Page 57

William Faulkner — LIGHT IN AUGUST and then he said, ‘You don’t have to tell me. I know what she will do. She will send him to the one for niggers.’ ” “For negroes?” “I don’t see how we failed to see it as long as we did. You can look at his face now, his eyes and hair. Of course it’s terrible. But that’s where he will have to go, I suppose.” Behind her glasses the weak, troubled eyes of the matron had a harried, jellied look, as if she were trying to force them to something beyond their physical cohesiveness. “But why did he want to take the child away?” “Well, if you want to know what I think, I think he is crazy. If you could have seen him in the corridor that ni—day like I did. Of course it’s bad for the child to have to go to the nigger home, after this, after growing up with white people. It’s not his fault what he is. But it’s not our fault, either—” She ceased, watching the matron. Behind the glasses the older woman’s eyes were still harried, weak, hopeless; her mouth was trembling as she shaped speech with it. Her words were hopeless too, but they were decisive enough, determined enough. “We must place him. We must place him at once. What applications have we? If you will hand me the file …” When the child wakened, he was being carried. It was pitchdark and cold; he was being carried down stairs by someone who moved with silent and infinite care. Pressed between him and one of the arms which supported him was a wad which he knew to be his clothes. He made no outcry, no sound. He knew where he was by the smell, the air, of the back stairway which led down to the side door from the room in which his bed had been one among forty others since he could remember. He knew also by smell that the person who carried him was a man. But he made no sound, lying as still and as lax as while he had been asleep, riding high in the invisible arms, moving, descending slowly toward the side door which gave onto the playground. He didn’t know who was carrying him. He didn’t bother about it because he believed that he knew where he was going. Or why, that is. He didn’t bother about where either, yet. It went back two years, to when he was three years old. One day there was missing from among them a girl of twelve named Alice. He had liked her, enough to let her mother him a little; perhaps because of it. And so to him she was as mature, almost as large in size, as the adult women who ordered his eating and washing and sleeping, with the difference that she was not and never would be his enemy. One night she waked him. She was telling him goodbye but he did not know it. He was sleepy and a little annoyed, never full awake, suffering her because she had always tried to be good to him. He didn’t know that she was crying because he did not know that grown people cried, and by the time he learned that, memory had forgotten her. He went back into sleep while still suffering her, and the next morning she was gone. Vanished, no trace of her left, not even a garment, the very bed in which she had slept already occupied by a new boy. He never did know where she went to. That day he listened while a few of “the older girls who had helped her prepare to leave in that same hushed, secret sibilance in which a half dozen young girls help prepare the seventh one for marriage told, still batebreathed, about the new dress, the new shoes, the carriage which had fetched her away. He knew then that she had gone for good, had passed beyond the iron gates in the steel fence. He seemed to see her then, grown heroic at the instant of vanishment beyond the clashedto gates, fading without diminution of size into something nameless and splendid, like a sunset. It was more than a year before he knew that she had not been the first and would not be the last. That there had been more than Alice to vanish beyond the clashedto gates, in a new dress or new overalls, with a small neat bundle less large sometimes than a shoebox. He believed that that was what was happening to him now. He believed that he knew now how they had all managed to depart without leaving any trace behind them. He believed that they had been carried out, as he was being, in the dead of night. 57

Light in August (William Faulkner,1932)  

Light in August (William Faulkner,1932)

Light in August (William Faulkner,1932)  

Light in August (William Faulkner,1932)

Advertisement