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William Faulkner — LIGHT IN AUGUST When Brown emerges from the woods, onto the railroad right-of-way, he is panting. It is not with fatigue, though the distance which he has covered in the last twenty minutes is almost two miles and the going was not smooth. Rather, it is the snarling and malevolent breathing of a fleeing animal: while he stands looking both ways along the empty track his face, his expression, is that of an animal fleeing alone, desiring no fellowaid, clinging to its solitary dependence upon its own muscles alone and which, in the pause to renew breath, hates every tree and grassblade in sight as if it were a live enemy, hates the very earth it rests upon and the very air it needs to renew breathing. He has struck the railroad within a few hundred yards of the point at which he aimed. This is the crest of a grade where the northbound freights slow to a terrific and crawling gait of almost less than that of a walking man. A short distance ahead of him the twin bright threads appear to, have been cut short off as though with scissors. For a while he stands just within the screen of woods beside the right-of-way, still hidden. He stands like a man in brooding and desperate calculation, as if he sought in his mind for some last desperate cast in a game already lost. After standing for a moment longer in an attitude of listening, he turns and runs again, through the woods and paralleling the track. He seems to know exactly where he is going; he comes presently upon a path and follows it, still running, and emerges into a clearing in which a negro cabin sits. He approaches the front, walking now. On the porch an old negro woman is sitting, smoking a pipe, her head wrapped in a white cloth. Brown is not running, but he is breathing fast, heavily. He quiets it to speak. “Hi, Aunty,” he says, “who’s here?” The old negress removes the pipe. “Ise here. Who wanter know?” “I got to send a message back to town. In a hurry.” He holds his breathing down to talk. “I’ll pay. Ain’t there somebody here that can take it?” “If it’s all that rush, you better tend to it yourself.” “I’ll pay, I tell you!” he says. He speaks with a kind of raging patience, holding his voice, his breathing, down. “A dollar, if he just goes quick enough. Ain’t there somebody here that wants to make a dollar? Some of the boys?” The old woman smokes, watching him. With an aged an inscrutable midnight face she seems to contemplate him with a detachment almost godlike but not at all benign. “A dollar cash?” He makes a gesture indescribable, of hurry and leashed rage and something like despair. He is about to turn away when the negress speaks again. “Ain’t nobody here but me and the two little uns. I reckon they’d be too little for you.” Brown turns back. “How little? I just want somebody that can take a note to the sheriff in a hurry and—” “The sheriff? Then you come to the wrong place. I ain’t ghy have none of mine monkeying around no sheriff. I done had one nigger that thought he knowed a sheriff well enough to go and visit with him. He ain’t never come back, neither. You look somewhere else.” But Brown is already moving away. He does not run at once. He has not yet thought about running again; for the moment he cannot think at all. His rage and impotence is now almost ecstatic. He seems to muse now upon a sort of timeless and beautiful infallibility in his unpredictable frustrations. As though somehow the very fact that he should be so consistently supplied with them elevates him somehow above the petty human hopes and desires which they abrogate and negative. Hence the negress has to shout twice at him before he hears and turns. She has said nothing, she has not moved: she merely shouted. She says, “Here one will take it for you.” Standing beside the porch now, materialised apparently from thin air, is a negro who may be either a grown imbecile or a hulking youth. His face is black, still, also quite inscrutable. They stand looking at one another. Or rather, Brown looks at the negro. He. cannot tell if the negro is looking at him or not. And that too seems somehow right and fine and in keeping: that his final hope and resort should be a beast that does not appear to have enough ratiocinative power to find the town, 175

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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