Chapter 11

    FINALLY HE EVEN GOT up and went to one of the front windows looking down into the Square because if Monday was stock-auction and trade day then Saturday was certainly radio and automobile day; on Monday they were mostly men and they drove in and parked the cars and trucks around the Square and went straight to the sales barns and stayed there until time to e back to the Square and eat dinner and then went back to the sales barns and stayed there until time to e and get in the cars and trucks and drive home before full dark. But not Saturday; they were men and women and children too then and the old people and the babies and the young couples to buy the licenses for the weddings in the country churches tomorrow, e in to do a weeks shopping for staples and delicacies like bananas and twenty-five-cent sardines and machine-made cakes and pies and clothes and stockings and feed and fertilizer and plow-gear: which didnt take long for any of them and no time at all for some of them so that some of the cars never really became permanently stationary at all and within an hour or so many of the others had joined them moving steadily processional and quite often in second gear because of their own density round and round the Square then out to the end of the tree-dense residential streets to turn and e back and circle round and round the Square again as if they had e all the way in from the distant circumambient settlements and crossroads stores and isolate farms for that one purpose of enjoying the populous ing and going and motion and recognising one another and the zephyr-like smoothness of the paved streets and alleys themselves as well as looking at the neat new painted small houses among their minute neat yards and flowerbeds and garden ornaments which in the last few years had e to line them as dense as sardines or bananas; as a result of which the radios had to play louder than ever through their supercharged amplifiers to be heard above the mutter of exhausts and swish of tires and the grind of gears and the constant horns, so that long before you even reached the Square you not only couldnt tell where one began and another left off but you didnt even have to try to distinguish what any of them were playing or trying to sell you.

    But this one seemed to be even a Saturday among Saturdays so that presently his uncle had got up from behind the table and e to the other window too, which was why they happened to see Lucas before he reached the office though that was not yet; he was still standing (so he thought) alone at the window looking down into the Square thronged and jammed as he couldnt remember it before-the bright sunny almost hot air heavy with the smell of blooming locust from the courthouse yard, the sidewalks dense and massed and slow with people black and white e in to town today as if by concert to collect at pound and so discharge not merely from balance but from remembering too that other Saturday only seven days ago of which they had been despoiled by an old Negro man who had got himself into the position where they had had to believe he had murdered a white man-that Saturday and Sunday and Monday only a week past yet which might never have been since nothing of them remained: Vinson and his brother Crawford (in his suicides grave and strangers would be asking for weeks yet what sort of jail and sheriff Yoknapatawpha County had where a man locked in it for murder could still get hold of a Luger pistol even if it didnt have but one bullet in it and for that many weeks nobody in Yoknapatawpha County would still be able to tell him) side by side near their mothers headstone in Caledonia churchyard and Jake Montgomery over in Crossman County where somebody probably claimed him too for the same reason somebody did Crawford and Miss Habersham sitting in her own hall now mending the stockings until time to feed the chickens and Aleck Sander down there on the Square in a flash Saturday shirt and a pair of zoot pants and a handful of peanuts or bananas too and he standing at the window watching the dense unhurried unhurryable throng and the busy almost ubiquitous flash and gleam on Willy Ingrums cap-badge but mostly and above all the motion and the noise, the radios and the automobiles-the jukeboxes in the drugstore and the poolball and the cafe and the bellowing amplifiers on the outside walls not only of the record-and-sheet music store but the army-and-navy supply store and both feed stores and (that they might falter) somebody standing on a bench in the courthouse yard making a speech in to another one with a muzzle like a siege gun bolted to the top of an automobile, not to mention the ones which would be running in the apartments and the homes where the housewives and the maids made up the beds and swept and prepared to cook dinner so that nowhere inside the towns uttermost ultimate corporate rim should man woman or child citizen or guest or stranger be threatened with one second of silence; and the automobiles because explicitly speaking he couldnt see the Square at all: only the dense impenetrable mass of tops and hoods moving in double line at a snails crawl around the Square in a sharp invisible aura of carbon monoxide and blatting horns and a light intermittent clashing of bumpers, creeping slowly one by one into the streets leading away from the Square while the other opposite line crept as slowly one by one into it; so dense and slow dowelled into one interlocked mosaic so infinitesimal of movement as to be scarcely worthy of the word that you could have crossed the Square walking on them-or even out to the edge of town for that matter or even on a horse for that matter. Highboy for instance to whom the five- or six-foot jump from one top across the intervening hood to the next top would have been nothing or say the more or less motionless tops were laid with one smooth continuous surface of planks like a bridge and not Highboy but a gaited horse or a horse with one gait: a hard-driving rack seven feet in the air like a bird and travelling fast as a hawk or an eagle: with a feeling in the pit of his stomach as if a whole bottle of hot sodapop had exploded in it thinking of the gallant the splendid the really magnificent noise a horse would make racking in any direction on a loose plank bridge two miles long when suddenly his uncle at the other window said,

