of us ever lived in.  So that when he grew up
and had children he would have to pass it on too (and maybe deciding
then and there that it was too much trouble and bother and that he would
not have any children or at least hoped he would not) and hence no man
had a father, no one personal Porto Rico or Haiti, but all mother faces
which ever bred swooping down at those almost calculable moments out of
some obscure ancient general affronting and outraging which the actual
living articulate meat had not even suffered but merely inherited; all
boy flesh that walked and breathed stemming from that one ambiguous
eluded dark fatherhead and so brothered perennial and ubiquitous
everywhere under the sun-'

Quentin and Shreve stared at one another - glared rather their quiet
regular breathing vaporizing faintly and steadily in the now tomblike

There was something curious in the way they looked at one another,
curious and quiet and profoundly intent, not at all as two young men
might look at each other but almost as a youth and a very young girl
might out of virginity itself - a sort of hushed and naked searching,
each look burdened with youth's immemorial obsession not with time's
dragging weight which the old live with but with its fluidity: the
bright heels of all the lost moments of fifteen and sixteen.  'Then he
got older and got out from under the apron despite her (despite him too
maybe; maybe the both of them) and he didn't even care.  He found out
that she was up to something and he not only didn't care, he didn't even
care that he didn't know what it was; he got older and found out that
she had been shaping and tempering him to be the instrument for whatever
it was her hand was implacable for, maybe came to believe (or saw) that
she had tricked him into receiving that shape and temper, and didn't
care about that too because probably by that time he had learned that
there were three things and no more: breathing, pleasure, darkness; and
without money there could be no pleasure, and without pleasure it would
not even be breathing but mere protoplasmic inhale and collapse of blind
unorganism in a darkness where light never began.

And he had the money because he knew that she knew that the money was
the only thing she could coerce and smooth him into the barrier with
when Derby Day came, so she didn't dare pinch him there and she knew he
knew it: so that maybe he even blackmailed her, bought her off that way:
"You give me the jack as I want it and I wont ask why or what for yet."
Or maybe she was so busy grooming him that she never thought of the
money now, who probably never had had much time to remember it or count
it or wonder how much there was in the intervals of the hating and the
being mad, and so all to check him up about the money would be the
lawyer.  He (Bon) probably learned that the first thing: that he could
go to his mother and hold the lawyer's feet to the fire anytime, like
the millionaire horse has only to come in one time with a little extra
sweat on him, and tomorrow he will have a new jock.  Sure, that's who it
would be: the lawyer, that lawyer with his private mad female
millionaire to farm, who probably wasn't interested enough in the money
to see whether the checks had any other writing on them when she signed
them - that lawyer who, with Bon's mother already plotting and planning
him since before he could remember for that day when he should be
translated quick into so much rich and rotting dirt, had already been
plowing and planting and harvesting him and the mother both as if he
already was that lawyer who maybe had the secret drawer in the secret
safe and the secret paper in it, maybe a chart with colored pins stuck
into it like generals have in campaigns, and all the notations in code:
Today Sutpen finished robbing a drunken Indian of a hundred miles of
virgin land, val.  $25,000.  At 2:31 today came up out of swamp with
final plank for house.  val in conj.  with land 40,000. 7:52 p.m.  today
married.  Bigamy threat val.  minus nil.

unless quick buyer.  Not probable.  Doubtless conjoined with wife same
day.  Say 1 year and then with maybe the date and the hour too: Son.

Intrinsic val.  possible though not probable forced sale of house & land
plus val.  crop minus child's one quarter.  Emotional val.  plus 100%
times nil.  plus val.  crop.  Say 10 years, one or more children.

Intrinsic val.  forced sale house improved land plus liquid assets minus
children's share.  Emotional val.  100% times increase yearly for each
child plus intrinsic val.  plus liquid assets plus working acquired
credit and maybe here with the date too: Daughter and you could maybe
even have seen the question mark after it and the other words even:
daughter?  daughter?  daughter?  trailing off not because thinking
trailed off, but on the contrary thinking stopping right still then,
backing up a little and spreading like when you lay a stick across a
trickle of water, spreading and rising slow all around him in whatever
place it was that he could lock the door to and sit quiet and subtract
the money that Bon was spending on his whores and his champagne from
what his mother had, and figure up how much would be left of it tomorrow
and next month and next year or until Sutpen would be good and ripe -
thinking about the good hard cash that Bon was throwing away on his
horses and clothes and the champagne and gambling and women (he would
have known about the octoroon and the left-handed marriage long before
the mother did even if it had been any secret; maybe he even had a spy
in the bedroom like he seems to have had in Sutpen's; maybe he even
planted her, said to himself like you do about a dog: He is beginning to
ramble.  He needs a block.  Not a tether: just a light block of some
sort, so he cant get inside of anything that might have a fence around
it) and only him to try to check it, or as much as he dared, and not
getting far because he knew too that all Bon had to do was to go to his
mother and the race horse would have a gold eatingtrough if he wanted it
and, if the jock wasn't careful, a new jockey too counting up the money,
figuring what he would net at this normal rate over the next few years,
and meanwhile crucified between his two problems: whether maybe what he
ought to do was to wash his hands of the Sutpen angle and clean up what
was left and light out for Texas.  Except that whenever he thought about
doing that he would have to think about all the money that Bon had
already spent, and that if he had only gone to Texas ten years ago or
five years ago or even last year he would have made more: so that maybe
at night while he would be waiting for the window to begin to turn gray
he would be like what Aunt Rosa said she was and he would have to deny
that he breathed (or maybe wished he didn't) except for that two hundred
per cent times the intrinsic value every New Year's - the water backing
up from the stick and rising and spreading about him steady and quiet as
light and him sitting there in the actual white glare of clairvoyance
(or second sight or faith in human misfortune and folly or whatever you
want to call it) that was showing him not only what might happen but
what was actually going to happen and him declining to believe it was
going to happen, not because it had come to him as a vision, but because
it would have to have love and honor and courage and pride in it; and
believing it might happen, not because it was logical and possible, but
because it would be the most unfortunate thing for all concerned that
could occur; and though you could no more have proved vice or virtue or
courage or cowardice to him without showing him the moving people than
you could have proved death to him without showing him a corpse, he did
believe in misfortune because of that rigorous and arduous dusty
eunuch's training which taught to leave man's good luck and joys to God,
who would in return surrender all his miseries and follies and
misfortunes to the lice and fleas of Coke and Littleton.  And the old
Sabine -'

They stared - glared - at one another.  It was Shreve speaking, though
save for the slight difference which the intervening degrees of latitude
had inculcated in them (differences not in tone or pitch but of turns of
phrase and usage of words), it might have been either of them and was in
a sense both: both thinking as one, the voice which happened to be
speaking the thought only the thinking become audible, vocal; the two of
them creating between them, out of the rag-tag and bob-ends of old tales
and talking, people who perhaps had never existed at all anywhere, who,
shadows, were shadows not of flesh and blood which had lived and died
but shadows in turn of what were (to one of them at least, to Shreve)
shades too, quiet as the visible murmur of their vaporizing breath.  The
chimes now began to ring for midnight, melodious, slow and faint beyond
the closed, the snow-sealed, window.  '- the old Sabine, who couldn't to
save her life have told you or the lawyer or Bon or anybody else
probably what she wanted, expected, hoped for because she was a woman
and didn't need to want or hope or expect anything, but just to want and
expect and hope (and besides, your father said that when you have plenty
of good strong hating you don't need hope because the hating will be
enough to nourish you) the old Sabine (not so old yet, but she would
have just let herself go in the sense that you keep the engines clean
and oiled and the best of coal in the bunkers but you don't bother to
shine the brightwork or holystone the decks anymore; just let herself go
on the outside.

Not fat; she would burn it up too fast for that, shrivel it away in the
gullet between swallowing and stomach; no pleasure in the chewing;
having to chew just another nuisance like no pleasure in the clothing;
having the old wear out and having to choose the new just another
nuisance: and no pleasure in the fine figure he -' neither of them said
' Bon' '- cut in the fine pants that fit his leg and the fine coats that
fit his shoulders nor in the fact that he had more watches and cuff
buttons and finer linen and horses and yellow-wheeled buggies (not to
mention the gals) than most others did, but all that too just an
unavoidable nuisance that he would have to get shut of before he could
do her any good just like he had to get shut of the teething and the
chicken pox and the light boy's bones in order to be able to do her any
good) - the old Sabine getting the faked reports from the lawyer like
reports sent back to headquarters from a battle front, with maybe a
special nigger in the lawyer's anteroom to do nothing else but carry
them and that maybe once in two years or five times in two days,
depending on when she would begin to itch for news and began to worry
him - the report, the communique about how we are not far behind him
(Sutpen) in Texas or Missouri or maybe California (California would be
fine, that far away; convenient, proof inherent in the sheer distance,
the necessity to accept and believe) and we are going to catch up with
him any day now and so do not worry.  So she wouldn't, she wouldn't
worry at all: she would just have out the carriage and go to the lawyer,
busting in in the black dress that looked like a section of limp stove
pipe and maybe not even a hat but just a shawl over her head, so that
the only things missing would be the mop and the pail busting in and
saying "He's dead.  I know he is dead and how can he, how can he be,"
not meaning what the Aunt Rosa meant: where did they find or invent a
bullet that could kill him but How can he be allowed to die without
having to admit that he was wrong and suffer and regret it.  And so in
the next two seconds they would almost catch him (he the lawyer - would
show her the actual letter, the writing in the English she couldn't
read, that had just come in, that he had just sent for the nigger to
carry to her when she came in, and the lawyer done practised putting the
necessary date on the letter until he could do it now while his back
would be toward her, in the two seconds it would take him to get the
letter out of the file) - catch him, get so close to him as to have
ample satisfaction that he was alive; so close indeed that he would be
able to get her out of the office before she had sat down and into the
carriage again and on the way home again where, among the Florentine
mirrors and Paris drapes and tufted camisoles, she would still look like
the one that had come in to scrub the floors, in the black dress that
the cook wouldn't have looked at even when it was new five or six years
ago, holding, clutching the letter she couldn't read (maybe the only
word in it she could even recognize would be the word "Sutpen") in one
hand and brushing back a rope of lank iron-colored hair with the other
and not looking at the letter like she was reading it even if she could
have, but swooping at it, blazing down at it as if she knew she would
have only a second to read it in, only a second for it to remain intact
in after her eyes would touch it, before it took fire and so would not
be perused but consumed, leaving her sitting there with a black
crumbling blank carbon ash in her hand.

'And him -' (Neither of them said 'Bon') '- there watching her, who had
got old enough to have learned that what he thought was childhood wasn't
childhood, that other children had been made by fathers and mothers
where he had been created new when he began to remember, new again when
he came to the point where his carcass quit being a baby and became a
boy, new again when he quit being a boy and became a man; created
between a lawyer and a woman whom he had thought was feeding and washing
and putting him to bed and finding him in the extra ticklings for his
palate and his pleasure because he was himself, until he got big enough
to find out that it wasn't him at all she was washing and feeding the
candy and the fun to but it was a man that hadn't even arrived yet, whom
even she had never seen yet, who would be something else beside that boy
when he did arrive like the dynamite which destroys the house and the
family and maybe even the whole community aint the old peaceful paper
that maybe would rather be blowing aimless and light along the wind or
the old merry sawdust or the old quiet chemicals that had rather be
still and dark in the quiet earth like they had been before the meddling
guy with ten-power spectacles came and dug them up and strained, warped
and kneaded them created between this woman and a hired lawyer (the
woman who since before he could remember he now realized had been
planning and grooming him for some moment that would come and pass and
following which he saw that to her he would be little more than so much
rich rotting dirt; the lawyer who since before he could remember he now
realized had been plowing and planting and watering and manuring and
harvesting him as if he already was) and Bon watching her, lounging
there against the mantel maybe in the fine clothes, in the harem incense
odor of what you might call easy sanctity, watching her looking at the
letter, not even thinking I am looking upon my mother naked since if the
hating was nakedness, she had worn it long enough now for it to do the
office of clothing like they say that modesty can do, does  'So he went
away.  He went away to school at the age of twenty-eight.  And he
wouldn't know nor care about that either: which of them - mother or
lawyer - it was who decided he should go to school nor why, because he
had known all the time that his mother was up to something and that the
lawyer was up to something, and he didn't care enough about what either
of them was to try to find out, who knew that the lawyer knew that his
mother was up to something but that his mother didn't know that the
lawyer was up to something, and that it would be all right with the
lawyer if his mother got whatever it was she wanted, provided he (the
lawyer) got what he wanted one second before or at least at the same
time.  He went away to school; he said "All right" and told the octoroon
good-bye and went to school, who not in all the twenty-eight years had
ever been told by anyone, "Do as these others do; have this task done at
nine a.m.  tomorrow or Friday or Monday"; maybe it was even the octoroon
whom they (or the lawyer) used - the light block (not tether) which the
lawyer had put on him to keep him from getting inside of something which
might be found to have a fence around it later.  Maybe the mother found
out about the octoroon and the child and the ceremony and discovered
more than the lawyer had (or would believe, who considered Bon only
dull, not a fool) and sent for him and he came and lounged against the
mantel again and maybe knowing what was up, what had happened before she
told him, lounging there with an expression on his face you might call
smiling except it was not that but just something you couldn't see
through or past, and she watching him with maybe the lank iron-colored
strand of hair down again and not even bothering to brush it back now
because she was not looking at any letter now but her eyes blazing at
him, her voice trying to blaze at him out of the urgency of alarm and
fear, but she managing to keep it down since she could not talk about
betrayal because she had not told him yet, and now, at this moment, she
would not dare risk it - he looking at her from behind the smiling that
wasn't smiling but was just something you were not supposed to see
beyond, saying, admitting it: "Why not?  All young men do it.  The
ceremony too.  I didn't set out to get the child, but now that I have
....  It's not a bad child, either" and she watching him, glaring at him
and not being able to say what she would because she had put off too
long now saying what she could: "But you.

This is different" and he (she would not need to say it.  He would know
because he already knew why she had sent for him, even if he did not
know and did not care what she had been up to since before he could
remember, since before he could take a woman whether in love or not):
"Why not?  Men seem to have to marry some day, sooner or later.  And
this is one whom I know, who makes me no trouble.  And with the
ceremony, that bother, already done.  And as for a little matter like a
spot of Negro blood -' not needing to talk much, say much either, not
needing to say I seem to have been born into this world with so few
fathers that I have too many brothers to outrage and shame while alive
and hence too many descendants to bequeath my little portion of hurt and
harm to, dead; not that, just 'a little spot of Negro blood -' and then
to watch the face, the desperate urgency and fear, then to depart,
kissing her maybe, her hand maybe which would lie in his and even touch
his lips like a dead hand because of the desperate casting for this
straw or that; maybe as he went out he said she will go to him (the
lawyer); if I were to wait five minutes I could see her in the shawl.
So probably by tonight I will be able to know - if I cared to know.

Maybe by night he did, maybe before that if they managed to find him,
get word to him, because she went to the lawyer.  And it was right in
the lawyer's alley.  Maybe before she even got started telling it good
that gentle white glow began like when you turn up a wick; maybe he
could even almost see his hand writing on into the space where the
daughter?  daughter?

daughter?  never had quite showed.  Because maybe that had been the
lawyer's trouble and worry and concern all the time; that ever since she
had made him promise he would never tell Bon who his father was, he had
been waiting and wondering how to do it, since maybe he knew that if he
were to tell Bon, Bon might believe it or he might not, but certainly he
would go and tell his mother that the lawyer had told him and then he
(the lawyer) would be sunk, not for any harm done because there would be
no harm, since this could not alter the situation, but for having
crossed his paranoiac client.

Maybe while he would sit in his office adding and subtracting the money
and adding what they would get out of Sutpen (he was never worried about
what Bon would do when he found out; he had probably a long time ago
paid Bon that compliment of thinking that even if he was too dull or too
indolent to suspect or find out about his father himself, he wasn't fool
enough not to be able to take advantage of it once somebody showed him
the proper move; maybe if the thought had ever occurred to him that
because of love or honor or anything else under Heaven or jurisprudence
either, Bon would not, would refuse to, he (the lawyer) would even have
furnished proof that he no longer breathed) maybe all the time it was
this that racked him: how to get Bon where he would either have to find
it out himself, or where somebody - the father or the mother - would
have to tell him.  So maybe she wasn't out of the office good or at
least as soon as he had had time to open the safe and look in the secret
drawer and make sure that it was the University of Mississippi that
Henry attended - before his hand was writing steady and even into the
space where the daughter?  daughter?

daughter?  never had showed - and when the date here too: 1859.  Two
children.  Say 1860, 20 years.  Increase 200% times intrinsic val.
yearly plus liquid assets plus credit earned.  Approx'te val.

1860, 100,000.  Query : bigamy threat, Yes or No.  Possible.  No.

Incest threat: Credible Yes and the hand going back before it put down
the period, lining out the Credible, writing in Certain, underlining it.

'And he didn't care about that too; he just said, "All right."

Because maybe he knew now that his mother didn't know and never would
know what she wanted, and so he couldn't beat her (maybe he had learned
from the octoroon that you cant beat women anyhow and that if you are
wise or dislike trouble and uproar you don't even try to), and he knew
that all the lawyer wanted was just the money; and so if he just didn't
make the mistake of believing that he could beat all of it, if he just
remembered to be quiet and be alert he could beat some of it.  - So he
said, "All right" and let his mother pack the fine clothes and the fine
linen into the bags and trunks, and maybe he lounged into the lawyer's
office and watched from behind that something which could have been
called smiling while the lawyer made the elbow motion about getting his
horses onto the steamboat and maybe buying him an extra special body
servant and arranging about the money and all; watching from behind the
smiling while the lawyer did the heavy father even, talking about the
scholarship, the culture, the Latin and the Greek that would equip and
polish him for the position which he would hold in life and how a man to
be sure could get that anywhere, in his own library even, who had the
will; but how there was something, some quality to culture which only
the monastic, the cloistral monotony of a - say obscure and small
(though high class, high class) college - and he -' (neither of them
said ' Bon'.  Never at any time did there seem to be any confusions
between them as to whom Shreve meant by 'he') 'listening courteous and
quiet behind that expression which you were not supposed to see past,
asking at last, interrupting maybe, courteous and affable nothing of
irony, nothing of sarcasm - "What did you say this college was ?": and
now a good deal of elbow motion here while the lawyer would shuffle
through the papers to find the one from which he could read that name
which he had been memorizing ever since he first talked to the mother:
"The University of Mississippi, at" - Where did you say?"

