The Mansion 5

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V. K. Ratliff

"You aint even going to meet the train?" Chick says. Lawyer never even looked up, setting there at the desk with his attention (his nose anyway) buried in the papers in front of him like there was not nobody else in the room. "Not just a new girl coming to town," Chick says, "but a wounded female war veteran. Well, maybe not a new girl," he says. "Maybe that's the wrong word. In fact maybe 'new' is the wrong word all the way round. Not a new girl in Jefferson, because she was born and raised here. And even if she was a new girl in Jefferson or new anywhere else once, that would be just once because no matter how new you might have been anywhere once, you would not be very new anywhere any more after you went to Spain with a Greenwich Village poet to fight Hitler. That is, not after the kind of Greenwich Village poet that would get you both blown up by a shell anyhow. That is, provided you were a girl. So just say, not only an old girl that used to be new, coming back to Jefferson, but the first girl old or new either that JeSerson ever had to come home wounded from a war. Men soldiers yes, of course yes. But this is the first female girl soldier we ever had, not to mention one actually wounded by the enemy. Naturally we dont include rape for the main reason that we aint talking about rape. " Still his uncle did not move. "I'd think you'd have the whole town down there at the depot to meet her. Out of simple sympathetic interest, not to mention pity: a girl that went all the way to Spain to a war and the best she got out of it was to lose her husband and have both eardrums busted by a shell. Mrs Cole, "he says.
Nor did Lawyer look up even then. "Kohl," he says.
"That's what I said," Chick says. "Mrs Cole."
This time Lawyer spelled it, "K-o-h-l," he says. But even before he spelled it, it had a different sound from the way Chick said it. "He was a sculptor, not a poet. The shell did not kill him. It was an aeroplane."
"Oh well, no wonder, if he was just a sculptor," Chick says. "Naturally a sculptor would not have the footwork to dodge machine-gun bullets like a poet. A sculptor would have to stay In one place too much of his time. Besides, maybe it was not Saturday so he did not have his hat on. "
"He was in the aeroplane," Lawyer says. "It was shot down. It crashed and burned."
"What?" Chick says. "A Greenwich Village sculptor named K-o-h-l actually in an aeroplane where it could get shot down by an enemy?" He was looking more or less at the top of his uncle's head. "Not Cole," he says: "K-o-h-l. I wonder why he did not change it. Dont they, usually?"
Now Lawyer closed the papers without no haste a-tall and laid them on the desk and pushed the swivel chair back and set back in it and clasped his hands behind his head. His hair had done already started turning gray when he come back from the war in France in 1919. Now it was pretty near completely white, and him setting there relaxed and easy in the chair with that white mop of it and the little gold key he got when he was at Harvard on his watch chain and one of the cob pipes stuck upside down in his shirt pocket like it was a pencil or a toothpick, looking at Chick for about a half a minute. "You did not find that at Harvard," he says. "I thought that maybe after two years in Cambridge, you might not even recognise it again when you came back to Mississippi."
"All right," Chick says. "I'm sorry." But Lawyer just sat there easy in the chair, looking at him. "Damn it," Chick says, "I said I'm sorry."
"Only you're not sorry yet," Lawyer says. "You're just ashamed."
"Aint it the same thing?" Chick says.
"No," Lawyer says. "When you are just ashamed of something, you dont hate it. You just hate getting caught."
"Well, you caught me," Chick says. "I am ashamed. What more do you want?" Only Lawyer did not even need to answer that. "Maybe I cant help it yet, even after two years at Harvard," Chick says. "Maybe I just lived too long a time among what us Mississippi folks call white people before I went there. You cant be ashamed of me for what I did not know in time, can you?"
"I'm not ashamed of you about anything," Lawyer says.
"All right," Chick says. "Sorry, then."
"I'm not sorry over you about anything either," Lawyer says.
"Then what the hell is all this about?" Chick says.
So a stranger that never happened to be living in Jefferson or Yoknapatawpha County ten or twelve years ago might have thought it was Chick that was the interested party. Not only interested enough to be jealous of his uncle, but interested enough to already be jealous even when the subject or bone of contention not only had not even got back home yet, he would not even seen her since ten years ago. Which would make him jealous not only over a gal he had not even seen in ten years., But that he was not but twelve or thirteen years old and she was already nineteen, a growed woman, when he seen her that last time --a insurmountable barrier of difference in age that would still been a barrier even with three or four more years added onto both of them, providing of course it was the gal that still had the biggest number of them. In fact you would think how a boy jest twelve or thirteen years old could not be man-jealous yet; would not have enough fuel yet to fire jealousy and keep it burning very long or even a-tall over a gal nineteen years old or any other age between eight and eighty for that matter, except that how young does he have to be before he can dare to risk not having that fuel capable of taking fire and combusting? Jest how young must he be to be safe for a little while longer yet, as the feller says, from having his heart strangled as good as any other man by that one strand of Lilith's hair? Or how old either, for the matter of that. Besides, this time when she come back, even though she would still be the same six or seven years older, this time they would be jest six or seven years older than twenty-two or twenty-three instead of six or seven years older than twelve or thirteen, and that aint no barrier a-tall. This time he would not be no innocent infantile bystanding victim of that loop because this time he would be in there fighting for the right and privilege of being lassoed; fighting not jest for the right and privilege of being strangled too, but of being strangled first.
Which was exactly what he looked like he was trying to do: nudging and whetting at his uncle, reaching around for whatever stick or club or brickbat come to his hand like he was still jest twelve or thirteen years old or even less than that, grabbing up that one about Linda's husband being a Jew for instance, because even at jest twelve, if he had stopped long enough to think, he would a knowed that that would not even be a good solid straw as far as his present opponent or rival was concerned.
Maybe that - swinging that straw at his uncle about how Lawyer had been the main one instrumental in getting Linda up there in New York where could not no homefolks look after her and so sho enough she had went and married a Jew - was what give Chick away. Because he aint even seen her again yet; he could not a knowed all that other yet. I mean, knowed that even at jest twelve he already had all the jealousy he would ever need at twenty-two or eighty-two either. He would need to actively see her again to find out he had jest as much right as any other man in it to be strangled to death by this here new gal coming to town, and was not no man wearing hair going to interfere in the way and save him. When he thought about her now, he would have to remember jest what that twelve- or thirteen-year-old boy had seen: not a gal but a woman growed, the same general size and shape of his own maw, belonging to and moving around in the same alien human race the rest of the world except twelve-year-old boys belonged to. And, if it had not been for his uncle finally stopping long enough his-self to look at her and then you might say ketching Chick by the scruff of the neck and grinding his attention onto her by conscripting up half his out-of- school time toting notes back and forth to her for them after-school ice-cream-parlor dates her and Lawyer started to having, nowhere near as interesting.