    The American really loves nothing but his automobile: not his wife his child nor his country nor even his bank-account first (in fact he doesnt really love that bank-account nearly as much as foreigners like to think because he will spend almost any or all of it for almost anything providing it is valueless enough) but his motorcar. Because the automobile has bee our national sex symbol. We cannot really enjoy anything unless we can go up an alley for it. Yet our whole background and raising and training forbids the sub-rosa and surreptitious. So we have to divorce our wife today in order to remove from our mistress the odium of mistress in order to divorce our wife tomorrow in order to remove from our mistress and so on. As a result of which the American woman has bee cold and undersexed; she has projected her libido onto the automobile not only because its glitter and gadgets and mobility pander to her vanity and incapacity (because of the dress decreed upon her by the national retailers association) to walk but because it will not maul her and tousle her, get her all sweaty and disarrranged. So in order to capture and master anything at all of her anymore the American man has got to make that car his own. Which is why let him live in a rented rathole though he must he will not only own one but renew it each year in pristine virginity, lending it to no one, letting no other hand ever know the last secret forever chaste forever wanton intimacy of its pedals and levers, having nowhere to go in it himself and even if he did he would not go where scratch or blemish might deface it, spending all Sunday morning washing and polishing and waxing it because in doing that he is caressing the body of the woman who has long since now denied him her bed.

    Thats not true, he said.

    I am fifty-plus years old, his uncle said. I spent the middle fifteen of them fumbling beneath skirts. My experience was that few of them were interested in love or sex either. They wanted to be married.

    I still dont believe it, he said.

    Thats right, his uncle said. Dont. And even when you are fifty and plus, still refuse to believe it. And that was when they saw Lucas crossing the Square, probably at the same time-the cocked hat and the thin fierce glint of the tilted gold toothpick and he said,

    Where do you suppose it was all the time? I never did see it. Surely he had it with him that afternoon, a Saturday when he was not only wearing that black suit but he even had the pistol? Surely he never left home without the toothpick too.

    Didnt I tell you? his uncle said. That was the first thing he did when Mr. Hampton walked into Skipworths house where Skipworth had Lucas handcuffed to the bedpost-gave Hampton the toothpick and told him to keep it until he called for it.

    Oh, he said. Hes ing up here.

    Yes, his uncle said. To gloat. Oh, he said quickly, hes a gentleman; he wont remind me to my face that I was wrong; hes just going to ask me how much he owes me as his lawyer.

    Then in his chair beside the water cooler and his uncle once more behind the table they heard the long airy rumble and creak of the stairs then Lucas feet steadily though with no haste and Lucas came tieless and even collarless this time except for the button but with an old-time white waistcoat not soiled so much as stained under the black coat and the worn gold loop of the watch-chain-the same face which he had seen for the first time when he climbed dripping up out of the icy creek that morning four years ago, unchanged, to which nothing had happened since not even age-in the act of putting the toothpick into one of the upper waistcoat pockets as he came through the door, saying generally,

    Gentle-men, and then to him: Young man- courteous and intractable, more than bland: downright cheerful almost, removing the raked swagger of the hat: You aint fell in no more creeks lately, have you?

