the horse out by its head. In the glare its eyes roll with soft, fleet, wild
opaline fire; its muscles bunch and run as it flings its head about, lifting
Jewel clear of the ground. He drags it on, slowly, terrifically; again he gives
me across his shoulder a single glare furious and brief. Even when they are
clear of the barn the horse continues to fight and lash backward toward the
doorway until Gillespie passes me, stark-naked, his nightshirt wrapped about the
mule's head, and beats the maddened horse on out of the door.
Jewel returns, running; again he looks down at file coffin. But he comes
on. "Where's cow?" he cries, passing me. I follow him. In the stall Mack is
struggling with the other mule. When its head turns into the glare I can see the
wild rolling of its eye too, but it makes no sound. It just stands there,
watching Mack over its shoulder, swinging its hind quarters toward him whenever
he approaches. He looks back at us, his eyes and mouth three round holes in his
face on which the freckles look like english peas on a plate. His voice is thin,
"I cant do nothing ..." It is as though the sound had been swept from his
lips and up and away, speaking back to us from an immense distance of
exhaustion. Jewel slides past us; the mule whirls and lashes out, but he has
already gained its head. I lean to Mack's ear:
"Nightshirt. Around his head."
Mack stares at me. Then he rips the nightshirt off and flings it over the
mule's head, and it becomes docile at once. Jewel is yelling at him: "Cow? Cow?"
"Back," Mack cries. "Last stall."
The cow watches us as we enter. She is backed into the corner, head
lowered, still chewing though rapidly. But she makes no move. Jewel has paused,
looking up, and suddenly we watch the entire floor to the loft dissolve. It just
turns to fire; a faint litter of sparks rains down. He glances about. Back under
the trough is a three legged milking stool. He catches it up and swings it into
the planking of the rear wall. He splinters a plank, then another, a third; we
tear the fragments away. While we are stooping at the opening something charges
into us from behind. It is the cow; with a single whistling breath she rushes
between us and through the gap and into the outer glare, her tail erect and
rigid as a broom nailed upright to the end of her spine.
Jewel turns back into the barn. "Here," I say; "Jewel!" I grasp at him; he
strikes my hand down. "You fool," I say, "dont you see you cant make it hack
yonder?" The hallway looks like a searchlight turned into rain. "Come on," I
say, "around this way."
When we are through the gap he begins to run. "Jewel," I say, running. He
darts around the corner. When I reach it he has almost reached the next one,
running against the glare like that figure cut from tin. Pa and Gillespie and
Mack are some distance away, watching the barn, pink against the darkness where
for the time the moonlight has been vanquished. "Catch him!" I cry; "stop him!"
When I reach the front, he is struggling with Gillespie; the one lean in
underclothes, the other stark naked. They are like two figures in a Greek
frieze, isolated out of all reality by the red glare. Before I can reach them he
has struck Gillespie to the ground and turned and run back into the barn.
The sound of it has become quite peaceful now, like the sound of the river
did. We watch through the dissolving proscenium of the doorway as Jewel runs
crouching to the far end of the coffin and stoops to it. For an instant he looks
up and out at us through the rain of burning hay like a portiere of flaming
beads, and I can see his mouth shape as he calls my name.
"Jewel!" Dewey Dell cries; "Jewel!" It seems to me that I now hear the
accumulation of her voice through the last five minutes, and I hear her
scuffling and struggling as pa and Mack hold her, screaming "Jewell Jewel!" But
he is no longer looking at us. We see his shoulders strain as he upends the
coffin and slides it single-handed from the sawhorses. It looms unbelievably
tall, hiding him: I would not have believed that Addie Bundren would have needed
that much room to lie comfortable in; for another instant it stands upright
while the sparks rain on it in scattering bursts as though they engendered other
sparks from the contact. Then it topples forward, gaining momentum, revealing
Jewel and the sparks raining on him too in engendering gusts, so that he appears
to be enclosed in a thin nimbus of fire. Without stopping it overends and rears
again, pauses, then crashes slowly forward and through the curtain. This time
Jewel is riding upon it, clinging to it, until it crashes down and flings him
forward and clear and Mack leaps forward into a thin smell of scorching meat and
slaps at the widening crimson-edged holes that bloom like flowers in his
When I went to find where they stay at night, I saw something They said, "Where
is Darl? Where did Darl go?"
They carried her back under the apple tree.