'Oxford,' Quentin said.  'It's about forty miles from -'

'- "Oxford."

And then the papers could be still again because he would be talking:
about a small college only ten years old, about how there wouldn't be
anything to distract him from his studies there (where, in a sense,
wisdom herself would be a virgin or at least not very secondhand) and
how he would have a chance to observe another and a provincial section
of the country in which his high destiny was rooted; (granted the
outcome of this war which was without doubt imminent, the successful
conclusion of which we all hoped for, had no doubt of) as the man he
would be and the economic power he would represent when his mother
passed on, and he listening behind that expression, saying, "Then you
don't recommend the law as a vocation ?" and now for just a moment the
lawyer would stop, but not long; maybe not long enough or perceptible
enough for you to call it pause: and he would be looking at Bon too: "It
hadn't occurred to me that the law might appeal to you" said Bon:
"Neither did practising with a rapier appeal to me while I was doing it.
But I can recall at least one occasion in my life when I was glad I had"
and then the lawyer, smooth and easy: "Then by all means let it be the
law.  Your mother will ag - be pleased."

"All right," he said, not "good-bye"; he didn't care. Maybe he didn't
even say good-bye to the octoroon, to those tears and lamentations and
maybe even the clinging, the soft despairing magnolia-colored arms about
his knees, and (say) three and a half feet above those boneless steel
gyves that expression of his which was not smiling but just something
not to be seen through.  Because you cant beat them: you just flee (and
thank God you can flee, can escape from that massy five-foot-thick
maggot-cheesy solidarity which overlays the earth, in which men and
women in couples are ranked and racked like ninepins; thanks to whatever
Gods for that masculine hipless tapering peg which fits light and glib
to move where the cartridge-chambered hips of women hold them fast) -
not good-bye: all right: and one night he walked up the gangplank
between the torches and probably only the lawyer there to see him off
and this not for godspeed but to make sure that he actually took the

And the new extra nigger opening the bags in the stateroom, spreading
the fine clothes, and the ladies already gathered in the saloon for
supper and the men in the bar, preparing for it, but not he; he alone,
at the rail, with a cigar maybe, watching the city drift and wink and
glitter and sink away and then all motion cease, the boat suspended
immobile and without progress from the stars themselves by the two ropes
of spark-filled smoke streaming upward from the stacks.

And who knows what thinking, what sober weighing and discarding, who had
known for years that his mother was up to something; that the lawyer was
up to something and though he knew that was just money, yet he knew that
within his (the lawyer's) known masculine limitations he (the lawyer)
could be almost as dangerous as the unknown quantity which was his
mother; and now this - school, college - and he twenty-eight years old.
And not only that, but this particular college, which he had never heard
of, which ten years ago did not even exist; and knowing too that it was
the lawyer who had chosen it for him - what sober, what intent, what
almost frowning Why?  Why?  Why this college, this particular one above
all others?

- maybe leaning there in that solitude between panting smoke and engines
and almost touching the answer, aware of the jigsaw puzzle picture
integers of it waiting, almost lurking, just beyond his reach,
inextricable, jumbled, and unrecognizable yet on the point of falling
into pattern which would reveal to him at once, like a flash of light,
the meaning of his whole life, past - the Haiti, the childhood, the
lawyer, the woman who was his mother.  And maybe the letter itself right
there under his feet, somewhere in the darkness beneath the deck on
which he stood - the letter addressed not to Thomas Sutpen at Sutpen's
Hundred but to Henry Sutpen, Esquire, in Residence at the University of
Mississippi, near Oxford, Mississippi.  One day Henry showed it to him
and there was no gentle spreading glow but a flash, a glare (showed it
to him who not only had no visible father but had found himself to be,
even in infancy, enclosed by an unsleeping cabal bent apparently on
teaching him that he had never had a father, that his mother had emerged
from a sojourn in limbo, from that state of blessed amnesia in which the
weak senses can take refuge from the godless dark forces and powers
which weak human flesh cannot stand, to wake pregnant, shrieking and
screaming and thrashing, not against the ruthless agony of labor but in
protest against the outrage of her swelling loins; that he had been
fathered on her not through that natural process but had been blotted
onto and out of her body by the old infernal immortal male principle of
all unbridled terror and darkness) a glare in which he stood looking at
the innocent face of the youth almost ten years his junior, while one
part of him said.  He has my brow my skull my jaw my hands and the other
said Wait.

Wait.  You cant know yet.  You cannot know yet whether what you see is
what you are looking at or what you are believing.  Wait.


' The letter which he -' it was not Bon Shreve meant now, yet again
Quentin seemed to comprehend without difficulty or effort whom he meant
'- wrote maybe as soon as he finished that last entry in the record,
into the daughter?  daughter?  daughter?  while he thought By all means
he must not know now, must not be told before he can get there and he
and the daughter - not remembering anything about young love from his
own youth and would not have believed it if he had, yet willing to use
that too as he would have used courage and pride, thinking not of any
hushed wild importunate blood and light hands hungry for touching, but
of the fact that this Oxford and this Sutpen's Hundred were only a day's
ride apart and Henry already established in the University and so maybe
for once in his life the lawyer even believed in God: My Dear Mr Sutpen
: The undersigned name will not be known to you, nor are the writer's
position and circumstances, for all their reflected worth and (I hope)
value, so unobscure as to warrant the hope that he will ever see you in
person or you he - worth reflected from and value rendered to two
persons of birth and position, one of whom, a lady and widowed mother,
resides in that seclusion befitting her condition in the city from which
this letter is inscribed, the other of whom, a young gentleman her son,
will either be as you read this, or will shortly thereafter be a
petitioner before the same Bar of knowledge and wisdom as yourself.  It
is in his behalf that I write.  No: I will not say behalf; certainly I
shall not let his lady mother nor the young gentleman himself suspect
that I used that term, even to one, Sir, scion of the principal family
of that county as it is your fortunate lot to be.  Indeed, it were
better for me if I had not written at all.  But I do; I have; it is
irrevocable now; if you discern aught in this letter which smacks of
humility, take it as coming not from the mother and certainly not from
the son, but from the pen of one whose humble position as legal adviser
and man of business to the above described lady and young gentleman,
whose loyalty and gratitude toward one whose generosity has found him (I
do not confess this; I proclaim it) in bread and meat and fire and
shelter over a period long enough to have taught him gratitude and
loyalty even if he had not known them, has led him into an action whose
means fall behind its intention for the reason that he is only what he
is and professes himself to be, not what he would.  So take this, Sir,
neither as the unwarranted insolence which an unsolicited communication
from myself to you would be, not as a plea for sufrance on behalf of an
unknown, but as an introduction (clumsy though it be) to one young
gentleman whose position needs neither detailing nor recapitulation in
the place where this letter is read, of another young gentleman whose
position requires neither detailing nor recapitulation in the place
where it was written.- Not goodbye; all right, who had had so many
fathers as to have neither love nor pride to receive or inflict, neither
honor nor shame to share or bequeath; to whom one place was the same as
another, like to a cat - cosmopolitan New Orleans or bucolic
Mississippi: his own inherited and heritable Florentine lamps and gilded
toilet seats and tufted mirrors, or a little jerkwater college not ten
years old; champagne in the octoroon's boudoir or whiskey on a harsh new
table in a monk's cell and a country youth, a bucolic heir apparent who
had probably never spent a dozen nights outside of his paternal house
(unless perhaps to lie fully dressed beside a fire in the woods
listening to dogs running) until he came to school, whom he watched
aping his clothing carriage speech and all and (the youth) completely
unaware that he was doing it, who (the youth) over the bottle one night
said, blurted - no, not blurted: it would be fumbling, groping: and he
(the cosmopolite ten years the youth's senior almost, lounging in one of
the silk robes the like of which the youth had never seen before and
believed that only women wore) watching the youth blush fiery red yet
still face him, still look him straight in the eye while he fumbled,
groped, blurted with abrupt complete irrelevance: "If I had a brother, I
wouldn't want him to be a younger brother" and he: "Ah ?"

and the youth: "No.  I would want him to be older than me" and he: "No
son of a landed father wants an older brother" and the youth: "Yes.

I do," looking straight at the other, the esoteric, the sybarite,
standing (the youth) now, erect, thin (because he was young), his face
scarlet but his head high and his eyes steady: "Yes.  And I would want
him to be just like you" and he: "Is that so ?  The whiskey's your side.
Drink or pass."

'And now,' Shreve said, 'we're going to talk about love." But he didn't
need to say that either, any more than he had needed to specify which he
meant by he, since neither of them had been thinking about anything
else; all that had gone before just so much that had to be overpassed
and none else present to overpass it but them, as someone always has to
rake the leaves up before you can have the bonfire.  That was why it did
not matter to either of them which one did the talking, since it was not
the talking alone which did it, performed and accomplished the
overpassing, but some happy marriage of speaking and hearing wherein
each before the demand, the requirement, forgave condoned and forgot the
faulting of the other - faultings both in the creating of this shade
whom they discussed (rather, existed in) and in the hearing and sifting
and discarding the false and conserving what seemed true, or fit the
preconceived - in order to overpass to love, where there might be
paradox and inconsistency but nothing fault nor false.  'And now, love.
He must have known all about her before he ever saw her - what she
looked like, her private hours in that provincial women's world that
even men of the family were not supposed to know a great deal about; he
must have learned it without even having to ask a single question.
Jesus, it must have kind of boiled out all over him.  There must have
been nights and nights while Henry was learning from him how to lounge
about a bedroom in a gown and slippers such as women wore, in a faint
though unmistakable effluvium of scent such as women used, smoking a
cigar almost as a woman might smoke it, yet withal such an air of
indolent and lethal assurance that only the most reckless man would have
gratuitously drawn the comparison (and with no attempt to teach, train,
play the mentor on his part - and then maybe yes; maybe who could know
what times he looked at Henry's face and thought, not there but for the
intervening leaven of that blood which we do not have in common is my
skull, my brow, sockets, shape and angle of jaw and chin and some of my
thinking behind it, and which he could see in my face in his turn if he
but knew to look as I know but there, just behind a little, obscured a
little by that alien blood whose admixing was necessary in order that he
exist is the face of the man who shaped us both out of that blind chancy
darkness which we call the future; there - there - at any moment second,
I shall penetrate by something of will and intensity and dreadful need,
and strip that alien leavening from it and look not on my brother's face
whom I did not know I possessed and hence never missed, but my father's,
out of the shadow of whose absence my spirit's posthumeity has never
escaped- at what moment thinking, watching the eagerness which was
without abjectness, the humility which surrendered no pride - the entire
proffering of the spirit of which the unconscious aping of clothes and
speech and mannerisms was but the shell - thinking what cannot I do with
this willing flesh and bone if I wish; this flesh and bone and spirit
which stemmed from the same source that mine did, but which sprang in
quiet peace and contentment and ran in steady even though monotonous
sunlight, where that which he bequeathed me sprang in hatred and outrage
and unforgiving and ran in shadow - what could I not mold of this
malleable and eager clay which that father himself could not to what
shape of what good there might, must, be in that blood and none handy to
take and mold that portion of it in me until too late: of what moments
when he might have told himself that it was nonsense, it could not be
true; that such coincidences only happened in books, thinking the
weariness, the fatalism, the incorrigible cat for solitude - That young
clodhopper bastard.  How shall I get rid of him: and then the voice, the
other voice: You don't mean that: and he: No.  But I do mean the
clodhopper bastard) and the days, the afternoons, while they rode
together (and Henry aping him here too, who was the better horseman, who
maybe had nothing of what Bon would have called style but who had done
more of it, to whom a horse was as natural as walking, who would ride
anything anywhere and at anything) while he must have watched himself
being swamped and submerged in the bright unreal flood of Henry's
speech, translated (the three of them: himself and Henry and the sister
whom he had never seen and perhaps did not even have any curiosity to
see) into a world like a fairy tale in which nothing else save them
existed, riding beside Henry, listening, needing to ask no questions, to
prompt to further speech in any manner that youth who did not even
suspect that he and the man beside him might be brothers, who each time
his breath crossed his vocal chords was saying From now on mine and my
sister's house will be your house and mine and my sister's lives your
life, wondering (Bon) or maybe not wondering at all - how if conditions
were reversed and Henry was the stranger and he (Bon) the scion and
still knew what he suspected, if he would say the same; then (Bon)
agreeing at last, saying at last, "All right.  I'll come home with you
for Christmas," not to see the third inhabitant of Henry's fairy tale,
not to see the sister because he had not once thought of her: he had
merely listened about her: but thinking So at last I shall see him, whom
it seems I was bred up never to expect to see, whom I had even learned
to live without, thinking maybe how he would walk into the house and see
the man who made him and then he would know; there would be that flash,
that instant of indisputable recognition between them and he would know
for sure and forever thinking maybe That's all I want.  He need not even
acknowledge me; I will let him understand just as quickly that he need
not do that, that I do not expect that, will not be hurt by that, just
as he will let me know that quickly that I am his son, thinking maybe,
maybe again with that expression you might call smiling but which was
not, which was just something that even just a clodhopper bastard was
not intended to see beyond: I am my mother's son, at least: I do not
seem to know what I want either.  Because he knew exactly What he
wanted; it was just the saying of it - the physical touch even though in
secret, hidden - the living touch of that flesh warmed before he was
born by the same blood which it had bequeathed him to warm his own flesh
with, to be bequeathed by him in turn to run hot and loud in veins and
limbs after that first flesh and then his own were dead.  So the
Christmas came and he and Henry rode the forty miles to Sutpen's
Hundred, with Henry still talking, still keeping distended and light and
iridescent with steady breathing that fairy balloon-vacuum in which the
three of them existed, lived, moved even maybe, in attitudes without
flesh - himself and the friend and the sister whom the friend had never
seen and (though Henry did not know it) had not even thought about yet
but only listened about from behind the more urgent thinking, and Henry
probably not even noticing that the nearer they came to home the less
Bon talked, had to say on any subject, and maybe even (and certainly
Henry would not know this) listening less.  And so he went into the
house: and maybe somebody looking at him would have seen on his face an
expression a good deal like the one - that proffering with humility yet
with pride too, of complete surrender - which he had used to see on
Henry's face, and maybe he telling himself I not only don't know what it
is I want but apparently I am a good deal younger than I thought also:
and saw face to face the man who might be his father, and nothing
happened - no shock, no hot communicated flesh that speech would have
been too slow even to impede - nothing.  And he spent ten days there,
not only the esoteric, the sybarite, the steel blade in the silken
tessellated sheath which Henry had begun to ape at the University, but
the object of art, the mold and mirror of form mad fashion which Mrs
Sutpen (so your father said) accepted him as and insisted (didn't your
father say?) that he be (and would have purchased him as and paid for
him with Judith even, if there had been no other bidder among the four
of them or didn't your father say ?) and which he did remain to her
until he disappeared, taking Henry with him, and she never saw him again
and war and trouble and grief and bad food filled her days until maybe
she didn't even remember after a while that she had ever forgot him.
(And the girl, the sister, the virgin - Jesus, who to know what she saw
that afternoon when they rode up the drive, what prayer, what maiden
meditative dream ridden up out of whatever fabulous land, not in harsh
stove iron but the silken and tragic Lancelot nearing thirty, ten years
older than she was and wearied, sated with what experiences and
pleasures, which Henry's letters must have created for her.)  And the
day came to depart and no sign yet; he and Henry rode away and still no
sign, no more sign at parting than when he had seen it first, in that
face where he might (he would believe) have seen for himself the truth
and so would have needed no sign, if it hadn't been for the beard; no
sign in the eyes which could see his face because there was no beard to
hide it, could have seen the truth if it were there: yet no flicker in
them: and so he knew it was in his face because he knew that the other
had seen it there just exactly as Henry was to know the next Christmas
eve in the library that his father was not lying by the fact that the
father said nothing, did nothing.  Maybe he even thought, wondered if
perhaps that was not why the beard, if maybe the other had not hidden
behind that beard against this very day, and if so, why ?

why ?  thinking But why?  Why?  since he wanted so little, could have
understood if the other had wanted the signal to be in secret, would
have been quick and glad to let it be in secret even if he could not
have understood why, thinking in the middle of this My God, I am young,
young, and I didn't even know it; they didn't even tell me, that I was
young, feeling that same despair and shame like when you have to watch
your father fail in physical courage, thinking, It should have been me
that failed; me, I, not he who stemmed from that blood which we both
bear before it could have become corrupt and tainted by whatever it was
in mother's that he could not brook.  - Wait,' Shreve cried, though
Quentin had not spoken: it had been merely some quality, some gathering
of Quentin's still laxed and hunched figure which presaged speech,
because Shreve said Wait.  Wait.  before Quentin could have begun to
speak.  'Because he hadn't even looked at her.  Oh, he had seen her all
right, he had had plenty of opportunity for that; he could not have
helped but that because Mrs Sutpen would have seen to it - ten days of
that kind of planned and arranged and executed privacies like the
campaigns of dead generals in the textbooks, in libraries and parlors
and drives in the buggy in the afternoons - all planned three months ago
when Mrs Sutpen read Henry's first letter with Bon's name in it, until
maybe even Judith too began to feel like the other one to a pair of
goldfish: and him even talking to her too, or what talking he could have
found to do to a country girl who probably never saw a man young or old
before who sooner or later didn't smell like manure; talking to her
about like he would talk to the old dame on the gold chairs in the
parlor, except that in the one case he would have to make all the
conversation and in the other he would not even be able to make his own
escape but would have to wait for Henry to come and get him.