So when Chick remembered her now, he would still have to see what twelve or thirteen years old had seen: Hell fire, she's durn nigh old as maw. He would have to actively look at her again to see what twenty-two or twenty-three would see: Hell fire, suppose she is a year or two older than me, jest so it's me that's the man of the two of us. So you and that stranger both would a thought how maybe it taken a boy of twelve or thirteen; maybe only a boy of twelve or thirteen is capable of pure and undented, what you might call virgin, jealousy toward a man of thirty over a gal of nineteen-or of any other age between eight and eighty for that matter, jest as it takes a boy of twelve or thirteen to know the true anguish and passion arid hope and despair of love; you and that stranger both thinking that right up to that last final moment when Chick give his-self away free-for-nothing by grabbing up that one about Linda's husband being not only a poet but a Jew too to hit at his uncle with. Then even that stranger would a realised Chick was not throwing it at Linda a-tall: he was throwing it at his uncle; that it was not his uncle he was jealous of over Linda Snopes: he was jealous of Linda over his uncle. Then even that stranger would a had to say to Chick in his mind: Maybe you could not persuade me onto your side at first, but we're sholy in the same agreement now.
Leastways if that stranger had talked to me a little. Because I could remember, I was actively watching it, that time back there when Lawyer first got involved into Linda's career as the feller says. I dont mean when Lawyer thought her career got mixed up into hisn, nor even when he first thought he actively noticed her. Because she was already twelve or thirteen herself then and so Lawyer had already knowed her all her life or anyway since she was them one or two years old or whenever it is when hit's folks begin to bring it out into the street in a baby buggy or toting it and you first notice how it not only is beginning to look like a human being, hit even begins to look a little like some specific family of folks you are acquainted with. And in a little town like Jefferson where not only ever body knows ever body else but ever body has got to see ever body else in town at least once in the twenty-four hours whether he wants to or not, except for the time Lawyer was away at the war likely he had to see her at least once a week. Not to mention having to know even before he could recognise her to remember, that she was Eula Varner's daughter that all Jefferson and Yoknapatawpha County both that had ever seen Eula Varner first, could not help but look at Eula Varner's child with a kind of amazement, like at some minute-sized monster, since anybody, any man anyhow, that ever looked at Eula once could not help but believe that all that much woman in jest one simple normal-sized chunk could not a possibly been fertilised by anything as frail and puny in comparison as jest one single man; that it would a taken that whole generation of young concentrated men to seeded them, as the feller says, splendid - no: he would a said magnificent-loins.
And I dont mean when Lawyer voluntarily went outen his way and adopted Linda's career into a few spare extra years of hisn like he thought he was doing. What I mean is, when Eula Varner taken that first one look of hern at Lawyer - or let him take that first one look of hisn at her, whichever way you want to put it - and adopted the rest of his life into that of whatever first child she happened to have, providing of course it's a gal. Like when you finally see the woman that had ought to been yourn all the time, only it's already too late. The woman that ought to been sixteen maybe at this moment and you not more than nineteen (which at that moment when he first seen Eula Lawyer actively was; it was Eula that was out of focus, being as she was already a year older than Lawyer to start with) and you look at her that first one time and in the next moment says to her: "You're beautiful. I love you. Let's dont never part a -ain," and she says, "Yes, of course "- no more concerned than that:" Of course I am. Of course you do. Of course we wont. " Only it's already too late. She is already married to somebody else. Except it was not too late. It aint never too late and wont never be, providing, no matter how old you are, you still are that-ere nineteen-year-old boy that said that to that sixteen-year-old gal at that one particular moment outen all the moments you might ever call yourn. Because how can it ever be too late to that nineteen-year-old boy, because how can that sixteen-year-old gal you had to say that to ever be violated, it dont matter how many husbands she might a had in the meantime , providing she actively was the one that had to say "Of course" right back at you? And even when she is toting the active proof of that violation around in her belly or even right out in plain sight on her arm or dragging at the tail of her skirt, immolating hit and her both back into virginity would not be no trick a -tall to that nineteen-year-old boy, since naturally that sixteen-year-old gal could not possibly be fertilised by no other seed except hisn, I dont care who would like to brag Ms-self as being the active instrument.
Except that Lawyer did not know all that yet neither. Mainly because he was too busy. I mean, that day when Eula first walked through the Jefferson Square where not jest Lawyer but all Jefferson too would have to see her. That time back there when Hem had finally grazed up Uncle Billy Varner and Frenchman's Bend and so he would have to move on somewhere, and Jefferson was as good a place as any since, as the feller says, any spoke leads sooner or later to the rim. Or in fact maybe Jefferson was for the moment unavoidable, being as Flem had done beat me outen my half of that cafe me and Grover Winbush owned, and since there was not no easy quick practical way to get Grover out to Frenchman's Bend, Flem would simply have to make a stopover at least in Jefferson while he evicted Grover outen the rest of it.
Anyhow, Lawyer seen her at last. And there he was, entering not jest bare-handed but practically nekkid too, that engagement that he could not afford to do anything but lose it - Lawyer, a town-raised bachelor that was going to need a Master of Arts from Harvard and a Doctor of Philosophy from Heidelberg jest to stiffen him up to where he could cope with the natural normal Yoknapatawpha County folks that never wanted nothing except jest to break a few aggravating laws that was in their way or get a little free money outen the county treasury; and Eula Varner that never needed to be educated nowhere because jest what the Lord had already give her by letting her stand up and breathe and maybe walk around a little now and then was trouble and danger enough for ever male man in range. For Lawyer to win that match would be like them spiders, that the end of the honeymoon is when she finally finishes eating up his last drumstick. Which likely enough Lawyer knowed too., Being nineteen years old and already one year at Harvard. Though even without Harvard, a boy nineteen years old ought to know that much about women jest by instinct, like a child or a animal knows fire is hot without having to actively put his hand or his foot in it. Even when a nineteen-year-old boy says "You're beautiful and I love you," even he ought to know whether it's a sixteen-year-old gal or a tiger that says "Certainly" back at him.