The barn was still red, but it wasn't a barn now. It was sunk down, and
the red went swirling up. The barn went swirling up in little red pieces,
against the sky and the stars so that the stars moved backward.
And then Cash was still awake. He turned his head from side to side, with
sweat on his face.
"Do you want some more water on it, Cash?" Dewey Dell said.
Cash's leg and foot turned black. We held the lamp and looked at Cash's
foot and leg where it was black.
"Your foot lo
oks like a nigger's foot, Cash," I said. "I reckon we’ll have
to bust it off," pa said. "What in the tarnation you put it on there for," Mr
"I thought it would steady it some," pa said. "I just aimed to help him."
They got the flat iron and the hammer. Dewey Dell held the lamp. They had
to hit it hard. And then Cash went to sleep.
"He's asleep now," I said. "It cant hurt him while he's asleep."
It just cracked. It wouldn't come off.
"It'll take the hide, too," Mr Gillespie said. "Why in the tarnation you
put it on there. Didn't none of you think to grease his leg first?"
"I just aimed to help him," pa said. "It was Darl put it on."
"Where is Darl?" they said.
"Didn't none of you have more sense than that?" Mr Gillespie said. "I'd a
thought he would, anyway."
Jewel was lying on his face. His back was red. Dewey Dell put the medicine
on it. The medicine was made out of butter and soot, to draw out the fire. Then
his back was black.
"Does it hurt, Jewel?" I said. "Your back looks like a nigger's, Jewel," I
said. Cash's foot and leg looked like a nigger's. Then they broke it off. Cash's
"You go on back and lay down," Dewey Dell said. "You ought to be asleep."
"Where is Darl?" they said.
He is out there under the apple tree with her, lying on her. He is there
so the cat wont come back. I said, "Are you going to keep the cat away, Darl?"
The moonlight dappled on him too. On her it was still, but on Darl it
dappled up and down.
"You needn't to cry," I said. "Jewel got her out. You needn't to cry,
The barn is still red. It used to be redder than this. Then it went
swirling, making the stars run backward without falling. It hurt my heart like
the train did.
When I went to find where they stay at night, I saw something that Dewey
Dell says I mustn't tell nobody
We have been passing the signs for some time now: the drugstores, the clothing
stores, the patent medicine and the garages and cafes, and the mile-boards
diminishing, becoming more starkly raccruent: 3 mi. 2 mi. From the crest of a
hill, as we get into the wagon again, we can see the somke low and flat,
seemingly unmoving in the unwinded afternoon.
"Is that it, Darl?" Vardaman says. "Is that Jefferson?" He too has lost
flesh; like ours, his face has an expression strained, dreamy and gaunt.
"Yes," I say. He lifts his head and looks at the sky.
High against it they hand in narrowing circles, like the smoke, with an outward
semblance of from and purpose, but with no inference of motion, progress or
retrograde, We mount the wagon again where Cash lies on the box, the Jagged
shards of cement cracked about his leg. The shabby mules droop rattling and
clanking down the hill.
³We'll have to take him to the doctor," pa says. "I reckon it aint no way
around it." The back of Jewel's shirt, where it touches him, stains slow and
black with grease. Life was created in the valleys. It blew up onto the hills on
the old terrors, the old lusts, the old 'despairs. That's why you must walk up
the hills so you can ride down.
Dewey Dell sits on the seat, the newspaper package on her lap. When we
reach the foot of the hill where the road flattens between close walls of trees,
she begins to look about quietly from one side of the road to the other. At last
"I got to stop."
Pa looks at her, his shabby profile that of anticipant and disgruntled
annoyance. He does not check the team. "What for?"
"I got to go to the bushes," Dewey Dell says.
Pa does not check the team. "Cant you wait till we get to town? It aint
over a mile now."
"Stop," Dewey Dell says. "I got to go to the bushes."
Pa stops in the middle of the road and we watch Dewey Dell descend,
carrying the package. She does not look back.
"Why not leave your cakes here?" I say. "We’ll watch them."
She descends steadily, not looking at us.
"How would she know where to go if she waited till we get to town?"
Vardaman says. "Where would you go to do it in town, Dewey Dell?"
She lifts the package down and turns and disappears among the trees and
"Dont be no longer than you can help," pa says. "We aint got no time to
waste." She does not answer. After a while we cannot hear her even. "We ought to
done like Armstid and Gillespie said and sent word to town and had it dug and
ready," he said.
