The Sound and the Fury APRIL SIXTH, 1928

Once a bitch always a bitch, what I say. I says you’re lucky if her playing out of school is all that worries you. I says she ought to be down there in that kitchen right now, instead of up there in her room, gobbing paint on her face and waiting for six niggers that cant even stand up out of a chair unless they’ve got a pan full of bread and meat to balance them, to fix breakfast for her. And Mother says,

“But to have the school authorities think that I have no control over her, that I cant—”

“Well,” I says, “You cant, can you? You never have tried to do anything with her,” I says, “How do you expect to begin this late, when she’s seventeen years old?”

She thought about that for a while.

“But to have them think that . . . I didn’t even know she had a report card. She told me last fall that they had quit using them this year. And now for Professor Junkin to call me on the telephone and tell me if she’s absent one more time, she will have to leave school. How does she do it? Where does she go? You’re down town all day; you ought to see her if she stays on the streets.”

“Yes,” I says, “If she stayed on the streets. I dont reckon she’d be playing out of school just to do something she could do in public,” I says.

“What do you mean?” she says.

“I dont mean anything,” I says. “I just answered your question.” Then she begun to cry again, talking about how her own flesh and blood rose up to curse her.

“You asked me,” I says.

“I dont mean you,” she says. “You are the only one of them that isn’t a reproach to me.”

“Sure,” I says, “I never had time to be. I never had time to go to Harvard like Quentin or drink myself into the ground like Father. I had to work. But of course if you want me to follow her around and see what she does, I can quit the store and get a job where I can work at night. Then I can watch her during the day and you can use Ben for the night shift.”

“I know I’m just a trouble and a burden to you,” she says, crying on the pillow.

“I ought to know it,” I says. “You’ve been telling me that for thirty years. Even Ben ought to know it now. Do you want me to say anything to her about it?”

“Do you think it will do any good?” she says.

“Not if you come down there interfering just when I get started,” I says. “If you want me to control her, just say so and keep your hands off. Everytime I try to, you come butting in and then she gives both of us the laugh.”

“Remember she’s your own flesh and blood,” she says.

“Sure,” I says, “that’s just what I’m thinking of—flesh. And a little blood too, if I had my way. When people act like niggers, no matter who they are the only thing to do is treat them like a nigger.”

“I’m afraid you’ll lose your temper with her,” she says.

“Well,” I says, “You haven’t had much luck with your system. You want me to do anything about it, or not? Say one way or the other; I’ve got to get on to work.”

“I know you have to slave your life away for us,” she says. “You know if I had my way, you’d have an office of your own to go to, and hours that became a Bascomb. Because you are a Bascomb, despite your name. I know that if your father could have forseen—”

“Well,” I says, “I reckon he’s entitled to guess wrong now and then, like anybody else, even a Smith or a Jones.” She begun to cry again.

“To hear you speak bitterly of your dead father,” she says.

“All right,” I says, “all right. Have it your way. But as I haven’t got an office, I’ll have to get on to what I have got. Do you want me to say anything to her?”

“I’m afraid you’ll lose your temper with her,” she says.

“All right,” I says, “I wont say anything, then.”

“But something must be done,” she says. “To have people think I permit her to stay out of school and run about the streets, or that I cant prevent her doing it. . . . Jason, Jason,” she says, “How could you. How could you leave me with these burdens.”

“Now, now,” I says, “You’ll make yourself sick. Why dont you either lock her up all day too, or turn her over to me and quit worrying over her?”

“My own flesh and blood,” she says, crying. So I says,

“All right. I’ll tend to her. Quit crying, now.”

“Dont lose your temper,” she says. “She’s just a child, remember.”

“No,” I says, “I wont.” I went out, closing the door.

“Jason,” she says. I didn’t answer. I went down the hall. “Jason,” she says beyond the door. I went on down stairs. There wasn’t anybody in the diningroom, then I heard her in the kitchen. She was trying to make Dilsey let her have another cup of coffee. I went in.

“I reckon that’s your school costume, is it?” I says. “Or maybe today’s a holiday?”

“Just a half a cup, Dilsey,” she says. “Please.”

“No, suh,” Dilsey says, “I aint gwine do it. You aint got no business wid mo’n one cup, a seventeen year old gal, let lone whut Miss Cahline say. You go on and git dressed for school, so you kin ride to town wid Jason. You fixin to be late again.”

“No she’s not,” I says. “We’re going to fix that right now.” She looked at me, the cup in her hand. She brushed her hair back from her face, her kimono slipping off her shoulder. “You put that cup down and come in here a minute,” I says.

“What for?” she says.

“Come on,” I says. “Put that cup in the sink and come in here.”

“What you up to now, Jason?” Dilsey says.

“You may think you can run over me like you do your grandmother and everybody else,” I says, “But you’ll find out different. I’ll give you ten seconds to put that cup down like I told you.”

She quit looking at me. She looked at Dilsey. “What time is it, Dilsey?” she says. “When it’s ten seconds, you whistle. Just a half a cup. Dilsey, pl—”

I grabbed her by the arm. She dropped the cup. It broke on the floor and she jerked back, looking at me, but I held her arm. Dilsey got up from her chair.

“You, Jason,” she says.

“You turn me loose,” Quentin says, “I’ll slap you.”

“You will, will you?” I says, “You will will you?” She slapped at me. I caught that hand too and held her like a wildcat. “You will, will you?” I says. “You think you will?”

“You, Jason!” Dilsey says. I dragged her into the diningroom. Her kimono came unfastened, flapping about her, damn near naked. Dilsey came hobbling along. I turned and kicked the door shut in her face.

“You keep out of here,” I says.

Quentin was leaning against the table, fastening her kimono. I looked at her.

“Now,” I says, “I want to know what you mean, playing out of school and telling your grandmother lies and forging her name on your report and worrying her sick. What do you mean by it?”

She didn’t say anything. She was fastening her kimono up under her chin, pulling it tight around her, looking at me. She hadn’t got around to painting herself yet and her face looked like she had polished it with a gun rag. I went and grabbed her wrist. “What do you mean?” I says.

“None of your damn business,” she says. “You turn me loose.”

Dilsey came in the door. “You, Jason,” she says.

“You get out of here, like I told you,” I says, not even looking back. “I want to know where you go when you play out of school,” I says. “You keep off the streets, or I’d see you. Who do you play out with? Are you hiding out in the woods with one of those damn slick-headed jellybeans? Is that where you go?”

“You—you old goddamn!” she says. She fought, but I held her. “You damn old goddamn!” she says.

“I’ll show you,” I says. “You may can scare an old woman off, but I’ll show you who’s got hold of you now.” I held her with one hand, then she quit fighting and watched me, her eyes getting wide and black.

“What are you going to do?” she says.

“You wait until I get this belt out and I’ll show you,” I says, pulling my belt out. Then Dilsey grabbed my arm.

“Jason,” she says, “You, Jason! Aint you shamed of yourself.”

“Dilsey,” Quentin says, “Dilsey.”

“I aint gwine let him,” Dilsey says, “Dont you worry, honey.” She held to my arm. Then the belt came out and I jerked loose and flung her away. She stumbled into the table. She was so old she couldn’t do any more than move hardly. But that’s all right: we need somebody in the kitchen to eat up the grub the young ones cant tote off. She came hobbling between us, trying to hold me again. “Hit me, den,” she says, “ef nothin else but hittin somebody wont do you. Hit me,” she says.

“You think I wont?” I says.

“I dont put no devilment beyond you,” she says. Then I heard Mother on the stairs. I might have known she wasn’t going to keep out of it. I let go. She stumbled back against the wall, holding her kimono shut.

“All right,” I says, “We’ll just put this off a while. But dont think you can run it over me. I’m not an old woman, nor an old half dead nigger, either. You damn little slut,” I says.

“Dilsey,” she says, “Dilsey, I want my mother.”

Dilsey went to her. “Now, now,” she says, “He aint gwine so much as lay his hand on you while Ise here.” Mother came on down the stairs.

“Jason,” she says, “Dilsey.”

“Now, now,” Dilsey says, “I aint gwine let him tech you.” She put her hand on Quentin. She knocked it down.

“You damn old nigger,” she says. She ran toward the door.

“Dilsey,” Mother says on the stairs. Quentin ran up the stairs, passing her. “Quentin,” Mother says, “You, Quentin.” Quentin ran on. I could hear her when she reached the top, then in the hall. Then the door slammed.

Mother had stopped. Then she came on. “Dilsey,” she says.

“All right,” Dilsey says, “Ise comin. You go on and git dat car and wait now,” she says, “so you kin cahy her to school.”

“Dont you worry,” I says. “I’ll take her to school and I’m going to see that she stays there. I’ve started this thing, and I’m going through with it.”

“Jason,” Mother says on the stairs.

“Go on, now,” Dilsey says, going toward the door. “You want to git her started too? Ise comin, Miss Cahline.”

I went on out. I could hear them on the steps. “You go on back to bed now,” Dilsey was saying, “Dont you know you aint feeling well enough to git up yet? Go on back, now. I’m gwine to see she gits to school in time.”

I went on out the back to back the car out, then I had to go all the way round to the front before I found them.

“I thought I told you to put that tire on the back of the car,” I says.

“I aint had time,” Luster says. “Aint nobody to watch him till mammy git done in de kitchen.”

“Yes,” I says, “I feed a whole damn kitchen full of niggers to follow around after him, but if I want an automobile tire changed, I have to do it myself.”

“I aint had nobody to leave him wid,” he says. Then he begun moaning and slobbering.

“Take him on round to the back,” I says. “What the hell makes you want to keep him around here where people can see him?” I made them go on, before he got started bellowing good. It’s bad enough on Sundays, with that damn field full of people that haven’t got a side show and six niggers to feed, knocking a damn oversize mothball around. He’s going to keep on running up and down that fence and bellowing every time they come in sight until first thing I know they’re going to begin charging me golf dues, then Mother and Dilsey’ll have to get a couple of china door knobs and a walking stick and work it out, unless I play at night with a lantern. Then they’d send us all to Jackson, maybe. God knows, they’d hold Old Home week when that happened.

I went on back to the garage. There was the tire, leaning against the wall, but be damned if I was going to put it on. I backed out and turned around. She was standing by the drive. I says,

“I know you haven’t got any books: I just want to ask you what you did with them, if it’s any of my business. Of course I haven’t got any right to ask,” I says, “I’m just the one that paid $11.65 for them last September.”

“Mother buys my books,” she says. “There’s not a cent of your money on me. I’d starve first.”

“Yes?” I says. “You tell your grandmother that and see what she says. You dont look all the way naked,” I says, “even if that stuff on your face does hide more of you than anything else you’ve got on.”

“Do you think your money or hers either paid for a cent of this?” she says.

“Ask your grandmother,” I says. “Ask her what became of those checks. You saw her burn one of them, as I remember.” She wasn’t even listening, with her face all gummed up with paint and her eyes hard as a fice dog’s.

“Do you know what I’d do if I thought your money or hers either bought one cent of this?” she says, putting her hand on her dress.

“What would you do?” I says, “Wear a barrel?”

“I’d tear it right off and throw it into the street,” she says. “Dont you believe me?”

“Sure you would,” I says. “You do it every time.”

“See if I wouldn’t,” She says. She grabbed the neck of her dress in both hands and made like she would tear it.

“You tear that dress,” I says, “And I’ll give you a whipping right here that you’ll remember all your life.”

“See if I dont,” she says. Then I saw that she really was trying to tear it, to tear it right off of her. By the time I got the car stopped and grabbed her hands there was about a dozen people looking. It made me so mad for a minute it kind of blinded me.

“You do a thing like that again and I’ll make you sorry you ever drew breath,” I says.

“I’m sorry now,” she says. She quit, then her eyes turned kind of funny and I says to myself if you cry here in this car, on the street, I’ll whip you. I’ll wear you out. Lucky for her she didn’t, so I turned her wrists loose and drove on. Luckily we were near an alley, where I could turn into the back street and dodge the square. They were already putting the tent up in Beard’s lot. Earl had already given me the two passes for our show windows. She sat there with her face turned away, chewing her lip. “I’m sorry now,” she says. “I dont see why I was ever born.”

“And I know of at least one other person that dont understand all he knows about that,” I says. I stopped in front of the school house. The bell had rung, and the last of them were just going in. “You’re on time for once, anyway,” I says. “Are you going in there and stay there, or am I coming with you and make you?” She got out and banged the door. “Remember what I say,” I says, “I mean it. Let me hear one more time that you were slipping up and down back alleys with one of those damn squirts.”

She turned back at that. “I dont slip around,” she says. “I dare anybody to know everything I do.”

“And they all know it, too,” I says. “Everybody in this town knows what you are. But I wont have it anymore, you hear? I dont care what you do, myself,” I says, “But I’ve got a position in this town, and I’m not going to have any member of my family going on like a nigger wench. You hear me?”

“I dont care,” she says, “I’m bad and I’m going to hell, and I dont care. I’d rather be in hell than anywhere where you are.”

“If I hear one more time that you haven’t been to school, you’ll wish you were in hell,” I says. She turned and ran on across the yard. “One more time, remember,” I says. She didn’t look back.

I went to the postoffice and got the mail and drove on to the store and parked. Earl looked at me when I came in. I gave him a chance to say something about my being late, but he just said,

“Those cultivators have come. You’d better help Uncle Job put them up.”

I went on to the back, where old Job was uncrating them, at the rate of about three bolts to the hour.

“You ought to be working for me,” I says. “Every other no-count nigger in town eats in my kitchen.”

“I works to suit de man whut pays me Sat’dy night,” he says. “When I does dat, it dont leave me a whole lot of time to please other folks.” He screwed up a nut. “Aint nobody works much in dis country cep de boll-weevil, noways,” he says.

“You’d better be glad you’re not a boll-weevil waiting on those cultivators,” I says. “You’d work yourself to death before they’d be ready to prevent you.”

“Dat’s de troof,” he says, “Boll-weevil got tough time. Work ev’y day in de week out in de hot sun, rain er shine. Aint got no front porch to set on en watch de wattermilyuns growin and Sat’dy dont mean nothin a-tall to him.”

“Saturday wouldn’t mean nothing to you, either,” I says, “if it depended on me to pay you wages. Get those things out of the crates now and drag them inside.”

I opened her letter first and took the check out. Just like a woman. Six days late. Yet they try to make men believe that they’re capable of conducting a business. How long would a man that thought the first of the month came on the sixth last in business. And like as not, when they sent the bank statement out, she would want to know why I never deposited my salary until the sixth. Things like that never occur to a woman.

