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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.
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.
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.
Just as they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her father quickly. The town had just let the contracts for paving the sidewalks, and in the summer after her father's death they began the work. ." This behind their hands; rustling of craned silk and satin behind jalousies closed upon the sun of Sunday afternoon as the thin, swift clop-clop-clop of the matched team passed: "Poor Emily." She carried her head high enough--even when we believed that she was fallen. The next Sunday they again drove about the streets, and the following day the minister's wife wrote to Miss Emily's relations in Alabama. We learned that Miss Emily had been to the jeweler's and ordered a man's toilet set in silver, with the letters H. We were glad because the two female cousins were even more Grierson than Miss Emily had ever been.
The construction company came with niggers and mules and machinery, and a foreman named Homer Barron, a Yankee--a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face. It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imperviousness. That was over a year after they had begun to say "Poor Emily," and while the two female cousins were visiting her. She was over thirty then, still a slight woman, though thinner than usual, with cold, haughty black eyes in a face the flesh of which was strained across the temples and about the eyesockets as you imagine a lighthouse-keeper's face ought to look. So she had blood-kin under her roof again and we sat back to watch developments. So we were not surprised when Homer Barron--the streets had been finished some time since--was gone.
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.