بخش 04کتاب: گور به گور / فصل 4
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Some time toward dawn the rain ceases. But it is not yet day when Cash drives the last nail and stands stiffly up and looks down at the finished coffin, the others watching him. In the lantern light his face is calm, musing; slowly he strokes his hands on his rain-coated thighs in a gesture deliberate, final and composed. Then the four of them–Cash and pa and Vernon and Peabody–raise the coffin to their shoulders and turn toward the house. It is light, yet they move slowly; empty, yet they carry it carefully; lifeless, yet they move with hushed precautionary words to one another, speaking of it as though, complete, it now slumbered lightly alive, waiting to come awake. On the dark floor their feet clump awkwardly, as though for a long time they have not walked on floors.
They set it down by the bed. Peabody says quietly: ‘Let’s eat a snack It’s almost daylight Where’s Cash?”
He has returned to the trestles, stooped again in the lantern’s feeble glare as he gathers up his tools and wipes them on a cloth carefully and puts them into the box with its leather sling to go over the shoulder. Then he takes up box, lantern and raincoat and returns to the house, mounting the steps into faint silhouette against the paling east.
In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep, you are not. And when you are filled with sleep, you never were. I dont know what I am. I dont know if I am or not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know that he does not know whether he is or not. He cannot empty himself for sleep because he is not what he is and he is what he is not. Beyond the unlamped wall I can hear the rain shaping the wagon that is ours, the load that is no longer theirs that felled and sawed it nor yet theirs that bought it and which is not ours either, lie on our wagon though it does, since only the wind and the rain shape it only to Jewel and me, that are not asleep. And since sleep is is-not and rain and wind are was, it is not. Yet the wagon is, because when the wagon is was, Addie Bundren will not be. And Jewel is, so Addie Bundren must be. And then I must be, or I could not empty myself for sleep in a strange room. And so if I am not emptied yet, I am is. -
How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.
I made it on the bevel.
There is more surface for the nails to grip.
There is twice the gripping-surface to each seam.
The water will have to seep into it on a slant. Water moves easiest up and down or straight across.
In a house people are upright two thirds of the time. So the seams and joints are made up-and-down. Because the stress is up-and-down.
In a bed where people lie down all the time, the joints and seams are made sideways, because the stress is sideways.
A body is not square like a crosstie.
The animal magnetism of a dead body makes the stress come slanting, so the seams and joints of a coffin are made on the bevel.
You can see by an old grave that the earth sinks down on the bevel.
While in a natural hole it sinks by the center, the stress being up-and-down.
So I made it on the bevel.
It makes a neater job.
My mother is a fish.
It was ten oclock when I got back, with Peabody’s team hitched on to the back of the wagon. They had already dragged the buckboard back from where
Quick found it upside down straddle of the ditch about a mile from the spring. It was pulled out of the road at the spring, and about a dozen wagons was already there. It was Quick found it. He said the rive was up and still rising. He said it had already covered the highest water-mark on the bridge-piling he ever seen. “That bridge wont stand a whole lot water,” I said. “Has somebody told Anse about it?”
“I told him,” Quick said. “He says he reckons the boys has heard and unloaded and are on the way by now. He says they can load up and get across.”
“He better go on and bury her at New Hope,” Armstid said. “That bridge is old. I wouldn’t monkey with it”
“His mind is set on taking her to Jefferson,” Quick said.
“Then he better get at it soon as he can,” Armstid said.
Anse meets us at the door. He has shaved, but not good. There is a long cut on his jaw, and he is wearing his Sunday pants and a white shirt with the neckband buttoned. It is drawn smooth over his hump, making it look bigger than ever, like a white shirt will, and his face is different too. He looks folks in the eye now, dignified, his face tragic and composed, shaking us by the hand as we walk up onto the porch and scrape our shoes, a little stiff in our Sunday clothes, our Sunday clothes rustling, not looking full at him as he meets us.
“The Lord giveth,” we say.
“The Lord giveth.”