“I had no answer to my letter about Quentin’s easter dress. Did it arrive all right? I’ve had no answer to the last two letters I wrote her, though the check in the second one was cashed with the other check. Is she sick? Let me know at once or I’ll come there and see for myself. You promised you would let me know when she needed things. I will expect to hear from you before the 10th. No you’d better wire me at once. You are opening my letters to her. I know that as well as if I were looking at you. You’d better wire me at once about her to this address.”

About that time Earl started yelling at Job, so I put them away and went over to try to put some life into him. What this country needs is white labour. Let these damn trifling niggers starve for a couple of years, then they’d see what a soft thing they have.

Along toward ten oclock I went up front. There was a drummer there. It was a couple of minutes to ten, and I invited him up the street to get a coca-cola. We got to talking about crops.

“There’s nothing to it,” I says, “Cotton is a speculator’s crop. They fill the farmer full of hot air and get him to raise a big crop for them to whipsaw on the market, to trim the suckers with. Do you think the farmer gets anything out of it except a red neck and a hump in his back? You think the man that sweats to put it into the ground gets a red cent more than a bare living,” I says. “Let him make a big crop and it wont be worth picking; let him make a small crop and he wont have enough to gin. And what for? so a bunch of damn eastern jews, I’m not talking about men of the jewish religion,” I says, “I’ve known some jews that were fine citizens. You might be one yourself,” I says.

“No,” he says, “I’m an American.”

“No offense,” I says. “I give every man his due, regardless of religion or anything else. I have nothing against jews as an individual,” I says. “It’s just the race. You’ll admit that they produce nothing. They follow the pioneers into a new country and sell them clothes.”

“You’re thinking of Armenians,” he says, “aren’t you. A pioneer wouldn’t have any use for new clothes.”

“No offense,” I says. “I dont hold a man’s religion against him.”

“Sure,” he says, “I’m an American. My folks have some French blood, why I have a nose like this. I’m an American, all right.”

“So am I,” I says. “Not many of us left. What I’m talking about is the fellows that sit up there in New York and trim the sucker gamblers.”

“That’s right,” he says. “Nothing to gambling, for a poor man. There ought to be a law against it.”

“Dont you think I’m right?” I says.

“Yes,” he says, “I guess you’re right. The farmer catches it coming and going.”

“I know I’m right,” I says. “It’s a sucker game, unless a man gets inside information from somebody that knows what’s going on. I happen to be associated with some people who’re right there on the ground. They have one of the biggest manipulators in New York for an adviser. Way I do it,” I says, “I never risk much at a time. It’s the fellow that thinks he knows it all and is trying to make a killing with three dollars that they’re laying for. That’s why they are in the business.”

Then it struck ten. I went up to the telegraph office. It opened up a little, just like they said. I went into the corner and took out the telegram again, just to be sure. While I was looking at it a report came in. It was up two points. They were all buying. I could tell that from what they were saying. Getting aboard. Like they didn’t know it could go but one way. Like there was a law or something against doing anything but buying. Well, I reckon those eastern jews have got to live too. But I’ll be damned if it hasn’t come to a pretty pass when any damn foreigner that cant make a living in the country where God put him, can come to this one and take money right out of an American’s pockets. It was up two points more. Four points. But hell, they were right there and knew what was going on. And if I wasn’t going to take the advice, what was I paying them ten dollars a month for. I went out, then I remembered and came back and sent the wire. “All well. Q writing today.”

“Q?” the operator says.

“Yes,” I says, “Q. Cant you spell Q?”

“I just asked to be sure,” he says.

“You send it like I wrote it and I’ll guarantee you to be sure,” I says. “Send it collect.”

“What you sending, Jason?” Doc Wright says, looking over my shoulder. “Is that a code message to buy?”

“That’s all right about that,” I says. “You boys use your own judgment. You know more about it than those New York folks do.”

“Well, I ought to,” Doc says, “I’d a saved money this year raising it at two cents a pound.”

Another report came in. It was down a point.

“Jason’s selling,” Hopkins says. “Look at his face.”

“That’s all right about what I’m doing,” I says. “You boys follow your own judgment. Those rich New York jews have got to live like everybody else,” I says.

I went on back to the store. Earl was busy up front. I went on back to the desk and read Lorraine’s letter. “Dear daddy wish you were here. No good parties when daddys out of town I miss my sweet daddy.” I reckon she does. Last time I gave her forty dollars. Gave it to her. I never promise a woman anything nor let her know what I’m going to give her. That’s the only way to manage them. Always keep them guessing. If you cant think of any other way to surprise them, give them a bust in the jaw.

I tore it up and burned it over the spittoon. I make it a rule never to keep a scrap of paper bearing a woman’s hand, and I never write them at all. Lorraine is always after me to write to her but I says anything I forgot to tell you will save till I get to Memphis again but I says I dont mind you writing me now and then in a plain envelope, but if you ever try to call me up on the telephone, Memphis wont hold you I says. I says when I’m up there I’m one of the boys, but I’m not going to have any woman calling me on the telephone. Here I says, giving her the forty dollars. If you ever get drunk and take a notion to call me on the phone, just remember this and count ten before you do it.

“When’ll that be?” she says.

“What?” I says.

“When you’re coming back,” she says.

“I’ll let you know,” I says. Then she tried to buy a beer, but I wouldn’t let her. “Keep your money,” I says. “Buy yourself a dress with it.” I gave the maid a five, too. After all, like I say money has no value; it’s just the way you spend it. It dont belong to anybody, so why try to hoard it. It just belongs to the man that can get it and keep it. There’s a man right here in Jefferson made a lot of money selling rotten goods to niggers, lived in a room over the store about the size of a pigpen, and did his own cooking. About four or five years ago he was taken sick. Scared the hell out of him so that when he was up again he joined the church and bought himself a Chinese missionary, five thousand dollars a year. I often think how mad he’ll be if he was to die and find out there’s not any heaven, when he thinks about that five thousand a year. Like I say, he’d better go on and die now and save money.

When it was burned good I was just about to shove the others into my coat when all of a sudden something told me to open Quentin’s before I went home, but about that time Earl started yelling for me up front, so I put them away and went and waited on the damn redneck while he spent fifteen minutes deciding whether he wanted a twenty cent hame string or a thirty-five cent one.

“You’d better take that good one,” I says. “How do you fellows ever expect to get ahead, trying to work with cheap equipment?”

“If this one aint any good,” he says, “why have you got it on sale?”

“I didn’t say it wasn’t any good,” I says, “I said it’s not as good as that other one.”

“How do you know it’s not,” he says. “You ever use airy one of them?”

“Because they dont ask thirty-five cents for it,” I says. “That’s how I know it’s not as good.”

He held the twenty cent one in his hands, drawing it through his fingers. “I reckon I’ll take this hyer one,” he says. I offered to take it and wrap it, but he rolled it up and put it in his overalls. Then he took out a tobacco sack and finally got it untied and shook some coins out. He handed me a quarter. “That fifteen cents will buy me a snack of dinner,” he says.

“All right,” I says, “You’re the doctor. But dont come complaining to me next year when you have to buy a new outfit.”

“I aint makin next year’s crop yit,” he says. Finally I got rid of him, but every time I took that letter out something would come up. They were all in town for the show, coming in in droves to give their money to something that brought nothing to the town and wouldn’t leave anything except what those grafters in the Mayor’s office will split among themselves, and Earl chasing back and forth like a hen in a coop, saying “Yes, ma’am, Mr Compson will wait on you. Jason, show this lady a churn or a nickel’s worth of screen hooks.”

Well, Jason likes work. I says no I never had university advantages because at Harvard they teach you how to go for a swim at night without knowing how to swim and at Sewanee they dont even teach you what water is. I says you might send me to the state University; maybe I’ll learn how to stop my clock with a nose spray and then you can send Ben to the Navy I says or to the cavalry anyway, they use geldings in the cavalry. Then when she sent Quentin home for me to feed too I says I guess that’s right too, instead of me having to go way up north for a job they sent the job down here to me and then Mother begun to cry and I says it’s not that I have any objection to having it here; if it’s any satisfaction to you I’ll quit work and nurse it myself and let you and Dilsey keep the flour barrel full, or Ben. Rent him out to a sideshow; there must be folks somewhere that would pay a dime to see him, then she cried more and kept saying my poor afflicted baby and I says yes he’ll be quite a help to you when he gets his growth not being more than one and a half times as high as me now and she says she’d be dead soon and then we’d all be better off and so I says all right, all right, have it your way. It’s your grandchild, which is more than any other grandparents it’s got can say for certain. Only I says it’s only a question of time. If you believe she’ll do what she says and not try to see it, you fool yourself because the first time that was that Mother kept on saying thank God you are not a Compson except in name, because you are all I have left now, you and Maury, and I says well I could spare Uncle Maury myself and then they came and said they were ready to start. Mother stopped crying then. She pulled her veil down and we went down stairs. Uncle Maury was coming out of the diningroom, his handkerchief to his mouth. They kind of made a lane and we went out the door just in time to see Dilsey driving Ben and T. P. back around the corner. We went down the steps and got in. Uncle Maury kept saying Poor little sister, poor little sister, talking around his mouth and patting Mother’s hand. Talking around whatever it was.

“Have you got your band on?” she says. “Why dont they go on, before Benjamin comes out and makes a spectacle. Poor little boy. He doesn’t know. He cant even realise.”

“There, there,” Uncle Maury says, patting her hand, talking around his mouth. “It’s better so. Let him be unaware of bereavement until he has to.”

“Other women have their children to support them in times like this,” Mother says.

“You have Jason and me,” he says.

“It’s so terrible to me,” she says, “Having the two of them like this, in less than two years.”

“There, there,” he says. After a while he kind of sneaked his hand to his mouth and dropped them out the window. Then I knew what I had been smelling. Clove stems. I reckon he thought that the least he could do at Father’s funeral or maybe the sideboard thought it was still Father and tripped him up when he passed. Like I say, if he had to sell something to send Quentin to Harvard we’d all been a damn sight better off if he’d sold that sideboard and bought himself a one-armed strait jacket with part of the money. I reckon the reason all the Compson gave out before it got to me like Mother says, is that he drank it up. At least I never heard of him offering to sell anything to send me to Harvard.

So he kept on patting her hand and saying “Poor little sister,” patting her hand with one of the black gloves that we got the bill for four days later because it was the twenty-sixth because it was the same day one month that Father went up there and got it and brought it home and wouldn’t tell anything about where she was or anything and Mother crying and saying “And you didn’t even see him? You didn’t even try to get him to make any provision for it?” and Father says “No she shall not touch his money not one cent of it” and Mother says “He can be forced to by law. He can prove nothing, unless—Jason Compson,” she says, “Were you fool enough to tell—”

“Hush, Caroline,” Father says, then he sent me to help Dilsey get that old cradle out of the attic and I says,

“Well, they brought my job home tonight” because all the time we kept hoping they’d get things straightened out and he’d keep her because Mother kept saying she would at least have enough regard for the family not to jeopardize my chance after she and Quentin had had theirs.

“And whar else do she belong?” Dilsey says, “Who else gwine raise her ’cep me? Aint I raised eve’y one of y’all?”

“And a damn fine job you made of it,” I says. “Anyway it’ll give her something to sure enough worry over now.” So we carried the cradle down and Dilsey started to set it up in her old room. Then Mother started sure enough.

“Hush, Miss Cahline,” Dilsey says, “You gwine wake her up.”

“In there?” Mother says, “To be contaminated by that atmosphere? It’ll be hard enough as it is, with the heritage she already has.”

“Hush,” Father says, “Dont be silly.”

“Why aint she gwine sleep in here,” Dilsey says, “In the same room whar I put her ma to bed ev’y night of her life since she was big enough to sleep by herself.”

“You dont know,” Mother says, “To have my own daughter cast off by her husband. Poor little innocent baby,” she says, looking at Quentin. “You will never know the suffering you’ve caused.”

“Hush, Caroline,” Father says.

“What you want to go on like that fo Jason fer?” Dilsey says.

“I’ve tried to protect him,” Mother says. “I’ve always tried to protect him from it. At least I can do my best to shield her.”

“How sleepin in dis room gwine hurt her, I like to know,” Dilsey says.

“I cant help it,” Mother says. “I know I’m just a troublesome old woman. But I know that people cannot flout God’s laws with impunity.”

“Nonsense,” Father said. “Fix it in Miss Caroline’s room then, Dilsey.”

“You can say nonsense,” Mother says. “But she must never know. She must never even learn that name. Dilsey, I forbid you ever to speak that name in her hearing. If she could grow up never to know that she had a mother, I would thank God.”

“Dont be a fool,” Father says.

“I have never interfered with the way you brought them up,” Mother says, “But now I cannot stand anymore. We must decide this now, tonight. Either that name is never to be spoken in her hearing, or she must go, or I will go. Take your choice.”

“Hush,” Father says, “You’re just upset. Fix it in here, Dilsey.”

“En you’s about sick too,” Dilsey says. “You looks like a hant. You git in bed and I’ll fix you a toddy and see kin you sleep. I bet you aint had a full night’s sleep since you lef.”

“No,” Mother says, “Dont you know what the doctor says? Why must you encourage him to drink? That’s what’s the matter with him now. Look at me, I suffer too, but I’m not so weak that I must kill myself with whiskey.”

“Fiddlesticks,” Father says, “What do doctors know? They make their livings advising people to do whatever they are not doing at the time, which is the extent of anyone’s knowledge of the degenerate ape. You’ll have a minister in to hold my hand next.” Then Mother cried, and he went out. Went down stairs, and then I heard the sideboard. I woke up and heard him going down again. Mother had gone to sleep or something, because the house was quiet at last. He was trying to be quiet too, because I couldn’t hear him, only the bottom of his nightshirt and his bare legs in front of the sideboard.

Dilsey fixed the cradle and undressed her and put her in it. She never had waked up since he brought her in the house.

“She pretty near too big fer hit,” Dilsey says. “Dar now. I gwine spread me a pallet right acrost de hall, so you wont need to git up in de night.”

“I wont sleep,” Mother says. “You go on home. I wont mind. I’ll be happy to give the rest of my life to her, if I can just prevent—”

“Hush, now,” Dilsey says. “We gwine take keer of her. En you go on to bed too,” she says to me, “You got to go to school tomorrow.”

So I went out, then Mother called me back and cried on me awhile.

