From a little after two o'clock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that — a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) became latticed with yellow slashes full of dust motes which Quentin thought of as being flecks of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them.
There was a wistaria vine blooming for the second time that summer on a wooden trellis before one window, into which sparrows came now and then in random gusts, making a dry vivid dusty sound before going away: and opposite Quentin, Miss Coldfield in the eternal black which she had worn for forty-three years now, whether for sister, father, or nothusband none knew, sitting so bolt upright in the straight hard chair that was so tall for her that her legs hung straight and rigid as if she had iron shinbones' and ankles, clear of the floor with that air of impotent and static rage like children's feet, and talking in that grim haggard amazed Voice until at last listening would renege and hearing-sense self-confound and the long-dead object of her impotent yet indomitable frustration would appear, as though by outraged recapitulation evoked, quiet inattentive and harmless, out of the biding and dreamy and victorious dust.
Her voice would not cease, it would just vanish. There would be the dim coffin-smelling gloom sweet and oversweet with the twice-bloomed wistaria against the outer wall by the savage quiet September sun impacted distilled and hyperdistilled, into which came now and then the loud cloudy flutter of the sparrows like a flat limber stick whipped by an idle boy, and the rank smell of female old flesh long embattled in virginity while the wan haggard face watched him above the faint triangle of lace at wrists and throat from the too tall chair in which she resembled a crucified child; and the voice not ceasing but vanishing into and then out of the long intervals like a stream, a trickle running from patch to patch of dried sand, and the ghost mused with shadowy docility as if it were the voice which he haunted where a more fortunate one would have had a house. Out of quiet thunderclap he would abrupt (man-horse-demon) upon a scene peaceful and decorous as a schoolprize water color, faint sulphur-reek still in hair clothes and beard, with grouped behind him his band of wild niggers like beasts half tamed to walk upright like men, in attitudes wild and reposed, and manacled among them the French architect with his air grim, haggard, and taller-ran. Immobile, bearded, and hand palm lifted the horseman sat; behind him the wild blacks and the captive architect huddled quietly, carrying in bloodless paradox the shovels and picks and axes of peaceful conquest. Then in the long unamaze Quentin seemed to watch them overrun suddenly the hundred square miles of tranquil and astonished earth and drag house and formal gardens violently out of the soundless Nothing and clap them down like cards upon a table beneath the up-palm immobile and pontific, creating the Sutpen's Hundred, the Be Sutpen's Hundred like the oldentime Be Light. Then hearing would reconcile and he would seem to listen to two separate Quentins now the Quentin Compson preparing for Harvard in the South, the deep South dead since 1865 and people with garrulous outraged baffled ghosts, listening, having to listen, to one of the ghosts which had refused to lie still even longer than most had, telling him about old ghost-times; and the Quentin Compson who was still too young to deserve yet to be a ghost, but nevertheless having to be one for all that, since he was born and bred in the deep South the same as she was the two separate Quentins now talking to one another in the long silence of notpeople, in notlanguage, like this: It seems that this demon — his name was Sutpen (Colonel Sutpen) — Colonel Sutpen. Who came out of nowhere and without warning upon the land with a band of strange niggers and built a plantation — (Tore violently a plantation, Miss Rosa Coldfield says) — tore violently. and married her sister Ellen and begot a son and a daughter which — (without gentleness begot, Miss Rosa Coldfield says) — without gentleness.
Which should have been the jewels of his pride and the shield and comfort of his old age, only — (Only they destroyed him or something or he destroyed them or something And died) — and died. Without regret, Miss Rosa Coldfield says — (Save by her) Yes, save by her. (And by Quentin Compson) Yes. And by Quentin Compson.
'Because you are going away to attend the college at Harvard they tell me,' Miss Coldfield said. 'So I don't imagine you will ever come back here and settle down as a country lawyer in a little town like Jefferson, since Northern people have already seen to it that there is little left in the South for a young man. So maybe you will enter the literary profession as so many Southern gentlemen and gentlewomen too are doing now and maybe some day you will remember this and write about it. You will be married then I expect and perhaps your wife will want a new gown or a new chair for the house and you can write this and submit it to the magazines. Perhaps you will even remember kindly then the old woman who made you spend a whole afternoon sitting indoors and listening while she talked about people and events you were fortunate enough to escape yourself when you wanted to be out among young friends of your own age." 'Yessum,' Quentin said. Only she don't mean that, he thought. It's because she wants it told. It was still early then. He had yet in his pocket the note which he had received by the hand of a small Negro boy just before noon, asking him to call and see her — the quaint, stiffly formal request which was actually a summons, out of another world almost — the queer archaic sheet of ancient good notepaper written over with the neat faded cramped script which, due to his astonishment at the request from a woman three times his age and whom he had known all his life without having exchanged a hundred words with her or perhaps to the fact that he was only twenty years old, he did not recognize as revealing a character cold, implacable, and even ruthless. He obeyed it immediately after the noon meal, walking the half mile between his home and hers through the dry dusty heat of early September and so into the house. It too was somehow smaller than its actual size — it was of two storeys — unpainted and a little shabby, yet with an air, a quality of grim endurance as though like her it had been created to fit into and complement a world in all ways a little smaller than the one in which it found itself. There in the gloom of the shuttered hallway whose air was even hotter than outside, as if there were prisoned in it like in a tomb all the suspiration of slow heatladen time which had recurred during the forty-five years, the small figure in black which did not even rustle, the wan triangle of lace at wrists and throat, the dim face looking at him with an expression speculative, urgent, and intent, waited to invite him in.
It's because she wants it told, he thought, so that people whom she will never see and whose names she will never hear and who have never heard her name nor seen her face will read it and know at last why God let us lose the war: that only through the blood of our men and the tears of our women could He slay this demon and efface his name and lineage from the earth. Then almost immediately he decided that neither was this the reason why she had sent the note, and sending it, why to him, since if she had merely wanted it told, written, and even printed, she would not have needed to call in anybody — a woman who even in his (Quentin's) father's youth had already established herself as the town's and the county's poetess laureate by issuing to the stern and meager subscription list of the county newspaper poems, ode, eulogy, and epitaph, out of some bitter and implacable reserve of undefeat.
It would be three hours yet before he would learn why she had sent for him because part of it, the first part of it, Quentin already knew.
It was a part of his twenty years' heritage of breathing the same ai? and hearing his father talk about the man Sutpen; a part of the town's — Jefferson's — eighty years' heritage of the same air which the man himself had breathed between this September afternoon in 1909 and that Sunday morning in June in 1833 when he first rode into town out of no discernible past and acquired his land no one knew how and built his house, his mansion, apparently out of nothing and married Ellen Coldfield and begot his two children — the son who widowed the daughter who had not yet been a bride — and so accomplished his allotted course to its violent (Miss Coldfield at least would have said, just) end.
Quentin had grown up with that; the mere names were interchangeable and almost myriad. His childhood was full of them; his very body was an empty hall echoing with sonorous defeated names; he was not a being, an entity, he was a commonwealth.
He was a barracks filled with stubborn backlooking ghosts still recovering, even forty-three years afterward, from the fever which had cured the disease, waking from the fever without even knowing that it had been the fever itself which they had fought against and not the sickness, looking with stubborn recalcitrance backward beyond the fever and into the disease with actual regret, weak from the fever yet free of the disease and not even aware that the freedom was that of impotence. ('But why tell me about it?" he said to his father that evening, when he returned home, after she had dismissed him at last with his promise to return for her in the buggy; ' why tell me about it? What is it to me that the land of the earth or whatever it was got tired of him at last and turned and destroyed him? What if it did destroy her family too? It's going to turn and destroy us all some day, whether our name happens to be Sutpen or Coldfield or not." 'Ah,' Mr Compson said. 'Years ago we in the South made our women into ladies. Then the War came and made the ladies into ghosts. So what else can we do, being gentlemen, but listen to them being ghosts?" Then he said, 'Do you want to know the real reason why she chose you?" They were sitting on the gallery after supper, waiting for the time Miss Coldfield had set for Quentin to call for her. 'It's because she will need someone to go with her — a man, a gentleman, yet one still young enough to do what she wants, do it the way she wants it done. And she chose you because your grandfather was the nearest thing to a friend Sutpen ever had in this county, and she probably believes that Sutpen may have told your grandfather something about himself and her, about that engagement which did not engage, that troth which failed to plight.
Might even have told your grandfather the reason why at the last she refused to marry him. — And that your grandfather might have told me and I might have told you. And so, in a sense, the affair, no matter what happens out there tonight, will still be in the family; the skeleton (if it be a skeleton) still in the closet. She may believe that if it hadn't been for your grandfather's friendship, Sutpen could never have got a foothold here, and that if he had not got that foothold, he could not have married Ellen. So maybe she considers you partly responsible through heredity for what happened to her and her family through him." Whatever her reason for choosing him, whether it was that or not, the getting to it, Quentin thought, was taking a long time. Meanwhile, as though in inverse ratio to the vanishing voice, the invoked ghost of the man whom she could neither forgive nor revenge herself upon began to assume a quality almost of solidity, permanence.
Itself circumambient and enclosed by its effluvium of hell, its aura of unregeneration, it mused (mused, thought, seemed to possess sentience, as if, though dispossessed of the peace — who was impervious anyhow to fatigue — which she declined to give it, it was still irrevocably outside the scope of her hurt or harm) with that quality peaceful and now harmless and not even very attentive — the ogre-shape which, as Miss Coldfield's voice went on, resolved out of itself before Quentin's eyes the two half-ogre children, the three of them forming a shadowy background for the fourth one. This was the mother, the dead sister Ellen: this Niobe without tears who had conceived to the demon in a kind of nightmare, who even while alive had moved but without life and grieved but without weeping, who — now had an air of tranquil and unwitting desolation, not is if she had either outlived the others or had died first, but as if she had never lived at all. Quentin seemed to see them, the four of them arranged into-the conventional family group of the period, with formal and lifeless decorum, and seen now as the fading and ancient photograph itself would have been seen enlarged and hung on the wall behind and above the voice and of whose presence there the voice's owner was not even aware, as if she (Miss Coldfield) had never seen this room before — a picture, a group which even to Quentin had a quality strange, contradictory, and bizarre; not quite comprehensible, not (even to twenty) quite right — a group the last member of which had been dead twenty-five years and the first, fifty, evoked now out of the airless gloom of a dead house between an old woman's grim and implacable unforgiving and the passive chafing of a youth of twenty telling himself even amid the voice maybe you have to know anybody awful well to love them but when you have hated somebody for forty-three years you will know them awful well so maybe it's better then, maybe it's fine then because after forty-three years they cant any longer surprise you or make you either very contented or very mad. And maybe it (the voice, the talking, the incredulous and unbearable amazement) had even been a cry aloud once, Quentin thought, long ago when she was a girl of young and indomitable unregret, of indictment of blind circumstance and savage event; but not now: now only the lonely thwarted old female flesh embattled for forty-three years in the old insult, the old unforgiving outraged and betrayed by the final and complete affront which was Sutpen's death: 'He wasn't a gentleman. He wasn't even a gentleman. He came here with a horse and two pistols and a name which nobody ever heard before, knew for certain was his own any more than the horse was his own or even the pistols, seeking some place to hide himself, and Yoknapatawpha County supplied him with it. He sought the guarantee of reputable men to barricade him from the other and later strangers who might come seeking him in turn, and Jefferson gave him that. Then he needed respectability, the shield of a virtuous woman, to make his position impregnable even against the men who had given him protection on that inevitable day and hour when even they must rise against him in scorn and horror and outrage; and it was mine and Ellen's father who gave him that. Oh, I hold no brief for Ellen: blind romantic fool who had only youth and inexperience to excuse her even if that; blind romantic fool, then later blind woman mother fool when she no longer had either youth or inexperience to excuse her, when she lay dying in that house for which she had exchanged pride and peace both and nobody there but the daughter who was already the same as a widow without ever having been a bride and was, three years later, to be a widow sure enough without having been anything at all, and the son who had repudiated the very roof under which he had been born and to which he would return but once more before disappearing for good, and that as a murderer and almost a fratricide; and he, fiend blackguard and devil, in Virginia fighting, where the chances of the earth's being rid of him were the best anywhere under the sun, yet Ellen and I both knowing that he would return, that every man in our armies would have to fall before bullet or ball found him; and only I, a child, a child, mind you, four years younger than the very niece I was asked to save, for Ellen to turn to and say, "Protect her. Protect Judith at least."
Yes, blind romantic fool, who did not even have that hundred miles of plantation which apparently moved our 'father nor that big house and the notion of slaves underfoot day and night which reconciled, I wont say moved, her aunt. No: just the face of a man who contrived somehow to swagger even on a horse — a man who so far as anyone (including the father who was to give him a daughter in marriage) knew either had no past at all or did not dare reveal it — a man who rode into town out of nowhere with a horse and two pistols and a herd of wild beasts that he had hunted down singlehanded because he was stronger in fear than even they were in whatever heathen place he had fled from, and that French architect who looked like he had been hunted down and caught in turn by the Negroes — a man who fled here and hid, concealed himself behind respectability, behind that hundred miles of land which he took from a tribe of ignorant Indians, nobody knows how, and a house the size of a courthouse where he lived for three years without a window or door or bedstead in it and still called it Sutpen's Hundred as if it had been a king's grant in unbroken perpetuity from his great grandfather — a home, position: a wife and family which, being necessary: to concealment, he accepted along with the rest of respectability as he would have accepted the necessary discomfort and even pain of the briers and thorns in a thicket if the thicket could have given him the protection he sought. 'No: not even a gentleman. Marrying Ellen or marrying ten thousand Ellens could not have made him one. Not that he wanted to be one, or even be taken for one. No. That was not necessary, since all he would need would be Ellen's and our father's names on a wedding license (or on any other patent of respectability) that people could look at and read just as he would have wanted our father's (or any other reputable man's) signature on a note of hand because our father knew who his father was in Tennessee and who his grandfather had been in Virginia and our neighbors and the people we lived among knew that we knew and we knew they knew we knew and we knew that they would have believed us about whom and where he came from even if we had lied, just as anyone could have looked at him once and known that he would be lying about who and where and why he came from by the very fact that apparently he had to refuse to say at all. — And the very fact that he had had to choose respectability to hide behind was proof enough (if anyone needed further proof) that what he fled from must have been some opposite of respectability too dark to talk about.
Because he was too young. He was just twenty-five and a man of twenty-five does not voluntarily undertake the hardship and privation of clearing virgin land and establishing a plantation in a new country just for money; not a young man without any past that he apparently cared to discuss, in Mississippi in 1833 with a river full of steamboats loaded with drunken fools covered with diamonds and bent on throwing away their cotton and slaves before the boat reached New Orleans — not with all this just one night's hard ride away and the only handicap or obstacle being the other blackguards or the risk of being put ashore on a sandbar, and at the remotest, a hemp rope. And he was no younger son sent out from some old quiet country like Virginia or Carolina with the surplus Negroes to take up new land, because anyone could look at those Negroes of his and tell that they may have come (and probably did) from a much older country than Virginia or Carolina but it wasn't a quiet one. And anyone could have looked once at his face and known that he would have chosen the river and even the certainty of the hemp rope, to undertaking what he undertook even if he had known that he would find gold buried and waiting for him in the very land which he had bought.
'No. I hold no more brief for Ellen than I do for myself. I hold even less for myself, because I had had twenty years in which to watch him, where Ellen had had but five. And not even those five to see him but only to hear at second hand what he was doing, and not even to hear more than half of that, since apparently half of what he actually did during those five years nobody at all knew about, and half of the remainder no man would have repeated to a wife, let alone a young girl; he came here and set up a raree show which lasted five years and Jefferson paid him for the entertainment by at least shielding him to the extent of not telling their womenfolks what he was doing.
But I had had all my life to watch him in, since apparently and for what reason Heaven has not seen fit to divulge, my life was destined to end on an afternoon in April forty-three years ago, since anyone who even had as little to call living as I had had up to that time would not call what I have had since living. I saw what had happened to Ellen, my sister. I saw her almost a recluse, watching those two doomed children growing up whom she was helpless to save. I saw the price which she had paid' for that house and that pride; I saw the notes of hand on pride and contentment and peace and all to which she had put her signature when she walked into the church that night, begin to fall due in succession. I saw Judith's marriage forbidden without rhyme or reason or shadow of excuse; I saw Ellen die with only me, a child, to turn to and ask to protect her remaining child; I saw Henry repudiate his home and birthright and then return and practically fling the bloody corpse of his sister's sweetheart at the hem of her wedding gown; I saw that man return the evil's source and head which had outlasted all its victims — who had created two children not only to destroy one another and his own line, but my line as well, yet I agreed to marry him.
'No. I hold no brief for myself. I don't plead youth, since what creature in the South since 1861, man woman nigger or mule, had had time or opportunity not only to have been young, but to have heard what being young was like from those who had. I don't plead propinquity: the fact that I, a woman young and at the age for marrying and in a time when most of the young men whom I would have known ordinarily were dead on lost battlefields, that I lived for two years under the same roof with him. I don't plead material necessity: the fact that, an orphan a woman and a pauper, I turned naturally not for protection but for actual food to my only kin: my dead sister's family: though I defy anyone to blame me, an orphan of twenty, a young woman without resources, who should desire not only to justify her situation but to vindicate the honor of a family the good name of whose women has never been impugned, by accepting the honorable proffer of marriage from the man whose food she was forced to subsist on. And most of all, I do not plead myself: a young woman emerging from a holocaust which had taken parents security and all from her, who had seen all that living meant to her fall into ruins about the feet of a few figures with the shapes of men but with the names and statures of heroes — a young woman, I say, thrown into daily and hourly contact with one of these men who, despite what he might have been at one time and despite what she might have believed or even known about him, had fought for four honorable years for the soil and traditions of the land where she had been born.
And the man who had done that, villain dyed though he be, would have possessed in her eyes, even if only from association with them, the stature and shape of a hero too, and now he also emerging from the same holocaust in which she had suffered, with nothing to face what the future held for the South but his bare hands and the sword which he at least had never surrendered and the citation for valor from his defeated Commander-in-Chief. Oh, he was brave. I have never gainsaid that. But that our cause, our very life and future hopes and past pride, should have been thrown into the balance with men like that to buttress it — men with valor and strength but without pity or honor.
Is it any wonder that Heaven saw fit to let us lose?" 'No'me,' Quentin said.
'But that it should have been our father, mine and Ellen's father of all of them that he knew, out of all the ones who used to go out there and drink and gamble with him and watch him fight those wild Negroes, whose daughters he might even have won at cards. That it should have been our father. How he could have approached papa, on what grounds; what there could have been besides the common civility of two men meeting on the street, between a man who came from nowhere or dared not tell where and our father; what there could have been between a man like that and papa — a Methodist steward, a merchant who was not rich and who not only could have done nothing under the sun to advance his fortunes or prospects but could by no stretch of the imagination even have owned anything that he would have wanted, even picked up in the road — a man who owned neither land nor slaves except two house servants whom he had freed as soon as he got them, bought them, who neither drank nor hunted nor gambled — what there could have been between a man who to my certain knowledge was never in a Jefferson church but three times in his life — the once when he first saw Ellen, the once when they rehearsed the wedding, the once when they performed it — a man that anyone could look at and see that, even if he apparently had none now, he was accustomed to having money and intended to have it again and would have no scruples about how he got it — that man to discover Ellen inside a church. In church, mind you, as though there were a fatality and curse on our family and God Himself were seeing to it that it was performed and discharged to the last drop and dreg. Yes, fatality and curse on the South and on our family as though because some ancestor of ours had elected to establish his descent in a land primed for fatality and already cursed with it, even if it had not rather been our family, our father's progenitors, who had incurred the curse long years before and had been coerced by Heaven into establishing itself in the land and the time already cursed. So that even I, a child still too young to know more than that, though Ellen was my own sister and Henry and Judith my own nephew and niece, I was not even to go out there save when papa or my aunt was with me and that I was not to play with Henry and Judith at all except in the house (and not because I was four years younger than Judith and six years younger than Henry: wasn't it to me that Ellen turned before she died and said "Protect them"?) — even I used to wonder what our father or his father could have done before he married our mother that Ellen and I would have to expiate and neither of us alone be sufficient; what crime committed that would leave our family cursed to be instruments not only for that man's destruction, but for our own." 'Yessum,' Quentin said.
'Yes,' the grim quiet voice said from beyond the unmoving triangle of dim lace; and now, among the musing and decorous wraiths Quentin seemed to watch resolving the figure of a little girl, in the prim skirts and pantalettes, the smooth prim decorous braids, of the dead time. She seemed to stand, to lurk, behind the neat picket fence of a small, grimly middleclass yard or lawn, looking out upon the whatever ogre-world of that quiet village street with that air of children born too late into their parents' lives and doomed to contemplate all human behavior through the complex and needless follies of adults — an air Cassandralike and humorless and profoundly and sternly prophetic out of all proportion to the actual years even of a child who had never been young. ' Because I was born too late. I was born twenty-two years too late — a child to whom out of the overheard talk of adults my own sister's and my sister's children's faces had come to be like the faces in an ogre-tale between supper and bed long before I Was old enough or big enough to be permitted to play with them, yet to whom that sister must have to turn at the last when she lay dying, with one of the children vanished and doomed to be a murderer and the other doomed to be a widow before she had even been a bride, and say, "Protect her, at least. At least save Judith." A child, yet whose child's vouchsafed instinct could make that reply which the mature wisdom of her elders apparently could not make: "Protect her? From whom and from what? He has already given them life: he does not need to harm them further. It is from themselves that they need protection." ' It should have been later than it was; it should have been late, yet the yellow slashes of mote-palpitant sunlight were latticed no higher up the impalpable wall of gloom which separated them; the sun seemed hardly to have moved. It (the talking, the telling) seemed (to him, to Quentin) to partake of that logic — and reason-flouting quality of a dream which the sleeper knows must have occurred, stillborn and complete, in a second, yet the very quality upon which it must depend to move the dreamer (verisimilitude) to credulity horror or pleasure or amazement — depends as completely upon a formal recognition of and acceptance of elapsed and yet-elapsing time as music or a printed tale. 'Yes. I was born too late. I was a child who was to remember those three faces (and his, too) as seen for the first time in the carriage on that first Sunday morning when this town finally realized that he had turned that road from Sutpen's Hundred in to the church into a race track. I was three then, and doubtless I had seen them before; I must have. But I do not remember it. I do not even remember ever having seen Ellen before that Sunday.
It was as though the sister whom I had never laid eyes on, who before I was born had vanished into the stronghold of an ogre or a djinn, was now to return through a dispensation of one day only, to the world which she had quitted, and I a child' of three, waked early for the occasion, dressed and curled as if for Christmas, for an occasion more serious than Christmas even, since now and at last this ogre or djinn had agreed for the sake of the wife and the children to come to church, to permit them at least to approach the vicinity of salvation, to at least give Ellen one chance to struggle with him for those children's souls on a battleground where she could be supported not only by Heaven but by her own family and people of her own kind; yes, even for the moment submitting himself to redemption, or lacking that, at least chivalrous for the instant even though still unregenerate.
That is what I expected. This is what I saw as I stood there before the church between papa and our aunt and waited for the carriage to arrive from the twelve-mile drive. And though I must have seen Ellen and the children before this, this is the vision of my first sight of them which I shall carry to my grave: a glimpse like the forefront of a tornado, of the carriage and Ellen's high white face within it and the two replicas of his face in miniature flanking her, and on the front seat the face and teeth of the wild Negro who was driving, and he, his face exactly like the Negro's save for the teeth (this because of his beard, doubtless) — all in a thunder and a fury of wild-eyed horses and of galloping and of dust.
'Oh, there were pleaty of them to abet him, assist him, make a race of it; ten o' clock on Sunday morning, the carriage racing on two wheels up to the very door to the church with that wild Negro in his Christian clothes looking exactly like a performing tiger in a linen duster and a top hat, and Ellen with no drop of blood in her face, holding those two children who were not crying and who did not need to be held, who sat on either side of her, perfectly Still too, with in their faces that infantile enormity which we did not then quite comprehend. Oh, yes, there were plenty to aid and abet him; even he could not have held a horse race without someone to race against. Because it was not even public opinion that stopped him, not even the men who might have had wives and children in carriages to be ridden down and into ditches: it was the minister himself, speaking in the name of the women of Jefferson and Yoknapatawpha County. So he quit coming to church himself; now it would be just Ellen and the children in the carriage on Sunday morning, so we knew now that at least there would be no betting now, since no one could say if it was an actual race or not, since now, with his face absent, it was only the wild Negro's perfectly inscrutable one with the teeth glinting a little, so that now we could never know if it were a race or a runaway, and if there was triumph, it was on the face twelve miles back there at Sutpen's Hundred, which did not even require to see or be present. It was the Negro now, who in the act of passing another carriage spoke to that team too as well as to his own — something without words, not needing words probably, in that tongue in which they slept in the mud of that swamp and brought here out of whatever dark swamp he had found them in and brought them here — the dust, the thunder, the carriage whirling up to the church door while women and children scattered and screamed before it and men caught at the bridles of the other team.
And the Negro would let Ellen and the children out at the door and take the carriage on around to the hitching grove and beat the horses for running away; there was even a fool who tried to interfere once, whereupon the Negro turned upon him with the stick lifted and his teeth showing a little and said, "Marster say; I do. You tell Marster." 'Yes. From them; from themselves. And this time it was not even the minister. It was Ellen. Our aunt and papa were talking and I came in and my aunt said "Go out and play", though even if I could not have heard through the door at all, I could have repeated the conversation for them: "Your daughter, your own daughter" my aunt said; and papa: "Yes. She is my daughter. When she wants me to interfere she will tell me so herself." Because this Sunday when Ellen and the children came out of the front door, it was not the carriage waiting, it was Ellen's phaeton with the old gentle mare which 'she drove and the stableboy that he had bought instead of the wild Negro. And Judith looked once at the phaeton and realized what it meant and began to scream, screaming and kicking while they carried her back into the house and put her to bed. No, he was not present. Nor do I claim a lurking triumphant face behind a window curtain. Probably he would have been as amazed as we were since we would all realize now that we were faced by more than a child's tantrum or even hysteria: that his face had been in that carriage all the time; that it had been Judith, a girl of six, who had instigated and authorized that Negro to make the team run away. Not Henry, mind; not the boy, which would have been outrageous enough; but Judith, the girl.
'As soon as papa and I entered those gates that afternoon and began to go up the drive toward the house, I could feel it. It was as though somewhere in that Sunday afternoon's quiet and peace the screams of that child still existed, lingered, not as sound now but as something for the skin to hear, the hair on the head to hear. But I did not ask at once. I was just four then; I sat in the buggy beside papa as I had stood between him and our aunt before the church on that first Sunday when I had been dressed to come and see my sister and my nephew and niece for the first time, looking at the house. I had been inside it before too, of course, but even when I saw it for the first time that I could remember I seemed already to know how it was going to look just as I seemed to know how Ellen and Judith and Henry would look before I saw them for the time which I always remember as being the first. No, not asking even then, but just looking at that huge quiet house, saying "What room is Judith sick in, papa?" with that quiet aptitude of a child for accepting the inexplicable, though I now know that even then I was wondering what Judith saw when she came out the door and found the phaeton instead of the carriage, the tame stableboy instead of the wild man; what she had seen in that phaeton which looked so innocent to the rest of us or worse, what she had missed when she saw the phaeton and began to scream.
Yes, a still hot quiet Sunday afternoon like this afternoon; I remember yet the utter quiet of that house when we went in and from which I knew at once that he was absent without knowing that he would now be in the scuppernong arbor drinking with Wash Jones. I only knew, as soon as papa and I crossed the threshold, that he was not there: as though with some almost omniscient conviction, knowing that he did not need to stay and observe his triumph — and that, in comparison with what was to be, this one was a mere trivial business even beneath our notice too. Yes, that quiet darkened room with the blinds closed and a Negro woman sitting beside the bed with a fan and Judith's white face on the pillow beneath a camphor cloth, asleep as I supposed then: possibly it was sleep, or would be called sleep: and Ellen's face white and calm and papa said "Go out and find Henry and ask him to play with you, Rosa" and so I stood just outside that quiet door in that quiet upper hall because I was afraid to go away even from it, because I could hear the sabbath afternoon quiet of that house louder than thunder, louder than laughing even with triumph."
"Think of the children," papa said.
' "Think?" Ellen said. "What else do I do? What else do I lie awake at night and do but think of them?" Neither papa nor Ellen said: Come back home.