And maybe he had even thought about her by that time; maybe at the times
when he would be telling himself it cant be so; he could not look at me
like this every day and make no sign if it were so he would even tell
himself She would be easy like when you have left the champagne on the
supper table and are walking toward the whiskey on the sideboard and you
happen to pass a cup of lemon sherbet on a tray and you look at the
Sherbet and tell yourself, That would be easy too only who wants it.
Does that suit you?"

'But it's not love,' Quentin said.

'Because why not?  Because listen.  What was it the old dame, the Aunt
Rosa, told you about how there are some things that just have to be
whether they are or not, have to be a damn sight more than some other
things that maybe are and it don't matter a damn whether they are or not
?  That was it.  He just didn't have time yet.  Jesus, he must have
known it would be.  Like that lawyer thought, he wasn't a fool; the
trouble was, he wasn't the kind of not-fool the lawyer thought he would
be.  He must have known it was going to happen.  It would be like you
passed that sherbet and maybe you knew you would even reach the
sideboard and the whiskey, yet you knew that tomorrow morning you would
want that sherbet, then you reached the whiskey and you knew you wanted
that sherbet now; maybe you didn't even go to the sideboard, maybe you
even looked back at that champagne on the supper table among the dirty
haviland and the crumpled damask, and all of a sudden you knew you
didn't want to go back there even.  It would be no question of choosing,
having to choose between the champagne or whiskey and the sherbet, but
all of a sudden (it would be spring then, in that country where he had
never spent a spring before and you said North Mississippi is a little
harder country than Louisiana, with dogwood and violets and the early
scentless flowers but the earth and the nights still a little cold and
the hard tight sticky buds like young girls' nipples on alder and Judas
trees and beech and maple and even something in the cedars like he never
saw before) you find that you don't want anything but that sherbet and
that you haven't been wanting anything else but that and you have been
wanting that pretty hard for some time - besides knowing that that
sherbet is there for you to take.  Not just for anybody to take but for
you to take, knowing just from looking at that cup that it would be like
a flower that, if any other hand reached for it, it would have thorns on
it but not for your hand; and him not used to that since all the other
cups that had been willing and easy for him to take up hadn't contained
sherbet but champagne or at least kitchen wine.  And more than that.
There was the knowing what he suspected might be so, or not knowing if
it was so or not.  And who to say if it wasn't maybe the possibility of
incest, because who (without a sister: I don't know about the others)
has been in love and not discovered the vain evanescence of the fleshly
encounter; who has not had to realize that when the brief all is done
you must retreat from both love and pleasure, gather up your own rubbish
and refuse - the hats and pants and shoes which you drag through the
world - and retreat since the gods condone and practise these and the
dreamy immeasurable coupling which floats oblivious above the trameling
and harried instant, the: was-not: is: was: is a perquisite only of
balloony and weightless elephants and whales: but maybe if there were
sin too maybe you would not be permitted to escape, uncouple, return.  -
Aint that right?" He ceased, he could have been interrupted easily now.
Quentin could have spoke now, but Quentin did not.  He just sat as
before, his hands in his trousers pockets, his shoulders hugged inward
and hunched, his face lowered and he looking somehow curiously smaller
than he actually was because of his actual height and spareness - that
quality of delicacy about the bones, articulation, which even at twenty
still had something about it, some last echo about it, of adolescence -
that is, as compared with the cherubic burliness of the other who faced
him, who looked younger, whose very superiority in bulk and displacement
made him look even younger, as a plump boy of twelve who outweighs the
other by twenty or thirty pounds still looks younger than the boy of
fourteen who had that plumpness once and lost it, sold it (whether with
his consent or not) for that state of virginity which is neither boy's
nor girl's.

'I don't know,' Quentin said.

'All right,' Shreve said.  'Maybe I don't either.  Only, Jesus, some day
you are bound to fall in love.  They just wouldn't beat you that way. It
would be like if God had got Jesus born and saw that he had the
carpenter tools and then never gave him anything to build with them.
Dont you believe that?"

'I don't know,' Quentin said.  He did not move.  Shreve looked at him.
Even while they were not talking their breaths in the tomblike air
vaporized gently and quietly.  The chimes for midnight would have rung
some time ago now.

'You mean, it don't matter to you?" Quentin did not answer.

'That's right.

Dont say it.  Because I would know you are lying.  - All right then.

Because he never had to worry about the love because that would take
care of itself.  Maybe he knew there was a fate, a doom on him, like
what the old Aunt Rosa told you about some things that just have to be
whether they are or not, just to balance the books, write Paid on the
old sheet so that whoever keeps them can take it out of the ledger and
burn it, get rid of it.

Maybe he knew then that whatever the old man had done, whether he meant
well or ill by it, it wasn't going to be the old man who would have to
pay the check; and now that the old man was bankrupt with the
incompetence of age, who should do the paying if not his sons, his get,
because wasn't it done that way in the old days; the old Abraham full of
years and weak and incapable now of further harm, caught at last and the
captains and the collectors saying, "Old man, we don't want you" and
Abraham would say, "Praise the Lord, I have raised about me sons to bear
the burden of mine iniquities and persecutions; yea, perhaps even to
restore my flocks and herds from the hand of the ravisher: that I might
rest mine eyes upon my goods and chattels, upon the generations of them
and of my descendants increased an hundred fold as my soul goeth out
from me." He knew all the time that the love would take care of itself.
Maybe that was why he didn't have to think about her during those three
months between that September and that Christmas while Henry talked
about her to him, saying every time he breathed: Hers and my lives are
to exist within and upon yours; did not need to waste any time over the
love after it happened, backfired on him, why he never bothered to write
her any letters (except that last one) which she would want to save, why
he never actually proposed to her and gave her a ring for Mrs Sutpen to
show around.  Because the fate was on her too: the same old Abraham. who
was so old and weak now nobody would want him in the flesh on any debt;
maybe he didn't even have to wait for that Christmas to see her to know
this; maybe that's what it was that came out of the three months of
Henry's talking that he heard without listening to: I am not hearing
about a young girl, a virgin; I am hearing about a narrow delicate
fenced virgin field already furrowed and bedded so that all I shall need
to do is drop the seeds in, caress it smooth again, saw her that
Christmas and knew it for certain and then forgot it, went back to
school and did not even remember that he had forgotten it, because he
did not have time then; maybe it was just one day in that spring you
told about when he stopped and said, right quiet: All right.  I want to
go to bed with who might be my sister.

All right and then forgot that too.  Because he didn't have time. That
is, he didn't have anything else but time, because he had to wait.

But not for her.  That was all fixed.  It was the other.  Maybe he
thought it would be in the mail bag each time the nigger rode over from
Sutpen's Hundred, and Henry believing it was the letter from her that he
was waiting for, when what he was thinking was Maybe he will write it
then.  He would just have to write "I am your father.  Burn this" and I
would do it.  Or if not that, a sheet, a scrap of paper with the one
word "Charles" in his hand, and I would know what he meant and he would
not even have to ask me to burn it.  Or a lock of his hair or a paring
from his fingernail and I would know them because I believe now that I
have known what his hair and his fingernails would look like all my
life, could choose that lock and that paring out of a thousand.  And it
did not come, and his letter went to her every two weeks and hers came
back to him, and maybe he thought If one of mine to her should come back
to me unopened then.  That would be a sign.  And that didn't happen: and
then Henry began to talk about his stopping at Sutpen's Hundred for a
day or so on his way home and he said all right to it, said It will be
Henry who will get the letter, the letter saying it is inconvenient for
me to come at that time; so apparently he does not intend to acknowledge
me as his son, but at least I shall have forced him to admit that I am.
And that one did not come either and the date was set and the family at
Sutpen's Hundred notified of it and that letter did not come either and
he thought It will be then; I wronged him; maybe this is what he has
been waiting for and maybe his heart sprang then, maybe he said Yes.
Yes.  I will renounce her; I will renounce love and all; that will be
cheap, cheap, even though he say to me "never look upon my face again;
take my love and my acknowledgement in secret, and go" I will do that; I
will not even demand to know of him what it was my mother did that
justified his action toward her and me.  So the day came and he and
Henry rode the forty miles again, into the gates and up the drive to the
house.  He knew what would be there the woman whom he had seen once and
seen through, the girl whom he had seen through without even having to
see once, the man whom he had seen daily, watched out of his fearful
intensity of need and had never penetrated - the mother who had taken
Henry aside before they had been six hours in the house on that
Christmas visit and informed him of the engagement almost before the
fiance had had time to associate the daughter's name with the daughter's
face: so that probably before they even reached school again, and
without his being aware that he had done so, Henry had already told Bon
what was in his mother's mind, (who had already told Bon what was in
his); so that maybe before they even started on Bon's second visit (It
would be June now and what would it be in North Mississippi ?  what was
it you said ?  the magnolias in bloom and the mockingbirds, and in fifty
years more, after they had gone and fought it and lost it and come back
home, the Decoration Day and the veterans in the neat brushed handironed
gray and the spurious bronze medals that never meant anything to begin
with, and the chosen young girls in white dresses bound at the waist
with crimson sashes and the band would play Dixie and all the old
doddering men would yell that you would not have thought would have had
wind enough to get there, walk down town to sit on the rostrum even) -
it would be June now, with the magnolias and mockingbirds in the
moonlight and the curtains blowing in the June air of Commencement, and
the music, fiddles, and triangles, inside among the swirling and dipping
hoops: and Henry would be a little tight, that should have been saying
"I demand to know your intentions toward my sister" but wasn't saying
it, instead maybe blushing again even in the moonlight, but standing
straight and blushing because when you are proud enough to be humble you
don't have to cringe (who every time he breathed over his vocal chords
he was saying We belong to you; do as you will with us), saying "I used
to think that I would hate the man that I would have to look at every
day and whose every move and action and speech would say to me, I have
seen and touched parts of your sister's body that you will never see and
touch: and now I know that I shall hate him and that's why I want that
man to be you," knowing that Bon would know what he meant, was trying to
say, tell him, thinking, telling himself (Henry): Not just because he is
older than I am and has known more than I shall ever know and has
remembered more of it; but because of my own free will, and whether I
knew it at the time or not does not matter, I gave my life and Judith's
both to him -'

'That's still not love,' Quentin said.

'All right,' Shreve said.  'Just listen.  - They rode the forty miles
and into the gates and up to the house.  And this time Sutpen wasn't
even there.

And Ellen didn't even know where he had gone, believing blandly and
volubly that he had gone to Memphis or maybe even to Saint Louis on
business, and Henry and Judith not even caring that much, and only he,
Bon, to know where Sutpen had gone, saying to himself Of course; he
wasn't sure; he had to go there to make sure, telling himself that loud
now, loud and fast too so he would not, could not, hear the thinking,
the But if he suspected, why not have told me?  I would have done that,
gone to him first, who have the blood after it was tainted and corrupt
by whatever it was in mother; loud and fast now, telling himself That's
what it is; maybe he has gone on ahead to wait for me; he left no
message for me here because the others are not to suspect yet and he
knows that I will know at once where he is when I find him gone,
thinking of the two of them, the somber vengeful woman who was his
mother and the grim rocklike man who had looked at him every day for ten
days with absolutely no alteration of expression at all, facing one
another in grim armistice after almost thirty years in that rich baroque
drawing room in that house which he called home since apparently
everybody seemed to have to have a home, the man whom he was now sure
was his father not humble now either (and he, Bon, proud of that), not
saying even now I was wrong but I admit that it is so Jesus, think of
his heart then, during those two days, with the old gal throwing Judith
at him every minute now because she had been spreading the news of the
engagement confidentially through the county ever since Christmas -
didn't your father say how she had even taken Judith to Memphis in the
spring to buy the trousseau ?  and Judith neither having to accede to
the throwing nor to resist it but just being, just existing and
breathing like Henry did who maybe one morning during that spring waked
up and lay right still in the bed and took stock, added the figures and
drew the balance and told himself, All right.  I am trying to make
myself into what I think he wants me to be; he can do anything he wants
to with me; he has only to tell me what to do and I will do it; even
though what he asked me to do looked to me like dishonor, I would still
do it, only Judith, being a female and so wiser than that, would not
even consider dishonor: she would just say, All right.  I will do
anything he might ask me to do and that is why he will never ask me to
do anything that I consider dishonorable: so that (maybe he even kissed
her that time, the first time she had ever been kissed maybe and she too
innocent to be coy or modest or even to know that she had been
temporized with, maybe afterward just looking at him with a kind of
peaceful and blank surprise at the fact that your sweetheart apparently
kissed you the first time like your brother would - provided of course
that your brother ever thought of, could be brought to, kissing you on
the mouth) - so that when the two days were up and he was gone again and
Ellen shrieking at her, "What ?  No engagement, no troth, no ring?" she
would be too astonished even to lie about it because that would be the
first time it would have occurred to her that there had been no
proposal.  - Think of his heart then, while he rode to the River, and
then on the steamboat itself where he walked up and down the deck,
feeling through the deck the engines driving him nearer and nearer day
and night to the moment which he must have realized now he had been
waiting for ever since he had got big enough to comprehend.  Of course
every now and then he would have to say it pretty fast and loud, That's
all it is.  He just wants to make sure first to drown out the old But
why do it this way?  Why not back there?  He knows that I shall never
make any claim upon any part of what he now possesses, gained at the
price of what sacrifice and endurance and scorn (so they told me; not
he: they) only he knows; knows that so well that it would never have
occurred to him just as he knows it would never occur to me that this
might be his reason, who is not only generous but ruthless, who must
have surrendered everything he and mother owned to her and to me as the
price of repudiating her, not because the doing it this way hurt him,
flouted him and kept him in suspense that much unnecessary longer,
because he didn't matter; whether he was irked or even crucified didn't
matter: it was the fact that he had to be kept constantly reminded that
he would not have done it this way himself, yet he had stemmed from the
blood after whatever it was his mother had been or done had tainted and
corrupted it. Nearer and nearer, until suspense and puzzlement and haste
and all seemed blended into one sublimation of passive surrender in
which he thought only All right.  All right.  Even this may, Even if he
wants to do it this may.  I will promise never to see her again.  Never
to see him again.  Then he reached home.  And he never learned if Sutpen
had been there or not.  He never knew.  He believed it, but he never
knew - his mother the same somber unchanged fierce paranoiac whom he had
left in September, from whom he could learn nothing by indirection and
whom he dared not ask outright - the very fact that he saw through the
skillful questions of the lawyer (as to how he had liked the school and
the people of that country and how perhaps - or had he not perhaps ? he
had made friends up there among the country families) only that much
more proof to him at that time that Sutpen had not been there, or at
least the lawyer was not aware that he had, since now that he believed
he had fathomed the lawyer's design in sending him to that particular
school to begin with, he saw nothing in the questions to indicate that
the lawyer had learned anything new since.  (Or what he could have
learned in that interview with the lawyer, because it would be a short
one; it would be next to the shortest one ever to transpire between
them, the shortest one of all next to the last one of course, the one
which would occur in the next summer, when Henry would be with him.)
Because the lawyer would not dare risk asking him outright, just as he
(Bon) did not dare to ask his mother outright.  Because, though the
lawyer believed him to be rather a fool than dull or dense, yet even he
(the lawyer) never for one moment believed that even Bon was going to be
the kind of a fool he was going to be.  So he told the lawyer nothing
and the lawyer told him nothing, and the summer passed and September
came and still the lawyer (his mother too) had not once asked him if he
wanted to return to the school.  So that at last he had to say it
himself, that he intended to return; and maybe he knew that he had lost
that move since there was nothing whatever in the lawyer's face save an
agent's acquiescence.  So he returned to school, where Henry was waiting
(oh yes; waiting) for him, who did not even say "You didn't answer my
letters.  You didn't even write to Judith" who had already said What my
sister and I have and are belongs to you but maybe he did write to
Judith now, by the first nigger post which rode to Sutpen's Hundred,
about how it had been an uneventful summer and hence nothing to write
about, with maybe Charles Bon plain and inelidable on the outside of the
envelope and he thinking He will have to see that.  Maybe he will send
it back thinking Maybe if it comes back nothing will stop me then and so
maybe at last I will know what I am going to do.  But it didn't come
back.  And the others didn't come back.  And the fall passed and
Christmas came and they rode again to Sutpen's Hundred and this time
Sutpen was not there again, he was in the field, he had gone to town, he
was hunting - something; Sutpen not there when they rode up and Bon knew
he had not expected him to be there, saying Now.  Now.  Now.  It will
come now.  It will come this time, and I am young, young, because I
still don't know what I am going to do.  So maybe what he was doing that
twilight (because he knew that Sutpen had returned, was now in the
house; it would be like a wind, something, dark and chill, breathing
upon him and he stopping, grave, quiet, alert, thinking What?  What is
it?  Then he would know; he could feel the other entering the house, and
he would let his held breath go quiet and easy, a profound exhalation,
his heart quiet too) in the garden while he walked with Judith and
talked to her, gallant and elegant and automatic (and Judith thinking
about that like she thought about that first kiss back in the summer: So
that's it.  That's what love is, bludgeoned once more by disappointment
but still unbowed) - maybe what he was doing there now was waiting,
telling himself Maybe even yet he will send for me.  At least say it to
me even though he knew better: He is in the library now, he has sent the
nigger for Henry, now Henry is entering the room: so that maybe he
stopped and faced her, with something in his face that was smiling now,
and took her by the elbows and turned her, easy and gentle, until she
faced the house, and said "Go.  I wish to be alone to think about love"
and she went just as she took the kiss that day, with maybe the feel of
the flat of his hand light and momentary upon her behind.  And he stood
there facing the house until Henry came out, and they looked at one
another for a while with no word said and then turned and walked
together through the garden, across the lot and into the stable, where
maybe there was a nigger there and maybe they saddled the two horses
themselves and waited until the house nigger came with the two repacked
saddlebags.  And maybe he didn't even say then, "But he sent no word to

Shreve ceased.  That is, for all the two of them, Shreve and Quentin,
knew he had stopped, since for all the two of them knew he had never
begun, since it did not matter (and possibly neither of them conscious
of the distinction) which one had been doing the talking.  So that now
it was not two but four of them riding the two horses through the dark
over the frozen December ruts of that Christmas Eve: four of them and
then just two - Charles-Shreve and Quentin-Henry, the two of them both
believing that Henry was thinking He (meaning his father) has destroyed
us all, not for one moment thinking He (meaning Bon) must have known or
at least suspected this all the time; that's why he has acted as he has,
why he did not answer my letters last summer nor write to Judith, why he
has never asked her to marry him; believing that that must have occurred
to Henry, certainly during that moment after Henry emerged from the
house and he and Bon looked at one another for a while without a word
then walked down to the stable and saddled the horses, but that Henry
had just taken that in stride because he did not yet believe it even
though he knew that it was true, because he must have now understood
with complete despair the secret of his whole attitude toward Bon from
that first instinctive moment when he had seen him a year and a quarter
ago; he knew, yet he did not, had to refuse to, believe.  So it was four
of them who rode the two horses through that night and then across the
bright frosty North Mississippi Christmas day, in something very like
pariah-hood passing the plantation houses with sprigs of holly thrust
beneath the knockers on the doors and mistletoe hanging from the
chandeliers and bowls of eggnog and toddy on tables in the halls and the
blue unwinded wood smoke standing above the plastered chimneys of the
slave quarters, to the River and the steamboat.