“You are my only hope,” she says. “Every night I thank God for you.” While we were waiting there for them to start she says Thank God if he had to be taken too, it is you left me and not Quentin. Thank God you are not a Compson, because all I have left now is you and Maury and I says, Well I could spare Uncle Maury myself. Well, he kept on patting her hand with his black glove, talking away from her. He took them off when his turn with the shovel came. He got up near the first, where they were holding the umbrellas over them, stamping every now and then and trying to kick the mud off their feet and sticking to the shovels so they’d have to knock it off, making a hollow sound when it fell on it, and when I stepped back around the hack I could see him behind a tombstone, taking another one out of a bottle. I thought he never was going to stop because I had on my new suit too, but it happened that there wasn’t much mud on the wheels yet, only Mother saw it and says I dont know when you’ll ever have another one and Uncle Maury says, “Now, now. Dont you worry at all. You have me to depend on, always.”

And we have. Always. The fourth letter was from him. But there wasn’t any need to open it. I could have written it myself, or recited it to her from memory, adding ten dollars just to be safe. But I had a hunch about that other letter. I just felt that it was about time she was up to some of her tricks again. She got pretty wise after that first time. She found out pretty quick that I was a different breed of cat from Father. When they begun to get it filled up toward the top Mother started crying sure enough, so Uncle Maury got in with her and drove off. He says You can come in with somebody; they’ll be glad to give you a lift. I’ll have to take your mother on and I thought about saying, Yes you ought to brought two bottles instead of just one only I thought about where we were, so I let them go on. Little they cared how wet I got, because then Mother could have a whale of a time being afraid I was taking pneumonia.

Well, I got to thinking about that and watching them throwing dirt into it, slapping it on anyway like they were making mortar or something or building a fence, and I began to feel sort of funny and so I decided to walk around a while. I thought that if I went toward town they’d catch up and be trying to make me get in one of them, so I went on back toward the nigger graveyard. I got under some cedars, where the rain didn’t come much, only dripping now and then, where I could see when they got through and went away. After a while they were all gone and I waited a minute and came out.

I had to follow the path to keep out of the wet grass so I didn’t see her until I was pretty near there, standing there in a black cloak, looking at the flowers. I knew who it was right off, before she turned and looked at me and lifted up her veil.

“Hello, Jason,” she says, holding out her hand. We shook hands.

“What are you doing here?” I says. “I thought you promised her you wouldn’t come back here. I thought you had more sense than that.”

“Yes?” she says. She looked at the flowers again. There must have been fifty dollars’ worth. Somebody had put one bunch on Quentin’s. “You did?” she says.

“I’m not surprised though,” I says. “I wouldn’t put anything past you. You dont mind anybody. You dont give a damn about anybody.”

“Oh,” she says, “that job.” She looked at the grave. “I’m sorry about that, Jason.”

“I bet you are,” I says. “You’ll talk mighty meek now. But you needn’t have come back. There’s not anything left. Ask Uncle Maury, if you dont believe me.”

“I dont want anything,” she says. She looked at the grave. “Why didn’t they let me know?” she says. “I just happened to see it in the paper. On the back page. Just happened to.”

I didn’t say anything. We stood there, looking at the grave, and then I got to thinking about when we were little and one thing and another and I got to feeling funny again, kind of mad or something, thinking about now we’d have Uncle Maury around the house all the time, running things like the way he left me to come home in the rain by myself. I says,

“A fine lot you care, sneaking in here soon as he’s dead. But it wont do you any good. Dont think that you can take advantage of this to come sneaking back. If you cant stay on the horse you’ve got, you’ll have to walk,” I says. “We dont even know your name at that house,” I says. “Do you know that? We don’t even know you with him and Quentin,” I says. “Do you know that?”

“I know it,” she says. “Jason,” she says, looking at the grave, “if you’ll fix it so I can see her a minute I’ll give you fifty dollars.”

“You haven’t got fifty dollars,” I says.

“Will you?” she says, not looking at me.

“Let’s see it,” I says. “I dont believe you’ve got fifty dollars.”

I could see where her hands were moving under her cloak, then she held her hand out. Damn if it wasn’t full of money. I could see two or three yellow ones.

“Does he still give you money?” I says. “How much does he send you?”

“I’ll give you a hundred,” she says. “Will you?”

“Just a minute,” I says, “And just like I say. I wouldn’t have her know it for a thousand dollars.”

“Yes,” she says. “Just like you say do it. Just so I see her a minute. I wont beg or do anything. I’ll go right on away.”

“Give me the money,” I says.

“I’ll give it to you afterward,” she says.

“Dont you trust me?” I says.

“No,” she says. “I know you. I grew up with you.”

“You’re a fine one to talk about trusting people,” I says. “Well,” I says, “I got to get on out of the rain. Goodbye.” I made to go away.

“Jason,” she says. I stopped.

“Yes?” I says. “Hurry up. I’m getting wet.”

“All right,” she says. “Here.” There wasn’t anybody in sight. I went back and took the money. She still held to it. “You’ll do it?” she says, looking at me from under the veil, “You promise?”

“Let go,” I says, “You want somebody to come along and see us?”

She let go. I put the money in my pocket. “You’ll do it, Jason?” she says. “I wouldn’t ask you, if there was any other way.”

“You’re damn right there’s no other way,” I says. “Sure I’ll do it. I said I would, didn’t I? Only you’ll have to do just like I say, now.”

“Yes,” she says, “I will.” So I told her where to be, and went to the livery stable. I hurried and got there just as they were unhitching the hack. I asked if they had paid for it yet and he said No and I said Mrs Compson forgot something and wanted it again, so they let me take it. Mink was driving. I bought him a cigar, so we drove around until it begun to get dark on the back streets where they wouldn’t see him. Then Mink said he’d have to take the team on back and so I said I’d buy him another cigar and so we drove into the lane and I went across the yard to the house. I stopped in the hall until I could hear Mother and Uncle Maury upstairs, then I went on back to the kitchen. She and Ben were there with Dilsey. I said Mother wanted her and I took her into the house. I found Uncle Maury’s raincoat and put it around her and picked her up and went back to the lane and got in the hack. I told Mink to drive to the depot. He was afraid to pass the stable, so we had to go the back way and I saw her standing on the corner under the light and I told Mink to drive close to the walk and when I said Go on, to give the team a bat. Then I took the raincoat off of her and held her to the window and Caddy saw her and sort of jumped forward.

“Hit ’em, Mink!” I says, and Mink gave them a cut and we went past her like a fire engine. “Now get on that train like you promised,” I says. I could see her running after us through the back window. “Hit ’em again,” I says, “Let’s get on home.” When we turned the corner she was still running.

And so I counted the money again that night and put it away, and I didn’t feel so bad. I says I reckon that’ll show you. I reckon you’ll know now that you cant beat me out of a job and get away with it. It never occurred to me she wouldn’t keep her promise and take that train. But I didn’t know much about them then; I didn’t have any more sense than to believe what they said, because the next morning damn if she didn’t walk right into the store, only she had sense enough to wear the veil and not speak to anybody. It was Saturday morning, because I was at the store, and she came right on back to the desk where I was, walking fast.

“Liar,” she says, “Liar.”

“Are you crazy?” I says. “What do you mean? coming in here like this?” She started in, but I shut her off. I says, “You already cost me one job; do you want me to lose this one too? If you’ve got anything to say to me, I’ll meet you somewhere after dark. What have you got to say to me?” I says, “Didn’t I do everything I said? I said see her a minute, didn’t I? Well, didn’t you?” She just stood there looking at me, shaking like an ague-fit, her hands clenched and kind of jerking. “I did just what I said I would,” I says, “You’re the one that lied. You promised to take that train. Didn’t you Didn’t you promise? If you think you can get that money back, just try it,” I says. “If it’d been a thousand dollars, you’d still owe me after the risk I took. And if I see or hear you’re still in town after number 17 runs,” I says, “I’ll tell Mother and Uncle Maury. Then hold your breath until you see her again.” She just stood there, looking at me, twisting her hands together.

“Damn you,” she says, “Damn you.”

“Sure,” I says, “That’s all right too. Mind what I say, now. After number 17, and I tell them.”

After she was gone I felt better. I says I reckon you’ll think twice before you deprive me of a job that was promised me. I was a kid then. I believed folks when they said they’d do things. I’ve learned better since. Besides, like I say I guess I dont need any man’s help to get along I can stand on my own feet like I always have. Then all of a sudden I thought of Dilsey and Uncle Maury. I thought how she’d get around Dilsey and that Uncle Maury would do anything for ten dollars. And there I was, couldn’t even get away from the store to protect my own Mother. Like she says, if one of you had to be taken, thank God it was you left me I can depend on you and I says well I dont reckon I’ll ever get far enough from the store to get out of your reach. Somebody’s got to hold on to what little we have left, I reckon.

So as soon as I got home I fixed Dilsey. I told Dilsey she had leprosy and I got the bible and read where a man’s flesh rotted off and I told her that if she ever looked at her or Ben or Quentin they’d catch it too. So I thought I had everything all fixed until that day when I came home and found Ben bellowing. Raising hell and nobody could quiet him. Mother said, Well, get him the slipper then. Dilsey made out she didn’t hear. Mother said it again and I says I’d go I couldn’t stand that damn noise. Like I say I can stand lots of things I dont expect much from them but if I have to work all day long in a damn store damn if I dont think I deserve a little peace and quiet to eat dinner in. So I says I’d go and Dilsey says quick, “Jason!”

Well, like a flash I knew what was up, but just to make sure I went and got the slipper and brought it back, and just like I thought, when he saw it you’d thought we were killing him. So I made Dilsey own up, then I told Mother. We had to take her up to bed then, and after things got quieted down a little I put the fear of God into Dilsey. As much as you can into a nigger, that is. That’s the trouble with nigger servants, when they’ve been with you for a long time they get so full of self importance that they’re not worth a damn. Think they run the whole family.

“I like to know whut’s de hurt in lettin dat po chile see her own baby,” Dilsey says. “If Mr Jason was still here hit ud be different.”

“Only Mr Jason’s not here,” I says. “I know you wont pay me any mind, but I reckon you’ll do what Mother says. You keep on worrying her like this until you get her into the graveyard too, then you can fill the whole house full of ragtag and bobtail. But what did you want to let that damn idiot see her for?”

“You’s a cold man, Jason, if man you is,” she says. “I thank de Lawd I got mo heart dan dat, even ef hit is black.”

“At least I’m man enough to keep that flour barrel full,” I says. “And if you do that again, you wont be eating out of it either.”

So the next time I told her that if she tried Dilsey again, Mother was going to fire Dilsey and send Ben to Jackson and take Quentin and go away. She looked at me for a while. There wasn’t any street light close and I couldn’t see her face much. But I could feel her looking at me. When we were little when she’d get mad and couldn’t do anything about it her upper lip would begin to jump. Everytime it jumped it would leave a little more of her teeth showing, and all the time she’d be as still as a post, not a muscle moving except her lip jerking higher and higher up her teeth. But she didn’t say anything. She just said,

“All right. How much?”

“Well, if one look through a hack window was worth a hundred,” I says. So after that she behaved pretty well, only one time she asked to see a statement of the bank account.

“I know they have Mother’s indorsement on them,” she says, “But I want to see the bank statement. I want to see myself where those checks go.”

“That’s in Mother’s private business,” I says. “If you think you have any right to pry into her private affairs I’ll tell her you believe those checks are being misappropriated and you want an audit because you dont trust her.”

She didn’t say anything or move. I could hear her whispering Damn you oh damn you oh damn you.

“Say it out,” I says, “I dont reckon it’s any secret what you and I think of one another. Maybe you want the money back,” I says.

“Listen, Jason,” she says, “Dont lie to me now. About her. I wont ask to see anything. If that isn’t enough, I’ll send more each month. Just promise that she’ll—that she—You can do that. Things for her. Be kind to her. Little things that I cant, they wont let. . . . But you wont. You never had a drop of warm blood in you. Listen,” she says, “If you’ll get Mother to let me have her back, I’ll give you a thousand dollars.”

“You haven’t got a thousand dollars,” I says, “I know you’re lying now.”

“Yes I have. I will have. I can get it.”

“And I know how you’ll get it,” I says, “You’ll get it the same way you got her. And when she gets big enough—” Then I thought she really was going to hit at me, and then I didn’t know what she was going to do. She acted for a minute like some kind of a toy that’s wound up too tight and about to burst all to pieces.

“Oh, I’m crazy,” she says, “I’m insane. I can’t take her. Keep her. What am I thinking of. Jason,” she says, grabbing my arm. Her hands were hot as fever. “You’ll have to promise to take care of her, to—She’s kin to you; your own flesh and blood. Promise, Jason. You have Father’s name: do you think I’d have to ask him twice? once, even?”

“That’s so,” I says, “He did leave me something. What do you want me to do,” I says, “Buy an apron and a go-cart? I never got you into this,” I says. “I run more risk than you do, because you haven’t got anything at stake. So if you expect—”

“No,” she says, then she begun to laugh and to try to hold it back all at the same time. “No. I have nothing at stake,” she says, making that noise, putting her hands to her mouth, “Nuh-nuh-nothing,” she says.

“Here,” I says, “Stop that!”

“I’m tr-trying to,” she says, holding her hands over her mouth. “Oh God, oh God.”

“I’m going away from here,” I says, “I cant be seen here. You get on out of town now, you hear?”

“Wait,” she says, catching my arm. “I’ve stopped. I wont again. You promise, Jason?” she says, and me feeling her eyes almost like they were touching my face, “You promise? Mother—that money—if sometimes she needs things—If I send checks for her to you, other ones besides those, you’ll give them to her? You wont tell? You’ll see that she has things like other girls?”

“Sure,” I says, “As long as you behave and do like I tell you.”

And so when Earl came up front with his hat on he says, “I’m going to step up to Rogers’ and get a snack. We wont have time to go home to dinner, I reckon.”

“What’s the matter we wont have time?” I says.

“With this show in town and all,” he says. “They’re going to give an afternoon performance too, and they’ll all want to get done trading in time to go to it. So we’d better just run up to Rogers’.”

“All right,” I says, “It’s your stomach. If you want to make a slave of yourself to your business, it’s all right with me.”

“I reckon you’ll never be a slave to any business,” he says.

“Not unless it’s Jason Compson’s business,” I says.

So when I went back and opened it the only thing that surprised me was it was a money order not a check. Yes, sir. You cant trust a one of them. After all the risk I’d taken, risking Mother finding out about her coming down here once or twice a year sometimes, and me having to tell Mother lies about it. That’s gratitude for you. And I wouldn’t put it past her to try to notify the postoffice not to let anyone except her cash it. Giving a kid like that fifty dollars. Why I never saw fifty dollars until I was twenty-one years old, with all the other boys with the afternoon off and all day Saturday and me working in a store. Like I say, how can they expect anybody to control her, with her giving her money behind our backs. She has the same home you had I says, and the same raising. I reckon Mother is a better judge of what she needs than you are, that haven’t even got a home. “If you want to give her money,” I says, “You send it to Mother, dont be giving it to her. If I’ve got to run this risk every few months, you’ll have to do like I say, or it’s out.”