That boy is not there. Peabody told about how he come into the kitchen, hollering, swarming and clawing at Cora when he found her cooking that fish, and how Dewey Dell taken him down to the barn. “My team all right?” Peabody says.
“All right,” I tell him. “I give them a bait this morning. Your buggy seems all right too. It aint hurt”
“And no fault of somebody’s,” he says. “I’d give a I nickel to know where that boy was when that team broke away.”
“If it’s broke anywhere, I’ll fix it,” I say.
The women folks go on into the house. We can hear them, talking and fanning. The fans go whish. whish. whish and them talking, the talking sounding kind of like “bees murmuring in a water bucket. The men stop on the porch, talking some, not looking at one another.
“Howdy, Vernon,” they say. “Howdy, Tull.”
“Looks like more rain.”
“It does for a fact”
“Yes, sir. It will rain some more.”
“It come up quick.”
“And going away slow. It dont fail,”
I go around to the back. Cash is filling up the holes lie bored in the top of it. He is trimming out plugs for them, one at a time, the wood wet and hard to work He could cut up a tin can and hide the holes and nobody wouldn’t know the difference. Wouldn’t mind, anyway. I have seen him spend a hour trimming out a wedge like it was glass he was working, when, he could have reached around and picked tip a dozen sticks and drove them Into the joint and made it do.
When we finished I go back to the front. The men have gone a little piece from the house, sitting on the ends of the boards and on the sawhorses where we made it last night, some sitting and some squatting, Whitfield aint come yet.
They look up at me, their eyes asking.
“It’s about,” I say. “He’s ready to nail.”
While they are getting up Anse comes to file clod and looks at us and we return to the porch. We scrape our shoes again, careful, waiting for one another to j in first, milling a little at the door. Anse stands inside the door, dignified, composed. He waves us in and leads the way into the room.
They had laid her in it reversed. Cash made it clock-shape, like this (pic of coffin) seam bevelled and with every joint a scrubbed with the plane, tight as a drum and neat as a sewing basket, and they had laid her in it head to foot so it wouldn’t crush her dress. It was her wedding dress and it had a flare-out bottom, and they had laid her head to foot in it so the dress could spread out, and they had made Her a veil out of a mosquito bar so the auger holes in her face wouldn’t show. When we are going out, Whitfield comes. He is wet and muddy to the waist, coming in. “The Lord comfort this house,” he says. “I was late because the bridge has gone. I went down to the old ford and swum my horse over, the Lord protecting me. His grace be upon this house.”
We go back to the trestles and plank-ends and sit or squat.
“I knowed it would go,” Armstid says.
It’s been there a long time, that ere bridge,” Quick says.
“The Lord has kept it there, yon mean,” Uncle Billy says. “I dont know ere a man that’s touched hammer to it in twenty-five years.”
“How long has it been there, Uncle Billy?” Quick says.
“It was built in … let me see … It was in the year 1888,” Uncle Billy says. “I mind it because the first man to cross it was Peabody coming to my house when Jody was born.”
“If I’d a crossed it every time your wife littered since, it’d a been wore out long before this, Billy,” Peabody says.
We laugh, suddenly loud, then suddenly quiet again. We look a little aside at one another.
“Lots of folks has crossed it that wont cross no more [bridges,” Houston says.
“It’s a fact,” Littlejohn says. It’s so.”
“One more aint, no ways,” Armstid says. “lt’d taken them two-three days to got her to town in the wagon. They’d be gone a week, getting her to Jefferson and back.”
“What’s Anse so itching to take her to Jefferson for, anyway?” Houston says,
“He promised her,” I say. “She wanted it She come from there. Her mind was set on it.”
“And Anse is set on it, too,” Quick says.
“Ay,” Uncle Billy says. “It’s like a man that’s let everything slide all his life to get set on something that will make the most trouble for everybody he knows.”
“Well, it’ll take the Lord to get her over that river! now,” Peabody says “Anse cant do it.”
“And I reckon He will,” Quick says. “He’s took care of Anse a long time, now.”
It’s a fact,” Littlejohn says.
“Too long to quit now,” Armstid says.
“I reckon He’s like everybody else around here, Uncle Billy says. “He’s done it so long now He cant quit.”
Cash comes out. He has put on a clean shirt; his hair wet, is combed smooth down on his brow, smooth and black as if he had painted it onto his head, squats stiffly among us, we watching him. “You feeling this weather, aint you?” Armstid says.
Cash says nothing.
“A broke bone always feels it,” Littlejohn says. . fellow with a broke bone can tell it a-coming.”
“Lucky Cash got off with just a broke leg,” Armstid says. “He might have hurt himself bed-rid, far’d you fall, Cash?”
Twenty-eight foot, four and a half inches, about” Cash says. I move over beside him.
“A fellow can sho slip quick on wet planks,” Quick says.
“It’s too bad,” I say. “But you couldn’t a holp it”
“It’s them durn women,” he says. “I made it to balance with her. I made it to her measure and weight”
If it takes wet boards for folks to fall, its fixing to be lots of fatting before this spell is done.
“You couldn’t have holp it” I say.
I dont mind the folks falling. It’s the cotton and corn I mind.
Neither does Peabody mind the folks falling. How bout it, Doc?
It’s a fact. Washed clean outen the ground it will be. Seems like something is always happening to It.
Course it does. That’s why it’s worth anything. If nothing didn’t happen and everybody made a big crop, do you reckon it would be worth the raising?
Well, I be durn if I like to see my work washed outen the ground, work I sweat over.
Its a fact. A fellow wouldn’t mind seeing it washed up if he could just turn on the rain himself.
Who is that man can do that? Where is the color of his eyes?
Ay. The Lord made it to grow. It’s Hisn to wash up if He sees it fitten so.
“You couldn’t have holp it” I say. “It’s them durn women,” he says.
In the house the women begin to sing. We hear the first line commence, beginning to swell as they take hold, and we rise and move toward the door, taking off our hats and throwing our chews away. We do not go in. We stop at the steps, clumped, holding our hats between our lax hands in front or behind, standing with one foot advanced and our heads lowered, looking aside, down at our hats in our hands and at the earth or now and then at the sky and at one another’s grave, composed face.
The song ends; the voices quaver away with a rich and dying fall. Whitfield begins. His voice in bigger than him. It’s like they are not the same. It’s like he is one, and his voice is one, swimming on two horses side by side across the ford and coming into the house, the mud-splashed one and the one that never even got Wet, triumphant and sad. Somebody in the house begins to cry. It sounds like her eyes and her voice were turned back inside her, listening; we move, shifting to the other leg, meeting one another’s eye and making like they hadn’t touched.
Whitfield stops at last. The women sing again. In the thick air it’s like their voices come out of the air, flowing together and on in the sad, comforting tunes, When they cease it’s like they hadn’t gone away. It’s like they had just disappeared into the air and when we moved we would loose them again out of the air around us, sad and comfort y Then they finish and we put on our hats, our movements stiff, like we hadn’t never wore hats before. L
On the way home Cora is still singing. “I am bounding toward my God and my reward,” she sings, sitting on the wagon, the shawl around her shoulder and the umbrella open over her, though it is not raining.
“She has hern,” I say. “Wherever she went, she La her reward in being free of Anse Bundren.” She M there three days in that box, waiting for Dart and Jewel to come dean back home and get a new wheel and go back to where the wagon was in the ditch. Take my team, Anse, I said.
We’ll wait for ourn, he said. She’ll want it so. She was ever a particular woman.
On the third day they got back and they loaded her into the wagon and started and it already too late. You’ll have to go all the way round by Samson’s bridge. It’ll take you a day to get there. Then you’ll be forty miles from Jefferson. Take my team, Anse. We’ll wait for ourn. She’ll want it so.
It was about a mile from the house we saw him, sitting on the edge of the slough. It hadn’t had a fish in it never that I knowed. He looked around at us, his eyes round and calm, his face dirty, the pole across his knees. Cora was still singing.
“This aint no good day to fish,” I said, “You come on home with us and me and you’ll go down to the river first thing in the morning and catch some fish.”
“It’s one in here,’ he said. “Dewey Dell seen it”
“You come on with us. The river’s the best place.”
It’s in here,” he said. “Dewey Dell seen it.”
I’m bounding toward my God and my reward,” Cora sung.
“It’s not your horse that’s dead, Jewel,” I say. He sits erect on the seat, leaning a little forward, wooden-backed. The brim of his hat has soaked free of the crown in two places, drooping across his wooden face so that, head lowered, he looks through it like through the visor of a helmet, looking long across the valley to where the barn leans against the bluff, shaping the invisible horse. “See them?” I say. High above the house, against the quick thick sky, they hang in narrowing circles. From here they are no more than specks, implacable, patient, portentous. “But it’s not your horse that’s dead.”
“Goddamn you,” he says. “Goddamn you.”
I cannot love my mother because I have no mother. Jewel’s mother is a horse.
Motionless, the tall buzzards hang in soaring circles, the clouds giving them an illusion of retrograde.
Motionless, wooden-backed, wooden-faced, he shapes the horse in a rigid stoop like a hawk, hook-winged. They are waiting for us, ready for the moving of it, waiting for him. He enters the stall and waits until it kicks at him so that he can slip past and mount onto the trough and pause, peering out across the intervening stall-tops toward the empty path, before he reaches into the loft.
“Goddamn him. Goddamn him.”
“It wont balance. If you want it to tote and ride on a balance, we will have–”
“Pick up. Goddamn you, pick up.”
“I’m telling you it wont tote and it wont ride on a balance unless–”
“Pick up! Pick up!, goddamn your thick-nosed , if they want it to tote and ride on a balance, they will have
He stoops among us above it, two of the eight hands. In his face the blood goes in waves. In between them his flesh is greenish looking, about that smooth, thick, pale green of cow’s cud; his face suffocated, furious, his lip lifted upon his teeth. “Pick up!” he says. “Pick up, goddamn your thick-nosed soul!”
He heaves, lifting one whole side so suddenly that we all spring into the lift to catch and balance it before he hurls it completely over. For an instant it resists, as though volitional, as though within it her pole-thin body clings furiously, even though dead, to a sort of modesty, as she would have tried to conceal a soiled garment that she could not prevent her body soiling. Then it breaks free, rising suddenly as though the emaciation of her “body had added buoyancy to -the planks or as though, seeing that the garment was about to be torn from her, she rushes suddenly after it in a passionate reversal that flouts its own desire and need. Jewel’s face goes completely green and I can hear teeth in his breath.
We carry it down the hall, our feet harsh and clumsy on the floor, moving with shuffling steps, and through the door.
“Steady it a minute, now,” pa says, letting go. He turns back to shut and lock the door, but Jewel will not wait.
“Come on,” he says in that suffocating voice. “Come on.”
We lower it carefully down the steps. We move, Balancing it as though it were something infinitely precious, our faces averted, breathing through our teeth to keep our nostrils closed. We go down the path, toward die slope.
“We better wait,” Cash says. “I tell you it aint balanced now. Well need another hand on that hill.”
“Then turn loose,” Jewel says. He will not stop. Cash begins to fall behind, hobbling to keep up, breathing harshly; then he is distanced and Jewel carries the entire front end alone, so that, tilting as the path begins to slant, it begins to rush away from me and slip down the air like a sled upon invisible snow, smoothly evacuating atmosphere in which the sense of it is still shaped.
“Wait; Jewel,” I say. But he will not wait. He is almost running now and Cash is left behind. It seems to me that the end which I now carry alone has no weight, as though it coasts like a rushing straw upon the furious tide of Jewel’s despair. I am not even touching it when, turning, he lets it overshoot him, swinging, and stops it and sloughs it into the wagon bed in the same motion and looks back at me, his face suffused with fury and despair. “Goddamn you. Goddamn you.”