No: This occurred before it became fashionable to repair your mistakes by turning your back on them and running. It was just the two quiet voices beyond that blank door which might have been discussing something printed in a magazine; and I, a child standing close beside that door because I was afraid to be there but more afraid to leave it, standing motionless beside that door as though trying to make myself blend with the dark wood and become invisible, like a chameleon, listening to the living spirit, presence, of that house, since some of Ellen's life and breath had now gone into it as well as his, breathing away in a long neutral sound of victory and despair, of triumph and terror too.
' "Do you love this…" papa said.
' "Papa," Ellen said. That was all. But I could see her face then as clearly as papa could have, with that same expression which it had worn in the carriage on that first Sunday and the others. Then a servant came and said our buggy was ready.
'Yes. From themselves. Not from him, not from anybody, just as nobody could have saved them, even himself. Because he now showed us why that triumph had been beneath his notice. He showed Ellen, that is: not me. I was not there; it was six yeas now, during which I had scarcely seen him. Our aunt was gone now and I was keeping house for papa. Perhaps once a year papa and I would go out there and have dinner, and maybe four times a year Ellen and the children would come in and spend the day with us. Not he; that I know of, he never entered this house again after he and Ellen married. I was young then; I was even young enough to believe that this was due to some stubborn coal of conscience, if not remorse, even in him. But I know better now I know now that it was simply because since papa had: given him respectability through a wife there was nothing else he could want from papa and so not even sheer gratitude, let alone appearances, could force him to forgo his own pleasure to the extent of taking a family meal with his wife's people. So I saw little of them. I did not have time now to play, even if I had ever had any inclination. I had never learned how and I saw no reason to try to learn now even if I had had the time. ' So it was six years now, though it was actually no secret to Ellen since it had apparently been going on ever since he drove the last nail in the house, the only difference between now and the time of his bachelorhood being that now they would hitch the teams and saddle horses and mules in' the grove beyond the stable and so come up across the pasture unseen from the house. Because there were plenty of them still; it was as if God or the devil had taken advantage of his very vices in order to supply witnesses to the discharge of our curse not only from among gentlefolks, our own kind, but from the very scum and riffraff who could not have approached the house itself under any other circumstances, not even from the rear. Yes, Ellen and those two children alone in that house twelve miles from town, and down there in the stable a hollow square of faces in the lantern light, the white faces on three sides, the black ones on the fourth, and in the center two of his wild Negroes fighting, naked, fighting not as white men fight, with rules and weapons, but as Negroes fight to hurt one another quick and bad, Ellen knew that, or thought she did; that was not it.
She accepted that — not reconciled: accepted — as though there is a breathing-point in outrage where you can accept it almost with gratitude since you can say to yourself, thank God, this is all; at least I now know all of it — thinking that, clinging still to that when she ran into the stable that night while the very men who had stolen into it from the rear fell back away from her with at least some grain of decency, and Ellen seeing not the two black beasts she had expected to see but instead a white one and a black one, both naked to the waist and gouging at one another's eyes as if they should not only have been the same color, but should have been covered with fur too.
Yes. It seems that on certain occasions, perhaps at the end of the evening, the spectacle, as a grand finale or perhaps as a matter of sheer deadly forethought toward the retention of supremacy, domination, he would enter the ring with one of the Negroes himself. Yes.
That's what Ellen saw: her husband and the father of her children standing there naked and panting and bloody to the waist and the Negro just fallen evidently, lying at his feet and bloody too, save that on the Negro it merely looked like grease or sweat — Ellen running down the hill from the house, bareheaded, in time to hear the sound, the screaming, hearing it while she still ran in the darkness and before the spectators knew that she was there, hearing it even before it occurred to one spectator to say, "It's a horse" then "It's a woman" then "My God, it's a child" — ran in, and the spectators falling back to permit her to see Henry plunge out from among the Negroes who had been holding him, screaming and vomiting — not pausing, not even looking at the faces which shrank back away from her as she knelt in the stable filth to raise Henry and not looking at Henry either but up at him as he stood there with even his teeth showing beneath his beard now and another Negro wiping the blood from his body with a towsack.
"I know you will excuse us, gentlemen," Ellen said. But they were already departing, nigger and white, slinking out again as they had slunk in, and Ellen not watching them now either but kneeling in the dirt while Henry clung to her, crying, and he standing there yet while a third nigger prodded his shirt or coat at him as though the coat were a stick and he a caged snake. "Where is Judith, Thomas?" Ellen said.
' "Judith?" he said. Oh, he was not lying; his own triumph had outrun him; he had builded even better in evil than even he could have hoped. "Judith? Isn't she in bed?"
' "Dont lie to me, Thomas," Ellen said. "I can understand your bringing Henry here to see this, wanting Henry to see this; I will try to understand it; yes, I will make myself try to understand it. But not Judith, Thomas. Not my baby girl, Thomas."
' "I don't expect you to understand it," he said. "Because you are a woman.
But I didn't bring Judith down here. I would not bring her down here. I don't expect you to believe that. But I swear to it."
'"I wish I could believe you," Ellen said. "I want to believe you." Then she began to call. "Judith!" she called in a voice calm and sweet and filled with despair: "Judith honey! Time to come to bed."
'But I was not there. I was not there to see the two Sutpen faces this time — once on Judith and once on the Negro girl beside her looking down through the square entrance to the loft."
It was a summer of wistaria. The twilight was full of it and of the smell of his father's cigar as they sat on the front gallery' after supper until it would be time for Quentin to start, while in the deep shaggy lawn below the veranda the fireflies blew and drifted in soft random — the odor, the scent, which five months later Mr Compson's letter would carry up from Mississippi and over the long iron New England snow and into Quentin's sitting-room at Harvard. It was a day of listening too — the listening, the hearing in 1909 mostly about that which he already knew, since he had been born in and still breathed the same air in which the church bells had rung on that Sunday morning in 1833 and, on Sundays, heard even one of the original three bells in the same steeple where descendants of the same pigeons strutted and crooned or wheeled in short courses resembling soft fluid paint-smears on the soft summer sky.
That Sunday morning in June with the bells ringing peaceful and peremptory and a little cacophonous — the denominations in concord though not in tune — and the ladies and children, and house Negroes to carry the parasols and flywhisks, and even a few men (the ladies moving in hoops among the miniature broadcloth of little boys and the pantalettes of little girls, in the skirts of the time when ladies did not walk but floated) when the other men sitting with their feet on the railing of the Holston House gallery looked up, and there the stranger was. He was already halfway across the Square when they saw him, on a big hardridden roan horse, man and beast looking as though they had been created out of thin air and set down in the bright summer sabbath sunshine in the middle of a tired foxtrot face and horse that none of them had ever seen before, name that none of them had ever heard, and origin and purpose which some of them were never to learn. So that in the next four weeks (Jefferson was a village then: the Holston House, the courthouse, six stores, a blacksmith and livery stable, a saloon frequented by drovers and peddlers, three churches and perhaps thirty residences) the stranger's name went back and forth among the places of business and of idleness and among the residences in steady strophe and antistrophe: Sutpen. Sutpen. Sutpen. Sutpen.
That was all that the town was to know about him for almost a month. He had apparently come into town from the South — a man of about twenty-five as the town learned later, because at the time his age could not have been guessed his age could not have been guessed because he looked like a man who had been sick." Not like a man who had been peacefully ill in bed and had recovered to move with a sort of diffident and tentative amazement in a world which he had believed himself on the point of surrendering, but like a man who had been through some solitary furnace experience which was more than just fever, like an explorer ay, who not only had to face the normal hardship of the pursuit which he chose but was overtaken by the added and unforeseen handicap of the fever also and fought through it at enormous cost not so much physical as 'mental, alone and unaided and not through blind instinctive will to endure and survive but to gain and keep to enjoy it the material prize for which he accepted the original gambit. A man with a big frame but gaunt now almost to emaciation, with a short reddish beard which resembled a disguise and above which his pale eyes had a quality at once visionary and alert, ruthless and reposed in a face whose flesh had the appearance of pottery, of having been colored by that oven's fever either of soul or environment, deeper than sun alone beneath a dead impervious surface as of glazed clay. That was what they saw,' though it was years before the town learned that that was all which he possessed at the time — the strong spent horse and the clothes on his back and a small saddlebag scarcely large enough to contain the spare linen and the razors, and the two pistols of which Miss Coldfield told Quentin, with the butts worn smooth as pickhandles and which he used with the precision of knitting needles; later Quentin's grandfather saw him ride at a canter around a sapling at twenty feet and put both bullets into a playing card fastened to the tree. He had a room in the Holston House but he carried the key with him and each morning he fed and saddled the horse and rode away before daylight, where to the town likewise failed to learn, probably due to the fact that he bore the pistol demonstration on the third day after his arrival. So they had to depend on inquiry to find out what they told about him, which would of necessity be at night, at the supper table in the Holston House dining-room or in the lounge which he would have to cross to gain his room and lock the door again, which he would do as soon as he finished eating. The bar opened into the lounge too, and that would or should have been the place to accost him and even inquire, except for the fact that he did not use the bar. He did not drink at all, he told them. He did not say that he used to drink and had quit, nor that he had never used alcohol. He just said that he would not care for a drink; it was years later before even Quentin's grandfather (he was a young man too then; it would be years yet before he would become General Compson) learned that the reason Sutpen did not drink was that he did not have the money with which to pay his share or return the courtesy; it was General Compson who first realized that at this time Sutpen lacked not only the money to spend for drink and conviviality, but the time and inclination as well: that he was at this time completely the slave of his secret and furious impatience, his conviction gained from whatever that recent experience had been — that fever mental or physical — of a need for haste, of time fleeing beneath him, which was to drive him for the next five years — as General Compson computed it, roughly until about nine months before his son was born. So they would catch him, run him to earth, in the lounge between the supper table and his locked door to give him the opportunity to tell them who he was and where he came from and what he was up to, whereupon he would move gradually and steadily until his back came in contact with something — a post or a wall — and then stand there and tell them nothing whatever as pleasantly and courteously as a hotel clerk. It was the Chickasaw Indian agent with or through whom he dealt and so it was not until he waked the County Recorder that Saturday night with the deed, patent, to the land and the gold Spanish coin, that the town learned that he now owned a hundred square miles of some of the best virgin bottom land in the country, though even that knowledge came too late because Sutpen himself was gone, where to again they did not know. But he owned land among them now and some of them began to suspect what General Compson apparently knew: that the Spanish coin with which he had paid to have his patent recorded was the last one of any kind which he possessed. So they were certain now that he had departed to get more; there were several who even anticipated in believing (and even in saying aloud, now that he was not present) what Sutpen's future and then unborn sister-in-law was to tell Quentin almost eighty years later: that he had found some unique and practical way of hiding loot and that he had returned to the cache to replenish his pockets, even if he had not actually ridden with the two pistols back to the River and the steamboats full of gamblers and cotton and slave-dealers to replenish the cache. At least some of them were telling one another that when two months later he returned, again without warning and accompanied this time by the covered wagon with a Negro driving it and on the seat with the Negro a small, alertly resigned man with a grim, harried Latin face, in a frock coat and a flowered waistcoat and a hat which would have created no furore on a Paris boulevard, all of which he was to wear constantly for the next two years — the somberly theatric clothing and the expression of fatalistic and amazed determination — while his white client and the Negro crew which he was to advise though not direct went stark naked save for a coating of dried mud. This was the French architect. Years later the town learned that he had come all the way from Martinique on Sutpen's bare promise and lived for two years on venison cooked over a campfire, in an unfloored tent made of the wagon hood, before he so much as saw any color or shape of pay. And until he passed through town on his way back to New Orleans two years later, he was not even to see Jefferson again; he would not come, or Sutpen would not bring him, to town even on the few occasions when Sutpen would be seen there, and he did not have much chance to look at Jefferson on that first day because the wagon did not stop. Apparently it was only by sheer geographical hap that Sutpen passed through town at all, pausing only long enough for someone (not General Compson) to look beneath the wagon hood and into a black tunnel filled with still eyeballs and smelling like a wolfden.
But the legend of Sutpen's wild Negroes was not to begin at once, because the wagon went on as though even the wood and iron which composed it, as well as the mules which drew it, had become imbued by sheer association with him with that quality of gaunt and tireless driving, that conviction for haste and of fleeing time; later Sutpen told Quentin's grandfather that on that afternoon when the wagon passed through Jefferson they had been without food since the previous night and that he was trying to reach Sutpen's Hundred and the river bottom to try to kill a deer before dark, so he and the architect and the Negroes would not have to spend another night without food. So the legend of the wild men came gradually back to town, brought by the men who would ride out to watch what was going on, who began to tell how Sutpen would take stand beside a game trail with the pistols and send the Negroes in to drive the swamp like a pack of hounds; it was they who told how during that first summer and fall the Negroes did not even have (or did not use) blankets to sleep in, even before the coon-hunter Akers claimed to have walked one of them out of the absolute mud like a sleeping alligator and Screamed just in time. The Negroes could speak no English yet and doubtless there were more than Akers who did not know that the language in which they and Sutpen communicated was a sort of French and not some dark and fatal tongue of their own. There were many more than Akers, though the others were responsible citizens and landowners and so did not have to lurk about the camp at night.
In fact, as Miss Coldfield told Quentin, they would make up parties to meet at the Holston House and go out horseback, often carrying lunch. Sutpen had built a brick kiln and he had set up the saw and planer which he had brought in the wagon — a capstan with a long sapling walking-beam, with the wagon team and the Negroes in shifts and himself too when necessary, when the machinery slowed, hitched to it — as if the Negroes actually were wild men; as General Compson told his son, Quentin's father, while the Negroes were working Sutpen never raised his voice at them, that instead he led them, caught them at the psychological instant by example, by some ascendancy of forbearance rather than by brute fear. Without dismounting (usually Sutpen did not even greet them with as much as a nod, apparently as unaware of their presence as if they had been idle shades) they would sit in a curious quiet clump as though for mutual protection and watch his mansion rise, carried plank by plank and brick by brick out of the swamp where the clay and timber waited — the bearded white man and the twenty black ones and all stark naked beneath the croaching and pervading mud. Being men, these spectators did not realize that the garments which Sutpen had worn when he first rode into Jefferson were the only ones in which they had ever seen him, and few of the women in the county had seen him at all. Otherwise, some of them would have anticipated Miss Coldfield in this too: in divining that he was saving his clothes, since decorum even if not elegance of appearance would be the only weapon (or rather, ladder) with which he could conduct the last assault upon what Miss Coldfield and perhaps others believed to be respectability that respectability which, according to General Compson, consisted in Sutpen's secret mind of a great deal more than the mere acquisition of a chatelaine for his house. So he and the twenty Negroes worked together, plastered over with mud against the mosquitoes and, as Miss Coldfield told Quentin, distinguishable one from another by his beard and eyes alone and only the architect resembling a human creature because of the French clothes which he wore constantly with a sort of invincible fatality until the day after the house was completed save for the windowglass and the ironware which they could not make by hand and the architect departed — working in the sun and heat of summer and the mud and ice of winter, with quiet and unflagging fury.
It took him two years, he and his crew of imported slaves which his adopted fellow citizens still looked on as being a good deal more deadly than any beast he could have started and slain in that country.
They worked from sunup to sundown while parties of horsemen rode up and sat their horses quietly and watched, and the architect in his formal coat and his Paris hat and his expression of grim and embittered amazement lurked about the environs of the scene with his air something between a casual and bitterly disinterested spectator and a condemned and conscientious ghost — amazement, General Compson said, not at the others and what they were doing so much as at himself, at the inexplicable and incredible fact of his own presence. But he was a good architect; Quentin knew the house, twelve miles from Jefferson, in its grove of cedar and oak, seventy-five years after it was finished.
And not only an architect as General Compson said, but an artist since only an artist could have borne those two years in order to build a house which he doubtless not only expected but firmly intended never to see again. Not, General Compson said, the hardship to sense and the outrage to sensibility of the two years' sojourn, but Sutpen: that only an artist could have borne Sutpen's ruthlessness and hurry and still manage to curb the dream of grim and castlelike magnificence at which Sutpen obviously aimed, since the place as Sutpen planned it would have been almost as large as Jefferson itself at the time; that the little grim harried foreigner had singlehanded given battle to and vanquished Sutpen's fierce and overweening vanity or desire for magnificence or for vindication or whatever it was (even General Compson did not know yet) and so created of Sutpen's very defeat the victory which, in conquering, Sutpen himself would have failed to gain. So it was finished then, down to the last plank and brick and wooden pin which they could make themselves. Unpainted and unfurnished, without a pane of glass or a doorknob or hinge in it, twelve miles from town and almost that far from any neighbor, it stood for three years more surrounded by its formal gardens and promenades, its slave quarters and stables and smokehouses; wild turkey ranged within a mile of the house and deer came light and colored like smoke and left delicate prints in the formal beds where there would be no flowers for four years yet. Now there began a period, a phase, during which the town and the county watched him with more puzzlement yet.
Perhaps it was because the next step toward that secret end which General Compson claimed to have known but which the town and the county comprehended but dimly or not at all, now required patience or passive time instead of that driving fury to which he had accustomed them; now it was the women who first suspected what he wanted, what the next step would be. None of the men, certainly not those who knew him well enough to call him by name, suspected that he wanted a wife. Doubtless there were some of them, husbands and bachelors both, who not only would have refused to entertain the idea but would even have protested against it, because for the next three years he led what must have been to them a perfect existence. He lived out there, eight miles from any neighbor, in masculine solitude in what might be called the halfacre gunroom of a baronial splendor. He lived in the Spartan shell of the largest edifice in the county, not excepting the courthouse itself, whose threshold no woman had so much as seen, without any feminized softness of window-pane or door or mattress; where there was not only no woman to object if he should elect to have his dogs in to sleep on the pallet bed with him, he did not even need dogs to kill the game which left footprints within sight of the kitchen door but hunted it instead with human beings who belonged to him body and soul and of whom it was believed (or said) that they could creep up to a bedded buck and cut its throat before it could move.
It was at this time that he began to invite the parties of men of which Miss Coldfield told Quentin, out to Sutpen's Hundred to camp in blankets in the naked rooms of his embryonic formal opulence; they hunted, and at night played cards and drank, and on occasion he doubtless pitted his Negroes against one another and perhaps even at this time participated now and then himself-that spectacle which, according to Miss Coldfield, his son was unable to bear the sight of while his daughter looked on unmoved. Sutpen drank himself now, though there were probably others besides Quentin's grandfather who remarked that he drank very sparingly save when he himself had managed to supply some of the liquor. His guests would bring whiskey out with them but he drank of this with a sort of sparing calculation as though keeping mentally, General Compson said, a sort of balance of spiritual solvency between the amount of whiskey he accepted and the amount of running meat which he supplied to the guns.
He lived like that for three years. He now had a plantation; inside of two years he had dragged house and gardens out of virgin swamp, and plowed and planted his land with seed cotton which General Compson loaned him. Then he seemed to quit. He seemed to just sit down in the middle of what he had almost finished, and to remain so for three years during which he did not even appear to intend or want anything more. Perhaps it is not to be wondered at that the men in the county came to believe that the life he now led had been his aim all the time; it was General Compson, who seemed to have known him well enough to offer to lend him seed cotton for his start, who knew any better, to whom Sutpen ever told anything about his past. It was General Compson who knew first about the Spanish coin being his last one, as it was Compson (so the town learned later) who offered to lend Sutpen the money to finish and furnish his house, and was refused. So doubtless General Compson was the first man in the county to tell himself that Sutpen did not need to borrow money with which to complete the house, supply what it yet lacked, because he intended to marry. Not the first person to know: rather the first man, since, according to what Miss Coldfield told Quentin seventy-five years later, the women in the county had been telling one another and their husbands as well that Sutpen did not intend to quit there, that he had already gone to too much trouble, gone through too much privation and hardship to settle down and live exactly as he had lived While the house was being built save that now he had a roof to sleep under in place of an unfloored wagon hood. Probably the women had already cast about among the families of the men who might now be called his friends, for that prospective bride whose dowry might complete the shape and substance of that respectability Miss Coldfield anyway believed to be his aim.
So when, at the expiration of this second phase, three years after the house was finished and the architect departed, and again on Sunday morning and again without warning, the town saw him cross the square, on foot now but in the same garments in which he had ridden into town five years ago and which no one had seen since (he or one of the Negroes had ironed the coat with heated bricks, General Compson told Quentin's father) and enter the Methodist church, only some of the men were surprised. The women merely said that he had exhausted the possibilities of the families of the men with whom he had hunted and gambled and that he had now come to town to find a wife exactly as he would have gone to the Memphis market to buy livestock or slaves. But when they comprehended whom it was that he had apparently come to town and into church to invest with his choice, the assurance of the women became one with the men's surprise, and then even more than that: amazement.
Because the town now believed that it knew him. For two years it had watched him as with that grim and unflagging fury he had erected that shell of a house and laid out his fields, then for three years he had remained completely static, as if he were run by electricity and someone had come along and removed, dismantled the wiring or the dynamo. So that when he entered the Methodist church that Sunday morning in his ironed coat, there were men as well as women who believed that they had only to look around the congregation in order to anticipate the direction his feet would take him, until they became aware that he had apparently marked down Miss Coldfield's father with the same cold and ruthless deliberation with which he had probably marked down the French architect. They watched in shocked amazement while he laid deliberate siege to the one man in the town with whom he could have had nothing in common, least of all, money — a man who obviously could do nothing under the sun for him save give him credit at a little cross-roads store or cast a vote in his favor if he should ever seek ordination as a Methodist minister — a Methodist steward, a merchant not only of modest position and circumstances but who already had a wife and family of his own, let alone a dependent mother and sister, to support out of the proceeds of a business which he had brought to Jefferson ten years ago in a single wagon — a man with a name for absolute and undeviating and even Puritan uprightness in a country and time of lawless opportunity, who neither drank nor gambled nor even hunted. In their surprise they forgot that Mr Coldfield had a marriageable daughter. They did not consider the daughter at all. They did not think of love in connection with Sutpen. They thought of ruthlessness rather than justice and of fear rather than respect, but not of pity or love: besides being too lost in amazed speculation as to just how Sutpen intended or could contrive to use Mr Coldfield to further whatever secret ends he still had. They were never to know: even Miss Rosa Coldfield did not. Because from that day there were no more hunting parties out at Sutpen's Hundred, and when they saw him now it would be in town. But not loafing, idling. The men who had slept and matched glasses with him under his roof (some of them had even come to call him Sutpen without the formal Mister) watched him pass along the street before the Holston House with a single formal gesture to his hat and go on and enter Mr Coldfield's store, and that was all.
'Then one day he quitted Jefferson for the second time,' Mr Compson told Quentin. 'The town should have been accustomed to that by now. Nevertheless, his position had subtly changed, as you will see by the town's reaction to this second return. Because when he came back this time, he was in a sense a public enemy. Perhaps this was because of what he brought back with him this time: the material he brought back this time, as compared to the simple wagonload of wild niggers which he had brought back before. But I don't think so. That is, I think it was a little more involved than the sheer value of his chandeliers and mahogany and rugs. I think that the affront was born of the town's realization that he was getting it involved with himself; that whatever the felony which produced the mahogany and crystal, he was forcing the town to compound it. Heretofore, until that Sunday when he came ' to church, if he had misused or injured anybody, it was only old Ikkemotubbe, from whom he got his land — a matter between his conscience and Uncle Sam and God. But now his position had changed, because when, about three months after he departed, four wagons left Jefferson to go to the River and meet him, it was known that Mr Coldfield was the man who hired and dispatched them. They were big wagons, drawn by oxen, and when they returned the town looked at them and knew, no matter what they might have contained, that Mr Coldfield could not have mortgaged everything that he owned for enough to fill them; doubtless this time there were more men than women even who pictured him during this absence with a handkerchief over his face and the two pistol barrels glinting beneath the candelabra of a steamboat's saloon, even if no worse: if not something performed in the lurking dark of a muddy landing and with a knife from behind. They saw him pass, on the roan horse beside his four wagons; it seems that even the ones who had eaten his food and shot his game and even called him "Sutpen" without the "Mister", didn't accost him now. They just waited while reports and rumors came back to town of how he and his now somewhat tamed Negroes had installed the windows and doors and the spits and pots in the kitchen and the crystal chandeliers in the parlors and the furniture and the curtains and the rugs; it was that same Akers who had blundered onto the mudcouched Negro five years ago who came, a little wild-eyed and considerably slack-mouthed, into the Holston House bar one evening and said, "Boys, this time he stole the whole durn steamboat!"
'So at last civic virtue came to a boil. One day and with the sheriff of the county among them, a party of eight or ten took the road out to Sutpen's Hundred. They did not go all the way because about six miles from town they met Sutpen himself. He was riding the roan horse, in the frock coat and the beaver hat which they knew and with his legs wrapped in a piece of tarpaulin; he had a portmanteau on his pommel and he was carrying a small woven basket on his arm. He stopped the roan (it was April then, and the road was still a quagmire) and sat there in his splashed tarpaulin and looked from one face to the next; your grandfather said that his eyes looked like pieces of a broken plate and that his beard was strong as a curry-comb. That was how he put it: strong as a curry-comb. "Good morning, gentlemen," he said. "Were you looking for me?" 'Doubtless something more than this transpired at the time, though none of the vigilance committee ever told it that I know of. All I ever heard is how the town, the men on the gallery of the Holston House saw Sutpen and the committee ride onto the square together, Sutpen a little in front and the others bunched behind him — Sutpen with his legs and feet wrapped neatly in his tarpaulin and his shoulders squared inside the worn broadcloth coat and that worn brushed beaver cocked a little, talking to them over his shoulder and those eyes hard and pale and reckless and probably quizzical and maybe contemptuous even then.
He pulled up at the door and the Negro hostler ducked out and took the roan's head and Sutpen got down, with his portmanteau and the basket and mounted the steps, and I heard how he turned there kind looked at them again where they huddled on their horses, not knowing what to do exactly. And it might have been a good thing that he had that beard and they could not see his mouth. Then he turned, and he looked at the other men sitting with their feet on the railing and watching him too, men who used to come out to his place and sleep on the floor and hunt with him, and he saluted them with that florid, swaggering gesture to the hat (yes, he was underbred. It showed like this always, your grandfather said, in all his formal contacts with people. He was like John L. Sullivan having taught himself painfully and tediously to do the schottische, having drilled himself and drilled himself in secret until he now believed it no longer necessary to count the music's beat, say. He may have believed that your grandfather or Judge Benbow might have done it a little more effortlessly than he, but he would not have believed that anyone could have beat him in knowing when to do it and how. And besides, it was in his face; that was where his power lay, your grandfather said: that anyone could look at him and say, Given the occasion and the need, this man can and will do anything). Then he went on into the house and commanded a chamber. 'So they sat on their horses and waited for him. I suppose they knew that he would have to come out some time: I suppose they sat there and thought about those two pistols. Because there was still no warrant for him, you see: it was just public opinion in an acute state of indigestion; and now other horsemen rode into the square and became aware of the situation, so that there was quite a posse waiting when he walked out onto the gallery. He wore a new hat now, and a new broadcloth coat, so they knew what the portmanteau had contained. They even knew now what the basket had contained because he did not have that with him now either. Doubtless at the time it merely puzzled them more than ever, because, you see, they had been too busy speculating on just how he was planning to use Mr Coldfield and, since his return, too completely outraged by the belief that they now saw the results even if the means were still an enigma, to remember about Miss Ellen at all.
'So he stopped again doubtless and looked from face to face again, doubtless memorizing the new faces, without any haste, with still the beard to hide whatever his mouth might have shown. But he seems to have said nothing at all this time. He just descended the steps and walked on across the square, the committee (your grandfather said it had grown to almost fifty by now) moving too, following him across the square. They say he did not even look back. He just walked on, erect, with the new hat cocked and carrying in his hand now that which must have seemed to them the final gratuitous insult, with the committee riding along in the street beside him and not quite parallel, and others who did not happen to have horses at the moment joining in and following the committee in the road, and ladies and children and women slaves coming to the doors and windows of the homes as they passed to watch as they went on in grim tableau, and Sutpen, still without once looking back, entered Mr Coldfield's gate and strode on up the brick walk to the door, carrying his newspaper cornucopia of flowers.
