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William Faulkner — LIGHT IN AUGUST

Chapter 18 WHEN Byron reached town he found that he could not see the sheriff until noon, since the sheriff

would be engaged all morning with the special Grand Jury. “You’ll have to wait,” they told him. “Yes,” Byron said. “I know how.” “Know how what?” But he did not answer. He left the sheriff’s office and stood beneath the portico which faced the south side of the square. From the shallow, flagged terrace the stone columns rose, arching, weathered, stained with generations of casual tobacco. Beneath them, steady and constant and with a grave purposelessness (and with here and there, standing motionless or talking to one another from the sides of their mouths, some youngish men, townsmen, some of whom Byron knew as clerks and young lawyers and even merchants, who had a generally identical authoritative air, like policemen in disguise and not especially caring if the disguise hid the policeman or not) countrymen in overalls moved, with almost the air of monks in a cloister, speaking quietly among themselves of money and crops, looking quietly now and then upward at the ceiling beyond which the Grand Jury was preparing behind locked doors to take the life of a man whom few of them had ever seen to know, for having taken the life of a woman whom even fewer of them had known to see. The wagons and the dusty cars in which they had come to town were ranked about the square, and along the streets and in and out of the stores the wives and daughters who had come to town with them moved in clumps, slowly and also aimlessly as cattle or clouds. Byron stood there for quite a while, motionless, not leaning against anything—a small man who had lived in the town seven years yet whom even fewer of the country people than knew either the murderer or the murdered, knew by name or habit. Byron was not conscious of this. He did not care now, though a week ago it would have been different. Then he would not have stood here, where any man could look at him and perhaps recognise him: Byron Bunch, that weeded another man’s laidby crop, without any halvers. The fellow that took care of another man’s whore while the other fellow was busy making a thousand dollars. And got nothing for it. Byron Bunch that protected her good name when the woman that owned the good name and the man she had given it to had both thrown it away, that got the other fellow’s bastard born in peace and quiet and at Byron Bunch’s expense, and heard a baby cry once for his pay. Got nothing for it except permission to fetch the other fellow back to her soon as he got done collecting the thousand dollars and Byron wasn’t needed anymore. Byron Bunch ‘And now I can go away,’ he thought. He began to breathe deep. He could feel himself breathing deep, as if each time his insides were afraid that next breath they would not be able to give far enough and that something terrible would happen, and that all the time he could look down at himself breathing, at his chest, and see no movement at all, like when dynamite first begins, gathers itself for the now Now NOW, the shape of the outside of the stick does not change; that the people who passed and looked at him could see no change: a small man you would not look at twice, that you would never believe he had done what he had done and felt what he had felt, who had believed that out there at the mill on a Saturday afternoon, alone, the chance to be hurt could not have found him. He was walking among the people. ‘I got to go somewhere,’ he thought. He could walk in time to that: ‘I got to go somewhere.’ That would get him along. He was still saying it when he reached the boardinghouse. His room faced the street. Before he realised that he had begun to look toward it, he was looking away. ‘I might see somebody reading or smoking in the window,’ he thought. He entered the hall. After the bright morning, he could not see. at once. He could smell wet linoleum, soap. ‘It’s still Monday,’ he thought. ‘I had forgot that. Maybe it’s next Monday. That’s what it seems like it ought to be.’ He did not call. After a while he could see better. He could hear the mop in the back of the hall or maybe the kitchen. Then against the rectangle of light which was the rear door, 168

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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