بخش 06

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بخش 06

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Tull

So they finally got Anse to say what lie wanted to do, and him and the gal and the boy got out of the wagon. But even when we were on the bridge Anse kept on looking back, like he thought maybe, once he was outen the wagon, the whole thing would kind of blow Tip and he would find himself back yonder in the field again and her laying up there in the house, waiting to die and it to do all over again.

“You ought to let them taken your mule,” he says, and the bridge shaking and swaying under us, going down into the moiling water like it went down through to the other side of the earth, and the other end coming up outen the water like it wasn’t the same bridge a-tall and that them that would walk up outen the water on that side must come from the bottom of the earth. But it was still whole; you could tell that by the way when this end swagged, it didn’t look like the other end swagged at all: just like the other trees and the bank yonder were swinging back and forth slow like on a big clock. And them logs scraping and Bumping at the sunk part and tilting end-up and shooting clean outen the water and tumbling on toward the ford and the waiting, slick, whirling, and foamy.

“What good would that a done?” I says. If your team cant find the ford and haul it across, what good would three mules or even ten mules do?”

“I aint asking it of you,” he says. “I can always do for me and mine. I aint asking you to risk your mule. It aint your dead; I am not blaming you.”

“They ought to went back and laid over until tomorrow,” I says. The water was cold. It was thick, like slush ice. Only it kind of lived. One part of you knowed it was just water, the same thing that had been running under this same bridge for a long time, yet when them logs would come spewing up outen it, you were not surprised, like they was a part of water, of the waiting and the threat.

It was like when we was across, up out of the water again and the hard earth under us, that I was surprised. It was like we hadn’t expected the bridge to end on the other bank, on something tame like the hard earth again that we had tromped on before this time and knowed well. Like it couldn’t be me here, because I’d have had better sense than to done what I just done. And when I looked back and saw the other bank and saw my mule standing there where I used to be and knew that I’d have to get back there

someway, I knew it couldn’t be, became I just think of anything that could make me cross bridge ever even once. Yet here Z was, and the fellow that could make himself cross it twice, couldn’t be met, not even if Cora told him to. - a^: ft was that boy. I said “Here; yon better take a holt of my hand” and he waited and held to me. I be dam if it wasn’t Wee he come back and got me? like he -was saying They wont nothing hurt you; Like he was saying about a fine place he knowed, where Christmas come twice with Thanksgiving and lasts on through the winter and the spring and the summer, had all just stayed with him I’d be all right too. ; When I looked back at my mule it was like he was One of these here spy-glasses and I could look at him standing there and see all the broad land and my house sweated outen it like & was the more the sweaty the broader the land; the more the sweat, the tighter the house because it would take a tight house for Cora, to hold Cora like a jar of milk in the spring; you’ve got to have a tight jar oaf you’ll need a powerful spring, so if you have a big spring, why dies, you have the incentive to have tight, wellmade jars, because it is your milk, soar or not, because you would lather have milk that will sour than to have milk that wont, because you are a man.

And him holding to my hand, his hand that hot and confident; so that I was like to say: Look-a-here. Cant you see that mule yonder? He never had no business wee here, so he never come, not being nothing but a mule. Because a fellow can see ever now and then that children have more sense than him. But he dont like to admit it to them until they have beards. After they have a beard, they are too busy because they

dont know it they’ll ever quite make it back to where they were in sense before they was haired, so you dont mind admitting then to folks that are worrying about the same thing that aint worth the worry that you are yourself . . . Then we was over and we stood there, looking at Cash turning the wagon around. We watched them drive back down the road to where the trail tamed oil into the bottom. After a while the wagon washout

“We better get on down to the ford and git ready

“I give her my word,” Anse says. “It is sacred on me. I know you begrudge it, but she will bless you in heaven.”

“Well, they got to finish circumventing the land before they can dare the water,” I said. “Come on.”

“It’s the turning back,” he said. It aint no luck in turning back.”

He was standing there, humped, mournful, looking at the empty road beyond the swagging and swaying bridge. And that gal, too, with the lunch basket on One arm and that package under the other. Just going to town. Bent on it They would risk the fire and the earth and the water and all just to eat a sack of bananas. “You ought to laid over a day,” I said. It would a fell some by morning. It mought not a rained tonight And it cant get no higher.”

“I give my promise,” he says. “She Is counting on it”

Darl

Before us the thick dark current runs. It talks up to us in a murmur become ceaseless and myriad, the yellow surface dimpled monstrously into fading swirls travelling along the surface for an instant, silent, impermanent and profoundly significant, as though just beneath the surface something huge and alive waked for a moment of lazy alertness out of and into light slumber again.

It clucks and murmurs among the spokes and about the mules’ knees, yellow, skummed with flotsam and with thick soiled gouts of foam as though it had sweat, lathering, like a driven horse. Through the undergrowth it goes with a plaintive sound, a musing sound; in it the unwinded cane and saplings lean as before a little gale, swaying without reflections as though suspended on invisible wires from the branches overhead. Above the ceaseless surface they stand–trees, cane, vines–rootless, severed from the earth, spectral above a scene of immense yet circumscribed desolation filled with the voice of the waste and mournful water.

Cash and I sit in die wagon; Jewel sits the horse at the off rear wheel. The horse is trembling, its eye rolling wild and baby-blue in its long pink face, its breathing stertorous like groaning. He sits erect, poised, looking quietly and steadily and quickly this way and that, his face calm, a little pale, alert. Cash’s face is also gravely composed; he and I look at one another with long probing looks, looks that plunge unimpeded through one another’s eyes and into the ultimate secret place where for an instant Cash and Darl crouch flagrant and unabashed in all the old terror and the old foreboding, alert and secret and without shame. When we speak our voices are quiet, detached.

“I reckon we’re still in the road, all right.”

“Tull taken and cut them two big whiteoaks. I heard tell how at high water in the old days they used to line up the ford by them trees.”

“I reckon he did that two years ago when he was logging down here. I reckon he never thought that anybody would ever use this ford again.”

“I reckon not. Yes, it must have been then. He cut a sight of timber outen here then. Payed off that mortgage with it, I hear tell.”

“Yes. Yes, I reckon so. I reckon Vernon could have done that.”

“That’s a fact. Most folks that logs in this here country, they need a durn good farm to support the sawmill. Or maybe a store. But I reckon Vernon could.”

“I reckon so. He’s a sight.”

“Ay. Vernon is. Yes, it must still be here. He never would have got that timber out of here if he hadn’t cleaned out that old road. I reckon we are still on it.” He looks about quietly, at the position of the trees, leaning this way and that, looking back along the floorless road shaped vaguely high in air by the position of the lopped and felled trees, as if the road too had been soaked free of earth and floated upward, to leave in its spectral tracing a monument to a still more profound desolation than this above which we now sit, talking quietly of old security and old trivial things. Jewel looks at him, then at me, then his face turns in in that quiet; constant, questing about the scene, the horse trembling quietly and steadily between his knees,

“He could go on ahead slow and sort of feel it out,” I say.

“Yes,” Cash says, not looking at me. His face is in profile as he looks forward where Jewel has moved on ahead.

“He cant miss the river,” I say. “He couldn’t miss seeing it fifty yards ahead.”

Cash does not look at me, his face in profile, “If I’d just suspicioned it, I could a come down last week and taken a sight on it.”

“The bridge was up then,” I say. He does not look at me. “Whitfield crossed it a-horseback.”

Jewel looks at us again, his expression sober and alert and subdued. His voice is quiet. “What you want me to do?”

“I ought to come down last week and taken a sight on it,” Cash says.

“We couldn’t have known,” I say. “There wasn’t any way for us to know.”

“Ill ride on ahead,” Jewel says. “You can follow where I am.” He lifts the horse. It shrinks, bowed; he leans to it, speaking to it, lifting it forward almost bodily, it setting its feet down with gingerly splashings, trembling, breathing harshly. He speaks to it, murmurs to it. “Go on,” he says. “I aint going to let nothing hurt you. Go on, now.”

“Jewel,” Cash says. Jewel does not look back. He lifts the horse on.

“He can swim,” I say. “If he’ll just give the horse time, anyhow . . .” When he was born, he had a bad time of it Ma would sit in the lamp-light, holding him on a pillow on her lap. We would wake and find her so. There would be no sound from them.

“That pillow was longer than him,” Cash says. He is leaning a little forward, “I ought to come down last week and sighted. I ought to done it”

“That’s right,” I say. “Neither his feet nor his head would reach the end of it You couldn’t have known.” I say.

“I ought to done it,” he says. He lifts the reins. The mules move, into the traces; the wheels murmur alive in the water. He looks back and down at Addie. “It aint on a balance,” he says.