'They waited for him again. The crowd was growing fast now other men and a few boys and even some Negroes from the adjacent houses, clotting behind the eight original members of the committee who sat watching Mr Coldfield's door until he emerged. It was a good while and he no longer carried the flowers, and when he returned to the gate, he was engaged to be married. But they did not know this, and as soon as he reached the gate, they arrested him. They took him back to town, with the ladies and children and house niggers watching from behind curtains and behind the shrubbery in the yards and the corners of the houses, the kitchens where doubtless food was already beginning to scorch, and so back to the square where the rest of the able-bodied men left their offices and stores to follow, so that when he reached the courthouse, Sutpen had a larger following than if he actually had been the runaway slave. They arraigned him before a justice, but by that time your grandfather and Mr Coldfield had got there. They signed his bond and late that afternoon he returned home with Mr Coldfield, walking along the same street as of the forenoon, with doubtless the same faces watching him from behind the window curtains, to the betrothal supper with no wine at table and no whiskey before or after.
During none of his three passages that day through that street did his bearing alter — the same unhurried stride to which that new frock coat swung, the same angle to the new hat above the eyes and the beard.
Your grandfather said that some of the faience appearance which the flesh of his face had had when he came to town five years ago was gone now and that his face had an honest sunburn. And he was not fleshier either; your grandfather said that was not it: it was just that the flesh on his bones had become quieter, as though passive after some actual breasting of atmosphere like in running, so that he actually filled his clothes now, with that quality still swaggering but without braggadocio or belligerence, though according to your grandfather the quality had never been belligerence, only watchfulness.
And now that was gone, as though after the three years he could trust his eyes alone to do the watching, without the flesh on his bones standing sentry also. Two months later, he and Miss Ellen were married.
'It was in June of 1838, almost five years to the day from that Sunday morning when he rode into town on the roan horse. It (the wedding) was in the same Methodist church where he saw Ellen for the first time, according to Miss Rosa. The aunt had even forced or nagged (not cajoled: that would not have done it) Mr Coldfield into allowing Ellen to wear powder on her face for the occasion. The powder was to hide the marks of tears, But before the wedding was over the powder was streaked, caked and channelled. Ellen seems to have entered the church that night out of weeping as though out of rain, gone through the ceremony and then walked back out of the church and into the weeping again, the tears again, the same tears even, the same rain. She got into the carriage and departed in it (the rain) for Sutpen's Hundred. 'It was the wedding which caused the tears: not marrying Sutpen.
Whatever tears there were for that, granted there were tears, came later. It was not intended to be a big wedding. That is, Mr Coldfield seems not to have intended it to be. You will notice that most divorces occur with women who were married by tobacco-chewing J. P. s in country courthouses or by ministers waked after midnight, with their suspenders showing beneath their coat-tails and no collar on and a wife or spinster sister in curl papers for witness. So is it too much to believe that these women come to long for divorce from a sense not of incompleteness but of actual frustration and betrayal? that regardless of the breathing evidence of children and all else, they still have in their minds the image of themselves walking to music and turning heads, in all the symbolical trappings and circumstances of ceremonial surrender of that which they no longer possess? and why not, since to them the actual and authentic surrender can only be (and has been) a ceremony like the breaking of a banknote to buy a ticket for the train. Of the two men, it was Sutpen who desired the big wedding, the full church and all the ritual.-I have this from something your grandfather let drop one day and which he doubtless had from Sutpen himself in the same accidental fashion, since Sutpen never even told Ellen that he wanted it, and the fact that at the last minute he refused to support her in her desire and insistence upon it accounts partly for the tears. Mr Coldfield apparently intended to use the church into which he had invested a certain amount of sacrifice and doubtless self-denial and certainly actual labor and money for the sake of what might be called a demand balance of spiritual solvency, exactly as he would have used a cotton gin in which he considered himself to have incurred either interest or responsibility, for the ginning of any cotton which he or any member of his family, by blood or by marriage, had raised — that, and no more. Perhaps his wanting a small wedding was due to the same tedious and unremitting husbandry which had enabled him to support mother and sister and marry and raise a family on the proceeds of that store which ten years ago had fitted into a single wagon; or perhaps it was some innate sense of delicacy and fitness (which his sister and daughter did not seem to possess, by the way) regarding the prospective son-in-law whom just two months ago he had been instrumental in getting out of jail. But it was not due to any lack of courage regarding the son-in-law's still anomalous position in the town. Regardless of what their relations before that had been and of what their future relations might be, if Mr Coldfield had believed Sutpen guilty at the time of any crime, he would not have raised a finger to take Sutpen out. He might not have gone out of his way to keep Sutpen in jail, but doubtless the best possible moral fumigation which Sutpen could have received at the time in the eyes of his fellow citizens was the fact that Mr Coldfield signed his bond ' something he would not have done to save his own good name even though the arrest had been a direct result of the business between himself and Sutpen that affair which, when it reached a point where his conscience refused to sanction it, he had withdrawn from and let Sutpen take all the profit, refusing even to allow Sutpen to reimburse him for the loss which, in withdrawing, he had suffered, though he did permit his daughter to marry this man of whose actions his conscience did not approve. This was the second time he did something like that. 'When they were married, there were just ten people in the church, including the wedding party, of the hundred who had been invited; though when they emerged from the church (it was at night: Sutpen had brought in a half-dozen of his wild Negroes to wait at the door with burning pine knots) the rest of the hundred were there in the persons of boys and youths and men from the drovers' tavern on the edge of town — stock traders and hostlers and such who had not been invited. That was the other half of the reason for Ellen's tears. It was the aunt who persuaded or cajoled Mr Coldfield into the big wedding. But Sutpen wanted it. He wanted, not the anonymous wife and the anonymous children, but the two names, the stainless wife and the unimpeachable father-in-law, on the license, the patent. Yes, patent, with a gold seal and red ribbons too if that had been practicable. But not for himself. She (Miss Rosa) would have called the gold seal and the ribbons vanity. But then, so had vanity conceived that house and built it in a strange place and with little else but his bare hands and further handicapped by the chance and probability of meddling interference arising out of the disapprobation of all communities of men toward any situation which they do not understand. And pride: Miss Rosa had admitted that he was brave; perhaps she even allowed him pride: the same pride which wanted such a house, which would accept nothing less, and drove through to get it at whatever cost. And then he lived in it, alone, on a pallet on the floor for three years until he could furnish it as it should be furnished — not the least of which furniture was that wedding license, She was quite right: It was not just shelter, just anonymous wife and children that he wanted, just as he did not want just wedding. But when the female crisis came, when Ellen and the aunt tried to enlist him on their side to persuade Mr Coldfield to the big wedding, he refused to support them. He doubtless remembered even better than Mr Coldfield that two months ago he had been in jail; that public opinion which at some moment during the five preceding years had 'swallowed him even though he never had quite ever lain quiet on its stomach, and performed one of mankind's natural and violent and inexplicable voltefaces and regurgitated him. And it did not help him any that at least two of the citizens who should have made two of the teeth in the outraged jaw served instead as props to hold the jaw open and impotent while he walked out of it unharmed.
'Ellen and the aunt remembered this too. The aunt did. Being a woman, she was doubtless one of that league of Jefferson women who on the second day after the town saw him five years ago, had agreed never to forgive him for not having any past, and who had remained consistent. Since the marriage was now a closed incident, she probably looked upon it as the one chance not only to secure her niece's future as his wife, but to justify the action of her brother in getting him out of jail and her own position as having apparently sanctioned and permitted the wedding which in reality she could not have prevented.
It may have been for the sake of that big house and the position and state which the women realized long before the men did that he not only aimed at but was going to attain. Or maybe women are even less complex than that and to them any wedding is better than no wedding and a big wedding with a villain preferable to a small one with a saint. 'So the aunt even used Ellen's tears; and Sutpen, who probably knew about what was going to happen, becoming as the time drew near graver and graver.
Not concerned: just watchful, like he must have been from the day when he turned his back upon all that he knew — the faces and the customs — and (he was just fourteen then, he told your grandfather) set out into a world which even in theory he knew nothing about, and with a fixed goal in his mind which most men do not set up until the blood begins to slow at thirty or more and then only because the image represents peace and indolence or at least a crowning of vanity. Even then he had that same alertness which he had to wear later day and night without changing or laying aside, like the clothing which he had to sleep in as well as live in, and in a country and among a people whose very language he had to learn that unsleeping care which must have known that it could permit itself but one mistake; that alertness for measuring and weighing event against eventuality, circumstance against human nature, his own fallible judgement and mortal clay against not only human but natural forces, choosing and discarding, compromising with his dream and his ambition like you must with the horse which you take across country, over timber, which you control only through your ability to keep the animal from realizing that actually you cannot, that actually it is the stronger.
'His was the curious position now. He was the solitary one. Not Ellen. She not only had the aunt to support her, but the fact that women never plead nor claim loneliness until impenetrable and insurmountable circumstance forces them to give up all hope of attaining the particular bauble which at the moment they happen to want. And not Mr Coldfield. He had not only public opinion but his own disinclination for the big wedding to support it without incongruity or paradox. Then (the tears won; Ellen and the aunt wrote out a hundred invitations — Sutpen brought in one of the wild Negroes who carried them from door to door by hand — and even sent out a dozen more personal ones for the dress rehearsal) when they reached the church for the rehearsal on the night before the wedding and found the church itself empty and a handful of men from the town's purlieus (including two of old Ikkemotubbe's Chickasaws) standing in the shadows outside the door, the tears came down again. Ellen went through the rehearsal, but afterward the aunt took her home in a state very near hysteria, though by the next day it had become just quiet intermittent weeping again.
There was some talk even of putting the wedding off. I don't know who it came from, perhaps from Sutpen. But I know who vetoed it. It was as though the aunt were now bent, no longer on merely thrusting Sutpen down the town's throat, but thrusting the wedding itself. She spent all the next day going from house to house, the invitation list in her hand, in a house dress and a shawl and one of the Coldfield Negroes (they were both women) following her, perhaps for protection, perhaps just sucked along like a leaf in the wake of that grim virago fury of female affront; yes, she came to our house too, though your grandfather had never intended anything else but to attend the wedding: the aunt must have had no doubts about father since father had helped take Sutpen out of jail, though she was probably past all ratiocination by then. Father and your grandmother were just married then and mother was a stranger in Jefferson and I don't know what she thought except that she would never talk about what happened: about the mad woman whom she had never seen before, who came bursting into the house, not to invite her to a wedding but to dare her not to come, and then rushed out again. Mother could not even tell what' wedding she meant at first, and when father came home he found mother in hysterics too, and even twenty years later mother could not tell what actually happened.
There was nothing comic in it to her. Father used to tease her about it, but even twenty years after that day, when he would tease her I have seen her begin to raise her hand (perhaps with the thimble on one finger) as though to protect herself and the same look come into her face that must have been there when Ellen's aunt departed.
'The aunt covered the town that morning. It did not take her long and it was complete; by nightfall the circumstances of the situation had spread not only beyond the town but beneath it, penetrating the livery stable and the drovers' tavern which was to supply the guests who did attend it. Ellen of course was not aware of this, anymore than the aunt herself was, or would have believed what was going to happen even if she had been clairvoyant and could actually have seen the rehearsal of events before time produced them. Not that the aunt would have considered herself insulated against being thus affronted, she simply could not have believed that her intentions and actions of the day could have any result other than the one for which she had surrendered for the time not only all Coldfield dignity but all female modesty as well. Sutpen I suppose could have told her, but doubtless he knew that the aunt would not have believed him. Probably he did not even try: he just did the only thing he could do, which was to send out to Sutpen's Hundred and bring in six or seven more of his Negroes, men on whom he could depend, the only men on whom he could depend, and arm them with the lighted pine knots which they were holding at the door when the carriage came up and the wedding party got out. — And this is where the tears stopped, because now the street before the church was lined with carriages and buggies, though only Sutpen and possibly Mr Coldfield remarked that instead of being drawn up before the door and empty, they were halted across the street and still occupied, and that now the banquette before the church door was a sort of arena lighted by the smoking torches which the Negroes held above their heads, the light of which wavered and gleamed upon the two lines of faces between which the party would have to pass to enter the church. There were no catcalls yet, no jeering; evidently neither Ellen nor the aunt suspected that anything was wrong.
'For a time Ellen walked out of the weeping, the tears, and so into the church. It was empty yet save for your grandfather and grandmother and perhaps a half dozen more who might have come out of loyalty to the Coldfields or perhaps to be close and so miss nothing of that which the town, as represented by the waiting carriages, seemed to have anticipated as well as Sutpen did. It was still empty even after the ceremony started and concluded. Ellen had something of pride too, or at least that vanity which at times can assume the office of pride and fortitude; besides, nothing had happened yet. The crowd outside was quiet yet, perhaps out of respect for the church, out of that aptitude and eagerness of the Anglo-Saxon for complete mystical acceptance of immolated sticks and stones. She seems to have walked out of the church and so into it without any warning whatever. Perhaps she was still moving beneath that pride which would not allow the people inside the church to see her weep. She just walked into it, probably hurrying toward the seclusion of the carriage where she could weep; perhaps her first intimation was the voice shouting, 'Look out! Dont hit her now!" and then the object — dirt, frith, whatever it was passing her, or perhaps the changing light itself as she turned and saw one of the Negroes, his torch raised and in the act of springing toward the crowd, the faces, when Sutpen spoke to him in that tongue which even now a good part of the county did not know was a civilized language. That was what she saw, what the others saw from the halted carriages across the street — the bride shrinking into the shelter of his arm as he drew her behind him and he standing there, not moving even after another object (they threw nothing which could actually injure: it was only clods of dirt and vegetable refuse) struck the hat from his head, and a third struck him full in the chest — standing there motionless, with an expression almost of smiling where his teeth showed through the beard, holding his wild Negroes with that one word (there were doubtless pistols in the crowd; certainly knives: the Negro would not have lived ten seconds if he had sprung) while about the wedding party the circle of faces with open mouths and torch-reflecting eyes seemed to advance and waver and shift and vanish in the smoky glare of the burning pine. He retreated to the carriage, shielding the two women with his body, ordering the Negroes to follow with another word. But they threw nothing else. Apparently it was that first spontaneous outburst, though they had come armed and prepared with the ones they did throw. In fact, that seemed to have been the entire business which had come to a head when the vigilance committee followed him to Mr Coldfield's gate that day two months before. Because the men who had composed the mob, the traders and drovers and teamsters, returned, vanished back into the region from which they had emerged for this one occasion like rats; scattered, parted about the country faces which even Ellen was not to remember, seen for the night or the meal or just the drink at other taverns twenty and fifty and a hundred miles further on along nameless roads and then gone from there too; and those who had come in the Carriages and buggies to see a Roman holiday, driving out to Sutpen's Hundred to call and (the men) to hunt his game and eat his food again and on occasions gathering at night in his stable while he matched two of his wild Negroes against one another as men match game cocks or perhaps even entered the ring himself. It blew away, though not out of memory.
He did not forget that night, even though Ellen, I think, did, since she washed it out of her remembering with tears. Yes, she was weeping again now; it did, indeed, rain on that marriage."
If he threw Miss Rosa over, I wouldn't think she would want to tell anybody about it Quentin said. Ah Mr Compson said again. After Mr Coldfield died in '64, Miss Rosa moved out to Sutpen's Hundred to live with Judith. She was twenty then, four years younger than her niece whom, in obedience to her sister's dying request, she set out to save from the family's doom which Sutpen seemed bent on accomplishing, apparently by the process of marrying him. She (Miss Rosa) was born in 1845, with her sister already seven years married and the mother of two children and Miss Rosa born into her parents' middle age (her mother must have been at least forty and she died in that childbed and Miss Rosa never forgave her father for it) and at a time when — granted that Miss Rosa merely mirrored her parents' attitude toward the son-in-law — the family wanted only peace and quiet and probably did not expect and maybe did not even want another child. But she was born, at the price of her mother's life and was never to be permitted to forget it. She was raised by the same spinster aunt who tried to force not only the older sister's bridegroom but the wedding too down the throat of a town which did not want it, growing up in that closed masonry of females to see in the fact of her own breathing not only the lone justification for the sacrifice of her mother's life, not only a living and walking reproach to her father, but a breathing indictment, ubiquitous and even transferable, of the entire male principle (that principle which had left the aunt a virgin at thirty-five). So for the first sixteen years of her life she lived in that grim tight little house with the father whom she hated without knowing it — that queer silent man whose only companion and friend seems to have been his conscience and the only thing he cared about his reputation for probity among his fellow men that man who was later to nail himself in his attic and starve to death rather than look upon his native land in the throes of repelling an invading army — and the aunt who even ten years later was still taking revenge for the fiasco of Ellen's wedding by striking at the town, the human race, through any and all of its creatures brother nieces nephew-in-law herself and all — with the blind irrational fury of a shedding snake. The aunt had taught Miss Rosa to look upon her sister as a woman who had vanished, not only out of the family and the house but out of life too, into an edifice like Bluebeard's and there transmogrified into a mask looking back with passive and hopeless grief upon the irrevocable world, held there not in durance but in a kind of jeering suspension by a man who had entered hers and her family's life before she was born with the abruptness of a tornado, done irrevocable and incalculable damage, and gone on. In a grim mausoleum air of Puritan righteousness and outraged female vindictiveness Miss Rosa's childhood was passed, that aged and ancient and timeless absence of youth which consisted of a Cassandralike listening beyond closed doors, of lurking in dim halls filled with that presbyterian effluvium of lugubrious and vindictive anticipation, while she waited for the infancy and childhood with which nature had confounded and betrayed her to overtake the disapprobation regarding any and every thing which could penetrate the walls of that house through the agency of any man, particularly her father, which the aunt seems to have invested her with at birth along with the swaddling clothes.
Perhaps she saw in her father's death, in the resulting necessity upon her as an orphan and a pauper, to turn to her next of kin for food and shelter and protection — and this kin the niece whom she had been asked to save — perhaps in this she saw fate itself supplying her with the opportunity to observe her sister's dying request.
Perhaps she even saw herself as an instrument of retribution: if not in herself an active instrument strong enough to cope with him, at least as a kind of passive symbol of inescapable reminding to rise bloodless and without dimension from the sacrificial stone of the marriagebed. Because until he came back from Virginia in '66 and found her living there with Judith and Clytie (Yes, Clytie was his daughter too: Clytemnestra. He named her himself. He named them all himself: all his own get and all the get of his wild niggers after the country began to assimilate them. Miss Rosa didn't tell you that two of the niggers in the wagon that day were women? No, sir, Quentin said.
Yes. Two of them. And brought here neither by chance nor oversight. He saw to that, who had doubtless seen even further ahead than the two years it actually took him to build his house and show his good intentions to his neighbors until they allowed him to mix his wild stock with their tame, since the difference in tongue between his niggers and theirs could have been a barrier only for a matter of weeks or perhaps even days. He brought the two women deliberately; he probably chose them with the same care and shrewdness with which he chose the other livestock — the horses and mules and cattle which he bought later on. And he lived out there for almost five years before he had speaking acquaintance with any white woman in the county, just as he had no furniture in his house and for the same reason: he had at the time nothing to exchange for them. Yes. He named Clytie as he named them all, the one before Clytie and Henry and Judith even, with that same robust and sardonic temerity, naming with his own mouth his own ironic fecundity of dragon's teeth. Only I have always liked to believe that he intended to name Clytie, Cassandra, prompted by some pure dramatic economy not only to beget but to designate the presiding augur of his own disaster, and that he just got the name wrong through a mistake natural in a man who must have almost taught himself to read… When he returned home in '66, Miss Rosa had not seen him a hundred times in her whole life. And what she saw then was just that ogreface of her childhood seen once and then repeated at intervals and on occasions which she could neither count nor recall, like the mask in Greek tragedy, interchangeable not only from scene to scene, but from actor to actor and behind which the events and occasions took place without chronology or sequence, leaving her actually incapable of saying how many separate times she had seen him for the reason that, waking or sleeping, the aunt had taught her to see nothing else. On those guarded and lugubrious and even formal occasions when she and the aunt went out to Sutpen's Hundred to 'spend the day and the aunt would order her to go and play with her nephew and niece exactly as she might have ordered her to play a piece for company on the piano, she would not see him even at the dinner table because the aunt would have arranged the visit to coincide with his absence; and probably Miss Rosa would have tried to avoid meeting him even if he had been there. And on the four or five occasions during the year when Ellen would bring the children in to spend the day at her father's, the aunt (that strong vindictive consistent woman who seems to have been twice the man that Mr Coldfield was and who in very truth was not only Miss Rosa's mother but her father too) cast over these visits also that same atmosphere of grim embattled conspiracy and alliance against the two adversaries, one of whom — Mr Coldfield — whether he could have held his own or not, had long since drawn in his picquets and dismantled his artillery and retired into the impregnable citadel of his passive rectitude: and the other — Sutpen — who' probably could have engaged and even routed them but who did not even know that he was an embattled foe. Because he would not even come to the house to the noon meal.
His reason may have been because of some delicacy for his father-in-law. The true reason for and beginning of the relationship between Mr Coldfield and himself neither aunt, Ellen, or Miss Rosa ever knew, and Sutpen was to divulge to but one man — and that under the pledge of confidence as long as Mr Coldfield lived — out of regard for Mr Coldfield's carefully nurtured name for immaculate morality — and which, your grandfather said, Mr Coldfield himself never divulged for the same reason. Or perhaps the reason was that now since he had got out of his father-in-law all that Mr Coldfield possessed that Sutpen could have used or wanted, he had neither the courage to face his father-in-law nor the grace and decency to complete the ceremonial family group even four times a year. Or perhaps it was the reason which Sutpen gave himself and which the aunt refused to believe because of that very fact: that he did not get to town every day and when he did he preferred to spend it (he used the bar now) with the men who gathered each noon at the Holston House.
That was the face which, when Miss Rosa saw it at all, was across his own dining table — the face of a foe who did not even know that it was embattled.
She was ten now and following the aunt's dereliction (Miss Rosa now kept her father's house as the aunt had done, until the night the aunt climbed out the window and vanished) there was not only no one to make her try to play with her nephew and niece on those days formal and funereal, she did not even have to go out there and breathe the same air which he breathed and where, even though absent, he still remained, lurked, in what seemed to her sardonic and watchful triumph. She went out to Sutpen's Hundred just once a year now when, in their Sunday clothes she and her father drove the twelve miles in a stout battered buggy behind the stout scrubby team, to spend the day. It was now Mr Coldfield who insisted on the visits, who had never gone out with them while the aunt was there, perhaps from a sense of duty, which was the reason he gave and which in this case even the aunt would have believed, perhaps because it was not the true one, since doubtless even Miss Rosa would not have believed the true one: which was that Mr Coldfield wanted to see his grandchildren regarding whom he was in a steadily increasing unease of that day when their father would tell the son at least of that old business between them which Mr Coldfield was not yet sure that his son-in-law had never told. Though the aunt was gone, she still managed to bequeath and invoke upon each of these expeditions something of the old flavor of grim sortie, more than ever now against a foe who did not know that he was at war. Because now that the aunt was gone, Ellen had reneged from that triumvirate of which Miss Rosa tried without realizing it to make two. Now she was completely alone, facing him across the dinner table, without support even from Ellen (at this time Ellen went through a complete metamorphosis, emerging into her next lustrum with the finality of actual re-birth); — facing across the table the foe who was not even aware that he sat there not as host and brother-in-law but as the second party to an armistice. He probably did not even look at her twice as weighed against his own family and children — the small slight child whose feet, even when she would be grown, would never quite reach the floor even from her own chairs — as against Ellen who, though small-boned also, was what is known as fullbodied (and who would have been, if her life had not declined into a time when even men found little enough to eat and the end of her days had been without trouble, fullbodied indeed. Not fat: just rounded and complete, the hair white, the eyes still even young, even a faint bloom yet on what would be dewlaps and not cheeks any longer, the small plump ringed unscarified hands folded in tranquil anticipation of the food, on the damask before the Haviland beneath the candelabra) and against Judith already taller than Ellen, and Henry though not as tall for sixteen as Judith was for fourteen, yet giving promise of someday standing eye to eye with his father; this face which rarely spoke during the meal, with eyes like (as you might put it) pieces of coal pressed into soft dough and prim hair of that peculiar mouse-like shade of hair on which the sun does not often shine, against Judith's and Henry's out-of-doors faces: Judith with her mother's hair and her father's eyes and Henry with his hair halfway between his father's red and Ellen's black and eyes of a bright dark hazel — this small body of Miss Rosa's with its air of curious and paradoxical awkwardness like a costume borrowed at the last moment and of necessity for a masquerade which she did not want to attend: that aura of a creature cloistered now by deliberate choice and still in the throes of enforced apprenticeship to, rather than voluntary or even acquiescent participation in, breathing — this bound maidservant to flesh and blood waiting even now to escape it by writing a schoolgirl's poetry about the also-dead. The face, the smallest face in the company, watching him across the table with still and curious and profound intensity as though she actually had some intimation gained from that rapport with the fluid cradle of events (time) which she had acquired or 'cultivated by listening beyond closed doors not to what she heard there, but by becoming supine and receptive, incapable of either discrimination or opinion or incredulity, listening to the prefever's temperature of disaster, which makes soothsayers and sometimes makes them right, and of the future catastrophe in which the ogre-face of her childhood would apparently vanish so completely that she would agree to marry the late owner of it.
That may have been the last time she saw him. Because they quit going out there. Mr Coldfield quit. There had never been any day set for the visit. One morning he would merely appear at breakfast in the decent and heavy black coat in which he had been married and had worn fifty-two times each year since until Ellen married, and then fiftythree times a year after the aunt deserted them, until he put it on for good the day he climbed to the attic and nailed the door behind him and threw the hammer out the window and so died in it. Then after breakfast Miss Rosa would retire and reappear in the formidable black or brown silk which the aunt had chosen for her years ago and which she continued to wear on Sundays and occasions even after it was worn out, until the day when her father decided that the aunt would not return and permitted Miss Rosa to use the clothing which the aunt had left in the house the night of her elopement. Then they would get into the buggy and depart, Mr Coldfield first docking the two Negroes for the noon meal which they would not have to prepare and (so the town believed) charging them for the crude one of leftovers which they would have to eat. Then one year they did not go. Doubtless Mr Coldfield failed to come to breakfast in the black coat, and more days passed and still he did not, and that was all. Perhaps he felt, now that the grandchildren were grown, that the draft on his conscience had been discharged what with Henry away at the State University at Oxford and Judith gone even further than that — into that transition stage between childhood and womanhood where she was even more inaccessible to the grandfather of whom she had seen but little during her life and probably cared less anyway — that state where, though still visible, young girls appear as though seen through glass and where even the voice cannot reach them; where they exist (this the hoyden who could and did outrun and outclimb, and ride and fight both with and beside her brother) in a pearly lambence without shadows and themselves partaking of it; in nebulous suspension held, strange and unpredictable, even their very shapes fluid and delicate and without substance; not in themselves floating and seeking but merely waiting, parasitic and potent and serene, drawing to themselves without effort the post-genitive upon and about which to shape, flow into back, breast; bosom, flank, thigh.
Now the period began which ended in the catastrophe which caused a reversal so complete in Miss Rosa as to permit her to agree to marry the man whom she had grown up to look upon as an ogre. It was not a volte-face of character: that did not change. Even her behavior did not change to any extent. Even if Charles Bon had not died, she would in all probability have gone out to Sutpen's Hundred to live after her father's death sooner or later, and once she had done so she would have probably passed the remainder of her life there. But if Bon had lived and he and Judith had married and Henry had remained in the known world, she would have moved out there only when she was ready to, and she would have lived in her dead sister's family only as the aunt which she actually was. It was not her character that changed: despite the six years or so since she had actually seen him and certainly the four years which she had spent feeding her father secretly at night while he hid from Confederate provost marshals in the attic. At the same time she was writing heroic poetry about the very men from whom her father was hiding and who would have shot him or hung him without trial if they had found him — and incidentally the ogre of her childhood was one of them and (he brought home with him a citation for valor in Lee's own hand) a good one. The face which Miss Rosa carried out there to live for the rest of her life was the same face which had watched him across the dinner table and which he likewise could not have said how many times he had seen, nor when and where, not for the reason that he was unable to forget it but because he could probably not have remembered it enough to have described it ten minutes after looking away, and from behind the face the same woman who had been that child now watched him with that same grim and cold intensity.
Although she was not to see Sutpen again for years, she now saw her sister and niece more often than ever. Ellen was now at the full peak of what the aunt would have called her renegadery. She seemed not only to acquiesce, to be reconciled to her life and marriage, but to be actually proud of it. She had bloomed, as if Fate were crowding the normal Indian summer which should have bloomed gradually and faded gracefully through six or eight years, into three or four, either for compensation for what was to come or to clear the books, pay the check to which Fate's wife, Nature, had signed his name. Ellen was in her late thirties, plump, her face unblemished still. It was as though whatever marks being in the world had left upon it up to the time the aunt vanished had been removed from between the skeleton and the skin, between the sum of experience and the envelope in which it resides, by the intervening years of annealing and untroubled flesh. Her carriage, air, now was a little regal she and Judith made frequent trips to town now, calling upon the same ladies, some of whom were now grandmothers, whom the aunt had tried to force to attend the wedding twenty years ago, and, to the meager possibilities which the town offered, shopping — as though she had succeeded at last in evacuating not only the puritan heritage but reality itself; had immolated outrageous husband and incomprehensible children into shades; escaped at last into a world of pure illusion in which, safe from any harm, she moved, lived, from attitude to attitude against her background of Chatelaine to the largest, wife to the wealthiest, mother of the most fortunate. When she shopped (there were twenty stores in Jefferson now) she unbent without even getting out of the carriage, gracious and assured' and talking the most complete nonsense, speaking her bright set meaningless phrases out of the part which she had written for herself, of the duchess peripatetic with property soups and medicines among a soilless and uncompelled peasantry — a woman who, if she had had the fortitude to bear sorrow and trouble, might have risen to actual stardom in the role of the matriarch, arbitrating from the fireside corner of a crone the pride and destiny of her family, instead of turning at the last to the youngest member of it and asking her to protect the others.
Often twice and sometimes three times a week the two of them came to town and into the house — the foolish unreal voluble preserved woman now six years absent from the world — the woman who had quitted home and kin on a flood of tears and in a shadowy miasmic region something like the bitter purlieus of Styx had produced two children and then rose like the swamp-hatched butterfly, unimpeded by weight of stomach and all the heavy organs of suffering and experience, into a perennial bright vacuum of arrested sun — and Judith, the young girl dreaming, not living, in her complete detachment and imperviousness to actuality almost like physical deafness. To them, Miss Rosa must not have been anything at all now: not the child who had been the object and victim of the vanished aunt's vindictive unflagging care and attention, and not even the woman which her office as housekeeper would indicate, and certainly not the factual aunt herself. And it would be hard to say which of the two, sister or niece, was the most unreal to Miss Rosa in turn — the adult who had escaped reality into a bland region peopled by dolls, or the young girl who slept waking in some suspension so completely physical as to resemble the state before birth and as far removed from reality's other extreme as Ellen was from hers, driving up to the house twice and three times a week, and one time, in the summer when Judith was seventeen, stopping in on their way overland to Memphis to buy Judith clothes; yes: a trousseau.. That was the summer following Henry's first year at the University, after he had brought Charles Bon home with him for Christmas and then again to spend a week or so of the summer vacation before Bon rode on to the River to take the steamboat home to New Orleans; the summer in which Sutpen himself went away, on business, Ellen said, doubtless unaware, such was her existence then, that she did not know where her husband had gone and not even conscious that she was not curious. No one but your grandfather and perhaps Clytie was ever to know that Sutpen had gone to New Orleans too. They would enter Miss Rosa's house, that dim grim tight little house where even yet, four years after she had left the aunt still seemed to be just beyond any door with her hand already on the knob, and which Ellen would fill with ten or fifteen minutes of shrill uproar and then depart, taking with her the dreamy and volitionless daughter who had not spoken one word; and Miss Rosa who in actual fact was the girl's aunt and who by actual years should have been her sister ignoring the mother to follow the departing and inaccessible daughter with myopic and inarticulate yearning and not one whir of jealousy, projecting upon Judith all the abortive dreams and delusions of her own doomed and frustrated youth, offering Judith the only gift (it was Ellen who told this, with shrieks of amusement, more than once) in her power: she offered to teach Judith how to keep house and plan meals and count laundry, receiving for the offer the blank fathomless stare, the unhearing 'What? What did you say?" while even now Ellen was shrieking with astonished appreciation. Then they were gone — carriage, bundles, Ellen's peacock amusement, the niece's impenetrable dreaming. When they came to town next and the carriage stopped before Mr Coldfield's house, one of the Negresses came out and said that Miss Rosa was not at home.
That summer she saw Henry again too. She had not seen him since the summer before although he had been home Christmas with Charles Bon, his friend from the University, and she had heard about the balls and parties at Sutpen's Hundred during the holidays, but she and her father had not gone out. And when Henry stopped with Bon on the way back to school the day after New Year's to speak to his aunt, she actually was not at home. So she did not see him until the following summer, after a full year. She was downtown, shopping; she was standing on the street talking to your grandmother when he rode past. He didn't see her; he passed on a new mare which his father had given him, in the coat and hat of a man now; your grandmother said he was as tall as his father and that he sat the mare with the same swagger although lighter in the bone than Sutpen, as if his bones were capable of bearing the swagger but were still too light and quick to support the pomposity.
Because Sutpen was acting his role too. He had corrupted Ellen in more ways than one. He was the biggest single landowner and cotton-planter in the county now, attained by the same tactics with which he had built his house — the same singleminded unflagging effort and utter disregard of how his actions which the town could see might look and how the ones which the town could not see must appear to it. There were some among his fellow citizens who believed even yet that there was a nigger in the woodpile somewhere, ranging from the ones who believed that the plantation was just a blind to his actual dark avocation, through the ones who believed that he had found some way to juggle the cotton market itself and so get more per bale for his cotton than honest men could, to those who believed apparently that the wild niggers which he had brought there had the power to actually conjure more cotton per acre from the soil than any tame ones had ever done. He was not liked (which he evidently did not want, anyway) but feared, which seemed to amuse, if not actually please, him. But he was accepted; he obviously had too much money now to be rejected or even seriously annoyed any more. He accomplished this — got his plantation to running smoothly (he had an overseer now; it was the son of that same sheriff who had arrested him at his bride-to-He's gate on the day of the betrothal) within ten years of the wedding, and now he acted his role too a role of arrogant ease and leisure which, as the leisure and ease put flesh on him, became a little pompous. Yes, he had corrupted Ellen to more than renegadery, though, like her, he was unaware that his flowering was a forced blooming too and that while he was still playing the scene to the audience, behind him Fate, destiny, retribution, irony — the stage manager, call him what you will — was already striking the set and dragging on the synthetic and spurious shadows and shapes of the next one. 'There goes — ' your grandmother said. But Miss Rosa had already seen Henry. She was standing there beside your grandmother, her head hardly reaching your grandmother's shoulder, thin, in one of the dresses which the aunt had left in the house and which Miss Rosa had cut down to fit herself, who had never been taught to sew either, just as she had assumed the housekeeping and offered to teach Judith to do the same, who had never been taught to cook nor taught to do anything save listen through closed doors, standing there with a shawl over her head like she might have been fifty instead of fifteen, looking after her nephew and saying, 'Why… he's shaved." Then she stopped seeing Ellen even. That is, Ellen also stopped coming to the house, stopped breaking the carriage's weekly ritual of store to store where, without getting out, Ellen bade merchant and clerk fetch out to her the cloth and the meager fripperies and baubles which they carried and which they knew even better than she that she would not buy but instead would merely finger and handle and disarrange and then reject, all in that flow of bright pettish volubility. Not contemptuous, not even patronizing exactly, but with a bland and even childlike imposition upon the sufferance or good manners or sheer helplessness of the men, the merchants and clerks; then to come to the house and fill it too with that meaningless uproar of vanity, of impossible and foundationless advice about Miss Rosa and her father and the house, about Miss Rosa's clothes and the arrangement of the furniture and how the food was prepared and even the hours at which it was eaten. Because the time now approached (it was 1860, even Mr Coldfield probably admitted that war was unavoidable) when the destiny of Sutpen's family which for twenty years now had been like a lake welling from quiet springs into a quiet valley and spreading, rising almost imperceptibly and in which the four members of it floated in sunny suspension, felt the first subterranean movement toward the outlet, the gorge which would be the land's catastrophe too, and the four peaceful swimmers turning suddenly to face one another, not yet with alarm or distrust but just alert, feeling the dark set, none of them yet at that point where man looks about at his companions in disaster and thinks when will I stop trying to save them and save only myself? and not even aware that that point was approaching.
So Miss Rosa did not see any of them; she had never seen (and was never to see alive) Charles Bon at all; Charles Bon of New Orleans, Henry's friend who was not only some few years older than Henry but actually a little old to be still in college and certainly a little out of place in that one where he was — a small new college in the Mississippi hinterland and even wilderness, three hundred miles from that worldly and even foreign city which was his home — a young man of a worldy elegance and assurance beyond his years, handsome, apparently wealthy and with for background the shadowy figure of a legal guardian rather than any parents — a personage who in the remote Mississippi of that time must have appeared almost phoenix-like, fullsprung from no childhood, born of no woman and impervious to time and, vanished, leaving no bones nor dust anywhere — a man with an ease of manner and a swaggering gallant air in comparison with which Sutpen's pompous arrogance was clumsy bluff and Henry actually a hobble-de-hoy. Miss Rosa never saw him; this was a picture, an image. It was not what Ellen told her: Ellen at the absolute halcyon of her butterfly's summer and now with the added charm of gracious and graceful voluntary surrendering of youth to her blood's and sex's successor, that concurrent attitude and behavior with the engagement's span with which mothers who want to can almost make themselves the brides of their daughters' weddings. Listening to Ellen, a stranger would have almost believed that the marriage, which subsequent events would indicate had not even been mentioned between the young people and the parents, had been actually performed. Ellen did not once mention love between Judith and Bon. She did not hint around it.
Love, with reference to them was just a finished and perfectly dead subject like the matter of virginity would be after the birth of the first grandchild.
She spoke of Bon as if he were three inanimate objects in one, or perhaps one inanimate object for which she and her family would find three concordant uses: a garment which Judith might wear as she would a riding habit or a ball gown, a piece of furniture which would complement and complete the furnishing of her house and position, and a mentor and example to correct Henry's provincial manners and speech and clothing. She seemed to have encompassed time. She postulated the elapsed years during which no honeymoon nor any change had taken place, out of which the (now) five faces looked with a sort of lifeless and perennial bloom like painted portraits hung in a vacuum, each taken at its forewarned peak and smoothed of all thought and experience, the originals of which had lived and died so long ago that their joys and griefs must now be forgotten even by the very boards on which they had strutted and postured and laughed and wept. This, while Miss Rosa, not listening, who had got the picture from the first word, perhaps from the name, Charles Bon; the spinster doomed for life at sixteen, sitting beneath this bright glitter of delusion like it was one of those colored electric beams in cabarets and she there for the first time in her life and the beam filled with a substanceless glitter of tinsel motes darting suddenly upon her, halting for a moment then going on.
She wasn't jealous of Judith. It was not selfpity either, sitting there blinking steadily at her sister, while Ellen talked, in one of those botched-over house dresses (the clothes, castoff sometimes but usually new, which Ellen gave her from time to time were always silk, of course) which the aunt had abandoned when she eloped with the horse-and mule-trader, perhaps in the hope or even the firm intention of never wearing anything like them again.
It was probably just peaceful despair and relief at final and complete abnegation, now that Judith was about to immolate the frustration's vicarious recompense into the living fairy tale. It sounded like a fairy tale when Ellen told it later to your grandmother, only it was a fairy tale written for and acted by a fashionable ladies' club. But to Miss Rosa it must have been authentic, not only plausible but justified: hence the remark which sent Ellen again (she told this too, for the childish joke it was) into shrieks of amused and fretted astonishment. 'We deserve him,' Miss Rosa said. 'Deserve? Him?" Ellen said, probably shrieked too. 'Of course we deserve him — if you want to put it that way. I certainly hope and expect you to feel that the Coldfields are qualified to reciprocate whatever particularly signal honor marriage with anyone might confer upon them." Naturally there is no known rejoinder to this. At least, as far as Ellen ever told, Miss Rosa did not try to make one. She just saw Ellen depart and then set about to make Judith the second only gift in her power. She possessed two now, this one likewise bequeathed to her by the aunt who taught her both to keep house and how to fit clothes by climbing out a window one night, though this second gift developed late (you might say, repercussed) due to the fact that when the aunt left, Miss Rosa was not yet large enough to be able to use the discarded clothing even by cutting the garments down. She set about secretly making garments for Judith's trousseau. She got the cloth from her father's store. She could not have got it anywhere else. Your grandmother told me that at that time Miss Rosa actually could not count money, that she knew the progression of the coins in theory but that apparently she had never had the actual cash to see, touch, experiment and prove with; that on certain days of the week she would go down town with a basket and shop at certain stores which Mr Coldfield had already designated, with no coin nor sum of money changing lip or hand, and that later in the day Mr Coldfield would trace her course by the debits scratched on paper or on walls and counters, and pay them. So she would have to get the material from him, though his stock which had begun as a collection of the crudest necessities and which apparently could not even feed himself and his daughter from its own shelves, had not increased, let alone diversified. Yet this was where she had to go to get the material to make those intimate young girl garments which were to be for her own vicarious bridal and you can Imagine too what Miss Rosa's notion of such garments would be, let alone what her notion of them would look like when she had finished them unassisted. Nobody knows how she managed to get the material from her father's store. He didn't give it to her. He would have felt it incumbent on him to supply his granddaughter with clothes if she were indecently clad or if she were ragged or cold, but not to marry in. So I believe she stole it. She must have. She must have taken it almost from under her father's nose (it was a small store and he was his own clerk and from any point in it he could see any other point) with that amoral boldness, that affinity for brigandage in women, but more likely, or so I would like to think, by some subterfuge of such bald and desperate transparence concocted by innocence that its very simplicity fooled him.
So she didn't even see Ellen anymore. Apparently Ellen had now served her purpose, completed the bright pointless noon and afternoon of the butterfly's summer and vanished, perhaps not out of Jefferson, but out of her sister's life any way, to be seen but the one time more dying in bed in a darkened room in the house on which fateful mischance had already laid its hand to the extent of scattering the black foundation on which it had been erected and removing its two male mainstays, husband and son — the one into the risk and danger of battle, the other apparently into oblivion. Henry had just vanished.
She heard of that too while she was spending her days (and nights; she would have to wait until her father was asleep) sewing tediously and without skill on the garments which she was making for her niece's trousseau and which she had to keep hidden not only from her father but from the two Negresses, who might have told Mr Coldfield — whipping lace out of raveled and hoarded string and thread and sewing it onto garments while news came of Lincoln's election and of the fall of Sumpter, and she scarce listening, hearing and losing the knell and doom of her native land between two tedious and clumsy stitches on a garment which she would never wear and never remove for a man whom she was not even to see alive.
Henry just vanished: she heard just what the town heard — that on this next Christmas Henry and Bon came home again to spend the holidays, the handsome and wealthy New Orleansian whose engagement to the daughter the mother had been filling the town's ears with for six months now. They came again and now the town listened for the announcement of the actual day. And then something happened. Nobody knew what: whether something between Henry and Bon on one hand and Judith on the other, or between the three young people on one hand and the parents on the other. But anyway, when Christmas day came, Henry and Bon were gone. And Ellen was not visible (she seemed to have retired to the darkened room which she was not to quit until she died two years later) and nobody could have told from either Sutpen's or Judith's faces or actions or behavior, and so the tale came through the Negroes: of how on the night before Christmas there had been a quarrel between, not Bon and Henry or Bon and Sutpen, but between the son and the father and that Henry had formally abjured his father and renounced his birthright and the roof under which he had been born and that he and Bon had ridden away in the night and that the mother was prostrate though, the town believed, not at the upset of the marriage but at the shock of reality entering her life: this the merciful blow of the axe before the beast's throat is cut.
That's what Miss Rosa heard. Nobody knows what she thought. The town believed that Henry's action was just the fiery nature of youth, let alone a Sutpen, and that time would cure it. Doubtless Sutpen's and Judith's behavior toward one another and toward the town had something to do with this. They would be seen together in the carriage in town now and then as though nothing had occurred between them at least, which certainly would not have been the case if the quarrel had been between Bon and the father, and probably not the case if the trouble had been between Henry and his father because the town knew that between Henry and Judith there had been a relationship closer than the traditional loyalty of brother and sister even; a curious relationship: something of that fierce impersonal rivalry between two cadets in a crack regiment who eat from the same dish and sleep under the same blanket and chance the same destruction and who would risk death for one another, not for the other's sake but for the sake of the unbroken front of the regiment itself.
That's all Miss Rosa knew. She could have known no more about it than the town knew because the ones who did know (Sutpen or Judith: not Ellen, who would have been told nothing in the first place and would have forgot, failed to assimilate, it if she had been told Ellen the butterfly, from beneath whom without warning the very sunbuoyed air had been withdrawn, leaving her now with the plump hands folded on the coverlet in the darkened room and the eyes above them probably not even suffering but merely filled with baffled incomprehension) would not have told her anymore than they would have told anyone in Jefferson or anywhere else. Miss Rosa probably went out there, probably once and then no more. And she must have told Mr Coldfield that there was nothing wrong and evidently she believed that herself since she continued to sew on the garments for Judith's wedding.
She was still doing that when Mississippi seceded and when the first Confederate uniforms began to appear in Jefferson where Colonel Sartoris and Sutpen were raising the regiment which departed in '61, with Sutpen, second in command, siding at Colonel Sartoris' left hand, on the black stallion named out of Scott, beneath the regimental colors which he and Sartoris had designed and which Sartoris' womenfolks had sewed together out of silk dresses. He had filled out physically from what he had been not only when he first rode into Jefferson that Sunday in '33, but from what he had been when he and Ellen married. He was not portly yet, though he was now getting on toward fifty-five. The fat, the stomach, came later. It came upon him suddenly, all at once, in the year after whatever it was happened to his engagement to Miss Rosa and she quitted his roof and returned to town to live alone in her father's house and did not ever speak to him again except when she addressed him that one time when they told her that he was dead. The flesh came upon him suddenly, as though what the Negroes and Wash Jones, too, called the fine figure of a man had reached and held its peak after the foundation had given away and something between the shape of him that people knew and the uncompromising skeleton of what he actually was had gone fluid and, earthbound, had been snubbed up and restrained, balloonlike, unstable and lifeless, by the envelope which it had betrayed.
She did not see the regiment depart because her father forbade her to leave the house until it was gone, refusing to allow her to take part in or be present with the other women and girls in the ceremony of its departure, though not because his son-in-law happened to be in it. He had never been an irascible man and before war was actually declared and Mississippi seceded, his acts and speeches of protest had been not only calm but logical and quite sensible. But after the die was cast he seemed to change overnight, just as his daughter Ellen changed her nature a few years before. As soon as troops began to appear in Jefferson he closed his store and kept it closed all during the period that soldiers were being mobilized and drilled, and later, after the regiment was gone, whenever casual troops would bivouac for the night in passing, refusing to sell any goods for any price to the military and, so it was told, to the families not only of soldiers but of men or women who had supported secession and war only in talk, opinion. He refused to permit his sister to come back home to live while her horse-trader husband was in the army, he would not even allow Miss Rosa to look out the window at passing soldiers. He had closed his store permanently and was at home all day now. He and Miss Rosa lived in the back of the house, with the front door locked and the front shutters closed and fastened. He spent the day, the neighbors said, behind one of the slightly opened blinds like a picquet on post, armed not with a musket but with the big family Bible in which his and his sister's birth and his marriage and Ellen's birth and marriage and the birth of his two grandchildren and of Miss Rosa, and his wife's death (but not the marriage of the aunt; it was Miss Rosa who entered that, along with Ellen's death, on the day when she entered Mr Coldfield's own, and Charles Bon's and even Sutpen's) had been duly entered in his neat clerk's hand, until a detachment of troops would pass: whereupon he would open the Bible and declaim in a harsh loud voice even above the sound of the tramping feet, the passages of the old violent vindictive mysticism which he had already marked as the actual picquet would have ranged his row of cartridges along the window sill. Then one morning he learned that his store had been broken into and looted, doubtless by a company of strange troops bivouacked on the edge of town and doubtless abetted, if only vocally, by his own fellow citizens. That night he mounted to the attic with his hammer and his handful of nails and nailed the door behind him and threw the hammer out the window. He was not a coward. He was a man of uncompromising moral strength, coming into a new country with a small stock of goods and supporting five people out of it in comfort and security at least. He did it by close trading, to be' sure: he could not have done it save by close trading or dishonesty; and as your grandfather said, a man who, in a country such as Mississippi was then, would restrict dishonesty to the selling of straw hats and hame strings and salt meat would have been already locked up by his own family as a kleptomaniac. But he was not a coward, even though his conscience may have objected, as your grandfather said, not so much to the idea of pouring out human blood and life, but at the idea of waste: of wearing out and eating up and shooting away material in any cause whatever. Now Miss Rosa's life consisted of keeping life in herself and her father.
Up to the night when it was looted, they had lived out of the store. She would go to the store after dark with a basket and fetch back enough food to last for a day or two. So the stock, not renewed for some time before that, was considerably reduced even before the looting; and soon she, who had never been taught to do anything practical because the aunt had raised her to believe that she was not only delicate but actually precious, was cooking the food which as time passed became harder and harder to come by and poorer and poorer in quality, and hauling it up to her father at night by means of a well pulley and rope attached to the attic window. She did this for three years, feeding in secret and at night and with food which in quantity was scarcely sufficient for one, the man whom she hated. And she may not have known before that she hated him and she may not have known it now even, nevertheless the first of the odes to Southern soldiers in that portfolio which when your grandfather saw it in 1885 contained a thousand or more, was dated in the first year of her father's voluntary incarceration and dated at two oclock in the morning. Then he died. One morning the hand did not come out to draw up the basket.
The old nails were still in the door and neighbors helped her break it in with axes and they found him, who had seen his sole means of support looted by the defenders of his cause, even if he had repudiated it and them, with three days' uneaten food beside his pallet bed as if he had spent the three days in a mental' balancing of his terrestrial accounts, found the result and proved it and then turned upon his contemporary scene of folly and outrage and injustice the dead and consistent impassivity of a cold and inflexible disapproval. Now Miss Rosa was not only an orphan, but a pauper too. The store was just a shell, the deserted building vacated even by rats and containing nothing, not even goodwill since he had irrevocably estranged himself from neighbors, town, and embattled land, all three by his behavior.
Even the two Negresses were gone now — whom he had freed as soon as he came into possession of them (through a debt, by the way, not purchase), writing out their papers of freedom which they could not read and putting them on a weekly wage which he held back in full against the discharge of their current market value — and in return for which they had been among the first Jefferson Negroes to desert and follow the Yankee troops. So when he died, he had nothing, not only saved but kept. Doubtless the only pleasure which he had ever had was not in the meager spartan hoard which he had accumulated before his path crossed that of his future son-in-law — not in the money but in its representation of a balance in whatever spiritual countinghouse he believed would some day pay his sight drafts on self-denial and fortitude. And doubtless what hurt him most in the whole business with Sutpen was not the loss of the 'money but the fact that he had had to sacrifice the hoarding, the symbol of the fortitude and abnegation, to keep intact the spiritual solvency which he believed that he had already established and secured. It was as if he had had to pay the same note twice because of some trifling oversight of date or signature. SO Miss Rosa was both pauper and orphan, with no kin above dust but Judith and the aunt who had been last heard of two years ago while trying to pass the Yankee lines to reach Illinois and so be near the Rock Island prison where her husband, who had offered his talents for horse — and mulegetting to the Confederate cavalry remount corps and had been caught at it, now was. Ellen was dead two years now the butterfly, the moth caught in a gale and blown against a wall and clinging there beating feebly, not with any particular stubborn clinging to life, not in particular pain since it was too light to have struck hard, nor even with very much remembrance of the bright vacuum before the gale, but just in bewildered and uncomprehending amazement the bright trivial shell not even changed to any great extent despite the year of bad food, since all of Sutpen's Negroes had deserted also to follow the Yankee troops away; the wild blood which he had brought into the country and tried to mix, blend, with the tame which was already there, with the same care and for the same purpose which he blended that of the stallion and that of his own. And with the same success: as though his presence alone compelled that house to accept and retain human life; as though houses actually possess a sentience, a personality and character acquired, not so much from the people who breathe or have breathed in them inherent in the wood and brick or begotten upon the wood and brick by the man or men who conceived and built them — in this house an incontrovertible affirmation for emptiness, desertion; an insurmountable resistance to occupancy save when sanctioned and protected by the ruthless and the strong. Ellen had lost some flesh of course, but it was as the butterfly itself enters dissolution by actually dissolving: the area of wing and body decreasing a little, the pattern of the spots drawing a little closer together, but with no wrinkle to show — the same smooth, almost girlish face on the pillow (though Miss Rosa now discovered that Ellen had been dyeing her hair evidently for years), the same almost plump soft (though now unringed) hands on the coverlet, and only the bafflement in the dark uncomprehending eyes to indicate anything of present life by which to postulate approaching death as she asked the seventeen-year-old sister to protect the remaining child. (Henry up to now was just vanished, his birthright voluntarily repudiated; he had not yet returned to play his final part in his family's doom — and this, your grandfather said, spared Ellen too, not that it would have been the crushing and crowning blow but that it would have been wasted on her since the clinging moth, even alive, would have been incapable now of feeling anymore of wind or violence.) So the natural thing would have been for her to go out and live with Judith, the natural thing for her or any Southern woman, gentlewoman. She would not have needed to be asked; no one 'would expect her to wait to be. Because that's what a Southern lady is. Not the fact that, penniless and with no prospect of ever being otherwise and knowing that all who know her know this, yet moving with a parasol and a private chamber pot and three trunks into your home and into the room where your wife uses the hand-embroidered linen, she not only takes command of all the servants who likewise know that she will never tip them, because they know as well as the white folks that she will never have anything to tip them with, but goes into the kitchen and dispossesses the cook and seasons the very food you are going to eat to suit her own palate — it's not this, not this that she is depending on to keep body and soul together: it was as though she were living on the actual blood itself, like a vampire, not with insatiability, certainly not with voracity, but with that serene and idle splendor of flowers abrogating to herself, because it fills her veins also, nourishment from the old blood that crossed uncharted seas and continents and battled wilderness hardships and lurking circumstances and fatalities.
That's what she would have been expected to do. But she didn't.
Yet Judith still had those abandoned acres to draw from, let alone Clytie to help her, keep her company, and Wash Jones to feed her as Wash had fed Ellen before she died. But Miss Rosa didn't go out there at once. Perhaps she never would have gone. Although Ellen had asked her to protect Judith, possibly she felt that Judith did not need protection yet, since if even deferred love could have supplied her with the will to exist, endure for this long, then that same love, even though deferred, must and would preserve Bon until the folly of men would stalemate from sheer exhaustion and he would return from wherever he was and bring Henry with him — Henry, victim too of the same folly and mischance. She must have seen Judith now and then and Judith probably urged her to come out to Sutpen's Hundred to live, but I believe that this is the reason she did not go, even though she did not know where Bon and Henry were and Judith apparently never thought to tell her. Because Judith knew. She may have known for some time; even Ellen may have known. Or perhaps Judith never told her mother either.
Perhaps Ellen did not know before she died that Henry and Bon were now privates in the company which their classmates at the University had organized. The first intimation Miss Rosa had had in four years that her nephew was still alive was the afternoon when Wash Jones, riding Sutpen's remaining mule, stopped in front of the house and began to shout her name. She had seen him before but she did not recognize him — a gaunt gangling man malaria-ridden with pale eyes and a face that might have been any age between twenty-five and sixty, sitting on the saddleless mule in the street before the gate, shouting 'Hello, Hello,' at intervals until she came to the door; whereupon he lowered his voice somewhat, though not much. 'Air you Rosie Coldfield?" he said.
It was still not dark enough for Quentin to start, not yet dark enough to suit Miss Coldfield at least, even discounting the twelve miles out there and the twelve miles back. Quentin knew that. He could almost see her, waiting in one of the dark airless rooms in the little grim house's impregnable solitude. She would have no light burning because she would be out of the house soon, and probably some mental descendant or kinsman of him or her who had told her once that light and moving air carried heat had also told her that the cost of electricity was not in the actual time the light burned but in the retroactive overcoming of primary inertia when the switch was snapped: that that was what showed on the meter.
She would be wearing already the black bonnet with jet sequins; he knew that: and a shawl, sitting there in the augmenting and defunctive twilight; she would have even now in her hand or on her lap the reticule with all the keys, entrance closet and cupboard, that the house possessed which she was about to desert for perhaps six hours; and a parasol, an umbrella too, he thought, thinking how she would be impervious to weather and season since although he had not spoken a hundred words to her in his life before this afternoon, he did know that she had never before tonight quitted that house after sundown save on Sundays and Wednesdays for prayer meeting, in the entire forty-three years probably. Yes, she would have the umbrella. She would emerge with it when he called for her and carry it invincibly into the spent suspiration of an evening without even dew, where even now the only alteration toward darkness was in the soft and fuller random of the fireflies below the gallery, where he rose from his chair as Mr Compson, carrying the letter, emerged from the house, snapping on the porch light as he passed. 'You will probably have to go inside to read it,' Mr Compson said.