Anyhow, there Lawyer was, rushing headlong into that engagement that not only the best he could expect and hope for but the best he could want would be to lose it, since losing it would not do nothing but jest knock off some of his hide here and there. Rushing in with nothing in his hand to fight with but that capacity to stay nineteen years old the rest of his life, to take on that McCarron boy that had not only cuckolded him before he ever seen Eula, but that was going to keep on cuckolding him in one or another different name and shape even after he would finally give up. Because maybe Flem never had no reason to pick out Jefferson to come to; maybe one spoke was jest the same as another to him all he wanted was a rim. Or maybe he jest did not know he had a reason for Jefferson. Or maybe married men dont even need reasons, being as they already got wives. Or maybe it's women that dont need reasons, for the simple reason that they never heard of a reason and would not recognise it face to face, since they dont function from reasons but from necessities that could not nobody help nohow and that dont nobody but a fool man want to help in the second place, because he dont know no better; it aint women, it's men that takes ignorance seriously, getting into a skeer over something for no more reason than that they dont happen to know what it is.
So it was not Grover Winbush and what you might call that dangling other half of mine and his cafe that brought Miz Flem Snopes to Jefferson so she could walk across the Square whatever that afternoon was when Lawyer had to look at her. It was not even Eula herself. It was that McCarron boy. And I seen some of that too and heard about all the rest of it. Because that was about all folks within five miles of Varner's store talked about that spring. The full unchallenged cynosure you might say of the whole Frenchman's Bend section, from sometime in March to the concluding dee-neweyment or meelee which taken place jest beyond the creek bridge below Varner's house one night in the following July - that McCarron boy coming in to Frenchman's Bend that day without warning out of nowhere like a cattymount into a sheep pen among them Bookwrights and Binfords and Quicks and Tulls that for about a year now had been hitching their buggies and saddle mules to Will Varner's fence. Like a wild buck from the woods jumping the patch fence and already trompling them tame domestic local carrots and squashes and eggplants that until that moment was thinking or leastways hoping that Eula's maiden citadel was actively being threatened and endangered, before they could even blench, let alone cover their heads. Likely in fact, they had done a little local bragging to that effect - they called theirselves pretty unbitted too, until he come along that day, coming from nowhere jest exactly like a wild buck from the woods, like he had done located Eula from miles and even days away outen the hard unerring air itself and come as straight as a die to where she was waiting, not for him especially but maybe for jest any wild strong buck that was wild and strong enough to deserve and match her.
Yes sir. As the feller says, the big buck: the wild buck right off the mountain itself, with his tail already up and his eyes already flashing. Because them Bookwrights and Quicks and Tulls was pretty fair bucks theirselves, on that-ere home Frenchman's Bend range and reservation you might say, providing them outside boundary limits posted signs was not violated by these here footloose rambling uninvited strangers. In fact, they was pretty good at kicking and gouging and no holts barred and no bad feelings afterward, in all innocent friendliness and companionship not jest among one another but with that same friendly willingness to give and take when it was necessary to confederate up and learn him a lesson on some foreigner from four or five or six miles away that ought to stayed at home, had no business there, neither needed nor wanted, that had happened to see Eula somewhere once or maybe jest heard about her from somebody else that had watched her walk ten or fifteen feet. So he had to come crowding his buggy or mule up to Varner's picket fence some Sunday night, then coming innocently back down the road toward the gum and cypress thicket where the road crossed the creek bridge, his head still filled with female Varner dreams until the unified corporation stepped outen the thicket and bushwhacked them outen it and throwed creek water on him and put him back in the buggy or on the mule and wrapped the lines around the whipstock or the horn and headed him on toward wherever it was he lived and if he'd a had any sense he would not a left it in the first place or at least in this direction.
But this here new one was a different animal. Because they - including them occasional volunteers - was jest bucks in the general - or maybe it's the universal - Frenchman's Bend pattern, while McCarron was not in nobody's pattern; he was unbitted not because he was afraid of a bit but simply because so fur he did not prefer to be. So there not only was not nere a one of them would stand up to him alone, the whole unified confederated passel of them, that never hesitated one second to hide in that thicket against any other interloper that come sniffing at Varner's fence, never nerved theirselves up to him until it was already too late. Oh sho, they had chances. They had plenty of chances. In fact, he give them so many chances that by the end of May they would not even walk a Frenchman's Bend road after dark, even in sight of one of their own houses, without they was at least three of them. Because this here was a different kind of a buck, coming without warning right off the big mountain itself and doing what Lawyer would call arrogating to Ms-self what had been the gynecological cynosure of a whole section of north Missippi for going on a year or two now. Not ravishing Eula away: not riding up on his horse and snatching her up behind him and galloping off, but jest simply moving in and dispossessing them; not even evicting them but like he was keeping them on hand for a chorus you might say, or maybe jest for spice, like you keep five or six cellars of salt setting handy while you are eating the watermelon, until it was already too late, until likely as not, as fur as they or Frenchman's Bend either knowed, Eula was already pregnant with Linda.
Except I dont think that was exactly it. I dont think I prefer it to happened that way. I think I prefer it to happened all at once. Or that aint quite right neither. I think what I prefer is, that them five timorous local stallions actively brought about the very exact thing they finally nerved their desperation up to try to prevent. There they all was, poised on the brink you might say of that-ere still intact maiden citadel, all seven of them: Eula and McCarron, and them five Tulls and Bookwrights and Turpins and Binfords and Quicks. Because what them Tulls and Quicks would a called the worst had not happened yet. I dont mean the worst in respects to Eula's chastity nor to the violated honor of Uncle Billy Varner's home, but in respects to them two years 'investment of buggies and mules tied to the Varner fence when them and the five folks keeping them hitched there half the night both had ought to been home getting a little rest before going back to the field to plow at sunup, instead of having to live in a constantly shifting confederation of whatever four of them happened to believe that the fifth one was out in front in that-ere steeplechase, not to mention the need for all five of them having to gang up at a moment's notice maybe at almost any time on some stray interloper that turned up without warning with his head full of picket fence ideas too.