And just about the time I got ready to begin on it because if Earl thought I was going to dash up the street and gobble two bits worth of indigestion on his account he was bad fooled. I may not be sitting with my feet on a mahogany desk but I am being paid for what I do inside this building and if I cant manage to live a civilised life outside of it I’ll go where I can. I can stand on my own feet; I dont need any man’s mahogany desk to prop me up. So just about the time I got ready to start I’d have to drop everything and run to sell some redneck a dime’s worth of nails or something, and Earl up there gobbling a sandwich and half way back already, like as not, and then I found that all the blanks were gone. I remembered then that I had aimed to get some more, but it was too late now, and then I looked up and there Quentin came. In the back door. I heard her asking old Job if I was there. I just had time to stick them in the drawer and close it.

She came around to the desk. I looked at my watch.

“You been to dinner already?” I says. “It’s just twelve; I just heard it strike. You must have flown home and back.”

“I’m not going home to dinner,” she says. “Did I get a letter today?”

“Were you expecting one?” I says. “Have you got a sweetie that can write?”

“From Mother,” she says. “Did I get a letter from Mother?” she says, looking at me.

“Mother got one from her,” I says. “I haven’t opened it. You’ll have to wait until she opens it. She’ll let you see it, I imagine.”

“Please, Jason,” she says, not paying any attention, “Did I get one?”

“What’s the matter?” I says. “I never knew you to be this anxious about anybody. You must expect some money from her.”

“She said she—” she says. “Please, Jason,” she says, “Did I?”

“You must have been to school today, after all,” I says, “Somewhere where they taught you to say please. Wait a minute, while I wait on that customer.”

I went and waited on him. When I turned to come back she was out of sight behind the desk. I ran. I ran around the desk and caught her as she jerked her hand out of the drawer. I took the letter away from her, beating her knuckles on the desk until she let go.

“You would, would you?” I says.

“Give it to me,” she says, “You’ve already opened it. Give it to me. Please, Jason. It’s mine. I saw the name.”

“I’ll take a hame string to you,” I says. “That’s what I’ll give you. Going into my papers.”

“Is there some money in it?” she says, reaching for it. “She said she would send me some money. She promised she would. Give it to me.”

“What do you want with money?” I says.

“She said she would,” she says, “Give it to me. Please, Jason. I wont ever ask you anything again, if you’ll give it to me this time.”

“I’m going to, if you’ll give me time,” I says. I took the letter and the money order out and gave her the letter. She reached for the money order, not hardly glancing at the letter. “You’ll have to sign it first,” I says.

“How much is it?” she says.

“Read the letter,” I says. “I reckon it’ll say.”

She read it fast, in about two looks.

“It dont say,” she says, looking up. She dropped the letter to the floor. “How much is it?”

“It’s ten dollars,” I says.

“Ten dollars?” she says, staring at me.

“And you ought to be damn glad to get that,” I says, “A kid like you. What are you in such a rush for money all of a sudden for?”

“Ten dollars?” she says, like she was talking in her sleep, “Just ten dollars?” She made a grab at the money order. “You’re lying,” she says. “Thief!” she says, “Thief!”

“You would, would you?” I says, holding her off.

“Give it to me!” she says, “It’s mine. She sent it to me. I will see it. I will.”

“You will?” I says, holding her, “How’re you going to do it?”

“Just let me see it, Jason,” she says, “Please. I wont ask you for anything again.”

“Think I’m lying, do you?” I says. “Just for that you wont see it.”

“But just ten dollars,” she says, “She told me she—she told me—Jason, please please please. I’ve got to have some money. I’ve just got to. Give it to me, Jason. I’ll do anything if you will.”

“Tell me what you’ve got to have money for,” I says.

“I’ve got to have it,” she says. She was looking at me. Then all of a sudden she quit looking at me without moving her eyes at all. I knew she was going to lie. “It’s some money I owe,” she says. “I’ve got to pay it. I’ve got to pay it today.”

“Who to?” I says. Her hands were sort of twisting. I could watch her trying to think of a lie to tell. “Have you been charging things at stores again?” I says. “You needn’t bother to tell me that. If you can find anybody in this town that’ll charge anything to you after what I told them, I’ll eat it.”

“It’s a girl,” she says, “It’s a girl. I borrowed some money from a girl. I’ve got to pay it back. Jason, give it to me. Please. I’ll do anything. I’ve got to have it. Mother will pay you. I’ll write to her to pay you and that I wont ever ask her for anything again. You can see the letter. Please, Jason. I’ve got to have it.”

“Tell me what you want with it, and I’ll see about it,” I says. “Tell me.” She just stood there, with her hands working against her dress. “All right,” I says, “If ten dollars is too little for you, I’ll just take it home to Mother, and you know what’ll happen to it then. Of course, if you’re so rich you dont need ten dollars—”

She stood there, looking at the floor, kind of mumbling to herself. “She said she would send me some money. She said she sends money here and you say she dont send any. She said she’s sent a lot of money here. She says it’s for me. That it’s for me to have some of it. And you say we haven’t got any money.”

“You know as much about that as I do,” I says. “You’ve seen what happens to those checks.”

“Yes,” she says, looking at the floor. “Ten dollars,” she says, “Ten dollars.”

“And you’d better thank your stars it’s ten dollars,” I says. “Here,” I says. I put the money order face down on the desk, holding my hand on it, “Sign it.”

“Will you let me see it?” she says. “I just want to look at it. Whatever it says, I wont ask for but ten dollars. You can have the rest. I just want to see it.”

“Not after the way you’ve acted,” I says. “You’ve got to learn one thing, and that is that when I tell you to do something, you’ve got it to do. You sign your name on that line.”

She took the pen, but instead of signing it she just stood there with her head bent and the pen shaking in her hand. Just like her mother. “Oh, God,” she says, “oh, God.”

“Yes,” I says, “That’s one thing you’ll have to learn if you never learn anything else. Sign it now, and get on out of here.”

She signed it. “Where’s the money?” she says. I took the order and blotted it and put it in my pocket. Then I gave her the ten dollars.

“Now you go on back to school this afternoon, you hear?” I says. She didn’t answer. She crumpled the bill up in her hand like it was a rag or something and went on out the front door just as Earl came in. A customer came in with him and they stopped up front. I gathered up the things and put on my hat and went up front.

“Been much busy?” Earl says.

“Not much,” I says. He looked out the door.

“That your car over yonder?” he says. “Better not try to go out home to dinner. We’ll likely have another rush just before the show opens. Get you a lunch at Rogers’ and put a ticker in the drawer.”

“Much obliged,” I says. “I can still manage to feed myself, I reckon.”

And right there he’d stay, watching that door like a hawk until I came through it again. Well, he’d just have to watch it for a while; I was doing the best I could. The time before I says that’s the last one now; you’ll have to remember to get some more right away. But who can remember anything in all this hurrah. And now this damn show had to come here the one day I’d have to hunt all over town for a blank check, besides all the other things I had to do to keep the house running, and Earl watching the door like a hawk.

I went to the printing shop and told him I wanted to play a joke on a fellow, but he didn’t have anything. Then he told me to have a look in the old opera house, where somebody had stored a lot of papers and junk out of the old Merchants’ and Farmers’ Bank when it failed, so I dodged up a few more alleys so Earl couldn’t see me and finally found old man Simmons and got the key from him and went up there and dug around. At last I found a pad on a Saint Louis bank. And of course she’d pick this one time to look at it close. Well, it would have to do. I couldn’t waste any more time now.

I went back to the store. “Forgot some papers Mother wants to go to the bank,” I says. I went back to the desk and fixed the check. Trying to hurry and all, I says to myself it’s a good thing her eyes are giving out, with that little whore in the house, a Christian forbearing woman like Mother. I says you know just as well as I do what she’s going to grow up into but I says that’s your business, if you want to keep her and raise her in your house just because of Father. Then she would begin to cry and say it was her own flesh and blood so I just says All right. Have it your way. I can stand it if you can.

I fixed the letter up again and glued it back and went out.

“Try not to be gone any longer than you can help,” Earl says.

“All right,” I says. I went to the telegraph office. The smart boys were all there.

“Any of you boys made a million yet?” I says.

“Who can do anything, with a market like that?” Doc says.

“What’s it doing?” I says. I went in and looked. It was three points under the opening. “You boys are not going to let a little thing like the cotton market beat you, are you?” I says. “I thought you were too smart for that.”

“Smart, hell,” Doc says. “It was down twelve points at twelve o’clock. Cleaned me out.”

“Twelve points?” I says. “Why the hell didn’t somebody let me know? Why didn’t you let me know?” I says to the operator.

“I take it as it comes in,” he says. “I’m not running a bucket shop.”

“You’re smart, aren’t you?” I says. “Seems to me, with the money I spend with you, you could take time to call me up. Or maybe your damn company’s in a conspiracy with those damn eastern sharks.”

He didn’t say anything. He made like he was busy.

“You’re getting a little too big for your pants,” I says. “First thing you know you’ll be working for a living.”

“What’s the matter with you?” Doc says. “You’re still three points to the good.”

“Yes,” I says, “If I happened to be selling. I haven’t mentioned that yet, I think. You boys all cleaned out?”

“I got caught twice,” Doc says. “I switched just in time.”

“Well,” I. O. Snopes says, “I’ve picked hit; I reckon taint no more than fair fer hit to pick me once in a while.”

So I left them buying and selling among themselves at a nickel a point. I found a nigger and sent him for my car and stood on the corner and waited. I couldn’t see Earl looking up and down the street, with one eye on the clock, because I couldn’t see the door from here. After about a week he got back with it.

“Where the hell have you been?” I says, “Riding around where the wenches could see you?”

“I come straight as I could,” he says, “I had to drive clean around the square, wid all dem wagons.”

I never found a nigger yet that didn’t have an airtight alibi for whatever he did. But just turn one loose in a car and he’s bound to show off. I got in and went on around the square. I caught a glimpse of Earl in the door across the square.

I went straight to the kitchen and told Dilsey to hurry up with dinner.

“Quentin aint come yit,” she says.

“What of that?” I says. “You’ll be telling me next that Luster’s not quite ready to eat yet. Quentin knows when meals are served in this house. Hurry up with it, now.”

Mother was in her room. I gave her the letter. She opened it and took the check out and sat holding it in her hand. I went and got the shovel from the corner and gave her a match. “Come on,” I says, “Get it over with. You’ll be crying in a minute.”

She took the match, but she didn’t strike it. She sat there, looking at the check. Just like I said it would be.

“I hate to do it,” she says, “To increase your burden by adding Quentin. . . .”

“I guess we’ll get along,” I says. “Come on. Get it over with.”

But she just sat there, holding the check.

“This one is on a different bank,” she says. “They have been on an Indianapolis bank.”

“Yes,” I says. “Women are allowed to do that too.”

“Do what?” she says.

“Keep money in two different banks,” I says.

“Oh,” she says. She looked at the check a while. “I’m glad to know she’s so . . . she has so much . . . God sees that I am doing right,” she says.

“Come on,” I says, “Finish it. Get the fun over.”

“Fun?” she says, “When I think—”

“I thought you were burning this two hundred dollars a month for fun,” I says. “Come on, now. Want me to strike the match?”

“I could bring myself to accept them,” she says, “For my childrens’ sake. I have no pride.”

“You’d never be satisfied,” I says, “You know you wouldn’t. You’ve settled that once, let it stay settled. We can get along.”

“I leave everything to you,” she says. “But sometimes I become afraid that in doing this I am depriving you all of what is rightfully yours. Perhaps I shall be punished for it. If you want me to, I will smother my pride and accept them.”

“What would be the good in beginning now, when you’ve been destroying them for fifteen years?” I says. “If you keep on doing it, you have lost nothing, but if you’d begin to take them now, you’ll have lost fifty thousand dollars. We’ve got along so far, haven’t we?” I says. “I haven’t seen you in the poorhouse yet.”

“Yes,” she says, “We Bascombs need nobody’s charity. Certainly not that of a fallen woman.”

She struck the match and lit the check and put it in the shovel, and then the envelope, and watched them burn.

“You dont know what it is,” she says, “Thank God you will never know what a mother feels.”

“There are lots of women in this world no better than her,” I says.

“But they are not my daughters,” she says. “It’s not myself,” she says, “I’d gladly take her back, sins and all, because she is my flesh and blood. It’s for Quentin’s sake.”

Well, I could have said it wasn’t much chance of anybody hurting Quentin much, but like I say I dont expect much but I do want to eat and sleep without a couple of women squabbling and crying in the house.

“And yours,” she says. “I know how you feel toward her.”

“Let her come back,” I says, “far as I’m concerned.”

“No,” she says. “I owe that to your father’s memory.”

“When he was trying all the time to persuade you to let her come home when Herbert threw her out?” I says.

“You dont understand,” she says. “I know you dont intend to make it more difficult for me. But it’s my place to suffer for my children,” she says. “I can bear it.”

“Seems to me you go to a lot of unnecessary trouble doing it,” I says. The paper burned out. I carried it to the grate and put it in. “It just seems a shame to me to burn up good money,” I says.

“Let me never see the day when my children will have to accept that, the wages of sin,” she says. “I’d rather see even you dead in your coffin first.”

“Have it your way,” I says. “Are we going to have dinner soon?” I says, “Because if we’re not, I’ll have to go on back. We’re pretty busy today.” She got up. “I’ve told her once,” I says. “It seems she’s waiting on Quentin or Luster or somebody. Here, I’ll call her. Wait.” But she went to the head of the stairs and called.

“Quentin aint come yit,” Dilsey says.

“Well, I’ll have to get on back,” I says. “I can get a sandwich downtown. I dont want to interfere with Dilsey’s arrangements,” I says. Well, that got her started again, with Dilsey hobbling and mumbling back and forth, saying,

“All right, all right, Ise puttin hit on fast as I kin.”

“I try to please you all,” Mother says, “I try to make things as easy for you as I can.”

“I’m not complaining, am I?” I says. “Have I said a word except I had to go back to work?”

“I know,” she says, “I know you haven’t had the chance the others had, that you’ve had to bury yourself in a little country store. I wanted you to get ahead. I knew your father would never realise that you were the only one who had any business sense, and then when everything else failed I believed that when she married, and Herbert . . . after his promise . . .”