'Maybe I can read it here all right,' Quentin said.
'Perhaps you are right,' Mr Compson said. 'Maybe even the light of day, let alone this — ' he indicated the single globe stained and bug-fouled from the long summer and which even when clean gave off but little light — 'would be too much for it, for them. Yes, for them: of that day and time, of a dead time; people too as we are, and victims too as we are, but victims of a different circumstance, simpler and therefore, integer for integer, larger, more heroic and the figures therefore more heroic too, not dwarfed and involved but distinct, uncomplex who had the gift of loving once or dying once instead of being diffused and scattered creatures drawn blindly limb from limb from a grab bag and assembled, author and victim too of a thousand homicides and a thousand copulations and divorcements. Perhaps you are right. Perhaps any more light than this would be too much for it ' But he did not give Quentin the letter at once.
He sat again, Quentin sitting again too, and took up the cigar from the veranda rail, the coal glowing again, the wistaria colored smoke drifting again unwinded across Quentin's face as Mr Compson raised his feet once more to the railing, the letter in his hand and the hand looking almost as dark as a Negro's against his linen leg.
'Because Henry loved Bon. He repudiated blood birthright and material security for his sake, for the sake of this man who was at least an intending bigamist even if not an out and out blackguard, and on whose dead body four years later Judith was to find the photograph of the other woman and the child. So much so that he (Henry) could give his father the lie about a statement which he must have realized that his father could not and would not have made without foundation and proof. Yet he did it, Henry himself striking the blow with his own hand, even though he must have known that what his father told him about the woman and the child was true. He must have said to himself, must have said when he closed the library door for the last time behind himself that Christmas eve and must have repeated while he and Bon rode side by side through the iron dark of that Christmas morning, away from the house where he had been born and which he would see but one time more and that with the fresh blood of the man who now rode beside him, on his hands: I will believe; I will. I will. Even if it is so, even if what my father told me is true and which, in spite of myself, I cannot keep from knowing is true, I will still believe. Because what else could he have hoped to find in New Orleans, if not the truth?
But who knows why a man, though suffering, clings, above all the other well members, to the arm or leg which he knows must come off? Because he loved Bon. I can imagine him and Sutpen in the library that Christmas eve, the father and the brother, percussion and repercussion like a thunderclap and its echo, and as close together; the statement and the giving of the lie, the decision instantaneous and irrevocable between father and friend, between (so Henry must have believed) that where honor and love lay and this where blood and profit ran, even though at the instant of giving the lie he knew that it was the truth. That was why the four years, the probation.
He must have known that it would be vain, even then, on that Christmas eve, not to speak of what he learned, saw with his own eyes in New Orleans. He may even have known Bon that well by then, who had not changed until then and so would in all probability not change later; and he (Henry) who could not say to his friend, I did that for love of you; do this for love of me. He couldn't say that, you see this man, this youth scarcely twenty, who had turned his back upon all that he knew, to cast his lot with the single friend whom, even as they rode away that night, he must have known, as he knew that what his father had told him was true, that he was doomed and destined to kill.
He must have known that just as he knew that his hope was vain, what hope and what for he could not have said; what hope and dream of change in Bon or in the situation, what dream that he could someday wake from and find it had been a dream, as in the injured man's fever dream the dear suffering arm or leg is strong and sound and only the well ones sick.
'It was Henry's probation; Henry holding all three of them in that durance to which even Judith acquiesced up to a certain point. She did not know what happened in the library that night. I don't think she ever suspected, until that afternoon four years later when she saw them again, when they brought Bon's body into the house and she found in his coat the photograph which was not her face, not her child; she just waked the next morning and they were gone and only the letter, the note, remaining, the note written by Henry since doubtless he refused to allow Bon to write — this announcement of the armistice, the probation, and Judith acquiescing up to that point, who would have refused as quickly to obey any injunction of her father as Henry had been to defy him yet who did obey Henry in this matter — not the male relative, the brother, but because of that relationship between them that single personality with two bodies both of which had been seduced almost simultaneously by a man whom at the time Judith had never even seen — she and Henry both knowing that she would observe the probation, give him (Henry) the benefit of that interval, only up to that mutually recognized though unstated and undefined point and both doubtless aware that when that point was reached she would, and with the same calm, the same refusal to accept or give because of any traditional weakness of sex, recall the armistice and face him as a foe, not requiring or even wishing that Bon be present to support her, doubtless even refusing to allow him to intervene if he were, fighting the matter out with Henry like a man first, before consenting to revert to the woman, the loved, the bride. And Bon: Henry would have no more told Bon what his father had told him than he would have returned to his father and told him that Bon denied it, since to do one he would have to do the other and he knew that Bon's denial would be a lie and though he could have borne Bon's lie himself, he could not have borne for either Judith or his father to hear it. Besides, Henry would not need to tell Bon what had happened. 'Bon must have learned of Sutpen's visit to New Orleans as soon as he (Bon) reached home that first summer. He must have known that Sutpen now knew his secret — if Bon, until he saw Sutpen's reaction to it, ever looked upon it as a cause for secrecy, certainly not as a valid objection to marriage with a white woman — a situation in which probably all his contemporaries who could afford it were likewise involved and which it would no more have occurred to him to mention to his bride or wife or to her family than he would have told them the secrets of a fraternal organization which he had joined before he married. In fact, the manner in which his intended bride's family reacted to the discovery of it was doubtless the first and last time when the Sutpen family ever surprised him. He is the curious one to me. He came into that isolated puritan country household almost like Sutpen himself came into Jefferson: apparently complete, without background or past or childhood — a man a little older than his actual years and enclosed and surrounded by a sort of Scythian glitter, who seems to have seduced the country brother and sister without any effort or particular desire to do so, who caused all the pother and uproar, yet from the moment when he realized that Sutpen was going to prevent the marriage if he could, he (Bon) seems to have withdrawn into a mere spectator, passive, a little sardonic, and completely enigmatic. He seems to hover, shadowy, almost substanceless, a little behind and above all the other straightforward and logical, even though (to him) incomprehensible, ultimatums and affirmations and defiances and challenges and repudiations, with an air of sardonic and indolent detachment like that of a youthful Roman consul making the Grand Tour of his day among the barbarian hordes which his grandfather conquered, benighted in a brawling and childish and quite deadly mud-castle household in a miasmic and spirit-ridden forest.
It was as if he found the whole business, not inexplicable of course, just unnecessary; that he knew at once that Sutpen had found out about the mistress and child and he now found Sutpen's action and Henry's reaction a fetish-ridden moral blundering which did not deserve to be called thinking, and which he contemplated with the detached attentiveness of a scientist watching the muscles in an anesthetized frog — watching, contemplating them from behind that barrier of sophistication in comparison with which Henry and Sutpen were troglodytes. Not just the outside, the way he walked and talked and wore his clothes and handed Ellen into the dining-room or into the carriage and (perhaps, probably) kissed her hand and which Ellen envied for Henry, but the man himself — that fatalistic and impenetrable imperturbability with which he watched them while he waited for them to do whatever it would be that they would do, as if he had known all the while that the occasion would arise when he would have to wait and that all he would need to do would be to wait; had known that he had seduced Henry and Judith both too thoroughly to have any fear that he might not marry Judith when he wished to. Not that stupid shrewdness part instinct and part belief in luck, and part muscular habit of the senses and nerves of the gambler waiting to take what he can from what he sees, but a certain reserved and inflexible pessimism stripped long generations ago of all the rubbish and claptrap of people (yes, Sutpen and Henry and the Coldfields too) who have not quite emerged from barbarism, who two thousand years hence will still be throwing triumphantly off the yoke of Latin culture and intelligence of which they were never in any great permanent danger to begin with.
'Because he loved Judith. He would have added doubtless "after his fashion" since, as his intended father-in-law soon learned, this was not the first time he had played this part, pledged what he had pledged to Judith, let alone the first time he would have gone through a ceremony to commemorate it, make what distinction (he was a Catholic of sorts) he might between this one with a white woman and that other.
Because you will see the letter, not the first one he ever wrote to her but at least the first, the only one she ever showed, as your grandmother knew then: and, so we believe now that she is dead, the only one which she kept unless of course Miss Rosa or Clytie destroyed the others after she herself died: and this one here preserved not because Judith put it away to keep but because she brought it herself and gave it to your grandmother after Bon's death, possibly on the same day when she destroyed the others which he had written her (provided of course it was she herself who destroyed them) which would have been when she found in Bon's coat the picture of the octoroon mistress and the little boy. Because he was her first and last sweetheart. She must have seen him in fact with exactly the same eyes that Henry saw him with. And it would be hard to say to which of them he appeared the more splendid — to the one with hope, even though unconscious, of making the image hers through possession; to the other with the knowledge of the insurmountable barrier which the similarity of gender hopelessly intervened — this man whom Henry first saw riding perhaps through the grove at the University on one of the two horses which he kept there or perhaps crossing the campus on foot in the slightly Frenchified cloak and hat which he wore, or perhaps (I like to think this) presented formally to the man reclining in a flowered, almost feminized gown, in a sunny window in his chambers — this handsome elegant and even catlike and too old to be where he was, too old not in years but in experience, with some tangible effluvium of knowledge, surfeit: of actions done and satiations plumbed and pleasures exhausted and even forgotten. So that he must have appeared, not only to Henry but to the entire undergraduate body of that small new provincial college, as a source not of envy, because you only envy whom you believe to be, but for accident, in no way superior to yourself: and what you believe, granted a little better luck than you have had heretofore, you will someday possess not of envy but of despair: that sharp shocking terrible hopeless despair of the young which sometimes takes the form of insult toward and even physical assault upon the human subject of it or, in extreme cases like Henry's, insult toward and assault upon any and all detractors of the subject, as witness Henry's violent repudiation of his father and his birthright when Sutpen forbade the marriage. Yes, he loved Bon, who seduced him as surely as he seduced Judith the country boy born and bred who, with the five or six others of that small undergraduate body composed of other planters' sons whom Bon permitted to become intimate with him, who aped his clothing and manner and (to the extent which they were able) his very manner of living, looked upon Bon as though he were a hero out of some adolescent Arabian Nights who had stumbled upon a talisman or touchstone not to invest him with wisdom or power or wealth, but with the ability and opportunity to pass from the scene of one scarce imaginable delight to the next one without interval or pause or satiety. And the very fact that, lounging before them in the outlandish and almost feminine garments of his sybaritic privacy, the professed satiety only increased the amazement and the bitter and hopeless outrage. Henry was the provincial, the clown almost, given to instinctive and violent action rather than to thinking who may have been conscious that his fierce provincial's pride in his sister's virginity was a false quantity which must incorporate in itself an inability to endure in order to be precious, to exist, and so must depend upon its loss, absence, to have existed at all. In fact, perhaps this is the pure and perfect incest: the brother realizing that the sister's virginity must be destroyed in order to have existed at all, taking that virginity in the person of the brother-in-law, the man whom he would be if he could become, metamorphose into, the lover, the husband; by whom he would be despoiled, choose for despoiler, if he could become, metamorphose into the sister, the mistress, the bride.
Perhaps that is what Went on, not in Henry's mind but in his soul. Because he never thought. He felt, and acted immediately.
He knew loyalty and acted it, he knew pride and jealousy; he loved grieved and killed, still grieving and, I believe, still loving Bon, the man to whom he gave four years of probation, four years in which to renounce and dissolve the other marriage, knowing that the four years of hoping and waiting would be in vain.
' Yes, it was Henry who seduced Judith: not Bon, as witness the entire queerly placid course of Bon's and Judith's courtship — an engagement, if engagement it ever was, lasting for a whole year yet comprising two holiday visits as her brother's guest which Bon seems to have spent either in riding and hunting with Henry or as acting as an elegant and indolent esoteric hothouse bloom, possessing merely the name of a city for origin history and past, about which Ellen preened and fluttered out her unwitting butterfly's Indian summer; he, the living man, was usurped, you see. There was no time, no interval, no niche in the crowded days when he could have courted Judith. You cannot even imagine him and Judith alone together. Try to do it and the nearest you can come is a projection of them while 'the two actual people were doubtless separate and elsewhere — two shades pacing, serene and untroubled by flesh, in a summer garden — the same two serene phantoms who seem to watch, hover, impartial attentive and quiet, above and behind the inexplicable thunderhead of interdictions and defiances and repudiations out of which the rocklike Sutpen and the volatile and violent Henry flashed and glared and ceased — Henry who up to that time had never even been to Memphis, who had never been away from home before that September when he went to the University with his countrified clothes and his saddle horse and Negro groom; the six or seven of them, of an age and background, only in the surface matter of food and clothing and daily occupation any different from the Negro slaves who supported them — the same sweat, the only difference being that on the one hand it went for labor in fields where on the other it went as the price of the spartan and meager pleasures which were available to them because they did not have to sweat in the fields: the hard violent hunting and riding; the same pleasures: the one, gambling for worn knives and brass jewelry and twists of tobacco and buttons and garments because they happened to be easiest and quickest to hand; on the other for the money and horses, the guns and watches, and for the same reason; the same parties: the identical music from identical instruments, crude fiddles and guitars, now in the big house with candles and silk dresses and champagne, now in dirt-floored cabins with smoking pine knots and calico and water sweetened with molasses — it was Henry, because at that time Bon had not even seen Judith. He had probably not paid enough attention to Henry's inarticulate recounting of his brief and conventional background and history to have remembered that Henry had a sister — this indolent man too old to find even companionship among the youths, the children, with whom he now lived; this man miscast for the time and knowing it, accepting it for a reason obviously good enough to cause him to endure it and apparently 'too serious or at least too private to be divulged to what acquaintances he now possessed — this man who later showed the same indolence, almost uninterest, the same detachment when the uproar about that engagement which, so far as Jefferson knew, never formally existed, which Bon himself never affirmed or denied, arose and he in the background, impartial and passive as though it were not himself involved or he acting on behalf of some absent friend, but as though the person involved and interdict were someone whom he had never heard of and cared nothing about. There does not even seem to have been any courtship. Apparently he paid Judith the dubious compliment of not even trying to ruin her, let alone insisting on the marriage either before or after Sutpen forbade it — this, mind you, in a man who had already acquired a name for prowess among women while at the University, long before Sutpen was to find actual proof. No engagement, no courtship even: he and Judith saw one another three times in two years, for a total period of seventeen days, counting the time which Ellen consumed; they parted without even saying good-bye. And yet, four years later, Henry had to kill Bon to keep them from marrying. So it must have been Henry who seduced Judith, not Bon: seduced her along with himself from that distance between Oxford and Sutpen's Hundred, between herself and the man whom she had not even seen yet, as though by means of that telepathy with which as children they seemed at times to anticipate one anothers' actions as two birds leave a limb at the same instant; that rapport not like the conventional delusion of that between twins but rather such as might exist between two people who, regardless of sex or age or heritage of race or tongue, had been marooned at birth on a desert island: the island here Sutpen's Hundred; the solitude, the shadow of that father with whom not only the town but their mother's family as well had merely assumed armistice rather than accepting and assimilating.
'You see? there they are: this girl, this young countrybred girl who sees a man for an average of one hour a day for twelve days during his life and that over a period of a year and a half, yet is bent on marrying him to the extent of forcing her brother to the last resort of homicide, even if not murder, to prevent it, and that after a period of four years during which she could not have been always certain that he was still alive; this father who had seen that man once, yet had reason to make a six hundred mile journey to investigate him and either discover what he already and apparently by clairvoyance suspected, or at least something which served just as well as reason for forbidding the marriage; this brother in whose eyes that sister's and daughter's honor and happiness, granted that curious and unusual relationship which existed between them, should have been more jealous and precious than to the father even, yet who must champion the marriage to the extent of repudiating father and blood and home to become a follower and dependent of the rejected suitor for four years before killing him apparently for the very identical reason which four years ago he quitted home to champion; and this lover who apparently without volition or desire became involved in an engagement which he seems neither to have sought nor avoided, who took his dismissal in the same passive and sardonic spirit, yet four years later was apparently so bent upon the marriage to which up to that time he had been completely indifferent as to force the brother who had championed it to kill him to prevent it. Yes, granted that, even to the unworldly Henry, let alone the more travelled father, the existence of the eighth part Negro mistress and the sixteenth part Negro son, granted even the morganatic ceremony — a situation which was as much a part of a wealthy young New Orleansian's social and fashionable equipment as his dancing slippers was reason enough, which is drawing honor a little fine even for the shadowy paragons which are our ancestors born in the South and come to man — and womanhood about eighteen sixty or sixty one. It's just incredible. It just does not explain. Or perhaps that's it: they don't explain and we are not supposed to know. We have a few old mouth-to-mouth tales; we exhume from old trunks and boxes and drawers letters without salutation or signature, in which men and women who once lived and breathed are now merely initials or nicknames out of some now incomprehensible affection which sound to us like Sanskrit or Chocktaw; we see dimly people, the people in whose living blood and seed we ourselves lay dormant and waiting, in this shadowy attenuation of time possessing now heroic proportions, performing their acts of simple passion and simple violence, impervious to time and inexplicable Yes, Judith, Bon, Henry, Sutpen: all of them. They are there, yet something is missing; they are like a chemical formula exhumed along with the letters from that forgotten chest, carefully, the paper old and faded and falling to pieces, the writing faded, almost indecipherable, yet meaningful, familiar in shape and sense, the name and presence of volatile and sentient forces; you bring them together in the proportions called for, but nothing happens; you re-read, tedious and intent, poring, making sure that you have forgotten nothing, made no miscalculation; you bring them together again and again nothing happens: just the words, the symbols, the shapes themselves, shadowy inscrutable and serene, against that turgid background of a horrible and bloody mischancing of human affairs.
'Bon and Henry came from the University to spend that first Christmas.
Judith and Ellen and Sutpen saw him for the first time — Judith, the man whom she was to see for an elapsed time of twelve days, yet to remember so that four years later (he never wrote her during that time.
Henry would not let him; it was the probation, you see) when she received a letter from him saying We have waited long enough, she and Clytie should begin at once to fashion a wedding dress and veil out of rags and scraps; Ellen, the esoteric, the almost baroque, the almost epicene objet d'art which with childlike voracity she essayed to include in the furnishing and decoration of her house; Sutpen, the man whom, after seeing once and before any engagement existed anywhere save in his wife's mind, he saw as a potential threat to the (now and at last) triumphant coronation of his old hardships and ambition, of which threat he was apparently sure enough to warrant a six hundred mile journey to 'prove it — this in a man who might have challenged and shot someone whom he disliked or feared but who would not have made even a ten mile journey to investigate him. You see? You would almost believe that Sutpen's trip to New Orleans was just sheer chance, just a little more of the illogical machinations of a fatality which had chosen that family in preference to any other in the county or the land exactly as a small boy chooses one ant-hill to pour boiling water into in preference to any other, not even himself knowing why. Bon and Henry stayed two weeks and rode back to school, stopping to see Miss Rosa but she was not at home; they passed the long term before the summer vacation talking together and riding and reading (Bon was reading law. He would be, would almost have to, since only that could have made his residence bearable, regardless of what reason he may have brought with him for remaining this, the perfect setting for his dilatory indolence: this digging into musty Blackstone and Coke where, of an undergraduate body still numbered in two figures, the law school probably consisted of six others beside Henry and himself — yes, he corrupted Henry to the law also; Henry changed in midterm) while Henry aped his clothing and speech, caricatured rather, perhaps. And Bon, though he had now seen Judith, was very likely the same lazy and catlike man on whom Henry foisted now the role of his sister's intended, as during the fall term Henry and his companions had foisted upon Bon the role of Lothario; and Ellen and Judith now shopping two and three times a week in town and stopping once to see Miss Rosa while on their way by carriage to Memphis, with a wagon preceding them to fetch back the plunder and an extra nigger on the box with the coachman to stop every few miles and build a fire and re-heat the bricks on which Ellen's and Judith's feet rested, shopping, buying the trousseau for that wedding whose formal engagement existed nowhere yet save in Ellen's mind; and Sutpen, who had seen Bon once and was in New Orleans investigating him when Bon next entered the house: who knows what he was thinking, what waiting for, what moment, day, to go to New Orleans and find what he seems to have known all the while that he would find?
There was no one for him to tell, talk to about his fear and suspicion. He trusted no man nor woman, who had no man's nor woman's love, since Ellen was incapable of love and Judith was too much like him and he must have seen at a glance that Bon, even though the daughter might still be saved from him, had already corrupted the son.
He had been too successful, you see; his was that solitude of contempt and distrust which success brings to him who gained it because he was strong instead of merely lucky.
'Then June came and the end of the school year and Henry and Bon returned to Sutpen's Hundred, Bon to spend a day or two before riding on to the River to take the steamboat home, to New Orleans where Sutpen had already gone. He stayed but two days, yet now if ever was his chance to come to an understanding with Judith, perhaps even to fall in love with her. It was his only chance, his last chance, though of course neither he nor Judith could have known it, since Sutpen, though but two weeks absent from home, had doubtless already found out about the octoroon mistress and the child. So for the first and last time Bon and Judith might have been said to have a free field — might have been, since it was really Ellen who had the free field. I can imagine her engineering that courtship, supplying Judith and Bon with opportunities for trysts and pledges with a coy and unflagging ubiquity which they must have tried in vain to evade and escape, Judith with annoyed yet still serene concern, Bon with that sardonic and surprised distaste which seems to have been the ordinary manifestation of the impenetrable and shadowy character. Yes, shadowy: a myth, a phantom: something which they engendered and created whole themselves; some effluvium of Sutpen blood and character, as though as a man he did not exist at all.
'Yet there was the body which Miss Rosa saw, which Judith buried in the family plot beside her mother. And this: the fact that even an undefined and never-spoken engagement survived, speaking well for the postulation that they did love one another, since during that two days mere romance would have perished, died of sheer saccharinity and opportunity. Then Bon rode on to the River and took the boat. And now this: who knows, perhaps if Henry had gone with him that summer instead of waiting until the next, Bon would not have had to die as he did; if Henry had only gone then to New Orleans and found out then about the mistress and the child; Henry who, before it was too late, might have reacted to the discovery exactly as Sutpen did, as a jealous brother might have been expected to react, since who knows but what it was not the fact of the mistress and child, the possible bigamy, to which Henry gave the lie, but to the fact that it was his father who told him, his father who anticipated him, the father who is the natural enemy of any son and son-in-law of whom the mother is the ally, just as after the wedding the father will be the ally of the actual son-in-law who has for mortal foe the mother of his wife. But Henry did not go this time.
He rode to the River with Bon and then returned; after a time Sutpen returned home too, from where and for what purpose none were to know until the next Christmas, and that summer passed, the last summer, the past summer of peace and content, with Henry, doubtless without deliberate intent, pleading Bon's suit far better than Bon, than that indolent fatalist had ever bothered to plead it himself, and Judith listening with that serenity, that impenetrable tranquillity which a year or so before had been the young girl's vague and pointless and dreamy unvolition but was now already a mature woman's — a mature woman in love — repose. That's when the letters came, and Henry reading them all, without jealousy, with that complete abnegant transference, metamorphosis into the body which was to become his sister's lover.
And Sutpen saying nothing yet about what he had learned in New Orleans but just waiting, unsuspected even by Henry and Judith, waiting for what nobody knows, perhaps in the hope that when Bon learned, as he would be obliged to, that Sutpen had discovered his secret, he (Bon) would realize that the game was up and not even return to school the next year. But Bon did return. He and Henry met again at the University; the letters — from Henry and Bon both now making weekly journeys by the hand of Henry's groom; and Sutpen still waiting, certainly no one could say for what now, incredible that he should wait for Christmas, for the crisis to come to him — this man of whom it was said that he not only went out to meet his troubles, he sometimes went out and manufactured them. But this time he waited and it came to him: Christmas, and Henry and Bon rode again to Sutpen's Hundred and even the town convinced now by Ellen that the engagement existed; that twenty-fourth of December, 1860, and the nigger children, with branches of mistletoe and holly for excuses, already lurking about the rear of the big house to shout "Christmas gift" at the white people, the rich city man come to court Judith, and Sutpen saying nothing even yet, not suspected yet unless possibly by Henry who brought the matter to its crisis that same night, and Ellen at the absolute flood's peak of her unreal and weightless life which with the next dawn was to break beneath her and wash her, spent amazed and uncomprehending, into the shuttered room where she died two years later — the Christmas Eve, the explosion, and none to ever know just why or just what happened between Henry and his father and only the cabin-to-cabin whispering of Negroes to spread the news that Henry and Bon had ridden away in the dark and that Henry had formally abjured his home and birthright. 'They went to New Orleans. They rode through the bright cold of that Christmas day, to the River and took the steamboat, Henry still doing the leading, the bringing, as he always did until the very last, when for the first time during their entire relationship Bon led and Henry followed. Henry didn't have to go. He had voluntarily made himself a pauper but he could have gone to his grandfather. No, he didn't have to go. Bon was riding beside him, trying to find out from him what had happened. Bon knew of course what Sutpen had discovered in New Orleans, but he would need to know just what, just how much, Sutpen had told Henry, and Henry not telling him. Doubtless Henry was riding the new mare which he probably knew he would have to surrender, sacrifice too, along with all the rest of his life, inheritance, going fast now and his back rigid and irrevocably turned upon the house, his birthplace and all the familiar scene of his childhood and youth which he had repudiated for the sake of that friend with whom, despite the sacrifice which he had just made out of love and loyalty, he still could not be perfectly frank. Because he knew that what Sutpen had told him was true. He must have known that at the very instant when he gave his father the lie. So he dared not ask Bon to deny it; he dared not, you see. He could face poverty, disinheritance, but he could not have borne that lie from Bon. Yet he went to New Orleans. He went straight there, to the only place, the very place, where he could not help but prove conclusively the very statement which, coming from his father, he had called a lie. He went there for that purpose; he went there to prove it. And Bon, riding beside him, trying to find out what Sutpen had told him — Bon who for a year and a half now had been watching Henry ape his clothing and speech, who for a year and a half now had seen himself as the object of that complete and abnegant devotion which only a youth, never a woman, gives to another youth or a man; who for exactly a year now had seen the sister succumb to that same spell which the brother had already succumbed to, and this with no volition on the seducer's part, without so much as the lifting of a finger, as though it actually were the brother who had put the spell on the sister, seduced her to his own vicarious image which walked and breathed with Bon's body. Yet here is the letter, sent four years afterward, written on a sheet of paper salvaged from a gutted house in Carolina, with stove polish found in some captured Yankee stores; four years after she had had any message from him save the messages from Henry that he (Bon) was still alive. So whether Henry now knew about the other woman or not, he would now have to know. Bon realized that.
I can imagine them as they rode, Henry still in the fierce repercussive flush of vindicated loyalty, and Bon, the wiser, the shrewder even if only from wider experience and a few more years of age, learning from Henry without Henry's being aware of it, what Sutpen had told him. Because Henry would have to know now. And I don't believe it was just to preserve Henry as an ally, for the crisis of some future need. It was because Bon not only loved Judith after his fashion but he loved Henry too and I believe in a deeper sense than merely after his fashion. Perhaps in his fatalism he loved Henry the better of the two, seeing perhaps in the sister merely the shadow, the woman vessel with which to consummate the love whose actual object was the youth this cerebral Don Juan who, reversing the order, had learned to love what he had injured; perhaps it was even more than Judith or Henry either: perhaps the life, the existence, which they represented. Because who knows what picture of peace he might have seen in that monotonous provincial backwater; what alleviation and escape for a parched traveler who had traveled too far at too young an age, in this granitebound and simple country spring.