So I prefer to believe it had not happened yet. I dont know what Eula and McCarron was waiting on. I mean, what McCarron was waiting on. Eula never done no waiting. Likely she never even knowed what the word meant, like the ground, dirt, the earth, whatever it is in it that makes seed sprout at the right time, dont know nor need to know what waiting means. Since to know what waiting means, you got to be skeered or weak or self-doubtful enough to know what impatience or hurry means, and Eula never needed them no more than that dirt does. All she needed was jest to be, like the ground of the field, until the right time come, the right wind, the right sun, the right rain; until in fact that-ere single unique big buck jumped that tame garden fence outen the big woods or the high mountain or the tall sky, and finally got through jest standing there among the sheep with his head up, looking proud. So it was McCarron that put off that long what you might call that-ere inevitable. Maybe that was why: having to jest stand there for a while looking proud among the sheep. Maybe that was it: maybe he was jest simply having too much fun at first, playing with them Bookwright and Quick sheep, tantalising them up maybe to see jest how much they would have to stand to forget for a moment they was sheep, or to remember that maybe was sheep but at least there was five of them, until at last they would risk him jest like he actively was not nothing but jest one more of them natural occupational local hazards Eula had done already got them accustomed to handling.
So maybe you can figger what they was waiting on. They was church folks. I mean, they went to church a heap of Sundays, and Wednesday night prayer meeting too, unless something else come up. Because church was as good a place as any to finish up one week and start another, especially as there was not no particular other place to go on Sunday morning; not to mention a crap game down back of the spring while the church was busy singing or praying or listening; and who knowed but how on almost any Wednesday night you might ketch some young gal and persuade her off into the bushes before her paw or maw noticed she was missing. Or maybe they never needed to ever heard it, since likely it was not even Samson and Delilah that was the first ones to invent that hair-cutting eupheemism neither. So the whole idea might be what you would call a kind of last desperate instinctive hereditary expedient waiting handy for ever young feller (or old one either) faced with some form of man-trouble over his gal. So at least you knowed what they was waiting for. Naturally they would preferred to preserve that-ere maiden Varner citadel until one of them could manage to shake loose from the other four by luck of expedient long enough to ravage it. But now that this uninvited ringer had come in and wrecked ever thing anyhow, at least they could use that violation and rapine not only for revenge but to evict him for good from meddling around Frenchman's Bend.
Naturally not jest laying cravenly back to ketch him at a moment when he was wore out and exhausted with pleasure and success; they was not that bad. But since they could not prevent the victory, at least ketch him at a moment when he was not watching, when his mind was still fondly distracted and divided between what you might call bemusements with the recent past, which would a been last night , and aspirations toward the immediate future, which would be in a few minutes now as soon as the buggy reached a convenient place to hitch the horse. Which is what they - the ambushment - done. They was wrong of course; had not nothing happened yet. I mean, I prefer that even that citadel was still maiden right up to this moment. No: what I mean is, I wont have nothing else for the simple dramatic verities except that ever thing happened right there that night and all at once; that even that McCarron boy, that compared to them other five was a wild stag surrounded by a gang of goats - that even he was not enough by his-self but that it taken all six of them even to ravage that citadel, let alone seed them loins with a child: that July night and the buggy coming down the hill until they heard the horse's feet come off the creek bridge and the five of them, finally nerved up to even this last desperate gambit, piling outen that familiar bushwhacking thicket that up to this time had handled them local trespassing rams so simple and easy you would not hardly need to dust off your hands afterward.
Naturally they never brought no bystanders with them and after the first two or three minutes there was not no witness a-tall left, since he was already laying out cold in the ditch. So my conjecture is jest as good as yourn, maybe better since I'm a interested party, being as I got what the feller calls a theorem to prove. In fact, it may not taken even three minutes, one of them jumping to ketch the horse's head and the other four rushing to snatch McCarron outen the buggy, providing of course he was still in the buggy by that time and not already blazing bushes up the creek, having chosen quick between discretion and valor, it dont matter a hoot who was looking, as had happened before with at least one of the invaders that had been quick enough.
Which, by the trompled evidence folks went to look at the next day, McCarron was not, though not for the already precedented reason. Nor did the evidence explain jest what the wagon spoke was doing there neither that broke Me-Carron's arm: only that McCarron had the wagon spoke now in his remaining hand in the road while Eula was standing up in the buggy with that lead-loaded buggy whip reversed in both hands like a hoe or a axe, swinging the leaded butt of it at whatever head come up next.
Not over three minutes, at the outside. It would not needed more than that. It would not wanted more: it was all that simple and natural - a pure and simple natural circumstance as simple and natural and ungreedy as a tide-wave or a cloudburst, that did not even want but one swipe - a considerable of trompling and panting and cussing and nothing much to see except a kind of moil of tangled shadows around the horse (It never moved. But then it spent a good part of its life ever summer right in the middle of Will's sawmill and it stood right there in the yard all the time Will was evicting Ab Snopes from a house he had not paid no rent on in two years, which was the nearest thing to a cyclone Frenchman's Bend ever seen; it was said that Will could drive up to a depot and get outen the buggy and not even hitch it while a train passed, and only next summer it was going to be tied to the same lot gate that them wild Texas ponies Flem Snopes brought back from Texas demolished right up to the hinges when they run over Frenchman's Bend.) and buggy and the occasional gleam of that hickory wagon spoke interspersed among the mush-melon thumps of that loaded buggy whip handle on them Frenchman's Bend skulls.
And then jest the empty horse and buggy standing there in the road like the tree or rock or barn or whatever it was the tide-wave or cloudburst has done took its one rightful ungreedy swipe at and went away, and that-ere one remaining evidence --it was Theron Quick; for a week after it you could still see the print of that loaded buggy whip across the back of his skull; not the first time naming him Quick turned out to be what the feller calls jest a humorous allusion - laying cold in the weeds beside the road. And that's when I believe it happened. I dont even insist or argue that it happened that way. I jest simply decline to have it any other way except that one because there aint no acceptable degrees between what has got to be right and what jest can possibly be.
So it never even stopped. I mean, the motion, movement. It was one continuous natural rush from the moment five of them busted outen that thicket and grabbed at the horse, on through the cussing and trompling and hard breathing and the final crashing through the bushes and the last rapid and fading footfall, since likely the other four thought Theron was dead; then jest the peaceful quiet and the dark road and the horse standing quiet in the buggy in the middle of it and Theron Quick sleeping peacefully in the weeds. And that's when I believe it happened: not no cessation a-tall, not even no active pausing; not jest that maiden bastion capitulate and overrun but them loins themselves seeded, that child, that girl, Linda herself created into life right there in the road with likely Eula having to help hold him up offen the broke arm and the horse standing over them among the stars like one of them mounted big-game trophy heads sticking outen the parlor or the liberry or (I believe they call them now) den wall. In fact maybe that's what it was.
