V. K. Ratliff
So he was free. He had not only got shut of his sireen, he had even got shut of the ward he found out she had heired to him. Because I says, "Grinnich Village?" and he says, "Yes. A little place without physical boundaries located as far as she is concerned in New York City, where young people of all ages below ninety go in search of dreams." Except I says, "Except she never had to leave Missippi to locate that place." And then I said it, what Eula herself must have, had to have, said to him that day: "Why did not you marry her?"
"Because she was not but nineteen," he says. "And you are all of thirty-five, aint you," I says. "When the papers are full of gals still carrying a doll in one hand marrying folks of sixty and seventy, providing of course they got a little extra money."
"I mean, she's got too much time left to run into something where she might need me. How many papers are full of people that got married because someday they might need the other one?"
"Oh," I says. "So all you got to do now is jest stay around close where you can hear the long-distance telephone or the telegram boy can find you. Because naturally you wont be waiting for her to ever come back to Missippi. Or maybe you are? "
"Naturally not," he says. "Why should she?"
"Thank God?" I says. He did not answer. "Because who knows," I says, "she may done already found that dream even in jest these ... two days, aint it? Three? Maybe he was already settled there when she arrived. That's possible in Grinnich Village, aint it ? "
Then he said it too. "Yes," he says, "thank God." So he was free. And in fact, when you had time to look around a little, he never had nothing no more to do but jest rest in peace and quiet and contentment. Because not only him but all Jefferson was free of Snopeses; for the first time in going on twenty years, Jefferson and Yoknapatawpha County too was in what you might call a kind of Snopes doldrum. Because at last even Flem seemed to be satisfied: setting now at last in the same chair the presidents of the Merchants and Farmers Bank had been setting in ever since the first one, Colonel Sartoris, started it twenty-odd years ago, and actively living in the very house the second one of it was born in, so that all he needed to do too after he had done locked up the money and went home was to live in solitary peace and quiet and contentment too, not only shut of the daughter that had kept him on steady and constant tenterhooks for years whether she might not escape at any moment to where he could not watch her and the first male feller that come along would marry her and he would lose her share of Will Varner's money, but shut of the wife that at any time her and Manfred de Spain would get publicly caught up with and cost him all the rest of Varner's money and bank voting stock too.
In fact, for the moment Hem was the only true Snopes actively left in Jefferson. Old man Ab never had come no closer than that hill two miles out where you could jest barely see the water tank, where he taken the studs that day back about 1910 and had not moved since. And four years ago Flem had ci-devanted I.O. back to Frenchman's Bend for good. And even before that Flem had eliminated Montgomery Ward into the penitentiary at Parchman where Mink already was (Mink had not really resided in Jefferson nohow except jest them few months in the jail waiting for his life sentence to be awarded). And last month them four half-Snopes Indians that Byron Snopes, Colonel Sartoris's bank clerk that resigned by the simple practical expedient of picking up as much of the loose money he could tote and striking for the nearest US border, sent back collect from Mexico until somebody could get close enough to fasten the return prepaid tags on them before whichever one had it at the moment could get out that switch-blade knife. And as for Eck's boys, Wallstreet Panic and Admiral Dewey, they had not never been Snopeses to begin with, since all Wall-street evidently wanted to do was run a wholesale grocery business by the outrageous un-Snopesish method of jest selling ever body exactly what they thought they was buying, for exactly what they thought they was going to pay for it.
Or almost satisfied that is. I mean Flem and his new house. It was jest a house: two-storey, with a gallery for Major de Spain, Manfred's paw, to set on when he was not fishing or hunting or practising a little law, and it was all right for that-ere second president of the Merchants and Farmers Bank to live in, especially since he had been born in it. But this was a different president. His road to that chair and that house had been longer than them other two. Likely he knowed he had had to come from too fur away to get where he was, and had to come too hard to reach it by the time he did. Because Colonel Sartoris had been born into money and respectability too, and Manfred de Spain had been born into respectability at least even if he had made a heap of the money since. But he, Flem Snopes, had had to earn both of them, snatch and tear and scrabble both of them outen the hard enduring resisting rock you might say, not jest with his bare hands but with jest one bare hand since he had to keep the other bare single hand fending off while he tore and scrabbled with the first one. So the house the folks owning the money would see Manfred de Spain walk into ever evening after he locked the money up and went home, would not be enough for Flem Snopes. The house they would see him walk into ever evening until time to unlock the money tomorrow morning, would have to be the physical symbol of all them generations of respectability 2nd aristocracy that not only would a been too proud to mishandle other folks 'money, but could not possibly ever needed to.
So there was another Snopes in Jefferson after all. Not transplanted in from Frenchman's Bend: jest imported in for temporary use. This was Wat Snopes, the carpenter Watkins Products Snopes his full name was, like it was painted on both sides arid the back of Doc Meeks's patent-medicine truck; evidently there was a Snopes somewhere now and then that could read reading, whether he could read writing or not. So during the next nine or ten months anybody that had or could think up the occasion, could pass along the street and watch Wat and his work gang of kin-folks and in-laws tearing off Major de Spain's front gallery and squaring up the back of the house and building and setting up them colyums to reach all the way from the ground up to the second-storey roof, until even when the painting was finished it still would not be as big as Mount Vernon of course, but then Mount Vernon was a thousand miles away so there was not no chance of invidious or malicious eye-to-eye comparison.