"Why didn't you?" I say. "You could have telephoned."
"What for?" Jewel says. "Who the hell cant dig a hole in the ground?"
A car comes over the hill. It begins to sound the torn, slowing. It runs
along the roadside in low gear, the outside wheels in the ditch, and passes us
and goes on. Vardaman watches it until it is out of sight.
"How far is it now, Darl?" he says.
"Not far," I say.
"We ought to done it," pa says. "I just never wanted to be beholden to
none except her flesh and blood."
"Who the hell cant dig a damn hole in the ground?" Jewel says.
"It aint respectful, talking that way about her grave," pa says. "You all
dont know what it is. You never pure loved her, none of you." Jewel does not
answer. He sits a little stiffly erect, his body arched away from his shirt. His
high-colored jaw juts.
Dewey Dell returns. We watch her emerge from the bushes, carrying the
package, and climb into the wagon. She now wears her Sunday dress, her beads,
her shoes and stockings.
"I thought I told you to leave them clothes to home," pa says. She does
not answer, does not look at us. She sets the package in the wagon and gets in.
The wagon moves on.
"How many more hills now, Darl?" Vardaman says.
"Just one," I say. "The next one goes right up into town."
This hill is red sand, bordered on either hand by negro cabins; against
the sky ahead the massed telephone lines run, and the clock on the courthouse
lifts among the trees. In the sand the wheels whisper, as though the very earth
would hush our entry. We descend as the hill commences to rise.
We follow the wagon, the whispering wheels, passing the cabins where faces
come suddenly to the doors, white-eyed. We hear sudden voices, ejaculant. Jewel
has been looking from side to side; now his head turns forward and I can see his
ears taking on a still deeper tone of furious red. Three negroes walk beside the
road ahead of us; ten feet ahead of them a white man walks. When we pass the
negroes their heads turn suddenly with that expression of shock and instinctive
outrage. "Great God," one says; "what they got in that wagon?"
Jewel whirls. "Son of a bitches," he says. As he does so he is abreast of
the white man, who has paused. It is as though Jewel had gone blind for the
moment, for it is the white man toward whom he whirls.
"Darl!" Cash says from the wagon. I grasp at Jewel. The white man has
fallen back a pace, his face still slack-jawed; then his jaw tightens, claps to.
Jewel leans above him, his jaw muscles gone white.
"What did you say?" he says.
"Here," I say. "He dont mean anything, mister. Jewel," I say. When I touch
him he swings at the man. I grasp his arm; we struggle. Jewel has never looked
at me. He is trying to free his arm. When I see the man again he has an open
knife in his hand.
"Hold up, mister," I say; "I've got him. Jewel," I say.
³Thinks because he's a
goddamn town fellow," Jewel says, panting,
wrenching at me. "Son of a bitch," he says.
The man moves. He begins to edge around me, watching Jewel, the knife low
against his flank. "Cant no man call me that," he says. Pa has got down, and
Dewey Dell is holding Jewel, pushing at him. I release him and face the man.
"Wait," I say. "He dont mean nothing. He's sick; got burned in a fire last
night, and he aint himself."
"Fire or no fire," the man says, "cant no man call me that."
"He thought you said something to him," I say.
"I never said nothing to him. I never see him before."
"Fore God," pa says; "Fore God."
"I know," I say. "He never meant anything. He'll take it back."
"Let him take it back, then."
³Put up your knife, and he will."
The man looks at me. He looks at Jewel. Jewel is quiet now.
³Put up your knife," I say. The man shuts the knife.
"Fore God," pa says. "Fore God."
"Tell him you didn't mean anything, Jewel," I say. "I thought he said
something," Jewel says. "Just because he's--"
"Hush," I say. "Tell him you didn't mean it."
"I didn't mean it," Jewel says.
"He better not," the man says. "Calling me a--"
"Do you think he's afraid to call you that?" I say.
The man looks at me. "I never said that," he said.
"Dont think it, neither," Jewel says.
," I say. "Come on. Drive on, pa.´
The wagon moves. The man stands watching us. Jewel does not look back.
"Jewel would a whipped him," Vardaman says.
