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William Faulkner — LIGHT IN AUGUST surrey and his matched team stood before the porch waiting while he too stood, his hat tilted back and his legs apart—a hale, bluff, rednosed man with the moustache of a brigand chief—while the son, and the daughter-in-law whom he had never seen before, came up the path from the gate. When he stooped and saluted her, she smelled whiskey and cigars. “I reckon you’ll do,” he said. His eyes were bluff and bold, but kind. “All the sanctimonious cuss wants anyway is somebody that can sing alto out of a Presbyterian hymnbook, where even the good Lord Himself couldn’t squeeze in any music.” He drove away in the tasselled surrey, with his personal belongings about him—his clothes, his demijohn, his slaves. The slave cook did not even remain to prepare the first meal. She was not offered, and so not refused. The father never entered the house again alive. He would have been welcome. He and the son both knew this, without it ever being said. And the wife—she was one of many children of a genteel couple who had never got ahead and who seemed to find in the church some substitute for that which lacked upon the dinnertable—liked him, admired him in a hushed, alarmed, secret way: his swagger, his bluff and simple adherence to a simple code. They would hear of his doings though, of how in the next summer after he removed to the country he invaded a protracted al fresco church revival being held in a nearby grove and turned it into a week of amateur horse racing while to a dwindling congregation gaunt, fanaticfaced country preachers thundered anathema from the rustic pulpit at his oblivious and unregenerate head. His reason for not visiting his son and his daughter-in-law was apparently frank: “You’d find me dull and I’d find you dull. And who knows? the cuss might corrupt me. Might corrupt me in my old age into heaven.” But that was not the reason. The son knew that it was not, who would have been first to fight the aspersion were it to come from another: that there was delicacy of behavior and thought in the old man. The son was an abolitionist almost before the sentiment had become a word to percolate down from the North. Though when he learned that the Republicans did have a name for it, he completely changed the name of his conviction without abating his principles or behavior one jot. Even then, not yet thirty, he was a man of Spartan sobriety beyond his years, as the offspring of a not overly particular servant of Chance and the bottle often is. Perhaps that accounted for the fact that he had no child until after the war, from which he returned a changed man, ‘deodorised,’ as his dead father would have put it, of sanctity somewhat. Although during those four years he had never fired a gun, his service was not alone that of praying and preaching to troops on Sunday mornings. When he returned home with his wound and recovered and established himself as a doctor, he was only practising the surgery and the pharmacy which he had practised and learned on the bodies of friend and foe alike while helping the doctors at the front. This probably of all the son’s doings the father would have enjoyed the most: that the son had taught himself a profession on the invader and devastator of his country. ‘But sanctity is not the word for him,’ the son’s son in turn thinks, sitting at the dark window while outside the world hangs in that green suspension beyond the faded trumpets. ‘Grandfather himself would have been the first to confront any man that employed that term.’ It was some throwback to the austere and not dim times not so long passed, when a man in that country had little of himself to waste and little time to do it in, and had to guard and protect that little not only from nature but from man too, by means of a sheer fortitude that did not offer, in his lifetime anyway, physical ease for reward. That was where his disapproval of slavery lay, and of his lusty and sacrilegious father. The very fact that he could and did see no paradox in the fact that he took an active part in a partisan war and on the very side whose principles opposed his own, was proof enough that he was two separate and complete people, one of whom dwelled by serene rules in a world where reality did not exist. But the other part of him, which lived in the actual world, did as well as any and better than most. He lived by his principles in peace, and when war came he carried them into war and lived by 190

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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