So in almost no time there was Will Varner with a pregnant unmarried daughter. I mean, there Frenchman's Bend was because even in them days when you said "Frenchman's Bend" you smiled at Uncle Billy Varner, or vice versa. Because if Eula Varner was a natural phenomenon like a cyclone or a tide-wave, Uncle Billy was one too even if he was not no more than forty yet: that had shaved notes and foreclosed liens and padded furnish bills and evicted tenants until the way Will Varner went Frenchman's Bend had done already left and the folks that composed it had damn sho better hang on and go too, unless they jest wanted to settle down in vacant space twenty-two miles southeast of Jefferson.
Naturally the McCarron boy was the man to handle the Varner family honor right there on the spot. After the first shock, folks all thought that's what he had aimed to do. He was the only child of a well-to-do widowed maw up in Tennessee somewhere until he happened to be wherever it was bis fate arranged for him to have his look at Eula Varner like theirn would do for Lawyer Stevens and Manfred de Spain about a year later. And, being the only child of a well-to-do maw and only educated in one of them fancy gentleman's schools, you would naturally expect him to lit out without even stopping to have his broke arm splinted up, let alone waiting for Will Varner to reach for his shotgun.
Except you would be wrong. Maybe you not only dont run outen the middle of a natural catastrophe - you might be flung outen it by centrifugal force or, if you had any sense, you might tried to dodge it. But you dont change your mind and plans in the middle of it. Or he might in his case even wanted to stay in the middle of that particular one until it taken the rest of his arms and legs too, as likely any number of them other Quicks and Tulls and Bookwrights would elected to do. Not to mention staying in that select school that even in that short time some of them high academic standards of honor and chivalry rubbed of! on him by jest exposure. Anyhow it was not him that left that-ere now-flyspecked Varner family honor high and dry. It was Eula herself that done it. So now all you can do is try to figger. So maybe it was the McCarron boy that done it, after all. Like maybe that centrifugal force that had not touched him but that one light time and he had already begun to crumple. That simple natural phenomenon that maybe did not expect to meet another phenomenon, even a natural one, but at least expected or maybe jest hoped for something at least tough enough to crash back without los-mg a arm or a leg the first time they struck. Because next time it might be a head, which would mean the life along with it, and then ah-that force and power and unskeeredness and uriskeerableness to give and to take and suffer the consequences it taken to be a female natural phenomenon in its phenomenal moment, would be wasted, throwed away. Because I aint talking about love. Natural phenomenon aint got no more concept of love than they have of the alarm and uncertainty and impotence you got to be capable of to know what waiting means. When she said to herself, and likely she did: The next one of them creek-bridge episodes might destroy him completely, It was not that McCarron boy's comfort she had in mind.
Anyhow, the next morning he was gone from Frenchman's Bend. I presume it was Eula that put what was left of the buggy whip back into the socket and druv the buggy back up the hill. Leastways they waked Will, and Will in his nightshirt (no shotgun: it would be anywhere up to twenty-eight days, give or take a few, before he would find out he needed the shotgun; it was jest his little grip of veterinary tools yet) patched up the arm to where he could drive on home or somewhere that more than a local cow-and-mule doctor could get a-holt of him. But he was back in Jefferson at least once about a month later, about the time when Eula likely found out if she did not change her condition pretty quick now, it was going to change itself for her. And he even paid the mail rider extra to carry a special wrote-out private message to Eula. But nothing come of that neither, and at last he was gone. And sho enough, about sixty-five or seventy days after that-ere hors-de-combat creek-bridge evening-and if you had expected a roar of some kind to come up outen the Varner residence and environment, you would been wrong there too: it was jest a quick announcement that even then barely beat the wedding itself-Herman Bookwright and Theron Quick left Frenchman's Bend suddenly overnight too though it's my belief they was both not even bragging but jest wishing they had, and Eula and Hem was married ; and after the one more week it taken Will to do what he thought was beating Flcm down to accepting that abandoned Old Frenchman place as full receipt for Eula's dowry, Eula and Flem left for Texas, which was fur enough away so that when they come back , that-ere new Snopes baby would look at least reasonably legal or maybe what I mean is orthodox. Not to mention as Texas would be where it had spent the presumable most of its prenatal existence, would not nobody be surprised if it was cutting its teeth at three months old. And when they was back in Frenchman's Bend a year later, anybody meddlesome enough to remark how it had got to be a pretty good-size gal in jest them three possible months, all he had to do was remind his-self that them three outside months had been laid in Texas likewise.
Jest exactly fourteen months since that McCarron boy started to crumple at the seams at that first encounter. But it was not waiting. Not a natural phenomenon like Eula. She was jest being, breathing, setting with that baby in a rocking chair on Varner's front gallery while Hem changed enough money into them sixty silver dollars and buried them in that Old Frenchman place rose garden jest exactly where me and Henry Arrnstid and Odum Bookwright couldn 't help but find them. And still jest being and breathing, setting with the baby in the wagon that day they moved in to Jefferson so Flem could get a active holt on Grover Winbush to evict him outen the other half of that cafe me and Grover owned. And still jest being and breathing but not setting now because likely even the tide-wave dont need to be informed when it's on the right spoke to whatever rim it's due at next, her and Flem and the baby living in that canvas tent behind the cafe between when she would walk across the Square until finally Manfred de Spain, the McCarron that would not start or break up when they collided together, would look up and see her. Who had not had none of them select advantages of being the only child of a well-to-do widowed maw living in Florida hotels while he was temporarily away at them select eastern schools, but instead had had to make out the best he could with jest being the son of a Confederate cavalry officer, that graduated his-self from West Point into what his paw would a called the Yankee army and went to Cuba as a lieutenant and come back with a long jagged scar down one cheek that the folks trying to beat him for mayor rumored around was not made by no Spanish bayonet a-tall but instead by a Missouri sergeant with a axe in a crap game: which, whether it was so or not, never stood up long between him and getting elected mayor of Jefferson, nor between him and getting to be president of Colonel Sartoris's bank when that come up, not to mention between him and Eula Varner Snopes when that come up.
