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So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the family she wouldn't have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized. Later we said, "Poor Emily" behind the jalousies as they passed on Sunday afternoon in the glittering buggy, Miss Emily with her head high and Homer Barron with his hat cocked and a cigar in his teeth, reins and whip in a yellow glove.
When her father died, it got about that the house was all that was left to her; and in a way, people were glad. Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized. I don't care what kind." The druggist named several. But what you want is--" "Arsenic," Miss Emily said. Then some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people.
Then we knew that this was to be expected too; as if that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman's life so many times had been too virulent and too furious to die.
When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray.
She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. Perhaps one of you can gain access to the city records and satisfy yourselves." "But we have. Didn't you get a notice from the sheriff, signed by him? A few of the ladies had the temerity to call, but were not received, and the only sign of life about the place was the Negro man--a young man then--going in and out with a market basket. " "I'm sure that won't be necessary," Judge Stevens said.
Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to another while the visitors stated their errand. She just stood in the door and listened quietly until the spokesman came to a stumbling halt. "Just as if a man--any man--could keep a kitchen properly, "the ladies said; so they were not surprised when the smell developed. "It's probably just a snake or a rat that nigger of hers killed in the yard. Give her a certain time to do it in, and if she don't.
None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such. When she opened the package at home there was written on the box, under the skull and bones: "For rats." IV So THE NEXT day we all said, "She will kill herself"; and we said it would be the best thing.
We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door. When she had first begun to be seen with Homer Barron, we had said, "She will marry him." Then we said, "She will persuade him yet," because Homer himself had remarked--he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks' Club--that he was not a marrying man.
It smelled of dust and disuse--a close, dank smell. It was furnished in heavy, leather-covered furniture.At first we were glad that Miss Emily would have an interest, because the ladies all said, "Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer." But there were still others, older people, who said that even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige- -without calling it noblesse oblige. Her kinsfolk should come to her." She had some kin in Alabama; but years ago her father had fallen out with them over the estate of old lady Wyatt, the crazy woman, and there was no communication between the two families. And as soon as the old people said, "Poor Emily," the whispering began. And, as we had expected all along, within three days Homer Barron was back in town. The Negro man went in and out with the market basket, but the front door remained closed.A neighbor saw the Negro man admit him at the kitchen door at dusk one evening. Now and then we would see her at a window for a moment, as the men did that night when they sprinkled the lime, but for almost six months she did not appear on the streets.Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor--he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron-remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity. Colonel Sartoris invented an involved tale to the effect that Miss Emily's father had loaned money to the town, which the town, as a matter of business, preferred this way of repaying.Only a man of Colonel Sartoris' generation and thought could have invented it, and only a woman could have believed it.
A week later the mayor wrote her himself, offering to call or to send his car for her, and received in reply a note on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin, flowing calligraphy in faded ink, to the effect that she no longer went out at all. They called a special meeting of the Board of Aldermen.