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William Faulkner — LIGHT IN AUGUST glaring at the old sleeping man on the other cot with the face of a tiger. Then the child breathed and cried, and the woman seemed to answer it, also in no known tongue, savage and triumphant. Her face was almost maniacal as he struggled with her and took the child from her before she dropped it. “See,” he said. “Look! He’s quiet. He’s not going to take it away this time.” Still she glared at him, dumb, beastlike, as though she did not understand English. But the fury, the triumph, had gone from her face: she made a hoarse, whimpering noise, trying to take the child from him. “Careful, now,” he said “Will you be careful?” She nodded, whimpering, pawing lightly at the child. But her hands were steady, and he let her have it. And she now sits with it upon her lap while the doctor who had arrived too late stands beside the cot, talking in his cheerful, testy voice while his hands are busy. Hightower turns and. goes out, lowering himself carefully down the broken step, to the earth like an old man, as if there were something in his flabby paunch fatal and highly keyed, like dynamite. It is now more than dawn; it is morning: already the sun. He looks about, pausing; he calls: “Byron.” There is no answer. Then he sees that the mule, which he had tethered to a fence post nearby, is also gone. He sighs. ‘Well,’ he thinks. ‘So I have reached the point where the crowning indignity which I am to suffer at Byron’s hands is a two-mile walk back home. That’s not worthy of Byron, of hatred. But so often our deeds are not. Nor we of our deeds. He walks back to town slowly—a gaunt, paunched man in a soiled panama hat and the tail of a coarse cotton nightshirt thrust into his black trousers. ‘Luckily I did take time to put on my shoes,’ he thinks. ‘I am tired,’ he thinks, fretfully. ‘I am tired, and I shall not be able to sleep.’ He is thinking it fretfully, wearily, keeping time to his feet when he turns into his gate. The sun is now high, the town has wakened; he smells the smoke here and there of cooking breakfasts. ‘The least thing he could have done,’ he thinks, ‘since he would not leave me the mule, would have been to ride ahead and start a fire in my stove for me. Since he thinks it better for my appetite to take a two-mile stroll before eating.’ He goes to the kitchen and builds a fire in the stove, slowly, clumsily; as clumsily after twenty-five years as on the first day he had ever attempted it, and puts coffee on. ‘Then I’ll go back to bed,’ he thinks. ‘But I know I shall not sleep. But he notices that his thinking sounds querulous, like the peaceful whining of a querulous woman who is not even listening to herself; then he finds that he is preparing his usual hearty breakfast, and he stops quite still, clicking his tongue as, though in displeasure. ‘I ought to feel worse than I do,’ he thinks. But he has to admit that he does not. And as he stands, tall, misshapen, lonely in his lonely and illkept kitchen, holding in his hand an iron skillet in which yesterday’s old grease is bleakly caked, there goes through him a glow, a wave, a surge of something almost hot, almost triumphant. ‘I showed them!’ he thinks. ‘Life comes to the old man yet, while they get there too late. They get there for his leavings, as Byron would say.’ But this is vanity and empty pride. Yet the slow and fading glow disregards it, impervious to reprimand. He thinks, ‘What if I do? What if I do feel it? triumph and pride? What if I do?’ But the warmth, the glow, evidently does not regard or need buttressing either; neither is it quenched by the actuality of an orange and eggs and toast. And he looks down at the soiled and empty dishes on the table and he says, aloud now: “Bless my soul. I’m not even going to wash them now.” Neither does he go to his bedroom to try sleep. He goes to the door and looks in, with that glow of purpose and pride, thinking, ‘If I were a woman, now. That’s what a woman would do: go back to bed to rest.’ He goes to the study. He moves like a man with a purpose now, who for twenty-five years has been doing nothing at all between the time to wake and the time to sleep again. Neither is the book which he now chooses the Tennyson: this time also he chooses food for a man. It is Henry IV and he goes out into the back yard and lies down in the sagging deck chair beneath the mulberry tree, plumping solidly and heavily into it. ‘But I shan’t be able to sleep,’ he thinks, ‘because Byron will be in soon to wake me. But to learn just what else he can think of to want me to do, will be almost worth the waking.’ 163

Light in August (William Faulkner,1932)  

Light in August (William Faulkner,1932)

Light in August (William Faulkner,1932)  

Light in August (William Faulkner,1932)

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