Authors: William Faulkner
LAGS IN THE
OUND AND THE
As I L
NTRUDER IN THE
OTES ON A
EQUIEM FOR A
Copyright 1948 by Random House, Inc.
Copyright renewed 1975 by Jill Faulkner Summers
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published by Random House, Inc., New York, in 1948.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Faulkner, William. 1897–1962.
Intruder in the dust / William Faulkner.
—1st Vintage international ed.
T 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 oclock 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 wont 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 crokersack 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 immanent destiny; by nightfall the whole land would be hung with their spectral intact tallowcolored empty carcasses immobilised by the heels in attitudes of frantic running as though full tilt at the center of the earth.
And he didn’t know how it happened. The boy, one of Edmonds’ tenant’s sons, older and larger than Aleck Sander who in his turn was larger than he although they were the same age, was waiting at the house with the dog—a true rabbit dog, some hound, a good deal of hound, maybe mostly hound, redbone and black-and-tan with maybe a little pointer somewhere once, a potlicker, a nigger dog which it took but one glance to see had an affinity a rapport with rabbits such as people said Negroes had with mules—and Aleck Sander already had his tap-stick—one of the heavy nuts which bolt railroad rails together, driven onto a short length of broomhandle—which Aleck Sander could throw whirling end over end at a running rabbit pretty near as accurately as he could shoot the shotgun—and Aleck Sander and Edmonds’ boy with tapsticks and he with the gun they went down through the park and across a pasture to the creek where Edmonds’ boy knew the footlog was and he didn’t know how it happened, something a girl might have been expected and even excused for doing but nobody else, halfway over the footlog and not even thinking about it who had walked the top rail of a fence many a time twice that far when all of a sudden the known familiar sunny winter earth was upside down and flat on his face and still holding the gun he was rushing not away from the earth but away from the bright sky and he could remember still the thin
bright tinkle of the breaking ice and how he didn’t even feel the shock of the water but only of the air when he came up again. He had dropped the gun too so he had to dive, submerge again to find it, back out of the icy air into the water which as yet felt neither, neither cold or not and where even his sodden garments—boots and thick pants and sweater and hunting coat—didn’t even feel heavy but just slow, and found the gun and tried again for bottom then thrashed one-handed to the bank and treading water and clinging to a willow-branch he reached the gun up until someone took it; Edmonds’ boy obviously since at that moment Aleck Sander rammed down at him the end of a long pole, almost a log whose first pass struck his feet out from under him and sent his head under again and almost broke his hold on the willow until a voice said:
‘Get the pole out of his way so he can get out’—just a voice, not because it couldn’t be anybody else but either Aleck Sander or Edmonds’ boy but because it didn’t matter whose: climbing out now with both hands among the willows, the skim ice crinkling and tinkling against his chest, his clothes like soft cold lead which he didn’t move in but seemed rather to mount into like a poncho or a tarpaulin: up the bank until he saw two feet in gum boots which were neither Edmonds’ boy’s nor Aleck Sander’s and then the legs, the overalls rising out of them and he climbed on and stood up and saw a Negro man with an axe on his shoulder, in a heavy sheep-lined coat and a broad pale felt hat such as his grandfather had used to wear, looking at him and that was when he saw Lucas Beauchamp for the first time that he remembered or rather for the first time because you didn’t forget Lucas Beauchamp; gasping, shaking and only now feeling the shock of the cold water, he looked up at the face which
was just watching him without pity commiseration or anything else, not even surprise: just watching him, whose owner had made no effort whatever to help him up out of the creek, had in fact ordered Aleck Sander to desist with the pole which had been the one token toward help that anybody had made—a face which in his estimation might have been under fifty or even forty except for the hat and the eyes, and inside a Negro’s skin but that was all even to a boy of twelve shaking with cold and still panting from shock and exertion because what looked out of it had no pigment at all, not even the white man’s lack of it, not arrogant, not even scornful: just intractable and composed. Then Edmonds’ boy said something to the man, speaking a name: something Mister Lucas: and then he knew who the man was, remembering the rest of the story which was a piece, a fragment of the country’s chronicle which few if any knew better than his uncle: how the man was son of one of old Carothers McCaslin’s, Edmonds’ great grandfather’s, slaves who had been not just old Carothers’ slave but his son too: standing and shaking steadily now for what seemed to him another whole minute while the man stood looking at him with nothing whatever in his face. Then the man turned, speaking not even back over his shoulder, already walking, not even waiting to see if they heard, let alone were going to obey: