24. They were dusty and Rawlins was unshaven and they smelled of horses and sweat and woodsmoke. Some men sitting in chairs at the back of the store looked up when they entered and then went on talking.
They stood at the meatcase. The woman came from the counter and walked behind the case and took down an apron and pulled a chain that turned on the overhead lightbulb.
You do look like some kind of desperado, John Grady said.
You dont look like no choir director, said Rawlins.
The woman tied the apron behind her and turned to regard them above the white enameled top of the meatcase. What'll you boys have? she said.
They bought baloney and cheese and a loaf of bread and a jar of mayonnaise. They bought a box of crackers and a dozen tins of vienna sausage. They bought a dozen packets of koolaid and a slab end of bacon and some tins of beans and they bought a five pound bag of cornmeal and a bottle of hotsauce. The woman wrapped the meat and cheese separate and she wet a pencil with her tongue and totted up the purchases and then put everything together in a number four grocery bag.
Where you boys from? she said.
From up around San Angelo.
You all ride them horses down here?
Well I'll declare, she said.
When they woke in the morning they were in plain view of a small adobe house. A woman had come out of the house and slung a pan of dishwater into the yard. She looked at them and went back in again. They'd hung their saddles over a fence to dry and while they were getting them a man came out and stood watching them. They saddled the horses and led them out to the road and mounted up and turned south.
Wonder what all they're doin back home? Rawlins said.
John Grady leaned and spat. Well, he said, probably they're havin the biggest time in the world. Probably struck oil. I'd say they're in town about now pickin out their new cars and all.
Shit, said Rawlins.
You ever get ill at ease? said Rawlins.
I dont know. About anything. Just ill at ease.
Sometimes. If you're someplace you aint supposed to be I guess you'd be ill at ease. Should be anyways.
Well suppose you were ill at ease and didnt know why. Would that mean that you might be someplace you wasnt supposed to be and didnt know it?
What the hell's wrong with you?
I dont know. Nothin. I believe I'll sing.
He did. He sang: Will you miss me, will you miss me. Will you miss me when I'm gone
You know that Del Rio radio station? he said.
Yeah, I know it.
I've heard it told that at night you can take a fencewire in your teeth and pick it up. Dont even need a radio.
You believe that?
I dont know.
You ever tried it?
Yeah. One time.
They rode on. Rawlins sang. What the hell is a flowery boundary tree? he said.
You got me, cousin.
They passed under a high limestone bluff where a creek ran down and they crossed a broad gravel wash. Upstream were potholes from the recent rains where a pair of herons stood footed to their long shadows. One rose and flew, one stood. An hour later they crossed the Pecos River, putting the horses into the ford, the water swift and clear and partly salt running over the limestone bedrock and the horses studying the water before them and placing their feet with great care on the broad traprock plates and eyeing the shapes of trailing moss in the rips below the ford where they flared and twisted electric green in the morning light. Rawlins leaned from the saddle and wet his hand in the river and tasted it. It's gypwater, he said. (C.M.)
25. He leaned his elbows on the porch ledge and stood looking down through the screens at the familiar scene of the barracks square laid out below with the tiers of porches dark in the faces of the three-story concrete barracks fronting on the square. He was feeling a half-sheepish affection for his vantage point that he was leaving.
Below him under the blows of the February Hawaiian sun the quadrangle gasped defencelessly, like an exhausted fighter. Through the heat haze the thin midmorning film of the parched red dust came up a muted orchestra of sounds: the clanking of steel-wheeled carts bouncing over brick, the slappings of oiled leather sling-straps, the shuffling beat of shoesoles, the hoarse expletive of irritated noncoms. (J.)
26. Around noon the last shivering wedding guest arrived at the farmhouse: then for all the miles around nothing moved on the gale-haunted moors - neither carriage, wagon, nor human figure. The road wound emptily over the low hills. The gray day turned still colder, and invisible clouds of air began to stir slowly in great icy swaths, as if signalling some convulsive change beyond the sky. From across the downs came the boom of surf against the island cliffs. Within an hour the sea wind rose to a steady moan, and then within the next hour rose still more to become a screaming ocean of air.
Ribbons of shouted laughter and music - wild waltzes and reels streamed thinly from the house, but all the wedding sounds were engulfed, drowned and then lost in the steady roar of the gale. Finally, at three o'clock, spits of snow became a steady swirl of white that obscured the landscape more thoroughly than any fog that had ever rolled in from the sea. (M.W.)
27. There was an area east of the Isle of Dogs in London which was an unusual mixture even for those surroundings. Among the walled-off rectangles of water, the warehouses, railway lines and travelling cranes, were two streets of mean houses with two pubs and two shops among them. The bulks of tramp steamers hung over the houses where there had been as many languages spoken as families that lived there. But just now not much was being said, for the whole area had been evacuated officially and even a ship that was hit and set on fire had few spectators near it. There was a kind of tent in the sky over London, which was composed of the faint white beams of searchlights, with barrage balloons dotted here and there. The barrage balloons were all that the searchlights discovered in the sky, and the bombs came down, it seemed, mysteriously out of emptiness. They fell round the great fire.
The men at the edge of the fire could only watch it burn, out of control. The drone of the bombers was dying away. The five-mile-high tent of chalky lights had disappeared, been struck all at once, but the light of the great fire was bright as ever, brighter perhaps. Now the pink aura of it had spread. Saffron and ochre turned to blood-colour. The shivering of the white heart of the fire had quickened beyond the capacity of the eye to analyse it into an outrageous glare. High above the glare and visible now for the first time between two pillars of lighted smoke was the steely and untouched round of the full moon - the lover's, hunter's, poet's moon; and now - an ancient and severe goddess credited with a new function and a new title - the bomber's moon. She was Artemis of the bombers, more pitiless than ever before. (W.G1.)