'And I can imagine how Bon told Henry, broke it to him. I can imagine Henry in New Orleans, who had not yet even been in Memphis, whose entire worldly experience consisted of sojourns at other houses, plantations, almost interchangeable with his own, where he followed the same routine which he did at home — the same hunting and cockfighting, the same amateur racing of horses on crude homemade tracks, horses sound enough in blood and lineage yet not bred to race and perhaps not even' thirty minutes out of the shafts of a trap or perhaps even a carriage; the same square dancing with identical and also interchangeable provincial virgins, to music exactly like that at home, the same champagne, the best doubtless yet crudely dispensed out of the burlesqued pantomime elegance of Negro butlers who (and likewise the drinkers who gulped it down like neat whiskey between flowery and unsubtle toasts) would have treated lemonade the same way. I can imagine him, with his puritan heritage that heritage peculiarly Anglo-Saxon — of fierce proud mysticism and that ability to be ashamed of ignorance and inexperience, in that city foreign and paradoxical, with its atmosphere at once fatal and languorous, at once feminine and steel-hard — this grim humorless yokel out of a granite heritage where even the houses, let alone clothing and conduct, are built in the image of a jealous and sadistic Jehovah, put suddenly down in a place whose denizens had created their All-Powerful and His supporting hierarchy-chorus of beautiful saints and handsome angels in the image of their houses and personal ornaments and voluptuous lives. Yes, I can imagine how Bon led up to it, to the shock: the skill, the calculation, preparing Henry's puritan mind as he would have prepared a cramped and rocky field and planted it and raised the crop which he wanted. It would be the fact of the ceremony, regardless of what kind, that Henry would balk at: Bon knew this. It would not be the mistress or even the child, not even the Negro mistress and even less the child because of that fact, since Henry and Judith had grown up with a Negro half-sister of their own; not the mistress to Henry, certainly not the nigger mistress to a youth with Henry's background, a young man grown up and living in a milieu where the other sex is separated into three sharp divisions, separated (two of them) by a chasm which could be crossed but one time and in but one direction — ladies, women, females — the virgins whom gentlemen someday married, the courtesans to whom they went while on sabbaticals to the cities, the slave girls and women upon whom that first caste rested and to whom in certain cases it doubtless owed the very fact of its virginity — not this to Henry, young, strong-blooded, victim of the hard celibacy of riding and hunting to heat and make importunate the blood of a young man, to which he and his kind were forced to pass time away, with girls of his own class interdict and inaccessible and women of the second class just as inaccessible because of money and distance, and hence only the slave girls, the housemaids heated and cleaned by white mistresses or perhaps girls with sweating bodies out of the fields themselves and the young man rides up and beckons the watching overseer and says Send me Juno or Missylena or Chlory and then rides on into the trees and dismounts and waits. No: it would be the ceremony, a ceremony entered into, to be sure, with a Negro, yet still a ceremony; this is 'what Bon doubtless thought. So I can imagine him, the way he did it: the way in which he took the innocent and negative plate of Henry's provincial soul and intellect and exposed it by slow degrees to this esoteric milieu, building gradually toward the picture which he desired it to retain, accept. I can see him corrupting Henry gradually into the purlieus of elegance, with no foreword, no warning, the postulation to come after the fact, exposing Henry slowly to the surface aspect — the architecture a little curious, a little femininely flamboyant and therefore to Henry opulent, sensuous, sinful; the inference of great and easy wealth measured by steamboat loads in place of a tedious inching of sweating human figures across cotton fields; the flash and glitter of a myriad carriage wheels, in which women, enthroned and immobile and passing rapidly across the vision, appeared like painted portraits beside men in linen a little finer and diamonds a little brighter and in broadcloth a little trimmer and with hats raked a little more above faces a little more darkly swaggering than any Henry had ever seen before: and the mentor, the man for whose sake he had repudiated not only blood and kin but food and shelter and clothing too, whose clothing and walk and speech he had tried to ape, along with his attitude toward women and his ideas of honor and pride too, watching him with that cold and catlike inscrutable calculation, watching the picture resolve and become fixed and then telling Henry, "But that's not it. That's just the base, the foundation. It can belong to anyone": and Henry, "You mean, this is not it? That it is above this, higher than this, more select than this?": and Bon, "Yes.
This is only the foundation. This belongs to anybody.": a dialogue without words, speech, which would fix and then remove without obliterating one line of the picture, this background, leaving the background, the plate prepared innocent again: the plate docile, with that puritan's humility toward anything which is a matter of sense, rather than logic, fact, the man, the struggling and suffocating heart behind it saying I will believe! I will! I will! whether it is true or not, I will believe! waiting for the next picture which the mentor, the corrupter, intended for it: that next picture, following the fixation and acceptance of which the mentor would say again perhaps with words now, still watching the sober and thoughtful face but still secure in his knowledge and trust in that puritan heritage which must show disapproval instead of surprise or even despair and nothing at all rather than have the disapprobation construed as surprise or despair: "But even this is not": and Henry, "You mean, it is still higher than this, still above this?"
Because he (Bon) would be talking now, lazily, almost cryptically, stroking onto the plate himself now the picture which he wanted there; I can imagine how he did it — the calculation, the surgeon's alertness and cold detachment, the exposures brief as to be cryptic, almost staccato, the plate unaware Of what the complete picture would show, scarce seen yet ineradicable — a trap, a riding horse standing before a closed and curiously monastic doorway in a neighborhood a little decadent, even a little sinister, and Bon mentioning the owner's name casually — this, corruption subtly anew by putting into Henry's mind the notion of one man of the world speaking to another, that Henry knew that Bon believed that Henry would know even from a disjointed word what Bon was talking about, and Henry the puritan who must show nothing at all rather than surprise or incomprehension — a facade shuttered and blank, drowsing in steamy morning sunlight, invested by the bland and cryptic voice with something of secret and curious and unimaginable delights. Without his knowing what he saw it was as though to Henry the blank and scaling barrier in dissolving produced and revealed not comprehension to the mind, the intellect which weighs and discards, but striking instead straight and true to some primary blind and mindless 'foundation of all young male living dream and hope — a row of faces like a bazaar of flowers, the supreme apotheosis of chattelry, of human flesh bred of the two races for that sale — a corridor of doomed and tragic flower faces walled between the grim duenna row of old women and the elegant shapes of young men trim predatory and (at the moment) goatlike: this seen by Henry quickly, exposed quickly and then removed, the mentor's voice still bland, pleasant, cryptic, postulating still the fact of one man of the world talking to another about something they both understand, depending upon, counting upon still, the puritan's provincial horror of revealing surprise or ignorance, who knew Henry so much better than Henry knew him, and Henry not showing either, suppressing still that first cry of terror and grief, I will believe! I will! I will! Yes, that brief, before Henry had had time to know what he had seen, but now slowing: now would come the instant for which Bon had builded — a wall, unscalable, a gate ponderously locked, the sober and thoughtful country youth just waiting, looking, not yet asking why? or what? the gate of solid beams in place of the lacelike iron grilling and they passing on, Bon knocking at a small adjacent doorway from which a swarthy man resembling a creature out of an old woodcut of the French Revolution erupts, concerned, even a little aghast, looking first at the daylight and then at Henry and speaking to Bon in French which Henry does not understand and Bon's teeth glinting for an instant before he answers in French: "With him? An American? He is a guest; I would have to let him choose weapons and I decline to fight with axes.
No, no; not that. Just the key." Just the key; and now, the solid gates closed behind them instead of before, no sight or evidence above the high thick walls of the low city and scarce any sound of it, the labyrinthine mass of oleander and jasmine, lantana, and mimosa walling yet again the strip of bare earth combed and curried with powdered shell, raked and immaculate and only the most recent of the brown stains showing now, and the voice — the mentor, the guide standing aside now to watch the grave provincial face — casually and pleasantly anecdotal: "The customary way is to stand back to back, the pistol in your right hand and the corner of the other cloak in your left. Then at the signal you begin to walk and when you feel the cloak tauten you turn and fire. Though there are some now and then, when the blood is especially hot or when it is still peasant blood, who prefer knives and one cloak. They face one another inside the same cloak, you see, each holding the other's wrist with the left hand. But that was never my way" casual, chatty, you see, waiting for the countryman's slow question, who knew already now before he asked it: "What would you they be fighting for?"
'Yes, Henry would know now, or believe that he knew now; anymore he would probably consider anticlimax though it would not be, it would be anything but that, the final blow, stroke, touch, the keen surgeonlike compounding which the now shocked nerves of the patient would not even feel, not know that the first hard shocks were the random and crude. Because there was that ceremony. Bon knew that that would be what Henry would resist, find hard to stomach and retain. Oh he was shrewd, this man whom for weeks now Henry was realizing that he knew less and less, this stranger immersed and oblivious now in the formal, almost ritual, preparations for the visit, finicking almost like a woman over the fit of the new coat which he would have ordered for Henry, forced Henry to accept for this occasion, by means of which the entire impression which Henry was to receive from the visit would be established before they even left the house, before Henry ever saw the woman: and Henry, the countryman, the bewildered, with the subtle tide already setting beneath him toward the point where he must either betray himself and his entire upbringing and thinking, or deny the friend for whom he had already repudiated home and kin and all; the bewildered, the (for that time) helpless, who wanted to believe yet did not see how he could, being carried by the friend, the mentor, through one of those inscrutable and curiously lifeless doorways like that before which he had seen the horse or the trap, and so into a place which to his puritan's provincial mind all of morality was upside down and all of honor perished — a place created for and by voluptuousness, the abashless and unabashed senses, and the country boy with his simple and erstwhile untroubled code in which females were ladies or whores or slaves looked at the apotheosis of two doomed races presided over by its own victim — a woman with a face like a tragic magnolia, the eternal female, the eternal Who-suffers; the child, the boy, sleeping in silk and lace to be sure yet complete chattel of him who, begetting him, owned him body and soul to sell (if he chose) like a calf or puppy or sheep; and the mentor watching again, perhaps even the gambler now thinking Have I won or lost? as they emerged and returned to Bon's rooms, for that while impotent even with talk, shrewdness, no longer counting upon that puritan character which must show neither surprise nor despair, having to count now (on anything) on the corruption itself, the love; he could not even say, "Well? What do you say bout it?" He could only wait, and that upon the absolutely unpredictable actions of a man who lived by instinct and not reason, until Henry should speak, "But a bought woman. A whore": and Bon, even gently now, "Not whore. Dont say that. In fact, never refer to one of them by that name in New Orleans: otherwise you may be forced to purchase that privilege with some of your blood from probably a thousand men", and perhaps still gently,:.. perhaps now even with something of pity: that pessimistic and '
' sardonic cerebral pity of the intelligent for any human injustice or folly or suffering:'… "'Not whores. And not whores because of us, the thousand. We the thousand, the white men made them, created and produced them; we even made the laws which declare that one eighth of a specified kind of blood shall outweigh seven eighths of another kind. I admit that. But that same white race would have made them slaves too, laborers, cooks, maybe even field hands, if it were not for this thousand, these few men like myself without principles or honor either, perhaps you will say. We cannot, perhaps we do not even want to, save all of them; perhaps the thousand we save are not one in a thousand. But we save that one. God may mark every sparrow, but we do not pretend to be God, you see. Perhaps we do not even want to be God, since no man would want but one of these sparrows. And perhaps when God looks into one of these establishments like you saw tonight, He would not choose one of us to be God either, now that He is old. Though He must have been young once, surely He was young once, and surely someone who has existed as long as He has, who has looked at as much crude and promiscuous sinning without grace or restraint or decorum as He has had to, to contemplate at last, even though the instances are not one in a thousand thousand, the principles of honor, decorum and gentleness applied to perfectly normal human instinct which you Anglo-Saxons insist upon calling lust and in whose service you revert in sabbaticals to the primordial caverns, the fall from what you call grace fogged and clouded by Heaven-defying words of extenuation, and explanation, the return to grace heralded by Heavenplacating cries of satiated abasement and flagellation, in neither of which — the defiance or the placation — can Heaven find interest or even, after the first two or three times, diversion. So perhaps, now that God is an old man, he is not interested in the way we serve what you call lust either, perhaps He does not even require of us that we save this one sparrow, anymore than we save the one sparrow which we do save for any commendation from Him. But we do save that one, who but for us would have been sold to any brute who had the price, not sold to him for the night like a white prostitute, but body and soul for life to him who could have used her with more impunity than he would dare to use an animal, heifer, or mare, and then discarded or sold or even murdered when worn out or when her keep and her price no longer balanced. Yes: a sparrow which God himself neglected to mark. Because though men, white men, created her, God did not stop it. He planted the seed which' brought her to flower — the white blood to give the shape and pigment of what the white man calls female beauty, to a female principle which existed, queenly and complete, in the hot equatorial groin of the world long before that white one of ours came down from trees and lost its hair and bleached out — a principle apt docile and instinct with strange and ancient curious pleasures of the flesh (which is all: there is nothing else) which her white sisters of a mushroom yesterday flee from in moral and outraged horror — a principle which, where her white sister must needs try to make an economic matter of it like someone who insists upon installing a counter or a scales or a safe in a store or business for a certain percentage of the profits, reigns, wise supine and all-powerful, from the sunless and silken bed which is her throne. No: not whores. Not even courtesans — creatures taken at childhood, culled and chosen and raised more carefully than any white girl, any nun, than any blooded mare even, by a person who gives them the unsleeping care and attention which no mother ever gives. For a price, of course, but a price offered and accepted or declined through a system more formal than any that white girls are sold under since they are more valuable as commodities than white girls, raised and trained to fulfill a woman's sole end and purpose: to love, to be beautiful, to divert; never to see a man's face hardly until brought to the ball and offered to and chosen by some man who in return, not can and not will but must, supply her with the surroundings proper in which to love and be beautiful and divert, and who must usually risk his life or at least his blood for that privilege. No, not whores. Sometimes I believe that they are the only true chaste women, not to say virgins, in America, and they remain true and faithful to that man not merely until he dies or frees them, but until they die. And where will you find whore or lady either whom you can count on to do that?" and Henry, "But you married her. You married her": and Bon — it would be a little quicker now, sharper now, though still gentle, still patient, though still the iron, the steel the gambler not quite yet reduced to his final trump: "Ah. That ceremony. I see. That's it, then. A formula, a shibholeth meaningless as a child's game, performed by someone created by the situation whose need it answered: a crone mumbling in a dungeon lighted by a handful of burning hair, something in a tongue which not even the girls themselves understand anymore, maybe not even the crone herself, rooted in nothing of economics for her or for any possible progeny since the very fact that we acquiesced, suffered the farce, was her proof and assurance of that which the ceremony itself could never enforce; vesting no new rights in no one, denying to none the old — a ritual as meaningless as that of college boys in secret rooms at night, even to the same archaic and forgotten symbols? — you call that a marriage, when the night of a honeymoon and the casual business with a hired prostitute consists of the same suzerainty over a (temporarily) private room, the same order of removing the same clothes, the same conjunction in a single bed? Why not call that a marriage too?" and Henry: "Oh I know. I know. You give me two and two and you tell me it makes five and it does make five. But there is still the marriage.
Suppose i assume an obligation to a man who cannot speak my language, the obligation stated to him in his own and I agree to it: am I any the less obligated because I did not happen to know the tongue in which he accepted me in good faith? No: the more, the mote." and Bon — the trump now, the voice gentle now: "Have you forgot that this woman, this child, are niggers? You, Henry Sutpen of Sutpen's Hundred in Mississippi? You, talking of marriage, a wedding, here?" and Henry the despair now, the last bitter cry of irrevocable undefeat: "Yes. I know. I know that. But it's still there. It's not right. Not even you doing it makes it right. Not even you." 'So that was all. It should have been all; that afternoon four years later should have happened the next day, the four years, the interval, mere anti-climax: an attenuation and prolongation of a conclusion already ripe to happen, by the War by a stupid and bloody aberration in the high (and impossible) destiny of the United States, maybe instigated by that family fatality which possessed, along with all circumstance, that curious lack of economy between cause and effect which is always a characteristic of fate when reduced to using human beings for tools, material. Anyway, Henry waited four years, holding the three of them in that abeyance, that durance, waiting, hoping, for Bon to renounce the woman and dissolve the marriage which he (Henry) admitted was no marriage, and which he must have known as soon as he saw the woman and the child that Bon would not renounce. In fact, as time passed and Henry became accustomed to the idea of that ceremony which was still no marriage, that may have been the trouble with Henry — not the two ceremonies but the two women; not the fact that Bon's intention was to commit bigamy but that it was apparently to make his (Henry's) sister a sort of junior partner in a harem. Anyway, he waited, hoped, for four years. That spring they returned north, into Mississippi. Bull Run had been fought and there was a company organizing at the University, among the student body. Henry and Bon joined it. Probably Henry wrote Judith where they were and what they intended to do. They enlisted together, you see, Henry watching Bon and Bon permitting himself to be watched, the probation, the durance: the one who dared not let the other out of his sight, not from fear that Bon would marry Judith with Henry not there to stop it, but that Bon would marry Judith and then he (Henry) would have to live for the rest of his life with the knowledge that he was glad that he had been so betrayed, with the coward's joy of surrendering without having been vanquished; the other for that same reason too, who could not have wanted Judith without Henry since he must never have doubted but what he could marry Judith when he wished, in spite of brother and father both, because as I said before, it was not Judith who was the object of Bon's love or of Henry's solicitude. She was just the blank shape, the empty vessel in which each of them strove to preserve, not the illusion of himself nor his illusion of the other but what each conceived the other to believe him to be the man and the youth, seducer and seduced, who had known one another, seduced and been seduced, victimized in turn each by the other, conquerer vanquished by his own strength, vanquished conquering by his own weakness, before Judith came into their joint lives even by so much as girlname. And who knows? there was the War now; who knows but what the fatality and the fatality's victims did not both think, hope, that the War would settle the matter, leave free one of the two irreconcilables, since it would not be the first time that youth has taken catastrophe as a direct act of Providence for the sole purpose of solving a personal problem which youth itself could not solve.
'And Judith: how else to explain her but this way? Surely Bon could not have corrupted her to fatalism in twelve days, who not only had not tried to corrupt her to unchastity but not even to defy her father. No: anything but a fatalist, who was the Sutpen with the ruthless Sutpen code of taking what it wanted provided it were strong enough, of the two children as Henry was the Coldfield with the Coldfield cluttering of morality and rules of right and wrong; who while Henry screamed and vomited, looked down from the loft that night on the spectacle of Sutpen fighting halfnaked with one of his halfnaked niggers with the same cold and attentive interest with which Sutpen would have watched Henry fighting with a Negro boy of his own age and weight. Because she could not have known the reason for her father's objection to the marriage. Henry would not have told her, and she would not have asked her father. Because, even if she had known it, it would have made no difference to her. She would have acted as Sutpen would have acted with anyone who tried to cross him: she would have taken Bon anyway. I can imagine her if necessary even murdering the other woman. But she certainly would have made no investigation and then held a moral debate between what she wanted and what she thought was right. Yet she waited. She waited four years, with no word from him save through Henry that he (Bon) was alive. It was the probation, the durance; they all three accepted it; I don't believe there was ever any promise between Henry and Bon demanded or offered. But Judith, who could not have known what happened nor why. — Have you noticed how so often when we try to reconstruct the causes which lead up to the actions of men and women, how with a sort of astonishment we find ourselves now and then reduced to the belief, the only possible belief, that they stemmed from some of the old virtues? the thief who steals not for greed but for love, the murderer who kills not out of lust but pity? Judith, giving implicit trust where she had given love, giving implicit love where she had derived breath and pride: that true pride, not that false kind which transforms what it does not at the moment understand into scorn and outrage and so vents itself in pique and lacerations, but true pride which can say to itself without abasement I love, I will accept no substitute; something has happened between him and my father; if my father was right, I will never see him, again, if wrong he will come or send for me; if happy I can be I will, if suffer I must I can. Because she waited; she made no effort to do anything else; her relations with her father had not altered one jot; to see them together, Bon might never have even existed — the same two calm impenetrable faces seen together in the carriage in town during the next few months after Ellen took to her bed, between that Christmas day and the day when Sutpen rode away with his and Sartoris' regiment. They didn't talk, tell one another anything, you see — Sutpen, what he had learned about Bon; Judith, that she knew where Bon and Henry now were. They did not need to talk. They were too much alike. They were as two people become now and then, who seem to know one another so well or are so much alike that the power, the need, to communicate by speech atrophies from disuse and, comprehending without need of the medium of ear or intellect, they no longer understand one another's actual words. So she did not tell him where Henry and Bon were and he did not discover it until after the University company departed, because Bon and Henry enrolled and then hid themselves somewhere. They must have; they must have paused in Oxford only long enough to enroll before riding on, because no one who knew them either in Oxford or in Jefferson knew that they were members of the company at the time, which would have been almost impossible to conceal otherwise. Because now people — fathers and mothers and sisters and kin and sweethearts of those young men — were coming to Oxford from further away than Jefferson — families with food and bedding and servants, to bivouac among the families, the houses, of Oxford itself, to watch the gallant mimic marching and countermarching of the sons and the brothers, drawn all of them, rich and poor, aristocrat and redneck, by what is probably the most moving mass-sight of all human mass-experience, far more so than the spectacle of so many virgins going to be sacrificed to some heathen Principle, some Priapus — the sight of young men, the light quick bones, the bright gallant deluded blood and flesh dressed in a martial glitter of brass and plumes, marching away to a battle.
And there would be music at night — fiddle and triangle among the blazing candles, the blowing of curtains in tall windows on the April darkness, the swing of crinoline indiscriminate within the circle of plain gray cuff of the soldier or the banded gold of rank, of an army even if not a war of gentlemen, where private and colonel called each other by their given names not as one farmer to another across a halted plow in a field or across a counter in a store laden with calico and cheese and strap oil, but as one man to another above the suave powdered shoulders of women, above the two raised glasses of scuppernong claret or bought champagne music, the nightly repetitive last waltz as the days passed and the company waited to move, the brave trivial glitter against a black night not catastrophic but merely background, the perennial last scented spring of youth; and Judith not there and Henry the romantic not there and Bon the fatalist, hidden somewhere, the watcher and the watched: and the recurrent flower-laden dawns of that April and May and June filled with bugles, entering a hundred windows where a hundred still unbrided widows dreamed virgin unmeditant upon the locks of black or brown or yellow hair and Judith not one of these: and five of the company, mounted, with grooms and body servants in a forage wagon, in their new and unstained gray made a tour of the State with the flag, the company's colors, the segments of silk cut and fitted but not sewn, from house to house until the sweetheart of each man in the company had taken a few stitches in it, and Henry and Bon not of these either, since they did not join the company until after it departed. They must have emerged from whatever place it was that they lurked in, emerging as though unnoticed from the roadside brake or thicket, to fall in as the marching company passed; the two of them — the youth and the man, the youth deprived twice now of his birthright, who should have made one among the candles and fiddles, the kisses and the desperate tears, who should have made one of the color guard itself which toured the State with the unsewn flag; and the man who should not have been there at all, who was too old to be there at all, both in years and experience: that mental and spiritual orphan whose fate it apparently was to exist in some limbo halfway between where his corporeality was and his mentality and moral equipment desired to be — an undergraduate at the University, yet by the sheer accumulation of too full years behind him forced into the extra-academic of a law class containing six members; in the War, by that same force removed into the isolation of commissioned rank. He received a lieutenancy before the company entered its first engagement even. I don't think he wanted it; I can even imagine him trying to avoid it, refuse it. But there it was, he was, orphaned once more by the very situation to which and by which he was doomed — the two of them officer and man now but' still watcher and watched, waiting for something but not knowing what, what act of fate, destiny, what irrevocable sentence of what Judge or Arbiter between them since nothing less would do, nothing halfway or reversible would seem to suffice — the officer, the lieutenant who possessed the slight and authorized advantage of being able to say You go there, of at least sometimes remaining behind the platoon which he directed; the private who carried that officer, shot through the shoulder, on his back while the regiment fell back under the Yankee guns at Pittsburgh Landing, carried him to safety apparently for the sole purpose of watching him for two years more, writing Judith meanwhile that they were both alive, and that was all.
'And Judith. She lived alone now. Perhaps she had lived alone ever since that Christmas day last year and then year before last and then three years and then four years ago, since though Sutpen was gone now with his and Sartoris' regiment and the Negroes — the wild stock with which he had created Sutpen's Hundred — had followed the first Yankee troops to pass through Jefferson, she lived in anything but solitude, what with Ellen in bed in the shuttered room, requiring the unremitting attention of a child while she waited with that amazed and passive uncomprehension to die; and she (Judith) and Clytie making and keeping a kitchen garden of sorts to keep them alive; and Wash Jones, living in the abandoned and rotting fishing camp in the river bottom which Sutpen had built after the first woman — Ellen — entered his house and the last deer and bear hunter went out of it, where he now permitted Wash and his daughter and infant granddaughter to live, performing the heavy garden work and supplying Ellen and Judith and then Judith with fish and game now and then, even entering the house now, who until Sutpen went away, had never approached nearer than the scuppernong arbor behind the kitchen where on Sunday afternoons he and Sutpen would drink from the demijohn and the bucket of spring water which Wash fetched from almost a mile away, Sutpen in the barrel stave hammock talking and Wash squatting against a post, chortling and guffawing.
It was not solitude and certainly not idleness for Judith: the same impenetrable and serene face, only a little older now, a little thinner now, which had appeared in town in the carriage beside her father's within a week after it was learned that her fiance and her brother had quitted the house in the night and vanished. When she came to town now, in the made-over dress which all Southern women now wore, in the carriage still but drawn now by a mule, a plow mule, soon the plow mule, and no coachman to drive it either, to put the mule in the harness and take it out, to join the other women — there were wounded in Jefferson then — in the improvised hospital where (the nurtured virgin, the supremely and traditionally idle) they cleaned and dressed the self-fouled bodies of strange injured and dead and made lint of the window curtains and sheets and linen of the houses in which they had been born; there were none to ask her about brother and sweetheart, while they talked among themselves of sons and brothers and husbands with tears and grief perhaps, but at least with certainty, knowledge.
Judith waiting too, like Henry and Bon, not knowing for what, but unlike Henry and Bon, not even knowing for why. Then Ellen died, the butterfly of a forgotten summer two years defunctive now the substanceless shell, the shade impervious to any alteration of dissolution because of its very weightlessness: no body to be buried: just the shape, the recollection, translated on some peaceful afternoon without bell or catafalque into that cedar grove, to lie in powder light paradox beneath the thousand pounds of marble monument which Sutpen (Colonel Sutpen now, since Sartoris had been deposed at the annual election of regimental officers the year before) brought in the regimental forage wagon from Charleston, South Carolina and set above the faint grassy depression which Judith told him was Ellen's grave.
And then her grandfather died, starved to death nailed up in his own attic, and Judith doubtless inviting Miss Rosa to come out to Sutpen's Hundred to live and Miss Rosa declining, waiting, too, apparently upon this letter, this first direct word from Bon in four years and which, a week after she buried him, too, beside her mother's tombstone, she brought to town herself, in the surrey drawn by the mule which both she and Clytie had learned to catch and harness, and gave to your grandmother, bringing the letter voluntarily to your grandmother, who (Judith) never called on anyone now, had no friends now, doubtless knowing no more why she chose your grandmother to give the letter to than your grandmother knew; not thin now but gaunt, the Sutpen skull showing indeed now through the worn, the Coldfield, flesh, the face which had long since forgotten how to be young and yet absolutely impenetrable, absolutely serene: no mourning, not even grief, and your grandmother saying, "Me? You want me to keep it?"
' "Yes," Judith said. "Or destroy it. As you like. Read it if you like or don't read it if you like. Because you make so little impression, you see. You get born and you try this and you don't know why only you keep on trying it and you are born at the same time with a lot of other people, all mixed up with them, like trying to, having to, move your arms and legs with strings only the same strings are hitched to all the other arms and legs and the others all trying and they don't know why either except that the strings are all in one another's way like five or six people all trying to make a rug on the same loom only each one wants to weave his own pattern into the rug; and it cant matter, you know that, or the Ones that set up the loom would have arranged things a little better, and yet it must matter because you keep on trying or having to keep on trying and then all of a sudden it's all over and all you have left is a block of stone with scratches on it provided there was someone to remember to have the marble scratched and set up or had time to, and it rains on it and the sun shines on it and after a while they don't even remember the name and what the scratches were trying to tell, and it doesn't matter. And so maybe if you could go to someone, the stranger the better, and give them something — a scrap of paper — something, anything, it not to mean anything in itself and them not even to read it or keep it, not even bother to throw it away or destroy it, at least it would be something just because it would have happened, be remembered even if only from passing from one hand to another, one mind to another, and it would be at least a scratch, something, something that might make a mark on something that was once for the reason that it can die someday, while the block of stone cant be is because it never can become was because it cant ever die or perish…" and your grandmother watching her, the impenetrable, the calm, the absolutely serene face, and crying: ' "No!
No! Not that! Think of your — " and the face watching her, comprehending, still serene, not even bitter: ' "Oh. I? No, not that.
Because somebody will have to take care of Clytie, and father, too, soon, who will want something to eat after he comes home because it wont last much longer since they have begun to shoot one another now.