So that when he locked up the bank and come home in the evening he could walk into a house and shut the door that the folks owning the money he was custodian of would some of them be jealous a little but all of them, even the jealous ones, would be proud and all of them would approve, laying down to rest undisturbed at night with their money that immaculate, that impeccable, that immune. He was completely complete, as the feller says, with a Negro cook and a yard boy that could even drive that-ere automobile now and then since he no longer had a only daughter to drive it maybe once a month to keep the battery up like the man told him he would have to do or buy a new one.
But it was jest the house that was altered and transmogrified and symbolised: not him. The house he disappeared into about four p. m. ever evening until about eight a. m. tomorrow, might a been the solid aristocratic ancestral symbol of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr and Astor and Morgan and Harriman and Hill and ever other golden advocate of hard quick-thinking vested interest, but the feller the owners of that custodianed money seen going and coming out of it was the same one they had done got accustonied to for twenty years now: the same little snap-on bowtie he had got outen the Frenchman's Bend mule wagon in and only the hat was new and different; and even that old cloth cap, that maybe was plenty good enough to be Var-ner's clerk in but that was not to be seen going in and out of a Jefferson bank on the head of its vice-president - even the cap not throwed away or even give away, but sold, even if it was not but jest a dime because ten cents is money too around a bank, so that all the owners of that money that he was already vice-custodian of could look at the hat and know that, no matter how little they might a paid for one similar to it, hisn had cost him ten cents less. It was not that he rebelled at changing Flem Snopes: he done it by deliberate calculation, since the feller you trust aint necessarily the one you never knowed to do nothing untrustable: it's the one you have seen from experience that he knows exactly when being untrustable will pay a net profit and when it will pay a loss.
And that was jest the house on the outside too, up to the moment when he passed in and closed the front door behind him until eight oclock tomorrow. And he had not never invited nobody in, and so far had not nobody been able to invent no way in, so the only folks that ever seen the inside of it was the cook and the yardman and so it was the yardman that told me: all them big rooms furnished like De Spain left them, plus them interior-decorated sweets the Memphis expert learned Eula that being vice-president of a bank he would have to have; that Flem never even went into them except to eat in the dining room, except that one room at the back where when he was not in the bed sleeping he was setting in another swivel chair like the one in the bank, with his feet propped against the side of the fireplace: not reading, not doing nothing: jest setting with his hat on, chewing that same little mouth-sized chunk of air he had been chewing ever since he quit tobacco when he finally got to Jefferson and heard about chewing gum and then quit chewing gum too when he found out folks considered the vice-president of a bank rich enough not to have to chew anything. And how Wat Snopes had found a picture in a magazine how to do over all the fireplaces with colonial molding and colyums and cornices too and at first Hem would jest set with his feet propped on the white paint, scratching it a little deeper ever day with the pegs in his heels. Until one day about a year after the house was finished over, Wat Snopes was there to eat dinner and after Wat finally left the yardman said how he went into the room and seen it: not a defiance, not a simple reminder of where he had come from but rather as the feller says a reamrmation of his-self and maybe a warning to his-self too: a little wood ledge, not even painted, nailed to the front of that hand-carved hand-painted Mount Vernon mantelpiece at the exact height for Flem to prop his feet on it.
And time was when that first president, Colonel Sartoris, had come the four miles between his ancestral symbol and his bank in a surrey and matched pair drove by a Negro coachman in a linen duster and one of the Colonel's old plug hats; and time aint so was when the second president still come and went in that fire-engine-colored E. M. F. racer until he bought that black Packard and a Negro too except in a white coat and a showfer's cap to drive it. This here new third president had a black automobile too even if it was not a Packard, and a Negro that could drive it too even if he never had no white coat and showfer's cap yet and even if the president did not ride back and forth to the bank or at least not yet. Them two previous presidents would ride around the county in the evening after the bank closed and on Sunday, in that surrey and pair or the black Packard, to look at the cotton farms they represented the mortgages on, while this new president had not commenced that neither. Which was not because he jest could not believe yet that he actively represented the mortgages. He never doubted that. He was not skeered to believe it, and he was not too meek to nor doubtful to. It was because he was watching yet and learning yet. It was not that he had learned two lessons while he thought he was jest learning that single one about how he would need respectability, because he had done already brought that second lesson in from Frenchman's Bend with him. That was humility, the only kind of humility that's worth a hoot: the humility to know they's a heap of things you dont know yet but if you jest got the patience to be humble and watchful long enough, especially keeping one eye on your back trail , you will. So now on the evenings and Sundays there was jest that house where you was not invited in to see him setting in that swivel chair in that one room he used, with his hat on and chewing steady on nothing and his feet propped on that little wooden additional ledge nailed in unpainted paradox to that hand-carved and -painted mantel like one of them framed mottoes you keep hanging on the wall where you work or think, saying Remember Death or Keep Smiling or Working or God is Love to remind not jest you but the strangers that see it too, that you got at least a speaking acquaintance with the fact that it might be barely possible it taken a little something more than jest you to get you where you're at.
But all that, footrest and all, would come later. Right now, Lawyer was free. And then-it was not no three days after Linda reached New York, but it was not no three hundred neither - he become, as the feller says, indeed free. He was leaning against the counter in the post-office lobby with the letter already open in his hand when I come in; it was not his fault neither that the lobby happened to be empty at the moment.
"His name is Barton Kohl," he says.
"Sho now," I says. "Whose name is?"
"That dream's name," he says.
"Cole," I says.
"No," he says. "You're pronouncing it Cole. It's spelled K-o-h-l."
"Oh," I says. "Kohl. That dont sound very American to me."
"Does Vladimir Kyrilytch sound very American to you?"
But the lobby was empty. Which, as I said, was not his fault. "Confound it," I saysr "with one Ratliff in ever generation for them whole hundred and fifty years since your durn Yankee Congress banished us into the Virginia mountains, has had to spend half his life trying to live down his front name before somebody spoke it out loud where folks could hear it. It was Eula told you. "
"All right," he says. "I'll help you bury your family shame.-Yes," he says. "He's a Jew. A sculptor, probably a damned good one."
"Because of that?" I says.
"Probably, but not exclusively. Because of her."
"Linda'll make him into a good sculptor, no matter what he was before, because she married him?"
"No. He would have to be the best of whatever he was for her to pick him out."
"So she's married now," I says. "What?" he says. "No. She just met him, I tell you."
"So you aint-" I almost said safe yet before I changed it: "-sure yet. I mean, she aint decided yet."
"What the hell else am I talking about? Dont you remember what I told you last fall? That she would love once and it would be for keeps?"
"Except that you said 'doomed to.' "
"All right," he says.
"Doomed to fidelity and grief, you said. To love once quick and lose him quick and for the rest of her life to be faithful and to grieve. But leastways she aint lost him yet. In fact, she aint even got him yet. That's correct, aint it? "
"Did not I say all right?" he says.
That was the first six months, about. Another year after that, that-ere little footrest ledge was up on that hand-painted Mount Vernon mantel-that-ere little raw wood step like out of a scrap pile, nailed by a country carpenter onto that what you might call respectability's virgin Matter -horn for the Al-pine climber to cling to panting, gathering his-self for that last do-or-die upsurge to deface the ultimate crowning pinnacle and peak with his own victorious initials. But not this one; and here was that humility again: not in public where it would be a insult to any and all that held Merchants and Farmers Bank Al-pine climbing in veneration, but in private like a secret chapel or a shrine: not to cling panting to it , desperate and indomitable, but to prop his feet on it while setting at his ease.
This time I was passing the office stairs when Lawyer come rushing around the corner as usual, with most of the law papers flying along loose in his outside pockets but a few of them still in his hand too as usual. I mean, he had jest two gaits: one standing more or less still and the other like his coattail was on fire. "Run back home and get your grip," he says. "We're leaving Memphis tonight for New York."
So we went up the Starrs and as soon as we was inside the office he changed to the other gait as usual. He throwed the loose papers onto the desk and taken one of the cob pipes outen the dish and set down, only when he fumbled in his coat for the matches or tobacco or whatever it was he discovered the rest of the papers and throwed them onto the desk and set back in the chair like he had done already had all the time in the world and could not possibly anticipate nothing else happening in the next hundred years neither. "For the housewarming," he says.
"You mean the reception, dont you? Aint that what they call it after the preacher has done collected his two dollars?" He did not say anything, jest setting there working at lighting that pipe like a jeweler melting one exact drop of platinum maybe into a watch. "So they aint going to marry," I says. "They're jest going to confederate. I've heard that: that that's why they call them Grinnich Village samples dreams: you can wake up without having to jump outen the bed in a dead run for the nearest lawyer."
He did not move. He jest bristled, that lively and quick he never had time to change his position. He set there and bristled like a hedgehog, not moving of course: jest saying cold and calm, since even a hedgehog, once it has got itself arranged and prickled out, can afford a cold and calm collected voice too: "All right. I 'll arrogate the term' marriage 'to it then. Do you protest or question it? Maybe you would even suggest a better one? - Because there's not enough time left, "he says. "Enough left? There's none left. Young people today dont have any left because only fools under twenty-five can believe, let alone hope, that there's any left at all - for any of us, anybody alive today--"
"It dont take much time to say We both do in front of a preacher and then pay him whatever the three of you figger it's worth."
"Did not I just say there's not even that much left if all you've had is just twenty-five or thirty years--"
"So that's how old he is," I says. "You stopped at jest twenty-five before."
He did not stop at nowhere now: "Barely a decade since their fathers and uncles and brothers just finished the one which was to rid the phenomenon of government forever of the parasites - the hereditary proprietors, the farmers-general of the human dilemma who had just killed eight million human beings and ruined a forty-mile-wide strip down the middle of western Europe. Yet less than a dozen years later and the same old cynical manipulators not even bothering to change their names and faces but merely assuming a set of new titles out of the shibboleth of the democratic lexicon and its mythology, not even breaking stride to coalesce again to wreck the one doomed desperate hope-- " Now he will resume the folks that broke President Wilson's heart and killed the League of Nations I thought, but he was the one that did not even break stride: "That one already in Italy and one a damned sight more dangerous in Germany because all Mussolini has to work with are Italians while this other man has Germans. And the one in Spain that all he needs is to be let alone a little longer by the rest of us who still believe that if we just keep our eyes closed long enough it will all go away. Not to mention- "
"Not to mention the one in Russia," I said, "the ones right here at home: the organizations with the fine names confederated in unison in the name of God against the impure in morals and politics and with the wrong skin, color and ethnology and religion: KKK and Silver Shirts; not to mention the indigenous local champions like Long in Louisiana and our own Bilbo in Mississippi, not to mention our very own Senator Clarence EggSestone Snopes right here in Yoknapatawpha County- "
"Not to mention the one in Russia," I says.
"What?" he says.
"So that's why," I says. "He aint jest a sculptor. He's a communist too."
"What?" Lawyer says.
"Barton Kohl. The reason they did not marry first is that Barton Kohl is a communist. He cant believe in churches and marriage. They wont let him."
"He wanted them to marry," Lawyer says. "It's Linda that wont." So now it was me that said What? and him setting there fierce and untouchable as a hedgehog. "You dont believe that?" he says.
"Yes," I says. "I believe it."
"Why should she want to marry? What could she have ever seen in the one she had to look at for nineteen years, tc make her want any part of it?"
"All right," I says. "All right. Except that's the one I dont believe. I believe the first one, about there aint enough time left. That when you are young enough, you can believe. When you are young enough and brave enough at the same time, you can hate intolerance and believe in hope and, if you are sho enough brave, act on it. " He still looked at me. "I wish it was me," I says.
"Not just to marry somebody, but to marry anybody just so it's marriage. Just so it's not adultery. Even you."
"Not that," I says. "I wish I was either one of them. To. Believe in intolerance and hope and act on it. At any price. Even at having to be under twenty-five again like she is, to do it. Even to being a thirty- year-old Grinnich Village sculptor like he is. "
"So you do refuse to believe that all she wants is to cuddle up together and be what she calls happy."
"Yes," I says. "So do I." So I did not go that time, not even when he said: "Nonsense. Come on. Afterward we will run up to Saratoga and look at that ditch or hill or whatever it was where your first immigrant Vladimir Kyrilytch Ratlin: ancestor entered your native land. "
"He was not no Ratliff then yet," I says. "We dont know what his last name was. Likely Nelly Ratliff could not even spell that one, let alone pronounce it. Maybe in fact neither could he. Besides, it was not even Ratliff then. It was Ratcliffe .-- No , "I says," jest you will be enough. You can get cheaper corroboration than one that will not only need a round-trip ticket but three meals a day too. "
"Corroboration for what?" he says. "At this serious moment in her life when she is fixing to officially or leastways formally confederate or shack up with a gentleman friend of the opposite sex as the feller says, aint the reason for this trip to tell her and him at last who she is ? or leastways who she aint? " Then I says, "Of course. She already knows," and he says, "How could she help it? How could she have lived in the same house with Flem for nineteen years and still believe he could possibly be her father, even if she had incontrovertible proof of it? "
"And you aint never told her," I says. Then I says, "It's even worse than that. Whenever it occurs to her enough to maybe fret over it a little and she comes to you and says maybe, 'Tell me the truth now. He aint my father,' she can always depend on you saying, 'You're wrong, he is.' Is that the dependence and need you was speaking of? " Now he was not looking at me. "What would you do if she got it turned around backwards and said to you, 'Who is my father?' "No, he was not looking at me. "That's right," I says. "She wont never ask that. I reckon she has done watched Gavin Stevens too, enough to know there's some lies even he ought not to need to cope with." He was not looking at me a-tall. "So that there dependence is on a round-trip ticket too," I says.
He was back after ten days. And I thought how maybe if that sculptor could jest ketch her unawares, still half asleep maybe, and seduce her outen the bed and up to a altar or even jest a j. p. before she noticed where she was at, maybe he - Lawyer - would be free. Then I knowed that was not even wishful thinking because there was not nothing in that idea that could been called thinking a-tall. Because once I got rid of them hopeful cobwebs I realised I must a knowed for years what likely Eula knowed the moment she laid eyes on him: that he would not never be free because he would not never want to be free because this was his life and if he ever lost it he would not have nothing left. I mean, the right and privilege and opportunity to dedicate forever his capacity for responsibility to something that would not have no end to its appetite and that would not never threaten to give him even a bone back in recompense. And I remembered what he said back there about how she was doomed to fidelity and monogamy - to love once and lose him and then to grieve, and I said I reckoned so, that being Helen of! Troy's daughter was kind of like being say the ex-Pope of Rome or the ex-Emperor of Japan: there was not much future to it. And I knowed now he was almost right, he jest had that word "doomed" in the wrong place: that it was not her that was doomed, she would likely do fine; it was the one that was recipient of the fidelity and the monogamy and the love, and the one that was the proprietor of the responsibility that never even wanted, let alone expected, a bone back, that was the doomed one; and how even between them two the lucky one might be the one that had the roof fall on him while he was climbing into or out of the bed.
So naturally I would a got a fur piece quick trying to tell that, so naturally my good judgment told me not to try it. And so partly by jest staying away from him but mainly by fighting like a demon, like Jacob with his angel I finally resisted actively saying it - a temptation about as strong as a human man ever has to face, which is to deliberately throw away the chance to say afterward, "I told you so." So time passed. That little additional mantelpiece foot-rest was up now that had not nobody ever seen except that Negro yardman - a Jefferson legend after he mentioned it to me and him (likely) and me both happened to mention it in turn to some of our close intimates: a part of the Snopes legend and another Hem Snopes monument in that series mounting on and up from that water tank that we never knowed yet if they had got out of it all that missing Flem Snopes regime powerhouse brass them two mad skeered Negro firemen put into it.
Then it was 1 936 and there was less and less of that time left: Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany and sho enough, like Lawyer said, that one in Spain too; Lawyer said, "Pack your grip. We will take the airplane from Memphis tomorrow morning .-- No no," he says, "you dont need to fear contamination from association this time. They're going to be married. They're going to Spain to join the Loyalist army and apparently he nagged and worried at her until at last she probably said, 'Oh hell, have it your way then.' "
"So he was not a liberal emancipated advanced-thinking artist after all," I says. "He was jest another ordinary man that believed if a gal was worth sleeping with she was worth deserving to have a roof over her head and something to eat and a little money in her pocket for the balance of her life."
"All right," he says. "All right."
"Except we'll go on the train," I says. "It aint that I'm jest simply skeered to go in a airplane: it's because when we go across Virginia I can see the rest of the place where that-ere first immigrant Vladimir Kyrilytch worked his way into the United States." So I was already on the corner with my grip when he drove up and stopped and opened the door looked at me and then done what the moving pictures call a double take and says, "Oh hell."
"It's mine," I says. "I bought it."
"You," he says, "in a necktie. That never even had one on before, let alone owned one, in your life."
"You told me why. It's a wedding."
"Take it off," he says. "No," I says.
"I wont travel with you. I wont be seen with you."
"No," I says. "Maybe it aint jest the wedding. I'm going back to let all them VK Ratliff beginnings look at me for the first tune. Maybe it's them I'm trying to suit. Or leastways not to shame." So we taken the train in Memphis that night and the next day we was in Virginia - Bristol then Roanoke and Lynchburg and turned northeast alongside the blue mountains and somewhere ahead, we did not know jest where, was where that first Vladimir Kyrilytch finally found a place where he could stop, that we did not know his last name or maybe he did not even have none until Nelly Ratliff, spelled Ratciiffe then, found him, any more than we knowed what he was doing in one of them hired German regiments in General Burgoyne's army that got licked at Saratoga except that Congress refused to honor the terms of surrender and banished the whole kit-and-biling of them to straggle for six years in Virginia without no grub nor money and the ones like that first VK without no speech neither. But he never needed none of the three of them to escape not only in the right neighborhood but into the exact right hayloft where Nelly RatcliEe, maybe hunting eggs or such, would find him. And never needed no language to eat the grub she toted him; and maybe he never knowed nothing about farming before the day when she finally brought him out where her folks could see him; nor never needed no speech to speak of for the next development, which was "when somebody - her maw or paw or brothers or whoever it was, maybe jest a neighbor - noticed the size of her belly; and so they was married and so that VK actively did have a active legal name of Ratcliffe, and the one after him come to Tennessee and the one after him moved to Missippi, except that by that time it was spelled Ratliff, where the oldest son is still named Vladimir Kyrilytch and still spends half his life trying to keep anybody from finding it out.
The next morning we was in New York. It was early; not even seven oclock yet. It was too early. "Likely they aim even finished breakfast yet," I says.
"Breakfast hell," Lawyer says. "They have not even gone to bed yet. This is New York, not Yoknapatawpha County." So we went to the hotel where Lawyer had already engaged a room. Except it was not a room, it was three of them: a parlor and two bedrooms. "We can have breakfast up here too," he says.
"Breakfast?" I says.
"They'll send it up here."
"This is New York," I says. "I can eat breakfast in the bedroom or kitchen or on the back gallery in Yoknapatawpha County." So we went downstairs to the dining room. Then I says, "What time do they eat breakfast then? Sundown? Or is that jest when they get up?"
"No," he says. "We got a errand first .-- No," he says, "we got two errands." He was looking at it again, though I will have to do him the justice to say he had not mentioned it again since that first time when I got in the car back in Jefferson. And I remember how he told me once how maybe New York was not made for no climate known to man but at least some weather was jest made for New York. In which case, this was sholy some of it: one of them soft blue drowsy days in the early fall when the sky itself seems like it was resting on the earth like a soft blue mist, with the tall buildings rushing up into it and then stopping, the sharp edges fading like the sunshine was not jest shining on them but kind of humming, like wires singing. Then I seen it: a store, with a show window, a entire show window with not nothing in it but one necktie.
"Wait," I says.
"No," he says. "It was all right as long as just railroad conductors looked at it but you cant face a preacher in it."
"No," I says, "wait." Because I had heard about these New York side-alley stores too. "If it takes that whole show window to deserve jest one necktie, likely they will want three or four dollars for it."
"We cant help it now," he says. "This is New York. Come on."
And nothing inside neither except some gold chairs and two ladies in black dresses and a man dressed like a congressman or at least a preacher, that knowed Lawyer by active name. And then a office with a desk and a vase of flowers and a short dumpy dark woman in a dress that would not a fitted nobody, with gray-streaked hair and the handsomest dark eyes I ever seen even if they was popped a little, that kissed Lawyer and then he said to her, "Myra Allanovna, this is Vladimir Kyrilytch," and she looked at me and said something; yes, I know it was Russian, and Lawyer saying: "Look, at it. lust once if you can bear it," and I says, "Sholy it aint quite as bad as that. Of course I had ruther it was yellow and red instead of pink and green. But all the same-- "and she says," You like yellow and red? "
"Yessum," I says. Then I says, "In fact" before I could stop, and she says, "Yes, tell me," and I says, "Nothing. I was jest thinking that if you could jest imagine a necktie and then pick it right up and put it on, I would imagine one made outen red with a bunch or maybe jest one single sunflower in the middle of it, "and she says," Sunflower? " and Lawyer says, "Helianthe." Then he says, "No, that's wrong. Tournesol. Sonnenblume," and she says Wait and was already gone, and row I says Wait myself.
"Even a five-dollar necktie could not support all them gold chairs,"
"It's too late now," Lawyer says. "Take it off." Except that when she come back, it not only never had no sunflower, it was not even red. It was jest dusty. No, that was wrong; you had looked at it by that time. It looked like the outside of a peach, that you know that in a minute, providing you can keep from blinking, you will see the first beginning of when it starts to turn peach. Except that it dont do that. It's still jest dusted over with gold, like the back of a sunburned gal. "Yes," Lawyer says, "send out and get him a white shirt. He never wore a white shirt before either."
"No, never," she says. "Always blue, not? And this blue, always? The same blue as your eyes?"
"That's right," I says.
"But how?" she says. "By fading them? By just washing them?"
"That's right," I says. "I jest washes them."
"You mean, you wash them? Yourself?"
"He makes them himself too," Lawyer says. "That's right," I says. "I sells sewing machines. First thing I knowed I could run one too."
"Of course," she says. "This one for now. Tomorrow, the other one, red with sonnenblume." Then we was outside again. I was still trying to say Wait.
"Now I got to buy two of them," I says. "I'm trying to be serious, I mean, please try to believe I am as serious right now as ere a man in your experience. Jest exactly how much you reckon was the price on that one in that window?"
And Lawyer not even stopping, saying over his shoulder in the middle of folks pushing past and around us in both directions: "I dont know. Her ties run up to a hundred and fifty. Say, seventy-five dollars-" It was exactly like somebody had hit me a quick light lick with the edge of his hand across the back of the neck until next I knowed I was leaning against the wall back out of the rush of folks in a fit of weak trembles with Lawyer more or less holding me up. "You all right now?" he says.
"No I aint," I says. "Seventy-five dollars for a necktie? I cant! I wont!"
"You're forty years old," he says. "You should a been buying at the minimum one tie a year ever since you fell in love the first time. When was it? Eleven? Twelve? Thirteen? Or maybe it was eight or nine, when you first went to school, provided the first-grade teacher was female of course. But even call it twenty. That's twenty years, at one dollar a tie a year. That's twenty dollars. Since you are not married and never will be and dont have any kin close enough to exhaust and wear you out by taking care of you or hoping to get anything out of you, you. may live another forty-five. That's sixty-five dollars. That means you will have an Allanovna tie for only ten dollars. Nobody else in the world ever got an Allanovna tie for ten dollars. "
"I wont!" I says. "I wont!"
"All right. I'll make you a present of it then."
"I cant do that," I says.
"All right. You want to go back there and tell her you dont want the tie?"
"Dont you see I cant do that?"
"All right," he says. "Come on. We're already a little late." So when we got to this hotel we went straight to the saloon.
"We're almost there," I says. "Cant you tell me yet who it's going to be?"
"No," he says. "This is New York. I want to have a little fun and pleasure too." And a moment later, when I realised that Lawyer had not never laid eyes on him before, I should a figgered why he had insisted so hard on me coming on this trip. Except that I remembered how in this case Lawyer would not need no help since you are bound to have some kind of affinity of outragement anyhow for the man that for twenty-five years has been as much a part and as big a part of your simple natural normal anguish of jest having to wake up again tomorrow, as this one had. So I says, "I'll be durned. Howdy, Hoake." Because there he was, a little gray at the temples, with not jest a sunburned outdoors look but a rich sunburned outdoors look that never needed that-ere dark expensive-looking city suit, let alone two waiters jumping around the table where he was at , to prove it, already setting there where Lawyer had drawed him from wherever it was out west he had located him, the same as he had drawed me for this special day. No, it was not Lawyer that had drawed McCarron and me from a thousand miles away and two thousand more miles apart, the three of us to meet at this moment in a New York saloon: it was that gal that done it - that gal that never had seen one of us and fur as I actively heard it to take a oath, never had said much more than good morning to the other two - that gal that likely not even knowed but did not even care that she had inherited her maw's fatality to draw four men anyhow to that web, that one strangling hair; drawed all four of us without even lifting her hand - her husband, her father, the man that was still trying to lay down his life for her maw if he could jest find somebody that wanted it, and what you might call a by- standing family friend - to be the supporting cast while she said "I do" outen the middle of a matrimonial production line at the City Hall before getting on a ship to go to Europe to do whatever it was she figgered she was going to do in that war. So I was the one that said, "This is Lawyer Stevens. Hoake," with three waiters now (he was evidently that rich) bustling around helping us set down.
"What's yours?" he says to Lawyer. "I know what V. K. wants.-Bushmill's," he says to the waiter. "Bring the bottle .-- You'll think you're back home," he says to me. "It tastes jest like that stuff Calvin Bookwright used to make - do you remember?" Now he was looking at it too. "That's an Allanovna, is not it?" he says. "You've branched out a little since Frenchman's Bend too, have not you?" Now he was looking at Lawyer. He taken his whole drink at one swallow though the waiter was already there with the bottle before he could a signalled. "Do not worry," he says. "You've got my word. I'm going to keep it."
"You stop worrying too," I says. "Lawyer's already got Linda. She's going to believe him first, no matter what anybody else might forget and try to tell her." And we could have et dinner there too, but Lawyer says, "This is New York. We can eat dinner in Uncle Cal Book-wright's springhouse back home." So we went to that dining room. Then it was time. We went to the City Hall in a taxi-cab. While we was getting out, the other taxicab come up and they got out. He was not big, he jest looked big, like a football player. No: like a prize fighter. He did not look jest tough, and ruthless aint the word neither. He looked like he would beat you or maybe you would beat him but you probably would not, or he might kill you or you might kill him though you probably would not. But he would not never dicker with you, looking at you with eyes that was pale like Hub Hampton's but they was not hard: jest looking at you without no hurry and completely, missing nothing, and with already a pretty good idea beforehand of what he was going to see. We went inside. It was a long hall, a corridor, a line of folks two and two that they would a been the last one in it except it was a line that never had no last: jest a next to the last and not that long: on to a door that said registrar and inside. That was not long neither; the two taxicabs was still waiting. "So this is Grinnich Village," I says. The door give right off the street but with a little shirttail of ground behind it you could a called a yard though maybe city folks called it a garden; it even had one tree in it, with three things on it that undoubtedly back in the spring or summer was leaves. But inside it was nice: full of folks of course, with two waiters dodging in and out with trays of glasses of champagne and three or four of the company helping too, not to mention the folks that was taking over the apartment while Linda and her new husband was off at the war in Spain - a young couple about the same age as them. "Is he a sculptor too?" I says to Lawyer.
"No," Lawyer says. "He's a newspaperman."
"Oh," I says. "Then likely they been married all the time."
It was nice: a room with plenty of window lights. It had a heap of stuff in it too but it looked like it was used - a wall full of books and a piano and I knowed they was pictures because they was hanging on the wall and I knowed that some of the other things was sculpture but the rest of them I did not know what they was, made outen pieces of wood or iron or strips of tin and wires. Except that I could not ask then because of the rest of the poets and painters and sculptors and musicians, since he would still have to be the host until we - him and Linda and Lawyer and Hoake and me - could slip out and go down to where the ship was; evidently a heap of folks found dreams in Grinnich Village but evidently it was a occasion when somebody married in it. And one of them was not even a poet or painter or sculptor or musician or even jest a ordinary moral newspaperman but evidently a haberdasher taking Saturday evening off. Because we was barely in the room before he was not only looking at it too but rubbing it between his thumb and finger. "Allanovna," he says.
"That's right," I says.
"Oklahoma?" he says. "Oil?"
"Sir?" I says, "Oh," he says. "Texas. Cattle then. In Texas you can choose your million between oil and cattle, right?"
"No sir," I says, "Missippi. I sell sewing machines."
So it was a while before Kohl finally come to me to fill my glass again.
"I understand you grew up with Linda's mother," he says.
"That's right," I says. "Did you make these?"
"These what?" he says.
"In this room," I says.
"Oh," he says. "Do you want to see more of them? Why?"
"I do not know yet," I says. "Does that matter?" So we shoved on through the folks - it had begun to take shoving by now-into a hall and then up some stairs. And this was the best of all: a loft with one whole side of the roof jest window lights-a room not jest where folks used but where somebody come off by his-self and worked. And him jest standing a little behind me, outen the way, giving me time and room both to look. Until at last he says, "Shocked? Mad?" Until I says, "Do I have to be shocked and mad at something jest because I never seen it before?"
"At your age, yes," he says. "Only children can stand surprise for the pleasure of surprise. Grown people cant bear surprise unless they are promised in advance they will want to own it."
"Maybe I aint had enough time yet," I says.
"Take it then," he says. So he leaned against the wall with his arms folded like a football player, with the noise of the party where he was still supposed to be host at coming up the stairs from below, while I taken my time to look: at some I did recognise and some I almost could recognise and maybe if I had time enough I would, and some I knowed I would not never quite recognise, until all of a sudden I knowed that would not matter neither, not jest to him but to me too . Because anybody can see and hear and smell and feel and taste what he expected to hear and see and feel and smell and taste, and wont nothing much notice your presence nor miss your lack. So maybe when you can see and feel and smell and hear and taste what you never expected to and had not never even imagined until that moment, maybe that's why Old Moster picked you out to be the one of the ones to be alive.
So now it was time for that-erc date. I mean the one that Lawyer and Hoake had fixed up, with Hoake saying, "But what can I tell her-her husband-her friends?" and Lawyer says, "Why do you need to tell anybody anything? I've attended to all that. As soon as enough of them have drunk her health, just take her by the arm and clear out. Just dont forget to be aboard the ship by eleven-thirty. " Except Hoake still tried, the two of them standing in the door ready to leave, Hoake in that-ere dark expensive city suit and his derby hat in his hand, and Linda in a kind of a party dress inside her coat. And it was not that they looked alike, because they did not. She was tall for a woman, so tall she did not have much shape (I mean, the kind that folks whistle at), and he was not tall for a man and in fact kind of stocky. But their eyes was exactly alike. Anyhow, it seemed to me that anybody that seen them could not help but know they was kin. So he still had to try it: "A old friend of her mother's family. Her grandfather and my father may have been distantly related--" and Lawyer saying, "All right, all right, beat it Do not forget the time, "and Hoake saying," Yes yes, we'll be at Twenty-One for dinner and afterward at the Stork Club if you need to telephone. " Then they was gone and the rest of the company went too except three other men that I found out was newspapermen too, foreign correspondents; and Kohl his-self helped his new tenant's wife cook the spaghetti and we et it and drunk some more wine, red this time, and they talked about the war, about Spam and Ethiopia and how this was the beginning: the lights was going off all over Europe soon and maybe in this country too; until it was time to go to the ship. And more champagne in the bedroom there, except that Lawyer had not hardly got the first bottle open when Linda and Hoake come "Already?" Lawyer says. "We did not expect you for at least a hour yet."
"She - we decided to skip the Stork Club," Hoake says. "We took a fiacre through the Park instead. And now," he says, that had not even put the derby hat down.
"Stay and have some champagne," Lawyer says, and Kohl said something too. But Linda had done already held out her hand.
