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William Faulkner — LIGHT IN AUGUST ‘Only I know he won’t do it,’ he thinks. ‘I don’t even expect it. If I was to see him coming back with the money in his hand, I would not believe it. It wouldn’t be for me. I would know that. I would know that it was a mistake. I would say to him ‘You go on. You are looking for somebody else beside me. You ain’t looking for Lucas Burch. No, sir, Lucas Burch don’t deserve that money, that reward. He never done nothing to get it. No, sir.’ He begins to laugh, squatting, motionless, his spent face bent, laughing. ‘Yes, sir. All Lucas Burch wanted was justice. Just justice. Not that he told, them bastards the murderer’s name and where to find him only they wouldn’t try. They never tried because they would have had to give Lucas Burch the money. Justice.’ Then he says aloud, in a harsh, tearful voice: “Justice. That was all. Just my rights. And them bastards with their little tin stars, all sworn everyone of them on oath, to protect a American citizen.” He says it harshly, almost crying with rage and despair and fatigue: “I be dog if it ain’t enough to make a man turn downright bowlsheyvick.” Thus he hears no sound at all until Byron speaks directly behind him: “Get up onto your feet.” It does not last long. Byron knew that it was not going to. But he did not hesitate. He just crept up until he could see the other, where he stopped, looking at the crouching and unwarned figure. ‘You’re bigger than me,’ Byron thought. ‘But I don’t care. You’ve had every other advantage of me. And I don’t care about that neither. You’ve done throwed away twice inside of nine months what I ain’t had in thirty-five years. And now I’m going to get the hell beat out of me and I don’t care about that, neither.’ It does not last long. Brown, whirling, takes advantage of his astonishment even. He did not believe that any man, catching his enemy sitting, would give him a chance to get on his feet, even if the enemy were not the larger of the two. He would not have done it himself. And the fact that the smaller man did do it when he would not have, was worse than insult: it was ridicule. So he fought with even a more savage fury than he would have if Byron had sprung upon his back without warning: with the blind and desperate valor of a starved and cornered rat he fought. It lasted less than two minutes. Then Byron was lying quietly among the broken and trampled undergrowth, bleeding quietly about the face, hearing the underbrush crashing on, ceasing, fading into silence. Then he is alone. He feels no particular pain now, but better than that, he feels no haste, no urgency, to do anything or go anywhere. He just lies bleeding and quiet, knowing that after a while will be time enough to reenter the world and time. He does not, even wonder where Brown has gone. He does not have to think about Brown now. Again his mind is filled with still shapes like discarded and fragmentary toys of childhood piled indiscriminate and gathering quiet dust in a forgotten closet—Brown. Lena Grove. Hightower. Byron Bunch—all like small objects which had never been alive, which he had played with in childhood and then broken and forgot. He is lying so when he hears the train whistle for a crossing a half mile away. This rouses him; this is the world and time too. He sits up, slowly, tentatively. ‘Anyway, I ain’t broke anything,’ he thinks. ‘I mean, he ain’t broke anything that belongs to me.’ It is getting late: it is time now, with distance, moving, in it. ‘Yes. I’ll have to be moving. I’ll have to get on so I can find me something else to meddle with.’ The train is coming nearer. Already the stroke of the engine has shortened and become heavier as it begins to feel the grade; presently he can see the smoke. He seeks in his pocket for a handkerchief. He has none, so he tears the tail from his shirt and dabs at his face gingerly, listening to the short, blasting reports of the locomotive exhaust just over the grade. He moves to the edge of the undergrowth, where he can see the track. The engine is in sight now, almost headon to him beneath the spaced, heavy blasts of black smoke. It has an effect of terrific nomotion. Yet it does move, creeping terrifically up and over the crest of the grade. Standing now in the fringe of bushes he watches the engine approach and pass him, laboring, crawling, with the rapt and boylike absorption (and perhaps yearning) of his country raising. It passes; his eye moves on, 177

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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