At last the trees open; against the open river Jewel sits the horse, half turned, it belly deep now. Across the river we can see Vernon and pa and Vardaman and Dewey Dell Vernon is waving at us, waving us further downstream.

“We are too high up,” Cash says. Vernon is shouting too, but we cannot make out what he says for tie noise of the water. It runs steady and deep now, tin-broken, without sense of motion until a log comes along, turning slowly. “Watch it,” Cash says. We watch it and see it falter and hang for a moment, the current building up behind it in a thick wave, submerging it for an instant before it shoots up and tumbles on.

“There it is,” I say.

“Ay,” Cash says. It’s there.” We look at Vernon again. He is now flapping his arms up and down. We move on downstream, slowly and carefully, watching Vernon. He drops his hands. “This is the place,” Cash says.

“Well, goddamn it, let’s get across, then,” Jewel says, He moves the horse on. “You wait,” Cash says. Jewel stops again. “Well, by God–” he says. Cash looks at the water, then he looks back at Addie. “It aint on a balance,” he says.

“Then go on back to the goddamn bridge and walk across,” Jewel says. “You and Darl both. Let me on that wagon.”

Cash does not pay him any attention. It aint on a balance,” he says. “Yes, sir. We got to watch it.”

“Watch it, hell,” Jewel says. “You get out of that wagon and let me have it. By God, if you’re afraid to drive it over . . .” His eyes are pale as two bleached chips in his face. Cash is looking at him.

“We’ll get it over,” he says. “I tell you what you do. You ride on back and walk across the bridge and come down the other bank and meet us with the rope. Vernon’ll take your horse home with him and keep it till we get back.”

“You go to hell,” Jewel says.

“You take the rope and come down the bank and be ready with it,” Cash says. “Three cant do no more than two can–one to drive and one to steady it.”

“Goddamn you,” Jewel says.

“Let Jewel take the end of the rope and cross upstream of us and brace it,” I say. “Will you do that, Jewel?”

Jewel watches me, hard. He looks quick at Cash, then back at me, his eyes alert and hard. “I dont give a damn. Just so we do something. Setting here, not lifting a goddamn hand …”

“Left do that, Cash,” I say.

“I reckon well have to,” Cash says.

The river itself is not a hundred yards across, and pa and Vernon and Vardaman and Dewey Dell are the only things in sight not of that single monotony of desolation leaning with, that terrific quality a little from right to left, as though we had reached the place where the motion of the wasted world accelerates just before the final precipice. Yet they appear dwarfed. It is as though the space between us were time: an irrevocable quality. It is as though time, no longer running straight before us in a diminishing line, now runs parallel between us like a looping string, tie distance being the doubling accretion of the thread and not the interval between. The mules stand, their fore quarters already sloped a little, their romps high. They too are breathing now with a deep groaning sound; looking back once, their gaze sweeps across us with in their eyes a wild, sad, profound and despairing quality as though they had already seen in the thick water the shape of the disaster which they could not speak and we could not see.

Cash turns back into the wagon. He lays his hands flat on Addie, rocking her a little. His face is calm, down-sloped, calculant, concerned. He lifts his box of tools and wedges it forward tinder the seat; together we shove Addie forward, wedging her between the tools and the wagon bed. Then he looks at me.

“No,” I say. “I reckon 111 stay. Might take both of us.”

From the tool box he takes his coiled rope and carries the end twice around the seat stanchion and passes the end to me without tying it. The other end he pays out to Jewel, who takes a turn about his saddle horn.

He must force the horse down into the current. It moves, highkneed, archnecked, boring and chafing. Jewel sits lightly forward, his knees lifted a little; again his swift alert calm gaze sweeps upon us and on. He lowers the horse into the stream, speaking to it in a soothing murmur. The horse slips, goes under to the saddle, surges to its feet again, the current building up against Jewel’s thighs.

“Watch yourself,” Cash says.

“I’m oil it now,” Jewel says. “You can come ahead now.” Cash takes the reins and lowers the team carefully and skillfully into the stream.

