All the King's Men

All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren Read Free Book Online

Book: All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren Read Free Book Online
Authors: Robert Penn Warren
Tags: Historical, Classics, Politics, Pulitzer
silence by the fire, a world which could absorb effortlessly and perfectly the movements of their day and their occupations, and of all the days they had lived, and of the days that were to come for them to move about in and do the thing which were the life for which they were made. So they sat there in their common knowledge, while the chunk on the hearth stewed and hissed and crumbled, and were together in the down beat and pause of the rhythm of their lives. That was what they had in common now, and nothing could take that away. But they had something else in common; they had in common the knowledge that they did not have what they had.
    The Boss was introducing Mr. Duffy, who was delighted to meet Mr. Stark, yes, sir, and introducing the gang who had just come up in the second car. Then the Boss jerked a thumb at me, and said to his father, “You recollect Jack Burden, don’t you?”
    “I recollect,” the old man said, and we shook hands.
    We all went into the parlor, and sat around on a few pieces of stuffed horsehair furniture, which had an acid, mummy smell in your parched-out nostrils, or on straight split-bottom chairs, which Old man Stark and the Boss had fetched in from the kitchen, and the motes of dust swam on the rays of light striking in under the shades of the western windows of the room through the one-time white but now yellowish lace curtains, which looped uncertainly from their rods like fish nets hung up to wait for mending. The gang of us sat around, and moved our thighs on the horsehair or on the split-bottom and stared down at the unpainted boards of the floor or at the design on the linoleum mat in the middle of the floor as though we were still bright-reds and tans and blues slick and varnished-looking–a kind of glib, impertinent geometrical island floating there in the midst of the cornerless shadows and the acid mummy smell and the slow swell of Time which had fed into this room, day by day since long back, as into a landlocked sea where the fish were dead and the taste was brackish on your tongue. You had the feeling that if the Boss and Mr. Duffy and Sadie Burke and the photographer and the reporters and you and the rest got cuddled up together on that linoleum mat it would lift off the floor by magic and scoop you all up together and make a lazy preliminary circuit of the room and whisk right out of the door or out the roof like the floating island of Gulliver or the carpet in the Arabian Nights and carry you off where you and it belonged and leave Old Man Stark sitting there as though nothing had happened, very clean and razor-nicked, with his gray hair plastered down damp, sitting there by the table where the big Bible and the lamp and the plush-bound album were under the blank, devouring gaze of the whiskered face in the big crayon portrait above the mantel shelf.
    Then the nigger woman brought in a pitcher of water on a tray, with three glasses, slipping her feet in old tennis shoes dryly along the board. Lucy Stark took one glass and Sadie Burke another, and the rest of us just passed around the third glass.
    Then the photographer took a secret look at his watch, and cleared his throat, and said, “Governor–”
    “Yeah?” the Boss answered.
    “I just reckoned–if you and Mrs. Stark is rested and all–” he made a sitting-down bow in the direction of Lucy Stark, a bow from the waist that was quite a feat and gave the impression he had had a couple too many for the heat and was passing out in the chair–”if you all–”
    The Boss stood up. “All right,” he said, grinning. “I just reckon I get you.” Then he looked at his wife questioningly.
    Lucy Stark stood up, too.
    “All set, Pappy,” the Boss said to the old man, and the old man stood up, too.
    The Boss led the way out to the front porch. We all tailed him out like a procession. The photographer went to the second car and unpacked a tripod and the rest of his plunder and got it rigged up facing the steps. The

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