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William Faulkner — LIGHT IN AUGUST triumph and terror, the drumming hooves, the trees uprearing against that red glare as though fixed too in terror, the sharp gables of houses like the jagged edge of the exploding and ultimate earth. Now it is a close place: you can feel, hear in the darkness horses pulled short up, plunging; clashes of arms; whispers overloud, hard breathing, the voices still triumphant; behind them the rest of the troops galloping past toward the rallying bugles. That you must hear, feel: then you see. You see before the crash, in the abrupt red glare the horses with wide eyes and nostrils in tossing heads, sweatstained; the gleam of metal, the white gaunt faces of living scarecrows who have not eaten all they wanted at one time since they could remember; perhaps some of them had already dismounted, perhaps one or two had already entered the henhouse. All this you see before the crash of the shotgun comes: then blackness again. It was just the one shot. ‘And of course he would be right in de way of hit,’ Cinthy said. ‘Stealin’ chickens. A man growed, wid a married son, gone to a war whar his business was killin’ Yankees, killed in somebody else’s henhouse wid a han’ful of feathers: Stealing chickens.” His voice was high, childlike, exalted. Already his wife was clutching his arm: Shhhhhhh! Shhhhhhhhh! People are looking at you! But he did not seem to hear her at all. His thin, sick face, his eyes, seemed to exude a kind of glow. “That was it. They didn’t know who fired the shot. They never did know. They didn’t try to find out. It may have been a woman, likely enough the wife of a Confederate soldier. I like to think so. It’s fine so. Any soldier can be killed by the enemy in the heat of battle, by a weapon approved by the arbiters and rulemakers of warfare. Or by a woman in a bedroom. But not with a shotgun, a fowling piece, in a henhouse. And so is it any wonder that this world is peopled principally by the dead? Surely, when God looks about at their successors, He cannot be loath to share His own with us.” “Hush! Shhhhhhhhh! They are looking at us!” Then the train was slowing into the town; the dingy purlieus slid vanishing past the window. He still looked out—a thin, vaguely untidy man with still upon him something yet of the undimmed glow of his calling, his vocation—quietly surrounding and enclosing and guarding his urgent heart, thinking quietly how surely heaven must have something of the color and shape of whatever village or hill or cottage of which the believer says, This is my own. The train stopped: the slow aisle, still interrupted with, outlooking, then the descent among faces grave, decorous, and judicial: the voices, the murmurs, the broken phrases kindly yet still reserved of judgment, not yet giving and (let us say it) prejudicial. ‘I admitted that’ he thinks. ‘I believe that I accepted it. But perhaps that was all I did do, God forgive me.’ The earth has almost faded from sight. It is almost night now. His bandagedistorted head has no depth, no solidity; immobile, it seems to hang suspended above the twin pale blobs which are his hands lying upon the ledge of the open window. He leans forward. Already he can feel the two instants about to touch: the one which is the sum of his life, which renews itself between each dark and dusk, and the suspended instant out of which the soon will presently begin. When he was younger, when his net was still too fine for waiting, at this moment he would sometimes trick himself and believe that he heard them before he knew that it was time. ‘Perhaps that is all I ever did, have ever done,’ he thinks, thinking of the faces: the faces of old men naturally dubious of his youth and jealous of the church which they were putting into his hands almost as a father surrenders a bride: the faces of old men lined by that sheer accumulation of frustration and doubt which is so often the other side of the picture of hale and respected full years—the side, by the way, which the subject and proprietor of the picture has to look at, cannot escape looking at. ‘They did their part; they played by the rules,’ he thinks. ‘I was the one who failed, who infringed. Perhaps that is the greatest social sin of all; ay, perhaps moral sin. Thinking goes quietly, tranquilly, flowing on, falling into shapes quiet, not assertive, not reproachful, not particularly regretful. He sees himself a shadowy figure among shadows, paradoxical, with a kind of false optimism and egoism believing that he would find in that part of the Church which most blunders, dreamrecovering, among the blind passions and the lifted hands and voices of men, that 195

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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