We are going to town. Dewey Dell says it wont be sold because it belongs to Santa Claus and he taken it back with him until next Christmas. Then it will be behind the glass again, shining with waiting.
Pa and Cash are coming down the hill, but Jewel is going to the barn. “Jewel,” pa says. Jewel does not stop. “Where you going?” pa says. But Jewel does not stop. “You leave that horse here,” pa says. Jewel stops and looks at pa. Jewel’s eyes look like marbles. “You leave that horse here,” pa says. “We’ll all go in. the wagon with ma, like she wanted.”
But my mother is a fish. Vernon seen it. He was there.
“Jewel’s mother is a horse,” Darl said.
“Then mine can be a fish, cant it, Darl?” I said.
Jewel is my brother.
“Then mine will have to be a horse, too,” I said.
“Why?” Darl said. “If pa is your pa, why does your ma have to be a horse just because Jewel’s is?”
“Why does it?” I said. “Why does it, Darl?”
Darl is my brother.
“Then what is your ma, Darl?” I said.
“I haven’t got ere one,” Darl said. “Because if I had one, it is was. And if it is was, it cant be is. Can it?”
“No,” I said.
“Then I am not,” Darl said. “Am I?”
“No,” I said.
I am. Darl is my brother.
“But you are, Darl,” I said.
“I know it,” Darl said. “That’s why I am not is. Are is too many for one woman to foal.”
Cash is carrying his tool box. Pa looks at him. “Ill stop at Tull’s on the way back,” Cash. says. “Get on that barn roof.”
“It aint respectful,” pa says. “It’s a deliberate flouting of her and of me.”
“Do you want him to come all the way back hero and carry them up to Tull’s afoot?” Darl says. Pa look’s at Darl, his mouth chewing. Pa shaves every day now because my mother is a fish.
“It aint right,” pa says.
Dewey Dell has the package in her hand. She has the basket with our dinner too.
“What’s that?” pa says.
“Mrs Tull’s cakes,” Dewey Dell says, getting into the wagon. “I’m taking them to town for her.”
It aint right,” pa says. “It’s a flouting of the dead.”
“It’ll be there. It’ll be there come Christmas, she says, shining on the track. She says he wont sell it to no town boys.
He goes on toward the barn, entering the lot wooden-backed.
Dewey Dell carries the basket on one arm, in the other hand something wrapped square in a newspaper. Her face is calm and sullen, her eyes brooding and alert; within them I can see Peabody’s back like two round peas in two thimbles: perhaps in Peabody’s back two of those worms which work surreptitious and steady through you and out the other side and you waking suddenly from sleep or from waking, with on your face an expression sudden, intent, and concerned. She sets the basket into the wagon and climbs in, her leg coming long from beneath her tightening dress: that lever which moves the world; one of that caliper which measures the length and breadth o£ life. She sits on the seat beside Vardaman and sets the parcel on Her lap.
Then he enters lie barn. He has not looked back.
“It aint rights” pa says. Ifs little enough for him to do for her.”
“Go on,” Cash. says. “Leave him stay if he wants. Hell be all right here. Maybe hell go up to lull’s and stay.” “Hell catch us,” I say. “Hell cut across and meet us at Tull’s lane.”
“He would have rid that horse, too,” pa says, “i£ I hadn’t a stopped him. A durn spotted critter wilder than a cattymount. A deliberate flouting of her and o£ me”
The wagon moves; the mules’ ears begin to bob. Behind us, above the house, motionless in tall and soaring circles, they diminish and disappear.
I told him not to bring that horse out of respect for his dead ma, because it wouldn’t look right, him prancing along on a durn circus animal and her wanting us all to be in the wagon with her that sprung; from her flesh and blood, but we hadn’t no more than passed Tuffs lane when Darl begun to laugh. Setting: back there on the plank seat with Cash, with his dead ma laying in her coffin at his feet, laughing. How many times I told him if s doing such things as that that makes folks talk about him, I dont know. I says I got some regard for what folks says about my flesh, and blood even if you haven’t, even if I have raised such a durn passel of boys, and when you fixes it so folks can say such about you, it’s a reflection on your ma, I says, not me: I am a man and I can stand it; it’s on your womenfolks, your ma and sister that you should care for, and I turned and looked back at him and him setting there, laughing.
I dont expect you to have no respect for me,” I says. “But with your own ma not cold in her coffin yet.”
Yonder,” Cash says, jerking his head toward the lane. The horse is still a right smart piece away, coming up at a good pace, but I dont have to be told who it is. I just looked back at Darl, setting there laughing.
“I done my best,” I says. “I tried to do as she would wish it. The Lord will pardon me and excuse the conduct of them He sent me.” And Darl setting on the plank seat right above her where she was laying, laughing.
He comes up the lane fast, yet we are three hundred yards beyond the mouth of it when he turns into the road, the mud flying beneath the flicking drive of the hooves. Then he slows a little, light and erect in the saddle, the horse mincing through the mud.
Tull is in his lot He looks at us, lifts his hand. We go on, the wagon creaking, the mud whispering on the wheels. Vernon still stands there. He watches Jewel as he passes, the horse moving with a light, high-kneed driving gait, three hundred yards back. We go on, with a motion so soporific, so dreamlike as to be uninferant of progress, as though time and not space were decreasing between us and it.
It turns off at right angles, the wheel-marts of last Sunday healed away now: a smooth, red scoriation curving away into the pines; a white signboard with faded lettering: New Hope Church. 3 mi. It wheels up like a motionless hand lifted above the profound desolation of the ocean; beyond it the red road lies like a spoke of which Addie. Bundren. is the rim. It wheels past, empty, unscarred, the white signboard turns away-its fading and tranquil assertion. Cash, looks lip the road quietly, his bead turning as we pass It like an owls head, his face composed. Pa looks straight ahead, humped. Dewey Dell looks at the road too, then she looks back at me, her eyes watchful and repudiant, not like that question which was in those of Cash, for a smoldering while. The signboard passes; the unscarred road wheels on. Then Dewey Dell turns her head. The wagon creaks on.
Cash spits over the wheel. In a couple of days now it’ll be smelling,” he says.
“You might tell Jewel that,” I say.
He is motionless now, sitting the horse at the function, upright, watching us, no less still than the signboard that lifts its fading capitulation opposite him.
It aint balanced right for no long ride,” Cash’ says.
“Tell him that, too,” I say. The wagon creaks on.
A mile further along he passes us, the horse, arch-necked, reined back to a swift singlefoot. He sits lightly, poised, upright, wooden-faced in the saddle, the broken hat raked at a swaggering angle. He passes us swiftly, without looking at us, the horse driving, its hooves hissing in the mud. A gout of mud, back-flung, plops onto the box. Cash leans forward and takes a tool from his box and removes it carefully.
When the road crosses \Vhiteleaf, the willows leaning near enough, he breaks off a branch and scours at the stain with the wet leaves.
Ifs a hard country on man; it’s hard. Eight miles o£ the sweat of his body washed up outen the Lord’s earth, where the Lord Himself told him to put it. Nowhere in this sinful world can a honest, hardworking man profit. It takes them that runs the stores in the towns, doing no sweating, living off of them that sweats. It aint the hardworking man, the farmer. Sometimes I wonder why we keep at it. It’s because there is a reward for us above, where they cant take their autos and such. Every man will be equal there and it will be taken from them that have and give to them that have not by the Lord.
But it’s a long wait, seems like. It’s bad that a fellow must earn the reward of his right-doing by flouting hisself and his dead. We drove all the rest of the day and got to Samson’s at dust-dark and then that bridge was gone, too. They hadn’t never see the river so high, and it not done raining yet There was old men that hadn’t never see nor hear of it being so in the memory of man. I am the chosen of the Lord, for who He loveth, so doeth He chastiseth. But I be durn if He dont take some curious ways to show it, seems like.
But now I can get them teeth. That will be a comfort. It will.
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