"Good-bye, Mr McCarron," she says. "Thank you for the evening and for coming to rny wedding."
"Cant you say 'Hoake' yet?" he says.
"Good-bye, Hoake," she says.
"Wait in the cab then," Lawyer says. "We'll join you in a minute."
"No," Hoake says. "I'll take another cab and leave that one for you." Then he was gone. She shut the door behind him and came toward Lawyer, taking something outen her pocket.
"Here," she says. It was a gold cigarette lighter. "I know you wont ever use it, since you say you think you can taste the fluid when you light your pipe."
"No," Lawyer says. "What I said was, I know I can taste it."
"All right," she says. "Take it anyway." So Lawyer taken it. "It's engraved with your initials: see?"
"G L S," Lawyer says. "They are not my initials. I just have two: G S."
"I know. But the man said a monogram should have three so I loaned you one of mine." Then she stood there facing him, as tall as him almost, looking at him. "That was my father," she says.
"No," Lawyer says.
"Yes," she says.
"You dont mean to tell me he told you that," Lawyer says.
"You know he did not. You made him swear not to."
"No," Lawyer says. "You swear then."
"All right," Lawyer says. "I swear."
"I love you," she says. "Do you know why?"
"Tell me," Lawyer says.
"It's because every tune you He to me I can always know you will stick to it."
Then the second sentimental pilgrimage. No, something else come first. It was the next afternoon. "Now we'll go pick Mp the necktie, "Lawyer says." No, "I says.
"You mean you want to go alone?"
"That's right," I says. So I was alone, the same little office again and her still in the same dress that would not fitted nobody already looking at my empty collar even before I put the necktie and the hundred and fifty dollars on the desk by the new one that I had not even teched yet because I was afraid to. It was red jest a little under what you see in a black-gum leaf in the fall, with not no single sunflower nor even a bunch of them but little yellow sunflowers all over it in a kind of diamond pattern, each one with a little blue center almost the exact blue my shirts gets to after a while. I did not dare touch it. "I'm sorry," I says. "But you see I jest cant. I sells sewing machines in Missippi. I cant have it knowed back there that I paid seventy-five dollars apiece for neckties. But if I'm in the Missippi sewing-machine business and cant wear seventy- five dollar neckties, so are you in the New York necktie business and cant afford to have folks wear or order neckties and not pay for them. So here, "I says. "And I ask your kindness to excuse me."
But she never even looked at the money. "Why did he call you Vladimir Kyrilytch?" she says. I told her.
"Except we live in Missippi now, and we got to live it down. Here," I says. "And I ask you again to ex--"
"Take that off my desk," she says. "I have given the ties to you. You can not pay for them."
"Dont you see I cant do that neither?" I says. "No more than I could let anybody back in Missippi order a sewing machine from me and then say he had done changed his mind when I delivered it to him?"
"So," she says. "You can not accept the ties, and I can not accept the money. Good. We do this--" There was a thing on the desk that looked like a cream pitcher until she snapped it open and it was a cigarette lighter. "We burn it then, half for you, half for me--" until I says, "Wait! Wait!" and she stopped. "No," I says, "no. Not burn money," and she says, "Why not?" and us looking at each other, her hand holding the lit lighter and both our hands on the money.
"Because it's money," I says. "Somebody somewhere at some time went to --- went through - I mean, money stands for too much hurt and grief somewhere to somebody that jest the money was not never worth - I mean, that aint what I mean .. . "and she says," I know exactly what you mean. Only the gauche, the illiterate, the frightened and the pastless destroy money. You will keep it then. You will take it back to - how you say? "
"Missippi," I says.
"Missippi. Where is one who, not needs: who cares about so base as needs? Who wants something that costs one hundred fifty dollar - a hat, a picture, a book, a jewel for the ear; something never never never anyhow just to eat - but believes he - she - will never have it, has even long ago given up, not the dream but the hope - This time do you know what I mean? "
"I know exactly what you mean because you jest said it," I says.
"Then kiss me," she says. And that night me and Lawyer went up to Saratoga.
"Did you tell Hoake better than to try to give her a lot of money, or did he jest have that better sense his-self?" I says.
"Yes," Lawyer says.
"Yes which?" I says.
"Maybe both," Lawyer says. And in the afternoon we watched the horses, and the next morning we went out to Bemis's Heights and Freeman's Farm. Except that naturally there was not no monument to one mercenary Hessian soldier that maybe could not even speak German, let alone American, and naturally there was not no hill or ditch or stump or rock that spoke up and said aloud: On this spot your first ancestral VK progenitor forswore Europe forever and entered the United States. And two days later we was back home, covering in two days the distance it taken that first V. K. four generations to do; and now we watched the lights go out in Spain and Ethiopia, the darkness that was going to creep eastward across all Europe and Asia too, until the shadow of it would fall across the Pacific islands until it reached even America. But that was a little while away yet when Lawyer says, "Come up to the office," and then he says, "Barton Kohl is dead. The airplane - it was a worn-out civilian passenger carrier, armed with 1918 infantry machine guns, with homemade bomb bays through which the amateur crew dumped by hand the homemade bombs; that's what they fought Hitler's Luftwaffe with - was shot down in flames so she probably could not have identified him even if she could have reached the crash. She does not say what she intends to do now. "
"She'll come back here," I says.
"Here?" he says. "Back here?" then he says, "Why the hell should not she? It's home."
"That's right," I says. "It's doom."
"What?" he says. "What did you say?"
"Nothing," I says. "I jest said I think so too."
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