There would be Christmas on the boat too: the same holly and mistletoe,
the same eggnog and toddy; perhaps, doubtless, a Christmas supper and a
ball, but not for them: the two of them in the dark and the cold
standing at the guard rail above the dark water and still not talking
since there was nothing to say, the two of them (the four of them) held
in that probation, that suspension, by Henry who knew but still did not
believe, who was going deliberately to look upon and prove to himself
that which, so Shreve and Quentin believed, would be like death for him
to learn.  So it was four of them still who got off the boat in New
Orleans, which Henry had never seen before (whose entire cosmopolitan
experience, apart from his sojourn at the school, consisted probably of
one or two trips to Memphis with his father to buy livestock or slaves)
and had no time to look at now - Henry who knew yet did not believe, and
Bon whom Mr Compson had called a fatalist but who, according to Shreve
and Quentin, did not resist Henry's dictum and design for the reason
that he neither knew nor cared what Henry intended to do because he had
long since realized that he did not know yet what he himself was going
to do - four of them who sat in that drawing room of baroque and fusty
magnificence which Shreve had invented and which was probably true
enough, while the Haiti-born daughter of the French sugar planter and
the woman whom Sutpen's first father-in-law had told him was a Spaniard
(the slight dowdy woman with untidy gray-streaked raven hair coarse as a
horse's tail, with parchment-colored skin and implacable pouched black
eyes which alone showed no age because they showed no forgetting, whom
Shreve and Quentin had likewise invented and which was likewise probably
true enough) told them nothing because she did not need to because she
had already told it, who did not say, "My son is in love with your
sister?" but "So she has fallen in love with him," and then sat laughing
harshly and steadily at Henry who could not have lied to her even if he
would have, who did not even have to answer at all either Yes or No.

Four of them there, in that room in New Orleans in 1860, just as in a
sense there were four of them here in this tomblike room in
Massachusetts in 1910.  And Bon may have, probably did, take Henry to
call on the octoroon mistress and the child, as Mr Compson said, though
neither Shreve nor Quentin believed that the visit affected Henry as Mr
Compson seemed to think.  In fact, Quentin did not even tell Shreve what
his father had said about the visit.  Perhaps Quentin himself had not
been listening when Mr Compson related it that evening at home; perhaps
at that moment on the gallery in the hot September twilight Quentin took
that in stride without even hearing it just as Shreve would have, since
both he and Shreve believed - and were probably right in this too - that
the octoroon and the child would have been to Henry only something else
about Bon to be, -not envied but aped if that had been possible, if
there had been time and peace to ape it in peace not between men of the
same race and nation but peace between two young embattled spirits and
the incontrovertible fact which embattled them, since neither Henry and
Bon, anymore than Quentin and Shreve, were the first young men to
believe (or at least apparently act on the assumption) that wars were
sometimes created for the sole aim of settling youth's private
difficulties and discontents.

'So the old dame asked Henry that one question and then sat there
laughing at him, so he knew then, they both knew then.  And so now it
would be short, this time with the lawyer, the shortest one of all.

Because the lawyer would have been watching him; maybe there had even
been a letter during that second fall while the lawyer was waiting and
still nothing seemed to be happening up there (and maybe the lawyer was
the reason why Bon never answered Henry's and Judith's letters during
that summer: because he never got them) - a letter, two or maybe three
pages of your humble and obedient e and t and c that boiled down to
eighteen words I know you are a fool, but just what kind of a fool are
you going to be?  and Bon was at least enough of a not-fool to do the
boiling down.  - Yes, watching him, not concerned yet, just considerably
annoyed, giving Bon plenty of time to come to him, giving him all of a
week maybe (after he - the lawyer - would have contrived to get hold of
Henry and find out a good deal of what Henry was thinking without Henry
ever knowing it) before he would contrive Bon too, and maybe so good at
the contriving that even Bon would not know at once what was coming.  It
would be a short one.  It would be no secret between them now; it would
just be unsaid: the lawyer behind the desk (and maybe in the secret
drawer the ledger where he had just finished adding in the last past
year's interest compounded between the intrinsic and the love and pride
at two hundred percent) - the lawyer fretted, annoyed, but not at all
concerned since he not only knew he had the screws, but he still did not
really believe that Bon was that kind of a fool, though he was about to
alter his opinion somewhat about the dullness, or at least the
backwardness the lawyer watching him and saying, smooth and oily, since
it would be no secret now, who would know now that Bon knew all he would
ever know or would need to know to make the coup: "Do you know that you
are a very fortunate young man ?

With most of us, even when we are lucky enough to get our revenge, we
must pay for it, sometimes in actual dollars.  While you are not only in
a position to get your revenge, clear your mother's name, but the balm
with which you will assuage her injury will have a collateral value
which can be translated into the things which a young man needs, which
are his due and which, whether we like it or not, may he had only in
exchange for hard dollars -" and Bon not saying What do you mean?

and not moving yet; that is, the lawyer would not be aware that he was
beginning to move, continuing (the lawyer) smooth and easy: "And more
than this, than the revenge, as lagniappe to the revenge as it were,
this nosegay of an afternoon, this scentless prairie flower which will
not be missed and which might as well bloom in your lapel as in
another's; this - How do you young men put it ?  - a nice little piece
-" and then he would see Bon, maybe the eyes, maybe he would just hear
the feet moving.  And then, pistol (derringer, horse pistol, revolver,
whatever it was) and all, he would be crouched back against the wall
behind the overturned chair, snarling, "Stand back !  Stop !" then
screaming "Help !  Help !  He - !" then just screaming, because he would
hear and feel his own wrenching bones before he could free his fingers
of the pistol, and his neck bone too as Bon would strike him with the
palm on one cheek and then with the back of the hand on the other; maybe
he could even hear Bon too saying, "Stop it.  Hush.  I'm not going to
hurt you" or maybe it was the lawyer in him that said the Hush which he
obeyed, who got him back into the righted chair again, half lying upon
the desk; the lawyer in him that warned him not to say You will pay for
this but instead to half lie there, nursing his wrenched hand in his
handkerchief while Bon stood looking down at him, holding the pistol by
the barrel against his leg, saying, "If you feel that you require
satisfaction, of course you know -" and the lawyer, sitting back now,
dabbing the handkerchief at his cheek now: "I was wrong.  I
misunderstood your feeling about the matter.  I ask your pardon" and
Bon: "Granted.  As you wish.  I will accept either an apology or a
bullet, as you prefer" and the lawyer (there would be a faint fading red
in his cheek, but that would be all: nothing in the voice or in the
eyes): "I see you are going to collect full measure for my unfortunate
misconception - even ridicule.  Even if I felt that right was on my side
(which I do not) I would still have to decline your offer.  I would not
be your equal with pistols" and Bon: "Nor with knives or rapiers too?"
and the lawyer, smooth and easy: "Nor knives or rapiers too." So that
now the lawyer wouldn't even need to say You will pay for this because
Bon would be saying that for him, who would stand there with the lax
pistol, thinking But only with knives or pistols or rapiers.  So I cant
beat him.  I could shoot him.  I would shoot him with no more
compunction than I would a snake or a man who cuckolded me.  But he
would still beat me.  Thinking Yes.  He did beat me while he - he
(Listen,' Shreve said, cried.

'It would be while he would be lying in a bedroom of that private house
in Corinth after Pittsburg Landing while his shoulder got well two years
later and the letter from the octoroon (maybe even the one that
contained the photograph of her and the child) finally overtaking him,
wailing for money and telling him that the lawyer had departed for Texas
or Mexico or somewhere at last and that she (the octoroon) could not
find his mother either and so without doubt the lawyer had murdered her
before he stole the money, since it would be just like both of them to
flee or get themselves killed without providing for her at all.)  - Yes,
they knew now.  And Jesus, think of him, Bon, who had wanted to know,
who had had the most reason to want to know, who as far as he knew had
never had any father but had been created somehow between that woman who
wouldn't let him play with other children, and that lawyer who even told
the woman whether or not each time she bought a piece of meat or a loaf
of bread - two people neither of whom had taken pleasure or found
passion in getting him or suffered pain and travail in horning him - who
perhaps if one of the two had only told him the truth, none of what
happened would ever have come to pass; while there was Henry who had
father and security and contentment and all, yet was told the truth by
both of them while he (Bon) was told by neither.  And think of Henry,
who had said at first it was a lie and then when he knew it was not a
lie had still said "I don't believe it," who had found even in that "I
don't believe it" enough of strength to repudiate home and blood in
order to champion his defiance, and in which championing he proved his
contention to be the false one and was more than ever interdict against
returning home; Jesus, think of the load he had to carry, born of two
Methodists (or of one long invincible line of Methodists) and raised in
provincial North Mississippi, faced with incest, incest of all things
that might have been reserved for him, that all his heredity and
training had to rebel against on principle, and in a situation where he
knew that neither incest nor training was going to help him solve it. So
that maybe when they left and walked the streets that night and at last
Bon said, "Well?

Now what?" Henry said, "Wait.  Wait.  Let me get used to it."

And maybe it was two days or three days, and Henry said, "You shall not.
Shall not" and then it was Bon that said, "Wait.  I am your older
brother: do you say shall not to me ?" And maybe it was a week, maybe
Bon took Henry to see the octoroon and Henry looked at her and said,
"Aint that enough for you?" and Bon said, "Do you want it to be enough
?" and Henry said, "Wait.  Wait.  I must have time to get used to it.

You will have to give me time." Jesus, think how Henry must have talked
during that winter and then that spring with Lincoln elected and the
Alabama convention and the South began to draw out of the Union, and
then there were two presidents in the United States and the telegraph
brought the news about Charleston and Lincoln called out his army and it
was done, irrevocable now, and Henry and Bon already decided to go
without having to consult one another, who would have gone anyway even
if they had never seen one another but certainly now, because after all
you don't waste a war - think how they must have talked, how Henry would
say, "But must you marry her ?  Do you have to do it ?" and Bon would
say, "He should have told me.  He should have told me, myself, himself.
I was fair and honorable with him.  I waited.  You know now why I
waited.  I gave him every chance to tell me himself.  But he didn't do
it.  If he had, I would have agreed and promised never to see her or you
or him again.

But he didn't tell me.  I thought at first it was because he didn't
know.  Then I knew that he did know, and still I waited.  But he didn't
tell me.  He just told you, sent me a message like you send a command by
a nigger servant to a beggar or a tramp to clear out.  Dont you see
that?" and Henry would say, "But Judith.

Our sister.  Think of her" and Bon: "All right.  Think of her.

Then what?"

because they both knew what Judith would do when she found it out
because they both knew that women will show pride and honor about almost
anything except love, and Henry said, "Yes.  I see.  I understand.  But
you will have to give me time to get used to it.  You are my older
brother; you can do that little for me." Think of the two of them: Bon
who didn't know what he was going to do and had to say, pretend, he did;
and Henry who knew what he was going to do and had to say he didn't.
Then it was Christmas again, then 1861, and they hadn't heard from
Judith because Judith didn't know for sure where they were because Henry
wouldn't let Bon write to her yet; then they heard about the company,
the University Grays, organizing up at Oxford and maybe they had been
waiting for that.  So they took the steamboat North again, and more
gaiety and excitement on the boat now than Christmas even, like it
always is when a war starts, before the scene gets cluttered up with bad
food and wounded soldiers and widows and orphans, and them taking no
part in it now either but standing at the rail again above the churning
water, and maybe it would be two or three days, then Henry said
suddenly, cried suddenly: "But kings have done it!  Even dukes!  There
was that Lorraine duke named John something that married his sister. The
Pope excommunicated him but it didn't hurt!  It didn't hurt!  They were
still husband and wife.  They were still alive.

They still loved!" then again, loud, fast: "But you will have to wait!
You will have to give me time!  Maybe the war will settle it and we wont
need to !" And maybe this was one place where your old man was right:
and they rode into Oxford without touching Sutpen's Hundred and signed
the company roster and then hid somewhere to wait, and Henry let Bon
write Judith one letter; they would send it by hand, by a nigger that
would steal into the quarters by night and give it to Judith's maid, and
Judith sent the picture in the metal case and they rode on ahead to wait
until the company got through making flags and riding about the state
telling girls farewell and started for the front.

'Jesus, think of them.  Because Bon would know what Henry was doing,
just as he had always known what Henry was thinking since that first day
when they had looked at one another.  Maybe he would know all the better
what Henry was doing because he did not know what he himself was going
to do, that he would not know until all of a sudden some day it would
burst clear and he would know then that he had known all the time what
it would be, so he didn't have to bother about himself and so all he had
to do was just to watch Henry trying to reconcile what he (Henry) knew
he was going to do with all the voices of his heredity and training
which said No.  No.  You cannot, You must not.  You shall not.

Maybe they would even be under fire now, with the shells rushing and
rumbling past overhead and bursting and them lying there waiting to
charge and Henry would cry again, "But that Lorraine duke did it!

There must have been lots in the world who have done it that people
don't know about, that maybe they suffered for it and died for it and
are in hell now for it.  But they did it and it don't matter now; even
the ones we do know about are just names now and it don't matter now"
and Bon watching him and listening to him and thinking It's because I
don't know myself what I am going to do and so he is aware that I am
undecided without knowing that he is aware.  Perhaps if I told him now
that I am going to do it, he would know his own mind and tell me, You
shall not.  And maybe your old man was right that time and they did
think maybe the war would settle it and they would not have to
themselves, or at least maybe Henry hoped it would because maybe your
old man was right here too and Bon didn't care that since both of the
two people Who could have given him a father had declined to do it,
nothing mattered to him now, revenge or love or all, since he knew now
that revenge could not compensate him nor love assuage.  Maybe it wasn't
even Henry who wouldn't let him write to Judith but Bon himself who did
not write her because he didn't care about anything, not even that he
didn't know yet what he was going to do.  Then it was the next year and
Bon was an officer now and they were moving toward Shilo without knowing
that either, talking again as they moved along in column, the officer
dropping back alongside the file in which the private marched and Henry
crying again, holding his desperate and urgent voice down to undertone:
"Dont you know yet what you are going to do ?"

while Bon would look at him for a moment with that expression which
could have been smiling: "Suppose I told you I did not intend to go back
to her ?" and Henry would walk there beside him, with his pack and his
eight feet of musket, and he would begin to pant, panting and panting
while Bon watched him: "I am out in front of you a lot now; going into
battle, charging, I will be out in front of you-" and Henry panting,
"Stop!  Stop!" and Bon watching him with that faint thin expression
about the mouth and eyes: "- and who would ever know ?  You would not
even have to know for certain yourself, because who could say but what a
Yankee ball might have struck me at the exact second you pulled your
trigger, or even before -" and Henry panting and looking, glaring at the
sky, with his teeth showing and the sweat on his face and the knuckles
of the hand on his musket butt white, saying, panting, "Stop!  Stop!
Stop!  Stop!" Then it was Shilo, the second day and the lost battle and
the brigade falling back from Pittsburgh Landing And listen,' Shreve
cried; 'wait, now; wait !  ' (glaring at Quentin, panting himself, as if
he had had to supply his shade not only with a cue but with breath to
obey it in): ' Because your old man was wrong here, too !  He said it
was Bon who was wounded, but it wasn't.

Because who told him ?  Who told Sutpen, or your grandfather either,
which of them it was who was hit?  Sutpen didn't know because he wasn't
there, and your grandfather wasn't there either because that was where
he was hit too, where he lost his arm.  So who told them ? Not Henry,
because his father never saw Henry but that one time and maybe they
never had time to talk about wounds and besides to talk about wounds in
the Confederate army in 1865 would be like coal miners talking about
soot; and not Bon, because Sutpen never saw him at all because he was
dead - it was not Bon, it was Henry; Bon that found Henry at last and
stooped to pick him up and Henry fought back, struggled, saying, "Let
be!  Let me die!  I wont have to know it then" and Bon said, "So you do
want me to go back to her" and Henry lay there struggling and panting,
with the sweat on his face and his teeth bloody inside his chewed lip,
and Bon said, "Say you do want me to go back to her.  Maybe then I wont
do it.  Say it" and Henry lay there struggling, with the fresh red
staining through his shirt and his teeth showing and the sweat on his
face until Bon held his arms and lifted him onto his back -'

First, two of them, then four; now two again.  The room was indeed
tomblike: a quality stale and static and moribund beyond any mere vivid
and living cold.

