I sometimes imagine the picture of my funeral, our whole town came to my funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for me, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of my house, which no one save an old man-servant--a combined gardener and cook--had seen in at least ten years.
It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street. But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only my house was left, lifting its stubborn and ...view middle of the document...
The tax notice was also enclosed, without comment.
They called a special meeting of the Board of Aldermen. A deputation waited upon me, knocked at the door through which no visitor had passed since I ceased giving china-painting lessons eight or ten years earlier. They were admitted by the old Negro into a dim hall from which a stairway mounted into still more shadow. It smelled of dust and disuse--a close, dank smell. My servant led them into the parlor. It was furnished in heavy, leather-covered furniture. When my servant opened the blinds of one window, they could see that the leather was cracked; and when they sat down, a faint dust rose sluggishly about their thighs, spinning with slow motes in the single sun-ray. On a tarnished gilt easel before the fireplace stood a crayon portrait of my father.
They rose when I entered--a small, fat woman in black, with a thin gold chain descending to my waist and vanishing into my belt, leaning on an ebony cane with a tarnished gold head.I saw from one face to another while the visitors stated their errand.
I did not ask them to sit. I stood in the door and listened quietly until the spokesman came to a stumbling halt. Then they could hear the invisible watch ticking at the end of the gold chain.
I said, "I have no taxes in Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris explained it to me. Perhaps one of you can gain access to the city records and satisfy yourselves."
"But we have. We are the city authorities, Miss Emily. Didn't you get a notice from the sheriff, signed by him?"
"I received a paper, yes," I said. "Perhaps he considers himself the sheriff . . . I have no taxes in Jefferson."
"But there is nothing on the books to show that, you see We must go by the--"
"See Colonel Sartoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson."
"But, Miss Emily--"
"See Colonel Sartoris." (Colonel Sartoris had been dead almost ten years.) "I have no taxes in Jefferson. Tobe!" The Negro appeared. "Show these gentlemen out."
So I vanquished them, horse and foot, just as I had vanquished their fathers thirty years before about the smell.
The day after my father’s death all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer condolence and aid, as is our custom I met them at the door, dressed as usual without showing any sadness but felt tortured inside.I told them that my father was not dead. I did that for three days, with the ministers calling on me, and the doctors, trying to persuade me to let them dispose of the body. Just as they were about to resort to law and force, I broke down, and they buried my father quickly.
I was sick for a long time. I cut my hair short. The town had just let the contracts for paving the sidewalks, and in the summer after my father's death they began the work. The construction company came with riggers and mules and machinery, and a foreman named Homer Barron, a Yankee--a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes...