They were admitted by the old Negro into a dim hall from which a stairway mounted into still more shadow.It smelled of dust and disuse--a close, dank smell. It was furnished in heavy, leather-covered furniture.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.
When the Negro opened the blinds of one window, they could see that the leather was cracked; and when they sat down, a faint dust rose sluggishly about their thighs, spinning with slow motes in the single sun-ray.
On a tarnished gilt easel before the fireplace stood a crayon portrait of Miss Emily's father. I have no taxes in Jefferson." "But there is nothing on the books to show that, you see We must go by the--" "See Colonel Sartoris. "Show these gentlemen out." II So SHE vanquished them, horse and foot, just as she had vanquished their fathers thirty years before about the smell.
I WHEN Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant--a combined gardener and cook--had seen in at least ten years.
It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street.
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.
When the next generation, with its more modern ideas, became mayors and aldermen, this arrangement created some little dissatisfaction.
On the first of the year they mailed her a tax notice. They wrote her a formal letter, asking her to call at the sheriff's office at her convenience.
Now she too would know the old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or less. The men did not want to interfere, but at last the ladies forced the Baptist minister--Miss Emily's people were Episcopal-- to call upon her.
The day after his death all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer condolence and aid, as is our custom Miss Emily met them at the door, dressed as usual and with no trace of grief on her face. She did that for three days, with the ministers calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will. When we saw her again, her hair was cut short, making her look like a girl, with a vague resemblance to those angels in colored church windows--sort of tragic and serene. He would never divulge what happened during that interview, but he refused to go back again. Two days later we learned that she had bought a complete outfit of men's clothing, including a nightshirt, and we said, "They are married." We were really glad.
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.