Yet they remained in it, though not thirty feet away was bed and warmth.

Quentin had not even put on his overcoat, which lay on the floor where
it had fallen from the arm of the chair where Shreve had put it down.
They did not retreat from the cold.  They both bore it as though in
deliberate flagellant exaltation of physical misery transmogrified into
the spirits' travail of the two young men during that time fifty years
ago, or forty-eight rather, then forty-seven and then forty-six, since
it was '64 and then '65 and the starved and ragged remnant of an army
having retreated across Alabama and Georgia and into Carolina, swept
onward not by a victorious army behind it but rather by a mounting tide
of the names of lost battles from either side Chickamauga and Franklin,
Vicksburg and Corinth and Atlanta - battles lost not alone because of
superior numbers and failing ammunition and stores, but because of
generals who should not have been generals, who were generals not
through training in contemporary methods or aptitude for learning them,
but by the divine right to say "Go there" conferred upon them by an
absolute caste system; or because the generals of it never lived long
enough to learn how to fight massed cautious accretionary battles, since
they were already as obsolete as Richard or Roland or du Guesclin, who
wore plumes and cloaks lined with scarlet at twenty-eight and thirty and
thirty-two and captured warships with cavalry charges but not grain nor
meat nor bullets, who would whip three separate armies in as many days
and then tear down their own fences to cook meat robbed from their own
smokehouses, who on one night and with a handful of men would gallantly
set fire to and destroy a million dollar garrison of enemy supplies and
on the next night be discovered by a neighbor in bed with his wife and
be shot to death - two, four, now two again, according to Quentin and
Shreve, the two the four the two still talking - the one who did not yet
know what he was going to do, the other who knew what he would have to
do yet could not reconcile himself- Henry citing himself authority for
incest, talking about his Duke John of Lorraine as if he hoped possibly
to evoke that condemned and excommunicated shade to tell him in person
that it was all right, as people both before and since have tried to
evoke God or devil to justify them in what their glands insisted upon -
the two the four the two facing one another in the tomblike room:
Shreve, the Canadian, the child of blizzards and of cold in a bathrobe
with an overcoat above it, the collar turned up about his ears; Quentin,
the Southerner, the morose and delicate offspring of rain and steamy
heat in the thin suitable clothing which he had brought from
Mississippi, his overcoat (as thin and vain for what it was as the suit)
lying on the floor where he had not even bothered to raise it:

(- the winter of '64 now, the army retreated across Alabama, into
Georgia; now Carolina was just at their backs and Bon, the officer,
thinking 'We will either be caught and annihilated or Old Joe will
extricate us and we will make contact with Lee in front of Richmond and
then we will at least have the privilege of surrender': and then one day
all of a sudden he thought of it, remembered, how that Jefferson
regiment of which his father was now colonel was in Longstreet's corps,
and maybe from that moment the whole purpose of the retreat seemed to
him to be that of bringing him within reach of his father, to give his
father one more chance.

So that it must have seemed to him now that he knew at last why he had
not been able to decide what he wanted to do.  Maybe he thought for just
a second, ' My God, I am still young; even after these four years I am
still young' but just for a second, because maybe in the same breath he
said, 'All right.  Then I am young.  But I still believe, even though
what I believe probably is that war, suffering, these four years of
keeping his men alive and able in order to swap them blood and flesh for
the largest amount of ground at its bargain price, will have changed him
(which I know that it does not do) to where he will say to me not:
Forgive me: but: You are my oldest son.  Protect your sister; never see
either of us again :' Then it was '65 and what was left of the army of
the West with nothing remaining now but the ability to walk backward
slow and stubborn and to endure musketry and shelling; maybe they didn't
even miss the shoes and overcoats and food any more now and that was why
he could write about the captured stove polish like he did in the letter
to Judith when he finally knew what he was going to do at last and told
Henry and Henry said ' Thank God.  Thank God,' not for the incest of
course but because at last they were going to do something, at last he
could be something even though that something was the irrevocable
repudiation of the old heredity and training and the acceptance of
eternal damnation.  Maybe he could even quit talking about his Lorraine
duke then, because he could say now, 'It isn't yours nor his nor the
Pope's hell that we are all going to: it's my mother's and her mother's
and father's and their mother's and father's hell, and it isn't you who
are going there, but we, the three - no: four of us.  And so at least we
will all be together where we belong, since even if only he went there
we would still have to be there too since the three of us are just
illusions that he begot, and your illusions are a part of you like your
bones and flesh and memory And we will all be together in torment and so
we will not need to remember love and fornication, and maybe in torment
you cannot even remember why you are there.  And if we cannot remember
all this, it cant be much torment." Then they were in Carolina, that
January and February of '65 and what was left of them had been walking
backward for almost a year now and the distance between them and
Richmond was less far than the distance they had come; the distance
between them and the end a good deal less far.  But to Bon it was not
the space between them and defeat but the space between him and the
other regiment, between him and the hour, the moment: He will not even
have to ask me; I will just touch flesh with him and I will say it
myself: You will not need to worry; she shall never see me again." Then
March in Carolina and still the walking backward slow and stubborn and
listening to the Northward now because there was nothing to hear from
any other direction because in all the other directions it was finished
now, and all they expected to hear from the North was defeat.  Then one
day (he was an officer; he would have known, heard, that Lee had
detached some troops and sent them down to reinforce them; perhaps he
even knew the names and numbers of the regiments before they arrived) he
saw Sutpen.

Maybe that first time Sutpen actually did not see him, maybe that first
time he could tell himself, 'That was why; he didn't see me,' so that he
had to put himself in Sutpen's way, make his chance and situation.

Then for the second time he looked at the expressionless and rocklike
face, at the pale boring eyes in which there was no flicker, nothing,
the face in which he saw his own features, in which he saw recognition,
and that was all.  That was all, there was nothing further now; perhaps
he just breathed once quietly, with on his own face that expression
which might at a glance have been called smiling while he thought, 'I
could force him.  I could go to him and force him,' knowing that he
would not because it was all finished now, that was all of it now and at
last.  And maybe it was that same night or maybe a night a week later
while they were stopped (because even Sherman would have to stop
sometimes at night) with the fires burning for warmth at least because
at least warmth is cheap and doesn't remain consumed, that Bon said, '
Henry' and said, 'It wont be much longer now and then there wont be
anything left: we wont even have anything to do left, not even the
privilege of walking backward slowly for a reason, for the sake of honor
and what's left of pride.  Not God; evidently we have done without Him
for four years, only He just didn't think to notify us; and not only not
shoes and clothing but not even any need for them, and not only no land
nor any way to make food, but no need for the food since we have learned
to live without that too; and so if you don't have God and you don't
need food and clothes and shelter, there isn't anything for honor and
pride to climb on and hold to and flourish.  And if you haven't got
honor and pride, then nothing matters.  Only there is something in you
that doesn't care about honor and pride yet that lives, that even walks
backward for a whole year just to live; that probably even when this is
over and there is not even defeat left, will still decline to sit still
in the sun and die, but will be out in the woods, moving and seeking
where just will and endurance could not move it, grubbing for roots and
such - the old mindless sentient undreaming meat that doesn't even know
any difference between despair and victory, Henry." And then Henry would
begin to say 'Thank God.  Thank God' panting and saying 'Thank God,'
saying, 'Dont try to explain it.  Just do it' and Bon: 'You authorize
me?  As her brother you give me permission?" and Henry: 'Brother?
Brother?  You are the oldest: why do you ask me?" and Bon: 'No.  He has
never acknowledged me.  He just warned me.  You are the brother and the
son.  Do I have your permission, Henry?" and Henry: 'Write.  Write.
Write." So Bon wrote the letter, after the four years, and Henry read it
and sent it off.

But they didn't quit then and follow the letter.  They still walked
backward, slow and stubborn, listening toward the North for the end of
it because it takes an awful lot of character to quit anything when you
are losing, and they had been walking backward slow for a year now So
all they had left was not the will but just the ability, the grooved
habit to endure.  Then one night they had stopped again since Sherman
had stopped again, and an orderly came along the bivouac line and found
Henry at last and said, ' Sutpen, the colonel wants you in his tent.")

'And so you and the old dame, the Aunt Rosa, went out there that night
and the old nigger Clytie tried to stop you, stop her; she held your arm
and said, "Dont let her go up there, young marster" but you couldn't
stop her either because she was strong with forty-five years of hate
like forty-five years of raw meat and all Clytie had was just forty-five
or fifty years of despair and waiting; and you, you didn't even want to
be there at all to begin with.  And you couldn't stop her either and
then you saw that Clytie's trouble wasn't anger nor even distrust; it
was terror, fear.  And she didn't tell you in so many words because she
was still keeping that secret for the sake of the man who had been her
father too as well as for the sake of the family which no longer
existed, whose heretofore inviolate and rotten mausoleum she still
guarded - didn't tell you in so many words anymore than she told you in
so many words how she had been in the room that day when they brought
Bon's body in and Judith took from his pocket the metal case she had
given him with her picture in it; she didn't tell you, it just came out
of the terror and the fear after she turned you loose and caught the
Aunt Rosa's arm and the Aunt Rosa turned and struck her hand away and
went on to the stairs and Clytie ran at her again and this time the Aunt
Rosa stopped and turned on the second step and knocked Clytie down with
her fist like a man would and turned and went on up the stairs: and
Clytie lay there on the floor, more than eighty years old and not much
more than five feet tall and looking like a little bundle of clean rags
so that you went and took her arm and helped her up and her arm felt
like a stick, as light and dry and brittle as a stick: and she looked at
you and you saw it was not rage but terror, and not nigger terror
because it was not about herself but was about whatever it was that was
upstairs, that she had kept hidden up there for almost four years; and
she didn't tell you in the actual words because even in the terror she
kept the secret; nevertheless she told you, or at least all of a sudden
you knew -'

Shreve ceased again.  It was just as well, since he had no listener.
Perhaps he was aware of it.  Then suddenly he had no talker either,
though possibly he was not aware of this.  Because now neither of them
were there.  They were both in Carolina and the time was forty-six years
ago, and it was not even four now but compounded still further, since
now both of them were Henry Sutpen and both of them were Bon, compounded
each of both yet either neither, smelling the very smoke which had blown
and faded away forty-six years ago from the bivouac fires burning in a
pine grove, the gaunt and ragged men sitting or lying about them,
talking not about the war yet all curiously enough (or perhaps not
curiously at all) facing the South where further on in the darkness the
pickets stood- the pickets who, watching to the South, could see the
flicker and gleam of the Federal bivouac fires myriad and faint and
encircling half the horizon and counting ten fires for each Confederate
one, and between whom and which (Rebel picket and Yankee fire) the
Yankee outposts watched the darkness also, the two picket lines so close
that each could hear the challenge of the other's officers passing from
post to post and dying away: and when gone, the voice, invisible
cautious, not loud yet carrying:

- Hey, Reb.

- Yah.

- where you fellers going?

- Richmond.

- So are we.  why not wait for us?

- We air.

The men about the fires would not hear this exchange, though they would
presently hear the orderly plainly enough as he passes from fire to
fire, asking for Sutpen and being directed on and so reaches the fire at
last, the smoldering log, with his monotonous speech: 'Sutpen?

I'm looking for Sutpen' until Henry sits up and says, 'Here." He is
gaunt and ragged and unshaven; because of the last four years and
because he had not quite got his height when the four years began, he is
not as tall by two inches as he gave promise of being, and not as heavy
by thirty pounds as he probably will be a few years after he has
outlived the four years, if he do outlive them.

- Here, he says - What is it?

- The colonel wants you.

The orderly does not return with him.  Instead, he walks alone through
the darkness along a rutted road, a road rutted and cut and churned
where the guns have passed over it that afternoon, and reaches the tent
at last, one of the few tents, the canvas wall gleaming faintly from a
candle within, the silhouette of a sentry before it, who challenges him.

- Sutpen, Henry says- The colonel sent for me.

The sentry gestures him into the tent.  He stoops through the entrance,
the canvas falls behind him as someone, the only occupant of the tent,
rises from a camp chair behind the table on which the candle sits, his
shadow swooping high and huge up the canvas wall.  He (Henry) comes to
salute facing a graff sleeve with colonel's braid on it, one beard
cheek, a jutting nose, a shaggy droop of iron-riddle hair- a face which
Henry does not recognize, not because he has not seen it in four years
and does not expect to see it here and now, but rather because he is not
looking at it.  He just salutes the braided cuff and stands so until the
other says,

- Henry.

Even now Henry does not start.  He just stands so, the two of them stand
so, looking at one another.  It is the older man who moves first, though
they meet in the center of the tent, where they embrace and kiss before
Henry is aware that he has moved, was going to move, moved by what of
close blood which in the reflex instant abrogates and reconciles even
though it does not yet (perhaps never will) forgive, who stands now
while his father holds his face between both hands, looking at it.

- Henry, Sutpen says- My son.

Then they sit, one on either side of the table, in the chairs reserved
for officers, the table (an open map lies on it) and the candle between

- You were hit at Shilo, Colonel Willow tells me, Sutpen says.

- Yes, sir, Henry says.

He is about to say Charles carried me back but he does not, because
already he knows what is coming.  He does not even think Surely Judith
didn't write him about that letter or It was Clytie who sent him word
somehow that Charles has written her.  He thinks neither of these.

To him it is logical and natural that their father should know of his
and Bon's decision: that rapport of blood which should bring Bon to
decide to write, himself to agree to it and their father to know of it
at the same identical instant, after a period of four years, out of all

Now it does come, almost exactly as he had known that it will:

- I have seen Charles Bon, Henry.

Henry says nothing.  It is coming now.  He says nothing, he merely
stares at his father- the two of them in leaf-faded graff, a single
candle, a crude tent walling them away from a darkness where alert
pickets face one another and where weary men sleep without shelter,
waiting for dawn and the firing, the weary backward walking to commence
again: yet in a second tent candle gray and all are gone and it is the
hollydecked Christmas library at Sutpen's Hundred four years ago and the
table not a camp table suitable for the spreading of maps but the heavy
carved rosewood one at home with the group photograph of his mother and
sister and himself sitting upon it, his father behind the table and
behind his father the window above the garden where Judith and Bon
strolled in that slow rhythm where the heart matches the footsteps and
the eyes need only look at one another.

- You are going to let him marry Judith, Henry.

Still Henry does not answer.  It has all been said before, and now he
has had four years of bitter struggle following which, whether it be
victory or defeat which he has gained, at least he has gained it and has
peace now, even if the peace be mostly despair.

- He cannot marry her, Henry.

Now Henry speaks.

- You said that before.  I told you then.  And now, and now it wont be
much longer now and then we wont have anything left: honor nor pride not
God since God quit us four years ago only He never thought it necessary
to tell us ; no shoes nor clothes and no need for them; not only no land
to make food out of but no need for the food and when you don't have God
and honor and pride, nothing matters except that there is the old
mindless meat that don't even care if it was defeat or victory, that
wont even die, that will be out in the woods and fields, grubbing up
mots and weeds.  - Yes.  I have decided, Brother or not, I have decided.
I will.  I will.

- He must not marry her, Henry.

- Yes.  I said Yes at first, but I was not decided then.  I didn't let

But now I have had four years to decide in.  I will.  I am going to.

- He must not marry her, Henry.  His mother's father told me that her
mother had been a Spanish woman.  I believed him; it was not until after
he was born that I found out that his mother was part Negro.

Nor did Henry ever say that he did not remember leaving the tent.

He remembers all of it.  He remembers stooping through the entrance
again and passing the sentry again; he remembers walking back down the
cut and rutted road, stumbling in the dark among the ruts on either side
of which the fires have now died to embers, so that he can barely
distinguish the men sleeping on the earth about them.  It must be better
than eleven oclock, he thinks.  And another eight miles tomorrow.  If it
were only not for those damned guns.  Why doesn't Old Joe give the guns
to Sherman.  Then we could make twenty miles a day.

We could join Lee then.  At least Lee stops and fights some of the time.
He remembers it.  He remembers how he did not return to his fire but
stopped presently in a lonely place and leaned against a pine, leaning
quietly and easily, with his head back so he could look up at the shabby
shaggy branches like something in wrought iron spreading motionless
against the chill vivid stars of early spring, thinking I hope he
remembers to thank Colonel Willow for letting us use his tent, thinking
not what he would do but what he would have to do.

Because he knew what he would do; it now depended on what Bon would do,
would force him to do, since he knew that he would do it.  So I must go
to him, he thought, thinking, Now it is better than two o'clock and it
will be dawn soon.

Then it was dawn, or almost, and it was cold: a chill which struck
through the worn patched thin clothing, through the something of
weariness and undernourishment; the passive ability, not the volitional
will, to endure; there was light somewhere, enough of it for him to
distinguish Bon's sleeping face from among the others where he lay
wrapped in his blankets, beneath his spread cloak; enough light for him
to wake Bon by and for Bon to distinguish his face (or perhaps something
communicated by Henry's hand) because Bon does not speak, demand to know
who it is: he merely rises and puts the cloak about his shoulders and
approaches the smoldering fire and is kicking it into a blaze when Henry

- Wait.

Bon pauses and looks at Henry; now he can see Henry's face.  He says,

- You will be cold.  You are cold now.  You haven't been asleep, have
you?  Here.

He swings the cloak from his shoulders and holds it out.

- No, Henry says.

- Yes.  Take it.  I'll get my blanket.

Bon puts the cloak about Henry and goes and takes up his tumbled blanket
and swings it about his shoulders, and they move aside and sit on a log.
Now it is dawn.  The east is gray; it will be primrose soon and then red
with firing and once more the weary backward marching will begin,
retreating from annihilation, falling back upon defeat, though not quite
yet.  There will be a little time yet for them to sit side by side upon
the log in the making light of dawn, the one in the cloak, the other in
the blanket; their voices are not much louder than the silent dawn

- So it's the miscegenation, not the incest, which you cant bear.

Henry doesn't answer.

- And he sent me no word?  He did not ask you to send me to him?

