William Faulkner LIGHT IN AUGUST him with that army of his.” He sobered. “It’s right hard on her. On women.” He looked at Byron’s profile. “It’s been right hard on a lot of us. Well, you come back some day soon. Maybe Jefferson will treat you better next time.” At four o’clock that afternoon, hidden, he sees the car come up and stop, and the deputy and the man whom he knew by the name of Brown get out and approach the cabin. Brown is not handcuffed now, and Byron watches them reach the cabin and sees the deputy push Brown forward and into the door. Then the door closes behind Brown, and the deputy sits on the step and takes a sack of tobacco from his pocket. Byron rises to his feet. ‘I can go now,’ he thinks. ‘Now I can go.’ His hiding place is a clump of shrubbery on the lawn where the house once stood. On the opposite side of the dump, hidden from the cabin and the road both, the mule is tethered. Lashed behind the worn saddle is a battered yellow suitcase which is not leather. He mounts the mule and turns it into the road. He does not look back. The mild red road goes on beneath the slanting and peaceful afternoon, mounting a hill. ‘Well, I can bear a hill,’ he thinks. ‘I can bear a hill, a man can.’ It is peaceful and still, familiar with seven years. ‘It seems like a man can just about bear anything. He can even bear what he never done. He can even bear the thinking how some things is just more than he can bear. He can even bear it that if he could just give down and cry, he wouldn’t do it. He can even bear it to not look back, even when he knows that looking back or not looking back won’t do him any good.’ The hill rises, cresting. He has never seen the sea, and so he thinks. ‘It is like the edge of nothing. Like once I passed it I would just ride right off into nothing. Where trees would look like and be called by something else except trees, and men would look like and be called by something else except folks. And Byron Bunch he wouldn’t even have to be or not be Byron Bunch. Byron Bunch and his mule not anything with falling fast, until they would take fire like the Reverend Hightower says about them rocks running so fast in space that they take fire and burn up and there ain’t even a cinder to have to hit the ground.’ But then from beyond the hill crest there begins to rise that which he knows is there: the trees which are trees, the terrific and tedious distance which, being moved by blood, he must compass forever and ever between two inescapable horizons of the implacable earth. Steadily they rise, not portentous, not threatful. That’s it. They are oblivious of him. ‘Don’t know and don’t care,’ he thinks. ‘Like they were saying All right. You say you suffer. All right. But in the first place, all we got is your naked word for it. And in the second place, you just say that you are Byron Bunch. And in the third place, you are just the one that calls yourself Byron Bunch today, now, this minute. ... ‘Well,’ he thinks, ‘if that’s all it is, I reckon I might as well have the pleasure of not being able to bear looking back too.’ He halts the mule and turns in the saddle. He did not realise that he has come so far and that the crest is so high. Like a shallow bowl the once broad domain of what was seventy years ago a plantation house lies beneath him, between him and the opposite ridge upon which is Jefferson. But the plantation is broken now by random negro cabins and garden patches and dead fields erosion gutted and choked with blackjack and sassafras and persimmon and brier. But in the exact center the clump of oaks still stand as they stood when the house was built, though now there is no house among them. From here he cannot even see the scars of the fire; he could not even tell where. it used to stand if it were not for the oaks and the position of the ruined stable and the cabin beyond, the cabin toward which he is looking. It stands full and quiet in the afternoon sun, almost toylike; like a toy the deputy sits on the step. Then, as Byron watches, a man appears as though by magic at the rear of it, already running, in the act of running out from the rear of the cabin while the unsuspecting deputy sits quiet and motionless on the front step. For a while longer Byron too sits motionless, half turned in the saddle, and watches the tiny figure flee on across the barren slope behind the cabin, toward the woods.
Light in August (William Faulkner,1932)