William Faulkner LIGHT IN AUGUST “There is a preacher here. That has already come to see me.” “That’s fine,” he said. His voice was loud, hearty. Yet the heartiness, like the timbre, seemed to be as impermanent as the sound of the words, vanishing, leaving nothing, not even a definitely stated thought in the ear or the belief. “That’s just fine. Soon as I get caught up with all this business—” He jerked his arm in a gesture vague, embracing, looking at her. His face was smooth and blank. His eyes were bland, alert, secret, yet behind them there lurked still that quality harried and desperate. But she was not looking at him. “What kind of work are you doing now? At the planing mill?” He watched her. “No. I quit that.” His eyes watched her. It was as though they were not his eyes, had no relation to the rest of him, what he did and what he said. “Slaving like a durn nigger ten hours a day. I got something on the string now that means money. Not no little piddling fifteen cents a hour. And when I get it, soon as I get a few little details cleared up, then you and me will …” Hard, intent, secret, the eyes watched her, her lowered face in profile. Again she heard that faint, abrupt sound as he jerked his head up and back. “And that reminds me—” She had not moved. She said: “When will it be, Lucas?” Then she could hear, feel, utter stillness, utter silence. “When will what be?” “You know. Like you said. Back home. It was all right for just me. I never minded. But it’s different now. I reckon I got a right to worry now.” “Oh, that,” he said. “That. Don’t you worry about that. Just let me get this here business cleaned up and get my hands on that money. It’s mine by right. There can’t nere a bastard one of them—” He stopped. His voice had begun to rise, as though he had forgot where he was and had been thinking aloud. He lowered it; he said: “You just leave it to me. Don’t you worry none. I ain’t never give you no reason yet to worry, have I? Tell me that.” “No. I never worried. I knowed I could depend on you.” “Sho you knowed it. And these here bastards—these here—” He had risen from the chair. “Which reminds me—” She neither looked up nor spoke while he stood above her with those eyes harried, desperate, and importunate. It was as if she held him there and that she knew it. And that she released him by her own will, deliberately. “I reckon you are right busy now, then.” “For a fact, I am. With all I got to bother me, and them bastards—” She was looking at him now. She watched him as he looked at the window in the rear wall. Then he looked back at the closed door behind him. Then he looked at her, at her grave face which had either nothing in it, or everything, all knowledge. He lowered his voice. “I got enemies here. Folks that don’t want me to get what I done earned. So I am going to—” Again it was as though she held him, forcing him to trying him with, that final lie at which even his sorry dregs of pride revolted; held him neither with rods nor cords but with something against which his lying blew trivial as leaves or trash. But she said nothing at all. She just watched him as he went on’ tiptoe to the window and opened it without a sound. Then he looked at her. Perhaps he thought that he was safe then, that he could get out the window before she could touch him with a physical hand. Or perhaps it was some sorry tagend of shame, as a while ago it had been pride. Because he looked at her, stripped naked for the instant of verbiage and deceit. His voice was not much louder than a whisper: “It’s a man outside. In front, waiting for me.” Then he was gone, through the window, without, a sound, in a single motion almost like a long snake. From beyond the window she heard a single faint sound as he began to run. Then only did she move, and then but to sigh once, profoundly. “Now I got to get up again,” she said, aloud.
Light in August (William Faulkner,1932)