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Now she too would know the old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or less. The men did not want to interfere, but at last the ladies forced the Baptist minister--Miss Emily's people were Episcopal-- to call upon her.
The day after his death all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer condolence and aid, as is our custom Miss Emily met them at the door, dressed as usual and with no trace of grief on her face. She did that for three days, with the ministers calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will. When we saw her again, her hair was cut short, making her look like a girl, with a vague resemblance to those angels in colored church windows--sort of tragic and serene. He would never divulge what happened during that interview, but he refused to go back again. Two days later we learned that she had bought a complete outfit of men's clothing, including a nightshirt, and we said, "They are married." We were really glad.
A week later the mayor wrote her himself, offering to call or to send his car for her, and received in reply a note on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin, flowing calligraphy in faded ink, to the effect that she no longer went out at all. They called a special meeting of the Board of Aldermen.
A deputation waited upon her, knocked at the door through which no visitor had passed since she ceased giving china-painting lessons eight or ten years earlier.
They broke open the cellar door and sprinkled lime there, and in all the outbuildings.
As they recrossed the lawn, a window that had been dark was lighted and Miss Emily sat in it, the light behind her, and her upright torso motionless as that of an idol.
Then we knew that this was to be expected too; as if that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman's life so many times had been too virulent and too furious to die.
When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray.
Presently we began to see him and Miss Emily on Sunday afternoons driving in the yellow-wheeled buggy and the matched team of bays from the livery stable. (By that time it was a cabal, and we were all Miss Emily's allies to help circumvent the cousins.) Sure enough, after another week they departed.
Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor--he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron-remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity. Colonel Sartoris invented an involved tale to the effect that Miss Emily's father had loaned money to the town, which the town, as a matter of business, preferred this way of repaying.
Only a man of Colonel Sartoris' generation and thought could have invented it, and only a woman could have believed it.
They crept quietly across the lawn and into the shadow of the locusts that lined the street. That was when people had begun to feel really sorry for her. But what you want--" "I want arsenic." The druggist looked down at her. But the law requires you to tell what you are going to use it for." Miss Emily just stared at him, her head tilted back in order to look him eye for eye, until he looked away and went and got the arsenic and wrapped it up.
People in our town, remembering how old lady Wyatt, her great-aunt, had gone completely crazy at last, believed that the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were. She looked back at him, erect, her face like a strained flag. The Negro delivery boy brought her the package; the druggist didn't come back.She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. Perhaps one of you can gain access to the city records and satisfy yourselves." "But we have. Didn't you get a notice from the sheriff, signed by him? A few of the ladies had the temerity to call, but were not received, and the only sign of life about the place was the Negro man--a young man then--going in and out with a market basket. " "I'm sure that won't be necessary," Judge Stevens said.