    Thats right, he said. Im saving that until you get some more ice on yours.

    Youll be wele without waiting for a freeze, Lucas said.

    Have a seat, Lucas, his uncle said but he had already begun to, taking the same hard chair beside the door which nobody else but Miss Habersham had ever chosen, a little akimbo as though he were posing for a camera, the hat laid crownup back across his forearm, looking at both of them still and saying again,


    You didnt e here for me to tell you what to do so Im going to tell you anyway, his uncle said.

    Lucas blinked rapidly once. He looked at his uncle. I cant say I did. Then he said cheerily: But Im always ready to listen to good advice.

    Go and see Miss Habersham, his uncle said.

    Lucas looked at his uncle. He blinked twice this time. I aint much of a visiting man, he said.

    You were not much of a hanging man either, his uncle said. But you dont need me to tell you how close you came.

    No, Lucas said. I dont reckon I do. What do you want me to tell her?

    You cant, his uncle said. You dont know how to say thank you. Ive got that fixed too. Take her some flowers.

    Flowers? Lucas said. I aint had no flowers to speak of since Molly died.

    And that too, his uncle said. Ill telephone home. My sisterll have a bunch ready. Chickll drive you up in my car to get them and then take you out to Miss Habershams gate.

    Nemmine that, Lucas said. Once I got the flowers I can walk.

    And you can throw the flowers away too, his uncle said. But I know you wont do one and I dont think youll do the other in the car with Chick.

    Well, Lucas said. If wont nothing else satisfy you- (And when he got back to town and finally found a place three blocks away to park the car and mounted the stairs again his uncle was striking the match, holding it to the pipe and speaking through with into the smoke: You and Booker T. Washington, no thats wrong, you and Miss Habersham and Aleck Sander and Sheriff Hampton, and Booker T. Washington because he did only what everybody expected of him so there was no real reason why he should have while you all did not only what nobody expected you to but all Jefferson and Yoknapatawpha County would have risen in active concord for once to prevent you if they had known in time and even a year from now some (when and if they do at all) will remember with disapproval and distaste not that you were ghouls nor that you defied your color because they would have passed either singly but that you violated a white grave to save a nigger so you had every reason why you should have. Just dont stop: and he:

    You dont think that just because its Saturday afternoon again somebody is hiding behind Miss Habershams jasmine bush with a pistol aimed at her waiting for Lucas to walk up to the front steps. Besides Lucas didnt have his pistol today and besides that Crawford Gowrie- and his uncle:

    Why not, whats out yonder in the ground at Caledonia Church was Crawford Gowrie for only a second or two last Saturday and Lucas Beauchamp will be carrying his pigment into ten thousand situations a wiser man would have avoided and a lighter escaped ten thousand times after what was Lucas Beauchamp for a second or so last Saturday is in the ground at his Caledonia Church too, because that Yoknapatawpha County which would have stopped you and Aleck Sander and Miss Habersham last Sunday night are right actually, Lucas life the breathing and eating and sleeping is of no importance just as yours and mine are not but his unchallengeable right to it in peace and security and in fact this earth would be much more fortable with a good deal fewer Beauchamps and Stevenses and Mallisons of all colors in it if there were only some painless way to efface not the clumsy room-devouring carcasses which can be done but the memory which cannot-that inevictible immortal memory awareness of having once been alive which exists forever still ten thousand years afterward in ten thousand recollections of injustice and suffering, too many of us not because of the room we take up but because we are willing to sell liberty short at any tawdry price for the sake of what we call our own which is a constitutional statutory license to pursue each his private postulate of happiness and contentment regardless of grief and cost even to the crucifixion of someone whose nose or pigment we dont like and even these can be coped with provided that few of others who believe that a human life is valuable simply because it has a right to keep on breathing no matter what pigment its lungs distend or nose inhales the air and are willing to defend that right at any price, it doesnt take many three were enough last Sunday night even one can be enough and with enough ones willing to be more than grieved and shamed Lucas will no longer run the risk of needing without warning to be saved: and he:

    Maybe not three the other night. One and two halves would be nearer right: and his uncle:

    I said its all right to be proud. Its all right even to boast. Just dont stop-and came to the table and laid the hat on it and took from the inside coat pocket a leather snap-purse patina-ed like old silver and almost as big as Miss Habershams handbag and said,

    I believe you got a little bill against me.