“Well, he was probably lying too,” I says. “He may not have even had a bank. And if he had, I dont reckon he’d have to come all the way to Mississippi to get a man for it.”

We ate awhile. I could hear Ben in the kitchen, where Luster was feeding him. Like I say, if we’ve got to feed another mouth and she wont take that money, why not send him down to Jackson. He’ll be happier there, with people like him. I says God knows there’s little enough room for pride in this family, but it dont take much pride to not like to see a thirty year old man playing around the yard with a nigger boy, running up and down the fence and lowing like a cow whenever they play golf over there. I says if they’d sent him to Jackson at first we’d all be better off today. I says, you’ve done your duty by him; you’ve done all anybody can expect of you and more than most folks would do, so why not send him there and get that much benefit out of the taxes we pay. Then she says, “I’ll be gone soon. I know I’m just a burden to you” and I says “You’ve been saying that so long that I’m beginning to believe you” only I says you’d better be sure and not let me know you’re gone because I’ll sure have him on number seventeen that night and I says I think I know a place where they’ll take her too and the name of it’s not Milk street and Honey avenue either. Then she begun to cry and I says All right all right I have as much pride about my kinfolks as anybody even if I dont always know where they come from.

We ate for awhile. Mother sent Dilsey to the front to look for Quentin again.

“I keep telling you she’s not coming to dinner,” I says.

“She knows better than that,” Mother says, “She knows I dont permit her to run about the streets and not come home at meal time. Did you look good, Dilsey?”

“Dont let her, then,” I says.

“What can I do,” she says. “You have all of you flouted me. Always.”

“If you wouldn’t come interfering, I’d make her mind,” I says. “It wouldn’t take me but about one day to straighten her out.”

“You’d be too brutal with her,” she says. “You have your Uncle Maury’s temper.”

That reminded me of the letter. I took it out and handed it to her. “You wont have to open it,” I says. “The bank will let you know how much it is this time.”

“It’s addressed to you,” she says.

“Go on and open it,” I says. She opened it and read it and handed it to me.

“ ‘My dear young nephew,’ it says,

‘You will be glad to learn that I am now in a position to avail myself of an opportunity regarding which, for reasons which I shall make obvious to you, I shall not go into details until I have an opportunity to divulge it to you in a more secure manner. My business experience has taught me to be chary of committing anything of a confidential nature to any more concrete medium than speech, and my extreme precaution in this instance should give you some inkling of its value. Needless to say, I have just completed a most exhaustive examination of all its phases, and I feel no hesitancy in telling you that it is that sort of golden chance that comes but once in a lifetime, and I now see clearly before me that goal toward which I have long and unflaggingly striven: i.e., the ultimate solidification of my affairs by which I may restore to its rightful position that family of which I have the honour to be the sole remaining male descendant; that family in which I have ever included your lady mother and her children.

‘As it so happens, I am not quite in a position to avail myself of this opportunity to the uttermost which it warrants, but rather than go out of the family to do so, I am today drawing upon your Mother’s bank for the small sum necessary to complement my own initial investment, for which I herewith enclose, as a matter of formality, my note of hand at eight percent per annum. Needless to say, this is merely a formality, to secure your Mother in the event of that circumstance of which man is ever the plaything and sport. For naturally I shall employ this sum as though it were my own and so permit your Mother to avail herself of this opportunity which my exhaustive investigation has shown to be a bonanza—if you will permit the vulgarism—of the first water and purest ray serene.

‘This is in confidence, you will understand, from one business man to another; we will harvest our own vineyards, eh? And knowing your Mother’s delicate health and that timorousness which such delicately nutured Southern ladies would naturally feel regarding matters of business, and their charming proneness to divulge unwittingly such matters in conversation, I would suggest that you do not mention it to her at all. On second thought, I advise you not to do so. It might be better to simply restore this sum to the bank at some future date, say, in a lump sum with the other small sums for which I am indebted to her, and say nothing about it at all. It is our duty to shield her from the crass material world as much as possible.

‘Your affectionate Uncle,

‘Maury L. Bascomb.’ ”

“What do you want to do about it?” I says, flipping it across the table.

“I know you grudge what I give him,” she says.

“It’s your money,” I says. “If you want to throw it to the birds even, it’s your business.”

“He’s my own brother,” Mother says. “He’s the last Bascomb. When we are gone there wont be any more of them.”

“That’ll be hard on somebody, I guess,” I says. “All right, all right,” I says, “It’s your money. Do as you please with it. You want me to tell the bank to pay it?”

“I know you begrudge him,” she says. “I realise the burden on your shoulders. When I’m gone it will be easier on you.”

“I could make it easier right now,” I says. “All right, all right, I wont mention it again. Move all bedlam in here if you want to.”

“He’s your own brother,” she says, “Even if he is afflicted.”

“I’ll take your bank book,” I says. “I’ll draw my check today.”

“He kept you waiting six days,” she says. “Are you sure the business is sound? It seems strange to me that a solvent business cannot pay its employees promptly.”

“He’s all right,” I says, “Safe as a bank. I tell him not to bother about mine until we get done collecting every month. That’s why it’s late sometimes.”

“I just couldn’t bear to have you lose the little I had to invest for you,” she says. “I’ve often thought that Earl is not a good business man. I know he doesn’t take you into his confidence to the extent that your investment in the business should warrant. I’m going to speak to him.”

“No, you let him alone,” I says. “It’s his business.”

“You have a thousand dollars in it.”

“You let him alone,” I says, “I’m watching things. I have your power of attorney. It’ll be all right.”

“You dont know what a comfort you are to me,” she says. “You have always been my pride and joy, but when you came to me of your own accord and insisted on banking your salary each month in my name, I thanked God it was you left me if they had to be taken.”

“They were all right,” I says. “They did the best they could, I reckon.”

“When you talk that way I know you are thinking bitterly of your father’s memory,” she says. “You have a right to, I suppose. But it breaks my heart to hear you.”

I got up. “If you’ve got any crying to do,” I says, “you’ll have to do it alone, because I’ve got to get on back. I’ll get the bank book.”

“I’ll get it,” she says.

“Keep still,” I says, “I’ll get it.” I went upstairs and got the bank book out of her desk and went back to town. I went to the bank and deposited the check and the money order and the other ten, and stopped at the telegraph office. It was one point above the opening. I had already lost thirteen points, all because she had to come helling in there at twelve, worrying me about that letter.

“What time did that report come in?” I says.

“About an hour ago,” he says.

“An hour ago?” I says. “What are we paying you for?” I says, “Weekly reports? How do you expect a man to do anything? The whole damn top could blow off and we’d not know it.”

“I dont expect you to do anything,” he says. “They changed that law making folks play the cotton market.”

“They have?” I says. “I hadn’t heard. They must have sent the news out over the Western Union.”

I went back to the store. Thirteen points. Damn if I believe anybody knows anything about the damn thing except the ones that sit back in those New York offices and watch the country suckers come up and beg them to take their money. Well, a man that just calls shows he has no faith in himself, and like I say if you aren’t going to take the advice, what’s the use in paying money for it. Besides, these people are right up there on the ground; they know everything that’s going on. I could feel the telegram in my pocket. I’d just have to prove that they were using the telegraph company to defraud. That would constitute a bucket shop. And I wouldn’t hesitate that long, either. Only be damned if it doesn’t look like a company as big and rich as the Western Union could get a market report out on time. Half as quick as they’ll get a wire to you saying Your account closed out. But what the hell do they care about the people. They’re hand in glove with that New York crowd. Anybody could see that.

When I came in Earl looked at his watch. But he didn’t say anything until the customer was gone. Then he says,

“You go home to dinner?”

“I had to go to the dentist,” I says because it’s not any of his business where I eat but I’ve got to be in the store with him all the afternoon. And with his jaw running off after all I’ve stood. You take a little two by four country storekeeper like I say it takes a man with just five hundred dollars to worry about it fifty thousand dollars’ worth.

“You might have told me,” he says. “I expected you back right away.”

“I’ll trade you this tooth and give you ten dollars to boot, any time,” I says. “Our agreement was an hour for dinner,” I says, “and if you dont like the way I do, you know what you can do about it.”

“I’ve known that some time,” he says. “If it hadn’t been for your mother I’d have done it before now, too. She’s a lady I’ve got a lot of sympathy for, Jason. Too bad some other folks I know cant say as much.”

“Then you can keep it,” I says. “When we need any sympathy I’ll let you know in plenty of time.”

“I’ve protected you about that business a long time, Jason,” he says.

“Yes?” I says, letting him go on. Listening to what he would say before I shut him up.

“I believe I know more about where that automobile came from than she does.”

“You think so, do you?” I says. “When are you going to spread the news that I stole it from my mother?”

“I dont say anything,” he says, “I know you have her power of attorney. And I know she still believes that thousand dollars is in this business.”

“All right,” I says, “Since you know so much, I’ll tell you a little more: go to the bank and ask them whose account I’ve been depositing a hundred and sixty dollars on the first of every month for twelve years.”

“I dont say anything,” he says, “I just ask you to be a little more careful after this.”

I never said anything more. It doesn’t do any good. I’ve found that when a man gets into a rut the best thing you can do is let him stay there. And when a man gets it in his head that he’s got to tell something on you for your own good, good-night. I’m glad I haven’t got the sort of conscience I’ve got to nurse like a sick puppy all the time. If I’d ever be as careful over anything as he is to keep his little shirt tail full of business from making him more then eight percent. I reckon he thinks they’d get him on the usury law if he netted more than eight percent. What the hell chance has a man got, tied down in a town like this and to a business like this. Why I could take his business in one year and fix him so he’d never have to work again, only he’d give it all away to the church or something. If there’s one thing gets under my skin, it’s a damn hypocrite. A man that thinks anything he dont understand all about must be crooked and that first chance he gets he’s morally bound to tell the third party what’s none of his business to tell. Like I say if I thought every time a man did something I didn’t know all about he was bound to be a crook, I reckon I wouldn’t have any trouble finding something back there on those books that you wouldn’t see any use for running and telling somebody I thought ought to know about it, when for all I knew they might know a damn sight more about it now than I did, and if they didn’t it was damn little of my business anyway and he says, “My books are open to anybody. Anybody that has any claim or believes she has any claim on this business can go back there and welcome.”

“Sure, you wont tell,” I says, “You couldn’t square your conscience with that. You’ll just take her back there and let her find it. You wont tell, yourself.”

“I’m not trying to meddle in your business,” he says. “I know you missed out on some things like Quentin had. But your mother has had a misfortunate life too, and if she was to come in here and ask me why you quit, I’d have to tell her. It aint that thousand dollars. You know that. It’s because a man never gets anywhere if fact and his ledgers dont square. And I’m not going to lie to anybody, for myself or anybody else.”

“Well, then,” I says, “I reckon that conscience of yours is a more valuable clerk than I am; it dont have to go home at noon to eat. Only dont let it interfere with my appetite,” I says, because how the hell can I do anything right, with that damn family and her not making any effort to control her nor any of them, like that time when she happened to see one of them kissing Caddy and all next day she went around the house in a black dress and a veil and even Father couldn’t get her to say a word except crying and saying her little daughter was dead and Caddy about fifteen then only in three years she’d been wearing haircloth or probably sandpaper at that rate. Do you think I can afford to have her running bout the streets with every drummer that comes to town, I says, and them telling the new ones up and down the road where to pick up a hot one when they made Jefferson. I haven’t got much pride, I can’t afford it with a kitchen full of niggers to feed and robbing the state asylum of its star freshman. Blood, I says, governors and generals. It’s a damn good thing we never had any kings and presidents; we’d all be down there at Jackson chasing butterflies. I say it’d be bad enough if it was mine; I’d at least be sure it was a bastard to begin with, and now even the Lord doesn’t know that for certain probably.

So after awhile I heard the band start up, and then they begun to clear out. Headed for the show, every one of them. Haggling over a twenty cent hame string to save fifteen cents, so they can give it to a bunch of Yankees that come in and pay maybe ten dollars for the privilege. I went on out to the back.

“Well,” I says, “If you dont look out, that bolt will grow into your hand. And then I’m going to take an axe and chop it out. What do you reckon the boll-weevils’ll eat if you dont get those cultivators in shape to raise them a crop?” I says, “sage grass?”

“Dem folks sho do play dem horns,” he says. “Tell me man in dat show kin play a tune on a handsaw. Pick hit like a banjo.”

“Listen,” I says. “Do you know how much that show’ll spend in this town? About ten dollars,” I says. “The ten dollars Buck Turpin has in his pocket right now.”

“Whut dey give Mr Buck ten dollars fer?” he says.

“For the privilege of showing here,” I says. “You can put the balance of what they’ll spend in your eye.”

“You mean dey pays ten dollars jest to give dey show here?” he says.

“That’s all,” I says. “And how much do you reckon . . .”

“Gret day,” he says, “You mean to tell me dey chargin um to let um show here? I’d pay ten dollars to see dat man pick dat saw, ef I had to. I figures dat tomorrow mawnin I be still owin um nine dollars and six bits at dat rate.”

And then a Yankee will talk your head off about niggers getting ahead. Get them ahead, what I say. Get them so far ahead you cant find one south of Louisville with a blood hound. Because when I told him about how they’d pick up Saturday night and carry off at least a thousand dollars out of the county, he says,

“I don’t begrudge um. I kin sho afford my two bits.”

“Two bits hell,” I says. “That dont begin it. How about the dime or fifteen cents you’ll spend for a damn two cent box of candy or something. How about the time you’re wasting right now, listening to that band.”

“Dat’s de troof,” he says. “Well, ef I lives twell night hit’s gwine to be two bits mo dey takin out of town, dat’s sho.”

“Then you’re a fool,” I says.

“Well,” he says, “I dont spute dat neither. Ef dat uz a crime, all chain-gangs wouldn’t be black.”