No. Not that. Women don't do that for love. I don't even believe that men do. And not now, anyway. Because there wouldn't be any room now, for them to go to, whereever it is, if it is. It would be full already. Glutted. Like a theater, an opera house, if what you expect to find is forgetting, diversion, entertainment; like a bed already too full if what you want to find is a chance to lie still and sleep and sleep and sleep" — Mr Compson moved. Half rising, Quentin took the letter from him and beneath the dim bug-fouled globe opened it, carefully, as though the sheet, the desiccated square, were not the paper but the intact ash of its former shape and substance: and meanwhile Mr Compson's voice speaking on while Quentin heard it without listening: 'Now you can see why I said that he loved her.
Because there were other letters, many of them, gallant flowery indolent frequent and insincere, sent by hand over that forty miles between Oxford and Jefferson after that first Christmas — the metropolitan gallant's idle and delicately flattering (and doubtless to him, meaningless) gesture to the bucolic maiden — and that bucolic maiden, with that profound and absolutely inexplicable tranquil patient clairvoyance of women against which that metropolitan gallant's foppish posturing was just the jackanape antics of a small boy, receiving the letters without understanding them, not even keeping them, for all their elegant and gallant and tediously contrived turns of form and metaphor, until the next one arrived. But keeping this one which must have reached her out of a clear sky after an interval of four years, considering this one worthy to give to a stranger to keep or not to keep, even to read or not to read as the stranger saw fit, to make that scratch, that undying mark on the blank face of the oblivion to which we are all doomed, of which she spoke — ' Quentin hearing without having to listen as he read the faint spidery script not like something impressed upon the paper by a once-living hand but like a shadow cast upon it which had resolved on the paper the instant before he looked at it and which might fade, vanish, at any instant while he still read: the dead tongue speaking after the four years and then after almost fifty more, gentle sardonic whimsical and incurably pessimistic, without date or salutation or signature: You will notice how I insult neither of us by claiming this to be a voice from the defeated even, let alone from the dead. In fact, if I were a philosopher I should deduce and derive a curious and apt commentary on the times and augur of the future from this letter which you now hold in your hands — a sheet of notepaper with, as you can see, the best of French watermarks dated seventy years ago, salvaged (stolen if you will) from the gutted mansion of a ruined aristocrat; and written upon in the best of stove polish manufactured not twelve months ago in a New England factory.
Yes. Stove polish. We captured it: a story in itself. Imagine us, an assortment of homogeneous scarecrows, I wont say hungry because to a woman, lady or female either, below Mason's and Dixon's in this year of grace 1865, that word would be sheer redundancy, like saying that we were breathing. And I won't say ragged or even shoeless, since we have been both long enough to have grown accustomed to it, only thank God (and this restores my faith not in human nature perhaps but at least in man) that he really does not become inured to hardship and privation: it is only the mind, the gross omnivorous carrion-heavy soul which becomes inured; the body itself, thank God, never reconciled from the old soft feel of soap and clean linen and something between the sole of the foot and the earth to distinguish it from the foot of a beast. So say we merely needed ammunition. And imagine us, the scarecrows with one of those concocted plans of scarecrow desperation which not only must but do work, for the reason that there is absolutely no room for alternative before man or heaven, no niche on earth or under it for failure to find space either to pause or breathe or be graved and sepulchered; and we (the scarecrows) bringing it off with a great deal of elan, not to say noise; imagine, I say, the prey and prize, the ten plump defenseless sutlers' wagons, the scarecrows tumbling out box after beautiful box after beautiful box stenciled each with that U. and that S. which for four years now has been to us the symbol of the spoils which belong to the vanquished, of the loaves and the fishes as was once the incandescent Brow, the shining nimbus of the Thorny Crown; and the scarecrows clawing at the boxes with stones and bayonets and even with bare hands and opening them at last and finding — What? Stove polish. Gallons and gallons and gallons of the best stove polish, not a box of it a year old yet and doubtless still trying to overtake General Sherman with some belated amended field order requiring him to polish the stove before firing the house. How we laughed. Yes, we laughed, because I have learned this at least during these four years that, it really requires an empty stomach to laugh with, that only when you are hungry or frightened do you extract some ultimate essence out of laughing just as the empty stomach extracts the ultimate essence out of alcohol. But at least we have stove polish. We have plenty of it. We have too much, because it does not take much to say what I have to say, as you can see. And so the conclusion and augury which I draw, even though no philosopher, is this.
We have waited long enough. You will notice how I do not insult you either by saying I have waited long enough. And therefore, since I do not insult you by saying that only I have waited, I do not add, expect me. Because I cannot say when to expect me. Because what WAS is one thing, and now it is not because it is dead, it died in 1861, and therefore what IS — (There. They have started firing again. which — to mention it — is redundancy too, like the breathing or the need of ammunition. Because sometimes I think it has never stopped.
It hasn't stopped of course; I don't mean that. I mean, there has never been any more of it, that there was that one fusillade four years ago which sounded once and then was arrested, mesmerized raised muzzle by raised muzzle, in the frozen attitude of its own aghast amazement and never repeated and it now only the loud aghast echo jarred by the dropped musket of a weary sentry or by the fall of the spent body itself, out of the air which lies over the land where that fusillade first sounded and where it must remain yet because no other space under Heaven will receive it. So that means that it is dawn again and that I must stop. Stop what? you will say. (Why, thinking, remembering-remark that do not say, hoping — ; to become once more for a period without boundaries or location in time, mindless and irrational companion and inmate of a body which, even after four years, with a sort of dismal and incorruptible fidelity which is incredibly admirable to me, is still immersed and obliviously bemused in recollections of old peace and contentment the very names of whose scents and sounds I do not know that I remember, which ignores even the presence and threat of a torn arm or leg as though through some secretly incurred and infallible promise and conviction of mortality.
But to finish.) I cannot say when to expect me. Because what IS is something else again because it was not even alive then. and since because within this sheet of paper you now hold the best of the old South which is dead, and the words you read were written upon it with the best (each box said, the very best) of the new North which has conquered and which therefore, whether it likes it or not, will have to survive, I now believe that you and I are, strangely enough, included among those who are doomed to live.
'And that's all,' Mr Compson said. 'She received it and she and Clytie made the wedding gown and the veil from scraps — perhaps scraps intended for, which should have gone for, lint and did not. She didn't know when he would come because he didn't know himself: and maybe he told Henry, showed Henry the letter before he sent it, and maybe he did not; maybe still just the watching and the waiting, the one saying to Henry I have waited long enough and Henry saying to the other Do you renounce then?
Do you renounce? and the other saying I do not renounce. For four years now I have given chance the opportunity to renounce for me, but it seems that I am doomed to live, that she and I both are doomed to live — the defianceeeeee and the ultimatum delivered beside a bivouac fire, the ultimatum discharged before the gate to which the two of them must have ridden side by side almost: the one calm and undeviating, perhaps unresisting even, the fatalist to the last; the other remorseless with implacable and unalterable grief and despair — ' (It seemed to Quentin that he could actually see them, facing one another at the gate. Inside the gate what was once a park now spread, unkempt, in shaggy desolation, with an air dreamy, remote and aghast like the unshaven face of a man just waking from ether, up to a huge house where a young girl waited in a wedding dress made from stolen scraps, the house partaking too of that air of scaling desolation, not having suffered from invasion but a shell marooned and forgotten in a backwater of catastrophe — a skeleton giving of itself in slow driblets of furniture and carpet, linen, and silver, to help to die torn and anguished men who knew, even while dying, that for months now the sacrifice and the anguish were in vain.
They faced one another on the two gaunt horses, two men, young, not yet in the world, not yet breathed over long enough, to be old but with old eyes, with unkempt hair and faces gaunt and weathered as if cast by some spartan and even niggard hand from bronze, in worn and patched gray weathered now to the color of dead leaves, the one with the tarnished braid of an officer, the other plain of cuff, the pistol lying yet across the saddle bow unaimed, the two faces calm, the voices not even raised: Dont you pass the shadow of this post, this branch, Charles; and I am going to pass it, Henry) ' — and then Wash Jones sitting that saddleless mule before Miss Rosa's gate, shouting her name into the sunny and peaceful quiet of the street, saying, "Air you Rosie Coldfield ? Then you better come on out yon. Henry has done shot that durn French feller. Kilt him dead as a beef." '
So they will have told you doubtless already how I told that Jones to take that mule which was not his around to the barn and harness it to our buggy while I put on my hat and shawl and locked the house.
That was all I needed to do since they will have told you doubtless that I would have had no need for either trunk or bag since what clothing I possessed, now that the garments which I had been fortunate enough to inherit from my aunt's kindness or haste or oversight were long since worn out, consisted of the ones which Ellen had remembered from time to time to give me and now Ellen these two years dead; that I had only to lock the house and take my place in the buggy and traverse those twelve miles which I had not done since Ellen died, beside that brute who until Ellen died was not even permitted to approach the house from the front that brute progenitor of brutes whose granddaughter was to supplant me, if not in my sister's house at least in my sister's bed to which (so they will tell you) I aspired — that brute who (brute instrument of that justice which presides over human events which, incept in the individual, runs smooth, less clam than velvet: but which, by man or woman flouted, drives on like fiery steel and overrides both weakly just and unjust strong, both vanquisher and innocent victimized, ruthless for appointed right and truth) brute who was not only to preside upon the various shapes and avatars of Thomas Sutpen's devil's fate but was to provide at the last the female flesh in which his name and lineage should be sepulchered — that brute who appeared to believe that he had served and performed his appointed end by yelling of blood and pistols in the street before my house, who seemed to believe that what further information he might have given me was too scant or too bland and free of moment to warrant the discarding of his tobacco cud, because during the entire subsequent twelve miles he could not even tell me what had happened.
And how I traversed those same twelve miles once more after the two years since Ellen died (or was it the four years since Henry vanished or was it the nineteen years since I saw light and breathed?) knowing nothing, able to learn nothing save this: a shot heard, faint and far away and even direction and source indeterminate, by two women, two young women alone in a rotting house where no man's footstep had sounded in two years — a shot, then an interval of aghast surmise above the cloth and needles which engaged them, then feet, in the hall and then on the stairs, running, hurrying, the feet of man: and Judith with just time to snatch up the unfinished dress and hold it before her as the door burst open upon her brother, the wild murderer whom she had not seen in four years and whom she believed to be (if he was, still lived and breathed at all) a thousand miles away: and then the two of them, the two accursed children on whom the first blow of their devil's heritage had but that moment fallen, looking at one another across the up-raised and unfinished wedding dress.
Twelve miles toward that I rode, beside an animal who could stand in the street before my house and bellow placidly to the populous and listening solitude that my nephew had just murdered his sister's fiance, yet who could not permit himself to force the mule which drew us beyond a walk because 'hit warn't none of mine nor hisn neither and besides hit aint had a decent bait of vittles since the corn give out in February'; who, turning into the actual gate at last, must stop the mule and, pointing with the whip and spitting first, say ' Hit was right yonder." ' What was right there, fool?" I cried, and he: 'Hit was' until I took the whip from him into my own hand and struck the mule.
But they cannot tell you how I went on up the drive, past Ellen's ruined and weed-choked flower beds and reached the house, the shell, the (so I thought) cocoon-casket marriage-bed of youth and grief and found that I had come, not too late as I had thought, but come too soon. Rotting portico and scaling walls, it stood, not ravaged, not invaded, marked by no bullet nor soldier's iron heel but rather as though reserved for something more: some desolation more profound than ruin, as if it had stood in iron juxtaposition to iron flame, to a holocaust which had found itself less fierce and less implacable, not hurled but rather fallen back before the impervious and indomitable skeleton which the flames durst not, at the instant's final crisis, assail; there was even one step, one plank rotted free and tilting beneath the foot (or would have if I had not touched it light and fast) as I ran up and into the hallway whose carpet had long since gone with the bed — and table-linen for lint, and saw the Sutpen face and even as I cried 'Henry! Henry!
What have you done? What has that fool been trying to tell me?" realized that I had come, not too late as I had thought, but come too soon. Because it was not Henry's face. It was Sutpen face enough, but not his; Sutpen coffee-colored face enough there in the dim light, barring the stairs: and I running out of the bright afternoon, into the thunderous silence of that brooding house where I could see nothing at first: then gradually the face, the Sutpen face not approaching, not swimming up out of the gloom, but already there, rocklike and firm and antedating time and house and doom and all, waiting there (oh yes, he chose well; he bettered choosing, who created in his own image the cold Cerberus of his private hell) the face without sex or age because it had never possessed either: the same sphinx face which she had been born with, which had looked down from the loft that night beside Judith's and which she still wears now at seventy-four, looking at me with no change, no alteration in it at all, as though it had known to the second when I was to enter, had waited there during that entire twelve miles behind that walking mule and watched me draw nearer and nearer and enter the door at last as it had known (ay, perhaps decreed, since there is that justice whose Moloch's palate-paunch makes no distinction between gristle bone and tender flesh) that I would enter — The face stopping me dead (not my body: it still advanced, ran on." but I, myself, that deep existence which we lead, to which the movement of limbs is but a clumzy and belated accompaniment like so many unnecessary instruments played crudely and amateurishly out of time to the tune itself) in that barren hall with its naked stair (that carpet gone too) rising into the dim upper hallway where an echo spoke which was not mine but rather that of the lost irrevocable might-have-been which haunts all houses, all enclosed walls erected by human hands, not for shelter, not for warmth, but to hide from the world's curious looking and seeing the dark turnings which the ancient young delusions of pride and hope and ambition (ay, and love too) take. 'Judith!" I said. 'Judith!" There was no answer. I had expected none; possibly even then I did not expect Judith to answer, just as a child, before the full instant of comprehended terror, calls on the parent whom it actually knows (this before the terror destroys all judgement whatever) is not even there to hear it. I was crying not to someone, something, but (trying to cry) through something, through that force, that furious yet absolutely rocklike and immobile antagonism which had stopped me — that presence, that familiar coffee-colored face, that body (the bare coffee-colored feet motionless on the bare floor, the curve of the stair rising just beyond her) no larger than my own which, without moving, with no alteration of visual displacement whatever (she did not even remove her gaze from mine for the reason that she was not looking at me but through me, apparently still musing upon the open door's serene rectangle which I had broken) seemed to elongate and project upward something — not soul, not spirit, but something rather of a profoundly attentive and distracted listening to or for something which I myself could not hear and was not intended to hear — a brooding awareness and acceptance of the inexplicable unseen, herited from an older and a purer race than mine, which created postulated and shaped in the empty air between us that which I believed I had come to find (nay, which I must find, else breathing and standing there, I would have denied that I was ever born) — that bedroom long-closed and musty, that sheetless bed (that nuptial couch of love and grief) with the pale and bloody corpse in its patched and weathered gray crimsoning the bare mattress, the bowed and unwived widow kneeling beside it — and I (my body) not stopping yet (yes, it needed the hand, the touch, for that) — I self-mesmered fool who still believed that what must be would be, could not but be, else I must deny sanity as well as breath, running, hurling myself into that inscrutable coffeecolored face, that cold implacable mindless (no, not mindless: anything but mindless: his own clairvoyant will tempered to amoral evil's undeviating absolute by the black willing blood with which he had crossed it) replica of his own which he had created and decreed to preside upon his absence, as you might watch a wild distracted nightbound bird flutter into the brazen and fatal lamp. 'Wait,' she said. 'Dont you go up there." Still I did not stop; it would require the hand; and I still running on, accomplishing those last few feet across which we seemed to glare at one another not as two faces but as the two abstract contradictions which we actually were, neither of our voices raised, as though we spoke to one another free of the limitations and restrictions of speech and hearing. ' What?" I said. 'Dont you go up there, Rosa." That was how she said it: that quiet that still, and again it was as though it had not been she who spoke but the house itself that said the words — the house which he had built, which some suppuration of himself had created about him as the sweat of his body might have produced some (even if invisible) cocoon-like and complementary shell in which Ellen had had to live and die a stranger, in which Henry and Judith would have to be victims and prisoners, or die. Because it was not the name, the word, the fact that she had called me Rosa. As children she had called me that, just as she had called them Henry and Judith; I know that even now she still called Judith (and Henry too when she spoke of him) by her given name. And she might very naturally have called me Rosa still, since to everyone else whom I knew I was still a child. But it was not that. That was not what she meant at all; in fact, during that instant while we stood face to face (that instant before my still advancing body should brush past her and reach the stair) she did me more grace and respect than anyone else I knew; I knew that from the instant I had entered that door, to her of all who knew me I was no child. 'Rosa?" I cried. 'To me? To my face?" Then she touched me, and then I did stop dead. Possibly even then my body did not stop, since I seemed to be aware of it thrusting blindly still against the solid yet imponderable weight (she not owner: instrument; I still say that) of that will to bar me from the stairs; possibly the sound of the other voice, the single word spoken from the stairhead above us, had already broken and parted us before it (my body) had even paused. I do not know. I know only that my entire being seemed to run at blind full tilt into something monstrous and immobile, with a shocking impact too soon and too quick to be mere amazement and outrage at that black arresting and untimorous hand on my white woman's flesh. Because there is something in the touch of flesh with flesh which abrogates, cuts sharp and straight across the devious intricate channels of decorous ordering, which enemies as well as lovers know because it makes them both — touch and touch of that which is the citadel of the central I-Am's private own: not spirit, the liquorish and ungirdled mind is anyone's to take in any darkened hallway of this earthly tenement. But let flesh touch with flesh, and watch the fall of all the eggshell shibholeth of caste and color too. Yes, I stopped dead no woman's hand, no Negro's hand, but bitted bridle-curb to check and guide the furious and unbending will — I crying not to her, to it; speaking to it through the Negro, the woman, only because of the shock which was not yet outrage because it would be terror soon, expecting and receiving no answer because we both new it was not to her I spoke:' Take your hand off me, nigger!" I got none.
We just stood there — I motion the attitude and action of running, she rigid in that furious immobility, the two of us joined by that hand and arm which held us, like a fierce rigid umbilical cord, twin sistered to the fell darkness which had produced her. As a child I had more than once watched her and Judith and even Henry scuffing in the rough games which they (possibly all children; I do not know) played, and (so I have heard) she and Judith even slept together, in the same room but with Judith in the bed and she on a pallet on the floor ostensibly.
But I have heard how on more than one occasion Ellen has found them both on the pallet, and once in the bed together. But not I Even as a child, would not even play with the same objects which she and Judith played with, as though that warped and spartan solitude which I called my childhood, which had taught me (and little else) to listen before I could comprehend and to understand before I even heard, had also taught me not only to instinctively fear her and what she was, but to shun the very objects which she had touched. We stood there so. And then suddenly it was not outrage that I waited for, out of which I had instinctively cried; it was not terror: it was some cumulative overreach of despair itself. I remember how as we stood there joined by that volitionless (yes: it too sentient victim just as she and I were) hand, I cried — perhaps not aloud, not with words (and not to Judith, mind: perhaps I knew already, on the instant I entered the house and saw that face which was at once both more and less than Sutpen, perhaps I knew even then what I could not, would not, must not believe) — I cried 'And you too? And you too, sister, sister?" What did I expect? I, self-mesmered fool, come twelve miles expecting what? Henry perhaps, to emerge from some door which knew his touch, his hand on the knob, the weight of his foot on a sill which knew that weight: and so to find standing in the hall a small plain frightened creature whom neither man nor woman had ever looked at twice, whom he had not seen himself in four years and seldom enough before that but whom he would recognize if only because of the worn brown silk which had once become his mother and because the creature stood there calling him by his given name? Henry to emerge and say 'Why, it's Rosa, Aunt Rosa. wake up, Aunt Rosa; wake up'? — I, the dreamer clinging yet to the dream as the patient clings to the last thin unbearable ecstatic instant of agony in order to sharpen the savor of the pain's surcease, waking into the reality, the more than reality, not to the unchanged and unaltered old time but into a time altered to fit the dream which, conjunctive with the dreamer, becomes immolated and apotheosied: 'Mother and Judith are in the nursery with the children, and Father and Charles are walking in the garden.
Wake up, Aunt Rosa; wake up'? Or not expect perhaps, not even hope; not even dream since dreams don't come in pairs, and had I not come twelve miles drawn not by mortal mule but by some chimera-foal of nightmare's very self? (Ay, wake up, Rosa; wake up — not from what was, what used to be, but from what had not, could not have ever, been; wake, Rosa — not to what should, what might have been, but to what cannot, what must not, be; wake, Rosa, from the hoping, who did believe there is a seemliness to bereavement even though grief be absent; believed there would be need for you to save not love perhaps, not happiness nor peace, but what was left behind by widowing — and found that there was nothing there to save; who hoped to save her as you promised Ellen (not Charles Bon, not Henry: not either one of these from him or even from one another) and now too late, who would have been too late if you had come there from the womb or had been there already at the full strong capable mortal peak when she was born; who came twelve miles and nineteen years to save what did not need the saving, and lost instead yourself) I do not know, except that I did not find it. I found only that dream-state in which you run without moving from a terror in which you cannot believe, toward a safety in which you have no faith, held so not by the shifting and foundationless quicksand of nightmare but by a face which was its soul's own inquisitor, a hand which was the agent of its own crucifixion, until the voice parted us, broke the spell. It said one word: ' Clytie." like that, that cold, that still: not Judith, but the house itself speaking again, though it was Judith's voice. Oh, I knew it well, who had believed in grieving's seemliness; I knew it as well as she — Clytie — knew it.
She did not move; it was only the hand, the hand gone before I realized that it had been removed. I do not know if she removed it or if I ran out from beneath its touch. But it was gone; and this too they cannot tell you: How I ran, fled, up the stairs and found no grieving widowed bride but Judith standing before the closed door to that chamber, in the gingham dress which she had worn each time I had seen her since Ellen died, holding something in one hanging hand; and if there had been grief or anguish she had put them too away, complete or not complete I do not know, along with that unfinished wedding dress. ' Yes, Rosa?" she said, like that again, and I stopped in running's midstride again though my body, blind unsentient barrow of deluded clay and breath, still advanced: And now I saw that what she held in that lax and negligent hand was the photograph, the picture of herself in its metal case which she had given him, held casual and forgotten against her flank as any interrupted pastime book.
That's what I found. Perhaps it's what I expected, knew (even at nineteen knew, I would say if it were not for my nineteen, my own particular kind of nineteen years) that I should find. Perhaps I couldn't even have wanted more than that, couldn't have accepted less, who even at nineteen must have known that living is one constant and perpetual instant when the arras-veil before what-is-to-be hangs docile and even glad to the lightest naked thrust if we had dared, were brave enough (not wise enough: no wisdom needed here) to make the rending gash. Or perhaps it is no lack of courage either: not cowardice which will not face that sickness somewhere at the prime foundation of this factual scheme from which the prisoner soul, miasmal-distillant boils ever upward sunward, tugs its tenuous prisoner arteries and veins and prisoning in its turn that spark, that dream which, as the globy and complete instant of its freedom mirrors and repeats (repeats? creates, reduces to a fragile evanescent iridescent sphere) all of space and time and massy earth, relicts the seething and anonymous miasmal mass which in all the years of time has taught itself no boon of death but only how to recreate, renew; and die, is gone, vanished: nothing — but is that true wisdom which can comprehend that there is a might-have-been which is more true than truth, from which the dreamer, waking, says not' Did I but dream?" but rather says, indicts high heaven's very self with: ' Why did I wake since waking I shall never sleep again?" Once there was-Do you mark how the wistaria, sunimpacted on this wall here, distills and penetrates this room as though (lightunimpeded) by secret and attritive progress from mote to mote of obscurity's myriad components?
That is the substance of remembering — sense, sight, smell: the muscles with which we see and hear and feel not mind, not thought: there is no such thing as memory: the brain recalls just what the muscles grope for: no more, no less; and its resultant sum is usually incorrect and false and worthy only of the name of dream. — See how the sleeping outflung hand, touching the bedside candle, remembers pain, springs back and free while mind and brain sleep on and only make of this adjacent heat some trashy myth of really's escape: or that same sleeping hand, in sensuous marriage with some dulcet surface, is transformed by that same sleeping brain and mind into that same figment-stuff warped out of all experience. Ay, grief goes, fades; we know that — but ask the tear ducts if they have forgotten how to weep.
— Once there was (they cannot have told you this either) a summer of wistaria. It was a pervading everywhere of wistaria (I was fourteen then) as though of all springs yet to capitulate condensed into one spring, one summer: the spring and summertime which is every female's who breathed above dust, beholden of all betrayed springs held over from all irrevocable time, repercussed, bloomed again. It was a vintage year of wistaria: vintage year being that sweet conjunction of root bloom and urge and hour and weather,' and I (I was fourteen) — I will not insist on bloom, at whom no man had yet to look — nor would ever — twice, as not as child but less than even child; as not more child than woman but even as less than any female flesh. Nor do I say leaf — warped bitter pale and crimped half-fledging intimidate of any claim to green which might have drawn to it the tender mayfly childhood sweetheart games or given pause to the male predacious wasps and bees of later lust. But root and urge I do insist and claim, for had I not heired too far all the unsistered Eves since the Snake?
Yes, urge I do: warped chrysalis of what blind perfect seed: for who shall say what gnarled forgotten root might not bloom yet with some globed concentrate more globed and concentrate and heady-perfect because the neglected root was planted warped and lay not dead but merely slept forgot?
That was the miscast summer of my barren youth which (for that short time, that short brief unreturning springtime of the female heart) I lived out not as a woman, a girl, but rather as the man which I perhaps should have been. I was fourteen then, fourteen in years if they could have been called years while in that unpaced corridor which I called childhood, which was not living but rather some projection of the lightless womb itself; I gestate and complete, not aged, just overdue because of some caesarean lack, some cold head-nuzzling forceps of the savage time which should have torn me free, I waited not for light but for that doom which we call female victory which is: endure and then endure, without rhyme or reason or hope of reward — and then endure; I like that blind subterranean fish, that insulated spark whose origin the fish no longer remembers, which pulses and beats at its crepuscular and lethargic tenement with the old unsleeping itch which has no words to speak with other than ' This was called light', that' smell', that' touch', that other something which has bequeathed not even name for sound of bee or bird or flower's scent or light or sun or love — yes, not even growing and developing, beloved by and loving light, but equipped only with that cunning, that inverted canker-growth of solitude which substitutes the omnivorous and unrational hearingsense for all the others: so that instead of accomplishing the processional and measured milestones of the childhood's time I lurked, unapprehended as though, shod with the very damp and velvet silence of the womb, I displaced no air, gave off no betraying sound, from one closed forbidden door to the next and so acquired all I knew of that light and space in which people moved and breathed as I (that same child) might have gained conception of the sun from seeing it through a piece of smoky glass — fourteen, four years younger than Judith, four years later than Judith's moment which only virgins know: when the entire delicate spirit's bent is one anonymous climaxless epicene and unravished nuptial — not that widowed and nightly violation by the inescapable and scornful deed which is the need of twenty and thirty and forty, but a world filled with living marriage like the light and air which she breathes. But it was no summer of a virgin's itching discontent; no summer's caesarean lack which should have torn me, dead flesh or even embryo, from the living: or else, by friction's ravishing of the male-furrowed meat, also weaponed and panoplied as a man instead of hollow woman.