I felt the current take us and I knew we were on the ford by that reason, since it was only by means of that slipping contact that we could tell that we were in motion at all. What had once been a -flat surface was now a succession of troughs and hillocks lifting and falling about us, shoving at us, teasing at us with light lazy touches in the vain instants of solidity underfoot. Cash looked back at me, and then I knew that we were gone. But I did not realise the reason for the rope until I saw the log. It surged up out of the water and stood for an instant upright upon that surging and heaving desolation like Christ. Get out and let the current take you down to the bend, Cash said. You can make it all right. No, I said, I’d get just as wet that way as this

The log appears suddenly between two hills, as if it had rocketed suddenly from the bottom of the river. Upon the end of it a long gout of foam hangs like the beard of an old man or a goat. When Cash speaks to me I know that he has been watching it all the time, watching it and watching Jewel ten feet ahead of us. “Let the rope go,” he says. With his other hand he reaches down and reeves the two turns from the stanchion. “Ride on, Jewel,” he says; “see if you can pull us ahead of the log.”

Jewel shouts at the horse; again he appears to lift it bodily between his knees. He is just above the top of the ford and the horse has a purchase of some sort for it surges forward, shining wetly half out of water, crashing on in a succession of lunges. It moves unbelievably fast; by that token Jewel realises at last that the rope is free, for I can see him sawing back on the reins, his head turned, as the log rears in a long sluggish lunge between us, bearing down upon the team. They see it too; for a moment they also shine black out of water. Then the downstream one vanishes, dragging the other with him; the wagon sheers crosswise, poised on the crest of the ford as the log strikes it, tilting it up and on. Cash is half turned, the reins running taut from his hand and disappearing into the water, the other hand reached back upon Addie, holding her jammed over against the high side of the wagon. “Jump dear,” he says quietly. “Stay away from the team and dont try to fight it. It’ll swing you into the bend all right.”

“You come too,” I say. Vernon and Vardaman are running along the bank, pa and Dewey Dell stand watching us, Dewey Dell with the basket and the package in her arms. Jewel is trying to fight the horse back. The head of one mule appears, its eyes wide; it looks back at us for an instant, making a sound almost human. The head vanishes again.

“Back, Jewel,” Cash shouts. “Back, Jewel.” For an-other instant I see him leaning to the tilting wagon, his arm braced back against Addie and his tools; I see the bearded head of the rearing log strike up again, and beyond it Jewel holding the horse up-reared, its head wrenched around, hammering its head with his fist. I jump from the wagon on the downstream side. Between two hills I see the mules once more. They roll up out of the water in succession, turning completely over, their legs stiffly extended as when they had lost contact with the earth.

Vardaman

Cash tried “but she fell off and Darl jumped going under he went under and Cash hollering to catch her and I hollering running and hollering and Dewey Dell hollering at me Vardaman you Vardaman you Vardaman and Vernon passed me because he was seeing her come up and she jumped into the water again and Darl hadn’t caught her yet

He came up to see and I hollering catch her Darl catch her and he didn’t come back because she was too heavy he had to go on catching at her and I hollering catch her darl catch her darl because in the water she could go faster than a man and Darl had to grabble for her so I knew he could catch her because he is the best grabbler even with the mules in the way again they dived up rolling their feet stiff rolling down again and their backs up now and Darl had to again because in the water she could go faster than a man or woman and I passed Vernon and be wouldn’t get in the water and help Darl he wouldn’t grabble for her with Darl he knew but he wouldn’t help

The mules dived up again diving their legs stiff their stiff legs rolling slow and then Darl again and I hollering catch her darl catch her head her into the bank darl and Vernon wouldn’t help and then Darl dodged past the mules where he could he had her under the water coming in to the bank coming in slow because in the water she fought to stay under the water but Darl is strong and he was coming in slow and so I knew he had her because he came slow and I ran down into the water to help and I couldn’t stop hollering because Darl was strong and steady holding her under the water even if she did fight he would not let her go he was seeing me and he would hold her and it was all right now it was all right now it was all right

Then he comes up out of the water. He comes a long way up slow before his hands do but he’s got to have her got to so I can bear it. Then his hands come up and all of him above the water. I cant stop. I have not got “time to try. I will try to when I can but his hands came empty out of the water emptying the water emptying away

“Where is ma, Darl?” I said. “You never got her. You knew she is a fish but you let her get away. You never got her. Darl. Darl. Darl.” I began to run along the bank, watching the mules dive up slow again and then down again.

Tull

When I told Cora how Darl jumped out of the wagon and left Cash sitting there trying to save it and the wagon turning over, and Jewel that was almost to the hank fighting that horse back where it had more sense than to go, she says “And you’re one of the folks that says Darl is the queer one, the one that aint bright; and him the only one of them that had sense enough to get off that wagon. I notice Anse was too smart to been on it a-tall.”