Well, just about that time I happened to look up the alley and saw her. When I stepped back and looked at my watch I didn’t notice at the time who he was because I was looking at the watch. It was just two thirty, forty-five minutes before anybody but me expected her to be out. So when I looked around the door the first thing I saw was the red tie he had on and I was thinking what the hell kind of a man would wear a red tie. But she was sneaking along the alley, watching the door, so I wasn’t thinking anything about him until they had gone past. I was wondering if she’d have so little respect for me that she’d not only play out of school when I told her not to, but would walk right past the store, daring me not to see her. Only she couldn’t see into the door because the sun fell straight into it and it was like trying to see through an automobile searchlight, so I stood there and watched her go on past, with her face painted up like a damn clown’s and her hair all gummed and twisted and a dress that if a woman had come out doors even on Gayoso or Beale street when I was a young fellow with no more than that to cover her legs and behind, she’d been thrown in jail. I’ll be damned if they dont dress like they were trying to make every man they passed on the street want to reach out and clap his hand on it. And so I was thinking what kind of a damn man would wear a red tie when all of a sudden I knew he was one of those show folks well as if she’d told me. Well, I can stand a lot; if I couldn’t, damn if I wouldn’t be in a hell of a fix, so when they turned the corner I jumped down and followed. Me, without any hat, in the middle of the afternoon, having to chase up and down back alleys because of my mother’s good name. Like I say you cant do anything with a woman like that, if she’s got it in her. If it’s in her blood, you cant do anything with her. The only thing you can do is to get rid of her, let her go on and live with her own sort.

I went on to the street, but they were out of sight. And there I was, without any hat, looking like I was crazy too. Like a man would naturally think, one of them is crazy and another one drowned himself and the other one was turned out into the street by her husband, what’s the reason the rest of them are not crazy too. All the time I could see them watching me like a hawk, waiting for a chance to say Well I’m not surprised I expected it all the time the whole family’s crazy. Selling land to send him to Harvard and paying taxes to support a state University all the time that I never saw except twice at a baseball game and not letting her daughter’s name be spoken on the place until after a while Father wouldn’t even come down town anymore but just sat there all day with the decanter I could see the bottom of his nightshirt and his bare legs and hear the decanter clinking until finally T. P. had to pour it for him and she says You have no respect for your Father’s memory and I says I dont know why not it sure is preserved well enough to last only if I’m crazy too God knows what I’ll do about it just to look at water makes me sick and I’d just as soon swallow gasoline as a glass of whiskey and Lorraine telling them he may not drink but if you dont believe he’s a man I can tell you how to find out she says If I catch you fooling with any of these whores you know what I’ll do she says I’ll whip her grabbing at her I’ll whip her as long as I can find her she says and I says if I dont drink that’s my business but have you ever found me short I says I’ll buy you enough beer to take a bath in if you want it because I’ve got every respect for a good honest whore because with Mother’s health and the position I try to uphold to have her with no more respect for what I try to do for her than to make her name and my name and my Mother’s name a byword in the town.

She had dodged out of sight somewhere. Saw me coming and dodged into another alley, running up and down the alleys with a damn show man in a red tie that everybody would look at and think what kind of a damn man would wear a red tie. Well, the boy kept speaking to me and so I took the telegram without knowing I had taken it. I didn’t realise what it was until I was signing for it, and I tore it open without even caring much what it was. I knew all the time what it would be, I reckon. That was the only thing else that could happen, especially holding it up until I had already had the check entered on the pass book.

I dont see how a city no bigger than New York can hold enough people to take the money away from us country suckers. Work like hell all day every day, send them your money and get a little piece of paper back, Your account closed at 20.62. Teasing you along, letting you pile up a little paper profit, then bang! Your account closed at 20.62. And if that wasn’t enough, paying ten dollars a month to somebody to tell you how to lose it fast, that either dont know anything about it or is in cahoots with the telegraph company. Well, I’m done with them. They’ve sucked me in for the last time. Any fool except a fellow that hasn’t got any more sense than to take a jew’s word for anything could tell the market was going up all the time, with the whole damn delta about to be flooded again and the cotton washed right out of the ground like it was last year. Let it wash a man’s crop out of the ground year after year, and them up there in Washington spending fifty thousand dollars a day keeping an army in Nicaragua or some place. Of course it’ll overflow again, and then cotton’ll be worth thirty cents a pound. Well, I just want to hit them one time and get my money back. I don’t want a killing; only these small town gamblers are out for that, I just want my money back that these damn jews have gotten with all their guaranteed inside dope. Then I’m through; they can kiss my foot for every other red cent of mine they get.

I went back to the store. It was half past three almost. Damn little time to do anything in, but then I am used to that. I never had to go to Harvard to learn that. The band had quit playing. Got them all inside now, and they wouldn’t have to waste any more wind. Earl says,

“He found you, did he? He was in here with it a while ago. I thought you were out back somewhere.”

“Yes,” I says, “I got it. They couldn’t keep it away from me all afternoon. The town’s too small. I’ve got to go out home a minute,” I says. “You can dock me if it’ll make you feel any better.”

“Go ahead,” he says, “I can handle it now. No bad news, I hope.”

“You’ll have to go to the telegraph office and find that out,” I says. “They’ll have time to tell you. I haven’t.”

“I just asked,” he says. “Your mother knows she can depend on me.”

“She’ll appreciate it,” I says. “I wont be gone any longer than I have to.”

“Take your time,” he says. “I can handle it now. You go ahead.”

I got the car and went home. Once this morning, twice at noon, and now again, with her and having to chase all over town and having to beg them to let me eat a little of the food I am paying for. Sometimes I think what’s the use of anything. With the precedent I’ve been set I must be crazy to keep on. And now I reckon I’ll get home just in time to take a nice long drive after a basket of tomatoes or something and then have to go back to town smelling like a camphor factory so my head wont explode right on my shoulders. I keep telling her there’s not a damn thing in that aspirin except flour and water for imaginary invalids. I says you dont know what a headache is. I says you think I’d fool with that damn car at all if it depended on me. I says I can get along without one I’ve learned to get along without lots of things but if you want to risk yourself in that old wornout surrey with a halfgrown nigger boy all right because I says God looks after Ben’s kind, God knows He ought to do something for him but if you think I’m going to trust a thousand dollars’ worth of delicate machinery to a halfgrown nigger or a grown one either, you’d better buy him one yourself because I says you like to ride in the car and you know you do.

Dilsey said Mother was in the house. I went on into the hall and listened, but I didn’t hear anything. I went up stairs, but just as I passed her door she called me.

“I just wanted to know who it was,” she says. “I’m here alone so much that I hear every sound.”

“You dont have to stay here,” I says. “You could spend the whole day visiting like other women, if you wanted to.” She came to the door.

“I thought maybe you were sick,” she says. “Having to hurry through your dinner like you did.”

“Better luck next time,” I says. “What do you want?”

“Is anything wrong?” she says.

“What could be?” I says. “Cant I come home in the middle of the afternoon without upsetting the whole house?”

“Have you seen Quentin?” she says.

“She’s in school,” I says.

“It’s after three,” she says. “I heard the clock strike at least a half an hour ago. She ought to be home by now.”

“Ought she?” I says. “When have you ever seen her before dark?”

“She ought to be home,” she says. “When I was a girl . . .”

“You had somebody to make you behave yourself,” I says. “She hasn’t.”

“I can’t do anything with her,” she says. “I’ve tried and I’ve tried.”

“And you wont let me, for some reason,” I says, “So you ought to be satisfied.” I went on to my room. I turned the key easy and stood there until the knob turned. Then she says,


“What,” I says.

“I just thought something was wrong.”

“Not in here,” I says. “You’ve come to the wrong place.”

“I dont mean to worry you,” she says.

“I’m glad to hear that,” I says. “I wasn’t sure. I thought I might have been mistaken. Do you want anything?”

After awhile she says, “No. Not any thing.” Then she went away. I took the box down and counted out the money and hid the box again and unlocked the door and went out. I thought about the camphor, but it would be too late now, anyway. And I’d just have one more round trip. She was at her door, waiting.

“You want anything from town?” I says.

“No,” she says. “I dont mean to meddle in your affairs. But I dont know what I’d do if anything happened to you, Jason.”

“I’m all right,” I says. “Just a headache.”

“I wish you’d take some aspirin,” she says. “I know you’re not going to stop using the car.”

“What’s the car got to do with it?” I says. “How can a car give a man a headache?”

“You know gasoline always made you sick,” she says. “Ever since you were a child. I wish you’d take some aspirin.”

“Keep on wishing it,” I says. “It wont hurt you.”

I got in the car and started back to town. I had just turned onto the street when I saw a ford coming helling toward me. All of a sudden it stopped. I could hear the wheels sliding and it slewed around and backed and whirled and just as I was thinking what the hell they were up to, I saw that red tie. Then I recognised her face looking back through the window. It whirled into the alley. I saw it turn again, but when I got to the back street it was just disappearing, running like hell.

I saw red. When I recognised that red tie, after all I had told her, I forgot about everything. I never thought about my head even until I came to the first forks and had to stop. Yet we spend money and spend money on roads and damn if it isn’t like trying to drive over a sheet of corrugated iron roofing. I’d like to know how a man could be expected to keep up with even a wheelbarrow. I think too much of my car; I’m not going to hammer it to pieces like it was a ford. Chances were they had stolen it, anyway, so why should they give a damn. Like I say blood always tells. If you’ve got blood like that in you, you’ll do anything. I says whatever claim you believe she has on you has already been discharged; I says from now on you have only yourself to blame because you know what any sensible person would do. I says if I’ve got to spend half my time being a damn detective, at least I’ll go where I can get paid for it.

So I had to stop there at the forks. Then I remembered it. It felt like somebody was inside with a hammer, beating on it. I says I’ve tried to keep you from being worried by her; I says far as I’m concerned, let her go to hell as fast as she pleases and the sooner the better. I says what else do you expect except every drummer and cheap show that comes to town because even these town jellybeans give her the go-by now. You dont know what goes on I says, you dont hear the talk that I hear and you can just bet I shut them up too. I says my people owned slaves here when you all were running little shirt tail country stores and farming land no nigger would look at on shares.

If they ever farmed it. It’s a good thing the Lord did something for this country; the folks that live on it never have. Friday afternoon, and from right here I could see three miles of land that hadn’t even been broken, and every able bodied man in the county in town at that show. I might have been a stranger starving to death, and there wasn’t a soul in sight to ask which way to town even. And she trying to get me to take aspirin. I says when I eat bread I’ll do it at the table. I says you always talking about how much you give up for us when you could buy ten new dresses a year on the money you spend for those damn patent medicines. It’s not something to cure it I need it’s just an even break not to have to have them but as long as I have to work ten hours a day to support a kitchen full of niggers in the style they’re accustomed to and send them to the show with every other nigger in the county, only he was late already. By the time he got there it would be over.

After awhile he got up to the car and when I finally got it through his head if two people in a ford had passed him, he said yes. So I went on, and when I came to where the wagon road turned off I could see the tire tracks. Ab Russell was in his lot, but I didn’t bother to ask him and I hadn’t got out of sight of his barn hardly when I saw the ford. They had tried to hide it. Done about as well at it as she did at everything else she did. Like I say it’s not that I object to so much; maybe she cant help that, it’s because she hasn’t even got enough consideration for her own family to have any discretion. I’m afraid all the time I’ll run into them right in the middle of the street or under a wagon on the square, like a couple of dogs.

I parked and got out. And now I’d have to go way around and cross a plowed field, the only one I had seen since I left town, with every step like somebody was walking along behind me, hitting me on the head with a club. I kept thinking that when I got across the field at least I’d have something level to walk on, that wouldn’t jolt me every step, but when I got into the woods it was full of underbrush and I had to twist around through it, and then I came to a ditch full of briers. I went along it for awhile, but it got thicker and thicker, and all the time Earl probably telephoning home about where I was and getting Mother all upset again.

When I finally got through I had had to wind around so much that I had to stop and figure out just where the car would be. I knew they wouldn’t be far from it, just under the closest bush, so I turned and worked back toward the road. Then I couldn’t tell just how far I was, so I’d have to stop and listen, and then with my legs not using so much blood, it all would go into my head like it would explode any minute, and the sun getting down just to where it could shine straight into my eyes and my ears ringing so I couldn’t hear anything. I went on, trying to move quiet, then I heard a dog or something and I knew that when he scented me he’d have to come helling up, then it would be all off.

I had gotten beggar lice and twigs and stuff all over me, inside my clothes and shoes and all, and then I happened to look around and I had my hand right on a bunch of poison oak. The only thing I couldn’t understand was why it was just poison oak and not a snake or something. So I didn’t even bother to move it. I just stood there until the dog went away. Then I went on.

I didn’t have any idea where the car was now. I couldn’t think about anything except my head, and I’d just stand in one place and sort of wonder if I had really seen a ford even, and I didn’t even care much whether I had or not. Like I say, let her lay out all day and all night with everything in town that wears pants, what do I care. I dont owe anything to anybody that has no more consideration for me, that wouldn’t be a damn bit above planting that ford there and making me spend a whole afternoon and Earl taking her back there and showing her the books just because he’s too damn virtuous for this world. I says you’ll have one hell of a time in heaven, without anybody’s business to meddle in only dont you ever let me catch you at it I says, I close my eyes to it because of your grandmother, but just you let me catch you doing it one time on this place, where my mother lives. These damn little slick haired squirts, thinking they are raising so much hell, I’ll show them something about hell I says, and you too. I’ll make him think that damn red tie is the latch string to hell, if he thinks he can run the woods with my niece.

With the sun and all in my eyes and my blood going so I kept thinking every time my head would go on and burst and get it over with, with briers and things grabbing at me, then I came onto the sand ditch where they had been and I recognised the tree where the car was, and just as I got out of the ditch and started running I heard the car start. It went off fast, blowing the horn. They kept on blowing it, like it was saying Yah. Yah. Yaaahhhhhhhh, going out of sight. I got to the road just in time to see it go out of sight.

By the time I got up to where my car was, they were clean out of sight, the horn still blowing. Well, I never thought anything about it except I was saying Run. Run back to town. Run home and try to convince Mother that I never saw you in that car. Try to make her believe that I dont know who he was. Try to make her believe that I didn’t miss ten feet of catching you in that ditch. Try to make her believe you were standing up, too.

It kept on saying Yahhhhh, Yahhhhh, Yaaahhhhhhhhh, getting fainter and fainter. Then it quit, and I could hear a cow lowing up at Russell’s barn. And still I never thought. I went up to the door and opened it and raised my foot. I kind of thought then that the car was leaning a little more than the slant of the road would be, but I never found it out until I got in and started off.

Well, I just sat there. It was getting on toward sundown, and town was about five miles. They never even had guts enough to puncture it, to jab a hole in it. They just let the air out. I just stood there for awhile, thinking about that kitchen full of niggers and not one of them had time to lift a tire onto the rack and screw up a couple of bolts. It was kind of funny because even she couldn’t have seen far enough ahead to take the pump out on purpose, unless she thought about it while he was letting out the air maybe. But what it probably was, was somebody took it out and gave it to Ben to play with for a squirt gun because they’d take the whole car to pieces if he wanted it and Dilsey says, Aint nobody teched yo car. What we want to fool with hit fer? and I says You’re a nigger. You’re lucky, do you know it? I says I’ll swap with you any day because it takes a white man not to have anymore sense than to worry about what a little slut of a girl does.