It was the summer after that first Christmas that Henry brought him home, the summer following the two days of that June vacation which he spent at Sutpen's Hundred before he rode on to the River to take the steamboat home, that summer after my aunt left and papa had to go away on business and I was sent out to Ellen (possibly my father chose Ellen as a refuge for me because at that time Thomas Sutpen was also absent) to stay so that she could take care of me, who had been born too late, born into some curious disjoint of my father's life and left on his (now twice) widowed hands, I competent enough to reach a kitchen shelf, count spoons and hem a sheet and measure milk into a churn yet good for nothing else, yet still too valuable to be left alone. I had never seen him (I never saw him. I never even saw him 'dead. I heard a name, I saw a photograph, I helped to make a grave: and that was all) though he had been in my house once, that first New Year's Day when Henry brought him from nephew duty to speak to me on their way back to school and I was not at home. Until then I had not even heard his name, did not know that he existed. Yet on the day when I went out there to stay that summer, it was as though that casual pause at my door had left some seed, some minute virulence in this cellar earth of mine quick not for love perhaps (I did not love him; how could I? I had never even heard his voice, had only Ellen's word for it that there was such a person) and quick not for the spying which you will doubtless call it, which during the past six months between that New Year's and that June gave substance to that shadow with a name emerging from Ellen's vain and garrulous folly, that shape without even a face yet because I had not even seen the photograph then, reflected in the secret and bemused gaze of a young girl: because I who had learned nothing of love, not even parents' love — that fond dear constant violation of privacy, that stultification of the burgeoning and incorrigible I which is the need and due of all mammalian meat, became not mistress, not beloved, but more than even love; I became all polymath love's androgynous advocate. ' There must have been some seed he left, to cause a child's vacant fairy-tale to come alive in that garden. Because I was not spying when I would follow her. I was not spying, though you will say I was And even if it was spying, it was not jealousy, because I did not love him. (How could I have, when I had never seen him?) And even if I did, not as women love, as Judith loved him, or as we thought she did. If it was love (and I still say, How could it be?) it was the way that mothers love when, punishing the child she strikes not it but through it strikes the neighbor boy whom it has just whipped or been whipped by; caresses not the rewarded child but rather the nameless man or woman who have the palm-sweated penny. But not as women love. Because I asked nothing of him, you see. And more than that: I gave nothing, which is the sum of loving. Why, I didn't even miss him. I don't know even now if I was ever aware that I had seen nothing of his face but that photograph, that shadow, that picture in a young girl's bedroom: a picture casual and framed upon a littered dressing table yet bowered and dressed (or so I thought) with all the maiden and invisible lily roses, because even before I saw the photograph I could have recognized, nay, described, the very face. But I never saw it. I do not even know of my own knowledge that Ellen ever saw it, that Judith ever loved it, that Henry slew it: so who will dispute me when I say, Why did I not invent, create it? — And I know this: if I were God I would invent out of this seething turmoil we call progress something (a machine perhaps) which would adorn the barren mirror altars of every plain girl who breathes with such as this — which is so little since we want so little — this pictured face. It would not even need a skull behind it; almost anonymous, it would only need vague inference of some walking flesh and blood desired by someone else even if only in some shadow-realm of make-believe. — A picture seen by stealth, by creeping (my childhood taught me that instead of love and it stood me in good stead; in fact, if it had taught me love, love could not have stood me so) into the deserted midday room to look at it. Not to dream, since I dwelt in the dream, but to renew, rehearse, the part as the faulty though eager amateur might steal wingward in some interim of the visible scene to hear the prompter's momentary voice. And if jealousy, not man's jealousy, the jealousy of the lover, not even the lover's self who spies from love, who spies to watch, taste, touch that maiden revery of solitude which is the first thinning of that veil we call virginity; not to spring out, force that shame which is such a part of love's declaring, but to gloat upon the rich instantaneous bosom already rosy with the flushy sleep though shame itself does not yet need to wake. No, it was not that; I was not spying, who would walk those raked and sanded garden paths and think ' This print was his save for this obliterating rake, that even despite the rake it is still there and hers beside it in that slow and mutual rhythm wherein the heart, the mind, does not need to watch the docile (ay, the willing) feet'; would think 'What suspiration of the twinning souls have the murmurous myriad ears of this secluded vine or shrub listened to? what vow, what promise, what rapt biding fire has the lilac rain of this wistaria, this heavy rose's dissolution, crowned?" But best of all, better far than this, the actual living and the dreamy flesh itself. Oh no, I was not spying while I dreamed in the lurking harborage of my own shrub or vine as I believed she dreamed upon the nooky seat which held invisible imprint of his absent thighs just as the obliterating sand, the million finger-nerves of frond and leaf, the very sun and moony constellations which had looked down at him, the circumambient air, held somewhere yet his foot, his passing shape, his face, his speaking voice, his name: Charles Bon, Charles Good, Charles Husband-soon-to-be. No, not spying, not even hiding, who was child enough not to need to hide, whose presence would have been no violation even though he sat with her, yet woman enough to have gone to her entitled to be received (perhaps with pleasure, gratitude) into that maiden shameless confidence where young girls talk of love. Yes, child enough to go to her and say 'Let me sleep with you'; woman enough to say' Let us lie in bed together while you tell me what love is,' yet who did not do it because I should have had to say ' Dont talk to me of love but let me tell you, who know already more of love than you will ever know or need." Then my father returned and came for me and took me home and I became again that nondescript too long a child yet too short a woman, in the fitless garments which my aunt had left behind, keeping a fitless house, who was not spying, hiding, but waiting, watching, for no reward, no thanks, who did not love him in the sense we mean it because there is no love of that sort without hope; who (if it were love) loved with that sort beyond the compass of glib books: that love which gives up what it never had that penny's modicum which is the donor's all yet whose infinitesimal weight adds nothing to the substance of the loved — and yet I gave it.
And not to him, to her; it was as though I said to her, 'Here, take this too. You cannot love him as he should be loved, and though he will no more feel this giving's weight than he would ever know its lack, yet there may come some moment in your married lives when he will find this atom's particle as you might find a cramped small pallid hidden shoot in a familiar flower bed and pause and say, "where did this come from?"; you need only answer, "I don't know." ' 4nd then I went back home and stayed five years, heard an echoed shot, ran up a nightmare flight of stairs, and found why, a woman standing calmly in a gingham dress before a closed door which she would not allow me to enter — a woman more strange to me than to any grief for being so less its partner — a woman saying ' Yes, Rosa?" calmly into the midstride of my running which (I know it now) had begun five years ago, since he had been in my house too, and had left no more trace than he had left in Ellen's, where he had been but a shape, a shadow: not of a man, a being, but of some esoteric piece of furniture — vase or chair or desk — which Ellen wanted, as though his very impression (or lack of it) on Coldfield or Sutpen walls held portentous prophecy of what was to be Yes, running out of that first year (that year before the war) during which Ellen talked to me of trousseau (and it my trousseau), of all the dreamy panoply of surrender which was my surrender, who had so little to surrender that it was all I had because there is that might-have-been which is the single rock we cling to above the maelstrom of unbearable reality — The four years while I believed she waited as I waited, while the stable world we had been taught to know dissolved in fire and smoke until peace and security were gone, and pride and hope, and there was left only maimed honor's veterans, and love. Yes, there should, there must, be love and faith: these left with us by fathers, husbands, sweethearts, brothers, who carried the pride and the hope of peace in honor's vanguard as they did the flags; there must be these, else what do men fight for? what else worth dying for? Yes, dying not for honor's empty sake, nor pride nor even peace, but for that love and faith they left behind. Because he was to die; I know that, knew that, as both pride and peace were: else how to prove love's immortality? But not love, not faith itself, themselves. Love without hope perhaps, faith with little to be proud with: but love and faith at least above the murdering and the folly, to salvage at least from the humbled indicted dust something anyway of the old lost enchantment of the heart. — Yes, found her standing before that closed door which I was not to enter (and which she herself did not enter again to my knowledge until Jones and the other 'man carried the coffin up the stairs) with the photograph hanging at her side and her face absolutely calm, looking at me for a moment and just raising her voice enough to be heard in the hall below: 'Clytie. Miss Rosa will be here for dinner; you had better get out some more meal': then 'Shall we go down stairs?
I will have to speak to Mr Jones about some planks and nails." That was all. Or rather, not all, since there is no all, no finish; it's not the blow we suffer from but the tedious repercussive anticlimax of it, the rubbishy aftermath to clear away from off the very threshold of despair. You see, I never saw him. I never even saw him dead. I heard an echo, but not the shot; I saw a closed door but did not enter it." I remember how that afternoon when we carried the coffin from the house (Jones and another white man which he produced, exhumed, from somewhere made it of boards torn from the carriage house; I remember how while we ate the food which Judith yes, Judith, the same face calm, cold and tranquil above the stove had cooked, ate it in the very room which he lay over, we could hear them hammering and sawing in the backyard, and how I saw Judith once, in a faded gingham sunbonnet to match the dress, giving them directions about making it; I remember how during all that slow and sunny afternoon they hammered and sawed right under the back parlor window — the slow, maddening rasp, rasp, rasp, of the saw, the flat deliberate hammer blows that seemed as though each would be the last but was not, repeated and resumed just when the dulled attenuation of the wearied nerves, stretched beyond all resiliency, relaxed to silence and then had to scream again: until at last I went out there (and saw Judith in the barnlot in a cloud of chickens, her apron cradled about the gathered eggs) and asked them why? why there? why must it be just there? and they both stopped long and more than long enough for Jones to turn and spit again and say, ' Because hit wouldn't be so fur to tote the box': and how before my very back was turned he — one of them — added further, out of some amazed and fumbling ratiocination of inertia, how 'Hit would be simpler yit to fetch him down and nail the planks around him, only maybe Missus Judy wouldn't like hit.") — I remember how as we carried him down the stairs and out to the waiting wagon I tried to take the full weight of the coffin to prove to myself that he was really in it. And I could not tell. I was one of his pallbearers, yet I could not, would not believe something which I knew could not but be so. Because I never saw him.
You see? There are some things which happen to us which the intelligence and the senses refuse just as the stomach sometimes refuses what the palate has accepted but which digestion cannot compass — occurrences which stop us dead as though by some impalpable intervention, like a sheet of glass through which we watch all subsequent events transpire as though in a soundless vacuum, and fade, vanish; are gone, leaving us immobile, impotent, helpless; fixed, until we can die. That was I. I was there; something of me walked in measured cadence with the measured tread of Jones and his companion, and Theophilus McCaslin who had heard the news somehow back in town, and Clytie as we bore the awkward and unmanageable box past the stair's close turning while Judith, following, steadied it from behind, and so down and out to the wagon; something of me helped to raise that which it could not have raised alone yet which it still could not believe, into the waiting wagon; something of me stood beside the gashy earth in the cedars' somber gloom and heard the clumsy knell of clods upon the wood and answered No when Judith at the grave's wounded end said, ' He was a Catholic. Do any of you all know how Catholics — ' and Theophilus McCaslin said, 'Catholic be damned,' he was a soldier. And I can pray for any Confedrit soldier' and then cried in his old man's shrill harsh loud cacophonous voice: 'Yaaaay, Forrest! Yaaaay, John Sartoris! Yaaaaaay!" And something walked with Judith and Clytie back across that sunset field and answered in some curious serene suspension to the serene quiet voice which talked of plowing corn and cutting winter wood, and in the lamplit kitchen helped this time to cook the meal and helped to eat it too within the room beyond whose ceiling he no longer lay, and went to bed (yes, took a candle from that firm untrembling hand and thought 'She did not even weep' and then in a lamp-gloomed mirror saw my own face and thought 'Nor did you either') within that house where he had sojourned for another brief (and this time final) space and left no trace of him, not even tears. Yes. One day he was not. Then he was. Then he was not. It was too short, too fast, too quick; six hours of a summer afternoon saw it all — a space too short to leave even the imprint of a body on a mattress, and blood can come from anywhere — if there was blood, since I never saw him. For all I was allowed to know, we had no corpse; we even had no murderer (we did not even speak of Henry that day, not one of us; I did not say — the aunt, the spinster — ' Did he look well or ill?" I did not say one of the thousand trivial things with which the indomitable woman-blood ignores the man's world in which the blood kinsman shows the courage or cowardice, the folly or lust or fear, for which his fellows praise or crucify him) who came and crashed a door and cried his crime and vanished, who for the fact that he was still alive was just that much more shadowy than the abstraction which we had nailed into a box — a shot heard only by its echo, a strange gaunt half-wild horse, bridled and with empty saddle, the saddle bags containing a pistol, a worn clean shirt, a lump of iron-like bread, captured by a man four miles away and two days later while trying to force the crib door in his stable. Yes, more than that: he was absent, and he was; he returned, and he was not; three women put something into the earth and covered it, and he had never been.
Now you will ask me why I stayed there. I could say, I do not know, could give ten thousand paltry reasons, all untrue, and be believed-that I stayed for food, who could have combed ditchbanks and weed-beds, made and worked a garden as well at my own home in town as here, not to speak of neighbors, friends whose alms I might have accepted, since necessity has a way of obliterating from our conduct various delicate scruples regarding honor and pride; that I stayed for shelter, who had a roof of my own in fee simple now indeed; or that I stayed for company, who at home could have had the company of neighbors who were at least of my own kind, who had known me all my life and even longer in the sense that they thought not only as I thought but as my forbears thought, while here I had for company one woman whom, for all she was blood kin to me, I did not understand and, if what my observation warranted me to believe was true, I did not wish to understand, and another who was so foreign to me and to all that I was that we might have been not only of different races (which we were), not only of different sexes (which we were not), but of different species, speaking no language which the other understood, the very simple words with which we were forced to adjust our days to one another being even less inferential of thought or intention than the sounds which a beast and a bird might make to each other. But I don't say any of these. I stayed there and waited for Thomas Sutpen to come home. Yes. You will say (or believe) that I waited even then to become engaged to him; if I said I did not, you would believe I lied.
But I do say I did not. I waited for him exactly as Judith and Clytie waited for him: because now he was all we had, all that gave us any reason for continuing to exist, to eat food and sleep and wake and rise again: knowing that he would need us, knowing as we did (who knew him) that he would begin at once to salvage what was left of Sutpen's Hundred and restore it. Not that we would or did need him. (I had never for one instant thought of marriage, never for one instant imagined that he would look at me, see me, since he never had. You may believe me, because I shall make no bones to say so when the moment comes to tell you when I did think of it.) No. It did not even require the first day of the life we were to lead together to show us that we did not need him had not the need for any man so long as Wash Jones lived or stayed there — I who had kept my father's house and he alive for almost four years, Judith who had done the same out here, and Clytie who could cut a cord of wood or run a furrow better (or at least quicker) than Jones himself. — And this the sad fact, one of the saddest: that weary tedium which the heart and spirit feel when they no longer need that to whose need they (the spirit and the heart) are necessary. No. We did not need him, not even vicariously, who could not even join him in his furious (that almost mad intention which he brought home with him, seemed to project, radiate ahead of him before he even dismounted) desire to restore the place to what it had been that he had sacrificed pity and gentleness and love and all the soft Virtues for — if he had ever had them to sacrifice, felt their lack, desired them of others. Not even that. Neither Judith nor I wanted that. Perhaps it was because we did not believe it could be done, but I think it was more than that: that we now existed in an apathy which was almost peace, like that of the blind unsentient earth itself which dreams after no flower's stalk nor bud, envies not the airy musical solitude of the springing leaves it nourishes.
So we waited for him. We led the busy eventless lives of three nuns in a barren and poverty-stricken convent: the walls we had were safe, impervious enough, even if it did not matter to the walls whether we ate or not. And amicably, not as two white women and a Negress, not as three Negroes or three white, not even as three women, but merely as three creatures who still possessed the need to eat but took no pleasure in it, the need to sleep but from no joy in weariness or regeneration, and in whom sex was some forgotten atrophy like the rudimentary gills we call the tonsils or the still opposable thumbs for old climbing. We kept the house, what part of it we lived in, used; we kept the room which Thomas Sutpen would return to — not that one which he left, a husband, but the one to which he should return a sonless widower, barren of that posterity which he doubtless must have wanted who had gone to the trouble and expense of getting children and housing them among imported furniture beneath crystal chandeliers, just as we kept Henry's room, as Judith and Clytie kept it that is, as if he had not run up the stairs that summer afternoon and then ran down again; we grew and tended and harvested with our own hands the food we ate, made and worked that garden just as we cooked and ate the food which came out of it: with no distinction among the three of us of age or color but just as to who could build this fire or stir this pot or weed this bed or carry this apron full of corn to the mill for meal with least cost to the general good in time or expense of other duties. It was as though we were one being, interchangeable and indiscriminate, which kept that garden growing, spun thread and wove the cloth we wore, hunted and found and rendered the meager ditch-side herbs to protect and guarantee what spartan compromise we dared or had the time to make with illness, harried and nagged that Jones into working the corn and cutting the wood which was to be our winter's warmth and sustenance the three of us, three women." I drafted by circumstance at too soon an age into a pinchpenny housewifery which might have existed just as well upon a lighthouse rock, which had not even taught me how to cultivate a bed of flowers, let alone a kitchen garden, which had taught me to look upon fuel and meat as something appearing by its own volition in a woodbox or on a pantry shelf; Judith created by circumstance (circumstance? a hundred years of careful nurturing, perhaps not by blood, not even Coldfield blood, but certainly by the tradition in which Thomas Sutpen' s ruthless will had carved a niche) to pass through the soft insulated and unscathed cocoon stages: bud, served prolific queen, then potent and soft-handed matriarch of old age's serene and welllived content — Judith handicapped by what in me was a few years' ignorance but which in her was ten generations of iron prohibition, who had not learned that first principle of penury which is to scrimp and save for the sake of scrimping and saving, who (and abetted by Clytie) would cook twice what we could eat and three times what we could afford and give it to anyone, any stranger in a land already beginning to fill with straggling soldiers who stopped and asked for it; and (but not least) Clytie.
Clytie, not inept, anything but inept: perverse inscrutable and paradox: free, yet incapable of freedom who had never once called herself a slave, holding fidelity to none like the indolent and solitary wolf or bear (yes, wild: half untamed black, half Sutpen blood: and if 'untamed' be synonymous with 'wild', then ' Sutpen' is the silent unsleeping viciousness of the tamer's lash) whose false seeming holds it docile to fear's hand but which is not, which if this be fidelity, fidelity only to the prime fixed principle of its own savageness; — Clytie who in the very pigmentation of her flesh represented that debacle which had brought Judith and me to what we were and which had made of her (Clytie) that which she declined to be just as she had declined to be that from which its purpose had been to emancipate her, as though presiding aloof upon the new, she deliberately remained to represent to us the threatful portent of the old.
We were three strangers. I do not know what Clytie thought, what life she led which the food we raised and cooked in unison, the cloth we spun and wove together, nourished and sheltered. But I expected that because she and I were open, ay honorable, enemies. But I did not even know what Judith thought and felt. We slept in the same room, the three of us (this for more than to conserve the firewood which we had to carry in ourselves. We did it for safety. It was winter soon and already soldiers were beginning to come back the stragglers, not all of them tramps, ruffians, but men who had risked and lost everything, suffered beyond endurance and had returned now to a ruined land, not the same men who had marched away, but transformed — and this the worst, the ultimate degradation to which war brings the spirit, the soul into the likeness of that man who abuses from very despair and pity the beloved wife or mistress who in his absence has been raped. We were afraid. We fed them; we gave them what and all we had and we would have assumed their wounds and left them whole again if we could.
But we were afraid of them.), we waked and fulfilled the endless tedious obligations which the sheer holding to life and breath entailed; we would sit before the fire after supper, the three of us in that state where the very bones and muscles are too tired to rest, when the attenuated and invincible spirit has changed and shaped even hopelessness into the easy obliviousness of a worn garment, and talk, talk of a hundred things — the weary recurrent trivia of our daily lives, of a thousand things but not of one. We talked of him, Thomas Sutpen, of the end of the war (we could all see it now) and when he would return, of what he would do: how begin the Herculean task which we knew he would set himself, into which (oh yes, we knew this too) he would undoubtedly sweep us with the old ruthlessness whether we would or no; we talked of Henry, quietly — that normal useless impotent woman-worrying about the absent male — as to how he fared, if he were cold or hungry or not, just as we talked of his father, as if both they and we still lived in that time which that shot, those running mad feet, had put a period to and then obliterated, as though that afternoon had never been. But not once did we mention Charles Bon.
There were two afternoons in the late fall when Judith was absent, returning at supper time serene and calm. I did not ask and I did not follow her, yet I knew and I knew that Clytie knew that she had gone to clear that grave of dead leaves and the sere brown refuse of the cedars that wound vanishing slowly back into the earth, beneath which we had buried nothing. No, there had been no shot. That sound was merely the sharp and final clap-to of a door between us and all that was, all that might have been — a retroactive severance of the stream of event, a forever crystallized instant in imponderable time accomplished by three weak yet indomitable women which, preceding the accomplished fact which we declined, refused, robbed the brother of the prey, reft the murderer of a victim for his very bullet. That was how we lived for seven months. And then one afternoon in January Thomas Sutpen came home; someone looked up where we were preparing the garden for another year's food and saw him riding up the drive. And then one evening I became engaged to marry him. It took me just three months. (Do you mind that I don't say he, but I?) Yes, I, just three moths, who for twenty years had looked on him (when I did — had to too — look) as an ogre, some beast out of a tale to frighten children with; who had seen his own get upon my dead sister's body already begin to destroy one another, yet who must come to him like a whistled dog at that first opportunity, that noon when he who had been seeing me for twenty years should first raise his head and pause and look at me. Oh, I hold no brief for myself who could (and would; ay, doubtless have already) give you a thousand specious reasons good enough for women, ranging from woman's natural inconsistency to the desire (or even hope) for possible wealth, position, or even the fear of dying manless which (so they will doubtless tell you) old maids always have, or for revenge. No. I hold no brief for me. I could have gone home and I did not. Perhaps I should have gone home. But I did not. As Judith and Clytie did, I stood there before the rotting portico and watched him ride up on that gaunt and jaded horse on which he did not seem to sit but rather seemed to project himself ahead like a mirage, in some fierce dynamic rigidity of impatience which the gaunt horse, the saddle, the boots, the leaf-colored and threadbare coat with its tarnished and flapping braid containing the sentient though nerveless shell, which seemed to precede him as he dismounted and out of which he said 'Well, daughter' and stooped and touched his beard to Judith's forehead, who had not, did not, move, who stood rigid and still and immobile of face, and within which they spoke four sentences, four sentences of simple direct words behind beneath above which I felt that same rapport of communal blood which I had sensed that day while Clytie held me from the stairs: 'Henry's not — ?" 'No. He's not here." — Ah. And — ?" ' Yes.
Henry killed him." And then burst into tears. Yes, burst, who had not wept yet, who had brought down the stairs that afternoon and worn ever since that cold, calm face which had stopped me in midrunning at that closed door; yes, burst, as if that entire accumulation of seven months were erupting spontaneously from every pore in one incredible evacuation (she not moving, not moving a muscle) and then vanishing, disappearing as instantaneously as if the very fierce and arid aura which he had enclosed her in were drying the tears faster than they emerged: and still standing with his hands on her shoulders and looked at Clytie and said, 'Ah, Clytie' and then at me — the same face which he'd last seen, only a little thinner, the same ruthless eyes, the hair grizzled a little now, and no recognition in the face at all until Judith said, ' It's Rosa. Aunt Rosa. She lives here now. ' That was all. He rode up the drive and into our lives again and left no ripple save those instantaneous and incredible tears. Because he himself was not there, not in the house where we spent our days, had not stopped there.
The shell of him was there, using the room which we had kept for him and eating the food which we produced and prepared as if it could neither feel the softness of the bed nor make distinction between the viands either as to quality or taste.
Yes. He wasn't there. Something ate with us; we talked to it and it answered questions; it sat with us before the fire at night and, rousing without any roaming from some profound and bemused complete inertia, talked, not to us, the six ears, the three minds capable of listening, but to the air, the waiting grim decaying presence, spirit, of the house itself, talking that which sounded like the bombast of a madman who creates within his very coffin walls his fabulous immeasurable Camelots and Carcassonnes. Not absent from the place, the arbitrary square of earth which he had named Sutpen's Hundred: not that at all. He was absent only from the room, and that because he had to be elsewhere, a part of him encompassing each ruined field and fallen fence and crumbling wall of cabin or cotton house or crib; himself diffused and in solution held by that electric furious immobile urgency and awareness of short time and the need for haste as if he had just drawn breath and looked about and realized that he was old (he was fifty-nine) and was concerned (not afraid: concerned) not that old age might have left him impotent to do what he intended to do, but that he might not have time to do it in before he would have to die. We were right about what he would intend to do: that he would not even pause for breath before undertaking to restore his house and plantation as near as possible to what it had been. We did not know how he would go about it, nor I believe did he. He could not have known, who came home with nothing, to nothing, to four years less than nothing. But it did not stop him, intimidate him. His was that cold alert fury of the gambler who knows that he may lose anyway but that with a second's flagging of the fierce constant will he is sure to: and who keeps suspense from ever quite crystallizing by sheer fierce manipulation of the cards or dice until the ducts and glands of luck begin to flow again. He did not pause, did not take that day or two to let the bones and flesh of fifty-nine recuperate — the day or two in which he might have talked, not about us and what we had been doing, but about himself, the past four years (for all he ever told us, there might not have been any war at all, or it on another planet and no stake of his risked on it, no flesh and blood of his to suffer by it) that natural period during which bitter though unmaimed defeat might have exhausted itself to something like peace, like quiet in the raging and incredulous recounting (which enables man to bear with living) of that feather's balance between victory and disaster which makes that defeat unbearable which, turning against him, yet declined to slay him who, still alive, yet cannot bear to live with it.
We hardly ever saw him. He would be gone from dawn until dark, he and Jones and another man or two that he had got from somewhere and paid with something, perhaps the same coin in which he had paid that foreign architect — cajolery, promise, threat and at last force. That was the winter when we began to learn what carpetbagger meant and people — women — locked doors and windows at night and began to frighten each other with tales of Negro uprisings, when the ruined, the four years' fallow and neglected land lay more idle yet while men with pistols in their pockets gathered daily at secret meeting places in the towns. He did not make one of these; I remember how one night a deputation called, rode out through the mud of early March and put him to the point of definite yes or no, with them or against them, friend or enemy: and he refused, declined, offered them (with no change of gaunt ruthless face nor level voice) defiance if it was defiance they wanted, telling them that if every man in the South would do as he himself was doing, would see to the restoration of his own land the general land and South would save itself: and ushered them from the room and from the house and stood plain in the doorway holding the lamp above his head while their spokesman delivered his ultimatum: 'There be war, Sutpen,' and answered, 'I am used to it." Oh yes, I watched him, watched his old man's solitary fury fighting now not with the stubborn yet slowly tractable earth as it had done before, but now against the ponderable weight of the changed new time itself as though he were trying to dam a river with his bare hands and a shingle: and this for the same spurious delusion of reward which had failed (failed? betrayed: and would this time destroy) him once; I see the analogy myself now: the accelerating circle's fatal curving course of his ruthless pride, his lust for vain magnificence, though I did not then.
And how could I? turned twenty true enough yet still a child, still living in that womb-like corridor where the world came not even as living echo but as dead incomprehensible shadow, where with the quiet and unalarmed amazement of a child I watched the miragy antics of men and women — my father, my sister, Thomas Sutpen, Judith, Henry, Charles Bon — called honor, principle, marriage, love, bereavement, death; the child who watching him was not a child but one of that triumvirate mother-woman which we three, Judith, Clytie, and I made, which fed and clothed and warmed the static shell and so gave vent and scope to the fierce vain illusion and so said, 'at last my life is worth something, even though it only shields and guards the antic fury of an insane child." And then one afternoon (I was in the garden with a hoe, where the path came up from the stable-lot) I looked up and saw him looking at me.
He had seen me for twenty years, but now he was looking at me; he stood there in the path looking at me, in the middle of the afternoon.
That was it: that it should have been in the middle of the afternoon, when he should not have been anywhere near the house at all but miles away and invisible somewhere among his hundred square miles which they had not troubled to begin to take away from him yet, perhaps not even at this point or at that point but diffused (not attenuated to thinness but enlarged, magnified, encompassing as though in a prolonged and unbroken instant of tremendous effort embracing and holding intact that ten-mile square while he faced from the brink of disaster, invincible and unafraid, what he must have known would be the final defeat) but instead of that standing there in the path looking at me with something curious and strange in his face as if the barnlot, the path at the instant when he came in sight of me had been a swamp out of which he' had emerged without having been forewarned that he was about to enter light, and then went on — the face, the same face: it was not love; I do not say that, not gentleness or pity: just a sudden over-burst of light, illumination, who had been told that his son had done murder and vanished and said 'Ah. — well, Clytie." He went on to the house. But it was not love: I do not claim that; I hold no brief for myself, I do not excuse it. I could have said that he had needed, used me; why should I rebel now, because he would use me more? but I did not say it; I could say this time, I do not know, and I would tell the truth.
Because I do not know. He was gone; I did not even know that either since there is a metabolism of the spirit as well as of the entrails, in which the stored accumulations of long time burn, generate, create, and break some maidenhead of the ravening meat; ay in a second's time — yes, lost all the shibholeth erupting of cannot, will not, never will in one red instant's fierce obliteration. This was my instant, who could have fled then and did not, who found that he had gone on and did not remember when he had walked away, who found my okra bed finished without remembering the completing of it, who sat at the supper table that night with the familiar dream-cloudy shell which we had grown used to (he did not look at me again during the meal; I might have said then, To what deluded sewer-gush of dreaming does the incorrigible flesh betray us: but I did not) and then before the fire in Judith's bedroom sat as we always did until he came in the door and looked at us and said, 'Judith, you and Clytie — ' and ceased, still entering, then said, ' No, never mind. Rosa will not mind if you both hear it too, since we are short for time and busy with what we have of it' and came and stopped and put his hand on my head and (I do not know what he looked at while he spoke, save that by the sound of his voice it was not at us nor at anything in that room) said, ' You may think I made your sister Ellen no very good husband. You probably do think so.