I aint even mentioning Lawyer. It was not even his bad luck he was on that rim too because tide-waves aint concerned with luck. It was his fate. He jest got run over by coincidence, like a ant using the same spoke a elephant happened to find necessary or convenient. It was not that he was born too soon or too late or even in the wrong place. He was born at exactly the right time, only in the wrong envelope. It was his fate and doom not to been born into one of them McCarron separate covers too instead of into that fragile and what you might call gossamer-sinewed envelope of boundless and hopeless aspiration Old Moster give him.
So there he was, rushing headlong into that engagement that the best he could possibly hope would be to lose it quick, since any semblance or intimation of the most minorest victory would a destroyed him like a lightning bolt, while Flem Snopes grazed gently on up them new Jefferson pastures, him and his wife and infant daughter still living in the tent behind the cafe and Flem his-self frying the hamburgers now after Grover Winbush found out suddenly one day that he never owned one half of a cafe neither; then the Rouncewells that thought they still owned what Miz Rounce-well called the Commercial Hotel against all the rest of Yoknapatawpha County calling it the Rouncewell boarding house, found they was wrong too and the Flem Snopeses lived there now, during the month or so it taken him to eliminate the Rouncewells outen it, with the next Snopes from Frenchman's Bend imported into the tent behind the cafe and frying the hamburgers because Flem his-self was now superintendent of the power plant; Manfred de Spaiu had not only seen Eula, he was already mayor of Jefferson when he done it.
And still Lawyer was trying, even while at least once ever day he would have to see his mortal victorious rival and conqueror going in and out of the mayor's office or riding back and forth across the Square in that red brass-trimmed EMF roadster that most of north Missippi, let alone jest Yoknapatawpha County, had not seen nothing like before; right on up and into that alley behind the Ladies 'Cotillion Club Christmas ball where he tried to fight Manfred with his bare fists until his sister's husband drug him up outen the gutter and held him long enough for Manfred to get outen sight and then taken him home to the bathroom to wash him off and says to him: "What the hell do you mean? Dont you know you dont know how to fight?" And Lawyer leaning over the washbowl trying to stanch his nose with handfuls of tissue paper, saying, "Of course I know it. But can you suh-jest a better way than this for me to learn?"
And still trying, on up to that last desperate cast going all the way back to that powerhouse brass business. I mean, that pile of old wore-out faucets and valves and pieces of brass pipe and old bearings and such that had accumulated into the power plant until they all disappeared sometime during the second year of Flem's reign as superintendent, though there was not no direct evidence against nobody even after the brass safety valves vanished from both the boilers and was found to been replaced with screwed-in steel plugs; it was jest that finally the city auditors had to go to the superintendent and advise him as delicate as possible that that brass was missing and Flem quit chewing long enough to say "How much?" and paid them and then the next year they done the books again and found they had miscounted last year and went to him again and suh-jested they had made a mistake before and Flem quit chewing again long enough to say "How much?" and paid them that too. Going (I mean Lawyer) all the way back to them old by-gones even though Flem was not only long since resigned from being superintendent, he had even bought two new safety valves outen his own pocket as a free civic gift to the community; bringing ail that up again, with evidence, in a suit to impeach Manfred outen the mayor's office until Judge Dukinfield recused his-self and appointed Judge Stevens, Lawyer's paw, to hear the case. Only we did not know what happened then because Judge Stevens cleared the court and heard the argument in chambers as they calls it, jest Lawyer and Manfred and the judge his-self. And that was all; it never taken long; almost right away Manfred come out and went back to his mayor's office, and the tale, legend, report, whatever you want to call it, of Lawyer standing there with his head bent a little in front of his paw, saying, "What must I do now, Papa? Papa, what can I do now? "
But he was chipper enough the next morning when I seen him off on the train, that had done already graduated from Harvard and the University law school over at Oxford and was now on his way to a town in Germany to go to school some more. Yes sir, brisk and chipper as you could want. "Here you are," he says. "This is what I want with you before I leave: to pass the torch on into your personal hand. You'll have to hold the fort alone now. You'll have to tote the load by yourself."
"What fort?" I says. "What load?"
"Jefferson," he says. "Snopeses. Think you can handle them alone for two years?" That's what he thought then: that he was all right now; he had done been disenchanted for good at last of Helen, and so now all he had to worry about was what them Menelaus-Snopeses might be up to in the Yoknapatawpha-Argive community while he had his back turned. Which was all right; it would ease his mind. He would have plenty of time after he come back to find out that aint nobody yet ever lost Helen, since for the rest of not jest her life but hisn too she dont never get shut of him. Likely it's because she dont want to.
Except it was not two years. It was nearer five. That was in the early spring of 1914 and that summer the war come, and maybe that - a war - was what he was looking for. Not hoping for, let alone expecting to have one happen jest on his account, since like most other folks in this country he did not believe no war was coming. But looking for something, anything, and certainly a war would do as well as another, since no matter what his brains might a been telling him once he had that much water between him and Eula Snopes, even his instincts likely told him that jest two years was not nowhere near enough for him or Helen either to have any confidence in that disenchantment. So even if he could not anticipate no war to save him, back in his mind somewhere he was still confident that Providence would furnish something, since like he said, God was anyhow a gentleman and would not bollix up the same feller twice with the same trick, at least in the same original package.
So he had his war. Only you would a wondered - at least I did - why he never went into it on the German side. Not jest because he was already in Germany and the Germans handy right there surrounding him, but because he had already told me how, although it was the culture of England that had sent folks this fur across the water to establish America, right now it was the German culture that had the closest tie with the modern virile derivations of the northern branch of the old Aryan stock. Because he said that tie was mystical, not what you seen but what you heard, and that the present-day Aryan, in America at least, never had no confidence a-tall in what he seen, but on the contrary would believe anything he jest heard and could not prove; and that the modern German culture since the revolutions of 1848 never had no concern with, and if anything a little contempt for, anything that happened to man on the outside, or through the eyes and touch, like sculpture and painting and civil laws for his social benefit, but jest with what happened to him through his ears, like music and philosophy and what was wrong inside of his mind. Which he said was the reason why German was such a ugly language, not musical like Italian and Spanish nor what he called the epicene exactitude of French, but was harsh and ugly, not to mention full of spit (like as the feller says, you speak Italian to men, French to women, and German to horses), so that there would not be nothing to interfere and distract your mind from what your nerves and glands was hearing: the mystical ideas, the glorious music - Lawyer said, the best of music, from the mathematical inevitability of Mozart through the godlike passion of Beethoven and Bach to the combination bawdy-house street-carnival uproar that Wagner made - that come straight to the modern virile northern Aryan's heart without bothering his mind a- tall.