No word to me, no word at all?  That was all he had to do, now, today;
four years ago or at any time during the four years.  That was all.  He
would not have needed to ask it, require it, of me.  I would have
offered it.  I would have said, I will never see her again before he
could have asked it of me.  He did not have to do this, Henry.  He
didn't need to tell you I am a nigger to stop me.  He could have stopped
me without that, Henry.

- No!  Henry cries.  - No!  No !  I will - I'll  He springs up; his face
is working; Bon can see his teeth within the soft beard which covers his
sunken cheeks, and the whites of Henry's eyes as though the eyeballs
struggled in their sockets as the panting breath struggled in his lungs
- the panting which ceased, the breath held, the eyes too looking down
at him where he sat on the log, the voice now not much louder than an
expelled breath:

- You said, could have stopped you.

What do you mean by that?

Now it is Bon who does not answer, who sits on the log looking at the
face stooped above him.

Henry says, still in that voice no louder than breathing:

- But now?  You mean you -

- Yes.  What else can I do now?  I gave him the choice.  I have been
giving him the choice for four years.

Think of her.  Not of me: of her.

- I have.  For four years.  Of you and her.  Now I am thinking of

- No, Henry says.  - No.  No.

- I cannot?

- You shall not.

- Who will stop me, Henry?

- No, Henry says.  - No.  No.  No.

Now it is Bon who watches Henry; he can see the whites of Henry's eyes
again as he sits looking at Henry with that expression which might be
called smiling.  His hand vanishes beneath the blanket and reappears,
holding his pistol by the barrel, the butt extended toward Henry.

- Then do it now, he says.

Henry looks at the pistol; now he is not only panting, he is trembling;
when he speaks now his voice is not even the exhalation, it is the
suffused and suffocating inbreath itself:

- You are my brother.

- No I'm not.  I'm the nigger that's going to sleep with your sister.
Unless you stop me, Henry.

Suddenly Henry grasps the pistol, jerks it free of Bon's hand stands so,
the pistol in his hand, panting and panting; again Bon can see the
whites of his inrolled eyes while he sits on the log and watches Henry
with that faint expression about the eyes and mouth which might be

- Do it now, Henry, he says.

Henry whirls; in the same motion he hurls the pistol from him and stoops
again, gripping Bon by both shoulders, panting.

- You shall not!  he says.  - You shall not!  Do you hear me?

Bon does not move beneath the gripping hands; he sits motionless, with
his faint fixed grimace; his voice is gentler than that first breath in
which the pine branches begin to move a little:

- You will have to stop me, Henry.  ' And he never slipped away,' Shreve
said.  'He could have, but he never even tried.  Jesus, maybe he even
went to Henry and said, "I'm going, Henry" and maybe they left together
and rode side by side dodging Yankee patrols all the way back to
Mississippi and right up to that gate; side by side and it only then
that one of them ever rode ahead or dropped behind and that only then
Henry spurred ahead and turned his horse to face Bon and took out the
pistol; and Judith and Clytie heard the shot, and maybe Wash Jones was
hanging around somewhere in the back yard and so he was there to help
Clytie and Judith carry him into the house and lay him on the bed, and
Wash went to town to tell the Aunt Rosa and the Aunt Rosa comes boiling
out that afternoon and finds Judith standing without a tear before the
closed door, holding the metal case she had given him with her picture
in it but that didn't have her picture in it now but that of the
octoroon and the kid.  And your old man wouldn't know about that too:
why the black son of a bitch should have taken her picture out and put
the octoroon's picture in, so he invented a reason for it.  But I know.
And you know too.  Don't you ?  Don't you, huh ?" He glared at Quentin,
leaning forward over the table now, looking huge and shapeless as a bear
in his swaddling of garments.  'Dont you know ?  It was because he said
to himself, "If Henry don't mean what he said, it will be all right; I
can take it out and destroy it.  But if he does mean what he said, it
will be the only way I will have to say to her, I was no good; do not
grieve for me." Aint that right?

Aint it ?  By God, aint it?"

'Yes,' Quentin said.

'Come on,' Shreve said.  'Let's get out of this refrigerator and go to


At first, in bed in the dark, it seemed colder than ever, as if there
had been some puny quality of faint heat in the single light bulb before
Shreve turned it off and that now the iron and impregnable dark had
become one with the iron and icelike bedclothing lying upon the flesh
slacked and thin-clad for sleeping.  Then the darkness seemed to
breathe, to flow back; the window which Shreve had opened became visible
against the faintly unearthly glow of the outer snow as, forced by the
weight of the darkness, the blood surged and ran warmer, warmer.  '
University of Mississippi,' Shreve's voice said in the darkness to
Quentin's right.  'Bayard attenuated forty miles (it was forty miles,
wasn't it ?); out of the wilderness proud honor semesterial

'Yes,' Quentin said.  'They were in the tenth graduating class since it
was founded."

'I didn't know there were ten in Mississippi that went to school at one
time,' Shreve said.  Quentin didn't answer.  He lay watching the
rectangle of window, feeling the warming blood driving through his
veins, his arms and legs.  And now, although he was warm and though
while he had sat in the cold room he merely shook faintly and steadily,
now he began to jerk all over, violently and uncontrollably until he
could even hear the bed, until even Shreve felt it and turned, raising
himself (by the sound) onto his elbow to look at Quentin, though Quentin
himself felt perfectly all right.  He felt fine even, lying there and
waiting in peaceful curiosity for the next violent unharbingered jerk to

'Jesus, are you that cold ?" Shreve said.  'Do you want me to spread the
overcoats on you?"

'No,' Quentin said.  'I'm not cold. I'm all right.  I feel fine."

'Then what are you doing that for?"

'I don't know.  I cant help it.  I feel fine."

'All right.  But let me know if you want the coats.  Jesus, if I was
going to have to spend nine months in this climate, I would sure hate to
have come from the South. Maybe I wouldn't come from the South anyway,
even if I could stay there.

Wait.  Listen.  I'm not trying to be funny, smart.  I just want to
understand it if I can and I don't know how to say it better.  Because
it's something my people haven't got.  Or if we have got it, it all
happened long ago across the water and so now here aint anything to look
at every day to remind us of it.  We don't live among defeated
grandfathers and freed slaves (or have I got it backward and was it your
folks that are free and the niggers that lost ?) and bullets in the
dining-room table and such, to be always reminding us to never forget.
What is it ?  something you live and breathe in like air ?

a kind of vacuum filled with wraithlike and indomitable anger and pride
and glory at and in happenings that occurred and ceased fifty years ago
?  a kind of entailed birthright father and son and father and son of
never forgiving General Sherman, so that forevermore as long as your
childrens' children produce children you wont be anything but a
descendant of a long line of colonels killed in Pickett's charge at

'Gettysburg,' Quentin said.  'You cant understand it.  You would have to
be born there."

'Would I then?" Quentin did not answer.

'Do you understand it?"

'I don't know,' Quentin said.  'Yes, of course I understand it." They
breathed in the darkness.  After a moment Quentin said: 'I don't know."

'Yes.  You don't know.  You don't even know about the old dame, the Aunt

'Miss Rosa,' Quentin said.

'All right.  You don't even know about her.  Except that she refused at
the last to be a ghost.  That after almost fifty years she couldn't
reconcile herself to letting him lie dead in peace.  That even after
fifty years she not only could get up and go out there to finish up what
she found she hadn't quite completed, but she could find someone to go
with her and bust into that locked house because instinct or something
told her it was not finished yet.  Do you?"

'No,' Quentin said peacefully.  He could taste the dust.  Even now, with
the chill pure weight of the snow-breathed New England air on his face,
he could taste and feel the dust of that breathless (rather,
furnace-breathed) Mississippi September night.  He could even smell the
old woman in the buggy beside him, smell the fusty camphor-reeking shawl
and even the airless black cotton umbrella in which (he would not
discover until they had reached the house) she had concealed a hatchet
and a flashlight.  He could smell the horse; he could hear the dry
plaint of the light wheels in the weightless permeant dust and he seemed
to feel the dust itself move sluggish and dry across his sweating flesh
just as he seemed to hear the single profound suspiration of the parched
earth's agony rising toward the imponderable and aloof stars.  Now she
spoke, for the first time since they had left Jefferson, since she had
climbed into the buggy with a kind of clumsy and fumbling and trembling
eagerness (which he thought derived from terror, alarm, until he found
that he was quite wrong) before he could help her, to sit on the extreme
edge of the seat, small, in the fusty shawl and clutching the umbrella,
leaning forward as if by leaning forward she would arrive the sooner,
arrive immediately after the horse and before he, Quentin, would, before
the prescience of her desire and need could warn its consummation.
'Now,' she said.  'We are on the Domain.  On his land, his and Ellen's
and Ellen's descendants.  They have taken it away from them since, I
understand.  But it still belongs to him, to Ellen and her descendants."
But Quentin was already aware of that.  Before she spoke he had said to
himself, "Now.  Now" and (as during the long hot afternoon in the dim
hot little house) it seemed to him that if he stopped the buggy and
listened, he might even hear the galloping hoofs; might even see at any
moment now the black stallion and the rider rush across the road before
them and gallop on - the rider who at one time owned, lock stock and
barrel, everything he could see from a given point, with every stick and
blade and hoof and heel on it to remind him (if he ever forgot it) that
he was the biggest thing in their sight and in his own too; who went to
war to protect it and lost the war and returned home to find that he had
lost more than the war even, though not absolutely all; who said At
least I have life left but did not have life but only old age and
breathing and horror and scorn and fear and indignation: and all
remaining to look at him with unchanged regard was the girl who had been
a child when he saw her last, who doubtless used to watch him from
window or door as he passed unaware of her as she would have looked at
God probably, since everything else within her view belonged to him too.
Maybe he would even stop at the cabin and ask for water and she would
take the bucket and walk the mile and back to the spring to fetch it
fresh and cool for him, no more thinking of saying 'The bucket is empty'
to him than she would have said it to God - this the not-all, since at
least there was breathing left.

Now Quentin began to breathe hard again, who had been peaceful for a
time in the warm bed, breathing hard the heavy pure snowborn darkness.

She (Miss Coldfield) did not let him enter the gate.  She said 'Stop'
suddenly; he felt her hand flutter on his arm and he thought, "Why, she
is afraid." He could hear her panting now, her voice almost a wall of
diffident yet iron determination: 'I don't know what to do.  I don't
know what to do." ("I do," he thought.  "Go back to town and go to
bed.") But he did not say it.  He looked at the two huge rotting gate
posts in the starlight, between which no gates swung now, wondering from
what direction Bon and Henry had ridden up that day, wondering what had
cast the shadow which Bon was not to pass alive; if some living tree
which still lived and bore leaves and shed or if some tree gone,
vanished, burned for warmth and food years ago now or perhaps just gone;
or if it had been one of the two posts themselves, thinking, wishing
that Henry were there now to stop Miss Coldfield and turn them back,
telling himself that if Henry were there now, there would be no shot to
be heard by anyone.  'She's going to try to stop me,' Miss Coldfield
whimpered.  'I know she is.  Maybe this far from town, out here alone at
midnight, she will even let that Negro man - And you didn't even bring a
pistol.  Did you?"

'Nome,' Quentin said.

'What is it she's got hidden there?  What could it be ?  And what
difference does it make?  Let's go back to town, Miss Rosa."

She didn't answer this at all.  She just said, 'That's what I have got
to find out,' sitting forward on the seat, trembling now and peering up
the tree-arched drive toward where the rotting shell of the house would

'And now I will have to find it out,' she whimpered, in a kind of amazed

She moved suddenly.  'Come,' she whispered, beginning to get out of the

'Wait,' Quentin said.  'Let's drive up to the house.  It's a half a

'No, no,' she whispered, a tense fierce hissing of words filled with
that same curious terrified yet implacable determination, as though it
were not she who had to go and find out but she only the helpless agent
of someone or something else who must know.  'Hitch the horse here.
Hurry." She got out, scrambled awkwardly down, before he could help her,
clutching the umbrella.  It seemed to him that he could still hear her
whimpering panting where she waited close beside one of the posts while
he led the mare from the road and tied one rein about a sapling in the
weed-choked ditch.  He could not see her at all, so close she stood
against the post: she just stepped out and fell in beside him when he
passed and turned into the gate, still breathing in those whimpering
pants as they walked on up the rutted tree-arched drive.  The darkness
was intense; she stumbled; he caught her.  She took his arm, clutching
it in a dead rigid hard grip as if her fingers, her hand, were a small
mass of wire.  'I will have to take your arm,' she whispered, whimpered.
'And you haven't even got a pistol - Wait,' she said.  She stopped.  He
turned; he could not see her but he could hear her hurried breathing and
then a rustling of cloth.  Then she was prodding something at him.

Here,' she whispered.  'Take it." It was a hatchet; not sight but touch
told him - a hatchet with a heavy worn handle and a heavy gapped
rust-dulled blade.

'What?" he said.

'Take it!" she whispered, hissed.  'You didn't bring a pistol.

It's something."

'Here,' he said; 'wait."

'Come,' she whispered. 'You will have to let me take your arm, I am
trembling so bad." They went on again, she clinging to one of his arms,
the hatchet in his other hand.

'We will probably need it to get into the house, anyway,' she said,
stumbling along beside him, almost dragging him.  'I just know she is
somewhere watching us,' she whimpered.  'I can feel her.  But if we can
just get to the house, get into the house -' The drive seemed

He knew the place.  He had walked from the gate to the house as a child,
a boy, when distances seem really long (so that to the man grown the
long crowded mile of his boyhood becomes less than the throw of a stone)
yet now it seemed to him that the house would never come in sight: so
that presently he found himself repeating her words: "If we can just get
to the house, get inside the house," telling himself, recovering himself
in that same breath: "I am not afraid.  I just don't want to be here.  I
just don't want to know about whatever it is she keeps hidden in it."
But they reached it at last.  It loomed, bulked, square and enormous,
with jagged half-toppled chimneys, its roofline sagging a little; for an
instant as they moved, hurried, toward it Quentin saw completely through
it a ragged segment of sky with three hot stars in it as if the house
were of one dimension, painted on a canvas curtain in which there was a
tear; now, almost beneath it, the dead furnace-breath of air in which
they moved seemed to reek in slow and protracted violence with a smell
of desolation and decay as if the wood of which it was built were flesh.
She was trotting beside him now, her hand trembling on his arm yet
gripping it still with that lifeless and rigid strength; not talking,
not saying words, yet producing a steady whimpering, almost a moaning,
sound.  Apparently she could not see at all now, so that he had to guide
her toward where he knew the steps would be and then restrain her,
whispering, hissing, aping without knowing it her own tense fainting
haste: ' Wait.  This way.  Be careful, now.  They're rotten." He almost
lifted, carried, her up the steps, supporting her from behind by both
elbows as you lift a child; he could feel something fierce and
implacable and dynamic driving down the thin rigid arms and into his
palms and up his own arms; lying in the Massachusetts bed he remembered
how he thought, knew, said suddenly to himself, "Why, she's not afraid
at all.  It's something.  But she's not afraid," feeling her flee out of
his hands, hearing her feet cross the gallery, overtaking her where she
now stood beside the invisible front door, panting.

'Now what ?" he whispered.

'Break it,' she whispered.  'It will be locked, nailed.  You have the
hatchet.  Break it."

'But -' he began.

'Break it!" she hissed, 'It belonged to Ellen.  I am her sister, her
only living heir.  Break it.  Hurry." He pushed against the door.

It did not move.

She panted beside him.  'Hurry,' she said.  ' Break it."

'Listen, Miss Rosa,' he said.  'Listen."

'Give me the hatchet."

'Wait,' he said.

'Do you really want to go inside?"

'I'm going inside,' she whimpered.

'Give me the hatchet."

'Wait,' he said.  He moved along the gallery, guiding himself by the
wall, moving carefully since he did not know just where the floor planks
might be rotten or even missing, until he came to a window.  The
shutters were closed and apparently locked, yet they gave almost at once
to the blade of the hatchet, making not very much sound- a flimsy and
sloven barricading done either by an old feeble person - woman- or by a
shiftless man; he had already inserted the hatchet blade beneath the
sash before he discovered that there was no glass in it, that all he had
to do now was to step through the vacant frame.  Then he stood there for
a moment, telling himself to go on in, telling himself that he was not
afraid, he just didn't want to know what might be inside.  ' Well ?"
Miss Coldfield whispered from the door.  'Have you opened it?"

'Yes,' he said.  He did not whisper, though he did not speak overloud;
the dark room which he faced repeated his voice with hollow profundity,
as an unfurnished room will.  'You wait there.  I'll see if I can open
the door." - "So now I shall have to go in," he thought, climbing over
the sill.  He knew that the room was empty; the echo of his voice had
told him that, yet he moved as slowly and carefully here as he had along
the gallery, feeling along the wall with his hand, following the wall
when it turned, and found the door and passed through it.  He would be
in the hall now; he almost believed that he could hear Miss Coldfield
breathing just beyond the wall beside him.  It was pitch dark; he could
not see, he knew that he could not see, yet he found that his eyelids
and muscles were aching with strain while merging and dissolving red
spots wheeled and vanished across the retinae.  He went on; he felt the
door under his hand at last and now he could hear Miss Coldfield's
whimpering breathing beyond it as he fumbled for the lock.  Then behind
him the sound of the scraped match was like an explosion, a pistol; even
before the puny following light appeared all his organs lifted
sickeningly; he could not even move for a moment even though something
of sanity roared silently inside his skull: "It's all right!  If it were
danger, he would not have struck the match!" Then he could move, and
turned to see the tiny gnomelike creature in headrag and voluminous
skirts, the worn coffee-colored face staring at him, the match held in
one coffee-colored and doll-like hand above her head.  Then he was not
watching her but watching the match as it burned down toward her
fingers; he watched quietly as she moved at last and lit a second match
from the first and turned; he saw then the square-ended saw chunk beside
the wall and the lamp sitting upon it as she lifted the chimney and held
the match to the wick.  He remembered it, lying here in the
Massachusetts bed and breathing fast now, now that peace and quiet had
fled again.  He remembered how she did not say one word to him, not Who
are you ?  or What do you want here ?  but merely came with a bunch of
enormous old-fashioned iron keys, as if she had known all the time that
this hour must come and that it could not be resisted, and opened the
door and stepped back a little as Miss Coldfield entered.  And how she
(Clytie) and Miss Coldfield said no word to one another, as if Clytie
had looked once at the other woman and knew that that would do no good;
that it was to him, Quentin, that she turned, putting her hand on his
arm and saying, 'Dont let her go up there, young marster." And how maybe
she looked at him and knew that would do no good either, because she
turned and overtook Miss Coldfield and caught her arm and said, 'Dont
you go up there, Rosie' and Miss Coldfield struck the hand away and went
on toward the stairs (and now he saw that she had a flashlight; he
remembered how he thought, "It must have been in tie umbrella too along
with the axe") and Clytie said; 'Rosie' and ran after the other again,
whereupon Miss Coldfield turned on the step and struck Clytie to the
floor with a full-armed blow like a man would have, and turned and went
on up the stairs.

