Their Rich and Imminent Destiny

FROM Intruder In The Dust by William Faulkner

IT WAS JUST NOON that Sunday morning when the sheriff reached the jail with Lucas Beauchamp though the whole town (the whole county too for that matter) had known since the night before that Lucas had killed a white man. He was there, waiting. He was the first one, standing lounging trying to look occupied or at least innocent, under the shed in front of the closed blacksmith’s shop across the street from the jail where his uncle would be less likely to see him if or rather when he crossed the Square toward the postoffice for the eleven o’clock mail.

Because he knew Lucas Beauchamp too—as well that is as any white person knew him. Better than any maybe unless it was Carothers Edmonds on whose place Lucas lived seventeen miles from town, because he had eaten a meal in Lucas’ house. It was in the early winter four years ago; he had been only twelve then and it had happened this way: Edmonds was a friend of his uncle; they had been in school at the same time at the State University, where his uncle had gone after he came back from Harvard and Heidelberg to learn enough law to get himself chosen County Attorney, and the day before Edmonds had come in to town to see his uncle on some county business and had stayed the night with them and at supper that evening Edmonds had said to him:

“Come out home with me tomorrow and go rabbit hunting:” and then to his mother: “I’ll send him back in tomorrow afternoon. I’ll send a boy along with him while he’s out with his gun:” and then to him again: “He’s got a good dog.”

“He’s got a boy,” his uncle said and Edmonds said:

“Does his boy run rabbits too?” and his uncle said:

“We’ll promise he won’t interfere with yours.”

So the next morning he and Aleck Sander went home with Edmonds. It was cold that morning, the first winter cold-snap, the hedgerows were rimed and stiff with frost and the standing water in the roadside drainage ditches was skimmed with ice and even the edges of the running water in the Nine Mile branch glinted fragile and scintillant like fairy glass and from the first farmyard they passed and then again and again and again came the windless tang of woodsmoke and they could see in the back yards the black iron pots already steaming while women in the sunbonnets still of summer or men’s old felt hats and long men’s overcoats stoked wood under them and the men with croker sack aprons tied with wire over their overalls whetted knives or already moved about the pens where hogs grunted and squealed, not quite startled, not alarmed but just alerted as though sensing already even though only dimly their rich and imminent destiny; by nightfall the whole land would be hung with their spectral intact tallow colored empty carcasses immobilized by the heels in attitudes of frantic running as though full tilt at the center of the earth.

Image: “Old Barn” by Dawson Napps

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Published in: on January 26, 2010 at 3:12 PM  Leave a Comment  
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