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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.
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.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.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.They rose when she entered--a small, fat woman in black, with a thin gold chain descending to her waist and vanishing into her belt, leaning on an ebony cane with a tarnished gold head. 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. That was two years after her father's death and a short time after her sweetheart--the one we believed would marry her --had deserted her.