I walked up to Russell’s. He had a pump. That was just an oversight on their part, I reckon. Only I still couldn’t believe she’d have had the nerve to. I kept thinking that. I dont know why it is I cant seem to learn that a woman’ll do anything. I kept thinking, Let’s forget for awhile how I feel toward you and how you feel toward me: I just wouldn’t do you this way. I wouldn’t do you this way no matter what you had done to me. Because like I say blood is blood and you cant get around it. It’s not playing a joke that any eight year old boy could have thought of, it’s letting your own uncle be laughed at by a man that would wear a red tie. They come into town and call us all a bunch of hicks and think it’s too small to hold them. Well he doesn’t know just how right he is. And her too. If that’s the way she feels about it, she’d better keep right on going and a damn good riddance.

I stopped and returned Russell’s pump and drove on to town. I went to the drugstore and got a coca-cola and then I went to the telegraph office. It had closed at 12.21, forty points down. Forty times five dollars; buy something with that if you can, and she’ll say, I’ve got to have it I’ve just got to and I’ll say that’s too bad you’ll have to try somebody else, I haven’t got any money; I’ve been too busy to make any.

I just looked at him.

“I’ll tell you some news,” I says, “You’ll be astonished to learn that I am interested in the cotton market,” I says. “That never occurred to you, did it?”

“I did my best to deliver it,” he says. “I tried the store twice and called up your house, but they didn’t know where you were,” he says, digging in the drawer.

“Deliver what?” I says. He handed me a telegram. “What time did this come?” I says.

“About half past three,” he says.

“And now it’s ten minutes past five,” I says.

“I tried to deliver it,” he says. “I couldn’t find you.”

“That’s not my fault, is it?” I says. I opened it, just to see what kind of a lie they’d tell me this time. They must be in one hell of a shape if they’ve got to come all the way to Mississippi to steal ten dollars a month. Sell, it says. The market will be unstable, with a general downward tendency. Do not be alarmed following government report.

“How much would a message like this cost?” I says. He told me.

“They paid it,” he says.

“Then I owe them that much,” I says. “I already knew this. Send this collect,” I says, taking a blank. Buy, I wrote, Market just on point of blowing its head off. Occasional flurries for purpose of hooking a few more country suckers who haven’t got in to the telegraph office yet. Do not be alarmed. “Send that collect,” I says.

He looked at the message, then he looked at the clock. “Market closed an hour ago,” he says.

“Well,” I says, “That’s not my fault either. I didn’t invent it; I just bought a little of it while under the impression that the telegraph company would keep me informed as to what it was doing.”

“A report is posted whenever it comes in,” he says.

“Yes,” I says, “And in Memphis they have it on a blackboard every ten seconds,” I says. “I was within sixty-seven miles of there once this afternoon.”

He looked at the message. “You want to send this?” he says.

“I still haven’t changed my mind,” I says. I wrote the other one out and counted the money. “And this one too, if you’re sure you can spell b-u-y.”

I went back to the store. I could hear the band from down the street. Prohibition’s a fine thing. Used to be they’d come in Saturday with just one pair of shoes in the family and him wearing them, and they’d go down to the express office and get his package; now they all go to the show barefooted, with the merchants in the door like a row of tigers or something in a cage, watching them pass. Earl says,

“I hope it wasn’t anything serious.”

“What?” I says. He looked at his watch. Then he went to the door and looked at the courthouse clock. “You ought to have a dollar watch,” I says. “It wont cost you so much to believe it’s lying each time.”

“What?” he says.

“Nothing,” I says. “Hope I haven’t inconvenienced you.”

“We were not busy much,” he says. “They all went to the show. It’s all right.”

“If it’s not all right,” I says, “You know what you can do about it.”

“I said it was all right,” he says.

“I heard you,” I says. “And if it’s not all right, you know what you can do about it.”

“Do you want to quit?” he says.

“It’s not my business,” I says. “My wishes dont matter. But dont get the idea that you are protecting me by keeping me.”

“You’d be a good business man if you’d let yourself, Jason,” he says.

“At least I can tend to my own business and let other peoples’ alone,” I says.

“I dont know why you are trying to make me fire you,” he says. “You know you could quit anytime and there wouldn’t be any hard feelings between us.”

“Maybe that’s why I dont quit,” I says. “As long as I tend to my job, that’s what you are paying me for.” I went on to the back and got a drink of water and went on out to the back door. Job had the cultivators all set up at last. It was quiet there, and pretty soon my head got a little easier. I could hear them singing now, and then the band played again. Well, let them get every quarter and dime in the county; it was no skin off my back. I’ve done what I could; a man that can live as long as I have and not know when to quit is a fool. Especially as it’s no business of mine. If it was my own daughter now it would be different, because she wouldn’t have time to; she’d have to work some to feed a few invalids and idiots and niggers, because how could I have the face to bring anybody there. I’ve too much respect for anybody to do that. I’m a man, I can stand it, it’s my own flesh and blood and I’d like to see the colour of the man’s eyes that would speak disrespectful of any woman that was my friend it’s these damn good women that do it I’d like to see the good, church-going woman that’s half as square as Lorraine, whore or no whore. Like I say if I was to get married you’d go up like a balloon and you know it and she says I want you to be happy to have a family of your own not to slave your life away for us. But I’ll be gone soon and then you can take a wife but you’ll never find a woman who is worthy of you and I says yes I could. You’d get right up out of your grave you know you would. I says no thank you I have all the women I can take care of now if I married a wife she’d probably turn out to be a hophead or something. That’s all we lack in this family, I says.

The sun was down beyond the Methodist church now, and the pigeons were flying back and forth around the steeple, and when the band stopped I could hear them cooing. It hadn’t been four months since Christmas, and yet they were almost as thick as ever. I reckon Parson Walthall was getting a belly full of them now. You’d have thought we were shooting people, with him making speeches and even holding onto a man’s gun when they came over. Talking about peace on earth good will toward all and not a sparrow can fall to earth. But what does he care how thick they get, he hasn’t got anything to do; what does he care what time it is. He pays no taxes, he doesn’t have to see his money going every year to have the courthouse clock cleaned to where it’ll run. They had to pay a man forty-five dollars to clean it. I counted over a hundred half-hatched pigeons on the ground. You’d think they’d have sense enough to leave town. It’s a good thing I dont have any more ties than a pigeon, I’ll say that.

The band was playing again, a loud fast tune, like they were breaking up. I reckon they’d be satisfied now. Maybe they’d have enough music to entertain them while they drove fourteen or fifteen miles home and unharnessed in the dark and fed the stock and milked. All they’d have to do would be to whistle the music and tell the jokes to the live stock in the barn, and then they could count up how much they’d made by not taking the stock to the show too. They could figure that if a man had five children and seven mules, he cleared a quarter by taking his family to the show. Just like that. Earl came back with a couple of packages.

“Here’s some more stuff going out,” he says. “Where’s Uncle Job?”

“Gone to the show, I imagine,” I says. “Unless you watched him.”

“He doesn’t slip off,” he says. “I can depend on him.”

“Meaning me by that,” I says.

He went to the door and looked out, listening.

“That’s a good band,” he says. “It’s about time they were breaking up, I’d say.”

“Unless they’re going to spend the night there,” I says. The swallows had begun, and I could hear the sparrows beginning to swarm in the trees in the courthouse yard. Every once in a while a bunch of them would come swirling around in sight above the roof, then go away. They are as big a nuisance as the pigeons, to my notion. You cant even sit in the courthouse yard for them. First thing you know, bing. Right on your hat. But it would take a millionaire to afford to shoot them at five cents a shot. If they’d just put a little poison out there in the square, they’d get rid of them in a day, because if a merchant cant keep his stock from running around the square, he’d better try to deal in something besides chickens, something that dont eat, like plows or onions. And if a man dont keep his dogs up, he either dont want it or he hasn’t any business with one. Like I say if all the businesses in a town are run like country businesses, you’re going to have a country town.

“It wont do you any good if they have broke up,” I says. “They’ll have to hitch up and take out to get home by midnight as it is.”

“Well,” he says, “They enjoy it. Let them spend a little money on a show now and then. A hill farmer works pretty hard and gets mighty little for it.”

“There’s no law making them farm in the hills,” I says, “Or anywhere else.”

“Where would you and me be, if it wasn’t for the farmers?” he says.

“I’d be home right now,” I says, “Lying down, with an ice pack on my head.”

“You have these headaches too often,” he says. “Why dont you have your teeth examined good? Did he go over them all this morning?”

“Did who?” I says.

“You said you went to the dentist this morning.”

“Do you object to my having the headache on your time?” I says. “Is that it?” They were crossing the alley now, coming up from the show.

“There they come,” he says. “I reckon I better get up front.” He went on. It’s a curious thing how no matter what’s wrong with you, a man’ll tell you to have your teeth examined and a woman’ll tell you to get married. It always takes a man that never made much at any thing to tell you how to run your business, though. Like these college professors without a whole pair of socks to their name, telling you how to make a million in ten years, and a woman that couldn’t even get a husband can always tell you how to raise a family.

Old man Job came up with the wagon. After a while he got through wrapping the lines around the whip socket.

“Well,” I says, “Was it a good show?”

“I aint been yit,” he says. “But I kin be arrested in dat tent tonight, dough.”

“Like hell you haven’t,” I says. “You’ve been away from here since three oclock. Mr Earl was just back here looking for you.”

“I been tendin to my business,” he says. “Mr Earl knows whar I been.”

“You may can fool him,” I says. “I wont tell on you.”

“Den he’s de onliest man here I’d try to fool,” he says. “Whut I want to waste my time foolin a man whut I dont keer whether I sees him Sat’dy night er not? I wont try to fool you,” he says. “You too smart fer me. Yes, suh,” he says, looking busy as hell, putting five or six little packages into the wagon, “You’s too smart fer me. Aint a man in dis town kin keep up wid you fer smartness. You fools a man whut so smart he cant even keep up wid hisself,” he says, getting in the wagon and unwrapping the reins.

“Who’s that?” I says.

“Dat’s Mr Jason Compson,” he says. “Git up dar, Dan!”

One of the wheels was just about to come off. I watched to see if he’d get out of the alley before it did. Just turn any vehicle over to a nigger, though. I says that old rattletrap’s just an eyesore, yet you’ll keep it standing there in the carriage house a hundred years just so that boy can ride to the cemetery once a week. I says he’s not the first fellow that’ll have to do things he doesn’t want to. I’d make him ride in that car like a civilised man or stay at home. What does he know about where he goes or what he goes in, and us keeping a carriage and a horse so he can take a ride on Sunday afternoon.

A lot Job cared whether the wheel came off or not, long as he wouldn’t have too far to walk back. Like I say the only place for them is in the field, where they’d have to work from sunup to sundown. They cant stand prosperity or an easy job. Let one stay around white people for a while and he’s not worth killing. They get so they can outguess you about work before your very eyes, like Roskus the only mistake he ever made was he got careless one day and died. Shirking and stealing and giving you a little more lip and a little more lip until some day you have to lay them out with a scantling or something. Well, it’s Earl’s business. But I’d hate to have my business advertised over this town by an old doddering nigger and a wagon that you thought every time it turned a corner it would come all to pieces.

The sun was all high up in the air now, and inside it was beginning to get dark. I went up front. The square was empty. Earl was back closing the safe, and then the clock begun to strike.

“You lock the back door,” he says. I went back and locked it and came back. “I suppose you’re going to the show tonight,” he says. “I gave you those passes yesterday, didn’t I?”

“Yes,” I said. “You want them back?”

“No, no,” he says, “I just forgot whether I gave them to you or not. No sense in wasting them.”

He locked the door and said Goodnight and went on. The sparrows were still rattling away in the trees, but the square was empty except for a few cars. There was a ford in front of the drugstore, but I didn’t even look at it. I know when I’ve had enough of anything. I dont mind trying to help her, but I know when I’ve had enough. I guess I could teach Luster to drive it, then they could chase her all day long if they wanted to, and I could stay home and play with Ben.

I went in and got a couple of cigars. Then I thought I’d have another headache shot for luck, and I stood and talked with them awhile.

“Well,” Mac says, “I reckon you’ve got your money on the Yankees this year.”

“What for?” I says.

“The Pennant,” he says. “Not anything in the League can beat them.”

“Like hell there’s not,” I says. “They’re shot,” I says. “You think a team can be that lucky forever?”

“I dont call it luck,” Mac says.

“I wouldn’t bet on any team that fellow Ruth played on,” I says. “Even if I knew it was going to win.”

“Yes?” Mac says.

“I can name you a dozen men in either League who’re more valuable than he is,” I says.

“What have you got against Ruth?” Mac says.

“Nothing,” I says. “I haven’t got any thing against him. I dont even like to look at his picture.” I went on out. The lights were coming on, and people going along the streets toward home. Sometimes the sparrows never got still until full dark. The night they turned on the new lights around the courthouse it waked them up and they were flying around and blundering into the lights all night long. They kept it up two or three nights, then one morning they were all gone. Then after about two months they all came back again.

I drove on home. There were no lights in the house yet, but they’d all be looking out the windows, and Dilsey jawing away in the kitchen like it was her own food she was having to keep hot until I got there. You’d think to hear her that there wasn’t but one supper in the world, and that was the one she had to keep back a few minutes on my account. Well at least I could come home one time without finding Ben and that nigger hanging on the gate like a bear and a monkey in the same cage. Just let it come toward sundown and he’d head for the gate like a cow for the barn, hanging onto it and bobbing his head and sort of moaning to himself. That’s a hog for punishment for you. If what had happened to him for fooling with open gates had happened to me, I never would want to see another one. I often wondered what he’d be thinking about, down there at the gate, watching the girls going home from school, trying to want something he couldn’t even remember he didn’t and couldn’t want any longer. And what he’d think when they’d be undressing him and he’d happen to take a look at himself and begin to cry like he’d do. But like I say they never did enough of that. I says I know what you need, you need what they did to Ben then you’d behave. And if you dont know what that was I says, ask Dilsey to tell you.

There was a light in Mother’s room. I put the car up and went on into the kitchen. Luster and Ben were there.

“Where’s Dilsey?” I says. “Putting supper on?”

“She upstairs wid Miss Cahline,” Luster says. “Dey been goin hit. Ever since Miss Quentin come home. Mammy up there keepin um fum fightin. Is dat show come, Mr Jason?”