We approach the crest, where the street runs, where cars go back and
forth; the mules haul the wagon up and onto the crest and the street. Pa stops
them. The street runs on ahead, where the square opens and the monument stands
before the courthouse. We mount again while the heads turn with that expression
which we know; save Jewel. He does not get on, even though the wagon has started
again. "Get in, Jewel," I say. "Come on. Let's get away from here." But he does
not get in. Instead he sets his foot on the turning hub of the rear wheel, one
hand grasping the stanchion, and with the hub turning smoothly under his sole he
lifts the other foot and squats there, staring straight ahead, motionless, lean,
wooden-backed, as though carved squatting out of the lean wood.
It wasn't nothing else to do. It was either send him to Jackson, or have
Gillespie sue us, because he knowed some way that Darl set fire to it. I dont
know how he knowed, but he did. Vardaman see him do it, but he swore he never
told nobody but Dewey Dell and that she told him not to tell nobody. But
Gillespie knowed it. But he would a suspicioned it sooner or later. He could
have done it that night just watching the way Darl acted.
And so pa said, "I reckon there aint nothing else to do," and Jewel said,
"You want to fix him now?"
"Fix him?" pa said.
"Catch him and tie him up," Jewel said. "Goddamn it; do you want to wait
until he sets fire to the goddamn team and wagon?"
But there wasn't no use in that. "There aint no use in that," I said. "We
can wait till she is underground." A fellow that's going to spend the rest of
his life locked up, he ought to be let to have what pleasure he can have before
"I reckon he ought to be there," pa says. "God knows, it's a trial on me.
Seems like it aint no end to bad luck when once it starts."
Sometimes I aint so sho who's got ere a right to say when a man is crazy
and when he aint. Sometimes I think it aint none of us pure crazy and aint none
of us pure sane until the balance of us talks him that-a-Way. It's like it aint
so much what a fellow does, but it's the way the majority of folks is looking at
him when he does it.
Because Jewel is too hard on him. Of course it was Jewel's horse was
traded to get her that nigh to town, and in a sense it was the value of his
horse Darl tried to burn up. But I thought more than once before we crossed the
river and after, how it would be God's blessing if He did take her outen our
hands and get shut of her in some clean way, and it seemed to me that when Jewel
worked so to get her outen the river, he was going against God in a way, and
then when Darl seen that it looked like one of us would have to do something, I
can almost believe he done right in a way. But I dont reckon nothing excuses
setting fire to a man's barn and endangering his stock and destroying his
property. That's how I reckon a man is crazy. That's how he cant see eye to eye
with other folks. And I reckon they aint nothing else to do with him but what
the most folks says is right.
But it's a shame, in a way. Folks seems to get away from the olden right
teaching that says to drive the nails down and trim the edges well always Like
it was for your own use and comfort you were making it. It's like some folks has
the smooth, pretty boards to build a courthouse with and others dont have no
more than rough lumber fitten to build a chicken coop. But it's better to build
a tight chicken coop than a shoddy courthouse, and when they both build shoddy
or build well, neither because it's one or toothier is going to make a man feel
the better nor the worse.
So we went up the street, toward the square, and he said, "We better take
Cash to the doctor first. We can leave him there and come back for him." That's
it. It's because me and him was born close together, and it nigh ten years
before Jewel and Dewey Dell and Vardaman begun to come along. I feel kin to
them, all right, but I dont know. And me being the oldest, and thinking already
the very thing that he done: I dont know.
Pa was looking at me, then at him, mumbling his mouth.
"Go on," I said. "We’ll get it done first."
"She would want us all there," pa says.
"Let's take Cash to the doctor first," Darl said. "She'll Wait. She's
already waited nine days."
"You all dont know," pa says. "The somebody you was young with and you
growed old in her and she growed old in you, seeing the old coming on and it was
the one somebody you could hear say it dont matter and know it was the truth
outen the hard world and all a man's grief and trials. You all dont know."
"We got the digging to do, too," I said.
"Armstid and Gillespie both told you to send word ahead," Darl said. "Dont
you want to go to Peabody's now, Cash?"
"Go on," I said. "It feels right easy now. It's best to get things done in
the right place."
"If it was just dug," pa says. "We forgot our spade, too."
"Yes," Darl said. ³I’ll go to the hardware store. We'll have to
"It'll cost money," pa says.
"Do you begrudge her it?" Darl says.
"Go on and get a spade," Jewel said. "Here. Give me the money."
But pa didn't stop. "I reckon we can get a spade," he said. "I reckon
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