Except that he did not join the German army. I dont know what lies he managed to tell the Germans to get out of Germany where he could join the enemy fighting them, nor what lies he thought up for the English and French to explain why a student out of a German university was a safe risk to have around where he might overhear somebody telling what surprise they was fixing up next. But he done it. And it was not the English army he joined neither. It was the French one: them folks that, according to him, spent all their time talking about epicene exactitudes to ladies. And I did not know why even four years later when I finally asked him: "After all you said about that-ere kinship of German culture, and the German army right there in the middle of you, or leastways you in the middle of it, you still had to He or trick your way out to join the French one. " Because all he said was, "I was wrong." And not even another year after that when I said to him, "Even despite that splendid glorious music and them splendid mystical ideas?" he jest says: "They are still glorious, still splendid. It's the word mysticalthat's wrong. The music and the ideas both come out of obscurity, darkness. Not out of shadow: out of obscurity, obfuscation, darkness. Man must have light. He must live in the fierce full constant glare of light, where all shadow will be defined and sharp and unique and personal: the shadow of his own singular rectitude or baseness. All human evils have to come out of obscurity and darkness, where there is nothing to dog man constantly with the shape of his own deformity. "
In fact not until two or three years more and he was back home now, settled now; and Eula, still without having to do no more than jest breathe as far as he was concerned, had already adopted the rest of his life as long as it would be needed, into the future of that eleven- or twelve-year-old girl , and I said to him: "Helm walked in light." And he says, "Helen was light. That's why we can still see her, not changed, not even dimmer, from five thousand years away." And I says, "What about all them others you talk about? Semiramises and Judiths and Liliths and Francescas and Isoldes?" And he says, "But not like Helen. Not that bright, that luminous, that enduring. It's because the others all talked. They are fading steadily into the obscurity of their own vocality within which their passions and tragedies took place. But not Helen . Do you know there is not one recorded word of hers anywhere in existence, other than that one presumable Yes she must have said that time to Paris? "
So there they was. That gal of thirteen and fourteen and fifteen that was not trying to do nothing but jest get shut of having to go to school by getting there on time and knowing the lesson to make the rise next year, that likely would not barely ever looked at him long enough to know him again except that she found out on a sudden that for some reason he was trying to adopt some of her daily life into hisn, or adopt a considerable chunk of his daily life into hern, whichever way you want to put it. And that bachelor lawyer twice her age, that was already more or less in the public eye from being county attorney, not to mention in a little town like Jefferson where ever time you had your hair cut your constituency knowed about it by suppertime. So that the best they knowed to do was to spend fifteen minutes after school one or two afternoons a week at a table in the window of Uncle Willy Christian's drugstore while she et a ice-cream sody or a banana split and the ice melted into the unteched Coca-Cola in front of him. Not jest the best but the only thing, not jest for the sake of her good name but also for them votes that two years from now might not consider buying ice cream for fourteen-year-old gals a fitting qualification for a county attorney.
About twice a week meeting her by that kind of purely coincidental accident that looked jest exactly as accidental as you would expect: Lawyer ambushed behind his upstairs office window across the street until the first of the let-out school would begin to pass, which would be the kindergar-den and the first grade, then by that same accidental coincidence happening to be on the corner at the exact time to cut her outen the seventh or eighth or ninth grade, her looking a little startled and surprised the first time or two ; not alarmed: jest startled a little, wondering jest a little at first maybe what he wanted. But not for long; that passed too and pretty soon Lawyer was even drinking maybe a inch of the Coca-Cola before it got too lukewarm to swallow. Until one day I says to him: "I envy you" and he looked at me and I says, "Your luck," and he says, "My which luck?" and I says, "You are completely immersed twenty-four hours a day in being busy. Most folks aint. Almost nobody aint. But you are. Doing the one thing you not only got to do, but the one thing in the world you want most to do. And if that was not already enough, it's got as many or maybe even more interesting technical complications in it than if you had invented it yourself instead of jest being discovered by it. For the sake of her good name, you got to do it right out in that very same open public eye that would ruin her good if it ever found a chance, but maybe would not never even suspect you and she knowed one another's name if you jest keot it hidden in secret. Dont you call that keeping busy? "
Because he was unenchanted now, you see, done freed at last of that fallen seraphim. It was Eula herself had give bini a salve, a ointment, for that bitter thumb the poets say ever man once in his life has got to gnaw at: that gal thirteen then fourteen then fifteen setting opposite him in Christian's drugstore maybe two afternoons a week in the intervals of them coincidental two or three weeks ever year while Miz Flem Snopes and her daughter would be on a holiday somewhere at the same coincidental time Manfred de Spain would be absent on hisn - not Mayor de Spain now but Banker de Spain since Colonel Sartoris finally vacated the presidency of the bank him and De Spain's paw and Will Vamer had established, by letting his grandson run the automobile off into a ditch on the way to town one morning, and now Manfred de Spain was president of the bank, moving outen the mayor's office into the president's office at about the same more or less coincidental moment that Flem Snopes moved outen being the ex-superintendent of the power plant, into being vice-president of the bank, vacating simultaneously outen that little cloth cap he come to Jefferson in (jest vacated, not abandoned it, the legend being he sold it to a Negro boy for ten cents. Which would not be a bad price, since who knows if maybe some of that-ere financial acumen might not a sweated off onto it.) Into a black felt planter's hat suitable to his new position and avocation.
Oh yes, Lawyer was unenchanted now, even setting alone now and then in Christian's window while the ice melted into the Coca-Cola until they would get back home, maybe to be ready and in practice when them two simultaneous coincidences was over and school would open again on a whole fresh year of two afternoons a week - providing of course that sixteen- and seventeen-year-old gal never run into a Hoake McCarron or a Manfred de Spain of her own between two of them and Lawyer could say to you like the man in the book: What you see aint tears. You jest think that's what you're looking at.