    What for? his uncle said.

    For representing my case, Lucas said. Name whatever your fee is within reason. I want to pay it.

    Not me, his uncle said. I didnt do anything.

    I sent for you, Lucas said. I authorised you. How much do I owe you?

    Nothing, his uncle said. Because I didnt believe you. That boy there is the reason youre walking around today.

    Now Lucas looked at him, holding the purse in one hand and the other hand poised to unsnap it-the same face to which it was not that nothing had happened but which had simply refused to accept it; now he opened the purse. All right. Ill pay him.

    And Ill have you both arrested, his uncle said, you for corrupting a minor and him for practising law without a license.

    Lucas looked back to his uncle; he watched them staring at one another. Then once more Lucas blinked twice. All right, he said. Ill pay the expenses then. Name your expenses at anything within reason and lets get this thing settled.

    Expenses? his uncle said. Yes, I had an expense sitting here last Tuesday trying to write down all the different things you finally told me in such a way that Mr. Hampton could get enough sense out of it to discharge you from the jail and so the more I tried it the worse it got and the worse it got the worse I got until when I came to again my fountain pen was sticking up on its point in the floor down here like an arrow. Of course the paper belongs to the county but the fountain pen was mine and it cost me two dollars to have a new point put in it. You owe me two dollars.

    Two dollars? Lucas said. He blinked twice again. Then he blinked twice again. Just two dollars? Now he just blinked once, then he did something with his breath: not a sigh, simply a discharge of it, putting his first two fingers into the purse: That dont sound like much to me but then Im a farming man and youre a lawing man and whether you know your business or not I reckon it aint none of my red wagon as the music box says to try to learn you different: and drew from the purse a worn bill crumpled into a ball not much larger than a shriveled olive and opened it enough to read it then opened it out and laid it on the desk and from the purse took a half dollar and laid it on the desk and then counted onto the desk from the purse one by one four dimes and two nickels and then counted them again with his forefinger, moving them one by one about half an inch, his lips moving under the moustache, the purse still open in the other hand, then he picked up two of the dimes and a nickel and put them into the hand holding the open purse and took from the purse a quarter and put it on the desk and looked down at the coins for a rapid second then put the two dimes and the nickel back on the desk and took up the half dollar and put it back into the purse.

    That aint but six bits, his uncle said.

    Nemmine that, Lucas said and took up the quarter and dropped it back into the purse and closed it and watching Lucas he realised that the purse had at least two different partments and maybe more, a second almost elbow-deep section opening beneath Lucas fingers and for a time Lucas stood looking down into it exactly as you would look down at your reflection in a well then took from that partment a knotted soiled cloth tobacco sack bulging and solid looking which struck on the desk top with a dull thick chink.

    That makes it out, he said. Four bits in pennies. I was aiming to take them to the bank but you can save me the trip. You want to count um?

    Yes, his uncle said. But youre the one paying the money. Youre the one to count them.

    Its fifty of them, Lucas said.

    This is business, his uncle said. So Lucas unknotted the sack and dumped the pennies out on the desk and counted them one by one moving each one with his forefinger into the first small mass of dimes and nickels, counting aloud, then snapped the purse shut and put it back inside his coat and with the other hand shoved the whole mass of coins and the crumpled bill across the table until the desk blotter stopped them and took a bandana handkerchief from the side pocket of the coat and wiped his hands and put the handkerchief back and stood again intractable and calm and not looking at either of them now while the fixed blaring of the radios and the blatting creep of the automobile horns and all the rest of the whole Countys Saturday uproar came up on the bright afternoon.

    Now what? his uncle said. What are you waiting for now?

    My receipt, Lucas said.

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