“Yes,” I says.

“I thought I heard de band,” he says. “Wish I could go,” he says. “I could ef I jes had a quarter.”

Dilsey came in. “You come, is you?” she says. “Whut you been up to dis evenin? You knows how much work I got to do; whyn’t you git here on time?”

“Maybe I went to the show,” I says. “Is supper ready?”

“Wish I could go,” Luster said. “I could ef I jes had a quarter.”

“You aint got no business at no show,” Dilsey says. “You go on in de house and set down,” she says. “Dont you go up stairs and git um started again, now.”

“What’s the matter?” I says.

“Quentin come in a while ago and says you been follerin her around all evenin and den Miss Cahline jumped on her. Whyn’t you let her alone? Cant you live in de same house wid you own blood niece widout quoilin?”

“I cant quarrel with her,” I says, “because I haven’t seen her since this morning. What does she say I’ve done now? made her go to school? That’s pretty bad,” I says.

“Well, you tend to yo business and let her alone,” Dilsey says, “I’ll take keer of her ef you’n Miss Cahline’ll let me. Go on in dar now and behave yoself twell I get supper on.”

“Ef I jes had a quarter,” Luster says, “I could go to dat show.”

“En ef you had wings you could fly to heaven,” Dilsey says. “I dont want to hear another word about dat show.”

“That reminds me,” I says, “I’ve got a couple of tickets they gave me.” I took them out of my coat.

“You fixin to use um?” Luster says.

“Not me,” I says. “I wouldn’t go to it for ten dollars.”

“Gimme one of um, Mr Jason,” he says.

“I’ll sell you one,” I says. “How about it?”

“I aint got no money,” he says.

“That’s too bad,” I says. I made to go out.

“Gimme one of um, Mr Jason,” he says. “You aint gwine need um bofe.”

“Hush yo mouf,” Dilsey says, “Dont you know he aint gwine give nothing away?”

“How much you want fer hit?” he says.

“Five cents,” I says.

“I aint got dat much,” he says.

“How much you got?” I says.

“I aint got nothing,” he says.

“All right,” I says. I went on.

“Mr Jason,” he says.

“Whyn’t you hush up?” Dilsey says. “He jes teasin you. He fixin to use dem tickets hisself. Go on, Jason, and let him lone.”

“I dont want them,” I says. I came back to the stove. “I came in here to burn them up. But if you want to buy one for a nickel?” I says, looking at him and opening the stove lid.

“I aint got dat much,” he says.

“All right,” I says. I dropped one of them in the stove.

“You, Jason,” Dilsey says, “Aint you shamed?”

“Mr Jason,” he says, “Please, suh. I’ll fix dem tires ev’ry day fer a mont’.”

“I need the cash,” I says. “You can have it for a nickel.”

“Hush, Luster,” Dilsey says. She jerked him back. “Go on,” she says, “Drop hit in. Go on. Git hit over with.”

“You can have it for a nickel,” I says.

“Go on,” Dilsey says. “He aint got no nickel. Go on. Drop hit in.”

“All right,” I says. I dropped it in and Dilsey shut the stove.

“A big growed man like you,” she says. “Git on outen my kitchen. Hush,” she says to Luster. “Dont you git Benjy started. I’ll git you a quarter fum Frony tonight and you kin go tomorrow night. Hush up, now.”

I went on into the living room. I couldn’t hear anything from upstairs. I opened the paper. After awhile Ben and Luster came in. Ben went to the dark place on the wall where the mirror used to be, rubbing his hands on it and slobbering and moaning. Luster begun punching at the fire.

“What’re you doing?” I says. “We dont need any fire tonight.”

“I trying to keep him quiet,” he says. “Hit always cold Easter,” he says.

“Only this is not Easter,” I says. “Let it alone.”

He put the poker back and got the cushion out of Mother’s chair and gave it to Ben, and he hunkered down in front of the fireplace and got quiet.

I read the paper. There hadn’t been a sound from upstairs when Dilsey came in and sent Ben and Luster on to the kitchen and said supper was ready.

“All right,” I says. She went out. I sat there, reading the paper. After a while I heard Dilsey looking in at the door.

“Whyn’t you come on and eat?” she says.

“I’m waiting for supper,” I says.

“Hit’s on the table,” she says. “I done told you.”

“Is it?” I says. “Excuse me. I didn’t hear anybody come down.”

“They aint comin,” she says. “You come on and eat, so I can take something up to them.”

“Are they sick?” I says. “What did the doctor say it was? Not Smallpox, I hope.”

“Come on here, Jason,” she says, “So I kin git done.”

“All right,” I says, raising the paper again. “I’m waiting for supper now.”

I could feel her watching me at the door. I read the paper.

“Whut you want to act like this fer?” she says. “When you knows how much bother I has anyway.”

“If Mother is any sicker than she was when she came down to dinner, all right,” I says. “But as long as I am buying food for people younger than I am, they’ll have to come down to the table to eat it. Let me know when supper’s ready,” I says, reading the paper again. I heard her climbing the stairs, dragging her feet and grunting and groaning like they were straight up and three feet apart. I heard her at Mother’s door, then I heard her calling Quentin, like the door was locked, then she went back to Mother’s room and then Mother went and talked to Quentin. Then they came down stairs. I read the paper.

Dilsey came back to the door. “Come on,” she says, “fo you kin think up some mo devilment. You just tryin yoself tonight.”

I went to the diningroom. Quentin was sitting with her head bent. She had painted her face again. Her nose looked like a porcelain insulator.

“I’m glad you feel well enough to come down,” I says to Mother.

“It’s little enough I can do for you, to come to the table,” she says. “No matter how I feel. I realise that when a man works all day he likes to be surrounded by his family at the supper table. I want to please you. I only wish you and Quentin got along better. It would be easier for me.”

“We get along all right,” I says. “I dont mind her staying locked up in her room all day if she wants to. But I cant have all this whoop-de-do and sulking at mealtimes. I know that’s a lot to ask her, but I’m that way in my own house. Your house, I meant to say.”

“It’s yours,” Mother says, “You are the head of it now.”

Quentin hadn’t looked up. I helped the plates and she begun to eat.

“Did you get a good piece of meat?” I says. “If you didn’t, I’ll try to find you a better one.”

She didn’t say anything.

“I say, did you get a good piece of meat?” I says.

“What?” she says. “Yes. It’s all right.”

“Will you have some more rice?” I says.

“No,” she says.

“Better let me give you some more,” I says.

“I dont want any more,” she says.

“Not at all,” I says, “You’re welcome.”

“Is your headache gone?” Mother says.

“Headache?” I says.

“I was afraid you were developing one,” she says. “When you came in this afternoon.”

“Oh,” I says. “No, it didn’t show up. We stayed so busy this afternoon I forgot about it.”

“Was that why you were late?” Mother says. I could see Quentin listening. I looked at her. Her knife and fork were still going, but I caught her looking at me, then she looked at her plate again. I says,

“No. I loaned my car to a fellow about three o’clock and I had to wait until he got back with it.” I ate for a while.

“Who was it?” Mother says.

“It was one of those show men,” I says. “It seems his sister’s husband was out riding with some town woman, and he was chasing them.”

Quentin sat perfectly still, chewing.

“You ought not to lend your car to people like that,” Mother says. “You are too generous with it. That’s why I never call on you for it if I can help it.”

“I was beginning to think that myself, for awhile,” I says. “But he got back, all right. He says he found what he was looking for.”

“Who was the woman?” Mother says.

“I’ll tell you later,” I says. “I dont like to talk about such things before Quentin.”

Quentin had quit eating. Every once in a while she’d take a drink of water, then she’d sit there crumbling a biscuit up, her face bent over her plate.

“Yes,” Mother says, “I suppose women who stay shut up like I do have no idea what goes on in this town.”

“Yes,” I says, “They dont.”

“My life has been so different from that,” Mother says. “Thank God I dont know about such wickedness. I dont even want to know about it. I’m not like most people.”

I didn’t say any more. Quentin sat there, crumbling the biscuit until I quit eating, then she says,

“Can I go now?” without looking at anybody.

“What?” I says. “Sure, you can go. Were you waiting on us?”

She looked at me. She had crumbled all the biscuit, but her hands still went on like they were crumbling it yet and her eyes looked like they were cornered or something and then she started biting her mouth like it ought to have poisoned her, with all that red lead.

“Grandmother,” she says, “Grandmother—”

“Did you want something else to eat?” I says.

“Why does he treat me like this, Grandmother?” she says. “I never hurt him.”

“I want you all to get along with one another,” Mother says, “You are all that’s left now, and I do want you all to get along better.”

“It’s his fault,” she says, “He wont let me alone, and I have to. If he doesn’t want me here, why wont he let me go back to—”

“That’s enough,” I says, “Not another word.”

“Then why wont he let me alone?” she says. “He—he just—”

“He is the nearest thing to a father you’ve ever had,” Mother says. “It’s his bread you and I eat. It’s only right that he should expect obedience from you.”

“It’s his fault,” she says. She jumped up. “He makes me do it. If he would just—” she looked at us, her eyes cornered, kind of jerking her arms against her sides.

“If I would just what?” I says.

“Whatever I do, it’s your fault,” she says. “If I’m bad, it’s because I had to be. You made me. I wish I was dead. I wish we were all dead.” Then she ran. We heard her run up the stairs. Then a door slammed.

“That’s the first sensible thing she ever said,” I says.

“She didn’t go to school today,” Mother says.

“How do you know?” I says. “Were you down town?”

“I just know,” she says. “I wish you could be kinder to her.”

“If I did that I’d have to arrange to see her more than once a day,” I says. “You’ll have to make her come to the table every meal. Then I could give her an extra piece of meat every time.”

“There are little things you could do,” she says.

“Like not paying any attention when you ask me to see that she goes to school?” I says.

“She didn’t go to school today,” she says. “I just know she didn’t. She says she went for a car ride with one of the boys this afternoon and you followed her.”

“How could I,” I says, “When somebody had my car all afternoon? Whether or not she was in school today is already past,” I says, “If you’ve got to worry about it, worry about next Monday.”

“I wanted you and she to get along with one another,” she says. “But she has inherited all of the headstrong traits. Quentin’s too. I thought at the time, with the heritage she would already have, to give her that name, too. Sometimes I think she is the judgment of Caddy and Quentin upon me.”

“Good Lord,” I says, “You’ve got a fine mind. No wonder you kept yourself sick all the time.”

“What?” she says. “I dont understand.”

“I hope not,” I says. “A good woman misses a lot she’s better off without knowing.”

“They were both that way,” she says, “They would make interest with your father against me when I tried to correct them. He was always saying they didn’t need controlling, that they already knew what cleanliness and honesty were, which was all that anyone could hope to be taught. And now I hope he’s satisfied.”

“You’ve got Ben to depend on,” I says, “Cheer up.”

“They deliberately shut me out of their lives,” she says, “It was always her and Quentin. They were always conspiring against me. Against you too, though you were too young to realise it. They always looked on you and me as outsiders, like they did your Uncle Maury. I always told your father that they were allowed too much freedom, to be together too much. When Quentin started to school we had to let her go the next year, so she could be with him. She couldn’t bear for any of you to do anything she couldn’t. It was vanity in her, vanity and false pride. And then when her troubles began I knew that Quentin would feel that he had to do something just as bad. But I didn’t believe that he would have been so selfish as to—I didn’t dream that he—”

“Maybe he knew it was going to be a girl,” I says, “And that one more of them would be more than he could stand.”

“He could have controlled her,” she says. “He seemed to be the only person she had any consideration for. But that is a part of the judgment too, I suppose.”

“Yes,” I says, “Too bad it wasn’t me instead of him. You’d be a lot better off.”

“You say things like that to hurt me,” she says. “I deserve it though. When they began to sell the land to send Quentin to Harvard I told your father that he must make an equal provision for you. Then when Herbert offered to take you into the bank I said, Jason is provided for now, and when all the expense began to pile up and I was forced to sell our furniture and the rest of the pasture, I wrote her at once because I said she will realise that she and Quentin have had their share and part of Jason’s too and that it depends on her now to compensate him. I said she will do that out of respect for her father. I believed that, then. But I’m just a poor old woman; I was raised to believe that people would deny themselves for their own flesh and blood. It’s my fault. You were right to reproach me.”

“Do you think I need any man’s help to stand on my feet?” I says, “Let alone a woman that cant name the father of her own child.”

“Jason,” she says.

“All right,” I says. “I didn’t mean that. Of course not.”

“If I believed that were possible, after all my suffering.”

“Of course it’s not,” I says. “I didn’t mean it.”

“I hope that at least is spared me,” she says.

“Sure it is,” I says, “She’s too much like both of them to doubt that.”

“I couldn’t bear that,” she says.

“Then quit thinking about it,” I says. “Has she been worrying you any more about getting out at night?”

“No. I made her realise that it was for her own good and that she’d thank me for it some day. She takes her books with her and studies after I lock the door. I see the light on as late as eleven oclock some nights.”

“How do you know she’s studying?” I says.

“I don’t know what else she’d do in there alone,” she says. “She never did read any.”

“No,” I says, “You wouldn’t know. And you can thank your stars for that,” I says. Only what would be the use in saying it aloud. It would just have her crying on me again.

I heard her go up stairs. Then she called Quentin and Quentin says What? through the door. “Goodnight,” Mother says. Then I heard the key in the lock, and Mother went back to her room.

When I finished my cigar and went up, the light was still on. I could see the empty keyhole, but I couldn’t hear a sound. She studied quiet. Maybe she learned that in school. I told Mother goodnight and went on to my room and got the box out and counted it again. I could hear the Great American Gelding snoring away like a planing mill. I read somewhere they’d fix men that way to give them women’s voices. But maybe he didn’t know what they’d done to him. I dont reckon he even knew what he had been trying to do, or why Mr Burgess knocked him out with the fence picket. And if they’d just sent him on to Jackson while he was under the ether, he’d never have known the difference. But that would have been too simple for a Compson to think of. Not half complex enough. Having to wait to do it at all until he broke out and tried to run a little girl down on the street with her own father looking at him. Well, like I say they never started soon enough with their cutting, and they quit too quick. I know at least two more that needed something like that, and one of them not over a mile away, either. But then I dont reckon even that would do any good. Like I say once a bitch always a bitch. And just let me have twenty-four hours without any damn New York jew to advise me what it’s going to do. I dont want to make a killing; save that to suck in the smart gamblers with. I just want an even chance to get my money back. And once I’ve done that they can bring all Beale Street and all bedlam in here and two of them can sleep in my bed and another one can have my place at the table too.