Sixteen and seventeen and going on eighteen now and Lawyer still lending her books to read and keeping her stall-fed twice a week on ice-cream sundaes and banana splits, so anyhow Jefferson figgered it knowed what Lawyer was up to whether he admitted it out or not. And naturally Eula had already knowed for five or six years what she was after. Like there's a dog, maybe not no extra dog but leastways a good sound what you might call a dog's dog, that dont seem to belong to nobody else, that seems to show a preference for your vicinity, that even after the five or six years you aint completely convinced there wont never be no other dog available, and that even them five or six years back and even with another five or six years added onto now, you never needed and you aint going to need that dog personally, there aint any use in simply throwing away and wasting its benefits and accomplishments, even if they aint nothing but fidelity and devotion, by letting somebody else get a-holt of it. Or say you got a gal child coming along, that the older and bigger she gets, the more of a nuisance she's bound to be on your time and private occupations: in which case not only wont that fidelity and devotion maybe come into handy use, but even the dog itself might that could still be capable of them long after even hit had give up all expectation of even one bone.
Which is what Jefferson figgered. But not me. Maybe even though she got rid of Hoake McCarron, even after she knowed she was pregnant, there is still moments when even female physical phenomenons is female first whether they want to be or not. So I believe that women aint so different from men: that if it aint no trouble nor shock neither for a man to father onto his-self the first child of the woman he loved and lost and still cant rid outen his rnind, no matter how many other men holp to get it, it aint no trouble neither for that woman to father a dozen different men's chillen onto that man that lost her and still never expected nothing of her except to accept his devotion.
And since she was a female too, likely by the time Linda was thirteen or fourteen or even maybe as soon as she got over that first startle, which, would a been at the second or third ice-cream sody, she taken for granted she knowed what he was aiming at too. And she would a been wrong. That was not Lawyer. Jest to train her up and marry her was not it. She would not a been necessary for that - I mean, the simple natural normal following lifetime up to the divorce of steady uxorious hymeneal conflict that any female he could a picked outen that school crowd or from Christian's sody counter would been fully competent for . Jest that would not a been worth his effort. He had to be the sole one masculine feller within her entire possible circumambience, not jest to recognise she had a soul still capable of being saved from what he called Snopesism: a force and power that stout and evil as to jeopardise it jest from her believing for twelve or thirteen years she was blood kin when she actively was not no kin a-tall, but that could not nobody else in range and reach but him save it - that-ere bubble-glass thing somewhere inside her like one of them sliimmer-colored balls balanced on the seal's nose, fragile yet immune too jest that one constant fragile inch above the smutch and dirt of Snopes as long as the seal dont trip or stumble or let her attention wander.
So all he aimed to do was jest to get her outen Jefferson or, better, safer still, completely outen Missippi, starting off with the nine months of the school year, until somebody would find her and marry her and she would be gone for good --a optimist pure and simple and undefiled if there ever was one since ever body knowed that the reason Flem Snopes was vice-president of De Spam's bank was the same reason he was ex-superintendent of the power plant: in the one case folks wanting to smile at Eula Varner had to at least be able to pronounce Hem Snopes, and in the other De Spain had to take Flem along with him to get the use of Will Varner's voting stock to get his-self president. And the only reason why Will Varner never used this chance to get back at Flera about that Old Frenchman homesite that Will thought was not worth nothing until Flem sold it to me and Odum Bookwright and Henry Armstid for my half of mine and Grover Winbush's cafe and Odum Bookwright's cash and the two-hundred-dollar mortgage on Henry's farm less them five or six dollars or whatever they was where Henry's wife tried to keep them buried from him behind the outhouse, was the same reason why Eala did not quit Flem and marry De Spain: that staying married to Flem kept up a establishment and a name for that gal that otherwise would not a had either. So once that gal was married herself or leastways settled for good away from Jefferson so she would not need Flem's name and establishment no more, and in consequence Flera would not have no holt over her any more, Flem his-self would be on the outside trying to look back in and Flem knowed it.
Only Lawyer did not know it. He believed right up to the last that Flem was going to let him get Linda away from Jefferson to where the first strange young man that happened by would marry her and then Eula could quit him and he would be finished. He - I mean Lawyer - had been giving her books to read ever since she was fourteen and then kind of holding examinations on them while the Coca-Cola ice melted. Then she was going on seventeen, next spring she would graduate from the high school and now he was ordering off for the catalogues from the extra-select girls 'schools up there close to Harvard.
Now the part conies that dont nobody know except Lawyer, who naturally never told it. So as he his-self would say, you got to surmise from the facts in evidence: not jest the mind-improving books and the school catalogues accumulating into a dusty stack in his office, but the ice-cream sessions a thing of the past too. Because now she was going to and from school the back way, up alleys. Until finally in about a week maybe Lawyer realised that she was dodging linda him. And she was going to graduate from high school in less than two months now and there was not no time to waste. So that morning Lawyer went his-self to talk to her maw and he never told that neither so now we got to presume on a little more than jest evidence. Because my childhood too come out of that same similar Frenchman's Bend background and mill-yew that Flem Snopes had lifted his-self out of by his own unaided bootstraps, if you dont count Hoake McCarron. So all I had to do was jest to imagine my name was Flem Snopes and that the only holt I had on Will Varner's money was through his daughter, and if I ever lost what light holt I had on the granddaughter, the daughter would be gone . Yet here was a darn meddling outsider with a complete set of plans that would remove that granddaughter to where I would not never see her again, if she had any sense a-tall. And since the daughter had evidently put up with me for going on eighteen years now for the sake of that granddaughter, the answer was simple: all I needed to do was go to my wife and say, "If you give that gal permission to go away to school, I'll blow up this-here entire Manfred de Spain business to where she wont have no home to have to get away from, let alone one to come back to for Christmas and holidays. "
And for her first eighteen years Eula breathed that same Frenchman's Bend mill-yew atmosphere too so maybe all I got to do is imagine my name is Eula Varner to know what she said back to Lawyer: "No, she cant go off to school but you can marry her. That will solve ever thing. " You see? Because the kind of fidelity and devotion that could keep faithful and devoted that long without even wanting no bone any more, was not only too valuable to let get away, it even deserved to be rewarded. Because maybe the full rounded satisfaction and completeness of being Helen was bigger than a thousand Parises and McCarrons and De Spains could satisfy, I do not mean jest the inexhaustible capacity for passion, but of power: the power not jest to draw and enchant and consume, but the power and capacity to give away and reward; the power to draw to you, not more than you can handle because the words "cant-handle" and "Helen" aint even in the same language,

The Mansion 1 | The Mansion 2 | The Mansion 3 | The Mansion 7 | The Mansion 8 | The Mansion 9 | The Mansion 10 | THIRTEEN | FOURTEEN | FIFTEEN |

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