“He couldn’t a done no good, if he’d been there,” I said. “They was going about it right and they would have made it if it hadn’t a been for that log.”

“Log, fiddlesticks,” Cora said. “It was the hand of God.”

“Then how can you say it was foolish?” I said. “Nobody cant guard against the hand of God. It would be sacrilege to try to.”

“Then why dare it?” Cora says. “Tell me that” “Anse didn’t.” I said. That’s just “what you faulted him for?”

“His place -was there,” Cora said. “If he had been a man, he would a been there instead of making his sons do what he dursn’t”

“I dont fallow what you want, then,” I said. “One breath you say they was daring the hand of God to try it, and the next breath you jump on Anse because he wasn’t with them.” Then she begun to sing again, working at the washtub, with that singing look in her face like she had done give up folks and all their foolishness and had done went on ahead of them, marching up the sky, singing.

The wagon hung for a long time while the current built up under it, shoving it off the ford, and Cash leaning more and more, trying to keep the coffin braced so it wouldn’t slip down and finish tilting the wagon over. Soon as the wagon got tilted good, to where the current could finish it, the log went on. It headed around the wagon and went on good as a swimming man could have done. It was like it had been sent there to do a job and done it and went on.

When the mules finally kicked loose, it looked for a minute hike maybe Cash would get the wagon back, It looked like him and the wagon wasn’t moving at all, and just Jewel fighting that horse back to the wagon. Then that boy passed me, running and hollering at Darl and the gal trying to catch him, and then I see the mules come rolling slow up out of the water, their legs spraddled stiff like they had balked upside down, and roll on into the water again.

Then the wagon tilted over and then it and Jewel and the horse was all mixed up together. Cash went outen sight, still holding the coffin braced, and then I couldn’t tell anything for the horse lunging and splashing. I thought that Cash had give up then and was swimming for it and I was yelling at Jewel to come on back and then all of a sudden him and the horse went under too and I thought they was all going. I knew that the horse had got dragged off the ford too, and with that wild drowning horse and that wagon and that loose box, it was going to be pretty bad, and there I was, standing knee-deep in the water, yelling at Anse behind me: “See what you done now? See what you done now?”

The horse come up again. It was headed for the hank now, throwing its head up, and then I saw one of them holding to the saddle on the downstream side, so I started running along the bank, trying to catch sight of Cash because, he couldn’t swim, yelling at Jewel where Cash was like a durn fool, bad as that boy that was on down the bank still hollering at Darl.

So I went down into the water so I could still keep some kind of a grip in the mud, when I saw Jewel. He was middle deep, so I knew he was on the ford, anyway, leaning hard upstream, and then I see the rope, and then I see the water building up where he was holding the wagon snubbed just below the ford.

So it was Cash holding to the horse when it come splashing and scrambling up the bank, moaning and groaning like a natural man. When I come to it it was just kicking Cash loose from his holt on the saddle.

His face turned up a second when he/was sliding back into the water. It was gray, with his eyes closed and a long swipe of mud across his face. Then he let go and turned over in the water. He looked just like a old bundle of clothes kind of washing up and down against the bank. He looked like he was laying there in the water on his face, rocking up and down a little, looking at something on die bottom.

We could watch the rope cutting down into the water, and we could feel the weight of the wagon kind of blump and lunge lazy like, like it just as soon as not, and that rope cutting down into the water hard as a iron bar. We could hear the water hissing on it like it was red hot Like it was a straight iron bar stuck into the bottom and us holding the end of it, and the wagon lazing up and down, kind of pushing and prodding at us like it had come around and got behind us, lazy like, like it just as soon as not when it made up its mind. There was a shoat come by, blowed up hike a balloon: one of them spotted shoats of Lon Quick’s. It bumped against the rope like it was a iron bar and bumped off and went on, and. us watching that rope slanting down into the water. We watched it.

Darl

Cash lies on his back on the earth, his head raised on a rolled garment. His eyes are closed, his face is gray, his hair plastered in a smooth smear across his forehead as though done with, a paint brush. His face appears sunken a little, “sagging from the bony ridges of eye sockets, nose, gums, as though the wetting had slacked the firmness which had held the skin full; his teeth, set in pale gums, are parted a little as if he had been laughing quietly. He lies pole-thin in his wet clothes, a little pool of vomit at his head and a thread of it running from the corner of his mouth and down his cheek where he couldn’t turn his head quick or far enough, until Dewey Dell stoops and wipes it away with the hem of her dress.

Jewel approaches. He has the plane. “Vernon just found the square,” he says. He looks down at Cash, dripping too. “Aint he talked none yet?”

“He had his saw and hammer and chalk-line and rule,” I say. “I know that.”

Jewel lays the square down. Pa watches him. “They cant be far away,” pa says. ‘It all went together. Was there ere a such misfortunate man.”

Jewel does not look at pa. “You better call Vardaman back here,” he says. He looks at Cash. Then he turns and goes away. “Get him to talk soon as he can,” he says, “so he can tell us what else there was.”

We return to the river. The wagon is hauled clear, the wheels chocked (carefully: we all helped; it is as though upon the shabby, familiar, inert shape of the wagon there lingered somehow, latent yet still immediate, that violence which had slain the mules that drew it not an hour since) above the edge of the flood. In the wagon bed it lies profoundly, the long pale planks hushed a little with wetting yet still yellow, like gold seen through water, save for two long muddy smears. We pass it and go on to the bank.

One end of the rope is made fast to a tree. At the edge of the stream, knee-deep, Vardaman stands, bent forward a little, watching Vernon with rapt absorption. He has stopped yelling and he is wet to the armpits. Vernon is at the other end of the rope, shoulder-deep in the river, looking back at Vardaman, “Further back than that,” he says. “You git back by the tree and hold the rope for me, so it cant slip.”

Vardaman backs along the rope, to the tree, moving blindly, watching Vernon. When we come up he looks at us once, his eyes round and a little dazed.

Then Be looks at Vernon again in that posture of rapt alertness.

“I got the hammer too,” Vernon says. “Looks like we ought to done already got that chalk-line. It ought to floated.”

“Floated clean away,” Jewel says. “We wont get it. We ought to find the saw, though.”

“I reckon so,” Vernon says. He looks at the water. “That chalk-line, too. What else did he have?”

“He aint talked yet,” Jewel says, entering the water. He looks back at me. “You go back and get him roused up to talk,” he says.

“Pa’s there,” I say. I follow Jewel into the water, along the rope. It feels alive in my hand, bellied faintly in a prolonged and resonant arc. Vernon is watching me.

“You better go,” he says. “You Better be there.”

“Let’s see what else we can get before it washes on down,” I say.

We hold to the rope, the current curling and dimpling about our shoulders. But beneath that false blandness the true force of it leans against us lazily. I had not thought that water in July could be so cold. It is like hands molding and prodding at the very bones. Vernon is still looking back toward the bank.

“Reckon it’ll hold us all?” he says. We too look back, following the rigid bar of the rope as it rises from the water to the tree and Vardaman crouched a little beside it, watching us. “Wish my mule wouldn’t strike out for home,” Vernon says. “Come on,” Jewel says. “Let’s get outen here.” We submerge in turn, holding to the rope, Being clutched by one another while the cold wall of the

water sucks the slanting mud backward and upstream from beneath our feet and we are suspended so, groping along the cold bottom. Even the mud there is not still. It has a chill, scouring quality, as though the earth under us were in motion too. We touch and fumble at one another’s extended arms, letting ourselves go cautiously against the rope; or, erect in turn, watch the water suck and boil where one of the other two gropes beneath the surface. Pa has come down to the shore, watching us.

Vernon comes up, streaming, his face sloped down into his pursed blowing mouth. His mouth is bluish, like a circle of weathered rubber. He has the rule.

“Hell be glad of that,” I say. It’s right new. He bought it just last month out of the catalogue.”

“If we just knowed for sho what else,” Vernon says, looking over his shoulder and then turning to face where Jewel had disappeared. “Didn’t he go down fore me?” Vernon says.

“I dont know,” I say. “I think so. Yes. Yes, he did.”

We watch the thick curling surface, streaming away from us in slow whorls.

“Give him a pull on the rope,” Vernon says.

“He’s on your end of it,” I say.

“Aint nobody on my end of it,” he says.

“Pull it in,” I say. But he has already done that, holding the end above the. water; and then we see Jewel. He is ten yards away; he comes up, blowing, and looks at us, tossing his long hair back with a jerk of his head, then he looks toward the bank; we can see him filling his lungs.

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