But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores.And now Miss Emily had gone to join the representatives of those august names where they lay in the cedar-bemused cemetery among the ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of Jefferson.I WHEN Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant--a combined gardener and cook--had seen in at least ten years.It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street.When the next generation, with its more modern ideas, became mayors and aldermen, this arrangement created some little dissatisfaction.On the first of the year they mailed her a tax notice. They wrote her a formal letter, asking her to call at the sheriff's office at her convenience.
Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to another while the visitors stated their errand. She just stood in the door and listened quietly until the spokesman came to a stumbling halt. "Just as if a man--any man--could keep a kitchen properly, "the ladies said; so they were not surprised when the smell developed. "It's probably just a snake or a rat that nigger of hers killed in the yard. Give her a certain time to do it in, and if she don't.Then they could hear the invisible watch ticking at the end of the gold chain. It was another link between the gross, teeming world and the high and mighty Griersons. I'll speak to him about it." The next day he received two more complaints, one from a man who came in diffident deprecation. I'd be the last one in the world to bother Miss Emily, but we've got to do something." That night the Board of Aldermen met--three graybeards and one younger man, a member of the rising generation. .." "Dammit, sir," Judge Stevens said, "will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?A neighbor, a woman, complained to the mayor, Judge Stevens, eighty years old. " So the next night, after midnight, four men crossed Miss Emily's lawn and slunk about the house like burglars, sniffing along the base of the brickwork and at the cellar openings while one of them performed a regular sowing motion with his hand out of a sack slung from his shoulder.So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the family she wouldn't have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized. Later we said, "Poor Emily" behind the jalousies as they passed on Sunday afternoon in the glittering buggy, Miss Emily with her head high and Homer Barron with his hat cocked and a cigar in his teeth, reins and whip in a yellow glove.
When her father died, it got about that the house was all that was left to her; and in a way, people were glad. Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized. I don't care what kind." The druggist named several. But what you want is--" "Arsenic," Miss Emily said. Then some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people.
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.