She (Clytie) lay on the bare floor of the scaling and empty hall like a
small shapeless bundle of quiet clean rags.  When he reached her he saw
that she was quite conscious, her eyes wide open and calm; he stood
above her, thinking, "Yes.  She is the one who owns the terror."

When he raised her it was like picking up a handful of sticks concealed
in a rag bundle, so light she was.

She could not stand; he had to hold her up, aware of some feeble
movement or intention in her limbs until he realized that she was trying
to sit on the bottom step.  He lowered her to it.  'Who are you?" she

'I'm Quentin Compson,' he answered.

'Yes.  I remember your grandpaw.  You go up there and make her come

Make her go away from here.  Whatever he done, me and Judith and him
have paid it out.  You go and get her.  Take her away from here." So he
mounted the stairs, the worn bare treads, the cracked and scaling wall
on one side, the balustrade with its intermittent missing spindles on
the other.  He remembered how he looked back and she was still sitting
as he had left her, and that now (and he had not heard him enter) there
stood in the hall below a hulking young lightcolored Negro man in clean
faded overalls and shirt, his arms dangling, no surprise, no nothing in
the saddle-colored and slack-mouthed idiot face.  He remembered how he
thought, "The scion, the heir, the apparent (though not obvious)" and
how he heard Miss Coldfield's feet and saw the light of the torch
approaching along the upper hall and how she came and passed him, how
she stumbled a little and caught herself and looked full at him as if
she had never seen him before - the eyes wide and unseeing like a
sleepwalker's, the face which had always been tallow-hued now possessing
some still profounder, some almost unbearable, quality of bloodlessness
and he thought, "What ?  What is it now ?  It's not shock.  And it never
has been fear.

Can it be triumph?" and how she passed him and went on.  He heard Clytie
say to the man, "Take her to the gate, the buggy" and he stood there
thinking, "I should go with her" and then, "But I must see too now.  I
will have to.  Maybe I shall be sorry tomorrow, but I must see." So when
he came back down the stairs (and he remembered how he thought, "Maybe
my face looks like hers did, but it's not triumph") there was only
Clytie in the hall, sitting still on the bottom step, sitting still in
the attitude in which he had left her.  She did not even look at him
when he passed her.  Nor did he overtake Miss Coldfield and the Negro.
It was too dark to go fast, thought he could presently hear them ahead
of him.  She was not using the flashlight now; he remembered how he
thought, "Surely she cant be afraid to show a light now." But she was
not using it and he wondered if she were holding to the Negro's arm now;
he wondered that until he heard the Negro's voice, flat, without
emphasis or interest: "Wawkin better over here" and no answer from her,
though he was close enough now to hear (or believe he did) her
whimpering panting breath.

Then he heard the other sound and he knew that she had stumbled and
fallen; he could almost see the hulking slack-faced Negro stopped in his
tracks, looking toward the sound of the fall, waiting, without interest
or curiosity, as he (Quentin) hurried forward, hurried toward the

'You, nigger!  What's your name?"

'Calls me Jim Bond."

'Help me up!  You aint any Sutpen!  You don't have to leave me lying in
the dirt!"

When he stopped the buggy at her gate she did not offer to get out alone
this time.  She sat there until he got down and came round to her side;
she still sat there, clutching the umbrella in one hand and the hatchet
in the other, until he spoke her name.  Then she stirred; he helped,
lifted her down; she was almost as light as Clytie had been; when she
moved it was like a mechanical doll, so that he supported and led her
through the gate and up the short walk and into the dollsized house and
turned on the light for her and looked at the fixed sleep-walking face,
the wide dark eyes as she stood there, still clutching the umbrella and
the hatchet, the shawl and the black dress both stained with dirt where
she had fallen, the black bonnet jerked forward and awry by the shock of
the fall.  'Are you all right now?" he said.

'Yes,' she said.  'Yes.  I'm all right.  Goodnight." - "Not thank you,"
he thought: "Just goodnight," outside the house now, breathing deep and
fast now as he returned to the buggy, finding that he was about to begin
to run, thinking quietly, "Jesus.  Jesus.  Jesus," breathing fast and
hard of the dark dead furnace-breath of air, of night where the fierce
aloof stars hung.  His own home was dark; he was still using the whip
when he turned into the lane and then into the stable lot.  He sprang
out and took the mare from the buggy, stripping the harness from her and
tumbling it into the harness room without stopping to hang it up,
sweating, breathing fast and hard; when he turned at last toward the
house he did begin to run.  He could not help it.  He was twenty years
old; he was not afraid, because what he had seen out there could not
harm him, yet he ran; even inside the dark familiar house, his shoes in
his hand, he still ran, up the stairs and into his room and began to
undress, fast, sweating, breathing fast.  "I ought to bathe," he
thought: then he was lying on the bed, naked, swabbing his body steadily
with the discarded shirt, sweating still, panting: so that when, his
eye-muscles aching and straining into the darkness and the almost dried
shirt still clutched in his hand, he said "I have been asleep" it was
all the same, there was no difference: waking or sleeping he walked down
that upper hall between the scaling walls and beneath the cracked
ceiling, toward the faint light which fell outward from the last door
and paused there, saying "No.  No" and then "Only I must.  I have to"
and went in, entered the bare, stale room whose shutters were closed
too, where a second lamp burned dimly on a crude table; waking or
sleeping it was the same;the bed, the yellow sheets and pillow, the
wasted yellow face with closed, almost transparent eyes on the pillow,
the wasted hands, crossed on the breast as if he were already a corpse;
waking or sleeping it was the same and would be the same forever as long
as he lived:

And you are -?

Henry Sutpen.

And you have been here - ?

Four years.

And you came home -?

To die.  Yes.

To die-?

Yes.  To die.

And you have been here -?

Four years.

And you are -?

Henry Sutpen.

It was quite cold in the room now; the chimes would ring for one any
time now; the chill had a compounded, a gathered quality, as though
preparing for the dead moment before dawn.  'And she waited three months
before she went back to get him,' Shreve said.  'Why did she do that?"
Quentin didn't answer.  He lay still and rigid on his back with the cold
New England night on his face and the blood running warm in his rigid
body and limbs, breathing hard but slow, his eyes wide open upon the
window, thinking "Nevermore of peace.  Nevermore of peace.

Nevermore Nevermore Nevermore." 'Do you suppose it was because she knew
what was going to happen when she told it, took any steps, that it would
be over then, finished, and that hating is like drink or drugs and she
had used it so long that she did not dare risk cutting off the supply,
destroying the source, the very poppy's root and seed ?" Still Quentin
didn't answer.  ' But at last she did reconcile herself to it, for his
sake, to save him, to bring him into town where the doctors could save
him, and so she told it then, got the ambulance and the men and went out
there.  And old Clytie maybe watching for just that out of the upstairs
window for three months now: and maybe even your old man was right this
time and when she saw the ambulance turn into the gate she believed it
was that same black wagon for which she probably had had that nigger boy
watching for three months now, coming to carry Henry into town for the
white folks to hang him for shooting Charles Bon.  And I guess it had
been him who had kept that closet under the stairs full of tinder and
trash all that time too, like she told him to, maybe he not getting it
then either but keeping it full just like she told him, the kerosene and
all, for three months now, until the hour when he could begin to howl -'
Now the chimes began, ringing for one o'clock.  Shreve ceased, as if he
were waiting for them to cease or perhaps were even listening to them.
Quentin lay still too, as if he were listening too, though he was not;
he just heard them without listening as he heard Shreve without
listening or answering, until they ceased, died away into the icy air
delicate and faint and musical as struck glass.  And he, Quentin, could
see that too, though he had not been there - the ambulance with Miss
Coldfield between the driver and the second man, perhaps a deputy
sheriff, in the shawl surely and perhaps even with the umbrella too,
though probably no hatchet nor flashlight in it now, entering the gate
and picking its way gingerly up the rutted and frozen (and now partially
thawed) drive; and it may have been the howling or it may have been the
deputy or the driver or it may have been she who cried first: "It's on
fire!" though she would not have cried that; she would have said,
'Faster.  Faster,' leaning forward on this seat too the small furious
grim implacable woman not much larger than a child.  But the ambulance
could not go fast in that drive; doubtless Clytie knew, counted upon,
that; it would be a good three minutes before it could reach the house,
the monstrous tinder-dry rotten shell seeping smoke through the warped
cracks in the weather-boarding as if it were made of gauze wire and
filled with roaring and beyond which somewhere something lurked which
bellowed, something human since the bellowing was in human speech, even
though the reason for it would not have seemed to be.  And the deputy
and the driver would spring out and Miss Coldfield would stumble out and
follow them, running too, onto the gallery too, where the creature which
bellowed followed them, wraith-like and insubstantial, looking at them
out of the smoke, whereupon the deputy even turned and whereupon he
retreated, fled, though the howling did not diminish nor even seem to
get any further away.  They ran onto the gallery too, into the seeping
smoke, Miss Coldfield screaming harshly, 'The window!  The window!" to
the second man at the door.  But the door was not locked; it swung
inward; the blast of heat struck them.  The entire staircase was on
fire.  Yet they had to hold her; Quentin could see it: the light thin
furious creature making no sound at all now, struggling with silent and
bitter fury, clawing and scratching and biting at the two men who held
her, who dragged her back and down the steps as the draft created by the
open door seemed to explode like powder among the flames as the whole
lower hall vanished.  He, Quentin, could see it, could see the deputy
holding her while the driver backed the ambulance to safety and
returned, the three faces all a little wild now since they must have
believed her - the three of them staring, glaring at the doomed house:
and then for a moment maybe Clytie appeared in that window from which
she must have been watching the gates constantly day and night for three
months - the tragic gnome's face beneath the clean headrag, against a
red background of fire, seen for a moment between two swirls of smoke,
looking down at them, perhaps not even now with triumph and no more of
despair than it had ever worn, possibly even serene above the melting
clapboards before the smoke swirled across it again - and he, Jim Bond,
the scion, the last of his race, seeing it too now and howling with
human reason now since now even he could have known what he was howling
about.  But they couldn't catch him.  They could hear him; he didn't
seem to ever get any further away but they couldn't get any nearer and
maybe in time they could not even locate the direction any more of the
howling.  They - the driver and the deputy - held Miss Coldfield as she
struggled: he (Quentin) could see her, them; he had not been there but
he could see her, struggling and fighting like a doll in a nightmare,
making no sound, foaming a little at the mouth, her face even in the
sunlight lit by one last wild crimson reflection as the house collapsed
and roared away, and there was only the sound of the idiot Negro left.

'And so it was the Aunt Rosa that came back to town inside the
ambulance,' Shreve said.  Quentin did not answer; he did not even say,
Miss Rosa.  He just lay there staring at the window without.  even
blinking, breathing the chill heady pure snowgleamed darkness.  'And she
went to bed because it was all finished now, there was nothing left now,
nothing out there now but that idiot boy to lurk around those ashes and
those four gutted chimneys and howl until someone came and drove him
away.  They couldn't catch him and nobody ever seemed to make him go
very far away, he just stopped howling for a little while.  Then after
awhile they would begin to hear him again.  And so she died." Quentin
did not answer, staring at the window; then he could not tell if it was
the actual window or the window's pale rectangle upon his eyelids,
though after a moment it began to emerge.  It began to take shape in its
same curious, light, gravity-defying attitude - the oncefolded sheet out
of the wistaria Mississippi summer, the cigar smell, the random blowing
of the fireflies.  'The South,' Shreve said.

'The South.  Jesus.  No wonder you folks all outlive yourselves by years
and years and years." It was becoming quite distinct; he would be able
to decipher the words soon, in a moment; even almost now, now, now.

'I am older at twenty than a lot of people who have died,' Quentin said.

'And more people have died than have been twenty-one,' Shreve said.  Now
he (Quentin) could read it, could finish it - the sloped whimsical
ironic hand out of Mississippi attenuated, into the iron snow:

- or perhaps there is.  Surely it can harm no one to believe that
perhaps she has escaped not at all the privilege of being outraged and
dreaded and of not forgiving but on the contrary has herself gained that
place or bourne where the objects of the outrage and of the
commiseration also are no longer ghosts but are actual people to be
actual recipients of the hatred and the pity.  It will do no harm to
hope - You see I have written hope, not think.  So let it be hope.  -
that the one cannot escape the censure which no doubt he deserves, that
the other no longer lack the commiseration which let us hope (while we
are hoping) that they have longed for, if only for the reason that they
are about to receive it whether they will or no.  The weather was
beautiful though cold and they had to use picks to break the earth for
the grave yet in one of the deeper clods I saw a redworm doubtless alive
when the clod was thrown up though by afternoon it was frozen again.

'So it took Charles Bon and his mother to get rid of old Tom, and
Charles Bon and the octoroon to get rid of Judith, and Charles Bon and
Clytie to get rid of Henry; and Charles Bon's mother and Charles Bon's
grandmother got rid of Charles Bon.  So it takes two niggers to get rid
of one Sutpen, don't it?" Quentin did not answer; evidently Shreve did
not want an answer now; he continued almost without a pause: 'Which is
all right, it's fine; it clears the whole ledger, you can tear all the
pages out and burn them, except for one thing.  And do you know what
that is ?" Perhaps he hoped for an answer this time, or perhaps he
merely paused for emphasis, since he got no answer.  'You've got one
nigger left.  One nigger Sutpen left.  Of course you can't catch him and
you don't even always see him and you never will be able to use him. But
you've got him there still.

You still hear him at night sometimes.  Don't you?"

'Yes,' Quentin said.

'And so do you know what I think ?" Now he did expect an answer, and now
he got one:

'No,' Quentin said.

'Do you want to know what I think?"

'No,' Quentin said.

'Then I'll tell you.  I think that in time the Jim Bonds are going to
conquer the western hemisphere.  Of course it won't quite be in our time
and of course as they spread toward the poles they will bleach out again
like the rabbits and the birds do, so they won't show up so sharp
against the snow.  But it will still be Jim Bond; and so in a few
thousand years, I who regard you will also have sprung from the loins of
African kings.  Now I want you to tell me just one thing more.  Why do
you hate the South ?"

'I don't hate it,' Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately; 'I don't
hate it,' he said.  I don't hate it he thought, panting in the cold air,
the iron New England dark; I don't.  I don't!  I don't hate it!  I don't
hate it!


1807 Thomas Sutpen born in West Virginia mountains.  Poor whites of
Scottish-English stock.  Large family.

1817 Sutpen family moved down into Tidewater Virginia, Sutpen ten years

1818 Ellen Coldfield born in Tennessee.

1820 Sutpen ran away from home.  Fourteen years old.

1827 Sutpen married first wife in Haiti.

1828 Goodhue Coldfield moved to Yoknapatawpha County (Jefferson)
Mississippi: mother, sister, wife, and daughter Ellen.

1829 Charles Bon born, Haiti.

1831 Sutpen learns his wife has Negro blood, repudiates her and child.

1833 Sutpen appears in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, takes up land,
builds his house.

1834 Clytemnestra (Clytie) born to slave woman.

1838 Sutpen married Ellen Coldfield.

1839 Henry Sutpen born, Sutpen's Hundred.

1841 Judith Sutpen born.

1845 Rosa Coldfield born.

1850 Wash Jones moves into abandoned fishing camp on Sutpen's
plantation, with his daughter.

1853 Milly Jones born to Wash Jones' daughter.

1859 Henry Sutpen and Charles Bon meet at University of Mississippi.
Judith and Charles meet that Christmas.

Charles Etienne Saint Valery Bon born, New Orleans.

1860 Christmas, Sutpen forbids marriage between Judith and Bon.

Henry repudiates his birthright, departs with Bon.

1861 SSutpen, Henry, and Bon depart for war.

1862 Ellen Coldfield dies.

1864 Goodhue Coldfield dies.

1865 Henry kills Bon at gates.  Rosa Coldfield moves out to Sutpen's

1866 Sutpen becomes engaged to Rosa Coldfield, insults her.  She returns
to Jefferson.

1867 Sutpen takes up with Milly Jones.

1869 Milly's child is born.  Wash Jones kills Sutpen.

1870 Charles E.  St V.  Bon appears at Sutpen's Hundred.

1871 Clytie fetches Charles E.  St V.  Bon to Sutpen's Hundred to live.

1881 Charles E.  St V.  Bon returns with Negro wife.

1882 Jim Bond born.

1884 Judith and Charles E.  St V.  Bon die of smallpox.




Rosa Coldfield and Quentin find Henry Sutpen hidden in the house.

Rosa Coldfield goes out to fetch Henry to town, Clytie sets fire to the


THOMAS SUTPEN Born in West Virginia mountains, 1807.  One of several
children of poor whites, Scotch-English stock.  Established plantation
of Sutpen's Hundred in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, 1833.  Married
(x) Eulalia Bon, Haiti, 1827.

(2) Ellen Coldfield, Jefferson, Mississippi, 1838.  Mayor, later
Colonel, --th Mississippi Infantry, C.S.A.  Died, Sutpen's Hundred,

EULALIA BON Born in Haiti.  Only child of Haitian sugar planter of
French descent.

Married Thomas Sutpen, 1827, divorced from him, 1831.  Died in New
Orleans, date unknown.

CHARLES BON Son of Thomas and Eulalia Bon Sutpen.  Only child.

Attended University of Mississippi, where he met Henry Sutpen and became
engaged to Judith Private, later lieutenant, --th Company, (University
Grays) --th Mississippi Infantry, C.S.A.  Died, Sutpen's Hundred, 1865.

GOODHUE COLDFIELD Born in Tennessee.  Moved to Jefferson, Miss 1828,
established small mercantile business.  Died, Jefferson, 1864.

ELLEN COLDFIELD Daughter of Goodhue Coldfield.  Born in Tennessee, 1818.
Married Thomas Sutpen, Jefferson, Miss 1838.  Died, Sutpen's Hundred,

ROSA COLDFIELD Daughter of Goodhue Coldfield.  Born, Jefferson, 1845.
Died, Jefferson, 1910.

HENRY SUTPEN Born, Sutpen's Hundred, 1839, son of Thomas and Ellen
Coldfield Sutpen.  Attended University of Mississippi.  Private, --th
Company, (University Grays) --th Mississippi Infantry, C.S.A.  Died,
Sutpen's Hundred, 1910.

JUDITH SUTPEN Daughter oЈ Thomas and Ellen Coldfield Sutpen.

Born, Sutpen's .Hundred, I$4I.

Became engaged to Charles Bon, I$6o.  Died, Sutpen's hundred, 1884.

CLYTEMNESTRA SUTPEN Daughter of Thomas Sutpen and a Negro slave.

Born, Sutpen's Hundred, I834.

Died, Sutpen's Hundred, 9o.

WASH JONES Date and location of birth unknown.  Squatter, residing in an
abandoned fishing camp belonging to Thomas Sutpen, hanger-on of Sutpen,
handy man about Sutpen's place while Sutpen was away between '6I and
'65.  Died, Sutpen's Hundred, x869.

MELICENT JONES Daughter of Wash Jones.  Date of birth unknown.

.  'Why did she do that?" Quentin didn't answer.  He lay still and rigid
on his back with the cold New England night on his face and the blood
running warm in his rigid body and limbs, breathing hard but slow, his
eyes wide open upon the window, thinking "Nevermore of peace.  Nevermore
of peace.

Nevermore Nevermore Nevermore." 'Do you suppose it was because she knew
what was going to happen when she told it, took any steps, that it would
be over then, finished, and that hating is like drink or drugs and she
had used it so long that she did not dare risk cutting off the supply,
destroying the source, the very poppy's root and seed ?" Still Quentin
didn't answer.  ' But at last she did reconcile herself to it, for his
sake, to save him, to bring him into town where the doctors could save
him, and so she told it then, got the ambulance and the men and went out
there.  And old Clytie maybe watching for just that out of the upstairs
window for three months now: and maybe even your old man was right this
time and when she saw the ambulance turn into the gate she believed it
was that same black wagon for which she probably had had that nigger boy
watching for three months now, coming to carry Henry into town for the
white folks to hang him for shooting Charles Bon.  And I guess it had
been him who had kept that closet under the stairs full of tinder and
trash all that time too, like she told him to, maybe he not getting it
then either but keeping it full just like she told him, the kerosene and
all, for three months now, until the hour when he could begin to howl -'
Now the chimes began, ringing for one o'clock.  Shreve ceased, as if he
were waiting for them to cease or perhaps were even listening to them.
Quentin lay still too, as if he were listening too, though he was not;
he just heard them without listening as he heard Shreve without
listening or answering, until they ceased, died away into the icy air
delicate and faint and musical as struck glass.  And he, Quentin, could
see that too, though he had not been there - the ambulance with Miss
Coldfield between the driver and the second man, perhaps a deputy
sheriff, in the shawl surely and perhaps even with the umbrella too,
though probably no hatchet nor flashlight in it now, entering the gate
and picking its way gingerly up the rutted and frozen (and now partially
thawed) drive; and it may have been the howling or it may have been the
deputy or the driver or it may have been she who cried first: "It's on
fire!" though she would not have cried that; she would have said,
'Faster.  Faster,' leaning forward on this seat too the small furious
grim implacable woman not much larger than a child.  But the ambulance
could not go fast in that drive; doubtless Clytie knew, counted upon,
that; it would be a good three minutes before it could reach the house,
the monstrous tinder-dry rotten shell seeping smoke through the warped
cracks in the weather-boarding as if it were made of gauze wire and
filled with roaring and beyond which somewhere something lurked which
bellowed, something human since the bellowing was in human speech, even
though the reason for it would not have seemed to be.  And the deputy
and the driver would spring out and Miss Coldfield would stumble out and
follow them, running too, onto the gallery too, where the creature which
bellowed followed them, wraith-like and insubstantial, looking at them
out of the smoke, whereupon the deputy even turned and whereupon he
retreated, fled, though the howling did not diminish nor even seem to
get any further away.  They ran onto the gallery too, into the seeping
smoke, Miss Coldfield screaming harshly, 'The window!  The window!" to
the second man at the door.  But the door was not locked; it swung
inward; the blast of heat struck them.  The entire staircase was on
fire.  Yet they had to hold her; Quentin could see it: the light thin
furious creature making no sound at all now, struggling with silent and
bitter fury, clawing and scratching and biting at the two men who held
her, who dragged her back and down the steps as the draft created by the
open door seemed to explode like powder among the flames as the whole
lower hall vanished.  He, Quentin, could see it, could see the deputy
holding her while the driver backed the ambulance to safety and
returned, the three faces all a little wild now since they must have
believed her - the three of them staring, glaring at the doomed house:
and then for a moment maybe Clytie appeared in that window from which
she must have been watching the gates constantly day and night for three
months - the tragic gnome's face beneath the clean headrag, against a
red background of fire, seen for a moment between two swirls of smoke,
looking down at them, perhaps not even now with triumph and no more of
despair than it had ever worn, possibly even serene above the melting
clapboards before the smoke swirled across it again - and he, Jim Bond,
the scion, the last of his race, seeing it too now and howling with
human reason now since now even he could have known what he was howling
about.  But they couldn't catch him.  They could hear him; he didn't
seem to ever get any further away but they couldn't get any nearer and
maybe in time they could not even locate the direction any more of the
howling.  They - the driver and the deputy - held Miss Coldfield as she
struggled: he (Quentin) could see her, them; he had not been there but
he could see her, struggling and fighting like a doll in a nightmare,
making no sound, foaming a little at the mouth, her face even in the
sunlight lit by one last wild crimson reflection as the house collapsed
and roared away, and there was only the sound of the idiot Negro left.

'And so it was the Aunt Rosa that came back to town inside the
ambulance,' Shreve said.  Quentin did not answer; he did not even say,
Miss Rosa.  He just lay there staring at the window without.  even
blinking, breathing the chill heady pure snowgleamed darkness.  'And she
went to bed because it was all finished now, there was nothing left now,
nothing out there now but that idiot boy to lurk around those ashes and
those four gutted chimneys and howl until someone came and drove him
away.  They couldn't catch him and nobody ever seemed to make him go
very far away, he just stopped howling for a little while.  Then after
awhile they would begin to hear him again.  And so she died." Quentin
did not answer, staring at the window; then he could not tell if it was
the actual window or the window's pale rectangle upon his eyelids,
though after a moment it began to emerge.  It began to take shape in its
same curious, light, gravity-defying attitude - the oncefolded sheet out
of the wistaria Mississippi summer, the cigar smell, the random blowing
of the fireflies.  'The South,' Shreve said.

'The South.  Jesus.  No wonder you folks all outlive yourselves by years
and years and years." It was becoming quite distinct; he would be able
to decipher the words soon, in a moment; even almost now, now, now.

'I am older at twenty than a lot of people who have died,' Quentin said.

'And more people have died than have been twenty-one,' Shreve said.  Now
he (Quentin) could read it, could finish it - the sloped whimsical
ironic hand out of Mississippi attenuated, into the iron snow:

- or perhaps there is.  Surely it can harm no one to believe that
perhaps she has escaped not at all the privilege of being outraged and
dreaded and of not forgiving but on the contrary has herself gained that
place or bourne where the objects of the outrage and of the
commiseration also are no longer ghosts but are actual people to be
actual recipients of the hatred and the pity.  It will do no harm to
hope - You see I have written hope, not think.  So let it be hope.  -
that the one cannot escape the censure which no doubt he deserves, that
the other no longer lack the commiseration which let us hope (while we
are hoping) that they have longed for, if only for the reason that they
are about to receive it whether they will or no.  The weather was
beautiful though cold and they had to use picks to break the earth for
the grave yet in one of the deeper clods I saw a redworm doubtless alive
when the clod was thrown up though by afternoon it was frozen again.

'So it took Charles Bon and his mother to get rid of old Tom, and
Charles Bon and the octoroon to get rid of Judith, and Charles Bon and
Clytie to get rid of Henry; and Charles Bon's mother and Charles Bon's
grandmother got rid of Charles Bon.  So it takes two niggers to get rid
of one Sutpen, don't it?" Quentin did not answer; evidently Shreve did
not want an answer now; he continued almost without a pause: 'Which is
all right, it's fine; it clears the whole ledger, you can tear all the
pages out and burn them, except for one thing.  And do you know what
that is ?" Perhaps he hoped for an answer this time, or perhaps he
merely paused for emphasis, since he got no answer.  'You've got one
nigger left.  One nigger Sutpen left.  Of course you can't catch him and
you don't even always see him and you never will be able to use him. But
you've got him there still.

You still hear him at night sometimes.  Don't you?"

'Yes,' Quentin said.

'And so do you know what I think ?" Now he did expect an answer, and now
he got one:

'No,' Quentin said.

'Do you want to know what I think?"

'No,' Quentin said.

'Then I'll tell you.  I think that in time the Jim Bonds are going to
conquer the western hemisphere.  Of course it won't quite be in our time
and of course as they spread toward the poles they will bleach out again
like the rabbits and the birds do, so they won't show up so sharp
against the snow.  But it will still be Jim Bond; and so in a few
thousand years, I who regard you will also have sprung from the loins of
African kings.  Now I want you to tell me just one thing more.  Why do
you hate the South ?"

'I don't hate it,' Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately; 'I don't
hate it,' he said.  I don't hate it he thought, panting in the cold air,
the iron New England dark; I don't.  I don't!  I don't hate it!  I don't
hate it!


1807 Thomas Sutpen born in West Virginia mountains.  Poor whites of
Scottish-English stock.  Large family.

1817 Sutpen family moved down into Tidewater Virginia, Sutpen ten years

1818 Ellen Coldfield born in Tennessee.

1820 Sutpen ran away from home.  Fourteen years old.

1827 Sutpen married first wife in Haiti.

1828 Goodhue Coldfield moved to Yoknapatawpha County (Jefferson)
Mississippi: mother, sister, wife, and daughter Ellen.

1829 Charles Bon born, Haiti.

1831 Sutpen learns his wife has Negro blood, repudiates her and child.

1833 Sutpen appears in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, takes up land,
builds his house.

1834 Clytemnestra (Clytie) born to slave woman.

1838 Sutpen married Ellen Coldfield.

1839 Henry Sutpen born, Sutpen's Hundred.

1841 Judith Sutpen born.

1845 Rosa Coldfield born.

1850 Wash Jones moves into abandoned fishing camp on Sutpen's
plantation, with his daughter.

1853 Milly Jones born to Wash Jones' daughter.

1859 Henry Sutpen and Charles Bon meet at University of Mississippi.
Judith and Charles meet that Christmas.

Charles Etienne Saint Valery Bon born, New Orleans.

1860 Christmas, Sutpen forbids marriage between Judith and Bon.

Henry repudiates his birthright, departs with Bon.

1861 SSutpen, Henry, and Bon depart for war.

1862 Ellen Coldfield dies.

1864 Goodhue Coldfield dies.

1865 Henry kills Bon at gates.  Rosa Coldfield moves out to Sutpen's

1866 Sutpen becomes engaged to Rosa Coldfield, insults her.  She returns
to Jefferson.

1867 Sutpen takes up with Milly Jones.

1869 Milly's child is born.  Wash Jones kills Sutpen.

1870 Charles E.  St V.  Bon appears at Sutpen's Hundred.

1871 Clytie fetches Charles E.  St V.  Bon to Sutpen's Hundred to live.

1881 Charles E.  St V.  Bon returns with Negro wife.

1882 Jim Bond born.

1884 Judith and Charles E.  St V.  Bon die of smallpox.




Rosa Coldfield and Quentin find Henry Sutpen hidden in the house.

Rosa Coldfield goes out to fetch Henry to town, Clytie sets fire to the


THOMAS SUTPEN Born in West Virginia mountains, 1807.  One of several
children of poor whites, Scotch-English stock.  Established plantation
of Sutpen's Hundred in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, 1833.  Married
(x) Eulalia Bon, Haiti, 1827.

(2) Ellen Coldfield, Jefferson, Mississippi, 1838.  Mayor, later
Colonel, --th Mississippi Infantry, C.S.A.  Died, Sutpen's Hundred,

EULALIA BON Born in Haiti.  Only child of Haitian sugar planter of
French descent.

Married Thomas Sutpen, 1827, divorced from him, 1831.  Died in New
Orleans, date unknown.

CHARLES BON Son of Thomas and Eulalia Bon Sutpen.  Only child.

Attended University of Mississippi, where he met Henry Sutpen and became
engaged to Judith Private, later lieutenant, --th Company, (University
Grays) --th Mississippi Infantry, C.S.A.  Died, Sutpen's Hundred, 1865.

GOODHUE COLDFIELD Born in Tennessee.  Moved to Jefferson, Miss 1828,
established small mercantile business.  Died, Jefferson, 1864.

ELLEN COLDFIELD Daughter of Goodhue Coldfield.  Born in Tennessee, 1818.
Married Thomas Sutpen, Jefferson, Miss 1838.  Died, Sutpen's Hundred,

ROSA COLDFIELD Daughter of Goodhue Coldfield.  Born, Jefferson, 1845.
Died, Jefferson, 1910.

HENRY SUTPEN Born, Sutpen's Hundred, 1839, son of Thomas and Ellen
Coldfield Sutpen.  Attended University of Mississippi.  Private, --th
Company, (University Grays) --th Mississippi Infantry, C.S.A.  Died,
Sutpen's Hundred, 1910.

JUDITH SUTPEN Daughter of Thomas and Ellen Coldfield Sutpen.

Born, Sutpen's Hundred, 1841.

Became engaged to Charles Bon, 1860.  Died, Sutpen's hundred, 1884.

CLYTEMNESTRA SUTPEN Daughter of Thomas Sutpen and a Negro slave.

Born, Sutpen's Hundred, 1834.  Died, Sutpen's Hundred, 1910.

WASH JONES Date and location of birth unknown.  Squatter, residing in an
abandoned fishing camp belonging to Thomas Sutpen, hanger-on of Sutpen,
handy man about Sutpen's place while Sutpen was away between '61 and
'65.  Died, Sutpen's Hundred, 1869.

MELICENT JONES Daughter of Wash Jones.  Date of birth unknown.

Rumored to have died in a Memphis brothel.

MILLY JONES Daughter of Melicent Jones.  Born 1853.  Died, Sutpen's
Hundred, 1869.

UNNAMED INFANT Daughter of Thomas Sutpen and Milly Jones.  Born, died,
Sutpen's Hundred, same day, 1869.

CHARLES ETIENNE SAINT-VALERY BON Only child of Charles Bon and an
octoroon mistress whose name is not recorded.  Born, New Orleans, 1859.

Married a full-blood Negress, name unknown, 1879.  Died, Sutpen's
Hundred, 1884.

jim BOND (Bon) Son of Charles Etienne Saint-Valery Bon.  Born, Sutpen's
Hundred, 1882.  Disappeared from Sutpen's Hundred, 1910.

Whereabouts unknown.

QUENTIN COMPSON Grandson of Thomas Sutpen's first Yoknapatawpha County

Born, Jefferson, 1891.  Attended Harvard, 1909-10.  Died, Cambridge,
Mass., 1910.

SHREVLIN MCCANNON Born, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 1890.

Attended Harvard, 1909-14.  Captain, Royal Army Medical Corps, Canadian
Expeditionary Forces, France, 1914-18.  Now a practising surgeon,
Edmonton, Alta.

Absalom, Absalom!

Quentin Compson and Shreve, his Harvard room-mate, are obsessed by the
rise and fall of Thomas Sutpen.  As a poor white boy, Sutpen was turned
away from a plantation owner's mansion by a Negro butler.  From then on,
Sutpen determined to be a Virginia plantation owner himself.  ..  but
tragically his values remain those of the butler.

His ambitions are soon realized, plantation, marriage, children, his own
troop to fight in the Civil War...  but Sutpen returned to find his
estate in ruins.  Worse, Charles, son of Sutpen's first repudiated
marriage to a partly coloured girl, seeks engagement to Sutpen's
daughter, Judith.  When Charles realizes this, he offers to give Up
Judith for recognition by Sutpen.  Sutpen refuses, And, in time, his
dynastic ambitions shrink to an idiot gibbering in an overgrown

'The novel in which Faulkner most profoundly and completely says what he
has to say about the South and the human condition' - Walter Allen

The cover, designed by Germano Facetti, shows a detail from 'We Did Not
Know What Happened to Us' by Ben Shahn, in the National Collection of
Fine Arts, Washington D.C.  (Bisonte)

For copyright reasons this edition is not for sale

in the U.S.A: or Canada

United Kingdom 40p Australia $1.35 New Zealand $1.35 South Africa R0.95


ISBN 0 14 00.3254 1